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Archive for December, 2009

A Must Read…Happy Holidaze!

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

This will be the best gift you get this holiday.

images-3This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005. What a tale of crap into compost.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect themimages looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it.

Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

images-2When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

–Steve Jobs

Tips to Tolerate Family During Holidays

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Tips to Tolerate Family During Holidays

crazy-family-pictureSet limits. Decide how much time you can realistically spend with your beloved bloodline without resorting to alcohol, prescription meds, or violence—then stick to that length of time. If you have family relations that are difficult or painful, it may be better to keep the visit brief, ie: cocktails & crudités versus sharing a cabin in Tahoe for the week.

Practice self-discipline. Consciously resist emotional reactions to inflammatory or thoughtless remarks from family members. Instead, lock yourself in the bathroom. This gives you time to come up with the searing retort, and the perspective to choose not to use it. Powder your nose, flush, wash hands, and then return with a more mature reaction, such as:. “It may not have been you’re intention, but I found what you said hurtful. I’d like us to enjoy our time together, so let’s focus on conversation that isn’t sensitive to either of us.”

Set your heart dial on LOVE. Recalibrate often. Decide to be the place of love in your family. No matter what. As you start to feel judgmental, angry, or feel an urge to dunk your uncle’s head in the punch bowl, ask yourself, “What kind of inner experience do I want to have? Heartburn? Or intoxication (spiritually speaking). Choosing to stay loving, no matter what, can make the difference between having a pleasant family holiday, or one that gives you hives. And sometimes the most loving thing you can do is removing yourself from the situation. This can also be accomplished without leaving the scene, by relocating to the kids table.FamilyFoodFightFoto1

Don’t agitate. Although it’s sometimes tempting to our love of drama to stir the pot a bit, holidays are usually not the best time to launch a group therapy improv session. Keep things light and cordial, shallow even, and press the hold button on diving into meatier topics that require real relationship work. Especially if there is a lot of booze and card carrying NRA members in the picture.

No Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda’s. Informing family members what they “should” or “shouldn’t” do can provoke colorful, possibly inflamatory reactions. Don’t assume you know what’s best for the other person (even though you do). Even if your insight can be helpful, “shoulding” on people usually creates resentment and resistance, which in turn causes indigestion.

images

Manage Your Expectations. Better yet, don’t have any. Author and spiritual leader Eckharte Tolle said, “Accept the present moment as if you had choosen it.” May we all take that pithy little line to every family outing, and apply it no matter what is going on. Another term for this is Radical Acceptance.

Leave the country. If any of my family is reading this, YES, I’m in Argentina right now, but it’s not to flee you, just all the commercialism. I’m just saying, for others, travel to foreign lands during holidays may be useful.

images-5Consult an Expert. If none of these fabulous ideas can allow you to tolerate those who claim to love you, and those you claim to love, then get thee to the forgiveness expert. Here’s the one I love, because within her message is the one thing I know to be true: Forgiveness First. Everything Else Follows.

Suggestions from blog readers…

Good wine and a lot of patience. Oh, and of course the “two deep breaths before replying” rule is in full affect.

–LB

Spend the week prior to that stressful event taking care of yourself first. Don’t go anywhere tired or spend 48 hours preparing for visitors and tire yourself out. Get plenty of rest.

–FJ

Individual medication, good. Medication in mashed potatoes, better. (That way the vegetarians eat it too.)

–CM

Here’s a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill I’ve picked up along the way called: “Radical Acceptance.” If you ever find yourself differing in opinion with someone, you basically accept the difference in the moment, with no resistance or argument, no need to be right. Although it sounds impossible, once you get the hang of it, it works.

–TMC

And she said “but my family doesn’t accept me for who I am”… and he said “perhaps, but are you accepting them as they are?”  Change roles. Decide it’s everyone else who needs love and acceptance, and give it to them.

–LB

The 21 day complaint free challenge…google the website or the book Complaint Free World. I did it the first time 2 years ago…I learned alot and recommend it, even though it’s self help and I find that annoying. Oops. Yes, I’m starting the diet over again.

–BH

You could ditch your own family and you spend the time with your girlfriend & her family. Not that I would ever do that… oh but wait…that’s exactly what I’m doing.

–DL

Adopt the triple “F” attitude. FFF=Forced Family Fun. Like it. Like them. Whether you like it or them or not.

–TOH

Act as though you are watching a movie…you don’t get mad at the movie for how it makes you feel, you enjoy the emotion and then you go home, right? We are all the star players in own story. Enjoy the scene, whether it’s well written or not. Eventually, change your lines and your responses, and you’ll change the script (try musical comedy, they are the most fun).

–JC

WHAT OTHER EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT FORGIVENESS…

images-6This from Mayo Clinic:

Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change.

–Katherine Piderman, Ph.D., staff chaplain at Mayo Clinic


50 Ways To Kick A Habit

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Whether you are able to attend our fabulous and weird funeral sing-along event this December 31, 2009, please feel free to sing our songs at the top of your lungs. May this reconfigured tune inspire you to make that change before the change makes you.

50 Ways to Kick a Habit

Sung to tune of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Stolen without the permission of Paul Simon

(Get the tune via karaoke or lyrics.com)

The problem is all inside your head

She said to me

The answer is easy if you

Take it logically

I’d like to help you in your struggle

To be free

There must be fifty ways

To kick a habit

She said bad habits are a pattern

That intrude

But there are some tricks to lose them

With a cheerful attitude

And I’ll repeat myself

At the risk of being crude

There must be fifty ways

To kick a habit

Fifty ways to kick a habit

Chorus:

Stop blaming your mom, Tom

Don’t need to hate dad, Tad

Just have to accept, Shep

And get yourself free


You don’t have to cheat, Pete

Just turn off the cell, Nell

Start telling the truth, Ruth

Just get yourself free


Stop looking for fault, Walt

Don’t pass the buck, Chuck

Stop living in fear, Dear

And you can be free

Refrain:

She said it grieves me so

To see you in such pain

But there is something you could do

That would make you smile again

I said I appreciate that

And would you please explain

About the fifty ways to kick a habit

She said just find a place

To dump out all your junk

Bad habits, grudges, grievances

That get you in a funk

And then she chanted them

Like a sly old Buddhist monk

Yes there’s fifty ways

To kick a habit

Fifty ways to kick a habit

Chorus:

Get to the gym, Kim

Toss out the smokes, Bloke

Start eating more kale, Dale

Just get yourself free


No more chasing skirt, Burt

Stop blaming the man, Dan

Quit blowing your stack, Mac

And get yourself free


Give up the old pain, Jane

Open your heart, Bart

Just learn to forgive, Liz

And you can be free

5 Steps to Overcoming Dead Dreams, Dashed Hopes & Disappointments

Friday, December 4th, 2009

(1) Denial.

DenialPretend it never happened. You did not get the diagnosis. She did not break up with you. The sheriff isn’t going to escort you from your foreclosed home. If you read enough self-help, you learn that it’s not what is happening in your life that matters; it is what you believe about what is happening that makes it true. Simply choose to believe that, no matter what it looks like, all is well. This approach is not for the weak of mind or spirit. And though it has its upsides, extreme cases may lead to incarceration, institutionalization, and in extreme cases, premature death. But in the end, what difference does it make? It’s not like anyone gets out of this gig alive anyway, and your unwavering denial will spare you a whole lot of unnecessary worry and stress. But if denial is too peace love and groovy for you, perhaps instead you should…

(2) Blame others.

There is an alarming new trend that requires that we take responsibility for what we have made of our lives, when it is so clearimages that the true culprits of our failures often range from the toxic influences of large corporate, government and religious institutions, to the ineptitude of the insensitive, incompetent, and/or controlling individuals who prevent us from getting what we want and need. There is always time to take stock of how you might have participated in the demise of your cherished goal—but for now, make a list of all the people, places and circumstances that have undermined your success. Do not forget to include the impact of any negative astrological influences during the period of your profound disappointment. When the list is complete, make a promise to yourself that you will have NOTHING to do with any of the institutions, people, places, or planetary alignments that sabotaged your success EVER again—even if it means you have to live alone in a cave in Afganistan.  Or take your list and…

(3) Seek revenge

Years ago, I had the pleasure of entertaining the young sons of a friend. Boys love lizards, snakes, rodents, and bugs, so I took them to the East Bay Vivarium, a place that sells such creatures. Set among the displays of terrifying creepy-crawlers, there was an aquarium full of scorpions.I asked the pierced, tattooed, spiky-haired sales clerk if the staff ever worried that someone images-3might purchase these poisonous pets to let loose in the house of a foe. Without missing a beat, she said, “Oh, there are much better ways to seek revenge.” She then suggested that I purchase their inventory of pregnant Madagascar hissing cockroaches and slip them through the mail slot of this person I wanted to torment, advising me that once the eggs were dropped, my unsuspecting rival would be forever deluged with both the bugs and their terrorizing hisses. Before I had a chance to explain that I had no victim in mind, she suggested I might also purchase a bag of frozen, baby mice and shove them deep in the crevices of this person’s car windshield, where the wipers are stored. “They’ll thaw and rot and put off a gawdawful stench that they’ll never get rid of,” she snickered. Later, when the boys and I met up with their mom, in a timid whisper, the little one asked her why I was such a mean person. Alas, why to I tell you this long story? (1) It contains some revenge suggestions that aren’t widely known to the general public, and (2) It’s an opportunity to WARN YOU to give serious consideration before launching any vicious attack campaign. Revenge may be sweet, but evil tactics such as those noted above may invoke this thing called “KARMA,” that could set something in motion that may come hissing its way back to you in a scary, smelly way. So instead I suggest you…

(4) Grieve with gusto.

Publically and passionately revel in your pain. Stop trying to act normal, mature, or reasonable when, YOUR DREAM ISimages-4DEAD! YOUR HOPES ARE DASHED! YOU’VE BEEN REJECTED! I don’t care if it is un-American to grieve: you MUST embrace the horror of your loss.  Sob openly and uncontrollably whenever any song, billboard, or scent triggers a memory that leaves a nasty sting in your heart. Drive along dark, desertedhighways and scream endlessly until your throat is as raw as hamburger. Whine to friends, complain to coworkers, and when the hostess at the restaurant asks, “How are you?” TELL HER THE TRUTH. Make sure everyone knows how devastated you are. Your obsessive love affair with your own despair will alienate you from anyone and everyone you come into contact with, including yourself. Like all of those whom you have repelled with your self-pity, you will grow so bored with it, you’ll decide to simply turn your attention elsewhere. But what if you still can’t seem to move on?

(5) Have a Massive Pity Party and Move On

images-6We’ve all heard of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and her famous stages of grief, right? (If not, check Wikipedia, but note…it’s not as simple as waving a wand .) The point being, when you have to get over something, you spend an exhaustive amount of time running on the hamster wheel of pain, repeating thoughts, ideas, complaints, and arguments against what already happened- WHAT ALREADY IS. That’s just nuts, right? Nuts, but oh so human. And trying to stop these thoughts it much like trying to stop diarrhea. (I’ll say no more.) But at some point you realize this circular path is getting you nowhere. Your only hope for escape is to leap off—take an entirely new direction. And this great leap is what will lead you to the easy-breezy tropical Island of Acceptance. We know it is nice there. It’s the place where we can shrug our shoulders, say the magic mantra (“Oh Well”) and be free. So why, oh why, do we keep crawling back onto the hamster wheel? Cemetery Mary does not know why it is so hard to let go of dead dreams, dashed hopes, failed relationships, pain, or obsessive thoughts of the past, however I will suggest a powerful ritual that will entice you to move on. Gather friends for a kick-ass funeral party, publicly declare it is time to put it to rest, dump your junk in a coffin, and see if that doesn’t help lighten your load. Too much trouble? I’ll handle it for you. Just check this out.