Category Archives: Trends

Silos and stockpiling


An article in the New Yorker described how some wealthy Wall Street and Silicon Valley folks are preparing for big catastrophes by buying luxury condos in decommissioned US missile silos, or creating large stockpiles of food and other necessities.

If there is a complete collapse of civilization, I don’t think they’ll last very long hunkered down. Stronger, tougher people will find them and take what they need from them.

Consider the highly trained US soldiers who’ve been discharged into the general population or the many highly skilled hunters and outdoors people. Do you think those types are going out without a fight?

One of the wealthy interviewees said the super rich will be better off spending to make our society stronger not trying to create a stronghold for themselves.

Anyway, if there’s a calamity, knowing about hedge funds won’t be as useful as just having a down jacket and a positive attitude.

What’s the best way to survive a rocky ride? Start with how you perceive the world. Like a hummingbird’s beating wings, your brain is constantly putting out 300 to 1000 words every minute. Feelings (anger, shame, delight) appear almost instantly. Left alone they don’t last very long. But when you invent negative narratives around events, feelings can go for a very long time.

You can feel impulses, think, and experience situations without becoming hampered by mental narratives about how things should or shouldn’t  be. Navy SEALs deal with stressful situations and work to keep the chatter in their heads positive by shifting how they frame  situations.

They view setbacks like this: View bad things are temporary, tell yourself, “That happens occasionally, it’s no big deal.” Understand that bad things have a specific cause and aren’t universal, by reminding yourself, “When the weather’s better that won’t be a problem.” And realize it’s not your fault and say, “I’m good at this but today was just an unlucky day.”

They use goal setting too. When your mind says, “I need X to be happy,” SEALs are taught to set goals properly by setting goals for very short chunks of time, like making it to lunch, then dinner. But it’s enough to keep them going when their body is screaming for them to quit.

And what happened when they achieve those goals? They set new ones. The focus is on always improving because nothing motivates you better than seeing progress. The first time I ran in a marathon, instead of thinking about needing to cover 26 miles, I’d pick someone just ahead of me to catch, then pick another runner a little bit ahead as that person slowed. It worked really well.

Don’t wait until you’re in a grave situation to implement using positive framing and small goal setting. Practice during low stress situations so they become habits. Make positive deals with yourself all the time.

In the military they say, “Train like you fight,” not, “O.K., when it’s for real then we’ll really ramp up.”  Because that’s not what happens. You need to train as hard and as realistically as possible. Otherwise, you won’t rise to the occasion, you’ll likely sink to the lowest level of your training.

Good luck in that missile silo!

Going Scary

religionLast year around this time I heard an interview with Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon who’s also a trained hypnotist and keenly interested in the art of persuasion.

In the interview, he claimed that Donald Trump was a master persuader with a good chance of becoming the next president. A year ago, the only other person with the same opinion was probably Trump. Adams’s argument is that persuasion allows success a field that you shouldn’t be succeeding in (because you don’t have any experience in it).

These days, Adams is a minor celebrity in the world of political opinion because of his track record on Trump’s popularity. By the way, Adams says he’s voting for Clinton.

Now in a recent interview, he’s laid out some interesting insights into the Clinton campaign. These are a few of his ideas below, which I’ve shortened for clarity.

Persuasion can be a superpower. I can tell you that Clinton’s campaign, before Bernie Sanders dropped out, didn’t have any signs of good persuasion. She was talking about experience and facts and policies. All this stuff doesn’t persuade anybody, because we don’t know about facts and policies. We just pretend we do.

After Bernie dropped out, she went full hard-core persuasion, dropping all facts and reasons — you don’t hear much about policies anymore. And she went to fear.

Take a look at what Clinton did to change her message. It changed from, “Hey, I’m experienced and he’s not” — which is not terribly persuasive when people want the outsider anyway . It went from, “Hey, he’s not such a good businessman,” to, “He’s dark, he’s scary, he’s crazy, he’s mentally unstable, he’ll have the nuclear codes.”

They went to super-scare. Some top persuaders  waded in and said, “Stop doing everything you’re doing, and scare the fuck out of people. And here’s how you do it. You make this guy look like he’s out of control.” So out of control that somebody like you could say, “You know, I think he does hate that baby.” And they pulled that off.

If I were advising her, I’d tell her to do nothing different. Because she’s way ahead in the polls. So to win, she just has to make Trump look increasingly scary. And it appears that will be easy to do, and she’s been very successful at it.

The good life

iced coffeeI’m going to quilt together a few ideas about the good life.

The good life, whatever that may mean to you, becomes more widespread as time goes on. Look at something simple, even humble. How cool is a glass if you think about it? They’re cheap, fairly durable, and they don’t add a taste to what’s in it. All that while allowing us to also see what’s in it. It’s “what’s best for the most for the least” design in action.

We’re living in a world that, to our ancestors, would have been a dream world. If they could even dream it. We take for granted things that our ancestors had to live without easy long distant travel and communication, a pretty thorough understanding of how the world works, and being generally unthreatened physically.

Some people pine for the “good old days.” Maybe they seem good viewing them from 30,000 feet. But the good old days weren’t so good when you look at them at a granular level. There were untreatable illnesses, high infant mortality rates, deaths from childbirth, rotting teeth, shorter lives, etc.  I’m sure we could fill this page. What about ignorance? There was plenty to go around.

“Just a few centuries ago, the smartest humans alive were dead wrong about damn near everything. They were wrong about gods. Wrong about astronomy. Wrong about disease. Wrong about heredity. Wrong about physics. Wrong about racism, sexism, nationalism, governance, and many other moral issues. Wrong about geology. Wrong about cosmology. Wrong about chemistry. Wrong about evolution. Wrong about nearly every subject imaginable.” – Luke Muehlhauser

“So-called Western Civilization, as practiced in half of Europe, some of Asia and a few parts of North America, is better than anything else available. Western civilization not only provides a bit of life, a pinch of liberty and the occasional pursuance of happiness, it’s also the only thing that’s ever tried to. Our civilization is the first in history to show even the slightest concern for average, undistinguished, none-too-commendable people like us.” – P. J. O’Rourke

“It is capitalist America that produced the modern independent woman. Never in history have women had more freedom of choice in regard to dress, behavior, career, and sexual orientation.” – Camille Paglia

Progress is inevitable. In the West at least, change is a constant, usually for the leading to rising standards of life. There are winners and losers, failing enthusiastically toward the good life.

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” – Stewart Brand

What’s Mescal?

We just returned from Oaxaca City in southern Mexico. Coincidentally, a friend is living there while he’s starting a mescal export business. We visited with him a few times and learned a bit about mescal.

Mescal is a broad category for liquors distilled from the agave plant. The mescal most people know is tequila, but there’re lots more mescals throughout Mexico.

Because I live in Mexico, I’d been thinking about writing a post about my favorite tequila. But mescal is a more interesting story than my favorite tequila (I buy Centenario Repasado most often which, I guess, makes it my favorite).

Different types of agave plants are found pretty much all over Mexico. Agaves have been used as a beverage base for thousands of years here. Probably the original agave drink was pulque, sort of like an agave beer.

After the Spanish showed up and introduced distillation, various local Peoples began producing a drink called mescal using agave plants.

The world of mescal shares some similarities with the wine world. The agave plant comes in many forms and grows in many different soils and climate with each combination providing different taste characteristics for the mescal.

Just as champagne can only be made from certain grapes and only in the Champagne region of France, tequila can only be made from a certain agave plant and only in the Tequila region of Mexico.

Like wine, mescals can can be consumed when they’re young or they can be aged. Young clear mescal, called joven, seems to be considered the way to go.

The agave plants can also be harvested in the wild where they grow naturally, or they can be cultivated and harvested more easily. Each style of the resulting mescal has it’s following.

Again like wine, the pricing is often based on scarcity. And mescal drinkers use similar adjectives for describing the, often subtle, taste differences between different mescals.

There’s even some overlap with scotches; the most common adjective I heard for describing a mescal’s taste was “smokey.”

There’s a thriving mescal subculture, especially in Oaxaca, that’s worth investigating if you’re even slightly interested in it.


Start with Fun

Wired magazine asked eight futurists about how they spotted the future.

One of the futurists, Tim O’Reilly, tries to find out what interesting people are up to.

This is what he had to say about how he thinks future trends are generated:

The myth of innovation is that it starts with entrepreneurs, but it really starts with people having fun.

The Wright brothers weren’t trying to build an airline, they were saying, “Holy shit, do you think we could fly?”

The first kids who made snowboards, they just glued skis together and said, “Let’s try this!”

With the web, none of us thought there was money in it. People said, “This document came from halfway around the world. How awesome is that!”

It reminds me of what Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of wasted time.”

A Stationary Yacht

People like to compare themselves with others around them. Sometimes this part of human nature kicks in without helping  much and just adds stress.

For example, if you thought your life would be better if you could earn $10k more a year so that you’d be pulling in $85k. But if you did that only to find out everyone in your circle of friends made $90k that year you’d more than likely wind up feeling dissatisfied with your $85k! The only reason for your discomfort would be because your friends were making more even though you’d earlier thought $85k was the key to happiness.

And research shows that even if you didn’t make the amount you were shooting for, but you at least made more than your circle of friends you’d feel better about it.

This happens with houses too, the whole keeping up with the Jones thing. But now, probably driven by the current mortgage crisis, there seems to be a growing interest in our “footprint” on the Earth. One big way of reducing your footprint is to live in a smaller house. I think it’s an improvement over the McMansion trend of recent years. Some people are trying to live in the smallest house they can, instead of the biggest house they (can’t) afford.

It has a lot to do with marketing and the messengers. If Oprah, Brad, and Jeremy Lin start living in smaller digs the trend might really catch on.

Enter the stationary yacht. If we started calling small houses stationary yachts they’d sound cooler and imply more prestige. Maybe we could tap into our comparing and competitive nature by trying to outdo our circle of friends by buying smaller and cooler stationary yachts rather than larger and presumably cooler McMansions.


Under Armor for Dogs

Summertime is here; and where we live that means almost daily thunderstorms. On the Pacific coast of Mexico there are only two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is completely dry and the wet season that goes from July though October is really wet.

A couple of days ago we went to an afternoon birthday party at a friend’s house. I walked there, taking my umbrella since afternoon is usually when the day’s rain starts. When I arrived the owner’s two dogs both had on what looked like jackets. Each dog is probably 60ish pounds, way too big to costume the way some people do to their small dogs (who can’t protest the indignity). So then I assumed they had on protective diapers. Maybe both were in heat at the same time, like nuns in a convent.

As I got closer, I saw they were wearing matching gray jackets. The owner said they were dog compression jackets that squeeze the dogs enough to feel comforted and so don’t get spooked by thunder. The “thunder jackets” were only a couple of days old but had worked as advertised so far; our friend said now before a storm, the dogs even go to the shelf where their jackets are kept, ready to be comforted through the upcoming thunderstorm.

The jackets are also called Anxiety Wraps and it looks like they’ve been around since 2001. But I don’t know why they aren’t called “anti-anxiety wraps,” because they’re used as sort of doggie downers to get rid of anxiety.

It’s like the Under Armor brand of compression sport clothes people wear to ward off the fatigue of playing their sport or even drinking beer in front of the TV. You see the Under Armor brand all over the place nowadays. If you live in a thunderstorm area you may just start to see more dogs sporting Thunder Jackets.

Observation from NYC

This is one thing I really noticed on our trip to New York City. Gold jewelry doesn’t look good on white men. And tattoos don’t look good on black men.

I think I started noticing this around the time of Micheal Jordan’s heyday, when he was sporting a gold earring. It looked very cool. Gold jewelry looks good against dark skin whereas gold jewelry doen’t contrast much against light-colored skin, sorry.

Tattoos, once mainly worn by sailors and prisoners to mark a passage or an event, have gone mainstream in the past couple of decades. Now they’re on soccer moms and high school seniors. There are lots of black guys with tattoos suffering from the opposite of the gold jewelry on a white guy effect. There’s not enough contrast between dark skin and a dark tattoo to make the tattoo pop. This seems especially true for tattoos of script usually done in monochromatic dark ink. If a tattoo is prominent placement it’s probably intended to be read, but dark ink on a dark canvas doesn’t lend itself to easy reading.

You can see these two fashion problems a lot in NYC which is why I’m mentioning it now. A free fashion memo, just in case it’s not too late. If you’re Hispanic, congratulations! You’ve got the best of both worlds.

Clothes = Fonts

I read somewhere that fonts are the clothes your words wear.

Writers, bloggers, editors, and publishers agonize over which font is appropriate for the work in question. Wordsmiths want to send the right message and give the impression they’re after.

The reverse is true too. Clothes are the fonts for people. Clothes can make a statement and men especially don’t usually get the subtle points of dressing. Many men  tend to be frozen in the sartorial period that they thought was happening the year that they graduated from college. And here in Mexico, there are guys living on the coast who get dressed up like rodeo participants even though they usually don’t know how to ride a horse; since I never see them on horseback.

Clothes and fashion can send conscious and unconscious signals and messages to viewers. Men traditionally haven’t been overly concerned with their clothes, but the situation seems to be changing, at least in the north-eastern US.

In her article “All Dudes Learned How to Dress and It Sucks” Mary HK Choi jokingly bemoans the sudden and seemingly widespread good taste displayed by men in New York City. Choi says she’s no longer able to clearly pigeon-hole guys as rich or poor, graphic designer or laborer, straight or gay even.

The rise, at least in NYC, of tasteful and trendy dressing for men has erased her ability to read men the way she used to. She’s now unable to gauge how old a guy is. And even drawn out on a limb to chat up a guy on a train because he was so well put together. He turned out to be engaged as well as someone she wouldn’t have approached before all this widespread fashion sense set in.

It will be interesting to see if this fashion sense trend that’s now in parts of  the tri state area will spread to men in other locals causing confusion for people who thought men were easy to read.

The Howling of Dinosaurs

Are there ideas that your grandkids will find hard to believe were once widely accepted? And which ideas that seem disruptive today will be accepted as normal in the next generation or two?

Currently, there’s howling about things I bet will be accepted relatively soon. For example, gay marriage will come to be legal and eventually accepted. Sure they’re people digging in their heels, but they’re generally older and when they pass away that belief will generally go by the wayside; and their grandchildren will wonder how that  idea lasted so long.

There’re also small, subtle changes that happen more quickly. Beloit College in Wisconsin puts out a list of  accepted ideas that can create disconnects between the incoming 18-year-old freshmen and their 50 something professors. The list is intended to help both groups better understand one another’s mindset.

Here are some things from this years list: few students will know how to write in cursive; Korean cars haven’t always been a staple on American highways; most students will never have aimlessly twisted the coiled handset wire while chatting on the phone, they’ve never recognized that pointing to your wrist is a request for the time (freshmen use their phones); and Russians and Americans haven’t always been living in space together.

But what big ideas will become extinct? Widespread gun ownership? Having as many children as you’d like? Not living past a few hundred years? Eating meat or not eating it? No one knows.

Change for the better seems to eventually happen. The trend for human culture over time seems to be one of a sharing fountain rather than a hoarding cistern. The tent gets bigger. That people aren’t supposed to own other people is now widely accepted along with women voting. Could it be any other way? Yes, and it was. But the tent became bigger and those old accepted ideas died off (mostly).

The howling of dinosaurs trying to keep the tent (that they’re in) small will probably always be heard but hopefully heeded less and less.