Productive Loitering

Quick post: Costa Rica

Thanksgiving will be spent in sunny Costa Rica. Expect pictures & blog posts then. Until then keep an eye on my tumblr, http://productiveloitering.tumblr.com/ , for fun udpates

Strong Body Language: How to avoid looking like a prey

The best way to avoid being the victim of a fight or violent theft is to not look like an easy target from the start. Career criminals rarely pick a person completely at random. Instead they are hunting like a predator on the Serengeti. They will watch for body language of potentially easy targets such as a person not paying attention to their surroundings, slump shoulders, crossed arms, or hands in pockets. A combination of these gestures will tell a person watching you may be  a passive and easy target.

Tips like these may be obvious:

  • Stay alert and continually look at your surroundings.
  • When doing the above look at things intently but not like a gawking tourist
  • Stand straight and walk tall
  • Square your shoulders

Here are a few you may not know:

  • Put your hands on your hips with elbows pointed out. This is a nonverbal tactic to make yourself look bigger. It will give you the appearance of being more in charge.
  • Don’t cross your arms with thumbs tucked in. Depending on your other non verbal ques this can be a submissive or insecure gesture. Coupling crossed arms, thumbs out with a tall slightly leaned back stance (think secret service style) will be more defensive but not submissive. In general you want to make yourself look more confident and authoritative.
  • Avoid staring at the ground or lowering your eyes when people approach. You don’t want to stare at people so long that they think you are rude but keep tabs on who is around you. If some one meets your eyes give a slight nod and look away.

When you think about body language it should be with an evolution mindset. Many of our universal nonverbal gestures are innate and evolved from our primal ancestors. With this in mind avoid the passive gestures that may you look like easy pickings.

United seat codes

I found this neat article explaining United’s expert mode & how seating codes work. It can be nifty if you are looking to upgrade or see how full the flight is. If you’re a United flier check it out.

http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2012/09/26/quick-tutorial-of-uniteds-expert-mode/

 

Butterflies! Leap of faith fears

I blogged previously about my leap of faith in  walking out on my job & landing in Mexico. It turned out awesome! Despite that positive history its still scary to jump again.  I’m 3 months out from my test run and my stomach is full of butterflies. My friends are encouraging and my heart says it is the right move but still I have fears. I’ll have to ask full time travelers if it ever gets easier. That idea of walking into the totally unknown is so frightening! It is an irrational fear.

I have some great safety nets & backup plans on top of amazing friends who will help me out if I need the support. What is this fear that still wants to hold me back? If I could narrow it down I suppose loss aversion. This idea I’m loosing something. In a sense I am loosing my security & job & the safe life I know. All the pays offs are completely unknown! How frightening! Its crazy how these fears will try to hold us back when we know it is the right choice.

Anyway thanks for listening. This was just a little post I wanted to write to voice my fears. No matter how brave I act I’m still scared to take this huge leap. ^_^

Couchsurfing landed me a career!

Around Christmas of 2008 I was at my parents house watching the evening news when a story came on about Couchsurfing.org. The reporter talked about the growing popularity of the site and how it got started. Its mission was to improve the world one couch at a time. I’m such a sucker for bettering the world so sign me up! As luck would have it the local Columbia group was having a meet up in January! I RVSP’d and it turned out to be a life changing experience!

Before I tell you about how Courchsurfing change my life let me tell you what it is. Couchsurfing.org is a site that connects travelers needing a place to stay with hosts that have a free couch. The process is very simple! You look up the place you are going and find hosts in that area. You can browser the hosts profiles, pick one, and send a request. They accept the request and you go stay on their couch. Once the exchange is done the both of you can leave positive, neutral, or negative reference. It is this feedback, among other securities, which helps people gauge your trustworthiness.

The site goes beyond just hosting. If you don’t need a place to stay but want to party with locals, visit tourist sites with other travelers, or find popular events in town it is great for that too! There are groups for most major cities which can be an awesome for finding information about the town. I will always recommend the site to my friends who are moving to new cities. If you are needing to meet new people the local groups are perfect!

My first local Couchsuring meet up in January 2009 opened a door to a whole new professional network. We had about a dozen people show up at Gumby’s Pizzaria and one of them was Grant Howard, a developer for Carfax. Over the next few years we became really good friends and through him I met more employees of this amazing company. After quitting my job at Columbia College in 2011, one of the Carfax developers passed along my resume for an opening they had. Luck was on my side when I got an interview and later a job offer. It was all thanks to Couchsurfing that I managed to meet the first person who would help me establish a strong professional network. That network has landed me jobs at the best employers in town.

Carfax EAP. Cardboard cut out car chasing down running man.

Recovering: A College Grad’s Writing Struggles

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

College destroyed my ability to tell a story! Four years of page & word requirements will teach you one very worthless lesson ‘filler junk craptastic elongated word usage’. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said,” Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” If you’ve ever had to write a 20+ page term paper you’ll know there is no time for perfection when minimum requirements leave you stuffing your creation with bland white rice filler like a Chipotle burrito!  Instead of creating a masterpiece of tasty learning you’ve created a carb filled turd devoid of vegetable & meaty goodness.

As a member of online community, writing a blog felt like a must do! My attempts failed over and over again. Blog writing was a dull and boring task. Then I discovered Sims 3 Legacy stories! These are stories that Sims 3 players write about their Sims lives. Here is a great example, Ballad of ChinMan. This is done in other games as well like Skyrim. What fun this seemed! I decided to give this a try myself.

I took screen shots & started writing away. When I reviewed my stories for editing they were stale compared to ChinMan. Why was this so? What was I doing wrong? My characters were fun & I had a plot. I started comparing my stories to the popular and entertaining ones I loved like Alive & Kev. There it was in plain sight the ‘filler junk craptastic elongated word usage’ of COLLEGE! The best web tales are not long fat ramblings rants of a term paper. They are told in quick one or two line captions.

Lets face it our online culture has no attention span for epic ballads. This is a community born of fast clicking, skim reading, and spark notes! Memes rule here with their short to the point captions.  How many people stepped out of YouTube loops when they introduced the commercials? No one wants to dedicate time to a commercial. To quote epic dad, “too long did not listen.” For better or worse the internet is closing in on this perfection of nothing left to take away.

How do we fix academic damage to writing ?

1. Delete junk words! They are junk if they add no value! Some might even harm your sentence turning it into a vague or questionable statement. If you want to be heard speak with conviction! Examples junk words  are: may, perhaps, really, just, sometimes, maybe

2. Backspace those boring sentences! When you are reviewing your draft be mindful of the question does this line add value? Is it adding concrete to your palace of creation or is it cluttering up your work? If its clutter take them away! Your final product should ALWAYS be shorter than the first draft.

3. Avoid academic & clinical terms if it does not fit your audience. Are you writing a story, web comic, or blog?  What is your goal? Is your focus on entertainment, inspiration, or humor? If so overly complex word usage and excessive jargon will not help you not capture an audience.

4. Choose the absurd! This is a general life lesson to run with. When you have two choices the safe / no risk / not embarrassing / boring option or the completely absurd choice whose risks are not physically harmful pick it! I promise it will make a story worth telling.

Home: Rural America

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I did a post on knowing your cultural norms and wanted to share my own. This is the lens through which I see the world. I grew up in rural Missouri in USA on my grandparents soy bean farm. The above pictures shows were our old trailer use to be. My oldest sister lives in the pretty new one you see in the picture.

Being from a rural area I tend to like a larger personnel space in public. About 4-5 feet around me is preferably. When I started traveling the colectivos of Mexico, sleeper buses of Vietnam, and general crowded subways made me a bit edgy. I can handle all of these now except those damn sleeper buses! Never again. Its like traveling in a coffin. ^_^ When I was 18 I moved to more populated areas and started living in cities. After the last 11 years my personal bubble has gotten a lot smaller but I still like the extra space when can get it.

Typical with much of America I am a bit uncomfortable with touch from a stranger. Kissing greetings and hugs were common among the women & children in my family but this contact was rare with people outside the family. Adults limited their greetings & goodbyes to each other with waves, handshakes, arm grips, or hugs. Men in particular had less physical contact. This has made me a tad jumpy to touch from strangers but I’m working hard to break this. My first trip out of the country was to Mexico. Through couch surfing I met locals in Playa Del Carmen. I was quickly introduced to the cheek kissing popular in Latin American. It was a bit weird to me at first.

My parents put a lot of importance on individualism. Mom loved to stress the value of being a strong independent woman while dad gave lessons financial independence. This idea of being your own person & supporting yourself got me in a bit of trouble through my teens and early 20s when I was struggling with youthful anxieties. Instead of reaching out for help I kept it all bottled up which was the norm for my immediate family. Later life I learned how valuable asking for help really can be. ^_^ This upbringing also caused a lot of conflict avoidance. In some cultures you will find conflict avoidance very common.  I struggle with is shutting down when conflict arises instead of taking it head on for a more productive outcome.

This individualism up bringing became noticeable when I started dating a man who was half Chinese. China is a collectivist culture in contrast to the typical individualism of Caucasian America. At first I liked how close his family was. About four months in I became resentful to their constant presents in our relationship. Steven’s stereotypical over controlling impossible to please Asian father caused a lot of unhappiness in his sons lives. No matter what they accomplished or succeeded at it was never good enough. Also despite all of them being around 30 years of age he still expected them to play brothers keeper and do what he said.

Given my individualist values this seemed silly to me. Of course I would help my sisters if they asked but never did I consider myself responsible for their being. As an adult the idea either of my parents had a right to tell me what to do is laughable.  For some one with a collectivist family is a common theme. If you ever date some one from a country that emphasizes on family be prepared for them to be an active force in your relationship. This isn’t a bad thing but it can be a challenge.

SHORT: I grew up in rural Missouri USA. I like open spaces, friendly people, and wide personnel space. I’m an individualist who prides at herself on independence. 

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