Monthly Archives: May 2009

My Homeless Alias

For the upcoming Homeless Experiment I can’t go living on the streets and telling everyone I meet, “I’m not actually homeless, I’m just trying it out.”

That makes me a bit of a target and probably won’t inspire trust.

So I’ve made up a story for myself. It will be easier to stick “closer” to the truth since it’s much harder to lie. I’ll be using places where I actually grew up instead of other places in the off chance someone may know the area.

So if I somehow get involved in a long conversation about this, here are the story details I will give:

My name is Nev. (I’ll go by my full name if asked, but “Nev” seems nice, short and easy to pronounce).

I grew up in Houston but in recent years my family moved to upstate New York…I might also say they’re divorced just for added drama (but they’re not in real life). I moved to Austin recently and was working at Radio Shack selling phones. I recently lost my job and couldn’t pay rent for the last few months so I was evicted from my apartment.

I don’t have many friends here, and the only ones I know are in school, but they’re gone for the summer. I have a friend who I’m going to live with, but he moves into his new apartment in about two weeks, so for now I am living on the streets till he gets back into town and gets his apartment. From there I will stay with him and find another job.

I went to HCC (Houston Community College) for a few semesters but didn’t go all the way through.

I had a car in Austin, but I got in a wreck a few months ago and it was totaled. I didn’t have insurance and can’t afford a new one. I’ve been walking and taking the bus everywhere for a while now.

SO that’s what I’ll be telling people if they ask. I made up this story because it’s how I believe MOST people end up homeless….through a simple sequence of unfortunate events. For the most part homeless people are NOT the dilapidated looking bums you see on the side of the road holding signs. Those people are in the minority, however they are the most visible, which is why people think all homeless people are like that (I learned this pretty clearly when I would do work for homeless shelters…even homeless people don’t like THOSE homeless people).

Most of this stuff relates to some experience I’ve had or someone I know. For example I had a temporary roommate who worked at Radio Shack selling phones, so if someone proceeds on that line of questioning I can deliver believable answers.

This will also be the pretense for the whole Homeless Experiment. That I’m just a 20-something guy down on his luck for a little while and has no place to go for a few weeks. I feel this story will allow me to freely ask questions about homeless life, instead of telling people I’ve been homeless a long time and asking dumb questions about it. It won’t sound congruent if I told that story.

I’ll probably also try to “dumb down” my speech a bit just for effect depending on the person or situation I am speaking with. I’ll play it by ear as I know for a fact not all homeless people are dumb bums like some may think.

So there ya go: I am Nev the Bum.

Mini Homeless Experiments

During the upcoming Homeless Experiment there’s a couple of things I want to try out. Now since I don’t have a defined plan of how I’m going to acquire food, shelter, water and other basic necessities of life…there will obviously be a massive amount of variables in how much free time I get to do some of these mini-experiences.

Here are some things I’d like to try:

  • How much money can I make in an hour holding a sign asking for money?
  • How much money can I make holding a FUNNY sign?
  • How much money can I make holding a SERIOUS sign?
  • How easy is it to get food on the street corner by asking for it…perhaps holding a sign that says, “Don’t want money, food would be great.” I personally think this would work pretty well as a way of procuring food or leftovers. Since I’m walking out of my house with no food or money, this will probably be one of the FIRST things I need to do.
  • Where exactly will I sleep? Parks, benches, under bridges, homeless shelters, under a tree, in the woods?
  • What if it rains?
  • Access to restrooms. I can always pee in the bushes, but what about….?
  • Can I just show up at a homeless shelter and get a place to sleep? I already partially know the answer to this: At most homeless shelters you have to “reserve” a bed, but they’ll often let you sleep inside on the ground if it’s not too crowded.
  • Can I take a shower somewhere and get a clean change of clothes?
  • Where can I get a decent meal? I’m purposely not researching where the soup kitchens are located in order to make this experience more authentic.
  • What are most homeless people like? I kind of already know the answer….most are just like you and I. The VAST majority of homeless are not the crazy looking bums on the side of the road. I’ve had some experience talking to a wide variety of homeless people, but not AS a homeless person. I’m wondering if their perception or attitudes towards me will change much.
  • Can I get a temporary job at one of the day labor camps in downtown? How much money can I make like this?

There’s a lot of experiments I want to try, but time is a factor. I still think doing THIS would work well:

Suggestions?

The Homeless Experiment / Experience

Update: There are several easier ways to read this whole experiment:

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Experiment:
Leave my house in Austin, TX. and live on the streets for 5 days and 4 nights.

Purpose of Experiment:
There’s simply not one solid reason for performing this experiment, but several:

  1. To learn what it’s like at the bottom rung of the socio economic system
  2. I’ve studied how many successful people get successful…it would be interesting to see how some people have “failed.” Getting to live directly with these people would be a great way to learn.
  3. I’ve always considered myself pretty spoiled. Not in the spoiled brat kind of way, but in the fact that I’ve never once in my life really have been worried where my next meal was going to come from or where I was going to lay my head down at night. It seems important that every once in a while I give myself a good whack over the head to realize just how good I’ve got it, and that all those opportunities I have should be utilized to their full potential.A few examples stick out in my mind:
    -It was weird as a little kid going to India and visiting relatives and seeing the things they treasured or worked for as opposed to what I did. For example: a magazine subscription to National Geographic. This was just something that showed up in our mail and often sat unread at home. However over there it was a relatively big deal to have, and to absorb all that information. Books, magazines and other literature were thoroughly read and reviewed.

    -I went on a two week hardship hike when I was a Boy Scout to Philmont, New Mexico. You load up with gear at the home base (which itself is 6,000 ft. above sea level making every physical activity much harder than normal), they load you up in a bus, drive you way the hell out in the country and leave you. The whole trip is definitely a physical and mental strain.

    When I got back to base camp, I remember two experiences I had which I can still remember crystal clear: 1.) I sat down in a chair…and this regular everyday chair just seemed like the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in. The closest thing I had to a chair in the last few weeks before that were perhaps a stump or rock. 2.) I bought a $0.75 Coca-Cola from a vending machine, and remember thinking it was the BEST thing I had ever tasted. It was cold for one, and two it was sweetened. We weren’t allowed to have sweetened things because bears would smell the containers and try to eat them. I remembered thinking I would’ve paid $75 for the Coke.

    SO the last few years I’ve been a little spoiled and haven’t done anything like that. Even if you go backpacking, it’s usually pretty clear where you’ll sleep and what you’ll eat. You end up going with enough resources to make it through pretty comfortably. You’ve got the tent, high quality sleeping bag, energy bars, GPS and all sorts of other stuff which make the trip safer. This experiment will force me to actually seek out shelter from either homeless shelters, in the woods or other places where city officials won’t force me to move. It will also force me to beg for food.

  4. Ostracism. I’m Indian, but have never experienced any real discrimination that I know of. If I walk into a fine hotel to use the bathroom, I’m always allowed based on my overall appearance. However what if I was disheveled looking, carrying bags, looked like I was dirty and smelled? It might be a different story. I personally discriminate against these kind of people who come up to me on the street. It’d be interesting to see what it’s like on the other side.
  5. I’ve always wondered: If someone got kicked out of their apartment, had no money and no friends/family to stay with…what would they do?

So on Thursday, June 4th, 2009 I will officially begin my Homeless Experiment and start living on the streets for 5 days and 4 nights.

More info to come.

Beard Update

I’m trying to look disheveled/old as possible in my upcoming homeless experiment, so I stopped shaving and here is the progress after only 12 days:

Front view:

I’ve pretty much stopped maintaining anything on my head, and it looks pretty messy when I look in the mirror. It actually doesn’t look all that bad in these webcam photos from my Mini.

Thanks for buying the copywriting!

Sweet!  You just bought a one-time offer for my copywriting for crazy cheap.

Remember:  I didn’t want your money for this…I want your DATA!

SO THE NEXT STEPS FOR YOU:

1.) Email me anything you can about your offer.  Generally just showing me what you already have will give me more than enough ideas.

2.) Email me any other pieces of info you think will help (optional).

3.) Include your phone number where I can reach you (in case I want to pick your brain for ideas).

4.) email me at NevMed@gmail.com with the above info.

I’ll take these 10 pieces of copy I have to do in “first come, first serve” order…so it should be roughly a max of three days to get it back to you.

After that, test out my page and let me know the results!

Thanks again for taking part in this….please email or call if you have questions or problems:

Neville Medhora
NevBlog.com
nevmed@gmail.com
713.301.1546

HP Mini

Few days ago I bought one of these HP Mini netbooks (a netbook is basically a mini laptop). They’re super cheap, extremely portable and great for carrying around town (I’ll also be using this for the upcoming homeless experiment).

These netbooks are SMALL, but after playing with several, I came to the conclusion almost all of them are nearly useless because I can barely type on them.
However the one exception I found was the HP Mini (I bought the 1033CL).
It has a “nearly” full size keyboard…..which essentially means I can actually type on this as opposed to all the other netbooks I tried (seriously, it was nearly impossible even with a few minutes of practice).
SO this post is being made right from the drivers seat of my car. I’m testing out the portability, battery life and capabilities of this thing (so far..GREAT).
It even has an SD card slot which I can upload pictures from my camera:


My hand is nearly bigger than the whole computer.


My steering wheel is bigger than the whole thing.


Sits perfectly on my lap or the center console….even my tiny tablet had trouble with that.

So far I’m loving this thing as a travel-companion computer. I wouldn’t make this my sole computer since I’m on a computer 8+ hours a day, but otherwise for basic computer use, internet, typing, blogging etc. this thing is fantastic!

Two Things

Two things happened recently. I lost a $0.92 notebook from Wal-Mart and I partially shattered the screen on my iPhone which I paid hundreds of dollars for.

Oddly enough, when I broke the iPhone I didn’t really care one bit. Not at all. I predicted I’d break this phone within 6 months (and that was in July 2008) so it lasted a lot longer than other electronics I regularly carry.

However when I got off the plane, got home and realized I had left my notebook in the seatback pocket….I knew the notebook was gone, but realized I had lost something 100 times more valuable to me than an easily replaceable iPhone.

I have a bunch of these little notebooks (you know, kind of like the “cow” print notebooks third graders use):

…I use them to take notes when I read. Since I read so much, I tend to forget important things, so I write them down and re-read them time to time as a refresher. If I get a random business idea, I write it out. If I have a problem which needs solving, I pull out the notebook and graph out the problem, possible outcomes and plausible solutions. I also write down good quotes or random thoughts. Anything that comes to mind often goes in here.

I filled this particular notebook about halfway full during my recent month in California, so it’s a shame to see those nearly 100 pages of notes, to-do lists and random things gone.

The iPhone can be replaced at anytime.

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A word on the iPhone:
I don’t have a case or any sort of protective covering on this iPhone. I’ve dropped it, sat on it, thrown it around, dumped it in backpacks/gym bags and got it wet a surprisingly large number of times and it hardly has a scratch or defect on it yet. The screen is still flawless. I keep it in my pocket along with keys, change or whatever gets dumped in there. That’s one surprisingly tough phone.

The cool thing is it still works just fine! When the phone is on, I can hardly tell the cracks are there….so using even this “broken” phone is still exactly the same as when it was new.

Initially when it broke there were some small shards of glass that would rub off on my hand and cut me. When my phone starts to draw blood every time I use it….THAT was a bit of a problem. However I just turned it upside down and rubbed out all the shards with a tissue and it hasn’t been a problem since.

On the bright side, this gives me an excuse to buy the new iPhone when it comes out :-)

Stopped Shaving

Starting today (May 15th, 2009) I am going to stop shaving or cutting my hair in order to get a nice scraggly look in preparation for a “homeless experiment” I’m doing soon. Just trying to document this day with this post.

I was going to do this about 3 years ago but it got put off.

More on that later.

Random Reader Question

A reader asked this question:

I started reading your blog years ago with my mother – I was just a kid. Fast forward to now and I am 1 year away from a business degree which was absolutely influenced by you and your start-ups.

However, I have always found it interesting that you opted to graduate with a political science degree and throughout my college career I kept it in the back of my head. I had always used it to remind myself that what I am learning in school is not necessarily going to make me successful – I have to do that on my own.

I am finally writing to you about this because I just have to know why. I have spent many sleepless nights in the past few weeks deciding what to do with my final year of school. My best friend and I are one summer away from having our own website and I am endlessly battling with myself between majoring in marketing or finance.

As far as careers go, I am much more interested in a marketing career, but with my research I find time and time again that for an entrepreneur, or really anyone attempting to become financially independent, that finance is essential knowledge. I would like your advice on the matter because I know you have developed your own projects without majoring in either of these subjects.

I would like to know your stance on a situation like this and any advice would be much appreciated.

From all the experience I’ve had with “successful” people is that the educational background wasn’t necessarily the reason for the success, but definitely helped in it’s own unique way.

We can take a familiar example like Adam McFarland who graduated with an engineering and programming background, but has ended up being part of a very successful car oriented ecommerce site. Did his engineering and programming education itself make this happen? No….but it sure helped when he created and then re-vamped the site using his coding background.

So here’s what turned me off business school:

First and foremost I just didn’t get it.
“BUSINESS”
What does that mean?
Isn’t everything technically business?

Dig a little deeper and it breaks down into things like marketing, finance or accounting. None of those seemed particularly interesting to me at the time.

Second, I took a look at what the graduates did after school and where they went to work. It just didn’t seem exciting to me (keep in mind that’s simply my opinion). Our business school at The University of Texas had a very high out-of-college job rate, but that didn’t interest me as I was more into starting a company.

Third, I was originally a computer science student (but eventually couldn’t cut it…apparently a huge percentage of computer science students are WAY better than I am at coding). I was interested in building a talent which I could build something with….something that would give me an advantage over others. I was already into computers so it seemed a natural fit. If I could do it all over again, I would have worked harder towards getting a computer science or engineering degree. That stuff takes years of education….business lessons can often be picked up in a few good books.

Perhaps this might work well for you:

  1. Piece of paper with “Marketing” vs. “Finance”
  2. Write down the names of the associated classes you must take for each major
  3. Which one appeals to you more?

If reading financial statements and learning the intricacies of banking/accounting are interesting to you, then finance might be better. And if whatever the hell it is they teach in marketing is more interesting to you…..well you get the point.

My conclusion is this:
Marketing or finance….which one appeals to you more? There’s really no one-size-fits-all answer here. I think either of them will provide you with valuable experience you can apply to other situations or businesses in your life.
You might also find my advice to a college grad an interesting read.
What might interest you even more is Steve Jobs’ commencement speech about “Connecting the dots” later on in life….how things he learned early on had a serendipitous way of helping him out later on in life: