Sunday, October 18, 2020

Start your day like a dog. Start your day with a dog (or three).

I recently read about a study done in 2012 and 2015.  

The bottom line 

"Individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy."

Here's the link to the full study.

Here is a picture of our dog Bailey. 

Bailey is now nine years old. She has had two knee surgeries. Her joint pop when she gets up and down. 

But look at the picture. The tail is out of focus. Almost every picture we take of Bailey standing up has a tail out of focus. Because she's always happy, and always wagging her tail.

Here is a picture of Maisy.

Maisy is one year old - still a puppy. Every morning (after her breakfast) she jumps up on the couch and sits on my lap for around ten minutes.

And this is Jesse. Jesse is almost four years old, and more of a cow than a dog. But he still likes having lap time. And I like it too. 

When you start your day with bad news, you are 27% more likely to have a bad day. I haven't done an experiment to validate this, but I believe that you get an additional 27% by starting your day happy (like Bailey). For me that involves letting a dog (even a big one) jump up on my lap for a few minutes.

When you start your day holding a dog, even a huge one, 

Monday, October 12, 2020

The return of the Sunday project

Last year at this time I was well into my Sunday afternoon project list. 

And here's why I did it.

Basically I threw a fit because the Browns blew their first game. But the fit worked out really well for three reasons: 

  1. Beth and I got a lot done (see also posts). 
  2. The Browns were terrible, especially in light of the heightened expectations for the season. 
  3. Thanks to those expectations they were on Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night, so I didn't have to give up watching the Browns entirely. (Even though I probably should have).
This year the Browns opened with a 38-6 embarrassment in Baltimore. So I swore off Sunday afternoon football. 

Five games in to the season that looks like a bad choice. The Browns are 4-1. 

That said, even without reasons two and three we are enjoying Sunday afternoon projects.

Okay Phil - why aren't you posting them on Social Media?

Because we bit off really BIG projects to start. Neither are completely finished. Both will be great posts when they are done.

Project One: The church pew.

Several years ago (more than I care to admit) we bought a pew at the Catholic church rummage sale. It's likely from the 1800s. It needed re-finishing. And sanding. And staining. And more straining. 
Current status: It's done and airing out in the garage. It will soon be moved into its permanent home, and all the before and after pictures will be posted. PLUS: I will post all the things I learned (the hard way) on this project.

Project Two: The basement reorganization.

I love board games. I have collected a lot over the years. More than 400. They have been stored in the basement in various areas. 

This project has two phases:

  1. Go through all games and decide what stays and what goes.
  2. Box them up accordingly.
We worked one Sunday on this so far.

Here is the four week summary of the Sunday projects to date:

Week 2 (Browns beat Bengals on Thursday night) - Pew project.
Week 3 (Browns beat Washington) - Pew project.
Week 4 (Browns beat Dallas) - Games project.
Week 5 (Browns beat Indianapolis) - Weekend in Indiana, hiking and shopping.
Week 6 (Browns are playing and hopefully beating Pittsburgh) - Town cleanup project with Boy Scouts followed by family dinner.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The tale of the snake

The COVID lockdown was a total excuse killer. “Hey you promised to clean the garage.” “Yeah, but I have to… well – I got no excuses now”.
It’s Monday. I figure I can come up with something. Some sort of excuse. I have the rest of the week.
Saturday I’m cleaning out the garage.
There’s a box on the shelf. It’s been there a while. It houses my wife’s Four Seasons plate collection. Each plate has a scene representing one of the four seasons.
Many years ago – at least seven – we wife boxed up the set of plates. Each plate was wrapped in paper. In addition one or more pieces of foam was placed between each.
About a year later I was getting something out of the garage and I couldn’t help but notice that there was part of a black rat snake on a shelf. The rest of the snake was disappearing into the plates box. I also noticed that there were stains on the box. I assumed it to be the blood of its rivals.
I have mixed emotions about snakes. On the one hand, they eat mice. Mice are destructive little buggers. Over the past ten years we have spent around $500 on mouse related car and garage damage.
Having a snake in the garage – for free – is a solid investment.
On the other hand snakes give me the heebie jeebies. Especially when I stumble on one in the garage.
In either case, I decided the snake was just fine where it was, for the time being.
Six years later I figured it was time to open the box, move the plates to a new box and burn the box.
I figured the snake had moved out. But I wasn’t sure.
So I took a metal pole and beat the hell out of the side of the box. Nothing.
I turned the box around and beat the snot out of the other side of the box. Again, nothing.
The box being a rectangle, I decided to beat the two other sides. No response.
I then took the box and placed it near the floor. I opened it and removed things as follows: Padding, plate, padding plate.
Before we go any further let me just say that I am not given to using a lot of “adult” language.
That’s kind of like saying that Jeff Bezos doesn’t have a lot of money… Especially when we I see a snake.
(You’ve been warned).
I opened the box and there was carnage. Shredded paper. And stains.
The detective in me realized that mice had moved in and then the snake slid in. It was like Golden Corral. Pre-COVID.
I haven’t been to Golden Corral since the big heart attack of 2015, but I do remember this: Every time I went, after I finished eating… I left.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the opening of this box was NOTHING like the Geraldo Rivera Al Capone vault special.
So I grabbed the padding, Looked in and saw the first plate. Set it aside, removed more padding and the second plate. Set it aside, removed more padding and another plate. Three down, one to go. Removed more padding and hello black rat snake.
I looked again and the snake wasn’t moving. I figure – well, it’s dead. I mean snakes aren’t immortal, right?
I went back inside and said “Honey. We have a dead snake in a box in the garage.”
“Does it stink?”
“Huh. You’d think a dead snake would stink, but no, it did not.”
We went back out to the garage. I touched something next to the snake, and it moved – a little.
(One of the first things I learned about myself is this: I cannot watch a snake move unexpectedly and NOT say “Shit.” Or worse.)
We took a walk and talked about it - we weren't sure if the movement was because of what else I moved in the box... so it was Schrödinger's snake.
But when I went out to the garage (much) later, it was gone.
That’s good, but it’s also bad.
At this point I’m thinking it’s out of the box. But I’m also thinking out of the box myself – in that I’m not BELIEVING it’s out of the box. This is why I employed my wife’s advice.
“You could use fireplace tongs.”  Notice the pronoun used – YOU, not me, not I, not we… YOU.
“On the snake? What am I supposed to do? Grab it and fling it to the woods? What if snakes have boomerang ability?”
Beth sighed and said “No! Use the tongs on the plate and then let the snake out of the box.”
“The snake would crawl around the garage floor once it got out. I don’t like that idea.”
“You could put it out in the woods”
“No. I’m not picking up that box.”
I know the snake didn’t move the last time when I beat on the box. When I picked the box up, when I moved the box. Of course we all know that, because the plates inside weren’t smashed!
If that snake had so much as moved when I was carrying the box I would have dropped it like a hot coal and ran like Usain Bolt.
Later I looked it up. Snakes are sluggish at 60 or below. At the time the adventure started the temperature was, in fact, 60 degrees. Had I just went in and grabbed the plate the adventure would have ended.
It was 80 when I read that fact, so it didn’t qualify as useful information.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Go Long!

I wrote this for an article on long term investing - full disclosure: I am long the stocks I wrote about. And happy as hell that I am.

Now is the time to start LONG TERM investing in stocks. But before you can do it - you need to understand the company. 

1. Assume the crisis will last a year and the recovery will take five years. It probably won't play out like that, but you have to have a long term focus. If you need the money before then, don't buy stocks.

2. Make a list of industries that may not survive, or will certainly be hurt for the long term. That is the start of your do not buy list. For me that list was some Airlines, some (maybe a lot) Cruise lines, some retail brick and mortar stores, some restaurant chains and Hotels. Not all companies within those industries will be hurt - but I don't want to spend time figuring out who will survive.

3. Make a list of industries that will survive, and likely thrive in the long term. That is the list that will have your targets. Companies on this list will benefit from the above collapses - the money has to go somewhere. For me that was grocery stores (especially those with delivery), online retailers and computers / phones / online entertainment.

4. Pick the strongest companies within those categories. Who has the most cash to survive this? Who are YOU doing business with right now? More importantly - who do you ENJOY doing business with? Who will you stay with after the crisis? For me that was Kroger, Amazon and Apple. (Note - I already held Kroger. Their stock price went up when this started, so I didn't buy any more.)

5. Take a look at their finances - I don't get hung up on this one. I read a really good book on the subject (Phil Town, Rule #1) - it's a simple approach to investing (I further simplified it). For the sake of today's analysis, I asked one question: Who has enough cash to survive this crisis? Amazon and Apple have around $100 billion each. They're okay.

6. Buy on dips. Amazon and Apple both had significant price dips during this crisis. Sure I'm in it for the long term, but I still like to get things on sale.

7. Don't follow the prices every day. That will mess up your strategy.

8. Diversify. I've been really really right on two stock picks (Apple and Amazon). And I've been really really wrong on way more than two picks (like the time I bought BP just before the tanker spill). And I've been somewhere between right and wrong on a bunch of picks. The two winners have more than made up for all the missteps. There's always the temptation to say "Damn - if I had put all the money in Apple..." But there's also the idea that "Damn - if I had put all the money in BP." 

A final note: If you don't understand it, don't buy. I don't understand banks, oil stocks (as I proved many years ago with the BP purchase) or medical stocks. They might do fine in this crisis but they're not for me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

12 thoughts on May 12.

(This post was going to be originally titled 11 thoughts on May 11, but I had a social distancing / baby bird photo post for that date. I also had other ideas for today's post, but I'm not sure I want to keep kicking the can down the road, because 31 thoughts on May 31 would be really tough).

  1. My in-laws homemade raspberry wine is the best tasting wine on the planet.
  2. Especially when I drink it with my father-in-law.
  3. If I judged potential pets entirely by what they ate I would like rat snakes a lot more.
  4. And dogs a lot less.
  5. Almost all of the productivity enhancing tools I have in my arsenal cost less than $100. Like really good four color pens or fine point magnetic white board markers.
  6. Know the problem before jumping to the conclusion. I thought I needed a big desk in my home office area. Beth said "What you're describing sounds more like a table than a desk." She was 100% right. A six foot table solved it (see also #3).
  7. Another way to say #6 is this: Listen to your wife, Phil.
  8. It doesn't happen every day, but some days when I read I see something that blows my mind:  That happened this morning when I read (somehow for the first time) about the 64/4 rule - which is a nice extension of the 80/20 rule (or Pareto Principle). (The link isn't where I first read about it, but it does a great job of explaining it. Bottom line: 20% of the effort produces 80% of the results. 4% of the effort produces 64% of the results. (There is also a 50/1 extension of the rule, but I haven't gotten my head around that yet).
  9. When it comes to a garden, tomatoes are a great example of the 64/4 rule. Plant three plants, water them when needed, get a ton of tomatoes.
  10. Green beans are a good example of the 20/80 rule. (80% of the effort produces 20% of your crop). That's one of the reasons we don't grow them. 
  11. The other reason is because they're green beans.
  12. The wild raspberries we grow are a great example of the 50/1 rule. They grow. I spend about five hours, total, in June picking them. And they miraculously turn into my in-laws homemade wine.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mothers Day Social Distancing Style

We wanted to get together with Beth's mom and dad for Mother's Day, but we also wanted to keep them safe.

Beth figured out the answer: She would make dirt dessert and we would sit on one end of the garage. Beth's mom and dad would sit on the other end.

Beth's dad volunteered a bottle of wine for the proceedings. And it was their homemade Raspberry wine - the best that they make. The others are good, but raspberry is the best.

We set a table in the middle of the garage for the wine and dessert. We sat on one side

The weather wasn't great, but the company was
and Beth's parents sat on the other.

As you can guess by the picture, the bottle of raspberry wine did not survive the proceedings.

It was a fun party. We laughed and told stories (as usual).

I've had my share of wine and desserts during the shelter at home order. But this wine and this dessert tasted the best.

Speaking of Mothers Day - the bird that built a nest in our garage is now a mother:

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Day of RE

Yesterday I did my usual "Name your day". But instead of focusing on what I needed to do, I focused on what I wanted to do.

I named it the Day of RE:


Now that I think of it, I would argue I needed a day of rest anyway, so it was also what I needed to do.

I read a little over half of the book "The Walk" by Richard Paul Evans. It's a good book. (Started out depressing as hell though).

Here's the problem. The guy is walking from Seattle to Key West. I'm 80% of the way through the book and he hasn't made it to Spokane yet. Either he's going to have to walk onto a jet, or it's a series.

I looked it up. Sure enough, it's a series.

I'll likely get in line for the next one. It's pretty decent fiction so far.

I also started reading (via Audible) the book "Finish" by Jon Acuff. Highly recommend that and anything written by him.

I also spent some time working logic puzzles in my Games Logic and Mystery magazine.

Side note: When I picked it up, I noticed the back had an add for More Menthol filter cigarettes. Yeah, the magazine is pretty old.

Games magazine used a three star rating for their puzzles.

One star - Smooth sailing (my favorite kind)
Two stars - Uphill climb (I do them, sometimes successfully).
Three stars - Proceed at your own risk.

Yesterday I finished a three star puzzle. It took an hour, but that's what you do on the day of RE.

Today I was REfreshed. I woke up and had some breakfast (egg whites, black beans and salsa, thanks to Tim Ferriss via Jon Acuff for the idea), and I'm ready to kick some butt.

Good thing because today is the Day of Home Projects.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Task Management - is it a hot dog?.

I don't know that the HBO series Silicon Valley was made to help me manage my day and be more productive, but sometimes that's what happens.

For example: I can get really anal about my tasks - what goes on what day, where can I best do that, etc. This is because I'm a big believer in the Getting Things Done (aka GTD) methodology.

The problem is - I can get tied up in that analysis on a daily basis, to the point that it affects my productivity.

Enter Silicon Valley - and the "Hot Dog" app.

WARNING: If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you have two choices - watch the clip below, or (Spoiler alert) just keep reading.

I now give you a second warning to allow you to choose wisely.

WARNING: This clip is from Silicon Valley. Like pretty much every clip from Silicon Valley the language is TV-MA.

Hot dog scene

How does that relate to my day?

When I look at my daily schedule and task list, something is either a hot dog (i.e. a task I will do today) or it's not. If it's not today, I kick it to tomorrow, or back to my in box. If it is today, I do it.

What I don't do is worry about questions like "if not now then when?" or "If not here then where?"

I eventually DO worry about those questions, but they are done in one large mass of work, called the weekly review.

The final advantage of this method. As I look at each task I mentally say "HOT DOG!" or "NOT HOT DOG!"

Okay, I say it out loud.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Attending a Toastmasters Meeting on every continent - South America

Yesterday I completed my fifth of six continent Toastmasters meeting by attending a meeting of the Lima Toastmasters 3098 club in Peru.

The meeting was packed. We had close to 40 people in total.

It wasn't just Toastmasters from South America. It was Sweden, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Hungary and Canada.

And I'm sure I missed a country or two.

The meeting started with table topics. Instead of a word of the day we had a phrase of the day: Once upon a time.

That made it easy on me when I was selected to do a Table Topic. I was shown a picture of a handmade table with a plant on it. My story started "Once upon a time... there was a Toastmaster who wanted to build a table for his plant."

From there I went to how he built the table, but it wasn't level, so the plant kept sliding off.

Eventually he bought a table from IKEA, but that table required assembly too.

Fortunately his wife helped him.

And they lived happily ever after.

And now you know why I don't win Table Topics contests.

A final note: The Lima club celebrates their 60th anniversary this year. Quite an accomplishment!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19 - A bigger network + Zoom

On Saturday I watched my friend Todd Taylor win his Division Speech contest. Todd is a Toastmaster from Cuyahoga Falls (aka Cleveland area). Todd and his wife Jennilee invited me to their club to speak (virtually) and gave me feedback. On Saturday I started to repay that favor.

Thanks to my network I have gotten speech feedback not only from my core speech team in Cincinnati (Michael Davis, Michael Pope and David Levy among others) but also from Toastmasters in Cleveland, Chicago (Jeff Stein), Denver (Rich Hopkins) and New Zealand (Kingi Biddle plus several members of his club).

And we're just getting started. Michael Pope has set me up to speak at a Cincinnati club this week, and another club in Barcelona. Spain!

I didn't have a clue what a big network plus Zoom could mean for speech development, or any project for that matter. Now that I do, I can't go back.

I know there is at least one virtual Toastmasters club out there, and I'm guessing there will be more by the time this is all over. I'll be looking to sign up.

Meanwhile, I get to check South America off my virtual Toastmasters meeting list this week, as I will be attending a meeting hosted in Lima, Peru (I'm attending, not speaking).  That leaves Asia as the only continent left on my checklist. Ironically, Asia has more Toastmasters clubs than any continent outside of America. Not so ironically, I'd have to get up early to attend their meetings - and I haven't been able to pull that off quite yet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Visit to my cardiologist / the Phil Barth diet plan

I have mentioned my cardiologist (Dr. Brooks Gerlinger) before - he's hilarious and a great Doctor.

Yesterday was my annual check up.

A couple of days before the check up I got a call asking if I wanted to make the checkup an e-visit. I declined. As much as I'm good with staying home I didn't really see how they could do an EKG via Zoom.

Besides - I lost weight in the past year. And unless they were going to have me step on my home scale, I couldn't prove that.

(Pause for self reflection: If I hadn't lost weight in the past year, would I have taken an e-visit, even though it meant no EKG? Hmmm.)

After passing the COVID-19 temperature check test at the front door (97.2 - that's my normal) I went to the office. They took an EKG, took my blood pressure and (most importantly) got my weight.

When Dr. Gerlinger walked in I could tell that he was smiling (through the mask). "Wow! 18 pounds! How did you do it?"

"Well, you know, diet and exercise. Also not wanting to visit you more than once a year."

That was true... but it wasn't the entire story.

In October 2019 I stepped on the scale. There was about 10 percent more of me than necessary (I weighed 214 lbs to be exact).

When I had my heart attack in August 2015 I weighed 216.

Two pounds away from 216 and heading to the holidays is not a good weight.

So I wrote a contract with myself.

  1. I will record everything I eat every day.
  2. I will finish under my target calories 90% of all days (this allowed for Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe another party or two.
  3. I will hit my target exercise numbers six days a week.

And (here's the important part): If I break any of these items I will take (an unnamed person) to lunch. And I'll buy.

The unnamed person is someone who is the anti-great things person. It's someone that sucks the energy out of everyone else. Someone who thinks the world revolves around them. Someone who lies. Someone who I haven't had to deal with for over a year, and someone who I never want to deal with again.

And I will do this until I weigh 195.

Take the unnamed person to lunch? I'd rather eat kale.

Every time I looked at a cookie I saw this person's face.
Every time I looked at a doughnut I saw this person's face.

I called my diet plan "Here's a buck because you suck".

And I now weigh 195.

You may not know a person like this. But maybe you have strong political leanings. What if you promised yourself you would send money to the OTHER political party if you didn't keep your diet?

(If you just answered "I would never do that" then you might not be ready to do it. And that's fine - you might not be two lbs away from your second heart attack either).

There are also websites that will help you do this diet method.

Additional notes:

The person is not on Facebook.
The person does not read my blog.
Still, I'm not going to give clues as to this person's identity. It's not important.

Credit where credit is due: I got the idea for the diet plan from the Stephen King story "Quitters Inc."

(And yeah, if I hadn't lost the weight I would have gone e-visit).

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Thinking outside of the box (or being less pig-headed)

There's a fine line between perseverance and stubbornness. Or pig-headed-ness.

One of my faults is that sometimes go past that line. Way past that line.

For instance: This week Beth was attending an online kick boxing class. I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the MacBook to broadcast wirelessly to our LG TV.

The LG TV was on our home WiFi. The MacBook was on my cell network. The home WiFi is (just barely) good enough for the TV. But if we really wanted to make things fly, we needed the cell network.

I thought about defining the LG TV to the cell network. But what would happen when I took the cell phone with me when I left the house (you know, in another month or two)?

After thinking through the possible scenarios one hit me.

Plug a HDMI cable into the MacBook. Plug the other end into the TV.

Problem solved. I have no idea why I didn't want to try the cord before. After the fact it seemed so obvious.

Of course there is another even more obvious solution - one that Beth presented early on: Just put it on the computer. That screen was big enough. The computer also didn't have the small picture delay that we got when the MacBook converted the HDMI picture to the "ideal" one for the TV.

Maybe the better idea to carry past COVID-19 is listen to my wife.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Getting great speech material from the pastor

On Friday I got a text from our Pastor, Pete Elliott: "Can I use your Peru story as part of my message on Sunday?"

I said "Sure!" I wasn't sure what he was going to do with it, but I was pretty sure he wasn't going to say "Phil was a big baby when we got to Peru."

(Even though that would have been accurate).

quick side note: A few years ago pastor Jay Madigan mentioned me in a message. It was in reference to my alleged propensity for telling bad puns.

One more side note to Jay: "Hello pot? This is the kettle. You're black."

Back to the original side note:

After the service Beth said "Pastor Jay mentioned dad today".

My son Kenny didn't miss a beat: "Yeah he also mentioned the devil".

Back to the original story: Pete talked about Peru and my speech.

And I found myself saying "WOW! That's a better way of saying it in my contest speech."

So I got permission, and modified the speech.

Note: The material is still over 75% written by me... actually about 95% if we go by word count. So no rules have been broken.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Something I will continue past COVID-19: Creek exploration

We have a small creek (more like a ditch actually) that runs through the back of our property. It becomes a bigger creek when it gets to my in-laws property.

Approximately once (twice if we're lucky) a year we go fossil hunting in the creek at my in-laws. Frequently this has been done with groups of Cub Scouts or later on Boy Scouts, because you're never too old to explore a creek.

It's a great chance to hunt for fossils, or other cool rocks.

I found these circles in the creek bank. I'm still not sure what they are. I picked at one and it fell apart, so I'd say it's not a fossil.

The stay at home / social distancing environment has given Beth, Tommy and me two chances (so far) to explore the creek. The increased frequency is something we want to keep doing after COVID-19.

For me the woods and the creek are the ultimate place for social distancing.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

In praise of Sgt. Schultz

Thanks to our antenna we now have MeTV.

Thanks to MeTV we now have one episode of Hogan's Heroes each night. (Some areas get two, but we have local news from 10-10:30.

Tom and I rarely miss it.

Which makes me wonder why:

It's not for the plot. Well, except for the episode where the Germans have something that could turn the war and they are storing it close to Stalag 13, and it will take some kind of elaborate ruse for Hogan and the gang to blow it up... and someone gets threatened with the Russian front.

It's not for the realism. I mean - was Germany the size of Rhode Island? Hogan is always popping over to Paris or London for a quick visit with someone. Really?

It's not exactly for the humor. It's funny, but so were Wings, Threes Company and Friends. And I don't watch reruns of those shows. (Except for the Threes Company episode where Jack fell...)

Best I can figure: It's for Schultz. And some of the other characters. But mostly John Banner. His facial expressions, his voice, his comedic timing.

Hochstetter also is good, but he's not a regular. So it's mostly Schultz.

The other characters are good - but so were the Friends characters. The show needs an anchor to bring me back for reruns.

Like Fez and Red in That 70s Show.
Or Kramer, George and Newman on Seinfeld.
Or Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.
Or - the most obvious example - Charlie on Two and a Half Men.

(Remember that episode of Two and a Half Men where Charlie got drunk and picked up a woman? Good times).

Two and a Half Men is the most obvious example. Berta was great. Other cast members were really funny. But without Charlie, it sucked.

I'm not sure Hogan's Heroes would suck without Schultz but it wouldn't be as good. And thankfully we never had to find out.

Then again, I could be wrong... it's very possible "I know nothing!"

Friday, May 1, 2020

Something I may or may not continue past COVID-19: Combing my hair back

As my hair got longer I needed to do something. Then I decided to try combing it straight back. Like Gavin Belson on Silicon Valley, or (sometimes) Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio. Or Gordon Gekko.

Or – as Tom pointed out – early editions of Drako Malfoy.

So basically, the only difference between me and movie stars, wizards and/or people with at least nine figures net worth is the hair style.

And the number of figures in my net worth.

Oh and movie stardom and wizardry.

My hair isn't a decision I take lightly. Except for a failed experiment with parting my feathered hair down the middle in 1980, I’ve always parted my hair to the side.

That said, I’ve noticed a three advantages to the slicked back method:
  1. It feels more comfortable.
  2. I can take off or put on a shirt without messing my hair by simply doing it from front to back.
  3. If Mike Dardis is unavailable to do the channel five news at 11 I could fill in.

There are also some disadvantages to it: 
  1. Most of the fictional characters who wear their hair like that are portrayed as a-holes.
  2. Let’s just say – in theory only - I have a receding hairline on the sides. Combing it back would expose that.
  3. If Mike Dardis is unavailable to do the channel five news at 11 I might have to fill in.

In the end there is one thing to note. It looks less bad than other options right now.  And it’s not for lack of trying. I tried the hybrid method – comb back and to the right. I thought I might look like Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank.  It wound up looking like Buster Poindexter.

So combing back it is.

There will come a point where I either have to get it cut (in back) or get a pony tail. But for now, I’m all set.

I need a haircut.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Something I will continue past COVID-19: Member's Mark Toilet Paper

Our last pre-shelter in place trip to Sam’s Club (early March) had toilet paper on the list. We didn’t want to be part of the rush on the shelves but we only had about four rolls left at home.

When we got there they had 45 roll packs of Members Mark toilet paper on pallets.

We didn’t need 45 rolls. We'v never needed 45 rolls at once. But that’s all they had. And they only had Member’s Mark Toilet paper.

I have tried Member’s Mark products in the past. It started with a briefcase (not bad) then disinfectant wipes (this was a long time ago and they were good), then decaf coffee kcups (also decent).

There’s a product commitment continuum at work here.  A new brand has to build up trust before they can move along that continuum. And toilet paper is, as you might imagine, on the far end of that continuum. One does not simply move from coffee directly to toilet paper.

Well one doesn’t on the product commitment continuum anyway.

In the absence of other options I’m certain we would have never gone to Member’s Mark toilet paper.

And I’m doubly sure we wouldn’t have jumped in with 45 rolls.

But (no pun intended) we didn’t have any other choice.

And it was 45 mega rolls at that point! A total of 293.6 square feet per roll. Multiply that all out and we could cover the house. I think. I might do another post on this number later.

I mention square footage because square feet is the only way I can tell how much toilet paper I’m really getting.  

It used to be easy: TP came in a four roll pack. Then someone (Charmain I think) came up with super rolls which were like two rolls in one, then mega rolls which were three in one, then you’ll need to cut a slot in the drywall to fit this roll, and so on.

And all of the sudden I need a calculator to figure out how many rolls I’m getting per dollar.

I digress.

We got a cart full (aka 45 rolls) of Member’s Mark TP.

The bottom (pun completely intended) line: Their toilet paper is soft. Really soft. You could use it for a pillow soft. And it’s not single ply crap (pun also intended) either.

45 rolls goes a long way too. 

As I write this we still have over 40 rolls left.

But (pun intended and beaten to death) at some point we will run out. And when we do I will run out to Sam’s to get more.

This also effectively gives Members Mark an “Advance to Go” card. Any product that lies between kcups and toilet paper (facial tissue for example) is now green lighted.

I wonder if they make hair clippers?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The unofficial rating of stores and restaurants doing pickup during COVID-19

Disclaimer: The rating is only for those stores where one of us has actually used their pickup service.

Kroger (10/10): Amazing. They have it down to a science, at least at our Mt. Orab store. The only thing I can nitpick (-1) is that the wait time has gotten longer as more people use the service. But (+1) they have waived the service charge for the duration of the COVID crisis.

LaRosa’s (10/10): Pull up, give your name, get your pizza, bye bye.

Sam’s Club (9/10): It's slick and it's quick. The only issue is it's hard to tell when you're out of something.

Chipotle (9/10): Would have been 10/10 but the last time Joe went there they didn’t have our order ready. Still, the food was awesome.

O’Charley’s (9/10): The only issue was they were out of some menu items. But they called to get me replacement items. And from my point of view the meal wasn't going to be made or broken by a Wedge salad. 

The food was amazing.

UPDATE NOW (3/10): A second trip to O'Charley's confirmed Joe's gut reaction on the first trip "I felt like I got lucky on the delivery - they didn't really seem to have it together.

They had a system issue. That caused a 30 minute delay - beyond the 30 minutes the system told us we would have to wait. The steaks were almost raw, the salmon was cold and they gave Beth the wrong food. The only reason I didn't rank them below Lowe's was they gave us $10 off and two bags of rolls. 

Meijer (6/10): They don’t have a spot dedicated for pickup item parking (-1) so you have to text back and forth with your Shipt shopper. Also, they charge for the service (-1) from the first time and every time. That said, our Shipt shopper was very nice, and sent texts back and forth when they were out of what we wanted. 

Meijer recommends tipping the shopper. I don’t mind that. As I said, she was very nice and she did a good job. Between that and the fee I was $10 behind Kroger before we ever got started.

Lowe’s (2/10): When Joe went to pick up our new lawnmower they put the box next to the car and said “Sorry, you have to load it yourself.” That would have gotten them a 4/10, but the woman who told Joe he had to load it had an attitude like “Duh! Didn’t you know that?” (-1). 

Fortunately Joe is an engineering student and was able to figure it out. 

Also, the time I went to pick something up it took two phone calls. The first one went to the land of the quick busy signal (-1). Mind you, that’s what happens half the time I call Lowe’s for anything.

The only advantage to pickup at Lowe’s is – you get your items. There was a line halfway around the store when I did pick up. It was 6:45 and the store closed at 7:00. I’m not sure what all the people in the line were doing, but it’s safe to say it wasn’t math. Maybe I’m the only one who does Algebra when I’m waiting in line (There are 15 people ahead of me in line. Ten minutes ago there were 17 ahead of me. It is currently 6:45 so my ETE – estimated time of entry is – 8:10pm. I'm out.).

But I digress.

The final advantage to pickup at Lowe’s: People in line stand about one foot apart and don't wear masks. Not getting COVID-19 in their line is an advantage of pickup, but does not earn them points.

Arby's (0.5/10): We went there recently and ordered two fish sandwiches. They gave us one fish sandwich and one Greek Gyro. How is that even possible? They don't look the same, they don't taste the same and they don't even share a single ingredient. You screw up half my order you get half a point.

Final note. It's local, but it still counts:

Roothouse Aquaponics (11/10): We order and pay online. We walk over there. As we walk up the driveway someone meets us with our order. And the lettuce, cilantro, microgreens and tilapia are delicious. Way beyond what you can get in a store. Bonus point (+1): Sometimes the dog comes out with his ball and we play catch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19 - Recorded Zoom meetings.

I take a lot of notes. And I do a fairly good job with them. I take them in four colors (you may have heard). In addition my grown up four color pen has a pencil on it - useful for side margin notes that I know I will later erase. (Use your imagination)

But for all my notes, there are times when I go back the next day or next week and say "What exactly did I mean by that?"

I can now answer that question, thanks to recorded Zoom meetings.

Last weekend I had a call with my public speaking coach, Michael Davis of Speaking CPR. We covered a lot of ground. I took a lot of notes. I thought I captured everything.

I captured MAYBE 50% of what was said.

Yesterday I went back and watched the recording. Wow. I added a second full page of notes. Notes that, in combination with the recording, I will put into my speech script today.

Normally Mike and I meet over breakfast. I do miss that. But in terms of improving my speeches this Zoom meeting is even more effective.

I guess we could zoom our breakfast meeting when we next can meet for breakfast. Yeah... and we could invite people. Make it a pay per view. Watch me tear into an omelet while Mike gives great advice.

OR... we could just meet for breakfast and then zoom after. So many options...

Monday, April 27, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Naming my day

Recently I was reading and came across an idea by Dr. Dave Martin. I don't know that he came up with this idea, but it's a simple and profound one:

To seize the day you must name the day.

I changed it up a little bit: Name my day. Adding that pronoun makes all the difference. Every morning when I wake up I have been given a day, It's my day. I need to make the most of the day I've been given. To do that, I need to name my day.

Some of the examples given by Dr. Dave were productivity, efficiency, study, organizing, decision, value, diligence or activity.

The concept is similar to one outlined in Jack Canfield's The Success Principles (Jack is also one of the authors of the hugely successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series). In the success principles, you choose one of three focuses for each day: Best (as in my best results / execution), Plan (as in plan for more days of best results, or Rest (as in what I did on Saturday).

I have used Jack's ideas in my monthly planning (he even has a free monthly planner here, you do need to sign up for e-mails though).

On a daily basis though, I like the idea of being more specific on naming my day. For instance, yesterday was my day of (excuse the term) "Cleaning shit up". That wasn't literal, but it was memorable. Every time I needed to think of the day - I knew right away what I needed to do next.

As for today, it's the day of "Completing every task on today's to-do list". That helped me set up the list in the morning ("There's no way of getting to that today, I will postpone") and helps me through the day. Complete a task, check it off and move on.

For example: One of the items on today's list was "Publish the Name My Day" blog post.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

A great side benefit of cleaning up the basement

Our Sunday project this week was I found a box of my old Games Magazines. From around 1998 through 2003 I had a subscription to Games Magazine. I always read through The Games 100 (as I made my Christmas List). I sometimes worked some of the pencil-wise puzzles. I also took them on vacation - we would work the crossword puzzles in the car or during a rainy day.

But more often than not, the Games Magazine was placed in a "to be worked later" pile. Eventually that pile was moved to a box. The box was put on a shelf for a future time when I had more time.

Well, the future is now.

I pulled out the magazines, and started working through some of my favorite kinds of puzzles (paint by number, logic and a few others.
Paint by number

There are rumors that this COVID sheltering could go on a long time. Good thing I have plenty of magazines!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Buy local

Full disclosure: We went with Lee and Jacks for our refrigerator before COVID-19, so it's not fully accurate to say this is an entirely new thing.

On Wednesday we had a repairman come out and look at our washer. It kept getting an error code after my aforementioned fix. I wondered out loud if the error (SUD or F2 depending on the day) was a damaged drain pump - related to the fact that I didn't know I was supposed to clean out the filter occasionally.

Short answer: Probably.

The impeller in the drain pump was damaged and on the way to ruin.

I also noticed we had a piece of the door seal torn away. This, coupled with a sometimes slow (or not) draining machine, caused a leak.

So we called someone from Central Service. The repairman was very nice, and diagnosed the problem: It needed a new door seal and a new pump.

The price of those was over halfway to a new machine. The current machine was almost 13 years old.

I found a new machine on sale at Lowe's. I was about to order when I decided to give our local appliance store (Lee and Jack's) a call. I told the salesman what I wanted. A little while later he called me back. They didn't have the exact model I wanted (Note: The Lowe's site said limited inventory, so there was a chance they didn't have it either) but they had something close for $100 less than Lowe's (and $70 less than the washer we bought 13 years ago). I looked it up, and said "We'll take it".

One day later, the delivery truck from Lee and Jack's was there. The delivery guys wore masks. We stayed a social distance away. They hauled away the old washer and installed the new one.

And it looks really cool.

Faster delivery, better price and if we have any issues, Lee and Jack's will be out here much faster than a chain store would be. Win/win/win.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Something I want to carry past COVID-19 - small thoughtful gifts

I borrowed my father in law's Gator 4x2 for this week's mulch project. When I borrowed it I told him "I left a payment on your garage shelf."

He was pretty sure I put a beer there.

It wasn't a beer. It was a bottle of his favorite Tawny Port.

I had the idea as soon as we started using Kroger Clicklist. I put two bottles (one for him, one for me) in the cart.

Every order I would ask for two bottles. And every order I would get a message "Out of stock". Were people using this for sanitizer? What gives?

On Tuesday our luck changed. In addition to all the other groceries, there were two bottles of port.

Before I got home with the Gator my wife got a call from him "He can keep it for a week!"

Thursday as Beth and I walked out the driveway I noticed something yellow on the ground. It was a painted rock. Someone from church has been leaving these rocks on people's doorsteps and driveways.

It was a really cool moment. We both knew that someone was thinking of us and it made us feel great.

When I was young people wrote more letters and cards. It was a cool moment to get a note (or a cereal box top baseball game) in the mail. With the exception of Christmas and birthdays this has been largely lost to technology. The unexpected note has almost been entirely lost.

Until recently I didn't even miss it. Now that I have it again, I want to keep it going. Time to buy some cards and stamps!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19 - the full blown mulch project

As noted before we were able to get our yard in football season form early. 

This week we took another step in the yard project. We added mulch around all the trees. It seemed like we never had the time before, but this year, we took the extra time. I'm pretty happy with the results:

All of our mulch is lab tested

Here's the surprise:

It wasn't that much more time to do the additional mulch.

To put the additional mulch around the trees took us maybe two hours. And that counts getting the pickup truck, buying the mulch and then putting it down.

It's just that in years past I let the time get away from me early in the spring. We then had to do a rush job to get the basic areas covered.

I also confined the mulching to the weekend. This was based on a preference of saving my vacation.

When I stopped to think about it I realized a day spent outdoors in great weather is a great way to spend a day of vacation.

It's a win for us, a win for the yard, and a win for the dogs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Something I will carry past COVID-19: Yard time!

As mentioned before on this blog (and elsewhere) our yard looks really good by the end of the fall.

This is thanks to the fact that I can stand watching about 30 minutes of the Cleveland Browns before I write them off for another year.

But (also as mentioned on this blog) - this spring the yard looks great, thanks to the shelter at home.

This morning when I woke up I walked out with the dogs and smelled the fresh cut grass. And I saw the sun coming up over the yard.

I enjoy mowing. I enjoy the way the yard looks when I finish. I enjoy getting the steps (although my Apple watch doesn't count all of them when I mow).

Really, outside of weather (and work related travel I guess), there's no reason I can't continue to get those benefits after the COVID-19 crisis. The key is to plan the time.

Especially this year - the yard should look great all summer.  We were going to go to Europe for two weeks in June. That trip had to be postponed. That means I have two extra weeks of vacation. That equates to ten extra days of time to make the yard look great. Even if the Browns are somehow interesting this year I still have enough time.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Great things Grill week starts early with boneless pork chops

Yesterday we had pork chops. We put them on the Kroger click list, hoping they wouldn't be out of them (Because COVID is hitting a couple of pork plants... That event in and of itself shouldn't create a pork shortage, but public reaction to it could).

At any rate, Kroger had them - so we started grill week (Five grilled meals in six days, thanks to all the cool stuff we got at Kroger) with pork chops.

NOTE: I have a work meeting until 6pm today, so Taco Tuesday became Taco Monday. Grill week continues on Tuesday.

The chops had my rib rub on them. This was Tom's idea a while ago "Could you try your rib rub instead of Mrs. Dash?" I figured "Why not? Pig is pig".

It worked out great. We've used the same rub for chicken too and that works out well. But it seems like it's best on all things pig (I haven't tried it on bacon yet... but I have to imagine it would work there too).

Here's the recipe:

Phil's rib rub that turned into pork chop and even chicken rub.

1 cup Brown Sugar, packed.  
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp or so of nutmeg.
(The prior 2 are a substitute for allspice. I use allspice if I have it).
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional).
2 tbsp garlic,
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper.
1 ½ tsp Cumin.

1 ½ tsp coffee. 

I make it up ahead of time. It keeps fairly well in a container (the brown sugar can get a little lumpy but other than that it's fine).

I didn't do cayenne this time - as noted, it's optional.

For me, the whole key of it is the Cumin. When you put cumin in the pork (or ribs) smell like you just walked in to Sticky Fingers in Charleston SC. Once you have that in your head you can't miss.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

A behind the scenes look at my Toastmasters Contest Studio

Yesterday I won the Division I (District 40) speech contest.

I had a speech that I enjoyed giving. And I practiced it a lot. But there was one more thing I did to prepare: "Studio" setup.

To turn the home office / basement entertainment room into my studio I needed to know a few things:

I needed to know where to put the tripod.

I needed to know where to look when having the "conversation" with Beth. When I spoke to her I looked at this Lipton tea bottle.

When it was Beth speaking to me, I looked at this Lipton tea bottle.

I tried different things, but the Lipton tea bottles were clearly out of place and therefore easy to find.

Finally, I needed to know where my main position was (large green tape), my lean in position was (small green tape) and what my working speaking area was (green tape triangle).

I put those items down a week or more ago. Then I practiced without looking (this involved counting steps to make sure I was in the right spot).

Oh... and then there was the white board in case I got stuck. This isn't a luxury we normally get in speech contests...

In addition, we had the "Peru blanket" on the couch, which was in fact a sweater from Peru - one my in-laws brought home for Beth a few years ago. Beth also has a sweater that Tom and I brought home, but this one matched the couch and background better.

Finally, no speech is complete without my lucky Cleveland Indians socks!