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The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Bryan Balin

October 11, 2013
Bryan Balin | UncommonGoods
Bryan Balin, UncommonGoods Data Scientist

My home town is…
Riverside, IL

I’m inspired by…
People who go against the grain, and have pride and gusto in doing it (hopefully, they’re vindicated at some point…). I’m a big fan of Larry David and Winston Churchill, both of which have/had the gusto (and some say, chutzpah) to be themselves, even if it sometimes raised a few eyebrows. And, they both enjoy wearing silly hats in public. Which is cool.

My favorite food of all time is…
My Grandma’s Rocky Road pie. It’s totally manufactured, with high fructose corn syrup and plenty of Cool Whip, but it’s soooo good.

Within the next 10 years, I hope to…
Buy a condo! I’m sick of this whole “my New York City rent could pay for an entire palace in France” deal.

My guilty pleasure is…
Watching Scooby Doo.

My most humbling experience was…
My first week of college. In high school, I was at the top of my class, but when I started at Johns Hopkins I wasn’t. It really taught me that you can’t just assume success because you are smart, because there are plenty of other smart people out there. Your drive, personality, collaborative skills, and values help define success as much as your raw intelligence.

An uncommon fact about me…
I’ve been married three times, all to the same person! No, I’m no male version of Liz Taylor; I got married in Bulgaria this summer, where you have a religious and civil ceremony, and then in the U.S., because New York didn’t recognize my marriage.

Would you rather…Have a whole year to do nothing but read OR start a successful company that employed hundreds of people and produced worthwhile and helpful things for the world, but left you no time to read, ever?
Depends on what you mean by “read.” If it’s “read novels,” then it’s easy—I’d start the company! I can tear through academic papers or the Economist, but I haven’t read a novel from start to finish in years. If it’s “read interesting things”… I’d still start the company. Hopefully it’s a text-to-speech company, so the software can do the reading for me.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: The Perfect Wingman

October 29, 2012

Let’s just say I’m a bar guy. Want to see my friends? I go to a bar. Want to watch a baseball game? Bar. Play Jenga? Well, you get the idea. But, how do you stay lubricated in between a barhop? With a flask!

Being a design-focused guy, however, made me very judgmental of most flasks. Your local liquor store usually has flasks that an ex-con named “Spyder” would appreciate. Not exactly my style. So, I’ve been on the lookout for a good flask for a very long time.

Research:

The flask was actually recommended to me by a friend of mine, Leah Bourne, editor at Stylecaster’s The Vivant, a luxury and lifestyle blog. I immediately took a liking to it. It’s not so obvious to say “hey, look at me! I’m a writer/photographer/owner of a free-range, grass-fed, localvore farm that offers free massages and tucks in each of its cattle individually each night.” But, it has some subtle humor with the wingman vibe.

Hypothesis:
As pouring liquor into a flask is not exactly rocket science, my hypothesis was more about social acceptability than function. So, the question to test is: will people think I’m a crazy loon when they see a bespectacled, nerdy-looking guy whipping out a flask in a bar, and on a successions of stoops in the stroller mecca called Park Slope? Will they think he is even loonier when he strikes up a conversation about data and statistics as he swigs from his flask full of bourbon?

Experiment:

Step 1: Fill the flask with Bulleit Bourbon.

Step 2: Meet Leah at Barbe’s, a local watering hole in Park Slope.

Step 3: Engage in a little stoop drinking.

Step 4: Have the flask take me to Talde, a restaurant and bar nearby. (Remember, as Seinfeld’s Kramer says, “I’m not going to Sardi’s, the Tony is taking me to Sardi’s.”)

Step 5: Break out the flask! It helped me supercharge a Moscow Mule.

Results:

The bartenders were remarkably tolerant of the flask! That was unexpected. And the stroller-chasers of Park Slope? Too busy replaying their Dora the Explorer videos in a desperate attempt to put the kids to bed to notice. However, the in-depth discussion of polynomial regressions did confuse a few passers-by.

Conclusion:
A big hit! The flask will be very useful for barhops/concerts/weddings/bar mitzvahs/Tuesday afternoons. It will especially help dull the pain of watching daytime TV when I wait for the doctor or dentist.