How to unfollow

So often (unfortunately) in this modern internet world we live in, it seems to happen that we drift into a profile viewing mode. Inspecting another person, who are they? Why were they in my list of followers or worse, why am I following this person? The “loop” as my wife and I like to call it slips its invisible little hood over your head around this point; the zombie eyes and zombie mind take over quickly. Before you know it, you’re just scrolling, not really taking anything in. What is happening? No one really knows. But it’s around this point where the better part of my psyche kicks in, a Yosemite Sam sort of personality in my thoughts pulls a record needle scratching moment in the crowd of voices – throws up the big “WTF” sign and barks “who is in control of this moment?!?”. As all the shocked members of the interrupted sequence look around to see what will happen next the little guy in the corner peeps back “we were just wondering who that is, wooo woooeeewww – we thoughts we might unfollow it!” (this particular voice in my head has a Gollum sort of voice). It is at this moment, you can think clearly again, we were wondering if we know her, and we don’t and there is nothing interesting about her, “UNFOLLOW!”

Old Habits – Ren and Stimpy

I’ve taken to watching old episodes of Ren and Stimpy lately. I guess old habits can die hard.

In the light of the extremes in the news and my own life lately, the superfluousness of the humor in this cartoon normalizes everything again. And South Park wasn’t really cutting it any more.


If we could see each others thoughts

The thinking goes that our ancestors millions of years ago evolved to have an ability to think about the past and future which made it possible for us to predict dangerous situations, or remember past events which harmed our people. And that today this gift is mostly a curse as it leaves us constantly shifting our thoughts from the past to the future. And this doesn’t leave much time to think about the present. We lose our focus in this teetering of then and when, never now. Which definitely is true, finding a centered state of mind is something the vast majority of humans leave for the monks, nuns, surfers, and brain surgeons, well at least some of them. It only lasts for short moments after intense preparation, and only during the moment of execution. The rest of the time we’re all just a bunch of fog heads really. Too deep in the ideas of what may happen, what did happen, and we are only able to wipe our asses, to chew our food without biting off our tongue, to make proper sentences, (I still can’t do this) because we memorize things, we learn actions, expected responses in conversation, and we do the expected with some muscle memory and the comfort of knowing that after a moment of focusing on the now, we can get back to thinking into some other place and time.

Imagine what the world would be like if we could see a little screen above our heads, constantly flickering the images, words, scenes, and sounds that are passing through their mind as they go on about their lives semi-consciously about us. Some of us would go to jail, others would lose our jobs, certainly many awkward moments would occur – “excuse me sir maybe you should come back a little later when your thoughts have passed… And then there would be beauty. Thoughts of childhood, loved ones, wishes & hopes, the lighter more approachable side of people that would bring us closer, have a more sensitive touch with each other, and find more common bonds. It’s a world I would enjoy for a day, though perhaps too intense to be in for long periods of time, lest we all just learn to zone out each others thoughts, and to clear our minds of anything too personal until we believe ourselves to be alone.

I Wish Berlin Would Quit

Many visitors to Berlin are surprised to learn it can be hard to find a place to go for a drink in the evening without staining their hair and clothes with cigarette smoke. The “Raucher Bar” was they commonly refer to themselves is a regular feature of many night time haunts. At first it was part of the fun of the city, a remaining piece of the old days, or a symbol of the freedom & lawlessness that one can experience with the drinking in public and all hours bars, cafes, & clubs. These days, it’s a nuisance and I have become frustrated on more than one occasion that while wondering a neighborhood with friends looking for a place to sit down and have a cocktail, we had to compromise, or simply choose the least smokey bar available.

As one study on social smokers confirms there is no difference, in terms of risk of heart disease, between having less than one cigarette a day, and smoking a pack a day. And yet many Berliners, and perhaps Germans in general frequently say “I only smoke when I’m out with friends and drinking”. I wonder what these people will think when they explain to their kids that they never were addicted to cigarettes and yet still suffered similar consequences.



Unexpected Rewards of the Internet

For New Years Eve / Zuzanna’s birthday we found a nice hotel in Meissen, Germany, a town known for its porcelain, wineries, and its fairy tale like old town center complete with a grand castle “Albrechtsburg” which dates back to the 15th century.

While we didn’t hold back in finding the nicest possible room & hotel in town (which really didn’t cost as one would imagine), our hotel, the Park Hotel Meissen, still felt modest. For sure, it was beautiful from the outside, elegant on the inside, the spa offered several different sauna rooms, beautification and massage treatments and a giant room with a direct view over the River Elbe and the castle, but our room wasn’t outfitted with any of the extra amenities that are sometimes expected when shooting for top quality at a hotel. The space was enough for us, the fixtures were good quality, working, and working, and one of the walls of our room looked out over the entire property, which certainly felt nice. But anyhow, keeping humble, we were happy with what we had and didn’t think about it again.

The next day however, while looking over the fire escape route and floor plan, I noticed we had the largest room on our floor. It was a funny elbow joint shaped room; the building made a very broad “V” shape, and our room was directly center where the two wings met. To fill out the odd shapes this resulted in, our room had a lot of extra space where all the others have a very consistent rectangular shape. It was also clear our room was larger than the others, and when looking at it from the outside, was also easy to see we had the best view with our floor to ceiling windows. So the next thought for me was, why us?

I came to my own conclusion on this final question, while viewing the rest of the guests around us, primarily folks in their 50’s 60’s and 70’s, all speaking German. We were most likely the youngest guests by at least 20 years in the fairest of cases, and for that, probably also the most Internet literate. What’s more I’d used my account which by now had a long history of bookings around the world, in 4 different continents, and usually leaving a review for the hotel. Without knowing what their business account view on my booking was, I would guess they had some idea of the likelihood of my writing a review and also of the potential I would pass along some kind of word of mouth or better yet, share photos online in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

We also booked 2 massages and facials at the Spa, so perhaps the room selection was a reward for the additional value our stay promised the hotel.  And of course this may have all just been random, no preferences given in the room we received. But was it really?


Take Care of the People, the Products, and the Profits

From The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

This passage really resonated with me. There are a lot of crappy companies and a lot of disloyal employees. If a CEO cares about keeping a great team, he needs to make his company a great place to work. Things always go bad, and if your company is a crappy place to work, when things get hard, people will leave. Do yourself a favour and make your company a good place to work. Reward your employees, give promotions before they are asked for, and give visibility to people who have made huge achievements. Don’t let people get bored. And help them see the big picture that is how their  job at your company fits into their career.

In Ben’s words:

  • Being a good company doesn’t matter when things go well, but it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong.
  • Things always go wrong.
  • Being a good company is an end in itself.

When things go well, the reasons to stay at the company are many:

  • Your career path is wide open because as the company grows lots of interesting jobs naturally open up.
  • Your friends and family think you are a genius for choosing to work at the “it” company before anyone else knew it was “it”.
  • Your résumé gets stronger by working at a blue-chip company in its heyday.
  • Oh and hey you’re getting rich.

Things Always Go Wrong

There has never been a company in the history of the world that had a monotonically increasing stock price. In bad companies, when the economics disappear, so do the employees, the spiral begins: The company declines in value, the best employees leave, the company declines in value, the best employees leave. Spirals are extremely difficult to reverse.


Blue Zone Meetup Group #1

Last night we hosted a dinner for 7 guests, 9 including ourselves. The theme was the blue zones. The idea was to spend time together with other people, sharing a meal using the same recipes as the people around the planet who live significantly longer than others (100 or more years).
Our guests were German, Indian, Israeli, American, and Polish (not including Zuzanna and I representing another Pole & American). Each of whom was new to Berlin, except for one of the Germans who had spent most of her life living in Australia. We were all from another place, but together for the common interest of health and happy living. Though we came together as strangers through the meetup group I created to host the event, by the end of the evening we were all making plans to meet again, and Zuzanna may have found a really great polish connection here – it was delightful to hear them speaking in Polish.
The idea of eating healthy organic sustainably grown plant based fruits and vegetables, with some red wine and sourdough bread, over conversations of family, life, backgrounds, food, health, and sustainable lifestyle was truly enriching and left a big warm happy place in my heart. The food was delicious, the conversation and time together with positive and multi-cultural folks was wonderful.
People in blue zones live longer because they surround themselves with friends and family each day or several times a week. They keep active into their 90’s and beyond with gardening, walking, and working around their homes (many claimed to continue their sexual activities well into their 90’s and beyond). They don’t have much money, and therefore have to live on the vegetables they can grow in their own gardens & farms. Meat is out of their price range except for a village annual slaughter (however the California 7th day adventists are vegetarian), or can afford from what little currency they can earn or trade with to buy produce at the markets. They keep low stress lifestyles and believe in a greater good (usually via religion), leaving the worry of their fate to a higher power.
To finish off our meal we each shared a photo of somebody special in our lives who wasn’t present but had a huge place in our hearts and minds. Transcending the event and group present, the activity encouraged the idea of spending more face to face time with loved ones.
I just wanted to share this, as a moment in time. To look back on, but since I’m sharing this with the public, I do want to recommend others give more time to be with friends and family. To focus on staying physically active, low on stress, eating food you can prepare from scratch (and having a lifestyle that affords the ability to do so).
One of the more popular stories of the blue zone people, is of a man from Ikaria, Greece. Who was diagnosed with lung cancer when he was in his mid-60’s living in Floria working as a house painter, he was told he had 6-9 months to live by multiple doctors. Resolving to die in peace (and be buried for <$200 in Greece instead of thousands in the US) he moved home to spend out his remaining days with his parents in Ikaria. After months of walking up and down the hillsides of the Island, sleeping in basic conditions in his parent’s 2 bedroom home on a stepped vineyard,  spending afternoons drinking wine with his friends, and eating the vegetables he could grow on his land; he started to feel better, months turned to years, his breathing improved. At the time of the printing of the NYT article about him in 2012 he was 102. Ikaria is one of the blue zones, along with Okinawa, Sardinia, Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, and Loma Linda, California.
25 years later the greek man went back to Florida to see his doctors and try to find out what happened. But he couldn’t get in touch with them because they had all already died.
Life is short! Don’t stress, spend more time with friends and family and being active, and eating healthy foods (and less meat).

I’m excited about the future.

I’m excited about the future. When people aren’t afraid of the police. When we don’t have to watch the road and use gasoline to get around town. When fresh local produce is in abundance and the big food industry isn’t in control. Where a nice dinner out with friends costs less then $20. When fast food restaurants and Starbucks aren’t on every corner. A society where arts and culture are promoted and supported by the government and community. Where people from all over the world can interact and keep their cultural identity, speak their own language, and still communicate with one another. Where you can go out all night and there is no last call. Where you can go to a cafe and not see everyone staring at their phones. Public transportation is available in abundance and you can literally cross the country for $40. Trips to Paris and Rome only take a couple hours and can cost less then $100.In the future I imagine education doesn’t require a 6 figure investment or taking on student loans and renting a large spacey 2 bedroom flat in the middle of town costs less than $1200. In my ideal future you can take a bottle of wine to the park and have a picnic without getting a fine. Where parents of new born children can have 1-2 years paid time off to raise their kids without losing their jobs or their income. Where we are not pressured by our employer to work overtime and if we don’t feel well we can call in sick and take 2,3 even 5 days off to get better before returning to our desk. And where we’re not only required to take two weeks vacation, we get five or six weeks paid time off to recover, get out enjoy the world, and be refreshed and ready for work again.

This is a future I would love to have and I can’t wait for it.
Only it’s not the future, its Berlin.

Cucumber – The Jesus Fruit

Just remember this – cucumber is not a pointless garnish. It is not just something you throw into water in a hotel lobby to look chi chi.

  • They have “high levels of bioactive phytochemicals such as cucurbitacins, lignans and flavonoids. Many of these compounds have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, painkilling, wound-healing and laxative properties, making cucumbers an ideal cure-all.”
  • “cucurbitacins could block the signaling pathways that are essential for cancer cell growth and survival.”
  • “Cucurbitacin B’s ability to inhibit tumor growth and induce cancer cell apoptosis may lead to new and efficient cancer treatments to fight pancreatic cancer.”
  • “Cucumbers contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol and secoisolariciresino – three lignans associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as well as several types of cancer. These include breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers.”
  • “A 2010 study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, found that these three compounds could protect your heart by lowering vascular inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.”

On Mindfulness of Possession Sustainability

  • Use things to last, don’t abuse them. Always start and finish in the best possible way for long lifespan.
  • Use things for their full lifespan. In many cases just because a newer better version of an item exists, is not a valid reason to replace it. If a working version is in possession, continue using it until it can’t be used anymore.
  • Repair or repurpose things which would otherwise be considered to be at the end of their life. This may give a whole new life, and void the need to replace it.
  • Don’t acquire things that wont last. When considering to purchase or come into possession of something, consider how long you will likely need it for. If you wont need it much or potentially at all, and it is just nice to have, consider not getting it, or finding a temporary solution such as borrowing it from someone else. And if the quality appears to be so low that you can’t get a reasonable life of use out of it, look for better quality.
  • Don’t pay for more than the minimum if the quality is the same. Vanity and popularity lead to irrational purchase & acquisition justifications. Just because the brand appears to be more prestigious, or the design is more attractive, the cost may not actually justify a tangible increase of value, rather speculative. In such cases consider how long the more expensive yet not higher quality item will last compared to its economical competition. If the difference is marginal or even worse, purchase for lifespan. The total cost of ownership could be twice as much on an item which has the same return of value of its entire lifespan.