Charter Member of the Sub-Media

May 14, 2008

CMG Mortgage Accelerator « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Okay, none of y'all came through with any input when I first posed the question about alternate mortgage options, but I went ahead and kept researching.

I finally decided its on the level.

CMG Mortgage is registered with the Bay Area Better Business Bureau, and has no complaints.

The Mortgage Accelerator is not for everyone. You need good credit to get it, and you need to be disciplined enough to not think "Oh, I've got plenty of time to pay off/down the line of credit...!" If you spend too much, you'll put yourself in difficulty, because you have to delay spending money as much as possible to let the interest cancellation work.

The fees are only a little higher than a traditional mortgage. The rate does float, right from the start, but you can put a 1% cap that extends for a full 5 years for a little extra in closing costs.

The upshot of it is, if we paid every extra dime toward a conventional mortgage, we'd pay off our mortgage in 5 and a half years, and pay about $42k in interest. We'd have to leave a little extra in the bank for emergencies, and if we had a big emergency, the only choice would be to use a credit card. But with the mortgage accelerator, it looks like we can pay it down in 2 years and 9-10 months, and only spend about $14.8k in interest.

I will provide updates as I go to let you know if run into any surprises. I've been blogging for nearly 6 years now, so you can rest assured I'll be here in 2 years and 10 months to tell you if the mortgage was paid off as expected.

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posted by Nathan on 06:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2008

I'm moving now. I'll be out of touch for a few days.
Email contact is probably the best way, but even that may be out for about 48 hours.
We'll see.

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posted by Nathan on 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2008

I Was Raised By Books « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

One thing people used to say about me:
"You're a really nice guy, and you're really intelligent...but sometimes you have bad judgment."

That's a tough one to get over. If you have bad judgment, then how can you get better judgment? The only way you have to evaluate your decisions is the same judgment ability that led you to make bad decisions in the first place.

Well, I've made some progress. As stupid as it may sound, it took me until I was nearly 40 before I learned to stop making decisions based on emotions, and to stop making decisions based on avoiding worst-case scenarios and/or fears.

I still have farther to go on this, obviously.

But I was thinking about why I am that way.

Here's what I came up with:

I was raised by books.

Not quite the same as being raised by wolves, because you end up relatively clean and with relatively decent table manners.

But everything I learned about how to be a man, a person, a friend, a co-worker, etc, came from books.


Partly because I was the youngest of 6 kids, and my parents' version of raising their sons was semi-benevolent neglect. They made an effort to prepare their daughters for life, but by the time I came along, they felt my academic excellence meant I didn't need any help, maybe. I realized this when I read a book on running a church youth group, and it said, "Find out what your youths' parents are teaching at home, and work that into your program," and I was stunned by the concept of parents teaching their teenagers anything. As long as I wasn't causing trouble (and I never did), my parents just watched me play sports and ate dinner with me. That was about it.

But I can't fault them.

Because ever since I was younger than I can remember, I thought books held some secret to life. I believed what I read in books. If a book claimed to have an answer to where life came from, or the nature of God, or how to stop war, or what women really wanted, I ate it up. Now, I never found any of those things that convinced me they had found the Truth in any of those books...but I sought it.

And along with all that, I saw justifications given for just about any behavior. In books, you know the protagonists reasons, and they lie, cheat, prevaricate, dissemble, run away from problems, seek revenge, etc...and unless the book is a morality play, everything works out for them in the end.

This is a powerful lesson to a 6-year old reading pre-teen and teen level books. And to an 8-year old reading adult-level books.

It's only been recently that I've realized how this has adversely affected my character.

I don't allow myself those lower standards anymore. I don't think that it is okay to take the low road just because I'm upset, or because I think it is important enough. I no longer try to get myself out of trouble by shading the truth. I no longer put my highest priority on avoiding trouble.

It seems like this realization happened too late. My personal life is in shambles right now, and has been for the last 6 years, plus. I don't know what even the next few weeks will bring.

Luckily, I'm mature enough to not let it affect my work. And I'm mature enough that it's not even affecting my mood. My life is a shambles because I made it that way. Right now, I don't know how I will put it back together, or what it will look like when I get it put back together...but put it back together, I will.

I have a long life ahead of me, still. And it's going to be a good life.

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posted by Nathan on 08:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2008

Car Purchase Principle « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Somewhere along the line, I developed a standard for whether a car purchase is worth it.

I'd like to build the suspense to make it seem more profound, or insightful, but what's the point?

I'm willing to pay $100/month for a car.

That's it. Flat and simple.

So it is worth it to me to purchase a car if my cost of use (excluding routine maintenance, insurance and gas) is about $100/month.

With that standard, I purchased my 1998 Toyota Corolla for $6500 (overpaid, alas!) when it had about 50k miles on it. I had the expectation of driving it into the ground, which would make up for overpaying for it. To drive it to the point where it is worth only salvage --about, say, $500-- would mean 60 months, or 5 years. That is doable for a Toyota that was 8 years old when I purchased it. 5 years at 20k miles/year would be a total of 150k miles, also doable in a Toyota. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, in the end), someone hit the Toyota and the costs totalled it. I was given $4400. I drove it for about 23 months without having to do any repairs.

That means that I "lost" about $2100 over 23 months. That means I did okay, and got my money's worth. And even before I did the calculations, I felt good about the worry-free use I got out of it.

Now, I purchased my Chevy Prizm for $3000 last year, and it had about 85k miles on it, now 90k. The blue book value is $4600. There's almost no way I will not make money when we sell it. I think there's a chance I could get as much as $4k. That would fill me with pride, getting to use a car virtually for free for 18 months, and even increase my bank account by about $1k for purchasing/driving it.

The same deal with my '98 Mazda 626. I purchased it for $1k with 85k miles. If it lasts 10 months without needing any repairs, we get into bonus/free use time. And if I sell it (eventually) for at least $1000, then I had a free car for however long I used it.

Now, the problem comes in with older cars about the repairs you need. The Mazda will hit 100k miles before long, and will need repairs. The electric mirrors don't work. The windshield is cracked, there's some rust on the body, and a taillight cover is cracked. I think I could take care of it all for $700. That means I need to drive it an additional 7 months to get my money's worth. And the paint is bad. So after I drive it for 17 months (moving into the bonus/free time), I can start setting aside $100/month for restoration and/or upgrades. So 10 months after I move into bonus time, I can get the car repainted to look new again. Then maybe a few months after that, I can put some performance parts on the engine, raising fuel efficiency and/or power.

The lesson is, you can do a great deal of work on a car to restore it to new condition at $1200/year.

Thus, when a car gets older, as long as there isn't a string of things ready to go wrong with the car, it probably is more cost effective to keep and continue repairing an older car instead of buying a new one.

Let's compare that to new cars. New cars lose half their value in the first 5 years, if I recall correctly (except for Hondas and a few other cars...Audis?) So that's 60 months. If a car depreciates no more than $6000, you have gotten your money's worth. That means you can purchase a $12k car, drive it for 5 years, sell it for $6k, and at least have your money's worth. Unless you can guarantee your new car depreciates slower than that, you shouldn't buy a new car.

A $14k Honda is probably worth $10k after 5 years, if you take care of it. Hondas are worthwhile to buy used. But even as good as Audis are at holding their value, their starting price is so expensive that you probably use up your $6k in depreciation within the first year. Then again, you get a much better car and much more enjoyable experience than in a 1998 Mazda 626, so you may be able to calculate on the basis of $200/month, or $300 month.

The lesson? Stop and think about how much you feel it is worth to you to drive a car. For me, I can get good used Japanese sedans that are in nice condition, (relatively) low miles, and fun to drive for very reasonable prices if I spend a little time looking. If I really look hard, I've proven I can find cars I can drive almost for free. The advantage is I waste less money while driving decent cars, and my investment is lower if something untoward happens (like someone hitting my car on a motorcycle).


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posted by Nathan on 09:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 01, 2008

It's April Fool's Day « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

It's almost not worth surfing the internet today, because you can't believe anything you read. It might be true, but you have almost no way of knowing for sure.

Personally, I don't really like playing jokes on people.

Well, let me clarify: the bulk of surprise parties and April Fool's pranks seem to consist of working really, really hard to make someone feel bad, horrible, ignored, hated, etc, just so you can say, "Surprise! We actually did remember your birthday!" or "I actually wasn't raped!"

Which means you can't get around that you happily, deliberately made someone feel like crap for a while.

Maybe someone can talk me out of it, but I think doing something like that makes one a shitheel. Low quality character. Unforgiveable, in my opinion. And somewhat of a revelation that many, many Americans have a desire for ostensibly-sanctioned cruelty.

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posted by Nathan on 05:57 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2008

Two Things I've Never Done « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Illegal drugs or prostitutes.

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posted by Nathan on 09:48 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2008

By The Way... « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

...have I mentioned lately how hot stay-at-home moms are?!?

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posted by Nathan on 09:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2008

I'm trying to apply to as one of their Guides.

I think I have an incredible amount of knowledge, understanding, and teaching ability on any one of several topics.

Wish me luck, but it may be impossible.

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posted by Nathan on 11:16 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2008

Addictive Game « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Try it out.

You've been warned.

Start with the Sandbox, which will help you understand how to play the game, along with giving you unrealistically high expectations of your ability.

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posted by Nathan on 10:35 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

March 10, 2008

I'm So Military « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I see this picture:


...and my first thought is: "Interesting. The Ukrainian Army doesn't have standardized footgear for females."

...and my second thought is: "It's gotta be uncomfortable marching in high heels."

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posted by Nathan on 10:12 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack (0)

March 06, 2008

This Should Be Used in a SF&F (or Thriller) Novel « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

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posted by Nathan on 06:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 01, 2008

Public Service Announcement « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I am drunk.

And all it took was 3 Sam Adams (original Boston Lager) and a Gordon Biersch Marzen.

Return to your lives, citizens.

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posted by Nathan on 01:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

February 19, 2008

Trivia Question « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I ended up over at Ann's place, (because I saw a link that said she was just in Hawaii), and saw this picture from "16 Candles":

And I thought I recognized a few people in there, maybe. I could swear at least 5-6 of those pre-teens ended up in other movies, later.

So my question is: did any of them do so? One kid looks like one of the Goonies, and the tall blonde looks like the bad guy from Karate Kid. But I don't know that much about Hollywood child stars, and I'm hoping someone else does.

So let me know in the comments: did any of these geeks/nerds end up with a named role in any other movies?

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posted by Nathan on 02:56 PM | Comments (288) | TrackBack (0)

February 17, 2008

Not a Professional Photograph « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I took this picture this afternoon, on our trip to Oahu's North Shore (on the way to Shark's Cove).

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posted by Nathan on 07:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

January 29, 2008

Urban Gardening Tips « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

We're all about self-sufficiency, here at Brain Fertilizer.

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posted by Nathan on 01:41 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)

January 18, 2008

Beer is Good Food « The Brain Fertilizer Way »


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posted by Nathan on 08:38 AM | Comments (81) | TrackBack (0)

January 10, 2008

Just So You Know... « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I have Photic sneeze reflex.

All the great bloggers do, by the way.*

Read More "Just So You Know..." »

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posted by Nathan on 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 09, 2008

Just Back From Maui « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Great trip. I was there 4 days, and it wasn't enough. Far better than Kauai, in my opinion.

More soon, maybe some pictures later this week.

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posted by Nathan on 09:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 21, 2007

What Can I Say? I Know My Alcohol... « The Brain Fertilizer Way »


Find a Ultrasound school near you

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posted by Nathan on 03:03 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

December 04, 2007

Interesting Article on Kissing « The Brain Fertilizer Way »


I am an excellent kisser, by the way.

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posted by Nathan on 09:11 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)

October 19, 2007

No More Teacher's Dirty Looks... « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Sort of.

I wish I could have attended a school like this.

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posted by Nathan on 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 18, 2007

It's All About the Oil!!! « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Space-based solar power harvesting beamed to earth.


We need this.

After spending weeks in information-gathering mode, a Pentagon analyst says the idea of putting satellites in orbit to harvest solar power and beam it down to Earth has lots of merit - and a test of the concept could be set in motion by 2015.

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posted by Nathan on 06:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2007

Attractive Young Chinese Women I « China/Taiwan » « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Pictures of attractive young chinese women applying to become flight attendants.

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posted by Nathan on 11:31 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

September 04, 2007

Audience Participation Time, II « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

What is your favorite Bumper Sticker ready quote from Brainfertilizer?

Read More "Audience Participation Time, II" »

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posted by Nathan on 09:00 AM | Comments (315) | TrackBack (0)

August 30, 2007

August 27, 2007

Finns Crush Cellphone-throwing Competitors « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Of course, it's only until the US realizes there is a new sports competition and gets involved.

Some frustrated parents will live their second childhoods by forcing their kids to practice in that 30 minutes right after soccer and before equestrian training. Then despite the near-total lack of spectator interest, feminists will demand that women's cell-phone throwing have the same funding at the college level as the football program.

Bonus Untrue Fact: Before this, the Finns only other claim to fame was making a high-quality version of the Mosin-Nagant M91/30...

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posted by Nathan on 04:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

August 26, 2007

Ask Brainfertilizer « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Paula asks:

Called Dish net work to try to fix my TVS in bedrooms. Went to Virizon to try to get my money refund. But these two things I didnt do as good as my husband did. Dish told me they will sent a technician to my house, but would charge me $50, but they can only come this weekend. My husband called and yelled at them, then they will come to my house tomorrow to fix TV. Virizon refused to refund my money, they said somebody must download data from my cell phone, but I never did it, and I didnt know who did it. My husband called verizon again to raise the hell, then they will refund my money tomorrow.

My husband told me that I should understand why his temper is not good, because others cant screw up him, but my temper is good, and others always screw me. It seems what he said make sense? What do you guys think? Honestly in China people are nice and easy to get along with, and others usually take advantage of their nice. Americans are the same??

Your husband's way is one way to get things done.
But we call it "burning bridges". If you ever watched "tongji miyou" (Fighting for Love) with Zheng Xiuwen and Tony Liang Qiaowei (I think that's the pinying), Zheng Xiuwen gets things done by treating her employees really bad, but then when she needs help, they refuse because they hate her.

If you need to get things done, there are two things you can do:
1) Explain to the customer service representative exactly what the problem is and what you want them to do: "I didn't use my cellphone that much, and you can look at my record and see I never did it before or after. Because I've been such a good customer, I want you to remove that charge from my bill."
Be calm, patient, and reasonable.
2) If they refuse, then ask to speak to the customer service representative's supervisor. They usually cannot refuse. Due the same thing with supervisor, i.e, explain what happened, what you want, and why they should give it to you. If the supervisor refuses, then ask to speak to [i]their[/i] supervisor, then do the same thing.
If you go all the way up really high, you can usually find someone who can help.
3) At whatever level you get stuck, meaning they won't agree to what you want, and they won't let you speak to their supervisor, then ask them to slowly explain exactly why they refuse, because you will send a letter explaining exactly what you want, why, and why they refuse to the Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the consumer protection/investigation division of the largest television and newspapers in the region.

If that still doesn't work, you use your final weapon:
Nicely hang up, wait until the next day, and call again. Often, just speaking to a different representative or supervisor, you'll get one that thinks your request is reasonable and will give you exactly what you want.

All while being pleasant.

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posted by Nathan on 09:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2007

Gore Has Some Good Suggestions « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Sure, we* laugh at him... But sometimes he makes some good points.

The only thing is, even if everyone follows his suggestions, we'd reduce our energy costs by something like 10%. And that's if everyone does it.

I think it is better to point out these things as a way to save money:
Do these things and give yourself a 10% pay raise! Stop wasting your own cash on heating/cooling!!!

1. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs

These energy-efficient bulbs cost less than $4 and are produced by major corporations like GE. If every household in America switched five regular light bulbs for five fluorescent bulbs, it would be the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the highways for a full year.

2. Outdoor solar lighting

These yard or patio lights cost less than $20, and they don't burn any electricity or produce any CO2.

3. Programmable thermostats

Though these thermostats cost from $50 to $100, they can actually cut your heating and cooling costs. Set the setting so it's a little bit cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer when you're not in the house. A difference of 2 degrees can reduce a home's CO2 emissions by up to 9 percent over the course of a year.

4. Air filters

Changing the air filters in your heating and cooling systems regularly can knock 2 percent off of your CO2 output each year.

5. Electric water heater blanket

Water heaters use a lot of energy and generate a lot of CO2. A blanket costs less than $18 and can cut your home's CO2 emissions by almost 4 percent.

Read More "Gore Has Some Good Suggestions" »

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posted by Nathan on 08:37 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

August 22, 2007

Stop Wasting Money « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Top Ten Money Drains

Here's the thing: wasting money is like a pay cut. If you don't waste money on a regular basis, it is like a pay raise.

If you make sure you don't pay interest (on anything but your mortgage...a house is nearly impossible to pay for all at once), it's like giving yourself somewhere between a 5 and 10% pay raise.

Most people pay between 11 and 19% on credit card interest. That's huge. And don't get sucked in by the 0% interest balance transfers: they usually have a transfer fee that means you pay 3% up front; it might be worth it, if you do the math...but better to not have the debt at all.

Yes, that means you shouldn't pay interest on a car, either. Particularly since a car's value depreciates, it just isn't worth it. If you purchase a new car for $15,000, even at 5% interest you'll be wasting almost $2k over 5 years. Obviously, it's even more if you buy a more expensive car, or if you extend the loan to 6 years, or can't get 5% interest.

You don't have to buy a new car anymore to get reliable, fuel-efficient transportation. Cars last longer; 100k is no longer an automatic death for any brand except maybe Kia (and I might be slandering them...Hyundai has excellent quality control these days).

I can afford to pay cash for a Lexus, Acura, or BMW right now. But I drive a '99 Toyota Corolla and an '01 Chevy Prizm. Why? Because neither of them have given me a lick of trouble in more than a year. The Prizm has nearly 100k miles on it, but I am confident I can drive it up to 150k without a hiccup. I plan on driving it into the ground, because when you get right down to it, it transports 4-5 people to a destination in comfort, safety and convenience. Isn't that all you need from a car? Why waste the money on new car payments and interest to get essentially the same function?

That money adds up.

But, as always: you get what you pay for. I do not wish to disparage those who value the enjoyment of the bar experience, who savor their Starbucks Coffee (I think it tastes burnt, personally), who value getting the latest and greatest car at their earliest possibility (I, too, have purchased new cars...but regretted almost every time). Some people like to purchase what they can afford at the earliest opportunity. Patience pays, but we all make our own decisions and live with the consequences. I just like to clarify what those consequences are, exactly.

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posted by Nathan on 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 21, 2007

Ways To Irritate Other People, #2746 « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

If you are watching a documentary with other people, there are times the narrator will make a declaritive sentence, and then pause.

Something like: "After successfully exploiting the Normandy landing and breaking through the German lines, the German Army was completely demoralized and on the run, and were rendered unable to resist the Allied spearhead into the German heartland."

Maybe 10% of the time, it is a deliberate set-up, and after the pause, the narrator will say, "Or...were they?" and then go on to narrate some surprising event, like the Battle of the Bulge.

That means the other 90% of the time, you can insert an appropriate version of "Or...did they?" into the dramatic pause.

It's only funny if you do it about 30 times, and even still, it's probably only funny to you and the one friend with the right attitude. That is, if you even have friends after trying out an annoying stunt like this.

Have fun!

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posted by Nathan on 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 20, 2007

DVD-Sniffing, Anti-Pirate Black Labs « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Labradors, that is.

As in the dogs.

Kind of an interesting story, when you check it out.

So check it out.

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posted by Nathan on 11:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

August 14, 2007

Better Than a Flying Car « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

A flying house!

Seems to me something like this would be a good replacement for a fixed house. You could take vacations in it. No property taxes. 5k sq feet of living/storage space would cost close to a million for a brick-and-mortar house, in most locales, no?

I may have to save up for one.

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posted by Nathan on 02:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

August 10, 2007

Beware of Snake Heads « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

You now can't say you haven't been warned.

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posted by Nathan on 07:58 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

August 09, 2007

How to Age Better « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Thoughts from Dr. Life.

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posted by Nathan on 12:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

It seems like lately I've just posting links to things you probably saw first at Instapundit.

Well, you stick to what you're good at.

The above link points to an article about moon basing that I saw from Instapundit.

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posted by Nathan on 11:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

August 06, 2007

After owning the entire DVD series for more than a year, I finally got around to watching the Firefly series.

Good! Despite the rave reviews by fans, I'd even say "Surprisingly good!"

It has its flaws, of course. I'm halfway through the second episode, so I'm not totally sure the series has already decided to betray the "crew first, business second, nothing else matters" character they established for Capt Mal. But aside from that, the acting/dialogue is sometimes a little too overwrought. Kaylee is a little too cute, the "whore with a heart of gold" tries a little too hard to be sexy.

But the humor is excellent, and the first story was quite good. I also like the western theme (although the stories are purely science fiction and couldn't be written to fit into the Old West). I especially like the way they combined the US and Chinese language/culture/society. They have to emphasize the English parts for the dialogue, of course, but it still holds the right flavor.

I approve!

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posted by Nathan on 06:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2007

Brainfertilizer: Always Ahead of the Curve « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I was one of the few who never gave up on the Iraq War, even when it was fashionable to write it off. Things are turning around now, and it looks like Iraq will be stable before this decade ends.

I was also one of the minority who never bought into human-caused global warming, or the even less-specific human-caused climate change.

So why aren't the rest of you figuring out how much fun Jagged Alliance 2 is, yet? Trust me, I'm not wrong on these things, I'm just ahead of the social power curve.

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posted by Nathan on 03:22 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

April 08, 2007

1235 Miles in One Day? « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Ann's got me beat. But I think I've equaled Glen.

The most I've ever done was

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posted by Nathan on 09:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 24, 2006

Know Your (Fake) Boobies « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Test your discrimination.
Not safe for work if your boss is looking over your shoulder, but nothing you'll get fired for. Probably. Best to wait until you are browsing from home.

I got 80%.
In 5 cases, ones I thought were augmented were real. In one case only, what I thought was real was augmented. Not too shabby.

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posted by Nathan on 06:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2005

So how do you know when it's really love?

They* say you'll know it when you feel it...but if you've never actually felt a true love**, don't you often fool yourself that the infatuation you are feeling is truly love?

Is the difference truly qualitative? Every "true love checklist" I've seen is filled with subjective there one with objective criteria anywhere?

The closest I've come to the objective criteria is:
1) Character matters. You can change lots of things about yourself, but character is nearly impossible to make any substantive changes.
2) Anyone can be nice for a few weeks, or even a few months. Date for the long haul, and don't do anything (i.e., have sex) that might make a necessary parting more difficult (or impossible) to effect
3) If anything about the person you feel you love makes you feel uncomfortable, resolve it ASAP...or break up. No, you probably cannot change them later. And as harsh as it may sound, it is better to go through life alone than to settle for anything less than the right person for you.

Anyone else?

Read More "Love" »

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posted by Nathan on 01:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 07, 2005

Why You Shouldn't Center Your Life Around Sex « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Okay, this is pretty much just a message to the guys. I know it may piss off some female readers, but them's the breaks.

Over at Kausfiles, Mickey quotes this anecdote:

[Sen. John] Tower, who was a friend of my father, had attempted to sexually assault me when I was 18 and a college freshman. Embarrassed and ashamed, I had kept this story a closely guarded secret for years.

Do you think she knew the words "sexual assault" when she was 18? That sure sounds like a cognate (if I'm using the word correctly) introduced more recently. Say, in the mid-90s, when it began to be okay for a female who regretted consensual sex to claim "date rape", and to treat such accusations as a convictable offense.

However, as the bio I link mentions, he died in 1991 in a plane he can't defend himself at all. She can, so I'd like to actually explore a little bit what I think happened.

She says he "attempted sexual assault". Well, "sexual assault", if I understand correctly, is the way you describe "attempted rape". So since he only attempted a sexual assault, she is literally saying that he attempted to attempt to force sex on her. That means he didn't actually succeed in trying to force sex on her, right? Chaining that together, it is pretty clear that he made an unwelcome advance, and she said no, and he desisted. She might have had to say no 2-3 times, but by her own words, he didn't actually sexually assault her. But she couches it in terms of criminal behavior.

Senator Tower, being a Senator, had power. Our society (and biology?) has developed so that women generally exhibit attraction to a man with power, and younger women sometimes exhibit attraction to older men. As I'm fond of pointing out, one of my favorite quotes ever was this exchange between female co-workers at a restaurant:

girl 1: Is he...attractive? girl 2 (17-years-old): Atractive? He's 27!

And none of the other girls within earshot reacted, which says something.

So here's the point. Guys want sex, for the most part. It's the way we are wired. But biology is not destiny. If you concentrate on it and work at it, you can move past your more base instincts.

And it would be to your benefit to turn off your focus on sex. For multiple reasons.

First, you don't get in trouble with your SO for girl-gazing.
Second, you don't get in trouble because light flirting with another woman turns into something too serious.
Third, you don't have your body writing checks your heart can't cash (as in, how many guys are in a committed relationship because of the method recounted in this post?).
Fourth, you don't end up mis-interpreting a young girl's admiration as something sexual, and so don't end up having someone make accusations of you attempting a sexual assault.

Even though Senator Tower is dead and can't defend himself, this is the sort of accusation in which what the female feels is much more important that what actually happened. But if you try to defend yourself (or someone else) by saying so, you are castigated and shouted down for having the gall to blame the victim...even if what you are trying to do is question whether she actually is a victim at all. A staggering number of women actually do deliberately lie about these sort of things for their own advantage. An additional staggering number of women are able to convince themselves (each other?) that it did happen so that no longer is a deliberate lie.

Since, under the current societal standards, you can't actually use those last two points to defend yourself, if you find yourself in that situation, you are screwed...just not in the way you had originally hoped. It is better by far to just train yourself to not think about or care about sex outside of a marriage.

I know this is not a popular message, even among Christians these days. But the simple fact is: you will have a far happier, content, successful, and peaceful life if you follow the 10 Commandments to the best of your ability.*

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posted by Nathan on 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2005

In reaction to Ann's comment on this post

At one point in my life, I was $16,000 in debt. Not that much, except that my various debts added up to about $800/month in payments, and my take-home pay was about $1000/month. Rather than trying to consolidate my debt, I chose to pay between $900-950 every month to pay down the smallest debt ($500), then once that was paid down to zero, I used that money to pay down the next smallest debt...
...I probably could have chosen the one with the highest interest rate...
But it worked out pretty well. I was completely out of debt within 3 years. If the math doesn't add up, well, I did sometimes do things like buy a car for $500, buy a plane ticket, etc, after saving up a little.
That's where I learned to live within my means, and a big key to that was anytime I wanted to make a purchase, I waited. The bigger the purchase, the longer I waited. I learned this because once or twice I blew $40 or so on a big purchase that I later wished I didn't. Nearly an entire months' discretionary spending on one item I didn't even like!!! So the bigger the purchase, the longer I wait.

The first two years of paying down the debt were not fun. About the time I got to the 3rd year, I got a new roommate. He had borrowed $10,000 from his mother-in-law to start a business, and the business failed. Then he and his wife divorced. He made a few payments, then "just got tired of not having any money" (paying about $500 a month out of the same $1000 after-tax income toward his debt), and declared bankruptcy. After declaring bankruptcy, he sold the equipment from his business and was able to keep the money, as I recall (although I could be wrong). 3 months later he bought a 2-year-old Nissan Pathfinder on credit.

Now, I guess he pretty much learned his lesson. He didn't overspend, and to the best of my knowledge never came close to bankruptcy again.

But I remember being bitterly disappointed, not that I didn't declare bankruptcy, but that all my sacrifice to do the right thing earned me pretty much nothing. One loan that I had had gone into default while I was at basic training, but I made arrangements and paid back every dime and all the penalties...but due to the wording of the student loan company, for the next 5 years, every time I tried to get credit I had to answer questions about why I had applied for bankruptcy, even though it was obvious I had never declared.
Now, they *did* always extend credit, and after 7 years, I was able to buy a new car and a house...
But I still feel very keenly that it just seemed irritating and frustrating that all my sacrifice earned me nothing...He could buy new computers, computer games, a fairly-new car, CDs, new clothes, everything...and I had to be careful and plan ahead getting to eat out at McDonald's, and drove a car that the passenger side floor had rusted through so you could see the road through it.

So I have some touchy emotions about bankruptcy.

I do think I learned more from my experience. I think my experience refined my character quite a bit, and the effect on my soul/spirit/character was certainly a benefit I wasn't considering at the time. I do feel it was better to do it my way than his.

This experience is one of the reasons I'm a conservative. Hard work and self-reliance are better. He stuck it to his mother-in-law because he could. His pain was eased...but what pain did he force on her against her will?

When someone gets "help" from the government, it always comes from other people. Sure, maybe Bob Roe's welfare only costs me some fraction of a penny per year....but there are tens of thousands of "Bob Roe"s, and they are taking money from literally millions and millions of the rest of us. For no good reason, other than most of the "Bob Roe"s think work is too hard, or think 'fast food' is beneath them. They have a choice of trying to work hard (or risk themselves to overcome a disability), or just take my money. We don't have the choice whether we give it or not. ...except that enough people vote for liberals who raise taxes and increase programs that I have no choice (although I can, and do, vote to try and change it). But the idea of liberal "compassion" rings hollow when you consider the amount of force involved in conjunction with the lack of self-sacrifice demonstrated by those who vote for more welfare programs.

Bankruptcy is pretty much another form of welfare, these days. Not in all cases, obviously. There are people who do break, and bankruptcy can help them rebuild their life. I just get angry that all my expenses are greater (interest rates, prices, etc) as businesses try to recoup the losses incurred by the type of person Ann describes.

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posted by Nathan on 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Say Hello To My Little Rule « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I have made a point of totally discounting anyone who uses the phrase "Speaking Truth to Power" as a near-complete socio-political idiot.

Let's see how that's working for me, shall we?

Great Moments in Higher Education* Here's an interesting angle on the Larry Summers kerfuffle. The Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel notes that one of the Harvard president's harshest foes is Denice Dee Denton, the new chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz:
Denton is making headlines . . . for challenging controversial statements made by Harvard University President Larry Summers, who suggested that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.

Summers made the comments . . . at an economic conference attended by Denton. Denton questioned Summers sharply during the conference, saying she needed to "speak truth to power." She told the Harvard president that she believed his assertions had been contradicted by research materials presented at the conference.

The Sentinel reports that the alliterative administrator has taken a very personal interest in the advancement of female scientists:

The University of California created a $192,000-a-year job for the partner of the new UC Santa Cruz chancellor, a move that is being criticized by employee unions. . . .

UC officials defended hiring Gretchen Kalonji, the longtime partner of incoming Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Dee Denton. They described Kalonji as a highly qualified professor who will be an asset in her new job as director of international strategy development.

Kalonji, a professor of materials science at the University of Washington in Seattle and an expert in international education, also is getting a tenured professorship, perhaps at UCSC.

In case the meaning isn't clear, that's "partner" as in a Boston marriage. A Sentinel editorial takes the unions' side, saying UC owes "a public accounting of why this job is so important," and noting: "So far as we can figure out, UCSC has never had a 'director of international development,' and a reasonable person would ask why that's so important now."

Yep, it was 100% in this case, too. Advantage: Brain Fertilizer!

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posted by Nathan on 02:28 PM | Comments (4)

January 14, 2005

Is there really no simple explanation of mortgages and housebuying on the web?

The reason why I ask is that three years ago I decided to buy a house. I was receiving a monthly housing allowance of $800, and I didn't see how I could pay nearly $30,000 on a house loan and not make money, even if the house's sale price remained flat. If I rented, that money would just go to a landlord and I'd have nothing to show for it, but if I purchased, that $30,000 would go into my pocket.

Wouldn't it?

I'd heard that if you buy a house, you need to live in it a minimum of three years to even break even, and five years to build up any real equity.

So I took the plunge. And I got lucky.

Here's what I've learned:

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posted by Nathan on 07:48 AM | Comments (3)

October 22, 2004

Relationships « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I’ve learned a few things over the years…

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that there are a hundred things* that a guy does that are fine and perfectly okay…until he moves in with a woman. Objectively, there really is nothing wrong with leaving your clothes on the floor for a week, or sorting underwear by scent…but it is wrong in her eyes. The reverse is just as true: there’s nothing wrong with re-decorating or throwing out old things…unless your redecoration is the equivalent of a dog urinating on a hydrant, i.e., to leave a mark of your presence to establish territory and cover up any previous marks.

Sure, those are both stereotypical examples…meaning, there’s probably some basis for truth, but nothing you’d want to hang your hat on.

The point is, the definition of “right” and “wrong” changes when you enter a relationship, and changes even more if you live together (not to mention if you marry…although I usually hope the initiating of co-habitation and marriage occur simultaneously, I’m also not so naïve to expect it…). When you tell someone you love them, you accept a certain responsibility toward meeting their expectations and attempting to please them. You tacitly accept that you may well have to alter some of your customs and practices in order to make the deepening of your relationship go smoothly.

As such, many of the things that you do that aren’t wrong when you are single do become wrong when you are part of a couple. If you want the relationship to continue and thrive, you should probably take some time to actually discuss likes, dislikes, and pet peeves and see what problems you can easily avoid with a word to the wise.

As such, I’ve learned some of the things that contribute to a deep and lasting love. I think, first and foremost, you really should be friends, and your characters should be in harmony. The best way to make sure infatuation isn’t fooling you about those two aspects is simply: time. Yeah, you can wait too long, but not waiting long enough usually leads to far worse disasters. And the other trait I think is most important is “willingness”. If you partner is willing, and you are willing, there are no difficulties you cannot resolve. The moment intransigence rears its ugly head, you are heading for trouble. Not insurmountable trouble, necessarily, but a fairly unenjoyable period of time, nonetheless.

Take the preceding for what it’s worth to you.

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posted by Nathan on 02:07 PM | Comments (6)

August 31, 2004

The Brainfertilizer Way to Write Novels « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Well, this "Brain Fertilizer Way" is not well-developed, to tell the truth. Mainly because I still have never finished a novel, so how can I say for sure what works?

But Rae asks some serious questions about my basic approach to writing, and how can I refuse her anything?

So here goes:

Short story writing is a good way to get your feet wet in actually getting stuff written. But it really doesn't help at all in writing a novel. Sure, you can work on word choice, dialogue, scene-setting, and so forth, but they really are two different animals, much like the difference between a sprint and a marathon.

You can write a short story in one sitting. You can (and should!) write a short story with the intent to explore one idea, and everything you do should be subordinate to that idea. Dialogue, character revelation, scene-setting, all should be subordinate to that one idea. You just don't have room for much else.

Whereas a novel gives you much more space to work with. Not only do you have room to explore related and subordinate ideas, a novel demands that you do so. You cannot usually sustain an entire novel with just one idea. But the trade-off is that you can explore more complex issues from several different directions, you can fully develope multiple important characters, you can have rich subplots, you can really heighten tension with delayed resolutions.

For me, however, one of my biggest difficulties is in holding a complete novel story in my head. When conceiving of a novel, I usually think of a problem, or beginning, or hook, and then I have the resolution/end-state clear, but the middle is this big, fuzzy, "something happens" area. I then work from both ends to try and clear up the middle fuzziness, but at some point I have to start writing because that's the only way to see if what I have planned will work or not. I've abandoned at least three novels because my writing skills were insufficient to resolve that middle gray area. The only things I could think of were implausible even to me.

But this novel is different. I've restarted it at least three times (this is the 4th iteration), but each time I clear up some specific problems for myself. I have a good idea of what I want to do at each stage of the novel, and all aspects work together to underscore the main idea I have in mind. Sure, I still don't know how many minor characters I'm going to have or what they're going to do, much less what their names are...but I have such a clear storyline in my head that even if the minor characters do some things I'm not expecting right now, I don't think they can take over the novel.

The only real outline I have is in my head, although I do have a listing of the things I want to have happen in each chapter.

Right now, I'm thinking of each chapter as a bucket of 3,000 words that I have to fill. I'm doing that for pacing and motivation. If I cover all the action in less than 3000 words, then I have to add more words of description. If I take 5000 words to cover everything, I'm going to consider if some of it can't move into an adjacent chapter. I may end up abandoning this attempt, as well, and trying a different way, but even if I do, I will have learned something about writing.

To date, I've learned alot about subplots, foreshadowing, pacing, dialogue, "showing not telling", obstacles to writing, the dangers of momentum, etc. I've shared much of it in this blog and in previous blogs whose archives are lost in the mists of time [alas!], but I'll share with you all as I learn more, and maybe even revisit some of the things I'd learned previously.

The thing is, I think the lessons learned in writing are very personal and performance-based. I can read an excellent book on writing, like the ones written by Lawrence Block, but they can really do no more than give me an idea of the problems I will encounter on my own. They can't really give me any solutions, or help me avoid problems in the first place.

The physical act of typing on a keyboard is not difficult. The process of considering, developing, deciding, critiquing, adjusting, rewriting, and accepting the final product in writing a novel is quite difficult, and may be one of the most difficult things to do in life. You risk your self-esteem. You open up old wounds within yourself. You grow as much as your characters do.

Yeah, it's hard. Don't let anyone tell you differently. But the most worthwhile things in life are hard to obtain. The most worthwhile things in life are worth the effort. Do you want to be a writer? Then the pain and difficulty and effort will be worth it. It may take me 60 years to finish my novel. It will still be worth it.

I admit that I'm not exactly in a rush. I have a family with two young children, a career, a rich life of hobbies (including marksmanship, strategy wargames, reading, guitar, language, and exercise) that take up much time. I want to be a professional writer by the time I finish my military career, partially because finishing my military career dovetails nicely into being a professional writer, in that I can live off of my military retirement if necessary (albeit only simply), so the pension acts as a nice safety net to fill in the times of slow income. I have about 10 years, then, to finish and sell at least my first novel, if not 3-5. But the later ones will take care of themselves. I've got to finish this one first.

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posted by Nathan on 09:07 AM | Comments (2)

August 17, 2004

The Brainfertilizer Way to Stretch Muscles « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

This post is closely related to yesterday's about running. I ain't talking about yoga here, folks.

Any time you talk about stretching in relation to exercise, you should at least address the controversy: to stretch or not to stretch?

Personally, I say don't stretch. At least, not before you exercise. I used to stretch to a count of 15 for each major muscle group before exercising, and to a count of 10 afterwards. Then I read an article that insisted warming up beforehand had both beneficial and harmful effects, and so the result was pretty much a wash. See, loosening up the muscles may lessen the chance of a pulled muscle, but since the muscles are looser, your joints don't have as much support and so you are probably equally increasing the chance for an injury to your connective tissue.

So I stopped stretching beforehand, and I did notice a minor improvement on my 2-mile time, but well within margins of error to possibly be imagination. And yet, and yet: no injuries. None. I'm close to 40 years old, run quite a bit, and I've never had a problem with pulled muscles, painful knees, or shin splints. Then again, maybe I'm just lucky?

A few years later, I was trying to increase my flexibility, because I could barely touch my toes. I had never stopped stretching after exercising, so I started increasing the stretch time to a ver-r-ry slow 40 count. I also always bend my knees slightly...I think locking the knees while stretching is a bad idea, personally.

My flexibility has increased to the point that I feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds: I am more flexible before stretching than most guys are after stretching, so I feel like I'm not risking any pulled muscles, but my joints are still protected by not having my muscles too loose.

In any case, it works for me. Your mileage may vary.

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posted by Nathan on 12:54 PM | Comments (3)

August 16, 2004

The Brainfertilizer Way to Improve Run Time « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

All you need is a decent motorized treadmill.

What you do is choose the time you want to run for a certain distance. If you want to, say, run two miles in 13 minutes, you set the treadmill speed for a 6:30 mile. Obviously, your goal should be realistic. If you are 60 years old and 70 pounds overweight, a 5-minute mile is not an advisable goal. Be smart, because dumb choices are your own responsibility.

If your treadmill has an incline function, set the incline somewhere between 1.5 and 3, since running on a powered treadmill is somewhat easier than on a flat, non-moving surface.

Start running. Run as far as you can at the pace you want to reach. It really doesn't matter if you can only run a quarter-mile or half-mile at that speed before collapsing. When you run next, whether the next day or the day after (but don't go more than 48 hours without running if you are serious about improving your run time), you should try to go at least a little bit farther. When you can't run any more at that speed, drop the speed down to a pace you can maintain and finish out the distance.

You won't see much improvement the first few days. But if you run every day, you should meet your goal within 2-3 weeks, depending on the distance and desired goal of improvement.

This method works because the treadmill trains your legs, lungs, and body to go at a certain pace. You become conditioned to that speed and will do it automatically even when you don't have a powered surface moving beneath you that forces you to maintain the pace. If you slow down while running on a track, nothing happens except that you slow down...and your body doesn't get the chance to learn to maintain that pace. But if you slow down on the treadmill, you immediately feel yourself drifting away from the console, and can adjust your pace again to keep up. Even more importantly, if you don't speed up again, you actually will fall off the treadmill and possibly hurt yourself. That's a nice little reason to keep up the pace, eh?

If you decide to try this, let me know how it goes for you.

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posted by Nathan on 01:10 PM | Comments (1)

June 23, 2004

Brain Fertilizer Insomnia Plan Update « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

I had to get up four hours early this morning, so I went to bed three hours early last night. Normally, it would be impossible for me to sleep so early...I can usually stay up later but not go to bed significantly earlier.

So I tried out the Brainfertilizer Method again. This time it took six times counting back from 30 before I fell asleep. Furthermore, I woke up after an hour, and my body said, "Nice nap! Let's get up!" So I did the Method again and was able to fall asleep after just two iterations. Finally, I had a bad dream and woke up in the middle of my I counted back from 20 and was asleep before I hit number "8".

It seems to work, for me at least. Let me know of your successes or failures using this method.

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posted by Nathan on 07:47 PM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2004

The Brainfertilizer Plan for Affordable College « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

To start with, let me just say that I am slightly disturbed by the huge leap one must take from high school to college in our nation. Our high schools lag behind many nations' high schools in knowledge achievement, but our universities are the best in the world. As a result, there is a larger gap in demands from our high schools to our colleges. I don't really want to lower our college standards, but I would like to raise high school standards. However, that is another topic for another day.

It impacts today's subject in this manner: I think it is very unfair to our children to expect that after mandatory attendance in high school, they must deal with too many new situations, experiences, and temptations, while simultaneously being largely fully responsible for themselves for the first time, and still be able to choose the proper major for the career(s) they will pursue for the rest of their life. This is made more difficult since most of the college students right out of high school have no real work-experience other than fast food or perhaps retail clerking. Oh, yeah: the bulk of these students are also living hand-to-mouth and/or working part-time jobs just to have enough to eat.

Here is what I'm going to teach my children:

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posted by Nathan on 07:19 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2004

The Brainfertilizer Insomnia Relief Method « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

The main way that caffeine affects me is that it makes my mind race so fast that I cannot relax enough to fall asleep. Other things can do that, too.

When I was younger, it used to take me two hours to fall asleep, as I had to think through the whole day before I could slow my mind down enough to fall asleep. It may be why I overanalyze to this day, but that's another issue.

In college, I couldn't waste two hours trying to get to sleep, I was too busy. My body quickly learned to shut the mind down as I prepared for sleep. Now it usually doesn't take me longer than 5 minutes to fall asleep...if my wife suddenly decides there's something we need to talk about after I've brushed my teeth and changed into sleepwear, it's a battle to get back awake enough to listen, and then I have problems getting to sleep.

One thing that has worked every time I've thought of it is:
Counting backward from 20. If my mind is racing badly, I might start at 30. I start at a pace of about one digit per second. The second time through, I slow it down a little. The third time through, if necessary, I try to time it with my breathing, so it's more like "20, 19....18, 17....16, 15..." The fourth time through, I try to slow my breathing while I count.

I don't think I've ever needed more than four times through. But to be honest, I don't always remember to do it. I think I will be able to now. If it ever doesn't work, I'll let you know.

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posted by Nathan on 02:19 PM | Comments (2)

June 16, 2004

The Brain Fertilizer Weight-Loss Program « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

The little debate I had with Dean over weight loss got me thinking about the whole issue. I already knew a good amount, but I learned some things from his linkings and my own further research. There simply wasn't enough information to even begin to sway my conviction that the biggest obstacle to permanent weight loss is the mind of the individual. But in all that thought, I began to consider what I would consider the ideal weight loss plan.

I'm not a doctor or a certified weight-loss professional, so if you think my plan sounds good, run it by someone qualified to get their input before implementing the following.

Here goes:

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posted by Nathan on 12:44 AM | Comments (3)