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Archive for December, 2013

10 years without McDonald’s

McDonalds

10 years ago, in late 2003, I travelled from Houston to Turkey to meet up with a friend who was studying there on school year abroad. The morning before I boarded the flight, I got some McDonald’s with a friend who was taking me to the airport. On my flight to Ankara, connecting in Munich, I became terribly sick that the Indian businessmen sitting next to me thought I was going to die. Luckily I recovered relatively quickly that it didn’t ruin my travels in Turkey, but I swore off McDonald’s since that day.

It’s been ten years since I started avoiding the world’s largest fast-food chain. It hasn’t been difficult, but it hasn’t been easy either. The closest food dispensary that is open all night near my apartment in Frankfurt is a McDonald’s (I’ve wished many times that it was something else). Every so often when I’m traveling, I get curious about how the local McDonald’s is different from the global standard, and when I’m tired of the local food, there is always a McDonald’s around.

Now that I’ve hit that nice round number that matches the number of fingers we have on our hands, I’ve been thinking about what to do. Do I go back to eating McDonald’s every so often when the cravings hit me? Do I keep boycotting what has become a cultural icon of global capitalism? Do I eat one meal and swear off of it for another ten years?

My dislike for McDonald’s is irrational, I’ve eaten plenty of food since then that has made me sick, and I’m sure McDonald’s is safer than many restaurant chains or local food, especially in developing countries. At the same time, there is something slightly new age hipster about avoiding a culturally dominant icon, and I’m not trying to be new age hipster.

So, now that I’ve hit such a crossroad in my life, any advice?

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“Can you help me out my friend?”

Tourist gift shop rackets are common place in developing countries, often with taxi drivers getting kickbacks for taking tourists to designated stores. They often exploit the gullibility of the tourist, using such phrases as “my friend’s store is having a sale” or “the store you want to go to burned down, I know a better place.”

India is no different. Drivers and touts on the street will try to drag you into different gift shops in hopes of getting commission for your presence. However, in few cases, I found auto rickshaw drivers trying to reach my sense of sympathy instead of gullibility. These drivers simply drove up to me (as I was walking) and asked if I could help them out by entering a near by store for them. I declined but it’s interesting to see that touts are adjusting to take advantage of different emotions that people may have.

Oh did I tell you that I am traveling in India currently? I’m here from 12/27 to 1/13, traveling and playing in the Ahmedabad Ultimate Open.

Hopefully this means more time to post.

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Lessons learned from DJing

Two weekends ago, I had the task of organizing a party for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament with about 70 people. Part of my task was to pick the music for the evening, which to my friends must be eyebrow-raising as my taste in music is eclectic (put nicely) and bizarre (put not so nicely). I was in no way a “real” DJ as my tools were my laptop and iTunes, and I pre-created a playlist (which I had to adjust throughout the night). Nevertheless, this was my first time selecting music for a large party where I didn’t know many of the people.

DJing is hard
The art of DJing, like design, underrated. Because everyone knows what good looks like, everyone thinks they can do it, especially DJing as DJs don’t necessarily create anything new but simply play music made by other people. However, creating a harmonious flow of music, while reading and adjusting to people’s preferences and considering the context, is difficult. I have new found respect for DJs now.

I am really out of touch with the music world
This is probably something the music industry knows all too well, but have you ever wondered why music is so heavily marketed towards young people? My theory is that when people are young, they are much more open to new music and adopting new preferences. However, once you get past your twenties, you aren’t as eager to look for new music. You’re content with what you’ve discovered already.

(Just for reference, I am 31)

A bulk of the music I selected were from the 90s as I found a good list online and, well, that’s what I know best. I also asked my teammates to send me some suggestions so I don’t entirely recreate my prom, but they didn’t send me so many. I didn’t realize how little I knew about recent music until people came up and asked if I had X, Y, and Z. At some point, we ended up playing music off of YouTube. Having a song you never heard of come on and everyone start cheering and singing along is an experience that makes you feel very very old. You really should not have someone over 30 DJing for people in their twenties (as most of the players were).

Here is an example of a song I had no idea about:

Modern Music is Weird

Enough said.

Germans really like electronica
When creating the playlist, I was wary of sequencing too many fast paced music as it might become “too much.” Wow was I wrong. Germans love their electronica and really fast paced dancing music. When I was going to school (more than a decade ago), a lot of the dancing music were slower tempo hip hop and rap. In creating the playlist, I really got the general pace of the music wrong for this audience.

Germans don’t like Latin music
In trying to be international, I had a decent amount of Latin dance music. Those did not resonate at all.

Finding the key is key
There are music that instantaneously hits the chord with almost everyone at the party, and finding those songs are essential to getting the party going. For this party, this was one of them:

Drunk people will dance to anything
Another way of saying parties have their own organic rhythm. At first when people arrive, they mostly order drinks and talk to each other. It takes few very courageous people to start the dance floor and even then, it takes time because there are those who are “too cool” to dance (or they just don’t like it) and hold back those who are shy and/or on the fence. At this point, the music can’t make too much difference as the party dynamic is stronger.

Over time, as more drinks flow, more and more people become “less shy” and join in on the dance floor. At the same time, the “too cool to dance” people start leaving and tip the balance towards the dancers. This is where the selection of the music is critical as good music will keep people on the floor longer.

Near the end of the night, most people are drunk, and the ones remaining are mostly hardcore dancers so again the music starts to matter less. Drunk people will dance to anything.

 

Overall party was a success despite some music gaffes and even bigger technical problems with the sound system (took 30-45 minutes to diagnose). The theme was fun, games were well planned, but most importantly, when you get that many Ultimate Frisbee players in a bar, there is no way they won’t have fun.

For me it was a really interesting experience being the (sort of) DJ and getting an empathy for the science behind the art of selecting the right music. I don’t think this is something I will be doing on a regular basis though, I’ll leave that to the younger kids.

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