Category Archives: Blog

Confidence and Consumerism

Is there a relationship between confidence and consumerism?

While watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, I first heard part of Jimmy Carter’s speech from July 15, 1979. This speech later came to be known as the Crisis of Confidence Speech. The documentary itself was not particularly well made. Even though most of the people in it discussed valuable ideas, the filmmakers made questionable creative choices. The inclusion of several Black Friday shopping madness videos, countless commercials segments, and footage of the rich and famous, only cluttered the viewer’s mind instead of driving the point home. The filmmakers missed the opportunity of making a minimalist documentary, with very little distractions and room for contemplation. Instead, they followed a standard format and piled one thing on top of the other. Pity. But I digress.

I’ve been struggling with the concept of minimalism since becoming a father and hoping to raise my little one less dependent on things than I am. In the past few years, I have done some considerable decluttering but I haven’t been able to stop the steady stream of things coming in. I have a few theories on why that is but I’ll save that for another time.

What caught my attention while reading the speech, was that the concept of over-consumerism was already part of America’s collective consciousness back in 1979. This came as a surprise to me, seeing how things ended up playing out in the average American household over the past thirty years.

A lot of Americans ended up disliking Carter and hailing Reagan as the second coming. I don’t have enough information to form an intelligent opinion on this. The aim of this article is simply to highlight some of the things I like about the speech.

Here we go:

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.

Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.

But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.

We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions.

This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose.

One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values.

Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources — America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.

In this speech, President Carter equates the lack of confidence in the future with self-indulgence and consumption.

I don’t know whether this was intentional or not but from a sociological standpoint, it warrants further examination.

Do we consume more when we have less confidence in the future?

Or to put it simpler, do we buy more when we are scared?

There a lot of conclusions that can be drawn from this but for now, I will leave my readers with this question:

If we buy more when we are scared, does a seller have a vested interest in keeping a buyer afraid of the future?

Rumsfeld’s Known Unknowns

Rumsfeld’s Known Unknowns is a concept made popular by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

It is part of a broader theory about the influence knowledge has on strategic thinking.

It first came to the public’s attention when Donald Rumsfeld used it during a Department of Defense news briefing on February 12, 2002, to answer a reporter’s question about the administration’s failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Here is the answer how it was given by Donald Rumsfeld himself:

There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Years later, in Errol Morris’ documentary The Unknown Known, and on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Rumsfeld went on to explain that the third category, the unknown unknowns…

…are the ones that get you.

For the sake of simplicity, I am renaming what Wikipedia calls “There are known knowns” into Rumsfeld’s Known Unknowns Theory.

The aim of this article is to expand the theory and to present a different conclusion.

Let’s first revisit the elements of Rumsfeld’s Known Unknowns theory.

The elements are as follows:

Known Knowns

Known knowns are things we know that we know.

A person familiar with basic arithmetic knows that 2 + 2 equals 4.

The second element is:

Known Unknowns

Known unknowns are things we know that we do not know.

When asked for the square root of infinity, a person can reasonably assume this is something they don’t know.

The third element is:

Unknown Unknowns

Unknown unknowns are things we don’t know that we don’t know.

This third category is where things get tricky.

Unknown unknowns can only be categorized as such for as long as the person is unaware what it is he or she is supposed to know but does not know. The moment the what is revealed to the person, it would inevitably fall under one of the two categories above.

This category is better described simply as Unknowns.

Unknowns are relevant only if they impact the outcome of a decision adversely. Taking our first example, if someone hands you a piece of paper with 2 + 2 written on it and asks you for the answer you would answer 4. But what if they tell you your answer is incorrect and that they forgot to hand you the rest of the piece of paper which completes the operation to read 2 + 2 x 3 = ?

You did not know x 3 was part of the problem. You gave the wrong answer only because you were asked the wrong question.

But what if you were asked the right question and still gave the wrong answer? More on that later.

Strictly from a logic stand point, this category does not reflect adversely on the person giving the answer.

This is where I find it necessary to expand the theory unto a fourth and most critical category.

The fourth new category is:

Unknown Knowns

Unknown knowns are those things we think we know but we actually don’t know.

This is the most dangerous category!

The information is still unknown but the person thinks he or she knows it.

This one is a bit harder to handle because the responsibility for an erroneous outcome falls on the person who made the decision.

When you are certain 2 + 2 is 5 and base your calculations on that you will get an erroneous outcome.

Conclusion

In strategic thinking:

Known Knowns yield correct outcomes.

Known Unknowns should not yield any outcome.

Unknown Unknowns cannot yield any outcome.

Unknown Knowns always yield incorrect outcome.

How To Play avi Video Files On Any Roku Player FREE!

Can my Roku player play .avi video files?

The answer is no… but there is a very easy and free workaround!

Unfortunately, Google is not of very much help on this one. The first result is an overpriced video converter. Don’t fall for it!

Do I need to convert my video files from .avi to mp4?

Yes and no. All you have to do is change the container (mux) the file from .avi to mp4! This takes only a few seconds and you don’t have to go through the lengthy conversion process that can take up to an hour for a feature length movie.

Enough already, how do I get this done!

Download and install MP4Box

Here’s the link: https://gpac.wp.mines-telecom.fr/mp4box/

If the link is broken just search Google for it.

Then download and install My MP4Box GUI

Here is the link: http://www.videohelp.com/software/My-MP4Box-GUI

If the link is broken just search Google for it.

Once your system is ready to get the job done:

Open My MP4Box GUI

play avi roku player free all any convert mp4 mux container

The default tab is Mux, stay on it.

Click Add.

play avi roku player free all any convert mp4 mux container

Select the .avi video file (movie, TV show, or what have you).

Once the video is loaded click the Mux button.

play avi roku player free all any convert mp4 mux container

The status bar at the bottom which used to read Ready will do its thing and voila!

You will find a mp4 version of your avi file in the same directory!

Load the mp4 into a USB flash drive and head over to your Roku.

NOTE: Make sure your Roku has the free Roku media player channel on it.

Roku Medial Player Channel play avi roku player free all any convert mp4 mux container

This one: https://channelstore.roku.com/details/2213/roku-media-player

And there you have it. My very specific Christmas gift to my readers who happen to own a Roku player.

In case you don’t own one, or want to upgrade to a better one, you can use the Amazon link below to support my website. Cheers!

Click here to visit Amazon and support this website. Thank you!

In Appreciation of Simplicity

“You have to be confident to dare to be simple” was the first line that got my attention in this very well-thought-out video from The School of Life.

The first example they use to support the claim is the pressure one may feel in a fancy restaurant to order something out of the ordinary or well… fancy. It has happened to me and probably to most of you out there. All you want is a greasy burger but the occasion calls for something “sophisticated”.

Why is that we may ask?

Being simple can make you vulnerable.

This is true for most of the choices we make, from our wardrobe to our favorite movies and books. We often choose what is popular or acceptable or “sophisticated” in favor of what we genuinely like.

But simplicity is really an achievement.

It certainly is. Simplicity stems in part from a state of “not having to impress others“.

This is especially important when a creative individual creates something not to impress but rather to facilitate evolution or further creation.

It follows from a hard-won clarity about what matters.

The art lies in concealing the art.

Dieter Rams, the subject of the video, chose to design products that improved people’s lives rather then design spectacular things to promote his own glory.

Such modesty stems from a lack on anxiety about being ignored.

We have almost a primordiale instinct to distinguish ourselves from others. In the animal kingdom, when it comes to procreation, standing out is often equated with survival. This isn’t always true in the world of design and function.

We complicate things because we want them to appear “interesting” and…

We don’t readily tell other people that we are a bit stupid.

We often conceal our confusion even to ourselves by complicating what is not complicated. The answer however lies in understanding our own confusion and designing things so they are simple and intuitive.

All the intensity, focus, high standards and the pursuit of integrity that is found in art can be brought into the realm of everyday design. And this is where it stands more of a chance of effecting people.

Here is the video:

Milwaukee’s Race for City Hall

Amidst one of the most divisive presidential primaries in recent history, the city of Milwaukee turns its eyes toward the exercise of democracy at the local level. This year’s mayoral election is gearing up to be as polarizing as what we have seen in the national landscape.

Today’s debate was hosted by the good people of the Public Policy Forum. The incumbent, Mayor Tom Barrett, faced the challenger, Alderman Bob Donovan, a 16-year veteran of the city’s Common Council. Opening remarks were done away with and the first question came before the small contingent of electors had fully settled. “What will your top three priorities be in your first one hundred days?

Mayor Barrett spoke about jobs, new developments and took the opportunity to bash the City of Chicago “for having to borrow $220 million to make its pension payments”. In contrast “his city” did not, thanks to “the strong fiscal stewardships we’ve had for the last 12 years”. As if Rahm Emanuel wasn’t having a hard enough time as it is, his counterpart in Milwaukee has chosen to throw him under the bus while seeking reelection.

Continue reading Milwaukee’s Race for City Hall

What I am Watching This Evening… YouTube.

YouTube can be a great educational tool. Here’s what I’ve stumbled upon this evening.

Nerdwriter1 talks about internet art and how machines perceive differently than we do.

Vox teaches us how the Oscar’s voting process ends up awarding bland movies. Incidentally, they use the film The King’s Speech as an example. A film I found to be extremely dull and devoid of any creative joy. It was one sterile set-up after another. It was not a bad movie, it was the perfect bland movie, carefully tailored to follow all the rules and not offend anyone (especially from a visual stand point). Watching it probably felt like reading one of those books written by a machine in George Orwell’s 1984. I stopped considering the Oscars a good gauge for quality a long time ago, the Vox video made sense.

Continue reading What I am Watching This Evening… YouTube.

Quotes From Zen in the Art of Archery

Selected quotes from Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.

The story goes something like this: Eugen Herrigel, a German teaching and living in Japan, set out to understand the meaning of Zen. Realizing it cannot be studied but only experienced, he decided to learn about it through the practice of one of the arts “touched” by Zen, Kyudo (Japanese archery). Out of his experiences came the book Zen in the Art of Archery.

This was one of the first book I read on the subject. Given the choices made by Herrigel later in life, it is unclear what he took away from these experiences.

As I understand it, talking about Zen has a tendency to confuse things. What makes this a worthwhile read is not the author’s interpretation of what Zen actually is (or is not) but rather the fact that it is one of the earliest books to expose the Western public to Zen. It spawned a century of speculation and countless books on the subject.

Continue reading Quotes From Zen in the Art of Archery

Nietzsche’s Super-Human Explained

After reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra years ago,  I felt that Nietzsche had been greatly misunderstood by some . In a few cases, the concept of the Übermensch or Super-human (Overhuman, Superman etc.) has been misappropriated to justify wickedness.

Recently I stumbled upon a video that provides a very simple interpretation of this idea.

Continue reading Nietzsche’s Super-Human Explained

Amazon Storywriter: Free Cloud-based Screenplay Writing “Software”

I took my first steps in the world of screenwriting back in 2001 using Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000. Later I switched to Final Draft and remained a happy camper until 2013…

Enter the amazing Google Chromebook!

It didn’t take me long after getting my Chromebook from Amazon for around $300 to fall in love with it.  In many ways, it felt like it represented the future of computing. A world where everything is in the clouds and hardware is only used to interpret information.

Continue reading Amazon Storywriter: Free Cloud-based Screenplay Writing “Software”

The Zen ‘everyday mind’

The Zen ‘everyday mind’ described as ‘sleeping when tired, eating when hungry’, or, in other words, knowing what one’s real needs are. Like a bamboo leaf, it bends lower and lower under the weight of the snow. Suddenly the snow slips to the ground without the leaf having stirred. The distinction between action and result disappears. The hands and feet are the brushes and the whole universe is the canvas on which the Zen mind depicts his life. The constant present moment.

(Extrapolated and rearranged from the works of Eugen Herrigel, Michael J. Gelb and Ryōkan Taigu.)

Purchase the book Zen in the Art of Archery by clicking here.

Purchase the book Body Learning by clicking here.