Blake Snow

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

Hi, I'm Blake.

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5 reasons sad stories are good for you

Courtesy Amazon Studios

My wife and I recently watched Manchester by the Sea. It’s a beautifully-acted but heart-wrenching story about a Boston man (played by Casey Affleck) that is left utterly devastated and largely alone after a careless act and some horrifying bad luck. In fact, it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in years.

Although I appreciated the film, I forgot the importance of tragedy while exiting the theater. “For someone who is living in a comedy, is there any value in being reminded that life sucks sometimes?” I asked myself. “Is there any harm in solely watching movies with happy endings?”

With the help of the internet, this is what I learned:  Continue reading…

Is it ethical to have children amid global warming threats?

Photo credit: Blake Snow

I wholeheartedly agree with Cal physicist Richard Muller’s optimistic and informed answer to this question.

“Global warming does not threaten humans with extermination,” he writes. “In the history of the world, I would say now is the best time to be born. The problem of global warming is minuscule to the dangers faced by my parents when then had me (i.e. world wars, more tyrants, worse civil rights for minorities and women, more violence, poorer health, less economic wealth). We will handle global warming through mitigation and adaptation. Don’t deny your future children their opportunity to enter this wonderful world.”

I don’t think Muller, I, or any other optimists are delusional in that outlook. After all, history is on our side—humans are survivors, tinkerers, and self-improvers.

Statistically we’re collectively better off now than ever before. Read and try to refute this if you don’t believe me. There’s no looming threat suggesting others—only unfounded human fear, old age, or alarmists rooted in emotion (or self interest) rather than fact.

If you disagree with Muller, Louis Armstrong, or Viktor Frankl, you’re wrong.

10 things I’ve thought about recently

  1. Reading about humanity’s underbelly is hard, but its exposure is important work.
  2. PREDICTION: “On fleek” will never be as cool as rad, righteous, legit, wicked, or even “groovy.” Like “dank” did before it, it’ll fade.
  3. Bad news: Corporate spies steal $300 billion from U.S. Good news: Can’t steal ingenuity.
  4. Nice! This story helps me appreciate “good parent privilege,” less talk, and the danger of overconfidence
  5. This classy, elegant Mozart masterpiece never gets old. I still adore it two decades after first hearing it.
  6. Continue reading…

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8 people you should be extra kind to

Deal_with_it_dog_gifI was jogging last week and ran past a parked patrol car. A cop was in it.

I make it a habit to wave to everyone I encounter, so I cut the air with my hand and smiled. He waved back and flashed a big grin, as if I had just made his day—as if he rarely gets acknowledged by civilians.

Surprised by the effect it had, I started thinking of other people that might benefit from extra kindness. This is what I came up with: Continue reading…

Why some people don’t eat pork

An estimated quarter of the world’s population doesn’t eat pork—mostly for religious but also for vegetarian reasons. Why?

“Islam and Judaism both originated in a region where pigs were scavengers and rooted through garbage to survive,” explains Jeff Dege on Quora. “They were unclean in every sense in that environment.”

On the other hand, Western civilizations are more accustom to non-scavenger or otherwise domesticated pigs that aren’t as infected as the ones the Middle East grew up with.

“If I lived in the Middle East 1500–200 years ago, I wouldn’t have eaten pig, either,” concludes Dege. “But I don’t and the reasons for avoiding it then and there don’t apply here and now.”

Which explains why the other three quarters of the world happily consume pork, mostly for barbecue, bacon, sausage, and chop reasons.

On a personal note, I rank edible animal muscle as follows—beef > poultry > pork > fish—but I try to limit my intake of it to no more than 2-3 times a week in favor of produce.

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The scientific method is self-skepticism

Courtesy MGM

Here’s a great quote from Cal physicist Richard Muller on the scientific method: “I see the difference between a scientist and a non-scientist in a simple way:

  • A non-scientist is easily fooled and particularly vulnerable to self-deception.
  • A scientist is easily fooled and particularly vulnerable to self-deception… and knows it.”

If you avoid distinguishing beliefs and bias from knowledge, you’re not a scientist. If you overstate the truth (even for the greater good), you’re also not a scientist.

True science demands objectivity, guts, free speech, vulnerability, and lots of “we’re still not sure but let’s keep checking.”

20 things I learned about life and business reading Shoe Dog by the creator of Nike

Phil Knight seemingly had a lot of slick editors to help him write his wonderful book (4/5 stars) on the creation and rise of Nike. But his passion, character, and insightful war stories all ring true. These were my favorite excerpts:

  1. What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.
  2. Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that you’re running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death.
  3. The Japanese believe climbing Fuji is a mystical experience, a ritual act of celebration, and I was overcome with a desire to climb it, right then. I wanted to ascend into the clouds. I decided to wait, however. I would return when I had something to celebrate.
  4. After shaving, I put on my green Brooks Brothers suit and gave myself a pep talk. You are capable. You are confident. You can do this. You can DO this. Then I went to the wrong place.
  5. Continue reading…

Published works: The cyclical nature of cool, every country, water shortages, smart cities

Courtesy Whitelines Snowboarding

Courtesy Whitelines Snowboarding

Excluding blogging, ghostwritten, and otherwise non-bylined stories for some of these companies, this is what I wrote this month.

Paste Magazine:

Cisco:

Thanks for reading.

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10 things I learned after reading The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman

  1. With notable exception to most of Africa, the global economic playing field has been flattened (i.e. the world is flat)
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  2. Giving people remote access to collaborative tools, search engines, and billions of pages of information ensures that “the next innovations will come from all over Planet Flat.”
  3. True education teaches students how to develop inquisitive minds (i.e. be curious, absorb as much as you can, seek answers to questions that inspire you)
  4. America is losing its competitive edge of trust, stability, and entrepreneurial infrastructure (i.e. “its secret sauce”) because it’s increasingly becoming entitled, lazy, and out-collaborated by hungrier nations, Friedman argues. It also succumbed to fear-mongering after 9/11 instead of focusing on optimism and hope as it had done so well up to that point.
  5. Globalization winners take care of their own, but they are also compassionate and considerate of others, not protectionists playing an illusionary zero-sum economic game (i.e. domestic manufacturing jobs).
  6. Economic success is the result of hard work, thrift, honesty, patience, tenacity, and openness to adapt from others (i.e. “glocalization”)
  7. Authoritarian Muslim countries (e.g. Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, ISIS) have struggled to adapt to a flattening world because they don’t “glocalize.” More tolerant India, Turkey, Lebanon, Bahrain, Dubai, Indonesia, and Malaysia are notable exceptions to this rule, Friedman argues.
  8. The roots of terrorism are based on religious fanaticism and an education system that condemns Western decadence to create an atmosphere of intolerance (rather than a “live and let live” mindset).
  9. Although the U.S. still benefits from being the most dominate popular culture, globalization is is not the same as “Americanization” or American imperialism.
  10. No two countries that are part of a major global supply chain, such as Dell or McDonald’s, will ever fight a war against each other so long as both remain in said supply chain (i.e. money talks more than peace talks).

Despite Friedman’s verbose and scatterbrain writing, his insights deserve four stars out of five.

How brand loyalty will eventually bite you

amazon-com-logo

I’m an enthusiastic Amazon, Apple, Uber, and Google user because they make my life easier. I don’t think twice before upping my Prime membership. In fact, I like these companies so much, I’ve even willing to pay a little extra for the convenience they offer.

But obsessive brand loyalty will ultimately hurt us, argue two ivy-league economists for USA Today. “Each of us can do our part to make sure Amazon and others never get to the point of ubiquitous domination. It might introduce a bit of hassle and inconvenience into your life, but only a tiny bit. But by taking on this challenge, you’ll be doing the job that antitrust authorities, in an ideal world, might take care of on our behalf – ensuring that consumers and workers, rather than the owners of capital and algorithms – get a piece of the surplus that’s created by new business ideas.”

Make no mistake, I’m a proud American capitalist. But I like it even more when companies compete for my business. “Think about those credit card teasers we all get,” the authors add. “As long as we keep businesses thinking they need to chase after us to try to lock us in, they’ll keep on handing us value rather than using it to pad their bottom line.”

If you agree, consider shopping with competing companies and platforms from time to time to keep your favorite companies on their toes, hungry for your business, and willing to let you keep a greater share of the value.

The greatest display of clouds I’ve ever seen

Clouds from my plane window somewhere over Nicaragua (courtesy Blake Snow)

Clouds from my plane window somewhere over Nicaragua (courtesy Blake Snow)

My respect for clouds skyrocketed last year on two separate occasions.

The first was while flying home from France after hiking Mont Blanc with my long-time friend Wesley Lovvorn. Despite being about the same elevation as my beloved Wasatch Mountains, The Alps appear 2000-4000 feet taller due to greater topographical prominence. That is their valley floor is about 2000-4000 lower than the 4400 feet I live at in Provo. Consequently, the Alps looked like giants the first time I saw them. But not as giant as the cumulus clouds I flew through on the way home. Shortly after crossing into eastern Utah on the 10 hour flight from Paris to Salt Lake, my Delta plane felt like an insect flying into an endless mountain range of white, billowy water vapor. I’ve never seen anything so big. It was a beautiful and comforting sight to come home to.

Continue reading…

Best of 2016 travel: Never do as the locals do, extreme theme parking, Antarctica

Here’s where my travel column went this month:

5 things I haven’t shared until now

echo-dot-black-back-on

I’m always writing down blog ideas. At the time of writing, I have 535 unpublished saved drafts. Most of these will never see the light of day. But some of them are worth sharing. In an effort to whittle that number down as fast as humanly possible, here are five things that have crossed my mind recently: Continue reading…