Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged personal

Using numbers to look your best

suit

ABC

The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.

Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.

When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.

So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened:  Continue reading…

Critic turned fan: Just how “happy” is Disneyland?

Illustration Blake Snow/Disney

Disney

ANAHEIM, Ca.—Comedian Jim Gaffigan once joked, “My favorite ride at Disney was the air conditioned bus back to the airport.” When asked why he paid so much money to wait in long lines for underwhelming rides, he replied, “Because I love my children.”

I love my children, too. But unlike Gaffigan, I’ve been unwilling to visit Disney until recently because I viewed it as a rip-off, an unneeded parental sacrifice, and not nearly as rewarding as natural wonder. Although I have fond memories of visiting Disneyland with my family as an eight year old boy, I have fonder memories of visiting the nearby Laguna Beach that same week. “So I’ll take my kids to more majestic, less expensive places instead,” I’ve told myself ever since.

Deep down, however, I wanted to know: Could so many people be wrong? Why do over 70 million folks visit one of Disney’s templated parks each year, making it the third most-visited tourist attraction on Earth, according to Travel and Leisure? Can a place that averages 4.5 out of 5 visitor stars really be an overpriced tourist trap?

To find out, I caved recently and booked my family for two-day passes to Disneyland. Tickets cost $100 each per day; children were $5 off (that’s it?!). In fact, admittance to the park totaled more than the combined airfare and four-day stay we paid for a well-rated hotel across the street, not to mention the expensive dining we were sure to encounter inside the park.

Upon realizing that, I had buyer’s remorse. Had I make a mistake? Was I turning into sheep? Maybe. But I was determined to find out for myself, if not for humanity’s sake.  Continue reading…

Here’s what happened when a billionaire overpaid me by $20,000

Fox Networks

Fox Networks

Even if you think you’re honest person, your integrity will forever be challenged, usually when you least expect it.

I recently learned this lesson after a client tried to overpay me by $20,000 on two separate occasions. The first time they simply wired the money into my account without realizing I was already paid. “Either they sent duplicate payment or liked my work so much they gave me a huge bonus,” I thought to myself. I knew it was the former, but sat on the blunder for a few days before notifying the client.

The reason: The devil on my left shoulder made a convincing argument. “Blake,” he said, “maybe you didn’t invoice them the first time?” Nope, I checked my records. I’ve been paid in full. “Okay,” he went on, “but they’re a billion dollar company. They won’t even notice the misplaced $10,000.”

“I doubt it,” the angel on my right shoulder replied. “Imagine if someone got fired for this. Besides, you didn’t earn this money. It doesn’t matter if you omit or commit theft—stealing is wrong. You’re better than this.”  Continue reading…

Can’t hold me down: I make a living sitting down and can no longer sit down

My deffective lower lumbar

My defective lower lumbar

Thanks to genetics, I inherited two bad discs in my back, the neurologist told me. (Sorry kids, you’re next.)

For no particular reason, the first one broke six years ago. It laid me up for six straight weeks, forcing me to work lying down for a month and a half. After surgery, I could thankfully sit, run, and walk again with a normal gait.

I was also given a clean bill of health. “Blake, I’ve had patients scale Mount Everest and play two hours of basketball every morning for the rest of their lives after similar surgery,” the doctor told me. “Except for moving refrigerators and pianos, you have my blessing to do whatever physically adventurous things you want.”

I took his counsel to heart, got fit, ate more plants, and experienced a renaissance of outdoor exploits and saw a lot of wonderful things since then. In a way, breaking my back was the best thing to happen to me since marrying Lindsey, fathering children, and being awesome.

Now I get to do it all over. Last week, I broke my back again. Continue reading…

How my daughter helps me “master” life

Photo: Blake Snow

Photo: Blake Snow

Last month, my eight year-old daughter subdued me in a remarkable way.

Our dog Harley had just disobeyed orders. As I confronted him, he urinated on our floor for the umpteenth time.

Now, there are a lot of things I dislike about Harley. He pees like a girl. Recoils from house flies. And his nervous system is a little too nervous. But my least favorite thing about Harley is his knack for urinating a few teaspoons at times when I—the perceived “leader” of the pack—order or reprimand him.

It’s called submissive urination and it’s downright annoying for two reasons. First, I’ve had to clean up dog urine, several times a day, even though he’s been house trained for months. Second, I have no idea when to expect it, even though Harley is normally an obedient dog.  Continue reading…

Why everyone should embrace frugality

Warner Bros. / Blake Snow

Warner Bros. / Blake Snow

My stomach turns anytime I witness waste, lavishness, or squandering. I smile whenever I see thrift, frugality, or resourcefulness. (See also: The difference between cheap and frugal)

In fact, the latter is a life-long pursuit of mine: To be resourceful in everything I do, including my personal and business endeavorers.

Which is why I relate to Amazon’s leadership principle on frugality, explained like this Continue reading…

Here’s the part where I declare new year self-improvement

blake-snow

Excepting more embarrassing personal stuff, here are the changes I hope to make next year:

  1. I’m gonna speak softly to my kids. I’m loud. With my choice of words and opinions as much as my volume. Children don’t need that extra emotion as they’re figuring out the world. Often times I bark at my kids when they make a mistake or disobey. On a whim recently, I tried something different. Instead of scolding my three year old with a mean face and verbal outburst, I kneeled down, leveled my eyes with hers, softly expressed my disappointment, and encouraged her to change. She lovingly accepted and immediately improved her behavior. After overhearing the exchange, her older sister said, “Dad, I like when you talk to us like that. I feel a warm spirit in the room when you do that.” Then this happened. Then I resolved to speak kindly when disciplining my children from that day forward.  Continue reading…

3 reasons this is still the best toothbrush I’ve ever used

reach-total-care-plus-whitening-toothbrush

The Reach Total Care + Whitening. Seriously, this thing is my version of the Ora-Dent for the following reasons:

  1. Unlike most plastic bristles, these babies don’t just slide across your rocks, they actually have grip and texture, which help remove build-up. After using this brush, your teeth feel as though the’ve just been polished by a dental hygienist. I know because I lick my teeth after every brush now.
  2. The angle of the brush gives you maximum leverage, making it easier than any brush I’ve used before to access those hard-to-reach places.
  3. Most brush handles narrow towards the end. Not the Reach Total Care + Whitening. This handle widens at the end, providing the best grip possible. I own my teeth now!

That said, I don’t fully buy the whitening bit. If Reach is saying the brush is capable of removing more external gunk than other brushes thanks to the above, then fine. But if they’re claiming it whitens like my bleech trays, I’ll call their bluff. After all, they’re whitening claim is asterisked by “lab tests,” aka “clinically proven,” aka “this doesn’t really do what we claim, but we’d like to think it does.”

Secondly, at $3.50 a pop, the brush is 3X the price of average brushes. Regardless, I’ll never buy another toothbrush. It’s that good.

(For what it’s worth, here is the toothpaste I use. Also awesome.)

Originally published March 2011

Buy this: My absolute favorite brand of cheese. You’re welcome.

cabot-seriously-sharp-cheddar

I’m a cheese lover. I’ve sampled some of the finest from three different continents. In fact, I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like, except for Colby. (Yuck!)

My absolute favorite varient of cheese, however, is Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar. It comes from grass-fed cows in Vermont that sleep on warm blankets and are often whispered words of encouragement by loving humans. It’s gluten-free, low-carb, 100% organic, and makes your bowel movements smell like cinnamon. It’s aged for 24 hours, helps save the planet, and will even impress your sycophant friends.

Not really. But Seriously Sharp is the most pungent and satisfying cheese I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly textured—slightly crumbly without being overly dry. Dense and mouthwatering. It’s so delectable, I often sink in my chair after savoring the final slice.

Goes well with red grapes, almonds, crackers, french bread and salami, strawberries, cantaloup, and white sauces. I buy it at Walmart right after doorbell ditching struggling mom-and-pop grocers.

Enjoy.

Anxiously engaged: 5 hobbies I like

blake

My wife looked at me with bright amber eyes the other day and laughed in my face. “Is no hobby off limits for you?” she mused.

We were cleaning our attic and going through an old box of mine. It was a veritable time capsule of previous hobbies I once held dear. The one that made Lindsey laugh most were my magic tricks.

“How much did you spend on these?” she asked. “A few hundred,” I responded. “Let me guess, you only played with them for a few weeks,” she countered.

Probably.

You see, I lose interest in hobbies as quickly as I discover them. I do have lifelong passions—music and sports chief among them. But most of my hobbies are fleeting. I get what I need and then move on to new hobbies. The old ones remain as slice of my former self; a talking point with anyone who has shared my enthusiasm for x, y, or z.

But it’s not out of boredom that I lose interest in hobbies. It’s out of a desire to experience as many things as I can. Someday I’ll list a comprehensive set of passions that I chased in this life. But for now, here are personal hobbies I’m particularly keen on at the moment: Continue reading…

Weight is a lousy motivator for long-term health. Find a real cause today.

blake-first-marathonIf you’re happy with your health, nutrition and self-image, skip to the next post. If not, read on.

In nine years of marriage, Lindsey and I have never owned a weight scale. Not one.

Why? Because they’re superficial, largely meaningless, and a lousy motivator of long-term health. Continue reading…

How I made a living last year

As an independent contractor, I get asked a lot on how I make a living. The easiest answer is “I work from home.” If that doesn’t satisfy the interviewer, however, I’ll usually say “I’m a writer,” which is only partly true.

In many ways, I’m a jack of all trades. Writing and developing content for others is my forte. But I also enjoy critiquing software and games, moonlighting in online advertising, content marketing, and one-off projects that present a unique but hard-to-screw up challenge.

That said, I never over promise. I’m quick to tell a potential client or existing client “I don’t do that” when asked about other disciplines and send them on their way—mostly because I do crappy work when I’m not passionate about it. That and I refuse to engage in work I don’t like doing, regardless of how well it pays.

(Seriously, doing stuff you don’t enjoy solely for money or status is the epitome of living a lie. I realize some people have no choice in the short-term and often have to take one for the team to make ends me. But EVERYONE has a choice in the long term. It just takes planning, sacrifice, and guts.)

Anways, long story short, here’s how I became a thousandaire last year: Continue reading…

The first time I told my wife I loved her

imageSaying “I love you” for the first time is always a crap shoot.

It’s easier to do when the other one says it first. Difficult to do when you’re the emotional, head-over-heals, and “want to lay it on the line” type like me.

That was the case when I first expressed my love to Lindsey. If I remember right, the conversation went something like this (probably after one of our legendary make-out sessions):

Me: “I love you.”

Lindsey: “Thank you.”

Crash and burn.

Not to worry, though. I was flying high again a few months later, after hot stuff reciprocated. And we lived happily ever after.

Thank you, Lindsey.

See also:

Like father, like son: Using the bathroom for peace and quiet

toilet-newMy dad won’t like me for repeating this on the intertubes, but it’s too good not to.

Growing up, my old man would regularly sneak off to his tiny toilet room to get away from his loud wife and six, know-it-all children. It was one of those “bathroom within a bathroom” type deals where the toilet had its own lockable door—you know, for added privacy and to keep the fumes from offending a significant other using the sinks, bath, or shower.

Funny thing is, that toilet room would have been claustrophobic for an undersized gnome. While sitting on the toilet, small children could have (and regularly did) touch opposing side walls with ease. It couldn’t have been longer than six feet.

Nevertheless, my dad would retreat there for what seemed like hours, reading Rand-McNally maps or whatever almanac or resource books he left in there. It was his sole sanctuary, that is until he took over the entire second floor after the kids left home.

As a stunning teenager, I remember thinking something like this: “Dude bought this big ole house and everything in it, and yet the only space he has to himself is a 6×3′ toilet room.”

Now, as the children have begun overrunning my own house, I have found myself in similar situations. Granted, I have it better than he did. I enjoy a private home office that is only occasionally open to the kids for impromptu dance sessions (since my desktop doubles as the house’s best hi-fi). And my “toilet room” is much larger than his.

But I still stay in the bathroom longer than I should. The only difference is instead of Rand-McNallys, an iPad comes with me.

(Note: I defer all flagging concerns to George Costanza)

My Dad on being a great basketball shooter

hoosiers_new-subsample

I wish I could have seen my Dad play basketball.

My uncle tells me he was a phenomenal shooter, regularly putting up 30+ points a night against amateur competition. My old man reputedly scored 50 points in a single half of intramural college ball once (!).

More impressive from a precision standpoint, he shot 50 consecutive free throws at my neighbor’s house when I was a boy. He stopped before missing his first shot so he could get home “for supper,” he says. Talk about ending on a high note.

Marveling at other great shooters this year, including Jimmer Fredette, whom I’ve watched at close range, I asked my Dad what it takes to be a great percentage shooter. His reply:

“It is a combination of natural and great physical skill, thousands of hours of practice and playing, and the ability after reaching a certain point of physical excellence to take your mind out of shooting and letting your body do it! That’s the groove that is spoken of. Not very many reach the ‘groove’ consistently. When it happens, it is like heaven on earth.”

High five, pops!