February 22, 2012
TEDxBerkeley 2012's Inspiring Innovation Merges Magic, BioData & Technology With Film, Oceans & Plants
Most people in my circles know what a TEDx event is but for those of you who don't, it is a local, self organized event that bring people together to share a TED-like experience, in the spirit of ideas worth spreading.
This video gives you an idea of what these non-profit events are like, which extend far beyond Berkeley. Cities around the world are organizing TEDx events, with a goal to teach, share, collaborate, educate, faciliate and grow. Ideas worth spreading means that some of these ideas can revolutionize (and have revolutionized) the world because of a new relationship or partnership that has evolved as a result of the wider distribution of these ideas and the courage and dedication of people behind making the 'magic' happen.
It's the second year I've been involved as co-curator of TEDxBerkeley, an event held at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall every February. In attendance were well over 1,000 people from a broad range of disciplines and minds - from academic, music and science to medicine, technology and the arts.
15 ground-breaking thinkers, leaders and performers entertained and educated the audience through storytelling, performance and anecdotes from their life experiences.
Given that UC Berkeley is involved, so were some of the professors and students, including the opening act by DeCadence (pronounced dee-KAY-dence, with a capital ‘C’), a vocalist group that sports eye-catching blue and gold capes and creative dance moves at nearly every performance.
The musician in me couldn't help but call out music brilliance first and while we're on the topic of incredible voices, Charles Holt stole the stage with his storytelling and singing of "He Lives in You," my favorite Lion King number.
He had me at "go" is an understatement, largely because of his intuitive nature, the fact that he lives his life through that intuitive lense and his witty and incredibly honest stories of his mother and grandmother from the south, which will leave you crying and laughing at the same time.
From music to dance, Jodi Lomask then awed us through her dance troupe. Known for her work with an organization she founded called Capacitor 15 years ago, she works with world-renowned research scientists to create original dance works that draw attention to critical environmental issues.
I think about people I know who spend their life committed to understanding oceans and I think about the moment it was for me that I got one step closer: deep sea diving off the coast of Australia some 60 or so feet below the surface. In that world, that remarkable world, you truly understand the beauty of a world we need to cherish and preserve.
Her dancers showed us that beauty through a combination of violin, dance movements in and outside of rings in somewhat of a Cirque du Soleil style and environmental videos, all creating an outer world exerience for us to share.
One of my favorite moments of the performance is below...the intertwining of minds, hearts and bodies.
Also involved in conservation and the environment was Dr. Maria Fadiman who I had the pleasure of setting up with a new Twitter account (social media will get us all, the deep hidden voice says, lurking in the background), is a fascinating combination of geologist, comedian, nature lover and ethnobotanist, her work focuses on the relationship between people and plants.
From South Florida, her style was very informal for an academic crowd yet had people laughing as she pounced onto the stage with a machete in hand, telling one humorous story after another of her time in the jungle, the majority of her time spent in the rainforests of Latin America.
She has worked with Tibetan children in teaching them to record their own ethnobotanical traditions and is currently working on a global scale cross cultural study of people’s use of a cultural keystone species (the flora and fauna that are deemed important to the survival of a culture), and how these plants can act as larger ecosystem preservation incentives.
Digital fabrication is where you change the rules about how things are made, referencing 3D printers, showing us examples of various things which can be printed into a variety of materials, including rubber, plastic and metal.
It's amazing what can be printed on a 3D printer now...I ran into BitTorrent's Bram Cohen at SF Music Tech who showed me a very interesting 3D ring he was wearing on his finger. Additionally, imagine 3D buildings and even a 3D-printed human kidney.
We also heard about the rise of information, aka the wisdom of the crowds and the wisdom of the 'cloud.' Not only are we all becoming creators in our own way on our own personal platforms, but we're becoming curators as well.
Then, ARZU's Connie Duckworth, who took the stage in vibrant red, focused on international development sharing things learned from her work in Afghanistan. She says of the current state of international development:
- The international development industry is dysfunctional.
- Big money brings big unintended consequences.
- Hope can’t thrive in the world’s worse places.
She believes that we have an urgent call to change the structure of the international development industry, which holds in its hands the lives of billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Their thinking is that somehow inherently flawed short term thinking will move into sustainable systems. Big money when not hosed in the right direction can create a lot of chaos. She asserts that its a key reason that so many people lose so much faith in their government.
She refers to another unintended consequence of big money going to the wrong places: Brain Tilt, which is when the most highly educated local people (engineers, professors, doctors), all end up working for expats in low level positions. Local smart people are working as drivers and clerks rather than working in higher level positions because they can get paid so much more in the other positions.
Connie defines the quest for peace as security. “We all see the world through our own lens of experience, so for me, success all starts with a job. This is how people start with a way to solve those basic level needs, such as the ability to eat and feed their family.” She encouraged the audience not to just sit back and want peace, but believe in it and take action.
Rather than focus on money, we wanted to focus on giving, in other words, the idea of unleashing the power of compassion capital. “Once you unleash compassion,” he says, it’s amazing what happens. “Stay focused on adding value and discovered untapped capital.”
When small acts of giftivism get connected and activated, it rekindles a gift economy. A gift culture, he says, is marked by four key shifts:
- Shift from Consumption to Contribution – Instead of asking “what can I get,” open with “What can I give?” He says if you open each door with a different question, about what can you give, it changes the entire dynamics.
- Shift from Transaction to Trust: Build synergy. He refers to Karma Kitchen, a restaurant in Berkeley, where you pay for the people ahead of you or behind you rather than for your own bill. 26,000 meals so far and people continue to pay it forward.
- Shift from Isolation to Community: it is not enough that we connect, but rather how we connect. When you serve other people together, you create a network of ‘gift ties.’
- Shift from Scarcity to Abundance: Cultivate inner transformation to arrive at enough. “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Hear hear Nipun. From gift economies, we shifted to Gopi Kallayil from Google who talked about the power of social and a connected world, particularly during the 18 days of the Egyptian protests, showing us a video where Desmond Tutu is talking to the Dalai Lama on Google+, a clip which has now been watched 2 million times. This is a great example of how social media is driving innovation around the world.
We saw examples from Libya and Kenya to South Africa and Egypt, where during the protests, they were able to express how they really felt and more importantly, people were able to listen to those words on YouTube and other platforms. They sang, “the most important thing is our right and writing our history with our blood – if you were one of us, better not blabber and tell us to go away and leave our dream and stop saying the word “I”. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling. In every street in my country, the sound of freedom is calling.” Powerful stuff.
From the vantage point of healthcare, intuition and communications, Dr. Neha Sangwan encourages everyone to be proud of yourself for "listening to yourself." Often, listening to ourself comes second to listening to opinions of others, whether they be friends and family or a doctor we're seeing for a particular issue.
She asks, "what if communication is the cure that we're missing? What is the way we talk to ourselves & whether we choose to lean into our discomfort & show up in the world? What is this is the prescription for health long before I need to write you a prescription?"
Her talk was highly emotional as she brought us a journey around the world to the Middle East, where she spoke to women, sharing with us insights she learned about their world, their pride and in turn, what we can learn from them in the western world.
A professor at Berkeley, Ken Goldberg who closed the talks, on nothing other than robots. Yes, robots...and what we can learn from them. As someone who worked in speech recognition for years and did a project for the Willow Garage guys (I love PR2 and even danced with one), I was eager to hear his insights.
Ken thinks robots can inspire us and that we have a lot to learn from them. Some of those insights from various projects over the years include: always question assumptions. It's amazing how quick we are to turn to other people's assumptions and make decisions based on them without digging deeper. Secondly, when in doubt, improvise.
I couldn't help but smile but when i realized that both of these recommendations btw are great ones for start-ups as well as for children. So is tihs one: When your path is blocked, pivot. In start-up culture, we learn to pivot a lot, something that Fortune 500 companies should pay more attention to...
Author and thought leader David Ewing Duncan focused on DATA and how do we make sense of it all?', something he thinks is an awesome achievement of humanity, for 'better or worse.'
Because of his background, he centered his talk around bio-data. He points out that today, we can get a micro-analysis of our blood work, which can tell us how just whether we have a high chance of cancer and chronic diseases, but how empathetic we are as human beings. He notes "more experiences, more tests leads to more data."
But, as so many of us know, we have so much data, that its often overwhelming, so much so we can't make sense of the data we have at our fingertips. This is David's point.
Whats needed, he asserts is a new mindset in every occupation. "Enough of all this data, what does this data actually mean?" he says. "We need a revolution in interpreting the tools and the data as well as a radical shift in resources. In other words, how do we go about testing 42,000 genetic traits?"
Clearly, we need a radical shift in resources. There's only 4% invested on translational medicine and he thinks there needs to be a reversal in resource allocation. He also pointed to trends in the future for all the students sitting in the hall: "we're going to need 500 million analysts in 6 years and we only have 100 million today." Clearly, these are the people who are going to be well versed at making sense of all that data and transforming it into something usable and most importantly, actionable by individuals.
Tapan Parikh, a Berkeley University professor brought us back into traditional technology and current trends. Tapan’s research interests include human-computer interaction (HCI), mobile computing, speech UIs and information systems for microfinance, smallholder agriculture and global health.
He showed us photographs and results of some of his work in rural areas. Of his latest projects, Tapan has been designing, developing and deploying information systems in the rural developing world – initially in India, and now also in Latin America and Africa.
Tapan and his students have started several technology companies serving rural communities and the development sector. It was inspirational to see what they have accomplished so far and to see what is possible with resources, tearing down silos, sharing among communities and better access.
What he hopes to represent is the notion of showing respect for where you come from. He says, "Pick a challenge that is important to you" (for him, it was setting up real-time video conferencing, knowledge sharing and instant messaging in India), "and stick to it." He adds, "Don't assume you know what people need for their development - let them speak up, don't act for them."
I was thrilled that Tiffany Shlain was able to join us this year as I've always been a fan of her work. She has been making films for 20 years, and some of them have hit Sundance, Tribeca, Rotterdam and others and her films have won over 36 film festival awards.
Tiffany says, "each time we were able to change the way we recorded film and show reality, we were able to change reality itself."
She showed us snippets from her most recent film: Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology, A Declaration of Interdependence.” Connected had its U.S. theatrical tour this past fall and is now available for people to host their own screenings.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) announced earlier this month the 29 films selected for the American Film Showcase, an international cultural diplomacy initiative that brings people together worldwide through film and Connected made the list.
The movie is enlightening and sad at the same time, taking us deep into what is happening around us in a connected world and how technology is shaping and reshaping us. Bravo!! I have a love/hate relationship with technology myself -- the timing of this film couldn't be more perfect.
"Do something radical and true," she says. "We as humans should declare our human interdependence." Film projects they're working on for others are centered on life's most emotional topics: engagement, power, money, wisdom, death, inspiration, the brain and others.
Now that we're back to Entertainment, the E in TED, the last two speakers this year were performers: magician Robert Strong and violinist Lindsey Stirling.
Robert Strong is known as 'The Comedy Magician' and in watching him, it's so clear that magic is his life passion. He has performed on every major television network, in more than 40 different countries, in all 50 states, and twice at the White House.
I never paid much attention to the word magic until I renamed my own consultancy with Magic in the name. Now, I see 'magic' everywhere and am a true believer that perception is reality and that we can create any outcome we want through our own belief systems.
Lindsey Stirling, who I first saw play at Idea Festival in Kentucky last fall, is often referred to as the Hip Hop Violinist. Her passion, energy, and presence is magnetic, so much so, that you can't help but want to get up on stage and dance as she jumps around, violin and all, around you. Here's some background on her work. Let's just say that I'm a huge fan.
Check out last year's (2011) TEDxBerkeley talks on video. And a few talks from last year to get you inspired were Chip Conley on remembering that we're human in business, Anat Baniel on flexibility and vitality, Lopas Brunjes on carbon reduction, Bryan Alvarez on living organisms in our body, and Shore Slocum on spiritual awakening and awareness and how this can transform your everyday life.
February 22, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, Magic Sauce Media, Music, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Poems, Literature & Stuff, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future, San Francisco, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 18, 2012
Is What I Crave Connected to My Heritage, Where I Live or Both?
It always seems to take over a month for those post holidays sugar and fatty food cravings to disappear. I’ve noticed that those cravings are often more prevalent during certain times of the year and when I visit certain parts of the world, and it’s not just because those “cravings” are the only things that locals eat.
I currently live in northern California and have lived in 10 countries, including more than my fair share of cold-weathered cities. There’s no question that colder climates can make you crave heartier dishes and hotter temperature foods, even though Brits argued that soups and curries helped them cool down in India during the colonial years.
Since living on the west coast, I crave more sushi than when I lived in Boston. When I visit northern European cities, I crave more red meat even if there’s fish or chicken on the menu and the weather is warm.
Culture contributes to those cravings and may explain why my Italian-born friends prefer a crisp Sauvignon Blanc over a buttery Chardonnay and how I developed such a tight bond with South African biltong that it’s hard to convince natives that I wasn’t raised there.
That said, there are some dishes I crave that feel like they’re “part” of who I am, such as squash, kobasa, duck, and toast for starters. Call it comfort food but I wonder, is it a craving for “comfort” or is it connected to heritage, where generations of eating certain things gets passed on, embedded in our DNA if you will?
When my grandfather sat down for lunch, his staple to-go plate included cold meats, pickles and onions. My grandmother would add a bowl of onions to the table since he added onions to more dishes than I’d care to admit.
Observing this behavior was subliminal at best, yet here I am years later craving many of the same things my grandfather ate, and have noticed a “craving” increase of some of his favorite dishes as I get older.
There are examples of this across the globe, such as the thousands of banana varieties in Africa alone, not to mention vegetables and fruits not that plentiful in the west like guava and okra. Whatever we have an abundance of, we eat, another reason I’m thrilled the holidays are over.
When we lived in Florida, oranges were a regular sighting in our kitchen as was coconut juice when I hung my hat in Kenya. I lived on curries in London and ate French fries with peanut butter sauce in Amsterdam.
But, how much of our cravings are connected to other factors such as our body chemistry and general health?
Rest assured, there are lots of foods that make me feel better, such as fruits and vegetables. And, when I eat healthier, my body chemistry changes as do my cravings. When I used to juice regularly, I’d find alcohol and low-alkaline foods hard to stomach. Our bodies adapt just as our ancestor’s bodies adapted to different kinds of foods as a result of changes in climate, food availability and the economy. (Think The Depression).
Many doctors and health experts may argue that our cravings have nothing to do with heritage whatsoever. There’s certainly no shortage of doctor-blessed diets that promise to reduce your cravings, decrease your “bad” cholesterol and add years to your life.
D'Adamo suggests that the human blood type is key to the body's ability to differentiate self from non-self. Lectins in foods, he asserts, react differently with each ABO blood type and to a lesser extent with an individual's secretor status.
One source suggests that orange juice is bad for my blood type whereas grapefruit juice and I should shine. The truth is that while I like both, I prefer grapefruit juice and “feel” healthier drinking it.
One of the noted symptoms of adrenal fatigue, a condition where your adrenal glands become “tired”, is a craving of salty, fatty, and high protein food such as meat and cheese. Some blood type diets observe that Type O’s don’t find dairy products and grains as ‘body-friendly.” It makes you wonder what percentage of people from northern Europe are Type O’s versus those who hail from Africa or Asia?
Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity by Elias & Kethum suggest that I should add more “cool foods” to my diet and avoid red vegetables such as tomatoes and red peppers which can make you feel more “irritable & off-balance” and bitter foods and beverages, which are considered more ‘healing.’ They focus on five elemental types: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. After doing a questionnaire, they recommend certain foods based on your results and tell you to avoid others, with the goal of getting your body into balance and harmony.
Albeit not new, Dr. Barnet Meltzer has written about something he refers to as “food swings”, the reactions in your mind and body to what you eat, a link between your diet and your emotional and physical well-being. Female friends have admitted that they may eat more at times when they knowingly don’t want to attract men into their lives.
Those who have tried the Atkins Diet know that it makes you forget about carbs after the first week and soon, its promise to drop the pounds becomes a reality, for a price that is and not necessarily a healthy one.
A highly alkaline and juice diet made me enjoy raw foods in a way I never thought was possible. Being a vegetarian for awhile made me despise the smell of meat for a few years and Rosedale’s diet argues that Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, tells the brain when to eat, how much to eat and when to stop eating.
The time of day you eat is also a factor. When I returned from Italy several years ago, I craved pasta in the mornings and it wasn’t until I avoided carbs until late afternoon that those sharp cravings disappeared.
The Telegraph’s Science Correspondent Richard Alleyne unveiled research in 2009 that examined how the time of day you eat affects how much weight you put on; eating high fat foods during the day led to a 20 per cent weight gain.
This is just the beginning of an exploration of how cravings are connected to heritage, location, time and health. If you have ever documented your cravings and have insights to share, let’s evolve the conversation. Over to you, health afficiandos, doctors, researchers, experts and those who are as genuinely curious as I am about this topic, to offer your opinions and data.
February 12, 2012
Top Ten Social Media Blogs
The Social Media Examiner recently chose the top ten social media blogs they suggest following. Reprinted here.
#1: Social Mouths
Social Mouths, the brainchild of Francisco Rosales, provides deep and honest looks at social media marketing and trends that impact our industry.
ViralBlog provides a daily stream of social media trends and inspiration through case studies and other interesting articles.
#3: Jeff Bullas
Jeff Bullas takes a close look at how businesses can get found online through social media.
Hubze has built an audience by focusing on social media trends and tips on social media marketing tactics.
The site contains a nice variety of media, including articles and podcasts.
#5: The Sales Lion
The Sales Lion from Marcus Sheridan is a blog that seeks to build community around inbound marketing, blogging, business and life.
#6: Pushing Social
Pushing Social from Stanford Smith provides practical blogging tips and resources from a fresh perspective.
#7: Heidi Cohen
Heidi Cohen provides intelligent insights on social media tactics and trends, all while making the complex simple.
#8: MarketingTech Blog
MarketingTech blog provides a technology-focused approach to new media marketing.
#9: Likeable Media
Likeable Media keeps readers current on industry trends and new tools while also providing strategies and tactics for using Facebook and social media marketing.
SplashMedia provides interesting takes on strategy, tips and trends, while their SplashCasts offer some great success stories.
The site features great use of a video show as well as diverse postings with good in-depth content.
Republished from the Social Media Examiner who chose the lucky ten a coule of weeks ago. Congrats to the winners.
January 17, 2012
UBER Car Service: A Dream App When Flow & Timing Are Critical
For those of you who haven't heard of UBER, and because of the name, think it's some funky, hip device, think again. UBER is a car service that is as simple to use as calling a taxi. Many higher end car services require you to call them well in advance and they're often fairly pricey.
While UBER is definitely more expensive than a taxi (roughly about double in my experience), it's incredibly useful when you need a more formal sedan for business purposes, when it's late and taxis might take too long to get to you or you're in a location where taxis are tough to find.
I ran into the CEO Travis Kalanick recently on my flight to Paris for the LeWeb conference, the annual renowned Internet, social media & technology event held in Europe every December. The news was that while UBER had already been announced in San Francisco and other cities, Paris was to be unveiled that week as their first European location. And so, I had an opportunity to use their newly launched service in the world's most romantic city.
It was a simple free download onto my iPhone. Once you have the app, you can quickly request a car by telling Uber where you are. If you don't have an iPhone or Android app, you can text them your address. Cars typically arrive within 5-10 minutes. In Paris, it ranged from 6 minutes to 18 although most of the time, it was around the 8-10 minute mark and the accuracy of arrival times was spot-on nearly all the time.
As your driver is nearing your location, you can see exactly where he or she is on the map on your phone (the geo-visual element is part of the UBER app and you can see literally where the driver is down to the street corner, providing constant updates of the estimated arrival time). UBER also tells you the name of your driver and includes a photo so when you walk outside of your venue, you can recognize them more easily.
I also tried UBER to the airport and while taxis charge roughly E65-70, UBER costs around E120 for your black sedan, which of course has a bottled water waiting for you in the seat. For a taxi that may cost around E8-10, I found that UBER charged around E20 but bear in mind that the final cost which is automatically charged to your credit card, does include the tip.
They apparently raise prices for major holidays where demand is going to be high, and did so on both New Years and Halloween. According to the D post, 'when prices are about to surge, Uber sends a mass email out to its users, puts up a blog post detailing the pricing changes, and, barring technical issues, users should also get notifications through the app during times that surge pricing is in effect.'
Uber institutes a "surge pricing" system with the idea that they need to keep cars available for the customers who really want them, so as demand grows, prices would too. From UBER's blog about how surge pricing works:
"Without a surge pricing mechanism, there is no way to clear the market. Fixed or capped pricing, and you have the taxi problem on NYE -- no taxis available with people waiting hours to get a ride or left to stagger home through the streets on a long night out. By *raising* the price you *increase* the number of cars on the road and maximize the number of safe convenient rides. Nobody is required to take an Uber, but having a reliable option is what we're shooting for."
My experiences in Paris were nearly flawless but then again, bloggers and press were given credits so we didn't have to face $200 surge pricing rides and because the service was brand new, there was a lot of availability (60 cars on the ground at launch), which meant that I never had to stand in the Paris winter rain waiting for a half an hour for a car that may never come. We've all been in those situations before and they're not pretty.
So, while my experience was great (and btw, all the drivers were professional, courteous & shared useful information; one even brought me to a local place he knew for a crepe), the economics don't make sense for me to use it at home. That's the issue said a VC friend when I asked him what he thought of UBER. "The economics just don't work."
That said, UBER also gives you a sense of empowerment as well as freedom and control. If you're still at a dinner and don't want to disturb the flow of a conversation, you can simply push a button on your phone to see how far away your UBER car is...based on that information, you can either decide to push the button and order or wait for awhile.
For example, I just opened the app to see how many cars were available in San Francisco and was told that a driver was a mere 2 minutes away.
There's no interruption or need to tell your colleague, business contact or the restaurant manager to call you a cab. Most of the time, you haven't a clue when that cab is going to arrive, not to mention the fact that often you're on hold for far longer than you want, with horrible elevator music playing in the background.
I find that most of the time, particularly in foreign cities, the accuracy of when a taxi will arrive isn't great. UBER can be particularly useful in a business meeting where timing and flow is critical.
I can also see UBER being useful in cities like Los Angeles and Miami where there's more of a "late night" scene and you could share an UBER car with friends to go to your next destination. Other cities where UBER is currently operating is: San Francisco/Palo Alto, New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC and as noted, Paris, as of mid-December 2011.
Two other things to note: you can rate the driver immediately after the drive and provide real-time feedback if it didn't go well, which increases the likelihood of the service and quality of the drivers remaining high and improving over time.
Also, in my experience to-date, their customer service has been very responsive. I think if they can get their markets and target audience right and market to them effectively, UBER can be a dream app at just the right (or rather wrong) times.
Here's a link to a video that Bloomberg's Emily Change & Cory Johnson did where they share their own experiences using UBER in San Francisco.
January 01, 2012
New Years Greetings!!
January 1, 2012 in America The Free, Europe, Holidays, Magic Sauce Media, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On South Africa, On Spain, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 28, 2011
If You Only Had One New Years Resolution....
If you only had one New Year's resolution, it might be to recognize where this statement applies and do something about it. I'm sure it will lead to countless things you cannot even imagine until you start writing them down.
"Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation.
So does inaction sap vigor from the mind."
-- Leonardo da Vinci.
AND I'd add to this....it also saps vigor from your life.
December 25, 2011
Christmas in Every Language & Customs Around the World
Language is one of the most powerful things we have and when we can't communicate with someone because we don't know their language, we rely on hand gestures, hugs, expressions and the most universal ones: smiles when we're happy, tears when we're not.
I've spend the holidays in several countries over the years including India, Thailand, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, England, the Netherlands, Israel, France and a few places I'm sure I'm forgetting. Celebrations obviously differ even when you're celebrating within the same culture or religion. Jewish friends in New York buy a Hannukah bush, others don't honor it at all. If you've grown up in New England or northern Europe, snow often comes with Christmas and it becomes an association for you. If you live in Australia or Africa, chances are you've never had a white christmas.
Brazilians have a tradition of creating a nativity scene or Presepio, whose origins come from the Hebrew word "presepium" which means the bed of straw upon which Jesus first slept in Bethlehem. The Presepio is common in northeastern Brazil (Bahi, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Maranhao, Ceara, Pernambuco, Piaui and Alagoas).
In Denmark, a christmas feast was traditionally celebrated at midnight, where a special rice pudding is served. In the pudding, a single almond is hidden and whoever finds it will have good luck for the coming year. The bringer of gifts is known as Julemanden and arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, a sack over his back. Sound famliar? He is asissted by Yuletide chores by elves called Juul Nisse, who are said to live in attics.
In Iraq, Christian families light candles, light a bonfire of thorn bushes and sing. If the thorns burn to ashes, good luck will be granted. When the fire dies, each person jumps over the ashes three times and make a wish.
Like in many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of the customs of old Spain. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people stroll the streets where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and foods. Children carry fragrant bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing carols. On Christmas Eve, church bells beckon the people to Midnight Mass.
In South America, Venezuelans attend a daily early morning church service between December 16th and 24th called Misa de Aguinaldo ("Early Morning Mass.") In Caracas, the capital city, it is customary to roller-skate to this service and many neighborhoods close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Before bedtime children tie one end of a piece of string to their big toe and hang the other out the window. The next morning, rollerskaters give a tug to any string they see hanging.
In Japan, Christmas was apparently brought over by Christian missionaries but today, it has become very commercialized largely because gift giving is something that appeals to the culture. This is an interesting and funny story if its true, but in the scene of the Nativity when it first came to Japan, was so foreign for them because Japanese babies don't sleep in cradles. Like the states, they eat turkey on Christmas Day (ham is also common with many families) and in some places, there are community Christmas trees. Houses even have evergreens and mistletoe. They also have a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles Santa Claus, often depicted as an old man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his head.
And, you've gotta love the Scots since they have so many quirky customs considering how close they live to the English. Celebration around the holidays is much bigger for New Years Eve than it is for Christmas, something they refer to as Hogmanay. This word may derive from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve. The first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to profoundly affect the fortunes of the inhabitants. Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as "first footing."
In the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia and before that known as Bohemia), they bring their traditions from the 10th century home of Good King Wenceslaus, the main character in the familiar English Christmas carol. It is said that English troops, fighting in Bohemia hundreds of years later, brought the song home with them. St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is believed to climb to earth down from heaven on a golden rope with his companions, an angel and a whip-carrying devil.
An ancient tradition shared by the Czechs and in Poland involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it in water indoors to bloom. If the bloom opens in time for Christmas, it is considered good luck and also a sign that the winter may be short.
I'm amazed how many of these traditions involve some superficial physical ritual that somehow tells us whether good luck or bad luck will fall upon us, not unlike snapping a chicken wish bone in two I guess...or flipping a coin.
Below is a fabulous and fun list of Merry Christmas and Happy New Years in many languages from around the world. Obviously, we didn't capture them all but we did include a healthy list to get you started with practicing but you never know when you will come across someone from another culture around the holidays.
Alsatian: E güeti Wïnâchte un e gleckichs Nej Johr
Arabic: أجمل التهاني بمناسبة الميلاد و حلول السنة الجديدة (ajmil at-tihānī bimunāsabah al-mīlād wa ḥilūl as-sanah al-jadīdah)
Armenian: Շնորհաւոր Նոր Տարի եւ Սուրբ Ծնունդ: (Shnorhavor Nor Daree yev Soorp Dzuhnoont) Բարի կաղանդ և ամանոր (Paree gaghant yev amanor)
Bengali: শুভ বড়দিন (shubho bôṛodin)
Cherokee: ᏓᏂᏍᏔᏲᎯᎲ & ᎠᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᎢᏤ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᎠᏌᏗᏒ - (Danistayohihv & Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv)
Cheyenne: Hoesenestotse & Aa'eEmona'e
Cornish: Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da and Nadelik Looan ha Looan Blethen Noweth
Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår
English: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat and Häid Jõule ja Head Uut Aastat
Fijian: Me Nomuni na marau ni siga ni sucu kei na tawase ni yabaki vou
Filipino: Maligayang pasko at manigong bagong taon!
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
French: Joyeux Noël et bonne année
German: Frohe/Fröhliche Weihnachten - und ein gutes neues Jahr / ein gutes Neues / und ein gesundes neues Jahr / und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr
German (Swiss): Schöni Fäschttäg / Schöni Wienachte -- und e guets neus Jahr / en guete Rutsch is neue Johr -- Schöni Wiehnachte und es guets Neus -- Schöni Wiänachtä, äs guets Nöis
German (Bavarian): Froue Weihnåcht'n, und a guad's nei's Joah
Haitan Creole: Jwaye Nowèl e Bònn Ane
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou
Hebrew: חג מולד שמח ושנה טובה - Chag Molad Sameach v'Shanah Tovah
Hungarian: Kellemes karácsonyt és boldog új évet
Indonesian: Selamat hari natal dan tahun baru
Irish: Nollaig shona duit/daoibh (Happy Christmas to you). Beannachtaí na Nollag (Christmas Greetings). Beannachtaí an tSéasúir (Season's Greetings) and Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Prosperous New Year). Also, Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit/daoibh (Happy New Year to you)
Italian: Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo
Japanese: メリークリスマス (merī kurisumasu) -- New Year greeting - 'Western' style
新年おめでとうございます (shinnen omedetō gozaimasu)
New Year greetings - Japanese style
明けましておめでとうございます (akemashite omedetō gozaimasu)
旧年中大変お世話になりました (kyūnenjū taihen osewa ni narimashita)
本年もよろしくお願いいたします (honnen mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu)
Klingon: QISmaS DatIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' DatIvjaj (sg) and QISmaS botIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' botIvjaj (pl)
Korean: 즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요 and (jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok manhi bateusaeyo)
Kurdish: Kirîsmes u ser sala we pîroz be (and) Kirîsmes u salî nwêtan lê pîroz bê
Lithuanian: Linksmų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų Metų
Maltese: Il-Milied Ħieni u s-Sena t-Tajba - Awguri għas-sena l-ġdida
Maori: Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa
Mongolian: Танд зул сарын баярын болон шинэ жилийн мэндийг хүргэе and (Tand zul sariin bayriin bolon shine jiliin mendiig hurgey)
Navajo: Ya'at'eeh Keshmish
Nepali: क्रस्मसको शुभकामना तथा नयाँ वर्षको शुभकामना - (krismas ko subhakamana tatha nayabarsha ko subhakamana)
Norweigan: God jul og godt nytt år (Bokmål) and God jol og godt nyttår (Nynorsk)
Old English: Glæd Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear
Punjabi: ਮੈਰੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਮਸ। / میری کرِسمس (merī krismas - not used) and ਨਵਾਂ ਸਾਲ/ਵਰਾ ਮੁਬਾਰਕ। / نواں سال، ورہا مبارک (navā̃ sāl/varā mubārak)
Raotongan: Kia orana e kia manuia rava i teia Kiritimeti e te Mataiti Ou
Romanian: Crăciun fericit şi un An Nou Fericit
Samoan: Ia manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Slovak: Veselé vianoce a Štastný nový rok
Spanish: ¡Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!
Swahili: Krismasi Njema / Heri ya krismas -- Heri ya mwaka mpya
Swedish: God jul och gott nytt år
Tahitian: Ia orana no te noere and Ia orana i te matahiti api
Thai: สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส และสวัสดีปีใหม่ - (sùk săn wan-krít-mâat láe sà-wàt-dee bpee mài)
Tibetan: ༄༅།།ལོ་གསར་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ། - (Losar La Tashi Delek - Happy New Year)
Tongan: Kilisimasi fiefia mo ha ta'u fo'ou monū'ia
Ukranian: Веселого Різдва і з Новим Роком
(Veseloho Rizdva i z Novym Rokom)
Xhosa: Siniqwenelela Ikrisimesi Emnandi Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo
Yiddish: אַ פֿרײליכע ניטל און אַ גוטער נײַער יאָר - (A freylikhe nitl un a guter nayer yor)
The above list was a sample of a longer list from Omniglot, a site dedicated to languages from around the world. Visit their site for more languages including pronunciations. They also made the following note: Christmas is not universally celebrated and there are a number of different dates for Christmas and New Year depending on which calendar is used. Orthodox Christians who use the Julian calendar, for example in Russia and Serbia, celebrate Christmas on January 7. Another collection of phrases for the holidays can be found here. Also check out this link on Christmas Around the World.
December 25, 2011 in America The Free, Belize, Europe, Fiji, Holidays, Israel, New England, New York, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Costa Rica, On East Africa, On Fiji, On France, On Germany, On Guatemala, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On People & Life, On South Africa, On Spain, Reflections, San Francisco, South America, Travel, United Kingdom, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 19, 2011
Steve Jobs Life Lessons: How Do They Play Out In Your Own Life?
The 600 page Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson isn't one I've picked up yet but Lance Ulanoff recently finished it and wrote a piece on Mashable about lessons learned -- aka insights -- from the man who was mysterious to so many of us, being described as creative, driven, intense, mean, focused, innovative, entrepreneurial, masterful, and a genius.
He has been ranked up there with Einstein and by others who are either bitter, anti-Apple or who worked with him and just didn't like the man, as lucky albeit smart.
Below is the list of so called lessons gleaned however for Lance's take aways, read the original blog post, which also includes a page of fabulous inspirational quotes, one of which includes this reminder, "don't settle." I think about that phrase today more than ever.
As we get older, we realize that we have less time to "settle" and live an extraordinary life. When we're really young, even if we subscribe to living a life far beyond "settling," we don't have the wisdom or years behind us to know how fast the decades march on. We often live in the moment which is a beautiful place to live, yet the perspective of time has little meaning.
Next to each lesson learned below, are my own reflections and experiences of working in the technology industry, many of which reflect back to Steve's decisions and mindset. Also refer to my "so long Steve Jobs" blog write-up here,
One of the most frustrating things I deal with in working with start-ups with small budgets is how many compromises need to be made on a consistent basis. It has also made me and the entrepreneurs I work with learn how to become more resourceful along the way. That said, I think about the "one chance to get it right" more often than not and this means stepping up to the plate. Work the long hours, hire the right people, don't undervalue marketing or positioning, get the product out there before your competitor jumps ahead of you...the industry just moves too fast.
Make Your Own Reality
My take away from this is connected to "not settling." It's also about building a better life by not accepting the reality you've been given, for you almost always have the power to change a current reality. Sure, you can come up with every excuse in the book: I don't have the money, I don't have the access, I don't have the education, I don't have the resources, yet Gandhi didn't let don'ts, even if they were different ones, get in the way of his success. Steve Jobs didn't either. I say this to teenagers whenever I get the chance: Don't let someone else write your life story or dictate how the chapters should unravel. This one still keeps me up at night sometimes.
Control Everything You Can
This is counter to so much of what the social media afficiandos and purists believe, which is centered around collaboration and giving up control. The latter is also something I see as a new "American" behavior even outside the technology industry where parenting is often about collaborating with your kids rather than disciplining them.
Control helps keep things on target, your vision in tact and products on schedule but it also can result in alienating people around you, not allowing others' creativity to flourish and the inevitable...once you're out of the way, what happens to the company and its products?
Control can deliver great things - look at Picasso's paintings and Steve's iPhone. Yet, those I talk to give Apple three years with Steve gone. I'm not sure that I agree, but you get the idea.
Own Your Mistakes
This is probably one of the hardest things to do, particurly when a bad decision negatively impacts a large group of people. But it's also PR 101: when you do a "dirty," whether it was intentional or not, own it, apologize, commit to fixing it and move on. If Clinton had done that earlier and embraced his actions from a place of leadership, perhaps we wouldn't have spent so many cycles focused on blowjobs more than the state of our economy. Europe trivialized it and we behaved like high school children, including "some media."
I love this one. Sometimes we know ourselves but don't "give" ourselves what we need and so I'd add to know thyself, trust thyself. One of my favorite quotes and it isn't a Steve Jobs one: Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Leave the Door Open for the Fantastic
Is it fantastic or is it outstanding? I prefer the latter because it takes us beyond fantastic. Fantastic is an experience, which Steve Jobs certainly created for us again and again, but outstanding is a way of living, a way of being.
Don’t Hold Back
Ahhh, is this one of the reasons I love Italian culture so much? Or why people like Steven Spielberg awes us time and time again? Don't just give it to them baby, but give all of it to them. As big, as great, as dynamic and as extraordinary as you can.
Surround Yourself with Brilliance
This is a general lesson for great leadership. Outstanding leaders do this time and time again. Choosing and "curating" the right team for a project is a skill of a master. And, rather than be afraid that who you surround yourself may just be more brilliant than you, you embrace it.
Build a Team of A Players
Ahhh, mediocrity. There's nothing that drives me crazier than mediocrity, particularly in business. And "real" A players I'd argue don't waste time trying to convince you that they're A players; they just execute.
Sure, this largely applies to person-to-person contact, whether it's about managing your team or being ethical with your board and calling the right shots. That said, when I see this statement today, I think about truly being yourself amidst a world of cluttered voices on the web.
When I see a tweet, I think "are they doing this as a way to game the system and up their Klout score aka "perceived influence" or are they doing it from a centered, balanced place? aka "this is who I really am and what I really think".
Or, are they trying to deliver an aura or image of what they think is respected by their peers, some of whom haven't been behaving so well lately?
Scrambling to get respect from the gate keepers is all around us and some of the conversations I'm hearing and part of behind closed doors is astounding.
I think to myself again and again, "are we really having this conversation? Is sucking up to X or Y influencer while burying who you really are worth it? It's a game not worth playing because it's a life not worth living. And, yet it's happening all around us. In politics. In technology. In life.
There are some people who you would build a moon for even if 1,000 people in a row told you a moon couldn't be built. Steve Jobs had that gift which resulted in outstanding products that changed the way we live our lives. Richard Saul Wurman had that gift when he developed the TED Conference concept. Tony Robbins has that gift when he stands in front of thousands of people. Obama has that gift through his calm and articulate embodiment. Being persuasive by being "real" and "intentional" is the most powerful gift you can give.
Show Others the Way
We all need mentors whether we think we do or not. Sometimes we're the teacher, sometimes the student and sometimes when we think we're the teacher, we end up being the student. I would add to this that the real talent in showing others the way is finding out how people learn and showing them the way in their modality or language. Some teachers only know how to teach from their own modality which leaves a huge percentage of people either bored, pissed off or simply confused.
While it may seem like an awkward aside to raise here, it feels right as I write this. I wish women would stand up for women in business more than they do. I know a lot of incredible women who help, inspire, nurture, fund, and more, however what I haven't personally experienced is women taking risks to help pave the other for others in their peer group. (risking a powerful relationship behind closed doors by speaking up or making things right, speaking up publicly or simply taking the time to encourage in a deep and meaningful way).
By the latter, I don't mean sharing. As women, we do this well. We listen, we share and show our girlfriends we "understand them."
I get some of the reasoning behind why we say no: we're already overspent and don't have the time or energy, we want to reserve that energy for children and family when we're already doing so much, we don't want to risk tampering with a connection that has been instrumental in getting us to our current positions because quite simply, it ain't an easy compromising ride to get there. And so on. That said, the majority of people who have "shown me the way," have been men.
Trust Your Instincts
Steve Jobs was a master at this and most great leaders are too. Women btw are really good at this in their personal lives and we need to know that its an incredibly rich asset in our professional lives too. The best leaders are strong enough to go to a place of solitude when the noise of external voices telling them what to do becomes so loud that they can no longer hear their inner voice. Our inner voices always lead the way.
Silicon Valley is great at taking risks and it all started with the guys at the forefront, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak being instrumental in the early days. One of the things I see with companies outside the U.S. is that risk taking is less embraced because it's not part of their culture.
There are always exceptions of course: great products are great products, and great leaders are great leaders. That said, I have seen hesitation and uncertainty first hand in working with start-ups and entrepreneurs now from France, Scotland, Belgium, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, Canada, England and others. If you truly believe in something, there's no room for fear and doubt. Trust, believe and take the risk because if you don't, someone else most certainly will.
Follow Great with Great
When I read this, I thought of what those who have been to the top know all too well, "you're only as great as what you've done lately." That said, there are entrepreneurs in the Valley and elsewhere who had a successful exit and never "created" anything else. Yet, they're still part of the conversation, at all the VIP dinners and are even funding other startups because they have the money to do so.
You know the drill: you get access when you have one of the following: power (connections to people or things other people need), money (you can buy that access), position (you hold a title at a major company or in government and can use your influence to help), in the inner circle (are part of a prestigious family, went to college with or are buddies with someone of influence and so the latter three are automatically waived).
What's truly remarkable is when none of those things matter, you push them all aside (or simply ignore them) and just consistently keep building great things that benefit people. Steve Jobs showed that he was capable of that with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Pixar. Other "greats" do the same.
Make Tough Decisions
Tough decisions often make you unlikeable, at least to one group or person. I had a reflective conversation in a long cab ride recently with someone who worked with Steve Jobs in the very early days. He attended a small gathering of like-folks after his death somewhere in Silicon Valley.
A question was presented to another person in the group who also worked with him: did she "like" him?The response was one of silence and no one said a word. A lot of people didn't like him. A lot of people didn't like Picasso.
I'm not suggesting being an asshole is a formula for success but some great leaders who are also artists are often unliked. Steve Jobs was an artist and while he was unliked by many, he was also a visionary who created great things, including inspiration for others to find their own genius inside of them. A gift. Making tough decisions is part of that gift.
Presentation Can Make a World of Difference
It's amazing how many people still rely on traditional Powerpoint slides for presentations. Boring ones. Frankly, I hate speaking in front of large groups and feel "more secure" about my delivery when I use visual aids. Quite simply, its a crutch that helps us move the presentation along when what we should be doing is telling a story from our heart and life experiences that educate, inspire and ultimately move people to action in some way.
Some of the greatest TED talks have used some visual aids, even a slide or two, but 80% of their presentation is about flow and about story. If storytelling isn't the essence of what you deliver, then it most likely isn't an outstanding presentation.
Find a Way to Balance Your Intensity
I would add to this since balancing your intensity isn't the whole picture; balancing your life is what you need so you don't burn out and can find peace with what you signed up, aka your career. If you're not working part-time or gave up a job to raise a family, you're probably spending more time in your work life than any other thing you do. Striking a balance is critical to sustaining happiness and peace with that decision. Life is a long road. Balance sets you free.
Live for Today
Steve Jobs was much more able to go to that place after he learned about his terminal illness. While intellectually we know that we should live for today even when things are going our way, very few people do.
Isn't living for today just another way of saying "be present"? And yet, even if we've hung out in Buddhist temples, spend quiet time on yoga and meditation mats, it's hard to live a very present life all the time. Our brains aren't wired that way. At the core of our decision making, even important ones is our lizard brain, a pretty unevolved part of our bodies. Refer to my post on Linchpins, lizard brains & getting uncomfortable.
While there are people who share their wisdom and bring others up with them as they themselves rise to the top, I see sharing explode when people hit their forties, whether or not they have children. Something happens when you've reached a certain plateau -- call it wisdom, call it inner peace -- where the race no longer matters. Sharing matters more and for some, it's the only thing that matters.
For the original once again, go here as it was my inspiration for this variation...
December 06, 2011
Paris: The Loves, The Peeves, The Fashion, The Rules & The Men
Every time I arrive in Paris, there's always a "dating and mating" period, where I have to become re-acquainted, re-accustomed and re-united in a way that is less natural than New York City, where I go through the same ritual despite how many umpteen times I've been there.
It typically takes about two days and my curses at the bureaucratic schtuff that gets in my way starts to subside a bit and Paris becomes Paris in all its glory, dark chocolate, crepes, brasseries, grand boulevards, shopping, cafes, gastronomie chefs, quaint Marais and Latin Quarter alleys and all.
The getting re-acquainted period goes something like this as I walk into my first shop, cafe, restaurant, hotel or bar. 1. Bonjour Madame. 2.
Not awake and still jetlegged, I'm thinking: Oh yeah, French. Rewrite your brain but oh my brain is so tired. "Bonjour" I say with perkiness in my voice to hide the fact that I didn't sleep on my 10 hour flight and the fact that I'm pissed off that I always used to sleep through everything including flights and now long flights are brutal rather than a napping or grazing day.
I adjust my scarf and hat to avoid looking too American a k a a sloppy, uncaring, horribly dressed female with an oversized coat and white sneakers for comfort. (note you won't find the latter on my feet in Paris -- ever).
Who said looking fabulous, sexy, French and stylish meant you could wear comfortable shoes, especially masculine flat-soled sneakers for crying out loud? I agree with the French on this one.
3. I roam for hours, not wanting to interact with anyone. On the first day, I just want to look and meander, look and meander AND as presently as I can amidst drizzly rain drops and 30 degree temperatures, take it all in as if its the first time.
4. Return to hotel within the first 24 hours. Something or another doesn't work for some strange reason - some stupid rule that doesn't make sense to anyone west of France, some design decision that got in the way of practicality or old plumbing. Fatigued, I ask as if on automatic pilot: 8 more hangers, 2 blankets and another towel knowing that I've probably only been given 4 hangers, a small blanket that will be sure to leave me freezing cold in the middle of the night and one or possibly two small towels that the Parisians call bath towels. (yes, often even in a 4 star hotel).
Then there's the European hotel lighting system...you know the one; your key must be inserted into a slot at the door before any of your lights work and one light often controls some random one on the other side of the room and you spend countless minutes trying to figure it out (no Renee, it's typically nearly an hour).
I know the logic is centered around sustainability and conservation but crikey, they make it so complicated that it becomes exhausting even when you know the concept. What's wrong with a simple on and off switch? (BTW, I have noticed that many of the 4 and 5 stars in South America and Australia
Simplify grasshopper, simplify.
As I walked down very long and very wide boulevards on my "first night of many first nights," Boulevard St. Germain which I know fairly well and L'Universitie and Rue Saint Dominique which I don't know as well, I took in every face and accent as I ended up having to talk to 90% of them.
Of course I got lost - despite how many times I've been here, I always get lost when I walk the streets at night. It seems to be another part of the annual ritual even if it is in fact, a familiar road.
The same thing happens in the states - it's just not the way this 'right brain' is wired. You'd think by now, I'd find one hotel or apartment I absolutely love and just book the same one every time.
A Sag who loves spontaneous adventure is less likely to make those practical decisions although more times than not, I wish I had. No one was from Paris and those who were, did their best to guide me in the right direction in their broken English (the majority) and I did my best to understand in my broken French (which used to be a helluva lot better).
I always seem to find my way home and the blind exploring isn't necessarily a bad thing. (it's better in May than it is in December however. Did I mention it's supposed to be 3 degrees C this week?) Below is the "Things That Bug the Crap Out of Me" in Paris List:
- Rules & Regulations: I realize that some of the "rules" in Paris are cultural. For example, don't mess with a French chef's menu by saying hold the cream or hold the cheese even if it means you'll have an allergic reaction and be sick.
- God forbid you muck with his ingredients. Or, don't dare ask for a taste of an open bottle of wine even if you've told them in advance you plan to order a bottle and drink and eat well into the night. In my case, I even mentioned reviewing their restaurant on 3 different venue occasions and still got a "no way we can do that madame."
Might it not mean that the customer doesn't order something she doesn't want and then writes positive things about your place afterwards? Cultural or not, it's marketing 101 and old school protocols like these simply come across as inflexible and not listening to your customer in a world where listening and engaging are the easiest (and might I add, cheapest) things to do to gain a loyal fan.
- Arrogance & Attitude: This is related to the first point, particularly the inflexibility about what's possible and not possible. Paris isn't India after all based on a caste system where "if its not in my job description, no can do Madame." Crikey, it's the romantic international capital of the world. If a woman wants a splash of wine, give it to her. The tip and good PR for months and quite possibly years to come will more than make up for it.
When I checked into my hotel, I couldn't get over the attitude of the bellman when he realized he had to move my fairly large bag to another room on a different floor (it's a small place and even though there was an elevator, he would have had to navigate a bit).
Isn't this your job I'm thinking? I can't imagine my bag was larger than any other woman's bag coming to Paris for nearly two weeks, particularly given the fact that I was only 45 pounds of my 50 max for the airplane and at least a third of it was camera equipment.
The bag even had wheels for crying out loud. In the end, I just smiled and said I'd take care of it myself - his bad attitude wasn't worth the extra time I had to spend looking at his sour face when 10% of his job is to get my bag from A to B and the other 90% is just about being nice, warm and pleasant, so my overall hotel experience is a memorable one.
- Snobbery Towards Americans: This one pisses all yanks off, yet frankly I actually get it. To be fair, after spending 7 years+ living and romping around Europe, yanks wore on my nerves as well. And so, I sympathize, however one of the things that I've noticed over the years is how similar French are to Americans.
- Sure, the average knows a helluva lot more about culture, literature, global matters and geography, but it doesn't go without the characteristics of complaining, whining and the belief that they're the best country in the world. How is that different from Americans for the most part?
That said, having dinner along Rue Saint Dominique on my first night, I moved tables because the American accents and loud voices were so obvious and tacky, I couldn't tune out. And so, it was simply better to move, politely of course.
I think my main issue with it all is how blatant and vocal the French are about it, rather than acknowledge the differences, but also the positive side of American culture and its people: friendliness, fun spirited, energetic, entrepreneurial, authenticity (minus a chunk of LA - a boat load of friends living there are bound to email me about this one, but I think a boat load is a fair enough statement since its so clearly not all), and resourceful.
Yanks know how to get things done and if something doesn't work the first time, chances are they'll try a different approach and keep trying until they succeed.
- Internet Connectivity in Hotels: The "having to connect using tons of codes & often" issue doesn't apply just to Paris or France for that matter but other cities in Europe as well. (London less so). When I was in Budapest and Prague over the summer, I had to go through the same thing. Munich too. You're given a code, you enter it with a password, then you have to fill in your life's particulars and in the case of my Paris hotel, I had to agree to spam mail and so I used a spam email address.
The problem is that it only works for 24 hours and often if your laptop goes to sleep or hibernates for a bit, you may lose the connection and have to go through the process from scratch.
To make things even more inefficient, you have to get a new code from the front desk and most of the time, they are printed off on little slips of paper they hand to you. Often the codes are so long, its more efficient to trek all the way downstairs to get the paper than the painful process of having them read it to you with errors over the phone.
Below is the Love the Crap out of Paris List:
- The Formality: Part of the rules and regulations part of their "culture" and frankly, the way things are done, is a formality aka a formal way of behaving in the world. Protocols exist damn it, follow them or take your barbaric uneducated unsavvy self home.
- Part of this I find fascinating, anthropologically speaking. For example, when you order from a menu, even if its a price fixe menu that includes a dessert, you don't tell them what you want for dessert while you're ordering course one and two, even if its listed there and the waiter is standing there writing it all down.
One year I was staying with a friend in one of the burbs (the year I learned to master the RER and beyond) and he had left 4 little bottles of wine for me in the fridge as well as some interesting pate. I decided to drink one of them, which was a tough decision, but opted for the one that looked the most unusual in the end. He later informed me that I was supposed to open all of them and sample some of each, not drink just one. Who knew?
- Attention to Decadence and Design: While Rome and London do a pretty great job on the design front, there's no better experience than going into a chocolate shop or bakery and leaving with a beautifully wrapped piece of something that looks as good as it tastes.
And, it's not just about their chocolate and patisseries, but all of it....linens, towels, scarves, hats, jewelry or frankly, something as small as a barrette or card. They take care to wrap it and the packaging is fabulous, every time.
It's the same way they serve their coffee and everything else for the most part. It's not as grand as it was ten years ago but I think this is more of an economic consideration than anything else.
- Shopping: see above. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the boutiques and higher end shoe/boot shops in Paris.
- The Men: the same things that frustrate the hell out of me with French men are some of the things that I love. I could easily lose the patronizing attitudes and the trend that mistresses are as common as having a therapist in LA. But French men are charmers and unlike any experience I have ever had in northern California, they make me feel feminine.
American men from the South know how to bring this out in a woman (while we're on making sweeping generalizations but if you can remember that they're generalizations based on a combo of observations and direct experiences, bear with me and read on). It's the way they talk to you, pay attention to you, delight in the small details of your eyes, your hands and your life story.
Additionally, like Italian men, they care about design, the way they dress and the way a woman dresses as well - the more feminine the better. And, they cherish in this and it rubs off. (No doubt, there will be a lot of woman who disagree with me over this one and might even be pissed off, but we can have that conversation -- or rather debate -- offline sometime over a glass of Bordeaux).
- The Food: Need I say more? Even the tourist restaurants where the food isn't out of this world, it's presented in such a way that it could fool you.
Something will be memorable about it in the end. Go to local brasseries, restaurants and cafes wherever you can of course and take the time to explore especially if you're in Paris for longer than a 48 hour business trip. For more on food/wine in Paris, click here.
November 23, 2011
Startups Pitch & Strutt Their Stuff at MUSIC Techpitch 4.5 in London
Recently, The Next Web reported 8 startups had been selected for MUSIC techpitch 4.5 in London. After a series of 3-minute pitches and Q&A sessions, Webdoc, an easy and creative way to share rich-media all in one place, emerged as the winner.
It took place at EMI’s HQ in Kensington, startups had an opportunity to get the word out about their ideas to investors, one of which was an opportunity to participate in an investment meeting arranged by Par Equity, which is one of the largest investment networks in Scotland.
While 3 minutes isn't long (less than half the time of the on-stage DEMO pitches), it is in fact longer than 140 characters. Trust me, I'm a fan of in-depth pieces and features articles; I still have a hard time cranking out short blog posts, yet I'm also prolific on Twitter...tweeting is a great exercise even if you're not a Twittaholic because it forces you to say more with less and trains you to write better headlines.
Enuf said. 3 minutes is enough time for an elevator pitch and most companies don't have them nailed even when they know an investor is listening. Also check out Dave McClure’s 10 tips for the perfect investment pitch.
Other startups which got call outs included Dizzyjam, an online service for independent music artists to create and sell their own merchandise and Hitlantis who presented a unique way of visualizing and discovering new music.