Freehand Life

Freehand Life

{art + innovation} #inspiration

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Drinking Up the 2015 U.S. Coffee Championships

February 26, 2015

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The awesome aspect of going to niche conventions is being immersed in people’s passions and dipping a little into subcultures.

This time, it’s coffee. Well, not just coffee. It’s the 3-day 2015 Coffee Championships.  Repeat with caffeinated fervor, “Cofffeeee!!!”

Caffeine’s beauty lies in its function, taste, and social connection blended into an addicting ritual. Caffeine functions to block adenosine chemicals in our brain, thus decreasing sleepiness common in the early mornings or post-lunch food comas. This leads to better concentration and decision-making.

Coffee is also art and science wrapped in a whip of coolness. You may wonder, “Egads. A national coffee competition located in Long Beach, California?” Yes, apparently it’s the “up and coming” LB coffee scene.
The competition scene: like a club with its dim lighting and orbs of light from the tall ceilings. Also like a cooking show with its bars, hosts, cameras, judges and spectator seating.

The crowd: many skinny men in skinnier jeans, button up shirts, and that distinct hipster hair cut. Glasses and beards deemed optional.

The events: a Barista Championship, Latte Art Championship, roasting and brewing competitions. Dedicated men and women from all over the country showing their brew technique, finesse, and networking.

Although the official schedule events promised terrific opportunity, we didn’t follow any of it. For details and winners, the Long Beach Post wrote up a nice overview, complete with coffee celebrity names.

I was interested in the coffee machinery and the characters behind the booth.

The Bkon (pronounced, “beacon”): offered the best and speediest shot. ‘Twas a super smooth, not requiring any sugar or milk. No acid! The $13,500 machine is only available for commercial shops. The two founders created Reverse Atmospheric Infusion (RAIN), which according to their site: “This control over negative pressure (pressure below normal atmospheric pressure) allows for the extraction of deep and layered flavor profiles that can be customized by chefs, mixologists, or baristas.

Modbar’s modular brewing system offers a very pretty experience where a tap dispenses hot beverages instead of the bulky counter culprits. This would also be sleek for a coffee truck or coffee bike.

The Trifecta: $2,500-$3,000. Inside the solid, heavy metal body only has 2 small parts to replace.

Talking to the Barista Guild of America yielded awareness of a Barista Camp in Pennsylvania this summer! The Guild hosted the central circle bar where baristas created free drinks such as shots, lattes, drips, and Americanos.

Of course there were the requisite food trucks for lunch as we lounged in the Southern California sun. We ended the day by casting our vote for the best roasting. The competition table displayed the same bean, roasted 6 different ways. Only by doing this side-by-side taste test does one fully appreciate the nuances. Amazing.

I may have to join the LA Coffee Club where “specialty coffee beans” are delivered to the house every 2 weeks by keen roasters. It’s like a wine club, but on the perky spectrum. Cofffeeee!!

Industry swag!

Industry swag!

What’s Your One Verb to Innovate?

February 16, 2015

The essence behind every innovation simply lies in its verb.

Forget those verbose corporate Mission Statements.

Just boil it down to one verb.verb

So, what’s the core action behind your idea?

Behind any action is the quest to help people.

It’s a valuable offering to help humanity solve a problem or to bring joy for the sake of goodness.

If you help people, everything else (insert #money #fame) should fall into place…

Today is as good as any day to create something.

Below are 31 starter verbs for your inspiration, one for each day of the month.

It’s like having that underwear pack for each day of the week, only better.

  1. Simplifies
  2. Strengthens
  3. Connects
  4. Coordinates
  5. Enables
  6. Enhances
  7. Automates
  8. Bundles
  9. Teaches
  10. Entertains
  11. Increases
  12. Decreases
  13. Restores
  14. Re-imagines
  15. Grows
  16. Produces
  17. Organizes
  18. Cleans
  19. Combines
  20. Separates
  21. Captures
  22. Stores
  23. Transmits
  24. Identifies
  25. Starts
  26. Stops
  27. Minimizes
  28. Measures
  29. Checks
  30. Alerts
  31. Tracks


Rad Idea> Global Press Institute: Real, Powerful Journalism

October 22, 2013

Challenge: international news desks steadily dwindle, while journalists continually battle to get access due to  language, cultural, and historical barriers behind stories.

Idea: train local, native women to be reporters in developing countries to craft heavy weight stories, published by dozens of paying global news agencies.

Key Radness: journalism as a scalable tool to break poverty

  1. Brings to light stories otherwise buried in deeply social political quagmires
  2. Provides jobs and voices for women who increases her family’s social economics
  3. Strengthens the local and international community as each byline leaves a literary legacy

Who: Cristi Hegranes founded Global Press Institute when she was 25, working as an international correspondent in Nepal.  Although she learned Nepalese, other journalists did not, which shuttered an entire outlet.  The social entrepreneur got her bold idea while talking to a local Nepalese matriarch.  Upon returning to the States, she quit her newspaper day job to create this win-win ecosystem.

How:  Hegranes and a dedicated crew of 11 people in San Francisco have trained over 130 women in 26 countries, providing content to over 50 major syndication partners.  Dozens of accolades decorate the writers and the GPI group.

Go Further: read the women’s articles from continental news desks at Global Press Journal

Feeling the Happiness Spectrum

September 14, 2013

What is happiness? There are dozens of definitions and interpretations from your family, Webster Dictionary, your local religious leader, or coffee house philosopher. Happiness is not one absolute.  Happiness is not a string of arbitrary, self-centric examples or a list of self-referencing synonyms.

Think of happiness as a spectrum.   Happiness is like the color spectrum.  It’s a range that melds and transforms as much as people wax and wane over their lifetime.

Let’s begin with a Baseline Wipe to reboot popular opinions.

Joy: often confused with happiness.

Happiness: the most commonly sought idea around the world, but often mangled in its obtainment.

Contentment: an under discussed concept, yet offers the most lasting strength.

Now, let’s apply the fresh Happiness Spectrum. The Happiness Spectrum has two simple guides: time and impact to relationships.

The Happiness Spectrum

 Joy: a good feeling lasting a few minutes or hours that mainly pertains to you individually.  Joy occurs the most frequently in a day: a beautiful sunset passes, your favorite song plays, or getting new shoes.

Happiness: a positive emotional state lasting a few months or years that involves a handful of key people in your life.  You’re no longer alone in your action and the impact amps up in terms of commitments to important people in your life.  Getting into your top college, landing that crucial job, or rearing a family with your love are examples with more complexity.  There may be hard work, expenses or broken hearts with several people, while you figure out this elusive state called “happiness” that other thin, rich people with straight white teeth have so easily.

The thrill of achieving these “important life milestones” wears off after a few months when you realize that you must continue to sustain and grow these delicate matters for an extended time. Thus, this is a common time when people have a radical mid-life crisis potentially involving divorce, a lifestyle makeover, or self-awakening. Whose dream are you really chasing and why is it worth it… hmm…?

You may go on a spiritual quest or see a professional counselor to realize that happiness is not an end state, but a continuous journey.  This happiness process takes bloody work through constant change that I cannot control 100%!

Wait a Twitter minute.  It turns out that everyone is making it up as they go along.  Holy moly! This is actually quite liberating.  This means that you can define, work, and share your happiness values within your own microcosm.   Forrest Gump was happy mowing the high school lawn, jogging, and being a single parent.

Contentment: takes place when one achieves the acceptance of either having or not having the desired thing.  The amazing thing is that contentment can occur within you, with a few people, or with many people over any time period of life.  Where is the cross-cultural dialog on contentment?

No, contentment is not settling, selling out, or not having an opinion.  Rather, contentment is when one confronts the 360-degress of a subject and makes peace with any result.  It’s the “I’ll be fine no matter what” resolution.  We break down the mind tricks we play on ourselves and finally unlock those emotional handcuffs by just letting go.




In summary: Your dog excitedly greeting you brings joy, yet taking care of him for years brings both of you happiness, which you’re content to outlive him.

A person flows and morphs in between joy, happiness, and contentment like a lava lamp.  It’s mesmerizing to watch.  Moreover, we just know it when we feel it, regardless of a definition.

25 Ways to Be More Creative

September 9, 2013

How We Grow

September 2, 2013

We grow

Happy Labor Day, Americans.  On this holiday honoring the noble workers, Ms. Nin eloquently conjures up the constant work it takes to just grow as individual seekers.

I love how her descriptions layer upon each other; building from the atom, all the way to the universe.  Her observation also makes it alright if we don’t develop like some linear computer program in black and white 010101010.
We can be clear, opaque or translucent.
We change our minds.  We are nuances and surprises.
We are like the millions of stars, morphing and evolving in the bright galaxy.

Why People Pursue Doomed Relationships

May 31, 2013

Disclaimer: the following contains plot spoilers and assumes readers’ high- level knowledge of the characters.


The Great Gatsby → Revolutionary Road → Lolita →The Reader →The English Patient

All radiantly hot relationships. All miserably failed or died. Why?

Why does Jay Gatsby or the English Patient enter, continue and obsess over what readers know are doomed relationships?

If art imitates life, what can we learn from all of these repeated patterns throughout literature?

It’s not only for the love they passionately proclaim. Love is just the cliché excuse at the conscious layer.  It’s not for the hope or the thrill of the pursuit by these flawed heroes on a journey.  Those things are just the side effects.

Theory: people pursue doomed relationships because they are fanatically trying to recapture or change the moment when a key experience shifted their life course.

These characters subsequently spend the rest of their life trying to extend that bliss or rectify the consequences of that moment.

Take Jay Gatsby (1925).  The former poor boy dubiously becomes an over-the-top millionaire in order to prove his worth to the superficial Daisy he had to leave behind.   The guy buys the mansion across the bay to be her neighbor and throws lavish parties “hoping” she would wander in?  Readers may have a glimmer of hope that Jay and Daisy can just leave all their riches behind to run away together, but ultra wealth is just so convenient for empty Daisy.

Frank and April Wheeler living on Revolutionary Road got lost in the suburban American Dream without realizing it (1961).  After 2 kids, 1 failed acting career, and an office affair, the trapped couple attempt to recapture that turning point in their life when all their dreams were still possible, when they were not bound with the velvet handcuffs of their responsibilities and upper middle-class conformity.    One grasp for liberation via moving to Paris would be met by another swath of fear as we watch their marriage steadily implode like a slow cooker breaking down a pot roast.  They came so close to beginning their re-defined life, but the weight of life’s status quo turned their journey into a dead end.

It’s like a bad case of “Lover’s Remorse.” These men and women jumped, were pushed or pulled into a situation, which later tinges with bittersweet regret.   The 30-day return policy just does not quite cut it here.  All of their energy, resources and life pursuit becomes dedicated to obtaining that elusive hope.

Humbert Humbert loves Lolita to her literal death perhaps, because of the early death of his young childhood sweetheart (1955).  Let’s assume readers believe Humbert’s own self-analysis. He concurrently creates his own downfall because Humbert tries to recapture that love from his you years with a 12-year-old nymph.  He plots to marry Lolita’s mom, drives hotel to hotel with Lo for a year, and is consumed with holding up this complex façade.  It cannot be a coincidence that Lolita’s last name is Haze, like the fog he’s been in the years since the first deflated relationship.

The Reader (1995) is the reverse of Lolita: the educated15-year-old guy loves the 36-year-old illiterate woman over one sultry summer.  Michael Berg never gets over Hanna Schmitz for the rest of his life.   He spends most of his adulthood connecting with her and trying to reconcile his ambivalence over her tenderness and actions as a Nazi concentration camp guard.  How else is his love better expressed than by reciting hours of books and carefully sending the tapes to her prison cell?

Recall The English Patient (1992).  Hot people in the hot desert eventually leads to a hot affair.  The stars were misaligned from the start: a jumble of nationalities set in World War II, hot tempers, airplanes as weapons for revenge, and no cell phones. While Katherine Clifton feels guilt over the affair, Count László de Almásy cannot escape the series of bad luck to capture that Almost Happy Ending after those few days, post-plane crash.  The English Patient ends up dying for the woman through a series of misunderstandings just as Jay Gatsby met his demise covering up for Daisy.

Stupidly dying for the love of your life defeats the whole purpose. What can we learn from these five examples, then?

 One must courageously let go…

…to be able to start fresh and,

persist until the next draft gets better.


January 10, 2013