Tips for visiting NYC: After action review

A week of being vulnerable just to be with family.

We went to visit family in New York city recently, as we try to do every year.For us,it is worth the trouble and expense to see everyone, especially since we all have kids who should have a lot of time to bond with their cousins.

Maybe I am still reeling from the visit, but I wanted to make some notes about it since we will be doing this again in the future. Lessons learned should be leveraged to make the next trips easier.

Visiting that part of the country around November, the landscape is just amazing. We are always mesmerized by the color of the trees and the rolling landscape. It just pales in comparison to fall in North Texas. I have to keep reminding my wife that this is unfair, as this is the peak of the autumn beauty. Come winter, this will all be brown sticks with gray slick roads.

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SECURITY

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Self defense: I am basically naked whenever I go to visit NYC. This year I felt particularly naked because I have been carrying concealed on me daily. So going there I realize how unarmed the everyday guy has to be:

  1. No firearm
  2. No knife
  3. Pepper sprays may be okay-may be not. Depends on the officer giving you the ticket

I am sure there is some way around it. Perhaps I just forgot how I dealt with it before when I still lived there. Not being up to date on any local laws, I opted to stay safe. I have been given insanely stupid tickets before so I understand how stupid the mindset can get. What seems reasonable to me, might be completely unacceptable there. I may need to prepare for this ahead of time on our next visit; research what local laws allow and mail a small kit there for myself to use.

Unfortunately my tools were very limited and for the most part we relied on situational awareness for our safety.

GETTING AROUND

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Traffic has not changed. There is always some type of construction. Have a sense of direction so you can navigate around these. The subway is a great way around. If you want to feel the beat of the city, take the subway 1 day and take the time to ride it during rush hour as part of the experience. You can do this and stay within Manhattan, shuffling from one destination to the next while sharing the train with the locals.

If you are looking to maximize your time and visit, the best way is to have a local drive you and wait for you from one place to the next. Not everyone gets to do this, but I suppose there’s a better chance of anyone pulling this off today than they could before. Uber seriously makes this possible. In our case, my dad drove in the city as a living for years-he is retired now. His knowledge plus my map updates on my smartphone allowed us the best routes. Since he is retired, he preferred to just park somewhere and wait for us to finish checking out something. I did not get this at first and was always hesitant when he offered, but in the end I think we benefit immensely from it and he likes doing it on occasion anyway. To be able to serve family for free when you feel like it is usually more rewarding than serving your employer.

SOCIO-POLITICAL CLIMATE

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I realized we would be in NYC when the election results came out. I was worried about this but there wasn’t much to do. We bought the plane tickets based on the deals we got months ago. As we now know Donald Trump won the election. I woke up from a nap when I heard there were protests going on. We were outside of the city visiting family, and as soon as I was awake enough to analyze the news, I made sure we had a route home that was far away from any protests. We did not even risk being in the island of Manhattan even though my dad thought it was fine. I told him he was underestimating how these groups coordinate, being at Union square one moment and popping up to block FDR the next. We took the bridge straight to Queens.

Our next few days involved keeping track of protests so we know we were not headed into any. Not that there were a lot, but the fact that they are there and you never know what might happen makes it a good idea to check. Particularly since I am traveling with small kids.

TRAVELING LIGHT – AS BEST AS YOU CAN

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When we were done, we packed our luggage that night with special considerations for the airport we were using. To be very clear, Laguardia airport is one of the worst airports I get to use on a regular basis. This is amplified by the highly stressed people in it and the cranky security personnel who reciprocate said stress.

What does this mean (obviously other than not packing items not allowed in the plane)? For us we packed the check in luggage so there were no questions with it and the weight was safe. We gave ourselves a pound or so of buffer so we did not have to open the check in luggage to shuffle weight to other bags. We did not want to pay any extra fees.

For our hand carry luggage this was tricky also. Being a small family, I will be bogging down the security check in with 3 small luggage, a tote, a diaper bag, 2 parts of a stroller and another 4 trays for laptops, shoes and what not. I make a lot of enemies in that check in line. We plan for this so that I only have to open one bag which has all the electronics. There are no liquids in the whole entourage other than my daughter’s milk. I had a very curated first aid kit in one bag for my son who had some skin issues. We had some medication in the luggage also but only in small amounts. No liquids. Next time, we will need to have anti-allergy meds in a small container in our hand carry luggage-lesson learned this year.

Most of our wires/chargers were rolled neatly so x-ray would clearly show them. If we brought food in the bags, they were easy to identify on the xray. Previously we brought some food rolled in aluminum foil and we had it in our carry on luggage-this was a mistake from last year and we made sure not to do it this time.

Given the small house we were carrying with us thru security, we made it thru pretty quickly. At the gate, we would check in the rest of the carry-on luggage. We would also ask to leave the stroller at the door of the plane. When we sit in the plane, all we have to deal with are the kids, one luggage with the meds and electronics and a diaper bag. We had food, entertainment, meds and diapers.

INFLIGHT KID ISSUES

Traveling with kids is always fun. They easily get bored and will constantly try anything in the new environment. We brought an ipad mainly for entertainment. We had snacks for the kids and extra bottles of milk (last time we ran short when our flight was delayed).

For reasons still unclear, my son burst into allergies during the flight. He was itching and scratching the entire time. We saw the hives break out and spread. This was complicated by another skin issue/injury he had on another part of his body-which meant he could not scratch/touch it or he risks spreading it. Also had a minor diaper issue when my daughter ran out of baby wipes when she did a number 2. With what we had we still made it okay. The heavily curated medical pouch ended up being on my pocket and was crucial for us on this trip. The only thing was, I plan to have a small dose of allergy meds in my pocket next time.I think I went to the bathroom about 7 times for the 4 hour flight-thinking back now it does not sound that bad.

When we got to Dallas, things got better fast. We got the allergy meds and my son calmed down. We took a photo of which area we parked our car so we did not forget. As soon as we got in the car we felt more at ease and in our element, and we calmed down.

LESSONS LEARNED

Next time we visit, we have some improvements in mind so the trip will be even easier for us. For me, some highlights are:

  1. a creative self defense kit
  2. better supplied and curated med kit
  3. a set budget, in cash and on cards so we me and my wife are insync on how far we are spending for this trip
  4. a more defined list of places to go so we can schedule better
  5. letting friends and family know sooner of our plans to visit so they don’t all try to get to see us at the same time
  6. factor in an extra 1.5 hours to check in at airports
  7. coordinate better on clothing so we can travel lighter-bring pants not shorts, layering options for tops, 1 hat each
  8. coordinate what items can be bought online and shipped there
  9. make a list of conversation topics I want to hone into with certain family members-this lets me maximize time spent with them.

So there you go, some things learned from our trip. We used to live there so we know what to expect, but traveling with small kids always adds a bunch of unknowns. We do not try to see a lot of places-that is never practical anyway. We make a list of new things to see (maybe newly constructed projects) and sort by how much we want to see them. We try to get to them, but not stress out if we miss on any. By seeing a few good sites, we get a feel of the beat of the city, get some new photos for the family album and check of stuff on the bucket list-but we don’t exhaust ourselves and stress relationships by forcing ourselves to go to places.

Next year I hope things will be easier. Our kids will be a year older and we will have planned better for the trip.

Abstaining from new posts

I have been feeding myself new lessons lately and I am a bit drunk from the parts of it which I have retained. I am not saying I can use it, or am an expert on any of it. Heck I am far from any of that. But I want to acknowledge that I have been absorbing way much and need to just stop. To some degree these are also distractions.

Unless I can use the thing I have learned to improve my current lifestyle, then none of it matters.

I am going to hold on any blog posts, will not make any new sites or pursue any new ideas until I have executed/practiced/used any of the new lessons I have learned in the last 2 weeks.

Right now the pivot point on all this are the worksheets for homeschooling. It’s way more work than I thought and way less people interested it seems. I want to apply the lessons I learned to this first before I do anything else.

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Amazon Flex – making you less dependent on the conventional shipping

Have you heard of Amazon Flex? It is an app that lets you sign up with Amazon, basically as a freelancing courier. Here’s a summary direct from their webpage:

(well what do you know, since a few weeks ago the site has changed. It seems the demand for flex drivers has shot up and they finally amped up their webpage for this. Here is a link to the current video and testimonial filled webpage)

Basically, you sign up and set hours available. You set hours up in blocks and when those blocks open up from Amazon’s side-meaning if they need someone during those available times, they will send you a message for you to confirm. The pay is between 18-25 per hr (nice). It is in most cities already.

I signed up early for the Dallas-Fort Worth area but it took them awhile to get back to me. I think it was about 2 months before they emailed me back. It seems that they were not fully operational yet at the time, but in the last 2 weeks I have gotten multiple follow up emails asking me to finish the application.

Obviously this will impact people working in the shipping industry-USPS, Fedex and UPS are some of the first that come to mind. It will relegate some of their work to the freelancing app based workforce. This will be a more regular scene in the future – people from all walks of life working these freelancing opportunities; working more than one job, but not in the conventional norm where they are necessarily stressed out and running to the next job. The next job simply starts when they get in the car after work, and they can choose to drive straight home or earn a few extra bucks on the way.

Here are some active Youtubers who are vlogging about it:
Paul Yeo

Zacharia (AppBasedGigs)

 

 

 

Prepare for the future; shape it or someone else will.

I stumbled onto this great article on Forbes. It validates what my concerns are but it is absolutely written eons better. Here’s a snippet of the article:

…the future is about more than just technology.  Health trends, economic trends, population growth and climate change, just to name a few, will also create massive challenges—and massive opportunities—in the years to come.  The time to start preparing for the future is always in the present.

…….

The job of a manager has clearly changed.  A generation ago, we could enter an industry, learn the trade and work our way up.  Today, however, we can’t expect a business model to last a decade, much less a career.  To wit, since 1960, the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has fallen from more than 60 years to less than 20.

Other topics noted/mentioned in this article include:
vertical farming
robotics
nanotechnology
future ready

Here is the link to the article for a full read

 

Finding a website name and getting a site up under $50

I have been going back and forth on what to name the blog, as I get closer to doing an actual website. Just some quick notes on researching key words, setting up the site and trying to make it easy to find on searches. I plan to run the site under a $50 a year budget.

 

I have been going back and forth on what to name the blog, as I get closer to doing an actual website. Just some quick notes on researching key words, setting up the site and trying to make it easy to find on searches. I plan to run the site under a $50 a year budget.

Godaddy domain name = $35 for 2 years
hosting = approx $10 per year

resources:
www.godaddy.com
www.bubweb.com

Road trip: Convoy tips for families

We have been traveling quite a lot, and on more than a few occasions we find ourselves with another family in a separate car. Sometimes it is on our turf, other times it is on theirs. Either way, we have learned some practical convoy techniques. This blog will be short and sweet, so here we go:

Each car must have the same address of the destination
Sounds very basic, but keep in mind if you get separated the following vehicle’s first reaction goes kinda like “Oh crap now I have to catch up or I might miss the turn/exit” or panic and just try to catch up. Having the knowledge that you can all get there with a gps reduces this stress

Communicate stops/breaks
This way if you decide you want to get some burgers for the kiddos, the other car is not scratching their head why you are taking the wrong exit

The more conservative/careful driver may be better at taking the lead
For me, driving with my kids in the car make me more careful and I take less risks in driving. In a sense I am driving slower for the following car, but we all need to work as a team. You can only be as fast as your slowest team member-in this case that driver sets the pace. If communicated before the trip, the following cars will take note and can anticipate a reasonable speed.

The last vehicle can open up lane changes

changing-lanes
The last car is in the best position to open up lane changes. He can change lanes (one at a time preferably) and each car ahead of him can change lanes in sequence. This is very effective but needs the first car to signal the lane change early on. The signal lights get relayed to the last car and he looks for an opportunity to change lanes. If you are on a freeway waiting for your exit, depending on your speed, you will want the first car to signal the change maybe 2 miles early.

At stop lights, stop signs, give lots of room
These create big gaps in your convoy if not timed right. The car ahead must adjust timing considering if the cars behind can keep up. Do not run thru yellow traffic lights or you risk the car behind you getting cut off.

Cellphones are good, radios are better

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Each time we drive with family in a convoy, we keep wishing we brought a 2 way radio. The main convenience is you hit one button to communicate, and you can do so to the entire convoy. You don’t have to dial someone on the phone and redial for another car. An FRS/GMRS radio would work well for this, and those are fairly inexpensive.

Communicate the route

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Even when we have given addresses so we all have it on our GPS, we still communicate what route we plan on taking. No specifics, but just so they understand the general pace/route. On our last road trip, I took an exit and stopped for coffee at a small town. While there, I explained to my dad how we will change the route and stay out of the freeway and use the backroads. This implied we would drive slower, but may have a more scenic trip in this place we were exploring.

Lead car checks traffic

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My wife has gotten really good at being my navigator on these trips. Part of the task is checking for traffic ahead before we hit it. This way, we can veer off the freeway and take backroads. Instead of spending 3 hrs at the freeway, we can spend 2 hrs exploring the small towns along the way-less stress and a more pleasant experience.

 

Giveaway: homeschool activity sheets on entrepreneurship & critical thinking

WHAT?

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I am giving away free activity sheets for homeschoolers who are interested in teaching their kids about:
-entrepreneurship
-problem solving
-critical thinking
-resilience

These are aimed at kids from 4 to 7 yo. These will be in pdf format for you to print and do the exercise with.

WHY?

I want to know if there is a desire in the homeschool community to teach on these subjects. If the demand is there, I will gladly provide free materials for 8 weeks (1 per week) to folks who help me validate this business. I do ask for help by giving me some feedback. These are things I really hope to teach to my kids, and perhaps other parents could use some teaching materials on the subject! If there is not a lot of demand/response I will still email you the first set of worksheets for your use. This survey does not capture emails, so I will reach out separately later on for the download link to the worksheets.

Please email me suggestions and questions at resilientdadblog @ gmail dot com.

Thank you!

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Being intentional about finding family time

Brain dump:
Note to self that with all the things I am working to get done, I must not neglect to find time for family. Looking at my day to day, I have about 2 hours during dinner available for quality family time. The plan is to make the most of these 2 hours to have good quality conversation and family bonding. Plan on expanding that time and find more opportunity to make optimal use of what we have.

Hey, if things are going to work, you have to make sure the family is taken cared of.

3D printing for kids-getting my son started

This last weekend was my son’s first foray into 3D. One of my concerns about the changes in the future is how everything will be available in a 3D digital environment. With the growth of 3D printers and virtual reality, I feel it is not too early for my son to try out some 3D software and kind of get his mind to understand how the process works. As with most things software related, one of the key things is to understand how the software communicates and if I can get him to understand some of that, it should make things tons easier.

We started with a fairly easy program called Sketchup. It allows you to draw basic shapes then “pull” them into a 3D figure by giving the 2D shape a height. The software was created by Google maybe 6 years ago and has since been bought by Trimble. It is available for free (there is also an upgraded version for a small price). You can find it here.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to do to get started:

  1. Download it and install it
  2. Start the software by clicking on Sketchup 2016 (it has this icon) kohtob83zevb2ulvyd10_400x400
  3. Select a template-maybe pick english units so your stuff is in feet & inches
  4. When you get to the workspace/screen to draw on, press “R” for rectangle.
  5. Draw rectangle
  6. Press “P” for pull. Hover on the rectangle (it should be gray/dark blue) Then click on the rectangle and drag your mouse to a height you want.
  7. Play with this command for a bit. draw rectangles on that block you just did, and repeat the pull command (“P”)
A little background about my son. He likes Legos, building blocks, puzzles. He likes putting things together. He’s kind of grown tired of his Legos too so we need to switch him onto some new constructive and educational toy. He has an app called Toca Builders on the Ipad. This app is pretty fun, you control a bunch of goofy robots, each having their own capabilities, and you can build your mini city. My point is that my son is interested in assembling things, either in his imagination or tactile.

So back to Sketchup. Before I showed it to him, I spent a few minutes to draw something that resembled a building. Something easy and blocky and put in some things to manipulate easily so he can play with it.

I then asked him to check out what I did. I did not show him any commands other than the “pull” command which lets you stretch things out from a surface. I had a box drawn on a wall, and using the pull command we pushed it back so it became a recess on the wall and became a window. We messed around a bit. We pulled a similar box from the wall and created a volume that seemed like a bridge. It did not have to be a bridge, he was using his imagination. All I did was give him a scale of what structure I drew.

With the orbit command-or by holding down the mouse wheel, I spun the model about so he can see the other sides of the building. It helped him understand that this was an environment he can manipulate.

Seeing that you can do something cool gets kids really interested. The imagination jumps immediately to what the possibilities are. Obviously I need to keep them balanced and make sure they are not frustrated when he learns he cannot make that super cool metropolis model this morning.

So I put a mouse on (gave him some basic instructions on left click, scrolling and pushing down the wheel) and showed him some hot keys. Also showed him the tools so he can relate the icons to the functions. I then guided him to do some basic things:

  1. Press “R”
  2. Draw a rectangle
  3. Keep drawing on the surface plane (the ground, it is colored gray on the screen)
  4. I pointed out how the cursor shows you 3 lines that correspond to the 3D environment on the software. These are red, green and blue. Blue means you are giving an object dimension/height
  5. Press “P” and hover on the rectangle-it will highlight, meaning it is ready to be manipulated
  6. Drag the highlighted rectangle upwards to give it height
  7. Ta-da!

From there we just kept repeating the process. We did a bunch more boxes and buildings. We can tweak them later, right now it is more of a muscle memory on the mouse and making the tools/hot keys familiar. There was no pressure to get it right, the goal was just to experiment. Obviously do this when you have time to slow down and not be hurried to get results. This is a creative process and will need experimentation.

Here is a quick video about some basic tools

 

The next step from here for us, is to put together a small thingie-anything will work, limited only by his imagination. One for him and one for myself.   We will then take the sketchup model and print it using a 3D printer.   I am thinking that would be awesome-seeing something you made digitally, and then convert that to a gizmo you can touch and use. That would be super cool, a great project for me and my kiddo and it wont really cost us much. If anything the printing might cost me $20 🙂

Learning to validate a business for newbie entrepreneur

Brain dump of things learned today

Listened to Noah Kagan (Appsumo) as he coaches his students on the Monthly1k course how to validate their business. I have spent a lot of time making a product and not knowing earlier if the business was valid or not. With his videos I am understanding how to validate first, before spending much time on a product.

Here is a link to one of their sessions:

Also, kind of explain why I keep blabbering about how I am starting a business, when the blog is supposed to be all about having a resilient family. Basically, because the future needs us to be all entrepreneurs. I need to get out of a 9 to 5 job so I can work on the things that really matter.