Category: Tips & Lore

Terrible Predictions for 2017

Public domain photo via Library of Congress

Public domain photo via Library of Congress

Now that we no longer have the Mayan calendar to kick around where can we turn for our year-end doomsday predictions? One place to start is the blood of San Gennaro.

Every year the dried blood of Saint Januarius is presented in a ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church in Naples, Italy. And every year the centuries-old blood miraculously becomes liquid. Except for this year.

Failure of the miracle of San Gennaro is supposed to portend evil tidings. The last time the blood of the saint failed to liquify was 1980, the year of a terrible earthquake that killed over 2,000 people.

Nostradamus Predicts Monetary Crisis Following Trump Election

Michel de Nostradame, everybody’s go-to predictor of cataclysm, might have predicted the election of Donald Trump in the quatrain 40 from Century 1. We should know if this is true when somebody from Egypt starts messing with global monetary policy. It’s also quite likely that you can read anything you want into Nostradamus’ ambiguous verse.

Psychic Predictions for 2017

Channeled from beyond the grave, the Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga supposedly predicted that Obama will be the last U.S. president. This means that something will happen to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president – or possibly that Trump will find a way to end the presidency once he takes office.

Also posthumously, the famous “sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce might have predicted that Vladimir Putin will prevent the world from slipping into a third world war and bring spiritual renewal to the West.

Current non-dead psychics are less specific and less interesting in their predictions.

Futurist Predictions for the Year Ahead

Predictions from scientists are less interesting than those from psychics because scientists see next year mostly as a continuation of the last. Aliens, yawning chasms and apocalyptic horsemen aren’t part of the dataset for most futurists.

Among top science and technology trends will be a race to create a truly intelligent assistant, a surgeon will successfully transplant a human head, and hackers will climb to a whole new level in 2017.

My personal prediction for 2017? Anxiety will become the new “normal.”

How to Remove a Fishhook and Other Extraction Tips



Here’s some essential knowledge if you ever plan on fishing with me…via a tweet from Guy Kawasaki…Wired’s How-to Wiki explains how to remove a fishhook from a buddy.

But why stop there? Here are some other helpful extraction techniques you should know:

[Originally posted April 10, 2009]

Gut Check – Is Your Intestinal Biome Making You Crazy?


Bifidobacterium longum | Image: Wikimedia Commons via Motherboard

You might want to skip the hand sanitizer after you read this…a new study from New York City’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai cited in the Huffington Post reveals that an imbalance in your intestinal flora could be making you mentally ill. Or worse.

In particular the study shows that intestinal bacteria may override genetics when it comes to illnesses like depression, anxiety and even neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Therapy for some of these disorders may be accomplished by getting one’s intestinal flora back in balance. But this…of course…will require more research.

In the mean time what can you do to get your gut in balance? You might think that ingesting “healthy” bacteria (think yogurt) is the way to go. But maybe not so fast. Mark Hyman, MD is big on the “oil change” – replacing polyunsaturated vegetable oils with healthy Omega 3 oils. Also fermented foods, in other words don’t hold the pickle.

Liam Springer also cautions to go easy on the probiotics. His contrarian idea is to add more dairy even…and maybe especially if…you are lactose intolerant Read the link, he explains it better than I can. And carrots.

All in all though, it seems like we need to spend more time listening to our gut.

How to Relieve the Sting of a Texas Bull Nettle

Texas Bull Nettle

Texas Bull Nettle | Photo by Neil Sperry

A brush with a nettle of any species is something to avoid but the Texas bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) is particularly nasty. My East Texas offers some tips for dealing with with bull nettle if you ever get stung.

While there are several theories for relief floating around, most folks will recommend urinating on it! Urine contains something that reacts chemically and soothes the pain instantly on contact. Urinating on yourself, or perhaps your buddy, might seem a bit unorthodox and disgusting, but when you wade off into a bull nettle, you’ll be ready to try just about anything.

The article goes on to suggest a paste made of baking soda as an effective and more pleasant neutralizer for the bull nettle’s sting. Baking soda works by neutralizing the high pH of the folic acid in the bull nettle’s sting. Baking soda is also a great treatment for insect stings so it makes sense to keep a small amount in your first aid kit.

You might also look for jewelweed, said to grow in the vicinity of many nettles. Jewelweed is popular folk remedy for bullnettle, poison oak, poison ivy and stinging nettle (urtica dioica) which delivers histamine into the skin of its victim.

[Via My East Texas]

5 Worst Places to Hide Money – Starting with a Ball Point Pen

Pen Safe photo courtesy Brennan10

Pen Safe photo courtesy Brennan10

#1. Traveler Tip: Stash Money in An Empty Pen (and Then Hang on to That Pen)

From Instructables (via Lifehacker) comes this handy tip – use an old pen barrel as a makeshift money safe. It’s a clever idea…except that success hinges on a second tip that isn’t included in the Instrucable – how to find a missing pen.

#2. Hide Valuables in the Kids’ Room, Really?

This was once a good strategy – put the jewels in a ratty teddy bear. But these days with tablets and Playstations being in demand, the kids’ room isn’t necessarily the haven from burglars it once was. (Via cammy)

#3. Don’t Keep Valuables Anywhere in the Bedroom

Tape an envelope of cash under the bed? The bed and the sock drawer are the first places a burglar will look. (Via Senior Voice)

#4. Don’t Stash the Cash in the Medicine Cabinet

You might not think a burglar has any interest in you antihistamines or hemorrhoid cream – and you may be right. But a criminal might head straight for your medicine chest looking for opioids and find a cash bonus. (Via

#5. Pretty Much Anywhere a Blog Tells You to Hide Money

While researching this post it seems like many of the “best places to hide money at home” are just as likely to be some of the “worst places to hide money” according another blog. Some things burglars look for – book safes, electrical outlet safes, fake canned goods and cleansers.

If you want to know a safe place to hide your cash, ask a thief. The answer is – leave money out in the open. Kind of like taking a mugger’s wallet with you when you travel, some decoy cash might keep a thief from searching until he finds your secret stash.


Where You Are is What You Are

World\’s largest drawing used GPS

I stumbled across a provocative label on Mark Bernstein’s site, coupling the phrase “Where you are is WHAT you are” with the caption “Weber’s Qualitatvie Analysis Tools.” As best I can tell, Weber refers to sociologist Max Weber and “Where you are is WHAT you are” is a quote from Constantin Stanislavski related to his affective memory system of acting. The notion is that if you want to act the part of a jealous prince you use your imagination to return to a set of circumstances where you felt jealousy. The feelings were not the key, it is your response to the circumstances that is the key.

Environmental psychologists call this “place identity.” A person’s memories and sense of self are attached to particular places. This is one reason why going “home for the holidays” is filled with emotion for so many people.

If we are the sum of our memories, and if our memories are rooted in a particular place then, yes, where we are is who we are. And if we want to better know ourselves, then one way to start would be with understanding our own particular place.

Originally posted April 2, 2010

How to Survive a Mountain Lion Attack: Take Your Wife


Jim Hamm is lucky that his wife, Nell, kept her head while a mountain lion had a deathlock on his. The 70 year old hiker was attacked by the lion while hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Nell tried stabbing the cat in the eye with a ballpoint pen but the pen broke. Then she tried beating the lion with a big stick. Finally she jammed the butt end of the stick up the lion’s nose and that convinced the animal to let go of her husband.

One thing the Hamms did that helped them survive was to talk ahead of time about the possibility of a lion attack. It’s something to think about if you’re considering hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. It wouldn’t hurt to read up on the standard advice–don’t try to run away, appear to be huge, make a lot of noise, fight back aggressively when approached.

But if you really want to know how to survive a cougar attack, consider this: the Holy Spirit is more than one billion times faster than a cougar.

(cf. Man rips leopard’s tongue out)

[Photo via]

Originally published February 1, 2007

Psychoanalyzing Scrooge


What exactly trigger’s Ebenezer Scrooge’s big transformation in A Christmas Carol? I always thought Scrooge’s change of heart came about when the spirit of Christmas-yet-to-come pointed a boney finger to Ebenezer’s grave. I may have been influenced in that respect by the Mr. Magoo version.

Re-reading A Christmas Carol this year I noticed that the spirits themselves have little to do with Uncle Ebenezer’s big 180. Scrooge generally scoffs at the spirits, suggesting that Marley’s ghost is a bad dream induced by heartburn, an “undigested bit beef, a blot of mustard.”  The transformation actually starts when Scrooge rediscovers his inner child and sets him free.

If this sounds a little like psychoanalysis, you wouldn’t be the first to make the comparison. Dickens takes his character on journey back to re-experience some of the trauma of his childhood, a process that turns out to be surprisingly similar to intensive short-term therapy. The relationship between memory and personal transformation is a concept straight out of Alfred Adler.

So how would you diagnose Ebenezer Scrooge? Psychology student Kathleen Eveland thinks Scrooge is possibly bipolar exhibiting symptoms of stress-induced psychosis.


You’re a F*cking Genius…Why the F-Bomb is a Sign of Intelligence


So it seems that people tend to believe that foul language is a signal that a person may be intellectually challenged. But that’s not what research shows. In fact, if a person can deftly wield the f-bomb (yes, I’m looking at you, Adrian McKinty) it probably means that they have generally superior verbal skills overall.

You see it’s not the f-word itself, but how you use it.

And as a Public Service Announcement, if you must insult somebody do it with class.

[Via Uproxx]


Why Your Christmas Lights Might Bring Down an Airliner

Laser Light Show

I was talking with a friend yesterday who said that he was impressed by the Christmas lights he saw flying into Burbank Bob Hope Airport. But on some of the houses the displays weren’t just bright, they were blinding.

Turns out that laser Christmas lights, all the rage this season, may be creating a public nuisance. Pilots across the country are reporting “laser strikes” that can be traced back to Christmas displays like the $39.99 Star Shower system.

The lights are legal, for the time being, but unless you’re certain that you are nowhere near a flight path you’re probably better off sticking with traditional Christmas decorations that merely cause fires, falls, asphyxiation, lead poisoning, choking and neurotoxicity.

Merry Christmas.

Improve Your Situational Awareness: the Secret Art of Sideview Mirrors

Image courtesy of Guodong Guo

Image courtesy of Guodong Guo

If you spend any time on the 101 freeway through Los Angeles you know that “situational awareness” is your key to survival. And your sideview mirrors are the key to knowing what is going on around you at all times as you drive.

But most people don’t have their sideview mirrors adjusted correctly. The technique I learned in Driver’s Ed back in the day is precisely the wrong way to adjust your sideview mirrors – with a little slice of your rear fender visible in the mirror. If you can see any part of your own car then you are leaving a blind spot to your right or left.

Here’s a better way to adjust your rearview mirrors (it seems almost too obvious to mention and yet…):

  1. Make sure the rearview mirror inside the car pointed straight back, giving you a full view of the road.
  2. Starting with the left sideview mirror, adjust the mirror so that you can see a bit of your rear fender. Then adjust it out slightly so that you can see any car moving up on you in the lane to your left. As a car moves out of view in your rearview mirror it should enter the view of your sideview mirror.
  3. Let the car fully overtake you in the left lane. It should be visible in your sideview mirror from the time it starts moving out of your rearview field of vision and until you can see it out of the corner of your eye. In other words you should always 360 degree view without moving your head.
  4. Repeat with the right sideview mirror.
  5. It’s probably not safe to do this while you’re driving so  try the head-leaning tip from the Automobile Association of America.

Now go forth and enjoy your new situational awareness.

Image and a good explanation of sideview mirror adjustment by Guodong Guo.

The Two Types of Clutter: Misplaced Stuff and Logjams

Photo: public domain

Photo: public domain

As I’m working on clearing off my desk and clearing out my office I’m starting to realize that this time around the clutter I’m dealing with is of a different quality than your garden variety crap-fest.

Use the Two-Minute Rule to Banish Vulture Vomit Forever

That was the term Stanley, our colorful across-the-street neighbor, used to describe his yard and garage when Lord Chaos had the upper hand. “Who left all this vulture vomit on the front lawn?”

Most clutter seems to fit this category – stuff where it shouldn’t be. It’s pretty easy to deal with, albeit not the apex of a good time. Simply round up the tools and put them back in the tool shed. Put the sports equipment back in the hall closet. Empty beer cans go in the recycling. Boom. You’re done.

If things are a little more complicated, let’s say with a messy desk, you can use David Allen’s two minute rule. If something on your desk can be handled in two minutes or less – like putting the car registration in the glovebox of the Ford – then do it now. Otherwise file it in a system that will prompt you to get to the task later.


Logjams May Require Dynamite

Vulture-vomit chaos is pretty easy to manage because you simply have to return things to their proper places and voila! order emerges from chaos.
But there’s another type of mess altogether – the logjam. Here you’ve got all kinds of projects, fragments, raw materials each with its own agenda, all at cross-purposes to the others.

For example I have some books on my desk that I should put on the bookcase but the shelves on the bookcase are cluttered with silver-plate family heirlooms but I can’t get to those because of the banker’s boxes full of my mother’s financials which I mean to scan and shred but I can’t start that project because my scanner is buried under a cascade of books on my desk.


Why the Two Minute Rule Doesn’t Work on Logjams

Breaking a logjam requires an entirely different strategy from ordinary clutter because there’s nothing in this howling mess that can be done inside of an hour and deferring one of these projects is simply like picking up a log from one part of the pile and moving it to another part of the pile.

Typically the way to clear a logjam – at least a real-life jam consisting of a tangled pile of logs damming up a river – is to identify the “key log” that is holding the jam in place. And then remove that log.
Identifying and removing key logs isn’t easy and it isn’t fast.

Consider the Great Raft, a jam of logs that was four times as long as Rhode Island is wide. It took teams of engineers decades to remove these logs and get the Red River flowing. But the alternative to doing the work is to let the log jam grow. Then you’ll be in a dam fine mess indeed.

It’s All Turned to Crap – Again. How to Declutter for 70th Time…

Let’s get this out of the way first – that’s an iced coffee on my desk, not an iced Guinness.

Next, I am drowning in clutter. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time and effort I spend on trying to get my life organized, there is just no free space anywhere to put anything. It is a howling mess.

This is not for want of good advice – there is literally a crapload of advice on how to uncluttered your surroundings:

18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess
40 Bags in 40 Days
Art of Manliness’ Guide to Declutter Your Life and Make Some Extra Cash
All of My Belongings Fit in One Box
Use the “This Isn’t My Stuff Approach” for Radical Decluttering

All this advice is kind of the same. And for some reason it isn’t working for me. I’ve parted with more crap this past year than perhaps in all my previous years combined. And my space is more crowded and cluttered than ever. It seems to defy physics.

So I’m going to give it another shot and I’m going to be kind of public about it and we’ll see if I can get to the bottom of this clutter and find a pony…

Back Home to Patch My Bones – Three Lessons from Our Last Trip

Our recent trip to Colorado was…well it got off to a bumpy start. Hertz rent-a-car was short 200 cars, there was a 3 hour wait – during which time NO HERTZ EMPLOYEE ACKNOWLEDGED THE SITUATION OR SPOKE TO CUSTOMERS IN LINE, when we finally talked to an agent we discovered we had booked our reservation downtown, the manager told us our choices were to pay triple our agreed-upon rate or go downtown before the office closed at 6pm. We got downtown at 5pm only to find that the office had closed at 4pm. Stranded in downtown Denver with no car and no rooms available. Thanks Hertz for the worst customer service we’ve ever had.

Anyhow, here are some things I learned:

1. Pin every destination to a map before the trip. For past trips I’ve made a custom Google map with planned and possible stops. If I’d done that this time we’d have seen our car rental booking error and fixed it before we had to deal with the Denver Hertz’ terrible customer service.

2. Bring the Mophie reserve battery. Traveling is hard on your cell phone battery for some reason. We were running low all the time, even when we finally got a rental car (from Enterprise – excellent customer service). If I’d packed my Mophie we’d have had far fewer conversations that began “my phone might die in the middle of our conversation.”

3. Cotton underwear. I like the Champion performance gear they sell at Target. It wicks away moisture and is fast drying. The synthetic fabric has a nice silky feel, it’s lightweight and packs well. I thought it would be great when we traveled to France. It wasn’t. I felt like I was inside of a giant clam the whole time. Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty even when others were bundling up against the Fall chill. It’s cotton from here on out for me.

How to Start Over When You Don’t Know Where to Start

I just had a setback. It might not seem like a big deal to you but my office that I’ve been struggling to get organized and keep organized just got turned into a junk room. After four months of work in my spare time I’m back to square one. Maybe even square minus-one.

How do people start over when they face “real” problems – say a business failure or a divorce?

Sam Harris thinks that sometimes you have to act fast even when the outcomes are risky. Big risks sometimes means bigger rewards.

Journalist Susannah Breslin agrees that radical change is better than slow change.

Here is the thing about radical change: It changes your life radically. More importantly, it changes who you are radically.

Of course “going big” might also mean starting small. When you don’t know were to begin, when you’re truly stumped, sometimes you have to simply start somewhere, anywhere and just tinker around until you can see things more clearly.

The secret though is to do something.