SMELT IT

Do you smell that? That's the smell of awesome in your smart phone market place.  Now you don't have to wonder what's going on with your friends olfactory nerves, you'll be able to know for a fact! People around the world are check-in to what they are smelling and share it with their friends with SMELT IT!

Have you ever been sitting at dinner with your significant other and thought, "wow, the smell of this fresh baked bread and the rosemary butter is just amazing!" Before SMELT IT your only choice was to text a friend and waste precious time away from your date. But now, with SMELT IT's over 1000 smell directory, you can quickly identify that smell and share across your favorite social networks.  And, to increase the user experience even more, you can tag your favorite smells to your geolocation based check-ins and add photos of the things your are smelling to share on the most popular photo sharing apps out there! The Web 3.0 synergies are endless!

Brands are going to smell this opportunity a mile away and some major corporations and agencies are currently getting their first whiff of the pungent revolution. Never again will people forget what scent shampoo they love or what their ex-girlfriend's perfume was.

Download it now! And just remember: If you dealt it - tell everyone on SMELT IT!

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[for more on my thoughts about things like this - check out my post Going Amish]

Taking out the Past

A local book store can offer a glance into popular culture's mindset. And, if I didn't know better, somewhere in a big huge leather chair filled conference room, book publishers and authors decided to wage war on the past.  It seems to me that they are trying to make the past a four letter word.  Everywhere you look in the book store, and especially on the end caps, the prime real estate fought over by cookbooks and biographies alike, the theme of "conquering your past" is everywhere.  The encouragement to get rid of your past like this weekend's garbage is inescapable. But, as seems to frequently be the case, that got me thinking. You can learn a lot from taking out the trash.  As I pulled the plastic draw strings up this morning to carry the past few days worth of trash down to the bin, I saw a peak into the memories of the past few eventful days.  Meals eaten, letters received, bills paid, products that had served their purpose and are no longer of value. The things that were thrown away were not horrible and terrible things that shocked and appalled me when I saw them again, but things that had run their course and were no longer needed.  Things that no longer were valuable for me keep around. And of course, living in NYC I am very conscious of the amount of space that I actually have to keep around things that don't serve a purpose right now or in the future.

The same is true in taking out the trash of the past.  While there are obviously the true extreme pasts that are filled with felony worthy habits and tragic decisions that marred the future, for a lot of the folks out there buying the self help books, it is possible that the past they are "dealing with" is actually just a part of their history and the scars that tell the story of their past. Not all of the past, even the tough parts have to be looked at as awful or horrible things, just not things that made the cut to be carried into the future.  It is just how we think about it that matters.

While there are certainly decisions, habits, and choices in my past I am excited to have thrown out, there are a part of my story and something that has shaped the current version of me .  But, that said, there is something refreshing about the action of tossing the lid on the bin and knowing that those things are not around to stink up or clutter my world anymore. What was in my trash this morning doesn't define my today or my tomorrow.

OUR Birthday

A reoccurring theme of my birthdays growing up was sharing.  On my second birthday, the very day that I turned two, I got a surprise present.  I had asked for a box of crayons to further my creative streak, but instead got a little sister.  She crashed the biggest party that the two year old community of Omaha, NE would have ever seen.  From that February 10th on, it was never again MY birthday, but OUR birthday.  OUR Crayola Crayon themed shindig in the late 80's.  OUR thift store themed bowling party in the 90's.... Another big part of birthdays growing up in Texas was the inclusion of water somewhere in the celebration.  Summer birthdays always had water in plentiful supply so there weren't heat exhaustion calls made to the local authorities. Wet trampolines and super soakers always seemed to make an appearance as well, usually while the parents were inside comparing grocery lists and lesson plans or whatever it is that parents talk about. And of course to ensure that those of us kids with winter birthdays didn't miss out, the city I grew up in had several indoor swimming pools that made great party spots as long as you didn't mind the smell of chlorine as you blew out the candles.

In the spirit of celebrating OUR birthday this year, my sister Katie (who by the way, in hindsight, is the best present I have ever received on MY birthday) and I are sharing OUR birthday with charity: water.  In fact, better said, Katie and I are giving up OUR birthdays and asking our family, friends, and online stalkers to join us in celebrating what can happen when we all work together.

Will you help us get this party started? http://mycharitywater.org/OurBday

Right now, as you are reading this, over 1,000,000,000 around the world don't have access to clean drinking water.  In order to find water that it even remotely safe to drink, mothers and children are walking miles on end to get there and making that same excruciating journey back home with 40 gallon jerry cans on their backs. Just so they can have some water that won't jack up their system for the next week.  The incredible team at charity: water is making huge strides to help end this worldwide problem.

For just $5,000, a water project can be funded in a community and clean drinking water can be in plentiful supply.  This cuts down on the disease, the wasted time spent by mothers and children, and as a result the number of kids that have to miss school just so they can get a sip of clean drinking water.

So for OUR birthday, the only thing that we are asking for is that you help us help a community and fund a well.  Since it is my 29th birthday, I am asking that you consider giving $29 to this well (or, if you like Katie better, give $27... and if you like us both, maybe you'll give $56?) We know that with the help of our family, friends, and the vast world of the interwebs, that we can make OUR birthday a big huge awesome watery celebration and do something that is much bigger than just one day.

Ready to rock? Awesome! Go here: http://mycharitywater.org/OurBday

Beer and Taxes

Not even a week into the new year, I started getting last year's tax returns.  They sometimes remind me that I have a lot to be grateful for. And sometimes they drive me to drink. So, when I saw that someone had EXPLAINED THE TAX SYSTEM IN BEER, I couldn't have been happier. "Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100...

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this...

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7.. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do..

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20". Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men ? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,"but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar too. It's unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "we didn't get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier."

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Thankful: There's an App for that

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions that my parents started was the "What are you THANKFUL for" list.  There were rarely any rules, just the expectation that we we all write a few things down. But, then, like most things in the Ellwood household, it got competitive.  Some years the lists would get so long that last year's entry of "Friends" would be expanded to include everyone by name. That instead of just "fun times" every board game on the top shelf of the closet would get a bi-line. And then I realized that it was just me.  What can I say, I like to win.

But, sometime in college, I went from quantity to quality.  And since then, there have been some years that have been easier to pull together my list than others.  Some years that have had some surprise entries and others that I've asked the question, "am I actually THANKFUL for that, or just glad it happened and it's over?" There are always some constants and always some newcomers.  But this year, in light of the craziness that this year has held, it just became apparent that if I was going to come up with a list of what I'm THANKFUL for, there had to be an App for that.

Friends around the world - Good ones and new ones, old ones and, frankly, a few random ones.

A company I believe in - Can't say enough about the incredible team that I am honored to work with.

People who will take my call - There is nothing better than knowing if there is something I need, I probably have someone I can call.

Capturing moments in time - As grainy as they might be, they're helping me tell a story.

The time I've been given to make a difference - Every minute of everyday is a chance to make a lasting impact

A life of game playing - Growing up playing board games and cards with my family and understanding the strategy and tactics of game play.

Instantaneous brain dumping - Everyone needs a place to get some thoughts out, some snarkier than others.

Experiences recorded and relived - Business presentations, foodie recommendations, and the crazy New York streets

My Dad's sense of direction - Turns out, it's hereditary.

All four seasons - The move to NYC actually has caused me to check the weather

Big Numbers - The harder you work, the luckier you get.  The luckier you get, the more zeroes you have to deal with.

Power of information - With great power, comes great responsibility.

The excitement of being a fan - The Texas Rangers gave October baseball a whole new meaning for me and my family.

My City - There are some decisions that make all the difference, Annie and my move to Manhattan was one of them.

The health of family and friends - The healthier we are, the more fun we can have in the long run.

Voices - Being further away from my family this year, there is nothing better than hearing their voice on the other end of the line.

Geographic Independence - Being able to manage a world of opportunities from anywhere in the world.

Adventures in access - There is nothing that is outside the realm of possibilities when the interwebs are at my fingertips.

The quick note - No matter where in the world I've found myself this year, there has been nothing I've appreciated more than seeing a quick "I Love You" from Annie.  I'm the lucky one indeed.

Act Swiftly

"If you can't fly, run.  If you can't run, walk.  If you can't walk, crawl.  But, by all means, keep moving!" - Martin Luther King Jr. "When you are through charging, you're through." - Bruce Barton

"Life is a challenge, meet it." - Mother Teresa

"You just make it happen. You kind of force it.  Sometimes you get hurt, but that's the best way to get hurt." - Tony Hawk

"Talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." - Stephen King

"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

"When you come to a conclusion, you have to really not care what other people say." - Warren Buffett

"Act swiftly and vigorously, without 'buts' and 'ifs.'" - Napoleon Bonaparte