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Mindconnection eNL, 2005-03-13

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In this issue:

  1. Product Highlights
  2. Brainpower tip
  3. Time tip
  4. Finance tip
  1. Security tips
  2. Health tip/Fitness tip
  3. Thought for the day

1. Product Highlights

Make your travel dollars count
Spring is the time many people are finalizing plans for a trip abroad. Many people take such trips to lands where they don't speak the language.

But if you can't communicate, how can you make sure you are going to the right places? Paying the right amounts? Ordering the right things?

When you can communicate with a few keystrokes, you suddenly open up a whole new set of ways to enjoy your trip. The translators at right are just two examples (click on them) of the many we carry.

Don't spend thousands of dollars on transportation, lodging, and various services without also investing just a bit more so you get the most out of your trip.  

http://www.mindconnection.com/category/0002LANGUAGE.html

  

2. Brainpower tip

Get the proper facts before drawing conclusions.

These days, I hear a lot of "amateur economists" predicting this or that economic calamity, based on misinformation or disinformation. People vote based on such things, too.

As an example, one person told me the USA is entering a period of massive unemployment "because we don't manufacture anything anymore." But if you look at information provided by the US Commerce Dept or you simply read the financial journals, you see quite the opposite is true. The USA manufactures more than any other country in the world does. And on the employment front, the numbers have not looked this good in ages (tax cuts always increase employment, just as they did when JFK was Prez).

What we have done in manufacturing:

  • We've spent the past half century or so abandoning some forms of manufacturing while adding others. The new ones are more energy-efficient. In fact, we now use about one-third the oil and/or natural gas we used to use for every dollar of GDP produced by manufacturing.
  • We've automated heavily and done process improvement to raise productivity dramatically.  So, we need fewer workers per unit of output. This pattern has been in existence for over a century. But we do more manufacturing than ever, so hiring is fast apace.

If you allow yourself to be disinformed or misinformed, you can never reach the correct conclusions. Therefore, any brainpower applied to the topic is 100% wasted.

Common sources of disinformation and misinformation include:

  • Newspapers. We need to declare a national holiday whenever they get a story right. No need to worry about a full calendar of national holidays....
  • Television. If you are getting your news from television, you are getting the anti-news. Television does not exist to educate. It exists to sell advertising. Remember those ads saying cigarettes were good for your health or would make you sexy?
  • Conspiracy Websites. These are pretty easy to spot. A self-appointed expert uses leaps of logic, disjointed facts, opinion presented as fact, material from dubious sources, and other baseless propaganda to persuade you that X danger is real, X coverup is going on, or you need to buy their book or video where they "expose" things or give you "secret inside information." They also tend to write in ways that make you cringe, if you understand and value correct English.
  • E-mail hoaxes. I'm amazed by the garbage people spread. Most of it is pretty transparent, if you stop to examine it.

So, how do you get information rather than disinformation and misinformation? Here are some hallmarks:

  • Competence of the reporter. If the text is grammatically correct, that is your first clue you may have a good source.
  • Quality references quoted and sources given. Yes, someone can list references that are bogus, irrelevant, and so on. But if you follow up on these, you can verify that what you are reading is the result of research and not just made up. A case in point is the violent criminal working conditions improvement lobby, which trots out made-up statistics routinely.
  • Qualifications of the writer. You may be reading a piece written by a subject matter expert. In that case, it isn't likely to have references and sources. But, you should see an explanation that is logical and not laden with hyperbole.
  • Use of numbers. Be alert to the misuse of numbers, as well. But when someone quantifies things, provides statistics (with sources), and uses numbers in a non-manipulative way--your confidence in the piece should rise.
  • Balanced coverage. If you are reading on a topic and the writer provides information that could fall on one side of an argument plus information that could fall on the other side, this tells you the writer of the piece may be unbiased. Look at how this is done, and you can determine if the writer is being honest with you or merely grinding a personal axe while pretending to adequately address key points.

What are some of these sources?

  • Trade publications. These are written to educate the members of a trade, hobby, or occupation. They tend to be reviewed by subject matter experts.
  • Professional journals. These are written by subject matter experts and/or researchers, and subject to peer review. Note that peer review is not infallible. But if something hasn't passed a peer review maybe you should ask why before just accepting it as true.
  • Category-specific publications. Read about financial matters in a financial publication, for example.

Adequate treatment of this subject would require a book, not just a short article. The main point I want to make is the brain works by "garbage in, garbage out." As you reduce the amount of garbage coming in, the output of your brain improves exponentially.

3. Time Tip

In my time management seminars, I talk about the fact that you can't manage time in a vacuum. We all interact with others. We can choose to interact efficiently or inefficiently. Many people falsely assume efficient interaction is rude. Quite the opposite. The more you respect other people's time, the more they will feel appreciated.

If you are finding yourself pressed for time, you can probably identify one or two people who seem to "suck up" your time. Maybe you are frequently on the phone with a particular friend for an hour, or maybe your boss or coworker likes to stop by your office and chat with you for half an hour each day.

Do you start telling these people you don't have time to talk with them anymore? No, you can't bring yourself to do that. Saying such a thing may convey the message you don't like that person. So, what can you do? You actually have many options. I'll provide some here, and you can think up more just by determining the principle behind each of these:

  • Put the time restriction in a positive light. You can say, "It's really great talking to you, but I'm going to have to cut this short." Most people remember that first part long after you've said the second part.
     
  • Be an advocate of that person's time. Sure, you feel like your time is evaporating, due to those discussions. But, maybe the other person feels the same way. Your boss, for example, sees a positive response from those half-hour chats so assumes you need those chats. But you can say, "I appreciate that you take so much time from your busy schedule to talk to me. Don't feel obligated to humor, me though. If you've got other things to do, just let me know." Notice the hidden messages, here.
     
  • Reschedule. You may need to do this for the frequent caller or the person who decides to take up squatting rights in your office. Give that person a positive comment on something s/he said, then say you're out of time and ask something like, "Can you call me next week so we can continue this conversation?"
     
  • Simply end it. "Well, it's getting late here" is often effective. So is, "This has been a great conversation, but I have to go now." If all else fails, "I have to pee" works every time.

Other related tips for managing how others affect your time include how to prevent phone tag, how to properly decline invitations to endless meetings, how to get others to focus on the issue at hand, and how to handle various forms of communication (including e-mail). We'll address these and other time management tips in future issues of this eNL.

  

4. Finance tip

Some of the "laws" of financial management include:
  • Don't loan money to a friend. You will lose both.
  • Don't give money or credit cards to your children. Make them earn money and go without when they overspend, or you train them to manage money poorly.
  • Don't get entangled in your parents' finances. You risk embarrassing or angering them, if you see or say the wrong thing.

Yet, what if you have friends, kids, or parents who have fallen on hard times? How do you help out, without damaging the relationship you have? Be creative! Here are some examples of things you can do:

  • Offer to hire them to do a specific job for you. One man's father was a retired carpenter. But, they lived far apart. The man wanted his father to visit him, but his father couldn't afford the trip and wouldn't accept payment for it. So, the son called his father and said he had several construction projects he needed to hire out. He asked his dad to bid on those. He said, "I'm going to pay someone, so I figure why not pay you and know the job is done right?
     
  • Offer to pay for specific expenses, rather than offering a general handout. A woman was concerned about the balding tires on her 23-year old son's car. Her husband wanted to offer their son some cash, and suggest he use it to buy new tires. After some discussion, they instead offered to buy the son new tires for his car if he would agree to help them  move several heavy items out of their attic. The son would have helped his parents anyhow, but the additional requirement of a quid pro quo helped him appear more independent than he really was. Most importantly, the direct purchase solved the problem the parents wanted to solve.
     
  • Another example of paying for specific expenses was a son who picked up his father's prescription drugs and paid for the balance not paid by the father's health insurance. When the father objected, the son said, "All those times I was sick as a kid, you paid for everything. Let me give back, a little bit. This is the least I can do for you."
     
  • Another example is a nephew who runs a fitness store. He sent his aunt high-grade calcium supplements when he heard she had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. When she asked him how much she owed him, he replied her money was no good at his store

Be careful when it comes to paying for things or giving money, as you run into the gift tax. This can be a rather nasty surprise. Contrary to popular opinion, the alleged Statute of Limitations that allegedly keeps the American Taliban from assessing additional taxes after 3 years is so full of holes it may as well not even exist. The AT can hit your gift recipient with hundreds of thousands of dollars of penalties and interest 20 or 30 years later, and cost that person everything. So, don't give more than $11,000 annually to any one person or that person may be in deep trouble on down the road unless you also pay for a pro to review that person's income tax forms for the year in which you give the gift.

Of course, you can give cash anonymously. Making that audit-proof can be tricky. So, you may not want to go there.

Note that direct payments to a doctor or hospital are exempt from the gift tax. So, if you have a friend, parent, etc., who has huge medical bills and you want to help out--pay toward those bills directly to the hospital. Protect yourself from being liable for the remaining bills by including an explanatory letter with your payment that the gift is a one-time gift and does not imply any responsibility on your part to pay any remaining bills. Keep a copy. If you pay another bill this way, include another explanatory letter. You can probably have as many one-time gifts as you want, but if you start to establish a pattern of payment then you should consult an attorney for proper protection.



5. Security tip

About 7 million injuries occur in the USA each year due to accidents in the home, and about 28,000 of those accidents are fatal (source: American College of Emergency Physicians).

Falling is the most common mode of accident. This is primarily because few people learn the correct body mechanics of walking and balance. There's not much you can do about that end of things, but you can reduce the fall hazards. For example, check your stairs, handrails, rugs, and related items and fix anything that may lead to a fall.

If you're concerned about the cost of reducing fall hazards, ask your doctor what it costs to treat a broken arm, or ask your dentist what it costs to crown half a dozen front teeth. If the numbers they give you don't grab your attention, then consider that a hip fracture can easily cost over $30,000.

So, prevention makes sense on that front (not to mention eliminating potential lawsuits and pain and suffering). But just having the preventive measures in place can increase the resale value of your home while dropping your insurance rates while you are in it now. Talk to your insurance agent for specifics.

No doubt, you have adjusted to the danger spots in your home. So you are probably thinking, "This applies to someone else, not to me. It won't happen here." Famous last words. You probably do have safety problems, and you probably do need to fix them. You can consult your Realtor, insurance agent, or a remodeling contractor for an informed opinion. What they tell you may come as a shock, but do listen!

Just to show there's more than you may be thinking, let's look at three common danger areas:

  • Bathrooms
  • Floors and coverings
  • Lighting

Bathrooms. Consider replacing your existing tub and/or shower with a newer, safer design. Your existing one may be near the end of its life, anyhow. Have an expert come over and look at what you have, then provide you with some options.

If you use the same plumbing company all the time, then you can probably trust them not to waste your money because they value your continued business. Seriously consider their recommendations. Ask them to come up with a range of solutions, including simple fixes such as grab bars and non-skid treatments for tubs and showers.

Think about non-skid mats in front of toilets, tubs, sinks, and showers--any place that might produce a slipping hazard due to water on the surface.
 

Floors and coverings. Those wood parquet floors really look nice in your entry way. Most people put rugs on these, so visitors can wipe their feet as though that's going to remove the dog poo buried deep in the treads of their shoes before they walk all over your beige carpet with their shoes on. Take a hint from the Koreans and Japanese, and leave the dog poo infested shoes by the door.

What about those rugs? Such rugs are generally dangerous. Unless the rug has an anti-slip backing, it's likely to slide as though it's on wet ice. If you like that particular rug, then put a slip-resistant mat under it.

Wall to wall carpet problems can also lead to falls. If your carpet has, due to age, become "loose" and you now see bulges or ripples where it should be lying flat, then have a carpet installer come out and stretch the carpet. Some people maintain that falling hazards are minimal on carpet, because the carpet cushions the fall. This is simply not true.

Keep your floors free of clutter. Items like magazines, books, DVDs, toys, CDs, papers, photos, bags, clothes, and so on belong in their respective storage areas. They do not belong scattered around on your floor. Nor do they belong on tabletops or countertops, but that concern is for a different article.

Look for where electrical cords of any type are running in trafficways, and re-locate them away from where people walk. If doing so requires adding an extension cord, then leave the electrical cords in the way. Extension cords are meant for temporary use, only. If you must leave a cord in the way, then put it inside a cord channel for use in walkways. You can find these in any hardware store or building supply center. Another name for them is "cord concealers." Just ask for help in finding one, if you can't locate it quickly.

Lighting. I've written many articles on lighting and lighting controls for publications that serve the electrical industry. So, I have all kinds of tips. I'll try to control myself, here, so you can finish this eNL in a reasonable time!

When do people most often stumble into things (other than when they are stone-drunk or just went through a tax audit)?

When trying to find the #%&@ light switch! My solution is to eliminate the need to find the switch. You have many ways to do this.

  • Install additional switches and/or lights. Take note of where you walk through the dark. Then, simply add more circuitry. This might not be so easy, if there are problems in fishing wire through your walls. This can be expensive, too. Get 2 or 3 bids before deciding whether to do it. Don't do it yourself, if you're not an electrician. Too many homes burn down that way.
     
  • Install remote control units. Take a look at the remote control systems available at your local building supply center. Then, talk to a residential electrical firm about installing a few of these so you can turn lights on and off (and dim them) from your couch, bed, or other place you may occupy when it's dark outside. Keep one in your car, and you can turn the lights on in your home before you even open the door! You can also turn them off when you are no longer in the house, rather than stumbling in the dark to find the door....
     
  • Install solar lighting on pathways leading to your door. But, take care to avoid light pollution ( a real problem for astronomers, among others). These fixtures should aim their light down, not all over the neighborhood.
     
  • Install dimmers in bathrooms and other areas you will enter at night. You hate turning on the light, because it blinds you. That's one reason so many women yell at their husbands about the mess on the front of the toilet or on the floor in front of it. Unless your "equipment" comes with radar or some other method of operating flawlessly on target in the dark, turn on the light so you can see what you are doing. A dimmer allows you to do this without being blinded and without causing your body to reflexively go into wakeup mode. I have dimmers on nearly every light switch in my house. And I make sure every guest always knows there's one on the guest bathroom lights.
     
  • Consider sensor-based lighting systems. Take a look at the various occupancy sensor lighting controls. Most of these sense motion. But, you may be surprised at how many different ways there are to automatically provide light.
     
  • Buy some of those low-watt night lights. These are especially good for when you have company. I have these little orange neon plastic disks that I can plug in anywhere and create a lighted path for my guests.
     
  • Keep a flashlight near your bed. You don't want to turn on a table lamp just so you can get your earplugs, safety glasses, and shotgun if someone breaks into your house. And, what if the power goes out?
     
  • Buy some of those large pushbutton-looking battery-powered lights. The on/off switch and the light lens are the same thing. These are handy, and they look cool. Use them to create an emergency exit path, or have some around just for when the power goes out.

 

6. Health tip/Fitness tips

Most us know that stress can be a real killer.

But, it's not the circumstance or event itself that produces stress. It's how you react to the circumstance or event that produces stress. Mindconnection has a Stress Management course that may just save your life.

Here are some basics to get you started, while you think about getting that course.

The key to managing stress is to engage in self-awareness. This is much easier said than done. Once you are angry at that $@#& in the car in front of you, it's unlikely you are going to go into a calm, reflective analysis of how you are responding.

So, start your stress management when you are "offline" from stressful situations. Pick a day to be your stress management day. Say, Thursday. It doesn't matter what day. Just pick it and stick with it for a few months. On Thursday night, think back to the various times you felt stressed that day. Ask yourself what triggered the stressful reaction. Then, think about the fact that most of us attribute much more drama and consequence to things--especially if they are trivial--than reality would suggest we do.

What makes the difference? The way we think. So, as you identify the things that stress you, your next step is to change the way you think about those things. For example, does it really matter that someone cut you off in traffic? Can you instead be grateful for the 1,000 other drivers who did not cut you off? Why focus on the one who did? And can't you be thankful you saw that driver in time? Why not congratulate yourself on your awareness and quick reflexes?

You'll see the effects of this reprogramming kick in, and you will experience less stress. If you want to move faster, then give yourself more than one day for stress management. But, don't make it every day or you probably won't do it justice.

What should you do while waiting for this reprogramming to kick in? Start making it a habit that as soon as you feel stress coming on, you will take a deep breath and slowly let it out. And that you will do this 10 times. As you focus on this, you will find the initial stress feelings slipping away. After that 10th breath, you can identify one positive thing that just happened. In the traffic example just given, "I am so good. I just averted an accident."

You can then look at the other driver and smile, saying or thinking, "Thank you for that opportunity." The other driver probably made that error due to his/her own stress, and you have just given that person an anti-stress smile. If s/he is long gone, then pass your anti-stress smile onto someone else. Think of the karma you are generating!





7. Thought for the Day

Sometimes, the best compliment you can give another person is to just listen.

 

Wishing you the best,

Mark Lamendola
Mindconnection

Authorship

The views expressed in this e-newsletter are generally not shared by criminals, zombies, or brainwashed individuals.

Except where noted, this e-newsletter is entirely the work of Mark Lamendola. Anything presented as fact can be independently verified. Often, sources are given; but where not given, they are readily available to anyone who makes the effort.

Mark provides information from either research or his own areas of established expertise. Sometimes, what appears to be a personal opinion is the only possibility when applying sound logic--reason it out before judging! (That said, some personal opinions do appear on occasion).

The purpose of this publication is to inform and empower its readers (and save you money!).

Personal note from Mark: I value each and every one of you, and I hope that shows in the diligent effort I put into writing this e-newsletter. Thank you for being a faithful reader.

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