Category: Uncategorized

tech overload

I am back from a two week technology hiatus.

I am not a Luddite and I appreciate and enjoy technology, but I started feeling anxious every time I passed a reminder of how much technology has infiltrated my life.

It all started when my wife bought a couple of new kitchen gadgets around Christmas time.

The addition of a digital George Foreman Grill and a fancy new Instapot triggered me.

I already had a nice Foreman grill and a trusty crock pot.  They were rudimentary and they worked.  They didn’t require instructions and Youtube videos to learn how to use them.  You plugged them in and came back when the food was ready.

The new kitchen gear felt like a combination of gadetry and science project.

I was getting frustrated by it.

I had a tangle of charging wires on my kitchen counter.

I had a PC in the living room.

Both kids had Chromebooks on their bedroom desks.

My wife’s work laptop was on the bedroom dresser.

The whole family was typically head down in their iPhones.

Even my wife’s reading was on Kindle or iPad at bedtime.

Wireless headphones needed charging.

Battery backup chargers were needed when tech device batteries ran out.

Lightning cables and USB cables were scattered around the house.

I have no expectation of trying to reel everyone in at the moment.  I can only work on my own head.

I sold an old iPad and Kindle.

I deleted some social media apps from my phone.

I bought some paper books to read.

I do 5 pushups every time I feel that reflex to check my phone for no reason at all.

I watch a lot less news and don’t feel the need to try to be an expert on transient topics. As @altucher says, today’s news is the rough draft of history.

It is hard to believe how much technology has become a part of our daily lives.  But like most good things, moderation is key for me.  

When I started to feel overwhelmed by it all I know it was time to step back and take a look at my own habits and patterns.

As an aspiring minimalist, I strive for less.

This includes technology devices as well as technology usage.

In 2018 I need to become more mindful, present, and focused on meaningful activities.

This process is the first step in that direction.

how I made $250 in 5 minutes

I am a meticulous bill payer.  My credit score hovers around 820 and I take personal pride in never owing anyone any money.  So imagine my surprise when I missed the 3PM payment window on my substantial credit card balance last month!

I was angry at myself for being careless.  I don’t like to do the automated payment because I have to shift money around some times in order to pay the balance.  I didn’t call the card company for a reversal because there was some sort of odd integrity in which I held myself accountable for the lapse in carefulness.

I learned my lesson and I made sure to double check my payment date in the following cycle.  Imagine my horror when I got an email from stating that I was charged a finance fee again!  This can’t be right.  I know I paid before the 3PM cutoff and when I checked the payment history the company seemed to agree that my payment looked good.

I was pleasantly surprised when the customer service representative (CSR) mentioned something about last month’s fee.  Without any prompting she said she would look into the fees and see if she could back them both out.  When the CSR returned to the line, she told me that she reversed over $250 worth of finance fees and I did not even have to ask for it.

Kudos to Chase for extending some quality customer service to a long time customer with a typically excellent payment history.

If you are a good customer you should use that to your advantage when dealing with these types of issues.  By keeping me happy, Chase may have lost $250 today but they will reap rewards long into the future.

smother them with positivity

I coach a couple of soccer teams and have learned a lot about leadership over the past few years.

My older team are a bunch of high schoolers.  Most are in 9th grade and a couple in 10th.  I can be myself with them more so than the younger kids.  I don’t curse on purpose but if one slips out, I am not worried about getting an email from an angry parent.  They are skilled and understand the game and at this point in their careers, my coaching is more guiding them back to what they already know rather than teaching them something new.  I think of myself as the bumpers on a kids bowling alley.  I really enjoy the time I spend with this group as they share stories about their day while we stretch before practice.

My other team is a bunch of 13 year olds who are testing limits and challenging authority constantly.  I used to get mad at them and felt like too much of my time was going into correcting behavior as well as playing mistakes.  I was spending too much time on fixing problems instead of celebrating successes.

This year I finally learned that constant correction creates an environment in which everyone is riding at the red line all of the time.  I was ready to pounce on problems which caused stress to the children; even to those who were not involved.

As I began to mellow out while still maintaining order, I saw improvements in behavior.  I saw attitudes improving an the soccer itself also improved.

Maybe shouldn’t have taken 10 years to learn how to become a better coach but, all of the lessons learned along the way brought me to this point where I am content.

Negativity on a team starts at the top.  Be sure to focus on the positives especially during a season when there might not be a lot to celebrate.  Focus on individual plays and players who are exceeding their previous abilities and contributing to the team.

Encourage players to support each other when mistakes are made and you will see player confidence grow.

The definition of failure as a parent or coach is when a player makes a mistake and looks to the sideline in anticipation of the commentary.

When we smother the kids with kindness we will build better teammates, players, and young adults.

making the wrong bet $btc #gold

I’ve heard it said you can make money trading commodities but never by “owning them”.

I am coming to the sad realization that this is true.

I started buying precious metals in 1999 leading up to the y2k event.  I am not a survivalist living in a bunker but I do like to consider worst case outcomes and prepare at some level to ensure the health and welfare of my family.  Obviously there were no catastrophes as the calendar turned over and life carried on just fine.

I continued to buy silver and gold pieces every now and then but the buying reached fever pitch as the global economies started to fail in 2008.  I was buying just about anything I could get my hands on.  I would buy junk silver through craigslist.  I would buy rolls of silver American Eagle coins on eBay.  I would buy gold Canadian Maples through online brokers.

I never expected to get rich with the purchases but I considered them a sort of black swan insurance against major economic meltdown.

I still firmly believe we were much closer to a world wide depression in 2009 than most people ever considered and I don’t “regret” the decisions to buy.  I thought about the durability of hard assets and also the projection of leaving something tangible to my children after I pass on from this world.  Visions of Scrooge McDuck swimming in coins crossed my mind.  The coins could also end up worthless and simply make a cool collectible in 50 years.

The coins represent less than 1% of my total financial holdings, but I think it is time to move on.  I can’t ever see a catastrophic event happening in which precious metals will ever be used, but I guess that’s the thing with unforeseen events…they are unforeseen.

What I plan do do is start to move more of the illiquid holdings of coins into a speculative position in cryptocurrency .  The coins are basically dead money and worth less today than they were a decade ago.  The peak of the global financial crisis saw silver prices around $48 per ounce in 2011 and gold was about $1850/oz.  Today silver is $18 and gold is $1288.

Like everyone who is involved in cryptocurrency, I look back with 20/20 hindsight and imagine a world where I spent even a fraction of that money on $BTC in 2009.

Cryptocurrency represents some of the ideals of precious metals with regard to black swan insurance against traditional banking but it is infinitely more liquid.  Absent a global EMP event or similar there is little use for physical money.  If the world does go all Mad Max at some point, I don’t think I’ll want to live through it.

As I look toward the future, I recognize that almost all human progress rests on the shoulders of technology.  Blockchain, digital transactions ,and electronic stores of value will be the future.  I would rather place my bets on cryptocurrency than have a pile of shiny coins to look at.  Of course I may be wrong again, but I’ll make my bets with the information I have at this time.

Now if I can only find a crypto for gold store!



my first @medium post

Last week I made the commitment to myself to write more frequently.  I was motivated by @thisissethsblog in which Godin seems to post daily.  I am not a trained writer but hope to get better.  Most writers say the best way to get better is to write more frequently.

My previous content was a little more thoughtful but it was taking too long to create based upon my new goal.  I was barely posting something once or twice per month on average.

With my new motivation to post more frequently, I wrote an article here about #bumpstocks and the tragedy in Las Vegas.  I then re-posted to Medium.

I was both shocked and excited to get an extremely critical review of the article.  It showed me that people actually read them, but it also provided me some information that even an off the cuff editorial needs to be well thought out.  Everything I wrote made sense to me, but I could easily understand the critique that was posted as a reply.

The experience taught me that even more frequent postings will require thought and attention.  Writing for myself was easy but as I intend to write for others, I need to do better.

Fast and good are possible with more attention.

the spirit of the law #bumpstock

bumpThe horrific shooting in Las Vegas has shaken all rational people to the core.  To imagine the atrocity experienced by the concert goers under attack is the stuff of nightmares.  I recall the scene from Full Metal Jacket as the insane machine gunner murders innocent civilians while flying in a helicopter.

It has been reported that the gunman held an arsenal of weapons in his hotel room.  The primary firearms used seem to have been long arms and assault rifles.

Assault rifles in and of themselves are not typically more dangerous than their peer civilian models.  One can purchase a rifle in .223 with a wooden stock that is not visually menacing but it is equally lethal.  However, those who purchase the military replicas sometimes do so for the plethora of customization marketed to those weapon owners.

The machismo factor in firing an AR-15 may be different to some folks compared to shooting a single shot bolt action .223.  The rounds are equally lethal and the AR is designed to shoot a hell of a lot more of them at once.

The marketplace caters to those who want to look like military but usually aren’t.  Red dot laser scopes, high capacity magazines, tripods and bumpstocks can double the price of the initial gun purchase.

So what is a bumpstock you may ask and why should they be illegal immediately?  It is a device the uses the recoil of a rifle to automatically load the next round into the firing chamber while never removing the finger from the trigger.  In a typical semi automatic rifle setup, a round is only fired upon each pull of the trigger.  While using a bumpstock, the finger may stay depressed and firing continues until you run out of ammo, effectively turning the device into a machine gun (which by and large are illegal).

Trigger pulls on a semi auto may reach 2-3 per second, but audio analysis in Las Vegas show firing rates of 10 rounds per second which tripled the kill rate.

The laws are pretty clear that with the exception of a few rare instances, machine guns are illegal in the United States.  Any attempt to physically alter the firearm to make it automatic is also an offense.  How is it that bump stocks are legal?

Congress must act to remove this threat with minimal debate.  Gun control is a divisive issue in America and I understand both sides talking points.  However, the existence of a device that snubs its nose at the spirit of an existing law should be outlawed itself.

I eagerly await the NRA response.

teaching #mindfulness as a parent

if I had to summarize my parenting goals in one word it would be instilling “mindfulness” in my children.

mindfulness is a state of mind.  it is a process and attitude.  it is caring and feeling.  it is planning and executing.  it is cleaning and organizing.  it is maintaining a sense of awareness and thinking about your surroundings, obligations, and actions.

be mindful and straighten the room.  close the drawers, make the bed, pick up the dirty clothes.

be mindful when talking to friends.  don’t gossip. be kind. be inclusive.  be empathetic.  be supportive.  be a listener.  be reliable

be mindful with distractions.  phones are not evil, but overuse is.  minimize video games.  have a purpose while online.  don’t get sucked into rabbit holes and youtube traps.

be mindful with aspirations.  write down goals.  make a plan. get mentoring and tutoring.  ask for help.  give help.

be mindful with school. plan ahead. don’t procrastinate. turn free time into work time when needed. don’t take the easy way out. join clubs. try something new.

be mindful with possessions.  take care of your clothes.  be gentle with your electronics.  don’t thrown things. don’t lose things.

be mindful in your routine.  pack your bag the night before. put your papers away. lay out your clothes. give your self time.  don’t expect everything to go perfectly to make your bus on time.

the list will continue to grow in time.  but in all cases, simply slowing down and applying some level of mindfulness and thought to their lives will help my children become better people.