A Tale of Three Boxes of Tissues: Smart Consumerism

Know what the difference is between the three boxes of tissues above? Before this week, I’d have probably shrugged and said “Not much”. My eyes were opened to a certain type of consumerism; someone smarter than me probably has a name for it, but for the lack of a better term I’ll call it “Mindless Re-Purchasing”. If you’re anything like me, once you start buying a certain brand and package of product, you’ll pretty much keep it up forever, without stopping to think if there’s something better or less expensive. Continue reading A Tale of Three Boxes of Tissues: Smart Consumerism

AT&T Releases “Don’t Text While Driving” Documentary

This is powerful stuff here – and it’s part of the continued groundswell against texting while driving. If you’ve ever read or sent a text while driving – and, shamefully, I have to put myself in that category – this is something you should watch. Please share it with other people as well.

“The Little Book of Procrastination Remedies” by Leo Babuta

“Procrastination is one of those topics that, it seems, I can’t write enough about. There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t procrastinate, and that’s a fact of life. It’s deep within us. We think we’re going to do something later, or read that classic novel later, or learn French later. But we always overestimate how much we can do later, and we overestimate the ability of our later selves to beat procrastination. If our current self can’t beat procrastination, why will our future self do it? I thought I should cover some of the best procrastination-beating strategies, in light of my recent book, focus. People seem to want ways to beat procrastination, so they can actually get down to focusing. Here’s a quick guide.”

I recently started following a new blog called Zen Habits, written by the interesting and compelling Leo Babuta, and his post on procrastination really got me thinking. If you struggle with getting things done sometimes – and who doesn’t? – then you owe it to yourself to give this a read.

It ‘Aint Easy Being Green

A bit over a week ago, I was driving about 5.5 hours for a funeral. We have a 2009 GMC Acadia that seats seven people, and we drove the first leg of the trip (about three hours with a break in the middle, 287 KM) with myself, Ashley, and Logan in the car. We used up 1/4 of a tank of gas, and I refilled it when we finished the first leg. The next leg of the trip, the last 2.5 hours (248 KM) had two more adults (approximately 360 extra pounds including bags), and we used up half a tank of gas. Adding that extra 360 pounds made the fuel efficiency more than twice as worse, which begs the question: does it always make sense to carpool? Or is there a crossover point where, based on the type of vehicle you have, it’s better to take two vehicles because you’ll use up less fuel that way? I’m sure someone who’s brilliant with math can figure that out…but it made me wonder if the common wisdom of carpooling was actually wise in all circumstances.

Fat Guy + Running = Skinny Guy

As someone would needs to drop a few pounds myself (say, in the 20-30 pound range), I found this video to be quite inspiring in its simplicity; the guy hit rock bottom, decided to change his life, and started running. The simplicity of the solution to dropping a few pounds never quite translates into action on my part however…

Respect The Power of the Fortune Cookie

On Sunday night we got some Chinese food, and the above fortune was what I got in my fortune cookie. Today I was told my writing contract with Microsoft wasn’t going to be renewed (it ended in June). Props to you, Mr. Fortune Cookie Writer, you nailed it. I’d buy you a beer, but I’m trying to watch my expenses because, well, you know…

I’ve Implemented the DISQUS Commenting System

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll notice that for comments, I’m now using DISQUS. It’s a system that makes it much easier for people to comment, because rather than registering with this blog to comment, people can post a comment using a variety of credentials; Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID, or DISQUS. I’ve managed to get the old comments imported into DISQUS, but as far as I can tell, you can’t log in to the old WordPress commenting system any more – to post a comment, you’ll need to log in with one of the authentication methods offered. Your old comments aren’t associated with your DISQUS comments unfortunately; they stand alone. I’m not happy with that, but ultimately I think this new system will make it easier for people to comment, which is the goal.

If You’re a Parent of a Young Child, or Plan to be Someday, Read This

“The current trend of over-parenting began in the early 1980’s when baby boomers – who ended up having fewer children, later in life – started having kids, and it has continued down the line. At first, Baby on Board signs in car windows proudly announced “precious cargo” inside. Today, however, it is not enough to wait until the baby is born. While pregnant, parents start their single-minded search for ways to create an über child – and there is no shortage of products to help them, including ‘prenatal education systems’ that claim to give Junior an intellectual, social, creative and emotional advantage. Once the baby is born, the race to keep him or her ahead of the pack intensifies – with baby videos, baby ballet, gymnastics before they can walk, and parents’ near-fanatic devotion to finding the right pre-school.”

I really like documentaries – though I don’t watch as many as them as I’d like – and when I find one that impacts me, I feel compelled to share it with others. This is one such documentary – it’s called Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids. Years before we had Logan, I’d feel a sense of bafflement watching the extremes that some parents would go to in order to get the very best for their kids. Sure, you love your kids, but does it really make sense to financially strain yourself to the point of breaking in order to get your kid a marginally better education or a vocal coach for what amounts to a hobby? Or how about spending $4000 on a birthday party for a one year old, as shown in the photo above? And thinking that turning one is, in the words of the mother, a “milestone achievement”? Talk about a warped perception of reality – making it to one year old isn’t an achievement in our modern world, it’s an inevitability. Aging is a biological certainty, not an accomplishment worthy of lavish praise. Celebration, yes. Praise for something that happened without effort or sacrifice? No. There’s a big difference between the two.

Now that I’m a parent, I understand more keenly the desire to provide the best options for your child, but I still think there are limits to how far parents should go…and when it comes to letting your kids go through the bumps and bruises of life to learn independence, I’m in complete agreement. As a parent, I want to make a big deal when Logan accomplishes something – but making it to age one isn’t one of those things. I love my son unconditionally, and will tell him so every day, but I won’t lie to him and puff up his ego to the point where he feels like he’s the Chosen One every day of his life.

Anyway, if you’re a parent of a young child, or one day plan on being a parent, I’d highly encourage you to set aside 45 minutes to watch this documentary. It’s truly fascinating because it shows the impact that this style of parenting has on the kids as they grow into stressed out, needy, dysfunctional young adults who can’t cope with life on their own after being conditioned for decades that they’re special, wonderful, and great at everything they try. If you like the documentary, or this post, share it with others.

The Secret to Not Being Late Any More

“Time denial isn’t just specific to chronic latecomers, most everyone falls prey to this mentality at one point or another.  Yup, even you my friend.  So stop judging the dude in the next cubicle. You know the drill… You’re right in the middle of something that has your complete attention, all the while your next commitment is creeping up on you.  You glance at the clock, trying to squeeze in another few minutes to finish that email – or frag that alien with your rocket launcher – thinking that no matter what, you have time because it “only takes” 15 minutes to get to the office.”

One of the blogs I follow regularly via RSS to email updates is called Refocuser – it’s a great blog written by a guy I admire.  He wrote up a great post this week about the struggle that some people have with being on time – and one of those people would be me. I’m one of those people who’s always “just” in time – and my definition of that is within 5 minutes of the given meeting time, but I know for some people that’s unacceptable. The Refocuser blog entry focuses on time denial; the fact that most people who are habitually racing against the clock do so because they underestimate how long it takes them to get places.

In addition to that, I think there’s a certain amount of self-centeredness that those of us who are always late have to take ownership of. When we’re late, it’s usually because of one thing: we place a higher value on whatever we’re doing than the meeting we’re supposed to be going to. That means that when I’m working on an article, doing email, or even sleeping, I’m placing my own desire to do my own “stuff” ahead of being on time for an appointment. That’s been something I’ve tried to be cognoscente of since learning that a few years back (from an episode of Opera of all things), but it’s not an easy thing to conquer.