Shaking it up

After almost five years, I will be leaving Couchsurfing.

In August of 2007 I started an incredible, and what some called crazy journey. That journey is continuing at the end of the month, but on a different path.

That summer of 2007, I turned down a management position at BB&T bank in Washington DC. I had gotten the offer by flying to DC, and informing the hiring manager that I was there to interview HER about the position – to see if I really wanted it. When she got back to me a week later, I already had other plans.

My roommate and I flew to California, and rode our bikes from San Francisco to LA down the coastal highway, PCH 1. I then took a bus directly to Burningman. Two weeks later, I flew to South Korea to start a seven month journey around Asia. While there, I got my LSAT scores back. I had nailed it. Time to decide what law school to go to… only – law school didn’t hold so much appeal to me any more.

While traveling, I came into contact with the then small crew who was holding Couchsurfing together. There were something like 160,000 members using the site at that time. In May, I flew to Alaska to help them continue building the site. I have spent the last five years living and working for Couchsurfing in Alaska, Berkeley, Costa Rica, San Francisco, Istanbul, Atlanta, Mexico, New Zealand, Italy, and Oakland. I met my girlfriend during this time and my experiences in these locations with the close group of friends and family who were the CS staff have quite literally shaped my life.

Couchsurfing changes the lives of the members who use it. The site now has almost 6 million members, and is growing rapidly. We have taken $22 million in venture funding. Of the original employees from that summer in Alaska, only one remains after I leave. It has been an incredible learning experience watching the company move from nomadic non-profit to a high profile tech company in San Francisco, and I will love watching it continue to evolve.

However, I am not built to live in an office staring at a computer all day every day. My recent adventure rafting 220 miles of the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon has only emphasized this.

I am going to focus on creating an outdoor education company, one that fosters learning and new experiences for children and adults. I am looking forward to forging new connections, and having more face to face interactions with the people who’s lives I am changing.

If you are interested in what I am up to – shoot me an email: ben@benhanna.com. If you like the outdoors, and want to pass some of your knowledge on to children, hit me up!

Rafting the Grand Canyon

In a few days I leave to go raft the Grand Canyon. My brother and I and some friends are going to be on the water for 18 days with no guide! That is the longest I have ever been on an extended outdoors trip for, and I am very excited about it.

We put in at Lee’s Ferry on December 26th.

We have a company that is packing all of our food for us, so we will not starve, but we will be doing this in the middle of winter, so warmth is my biggest concern. I have many base layers, thermals, insulated mid layers, etc… but am still worried (I have no built in insulation!)

I have decided to bring nothing electronic with me except for flashlights. No phone, camera, iPad, GPS, MP3 player or the like. The choice to bring no camera was tough and I am still considering it. My camera is a Nikon D50, DSLR that takes great photos, but it uses batteries, has an LCD screen, and I think it would break my feeling of remoteness out there. I have a love / hate relationship with technology that I need to work out. The feeling of not taking a single photo out there bugs me – so I may give into this one.

I hope to use this time to draw, read, reflect, and get some perspective on life other than the day in day out experiances that I am used to having. It has been over a year since I did something I thought was crazy.

So here we go again with the crazyness.

This is a gross misuse of “add on fees”

My bill for Internet this month:

Simple – huh? Time warner is getting sued for their modem rental fees – maybe sonic is over stepping here a bit.

 

Fusion Broadband – Single Line – 39.95 39.95

Fusion Broadband Information – 0.00 0.00
Data $19.97 Voice $19.98
Voice Federal Subscriber Line Charge Fee 6.50 6.50
Voice Federal Universal Service Fund Fee 2.41 2.41
Voice California Lifeline Telephone Service 0.15 0.15
Surcharge
Voice California Deaf and Disabled Telecom 0.03 0.03
Program Surcharge
Voice California High Cost Fund-A Surcharge 0.05 0.05
Voice California High Cost Fund-B Surcharge 0.04 0.04
Voice California Teleconnect Fund Surcharge 0.01 0.01
Voice California Advanced Services Fund 0.02 0.02
Surcharge
Voice California 911 Emergency Surcharge 0.07 0.07
Voice Oakland Utility Users Tax 2.02 2.02
Fusion Phone Service 0.00 0.00
Voice California Public Utility Commission 0.02 0.02
User Fee
Voice FCC Interstate Telecom Service 0.05 0.05
Provider Fee
Property Tax Allotment Surcharge 0.10 0.10
Voice Regulatory Recovery Surcharge 0.38 0.38
Modem Equipment Rental Fee 6.50 6.50
Credit Prorate 2012-11-20 to 2012-11-01 for 0.09cr 0.09cr
Voice FCC Telecommunications Relay Service
Fund
Credit Prorate 2012-11-20 to 2012-11-01 for 0.23cr 0.23cr
Voice Regulatory Recovery Surcharge
Charge Prorate 2012-11-01 to 2012-11-20 for 0.24 0.24
Voice Regulatory Recovery Surcharge

Total: 58.22

 

Life Hobbies: Reading

I read. A lot. I used to read more books, now I read more articles online, with about a book a week thrown in there.

When I was in second grade, I really started getting into it. My teacher, Mrs. Greene, encouraged it. After I finished all the book in the second grade classroom, I moved on to the third grade room next door. I got pretty far through those before the end of the year.

Reading was unlike anything I had ever done before. At that age, my first experience with death came from “Where the red fern grows” and “Old Yeller”. I cried my eyes out for those dogs. When I reached the third grade, I had a horrible teacher, and I used to just bring a book to class, and go sit in the back in the closet and read all day to escape.

As I got older, I got better at it, and my reading speed improved. It is hard to compare what happens when you read, vs. when someone else is reading, but I become totally immersed. I don’t hear people calling my name, I miss out on everything going on around me, and I forget I am even reading. I don’t notice the turning of the pages, the break in chapters, or anything else. Just the story playing itself out in my mind.

Just now, I took a little reading speed test online, and clocked in at over 500 wpm. Seems about right.

The flip side of reading, writing – is something that I was never very good at until I learned to type. My handwriting is even hard for me to read, but it is amazing how much emphasis was put on handwriting while I was growing up. Just goes to show you how little we know about what will be important in the future.

In college, I basically majored in reading – Philosophy and writing – Journalism. I was able to absorb large quantities of information, digest it, and spit it back out in a format that ADD 8th grader’s (most of the world’s reding level) could understand. To this day, if I pick up a good book, you can say goodbye to me for a little while – I won’t be back until it is over.

If you haven’t read these – you should do it:

 

Life Hobbies: Magic Tricks

My introduction to magic

The first trick I remember seeing was a little wierd.

My grandpa, Papa, used to take my brother and I to Waffle House. While there, he would casually hold a knife in his hand, facing up, then act like he fell asleep… ON TO THE KNIFE! White liquid would spill out and I was sure he had poked out his eye.

Turns out he was just holding a coffee creamer in his hand, but seriously – what kind of joke was that?

Learning

The first real magic trick I learned how to do was the “Magic Coloring Book.” I just looked it up and it seems like the same thing is still avaible today.

The trick was easy – simply flip with your finger at the top and there were blank pages, in the middle there were black and white outlines, and at the bottom there were full color images. Each section had little tabs cut out so you could flip to specific pages. (Magicians, don’t hate on me for spilling the secrets!)

But, if you didn’t know the secret, it caused a moment of pause. “How did this little kid just do that?”

It was this moment of wonder that I was in search of. I got some books and little kits on magic and learned a few math based card tricks, cut the rope and restore it tricks, seperate and join steel rings, switch the order of balls in a tube, and other simple, but fun to perform acts.

I got really into svengali decks, card decks that were slightly tapered on one end. This meant that I could ask someone to pick a card, reverse the deck, then pull their card out with no questions about it. I spent hours memorizing the patterns on the back of marked decks so that I could read the deck from the back and know what cards people had.

Application

Eventually I ended up taking all my little tricks, bundling them into an act, and doing a show for at least one birthday party. I can’t remember how much I got paid (probably about $5), but I remember the feeling after. It was great! The kids laughed, had a good time, and so did the parents, and I got paid to do something I enjoyed doing!

I don’t really do magic tricks anymore, but I am still a fan of pranks – which will be a later post. I still like instilling people with a sense of wonder, second guessing their assumptions, and making them smile as the realize things are different from how they seem.

Next up – Reading

 

 

A new series on my life hobbies

I am starting a series on the things that have interested me over the course of my life.

I enjoy trying new things. New gadgets, new ideas, new hobbies. I don’t stick it out with all of them, but often, some aspect of them stays with me and benefits me later in life.

One of the most intriguing facets of new things is that I never know how they will become integrated, what uses they may have, or what will come of them.

The series starts back in elementary school, with a little game known as Pogs.

Pogs

Pogs – if you dont know – are small cardboard discs with printed designs on them. The game started in Hawaii using the tops of bottle caps.

It consists of a stack of cardboard discs, and a “slammer”, a heavy metal or plastic disck that you drop onto the stack, in an attempt to flip as many over as possible.

Often, the game is played for keeps, which means you get to keep any pogs that you flip over during your turn. This was my introduction to gambling :)

Now, if you like to play pogs in the 2nd grade, chances are you will lose them pretty often, and they are not cheap (for a 2nd grader).

Enter the “pog maker”. If you know what a button maker is, then you know what a pog maker is. It is a die cut circle that can punch a disc shape out of any magazine, print out, etc… Combined with adhesive backed pog blanks, I had an unlimted supply of pogs. Even better, I had custom pogs. I could color them with markers, make pogs out of people’s favorite comic heros, anything I wanted. One comic book had about 50 images of Spiderman to use, so it was easy!

I quickly moved from playing pogs, to dealing in pog customization on a gradewide scale.

I think this was my introduction to the marketplace, and to the power of design and being able to design specifically for a customer. My first clients were other 2nd graders who wanted a cooler pog, and they wanted it then and there.

Next up – Magic Tricks

Babybird

Business idea:
————-
Babybird – organically masticated food for your child.
————-

I bet some crazy new age parents would pay bookoos for this.

Seen at TrueBurger in Oakland

This is one of those signs where you have to push the letters in individually. Someone took their time and did it right.

milkshake

3D is the next video

I can now use my iPad to capture a fully textured, accurate 3D model of my office, friends, food, anything at all. It takes me seconds to capture, a few minutes to process in the cloud, then I had a fully useable 3ds file that I can edit in blender or my graphics program of choice.

Trip at workHot Sauce

View the 3d file: http://www.123dapp.com/obj-Catch/Hot-Sauce/707293

How much does this cost me?

$0.00

Nothing. Eventually this will be the new way to view photos. I can pan, tilt, zoom, look under, spin around and investigate a full scene unlike any photo representation I have ever seen before.

If I choose, I can tweak it a bit, then print it out on a MakerBot as a plastic model.

Next

Imagine when this process utilizes a video feed to make the 3D capture? Live pawnable 3D video? Amazing.