Life

Accountability of Weight: Update #2

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This is the second update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

This loosing weight stuff is hard!

This month has not been filled with much success, if any. I have continued to watch and track what I eat, but this month has been filled with birthday parties, and parties at work, and my wife trying to cook new foods…all that to say that keeping my calories down under the projected daily goal has been difficult at best and impossible at worst. Each day was near or over the goal, not under like it should be. So, progress isn’t a word I would use to describe the last month.

Physical activity hasn’t ramped up over the last month either…which I am, each day, keenly aware. A change is coming in that arena.

Highlights:

I guess to be honest there isn’t much to highlight. With little success or progress, it is hard to highlight what is going on in this journey.

However, one good thing that came out of the last month is we took some of the tax return to an outdoor retailer and purchased hiking books for the kids and my wife. We also visited a store that sells lightweight waterproof rain shells (we live in the Pacific Northwest, it never stops raining here) and bought all three of them some new jackets as well. Why not me? Well, I used to do a bit of hiking and backpacking in my “pre-married with kids” days. So, we will be venturing into the hills more now that we are properly equipped. My wife is excited, the kids not so much (they are teens).

The Chase:

210 = official starting weight 2/15/18

  4 = pounds lost as of the morning of 3/16

206 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Though I have gained a small amount back from last month (1.2 lbs), I have found that getting into the habit of tracking my intake is getting easier.

But, let’s hope the next month is better than the last.

#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2)

This is a continuation of #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1). Please start there and read both posts before leaving a comment at the bottom.

#walkout vs. #walkup

As a history and government teacher (former, but it is still in me), I always encouraged my students to know and exercise their rights. I taught them so that they would be aware of current events and to actively advocate for themselves via their vote, and other means too. That was my job as a teacher. That is my job as a father. And, quite frankly, I wanted my students to be productive and active citizens of their country. That is really important when it comes to the survival of our country.

However, one thing we always talked about and discussed in class was that it was important to be informed before taking action. Allowing emotion and knee-jerk reactions to events could end up causing more confusion (or harm) and being active for the right reason is important. Therein lies the conflict between the two movements that we have seen come out of the most recent school shooting tragedy.

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#walkout – or March for Our Lives – is lending itself to the hysteria, and because it makes for “good” media it got all kinds of coverage. As such, the students who are most vocal are being used to perpetuate a narrative that is misleading and inaccurate. And, unfortunately, the students who are active in the movement are protesting the wrong thing or aren’t being active for the right reasons. As my daughter put it, after I asked her why she participated at her school, “Dad, we’re getting killed out here.” To her credit, she does go to a school in a district that experienced it’s own school shooting tragedy, so the community is a little raw when it comes to these things. But, as we have seen in the statistics (previous post), the data doesn’t support her statement. Her generalization was, at the very least, typical teen drama and over-exaggeration. I didn’t run her down or take her to task for participating though. She is one of the few teens I know who actually pays attention to the news and the world around her, even when she isn’t given a school assignment to do so. She does it on her own, and that is important. Instead, we had a discussion about what the root of school shootings really is, why it is important to be informed, and to keep being involved.

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#walkup – Students are, typically, quick to jump into action but often they ignore the root problem and go after the symptom. It is easy to blame others or point the finger at someone else rather than to deal with the problem you (or your friends) have created themselves. Having been in the classroom as a teacher for 15 years (let alone my own experiences as being a high school student), I can tell you that school shootings stem, in most cases, from students treating their fellow students poorly. When I say “fellow” students, I don’t just mean the students who are the same age. I mean all students who go to a school.

School shootings DON’T take place every day, let alone on a regular basis. What DOES take place every day, without fail, it that students are treating other students in ways they wouldn’t want to be treated themselves. That is a fact and it is at epidemic levels. Whether it gets reported or not – at school, outside of school, online, in social media – it happens. I saw it or heard it every day, to one degree or another. Teasing, laughing, joking, harassing, whispering about, pointing at, turning their backs, ignoring, physically bullying, etc., etc., etc. You name it; it has probably happened. I am sure you all can look back and remember a time when it happened, where it happened, and whether it was done to you or someone else. It doesn’t take much effort to look back in your own life and remember it.

School shootings DO happen because of this. The only people who can really stop it are the students themselves. As adults we can do everything we can and talk about it and discourage it and punish it, but the fact is that it won’t stop until there is a culture change and the students themselves have to make that happen. Look, one student or even a small group of students likely can’t (or more precisely won’t) do it. It puts a target on their backs and we all know students are vulnerable to the opinions of their peers, whether they like to admit it or not. And, not all students are the problem but may passively “support” the behavior because they don’t want to become a target themselves. There are lots of good kids out there, but those good kids tend to ignore the fact that it is taking place in their presence and most often do nothing to stop it.

Let’s not let the generalization get too far away from us. There are good kids. Lots of them! But we need those good kids to stop being bystanders (we talked a lot about this in my history classes in direct relationship to the Holocaust, but it applies in lots of places) and #walkup to step in when they see or hear it happening around them. Then we will see change. Students need to be the change and it can only really come from them. BUT, it has to be done in the right places and at the right times. #walkout or March for Our Lives isn’t the right thing to be protesting when the students themselves are the root of the problem, and the solution to the problem. They need to stop blaming the symptom on others and step up to own the cause.

Victim blaming?

I saw it going around social media. A counter argument to the #walkup movement. Apparently some believe that by asking the students to prevent school shootings by stopping or standing up to the behavior of their classmates is victim blaming. This counter argument is completely off base. First, let’s be sure we understand where the term comes from.

Victim blaming has most often been used to describe what happens to a victim as a result of rape or racism (there are other crimes too, but these are the main ones). There are those with the belief that the victim must have done something to deserve the outcome. The victim was the cause and therefore the crime was appropriate for that cause. Obviously, this is not a way to understand or treat victims. No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. So that is precisely where accusing those who participated in the #walkup movement of victim blaming goes off base. No one actually believes that students deserve to be the victims of school shootings or other crimes.

So, am I victim blaming? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Students are and will be the victims of crime in school. They certainly don’t deserve to be the victims of crime. Unfortunately, in a world that is self-focused and has a lack of empathy, our students aren’t immune to the cause nor the crime. I believe that many of the students/victims of school shootings are likely not even participants in the poor treatment of fellow students. They truly are victims in every sense of the word because the become a convenient target for someone bent on destruction.

The Final Word

Students, if you want to stop school shootings, cure the cause. Befriend the friendless. #walkup instead of standing by. Have empathy for your fellow students and and treat them as though you would want to be treated. Listen to each other. Value each other. Protect each other. Put down the phone (or mirror) and take a look around you. You are not that important to be so self-absorbed. You can make a difference, for yourself and for others. But, you have to choose to do so.

I firmly believe, and in my experience I have seen it, that if students do those things they will lessen the number crimes in their school, they will lessen the number of bullies in their school, and most likely also lessen the number of school shootings dramatically. It won’t stop it completely (because there are people who do bad things), but it would go a long way to making it happen.

#walkout vs. #walkup (Part 1)

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March 14, 2018, will stand out as one of the more memorable student movements in recent history, though I think it will likely be remembered for the wrong reasons. I say wrong because the movement is a bit short sighted in that it is trying to deal with a symptom and not the problem.

When I taught American Government to my seniors (and my juniors, for that matter), I always made great effort to encourage them to be involved –  in their communities, in their state, in politics, in leisure, in things they cared about, and in things that were important to all Americans. So, by discussing this issue I am not discouraging the active participation we saw from our students. We WANT them to be involved and paying attention to what is going on around them. HOWEVER, we also want them to pay attention to the motivations and be good “consumers” of information so they can see through the rhetoric and knee-jerk reactions political parties and the media want them to have. Be informed. Think critically. Make wise choices.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is happening with the recent protest – the student National Walkout Day and the “March for Our Lives”. This movement, though claimed to be “student led” isn’t. It is hysteria driven. There are may reasons behind the hysteria, but I think it best to say that it essentially stems from a political party bent on limiting the select Constitutional rights of individuals and by a sensationalist, chaos fueled media.

Epidemic vs. tragedy

Some have said that school shootings are at an “epidemic” level, but Merriam-Webster  would disagree, even by a really liberal reading. One source that got almost no play or attention from the national media outlets after the shooting and before the protests, because it goes against the desired narrative, is from an expert on the subject of school shootings. James Alan Fox, a distinguished Biohazardprofessor from Northeastern University, has studied school shootings for decades and he says there are not more shootings, and schools are actually safer than they used to be (watch and read). The national media, celebrities, and those opposed to guns (the 2nd Amendment; in general; or specifically) don’t want to listen to reason or the facts. Instead, we are told that there are more school shootings and favorable statistics used by special interest groups are highlighted to blow the issue out of proportion for a very specific and targeted purpose.

In my experience, and I think I am a fairly typical American, I would have to say that schools shootings (whether there are people injured or killed) are a rather uncommon occurrence and not the experience of a vast majority of Americans. Let me explain.

I grew up in a fairly typical American community and spent my days getting a fairly typical American education. That means I have been in the American education system from kindergarten (pre-school really, but I won’t count that) through the 12th grade. I spent five years in college (that may be unlike most Americans) as I pursued a history degree and a teaching certificate. Finally, unlike most Americans, I also spent 15 years in an American classroom. So, in all how many days have I spent in a classroom? Well, 13×180=2340 days + 5×180=900 days + 15×180=2700 days, for a grand total of 5940 (+/-) days in an American classroom. I do believe that most American’s can’t claim to have that many days in a classroom, except for those teachers or professors who have taught longer than me.

The point of all that math (remember, history teacher, not math – I hate math) is to establish that I am not talking out of my ass here when I say that in my 33 years of being in an American classroom, I never once saw or heard of a gun in the school. Not once. I would venture a guess that most, like 99.9%, can say the same of their educational experience. Did I ever feel unsafe? Sure, but not because of a gun. Did I ever get threatened by a student? Yes, but not with a gun. So, are we really at epidemic proportions when it comes to guns at school, or even gun violence at school? Not even close. Again, if you look at the math – the number of students in the US and the number of schools in the US versus the number of people in the US, it is a rather small percentage of people who have experienced such a threat or event.

What it is, really, is a tragedy. Merriam-Webster, again, serves us well here. I am not trying to minimize the suffering of those wounded or killed in the events and I am not trying to lessen the impact the families of those students have felt either. Nor am I trying to say that students aren’t the victims of crime. But, what I am trying to do is put the matter into perspective. Hysteria tends to drive a tragedy into a rallying point for further hysteria, which ultimately leads to someone’s rights getting trampled or others becoming unintended victims. We aren’t at epidemic levels for school shootings and we shouldn’t let the hysteria of tragedy turn this into a rallying cry for something that really is only a symptom of the problem, not the catalyst.

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 This post continues with #walkout vs. #walkup (Part 2). If you would like to comment, please continue to the next post, read ALL of it, then leave a comment.

Marketing Fail: Worthless Savings

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When you get an email from a business you just finished patronizing and the subject line of the email reads like the one above, you are going to open it and see what savings you are receiving because you know you probably will go back again.

Savings Inside

This little tag, phrase, sentence, whatever you want to call it, has become rather popular these days. You see it in your emails. You see it when you are shopping online but haven’t signed into the website yet. You see it in texts from stores you’ve agreed to receive marketing texts from. You’ll even see it on the outside of junk mail (of the “snail mail” variety) envelopes trying to entice you to open it in the hopes the contents will actually help you in some way.

I’ll admit, I am a sucker for a good deal and have a hard time passing it up when it is an actual, bona-fide, good deal. I like saving money, who doesn’t? I mean, if I had money to burn, who cares what the price is – money is no object at that point! But, like most of you, I find myself pinching pennies at the end of the month and getting creative with the budget. So, “Savings Inside” is enticing and it could be the next great deal.

The problem is that in many cases the good deal is anything but a good deal. Most companies just hope you haven’t done any shopping around or offer so little actual value that in the long run you probably would have just been better to not have purchased it in the first place. Some examples you may have seen:

  1. The exceptions/exclusions area of coupons – some of these areas have so many exclusions that you literally can only buy like four items in the entire store. (see a Best Buy birthday reward coupon)
  2. Bed, Bath, and Beyond – they like to run the exact same coupon every week (in email or mailer) of 20% off your purchase. Every week! They might as well just lower all their prices by 20%…makes me feel sorry for the people who shop there without a coupon.
  3.  Any store that offers 10% off of something – the saving is so low, you barely save the cost of the sales tax.

Anyway, back to the latest fail at marketing. This one is by the local Toyota dealership and it came about three days after visiting for oil changes on my cars. I just spent well over a $100 there, so I was looking forward to some savings for the next visit. Take a look at the “savings” in the “coupons” below.

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Did you read them carefully? See any savings? Yeah, me neither. Apparently the only savings here is “free information.”

The head scratcher here is that they bothered to put an expiration date on their “free information” and “coupon codes”, which of course are good for nothing.

I wish I could say this was a one-off, or a glitch, but I get these “offers” from the dealership fairly often. My guess is they don’t have anyone really paying attention to their marketing, even though they say they “are here for me.”

So, we are left to click and hope (or if you are into the snail mail thing, rip and hope) that there really is savings “in the mail.” In the meantime, make sure you read the fine print!

Do you have any worthless savings stories or examples? Share below.

Accountability of Weight: Update #1

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This is the first update installment for the year-long project of returning my physical self to much lighter version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

I am off to a slow start, physically, that is. I chose not to join a gym and I chose not to buy any exercise equipment. I figure if I am going to do this right, and do it for the rest of my life, that I should have a lifestyle change rather than a “quick-fix, make me feel good in the moment” type change. So, I set my step counter to a higher number than I had previously and attempted to reach that mark.

Yes, you probably caught the “attempted” in that last sentence. I say that because an every day effort in the last month has been difficult. I live in the Northwest and there is wet…and cold…and sometimes even snow and ice…and it is dark for major portions of the day. They sound like excuses, and they are of sorts. BUT, I have had at least one day a week where I go over my step goal and typically I have another day or two that are close. So, I am getting more steps in, but not really making a conscious effort at this point to make that happen.

Highlights:

I have purposely not done a lot of the physical activity because I have decided to start more with watching the type of food and how much of that food I put in my body. THAT is a big step because that not only requires a physical lifestyle change, but also a mental one.

My job now doesn’t lend itself to much movement and so I find myself getting munchie. It is easy to plow through snacks without really taking notice of how much I have consumed. So, food – type and how much – has been my focus this month. Places I have made changes and track in a food app:

  1. Eat some fruit or veggies for breakfast, to go along with my coffee (I never/rarely ate breakfast, so this has been a weird shift).
  2. I am aware of how much water I am drinking, or not, and aim to get three to four 16.9 ounce bottles of water.
  3. I am limiting the amount of calories during lunch.
  4. I am working on portion size and not getting seconds at dinner.
  5. I try not to eat after a certain time at night (except for maybe some popcorn, because popcorn is life).

Over the last month, the changes have been good and I anticipate they will continue to improve as I develop good habits and find what works, and doesn’t work, for me.

The Chase:

210 = official starting weight 2/15/18

-5.2 = pounds lost as of the morning of 3/11

204.8 = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues!

Anniversary: A Travel Cup Commentary

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Some things in life are worth holding onto. Some things in life are worth letting go.

Most things, just aren’t made they way the used to be. Those old things, those are the ones worth holding onto, most of the time.

Week day mornings for the last 10 years have mostly started with the same object in my hand while I commute from home to work. It has travelled as far as I have over those years.

My trusty Starbucks travel cup bears the signs of use, and lots of it. It has kept me company in the car and has made my mornings that much easier to deal with the day ahead. Sure, it isn’t as pretty as it was when it was new, but I like it just the same.

When it was new, it was blue. The color has been long since worn away and now it is just a plain stainless steel, double walled shell. It didn’t have dents along the bottom ring, or a chipped lid. It certainly didn’t have a nose print (yes, that ring is a nose print) or a whisker burn on the lid. Some of the wear and tear has come from riding in a cup holder, taking dives off the top of the car, being tossed into the back seat, shoved into a bag, or just plain doing what it is supposed to do. But it has withstood all the travel and abuse.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t leak! The original rubber ring that closes the seal between the lid and the cup is still intact. The rubber nub that keeps the air hole closed on the lid is still intact as well. Not only does it not leak, but it also keeps my coffee hot for my entire commute (provided the coffee lasts that long), which can sometimes be more than an hour.

My wife gave me the cup just a little over 10 years ago for my birthday. We had just started dating then and it was the first of my birthdays we had been together, so who knew what kind of life it, let alone we, would have since then. She told me the other day, when I mentioned it was now 10 years old, that I should get another one. My response? “No way! I love this cup.”

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The thing is, there really isn’t anything special about the cup. It is, after all, just a cup. But, what is special about the cup is that my wife gave it to me and it has been a part of my mornings for so long, I can’t imagine using a different cup. It is kind of like that old pair of sweat pants or shoes, that old t-shirt or sweatshirt that is so worn out and thread-bare, but you just can’t give it up. Why? Well, because it is comfortable. When you wear them or use it, it just feels right. It is a piece of you, to some degree, so giving it up would be like giving up a hand, or leg. Ok, well maybe not that drastic, but you know what I mean.

I get it. Some people would say, “But there are new ones. New is better. It has more bells and whistles. It looks better.” I say, let them say it. Replacing something just because it is old, isn’t the answer and it is over-rated. Period.

They don’t make them like they used to…and some things are just worth holding on to.

 

What thing or things do you have in your life that is worth holding onto because it is familiar, comfortable, and just plain made better?

Aborted: Valentine’s Day Love Letter to Myself

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I can’t escape this day, so I might as well embrace it for what it is. What it is, is time to give myself some love, something I have neglected to do for a long time ever.

I have written about Valentine’s Day in the past. I don’t have a love affair with the idea of the day and maybe probably actually despise it a lot little. But something I have never done is actually given myself some affirming words on a day that is should be dedicated to me love. So, let’s give this a try and see how it works out…

My Love Letter To Me

You ARE enough. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t have to be everything to everyone, and you shouldn’t try to be. YOU are enough the way you are.

You ARE unique. There is no one like you and you already stand out for the right reasons. YOUR uniqueness shines through in all that you do.

Abort, abort, abort…

OK, that is as far as I got. It totally feels foreign. Awkward! Why is it so weird to talk about myself in this way?

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The truth is that I am not good at this. I guess I have never been very good at accepting compliments, let alone taking them from myself. Maybe I never will be.

I am hard on myself. Always have been. My humor is self-deprecating, but that’s probably a reflection of the fact that I don’t see much that is valuable. I know I am valuable, but affirming it of myself, from myself, is not something I’ve been good at. Is anyone good at it, really?

I suppose most of us probably avoid this sort of thing because we see others who may be good at it but we feel like they are being conceited or full of themselves. “Well, lookie here. Who got up on his/her high horse today?”  We don’t want to come across as someone who is full of themselves so we do the exact opposite and then it turns into a habit, where we beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down.

Oh, for the love of Pete self…

So, has anyone written a love letter to themselves before? How do you do it? Got any hints, tips, pointers?

How did you feel while you were writing it?

How did you feel after you had done? Do you go back and reread it once in a while?

The great mystery here, at least for me, is how to love myself AND actually feel it without feeling like it is phony self-talk. Is that possible?

The Accountability of Weight

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There is a birthday coming around the corner, and it is high time something changes.

Number 46 comes on February 14 (yes, the one that is tomorrow) and I have been thinking about this for a while. The thing is about this birthday, as opposed to say some major landmark like 50 or 60, is that I feel like this one is scary. Not because I am getting older, but because there are things in my life that need to change and by putting it out there (as in, bringing it up on my blog and other places) I am going to have to do something about it. Accountability…I don’t fear it, but I do when it comes to this.

I am overweight and something needs to change.

I know. I have known it for a while. Now, I’m not grossly overweight – though the current standards on obesity certainly indicate that I am, in fact, grossly overweight. I don’t really feel it (all the time), but I know that my clothes just don’t fit well any longer and that the prospect of buying bigger ones that do fit, well, that isn’t all that appealing really. So, I am at a crossroads.

According to several websites, the ideal weight for my age & height ranges somewhere between 130-145. To me, that doesn’t sound reasonable because it is too low. The reason it doesn’t sound reasonable is because that is the weight (130) I was at when I graduated high school. At the end of high school I was a lean, mean wrestling and baseball machine and I don’t really have any intention of going back to being that lean. But, it does give me insight into what I think would be a much healthier me, maybe 15-20 heavier than the “ideal weight.” I mean, let’s be honest here, I am going to have to have some muscle! I don’t care if it is toned or sculpted or whatever they call it these days. I just want to feel better and have more energy. So…

I would like to lose 46 pounds in the next year. Yes, that’s right, I want to lose one pound for each year I have been alive and I want to do it in the next 365+/- days. That would mean this:

Currently I am 208 lbs – 46 lbs in 1 year = 162 lbs as a final weight.

Ok, ok, let’s just round that number to 165. There. That is my goal. I have one year to get it done.

Now, I don’t want this to turn into a blog about my journey to/thru weight loss, so I am body_deadline-2not going to write lots of regular updates here. I don’t think you want to be bored with that kind of info. But, what I do want is some accountability, so I am going to try to post an update on my progress about once a month (hopefully progress, and not lack thereof). Approximately every 30 days you should hear something from me about how it is going. Hold me to it! If you don’t see something 30 days from now, email me and remind me. Please. Pretty please. Thank you please.

 

I was talking with a friend last night and he has lost 95 pounds in about 14 months. Man, that was a motivator too! I can do this…I just gotta put my head to it and my nose to the grindstone…

If you see me with food that is bad for me, slap it out of my hand and punch me in the nose. Ok, that would be good accountability but I don’t think I really want that. Maybe.

Any advice as I go into this? I mean beyond the typical eat right and exercise. I know that part. Food tips? Exercise tips? Motivational tips? Music? Apps? What do you know and recommend? Comment below!

Directions You’re Gonna Regret

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Every had one of those moments where you decide to follow the directions and then instantly regret it?

The image above shows the directions I followed, which I instantly regretted. Why? They seem relatively straight forward, right?

Not exactly. If you were paying attention, the food is contained within a pouch. The problem is the pouch. The food literally does not need to be cooked in the pouch. But, you decide to follow the directions anyway. So, as a result, one wouldn’t think to cover the top of the pouch…I can see that lightbulb flickering…you are starting to get it…because while to food is in the pouch there is no convenient way to cover the top of the pouch with something that will keep the now heating food from exploding all over the inside of the microwave. POP! SNAP! CRACKLE, CRACKLE, BOOM!

So the written instructions on the back of the food product would more accurately read:

  1. Tear or cut open pouch.
  2. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 45-60 seconds. Microwave ovens vary; heating times may need to be adjusted.
  3. Wait for “fireworks” noises to be heard over the humming of the microwave.
  4. If you live dangerously, wait for the time on the microwave to expire and you hear the beep or ding. If you don’t like to live dangerously, curse loudly and pull open microwave door immediately.
  5. Remove pouch from microwave while surveying the messy damage. If you like burnt fingertips, grab anywhere and throw in a little squeeze for kicks; otherwise, carefully grab a small corner at the top edge of the pouch.
  6. Empty remaining content of pouch into a bowl or onto a plate. If the pouch is lighter than when you put it into the microwave, deposit pouch directly into the garbage.
  7. While cursing or muttering under your breath, grab cleaning supplies (we recommend all purpose cleaner and paper towels) and clean the entire inside of the microwave before the next co-worker needs to use it. Return cleaning supplies to proper location after use.
  8. If you are still hungry, ENJOY the small amount of remaining contents from the pouch. Remember, it may be hot (depending on how long it took you to clean the microwave) so use caution. If the remaining contents are not hot, please return them directly to the clean microwave and cover the dish with a paper towel.
  9. If you are not still hungry, return directly to work and try to be productive while your stomach growls all afternoon.

Here’s how it should read since the instructions are out of order or they left out a few steps:

  1. Tear or cut open pouch.
  2. Empty contents into a bowl or onto a plate.
  3. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 45-60 seconds. Microwave ovens vary; heating times may need to be adjusted.
  4. Enjoy.

There, now isn’t that better?

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Do you have an example of when you followed the directions and then regretted it? Share in the comments below!

School Picture Thievery

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This school picture thing is a pretty big racket if you ask me, and if you’re a parent you know what I am talking about. If there is any place you know it and can feel yourself being ripped off but can’t do anything about it, it is definitely with school pictures and sports team photos.

I have felt this frustration in the past, but it kind of boiled to a head this year when I went to order my daughter’s school pictures. It usually isn’t a big deal trying to order them, but being the “non-custodial” parent who usually gets the information second-hand sometimes it takes a while to get it done. (Yes, I realize I could just have photographer friend take the photo and avoid all the trouble so I guess I am a glutton for punishment).

Anyway, I logged onto the website with my special code and wanted to just download the image to my computer and then go have them printed in the quantities and styles I desired. So, I selected the outrageously overpriced digital image – $22. Say what? Yeah, you read that right…let’s do some quick math…

If a school has 300 hundred students and the photographer can get 60 students through a line and photographed per hour, then the photographer would work for five hours. The photographer is, most likely, using a digital camera to take said digital images @ $22 each, therefore making $1320/hr, or $6600/day. That is of course presuming that each parent purchases just the digital image, let alone one of the other overpriced packages they offer. Now we know not all parents purchase the pictures, but you get the idea.

So, after choosing the digital image for download I get to the check out page only to see that I am going to be charged a “Shipping and Handling” fee of $7. Uh, wait, what? I am downloading a digital image. Why is there a shipping and handling fee? What’s worse is that I can’t remove the fee either. The radial button is greyed out. I either pay the fee right now, or wait until the next day to call them. So, I opted to call the company the next day since surely the fee for a digital download isn’t $7 bucks…

I called the next day and waded through their automated answering system until I got to a real person to talk to. I explained my situation and asked if there was some kind of error on their website that wouldn’t allow me to remove the shipping and handling fee. The response?

“No, that is a flat fee we charge for all late orders.” 

Late? Yes, it is true I didn’t order when the pictures were taken in the fall, but your website says they can be ordered at any time until following fall AND there is nothing to indicate this is a “late” order on the website. I was a little dumbfounded. I said, “You’re joking right? How does downloading a digital image warrant a $7 late fee or even a shipping and handling fee?”

“Well, we do have to mail you the rights release so you can have the picture printed.”

So what you’re saying is that you are going to charge me $7 to mail me a sheet of paper and an envelope that costs, at best, a stamp or maybe two? I said, “Listen, I understand it costs money to send a piece of paper and envelope out to me but I have ordered digital images from other photographers in the past and they didn’t charge me an extra fee for the rights release, they included it with the digital image download. Surely you have the ability to do that right? So, why would I need a piece of paper mailed to me? It takes less than three minutes to compose a generic email and attach two image files to it.”

“Ok, I suppose I could waive the shipping and handling fee. What email address would you like the images sent to?”

Thank you. Now was that so hard and how about you waive all shipping and handling fees for all digital downloads from here on out? I probably speak for everyone who has encountered this ridiculous fee. There is no reason for it other than you can, and you have families over a barrel. I would venture a guess that many people just pay the fee, which is sad.

Highway robbery, I tell ya, only there was no highway and the bandit holds parents and other family members hostage every dang year around school picture time.

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