Make Your Random Ideas A Reality, by Will Saunders

Back around the year 2000 when I got my first WMATA SmarTrip card, I got a random idea that could have been very profitable for me if I had the business acumen to make it happen then. But alas, here I sit.

Here’s what happened: a coworker either lost her purse or had it stolen; I cannot recall which at this time. Consequently, she also lost her wallet along with her identification and credit cards. I remember thinking how nice it would be to have all your personal information installed on SmarTrip-type technology. That way, you won’t have to carry around all your sensitive items, using only the SmarTrip card to pay for things and identify who you are. My idea also would have worked for law enforcement too; you give the officer your card and your license can come up in their computer. If you should lose it, you only have to get a new SmarTrip card, re-register it, and you’re all good to go. That’s much better than having to remember which cards were in your wallet and having to go through the trouble of calling to cancel each one of them.

But that idea was only a whimsical idea, as I thought little more about it. . . that is until these similar types of systems emerged, like Goggle Pay and Apple Pay. It’s really ingenious. If I had furthered my idea back then, I would singing the song, Easy Street (as I hum the tune to a song of that title from my favorite musical, Annie.)

My confidence level is much better today than it was back then. If I get a good idea like that now, I’ll definitely do something with it.

Meanwhile, this is the Annie song I’d be singing, the best version from the original Broadway cast recording.

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Shopping Fiends, by Will Saunders

Some people are weak when it comes to shopping. I am one of those people. Not as weak as I once was, but still. I’m very weak.

I did some birthday shopping recently for myself. The big day is April 24th – Taurus in the house!!! Two of my regular sites sent me a “Thank You” discount code for a use on a new order: Tastee Treasures and Best Buy.

In addition to the thank you discount, Tastee Treasures carrotted me by offering a 15% discount for a future purchase if I completed a customer satisfaction survey, which I completed. That same site often has specials (i.e., Tuesday special – buy before midnight; March Madness special; special Easter sale, etc). These sites use some good data analytics algorithms, because I got follow-up emails reminding me to use the discounts before their expiration dates. They knew I hadn’t yet used them.

I don’t need much encouragement to shop. I particularly do not need any help when I get free money. I haven’t use those discounts, not yet. I may not ever use them. One thing is certain, I shop at both sites regularly, so they know I won’t need a carrot to lure me to buy. I’ll go back. But the bad thing is, Tastee Treasures tends to sell out of the things I most want. My size is the mean for its main demographic. If you don’t know, Tastee Treasures is to men what Victoria’s Secret is to women. You see men all the time post their selfies wearing their gear. So, I don’t buy Tastee stuff as often as I might buy, as they’re often out of my size. I would complete a survey about that, but the survey they offer me is always about how I like the things I actually bought, not the things I tried to buy but couldn’t.

C’est la vie!  The bad thing in this situation is kind of a good thing, though. Being sold out helps me achieve my goal to shop less frequently.

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Cruising Pregnant, by Will Saunders

Sometimes, things can hit you hard when you first find out about them. But then after you take a moment, step back, and deprogram, you tend to view things differently. I’m speaking about a family that was ejected from a Disney cruise ship over a woman’s pregnancy.

Did you know that if you’re pregnant, cruise lines have specific restrictions that apply to you? Not only are there limitations on how far along in the pregnancy you can be in order to sail, but you may also be required to provide a medical certification that you’re healthy enough to travel. I didn’t know. Did you? The rules vary from one company to the next, and there’s a site with rules of all the major cruise ships.

Evidently, 24 weeks is the common timeframe. That’s what many of the cruise lines stipulate. In this instance, Emily Jackson from Missouri, was 25 weeks pregnant and traveling with her family, including some children, when she got the devastating news that she exceeded the limit.

I’m still a little miffed that the family in this story  was escorted off the ship by an armed officer and a K-9 officer. I wasn’t there and I don’t know whether the family was behaving in an aggressive manner, but it seems that this treatment was a bit extreme, in my opinion. But I’m only a tiny bit miffed. The more I delved into this story, I came to realize the woman was apparently aware of the “pregnancy” rule, because she had the medical certification stating she was okay to travel despite being past the 24th week. She knew yet she’s upset at the cruise company for ejecting her. Maybe she’s one of those people who is used to always getting what they want.

So, while I’m sad about what happened and the way in which the woman and her family was treated, it’s not like it was a surprise. She knew the rules, and she thought she was going to be clever and convince them to let her go anyway by presenting a note from her physician. But no dice. When you try and skirt around established rules that everyone else has to follow and you get burnt, I have no pity for you. I just feel bad for the others traveling with her. Oh well,  This is one additional thing families and single travelers need to consider when planning a cruise.

 

 

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How Do You Do It, by Will Saunders

 That’s a question I often get from people who ask me how I stay motivated to keep up with my health, fitness, and nutrition goals. Let me begin by telling you it’s a challenge – struggle – it’s not always easy. It is truly quite difficult to follow a consistent, structured, healthy eating plan and remain on target. If you really know me, you’ll know I try to plan and organize most things. When it comes to food, it’s hard for everybody.

But I have a few tips and tricks that I like to use, and you may like some of them too. So, here you are:

• Pay attention to and keep track of everything. I happen to use MyFitnessPal, have been using it for about seven years or so, but you can use another method if you choose. Some people I know use the old fashioned methods, such as pen and paper. But do what works for you. I like MyFitnessPal because you can tailor it to your own eating and set your goals for calories, protein, carbs, fiber, etc., and it tells you how you’re doing throughout the day. When you keep track of it, you realize how easy it is to go overboard. If you’re not paying attention, you can quickly rack up hundreds of empty calories. So, track everything, even a 5 calorie stick of gum.

• Plan all of your meals ahead of time. Some people call it meal prep. But whatever you call it, just do it. I know, I know. You’re thinking how that’s easier said than done, right? Well speaking from experience, I agree that it definitely can be easier said than done. But I also know that the reason most things are easier said than done is because we don’t do them often enough. The more we do things, the better we get at doing them — the easier they become. People sometimes laugh at me because I’m always thinking about or talking about food. If you and I are having lunch, it’s not uncommon for me to say something about dinner.  That’s because I like to plan out all my meals and snacks ahead of time. On most days, when I first get up in the morning, I already know what I’ll be eating for the rest of the day, including my between meal snacks. Usually in the morning, if you were connected to me on MyFitnessPal, you’d see I have entered everything for each meal. Sometimes I may alter it, but generally I have it mapped out. If I don’t plan it, I’ll grab the wrong things in a mindless, rote sort of way. You get me? Also, be not deceived. MyFitnessPal is good for tracking your meals and nutrition. Don’t let the name fool you. It isn’t only for fitness.

• Next, keep healthy snacks with you. Raisins, nuts, or grapes are good snacks. One of my favorite snacks is blueberries. I also am into cherry tomatoes.  Just one cup is filled with fiber, iron, niacin, vitamin K and loads of antioxidants. How about that: snacks that are good and good for you. You can’t beat that.

• It’s also important to focus on portion sizes, particularly snacks. I portion out a serving size of various things and keep them in baggies in the fridge or the pantry – or in my desk at work. Here’s another tip: you don’t have to have a full serving in order to be fulfilled. One of my favorite crackers list a serving size as 15 crackers. I usually have half that amount and I’m satisfied. The full serving is 150 calories. By having only half a serving, I free up 75 calories. That may not sound like much, but believe me, calories add up.

• If you really need to visit a vending machine, be careful at what you choose. Nowadays, many vending machines have a section dedicated to healthier items (i.e., the top row, the left side, row B, etc.). Other times, healthier items are dispersed throughout. Look out for those items, and be sure to portion them out.

• Don’t eat as soon as you feel hungry. You won’t pass out from starvation if you hold off for a half hour or so. Drink a cup of water or green tea, do some stretching, or go for a walk. If you eat as soon as you feel hungry, you’re more likely to overeat or eat the wrong things.

• Last but not least, don’t allow friends and family members to derail your progress. I don’t talk about it a lot, so not many people realize this, but I’m a vegetarian. Truth be told, I follow a vegan diet most of the time. I’ve been eating this way since 2004. In the beginning, people weren’t very supportive. They teased me, scoffed and ridiculed me, and if I weren’t a very confident, thick-skinned chap, I might have given up. I’m not advocating for you to take the vegan plunge. But, just be aware if you choose a grilled, boneless, skinless chicken with a garden salad. You might find your friends or family members mock you while they munch on a cheese steak with cheese fries. Those closest to you can be very discouraging or uninspiring. Many people trying to embark on a healthy life have to face the challenge of an unsupportive inner circle on a daily basis. If those in your inner circle are not being supportive, shame on them. When they try to impede your progress and say things to hinder you, try to just let it go – like water off of a duck’s back. It’s up to YOU to follow your plan.

Give these things a try. If they don’t work for you develop your own. The important thing is to find ways to help you succeed and keep achieving your goals. Don’t give up just because you didn’t make it today. So what if you ate three donuts this morning. That doesn’t mean you should just say “never mind” and eat whatever you see the rest of the day. It’s never too late to begin again. It just requires a little effort.

Stealing the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

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Spying On You With Permission, by Will Saunders

The concept of privacy is hilarious: it’s a big joke. I wrote on this topic previously in my post titled, Do We Really Have Any Privacy?The funniest part is, most people think they have much more than they’re actually getting. If you’re paying attention, you might notice what I have noticed, and there’s not much you can do about it.

So, check this out. I just did a search on Hilton.com for a trip I’m considering in mid-summer. A few minutes later when I went hang out on Instagram, one of the sponsored ads was for Hilton. I went to log my breakfast on MyFitnessPal, and the banner ad was for Hilton. Same is true for Twitter. I got an unsolicited, sponsored ad in my timeline for Hilton. Additionally, I kid you not, while I was double-checking to ensure I was correctly using ‘a while’ (as opposed to awhile) as I write this blog post – via Dictionary.com, I got a pop-up ad in the header for Hilton. So, I’m convinced this lack of privacy is much larger than most of us realize.

I know we don’t have privacy. If you use a computer, have a smart phone, and are connected technologically in any possible way, you have no privacy and this doesn’t even take into account the hackers who try to infiltrate various systems and steal our data. C’est la vie.

It’s more of a rant rather than a complaint, and it’s not really anybody’s blame or fault. If you ever bother to read the user agreement, terms of service, or whatever it’s called on these individual sites, they clearly indicate they routinely collect and share all sorts of information about us. No shock. But when signing up for an account on these sites, nobody (well most people I surmise), reads the agreements. They just click the accept button. I’m sure the same is true when they send out an update to their agreement. People don’t bother to read it. Do you? I bet you don’t. These sites need to install a positive acceptance feature. By that I mean, it should use data analytics software that requires us to at least scroll through the entire agreement before that accept button appears for us to click. Maybe that way we’ll be more likely to see a word or phrase here or there about how we are giving up our privacy by virtue of the fact we’re using these sites. But from various conversations I’ve held personally and professionally, many people don’t really care.

Here’s the kicker: people get their socks all out of joint when they hear a CNN or MSNBC report about a company that has  collected and shared their information that got hacked. Even if you visit the websites of CNN or MSNBC, they use cookies to track you (Big Brother is always watching). These cookies store information about your visit to the site, whether you came directly by typing in the URL or were linked from another site, what you do while on the site, how long you were there, what stories you click on, which ads caught your attention, and many other things. Sites remember you when you come back too, which is why some sites don’t require you to log in with your userid and password each time.  You can always turn that off via your browser settings, but many sites won’t work correctly – some may even prevent access – if cookies are not enabled. While most terms of service don’t specifically mention cookies, they speak generally about what they collect and how that information is used and shared.

Google, for instance, collects quite a bit of data on you.  Their current agreement stipulates in part, “We collect information about the services that you use and how you use them, like when you watch a video on YouTube, visit a website that uses our advertising services, or view and interact with our ads and content.”  That’s very clear. They even note when you ‘like’ something.

Further down it also states, ” When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.”

I’m not here to pick on Google. But it goes on to talk about the ways in which they use your info. You can read it on your own if you’re interested:  Google Privacy Statement. The language is very similar to what most sites state in their user agreements.

So, as an FYI, the next time you sign up for an online site or service, take a moment to read the agreement. Most are fairly standard, but you might find some things therein surprising.

 

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Random Musings, by Will Saunders

~~ all that glitters ‘aint gold, and sometimes you’ll find a diamond when you clean off that dirty stone ~~

I’m one of those people who try to see the best in and want the most for and from everybody. The most evil, wretched, and thoughtless people have redeeming qualities. This thinking was solidified for me after reading Tupac Shakur’s book of poetry, The Rose that Grew from Concrete. There are many among us who shine brightly, born out of the storm they lived in for so many years, sometimes decades. So, even when there are reasons not to keep believing in someone, and even when everyone else has washed their hands of them and given up on them, I still go just a little while longer just in case their breakthrough is about to happen. I’m also no fool. I too have a breaking point, and once I’m done, I’m done. When I give up on someone, there’s no turning back. I figure, I give far more than I probably ought to. I’ll keep trying to be there while nobody else is there, so I feel justified in being done forever once I have finally given up trying. After the love, adoration, fondness, and appreciation have all gone, see ya; goodbye; outie; hasta la vista; arrivederci; peace out; and if it were still a thing to say, bye Felicia — or as my departed Auntie Helen would have said, “Don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good Lord split ya.”

Something recently happened that is a perfect illustration of how I got this way. This individual called me and we chatted a bit this past Saturday afternoon. ‘Sam’ and I talked for a while about this and that when he eventually told me the main reason he had called. He invited me to go with him to a show a friend of his had produced. He said he would get the tickets if I was interested. I really wasn’t interested, because Sam can be so disappointing and is usually not very reliable. He has proven this to me over and over and over again. But I told him I’d go. Unfortunately, when I asked, he didn’t know the name of the show. He also couldn’t remember the date of the show, but said he would text me the flyer the next day. I thought it was kind of odd to invite someone to an event but not know the name or date of that event. In my head, I said, “How in the hell do you call and invite me to go someplace but you don’t know the date and you don’t even know the name of the doggone show?” That’s ludicrous. But whatever. I paid it no more attention and just waited till the next day.

Well, Sunday came and went, but I didn’t hear from him. Monday came and went, but I didn’t hear from him. It is now Saturday, a week later, and I still have yet to hear from him. Okay, I know what some of you may be thinking. I could have called him, right? Well listen. I know who I’m dealing with. I expect very little from Sam, because that’s about all I ever get from him: very little. I often get a lot less than that from him, but I want to give him the benefit of any doubt.

The thing is, Sam knows that although I’m a big homebody, I also am quick to make plans and I’ll be gone out of town or gone to various things around the region for fun and entertainment. I’m going to a show on 31 March. I’m going to another show on 7 April. I’m also going to another one on April 21st. To top off the month, I have plans on April 28th too. I also have plans on May 5th and May 26th. If something else catches my eye, I’ll be jumping on that too. I don’t know when Sam had in mind for us to hang out. But I know him well enough to know not to sit around waiting for him. I also know him well enough not to have high expectations, so I no longer get mad or upset about it.

The only thing that bothers me about it is that Sam isn’t self-aware enough to recognize that he’s the reason why I never expect much from him; in fact, Sam gets mad that people think so little of him, yet he never engages in any acts of self-discovery. Everything is always the problem, fault, and responsibility of everybody else. Oh well, that’s Sam for you.

Most people in life have a Sam they have to deal with sometimes. But I’ll tell you this. I don’t let my Sam hold me back. He’ll be calling soon with some excuse, and I’ll sit there rolling my eyes around, staring off into oblivion – or as he has also done, he may call to say hello as if nothing ever happened. He’s likely to not even bring it up. That’s how Sam can be. And this, my friends, is why, when it comes to Sam, I don’t give a damn.

 

 

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You’re Not as Important as Others: You’re Less Than, by Will Saunders

Well you’re not really less important than others. But that’s what some people would have you believe. A situation at work was a good example of this. Yesterday morning, I was sitting at my desk working on a report. It was a daunting task that involved some statistical computations and required my full, unwavering attention. I was immersed in my project, completely oblivious to any and everything around me, even the busy thoughts in my own head.

In the middle of it, a woman came to me and just started rattling off some things about some her own project, seeking my input and feedback – directing me to a page on our intranet site. So, I told her I was busy and would need to look at it a little later, and I recommend we get together about an hour later. She said that was fine, but she kept on talking about her own project, telling me in words what she wanted to show me on the site.

Even after I said, once again, I was busy and didn’t have time to talk with her, she kept on yapping her mouth off about her project, which evidently was more important than mine. It was about 18 minutes later before she excused herself and left. The entire time, I just sat there staring at her, not really hearing all of her points as in my head, I’m saying to her, “Didn’t you understand me when I told you I was busy?” The old me would have said it aloud. So, I listened and gave her some brief feedback. The best thing about it is, she got what she wanted and I didn’t have to meet up with her later. The downside of it is (downside for her, not for me) I wasn’t able to give it my full attention like I would have given it later had she honored my request.

I am not an advocate of rudeness. Oftentimes – really most of the time – being stern and assertive is about the same thing as being rude. That’s the quickest way to alienate your coworkers. Of course it’s flattering that she stated up front that she needed my expertise and wanted to get my feedback. Maybe she only said that in order to manipulate me into listening to her. People definitely will do that, in case you didn’t know. You usually can see right through it, though.

Then a couple of hours later, a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) came to my desk while I was on a call — anyone could plainly see I had the phone up to my ear engaged in dialogue — and he had the nerve to ask me, “Are you on a call?”  All I could do is give him a blank stare before he trotted off. C’est la vie! As the title of this essay states: Both of those people behaved as if their issue was more important than mine. I suppose they have what I like to call the ‘Queen Bee’ mentality (or the King Bee mentality, for the fellas).

No matter what other people may think, I want you to know you’re just as important as they are — and for some of them, you might even be a little more special. Don’t allow them to make you feel as if you’re less than. You’re more than enough.

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Dang, Someone is Always Watching, by Will Saunders

I’m often reminded how much I influence others. It’s good inspiration for me, because I’m often second guessing myself or I don’t think my success or progress or progress is as great as I think it is or want it to be. That’s especially true when it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition goals.
     Yes, I am usually dedicated and stick to my plan. I’m mostly a vegan eater. Many of you know I strive to be a vegan eater, and I succeed about 90% of the time. But sometimes I snack on too much of the wrong things and if I have a spirit — which is usually Kendal Jackson Merlot, I tend to snack even more than I usually do. Lord knows if I didn’t maintain regular physical activity, I’d have ’swole up immensely, and not in a good way. But for the people who are watching, in spite of faltering a lot the past few months, I’m still apparently a few steps ahead of one of my coworkers who told me how much of an inspiration I am to her. She told me this on Tuesday, February 13th. Ironically, a different person asked me about Lent and if I had thought of sacrifices I would be making this season.
     Well, I realized it would be no better time to re-commit my dietary focus than now. So, I’m back on my wagon. I got back on it about a month ago, and fell off again, but this last time I only fell a little; however, I’m back on in full effect now. I am regularly tracking my nutrition and fitness progress daily via MyFitnessPal instead of entering random numbers just to keep my account active like I had been doing. I’m also cutting out Facebook for Lent, a huge obsession of mine. I deleted the app so I won’t be tempted.
A year and a half ago, I was doing well, logging consistently for as many as 538 days. Then I fell off. After a couple of months I got back on and I’m now at 294 consecutive days of logging in. I got re-energized again by my co-worker’s interest in my efforts. I wrote about this back then when a fellow Metro train rider mentioned how he noticed the progress I had made. I wrote a post titled, You never know who is watching, in which I articulated many of these same points. I also wrote about it in Health and Fitness Failure: New Beginnings.
     It is like I have long believed.Life is really cyclical. We go in and out of good and bad phases, and it’s up to us to kick ourselves into gear. I also am convinced you’re always being watched, whether you’re doing good or bad.
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Michael Jackson: Ben, by Will Saunders

Are you a fan of Michael Jackson’s music? I think you don’t need to look too long and hard to find MJ fans. I’m certainly one. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember.

In elementary school, a birthday gift was a record player and several albums. My favorite of them all is Michael’s Ben album. Though I had other albums, I played this album over and over and over again. I can safely say it is my favorite of all the songs on the album.

A funny tale may amuse you. At the time, I didn’t realize the song was about a rodent. I thought the song was about a lover. It wasn’t until many years later, probably after I was in college, that I realized what it was really about, after I saw the movie of the same name. Isn’t that funny? I think it is.

Michael was a diverse, talented man. He touched many facets of the music industry. A gem that is missed by many. Here’s my song.

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Green Eggs and Ham, by Will Saunders

I’m currently taking some online classes via Cornell University. One of the team building exercises included a discussion about our favorite children’s book; mine happens to be the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham. That discussion stirred up some fond memories of my mom.

When I was in elementary school, probably around the third grade, I was reading this book. In a nutshell, the book is about two characters talking about eating a plate of green eggs and ham; one character was trying to persuade another to eat it, though he didn’t want to.

When I mentioned to my mom how I’d eat it, that I wouldn’t need to be persuaded, she used some green food color and made me some. Can you imagine my reaction when I came to breakfast to find green food on my plate? My initial reaction was that of shock. But I quickly got over it, and I enjoyed my meal.

That’s my momma. It sure is sweet the way simple little things can bring up memories of special people who have departed this earthly life. If I still ate them, I would make some green eggs and ham.

 

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