A few weeks back I flew to Los Angeles to have some meetings about technology and media outside the Science 2.0 world - well, sort of.  A surprising number of people outside science know of Science 2.0 and read the site and are fans.  

Prior to that, I wanted to grab a coffee with one of the co-founders of AOK - Acts of Kindness - Lynn Liss, to talk about their stuff.  It's a nifty concept and technology. If you do a nice thing for someone else, or observe a nice thing being done, or even miss a chance to do something nice, you tell the world and you get some points based on how the community responds to that.   It becomes 'cause currency' for that month, which ends up being donated to a group.  In September it was a local school for a project.

We had an enjoyable, yet hurried, cup of coffee and then it was off to more meetings, but this post isn't about those.  I write 'hurried' because I hadn't been late to a meeting since Clinton was president yet I was late for four that day and no one in L.A. was surprised - they generally regard meeting times as optimistic wishes if driving is involved.   Those guys on "Entourage" are always arriving somewhere on time, though, so it's easy to think it can happen to you also.

Mort Nathan with Bloggy
Bonus: If you are in science, you have a sense of humor, and if you have a sense of humor, you have seen the comedy "Kingpin"(1).  My lunch was with Mort Nathan, the co-writer of that movie, because we are working on a fun something you will read a lot more about soon-ish.  Here is Mort with Bloggy, because everyone wants a pic with Bloggy.

I flew back that evening and was thinking about some ways to make this Acts of Kindness stuff take off - generally, I think it is a great idea to do good stuff. It's the Republican half of me that thinks people generally do less good stuff if they think the government is doing it for them so I just do good stuff myself and ask for lower taxes. I was still thinking about it the next evening when the wife and I set out to Folsom Live.

Folsom Live is an annual outdoor event, concerts and drinks and food in the historic section of Folsom, where the terminus of the Pony Express was in the 1860s.  The 'headline' act, Pat Benatar, had canceled due to an accident with her husband (and guitarist) and Kim had asked me if I still wanted to go when Eddie Money had graciously agreed to fill in on short notice.It's music, I want to go, sure, and off we want.  You don't buy drinks at this sort of thing, you buy tokens which you exchange for drinks.  I am not sure of the economics of this on a small scale though we obviously do it on a large scale, with the assumption that our currency will be worth something tomorrow.  It is probably just psychology; they sold 10 tokens for 20 dollars, but most drinks are 3 tokens and people who would balk at paying 6 bucks for a beer likely don't object to giving over 3 tokens.

Armed with 20 tokens, we set off to one of the outdoor bars to get the Mrs. a white wine. Well, they were out of white wine, which seemed like a devastating strategic mistake at 7:15 in the evening in Folsom, where Chardonnay is the Official Drink of 60% of the population.  

My wife asked where there might be some and the guy really didn't know but said she could ask in the VIP section.  Oooh, a VIP section, I thought as he handed me a Heineken, how exclusive.  If she had asked me in advance if I wanted to pay X dollars more to be in a VIP section, I would have balked and laughed at the elitism and silliness of it all but now that it was right there, I was ready to start waving money to be with the cool kids (that is psychology too) so we walked over.

My wife sells Silpada jewelry. It is where you have a party in your house and women who like jewelry come over and buy some. It seems like a fun company, she went to their national conference this past summer, and her parties involve wine and delicious food and a gender that smells pretty, so I am okay with it. Ever since she started selling it, a change has come over her. A woman who used to get embarrassed when I would negotiate with a car dealer(!) has since turned into a junkyard dog about getting a deal.  

So she walks right up the the security guy in the VIP section and starts working him for how to get white wine.  She didn't cock her leg and start twirling her hair but she clearly was figuring this guy out so hair twirling was going to be in the arsenal if needed.

It turns out it wasn't needed.  An official looking woman saw us talking to him as she walked by and asked what was wrong.  My wife explained the venue seemed to be out of white wine and she wanted some.  This seemed to exasperate the woman, who wondered aloud how they could be out of white wine and not have told anyone.  She turned to a different young man and asked him if he had 'keys to the truck'.  He did, he said."Go get this lady some white wines.  Don't take any tokens, I can't believe they are out of wine over there."  

Then, to us she said, "Zack will take care of you" and she was off doing something important again. The young man said, "Follow me" and off we went.  

"How do you know Mary Ann?" he asked.   We didn't, I replied, she was just being nice.

He takes us over to a large refrigerated truck and opens the back.  He climbs in, breaks open a case of wines and starts handing them out.  "You want a beer, bro?" he asks me.  "No," I replied, "I have one" and he sticks his head out and looks at me in that way only a young guy can look at you when he is trying to give you free beer and you are too clueless to realize it.  "I'll take a beer," I laughed and he starts handing those out.

So now my pockets are stuffed with enough beer and wine I can barely move and we thank him.   He tells me I should walk around with a beautiful woman more often, and I tell him I married one for that very reason, and we were on our way.

We had some pizza with friends, who got some free beer and wine from my overstuffed pockets, we saw English Beat, we saw Big Boss Graffiti (I met their lead singer later and shook hands with him because I thought his style was really terrific) and we saw Eddie Money and they were all fun.  

Big Boss Graffiti opening for KISS in Sacramento.

Around 10 PM we decided to exit the venue itself and get a coffee.  One of our favorite places when we visit that section of Folsom is the Karma Cafe.  The reason it is a favorite is because the owner, Anthony, was there the first time we visited and we wanted a mocha and he said he had brought over some special gelato from another store he owns and made us a terrific drink and he was generally fun.  It's hard to describe the decoration - it makes no sense, but it works.  The music is the kind of world music stuff that would annoy me in most settings, the people are terrific.

Karma Cafe Folsom
Trivial aside.  The Karma Cafe is also where I saw a Steampunk meeting which got mentioned in Victorian Secret: The Girls Of Steampunk and which ironically got steampunk folks telling me how hot steampunk girls were while they objected to objectification of steampunk girls.

We ordered a mocha and sat down near a blonde lady who was clearly not dressed for Folsom Live, since it had been about 90 degrees out and she looked more suited to a cotillion.  It turned out she had some kind of official operations role with the company, she was a marketing person for the art community.  Anthony has a few irons in the fire and she was generally helping with all of them.  The genesis of the job had been that she just liked the place and he came over and asked her if she would work there and so she did.

So Kim and our new acquaintance Jillian were talking about various things and I was flipping these left over drink tokens in my hand while I thought about the Acts of Kindness stuff.   We had clearly benefited from acts of kindness in a short period of time.  So I mentioned to Kim's new BFF that I wanted to give away the drink tokens I had and didn't need, since we had gotten free drinks (though we had technically paid for them by buying the tokens anyway, but you get my point) so perhaps she could have the Karma Cafe do it.  Karma is in their name, after all.

The idea being if they had a customer they particularly liked the next day who was wearing a Folsom Live wrist band, the Karma Cafe could do a random act of kindness and give them tokens for a free beer.  Then I could write an article about the whole experience, which would generate some good karma or kindness or whatever for both Acts of Kindness and the Karma Cafe, since I would write about the Karma Cafe on AOK and then about the whole thread on Science 2.0. She seemed to think that was a clever, if confusing, idea, then midnight rolled around, and we headed for home.

When I got home, I noticed our garbage cans had been taken in.  It had been about a hundred degrees when I pulled into the garage and I was just not in the mood to walk them the 30 feet up the driveway then.   But somehow they were behind the fence.

"Do you think Paige brought in the garbage cans?" I asked, and Kim looked at me in that way only a mother who knows her teenage daughter can look in response to a silly question, which means a neighbor had done it - and I had some idea who but couldn't be sure.

So the next morning I had the kids sneak over to their house and put a copy of the Robert Downey, Jr. "Sherlock Holmes" on their doorstep.  It was my clever way of telling them I had deduced who put the garbage cans away and a small thank you, for generally being great neighbors too many times to count.

So here is the chain of events, though I only count the ones below that were actual acts of kindness.  Buying tickets for Folsom Live is not really an act of kindness, for example, because we were getting value out of the bands, nor was giving away a free drink coupon on the plane the day before, since I had gotten it with my ticket, nor is writing this article or promoting Acts of Kindness or the Karma Cafe, since that was more intentional than a random thing just to be nice.

(1) Decide to do an act of kindness for Acts of Kindness
(2) Get free booze at Folsom Live
(3) Man 20 years younger than my wife compliments her
(4) Give away Folsom Live drink tokens to the Karma Cafe who will
(5) Randomly give them to someone they like the next day 
(6) Neighbor puts our garbage cans away
(7) Randomly give a movie to a neighbor who may not have done it

I can't prove it scientifically, but this karma stuff feels pretty good just the same.


(1)  I did ask him, "are you allowed to be situationally funny in real life?" and he replied, "My wife says, you're almost 50 years old, knock it off, when I try to be funny. But in a screenplay no one knows how old you are."