January 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

Flavored Gummy Vitamins

Adult sippy cups

Coloring books

There seems to be a solidifying theme as the Generation X and Millennial generations grow into mortgages and children of there own.  We want the non hurtful/playful products we had as kids to be our products as adults. Even graphics to our new products (foods, apps, clothing, etc.) are all puffy bloated double syllable words they just shyly convey they could never do harm to the environment, to the stomach, to the skin.

Adults used to take a glass of water and horse sized pills every morning, they drank liquids without a moveable straw or siphon that is clipped out of the top, they didn’t communicate with winks and smiling emoticons, and they wouldn’t color their hair or wear a tutu for work. No embarrassment, almost a pride that the secret to not spilling liquid on themselves is to buy an oversized sippy cup and their illiteracy can be masked with smiley faces and images of poo.

Maybe it’s the craving for staying child-like, or maybe it’s fighting an aging body and mind, or possibly that always seeing the world as a safe and new experience on an hourly turn is far more digestible than dealing with the difficult complex labors that adults are engaged in.

Either which way, the “grown ups” sure like (or aren’t scared of) their childhood comforts- and these products are marking a certain point of view adulthood has taken in the past several years. Maybe it’s the wars, or the recessions, or the doubling in years of being in a classroom but what comes with sippy cups and crayons are companies more than happy to encourage the society of perpetual children who increasingly trust  industry to do all the adult-ing in the world, including changing the diapers and reading the books to us.



Dieter Rams Should Sue Everyone

September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

These Ipads and Galaxy wars are getting brutal – it seems Apple and Samsung are just leveling the world of digital flatscreen talk to lawsuits and tit for tat.

I think it’s time we, the people, reassert that this idea of copying and who owns what is a pretty ridiculous argument to have. Every designer steals – it’s what….. did Picasso say, “makes a great artist”? Apple sues for the rights of their Ipad Design while Samusung sues for the design of the Ipod 5 to be outlawed in some British Isle. It doesn’t really take much to notice that their are design wars going on in one of the quickly solidifying technologies of the last decade. Just like all cars seem to have four wheels, hinged doors, and a gasoline powered engine – all of these portable smart devices seem to be in the middle of a copy and paste war. That usually leads to everyone being bored, I’m already bored and I don’t even have a smart device.

I think the solution is a natural one – Dieter Rams should sue everyone. His designs are so strikingly similar to all Apple products he should be crowned their emperor – and he looks like Peter Eisenmann which tells me he’d be capable of accepting such a pompous title in the modern age. Sue everyone, Mr. Rams, from Apple to Samsung. Sue everyone in between – sue me even.. I’m pretty sure I copied some of his designs while making a lamp or something.

The guy is amazing, ahead of his time, and when at first sight you know cool you are looking at Dieter Rams work. So, Mr. Rams – the green light is lit, sue away and end this international squabble over the 2nd dimension.


June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Groupon seems to be the hot site in the past year. Me, myself, I’ve been an outlier in this new craze – but I am nonetheless affected by it.

The premise is great, a business asks groupon to use their vast list of bargain hunters who love bargains to find them, the more people take the bargain the more the bargain is. Immediate returns are made for the business, exposure is overnight, and the likelihood of all the coupons being used is probably 50/50. But, there have been grumblings from both business and customer, mostly for the fact that the deals are often too good for the customer and bad for the business. The business is sometimes caught off guard with the rush to use the groupon, resulting in bad service or experience and a bad impression for the future. Groupon was praised as a business starter, a way for cheap promotion for a new dog bakery or go cart track company, but it seems these businesses can’t break even from the initial handouts Groupon delivers. I saw the other day helicopter training sessions for 300 bucks. Yes, I would do it – but no, I couldn’t see this as being a good thing for the company doing the lessons – just a massive influx of free intro lessons for the next eight months, with the check having already come and gone by the time you see anyone sign up for the second full price training.

For what it’s worth, I’ve gotten most of my information about Groupon from their coupon announcements I get emailed daily and articles such as these. Well, this Groupon has been around a while – and in the coming week it’s slated to start an IPO on Wall Street. That’s great news for investors who see the new brand as crowdsourcing and “anything”.com’s. Their business model seems sound, they are a well known name by now, they have happy and loyal employees, and there are millions of new subscribers going to the site monthly…. or are they?

There are a few grumblings about the actual company legs of Groupon, including this DealBook article ( that says the impact and actual profitability for Groupon has peaked and is now on the decline. Groupon relies on other businesses to use their services, if those businesses continue to not view this relationship as mutually beneficial it may require one of two things. Groupon changes, or businesses find somewhere else online to drum up business. Whether or not an injection of a couple billion will reverse this is hard to tell, but it could mean a greater reach and larger swath in the more traditional means of communication. I’m sure, instead of the word of mouth tract, Groupon will start having flashy Super Bowl commercials staring Brian Bosworth or they’ll be promoting their traveling product fest in Rolling Stone.

Either way Groupon evolves or dies. I’ll still accept their emails telling me of discounts I probably will never use, and I will remain envious of how they could make a billion from coupons and email campaigns.

The New Bubble: Higher Education

June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I believed it. I believed the path to the American Dream was through education, sacrifice, hard work, and faith in those three.

I still kind of believe all these things. But, I have a better perspective on the nature of education in America – and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.  Higher education is the only market that seems to have been growing by leaps and bounds in the last decade, and I have this tingling feeling it’s headed towards a major negative adjustment.

When I say that higher education is growing, what I mean is – on a less dramatic note – universities building giant brand new buildings, community colleges expanding their campuses, new colleges being founded all the time, online universities, and of course the traditional exponential growth in tuition and fees. But what is my main concern are the entities behind all of these wheels of growth and who, at the end of the day, will not foot any of the bill. The students will foot this bill, or their 90 year old selves will. And as the cost for a degree gets higher and the access and proliferation of degrees gets wider, the intangible benefit of being a highly educated person is being dragged in the mud. We (those of us in our 30’s) are in a pincer movement to make Rommel blush, we pay out our teeth to stay in a classroom longer so that when we get out we have no option but to ask for a huge paycheck due to our earning years being not only pressured by shortened time and the need to pay back on interested money – but by expectations of family and our own self starting of being educated that used to come with being financially stable after sacrifice of any sort. Costs are rising…. and Reward is falling,

I was around when the real estate bubble was hot, I remember hearing that the best investment any sane individual could make was to buy a home (even if they were going to get so above their head in debt) because a home’s value had never decreased. Me myself, I ignored them, watched the bubble grow into a monster that made the inevitable explosion even worse than the dot com bubble less than two decades ago. I then preceded to ignore the rain of bailout cries by the people who were ill prepared for the home’s inflated value not meeting their deflated wallet sizes. And I held a belief that I would pay thousands to get a better brain and more papers on the wall. They can’t take my brain away I thought.

What is happening, similar to other busts, is that students are taking out larger and larger amounts of debt to enroll in schools where they’re not promised anything in return. Academia doesn’t promise them a job, food on the table, a car in the garage, a good name, or even shoes. They promise an experience, that’s it. I want to say that this bust will follow in the some familiar repercussions. In the gold bust of California we found California, in the dot com bust of the 90’s we learned how to use the internet, in the housing bust we were left with built homes. I’m not sure what will be left after the education bust.

Maybe what will be left are super articulate people who are bagging your groceries and waiting your tables – waiting for the day their book will be published. Maybe the landscape will be filled with professors teaching professors teaching professors how to teach and profess. Maybe the masters degrees will get a bailout from the IMF (no, that’s impossible). Maybe we’ll find a new mineral on mars that allows for our form of monetary value to completely be done away with.

Or maybe they’ll take our brains back. I can see it now “Property of Sallie Mae”.

The same names seem to now be involved with all this new inflationary pseudo insurance promises of a better life (an education) that were being thrown around during other boom busts of my very short lifetime. A phd is alluring, it seems safe, it seems like the best thing to do with your future income. I’m just glad as hell I have my degree – it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Can anyone say tuition limits? Can we all say together “accountability for our new religion of academia!”? Probably not, enough of us are making a shit load of money counting beans.

The cycle of the education bubble is a blotched bastard sitting in the Reno sun, and I believed it to be a gorgeous blonde in Monaco. Now I get to pay for having faith.

China and The Manufactured Decay

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

China has too many apartments – it has too many retail spaces, and not enough people spending money they don’t yet have. The people of China need to all get credit cards and mortgages and start buying the things they are producing, that way they won’t all have to work in factories and eat rice with beans for every meal. Chinese people need to all own their own car, the need to have their own apartments, and they need to figure out how great suburbs are. The Chinese need to get with the program otherwise their their growth in GDP, their standard of living, their economic and political might will be for nothing.

I for one am not so concerned about this juggernaut of power that is fast becoming the best in everything, namely because I feel – as a lowly couch newspaper reader – that it’s all inflated numbers and expensive construction projects that are  not serving the actual people yet. What I mean by saying this is the people of China are growing their state incredibly fast, they’re doing this on premise that they no nothing better can come from what they are accomplishing except they have a roof over their heads and a few meals a day.

The Chinese have not been taught how to properly consume yet. By consume I mean meat for every meal or going to watch a movie every Friday night. I have a hunch most Chinese don’t enjoy these little things, but when they do  the state of China best watch out. The revolution of unions and class warfare of our past will pale to what will happen in China.

A link to a great video made by an Australian news program highlights one aspect of China that I find incredibly interesting – the over supply of retail and residential space throughout China. China has been the hottest place on the planet to practice architecture, mostly because they are building so much there. The preparation for the consuming everyman of China began several decades ago, mostly on the investment of the extremely rich and powerful.  Whole cities are designed and built for the onslaught of people moving up the economic ladder. Only problem is, the people are not moving up the ladder to actually live in these huge cities.  To me, they designed and built urban decay. Unlike here where we saw a quick blossom of city centers lead to decay China has millions of square footage that has never blossomed. If something like this had happened in the US, those responsible would be the greatest idiots in history – but in China…. eh, no big deal.

Check out the video here at  China’s Ghost Cities

Detroit Population Falling. Surprise.

March 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

I subscribe to Detroit article alerts through the New York Times. It’s a good way to make certain I receive at least one email a day. These alerts usually follow with the headlines of some politician being under investigation or another school district failing to come close to their annual budget. I was forwarded (by the NY Times) their article last Tuesday where they reported census numbers for the city of Detroit. In Ms. Seelye article there feels an almost happy undertone to which they can again show that Detroit is still the ole trusty “failed city”. Even before finishing the article I was tired of this recent lack of insight and perspective and I went back to read some more of Jerry Herron’s work, a man actually living and believing in Detroit.

Sure, the NY Times over the years has a view of Detroit as a failure in process. A failure because it was the city that invented and defined the American middle class. A failure because it built the infrastructure for an explosion to the evil suburbia. Because instead of it promoting millions of autonomous economic bits the city nurtured condension into a few large complex systems of production lines and assembly plants.  It failed because it could not keep it’s best and brightest young people in the city. It failed because it didn’t follow the formula for city centers in the way every single major city does (at least east coast). It failed. It failed. It failed.

But……. isn’t the middle class kind of an important social invention? Is not Detroit extremely successful in raising up one of the most densely diverse and populated regions in the U.S? Didn’t it promote early efficiency in manufacturing? Shouldn’t we be grateful of the brain drain Detroit bought and developed? Wasn’t it the city where the African American families could make a good wage, buy a home and car, raise a family? Isn’t Detroit still in the heart of the single most productive and resource rich regions in North America?

The city of Detroit is still shrinking, we get it New York Times. But the Detroit metropolitan area is growing, and has been. I really am tired of the media’s creation “decay porn” industry that Detroit, Flint, Gary, etc. are the poster children for. And although I really like seeing the city in commercials and shows, I’m tired of being told by those same shows that Detroit is some cold wasteland of empty lots and rusted metal. It’s aggravating to watch that Chrysler commercial asit portrays  their all black tinted windowed urban tank speeding along in thumping silence as it blows along the familiar freeway signs and monuments of a freezing cold Detroit. Or the gritty cop show Detroit 187, showing a jagged camera bumping along Detroit’s potholed roads as its characters continually race after the young street kid or knock on the door of the rich baron’s home all the while bracing for the constant cold and gray. You would think this is hell unless a person had been there for a baseball game in August.

The sun shines in Detroit, and the city should be viewed as at the beginning of the next cycle rather than relic of what’s wrong with everything or a romantic decline of civilization. Don’t believe everything you read.

My good friend, a candidate in the urban planning department, has a terrific blog where he examines both Detroit and Wayne County in a much more indepth and insightful way.

Borders Buster

February 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

So, Borders Books has announced they are busted and broke. They owe publishers and creditors it seems – hey, it happens to the best of us all. Not needing to dig into the demise much I can find many reasons for the failing, namely that the book industry is over and that the web was the beginning of the long slow walk for the Gutenberg renaissance. The execution has been threatening and approaching for decades, these days the New York Times is always on the ropes, Big Box Bookstores are dwindling, and periodicals are finding their way onto Issuu much easier than onto a grocery store shelf.

Sure I’m sentimental towards the feel of the paper, the dusty and overstocked bookstore of the 90’s and 2000’s. I’m going to miss their mammoth hardback economies of scale and their prevalence in every single strip mall landscape. Just like many things, I still expect to go to a single banner store and find all my music, literature, caffeine, and movies in a quick linear experience. It was rather “green” in a way, packaging all my shopping and errands into a one stop trip. Anyone who’s everyone under a design or economics ritual will tout the need for greater density, greater diversity, greater autocracy (maybe not) and these stores, such as Border Books, did that. It was this formula that made our country great, and Borders a successful brand. But, alas, it was unstable. It relied on Harry Potter for too many years and then the Twilight kids. Now, there are reliable online sources and handy little Ereads that put the Borders model the way of the dodo.

I was interested in digesting this headline by visualizing  the spatial voids Borders is leaving as it abandons it’s 138 stores (don’t worry there are roughly 400 more still alive for now). Voids meaning the sheer square footage left by the bankruptcy action and the company going to liquidation. Because the disappearance of 138 stores there is now 3,510,0073 square feet of perfectly good climate controlled enclosures. That’s an average of 26,391 square feet per store.  Sure, it’s small change in the big picture but this is a single company in a long line of strip mall and stand alone buildings. What replaces the 3.5 million square feet? We used to all fear the big monolithic bookstores (You’ve Got Mail), now I fear for the huge holes it leaves in the fabric between work and home.

Maybe, for the right price, I’ll rent out one of the stores here in Austin and move myself and the beagle into a sweet 25,000 square foot bachelor pad.

Huffington Post Gone in 2011

Wall Street Journal Article

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