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A Day in Valencia, Spain

Valencia Spain

Of all the places we visited in Spain, Valencia bore the greatest similarity to an American city – albeit one with a distinct European accent. Its wide, often bustling, avenues lined with an array of modernly functional buildings could easily drop into someplace like San Diego and feel right at home. After nearly a month of continuously touring the Iberian Peninsula, we were understandably happy for this dose of familiarity, regardless how tenuous.

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Tarragona Amphitheater

 

Tarragona Amphitheatre

A 2nd century Roman amphitheater overlooking the Mediterranean in Tarragona, Spain.

What David Brooks Doesn’t Get About Us

Not at all what David thinks.

Not at all what David thinks.

I have to say I was a bit amused to read David Brooks’ most recent column from the comfortable couch of our two-bedroom apartment rental overlooking a harbor in Cornwall, England. You see, David is a bit confused about the emerging “peer-to-peer” economy. To his credit, he admits as much.

I’m one of those people who thought Airbnb would never work. I thought people would never rent out space in their homes to near strangers. But I was clearly wrong.”

He then tries to explain why his original prediction failed, only to demonstrate that he still doesn’t really get what’s going on.

On the one hand, he does seem to grasp the way in which new technologies are rendering rigid old structures flexible. On the other, he seems completely oblivious to the value such flexibility provides. It’s a theme that runs throughout the piece.

I’ll hazard a guess that his blind spot comes from a political philosophy that prefers to see people constricted in various ways. He may not realize it, but that isn’t what most people want. People really do value having options. That simple understanding would, I think, have made everything clear to him.

But for our purposes, let us start at the beginning.

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How Your Computer Manipulates You

Las Vegas, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Montgolfier Balloon

Be careful, it’s Vegas out there

The cavernous room is lit in a dim, yet pleasing way. There are no windows, no clocks, no reminders of the outside world. It could be noon or it could be midnight outside. In here, there’s always time for one more round.

In front of you, a machine flashes like a video game. You watch the simulated wheels turn quickly at first and then they slow, one by one. The first wheel lands on the letter “W.” The next stops at “I.” The last rolls excruciatingly forward, passing worthless letter after worthless letter until you see the one you’ve been waiting for.

The letter “N” appears at the top of the screen and begins to move its way down toward the jackpot position. You watch as it slides ever so slowly toward the thing you’ve been playing for all night: WIN. You see that word completed on the screen for just an instant before the N ticks once more, out of position and back to worthlessness. You almost won big. Or so you think. In reality, you’ve just been manipulated.

Many years ago I recall reading about the incredible amount of planning that goes into making slot machines as addictive as possible. Their lights and bells are meticulously calibrated to keep you in a perpetual state of agitated excitement. The payouts are statistically measured and timed to give you just enough reward so that you keep on playing. And every once in a while, just often enough according to the latest behavioral science, the machine will let you think you almost won the big jackpot. How can you stop playing now when you were oh so close to cashing in?

It’s all carefully choreographed to relieve you of as much of your money as possible. Now those same tricks and tactics are coming to a website near you.

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Tag You’re It

Playing Tag in Alhambra's Alhambra Palace of Charles V_

Playing tag in Alhambra’s Palace of Charles V

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