Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seven tips to seeing the Northern Lights...

Having just returned from Tromso, Norway, I can tell you that the lights are not nearly as elusive as you may think. In a three night stay we managed nice photos every night with no prior experience or a guide. That said, here are a few tips to help you along:

1) Geography matters. You will ideally be in a location, like Tromso, that is in the belt of northern light activity. 

2) Clouds block the lights. There are no northern lights under the clouds. You need clear skies. Once you have tackled the geography issue, you need to find clear skies. Assuming you don't already have them, you need to travel to a location that does. Tromso is a bit of a cloud magnet, but the islands (Sommaroy) nearby or the Lyngen Alps (also nearby) are typically more cloud-free. 

A little advance research on normal weather in the area you're considering will go a long way in assisting your accessibility to clear skies. 

3)  Light pollution is an obstacle. While there may be displays which are sufficiently bright to be seen even with the interference of city lights, I'd say they are more rare and not to be counted upon. If you can see tons of stars and there are virtually no competing light sources, you're in a good viewing spot. In most places sufficiently north to see the lights, you probably won't have to drive long to have adequate darkness. 

4)  Time of day. Each zone has their optimal viewing hours. That said, they are quoted as after 6pm for Tromso. Yet we had a killer viewing session at 3:30pm (already dark) near the island of Sommaroy, just outside Tromso. To see this display required me looking at the sky as we left a restaurant, and drive back toward Tromso until we had dark skies. Pretty simple. The photo at the top of the page came from that session.

5) Luck is mighty handy. In the course of a few minutes the lights can go from barely noticeable, to stunning, to nothing. As a result, you need to be "in the game" to optimize your chances. Any number of outdoor activities can accommodate this, as can simply having a drive and having an occasional glance at the sky (while parked). 

6) Have other activities to enjoy in an area will make a stay much more fun. In addition, it takes some of the pressure off seeing the lights. We were quite fortunate to see them every evening, but if we hadn't seen them at all, we enjoyed our day trips photographing the area in the daylight enough to justify our trip.

7) If it's not already obvious, you need to rent a car, unless you're going to hire a guide. Having a car gives you tons of flexibility as well as an opportunity to do other exploring as well. 

Getting a guide is basically outsourcing the transport and geography work. But bear in mind...there are no magic spots. This is not fishing. However, if you aren't comfortable driving in an unfamiliar place, or trying to track down clear skies, you may feel warranted in paying to have someone help you. 

Bonus tip: If you plan on photographing the lights you will need a tripod (and mountable camera). Ideally one that can be weighted down in case conditions are windy.

For anyone wanting more in-depth information, here's a link to a resource I used: http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-school/best-place-to-see-the-northern-lights/

Good luck. It is a pretty amazing experience. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hey Dad, you're fired. How giving my dad the big adios began my real biz career.

As a kid I used to do all sorts of work around the neighborhood. There was decent money in doing the drudgery the adults weren't interested in. 

One element of my "empire" was a lawn mowing business which included a variety of clients both young and old. Usually the young people were too busy, or too lazy, to do it themselves. The older people had often reached an age where it wasn't probably a great idea to be operating heavy equipment. 

In the middle of this range was my dad. An aerospace engineer with a crew cut, a man who proudly wore his pocket protector complete with mechanical pencil. He could mow the lawn, but I guess he figured he'd let me do it since he was paying me virtually nothing. 

Things went along pretty well for about a year like that. Then I got to thinking. In general, I spent more time messing with my dad's yard than any other client. Completely unlike my other clients he complained constantly; regardless of how painstaking I was in my efforts. The crowning blow was the paltry sum he was paying me. It was less than half what any other client paid.

The day was approaching for me to confront my dad. Soon I would be due to cut the lawn, and I had decided it wasn't worth it to be paid peanuts by my most persnickety client. 

Finally I approached him and said, "Dad, I'm not cutting the grass anymore." 

I fired him. 

Just like that. 

Well, I tried in any event.

This opened a discussion which included his thrift, my mowing abilities, his excessive criticism, and a range of other things. Fortunately, we managed to keep it civil. In fact, it lead to an awesome lesson for me.

By being willing to face the music of dismissing him as a client, I managed to renegotiate the price, and reset his expectations. Two things that matter greatly to me, and I think he walked away satisfied as well.

For me the central lesson was that you get what you ask for, not what you hope for. Nobody cares a stick about your silent suffering. No super heroes are coming to rescue you. You'll have to set yourself straight.

By asking for what you want you have a much better chance of getting it. If you're willing to walk because the other party won't acquiesce, you chances are even better.

Over the years, the lessons of that day have served me well. From negotiating with clients to discussions with my kids, being clear about what you want and what you're willing to give provide a framework for all parties to walk away from the table satisfied. 

Luckily, you probably don't even need to fire your dad to figure that out. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

   Like many quotes, this one from Oscar Wilde is easy to say, and casually think "Sure, that's me".

   I'd say being yourself requires an incredible amount of energy. The forces of the universe conspire against you. Without knowing it, we conform in ways both large and small. When we buy a brand of any type, or expound particular beliefs, how was the decision really made?

   In fact, being yourself requires a conscious effort to examine the beliefs that dictate the lifestyle we lead, the lunch we'll eat, the vacation we take, the candidate we'll vote for in an election. For each of these, there is likely someone with a vested interest trying to influence you.

   How to fight it? Only by deciding conciously what you'll do. Even then, the myriad of influencers swirl around in such abundance it is hard to know where reality ends and spin begins.

   Will Rogers summed it up, "Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like." So the problem isn't new.

   If you consistently ask yourself if what you are doing is important to you that might be a start. Everything hinges on your ability to be honest with yourself.  If you can do that,  you are on your way.

   The rewards are fantastic once you get past the darting glances. There is nothing people have more trouble with than looking in the mirror. By being yourself you confront their anxiety over the same issue. 

   Don't wait for thank you cards. You won't get any.  Instead thank yourself for stepping off the treadmill. 

   Living your life on your terms is something to be truly grateful for. Enjoy it.  

   But keep a wary eye on yourself.  You can change, but the world won't stop trying to lure you back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


   Borrowed from my beloved urban dictionary, the e-void is:

   Avoiding someone electronically such as on Facebook, e-mail, IM, or text messages.

   It's ok, from what I understand this is a common phenomena with newly minted authors. You send friends your new book, figuring that they'll gladly bound through it. LMFAO. Not! 

   Apparently asking people who know you to read your book has a powerful cosmic effect on them, rendering them unable to respond to your queries, calls or any other commonly used means of communication. My guess is that they think that since they know you, they figure wtf could possibly be interesting about your writing. 

  Perhaps valid. But it is an interesting phenomena. Several people who I do not know, have raved about "Alphabet Success", with a couple people asking about potential speaking gigs. No exaggeration. Since I am "unknown" I am possessed of special powers. The old rule "A good consultant is one is who has flown in" is certainly at play.

   My guess, it is sort of the rejection of the familiar. If you know me, I must have already told you any important stuff you'd benefit from, and the fact that I decided to organize my thinking means reading the book would be like repeating a grade in high school (not desirable).

   Having said that, I think if I sent the same people an e-mail that I had re-built a 68 Corvette, and they should pop by for a look, they'd be there post-haste. Just to be clear, I am not going to re-build any sort of car. A dirty keyboard is about as close to manual labor as I get.

   Of equal importance, the new book doesn't mean I am going to wear a bow tie and cravat. Nor will I start smoking a pipe in my favorite leather chair and start wearing blazers with patches on the elbows. But most importantly, if you don't want to read it, just have the balls to say so. One friend bowed out, and I am completely cool with that.  I didn't make it this far in life as an emotional cripple. 

   But since there is an obvious e-void into which I have entered, I want to public acknowledge complete amnesty for those who don't want to read, or even discuss the book. But I'm still putting it on you to "man-up" and say as much. Isn't that what friends do?

   Anyhow, I'm not mad, just a bit surprised by people's hesitation to just bow out gracefully.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Read it, apply it, realize it. FREE! Umm....did I mention....FREE!

   My last post was about the fact that my book had finally made it on to Amazon.com's Kindle site. So that is the first step in a process. Great to "write it down", quite another to get people interested. I'm all dressed up and alone at my party! Boo-hoo... But wait, maybe you can help!

   With that idea in mind, I am promoting the book today to reducing the price to the incredibly democratic price of ZERO. Yep, today you will be able to download the book for FREE beginning at midnight PST in the USA, which is 9:00am for those of you in Central Europe, 10:00am in the UK and 3:00am for insomniacs on the East Coast of the USA.

   My motivation? To get people to try it. What would I really like? Seriously? A positive review on Amazon.com. Now you might think, what will my review do for this book. Plenty. Given my private feedback (even from my remarkably, brutally frank, friends) has all been positive, I think you'll find it worthwhile. So, "do me a solid", and pop your loving review onto Amazon when you are done.

   Thanks in advance. You rock!

   Have a question or comment? Just reach me at tim@timfargo.com

A sweet moment, that I have awaited for a long time...

This just in! The moment I have been waiting and working for quite a long time now.

This is the opening sentence of an e-mail I just got from Amazon.com.

"Congratulations, your book "Alphabet Success" is live in the Kindle Store and has been enrolled in KDP Select. It is available* for readers to purchase here. "

The beginning of this book began over ten years ago. I was driving across the Howard Franklin bridge and thought it would be kind of cool to create a book that used the alphabet to convey some simple, yet powerful insights into success. 

After a variety of events, including the sale of a business, the usual personal things that happen, and the distraction of having suddenly had my dream come true, I finally got around to finishing the idea.

Today is the day. 

Needless to say, I am one very very happy guy.

ABC - Always Be Committed. I knew I would finally finish this book, and now it is finally out for the world to see. Will it succeed as a "book"? That is my next application of the principles in the book.

After all, if a guy who promotes success can't get people to buy his book, well, that'd be pretty lame.

But that isn't going to happen...

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Another beautiful day...

Up early,  sun shining,  a breeze blowing and not a cloud in the sky. The potential of the day awaits.  Everyday has the possibility of being absolutely life changing and fantastic.  Or just "another" day.
In the end, it will most likely be something in the middle.  But we won't really know until later. Must steer the ship carefully.
Enjoy your voyage.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The 4th Away from Home...

   From afar, sitting just outside the Swedish capital, the voices of the USA sound like a not so united set of states. Part of that may be the din of the media,  or the louder voices seeming to dominant the airwaves.

   Regardless,  today is a good one to remind ourselves the things that bind us together.  Not only our nation,  and language,  but our shared history of weaving discord and rancor into a rich tapestry binding us ever closer.

   It seems most often that we find the thread which holds us together when we discard, if only for a while, our particular ideology or politics.

   We all want our nation to remain great. We want to live in safety and prosperity. We hope that our children and friends will make it home safe, and that nobody will be telling us someone we value is gone.

  Amidst all the discussion on how we want to go about things, most of us desire the same destination.  If we focus on the destination and work toward common methods of getting there we are much more likely to succeed than if we begin wedged in our "trench".

   Our freedom of speech ought best be used to find our commonality and community. Our strength is our brand. Our brand is our name. We are the United States of America.

   Have a safe 4th of July.