Time for a do-over?

Reset the clock!

time for a do-over

“Clocks are made by men, God creates time. No man can prolong his allotted hours, he can only live them to the fullest – in this world or in the Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling

Welcome to the first week of the New Year, 2019. There was no blog post last week for the first time since the inception of http://www.InstantCoffeeWisdom.com back in September of 2017. I felt it was appropriate to schedule a break over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.  Today is Sunday, January 6th.  Some Christians still refer to this day as Epiphany, or the Twelfth-Day, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi. In a few countries around the world, it is almost as big a celebration as Christmas Day itself. Here in the USA, not so much. Epiphany spelled with a lowercase ‘e’ is also a word to describe a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience. There is nothing more commonplace then the annual changing of the calendar, and the start of the new year.   It is a do-over, a time for new beginning and a fresh start as we lay the past to rest.

“The place is here…the time is now…and the journey into the shadows that we’re about to watch could be our journey…” —Rod Serling’s opening narration to The Twilight Zone’s pilot episode, “Where is Everybody?,” October 2, 1959

For the past twenty years in the USA, the cable TV SYFY channel (originally called Sci-Fi) has celebrated New Year’s Eve by broadcasting a Twilight Zone marathon.  This classic television program from October 2, 1959 through June 19, 1964 depicted weekly tales of bizarre, supernatural occurrences and the effects of such on an ever-changing cast of characters. The show has been revived several times and a new version is in the works. The title of the show is so recognizable that it has become a colloquial term to describe any bizarre or ludicrous situation or behavior that rears its ugly head to cause chaos or havoc.

Sometimes things really do happen which are beyond our control. But only sometimes. Often we bring these unfortunate things upon our on heads due to poor planning, stupidity, and/or laziness. No one ever promised that life would be easy, or fair, but it is worth it, and there are countless opportunities to reset the clock, and begin anew. The key is both to learn from our mistakes and to not quit. Quitters never win, and winners never quit.     

Perception is the lens which defines our reality.

Are things really as bad as we ‘think’ they are? Or do we make our situations far worse by convincing ourselves as we bemoan our circumstances? One surefire way to determine progress is to diligently keep track of the pertinent data, and recording your findings  on a regular schedule, then track the records by journals or charts. As negative trends emerge, you will become aware of them early on and be able to correct the course before you sail into dangerous waters. As this is still just the first week of the new year, there is still time to run out and buy a calendar/planner book for you to chart your progress throughout the new year. I do this religiously every year, and have been doing so for most of my adult life. Keeping records and tracking progress has been instrumental in keeping a positive outlook, and propelled me further on the path of success, keeping miles ahead of The Marching Morons.

There are many people in media who keep informing us about how terrible the US financial markets were in 2018, and how 2018 was the worst year for the market in eleven years, and that is was the worst December since The Great Depression of 1931. Yes, I too reported a SLIGHT loss in my net-worth for 2018. (4.7%) If I offset my loss by my gains of the last decade, it is nearly non-existent, a mere pittance. So tell me Great Kreskin, what does 2018 predict for 2019?  Only a fool would bet against the mighty economy of this country.

How do you eat an elephant?

The elephant is the largest animal on land. There’s an old saying. ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ The answer is ‘One bite at a time’ . Sometime we have grand ambitions and lofty goals. The key to accomplishing these lay in proper planning and by breaking down the larger parts of the goal into smaller, more manageable sub-goals. The original task in its entirety may seem overwhelming, but by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable jobs, you can slowly accomplish the big picture, while bolstered by noticeable progress as you tick-off boxes on your to-do list. Again, as this is THE FIRST WEEK OF 2019, There is still time to plan out your goals and sub-goals by week, month, and quarter. You have an entire new year to improve various aspects of your life. Some goals can be worked on simultaneously, as they may complement one another if done in tandem. One example of tandem goals is the two-fold goal of eating healthier, and exercising. Both work best when done together. When you complete your goals, mark then down. Successful people work from lists and write things down! Don’t be afraid to start small, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The most important part is to START. Just keep your goals clear and measurable, and write them down. Set reminders on your phone or calendar planner book. Enlist the help of friends as ‘accountability buddies’ if you need to. Begin at the beginning, and repeat to completion! You got this in the bag!

Which way to the front?

We were all newbies once, so we’ve all experienced the uncertainty of where to begin. Here’s a few self-improvement suggestions for helping to jog your journey to a ‘new and improved’ you.

  • Drink a liter of water every day, and eliminate soda. (water good, soda bad!)
  • Exercise.
  • Cut out meat for one meal a week. (Better yet, become a vegetarian like me)
  • Eat a cup of veggies at lunch and dinner.
  • Go to bed before 10 P.M. (Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.)
  • Start a budget
  • STOP USING YOUR CREDIT CARDS! (Go cash only, if possible.)
  • Save 20% of every paycheck.
  • Take ‘The 52-week Challenge’!
  • Get 30 minutes of ‘ME-TIME’ every day.
  • KILL YOUR TELEVISION
  • Limit internet/social media usage.
  • Discover a podcast
  • Read one chapter of a book 3 times a week.
  • Read the Bible. (God is good, always!)

Start today, and before you know it, you’ll have developed good habits that will eventually add up to a fresh new you! As always I wish you success and happiness!  

Fruitcake! Oh, you shouldn’t have!

Making the case for giftcards.

Fruitcake

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year according to numerous cards, songs, and movies. For some people the holidays are filled with stress as they obsess over various topics some of which are related to the practice of gift giving. ‘Tis the season to go broke for many people who go way over-budget on holiday spending. Unfortunately, many times we  end up giving some people on our lists ‘the perfect gift’ which ends up being something they wouldn’t have purchased for themselves ever, even if it was on sale 95% off, and they had just received a huge Christmas bonus in their paycheck.  Everyone has different tastes, and some people are just impossible to buy presents for.

To top it all off, It’s probably also impossible to get gifts for our entire family, as well as every friend you know.  So we agonize over who gets a gift and who doesn’t.

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid!”

In the 1983 film ‘A Christmas Story’, a young boy named Ralphie obsesses over the only gift he wants for Christmas, a Red Rider BB gun. Everyone he tells this to, including the mall Santa, admonishes him that he’ll shoot his eye out.  It’s a silly movie, and a little fun. I’ve watched it and at least one cable channel TNT shows the movie on a continuous loop each Christmas, but it’s no ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. Now life seen through the eyes of a child are very different from the view of an adult. When we were kids, our parents were probably the only ones who knew what we wanted for Christmas, and as children our lives were over if ‘Santa’ failed to deliverer the coveted item. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a spoiled brat as a child and cried when I got sensible presents like socks and a warm coat. Now as a grown up, I want what ‘I want’, and sometimes I get an undesirable gift. It’s disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world.

The gift that keeps getting given.

One ‘option’ that we as adults have adopted to deal with the unwelcome gift is the practice of ‘re-gifting’. Re-gifting in and of itself is not a  bad thing, but it can backfire. Whenever you re-gift, make sure it’s not in the same circle of friends, and NEVER EVER EVER re-gift  within your family. You don’t want to give the fruitcake ‘Aunt Francis’ gave you, to ‘Uncle Billy’.  Also make absolutely certain that there is no tag or personal note anywhere in the gift that identifies it as a ‘re-gift’. Think of these ‘twice-given’ gifts as recycling, and as a way of being thrifty. Just because you don’t want it doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t appreciate it.  If it’s something that you absolutely ‘hate’ keep in mind that re-gifting a despised item may elicit the same reaction in the receiver as it did you. If they in turn re-gift the gift, it might end up coming back to haunt you, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, or that infamous  fruitcake that seems to be the same fruitcake that has been around, and around, and around.  

Paper or plastic?

Cash is king, but some people still think of cash as an impersonal gift. Sticking bills in a envelope is probably the easiest gift you can wrap. The other option is the gift card. Like cash, a gift card enables you to give a gift that the recipient ACTUALLY wants, as opposed to what you think would be perfect for them. Gift cards have come a long way from the days of the paper gift certificate.  Some of today’s gift cards (BUT NOT ALL) can even be purchased by credit card. Some gift cards are VISA/Mastercard ‘money cards’ and are good at any merchant. Store cards are good only at that store. You can’t use a Burger King gift card at McDonald’s.  As a result gift cards are now the most popular Christmas gifts among adults, and are also the most easily ‘re-giftable’ gift, second only to cash.  

Children don’t understand the economics of Christmas. For them, it’s all about the toys. For adults, it not about what’s under the tree, it’s who is around it that really matters. Money is a renewable resource, but people are  finite and when we’re gone, we are gone.   So as we head into the final days of the Christmas season, keep it simple and remember that it’s the thought that counts. As always, I wish you success and happiness! 

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

A handout or a hand up?

brother can you spare a dime

A popular song  from 1930 was ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’ sung by Bing Crosby.  During the Great Depression, many Americans were down on their luck and struggling to make ends meet. (The ‘Fellow American down  on his luck’ was later personified by Humphrey Bogart in the film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948, later spoofed in the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon short  8-Ball Bunny.)  A dime doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but when you get enough of them they do add up. It was probably  a combination of this song on the radio, and the movie newsreel serial THE MARCH OF TIME that inspired Eddie Cantor to coin the phrase ‘The March Of Dimes’ to help raise donations for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, for his National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to combat polio. The catch phrase eventually replaced the clunky name of the foundation, which has been know as The March Of Dimes ever since.  The poorly run charity still exists today despite the near extinction of polio, having changed its mission to fighting birth defects.   More than 80% of funds collected go towards overhead,  and the CEO of the charity  is paid over $500,000 annually. What started out as a good intention morphed into a bureaucratic nightmare that doesn’t seem to help anyone except the staff.

The American Dream vs. the Welfare State.

Americans are guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere in the US Constitution is it listed as being the job of the government to provide any form of  social welfare assistance, cradle to grave healthcare, cheap housing, free phones, or free food.  

Following the stock market crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression, certain well-intentioned government officials began creating the modern welfare state that exists in our country today. The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. The WPA, Works Progress Administration, put unemployed and unskilled Americans to work in return for temporary financial assistance from 1939 to 1943. For four years during the Depression, the first Food Stamp Program fed 20 million people at one time or another in nearly half of the total counties in the nation.  Food stamps were eliminated in 1943, but in 1961 they were revived when President Kennedy signed his first executive order bringing back the program. Food stamps would also eventually be re-branded as SNAP, a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, with benefits being distributed electronically on a EBT card to reduce ‘social stigma’.     

Government entitlement programs account for more than half of the national budget.  Whenever we reduce taxes, we also have to make  corresponding cuts to the budget, and associated entitlement programs.  The problem is there is a large portion of the population that has become entirely dependent upon the existence of those same entitlement programs which must be eliminated.  Ever since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered Americans his New Deal, the cornerstone of the Democrat political party platform has been to eliminate poverty through widespread, government social welfare programs. As a result of the created dependency generated from these same welfare programs, poverty has actually increased while the Federal budget deficit has skyrocketed. We have also created generational welfare dependency with children living in the same housing projects on public assistance as their parents and grandparents.  It is impossible to eliminate poverty, and believing that poverty can be eliminated amounts to calling Jesus Christ a liar.

“The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”– Jesus Christ,  The Bible written in John 12:8,  Mark 14:7, and also Matthew 26:11

Charity begins at home.

​“With great power there must also come — great responsibility!” —Stan Lee

Besides being God, Jesus Christ was a rabbi, or teacher. By speaking that the poor will always be among us, He brings to mind other scripture verse.      

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be…For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deut 15:7-11)

Before the government social welfare reforms of the twentieth century were instituted, taking care of the poor was largely a function of the Christian Church. Churches had ‘poor boxes’ with the donations collected destined directly for the poor.  Even today, churches provide free meals, food pantries, and other donations for the poor. As Christians living in the most prosperous country in history of the world, it is OUR responsibility to pass on our blessings as we have been blessed. With all the opportunity and freedom abundant in the United States, there really is no reason to be poor unless we choose to be. According to motivational expert Brian Tracy, “The sad fact is that people are poor because they have not yet decided to be rich. People are overweight and unfit because they have not yet decided to be thin and fit. People are inefficient time wasters because they haven’t yet decided to be highly productive in everything they do.”

I grew up poor, both my father and step-father died when I was a young boy. My mother never worked to better herself and always relied upon social welfare programs.  As a result, I grew up in a roach-infested apartment in NYC, eating Government cheese, getting food with food stamps, and eating free meals at school. My mother died in the same poverty she chose to embrace, but I made a vow long ago to never be poor when I was an adult.  Success is always present, but never given, you have to work for it if you really want it. Doing so places you in a position to help the less fortunate, offering a hand up instead of a handout.  There are many worthy charities for every sketchy one that claims to help the poor, and if you do your research, by separating the wheat from the chaff your donations will do the most good.  A good rule of thumb is to focus locally and give what you are able to give freely and gladly. You should take care of your family, friends, and other people who live close to you before helping people who are living further away or in another country.  If every Christian in the USA did their fair share, there would be no need for government welfare programs. As always, I wish you success and happiness.

LIVE BOLDLY!

Don’t DREAM it, BE it!

live

Almost a year ago, on Sep 10, 2017 at 9:58 AM I launched my blog.

My first article was The 52 Week Challenge, and the purpose of that first post was to serve as both an introduction, and as a source of encouragement. Every Labor Day Weekend I enjoy a fun-filled vacation at the shore in Ocean City MD. It’s my ‘happy place’. If you followed the advice of that first post, by saving away just $25 every week, then you too should have been able to afford a fantastic getaway vacation to a destination of your choice. This year I spent even more days at the shore going down every weekend in August. I jet skied and even parasailed for the first time. I had a blast being 800 feet in the air, strapped to a parachute, while being towed by a speedboat.  

DSC_0011DSC_0020Screenshot_2018-08-31-20-41-19

I was not always as wealthy as I am today, but I did not get to where I am by accident. I helped myself by reading self-help books and studying the habits of highly successful people. The knowledge I gained helped me grow as an individual and I’ve changed for the better as a result.

For years, I tried imparting the wealth building tips and tricks to friends and family, but sadly many of them ignored my well-meaning advice. I want everyone to be happy and successful. Now, through the magic of the world wide web, my blog posts have been read by people in 48 countries around the world. Hopefully each and every person who visited this past year found some useful and encouraging tidbit they could utilize in their own personal journey.

coffeeworld

Climb every mountain 
Ford every stream 
Follow every rainbow 
‘Till you find your dream…

“Climb Ev’ry Mountain” Song from the  1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.

We all have dreams of a better life and a prosperous future. These things don’t happen by accident and rarely are they handed to us. We need to work hard and plan if we want to be successful in our endeavors. Sometimes, this means long shifts at the day job. But if you’re working to have just enough to cover your bills, your dreams will disappear in a cloud of smoke. I’ve known people who toiled away at dead-end jobs, or who took meaningless ‘promotions’ that were paid little more than their underlings, but were filled with nightmare time demands and far more responsibilities.  I’ve had co-workers who died young from fatal heart attacks due to stress. My own father died at 57, never living to see retirement. Life is too short to be miserable.  If you’ve worked at the mall, or waited tables for years because ‘you like it’, or ‘it’s easy work’, then the only thing you’ve accomplished is to help someone else fulfill their dream.

It amazes me when I hear people advocating for a higher minimum wage because they can’t live on minimum wage. Minimum wage was never intended to be a ‘living wage’. I do understand that sometimes it’s hard to find a better paying job. When I was in college, I worked three different minimum wage jobs each week. I applied for my current job five times, and went to eleven interviews before I was hired, as a temp! The entire time I spent working multiple minimum wage jobs, I was doing little more than working or sleeping, but the point is that all the while I was also seeking the better paying job and actively pursuing it.  I never considered staying at any of my low paying jobs longer than necessary than to establish my credentials and prove that I was deserving of better jobs with higher salaries.  I also never gave up striving to improve myself.

You need to examine your life, as well as your financial situation. It’s the quality of the time you spend living your life vs. the quantity of time needed at work to reach your goals. A minimum wage job will not cut it.  The purpose of a minimum wage job is to provide training to a new employee, establish a work history, show responsibility, and prove dependability.  No employer will retain or promote a new employee who constantly displays irresponsible behavior, or a lack of dependability. If you have a history of quitting jobs, finding employment will also be challenging. No one is going to hire someone who is going to quit shortly after being hired. Your reputation is important.

Your attitude and charisma will open almost as many doors as who and what you know.

For several years now, I’ve been trying to establish a coffee shop. I’ve done a lot of research and leg work on the subject  as I’ve been building my resources. There have been several false starts. I’ve scouted more than a half dozen potential locations, and met with several potential allies. Three years ago, I received a phone call from the owner of a property I was actively and aggressively attempting to lease. I believed that this location in downtown Reading PA was a prime location as it was located near a movie theater, a community college, and a art gallery, as well as a block away from the bus terminal.
After several phone messages to the number on the leasing sign went unanswered, I crafted a courteous and well-worded business letter, which I mailed to the property owner, along with my business card and a very nice stainless steel coffee mug bearing my cafe logo.

Two days later, I received a personal phone call from billionaire department store tycoon Al Boscov. That ten-minute phone call was the most uplifting and empowering message I have ever received.

Mr. Boscov told me that he was impressed by all I had accomplished thus far, and that he was very proud of me. I can’t tell you what it meant to me to hear those words from such a successful businessman. Even thinking about it today brings tears to my eyes. It was like hearing the words of validation and praise I longed to hear from my father, had he lived long enough to see the man I grew up to become.   Words have power, and you can change the course of a person’s entire life when you give them encouragement and guidance at a crucial juncture.  Although I THOUGHT that the location was ideal, Mr. Boscov gave me several reasons why it was not as great a location as I believed it was. If a billionaire philanthropist tells you a location is not good, you listen. He saved me from a potential bad investment which I was too inexperienced to see. Before he ended the call, he told me that if he found a prime location in the city that he thought was suitable for a cafe, I would be the first person he called. I was on cloud nine for months after that phone call.  Sadly, last year Mr. Boscov passed away from cancer on Feb. 10th, 2017 at the age of 87.  Although I never met the man in person, I will never forget his kind grandfatherly voice, or the wonderful words he said.

alb

To dream the impossible dream,

To fight the unbeatable foe,

To bear with unbearable sorrow,

To run where the brave dare not go.

“The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” Song Andy Williams from the musical Man of La Mancha.

Don’t quit!

Life is not a destination, it’s a journey. As you travel down the road of life, you will meet many people who will try to discourage you, or dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. Just as it is important to examine your life, it is equally important to examine their lives. Always consider the source. Never take advice from people who are less successful than yourself. You’ll encounter many a wise guy or know-it-all who is filled with anecdotes, but has little results to show to back up their stories. That’s why I studied the habits of highly successful people and learned from their examples.  Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the easier it is to see through charlatans and phony pundits.

Always keep in mind that the hopes and dreams of these detractors and naysayers died long ago.

Because they were not successful, they don’t want you to be successful. Because they are poor, they don’t want you to be rich.  You’re smarter and better than them, and they are just jealous. Don’t let these emotional vampires suck the hope and dreams out of your life.

You will also encounter many false starts and set-backs as you pursue your dreams, but the important thing is to persevere! Don’t quit! Quitters never win, and winners never quit. Sometimes the end of one opportunity is the beginning of another. As I mentioned previously, I’ve scouted a half dozen possible cafe locations which all fell though, including one that was 99% a sure thing until someone threw a monkey wrench into the deal.  I’ve lost some money in the process, but it’s only money. You’ve got to spend money to make money and the knowledge I gained in the process provided me valuable insight.  My coffee shop dream is on hold at the moment while I regroup and rethink how next to proceed. I have not given up and continue to build up my cash reserves in preparation.   

As for the immediate future, I plan to edit, collate, and adapt the past 52 weeks of blog posts into an e-book. Not many people read blogs, but there are people who will download an e-book into their tablet to read,  especially if it’s inexpensive, so I might be able to reach a broader audience with my message.  If you’ve been reading http://www.InstantCoffeeWisdom.com from the start, then you’ll have read 100% of what the potential e-book will contain. Sales of the e-book will hopefully add a second revenue stream towards eventually opening That  Coffee Place.  I’m not sure what other financial topics to cover in the coming weeks, I’ve covered everything I’m familiar with, and I’m running out of ideas.  I’d love to hear any suggestions on money topics you’d like my opinion on.

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

― John Wesley

We will not be young forever, nor will we live forever. Enjoy your youth and take advantage of as many exciting and fun opportunities as life presents. Collect memories, not things. Go places, try new things, meet new people and leave your mark on life. Be the best person you can be, and treat everyone with fairness and kindness, even the ones who don’t deserve it. You could be the bright light that leads that person from their dark place.     Make the world a better place when you leave it than it was when  you entered it. Experience in person all the great things that life has to offer, don’t live vicariously through others, or waste your life addicted to your electronics. Take pictures and record your adventures!  There’s so much more to see of life when you don’t waste your time staring down at your smart phone   constantly texting, tweeting, or playing game apps.

As always I wish you success and happiness!

DSCF1002

Say Cheese!

Don’t Lose Those ‘Kodak’ Moments!

saycheese

Louis Daguerre produced the first daguerreotype (an early photo process) when he shot an image of the Boulevard du Temple, Paris in 1838. Film cameras didn’t develop until 1888 when Kodak invented his film process. In 1900, the $1.00  Kodak Brownie camera was introduced, and modern photography was born.  For most of the twentieth century, photography was pretty much the same. Cameras may have varied from company to company, some boasting better optics, wider shutter length settings, or built in eclectic flashes, but they all used film. Eastman Kodak pretty much dominated the market, but some swore Fuji Film was more vivid. The drawback of film is that you had to send it out to be developed at a film lab, and  then wait for the prints to arrive in the mail, or at the FotoMat booth, or the drugstore.  If you were willing to invent in a home dark room, and the chemicals needed, you could do it yourself, but most folks were content to leave it to the professionals. The only other alternative was the Polaroid instant camera. Like the early daguerreotype, the Polaroid process produced an instant print that was one of a kind, it had no negative, the print WAS the print, the only existing copy. If you wanted to copy a Polaroid photo, you needed to have the original photographed with a film camera, and of course there was slight loss of quality as this was a copy of a copy.

Today, more pictures are shot in a single year than in all of the last century. Each year over a trillion pictures are taken thanks to smart phones with built-in cameras.

Back in My day…

I have maybe five photographs of my father. My mother didn’t take pictures, she was never a photo bug. There were a few years when she arranged for a professional photographer to come to the house for baby pictures to be taken, or family portraits, but she couldn’t be bothered to buy a simple camera. The few pictures she horded were given her by family and friends, but most of those were lost as we moved like gypsies after she lost her second husband, my stepfather.

After my stepfather Alfred died, my mother had a boyfriend named Bill. In reality, this was a teenage crush that she bumped into many years down the road. He was a shutter bug, and owned a Polaroid Instamatic Camera.  That was the first camera I ever used.

Years later, when I was about 12, my aunt Arleen gave me a Kodak Instamatic. Essentially Kodak had copied the Polaroid Instant Camera and were sued into dropping the new clone from their production line. You were able to buy the film for it for a little while, but eventually it was totally obsolete after the film stock expired and new film wasn’t manufactured.

My second job was working for Olden Camera in NYC, in their computer department. It was then that I purchased my first real 35mm camera, a Nikkon automatic. This point and shot camera was pretty simple to use and lasted many years. Eventually I did get a ‘real’ camera, a Minolta SLR with various lenses and accessories.  It was a lot of weight lugging about that loaded camera bag of accessories, and it was annoying trying to explain all the settings and how to use the camera when I passed it to someone to shoot if the self-timer function was impractical and I wanted to be in the picture. Then disposable cameras came about, and I started using those as everyone knew how to work them.  The point is, from the time I brought my Nikkon in the 80’s, for  nearly twenty years I shot 35mm film.  I have boxes of negative files, and envelopes of prints, as well as photo albums.

For almost the first thirty years of my life, you were limited to film cameras, and the most you could shoot on a roll was 36 exposures. So when you went somewhere and saw something that you wanted to remember forever, you selectively shot one or two photos of it at most, because you had limited shots, and buying film, and getting it processed and printed was expensive.

Nowadays,  most of what we shoot is digital, and we send the pictures we want to share in e-mail or texts.

The sizes of the digital storage media has even changed, with most of the early media obsolete.  Yet, because the photos are digital we are taking more pictures than ever because smart phones  have built in cameras that are getting better with each new model. You still take better pictures with a dedicated digital camera than you do with a smart phone, but  even I will use my phone to take pictures if it’s all I have on me.

Pictures have value. We prize them and treasure them.

A couple of years ago, I lost a SD card with pictures that were not yet copied to my hard drive.  I was packing to return from a trip to the shore, and I think I left it on a table at the hotel. It was never recovered.  If you use a digital camera like I do, back it up frequently if not after every photo shoot. Even if you use your phone to take pictures, copy the data.  Theoretically, smart phones back-up their data to the cloud, but I still don’t trust that. This is why it is vitally important to frequently back-up and copy all your image files. If your electronics suffer a catastrophe, you don’t want to compound the blow by losing your precious ‘Kodak’ moments.  

Pictures, or it ‘never happened’!

Organize your old prints and negatives. A few weeks ago, I was searching for some old vacation photos from 16 years ago, I needed an image, and I could not find either the prints or the negatives. It was very frustrating. It’s probably packed away in a box somewhere in the bottom of the walk-in, but damned if I know where.

  • Frequently copy your media cards.
  • If you have obsolete media, copy the data off the cards while you still have an appropriate reader. Media is useless if you can’t access it.
  • if you have old Polaroid’s or prints, scan them into a digital file.
  • If you have old negatives, invest in a good quality negative scanner and digitize them.

The time, money, and effort you put into preserving your treasured photos will be returned when you can locate and share your Kodak moments. As Always I wish you success and happiness!

Help Yourself!

Are self-help books all they’re cracked up to be?

 

selfhelp

If you walk into any decent bookstore, you’ll notice that a large section of the store is devoted to self-help books. Self help books usually fit very nicely into three inter-related categories:

  • Wealth
  • Health
  • Relationships

Depending on one’s  personal situations, one of these three categories may be more important to you than another, but from my personal view point wealth (or financial stability) is the lynch pin that holds the other two components in place. The stress and worry associated with poor financial decisions will ruin both your health and your relationships.   Fighting about money is the number one relationship killer. With such a huge selection of self-help books and authors to choose from, you might wonder if self-help books really work at all.

A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. – John Milton

John Milton was a 17th century English poet. His most famous work was Paradise Lost, a long narrative poem which basically expands upon the biblical story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis.

In the 1997 movie The Devil’s Advocate, Al Pacino  plays a character named John Milton, a lawyer who is  actually Satan in disguise. At one point during the film, Pacino utters this quotable dialog : “The worst vice is advice”. It’s a statement that’s a little confusing, but I found it to be both funny and profound. Some people are in the habit of advising other people about anything and everything, even when they have no worthwhile advice to offer.  So it’s very important to be able to discern if the advice given is of any value. I cannot tell you how many times people (who didn’t know what they were talking about) gave me bad advice which had I been foolish enough to act upon would have had disastrous consequences.

If you’re considering seeking out a self-help book, then you’ve already made the first step in problem solving, admitting to yourself that there’s a problem. The second step is gathering information so you can formulate a solution. The third step is putting that information into practice, but the forth and final step is the real key to success. That forth step is maintaining the third step while improving upon and refining it as new and better information comes along. Practice makes perfect, quitters never win, and winners never quit.      

All the good advice in the world is worthless if you fail to apply it. Therein lies the problem. Most people looking for self-help books are ACTUALLY seeking quick fix solutions to their problems that require little or no effort on their part. They are NOT expecting to discover PERMANENT life changes.

Take diet books for example.  (At the risk of insulting any actual dietician or fitness expert who may have written a really sound book, I’m NOT going to mention any specific book title, or author.)  

Average Joe is 100 lbs overweight and hears  about a fabulous new diet book by a well respected author, and he immediately orders a copy. The book arrives and after a month of making all the tasty  meals, Joe loses 25 lbs. He pats himself on the back uses his new diet book to prop up the short leg of the table, and goes to the all-you-can-eat buffet to reward himself. A month later, he has gained back the weight he lost, and blames the author and the stupid book. Then he hears about another new diet book and repeats the process over and over.  The problem isn’t the advice he received, it is that he stopped following it the moment he saw positive change, and resumed all the bad habits that caused the problem in the first place.

If you want to stop a problem,  you MUST stop going all the things at caused the problem, PERMANENTLY! You don’t go back, ever.   Occam’s razor, dictates that “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one “. If you keep wondering why all your problems keep happening to you, it’s because the problem isn’t the problem, the problem IS you. To quote Shakespeare  “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”  You’re not a victim of your circumstances, you’re a volunteer and it’s up to you to break the vicious cycle that you’ve trapped yourself in.

As I’ve said many times, I grew up poor because my father died when I was young, and my mother didn’t have the intelligence to handle money. If you gave her one dollar, she’s spend two.  I broke the vicious cycle of poverty that had trapped most of my family by seeking wise council on money and financial matters.  I put these practices into place years ago and never stopped working my way towards financial freedom.   This is why I’m successful today. I realized that my way of thinking was what caused the problem, and I actively sort out better information from someone smarter than myself.  This is because a greater intelligence is always needed to fix a problem than the intellect that caused it.  

So as your trying to figure out which of the near infinite self-help books will provide the answer to your problem, let me give you a ‘short cut’. The best self-help books all offer the simplest answers, and often quote the Bible.  If you read enough of them, they all eventually seem to offer the exact advice.

  • For wealth–  Spend  less then you earn,  live within your means, and save and invest.
  • For health– Eat proper nutritious meals and exercise regularly.
  • For relationships – Be good.  

It’s just common sense, not tricks or gimmicks.  

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. (Proverbs 28:26)

You may have heard it said ‘God helps those who help themselves’. This is NOT biblical. You will not find that phrase anywhere in the Holy Bible. Benjamin Franklin popularized it.  The Bible tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and also encourages us to seek wise council. It is the first and the greatest ‘self-help’ book, timeless and perfect.

Here are a few helpful  proverbs form the Bible:

Proverbs 12:15

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

Proverbs 11:14

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Proverbs 13:10

Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.

Proverbs 19:20

Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.

So if you’re seeking the ultimate self-help book why not try reading the time tested original first. As always I wish you happiness and success!

Staycation Getaways!

Adventures in your own backyard.

backyard

Now that summer has arrived and the weather is warm and sunny, it’s getting harder and harder to be at my day job working, because I spend a lot of time day dreaming about being off anywhere else and enjoying myself. Most people usually take just one summer vacation between Memorial Day and Labor Day which mark the unofficial beginning and end of the summer vacation season in the USA.  I used to go away every Memorial Day weekend, but I gave that activity up years ago for two reasons: One–trim the budget, and Two–It was no longer ‘fun’ doing what I was going that weekend each year.

I still go away EVERY Labor Day Weekend to Ocean City MD, for a grand 5 day vacation at a great hotel located right on the beach.  It’s my most expensive trip of the year, and I budget for it and save up using the 52 Week Challenge savings method.  Aside from that, my summer activities are confined to day trips on weekends,  like renting a kayak on the lake at nearby French Creek State Park.

IMG_3659

I live in Lancaster county, located in south central Pennsylvania.  For size comparison, Pennsylvania is roughly the same square miles in area as the entire country of England. Not the biggest state, but a sizable land.  Fortunately for me, I own my own car, and where I live places me within 160 miles of five different states. In roughly three hours or less (depending on traffic) I can reach parts of Delaware, Maryland,  New Jersey, New York, and of course a sizable chunk of Pennsylvania.  My only barriers are any toll roads, and the cost of a tank of gas. My Hyundai can get between 350 and 400 miles on a full tank depending on travel conditions.  In my circumstance, this location affords me a plethora of nearby State Parks, lakes, mountains, rivers, forests, and beaches that can be explored in three hours drive or less in almost any direction I choose, many less than 100 miles from my home.   

map

100 miles is about 161 kilometers. It’s been joked that the difference between Europeans and Americans is that Americans think 100 years is a long time, and Europeans think 100 miles is a long distance.

Everyone knows the word vacation, and it means different things to different individuals. In the UK and parts of Europe, I’ve often heard them use the term holiday instead of vacation, but in the USA holidays refer to specific days like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, Christmas, etc. It is fitting to call a vacation a holiday in a way, as a holiday is a day for celebration when many people are allowed to stay away from work or school, and often a vacation serves the same function. A trip to get away from all the stress, drama, and toil of day-to-day life. A few years ago, some brilliant mind in an advertising office somewhere coined the catchy portmanteau  ‘staycation’ by combining the words STAY and VACATION. It sounds much better than saying ‘taking time off’, ‘getting me-time’ or ‘day-tripping’. I have embraced the staycation as a legitimate excuse to getaway without really going away.

One of the perks of my day job is that my Sunday off plus a rotating day-off schedule means that every seven weeks I automatically get a three day weekend as our work week schedules begin on Saturday and end on Friday. Two of these always fall during the summer. I also have the maximum number of vacation days and sick days you can attain in my position due to my seniority, though I reserve  my vacation days for specific events, and sick days are really meant to be used for serious illness and are frowned upon by upper management when used for mental health days, blue Mondays, or any form of sickness because they really don’t want you to use sick days at all, as if that makes any sense.

So yes, I am fortunate and can take time off to enjoy summer.  I hope that everyone who reads my blog on a regular basis understands that with careful budgeting, prior proper planning, and a minimum amount of travel expense, they too can enjoy both summer vacations and staycations.

What’s in your ‘backyard’?

Assuming you have your own car, or can carpool with a friend:

  • A simple Google search for beaches, or state parks nearby can give you several ideas for low cost or even free places near you to swim, hike, camp, or picnic. All you have to do is be able to get there, which means having a car and the money for gas and tolls.
  • If you are stuck for ideas on what to do with your free time, you can check out value deals for day trips and activities at LivingSocial.Com LivingSocial is an online marketplace that allows its registered users to buy and share things to do in their geographic area.
  • If you enjoy meeting new people, you can always find new groups and clubs to join at MeetUp.com 
  • If you’re into tours,  museums, historic places or various other ideas for day trips, you can check out TripAdvisor.com  for nearby attractions.

If you don’t own a car, or can’t drive:

A lack of personal transportation will significantly limit your ability to explore many of the aforementioned activities, but it doesn’t make them altogether impossible. Always remember, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains however improbable must be true. If there’s a will, there’s a way. In New York City for example, it IS possible to go to the beach, botanical gardens, museums etc.,  all by bus or subway. That was how I got to go to the beach at Coney Island growing up. 

There are Bus Tour companies that offer many inexpensive  day and even weekend trips to many locations that leave from the Bus Stations in most major metropolitan areas.  It costs me less to take a bus round trip from nearby Reading PA to Queens NY then it does for me to drive the 169 miles to my Aunt’s home due to the cost of gas and tolls, BUT I’m then limited to the quirks of the NYC bus and subway system to get around, or taxis and Ubers/Lyfts so it’s quite restricting.

I’ve taken enjoyable bus trips to Washington D.C many times to see the monuments and museums in my Nation’s Capital. Come to think of it, I should do that again, it’s been a while. The last time I went to D.C. was for a Pro Life March in 2006. That particular trip was free and charted by local churches, but it was a cold January day, and I was very limited in what I was able to do because of the weather, time, and activity constraints. But FREE is FREE, and I got to show support for my beliefs with like-minded Christians.   

  • Pro– You don’t have to drive to and from  your destination, that’s the Bus Drivers job.
  • Pro– You can sleep on the bus if you’re tired, just don’t miss your stop.
  • Con–You are limited to what you do by the arrival and departure times of the tour bus, and if you see an interesting detour on the way to your destination, you can’t pull over and explore it. (I once discovered an Elephant Museum driving on 30W instead of taking my usual PA Turnpike on the way to Ohio two years ago.)     

 

eleph

And of course there’s always biking or waking, or even picnicking in local parks or your own back yard.

picnic

The point is summer only lasts so long, and everyone can find something enjoyable to fit their budget IF they stop making excuses and truly apply themselves.   As always, I wish you happiness and success!