Customer Service: Step 1: Listen

March 11, 2014

I have a habit of reporting spam and phishing schemes to help those who are targets or victims. I let Discover know someone was impersonating them because, maybe, they could engage law enforcement or do something else that is useful.

Reporting the phishing scam below to four entities. Full headers included.

Thank you for helping your clients clean their machines of spam.

4) trademark infringement target =

P.S. I have never been a customer of; please keep this in mind if you choose to reply to my email.

Their reply two weeks later is a stock answer – proving they did not read my message.

Thank you for your message about the email you received with the subject line “Alert Notice – Irregular Card Activity […]”.

The email you received is not a valid communication from Discover.

If you responded to the suspicious email with any personal information, or attempted to access your account using the links provided, please call 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683) as soon as possible to complete a lost/stolen report with one of our Customer Service Representatives.

Discover’s $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee ensures you’re never responsible for unauthorized charges on your Discover card account.

For more tips on Discover email security, preventing identity theft and recognizing phishing scams, please visit

Thank you for contacting Discover.


Discover Email Watch

DISCOVER, CASHBACK BONUS and the other trademarks, logos and service marks used in this e-mail are the trademarks of Discover Financial Services or their respective third-party owners.

This is not a good example of customer service. There were actually five recipients of my email because I always copy the Federal Trade Commission. Spam is about making money, therefore it is an act toward commercial fraud. So if I mention infringement of Discover’s trade-mark, not being their customer, and I copy the FTC’s spam repository at, then what’s the probability I followed any links or supplied any personal information (attempting to access a non-existent account)? Approximately zero.

Fitness Expenses

March 5, 2014

Responding to a comment on the post My own personal fitness drone?, Sam wrote:

I’ve been thinking about the high price of fitness lately and might blog a bit about that.

and so, too, have I been thinking. . .

If you are reading this, then I expect you have no financial barriers to fitness. Oh, yes, the activities you choose may come with costs like the following:

  • equipment purchases: shoes, FIE-certified fencing uniform, heavy objects to lift
  • facility fees: community pool, gym/fitness centre, salsa dance club
  • registration fees: sport league, race (10k, century, orienteering), instructional classes

But allowing your body a general, healthy degree of fitness for daily living activities is entirely your choice. There are several factors to fitness including the time in which you perform (speed & power; strength & endurance), how long it takes you to recover, and the length of time you can participate in your choice of activity at your choice of performance level. (For example, you’re unlikely to be sprinting any kind of races in the latter half of your lifespan–but if you choose activities like resistance training and weight bearing activities like walking then they may remain options for all of your days.)

I’ll leave you with some links that present ideas on reducing your fitness expenses:

You have no financial barriers to fitness because you have knowledge of what makes you fit (or access to it). Fitness requires no special equipment. The activities you select and enjoy can create financial barriers. Try doing some new things. You may find some very low cost activities–such as dancing to the radio (full body) and singing in the shower (mental peace & working your lungs / diaphragm)–that you simply must continue to enjoy!

Coach Potato: One Potato, Two Potato, Free Potato, Sore!

October 30, 2013

Blockquotes come from Sam’s post Couch potatoes come in lots of different shapes and sizes (originally titled in typo as Coach potatoes, my inspiration to branch off the topic of her post).

[We spend] a lot of hours reading, researching, writing, and [we] are concerned about how many hours we spend sitting.

Standing desks sound great. Other techniques include,

  • active posture – primarily lengthening one’s unsupported spine. My understanding is that while resistance training helps us feel failure in a short time frame, it is our long term habits which make a true difference to our posture and health.
  • isometric strength training – per Tim Ferriss in Four Hour Body “If you can’t leave the table, get good at isometric (without moving) contractions of your legs. Try to look casual instead of constipated.” (Fully tensing one’s body during resistance work makes the load easier to lift. By activating more muscles, more thoroughly, we also create more body heat–perfect for keeping warm in winter while scurrying in between heated campus buildings!)
  • We’d like to think we’re combating sitting disease by being really active. You know, running, biking, swimming, weight lifting , yoga, soccer, Aikido, rowing and all that stuff we do.

    Sometimes it is as simple as standing while riding public transit. You may choose to take it further by walking or cycling a portion of your journey. Going further, Jered Stuffco went from riding the subway to using it as a mobile gym.

    Why listen to this coach potato? I sit a great deal. I do hardly any activity in comparison to most of the individuals I admire. What I do is learn.

    I aggregate ideas. I pull concepts together, recalibrate, and spit back out what looks–to me– like the same material. It is different. It makes better sense to the individual I am helping than did the original material. Or perhaps the original material was too great in magnitude. I make the problem tractable.

    Being a coach potato, you know a few things about me:

  • I am lazy
  • I understand ideas
  • I can explain ideas to people
  • I can teach you how to be effective (using the ideas) with minimal effort (laziness)
  • I spotted someone reading The Power of Habit earlier this week. I must add this to my reading list…done.

    Why do movement

    November 18, 2012

    Do you also find yourself wondering how and why to move? In Sam’s post Is it time to ditch exercise?, I find the following two prescriptive answers to this question: Practice skills (e.g. strength, technique), and play in motion (e.g. games or pets for which running is a key part).

    I wish to add one more reason for movement: to challenge your mind. Any new challenge in creativity or coordination will suffice. Four alliterative examples from my life are crosswords, cable-knitting, kendama, and clapping push-ups.

    Wish me luck in accomplishing a few of these challenges, practicing some skills, and playing this week.

    Here are some inspirational quotes I collected over the past few weeks:

    “Understand, though, that the happiness does not reside in the goal or object itself.” (Dave Hall: The Pursuit of Happiness)

    “If you do train, why do you do it? What’s the spark that ignited your drive and separates you from all your brothers and sisters? [… What have you] done to fight back against the general malaise of modern living and where you get your fuel to keep your passion burning. Together, if we can better understand I’m certain we can be better understood[?]” (Dave Hall: First, Seek to Understand.)

    “A space to connect with their breath and body, even if just for this hour. A place where competition is not encouraged — in fact, a place where everyone is given permission to be exactly where they are in this moment.” (Anna Guest-Jelley: Yep, I’m a Fat Yoga Teacher)

    “The other truth about inspiration is that you will be most inspired by people who you can see yourself in.” (Elliott Hulse: Truth about people who inspire you)

    being strong on purpose

    August 1, 2012

    I fear I am not alone in suffering from a lack of goal-driven physical behaviour.

    My workout Your workout
    1. hang-cleans + pull/chin-ups
    2. yoga class
    3. dips, attempt pistol squats up on a bench, machine hack squat
    5 minutes rowing to warm up followed by 8 rounds of:
    1. row 100m
    2. 10 dumbbell squats
    3. 10 thrusters
    4. 10 deadlifts
    5. 10 dumbbell rows
    6. 10 pushups
    7. 10 modified pullups
    8. 10 crunches
    9. 10 leg raises
    10. 10 burpees
    …yeah, rounds 9 and 10 didn’t happen and I had to drop down from 15lb dumbbells to 10s partway through. But ya know what? It’s good to fail every once in a while…in the words of Jillian Michaels, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

    We each lack a goal. Moving 10-15# may be good practice for the bucket brigade. Picking myself up off the ground is a neat trick, as is cleaning a barbell from the floor, only I merely go through the motions without a strength-related benefit in mind.

    Until the gym closed for renovations early this summer, I was doing well with the StrongLifts 5×5 program. Next, I looked into bodyweight, floor-based exercises and read about Matt Furey’s favourite trio. My flexibility let me begin bridging gymnastic style (i.e. hands and feet on the floor–neck not supporting any weight, just bending in line with the rest of my spine).

    More recently, I read of Pavel Tsatsouline. (Videos: pistol / one-leg squat; one-arm push-up) Some people disagree with Pavel and that is important because of the need to listen to one’s own body.

    I know I must ask myself what I wish to accomplish. This post is tagged aiki because, in retrospect, I know my strength goal: To learn my body, and balance my body, through strength. This means trying new challenges, probably cycling through the three programs and finding a way to overlap them.

    Glancing over the strength standards I suppose my long-term relative strength goals might be:

    1. 2x: squat, deadlift
    2. 1.5x: clean, chest press, pull-up
    3. 1x: handstand push-up (overhead press)

    (Snatch is not available to me. I must work on shoulder flexibility.)

    It looks like I’m ‘stuck’ in a mindset of moving a mass (or myself) in a straight line. There’s so much more to it that I will have to continue this anon.

    In parting, let’s think over Dave’s words of self-permission.

    10 pounds

    June 14, 2012

    I really like how Cheryl phrased her reader questions in 10 pounds.

    How do you approach your weight?
    I’m torn between wanting my scale weight to increase (via muscle bulk – egotistical) and wanting better agility (via exerting the additional effort to build strength instead of mass – functional). Also, I have to accept my need to learn to sew alterations to turn off-the-rack clothing (or a bolt of fabric) into well-fitting clothing.
    Do you ever distract yourself by focusing on the wrong thing? (weight, or maybe getting straight As instead of focusing on learning, etc.)?
    Yes, although it has never been those examples causing me trouble. 1) Uncalibrated measurements mean little to me in comparison with body shape or having my clothing fitting well. 2) I could have placed more focus on marks and mastering material than on the enjoyment of learning.

    My ongoing task is to figure myself out. One paradigm asks, what do I enjoy? do well? which is valued by other people? and can become a self-supporting occupation/lifestyle? Another paradigm asks, what do I value? how can I accomplish this? and can I support myself in this manner?

    Usually planning is the procrastination for this sort of introspection. I procrastinate more than I plan (let alone doing this work of introspection). I have difficulty answering familiar questions such as ‘what do you enjoy?’ and I think this feeds my procrastination–a sort of admission to failure–instead of being a cause of my procrastination. After all, who else can not name something they truly enjoy doing? Perhaps I see the world through logical lenses and grasp only the abstract benefits, abandoning any emotional side to my activities.

    What’s one thing you’ve done for yourself that’s made you healthier and happier lately?
    Reading your posts this week. Here is how it works for me:

    I know from training that imagery and positivity are beneficial. While I feel self-confidence, I believe I rarely take action to justify it. This leaves me in a state similar to cognitive dissonance. In your recent posts your observations are phrased in ways that help me more clearly see my own situation.

    On my side: Your choices of inspirational quotes are slowly starting to speak to me. On your side: Your commentary and self-questions are revealing both implicit assumptions in your reasoning and invisible scripts you and I have internalized.

    What has me healthier and happier is the positive imagery and better understand of myself which you are enabling.

    When I saw your post title, my first thought was that ten pounds is the mass of a decent bike lock.

    Nutrition Facts Food Labels

    March 8, 2012

    One serving on a package is NOT necessarily one serving according to Canada’s Health Guide” is news to me. I thought there was a deeper connection.

    My curiosity led me to the Food and Drug Regulations [links to the whole big file: PDF 4447 KB; full text as html from or; other links below go to excerpts].

    These Regulations require small packages to claim they are single-servings!

    I did find one connection to the food guide, that

    “prepackaged meal” means a prepackaged selection of foods for one individual that requires no preparation other than heating and that contains at least one serving, as described in Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, published in 1992 by the Department of Supply and Services by authority of the Minister of National Health and Welfare, of

    (a) meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs or milk or milk products other than butter, cream, sour cream, ice-cream, ice milk and sherbet; and

    (b) vegetables, fruit or grain products; (repas préemballé)

    Thank you, Molly, for teaching me about the nutrition facts shopping tool.

    I think I’ll try to stick with foods LACKING an ingredients list, for example potatoes, carrots, eggs, milk*, and rutabaga (which bake into olive oil coated fries wonderfully, taking perhaps 5-10% more time than potatoes to reach a slightly crunchy texture).

    * Milk seems to have an ingredients list because it’s reconstituted from industrial powder into liquid (according to a friend in the dairy industry), spiked with vitamin D3, and then packaged for sale.

    Why we move

    February 28, 2012

    Play (exercise) gains you fun & socialization every time you participate. Competing requires fitness gains through training.

    In response to BBC News – Can three minutes of exercise a week help make you fit?, an article about high intensity, short duration intervals, a friend writes, “I was horrified to hear that some people could work out hours a week with no gains in fitness…how depressing. Makes sense to quit, if that were true.”

    This same friend accidentally coins the phrase coach potato. A coach helps you train and I am familiar with going through the motions without intending to improve, with intending to enjoy the activity and exertion.

    High intensity intervals come in a few flavours,

    High intensity [resistance] training is about making every repetition perfect and moving slowly. The fitness industry likes the FITT acronym: frequency, intensity, time, and type. Spending ten seconds per rep (emphasis on the eccentric phrase) is an adjustment of time which increases the intensity.

    I look forward to playing with each of aerobic and resistance high intensity training.

    delivering instruction for physical activity

    February 9, 2012

    Mention of a spinathon got me thinking about how instruction is given.

    Most activities I do are instructed in the following pattern:

    1. demonstration

    2. key big points explained
    3. slower demonstration, often narrated
    4. subtle points explained
    5. demonstration, perhaps as a variation of the original to stress the points which were explained

    Stationary bicycles have few (three?) body positions. Everything about cadence and resistance is cued without demonstration. A spinning instructor could deliver a perfectly good class while walking about participants after showing the body positions during an introduction.

    I see an instructor’s options include

    1. being a model participant
    2. cuing form improvements to the whole group
    3. providing individual form improvements (verbal, visual, or hands-on)
    4. inspiring participants

    each of which could be limited to a minimum depending upon the circumstances as follows:

    1. A model participant can demonstrate once or be a constant visual reminder to others.

    2. Cuing the group as a whole may come from repeating initial instructions, or offering novel visualizations to encourage proper form.
    3. Individuals lacking form may be compensating for an invisible difficulty, suffer a lack of understanding of the instructor’s communication, or not care. If circumstances permit, open-ended questions to the individual are helpful to determine which cause applies.
    4. Inspiration comes in several forms: doing the work with them; instruction & count-downs; providing distraction (e.g. stories; educational tips); and infectious enthusiasm. Only the first of this list requires physical exertion from the instructor. While the first demands physical skill, the remainder are instructor skills.

    To me, infectious enthusiasm is the mystery component which I most appreciate.

    Why do you instruct the way you do, where you do?

    Hot oatmeal

    February 5, 2012

    Source recipe, modified:

  • oats cooked in milk, chia seeds, banana, cinnamon, and two one egg whites topped with banana, blueberries, homemade granola, and soy nut butter 
  • That made for a delicious dinner. I am glad to have found the recipe.

    (Cold oatmeal prepped at the same time: milk, banana, vanilla extract.)


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