Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Never use Lowe’s for installations

Why? Too many mistakes, poor accountability, overcharges, and atrocious customer service.

We’ve always been loyal Lowe’s customers, so our recent flooring experience was a huge disappointment on many levels.  I know that you pay a built-in premium when you use them for installations, as they are contracting to a third party to do the work.  But the value is supposed to be that Lowe’s verifies and stands behind their quality, and you have one point of contact.  The opposite happened on both counts.

The installers used some liquid on wood that floor that was nearly impossible to get off.  It was a greasy mess and everything left big track marks on it (shoes, vacuum cleaners, chairs, etc.).  Cleaning it was very difficult – multiple passes of scrubbing on hands and knees.  No one at Lowe’s apologized, no one had a sense of urgency, every Lowe’s group pointed fingers, and the corporate customer service manager (Josh) wouldn’t give me his direct number and wouldn’t take my call when I called on the 800 number he told me to use.  Pro tip: Don’t employ, let alone promote, customer service people who are ineffective, condescending, unresponsive, and have zero sense of urgency or desire to help their customers.

We spent over twenty hours on our hands and knees scrubbing the floor to make it usable.  The installers sent a crew to clean one of the rooms, but it took ten days to happen.  We had half our house turned upside down and had company coming, so we did the rest ourselves. Lowe’s never apologized or compensated us for this.

Lowe’s also engages in deceptive business practices with flooring installations (other companies may do this as well, so be sure to check).  If you have 1,000 sq. ft. to cover, I can see why you need materials for, say, 1,050 sq. ft., because there is the inevitable waste with cuts and corners.  But they also charge you for the installation costs for the higher figure.  They only install the lower amount of square footage (1,000) because that is all that exists, but they charge installation fees for the higher figure (1,050).  In our case, the worker over-measured, and I told him so right away (I don’t think he realized I had measured it myself). 

We had five extra boxes of wood at the end, about 80 sq. ft.  We kept two boxes for possible repairs, but Lowe’s originally refused to refund the installation costs on returning the other three boxes.  I pointed out that the wood was obviously never installed, so why should we pay for installation?  Many phone calls later, with lots of finger-pointing within Lowe’s, I thought I had finally won out, and the corporate people told the store to issue a credit.  However, even though a store employee called to say he was about to process the credit, he never did.  I followed up a week later and discovered this, along with the fact that someone had decided not to issue the credit.  Yet no one bothered to tell us. So they promised to give us a credit, then decided not to but didn’t tell us.

After multiple additional calls, I finally convinced them to refund what they owed me after lying to me twice. They agreed, so I went to the store and got the refund in cash. 

But why so much work to get back what I was obviously due?  

Other things

Multiple Lowe’s employees insisted that we need $500+ of underlayment to go under the flooring, but the installers and the manufacturer said we didn’t.  Luckily we resolved this before installing it, as it saved a lot of money. 

We were told they had the product in stock, but it turns out they didn’t, and delivery was delayed for two weeks.

The delivery you pay for is only to your driveway.  We had to bring in 72 boxes of wood ourselves and carry them upstairs. 

They had two product miss-pulls.  We had to make a trip to return the quarter round.  They also had a mix of different colored thresholds, but the installers mercifully used the right colors and returned the extra wrong-colored ones. 

Other than that . . .

That was a series of first-world problems, of course, but a good reminder to businesses that you can lose sales permanently if you jerk your customers around, and a good reminder to never use Lowe’s for any project work.

Time Management

Time management may seem like a more secular topic, but everything we have is a gift from God, and we should be good stewards of our treasures, talents, and time. 

I learned a long time ago that I inevitably forget some things if I don’t write them down.  So I have two simple rules I follow for any to-dos:

  1. Write them on a list.
  2. Look at the list daily.

That’s it. I’ve used an app called Todoist for years on my PC and my phone.  It lets me quickly add any to-dos to various categories.  It is easy to assign dates and make to-dos recurring if necessary.  I use it for work tasks, for lists of things I want to tell my supervisor, team, or individual employees, for birthdays and anniversaries, for house maintenance things, for various lists such as what to pack for different kinds of trips, and much more.  When in doubt, something goes in Todoist.  I highly encourage people to have a system like this.  Forgetting important things can be very costly in terms of your productivity and reputation, not to mention that it isn’t a great way of loving your neighbors. 

But my biggest time-savers are avoiding social media, computer games, and watching little if any TV.  I used to watch a lot more TV, especially sports, but when we had kids, I phased out of much of that without really thinking about it.  Then I realized that I didn’t get that much value out of what I was watching, and it was easier to cut back more. I’m too compulsive with computer games as well, so I avoid those.  If you can’t do things in moderation, cut them out completely.  I did that with Twitter.  I tried just taking a month off here and there to see if I could go back to it in a less compulsive way, but it never worked (OCD isn’t just a disorder, it’s a lifestyle).  So I deleted my account. Later I got rid of Facebook, partly due to the time-wasting and partly because I learned more about what they do and how they do it.  No regrets.

I also found that scaling back on news consumption saved time and reduced stress.  We live in an unprecedented time where we unwittingly feel that we are omniscient, in that we think we know everything that is going on in the world in real-time, and omnipotent, in that if we go rant on Twitter that we’ve done something about it.  And the repetition of analyzing the same stories can be pointless.  I like being informed on current events, but I’ve learned to limit my time with the news cycles.

I’m not pressing all those views on you, but I encourage you to do an inventory of where you spend your time and think carefully about it. 

If you aren’t reading the Bible and praying regularly, it is because you have decided not to.  You may think you don’t have enough time, but what you are saying is that everything you do – all day, every day – is more important than that, and that God designed the universe without giving you enough time to hear from him or talk to him.  So watching one hour of TV instead of two each night (or playing fewer computer games, or whatever) will free up an entire hour for something more meaningful and lasting.

And be creative with your time.  Most of us spend a lot of time in the car, so instead of listening to secular music all the time, try listening to the audio Bible (free downloads at Bible.is) or to Christian Podcasts.  Redeem your commute!

I took social media apps off my phone and then got off them altogether, because I wasted way too much time checking them.  Instead, I pick up my phone and do Bible verse memorization with my Bible Memory app.  It is a much better use of time.  I know that many Christians live in fear of offending others, but if you use social media, I encourage you to try to work in some Christian truths where you can.  Bible verses, links to sound articles defending the faith, etc., will signal to non-believers that you are a safe person to come to if they have questions about God. 

My wife jokes that I’m like the guy in the Cheaper By The Dozen movie, who automated everything he touched.  My approach is that if you do something regularly, figure out how to do it in the fewest possible steps.  For example, I try to learn every meaningful shortcut I can on any computer software.

Time is a precious gift from God.  Use it wisely. 

Social media update

I’m planning to spend most of my social media time blogging.  I’ve deleted my Facebook accounts completely.  I may do the same for Twitter, but as of now I will never to go Twitter any more but I do have my blog posts go there automatically, and I can Tweet the links of blog posts from my Feedly blog reader without going to the Twitter site.  But I detest their censorship so much that I may still delete it completely.  I assume they’ll send an email when they permanently ban me.

And I found myself wasting way too much time there, as both small and large issues have way to much overlap.  The key issues of the day are summarized more concisely and thoroughly in the blogs I follow.

Again, I recommend the following changes. These sites don’t track you and abuse your trust like Twitter and Facebook do.  And you really, really want to be as far away from Google as you can.  They are completely unhinged Leftists.

Replace Facebook with mewe.com/join/eternity_matters

Replace Twitter with gab.ai/EternityMatters

Replace Chrome (or whatever) with Opera.com

Replace Google search with DuckDuckGo.com

Diet and fitness: Simple ways to be healthier for yourself, your family and the kingdom PLUS bonus smoothie recipe update

Health and fitness aren’t just about appearance.  It is about feeling better, having more energy, being less of a burden to your family, saving money (health problems are very expensive), being a better servant for the kingdom, and more.

Nobody likes diet tips from lean people, so I never give them in person.  Hopefully it will be a safe thing to do via a blog.  I was blessed with a high metabolism, so I don’t assume that it is easy for everyone.  But I eat what I want, when I want, and never gain weight.  That was a real drag when I was young and obsessed with gaining weight, but it isn’t so bad now.

These may seem like obvious tips, but consider that there are so many horrible diet programs out there that promote all sorts of counterproductive behavior.

It is all about habits.  Going on and off diets makes the problem worse.  Obsessing about food also makes it worse.

Just do a lot of small things: Eat often (yea!), eat healthy things first, eat a little less, eat a little healthier and exercise a little more.  No fad diets.  No extreme workouts.  Just make some small but permanent changes to your habits.

Eat often.  Seriously, when I eat often I eat pretty healthy foods and don’t crave junk.  But the hungrier I get the more I crave things like McDonald’s.  Don’t let yourself get too hungry.

Eat healthy foods first.  They fill you up so you don’t eat as many bad things.  You can enjoy treats, but don’t start with them.

Eat smaller portions.  Humans were not meant to eat giant plate fulls of fatty foods along with multiple high-calorie beverages.  You should have leftovers from 90% of restaurant meals.

Getting regular exercise and sleep help your metabolism.  Exercise burns calories, increases metabolism and reduces your appetite, so even a little bit it helps you in three ways.  Ironically, sleeping too little has been shown to decrease your metabolism.  Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk a few times a week.  People set themselves up for failure when they assume it has to be an intense, daily, 90 minute ritual.

Find something you like well enough and do that.  It won’t feel so much like exercise.  My wife and I took up ballroom dancing a few years back.  It isn’t my primary exercise, but it does have a lot of benefits.  My point here is that I never think about it as exercise, just as one of my hobbies.  I’ve seen people lose tons of weight and get much more fit by ballroom dancing.

Eat breakfast – its the 4th most important meal of the day!  Apparently skipping breakfast is bad for your metabolism as well.  I love breakfast foods.  I could eat them three times a day.

If you just eat a little less and a little healthier and exercise a  little more, many positive things will happen.

BONUS: Here’s the latest incarnation of my Veggie Boy smoothie recipe.  One of my first posts ten years ago (have I been blogging that long?!) was about my not-quite-patented Veggie Boy smoothies. I figured I was due for an update.

I’ve been making health smoothies for almost 40 years and have now achieved the state of the art. Here is the used-to-be secret recipe for my Veggie Boy protein smoothie. (For you Cheers fans, you’ll remember this is the name of the health drink Woody was hypnotized into liking. “You can really taste the kale!”).  Yeah, there are fruits in it as well, but “Fruity boy” just doesn’t have the same ring.

It is really, really healthy. Vitamins, protein, fiber, low fat, all natural, etc. Drink it for breakfast and you can eat Snickers the rest of the day.  I have a couple glasses for breakfast and some more for lunch or after I work out.  I never eat cooked vegetables and am fairly unlikely to eat them raw, so consuming them in smoothie form is a gigantic plus.

It helps to have a powerful blender to chop up the carrots and frozen stuff, but a simple one will suffice. We splurged and got a Vita Mix a few years back and I couldn’t be happier.  It gets used at least once per day.  (It replaced a 2 HP Waring blender.  It was nice and powerful, but didn’t blend quite as well on frozen things.  Oh, and it turns out that those blue sparks coming out of the bottom meant that it was “arcing,” which apparently is a bad electrical thingy.)

It used to be more of a production to make the smoothies it so I’d skip it when I was busy, but with the extra power I can use more frozen things.  For example, it saves a lot of time to use frozen fruit so I can just drop them in instead of cutting them up each morning.

And it saves you money as well.  If fruit, such as bananas, starts to go bad you can freeze it for smoothies instead of throwing it away.  I hate to waste things.  And when a local fruit stand was selling older bananas at 1/3 the regular price I bought a lot and froze them.

The rest of the family uses it often to make more normal (read: tastier) but still quite nutritious drinks.

Here’s the current recipe.  Believe it or not, it tastes OK.

  • Plain Greek yogurt — very high in protein — the generic kinds are much cheaper than Chobani and such
  • Milk (preferably whole milk)
  • Baby carrots
  • Baby spinach
  • Yellow squash
  • Frozen beets (though not too many, as they have a strong taste)
  • Bananas
  • Some frozen mixed fruit – strawberries / blueberries / raspberries / blackberries – Wal-Mart has a good deal on these and it is easier than buying them fresh.
  • Any other fruit we’ve got. I’m not picky.

Don’t tell CPS, but when Daughter #1 was young I told her one Halloween that she could eat all the candy she wanted if she had a small glass of Veggie Boy first. I thought she actually liked it (it is rather sweet tasting), but I learned years later that she choked it down. I would have let her eat as much candy as she wanted anyway. Fortunately, she is the forgiving type, and she and her sister turned out fabulously despite many parenting moments like that.

P.S. I never understood the juicer concept. Seems like you are throwing out all the good stuff.

Writing about things that I won’t write about.

There are a few things I refuse to get excited about or to write about . . . uh, except for this post . . .

Merchants marketing Christmas too early!

Starbucks cups!

Not saying just the right greeting during the holidays!

Exactly how you should/shouldn’t celebrate Christmas!

Etc.!

Seriously, I’ve already wasted too much time on those topics just by writing this brief post.  If other people care enough to write about them, go ahead.  Those don’t even make my top 100 list.  I refuse to get caught up in them.

Diet and fitness: Simple ways to be healthier for yourself, your family and the kingdom

vegetables.jpgHealth and fitness isn’t just about appearance.  It is about feeling better, having more energy, being less of a burden to your family, saving money (health problems are very expensive), being a better servant for the kingdom, and more.

Nobody likes diet tips from thin people, so I never give them in person.  Hopefully it will be a safe thing to do via a blog.  I was blessed with a high metabolism, so I don’t assume that it is easy for everyone.  But I eat what I want, when I want, and never gain weight.  That was a real drag when I was young and obsessed with gaining weight, but it isn’t so bad now.

These may seem like obvious tips, but consider that there are so many horrible diet programs out there that promote all sorts of counterproductive behavior.

It is all about habits.  Going on and off diets makes the problem worse.  Obsessing about food also makes it worse.

Just do a lot of small things: Eat often (yea!), eat healthy things first, eat a little less, eat a little healthier and exercise a little more.  No fad diets.  No extreme workouts.  Just make some small changes to your habits.

Eat often.  Seriously, when I eat often I eat pretty healthy foods and don’t crave junk.  But the hungrier I get the more I crave things like McDonald’s.  Don’t let yourself get too hungry.

Eat healthy foods first.  You can enjoy treats, but don’t start with them.

Eat smaller portions.  Humans were not meant to eat giant plate fulls of fatty foods along with multiple high-calorie beverages.

Getting regular exercise and sleep help your metabolism.  Exercise burns calories, increases metabolism and reduces your appetite, so even a little bit it helps you in three ways.  Ironically, sleeping too little has been shown to decrease your metabolism.  Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk a few times a week.  People set themselves up for failure when they assume it has to be an intense, daily, 90 minute ritual.  I know people who lost a ton of weight just by taking up ballroom dancing.  It isn’t that the dancing is that strenuous.  They just went from consistently doing nothing to consistently doing something, and they found something that was fun and easy to stick with.

Eat breakfast – its the 4th most important meal of the day!  Apparently skipping breakfast is bad for your metabolism as well.  I love breakfast foods.  I could eat them three times a day.

If you just eat a little less and exercise a  little more, many positive things will happen.

Seriously, you don’t need shaving cream.

I was surprised, but it is true.  Via The Truth about Shaving Cream:

My freedom from shaving cream began twenty years ago after a friend uttered to me — just in passing, in the course of a conversation during meal preparation — the great truth that shaving cream is a racket.

I was stunned. It took many months to process the information. Ever since I have exulted in my knowledge and felt deep pity on the rest of the world for languishing in unknowingness.

Granted, using shaving cream isn’t the most time consuming part of a day and certainly not a big part of any budget.  But why spend money and time, no matter how little, on something that is not only unnecessary but possibly counterproductive?

When I first tried it I thought it would hurt, but it barely felt different from using shaving cream.  I experimented for a few days using shaving cream one side and just water on the other.  No difference.

The only thing I’d add to the advice in the link is to shave in the shower.  Less mess and an easier shave.  Shower mirrors are inexpensive and very handy (here’s one for $10).  Once you’ve done it for a while you just need the mirror to ensure you don’t take a chunk out of your sideburns (uh, not that I ever did that . . .).  The rest you can do without the mirror.

Enjoy your freedom!

Hat tip: Joe Carter

If you write much, Phrase Express is a huge time saver

Via How to Use Text Expansion to Save Yourself Hours of Typing Every Week.

In a regular day, most of us type the same things over and over again, wasting an enormous amount of time in the process. Why not let your computer do some of that work for you? That’s where text expansion comes in.

Text expansion utilities monitor your typing and trigger rules when you type a predefined phrase or key combination. When you type one of those pre-defined phrases, your text expansion utility removes your short version and replaces it with a longer phrase without requiring you to type the entire thing—saving you loads of keystrokes and time.

Phrase Express is a free tool you can use to save countless keystrokes. You type your shortcuts then hit the tab key to activate the text expansion.  If you can’t remember the shortcuts you can use the easy menu/folder system (i.e., I have a big set of apologetics, Bible, economics, politics, pro-life, etc. phrases).   Here are a few ways I use it.

If I type adr then hit the Tab key, it will write out my name, address, phone number, and email address.

Another shortcut takes a link I’ve copied and pasted it into this html line and puts the cursor where I can type in the text: <a href=”LINK”></a>.  If you use html at all this will come in handy.

My basic pro-life shortcut is plr, and typing it results in the following.  That is a huge time-saver, as I’ve used this countless times while blogging and on Facebook.

Pro-life reasoning is simple and accurate: It is a scientific fact (http://tinyurl.com/yfje8lq ) and basic common sense (what else would two human beings produce?) that a new human being is reproduced at fertilization. Seriously, go check out any mainstream embryology textbook. I’m too pro-science to be pro-choice. Based on the settled science, it is then simple moral reasoning that it is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being without proper justification, and that is what happens during 99% of abortions.

The situations surrounding abortions are psychologically complex (pressures on the mother to abort, economic concerns, etc.) but morally simple (you don’t kill unwanted humans outside the womb for those reasons, so you shouldn’t kill them inside the womb for those reasons). Their size, level of development, location and degree of dependency are not reasons to ignore their right to life. Arguments about “bodily autonomy” ignore the body destroyed in the abortion.

In other words, It is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being without proper justification. Abortion does that. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

I have a folder of tags for blog posts as well (pro-life, apologetics, etc.).  I use a shortcut to paste them in.

There are many more examples.  Any time you have a phrase you think you’ll re-use you can just highlight it with your mouse then hit Windows key-shift-n to save it.  It takes a little time to set up and get in the habit of using it, but the payback is quick and substantial.

As if you needed another reason to dislike United Airlines . . .

After booking a trip on United Airlines using frequent flier miles they noted that the costs for the first checked bag for each person was $90 each way (the actual flight will be on their partner, US Air, whose rate is usually $25).  

If they want to devalue frequent flier miles they should just raise the rates.  Tricking you this way is the opposite of good customer service.  

We’ll be carrying our luggage on, of course.

Continental was already slipping a little bit in the customer service area, but after the United merger it has been a free fall.  If you own their stock I’d sell it.

The perfect solution to those awkward “I don’t know, wherever you want to go is fine” conversations

When you are dealing with people who are overly polite* and won’t tell you what they really want to do (dinner location, what movie to watch, etc.) just try saying, “If I strapped a polygraph on you and asked you to give me your top three choices, what would they be?”

I have tried this a few times and it works perfectly.  Seriously.  The polite people will pause, as if to say, “Touche’.  You got me.” Then they will tell you what they really wanted, because they don’t want to lie.  But it seems that deep down they are happy, because they get what they wanted without having to appear selfish.

The system works.

I’m pretty sure that Miss Manners would love this idea.

* Full disclosure: I tend to be one of those overly polite people.  Although I usually really don’t care.  I usually use the “veto power” answer, and say, “I’ll eat anything except Thai or Indian food” then let the other people choose.

Toodledo: Silly name, great app

One of my most-used apps is Toodledo.  Yeah, the name is silly. But it works really well. And yes, you actually have to pay a whole $3 for it, but it is worth it.

One of the best things about apps like this is that you can access and share lists from multiple devices.  I mainly use it on my iPhone, but it is also a constantly open web page on my PC.  And my wife can share the app and the lists on it.  Little things like grocery lists are much easier now.  You can add things whenever you think of them, and put them in the rough order of how they are laid out in the store.  It seems like overkill at first but it is worth it.  And we can both use it at the same time.

I also have to-do lists for:

  • General things
  • Travel checklist — there are 40 possible things I might pack for a given trip.  No wonder I used to forget things!
  • Gift ideas
  • Target / Wal-mart / Lowe’s
  • Names  of people I meet (I try to type them in right away, and that alone helps me remember them)
  • Ballroom dance tips (things I think I’ll remember after a lesson but often forget)
  • Workout lists
  • Work tasks
  • Movies I want to see
  • More!

If you don’t use an app like this I encourage you to try it.  It will make your life much more organized with minimal cost and time requirements.

Favorites

I’ve got a busy few months coming up.  My oldest daughter is getting married soon, which means I’ll be a “little” busy celebrating her marriage to a fantastic man (praise God for that!). Then I’ll be leading a prison ministry weekend this Fall that will require a lot of prep time.  But it should be transparent here at Eternity Matters, post-wise.  I try to stay at least a couple weeks ahead on blogging with every-other-day posts plus some Roundups thrown in.  I make it a habit to fast from news and such while on vacation, so to keep a steady stream of posts going I thought I’d mix in a few reruns of my favorites from my early blogging years (2006-2008).  It will be one per week or less, or your money back.  They will be new to most people.  For you long-time folks, try to look surprised.

P.S. Alternate title: Reruns.  Because I’m just that lazy.

Superman combo

Random Superman things . . .

1. I see very few movies, so I’m not sure if I’ll see the Man of Steel.  But it does sound really good.  The bad guys are evolutionists — how sweet is that?!

[T]his Man of Steel movie is one of the most spiritually symbolic and Messianic-image-packed treatments ever made about this character. Here, Clark Kent even comes to understand—at the age of 33, no less—his responsibility to step up, face off with and destroy an ultimate evil that threatens all mankind.

But that’s at the end. At the climax. All through this film dialogue and images hint at connections between Superman and Jesus. Several people, from Jor-El to Jonathan to Zod’s female second, Faora-Ul, talk to Clark about his ability (or lack of ability) to save the people on his adopted planet. Superman levitates with his arms spread in a cross-like form on several occasions. When he goes to his church to ask a priest for advice, the camera’s eye frames a stained-glass representation of Christ over the young Clark’s shoulder. The priest tells him, “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later.”

After Clark rescues a bus full of children, a kid’s mother states, “This was an act of God!” Clark asks his dad, “Did God do this to me?” When Lara worries about her infant son’s safety on Earth, Jor-El assures her, “He’ll be a god to them.” Bad guy Kryptonians tell Superman that they will win because “evolution always wins.”

2. When digital photography and editing came out in the late 90’s I had fun with the girls and with Junior Achievement classes by taking pictures of them with their arms over their heads and then putting them in 8×10 Superman photos like this (except with the kids, instead of Wishbone as a puppy).  They had no idea why they were posed like that until they saw the pictures.  Good times.

SuperWishbone

3. Enjoy this Stephen Crowder video about how Superman would have to act if he were in a union.

Any AARP tips?

I turned 50 in January.  So what does the world do to celebrate 50 consecutive years of not dying?  (A new personal best, by the way — take that, haters!)

  1. You get to have the most fun medical procedure ever!  A colonoscopy!  Note to the medical community: You have 5 years to come up with a better way to prepare for it — or better yet, replace it with some sort of MRI-thing. 
  2. You get invited to join AARP.  Seriously?  I’m only 50!

I’m not a big fan of AARP’s politics, but I am a big fan of discounts.  And membership is relatively inexpensive.  So, AARP members, what benefits do you see with membership?  Do they have better deals on home and auto insurance?  Are there any travel benefits that are better than what AAA offers?  Anything else I should be aware of?

There is one other bonus: Our local outlet mall gives discounts to “seniors” like me on Tuesday nights.  Woo-hoo!