Spring Cleaning 2014

No matter how big or unusual your instrument is, if you’re a street musician performing numbers from the rock and pop genre, you should have this number down cold:

anyway heres wonderwall

Why Wonderwall? Well…

The chords he suggests sound a bit off. Having been a busker myself and profited well from playing Oasis’ most popular song…

Still the #1 Google result for “Best Accordion Picture Ever”.

…my recommendation is not to dick around with fancy-pants “musically accurate” chords. That’s for the losers at band camp. You want money for nothing and chicks for free, and for that, you should go with easy-peasy chords so you can devote more time to your adoring fans. I recommend:

Em G D Asus4

for the meat of the song. Try it! Here’s a verse:

Em       G
Today is gonna be the day that they're

D                      Asus4
gonna throw it back to you

Em         G
By now you should've somehow

D                       Asus4
realized what you gotta do

Em                   G
I don't believe that anybody 

D               Asus4
feels the way I do 

          C      D   Asus4
About you now

Here’s the chorus:

    C
And all the roads we 

D                Em
have to walk are winding

    C
And all the lights that 

D                 Em
lead us there are blinding

C                 D
There are many things that I 

      G       D      Em
Would like to say to you,

      D          Asus4
but I don't know how

      C     Em  G
Cause maybe

Em
You're gonna be the one that 

C          Em  G
saves me

    Em    C   Em
And after all

G         Em
You're my wonder...

C        Em  G  Em  [dramatic fermata]  [dramatic Asus4, knowing wink]
...wall

Now get out on the street and play!

Previously, in Spring Cleaning

spring cleaningThis is the tenth article in the Spring Cleaning series, where I take articles that have languished unfinished for too long, finish them, and finally post them here on the Accordion Guy blog. In case you missed any of the previous nine, I’ve listed them below:

  1. Burgers. Burgers everywhere.
  2. Which beer is most likely to land you in the emergency room?
  3. Weber Cooks, the saddest cooking show
  4. Get on your bicycle!
  5. Fireworks and sensitive body parts
  6. Work!
  7. Storytelling, “Save the Cat”, and same-old-same-old in Hollywood
  8. The best financial advice fits on a 4-by-6-inch index card
  9. Spent, the minimum wage simulation

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spring cleaningWelcome to the eighth article in the Spring Cleaning series, where I take articles that have languished unfinished for too long, finish them, and finally post them here on the Accordion Guy blog. In case you missed any of the previous seven, I’ve listed them below:

  1. Burgers. Burgers everywhere.
  2. Which beer is most likely to land you in the emergency room?
  3. Weber Cooks, the saddest cooking show
  4. Get on your bicycle!
  5. Fireworks and sensitive body parts
  6. Work!
  7. Storytelling, “Save the Cat”, and same-old-same-old in Hollywood

In this installment, I look at financial advice…

The 4-by-6 card that has the best financial advice

4 by 6 card financial advice

The 4-by-6 card with all the financial advice you’ll ever need.
Click the photo to see it at full size.

On financial matters, Harold Pollack of the blog The Reality-Based Community says that the best advice fits on an index card. After having a conversation with Helaine Olen, author of the book Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, he took her advice and summarized it on a 4-by-6-inch index card, pictured above. The text of the card reads as follows:

  • Max your 401(k) or equivalent employee contribution. (In Canada, the closest analogue is the RRSP; see this quick summary on the MoneySmarts blog for the similarities and differences between 401(k)s and RRSPs.)
  • Buy inexpensive, well-diversified mutual funds such as Vanguard Target 20xx funds.
  • Never buy or sell an individual security. The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about this stuff.
  • Save 20% of your money.
  • Pay your credit card in balance in full every month.
  • Maximize tax-advantaged savings vehicles like Roth, SEP, and 529 accounts.
  • Pay attention to fees. Avoid actively-managed funds.
  • Make financial advisor commit to a fiduciary standard.
  • Promote social insurance programs to help people when things go wrong.

Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen

pound foolishPound Foolish is Helaine Olen’s look into the “myths, contradictions, and outright lies” that have been perpetuated by the personal finance industry, which started as a response to the Great Depression and has since grown to become a juggernaut that sells the illusion of financial security but provides little in the way of actual help. In Pound Foolish, Olen says that there are many myths about spending and saving, including these ones, which I’ve taken from the book’s site:

  • Small pleasures can bankrupt you: Gurus popular­ized the idea that cutting out lattes and other small expenditures could make us millionaires. But reduc­ing our caffeine consumption will not offset our biggest expenses: housing, education, health care, and retirement.
  • Disciplined investing will make you rich: Gurus also love to show how steady investing can turn modest savings into a huge nest egg at retirement. But these calculations assume a healthy market and a lifetime without any setbacks—two conditions that have no connection to the real world.
  • Women need extra help managing money: Product pushers often target women, whose alleged financial ignorance supposedly leaves them especially at risk. In reality, women and men are both terrible at han­dling finances.
  • Financial literacy classes will prevent future eco­nomic crises: Experts like to claim mandatory sessions on personal finance in school will cure many of our money ills. Not only is there little evidence this is true, the entire movement is largely funded and promoted by the financial services sector.

“Most of the financial advice published and dished out by the truckload is useless,” Olen writes, saying that it’s “oblivious to the messiness of the human condition.”

A former personal financial columnist for the Los Angeles Times herself, she says that most advice fails to factor in matters such as job loss, long bouts of unemployment (who are often caught in a vicious circle because employers don’t want to hire long-term unemployed), medical bankruptcy (which accounts for the majority of personal bankruptcies in the US), and high-interest debt. Many employers think of employees purely as costs…

…and believe that it’s a law of capitalism to pay their employees as little as possible. When people manage to save, their savings gets outclassed by the stagnation or drop in housing prices and interest rates, and other economic events well beyond their control. Even the good advice that comes out means little when you have little savings.

At the same time, the issue of staying afloat financially is seen in the hyper-individualistic culture of America as a problem one could deal with on one’s own rather than as a social problem. The quip commonly attributed to Steinbeck seems quite true: the American poor don’t see themselves as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires, which is why you end up with fake “heroes” like “Joe the Plumber”, who is neither named Joe more a licensed plumber, but is a staunch defender of tax cuts for the rich. This has created an industry of snake oil that feeds off people’s fear, especially as people approach retirement age; in 2009, the AARP found that one in ten people over 55 had attended a “free financial seminar” in the past three years.

Talking with Helaine Olen

Harold Pollack, who created the 4-by-6 index card above, talked to Olen in a two-part interview. In the first part, shown below, they discuss topics such as:

  • How she became a personal finance columnist,
  • Why divorce is bad for your financial health,
  • Why trusting financial advisors is generally a bad idea, even if your advisor is above ethical reproach,
  • The false hopes placed in personal financial skills to offset stagnant wages for millions of Americans,
  • That Suze Orman isn’t one of the world’s greatest financial advisors, but has found one of the world’s greatest sales gigs:

In the second part, shown below, they go on to cover things like those dinners where hucksters sell rip-off variable annuities to seniors afraid of outliving their savings. According to Pollack, “these salespeople predictably trash Social Security—the one solid source of annuitized wealth Americans can turn to in their retirement years”:

If you’d like to hear more about the ideas in Pound Foolish, here’s an hour-long presentation featuring Olen talking about the ideas in her book at a gathering put together by The New America Foundation’s Asset Building Program:

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“Spring Cleaning” post #6: Work!

by Joey deVilla on April 23, 2014

joey devilla hard at work

spring cleaningHere’s another post for my Spring Cleaning series, the set of articles that I’m taking out of my Drafts folder, finishing, and posting at long last. In case you missed the earlier ones, here they are:

This post is filled with stuff I’d been meaning to point to on a topic that takes up anywhere from one to two thirds of our weekdays (one tenth if you’re from Portland): work!

your job makes you sick

This is just part of the infographic. Click it to read the full infographic and matching article.

This one’s from two years ago, but it still holds true: an infographic featured on Mashable saying that work is killing you slowly. It’s not that you should quit working, but that you need to work around today’s most common work style (especially for readers of this blog): sedentary, desk-bound, and often in front of a computer for hours. If you can find a way to work some kind of activity into your workday — think of it as interval training — you’re likely to see some benefits.

medium_timesink

Time. Sink. Get it? Click it to read the matching article.

Jason Friedman, on his blog HumbledMBA, talks about things that take up precious work time at startups and do nothing to delight customers: launch parties, office food, team-building activities, meetings, meetups, agile processes, business cards, PowerPoint, and many more. “Of course, much of this stuff still needs to get done,” he writes, “At some point. And some of it really is important to the process that eventually creates delight for users. But none of it directly delights users. They’re all inputs. None of it is product.” He’s writing for people in startups, but it could just as easily apply to people in the non-startup world.

ect-brain-damage

Running a current through your brain can help generate ideas. Click it to read the matching article.

Want to get ahead in your workplace? This Harvard Business Review article points to some research with disturbing findings: be disagreeable, get someone to wish you luck, look at a dead cat, “live in sin” before getting married, jokingly ask for a ridiculously high salary, and run an electric current through your brain.

The “Always Be Closing” scene from Glengarry Glen Ross. Be advised: there’s swearing aplenty.

Here’s another HBR article: How to Close a Sales Call. Here’s how the article itself closes:

If you are a senior salesperson, you’ve already closed your share of business and know many different closing techniques. You also understand that your closing strategy must vary depending upon the customer’s background, your competitive position, and the circumstances that are unique to the sales cycle. Sometimes, you need a commanding hard close for your meeting. For example, if the sales cycle for the products you sell involves only one or two customer interactions. With experienced buyers, consider a softer close because how many times do you think they have heard “this is our best and final offer” and every other type of hard close before?

blog

Be sure to check out more of Drew’s comics on his site, Toothpaste for Dinner.

Blogging isn’t for everyone, but it’s been nothing but great for me and my career. You might want to check out Why Every Professional Should Consider Blogging and The Secret Formula To Never Being Unemployed for more details why.

a380 flight deck

The flight deck of an Airbus A380. Click the photo to see the source.

And finally, some advice from a Cessna pilot’s emergency checklist: FLY THE AIRPLANE.

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spring cleaningHere’s another post for my Spring Cleaning series, the set of articles that I’m taking out of my Drafts folder, finishing, and posting at long last. In case you missed the earlier ones, here they are:

never ends well

How bored do you have to be to decide to combine fireworks and sensitive body parts? These guys thought it might be amusing to insert a firework into one of their derrieres and light it:

These bright lads give new meaning to the term “crotch rocket”:

The granddaddy of all these, although not the first, is the funniest, and dates back to 2007. I’ve seen it dozens of times, and I have never failed to laugh:

Believe it or not, this video convinced me to leave a cushy job that year and seek my fortune elsewhere. I wrote about it in an article titled Assrockets and Opportunities, which I hope you’ll find both amusing and enlightening.

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“Spring Cleaning” post #4: Get on your bicycle!

by Joey deVilla on April 21, 2014

spring cleaningAnd now, another post in the Spring Cleaning series, in which I take a lot of blog posts that have been sitting as drafts for far too long, finish them, and finally put them online! Here are links to the Spring Cleaning articles I’ve posted so far:

bikes

If you’re into cycling, this one’s for you.

I find that in the morning, before I go to work and use these machines…

IMG_0552

My home office setup in Tampa. Click the photo to see it at full size.

…that it’s worth my while to use this machine:

IMG_0537

My home gym setup in Tampa. Click the photo to see it at full size.

Although I’ve been travelling to Tampa on a regular basis for the past two years, I’ve been living here full-time for a mere six weeks. That means that I am, for all intents and purposes, new in town and still figuring my way around. I’ve found that the best way to get to know the area around me, enjoy the weather and get in some exercise at the same time is to hop on a bicycle and ride. It’s the most energy-efficient form of human-powered locomotion, it lets me cover more distance than mere walking but still gives me the up-close look at my surroundings that I can’t get in the car, and it has brain benefits, as the links below will show:

Here’s a video of a patient with Parkinson’s disease who experiences “freezing gait” when walking. However, put him on a bike, and it’s like magic:

It’s been noted in the video that the guy isn’t wearing a helmet. That’s because the video was shot in the Netherlands, where helmets aren’t mandated by law, nor customary. It’s also worth noting that you’re 30 times more likely to get hurt on your bike in the US than you are in the Netherlands. The differences between cycling in the Netherlands and even more bike-friendly American cities like and Chicago and Davis, California are quite notable, as this Dutch observer points out:

At TEDxCopenhagen, Mikael Colville-Andersen says that urban cycling is part of the good life, and helmets are not part of biking:

Why is biking so popular in the Netherlands? This BBC article takes a closer look.

A number of American cities are looking to the Dutch model for improving cycling within cities. To see what we can learn, take a look at From the Netherlands to America. Yes, the US is not the Netherlands, but there are still a number of good ideas to borrow from them, and it doesn’t have to be Rob Ford’s so-called “war on the car” (and really, when’s the last time he told the truth about anything?):

One point made in the video above is that bicycling also boosts economies. This is counter to what a lot of small retailers say: they tend to overestimate the need for parking, and that bicycle lanes will hurt their business. This study says that that ain’t so.

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the saddest cooking show

spring cleaningLet’s continue with Spring Cleaning, a series of posts that have been sitting for far too long in my Drafts folder, and which I’m now unleashing upon an unsuspecting world.

Last fall, I stumbled into what must be the saddest cooking show ever: Weber Cooks, a show that ran on the student-run TV station in Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Hosted by a slightly unkempt Steven Reed, it’s intended for college students with small budgets, a microwave oven, and little or no cooking experience. Reed’s delivery has many similarities to the so-awkward-you’ll-squirm comedy styles of Tim and Eric and Zach Galifianakis, but with one very crucial difference: his is unintentional.

In this episode, Reed gives the benighted masses the Secret of Spaghetti:

If spaghetti isn’t your cup of carbs, he’ll also show you how to make Rice-a-Roni, complete with his trademark heavy breathing:

You want more cheap carbs? Steven is happy to deliver with this recipe for creamed corn and potatoes:

If that isn’t sad enough for you, here’s the creamed corn and potatoes recipe, backed with Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1:

Having company over to watch the big game or a movie and need carbs? How about Steven’s chili cheese nachos?

If you ever screw up an attempt to cook a dish, or feel bad about your lack of cooking skills, point your browser at these videos and take comfort in the fact that no matter how bad a cook you are, there’s someone out there who’s far, far worse.

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cheap drunk bad choices

spring cleaningHere’s another story that I’ve been meaning to point to: Budweiser is most popular beer among injured ER patients, pilot study says. Public health experts estimate that about one-third of all injury-related ER visits involved alcohol consumption, but researchers at John Hopkins wanted to know more — namely, what were they drinking? It turns out that most beer-caused ER visits involve the sort that’s cheap and imbibed primarily for the buzz rather than taste.

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