Rabu, 31 Oktober 2007

0 How To Create Mnemonics


Mnemonics are simple tools to help memorize otherwise difficult information. These include associating imagery or a story to remember a list of items.

MindTools has a great write up about how to make these for yourself which includes what works best and how to associate each device to another.
Imagination: is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember.
Memory Techniques - [MindTools]

0 10 Traits Of Stress-Resilient People


Stress shouldn't be something that takes control of your life, or even affect it. I'm of the school of thought that stress is a choice, and you have complete control.

The idea is to take your worries and what makes you stressed and turn them into positive reactions. For instance, if you're 'stressed' about how little money you have, you have two choices:

1. Stress about it.
2. Do something about it.

StressToPower.com writes something similar. This is about character traits of people who are stress-resilient - or essentially stress free. See how many you relate to:
They know how to mourn the inevitable losses in life. They know how to let go of things they have no control over.
Traits of Stress-Hardy, Resilient People - [StressToPower]

Selasa, 30 Oktober 2007

0 Event 40204628

We just had another earthquake.
The house jolted; the front door chain swung back and forth, tapping the doorframe; and I stood up, looking out the back window, realizing that if all hell breaks loose I'm really thirsty and I don't have any bottled water. The jolting became a dull vibration, and then it ended. I sat back down on the futon.
It was a 5.6 on the Richter scale, and the epicenter was 5.7 miles beneath the Earth's surface.
It was Event 40204628.

Earlier: Event 14312160

0 Savoring Life's Little Indulgences

There are so many delicious, comforting, joyous moments in our life every day, but they are lost on us because we are often going too fast to savor them.

Take a moment to answer the call of the good in your life by sensing it and fully enjoying these little gifts that are there if you slow down long enough to grab them.

Here are a few to consider.

Quiet Morning Stillness.
Ahh, the serenity of quiet early mornings. Instead of being upset about having to get up early, drink in the gift of early morning peace.

Long Hot Shower
Instead of the daily 5 minute shower, take a day or two off from showering. Unless you're getting really dirty and sweaty everyday, we often never really get dirty enough to feel and appreciate the clean that comes from daily bathing. Next time you do shower, stand still with your head under the hot water. Notice the droplets all around you and how the light hits them. Maybe light some candles before you get in the shower. Take notice of the scents of your soaps and shampoos and immerse yourself in the luxury of it all.

Hot Morning Drink
In Japan, there are elaborate rituals for preparing, pouring, and drinking tea. What this does is elevate the tea drinking experience into something special. Why not establish your own ritual for your morning coffee or tea that involves enjoying the process of preparation, savoring the aroma, and slowly experiencing the first sips of your hot drink. Notice the warmth as it goes down the center of your body and spread out to heat you from the inside out. The slower you go, the more you notice, the greater the experience.

Alone Time
Are you troubled by waiting in line, waiting in your car in traffic, sitting in a waiting room? Turn that coin around to the other side. Recognize that what you have there is precious alone time to think and daydream. Don't spend that time being annoyed. Use it and enjoy it!

Dessert
Who doesn't enjoy dessert? Yet, when we eat our sweets we eat them fast and afterwards we feel guilty. We rob ourselves twice. First we lose out on the enjoyment of the experience by eating fast, and secondly by not embracing the reward. For some people in some countries where life is hard and the people are poor, a small sweet is a tremendous luxury. Next time you have a sweet, have a small bit, eat it slowly, and savor it. Imagine that it is the one luxury in your life. Allow yourself to fully enjoy it. And when you're done, grin gleefully and be happy. Relish the memory and move forward having been justifiably rewarded.

Clean Teeth
Is brushing your teeth a chore? Or is it a luxury? Could it be a time to be thankful for your teeth? Could it be a time in which you are caring for your teeth, which is at the root of good health, and in reality caring for your whote self? Ah the feeling of clean teeth. Imagine life without being able to care for your teeth. Let that thought facilitate your appreciation of it.

What Did You See Today?
What did you really see? Look for the beautiful, the miraculous, the wondrous, the spectacular. Look for it everywhere, especially in small places. What grand masterpiece is nature displaying for you today? See it. Drink it in. Perhaps you'll be inspired to write a little poem and give it to someone you love or to someone you want to thank. Find some way to share that beauty. Remember, all it takes to capture that beauty is to pay attention.

Relief from the Elements
Close your eyes and imagine entering a warm home on a cold day after a walk in the brisk cold air. Can you feel it? Or how about during warmer months, when was the last time you truly appreciated the cool air of a fan cooling your face and body? Sometimes it is good to experience real heat or cold so we can grasp the luxury of a comfortable temperature.

Music
Have you ever listened to music without doing anything else? Probably not in a while. In my humble opinion, if there is a heaven, it must feel a lot like the joy of listening to music. Next time you listen to music try to melt into the sound. Try some classical or other music without words, and imagine what the message is. Does the message speak to you in words, pictures, feelings, or something else? And speaking of feelings, go with your feelings when you listen to the music. Let the music cleanse you completely!

What is your favorite little indulgence? Tell us! We'd love to hear from you!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less and Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?

Senin, 29 Oktober 2007

0 Are You Being Manipulated?

Are you someone's drone? Do you know?

Most drone's don't know when they are being manipulated by someone else. By design, drones are followers. This is quite the opposite of leaders. Leaders look for drones simply because they want followers and they want to advance their ideals. Why else do you think most sales people are A personalities? They have a skill that lends to herding followers and manipulating them.

In an article that may be a Top 5 candidate for me this year, Mark Dykeman from SocyBerty shares some great insights on how manipulators act and how to tell when you are being conned.

Here is one of his points but I really want you to visit his site and read more.
Manipulators Act Differently Toward You When They Want Something

Watch for sudden changes in the way that a requester (a potential manipulator, someone who wants you to help them for selfish purposes) behaves toward you:

  • They compliment you more often (assuming they ever did), particularly with regards to your valuable skills, knowledge and experience.
  • You suddenly become this person's “buddy”, “pal” or “friend”. They might use your first or last names more often than normal. The requester smiles at you more often, but the smile never reaches their eyes.
  • They seem interested in what you are doing. However, these are often shallow expressions of interest followed by impatience and rapid shift of subject or attention. Manipulators are always looking for opportunities and can be distracted rather easily.
  • They seem eager to please you. You'll get the occasional gift or freebie from a manipulator. Just remember that a manipulator is too smart or cheap to invest a lot of money in you at this point, so they probably didn't pay for the gifts.
  • The requester makes public expressions of support and need for you. Can you say “flattery”?

This positive behavior ceases after you are no longer needed or useful. If they are looking for long term help from you, the good times may roll on for some time.

Is it me or is some of this eye-opening stuff? If you read his article you will easily notice that a lot of this happens to you in the course of a week. I don't want to make you paranoid but it makes you wonder what intentions exist.


Read Five Danger Signals That Warn That You Are Being Manipulated by SocyBerty.

0 150 Resources to Help You Write Better and Faster

150 of anything is probably way too much. Would you agree? Well, while a post of ours is indeed on this list, there is no better resource to hit when you want to really increase your writing skills.

At some point I will adopt these tips but for now, I am simply to lazy busy.

The Online Education Database lists a whopping 150 resources that could turn you into the next Robert Frost. If you are serious about writing something, read some of these.

Here is a sample, there is no way I am listing them all:
  1. English Grammar FAQ: A simple and easy-to-use list of common English language problems and how to solve them. This list was compiled through an extensive archive of postings to alt.usage.english by John Lawler, Linguistics, U. Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  2. Gender-Fair Language: This short guide will help you to avoid gender-specific discrimination in your writing and speech.

  3. Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization for Technical Writers and Editors: Although this comprehensive guide is geared toward technical writing, its easy-to-use format and easy-to-understand explanations would benefit any writer.

  4. Guide to Grammar and Style: Written by Jack Lynch, this site provides grammatical rules and explanations, comments on style, and suggestions on usage that Lynch put together for his classes.

  5. Guide to Grammar and Writing: Choose from several modules that will help you to determine how to structure your writing. The Capital Community College Foundation sponsors the Guide to Grammar and Writing.

  6. Hypergrammar: The University of Ottawa provides a heavily linked explanation to all things proper in English grammar. This is a comprehensive one-stop shop for structure, spelling, and punctuation.

  7. Style Guide: This guide is based on the style book which is given to all journalists at The Economist. It provides hints on how to use syntax, metaphors, punctuation, and more.

  8. The Elements of Style: William Strunk, Jr. wrote the classic reference book for any student and conscientious writer. Bartleby.com offers the entire book free online.

  9. Verbix: Did he lay or lie? Which tense should you use? If you're confused, this English conjugator will help you to determine how to use verbs in the proper tense. You can also Ask Oxford if you'd prefer.
There are a ton of others so if you want to write a little (or a lot) better, check out 150 Resources to Help You Write Better, Faster, and More Persuasively.

0 DLM Featured Site Recap


As many of you know, I have recommended several sites that will make your life a little easier. Here is a recap of the last 20 or so. What did you miss?

By the way this list is a constant work in progress. The best way to keep up our new site category is to subscribe to it here!

How to Find a Recycling Center Near Home
It really could not be any simpler. You enter your zip code and it displays all of the recycling centers in your area.

Monster Database of Keyboard Shortcuts
Our keyboard shortcut database is search-able by software program and covers all the major operating environments including Windows, Macintosh, Linux and browser-based applications.

Learn Internet Slang so You Can Understand your Kids (LOL!)
If you have kids old enough to be online and chatting away while you're watching Murder She Wrote after dinner, you are probably actually a little concerned. Even if you did have a way to read what they were typing, would you know what it meant?

Get Introduced to and Learn a Foreign Language for Free
Thanks to a helpful reader, here's a site that you can use to introduce yourself to foreign languages for free.

Things Other People Accomplished At Your Age
Depending on your outlook, you will either find this depressing or motivational.

Free Health Advice from a Med Student
He doesn't just toss out unsubstantiated ideas regarding your health. He'll share an idea and then tell you why it works and what to expect.

236 Open Courseware Collections, Podcasts, and Videos
It's a treasure chest of sites for you to review. If you are an aspiring autodidact, have fun.

80 Sites to Help you Live Green
Like most people, the environment is on my mind a lot more today than 5 years ago. I honestly do what I can but frankly, I am still driving a 1998 Chevy Blazer and because I am more cheap than green.

Design and Redesign Your Home with Floorplanner
It's actually pretty solid and aside from structural design, it can handle basic tasks like the aforementioned furniture placement.

How To Work like the Productivity Masters
In my post, I used the knowledge of our network to bring you over 20 things you can consider when contemplating which enhancements you'll make to your life. Take them all or take none, the key is to consider.

Find eBay's Accidental Deals with Typotracker
Let's pretend you are searching for a Ralph Lauren Sweater. Well, when people are selling their cute little sweaters on eBay, many of them spell "Lauren" incorrectly.

Share PowerPoint Presentations Online
Did one of the important attendees not make it to the presentation that you delivered yesterday? If he can’t come to the presentation, the presentation can go to him!

Want an Easier Life? Read LifeRemix
LifeRemix will feature original content (sample "100 Great Tips to Improve Your Life") and syndicated headlines from its members which are (blush) regarded as some of the blogosphere's best productivity sites.

Search for Colleges with Campus Explorer
A DLM reader sent us a tip pointing to a site named CampusExplorer.com. I checked it out and it's actually pretty solid.

Bust A Name is a better Domain Search Tool
It's essentially a word combiner. Simply plug in your keywords and it will instantly try every possible combination of those words and let you know which are available as domain names.

Super Fast Domain Search
I actually have this site bookmarked now so I can hop in whenever I get the next (cough) big idea. The faster you type, the faster you search.

How to Erase Your Cell Phone Memory
After a while, I got smart and placed everything on eBay. My wife was happy because it brought in enough to cover a car payment. However, before you do this, you should delete all of your personal information from the phone.

Forum for New Bloggers
After a cursory look, this is a great addition to your resource list. As the name indicates, it's a forum where you can ask people to review your blog, provide advice, etc. By the way, membership is free.

Free Disposable Phone Numbers
This site actually provides you with disposable phone numbers.

How Google Gears Will Change Your Life
The ability of web applications to work even when off-line is a huge step forward for web software, and even if there aren't a lot of apps that can take advantage of this yet, the beta release of Gears signals big changes in coming months.

Interactive Health, Surgery and Procedure Tutorials
Well the visit to the doctor wasn't great. Further testing is needed and you are now scheduled for a Colonoscopy, a Laparoscopy, and three other "scopys" you can't even pronounce.

That's the "Featured Site" recap for now. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on these recaps. We get a ton of new readers each day so I want to be sure they know what's up!

0 Spies, Light-Writing, and the Surface of the City

[Image: By and via Energie in Motion].

This morning's post reminded me of a link someone sent in two weeks ago: Energie in Motion, a light-writing project by two guys in Germany.
Hey, little man! What are you doing outside by yourself? You look sad.

[Image: By and via Energie in Motion].

There's no need to hide!

[Image: By and via Energie in Motion].

It's just me...
For more images, stop by the Energie in Motion site itself. There's even a short video you can watch of the men at work, writing with light in Munich and Hamburg, turning parking meters into robots and animating street signs with little glowing arms and legs.
It'd be interesting, meanwhile, if you could install some sort of moving light sculpture in the center of the city. The sculpture appears to be totally abstract: casually and randomly, it switches back and forth amongst various positions, spinning little lights around, making arcs, circles, hops, jumps, and flashes, all to no real purpose or design – but then someone accidentally takes a photo of it using too long an exposure...
The resulting images, developed back at home in a basement darkoom, reveal that the sculpture is actually writing things in space.
Like this:

[Image: By and via Energie in Motion].

It just requires an elongated present moment in which to read it.
Turns out it's a new way for spies to communicate – and this random tourist with a camera has now uncovered a sinister plot...
Alfred Hitchcock directs the film version.

(Thanks, Joel D.! Vaguely related: Automotive Ossuary).

0 White Light

[Image: White Noise/White Light, Athens, by Höweler + Yoon/MY Studio].

I stumbled on an old project from the summer of 2004 today, by Höweler + Yoon/MY Studio, called White Noise/White Light.
The project was on display in Athens during the 2004 Olympics:
    Comprised of a 50' x 50' grid of fiber optics and speakers, "White Noise/White Light" is an interactive sound and light field that responds to the movement of people as they walk through it... As pedestrians enter into the fiber optic field their presence and movement are traced by each stalk unit, transmitting white light from LEDs and white noise from speakers below.
And though I wasn't in Athens to see the thing in person, it certainly did photograph well.

[Image: White Noise/White Light, Athens, by Höweler + Yoon/MY Studio].

Juxtaposed with the Parthenon in the background, the effect, in fact, looks quite mesmerizing.
Electrical practicalities and issues of light pollution aside, it'd be nice to install something like this for a few nights along the rim of the entire Grand Canyon... Then fly over it in a glider, at 3am, taking photographs.

UPDATE: How strange: I came home from work today to find two copies of Architect magazine waiting for me in the doorway – and lo! On p. 49 of their September 2007 issue there's nothing else but "White Noise/White Light" by Höweler + Yoon... Architect says: "The experience and publicity that Höweler + Yoon gained from the Olympics project have led to new commissions and further explorations in up-to-the-nanosecond lighting technologies." Interesting overlap.

(Earlier: Archidose blogged it).

0 Two Ways To Boost Your Low Self-Esteem

For me, self-esteem has always been a funny thing. I've always had pretty high self-esteem and have continually tried to help others who don't.

Of course, since I've never had a particularly hard time with low self-esteem, it has made me a fairly poor instructor.

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, eHarmony.com Founder, has defined 2 things that I've probably taken for granted, but also completely make sense to me.

The first is to make note of your internal dialog and think about what you are continuously telling yourself.
The fact is, most of the time we have little conscious awareness of our own internal dialog, and yet this self-talk has a huge impact on how you feel about yourself. With a little practice, you can tune into this information and use it to bolster your self-image.
The second tip is something that I could never understand people have trouble with: making the decision to take control and not relying on other people to define the state of your confidence and self.

Like I say, this has been simple for me in the past, but I understand many people have other factors that limit this growth.

Is it this simple, or are we missing something?

Building Your Self Esteem From Scratch - [eHarmony]

0 Nagging Doesn't Work

About.com's Sheri & Bob Stritof wrote an article that I think compliments Jay's comments in 10 Tips To Make Your First Year Of Marriage Easier.

It's about nagging and why it doesn't work.
Nagging can become a vicious cycle.
The more you nag, the more your mate avoids you or withdraws both emotionally and physically from you, so the more you nag.

Is this really how you want to live?

The Stritofs go into what nagging is and why you do it as well as alternatives and what to do if you are on the receiving end of habitual nagging.

What are your thoughts on nagging; within a marriage and out?

Why Nagging Doesn't Work - [About.com]

0 When Crunch Time Fails

There is a school of thought that says productivity, and sometimes creativity, increases when pressure and time restrictions are applied.

This is sometimes true. If you rely on you or your workers to get more done in shorter periods of time, during overtime for instance, you could be doing more harm than you think.

A thorough explanation of this is detailed in an article from IGDA.org that defines where productivity declines in regard to longer working days.
Workers can maintain productivity more or less indefinitely at 40 hours per five-day workweek. When working longer hours, productivity begins to decline. Somewhere between four days and two months, the gains from additional hours of work are negated by the decline in hourly productivity. In extreme cases (within a day or two, as soon as workers stop getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night), the degradation can be abrupt.
This is a great read that should have you or your managers thinking twice about encouraging overtime.

Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work
- [IGDA]

Sabtu, 27 Oktober 2007

0 The 10 Commandments of Investing

I am no investing genius, let's all understand that now. Sure, I have a few mutual funds, a 401k, and the other common items but I am in no position to state whether or not I did it correctly. Further, I am not the guy to tell you how to do it and what to watch for.

But, I have someone that may be. I don't know Alan Haft and (no offense to him) I don't care to in the professional sense. However, I do enjoy reading his articles. He speaks about pure investing and how to manage your money. What makes this blog different is that topics are really explained in a way that anyone can understand.

Anyway, after that long intro, I wanted to share a helpful article he wrote that can really help anyone. It's named The 10 Commandments of Investing and as implied, these are the basic rules one should follow when beginning to invest for the long term.

Here is one of the ten points. I agree with them all so consider this a sample:
6. Don’t rush in
You’ve likely heard the saying “only fools rush in.” On every level, rushing into things can cause great harm. Whether it’s rushing in to get high returns, rushing out as a result of emotion, or rushing into a decision as to where to invest, before diving in pause, take a deep breath, sleep on it, and then make your decision. As a “subset” of this commandment, I would also include: Be careful when listening to others. What’s good for one person is terrible for another. The media does a great job of generalizing advice and investments, and I think that’s an awfully dangerous game to play.

Unless someone really understands your personal situation and goals, I firmly believe it’s nearly impossible to make conclusive and general statements as to “what’s good” and “what’s bad” for you. No good doctor could ever diagnose a problem without getting the answers to some basic questions. If they fail to do this, prescribing a pill can literally kill you. The same is true with investing. Only when a few key questions are answered could anyone really give prudent advice on “what’s good” or “what’s bad” for you. So the next time someone tells you to “stay away from this” or “you should invest in that” be careful. Educate yourself, assess the advantages and disadvantages of the advice you’re getting, pause, then make your decision. By doing so, chances are you’ll make the right one.
Here is the rest of The 10 Commandments of Investing. It's a good read if you are just beginning or really, if you want to evaluate the choices you have already made.

Jumat, 26 Oktober 2007

0 10 Tips for a Successful Meeting With The Boss

Maybe you work one-on-one with the head honcho every day or perhaps you only get a face-to-face on the very rare occasion. Whenever you get the chance to sit down and have a meeting with the big guns, it's best to make it as productive as possible. It's also a chance to show your stuff and leave a lasting impression of who you are and what you have to offer. Here's 10 ways to help you do that.
  1. Ask for an agenda prior to the meeting - If there’s not one available, offer to create one to help keep the meeting focused and on track. If the meeting is less formal than that, be sure the goal of the meeting is at least spoken out loud and agreed upon by both of you. Knowing the goal of the meeting you can then gather any appropriate documentation you might need to take with you. For example, if the meeting is to review your performance and discuss a possible promotion, you would want to bring copies of letters from clients complimenting you on your work, a table showing your recent sales and the impact they had on your team, etc.

  2. Dress to impress - Not much needs to be said about this one except that it is more important than you probably think. Even if the normal dress at your company is fairly casual, step it up a few notches. You want your boss to take notice. You should look better than you do on a regular basis.

  3. Take notes during the meeting - This shows that you are listening and that you plan to review what was discussed later. It also indicates that you are already considering the follow up that will be done after the meeting. The notes are handy for exactly this reason. You may come out of the meeting with a list of action items that you will need to remember to take care of in the future.

  4. Show enthusiasm and positivity - Plain and simple. Just like you do for a job interview, put on the shiny-happy hat. Yes, it's true that sometimes you have to address a complaint, and in that case see number 5….

  5. Bring solutions - Never enter a meeting with a complaint that you don't have at least one solution for. I know this is difficult but how are you going to enter a meeting with your boss, hand him a problem and then say "you work it out"? He's going to throw it right back to you and ask what you think the answer is. Go in prepared. In my opinion, you should take 2 or 3 possible solutions. If you are absolutely stuck, you must express that you've given the topic much consideration and ruled out several possible solutions in the process. At least then you've shown the effort.

  6. Build rapport - Make a connection with your boss. This is going to vary for every situation but try to show a little personality. Most people in a leadership position have great social personalities. You just have to coax it out of them sometimes. If you know their favorite ball team, comment on how they've been doing. If you know they play golf, ask how their game is doing. If they like jazz, tell them about a new jazz band you heard recently. Do your research and be prepared for a little small talk.

  7. Show vision - Don't be afraid to voice big ideas. Show your understanding (or curiosity) for the bigger picture. Don't limit yourself by sticking topics related only to your job. Show broad interest and they'll start looking at you as a potential future leader.

  8. Ask clarification questions - Don't ever - and I mean EVER - say that you understand something if you don't. I can't stress this enough. It's like the episode of Seinfeld when George is working on a project for his boss and he has no idea what it is. George didn't hear him but then acted like he understood the assignment. Next thing he knew, he was in charge of something that was a complete mystery. Excellent episode. But also very true. People always nod and go along with things in a meeting thinking that later they can figure it out. Don't leave that office with questions. I have learned that the hard way. So now, I ask questions and then, before I leave, I restate what we've discussed and accomplished.

  9. Send thanks - Either by email, mail or with a telephone call, let your boss know you appreciate the time they spent with you. Whatever is most appropriate. I see my boss everyday and meet with him everyday but if we have a special one-on-one, I make sure to say thank you at the end of the day to reinforce that I know it was out of the ordinary and I appreciate the time.

  10. Follow up - If you leave with a list of action items, try to establish agreed upon dates when they should be accomplished. Then, follow through and meet that deadline. I used to work with someone who talked big during meetings and then never followed through. So meetings became pointless. Don't let this happen and think your boss won't notice. He'll notice. He might not approach the topic but he'll notice.
Written for Dumb Little Man by Chrissy of The Execuitve Assistant's Tool Box. Visit her site for more on professional or personal development. Popular posts include 5 Tips for Better Relationships at Work and How to Be Proactive.

Kamis, 25 Oktober 2007

0 Unschedule Your Job

This is so painfully obvious that it irritates me to know that I didn't think of it. A while back I wrote an article named "How to Leave Work at Work". The content of that article is pretty self explanatory and I wrote it because I found myself leaving work simply to come home and log in again.

Well, what if we did something Constanza-like? What if we started by scheduling our personal activities first and then filling in open spots with evening work projects?

By personal activities I am talking about the things you LIKE to do. Working out, riding the bike, time with the kids, etc. By scheduling those items first you have a baseline to work from that ensures you won't neglect them. Clearly you have to use a little common sense with this. If playing video games is something you want to add, doing so at 1:00 in the afternoon is silly.

I think that by doing this and scheduling relaxing activities during non-business hours you will eventually learn to follow the schedule. Ultimately, you will learn that your job and projects will exist the next day and that working at night isn't an absolute must.

Here is the article that triggered the light bulb for me. Read it and give it a shot.

How to Unschedule your work and enjoy guilt-free play (Life Clever)

0 Super duper hilarious!!!

Have you guys seen this video yet?

IT IS FUCKING HILARIOUS LA!!!!!!!!!!



I laughed until I almost died ok!!!


Watch watch!!


MY LOONY BUNS IS HOT BENNY LAVA!!!!!!!!!!

It's damn fucking funny lar!

The writer of the English lyrics is someone called Buffalax (I googled him and he seems like just some WoW addict) and he is amazingly talented!!

I don't know how he can actually hear English within all these languages.

He also did a few more funny videos, here's a Japanese one:



SHIT! I knew your son!! MUAHAHA

Got a Russian one too!!



PORCELAIN IS THE SUREST PLAN!!!!!!!

PLEASE RESPECT THE CAVIAR!!


That's as logical as it can get!



Can't wait for Buffalax to do a Chinese one!

His talent lies in doing this man, he should set up a website and just keep doing it, everyday.

His job occupation? Subtitler.

0 Going Nuts Yet? Get your Tasks and Appointments Organized

A reader recently wrote into DLM asking for advice on how to best manage his tasks. He was conflicted about not being able to use just one system and he struggled to find a method that used his Blackberry exclusively. He ended up trying a paper based system which didn't meet all his needs either. Does this sound familiar to you? Are you tracking tasks and appointments in multiple databases and/or notepads? If so, what's the solution to end this madness?

For most of us, there is no perfect system. In truth, the best system is a combination of systems. The one that I'll discuss today is what I call the PPC Matrix. Best of all, it's really not that complicated.

PPC Matrix - The Tools

Here are the tools you will need for this meta system.

Paper: I'll list resources at the end of this article, but what probably works best is a simple notebook and maybe some post-it tabs if you want to create sections for projects. You'll use this notebook for capturing ideas throughout the day and for keeping your project lists organized. Experiment to find the type and size that works best for you. I alternate between a small 5" x7" notebook and a slim 5 1/2" x 8" 3 ring binder type notebook.

PDA: (Personal Digital Assistant) Most cellphones have the capability nowadays, so whichever one you already have, as long as you can sync it with your computer, that should work.

Calendar: There are loads of free online applications out these days. For most people, simply using Microsoft Outlook is going to work just fine. It's not perfect but it integrates everything together: email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and memos. Further, most PDA's can sync with Outlook.

The bottom line: whatever works best for you is what you should use! Experiment with applications like Remember the Milk or Todoist and find the right mix. If you have opinions on the best computer based calendar/Time management system, please share in the comments!

PPC Matrix - The Guide

At Your Desk
  • Whenever possible enter information directly into your computer based time management system, such as Outlook. These would include contacts, appointments, tasks (to-do) items, and memo's (reference information you want to be able to access easily later on such as passwords, serial numbers, etc.)
  • For more complex ideas or for when you need to capture lots of information fast, use your paper system.
Away From Your Desk
  • When driving, use Jott for capturing ideas, tasks, appointments, and more. Simply call Jott and leave yourself a message. Jott will translate your audio into text and email it to you. You can even set up a reminder at a specific time and date.
  • When your hands are free and the item is quick, enter it into your PDA.
  • When your hands are free and you need speed or the item is lengthy or complex, enter the information into your capture notebook.
Each Day
  • Sync your PDA with your computer based calendar.
  • Migrate your capture items from your paper system to the appropriate place (calendar, contact, task, memo, etc)
  • Classify your task items according to projects or large category groups. You can either manage these in your capture notebook by adding post-it tabs or you can manage them inside your electronic task system with category labels.
  • Plan your day by assigning tasks from your projects to your "Today" Task list, or in GTD-speak, your "next action list." This can be a section of your capture notebook or in your electronic task system, whichever works best for you.
Resources

Paper
PDA's
Calendar/Time Management System Resources
Books

Please share your thoughts, questions, and opinions in the comments above. We'd love to hear from you!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less and Quantum Leap: What’s Your Next Big Thing?.

Rabu, 24 Oktober 2007

0 DIY: Scare Everyone with this thing

This will perhaps be my one and only Halloween related posts. I am going to say nothing other than that image you see below is crazy scary and you can make your own for a couple bucks.

..stilll kind of freaks me out...

If you want to learn how to create this yourself and scare every human on your street, visit MadHaus.

0 I was Passed Up for a Promotion..what's next?

You know, I get a lot of emails each week from readers asking completely random questions about a certain predicament they are in. Generally, I answer these questions in email and keep the conversations private.

However, on occasion I ask for permission to publish the Q&A. I do this for 2 reasons: A) The topic and advice may help others and, B)The readers of DLM are a lot smarter than I am.

So, here is a recent email and my suggestions. Let's do what we can to add a lot of comments and help out. What would you do?
"Jay -

...I didn't really want to bother you but I honestly think you could help me out. I have worked at the same company for 8 years and in my current position for 2. I am a Help Desk supervisor for a fairly large banking company.

Recently, they posted a position for "Manager of Tech Support" and it was a natural progression in my career path. Everyone on my team thought I was a shoe-in. I applied and did everything right only to learn today that they hired someone externally. This person is younger than me and has less experience in support let alone the fact that he has no idea what the culture of the company is. When I think of that + all of the great annual reviews I have had, I am miffed as to the reasoning. I have asked my manager and I am not getting a solid response.

I am strapped with bills and I really thought this added income would be my ticket to a better situation. How do I respond to this?"...
Hmm. It's a tough situation when you put your heart into a job and they pass you up. Here are a handful of things you can do (and shouldn't do):
  • Make an Appointment: In your email you mentioned that you spoke to your manager. If you spoke in passing, your manager may believe that it was a casual concern as opposed to something that has you steaming mad. You should actually set a time to discuss this topic in a more formal setting. The more formal the discussion, the more serious the situation.

    In your meeting, don't be defensive. Ask important questions like, "What specifically can I do to move up at this company?" In a subtle way, you MUST indicate that you are moving up with or without them. Imply that your skills and experience are valuable in the marketplace without actually saying, "I'm looking for a new job".

  • Reactivity: It's funny that most annual reviews only discuss your past performance. In reality, those that get promoted are "visionaries". One move you can make it to start solving problems before they peak. Understand your environment and recommend changes that will ultimately solve problems faster.

  • THE EMAIL: We all have a lot of courage when we're not face to face with our boss. No matter how upset you are, DO NOT email anyone venting your frustrations. This is especially true if you have had a glass of wine or a Budweiser. If it makes you feel better, write a nasty email and then save it as a draft.

  • Sabotage: It is human nature to feel some hate for the new guy that took your job. Nevertheless, act normally and do what you have to without placing land mines or turning the team against him/her. It should be obvious but in case it's not, you are cutting your own throat by retaliating against some guy that just wanted a job.

  • Credit: In this case, the new manager was hired from an external source. However, I have personally witnessed how employees can take credit for someone else's work. Make sure your completed projects are listed as yours.

  • Questions: There is a REAL reason why you were passed up. You are not having a bad day and it's not that you wear ugly clothes. Get to the bottom of it! Ask good questions that will illicit a real response. If the answer is Yes or No, your question was terrible. Ask questions that require an elaborate response.

  • New Job: Clearly there is a time and a place for you to hit the little red button. Yes, this is the nuclear button. Get your resume together and begin looking for a new job. If nothing else, at least have an understanding for what your position is worth!
So friends, that's all I have for this. At this point it's probably too late for any real proactive measures to get promoted.

What can you recommend?

0 Macau, Hong Kong. Shen Zhen

Congrats to me!!

I'm flying to Macau tomorrow via no less than the magnificent Tiger Airways (trying to be ironic, in case you thought I'm serious)!!

I'd be going with Qihua and her BF so poor Mikey will be left at home alone for 4 days...

Tomorrow is the press conference for Fresh Air For Women, an anti-smoking campaign, and since I am one of the ambassadors I have to be there at 10am (Jesus!! Hate morning people).

Yesterday I bought a lo mai gai (is it spelt like that?) and I put it on the kitchen table for maybe 1 hour... The damn thing was wrapped inside 1 paper bag and the paper bag was wrapped in a plastic bag.

I took up the package, wanting to microwave it, and midway during the journey to the microwave a HUMONGOUS LIZARD JUMPED, literally JUMPED, out of the plastic bag.

He flew up scrabbling and wiggling in midway (in a rather comical way, if I were not the victim) landed with a heavy and cold THUD on the crook of my arm.

I screamed cold murder and flung both lo mai gai and lizard away while running to the bedroom and whimpered to a sleeping and confused Mike.

Amazingly enough, the lizard managed to get through both paper and plastic bag to get to the food.


AND WHAT THE FUCK ARE LIZARDS DOING EATING LO MAI GAIs ANYWAY?


Don't people who defend lizards always say, "Oh, lizards are good what, they eat our pests!"

IT IS ALL A FACADE I TELL YOU!

Lizards like our human food just like cockroaches do, and what's worse, they PRETEND to eat mosquitoes and the like!

CAN YOU PLEASE TELL ME, IF YOU ATE LO MAI GAIs WILL YOU STILL GO AND EAT FLIES AFTER THAT??

No right?!

Grrrr

I swear, these fuckers just hate me!!!!!


NOBODY ELSE HAS SUCH FREQUENT LIZARD TRAUMAS!!!

Maybe they know I enjoy killing their kind. Oh yes I'm gonna redouble my efforts in killing you all you know, you dirty ugly wonky-eyed muthafuckers!!!!!!

I'd extend my reign of terror to Macau, where I will also kill the lizards there!!


Soon, Macau lizards will be whispering to each other:

"Hey... You know that blogger Xiaxue? Came here! To our very own peninsula! She is going to kill as many of us as possible!"

Terrified, lizard two replies: "How do you know this?" while he cowers in his wall corner, and clasps a filthy hand to his mouth, thus nearly falling off the ceiling. Lizard One grabs hold of him just in time.

One says: "My cousin from Singapore told me! He came all the way here via a ferry and a budget airline and relayed the news, then died of exhaustion." Lizard one adds severely, "He didn't sleep for 2 days, poor boy."


MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok I might be a bit deranged.



I'd be back on the 31st, and will post about the trip!






P/S: Here's a photo of a lizard I smacked to death with my bathroom slipper.


Disgusting, isn't it?


It totally serves him right because he was hiding BEHIND THE TOILET ROLL.

I cannot comprehend why anyone would go hide behind toilet rolls unless their purpose in doing so is to unleash themselves upon innocent girls who unfurled the roll of paper to wipe their asses.

That place (behinde the toilet roll) is not particularly fragrant and it is definitely not a good insect-catching spot.

Therefore, this lizard is evil.

Since he is evil, I chased him into the shower area and sprayed him with terribly hot water and when he is momentarily paralyzed, smacked him with my bathroom slipper.


SMACK!


Once, and he twitches. Oh, still alive, aren't you?


SMACK!


A last feeble twitch.

SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK!

Flush corpse into toilet bowl. Revenge is sweet.

I killed one more lizard with this method.

That lizard also deserves it because he was drinking water from my bathroom.

We have to pay rent and water bills of the precious water he is drinking, and did he ask permission? NO. Sorry, water not yours to drink, therefore deserve to DIE.


Besides, he was probably the one who dared the toilet-roll-lizard to sit there and hop onto my hand after I shat, thinking it is very funny.

VERY FUNNY NOW THAT YOU LOOK LIKE THIS, HUH??


Ha! Dead.

0 The Road

Flying into Vegas last night to speak at a conference hosted somewhere inside the Venetian Hotel by the Urban Land Institute, I read Cormac McCarthy's recent novel, The Road. It's a book I'd long wanted to read but kept putting off for some reason, and I'm glad I finally read it.

[Image: By Trevor Manternach, found during a Flickr search].

If you don't know the book, the basic gist is that the United States – and, we infer, everything else in the world – has been annihilated in what sounds like nuclear war. But all of that is just background for the real meat of the book.
The Road follows a father and son as they walk south, starving, toward an unidentified coast. They cross mountains and prairies and forests; everything is burned, turned to ash, or obliterated. The father is coughing up blood and the skies are permanently grey.
Briefly, I'd be interested to hear, out of sheer curiosity, where other people think the book is "set" – because it sounds, at times, like the hills of New York state or even western Massachusetts; at other times it sounds like Missouri, Tennessee, parts of Mississippi, and the Gulf Coast; at other times like the Sierra Nevadas, hiking down toward the rocky shorelines just north of, say, Santa Barbara. Sometimes it sounds like Oregon.
In any case, the only glimpse we get of the war itself is this – and all spelling and punctuation in these quotations is McCarthy's own:
    The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions. He got up and went to the window. What is it? she said. He didnt answer. He went into the bathroom and threw the lightswitch but the power was already gone. A dull rose glow in the windowglass. He dropped to one knee and raised the lever to stop the tub and the turned on both taps as far as they would go. She was standing in the doorway in her nightwear, clutching the jamb, cradling her belly in one hand. What is it? she said. What is happening?
    I dont know.
    Why are you taking a bath?
    I'm not.
After this, the landscape outside is described as "scabbed" and "cauterized," heavily covered in ash.
McCarthy memorably writes: "They sat at the window and ate in their robes by candlelight a midnight supper and watched distant cities burn."
The wife soon gone – indeed, she's only ever present through flashbacks – the father and son stumble south pushing their food supplies, a few toys, and some "stinking robes and blankets" in an old grocery cart. They come across Texas Chainsaw Massacre-like houses, as some bands of bearded survivors have taken to cannibalism.
Interestingly, every house seems vaguely terrifying to the young boy in a way that the dead forests and dried riverbeds simply do not. Empty houses on hills with their doors left open.
So their journey down the road continues:
    By then all stores of food had given out and murder was everywhere upon the land. The world soon to be largely populated by men who would eat your children in front of your eyes and the cities themselves held by cores of blackened looters who tunneled among the ruins and crawled from the rubble white of tooth and eye carrying charred and anonymous tins of food in nylon nets like shoppers in the commissaries of hell. (...) Out on the roads the pilgrims sank down and fell over and died and the bleak and shrouded earth went trundling past the sun and returned again as trackless and as unremarked as the path of any nameless sisterworld in the ancient dark beyond.
And then they approach what appears to have been a place actually struck by those distant concussions of sound and light, the perhaps atomic bombs of an unexplained war:
    Beyond a crossroads in that wilderness they began to come upon the possessions of travelers abandoned in the road years ago. Boxes and bags. Everything melted and black. Old plastic suitcases curled shapeless in the heat. Here and there the imprint of things wrested out of the tar by scavengers. A mile on and they began to come upon the dead. Figures half mired in the blacktop, clutching themselves, mouths howling. He put his hand on the boy's shoulder. Take my hand, he said. I dont think you should see this.
It's a good book. It's not perfect; a friend of mine quipped that it ends with "a failure of nerve," and yet the nostalgic tone of the book's final paragraph suited me just fine.
Which just leaves us, readers of things like this, preparing in whatever small ways we can to survive some undefined possible apocalypse of our own time here, the future politicized, the reservoirs drying, the religions hording arms and the oceans full of plastic. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

Cormac McCarthy: The Road

0 7 Characteristics Of Your Rich Friends

Whether or not you actually have rich friends, people who have attained monetary wealth generally share a few of the same character traits.

Amacama.com talks about 7 common ones you may already be aware of in this post, however it is the final point that I think is more important than people may realize.
Philanthropy
Many rich people are also great philanthropists. They frequently make charitable donations intended to increase human well being. A great example is Bill Gates who set up his own charitable foundation aimed at providing lifesaving health care products for the poorest part of the world.
This may seem the least valuable in the list, but if we think of this a little differently it may be the one you shouldn't miss.

Take the idea of blogging, or writing in general. Working hard and being confident in yourself works and will make you more money. However, the only motivation in these traits is money.

If your goals in writing also include helping people and sharing knowledge [the cheap form of philanthropy], your motivations for writing great content will increase. It's no longer just about money, you really want your writing to affect people.

Not only does your output increase, but the quality improves also because you are no longer just writing for yourself.

The 7 Characteristics of Rich People
- [Amacama]

0 How To Find Harmony In Conflict

Jon Symons recently moved into a new condo to find him and his wife living underneath noisy neighbors. Noisy at 1am neighbors.

The story he writes is about his realization that this would be a regular conflict between his quiet, sleeping abode and the [relatively] party-centric unit above.

What Jon finds out, however, is that once he shifted his focus from trying to resolve this conflict, by confronting the neighbors or calling the police, to what he really wanted - a good nights sleep - he was able to relax and reach his goal.

Just shifting my focus from the upstairs neighbors to me as the real problem caused me to relax dramatically. I actually began to enjoy the situation as there are few things I like more than learning something about myself and how life works.
I also live next to noisy neighbors. Actually, I live with them. The nature of my place is that there is usually something going on until the wee hours of the morning [not without my participation]. But the same thing happens to me: I understand that I just want to sleep, so I sleep.

I've never had a bad night's sleep here.

This practice can be applied to almost every aspect of your life where you see conflict. The grumpy boss, or your lack of money: if you shift your focus on what you actually want, you'll find it becomes a reality much easier.

Take the example of a grumpy boss. He or she is creating a negative environment and probably taking things out on you; making your life harder.

If you take the same principle of focusing on what you really want - your boss to lighten up - things might actually change.

Find out what your boss is upset about, let them vent. Get their mind off whatever their problem is and small talk, or mention some good news. The mood will lighten and you all can get back to work.


Finding Harmony In Conflict
- [ArtOfMoney]

Selasa, 23 Oktober 2007

0 Beware of the Spaminars

I can usually sniff these out but (because my boss insisted) I recently had to sit through 4 hours of some "guru" spamming me. You know the drill, some company sponsors a guest speaker that has an endless list of credentials in an effort to get us to buy something. It could be anything from real estate speculation to 'mastering' sales or even weight loss.

Next time you are invited to any form of third party seminar, be sure to look out for the telltale signs of a spaminar before you waste your time.

Here are a couple of tips written by Ellesse over at Goal Setting College:
  • No Actionable Details
  • Insulted for Not Taking Up the Offer
  • Pay to "learn more"
In her article, she writes on how you can prevent wasting time with spam-sessions. Before you pay for ANY event, I'd give this a read.

Are You Going to A Personal Development Spaminar?
[by Goal Setting College]

0 Use Keywords to Get Your Resume Noticed

This is an interesting topic. As you know, it is very simple for just about anyone to create their own search engine. In fact, the search box you see on DLM is something I created and so is the productivity search that I posted about a few weeks ago.

Well, digest this for a second. What if companies and recruiters caught on and started creating their own custom searches? Would your resume show up? If so, would it show up when they specifically searched for "programmer" or "sales".

A site named "Mktg Ladder" shares the search terms that recruiters may be searching for. These results are then analyzed by a blog named Life of an Internet Entrepreneur. Their post, Are You Keyword Optimizing Your Resume? brings up a couple considerations that we should all be aware of if not practice.

All in all, I believe this is something to seriously consider if you want to become more marketable. We all know employers probably Google our names during the preliminaries but most of us may have a hard time getting to the top of the resume pile and this could help.

0 10 Smartest Ways to Live Beneath Your Means

Save MoneyI managed to retire at age 51, and the way I did it was to live beneath my means.

You can adopt this strategy too, by simply spending less than you earn. You may think that's impossible for you, but if you make it a challenge instead of a chore, you'll soon be creating ways to cut corners in everything you do. And believe me, it all adds up.

There are no secrets to this strategy. It's just common sense. Here are my 10 favorite ways to live beneath your means:
  1. Whenever possible, buy store brands. Nearly half the cost for name brands goes to advertising. Usually their quality isn't any better than store brands, which frequently carry a money back guarantee. This is true not only with food, but also cleaning supplies and paper products. Even if the savings are small on an individual item, using this strategy every time you shop makes a big difference. Remember, this is a long-term plan.

  2. Avoid prepared foods.We're all pressed for time, but buying prepared foods can be expensive. You pay extra for the convenience and get a meal full of chemicals and preservatives too. Instead, put your main course in a Crock Pot before you leave for work, or put frozen meat in the refrigerator to thaw before you go to bed. Once you learn to plan ahead, you'll be surprised how much you'll save.

  3. Shop at "you-bag-it" supermarkets. Stores like Aldi and Save-a-Lot can cut your grocery bill substantially. When you're not subsidizing a store's deli section, flower shop, or bakery, you'll find the rest of the food cheaper. No-frills supermarkets cut overhead by having fewer employees, smaller buildings to heat and cool, and primarily store brands. You'll quickly notice the savings.

  4. Brown bag your lunch. I did this for years and it saved me thousands. Brown bagging has three benefits: You'll avoid greasy, high-calorie fast food; you'll save money; and you'll be more satisfied on your job, since lunch with coworkers often turns into gripe sessions.

  5. Don't buy clothes or shoes with designer labels. Who do you want to make rich, some fashion designer, or you? That trendy label will cost you at least 50% extra. Instead of impressing your friends, impress yourself by adding that savings to your bank account.

  6. Use coupons, but be smart about it. When a name brand product still costs more than a store brand, even after the deduction for a coupon, it's no bargain. Most coupons are for new products companies want you to try, so be selective. You can get coupons online at sites like Coupons.com or Couponcabin.com, or search under "coupons."

  7. Buy used books instead of new. I visit two used book sales a year put on by local charities and get an armload of reading for less than $15. I choose used books on Amazon.com. I got my copy of The Purpose Driven Life on Amazon, paying the standard $3.99 shipping and handling, but only 39 cents for a used copy. Even better? Check out books for free at your local public library. Most libraries have DVDs and CDs, too.

  8. Keep your car as long as you can. A shiny new car may impress your family and friends, but it simply costs too much. My current car is nine years old and runs like a dream because I have it serviced regularly. Today's cars, with electronic ignition, fuel injectors and superb rust protection, can last well past 150,000 miles if taken care of.

  9. Severely restrict your credit card spending. Credit cards make money unreal. They take the thought process and discipline out of your buying. Before you know it, you're deep in debt and getting further behind because you can't make even the minimum monthly payment. When you pay in cash and watch those bills disappear from your wallet, you become much more careful. You relearn the value of money. You question every purchase, and that's when you become smart.

  10. Reward yourself for your efforts. Your goal is to be frugal, not a miser. Small rewards--within your budget--are a wise way to keep fun in your life. Living beneath your means takes self-control, but the emotional and financial benefits are tremendous. An occasional treat energizes you to keep up the good work.
Much of living beneath your means requires seeing through the false promises of prestige and fulfillment found in advertising. You're too smart to fall for that. And, it takes discipline to resist peer pressure, but whenever you're doing something worthwhile, you have to stand up for your convictions. Living beneath your means is a proven way to avoid debt and the stress that goes with it. If I can do it, you can too.

Jack Zavada shares tips for being a happier, more peace-filled person at his web site, Inspiration For Singles and in his new ebook, Single & Sure.

0 12+ Holiday Tradition Ideas to Bring Families Together

When you were growing up did your family have some traditions that you now remember fondly? Would you like to create that for your family?

Family traditions are a great way to keep families bonded and happy. By taking some time to consciously start some traditions you can shape future memories that will be filled with love, warmth, and laughter. (amidst all the bickering and chaos, of course.)

New Family Holiday Tradition Ideas

Choose one or two ideas from below and try them out this year.

Halloween

1. Pumpkin Patch! Take the family to a farm or pumpkin patch. Carve some jack-o-lanterns and roast the pumpkin seeds (use some garlic salt or other seasoning to spice them up such as Old Bay). Tip: Buy a pumpkin carving knife at the supermarket to make this much easier. Light them up at night and tell some ghost stories!

2. Costume Party. Host a costume party for kids and/or adults. Give prizes for best costumes. Let everyone vote. Take pictures of everyone and create an online photo album you can share with everyone who attends.

3. Haunted Events. Go on a haunted hayride or visit a haunted house event. Boo!

4. Themed Museums. Visit local museums that have something spooky to offer.

Thanksgiving

1. Thankful Giving. As a family take a Saturday or Sunday to do some charity work together with the theme being "Sharing our good fortune with others."

2. Round the Table. At the Thanksgiving dinner have each family member say what they are most thankful for in their life. This tradition could even become a daily tradition!

3. Share a Story. After dinner and at dessert have everyone share a story. Possible themes:
  • The greatest day of my life.
  • The best thing that happened in my life this year.
  • My favorite memory from childhood.
  • The funniest thing that ever happened to me.
4. Thanksgiving Family Journal. Starting this year, buy a journal notebook that can be added to each year. Have each person write in the journal their best memory from that year, that day, and what they are thankful for in their life right now. Pictures and doodles are great too. Build on this each year and watch your family history and memories grow!

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Other Year End Celebrations

1. Meaning. Well before presents come into play, take time as a family to talk about the true meaning of the holiday you are celebrating. What is the origin? What is the current day meaning? How does each family member feel about it and does it inspire you to live life differently in the upcoming year?

2. Skip the Gifts. Instead of buying a bunch of stuff that no one really needs, why not spend the money on a family vacation instead? The Caribbean, skiing, or how about a cruise? Instead of gifts, enjoy a family meal together and some fun outdoor activities.

3. White Elephant Gift Grab. This idea works especially well for large families where buying presents for everyone becomes a real financial burden. Scrap the new gifts and instead have everyone wrap an item from home that they no longer use, but which would have value for someone else. At the family gathering, have each member pick a number from a hat to set the order of gift picking. Each person gets a chance to pick from the pile of wrapped presents. As each person opens their gift, if they like another gift that has already been opened they can force a swap for the gift they like better. In this way, it is best to be the last person to pick from the gift pile. You could do this just for the adults or for the kids too. Feel free to modify the rules for your family. The emphasis should be on some family fun, and not so much on the presents received.

4. Caroling, Music, and Dance. As a family attend or host a holiday event prior to the actual celebration. Choose something that involves music, singing, dance, or something else celebratory such as going to see a local holiday play. Even if your family doesn't usually sing, try singing together as a family. I know, you may be thinking, "that's too corny." Go ahead and try it. It's fun!

New Year's Day

1. Get Outside. Take a New Year's Day family walk or hike. Attend a "polar bear" swimming event. Go skiing, ice skating, or if you live in a warm climate, go get some sunshine together.

2. Birth of a New Year. Celebrate the birth of the New Year by giving time to a charity together such as visiting a folks in nursing homes who have no one to visit them.

3. Resolutions. As a family share your resolutions and buddy up to help each other achieve your goals. Set a check in date at the end of each month over the next year to share successes and give encouragement. This can be really powerful. Tip: Pick just one resolution that you will focus on solely.

4. Invite a Single Person to a Family Dinner. We all know someone who doesn't have a lot of family living near them or maybe an elderly person who doesn't have much family. Think outside your regular circle of friends. Invite that person over for New Year's Day dinner for some warm friendly times together. Imagine the good you can create by doing this!

5. New Year's Family Picture. Start a banner that you can hang in your living or dining room. Each year take a family photo on New Year's Day and add it to the banner with the year. You can keep it just this simple or you can add more creativity. Either way it is a nice way to create a visual family history.

What are your favorite holiday traditions that you share with your family? Please share in the comments! We'd love to hear your ideas!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less and How to Be a Great Salesperson.

0 N.A.W.A.P.A.

With drought on my mind, it was interesting to come across two new articles in The New York Times today, both about the United States of waterlessness.

The less interesting of the two tells us that "[w]ater levels in the Great Lakes are falling; Lake Ontario, for example, is about seven inches below where it was a year ago" – and, "for every inch of water that the lakes lose, the ships that ferry bulk materials across them must lighten their loads... or risk running aground."

[Image: The Great Lakes are draining; photo by James Rajotte for The New York Times].

What's causing this? "Most environmental researchers," we read, "say that low precipitation, mild winters and high evaporation, due largely to a lack of heavy ice covers to shield cold lake waters from the warmer air above, are depleting the lakes."

I'm reminded of something Alex Trevi sent me several weeks ago, in which writer and comedian Garrison Keillor speculates as to what might happen if the state of Minnesota sold all the water in Lake Superior.

Keillor describes a fantastical project called Excelsior, in which the Governor of Minnesota "will stand on a platform in Duluth and pull a golden lanyard, opening the gates of the Superior Diversion Canal, a concrete waterway the size of the Suez. Water from Lake Superior will flood into the canal at a rate of 50 billion gal. per hour and go south."
    It will flow into the St. Croix River, to the Mississippi, south to an aqueduct at Keokuk, Iowa, and from there west to the Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon and many other southwestern canyons, filling them up to the rims – enough water to supply the parched Southwest from Los Angeles to Santa Fe for more than 50 years.
The drained landscape left behind will be renamed the Superior Canyon – and the Superior Canyon, Keillor says, will put the Grand Canyon to shame. "It's bigger, for one thing," he writes, "plus it has islands and sites of famous shipwrecks. You'll have a monorail tour of the sites with crumpled hulls of ships. Very respectful."

By 2006, Keillor speculated (he was writing from the Hootie & the Blowfish-filled year of 1995):
    Lake Superior will be gone, and its islands will be wooded buttes rising above the fertile coulees of the basin. A river will run through it, the Riviera River, and great glittering casinos like the Corn Palace, the Voyageur, the Big Kawishiwi, the Tamarack Sands, the Clair de Loon, the Sileaux, the Garage Mahal, the Glacial Sands, the Temple of Denture, the Golden Mukooda will lie across the basin like diamonds in a dish. Family-style casinos, with theme parks and sensational water rides on the rivers cascading over the north rim, plus high-rise hotels and time-share condominiums. Currently there are no building restrictions in Lake Superior; developers will be free to create high-rises in the shape of grain elevators, casinos shaped like casserole dishes, accordions, automatic washers. Celebrities will flock to the canyon. You'll see guys on the Letterman show who, when Dave asks, "Where you going next month, pal?" will say, "I'll be in Minnesota, Dave, playing four weeks at the Pokegama." Tourism will jump 1,000%. Guys on the red-eye from L.A. to New York will look out and see a blaze of light off the left wing and ask the flight attendant, "What's that?" And she'll say, "Minnesota, of course."
All of which actually reminds of Lebbeus Woods, and his vision of a drained Manhattan.

[Image: Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan; view larger].

But perhaps such a willfully fictive reference overlooks the reality of the drought(s) now creeping up on the United States.

In a massive new article published this weekend in The New York Times, we're given a long and rather alarming look at the lack of water in the American west, focusing on the decline of the Colorado River.
    A catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River – which mostly consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains – has always served as a kind of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer edge of their practical imaginations. Some 30 million people depend on that water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States government.
And it will happen; this "unfathomable" situation will someday occur. The American West will run out of water.

[Image: Simon Norfolk, a photographer previously interviewed by BLDGBLOG, taken for The New York Times].

Or will it?

At one point in his genuinely brilliant book Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner describes something called N.A.W.A.P.A.: the North American Water and Power Alliance. N.A.W.A.P.A. is nothing less than the gonzo hydrological fantasy project of a particular group of U.S. water engineers. N.A.W.A.P.A., Reisner tells us, would "solve at one stroke all the West's problems with water" – but it would also take "a $6-trillion economy" to pay for it, and "it might require taking Canada by force."

He quips that British Columbia "is to water what Russia is to land," and so N.A.W.A.P.A., if realized, would tap those unexploited natural waterways and bring them down south to fill the cups of Uncle Sam. Canadians, we read, "have viewed all of this with a mixture of horror, amusement, and avarice" – but what exactly is "all of this"?

Reisner:
    Visualize, then, a series of towering dams in the deep river canyons of British Columbia – dams that are 800, 1,500, even 1,700 feet high. Visualize reservoirs backing up behind them for hundreds of miles – reservoirs among which Lake Mead would be merely regulation-size. Visualize the flow of the Susitna River, the Copper, the Tanana, and the upper Yukon running in reverse, pushed through the Saint Elias Mountains by million-horsepower pumps, then dumped into nature's second-largest natural reservoir, the Rocky Mountain Trench. Humbled only by the Great Rift Valley of Africa, the trench would serve as the continent's hydrologic switching yard, storing 400 million acre-feet of water in a reservoir 500 miles long.
And that's barely half the project!

The project would ultimately make "the Mojave Desert green," we read, diverting Canada's fresh water south to the faucets of greater Los Angeles – thus destroying almost every salmon fishery between Anchorage and Vancouver, and even "rais[ing] the level of all five [Great Lakes]," in the process.

After all, N.A.W.A.P.A. also means that the Great Lakes would be connected to the center of the North American continent by something called the Canadian–Great Lakes Waterway.

But N.A.W.A.P.A. is an old plan; it's been gathering dust since the 1980s. No one now is seriously considering building it. It's literally history.

But who knows – perhaps 2008 is the year N.A.W.A.P.A. makes a comeback. Or, perhaps, in January 2010, after another dry winter, Los Angeles voters will start to get thirsty. Perhaps some well-positioned Senators, in 2011, might even start making phonecalls north. Perhaps, in 2012, some recent graduates from water management programs at state-funded universities in Illinois or Utah might catch the itch of moral rebellion; they might then start redrawing their personal maps of the continent, going to bed at night with visions of massive dams in their heads, writing position papers for peer-reviewed hydrological engineering magazines.

Perhaps, in 2017, ten years from now, BLDGBLOG – if it's still around – will even be reporting from the rims of these gigantic structures, thrown up overnight in the remote and untrafficked darkness of riverine western Canada. Long, perfectly calibrated concrete sluices and pumps will bring water thousands of miles south through redwood forests to the open basins of California's reservoirs, and photographs of their incomprehensibly expensive and exactly poured geometry will elicit whistles of embarrassed awe from readers on the streets of Weehawken.

[Image: A fish-cleaning station in Las Vegas Bay, now abandoned by the West's sinking waters; taken by Simon Norfolk for The New York Times].

Or perhaps it won't be N.A.W.A.P.A. after all, but some titanic new project identical in all but name.

Will California wait for the coming drought to destroy it – or will the state take drastic measures?
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