The original solar powered home appliance

With all this push for green technology there is a tendency to overcomplicate the solutions. Sure you could go buy a hybrid car but using public transport is much more effective. You can also spend a small fortune getting your home setup for solar water heating and battery charging, or you can start drying your clothes on a clothes line.

I live in Arizona so its pretty much a sin that I don’t do this already. Well here is my new weekend project.

Hills-Hoist-clothesline.jpg

We’ve covered this topic before, but to be honest I hadn’t realised just how big the issue was. Probably because backyard clotheslines are a cultural icon in Australia. The adjustable rotary clothesline, known as the Hills Hoist, is such a part of our psyche it is exhibited in national and state museums, and was even incorporated into the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. By 1994 some 5 million Hills Hoists had been sold, which is pretty impressive considering its country of origin only had 5.2 million detached houses at the time.

So it comes as a shock that America is resisting something that we take for grante…

: TreeHugger

Clotheslines Hung Out to Dry

Setting your own financial life

Just threw everyone out from an impromptu BBQ which is always something I am up for. I generally leave my Sunday afternoons open in case this needs to occur. This is because one of the main reasons I got a home was so that I could host people over, cook for them, and see what types of conversations might come up.

Today was no exception. Did some beer cooked braughts which were delicious and a couple of steaks. The braughts were requested to be burnt and while the gas grill wont quite to the job fully they did come out pretty tasty. The steaks were okay, but I cannot take credit for the marinade. At one point the conversation hit upon things and I mentioned how I need to keep making money cause there are still so many things that I need to get. This divulged into a conversation on buying what you want, versus what you need. I realized that it may have looked like I was acting like I needed to chase the Joneses, and there is a chance that I was.

So no more than 35 seconds go by after they leave and I am reading the weekly newsletter for The Dollar Stretcher and there is a great article about keeping up with the Joneses. It covered a lot of what we had been discussing and there was this little gem:

“Keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome will keep you from achieving the financial success and independence that you desire. So, first and foremost, sit down and think through what you really want. Then set goals as your roadmap to financial success. It’s time that you decide what you want without worrying about the opinions of others.

This applies to much more than our financial lives, but the crossover between listening to the music that you want and living your commercial life the way you want are along the same vein. Everyone else is acting on impulse created by the commercial environment that surrounds them. You have to be aware of this and its influence on your decisions. Conversations are advertisements, the question is who and what are you trying to sell?

Doing too much

If you know me at all you know that I am pretty much full on ADD, but if you know me then you know that this is also what makes me who I am. The toughest part of having ADD is deciding on something and doing it. I have so many ideas all the time that I often get overwhelmed and end up doing none of them. So far for 2008 I have decided to start back up on Yoga, cooking all of my meals, keeping my house clean, shaving everyday (even saturday and sunday), coaching youth soccer, playing in an adult soccer league, reducing my alchohol intake, going to Toastmasters, finding a new job, reading a book a month, and getting involved in politics. Phew! and its only February!

So far I have kept good on the Yoga, the cooking, the cleaning, the shaving, the playing, and the reducing. While I have been able to accomplish all of this I am still sad that I havent been able to do all of the other things.

This is the problem with doing too much. Yes you have been successful at accomplishing a lot of your goals, but you focus on what you havent dont, primarily because it is unfinished and therefore still on your mind.

This is why it is critical to write down your goals and then break them up into peices that are reasonable to accomplish. Most goals are lifestyle changes that will eventually become something that you just do everyday, but the hard part is getting them started. So the key is to break up these lifestyle goals into manageble peices. If you are trying to make too many lifestyle changes at once you will get overwhelmed. Ease up. You have plenty of time to get everything done, but not all at once. Start with something easy like shaving everyday, then go on to making it to the gym three times a week, and then start eating healthy. The shaving is easy cause its part of waking up and takes only a few minutes. Going to the gym is a bit more complicated as you need to get a routine, then the clothes, and finally the gym membership. The eating healthy takes the most work to accomplish as you need to get the recepie, buy the ingredients, and then cook the food. Plus the eating is something you have to do multiple times each day so there is a lot more planning involved.

Another thing to consider is that some goals may need your to accomplish other goals first. For example Toastmasters is a weekly commitment that I need to make to the group and myself. The problem is that there are a few different locations that I can go to, but since I am in job transition I need to hold off until I know where I will be working. This is because I want to make it as convenient as possible so that I make it consistently.

Get a list put together of everything you want to accomplish in life. Then start prioritizing. I went with Yoga and eating because I want to be in good shape and save money. Cleaning the house came next because I just feel better about having a clean and organized house. Now the career one is really slapping me in the face so I have to get that done next. Then I will get the Toastmasters thing going which will lead to becoming a public speaker and finally a politician. Phew! Thats a lot but now its manageble.

When you feel overwhelmed, stop and take stock of everything you are doing and then break them down into their individual parts. Find out what is priority and what is dependent on doing something else first. Then put a timeline together. A good rule of thumb for getting a lifestyle change started is 30 days. Do it for 30 days to make it a habit and then move on to the next one.

Most of all though make sure you want to do it and then make sure you have fun doing it. There is nothing worse than accomplishing something that you dont care about.

Todays Goal: Suck it up

I was laying in bed this morning listening to my breathing trying to tell if their was a slight wheeze in the exhale or if I was just exhausted from the Yoga Power Hour that ended at 9pm last night. As I lay there contemplating my own mortality all the current issues that I am facing came rushing into my consciousness. How much longer am I gonna stick it out at the full commission job? Is the next company gonna offer me what I am asking for? Are the Dbacks gonna be able to repeat without Valverde?

So I did what everyone should always do when facing such a depressing stage so early in the day: I called mom. The fact that it is also Valentines Day was a good enough excuse as well. We talked a bit and the topic turned to a friend of mine who is really in trouble and unfortunately its not the first time. Mom, being mom, became upset that he cant take responsibility for his own actions and I agreed that this was the clear issue.

So as I read through todays news-feeds I naturally came across this whole Clemens mess (he has lost the right to the first name which I have the power to do so suck it):

The real fun to be had, though, is from the political pundit folk, who actually watch C-SPAN all the time. They’ve gleefully awarded Clemens the Best Testimonial Trainwreck award for 2008. They call out this great pretzel quote, about Andy Pettitte:

“Once again, Mr. Congressman, I think [Pettitte] misremembers the conversation that we had. Andy and I’s relationship was close enough to know that if I would have known that he had done HGH, which I now know, if he was knowingly knowing that I had taken HGH, we would have talked about the subject. He’d have come to me to ask me about the effects of it.”


: Deadspin

This is clearly a man who is in denial and cannot find any of the blame on himself. Hell he even throws his wife under the bus.

Todays goal is to take responsibility for everything that happens to you because ultimitely its your choice to be where you are and doing what you are doing. So suck it up and quit passing the blame.

What Today Has Meant, If Anything [Roger Clemens]

Light Posting

You may notice that I have been a bit distanced the last few days as my posts have been mostly superficial comments on various worldly events. This is not the result of a shift in my focus from Journal to a rehashing of daily events, but a result of my adjusting to a more sober life where I am clear headed but still unable to focus into a routine. I am working on this though and will post more when I get more organized.

Stay tuned and feel free to drop me a comment.

Packing a Lunch

For the last few months I have made a conscious effort to pack my lunch everyday. The first reason for this is health. Eating out is just not healthy mainly because restaurants are not making food for it to be good for you, they are making food that tastes good so that people will keep coming back. The second reason is that most of the time I make much better tasting food, and the third reason is that it saves me a ton of money and time.

For a lot of people cooking is a total pain in the ass. Its just something that we don’t do in the USA. This is the land of the cheeseburger and the drive-through. Of course this is now evolving into the Subway sandwich, which after working in one for a few months in college isn’t much better. The trick is to find a few things that you like to eat and that are easy to prepare.

Here are a few ideas that I use:

  1. Chicken Breast with roasted veggies РOn Sunday take 5 chicken breasts and cook them however you like best. I prefer to grill but will saut̩ them on occasion. Then take a few potatoes, celery stalks, carrots, and onions and chop them into 1 inch parts. Coat them with Olive Oil, salt, and pepper and put into a casserole dish. Toss this into the oven at 400F for 40 minutes or until they start to brown. You can then package these up and microwave at the office. Add Cheese if you want.
  2. Crock-pot Chicken with veggies – This is something I have just started and am kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Buy a cheap crock-pot from walmart or get one at goodwill. A 2 quart is good size if you are single or a couple, you may want larger if there are children. This recipe assumes a 2 quart crock-pot. Chop up your veggies like in the roasted recipe but a little smaller, think quarter inch thickness. My sister had the great recommendation of putting the potatoes on the bottom! Then cut one large chicken breast up into 1/2 chunks and put on top of everything. Add a half cup of rice, I go with brown rice cause its much better for you. Add some spices, I like sage and pepper a 1/2 teaspoon of each, but you can experiment here. Then add 5 cups of Chicken Broth, this is the critical ingredient but try to get the Organic stuff as it will have less sodium and other junk in it. Chicken Broth is the secret ingredient in cooking. Anytime a recipe asks for water use chicken broth and you will amaze your family and friends at how good a cook you are (don’t try this with oatmeal though, yuck). Set the crock-pot on Low and 7 hours later you have an awesome chicken soup/stew. I do this when I get home late from Toastmasters or Yoga and turn it on at 10pm and by the time I am done with this article its ready to go. I take 2 servings to work and have some at 11pm and then at 3pm.
  3. Sandwiches – By far the easiest food in the world to make. Start off easy and make a PBnJ, you remember how don’t you? For an advanced technique change the Peanut Butter with Almond Butter. It costs a bit more but you can bargain hunt and the health benefits are huge. Then move onto the more advanced sandwiches: turkey, ham, roast beef, etc. Throw some spinach, tomato, sprouts, avocado, onion, and mustard on there. Try out a different type of bread each week. Rye bread is supposed to have a ton of healthy stuff in it, go for the marbled. If you add a dash of salt and pepper to your sandwich you will spice things up very nicely, but be sparing, especially if preparing for someone else.

The other thing to consider is snacks. I have been working on eating smaller portions but this means I need to eat more often. The best thing to have is Fruits, Nuts, and Veggies which I stock up on throughout the week and take a bagful into work with me everyday. If you go with seasonal choices the prices will be lower and they will be much tastier as they are fully ripened. I will eat 1-2 bananas a day, 3-4 apricots, a handful of almonds, a carrot, and a celery stalk. Find what works for you. I also throw in a cup of Soy Yogurt for the protein and to change things up.

Here are some other good articles:
Zen Habits on the Brown Bag
Brown Bag Lunches
Rediscovering the Homemade Lunch

Toastmasters – Desert Voices

One of my new initiatives this year is to expand my social circle by getting involved with various groups and activities. Last year I tried to start this by meeting with the Lions International, but while that is a great group with many redeeming aspects I need more. My sister was the one to suggest joining a business group which I put off for too long.

After spending a couple of weeks searching for a Toastmasters group to attend I found Desert Voices. They meet on Mondays at 7:30pm at the Burton Bar Central Library in downtown Phoenix. I decided it would be perfect as I wanted to work a little later yesterday to catch up on somethings and then I would miss all of the traffic since it goes in the opposite direction as that time of day. I also found Carly’s Bistro for a quick bite to eat.

At first I have some trouble finding the meeting room as they are tucked away into the corner. Once I get there I am impressed with the amount of activity going on. There are 9 members and 4 guests, including me. I am greeted by Fadi Hattendorf, who is the President of the Club. She welcomes me and introduces me to a few of the members. There seems to be a bit of a rush to get setup as a few members will not be there and their positions are hastily filled by the ones who have shown up.

I had read about Table Topics on another Toastmasters website and knew that Guests were encouraged to participate. I didn’t know that it would be at such an early point in the meeting but before I knew it I was being asked to stand in front of the group and talk about something scary I had experienced in the desert. They also give the group a word to use during your speech and tonight’s word was Hoodoo, which has 2 meanings: as a noun it is a rock formation created by sediment building up over the ages, as a verb it means to bring bad luck or misfortune. I already knew I was going to talk about Moab as it is one of my first desert experiences and I have so many stories about the place. It also fit in well with both aspects of the word of the night as the rock formations are all over the area and on more than one occasion I had experienced bad luck while there. I chose to tell the story of a bike trip around Porcupine Ridge since it was one of my most favorite rides and it would be an entertaining story for everyone. It was easier than I thought it would be and I enjoyed myself immensely.

I may return to Desert Voices as they were a very fun group to be with and I forgot all about the stresses of my day.

Taking Stock of 2007

Just read a great post over at Real Estate Investing Brain » Why Almost Everyone Struggles More Than They Should in REI. He goes over a number of ideas about why we struggle with our business and financial lives and how to take stock of things so that we can focus on the future in a positive and productive way.

There are 5 quesitons that he wants us to ask ourselves:

  1. What were your greatest accomplishments in 2007?
  2. What were your biggest disappointments in 2007?
  3. How did you limit yourself last year, and how can you stop?
  4. What did you learn from the last three questions?
  5. How can I (you) use this information to make 2008 the best year yet?

Here are my answers:

  1. What were your greatest accomplishments in 2007?
    Made number one salesman at my company. My third month in, and it was the best month the company had ever seen!
    Got to go to Vegas for a convention with my old company after being there for just three months.
    Remembered how much fun a relationship can be and that I need to stay focused on having fun in one.
    Made all of my mortgage payments!
  2. What were your biggest disappointments in 2007?
    Left my current company in Feb when I had 3 deals in the pipeline. Definitly a big mistake there leaving just as I was getting started and letting other peoples attitude about the job influence me enough to leave it.
    My old company was a dissapointment overall because I went there for the wrong reason: a salary. I didn’t leave soon enough, the place was just not a good fit for me, nothing against the people there I just cant work like that.
    Stayed in a relationship that shouldn’t have gone past a few weeks because it just wasn’t a good fit. I had to work too hard at it from the start and that is not what a relationship should be about.
  3. How did you limit yourself last year, and how can you stop?
    Listening too much to other peoples opinions and not listening to myself. I knew that my current company was a great opportunity but let other peoples experience influence me to thinking that it wasn’t a great opportunity. I need to listen to myself and trust myself. I have done pretty well doing that so far why stop now?
    Focusing on other peoples problems more than my own, or letting their problems become mine and influence my outlook. While it is important to help my friends and care for them I have to always put myself first and make sure that I am okay. As long as I do that I will be able to help even more people.
  4. What did you learn from the last three questions?
    I have learned that 2007 was a year where I let myself feel sorry for myself. In 2006 I was let go from a six figure income and really let that hang over my head for too long. That debacle is over and there is nothing I can do about it but get up and move on. Unfortunately I let it carry over into 2007 and keep me from making a firm decision on my career and relationships. These last three questions gave me the insight to see what was working for me and what wasn’t.
  5. How can I (you) use this information to make 2008 the best year yet?
    For 2008 I need to stay positive. I have a great house, the best family, and cool friends. I am good at sales and enjoy it very much. I forget this fact a lot and let myself drift into wanting to do other things. This year I am doing 2 things right now to fix this. The first one is that I am going to start coaching at a youth soccer league in my city. This is going to be great for a few reasons: The first one is that I am going to be able to enjoy giving kids my enthusiasm for soccer and this will help me with my leadership skills. The second activity I am going to start is finding a business group to work on my networking and speaking skills.

Over Supplied

Since just over a year ago when I was let go from my old company I have been in a serious funk about a lot of things, but nothing bites as badly my first home purchase being just a few weeks before they decided my services were no longer of use. My bitterness runs deep and hard and many days I find it quite suffocating. I was in total shock for Nov and Dec of 2006 as I tried to understand what had just happened. I had quite a bit of cash in the bank so it wasnt an immediate panic. I had joked with my mortgage friend the whole time we were going through the process that I could always just go work for him if I lost my gig and suddenly there I was.

My first mistake was not going straight to work. I waited till January to give it a ‘fresh start’. So for Nov I tried putting a company together with the other guys that were let go at the same time as me. This failed to launch and I spent Dec reflecting on turning 30 and wondering if I was going to be able to keep my house. This was very unhelpful.

My second mistake was not sticking with the Mortgage position in Jan and thinking that the grass is always greener went to work at another tech startup. The salespitch I got in the interview was phenomenal and I took the bait. Nine months later I walked back to the Mortgage position and am doing well. The problem now is that everything seems to be coming down around me.

Everyday we see more stories about the failing economy and I cant help but get caught up in the paranoia that suddenly someone is going to throw a switch and everything is going to go dark. Of course this is an overgeneralization but things do seem really bad. Now the government is gonna throw us all $500 to get things going again. I dont know about you but $500 is not a lot of money when you have a mortgage that is 3 times that. I keep brainstorming about what people are gonna buy with that to get everything going again. It seems that this is a very shortsided way of fixing something that was caused by the shortsided belief in home prices being able to maintain their meteoric climb in the last 7 years.

So what am I gonna do to prepare for the Recession that is already happening? The first thing I have started is cooking my meals almost daily. This is hard so a shortcut is to make up a lot of meals on Sunday and then just reheat them at work. This saves me at least $6 a day which adds up to over $240 a month just for lunches. Dinners are usually closer to $10 each so make it a good $500 in monthly savings right there. The next concession will have to be going to the bar as this is easily one of the biggest drains on my pocket book. Thats a good $400 a month there. Just two concessions and I am on my way to saving $1000 a month. This is money that I will need to start putting into my Emergency fund to be ready in case something happens because as my exit from Godaddy taught me: nothing is for certain.

evite

I just spent about 10 minutes setting up an evite and none other than evite.com and am now ready to place a Bic pen into my eye. Really though what an excrutiaing process that website it. Then just as i finished everything and went to send out the evites, it crashes and loses all the work I had done. Then the whole concept of having to use a web program to do what email, texts, and phones are for. So thats what I am gonna do.