MonthApril 2014

Recently Listened: April 2014 Audiobooks

I love reading, but lately I’ve not been able to sit down and put eyes to words. So instead I’ve listened to a few audiobooks this month and have really enjoyed them.

Ready Player One By Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is a wonderful book. It was recommended to me by a few friends who said I would love it. They were right. I listened to Wil Wheaton read it.

It’s an 80’s Geek Love Fest. The story is filled with 80s computer games, music, video games, movies and everything else 80s you can think of. A great story of misfits hunting across a virtual universe for a secret treasure it did not disappoint.

Predictable in places and unexpected in others. I listened to every word with eager anticipation of what was going to come next. The worst part of Ready Player One is that it ends.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath was an interesting look at re-examining common situations and looking at them a different way. Read by the author, Gladwell talked often of how stories we’ve come to know by heart can actually be seen very differently.

And how the David in stories can triumph over Goliaths by changing the game and playing to their strengths. I didn’t learn and great truths or insights, but it was interesting to look at things differently.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

Happiness. It’s something we all seek to find and maintain. Rubin took on a challenge each month to try to become happier. In the course of being happier, she also tried to make the people around her happier.

In examining her behaviors, she tries to act better. To quit nagging. To be more positive. To be a good example for her children.

She shares her Secrets of Adulthood. Many of which I found myself nodding my head to. Those were things I could do better at. Or at least things to strive for.

Reading her own book, she never preaches her way is The One True Way™. But instead shares her experiences and experiments and reports what worked for her and what she found after trying out different things each month.

Searching for Dave Chappelle by Jason Zinoman

Dave Chappelle is an interesting figure. At the height of his success, he vanishes out of the public eye for reasons unknown. The kindle short doesn’t have any definitive answers. It does paint a fuller picture of Dave Chappelle, the man and the comic.

It was a short, enjoyable story. I really enjoyed his television show and stand-up comedy. And while I didn’t learn anything new about the why he left the show. I did learn more about him as a person. And that was worth the listen.

Got a suggestion of what I should read or listen to next? Curious what else I’ve enjoyed? Check out my Books page.

Team

Your most important customer is your own team.

Treat your colleagues as though they know everything you do. Wait for them to ask questions if they have them, and if they do, don’t punish them by reverting to a position of condescension. Don’t be the reason someone dreads coming to work, or the reason someone leaves. — The Pastry Box Project: Jan 16

I’ve always gone in to new jobs with this attitude. We were all hired to do a job. That means we all best out others for the job. We are, to some degree, qualified to hold the position and do the work.

I never talk down to my co-workers. They are my team. We are a team. And I gain nothing by being condescending to them. If someone doesn’t understand something and asks, I’ll happily explain what I mean. I love to share what I’ve learned in the course of my work. It makes the team better when I share my knowledge.

We all have strengths and interests. I have been the Mac Guy. But I need the Excel Guy and the Photoshop Woman to be successful. We all have our strengths. And when our knowledge falls short we use the teams’ knowledge.

Working in a team is like the Borg Collective. Resistance is Futile because between us, we can solve any problem.

It appalls me to see people working in support positions put down their teammates.

You see these people everyday. They know you. They can be your biggest strength or your greatest weakness. It’s your decision. But know you’re throwing away a huge asset if you choose to abandon your team.

My Simple Password System

Much has been written about passwords. How to manage them? Is it worth buying an app? How do you keep them all straight?

When people fret about passwords, their anxiety starts when it comes time to change the password. What will I change it to? How will I ever remember when I have so many?

Let me give you a hint about changing passwords I bet no one has ever told you.

You only need to change one character.

Did you know what? If your password is Password1! you can change it to Password2! And it will still work. That’s all. Just change 1 to 2 and move on with your life.

Let me share with you my method for creating passwords for work. At work, since I can’t rely on an app to input my login password to my computer, I need a password I can remember.

I used to work in a place that required two passwords. One for my everyday user account and another password for my administrator account.

The user account had the normal must be at least 8 characters with capital letters, lowercase letters numbers and a special character.

My administrator account *must be at least 16 characters with the same requirements.

Now how was I ever going to keep my passwords in mind when I had to change the first every 90 days and the latter every 60 days?

My Password System

Let me give you my password system that works perfectly for the working world.

  1. Choose a food. Pick one with a few characters in it. I like pizza.
  2. Choose a special character. I always like to start with a ! It gives some pop! to! my! password!
  3. Choose a number. Start with 1. It will make you life easier.
  4. When it comes time to change your password, add 1 to the number.

Now, create your first password by putting them all together.

Enter your food with a leading capital letter.
Pizzas
Now, add your number, starting with 1.
Pizzas1
Finally, add your special character.
Pizzas1!
When it comes time to change your password, just add 1.
Pizzas2!

If that sounds funny, make it 1Pizza!!

Pizza was too short so I added an S to get my 8 characters. You could always use more numbers or special characters.

1Pizza1!
2Pizzas!!
3Pizza?!

Now you have passwords for as many years as you need. Keep adding 1 to your current password and if you don’t remember it, just try the last 3 numbers you remember using. It will be one of them.

And if you need to reset your password because you’ve forgotten what number you were on, add a couple of numbers so it. Instead of 23Pizzas! make it 27Pizzas!

Get tired of pizza? Use another food. Foods are easy because they’re easy to spell and hard to guess. Common passwords are names of children, spouses, parents or pets. Foods are much harder to guess.

And by changing a single number every time, you can reuse the same password forever without running out of options.

No more stressing when it comes time to change passwords. No more frustrating bouts of trial-and-error.

Play the market, don’t let it play you

Growing up I learned a lot of things. One of them was about how I needed to go out and get a job. I needed to stay at that job for years and I would be taken care of. The company I worked for would invest in me as I invested in them. There would be a mutually beneficial relationship. We would both thrive.

That is a fairy tale. That is a story for another time. Another generation. That is not the reality of today. I learned too late in life the only person looking out for me is me. So I needed to do a better job of looking out for me.

I’m my own best advocate and ally.

I made one huge mistake when I entered the job market. I believed what I’d been told all through growing up. I believed loyalty was rewarded.

I went to college and learned in my four years there I did not want to work in Advertising. And I worried. What would people think of my Mass Communications degree?

Absolutely Nothing! And I don’t meant they didn’t like it. It didn’t matter. All my employers were interested in was if I had a degree. Not what the degree said on it.

I had a Bachelor’s degree. That’s all they cared about. Something I quickly learned was that having the degree won’t get me a job but it will keep me from being disqualified.

A college degree won’t land you a job. It will keep you from not being considered for the job.


A little story from the first time I’ve interviewed someone to hire. I was the lead Desktop Support Tech and we were looking for a new technician. The job was posted and we were flooded with resumes. We had well over 1,000 applications for this single job.

How do you think we filtered the list? We started eliminating anyone who didn’t fit the criteria. And one of the criteria was having a college degree.


From my first job working in IT Support I stuck to a simple plan when selecting jobs.

I’m a hired gun. I’m a technical mercenary. I work for the highest bidder.

Want a raise? Get a new job. I started making $12 per hour. Then $17, $19, and eventually $21/hour for the same job title doing the same work. But I’d worked for a different place each time.

While I worked as a contractor, I had no paid time off. That meant if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. Period. I would work through being sick. I didn’t take vacations. I worked. It’s what I did. That was my reality. So I wanted more money to justify the lack of time off. This is not sustainable and it was always my goal to get through it to something better.

And health benefits… Yeah. I had them. Technically. But they were often terrible. Expensive benefits that covered little if anything. It was barely worth the money I paid. And since I didn’t take time off. I didn’t go to the dentist or the doctor unless I absolutely had to.

Then I moved out of the area and landed my first job with benefits. I had time off. I had decent healthcare for the first time since leaving school and I was salaried. That changed everything.

That meant I got paid the same thing every pay check. No overtime but also very little demand for it. But my pay checks were consistent which made budgeting easier. Not that I had any money in savings. But I could pay my bills.

And I had a little on the side so I could enjoy myself and go out to eat some times. I could go see a movie. I could even take time off and enjoy life and visit friends or family out of the area without having to race out-of-town Friday night and return by Sunday. I had freedom.

Sales

Here’s the thing about sales.

You’re not actually saving any money.

Advertisers are good at what they do. Which is devising new ways to divide you from your money. I should know, I studied advertising in college long enough to realize I didn’t want to work in the field.

NO MONEY DOWN! $2000 CASH BACK!

I like to pick on car commercials because they’re the most absurd. “You can save $10,000 on this car today!” they scream. “Drive it home today!” You know how car ads are always screaming at you? Would you listen to someone who walked up to you and started screaming at you to buy a car in person?

Then why do they do it in the commercials? Urgency. They’re creating the excitement and urgency in your mind. You have to buy this car right now!

Don’t wait. That car won’t be sitting there tomorrow!

They always tell you how much money you’ll get back. Or how good a financing offer they’ll give you. Every time I see a car commercial promising such amazing terms all I can think is or don’t buy the car and save thousands of dollars.

Seriously. That brand new car that’s $30,000 is still $30,000 you have to spend. Maybe a little less. Maybe it only works out to $24,000 after the incentives. But that’s still $24,000 you are giving away.

SALE! TODAY ONLY!

Have you walked through a shopping mall lately? Are most of the stores there having a sale? Yes? Can you think of the last time they were not having a sale? No?

When a store is perpetually having sales, when does it stop being a sale and start being their regular price? And is the sale price a better deal than it was before? Not always.

Stores will often increase the original price on the label so the sale price looks more attractive. When in reality, the original price was much closer to the sale price. But no one, myself included, looks that hard at prices of most things.

Sale Prices

I look at a sale price and think, well, if you can afford to sell it to me for this price, then why would I pay a higher price? Why would I pay full price at your store? Wait for a sale. So I often do.

I’m a large man, standing well over six feel tall and over 300 pounds. When I need clothes, I don’t turn to sales and department sales. They don’t feel anyone with arms as long as mine deserve to shop there anyway.

I turn to Big & Tall stores. Which are notoriously expensive because they can be. My choices are limited so I always shop at the same place for all of my business casual attire for work.

But I always wait for a sale. Always.

I know eventually there will be 30% or 60% off sales. I know sooner or later I can save a pile of money. So I wait.

Save 100%!

Don’t buy what you don’t need. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you’re required to buy it. Yes, that app just went on sale. Sure, that new game just saw a price drop. Do you need it? Will you use it? Will you play it?

Before spending your hard-earned money on something decide if it’s worth it. There are piles of games out there I’d love to play. And they often go on sale, or I see a cheap used version and I’m tempted. The same with apps. I love a good app sale as much as anyone. But I don’t need them all. I don’t use much of what I download and pay for.

I’m getting better at this but I still struggle. But I’m getting better at saying no to sales and spending money I don’t need to.