Tag Archives: life

Nate’s Favorite Things 2017

This is the fourth edition of my attempt to surpass Oprah in her dominance of the favorite things market. It is my most interesting list yet and includes a lot more of my friends. Check them out, support them, and Merry Christmas!

1. Jigisha Patel’s “Positive” T-shirts

Check out the Dot Not Shop with creative T-shirts and other great gear. Comment at the bottom with suggestions for Jigisha. My favorite .not gear that doesn’t exist yet is YourFace.not  What .not shirt do you want to see next?

 2. Libby Harris’ Book Box Club

My friend Graeme’s entrepreneurial daughter started this online book club for teens. It’s based in the UK, so it must be cool and of course they are the English experts. Get your high school age kids into something positive on the vast internet!

3. Katie’s Tru Man Brand

I met Katie of Tru Man Brand appropriately enough during an Ohio State football game. I had already seen her “OH So Good” T-shirts out and about so that makes her Columbus famous at least. Get a cool Ohio T-shirt this year that is designed a little off the beaten path from the usual Buckeye gear. Click here for the Tru Man Brand store.

4. Meet Cbus TV

OK, it isn’t even out yet, but Meet Cbus TV is coming in 2018 and it’s part mine, so of course it’s one of my favorite things. Subscribe, or buy a T-shirt (coming soon), to support our effort to put a camera on the most interesting people in Columbus!

Meeting the most interesting people in Columbus.

5. Simple Kneads Gluten-Free Bread

They just keep growing and growing. Simple Kneads is in Whole Foods and expanding fast to a grocery near you. You can buy online while you wait for their arrival at the grocery.

6. Logitech Bluetooth Headset

If you talk on the phone, this product will change your life. This accessory is an absolute must-have.

  • Wireless
  • Hear conversation in both ears
  • Hands-free
  • Rechargeable with standard USB
  • Quickly switch between computer and phone

7. NutriBullet

High quality and essential for getting a healthy breakfast on the run in those always-short morning hours.

8. What to Watch

There is so much alternative media out there, I decided to select the best-of-the-best to help curb those at-work and late-night “end of the internets” binges. Click here or on the TV and you’ll earn a history degree by accident:

The Challenge

Oprah has around 365 live audience members at her show. I’ll shoot for 365 hits to this page. Help me out and help the small businesses by sharing.

What to Watch Today

Television has gone down the tubes.

Reality TV is the worst… or is it? No. Reality TV is the best, just as long as it is real. I’m talking history, people. I’m talking about current events. I’m talking about people really doing things. In the deluge of content available now, here is the cream of the crop as I see it, to include audiobooks, lectures, and podcasts.

Video and TV

  • TED
  • Extra Credits History. Awesome short history summaries. These can help you decide what you are interested in.
  • Numberphile. All about numbers by mathematicians. (Give it a chance!)
  • More Freedom Foundation by Rob Morris. Political, but connects recent history to current events. Follows a coherent line of thought from video to video unlike mainstream news coverage.
  • YouTube Fulton Sheen. Simple lessons on life from the 1950s.
  • YouTube Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Lectures, Podcasts, Audiobooks

Stuff I Haven’t Seen (Yet)

  • Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. I haven’t listened yet, but I hear it is good. It is free.
  • YouTube Michio Ikaku
  • Comment with more suggestions!

What’s Normal, We’re Not

When I arrived in Germany in December 2008 to backpack for 2 weeks, my first time leaving the country, I was shocked at how un-shocking things were. People were people, living like people. No big deal. I arrived in Afghanistan in January 2011 for a deployment. I remember that of course, but the adjustment there mostly involved the job to do. After a half year there, the real shock was returning home. The colors! The information! Options! What to do?! That returning home shock doesn’t seem to wear off. I have left the country for 6+ months 5 separate times now, to Afghanistan, Japan, and Brazil. Each time I return, I am shocked by how shocking it is to come home.

Over the last year or so, I have spent a lot of time listening to history lectures from the Greeks through today (I recommend The Great Courses, available on Audible, they are awesome). I started with world history for a while, then recently listened to 2 sets of lectures on American history. The shock is the same. We are truly different. Our everyday lives are different. In fact, I would argue that America is more different from every other country than any other 2 countries are from each other. In order, the following are most noticeable:

1. Consumer Culture

Goods are so abundant and cheap that producers systematically create demand with advertisements. The result is bright colors everywhere representing the well-organized system professionally designed to make us want stuff. Our system of advertisement reaches around the globe now, and it stands out everywhere else it appears (McDonald’s, Coke, Viagra).

2. Cars

We each have one. We drive mostly alone. Carpooling is the exception. We park close when we can, pay when we can’t. Cars are our status symbol for which we spend 6 months to 2 years up to a lifetime of income.

3. Strong Institutions and Rule Following

We trust our institutions. From the government to our universities even to our franchises and brands like Coca Cola and McDonald’s. They consistently tax us, educate us, make our favorite treats, always convenient parking, minimum service standards, and a free bathroom when you need it.

We trust institutions over people. We will invest our life savings in a faceless stock in the stock market, but are much more hesitant to invest in a local business whose owner we actually know.

We stop for traffic lights with nobody around. We pay our taxes. Corruption surprises us. The roads are straight, fast, aligned at perfect right angles. We drink alcohol in specific regulated places at specific times. Next time you walk down the sidewalk in Las Vegas and think it’s cool that you can carry a beer with you, remember, that’s the only thing normal about Vegas!

Some of these things seem unrelated, but I don’t think so. We are unique in having a ubiquitous, mostly stable government that is older than the population, and we accept its authority. Most of us arrived since the constitution was adopted in 1789. Name another country in the world whose current government is older than its people. Egypt or China? Mexico? Any South American country? Some theocracy? No, not like us.

4. Sugar as a Food Group

You notice it in the people immediately upon arrival at a US airport.

5. Security

You probably won’t be robbed at a US airport, bus station, or in most public spaces. America has never been invaded. We expect security. We expect our government to counter threats, and it does.

6. Air Conditioning

7. Television

 

For better or worse, our lives are different. We adapt everyday. Adaptation is so ubiquitous we aren’t even aware of it. We are living an experiment from which came many of the greatest improvements in our lives, … but it is an experiment. It has not run its course. The US accounts for just 6.6% of the land area of the world. It has been less than 200 years since the industrial revolution, out of more than 1 million years of human history. As a population, as a culture, we are shocked, adjusting, and changing. We will not live to see the conclusion. The only thing known so far is that we are not normal.

I live in the US, but mostly without the things on that list. It is liberating to at least identify the ways in which we are different, the stressors on our lives. To see people shop as a hobby, drive, follow conventions, sip sugar water, follow years’ worth of TV series, and refrigerate their living space is like stepping into a hyper-modern future world. You might think I’m crazy, but I am here to tell you: we are.

Ecclesiastes

I recently spent about 3 hours contributing my opinion to a political site. I have always been politically opinionated. However, now when I participate in such an activity, in the end I think of the book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible, especially chapter 1, verses 1-11.

Read it.

We can “solve the world’s problems” 1,000 times within our lives, but we might as well enjoy the experience, because our life is short and the next generation will solve the same problems 1,000 times over again.

In other words, if you’re going to “solve the world’s problems,” do so over a beer with people you like. I like the guys on the site and I think we’ll have beers one day, maybe in some cool places, so I didn’t do so badly today.

Movie Review: The Big Short

I just watched the movie The Big Short. It portrays itself as exposing the truth. It exposes the truth about the actions at the very top of the “housing crisis” problem, but it fails to really drive home the scope of the problem. Yes, people at the banks were apathetic, irresponsible, and crooked, and their actions ultimately resulted in taxpayers footing the bill. However, it portrays the other participants in the problem as victims, and I believe this is an injustice.

One statement in the movie in particular clearly emphasizes my point and I want to bring it up because it is so pervasive in our language. They quote a statistic about people being evicted from homes they lived in that banks bought for them by saying, “X million people lost their homes.” No. Those X million people never owned homes in the first place. The first people to be evicted in such a situation are those who took low-money-down, teaser-rate mortgages. That means they never paid a dime for “their” home. That’s the nature of such loans. The bank took a huge chance trying to give them something they never earned in the first place. They were irresponsible and undisciplined enough to take it and not pay. Maybe you could say they were naive enough to take it. Maybe even the loan sharks practically forced it on them. Regardless, they were part of the problem and nothing was taken from them that they actually earned. X million other people weren’t greedy enough to fall for such obvious gimmick loans, remained living right where they were, and happily waited out the crisis watching it on network TV over a new digital antenna.

Is the problem behind us? No. I don’t know what the next “crisis” is, but I know how to survive it. Avoid the following irresponsible, undisciplined decisions: cable TV (yes, that’s right, you will not know what to do with your spare time, see suggestions below), car loans (yes, save up then drive a used car), smoking pot (it makes you dumb and lazy I’ve seen it personally), credit card debt (pay it off by all means necessary especially by quitting the other items on this list), excessive alcohol (quit entirely if you have to).

I’m going to add to the list: ridiculously expensive but worthless college degrees. Students are the latest fad hapless debtor voters  for the government to victimize and force taxpayers to bail out. Oh, but certainly education is important! Getting drunk and high for 4 years and talking about your feelings is not an education, even if you pay $35K per year to do it.

Do: read. Information is out there.

Do: exercise. Bad health is expensive.

Of note, they show a guy with a family in the movie who is evicted even though he paid his rent because the owner defaulted. That is truly unfortunate. However, I personally work hard to ensure that those who pay their rent, as is reflected by their credit score, have a safe and stable place to live and pay their rent on time!

Nate’s Favorite Things 2016

I have just two favorite things this year. They must be good then!

1. Audible and The Great Courses

The Great Courses are separate from, but available through Audible. They each deserve to be on my list in their own right, but I group them together because that’s how I buy them. I have an Audible subscription and I use many of my monthly credits on The Great Courses. Audible is Amazon’s way of selling audio books. For me, they have transformed several otherwise boring tasks such as removing wallpaper, yard work, and driving between Ohio and North Carolina, into riveting adventures. The Great Courses are series of lectures organized into 30 or 45 minute segments given by the best professors that academia has to offer on each subject. I am currently listening to my 4th. I highly recommend “History’s Greatest Stories of Exploration,” to start. You’ll be hooked! Better than fiction!

2. Darn Tough Socks

Have you ever been down to your last socks and thought, “This is gonna be a bad sock day.” Why? Why wear cheap, thin old socks? Throw them out! Donate them! The industrial revolution has brought all the comforts that technology can offer and you reject the efforts of our ancestors by wearing third-rate socks to save a few dollars? Socks touch your skin all day long. They have to deal with your sweaty feet. They support you when you stand and walk. They have to fit like gloves. If you spend more than $10,000 on a car in which you spend less than an hour per day, how can you justify saving $10 on socks? It’s ridiculous!

Darn Tough socks were part of the gear issued when I was in the military before we went on deployment. Great gear. Everybody loved them. They are expensive, but worth the money. There is only one drawback, they are not good for hot weather.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I hope you kick back with some new socks and listen to an audio book!

Oprah has 104 favorite things this year. That’s 2 new things per week, each week, all year long. Really!? Clearly my list is 52 times as authentic as hers.

Our Best Song Lyrics

Have you ever learned the words to a song and found that it totally changes your experience? For example, have you ever known a couple whose first dance was to Every Breath You Take by The Police? It’s a nice song, but it’s about an obsessive stalker. Sting even says that’s what it’s about. Have you ever been to a wedding where they play Get Low by Lil Jon? Those lyrics require no explanation.

What are we listening to??? The following are three more songs with interesting lyrics:

  1. Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid released in 1984. You have heard this on the radio during Christmas. This was the all-time top selling single in the UK until 1997 when It was passed by Candle in the Wind by Elton John. I heard it on the radio just days ago.
  2. Just Dance by Lady Gaga, 2008. Lady Gaga’s first single, it topped the charts in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.
  3. Talking Body by Swedish artist Tove Lo, 2015. This peaked at #12 on the Billboard Top 100.

They are all 3 super-catchy. Total toe-tappers. I like all 3.

However! Read the lyrics out loud to somebody. How does it make you feel?

Just listen to this wholesome 2016 jam from Australian artist Sia to cheer yourself back up.

Breaking News! Barrier to Information Dissemination Drops to Zero

Why am I writing this? More importantly, why are you reading? More importantly, how is it that I can publish something that the entire world can read instantly and for free? This is possible because the internet went public 25 years ago on 6 August 1991. Yes, 25 years ago, but it is still a huge deal–huge–and it may be just now ramping up. Is it breaking news? Yes! Every day of our lives.

I took European history as an AP class in high school, and I could hardly have found it more boring. I specifically remember being taught what a huge deal the “Gutenberg Press” was. I happened to believe that the Gutenberg Press was the single most boring invention or event I’d ever heard of. No longer! By a combination of The Great Courses lectures and learning my own family history, I am a history convert and an enthusiastic believer that the Gutenberg Press matters to us because of its analogous relationship to the internet.

History repeats itself, but you have to know which history to look at. We should look at the Gutenberg Press as the most pertinent historical event for us today because the internet is the modern-day acceleration of what the Gutenberg Press started 550 years before it.

The Gutenberg Press was a big deal because it enabled the rapid dissemination of information. It greatly lowered the barrier to producing copies of ideas. Instead of requiring a team of monks to copy books by hand one word at a time, you could stamp out pages by the hundreds. Before the press, copying was extremely slow, after the press, several orders of magnitude faster, but you still needed a printing press and employees, or later an antenna and a license to broadcast by radio or television, or a copy machine and some kind of network to disseminate the paper. From the press and employees to an antenna and broadcast license, these were all things that only organizations and businesses had, so there was still a barrier. However, beginning in August of 1991, that requirement dropped to zero. Literally anybody with internet access–free at your public library–can publish an idea and give instant access to most of the world within seconds and at a ridiculously low cost of less than $70 per year for a website. Twitter, Facebook, and all social media that matters is free. TV networks actually report what social media says, not the other way around.

What does it mean? It means that both the printing press and the internet are a big deal, and a big deal for the same reason. Therefore, some of their effects on society will be analogous. If you want to read history that is pertinent to today, a good target year is somewhere between 1440 and 1648–plus or minus of course.

The internet went public 25 years ago, and 1465 was 25 years after the printing press was invented, so you might say 1465 is the best year to look at, but things happen faster today. I would argue that we’re past 1465. Did the average peasant even know about the press in 1465? Probably not. Maybe they had seen a printed Bible at church by that time or heard some rumors. By contrast, an estimated 40% of the world’s population is already using the internet.

1648 was 208 years after the invention of the press, and by that time, the protestant movement was established, and The Thirty Years’ War had concluded, the largest conflict that can be directly connected to the invention of the printing press. The Thirty Years’ War involved all the major European powers, resulted in the fracture of the Catholic Church, established an entire new category of religion, and an estimated 8 million people died.

Back to what made this interesting to me in the very first place. Let’s have a quick conversation with my great x 9 grandfather, Michael Rouffin, in Bexbach, Germany in 1655 when he was 20 years old (in German of course, and I made some of this up).

“So Nine-Great Grandpa, that’s a nice wooden-covered Bible you have displayed on the table there.”

“Yes. I’m the first in my family to own one. It was given to me by the church as a gift when I came here to Bexbach.”

“Why did you move to Bexbach? Was there a problem in Rouffin where you’re from?”

“No. The problem was here in Bexbach. Most of the men in this town were killed in the war. Bexbach and the surrounding towns were decimated. I was summoned here by the landlord to replace them and farm the land and repopulate the town.”

“What do you think of the war and these new religions that have established themselves?”

“I don’t know. It sure is a crazy world these days though.”

Boy, was he right! Sound familiar? It was a time of extreme knowledge increase, and extreme upheaval.

That’s all I have. I have to read more history…