Fourth And Counting

One cold day in April four years ago, this blog was born. I could still remember the confusion I had when I got in at the BlueHost (my web hosting provider) control panel and getting all overwhelmed by all the information available to me. I didn’t know where to start and the next step after start.

So I moved around the ‘control panel’ and familiarized myself with the dozens of icons available. After a few hours, I was finally able to post my first entry (here).  I was ecstatic after it happened. After that initial euphoria, I realized I’d better come up with something every week or so to maintain this blogpost. The primary objective is to give wisdom to my grandson James, but closely following it is to present my life learnings to other people hoping they could profit from it.

Four years is a long time. Here’s possible accomplishments in four years:  A bachelor’s degree in college, A paid up car after four years of payment, A round the world trip on a bicycle (a few did it in less time), four enlisted promotions in rank in the navy, an honorable discharge in the military after active duty, a happy healthy four year old child smiling at you.

So what happened here in the past four years? I wrote 195 posts and this is my 196th post! Please hold the applause – I need to deflate my ego first.  My goal was to write 200 posts and then slow down.  Well it looks like I’ve slowed down the last few months, so I’m trying again to go back to writing more.

At one point I thought I had almost 1,000 visitors a month but then when I put a filter, I noticed that most of them are hacking attempts from mostly two countries – which will remain unnamed but they’re both associated with the Red color.

Did you notice that I always mention bicycles in my posts? I really like bicycles, steel or titanium ones in particular. I’m not a fan of the new carbon fiber bicycles with wide tubes that yell their brand at your unsuspecting eyes.  They’re supposedly lighter but let me tell you a secret. If you have light but strong wheels your bicycle will go faster with the same energy output.

My favorite workout and hobby is riding a road bicycle. I love being out in the sun with a cool  cool breeze on my face. I like both uphill and downhill riding – and if you ask me which one I prefer, it depends on my riding mood that day. Uphills are challenging but downhills are exhilarating.

So what’s my plan? I want to write 300+ posts and maybe, a very strong maybe – I will turn this into an ebook and sell it for an affordable price at Amazon.  Maybe not if I don’t have enough readers in a year or two.

Speaking of readers, Thank you dear READERS for taking the time to read it. I hope you got something out of it – even a little bit of entertainment. I try to keep my posts short (approximately 550 words) so it doesn’t get too wordy and induce sleep. Speaking of sleep – naps are great as energy boosters. I got one for over and hour earlier.

Thank you very much for the past FOUR years!

POST NO 196

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The Three Year Research

In the previous post, I discussed about me being a not-so-ideal shopper because I suffer from buyer’s remorse from buying a pair of shoes, a nice shirt, a pair of pants or some other thing that are easily returnable. Half the time I go back to the store to return it after having a strong feeling of having wasted my money.

It’s easy if it’s a returnable item. But what about cars? Vehicles are not returnable and the same thing with houses. It’s also true with other major purchases.  I had to really do my due diligence before I fully commit to buying something that requires a huge expenditure and depletion of savings.

So how do we do it? Well, I’ll tell you three stories:  one story with me on a supporting role. The other two are true stories which I heard no more than two months ago.  Here it goes:

Let’s start with me… and my daughter in a starring role. In college she was renting my good ol’ Civic for her personal transportation for $50 a month. I could have given it to her but I gotta teach her the value of money, right?

We started researching for her own car while she was still a college freshman. It took us about three years of on and off research, and she finally decided on a certain brand and model. It was a european sedan which was fun to drive.  Since we did our research, we negotiated well and got it at a huge discount. She kept it for about seven years before selling it. That was a fun purchase!

A real estate agent told me a story about her brother. She said that her brother really loved a certain model of a full size truck and looked at it at the dealership every few weeks for three years straight.  The salespeople concluded that all he’s doing is look and will never buy. One day he found just the perfect truck for him with the features that he wanted – and the dealership was shocked that he actually bought. Last she heard was he was enjoying driving it!

The same real estate agent told me a story about this guy (I actually saw the guy in the sales office) who consistently visited the sales office every few months for three years always looking at the model homes. He waited until the third year (even with the price increases yearly) before he finally put in a down payment. I think at this time he was about to move in.

The amount of due diligence time spent on major purchases is always directly proportional to the satisfaction after the purchase.  At least it’s what I tell myself why I can’t commit to buying something. Of course, sometimes we are limited because contracts or the process itself forces us to decide within days or weeks. In this instance, we need to do really intensive research.

So if you are like moi! or the above people – don’t lose heart. I know many people can look at things and make a quick decision but some of us has to think things through. And for that I believe we have lesser regrets in our major purchase.

But then, it’s the smaller purchases that I always have a problem with.

 

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Happy Returns

I have a confession to make. I am one of those people that suffer from buyer’s remorse on half of my purchases. I like to buy stuff only to find out:   a) I do not really need it   b) I feel I paid too much    c)  it doesn’t fit properly when I got it home   d)  another store just offered a discount  e) there’s something in it that bothers me.

I buy a few items a year that I return the following day. Sometimes I return gifts that I feel I do not have any use for. My family slowly got used to it. I try to dissuade them from giving me any gifts unless I request it. I seldom make a request and when they insist they want to give me something – I tell them to buy me a plain black t-shirt. I kinda love black t-shirts especially during winter because they make good undershirt.

Over the years, I’ve become more afraid to buy things because I know I might end up going back to the store a few days later to return it. Even if I did my research – I still end up returning things. Here’s a good example…

For years I wanted to buy a bicycle hitch rack that would fit the back of my SUV so i can carry my bike outside the vehicle instead of detaching the front wheel so it would fit inside. After many years of research, a narrowed it down to two brands. One day my favorite sporting goods store offered a 20% discount. I quickly ordered it and it arrived a week later.

I perused the instructions. First attach the receiver to the hitch, attach the rack to the receiver next, then unfold the cradle that hold the bicycle.  I noticed that it may take me about 15 minutes from start to the time I secure the bike on the rack. Normally, it takes me less than five minutes to load my bike in my SUV (I prefer hatchback style back doors on vehicles just for that reason). That’s when I concluded that I don’t really need it.

I then further justified it by reasoning that a bicycle is safer inside a bicycle anyway. There’s no chance of it falling from the rack and creating a traffic hazard to other drivers. So there’s my final straw – It will be returned tomorrow.

Good thing I bought it from one of my favorite stores. I won’t tell you the name but its initials are R E and I.

My favorite stores? I have only a few and they’re the ones with exceptional customer service and accept returns without fuss. If I returned something at another store and they ask for my driver’s license, I make sure that I don’t ever go back to that store. To me that’s a sign of mistrust – and if they can’t trust me as a customer, then I can’t trust them as a seller.

I think it’s only in the U.S. where return of merchandise is a common practice. When I go overseas and buy something – I had to make sure I think about the purchase several times before committing because I know there’s no turning back.

Happy shopping, fellow shoppers!

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Meals Extraordinaire

I’m sure that all of my dear readers have watched at least one cooking show on TV.  Cooking channels have grown by leaps and bounds – resulting in major increase in people pursuing culinary studies. What do you think about cooking shows?

I noticed something about them. I observed that most of the food they prepare would not win any prize on being the healthiest, if they’re healthy at all. Do you want proof?  Here’s a few:    a)  weird meat presented just for shock value   b) very heavy on bad fat fatty sauces  c) Slowly turning into ‘reality shows’ and cooking is now only a by-product  d) add your own…

Should we ignore them? Not at all – I recommend watching them anyway because we could all learn a tip or two about food preparation, or even how to open our own mini restaurant. But let’s not forget for a minute that most of their food will not enhance our well-being.

So how do we eat healthy? This is where I post a sample of my meals on a typical day. But first, my world famous caveat:

I am not a licensed health practitioner so please don’t follow my super duper diet plan without consulting a doctor or a licensed health practitioner.

Caveat #2:  The meals I present will be too boring that you might doze off.

Breakfast:   Avocado, banana and half a teaspoon of honey

Lunch:        Greek Salad, two pieces of roasted chicken, flour tortilla

Snack:        1/2 cup soy milk, a cup of cereal (grains, nuts & figs from a health food store)

Dinner:        What dinner?   I skip dinner most nights but I eat a piece of bread with ginger tea

Although the above listing of meals look boring, I know of a few world class triathletes and masters class weightlifter who ate more boring stuff than the above.  Don’t pity me – I only eat that kind of diet during workdays. On weekends, I eat foods that can be aptly described as ‘Yum’.

How do I summarize my diet?

a) minimal dairy

b) minimal carbo

c) more on veggies and fruits

d) some protein and good fat

e) glass after glass of water all day long

What does it do for me?

a) I feel good all day

b) I’m able to work and think for 10 hours straight without getting sleepy

c)  My fitness does not deteriorate (if combined with light exercise)

d) I sleep well

e) I seldom suffer from digestive issues

I learned the diet from reading books, internet articles and from two licensed health practitioners who used to tailor my diet and recommend supplements for me and my wife. From listening to their input, I was able to make my own healthy food combinations.

Buon appetito!

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Boldly Work: The Early Years

I heard that one of my readers gave me a good review (Thank you, B!) for the previous post with the same title so I decided to write a prequel. Now don’t laugh because prequels made millions of dollars for movies and books so here I am writing one even though I know there won’t be any financial rewards. At least not yet!

Have you heard the saying “If you want your kids not to get in trouble, keep them busy”? Apparently my parents read a book about it because during the summer break after my high school freshman year, my parents sent me – 12 years old me – to work. I worked in a bakery/restaurant as a counter guy – the guy that takes the customers orders, handpick the type of bread wanted and takes the cash and give it to cashier.

I was surprised how tiring my new job was.  I was used to hard work because my Dad always put me to work in odd jobs – feeding pigs and chickens, pulling weeds, putting fertilizer to a few dozen citrus trees, carrying heavy cinder blocks to his new project.  But I wasn’t ready for my first real job.

First, I had to show up while it was still dark – around 5am – which isn’t bad because some of my co workers arrived around 4am.  At about 5am the buying rush starts, and it goes on until about 7am.  The rest of the day was busy but the number of customer was manageable between the six to twelve counter persons. I get to go home around 4pm. I got paid approx. $1 a day.

I didn’t mind the busyness because of one thing:  I was around bread and all employees are allowed to eat as much as they can. Since I was a growing man child back then – you could imagine how much bread I eat in a day. I have the family record of eating one loaf of bread for weeks on end just for breakfast so that gives you an idea how much I could eat.

The biggest lesson I learned on my first job is how to cooperate and work together with different types of personalities. I was put in a position to work with regular people much older than me and I think that helped me much in future endeavors. It also gave me practice in customer service because my first 12 years in the Navy was front line customer service.

The bakery served other meals and one of my favorites is stir fried noodles. They had several cooks and bakers but one day I happened to watch the duty cook prepare stir fried meat, veggies and noodles. That was forever etched on my brain because it turned out sumptuous.  Decades later I tried to recreate what the cook prepared. And boy, did I get some rave reviews from wife and kids!

My first job made me realize how hard it is to earn money. Also, that the best jobs are found mostly by connections or networking. The owner of the bakery was a far relative of my mother. A former boss of my mother gave me a job when I went to the city. But it was my father that gave me the proper procedure of applying for the U.S. Navy. But that in itself is probably worth writing a book.

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Boldly Work

Sometimes I look back and figured that most of the things I did or accomplished have a common denominator:  Boldness. Of course, it was by the grace of God but if I decided to just sit around and do nothing, I would have been stagnant for years.

When I was younger I liked taking risks – like going to a quite unfamiliar metropolitan city without a job and only a small space in a shared room for shelter. I arrived awestruck by the life in the city but has no job. Then I was offered one which is somewhere below entry level – I was a combination janitor, messenger and coffee mess assistant. I took it because it was a start.

Joining the Navy was another bold decision but it was also a dream for me. I know some people look down at military people but for me it was something prestigious and challenging. People around me said that all the navy Sailor does is take out the rust from the ship. I worked over 20 years and I never really had to do that job but even if I had to do it for ten years as a junior petty officer, I would have still taken that job.

To be honest, I am not really a risk taker. I mean you won’t see me diving in underground caves or hiking through the Amazon River edge, although I have admiration for the unique people that do that. I take risks for something that would feed me, give me shelter, give me extra cash to afford a bicycle or a new hatchback, etc.

I was a pizza delivery man for about a year just because I heard they were hiring. It’s not a job that people dream about but it gave me job satisfaction working my shift because a) they allowed me to pick the hours and day that I will work  b) I got quite a few tips  3) I delivered to some interesting people (like a pro football player that didn’t even tip) and 4) I liked the challenge of mapping my route and running from one door to another to deliver the piping hot pizza.

I also did a janitorial job for a little bit but it took a few hours of working after my regular job that my wife asked me to stop because I was working too many hours even on the weekend. I was young then so I didn’t even feel the tiredness, but I quit so i could spend the weekend with my family.

I’m not the hardest working person in any of my jobs but I always put in the effort to be excellent partly because people needed my services and partly because I didn’t want to get in trouble. Only later in life I realized that I’m really working for God regardless of what task I was assigned to do. I guess it made me work a little bit harder, smarter without necessarily stressing myself too much.

I don’t think I’ll ever retire. I’ll keep on working. Boldly as I do!

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Hoarding Light

Remember incandescent light bulbs? They were replaced by CFL light bulbs which are basically fluorescent ones, and now they are both made almost obsolete by LED light bulbs. When the price of LED goes down some more, those other lights should cease to exist.

Why the sudden discussion on light bulbs. Is it because the universal sign of a good idea is a light bulb? Did you see those cartoon characters that thought of a bright idea and a light bulb shows up just above their head?  No, it’s not that. It’s because i bought more than two dozen of incandescent light bulbs because I thought that one day I would never be able to find them.  Maybe I could find a few rare pieces at 1,000 times markup.

What’s the big deal about light bulbs? Well, I personally like the warm glow of an incandescent bulb over the “daylight” UV emitting fluorescent light. Even some CFLs are designed to emit a warm amber glow to pretend it’s an incandescent light bulb. I’m also the type of person that hate white walls. I like the walls to have an brownish eggshell type look because it feels warm and cozy but this topic should go to an architectural forum instead of this post.

What’s the disadvantages of incandescent light bulbs? It can get hot, (which is perfect in the winter) but it uses much electricity if you want a well lit room. The good part is that it is very inexpensive and emits the best light ever. Supposedly its life span is shorter than a fluorescent light.

Back to my story. I had a few stashed away in different wattages: 25, 40, 50, 100 and the 50-100-150 watts combo for the lamps with three way adjustment. That was approximately six years ago and I still about a dozen left.

But here’s the rub. The other day I was looking at amazon.com and I found a pack with four for $7.75 ($1.93 each) but then I found LED bulbs that are $20 for six bulbs ($3.38 each). A bit more expensive but they only use 8.5 watts while giving out a 60 watt incandescent bulb brightness and the same warm glow .

So what’s my point?

I would have been better off not buying too much of those incandescent bulbs. The LED bulbs are much better and could save me more in the long run. Supposedly they last 18 years. That’s a very long time but I seriously doubt that they would last that long. Now I’m stuck with bulbs that I may not be able to use anymore and if I need any, there’s still many at amazon.com or some other retailer.

I guess I’ll wait a few more decades when they become rare and auction them off at eBay.

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