Do Something Different

Someone I work with was telling me that he was thinking about buying some red contacts. When I asked why she said it was because she wanted to do something that she Read more

New Ideas

This month is one of those months where I get three paycheques. It is nice when that happens because I keep my budget for only two of them which means I basically Read more

Warmer Weather

My wife was interested in blogging so I let her write my post below. Tomorrow it is supposed to be a high of -3 degrees outside. Do you have any idea how Read more

Popular Trends

There are so many websites out there, and it seems like many of them try to follow the same basic ideas as the well-known ones.  This is usually the way things go, Read more

Some Things I Need To Do

Maybe I should start cleaning my place a bit more often.  That’s actually what I was thinking about.  I have a tendency to not really clean or pick stuff up because I Read more

 

Going Somewhere New

Mount Batur Indonesia

This year my wife and I are getting a little adventurous with our annual vacation. We’ve only been able to afford to take tiny local trips in the past few years, mostly due to the effects of the recession that hit us pretty hard in 2008. Fast forward to this year, though, and we’re back and stronger than ever. Both of us have recovered from the down-turned economy and actually make a bit more as a couple now than we did then. Since we haven’t had an awesome vacation in a while, we each have three weeks of time we can use, and we want to go crazy, we have decided to go further away from home than we’ve ever been in our lives.

Where are we going? Well, we’ve mutually decided that we want to go to Indonesia. Why Indonesia? Well, it looks beautiful and there are things for both of us to do. For those of you that don’t know, Indonesia is a large island country (in fact, it’s a gigantic assortment of thousands of islands). It hosts a tropical climate, typical of islands near the equator, and it really just looks like a lot of fun.

We plan on hopping around from island to island while we’re there. Initially, we were going to spend most of our time at a resort but we’ve decided we’d rather experience the culture. Because of the distances, taking a boat isn’t really feasible so we’re going to grab a few flights using a regional airline that we found online, Lion Air. They have very reasonable rates and they specialize is short, island-to-island flights. In fact, we have four flights scheduled right now and the price is very, very reasonable. I’ve never been island-hopping (of course, I’ve never been halfway around the world, either) and I’m actually really excited.

Both of us are looking forward to the trip, and we have a pretty cool trip planned so far. We plan on spending around 50% of our time in major metro areas in Indonesia, but also spending half of our trip in remote areas, exploring jungles, beaches, and natural formations. It should be a perfect mix of culture and geography over the course of three weeks, and we’re both thinking this could be our best vacation to date. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m also taking my golf clubs so I can play at least one or two rounds during our three week getaway.

Being Smart With Your Money

banking

Making money is just as important as knowing how to manage it.  People often think that the secret to being rich is to make a lot of money but what they are overlooking is that being rich means having a lot of money.  Who is richer, someone who has made $40,000 per year for their entire life but lived frugally and invested wisely and now has a net worth of $2,000,000, or someone who makes $150,000 a year but spends all of it and has thousands in debt and $2,000 in the bank.  This example should serve to demonstrate that making a lot of money does not make one rich.

One problem is that a lot of people want to appear rich.  They will buy expensive clothing, lease expensive cars, and go to trendy places just so others can see them.  These people are not rich, however.  They often spend their entire paycheck on their car payments, their rent, and their clothes.

Ironically, rich people often don’t care about that kind of thing.  Imagine you are worth $1,000,000.  Would you care what other people thought about what car you drive?  Of course not; you have $1,000,000 so you probably wouldn’t feel the need to impress other people.

The other reason rich people don’t care is because they are often frugal and have developed good habits with money.  Just because you can go out and pay cash for a new luxury car doesn’t mean you should stop driving your 5 year old economy sedan (that you purchased used!).

Managing your money is perhaps the best skill you can learn if you want to be rich.  This means learning to be frugal, learning to invest whether in stocks, mutual funds, or bonds, and not trying to keep up with the Joneses.

It can be difficult to start down this path, but there are a few good resources out there.  Read the book “The Millionaire Next Door” to learn about the financial habits of millionaires and see just how frugal they really are.  You’ll be surprised.  Learn to invest.  If you have a little extra money and want to be daring, learn to trade.  Read Financial Trading School to learn about binary options.  Stop buying stuff you don’t need, like a $4 coffee every morning.  Get off of caffeine anyway, lazybones.  Or at least drink tea instead.  Pay yourself first.  Contribute to your 401(k) at least as much as your employer will match, as that is essentially free money.  Eventually you will develop these as habits and will start to realize that hey, it feels pretty good to save that $4 every morning that you used to spend on coffee; that’s $20 a week, and that’s $1,000 a year (assuming you take 2 weeks off for vacation).  And how many years have you been doing that for?

These rules apply no matter how much you make, btw.  Surely you’ve seen the stories about ex-athletes who were making millions who are now broke.  They didn’t manage their money well and spent all of it instead.  But it’s not their fault; they never learned how to be smart with their money.  But now you’re on the right path.

Think I Can Do This Myself?

big living room

I try to develop a bit of skill at things that I am interested in or that are important to me, and it tends to have mixed results.  For example, I enjoy eating, and while I go out to eat fairly often, I decided that I wanted to learn how to cook some fancy things for myself, too, so I took a cooking class (which was a lot of fun, btw, but that will have to wait for another post).  I ended up making some pretty good things in that class, and a few times a week or month I’ll make myself a nice dinner at home.  It helped me get a feel for how the different ingredients work together which helped me better understand what I do and don’t like, and now I can even come up with some new dishes which are pretty good sometimes.

I also like art.  I’ve got some sculptures and paintings in my home, so I figured it might be fun to take a painting class.  We all had painting class in elementary school and it was fun, right?  So an a painting class now as an adult should also be fun.  Well, I think I will stick to buying my art, because I am not very good at painting.  It’s a good thing we didn’t get a grade in this class that goes on our transcript or anything because I would’ve gotten a D.  The first assignment was to blend paint colors to make the color you want.  Apparently some artists don’t buy green paint, but if they need green they will just mix blue and yellow to make green.  So we had to do it like that to make all the colors we wanted and I just couldn’t get the paints to mix well.  Each time they were a different shade, and the end result didn’t look very good.

Another thing I like is home design.  I like my place to look cool because it makes me enjoy coming home.  I can tell the difference between a place that is arranged well and one that needs some work, but I don’t seem to be able to make it look nice myself.  I’ve read a bunch of books on it but I still don’t know what I’m doing.  I’ve decided that I will always need to hire an interior designer to make my place look nice.  In fact, the first time I ever did this was when I was living in Shanghai where I was sent on a business trip.  My apartment was kind of small and I just couldn’t get it to look nice no matter how I tried to arrange everything, so I finally gave in and called a designer and let them do their magic.  I don’t know what it is they do, but it looks nice.  I took pictures of it in case I ever need to use it as reference in the future if I’m living somewhere else.

Fighting the Temptation

car-on-the-road

My brother just bought a new car.  I’m actually slightly jealous but that is just some superficial social conditioning I’m sure — you know, cuz now he has a nicer car than me therefore my natural reaction is to want to buy a new car for myself.  Gotta keep up with the Joneses, or at least the advertising companies want you to.  That would actually be counterproductive to my goals at the moment, though.  Or maybe I should say my goal, singular.  My goal is saving money.  Why?  Because I’ve recently become paranoid about future stability.  What if I lose my job?  It’s not that I live paycheck to paycheck, but in this economy you never know when you’ll be able to find a job if you need to.  What do they say, you should have a minimum of 6 months’ worth of expenses saved up in an emergency fund?  I have that, but is that really enough?  Aren’t there people who have been out of work longer than that?

Here’s what would happen if I bought a new car:

First I would be excited.  The new car smell.  Feeling like a boss when you drive anywhere (as if other drivers even care what kind of car you drive).  You look at it and think “yeah, that’s mine.”

Then I would be like “ugh.  Gotta make that car payment.”  Every month would be a reminder that I just spent money.  Did I need to spend that money?  And don’t forget the about the cheap car insurance available from Kansas Agents I would also have to buy.  I have a perfectly fine car right now.  The only reason to get a new car would be because I want things.  Why?  To feel better about myself?  Nonsense.  The entire purpose of advertising is to make you feel like you’re not good enough without the product being advertised.  I am good enough, darn it.  I’m awesome.

Finally would be acceptance.  Not buyer’s remorse, but more like that morose feeling of being stuck with a payment (which serves as a constant reminder) of something you did that wasn’t the best choice.  How does that new car feel now?

And that’s why I believe I’m wired differently from other people.  I see everyone else running around trying to buy the newest and best version of whatever the new gadget of the week is.  “Check it out, I just got a new iPhone!”  Really dude?  Cuz it’s exactly the same as the previous one.

And that is why I won’t be buying a new car.

But I might see if my brother will let me borrow his.  It is really nice.

Marriage

wedding rings

Anyone who does not get married is setting themselves up for a great deal of pain. It is good to get married young. To get married to a good woman takes a great deal of skill. Men are hunters but few are skilled hunters. Many men marry women who are sly and unreliable but have some other temporal attribute (good looks, a certain level of vitality, etc). Thus at a certain time they are betrayed for their lack of foresight and character assessment.

Divorce rates are intimately related to North American culture. Countries like Jordan have half the divorce rate we have in North American countries. This does not mean we have to marry outside of our borders, but it does mean that we need to find people who are not indoctrinated with the degenerated values so commonly found in people. Find someone very different who is not filled with common and bland concepts of the world. It is not very hard to find someone with an opinion on the big issues. Everyone has opinions. Sometimes it’s good to find someone who just doesn’t have a big stance on these issues, someone who is extremely involved in a particular topic (religion, biology, it can be whatever). It is better for a person to go heavily into a single thing rather than have average boring opinions on everything. Such person will know what they are talking about when they open their mouths, and will not open their mouths on anything. This is very good, it indicates their energy is being funneled in a useful way instead of being distributed uselessly in all directions.

The ego does not know how to love. Your personality is projected by you, a combination of likes and dislikes, affinities, histories, interactions and experience. Ultimately it doesn’t have a lot of reality.

Ultimately when we get into a relationship we need to restrain that ego. We will have a lot of fights, we need to learn how to not get angry during those times. This is very hard, painful and terrifying.

Indifference is the key. This is caring but indifference between success and failure, good and bad. This in itself is death to us, we live through projecting an image.

There is much more that can be said on this topic but some key facets of the diamond of the Perfect Matrimony are being addressed here. A perfect marriage is life’s purpose.

Nature creates in opposites. Acid and alkaline, positive and negative electrical charges, male and female. The union of male and female along with the neutral reconciliation force is the unfoldment of something extremely powerful. The potential between man and woman or positive and negative is intimately related with electricity.

The one who falls into some decrepit philosophy on why they should not get married or the one who possesses distrust and hatred towards women ends up being a miserable worm. Give up on that negativity, cultivate positivity. There are no perfect women out there, but that is a good thing. If you are going to be good to your wife then that means you have to die psychologically, and we are very ugly and incapable of love, so with such psychological death comes great beauty, and we can make our spouse happy, and have a lovely household, and that is something incredible.

This is something rare in America and I wonder if anyone here can appreciate the beauty in these ideas, since almost everyone is so Americanized. The divorce rate is so high here because in America everyone is obsessed with their identities and desires, but really this is the cause of all suffering. Marriage can be amazing, but you have to cease to be and to stop your wants. You will physically survive and live after, but as a new person, when you stop getting what you want all the time, having everything in such and such a way you want things, having people act how you want them to, etc, etc…

Differences in Language

book-and-map

For the last year I have been working as a professional copy-editor. Specifically I have been working closely with a major university, and one of the foreign language departments there, where most of the professors are not native speakers of English.

My job has been to review prospectuses, research proposals, emails, literary reviews, and presently the doctoral thesis of a foreign politician living abroad, to edit these documents and correct them for anything from basic spelling and grammatical issues, to adapting them to a particular publishing style (for instance the Chicago Manual of Style, or The American Psychiatric Association Style Book‘s standard.

From these experiences I have noticed certain reoccurring attributes of intellectuals from abroad, which is a tendency toward what we American wordsmiths would call wordiness and excessive verbosity. In the case of Turkish writers, for example, copyists often intentionally belabor their arguments with complicated sentence structures, and difficult vocabulary where much less difficult explanations or arguments could easily suffice. In American writing this kind of purposeful verbosity is rare except in the cases of highly technical fields where such jargon is almost unavoidable. To these Turkish writers being difficult to understand is a hallmark of intellectual achievement. Such a thing would never be accepted in American intellectual circles, where it is generally believed that the most knowledgeable people are able to say things in such a way that anyone can derive the essential meaning.

Of course, coming up in the American school of thought, I have always felt that the goal of writers of technical prose or of essayists, is to communicate the message in the most efficient method possible while retaining maximum clarity, and maximum transparency. Excessive verbosity seems to work against all of those goals.

But reconsidering, I have began to entertain the possibility that the American love of literary minimalism is merely a byproduct of our general tendency toward anti-intellectualism. The typical American cannot fully utilize simple elements of our language, including understanding basic punctuation, including the distinction between the colon and the semi-colon, and being able to apply those devices in their prose. Most of us would be hard pressed to understand what makes a sentence passive, what a prepositional phrase is, what part of the sentence is the preposition and what part is the subject, or many other fundamental elements of our language. It is no wonder that we get nervous in the face of a forty word sentence, or that we prefer our words under three syllables if at all possible.

But, the Minimalist in me of course rejects that idea. After all, as members of an internet forum where frequent debate occurs, we are no strangers to those who, failing to find solid footing with a valid argumentative stance, frequently fling themselves into further and further esoterica, in the obvious hope that nobody will be able to follow them into the opaque depths of increasingly obscure images. If you want to be verbose you can write poems or fiction that nobody will bother to read, not attempt to make a political argument or some kind of appeal meant for the greater population! That kind of willful ostentation is just a form of self aggrandizement, which works against the objective of creating an effective and persuasive argument!

Nevertheless, my editorial spirit is torn. What do you think? Do we practice stylistic minimalism in the name of clarity, or is it just that we think and write for an audience of perpetual eight graders? Are these foreigners indeed verbose literary masters, or are they puffed-up pompous pee-cocks hoping nobody will be able to penetrate the layers of muddy metaphor in order to propose a possible counter argument – in short, cowards slinking around in the vestments of poets – and knock them off of their intellectual high-horses?

Food Snobs

shrimp-pasta

I dunno, throwing in a package of pre-made pre-frozen raviolis that were already prepped at some factory assembly line and slopping some cream sauce from a huge vat of ready-made factory sauce dispenser or hydrated from constituted flour packets then sprinkling on a pinch of fresh basil to make it look more authentic is a far cry from: fresh veggies bought from where ever the heck they’re bought (who cares what kind of truck they’re brought in on) and fresh marinara sauces are made with said veggies and wine and fresh grated cheese, and pasta is made from scratch in-house. With Bread that’s baked in-house. Each cut of meat looks different and varies in size as opposed to the cookie cutter “meats” of lesser quality restaurants who have processed portions arrive pre-frozen. There IS a difference. And you CAN have the latter experience at reasonably priced non-chain Italian restaurants. And at home. But that experience is NOT Olive Garden.

While it can be just as tasty to the untrained palette or any ol palette its not the same.

All food snobbery aside, its the nature of the restaurant that makes it laughable to propose there. You have bratty kids running around unattended, cookie cutter meals, an environment that lacks ambiance, but that’s just it, standards are subjective. What one considers fine dining another considers sloppy low class kind of experience.

Did you know there are places that post/advertise that all they use is fresh locally grown stuff? i used to work at one and do all the shopping at the local farmer’s market.

but now i’m starting to feel bad for the people who live in places that have off seasons. around here we always got something fresh growing just right over there a few miles away. it makes no sense for places not to take advantage of it, because not only is it a great hook and the food is better, it’s cheaper too. it’s super common around here.

Having worked in the restaurant industry, that’s not really my experience. There are awful standards in chains & mom & pops, it really has to do with who’s running the show, and if they care.

For every place that shows up on Ramsey’s kitchen nightmares show, there are thousands that are doing a good job and are quite fastidious. The mantra I always heard was “if there’s nothing to do, you can be cleaning something.”

Slow days & times were time to move large equipment, scrub walls & the backsides of machines, and generally keep things spotless. Yes you’ll end up with dirty floors in the course of working a night, but most good places keep after that, and the working surfaces are always spotless & sterilized.

I wouldn’t eat at a restaurant that doesn’t do that, and the funny thing is you can tell by the attitude and the cleanliness of the front of house, in 90% of cases.

A Quick DeStress

beach-stand

Well certainly more work for same pay can lead to additional stress.

I would recommend taking outdoor walks every night or whenever you feel anxious. Get that fresh air into you, it will really work to calm you down. Outdoor walks are a way easier routine to get into than going to the gym. Plus you can take your dog with you if you have one, or walk the neighbors dog for them to be friendly.

I like to go for a 2 hour walk every night that is nice out. Any rainy day is a sort of recovery day.

It gives you time to let your mind unravel too. It’s a lot harder to think about things inside being all cooped up.

Ultimately since it’s exercise it will lead to a way healthier hormonal profile. This will cut back on the stress hormones a lot and lead to natural release of stress fighting hormones.

Breathe deeply on your walks and get that air running through you. Make sure you’re getting enough water throughout the day.

Air and water go a long way. Your body is constantly trying to remove toxins and so on but if there is no new water in the system it cannot work.

It is easy to understand why you are stressed, between that sort of job and the drinking, you are now having to develop your own capacity to deal with the stress. You will have to develop a variety of healthy methods but going for walks will help a lot.

As for the rest…

Develop a positive attitude.

It is a shield against negativity like anxiety. Once you open the doors to a negative emotion, they are like floodgates, you really get stressed out. It’s good to stop it early on, to get up and go do something to relax, to take a nice hot bath and just put your mind on other things. Some people naturally have an anxious temperament and you just have to work around it at times.