Monday, July 28, 2014

The Gold Coast of Chicago

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Sunday, January 5, 2014



Create Some Better Habits This Weekend

Regardless of what you resolved to do in the new year, you won't get very far without some good habits in place. This weekend, take the time to understand how to make better behaviors stick and rid yourself of the old ones. Understand the Psychology of Habits It's hard to form a good habit if you don't know how they work. Most of them form thanks to a cue-routine-reward system. This means you have a cue that triggers the behavior, a routine you go through as a result, and a rewarding feeling you receive at the end. You can use this to understand bad habits and form good ones. It exists at the basis of pretty much everything you do regularly. You also need to pay attention to willpower or you will burn yourself out—unless you're really good at realizing this is all in your head. Don't try to break all your bad habits and create lots of good ones at once. That's a recipe for failure. Take things slow and only tackle one or two at a time. Try a 20 second rule to avoid overdoing it. Slow progress is better than nothing at all. Also, it turns out that physical exercise can help you develop better behaviors. If you've resolved to add a regular fitness routine to your schedule, that's a good place to start. Get Rid of Bad Habits Bad habits can be very hard to break in the first place because you can perform them without realizing. Biting nails, for instance, just sort of happens and by the time you've had your first nibble the damage has been done. To avoid this problem, you need to remind yourself of why you don't want to engage in this default behavior regularly. Tell yourself the harm each time you catch yourself engaging. I did this with a webcam, recording myself explaining what I wanted to accomplish and why and then forcing myself to watch it every night. Nail biting was the only bad habit I struggled to break with no other methods working. This one did, because I created a habit of remembering how much it mattered to me. The important thing is to keep your plan simple. For some, that doesn't mean much more than an if-then cycle. The more work you make yourself do to break a bad habit, the more you're going to wish you weren't doing it. Breaking the habit is difficult enough, so don't add unnecessary complication. Whatever plan you choose, make it a straightforward one. Make Better Habits Creating good habits is fortunately a lot easier than getting rid of bad ones—you just need to repeat a behavior until it gets stuck in your routine. The easiest way I've found to do this is with Jerry Seinfeld's productivity secret: don't break the chain. You basically plan to do something once a day and every time you do it you get a checkmark, gold star, or whatever you want on a calendar. This creates a chain of days, and once it gets long enough you won't want to break it by missing one. If you're a little obsessive like me, this is a very effective strategy. You can even use an app (for Android or iOS) to do it if you don't like paper calendars. Just remember to be patient. For a long time we believed it only took 21 days to form a habit, but that's actually wrong. Give yourself a few months before you assume you've programmed yourself for a new routine.

Clean Your Oven with an Overnight Pot of Water and Ammonia

Oven grease is difficult to get rid of and needs a lot of effort. But keeping a pot of hot water and a bowl of ammonia overnight will loosen it and make cleaning easier, according to the One Good Thing By Jillee blog. Heat the oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and turn it off. Place a pot of boiling water on the bottom rack. On the top rack, put a heat-safe bowl or baking dish containing 1 cup of ammonia. Shut the oven door and leave it overnight. The next morning, open the oven and remove both the bowl of ammonia and the pot of water. Don't dispose of the ammonia; you'll want to use it later. Remove the racks and leave the oven door open to air out for 15 minutes. Add 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap to the ammonia, along with a quart of warm water, and using a heavy-duty nylon scrubbing pad dipped in the ammonia mixture, begin to wipe away the softened grease and grime along the sides and bottom of the oven. It should be a fairly easy job at this point. Needless to say, when working with ammonia, it's always advisable to use kitchen gloves. This trick is similar to how you clean stove burners, but Jill notes that the ammonia did not have a powerful odor after having sat in the oven overnight.

SaveDeo Downloads Videos from Instagram, Flickr and Other Video Sites

Web: There's plenty of ways to download videos, even from seemingly un-downloadable sites, but SaveDeo makes the process a bit easier by offering native support for services like Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, TED, Vevo and others. The process is as simple as just copy-pasting your link into the bar at SaveDeo and hitting download. You'll get options to download MP4, FLV, 3GP or WebM videos in different resolutions. It works like a charm, and is especially useful if you are in a region where certain videos aren't supported. You can just download and watch them instead of streaming. Neat!

Arrange Outfits by Last Worn to Cut Down Decision Time

If you don't want to overwear your favorite outfit, Real Simple suggests a neat trick: always hang worn or washed outfits on the left of your closet and pick up what to wear from the right. It takes a little bit of organizing first though, where you need to group your outfits together and arrange them in a way that you aren't dressed similarly two days in a row. Once you have that arrangement, it gets simpler. I reorganized my clothes closet so that all outfits are grouped together. I am not a morning person, and I do not like standing around naked and cold, trying to decide what to wear. I just grab the first outfit on the right side and put it on. At the end of the day, I hang the clothes up on the left side. This way, all my clothes are rotated, so I wear them all and never overwear my favorites. If you prefer to fold your clothes instead of hanging them, then you can still replicate this trick by stacking clothes vertically instead of horizontally.

Remove Windshield Stickers Easier with a Cellphone Screen Protector

Stickers on your car's windshield, such as the ones you need for parking, are notoriously difficult to remove later. Keeping a corner unstuck is one way to easily take them off, but Redditor wewtaco has an ingenious solution: use mobile phone screen protectors between the windshield and the sticker. It's clear, so the parking cops won't mind that it's on there, and most screen protectors are designed to be taken off relatively easily. A pack of five screen protectors costs just $0.99 on Amazon, so you can just buy a few and store them in your glove compartment. It's a lot cheaper than some of the dedicated windshield sticker-removal solutions out there.