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                             Eric Piehl
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Updated on December 09, 2020

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buy batteries, save the planetDo you have money and want to improve things? If so:

If you use batteries, buy these quality rechargeable batteries, and help Burro Brands expand, help the poor and save the planet.

If your space needs a bike rack, buy a Bike Petalchoose the Bike Petal tree-like vertical bike rack, designed and built in West Michigan.  Fun, way cool, impossible for pedestrians to trip over, stores bikes compactly and out of the rain.  I saw one at my local community college (just out of bike range for me), but there is supposed to be one in my local town now.  Will use the next time we ride to dinner.


For 3 years, I was a bicycle commuter.  Started out one day a week/half the year.  Later extended to twice a week/two-thirds of the year (minimal ice and snow on my bikepaths).  If not in school/doing special projects, and feeling good, sometime push four days a week.  My recommendations:

  • Plan.  Drive your commute, and look for problem areas.  Find ways to deal with that.  Take your bike to a bikeshop for a tune-up.  Spend the money—you will make it back on decreased driving and medical costs.
  • bike helmet PSA
  • Get a brain bucket!  I used to try on about 50 helmets before I settled on what that fits, but the new suspensions are much easier to adjust.  If your helmet is damaged or over 4 years old, get a new one.  If you live in a cold climate, bring your favorite thin windproof hat or earwarmers.  Get a helmet that fits!  If not advanced, have the clerk adjust the straps correctly—right before your ear lobes, and chinstrap tight enough so only two fingers fit.
  • Be visible!
    Cycling Dangerously artWear bright colors—thanks for the yellow T-shirt, kids! 
    Wear reflective stuff—thanks for the reflecto-belt, Marty! 
    Wear blinkies (flashing lights) to the front, rear and side—thanks, Marty and me!  Mine are battery-powered, mounted high, and obnoxious—I love them.  These new ones are passive—install and forget.
    Half of all biking deaths, roughly, are of urban ninja riders—riding with dark clothing at nighttime, no lights, or wrong side of the road.  Don't ride like this—>
  • Don't ride drunk.  Another quarter or third of biking deaths are BWI or BUI.  12 hours from bottle to pedal.
  • Wear eye protection.  Keep bugs (warm) or sand (cold) out of your eyes.  Sunglasses are fine, as are prescription glasses, with or without clip-ons.  If selecting them in the store, put them on, look down, and shake your head around.  If they stay put and give good coverage, they are good.  Since my distance prescription is only 1/2 and 1/4 diopters, I got some cool clear safety glasses for rides near the winter solstice (November, and the very few times I can ride in December- to early March).  The farther down my cheeks, the less they fog when I breath out fast.  Whatever you have will be fine;  later, you might seek improvements.
  • Cycling Dangerously art
  • Ride courteous.  Ride just like you are a car.  Well, okay, you can't ride that fast.  Pretend you are a backhoe, or a piece of farm machinery, just happen to be a little narrower.  If there isn't bike PSA1.5 lanes, take your lane.  Your lane is the right-most lane that goes your direction—if that is number 3 lane of 4, that lane is yours.  Generally, I ride in the right-tire track, except the few hundred feet when I am in lane 3 of 4 on Kraft crossing 28th Street, I take the middle—that lane is mine.  If on-street parallel parking, stay 3 feet inboard of car doors.
  • Ride safe.  Take it easy the first few rides.  Only after a few rides do I start to push it—but never higher than my pulsewatch says.
    How to Not Get Hit by Cars: Important Lessons on Bicycle Safety.Bike Sign and Grizzly
  • Enjoy the wildlife.  I see bunnies most days in Spring (particularly the juveniles), and even fairly often later in the year.  I occasionally see a deer family.  And a wild turkey once. And if I leave on time, the nicely-dressed woman in her 80s, who is out there walking every single day at that time.  And all the dogwalkers, stroller-pushers, and so on.  And the changing weather, flowers and trees.
  • Ride your local bike routes.
    Bikepath map for Michigan's Ada Township.
    Bikepath map for Michigan's Grand Rapids area, more detailed .pdf version.
    Bikepath map for Michigan's Kent County Trails.
    More maps.
  • Off-season.  When it is too icy to ride, why not assassinate invasive plants?  A great time for it!
  • Advanced.  After you've commuted a couple times, and enjoyed it, call me for shower options and ways to carry gear.  As time goes on, you will acquire more toys (blinkies [flashing lights], rainjacket, trip computer, pulsewatch, mirror, etc.), and probably search out other people who commute.  I'll dig out my blog on how my bike is currently pimped out.  And:
    Click to pledge to share Michigan roads  •  A good stretching link:  League of Michigan Bicyclists.
      •  Getting Started,
      •  Bicycling Street Smarts: Riding Confidently, Legally and Safely,
      •  Commuting,
      •  Ride to Work Month,
      •  Aging and Cycling,
      •  What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know,
      •  Bicycle Friendly Communities,
      •  NHTSA bicycle safety info and movies, and
      •  Sierra Club's Bike Commuting Resources, including your bike, your first day, weather and tips for female cyclists from a female cyclist.
  • Super-advanced.  Winter two-wheeled commutes.  I don't do this yet.
  • Sign the biking directions petition.
  • Get your relatives to take the test.
  • Funny that I wrote the above before this LA Times article (archived at


Invasives, click for Oriental Bittersweet, may be down for USA goverment shutdownWhen it is too icy to ride, why not assassinate invasive plants?  A great time to elminate "biological pollution"!  Lots of people pull garlic mustard in April/May, and lots of people attack oriental bittersweet and blackberries in July/August, and I do, too.  But is is hot and sweaty then, particularly if armored against thorns with jeans, boots, thick leather gloves, thick long-sleeved shirt, heavy hat, and safety glasses.  Why not do it when it is 2° below freezing, you have better access to the base of the plant due to die-back of annuals, you can easily walk through swampy areas, and you aren't sweating to death!  Oh, I sweat, too—wearing not much more than I would in the summer (gaiters and hat-that-covers-my-ears)—but not like in summer!

Here is how you get started:

  • Get educated.  Invasives = cause harm + nonnative + become established. 
    They used to be called "Noxious Weeds."  Info:
      •  Find yourself a Master Naturalist (MI) or Master Gardener Volunteer (MI) or Stewardship Network (MI) or someone.  Gardeners: get soil tested for what fertilizer you need, or ask an expert!
      •  Read "Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants"
          book by Douglas W. Tallamy (his suggestions on what you should plant).
      •  National Invasive Species Information Center
      •  National Park Service Weeds Gone Wild
      •  Pacific Northwest Invasive Plant Council
      •  Midwest Invasive Plant Network MIPN
      • > Invasive Plant Strategies
          (Keep a Lookout for Unwanted Invasive Plants).
      •  MNFI's Field Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Michigan's Natural
    (about, and order).
      •  MNFI's Best Control Practice BCP Guides.
      •  Macomb County's mirror of MDNR's broken mirror, with
          1 BCP more than MNFI above.
      •  Michigan Invasive Species Information Network MISIN
          Early Detection Rapid Response
      •  Michigan Invasive Plant Council
      •  tools
      •  TODO: brochure

    My targets:
      •  For Ginny, I made a map of our target FHPS CWMS and surrounding area.  I did not
          use Google maps.  I wanted the property lines, so I used the Kent Co GIS link iMAP >
          Zoom In and drag > repeat until zoomed in enough to see parcel lines > click parcel.
          Then hand off to what team?
            USGS topographical maps.
            BLM GeoCommunicator Land Survey Information System.
            MISIN Invasive Species mapping workshop 2012-Aug-16 at Calvin.
          Helps for other projects:
            Ottawa County GIS.
            Regional GIS REGIS from Grand Valley Metropolitan Council GVMC (covers parts
              of West Michigan counties Montcalm, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Allegan and Barry,
              including Grand Rapids).
      •  Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata (army) (MISIN).
      •  Oriental Bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus (army)
      •  Multiflora Rose Rosa multiflora (army) (MISIN).
      •  Autumn Olive Elaeagnus umbellate (army)
    plus later, maybe:
      •  Japanese Knotweed Fallopia japonica or Polygonum cuspidatum (army) (MISIN) (MIDNR).
      •  not yet Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum (local paper) (MIPN).
      •  more (army) (MISIN).

  • Garlic Mustard, may be down for USA goverment shutdown
  • Pull.  This is a great way to start, and a great one for kids, of all ages.  Some plants can be easily pulled up, roots and all, such as garlic mustard.  This is a great one for kids of all ages, from 4 to 104.  For oriental bittersweet, adults can pull it up until it gets a few years old, then it requires a big guy, or cutting-through and herbicide.

    PPE (Personal Protective Equipment):  Nothing special!  Any shoes, even sandals.  A sun-hat, perhaps.  Water, if you are going to be out a while.  Some like to wear light gloves, most do not.

    Org:  By yourself, to groups of 30.  Pairs work well—it gives you someone to talk to!

    Tools:  Large black trashbags.  That's all!

    Disposal:  Pulled-up oriental bittersweet may be hung from trees to dry out—don't let it reroot.  Garlic mustard must be be bagged, and put in the landfill.  Yes, landfill.  Do NOT put in a compost pile or anything else, the seeds will survive for years, and you will have LOTS of garlic mustard growing in and near your compost pile.  Even if your jurisdiction does not allow "yard waste" in the trash, most allow noxious weeds like this to be put in.  Mine allows bagged garlic mustard if part of a pull supervised by a Master Gardener or Master Naturalist.  Since I am married to one, that part is easy.  :-)

  • Oriental Bittersweet
  • Cut.  I like this when going out by myself.  Sub-method: cut-and-paint.

    PPE (Personal Protective Equipment):  The stuff above, plus leather gloves, closed-toed shoes or boots, and glasses/sunglasses/safety-Author after cuttingglasses.  I get sloppy after two hours, and safety-glasses has saved me a stick in an eye.  Optional thick long-sleeved shirt and armored sunhat.  Mine is embroidered with the name of favorite philosopher.

    Org:  If a crew, you need one or more cutters, zero or more haulers (depending on what you are cutting), and one dauber to paint cuts with herbicide (see below).  By yourself, you can go with a saw in one hand and a dauber in the other.  Without a dauber, know that the plant will regrow—you are just doing a holding action by knocking it back a few years.  Use that time to organize a crew!

    Stuff author cutTools:  A good-working pair of bypass hand-loppers, and a small folding saw.  And optionally, a Hori-Horisoil knife.  If you are going out for hours, clean them, and oil the blade and moving parts, letting the oil soak in overnight.  I love my Corona Professional RS 7041 folding saw.  If you live in West Michigan/Grand Rapids, get the similar A.M. Leonard 7" folding sawfrom River City Wild Ones.  After losing my saw in the forest a few times, causing me to walk back and find it, I outfitted it with a different-colored zip-tie and caribiner to hold it to a belt loop.  After losing three right leather gloves, I bought a grommet kit, put grommets on a fourth pair of gloves, and put them on the same carabiner.  Haven't lost a glove since.  I also love my Felco #2 bypass pruners, which I keep in a holster, with a free Hori-Hori soil knife, and a free seemingly-good bypass pruner (which is still in the box, because the holster is so good I no longer lose my Felcos). And since I live West Michigan, I got this set from River City Wild Ones.  Great things to put on your belt any time you walk in the forest!

    Disposal:  For vines, hang roots where they won't re-root (perhaps on a branch).  In winter, it just needs to stay overnight to freeze their little rootsies;  in summer, for a few days.  The vines can stay until they rot.

  • Dig.  I learned how to do this from other volunteers at Ada Township, Michigan (Ada Township video Space Worth Preserving).  Remarkably effective against viney things, like blackberries, raspberries and multiflora rose.  You do need a large place to put the refuse.

    PPE (Personal Protective Equipment):  All stuff above.  Boots are more effective than shoes when working with shovels.  When working with blackberries, raspberries, multiflora rose, haulers need thick leather gloves, the thicker the better.

    Org:  Best in teams of three—one digger and two haulers.  Cut-and-paint needs Multiflora Roseone dauber for a team of four.

    Tools:  Mini-pitchfork or shovel (I prefer a narrow blade and long handle).  Digger puts their tool just under the roots, and pushes down on the handle to push up and expose the roots.  Haulers haul them away.  Is kinda too tiring to do both.

    Disposal:  You need a big place to put the refuse, either a burn pile, or a big compost pile.  If the latter, be prepared for some rerooting to take place, with which you must deal in a year or two.

  • Herbicide Wand Applicator
  • Paint.  Herbicides are the quickest way to go.  Sub-methods include:
      •  Herbicide Applicator Wand Dauber.
      •  Basal Bark spaying (autumn olive).  TODO: expand.
      •  Drill and Fill (oriental bittersweet and tree of heaven).  TODO: expand.
      •  Area spaying ().  TODO: expand, and talk about calibrating a backpack sprayer.
      •  Cut-and-Paint or Cut-Stump (autumn olive).  Cut-Core (Japanese knotweed).  TODO: expand.
      •  Glove of Death.  TODO: expand.

    PPE (Personal Protective Equipment):  As above, and as descried on all labels of the herbicide you are using.  Probably will include shoes and socks, long-sleeved shirt, glasses or goggles, and chemical-resistant gloves.  Not medical exam gloves— they will get poked with holes immediately.  Get some real chemical-resistant gloves, perhaps from Forestry Supply.

    Spraying, click for Multiflora Rose, may be down for USA goverment shutdownOrg:  Spraying can be done by yourself.  But is nice in pairs, with one person to keep track on a map, cut access to where the sprayer needs to go, confirm what plant is what, etc.

    Tools:  Herbicide.  TODO: describe, card.  Backpack sprayer from AM Leonard or ? on web.  If hard water, add 17 lb. NH3SO4 per ?.  "Michigan Blend" from CWC-Chemical or Wilbur-Ellis Co see card.  Pathfinder II.  Garlon 4 Triclopyr for multiflora rose.

    Disposal:  Clean up as described on the label.

  • Get outside!
  • If you are still reading, and doing the above, you probably want to learn about Getting your Commercial Certified Pesticide Applicator license.


Many elections are won or lost by less than one or two percentage points;  some by only a few tens or hundreds of votes.  It happens every election cycle.  When we vote, we do make a difference.  Generation-Y or cool-boomers-who-understand-urban-symbology only, please see Eminem's Mosh.

50 states > Voter Registration section, or LWV, or go to your local DMV or SOS office.
Click to see if registered to vote MIchigan:
  •  Check if I am registered to vote (or here), and when, where and how I vote.
  •  Register by mail:  I moved within Michigan.
  •  Register by mail:  First-time voter.
  •  Register by mail:  (if above does not help, click here and boxes on left and links on right).
  •  Register at my local city or township hall > find your clerk.
  •  Register at my local Secretary of State office > Office Locator.

VOTE ABSENTEE, if you wish.              50 states > Absentee Ballot section.
                                                            Michigan > Absentee Voting or Michigan.

  •  When, where and how to vote.    50 states > Polling Place Locator section, or
                                                            LWV, or Voter Information Project VIP.
                                                            Michigan or MichiganIllinois.
  •  Sample ballot (print and mark up at home, then bring into ballot box with you—Yes,
                              you can do that).    50 states, see local paper.
                                                            CAlifornians mailed about 5 weeks before election.
                                                            MIchigan> View Ballots or MIchigan > info > Print.
  •  Progressive Voters Guide.                                                  WA StateIllinois.
  •  Sierra Club endorsements.             50 states.                     Michigan >Endorsements.
  •  League Conservation Voters LCV.  50 states or ScorecardMichigan.
  •  Clean Water Action.                      50 states.                     Michigan > Endorsements.
  •  League of Women Voters LWV.    50 states.                     MI > Voter Guide > Part1+2.
  •  Brady Campaign.                           50 states > yourState.
  •  Family Forum (last 1/2 great list of env labor gay endorse) Michigan > Voter's Guide.
  •  Progressive Women's Alliance.                                        West Michigan.
  •  Helps on judges.                              50 states.
  •  Campaign flyers (tells me if locals are serious or campaign tourists).
  •  For any races in which you still have no information, check websites of organizations
      with which you disagree.  I have one that drills down into nearly all races—call me!
  •  Voting Reminder on email or cell.   50 states.                    Michigan.
  •  Use your marked-up sample ballot to cast your ballot quickly and accurately. 
      Give yourself a pat on the back, for exercising your sacred civic duty!
      Then save it for morning-after quarterbacking.

CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS50 states > Contact Elected Officials section.


So you are now "between positions."  Well, that happened to many of us, even to a family member with a Chairman's Award, patent, 20 years of very good performance appraisals, and whatnot.  Hope you didn't quit a job before the new one is lined up (a bad idea unless required by ethics).

"The strength of a tree, the old ones say, comes not from growing thicker in the good year when there is water, but in staying alive in the bad dry times."
  —The Journey of Crazy Horse, by Joseph M. Marshall III, Ch. 13.

If laid off, file for Unemployment.  Your employers paid into the system for years with money that would otherwise have been available for your pay.  And they did lay you off.

So you might as well have them pay for your transition. 

And if it is a gray area—even if they used the phrase "fired"—still sign up.  I personally know:

  • One person whose boss said "fired," but who described to their state that the alleged reason for the alleged "firing" was not to fault of the employee, but really due to (1) poor maintenance by the employer, and (2) that the employer's poor business practices caused the employer to shed several employees over the preceding months.  The state awarded this person full Unemployment benefits.
  • Another person who said "quit", but who actually refused to work any more hours until paid for the last 1,000 or so hours they had worked.  This person's case is still pending.

So Search"myState unemployment" and sign up.  Sign up today!  (In Michigan, bizarrely, they now want you to wait until Monday 7am after the calendar week in which you last worked.)

If you need more financial help (many do these days), sign up for Food Stamps and other assistance from your State.  If you are a Michigander.  Then come back here ...

Sulk and mope for a few days.

But resume doing whatever centers you (flying, biking, music, yoga, whatever).

Exercise is always great for stress.  Do something that breaks a sweat, for 20 and later 30-40 minutes.  I like biking, but in winter, mallwalking and swimming at a community pool might be more-regularly-available.  (As I write this, my X-C skis are again operational—will have to get out before the storm hits later today.)

After a few days of sulking (didn't that feel good?) ...

Get back to work.

If you have skills in demand out there, a way to search for jobs—worked for three of us 'round here, for five jobs (alas, before the financial crisis of 2007–2012)—was to:

  • Start early.  Jobs in the US State Department take two years to fill, so start today!
  • Network, talk to everybody you know, network, call your old coworkers—and old bosses!  Call them back every third week, network, network, and more networking.
    This is the #1 way to get a job.  Call them!
    The only pain is until you finishing dialing—it is OK after they pick up.
  • Forget the Want Ads in the paper.  Don't even look.  Nobody gets a job this way.
  • Don't bother applying at Boeing, Ford, GE or any other place you want to work.   While they post lots of jobs, they don't actually seem to hire anyone.  See Monster step below.
  • Resume—create a good one:
      •   If you do not have software to create documents or spreadsheets in Microsoft Word- or Excel-format:  (1) go to your public library;  or (2) go to FREE zero-install Google docs;  or (3) install (A) FREE OpenOffice > Download [supposed to be quite good], or (B) 60-day free trial MS Office 2007 > "Test drive, try or buy" > "Download a free trial", or (C) $84.97 if student MS Office 2007 Professional Plus, or (D) wasFree now$ StarOffice.
      •   Example resumes in my resume, Susan Ireland, Microsoft and Monster resumes-for-older-workers.  If you look at mine, you will see "dates on a time-limited [last 10 years] work history, but omit [all dates] from your resume's education section." —that Monster older-workers link.
           But I also maintain a private version with all jobs, all dates, including years and months.  Nice to have on paper if you get handed a real application form that wants that information.  Probably should have kept days, but months is all I have now.
      •  Include all buzzwords and acronyms relevant to your experience or industry, so automated search-bots will find your resume.  The keywords most commonly searched by employers.
      •  Helps from Monster.
  • Post your resume on Monster—headhunter and contracting outfits look here first.
      •  Click "Sign up today" button.  Record your password somewhere (a new password—don't let them know your good ones).
      •  Say, "No, Thanks" to all the ads and "premium services"—only choose free stuff.
      •  Post your resume online, and change its Status to Public.  If you think the interface is buggy and clunky, it is.  Keep at it.  If you get stuck, call me.
  • Every weekday, check your answering machine and emailIf your web-based emailer deletes everything after 30 days, see me about Microsoft Outlook, Spicebird, Mozilla Thunderbird (with Lighting), gmail or other alternatives that will keep your email—all your email—under your control—organized how you want, for as long as you want.
  • Every two or three days, and every Sunday night, put your résumé back on top of the employer search results by:
      •  Click Monster manage resumes.
      •  Make sure it says your Monster id and password, click "Log In" button.
      •  Click "No, Thanks" to all the ads.
      •  Click "Renew" hotspot in the middle of the screen, under your résumé's name.
      •  Semi-automate the Sunday night thing by creating a smartphone appointment or task, MS Outlook recurring task with alarm and a link so you just click at it, or a Windows Scheduled Task.  If you can't figure out how, call me.
  • If you have skills in demand, until the financial crisis of 2007–2011, that was enough to get lots of inquiries with real jobs.  Now, you have to go further.

Once the above is under control ...

More getting back to work:

As you have time, continue:

If you need more help (many do these days), get Food Stamps and other assistance from your State.  If you are a Michigander.

If your Unemployment ran out, file for an extension.  A side-effect of the Great Recession aka Lesser Depression.  Although seems to have been undone by Sequestration.

After you get a job:

One weekend, when developing Monster procedures for another, I turned my Monster resume from Status=Private to Public.  Wow, did I get a lot of calls and emails!  Guess it is because I now have the phrase "embedded software" and work standard "DO-178B" in my resume.  Wish I had known about that a lot earlier!


Relatives and friends now on projects between jobs:

After six years as a B787 Dreambuilder, plus four or five military programs, everything is Certified or is quietly undergoing recertification.  My current project oscillates between active and inactivate, as various phases are completed. In a few months, I will be looking for my next program or project:

If you know of any leads for us, please contact me.


About once a decade, I find that I get less loan or a higher interest rate than expected, I go through this process.  It's free!  I also shared this in Blog 12.0 and 28.0, most recently when a close relative had her records screwed up by a bank error, and two close relatives who had their family's financial information outed by lax security at their or their spouse's employer.  This comes up often enough, I thought I would post it.

The employers above helped put a "Fraud Alert" (formerly"Credit Watch") with the nationwide consumer credit-reporting companies.  Before the credit-reporting company OKs a new account to a vendor (such as a new credit card), they will require some sort of confirmation from you.

A more extreme form is the "Credit Freeze" (formerly"Security Freeze"), apparently allowing no new accounts or loans.

To get one of these, yourself, for free—say, "My account information has been compromised" to:
  •  Equifax Office of Fraud Assistance, PO Box 105069, Atlanta GA 30348, 888-766-0008
              (or maybe it is PO Box 740241, Atlanta GA 30374, 800-525-6285?), and
  •  Experian Credit Fraud Center, PO Box 9532, Allen TX 75013, 888-397-3742, and
  •  Innovis > Personal Services > Fraud Alert or Security Freeze or
              Innovis Consumer Assistance, PO Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA 15230, 800-540-2505, and
  •  TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance, PO Box 6790, Fullerton CA 92834, 800-680-7289.

If any problems, let me know, and we will work them out, or put you in touch with the two I know who have done this in the past.

Am sure that if you succumbed to phishing, you can also put on a "Fraud Alert" or "Credit Freeze" as in the previous paragraph.  Suspect that all it takes to put one on your account is to say, "My account information has been compromised."

In 2017-May/July, Equifax exposed the name, SSN, birthdate, and addresses (current and former) of 143 million Americans, some with their DL and credit card info. Only according to John Oliver last night (2017-Oct-15), it really started in 2017-March, when Equifax ignored a directive from the US Department of Homeland Security John Oliver on Equifax (click image).  And is much worse.  Lots worse!
  •  Until 2017-November or so, check whether your information was released at > button "Potential Impact".
  •  Regardless of the answer, you can then sign up for a year of Equifax free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring "TrustedID Premier".  For a couple weeks, I was trying, but so far, failing.
  •  Or you can listen to John Oliver, who told us last night (2017-Oct-15) (click image) to (A) get a "credit freeze" and not a "Fraud Alert", and (B) do so at Equifax, Experian AND TransUnion.  [And Innovis?]  [See two sections up.]  I am pivoting to this process.

Not sure what to do about debt collectors, and the data aggregators:  Acxiom, InfoUSA and LexisNexis (Accurint, ChoicePoint, etc.)  If you find out, please let me know!

For those with big problems, Suze Orman recommends the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  For those with small problems, please continue...

If you had any credit trouble, no matter how small, order all four direct from the companies under the "you have been declined credit, employment or insurance, or experienced adverse action, your report may be free" clause.  Free, same contact as in the Individual portion of the next paragraph, and does not use up the separate level of freeness there.  If trouble, call me—I did this a couple times.  Or check out this very similar write-up.

Get your your free credit reports individually from the three (they lie—there are four) nationwide consumer credit-reporting companies:
  •  Equifax or 800-685-1111 (800-525-6285?), and
  •  Experian or 888-397-3742, and
  •  Innovis > Personal Services or 800-540-2505, and
  •  TransUnion or 800-916-8800 (800-680-7289?).

Always say "No" to promotions, credit monitoring, credit report monitoring, credit score subscriptions, and identity-theft insurance—you don't need them.  And keep reading...

Even without a compromised identity or adverse action, anyone can get free credit reports once a year, under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) of 2003.  Looking at yours is a good idea:  Time magazine reported that 70% of credit reports contain inaccurate information, 25% bad enough to deny credit.  About right, in my experience.

Get your free credit reports individually using the links above, or collectively from the three (they lie—there are four) nationwide consumer credit-reporting companies, via:
  • (do not go to the similarly-named commercial site) > button Request your free credit reports, or
  •  877-322-8228 (877-FACT-ACT), or
  •  Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348.
If the websites doesn't want to show you the results electronically, it may send
you to to fill out form
to fill out and mail in (with photocopies of a couple id), and get the results on paper.

Always say "No" to promotions, credit monitoring, credit report monitoring, credit score subscriptions, and identity-theft insurance—you don't need them.  You can use free and Federal Trade Commission FTC > "Privacy, Identity & Online Security" instead.  Of course, the consumer credit-reporting companies would rather have you send them money, but I wouldn't want my hard-earned money going to the same people who screw up my records once a decade, and who resisted fixing my daughter's records in 2004.  In this case, she was more persistent than they were.  Yeah, daughter!

Someone on the radio said that for maximum protection against identity theft or disinformation, if you keep a good to-do list, you can request a report from each, out of phase by four months.  For example, I ordered Equifax last December, Experian in April, TransUnion in August, and now back to Equifax, which I just reordered a few minutes ago.  When my sister had her credit info compromised, I recommended being particularly diligent in this for a couple years.

To this, I would add that you ask the IRS to give you an IP PIN.

If you find anything bad, Dispute it.  Also free.  The report tells you how.  They do followup within six weeks or so.  And if it is a gray area (many are), they may remove it anyway if the reporting vendor doesn't get back to them.

Suze Orman says to not check your FICO credit score if you know it is over 700.  Check no more than once a year, but a few months before applying for a loan.  Might cost $15, unless you can sweet-talk your bank into telling you for free.  Suze has a FICO Kit.  My bank and even Costco market credit report and credit score services, the latter provided by one of the big 4 above.

But I do not want to pay for information about me—it's mine, isn't it?  So far, have not needed to.  When I bought a car, I got the salesman to tell me my rating was 730 or something.  If I am ever declined/restricted, I will ask the declining agency what it is, and if they resist, whether it is above or below 700.  Then start again from the top of this article.

Letting you order your credit report is a large step in the right direction.  But what about if we allowed subscribing—signing up to receive your credit report periodically (perhaps a checkoff box on your voter registration application).  And what happened to the fourth company, Innovis?  Write your Congressperson.  You can use this nice write-up (toward the bottom).


I have been listening to some friends and neighbors having or with knowledge of people with persistent asthma, clinical depression, failure to achieve potential, and Asperger's Syndrome.  Not mentioning any names, I have tried to synthesize their experiences into some general truths:

Can't tell from the inside.  One meme seems to be that if you have had a condition all your life, you don't know how it is without it.  Even as an adult, you can't self-diagnose.  You need others—family members, doctors, whatever—to see that you are struggling with something others aren't, to guide you into treatment, and to see if your treatment has gotten you there yet.

For example, if you have always breathed at 85% capacity, or made decisions based on unimportant data, or are plagued with self-doubt, how are you to know that one can do better?  You need someone to tell you there is a Promised Land, and help guide you toward...

Diagnosis.  Once someone points you to a doc, they will take a long history.  Work for a week yourself to prepare your own, so your appointment will be productive, and you won't leave out important information.  Interview family members, too, for their feedback on you.  Or even better, bring a family member.  Kids always have a parent in the room with them, and old-timers often do, too.  But it is a good idea for adults at the their peak, also.  Often we forget relevant information, or don't understand something said to us.  It is always better to have two sets of eyes and two sets of ears.  I call this having a patient advocate around.  The big goal here is to get a diagnosis.  Only after that, do you discuss...

Treatments.  After diagnosis, you can start on a treatment plan with your doc, and read about it on the Internet or books.  Often there may be multiple possible treatments.  You may have to try several, that work with your biochemistry.  Treatments may fail due to (A) efficacy (it just doesn't work for you), or (B) side-effects (they may be worse that the good effect).  Whatever.  Try another treatment.  Maybe in 2030, Personalized Medicine will know which treatment will work with your personal DNA profile, but today all we have to work with is this epidemiological stuff.  Try another treatment, until you get to the...

Sweet Spot.  This is where you are trying to get to—the Promised Land.  This is where that problem you had has faded away, and you are that complete person.  Once you get into the Sweet Spot, stay here.  Your life-difficult problem has now a minor logistics issue (following the treatment, and acquiring refills).  You can concentrate on living a full, rich, exuberant life.  Do that.

If you don't get to the Sweet Spot, try another doc.  Maybe a kid, just out of medical school.  Or a specialist.  Or someone just back from a conference on the subject.  And if you still don't get there, put a task in your calendar 3 years hence to try again.  Some of these areas are changing so quick, the art may have advanced so far that you are now included, instead of left out in the cold.  Keep trying!  You will get there.

Separate articles below on persistent asthma, clinical depression and failure to achieve potential.

Persistent asthma is one of the chronic conditions described above.  The Sweet Spot here seems to be:

  • Some kind of plan, such as a breathing meter and chart when to do to the doc or ER.
  • Some kind of preventative:
    • Inhaled steroid.
    • Perhaps an inhaled long-acting beta-2-blocker, perhaps combined with steroid above in the purple flying saucer Advair.  Although this almost killed one person I know (recovered in hospital after a few days), although this person has cousins who use it successfully.
    • Perhaps a leukotriene inhibitor.
  • A rescue inhaler in your pocket or purse for sports, or sick, or dinner with unexpected cats, or when your asthma otherwise breaks through the above.  Keep your rescue on you religiously—you don't wanna go to the ER because your logistics are bad.  May want to keep a backup in briefcase, particularly if yours is running low.  On 3-week trips or anytime backpacking, bring three—one on you, a backup in your carryon, and a tertiary in your luggage/backpack.

And keep in mind your treatment plan;  that when your rescue fails to have its excellent effect for four hours, call doc and demand an appointment today.  If its effect only lasts 1 hour, go to doc or ER right now—time for a steroid pack or antibiotics.  Not worth dying over a lack of logistics.

Clinical depression is one the chronic conditions described above.  In the old days, there was no treatment.  If lucky, you became a shaman.  Later alcohol.  (Works terrible.)  Then barbiturates.  (Is it useful to keep people in beds?)  Then Prozac.  A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor—something that actually affects the neurotransmitters in the brain, affecting the ability of one brain cell to signal another.  Now we are actually doing something useful.  Doesn't work for some, but there are lots of others now, too.  I know several people who take low-dose SSRIs to keep the dark away, letting them concentrate on living a full, rich, exuberant life.   :-)

Failure to achieve potential ADHD-i is one of the chronic conditions described above.

Great illustration by comedians Rick Green and Patrick McKenna in show "ADD and Loving It"  > Intro.

If you are high-functioning, you probably have organized your work informally:
  •  a calendar for appointments (Girl Scout calendars work great—one for pocket/purse/briefcase, and one for the fridge),
  •  a todo list,
  •  a tobuy list, and
  •  a list of phone numbers, addresses and birthdays.
Maybe you keep these on your smartphone, or in a word processor file, and update and print them off regularly.  Or maybe you have found other defense mechanisms.


First, take this one-day Time-Management class, currently called FOCUS: Achieving Your Highest Priorities Time-Management Workshop.  Some employers will pay for it—mine did.  If you are a close relative, we will pay for it.  Everyone else, pay for it yourself—increased effectiveness will pay for itself a hundred-fold.  Make it a priority—it will change your life.

In the class, start with the paper planner for appointments, todo items and reference lists (tobuy lists, medical stuff, birthdays, etc.).  Later, when you outgrow paper, convert to a smartphone, synchronized "synced" to Google or Microsoft Outlook (full, not Express).  If relative or a professional, for details, please call me.

Second, go find a doc who sees lots of patients with ADD, or who likes to see patients with ADD. 

Channel-surfing our local College Channel, I chanced on this intriguing talk ADHD—Teacher Nuisance Disorder Grows Up and Finds a Job by local Dr. Oren Mason:
  • or
  • or
Some notes from this talk:

Attention-Deficit Disorder ADD will be renamed.  No lack of attention.  There is plenty of attention, but lack of ability to control attention—it is somewhere else, but not on the assigned task.  Inability to direct and maintain attention to what is important.  Very Calvin and Hobbes [Eric: At least two ADD books I opened have Calvin and Hobbes cartoons in them.]

I use ADD and ADHD interchangeably. 
[Eric:  elsewhere I have seen:
ADHD-i   = inattentive type
ADHD-pi = primarily inattentive type
ADHD-h  = hyperactive type, or ADHD
ADHD-c  = combined type.
ADOS     = Attention Deficit—Oh, Shiny!]

Some numbers below are from studies; some are from my practice.

Lots of patients:

  • 8-10% of kids.  [LATimes: Of treated kids, 15 years later, 87% are glad they did.]
  • Probably high in adults, too.  [LATimes: Probaby 5-7%.  Later better study: 9%.]
  • 50-75% of people in our jails.  [Eric:  Really?  If society could catch these people early—before they commit major crimes—and get them into treatment, would we be saving a boatload of money?  Later 15 peer-reviewed studies say 21-45%A newer article shows that treating ADHD lowers crime rates.]
  • Half of the morbidly-obese people in America probably have ADD—who are born on sedentary side and can't modulate up their activity level (more on this later).

Patients with ADD have problems:

  • More marriages dissolve (2X baseline).
  • More crisis pregnancies (10X baseline).
  • More likely to be dismissed from their jobs.  [LATimes: non-treated = 2-3X treated.]
  • Longer unemployment periods.
  • More substance abuse disorder (2-3X baseline).  [LATimes: non-treated = 2X treated.]
  • More driving accidents (bad, 4X baseline).  [3,280 deaths and 200,000 injuries per year in USA, according to calculations on p31, based on numbers from Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.]
  • More speeding tickets.
  • Adults earn $10,000 less than age- education- socioeconomic-matched cohort.  With a professional degree (e.g., doctor, lawyer), a whopping $50,000 less per year.
    [Eric:  That extra $10,000/year at 25% federal + 4% state income tax rates + 17% FICA would make $4,700 per year.  A gov't that spend even $1,000/year on treating this would bring in 5X times the money it spent.  And put $5,300 in the pocket of that individual's household.  For professionals, multiply by 5.]
  • Resumes do not look as good as their potential would indicate.
  • Fewer skills than their potential would indicate.
  • Lower level proficiency attained.
  • Less education than their potential would indicate.
  • Very few adults with high IQs (120-140) and ADD are able to finish college.  (Although ADD does not mean they have higher IQs.  More on that later.)  [LATimes: ADD kids, 15 years later, 5% non-treated v. 50% treated graduate from college.]
  • More job changes (> 5 jobs/10 years) than the general population.
  • More likely to be self-employed.
  • ADD rarely travels alone: 80% of ADDs will have some other diagnosable disorder:
    • bipolar,
    • depression (20X baseline in young women!),
    • anxiety,
    • substance abuse disorder,
    • dyslexia (20% of all ADDs also have dyslexia),
    • various other learning disabilities.

Why do patients settle down and study better under stimulants like amphetamines and Ritalin?  [Eric:  Do some self-treat with caffeine, including coffee or Diet Mt. Dew?]

ADDs are impaired in Executive Functions (when we actually do something):

  • Modulation functions: control opposing or conflicting forces.
    • For example, "I am driving now-cannot let me get near sleep." Executive function of the brain.
    • Modulating what you say, in what circumstances.
    • ADDs lack function in this executive modulation function.
  • Self-assessment is also poor in ADDs
  • Task-persistence. Enthusiastic starts, without being able to maintain or finish them 5 months, 9 months, 4 years later.
  • Chronic lateness. Not due to laziness and not due to not caring.
  • Can see these impairments in the brain now with functional MRI fMRI, actually see that there is a frontal-striatal dysfunction, that norepinephrine and epinephrine are underperforming in the anterior cingulate gyrus portion of the brain.  [Eric: Seems to be just a going-outward fold (gyrus) just above the eyes, an inch back (posterior) from the forehead, and just noseward (anterior) from the one nerve bundle that connects the two brain hemispheres (the corpus callosum).]
    • The part of the brain that does these executive function is not "on". Another area of the brain is.
    • Not enough dopamine and norepinephrine in this area.
    • Interest. Passion. Novelty. Hard to get those areas of the brain light up when they are supposed to light up.
    • Function goes to other area (near the amygdale emotional reptile-brain) that is not so good at it?
    • Even if you tell yourself, "I need to do this," that command will die due to lack of these two neurotransmitters in this part of the brain.
    • Which is due to hyperactive reuptake recycler of these chemicals.
    • The drugs that work for ADD are those that slow down that hyperactive recycler. That is why the drugs work pretty well.  :-)
    • Inborn. Part of genetic makeup.

Neuro-typicals (NTs) can get stuff done for both reasons:

  • Emotional.
  • Because it is important. "Just do it," like in the Nike commercial.  "Just do that math paper."  "Just do that project at work."  [Eric:  I always hated that word, "just."  Usually means someone wants me to start another 100-hour project.]

ADDs can't use that second reason.  Saying that we should do something because it is important just hits a brick wall.  ADD can't.  Ridiculous to even try.  Because they don't have an intact anterior cingulate gyrus.

People who are emotionally charged up can really perform.  That's why we have sales meetings, church revivals, football pep rallies, etc.  The high lasts about 2 weeks if you are lucky.  Kids with ADD do pretty good in the classroom about the first 2 weeks of the semester.  Then the Emotion reason gives out, and the Important reason just isn't there.

Docs have learned lots lately—lots of progress.  If your doc hasn't been trained in the last three years, your doc will treat this way different than one who has.

Just as many Grand Rapidians have ADD as heart disease.  But while this town has 50 cardiologists, plus lots of internists and family docs treating heart disease, we have only two (soon one) specializing in ADD.  And most GPs haven't been trained in the last three or four years.  Lesson learned:  ADD is underserved by the medical community.

ADD is a disability, not a disease.

Like all disabilities, we need an Accommodation to get us into the near-normal range.  Such as an artificial leg given to an amputee, to restore near-normal function.  Not perfect, but maybe good enough for most things.

Dr. Mason suggests medication as the Accommodation to ADD:

  • The problem is lifelong.
  • Medication restores much-more-normal function.
  • No long-term reason not to do it.

When diagnose ADD as adult, years have been lost.  Treatment will develop near-normal ability again, but will not give you that time back.  Gotta pick up those social skills, find out who you are, that you might have done in prior years, maybe in high school.  And everything in your life may have to be reevaluated once you get near-normal function.  You don't get the time back from when you didn't have good treatment.

Well-managed ADD workers have:

  • Results-oriented supervisors.
    • Clear goals.
    • Clear boundaries.
      • Freedom within boundaries.
  • Work within areas of natural interest.
    • Engage passion.
  • Non-critical redirection of ADD behaviors.
    • >90% encouragement and praise.
    • <10% criticism.

Certain fits work great, if management can tap it:

  • 110% ability, engaged, energetic and creative.  Because of their trouble doing just like everyone else does.  [Eric: This sure sounds like some people I know.]

ADDs with critical bosses will not be there very long:

  • Rules oriented supervision.
    • Unclear or shifting goals.
    • Rigid boundaries.
  • No regard for natural interest.
  • Controlling attitude and environment.
  • Criticism of ADD behaviors.
    • More criticism than praise and encouragement.
  • Remember the problems described at the top.

Trotting out the poster children for ADD—Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Einstein, Terry Bradshaw (day-to-day, he is not a stellar performer, but when it counts, he always seems to come through), CEO of Jet Blue Airways—is not necessarily good, because many of the rest of us aren't quite as smart or entrepreneurial or creative or as people-person as they are, or are dealing with other stuff on the side.  The ADD is still going to weigh on what we might have been—achieving below potential.

Case study of the sculptor who needed to (and did) hire a "finisher."

Case study of the realtor agency who hires ADD sales agents, and supplies clerical staff to backfill the tasks that the ADD sales force can't do.  Like sending out the hunters to do their hunter-killer thing, while also keeping farmers back in the office, to do the village's farmer-tasks.

Case study of instructor who helped ADD student to applies his passions to that particular class.

Case study of the success a worker had, after his company had him properly evaluated and treated for ADD.

Insurance companies are pushing to shorter-acting (cheaper) drugs, which are not as effective as once-dailies for patients with ADD.

Books:  Finding a Career that Works for You, by Wilma Fellman, ADD in the Workplace, by Kathleen Nadeau.

This is all backed up by these videos from HealthiNationRecent NBC News report on Adult ADHD.  More videos from Dr. Mason.  Podcast from Special Parents Confidential.

ADHD and Genetics > Listen.

Support group CHADD (GR) and their Help4ADHD siteGR practitioner.

The Wikipedia article on depression says: "Dysthymia, a form of chronic, low-level depression, is particularly common in adults with undiagnosed ADHD who have encountered years of frustrating ADHD-related problems with education, employment, and interpersonal relationships. [23] Hallowell, Edward M.; John J. Ratey (2005). Delivered from Distraction : Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder. New York: Ballantine Books, p. 253–5. ISBN 0-345-44231-8."

Extraordinary video.  Watch it all the way through.


  • Doing this for friends and family:  I need computer services:  harden my machine against viruses, adware and spyware, share high-speed Internet with all computers in my house (can get kids on Internet, share printers, etc., without drilling holes in the walls), have mission-critical information I need backed up(finances, photos, documents, spreadsheets, email, family tree, more), am plagued by software downloaded by my teenagers (KaZaA, file-sharing, adware, spyware, instant messenger, etc.), wish to make better use of what I have (Quicken, Office suite, PDA, camera, network, sharing, upload photos to let my relatives see them), machine running sloooow, plagued by pop-up ads, system hung up, and others.


I was thinking that these are mostly for Piehls (descendants of Friedrich Piehl and Karoline [née Fechner] Piehl), the Allens (descendants of George Allen and Esther [née Howard] Allen), and their spouses and friends, but let me know your connection to us, and I will consider.

    * Only for friends and relatives.
       Use username=
prot, password=[my daughter's first name, capitalized correctly].
       Or email me to identify yourself and connection, and request access

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