I’ve now donated 2 gallons of blood for Washington. I can add the new pin next to my other blood pins
I’ve now donated 2 gallons of blood for Washington. I can add the new pin next to my other blood pins
Yesterday, I solved the mystery of how to deal with Comcast. For those unaware of Comcast, they provide high speed Internet services. Although there is some competition in Seattle, they are by far the biggest and fastest broadband provider in the area. The strength of Comcast is they provide an excellent service. My Internet speeds are extremely high and in the past four years, I’ve only had minutes of down time. Their installers are professional and they even do installs on Sundays.
The problem with Comcast is they continually lie about the price and terms of conditions of the package you sign up for. What they tell you on the phone is almost never what is reflected in your bill. If they tell you the install is free, you can bet they will charge you. If they are offering a 1 year deal, expect it to end in 6 or 9 months at which point they will start jacking up the price. Since most of the price negotiations take place on the phone, it is always your word against theirs.
I’m convinced the Comcast business model is to overcharge customers with the expectation that few will catch the error and to discourage those that catch the error by making the process of reversing charges so painful that you capitulate and pay the higher (not agreed upon) rate.
Now in a normal, non-oligopolistic market, customers wouldn’t put up with this dishonesty, but Comcast knows they have the best broadband service and most customers are unlikely to risk trying one of the new competitors. This means we need to get along with Comcast. But we also can’t roll over and let them overcharge us.
If you have a billing issue, do not use the chat service. On July 27th, I initiated a chat session to get a $20 “free” install charge reversed. What I thought would take minutes ended up taking 2 hours. By the time the session was over, I was furious and I wasn’t even sure the charge had been reversed.
I can be more charming on the phone than a chat session. The problem with the phone is they constantly move you from department to department having you repeat the same story and same account numbers. You can quickly lose your patience and it takes forever. I believe the business model of Comcast is to frustrate customers to the point where they accept being overcharged as a less painful option than getting their bill corrected.
Yesterday, I noticed that my 1 year deal that I was promised six months ago ended. My new bill was now an additional $20 a month. After spending 10 minutes on hold and entering my account number and phone number twice, I got a better idea. I hung up the phone. I took out a notepad and wrote down all the information I could. Account numbers, bill prices by month and the date I was offered the deal. Then I put on a nice shirt and drove to the nearest Comcast customer service center.
Customer service centers are mostly for dropping off or changing modems and routers, but they can also handle billing issues. My plan was simple. I’d show them my notebook of data and then ask them if they could help me figure out why my bill went up in the middle of the 1 year plan they offered me.
I learned a trick from a friend. Use the word curious, even when you know the other party is wrong. You turn the other party away from a reflexive defensive stance into a problem solver on your behalf. When I pointed at my notebook to the June date and the text “1 year deal at $46.99″, I politely mentioned how I was curious why my bill increased. The rep immediately turned into a problem solver. Within 5 minutes, I had a credit back on my account and my account fixed for the next 6 months at the agreed upon rate. I also got to see the screen with proof that the change had happened, which is something you must trust happens when on the phone or chat.
A lesson I learned on my 1st day of kindergarten: smile and show documentation. Even when it is documentation you created yourself.
If you count my drive time, it took just less than 30 minutes to resolve this issue, which is faster than many calls to them and certainly faster than the chat option. The best part is it wasn’t a stressful event. I fully expect Comcast to overcharge me again at some point. At which point, I’ll put a nice shirt and a smile and drive back over to their customer service center.
I broke my own rule above about never doing chat. I had a Service Number from Comcast, so I assumed I could get a quick status report from the online chat session. Nope. After 30 minutes and being transferred 3 times, I was getting nowhere, so I disconnected and visited the Customer Service center in person. It was there I learned something very interesting. Comcast chat is National, but my account isn’t. It is considered West. The reps on chat can not see Service Numbers associated with West accounts. So, you can chat all day and you’ll be wasting your time.
The in-person Comcast rep told me to “never use chat“. When I responded “Because they can’t see the Service Numbers associated with my account?“, she repeated “never use chat” with emphasis on the word never. Calling is OK and showing up in person is also good, but never use chat. Thought I’d pass that tip off to others.
With all the end of year Top 10 lists, I thought I’d assemble a Top 10 list for 2012 CriticalMAS posts. I’m going to use three metrics: page view, comments and those that I personally liked the best. Here goes.
This was the most popular post I wrote in 2012. Getting linked to by Marks Daily Apple helped.
I didn’t want to write this post, but because I am both an active blogger on nutrition and run a popular coffee website, I got several emails asking my opinion on Bulletproof Coffee. Although many Paleo bloggers loved the taste of putting unsalted butter in their coffee, I didn’t. I also used this post as a way to expose home coffee roasting to the those interested in nutrition.
This year I thought deeply about finding the best post-workout food for ectomorphs trying to gaining muscle. I decided ice cream might be that perfect food. This is the post that started that discussion.
This was the sequel post to I No Longer Give a Squat About the Squat, which got almost an equal number of page views.
I was inspired by the hill next to my apartment as a hack to pain free running for tall people.
#6 My 5 Part series on Exercise and Fat Loss
I think exercise is vastly over-rated as a tool for fat loss. Here are links to my 5 part series.
I threw out a question and got 47 comments. I am still working on a summary post. This will be a topic in 2013.
This was the most popular recipe for 2012.
An investor’s approach to understanding dietary failures.
#10 A Month Without Coffee (INeedCoffee)
I summarized my coffee free experiment and several posts into an article which I published on INeedCoffee.
The last post in a series of posts regarding the hormonal aspect to healthy relationships.
Even though the on air talent at KEXP was gushing about how wonderful 2012 was for music, I found the music this year to half as good as 2011 or 2010. With that in mind, I’ve decided to just do a TOP 5 list this year instead of a TOP 10.
I love this song and the especially the video.
A new release my all-time favorite band. What is not to love?
Never thought a country sounding song would make my Top songs list, but this song is the perfect mix of dream pop and twang.
P!ink delivers another perfectly engineered dance pop song.
My favorite song of the summer.
OK maybe 5 songs wasn’t enough, I liked this dream pop song just as much as Capricornia. Score it as a Bonus or tied for #5.
I haven’t posted much recently. The reason is I started an innocent cleaning project and discovered discs containing files that had been lost to me for over 12 years. Lots of files. So instead of blogging, I’ve been spending many hours going through those files and archiving what I’ve found.
By next week, I should be far enough along in this project to return to blogging. I’ve got about 20 half-written blog posts that need my attention. One other thing I recently discovered is how easy it is to make pudding. As much as I love ice cream, homemade vanilla pudding right off the stove is even better.
Back in April, I built my own standing desk using boxes. It was a cheap hack, but it didn’t work for long, because the boxes began to warp after a week. Although I am still not convinced that a standing desk is superior to a sitting one, I was inspired by a link in the most recent Wired magazine. They highlighted a tutorial that explained how to build your own standing desk for just $22 using items found at IKEA.
I followed the instructions and now I have a standing desk. I’m pretty sure this one isn’t going to warp like my box solution. The only piece of information missing from the tutorial was the size of the wood screws. I made a lucky guess and selected #10 x 1-3/4. They fit perfectly. Below is a photo of the desk now. I may lower the keyboard stand.
TUTORIAL: A standing desk for $22
Standing Desk version 2.0
Biohacks recently posted Podcasts I listen to. I thought it was a good idea for a post, so I’m going to list my favorites. I dated this post so I can update my list each year. I’m always mixing up the shows I listen to. Here are my top 10 podcasts in order.
All these are available on iTunes.
I used to listen to more health podcasts, but once the content gets too repetitive, I move onto other shows. What are your some of your favorite podcasts?
I may have gone overboard this week. I also made some sauerkraut, which is still fermenting.
7 quarts + 2 little jars of Kimchi 2.0
I’ve decided to take a week or so off from blogging. It is too nice outside to sit inside staring at a monitor. Go get some sunshine.
This is my favorite song of the summer. Enjoy!
In the post L-Tyrosine is my NZT-48, I raved about taking L-Tyrosine to improve focus. It was an idea I got after quickly taking a quiz in the book The Mood Cure. Because the supplement was so effective, I went back and read the book in its entirety. After taking the other quizzes in the book, I discovered that I could possibly benefit even more from 5-HTP. Whereas L-Tyrosine would help with my morning focus, 5-HTP would elevate my evening mood and possibly improve my sleep quality.
I began taking 5-HTP on May 29th. The first effect I noticed was vivid dreams, which seem to a common effect. After about a week, I did notice my evening mood was improving. Nothing dramatic like I experienced with the L-Tyrosine, but still pleasant.
I have been tracking my sleep quality since August 27, 2011. Every morning I assign a score of 1 to 5 on how well I slept. Prior to 5-HTP my average Sleep Quality was 3.8. Since 5-HTP it has been 3.7. A slight decrease, but that could be seasonal, as I tend to get better sleep during the colder months. I found no increased sleep quality at doses of 50 mg or 100 mg. My evening mood improvement may have been from the supplement or something else. So unlike L-Tyrosine, I’m not certain I am benefiting from 5-HTP.
My understanding of this topic came from the presentation Amino Acids and Their Application in Brain Chemical Balancing by Dr. Dan Kalish. I also listened to his podcast interview Brain Drain on Underground Wellness. Serotonin and dopamine do not cross the blood brain barrier. So to increase their levels, you need to add their amino acid precursors along with any essential co-factors. Taking 5-HTP will increase serotonin levels and taking L-Tyrosine will help dopamine levels. The required essential co-factors by Dr. Kalish are:
What I learned from Dr. Dan Kalish is that you can create problems down the road if you try to just address a serotonin or a dopamine deficiency independently. If you take 5-HTP without L-Tyrosine for long periods of time, you could end up depleting your dopamine levels. And the same is true in reverse. Taking L-Tyrosine without 5-HTP could end up depleting your serotonin levels. It has to do with synthesis, which the video covers in depth starting around the 24 minute mark.
To be safe, the recommended ratio is 10:1. Ten units of L-Tyrosine for every 1 unit of 5-HTP. So currently I am taking 500 mg of L-Tyrosine in the morning and 50 mg of 5-HTP in the evening. By accident, I stumbled upon the safe ratio. Dr. Kalish says you can safely use up to 3,000 mg of L-Tyrosine with 300 mg of 5-HTP daily. Any more than that and he recommends getting tested. The important thing is to never use just 5-HTP or L-Tyrosine independently.
The Kalish Method: Healing the Body, Mapping the Mind by Dr. Daniel Kalish came out last month. I have not read it yet.
I have experimented with higher doses than 500 mg L-Tyrosine, but have not noticed any additional benefit. In fact, it seems I am more likely to get a headache. Some quick searching shows this is a common side effect. If you are taking these amino acids to improve mood, I highly encourage listening to the podcast interview. The YouTube presentation is fine, but it is more technical and geared toward practitioners.
My personal approach to supplements is to periodically cycle off them. Use them to make a correction and then see if the body supported by a nutrient dense diet can take it from there. I’m going to take a few weeks off from both supplements. Marks Daily Apple has an article on boosting serotonin without supplements. KnowMyBody has one for dopamine. Mark likes the herb rhodiola better than 5-HTP, because it acts by slowing down the serotonin breakdown. After reading the two articles, the tips that I believe I could benefit the most from are caffeine reduction and playing more challenging games. Another article gives props to beets as an excellent food source for increasing dopamine levels. I like beets, especially fermented.
A foodie friend of mine recently asked me a great question. What would you want for your last meal? I’ve thought about this for a while and I decided that if I died immediately after the meal, I would choose a Minnesota style pizza, a few bottles of Saison Dupont and a pint of Haagen Dazs 5 coffee ice cream.
Even though I’ve never been to Minnesota, my hometown of Columbus, Ohio had Donatos Pizza, which I now understand is considered Minnesota style. I learned that fact from Zayda Buddy, which is Minnesota style pizza place in my Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. The pizza is a thin crust with a focus on the toppings. It is cut in squares. Unlike the gross California style pizza, the crust keeps its composure when you bite into it. This also means it can hold more toppings. Sorry New York and Chicago, I prefer a crispier pizza. As for toppings, I’d probably get everything. It’s all good.
Photo by tony
The reason I picked this for my last meal is that once all that gluten and alcohol hit my system, I will wish that I were dead. How about you? What would you pick for your last meal?
I saved this story for Father’s Day even though it happened a few months ago. The only background you need to know is that I don’t have any children. One day I was at the Fred Meyers grocery store checking out. Most of my order was already scanned and I was swiping my card into the payment system. There was nobody else behind me in line when the next customer pulled their cart into my lane.
The next customer was a frazzled mom with two children. The boy was probably 3 or 4 years old and the girl was maybe a year younger. What caught my eye immediately was how much these two kids looked like me and my younger sister when we were their age. The boy was full of energy and the girl appeared to be very tired. She was fighting to stay awake, but not for long.
Me and my sister as kids.
As the cashier handed me my receipt, the boy stopped talking and wiggling. I looked over at him and now he was making direct eye contact with me. He had a look on his face like he knew me, but couldn’t place my name. He smiled at me. Then in a moment I’ll never forget, he pointed at me and began chanting “Daddy, Daddy”. This woke up his sister. She joined him and starting yelling “Daddy”. Other customers were now turning their attention toward our aisle. I stuffed the receipt in my bag and before mom could control the situation, I grabbed my groceries and escaped the store.
This post is an update on the September 2011 post Distraction Diet 2, along with some new ideas. Distraction Diets are about reducing the growing number of distractions in an always connected digital age. How did I do?
Ideas 1-3 are going well and I plan to do better on Idea 4. I also have some new ideas.
Having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and now Pinterest can be a real time suck. This year I have stopped using Google Plus and Pinterest for myself. I still connect briefly to manage new links for the INeedCoffee account, but my personal connection to those two sites has ended. I might do a separate post on why I dislike Pinterest. Google Plus means well, but I grew tired of it quickly.
For Twitter, all my accounts automatically post links to new blog entries and I have an RSS feed that returns a search of when any of my accounts are mentioned. So my time on Twitter is minimal. For the most part I find that Twitter is a bunch of people talking with very few listening. The noise is deafening.
Facebook is the best social network, but you need a browser extension to make it that way. Once I installed and configured the FB Purity extension, the noise level on Facebook dropped considerably. I can block specific post types, change the font, hide ads and best of all block posts with certain keywords. I never see birthday posts or anything related to voting or local sports teams.
Click image for larger view of FB Purity settings.
I also moved this blog to its own Facebook page. I wanted to share links to my blog posts, but the majority of my friends may like me, but they don’t get this blog and the comments would often reflect that. This should save me time on Facebook too.
Probably the greatest piece of advice I got from Tim Ferriss author of The 4-Hour Workweek was how it is important to define what is meaningful to you BEFORE you eliminate distractions. The reason is when you remove a distraction without defining what is important, you run the risk of filling it with a new distraction. So one of the main keys to eliminating distractions is becoming more focused on what is important to us.
After you’ve defined what is important, how does one go about increasing focus? Caffeine, meditation, exercise and memory games all come to mind.
I have a notebook that I pull down every so often where all I do is multiplication of 2 and 3 digit numbers. Instead of writing down every step, I use math tricks that force me to use my working memory to break up the steps and perform the calculation in my head. This it is tough at first, but you get faster over time.
Strengthening the connection between short-term and long-term memory will increase focus. As great as the Internet can be, the downside is our short term memories are constantly being filled and emptied with every mouse click. Nicholas Carr covers this in depth in the book The Shallows. I believe developing stronger focusing skills are a necessary component of any distraction diet.
Before I end this post, I want to say that earlier this year I actually found a supplement that increases my ability to focus. I haven’t blogged about it, because I am highly skeptical of all supplements, but after months of testing, I can really tell the benefits. What is it? That will be the topic of my next post.
Even though I am always checking out cookbooks from the library, the majority of ideas I get for cooking come from doing web searches. I get an idea, do a search and find a recipe. But I rarely just look at one version of a recipe. I scan a few. Then I look over the ingredients and using my best judgement move forward with a single recipe or usually some mental average of a few recipes.
For the past few years this strategy has worked very well for me. There seems to be a consensus on many recipes. However, now that I am focusing my cooking efforts on Indian food, I am seeing radically different recipes for the same dish. As a self taught cook this can be frustrating. How do I know which Tikki Masala recipe to use? Indian food tends to have more steps and more ingredients than most recipes. This means a greater probability of error as the recipes diverge. What to do?
I am a fan of director David Lynch. Many of his films such as Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are not your standard stories. They are riddles. The more you examine each film, the more meaning you can pull from them. But this process isn’t always easy. It took me a full day to figure out Lost Highway and even after I was done, I still missed elements.
When it came to films and literature, my ex-girlfriend was much smarter than me. After seeing me struggle with the meaning of Mulholland Drive, she explained it to me. When I asked her how she figured it out so fast, she told me her trick and I now use that trick for cooking.
She explained that the key to figuring out David Lynch movies was not to focus on the bizarre twists, but instead think about the elements in the story that are consistent and don’t change. What characters, locations and themes remain unchanged as the plot unfolds? Find that river of stability first and then the rest of the film starts to make sense.
That is exactly how I approach cooking. I don’t need to make sense out of every step or ingredient to make a dish taste excellent. As long as I zone in on the common themes in radically different recipes for a dish that I wish to make, I can be confident it will turn out good.
One dish that has been a source of frustration for me is Tikki Masala. If you look online, you will see 1,000 different ways to make this dish. In every prior attempt I’ve had with this dish, it has never turned out great. This week I conquered it by focusing in on just the common elements and it turned out amazing. My approach was more simple and used less ingredients than other recipes.
My guess is this method will appear as common sense to experienced cooks, but it helped me when I was learning how to cook on my own. Maybe it will help someone else.
Chicken Tikki Masala – I followed 80% of this recipe and improvised the other 20%.
Today I did a task that I’ve been putting off for years. I cleaned my keyboard. Not the typical surface cleaning, but a proper full cleaning. In the past a keyboard would break long before it required a serious cleaning. Not anymore. I’ve had this one for probably 7 or 8 years.
First I unplugged the keyboard completely from the PC. Then I removed the keys gently and slowly using a butter knife. I placed them in a bowl with warm soapy water. I used Sal’s Suds. Look under the keys. Yuck!
While the keys were soaking, I first took a can of air and blasted the region. That removed about half the crud. The rest required Q-Tips and rubbing alcohol. According to HowToGeek, only use isopropyl alcohol.
Once the base is cleaned, start rinsing and drying the keys. Then you can put the keys back. To make this task easier, I recommend taking photos of the keyboard layout before you start removing keys. It makes things easier. If you fail to do this, there are sites with images of a PC keyboard layout. Of course this requires a 2nd computer with keys that aren’t soaking in a bucket.
Now my keyboard is brand new clean again. Good for another 7 years!
Maybe this is a Seattle thing, but everywhere I go I see this obsession with constantly being connected to the Internet. It is getting out of hand. I donate blood every 8 weeks and if you have an appointment it doesn’t take long. Today while donating, the guy next to me starts this monologue how they should offer WIFI for the people donating blood. Really?
You’ve got blood coming out of one arm for maybe 10 minutes. Is it really that important that must get online with your one free arm? Heaven forbid you should actually chat with your fellow donors or sit quietly alone with your thoughts. Must get online! I really hope the blood people dismiss this idea. The last thing we need are phlebotomists troubleshooting network connections while carrying needles and pints of blood.
This photo I took last Sunday has nothing to do with this post. I just wanted to share it.
Yesterday, I collected my 1 Gallon Donor pin after donating my 8th pint of premium grade B Positive. Now some lucky chap will soon have pig uterus coursing through his veins. Back in my Florida days, I donated a full gallon to that state. I like being able to help my fellow neighbors by donating blood. Either that or I’m doing it for selfish reasons.
(L) Florida 1 Gallon Pin, (R) Puget Sound 1 Gallon Pin
During my trip to Ohio, I noticed an interesting pattern regarding my nighttime headaches. When I stayed with my mom, with the exception of the gluten poisoning night, I didn’t get headaches. When I stayed with my sister, I got headaches. My mom runs a humidifier in the house, whereas my sister doesn’t. Sounds like I just discovered my next test.
Before running out to buy a humidifier, I checked online to see if anyone had built their own. In the description of this video, there is a link to a homemade humidifier from 1918.
The premise is you hang a towel down into water. The water will wick up the towel. Air will pass through the towel and humidify the air. At least that is how I understand the theory. My room is very dry right right now. On Tuesday I had a brutal headache, so I decided to try my hand at this project.
I was skeptical it would work, but after about an hour I could feel the water making its way several inches up the towel. Pretty cool. I really hesitate to get excited, but I had amazing night of sleep last night. Testing will continue.
Another year, another 10 songs. Hope you enjoy this year’s list.
J Mascis stepped away from Dinosaur Jr long enough to record this stellar CD. I love this song and the video.
On Saturday evening I was walking across a street in Capitol Hill inside the pedestrian walkway. A large white SUV came up from the side street towards me. It appeared the car was slowing as there was a Stop sign. But it didn’t. By the time I realized the car was going to run the Stop sign, I was already in front of it. I straight-armed the car so it wouldn’t hit my legs and run me over.
I was hit by a white SUV. It looked a lot like a Ford Excursion.
At that point the car stopped. I was stunned that I got hit, but I appeared to be OK. For some odd reason I didn’t get upset or even say anything to the driver. Maybe I’m getting too forgiving in my old age. So I just continued walking down the sidewalk. The driver didn’t check on me and kept going.
About an hour later my arm started to get numb and sore. A friend suggested that I might want to go to the Emergency Room to have it checked out. I thought about spending hours in the ER on a Saturday night, paying for X-Rays and getting a script for painkillers, but decided I wasn’t that hurt and my body was fully capable of healing itself.
I went home and applied an ice pack to my arm for 20 minutes. I also knew how helpful the bone broth was towards healing my back injury, so I sipped on a large mug of that magical elixir. Then I slept for 8 hours. When I woke up I was fine, except for a bruise on the base of my hand where I made contact with the SUV.
My friend that suggested the ER to me asked if I would go to the hospital if I were shot. My response to her was: that would depend on where the bullet hit.
I can’t stop making new vegetable ferments. I’ve ran out of jars and containers to hold the ferments. At this time, I have over 25 pounds of vegetables fermenting and I’m thinking about going out and acquiring more jars. I have too many ideas that I want to try out. I think it is time for an intervention.
Back row (L to R): Ghost Pepper Sauerkraut v2, 4 jars of Classic Sauerkraut
Front row: Killer Kimchi v3, “Peruvian style” Sauerkraut (R&D)
On Pike Street between 4th and 5th Avenue, if you look up to the 6th floor of the Filter building you will see a Super Mario display made entirely of Post-It notes. I heard about this in the news Friday and went down today to see for myself.
Here are some photos I took.
Another building nearby paid tribute to Star Wars with Post-It Notes.
Full Gallery with Original Photos – Feel free to use any picture you like for any reason. Just attribute by linking to this post.
Last year I announced that I was going on a Distraction Diet.
For the month of August, I am going to stay off Facebook and Twitter*, as I believe those are the two sites that are doing the most damage to my thinking. The design, whether conscious or not, exploits our primitive neural pathways to value current data above all else. Anyone that has spent anytime on these sites knows that the latest status update or Tweet is what our brains crave, but are almost always worthless bits of information. Instead of recognizing this, we keep pressing links and buttons like mice in a laboratory.
How did my Distraction Diet work out? I failed.
I can give up bread for two years, but I couldn’t make it a full week away from the social networks. I still have the same concerns about the distracting nature of social networking and email, so I’ve decided to take a more realistic approach to this problem. Shunning social networking for weeks or a month doesn’t solve the problem. It just pushes it to the future.
I decided to frame this problem like I did when I made the transition from 5-6 meals a day to embracing Intermittent Fasting. In early 2008, I would eat my first meal at 6 AM and my last snack close to 10 PM. My eating window was 18 hours. These days my eating window is usually between 8 and 12 hours. The result is food is no longer on my mind all the time. Now to apply that strategy to online behavior.
For a few years now, when I wake up I do not turn on my computer. Instead I take time to read a book, usually about 60 to 90 minutes. Back when I was really into finance, I would jump out of bed, pop on the computer and read financial news and blogs before the opening bell (6:30 AM PT). Slamming coffee and consuming massive amounts of financial news before the sun rose eventually became too stressful.
Reading a book is a more peaceful way to start my morning than following the exploits about these two clowns. Photo by The IMF.
I also realized that once the computer was on, it was too difficult to read books. Pixels had a stronger pull than print. So I front-loaded my reading to take place before I even turned on my PC. This technique has been phenomenally successful for me. I’ve read more books in the past 3 years than the rest of my life combined.
I’m about 75% cured of my addiction to financial news. Unless you are actively trading, there really is no reason to drown yourself in endless financial media. For a few months now, I came up with a rule to help me further cure this addiction. I will not check any of the financial websites during trading hours. I used to check the indexes throughout the day. Now, I wait for trading to end and then peek at the closing numbers. So far this strategy is working great.
Several months ago I installed a freeware program for my PC called VirtuaWin. With it I am able to create 2 desktops, although you could create more. For me, Desktop 1 is my FUN desktop. It is where my email, Netflix, Facebook and regular surfing take place. The wallpaper is a Seattle background. Desktop 2 has a desert background. It is my WORK desktop. Here is where I use SQL Server, Visual Studio and graphics programs.
After I catch up on my email and social networking on my FUN Desktop, I’ll “go to work” by switching over to my WORK desktop. Two different worlds. Even though I am just a hotkey away from the FUN desktop, it has worked. This program provides a mental separation that is helping me minimize distractions. I’m getting far more work done using this tool.
Using the above strategies I would do fine until around 6 PM. Then I’d be mentally vulnerable to the distracting nature of email and social networking. Like a bug to the light, I’d keep peeking around for an update of some kind. The updates were rarely valuable, but occasionally I’d get drawn into responding to stressful email or discussion thread. Two weeks ago, I had a terrible night sleep because I got riled up over an email that I received minutes before heading to sleep.
The new strategy that I am now testing is that I turn off my email and disconnect from all social networking and discussion forums before 7 PM. Checking email right up until bedtime was making me too anxious. The last two weeks have been calm evenings and I am fighting the urge to check something, but it is working so far.
Do you have novel techniques for handling distractions that are working for you? Please share in the comments.
I just finished reading The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley. It is an excellent book on the economics of sex from a genetic point of view. I’m not going to review the book, others have done a better job than me. However, I loved a sentence that was put at the very end of the book.
Half the ideas in this book are probably wrong.
After 400 pages of detailed scientific writing, the author concedes that half of the conclusions he arrived at will end up being proven wrong. I love the spirit of throwing out new ideas and challenging old ones, knowing full well that you will proven wrong to some degree at some future date and being OK with it.
I used to believe cake was an awesome food. I was wrong.
The reason the sentence spoke to me was because last week someone called my attention to a blog post I wrote years ago that contradicted a recent post. That person was upset with my current opinion and decided to call me out on my inconsistencies.
I’m cool with admitting when I’m wrong. As new evidence emerges or as my understanding of a topic improves, I’ll change my opinion. Should I take down old posts or correct them? Probably not, because if I was wrong on certain points before, then odds are that I’m wrong on a few things right now.
Whenever I think back to the points in my life where I admitted that I was wrong, it was almost always followed by a surge in personal growth. I no longer care if I save face. I’d rather chalk things up as a learning experience and move on.
I’ve been wrong about politics, nutrition, fitness, finance and even relationships. I’m certain to be wrong in the future. Trying to stay true to former opinions is too exhausting. It is better to quickly admit errors and move forward.
Earlier this year, I was able to get a pea-patch at my apartment complex. It is a 4 foot by 4 foot area. I’m sort of flying blind, but Mother Nature is doing her job. Stuff is growing. I ate some of the Russian Kale today and I survived.
One of the reasons I go to Costco is to stock up on almond butter. Recently, they replaced the MaraNatha Creamy Almond Butter glass jars with plastic jars. I noticed the ounces were the same, so I assume the product inside the jar was unchanged. About two servings into the jar, it struck me just how creamy it was. It seemed almost watery.
I did some digging and discovered that the Costco version of the MaraNatha Creamy Almond Butter has been thinned out. The price is still the same, but you are getting less almond butter. The product sold on their corporate site and others appears to be the same. This may just be a Costco thing.
The glass jar version had 23 servings at 190 calories. This plastic jar version has 23 servings at 180 calories. Same price, less product.
The glass jar version. Happier times.
They removed 230 calories of almond butter from every jar. Now it is too creamy. Who is to blame? Costco or MaraNatha or both? I don’t know. What I do know is the taste of the product has suffered and I’ll be buying the fresh ground stuff from Central Market and Fred Meyer going forward.
Every month that goes by, Costco gives me one less reason to shop there.
UPDATE July 28, 2011: Today I received this comment from Ted.
I would prefer the glass jars too, however the product inside is identical, 180 calories per serving , same as it was in the last batch of glass jars I purchased. The ingredients are only almonds so there is no thinning out. I checked with the company and they confirmed this.
That didn’t sound right to me, since when I wrote my original almond butter post in June 2010, I used 190 calories in my calculations. Lucky for me, I saved a few older jars. What did I find? MarthaNatha did have 190 calories per serving, but they switched to the 180 calories (the thin version) prior to switching to plastic jars. It was only when the almond butter went to pastic jars did I taste the difference.
If MarthaNatha is claiming that the recipe for this product has not changed, then they are being dishonest. They thinned the product BEFORE they made the switch to plastic jars, but they did in fact thin their product. Look at the photo below.
Costco is not the guilty party. MaraNatha is to blame.
UPDATE August 1, 2011: MaraNatha is now selling “No Stir” Almond Butter in both Creamy and Crunchy. They are in glass jars and they use the original 190 calories per serving recipe.
I have about 15 half-written blog posts in the queue right now. I’m not happy with any of them. The sun is rising at 5:10 AM in Seattle and not setting until after 9 PM. I have black out drapes, but the light is still sneaking into my room and waking me up. During the winter I was able to get extra sleep, now I’m missing some sleep.
My plan was to cut my coffee intake come summer, but then Seattle got the Northwest Coffee Festival. Take a look at this Coffee Crawl Map. As a coffee fanatic, I have been going to all these events and consuming a high amount of coffee. This isn’t helping my sleep either.
So the result is I’ve been too tired to complete about 15 blog posts. Sunday is the last day of the Coffee Festival. When it is over, I’ll start to reduce my coffee intake. The days will begin to shorten on Wednesday. Hopefully, I’ll get my blog mojo back then.
My hood. This photo has nothing to do with this post. I need more sleep.
Wrestler and Slim Jim spokesperson Randy Savage died today. When you live in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area, you will run into pro wrestlers. It must of been 1996 or 1997 when I first met Macho Man Randy Savage. In the post Meeting Hulk Hogan and Macho Man, I told the story of how I got the autograph below.
About a year later on a weekend night in Ybor City (Tampa’s historic district), I saw a mob of people surrounding someone moving down the street. My friend Jason was visiting and he was the first to see it Macho Man. We went down there and said hello. He was signing autographs, taking photos and being very cool with his fans.
RIP Randy Savage.
Moving a web site is never fun. I spent hours this morning fixing database issues and moving files from my old host to my new host. There will be problems. Moving almost 1,500 posts and over 3,000 comments is not easy task. If you see a problem – send me an email. Thank you!
After living in the perfect weather of San Diego for seven years, I moved up to Seattle in 2007. This is an overview of my four winters in Seattle.
From the December 1, 2007 post This Wasn’t in the Brochure:
Its snowing in Bellevue. I need to find a cheap flight to Central America. Now.
I wisely left Seattle for a month and traveled to Southeast Asia. I returned tanned and spring arrived early.
This winter is too wet, too cold and too miserable. Snow is fun, cold rain sucks. I should have traveled. Thinking of San Diego.
Pike Market by me
Yesterday morning a taxi ran into Rachel the bronze pig at Pike Market. From MSNBC’s Taxi crashes into Pike Place Market pig statue (link now gone):
A taxi driver hit the gas when he was rear-ended nearby early Saturday and plowed into Rachel the Pig, a 550-pound, bronze piggy bank that has stood outside the market’s famous fish-throwing stand since 1986.
The crash knocked the pig off her concrete base, which will have to be repaired. Market officials say it will probably take a few days. The statue itself was also scratched up a bit.
Today I stopped by and saw this “get well soon” roadside. Someone even set down flowers. I love this city.
Here is photo of me with Rachel the Pig from 2008.
Happier Times …for the pig
This past Saturday I got to try a tea that was completely new to me: puer tea stuffed in a pomelo. Imagine a puer tea with a slight citrus finish. Not my favorite tea, but interesting.
In this post I am going to explain why I didn’t defend myself or respond to my attackers on MetaFilter last Friday. If you don’t know what happened, read Tales From the Glitter Gym – The End. There is a book that I often refer to for moral guidance. It is not the Bible. It is The 48 Laws of Power.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is wisdom from 3,000 years of history condensed into 48 laws. Some people believe this book is evil and ruthless, but I see it more as a set of guidelines into human behavior. I’d like to think I use it for good. Not every law will apply to every person.
The primary reason I didn’t try to defend myself is that I didn’t want my attackers to define the debate. By responding directly to them, I would have allowed them to frame the debate. No thank you.
Law #4 – Always say less than necessary.
Saying nothing to the MetaFilter forum was my response. A younger me would have been drawn into the battle. Not now.
Law #9 – Win through your actions, never through arguments.
I can’t argue that I’m a good guy that is concerned with issues of fitness and nutrition. All I can do is keep posting on the topics in a positive and empowering voice. If a few of the MetaFilter crowd clicks around this site they will find those entries. One of my attackers even gave me 2 great ideas for future posts (Cardiovascular Training and Persistence Hunting).
Law #22 – Use the surrender tactic: Transform weakness into power.
This law needs a little explaining. Basically it means that when you are severely outnumbered, never fight for honor’s sake. Instead you should surrender. This tactic also infuriates those who wish to draw you into battle. On Friday this site got almost 10,000 more page views than normal. I was outnumbered. Since I was planning on ending Tales From the Glitter Gym anyway, this was perfect opportunity to end the series and promote posts that are both “constructive and helpful”.
Today the site MetaFilter linked to my Tales From the Glitter Gym. The comments exploded and they were mostly negative. A few people got the humor, but the majority didn’t. It is not often in life when you get honest feedback from such a large number of people at once. Most of the people that I know personally like Tales From the Glitter Gym. They get that it is a joke, but without context I now can see how others could see some of them as being mean-spirited.
I’ve read all the comments and have decided there will be no more editions to Tales From the Glitter Gym. I was getting bored with it anyway. I’ll leave the rant writing to far more skilled authors such as Joe Queenan and TC Luoma. On topics of fitness and nutrition, I’d rather keep the tone on this blog 100% constructive and helpful.
From March 2000 to November 2004, I had my first blog. It was mostly just a bunch of smart ass comments about what happened in the news that day. People that knew me thought it was funny, but then I met a guy who told me I was nothing like my blog. He expected to meet an angry bitter person, but I wasn’t. I shutdown that blog and then relaunched in 2005 with a goal to be kinder. Tales From the Glitter Gym was the only hold over from my previous blog. It is time to end it now too.
I have fully embraced Seattle’s love for indie rock. Here are my top 10 songs for 2010.
#1 Yeahsayer – O.N.E – This tune sounds like indie rock meets early 1990s dance. Love it!
#2 Deerhunter – Helicopter – Hauntingly beautiful.
#3 Broken Bells – The High Road – It was hard to pick a favorite Broken Bells song. I love this lyrics of The High Road. Come on and get your overdose.
#4 Best Coast – When I’m With You – Modern girl surf rock.
#5 Fitz and the Tantrums – Money Grabber – I love classic soul from the early 1960s. This band does a brilliant job recreating that sound.
#6 Crystal Castles with Robert Smith – Not In Love – The next best thing to a new Cure song.
#7 Beach House – Walk in the Park – I love the keyboard melody in this song.
#8 Foals – Black Gold – It was so tough to pick a favorite track from this release. Spanish Sahara, Miami and Blue Blood are equally excellent.
#9 Broken Social Scene – World Sick – If it weren’t for the slow start this would have been much higher on my list. Skip ahead to the 1 minute mark.
#10 Enrique Iglesias – I Like It – Two years ago, all 10 songs on my 2008 Top 10 list were sugar-filled dance tracks. Now we are down to just one. Even though I rarely listen to dance music anymore, this song is catchy. What can I say? I Like It!
Which songs did you like this year? Did we share any in common or did I miss something?
In the last week I have stumbled upon so many great web sites full of content that I want to read. I have never been under this heavy of an information overload. I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out how to filter out the noise that I wasn’t prepared to mainline so much signal.
How do you deal with an overload of quality information? Any tips would be appreciated.
Photo overloaded: from the back by woowoowoo
I’ve had this idea for over 15 years, but I’ve never actually written it down before. We all know the problem with car alarms. Nobody believes them. We find them annoying. They completely fail in their role to be a deterrent for car theft or vandalism.
The root of this problem is that every car alarm sounds the same and that sound is annoying. What is needed is a way to for every car owner to customize the sound of their alarm and then make that alarm embarrassing.
Let me provide an example. I would like my car alarm to blast the song Copacabana by Barry Manilow. It is a horrifically bad song and if it went off in a parking garage while some thug had just broken by window, EVERYONE would look over to see just who in the hell is blasting Copacabana. One of three things would happen:
Photo by Alan Light
In my world, car owners would have a USB stick that would carry customizations that they could program on their home computer and then plug into their car. One of the customizations would be an audio file for their car alarm. And since there are no shortage of awful songs, customization is really possible.
Imagine someday in the future you are at the grocery store and over the intercom an employee says:
Attention shoppers, will the owner of the car blasting John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy please attend to your vehicle.
If any company would like to use this idea, go for it. You have my permission. I don’t need to be compensated. Just set my car up with Copacabana.
My year up here in Northgate is coming to an end. I came very close to returning to Queen Anne, but at the last minute I decided to look at one more apartment in the Ballard neighborhood. I’ll be very close to the Ballard Locks.
I never talk about politics on this blog. I consider myself post-political. One day I’ll talk more about that. Not today though. Instead of complaining about the system, I’m here to offer my solutions.
Today’s episode is The Voter. We all know the problem. Voters are too dumb and are easily manipulated by negative ads. The problem as I see it is that many voters don’t understand how our government works. If every voter understood how our government worked, we would be far less likely to fall for attack ads or irrelevant facts. We would nominate and vote for better candidates. And as a result, we would get a better government.
My solution is that in order to vote a citizen must pass the US Citizenship test. We have to pass a drivers license test to drive on our roads. How about we spend an hour or two learning about how our government works before heading to the polling place? Understanding what it means to be a US Citizen shouldn’t be just for immigrants. I think it should be for everyone that wants to participate in the voting process.
Participation rate in elections would fall, but the citizens that care enough to study and pass the test would see the power of their vote increase. The political debate would get more civil, as politicians would know that voters collectively understand government A LOT BETTER than they used to.
If my solution were adopted we would see a mad rush by all political parties to educate the population on the Constitution and American history. Much better than the current scare tactics method. Wouldn’t that be a great thing?
Going on a mini trip. See you on Tuesday.
I love Costco. Unfortunately, so does everyone else. I used to be able to time my visits when it was less crowded. Not anymore. It is always packed. Short of building new stores, here are a few ideas I would implement if I were The King of Costco.
That is all. If you were The King of Costco, what changes would you make?
Believe it or not I haven’t been to every coffee shop in Seattle. Nor do I plan to. Why not? Below are the 6 Reasons I Haven’t Been To Your Coffee Shop.
How about you? Do you have any rules or red flags when it comes to trying out a new coffee shop?
This place violates rules #1 and #3 and thus I haven’t been there.
If you are wondering how I have been able to read so many books in the past month, it is because I injured myself three weeks ago. Laying on a heating pad recovering is perfect for reading. When coming down from the stairs, my brand new sock hit the slick wooden floor and I went airborne crashing down into the stairs. I hit my head and my left lower back. My head was fine. My back wasn’t.
Below is an artist rendering.
Even though I am feeling much better, I am still in some pain. Driving (left turns) and getting out of the car is where I feel the most pain. Thankfully, I have recovered enough that I can do pull-ups, push-ups and even walk for miles.
This past weekend I went to my first Renaissance Fair. It was so hot that day. I feel sorry for all the people that were dressed in full costumes. The highlight of the event was seeing an actual jousting event. My camera was being repaired so I was unable to take photos that day. Below is an artist rendering of the joust event.
Gig Harbor Ren Faire – Photo set by cronewynd
There is a hidden park that almost nobody in Seattle knows about. It is called Freeway Park. It is downtown and above the I-5 freeway. I took this photo of cars driving north on the I-5 going underneath the park. The park has free WI-FI too. Have you been to Freeway Park?
With sound quality as crisp as the signal from a distant AM radio station, why would I ever upgrade?
Costco sells a 26oz container of Creamy Almond Butter for just $5.75. They last a year and hold 4,370 calories. Almond butter tastes better and is more nutritious than peanut butter. I bought three and will cycle through and replace them going forward. Perfect survival food. Nutritious, tasty, cheap and portable.
After almost six years of listening to satellite radio, I gave it up and returned to regular old terrestrial radio earlier this year. If you want to know the reasons, read Why I Am Not Renewing My Sirius XM Radio Subscription. How am I holding up?
Here were the channels I most listened to on XM Radio and my new substitute.
|XM Radio Channel||Seattle Solution|
|XMU 43 - Indie Rock||90.3 FM|
|BPM 81||89.5 FM|
|Real Jazz 70||88.5 FM (when NPR isn't on)|
|Soul Town 60||MP3s|
|1970s Pop||104.5 FM (partially) and MP3s|
|Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez||Podcasts|
For the most part, I am pleased with the substitutes. KEXP 90.3 FM is a great station and as a result I listen to more indie rock these days. My biggest shock turned out not to be programming, but sound quality. I miss the higher quality sound of satellite radio. I am strongly considering getting HD Radio. Going from XM to FM is like going from FM to AM.
Note that this post is not an endorsement of XM Radio. They are a bunch of criminals. Read the 40+ comments on Filing Fraud Charges Against XM Radio before you sign up and hand them your credit card number.
I get asked frequently to help others on business projects. In recent years, I have started declining most offers. Although I have not learned the qualities of a good business partner, I have isolated a few qualities of poor ones.
One day I will figure out what a good business partner looks like. Until then, I am perfectly content doing things on my own.
Since moving to Northgate it has been a while since I’ve done a Seattle urban hike greater than 10 miles. Today I tackled one of my new favorite areas, which is the Seattle side of Lake Washington between the two bridges. Along the way I checked off two more places on my Seattle Disloyalty Card.
Total distance covered: 14.05 miles.
Photo Glock 19 by KLaFaille
This past Saturday I finally got around to doing something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I went to a gun range and fired some pistols. Before heading to the range, I spent several hours doing classroom instruction from a certified NRA instructor. I should be getting my NRA Basic Pistol certification (or is it a card?) in the mail soon.
At the range, I fired two 9MM (Ruger and Glock), a 22 and a .40 caliber Glock. The 22 was too small for my hand, but I enjoyed the others. Someone recently asked me if there was any other reason besides weight lifting on why one would would do grip strength training. Shooting a .40 caliber Glock might be a reason. Maybe being able to close a 167.5 pound Captains of Crush single handed helped me handle that Glock? Couldn’t have hurt.
This morning I made a lane change behind an 18 wheeler and looked up to see a man hanging from the back of a moving truck loaded with boxes. Just before I had a heart attack, I realized I was looking at a photo painted onto the back of a truck.
I should probably start wearing my glasses when I drive during rush hour.
This post has been moved from Coffee Hero. It was originally written on December 22, 2009.
Brewing loose leaf tea when your mug is too big for your steeper.
For the most part I like how the holidays are spread across the calendar, but if I were King for a day, I’d make the following changes.
I would change Martin Luther King Day to Civil Rights Day. There were lots of important historical figures that helped advance civil rights, not just MLK. Use this holiday to highlight 2 or 3 people each year. Make it an educational holiday. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a stupid concept, but every year it does draw attention to the new inductees. The problem with MLK Day is it only draws attention to MLK.
The holiday should be moved to the Monday after the Super Bowl. Mid January is too soon for a holiday after Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Plus it will give the sports announcers something else to discuss during their 12 hour pre-game show. A little history lesson for a captive audience.
April Fools Day
I think last week proved that every year is too much. I propose April Fools Day should only occur on odd years.
Easter is “…the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the vernal equinox.” As a result the date of Easter varies between March 22 and April 25. Too confusing. How able we settle on the first Sunday in April? Hope that isn’t blasphemous.
More companies and schools celebrate MLK Day than Presidents Day. The reason is February is just too close to MLK Day. Since I pushed that to early February, I propose moving Presidents Day to mid October. This is the month that Americans are most likely to be paying attention to elections. Why not focus on past Presidents then?
It has been years since I’ve seen a basketball game, but that hasn’t stopped me from developing my own methodology for completing the March Madness Brackets.
Note that this strategy has never worked for me, but I figure I’m due.
Photo Go, Bucks, Go by iampeas
It has been a few years since I last took a Myers-Briggs personality test. On Wednesday, I took the test again and my score changed. I went from being an INTJ to an ENTJ. You were warned.
I have been a paid subscriber of XM Radio since June 2004. For the most part I am very satisfied with the technology and programming. However, at the end of this month I will not be renewing. Sirius XM messed up. Here are the reasons I will be returning to terrestrial radio (AM/FM) in March.
There you have it Sirius XM. I predict your company will go into bankruptcy. When people like me that have been early supporters and die hard backers of your technology walk away angry – you have problems.
After you go through bankruptcy, fire Mel Karmazin, bring the call centers back to the States and emerge as a new company I might forgive you. Until that happens, you’re dead to me.
This past weekend I had a garage sale and while digging through boxes, I found my medal from that 50 Mile bike ride I did in Mexico in September 2006. The bike is long gone, but the medal survives.
In honor of Elvis turning 75, I made a sandwich.
Before you go straight to Amazon.com for your holiday shopping, start here on CriticalMAS and use my search box on my Shop page. The products will cost you the same, but I’ll get a little cut.
I gotta pay for this Thailand trip somehow.
Today I had a prescription filled. It costs me $50. When the pharmacist counseled me on the medication, he asked how much I paid. When he heard $50, he walked me out to one of the aisles and showed me my medication was available over the counter for half of what I paid. He helped me get a refund and I left happy that I saved $25. I was fortunate that the pharmacist cared to ask. I’m sure many others have overpaid.
That is the problem with medication. Everybody is paying a different price. The people using my health care plan are no doubt subsidizing the medicine costs for those on other plans. Want to solve the health care problems? Have everyone pay the same price for any medicine or health care procedure. Then require those prices be posted. Honest markets require transparent pricing.
For costs to drop in any marketplace, there must be efficient price discovery. Health care is such a mess because there is price obfuscation at every level. As long as you can hide costs as much as possible, the costs will not drop. They may not land on the person receiving treatment, but someone will end up paying.
I love my Seattle neighborhood of Queen Anne, but it is time to move soon. I’ve been given an opportunity to rent the bottom floor of a brand new house near Northgate. My living expenses will be half what I’m paying in Queen Anne. How long can I last in the suburbs? We will see.
Besides reduced living expenses the biggest upside to moving will be the larger brand new kitchen. I will not miss my little kitchen. I will miss Queen Anne though.
If my Seattle peeps need a fun way to spend an afternoon with the family, head out to Redmond and visit the South 47 Farm. They have crops you can pick, animals to pet and a huge corn maze. They actually carved up a full maze covering 5.5 acres in a corn field. The maze has shortcuts, clues, hidden signs and many dead ends. Good times!
I just setup a text message block on my phone. As a cell phone customer, I have two options:
The unlimited option is a total waste of money for me, which leaves option 2. I have no problem with paying 20 cents to send a text. My issue is that I have to pay to receive texts. For 20 cents, I can buy a banana. So everytime I get anidiotic text, it is like someone reaching into my kitchen window and stealing a banana.
Yeah I know, I’m an old man. I don’t IM either. I am not a fan of short burst communication. It is almost all noise with very little signal. Feel free to call me, email me or even write me a letter. I pick and choose the technologies that benefit and enrich my life. Texting is not one of them.
I only intended to do a 5 mile hike today, but decided to take a few different turns and I ended up exploring a new section of Seattle. I didn’t know there was a beach with a diving board at Madison Park. This ended up being my longest hike to date by a hair. In February, I hiked 22.5769 miles. Today, I logged 22.5988 miles. I’m rounding that puppy up to 22.6!
This hike was much slower as I am no longer wearing shoes with cushioned heels. Unlike the hike in February, I experienced no back pain. However, my feet are tired. That is a fair trade off in my opinion.
If you head east of Seattle this time of the year, you will find many places that have a U-Pick-Em blueberry program. They hand you a bucket and you make your way out onto the farm to pick your own blueberries. When you are finished, they weight the blueberries and then charge you around $1.50 a pound.
I love blueberries, so last week I headed East to get my bounty.
Marketman at the Geldpress said he picked over 20 pounds of blueberries. I only got about 8 pounds and I had help. The night after picking blueberries, I had a dream where I kept picking more blueberries. If you have space in your freezer, seek out a blueberry farm and start picking.
My tip is to avoid the Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm. It is over picked at this point. If any of my fellow Seattle blueberry pickers are out there, post in the comments which farms you liked.
My new camera is ORANGE.
A few months ago I realized that Twitter could be The Borg. Star Trek has a long history of creating things before they become reality. Could it be that The Borg which debuted in 1989 predicted Twitter? Millions of status reports (tweets) are being sent to and from the Twitter servers (The Borg Queen). Every Twitter user seems to have a goal to recruit more Twitter users (assimilate).
Is Twitter the logical next step to a Borg hivemind? First books. Then blogs. Then Twitter. Then … Borg?
He further writes:
What happens when Twitter shifts to real time? Could we handle it? Could it happen? A microconversation in our heads, on all the time? I’m not sure we could. It is, however, what the Borg is all about, no? The delta between individual and social closed to no more than a blink? Very sci fi. Hmmm.
I’m not a Star Trek guru, so I consulted the Wikipedia to see if my theory had any merit. That is when I stumbled on a fact that discredited my idea that Twitter could be The Borg. In the section on Characteristics (General Design), I found this fact.
Individual Borg rarely speak except in cases where such communication is necessary.
Twitter is clearly not The Borg.
I have two lists of books that I want to read. I’ve been successful with one and lazy with the other.
The Books I Own never get read. They just get boxed and moved from place to place. I want to read them, but I always seem to have at least one of my library holds available for pick up. With the library books, I have 3 weeks to read it. Sometimes I’ll have 3 or 4 books out at a time. To avoid late fees, the books on my shelf will need to wait. The library books always seem to come first. The result is I never get around to the Books I Own.
I think I figured out a way to finally tackle the Books I Own. Donate them to the library and then place the books on hold.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but I signed up for the 2009 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon which took place this past Saturday. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I am in still in retirement when it comes to running. I signed up as a medical volunteer for the race.
Medical volunteers arrived at 5:45 AM. We set up our station at the 14.3 mile marker and then waited for the injured to visit us. We waited and waited. Because the weather was so cool, we didn’t get any heat exhaustion cases. We had very few runners that needed assistance and I ended up spending a good amount of time across the street at Trabant Coffee. I’m so glad I encouraged them to open 3 hours early for the race.
Even though I now consider distance running to be bad for your health, I understand the runners high. Completing a marathon is a great life experience. Here are two ideas to improve your next marathon time.
Here I am in front of our Medical Aid station.
I took a break from Ahi sushi and made sushi using Blue Marlin. Works just as well. Some of you have asked where I get the fish. Would you believe Costco? The trick is to only buy the stuff that was packed that day.
Today I decided to not get prawns and instead try my first frog. Not bad.
Where did I spend Memorial Day weekend this year? Guess in the comments. Don’t play if you already know. Your only clue is the photo below.
The view South from my roof yesterday afternoon.
I walked past Seattle Peace Park and this statue on Friday. The statue is of Sadako Saski, who was a Japanese child victim that survived the Hiroshima bombing.
What is the story with the paper crane? From Wikipedia:
On August 3, 1955, Chizuko Hamamoto Sadako’s best friend came to the hospital to visit and cut a golden piece of paper into a square and folded it into a paper crane. At first Sadako didn’t understand why Chizuko was doing this but then Chizuko retold the story about the paper cranes. Inspired by the crane, she started folding them herself, spurred on by the Japanese saying that one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish. A popular version of the story is that she fell short of her goal of folding 1,000 cranes, having folded only 644 before her death, and that her friends completed the 1,000 and buried them all with her. This comes from the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.
If you would have asked me a few years ago who my favorite company was, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say XM Radio. Today I filed fraud charges against them. A few months ago I noticed a bad charge on my credit card. I called them up and they told me that they didn’t have any record of the charge. I informed Chase and the charge was removed.
Then another charge was placed on the card. I called XM Radio again. After a lot of investigation they discovered that they had tied another customer account to my credit card number. They tried to blame to Chase. I told them it was their fault. They admitted fault and then assured me the charge was removed while I was still on the phone. XM Radio also promised me no further fraudulent charges would occur and a supervisor would call me within 2 days to confirm everything had been cleared on their side.
After 5 days of not receiving that call, I called Chase.XM Radio lied to me twice. The fraudulent charge was not removed. At this point I knew XM Radio would continue to make fraudulent charges against my credit card, so I had to cancel my card and get another one issued with a new number.
If you are a customer of XM Radio (maybe Sirius too?) and you have a credit card on file, double check your statements to confirm they aren’t making fraudulent charges. I eagerly await the day XM Sirius goes bankrupt and is acquired by more competent management.
Follow Up Post: Why I Am Not Renewing My Sirius XM Radio Subscription
Today’s Dilbert reminded me of one of my office stories.
One day I was walking back to the break room and I noticed a thick orange extension cord plugged into the wall. Someone had propped the back door open. Curious to see what was being charged, I followed the orange extension cord outside. It was an RV. A pretty good sized one too.
Turns out one of the employees was heading out on a weekend trip to the desert and thought it was a good idea to charge up his RV on the company dime. I hinted to the employee that it took guts to be so openly stealing electricity. Despite the fact California had gone through rate hikes and rolling blackouts, he didn’t seem to think charging up his RV was theft. It took all day to fully charge his vehicle.
That employee was eventually promoted to Vice President.
When I saw white asparagus at the store, I thought it was the most bizarre thing. The cashier informed me that white asparagus is grown in buried dirt, so it receives no light. No light means it doesn’t turn green. Of course I had to try it and tell everyone.
I learned that I’m the last one to hear about white asparagus. Turns out this is old news. What can I say? It was new to me. Anyway, it tasted no different than green asparagus.
Broiled Lamb and White Asparagus
Someone had fun with this sign in the Ballard area. Look closely.
1024 x 612 version of Great Food or Eat Poo?
Last night I got the opportunity to watch a local live radio talk show. The show is called TBTL. Other than the show I watched last night, I’ve only heard two hours. It is different than the guy hot talk shows that I normally listen to (Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez and Adam Carolla). The humor is more conversational and subtle. It has been over four years now since I abandoned AM/FM radio in favor of satellite programming. Hearing a local talk show again was a nice experience.
TBTL show in Seattle. Just kidding. This photo is RAF mobile radio station by Flickr user Adelaide Archivist
The hour I watched was a segment called Meet The Kates. They took three local Kates from different Seattle neighborhoods and an online Kate listener from LA and ran them through a personality test. They wanted to determine if girls named Kate have the same or unique personalities. I won’t give away the results (show link: April 15, 2009 8 PM- 9PM).
When I saw the great Bob Lassister do an hour of radio, I got to sit in studio. This time I was in a side room with the engineer and news guy. I witnessed how the radio spots were scheduled in real time and I was there when their news guy gave a vocal tips to an intern.
For almost a week when I should have been looking for new places, I could barely walk. Then when I could walk fine, I looked at a few units, but the pain flared up again. With only two weeks to find a new place and move myself (heavy couch), I decided it wasn’t wise to move at this time.
My place is fine and I love my neighborhood. I will count this as a minor victory. Just by asking my landlord to make a counter offer, I got a 3.5% increase in rent lowered to a 5% reduction. I also got the terms of the lease reduced from 12 months to 6 months. The monthly savings will pay for my cell phone and Netflix bills. Since I expect rents to continue to slide, by November I expect even lower rent or a better apartment for a similar amount.
If your lease is coming due, come armed with data and ask your landlord for a rate reduction. Even if you have no intention of moving, the worst they can say is no.
When my building decided to raise my rent 3.5%, I let them know that they were in denial on the current state of the Seattle rental market. This is not 2008. Rents are falling everywhere in Seattle. I told my building that if they want to keep me, they would have to return with a lower offer.
Yesterday they came back to me with a 5% drop from my current rate. Not enough. I gave notice.
Once again I’ll be moving. The Moving Scorecard will soon reflect 19 addresses in 21 years.
Landlords are betting that the hassle of moving is enough to keep their good tenants from leaving. They are keeping rents above market rate. When it comes time to renew your lease, go to your landlord armed with data and tell them you expect a lower rate and that you will move if you have to. There are too many vacant units out there. Many are offering sweet deals to new tenants.
I’m going to start looking on Monday.
UPDATE (4/16/2009): Move called off. I accepted this offer.
When I lived in San Diego there was one traffic condition I dreaded. It was the first rain during rush hour after a long dry period. The rain would kick up dust and oil on the roads and they would have slick patches on them. Traffic would grind to halt and there would be accidents. And then I’d go to work and hear the chorus of voices about how Californians can’t drive in the rain.
Seattle has the opposite problem. We know how to drive in the rain. The situation that causes traffic problems is a beautiful sunny day after a long period of dreary weather. And if that day happens to fall on a weekend, then look out. Everyone comes out of hibernation and decides to go somewhere. Today was that day. Trying to go North this evening was a nightmare. Almost as bad as San Diego in the rain.
One of my favorite movies growing up wasn’t well received. It was Bright Lights Big City. In the movie, Michael J Fox’s character descends into the New York City night life and it almost destroys his life, his relationships and his ambition.
When I first saw La Dolce Vita (1960) last year, I immediately recognized it to be a much superior and sweeter film than Bright Lights Big City. Although they are different stories, there are some strong similarities. Both are writers that are eager to do something great, but are seduced by the nightlife. AllMovie has a nice summary about the main character Marcello.
Having left his dreary provincial existence behind, Marcello wanders through an ultra-modern, ultra-sophisticated, ultra-decadent Rome. He yearns to write seriously, but his inconsequential newspaper pieces bring in more money, and he’s too lazy to argue with this setup.
Roger Ebert wrote a great review of La Dolce Vita. He referred to the film as “a cautionary tale with a man without a center.” When you read Ebert’s review, it is hard to believe this is the same film critic that liked Cedric The Entertainer’s film remake of The Honeymooners.
I recommend reading Ebert’s review for a better understanding of this film. This isn’t Rob Schneider, this is Fellini. La Dolce Vita is a great movie.
For the past week, I’ve had sleep issues. I’ve been waking up at 4:30 AM and I am unable to fall back asleep. Then I’m tired during the day and unsuccessful when I try to take a nap. Yesterday I woke up at 3:30 AM and was miserable all day.
I was really hoping to sleep in this morning. I needed the rest. Right before I woke up I recall having a vivid dream where someone told me it was 7:30 AM and that you could buy $40 flights to Japan.
Toy Train of Japan by Flickr user El Fotopakismo
It was such a real dream that when I woke up I actually started thinking about looking for those plane tickets. Then I looked at my watch. It wasn’t 7:30 AM. It was still 5:30 AM. Two more hours of sleep than yesterday, but two less than I hoped for. I tried to go back to sleep, but failed.
There are no $40 flights to Japan.
Back in January 2007, I checked out the stock performance of the company I had left in May 2006. In the post Does My Last Employer Miss Me?, you can see how the stock fell off a cliff after I left.
I rejoined the company in September 2007 and was laid off one year ago. What happened to the stock in the last year? It fell 62%, which is quite a bit more than the S&P 500 fell.
There is a lesson here for future employers. It is better to keep me on the payroll or the market cap loss you will suffer in the following year will be immense!
There are great bands. Some of them put out a greatest hits CD. Some of them are amazing from start to finish. Here are my picks for the 5 Greatest Greatest Hits CDs of All Time. Note that all these are single disc. I excluded box sets (Elvis, Led Zeppelin) and double-disc CDs (Bee Gees).
#1 Earth, Wind and Fire: Greatest Hits – Perfection! If you don’t like this CD, then you have no soul.
#2 The Cars: Complete Greatest Hits – At my high school ten year reunion there was an argument on what CD to play next. Half the class was into the new country pop and the other half desired the (m)alternative rock. I suggested The Cars Greatest Hits. All arguing stopped. Everyone loves The Cars.
#3 The Smashing Pumpkins: Greatest Hits – Rotten Apples – Now that the dust has settled on the 1990s, I’m ready to declare The Smashing Pumpkins the best band of that decade.
#5 The Cult: Pure Cult – The Singles (1984-1995) – I like Marilyn Manson more, but The Cult has a far superior greatest hits compilation.
I know I’m missing some good ones. Add yours in the comments.
The sun came out so I did a 12 mile urban hike. This time I decided to head west and cut through Magnolia.
Then I crossed the locks and picked up the hike again.
On my way back, near the Fremont Ballard border, a woman asked for directions. She spoke almost no English. My guess is she was from Ethopia. She pointed at the address she wanted to find on a printout. Lucky for her, I happened to bring my GPS with me and was able to show her a map telling her exactly how to get to her destination. Gotta love technology.
I had two mediocre latte art attempts today. Had I used a bigger cup for the first one, I think I could have saved it.
The second one was using milk that was minutes old. Notice the texture is no longer smooth. Somehow, I was still able to make a little heart lily pad. Not good, but not awful.
I love sushi, but I am not a fan of sushi restaurants. They tend to be expensive and slow. And if they aren’t expensive, the word gets out and lines start forming. Sushi Deli in San Diego is affordable, but if you don’t time it right, you could be in line for an hour. All this for tiny morsels of raw fish and seaweed.
There has to be a better way. In the past two weeks, I discovered how easy it is to make your own sushi. So last night I attempted my first homemade sushi. It was a hit!
Ahi, avocado and a little cream cheese.
Now my rolling skills aren’t sushi master quality, but unlike the sushi chefs, I’m using less rice and thicker pieces of ahi. Bring on the protein! I’ve left sushi restaurants after dropping $30 where I was still hungry. Last night I ate like a king for less than $7.
Seattle this morning.
Back in August 2001, USA Today put me in a story on something called “blogging”. The online version was titled Online journals popular with the opinionated by Janet Kornblum. The print version of the article was titled Web writers are blogging on.
Here is the photo from the print version, which is not available on line.
This weekend I was taught a drawing trick. Turn the image upside down and then attempt to draw focusing on spacing and not the actual object.
From ArtInstructionBlog.com – Learn How To Draw – Top 20 Drawing Tips For Beginners (#20):
Drawing upside down is a wonderful exercise to awaken the right side of your brain. When you turn an image upside down, you are making it somewhat abstract and unrecognizable. This forces you to draw what you see as opposed to relying on your memory to draw something.
Here are my first two attempts using Dilbert.
Yesterday I walked into my Glitter Gym and was hit with the smell of wet paint. Before I could think about why they wouldn’t prop open a door to air out the place, I walked into the free weight room. The walls were painted a pumpkin orange.
Back in my Florida days I learned from an owner of a Gold’s franchise that the two most common colors used for gyms are blue and red. Seeing blue is supposed to increase your endurance. Seeing red is supposed to increase your strength. I never followed up with that trivia to see if there was any truth to it. But I did have a dazed look on my face as I looked over the orange walls.
The one cool trainer spotted my look and said that they had just painted it. He then said that everyone hates it. I corrected him and told him there was one person that loved it.
Young MAS dreaming of the day gym walls will be the same color as his shirt.
Last June I posted a Moving Scorecard where I tallied up 18 addresses in the last 20 years. Well, it is almost certain that I will be living at yet another address. My lease ends on May 1st and I’m thinking – it is time to move. My current place is OK, but I’m paying way too much for a small space.
I am staying in Seattle.
Although my ranking could change once I start looking seriously, here are my favorite Seattle neighborhoods for living.
I love Fremont, but it is too loud and crowded for someone like me with an early bedtime. Since I lack tattoos and a heroin addiction, I can rule out all but the North edge of Capital Hill. As for downtown, way too loud. I did downtown living in San Diego and got it out of my system. Wallingford is fine, but 45th is too congested for me.
The Important List
The Nice To Have List
It was one year ago that I did my first urban hike of Seattle. Why not turn Presidents Day into an Annual Urban Hike Seattle day? The weather was sunny and clear. Temperatures were in the low 40s with some wind. I almost put a jacket over my short-sleeved shirt, but you know me.
Partially because I wanted to cover more distance and partially because my fingers were numb from the cold, I decided to take less photos.
From the Ballard Bridge
Total distance covered today was 22.5 miles.
This post for is for those people that think a DJ is not a musician. Below are two exhibits that prove a talented DJ can take a pile of musical garage and turn it into something great.
The best dance tune this year so far is The One by Sharam featuring Daniel Bedingfield. I just heard the original version of this amazing dance cover and I vomited a little in my mouth. It was so bland and boring. I had visions of John Cusack running after some girl with a box of chocolates. Yuck.
Here is the original: Daniel Bedingfield – If You’re Not The One
The Dance Version: The One by Sharam featuring Daniel Bedingfield
So much better.
I am a fan of Duran Duran, but back in 1990 they released a stinker of a tune called Serious. Just listen to the first 35 seconds. That is actually the only interesting part of the song.
The original: Duran Duran – Serious
Now enter Ferry Corsten. He took just just a snippet from Serious and created the song Fire.
The Dance Version: Ferry Corsten – Fire
Ferry Corsten is a miracle worker.
Although I would love to take credit for the term, I can’t. About a year ago a friend of mine started using the phrase Employed Lightly. Over time, it evolved to Lightly Employed. What does it mean to be Lightly Employed?
Lightly Employed is an umbrella term that cloaks your true employment status. At the core, it means you have scheduling freedom that allows you to do things a typical employed person can’t. Who are the Lightly Employed?
If you have to be at the office everyday, then you are not Lightly Employed. However, if you are able to sneak away on Thursdays, then you are Lightly Employed on that day.
Telling someone you are unemployed has a defeated tone to it. Lightly Employed is a chill way to say you don’t need to commute to the office tomorrow if you don’t want to. You might be desperately unemployed like Seattle Billy or maybe you have enough savings not to have to work for a few years. Lightly Employed is an inclusive term.
Whether you are Lightly Employed by choice or not is nobody’s business but your own. To be Lightly Employed is to be free. Enjoy every moment of it. It may not last forever.
If you are considering updating your Garmin GPS unit with the 2009 Maps, let me save you some money. They suck. Businesses that went away years ago are still listed. Businesses that started before 2007 still aren’t listed. Maybe it is better elsewhere, but after months of testing in the Seattle area, I now know I wasted my money.
If anyone from Garmin is reading this, please explain why the Baja Fresh in Belleuve and Redmond STILL ISN’T listed? I have a friend that lives in a “new” community in Lynnwood, Washington. The road was extended back in 2006 and it still isn’t listed.
I’ve also noticed that when I drive south on I-5 going through downtown Seattle, my unit now can’t track me. It thinks I’m on surface streets. This only started happening after I updated to the 2009 Garmin Maps. Also when you drive from Fremont to Ballard, it now tells you to get off N 36th when the name changes to Leary Way. It wants you to take an industrial street, loop around some alley and then rejoin Leary. See picture below. Yellow is the correct path. Red is what the 2009 Garmin Maps want you to do. This worked fine with the default maps.
Until I installed the 2009 Maps, my love for Garmin was a 10 out of 10. Now I’m starting to get eyes for Tom Tom. Garmin, you screwed up.