Friday, June 3, 2011

How to be More Interesting

Think about the most interesting people you know.  Why do you find them interesting?  It's most likely because they have lots of stories. 

Since the beginning of spoken word people have told stories.  People used to sit around fires and tell stories.  Everything we do is based around this ability to hold a person or groups attention so you can get your point across.  All the movies and television we watch is all for this one purpose. 

So here's a few things I've been doing to make myself a better story teller.

1.  Realize that everything that happens to you is not important.  These new reality television shows make everyone think that just hanging out at the house is an event.  It's not.  Did you learn something from this event?  Did it make you laugh?  Then most likely you don't need to share it with anyone.

2.  Make notes.  Guess what?  You're memory is not that good.  Why else did people start drawing pictures on cave walls?  Because they couldn't remember what happened last year.  With the sensory overload we experience everyday it's amazing anyone remembers what happened to them this morning.
If you keep just a little list on your phone, or maybe on a little pad of paper not only will it help you be more intersting but it will make you feel better about yourself.  You can go back and see the things you've accomplished that day or things you've overcome.

3.  Make yourself relatable.  Are you talking to the 30 year old guy at McDonald's while you're waiting for your food?  He probably doesn't want to hear about how you went to college and now you're making a million dollars.  Co-worker?  He probably doesn't care about your blog explaining the wonders of cat ownership.  Don't talk to your hairdresser about credit default swaps.  Don't talk to your banker about your intermural softball league.

4.  Be funny.  Everyone wants to laugh and if you can't have a mild sense of humor it will be hard to hold anyone's attention.  You don't have to be Jim Carrey.  And make sure if you tell a joke it's appropriate.  That dead baby joke you and your friends think is a knee slapper?  Most people won't think it's nearly as hilarious.  Take my word on it.

5.  Do your best to stay on the topic of you.  If anyone really wanted to know what happened on Desperate Housewives the past weekend they would've watched it.  There are people who are better at telling stories than you.  They get paid to write these shows and movies.  I know it's tempting to recount the plot of Lost, but unless you have some insight on how Jack's inner battle lead you to establish a new religion.  Don't.

Of course, none of this matters if you don't know anything about the person you're talking to.  So probably the most important thing is learning how to listen well.  You have to be able make some sort of insight from conversation you are having.  It's impossible to be of interest if you don't know what the person you're talking to is interested in.  The only way to find this is out is by listening.  You can only assume so much by just looking at a person. 

Just listening you other people tell stories can help you get better at this.  It really is a lost art form.  One of the best groups of people I've heard trying to bring back this tradition is The Moth.  Go there.  Listen to some podcasts.  Check out there YouTube channel.  There is a lot to learn.  It's pretty entertaining too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Investing in Children

A friend of a friend brought a kid over to my house the other night.  Maybe it was last night.  It got me thinking about why people have kids.  It doesn't seem to make very much sense.

As far as investments in the future go, there are plenty safer bets.

Even before the child is born the cost of having and raising one start to add up.  Doctors visits to check on the heath of the baby and all that jazz.  After that comes the extravagant cost of actually delivering the thing.  You've already dumped thousands of dollars into your investment without any clear sign of whether or not you will get anything in return.

So the baby is born.  You have even more stuff to pay for.  You've got food, clothes, diapers, cribs, etc.  The list could literally go on forever.  Involved in this is probably the biggest cost.  The loss of productive time spent raising them.  Babies require inordinate amounts of attention.  Assuming your skills dictate that you can come out better by working, you can still work and pay someone else to watch the child.  This goes on for what seems like eons as children are not quickly able to care for themselves.

Even after they can supposedly take care of themselves, they really can't.  As the child turns into a teenager you might think the costs would go down.  Maybe you're kid becomes an athlete.  Athletes need a lot of clothes and gear and such.  Expensive.  Maybe your kid is super smart.  Again, these children need lots of stuff.  They want lots of books and calculators.  Ugh, calculators.  Expensive.  Maybe, and hopefully not, your child is just a bad seed.  Lawyers?  Expensive.  If you somehow make past all of this without going bankrupt or losing your mind.  There's still college!  Expensive!

I can only assume people hope that as they grow older that their children will take care of them as they slowly turn old.  What are the real chances of that?  We can assume by the rate at which people save for retirement that even they don't believe their children will take of them.

So, in the end what's really the point?  Dump capital into what seems like a black hole for at least 21 years but probably more like 25.  What is the incentive for people to go through this whole process?  Why would anyone in their right mind want to have a kid?

I don't know the answer to that question, but they sure are cute.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gasoline Prices Are Not Too High

Yes, gas prices are at there highest level in the last 40 years or whatever ridiculous stat you'd like to throw at me.  Also, money spent on gas is daily growing into a larger percentage of our income.  Despite all of this, it's still not too high.

How can I tell?  How many people do you know that have stopped driving their vehicle?  How many people do you know who still drive pick-up trucks and SUV's?

Every morning on my way to work I'm stuck in traffic.  If gas is too expensive why are all these people still driving?  Maybe they're only driving because they have to go to work.  This still doesn't account for all the other times of day I'm stuck in traffic because there are too many people just driving around.  Not only are the driving, but they are driving HUGE vehicles.  Why are you driving a pick-up to your job at McDonald's?  Do they routinely ask you to haul things away from work?  What about that SUV with only you and your kid in it?

People only drive as long as derive utility from it.  When it actually becomes so expensive to drive a car that people start walking around, or maybe there's an influx of people on public transportation that will be the point that driving is too costly. 

Until that point, I'm pretty much tired of hearing about it.  Do you think gas prices are too high? Prove it to me by getting off the road and out my way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Television: Why I Hate It

This past weekend I found myself watching the NHL playoffs.  Now, there is nothing wrong with hockey and I found myself moderately entertained by what was going on.  Therein lies the problem.  I have not this year, or any other year, followed hockey in the slightest.  After I spent the two hours or so watching the game, I realize that I had gotten almost zero utility from doing so.

Now, I'm not arguing that I don't enjoy watching television.  In fact, there are quite a few shows that I derive so much happiness from that it's more than worthwhile for me do so.  The issue is that after these handful of shows is over I continue to just sit and stare.  Watching the images flash and accomplishing absolutely nothing.  Barely even enjoying it.  This often leads to late nights of little gain.  I can't sleep because I haven't done anything. So I just sit and stare.  Of course, the next day I'm tired from not getting good sleep.  It's a rather vicious cycle. 

The problem is compounded by the fact that there are at least 25 things at any point in time that I could be doing.  Anything of these things would be of more benefit to me.  Watching TV is probably the least productive thing a human being can do. 
So as of today I am setting forth a plan of action.  Maybe even call it an experiment.

1.  Make a list of shows I am going to watch.

2.  Make it a point to watch only those shows.

3.  Make a list of things to do instead of watching TV.

4.  Cross off at least one thing from my list everyday.

5.  At the week, next Monday to be exact, I will try and figure out if I am happier then I was the week before.

With any luck, I'll be able to slowly make my list of shows to watch shorter and shorter.  By not just watching everything on TV, I should be able to avoid adding things that don't really interest me but somehow crept on there.  At some point I'd like to cut it down to 3-4 hours a week.  That seems about ideal.

I can see only good things coming of this.  Most Sunday nights I sit around thinking about all the things I should've accomplished that weekend and realizing that I didn't do any of them.  I go to sleep on those nights feeling dissatisfised with myself. 

Hopefully, by doing it a little bit a time I can pull myself away from the idiot box.  I might even make myself smarter in the process.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Smoking Gave Me Cancer (And Everything Else Did Too)

I spent the better part of today doing some research into tobacco smoking.  I guess I was looking for a reason to quit.  Why exactly I started is a topic for another time, but it will suffice to say that it probably wasn't the most informed decision I've ever made.

We can pretty much agree that smoking is not something that's postive for your health.  Those stupid commercials seem to put it at least on par with being caught in the fall out radius of a nuclear blast.  I'm pretty sure that's just a little exaggeration on their part.  Regardless, it's obvious smoking doesn't increase your life expectancy.  I'm not going to go into that becuase in all honesty it's the least of my concerns. 

So, we get around to the only thing I was really looking at to begin with which are the economic costs of smoking.  This information seems to go around and around.  Different groups presenting different data sets.  For instance, it's said there are additional health costs placed upon non-smokers.  On the opposite end, smokers die earlier then non-smokers thus never collecting the social security and such they've paid into.  There was a ton of other things, but I couldn't find anything to motivate myself here either.  Honestly, the money I waste on cigarettes seems fully justified to me because I enjoy smoking.

After all that research, I couldn't find a single reason to coax myself into putting down that sweet, sweet nicotine.  I suppose I'll just have to make up some reasons I'm sure it's the right thing to do.

1.  I will feel healthier.  I hate randomly feeling like I can't breathe.  That definitely needs to go.

2.  I will have more money.  Obviously this isn't certain, but wouldn't that be neat if instead of making me pay to smoke people would pay me to not smoke?  I'll have to look into that. 

3.  Everyone will leave me alone about quitting.  I suppose we can say, I aiming to lower my hassle level. 
"Hey, did you know smoking was bad for you?"  Yes.  Yes, I do. 
"You should really quit smoking."  Should I?  Really?  You should stop wasting my air.

4.  I won't smell like smoke?  I honestly don't know if that's a negative or a positive.

5.  Obviously, I'll just be better then you.

This will certainly end in tragedy, but then again what doesn't?  Just like something will end up giving me cancer eventually.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

Under the advice of someone who I am beginning to believe is wise beyond what many seem to think, I decided make this first blog post.
His advice was to write a list of ten things you love about your wife. I don't have a wife so I have decided to write the list on why I love my mother. Based upon the date of this writing, it seems more than appropriate. 

1.  As a child, I always thought my mother was far to harsh with us.  As an adult, I can't help but appreciate every time she scolded me for doing something wrong. I feel that if more parents raised their children with more attention to discipline we wouldn't have nearly so many of these out of control children.
As a side note, if I'm paying $200+ for a nice meal for my mother, I do not want to hear your two year old screaming because you don't want to hold him.  Please don't pawn him off on some 18 year old child to take care of inside the restaurant.  Leave that monster at home.

2.  To this day my mother protects me from things she finds to be a threat. At 26 years old I don't know how necessary that is, but it's still appreciated.  It amazes me how these children get snatched up out the streets.  Where was your mother? Why was she not protecting you from the dangers of the world?

3.  My mother tried to spoil us as much as she could.  When I was very young my father made so much money we literally had every material thing we could have wanted.  After the divorce, we were knocked way below the poverty line.  Despite this, every chance my mother got she would buy us everything she could afford.

4.  She was always selfless.  Every dollar she had went to providing for us, and any extra money she could scrounge up was put towards giving my brother and I all the extra things we didn't need but wanted anyway.

5.  I love her sense of humor.  She's always making jokes about everything.  Somehow we find the exact same things funny.  It's really quite amazing.

6.  She keeps an almost constant optimistic outlook on things.  If not, she makes you feel like it's going to be okay.  Even if she knows it's not going to be. 

7.  The woman has seemingly unlimited patience.  I know for a fact I can be the most frustrating person on the face of this planet.  Honestly, I aggravate myself some days.  It's incredible that she deals with my constant procrastination and self-centeredness all the time. 

8.  She is constantly moving forward.  I have never a person who works more often or harder then she does.  I can't imagine putting in the amount of time she does.

9.  I take advantage of it much more often than I should, but I know she's always available if I need her.  Not just for me either.  She's always the first one offering a helping hand to just about anyone.  I have quite a few friends who can attest to that.  I'm not going to share personal stories of other people, but I know for a fact that there's people who have called her in the middle of the night because of a real, or percieved, crisis.  I include myself in that group, and I'm glad she's been there when I needed her.

10.  I love that she never makes me feel like a failure.  No matter how many times I screw up.  No matter how many times I don't call when I should.  Regardless of the myriad of times I've let her down.  I drop out of college, and all she does is encourage me to go back. I say I'll do something and don't.

For all these reason, I love my mom.
I don't know what I would do without her.