Living in the Now

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“If you do not create change, change will create you.”

Unknown

Are you living in the now?

What does the phrase even mean?

You might think: “we’re here and it’s now – so the answer has to be yes – right?”

Well no, it’s not that straightforward… picture it this way: you are in the driver’s seat of your car – hands on the wheel – cruising down the motorway at a steady 70 (ish) miles an hour, (you’re a law abiding citizen after all!). Your eyes are fixed on the road ahead; your wife is asleep next to you and the kids are in the back playing Candy Crush on their ‘phones. You’re on ‘autopilot’ and your mind wanders; it’s really not the way it should be.

A loud cough from the back seat shuts down your auto pilot and you’re back in the present, aware of a slight vibration through the steering. You glance in the rear-view mirror to make sure everything is OK then eyes right: through the side window you catch sight of your dream car as it rumbles past. You let out a longing sigh.

So, what has this to do with ‘living in the now’ and ‘being present’?

Bear with me. Think about each of the windows in a car; every one gives a different view. Through the front screen you can see you’re moving forward – you have some idea of where you’re going (you have your goal), you’ve planned your route or – better still – you already know your route. If you look constantly in the rear view mirror – to the past if you will – you could miss valuable opportunities. Looking out of the side windows. Living in the now gives you a different perspective, it gives you time to savour the moment. Imagine all you heard was the exhaust’s roar as the dream car thundered past, its shiny tailpipe disappearing into the distance… you’d have completely missed the moment.

When you’re at the wheel and conscious of everything that’s going on around you, you’re in control; you’re in pursuit of your goals and you’re living in the now. But can you control your whole journey? What if something goes wrong? There are bound to be obstacles along the way; interruptions are inevitable on the journey we call life.

The sound of a female voice breaks through the quiet of the cabin, waking your sleeping wife. It’s your SatNav; it tells you there is an accident ahead and traffic is beginning to tail back.

You’re there, in the present (the now) so you start to consider rationally, the options available. Do you wait in the impending queue; pull off at the next junction or the next service station to stretch your legs and get a coffee? By staying in the present moment you can take charge, make choices and effect changes.

Suddenly vehicles ahead are breaking, a queue quickly forms. Are you still present? If you are, you accept the situation, it’s too late to change it; you remain calm and relaxed. You might reprogram the SatNav; check how far the next junction is; listen to the traffic news for insights into the situation.

If this was your journey – what would you be thinking, how would you be feeling now?

Or… you begin to berate yourself: you didn’t think the incident was so close; you start fretting over how long you’ll be queuing; you smack your palms on the steering wheel in frustration. Your focus is no longer in the present, it’s in the past (think rear view mirror). You curse your decision not to take the last exit; tell yourself you should have taken a different route or even that you shouldn’t have left home at all. You’re no longer in the present, you’re living in the past. Auto pilot kicks in again, you can’t stop the voices in your head: “you’ll be here for ages”; “we should have left yesterday”…

At this point there are a number of actions you can take:

You could keep looking behind you – living in the past – a lot of people do but they end up with regrets and even while you’re thinking this, your focus has slipped. Your mind has wandered from what is happening now and you’re angry you weren’t paying better attention. Your face flushes with embarrassment; you’re angry at yourself but you start snapping at your wife and kids.

So what could be the possible outcome?

It’s easy to miss opportunities – to lose focus; lose faith; start doubting your abilities and blaming those around you – both in business and personal life.

Going back to that car journey: you’re frustration with the situation spills over and before you know it, you’re niggling at your wife; you claim you never wanted to travel today; it’s her fault your stuck in traffic and pretty soon, you’re shouting, she’s crying and the kids are playing up because of the unrest.

Now you’re really distracted. Your stress levels are rising and you’re really not paying attention to what’s going on. A car cuts in sharply to the lane in front of you. Your wife yells “Brake!!!” jolting you back to the present. What happens next?

I’ll let you decide the outcome but it’s hard to see anything good coming from this. In fact, that’s the very reason why retaining the capacity for change is important.

Too many people waste their time looking in the rear view mirror… don’t be one of them.

In America in 2011, there was a large national survey – across all age groups – that looked at just this. The paper was called Regrets of the Typical American published by Roese and Morrison in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The main sources of regret (reflecting on the past and not changing) were, in order:

1. romance

2. family

3. education

4. career

5. finance

6. parenting

7. health

8. “other”

9. friends

10. spirituality

11. community

12. leisure

13. self

There are far-reaching consequences to not living in the now; as the quote says:

“If you do not create change, change will create you.”

Unknown

So think about how you might change; to the way you react to situations, to circumstances and the way you make decisions. When you’re the one to initiate change – by making choices with full awareness – you’re prepared and ready to deal with whatever life throws at you. Retaining control over how you react to different situations will help you remain calm and avoid angry outbursts. As in the car journey – by staying present, focussing on available options, making decisions (managing change) and staying with that choice ’til another opportunity presents itself can only lead you to a more balanced and relaxed state of being.

I’m not saying you’ll float on your own personal cloud like some mystical guru, impervious to the troubles and strife of every-day life. You will still get stressed. You will still get hacked off. You will still have down days but how you control your thoughts and the choices you make are what matters. You are ultimately in control and it is your choices that will return you to a calmer state.

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Baby Blanket Knitting Projects – Standard Baby Blanket Sizes

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So, you’re ready to knit your first baby blanket. You’ve oohed and aah-ed over pictures of sweet, soft, and comfy blankets that are perfect to snuggle a sweet little baby. You’ve walked the aisles of your favorite yarn store and felt every pastel yarn there is, testing the softness. You’ve fantasized about holding your precious bundle in a blanket you handcrafted with your own two hands or you’ve basked in the admiration you’ll receive as your friend opens your gift at the next baby shower.

Then reality hits. You have an idea of the perfect hand-knit blanket but a few ‘minor details’ are missing — like what size this blanket should be. This is a good question and unless you have a great deal of experience with knitting or babies or both, you’re probably at a loss as to what to do next.

Blanket Sizes

When it comes to baby blankets, there are three main sizes — crib blankets, swaddling blankets, and receiving blankets. You may not have known it, but each of these has a specific purpose.

· Crib Blankets — These blankets do exactly what the name says — they are for the crib. Think of this blanket as a bedspread for the baby crib. This blanket is usually around 36″ x 52″ and while it’s perfect for making the crib look nice and keeping an older baby warm at night, it is too big to swaddle a small baby. If you want to knit a blanket to decorate the baby’s room, this is it.

· Swaddling Blankets — This blanket is the small blanket you use when the baby first comes home from the hospital. Usually lightweight, it is about 30″ square and is perfect to wrap tightly around a baby to give them that ‘in the womb’ feeling. This is a good blanket to swaddle a baby and give her a sense of security when putting her down for a nap.

· Receiving Blankets — If you want to get the most use possible, knit a blanket, knit a receiving blanket that is 34″ x 36″ is perfect. This size is works best because it’s small enough to snuggle a small baby but also perfect for the baby to carry around when he reaches toddler age. This size works great in baby carriers and car seats and is pretty much an all-purpose blanket.

Now that you know the standard sizes, all you have to do is decide on the baby blanket that best suits your needs. Once you’ve made that decision, choose your favorite pattern, buy your yarn and get those knitting needles clicking.

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The Best Creative Ways to Propose

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Marriage proposals made over a romantic dinner at an elegant restaurant can be very romantic but they are not necessarily creative. Many women dream about the day that the man of their dreams proposes to them and hope that the day will be absolutely perfect in every way imaginable. In a recent study the majority of married women reported that they believe that their spouse spent a significant amount of money on their wedding proposal but that the lack of originality in the proposal had left the women feeling disappointed.

One creative way to propose for a couple involved in a long distance relationship is to plan a surprise visit and set up a scavenger hunt. You could have a friend pick you up from the airport so that your girlfriend doesn’t know that you are coming to visit and have the friend give your girlfriend instructions for the scavenger hunt. You could hide a number of small surprises such as candy, flowers and a CD as the first few stops on the scavenger hunt and then hide at the final location poised to propose when your girlfriend completes the game.

An outdoor enthusiast might appreciate a creative proposal during a camping trip. It’s a good idea to plan a quiet trip for just you and your girlfriend at a picturesque location. You could hide the ring in your sleeping bag to use in a surprise proposal. When it’s time to go to sleep after a long day of hiking and fishing, you could complain that there must be a rock or something underneath you and then pull out the ring and make your proposal. This creative proposal also contains the element of surprise as a camping trip is not a usual proposal location.

Another creative proposal idea is to place an ad in a local newspaper. You could place an outrageous ad in a newspaper asking anyone who was willing to get married to give you a call and include a fictitious phone number. Then when you and your girlfriend are reading the paper together, you could point out the ad as a joke and while she is reading the ad, seize the opportunity to pull out the engagement ring and let her know that you would love to marry her.

Proposing at a sporting event is a creative way to propose to a sports fan. For this proposal idea you could either arrange to have your proposal broadcast over the public address system or displayed on the large screen. If you are really adventurous, you could also contact the team’s public relations department and try to make arrangements to make your proposal on the field at halftime. They might be willing to help you stage a scenario where you are either chosen to win a prize or participate in a contest and while you are on the field, they would hand over the microphone to allow you to make your proposal.

Another creative marriage proposal idea is to purchase a book of poems and leave the first few pages intact and carve a heart into the remaining pages and sew the engagement ring to the back of the book. You could suggest taking turns reading the poems on each page and plan to have your girlfriend turn the final complete page to reveal the heart and ring that were hidden inside. This proposal idea is not only creative but also incredibly romantic.

Having the DJ of your girlfriend’s favorite radio program ask her if she will marry you is another creative proposal idea. You will want to make sure that you are aware of the exact time that the DJ will be sending your message so that you are able to ensure that you and your girlfriend are listening together when he makes the announcement. You could also arrange to have the DJ play a song that has a special meaning for you as a couple so that you can enjoy a dance together after she accepts your creative proposal.

Another creative way to propose is to include all of your family and friends in the event by inviting them all to a surprise party for your girlfriend. To make this proposal work, you would either convince your girlfriend that you want to have a quiet dinner at home or at a restaurant with just the two of you. Once you arrive at the destination all of the guests will reveal themselves and while all eyes are on the two of you, you could take the opportunity to profess your love and propose.

Still another creative way to propose is to hide the ring in an unexpected location. For example you could pretend to have a clogged sink and while you are working to fix the clog, you could reach into the sink and pull out the engagement ring. When your girlfriend is nearby, you could seize the opportunity to pull out the ring you had hidden earlier and say something to the effect of, “No wonder the sink is clogged, I’ll have to find another place to store this ring, how about your finger?” This whimsical proposal is both light-hearted and creative.

A variation on the traditional proposal at an elegant restaurant could be to have the waiter bring out the ring with the bill. You could have a little good natured fun with your girlfriend by going out of your way to drop hints that you would be proposing over dinner. If you keep up the act, she will be expecting your proposal with each course. After dessert you could tell her that you have something very important to ask and as she eagerly awaits your proposal, you could ask an inconsequential question about something completely irrelevant to your relationship. She will probably be furious at this point but her anger won’t last as the waiter arrives with the bill and the engagement ring and you let her know how much she means to you.

Finally a creative proposal idea is for the woman to ask the man to marry her, instead of waiting for him to propose. Many women anxiously await the day that the man in their life will propose but why not add your own creative twist by proposing to him instead. The woman is free to propose in any way that she finds truly romantic and can ensure that the proposal is both creative and romantic and that it’s a moment that they both will remember for the rest of their lives.

A great marriage proposal doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Many women are more likely to cherish the memories of a proposal that was inexpensive but truly creative. The creativity is what makes the proposal so memorable and what makes it a great story to tell their friends.

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How to Save Money – The 60-40 Rule

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I have been living on the 60/40 budgeting rule for more than three years now. I had read on this subject in a magazine article and in a conversation with a colleague, I found out a simple system in which my colleague has been using for years.

The Rule (60%)

The 60/40 rule simply says that 60% of your gross income should go to Committed or Fixed expenses. These expenses are your Overhead expenses, meaning the basic things you need to pay to survive. They include:

• Basic food and clothing needs.

• Rent or Mortgage

• Utilities (electricity, water, internet, cable subscription etc.)

• Insurance premiums.

• Charitable contributions.

• Taxes.

It looks simple enough but in my experience putting all committed expenses into 60% of my income was a tough thing to do. But don’t give up as it is very possible to achieve this.

The Rule (40%)

The other half of the equation is the 40% which is divided into four 10% categories.

• Retirement: Money set aside into your IRA or 401(k) plans.

• Long-term savings: Money set aside for car purchases, major home repairs, or to pay down debts such as credit cards, mortgages, etc.

• Irregular expenses: Vacations, car repairs, new appliances, etc.

• Fun money: The great part! Do anything you want with this money! Just be sure that this category applies to your whole family such as dining out, a day in the mall shopping, your hobbies etc. But also remember that having fun with your friends, children and family does not have to be costly!

What to Ask Yourself

• Are you renting a place or have a mortgage that you cannot afford? Is it worth it move to a smaller place or farther place to save up? How much money will you save if you do so?

• Are your car payments too high? How is the fuel consumption of your car?

• Do you have too many paid subscriptions that you don’t really use? (Satellite TV, club memberships etc.)

• What is your lifestyle like? How much do you spend in a week, eating out, going on trips etc?

• Do you wear designer clothes? Where do you shop?

• Can you afford to get your coffee or lunch at a cheaper place?

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Want A Cuckold Sissy Husband? New Tips On Cuckolding Your Husband!

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So, you want a cuckold sissy husband? Most women struggle and fail. What I will do is give you some very simple – yet fantastically powerful – steps to help in cuckolding your husband.

Oh boy do I ever!

A husband must, of course, WANT to be cuckolded. Brainwashing is a no-no (I know… such a shame!). So get his agreement.

Rules, rules… and, you guessed it, MORE rules

Next up, lay down the new rules of your relationship. Your relationship has transitioned. You need new rules to govern it.

Half the rules will relate to feminization aimed at creating a cuckold sissy husband. For instance he is no longer allowed sexual interactions with you (unless you give them as treats). He may also be required to ACT more feminine, to agree to everything you say, to abstain from masturbation, and to dress as a woman.

The other half of the rules relate to YOU. You will have boyfriends and men in your life (and women, if you swing that way!). You will not kiss your husband or do anything sexual. You will not do the dishes or clean the house. So on and so on.

Sexual release

You have got agreement from him and laid down the rules. To make cuckolding your husband EASIER you must stop his sexual release. So, no sexual fun or masturbation. This will put him in a near-constant state of sexual arousal. It makes it easier for him to live within the new rules you established.

Last – but CERTAINLY not least – the “bull” boyfriend

You have done everything right. All that remains is to get yourself a “bull” boyfriend. This can be a man who you have either an emotional or a physical relationship with – or both. Generally, he is more endowed than your new cuckold sissy husband. This final step in cuckolding your husband will cement your new relationship and TEST it. Because if, after meeting with your boyfriend, your husband is still happy, then you know that you have succeeded.

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Relativity in the 2008 US Transition

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The economic turmoil that helped unseat the “pale male” monopoly on heading a major developed world power continued in early December 2008 when stories exploded about the President-elect intending to buy his wife a $30,000 ring.

The reputed ring was made of rhodium, “the world’s most expensive metal,” according to the New York Post on December 2.

On December 3, the Big Three US automakers were back in Washington for the second time to appeal for a $34 billion bailout in the form of federal loans to prevent collapse of their industries by year’s end. As instructed on their first trip two weeks before, they returned in December with a more solid plan on how to use the bail-out money than presented earlier. The new plan included an agreement with the United Auto Workers Union to cut worker benefits, including unemployment pay and retiree health insurance.

The uproar about a $30,000 ring is symbolic of America in 2008. It is a year in which taxpayers are bailing out failing industries even as their benefits are cut and they are laid off while corporate executives continue jetting to emergency bailout meetings and retreats.

No doubt the new first lady is not the first wife who has ever received a thank you present from her husband for having helped him gain an even less historic victory for the country than this was. Little doubt also that the new President and his family are the objects of greater scrutiny than former presidents and families were. Scrutiny and curiosity are closely entwined and the country, along with the world, is intensely interested in the brand new first family holding so much promise in beleaguered times. Yet the outrage over a $30,000 ring during economic hard times calls for a look at  relativity  in America before the new President takes office.

During the presidential campaigns leading up to the 2008 election, the financial crisis was in full swing when $150,000 was spent on clothing for the Republican vice-presidential candidate’s family. The jacket in which the candidate delivered the speech that won conservative hearts and rallied the Party was a Valentino jacket with a price tag close to $12,000. Presuming the rest of the clothes worn that night were purchased at shops above the level of local Salvation Army outlets, even if not at Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus as the venues reported to be where most of the shopping took place, it is quite conceivable that the outfit worn that night cost the equivalent of the $30,000 ring, if it does get purchased after the attention.

It is also presumed that the $30,000 ring will be bought with private funds and not with political Party donations expected to be one-tenth of what the actual cost turned out to be. The ring is also likely to be a permanent possession, unlike the fate of the infamous clothes as of early December, when an announcement about a charity donation had not yet been made.

Further during that same financial crisis and on nomination night, the Republican candidate’s wife wore an outfit estimated by Vanity Fair in September to have cost approximately $300,000. A gold balloon dress by Oscar de la Renta was worth a modest $3,000. But a pair of three carat diamond earrings was estimated to be worth $280,000.

Between nomination night, through the election and into early December when the intended ring became public knowledge, the unfolding scenario of executive excess, ambition and incompetence continued to unfold with no end in sight. The symbol of that legacy to America is the insurer AIG, which paid $400,000 for a junket after being bailed out by $150 billion in taxpayer money.

The $30,000 ring is a bargain at ten times that price and the new President would be well-advised to buy it. Americans deserve to see that ring on the finger of their first lady as a reminder that nearly half the population voted the other way. They voted for the Party that spends as much on earrings as an average taxpayer earns in ten years, provided, of course, that jobs are found in the first place.

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Configuring a New Laptop

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There are a lot of things to consider when you are shopping for that laptop, the two most important specifications however are going to be your processor and your RAM. Here I am going to explain some of the fundamental features of both so you can make a better choice when buying a laptop for yourself.

PROCESSOR (CPU)

Intel the world’s largest semi conductor maker has begun the process of transitioning into a quad core line of processors. Their range is branded as Core i3, i5 and i7. If you are hunting for a bargain then you could choose its older Core 2 models, but you would be better off sticking to its latest range.

You could also consider a processor from Intel rival AMD which has a compelling range of products branded as Turion II and Athlon II. If you are a budget shopper then these processes are well worth considering and will serve the purpose for most tasks. The big difference between processors made by AMD is they are simply not as fast as those made by Intel and they tend to act as a drain on battery life.

The most important task is working out exactly how much processing power you need. In general the Core i3 or i5 are suitable for most people. If however you do a lot of video editing then you are going to need a more powerful processor. Gamers in particular believe they need a powerful processor but in practice can actually get away with a slower chip.

Quad core chips still cost a lot and also tend to drain battery life quite quickly. You can identify a quad core chip by the Q denoted next to the machine’s model number. If you use your laptop as your main machine, and not taking it out on the road, or you are a gamer or video editor, the quad chip case becomes more compelling.

The decision over processor gets trickier when you are ordering a custom laptop from a manufacturer. You should as a rule avoid the most expensive chipsets on offer and go for the second or third least costliest chips. The increase in price is usually proportional to performance. You should not spend more than $150 upgrading a processor. If you are simply surfing the internet or word processing, even a dual core processor is more than adequate.

MEMORY (RAM)

4GB RAM is the standard memory offered by most manufacturers even on low end laptops and that is really all you need. Starting prices for a laptop with 4GB RAM are just under $500. In the past manufacturers used to make consumers pay through the nose when they upgraded the memory whilst custom ordering. More recently, this practice seems to have changed, and only Apple really still does this.

If upgrading your memory to 4GB costs you less than $90, which is what it costs separately, then you should definitely upgrade. Upgrading beyond 4GB is going to be expensive, and the only real reason to do it is if you are video editing, and even then it’s still not absolutely necessary when you compare it against the expense. For a desktop, spending an additional $100 is no big deal, but for a laptop where it is going to cost you an additional $300 for 8GB, it’s simply not worth it unless your laptop is your primary video editing device.

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Centenarian Role Models

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Role models teach us and inspire us. As a kid you probably had lots of heroes and role models. You need them as an adult as well. Role models are a short cut from learning by trial and error. If you want to know how to age well, look at today’s centenarians.

The New England Centenarian study found that most of the centenarians they studied were mentally and physically sharp. Most did not have a disability until the last four years of their lives. They averaged one medication. Typically, they died at home from an acute illness or a fall.

Here are a few of my favorite centenarian role models:

Sadie and Bessie Delany’s father was a slave who was freed after the Civil War. Their careers eventually took them to Harlem where Sadie became a teacher and Bessie a dentist. Neither married. They loved reading, learning, and friends. They refused to have a television set or phone at home. When Sadie was 102 and Bessie 100, a reporter interviewed them. The reporter was so smitten with their vitality that she persuaded them to write a book. Their book, Having Our Say, became a best seller and a successful Broadway play and later yet a CBS Television movie. They wrote another best selling book, The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom. When Bessie died at home at age 104, Sadie wrote On My Own at 107: Reflection of Life Without Bessie. At age 109 Sadie died in her sleep at home.

George Dawson, grandson of a slave, started working at age eight to help support his family. He “got tired of writing my name with an X” and learned to read and write when in his nineties. As a centenarian he co-wrote his autobiography, Life is So Good.

At 89 Selma Plaut started auditing courses at the University of Toronto. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree when she was 100. English wasn’t even her native language as she was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.

Grandma Moses began painting rural scenes for her own pleasure in her late 70s. Without formal art training, her work became internationally acclaimed and she was still painting at 100.

Dr. Henry Stenhouse ran for Congress when he was 100. Other centenarians fly airplanes, teach college, conduct symphony orchestras, paint, sculpt, dance, and even father children. One of the best sources for profiles of centenarians is the book, Centenarians: The Bonus Years by Lynn Peters Adler. Centenarian role models certainly illustrate that you are never too old to do what you love or even to start a new career.

There are few physical traits that distinguish centenarians. They are physically active, most do not smoke, and most maintain their same weight all their adult life. About the only thing that characterized their diets were that most ate a wide variety of foods most of their lives.

The centenarian traits that stand out are mental traits. They are very independent, self-reliant individuals with a strong sense of purpose. They have a good sense of humor and are good at dealing with loss and change. Many have a strong passion for life.

The centenarian spirit is illustrated in a joke–A centenarian goes to the doctor complaining of a pain in his knee. The doctor said, “At your age what can you expect?” The patient replied, “To fix my knee. My other knee is the same age and it works fine.”

The oldest person with good documentation of her age was Jean Calment. She lived in Arles, France and died in 1997 at age 122. She was always a physically active woman who wasn’t overly concerned about others’ expectations. She had a good appetite-not just for food but for everything. She never had fluctuations in her weight. She smoked a few cigarettes a day until she was 117 when she quit on her own initiative with no explanation. She enjoyed port wine and chocolates. She still rode a bicycle at 100. Part of her “secret” was that “I never get bored.”

At 109, largely because of visual limitations, she moved into a retirement home where her diet was unappealingly institutional. Her biographer reports that she never adjusted to the facility’s routines nor they to hers. She would wake herself at 6:45 a.m. and begin her day with prayer and exercise. Her days were very self-structured. Although virtually blind, she got around the facility faster than most of the other residents. Her quality of life was compromised by failing vision and hearing. She declined eye surgery for the severe cataracts in both of her eyes. She might have lived even longer if she had taken a daily vitamin most of her life or if she did not smoke. She might have lived longer if she had agreed to eye surgery which doctors recommended to improve her vision. This would have allowed her to be more active and mobile. Her life is described in the biography, Jeanne Calment: From Van Gough’s Time To Ours: 122 Extraordinary Years.

There is an amusing anecdote about her finances. When she was 90 she entered into a contract with an attorney. He agreed to pay her $500 a month (“en viager”) for the rest of her life and he would own her apartment in Arles when she died. She lived to 122. He died at the age of 77 after paying over $184,000 (far more than the apartment’s value). His widow continued paying after his death.

George Burns booked his act past his hundredth birthday to mentally suggest to himself that he would live that long (and he did). As he put it, “You can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old.” He also quipped, “With a little luck, there’s no reason why you can’t make it to be 100. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got it made, because very few people die over 100.” Research agrees with Mr. Burns. Mortality rates are lower for people in their hundreds than for people in their nineties.

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Designing Your Log Home: The Third Dimension

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Every Log Home magazine has a section dedicated to floor plans, where the aspiring owners start their search for the perfect dream home. I did it too, and dutifully ordered piles of plan books, while starting my comparison shopping based on the beauty of the photos. Little did I realize – until later – that what was really drawing my attention was the third dimension: the roof lines, the porches, and the soaring great rooms.

At the beginning, we think we need to choose a manufacturer based on their floor plans, but once we realize that we can design our own custom home with any company, things start getting interesting. After all, interior wall partitions can be moved at will, and the log home company really doesn’t care where you put the bathroom. How many different ways can you configure an open floor plan?

What really requires thought is the interaction between the second floor and the roof lines. The first floor is comparatively simple; you’ve either got a cathedral ceiling, or a regular ceiling. However, once you go upstairs, there’s a whole new set of considerations. First of all, what kind of roof do you envision? The simplest (and most economical) roof line is one long ridge from one side to the other. The angle and height of the roof slope determines how much floor space you are going to lose because of the pitch. There’s a good chance you don’t have as much useful space as the second floor plan indicates, unless you’re two feet tall. Once the log home architect turns your plans into real drawings, he will “gray out” the dead space, but it’ll save costly revisions to be able to conceptualize the third dimension ahead of time.

For instance, I wanted a 45-degree angle in my roof; this is a 12/12 pitch (in other words, the roof rises 12 inches for every 12 inch horizontal run). I have a 28 foot-wide house and I wanted the slope to go all the way to from peak to floor in my loft. The peak measures about 14 feet from the second floor deck, and I lose 6 feet of floor space to stand upright, if I were 6 feet tall. (I’m speaking in broad generalizations here – not precise measurements.) My loft extends halfway into the great room, so this leaves me about 8 good feet of width in the loft – not the 14 feet my homemade floor plan shows.

How do I increase my living space? By adding a dormer. The wider the dormer, the more space you regain. This adds cost to the whole project, but it’s well worth it. Some narrow dormers do little more than add light, while a shed dormer widens the whole room. Your choice of dormer will be determined by the look you want on the outside. Or, you can add a gable and create an Alpine-look, which will give you a big triangular-shaped wall instead of a slope. A third option would be to add “knee walls”, thus raising up the whole roof. However, if you want the same pitch, this means the peak will be correspondingly higher from the ground.

The roof pitch was a huge factor in the placement of my staircase. The stairs run along the wall. I wanted extra square footage at the base of the steps, but to do so meant that the top of the stairs would emerge dangerously close to the ceiling slope. I would bang my head every time I went upstairs! So the stairs had to be situated so that they reached the loft in – or near – the middle of the house. Or, I could have added a landing and angled the stairs to keep them in the center. I opted to take a notch out of the loft and shift the stairs a few feet forward, calculating how much head room was left over. Still, I wasn’t sure how far the staircase would extend… that third dimension again! In the end, I had to sacrifice the potted plant I intended to put in the corner at the base of the stairs. There just wasn’t enough room to do it all.

Another difficult visualization is trying to see just how big those plate-glass windows really are. If you want a ranch with big great room windows, you may have to shorten the panes of glass to fit into a peak that only rises 14′ from the deck. It’s hard to fit a large window set in a small wall. Most of the beautiful windows in magazines take up well more than two stories – more like 24′. Perhaps a ranch with a loft is the best of both worlds.

I made the mistake of ordering windows so large that I cannot reach the center of the glass to clean it by hand. I certainly don’t want to rest my ladder in the middle of the window! What I didn’t learn until later is that if you order a window that’s too large (say, 6’x6′), the glass will bow ever so slightly under its own weight. This may cause the thermal seal to break, like it did after one year in my house. You’re better off using smaller, divided windows to create the same wall of glass.

The last thing I want to mention is to try and look at your roof from a bird’s eye view. How do your ridges line up? Do you have disconnected angles pointing in every direction? That will greatly increase the cost of construction. If you have a gable in the front and a gable in the rear, do they line up? Or could you line up a gable in the rear with a porch in the front? The more complicated the lines, the more costly the building.

The most amazing thing about building your log home is having to wait until it is nearly erected before you actually know what it’s going to look like. On a regular house the frame goes up first and the shape is defined. But with a log home, it can be a long wait before you get the whole effect. And once the roof is on, the effect can be almost magical.

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The Six Steps of a Project

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Reading about the trials and tribulations of Boeing as it brings the 787 Dreamliner to market reminded me of a poster I saw in a clients office. It described the Six Steps Of A Project. They are:

1 – Enthusiasm
2 – Disillusionment
3 – Panic
4 – Search for the Guilty
5 – Punishment of the Innocent
6 – Praise and Glory for the Nonparticipants

At first I thought they were funny, but then realized in humor there is a lot of truth.

Fortunately, unlike the Four Stages of Change – Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, that always happen in any and all projects and change, the Six Steps, while fairly common, don’t. They are reserved for those efforts that really get off the rails, and where the organizational culture focuses on blame rather than problem solving.

I’ve been the fly on the wall at enough project meetings to know what’s going on in the minds of many of the team members.

Here’s what one member of a project team may have thought while working through the Six Steps of a project.

Step 1 – Enthusiasm – “High hopes, everyone’s on board, we’re gonna make this happen – fast. Yeah, sure we’re optimistic, but why not? The Project Manager assures me we’ve learned from the past projects, he knows where the landmines are planted, and we’re not going to make the same mistakes – we’re smarter than that. Let’s go!”

Stage 2 – Disillusionment – “Damn, this is harder than we thought! We really bagged ourselves with that pie – in – the – sky estimate of time to market. I feel like the Old Cowboy in the painting the Boss has on his wall – the one with the caption “There were some things I didn’t know about this outfit before I hired on” Ain’t that the truth. I wasn’t here for the last project, but there are plenty of people telling me it had a lot of the same problems. Gotta keep a positive perspective, but with so many expectations coming up short, I don’t know.”

Stage 3 – Panic – “Yikes, we’re really in the tank on this one. Whose idea was this anyway? Everything we try turns to crap before our very eyes. I didn’t know it could be piled this high. The Boss has made it clear he’s going to get to the bottom of this pile of you know what, and when he finds out how, why and who screwed things up, it’s really going to hit the fan. I don’t want to be downwind when that happens.”

Stage 4 – Search For The Guilty – “Time to pull the hatch covers shut and hunker down and do what I’m told to do with a “Yessir” and not take any chances. Time to show up on time for those endless status meetings, keep quiet, take notes, look interested and don’t make any waves. Bad time for vacations, sick days, seminars or anything else that might make me vulnerable and question my effort. Scratch those Saturday golf games. 24/7 – here we go! I really do want this project to succeed, but I know how easy it is to get caught in the cross hairs when the chiefs are looking to blame somebody. And the person that takes it in the ear seems to always be the person at the bottom of the food chain.”

5 – Punishment of the Innocent – “Well, the Project Manager got up and gave his report on where we are in this project, what we have to do to recover and move ahead and what the issues are that need to be put to bed. He didn’t get much of a response. There was no discussion from his bosses. They didn’t seem that interested in what he had to say. The writing is on the wall, but it’s hard to see what he’s done that would put him in jeopardy. But the result is we’re behind schedule, over budget and nobody is happy. Hope he survives this – he’s actually a pretty good guy. If he doesn’t, I really want that Old Cowboy painting from his office.

6 – Praise and glory for the non participants – “We got a new Project Manager about three months ago and everything is moving along according to the revised schedule – the one the old Project Manager did. The new PM got a bigger budget and brought in talent to help beef up the Engineering effort, and she obviously has the ear of the the top people. Funny, when she has a meeting and tells the bosses the same stuff the old PM would tell them, they agree and encourage her to press on. We all feel the project is on track, but we can’t help but feel the old PM got screwed. He was the shock troop – took the crap – did the modifying and communicated the status without any BS, and the last reward he got was the opportunity to take six months with pay to find a new job. This project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without his effort. Guess he was the wrong person at the wrong time. Too bad. Timing is everything. But that’s the way it goes. If anybody asks me to take on a new project, I’m going to say “No Thanks.” Better to be safe than sorry. The new PM gave me the the Old Cowboy painting, but told me to take it home – she said it’s message is too negative.”

If this self conversation sounds familiar to you, it’s only because so many project teams get tied up in this kind of scenario. You can bet the team members in this project will think twice before taking risk – and that’s too bad. I suspect that in blame cultures a great deal of talent ends up playing it safe – and that’s a real waste of talent.

Work to promote problem solving cultures – ones that plan with the Four Stages of Change in mind – at every level. The result of that effort is a much higher level of commitment and engagement. Make the blame game obsolete.

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