Flat Panel Mounting Pain

The other day I had to put my facilities manager hat on. My company had an old, heavy, plasma monitor that needed to be wall mounted in our conference room. We contracted the work to a home theater installation company. I’m not a very handy or a home theater kind of guy, so this mini project was very eye opening for me.

Audio Video Wizards

The main installer and his assistant came by and assessed the wall. They were like Picasos working their tape measures, screws, brackets, level, and dry wall cutter. They even brought a device that they tied the necessary cables to so they could funnel it down the wall and have it come out of a hole they bore out right next to the power outlet. Like I said, I’m not very handy so this was like magic to me. Not Magic Castle Magic, audio video magic.

Does It Look Straight?

After working a few hours, getting everything just right, the two installers lugged the heavy plasma screen and mounted it up. It was a tall order as it looked pretty heavy. They also needed to huff and puff it up over the shoulders and on to the rack, mounted through the drywall on to some studs. They were relieved as the masterpiece hung from its perch. They turned to ask, “Does it look straight?” I went into the think tank.

Passive Or Assertive

In the past, my passive self would feel bad for them after such a hard task. Even though the monitor was not leveled, I would ignore my senses so I wouldn’t have to be a bad guy and tell them to redo the tough task. I would pat them on the back for a job well done and hope none of my co-workers would notice. Good luck with that. I would then be ribbed for awhile for not seeing it or even worse, the installers would be called back in to touch it up. I’m not even sure if they would charge for the second run.

Thankfully, I am applying Assertive Crisis Management these days. I went against my nature and told them the bad news, “Sorry guys, it looks a little off.” They whipped out their level and sure enough, it was. They sucked it up, took it back down, tweaked a few items, and lugged it back up. We all looked at it again with the level and Viola! Job well done.

Final Thoughts

I’m glad I’m finally being more assertive as it is the way to go. As I look back, I am still shocked at how many times I would go another path rather than trust myself. Furthermore, my dislike or fear of confrontation played tricks on my senses as well. No matter what you do, whether it is blogging, working your day job, or dealing with your financial issues, trust your instincts and don’t turn away just because it may be uncomfortable. In the end, everyone wins because we don’t waste any more precious time, money, and energy.

Stay Inspired!
Buck

Photozini Review

Nowadays everything is digital. Photos are on your phone, your laptops, and your portable hard drives. The days of photo prints are a thing of the past as most people look at digital albums or share via websites and other social media. I, for one, miss looking at physical pictures in an album. What if you were sitting at the coffee table and wanted to thumb through your favorite pics ala a magazine? The solution is Photozini!

Photozini Process

To be honest, the hardest part of this process was selecting the pictures! You can select up to 150 pictures to be printed as a magazine. You are allowed to select 3 to 5 pictures for the cover (Photozini selects one for your front and one for your back) and you also give your magazine a short title. The Photozini kit includes easy to follow instructions, a customer form, a USB hard drive, a self addressed pre-paid envelope, and a protective metallic case.

Customer Service

Photozini states it takes two to three weeks. I was pleasantly surprised as my pictures were turned around in two. I got an email confirmation when they received my kit and a few days later I also got an email informing me that my magazine was shipped. A Photozini kit is $45.00 and reprints are $20.00 each.

Final Thoughts

Overall I was pretty pleased. The paper stock was pretty good quality and the colors stayed true. However, some of the pictures were cut inappropriately to fit on the page (sliced heads, dropped members in group shots). I understand not much time can be spent on each picture as predefined templates are probably used. I also sent the pictures in order and for some strange reason the order was scrambled. Pictures I wanted at the end were placed in the middle and early event shots were placed near the end.

Like I said, it was nice to physically have my photos in hand. The process was easy to follow and the email notifications along the way calmed me as I waited anxiously for my photo magazine. If you want to give your eyes a break from flipping through all your digital albums, give Photozini a try. You can tell all your friends and family, you’re the star of your very own magazine!

Smell The Roses

“Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.” I’ve heard this saying my whole life, but what does it really mean? In my opinion, it means on our journey through life, we should not get so caught up in reaching our destination that we forget to enjoy all the wonderful things on the way there.

Blogging

Last week, I asked some of my fellow bloggers, “How do you know when you made it?” There were numerous thoughtful answers, but one stood out. One blogger said something to this effect. When I make it, I probably wouldn’t even know it as I would have set up new goals and start to pursue those. I’m all about setting goals, chasing them, and making dreams come true. But this answer made me see how, like everything else, if it is taken to the extreme, it is not ideal. What’s that saying, too much of a good thing?

Career

The same can be said about the proverbial rat race. I need to make more money. I need to upgrade my title. I need the corner office. Setting goals and climbing the corporate ladder or expanding your business is terrific and I encourage everyone to do so, but if taken too far, you will be blinded and miss the memorable stops along the way.

Debt

A few of my fellow bloggers are battling a mountain of debt. But if your entire existence now is to shovel money into this gaping hole, you might not fully appreciate all that life has to offer. This is not a reason to go crazy, splurge, and add to your debt. Just remember to not let your debt define you.

Final Thoughts

To clarify, this is not a reason to be lazy and undisciplined. This is just a reminder to remember to enjoy the process, celebrate your minor victories, while also shooting for your dream. In my mind, this is the ideal happy medium. You will enjoy smelling the roses along the way and because you won’t be as burned out on your journey, your destination should be that much easier to achieve.

What’s the point of goals if you don’t enjoy them and are too busy chasing the next one?

Stay Inspired!
Buck

P.S. This song is hideous, but it shows why John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the bigger Beatles.

Costco Shopping Cart Feeding Frenzy

Last time out, I was making headway by applying some Assertive Crisis Management. I almost felt like I took a step back, but under the circumstances, I really didn’t know how to act.

My wife and I were passing through another city and decided to drop into Costco. Unlike my local Costco, this one seemed unusually busy and there were no carts to be found. I spotted one of the workers hauling in some from the parking lot. My wife headed toward the entrance as I patiently waited for my cart. What happened next was straight out of a horror movie.

I slowly crept toward the worker with about six to eight carts. For a brief moment, I had a direct line to what I needed for a pleasant day of shopping. As I was about to grab a cart, out of nowhere, six to eight women of all ages buzzed through and snatched every single one. I had never seen anything like it. It was like a combination of Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds, Jaws, and Piranha all in one!

I honestly don’t know what else I could have done. I was taught not to lay a hand on women. What was I supposed to do? It was like the start of a hockey game. I needed to hip check or elbow one of them to come away with a cart. I suppose I could have been more aggressive and pounce on one and hold on for dear life. But I am notoriously patient. It’s not in my nature to attack something if just a few seconds later I could get another shot at it. Subconsciously, I probably didn’t want a confrontation. Why get into a tug o war with a crazed shopper? Don’t we live in a society here? Was it all in my head? Perhaps it was.

However, in this case, my hesitation did cost me. Carts were scarce and I did waste some time scouring for another one. I also had to smooth things over with the Mrs. She was not amused as she too saw six to eight carts on its way. Coming away empty handed, does not a good provider make. If we ever pass by that Costco again, I will make a concerted effort to lunge after what is mine. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

What would you have done?

Stay Inspired!
Buck

Appearance Counts, Lifelong Student

Today’s post is sponsored by the good folks at Financially Consumed. If you want an uncluttered look at personal finance, make sure you visit Financially Consumed!

A few months ago, I saw Limitless. Bradley Cooper plays a down and out writer named Eddie Mora. His career was going nowhere and he looked like he lived out of a dumpster. He took a fictional, brain-enhancing drug and the world was his oyster. What does this phrase really mean? Anyway, in the real world, since there is no Limitless drug, you can get similar results when you dress to impress and become a lifelong student.

Look Like A Million Bucks

After taking the drug, the Limitless Mora takes himself to the salon, cleans himself up and buys a slick new wardrobe. Like Billy Crystal’s Fernando used to say, “If you look good, you feel good.” As the movie continues, he actually does rake in millions of bucks. In other words, he looked “MARVALEOUS!”

Be Aware, Always Learn

After taking the drug, he also became more aware of his surroundings. If you currently aren’t your Limitless self, you should get your head out of the clouds or out of the sand. In the past, I would let life pass me by and drift aimlessly. Clock in, clock out. Same story, different day. If trouble reared its ugly head, I looked the other way and hoped it would go away. Wake up! Appreciate everything the world has to offer. Notice the food that you eat, enjoy every mouth watering morsel. Enjoy the music on your radio and forget about the traffic jam you are in. When things get a little cloudy, deal with it head on because problems do not go away by themselves. If left unattended, they almost always get worse.

Final Thoughts

The Limitless Mora gained cultural appetites, learned new languages, and learned how to work the stock market. He attracted women, broke barriers, and lived a life of abundance. Take the natural drug of being a lifelong student. Continue to learn, expand your skills, improve yourself, and gain new experiences. Finally, if you are headed for an interview, going on a first date, or signing your first book deal, remember to spruce yourself up. You’ll make a good first impression and remember, there is only one. You are better equipped to conquer the world looking like a million bucks rather than a struggling writer. Agreed?

Stay Inspired!
Buck

Featured By

The Passive Income Earner posted Weekly Blog Round: Late Weekend Edition and featured Late Fees Kill Your Savings

Financially Consumed posted 3 Ways to Reduce Car Depreciation and featured Auto Insurance Terms and Auto Insurance Shopping

Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance posted Money Smarts Turn to Greed and featured Assertive Crisis Management. Check out her latest video, too!

Financially Consumed posted Yakezie Chichi and featured Colonel Sanders and Tony Robbins: Crazy, Thoughtless, and Unaware

Magic Castle Magic With David Chen

Last time out, my post on Colonel Sanders and Tony Robbins bummed a few people out. Now back to our regular scheduled programming! A few weeks back, the Mrs. and I caught up with a few friends. It was a fun afternoon of catching up, eating good food, and sipping on some wine. We got an unexpected treat when her friend started entertaining us with magic tricks. Come to find out, he is a twenty year pro who works at the world famous Magic Castle. We were mesmerized!

Pick A Trick, Any Trick

This guy had the entire arsenal going. Close up, cards, coins, rings, rope, comedy, and mind over matter! The crowd went wild. I momentarily wondered, “Does he get bored?” I answered my own question as he gets brand new reactions and energy from new people and audiences he meets. He also told us that he needs to constantly create and try new tricks to stay fresh and on top of his game. He reminded me of a pro athelete wanting to stay ahead of the competition. Gotta respect that.

Living His Dream

He traveled the world, learning his art, and honing his craft. His magic tricks were top notch and it was a little mind boggling to have him perform so close to me. But what even shined brighter than his tricks was his infectious smile and passion for magic. He was beaming with pride whenever we asked questions. He told us endless stories about his life and a behind the scenes look at the biz. He was a master showman and even made a few guests his apprentices!

Final Thoughts

I left the party awe inspired by the show and envious as I met a man totally living his dream as an entertainer. He could have gone on for hours because magic is his true passion. You could see and feel it. He seemed to love to perform even away from work as he gets in more practice while bringing smiles and wonderment to his friends, old and new. Who can ask for more than that? Hopefully one day, I can make my way to the Magic Castle. If the other magicians are half as good as David, it will be a great time. In the future, I too want to bring smiles and wonderment to more readers. One can dream, but all it takes is a little… MAGIC.

Stay Inspired!
Buck

If you are in Hollywood, visit the Magic Castle. If you want a magical treat, contact David Chen at dscmagic@yahoo.com.

I couldn’t find any clips of David, but I found one of his personal friends, Lu Chen. Enjoy!

Colonel Sanders and Tony Robbins: Crazy, Thoughtless, and Unaware

This is not one of my usual posts. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or was radically influenced by LeBron going to Miami, Hulk Hogan going Hollywood, or Star Trek’s entire crew in Mirror, Mirror when they ran into their evil selves in a parallel universe. Spock rocked his goatee! Sorry, I digress. Most of the times, I’m quite positive, tell people to Have An Awesome Day, and would normally use the KFC story as motivation.

Hindsight is 20/20

This motivational story is retold time and time again, only because there was a happy ending. I wondered, “What about his poor friends and family?” They had to suffer and endure 1009 rejections over a two-year period? My initial reaction was Mr. Sanders was heartless! Digging deeper, I found out that he was alone and had no family. I take back my heartless comment. He was tired of his $105 social security check so at 65 he set out to push his chicken recipe and help restaurants prepare a better chicken.

No Excuse Mr. Robbins

On the other hand, motivational gurus like Tony Robbins should be ashamed of themselves. I agree the story of persistence, never say quit, and pursuing your dreams is a great one. Taking action is the most important step. Many people don’t take action and just daydream about a better way of life. But in the wrong hands, lives could spiral endlessly out of control. People looking for motivational stories to apply to themselves miss the fact that Mr. Sanders was 65 and alone. If you pulled the same move straight out of college or in your 30’s during a career change, what kind of life would you have if you pulled a Colonel Sanders and never took no for an answer even if things weren’t in the cards for you?

KFC is an amazing product, brand, and story, but his story is exceptional. People barreling along without backup plans and a timeline are being too naive. Add to that they are being thoughtless and unaware if they submit their friends and family to the endless rounds of seeing their loved one go through rejection after rejection. The Colonel Sanders method of success shouldn’t be applied to everyone.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong. Colonel Sanders overcame two years of rejections and should be commended for his persistence, doing what he loved, and making his dreams come true. But you have to be realistic, too. Without knowing the future, would it really be wise to chase your dream for two years and go through over 1000 rejections? Should someone five feet tall, who can’t dunk, continue chasing his dream of being in the NBA? Should a struggling actor continue going to auditions and waiting tables part time, after numerous “don’t call us, we’ll call you’s”? Should a business owner who continuously goes bankrupt, continue searching for a successful business?

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but not all of us can be Kobe Bryant, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Colonel Sanders. On the off chance, you are not a superstar in waiting, you should really consider other options and a deadline on when to call it quits. Using investing terms, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket and you should apply stop losses so you don’t get completely wiped out. I may never be the next Colonel Sanders, but if I had to submit myself and loved ones through over 1000 rejections, I would find another way, even though it was finger-lickin’ good.

Stay Inspired!
Evil Buck?

Late Fees Kill Your Savings

My friend and I caught up on movies. He’s a big moviephile and loves every genre. Good reviews, bad reviews, it doesn’t matter to him. He’s been getting his fix from his local RedBox, DVD rentals for $1 a day. Sounds like a great deal and I’ve used them myself. However, he told me some disturbing news. He borrowed five movies in a day and had planned to watch them throughout the day and night. Life happened and a week went by. End result? No movies watched and late fees galore. If you add up the numbers, that’s 5 DVDs, 7 days, $1 each for a grand total of $35. He could have bought those DVDs outright for his own collection. This reminded me about other late fees.

Remind Yourself

Pick a bill, any bill. Personally, I have to deal with my rent, credit cards, and utilities. Others may need to also remember their mortgage, car, and cable. When I first moved, I was thrown off by the sheer volume. I have settled down by setting monthly reminders a few days before my bill’s due date. I selected a few days ahead in case of unexpected events. There were times when I cut my bill payment too close and I ran into a website being down due to maintenance. Give yourself ample time to pay your bill on time.

Automate Your Payments

My water bill is now being automatically deducted from my checking account. One less thing to think about, but you need to be diligent and check your numbers. Although your bill is being paid, you shouldn’t set it and forget it because it is up to you to catch billing discrepancies.

Time Is Money

If you go too delinquent on a cell phone or other utility, the company pay even cut your service. You will then have to scramble, explain yourself, and get your service reactivated. Besides burning valuable time, you may get hit with a reactivation fee as well!

Final Thoughts

Ten dollars here, fourteen dollars there, may not be much, but compared to your actual bill, that is a huge percentage loss that cuts into your emergency savings or retirement funds. Don’t forget, besides the late fee, if you miss a credit card payment, they will also slap you with interest. If you don’t change your mindset, you can only blame yourself for your debt not improving or your nest egg not growing. Make that change today!

Stay Inspired!
Buck

Featured By

Humbleville posted The Humble Bee: Edition 2 and featured Auto Insurance Shopping

Financially Consumed posted Yakezie Mizu and featured My Favorite iPhone Apps

Life And My Finances posted Goals Update and Weekly Round Up 24 and also featured My Favorite iPhone Apps

Money Cone posted Good Reads and also featured My Favorite iPhone Apps

From Here To Eternity: Ernest Borgnine

After reviewing Something Borrowed, one of my readers noticed that I get roped into a lot of bad movies. He can’t say the same about this timeless masterpiece. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Ernest Borgnine review his movie career and speak about his “From Here To Eternity” experiences. Turner Classic Movies (TCM) was promoting their classic film festival. I didn’t know my wife and I were in for such a treat. Eager movie goers lined up at the Graumans Egyptian Theater braving the Hollywood traffic gridlock. Borgnine passed by as I snapped a pic. He was looking quite healthy and energetic at 94! A few autograph seekers wanted his John Hancock, but he politely waved them off.

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine Recollects

He was in the service and when he returned home he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to work in the factories so he listened to his mom’s suggestion of using his personality and being an actor. The rest as they say is history. He spoke highly of all his co-stars. He recalled Montgomery Clift’s emotion filled eyes and how he taught himself to play the bugle. We all laughed out loud as Borgnine recalled being picked on by a bunch of Italians for making trouble to Frank Sinatra in the movie. Luckily he defused the tension with some beers and confessing that he was Italian, too. Sadly I recognize him more from his television roles (McHale’s Navy and Airwolf), but was eager to watch this Hollywood classic.

Dashing Leading Men

Clift and Burt Lancaster were both larger than life on the silver screen. They dominated every scene they were in. They commanded the men and made the women swoon with their courage, leadership, and charm. What more could you ask for from your leading men?

Beautiful Leading Women

Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed were the perfect counterparts to our heroes. Kerr the firey blond and Reed the mysterious brunette more than held their own. They were vulnerable, but strong and supported their men till the end.

Comedy Relief

I always imagined ole Blue Eyes (Frank Sinatra) a dashing leading man himself. It was odd as he played the scrawny clown in the film. But he did turn in a powerful performance and won a best supporting actor award in 1954.

Golden Age Of Film

Long story short, this was a romance drama that takes place just before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It had all my favorite cinematic elements, drama, suspense, romance, comedy, camaraderie, and the always popular emotional roller coaster. Perhaps it was the black and white format, but the movie just felt classical. The story played out like scenes from a play. The dialog was snappy and each performance leapt off the screen. I was blown away. After the movie, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I don’t recall any contemporary movie that moved me so. It was breath taking. If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor, and see what classic Hollywood movie making is all about.

Stay Inspired!
Buck

My Favorite iPhone Apps

Two months ago, I was dealing with my iPhone buyer’s remorse. I have to admit, I’m adjusting quite well. All the little hiccups were just that, hiccups. I’m getting around the BlackBerry Messenger issue by using text. There is a slight delay, but manageable. Email syncing hasn’t been a big problem. I do need to remember to change my password on my iPhone after changing my password at work to continue my sync. Emails are also grouped by subject which is great for tracking an email thread. I’m actually enjoying my iPhone experience. Here are some of my favorite apps.

Stocks

Lately, I try not to obsess with market fluctuations. It’s been so volatile. But if you need a quick market recap, breaking news, and graphical snapshots, I use the already included Stocks application. It pulls its data from Yahoo! Finance. Simple, already pre-installed, and free!

WordPress

If you blog and you use WordPress, you need this app. I haven’t typed out a full blown post yet because typing on the iPhone is a little time consuming, but it’s perfect for deleting spam, approving and replying to comments. If you’re on the go, this app is perfect for helping you manage your blog. Are there bloggers who use this app for creating posts?

LAMetro

You all must know my new passion of using public transportation. If I have access to a computer, I just use the LA Metro website. But if I am on the road and need to reroute my travel plans, I use this app to create my travel plan, check on departure times, and estimated cost. Don’t leave home without it. If you don’t live in Los Angeles, check your local public transportation website to see if you have an app for your area. I downloaded a NY subway app when I visited New York.

GasBuddy

I learned about this app from the Bucksome Boomer. It came in handy recently as I couldn’t get to a Costco gas station in time. I was running low on gas and I normally would do two things. Try and hold out till my next Costco run, while dangerously running low on gas, risking a bigger experience like calling for gas assistance. Or two, drive on fumes until I break and fill up at a station that costs one dollar more than Costco. Both options are not ideal. I quickly punched in my location and up popped nearby stations with great gas deals. Some were even cheaper than Costco! This app might also be a lifesaver. Just imagine if I ran out of gas in the wrong part of town?

What are some of your favorite iPhone apps?

Stay Inspired!
Buck