Conventional wisdom need not apply

alfa romeo quadrifoglio

Many of us are still trying to figure out how Mr. Trump won. Whether or not you like him and what he represents — or the Democratic party and what they represent — one thing is certain — we do not know what tomorrow brings.

Alfa Romeo is trying to make inroads onto our roads. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is a beautiful high-performance four-door sedan. Car critics are praising it from their rooftops.

But American has largely abandoned the four-door sedan. As you know, crossovers (suburbia-biased SUVs) have taken over.

Conventional wisdom from car manufacturers dictates introducing a flagship top-of-the-line vehicle to generate excitement in America about other vehicles they have to offer.

I would like to respectfully disagree with that wisdom.

They should have launched an affordable but exciting small crossover. They will sell a crossover — the Stelvio. But it is priced in a similar range as the Quadrifoglio (more than $70,000) — out of the range of most Americans.

Start at the bottom and work your way up. It worked for Mr. Trump.


Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo UK — and used without permission. (If you live in the UK, go out and buy a Quadrifoglio now, and they will be happy.)

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My word for the new year

floof cat, relaxing on a couch

Relax.

As the stresses of life pile on me, as the weeks accumulate, I want to remember our kitty, Floof. He knows when to relax (most of the time) and where (anywhere).

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Longing for a simpler experience

Hot sauce at a truck stop in Texas

Choice is great. But if there are too many choices, getting to our destination takes longer.

Variety is the spice of life. But too much variety can force a fight with indecision.

I am very decisive and always have been. But sometimes, the sheer volume of choices is overwhelming.

And the mood I’m in makes a vast difference — if I am tired, I don’t want a lot of choices. Since I’m a morning person, facing a lot of choices in the morning is a much better experience than staring down a wall of choices at the end of a long day of work.

I’d love to start a chain of small stores that only have a few high-quality reasonably-priced items in each category. (Investors, give me a shout!)

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Writing vs Typing

picture of handwriting compared to typesetting

Beautiful expensive pens.

The Wall Street Journal often features luxury items that are out of the range of all but the upper .001%. The New Status Symbol? Think Ink featured Marc Newson Pens by Hermès for a mere $1,670 and the $400 El Casco Stapler.

Since I love pens, I read the article with gusto. I am not attracted to hand-made solid gold fountain pens, but I do appreciate fine art.

Besides digging into the hardware, the writers also delved a bit into why writing a message by hand is more meaningful than typing off an email.

I agree.

The article includes an interview with Tom Dixon, whose London-based furniture, lighting and interior design firm also sells fine pens and pencils. I disagreed with part of his thought in reference to those who handwrite, “Maybe superior communication is a more thoughtfully, artfully and carefully constructed message.”

When I write a personal email, I spend time going back and editing the content, such that my final thought truly says what I mean.

I do love writing letters by hand. My brother, who lives in Texas, is the recipient of the bulk of my handwriting.

As he could attest, few of those letters contain anything of great significance. But I enjoy the experience of dragging a smooth ballpoint across the back of a scrap letter-sized piece of paper. The resulting letters are more me than Helvetica or Myriad.

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One small change

article about the evils of sugar with a cup of water

Sugar has been linked to diabetes and obesity, over and over. And yet we love it. I say, “we,” because I love a good chocolate bar or delicious cookie as much as anyone.

The Christmas holiday season (or Kwanzaa, if that’s your holiday) is filled with opportunities to enjoy all manner of sugary delights. At my office, a visit to the communal break room table provides many joy-filled moments throughout the month of December. Vendors gift us with a constant flow of fun treats.

It’s very hard to stop indulging.

But there is one thing I’ve found that cuts at least a little bit of sugar from my diet… no more juice at breakfast.

Instead, I drink ice water.

At first, I really missed my glass of orange juice. But after only a week, the pain was completely gone. Now water provides a refreshing contrast to my bowl of cereal with milk.

Give it a try! Before you say, “Forget this, I’m going back to juice,” do it for a week or two to see if you can break the juice habit.


A final benefit to this change is that it will save your budget a bit of change.

 

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Not porpoises but cows

Bentley Continental convertible

Gray accent leather on the doors and the top of the instrument panel is called Porpoise, but, like other hides, it comes from land animals and not sea creatures” — from a Car and Driver article about the Bentley Continental GT V-8 S.

Why is it that the thought of someone killing porpoises for our use is more repellant than the thought of someone killing cows for our use?

Flipper.

When I was a kid, Flipper was a TV show about a friendly sea creature that came to the rescue of different people every week. Think Lassie in the sea.

I don’t know of any TV shows about friendly cows.

The quote about Bentley’s choice of an upholstery name made me think of the whole veganism culture and philosophies — one end of the animal rights spectrum. Porpoise killers might be the other end of the spectrum.

And then I thought of my friend who is a cattle rancher in Oklahoma. She loves her cows more than just about anybody I know. And yet she sells them to be slaughtered.

I don’t know how to reconcile all these things.


  • The photo is courtesy of the Bentley website and is used without permission.
  • If there are any modern TV shows starring animals, I wouldn’t know them, since I watch very little mainstream TV.
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Not everyone

rhythm-discovery-centerWe all love to make assumptions.

When we are at a busy intersection and see someone holding a sign asking for money, we assume they lack employment and a solid place to live.

When we see an older person in a car going 20 m.p.h. below the speed limit, we assume they are challenged in all that by takes to manage a 4,000-pound vehicle.

When we hear someone singing next to us and they can’t carry a tune, we assume — well, what do we assume?

I can definitely carry a tune — I’m close to having perfect pitch. However, I cannot carry a beat, for the life of me.

One of the most challenging aspects of living in Africa for five years was dancing in church. (Dancing is part of worship in Kenya, at least in many of the churches we attended.)

Since I can’t carry a beat, I can’t dance. I can’t clap and sing at the same time.

So the Rhythm Discovery Center is not the place for me. And I disagree — not everyone has rhythm.

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Can you change a culture?

ad for face masksAny kind of growth for a company or large body of people happens because of culture change. It takes a healthy dose of optimism to start a culture change.

Take MyAir Mask. I stumbled across an ad for surgical masks with printed designs in New York magazine. Their manufacturer would love it if these masks could become part of America’s publicly acceptable sense of style.

The ad touted the masks’ many benefits, including preventing a loss of moisture that is supposed to lessen jet lag. And there is the obvious benefit of preventing airborne infection.

But I just don’t see the USA adopting this sensible fashion accessory.

Though wearing face masks in public is very acceptable in China, Americans are too conscious of wanting to be seen and not have their smiles hidden, even if it means an increased risk of getting a cold.

My optimism would not stretch as far as taking that company on as a client. Would yours?

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The lost bet

100-dollarsDuring my last year of college, I made a bet with my roommate, Brian Wells. I bet him $100 that within ten years, I would be more into classical music than rock music.

After ten years, my tastes had not shifted. I still listened to way more rock music than classical.

That’s the only bet involving money that I’ve ever made.

That wager came out of my growing love for classical music. My design degree meant many long late nights working on assignments that didn’t require brain engagement. Listening to records with headphones took some of the tedium out of my all-nighters. For the sake of variety, I listened to the widest selection of music that my budget would allow.

One month, my university had a record sale at the student center. I picked up two records that I quickly fell in love with — Mozart’s 40th & 41st symphonies and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

I listened to both records enough that I memorized every musical phrase. And I spun the Four Seasons so many times that I cannot listen to it today.

Mozart’s 40th Symphony contains the highest form of musical expression I have ever heard — the slow-moving Andante movement. The string section comes in slow and builds to a peak of energy that brings tears to my eyes.

Because of my deep love for that piece, I thought that my tastes would shift to embrace more classical than rock.

Alas, the easy accessibility of rock has maintained the lion’s share of my attention — compared to the more complicated and longer classical works. (Think steak vs. candy.)

My tastes still span the gamut of all but mainstream music. But there are parts of every genre that I hate with a very deep passion. Today, the vast majority of my listening time is devoted to quirky alternative rock. There’s always something interesting and new to be found.

Brian never collected his $100. I lost touch with him after he experienced significant painful life events. If you know where Brian is, tell him to give me a shout.

I’d love to pay up.

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Once the finest

Duesenberg car

Deusenberg was the finest car made. But the car’s manufacturer folded in 1937, due to the Great Depression and a lack of demand for luxury automobiles. (See the full story.)

When you compare this beautiful Deusenberg with the modern Tesla P100D, there is a vast chasm. Both have four wheels and both will get you from Point A to Point B — but the Tesla is faster, more efficient, quieter, roomier — and even self-driving.

We have come a long way in eighty years.

The reason for this little story is to remind me — and you — that there is always room for improvement. What we think is the very finest will soon be superseded by something else that represents a massive leap in functionality and illustrates a whole new form of beauty.

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