README: A 60-second summary of all this…

Hey everyone,

My name is Neil Pasricha and here’s a quick summary of this blog 1000 Awesome Things and my life since then:

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#959 Planning for snoozes

Hopefully you don't normally set the alarm for midnight

If you’re like me, then a war is waged every morning near your alarm clock. It is a neverending series of epic clashes between The Awake You and The Sleeping You, with each side sticking to its guns, fighting fiercely in the ultimate battle for the first half hour of your day.

Sometimes it seems like if it were up to our subconscious selves, a lot of us would be lazing around in a world of rumpled sheets and dreams all day. You know how it is — maybe at night you’re a level-headed gal with a level-headed plan. “I’ll go for a quick jog tomorrow before work,” you say to yourself. “Maybe whip up some oatmeal afterwards.” But your groggy, bedheaded self just ruins everything the next day. “Let’s keep sleeping,” she convincingly suggests when the alarm goes off, hitting the snooze button on your behalf. “See you in nine!”

I don’t know about you, but for me until recently I’ve been trying to deceive the sleeping me with the only two weapons I’ve got: 1) moving the alarm clock to other side of the room in order to give my waking self time to figure out what’s happening, and 2) setting the time further and further ahead to try and trick my heavy-eyelided other half into believing they’re gonna make me really late.

But after years of playing the same game, it eventually happened. I hit a breaking point. I just couldn’t do it anymore. So now my new gig is trying to keep everybody happy. That’s right, keep snoozing in the picture and hold down a job at the same time. Folks, I’m talking about planning for snoozes. Adding them to the list. Budgeting them right in there. Finally giving them the credibility they’ve so long aspired to and letting them become an official Part Of The Day.

So now I say hey, if you absolutely must get out of bed by 8am, that’s fine. Just set the alarm clock for 7:30 first. Throw your sleeping self a bone and hook them up with three solid snoozes. And you know what, you win too! Those nine extra minutes sometimes feel like an hour, complete with vivid dreams and fresh drool on the pillow to show for it. You wake up refreshed, happy, and smiling. And the best part comes later in the day, whenever somebody asks how you slept — because you know what to tell them:

AWESOME!

Instant heaven

Photos from: here and here

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#960 Strategic trick-or-treating

Breaking many rules

[digg=http://digg.com/arts_culture/Awesome_Thing_960_Strategic_trick_or_treating] Trick-or-treating ain’t no game.

No, it’s a life lesson in goal-setting, planning, and tactical execution. Kids who master trick-or-treating go on to become successful world leaders. Kids who don’t could possibly also do the same, but with less chocolate to show for it. The point is that chocolate is delicious, and you should fill your pillowcase with as much of it as possible. You just have to master the 4 Rules Of Strategic Trick-Or-Treating first:

4. Mo’ money, mo’ problems. In terms of where to go trick-or-treating, there’s always a lot of chatter about getting a drive over to the rich neighborhood for the big score. People would have you believe that the rich enjoy lavishing children with unopened boxes of twinkies and full cases of root beer. But that’s a lie! Rich people got rich by being cheap and their massive front yards will just slow you down. That’s right, you’ll be navigating wrought-iron fences, duck-shaped hedges, and koi ponds instead of ringing doorbells. Instead, aim for the new neighborhood with little kids and the all-important densely packed homes.

3. Dress for success. Trick-or-treating is a race against the clock, so set yourself up for success by wearing running shoes and avoiding masks that affect your visibility. No ballet slippers, high heels, or sandals. No robes, capes, or togas. And none of those cheap plastic masks from the dollar store that attach with a thin elastic and a couple of staples. Basically, keep simplifying your costume and then timing yourself running up and down the basement stairs until you’ve found a winner. If in doubt, go as Carl Lewis.

If she can run, probably a good partner. Just upgrade the shoes.

2. Partner up. It will be tempting to form a trick-or-treating posse and move from door to door as one big, shifty amoeba of fluorescent tape and facepaint. Resist that temptation. The amoeba will cause two problems: first, the group will travel at the speed of the slowest member. That means one kid with flat feet and asthma ruins everyone’s night. Secondly, a big group triggers the rationing instinct in the person handing out candy. They become overwhelmed and default to the “One for you, one for you” candy-for-everyone technique. You don’t want that. So instead, you need to pick one partner. Qualifications for that lucky someone include a low resting heart rate, winning smile, and really cute costume. The last one is key. The costume must trigger the “Aren’t you adorable!” reflex, which inspires extra candy. The gold standard here is a fit toddler in a ladybug costume with new Reeboks.

1. Timing is everything. The last rule is all about the three key stages of Halloween candy collecting. Times may vary depending where you’re from, but they go something like this:

  • The 4 – 6pm Start Up: You must be very active and running around here, before the street gets too busy. This is your time to hit the houses at the peak of their inventory levels, when they may hand out more because of excess supply or poor foresight.
  • The 6 – 7pm Rest Up: This is when the streets are their busiest. Don’t get caught in other people’s amoebas. Now’s the time to go home and dump out the pillowcase and refresh the face paint. Also, it’s a good time to hit your local fast-food joints. McDonald’s is usually pretty generous.
  • Late night scrapsThe 7 – 9pm Clean Up: Now it’s all about picking up the scraps. Some houses will be left with too much candy and they’ll start giving handfuls instead of fingerfuls. Others will feel guilty about running out and start handing out creative treats from their kitchen like cups of pudding or boxes of Jello powder. The Clean Up stage is a real test of your cardio fitness levels, as many houses will have turned out their lights by now, forcing you to zig-zag the street in search of the remaining bounty.

Now that you’ve got a game plan, just remember to keep it clean out there. Under cover of night and camouflage facepaint some folks venture into the murky trick-or-treating ethical gray zone. Stay away from these folks, because while they’re telling people it’s their birthday too, collecting a second bag for a ‘sick sibling at home’, or body-checking toddlers into bushes on their way up the walk, you can rest knowing that you came out to play by the rules.

And you won.

AWESOME!

Go for gold, just like Carl Lewis

Pictures from: here, here, and here

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#961 Yellow teeth

Not pretty

Hey, since when are teeth supposed to be beaming white, shining like little flashlights whenever somebody laughs or smiles?

The way it’s been lately with the whitening strips, gels, gums, and toothpastes, the baking soda this, the dental bleaching that, well it almost seems like Having Bright White Teeth is becoming another mandatory personal hygiene norm, landing in the pile with a hollow clank alongside showering every day, wearing deodorant, and flushing the toilet when you only did Number One.

So to that I say: Wait! Let’s just settle down and calmly rethink this whole situation before it gets out of hand. We haven’t checked the box and stamped approved on the application just yet, so people, there’s still time. We can reject unnaturally white teeth and go back to the way things were.

Yes, I’m talking about the yellow teeth of your youth, the au natural teeth, the teeth you grew up with, the modest aw shucks pearly yellows of Joe Everyman and Jane Everylady. We can still embrace the teeth that get stained with coffee and smoke and spaghetti sauce and Indian food. The teeth that love us no matter who we are or what we eat.

If you aren’t yet picking up what I’m putting down, then I’ve got just one more reason to love yellow teeth again: cause white teeth hurt. I’m talking hot and cold sensitivity, weakened enamel, and receding gum lines. Girl, it ain’t pretty. Don’t get messed up and addicted to the whitening stuff. No, we like having you around. Nobody wants to find you sprawled face-down on a stained motel room carpet, little squeezed-out packs of Crest Whitestrips laying all over the floor.

So come with me, back to the world where teeth are yellow. The way they were meant to be. And hey, next time someone comes up to you, points you square in the mouth, and says “Buddy, your teeth are yellow!”, just smile, look them square in the eye, and say, “Why yes, yes they are. And you know what? I think that’s alllllllllright.”

AWESOME!

Now that's what I'm talking about

Photos from: here and here

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#962 Being the guy on the construction crew who gets to hold the Stop sign

Sometimes you drive by those construction workers and you just can’t believe what they’re going through.

Everyone’s face is covered in hot soot, sewer grease, and rain. One guy is up to his neck in the road, another is jackhammering his spinal column into dust, and then there’s the guy driving the big roller, smearing steaming asphalt around like butter. And littering all these folks are the guys cranking pickaxes into the ground and the ones trying to steer big, clunky bulldozers down the narrow gravel shoulder beside the ditch. Of course, everyone on the team’s losing brain cells by the minute from the fumes which smell like a jammed laser printer had sex with a gas station.

If you happen to be working on a team of construction workers, then I think you’re pretty lucky if they hand you the job of being the guy who gets to hold the Stop sign. You must be either the grizzled veteran who earned each day of the Stop sign job with each slipped disc over the years, or you’re the skinny, babyfaced newbie who nobody trusts within a quarter mile of the job site.

Either way, if you can handle the guilt then your job’s, well…

AWESOME!

Best job ever

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#963 When someone offers to toss your dirty clothes in with their load of laundry

Where it happened

While flipping channels mindlessly the other day I ended up on the fast money round of Family Feud just as the host said to the contestant, “Name a household chore you don’t mind doing.”

The contestant flashed a split-second look of massive confusion before reluctantly spitting out an answer. When it was the second guy’s turn to answer the same question, he flashed the same look. Eyebrows furrowed, squints formed, and they looked like they thought it was a trick question. One ended up saying vacuuming and the other went with washing the dishes. Neither got the top answer which was doing laundry, so they unfortunately went home with empty pockets flipped inside-out with flies coming out of them.

But you know what? I’m with them. Who knew people liked laundry? That can’t be true. For me, laundry has two major strikes against it:

  1. Time. Laundry requires a huge time investment. You can’t just set it and forget it like our trusty old pal The Dishwasher. No, a few loads of laundry means an afternoon in and out of the laundry room or a night reading magazines at the laundromat. And you gotta be on the ball too, ready at any moment to rebalance the washer, transfer clothes into the dryer, or fold shirts before they get wrinkled.
  2. Effort. I am baffled by the laundry sorting process and have trouble interpreting that fancy hieroglyphic Triangle Square Circle language somebody invented to ruin my clothes.

Laundry hieroglyphics

For all these reasons it’s great when you’re lazily watching Family Feud on the couch and your spouse, roommate, or sibling trucks by carrying a basket full of clothes. If you’re lucky enough to get that “Hey, need to throw anything in here?”, then it’s show time! Now get going!

You’ve got maybe a minute or two before the washer starts filling up, so now’s your chance to immediately drop everything, run to your dirty clothes, and start flinging out everything you need over the next few days. Do it fast, run back to meet them, and thank them profusely as you toss your clothes in their pile.

Then it’s back to the couch for the Triple Money round, where you can rest easy knowing you’ll have some freshly cleaned undies for tomorrow morning.

AWESOME!

Sparkling clean

Photos from: here, here, and here

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#964 The day when you first realize you can drive

A classic

When I was sixteen the local Driver’s Ed course was offered on a muggy, unbearably humid week in the dead of summer. The classroom was on the top floor of an old, downtown building, the kind housing a mixed bag of dentists, lawyers, and old travel agencies with faded posters in the windows, brown beaches and blue oceans now all a uniform dull gray, the dented and scratched selling point under the bold promise “You’ll never want to come home again!”

The classroom had no air conditioning — just a few windows propped open with books and rulers, pleading with ol’ Ma Nature for some heavenly breeze to keep us awake and help us get through the day. We panted and dripped and the room reeked like a pack of chalk crumbled like saltines into a big soup bowl of sweat.

It was a strange class, because nobody knew each other and we were all going separate ways after the week was up. The in-car lessons following the in-classroom ones were to be done one-on-one, with the instructor picking us up from our house and taking us to parking lots and quiet sideroads to master The Art of the Wheel.

Dad shows the way

I don’t know about you, but for me that week of Driver’s Ed classes was torture. Learning how to drive in a classroom is like learning to ride a bike in a swimming pool. It just makes no sense. Overheads were thrown up on screen and the instructor would spend half an hour drawing triangles to show us our blind spots. We would discuss the history and importance of seatbelts and watch lengthy videos of a camera pointed out the windshield of a moving car with the narrator saying things like “I see an intersection on my left. I notice there are no cars coming. I proceed through the intersection.”

It’s fair to say most of Driver’s Ed class is pretty foggy to me. My notes are long gone and there’s no way I could draw you a picture of my blind spot. But there is one thing that I do remember from those classes. One bit of one lecture on one afternoon that stuck in my head. It was when the instructor said that every driver goes through four steps on their way to learning how to drive. Tapping his chalk on the blackboard to get our attention he continued, “It’s just a matter of knowing what step you’re in.”

  • Step 1: You don’t know you don’t know. You’ve never tried to drive a car before so you have no idea that you suck at it. All you know is that there are cars everywhere and people driving them. So what’s so hard about that?
  • Step 2: You know you don’t know. Surprise! You can’t drive. You realize it the first time you make a painfully slow and wide turn into the wrong lane. It hits home when you tire-punch the curb and accidentally run a red light, but slow down for a green one you think should be changing. You can’t park, can’t parallel park, can’t park on a hill, and forget to signal. It’s depressing, but at least now you know you don’t know. You made it to Step 2, whether you wanted to or not.
  • Step 3: You know you know. After a while it finally comes — the blissful day when you realize for the first time you can drive! Step 3 usually arrives after scaring a few pedestrians, enduring a few frustrating coaching sessions with your parents, and listening to a few dozen “Uh-oh, you’re on the road?” jokes. But you finally made it. And now you’re higher than a kite, sitting pretty on Cloud 10. Congratulations!
  • Step 4: You don’t know you know. Eventually, it becomes old hat. You know you’re on Step 4 the first time you arrive at work instead of the grocery store on Saturday morning or land in your driveway with a sudden panic that you can’t remember the last fifteen minutes of your commute. “How did I get here,” you ask yourself, before eventually realizing that you must’ve just driven home in a waking dream, signaling subconsciously and turning effortlessly, your brain clicking over to autopilot without letting you know. When this happens you’re on Step 4. You don’t even know you know anymore.

But this isn’t about Step 4. It’s about Step 3. It’s about the great joy of realizing you’ve learned something new, something massively new, and can feel proud that your effort, practice, and determination have finally paid off. That first day you first realize you can drive is a wicked high.

And isn’t it a great sense of freedom when the road hockey rinks and street chalkboards of your childhood transform into highways to drive-ins and out-of-town parties? The world seems to suddenly shrink and open up. It’s cool thinking how many cities and places connect to the street you live on. That’s when you look up to the sky, smile and nod slowly, and recall the faded posters of the old travel agency downtown.

“You’ll never want to come home again!”

AWESOME!

It's all yours

Photos from: here and here

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#965 Building a stack of pancakes that looks just like the front of the box

The goal

It’s no joke and it takes teamwork, timing, and trust, but building a stack of pancakes that looks just like the front of the box can be one of the most rewarding breakfast experiences of your life. Here’s how you can make the magic happen:

1. Assemble a team. You will need a Cook, a Condimenter, and a Table-Setter. The Cook should be an early riser and self-starter. They need to have the skill and confidence required to make breakfast for a group as well as a basic understanding of what a circle looks like. Your Condimenter needs to understand the value of real butter and decent maple syrup and know where to find it. A driver’s license is necessary here. And lastly, there’s the Table-Setter. Prior experience is mandatory. Also a plus is the ability to fold napkins into nice triangles.

2. Night-Before Prep Work. Yes, the show begins the night before. The Condimenter needs to make sure all the key ingredients are in the house. Is there enough powder in the pancake box? Is the tap water running okay? How about the syrup and butter? If necessary, make a list and go to the store before it closes. We don’t want to find out in the morning that something’s missing. Nobody will sleep well not knowing.

3. Rest up. It doesn’t matter what time you go to sleep. Just make sure you squeeze enough solid hours of golden slumbers in there to power up the juices and get the engine revving the next morning. Remember: groggy kitchen work is sloppy kitchen work. Nobody likes an oblong pancake.

The spider pancake

4. Wake up and get down to pancakes. Showtime! Now it’s the Cook’s time to shine. This job is not for the weak minded. The Cook must first set the oven to a low temperature, because that’s going to be the holding bay until a full stack of pancakes are ready. This isn’t going to be one of those “Got a fresh one on the frying pan — who wants it!” type of days. This is a slow building crescendo towards a massive stack of pancakes. Let’s not forget that. Once we’ve got the oven set low, the Cook starts doing their thing — tying their hair into a bandana if necessary, getting the frying pan warmed up, mixing the batter. The Cook must be able to sacrifice their own rumbling stomach for the good of the group. There can be no breaks until the full stack of pancakes are cooked, kept warm, and ready to serve. The Table-Setter must be busy here too, pulling out the silverware, laying out the plates, and folding napkins. And rounding out this majestic circus-like performance is the Condimenter, busy pouring juice and jigsawing perfect squares of butter.

Team, remember what we’re playing for here: a towering stack of hot, fluffy pancakes drizzled with sweet, slow-moving syrup, delicately topped with a thick, perfectly melting square of butter.

Yes, it takes a bit of time. Yes, it takes real effort. And yes, you will require a solid lineup of team players who never take their eyes off the end goal. But what could be more fun on a weekend morning than creating your very own stack of pancakes that looks just like the front of the box? (Hint: Nothing.)

AWESOME!

What we're playing for

[digg=http://digg.com/arts_culture/Make_the_front_photo_of_a_pancake_box_an_awesome_reality]

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#966 Living with someone who doesn’t mind killing spiders

Long legs on daddy

It’s great living with someone who doesn’t mind killing spiders.

In college we would call upon our roommate Dee to take care of the job. It was almost too easy, too. “Dee!,” we’d yell from the couch, lazily flipping channels while eating Chef Boyardee, “Spider.” And that was it, really. Sure enough, every time, Dee’s bedroom door would crack open, his lumbering frame would cast long shadows down the hall, and he’d step out slowly, raise his eyebrows, and then just go about taking care of business. I always admired his quiet, serious approach to the whole thing. No exchange of pleasantries, no asking for help, no mentioning it later. It was just business with him. Case closed, open and shut. He’d finish up and go back to studying in his room like nothing happened. Life was good.

You get this plus your wits

Then I got married and the role of Spider Killer was delegated to me. It’s a fair arrangement and I don’t mind the responsibility, but I have to tell you: it’s a different story when you’re the one calmly grabbing a Kleenex from the bathroom on demand, walking over to the spider, squishing it to smithereens, and then flushing it down the toilet to seal the deal. Because that’s when it really hits home. That’s when you first feel the weight of the spidercide resting squarely on your conscience. It’s there and you know it. Eventually you just get numb.

I miss living with Dee. I think I took his role for granted for too long. Looking back, I just want to tell you now: if you currently live with someone who takes care of your spiders, thank them. Hug them. Smile and say you appreciate the good work they’re doing. Because let me tell you, one day you might be called upon to take their place, and only then will you see what they go through each and every time a Daddy Long-Legs scurries up a wall.

So then, altogether now. Let’s hear it for them. Living with someone who doesn’t mind killing spiders?

AWESOME!

Spider heaven

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#967 Illegal naps

Illegal Nap

You know what’s even better than laying on a hammock in the backyard on a sunny Saturday afternoon? Better than catching a few winks after classes before a long night out at the bars? Better than falling asleep on the couch with the baseball game on the radio? You know what’s even better than all that?

I’ll tell you what: illegal naps, my friend. Sneaking them in when you ain’t supposed to.

Beautiful

Napping any time you know you shouldn’t be napping has a bit of an edgy, dangerous feel to it, like sneaking into a movie, sharing a free-refill soda at Applebee’s, or coming across customs without declaring the new sweater you’re wearing.

I’m talking about driving away from work at lunchtime, parking in a nearby parking lot, tilting back your driver’s seat, and then sneaking in a little siesta before an afternoon full of meetings. I’m talking about waking up groggily at 11am after a long night, chomping on handfuls Corn Pops while surfing the Internet for an hour, then going back to the bedroom to crash all afternoon, building towards that exotic and sinful Day O’ Naps. Yes, I’m talking about the naps you pull off in the bathroom stall at work, the ones at the back of the bus just before your stop, and the naps you take in the middle of a big bout of procrastination before a deadline, where you convince yourself that after a few zzz’s you’ll have more energy to finish up that big paper due in a few hours.

So come on! If you’re with me then you agree life’s just too short not to sleep when you feel like it. So lower those blinds, unplug that alarm clock, and nap strong, nap long, and nap proud, my friends.

AWESOME!

This post is in The Book of Awesome

A work of art

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#968 Barbecue lighters

Light my fire

Shouldn’t all lighters be replaced by barbecue lighters? They’re not much more expensive, but they’re so much more practical. No burning of the fingers. No getting your thumb all scraped. No trying to find this tiny little lighter that could be anywhere. You can’t lose a barbecue lighter. The thing’s the size of a fork. Sure, it’s got a little more weight, but it still fits in the average purse or pocket. And you can control the size of the flame! That’s gotta be worth something.

I think everyone should start carrying these things around instead of regular lighters. And who knows, you might actually have to light a barbecue sometime.

So there you go.

AWESOME!

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