Archive for November, 2010

Annual Word Contest Winners

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

monkeyThe Washington Post recently held a contest in which readers were invited to take any word from the dictionary and alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter and then supplying a new definition for their coined word.

Here’s a partial list of the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid..

7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon : It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido : All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a  spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

Take a wild guess which one is my favorite?

Thank you Ear

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Thanksgiving , is an interesting holiday in which we dine with family & friends and take time to recognize what we’re thankful for – and rightfully so since I think most of us are extremely fortunate compared to  many others across the world. At most Thanksgiving get-togethers I hear the usual expressions of thankfulness for one’s loved ones, friends, the meal on the table, etc. – all things I am definitely thankful for.

bush turkeyIn January of 2009 I underwent a 10 1/2 hour brain surgery to remove a tumor inside my skull that was pushing up into my ear canal and against my facial nerves. The recovery was as intense as the procedure and I learned a few things throughout the entire process about myself and about life.  I could go on and on about the experience but because it’s Thanksgiving I’ll stick with tradition and share some things I’m thankful for. In doing so I’ll try to mention a few things that traditionally get overlooked because they’re so obvious.

My list is in no particular order and doesn’t cover it all, but it’s a start and I’m sure much of it is relevant to all.

I’m thankful for my eye balls and that they work; my legs; the fact that I have hands with opposed thumbs; I’m thankful that I can feed myself; that I can talk; for the excellent education my surgeons received and for their dedication to their trade; that modern medicine has developed amazing drugs; I’m extremely thankful that I have one ear that works perfectly despite my other one being permanently and 100% out of order.

I’m grateful for the fact that running and hot water is a daily part of our lives, electricity too; that I can get a hot cup of coffee anytime the mood strikes; that our roads are paved; that I own a car that does more than get me from A to B; that dial up internet is a thing of the past; that the Giants won the world series; and that my daily work commute is under 5 minutes.

I’m very thankful that I’ve experienced no tragic deaths in the past five years; those that I care about are healthy and for the simple fact that I woke up this morning (at 4am due to my adorable one year old who seems to be an early riser!) and am alive. I’m also thankful that you’re reading this, hopefully it’ll resonate with you. (And the Bush Turkey photo has no relevance, I just thought it was funny.)

REI Coming to SB

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

According to Radius Group, the local commercial real estate powerhouse, REI has leased a huge amount of space (about 25,000 sf) on Lower State Street. As an outdoor enthusiast I love REI, but I love our local sporting good shops even more – like Mountain Air Sports. The new REI is probably two or three times the size of Mountain Air and I fear once again, for the “little guy”.

Santa Barbara has a limited number of large retailers and over the years the community has often banded together to keep out such chains (like Target) in order to preserve what partially makes our town special. There will always be exceptions, and in a free market environment this is just the way it goes… for better or for worse. I just hope that in this case David can still compete against Goliath.

Don’t feel bad if you shop at the new REI, but do give some thought to supporting a local shop. Especially since they have such a great Axxess offer.

Searchgin for an REI photo I came across this alien?!

Searching for an REI photo I came across this alien?!

20 Lessons from Traveling Around the World

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Since I was little, I’ve wanted to buy an around the world ticket and travel indefinitely with no plan or itinerary. The thought of just taking off with only a bag or two and seeing the world has always intrigued me. Since I haven’t done it (yet) it’s probably the only real regret I have at this point in my life. I imagine it’s a life changing experience that opens one’s mind in countless ways.

As a novice blogger, I don’t follow any other blogs or tweets except that of author Tim Ferriss who wrote the best seller The Four Hour Work Week. It’s not a book I’d encourage my staff to read, and if you’ve read it you’d know why – but I do value this guy’s advice and find his stuff pretty interesting.

The below excerpt is taken from a recent blog of his and I thought it was worth passing along. It’s much longer than anything I’d write, but it’s a quick read and highly worth the time as it has some good life lessons for all of us to keep in mind, traveling or not. Hope you enjoy!

From Tim’s blog, written by Gary Arndt:

On March 13, 2007, I handed over the keys to my house, put my possessions in storage and headed out to travel around the world with nothing but a backpack, my laptop and a camera.

Three and a half years and 70 countries later, I’ve gotten the equivalent of a Ph.D in general knowledge about the people and places of Planet Earth.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned…

1) People are generally good.

Many people are afraid of the world beyond their door, yet the vast majority of humans are not thieves, murderers or rapists. They are people just like you and me who are trying to get by, to help their families and go about living their lives. There is no race, religion or nationality that is exempt from this rule. How they go about living their lives might be different, but their general goals are the same.

2) The media lies.

If you only learned about other countries from the news, you’d think the world was a horrible place. The media will always sensationalize and simplify a story. I was in East Timor when the assassination attempts on President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão occurred in 2008. The stories in the news the next day were filed from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, not Dili. It was all secondhand news. I was in Bangkok during the political protests this year, but you’d never have any idea they were happening if you were not in the immediate area where the protests were taking place. The media makes us scared of the rest of the world, and we shouldn’t be.

3) The world is boring.

If there isn’t a natural disaster or an armed conflict, most places will never even be mentioned in the news. When is the last time you’ve heard Laos or Oman mentioned in a news story? What makes for good news are exceptional events, not ordinary events. Most of the world, just like your neighborhood, is pretty boring. It can be amazingly interesting, but to the locals, they just go about living their lives.

4) People don’t hate Americans.

I haven’t encountered a single case of anti-Americanism in the last three-and-a-half years. Not one. (And no, I don’t tell people I am Canadian.) If anything, people are fascinated by Americans and want to know more about the US. This isn’t to say they love our government or our policies, but they do not have an issue with Americans as people. Even in places you’d think would be very anti-American, such as the Middle East, I was welcomed by friendly people.

5) Americans aren’t as ignorant as you might think.

There is a stereotype that Americans don’t know much about the rest of the world. There is some truth to that, but it isn’t as bad as you might believe. The reason this stereotype exists is because most other countries on Earth pay very close attention to American news and politics. Most people view our ignorance in terms of reciprocity: i.e. “I know about your country, why don’t you know about mine?” The truth is, if you quizzed people about third-party countries other than the US, they are equally as ignorant. I confronted one German man about this, asking him who the Prime Minister of Japan was. He had no clue. The problem with America is that we suffer from the same problem as the rest of the world: an obsession with American news. The quality of news I read in other parts of the world is on par with what you will hear on NPR.

6) Americans don’t travel.

This stereotype is true. Americans don’t travel overseas as much as Brits, Dutch, Germans, Canadians or Scandinavians. There are some good reasons for this (big country, short vacation time) and bad ones (fear and ignorance). We don’t have a gap year culture like they have in the UK and we don’t tend to take vacations longer than a week. I can’t think of a single place I visited where I met Americans in numbers anywhere close to our relative population.

7) The rest of the world isn’t full of germs.

Many people travel with their own supply of water and an industrial vat of hand sanitizer. I can say in full honestly that I have never used hand sanitizer or gone out of my way to avoid contact with germs during my travels. It is true that in many places you can get nasty illnesses from drinking untreated water, but I don’t think this means you have be a traveling Howard Hughes. Unless you have a particularly weak immune system or other illness, I wouldn’t worry too much about local bugs.

8) You don’t need a lot stuff.

Condensing my life down from a 3,000 sq/ft house to a backpack was a lesson in knowing what really matters. I found I could get by just fine without 97% of the things I had sitting around my home. Now, if I purchase something, I think long and hard about it because anything I buy I will have to physically carry around. Because I have fewer possessions, I am more likely to buy things of higher quality and durability.

9) Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.

Yes, if you insist on staying in five-star hotels and luxury resorts, travel can be very expensive. However, it is possible to visit many parts of the world and only spend $10-30 per day. In addition to traveling cheap, you can also earn money on the road teaching English or working on an organic farm. I’ve met many people who have been able to travel on a little more than $1,000/month. I met one man from the Ukraine who spent a month in Egypt on $300.

10) Culture matters.

Many of our ideas for rescuing other countries all depend on them having similar incentives, values and attitudes as people in the West. This is not always true. I am reminded of when I walked past a Burger King in Hong Kong that was full of flowers. It looked like someone was having a funeral at the restaurant. It turned out to be people sending flowers in celebration of their grand opening. Opening a business was a reason to celebrate. In Samoa, I had a discussion with a taxi driver about why there were so few businesses of any type on the island of Savai’i. He told me that 90% of what he made had to go to his village. He had no problem helping his village, but they took so much that there was little incentive to work. Today, the majority of the GDP of Samoa consists of remittances sent back from the US or New Zealand. It is hard to make aid policies work when the culture isn’t in harmony with the aid donors’ expectations.

11) Culture changes.

Many people go overseas expecting to have an “authentic” experience, which really means they want to confirm some stereotype they have in their mind of happy people living in huts and villages. They are often disappointed to find urban people with technology. Visiting a different place doesn’t mean visiting a different time. It’s the 21st Century, and most people live in it. They are as likely to wear traditional clothes as Americans are to wear stove top hats like Abraham Lincoln. Cultures have always changed as new ideas, religions, technologies sprang up and different cultures mingled and traded with each other. Today is no different.

12) Everyone is proud of where they are from.

When you meet someone local in another country, most people will be quick to tell you something about their city/province/country that they are proud of. Pride and patriotism seem to be universal values. I remember trying to cross the street once in Palau, one of the smallest countries in the world, and a high school kid came up to me and said, “This is how we cross the street in PALAU!” Even crossing the street became an act to tell me about his pride for his country. People involved in making foreign policy should be very aware of this.

13) America and Canada share a common culture.

This may irk Canadians, but we really do share a common North American culture. If you meet someone overseas, it is almost impossible to tell if they are American or Canadian unless they have a particularly strong accent, or they pronounce the letter “z.” It is easier to tell where in England someone is from than it is to tell if someone is from Denver or Toronto. We would probably be better off referring to a “North American” culture than an “American” culture. What differences do exist (Quebec being the exception) are more like differences between states and regions of a similar country.

14) Most people have a deep desire to travel around the world.

Not shocking, but every day I meet people who are fascinated by what I do and how I live. The desire to travel is there, but fears and excuses usually prevent people from doing it. I understand that few people can drop what they are doing and travel around the world for three years, but traveling overseas for even a few months is within the realm of possibility for many people at some point in their lives. Even on an island in the middle of the Pacific, people who would probably never leave their home island talked to me of wishing they could see New York or London for themselves one day. I think the desire to explore and see new things is fundamental to the human experience.

15) You can find the internet almost everywhere.

I have been surprised at where I’ve found internet access. I’ve seen remote villages in the Solomon Islands with a packet radio link to another island for their internet access. I’ve been at an internet cafe in the Marshall Islands that accessed the web via a geosynchronous satellite. I’ve seen lodges in the rainforest of Borneo hooked up to the web. I once counted 27 open wifi signals in Taipei on a rooftop. We truly live in a wired world.

16) In developing countries, government is usually the problem.

I have been shocked at the level of corruption that exists in most developing countries. Even if it is technically a democracy, most nations are run by and for the benefit of the elites that control the institutions of power. Political killings, bribery, extortion and kickbacks are the norm in many places. There is little difference between the Mafia and the governments in some countries I’ve visited. The corruption in the Philippines was especially surprising. It isn’t just the people at the top who are corrupt. I’ve seen cops shake people down on the street for money, cigarettes or booze.

17) English is becoming universal.

I estimated that there were at least 35 native languages I would have had to have learned if I wanted to speak with locals in their own tongue. That does not include all the languages found in Papua New Guinea or Vanuatu or regional dialects. It is not possible for humans to learn that many languages. English has become the de facto second language for the world. We are almost to a point where there are only two languages you need to know: whatever your parents speak… and English. English has become so popular it has achieved an escape velocity outside of the control of the US and UK. Countries like Nigeria and India use it as a unifying language in their polyglot nations. Other countries in the Pacific do all their schooling in English because the market just isn’t there to translate textbooks into Samoan or Tongan.

18) Modernization is not Westernization.

Just because people use electricity and have running water doesn’t mean they are abandoning their culture to embrace western values. Technology and culture are totally different. Japan and South Korea are thoroughly modern countries, but are also thoroughly Asian. Modernization will certainly change a culture (see #11 above), but that doesn’t mean they are trying to mimic the West.

19) We view other nations by a different set of criteria than we view ourselves.

On the left, people who struggle the hardest for social change would decry changes in other countries that they view as a result of globalization. On the right, people who want to bring democracy to other countries would be up in arms at the suggestion that another country try to institute change in the US. In both cases, other nations are viewed by a different set of rules than we view ourselves. I don’t think most people around the world want the help or pity of the West. At best, they would like us to do no harm.

20) Everyone should travel.

At some point in your life, whether it is after college or when you retire, everyone should take an extended trip outside of their own country. The only way to really have a sense of how the world works is to see it yourself.

What were they Thinking?! (Part #1 of a Series…)

Monday, November 1st, 2010

cabbage and condomsHaving a blog is easy. The hard part is not only writing regularly but making it interesting or relevant. Trying to figure out what readers want to hear about is harder than it sounds.

Either way, I try to entertain in my blog with funny yet “viewer appropriate” photos.  I often come across some hilarious images and today I couldn’t resist sharing a few of them. I toned it down and left out some good ones because I don’t want to offend anyone…but I can’t promise you that. I can however, promise you that you won’t see stuff like this in our publication – since all ads are fully approved by us and by the client: photos, offers, restrictions, etc.

Anyway,I give you my first post in a series titled   “What were they thinking?!”

I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment.

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What a Deal!

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