Losing touch


It’s easy to lose touch.

The buyer of this $200,000+ Mer­cedes May­bach sedan will think lit­tle of pay­ing another $5,000 for a fancy sun­roof. (The Magic Sky Con­trol (http://techcenter NULL.mercedes-benz NULL.com/en/magic_sky_control/detail NULL.html) roof will let you change its opac­ity from fully opaque to clear in a mat­ter of seconds.)

It’s easy for me to cast stones. Recently, Heather and I got new phones that cost way too much. (Our kids have been giv­ing us a hard time, and jus­ti­fi­ably so.) Com­pared to $5,000 for a fancy sun­roof, new phones that we use every day for tons of pro­duc­tive (and not so pro­duc­tive) things seems to be sensible.

But when I think about kids in devel­op­ing coun­tries going hun­gry — and that a frac­tion of our monthly phone bill could feed sev­eral, I can’t jus­tify this extravagance.

To the May­bach owner, extrav­a­gance means one thing. To me, another. But we both need to step back and see the big­ger pic­ture. We’re both los­ing touch.

Stop vs. Yield

stop-signIn Eng­land, there are fewer stop signs per inter­sec­tion than in the USA. I wish Amer­ica would fol­low the UK in this area.

If you see no dri­vers com­ing, it saves time for you and the peo­ple behind you if you slow down, rather than com­ing to a com­plete stop. Slow­ing down also saves fuel, com­pared to com­pletely stop­ping and then speed­ing back up.

Maybe it boils down to trust. The dri­ving test in Eng­land is much harder than in the US. Dri­vers in the UK are required to be more qual­i­fied to be behind the wheel. (There are 2–3 times fewer traf­fic fatal­i­ties per capita (https://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate) in the UK com­pared to the US.) When I took the dri­ving test in Eng­land, it was much harder.

The only down­side to hav­ing fewer stop signs would be the loss of rev­enue from traf­fic tick­ets. Per­haps local gov­ern­ments could come up with a less preda­tory way to raise funds.

Beauty is pain

shoes-of-ms-pradaJust look­ing at this photo* caused me pain.

What great lengths peo­ple go to in pur­suit of beauty — and have done for the scope of human history.

The vast major­ity of good things come with a cost.

Even enjoy­ing a beau­ti­ful flower along the path requires you to take a moment to stop.

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*This is an excerpt of a photo taken by Craig McDean (https://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Craig_McDean). It appeared in the Novem­ber issues of WSJ mag­a­zine.

Foot­note: The pain Miuc­cia Prada must expe­ri­ence while wear­ing these shoes must make her feel beau­ti­ful - enough to put up with the pain of wear­ing them.


Cab armchair by Mario BelliniEvery­one has one.”

Tom Kundig, a famous archi­tect said that (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/architect-tom-kundig-on-mountain-bikes-and-tiny-houses-1446136025) about his Cab arm­chair by Mario Bellini. I did a quick Google search and dis­cov­ered it costs about $5,500 (https://shop NULL.mohd NULL.it/en/cab-415-poltrona NULL.html). For one chair.

The full quote is just as price­less: “It’s almost embar­rass­ing to admit that [I own one] because every­one has one.”

Then I had to ask myself, when do I make assump­tions about oth­ers? Quite often.

  • They look like that because they have no sense of taste.
  • They are strug­gling with that health prob­lem because they refuse to exercise.
  • They keep fail­ing at rela­tion­ships because they...

You get the point. It’s too easy to assume things with­out know­ing the big­ger picture.

Photo by vetus­tanova (https://www NULL.tum­blr NULL.com/search/412-cab-chair) on Tumblr.

The good side of the Goodwill

old-receiverThe past has value. The cur­rent often under­val­ues the past.

One change dur­ing the last fifty years is that youth is wor­shipped and age is scorned. This is true for peo­ple — but also for things.

Thank­fully, this is revers­ing a bit. We saw the movie The Intern (http://www NULL.imdb NULL.com/title/tt2361509/) over the week­end. Robert De Niro plays a retired exec­u­tive who joins a young CEO, played by Anne Hath­away. By the end of the movie, she comes to appre­ci­ate all that he can offer her startup com­pany. (Yes, the trans­for­ma­tion is a bit unbe­liev­able, but this is a movie.)

In much the same way, char­ity shops sell a boat­load of cast-off items that once held value. The audio receiver pic­tured here was once state-of-the-art. You can buy one like it for a song — if you visit the Good­will store near you often enough.

Some­times it takes a per­son from a past era to shine value on the items from that era to some­one of a younger era. It’s a form of translation.

Maybe a trans­la­tion bureau will open up. (Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists apply here. I’ll sign on to rep­re­sent the 70s.)

Will you use it?

a totally covered Toyota Land CruiserHow often do you use it? Is it worth cov­er­ing when it takes 45 min­utes to get it ready to use?

I passed this Toy­ota Land Cruiser on my way to work one morn­ing. (I was on my bicy­cle, so it wasn’t hard to pause to take a quick picture.)

I under­stand the desire to col­lect nice things. But how often are you going to use that trea­sured item?

I ask myself this often. (Does it drive me to reduce my pos­ses­sions? Not as fre­quently as I’d like!)

Smaller can be better

two wireless external keyboardsTwo exter­nal key­boards — the larger is the one that I used to have at work. The smaller is my new one, and I love it.

I real­ized that the num­bers key­pad was forc­ing me to type at an odd angle to the screen. The new smaller key­board lets me type in a more ergonomic posi­tion. It’s much lighter and eas­ier to move out of the way, when I need to use more of my desk. And, it’s more elegant.

Amer­ica is in love with big things. If you travel to almost any other part of the world, you’ll see small.

What can you go smaller with? Play around with this idea and you might enjoy the results!


You get what you pay for — sometimes

mercedes-benz maybach s600 speedometermercedes-benz maybach s600 list priceA few weeks back, I vis­ited a Mercedes-Benz show­room and sat in a $205,385 May­bach S600 sedan. As you might guess, the qual­ity was so amaz­ing I could almost taste it.

Except for the video-monitor style gauges. Mer­cedes did not get the mes­sage that a $299 list-price iPad Mini has a much bet­ter display.

The devil is in the details? Maybe in this case!

And we wonder why the sky is brown

emissionsI had a shock­ing real­iza­tion the other day. I took our 12-year old Honda mini­van in for an emis­sions test. (It’s required by law.)

The fam­ily trans­port vehi­cle (aka, “liv­ing room on wheels”) passed with fly­ing col­ors. In fact, the mar­gin between what was accept­able and what it pro­duced was huge. And that’s with a rel­a­tively large engine — 3.5 liters that pro­duces 240 horsepower.

Here are the results:

  • Hydro­car­bons — just 2% of the fail amount
  • Car­bon Monox­ide — just under 3% of the fail amount
  • Nitro­gen oxides — 28% of the fail amount

Obvi­ously, the Col­orado gov­ern­ment needs to tighten its stan­dards. Methinks the law mak­ers have a bunch of week­end 1960s Amer­i­can cars with no emis­sions con­trols installed at all.

Citizens’ Initiatives

dog poop bag dispenser

Our neigh­bor­hood has a few walk­ing paths. And we walk along them, from time to time.

A very kind cit­i­zen put this “add a used news­pa­per or gro­cery bag dis­penser for dog poop” dis­penser along the trail.


The local parks author­ity pro­vides their own dis­pensers, but they have to spend labor hours, the costs of spe­cial poop bags and cre­ate pol­lu­tion by a small pickup truck going along the trails to refill the dispensers.

It’s so much bet­ter for ordi­nary peo­ple to add their used gro­cery or news­pa­per bags to these simple-to-build dispensers!