It is Sunday when we bring you the TBB Best Of Web links: We ponder about the increasingly common travel algorithmic trap, visit creepy Centralia, PA, get to know Paul Manafort hustler and get disgusted, the power of money incentives in all its glory or shame if you prefer and watch a wonderful video about hearing tech saviors and that’s it. Freeeee!
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Every Sunday I pick the best reads that blew my mind in the previous week. It can be…anything!
As always, click on the headline to be taken to the original source. Sometimes I insert my incendiary comments on article excerpts between [brackets].
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The article starts this way:
I’m in San Sebastián, Spain, but I could really be anywhere. I’ve flown halfway across the world, but from inside this coffee shop, I can’t tell what country I’m in
Well, you will find yourself nodding yes…again and again. I sure did, sad!
In the internet age, feedback loops move quickly between the real world, Instagram and back again. Once-hidden restaurants, featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, are now well-known and commercialized. Retail stores and sightseeing tours are impacted as much as restaurants. Ready-to-purchase, authentic experiences only exist for a short time. This drives an eternal commercial loop: At first, authentic travel experiences such as tours and cooking classes are too expensive to buy. As they gain popularity, they become standardized and mass-produced. As their price drops and these experiences lose their authenticity, artisans arrive with niche, personality-driven products, which kickstarts this commercial loop all over again.
As tourism increases, I wonder if we’re actually traveling less. To travel is to escape familiarity and learn into the head-scratching quirks of another culture.
Call me old-fashioned, but the more I travel, the less I depend on algorithms. In a world obsessed with efficiency, I find myself adding friction to my travel experience. I’ve shifted away from digital recommendations, and towards human ones. [Hmmm, in LA recently we enjoyed a food tour. Not cheap, still identified with the help of technology but interacting with the other humans and our local guide was a very welcome change…]
Algorithms are great at giving you something you like, but terrible at giving you something you love. Worse, by promoting familiarity, algorithms punish culture.
Human interaction is its own kind of biological algorithm.² The people we connect with tend to mirror our values, tastes, and interests. Since human connection is such a strong signal, travelers should pursue more of it. Build enough camaraderie, and the locals you meet will recommend peculiar, off-the-beaten-path experiences.³
I am still nodding my head…You know what I mean 🙂
I had heard of a town in Pennsylvania that has been burning for over 50 years but that is all I knew. Until I learned more with this article. Quirky? Yes! Fascinating? Yes! Okay, it belongs in my blog. There will be no Hyatts here for a little while lol.
In 1962, there was a trash fire in a strip mine beneath Centralia, Pennsylvania. Well, we say “was” — there still is. That unassuming little fire ignited an eternal hellish blaze which burns underground to this day. Centralia is one of the most famous ghost towns on earth, but the term “ghost town” is not perfectly accurate, because a handful of people still live there. We spoke with a few former residents, Jack and Becky, as well as one current resident, Jack’s dad, “Guy.” They told us …
There are 7 residents left. And you won’t believe what Becky had to say!
I admit I did not know much about this Manafort guy. But he sure looked a little too flashy and, cough, a little corrupt? Well, being associated with Trump…what the hell did you expect?
But I must also admit that I was blown away how corrupt this guy was! And how incredibly greedy WOW! Maybe if he had a financial planner to smack him upside the head…
You are in for many WTF moments reading this. Just a glimpse:
Money, which had always flowed freely to Manafort and which he’d spent more freely still, soon became a problem. After the revolution, Manafort cadged some business from former minions of the ousted president, the ones who hadn’t needed to run for their lives. But he complained about unpaid bills and, at age 66, scoured the world (Hungary, Uganda, Kenya) for fresh clients, hustling without any apparent luck. Andrea noted her father’s “tight cash flow state,” texting Jessica, “He is suddenly extremely cheap.” His change in spending habits was dampening her wedding plans. For her “wedding weekend kick off” party, he suggested scaling back the menu to hot dogs and eliminated a line item for ice. [WTF!!!]
Manafort was generous with his family financially—he’d invested millions in Jessica’s film projects, and millions more in her now-ex-husband’s real-estate ventures. But when he called home in tears or threatened suicide in the spring of 2015, he was pleading for his marriage. The previous November, as the cache of texts shows, his daughters had caught him in an affair with a woman more than 30 years his junior. It was an expensive relationship. According to the text messages, Manafort had rented his mistress a $9,000-a-month apartment in Manhattan and a house in the Hamptons, not far from his own. He had handed her an American Express card, which she’d used to good effect. “I only go to luxury restaurants,” she once declared on a friend’s fledgling podcast, speaking expansively about her photo posts on social media: caviar, lobster, haute cuisine.
It gets even more WTFish from there on, grab some popcorn. Organic preferred lol.
Some people are talented writers. You won’t find many in the miles and points blogs by the way lol.
Oh man, looking at some bloggers pretending to be travel experts helping the common man travel for free just like them out there (by pumping them to oblivion with travel rewards credit cards for the sales commissions)…
Start out with the wrong incentives and then it doesn’t take much for things to get incredibly f***ed up from there. The right incentives in a system are not impervious to abuse, they’ve just got a better built-in resistance. Nothing man-made is foolproof, and that includes compensation schemes and business models. But some start out as being much more game-able than others.
You should know that brokers are judged by how much gross commissions they generate. This number is called their “production” and internally these broker-dealer affiliated advisors are referred to as “producers.” The thing they “produce” is compensation for themselves and profits for the brokerage’s shareholders. The raw materials they use in order to “produce” their product is also known as your retirement savings. The brokers are treated better or worse within their firms based on how strong or weak their “production” is and how valuable they are to the branch. They are paid differing compensation based on their level of “production” and how much of which products they sell – bring us two mortgage loans and you get an extra 1% payout this month. [To this day, I have no idea why consumers stay with brokers…Oh, in our “hobby”, it is all about conversions as some blogger who sold WAY too early said infamously]
And then the article veers off to the incentives of the Great Leap Forward in China…
If you wanted to see something uplifting and positive…this is it!
I suffer from tinnitus in my right ear, it just keeps buzzzzzing all the time 🙂 So, I am sensitive to stories like this and this one just made me smile a lot!
Amazing what technology can do sometimes…
And I leave you with this…
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