Prescription Without Diagnosis Is Malpractice

Plumbing Disaster

A few years ago, my shower fixture was dripping. I, being a devout procrastinator, waited to do something about it until it became a trickle. When I called a plumbing company that my wife had used once before when I was out of town and told them what was going on and asked to have someone come out and give me a quote, fully expecting to be charged $50 for a diagnosis fee. The receptionist said that it would be $125 to fix the problem. We scheduled the appointment for the next day.

The plumber shows up on time. He takes the fixture apart and spends well over an hour fidgeting with it. He then tells me it’s going to be $400 to correct the problem. There was an issue with the way the hot water heater had been installed originally and the hot water was melting the pipe that was feeding it to my shower.

If they had come out and prepared a quote for the $400  repair, I may have had to pay $450. Instead I paid $525 for his time the day before and the actual repair. I will probably never use that plumbing company again because the receptionist prescribed a repair without their technician doing the proper diagnosis first.

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I Want To Face My Fears, Mom

We recently took my 6-year-old son, Alex, to the Carnival. Alex doesn’t have the greatest sense of adventure and has a pronounced fear of heights.

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When we got to the big Ferris Wheel, my wife asked Alex if he was sure he wanted to go. Alex said, “I want to face my fears, Mom”.

Things that I’m afraid of: heights, snakes, getting in front of an audience and making a fool of myself.

Guess Who Didn’t Get On the Ferris Wheel.

That would be me but two years ago, I agreed to co-present two different sessions at Sage Summit last year. This year, I submitted a session and was invited to co-present another session. Holy Cow! Who would have thought that this introverted, nervous wreck would ever agree to do something like that?

Let me take you back to the list of things I’m afraid of: heights, snakes, getting in front of an audience and making a fool of myself.

Guess what! I didn’t make a fool of myself…well, maybe only a little, but I learned from the experience to never talk about the zombie apocalypse in front of an audience again.

Not only did I not (really) make a fool of myself, I got a ton of compliments. One of my co-presenters called me after Summit last year to thank me and tell me what a good job I’d done. He hadn’t even realized that I hadn’t done that before.

Pretty crazy stuff!

I thanked him because if he hadn’t asked, I’d have never done it.

What Did I Do To Prepare?

As soon as I was asked to participate in the first session, I Googled Toastmasters and the name of the city where I live. I found the Toastmasters Find a Club link. I found a Toastmasters club that meets every Tuesday. I joined and got involved.

This is the principle of mithridatization as explained by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile (affiliate link). By taking small doses of a poison you can gain immunity to the poison…or at least a higher tolerance. When we face our fears a little at a time, we inoculate ourselves against those fears and develop an immunity to our fears.

But what happened on the Ferris Wheel?

Alex rode the Ferris Wheel. He had fun. He will probably ride it again. He still doesn’t like heights but now he knows more about what he can handle.

I can now get up in front of an audience without getting completely freaked out. I still get butterflies. I still occasionally forget my lines. However, in the end, I know I will survive the experience and actually can have a lot of fun speaking to an audience.

Remember, courage is not acting without fear. Courage is acting in spite of fear.

What Are You Going To Do With That Ukulele?

While visiting my aunt this summer, she took Alex to visit my cousin in Tampa and she has a ukulele.  Alex fell in love with her ukulele. She taught him the basic strumming method in the time they were there. Her roommate has a baritone ukulele. He didn’t like that one as much. He wants a tenor ukulele like my cousin’s. He wanted guitar lessons but he really wants ukulele lessons now.

Coincidentally, my friend Bill Kizer got a ukulele for Father’s Day. The book I read this summer on rapid learning protocols has a chapter on ukulele. Less coincidentally, my friend and colleague, Kevin Conlin, pointed me to this video of Jake Shimabukuro playing Bohemian Rhapsody on ukulele in a TED Talk from 2010.

The video is pretty awesome! I never thought anyone could play Bohemian Rhapsody on the ukulele…or would.
I posted about this whole ukulele thing previously. Since then, I have found hundreds of videos on how to play the ukulele on YouTube. Fortunately his school’s music teacher thinks he can teach Alex to play the ukulele. His first lesson is today. For the first few days as Alex practices scales (or whatever), this is what I’ll be hearing.
What does all of this mean for you? I have absolutely no clue other than you get to watch a really cool video.

Sometimes I Forget People Are Listening

Sometimes I forget people are listening to what I say on social media sites and how it can affect people.

At Sage Summit this week, I ran into people who were or are trying to lose weight and mentioned that they had seen my posts about running and my weight loss process and were either inspired or offered encouragement.

There were two people at Summit who mentioned that they had joined Toastmasters because I posted about how Toastmasters has helped me.

I had a few people who came up to me and said they were geeks / nerds and that they appreciated the posts I make about Lego, Doctor Who, super heroes, etc., and that it felt good to know that there was someone out there working in the same field who shared their passions and was talking about them.

These were all really wild for me because I really shared those because I was really looking for encouragement myself. And here were people who had read my words and felt inspired to make a change in their lives or had made a change and were helping to encourage me.

Some of my favorite exchanges are when I say something and have people react as if I had read their minds or that they were the only ones who felt a certain way. And yet here I am, putting words to their feelings. Suddenly they truly realize they are not alone in their shyness or whatever the situation.

The other thing that happens is that I like to joke with people and I forget that sometimes people take me seriously about some if those jokes. While I may have intended it all in good clean fun, other people don’t necessarily get the joke.

My whole point in saying all of this is that words are powerful tools. They can inspire others to great things and they can tear down barriers. They can be used for both good and bad.

I will do my best to remember the power that words have. I will use my powers for good.

How To Convert Any MP3 To iPhone Ring Tone

1.  Start iTunes and find the song you want to convert. (It must be an MP3.)

2. Right-click the song and choose Get Info.
3. Click the Options tab.
4. Check the Start Time and Stop Time boxes, then enter times for each (no more than 30 seconds apart, the maximum length for a ringtone). I used 0:00 and 0:30, respectively, as “Spit It Out” has a perfect ascending lead-in.
5. Click OK, then right-click the song again and choose Create AAC Version. You should immediately see a new 30-second version of the song.
6. Drag that version out of iTunes and into the folder of your choice.
7. Delete the 30-second version from iTunes and undo the Start Time/Stop Time changes to the original.
8. Open the folder containing the 30-second AAC file you dragged out of iTunes, then change the file extension from .m4a to .m4r. Double-click it and it immediately gets added to iTunes’ ringtone library.
9. Finally, sync your iPhone. When it’s done, you can head into the settings and select your new ringtone.


May Experiment

Sheesh! This whole writing daily experiment has been a complete failure so far. I guess I will have to start over.

One of the things about forming new habits, like writing daily or running, is that you have to be careful about how you setup the trigger / response relationship. If you just say you’re going to do it “sometime tomorrow”, you won’t..or at least I won’t.

The beautiful thing with the running habit I’m working on is, I wake up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, then I go for a run. That works most of the time. The two issues I have with using waking up as a trigger for a habit is: my wife occasionally has to go into work early and I still have to make sure the kids get up and I have a tendency to stay up too late and make myself unable to wake up in time to do whatever I’m supposed to do. Tomorrow, I’m going to the District 84 Toastmasters Conference, so unless I make myself get up, I won’t run. It’s a hotel thing. The good thing is I’ll be near a mall with a nice perimeter to run around.

But I was talking about writing. I can’t make myself write first thing in the morning because my brain isn’t fully functional until about 10 am. Anything I write before then not usually coherent. I normally produce my best material either mid afternoon or late at night, after everyone else is in bed, if not asleep. That’s when I did my best work for Comics & Geeks. I’m especially proud of a few of the pieces I did on there.

I’m going to be working on figuring out the proper trigger so I can get myself writing daily. It’s worked for running. It’s worked for eating properly. It has worked in the past for other habits I’ve tried to form.

Then again, I may just need a few nights of good sleep. That’s one of the things about getting actual exercise. I’m tired by the end of the day, even though I won’t be asleep before midnight.

Later folks!


I’m getting ready to go out for my run. I normally run in the mornings. I’ve been doing the Couch 2 5k program. Specifically, I’m using the Run 5k app on my iPhone. I completed week 3 on Sunday. I’ll be starting week 3 again shortly.

Running is hard for me. I have a bad knee. I have a bad ankle and I’m pigeon toed. I’m also flat footed. I weigh 275 lbs.

I have never really run much since I was a little kid. When I was a kid, I mitigated the amount of effort I had to exert. If I could get out of exercising or running as a kid, I avoided it. I was a brain. Running was below me. I didn’t need to be fit because I had brains. That might be why I was 260 lbs when I graduated from high school.

As I was saying, I weigh 275 lbs. Seven weeks ago I weighed 295 lbs.

I went through this same process two years ago. I ran for months. The first time I didn’t last the first 15 minutes of the program. It took me two weeks before I could finish one day of the C25k program. It was two months before I could do the second week completely. Life happened. I stopped running and watching what I ate and need right back where I started. It took me a while to get back to that point, so some of the good habits I formed in that period stuck. For example, I had only starting this past Christmas started buying snacks in convenience stores again. It took over a year for that bad habit to restart.

But I was talking about running. Yes. I needed to exercise. Why would I choose to run? Imagine the stress I’m putting my legs and feet joints through.

I like running. I never knew it before. I get 30 minutes alone with my thoughts. It’s meditative, even when I’m wheezing and gasping for air. I get to spend time listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

It’s a way to exercise that requires no equipment. I can do it anywhere. My kids don’t want to go on road runs.

Since I began running, I am able to get on the soccer field and help coach my son’s soccer team. I have lost twenty pounds. I feel better. My brain gets to reset.

I guess I better get out there. It’s gotten dark since I started writing this.

Man Of Steel

As much as I enjoyed watching Iron Man 3 this weekend, what I think I enjoyed more was watching Alex watch the Man of Steel Trailer. Takes me back to a certain little boy watching a certain 1978 film. There’s something magical about that moment when you begin to believe and feel like a man can actually fly.

The grown man sitting on the other side of Alex was getting just as much of a kick out of watching him as I was. Alex had his arms outstretched and was moving around in his seat silently. His eyes were wide open. He was Superman for that brief moment.

When the 1978 Superman film was released, I was a wee lad of 4. I still remember it well. My mom took me to the drive in to see it. It was amazing. The ending still doesn’t make sense to me, but it didn’t/doesn’t matter. Watching that Superman movie was all about watching in amazement and really believing for a moment that a man could fly.

I guess I’ll be taking the little guy to see Man of Steel.


It’s May 5th and I’ve already failed to write two days. Guess what! I can’t do anything about it now. All I can do is get back up and start again.

That’s what happens when we fail. We have to get back up and try again.

Yesterday was the last game of our soccer season. One of the little guys on the team, Jordan, got hit in the stomach by the ball. He fell down and cried. I can’t blame him. He got hit pretty hard. When he came back to the bench, I asked him if he was ready to go back in. He said “no”. I told him we weren’t going to have his last play of the season be him getting hurt and talked him into going back in.

Even if you decide to quit, you shouldn’t let your last act at something you are trying to do be a failure on your part. You have to try once more. You don’t want to create a habit of quitting on failure.

I should write two more pieces through the month so that I’ve still written 31 pieces by the end of the month. Take that Resistance.

Thank You For…

“Thank your for your [comment, email, message, feedback]…”

I’m beginning to think that any email or letter, and probably voice mail, that begins “Thank you” is part of the corporate douche baggery lexicon. It’s right up there with “We apologize”. Is that how you apologize? If I mean it, I usually say “I’m sorry”.

If there is a Corporate Douche Baggery Dictionary, both of these phrases have to be in there.

“We understand” is another one. Any time anyone is so careful in how they word something that they find themselves using any of these phrases they should really ask themselves “Would this make me feel better about the situation?” By the way if you answered anything other than “No!” you need to go back and take classes on being a human.

Instead of “Thank you for your…” you should say “You’re right. We are jerks. Unfortunately for you we have made our decision and here are our reasons for doing so.”

Another favorite and I’ve slipped on this one a couple of times is “I’m sorry I’ve offended you”. I call this the douchebag apology. What that means is “I’m sorry you were offended”. It’s not accepting any responsibility for whatever upset the person. Depending on the particular offense, there are several ways this interaction could go. I personally like, “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

I may have to write a Corporate Douche Baggery Dictionary.