Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

Hi, I'm Blake.

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Fewer parts which can fail: The most convincing argument for electric cars

motors

The world wouldn’t be as amazing today if it weren’t for the combustable car engine, pictured at left.

But this engine is 100 years old, has a lot of moving parts that can fail, and isn’t nearly as simple, efficient, or as powerfully fast as the much simpler and smaller engine pictured at right—a newer Tesla motor that fits neatly between rear wheels.

“I think many people don’t realize what we are witnessing at the moment,” writes Quora expert Andrius Adamonis. “Several years from now, we will look back and think, ‘WOW! We used to have engines that were powered by small EXPLOSIONS inside!'”

Getting smarter: The myth of STEM shortages and world education rankings

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

To improve the future of education, America must focus on science, technology, engineering, and math fields (aka STEM). We must also meet, if not exceed, international test scores.

Or should we?

Said focus has increasingly been criticized in recent years—ironically due to a lack of scientific evidence. After researching “hundreds” of reports from the past six decades, for instance, Robert Charette of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said the so-called STEM shortage “is a myth.”

Continue reading…

Psychology study: 99 cent pricing boosts sales by 8%

ShamwowWTFDoes .99 cent pricing really work? Wouldn’t it be easier to round everything to the nearest dollar?

The answer to both those questions is a resounding “yes.” Although it would be easier to round up, stores use so-called psychological pricing because it demonstrably boosts sales by 8%, according to one study of 60,000 mail-order catalogs.

In short, the 30,000 customers that received rounded up pricing spent 8% less than the 30,000 catalog recipients of 99 cent pricing. (Note: The two catalogs were identical except for pricing.)

Granted, this study was performed 20 years ago. But with those kind of gains, the trend is sure to stick around for a long time.

The meaning of life: 13 things I learned from the world’s greatest thinkers

I don’t always study philosophy, but when I do, I make it count.

Case in point: A friend and I were recently discussing the human condition over email. Exhilarating stuff, I know. I’ll skip to the best part.

Basically, we decided that humans struggle to internalize both complex and simple realizations. Complex ones because they’re harder to grasp, and simple takeaways because we’re usually too distracted by temptations, desires, and pleasures to see them through, even if we believe in them (or so argues Aristotle; more on him later).

At this point, I asked my buddy, “So if humans struggle to comprehend both complex and simple ideas, what in the HELL are we good at?”

His reply, “Entertainment. And nothing else.” Full stop. The gravity and strategic double periods of his remark made me do this:

MGM Studios

MGM Studios

At which point I enrolled in a 36-course undergraduate class from Smith College. Not exactly. But I did download the audible version of the classThe Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Greatest Thinkers, from Amazon!

Having already graduated (go, fight, win!), I did this solely for my own enlightenment. Little did I know how much impact professor Jay Garfield’s masterful curriculum would have on my worldview, existential outlook, and shared beliefs with others.

Here’s what I learned:  Continue reading…

How to make better decisions: Focus on important, non-urgent things

Eisenhower_Matrix

Where should you spend most of your time? For maximum enjoyment, biggest impact, and lifelong fulfillment, the magic happens in the urgent/not important quadrant of President Eisenhower’s popular Decision Matrix.

Take nurturing a child or business, for example. Both are critical but rarely demand your immediate attention.

In other words, quality time is never urgent. Fostering future sales is easy to put off, especially when current income is steady.

Obviously Eisenhower’s matrix isn’t the end-all, be-all of decision making. But I believe the most successful people in life—both personally and professionally—are the ones that ignore non-critical/non-urgent distractions the most. They don’t check or even react to their “inbox” as much as others, opting instead to focus on forward-thinking but non-urgent tasks.

And they delegate or otherwise prioritize urgent but unimportant tasks better than most.

Feel-good poetry on the meaning and purpose of waves

giphy
My talented friend Davey Saunders is at it again. The below was first appeared on his Facebook page and is republished here with his permission. Pessimists are encouraged to skip this post.

Metaphorical waves roll into our lives on a pretty regular basis.

Emotional. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Some we are able to ride out, some we can tuck under, and some break right on top of us —driving us helplessly into the water and currents beneath, until we regain our senses and are able to right ourselves again.

Some waves are rogue, and some come in sets that seem to have no end. There are times I have been, literally and figuratively, pulled from the grasp of the relentless seas. And there are times when I thought I had already drowned.

I am not upset by the challenges the ocean brings. If there was no water, how would I learn to swim? If there was no current to fight, how would I build the strength to hold on? And if there were no waves, how would I ever learn to surf?

So let them come. Let them bring their wrath and their might.

Just remember: with each shove and push from the waves, we are brought closer to shore. And then suddenly we find the furious roar that used to beat us down is now the very soothing sound of the surf… playing its sweet rhythms as we rest in the sand.

Published works: Predicting the office of the future, women in tech

2016 cisco logo

I started freelance writing for Cisco.com last month. Here are my first few stories:

Using numbers to look your best

suit

ABC

The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.

Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.

When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.

So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened:  Continue reading…

The Muslim who made his living selling Mexican food in the Wild West

1435861004com_post_90795056330_a_m_e_r_i_c_aThis writing by Kathryn Schulz on what it means to be American is beautiful:

Over and over, we forget what being American means. The radical premise of our nation is that one people can be made from many, yet in each new generation we find reasons to limit who those “many” can be—to wall off access to America, literally or figuratively. That impulse usually finds its roots in claims about who we used to be, but nativist nostalgia is a fantasy. We have always been a pluralist nation, with a past far richer and stranger than we choose to recall. Back when the streets of Sheridan were still dirt and Zarif Khan was still young, the Muslim who made his living selling Mexican food in the Wild West would put up a tamale for stakes and race local cowboys barefoot down Main Street. History does not record who won.

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Published columns: Kid travels, universal sensations, foreign foods, paddle boarding

Credit Lindsey Snow

Credit Lindsey Snow

Here’s where my travel column went last month:

New name, same thing: Work-life blending is all about balance

Photo: Lindsey Snow

Photo: Lindsey Snow

I tried work-life blending for six years. It sucks. Nothing more than a new term coined by self-absorbed workaholics to justify their personal regrets, negligence, and imbalances in life. Now let me tell you how I really feel.

The phrase “work-life balance” entered our lexicon when faxes reigned supreme, the 1980s. Knowledge workers, globalization, and computer networking went mainstream that decade, and with it, the temptation to work ‘round the clock on the Hedonic Treadmill (i.e. the misguided belief that the more money one makes, the happier they’ll be).

In response, first-world countries had a real first-world problem on their hands. The more connected their workers felt to the office, the more pressure they felt to “get ahead” by staying on the clock for extended periods of time. With only 24 hours in a day, something had to give.  Continue reading…

This moving short story is something fierce

Credit CC/Fred Mancosu

Credit CC/Fred Mancosu

The below short story entitled “Birthday Cake” was written by my friend Josh Ray (under pseudonym) and published with his permission. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

I got a birthday. I suppose everybody does, and it comes around every year at the same time. That’s the way they do. Mine’s in November, but I don’t suppose that matters much one way or the other for this story. Anyway, I’m gonna tell you about two birthdays I had in particular.  Continue reading…

Future of oil: The most apolitical, objective, and realistic forecast I’ve ever read

Courtesy Focus Features

Courtesy Focus Features

Oil will not run out for a very long time. If or when it eventually does, we will just manufacture it from coal. That’s according to respected UC Berkley physicist Richard Muller.

Granted, Muller is neither an energy expert or clairvoyant. But as a top Quora writer, he’s one of the most educated and smartest persons I’ve read on a range of subjects.

So what might the future of energy look like? Because it runs circles around the power and convenience of other energy sources—seriously, oil’s potency is remarkable—the black gooey substance will remain the go-to-source for mobile transportation with nuclear powering an increasing amount of the grid.  Continue reading…