Unwanted credit card applications are terrible. They are wasteful, annoying, and present an identity theft risk.
I purchased a paper shredder to destroy the applications I receive (many from Chase Bank – I ignored your first 20 applications, why send me 50 more? The US Postal Service thanks you).
Finally I decided to read the fine print on one of these applications as part of a personal project I’m working on. I discovered an Opt-Out number.
I learned that credit card companies buy lists of people with decent credit, and send them applications. You can opt-out of these lists from the three major credit monitoring companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) by calling 1-888-567-8688.
The process is entirely automated, and very quick. The system had a hard time finding my address, but even with the hold up it took me no more than five minutes.
The catch is that the opt-out only lasts for five years, meaning you have to call back and do it again.
I’m cool with killing five minutes once every five years to save myself some hassles and limit the risk of identity theft.
For more on:
It’s back to school time, so it seems timely to pass on some tips.
I did very well for myself in college, and had a good time in the process. I want to write down my best advice for college students before it is too far in my past to be relevant, so here it goes…
Know Your Professors
When you write a paper in college, you are writing for an audience of one. You aren’t doing it for your own pleasure, you are writing to make your professor believe that you have a head on your shoulders.
What I recommend you do is take notes on your professor (as well as the course).
If you have a notebook, reserve the first page. If you take notes on a laptop, have a dedicated document.
What you want to do is take notes about your professor’s likes, dislikes, specialties, and biases. You should review the notes before writing a paper.
More often than not, professors want you to reiterate their ideas and beliefs. If you want to work hard for your grade, feel free to contradict, but make sure you know what you are doing.
Knowing your professor’s area of expertise is vital. Unless you are deeply interested in the subject, never write a paper on your professor’s area of expertise. It’s a surefire way to have your work torn to shreds. If you really like the professor or the subject, you will learn more writing within her/his expertise, but it’s going to be tough to earn an A.
Learning how to write for a specific audience is one of the most important lessons you can learn in college, and it will always be a useful skill.
Make Sure Your Professors Know You
If you are in a small class, this isn’t an issue.
If you are in a big school with lectures of more than 30 students, there’s a good chance that your professor won’t know who you are unless you go out of your way to make sure they know you.
You want your professors to know you because they will give you the benefit of the doubt.
About three weeks into the semester, go to your professor’s office hours and ask a couple questions. You can ask questions you already know the answer to, the point is to show interest. You should repeat this process again sometime before the semester ends. If your professor can call you by name in class, then you’ve done your job.
This comes in handy if you need to miss class, actually don’t understand something, or need advice. It is also useful when graduation nears and you need letters of recommendation.
Don’t Buy a Mesh Garbage Can
It’s really screwed up that places like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target sell mesh garbage cans in their back to school sales.
If you purchase a mesh garbage can, there will come a night that you regret that decision on a very deep level.
Learn To Write Well
The world is filled with poor writers.
If you can learn to write moderately well, it will guarantee you better grades in any class that involves writing.
Writing skills are practical skills. They will help you succeed in any field.
Learn Public Speaking Skills
If you can verbally express yourself with poise and confidence, people will assume that you know what’s going on.
This doesn’t end after graduation either.
Make Friends Who Are Smarter Than You
Surround yourself with people who are successful, and challenging; they will push you to excel.
Make Sure You Want To Be There
If you only want to have a good time, you might want to find a party that doesn’t have a $45,000 a year cover charge.
Go to college when you are ready, study something you enjoy, and don’t take on debt that will haunt you. If you aren’t going into a high-paying profession, go to a public university. Graduating $140,000 in debt when you can only earn $30,000 a year is completely moronic.
Get Some Professional Experience
Academics can only get you so far.
Don’t allow yourself to graduate without practical experience, and contacts in your chosen profession.
College should be an adventure.
Have a good time, do some stupid things, see the inside of an ambulance, just make sure you are alive at the end. It’s also preferable to graduate without a criminal record.
Backup Your Computer
No one wants to rewrite lost papers. Always backup your work.
Practice safe computing.
Do you share your passwords with your close friends, boy friend, or girl friend?
If the answer is “yes,” finish reading this, then go change your password.
Your password is supposed to be secret. Things change, your personal information and means of communication should not be compromised by fluctuation in your personal relationships.
Take this lovely couple for example:
Do you think that Brad thought his relationship with this attractive psycho was going to take a turn for the crazy when he gave her his password?
(Now I don’t know what Brad did, he could be a real asshole, but that’s beside the point.)
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your privacy and safety to have a trusting relationship. To the contrary, I contend that if you have a trusting relationship, you shouldn’t need to know what’s in your significant other’s inbox.
My girlfriend doesn’t want to know my password, and I don’t want to know her’s. It’s not a big deal. If you are dating someone who thinks you need to share passwords, he/she probably has trust issues. Good luck with that.
Lastly, if you did share your password, don’t forget to change the passwords on your other accounts.
For more information on this subject, you can take a look at The Geek Whisperer’s Guide to Breakups.
Practice safe computing.
Two things to keep in mind before we begin:
- Real guitars and plastic game controllers that look kind of like guitars are two completely different things. Just because you are good at one, doesn’t mean you will be good at the other. Guitar Hero & Rock Band are games, have fun with them. If you’re an amazing guitarist, don’t bitch to your friends, “If this were a real guitar… blah, blah, blah.” No one likes to play with a whiner.
- There are no cheat codes, or magical things you can do to improve your plastic guitar chops (or real guitar for that matter). If you want to get better, practice.
With that in mind, here are some tips to improve your Guitar Hero & Rock Band skills:
Not all gaming consoles, televisions, and sound systems are connected equally. In most games, shows, and movies the fractions of a second that they are off are completely irrelevant. However, songs on expert move really quickly, and a fraction of a second can make or break your timing.
The solution is simple, tweak the calibration settings until you are comfortable. This can be a slow process, but it’s worth the time once you get it right.
Don’t buy a crappy third party controller, they almost always suck. Get yourself an official controller.
I prefer using a Guitar Hero controller as opposed to a Rock Band controller because I only want to learn one. Guitar Hero controllers work on Rock Band, but Rock Band controllers don’t work on Guitar Hero.
Focus Your Eyes:
Those note patterns run really quickly. You need to learn to focus on the notes, and blur out the rest of the game. The pretty graphics can serve as a distraction.
As you become a better player, the distractions will be less significant. The better you become the slower the notes will seem to move. It’s an odd phenomenon, but I promise it’s true.
Hammer-On & Pull-Off:
Learn them, and use them. If you don’t know what they are, go play through the tutorial.
Don’t Strum What You Can’t Play:
Guitar Hero notes are like SAT questions. Strumming the wrong notes is worse than not strumming at all. If you find a passage of notes where you can’t get anything right, let them go without strumming at all. The meter will fall, but not nearly as fast as it would if you were strumming sour notes.
Similarly, if you find yourself behind or ahead of the beat, and you are consistently strumming the wrong notes, stop and let a few notes go by, then start again.
Use Your Pinky:
The muscles that control your pinky finger are small, and considerably weaker than the rest of your hand. You have to exercise it to gain the control, stamina, and dexterity that you will require. You need to practice using your pinky (this is also true for playing a real guitar as well).
Move Your Hand:
A lot of players try to keep their hand in place on the controller’s neck, and just stretch either their index or pinky finger to hit the notes. This is a royal pain, and isn’t a great technique.
So much of playing Expert is finger placement. Learn to move your hand along the neck. The movements should be small. Use the ridge on the yellow button for Guitar Hero controllers, or the dots on the Rock Band controllers to orient yourself.
When you play chords or a string of notes, make sure you are using a comfortable hand position.
If you reach a point where you are comfortable using all of your fingers, and can freely move your hand without getting lost, you will be “5 starring” a lot of songs on expert.
… I wish I had a dollar for every conversation I’ve had that went like that one.
If your reflex reaction to anything going wrong with your computer is to call a “computer genus” friend, you are doing yourself a disservice.
If that friend that you called to fix your computer is trying to teach you how to fix the same problem if it happens again, and you ignore the lesson, you’re doing yourself an even bigger disservice.
I have been fixing computers since I was a kid. In that time, I have seen all manner of problem, and most of them are pretty simple.
My point isn’t to be condescending.
What I really want is for everyone to have a basic understanding of the machines that run our lives.
When your computer breaks, try and fix it yourself. If fiddling doesn’t work, restart it. Don’t call that “computer genus” friend until you have restarted your computer; it actually does work.
If you need to ask a friend, have that genius teach you what to do next time… Because believe it or not, most of us “computer geniuses” don’t derive pleasure from fixing your computer, and your life will be easier with some basic troubleshooting skills.
Practice safe computing.