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Recycling Plant & Recycling a Plant (Part 2)

Part 2: Recycling a Plant

Ok here we go. A “Part 2”. This is a very adventurous and presumptuous endeavor on my part to attempt a Part 2 of anything. Part 2 suggests that I have some loyal audience that meticulously follows my work and was left trembling in anticipation at the end of my Part 1. I think George Lucas had it right in his Star Wars chronology. Next time I’ll start a blog post at Part 4 and leave readers scrambling to find the previous contributions. When they discover these do not exist, perhaps they will appreciate the creativity and eagerly await the missing posts. Ok, enough of this meta blog analysis. On to Part 2:

In Part 1 of this series, I praised the efforts of a for-profit recycling plant in Chicago, IL. Now with the insertion of “an” indefinite article, I have the opportunity to share a story of Chicago creativity and innovation that elevates modern recycling into the stratosphere (or onto the 5th floor of a Chinatown loft to be more precise). Consider this story of “Recycling a Plant”.

In an earlier post on this blog, I introduced the site, “a social networking site designed to connect travelers around the universe,” to generous hosts. The site also offers a local events page that sustains and enhances community involvement. On that page, I discovered this event for “Funky Chinatown – A Funk, Soul, and Disco Loft Party.” The page included this notice about the event:

For exact directions, please RSVP to CHINATOWNFUNK@GMAIL.COM
– include Name + # of Guests so I can get a good headcount.”

My mom once mentioned something in passing about avoiding secret, funky, CouchSurfing, Chinatown parties staged in abandoned lofts with “a ton of beer and cocktails for free.” On the other hand, my mom often offers advice so sometimes I have to pick and choose when to comply…

I’m glad I followed my gut (even if my liver is slightly peeved) because the evening illustrated how a group of creative individuals can convert an abandoned loft into a productive community music and art space. In between funky dancing that put my Bar Mitzvah to shame, I connected with travelers from around the world and exchanged gripping stories of Couch Surfing exploits. Instead of wasting my evening consuming money, time, and space at a neighborhood haunt, I recycled stories and a stunning loft space and converted them into an unforgettable evening.

I started this series with the question: what is the difference between a recycling plant and recycling a plant? The answer is that they offer distinct and innovative ways to enhance sustainability and create community. The recycling plant promoted environmentalism through pragmatic corporate action while the loft party enhanced community while using an abandoned industrial space.

I guess the essential difference is then that the recycling plant did not play funky tunes. Maybe that would increase efficiency?

To read (or re-read) Part 1: Recycling Plant, click here.

Creativity Ideas

Chat & Cut

Last month on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David dissected the sly social exercise, the Chat & Cut. Clearly a Machiavellian maneuver in line dynamics, David describes the Chat & Cut as, “feigning familiarity with someone [you] vaguely know for the sole purpose of cutting in line” (Curb, 8/7/11). Whether you are seeking entrance into an Indian Buffet or a Leonard Cohen concert, the Chat & Cut means you can end up in the front of the line while potentially forging a new friendship.

In full disclosure, I come from a frantic family with an allergy to gluten and waiting. From my 5-week premature birth to my parents’ entrance onto various domestic  and international flights, we find innovative ways to bypass lines. As this queue queasiness springs from my short statured maternal lineage, we usually opt for the low road to the front rather than the more perilous Chat & Cut. Even when we fail in our pursuit, it always delivers fodder for sociological and therapeutic analysis.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of witnessing an amateur Chat & Cut performed in broad daylight during Chicago’s What’s Happening!! Outdoor Dance Party & Pig Roast featuring The Windy City Soul Club. The C&C unfolded after my own line-cutting efforts were stymied by the critical gaze of my companions and the soulful sounds emanating from the DJ booth.

A woman wobbled up to me as I was about to receive my smorgasbord and gaped inquisitively at the display.

“I don’t understand–is this where you order your food and drink?”

I replied in the affirmative.

“So you order food here but you also can get drinks? That’s very interesting.”

As I started moving forward and the woman casually tucked into the line behind me, I realized what was happening. Like Larry David, I accused her of a C&C but then encouraged her to stay in line.

I think it is important to recognize these micro social maneuvers. We are quick to discuss those macro manipulations when a president spars with a speaker over speech timing or a company uses a beta label to boost interest and “appeal to digerati”. Yet these high profile maneuvers are often slight adaptations of schoolyard counterparts. A playground quarrel can lead to classroom snub just as a cafeteria may offer Turbo vegetables to appeal to finicky children.

So who knows? Maybe Larry David provides the tools we need to analyze meaty global politics; at minimum, he helps expose a Chat & Cut at a pig roast.

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Bidding Alone

In Bowling Alone, Sociologist Robert Putnam investigates a trend of declining civic and social engagement in the United States and blames, in part, “the effect of electronic entertainment…in privatizing our leisure time” (Putnam, 2001, 283). While Putnam identifies television as the primary mechanism of electronic isolation, the internet is certainly a potently secluding drug. In fact, right now I sit at my desk and hungrily knock back shots of .coms and .govs (with a rare .net on special occasions) as a substitute for social participation. If my office had a TV, I might even extricate myself from this web sarcophagus and join my coworkers in an animated Judge Judy viewing. With no TV, though, I happily seclude myself behind URLs like

Last week as I tried to spelunk down into the nether regions of my internet cave, I regrettably encountered a pocket of rampant social activity. Now, despite what my internet usage may indicate, I am not a habitual hermit. Unfortunately, though, on this particular spelunk I craved social isolation like I crave an episode of Judge Joe Brown. On the prowl for North Coast Music Festival tickets on eBay, I had somehow stumbled on a submerged auction offering 3-day passes for $20, over $100 below face value. It was like discovering a diamond in a rough store selling celebrities’ tweezers and Jesus-embedded mango peels. With only 20 minutes remaining on the auction, I cancelled my lunch appointment with George Foreman(‘s Grill) and set up camp next to this isolated treasure.

As minutes melted off the eBay timer, I celebrated my fortune and Putnam’s thesis on civic disengagement.  Previous generations would have to assemble as competitors outside a box office window. Sure, they could discuss their shared interest in the music festival and their favorite acts. They might exchange stories of raucous Rusko dance parties or smooth evenings spent with Thievery Corporation. Some might even make plans to meet-up at the festival.

Not me, though. I had the fortune of internet anonymity and a clock ticking toward payday. As 15 minutes became 10 and then 5, I ignored the sizzling grilled cheese rumbling in the jungle of my George Foreman. With 60 seconds remaining, I proudly entered my bid of $21. At 50 seconds I was outbid at $30. Ok, so there was someone else in this cave. Not surprising but no match for my online dexterity.

I fired back successive bids of $40 and then $50 as the cave walls began cracking. With 33 seconds remaining more online pests left their shadowy alcoves with bids of $56 and $64. Clambering up the walls, I tossed down $68 and $73 at these masked rivals. At 8 seconds (and approximately 8 minutes after my bid for a delicious sandwich expired), my fingers frantically tumbled onto the keyboard. The cave was compromised, though, and my digits could not compete with the faceless masses. With a whimper the auction expired with 35 eleventh hour bids inflating the sale price to $121.01. While I later scalped a ticket outside the festival, I spent that afternoon alone munching on burnt gluten free bread and watching Judge Joe Brown.

So Putnam was correct; an electronic forum foiled social engagement. I lost my ticket to more adept, online recluses and evaded social attachment in the process. Even as I struggled against potential friends, I preserved complete social isolation. Of course, anonymity is the foundation of these online recesses and is especially important in online markets. Yet, I wonder if there is a way to illuminate some of these shadowy internet caves and turn competitors into concert mates. And who knows, maybe I would like watching the People’s Court with other people.

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Sofa Snorkeling

Picture Credit: wnstn

Two weeks ago I met a stranger on the internet and last weekend I slept over at his place. My parents are aware of the situation and seem comfortable. I’ve done it several times before in countries ranging from Canada to Andorra and it’s always been a rewarding experience.

Ok before sullying the good names of Sam Bacharach and Cornell University let me explain how this was in fact a benign and platonic experience that informs leadership theory. Of course, if I do get in trouble I’ll just blame it on my ghostwriter. is a social networking site designed to connect travelers around the universe (although surfers in outer space are encouraged to pack Velcro in order to stay fixed to their futons). The site is funded through karma and donations and fueled by the surprising willingness of people to host and introduce nomads to their cities. The self-policing service maintains safety and integrity through a rigorous system of user-provided references. If someone even suggests your couch was uncomfortable or your personality was unappealing, you’ll likely receive few requests. If someone calls you a smelly mooch, you’ll have a difficult task securing a host. It’s an impressively successful network.

While I’m still waiting for my first hosting attempt, my CouchSurfing hosts have included a Brazilian IT professional, a Disney Channel actor, and an NPR producer. Each has introduced me to a new city and a network of their friends. Even with limited time to form a couch groove in these host’s living rooms, I now find myself in coalition with diverse and talented partners around the globe. We’re each independently engaged in mobilizing a collective agenda, albeit a slightly romantic one.

Just like any organization, we actively support and host each other when necessary and passively support with positive references when that suffices. We expand our networks by identifying engaging and enthusiastic coalition partners. We sustain momentum by organizing community CouchSurfing meet-ups that preserve community and participation. We shove our egos into the dark crevices of our couches and reject hubris and narcissism. It’s an organization that embraces uncertainty and functions with perpetual fluidity.

I’m not suggesting that you infuse a little pragmatic fun into your organization and start surfing on your colleagues’ couches. That probably crosses the line. Just remember, if a generation of couch potatoes can mobilize a proactive global coalition, imagine what you can do in your organization.

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Dan Adler: Taking a Chance or Just Crazy? (video)

Fighting for what you believe in is part of leadership. Getting people’s attention is part of convincing the world that you should have the opportunity to lead. But is there a limit? Can you actually go too far in your attempts to become a leader? A relative unknown and a big-time underdog by the name of Dan Adler is running for Congress in California’s 36th District. Bold and sometimes odd campaign commercials are nothing new, but Mr. Adler’s latest ad is not only a bit strange but according to some is also teetering on the edge of bad taste. I would try to explain the commercial, but I believe this is one of those instances where justice cannot be done with words. Please watch the video below (trust me, it’s worth it!) and then let me know if you think this political ad is just an enjoyable bit of farce or in fact offensive. For full disclosure, I happen to be 1/4 Korean and I find it hilarious.

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