Friday, January 29, 2010

Any one for more legroom on an airplane?

The post consumerism blogger doesn’t travel as much as he once did, so my recent cross country trip from Portland, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts and return, was full of surprises.

First surprise: Much smaller crowds at the airport terminals, shorter lines and less harried customer service agents.

Second surprise: Shorter or non existent lines at vendors kiosks and restaurants. (My mouse went south, so I needed to get to the electronics kiosk. Another positive: I had a an amusing conversation with the kiosk clerk.)

Third surprise: Fewer delays. (Due to a significant reduction in domestic flights.)

Fourth surprise: United Airlines offers an upgrade to what they call “Economy Plus” which provides 5 inches more leg room with 6 across the row vs 4 in first class. For my own justification I calculated the upgrade as $10 per hour ($40 from PDX to ORD, the airlines website quotes Denver to Seattle as $49). An added benefit was that there were very few takers for the upgrade and on all four legs the middle seat was empty. I arrived fresh and returned home fresh and the $200 round trip upgrade was well worth the reduced wear and tear on my body and mind.

The economy section was full six across in every row. They looked cramped back there.

I don’t travel as many miles as I once did, one of the big benefits of a post-consumer world to all sectors of society. Travel had become stressful and really, really resource wasteful, in my personal view. Changing careers and working on-line was both a health and personal life style choice for me. (that choice  turned out great.)

In the post-consumer economy where we buy fewer goods and services I expect (hope) that businesses will reset to smaller volume operations. We can expect companies to try and extract small premiums for small luxuries. I really hope that more business will look at being more profitable through added value services and providing goods with a longer life expectancy rather than just squeezing us more.

I look forward to a less stressful non consumptive (irony?) life style.

PS: I am all for added baggage fees. Being a former professional traveler, like learning to ride a bicycle, I have not lost the ability to pack light. One small overhead with my notebook PC for a week on the road. I found that I took too many things.

PPS: I enjoyed breaking out my wonderful Italian fine wool overcoat, purchased over a decade ago and using it. During the winter months, back east, men still wear overcoats, so I didn’t look silly or out of style.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giving your home away for charity and the "loaves and the fishes".

Hannah Salwen (Chronological age: 17, Wisdom age: ancient) and her father Kevin have a new book, "The Power of Half" due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 10th. You can already order at Amazon.

Without giving away the details ( I read them in the Jan.17th  Parade Magazine), Hannah and her family sold their McMansion and moved into a house half the size of their dream home. They gave the profits to "The Hunger Project".  The book recounts their journey to half size their lives. Funny thing happened, their lives actually grew exponentially when they de-linked happiness from ownership of a precious thing (the dream home).

Today I fiddled with another of my throw-away gadgets that cannot be fixed, and I struggled again with how wasteful I have been in my life. I am certain that compared to my peers and colleagues that I have been exemplary, but that doesn't rid me of the nagging thought that I can do more as far as getting rid of "stuff"

In prior posts you have read how my wife and I are on a simple journey to a place with "just less stuff",.

The Salwens embarked on a journey of Odysean proportions. They have learned that stuff just makes you miserable by separating you from the people you love and from doing the things that bring you the most joy. I don't think cleaning a large house, or worse yet supervising the household help brings joy unless you are really bored and not too, too bright. I am certain Hannah Salwen registers high on the brightness scale. Kevin related that the family had been more "lucky" than most. (Kudos for the reality check) His children are capable of complex thought.  If your children are not capable of complex thought, do not despair. I caution patience, expect it to happen after age 21. I will post, what I have learned recently, about neurological science and learning. (Academic types had it about half right, stay tuned to the post on learning skills and complex thinking).

Well anyway, here is my tale of caution for the Salwens; From the Gospel of John (Please don't read anything in here, just because it's Biblical doesn't mean it lacks truth for our time)
The crowds followed Jesus on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.

"Bring them here to me," he said.

Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
My wife and I believe in "the loaves and fishes". We have seen it time and time again. The simple truth is that the more you give away the more you get back. People see you giving and give to the community and you get rewarded with more stuff to give away. The cycle then continue unless you break it.

The Salwens are on the second half of the cycle and they have already received immensely in their personal lives. They are heading further into the payback period, with book sales earnings, speaking gigs, personal appearances, endorsements (yes! for good services and not for stuff I hope) and offers of full ride scholarships for Hannah and her brother Joseph.

I begrudge them nothing, they did not set out to make a movie or even think about profit, but they will profit materially. I sincerely hope that they recognize the best way to keep what they have earned is to keep giving it away.

Good luck to Hannah and Joseph, I hope they remember "the loaves and fishes" throughout their lives.

PS: The Salwens were given a great gift in their timing. If most of us sold our homes for charity we would be asking the charity for the credit check to satisfy the mortgage, and yes I understand that Kevin is a journalist and this was a good story to boot.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"You want your actual life back?-sign out." Suicide merges with The Mafia Boss and takes over Second Life.

Eliminate yourself from the virtual world of the web and re-enter reality. Please!

I will confess I make a significant portion of my living on-line. I have a Facebook page for friends and a LinkedIn site for professional colleagues. I get many of my ideas for blog postings from newspapers, but I search for the latest information on-line.  I spend less than 3 hours per week in causal web interactions, including the time to write weekly postings for two different blogs. With that confession:

"You want your actual life back? Sign out." Those are two of the scrolling headlines on an exciting new web site.

Web 2.0 Suicide

As a recommendation to check it out, Facebook has banned their access to Facebook.

The premise of the organization is to gain back your pre-web lives and as another quote suggests "actually meet your neighbors."  The owners of the site make the claim that it takes more than 9 hours to manually remove yourself from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other "social networking" sites. To see and hear the full NPR story on Machine Suicide try: "Erase your virtual life".

One beautiful things about posting a blog, is the ability to point out connections. Just a week or so ago USA Today had a story about sales of "goods" in the virtual world. If you are unfamiliar with (as I was) of sites like Second Life its seems that people create avatars who are their alter egos and then build a fantasy life. Others in second life create goods and services for avatars, and real cash is exchanged for those Prada Like shoes that your avatar wears. Aside: I wonder if counterfeiting that Gucci Bag on Second Life will get you time in the virtual slammer?

For the full story see Unlike reality, virtual retail sales are hot, especially for avatars. Here are some excerpts that provide story color.

LaWanda Johnson loves buying virtual jewelry gifts for her online avatar friends and beams with pride when she sees them wearing necklaces she bought. Johnson, who is on disability in the real world, can be far more generous in the mobile social and gaming community Cellufun, where she can spend less than $1 or earn credits to buy for others, create a wardrobe and decorate her "home" for Christmas. The attraction of that proposition has made avatar fashion and possessions including most everything you'd buy or want in the terrestrial world must-haves for millions of people who play games on Facebook or dabble in virtual worlds such as Cellufun or Second Life.
"Virtual goods cost a fraction of what goods cost in the real world," Kingdon says. "You can get a beautiful pair of white ice skates for … less than $2."

Still, virtual commerce can be confounding to non-participants. From pets to pretty eyes, everything's for virtual sale. Sure, if you're OK with a dressed-down avatar with no stuff, you can play without paying in most worlds or games. But, hey, this is America, and everyone's keeping up with the virtual Joneses.

I am certain that if we all committed virtual world suicide, when we get up and look over the top of the monitor, we might find there is a great deal to see, learn and do. I do not denigrate those with a real need to "connect" through virtual reality such as Ms. Johnson, but I am pretty sure there are tens of thousands of individual web denizens who have become lost in the Internet and who have forgotten the value of real relationships, and real service to others. I humbly suggest that some of the time spent on line by the lost, might be used in face to face interactions with shut-ins and disabled. Meals for Wheels comes to mind. Simply asking the elderly neighbor lady if she would sit on the porch and chat with you occasionally. See that as a privilege not a duty, and it really becomes something of value. 

There is an on line gaming community called The Mafia where you don't have to you can just rub out others. Below is the lead in from the Mafia Boss website:

Enter the The Mafia Boss World, where you will become a boss of a crime gang. You have the choice to collect money from your casinos, whorehouses, loan sharks and gambling dens. You could also produce drugs, liquor and Counterfeit money. You will use bribes, and minor crimes during your daily routine. You will embark in street wars against other gangsters for control. You can bring your gang forth to join a Crime Family with a well structured hierarchy or even form your own Crime Family. The options are endless under a proven business logic with extra scope for illegal businesses and use your legal businesses to clear out the money.

Anyway here goes the suggested connection:

Suicide merges with The Mafia Boss and takes over Second Life. If you want you put out a contract on yourself, someone else gets to "rub you out" for pay (sort of virtual suicide by proxy). You can rub out those avatars you hate or who "disrespect" you or hire some else to kill them off. A virtual "Hit Man". How about "protection" fees for the local Crime Boss. The ideas are endless. New super heroes emerge, and a Rudy Guiliani avatar.

The idea of a $1Billion plus market for virtual stuff for you avatar deserves a whole posting for itself. $3 Billion will feed the hungry of the world.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some post-consumerism suggestions for your New Year resolutions.

Its that time of the year (or was a few days ago) to make resolutions for the new year.

Here is what I resolve to do and how I will go about making it easy.

I resolve to:

Buy less stuff this year by earning less money, by not working as smart or hard as I have in the past. I vow to stop acquisition as a measurement of goodness. U.S. employers are making it easier to make less money by furloughs, wage freezes and benefit cost increases.

Invest more in the individual betterment of others through peer to peer lending or through organizations such as This is easy and done on-line.

Move my money to a local community bank or credit union. This might take some time because I have bundled almost all my bill paying to be done automatically on-line. See Move Your Money for some inspiration. I will strive to get this done during the summer months when I have some time and "extra" cash. See Newsy on this issue.

Give to away more things away for a "second life". Things that I own, that I deem not essential for my care and comfort will be donated to charity or given to friends. I have been doing this over the last few years, but I will accelerate this year. My wife and I give to charity, two items of clothing for every "new" clothing item we buy, our closets are getting cleaner and "newer".  I am mildly obsessed with cleaning out the garage and closets. (We have no basement or attic, making it easy, "no heavy lifting". The new house we built has no attic, basement, garage nor storage shed.

Spend more time with my friends or just in a coffee shop.