Free Printable: Ink-Painting Themed Day Planner

Hi all!

I wanted to give you a gift at the start of the holidays, in thanks for reading my blog.

At my job, when I got into leadership, I found I needed a dayplanner.  However, the ones I saw in stores are either ridiculously expensive, don’t really meet my needs, or both.  Also I wanted something unique.  I opted for a bamboo and ink painting theme, something that looks good when printed in black and white.

So I created one in Publisher, using royalty-free art.  If you print it double sided, you can then use a three-hole-punch and put the pages in a binder of your choice.  I made it weekly so you can fill in your own dates.  There are three different images in this planner, so you can either choose a theme or have a variety.

I’ve found this to be a nice and simple layout and I hope you like it!

More pictures of the actual planner, in binder, will be forthcoming.

Roh Shaw Bamboo Planner

Customer…serviced.

I’ve had it with customer service, and people not doing the jobs they were hired to do.

Like reading.

Having worked in customer service for quite a few years, I am prepared to cut CSRs quite a bit of slack.  I know they have a difficult, boring job in which they are expected to tolerate high levels of stress while sounding cheerful throughout.

However, could they at least listen, or read, depending on whether they are on the phone or using a chat interface?

I am a bit unusual in that I don’t expect the CSRs to fix everything, I know their limitations, but I do expect them to understand a problem when I have taken the time to lay it out for them.

For example:

I need to get into an old email account through Cox.  I’m aware it’s over the 180 day deactivation period.  However, the OTHER customer service people, with Star Wars: The Old Republic, insist that they need to use that address, and only that address, to help me with an issue I have, and they refuse to change it because I’ve already changed it once.  I could write pages about THAT interaction but won’t.  This one is about Cox.

Anyway, I let the chat rep know, fairly succinctly, that I just want to know if the account can be reactivated or recreated so I can use that old address.  I answer all his questions, I use complete sentences, and even proper punctuation.  I think he’s US-based, or at least has a good command of the English Language.

So he acknowledges my problem and sends me a knowledgebase article that purports to fix it.  I click on it, hopefully.

Nope!  My issue isn’t solved.  I explain it again, using even shorter sentences.  He says he’ll go research.

He sends me the same damn KB article.

After more discussion I finally pry it out of him that nobody can do what I”m asking so I’m pretty much SOL, since I can’t spoof a Cox.net account and they aren’t allowing any new user-created ones at this time.  And, of course, the old email address would still be considered “taken” even though no one else can use it now.

At this point I’m pretty disgusted and I tell him thanks for nothing, and express my wish that he’d just read my original question and told me the truth from the beginning.

So, this brings me to my futile plea.  Considering that as a chat tech support rep, it is literally his job to read, why couldn’t he at least do that?  It would have improved his score and my opinion of the company, greatly. 

I shouldn’t feel like a freaking rock star just because I can comprehend the printed word.

 

PRO TIP:

If you are still unfortunate enough to be toiling in the galleys of customer service or tech support, I promise you that if you take the time to truly understand the customer’s problem you will be a DEITY among CSRs and will actually improve your metrics considerably.  You will also have to deal with far less trouble from customers, most of whom just want someone to give a crap, whether they can help or not.

 

By the way, If you’re wondering what I mean by “customer serviced,” think about cattle breeding.

Interrupting cow wh…(MOO)..o?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Interrupting Cow.

Interrupting Cow wh..(MOO!) o?

 

When did it become okay to interrupt?

When did it become standard practice to finish other peoples sentences, too?

When did it become common practice to deny that there’s anything wrong with either habit, and even defend it?

Interrupting shows impatience with the other person, and lack of respect.  Finishing someone else’s sentences implies that they are too slow or too stupid.  Even if it’s seen as “helping” the other person, it’s also saying that the other person isn’t competent to speak.

Are we so impatient as a society, so used to instant gratification that we have forgotten how to speak or listen?

The argument that since it’s a common practice in many cultures, that makes it okay, doesn’t really work here.  All that means is many cultures consider it okay to be rude and dehumanizing.  Many cultures have a lack of patience.  Well, some cultures still have a belief that it’s okay to defecate on the side of the road too, but that doesn’t make it sanitary.   Some cultures consider loud smacking of lips to be a compliment to the chef, but that doesn’t mean you can do it at a fancy company lunch in the US or Britain or Canada or, well, a bunch of places.

When considered in an unbiased way, it’s clear that interrupting another person is a barrier to communication.  It also communicates the idea that the interruptor is more important than the one who is interrupted.  It can also lead to animosity and conflict, further degrading communication.

Besides, isn’t interrupting another person a sign of poor impulse control?  I know it is when I do it.  I turn into the Interrupting Cow.

We’ve known that interrupting others is rude for quite a long time, but just like when a person is called out for bad grammar or spelling, they either defend themselves or are defended by others.  Because, you see, if you have a REASON to be rude, you’re not really rude, isn’t that how it works?  Only it’s not a reason, it’s usually a rationalization.

Those things being considered, wouldn’t it be a good idea if we all tried to avoid interrupting?  Even if it still happens, which it will, we can chip away at the habit of it, and stop telling ourselves it’s perfectly okay to do.  It’s not.

The amazing pineapple cure!

There is an amazing new cure that has been discovered, which will bless all humanity.  The results speak for themselves.  In the words of Jane Shirtwhistle of Toledo, Ohio:

“I used to weigh 462 pounds on a 4’11” frame.  This was caused by eating fast food all the time and never using anything but the drive through.  I had acne everywhere, I didn’t want to leave the house.  I was tired all the time.  I couldn’t digest my food properly either and I was bloated for most of the day.  My life was miserable!  I tried doctor after doctor, medication after medication.  By the end of 2017 I was taking 23 pills a day with no relief.  My dogs were bored because I wouldn’t walk with them.   I wasn’t sure where to turn.

“Finally my best friend, who is a raw foods advocate and has an organic pineapple farm, convinced me to try the pineapple cure.  She sold me a juicer and showed me how to shave the rind and crown leaves into strands fine enough to consume.  It was pretty fibrous but I persevered, drinking lots of filtered water along with it.

“At first it was really hard, eating a whole, organic pineapple a day, and the strings kept getting caught in my teeth.  I wanted my burgers and pizza and french fries and everything else I was  used to.  But in less than a day, nearly all cravings stopped.  I added lemon to my water and the rest of them stopped.  I started sleeping through the night and my acne was gone within a week.

“After the first week of eating one whole pineapple and a gallon of a day, I noticed that my hair stopped falling out and my blemishes were going away.  My body felt nourished.  I started having energy.  My friend guided me to adding salads for my evening meal but she reminded me not to add anything else.  She explained that I started moving around more.

“It’s been six months since the pineapple cure.  I’ve lost over a hundred pounds and am still losing.  I’m able to just eat half an organic pineapple a day, along with a gallon of water and triple washed, organic vegetables and fruits that I grow in my garden.  I’ve learned that the skin of the pineapple and the leaves help replenish the nutrients that we no longer get with our nutrient poor, Westernized diet.  I am off all my medications and I’m once again enjoying walks with my dogs.  I feel energized, revitalized and like I am in control of my life again.  Thank you, pineapple cure!”

You, too, can be like Jane.  If you want to eat a whole organic pineapple a day, you can, and it will have incredible benefits.  But you no longer have to.  For just a few dollars a day, you can use our freeze dried and purified pineapple powder, certified to contain all parts of the plant for a nourishing, whole health solution.  It comes in easy to use packets that are convenient for work, home, and travel.  You will enjoy lymphatic purification, whole body fat reduction, a cessation to cravings, stronger, healthier skin and hair, and a revitalized outlook on life.  It is the easiest, safest, most convenient way to gain control over your health and your life.  Some of our successful patients have also reported that mood disorders have disappeared, and they no longer need psychiatric medications.  We offer a money back guarantee, but you won’t regret trying our pineapple cure!

Of course, this is not something I’m truly suggesting.  It’s an example of what happens when quack cures are supported by testimonial based “evidence.”  I wrote this up out of whole cloth to demonstrate the key warning signs to look out for when trying to avoid quackery.  It’s getting harder to avoid, too, because quacks are getting better and better at slinging believable sounding medical terminology.

Here are some things to look out for when watching out for quackery:

Authors who only have degrees outside the medical profession.  For example, one totally quacktastic book I just read was written by someone who started out as a chemist and then had “thirty years in private practice” with no mention of medical credentials.  Chemistry is important to biology, of course, but you also need a good knowledge of physiology and a host of other subjects.

Textwalls containing lots of big words that don’t necessarily go together.  Some quacks will try to dazzle you with twenty dollar words that they hope you won’t analyze.

Testimonials.  If there’s no mention of peer reviewed studies, watch out.  Testimonials are often just made up by an imaginative writer but they can be strangely convincing.

Mention of parasites.  For the sake of good taste, I didn’t include passing a giant worm as part of what my “patient” went through, but that often comes up.  When in doubt, gross ’em out!  It deactivates the logic centers in your brain.

An overly restrictive plan.  Most of the time when someone says “you can lose x amount of weight by only drinking some exotic shake, eating some exotic fruit, etc, you can look out for the sound of ducks.

Hearkening to the “golden age.”  The fallacy of the golden age is commonly used.  Though there is a grain of truth to it, there’s usually a lot of exaggeration meant to scare you into opening your wallet.  Basically, it boils down to “we eat and drink nothing but poisons now, it’s a wonder we’re not all dead, when just a hundred years ago the soil was clean and the air was clean and everybody was happy and the kids were all well behaved and nobody was fat and there was a rainbow every day.”

The “Cure” being an exclusive line of products.  Obviously, this is a clear sign that someone’s main interest is selling you something.

Medically significant conditions cured by insignificant actions.  Again, there is sometimes a grain of truth to this, but in general you aren’t going to cure a significant disease just by eating a certain food or taking a certain supplement.  Especially if that supplement only provides testimonials as proof.

Any mention of homeopathy.  Again, for the sake of good taste, I didn’t put that in the testimonial, but take a really hard look at anyone who advocates homeopathic remedies.  You can see why by looking at the history of the “remedy,” and The Economist featured a good article about it here. 

Remember – don’t believe me just because I said it, think about what I said and the examples I gave and see if it make sense to you.  We all owe it to ourselves to evaluate what we do with our own health, get a good understanding of what’s involved, and question things if they don’t make sense.

The $5 car fix – Or, the psychology of an Elantra

This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, which is why I celebrate it when it does.  Usually my car repairs end up being much more than I want, which is often roughly double what I will have a week from the time the failure occurs.  However this repair is about as good as the flood episode, when I somehow managed to save a car from flood damage and a $5,000 engine replacement with nothing but a set of spark plugs, a half roll of paper towels, some starter fluid, and lots of net research and elbow grease.

A little background:  My Hyundai Elantra is battered, dented, from 2006, but quite faithful.  One thing it likes to do however, is have the check engine light come on right around the time I need to go through emissions so I can renew my registration.

This time was no different.   With concerns about expensive gasket, valve or seal replacements dancing through my head, I went to the local auto parts store and had them read my trouble code.

Much to my relief I found that the trouble code was indicating a faulty sensor.  It was a hundred dollar part, which isn’t bad but then I needed to have someone replace it, which brought the cost of the repair to around ninety dollars more than what was in budget.  Especially with those registration fees coming up, too.

So what’s a penny pinching driver to do?  Net research.  I fuzzily remembered that this sort of error could also be caused by a dirty sensor.  Lo and behold, I found out that it was indeed true, that the Mass Air Flow Sensor could easily be dirty and it just took a can of special cleaner to fix.  And sometimes a special tool to get the thing off, depending on the car.

Okay, so I was willing to find out where this thing was.  I did more research.  It turned out that the sensor was right up top next to my air filter, which I had successfully changed, and I would only need a screw driver for the hose clamps holding the sensor in place.  Yet more research revealed that the fancy cleaner could be swapped for simple isopropyl alcohol, administered by a clean spray bottle.  Total cost of some 91% alcohol and a spray bottle at my grocery store?  Less than five dollars, and I bought the PRETTY spray bottle.

With a hopeful heart I set about my repair.  The only difficulty was in getting the electrical lead unclipped, but luckily my intrepid partner knows more about clips than I  do and she got it undone.  A few minutes of spraying and an hour of air drying later, I had my little sensor back in place.

Now, if I was right, the check engine light should go off on its own.  I researched further, into something called the “drive cycle” for my car, which should allow the vehicle to do all the standard tests to figure out if the engine is healthy or not, and (hopefully) let the check engine light come off.  It sounded more like figuring out the psychology and motivations of the car than anything!  I had no luck on the long drive to work, even though I kept the car at steady RPMs between 2000 and 2400 for more than 10 minutes, idled for a minute, and did some but not all of the other parts of the drive cycle.  I wasn’t expecting much as I had found out that having a full tank of gas wouldn’t allow some of the tests to happen, because those need a certain amount of space in the tank to even run.

On the way back home I decided to buy a trouble code checker, since I’d found out that one was said to be available at a local big box store for about fifteen dollars.  It wasn’t until I traipsed through that entire store and found a code checker (for three times the price so I didn’t buy it) and got back to my car, started her up and drove out of the parking lot, that the check engine light finally went off on its own.

That evening I had the emissions test done with not a single problem.  I was floored but also elated.  I, the not so mechanical person, had actually managed to get the light to go off, not by some cheat or trick but by actually getting to the root cause.  As a bonus, my idle was smoother and I’m pretty sure my gas mileage is slightly better.

So that is how I won, for a change, and managed to get a $150 repair (at the least) down to less than $5.

The moral of the story is to always research.  No matter what the repair is or the problem is, there is usually information online to help you, and at the very least, knowing more about the problem will prevent you from being taken for a ride.

 

(If you are more interested in art than articles, check out my profile on ArtStation!)

Life with backyard chickens

beak bird chicken close up
Photo by Souvik Pradhan on Pexels.com

If you want to live with chickens, prepare for noise.

Even if you leave that noisy rooster (who doesn’t just crow at dawn, mind you, he crows often during the day, pretty much when he feels like it, and his voice carries for miles) at the feed store, the hens will make a racket.

You know how hens just make soft clucking sounds in movies?  Well, they do that, but they also have their ultra-loud “I just laid an egg and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done” call, that usually sets off the other hens, until they finally settle down.  Until another one lays an egg, that is.  That one sounds like “buckbuckbuckbuck B’GAWK!” repeated seemingly ad infinitum.

Then there’s the “I’m really completely hungry and haven’t eaten in days” sound that sounds like a raspy “raaaaaaaaaawk, raaaaaaaaawk, raaaaaaaaaaaaawk,” and once again has all the hens involved.  I don’t care how often you feed them, chickens are basically bottomless stomachs and have very little memory.  So they always think they are hungry.

I love taking care of chickens, and I even love the obnoxious roosters.  But they’re a bird for the country unless you have understanding neighbors.  My advice is, bribe them with fresh eggs.

Did you know chickens can fly?  Surprisingly long distances at times, even for the fat, heavy ones?  They can get up on roofs, into trees, and over fences.

Chickens are good for pest control, provided you don’t allow them near baby plants.  You might try a portable run that you could move around the yard.  Properly fenced, they are an asset.  The eggs are fantastic when you have your own chickens, they even taste better than the fancy free range cageless eggs at the store.  Chicken manure is great for your garden if you age it properly.   They will help you dispose of kitchen scraps and my even kill rats and mice.  Mine did, anyway.  Some chickens will become friendly and start following you around.   So definitely have them if you can, just be aware that it’s not at all like what you see in the movies!

That’s what I learned from a childhood of chicken-keeping!

Early Rising

It’s so easy to be a night owl.  I was.  I may be again someday.  I have worked swing shift for years and years.  I finally found a job that starts no LATER than eight but we can show up at six thirty if we want.

I thought “Argh!  I’m used to getting up at nine!  Going to bed at two or three!  I’m an incurable night owl!  How can I ever adapt?  Why would I want to?”

There was angst, trust me.

Then I moved into my new house.  Everything was so topsy turvy, and I was so tired from all the hoop-jumping with the overly long loan process, not to mention packing, cleaning, hauling, cleaning, moving boxes, putting things away, and worrying about car troubles – I was ready for bed every night by ten.

I decided “It’s a heat wave right now.  It’s already over ninety by the time I have to drive in.  I’m going to get up early.”

It felt strange at first, but I realized I really liked it.  It’s so cool and quiet in the morning.  The traffic is light.  It’s not so stressful to commute.  The people at work are quieter at six thirty and we can get a lot done before the rest come in at eight.  There’s a bit of camaraderie between all the early folks.

I mention all this because it can be so easy to think “I can’t change, I have to do this because x and y and z,” and by doing that you might actually be missing out on a lot.  Getting up early can give you a little more time in the morning, to get ready for the day, have caffeine of some form, maybe even sit down to eat breakfast.  Who knows?

Hopefully life will allow me to stay an early riser for a while!

If you don’t get up early now, and you get a chance to try it, you might like it.