January 31, 2012

I am a Cynical Optimist

I was called a cynic the other day.

That's a fair assessment. After all, I have a general distrust in human motivation, and therefore any and all institutions headed by said humans.

But, I am not a pessimist. In fact, I have incredible hope.

The world is not getting worse and worse. The evolution of technology, transparency and thought is overwhelming human ignorance, by definition. The world will get better and better. In fact, it's already started.

January 30, 2012

And Life Still Goes On...

Today, I will attend the wake of my friend's father. Tomorrow, my friend will be induced into labor, and has been told to prepare for incredibly low odds of survival for her precious baby boy.

I don't know what to do with these things. Before leaving for work this morning, I had fun with my daughter. I felt guilty about it.

If I internalize the pain that currently exists in this world, it will paralyze me. Yet, if I ignore it altogether, I may go my entire life without working to remedy it.

January 27, 2012

Politicians Use Attack Ads Because They Work

"I hate negative ads. Why don't politicians just explain why they're the best person for the job, rather than tearing down the other guy?"

Well, that's an easy answer. Politicians use attack ads because they work.

They work because of our gross ignorance. We like people because they're funny, attractive and can deliver zany one-liners. Attack ads remind us who these people really are.

"Oh, he killed a guy? Wow, I'll guess I'll vote for the other one."

These ads usually remind us about voting record hypocrisy that reveal a person's true self. Most importantly, they work.

January 26, 2012

The Class Warfare Inside My Mind

Ever hold the door open for a janitor and realize you're still the same helpful, polite person you always were?

How you don't consider yourself better than anyone else. How you're all in this together.

Just wait until they don't thank you for the gesture.

If you're anything like me, you'll immediately revert back to, "Who does this lowly janitor think he is?!"

January 25, 2012

Happy vs. Hope-y

Circumstances are temporary.

I can handle long periods of temporal suckiness, given I believe I'm on course for future escape.

But when those ladders collapse before my eyes, my happiness instantly deflates. Yet, my circumstances haven't changed?

So, what am I looking for? Happiness? Or hope-yness?

January 24, 2012

Diarrhea, Cha Cha Cha

Receptionist: "Mrs. Smith canceled her appointment."
My Wife: "Why?"
Receptionist: "Take a wild guess...."
My wife works as a physical therapist within the blue collar suburbs of Chicago.

It is common for patients to call up and cancel their appointments because of diarrhea.

Now I just heard this story yesterday, and still haven't fully internalized this. These patients could say anything. "Upset stomach." "Have the flu." "Just not feeling well."

But instead, they're willingly offering up this information. And this isn't just one person, but is SO common, it's become an inside joke among her staff.

I'm trying to understand the social norms behind this story. For instance, I don't believe I've ever used the word in public before. I was under the impression that this was an unmentionable.

Who's the weird one here? Them or me?

January 23, 2012

The Questionable Value of Learning a New Language

Today, technology exists that allows me to speak into a phone in English, have the phone translate my words, and have it speak to another individual in their own language.

In the purest sense of the idea, communication with other peoples no longer requires I learn a foreign language.

Now, if you are an English-speaking physician working in a largely Hispanic-populated city, this communication "solution" isn't good enough. Likewise, if you plan on moving to a foreign country one day, it's simply more practical to learn that country's specific language.

But, for the rest of us? It taking two years of French in high school a good thing? Sure. But, is it of more value to me than learning how a carburetor works? I'm not sure. I want to know "how much value" learning a foreign language has in a world where, in terms of sheer communication, it's no longer necessary.

January 19, 2012

Your Kids SHOULD be Smarter Than You

When I hear parents complain about their teenagers thinking they're smarter than they are, I wonder if they might be right.

After all, this transition almost inevitably occurs. And I meet a whole lot of stupid adults on a regular basis.

The foundational knowledge kids are learning is far more advanced than when we went to school. 2nd graders are learning the math I learned in 5th grade. They are perpetually connected to information. From their peers. From wikipedia.

When I didn't know something as a kid, and my mom didn't know, she'd either have to make up an answer, or I'd have to stop caring. Today, an instant answer can be found for nearly every passing curiosity. Blind faith no longer needs to exist, so doesn't.

Kids today also have an inherent belief in transparency, liberty and freedom made possible by the Internet and the digital revolution. Their frame of reference is cleaner than ours. Less junk we always assumed was right. Less prejudice. More humility.

Your kids might already be smarter than you. And this is a good thing.

January 18, 2012

SOPA Over-Simplified

Today, as we often do here, I will over-simplify an intricate issue in order to provide marginal understanding.

Internet piracy is a legitimate problem. Protecting the original authors of digital content is important.

But similar to how chaining a drunk to a wall would prevent him from purchasing alcohol - SOPA legislation requires you giving up a whole lot of freedom in order to curtail the problem.

January 17, 2012

No One Really Knows What They're Talking About

Person #1: "The Bears need to run the ball more."
Person #2: "But, Jacksonville's D-line was putting 8 in the box."
Person #1: "Umm...."

Person #1: "We need to get our troops out of Afghanistan."
Person #2: "What do you see happening to the Pashtun South after our exit?"
Person #1" "Umm...."

Person #1: "Jesus died to set you free."
Person #2: "Do you believe the resurrection offers universal reconciliation through unlimited atonement?"
Person #3: "Umm...."

Ever catch yourself in a conversation with someone who actually knows what they're talking about? It's not until then you realize how little you actually know.

We are all smart. We are all well intentioned. And we don't have any idea what we're really talking about.

We have pieces. We may have more than the guy next to us. But, we can't see the whole puzzle. And yet, we're so utterly confident.

But, our certainty comes not from too much knowledge, but too little.

January 13, 2012

The Hedonist's Guide to Healthy Living: Part 5

This week, we are questioning the rationale behind more and more Americans moving to an organic, vegetarian and vegan diet.

How do I start moving in the right direction toward organic?

You're convinced. But, there's hold-ups. Financial reasons. Picky eaters in your household. So, what you need are some gateways toward organic eating.

My recommendation is to start with your fruits and vegetables. It's the most obvious taste difference. You get rid of more pesticides than with any other switch. And this is typically the least cost dramatic of a change. Then milk. Then meat.

How do you get your family on board? Simply start making organic versions of their favorite dishes. Losing the pesticides, hormones and preservatives actually makes a significant health difference. Even in "unhealthy" dishes. Then, once they're on board, they might willingly want to venture further.

Or you can be a sneak like my wife. Hide a little spinach in my fruit smoothie. (I couldn't taste it at all, and now fill half my cup with spinach every morning). Serve them carrot cake, and call it cinnamon cake. (Carrot cake is now one of my favorites, but I wouldn't have tried it on my own). Mix some fresh organic kale in with the pesto sauce. You can't even tell it's there.

Thanks for a great week guys!

Sincerely,
Your future body.

January 12, 2012

The Hedonist's Guide to Healthy Living: Part 4

This week, we are questioning the rationale behind more and more Americans moving to an organic, vegetarian and vegan diet.

Should I buy local when buying organic?

There are a whole lot of people behind the "buy local" movement for a whole lot of reasons. "Support your local farmers." "Support your community." "Drastically lower the environmental costs of food transportation."

But, they're missing the most important motivation of all. My wholly narcissistic self interest. The fact that buying local organic simply makes more sense. The freshness is incomparable. Fruits and vegetables picked that day, just 15 miles from your home. Versus fruits and vegetables picked a month earlier in Oregon, and losing 50-80% of their nutrients while being transported to your grocer.

If you want an orange in Chicago in January, organic is the best you can do. If you can even partially adjust your diet to the season, you'll be getting the freshest most nutrient-filled options buying near you.

January 11, 2012

The Hedonist's Guide to Healthy Living: Part 3


This week, we are questioning the rationale behind more and more Americans moving to an organic, vegetarian and vegan diet.

Are all proteins created equal?

Cow milk is the world's most perfect food....for a baby cow.

And you can get definitely get protein from a beef patty.

But, eating a McDonalds hamburger for the protein is like eating Skittles for the fruit juice. There are much healthier ways to get these vital nutrients.

While blaming animal protein for our host of health problems is still controversial, it does effectively explain the "French paradox". How a culture which indulges heavily in saturated animal fats like butter and cream has such low rates of heart disease. Because these particular animal products are actually quite low in animal protein.

Professional athletes are going vegan. Bodybuilders are going vegan. To their health benefit. No downside.

So, at the very least, we should start pointing that way, right? Quinoa and soba noodles as rice/pasta alternatives. Peanut butter. Avocados. Peas. Coconut. It's easier than you think.

January 10, 2012

The Hedonist's Guide to Healthy Living: Part 2

This week, we are questioning the rationale behind more and more Americans moving to an organic, vegetarian and vegan diet.

Is organic eating worth the premium cost?

People often ask me if I "feel" better after eating organic foods. And I'm honest with them.

I say, "No, but they taste a LOT better." Because how I "feel" is dependent on a whole lot of different things. But, I can no longer eat a mealy Walmart apple. It's a struggle to drink watery plasticy skim milk. And simple grilled and salted grass-fed organic chicken is miraculous.

Of course, there's a cost premium attached to this taste enhancement.

Organic milk costs roughly double its standard alternative. Organic meats cost roughly double their standard alternative. Organic fruits cost roughly 50% more than their pesticide-laden alternatives. Is the taste difference alone worth the cost?

No. I am also betting on the novel idea that pesticides are bad for me. That grass-fed animal proteins are safer than genetically-modified corn-fed animal proteins. That organic foods have statistically higher levels of antioxidants and minerals. Less (zero) preservatives, hormones and foreign chemicals our bodies are not engineered to digest.

And I'm betting on saving a whole heap of money preventing future healthcare costs. I have personally lost weight with no other lifestyle change but a switch to organic food (no caloric intake change). And science tells me I have also lowered my future risks for cancer and heart disease.

In our single-payer healthcare system future, I may not personally be held responsible for these costs. The only benefits I may get from this organic diet are enjoying what I eat and living longer. But if we end up having to opt-in to healthcare insurance plan tiers based on our personal health, a switch to organic foods might be the best financial decision I ever make.

January 09, 2012

The Hedonist's Guide to Healthy Living: Part 1

With documentaries like Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives reaching mainstream success, organic food is passing the tipping point in America.

This week, we explore the reasons why more and more people are moving to an organic, vegetarian and vegan diet.

For personal health. For the environment. To prevent animal suffering. To prevent human suffering.

But are these people just kidding themselves? Is it just marketing? Are we just jumping on another Kaballah bracelet train? (oh...did you guys not do that one?)

Or is it completely rational? Is organic eating in our best interests, personally, physically and financially?

Tomorrow, we begin by discussing whether organic eating is worth the premium cost.
Share any opinions you wish to be included in the discussion tomorrow.

January 06, 2012

The Blessing of Being Physically Unattractive

If I was naturally skinny, I'd be dead by 40.

I definitely lean toward lean, that's for sure. But, I am no longer physically invincible like when I was 18. When I would eat 6,000 calories a day without thinking. The truth is, I wasn't physically invincible back then either. I just couldn't see the negative results.

Then, I started getting a gut. And I hated it. I still hate it. And I work out to not have one.

Aesthetic maintenance is my primary driver for a healthy lifestyle.

If I looked great without working out, I never would. And my heart would attack me by the time I'm 40.

Thank you Lord for the jelly in my belly.

January 05, 2012

The Evolution of Conversation

I will never again have time for a 20-minute personal phone conversation. It's not going to happen. And that's why I can't call most people.

Because when I have 5 minutes before getting to work, I see a window of conversational opportunity.

But after the greeting and the customary back-and-forth "how are you?", I'm out of time. And most people think it's weird when I call without being able to dedicate my near future to the conversation, and ask to exit within 5 minutes of calling.

That's why my friend Justin and I have developed the modern-day phone conversation. It's continual. It never ends. It's 3 minutes one day. 6 the next.

It ends when one person says "Gotta jump." The other replies, "Later." We jump back into our lives. And we pick up the conversation the next day, right where we left off.

We have killed the formality, and because of that, communicate regularly.

January 04, 2012

Everything is Free. Every Industry is Dead.

You're sitting in an office at a company in an industry that was created before the technological revolution.

We write press releases the way we did 40 years ago. We teach children the same way we did 40 years ago.

And in our yearly meeting we discuss tweaks. We discuss 10% budget cuts across the board.

When what we need to do is start over.

January 03, 2012

I Want to Start a Gift Card Company

This Christmas, I received a bunch of gift cards.

Since then, I've come close to accidentally throwing most of them already. In fact, as far as I know, I've probably lost one or two already. They're just sitting there with the cards and empty boxes, and I forget.

And I can't be the only one.

So, what if I started a gift card company that sold gift cards at a loss? For instance, I sell $50 gift cards for $45. People are thrilled, thinking they're getting an amazing deal. And they are - the ones who use them.

But when you account for those who lose, discard or never use them?

I could price-corner the gift card market, and still come out way ahead?