Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Making dad's Irish Coffee

During our last Kroger pickup order I put a bottle of heavy whipping cream in the cart. (Step one complete).

On our last trip to Jungle Jim's I went to the liquor store and picked up a bottle of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey.  (Step two complete).

I now had everything we needed to make Irish coffee. (Because we already had coffee and sugar).

For many years our family took vacations at a cabin at Oglebay Park in Wheeling. At some point we started a tradition: Dad would make us an Irish Coffee (or two) for breakfast.

This year I decided to bring the tradition back for Christmas morning.

But before we could bring the tradition back, we had to test it out - quality control is important (when day drinking is involved).

The recipe:

First I had to make the whipping cream. I did it while Beth was getting her shower.

I did it by hand with a whisk. Never again!  

Don't do it with a whisk! I don't care if that's what's on the side of the heavy whipping cream bottle. If you have a hand mixer use that. 

Beth said "Don't you remember how your dad used to bring the hand mixer to Oglebay?" (I didn't remember that until she told me). 

Following that, the recipe was as follows:

  • One (or two) packets of sugar in the raw. You can also use brown sugar (that's what I put in mine).
  • One (or two) shots of Irish whiskey.
  • One k-cup of coffee.

Stir the coffee until the sugar is fully dissolved. Then add the whipping cream on top.

It. Was. Amazing.

Later I called mom. She told me that dad had used a whisk once - and said never again.

As far as the recipe went I was close, but she had two suggestions.

  1. After whipping the cream, add a tablespoon of refined sugar to the whipping cream.
  2. And add less about a teaspoon of vanilla (also to the whipping cream).
The above changes can only be done after the cream is fully whipped. Adding them before it's fully whipped could mess up the formation, or whip-ability, or whatever you call it.

Also, and I remember this from dad, you hand mix it until you get points in the heavy cream when you pull the mixer out.

Is the new recipe better? We will find out on Christmas Day!


Monday, December 21, 2020

Monday, December 14, 2020

Picture of the week!

This one is brought to us by my son's high school in 2017.

I hope they meant snacks... but I didn't give him money just to be safe.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Once you seek it and see it - Save it.

One of the big things I've learned over the last few years is this:

What you dwell on becomes your reality.

That's why you need to train your brain to look for the good. Seek it out. Once you seek it you will see it. Then you'll start seeing it automatically.

Great, so then what?

It's simple: Save it.

This is another great use of the phone. When I find something that makes me laugh, makes me smile, I get a picture or a screen shot.

Like this:

1776 - when Abe Lincoln was -37 years old...

Best Uber driver ever!
Well actually the ride was a little... ruff...

It's cheaper when you buy in bulk this week...

Yeah, I'm still 12 years old...

The first step in lowering your stress is all about changing yourself. If you want to change those around you, you need to start with yourself.

What do they say on the airplane? 

“In the event of a loss of cabin air pressure, put the mask on yourself first before assisting others.”

When you look for the green the green will find you. It will happen in your every day life. You could stop there, but there’s another almost counter-intuitive way to lower your stress. It’s one I discovered on a family vacation in South Carolina, and it involves taking a single step.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Lowering your stress management - Seek the green

 In 1957 Scientific American Magazine published a study on the brain’s reticular activation system. I’ll save you the technical details. Here’s how it works.

Close your eyes and think of the color red for five seconds. 

Open your eyes and look around your room.

What was the first thing you saw? Was it red?

Here’s what’s really interesting. If you think about red for a while longer, your brain will keep feeding you red for the rest of the day. 

This explains why, when you buy a new car, you are amazed by how many people suddenly drive that same car. And it explains why – over the next few days – you’re going to start noticing four color pens. (Show four color pen).

I love four color pens. I have since my grandma bought me one like this way back when. I still use them. I take my basic notes in black or blue. Red and green are special colors. Red notes are things that worry me, things that concern me, things that I have to address. Green notes are things that make me happy, make me laugh, bring me joy.

If I focus on the red – I’m going to have a list of concerns in my notebook and in my life, that will overwhelm me. 

If you focus on the red, you’ll get it. If you focus on the green, you’ll get that.

In March of 2016 after three months of back to normal work and plenty of red ink notes my wife reminded me “You promised the Doctor you would unplug one week out of every three months. It’s time”. We took a week of staycation – and I tried to unplug. I mean unplug from work. I still got on Facebook. And at the end of our first day of vacation, I posted something “The great things that happened today” I felt better, and I didn’t know why. 

So I did it the next day. And the day after that. I started to wonder – it’s easy when we spent the day in the zoo. But could I do this when I’m back in the office? And how long can I do this? 

The answer is “Four years and counting”

The more I looked, the more I found. Until eventually my wife said “what if you wrote a book about great things?”

So I did

Let's start seeking the green right now:

I'll go first. Here are some pictures of the great things in my life. 

What are the people places or things that are great in your life?

Take a minute right now and name them.

Let me ask you something – did you feel better just thinking about those things? And if you just felt better thinking about them, imagine how much better you’ll feel if you spend time with them.

Here's the best part:

Once you start seeking the "good" your brain will start feeding it to you all the time.

The first S for stress management is Seek the green. Once you start seeking the green the green will find you. If you seek it you will see it.

What you dwell on becomes your reality.

Next up: Once we seek it and see it - then what?

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!