10 Things I Learned in Costa Rica

  1. Hanging things on a clothes line is not for drying them; it’s for conducting mildew and mold growing experiments. 
  2. Wearing seat belts while driving on rough gravel roads can cause more injury than not wearing them.
  3. Too warm? Underwear is optional.
  4. Stop signs are for aesthetic purposes only. Who doesn’t love a splash of red?
  5. Being driven through heavily trafficked areas by a native driver is as exciting as any ride at Great America.
  6. It’s not bugs crawling on you, it’s just sweat dripping on your skin.
  7. I lied. It’s probably bugs crawling on you.
  8. Dead Toucans sometimes drop from the sky. Seriously, I have a picture of one.
  9. Toucans are assholes. At least according to a German massage therapist specializing in foot reflexology.
  10. Costa Rica is an amazing and beautiful country with the highest concentration of wildlife I’ve ever seen. You should go!

disneyland for fitness

When I was 12 years old, I dreamed of going to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, still one of the only programs in the world of its kind. Founded in 1978, it was originally for junior players, but over the years it expanded to be a training center for touring pros. At some point, they also started a program for adult players, so I jumped at the chance to go just under 30 years after I first dreamed about it.

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the day the google died

In 1998, I relied on two search engines, Alta Vista and Yahoo, each of which was radically different in how they worked. Alta Vista required understanding boolean logic and was very geeky, but if you knew what you were doing, it could produce amazing results. Yahoo categorized content very effectively, so in cases where Alta Vista failed because of search terms having multiple meanings, Yahoo would come through.

Then Google came onto the scene and when it opened up at google.stanford.edu, I was an instant convert and never looked back. I remember when I would see my co-workers at Apple struggle to search for something on the Internet and I’d evangelize Google to them. Many people were very resistant! I got into the habit of just politely taking over people’s keyboards at their desk and re-doing the search they were trying to do in Google. I probably converted at least one person a day that way as they were amazed at the results as I was.

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shop small

You know a store is too big when you need Google Maps to navigate it:

Some of the big-box stores such as IKEA, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Home Depot have already been mapped, but not Target. Not Wal-Mart. And not nearly as many malls as you’d like to see, especially in this holiday season.

Support your normal-sized, local, family-owned retailer!

what is libertarianism?

Excellent and badly needed new website that defines and explores the history and current state of libertarianism.

It includes some pretty nicely done videos that explore the nuances and complexity of a political, moral, and social philosophy that many people consider antiquated, simplistic, utopian, or impractical.

how homeopathy “works”

For a long time, I put homeopathy in the same category as organized religion. I felt both were based primarily on faith with little science to back them up. I believed that both were the refuge of the weak or less intelligent among us.

The problem is that even among smart people, homeopathy is very popular and many people swear by it. Heck, in much of Europe and Asia, homeopathy is practically mainstream. Is this a pervasive mass delusion?

Before too many people think I’m crazy, I should mention that I strongly believe that homepathic remedies simply cannot work based on their physical content. They are basically salt or sugar pills or plain water and the notion that they contain some “essence” or “memory” that has a physical effect on the body makes little sense.

So, how is it that so many people feel that homeopathy works?

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the last time I saw Steve Jobs

I worked at Apple from April of 1999 through July of 2011. I’ve never written publicly about that experience, but I wanted to share a little moment that will always be with me, even though it’s not of any great significance.

After leaving my job at Apple, I dropped in for lunch one day. I was exiting the main building, Infinite Loop One, and just ahead of me was Steve Jobs, walking with the usual spring in his step that never seemed to go away even as he started looking more frail. Bumping into Steve was a surprisingly common occurrence for such a large company as Apple.

Steve was heading towards a car parked next to the curb with its door open, waiting for him. The car was idling. A family was standing near the Apple sign outside the building, a common site for people to take photos on their pilgrimages to Apple.

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didn’t we already have food freedom?

While this is a step in the right direction, it’s sad that anything like this needs to be proposed. It should already be 100% within our rights:

Resolution Recognizing the Rights of Individuals to Grow and Consume Their Own Food and to Enter Into Private Contracts With Other Individuals to Board Animals for Food

Just the title of the resolution itself points out the absurdity of the current laws on the books. Wow, we can now grow our own food and enter into private contracts with other people?

Again, it’s good to see something like this, but it’s likely that the State and the Federal government will likely continue to enforce existing laws (e.g. arresting Amish people for selling fresh milk).

And what’s up with this part of the preamble:

"While it is legitimate for government to see that producers are following the law in order to ensure the highest level of food safety for the public, there must be a distinction made between those farmers engaging in direct commerce with the public, as in the case of a farmer’s market or grocery store, and those individuals choosing to take part in a private herd share or community garden share."

Why is it legitimate for government to do that? Let people decide what’s safe to put in their bodies. If the government wants to publish information on food safety inspections, that couldn’t hurt, but let the ultimate power reside with the people.

21st century philanthropy

I babbled about philanthropy in an earlier posting called “wealth now, philanthropy later”, so I was thrilled to see this blog posting on the Harvard Business Review website:

Steve Jobs, World’s Greatest Philanthropist

Try to ignore the hyperbolic title of the article and just absorb the content.

Making the world a better place means making decisions your whole life that either incrementally or substantially make people’s lives better. People dislike hearing that investing in a promising new company could potentially have more of an impact on the world that the more common charitable action of, say, donating food to starving children.

However, if your conscious investments create jobs for people who are treated kindly and with respect, and something is also created that benefits the customers of your company, it can have a huge multiplier effect.

This all fits nicely in with the concept of Slow Money. There are certainly wealthy people that have made their money in ways that cause suffering to people and give nothing back to the world other than charity-by-guilt or by giving to causes that exacerbate problems rather than solving them.

However, I believe there are many more that quietly have a profound impact on the world by taking risks that amplify the potential positive results.