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August 3, 2017 / paulio10

Instant Mashed Potatoes

With the instant mashed potatoes box that I sometimes buy, the directions on the back has a “4 servings” option (which isn’t enough for two people) and an “8 servings” option (too much for two people).

So I averaged the numbers to get “6 servings”, and something very strange happened (besides being just right for two people):

The numbers worked out far better than the other sizes!

The other sizes all have “1/3” and “2/3” in many of the numbers, making you use 2 or 3 measuring cups for everything. All those fractions dropped away, and I was left with nice round numbers – fewer measuring cups.

I’ve known this for about 15 years now. They really should print this option on the box.

Funny company!

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June 13, 2017 / paulio10

Advanced Trick for Capping Munzees

This article will probably only be useful to a very few (possibly none) of my followers who play the GPS based game “Munzee” on their phone.

Munzee, for those who don’t know, is an outdoor game where you hunt down QR codes (square-dots bar codes) that have been placed in public locations, often on light-poles or the backs of signs, and you scan them with your phone’s Munzee app – and receive points. A bunch of points, usually. Precious, yummy points! As of June 2017 I have 88,921 points (level 100).

There are many types of munzees people can put around public places, and different things can happen with some of the munzees (fire munzees can light other munzees on fire (and if you scan them you get more points), ice munzees can freeze you or you can get extra points, plant munzees can grow, etc.) There are a few munzees now that disappear and reappear, you have to get them only when they’re visible on the map, such as when the CEO of the company did not come in to work that day (a funny inside joke I guess). There are also virtual munzees where you only have to be somewhat near the location to scan it – no QR code required. Sometimes you’ll see those on a pond, just stand by the shore, click the munzee icon on the map, and click the scan button to capture (cap) it.

Munzee is a fun game that’s way faster and easier than Geocaching, if you’ve ever heard of that. The home base of Munzee is in Texas. You can even join teams, and get extra free stuff (like new munzees to place on the map yourself) if you meet group goals.

Anyway.

The advanced Munzee Capping trick I figured out is this:

If you’re approaching a location with a lot of people around and you don’t want to stand there like a dork trying to scan a QR code for 15 seconds, moving your phone around, craning your head, rotating your phone, whispering “come on….!”, and generally calling attention to yourself – there’s a way you can force it to scan in 1 second or less.

The trick is this: while approaching the QR code location (when you’re still 10-12 feet away), click the scan icon so it switches to “camera” mode, and hold your other hand about a foot in front of the camera lens, as if you’re trying to take a picture of your entire hand. You can aim it across your body so your two hands are horizontal in front of you, basically aiming the camera at your other hand without looking at it.  Keep holding it there while walking up … and when you get so close that the phone is the same distance from the QR code as it is from your hand, rotate the phone quickly to point at the QR code! It will scan instantly!

This works because your phone always does a handful of things to get ready to scan a QR code, before it’s ready to scan it.  It has to focus the lens – when the camera is first turned on, it has to sense how far away the center object is (center of the picture generally), then it has to adjust the focus to that distance, then (because it’s not exactly right) it has to focus in & out a couple times… all of this just takes too much time – precious seconds of embarrassment-causing frustration.

You have to get good at knowing where your phone’s focus is, in the space in front of the camera. Does your phone have its camera at the top, or middle?  Left side, right side, or centered?  Practice a little, looking at an object maybe 1-2 feet away and see if you can point your camera directly at it, so the object is in the center of the frame on the screen, not off to the left/right, or too high/low. Get used to your phone that way, see if you can “feel” that spot in front of your camera, so your hand positions it right every time. Position your hand at that exact spot while walking up to the QR code.

Using this trick you can now walk right up and BAM! scan that QR code. You don’t even have to stop walking. People looking in your direction won’t even know you did anything!

It’s a neat trick that I use upon occasion, like during Frisbee Golf season in the park that has a ton of Munzees along the pathways that I always like to visit.

If you want to try capping some Munzees, create an account for yourself at www.munzee.com. Then come back and scan this QR code to get you started! The game is free, and a lot of fun.

Munzee is a great way to get exercise, especially when the weather is nice. Just take a look at the map of the area around you and see how many munzees are all around you. I bet there are a lot.

May 20, 2017 / paulio10

No Energy today? Let’s fix that…

Do you have no energy, today?
Why is that?
Why don’t you have 10 times the energy you do, today?
You can.

There are forces within you that are fighting against the real you, blocking 90% of your energy.
What forces are those? Many of them are things you learned from your family when you were growing up.
Many of them are from our broken ass society and its strict guidelines and subtle mind-washing techniques
to convince you that you are wrong when you express things in a natural way for you, but that does not
fit into the predefined prearranged society limitations imposed decades and centuries ago in our
twisted ridiculous society.
Why do you put up with that shit, still.
Why do you think that you have to continue to accept the bullshit once you start to realize the
limitations all around you? You can reject them any time you want to!
Why don’t you do that today.
Your reward will be
* increased health
* increased energy
* increased simplicity
* increased accomplishments along the lines that are the most important to you, whatever that may be

All you have to do to realize it is
(1) work to live as a person with more energy and direction than the bullshit centuries-retarded society we live in
(2) pick out high-energy songs that you love listening to
(3) occasionally drink 2-3 alcoholic drinks and listen to your music, because it can fire you up.
BAM! Now you get it!

So how do you have more energy?

It’s time to schedule the things that are important to you.
RIGHT NOW write down on a single piece of paper the 3 most important things to you.
Next, immediately schedule those things on your calendar – get them done, don’t let it slip.
You should even begin one of them right now, immediately.
These are more important than the other things on your calendar.

BUT WAIT! You say that you can’t “accomplish” these items, they’re too big?
Oh, that’s easy.
The first step is to just WRITE DOWN the things most important to you – it can
be hard to define it sometimes, this is a really important step.
Don’t just leave it floating in limbo, in your mind, as a foggy dream. Write
it down. Write in vivid detail – what is it you really want.

The next part is actually easier, the act of actually doing the work; here’s how you do that.

Read the thing you wrote down, and break it down into individual steps that
you can accomplish. It may be such a big project that when you break it into pieces,
each piece STILL cannot be completed!
But then you take each of those pieces, and break them down again,
and eventually you get down to small achievable pieces of work that can be done by you,
or delegated to other people to do for you.

But what if you don’t know what the next step is?
That’s easy, the next step is to research what the next step is.
Another way to think of it: “how has ANYBODY EVER done that, ever, anywhere in the world?”
Get mad, and think to yourself, “if anybody ever did this, I can do it.
I will learn what they did and do it myself BECAUSE I FUCKING FEEL LIKE IT.”

Each piece of work should have at least one of these things:

  1. a task that can be accomplished by you in a single sitting, all at one time.
  2. research – when you don’t know how something works you should
    research it on the Internet and ADD MORE TASKS from that to your list.
  3. a task that can be delegated to someone else – ask them to work on it right
    away, if appropriate; you don’t check it off until they have completed it.
    That way you can monitor if they have done it or not, because they might forget.
    Bug them about it. They must get it done, or you take it away and make it happen
    some other way.
  4. When you don’t know how to continue, ask experts in your life.
    Research who is the best at this topic, and ask them.
    Research who has ever done this before? What business/company? Ask them how
    to do it, ask them for help. You will be surprised, they will not only be
    happy to help you, they will be impressed with you that you asked them about
    something that is so important to them!

When you feel really stuck, when you just can’t come up with any next-step and have no idea what to do,
the next step is BRAINSTORMING.

Creatively write FIVE THINGS you can do as the next step to get un-stuck,
FIVE WAYS to fix the problem stopping you. (or 3 things, at the very least!)
“But I can’t think of anything!” No, you can think of everything!
but you’re going to filter that “everything” down to a small set of 5 things
you could do next, as possible next steps.
If your mind tells you a crazy or unreasonable next step, write it down anyway
to clear your mind from that item so it is free to think of another one.
You can always strike out the crazy ones from your list later on.

Now go and try them, one after another, until one of them actually works.
Start with most likely one first, or, just start with item #1.
YOU WILL BE AMAZED – one of these things will actually work!
In the unlikely event that you burn thru all 5 items and nothing worked,
you know a lot more now — make a new list; ask for help from an expert
or a friend or significant other, if you need to.

For example my wife said to me the other day, around 8PM:
“I can’t even exercise now, but I really want to.”
I asked her why she can’t exercise.
She said, “because it’s too cold outside, and I hate going to the yoga studio I was at;
I don’t like the people there; I don’t want to go back. Besides it’s getting late and I’m tired.”
I said, “there’s lots of other ways you can get exercise; name 3 more ways you can do it.”
She said “I can’t think of anything…”
So I went into Creative Naming Five Things mode.

I quickly listed out loud:

  • call 3 more yoga studios, arrange to go each of them, pick the best
    one, and stick with it.
  • do a google search for “exercise” and our city name. Call 3 of those and see if
    you can get a free session to each one.
  • Run around the living room and dining room 50 times, count it, and
    let our dog run with you, he loves that.
  • Take the dog for a walk in the park, and get him to run – let him off the
    leash, and try to keep up with him. If you get into trouble, so what,
    you don’t have to do it again, but you got exercise today.
  • Put on the biggest coat you can find (with 2 sweaters underneath) and see
    if you can ride your bike to the nearest park, take a picture, and come back again.
    I bet you can’t do it! I challenge you! That picture will be your proof!
  • Roll a 6-sided die to decide how many “sets” of 10 pushups you’re
    going to do (1 = 10, 2 = 20, 3 = 30, etc.)
    When you can’t do any more pushups, switch to leg-lunges.
  • Do 100 jumping jacks.
  • Look through our DVDs and find the old exercise videos we have –
    decide you’re going to go once-each thru EVERY DVD WE HAVE in sequence,
    just because you can! Prove that you did them ALL. One per day.
  • See if you can find a free exercise video on the Internet, and exercise to it.
  • See if you can find a video on the Internet with a hot exercise guy you can follow.
  • Find 2 or 3 songs that are total energy to you, that drives you to exercise harder,
    and pick your favorite exercise from the above things – go to it.

She was surprised by this, I don’t think she was thinking as widely as I was about exercise.

She ended up switching yoga studios, and riding her bike around the neighborhood.

If you don’t like something, don’t do it again after trying it once.
You might be surprised to find one of these is really fun, and you want to do
it over and over again.

Literally ANYTHING can be accomplished with these tricks and other productivity tricks
that you read in blogs, books, and other resources.

DON’T PUT UP WITH GETTING STUCK.

Sometimes anger can be a motivation force when used properly.
There’s destructive anger, and righteous anger. That second one is what you
want to practice if you can.

For example, with the situation where my wife did not want to return to the old yoga studio:
if I was her, I would have said, “screw that studio! I will never go back there ever again!
I will find 3-5 more studios, and choose a much much better one. I’ll show them.
Each time I go to the new studio I found, I will think about how much better this studio is
than the other one. I’ll tell the instructor specific ways that I’ve observed their studio
is better than my old one, to inspire them.”

Righteous anger can drive you forward, and is not destructive but constructive –
it motivates and empowers positive construction.

If other people ever tell you “NO, it can’t be done,” what they’re really
saying is that THEY cannot do it. And that’s fine. They’re losers, they are people who
always give up too easy. You’re not one of them anymore. You’re going to find
the answer, the way, to get the work done that you believe in, to make change in
this crazy world for yourself and for others. You uniquely have energy now, direction now,
to get something actually done in a world that has never experienced what
you uniquely are bringing to the table. Thank God you’re here.

In comparison to how powerful you’re becoming as you practice these things,
our society is relatively slow and limiting and stupid. I’m sorry you have to live here,
but you don’t have to bow-down to failure and limitation any more.
You know the secrets now. Stand up for yourself. It’s time.

Energy songs I’d like to suggest:

Burn – Ellie Goulding
Monster – Paramore
I Just Wanna Live – Good Charlotte
Lips Like Morphine – Kill Hannah
Return to Innocense – Enigma
It’s Amazing – Jem
Let It Rock – Kevin Rudolf
Ladies and Gentlemen – Saliva
My House – Pvris
Crazy – Gnarles Barkley
Discotechque – U2
Hallelujah – Paramore
Volcano Girls – Veruca Salt
4 Minutes – Justin Timberlake & Madonna
Gimme Sympathy – Metric (I especially like the video of this one on YouTube)
Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chili Peppers
E.T. – Katy Perry
Always Up With You – Alphabeat
Never Let Me Down Again – Depeche Mode
Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt – We Are Scientists
Walking In My Shoes – Depeche Mode
Gone – U2
Its No Good – Depeche Mode
Strangelove – Depeche Mode
The Spell – Alphabeat
Hole In My Heart – Alphabeat
The Pretender – Foo Fighters
Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
One More Night – Maroon 5
Push It – Garbage
A Stroke Of Luck – Garbage
The Distance – Cake
World Comin’ Down – Billy Idol
It’s Nice To Know You Work Alone – Silversun Pickups
Meet Me Halfway – Black Eyed Peas
Missing You – The Black Eyed Peas
Spiderwebs – No Doubt
Just A Girl – No Doubt
crushcrushcrush – Paramore
Misery Business – Paramore
It’s Not Over – Daughtry
I Made It – Kevin Rudolf
You Made The Rain Fall – Kevin Rudolf
Trans Fatty Acid – Kruder and Dorfmeister remix / Lamb
Worth The Wait – We Are Scientists
Seventeen – Lady Tron

If you don’t like some of these songs, don’t listen to them, it’s fine.
But did you find one AMAZING song that completely blows you away?
Search out more songs from that band.
You might find more amazing songs by them, maybe you’ll buy the whole album;
or maybe you’ll hate all the rest of their other songs, they only had one good one.
Both of those situations have happened to me. It doesn’t matter.

What other songs/bands are like that awesome one you found? Listen to those next.
At least you found one good one. Services like Pandora, YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon
have ways to suggest new music that’s possibly “like” the one you just listened to –
great way to find new music.

Plus, their basic services are free — lack of money is no excuse to get started.

Music is medicine, it heals such a wide-variety of ailments we have today
within our emotional and mental bodies.

Where have you been?

You don’t have to love the songs I love. The songs above are my energy songs.
You can find yours if you want to. Find what works for you.
Don’t put up with small – make it BIG.

Nothing here is incremental. Go BIG. Stand tall and move forward.
Some weeks and months and years you feel like you’ve made no progress.
Others times you IMMEDIATELY step up and reach the next level.
This is true for music and healing, too.

What I want you to realize is:

  1. Nothing is TOO MUCH for you, it’s all OK, it’s all acceptable.
    You aren’t going to be hurt by any of it. You can listen to any music,
    absorb everything about it, like it/hate it, and still be yourself.
  2. There is a maximum amount of energy, and you can reach the end, at least in
    our physical world, and it’s OK to experience the maximum, it doesn’t hurt you.
    You don’t have to shy away from it and avoid it. It saps too much of your
    energy to shy away and hide from life. Step forward and experience it.
  3. This prepares you for ANYTHING that life can throw at you, there is nothing
    to be afraid of or apprehensive in any way, any more.
    You can see anything, know anything, do anything, communicate with anyone,
    partially thanks to the Internet.
  4. Have to give a speech in front of a crowd of people?
    What CAN’T you say? You can say anything. As long as you know it and mean it!
    No fear, because the fear can be all gone now, magically, mystically.
    Because actually it never existed, you just fell for a trick; but no more.

On 4/16/2017 I gave a super good eulogy for Frank P. Falewicz, the father of my wife,
at a church full of people I sort of knew, and many I didn’t know.
But I didn’t care. I just did it. I only had minimal preparation
(I typed up some quick bullets in a text file on my phone a half-hour before).
It was easy. Nothing to it. I worked hard to get to this point.

Dare your life to give you a challenge! Don’t let life be boring!
May life rise up and meet your new-found energy level!

You can reach this point if I reached it. Because why not?
I was born, once, like you. We both lived a number of years, and we know the
things we know and can do the things we can do.
I was such a shy child, painfully shy. But not anymore.

I know that you can do everything I can do.
It just takes practice, training, self-drive to learn the things it takes to
do whatever you want to do, you feel you need to do, in this world.

Don’t just fall back to the usual – TV, movies, games, wasting time on the
Internet, etc. Understand that those are things that can calm and heal you.
They can be medicine. But don’t spend ALL your time on those things.

Use them judiciously.

You have important work to do.
————

April 25, 2017 / paulio10

Getting Used to Being Wrong

In life, if you aren’t regularly wrong or at least unsure, you aren’t doing new things; you aren’t exploring and learning.

In school they teach you that everything has 1 right answer, and if you don’t get that right answer you’re wrong, and wrong is bad.  Wrong is worth zero points, and zero points makes you fail your test, fail your paper, fail your class.

But what I’ve noticed is, the older I get the more easily I get used to being wrong, and it doesn’t mean it’s the end, sometimes it’s just a hiccup as you continue your journey.

When young, most people’s self-worth is tied to seeing themselves be right/wrong, succeed/fail. When they get older, they often find they can separate self-worth from success/failure.

For many people, when they are young they’re easily embarrassed, and embarrassment feels bad, and so they try to avoid it.  When older, they realize embarrassment can be funny, or at least non-painful, and that everyone around you has been there; so it’s not so embarrassing to be embarrassed.

If you can practice being OK with being wrong, the world opens up to you.  You can learn anything, by starting at the beginning, being wrong a lot, and learning it that way – then you’re right, on something totally new, maybe that other people around you never learned.

If you can be OK with being wrong from time to time, you have an ocean of new success in your future.  You can learn the things rich people think about, and how they do what they do – and choose to do a portion of that, if you want, for your own success.

If you can be OK with being wrong, other people can’t control you by making you wrong.  Because you’re wrong, and it’s OK.  You don’t get angry. You don’t lose control of your emotions and thoughts.  You can’t be steered or goaded into different directions of action/thought/feeling/decision.

Schools should stop teaching that there’s only one right answer.  Wrong is not failure, it can actually be a step on the path to success. Those who are the most successful have made way more “mistakes” than those who aren’t. It’s really true.

January 28, 2017 / paulio10

So Much Crazy in This World

If you ever feel like maybe you’re crazy, and are worried about that, I’d like to relieve your mind a little bit.

The world around us is crazy. Observe it carefully, and you can’t help but come to that conclusion – crazy. Almost nothing works right around here. So many things are arranged in a less-than-optimal fashion, so much senseless waste, wars between people who are all very good people, it’s ultimately needless, and yet, there it is.

The question is, how well are you able to navigate the Crazy? Can you keep standing up, when being pummeled by Crazy from all sides? Are you able to sleep at night? Resilience and calmness can seem impossible at times; and yet, those are some of the greatest things you can strive for, in Crazy circumstances.

My latest “crazy” experience

My latest “crazy” experience was somewhat off the charts this past week.

My wife and I bought a property to fix and sell in the middle of last year, and it took a lot longer and cost more money (of course) than we originally expected.  It took so much work – but we finally finished everything around September, and put the property on the market.  And it didn’t sell until this month, January.  Which was annoying, but OK. We still made money on the deal.  But the first step when receiving the money was to pay back the loans for the purchase of the property.

Earlier this week I had to wire transfer US$120K from our normal bank to the “other” bank, the one that loaned us the money.  Over there we have a checking account we never use, and the loan account. I called that bank to get the wire instructions – because I didn’t want to carry a cashier’s check for such a large sum between banks; it didn’t feel right to me. I wanted to do the transfer quickly, electronically.  What I didn’t realize was that when the bank said “wire it to your checking account,” they meant because the checking account has a different account number than the loan number. I thought they were the same number (I didn’t know).

So I went in to the closest retail outlet of my normal bank during my lunch break. This branch happens to be inside a grocery store. I told the manager I wanted to initiate a wire transfer. “Oh you can’t do that here” was the response I got, which confused me. “Our branch is closing down, you’ll need to do that at a stand-alone branch.”  I asked, “when are you closing?” to which the manager replied, “not until the end of March.”

I  just stood there for a good moment, pondering this.  It sounded kind of crazy, I have to admit.  “You can’t send wires, even though you’re still a fully operating bank branch, and you’re not closing for 3 more months?” I asked. “Well, yea, we were supposed to close in 2 weeks, but the central office extended us until end of March.” …But didn’t grant you the ability to send wires, when you clearly have customers that need to send them.  Alrighty, then.

So, on to a stand-alone branch. A quick google-search as I hopped in the car; I drove about 5 miles to a branch I hadn’t used before, because I knew it was near the restaurant I wanted to eat lunch at. Now it was 15 minutes after noon, and I was starting to get hungry. Every branch is equal to every other branch, right? I should be able to wire money from one that I’ve never been to.

I went inside and asked to send a wire transfer. They ushered me quickly into an office to fill out the paperwork, which I did; and they said they’d send the wire right away.  “The money should be there within an hour, if you check your other bank’s account after work you’ll see it went through.” Happy with myself, I left and went to lunch; then I drove back to work.

After 5PM when I got off work, I checked the other bank’s account online – no money had arrived. I started to get worried. Something’s wrong! Don’t panic…. failed wires usually get sent back to the originating bank, right?  So I logged into my normal bank account where the money came from – and, no money there either.

I immediately drove to the bank with the loan, and sat down with a more senior employee and told them my issue. “Yea, I don’t see the money has arrived yet, what account and ABA did you send it to?” I told him the details. “Oh, you gave them your loan number, you can’t do that.  Wires cannot go directly to loans. They must go to a checking account.”  My stomach sunk down a bit, inside of me.

Oh no.  That’s my fault then, I didn’t know that. I wanted to make a loan payment of $120K, but apparently I’m supposed to transfer it to the checking account, then pay the loan from there!  My bad.  “OK, what do I do now?”  “You have to go back to the originating bank and have them re-send the wire to the checking account.”

“But I logged in online and checked my account, the money didn’t go back to them either.” “Well, the money is not at our end. The wire would have failed, and the money would go back to the originating bank. Check in the morning, their online systems will probably update over night.”

Sigh.  It’s now 5:50PM. The other bank is closed for the day. I could not find any branch that would still be open beyond 6PM, within a distance that I could get there in time. So I guess I’m done for the day. That sinking, out-of-control feeling was getting stronger.

I think you can imagine what was about to come next.

Realization and Personal Challenge

I needed to go home and prepare dinner, and eat it; without feeling sick to my stomach that $120K of cash is missing now.  I needed to get some sleep, and not stay up worrying all night long. I needed to not stay up drinking all night, because I have to work in the morning! The money is gone from every bank account that I control, and I can’t do anything about it until tomorrow.  $120K is a LOT of money!

In that moment of realization, while driving home, of what the next 12 hours were going to be like, it hit me – this is a test.  This is a test to see if I can be relaxed and calm and keep my cool, despite a powerful wave of fear welling up, brimming on the edge of my mind, ready to take over my brain.  It’s happened before – that out-of-control, can’t eat anything, sleepless-night syndrome. I think it happens to everyone at one time or another. I just didn’t want it to happen to me, despite the circumstances.

When you think about it, this is one of those situations where I literally CANNOT do anything about it until tomorrow. So I knew there was absolutely no reason for me to be waylaid by fear and anxiety.  Put it aside until you can do something about it. I should save all my fear and anxiety until tomorrow, it’s only needed after I’ve taken every step possible and the money is still missing.  …That can’t actually happen, right?!?

I feel like this is a perfect test for me. So much of my life has been wrapped up in unreasonable fear and self-doubt, early on in my life, and I’ve overcome so much of that, it hardly comes up anymore. A couple decades ago, if I “lost” $1000, I would feel a tremendous amount of fear and hatred and anger; but I’ve come a long way in recent years in being able to manage my life activities and keep myself calm in the face of Crazy events, so many times.  Now, 120 times that amount of money was “lost”! It’s almost unfathomable to think about.

But I managed to do it!  I didn’t blurt out the horrible events of the day when my wife got home an hour after me. I spent my time preparing the meal that I had so carefully planned out, I bought many different types of foods that you can eat with chopsticks, so we could both practice using chopsticks, something we’ve wanted to get better at this year.  I designed and printed out an amusing “Chef Paulio Menu” for the 5-course meal I had planned, and put it on the dinner table. It was meant to be a bit of a joke from a very fancy dinner we had one time that was very expensive and took almost 2 hours to eat all the courses. The 5-course meal I was planning consisted of: celery with cream cheese (cut into bite-size pieces), salad with raw mushroom slices (to be dipped in ranch dressing), egg drop soup (super easy to make, and delicious – look up a recipe on the Internet; not a chopstick item, I know, but good nonetheless), a ribeye steak that I spiced up, cooked, and cut into bite-sized squares; and lastly, for dessert – raspberries that I rolled in sugar and arranged nicely on a flat plate.

So you can see, life had an opportunity here to ruin my special evening. This was a surprise for my wife, all she knew was I was going to make dinner; she didn’t know all of the preparation I was going through. I could easily have scrapped the whole thing and gone thru the Taco Bell drive-thru, she would have never known the difference. But I didn’t want to do that. I can choose to have a nice meal with my wife, right?

So we had a really great dinner, and talked about whatever she wanted to talk about; I managed not to think about the lost money except briefly maybe one or two times. After dinner, while we were doing the dishes, I told her what had happened with the wire-transfer, and what I was doing to fix it in the morning. I laughed it off, just one of those Crazy things – stupid banks, you know? And I’m glad I said it that way and then changed the subject, so she wouldn’t worry very much. We both try hard not to hide anything about money from the other person; I think our relationship is a lot smoother because of that, overall.

We watched a couple TV shows that night, which was nice and relaxing, as I managed to barely not think about things too much.

We went to sleep – and I successfully banished all bad thoughts and feelings from my brain all night long! I managed to keep them from grabbing on to me and torturing me, somehow.

The Next Day

The wave of bad feelings hit me when I groggily woke up the next morning at 6AM.  But I still couldn’t do anything about it – banks don’t open until at least 9AM.

I got dressed and went to work – ah, work, such a nice distraction because of all the mental energy it requires.  At 10AM when a number of meetings had ended, I drove immediately over to my main bank, to get them to find the money and re-send the wire. This time I went to my favorite branch where I knew the people who worked there, they’ll be able to help me I’m sure.

When I got there I explained everything to the manager. We sat down and she went to work figuring out what was going on.  It turns out she could not make any changes to the wire, since she had not sent it – there are safety mechanisms within the bank to keep one employee from affecting changes to other employee’s financial activities, such as wire transfers, probably to protect against fraud. Banks have to cooperate with lots of fraud rules & regulations, more and more every year, to prevent many specific problems from happening – problems that must have actually happened, I would guess, at some point in the past.  Rules and regulations help protect against bad activities, but have a nasty side-effect of preventing innocent people like me from doing what we rightly need to do.

She told me that the money had not yet arrived back at this bank.  Sigh.

I got out my cell phone and called over to the destination bank.  They said they would look into it and call me back as soon as they could.

My bank manager made some phone calls to find out what more she could do, but eventually told me, “once they reject the wire, it will come back to us; then you will have to go over to the branch you sent the wire from, and re-sign the paperwork there, because I’m not allowed to make any changes from here.”

I thought about my job, all the work I was going to miss today; after being here for over an hour already, I was going to have to drive about 8 miles to the other branch, sit there for an unknown amount of time waiting for the money to be “returned” to the branch, so we could do everything over again.  A money-reboot. This could take all day. I’m so lucky I work for a flexible company, but now I would have to call my boss to explain I would probably be out for another few hours. I kind of snuck out at 10AM without telling anyone; which is usually OK, as long as I make up the time later on.

Before I had a chance to say goodbye to my favorite bank manager, my cell phone rang.  It was the other bank manager – and, good news!  They didn’t reject the wire because… the loan department did the right thing!

When the loan department saw the money wired in under a loan account number, instead of rejecting the wire like they often do, they were holding the money until they could verify with the customer (me) that I wanted to pay it towards the loan! They would be happy to reject the wire, or pay the loan, whatever I wanted. I said yes, please pay it towards the loan – and so they did.  “You should see your loan balance change online by the end of the day,” the confident voice on my cell phone informed me. I was so happy, I thanked him profusely.

I told my bank’s manager the good news. That’s why the money wasn’t sent back, we both realized. They were holding it, to find out what I wanted to do.

Whew, what a relief. Eventually, the right thing happened from my point of view. The Crazy was now over. I drove back to work.

Conclusion

The world we live in is crazy. So, if you and I are also a little crazy, that’s not so unusual; it doesn’t make us stick out, instead we uniquely fit right in. The people around us are kind of expecting it from us, actually…. I think everyone needs to have a certain amount of “crazy” just to function in this life!

So don’t feel bad about it at all. It’s like a game: can you maintain your own emotional control, mental sanity, during the Crazy times? Because they come and go; they won’t always be here. Like waves of an ocean, they go away, and then come back again.

Actually, I think you and I fit right in.

Welcome to Crazy Town, population: everyone.

 

November 28, 2016 / paulio10

10-year battery smoke detectors are horrible

We bought two smoke detectors that boasted a 10-year-battery for our house about 2 years ago, and installed them in place of the old yellowed-plastic ones that our newly purchased home came with. This house was built in the 1980’s, but it was new to us about 2 years ago.  The theory with 10-year-battery smoke detectors is: all smoke detectors really only last about 10 years, so having a 10-year battery means you never have to replace the battery – just replace the whole smoke detector around the 10 year mark. Easy, right?

Well, 2 years into owning these units, the one in our master bedroom started beeping non-stop for no reason at 2AM, the shrill piercing sound blasting us awake from a sound sleep.

I took the unit down from the wall (after fetching a chair I could stand on) and tried pressing the one and only button this thing had (labeled “test”) to turn it off, but it wouldn’t stop beeping. I single clicked it, double clicked it, held it in for 30 seconds, nothing would shut it up! And, there was no battery compartment to open, this was a completely sealed unit – because, of course, when you have a 10 year battery in a 10 year smoke detector, there’s no reason the owner would ever need to pull out the battery, right?

So I took the continuously screeching smoke detector in my sleep-induced state to the other end of the house, into the garage, found a hammer, and smashed it into 1000 tiny fragments with a single blow.  It stopped beeping just as I felt a plastic shard zipping across my cheek at high-speed.  I hit it over, and over, and over, and over, as my brain said, “you really should be wearing goggles to do this”.  I paused for a couple breaths and then I hit it some more.

Then I went back inside and staggered back to bed.

The next morning, being super irritated at how dumb this product was, I went upstairs to check on the other one that I had bought at the same time.  As I pulled it off the wall to look at it, it started beeping!  And beeping and beeping.  It would not stop.

I had to smash that one with a hammer, too, right next to the stringy electronic remains of the first one spread out over my garage floor that I hadn’t cleaned up from the similar violence a few hours earlier. I only hit this one 5 or 6 times and tossed the biggest piece into the trash can. I mentally scheduled a trip to the hardware store for noon time as I swept out the garage.

These companies don’t really understand the real purpose of the battery door – to have a way to make your alarm SHUT UP IMMEDIATELY.  I am the owner, I command you to stop waking up the neighbors and scaring my cats, dog, family members, and hurting my ears, right now.  Without a battery door, the second most important feature of the smoke detector is missing.

That is why I will never buy another sealed 10-year battery smoke detector again.

 

March 31, 2016 / paulio10

10 Skills You Need For The Future

The world is changing, I don’t think anybody will argue with that.

To adapt quickly and effectively to the changes coming (rather than being railroaded by them), I suggest you develop the following skills for yourself:

1. Observation

Look around you at what other people are doing. Other people are not stupid. If you see another person that you think is behaving in a stupid way, stop what you’re doing and go up to them, and start asking them questions. Observe them. Find out what’s going on, what they are about. Why are they doing that? If you can’t figure it out, ask them point-blank. You can learn a lot about the life around you that you never understood before, this way.

I saw a homeless man who was wearing a grungy dark-green jump-suit, in a fast food restaurant at lunch time a few years ago. He was a young man, maybe 25 years old or so, and I felt compelled to talk to him for some reason, even though my immediate reaction was that I was repelled by him.  I ate my lunch and waited, and then I found an opportunity to go and talk with him. He needed a ride to another part of town, so I gave him a ride in my car, and had a chance to talk to him and understand his viewpoint of our society and the world we live in. I did not talk about me, I talked about him the whole time, and tried to re-express his own ideas back to him, to see if I got it right, and to encourage him to tell me more.

His grungy 1-piece uniform irritated me so much. At one point I said, “you know, if you wore some nice clothes like jeans and a T-shirt, at least, you could probably get a job working somewhere, and have a lot more money to spend.” I wanted to suggest to him what I believed to be the next step in his “evolution” of becoming part of what I think of as our normal society.  It was the best thing I could think of saying at the time, and I really wanted to hear what he had to say about this. His response was really interesting.

He basically said, “no, this is my uniform. I have to wear these clothes. When I wear this, people know I’m homeless and give me money. If I wore ordinary clothes nobody would give me any money.” And it occurred to me, I gave him some money earlier, and now I’m giving him a ride. I really learned something that day. This guy intentionally wore that clothing to intentionally set my expectations, so I would participate one way or another – be repelled and leave, or help him in some way, because those are the two reactions that all people have in our society.  It kind of blew my mind.

He was a very kind-hearted young man who is currently hating our society. And I don’t blame him; he brought up some very good points about the down-sides of our economy and political system and social-environmental system. I couldn’t really argue against anything he was saying. Which means he’s also a very smart young man, because I’m smart too, and I couldn’t come up with very many good arguments against what he was saying. The only difference is, I cooperate with this society the way it is, and try to influence it in the best way possible, from within the system.  He chose a different route, to reject it directly, and rely on God and good samaritans to help him survive.

This kind of thing can open your eyes to other aspects of our society. I’m not going to become homeless anytime soon; but I can understand his point of view, now.  It was eye-opening to see a side of our society that we NEVER get to see from any media-outlet. This is a fragment of the real world around me, and I needed to see that.

2. Listening More than Talking

When I was talking with that young man, I listened 90% of the time, or more. I didn’t talk about myself much at all, except in comparison to what he was saying; then I turned it quickly back to him. I wanted to be supportive of what he was saying, whether I believed in what he was saying or not; because I wanted him to tell me more.  And he really appreciated it. I got the feeling that not very many people take time to talk to him and listen to him these days. Most people, like him, will go into deeper detail and follow deeper and more realistic paths of thought if we simply encourage them and support them in what they’re saying.  To help them reconnect broken connections, come to newer conclusions over time.  It’s possible to do that without believing their viewpoint – simply by understanding their viewpoint.

It’s important to understand other people’s viewpoints. In war time there is a saying, “understand your enemy;” but in this case, I realized this young man is not my enemy, he’s just yet another hurting person in our society who is aligned differently than every other hurting person in our society that I’ve ever seen, including me. Everyone seems to be hurting in some way, in some direction, in some dimension; and I could see that sometimes it pulls the person away from the norms of society, like this young man, evidently.

I could tell that this young man really liked talking to me, because he gave me one of his prize possessions in return for the ride – a large highly polished rock with amazing fossils embedded in it – I had never seen anything like it before.  I still have it in my collection of things in my office, it’s really cool.

3. Accepting Other People the Way they Are; Encouraging Them to Be More, Their Own Way

I didn’t reel back from the way this man looked, talked, or smelled. I just took it all in. It was a new experience from me.

Observe yourself – do you avoid new experiences? If yes, then, why? They don’t really threaten you in any way. You can still go on and be you afterwards, follow your own path, pursue everything you believe in, get things and do things the way you always have. You don’t have to suddenly start following someone else’s belief system just because you learned about it. Knowledge is not a virus! If that were true, wouldn’t you be trying to live exactly like EVERY movie and EVERY TV show you’ve ever seen? TV and movies portray very compelling characters and stories, sometimes in the most amazing way. But that’s ridiculous – you don’t try to do that.  So, then, it’s OK to learn about a new person, a new thought, a new way of life; and not feel you have to abandon everything you are and everything you believe it to become like them.  You’re still you, always, forever. So throw away the fear and start learning what people are like in our society who aren’t exactly like you. You won’t learn it any other way. Life is living all around you; with or without you; I recommend experiencing all you can.

4. Learn how Money Really Works

I wrote an earlier blog post about this.  Read it for more information.

5. Dream How Money Should Really Work in Our Society

Now this is a topic I love thinking about. What are your ideas, I have a feeling I know what the next generation of money will be like in our society, but I’m still constructing my ideas about it. What do you think?  What would be a more fair system, that covers every type of person, every need, every want, in our society?  It can be done. Be creative and see if you can figure out a great system. Thoughts are powerful things.

6. Be OK at Failing, get used to Being Wrong

This is really hard for some of us; it used to be hard for me.  We were taught in school that you’re supposed to find the ONE RIGHT answer; only tell the teacher, tell the class, what the RIGHT answer is. If you don’t have the RIGHT answer, you’re WRONG.  Your grade reflects that; pure and simple.  There’s a certain powerful element of emotion tied in to this, being right and wrong, also. Turns out this is all wrong.

It’s OK to be wrong, or to fail at something.  At the very least, you learned what NOT to do.  I know that sounds like loser-talk, but you’ve got to change your way of thinking – you can never lift yourself up to the next level of understanding ANYTHING until you can get past this limitation you created within yourself. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to fail. Because you’re going to learn from it, and try again. And again. And again – until you are successful.  If it’s painful right now, take a break. You’re done for a while. Stop thinking about it. Recover.  Then get mad – that thing doesn’t have the right to defeat you! Try it again.  Learn from those who already do it right. Study them. Ask them lots of questions. You’d be surprised at how many people “greater than you” are happy to answer questions about how they do what they do. The most talented people are very open about what they do and how they do it. They’ll look at you and say to themselves, “now there’s someone with potential – curious and learning. So few people care enough to ask questions. I want to encourage them, they’ll get it some day. They’re actually closer than they think, right now.”

In fact, you can practice failing, in order to get good at it.  Really!  A good way to practice failing is to learn how to juggle.

I taught myself how to juggle 3 balls with 2 hands. I can also juggle 4 balls, with 2 balls in each hand (which is harder than 3 balls in 2 hands). You don’t have any idea how many times I dropped those balls while practicing. I come from a family who learned to have a giant emotional seizure every time they “drop something on the ground accidentally”.  I realized it’s like an opera – not real, but so compelling. Well, thanks to juggling, I completely got over the fear of dropping things! I have no emotional hangup with dropping things now. I just don’t care if I drop something or not. And, consequently, I almost never drop anything at all, anymore. Maybe one or two things a year, or less. I don’t break coffee cups or tea saucers in the kitchen like my parents would. I don’t drop my phone and break it. I don’t spill the cup of soda all over the rug, and have to rent a carpet cleaning device to fix it.  I conquered spilling and dropping.  I conquered it by learning to juggle.

Want to learn how to juggle? You don’t have to spend much money to practice it. Believe it or not, the nearest to perfect thing to use for juggling balls are: oranges!  Buy 3 oranges that are the right size that fit your hand nicely.  When you wear them out, buy 3 more oranges. They are not that expensive.  And don’t feel bad; those oranges are serving humanity, just as if you had eaten them. Or you can buy juggling balls in some toy stores, or online.

Practice a little every day. Watch youtube videos on juggling basics. When you get frustrated and mad, stop. You’re done for the day. Pick it up again tomorrow. The most important thing: don’t give up until you can do it.

But while you’re learning to juggle, keep an eye on yourself – what emotions come up?  What body movements happen that you can’t seem to control and change? What thoughts go thru your head?  How do your emotions and thoughts change about juggling over a 1-month period?

If you get seriously stuck on something, break it down – figure out the components that make it up; but don’t just analyze it with your mind, don’t overthink it; mindless repetitive action sometimes is necessary to get your body to comply with what it is you’re trying to train it to do.

How are the feelings and thoughts and movements different once you’ve conquered juggling, compared to the middle of learning, and compared to the very beginning? It is so fascinating. Once you conquer juggling, you need to understand that anything big and new that you want to learn, you’ll probably go thru those same feelings and thoughts.  And it’s OK, isn’t it, you got through it!  The later times are never as hard as the first time you conquer something.

Can you juggle yet, like me?

7. Try to Know What You Don’t Know

Be able to admit when you don’t know something. Because who cares! If you don’t know it, you need to learn it, and it’s OK to realize you don’t know stuff. Specific stuff.  And it’s OK if others know that about you, too.  You’re only a human being.  Like them.  There’s plenty of stuff they don’t know either.  That’s the only way you’re really going to learn something you don’t know – you have to realize you don’t know it first. Only then do you have a chance to some day know it!  If you pretend and skip past that part, you NEVER know it, and ALWAYS suffer from that lack of knowledge from that point on.

If you work with other people, you will let down those people with your lack of knowledge and pretend-knowledge.

If you work for a company, you’re hurting that company by pretending to know something you don’t know, instead of actually learning it.  Stop doing that. You’re risking your job, maybe risking your career, with pointless risk. I don’t want that for you. If it’s not easy to admit when you don’t know something, then start with admitting something small, something simple, and see how people take it. You’d be surprised how accepting people are of your lack of knowledge. Because, who cares. You don’t know something. So what. You’re human. Now, learn that something, so you know it for the rest of your life. That’s one more thing you conquered in your life.  And one less painful thought-feeling to experience for the rest of your life.

8. Cooperate; Ask for Help when you need it; Delegate.

In school we “learned” that we have to do our own work! Never cooperate! Don’t depend on other people to do your work for you!  Are you trying to cheat or something?  It turns out this is completely wrong, and completely the opposite of how all modern businesses work today. In business, if you don’t know how to do something, you probabl do not have time to learn it – it’s better to recruit someone who already is an expert at that topic. In fact, you can do both: (1) get the expert to do it right now, this time, and (2) you spend some time over the next week or month learning more about that topic, so you can maybe do it yourself in the future.  Maybe learn some of it from that expert you hired! That could bea perfect opportunity. Or just plan on outsourcing that every time it comes up. That’s a solution too.

Cooperation is the way to get anything done better, faster, cheaper.  Why would you not want to take advantage of experts?  You do what you’re best at, and let others do what they are best at.  It only makes sense. …assuming you know what it is you’re best at.  And that they do, too.

Delegation is getting other people to do the majority of the work. Sometimes this is the right thing to do. Perhaps some thing is still your responsibility, so you still need to track the progress, and maybe report the results to whoever you have to report to. Stay on top of the project or person, but don’t bug them too frequently. Answer their questions quickly and completely. Give them what they need to do the job. It takes practice to learn how to delegate properly, to help the person feel like they’re participating in a bigger project that’s exciting, rather than being give busy work to do by you. Because it is exciting, especially when you see the end results. Sometimes just a few quick words about why, about what the end-result will be if this work gets done. Seeing the vision of the end-result can be a very powerful motivation factor. For you, and for others.

9. Simplify & Optimize

Once you are able to accomplish a bigger task by doing all the smaller steps for it, if you find yourself doing it over and over again, what can you do to simplify the process? Speed it up? Reduce it to smaller tasks? Can you do pre-work that helps speed up the task? Can you get someone else to do the pre-work? Or to do the task itself? Can you have multiple people doing the tasks in parallel? Can a computer automate the task? Try to optimize the arrangement of parts, orders, data and information, so that it’s much easier the next 10 times it has to be done.

You can make your life easier by simplifying and optimizing.  You can create beneficial wins for yourself and your department and your company, if you find these things at your job. Bosses often like to find people who have the skill of simplifying and optimizing. So many people can’t or don’t do this; but so many businesses need their processes and operations streamlined, so they can work faster, better, and make more money – which will keep you employed that much easier and longer. It’s just good all-around.

With software development, “refactoring” is the science of taking a piece of code and simplifying and optimizing it. The benefits are pretty large; you get faster, more reliable code that is easier to debug or improve and add features to. Simpler code has a higher chance of being more secure, from a computer-security point of view. More software developers will be able to understand your code, if it is simpler. A developer can spend more time working on adding exciting new features, rather than being dragged back to the old code when there are a slew of newly discovered and unexpected bugs to fix.

Making something simple takes more work than making something complex. For some reason our initial impulse for solving a problem usually yields overly complex results.  With careful work, it can be made simpler. I like the phrase “make it as simple as possible but no simpler.” A famous writer once wrote in a letter to a friend, “I apologize for the length of this letter, for I did not have the time to write you a shorter one.” It’s funny, because it’s true.

10. Create Processes to Accomplish More Complex Things

Create steps of what to do, in what order; what things to check, what can go wrong, based on what has gone wrong in the past. Some people call this a “process” or a “system” to get work done. I call it common sense, so you don’t suffer the pain and agony of failing to do it properly in the future. I call it “learning now”, in order to not fail in the future.

It’s so easy to forget one of the many steps that it takes to accomplish something important. Whatever steps were left out end up causing a huge headache later on.  Then, next time, you’ll totally remember not to skip that painful step that was skipped last time – instead you’ll skip a different step, causing a NEW pain this time around!  Is that really how you want to live your life? I work with people like this today at my current job. I can see their pain. So I encourage them to (1) create the process they will follow, and (2) follow the damn process every time so nothing is missed. These processes can be revised and updated any time; they’re not fixed in stone.

In my world, most processes have to do with software deployment.  But these principles can be applied to anything in life, such as: paying bills on time, getting your kids to school or soccer practice on time, remembering all the weekend tasks you committed to doing without missing a single one, remembering to buy a card 1 week before valentine’s day / anniversary / important birthdays, remembering the grocery stores all run out of crushed pineapple 1 week before Easter so you should stock up 2-3 weeks before, and so many other things.

The trick is to (1) make a list of all the steps.  (2) follow the list when you’re actually doing the work. (3) when you discover something you have to do that’s not on the list, add it RIGHT NOW to the list. (4) prune anything from the list that doesn’t apply anymore and won’t apply in the future, if things have changed.

I do this for paying bills, even. I can tell when I did NOT receive a bill in the mail within a few days, and sense that something’s wrong in the universe; and call the company to ask where my bill is – rather than “missing a payment” because of reasons outside of my control. Sure, the post office ate my bill. Sure, the company didn’t know I moved to a new house, despite the change of address card I sent them. Sure, the kids got the mail out of the mailbox and dropped something on the ground before it all got back to the house. How was *I* supposed to know I was missing a bill?  Well, after many painful experiences, I created a way to detect that, and you can do the same in your own life. It takes a little extra work every month, around bill paying time, but it’s worth it. And because I documented the steps, I don’t have to think very hard to repeat them each time; just follow the steps.

But paying bills is probably not your issue. What is your issue? How can you remind yourself automatically, to follow the right steps at the right time?

Here’s another good one.  You see a problem (like you didn’t receive the electric bill this month), you contact the company, and they say they’ll get back to you or they’ll send you a new bill – and that’s the end of it. But then they never do their part, and you forget about it, so you fail to make the payment on time – and of course you get penalized, not them! Are you mad at them for failing you?  I say it’s YOUR fault for not creating a reminder system for yourself to stay on top of this thing that’s their fault (because they haven’t done the right thing and sent you a new bill), and they haven’t communicated with you (email or phone call), and yet, you’re responsible for making the right payment on time. You need a way to track what you’re expecting of other people, and keep reminding and bugging them until you get what you want, or you agree it’s time to drop it and move on. Nothing should slip thru the cracks, with you around.  You can create systems to prevent that. I know you can do it, because I HAVE done it, as have may others before me.

Learn about GTD – Getting Things Done. Look into what a “tickler file” is. Learn to use a day-planner. Practice putting things on your calendar to remind you in the future – you do have a calendar of some kind that you follow regularly, right? Digital systems are neat, but may not be a complete solution. What if you have a piece of paper you don’t need to deal with now, but you definitely need to deal with it next week? Next month? 6 months from now? or a year or two from now? Where can you put it that you’ll be reminded of it at the right moment, and NOT reminded about it over and over again between now and then?

You will find a way. I know you can.

Using Your Skills, for… ?

You, in the future. What’s the highest, greatest work you could do, that you would love to do, in the world?

Now, what skills will you need to accomplish that?

I think you will find that many of the skills I’ve listed here will come in very handy in that great future.

Other Skills

Did this article make you think of other skills that you want to learn in the future? Or that you wish other people would learn?

What are they?