Monthly Archives: June 2013

Less Smoking

cig graphicsTwo big actions are working against cigarette smoking. One is banning smoking in most public spaces and the other is jacking up the price.

Both approaches work on getting smokers to quit or smoke less. It starts becoming a pain in the ass to smoke, plus it’s expensive. Smoking a few cigarettes less a day improves smokers’ health.

The high cost and lower visibility also act to deter kids from starting to smoke which is good since the younger someone starts smoking, the higher the chance is that they’ll get addicted. Just by costing a lot, works against a kid starting to smoke. And now kids don’t see smoking very much in public so they don’t perceive smoking as an appealing social norm. Not starting is good.

In NYC a pack of cigs is about $12. And the percentage of New Yorkers who smoke is down to around 14%. One hospital official there commented that, “Even our schizophrenia patients, who are the most addicted, who used to smoke two and three packs a day, even they are smoking less because of the price.”

Well they’re crazy, not stupid.




Free time

jelly beans

How much free time do you have? And what will do you with the free time you have left in your life?

Here’s a clever, three-minute video representing each day of a lifetime with a single jelly bean. That’s about 29,000 jelly beans/days.

Different amounts of jelly beans are taken from the mound to create pictures of activities like eating, grooming sleeping, working, etc. After all the “required” life activities have been represented, the remaining jelly beans represent our free time. Depending on the person, some of the free time pile has already been used, your mileage may vary.

You probably don’t have as much free time as you may think you have. And this little video will help you get a snapshot of it.

The video also drives home the point of trying to make the best of all the stuff you need to do, all the stuff that’s not free time. All or some of that time can be appreciated too.

More human

fappleWhy take away more of the human factor from interactions than you need to, like an email over a phone call or even better a skype call? I’m not against emailing, I just prefer face time or at least talking.

Sure, lots of times an email is more efficient, especially if you need to get through to more than one person with the same info.

But storytelling and listening to stories is a baked in feature each one of us still has. We listen for tone of voices, look at hand and body language, along with facial expressions.

I’ve heard some people who’ve had face smoothing Botox shots can’t always convey what they want to. By paralyzing wrinkle causing small facial muscles they’ve become facially less expressive. Sometimes they aren’t perceived the way they want to because they’re sending out mixed signals. So what the listener hears doesn’t match what the listener sees.

That can happen sometimes too with emails because reading an email doesn’t always give the same message to the reader that the writer was intending to give. For example, “Thanks a lot!” can be said in ways that convey different meanings, whereas when it’s written, the reader has to make assumptions about what the writer means.

Descriptive language was around a long time before writing, with people using stories to pass information to each other. Someone is more likely to remember information from a story than a list. And a story form is more likely to be used in a conversation than a bullet point list.

Stories don’t have to be long. A well told story can be only a couple of sentences that provide the necessary details clearly and maybe with emotion. And while talking the speaker can quickly make clarifications as needed based on how the listener is responding.

Not everyone is a good storyteller, but people still prefer to listen and interact rather than reading on a computer screen. It’s more human. At least for now.




Buying in

lucky 2

An interviewer once asked a Nobel prize winner in physics about the horseshoe hanging on his office wall, implying a lucky horseshoe was a strange superstitious thing for the physicist to have. The physicist replied, “From what I understand, it works whether you believe in it or not.”

Are you “buying in” or mainly “being entertained by” an idea? It’s a question applicable to any concept.

But I’m familiar with Catholics and I was thinking about how you don’t know about the people you see in a Catholic church. Who’s bought in and who’s there essentially being entertained? I’ve talked to both practicing and recovering Catholics generally above a certain age, who find pleasure and comfort in being in the old style, larger, ornate Catholic churches – especially during a Latin mass if possible.

I guess in this case it’s the sense of theater and pomp the Catholic church has been so good at for so long. Or maybe it’s the Stockholm syndrome for the recovering Catholics or even that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Either way, there’re souls in the pews. And who knows, maybe it works whether you believe in it or not.


Good Graphics

blocksI’ll keep this short and to the point like this three-minute video.

It’s a clear, easy to follow explanation of world population and climate changes by Hans Rosling.

He uses just a few Lego blocks and some black and white pebbles on a table top. It’s 3-D graphics at it’s best – simple and easy to understand.

I wish more information was presented in such a straightforward way.

Is the car’s allure fading?

old bike riderIs what’s happening in cities now the decline of the car or the rise of the bike? One might be driving the other.

Maybe this situation is like the wristwatch situation. First, around forty years ago, wristwatches with cheaper more accurate quartz movements started displacing the pricier and less accurate mechanical movements (now, mechanical movements are found only in wristwatches costing a small fortune because they’re artisanal, super complicated, and made by hand). Then came the widespread use of cell phones and smart phones, which is why it’s hard to find anyone who’s sub middle-age using a wristwatch, except as a fashion accessory.

It seems that in cities, probably among the same people who shun wristwatches there’s less interest in car ownership. And at the same time there’s a rise in biking culture. If true, I think it’s a good thing. People will be a bit healthier and the cities will be cleaner and safer.

The rise of the bike will spur entrepreneurship too. There’ll be cyclists interested in after market doo dads for their bikes, things like locks, fenders, lights, and who knows what yet. Not all, but lots of cyclists are into gear and care about their bikes.

Here in Mexico, in its biggest cities there are popular and successful Sunday street closing (to cars) so they can be used for biking and walking.

You don’t even need to own a bike in some bigger cities. NYC just started its public bike sharing system. I’ve used similar systems in Montreal and Mexico City and both systems were fantastic and easy to use.

I’m sure cars are here to stay for a while, but I’m also hopeful they’re becoming less popular and biking is on the rise.


Dog Talk

dogDo you want to know what your dog’s saying to you? You might be able to know in a few years.

There’s an article in “The Atlantic” magazine reporting on a researcher who’s deciphered the yips and chirps of prairie dog communication.

The researcher said, “…it’s probably five to 10 years out. But I think we can get to the point where we can actually communicate back and forth in basic animal languages to dogs, cats, maybe farm animals…”

He also said “It’d be world-changing.” Think about the behavioral problems stemming from our inability to communicate effectively. A dog misses what the human expects, and the dog can’t get across to the human what it’s experiencing.

But if we could communicate, a dog could say, “You’re scaring me.” And you could respond, “Sorry, I didn’t realize that I was scaring you. I’ll give you more space.”

The idea made me think of Cesar Millan, “the dog whisperer,” and what might change if we knew what our dogs were saying to us. Cesar has lots of  valuable insights into dogs, and how we humans should interact with them for mutual benefit.

In a nutshell, Cesar claims a dog looks to his owner to be the “pack leader,” exhibiting calm assertive energy to let the pet know his place in the “pack.” When this dynamic isn’t in place, a dog will try to fill the pack leader void by acting out.

Cesar also has a couple of important hierarchies of a dog’s expectations. One is for a dog’s needs which are exercise, boundaries, and finally affection. Bad dogs are usually pets of owners who ignore levels or the owners emphasize lower priority needs over higher ones.

I’ve seen videos of Cesar speaking about this to a conference room full of American dog owners as he tries to help them with their “bad” dogs. Everyone in the room seemed to be overweight. So as he explained the priorities of exercising the dog first (before feeding it), then practicing boundaries, and lastly giving some affection. The audience was probably thinking “Exercise – no way,” then “Discipline – ok maybe occasionally,” and “Affection – that I can do.”

But Cesar’s recipe for a good dog is like a baking recipe – it needs to be followed as presented for it to work. I really wonder what’ll happen to the human and dog relationship when we can actually speak to each other. I not so sure most people will really want to know what their dog is saying.


What’s your best travel tip?

leaf lipsThis is my best travel tip.

Pack half as much stuff, and more money, than you think you’ll need.

I’ve traveled a lot, usually without much stuff, and I can’t think of a time when I wished I’d packed more. Hassling with more than one bag is time-consuming and could even be spirit crushing.

When it’s time to move to another spot, packing up is a snap. Without too much stuff,   noticing if something isn’t where it should be in the bag becomes an easy way to leave less stuff behind.

If you get somewhere and find out you don’t have something you need, then just buy it there. Most things are available in some form everywhere in the world these days. Plus, shopping for and buying something like a local can be fun. Even mundane stuff like toothpaste or aspirin can keep refreshing your memories each time you use it.

The airlines’ luggage policies lately have been getting more travelers to pack less than they used to which might actually make their trips better.

Nimble is the way to go.