A Wanderer’s Wish List, for a spontaneous evening

1. pants. you can go anywhere in pants. you’re ready to go.

2. bobby pins. you never know.

3. a place to rest your mind. at a friend’s. at a ‘friends’ ‘s. outdoors. wherever.

4. sustenance. food, water. in small to moderate amounts.

5. enjoyment. fun sights, fun company.

[adventure ensues.]

*clink*

-s

p. watch out for pEn & paPer    …    . ..   ….      .   ..           .

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Be Douchebag-Free: 5 Tips to Awesome

Barney Stinson legendary

How does NPH embody and mock douchebaggery at the same time? Oh yea, that’s right, he’s got the pride. Legendary, indeed.

Gents, here they are: easy tips to be awesomer in the eyes of a woman, without pandering to rom-com crap-ola. The difference between “Whoa, he’s legit/sexy/enticing” and “Ew, please get away from me” often comes down to some pretty simple distinctions. Why am I writing these? Because I love you guys, straight* up. I think men are awesome, and I’m waysupertired of y’all handing women reasons to hate on you. So please, don’t provide more incriminating material. Follow these rules and steer clear of the Douchebag Tag of Doom. Just stick with being legendary.

1. If all else fails, try the next group- not the next friend. If the play you made on that hot girl in the bar didn’t work out, move to the next group (or two) over, not the next friend in that circle. I mean, c’mon, that should never work. (Ladies, I’m looking at you on this one, too.) There’s an added benefit as well: if she’s actually interested and is just playing hard to get, and then looks over her shoulder to see you talking to someone else- she’ll come to you. Less work and more play makes you a smart dude.

2. Ask follow up questions. You don’t have to ‘just listen.’ You should pay attention, but let’s be real: there’s no way anyone can remember every word of a conversation, especially if you’re just nodding your head. You don’t have to sit passively through the dreaded, the deadly… the Nervous Rambling Story. Pick something she said that was interesting to you, and lead the conversation that way. The best dates I’ve been on are with men who ask show-stopping questions. (Thank you, inspirers!) So what will stop her in her tracks? A playful challenge to her assumptions. Example: “No way. Crunchy peanut butter is waaay better than smooth,” or “You think the current electoral college system is an effective model for representative democracy?” Either of those could be followed with, “How can you even say that?” Then she has to step up her game to keep up with you, and clever mischief is a guaranteed winner. Of course, you’ll want to adapt your question for your audience and surroundings. (Btw, this ‘witty banter and intrigue’ is the secret behind every Jane Austen novel. In case you were wondering what the fuss is about.)

3. Nerd out. Hold your horsepower; there are qualifiers. Please do talk about what gets you going, without launching into detailed chronicles of Star Wars, Entourage, or sporting event play-by-plays. If you can convey your enthusiasm for a topic with broader strokes, you’ll be seen as a passionate guy. Welcome to Sexytown, population: You. And hey, you never know, maybe she’s into comic books. Hint: employ tactic #2 to gage her interest level. One-word answers = on to the next.

the quest for the holy grail

Even goofballs have standards.

4. Regulate your territory. You’re supposed to take pride in your domain, right? Then own your space. This principle applies anywhere and everywhere you bring your delicious selves. At parties, in clubs, on the street, you are in the unique position to establish a chill, secure zone (a.k.a. ‘awesomeness’) in a perimeter of your determination. Take note that the word ‘standard’ applies not just to a code of conduct, but to a flag used by knights to declare their loyalty. Conclusion: stay true to your values and you’ll be a confident, grounded badass. Moths to a flame, baby. Moths to a flame.

Karen's news report mean girls

“There’s a 30% chance that it’s already raining.”

Which brings me to the last and most important one:

5. Don’t communicate any expectation of sex. Ever. Please do keep those compliments and classy moves coming, ’cause they’re all bueno. But no bueno on any logic in the vicinity of “Whoa, she’s really into my game. Sweet! I’m getting laid.” Sorry, dude. The truth is, there is never a 100% chance of you getting any unless it’s already happening. Think blondebestfriendfromMeanGirls. Until the magical moment when its raining and she’s squeezing her boobs, the forecast is premature. When you express those early expectations, you effectively hit the switch on the motherboard to ‘off.’ I call this Complete, Irreversible Shutdown. If you’re lucky, this means she walks away. Or she slaps you. If you aren’t, it means she might go through with something she’s not actually interested in or fully consenting to. Yup, scary shit. For both parties.

You just gotta accept that you can be cock-blocked at any time. At. Any. Time. And it’s not negotiable, verbally or otherwise. Sadly, blue balls are your cross to bear for having a lovely external playtoy that brings you (and others) endless entertainment. Those blues, too, shall pass, and you can take comfort in the unique opportunity to thank god you’re not James Bond. (Casino Royale. You know.)
So, let’s return to my first question: why am I writing this? Because I’m done. I’m done with the relentless media messaging that divides men and women into two camps, that polarizes behavior into now-accepted extremes (douchebag/pussy, slut/bitch) and pits us against each other rather than acknowledging the mutual benefit we can bring to life. I’m tired of witnessing the deep, debilitating fear so many women have of men, as well as the behavior that reinforces those fears.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I know so many fantastic men-courageous, attentive, brilliant men-and I believe it is imperative that we recognize these men for their magic. Because of this belief, I’m constantly surprised by the idea that in order to stand strong, women must conquer and deny the value of men. I’m writing this to ask the awesome men out there to lead the way for the ones who have more to learn. Help them step up to a higher standard by continuing to demonstrate one. Help the women who value you to be right in their conviction, and help the women who are afraid come out from under the shadow.

Ladies, we have to keep our standards high, too. No more less-thans. Agreed?

*To my loves in the queer community: yea, this is super heterosexual. Help me out by adding your authentic thoughts and adaptations in the comments for a more well-rounded story.

How to Ping + Pong

This guy’s got some balls.

Unless you’re this guy, playing ping-pong is about fun rallies. And it seems pretty straightforward, right? Tap the ball over the net, then tap it back. I was recently reminded, however, that tending to lively balls with a firm surface can result in some volatile interactions. (*Snickers*) Inappropriate jokes aside, ping-pong is a great analogy for personal communication. I’ve come to understand that, in both table tennis and conversations, my enthusiasm to play can interfere with my ability to serve hittable shots. Split-second triggers sometimes override neutral analysis, and it’s wall, net, awkward table edge, aiiirbaaalll. I’m so ready to make every hit count, that I forget to see the longer picture, that the person on the other side needs to return the ball for the game to be fun. The exchange is more important than any of my individual shots.

So what’s the secret to a good rally? How do you illicit a sweet pong using a well-played ping? Well, based on my own shortcomings, here’s what I’ve got so far:

An equal and opposite reaction

And this guy needs some brains.

1.    Use appropriate force.

Remember that guy Newton, and how he’s kind of a big deal? For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes it takes lobbing a soft one to gather useful information about your opponent’s ability to respond. If you just smack the shit out of it in an attempt todisplay Ultimate Superiority in Trivial Matters, the situation will rapidly deteriorate into a whole lot of foolishness. This often includes grasping incompetently at random, flying balls. No bueno, indeed.
Always bring a towel, and the answer is 42

2.    Prioritize a thoughtful mindset over a frantic one.

Panic is not your friend. It results in excessive activity and a lack of control, which means you’re already behind for the shot coming right back atcha. Panic escalates. Outward spiraling of defensive tactics ensues. Balls in and around everywhere. Yikes.

3.    Have an eye for angles.

This involves vectors. And points of contact. And forward motion. And backspin. And friction. There are a lot of factors in the interaction, but there’s a lot to be said for a split-second sense of the situation. Just paying attention to where the ball is coming from and how that affects where it’s going can go a long way.

What a douchbag

The epitome of Crushed-Little-Balls Syndrome. Please, don’t contribute to the cause.

4.    Be prepared for random, crazy shit.

Those little white balls get around. (Alright, so I’m not setting the dirty jokes aside.) You can’t always tell by looking at them what kind of dents they may have sustained or repairs they’ve undergone, and when that past will intervene for a wild, unanticipated trajectory. This is why the first three steps are the most important. You can’t anticipate everything. Ultimately, it’s about instinct. The more calm and steady your starting point, the easier it is to rely on your instincts and trust the process of on-going practice and self-correction. (And just say no to douchebaggery.)

So now what? Get to the table. Learn from your own downfalls. And let me know how it goes in that lovely comment box below– especially with all the stuff I’m sure I missed 😉

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Photocredits (in descending order): Daily SpeculationsYour Extra BaconTragically Un-Hipwww.tuckermax.com

[Reposted from http://krisrael.com/author/smurk/]

Turkey’s Got Game

It’s official: Turkey has a seat at the cool kids’ table.

Yesterday’s Google search of Turkish foreign policy brought up an entire page of relevant, current news articles before it started getting weird, off-topic, or out-of-date. A whole entire page! This is madness, madness, I tell you, compared to the paltry and poultry crap that used to come up in 2008, or even last month.

Until very recently, the modern Republic of Turkey received so little media coverage in the U.S. that the two most common responses to my mentions of Turkey are still 1) (singing) “Istanbul’s not Constantinople…” and 2) “Hehe, gobble gobble.” (One-sided hilarity ensues.)

But I’m tellin’ you, the U.S. government and the American public should absolutely care about Turkey beyond Thanksgiving.

Why? Because it’s the only country in and around the Middle East that has an overwhelming Muslim majority and a functioning democratic government. Because their democracy has survived four military coups in the past 50 years (1960, 1971, 1980, and the 1997 coup by memorandum). Funnily enough, those coups overturning democratically elected governments were implemented by self-proclaimed ‘defenders of democracy.’

So besides hosting over 10,000 years of human civilization and one of the most powerful empires in world history, Turkey is also, you know, down with the cool kids. At least as much as ‘being cool’ in contemporary geopolitics is hypocritically representing democratic principles, which would make the U.S. the high school quarterback that thinks his two years on varsity are The. Most. Epic. Ever.

Turkey is really at the cool kids’ table, though, because I couldn’t find any thinly veiled insults in yesterday’s articles.

Take, for instance, this lovely gem from a piece written in February 2012:

“Turkey’s laudable objective of serving as an honest broker in some of the Middle East’s most intractable conflicts inevitably collides with the reality of having to deal with internal challenges.”

Say what? It’s a little hard to hear you through all that cultural condescension. Ohhh, I get it. Despite it’s “laudable” intentions, the Turkish government isn’t qualified to manage complex foreign conflicts, because they have “internal challenges.”

If domestic challenges count as a legitimate reason to be excused from international deal brokering, I’d like to see a joint resolution politely explaining that the U.S. can no longer participate in international affairs. See, we’ve got these serious domestic issues we’ve just got to take care of first. No worries, though, Earth– we passed S.J. RES 403, conventionally known as Mama’s Sick Note In Favor of Isolationism.

And from the same article, written by one of the few American sources of timely, nuanced policy analysis on Turkey and the U.S.:

“[A]mong Washington policy circles [Foreign Minister Davutoğlu ‘s] visit served to reinforce a quietly circulating critique that Turkey’s leadership has crossed the line of self-confidence in bilateral and international relations.”

The link within the quote does provide a more nuanced picture of the diplomatic dynamics between Ankara and Washington, but… do we really have the gall to call another country “overly self-confident” in the same sentence as vague American gossip is considered legitimate commentary on international diplomacy? Give me a break.

But here’s what’s missing: the U.S. and Europe have a hard time understanding Turkish politics because their history doesn’t match our founding values. Our founding political beliefs say secularism is liberating, religion is limiting, and military intervention is the antithesis of democratic government. Remember how Turkish ‘defenders of democracy’ have overthrown democratically elected governments four times since 1960? Those ousters were staunchly secular military institutions, and their interventions have been a celebrated symbol of Western modernity, progress, and democracy in Turkey.

So… are Turkey’s founding values secular and progressive, or religious and repressive?

Let me know when you figure it out. I’m still working on it.

But here’s what I have so far: Perhaps being secular is not necessarily progressive, and being religious is not necessarily repressive, even in politics. Perhaps this concept should apply beyond the United States’ (and the European Union’s) borders.

And perhaps “the reality” is that “Washington policy circles” are all up in arms about Turkish self-confidence for more superficial reasons: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu snagged the Wicked One-Liner Award during his most recent visit.

At a lecture covering the Arab Spring and the ongoing conflict in Syria, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu said, “We wanted [al-Assad] to be the Gorbachev of Syria, but he chose to be Milosevic.”

Damn, dude: well-played. That’s some sharp, succinct, globally-minded analysis.

I can just hear the tizzied policy wonks in Washington: “Let’s get him on our side. I’m sure he’ll be so excited just to be involved— wait, he has an independent strategy? And he wants us to seriously negotiate with them and acknowledge that they have a seat at the table? Well then, harrumph! Harrumph, I say, to those upstart nouveau-democrats! Wait, Turkey’s bold foreign policy plays are being recognized and listened to by the international community? Oh… oh, I see.”

I’m glad you’ve backed off on the ego trip, Washington. You seem to be out of your zone.

**NOTE: This article is intended to be humorous and for entertainment purposes. Photo courtesy of The Washington Note, as found on ze Internets (a.k.a. Google images) under “davutoglu clinton.”

Discussion: “Occupy X” Movement

This was originally a Facebook note addressed to approximately 30 friends and posted October 8, 2011, three weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street. To view their comments, please visit the link above.

What do you think about the Occupy movements? I’ve got a lot more mixed feelings than a single post can iterate, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m curious to hear your support/criticism/undecided misgivings.

What I’ve been pondering over: Community organizers (and members) work incredibly hard to fight systemic inequalities every day through painstaking mediation, long-term education programs, and legislative lobbying. These undertakings are far more nuanced, and I think challenging, than protesting in the street. Protest, however, has played a crucial role in our country’s political history. Can a movement affect lasting change without unified goals or a decision-making body? Is the act of speaking up more important than having a clear strategy for implementing policy?

If you’ve been tagged in this post, it’s because I value your political opinions and have appreciated your thoughtful input in the past. Comment as you wish, and let’s see if this experiment works.

Graduation Speech 2010

I gave this speech on June 13, 2010, for the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Humanities and Fine Arts graduation ceremony. The grandstand area and lawn accommodated approximately 900 graduates and 5,000 attendees. David Marshall, the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts and Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science, introduced me after the keynote speaker’s address.

Note: Floatopia was a short-running, daytime event in Isla Vista on par with Halloween. Isla Vista is a small town with an overwhelming majority of student residents; it sits on scenic coastal bluffs just north of UCSB’s campus.

 

Thank you, Dean Marshall.

Last year during Floatopia, I was bright orange. By accident, I had dyed my skin that morning at a Hindu festival and that afternoon, walking through Isla Vista was more surreal than usual. Looks of bikini-clad distress greeted me from every direction.

(stylized voices) “Oh. My. Gosh.” “Are you ok?” “Do you need an ambulance?” Everyone thought I had a violent sunburn, and everyone stopped their debauchery to help me.

Regardless of your thoughts on the Isla Vista life style, it is a spectacular place to spend your college years. Extraordinary acts of community happen there and strangers look out for each other amidst all the chaos.

That got me thinking: what does community mean to us on our journeys after college? Congratulations fellow graduates! (breathe) To honor the parents, grandparents, friends, and professors who’ve supported us along the way, we should propel their generosity and love forward — and add a little Gaucho spirit to keep things interesting.

Right now, life after graduation might feel like an (effect) abyss. You might worry about floundering alone or that one wrong step will doom your future. But look around you: you are not alone. And today? Today is a no more a defining moment than yesterday or tomorrow. I know I’ve been most successful when I belong to others, and I have grown more when I act as a community member instead of an individualist.

We all have diverse communities in our lives, and our experiences with them affect our state of mind. These groups are beds of conflict, as anyone with family members can understand. Instead of bickering or blaming, I ask you to think about conflict in a new way. Conflict and contradiction are powerful because they can fuel creativity and growth. (Repeat.) In fact, I think daily personal conflicts are the best opportunities for self-discovery.

Belonging to a community is really hard work. We don’t get to choose the people we work with, but we rely on each other to accomplish our goals. My biggest challenge in college has been slowing down, (inhale) listening (exhale) and practicing patience when I’m frustrated with other people. In the end, though, striving to see other perspectives shaped me into a better person.

After one of many Isla Vista nights, I walked home in the silver glow of early morning. Amidst lonely seagulls’ cries and rolling red cups, I sat on the sidewalk and thought to three years before. I remembered dreaming of what I wanted to be: confident, focused, open-minded. My friends’ easy vitality felt just out of reach, and so I pursued perfection relentlessly.

A crashing wave brought me back to the morning and something fell into place. I’d become what I’d dreamed of — but imperfect, fragile, and with so much more to learn. More importantly, I knew it would be ok. I didn’t know what ‘it’ was or what it would be, but I still believe in my ability to fight for it. The strength I found in that quiet moment came from the incredible people I’ve been blessed to meet and the community spaces that tested my potential. To those who’ve guided me, who’ve challenged me, who’ve dismissed my mistakes and nurtured my triumphs, I offer my achievements in thanks. They belonged to you already. By letting me into your lives, I’ve learned about intimacy, growth, and resilience, skills more valuable to me than any first post-graduate job. You’ve taught me to be comfortable with who I am, to embrace my strengths and my weaknesses, and to open up to those who disagree with me. You’ve shown me how to let go of fear and anger and self-serving defenses in favor of connection and joy. You can reach the top as an isolated entity, but the journey and its outcome are more rewarding with friends.

Graduating class of 2010: put your whole self into this moment and all the opportune ones to come. Find your peaceful strength, your inspiration, and reach out to those around you, and you will thrive.

Thank you.

Impact Assessment Report

As a contract employee for Beartooth Capital Partners LLP, a socially responsible investment fund manager, I researched emerging methods for measuring and comparing the social impact of financial investments. While supporting multiple executive projects, I designed a detailed, comprehensive system analyzing the company’s environmental and social practices. The following excerpted document explains the final assessment product to company principals and employees.

Impact Assessment Product Report

Goal: Capture the company’s social and environmental impact in a way that:

  • Advances the language of impact reporting in investing and conservation sectors
  • Communicates the significance of our conservation work in non-expert language
  • Builds on data collection techniques already in practice
  • Minimizes assessment overhead
  • Spotlights potential areas of improvement, and
  • Provides concrete data to showcase to investors and partners.

In the past few years, impact assessment and reporting have garnered significant attention from leading investment institutions. Environmental advocates, business alliances, and research institutions have contributed to a growing corpus of impact reporting systems based on a variety of ideologies and priorities. After communicating with representatives from IRIS, B Lab, and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), I’ve developed conservation metrics to improve both Beartooth’s operations and national impact assessment systems. The following product builds on key concepts of prominent reporting methods while specifically addressing the company’s unique approach to conservation.


Product documentation
:

  • The Kitchen Sink: comprehensive list of four large categories of metrics, with each category including quantitative and qualitative metrics.
  • Prioritized Metrics: collection of highest-priority metrics, which also appear bolded in ‘The Kitchen Sink.’
  • Supplemental Lists: set of lists that correspond to specific individual metrics, i.e. related species, partner organizations, etc.
  • Report: includes detailed explanation of structure, anticipated implementation challenges, and up-to-date contact information for assessment partners.

Product structure: The current structure aims for simplicity, alignment with Beartooth’s conservation process, and application to sector trends.

Note: The division of Beartooth business operations into multiple legal entities complicates impact evaluation. Each metric can be to applied to individual ranch properties (P); the management company (LLP); and/or a specific Fund (F), as indicated in the last three columns of the attached ‘Kitchen Sink’ spreadsheet.

Each large category of metrics is designed to answer one large-scale question:

  • Ecosystem Restoration: Are we fulfilling our environmental mission by successfully restoring valuable natural resources?
  • Community Services: Are we fulfilling our social mission by contributing to and building upon community resources?
  • Corporate Operations: Do internal business practices reflect our social and environmental mission?
  • Agricultural Production: Are we mitigating the potential negative impacts of agriculture in our conservation efforts?

The distinction between Ecosystem Restoration and Community Services reflects a blend of Beartooth’s bifurcated impact goals as well as current trends in assessing impact investing. World Resources Institute (WRI) divides conservation metrics into “provisioning, regulating, and cultural” types[1]. Within this assessment system designed for Beartooth, Ecosystem Restoration and Community Services categories represent WRI’s ‘provisioning’ and ‘cultural’ metrics, respectively. ‘Regulating’ services (i.e. air quality, climate control, disease prevention, and floodplains regulation) are very important to consider yet incredibly difficult to quantitatively measure, especially considering the current scale of Beartooth’s work. As such, these types of indicators have been incorporated into qualitative checklists to keep these critical considerations in mind as Beartooth plans its future conservation efforts.

Corporate Operations line items turn the spotlight on Beartooth as an organization. This section is informed by the ideas presented by B Lab, and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), and the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for the Sustainable use of Biodiversity. The metrics in this category attempt to analyze the quality of the workplace environment. Business culture, office ambience, employee mental health and overall job satisfaction cannot be fully captured with quantitative data, so most of these metrics are written as qualitative checklists. Of course, these checklists are no replacement for the ongoing open, professional communication amongst the Beartooth team and leadership.

Agricultural Production is the anomaly in the company’s conservation model. Because of its extractive relationship with conserved land and the traditionally conflicting goals between producing consumer goods and preserving ecosystem services, metrics relating to agriculture are best organized in an independent category. IRIS, B Lab, and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) do not have agricultural metrics and Beartooth’s current agricultural work is still a small part of overall operations. As such, the metrics in this section are more abstract and will require further specification and adaptation as the company’s agricultural work grows.

Conclusion and Invitation: This assessment system and its categories-–Ecosystem Restoration, Community Services, Corporate Operations, and Agricultural Production-–cover all aspects of our current conservation and community work. The metrics within them were developed with the generous help of conservation and impact investing experts. To maintain its collaborative beginnings, I invite all employees and partners to edit, adapt, and reinvent this product as Beartooth changes over time. If thoughtfully implemented and regularly updated, it will be an invaluable tool as the company continues to grow and lead the conservation investment industry.