- Online banking is a no-brainer. We never realized how unnecessary (and fee driven) the bricks-n-mortar banks were until we switched to an online bank. For those occasional in-person events (need some Euros or cash a bond), keep a few dollars in a local credit union and get access to on-premise services.
- 2 factor authentication – DO IT TODAY! Ever wonder how your friend’s Facebook or Google account was hacked? It’s because they didn’t have two-factor authentication enabled. It’s a simple setting, and you should do this on your prized Internet accounts before finishing this post.
- Global Entry is a traveler’s dream. After 4+ years of using this magnificent system, we can attest to its ability to save hours of standing in lines – both TSA and US Customs. The program ensures TSA Pre-check along with a simple hand scan to get back into the country, and now, there are some lighter-weight options if flying domestic primarily.
- Scrap those scrapbooks with digitization. After fires destroyed ~25 houses in our neighborhood during a dry spell, we determined our photos were the only non-replaceable item of importance. Pro tip #1: Use a service to convert those hard copies. Pro tip #2: Put those pics in a digital frame, so you actually look a them. Pro tip #3: Do a little at a time.
- Allergies and cough – be gone! Neti pots have been around for literally 1000’s of years, and they still work wonders today in simplified form. At first sign of a sniffle or sneeze, start using this daily to induce a significantly retracted symptom duration.
- Life’s schedule doesn’t follow conventional patterns. There are traditions and then there are milestones. As a family, we strive to never confuse nor confound the two.
8 Lessons Learned in 2013
- Signs that life is short are all around us. Last Tuesday morning at 3:37 AM (Central), while standing on a step ladder, I pulled out the smoke alarm battery and squinted out my own handwriting: “6-24-11”. I could pass a lie detector test swearing I change these every 6 months – always between the hours of midnight and dawn.
- The Apple handcuffs have finally been broken. Since moving to Spotify eight months ago, I haven’t purchased a single iTunes song. (…and yes, you can access your playlists without being online.)
- No more passwords! Our “secret” password notebook has been rendered useless since moving to LastPass (for a whopping $12/year!). Between the time savings and security, this is beyond a no-brainer.
- Shopping online is mainstream (duh!). I bought EVERY single holiday gift online this year. Again, Amazon Prime rocks, even though I had to use a couple other sites to ensure there were a few surprises (for the snoopy co-member of the account).
- Google Drive (Docs) is truly the best and getting better every week. For the everyday low price of nothing, 99% of all Word/Excel tasks can be done with Google, and by the way, you also get real-time collaboration, instantaneous backup, and secure sharing as an additional free bonus.
- Social media can be fun again. After some introspection into why I had all but stopped interacting on the public Interwebs, I decided to introduce some discipline and am enjoying the benefits with several blog posts, tweets, and pics in store for 2014.
- Paperless is now a reality. Thanks to the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (2014 edition), notebooks (both kinds) are becoming a thing of the past. Admittedly, the paperless option is going to lie in the early adopter phase for most at this point in time, but the writing apps are becoming quite good.
- Bye bye little boxes. In the words of Malvina Reynolds (via Jenji Kohan): “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same…” To avoid sounding rantish and/or brash, we’ll simply summarize by saying those rules, ruts and rituals can all be broken. Bold changes and crazy adventures have served the Lunt’s well in 2013, and we’re planning on even more healthy disruption in 2014!
Simplifying our travel experience
After having someone walk off with our luggage a second time in 2 years (both times by accident), we decided to add luggage tags to all of our suitcases. Originally, we tried the store-bought tags, but they often fell apart after a few trips, and the customized online tags seemed like a poor ROI, as we wanted to place two tags on every bag and not have to add/remove the tags every trip.
The solution was to have business cards printed on colored paper – double-sided. This can be done with a MS Word template, or you can actually have business cards created via several methods. FedEx Office (previously Kinko’s) will laminate the cards and provide the plastic loops for ~$2/each. In fact, you can walk into any FedEx Office and ask them how to do the entire project if you want to avoid the smallest amount of cognitive discomfort. We’ve been using these for about 8 years, and only one has broken in all that time.
- The total time to complete the project was less than an hour.
- The tags were completely unique and high quality, unlike the store-bought items.
- The solution is cheap enough to have extras made for new bags and broken tags.
- Since implementing, no airline has ever lost our bags, and no one has ever taken our bags.
- With two on each bag, we can always see our bags on the conveyor from a distance. (i.e. No more checking bags that look like yours.)
- With these, there is no more scrambling to fill out the airline-specific tags while impatient passengers wait on you at the check-in counter.
Fitness on the fly
Having visited a lot of hotels during the past year for work and pleasure, I’m always entertained by the wide variety of characters that frequent these scaled-down fitness facilities. While most have the best intentions, some of their actions have culminated into the perfect ‘what not to do’ list.
- 10 min Timmy. Timmy often looks the part with the branded shirt and shorts, but his time in the gym will be short. After ten “hard” minutes on the treadmill, he’s off to that big business meeting. This marathon is barely long enough to burn off a cup of nonfat yogurt, and even worse, the false perception of fitness may have Timmy in the doctor’s office sooner than he expected.
- Chewing gum Charlie. The second I see Charlie, I scold myself for not finding the time to get my CPR certificate renewed. Sure, Michael Jordan chewed gum from time-to-time, but usually, there were a few (thousand) people in the near vicinity. I’m sure the Freakanomics stats give Charlie a high likelihood of survival, but any good reasons to do this are offset by plenty of bad reasons.
- One rep Ronnie. Ronnie likely lifts weights on a strict 12 month schedule. He places the pin on the heaviest level on the weight machine and strenuously pushes out one, maybe two repetitions. After a quick glance/flex in the mirror, he’s off to the next station to pump out another 1-2 red-faced reps. Unfortunately, the only swelling Ronnie is likely to acquire is from a torn muscle or even worse, a hernia.
- Frustrated Fred. Of everyone in the gym, Fred is a frequent attendee and loves to spend time on cardio machines. Fred’s problem is not his physical health; it’s his alarm clock skills. When Fred checked out the gym the night before, it was empty, but at 7:30 AM, the room is filled with early rising type A’s. The sign in the gym says 30 minutes max, but Fred is intensely scowling at his watch every 60 seconds while free spinning on the broken upright bike. Fred may be extending his life by being in the gym, but he’s lost 2-3 years from the stress this little incident has incurred.
- No wipe Willie. Willie wants to share something with everyone else – his perspiration. Upon his exit, the elliptical machine looks like a rain shower hit the exercise room. Willie’s lack of common courtesy will mostly go unnoticed, but a friendly dose of staphylococcal will provide an (un)healthy reminder of his existence.
Working out while on the road is an essential part of maintenance as well as a good method for countering jet lag when the normal life schedule has been altered. Burning off those high-calorie restaurant meals will make jumping back into the routine much easier, and avoiding the habits listed above will make the experience a lot more pleasurable (for us all).
If you ever watched a NASCAR race, one question quickly comes to mind: Was this sport created by car enthusiasts or by brilliant marketers? This is the only sport (and I use the term loosely) where the souvenirs and even the sport itself represent the sponsors more than the people involved in the sport.
To my knowledge, this the only sport where people would actually purchase an orange $500 leather jacket covered with Home Depot logos, while the term “NASCAR” is hidden on the inside tag. The sponsors of this sport have an ulterior motive in selling this paraphernalia than say the average Fortune 500 company buying a sign out in center field. The NASCAR sponsors are literally “allowing” people to pay to become walking billboards. In fact, it’s no wonder the drivers are awarded points for being in first place the most laps. Guess which car, I mean logo, is shown on TV the most?!
Why haven’t companies pushed other professional sports onto this strategy and to this extent? While the target audience might seem restricted to some, it’s actually quite diverse. I can’t speak for all readers out there, but I can’t wait to start wearing my Southwest Airlines blazer to the next family dinner.
Special security lines at the airport
You get what you pay for. Being a Southwest-aholic, I won’t be cutting in any lines.
Amsterdam – April 2006
Originally uploaded by Mike Lunt.
I was watching a movie ealier this week and recognized the Amsterdam central train station. This is the inside view.
Belize – March 2006
Originally uploaded by Mike Lunt.
This was taken while sailing off the coast of Belize earlier this year. Supposedly, a flash occurs right before the sun goes below the horizon.