Kategoriarkiv: Quote

Flip a coin or quit smoking

Recap: I’m done with grad school (yay!). I’m freelancing in NYC. I plan to move home to Oslo in December. Then I hear about this great job opportunity. In another US city. Where I know no one. There’s a dilemma here. I’ll try to write myself out of it using this old Radiolab episode called Help! that I just listened to. The first 20 minutes are about our willpower and the battle: You vs. You. Two different stories are told.

This story is about two brothers who are recent graduates and don’t really know what they want to do with their lives (yup, sounds familiar). Then their father tells them that one of them needs to take over the family business – a massage studio in Chinatown (not that familiar). The brothers really don’t want to take over, but decide to flip a coin over it. Or actually they do some tea leaf reading, but the result is the same. One brother wins, the other starts working for his dad. He’s miserable. He doesn’t particularly like touching feet. He tells a customer:

I flipped a coin, and now my life is over

After having worked there for a month, however, something changes. He starts to enjoy it. He longs for his work when he has a day off. He loves working with people every day. He simply loves his job!

The brother who won the tea leaf battle says that if he had lost, he would never actually take over as a masseuse. He just thought his brother needed a little push, and agreed to read tea leaves to help give his brother the sign he needed. How the tea leaves could help point in the right direction is beyond me. Either way, one brother found his calling, and the family business will live on.

Now the other story is about quitting smoking, and how to trick your brain into doing something that you don’t really want to do. Even though you know that quitting will be good for your health and those around you in the long run, the pleasure of having a cigarette right now just wins.

Things that are offered right now are so much more powerful than what’s offered later. It’s a battle about NOW and LATER, a battle about time.

The woman in this story finally quit smoking after telling her friend that she had to help her donate a big sum of money to the Ku Klux Klan if she ever smoked again. The battle between feeling good with a cigarette right now vs. feeling happy and healthy in the long run had been changed. It was now the balance between how horrible she’d feel for donating to a cause strongly against her personal believes vs. how good she’d feel about the cigarette. It was a NOW vs NOW battle. The KKK horror made her quit smoking forever.

So with those two stories in mind, my question to me is:

Should I flip a coin, or simply quit smoking?

In other words: is what I need a little push to take a great job in an unfamiliar city? Or is the US my cigarettes? As long as I am in the US, I will keep running into awesome opportunities. Opportunities in the NOW that I shouldn’t say no to. Unfortunately, the opportunities of the intangible LATER in Norway are hard to predict, as long as I am here in the American NOW.

If I quit my cigarettes now, I might feel better in the long run in my home country, surrounded by family and friends in the city I truly love. Speaking the language I master. Where I can be the ‘me’ I know best. And where I don’t have these visa expiration dates to deal with, cause I actually belong there. Though if I quit my cigarettes – and actually should have been flipping a coin – will Oslo become my big, fat anticlimax?

I am not sure yet whether this is a coin flipping or cigarette quitting situation. And I definitely do not know where the Ku Klux Klan comes into the equation. Though I do know that the end of my New York City adventure will be this December – and after 2.5 years here I don’t seem to have a problem letting go of that particular cigarette brand.

Cigarette photo by Raul Lieberwirth. Cause I do not actually smoke. Phew.

Ownership vs. Access

It’s getting serious. It’s time for THESIS. It might change radically, but right now I think I want to investigate the idea of ownership. I will explore our urge to own, and which factors need to be present to enable sharing. So. Here is my thesis proposal v.1.0:

To achieve full freedom in life, you must never own more than seven things – or else, they will own you.

I remember this opening line from a TV-commercial from my childhood (see video). A Hindu takes a break from his meditation to tell us this, and he seems at total peace with his life and his seven possessions. Then the scene shifts from serenity to his busy everyday, and he can tell us that everything else in his life, like his flat-screen TV, his fancy fridge, washing machine etcetera, they were all leased from a leasing company called THORN.

With a humorous approach, the commercial told us that we all actually really need these items – even a Hindu with a holy cow as a treasured possession can’t really get by in life without a flat-screen TV. So the commercial sold the dream of luxury and the freedom to choose the latest models. But I remember that this Hindu’s first sentence really resonated more with me than the craving for a fancy flat-screen TV. I don’t think I ever will have only seven possessions, but I dream of a future where we all can get closer to it through using services for sharing, swapping, streaming etc.

For my thesis I want to explore the idea of ownership. What makes us feel like we need to own something, rather than just having access to it? Which factors need to be present for us to be willing to give up our ownership? What characterizes a successful collaborative consumption service, and what is the cultural and business context it lives in? How is the community around the service organized and moderated? How might collaborative consumption, like the use of CouchSurfing or ZipCar, change the people involved? What does a world of products based around access rather than ownership look like?

I believe that the right kind of services can make people think differently about their own life, their neighbors, and the world we live in. They can make us feel more connected to one another, which again can inspire trust, optimism and positive actions. Providing well-designed frameworks for sharing and collaboration could very well lead to behavioral change not only within the frames of the service, but beyond the focus of the service itself.

I would like to research different services that enable sharing and collaborative consumption, explore and compare their models, their communities, and their users. I will choose at least six services from the “Snapshot of examples”-list on the Collaborative Consumption website, and make sure they represent the different categories defined (product service systems, redistribution markets, collaborative lifestyles). Based on the research, I hope to come up with an idea of my own for a service in this area, where I can apply the insights I get from my research.

And when it comes to research, there’s a lot to get through this summer. This list is a start:


  • What’s mine is yours by Rachel Botsman, Roo Rogers
  • The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Examples of services for renting, sharing, swapping, or trading of physical goods, time, skills etc:


Money and conversations with robots

The Norwegian State Educational Fund (LÃ¥nekassen) is where all Norwegian students get financial support to get through their studies, and when they have their degree and all is good, this is where a big chunk of the money has to be returned. Most Norwegians have or have had a relationship with LÃ¥nekassen. Considering this large user base, this is a big client in Norway. During my years as a consultant I have never worked directly with them myself, but my former colleagues have. This is my impression of what seemed to be the problem that needed to be resolved with LÃ¥nekassen some years ago:

For some reason, all students feel so «special» that they don’t think they can find the answer to their particular question at the LÃ¥nekassen web site, and then they pick up the phone. But actually, all their questions are very generic. We just need to make sure they look through the FAQs where all answers are provided. If the students would just see this, a lot of calls would be prevented.

And now that I am back as a student dealing with LÃ¥nekassen, I keep these phrases in the back of my mind while browsing through a bunch of FAQs voluntarily, trying to be my former colleagues dream user. Believe me, I have no inner desire to make a transatlantic call, waiting in line for 45 minutes. I never even had that inner desire to call when I lived in Norway.

However, after my efforts trying to fit my question into one of the generic boxes by combing through lanekassen.no, I realize something. I really am special. I need to contact the people with the money to get this sorted. I giggle a little when I try to navigate to the contact form to ask my question, when I’m forced to once more read through the same freaking FAQs that I now know by heart. No, I’m sorry, it seems I’m still oh so special. My question, or anything even close to my question simply is not there.

So I write. These are not my words exactly, but a creative translation of my more polite and official Norwegian version:

Nov 9th 2010

Hello dear provider of money – the key to my future knowledge.

I am currently studying at School of Visual Arts in the U.S. I have to pay $ 17,000 by December 1st to get to continue my education at SVA in the Spring semester. Considering that you already have accepted my application for funding the whole first school year, I guess this means that the money for the Spring semester would be just around the corner. However, I am not sure exactly how this works and when I can expect them. Do I have to sign something (like a new promissory note) to get the money transferred to my account even though I did sign something back in August? If so, can I expect that this note arrives at my Norwegian or my American address? And when?

Best regards,
Kristin Breivik

As I had waited for the reply for more than the promised 2/3 working days, I was all excited when I finally got an email about the fact that I had got an email in the LÃ¥nekassen mail system. To figure out exactly how they would make my money troubles seem far away, I logged in to the LÃ¥nekassen My site to read the following enlightening note:

Nov 16th 2010


The promissory notes for Spring 2011 will be sent from us mid December.

Best regards
Jane Doe

Right. Ehm. WHAT? Hello, Jane «FAQ Robot» Doe. No brain and no empathy what so ever. I am trying to decipher this message in the best possible way. Maybe she did not understand that I am studying abroad. Surely they have to handle the students abroad differently than the Norwegian students, right? Most schools are free in Norway, but they do know that students abroad have to pay tuition and that this is generally due early. But either way. This answer is lacking so much in so many ways.

My plan B* is partly activated, but I am not giving up on LÃ¥nekassen completely. I need the money, and sooner rather than later. So I navigate through their annoying FAQs once more, to send this email their way:

Nov 17th 2010

[Explaining my situation once more, referring to the reference number etc.]

[Quoting the reply I got from Jane Doe]

So does this reply basically tell me that I will not be able to pay my tuition on time? Am I the only student abroad with Spring semester tuition due in December?

Hoping to get a quick reply, considering that this is kind of urgent now :)

Best regards,

Kristin Breivik

So yesterday I got this new email from LÃ¥nekassen.

Nov 22th 2010


Your application has been processed. A letter reply is sent to [my address in the U.S.].

How much do you get?
Log in to the LÃ¥nekassen My site to check the amount of money.


Best regards

Is this a reply to my email? Were my last question considered to be an application of some sort? I thought I applied sometime before the summer? And my application for the whole school year was accepted, so I wasn’t really wondering how much money I get. I thought we had reached an agreement on that matter a long time ago. Really. I just wonder WHEN I will get the money LÃ¥nekassen so kindly offers to lend me, and WHAT (if anything), I can do to make it arrive in my account asap.

I am sure my case is rather generic. But after going through all the generic FAQs without finding my answer, I expect to be treated as an individual when I approach customer service. Yes, I actually expect to be treated as if I’m special in a way. At least throw in a hint of human empathy before you FAQ-spam me, so I can trust that you have read my story. This automatic-robot-approach is certainly not doing anyone any good.

In my cybernetics class, we are expected to make a model of a conversation this week – trying to depict different participants actions and underlying goals, and how we all struggle to get an understanding of each others goals when in a conversation. We constantly create and revise our mental model of what the other person really wants, based on the actions this person takes. In dialogs, we often attempt to reach an agreement of some sort, aiming towards aligning our goals as much as possible. Had I only understood what LÃ¥nekassen’s goal is in my dialog with them, I could use this case for my assignment. The sad part is that LÃ¥nekassen is not actually participating in this conversation at all. This ends up being a conversation I have with myself about what they could possibly mean by these random blurbs of FAQ emails. I struggle to apply meaning to what seems to be meaningless actions. Maybe the LÃ¥nekassen employees have a clear mental model of their inner workings, but they are simply terrible at communicating this to me to help me act so that I reach my goal.

*It’s obvious that this is not gonna go my way within the tuition bill due date. As mentioned, my plan B is activated. Plan B = parents with some money to spare. Thank God that I am one of those students that have a plan B. Lucky me!

App in the making

So I shared the museum app concept I made with my wonderful group last week. I can now add that all the concepts my classmates made are published here at the course website — with presentations and all. We are now in the process of making another app. Individual assignments this time. Am I excited about creating yet another iPhone app? Not really. But I do like my working title on this project; That’s NOT trash! It’s an app supposed to help New York citizens recycle, deal with special waste and so on. I might come back to you when I have more than some silly OmniGraffle icons.

And don’t get me wrong. Recycling is important, and I’m sure(?) apps can help change the world. But right now I feel I’m more in a reading/reflecting/researching mode. And it’s Friday night and I simply have to PRODUCE. Gah. I totally forgot what being a student really means. No real weekend, that is.

So. I might come back to you when I have more than some silly OmniGraffle icons — and hopefully I’ll also be in a better mood :/

The Morning Benders

And I made an excuse
You found another way to tell the truth
I put no one else above us
We’ll still be best friends when all turns to dust Les videre

Argyle curling


There’s actually no rules against the pants – but there probably will be after this…

Les videre

Classification of books


1) Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First

2) Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them

3) Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler

I am still reading about the detective Harry Hole, but I have started to think about what to digest when Harry has solved his last murder case. This process made me remember a quote I once heard on the radio. It was about how books can be classified, and I find it rather amusing. When googling it, I just found the next thing to add to my reading list – Italo Calvino’s «If on a winter’s night a traveler». The quote is actually selected parts of a quite long passage about different types of books to find in the bookstore, and belongs to the first chapter of Calvino’s novel. After reading that chapter online (here it is), I really look forward to the rest of it! I have read some other stuff by Calvino before, but in Italian. However, I feel I should make it fun and less of a learning experience this time. Unless I want it to end up in the pile of Books I’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages!