Distractionism

If I had to come up with a name for the style of architecture seen in today’s Los Angeles, I’d call it distractionist.

Never before has there been a time where architects put more effort into hiding the fact that there is no architecture in their work than into actually designing something beautiful in the first place.

Distractionist architecture evolved out of the desire to build as cheaply as possible. It makes use of bright colors and odd shapes, spreading them asymmetrically across building facades with the hope that the their questionable existence will prove so peculiar that it distracts the viewer and prevents him from ever realizing that the building is actually just another boring, unimaginative stucco box. And it must work, because people certainly have no problem moving into such buildings, despite the striking amount of similarity they have to the “white picket fence” style houses of the 50’s that everyone of this generation has come to loath.

Personally, I’m bored out of my mind. Have some imagination, guys.

Sheesh.

Some key examples:


The DMV Releases its first phone-based game

I would like everyone to be aware of how the DMV’s phone systems work:

As mentioned on their website, they let you request forms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via their automated menu. I figured I’d call and request the one I wanted. What I expected was to have to sit through a bunch of crappy menus for 10 minutes until I found what I wanted. What I didn’t expect was for the combination of AWFUL voice recognition and EVEN MORE AWFUL user interface to produce an experience not unlike an extremely frustrating video game.

Basically, if you say something the machine doesn’t understand three times, they forward you to a customer service person. The caveat is that after-hours there aren’t any. The appropriate logic here would be to let the user try as many times as he wants given that a service rep isn’t available, but instead, they just forward you to a message explaining that no one can help you, and then they hang up. When you call back, you have to listen to a 3 minute message about the DMV’s improved security measures before you can even begin to navigate the choices again, so you definitely don’t want to get hung up on.

The worst part of all? The three misunderstandings don’t have to be consecutive! You could fuck up making a choice at the main menu–or as I’ve come to refer to it, Level 1–and it counts as a misunderstanding. You really don’t want to do that, because you’ll need those lives for later when you’re trying to get them to understand your address (Level 3).

I called back 4 times. Was never able to get past Level 4.

I gave up.

On the competitive coexistence of Hanukah and Christmas

tl;dr | Hanukkah and Christmas aren’t even remotely similar holidays. Christmas is secular holiday that welcomes everyone. Hanukkah should not be coerced into an identical version of the same thing.

I recently stumbled upon a photo a friend posted on Instagram of a couple holiday aisles at CVS. She was complaining about the pathetic number of Hanukkah options offered compared to Christmas ones. Normally I would agree and label it completely unjust, especially given how huge the Jewish community here in Southern California is, but for some reason, I completely failed to empathize with her. It took me quite some time to figure it out, but now that I have, I’ve decided that as a half Jew, half Christian, it’s important that I share.

To sum it up in a single sentence, Hanukkah is not the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. It’s a completely separate holiday, and though there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Hanukkah in and of itself, attempting to merge the two holidays into the same “holiday season” as parallel but mutually exclusive ways to funnel gifts into children’s arms is complete bullshit. Why? Because Christmas is not a religious holiday, so why the hell are we inventing alternatives for it?

Pretty trees with lights on them, Santa Clause coming down the chimney, snowmen, singing, hot chocolate–nothing about any of these things is even remotely religious. Yeah, Christian people go to church on Christmas, but that’s entirely unrelated. Seriously. People will try to tell you it’s the day Jesus was born, but that’s not even true. We only celebrate Christmas on the 25th people it happens to overlap with the Pagan festival of lights, and the Christian church didn’t want to be overshadowed by another religion, so they jacked the festival and called it Jesus day. But even if Jesus were to have been born on the 25th, how does that in any way obligate you as a non-believer to care?

So the reason I get so frustrated with people complaining that Hanukkah options are weak compared to Christmas is that if they think Christmas is so much better, they should just be celebrating Christmas. Historically, Hanukkah isn’t even a gift giving holiday. The chocolate coins (gelt) that you sometimes see are traditionally the only remotely gift-like component of the entire thing. The fact that for the last century, we Jews have been finding every possible way to bastardize an unrelated holiday–one which should be celebrated traditionally, as it has been for the past 2000 years–in order to mirror everything that Christmas stands for (lights, gifts, ornaments) without it explicitly being Christmas (BLUE lights, EIGHT days of gifts, Hanukkah BUSHES) is so dumb. We’ve essentially made it separate but equal, and I no longer want anything to do with that.

People need to stop feeling like they aren’t allowed to enjoy the Christmas season, despite the fact that it makes them happy, simply because they aren’t Christian. Atheists aren’t Christian either, and they seem to celebrate Christmas just fine.

So remember:

1. Christmas –> secular holiday that all are welcome to participate in, and that is not exclusive to any other celebration or ceremony that happens to overlap with it.

2. Hanukkah –> Completely unrelated Jewish holiday that has nothing to do with gifts, lights or trees.

I took a trip to Japan last month

I took a trip to Japan last month and decided it might be fun to document it with a video instead of taking a bunch of photos I probably would never have looked at. I’m pretty happy with the way it came out, except I ran out of space on my card at the very end, and had to cut the last couple sections short. Oh well. Next time!

Also, if you happen to be interested in visiting, feel free to reach out. I’m more than happy to share my thoughts and offer some travel pointers!

 

Brag efficiency, not wasted time

Today I had a guy try to brag to me about the number of hours he was spending at work. Why would anyone think this reflects positively on them? It drives me absolutely insane when people do this, because while you may think that telling someone “I’ve been working for 17 hours straight” makes you sound like a great businessman, it actually makes you sound like a fool. Who wants an overworked mind making important decisions? How could somebody who has no life outside of work possibly be well rounded enough to adequately run a business? Where does their creativity and innovation come from?

Quit sitting around at your desk working at half speed merely to earn the right to brag about how exhausted you are. That’s the opposite of efficiency. How about instead of bragging about how much time you spend working, you brag about how much work you got done instead?

Progress is what matters. Not hours wasted.

Reality Check

As a startup founder I’ve been trained to ignore a lot of conventional wisdom in favor of thinking outside the box. I’ve learned to spin criticisms into compliments, to dismiss naysayers as “unimaginative,” and most importantly, to ignore any advice I don’t agree with, because if they actually knew what they were talking about, they’d be the one running the company instead of just telling someone else how to do it. But today I got checked back into reality so fast you’d think I’d hitched a ride on the X-51A WaveRider.

On my drive home from work, I had the misfortune of driving behind someone who apparently took the “don’t follow the conventional wisdom” lifestyle a bit too far. Apparently, he decided he was about to miss his exit or something, because he spontaneously swerved right across two lanes, completely neglecting to look over his shoulder, and further neglecting to realize that someone (me) was driving in that second lane. I’ve never had to make such a defensive driving maneuver in my life. Namely, I had to blindly swerve to the right a lane to avoid him slamming into me. The funny thing is, what scared me was not the event itself, but the possible alternate outcomes that I considered in the aftermath. This guy swerved so fast that I had no opportunity to look right before dodging him. Had there been someone there, I’d have hit them. Or if I’d glanced at anything but the road for a quarter of a second, he would have hit me. Or if I’d been driving my old car (a clunky truck) instead of my new car (a tiny Mini Cooper), I wouldn’t have had the agility to avoid him in time, and he would have hit me. In any case, the outcome would have been a 65mph crash, which statistically means there’s a solid chance I could have been killed tonight. All because someone decided they were too good to look over their shoulder before changing lanes.

In the startup world, conventions can be altered or ignored not only because we’re trying to innovate, but because the consequences of our actions (usually) affect the health and safety of a company, not the public. But when you’re making choices that can seriously damage other people’s lives, it’s probably best to stick to the convention.

TL;DR: Look over your shoulder before changing lanes!