Fixing a Slow, Unresponsive, Crashing iPad by Restoring from a Backup

My pertinent experience for this blog post is with an iPad (specifically a "the new iPad" which is generally referred to as the iPad 3) but I expect that these same results would be experienced for any iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch, etc.). No matter what your device, if you have direct experience with using this technique with a device that is slow, unresponsive, and/or crashing, please post a comment about your experience (whether or not it helped, anything you did different, etc..) as that will very much help other readers.

My iPad had become very unreliable: it crashed (or perhaps I should say it spontaneously rebooted) regularly and when it was running, it was very slow to respond and at times downright unresponsive. The condition got worse and worse to the point where I simply couldn't use it because it just wouldn't respond for more than a few seconds before automatically restarting of its own accord.

The good news is that I was able to get my iPad back working like new by restoring it from a backup; the bad news is that by the time I tried this approach, it had become very hard because the first step in the process is to do a full backup of the device and that was very, very difficult because of my iPad's propensity for spontaneous reboots (but fortunately, with a lot of patience and persistence, I was able to get my iPad to backup).

Now, to be clear, when the iPad was merely painfully slow, I had considering doing a restore from a backup but, though it's easy and straightforward enough, doing a restore from a backup does take a bit of time and so I was reticent to do it without some indication that it might help. For that reason, I searched for guidance and I wasn't seeing people prominently pointing to doing a restore from backup as a troubleshooting step to try and so I didn't jump to do it; as I said already, that that proved costly because things go so bad that I almost couldn't successfully backup the iPad. And that then is the reason I'm writing this post: my hope is that when others search in the future for what to do about extremely slow-to-respond (and even entirely unresponsive) iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches that crash and/or spontaneously and automatically reboot, they'll find this blog post and be encouraged to try restoring from a backup--and then of course I further hope that those who do try this approach will get the same results that I did: iOS devices that work like new. Please let me know in a comment if it does or doesn't work for you.

Now as to the process of doing a backup and restore: I won't get terribly detailed here because you can find the key details on Apple's Support website. But some notes:

  1. As I mentioned, this process is easy and straightforward but it does take some time; accordingly, make sure you'll be able to dedicate your device to this task for an extended period of time (in other words, don't expect to start this and be able to then take your iPhone somewhere a half hour later).
  2. To do the backup and restore, I used iTunes, not iCloud and I recommend that you do the same as it will certainly be faster. However, I don't know any reason that it wouldn't work using iCloud.
  3. Since what you're going to be doing is reinitializing your device from a backup, the first thing you need to do is backup your device so that the backup you're using for the reinitialization is current.
  4. Then you need to erase your device; this is mentioned but not actually described in the link above. You can do this via iTunes or you can do it directly on the device. I believe these are not entirely equivalent approaches but rather a factory reset via iTunes is a more extensive reset than merely erasing the content and settings directly on the device. I erased the content and settings directly on the device and that worked great for me. Note that the information on erasing the content and settings directly on the device does not mention turning off Find My iPad (or Find my iPhone or whatever is appropriate for your device) but to keep yourself out of trouble, I recommend turning that setting off. I turned it off prior to doing the backup (step 2 above) so that Find My iPad was completely out of the picture and couldn't cause any issues.
  5. Once your device has been erased/reset, you need to restore it from your backup. This part will take the longest. Fortunately, you can just let it run while you do other things.
  6. Once you've restored the backup, if all goes well, you should hopefully be in really good shape with your device! Specifically, your device should work like new. If it doesn't then unfortunately, you are probably dealing with issues that this approach won't fix. But if your device is working well at this point, you'll want to go back and turn on Find My iPad (or Find my iPhone or whatever is appropriate for your device). In addition, if you're an iCloud Keychain user, check the iCloud Keychain setting (it's on the same screen as the Find My iPad setting): I found that it was off and needed to be turned on (but fortunately, so far that's the only setting I've found unexpectedly changed during this process).

So what exactly was wrong with my iPad that the backup and restore appears to have rectified? Well, I had thought all the issues I was seeing (in addition to the poor performance and reliability, I had one app update that just wouldn't finish, leaving the app in a sort of state of limbo; I couldn't remove it by clicking and holding and hitting the "x" to delete it, I had to delete it via the Manage Storage area of the Usage area of the General area of the Settings app) were perhaps because some of my iPad's solid state storage had gone bad (and I was hoping that upon the backup and restore, iOS would avoid using the bad parts of the storage) but after the restore I noticed that my iPad gained around 3 GB of additional free space. Interestingly, when my iPad was misbehaving so badly, the amount of free space reported for the iPad in iTunes did not match the amount of free space reported by the iPhone itself; however, after the backup and restore, the 2 reports matched. I checked my iPhone, which doesn't have performance issues, and the report of its free space in iTunes matches what the iPhone itself reports. This all leads me to believe that mismatches (at least significant mismatches) between the reports of the free space provided by an iOS device and iTunes may be a good indicator that something is seriously amiss with that iOS device. Certainly in the case of my iPad it seems there were some serious "cobwebs" in there that were cleared out by the backup and restore. But regardless of exactly what was going on, I'm just glad it seems to be better now and I hope it stays that way!

As they say, your mileage may vary but I very much hope your results are as good as mine have been!

Performing a Mail Merge with Google Docs (To Create Documents or Emails)

Google Docs is wonderful in many ways, however, there are a couple of areas where it has limited functionality that were issues for me recently and this is the second of a two-part series of blog posts (see the first part here) on what I did to work around those limitations.

A Google Docs mail merge is not a native capability of Google Docs. Said another way, Google Docs does not natively offer the ability to do a mail merge (that is, it does not offer the ability to use a template document with special data placeholders and create a set of documents from a set of data where the data is used to populate the values for the special data placeholders in the template document). Fortunately, Google Docs does natively offer the ability to use 3rd party extensions and the excellent DocumentMerge by PandaDoc extension will allow you to do mail merges.

The instructions for how to use DocumentMerge by PandaDoc to perform a mail merge using a Google Sheet as the data source for a template Google Doc can be found at https://www.pandadoc.com/google-docs-document-merge. I won't belabor things by repeating the instructions here; the reason I'm writing this post is that for me, the DocumentMerge by PandaDoc extension wasn't easy to find when searching for a way to do a mail merge with Google Docs and I'm hoping that this blog post will bubble up in search results in the future, making it easier for others to find the extension (if this blog post is helpful to you, please take a moment to leave a comment if you're willing). To be more specific, what I was looking for was the ability to do a mail merge that produced printable documents but all I was able to find was info on how to do mail merges to create emails (which the DocumentMerge by PandaDoc extension will do as well so if that's what you're looking for, it's good for that too).

Anyway, it's a great extension for doing a mail merge with Google Docs (though for some reason it's fairly slow). You'll see that it creates a Google Doc as the output of your mail merge and from there, that document is just like any other Google Doc (meaning you can download it, print it, whatever you need to do). In addition, DocumentMerge by PandaDoc has another capability as well: if you want to email out each of the merged documents as a PDF attached to an email, you can do that directly with DocumentMerge by PandDoc which is a great feature (albeit one I haven't used since in my case I just needed to print the merged documents).

Creating a Document of a Non-standard Size in Google Docs

To give credit where credit is due: I became aware of this technique in the post at https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/docs/m-hUu90ZGI0.

Google Docs is wonderful in many ways, however, there are a couple of areas where it has limited functionality that were issues for me recently and this is the first of a two-part series of blog posts (see the second part here) on what I did to work around those limitations.

Google Docs only allows you to create documents from a set of standard page sizes; it does not allow you to create a document of a custom page size of your choosing. Fortunately, there is a workaround that will allow you to create a document of any page size. If you're printing (in my case, I was printing envelopes), working from a document that properly represents the size of your print media is at the very least helpful, if not downright critical.

The workaround is to create a document outside Google Docs (yeah, that's bad but it's what you have to do) with the proper page size (and get your margins like you want them as well because if you try to change those in Google Docs, you'll also be forced to change the page size at the same time and of course you'll be forced to change the page size to one of the standard sizes). I had success uploading a Word-type document (both .doc and .docx worked for me) but not uploading a PDF or a Pages-type document. Note, however, if you don't have Word on your machine, you can get OpenOffice for free. In addition, if you have Pages, you can create the document there and export it as a Word-type document and that works (in fact, that's what I did; for more on how to do it, see this associated post of mine).

One special note here: I encountered a bit of a strange issue with pages with a width of 7.25" (my custom size also had a height of 5.25" but I didn't investigate whether or not that was relevant to the issue). The issue was that Google Docs for some reason was inserting a blank page between every actual page on print/download. Very weird stuff. By using a document with a width of 7.75" with an additional .25" margin on left and right, Google Docs did not insert that extra blank page and for my situation, this was a suitable workaround because what I needed to be able to do was print and on my Mac, the key for printing was the center of the content (if in your situation, you ever see an issue like this but the key for printing is the left of the content then add additional width to the page and instead of dividing the additional width evenly between the left and right margin, just add all the additional width to the right margin).

Creating a Document of a Non-standard Size in Pages

Creating a document of a non-standard size in Pages isn't straightforward: as pointed out at https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5501217, in order to create a document of a non-standard size in Pages, you have to go the File menu and choose Page Setup and then in the dialog box that comes up, for the Paper Size option, you have to choose Manage Custom Sizes. Then you'll get another dialog box and it should be pretty self-explanatory what you do there to create your custom paper size. After you've created your custom paper size in that dialog box and pressed the OK button, you'll see that back in the Page Setup dialog box, the custom paper size you just created is listed for the Paper Size and of course you'll then want to press the OK button there and now your document in Pages should be of the size you want. To change the properties of the page (page orientation, margins, header, footer, and so on), you'll need to click the Document button in the upper-right corner of the Pages button bar at the top of the window) and then the Document button beneath that.

Lightroom Error Building Smart Previews

Well, apparently I'm the first one who has encountered this because there is absolutely no reference to it anywhere I can find on the World Wide Web (no one uses that term anymore but it's technically more accurate than Internet here so I'm using it!) and whenever I encounter a situation like that, I like to write a blog post about it so that the next person who comes up against the issue can find at least 1 result when he/she searches. Perhaps no one will actually ever search for information on this issue because there is a sense in which how to deal with this issue is pretty obvious once you understand what the issue really is, but if you're seeing the error and missing the underlying issue, you will find this post helpful.

Okay, on with it: I moved all my photos off my Apple MacBook Air to my incredible new ioSafe N2 (I did this from within Adobe Lightroom 5 so that the Lightroom 5 catalog would be kept in sync with the move; I followed the instructions in this blog post and it worked great, if slowly, for me but I'm not claiming it's the only or best way to go about making that kind of a move). Then my next step was to create Smart Previews for all the photos so I still have access to a version of them when the MacBook Air isn't on the same network as the N2 (as that link to info on Smart Previews states, to do this you need only to "Select the files for which you want Smart Previews, and then click Library > Previews > Build Smart Previews" and so I selected all the files and Lightroom started building away on Smart Previews). At the very end of the process, this dialog box popped up:

As you can see, it says "Some Smart Previews were not built" and then farther down it says "Photos failed to build" and it lists out one lone photo for which the Smart Preview was not built. Not shown but also present in Lightroom is a new entry under the Catalog listing on the left side (the place where you can find "All Photographs," "Quick Collection +," "Previous Import," etc.) that is titled "Photos That Failed to Build a Smart Preview." When I take a look at the offending photo in Grid View, I see that in the upper-right corner, it has an error indication icon and when I hover over that with my mouse, the tooltip message "Lightroom has encountered problems reading this photo" comes up; if I look at the photo in Loupe View, it has a banner across the top indicating "There was an error working with the photo"; given this, it is unsurprising that further attempts to build a Smart Preview for the image result in the same error dialog noted above. But knowing that the real issue here is that there is a problem with the image (it's a corrupt image I suppose) the course of action is clear: remove the photo from Lightroom and re-import it (of course this assumes you have another copy somewhere; hopefully you either directly kept the original or you had Lightroom save a backup for you or you backed up the photos yourself or something). The way I accomplished that was to remove the photo in Lightroom then copy the original version of the photo to the proper directory in Lightroom and then I right-clicked on the folder in the Folders section on the left side and chose "Synchronize Folder" and Lightroom found the photo and then I told it to import it--and the cool thing was that at the end of the import, Lightroom presented me with a dialog box indicating it had created a Smart Preview for the image so I instantly knew all was well!

Keywords for search indexing: Lightroom Photos That Failed to Build a Smart Preview, Lightroom Some Smart Previews were not built, Lightroom Photos failed to build, Lightroom Smart Preview Error, Lightroom Smart Preview Build Error, Lightroom Smart Preview Building Error, Lightroom Smart Previews Error, Lightroom Smart Previews Build Error, Lightroom Smart Previews Building Error.

Adios, Flash Player! (or How I Uninstalled Flash Player and Got Away with It)

When I worked at Adobe, people would often tell me they knew of Adobe because "that's the thing that is always telling me I have to update on my computer." Those comments have echoed in my mind of late after the release of 3 security updates for Flash Player in February 2013. Now here's the thing: I appreciate that Adobe takes pains to plug the security holes discovered in Flash Player and in this sense, these updates are a good thing. Additionally, I know that Flash Player is one of the most widely distributed pieces of software in the world and as such it makes sense that it would be a popular attack target for the bad guys out there. And finally, I know that making perfect software is simply impossible. Still, it's an unavoidable fact that if Flash Player didn't have these security holes in the first place, it wouldn't need all these security updates.

When I mentioned on Facebook my perturbation with having to install these frequent Flash Player updates on my MacBook Air (every time I install a Flash Player update, I have to restart all my browsers which is inconvenient), my friend John Mason suggested I simply remove Flash Player, saying "you'll be surprised how many sites have already moved on." And so I thought about it: I do a lot of web browsing on my iPad and I essentially never have issues with my web experience as a result of the lack of Flash Player on the device (and of course, it's worth noting that it is precisely this lack of Flash Player on iOS devices that is the reason why many sites have, in John's words, "moved on" from Flash content). So I realized maybe I could live without Flash Player on my MacBook Air--and when I thought about the fact that on my MacBook Air, Flash Player has a tendency to use up massive amounts of resources for no apparent reason (don't get me wrong: I know this issue isn't entirely Flash Player's fault but that in fact the developers of the Flash content delivered to my MacBook Air have a role in this issue too--but it doesn't matter who is responsible for the issue, what's pertinent is that the issue exists), it became pretty clear that John's suggestion seemed to have a lot of merit.

And so I uninstalled Flash Player. But I also have Google Chrome installed on my system and Google Chrome has its own built-in version of Flash Player so I had to disable that instance of Flash Player too (disabling Flash Player in Chrome is as easy as browsing to chrome://plugins and selecting the Disable link in the Adobe Flash Player listing on the page).

And how did my web experience change? For the most part, it didn't: as I mentioned was already the case with my iPad, by and large I can use the web just fine without Flash Player. Every now and then, I have to use a little deception to make that happen (don't worry: I'm only deceiving servers, not people!). Let me explain: I've noticed that YouTube will sometimes tell me that I have to have Flash Player to view a video (it's my understanding that this has to do with advertising but the reason isn't of any actual importance so I'm not going to look into it further)--yet these same videos work just fine on my iPad. Why is this the case? Well, without doing all the work required to be able to give a definitive answer, I'll give an answer in which I have complete confidence: YouTube knows that I could have Flash Player on my MacBook Air if I wanted to but on my iPad, Flash Player cannot be installed; accordingly, YouTube tells me on my MacBook Air to install Flash Player but on my iPad it simply serves up an alternative format of the video. So where does the deception come in? I installed the User-Agent Switcher for Chrome extension to Chrome and that allows me to set Chrome to "masquerade" as another browser; when YouTube tells me that I need to install Flash Player, I simply use User-Agent Switcher for Chrome to have Chrome masquerade as an iPad and I'm able to view the video I want to watch just fine in Chrome. So far I've only done this for YouTube but I expect I'll use this same trick from time to time for other video sites.

So great! But it's all well and good to trick a site into giving me another format of a video but let's say some part of a site's functionality is in Flash and there's no alternative functionality I can use; if I need to use that functionality, what do I do then? The great news is that enabling the Flash Player plug-in in Chrome is just as easy as disabling the Flash Player plug-in: you simply browse to chrome://plugins and select the Enable link in the Adobe Flash Player listing on the page; the changes take effect immediately without Chrome needing to be restarted. So if I need to view any Flash content, I just enable the Flash Player plug-in in Chrome and when I'm done with my need for the plug-in, I again disable it in Chrome. Since you can do this same thing for any plug-in, I recommend disabling other plug-ins in Chrome you don't expect to need frequently. On my MacBook Air, I disabled the Java plug-in Chrome in addition to Flash Player and I recommend you disable the Java plug-in in Chrome too: chances are slim that you'll have greater need for Java than you do Flash Player so you may as well turn it off and preclude it using resources and creating security holes (I'm not giving Java top billing here because I didn't actually go to the point of uninstalling it from my MacBook Air completely...yet!). If you're on Windows, the same holds true for the Silverlight plug-in in Chrome.

Let's say you don't currently use Google Chrome: what then? Well, install it! You don't have to use it all the time: you can keep it on "standby" and use it only when you need a browser with Flash Player. Now, I personally do use Chrome as my main browser because it won me over with its ability to sync bookmarks and open tabs across devices and perhaps you too will find this capability makes it worth giving Chrome a look.

One other thing I recommend you do while you're adjusting Chrome's settings is set the Plug-ins for "Click to Play" (browse to chrome://settings/content and choose the "Click to Play" radio button on the page); this option precludes any plug-ins from running content unless you specifically click on the area for the content (you can do a similar thing in many other browsers; I leave it to you to search out the details for your browser of choice). With this option on, Flash content, like all plug-in content, won't play even with the Flash Player plug-in enabled unless you click on an area for Flash content (thereby expressly indicating you want that specific content to play); this gives you granular control over Flash content at such times as you do choose to enable the Flash Player plug-in. So why not just use this and not disable the Flash Player plug-in? First, I just don't want Flash Player there at all where it can use up resources (though I suspect that with "Click to Play" set for plug-ins, Flash Player wouldn't use significant resources). Second, I want my browser to tell sites I don't have Flash because that way they'll send me any alternative content they may deliver to clients without Flash Player (and remember, all iOS clients are Flash Player-free so alternative content for Flash Player-free browsers is a very real and common thing for sites to deliver).

iOS Messages App Handles Replies to Group Messages Completely Wrong

Imagine if you will an email program in which Reply All is not only the default reply option but also the only reply option. Most annoying thing ever? Nope: a text application that works like that would be the most annoying thing ever--and as it happens, that's exactly how the iOS Messages application works: if you receive a group message (or group MMS or group SMS or group iMessage message or whatever else) on an iOS device, you can reply to all the recipients of that message but you cannot reply directly to only the sender*. I'm shocked that Apple--that anyone--would implement Reply All as the default for replying to a group message and I'm even more dumbfounded that this is the only reply option available: surely it is not unimaginable to Apple that some users might value the ability to reply back only to the sender of any given group message as a per-message option.** But hey: mistakes and bad decisions are made by all of us in life; it's not the end of the world! But it sure would be nice if it were fixed: Apple, please recognize the disaster that this implementation is (if by no other means than by way of all the annoying group text replies that your employees themselves surely receive as a result of this implementation) and fix it. My thanks!

*Workaround (albeit one that, as well as I can tell, pretty much no one ever uses): create a brand new message to only the sender. The keyword there is "workaround": it is not by any means a justification for not enabling a direct "reply to sender" functionality in the Messages app.

**There is apparently the ability to turn off group messages at a global level in iOS. This apparently prevents you from being able to send group messages; I do not know if it prevents you from receiving group messages or not. Going back to the earlier email analogy, this would be like an email program that won't let you put more than a single recipient on any given email and potentially like an email program that won't let you receive emails unless you're the only recipient on them.

My New Job: Senior Solution Consultant at Ariba

I am pleased to announce that I started a new job today: I'm honored and excited to have accepted a role as a Senior Solution Consultant with Ariba, an SAP company. It's interesting how sometimes things come full-circle: Ariba is the leader in business commerce and corporate procurement, an industry in which I worked at the start of my career over 15 years ago!

The Times They Are A-Changin': New Baby, New Job

Well! These past 2 days have been rather action-packed!

First things first: I am pleased to announce that yesterday afternoon, my beautiful wife Kendall delivered our first child. Our daughter Hallie Elizabeth Adams was born into the world at 12:14 PM EST on Sunday, January 6, 2013. She is being monitored for some kidney issues we already knew about from prenatal ultrasounds but otherwise is healthy and doing very well. We posted a picture of our happy family on the post we added on our family blog.

As if that wasn't enough activity for one day, I started a new job today as well! I'm honored and excited to have accepted a role as a Senior Solution Consultant with Ariba, an SAP company. It's interesting how sometimes things come full-circle: Ariba is the leader in business commerce and corporate procurement, an industry in which I worked at the start of my career over 15 years ago! Ariba has been very understanding about the near-simultaneous timing of these 2 wonderful events and they are allowing me to ease into the job slowly, which I very much appreciate.

I think I'm going to be just a little bit busy for a little while... :)

Recommendation for First-time Expectant Fathers: Boot Camp for New Dads

A couple of weeks back I took a Boot Camp for New Dads class at Northside Hospital and it was awesome! I didn't realize it at the time, but it turns out that Boot Camp for New Dads is a national and even international organization! So if you're in the Atlanta area, you can participate in a class at Northside or (at least ostensibly) a class at Kennestone and if you're elsewhere, the Boot Camp for New Dads site will help you find information on classes in your area. At Northside the class was a mere $35 and I felt like it was money extremely well-spent in helping me learn practical and useful information regarding what to expect as I get ready for fatherhood. I'm not saying this class, or any class, is sufficient for one to learn everything one needs to be a father, I'm just saying for me it was very beneficial and I highly recommend it. If you'd like a copy of the notes I took in the class, request one in a comment on this blog post and I'll see about shooting you off a copy via email.

By the way, our little girl is now due in only 1 more month! :)

Lindsey Buckingham's Holiday Road (from National Lampoon's Vacation) on CD: A Hollywood Christmas

I'm reticent to post this because, topically speaking, it's extremely out of character for my blog, which up to now has been pretty much exclusively about technology with the occasional personal post. However, in my experience this is difficult information to find--and detailing hard-to-find information is very much in keeping with the character of my blog! Hopefully this post will be found by others searching for the song on CD in the future. So with that: onward!

If you're a fan of the National Lampoon's Vacation film series, you'll doubtlessly be familiar with Lindsey Buckingham's seminal "Holiday Road." Now, let's say you want to enjoy this song on CD or download a legitimate digital version of it--well, it turns out it's not so easy to find! As well as I can tell, as of this writing, it's not available for legitimate digital download at all (well, there's a live version readily available but I can't find the version used in the film). And when it comes to finding a legitimate CD with the song on it, I've only been able to find it on one: A Hollywood Christmas. I had a lot of difficulty in finding the existence of this song on this CD by searching for the song on places like Google and Amazon; I was only able to find it via AllMusic.

What about soundtracks for the films? There are claims that "Holiday Road" was made available on CD via a limited CD run of the soundtrack for National Lampoon's Vacation as well as via a limited CD run of the soundtrack for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The research I've done leads me to believe that these CDs are merely bootlegs for which someone has created a compelling faux backstory. As far as legitimate soundtracks for these films go: there was a soundtrack for National Lampoon's Vacation released on vinyl and maybe cassette but not CD (it was released with the film in 1983 and not everything--or much of anything I think--was released on CD at that time; I like vinyl and all but it's not what I'm looking for here). As for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, it appears it never had a soundtrack released on any media.

Incidentally, "Holiday Road" is in no way a Christmas song--and in fact, the irony is that it's so much not a Christmas song that, from what I've read, the only one of the four major Vacation films that doesn't include the song is Christmas Vacation (a fact that makes the purported limited run soundtrack for that film all the more suspect as there is no reason it should include "Holiday Road" if the song wasn't even in the film). So it is odd that it appears on A Hollywood Christmas. I suspect that someone at WEA knew it wasn't available on CD and took A Hollywood Christmas as an opportunity to rectify that situation, even though it wasn't exactly a perfect fit. But whatever the reason, I'm glad it's there!

My Savings War

I'm fighting a war on "savings." Not savings the concept, but "savings" the word: I'm fighting to get it back, back from all the marketing and advertising people who have stolen it from us.

Raise your hand if you believe that saving and savings are good. Now wave at everyone who is looking at you and wondering why you raised your hand while reading from your computer (or mobile device or whatever you're using). You may look silly with your hand raised, but the point here is that everyone believes that saving and savings are good and so if everyone else reading this participated as well as you, you wouldn't be the only one looking silly right now.

Now, raise your hand if you believe that you can save money when buying things, like perhaps due to a sale a store is having. If you're again looking silly with your hand raised, this time I'm hoping you're not in good company. But take heart: untold amounts of money have been spent by marketers and advertisers who want you to believe that you can save money when buying things. Unfortunately, this leaves you...wait for it...looking silly.

Here's the deal: we have all been taught that saving and savings are good things; these are values that are instilled in us. And saving and savings--real saving and real savings--are good things! Now, let's talk about spending: no, the point isn't that spending is, by contrast with saving, bad. Spending is necessary, at least for the vast majority of us. What spending always is, however, is the complete opposite of saving! So: if go into a store and come out with stuff, you have spent money and you have not saved money. What's wrong with that? In and of itself, nothing: as I said, spending is necessary. But what's good about spending? Well, when you're buying things you need, that's a good thing (or at least, if you're able to afford the necessities of your life, that's a good thing). But...well, the truth for many of us is that we don't actually need most of what we buy. Now, we all know that marketers and advertisers work to convince us that we need things we really don't need and they're good at this. But there's always something there we can argue against. So you know what an even better strategy for them is? Divert our attention away from that issue and instead focus on something we all believe in: saving money! So that's exactly what they do: they tell us how much we can "save" by buying from them during whatever sales promotion it is they're doing. And we get all excited because we get what we want (whatever they're selling) and we get to "save" (which we value). It's subtle--and brilliant.

It's brilliant because it works. And it works so well that they've managed to steal "savings" from us and completely redefine it. Take a look the last paragraph of this ABC News article and you'll see an example (I tried to post a comment about this subject to this article but I guess it wasn't approved; well, fine: I'll just include a link to their article here in my blog post instead).

You may think how we define "savings" is mere semantics and a trivial issue but it's not: because of the fact that we value savings, it's psychologically important for us to define it properly. So let's take "savings" back--and lets use it to refer to holding onto our money, not spending it.

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