More pictures of the TrekDek playing card prototype

The Box

The cards

An example from each suit

Back of the box


TrekDek Treks – The first 52 Treks

So here are the first 52 Treks that will be on the first version of TrekDek playing cards. If any of you guys accomplish these while you travel, tell your story in the comments sections.




2. Go to a restaurant and find out where your server’s favorite place to hang out is.

3. Learn how to say “Live Well, Travel Well” in the local language.

4. Cook a local dish.

5. Donate one day to charity

6. Stay at a hostel, in a room with at least four beds.

7. Go somewhere via boat.

8. Attend a locally advertised event (plays, concerts, art gallery openings, etc)

9. Find a local market and negotiate the price of a product down to at least 1/3 the original price.

10. Take the local public transportation, get off at a random stop and go exploring. [Unsafe areas excluded]

J. Find a local bar and learn the national drinking game or song.

Q .  Find the best place to watch a sunrise.

K. Buy a meal for a homeless person.

A. See a movie at the local cinema.


2. Invite another traveler out on a trek.

3. Attend a local religious service.

4. Join in on a local sports game.

5. Spend an evening hanging out at the hostel.

6 .Go somewhere via train.

7. Eat at a hole in the wall restaurant (it can’t be in your guidebook).

8. Get lost in the city and find your way back to your hostel. Stay safe.

9. Buy some local music.

10. Hang out at a café for an afternoon.

J. Find the best sandwich in town.

Q. Teach a local your national drinking game.

K. Find the best place to watch a sunset.

A. Try couch surfing for one night.


2. Get a piece of clothing that locals wear and wear it around.

3. Get a picture with a street performer.

4. Forego technology for one day.

5. Play a card game with someone.

6. Do a pub crawl with 3 other people.

7. Get out of the city if you’re in it, or into the city if you’re outside of it.

8. Eat at a Chinese restaurant (for some reason these are everywhere).

9. Learn the local “Happy Birthday” song.

10. Walk out of your hostel and go exploring.

J. Sit on a park bench and talk to someone next to you.

Q. Get a picture with an animal (monkeys if available)

K. Stay up all night…zzzzzz.

A. Eat something you’ve never eaten before (extra points for bugs).


2. Lead your own improvised tour of a museum (ludicrous stories earn extra points).

3. Hang out with someone you don’t know for a day.

4. Send a postcard to a friend or family member.

5. Arrive somewhere without having booked a place to stay.

6.Go to a well known landmark without using the internet, a travel guide, or a map for directions (hint: ask people!).

7. Write a list of what $20 can buy you at your current location.

8. Ask a local to explain his country’s political system.

9. Learn to count to ten in the local language.

10. Go to a local bookstore and ask an employee about his favorite book.

J. Ask a local what he thinks about your home country.

Q. Go on a run or bike ride.

K. Take pictures of everything you eat for one day and write a food review.

A. Compliment someone; it doesn’t matter who.

How I discovered how to fix higher education at Innotech 2011

When I walked into the Innotech Conference, it instantly reminded me of a pre-marathon expo. It had a lot of the same qualities as the traditional pre-marathon expos that take place the day before the race. The attendees were a little less fit than the marathoners, and instead of electrolyte jelly beans the vendors handed out bite sized Snickers bars.  No one was trying to sell me running shoes, but I was enthusiastically encouraged to browse the multitude of pamphlets describing the vendors’ enterprise security packages.

One characteristic of the event that I noticed was a clear anti-Apple focus. I attended one of the talks on “Mobile Strategy;” the speaker spent a significant amount of time talking about the Android’s growing market share,  the Iphone pricing itself out of major markets, and the growing irrelevance of an app store. There was also a large Microsoft corner that displayed several different tablets running Windows 7. It was exactly what you would imagine it to be. Take your Windows 7 laptop, take away the keyboard, turn the screen into a touch screen, and voila, a Windows 7 tablet.  Not great.

The highlight of my day at Innotech was only peripherally involved with the event itself. There was one booth that I found extremely interesting, and possibly a solution to a fundamental problem in undergraduate education. The booth was for the Business Solutions Group based out of Oregon State University. It is effectively a software consulting business that hires student interns from OSU to do all the work. The program is entirely funded by its revenues. The students get real world skills running the business and managing client projects.

As an International Affairs major, I was acutely aware that I wasn’t learning any hard or useful skills from my program. This is generally true with most social studies or liberal arts programs. Yes, you learn how to write long dissertations on hegemonic theory or obscure French literature, but these skills don’t really translate well into the business world. It is no surprise that many of my peers are finding it hard to land jobs that even remotely relate to their majors.

If a program like the Business Solutions Group existed for liberal arts and social studies majors, I believe many more college graduates would have a much easier time finding jobs or even starting their own business. The advantage of such a program being run through a university (as opposed to corporate internships) is that the university would be acting on behalf of the students. It would be relatively easy to check on the program and make sure the students were learning real-world skills and not just fetching coffee for the boss. It wouldn’t put any strain on the school budget, as the program would fund itself through its revenues. The pressure of generating revenue would force the students to implement creative and innovative solutions. If the program ends up losing money, well, it’s not the end of the world. The students aren’t burdened with families to support or mortgages to pay, so the risk is minimal.

The Innotech website states that its goal is to create “an environment where education, innovation, peer-to-peer networking and the latest technology and business solutions are all available specifically for business and technology professionals.” Though I didn’t find a solution to my start-up problems, I did discover a potentially better model for higher education.  Good work Innotech.

Here is the link to the Business Solutions Group website:

My experience outsourcing to China part 2 (Or a message to Sophia)

For those of you that haven’t been following this epic saga detailing globalization in full force, read part one here .

So I decided to send my critique of the cards to Sophia and see how she responded. She gave me pretty reasonable answers as to why the sample decks came out weird. She pointed out correctly that I didn’t communicate everything I wanted for the initial sample order. This is true. I thought I had accurate specs for what I wanted but it turns out I was missing some details, the most important of which seems to be the plastic coating. She admitted a few things that was her fault and also mentioned that the machine they use to produce samples is not the same one they use for mass production. That makes sense. I’m posting some of the e-mails we just sent back and forth. It ends with me detailing what I would like for the next set of samples. Hopefully this epic has a happy ending (though that is rare in the literary world).

Dear Dale, [In this e-mail she copy and pasted my last e-mail and responded to a bunch of individual points. I will underline her response to separate what I said and she said]

First, happy to hear you have already received the samples. It seems so quick!

And please check the attached file for the quotation records, from all the different quotations, you haven’t request the playing cards and poker box to be laminated, and we quote all the prices based on no lamination! And at the very beginning, you give your target price, so we also quote the price based on your target price and give you the quotation base. I think you should be all clear, right? And usually, if lamination, the cost will be increased, and lamination or not, it’s up to client’s decision, we have to follow client’s requests!

We have met some clients before, if they want the goods to be easy recycled after they throw the playing cards away, they will choose not to be laminated!

And for the material, we have already chosen the material 300gsm gloss art paper, 350gsm gloss art paper for cards, as well as 250gsm ivory board paper for poker box, they are all the good paper material.

And we really felt so sorry for all the problems you have put forwarded!

First let me speak about 350gsm playing cards with larger box

350 GSM with Large Box

Box is too large for the cards, in fact, the size is according to your original file, we don’t adjust this box size at all! And when the larger box comes out, we find it to bigger, so we choose to adjust the size to 64*89*2cm which is the normally seen poker box size to pack 63mm*88mm poker cards. So in fact, small box is made in another day!
Bottom tuck side of the box – “TREKDEK” is not centered
Top tuck side of the box – “TREKDEK” is not centered
Right Side of box – is not centered
Left side of box – “LIVE WELL, TRAVEL WELL” is not centered
Back of the box – Text is too high. Needs to be lowered
All the cards have a very rough cut on the edges
For all the above questions of not centered, we can ask our designers to re-adjust.
And for the edging cutting, I have also noticed the problem. Because for samples, we only make several decks, cannot use big machine for cutting, but if under mass production, will have not such problem!
– The border is not even. The graphic is too far to the right. Needs to be centered. Sometimes, it’s just because of making samples, the cutting line may be adjusted not accurate under small machine, if under mass production, will not have such problem!
– Fine, the alignment of the image is good. The clubs should look like that. So, come out from small machine, sometimes, may be good, sometimes, may be not even!
– 4,5,6,7,8,9,10, J, Q, K,  card images should be moved left. It is uneven. The content, I will ask the designer to adjust!

– K card top border seems larger than others, this part, can be adjusted.

– Fine

And about 300gsm with smaller box
300 GSM with Small Box

On the back of the smaller box, the text needs to be shifted left and centered
Smaller box is missing Live Well, Travel Well on left side and TREKDEK on top and bottom tuck sides
Above two parts, I have noticed already, in fact, it’s so careless for the workers, the smaller box is made after bigger box, and for bigger box, content is all correct, just not centered as you have mentioned.
But because I mainly want you to see the normally seen box size to pack regular 63mm*88mm poker cards, therefore I just send the wrong boxes but right size out to you! And give you another same box, let you try yourself to pack 350gsm playing cards, and hope you have a decision to make 300gsm or 350gsm playing cards finally!
Cards are cut roughly on edges
Border on back side of cards is too large, uneven. Prefer no border (all blue) I’ll ask the designers to delete the white border, all blue, it’s no problem!
Too flimsy. It’s really sad to hear that! I think the main problem is the lamination, if the playing cards and poker box to be laminated, you will not feel it flimsy!
Need some sort of laminate? If you really feel it flimsy, it has to be laminated!
– Print is fine

– The Border on the 2 and 3 card are uneven, shifted to the right too far

– All the cards need to be shifted left slightly

– Fine

From all your above comments, it seems all the design has to be re-adjusted!

Things I want to find out about:

1. What are you options for a plastic coating on the cards? If you want the cards as well as poker box to be laminated, this lamination is exactly called plastic coated!
2. Do you sell plastic cards? We of course sell plastic cards, but usually plastic cards will be much higher than paper made playing cards.
3. What options do you have for boxes? Plastic? Custom sized? usually if you want plastic playing cards, the box can be paper poker box, or plastic box, but the cost for plastic box is much higher than the cost for paper made poker box, we think, if your order quantity is 500decks, better to choose paper box.

We really feel so sad to hear you give such cheap comment on the samples. If you have requested to be laminated, I think everything will be different!

And for the design, we’ll ask our designer to re-adjust, OK?

About lamination or not, please kindly reply back!

On Apr 16, 2011, at 10:15 AM, sophia.wang22 wrote:

Dear Dale,

In fact, we will accept no matter how small the initial order quantity it will be!
So no matter a order with small quantity, or large quantity, we’ll both pay our best attention! It’s really worth of our time!

I’ll reply you later about below:

1. How much cost for adding plastic coating both on cards and poker box?

2. What are the options for boxes? (plastic box, laminated paper box, etc)

3. Do you sell fully plastic cards? Please check the attached picture for your reference of plastic playing cards, it’s packed by laminated paper box

4. When I compared the samples to another set of playing cards I purchased, I noticed the regular playing cards were thinner, but had a plastic coating. Is this possible with your company? Because at the very beginning, you let us quote based on 300gsm and 350gsm, so we don’t give you the quotation based on thinner paper material! Usually if thinner, it can also be 280gsm, 250gsm. 280gsm usually is used for medium quality, and 250gsm usually is used for low quality! And no matter you choose what kind of paper material, it can have a plastic coating!

And if possible, please give me different specification soon!

Thank you!

Hi Sophia,

I’ve listed below different versions that I would like to see. If there are any other details that I needs to include please let me know. I’m trying to be as specific and clear as possible, but I am human and sometimes make mistakes.

Sample A:

Box: Laminated Box, standard poker size (the smaller of the two you sent me the in the previous sample shipment)
Card Stock: 250 GSM  with plastic coating

Back of Card: No border

Sample B:

Box:  Laminated Box, standard poker size with plastic coating
Card Stock: 280 GSM with plastic coating

Back of Card: With border

Sample C:

Box: Laminated Box, standard poker size with plastic coating
Card Stock: 300 GSM with plastic coating

Back of Card: No border

Sample D:

Box: All plastic box, standard poker size
Card Stock: Completely plastic card (Is this possible?)

Back of Card: With Border

My decision to place a full order will be based on next sample that is sent. I will be watching out for the following factors:

1. Even spacing of border

2. Smooth cut around the edge of the cards

3. Centering of text on the box “Left, Right, Top, and Bottom” text. Also, on the back of the box the text should be centered.

4. Centered graphics on cards with even borders


1. Could you send me a price quotation (including shipping)for the following:
a. Sample A: 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 decks
b. Sample B: 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 decks
c. Sample C: 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 decks
d. Sample D: 25, 50, 100, 250, and 500 decks

2. For the sample shipment, how much would it cost to send me:
a. One of each: Ax1, Bx1, Cx1, Dx1
b. 5 of each: Ax5, Bx5, Cx5, Dx5
c. 25 of each, Ax25, Bx25, Cx25, Dx25

The reason I ask about this is I plan on sending a few of these out to friends for free anyway. This way, if the samples are not perfect, I can just send the imperfect ones to my friends and we can work further to improve the product. Of course I would prefer to perfect it in the next samples.


1. If there is something wrong with the designs I sent you I apologize. If it is something that can easily be corrected (graphic is not centered, design doesn’t fit the box size), please let your staff know that I give them permission to fix it. I trust their judgement in making small adjustments to make the cards look more appealing.

2. For these next samples, I would like them to accurately represent what the final product would look like. I understand the last set of samples were from a smaller, less accurate machine. Is there anyway to try make these samples on the big machine?

Please let me know if there is anything unclear or if I forgot to mention a few specifications. I thank you for your patience all the help you’ve given me.



My experience outsourcing manufacturing to China (or WTF happened to my samples?)

Update: You can read my follow up to this post here

Ever since I read Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four Hour Work Week,” I’ve been convinced that I can outsource large chunks of my start-up. About 9 months after starting the process, I’m realizing that outsourcing itself is about trading time for cash savings. I wrote a blog post in the past about my experience outsourcing to India. Some of the issues that arose from outsourcing code involved difficulty communicating, unrealistic expectations for initiative, and an inability on my part (as a non-coder) to verify the work being done. Now having understood those issues, I decided it was still worth it to outsource the  manufacturing of TrekDek playing cards.

Why did I decide to outsource manufacturing when I’ve had a negative experience outsourcing code? The reasons are as follows:

a) The cost savings were substantial (and I’m low on cash at this point)

b) The product itself  is simple (playing cards), unlike code.

c) I could hedge the risk by ordering a product sample first

I listed what I was looking for on and was contacted by about 8 different playing card manufacturers, most of them in China. Some of them were clearly scams (asking for 100% payment upfront, cheesy design templates, etc). I finally narrowed it down to one manufacturer whose sales person is named Sophia (on Alibaba all the sales people pick western names for business).

My friend Gilbert did the card designs and I sent them over to Sophia. We hammered out the specs. For playing cards, these included things like card thickness and card size (poker vs bridge). In order to mitigate the risk of getting a crappy batch of cards, I ordered sample decks with a couple of different specs. I payed for the sample via paypal; it was $100. I had to fight the impulse to order all 500 decks because I was very eager to start selling these things and generate revenue. Good thing I didn’t.

I received the sample packs today. At first glance, they looked pretty good. However, upon further examination there was a bunch of things wrong with them. Here are some of the issues:

a) Many of the borders on the cards aren’t uniform. Some images are shifted right, others are shifted down, etc.

b) On one of the boxes, they did not print a few things on a few of the box faces that were supposed to be there. They were present on the other box so I don’t know what the issue was.

c) The edges of the cards were cut very roughly. Its kind of like some print books whose page edges aren’t uniform.

Now those are the things that I thought professional manufacturers should check for. I didn’t expect to come across those issues. There are a few others things that I want changed, however, they weren’t in the original specs so I don’t fault the manufacturer for that.

Here are my options now:

a) I can e-mail Sophia and order another sample with the corrections

b) Find another outsourced manufacturer

c) Order a much smaller batch of cards at a higher price from a US manufacturer

d) Market test the cards by putting them up for sale using the pics of the samples and see how much interest there is. Determine whether or not I should even produce these cards.

So far I’ve been unimpressed with the results I’m getting from outsourcing. Though outsourcing at first glance appears to be an attractive option for those with limited funds, the actual cost seems to be much higher in the end. Is outsourcing worth it? Let me know what you think.

One of the sample boxes

The back of the box. Notice how the text isnt centered and shifted too far to the right.

An example from each suit plus a joker. The actual designs and colors came out well.

Update: Read my follow up to Sophia here

My job interview experience (or how not to interview someone)

Today I went in for a job interview at a law firm. No, I was not interviewing to be an attorney. I was interviewing to be an admin assistant. I decided before I even went that I did not want the job. The pay is probably appropriate for the position, but I don’t want to work full time for such a small amount. Why did I go? I figured I would go to get some interview practice and see if anything unusual pops up. Who knows, maybe my future TrekDek co-founder would be at the office.

Clue #1: Absurd job posting listed below

Downtown Firm seeking qualified Administrative Assistant.

All candidates must understand the following:

  1. This is a Job: You must be willing to be an employee.
  2. Rules are Rules for a Reason: You must follow our dress code, learn to work with people from diverse backgrounds that you might not understand and be willing to work hard.
  3. The Little Things: Attention to detail and task completion are essential.
  4. Communication: Excellent writing skills, including a sincere appreciation of grammar and spelling.
  5. Culture: You have to fit into our culture. We aren’t changing for you.
  6. Opportunity and Experience: Most employers want applicants with 1-3 years of experience because often people straight out of college don’t understand that the world isn’t about them. We care less about experience and more about your willingness to learn. We will provide you the opportunity to learn what you weren’t taught in school.

If you have what it takes, apply to the right. For the others, click that “back button” and keep looking.

Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm.

Downtown Portland, near Max and bus lines.

$2000 per month with full benefits package

Being me, I addressed each of those points in a sort of smart-ass but reasonable way in my application. I think I wrote something about rules should only be in place if they lead to results and that culture is dynamic and should be constantly improved. Whatever, I was still invited to interview.

When I arrived, I realized I was under dressed. I was in khakis and a work shirt. Everyone else was in a suit. Oh well.

Clue #2: I then asked the receptionist/admin assistant what she thought of working there. She said she liked it. I asked what she thought of the work culture. She said it was “unique.”

The interviewers, a young HR director and an older guy (probably an attorney at the firm) brought me to a room and started asked me questions.

Clue #3: They started asking me lots of questions about how I reacted to stress and people yelling at me. They also asked how I performed in a hierarchical organization.

Clue #4: When I asked them what an admin assistant could be expected to do, they mentioned something about “picking up syringes from the parking lot one moment and then having to be cleaned up and ready for a presentation in the next.” They also mentioned something about building tough character.

Clue #5: I asked about turnover for the position. The older attorney guy says “High, we end up firing a lot of people. Many start crying after we yell at them. We expect our admin assistants to be tough.”

At that point I decided the attorney guy was a prick and told them I wouldn’t be a good fit for the organization. Because the younger HR director was nice, I decided to send him an e-mail with my thoughts. The e-mail is copy and pasted below. Is my e-mail appropriate? Who knows, but I felt I needed to write it.

Hi [Name Redacted],

I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to interview me. Though it didn’t work out in the end, I just wanted to give you my thoughts on the process that may be relevant to you as the HR director. Keep in mind this is all based on the interview process and may not reflect the rest of the firm.

1. Your supervisor (I forget the name of the other guy you were with) seems overly egotistical. Though it is possible that I just happen to piss him off by being underdressed, appearing over relaxed, and exhibiting a casual attitude towards authority, it is worrisome that he comes off as a bully even during the interview process.

2. I think what is causing your high turnover for the admin assistant position is either

a) You’re hiring super incompetent people to begin with or

b) A tyrannical management style.

Either way, it hurts your firm

3. Managing the admin assistant from a “survival of the fittest” mindset is silly and counter productive. This is only going to cause the admin assistants to become sycophants and generally discourage individual initiative. This process may work for the Navy SEAL training program, but it is not applicable to your law firm. I imagine my resume was picked out of the pack because you thought having been in the military, I wouldn’t quit if yelled at. The solution is not to find people who don’t mind getting yelled at, it is to stop yelling and find a better way of improving performance from your employees.

4. Some of your expectations for performance is unrealistic. If you are picking up syringes in the parking lot, you are going to get dirty. There is a high probability that your admin assistant will be dirty for that important meeting. There is a reason janitors and mechanics wear work clothes and jump suits; they don’t want their regular clothes to be ruined.

5. If you are scared of presenting this e-mail to your supervisor for fear of getting in trouble, I believe that is evidence for my case.

Again, I apologize if this comes out as unnecessary and unwarranted criticism. My short time in the military as well as my time teaching in Egypt has made me an astute observer of corporate culture. I may not know how to develop an excellent working environment, but I do know what doesn’t work.

I hope that was helpful.

I also noticed from your bio that you’ve spent some time overseas (Japan, Germany, etc). My startup is called TrekDek and I’m trying to bring the hostel lobby online. I would love to hear some of your travel stories and maybe bounce some ideas off of you. Beers are on me. You can reach me through e-mail or my cell at [redacted].



Trek – Go on a run or bike ride (or how I found the Vietnam memorial in Portland, OR)

The other day I decided I should start running again and figured it would be a good way of exploring Portland. Plus, it is one of my TrekDek challenges. Though I imagine this would have been far more interesting overseas, I still ended up discovering something new: The Vietnam Memorial!
No, I did not mistakenly write Portland instead of DC. I started off on a trail that started on West Burnside Road. I became directionally challenged i.e. lost and ended up running up and down random trails. This eventually led to my encounter with the Vietnam Memorial of Portland. Its pretty cool actually. Its a variation of the DC memorial. There are several smaller “walls” with the names of KIA veterans and a short narrative of a part of the war above the names. I took some pictures with incredibly useful iphone. Below is the narrative of my experience in photo form.

This is what the TrekDek card will look like

The running trail I got lost on

The Vietnam Memorial no one knows about

One wall from the Vietnam Memorial

This is the kind of discovery I hope to encourage with TrekDek. Though I had no intention of finding a “tourist” attraction, I did and I thought it was pretty cool. I recommend anyone in Portland try the trail running/getting lost thing. Apparently if I had gotten lost on a different route I would have ended up at the Rose Garden or the Zoo.

If anyone else has a cool “getting lost on a run” story let me know and I’ll post it.