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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to KEEP your New Year's Resolution

The number one New Year's resolution in the US is to lose weight. Especially after a big holiday season of fruit cakes and chocolates. So you resolve to lose weight, but didn’t you do that last year? And did it work?

We all have off-days, when we just don’t feel like working out. But what happens when that day falls on a day you’re scheduled to go to the gym? (oh yeah, you need a schedule too) Well here’s a simple trick to get yourself motivated to go to the gym when you really don’t feel like it:

Just change into your gym clothes!

And here’s why:

The clothes that we are wearing at any given time become part of our self-image. If you are wearing boots your feet will feel heavier, your gait will be different and your self-image will be different than if you are wearing sneakers. If you change into your sneakers or gym shoes, your feet will feel much lighter and you will inherently feel more agile and able to run, jump, exercise, etc..

You’ll also guilt yourself into going to the gym because you’ll be sitting around the house in your gym clothes.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Leave your Comfort Zone - Get to Know Yourself

A zen koan (short story) tells of a boy who was training under his father as a burglar:

The boy followed his father on a burglary one night and once inside the house, his father intentionally made a ruckus and fled the house. The boy darted to the nearest closet and his heart began to pound furiously as the home owners rose to see who was in their house. The boy had been given very little training, but the adrenaline of this moment was all he needed to be able to do anything he needed to do to prevent being caught. Eventually he made it out of the house undetected, and while he was not pleased with what his father had done, he had learned many lessons that night.
Often times it is important to leave your comfort zone and throw yourself into new situations where, if you think about it, you might not be entirely sure of yourself, but if you just do it you will find a way to get through it. This doesn't necessarily have to involve adrenaline - it can apply to cooking a new meal, changing careers, taking up a new sport, or virtually anything else.

Don't forget - this also offers a great way to observe yourself. Once you are thrown into a new situation, take a little time to observe your actions, your words and your feelings. You never know what you will learn about yourself.
"Observe all men; thy self most." - Benjamin Franklin

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Last-Minute Christmas Gift Idea - Easy, Cheap, Great gift.

Magazines to readImage by Longzero via FlickrIt's getting close to that time of year when people will be scrounging for gifts at the last minute, I know, I do it too. One idea I often overlook is magazine subscriptions.

Reasons that magazine subscriptions make great gifts, especially if you already subscribe to the magazine:

  1. Like-minded people tend to enjoy the same type of magazines.
  2. If it is a subscription that you have now, chances are there will be 2-for-1 gift offers for renewing your subscription, so you can probably call that a $2-5 gift.
  3. Also, if it's something you subscribe to you can just grab one of your back issues from the end table, throw a ribbon around it and call it good! You can even send in the subscription card AFTER Christmas if you do that.
  4. They last for a whole year, sometimes two, so that's a good value.
  5. Generally speaking, people can LEARN from magazines, which is more than can be said about most other Christmas presents.
Happy shopping! Merry Christmas from Mini Life Hacks!

If you have a great last-minute gift idea, leave a comment!
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Monday, December 15, 2008

How to keep warm without electricity - Stones on the BBQ!

Besides disrupting transportation, heavy ice a...Image via WikipediaThe "Ice Storm of 2008" had wiped out power to over 1,000,000 homes and businesses. Over the past few days many people have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge at nearby shelters. Other people have tried to stay in their houses and brave the cold. Others have tried to warm their houses by blasting their gas stoves or using un-vented kerosene heaters. These are BAD ideas. Don't try them at home.

If you're one of those people who, like me, stubbornly wants to brave the cold and be independent, try this:

  1. Fire up your gas grill or charcoal grill. OUTSIDE!
  2. Throw some big rocks (5-10 pounds each) on indirect high heat.
  3. Cook for approximately 1 -2 hours with the cover closed.
  4. Let them cool for about 20 minutes.
  5. Check the temperature of the rocks carefully with your hand.
  6. Wrap them in towels or blankets if you don't think they will burn the towels.
  7. Enjoy the heat! It should stay very warm for around 8-10 hours.
This is not fool proof.. obviously dealing with hot rocks is not the safest thing either, just be smart about it and don't come to me if you burn a hole through your mattress. Even if you let the rocks cool for quite a while they will still retain a lot of heat. The trick is to allow the outer layer to cool so that you can touch it easily, but the center of the rock will still be hot and it will emanate heat slowly over the course of the night.

Bricks, patio blocks, or ceramic tiles will work too, although the bigger the object is, the longer it will retain it's heat. Similarly, it will take longer to bring a larger object up to temperature.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Improve coordination by improving awareness - Understand the objects around you.

Samurai SwordImage by Amin Tabrizi via FlickrIt’s aggravating to drop things you’re carrying or to spill your briefcase or book bag all over the floor because you were in a hurry. Do you think a samurai would ever drop his sword if he was in a hurry? Do you think a ninja would drop... anything... ever? The likelihood is that they would not. The trick here is that they have a level of understanding of these objects that allows them to know exactly how they will react under any given circumstance.

For example, a Samurai would know the following about his Katana:

  1. How is it weighted?
  2. What is the exact physical size in all three dimensions?
  3. How much weight can it support?
  4. How fast can he wield it with two hands? One hand?
  5. What will it cut through and how easily will it cut?
  6. Etc…
Know your book bag / briefcase

By understanding how your object (book bag or briefcase in this example) will react to certain circumstances will help to give you a fundamental understanding of what you will, or will not be able to do with it. For example:
  1. What happens when you hold it in a different place? Different handle? From the side? From a hanging strap? Does everything fall out? Will it break or tear when you hold it this way? Are there any other dangers you should know about if you’re holding it funny? Sharp edges, etc?
  2. How many fingers are required to hold its weight?
  3. Is there any way you can hold it with something else, like your elbow, or your foot?
  4. How much friction is there between your hand and the material it is made from?
Ask these questions, and ask any other question you can dream to ask. Ask these questions about any object you may encounter.

Be Prepared. Know all your utilities.

Make observations about your cell phone, wallet, pen, keychain, etc..
Your awareness for things around you will increase as will your fundamental understanding for these things with respect to how they function and react in this world. You will slowly be able to piece together the results from the physical tests and be able to infer other bits of useful information. You will probably be surprised at how you can use this information and how much it can benefit you.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Over-indulgence tip: The first bite tastes the same as the last.

Food is good. There aren’t too many people that don’t appreciate certain foods. During this season it’s especially easy to happen upon some decadence and improperly indulge.

I think it’s important to appreciate this privilege and accept indulgence once in a while, but one thing to keep in mind while doing so, which may change the amount you eat, is that: The first bite tastes the same as the last.

What I mean to say is that if you take time and adequately appreciate whatever food you’re eating (sourdough bread & spinach dip for example…) you’ll notice that this appreciation can be taken away from only one bite. All subsequent bites of the same thing will taste remarkably similar and you’ll begin to realize that it is not necessary to continue eating once you have gotten what you were after: An appreciation of the taste of the food. So make it a good bite, take it very slowly, move it around in your mouth, try to concentrate on every atom in the food and ENJOY IT!

This concept pulls influence from an ancient Buddhist meditation called the “Raisin meditation”. Buddhist monks were known to concentrate on a raisin, study it, smell it, feel it, listen to it, and fully appreciate its entire existence to the point that they got so much sincere appreciation and substance out of the raisin that it could sustain them for an entire day.

More about the raisin meditation

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cross Shifting: A new driving technique to free up your right hand.

SteeringImage by Paul Moons via FlickrSo I'm driving down the road, and I've got a tasty snapple in my hand and my cup holder is chock full of yesterday's snapple bottle, but I've got to shift from first to second gear. How do I do it?

I've perfected a technique that comes in very handy for this scenario:

  1. Steering with your left hand, position your hand so that it is somewhere between 3 & 6 o'clock on the wheel.
  2. Release your grip from the wheel, but keep the back of your forearm against the wheel. You'll now be steering using friction between your forearm / elbow and the steering wheel.
  3. Slide your arm against the wheel and reach down to the shift knob to change gears.
This technique requires a bit of coordination and focus. I find that shifting from first to second is the easiest, because it is the closest move to the steering wheel, but that all other gears are reachable, at least in my '04 Honda Civic. This may be difficult for some at first, but with practice it can be fine tuned and actually obtain a good level of comfort. I have used this many times when I'm also making a fairly sharp turn.

C.Y.A. NOTE: The above is not actually recommended, for safety and liability reasons. Try this exercise at your own risk.
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