Genes, Gender, Generation and Geography

stock-footage-close-up-of-a-lava-lamp-in-action-with-green-wax-full-p-resolution-fps-mbit-s-motionGenes, Gender, Generation and Geography.
Why we cannot all get along….

By Sig Shonholtz

We never know when an idea or a thought is going catch our attention but we should always be on the lookout for them. Sometime in early 2000’s I read something that Freud wrote about anatomy being destiny. I am not an expert on him so I will not go into what “he meant” but I did think it was an interesting thought.  Certainly the anatomy of a fish means that it lives in water and the makeup of a bird means it will fly. But more obviously, taken at face value, it means our gender defines us and determines what options we will have as adults. Considering that he wrote this nearly 100 years ago it probably had some merit for the time. While gender today, certainly has an impact it is not as relevant as it was when he suggested it. Yet I wondered, even for the time, was it that simple? The thought ignited an ember in my mind; surely there was more to establishing our destiny then just our sex.

I began to casually wonder what other factors were involved. Over time I came to the realization that if GENDER is What we are then our GENES are Who we are, our GENERATION is When we are and our GEOGRAPHY is Where we are. Four G words, Genes, Gender, Generation and Geography, what a coincidence I thought, and they linked perfectly with the W’s which result in the WHY of us. Why we are the way we are, as a species, but more importantly each of us as individuals.

These four G words harmonizing with W’s actually define how each of us interprets the world around us. The world does not exist as it is, it exists as we view it though this lens. It is just a coincidence of course that the G’s match up with the W’s. It happens to work in Italian, German and Spanish. In French Gender is “Sexe” but that does not mean it does not work as an idea in any language.  Who, What, When and Where, is a universal thought as is the conclusion….Why? So we do not need 4 G’s to share the idea. It just makes it helpful, like remembering the Great Lakes as HOMES.

I began to wonder how I could, or how one could alter their individual interpretations of the world. Transformation it seemed required that we become aware and this thought offered some opportunity. Can we ever take control over these themes and manipulate them I wondered?

I thought, if I could somehow leave behind these four ideas it would be liberating, if for no other reason than pure entertainment. What if I no longer belonged to those ideas? What would happen if I know longer saw myself as a Jewish man from Los Angeles growing up in the 50s and 60s? From parents that gave me attributes as well as gifts that I inherited. Well of course in a real sense we cannot pretend we are not a part of this inheritance. However we can consider our insights based on them and ask ourselves if what we think is the only way to interpret something? Would we still feel the same about something if we were, for example from another time or place? Or is what we think always going to be tied to Who, What, When and Where, imposing Why on us?

As an excise in creativity I ask myself sometimes what I would think about a particular situation if I imagined I was an interstellar space traveler. Or what if I was raised in a small village in the Andes, what would my impression be? Well, it is just an exercise but it does open up other neural pathways.

Since we are all snowflakes, philosophically, each of us is forced to create individual templates to help us interpret the physical world around us, as well as help us interact with other human beings. These templates are inevitably built around the 4 G words. Since we are constantly receiving information and impressions we use these templates for everything. But consider that for every impression we have there is an equal and opposite counter impression. Maybe we are right about how we see things, but maybe we are wrong.

Consider that much of the understanding that takes place between human beings is misunderstanding based on the 4 Gs. Imagine we are living inside of a lava lamp and the container is our physical world. Everything we do and think is interpreted inside the lamp and it ebbs and tides based on our thoughts and actions. Now if we imagine this container is actually our earth everything becomes interdependent on everyone else’s actions and reactions. The lava lamp is a miniature world.

So, what can we do with the model as a tool or for re-tooling how the world occurs to us? Most of us are ruled by our opinions which are most likely based on the 4G’s. Enter the realm of the S.E.E. the SELF ENTERTAINING ENTITY. As an exercise in creativity try giving up all your opinions and replacing them with perspectives. Imagine you are no longer linked to what you were raised with and what you were taught, you have no gender, you are timeless and you belong everywhere. You are walking 360 Degrees around everything that you think and believe. What occurs to you will be your new perspective and see if it does not open up some possibilities for you.

What I am talking about here is the importance of having perspective. The word perspective may in fact be the most important word in the English language, every language in fact. We have all heard the expression, “thinking outside the box”. The box is represented on four of its sides by the 4 G words. Fold the box flat and close it with the top and bottom and throw it away. Once we eliminate them, or least have power over them and walk 360 degrees around everything we are more or less, outside the box. In fact since we tossed it, we are BOXLESS. The ultimate freedom in thinking is BOXLESSNESS.

Freestyle Pro-Scooters without the tricks?

By Jeffrey the Barak

One of the tallest, A Phoenix Session 2015

Just lately I have been finding that riding a scooter for a few miles is too tiring to be all the fun it should be, so I have taken to using a bicycle for these intermediate to long distances.

Now with a bicycle being a machine, it will give you about four times as many miles for each calorie burned, so for actually getting somewhere and arriving in a state of non-exhaustion, it makes a lot of sense, and explains why there are probably many thousands of bikes in use for each scooter in the world.

But before you wonder why I, Jeffrey the Barak, the notorious champion of the scooter,  am defecting to the dark side, I am not actually doing so. I am simply reconsidering what each vehicle is most suited for.

For long distance scooting out on the roads, then it has to be said that a large-wheeled footbike of some description is going to get the job done better. For the urban commute, then a smaller-wheeled folding adult scooter is ideal. But for the long haul without getting all sweaty and tired, then even a footbike-class scooter has to take second place to any reasonably lightweight bike, as long as you can stand the pain of the saddle, and I am still not sure I can.

But I have the ever-present need to scoot. The simple pleasure of standing on a wheeled platform and pushing off to glide is what scooting is all about. Having temporarily emptied the stable of any and all scooters, I have to buy at least one, just to get my kicks.

The innovative Razor fold
The innovative Razor fold

I am in the position of having owned almost all types of scooter except for one glaring exception, the small urethane wheeled type that appeared in the late Nineties in the form of the original Razor. Now I am no fan of Razors, and I particularly dislike the wobbly folding mechanisms and the clattering racket of sound that follows you down the street, and of course I think that tiny urethane scooter tires are practically useless for asphalt roads, uneven sidewalk pavements etc.

These wheels are okay on skates, where you can just lift your leg and step over the pitfalls, but unless you are able and willing to jump with your scooter, they are a problem with two wheels and a frame.

However it has occurred to me that I will most likely be getting my scooter fix on hardwood or smooth concrete, and therefore I can now look at small wheels and a small portable scooter to just grab and ride figure eights on when the need for a scoot comes to mind. And It must live in the cupboard under the stairs, which can take a KickBike or road bike with the front wheel off, but is getting crowded, so a compact scooter is best.

And so I recently began to explore the hitherto overlooked world of pro-scooters, also known as freestyle scooters or stunt scooters. Pro-scooters are big business and they are designed for the skate park. A typical rider is more likely to do a dangerous trick than to simply scoot from point A to point B, and so these things are designed for hard landings and they are built like tanks. However they can also simply be ridden, and the strong construction and absence of any folding mechanism makes them very smooth and silent on a smooth solid floor. In fact one of the things people do with these scooters to demonstrate the quality of the build is the drop test, in which the scooter is dropped onto its wheels to produce a pleasing rattle-free ringing sound, which shows that it is “dialed-in”, meaning well-built.

Doing this with a commuter scooter such as a Xootr, or a Razor A5, will make the birds fly out of the trees in a state of alarm, but silence and quality come at a steep price, and these diminutive little pieces of precise engineering can cost from $250 to $500 for a decent example. This would buy almost any commuter or footbike and you would seem to get more for the dollar with a larger scooter, but those larger vehicles would never stand up to any of the forces that the predominantly teenage, male, pro-scooter users subject their scooters to.

595b91e3a9767e78b7e856801741a64d.image_.600x600-562x562Wheel sizes are growing in this segment. They used to have a total diameter of 100mm or smaller, but now 110mm is common and 125mm is starting to appear as a popular option. But remember these are skate wheels, made of urethane, and therefore deadly slippery on any damp or wet surface. If I was intending to continue to scoot down the road, which typically has traps and obstacles deeper and larger than the radius of these wheels, I would not be writing about these scooters in the first place. My only experience on urethane has been the Xootr. It is not something I want to repeat on the street, despite all the glowing reviews about scooters such as the Oxelo Town 9 and the Crisp Big Wheel, but that old Xootr MG ran smoothly in the garage and inside the house, well away from ruts, twigs, cracks and damp patches, and these surfaces are now my area of intent for my scooter fix.

Let me clearly say that I have no intention to ever do any kind of trick or stunt, but for smooth floor circles, figure-eights and other meditative adult moves, the well-built, silent-gliding pro-scooter has a lot of appeal. However there is a very big downside, and that is the bar height. When these young gentlemen do their acrobatics, they go in with bent knees and bent forward at the waist, and then they lift their scooters up, decks or bars spinning in circles, and this is very difficult to achieve with a high bar. So typically when a grown man such as myself, five feet seven inches tall, stands on the deck of a pro-scooter, the bars are at thigh hight, and the last thing I need to be doing on a scooter at my age and with my flexibility and back issues, is bending down like that.

Madd MGP VX3, typical low bar height.
Madd MGP VX3, typical low bar height.

Some pro-scooter bars are taller however, and reach the hips. But the ideal bar grip position for a slowly cruising adult is shoulder width apart and at a height between the waist and hips, so this a problem. Bars are measured within themselves, so you see the descriptions online and they say something like 22” X 23”, and you have to assume it means 22” wide and 23” tall, and that the bottom of the bar is clamped to the headset and is about six inches above the deck. It is pretty much impossible to imagine where this will place the bars, so you really have to find a scooter shop, (and there are only a few in the entire country), and try them out. Online descriptions focus on everything except what is important to me, the height of the bars measured from the deck, or from the ground with the deck height also revealed.

But assuming you can find high enough bars to reach above your hips and do not intend to hit the asphalt or the broken sidewalks of the city, the pro-scooter, with its good bearings (usually no worse than ABEC7 and often much better) will provide some smooth glides in a compact package.

Realistically though, the bars are never high enough on pro-scooters. If your intended use is to slowly and carefully scoot along in a forward direction, you have to be able to stand up straight and not have your arms straining to reach the bars. If you are for example, five feet seven inches tall, like me, then that means you need bars that come up almost three feet above the deck. This is not a feature of any pro-scooter at any price.

With no tricks planned, is it worth it to drop $300 on a bombproof pro-scooter when a Razor model A is less than $30 and will still get you across the hardwood floor? Probably not. And there is no reason you cannot use an adult commuter scooter on that same flooring and enjoy the ability to stand up straight.

Jeffrey the Barak has owned many different scooters, but at the time of writing has sold every one of them and is wondering what to get next.

Half a century of scooting

By Jeffrey the Barak

I may have a few decades of life left, but with my 58th birthday coming this week I thought it would be fun to direct via the keyboard some reflections of riding scooters. This a hardcore scooter fanatic ramble that will only appeal to our splendid scooterholic minority, but here goes anyway.

I have had bicycles and in-line skates, and I have had electric scooters, but nothing has ever approached the satisfaction that comes from the simplicity of a kick scooter. Scooters may be inefficient and exhausting at times, unless you adjust your expectations, but something about two wheels and not much else provides a purity of movement that no other conveyance can provide, with the possible exception of a surfboard. In fact a skimmer board is the epitome of a simple vehicle, and there is now a version of these with a scooter handle on top!

As I have written before, there are certain classifications of scooters and I made an attempt at defining these in my 2012 article here.

Depending on your intended speed, intended use and intended terrain, one or more types of scooter may be more appropriate. But in this article I want to reflect on what I personally have had, and what the scooter did for me.

Growing up in the Sixties, I was in the rare position of having a father who owned part of an amusement park, The Spanish City, in Whitley Bay, England. I liked rides, especially since I didn’t have to pay to ride, and so I had electric racing cars, an electric train and various riding machines at my disposal. I acquired a bizarre appreciation for wheels, rubber tires, and machines that moved people in various ways.

My first scooter was the standard three-wheeled Triang toy that most kids of that era in England will be familiar with. It was a metal toy. There were better scooters around, similar to today’s 12.5 inch adult street scooters, but I actually never had one.

Jeffrey on an old scooter in England
The old English scooter

Something about the simplicity of the scooter, the absence of gears, chain, pedals and saddle, made the concept fascinating. As an adult I bought an antique off someone. The tires were full of Fix-A-Flat and the wheel bearings were probably as inefficient and under-maintained as any on the planet, but I did manage to go a long distance on it a couple of times. And this was in the early eighties when the appearance of urethane wheels and cartridge bearings had brought back roller skating and skateboarding in such a big way.

1988 $50 scooter
The Fifty Dollar Winner

It was after moving to Los Angeles in the Eighties and landing squarely in the Venice Beach bike-path and boardwalk environment that I realized the time was right for a good scooter. Not that there were any others down there. The introduction of the Razor scooter was still in the distant future (1999) and the old BMX scooting scene was in it’s death throes.

I will guess it was in January 1988 when I picked up my new scooter for $50. A Chromed 12.5” white-walled street scooter. And this became my highest mileage scooter to this day. I lived near Venice Beach in Marina del Rey and almost every day I went up and down Venice on my scooter. People started calling me the scooter guy. I never saw another person on a scooter for years.

I had to go to Europe for a little while so I gave it away, but by then it was quite worn out. Loose and creaky with shot tires and bearings.

Back in L.A. I observed the post 1999 scooter craze without ever buying a Razor. It amazes me that when you say scooter, most people will only have the image of a Razor A1 in their head. It must have seemed like a new invention to most people because scooters had been so rare prior to the Razor age. The Razor started a new class of scooter made possible by urethane in-line skate wheels and smooth spinning bearings. As long as the concrete is smooth, the Razor gives a good smooth ride. It’s descendants are the many excellent brands of pro-scooters, high quality and quite expensive. They do not fold so they do not rattle, and they roll even better on high-quality bearings, but the trick riders like their bars low so you cannot exactly stand up straight and take a slow cruise unless you have really long arms for some reason.

Zappy left, Phat Flyer right

I tried electric scooters, getting a Zappy and then a Currie Phat Flyer. The Currie made it into the-vu in July 2000.  Then in 2001 I was finally drawn back to human-powered scooters where I still remain today. I started with the first of three blue Know-Peds. Sadly a burglar took that away.

Shortly thereafter I bought two footbike class scooters at the same time. A big Sidewalker City, and a Kickbike Millenium Racer. My plan was to test and review both then sell one. The review was published in the-vu in September 2003 here.

Sidewalker City (blue) and Kickbike Millenium Racer.

That Kickbike Millenium Racer stayed with me for four or five years. It was not really a high mileage relationship, but it was and is the fastest scooter I have had.

While I had the Kickbike I also bought a Xootr Mg, my first scooter that lacked rubber tires. That Xootr was so fast on smooth concrete, but it vibrated terribly on any surface with texture and it was very easy to fall off that thing. The racket it produced was alarming from half a block away so it did not need a bell. The deck was nice and low but the magnesium rail along the bottom became a brake that would grab uneven pavement and toss you over the bars. I will also never again take a polyurethane tire onto a damp surface of any kind. With that bottom rail and those hard tires, the Xootr Mg is an exceptionally risky thing to ride. I have recently learned that the reason Xootrs are are so fast is mostly due to excellent wheel bearings, and you can throw fairly affordable fast bearings into any small scooter and get even faster rolling results.

Xootr MG (left) and a Tall KickPed

The Xootr was replaced by a KickPed. This was of higher quality than the Know-Ped I had in 2003, but I made the mistake of following the store’s advice and getting the tall bar version, which was a shame as I am only 5” 7”.

Peds1I replaced that with two new blue Know-Peds. I had hoped my wife would ride the other one but she did not take to it. I have a deep appreciation for the visual design of the Know-Ped and it’s cousin the KickPed. Those wheels with their slick rubber tires remind me of racing car wheels.

P1020332And then in 2013 I imported a Mibo Gepard from the Czech Republic. This was  a happy return to 12.5 inch tires. I have always had nostalgia for the format of two twelve inch tires. That is what scooters are supposed to look like. As a minimalist, this meant I had to sell the Peds and the Mibo got center stage. After less than two years I decided to let a second owner experience the Mibo and it left me at the beginning of 2015. I am such a gear flipper, partly due to a minimalist bent. I feel uncomfortable keeping ownership of more than one of anything at the same time. I cannot collect things.

So currently this scooter fanatic is scooterless and I am considering in which direction to point my wallet. Perhaps as a compliment to my bicycle, something small just for indoor or smooth surface use, like a higher and wider barred freestyle scooter (minus the intention to do any tricks) or I could just wait and see what comes out.

Jeffrey the Barak is the publisher of the-vu and thinks scooters can be bought and sold on a whim for almost no good reason.

From a one foot hop to E-Bikes

By Jeffrey the Barak

walkHow much do we want to exercise, and how much help do we want from machines and electricity?

With electric bicycles, or  e-bikes, becoming more common, we can begin to wonder whether we are still pedaling bikes or if we are just gradually switching to quieter and slower motorcycles. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

skate2Walking is more efficient than hopping along on one foot. Roller skating is more efficient than walking. Skateboarding, particularly on a longboard, can be generally more efficient than roller skating for many people as long as they use the board for straight-line transportation rather than tricks.

board7A good kick scooter with real pneumatic tires will usually be more efficient than anything from the skate world, especially if the road has some texture to it, and all of the above are just ways of controlling gravity. The wheels transfer falling into forward motion.

scootBut then we introduce the bicycle. No matter what kind of bicycle it is, we now have a machine. Using the leverage of gears, we can amplify our forward motion using less energy and really start to get along more efficiently.

Even if the bike is a single-speed with only one gear, it will take us many times further than walking down a road with the same energy input.

bikeBut cycling can be very tiring if there is a headwind or if we have to go uphill. At a certain wind speed or gradient, it becomes easier to dismount and walk, pushing the bike along until we get out of the wind or stop climbing the hill.

This is where electric bicycles, or e-bikes start to make a lot of sense. The extra weight of the battery and motor may be a lot, particularly for those who can only afford those inefficient and heavy old lead-acid batteries, but the energy we took from the power outlet earlier will get us up the hill and through the headwind with ease.

ebikeE-bikes are the next big thing, with sales doubling at a regular rate. Many of the good ones are very expensive, and many of the cheap ones are not great, but think of the big hill and you can see why they open up the possibility of cycling to millions of people are who are not so athletic.

There are two main types of motor, one is inside the hub of the wheel and one is usually near the center of the frame and connected to the hub with a chain.

There are two main types of electrical assist, one is pedal assist where the energy of the pedaling rider is amplified by the motor, and the other is power on demand, from a twist “throttle” or a lever or button. Most e-bikes seem to feature both.

Most e-bikes today have the same gears, derailleurs, and shifters as human-powered bicycles, but others have better systems with (clean and dry) belt drives, variable transmissions, shaft drives and other great technological advances. Personally I just have to look at a bike with a chain and gears and it spontaneously breaks and has to be carried to a repair shop. These diabolical chain and gear systems are one of the main reasons I love the simple yet inefficient kick scooter so much. The other reason is the seat. Most bike seats feel to me like I am being eternally hit in the backside with a hammer. I find most normal bikes to be unrideable torture machines, but the e-bike does not have be designed so. It can have a comfy seat, an upright sitting position, no fiddly gear systems, and the motor will compensate for these energy-robbing concessions to comfort.

And if you hate pedals and seats even more than I do, you can get an electric scooter and just stand there as you get pushed along. An electric scooter does not bother with pedals and so a seat is only optional.

The potential of upscale e-bikes is not lost to the car world. Ford, Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes-Benz all have flagship e-bikes on offer now. And the bicycle manufacturers always have better and better designs in the works.

Mando Footloose2For example, the very unusual Mando Footloose folding bike, pictured here has no chain or belt, with the pedals serving only as a dynamo to add charge, which technically makes this a motor scooter with a seat. Propulsion is therefore  throttle controlled only.  Almost all the workings are hidden inside the folding frame. This is a bike that costs close to $4,000

imgresTowards the lower end of the scale a bike such as the X-Treme Scooter XB-300Li pictured here still has a decent Lithium battery, but costs less than $800.  You can clearly see how this has evolved from a regular bicycle. With the unobtrusive rear-hub motor and the battery running down beneath the seat, you may not notice it is electric at all, but it has pedal assist and also a hand throttle.

The variety available in electric bikes is very broad and continues to grow as this class of vehicle develops. And it is being fueled by increasing demand. To get a good overview, search for e-bikes on YouTube and see a wide variety being reviewed and tested. You will be busy for hours.

As batteries get better and better, there will be more room for electric scooters to make inroads, but today we still need some pedals for a long-range vehicle that won’t become dead weight on the way back home. But for most, the balance between the exercise of pedaling and the free-ride from a battery will be ideal.

Jeffrey the Barak prefers a human-powered kick-scooter but he is starting to get tired.

Irony is Destiny

or How to be a Self-Entertaining Entity, S.E.E.

By Sig Shonholtz 

Be the cause in your coincidence. There are billions of people, animals, and things on this planet, and between them, there are trillions of possible intersections.  Combine them with trillions of moments each day, and you have a sauce that will result in thousands of unusual events daily.  Inevitably, some of these intersections will be extraordinary and beyond our comprehension.  We call these events “coincidences”.

A coincidence happens when an event and a moment collide in an unusual manner or order.  The coincidence is made up of three parts: the moment (time) it happens, the space (place) it happens in, and the event (action) itself.  If any of the three parts is changed by even seconds, the coincidence may never take place and if it does, we may not notice it.

Coincidences figure so prominently in our world that most fiction books and movies feature a coincidence (or more) in them to help develop the story. In fact, one of the most successful shows ever on television, Seinfeld, is all about coincidence.  The lead writer on the show is a man named Larry David.  One day, I was watching Seinfeld and remarked to my girlfriend that the entire theme of the show was about coincidence.  I joked with her that if I ever met Larry David, I would share my “hobby” with him.   We laughed, and she said, “When do you think it will happen?”  I thought about it and only semi jokingly said, “About a week”.  About three days later, I was sitting in my orthodontist’s chair and looked in the mirror and realized that Larry David was standing behind me; I just smiled. I asked Alan, the dentist, if he would introduce me to Larry, “Because I studied coincidence and wanted to talk to him”.  When I got up to leave, Alan asked me over and introduced us.  “Nice to meet you,” we both said. Then I told Larry about my hobby.  He said, “I have never heard about anyone having a hobby of coincidence“. He enthusiastically said, “I could not do my show without coincidence.” We talked for awhile about the subject. Larry clearly understood the significance of the topic in people’s lives and exploited it thoroughly.

For most of us, the statement “what a coincidence” is simply a phrase like every other cliché. I started thinking about this subject when I was in high school, after I had a very unusual experience.

I was driving home from school and noticed a sign for a real estate agency called Red Carpet Realtors. I decided that the metaphor was not very imaginative and wondered about what might go well with the idea of a red carpet. A few minutes later, I was stopped at a signal waiting to turn left. I noticed a little piece of paper fluttering in the wind. It seemed like it was begging to come in through my window. A moment later, a car drove by, and the paper was  


swept upwards. It floated down and again tried to enter my open window. I wondered, what could be so important? Now I was transfixed on it. Another car drove by, and the little piece of paper was once more swept away. This time, though, it fluttered like a whirling dervish, came through my window, and settled on my lap. It was blue, I turned the paper over, and to my amazement, it said, “Red Carpet Auto Parks”. My first thought was that it was a perfect use of the idea of a red carpet. Then I got goose bumps, and I looked up in the sky and wondered if there was some greater meaning in the event. However, we all know that there are few things more subjective than the “meaning of things”.

Many years ago, I learned of Carl Jung’s fascination with dreams, his interest in       coincidence, and his coining of the word, “synchronicity”. Jung even gave a lecture on the idea of “meaningful events,” in which he suggested a “oneness” in things. The paper was published in 1952. He titled it, “Synchronicity, An Acausal Connecting Principle”. He proposed that without cause, there could be an effect. But how? Needless to say, in 1972, there was no Internet, and a person needed to spend some time in the library to analyze such things. However, I will attempt to “clarify his sauce” at the end of this treatise.

Strange events continued to happen in my life, which I could not understand, and soon, I began to keep track of them.

One of my more unusual coincidences happened in the 1979. I was running out the door, late for an auction at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. As I ran out the door, I picked up the Los Angeles Times and glanced at the front page. The Dalai Lama was visiting Los Angeles. I wondered what it would be like to meet the Dalai Lama. Then I jumped into my car and sped away.

I arrived late for the auction and ran up the stairs four steps at a time. When I reached the top, I was nearly airborne and realized that there were three imposing looking men in my way, all wearing robes. They were bowling pins, and I was about to knock them down. I thought, what is going on? Why are they wearing white gowns? Oh…it is the Dalai Lama, I realized, and those are his bodyguards. The Dalai Lama has a very concerned look on his face. He must think I am an assassin sent by the Chinese to do him in, I thought. The two bodyguards had their hands on their swords and were just about to pull them out of their sheaths. (It is amazing what we can process in an instant!) I realized that I was about to be beheaded by the Dalia Lama’s guards. I grabbed the railing as hard as I could and went tumbling down to an abrupt stop at the midway landing. The two guards and the Dalai Lama ran down to see if I was OK. They picked me up and straightened me out. The Dalai Lama actually had me in an embrace. I mumbled, “Sorry, Mr. Lama, I am late for an auction.” Then we all broke out into laughter. I said, “Gotta go, I am late for an auction”. I quietly walked into the auction room, only to discover that the auction had taken place the previous day. The Faberge Egg I wanted to bid on was already sold.   

It took a moment for me to process that I had just met the Dalai Lama, 30 minutes after I’d asked the question, “What would it be like to meet the Dalai Lama?” I finally realized that a pattern was starting to develop. It was something like this; question, wondering or an inquiry,


then the answer within a few days. Or it was discovery or having just learned something then an opportunity for application of the new knowledge. This has been the pattern for over 40 years.

It has taken me those 40 years to organize and enumerate the categories of coincidences and put them into a framework that makes sense (at least to me). There is a tendency to group all coincidences together. Over the last 10 years, I started to break the idea of coincidence down into some basic groups. In the process, I realized that, for some of us, what we know, we know in retrospect. Our accumulated knowledge is something we assemble over time, and we frequently do not realize what we understand until we really put it down on paper.

I am not an expert in metaphysics, physics, mathematics, or psychology, nor statistics, but here is my insight, or my perspective on the subject of coincidence. This is based solely on my experience; there is no science in it. Nearly all coincidences fall into one of five arenas. They are either about People, Places, Things, Events or Numbers.

When discussing the subject with people, two common statements are made. One group of people say, “There are no coincidences,” meaning everything is predestined, and we are more involved in our own coincidences then we realize. The other group says, “They are all just random events.” After studying the subject for so long, I believe both statements are true. They are two sides of a coin. Some coincidences appear to be “initiated,” while others appear to be more random. For lack of better words, I will call the group that says that “there are no coincidences” the “Believers” and the other group that says, “They are all just random events,” the “Statisticians”. The Believers think that everything is predestined, while the Statisticians think that these are all just random events that can be calculated as possibilities. Both sides can argue the point, and both sides have points. Both can be true, and both are true at different times. I do not have an exact answer. I am a “wonderer”. That is my position. My general conclusion though, is that there are two main types of coincidences — “Manifestations” and “Occurrences”. Manifestations are coincidences that happen after we have thought about them. Occurrences are just random events we happen to notice. We are more likely to notice the coincidences that we “seem” to initiate, the “manifested” ones.

Basically, if the idea of coincidence is the trunk of the tree, then there are two main branches — those we seem to initiate, “Manifested Coincidences” (or M.C.) and those we notice, which are “Coincidental Occurrences” (or C.O.). The two examples given above are Manifested Coincidences. The distinction is rather black and white, although few things are so defined. If you wondered about it or thought about it or entertained yourself with it, then it is an M.C. If it simply happens and you noticed it, then it is a C.O., although most C.O.s go unnoticed even though they happen around us all the time.

Most of us would agree that an M.C. is more significant than a C.O. Most coincidences have no “meaning,” at least not that we can find. It is hard enough to find meaning in the ones we seem to initiate (and I realize that once we consider that we have initiated a coincidence, it now becomes causal, and therefore, it is no longer a coincidence. For the sake of this conversation, let’s just entertain the idea).


The word “apophenia” means to be aware of random events. It is important to be aware of things where the idea of coincidence is concerned. Once, while on business in New York, I met a woman in the morning and chatted with her. In the late afternoon, I took a cab all the way across town. I was actually going to meet Andy Warhol. I exited my cab on a corner, and turned around and there she was just 3 feet from me, the woman I had spoken with eight hours earlier. I looked at her and said, “It’s our destiny to meet,” and I invited her to join me and meet Andy. She may have thought I was stalking her, or perhaps she had no sense of the moment and adventure. She gave me a strange look and said, “No thanks.” For some of us (humans), curiosity, silliness, and adventuresomeness just do not exist, but it is the way to manifest unusual events (if she is reading this, please contact me, to finalize the coincidence).

At the same time I was trying to break down the categories, I mentioned it to my friend Jennifer. I discovered that she had also been thinking about different types of coincidences. I found that to be an amazing coincidence in itself. One special instance left her looking up the word “lemming” in the dictionary. It seemed she had missed this word her entire life. However, the next day she came upon the same word after having just learned it. Of course, we could say that learning the word made it more available to her. We decided to call coincidences relating to learning and knowledge a “lemming coincidence”.

I have categorized coincidences into 18 distinct subtypes, which can appear as Manifested Coincidences (M.C.) or Coincidental Occurrences (C.O.).

SIMPLE coincidence: For example, bumping into a friend unexpectedly. This would be a C.O.

BASIC coincidence: For example, thinking about someone and then seeing this person. This would be considered an M.C. However considering how long it takes for it to happen and how remarkable the situation is will also determine its significance.

MIRACLES can, in some cases, be considered coincidences. In most cases, they would be C.O.s.

DISCOVERY or LEMMINGS are coincidences of learning, language, and knowledge. These would be M.C.s, because we wonder about them ahead of time. Or we learn something and immediately have the opportunity to use the knowledge.

COMPLEX coincidences come about when many coincidences happen in a cascade of events each resulting in another coincidence. They may take years to actually happen; it is like a series of dominoes. You may only understand it by tracing each unique coincidence backwards over time before you realize how truly unusual the event has been. One could argue, though that any coincidence is complex in its nature. These can be either an M.C. or a C.O.

For example, on September 11, 2001, the world shared a collective complex coincidental occurrence. Nineteen men hijacked four jetliners and blew up several buildings. It was numerically astronomical that they would be able to succeed. However, because hundreds of people ignored details, discounted subordinates’ pleas, and/or failed to notice odd behavior, an


impossible goal became a reality. Honestly and quietly, it makes me wonder, how powerful is Allah?

INTERSECTED coincidences occur in the moment of a coincidence. For example, I was dining with a friend in Portland Oregon. I shared with him that I wanted to track down a mutual acquaintance of ours, Abigail. He found it was odd that he never accidently bumped into her as long as he has lived in Portland since they lived in the same neighborhood and frequented similar places. We were sitting at a table in the middle of the restaurant and I heard my name called and looked up. In a moment I realized that Abigail and her husband Marcus were sitting at a booth just a few feet away. We all had a good laugh as they had also been recently thinking about me. These can be M.C. or a C.O.

COMPOUND coincidences result when a coincidence never seems to end, they appear as a continuous stream of events that seem to keep it alive. The more intersects the more “meaning” of course, whatever that means. The most I ever had in a short period (14 days, see the sound of music example) were 7. A good coincidence can easily have two or three sequences. These are most likely started as C.O. but may evolve as you become aware of the occurrences.

RELATED coincidences are not ours but occur when we are part of someone else’s coincidence. Imagine you are the person who is “being thought about,” and then you show up at the office of the person who was thinking about you the next day. These will always be M.C. coincidences.

UNDISCOVERED coincidences are the most common type. Imagine you’re wondering about someone, and in fact, this person is in the aisle next to you at the market, but you did not notice him or her. This is the most common type of coincidence; we just do not realize it. These are all around us all the time. These can be either M.C.s or C.O.s.

NUMERICAL coincidences happen to many people they are usually linked to dates and times. Personally though, I have not had any numerical coincidences that I can think of that ever had any relevance. It does make me wonder why? I have no answer; all my coincidences are linked to ideas or inquiries.

SERENDIPITY or FATE are coincidences that determine our destiny. They are always important to us because they are usually in the area that defines who we fall in love with and how we choose our careers. These can appear as M.C.s or C.O.s.

LUCK and DUMB LUCK, which sometimes saves our lives, are actually coincidences. What makes luck “lucky” is what we do with it in the moment. Many extraordinary things happen to us during our lives that we misunderstand or fail to act on. These instances never become anything, like luck lost, having never been found. Imagine a surfer in a contest who does not paddle into an amazing wave and never catches it. Luck is about awareness. These are likely to be C.O.s.


DREAMS COMING TRUE or PRAYERS ANSWERED could also be considered coincidences. These would always be M.C.

HAPPENSTANCE is a form of coincidence. However depending on your view of coincidence you may give no meaning to it.

EPIPHANIES are coincidences of awareness, between the event and an understanding of it. They would be C.O.s, because we were not thinking about them; we just “became aware”.

IRONY is a form of coincidence that I think we all understand. An ironic event is a coincidence of awareness or a form of apophenia.

DÉJÀ VU is a form of coincidence. I think the “feeling” that we call déjà vu is the “fleeting moment” between something that just happened — a current event — and an old dream that is stored way back in the recesses of the psyche. They intersect in an instant. We just cannot quite “put our finger on it” or grasp it. It is, literally, like something “on the tip of our tongue”. For example, sometimes, I will realize that something happening in the moment is similar to a dream I had the night before, which I had no recall of until that moment. The real event awakens the story of the dream. Now, imagine that it was a dream from a year or 10 years ago. What would it “feel” like to us? It would feel like what we call DÉJÀ VU. It is a CO.

SYNCHRONISTIC coincidences are the most important types, because they require thought in advance. They will always be M.C.s. They appear to be “caused” by something other than just random possibilities. They are the types that cause the most contention between the two sides, Believers and Statisticians. Synchronistic coincidences are what Jung was writing about when he called synchronicity “an acausal connecting principle”. A synchronistic coincidence occurs when a person wants something, needs something, has an inquiry, is curious, or has perhaps just learned something and even dwells on the subject. This need or question, or the opportunity to use some knowledge, actually happens when someone else shows it to them or asks them a question, not knowing that they have just learned it. Or perhaps they open a book to a page that gives them the answer. In my case, for example, finding the Red Carpet ticket was a synchronistic coincidence because I wondered what a better use of the metaphor “red carpet” might be, and I found an answer to my inquiry 10 minutes later. Meeting the Dalai Lama when I wondered what it would be like to meet him is also a perfect example of a synchronistic coincidence. Included in the synchronistic category are Basic (2), Discoveries (5), Complex (7), Compound (8), Related (9), Serendipity (10), and Dreams Coming True (13).

The one coincidence that we are all familiar with is serendipity, which I reserved for two very easily identifiable categories in our lives — career and romance. A serendipitous event sets us on the course for our careers; something happens, and we start down a road. It might be a good road or a bad road, but a road it is. Similarly, a serendipitous event can provide the opportunity to be introduced to somebody with whom we fall in love and have a family, or do not, depending on the situation. It frequently becomes our destiny.


I recently had a synchronistic coincidence, which came to light when my six-and-a-half-year-old daughter Isabelle showed me something I was “wondering” about. I had wanted to take her to see the silent film The Artist (not thinking that she would not be able to read the subtitles quickly enough, and not knowing that it was not a story for kids) but thought it would be better if I showed her some Chaplin films to acquaint her with the style. We went to the library and checked out two DVDs, one of some shorts and the other being Limelight. We watched half the shorts when I started to wonder if these were just bad shots or if Chaplin was not as funny as I remembered him. They simply were not that interesting. I pulled out the DVD and put Limelight on. We both enjoyed it and cried at the end. Then I returned the two discs to the library.

Something was bothering me, though. I kept wondering, what were the rest of the shorts like on that DVD we had turned off? I had this thought on and off for a while and considered going back to the library to check the DVD out again.

About two weeks later, Isabelle and I were walking on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles. We walked by an old, restored building, and she stopped me and said, “Dad, I think I see Charlie Chaplin in the lobby of that building.” I was surprised but went into the building, to see and sure enough, there “he” was. The directory board was actually a video screen, until you pushed a button and the directory came up. Otherwise, it was running a continuous loop of old Chaplin shorts. We looked at the screen. Amazingly it was showing the same group of shorts we had watched at home, and it was at the exact same scene at which I had removed the disc. I wondered why the shorts were even being shown in the lobby. I quickly realized that we actually in the lobby where some on the shorts were shot. Isabelle had recognized Chaplin through the thick glass from only a slight glimpse of the screen as she walked by. Question: What were the other shorts like on the DVD? They were much better and funnier, so I had my answer. Again, inquiry, and an answer, this one took about 2 weeks.

While researching Jung, I came across an interesting story about a scarab beetle. It is a familiar story to any Jung enthusiast. It was interesting to me because I also had a similar coincidence in my life. Jung had a female patient who was extremely intelligent and rational and who resisted his therapy. On one occasion, she was telling him about a dream she had, in which she’d received an expensive piece of jewelry, a golden scarab. While she was sharing the story, Jung heard a noise on the window coming from the outside. He opened up the window, and a beautiful, iridescent beetle flew in. He caught it in his hand and gave it to her. In this act, she was transformed, took the therapy more seriously, and was able move forward and work out her issues.

My Scarab story happened one lazy day in Venice Beach, California, I was sitting outside my neighborhood coffee house. Along came a large, aggressive, flying scarab beetle. It was beautiful, iridescent green and about a half-inch long. It was so aggressive that people were diving underneath their tables; it actually hit me. It finally landed on my table, and I put a glass over it, slid a piece of paper underneath, and captured it. It was ferocious and in a rage. It looked at me through the glass and buzzed its head off. The glass was pulsating and I could feel its anger at being caught. Everybody on the patio came over to look at it. Now, you do not


know this, but I like to collect bugs. However, I will only collect them after they have died. I could not kill the insect and decided to release it. This beautiful scarab Beetle flew out of the glass and looked me straight in the eye with a glare and flew off. At the time, I lived across the street in a condo complex on the second floor, down an outside hall and an outside “interior” walkway, all open to the air. When I got home that evening, I looked down and was stunned to see a beautiful, iridescent blue and green form radiating on my doormat. I realized that exactly in the middle of my doormat was a dead scarab beetle. It was glowing in the evening light. Was it the same scarab beetle? I do not know. They are very rare in Venice Beach. But it did not really matter to me. I experienced it as a gift, and I still have it. It is the centerpiece of my small, dead-bugs-only insect collection. It worked again; I wanted something that I did not want to kill so I received it as a gift. This was an M.C.

Very recently, I experienced a series of synchronistic coincidences related to the film The Sound of Music, after purchasing a DVD of it at an estate sale. I had not seen the film since I was a child and thought my daughter would enjoy it. We watched it and both loved it. A few days later, I read an article on the Internet by a writer who was making a point about rhetorical questions. He chose the song Maria from The Sound of Music as an example of a few rhetorical questions — “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” and “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” I thought; that is an odd little coincidence.

Then, a few more days later, my daughter’s piano teacher gave her the next piano assignment. It was Climb Every Mountain, from The Sound of Music.

A week later, I was having dinner at my friend Eileen’s house. She had a friend there named Alfred. He was from the village in Austria where the story of The Sound of Music actually took place. He shared that they were building a Von Trapp museum there, because they had nothing else to “sell” in the town, and they wanted to capitalize on the fame of the film. Then, strangely, during dinner that evening, an obscure music show was on. All of a sudden, we realized that they were playing the song Maria, but not from the film; someone was just singing it. That was the fourth connection for the one event which I thought was very unusual.

A few more days passed, and I was at home with my daughter. We were cleaning up things in the den. I found a DVD of her first ballet recital. She, of course, wanted to watch it. There were probably 10 or 15 different recitals on the DVD, but the very first one was Climb Every Mountain, from (you guessed it) The Sound of Music. Again several days later, I was at an event with Eileen and I joked with her that I hoped I had heard the last of The Sound Of Music. She looked up, joked, and asked a friend of hers who was standing nearby, “What is your favorite musical?” He said, “The Sound of Music, of course.” In total, I encountered 6 intersections related to The Sound of Music over a 3-week period. It was getting annoying. Then several weeks later I learned that Christopher Plummer, the father in the movie had the same birthday as me. I finally decided that I better make sure my daughter continues playing the piano. In total I had seven intersects for the same event. Incredible I thought.


One of the most important considerations to make regarding coincidences is the very subjective nature of the value of an event. I do not really know how to set some reasonable rules for the value of a coincidence. It is up to us as individuals to decide what is important to us. I know one, thing though, where there is a value, there is always a cost. For example, when we read about health care fraud, we are left with the impression that a billion dollars stolen from taxpayers are “lost”. But the money is not really lost; it is simply reintroduced or redistributed back into the economy by the perpetrators, as goods and services purchased by them. Even vandalism can be looked at from another perspective, when you consider that the items are replaced by making new purchases. So, every manifested coincidence that has value must have a cost. The cost might be in not understanding it or misinterpreting it, getting it wrong, or maybe making a decision about it, which turned out to be a mistake. How do we know these things? I do not have an answer.

If you think about a friend then meet that friend within minutes, you feel the power of the coincidence much more strongly than if it had happened days later. If it is someone you haven’t seen for years, then the coincidence will seem stronger. If the meeting is in an unusual place, then it will seem stronger still. Nearly all my coincidences happen within a week’s time. Some may linger over a few weeks, as did the story of Chaplin (nearly 2 weeks) and The Sound of Music (more than 3 weeks), however that one continued to develop.  

When I wondered about red carpets, I got my answer within 10 minutes. When I wondered about the Dalai Lama, I got my answer within 30 minutes. The scarab took 6 or 7 hours. There must be some consideration to dissipation, time, or how long it should take for a coincidence to be considered as such. Time is juxtaposed against the event itself, leaving us to wonder whether the event is important or just an accident that happened quickly after we wondered about it.

One of my most unusual manifestations took 16 years to come to life. In my early 20s I was sitting with friends, we had smoked some marijuana and we were all making up our perfect woman. Everyone had a desire, most were common though. Large breasts, blond hair and blue eyes, etcetera. I was the last to share and my imagination was in high gear. My perfect woman spoke 5 languages because I wanted to travel. My perfect woman was a lawyer because I wanted a woman that was logical. And lastly, my perfect woman was genuine, authentic and unaffected, so naturally, she was from a small island in the South Pacific. We all burst out into laughter and they berated me for my foolish fantasy. They said, “You will never find a woman like that”. I laughed at them and said “That’s why they call it a fantasy. If you want big boobs go look out the window and pick someone, yours aren’t fantasies, they are desires. Mine is truly a fantasy because it will never happen”.  The years went by and I had long ago completely forgotten my ideal.

One day, 16 years later I found myself in Brussels, Belgium at an elegant event. I had a new suit and a teal overcoat and most of my hair, as well as being an honored guest at the event. A woman caught my eye there because she seemed out of place in the glamorous room, she


appeared “unaffected” by the event. She was clutching a notepad and seemed to have no interest in the actual event. I asked the director of the event who she was? He introduced us; she had a Spanish first name a German last name and unrecognizable middle name. We spoke at some length but she was with a very beautiful woman, whom she incorrectly presumed I was really interested in so she kept drifting away. Finally it dawned on her that it was she I wanted to know. The mysterious woman with wild black hair told me she spoke five languages and in fact was a lawyer. My fantasy was so far removed from my mind that it did not occur to me. I invited her to lunch the next day and she accepted. The next morning I received a message that our lunch was cancelled. Oh, well I thought, nothing ventured nothing gained. I do not mind rejection or failure; it is my own inaction that annoys me. I decided not to call her back, but later on in the day I simply changed my mind. In that moment my life changed forever.

I called her back and she invited me to dinner that night. We found a small place near the Grand Plaza, and it was an extraordinary plaza. During our walk to the restaurant I learned that she had 2 law degrees and she told me she was from “a leetle village, from a leetle island from a leetle country”. I laughed at her cute accent. I realized later that her island was actually a very small atoll in the South Pacific; their water was collected in a cistern. Believe it or not I still did not make the connection to my fantasy years before. We finally sat down at the table and shortly after she looked at me and said, “May I ask you a question”? “Of course”, I answered. She looked at me as serious as could be and said “Are you a homosexual?” I was certainly taken aback but not shocked. I answered, “No, I am not, but it is an unusual question for a diplomat of the European Union to ask a stranger”. She answered, “Oh, please do not be offended, you are so elegant (my new suit I guess and the teal overcoat), I cannot imagine what you see in me”. It was then, that it hit me, like a bomb going off in my mind. I realized in that instant that I was inside of my manifestation from 16 years earlier. Here she was, a woman that spoke five languages, was a lawyer and from a small island in the South Pacific. She was so authentic and genuine that she did not recognize her own grace. In fact I later learned, her grandmother was the queen of the “island” making her technically a princess. Her middle name, Tepakeva meant White Bird Flying Away. I thought it was a beautiful expression for a person raised on an Atoll yet representing her country to the European Union.

Shortly after I arrived back in the States I took a business trip to Detroit. I went to a Lebanese restaurant for dinner with some colleagues. The hostess there was famous for her ability to read the coffee grinds in the Turkish coffee cups. I asked her if she would read mine. She took the cup out of my hand and spun and swirled it around, then looked inside, and said, “I see travel to foreign lands over water.” “You say that to everyone”, I said to her. She said, “See for yourself”.  I looked inside the cup, and sure enough, the entire rim of the cup had stylized waves all around it. They were the kind you see in old Oriental paintings. I told her I was impressed. Again, she swirled the cup around and looked inside once more, then back at me with a look of bewilderment on her face. She said, “I see a White Bird, Flying Away.” I was speechless, I looked into the cup and sure enough, perfectly outlined by the black grinds white against the porcelain, was an outline of a dove. The bird was clearly flying out of the cup, almost at the rim. I was stunned. I told the woman that “white bird flying away” is the middle name of a       


woman I had just met. We all looked into the cup, every single person at the table saw the same thing. It was a white bird (a dove), and it flying up near the top of the rim. How could it be I wondered, the hostess herself was a little unnerved by the reading? I asked her a simple question. “Have you ever assembled those four words together in that order?” She had not, nor had I ever assembled those four words together in that order, “White Bird Flying Away”. Unless I am speaking about the event I have no reason to put those four words together in that order.  

This was one of the most impressive coincidences I have ever had and to this day it still is hard to believe. Interestingly, it also made me realize that what seems like destiny may not be anything more than an extraordinary coincidence because sadly, the relationship did not stand the test of time. Things that seem to have been written in the stars can even fail, everything requires work and compromise. I also learned another big lesson — leave the orchid where it blooms. In addition, I discovered that love and fascination appear identical. Love is not blind so much as being fascinated is blinding. Things can appear to be written in the stars but, so what? I also realized that my destiny had been altered by a phone call one afternoon, when I just as easily could have forgotten about her. Life turns on a dime, very literally. If we search back far enough in our lives we can actually pinpoint the important intersections when our worlds changed forever.

One of my strangest M.C.s started rather like the red carpet story. I was driving to work one day and listening to Dennis Prager, a conservative moralist, on the radio. He would pose a moral dilemma in our society and ask listeners to call and voice their opinions. Every now and again, he would actually change his position if someone made a more powerful argument. Occasionally, he would ask his assistant, Manya, to take down a caller’s number so he could follow up with the person later. I became curious about Manya. I wondered what she looked like and how old she was and if she was funny. Of course, just like the red carpet story, it was a silly exercise, because I was certain I was never going to meet her (or was I?) That evening, I left work and went home to my condominium. There was a homeowners’ meeting, and it was a raucous event. We were arguing about the termites that had nested in the walls. I was sitting next to a woman who I had seen for a few years in the building. We always said hello but had never really spoken. After a while, I asked her what she “did,” and she said she worked for a radio station. I asked her which one. “KABC,” she said. Then I asked for whom she worked. “Dennis Prager,” she said. Finally…with great anticipation, I asked her name. “Manya” was her answer. Here, right next to me, was the woman I had spent my entire morning daydreaming about. I told her that I had been thinking about her, but I do not think she understood what I meant. When I shared the story with her she seemed surprisingly uninterested.

There are nearly 20 million people in the Los Angeles area. Manya could have lived anywhere. What were the odds that she lived in my building, as well as her attending the meeting and sitting next to me? The task was made a little easier, though, because her name was not so common. It occurred to me afterwards that I could have sat next to her and never learned her name, which would have made it an undiscovered coincidence.


Looking back on some of my coincidences; if I take a metaphysical or spiritual position on an M.C., I can almost believe that I “willed” the piece of paper to blow in through my window and that I “caused” an insect to expire on my doorstep. However, I cannot fathom how I could “force” the Dalai Lama to “meet” me, nor comprehend how it came to be that Manya was sitting next to me the day I was wondering about her. I do not understand how coffee grinds could look like a white bird flying out of a cup. It is sometimes disturbing when these things happen, because I cannot establish my own purpose in it, or the meaningfulness in the meaninglessness, except the pleasure in the observations and the “fun of it”.

For many years, I took a spiritual position on my coincidental episodes. But then I began to wonder about it. What if this is simply just about a lot of unusual things happening but there is nothing really meaningful about them? So, eventually, I embraced a non-spiritual position more as a rebellion against popular culture and the notions of spirituality. Spirituality was fashionable, and I wanted to take a stand against the spiritual position. In addition, I saw myself as grounded on the planet, I am just an earthling, and spirits and spirituality exist above the ground, where “god” lives. Over the last few years, I’ve started to go back in the spiritual direction because I have exhausted my own non or anti-spiritual position and do not want to be stuck in my own dogma.

Perhaps I am living in grace and do not realize it. Clearly, there are mysteries in the universe that cannot be explained, at least not by me, although many do try. Frankly, thinking and believing in things is not knowing them. Is spirituality the way to manifest things? If so, then how could I be manifesting things that I deny the existence of? I do not know. Must a “manifestor” be a spiritual person? Maybe some of us are facilitators. What about psychics? Are they manifestors?

Many people never have extraordinary coincidences in their lives. That may be because they do not wonder enough and do not notice things. So, wondering is essential if you plan on having unusual events happen. The most important part of manifesting unusual events or having an M.C. in your life is to live as “big” as you possibly can. Do not be shy. This means having a relentless imagination. Also, try being a bit experimental at times. An M.C. will happen when you use your imagination. Below are the 5 steps you can take to create an M.C. in your life but simply stated, “leave no stone unturned”.

Before we get into the 5 steps it will be helpful to consider freeing up your mind of some “distracting” ideas. These ideas might be stumbling blocks to achieving your goal of manifesting unusual coincidences. It will take a little bit of imagination but that is what the entire exercise is all about anyway.

Genes, Gender, Generation and Geography. Most of us “live” inside of a discipline defined by these 4 G words which, coincidentally are “the four questions” (Not the Passover ones though). They are, Who, we are, our GENES. What, we are our GENDER. When we are, our   GENERATION. Where we are, our GEOGRAPHY. Resulting in Why we are. These basic ideas (words) keep us trapped in a box of sorts, and why wouldn’t they? They are impossible to


escape. How can we even imagine we are not part of how we were raised, our intellect? How can we consider being genderless? And how could we ever think we are not a product of our time? And lastly, how can we consider ourselves as observers only and not linked to a place on the globe where we grew up? OK, just try it for the fun of it. The ultimate perspective lies in removing ourselves from the conversation and just being an observer with no investment and no attachment to the outcome.

For your consideration; in helping to understand these perspectives as human beings we create                                      templates that we use to help us understand the physical world around us and to help us navigate the complexities of other human beings. These templates, like coins have two sides. We are constantly inside of a dynamic that we negotiate between ourselves and other people or our world. Imagine that we are living inside of a Lava Lamp. The constraints of the lamp, the container are our physical world. As we move around it everything inside the Lava Lamp world is affected. It is important that we always look at both sides of the template as ask ourselves if we are understanding what is happening or are we misunderstanding.

Next, let’s take a moment now and work on jettisoning two words that are also distracting and supplanting them with “healthier” words (ideas). The two words are Expect and Opinions. Most of my insights arise and arrive out of an epiphany or an extended inquiry. When one of these events happens to me, I find myself in an exhaustive search for an answer. Personally, I am an S.E.E. a “self entertaining entity” I find it fun and interesting and in the end hopefully I am a better person for it. Something must have happened to me that caused me to examine the word “expect”. I suppose that someone probably said to me they “expected” something from me and I launched myself into an inquiry. Or perhaps I realized that I expected something from someone. The word seemed to impose someone else’s expectation on me and I realized that nearly all our disappointment stems from unrealized expectations. So, I simply asked myself a question; what if the word “expect” did not exist, what would happen? Would disappointment disappear? It seemed too simple, but I played around with the idea while sitting at stop lights doing nothing other than thinking.  

Firstly, if you remove a particular word from the lexicon you create a vacuum of sorts, which more or less must be replaced or supplanted with words or ideas that properly fill that vacuum, (because nature hates a vacuum, or so it is thought. There are some experiments suggesting some exceptions.). For a long time I wondered about some good replacement words for “expect”. I suppose I should have gone to my Thesaurus first but I just played around with the idea while I was driving and did not look it up (I finally did several years after playing around with the idea). Most of my words/thoughts were there but a few were not.

Here are some replacement words or ideas for EXPECT;


hoped for

planned on

had wanted

wished for 

looking forward to






figured as much

counted on

did not doubt



understood it


These words or ideas all worked pretty well for me, but most importantly they put the disappointment on myself and I soon learned to live without the word expect. I just stopped using it and stopped thinking in terms of it. I do think it is absolutely a correct word to use for a woman who is pregnant though. She has a right to expect something to happen, whether she wants it or not. I sometimes do think in terms of expect when something good happens that is “unexpected” surprise, although “unplanned good surprise” is fine also. It is also OK to use when trying not to use it. It is also perfectly useful as a philosophical debate.

I saw this as a bell curve, replacement words were in the middle. There were some words though, that seemed important in the model that I could not use as replacements. I put them on the right and left side of the curve. Two of them are “require” and “insist” because in fact while we should not expect things, we do require and can insist on things from other people but, they must be properly informed that we require something of them. If we have not properly alerted them of our absolute need, demand or requirement then the problem is still ours, not theirs. Communication is key when using this word; “requirement”. I suspect most of the time we are guilty of not speaking clearly about our requirements and instead leave it to the other person to somehow magically “know” what we were “expecting from them”. I also found the word “imagine” important in the model but it was on the complete opposite side of requirement, it was not the same as the replacement words. It placed everything in my imagination where expect belongs 

Anyway, after working with the idea for many years I have found it does its job in helping me take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in my life and I have a peaceful co-existence with everyone around me when I do not use the word expect. In fact it is my least favorite word in the world.

The other word I would like you to consider jettisoning is “opinion”. Our opinions are mostly made up of the 4 G words (stated above, genes, gender, generation and geography). Our society and social status and religious background and education certainly influence the way the world occurs to us. However we do not need to be committed to those “opinions” formed as we grew up. Our opinions are not absolutes and they are not essential to our wellbeing.

Consider using the same rule used for the word expect but put in the word opinions instead. You would certainly have to supplant those opinions with other ideas as we did for expect. Consider supplanting your opinions with the word perspective. Now, imagine you were an ant

walking around the rim of a three foot wide bowl. Where the bowl is placed is certainly important. Imagine the bowl is placed on top of a mountain or imagine it is placed on the ground


or in a kitchen. As you walk along the rim and look forwards you cannot help but notice that the scene continuously changes. Consider that every 5 degrees your ant “world view” changes slightly and every 90 degrees your “world view” changes greatly. By the time you have walked

half way around your “world” it is completely different, giving you an entirely new perspective on how “the world occurs” to you. Of course your perception of what you see will vary but that is how you will interpret every position on the “globe”. Do not worry, you will get back to yourself and your heart will tell you what is true and right. The difference is you will now be free to change your mind by changing your perspective on the subject. Using this technique will help

you when manifesting extraordinary coincidences. Or when trying to manifest anything you want.

Below are the five simple steps.

STEP ONE: Purity in your thoughts is important. It does not matter what you’re wondering; just wonder, with no agenda, or you may find yourself inside of an M.C. and missing it because of an “impurity” in your desire.

STEP TWO: Deconstruct your thought. Imagine you have a deck of cards placed face up on a table. Fifty-two cards are facing upwards, and they represent your desire or your inquiry, which is now deconstructed and spread out. Each card represents part of your desire or your wish or your thoughts. You do not need to use all 52 cards. They are just a visual aid.

STEP THREE: Distill your thought down to something very essential. Imagine you have reassembled the cards and put them back together in a logical order. Your thought is now deconstructed, distilled, condensed, and reorganized into something focused.  

STEP FOUR: Project your thought or thoughts. Imagine you are wearing a twenty four karat gold leaf leotard that is studded with Swarovski crystals. You are an ice skater, spinning at high speed on an ice rink that is miles in diameter. You appear as a cylindrical tube tapered at both ends. From the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, sparks are exploding and shooting off of you in all directions; continuously.  The faster you spin the farther the sparks fly; You are a spinning ball of fire.

Inevitably, you will ignite something around you. If you’re thinking and imagining and projecting enough “energy” or enough thoughts, something will happen; of this I am absolutely certain. It is the key to the process. You do not need to write it down or verbally talk about it. You simply need to “spin it out there”.

STEP FIVE: Be aware, because you may be inside of your manifestation and not realize it, and because of this, you will miss it and your opportunity. This has happened to me many times, like the traveler that missed the right train. That train left the station already and you cannot retrieve it.

Jung suggested that there was a oneness in the universe. Yet he also believed that common notions of causality could not explain some complex coincidences. This I strongly agree with, based on my own experiences. In trying to understand my own role in this process and make sense of the numerous events in my own life, several things have occurred to me. First, I think it is important to immerse yourself in every conversation you have, because you never know when someone is going to say something truly amazing to you or “cause an occurrence to happen”. If


a conversation is worth starting, it is worth investing in. How you live your life is also important. For example, if you stay in your neighborhood and watch TV all day, unusual events are less

likely to happen. It is important that you go out and meet people and try new things all the time. Another is having a very open mind to things around you. Remember, abandon your opinions as

much as possible, and live in a world ruled by perspectives, which gives you the freedom to be creative and even change your mind because you have changed your perspective. Wonder about things all the time, and be a “projector” of your thoughts and ideas. Basically, be curious and inquisitive about things, and things will happen.

For example, while driving home recently after visiting friends at a sports bar, I wondered about Freud and Einstein in a sports bar. I imagined them sharing their ideas and finding nobody interested in them. They would fall flat on their faces and would decide not to pursue their theories. Just at that moment, when I came to a stop, I looked up and noticed that the car in front of me had a license plate that read, “E=MCSQ”. The driver had actually taken two pieces of tape to make the equal sign. A great coincidence is like having magic happen to you by accident. It makes you smile and wonder about the mysteries around all of us. In a way, it can connect us to the universe all around us and leave us thinking about things we simply do not truly understand. I have chosen to share only a few of my own coincidences, but I have many others that are at least as unique as the ones above.

There are things we learn, things we are taught, and things we discover. The things we discover are always sweeter. I have discovered that by investing myself in every moment, in every idea, in every concept, and in every conversation, unusual things can and will occur.

What is the meaning of a coincidence? Regarding the meaning of any coincidence, it is the meaning we give it. For me, the meaning of a coincidence is that it has become part of life. I call it my hobby. We are all S.E.E.s, Self-Entertaining Entities. So let’s indulge ourselves in thoughts and ideas and sometimes even silliness. The nice thing about having a hobby like this is that you never know when something extraordinary will happen.

The Selfie, a decade before the Selfie

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 1.27.44 PMThe world is obsessed with “The Selfie”. So many people have smartphones, and a desire to share themselves, that wherever you look you see a picture of someone taking their own picture, either alone or with a group.

But here at the-vu, this started about ten years ago, thanks to a regular contributor, since deceased, by the name of Louis the Scooterer.

Beginning in 2004, Luis would send an article along with a selfie taken at arm’s length with a compact digital camera.  There were so many that at one point they were assembled in to what I called his “refrigerator door”,  seen at this link.

We lost Louis on July 26th 2009, but people are still reading, or revisiting, his interesting travelogs. And now that the selfie is ubiquitous, we have to remind ourselves that at the time, they were fairly unusual.

Home-Made Natural Deodorant

cream in a jarBy Jeffrey the Barak

Deodorant of Death?

A couple of decades ago, my nephew’s wife mentioned that she was looking for deodorant that did not contain aluminum, because her late mother had died of cancer and she thought that aluminum in deodorant was at least partly to blame.

I made no move thereafter to stop using deodorant that contained aluminum, but I remembered the horrific claim. I am still not sure how much the various chemicals in the typical deodorant get through the skin and into the blood stream, or into the lymph glands that hover beneath the armpits. And I still like to optimistically believe that there are legal regulations in place that stop manufacturers from putting dangerous substances in deodorant.

Failure to Protect.

But deodorant is always somewhere in the back of my mind because I am really bothered by the smell of human body odor. I cannot stand it. For several years I have used a common deodorant that was so effective, I never gave it a thought. It was Mitchum. But suddenly this year, the product that worked was updated to become a product that failed to work. It is called 48 Hour, but body odor defeats it in 4.8 hours.

At first I assumed it wasn’t me. I was wondering why the bedroom smelled stuffy in the morning. I was washing sheets, the duvet, the mattress cover, and dusting and vacuuming and cleaning the floor more than ever. I even thought it might be breath-related and was stepping up the oral-hygiene like a mad man.

Finally the realization forced itself through, the deodorant had stopped working. The new Mitchum was making me smell terrible. Instead of combing the shelves in the drug store for an alternative, I first sat down and started Googling. Right away I found a lot of articles and posts about home-made natural deodorants and my interest was piqued.

What exactly are we smelling?

Armpits themselves do not have any odor. Neither does sweat. Even armpit sweat is odorless. The apocrine sweat glands in the armpit, crotch and navel areas of the body release fats (lipids) and steroids and transport them to the skin’s surface. Even these do not actually smell. It is what happens next.

Bacteria present on normal skin manufacture enzymes that break down the lipids into acids such as butyric acid, and it is the gas given off by these acids that we recognize as body odor. Another source of food for bacteria is propionic acid which is a breakdown of amino acids from the sebaceous glands by different bacteria.

Basically it is gas coming from acid that smells. And if the person does not wash off the bacteria it gets stronger and stronger very quickly.


Mankind’s answer to this is deodorant. There are three kinds, deodorant, antiperspirant and antiperspirant deodorant. Most of these have a perfume to mask smell, but that is not how or why they work.

Basically, antiperspirant physically blocks the sweat from coming out through the skin, which keeps the area dry and takes the food-source away from the bacteria. Deodorant on the other hand, allows the sweat to flow, and cool the body, but it kills the bacteria so it cannot feed on and ferment the sweat, causing it to smell. And as you might have guessed, antiperspirant deodorant does a bit of each.

Natural deodorant.

But as you can tell by doing a quick Internet search, there may be a way to quickly whip up a batch of safe, indeed edible, deodorant in your kitchen for a few pennies per month. The question is, can these home made potions be relied upon to prevent body odor?

Well actually, yes they can!

The main ingredients for these recipes are coconut oil, arrowroot powder, diatomaceous earth (shell flour), baking soda (in very small amounts) and other optional additions such as essential oils.

The ingredient that does the job is the coconut oil, although some experimenters have substituted other natural oils with some success. Coconut oil, has among it’s many miraculous properties, an anti-bacterial effect and it is quite capable of killing off more stink than you can produce between showers. It smells good too!

Arrowroot powder is what makes the liquid coconut oil (yes it is liquid when you don’t live in a cold place) behave like a solid white mass (like deodorant). The optional diatomaceous earth also draws toxins out of the skin and somehow neutralizes them. Baking soda absorbs smell, but it also irritates skin so only very tiny amounts are added and it can be omitted if you have very sensitive skin.


There are many recipes that you can search for, and they vary somewhat, especially in their ingredient ratios, but here is one to get you started. By all means look for more online.

Coconut Oil 33%
Arrowroot Powder 55%
Diatomaceous Earth 11%
Baking Soda 1%
(percentages are approximate)

You can store the mixture in a jar and apply it with your fingers to your armpits. It is harmless after all!

Experiment and enjoy, and notice the lack of odor on your skin, clothing, bedding etc. This crazy, simple, natural, cheap, gunk works! It works better than the stuff in the drug store.

What is missing?

Look at the ingredients on your deodorant container. You will see a long list of chemicals, some for the task at hand and others to keep it together in a wide range of temperatures and humidities. We can assume these things are fairly safe, but if you ate your deodorant it would poison you and possibly immediately choke you to death from drying up your throat. Compare this to the natural recipe deodorants which are basically made of food.

And once again, the recipes do the job, better than most of the nasty smelling perfumed mixtures being sold at a few dollars per plastic-encased spoonful at every store. So head to the kitchen and whip up a batch of deodorant!

Author Jeffrey the Barak used to be a coconut, but he fell out of his tree.


The Waterless Myth

waterless-toilet-3By Jeffrey the Barak

The Western United States is in a drought. The reservoirs are at their lowest levels, the forests are tinder dry and some wells have no water left in them at all. The snow packs on the mountain tops that eventually become drinking water are shrinking ever faster, and the strategy for recovery is simply to hope for rain.

Among the many ideas for water conservation are waterless urinals and waterless car wash.

Waterless Urinals

Male Californians who have been to the bathroom in public buildings have by now encountered waterless urinals and many will be wondering how they work. Since there is no water coming into the bowls, how do they not simply reek of urine?

Well in fact sometimes they do stink, very much so, and that provides a clue as to what is really going on. The waterless urinal simply utilizes a layer of floating oil that the urine sinks through, and that surface layer of oil prevents the odor of the urine from evaporating into the air in the restroom. The urine itself goes down the drain just as if it were a conventional toilet.

The caretaker in charge of the restroom replenishes the oil with a proprietary oil provided by the urinal manufacturer, usually Kohler or Steward. But of course this caretaker or janitor also has to clean the bathroom and part of the process is to pour buckets of water down the waterless urinals before replenishing the oil layer. So in fact they are not waterless in any way whatsoever.

The signs above these devices that proudly proclaim how many gallons of water are saved by the absence of flushing, do not take the maintenance procedure into consideration. So to put it politely, it is a myth.

Waterless Car Wash

Waterless car wash is sprayed onto a dirty car and gently wiped away with a soft microfiber towel. It is very effective and leaves the car clean and polished without scratching the paint, as long as you do it right. But anyone who has cleaned a few very dirty cars this way or continued the process to the brake dust coated wheel rims will tell you that you quickly soil a pile of microfiber towels with the used waxy solvent.

Now microfiber towels, which are polyester, are very affordable these days, but still, no-one uses them once and throws them in the trash. No, they go into a washing machine and get cleaned with a lot of water and detergent. So the water may not touch the car, but a lot of water goes through the towels.

And so, just like the mythical waterless urinals, waterless car wash actually uses a lot of water, just not at the time it is being used to “wash” the car.

The Real Villain

Flying over Southern California cities and towns, you see a lot of green grass. It is the lawns of golf courses, country clubs, sports fields, city parks and the front and back yards of private homes. But this is a part of the world that is supposed to be a semi-arid coastal plain. Practically a desert. Lawn is just not meant to be here, and the only reason it can be here is because we dump millions of gallons of drinking water on it to keep it alive.

This is also true in countless other parts of the world with large populations.

With the very real possibility of universal water rationing on the horizon, we need to keep more of our water for drinking and for growing food. We do not need grass. But knowing how people think we may one day be seeing poor people dying of thirst while others play golf on green golf courses and then go to the “waterless” urinal while the valet cleans their car with “waterless” car wash.


Sebago and Sperry, Breaking-In, Boating and Loafing

8261-p-4xBy Jeffrey the Barak

An American classic, the boat shoe is a fashion staple around the world. It is a shoe that a man or woman can wear in hot climates and is an alternative to the flip fop, and yet it is still very functional in it’s intended use, which is walking sure-footedly around a wet and slippery boat deck, which might be polished wood, or textured fiberglass.


The first boat shoes were made by Sperry. Since 1935 they have been called Sperry Topsider Authentic-Originals, and they are now made in the far east, with the exception of the pricey “Made in Maine” variant. Sailors call them by the initials of Authentic Originals, “A-O’s” They come in different types of leather, with different sole materials and are easy to find. Sperry have boutique stores in major shopping malls, and of course they sell via their website, and then the online sellers Amazon and Zappos carry them, often at below retail prices.

Paul Sperry hand carved the rubber sole of his shoe with a penknife after realizing how slippery boat decks were after he slipped and fell in 1935. The process was called siping and was first developed in the 1920s by boater John Sipe. The US Navy issued various footwear styles to the enlisted and they had the trademark Sperry Topsider, from 1936 to the mid-Forties. The A-O has been available to sailors and everyone else since 1935.

Topsiders became part of a dubious image, “The Preppy Look” or “The Ivy Look” during the 1950’s but today people from all walks of life find a way to incorporate a boat shoe into their style.

A very similar shoe, in fact visually almost the same, is the Sebago Dockside. Docksides were at first a copy of Topsiders, not being available until 1970. But the proto-docksides date back to 1946. Like Sperrys, they are now made in the far east, but as of 2014, the side-by-side comparisons of the brands reveal that Sebago use a higher quality leather and seem to have more quality control and consistency than Sperry.

There are other boat shoes from several manufacturers that look like Topsiders and Docksides, most notably Timberland’s variant. Originally these featured the same quality leathers and were another faithful copy of the original. but now they are an inferior shoe and they certainly do not last as long.

No matter what the brand, one of the most important features of the boat shoe is that every part of the inside of the shoe is leather. No man-made material should touch the foot.  Discount brands that make cheap sneakers disguised as boat shoes, that have anything other than fine leather inside, are practically useless. This is important because, in case you did not know, boat shoes are to be worn without socks. If you wear socks with boat shoes you break the unwritten law of the universe.


Now some people, usually men, have stinky feet. Feet themselves do not actually smell, but bacteria does, and people who have astoundingly not yet as adults learned how to effectively wash bacteria from their feet, toes and nails have stinky feet. Placing your feet into socks or into shoes that have man-made material inside them will result in foot odor and shoe odor. But a person who knows how to properly wash their feet, wearing an all leather boat shoe without socks, will never experience foot odor or shoe odor under any circumstances. And even if bacteria manages to grow in a boat shoe, they are designed to be worn wet and so they can be washed inside.

And so the boat shoe, worn without socks is an alternative to flip flops that can be worn sockless on the hottest of days, can be worn in rivers and in the surf and are a good alternative for the many people who suffer lower back problems as a result of walking in flip flops.


One issue that many people have with boat shoes is sole discomfort. This is because boat shoes were never designed for standing and walking all day. They are for wearing in the confines of a small slippery deck of a boat. But there is a secret that advanced boat shoe aficionados know that make boat shoes very comfortable.

This secret is the orthotic insole. Not just any insole, so don’t rush to grab your $40 Superfeet, or two cheap inserts made of foam rubber from the drug store. The insole you put into a boat shoe has to have a top footbed made of 100% leather, and it needs to be cattle leather, not deerskin, not pigskin and certainly not pleather. We will discuss the deerskin issue later.

Leather insoles are not that easy to find, but search online for Pedag, Ecco etc., and you will find your ticket to comfort. I recommend the Pedag Viva orthotic which comes in two different arch heights and features a metatarsal pad, with second best going to the more flat Ecco fashion insole. These are leather, and so just like the boat shoe, they do not promote the development of foot odor. Any other material, including the surface of Superfeet, will not protect you like real leather does.


Of course no matter how clean you keep your feet, shoes will get dirty, and shoes that you wear without socks get dirty both inside and out. Leather is skin, as is your face, and so it should come as no surprise that the insides and outsides of boat shoes can be washed, like your face. In fact the most effective cleaner I have found for this is Clearasil Daily Face Wash. There are similar face-safe detergents also. Do not use hot water that can strip essential oils from the leather, but cool or tepid water is good and you can dry your shoes on cedar shoe trees, or better yet, put them on and let your body dry them in about an hour.

Cleaning your shoes this way removes all the bacteria, all or most of the stains and is absolutely harmless to leather.


Sperry Topsiders and Sebago Docksides have their fans and detractors. It is a bit like Ford versus Chevy. Since production moved to outside the US for reasons of economics, quality control has become an issue, particularly for Sperry.

Some Sperry buyers, myself included, received boat shoe’s with white soles that for some reason were deadly slippery on wet floors. This is of course the exact opposite of what anyone wants from a boat shoe, and we can only hope that all such inventory is long gone.

Different colors of boat shoe are made from different leathers. With regard to Sperry, you will find that the smooth leathers in traditional brown, navy etc have a medium-quality full grain leather. It lasts a fairly long while, does nicely when washed, except the color bleeds a little bit. The stitching is almost always good enough, and the soles are normally okay. Unless you somehow get the aforementioned slippery whites, you will be alright. Some styles have a very soft leather with a semi-suede buckskin texture and these need almost no breaking in period. They are usually comfortable as soon as you take them out of the box and put them on.

Sperrys with the brown (natural rubber) soles, as opposed to the white soles, have more impact absorption, because the white rubber is pretty hard.

The smooth leathers from Sperry have a reasonable amount of good new leather smell too that somehow returns with each wash.

But as mentioned before, Sebago quality is a bit higher. If you buy the “brown oiled waxy with smoke” Sebagos with the brown soles (B72743), you will see a leather that looks like “Horween Chromexcel” (but is not). It has a pull-up effect, turning light when you raise it with your thumb and then returning to dark as the leather contracts. The smell is like that of a new fine-leather wallet. The stitching is almost perfect except for the occasional sharp thread end which we will discuss under breaking-in. The sole padding is better than that of Sperrys.

Like Sperry, Sebago also uses different types of leather for different colors and some are easier to break in than others, The ones with the best leather are also the hardest to break-in. If you buy brand-new brown Sebagos in the right size and put them on and go for a walk the pain might be terrible and you might get blisters. In the long run, Sebago comfort is astounding, but it takes some work.

Whichever brand you get, and I recommend you try both over time, because you cannot judge them when they are new. You have to know two things, boat shoes benefit from insoles, and boat shoes need to be broken in.

Breaking In

As we have discussed, your boat shoes might be unwearable pain-inflicting devices when you take them out of the box. But boat shoes are unlike any other shoe. Not only are they supposed to be worn without socks, but they are designed to be worn wet. Even underwater!

So it comes as no surprise that breaking in your boat shoes involves getting them wet. Leather is a natural piece of hide, and while it may be treated, stained, dyed, tumbled and processed before it becomes a shoe, it is still made up of fibers. When the leather is wet, these fibers lose their lock on each other and the leather can stretch readily, and shrink too.

So the process of wetting the boat shoe is the last stage of getting them to fit and the first stage of smoothing down any rough spots, sharp edges and sharp ends of thread.

Before you start, take a warm shoe and knead it and flex it and massage the collar that goes around the ankle.  Twist it from side to side, put your hand inside and feel around for hard leather to soften up. Loosen the 360 degree lacing. Then you are ready to get wet.

If you live in a home that has a bathtub, fill it with a few inches of lukewarm water, no detergent of any kind, put on your new boat shoes and step in. Allow water to fill up inside the shoe around your foot and to slosh all over the outsides. Depending on your exact leather type and color, you may see no coloration in the water (for example with brown Sebagos) or a lot (for example with navy Sperrys). The leather will begin to saturate, either immediately or after some time, depending on the leather and then it will start to both shrink and stretch and conform to your foot as you step around the tub and flex your foot etc.

Many people will tell you that the way to go is with brine, (salt water). They advise placing your new shoes in brine and soaking them. This is to remove the new look and impart the salty stains of old sailing shoes, and is not perhaps what the city-dwelling boat shoe aficionado is looking for.

Exiting the tub, soak up most of the water with a towel, remembering that some colors are not color-fast and will stain the towel, and then proceed to dry the shoes. The best way to dry the shoes is to wear them at home after your soak, and keep them on until they are dry or almost dry. But a wooden shoe tree is second best. No need to use hot air unless your house is very cold inside.

Besides the soak, you may have to manipulate the shoe and massage the hard spots, some more and re-adjust the 360 degree lacing . I also advise using your fingertips to search inside for any sharp thread-ends and either pluck these or snip them off to prevent a source of blistering from developing.

Earlier in this article I mentioned the unwritten law of the universe, never wear socks with boat shoes. But if your new Sebagos are still putting pressure on some spot after the wet breaking in process, make sure no-one sees you and put some socks on and work the shoes some more with this added layer of skin protection.

No two pairs will be the same but this wet soaking process will reduce your break-in period by many days. In fact you could be completely done in one hour.


It is important to get the right size and the right width. A wide foot will never be comfortable in a regular width shoe, and going up a size is no way to get it right. If you can find a shoe store that has a Brannock Device, get your foot measured, either bare or in a thin dress sock, to find your ideal size and width. Again, a size 9.5 E foot should not be in a size 10 D shoe, for example.

Online stores such as Amazon and Zappos often sell Sebagos and Sperrys for a lower price than the Sebago and Sperry websites or Sperry stores. I just got some new Sebagos for $60 on Amazon that are listed at $105 on Sebago. Similar deals abound, but remember that good boat shoes last for a very long time so do not get the wrong size or your third favorite color to save a few dollars.

Other Boat Shoes

Sperry, Sebago and other makes also sell different types of shoes that are also called boat shoes. Some styles have soles like sneakers that promise comfort on a long walk or a stand-all-day situation. But not all of these shoes are designed for bare feet and oceans of water. Once you stray away from all leather insides, you enter some dubious territory, unless you plan on wearing socks and using them as sneakers, which is what many of them essentially are.

You will also see new variations on the original boat shoe typified by the Sperry Gold Cup range. These cost about $150 and have golden eyelets, but they took a wrong turn with the introduction of the deerskin covered memory foam insole. Firstly, deerskin on a bare sole becomes as sticky as Scotch Tape as soon as your foot gets warm and damp. It will drive you crazy and also feel red hot. Secondly, a foam insole should compress and rebound. Latex will do that, but memory foam will not. It is too slow and the opposite of what you want in an insole. Of course you could remove these and pop in your own Pedags, but you will then have paid an extra $50 to $90 for ugly golden eyelets.

Some variations of the boat shoe have a third eyelet and cover the instep all the way to the top of the foot near the shin. These do not have the classic cool look of a boat shoe by any means. You need to see some instep exposed for the traditional style. A boat shoe should not be a city blucher.

In Conclusion

If you want your shoes to be wearable from the second you put them on in the store, look into Sperry Topsiders in the less-smooth tan-colored finish, with the brown sole. These are made of the soft, almost Nubuck type leather and the brown sole has a bit more spring than the white. Sperry changes their colors and leathers from time to time so you need to see them in person.

If you want to work for an hour or so or even a day or so to get the best, that will last the longest, and feel like part of you, consider the Sebago in brown oiled waxy leather, get the Pedag leather insole and do the bathtub thing.

The Sebago Docksides last for a very long time so it is worth investing some time into breaking them in.

Jeffrey the Barak needs to wear flip flops but cannot stand walking in them and they make his back hurt,  especially when he is carrying an old French submarine and two goats. It has been years since he was anywhere near actual boats, but boat shoes get the job done anyway, as long as it is not snowing.


The Next Generation Of Scooters Is Moving To The Dirt

Photo: Andrew Walsh. Submitted by author.
Photo: Andrew Walsh. Submitted by author.

By David Jones

Scooters have been a fun and convenient way to commute around urban areas for years. The growing popularity of scooters led to the formation of freestyle scootering and other scooter-based sports. As these sports gain in popularity, scooter manufacturers create new models of scooters that enhance the ability and safety of the scooters for these sports, such as freestyle scooters. The latest generations of scooters are providing users the ability to scooter off-road and in the dirt.

Editor’s note: “Dirt” in American English means soil or an unpaved road etc.

Why Dirt Scooters?

Most scooters are built to ride on smooth terrain, such as at skate parks or on the street. The wheels, deck, handle bars and other elements of the scooter are made for the specific use of the scooter. Although freestyle scooters have a more solid and rigid deck, reinforced handlebars, and other special features to allow the tricks to be done and extend the life of the scooter, it still does not provide the durability of an off-road vehicle. As more and more scooter riders are moving to the dirt, manufacturers are creating scooters that will have the durability and ability for freestyle dirt scootering.

What can Dirt Scooters Do?

Dirt scooters, or those that can ride on all terrains, can take the enjoyment of scootering off the road and into dirt, trails and mountains. They are made of stronger materials and wheels to handle the harsher terrain. In addition to freestyle scootering, they can be used for cross-country riding either alone or with dogs (also known as mushing). Although each specific brand of dirt scooter has its own features, the biggest differentiator of dirt scooters form other types is that they have inflatable tires and intertubes, similar to the BMX bikes.

Razor’s Phase Two Dirt Scoot

There are several different types of dirt or all-terrain scooters already on the market, including that by one of the most recognized name of scooters, Razor. John Radke, the professional freestyle scooter rider who first recognized the potential of taking the sport to the dirt, designed the Razor Phase Two Dirt Scoot Pro. This scooter underwent two years of testing to ensure its high-quality and ability to take on this sport. It has high-pressure tires and tubes that have a custom design tread pattern that feature knobs for aggressive traction but a smooth center rib for rolling on pavement. It also has a two-piece, split core hub design that makes it easy to maintain the tires and tubes.

Other Brands of Dirt Scooters

Royal Scout also has manufactured some dirt scooter models that feature genuine MBS 200mm pneumatic wheels that can be used on dirt jumps, BMX tracks, rough alley rail jams, grass drops, or single track trails. They have a variety of models with features perfect for the entry-level rider to a professional.

Another type of dirt scooter is the Diggler Mountain Scooter, proclaimed as the original mountain scooter. It is a combination of mountain bike and scooter, and features larger wheels than some of the dirt scooters. They can handle the same terrain as a mountain bike, but they offer the turning abilities and fun of a skateboard. They can go downhill and around terrain, whether you just want to get around hiking trails a bit faster or want to take your scooter freestyle tricks off the ramp and into the woods.

For scooter enthusiasts who wish to take their sport off-road, they now have many options of dirt and mountain scooters that provide the durability to perform tricks or just go for a ride on any surface. With the new generation of dirt scooters, you can take your scooter anywhere.
David Jones is a Product Designer at Pulse Performance Products and a Major League Baseball fan.  He designs products with a specific goal of environmental sustainability in mind, and enjoys creating products that can help reduce our impact on immediate environmental surroundings.


The Nimble Cargo Scooter

By Jeffrey the Barak

side nimbleThe Dwell On Design Show is not about scooters, but among the pre-fab homes, bathroom fixtures and forward-thinking designs for the homes of tomorrow, you do occasionally see certain bicycles, and in this case a variation of a warehouse cargo scooter called the Nimble.
The Nimble scooter is low to the ground, designed to be ridden on the vast smooth concrete expanse of a warehouse floor, but apparently fairly capable as a street scooter also. What sets it apart from a standard scooter is the large cargo bin forward of the rider and the handlebars.

Nimbles at DwellThe handlebars are racked to the front steering wheel, which is some distance ahead of the rider.

The hard tires have a flat profile, but Nimble partner John Kim assures me that the scooter can be banked into turns as far as the point where the cargo hopper touches the ground. This cargo hopper also functions as a side stand also so you can stop and park anywhere without unloading or having to do anything else.

The total weight is 34 lbs, which is heavy for a scooter, but when you take account of it’s main function, shuttling objects back and forth over polished concrete, this is acceptable. Of course on the street it will be much more unwieldy than a pure riding scooter, but again, this has the extra function of being a way to roll cargo along.

The full specifications and more information can be found at

Can I seriously consider an electric car yet?

By Brean Harbervaster.

Manufacturers would never make cars that no-one would buy so the very existence of electric cars mean that for some people they are already all you need.

If you live in a home that has a place to install the dedicated plug-in charging station that electric cars need while you are asleep at night, and if you do not plan on long-distance road trips, there is nothing an electric car cannot do for you right now.

In an effort to showcase the possibilities of all-electric vehicles, manufacturers have included racy sports cars and so-called “SUV”s in the line-up, but to be more sensible and practical, a smaller lightweight passenger car is perhaps the most efficient way to exploit the technology.



The range king right now is the 2015 Tesla Model X. It is called an SUV but it is really just a car. This car is advertised as having a range of up to 230 miles and it sells for about $80,000.



Following way behind this leader with a range of about 100 miles are two cars, the carbon-fiber 2014 BMW i3 (pictured left) at $42,200 and the 2014 Mercedes B-Class E-Cell which is really a dressed up Tesla and is expected to sell for about the same as the BMW.



Volkswagen’s E-Golf is of course the electric version of the world’s most highly acclaimed motor vehicle, the Golf. When comparing all types of cars from tiny roadsters to SUVs as big as ships, no other car has been voted the best more than the good old Golf. The 2015 E-Golf will however only provide a range of about 85 miles and cost a lot more than a Golf with an engine which can drive from anywhere to anywhere. The much smaller VW “e-Up!” will go 99 miles on a charge.

The Kia Soul EV is a nice little box that a driver dressed as a hamster can drive about 90 miles between charges.

One of the most common electric cars is the Nissan Leaf. This can drive about 73 miles on a full charge.  Almost one of every two electric cars on the road is a Leaf. They are extremely successful and currently the one to beat. The directly competing Ford Focus Electric has a range of 76 miles.

And then there are a few cars that can only go about 30 or 40 miles. Some of these have small gasoline engines to generate more electricity for a much greater range, but they do not get propelled by these engines so they are essentially electric cars with generators on board. These cars include the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR, GM’s electric cousins. Without their gasoline generators on board, these cars would not have a usable range. 30 miles capacity is just too risky. You would be stranded much of the time.

There are more than the above available for sale to most US residents right now, but those not mentioned are small run specialist cars that can either go very fast, or can only hold one or two people. The selection discussed here are United States models, but China is making strides in the electric car world with the BYD and there are a sprinkling of other models in other countries. All these cars excel at what they do and as ranges continue to improve due to better batteries etc., you can bet there will be many more.

But the time has come for local commuting motorists with a place to set up a charger at home. You can seriously consider an electric car, especially if you also have a long range conventional fuel car in the family.



Thinnest Wallet Possible? Dynomighty Mighty Case Cards

P1030228By Jeffrey the Barak

I like nice wallets, and I like leather, but the problem with most wallets is they make a few credit cards and a few banknotes into a single object that is up to six times more bulky than the contents alone.

Looking for ever skinnier and tinier solutions, I stumbled across what is probably the smallest and thinnest variant of a wallet. This thing has less of a size profile than using a single rubber band around your stash.

Made from Tyvek, something you will be familiar with if you have seen a FedEx Pak or a Priority Mail envelope, Dynomighty’s three types of wallets offer good strength, reasonable durability for the price and a thinness that no piece of leather or plastic can offer.

Tyvek is a water resistant paper-like spun fabric, and it can be imprinted with ink, so Dynomighty took these elements and created a very artistic range of designs for their wallets.

  • The original Mighty Wallet is in the format of a traditional bi-fold cash and cards wallet
  • The Mini Mighty Wallet is like a vertical bi-fold, which has a smaller footprint, but allows folded bills to peek over the top
  • And the smallest variant, the Mighty Case Cards, (not Mighty Cards Case for some strange reason) is barely bigger than a credit card and a Dollar bill folded in half.

P1030230The Mighty Case Cards measures 2.5” X 3.75” X almost nothing and weighs about 0.2 oz. It manages to include two single card slots in the front, and has a main compartment that will take a few cards and some folded cash.

For anyone not in the three silly countries in the world that still use inches (The USA, Liberia and Burma), 2.5” is 63.5 mm and 3.75” is 95.25 mm. 0.2 oz is 5.7 grams.

I think I am putting in more stuff than the designers intended, about eight cards and eleven folded banknotes, but they are all in there and easy to get in and out, and nothing pokes over the open top. Even with all this inside, my calipers show a thickness of 9.5 mm.

Now I may be enjoying this tiny thing as a novelty, but I miss my leather, so I plan to switch back to a single compartment thin leather sleeve to use as daily wallet, but if you had one of these and a new backup just in case it wore out or came unglued, you would probably not have to worry about it failing for a long time. Tyvek is tough stuff. And you would avoid being beaten up by vegans.

I chose the diamond plate design, and from a few feet away it really does look like a piece of metal.

Browse to to see the three sizes and all of their cool and fun designs. I paid $5 including postage, which cost them a couple of bucks to mail out. This is not like splurging on Louis Vuitton. I recommend trying one for size for a little while and enjoying something that is essentially no bigger than the cards and bills inside it.

Jeffrey the Barak does not have a bulge in his front pocket but nevertheless he is still pleased to see you.

My Afternoon with Andy

385-8442-_Warhol-_Dollar_SignBy Sig Shonholtz

Andy Warhol once suggested that we all get 15 minutes of fame. What happens if you have your 15 minutes of fame with Andy Warhol himself? Well, that is exactly what happened to me in 1984. I was an advertiser in his “Interview” magazine. One day I received a call from Page Powell, Andy’s personal assistant. She said, “Hi Sig, its Page……Andy wants to meet you”. “Me” I said, “Why does Andy want to meet me”? “You are the only advertiser without an office in New York and he is surprised you are in the magazine”, she said. I thought, OK, why not? As it happened I was going to be in New York in a couple of weeks. I said, “Page, I will be there in two weeks and will stop by”.

When I arrived in New York I called Page and we agreed to meet at Andy’s “factory” warehouse on Broadway around 4:00. I had plenty to do that day so I preferred to meet later in the day. I was a vintage watch dealer and had several appointments. I left my hotel around 9:00 am with a very heavy bag over my shoulder, it probably weighed 60 pounds. I am a very fast walker, perhaps I am (or at least was) the fastest walker you have ever seen. In those days friends had to jog next to me to keep up, while I simply walked. I am also an S.E.E. a Self Entertaining Entity and I like to have three things happen to me every day. Something funny should happen, I should have a small adventure and I should see a GODDESS (That is what it means to be an S.E.E.). She is a woman that takes my breath away in an instant. Usually I do not see a GODDESS until later in the day, if it even happens. However this day started rather auspiciously; in this case it was the GODDESS that I saw first thing in the morning.  I immediately noticed her when I exited my hotel because she walked past me so fast I did a double take. I considered that my day was starting out of order, but I had to meet her, she was stunning. I lit out after her and realized that she was the fastest walker I had ever seen, now I really had to meet her. It took a few moments to build up my momentum and with my heavy bag I was catapulted forward. I finally caught up with her and she looked like she was going to a modeling job. I started a conversation about…..what else but…..walking fast….talk about pulling teeth. She clearly was not interested, but I did not care. I do not mind rejection or failure……I mind my own inaction. I chatted away like an old grandmother on a bench. But keeping up with her with the 60 pound bag was not easy, if for no other reason than the heavy bag was throwing me off balance. I almost knocked her over at one point, which certainly did not help the dynamic. After a few blocks we finally parted ways….and she did not even say good bye to me.

Fast forward to later in the day. It was 4:00 PM and I had been Up Town and Down Town and gone from the East Side to the West Side. I had been on the move the entire day. I got out of my cab and slammed the door and turned around……there she was….the FAST WALKER, she was right in front of me. She turned around as soon as she heard the door. “Hi, it’s me”, I said, almost breathless because of the coincidence. “It’s our destiny to meet,” I declared. I told her that I was just going across the street to visit with Andy Warhol and did she want to join me? Here she was, one of the fastest walking woman on the planet (I am certain of that). She looked at me with a blank stare and just said “No thanks”, that was it, not even a smile or a curious look. Oh well, I thought she must think I am stalking her but she has no sense of humor and certainly no sense of adventure. Now, you do not know this, but I am a Non Spiritual Coincidentalist and I keep track of my coincidences, and this was certainly unusual. I used to be simply a Coincidentalist but I found it created too much controversy. Some people argued with me that “There are no coincidences.” Meaning that everything is predestined. While others insisted that “It is just a statistical possibility.” I looked for the center between the Spiritual Coincidentalist or the BELIEVERS as I called them and the Anti Spiritual Coincidentalist, or the STATISTICIANS. I became simply “Non Spiritual”, I am a gigantic “WONDERER”. I will always wonder what happened to her and by the way Fast Walker if you are reading this, how have you been? Now that would really be an amazing coincidence.

I arrived at Andy’s “office” and “met” him in the alcove of a stairwell, I found it a bit odd, but went along.  Our conversation was convoluted, sentences were not linked together, and they had nothing to do with each other. I kept telling myself, “Siggy, don’t confuse the artist with the man”. I wondered if he was nervous meeting me, but I thought I am the one that should be nervous, if that is even necessary. We finally went into his office and sat down for a few minutes. The conversation started to make a little more sense. After a short while Andy said he had to leave and would be back later. Page came and took me into the “factory” part of the warehouse and I soon learned what the word factory actually meant. Page said, “Sig, I have to leave, but I will be back later, you can stay here if you want to”. Then she asked me if I wanted to “buy some original Andy art”, and left.

I realized I was completely alone in the “art studio”. There was a row of canvases lined up on the floor of a very large long room. They were about 10 inches square and there were perhaps 25 or 30 of them. I was there alone for about 15 minutes when two men “marched” into the room dressed as “Flaming Queens”. They were exquisite, flamboyant, theatrical and colorful. They brought out several trays of acrylic enamel paint, blue, red, orange, green, and yellow, purple and laid them out on the floor at intervals near the canvases. They had some wood cuts with them, about 4 or 5 inches long. I realized they were $ signs. That’s right dollar signs. Andy Warhol was the Houdini of the art world and he was determined to mock that world. What better way to mock it then with “factory made art” of dollar signs.

They dipped the wood cuts into the paint trays and proceeded to “stamp” them onto the canvases. But I quickly realized these were not your average queen assistants. These were The Kings of Queens, they were  Thoroughbred………Prancing…….Runway and Limited Edition… Parade Horse Queens. They had style and proceeded to dance around the canvases as if they were choreographed by Balanchine. They did pirouettes as they stamped, every now and then they threw in a backhanded Toreador movement and sometimes they let loose like Flamenco dancers and stomped their feet as they stamped the canvases with dollar signs . Each, one at a time, they took turns stamping and danci

the magng. I imagined Baryshnikov on a stage making art for Andy Warhol. It was an entire ballet, I was spellbound…..I had never seen anything like it. I was watching Swan Lake in Andy’s factory. I could not believe my eyes and realized I was in a rare moment. They paid no attention to me but I decided to move to a more discreet corner because I did not want to distract them. I can tell you for a fact; time stood still. I do not remember how long I was there because so much seemed to happen. After awhile, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes another queen came in, he was just as enthusiastic but he went into what we used call an “absolute….hissy…”. He literally screamed out “What…..have……..done, Andy wants more Red?”…..They shouted back, “no…he….doesn’t,…..he….just…told…us,….. he……wants…..more…”. Now… me, I was there the entire time and I did not see Andy say anything to them, so they must have made that part up. But I kept silent because it was not really my problem and I did not want to disturb the beauty of the moment.

After some time they realized it did not matter at all and one of them threw up his hands and said “Oh, who really cares anyway.” Then all three of them removed the paint trays and left. I stood there alone for a while in silence, still in my corner just thinking about what I had just watched. Finally, Andy came back in and did not even give the “paintings” a glance for even a second (obviously he did not care either). He seemed not to notice me. He unceremoniously, with a pen started to sign them. He started at the beginning and worked his way down the entire row of Dollar Signs. Andy Warhol…..Andy Warhol….Andy Warhol….Andy Warhol he wrote, and then left the room. Once again I was alone. I sat down in a chair not knowing what would happen next and started to think about the entire day.

Page finally came back. “Hi Sig”, she said and asked me, “So, did you decide if you want to buy some original Andy art”? Well, the first thing that came to mind were the dollar signs. “Page, how much are those?” I said, pointing to the row on the floor. She said, “They retail for $10,000, but you can buy one wholesale for $5,000″? I thought about it for a moment and asked myself if I could really justify spending $5000 for “one of those” after watching it being produced, it seemed ridiculous to me. I thanked Page and said good bye to her and Andy and left….deeply wondering about the “Art World”.

A couple of months ago I was visiting with a friend who is an art appraiser. I shared the story with her and suggested that I thought they might be worth $75,000 or perhaps $100,000 now. She looked at me strangely and said, “I don’t think so”. A quick search of her extensive database revealed that they are selling for upwards of $600,000. I was speechless and realized that for as long as I have worked in my field as an antique dealer, I could have bought 4 or 5 of those and just put them in a box and would have something great to add to my retirement fund.

The moral of the story is “Don’t always stick to what you know” or “Do not confuse quality with value”.



Sig Shonholtz is a Non-Spiritual Coincidentalist, and also a master watchmaker and a philosopher, and is from Los Angeles.

Gmail Contacts To The Rescue For A Neat Freak.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.19.20 AMBy Jeffrey the Barak

I am an Apple Head and a Google Head. I love my Apple computer and I also love my Google services. I use Gmail to manage all of my email across several accounts and for many years now Gmail has been perfect.

But managing contacts is an important aspect of using computers. It was the first thing I did on my first Windows computer about a quarter century ago. And I have used all kinds of programs to do it, including Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Palm Desktop, and lately, Gmail Contacts and Apple Address Book, with and without iCloud.

If you use a Mac, then Apple Address Book might initially seem like the obvious choice, especially if you have an iPhone, or an iPod Touch or an iPad. Using iCloud and any two of these devices, Apple makes it all work and everything is backed up and synchronized.

But if you enjoy Apple hardware but also love Google’s Gmail, and if you perhaps add an Android phone to the mix, then it makes more sense to use Gmail Contacts to manage your contacts.

Now as you may know, you can have both. Gmail Contacts and Apple Address Book can be synchronized and an update to an entry in either should theoretically propagate across the air to every device.

But it is not very good. I have a Mac (more than one actually) and I use Gmail, all day and every day. Looking at Apple Address Book in a window alongside my Chrome browser was okay except it was also a bit of a mess. Sometimes there would be multiple cards for one contact and they were not always exactly the same. Sometimes the notes of one card would appear three times, once for “On This Mac”, once for “iCloud” and then again for “”. And these three notes might reveal differences.

For someone who likes things neat and accurate, this cross-platform synchronization was quite annoying. On more than one occasion, while out and about with my Android phone, there would be a missing contact that for some reason only lived on my Mac.

My solution to this untidy mess was to go through my huge 25 year vintage address book with all of its categories and entries and check everything for accuracy, and I did this in Gmail Contacts. After adding any card that somehow only existed in the Apple application, I deleted all my contacts in Apple Address Book and on iCloud. All gone.

Now the trouble with Gmail contacts is you need Internet to see them. When you are offline, you cannot look up an address. But having an Android phone, which now reflects all Gmail Contacts accurately and in the right sub-group, there is always a way to view them, even in airplane mode. Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.19.47 AM

And as far as having all my eggs in one Google basket is concerned, I frequently export each address group separately to VCF files that I store on my Mac. This is manual backing up, not automatic synchronization, but it is also error and duplicate-free, which is more important to me than the convenience of background sync. It just takes one minute.

I re-synced my empty Apple Address Book to my “” account, just in case I ever want to see it in a separate window instead of in a separate browser tab, but I will not use that to update, add or delete anything, and I will probably never look at it again.

Switching to Gmail Contacts exclusively is for me the best solution to a messy problem. But now that I use Android rather than iPhone, (and  I should add that I much prefer Android KitKat to iOS!), this is what I should be doing. If you are all Apple except for Gmail, then maybe the Apple system is more for you, especially if a little discrepancy, redundant duplicate, or missing item is not something that drives you nuts.

Jeffrey the Barak may hardly ever look at his big silly address book, but he just has to know it is perfect or he cannot sleep. And he talks to lamp posts.

Mobile Telephones are no longer Shaving Razors

imagesBy Jeffrey the Barak

When you buy a certain make and model of razor, say for example the Gillette Fusion, you get the handle part at a very low price in relation to the manufacturer cost. But it only takes one type of cartridge, and over the years, the profit from selling you these cartridges enables Gillette to recover the research and development costs from the handle, and make a good profit.

This is the “razor-blade economics” model that was essentially introduced to the world by King Gillette when he introduced their safety razor in 1903.

Mobile phone service providers, or as they are known in the United States, Cellphone service providers, have used the razor-blade model since the 1980s, offering free basic phones, or very expensive phones for just $199 with a two year contract. Customers have spent something like a hundred dollars a month paying for service, and so within a few months, the carrier makes up the difference between their wholesale cost of the phone and your $199 special price. And because of your two-year contract, you promise to provide them with a profit.

But that is changing. While these deals still dominate the market, more people are finding that it is better to pay the real retail price for their phones, and then just pay month to month for service, without a long-term contract.

Making it easy in the United States is the law. Under the Federal Communications Commission’s “local number portability” rules, so long as you remain in the same geographic area, you can switch telephone service providers, including interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and keep your existing phone number.

In practice, it can be a difficult and trying process to port your phone number from one carrier to another, when you give your billing and contact information via voice call to a support technician who is not too wonderful at being accurate, but with patience the porting can always be made to happen. Sometimes it takes a week and hours of patient support calls, but often it is a ten minute process.

So instead of buying the cheap razor and expensive blades, we can now find cheaper blades for our full-price phones, and after a few months we are ahead financially.

If we choose Android over iOS, then we also see that the current top ten lists of devices feature some phones that are very affordable, and rated as highly as the most popular phones. There are some very good ones for a couple of hundred dollars, almost the same price as a subsidized Samsung Galaxy or iPhone, which are the world’s two hot desirables at time of writing.

Coupled with very low-priced data plan offerings such as those on T-Mobile’s 2014 menu, it really does become possible to save many hundreds of dollars over two years as compared to deals during the contract era preceding 2014.

The same trend is happening in Europe, but they have been into unsubsidized phones for a lot longer. Sometimes spending up front can cost you less over time, whether it is your smartphone, or your higher quality shoes. It is something we should consider when making purchase in several areas of todays complicated marketplace.


Standing Airliner Seats

standingseatsBy Jeffrey the Barak.

Last week I flew to Las Vegas and back from Los Angeles. This is a short flight, less than an hour, and also a silly flight because by the time you add taxis at either end and two hours for security and check in, driving to Las Vegas is almost as fast and a fraction of the cost, especially if there is more than one of you.

But this is about the flight. I chose an airline I had not tried before, Spirit Airlines. The online reviews of Spirit were absolutely terrible, but I noticed that almost every bad review was centered around the aircraft seats. The seats in the reviews did not recline, and the pitch, or distance from one seat to the next, was small. People were complaining that their seats did not recline and that there was no legroom.

I therefore immediately dismissed the complaints. I have experience of such seats from short flights within Europe and I knew that all you have to do is move your butt to the back of the cushion, close the gap between your lumbar region and the seat back, sit upright, and then there is plenty of legroom and your back feels great!

Of course, in the absence of such instructions, the average American traveller slides their butt forward, knees up against the seat in front, no lumbar support, in an effort to get a more reclined angle of seating, then they complain about the seat causing them discomfort.

On the flight home the Spirit jet had standard reclining seats and I can tell you it was much worse than the fixed rake seats on the way out.

But the subject here is aircraft seating. No-one loves it, many hate it and yet we need low fares and so the airline has to find a way to accommodate a full plane with as many fares as possible.

There are new ideas, but the average flyer is not going to like them, despite never having tried them.

Introducing the Standing Seat. Obviously we take up less horizontal space when our legs are straight beneath us (standing) than when we are sitting down with our knees in front. So what if we were to assume a more-or less standing position, with just enough of a seat ledge to take the weight off our feet? Would it be more comfortable, and could we get more seats aboard?

Skyrider Airplane Seat

Well for a short flight, it is more comfortable to adopt a restrained lean. No clambering over seats to assume your position, no tired butt and stiffening limbs, and no problems walking out to the restroom from a window seat, that is unless the airline reduces the pitch and sandwiches in too many extra rows as in the photo to the left.

But how would it be to stand and lean on a twelve hour long-haul flight? More tiring than a seat, or less tiring? The consensus is, people want to sit down on longer flights, but tests show that it is less fatiguing to stand and lean for half a day than to sit in a soft chair, and sleep is easy in this upright non-bent position. You don’t fall down when you have your shoulder seat belt fastened and fall asleep. Testers do comment that it reminds them of being strapped into a ride at an amusement park, but they cannot objectively state that the new seats are uncomfortable, and comfort is the most important factor.

And you never have the situation with standing seats where you want to sit up, and the passenger in front reclines his seat back into your face. Basically now, if a front row passenger reclines, then everyone behind has to do the same to maintain some nose room.

Articles in the world’s press have taken a mocking, negative tone on the standing seat question. Something about the concept makes people decide they hate the idea without ever trying it or learning the facts. The FAA has not so far hinted that they would ever approve the concept, despite field testers liking them.

One issue is a regulation that requires a seat to be able to withstand a 16G downward force without breaking and failing, not that such an unimaginable force has ever been experienced in any flight since the first! A passenger’s own legs cannot do this, and it would be left mostly up to the seat belt system to support a standing flyer in such an impossibly extreme ascending situation.

The focus so far has been on designing a stand-up seat with less pitch so that more economy passengers can be squeezed in for short flights. However a slight redesign could introduce an even more radical system, like a leaning bed that would allow for a much more comfortable long flight than the traditional seat. But are we ready to accept the concept at all?

One company, Skyrider, has demonstrated a seating system that is mostly standing, but it is only halfway there, and the legs are still bent, and it is not a committed approach to the full lean, which may be a better goal.

Jean Harlow leaning board
Jean Harlow on a leaning board

The full lean is something we rarely see. In old Hollywood, stars with big gowns were given leaning boards with angled foot platforms so they could rest between takes without bending their clothes too much. This is a concept that could replace seating in aircraft and other vehicles too.

As long as we need to fly in long skinny tubes, there will be a need for a comfort revolution. It will be interesting to see how seating develops.



Jeffrey the Barak often flies, and always uses an airliner to assist him in such situations.

Man Bags

Burberry tote
Burberry tote

By Jeffrey the Barak

Most men need a man bag despite some negative reactions from others. Until recently, it was difficult for men to be able to comfortably walk around in public with a nice bag for all of their stuff.

But just like women, who need purses and handbags of various sizes to bring along all they need to look fabulous and stay fresh, today’s man also has a few things that he really should bring along everywhere.

I remember in decades past, the only way you could really get away with it without being heckled at by drunken homophobic bullies was to use a gym bag or some form of tool bag, or a manly briefcase, or of course the eternal student backpack. Anything that looked like it could have been designed for a woman was dangerous territory.

But that is changing. Most designers of bags now have a mens collection, and while some of these items look like they might have been designed for the ladies and moved into the mens collection, it is getting easier to get away with having a nice bag and remaining unthreatened on the streets.

Certain Asian nations such as Singapore are way ahead, with the majority of younger men carrying some form of small luggage, varying from a ladylike purse to a big travel bag. And Singaporeans are just like everyone else in the world when it comes to the percentage of gay people in the population, meaning the majority of these guys are as straight as your plumber. They just have less hang-ups about the stereotype of bag carrying and obviously they are more comfortable with their gender image than say, the men of Houston, Denver or Charlotte.

Now that men have needs beyond a bunch of keys and a bankroll, and now that we live in a world where the average guy carries a smartphone, a tablet, a laptops, credit card bundles, eyeglasses, and a small array of personal healthcare items and grooming products, there is simply too much stuff to shove down the front pockets of your 501s.

So whether you walk around in shorts, jeans or a suit, there are many choices of appropriate hand or shoulder luggage to help to have what you need right at your side, instead of back at home. Some solutions cost thousands, and others cost ten bucks.

But what about this guy?

Lets start with the most problematic case, the insecure macho homophobe with too much stuff to fit in the pockets of his cargo shorts. This guy is not going to want a red crocodile hide designer tote, however, a canvas tool bag, a stonemasons bag or a medium to large cross-body nylon messenger bag should not raise the eyebrows of his bar-fighting buddies too much.

A duffle bag with some kind of boxing equipment logo or a soccer team crest would also pass muster among the insecure and self-conscious men of the world. And of course there is always a college backpack, even if you never actually wear it on your back with both straps.

And if his friends are even more dangerous, he can always turn to a cement-stained bucket with a lid.

Everyone else

Now that we have the problem bag carriers out of the way, what about the modern men, straight or gay, who don’t care if some caveman thinks any bag they carry is akin to a pink fluffy clutch, and just want something that looks and feels and smells and performs in such a way that gives them objective pleasure as well as carrying function.

Today’s choices are vast and varied. Sizes and styles are expanding, and some categories of day luggage that were previously exclusively in the women’s domain are very much at home in the mens collections.

Lets get Listy

General categories, although there is some crossover, include:

  • Totes
  • Travel Bags, including Duffles, Carry-Alls, Cabin Bags
  • Briefcases
  • Cross-Body Messengers
  • Shoulder Bags
  • Backpacks
  • Satchels
  • Utility Bags
  • Map Bags and Field Bags
  • Hand Bags (not handbags)
  • Belt Bags
  • Slings
  • Pull-Alongs



Coach Bleecker Legacy Business Tote
Coach Bleecker Legacy Business Tote


The predominant new trend in menswear accessories is the tote bag. All the main designers feature new mens totes.

A tote is usually a large and tall bag, either soft or stiffly structured, and usually made from canvas or leather. Some are open at the top, and some have zippers for security. There is no top flap, but the top of the tote may sometimes fold over when closed. There are usually pockets inside and out, as well as one large central space for many small, or one or two large items. Some have cross-body shoulder straps, and others require you to hold the bag in one hand, counterbalancing your walk with a sway, and lifting the arm when on stairs. Most totes have handles with a longer drop that can be placed over the shoulder so the bag tacks against the ribs, but this method of carrying can look a bit un-masculine. A separate shoulder strap is the important addition that makes an otherwise unwieldy tote a pleasure to carry.

For a dollar or two, you can carry your gear in a grocery checkout tote, and for twenty grand you can caress half an alligator, but a medium-weight soft leather is probably the nicest material for this large yet practical every-day bag. Even when mostly empty, they can be efficient if you organize your small objects into smaller containers, pouches, sleeves etc. A great advantage to a tote is if you start the day wearing a jacket, but then it gets hot later on, there is usually room for that jacket inside the tote.

The key to avoiding a womanly tote is to look for straight vertical sides and thicker handles. Very thin handles with a long drop are dainty and also do not spread the weight comfortably. This is just as important for the shoulder strap, if included. Even if a strap features a shoulder pad, the strap itself needs to be either thick or flat and wide.

Travel Bags, including Duffels, Carry-Alls, Cabin Bags

Filson Denim Medium Duffle
Filson Denim Medium Duffle


Even larger than a tote is a full on overhead-bin sized duffle. Bags in this category are wider and so when hand carrying one you will find it grazes the leg. They tend to be very heavy when loaded so they are no fun to carry in one hand or on the same shoulder as the side your bag is on, and a cross-body shoulder strap can be a life saver.  If you find you always have a very heavy, full travel bag, then perhaps an international-flight-sized (45 linear inches), wheeled suitcase carry on would make more sense, assuming you don’t cross plowed fields etc.


Jack Spade Davis Briefcase
Jack Spade Davis Briefcase


Men have always been able to use a briefcase as a man bag. Most are rigid, as they are designed to protect papers in unfolded condition, and most are lacking in front-to-back depth. Many deeper briefcases have two or three gussets and internal dividers so they are not practical for single large objects. You need to organize your stuff flatly to take advantage of the interior shape. A briefcase is not meant to be wrapped around your side and so will always be a rigid rectangle, even if you wear it cross-body.

In the summer, when you are near the beach, a formal briefcase looks a bit strange, but in the city, with clothes, it is always a good look for a man bag.

Cross Body Messengers

Patagonia Half Mass
Patagonia Half Mass


Originally a military design, these bags are used by bicycle couriers and are possibly the most popular man bag after the backpack. No surprise there because a messenger is extremely versatile in any situation, and is a good format for a laptop.

Depending on size, the messenger has different functions. A larger one will fit some clothing or shoes along with your daily essentials, while a smaller one can be a neat way to carry your essentials hands-free and in balance. Most have a long front flap that covers the front of the bag. If it is a leather messenger, this flap really adds weight, and since you probably don’t have it on your back while riding a bike in the rain, it is functionally superfluous.

Many messengers lack a top handle, which means you cannot easily carry them in your hand. And if they do have the handy handle, it requires you to clip, button or stick the flap closed in order suspend the bag in balance.

Shoulder bags

Piel shoulder bag
Piel shoulder bag


Usually smaller than messengers, shoulder bags are difficult for a man to wear well these days. A shoulder bag, as listed here, is usually a rounded square or rectangle with lots of zippers and compartments. European man bags or “murses” from the Eighties dominate the category, and most designs are dated to the point that they more often than not have spaces designed for the candy-bar non-smart phones of yesteryear. When a comedy movie or TV series wants to get a laugh out of man bags, this is to go-to design for the jibe to be effective.

Larger shoulder bags, such as the iconic vinyl PanAm airplane bag from the Sixties are also lacking in the comfortable cool factor despite their attempted revival by Superdry. But there are some handsome variations, often named commuter bags.


Skullcandy backpack
Skullcandy backpack


We have already noted that backpacks incite little trouble for the male wearer, but they can be inconvenient because you have to take them off your back to access anything. Also people can come from behind and quietly steal from the bag. Museums and pottery stores usually ask you to take them off and carry them in hand so you don’t turn and bump it into valuable objects. If you ever step backwards with a backpack on, or turn suddenly, you will sooner or later impact upon another individual or object.

The backpack is in a class of its own, but it should also be included in any discussion of man bags. If going for a leather backpack, avoid thin straps at any cost. If your backpack has spaghetti straps, not only will it hurt, but it is probably not designed to be a man bag.


Saddleback satchel
Saddleback satchel


Satchels are usually a boxy shape with ridged corners. Most are made of a stiffer more rigid material like a briefcase, but they can also be soft and floppy.  Larger laptops are usually too big for a satchel. A traditional satchel is stiff leather with a top flap and one or two buckles for closure. They can often be worn like a backpack, or as a shoulder or cross-body bag. Women’s satchels (another definition of the same name) are often very soft and unstructured, whereas unisex or mens satchels are always stiffer.

Of course some people use the terms satchel and shoulder bag interchangeably and envision different visions of what each should look like.


Utility Bags

Coach Bleecker Utility Tote
Coach Bleecker Utility Tote

Picture a bag with a strong bottom and many open-topped pockets inside and also perhaps outside the main compartment. A belting-leather tool bag, a canvas tool bag and also a fine leather man bag can be in this category.  If the bag tips, items can fall out but they are usually bottom heavy, and are great for top-loading and organizing individual objects for a quick withdrawal.


Map Bags and Field Bags

Map Bag
Map Bag


If your map bag is in military olive drab canvas, then you can disguise the fact that it looks like a ladies purse. Once the material changes, a small map bag or field bag looks like a ladies bag even if it is in the mens department. These little bags are quite a handy size for use as a day bag, being just the right size to take what might have been in your pockets, but they are such a challenge, unless you really don’t care if they look  like a man bag or not.

Yes they are employed by the hunting and fishing community and used for fishing lures and shotgun shells, but they are essentially the right size to be mistaken for a ladies bag.

Hand Bags

Gucci Guccisima mens clutch
Gucci Guccisima mens clutch

Let’s mention a language problem here. In Europe, all ladies purses are called handbags (one word) and a purse in Europe is what Americans call a wallet. Such are the variances in the English language. In this discussion, a hand bag (two words) is a strapless bag that we would hold in one hand, with or without a retaining wrist strap. In the ladies world, this could be called a clutch.

Men use hand bags for quick access to items such as keys, passports, tickets, phone, money etc. and often they are placed inside another larger bag, such as a tote as an organizational tool.

Here again, it is a challenge to make a hand bag look manly, but they are very handy (pun intended) and they serve well to keep lumpy and sharp things out of your pants pockets. Clearly if it is pink patent leather with a giant gold buckle, it is probably intended to be a ladies hand bag for lipstick etc., but in black leather and without embellishment it looks okay in a man’s hand.

 Belt Bags

Viper Patrol Belt System
Viper Patrol Belt System

Guys with jeans and belts often attach various pouches to those belts, You see them custom designed for what they carry, just like the items police have on their duty belts. Pouches for phones, sunglasses, Swiss Army knives etc. are common, especially among motorcyclists who don’t have that awkward conflict between belt bags and car seats. Larger belt bags can be multi-use, with a fairly large compartment. Worn at the back they are often called fanny packs in the Americas, but not in England of course where the word fanny does not mean your butt. (In British English, fanny is a word for vagina).

If you select any kind of belt bag, you are not much further forward from having things in your pockets, unless your name is Batman, but a belt bag is definitely one form of man bag, albeit useless when you put on your overcoat.


Coach Bleecker Convertable Sling
Coach Bleecker Convertable Sling

Worn cross body, with the actual bag on the chest, a sling is a handy way for the man to carry a few essentials hands-free and with empty pockets. Due to the sling’s position on the body, you cannot easily look into the bag while you are wearing it, and they don’t exactly compliment a suit and tie very well, but a sling is a handy man bag for some occasions and situations, and no-one can sneak a hand in without you seeing it.

 Pull alongs

Samsonite Spinner
Samsonite Spinner


In today’s big cities, men and women with a lot to carry from public transport to office etc., are turning to luggage as an alternative to a large bag that needs to be worn or carried. The international carryon standard of 45 linear inches is a popular choice, and it may have two skate wheels at the back like a TravelPro, or four casters like a Samsonite Spinner.

In American English, any container of possessions is called a bag, even if it is made of metal and has wheels, so it has to be mentioned in our list of man bags, just because so many city dwellers are now using them to keep the weight off their shoulders.

How You Wear It

Almost any bag can look like a man bag if you hold yourself with pride, take charge of the bag and walk like you know where you are going. But if you wear your bag on the crook of your elbow or below the armpit, and mince along from shoe store window to shoe store window with a miniature poodle on a leash, even a dusty tool tote with a hammer-drill sticking out the top will take on the appearance of a purse.

So it is as much about attitude as it is about size, shape and materials. Wear your bag like a man, look like a man.


Personally I could not care less if people think I am gay. Gay people are very cool. I happen to have been born as a male with the straight inclination, but if I saw a 100% woman’s bag that I really liked I would just use it and not care. Many of my past bags have been at the very least unisex, and probably mostly purchased by females. But I understand that man bags are still a new thing for many, and some men worry about how much less masculine they might appear if they could only get the junk out of their pockets.



Currently I employ a black Coach Bleecker Legacy Business Tote. It is in their mens line, but I think a lot of women also buy them, just because they are so cool. In the past I have bought and re-sold (or donated) many a man-bag, including Saddleback Leather items that were super cool, but a bit too heavy, and many a polyester or nylon messenger. I must have been through dozens of bags, but I alway regret going out without one and I try to never put anything in my pockets.

As more and more men take a bag out with them every day, the stigma should diminish, and men will be more comfortable using some of the very practical new categories of man bag out there. I mean, once you’ve toted a tote, you will really miss having a tote to tote.


Jeffrey the Barak is the bag consultant for Lumpy the Sardine, who rules the undersea kingdom South of Hawai’i.


Yes, cats do smell terrible.

spraycatBy Jeffrey the Barak

Despite what you think, your cat stinks and so does your home. Any cat owner reading this will immediately dive into a state of denial. They will say, cats do not smell, they are very clean animals. but they are basing such assumptions on their own senses, and these are not the senses of the majority.

In truth, not opinion, cats really do emit odors of various sorts, and like most animals, including humans, their urine and feces are very smelly. In a cat home, not only is there a cat, and a litter box, but there is also cat food, which in itself produces a house-filling stench that cat owners seem oblivious to.

When a non-cat owner visits the home of a cat owner the smells that are there to greet him or her include cat glandular spray, cat urine, cat feces, cat dander, canned cat food and also gases produced by bacteria that thrive in and on all of the above.

But the cat owner will think, Fluffy is so clean, and the litter box is so effective, and that bowl of gelatinous meat by-product on the kitchen floor smells like a rose. They are simply unable to smell what is really there.

And then beyond this nightmare of airborne bacteria, the cat people are also oblivious to the daily killing spree that their little fluffy unleashes on the wildlife of their neighborhood. Even when told that researchers have attached cameras to house cats and documented the massive daily carnage, they cannot process this fact, and continue to believe their little stinky monster just sits around purring at everything.

Of course it is easy to understand why. The reason is love. When you love your pet, you cannot imagine it as a stink-spraying ruthless killer. Even in the face of evidence, you are simply unable to believe it. That is the power of love.

But the non-cat lover will know that you have a cat, even if they never see it. They might be able to smell the cat on you when you are ten miles from home. They will almost certainly smell it in your car, even if you never put your cat in the car. Every piece of fabric or leather that you wear, contains the odor, as does your hair, as do your forearms and ankles. You are covered in it. And your friends with a good nose can smell the cat substances before all else. You smell of cat, and cats do stink.

The little fluff ball that you think is neatly licking itself clean in the corner of your living room is spraying glandular stink bombs out of its butt area when you are not looking. It is doing what is only natural in the wild, and marking its territory. We may have bred cats into house cats, but they are still cats, just like every lap dog is still a little bit of a wolf.

There is a stereotype of an older unmarried single lady, who has no romantic partner, living all alone with her pet cats. This stereotype exists not so much because these people need the company and love of the cats, as it is because the disgusting stench prevents non-cat people from wanting to be near them. Of course all the so-called crazy cat ladies reading this will again go into denial, but it can be scientifically proven that there is a terrible smell, and that it is not attractive. There, point proven.

The cat owner will find that dinner invitations are declined, human visitors have one eye on the exit door, and that the people most eager to come and hang out are not people at all, they are the cockroaches, who besides cats, raccoons and opossums are the only things that find cat food in open bowls on the floor of a warm house to have an appetizing odor.

Now clearly pet dogs and pet goldfishes etc. each have their associated undesirable odors that really don’t belong in a clean home, and indeed some humans are unable to clean away their own terrible smells, and therefore homes without any pets at all can still stink, but the cat is a very common cause of a smelly home, and in almost every case, the cat’s human companion cannot even tell the smell is there.

Some serious reasons why loving a pet cat is not a good idea.

  • Urine is deposited to mark territory. A strong smell that the owner gets used to and is unaware of, but others can smell on the property and in the clothes and hair of the owner even when they are off premises.When described, the owner is usually in denial.
  • Glandular spray is deposited to mark territory. A strong smell that the owner gets used to and is unaware of, but others can smell on the property and in the clothes and hair of the owner even when they are off premises. When described, the owner is usually in denial.
  • Cats kill other animals on a daily basis. Sometimes they keep it a secret, and sometimes they bring them home.
  • Cats vomit either dry fur balls or fur balls plus stomach acid inside the house as well as around the premises.
  • Cats damage furniture and fabrics with biting, scratching and erosion from bodily fluids.
  • Cats fight one another.
  • Cats scratch and bite people, including those who feed them and take care of them, but mainly third parties. The owners often try to overlook it as endearing play, but many people are rightly afraid of the injuries.
  • Cats are regarded as being clean by their loving owners, but this does not account for cat excrement around the building, or inside it, or the urine, or the glandular spray, or the hair that has been down into the stomach and back out, or the vomit, or the small creatures living in the skin and fur, or the dander, or the shed hair, or the bacteria deposited on all hard and soft objects that cats comes into proximity with. These substances are not only smelly, they can cause allergies and transmit disease. Evan swabs taken from the ceiling of cat’s homes test positive for this bacteria.
  • Cats can transfer disease to humans. Diseases include Lyme disease, Bartonella Henselae (Cat Scratch Fever), Bubonic plague, Rabies, Campylobacteriosis, Leptospirosis, Pasteurella Multocida, Salmonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, Ringworm, Roundworm, Tapeworm, Hookworm.
  • Cat litter does not work. The litter box smells, very strongly. It is somewhat better than having cat urine and feces directly on the floor but it mainly serves as an illustrator to the level of denial that the loving cat owner has. They view the tray of piss, poo and granules as a normal thing to be inside their home, and often it is located in close proximity to their human food preparation area. Salad anyone?


Jeffrey the Barak is not a cat lover, and is prepared for the illogical hate mail that this article may generate. He forgives you in advance because he knows it is driven by love.

Abundant fresh water for the future

water-chipBy Jeffrey the Barak

On and below the surface of our planet is a finite quantity of water.

Some of it is drinkable, and some of it is not, either because it is polluted, or because it is salty. Most water is in the oceans and it is salty water.

The reason it is salty is because it contains dissolved minerals. Rain falls on rock and minerals are washed down rivers into the sea, and then water evaporates again to form more rain, but the sea just gets saltier. Over billions of years, the ocean has developed into the salty brine that we see today, and we cannot drink it.

With population increasing, and traditional water sources disappearing due to melting ice and polluted aquifers, it is clear that in the near future, many people in the world will be killed, by thirst.

So the obvious solution is to remove salt from seawater and make it drinkable. Previously, desalination plants have needed to consume huge amounts of energy, making the production of drinking water from seawater, inefficient, expensive and polluting in itself.

But there is hope in the form of a new technology called Massively Paralleled Desalination. One company, Okeanos Technologies has invented the Okeanos WaterChip™, a solid-state, Massively Paralleled Desalination (MPD) platform.

This chip desalinates water in tiny quantities, millionths of a liter at a time, in a very efficient way that consumes hardly any energy. Using the power of the electron, small installations of the system can produce fresh water out of seawater, without filtration, chemicals, treatment ponds etc.

In theory, individual homes, larger buildings and entire municipalities could utilize these systems to generate enough fresh water for everyone in the world.

So while we may recently have been pondering a future of water wars, death en-masse, and widespread famine in our increasingly warm, dry and dirty world, there is at last hope for a different future altogether.

Jeffrey the Barak is sometimes thirsty and writes from inside a large potato.

Are we building the wrong way?

wood-frameBy Jeffrey the Barak

Most Westerners live in one of two types of house. Either it is masonry, solid, strong, but not much good in an earthquake, or they are in a wood-frame cage with the gaps filled in with drywall and stucco.

High rise dwellers may instead be in a steel cage with concrete floors and glass walls, and only a sprinkling of drywall to divide spaces.

But why do we build this way, year after year, decade after decade? Surely in this age of technology there should be materials that don’t crumble, rot, fall apart, get ruined by a water leak or get eaten by bugs. Is the nail gun, some bolts, some pine planks and some plaster sandwiched between two sheets of gray paper all we can find to make a home out of?

It often seems that all new home-building products are just variations of wood, paper, and powdered earth. Why is that? Is it the drive to have recyclable debris when the building is eventually demolished in the future, or is it more a case of buying wood because wood is for sale, and building with carpentry because most home builders are carpenters?

New materials and products are finding their way into home construction. Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPs can replace timber frame, insulation and drywall. They are light, energy efficient and are a self-contained alternative to that wall behind you. They are made of fiberglass surrounding foam.

Modular construction, which is a nice way to say pre-fab, is a different way to build, but usually these systems are made of the same old wooden planks, drywall etc. Just waiting to be ruined by floods and bugs etc.

Steel-framed houses use steel to replace the planks, but they fall back on drywall and other traditional wall materials to finish.

Concrete blocks can be used like bricks, but they may not be able to withstand an earthquake because there is no flexibility.

Engineered wood is strong and flexible but it can be ruined if it gets soaking wet.

All of the above alternative materials don’t really take us to a new way of building.

A glimpse of potential can be seen in houses that repurpose shipping containers into structural components. These houses are interesting and they work, so we can consider new ideas for construction that use fresh components rather than shipping containers.

Some green-minded builders are looking at ancient materials such as straw bales, cob (mud and straw), and rammed earth. These things are obviously sustainable and recyclable and have little or no environmental impact, but you would not want such a house to go through a flood. And there may be many little things that would like to feed upon them.

The steel frame and the SIP are steps in the right direction, as long as we continue to feel at home in true rectangular spaces but with all the advancements in engineering and science, there must be something that we are neglecting to think about. Different materials, different methods, completely different things for us to enjoy living in.

Please use the feedback feature to chime in with truly alternative ideas.


Operating Systems for Humans

OS for a  steam trainBy Jeffrey the Barak

Even people who shun computers, smartphones, remote controls and anything with a recognizable interface cannot avoid operating systems.

If they adjust their home’s heating and cooling, or cook in a microwave, or operate a modern motor vehicle they are in a small way using an operating system. The bridge of a steamship is an operating system. The reigns and stirrups of a horse’s livery are an operating system.

But an operating system is usually thought of as an interface between a user and a computer, whether that be a desktop computer, a mobile telephone, or something in between.

What was once abstract and hard to connect with human thought, (think punched cards), is now intuitive, involving keyboards, touch screens etc, that seem natural to use.

While it was, and still is, programming language that makes these basically binary things work, it is the operating system that the user interfaces with.

In the 1980s BASIC and DOS were commonly used front ends for the job of running a program on a computer with a keyboard and display screen for people who did not work as programmers. And then one day there was the Apple Macintosh, and Microsoft Windows 3.0, and all of a sudden, everyone and his auntie could use a personal computer for all sorts of useful things, and the world changed. Sure there were other choices in home computing before these two dominant systems, but they did not take us to where Windows PCs and Macs have taken us.

While Sinclair, Acorn, Apricot and Commodore have headed to the museum, Microsoft and Apple have kept us working and playing ever since the eighties. Look at the Wikipedia page for “Timeline of Operating Systems” to be reminded of all the dead ends and foundations for later systems that you may have forgotten about.

Today, mobile operating systems are more widespread than computer operating systems. In computers, Windows PCs and Macs take up most of the room, with Linux filling most of the remaining slither. But Smartphones and Tablets that have evolved from iconic tools such as the Palm Pilot, the Psion Organizer and the Newton, seem to be in everyone’s pocket or purse.

And so today we are looking at Android, the oh-so-easy iOS, and Windows 8 as the operating systems that most humans interface with. Blackberry has risen and fallen into a small niche group, and Symbian is on the way to the museum after a very rapid decline, and in the face of dominance by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, it is unlikely that a new player will be breaking in anytime soon. Even today’s vastly improved Microsoft Windows, which is now a million times better to use than how millions remember it, is in a very distant third place in most people’s awareness.

Say “operating system” today, and the majority people in the world will see Android in their mind’s eye. And Android is frankly a bit of a mess and not that easy to use for many. But that is where we are, and I doubt that anyone would sacrifice their new Android smartphone for anything running AmigaOS, PalmOS, Solaris, MorphOS, or even the other current systems such as Blackberry10 or Windows.

And if it is an Apple user, then anything else is unlikely to tempt them away.

But it would be naive to think that we are definitely on the right path. It will only take one clever breakthrough to make us think, “How did we ever put up with Android and iOS and OSX and Windows? Why didn’t we have this (system to be determined) before?”

Jeffrey the Barak has played in various OS but only likes OSX.


Scoot USC

USCBikePathsBy Jeffrey the Barak

Los Angeles is a better place to be than many cities when it comes to finding a nice place to scoot. But sooner or later the 26 mile beach bike path becomes so familiar that the urge to explore further kicks in.

Google Maps has a bicycle overlay with puts bright green lines on the map showing places that are either dedicated bike paths, or bike lanes sharing the street with traffic. Applying this overlay to Los Angeles brings out two prominent green patches of fun. These are the university campuses of UCLA in Westwood and USC in South L.A.

I have been into these enclaves many times over the years, especially UCLA where non-student Angelinos go to get medical treatment and dump their hazardous waste while taking in a concert or ballet. I have been to UCLA enough times to realize that it is on the side of a giant steep hill. And so USC which is on a broad alluvial plain between the L.A. River and Ballona Creek is the flatter choice.

Before the ride

For me, UCLA is closer but it is hard to park near there, and less than two miles from home is the Metro Expo line, so I planned to take my scooter onto the train, and head downtown to scoot USC. If I were more of an athlete I could watch the train from outside, because a nice, quiet, new, mostly-deserted, bike route shadows it all the way from Culver City to USC, about ten miles, but I wanted to save my energy for the campus itself.

TRackUSC’s bike paths are represented on the map as public bike paths, but technically this is private property. Bicycle users are required to register their bikes with campus police, mostly to combat theft, but I have read that many students use longboards on campus and so since a scooter has more in common with a board than a bicycle machine, I decide I should be okay and hope to slip under the radar as a nutty old professor of dynamic physics on a scooter.

The ride around USC

After riding a mostly empty Saturday morning train from Culver City Station to Jefferson/USC station, I found that the campus was also mostly empty. This was the day after commencement so workers were loading many thousands of chairs and tables onto trucks and disassembling stages, gantries and banquet tents. A few students had their caps and gowns back on and were posing for family photos beside statues, fountains and building signs. The bookstore seemed very busy, but it was the weekend between semesters.

reflectorThe riding surfaces were extremely wide and consisted mainly of smooth concrete with a few brick paved sections. The brick paving was also remarkably smooth under the 12.5″ inflatable tires of my Mibo Gepard scooter but I am sure they would give more of a bone rattle to those on smaller polyurethane wheeled scooters. Despite there being quite a few large trees between all the statues and fountains, I noticed no pavement lifting with the associated tricky cracks that often defeat the scooterer.

It was a remarkably smooth and fast level ride all over the campus, so much so that I kept surprising myself by reaching the perimeter after what seemed to be a short run in any direction. Some parts of the pathways were marked as bike lanes but I felt okay flying around anywhere. At Cromwell Field, the red-rubber oval running track, I was so tempted to do some laps on the scooter, but out of respect for any rules that may have prohibited it, I refrained from doing so.

North of Jefferson, University Village is marked on the map as bike lane, but here I began to realize that someone has been over-generous with the green lines on this map overlay. University Village is really just a small mall, and the surface is pebble cobbles, not a problem on the Mibo, but probably unridable on a Xootr or Razor.

coliseum endeavor

South of Exposition, which is really more Exposition Park than USC, I enjoyed scooting a lap of the Coliseum, home to two Olympic Games, but this lap was further out on the roadway because the green oval shown on the map is inside the fence. There were more people down here on the Exposition Park side because there are busy museums here and people flock to see the space shuttle, dinosaur fossils, butterflies and more. I concluded my ride with a cooling mist from the large fountain in the Jared Park Rose Garden and then scooted back to the train.

I will guess there are about ten or twelve miles of bike path in the USC area, and most are flat, smooth, fairly empty, shaded, and interesting. I found this ride to be very enjoyable. While most people hardly gave a second look to lunatic speeding around on a scooter, there were also a few who stopped to turn and stare as if I were riding a space chicken and dressed as a potato. So a normal range of reactions there.



So all in all, highly recommended for scooting, and a nice change from the beach.

Jeffrey the Barak did not go to school at USC, but he did once learn how to eat bananas and play the xylophone underwater.

The Mibo Gepard Kick Scooter Review

P1020333By Jeffrey the Barak

I have been waffling on in recent articles about kick-scooters about how much I miss pneumatic tires. Yes, the small solid tired folding scooters are convenient and portable, and in the cases of the Know-Ped and the KickPed are also reasonably comfortable at slower speeds on slightly rougher surfaces, but it takes air tires to properly isolate the rider from the tiring vibrations of the road.

I was not perfectly happy racing around hunched over my large wheeled Kickbike during the mid to late Naughties, but have fond memories of standing up straighter and cruising around on an old 12.5 inch scooter back in the late Eighties. It is not completely impossible to buy such a scooter in the USA but a really efficient ride with a low to the ground deck, which is of vital importance, currently requires an importation.


I Imported my Mibo Gepard from a Czech store that accepted PayPal. This was easier than messing around with a bank wire transfer. The store was A rider in Canada had bought the same scooter from the same store and he pointed the way for me. Thanks Samokat! From purchase to receiving was nineteen days and my total cost was $426 USD. Assembly was easy, taking just five minutes or so using a 15 mm wrench to put the front wheel on, a 6 mm Allen wrench for the handlebar stem adjustment and a 5 mm Allen wrench for the V-brake cable adjustment and the rotation of the brake handles and bar ends.


My first five mile test drive was a delight. I did not intend it to be a sprint but in my excitement I averaged 10 MPH without it feeling like an exhausting ride. To a cyclist, that may sound slow but it is quite fast for a scooter. It was comfortable and fun and engaged my whole body without undue impact.

Not since my BMX style scooter in the Eighties and my briefly owned Sidewalker City in the Naughties, have I had a kick-scooter that so easily retained stability when riding one handed. This is due to the combination of a wide air tire and wide handlebars. I have no reason to ride one handed but it is nice to know I can wave at someone or signal a turn without falling over.

The Mibo Gepard is reasonably lightweight and easy to pick up and carry. It officially weighs eighteen pounds, although mine seems to tip the scale at nineteen pounds, which is about as much as one and a half Know-Peds, but somehow it feels much lighter than that, and it does not drag you back on a moderate incline. The handlebars adjust up to a yard high if you rotate the bars back to straight up rather than raking them forward of the wheel, and this allows a five foot eight inch rider like myself to cruise upright without having to crouch in a racing position. Taller owners can always buy higher handlebars and longer brake cables from a local bike shop so that they can stand straight also.

I cannot criticize the comfort of the ride in any way, however the Mibo deck’s narrow width means you do initially have to careful switching feet until you get used to it. My running shoe is wider than the deck. It is probably better to wear a more minimal shoe than an inhumanly large, bloated modern running shoe, as long as there is some forefoot protection and grip for the pushing foot. People upgrading from Razors will not find this deck narrow, and scooter riders who stand diagonally across their decks like they do on skateboards will still be comfortable and stable as long as they focus their weight on the forefoot.

The front and rear Shimano V-brakes, designed to stop an adult on a fast-moving heavy bicycle are strong enough for any scooter situation on any gradient.

The only accessory is the bell, quite handy for politely signaling wandering pedestrians (without earbuds) of your imminent arrival from behind.  No kick-stand, but typical spring loaded kick stands are usually more of a nuisance during riding than a convenience when stopped, and contribute to weight and rattling.

Rather than get too far into statistics and comparisons, I will simply say that this scooter is light, stable, fast, efficient, safe and portable and is therefore better for most situations than a large-wheeled foot bike, or a hard-wheeled folder. I am personally a passionate fanatic of two 12.5 inch wheels, perhaps mainly due to nostalgia, but the best selling Mibo, the Mibo Mastr, is probably the better choice for most Americans as it folds, (an important feature for sedan owners or bus riders), has an extra four inches of bar height, and has a sixteen inch front wheel.

Deck Height, or lack thereof

The feature that contributes the most to the Mibo’s ride is the low deck. As a deck gets higher, the ride gets more tiring. I cannot overstate how important a low deck is to the efficiency of a scooter, and am constantly surprised by the number of overly high decks that come out on scooters from Belize, Sidewalker, Swifty and others. The designers of such high-decked scooters obviously never ride scooters very far themselves or they would immediately realize their mistake on their first long ride.

Scooting Czechs

The Czech Republic is clearly the scooter capital of the world. Finland, The Netherlands, Germany and other countries contribute some, but there are many excellent brands in the Czech Republic, besides Mibo. One Czech brand, Yedoo, is launching in the USA this year, meaning that no personal import will be needed, but Yedoo does not bring their decks down as low as Mibo and the others. In fact the Yedoo Ox and the Yedoo Three are very much like my fondly remembered 12.5 inch Eighties scooter, but it is worth the trouble to try to obtain a Mibo, Kostka, Kolobrndy, K-Bike or similar Czech scooter if you can. Dipping down to scoot from upstairs will wear you out after a mile or so.

Other scooters

My older article on the-vu, Kick Scooter Classifications, will explain the available choices if you are reading this review first. For me, I am happiest in the small pneumatic tire class. It seems to have all the advantages of compact folders and larger foot bikes. I am very pleased with my new Mibo Gepard.


Hardly anything at all. Except that when it is time to change tires, I will go for a less knobby model than the Kenda tires that come as standard. They are smooth enough going straight but get knobby when you lean and turn. Perhaps the Schwalbe City Jet or a V-Groove or even a slick. And bent-valve inner tubes would make it easier to attach a tire pump also.

Mibo’s English page:
Hopsej store:

Jeffrey the Barak has been riding scooters since the cretaceous era, but sometimes he likes to have a bunch of grapes while admiring trombones.


Admitting to the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters

reproductionTools_03By Karen Little
April 2013

Have you ever wondered whether the Old Masters, whose drawings, painting, prints, and statues fill space in world-class museums, had drawing skills that far exceed those of today’s artists? Or do you suspect that those Old Masters might have used technology to improve their techniques, the result of which increased their productivity, popularity, and profit?

We admire (and some “worship”) many Old Masters for their realistic images. With that in mind, did the modern art movement during the late 1800s and early 1900s reject what seems to us today to be the super-human drafting skills of their peers, or did they simply reject the use of tools (optics and mechanical devices) related to pictorial development in favor of freehand drawing?

reproductionTools_02To help answer these questions, read Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the old masters, a truly eye opening and entertaining book by David Hockney, a highly regarded English artist.

In 1999, Hockney set out to determine whether the Old Masters were truly masters at freehand drawing, or used technology to help create realistic images. If technology was used, what was it and how was it deployed?

To accomplish his research, Hockney pinned large prints of masterpieces side-by-side on a giant wall, in date order. These prints were based on paintings from around the year 1300, ending in the early 1900s. By observing the paintings side-by-side, he determined that the realistic quality of paintings changed radically in the early 1400s, spreading quickly from then on. He believed that this sudden change was related to the emerging use of technology (optics and lenses) that allowed artists to better see subject details and to mark keylines (traces) of what they saw on paper and/or canvas.

reproductionTools_05The resulting 12″ x 9.5″ book lets you compare these great works of art with Hockney’s observations, an enlightening process! By doing this, you’ll better understand the nature of image production, although a few of you might be disappointed that the Old Masters didn’t possess super-human talents.

To learn more about the historical use of tools used for image creation and reproduction, read Hockney’s book while simultaneously browsing the online research masterpiece, The History of the Discovery of Cinematography by Paul Burns. Burns covers 2,500 years of the subject, complete with illustrations. His clearly assembled information is freely available online at

Optical technology, such as the Camera Lucida discussed by Hockney, was not the only technology used image production. Historically, other devices were available to help sharpen viewing, interpreting, and measuring, such as shown by the prints in this article.











Image copying (in some cases called “forgery”) is not confined to crooks! Pantographs (see below) were and still are widely used to copy images from one surface to another. How did artists expand small drawings? One point on the Pantograph traces the keylines on the original image, and another, which is a significant distance away from the first, replicates those keylines on a different surface.



The mystery of today’s art appreciation is why mysteries related to image creation techniques persist. One possible answer is that mystery is known to kick up the price of objets d’art, which, of course, is what drives the art market.


Rediscovering the lost techniques of the old masters, by David Hockney.

First published in 2001 and revised in 2006, new books are available at and for between $26 and $30. Before you buy, however, do a thorough search because sometimes those sites show exceptionally high-priced used editions first.

For more immediate information, perform web, video, and image searches on “David Hockney” “David Hockney’s wall” and “David Hockney secret knowledge.”

The History of the Discovery of Cinematography, by Paul Burns. This amazing (and free) online book covers the subject of image capture for over 2,500 years. Easy to skim as well as use for scholarly research, access it on line at

Early Visual Media, by Thomas Weynants. This online article complements Hockney’s and Burns books. Here you’ll learn how artists quickly and easily created realistic drawings and etchings with and without optical equipment. This information is guaranteed to blow you away. Access it on line at


Karen Little is a writer, programmer, and illustrator, specializing in technical material and travel articles. She is also the current queen of adult kick scooting (crowned by herself).

Karen publishes and the moribund In one of her many past lives, she founded and ran Office Technology Academy (Milwaukee, WI), which helped highly-intelligent-but-low-income people obtain computer skills and jobs. She also founded Clear Concepts, a technical documentation company, and published a number of books and manuals. She’s now actively doing other things.


Dancing on the Beach

By Karen Little

I’m a very private person, especially when it comes to doing something in public that is seemingly foolish. And what I regard as foolish is showing off my body in any way, dress, or motion in which it isn’t reasonable to be shown.

I will not, for example, trot down my neighborhood in my bathing suit unless I was covered by multiple layers, and the same goes for the beach! That I ever get a tan is a marvel, although my nose regularly gets burnt.

I will also not participate publicly in gymnastics, one of which includes picking up a quarter near a bus stop, which is not graceful for a periodically stiff, 69 year old woman. And I continuously die of embarrassment when contorting in and out of our two-seat, Ford truck, with its mid-hip height floorboard. Boarding New Jersey Transit Buses, with their platform-high first step, provide similar experiences.

Privately, however, I exercise. Not yoga. Not Pilates. Not exer-cycling or treadmilling. What I do is dance, with me as my own choreographer.

Now then, I gather from pictures in the NY Time’s Arts Section, Entertainment magazine, and The Inquirer, when a woman shows off her dancing body in public, that body should wear size 0, almost-not-there clothing. This seeming convention violates two of my principle behaviors; the love of eating more than I can burn off, and my insane desire to cover up.

Home, however, relaxes my inhibitions.

In my sixth floor Weehawken, New Jersey, apartment, surrounded by picture-window views of Midtown New York, I dance as though I regularly fly across Broadway stages. I become a star at twilight, when Manhattan’s sky turns bright navy blue and the day-glow light from the Empire State Building’s crown transforms the sky. If I didn’t wear headphones while I danced across my living room carpet, I am sure that I would be able to hear the applause from everyone living across the Hudson River who bothered to train their binoculars on my windows.

And then, completely by accident, I heard the music entitled “Ghost Dance” by Cusco. Suddenly, I developed the urge to dance outside in public. Luckily, this urge occurred just prior to a two week, early-March stay at Treasure Island, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. Our hotel fronted one of the deepest stretches of beaches on the Pinellas County Barrier Islands (west of St. Petersburg), which, because of location and season was relatively unpopulated.

Karen_dancing_on_the_beachAnd dance I did. My costume for this bit of pleasure? My standard black, loose-fitting Tee and jeans. No glitz. No scarves. No jewelry. And no skin. My “peer,” Joan Rivers would not have approved, but everything else about the experience was transformative.


In the middle of the sand, I leaped, twirled, invented fancy footsteps, did the moon-walk, and executed fluid arm movements. For 15 to 20 minutes a day, I performed a performance that only I could understand. Yes, others saw me shift around, but without music to match motion with emotion, I assume that to them, I simply looked odd.

My soundless dancing did, however, attract Herons and miscellaneous seabirds who positioned themselves in a circle around me. As long as I did not look these birds in their eyes, they watched me, stepping closer and closer until they stepped too close for comfort. And the sun watched me, too. The sun, in fact, was one of my biggest fans and rewarded me by burning my nose.

Karen_dancing_along_hudsonRiverNow that I have the courage to dance in public, my next outdoor performances will begin in early summer at a location across the river from Midtown New York at Port Imperial Linear Park, Weehawken, NJ. Whether NY City residents will applaud is yet to be heard. I’m sure Weehawken residents will stare.

(Google Map of park:


If you want to know what I’m about as a person, listen to Ghost Dance, followed by Montezuma, Inca Dance, and Waters of Cesme, all by Cusco. This music is available on, YouTube, and sources identified by Googling. Strangely, Cusco is not available on iTunes.

For more information about Cusco, a German cross-cultural band named after the Peruvian city of Cusco, check Wikipedia – Since I first was exposed to this band in early 2013, their official website has disappeared, but their music lives on in a lot of places.


Karen Little is a writer, programmer, and illustrator, specializing in technical material and travel articles. She is also the current queen of adult kick scooting (crowned by herself).

Karen publishes and the moribund In one of her many past lives, she founded and ran Office Technology Academy (Milwaukee, WI), which helped highly-intelligent-but-low-income people obtain computer skills and jobs. She also founded Clear Concepts, a technical documentation company, and published a number of books and manuals. She’s now actively doing other things. Note that as one of the first women “online,” Karen has been involved in bulletin board services and Internet forums since the means to host them was invented. She types faster than she talks.

Washing the insides of leather shoes

urlBy Sunny Trailbringer

Men and women with a foot odor problem may find that one day their leather shoes have become smelly. Well shoes themselves don’t smell, but the bacteria in the shoes does. It is the bacteria from your body, reproducing and dying in the millions that produce the gas we may call stink foot.

Shoes can be washed, with or without water and I will mention some ideas and substances here.

Soap and water

It may be a surprise to learn that most leather shoes can be washed with soap and water and that it does them no harm if they are washed and dried in a certain way. Certain detergents, however should not be used, even if they seem like the obvious choice. Laundry detergent is not good for leather as it removes oils from the leather that need to be replenished and it can also ruin the color of some leathers. Generally mild facial or hand soaps will be better for leather. After all you would never wash your face with Tide.

Also, a clothes washing machine or laundry machine is not recommended because it puts the shoes into a car crash boxing match with each other and the machine itself. Heels are for the floor, not the lovely finish of the other shoe. Instead, wash shoes by hand in a bucket to prevent scuffs, glue separation and to agitate spot stains into a lather.

Do not be tempted to use hot water because while it certainly removes the dirt and bacteria quicker, it can also compromise the adhesives in the shoes and cause an over-drying of the leather and excessive pigment loss, as well as shrinkage.

Some stronger soaps will also over-dry the leather and remove the color of the leather. Mild soap such as castile (olive or laurel oil) soap, some saddle soaps or facial cleansers will wash the leather more gently. If you would not use a certain soap on your face or your hair, then don’t use it on your leather either. Saltwater is good for washing boat shoes, which are designed to be soaked by seawater, but can salt stain dress shoes as it dries.

An acne wash will remove the oil from the leather that got there from your sweat glands and is harboring the bacteria that are causing that foot smell. A product such as Clearasil Daily Face Wash is the best way to make the leather inside your shoe bacteria-free, as clean as when new, and it will not damage the leather. Of all the products tried, Clearasil Daily Face Wash is the most effective way to wash leather without harming it. This applies to any type of leather, hard or soft, full-grain or split, and even suede and top-grain Nubuck. Purses, bags, boots, sandals, jackets, dress oxford linings, any fine leather will be cleaned, restored and rendered odor free with this amazing cosmetic toiletry.

For stubborn marks on the rubber soles or on parts of the leather, use a brown or blue Scotch-Brite™ scrubber, but never use the green one because it is too abrasive and will scratch away at the leather finish. A Mr Clean Magic Eraser™ is great for white rubber parts.

Drying the shoes

Dry at room temperature, or outdoors in the shade. Do not use a hair dryer or fan heater, but using a room fan is harmless and will speed up the drying a great deal. For example, with boat-shoes, which are always worn without socks, and are designed to get wet, you can wash them frequently, spin them dry in a top loader or towel dry them, and then point a room fan at them and have them back on your feet, spotlessly clean and dry within a couple of hours. The only remaining smell will be that of new leather. To help the shoes keep their shape, you can stuff them with newspaper when they pass from the wet to the still-damp stage, but most shoes washed in cold water never need this.

You can moisturize the leather after washing it, either with a leather conditioning cream or with a facial or hand moisturizer. For some leathers a leather oil such as mink oil may restore the original waxy look. Never use a vegetable oil such as olive oil or coconut oil as it can turn rancid over time and also be a food source and safe harbor for the bacteria that is causing all this trouble in the first place.

Fighting bacteria between washes

Between washes, a spray on disinfectant such as Marvicide or Lysol will kill most bacteria and fungus, and remove all foot odor at the same time, but may also leave a medicated, non-leathery smell that you do not enjoy. Isopropyl alcohol may release the adhesive that keeps the permanent insoles or parts of the lining in so while it cleans away bacteria, it should not be used to clean inside the shoe. Vinegar works, and kills fungus, but vinegar is also an unpleasant smell to most people, so leave the vinegar in the pantry and use an alternate method to stay fresh. Baking soda absorbs most odor but may not kill the bacteria which can resume emitting odor later. If you have black dress shoes and black socks, any white powders will be a mess anyway. Hand sanitizer will kill odor causing bacteria and you can wipe the insides of your shoes with it, but do not use too much because the main ingredient, ethyl alcohol, may cause insoles to become unglued, assuming that you have glued in insoles.

No excuse

So next time you sense that your shoes smell like more than just leather, do not put up with it. Wash them!

Sunny Trailbringer is an anti-bacterial minister from the temple of No Pong and when she is not washing shoes she is hand-crafting leather accessories in Arizona.

Back to the disputed islands

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 5.45.59 PMRecently the-vu received a message from Emily Stewart of OnlineMBA. Emily had noticed the short commentary on the disputed islands off the coast of Taiwan that is on (at this link) and she introduced us to a short five-and-a-half minute film about how possible outcomes of the dispute between China and Japan might affect the United States.

The film features the speeded up whiteboardings of a good cartoonist and for anyone who is following the situation in the South China Sea, the film can be found online here.

It can also be seen on YouTube, (at this link)

A Night in Tunisia

A Night in TunisiaBy Jeffrey the Barak

February 8th 2013. As chaos ensues in Tunisia, a small North African country wedged between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, and conflicts arise between the Islamist government and a mass of citizens who would have preferred that the Islamist party had not won the democratic election, it is worth stepping back to look at this corner of the world apart from the current issues.

While the country is stuffed between Algeria to the West and South and Libya to the East and South, it should be noted that it is only a matter of a short one hundred mile sail across the sea to Sicily. There is not much that is particularly African about Tunisia, except it is perched at the top of the massive continent.

But this article is not about unrest, or politics, or culture, or Islamists or the desert, or the German tourists who used to crowd here each summer.

No, nothing as serious as that. It is time to think about a Dizzy Gillespie tune, A Night in Tunisia. One of the best tunes ever written in any genre of music, this example of American genius is the epitome of classic jazz perfection.

So while I worry for the safety of Tunisian citizens as thousands shout, chant, fight and start fires, if I have to be honest, I cannot hear the name Tunisia without that tune filling my head.

And so as I write this I have typed A Night in Tunisia into the search box on Spotify and am playing one version after the other, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Morgan, Ella Fitzgerald, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, and more, and more.

Everyone has taken a stab at it. The solos are different, the tempos are different, the orchestration changes, but that tune is always there, and it is one of those melodies that works like the human brain, and that is why everyone can hear it and feel moved by that exciting sequence of notes.

From Gillespie’s brain to our brains, it just fits the patterns that underly our thought processes. How does the brain work? A Night in Tunisia, that’s how. That’s all you need to know about the brain.

Sometimes I take a duck call and play this tune on it, and the ducks come in the dozens and just stand there and look at me. Even ducks’ brains work like A Night in Tunisia. Even goldfishes stop what they are doing when this tune comes on. It speaks to their brains too, and they are not as simple as everyone has been taught.

Will your baby not stop crying? A Night in Tunisia. Is your horse sick? A Night in Tunisia. This tune takes care of a million problems.

And so, I will leave you with a recommendation. Listen to A Night in Tunisia, as many versions as you can cram in.

Jeffrey the Barak never eats cheese on the roof on Fridays.

Don’t buy jeans online, try on many pairs instead

Levis 501 (c) Levis

By Jeffrey the Barak

Online shopping is amazing. It is so convenient and usually a great bargain too as sellers don’t have the enormous cost of providing a glass and granite palace to show you their goods.

But some things do not fit in with the online shopping model. The most striking example is denim jeans. Jeans that fit well look great on anyone, but jeans that are the wrong size or shape look awful. Besides there being so many choices of fashion, shape, narrowness and fabric in today’s jeans, the size labeling is only loosely based on reality.

Let’s take mens Levis jeans as an example. In the world of mens jeans, there are Levis, and then there is everything else. If your jeans are not Levis, then it could be said that they are homages to Levis. Levis are the standard in mens jeans and every other brand, be it $12 in Ross or $500 on Rodeo Drive are just variations of proper Levis.

Now the average guy does not get into shopping as much as the average lady. Mister Average wants to know what waist size to ask for, throw the first pair into a basket and check out. But the odds of that working are pretty slim when it comes to jeans shopping.

Levis 511 (c) Levis
Levis 511 (c) Levis

In the case of Levis, there are different cuts or styles made from different patterns, ranging from super skinny to baggy. And if you decide on just one design, for example, the current best selling 514 Straight fit, which used to be called 514 Slim Straight and may be getting replaced by 513 Slim Straight, and then you pick up, for example size 34 waist and 30 leg, and take one in each fabric choice to the fitting room, you will find that each color is a very different size, and some are made in China, some in Mexico, some in Egypt etc.

Some of the fabrics are heavy and do not have any stretch, and they might impart a big indigo stain onto any damp fabric that touches them. Others are medium-weight with the ability to stretch, or not, and others are light, and not necessarily stretchable. There are dozens of different types of denim in jeans that have Levis labels on them.

Say you want skinny jeans, how do you know if your legs and butt will look better in 511 Slim which used to be called 511 Skinny or 510 Skinny which used to be called 510 Super Skinny? How will you know if they hug your hips and stay up, or if they will be sliding down and giving you a baggy crotch and short-looking legs, and how do you know if the iconic Levis back pockets will be sewn on high to align with and flatter your buttocks, or be half way down to your thighs making you look long-torsoed and short-legged?

And if you buy button-fly 501s, like you did in the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and naughties, will they be the same as before, or do the pockets move up and down and grow and shrink in size, and does the waistband rise and fall over the years, and do the thighs get tighter and looser? In other words does the pattern change despite the pants having the 501 label since your grandfather wore them? Well yes, 501s across the years are very different from each other, and Levis make no announcements when they introduce the newest major change in the design of 501s.

Levis 513 (c) Levis
Levis 513 (c) Levis

So we cannot rely on a certain style, such as 501, 505 or 514 being the same from pair to pair, and we cannot rely on a certain size being consistent over two different colors in the same style number, and we cannot rely on the fabric’s weight and stretchability being consistent from color to color. How then can we buy online and expect to be able to get jeans that fit?

Well we cannot. The world’s most fantastic store, Amazon, may also be the worst place to buy jeans. You really have to physically visit a place that has a large inventory, such as JC Penney, Sears, Macy’s or The Levis Store, and then you have to take your time, trying on various style numbers, in various fabrics and various waist and leg measurements.

You may find a good pair in a few minutes, or you may have to work at it, changing pants many times and allowing the hour hand to swing around the clock. And it will be worth it, because the difference between well fitting, figure flattering jeans and jeans that you can just get on is a huge difference.

Depending on the shape of your body, you will see that your legs have to be a certain width, your back pockets have to be a certain height, size and distance apart, and your fabric has to be a certain wash to make you look your best. It is more complicated than choosing a new car or a new smartphone. And if you look good you feel good. If you don’t like how your jeans make you look, it will affect how you feel and behave. That is how important this is. When your butt looks sexy you just feel better.

Levis 514 (c) Levis
Levis 514 (c) Levis

But even this level of caution may not be enough, because each type of fabric behaves differently when it is first washed. So you may find the right inseam length, but depending on which denim it is, it might stay the same length, or it may shrink a bit. This aspect may be out of your control so try to buy jeans at a place that accepts returns, then wash them, in cold water with mild soap or no soap, all by themselves with nothing else in the machine, and hang to dry. If they do shrink, take them back with your labels and receipt and exchange them for some in the identical fabric with a longer inseam. And then do the same test wash on those.

And if you find after all this that you have a perfect pair, then you can risk buying a second pair online, the same style, the identical fabric and color, and the same waist and leg size. It may end up being the same, or it may be from an entirely different pattern and made in another country, and you may have to kick yourself for not just going back to the same store and trying them on.

So why then, if there is such terrible inconsistency, do people still overwhelmingly choose Levis? Well lets put it this way, some designer jeans look positively silly, embarrassingly so, and we want to look cool, not silly. And even though the guys with the beer bellies, digging the ditch outside the store also have Levis on and they don’t fit very well, we still look our best when we find that perfect pair. That red tag, that leather patch, those rivets, that pocket stitching. These details represent iconic classic American style that you just don’t get with those New Hampshire Sunsiders, or those Western Grease Limiteds, or those Carlo Pininfarinas.


Writer Jeffrey the Barak hides black jeans inside old oil cans and then fires them at squirrels using a giant catapult, every Wednesday at 3 AM

An Original Internet Magazine – since before the blog was invented.