Monthly Archives: October 2007

50 Quick, Painless Ways You Can Help the Environment Today

Written by Leo Babauta

In theory, most of us would like to help the environment, preserve the world’s natural beauty, and generally make this planet a better place to live.

In practice, we don’t necessarily have the time or energy to get involved in major projects, join Greenpeace, protest the corporate polluters, or make sweeping lifestyle changes. We want to help, but with all that’s going on in our lives, it gets put on the back burner.

But playing your part to help the environment doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or sweeping. You can help out in little ways, making gradual changes, baby steps.

Starting today.

Yes, you can do some of these tips today. You can probably do a dozen today, if you put an effort into it. But all you have to do is one of these tips. Just one.

You may already do some of these. If so, pat yourself on the back. Now choose another, and get started! You don’t have to tackle the entire list – it’s just a bunch of ideas to get you started. To show you how easy it can be to make small changes and help the environment.

Pick one, and start today.

  1. Take a shorter shower.
    If you take long showers, consider cutting it short by a few minutes. You’ll conserve water, and the electricity needed to heat up the water, lowering your utility bills and reducing your energy consumption at the same time.
  2. Use a rag or hand towel instead of napkins or paper towels.
    Reusing items instead of using disposable items is almost always a better thing for the environment. Reduce the need to cut down trees, the power needed to turn them into napkins, and the space in the landfill once you throw them away.
  3. Don’t print at least once today.
    Instead of automatically hitting the “print” button, think of whether you really need a hardcopy of that document. Can you email it instead? File it on your computer instead of your file cabinet? Read it on the computer instead of on paper? You don’t have to eliminate printing entirely, but holding off on that “print” button once in awhile could greatly reduce your paper consumption.
  4. Carpool once this week.
    Have a friend or family member or co-worker who makes roughly the same commute as you? Try riding together at least once. It save on fuel consumption, cuts your fuel spending, reduces greenhouse emissions, and you can get a good conversation at the same time.
  5. Turn off the TV for an hour.
    Reduce your energy consumption and get outside and play a sport. Or garden. Or just take a walk. You get healthy and enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings.
  6. Turn off the lights.
    If you leave a room, even for a little while, turn off the lights. You don’t need it, and it’s wasting energy.
  7. Use a coffee mug instead of disposable.
    If you routinely use disposable cups at work or on the road, use a ceramic coffee cup or a travel mug, reducing the amount of trash you throw away.
  8. Use CFC light bulbs.
    If your light bulb burns out, replace it with a Compact Flourescent bulb (those spiral-looking ones). They’re more expensive, but if you just replace them one at a time, it doesn’t cost much, and the energy savings is great. And as they last longer, over the long run, you’ll save money.
  9. Skip the foil and plastic wrap.
    Use reusable plastic food containers to store leftovers or other food in the fridge and cabinets, instead of disposable material.
  10. Inflate your tires.
    Many people don’t realize that their tires are under-inflated. Check the recommended pressure for your tires, and fill them up to that pressure. It only takes a few minutes, but it will save you on fuel consumption (a little) and more importantly, make your tires last longer and reduce the rubber that’s worn off your tires.
  11. Clean up.
    If you go to the beach or a park, leave it cleaner than when you got there. Pick up some cans and other trash that were there when you arrived. Takes a couple minutes, and makes the world a nicer place to live in.
  12. Talk to your kids about the environment.
    Just a 5-minute conversation every now and then about fuel consumption, greenhouse emissions, wasting food and trash, energy consumption, preserving habitats ? this can help educate your children about the issues that will be affecting them tomorrow. And an educated population will do more to help the environment than anything else.
  13. Reuse printed paper.
    If you have non-sensitive documents that have been printed out, but are no longer needed, try marking the printed side, and using the clean side for non-official printing. In fact, if you can get your office to do this, you’ll save tons of paper a year.
  14. Turn down your water heater.
    Most people have their water heater’s thermostat turned up too high, wasting energy. Turn it down to 130 degrees, saving energy but still hot enough to kill bacteria.
  15. Plant a tree.
    It really doesn’t take much time, and over time more trees in your community can make a difference. Do a few every year, and encourage others to do the same.
  16. Hang out your clothes.
    If it’s a nice sunny day, hanging clothes only takes a few minutes, and you’re using solar power instead of electricity to do the job. It also makes your clothes last longer.
  17. Buy a manual reel mower or electric mower.
    If you’re looking for a new lawn mower, and you have a small yard, consider getting a manual one. They’re much advanced from the reel mowers of our grandparents’ generation, much quieter, cheaper, and they save on fuel and pollution. Electric mowers are also quieter and use much less energy.
  18. Get a low-flow shower head.
    Stop at the hardware store on your way home, and get a low-flow shower head. Takes a few minutes to install, and it’ll save gallons of water a day.
  19. Lower your thermostats.
    If you use heating, get by with less heat and wear warmer clothes. If you use air-conditioning, get by with less cooling and wear cooler clothes.
  20. Participate or organize a clean-up.
    Sure, this’ll take a little more of your time, but if you don’t have much to do on the weekends, this can be tremendously fun and fulfilling. Clean up a beach, a street, a park, a lake or a river.
  21. Avoid fast food.
    Instead, eat at home or at a sit-down restaurant. Fast food restaurants are one of the worst polluters of the environment, both in the massive amounts of beef they must raise, in the wasted packaging, and in the energy they use in so many ways. And they’re tremendously unhealthy.
  22. Use acryllic paint.
    Oil-based paints are toxic and create a lot of pollution during manufacturing. Instead, if you’re going to buy paint, buy acryllic.
  23. Coat your roof.
    This’ll take up an afternoon, but you only have to do it once every few years. And it’ll save you a lot of money and energy in heating and cooling over the long-term, more than making up for the cost of paint.
  24. Clean your filters.
    Clean the filters of your air-conditioners once a month to improve energy efficiency. While you’re at it, change your car’s filters as recommended in your manual.
  25. Telecommute.
    I know, sounds great, where do I sign up? But if you talk to your employer about even a limited telecommuting schedule, you can save a lot of fuel and time, and be more productive at the same time. Just be sure to get a lot more done at home than you do at work to make your case for an expanded telecommuting schedule down the road.
  26. Wash clothes in cold water.
    Hot water is unnecessary for most clothes. When needed, use warm water.
  27. Fill your toilet tank.
    Put a plastic bottle or two, filled with water and rocks, in your tank to reduce the amount of water used in each flush.
  28. Buy recycled products.
    As much as possible, get the recycled version of products you buy.
  29. Recycle.
    Sure, it’s a regular practice in some places, with curb-side pickup of recycled waste. But in other places, there’s no such thing. Instead, create a few containers for paper, plastic and aluminum waste in your home or office. When it’s full, drop it off at a local recycling center (look in your phone book) on your errands day.
  30. Buy a smaller car.
    You won’t be able to do this today, probably, but the next time you’re in the market for an automobile, get a smaller and energy-efficient car rather than a big, lumbering one. It’s one of the best things you can do to reduce your fuel consumption.
  31. Buy a smaller home.
    The next time you’re home-shopping, instead of buying the McMansion, look for a smaller home that’s big enough to meet your needs comfortably. Reducing the amount of stuff you own is a good way to need less house. It’s cheaper, and requires less energy to heat and cool. And easier to clean at the same time.
  32. Look for energy efficiency.
    When you’re looking to buy appliances, be sure to research the most energy-efficient ones. They may cost a little more, but they’ll more than make up for that in the long run with lower energy bills.
  33. Water grass early in the morning.
    Reduces the amount of water you need to keep your grass looking fabulous.
  34. Plant shade trees near your house.
    It’ll take awhile before they can make a difference, but shade trees greatly reduce the need to cool a home.
  35. Use rechargeable batteries.
    Instead of throwing your batteries away all the time, reuse rechargeable batteries. Costs a little more, but cheaper in the long run.
  36. Buy used.
    Instead of buying new clothing, furniture, cars, whatever, look to buy used instead. You can get them for cheaper, and still get quality – all the while reducing the need to produce more stuff.
  37. Walk instead of drive.
    You don’t have to do this all the time, but walking the short trip to a store, or to lunch from work, or some other short trip like that, can reduce the amount of fuel you use over the long term, and you shed some fat at the same time. Or at least burn off that morning donut.
  38. Unplug appliances.
    If you don’t use an appliance several times a day, it’s better to unplug it, as they often use energy even when turned off
  39. Unload your car.
    Remove excess weight from your car (such as stuff that might be in the trunk) to reduce the amount of fuel you use.
  40. Try cycling.
    Biking to work or around town can be a great way to get in some exercise and save fuel.
  41. Install a water filter.
    If you buy a lot of bottled water, use your tap instead. Some places need a filter to make tap water taste drinkable, but they don’t cost much and they can save money, water, and plastic bottles over time.
  42. Use cloth shopping bags.
    Don’t cost much, and can save a lot of paper or plastic.
  43. Mend your stuff.
    Try not to throw stuff away and buy new stuff if the old stuff can be fixed. Torn clothing? Takes a few minutes to sew up.
  44. Compost.
    It’s not hard to set one up (look it up online), and you can save a lot of waste from the landfill and help your garden at the same time.
  45. Try mass transit.
    Millions of people use it, and it saves tons of fuel. If you don’t already, give it a try.
  46. Buy in bulk.
    Reduces the need for packaging, and costs less.
  47. Buy durable.
    Look for long-lasting, well-made products instead of cheap, disposable ones. Use less disposable plates, cups, utensils. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable.
  48. Use your oven less.
    The oven not only uses a lot of energy, it heats up your kitchen, requiring more cooling. Instead, use toaster ovens, crockpots, microwaves, and electric grills when you can. And when you do use your oven, open it less – you lose 25% of the heat every time you open the oven door.
  49. Join a local organization.
    Just about every community has one or more environmental organizations. It’s not hard to sign up, and when you have the time, you can volunteer for things that will clean up your community and make it a nicer place to live.
  50. Join Blog Action Day.
    By joining the rest of the blogging community in talking about the environment for one day (Oct. 15), you will be helping to raise environmental consciousness, with just one blog post. What can be easier than that?

6 Things STAR WARS Teaches Us About Our Money

Written by Alan Haft


Where do you go for investment

A financial advisor? CPA? Jim Cramer? Suze Orman?
Maybe the retired guy down at the pool?

What about Yoda? Ever consider him?

As surprising it may sound, when it comes to
getting good advice on investing, for a moment, forget The Wall Street
and everything else out there. That two-foot, nine-hundred year
old creature surprisingly offers some decent advice on investing. In fact, as
crazy as it sounds, the entire Star Wars series itself offers some
fantastic suggestions to get us on the right path towards success. Only
problem is, few people have taken the time to do something as ridiculous as I
have: ponder how the classic tale can teach us a few things about making

Mind you, this wasn?t exactly done on purpose. A
couple of nights ago, in the deep, dark hours of a California night, I found
myself out on the couch flicking through channels for something to lull me to
sleep. After watching the Met highlights on ESPN (total disappointment), a
re-run of Mad Money, then surfing past Happy Days and Charles
In Charge
, I landed on Star Wars only to soon realize the classic
movie and all those that followed really can teach us a few important things
about prudent investing.

Here?s a few examples:

I recently took a moment to
do something most normal people would never do: search through a stack of
magazines to analyze the financial ads. Between Fortune, Money Magazine,
Smart Money, BusinessWeek
and a handful of others, the results were
undeniably clear: in my brief study, when it came to ads for financial
products, by a long-shot, it was the costly, managed mutual funds that
advertised far more than anyone else.

What relevance does this have? ? Let?s continue

Imagine being Luke. You just
crashed in a dark, musty swamp where a two-foot tall
named Yoda revealed himself to be
the Jedi master. If that wasn?t
enough, a little while later the thing tells you to start lifting rocks with
your mind. Having little choice but to go with it, you heroically manage to
satisfy master, but when he tells you to lift an x-wing fighter with your
head, that?s a different story:

Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally

No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you
have learned.

Lesson Learned:
I totally agree with Yoda. After all, who
wouldn?t? The creature not only managed to live nine-hundred years, but he
beat the pants off an Evil Emperor four times his size.

When it comes to learning a few things about
successful investing, the first place many folks should start is not by
learning complicated investment formulas that ultimately few wind up
remembering, but with a willingness to do what Luke was basically forced to
do: unlearn some of the things you perhaps already know.

What baggage are you reading this article with? Is
it scores of ads from costly mutual funds trying to get your hard earned
dollars into their pockets? You know, the ads showing happy people who all
seem to be putting Bill Gates to shame? Based on the vast number of ads out
there from the costly fund companies, chances are your sub-conscience is
carrying a few of those fancy advertisements in your head and you may not even
know it.

to begin with, start by listening to Yoda. Being a successful investor often
means willing to unlearn some of what you know. While your mind may not wind
up lifting an x-wing fighter from a dark, musty swamp, you just might be able
to open a window to a few new interesting concepts about successful

Here?s the first example that comes to



: Some of the more interesting
investment concepts can either be traditional in nature or somewhat unique.
Although they?ve been around for ten years or so, a low-cost investment
product such as Exchange Traded Funds are relatively new and are just starting
to explode with popularity. On the more unique side of the spectrum, who would
ever think something as bland, boring and unappealing as Life Insurance would
provide some retirees with better returns than their stocks have ever
produced? In today?s marketplace, investors selling their life insurance
policies are experiencing some of the greatest profits I have ever seen. Who?s
doing these things? It?s not sophisticated actuaries nor is it Noble Laureates
that have figured out how to beat the system; it?s main street retirees that
opened their minds to one of today?s hottest concepts, that of something
called ?Life Settlements.?

: In real time it took a few months
but in movie-time it took just under two hours for Luke to
open his mind to new concepts. By fully opening his mind and entrusting The
Force, he turned a targeting
computer off
and wound up landing one right into the Death Star?s exhaust port. ? End
result? Death to the Star and birth to inter-galactic celebrations across the
universe that changed our movie-going lives forever.

Whether it?s the willingness
to turn off a computer tracking system or explore innovative concepts such as
Life Settlements, it?s those with open, educated minds that often find the
success they seek.


Who would you rather be? A
sock puppet on national TV promising those that own its stock boatloads of
money or a cup of coffee that costs 3 bucks? While at first being a puppet
seemed like the way to go, it was just a matter of time before Starbucks
double-Frapps put the mascot to shame. As most people that
experienced the .com bust can attest to, investing into hype often leads to
nothing but regret.

Who would you rather be? A seven
foot master with a deep voice, impressive ship and a mind that melts men or a
skinny blue
farmhouse kid chugging around the galaxy in a worn out jalopy? While at first
glance sporting a cool black helmet and long cape could seem like the way to
go, Star Wars proved to us that in the end, staying away from the hype
can wind up saving you from the dark side of things.

Save the sock puppets for your
kid?s next birthday. Flashy ads, slick brochures and fast-talking salesmen
isn?t what counts, it?s what?s behind the window-dressing that does. Next time
you?re confronted with a hyped-up investment that seems a bit ?too good to be
true,? keep in mind Han Solo?s classic line, ?I got a bad feeling about this.?
Think smart, double-check the hype and remember: this is your hard-earned
money we?re talking about.



Some of the most successful
investors I?ve ever met started out with nothing. Thinking back to these
people, those with the most often started out with the least. Somehow, some
way, fearless persistence, dedication and that occasionally annoying thing
called ?time? steadily built them their success. While diversifying your
investments, reducing fees, minimizing taxes and budgeting yourself to save a
few dollars every month may sound painful, dreadfully boring and slow paced,
remember: when it comes to trying to get rich quick, the longer you
play the game, the less chance you typically win. On the flip side, when
investing smart, the longer you play the game, the greater the odds
you?ll come up a success.

Have a good idea for a movie?
George Lucas did. To follow in his footsteps, first lock yourself in a room
with a legal pad and for the next year or so, do nothing but write an outline
to a science fiction
Then, over the next year or so, expand the outline into a screenplay, and once
that?s done, spend the next year re-writing it. With the script finally
complete, spend another year raising money to produce it. With financing in
place, spend another year filming it, the year after that editing it and once
that?s all finally done, take a deep breath, sit back and make a billion

Don?t think success could
happen to you? That could be your first problem. Whether it?s building wealth
or creating the second most successful movie ever made (behind Gone With The
Wind when inflation is factored in), remember: the journey to riches rarely
happens overnight. Take, for example, Henry the Electrician, a friend of mine
who once made $4 dollars an hour fixing fuse boxes. Tired, worn out and
wanting a better life, he one day had the guts to scrape together a few
dollars, purchase an apartment on the dark side of town and rent it out. Half
a lifetime later, with hundreds of apartments to his name, his personal
Star Wars is now a reality, and with a little time and dedication, I?d
bet anything one day yours will one day be as well.



There?s nano-tech, bio-tech
and gen-tech. Derivatives, floaters, collars, straddles and a long list of
many other complex investments. While some of these might be all well and
good, it?s probably best you listened to Warren Buffet who once wisely told us
mere mortals to stay away from things we can?t understand.

There?s tall creatures, short
creatures and monsters buried beneath the trash. Blubber-filled giants,
underground slugs, women
thin heads and a long list of other bizarre things. While some of these
be all well and good, it?s probably
best you listened to Yoda who once wisely told Anakin to stay away
things he can?t understand.

Who knew Warren Buffet and
Yoda would be so alike? Until this moment, I for one never did. Whether your
journey is about destroying an evil empire or building wealth, staying away
from things you can?t understand is often a first rule of success.


Want to outperform most
mutual fund money managers? I do. That?s why when it comes to investing my own
money, I often stick with index investing and put my money into things
such as the S&P 500. Somewhat sad but irrefutably true, over time, you?ll
most likely make more money investing into the simple and mindless S&P
than most mutual funds. And if returns aren?t enough to inspire you, what
about fees and taxes? Fees in most indicies are typically around two
of a percent and investing in indicies rarely causes capital gain
taxes until you decide to pay them, not someone else. How good is

Legendary effects, wild robots,
fantastic chases and places that few people could ever imagine made my popcorn
dance, but when stripping away all that cool stuff, what do you really have? A
simple and familiar storyline that follows Joseph Campell?s classic thesis
that proved all timeless stories can be
down to the same, simple storyline that?s been re-hashed a thousand times
through heroes wearing many

Forget phone books of
investments many investment accounts contain. Who has the time to keep track
of those things anyway? Whether it?s creating a movie few will ever forget or
making money, remember: it rarely has to be complicated for it to be


I had fun pondering how Star Wars can teach
us a few things about our money, and in fact, there were a handful of other
?lessons? I wound up editing out. But who knows? Given the examples above,
next time you see Star Wars, perhaps you too will realize some of the
valuable lessons the classic tale teaches us not only about money, but about
life itself.

May The Force be with you.


Written by Men’s Health

No drugs. No bypasses. No scars. Just solid DIY advice on how to keep your heart pumping

Grill a steak. You may think it’s bad for your heart, but you’d be wrong. Beef contains immunity-boosting selenium as well as homocysteine-lowering B vitamins. And up to 50 percent of the fat is the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety.
Tell your wife to butt out. People who are exposed to cigarette smoke for just 30 minutes, three times a week, have a 26 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than people who rarely encounter secondhand smoke.
Take aspirin. Regular aspirin consumption cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by 28 percent in people who have never had a heart attack or stroke.
Drink more tea. Men who drink 2 cups of tea a day are 25 percent less likely to die of heart disease than guys who rarely touch the stuff. The reason: flavonoids in the tea, which not only improve blood vessels’ ability to relax, but also thin the blood, reducing clotting.
Touch her. Ten minutes of skin-to-skin contact (hand-holding, hugs) with your mate can help keep your blood pressure and pulse from spiking during stressful times, according to University of North Carolina researchers.
Go fishing for tuna. Omega-3 fats in tuna help strengthen heart muscle, lower blood pressure, and prevent clotting – as well as reduce levels of potentially deadly inflammation in the body.
Pair up. Married men are less likely to die of heart disease than bachelors. Scientists looked at men with mildly high blood pressure and found that after 3 years of marriage, the happily married men had healthier hearts than their unmarried brothers.
Adopt a dog. All that love (“You’re a good boy, yes you are!”) and aggravation (“Bad dog! No eat Daddy’s crab dip!”) makes your heart more adaptable and better able to deal with the stress that can lead to heart disease.
Rinse, brush. Rinse your mouth with Cool Mint Listerine and brush with Colgate Total toothpaste. They’ll reduce oral bacteria, which can decrease your risk of a heart attack by 200 to 300 percent.
Make friends at work. Men with the most work friends also have the lowest heart rates and healthiest blood-pressure levels, even during times of stress.

Did we miss any? Tell us!

10 Most Incredible Things to Do Before You Die

Written by Nelson Doyle

Wow! Can you imagine the adrenaline rush you could get from these 10 amazing activities!

It would cost a pretty penny to engage in most of these activities, but what the heck, you can’t take it with you anyway and if you should die in pursuit of completing this list, then you’ll have died doing what only a handful of other people have done in their lifetime.


    Skydiving has to be the most incredible ride of a lifetime. Taking a leap-of-faith out of the cargo hold on a B90 King Air airplane at an altitude of approximately 30,000 and free falling for about 2 minutes requires courage or just an “I am dying anyways” attitude. At this height, it requires breathing pure 100% oxygen, so to prevent getting the “bends” that could result in death.

    Can you imagine the rush that skydiving is falling at more than 120+MPH straight towards the earth, knowing that there is a chance that this jump could possible be your last?


    Skydiving is statistically safer than scuba diving.


    Can anyone spare a little extra change of about $20 million to book a trip to spend a week on board the International Space Station. Wow, this vacation would be the trip of a lifetime. Just imagine, staring out from the International Space Station and gazing at the awesome blue marble that we know as Earth and experiencing weightlessness would be a hoot, too. You’ll be sent a postcard or an email or something for your donation.


    The International Space Shuttle has taken more than 293,141 images of the earth. The Space Shuttle has taken more than 287,116 images, the Mir with 2,512 images and the Skylab with a mere 37 images that are stored in NASA’s databases.


    Ok, you don’t have a spare $20 million to spend for a 7-day trip to the International Space Station. That’s fine, but you don’t have to give up. How about considering a trip to the edge of space in a British Jet Fighter called the Lightning? Just think about it for a minute. Imagine flying 60,000 feet high over the earth at a speed of 50 thousand feet per minute and seeing the curvature of the earth. Now, that would fill a barf bag up with a stomach full of excitement.


    To put 60,000 feet in perspective, it’s like stacking 41.29 Empire State Building one on top of another and still fall a little short of the height that this flight would take you.


    The modern-day cold war will just have to wait until after we get our chance to take a ride on the legendary MiG-29 or the extraordinary MiG-31 Foxhound, while pulling G’s way beyond the speed of sound. The best thing is that the Sokol Aircraft Plant in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia is not that far from Alaska, so if we book this adventure right, then we have the chance to see Alaska, too.


    The MiG-31 Foxhound can travel at a top speed of 1,865 mph using its power- plant of two 34,171-lb after-burning thrust Soloviev D-30F6 turbofans.


    If you feel more comfortable exploring the mysteries beneath the oceans, then visiting the world-famous Titanic must be at the top of any things to do list before you die kind of thing. For a mere $35,000 you could be one of the chosen few to see first hand probably the world’s most famous shipwreck. Traveling down to 3800 meters to the ocean’s bottom where light is a stranger this deep below the surface and the beast are tough.


    Only 706 passengers and crew managed to overcome the tragic sinking and the elements out of more than 2222 passengers and crew.

You can read the rest of this article from here

25 Signs You Have Grown Up

Written by Salma Rumman

Twenty-five Signs You Have Grown Up

1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can?t smoke any of them.

2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.

3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.

4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.

5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator.

6. You watch the Weather Channel.

7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of ?hook up? and ?breakup.?

8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.

9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as ?dressed up.?

10. You?re the one calling the police because those %&@# kids next door won?t turn down the stereo.

11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.

12. You don?t know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.

13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.

14. You feed your dog ?Science Diet? instead of McDonald?s leftovers.

15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.

16. You take naps.

17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.

18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at three in the morning would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.

19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.

20. A four dollar bottle of wine is no longer ?pretty good shit.?

21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.

22. ?I just can?t drink the way I used to? replaces ?I?m never going to drink that much again.?

23. Ninety percent of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.

24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.

25. When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking ?Oh shit what the hell happened??


26: You read this entire list looking desperately for one sign that it doesn?t apply to you and can?t find one to save your sorry old ass.

How to answer 23 of the most common interview questions

Written by Paul Michael

Hire me

Photo: Slushpup

Let’s face it; no one likes the interview process. Well, certainly not the people being interviewed anyway. You have to be on your best behavior, you only get one chance to get it right, and it’s like taking your driving test all over again. Over the years I’ve been to countless interviews. To get my first job out of college I attended some 15-20 interviews a week. Whether it was in Britain or over here in the States, the questions never really seemed to change from job to job. Not only that, but the answers to them are usually the same, with your own personal interpretation of course. Here I present 23 questions you’re likely to be asked, and how I have learned to answer them. Why 23? Because I had more than 20 and less than 25. Remember, being interviewed is a skill, and if you do the preparation you should ace it every time.

1. So, tell me a little about yourself.
I’d be very surprised if you haven’t been asked this one at every interview. It’s probably the most asked question because it sets the stage for the interview and it gets you talking. Be careful not to give the interviewer your life story here. You don’t need to explain everything from birth to present day. Relevant facts about education, your career and your current life situation are fine.

2. Why are you looking (or why did you leave you last job)?
This should be a straightforward question to answer, but it can trip you up. Presumably you are looking for a new job (or any job) because you want to advance your career and get a position that allows you to grow as a person and an employee. It’s not a good idea to mention money here, it can make you sound mercenary. And if you are in the unfortunate situation of having been downsized, stay positive and be as brief as possible about it. If you were fired, you’ll need a good explanation. But once again, stay positive.

3. Tell me what you know about this company.
Do your homework before you go to any interview. Whether it’s being the VP of marketing or the mailroom clerk, you should know about the company or business you’re going to work for. Has this company been in the news lately? Who are the people in the company you should know about? Do the background work, it will make you stand out as someone who comes prepared, and is genuinely interested in the company and the job.

4. Why do you want to work at X Company?
This should be directly related to the last question. Any research you’ve done on the company should have led you to the conclusion that you’d want to work there. After all, you’re at the interview, right? Put some thought into this answer before you have your interview, mention your career goals and highlight forward-thinking goals and career plans.

5. What relevant experience do you have?
Hopefully if you’re applying for this position you have bags of related experience, and if that’s the case you should mention it all. But if you’re switching careers or trying something a little different, your experience may initially not look like it’s matching up. That’s when you need a little honest creativity to match the experiences required with the ones you have. People skills are people skills after all, you just need to show how customer service skills can apply to internal management positions, and so on.

6. If your previous co-workers were here, what would they say about you?
Ok, this is not the time for full disclosure. If some people from your past are going to say you’re a boring A-hole, you don’t need to bring that up. Stay positive, always, and maybe have a few specific quotes in mind. “They’d say I was a hard worker” or even better “John Doe has always said I was the most reliable, creative problem-solver he’d ever met.”

7. Have you done anything to further your experience?
This could include anything from night classes to hobbies and sports. If it’s related, it’s worth mentioning. Obviously anything to do with further education is great, but maybe you’re spending time on a home improvement project to work on skills such as self-sufficiency, time management and motivation.

8. Where else have you applied?
This is a good way to hint that you’re in demand, without sounding like you’re whoring yourself all over town. So, be honest and mention a few other companies but don’t go into detail. The fact that you’re seriously looking and keeping your options open is what the interviewer is driving at.

9. How are you when you’re working under pressure?
Once again, there are a few ways to answer this but they should all be positive. You may work well under pressure, you may thrive under pressure, and you may actually PREFER working under pressure. If you say you crumble like aged blue cheese, this is not going to help you get your foot in the door.

10. What motivates you to do a good job?
The answer to this one is not money, even if it is. You should be motivated by life’s noble pursuits. You want recognition for a job well done. You want to become better at your job. You want to help others or be a leader in your field.

11. What’s your greatest strength?
This is your chance to shine. You’re being asked to explain why you are a great employee, so don’t hold back and stay do stay positive. You could be someone who thrives under pressure, a great motivator, an amazing problem solver or someone with extraordinary attention to detail. If your greatest strength, however, is to drink anyone under the table or get a top score on Mario Kart, keep it to yourself. The interviewer is looking for work-related strengths.

12. What’s your biggest weakness?
If you’re completely honest, you may be kicking yourself in the butt. If you say you don’t have one, you’re obviously lying. This is a horrible question and one that politicians have become masters at answering. They say things like “I’m perhaps too committed to my work and don’t spend enough time with my family.” Oh, there’s a fireable offense. I’ve even heard “I think I’m too good at my job, it can often make people jealous.” Please, let’s keep our feet on the ground. If you’re asked this question, give a small, work-related flaw that you’re working hard to improve. Example: “I’ve been told I occasionally focus on details and miss the bigger picture, so I’ve been spending time laying out the complete project every day to see my overall progress.”

13. Let’s talk about salary. What are you looking for?
Run for cover! This is one tricky game to play in an interview. Even if you know the salary range for the job, if you answer first you’re already showing all your cards. You want as much as possible, the employer wants you for as little as you’re willing to take. Before you apply, take a look at for a good idea of what someone with your specific experience should be paid. You may want to say, “well, that’s something I’ve thought long and hard about and I think someone with my experience should get between X & Y.” Or, you could be sly and say, “right now, I’m more interested in talking more about what the position can offer my career.” That could at least buy you a little time to scope out the situation. But if you do have a specific figure in mind and you are confident that you can get it, I’d say go for it. I have on many occasions, and every time I got very close to that figure (both below and sometimes above).

14. Are you good at working in a team?
Unless you have the I.Q. of a houseplant, you’ll always answer YES to this one. It’s the only answer. How can anyone function inside an organization if they are a loner? You may want to mention what part you like to play in a team though; it’s a great chance to explain that you’re a natural leader.

15. Tell me a suggestion you have made that was implemented.
It’s important here to focus on the word “implemented.” There’s nothing wrong with having a thousand great ideas, but if the only place they live is on your notepad what’s the point? Better still, you need a good ending. If your previous company took your advice and ended up going bankrupt, that’s not such a great example either. Be prepared with a story about an idea of yours that was taken from idea to implementation, and considered successful.

16. Has anything ever irritated you about people you’ve worked with?
Of course, you have a list as long as your arm. But you can’t say that, it shows you as being negative and difficult to work with. The best way to answer this one is to think for a while and then say something like “I’ve always got on just fine with my co-workers actually.”

17. Is there anyone you just could not work with?
No. Well, unless you’re talking about murderers, racists, rapists, thieves or other dastardly characters, you can work with anyone. Otherwise you could be flagged as someone who’s picky and difficult if you say, “I can’t work with anyone who’s a Bronco’s fan. Sorry.”

18. Tell me about any issues you’ve had with a previous boss.
Arrgh! If you fall for this one you shouldn’t be hired anyway. The interviewer is testing you to see if you’ll speak badly about your previous supervisor. Simply answer this question with exteme tact, diplomacy and if necessary, a big fat loss of memory. In short, you’ve never had any issues.

19. Would you rather work for money or job satisfaction?
It’s not a very fair question is it? We’d all love to get paid a Trump-like salary doing a job we love but that’s rare indeed. It’s fine to say money is important, but remember that NOTHING is more important to you than the job. Otherwise, you’re just someone looking for a bigger paycheck.

20. Would you rather be liked or feared?
I have been asked this a lot, in various incarnations. The first time I just drew a blank and said, “I don’t know.” That went over badly, but it was right at the start of my career when I had little to no experience. Since then I’ve realized that my genuine answer is “Neither, I’d rather be respected.” You don’t want to be feared because fear is no way to motivate a team. You may got the job done but at what cost? Similarly, if you’re everyone’s best friend you’ll find it difficult to make tough decisions or hit deadlines. But when you’re respected, you don’t have to be a complete bastard or a lame duck to get the job done.

21. Are you willing to put the interests of X Company ahead of your own?
Again, another nasty question. If you say yes, you’re a corporate whore who doesn’t care about family. If you say no, you’re disloyal to the company. I’m afraid that you’ll probably have to say yes to this one though, because you’re trying to be the perfect employee at this point, and perfect employees don’t cut out early for Jimmy’s baseball game.

22. So, explain why I should hire you.
As I’m sure you know, “because I’m great” or “I really need a job” are not good answers here. This is a time to give the employer a laundry list of your greatest talents that just so happen to match the job description. It’s also good to avoid taking potshots at other potential candidates here. Focus on yourself and your talents, not other people’s flaws.

23. Finally, do you have any questions to ask me?
I’ll finish the way I started, with one of the most common questions asked in interviews. This directly relates to the research you’ve done on the company and also gives you a chance to show how eager and prepared you are. You’ll probably want to ask about benefits if they haven’t been covered already. A good generic one is “how soon could I start, if I were offered the job of course.” You may also ask what you’d be working on. Specifically, in the role you’re applying for and how that affects the rest of the company. Always have questions ready, greeting this one with a blank stare is a rotten way to finish your interview. Good luck and happy job hunting.

10 Amazingly Simple Tricks To Turn Your Brain Into A Powerful Thinking Machine

Written by Self Improvement

There are two basic principles to keep your brain healthy and sharp as you age: variety and curiosity. When anything you do becomes second nature, you need to make a change. If you can do the crossword puzzle in your sleep, it’s time for you to move on to a new challenge in order to get the best workout for your brain. Curiosity about the world around you, how it works and how you can understand it will keep your brain working fast and efficiently. Use the ideas below to help attain your quest for mental fitness.

1. Read a Book

Pick a book on an entirely new subject. Read a novel set in Egypt. Learn about economics. There are many excellent popular non-fiction books that do a great job entertaining you while teaching about a subject. Become an expert in something new each week. Branch out from familiar reading topics. If you usually read history books, try a contemporary novel. Read foreign authors, the classics and random books. Not only will your brain get a workout by imagining different time periods, cultures and peoples, you will also have interesting stories to tell about your reading, what it makes you think of and the connections you draw between modem life and the words.

2. Play Games

Games are a wonderful way to tease and challenge your brain. Suduko, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. You’ll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day-spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.

3. Use Your Opposite Hand

Spend the day doing things with your non-dominant hand. If you are left-handed, open doors with your right hand. If you are right-handed, try using your keys with your left. This simple task will cause your brain to lay down some new pathways and rethink daily tasks. Wear your watch on the opposite hand to remind you to switch.

4. Learn Phone Numbers

Our modem phones remember every number that calls them. No one memorizes phone numbers anymore, but it is a great memory Skill. Learn a new phone number everyday.

5. Eat for Your Brain

Your brain needs you to eat healthy fats. Focus on fish oils from wild salmon, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as flax seed and olive oil. Eat more of these foods and less saturated fats. Eliminate transfats completely from your diet.

6. Break the Routine

We love our routines. We have hobbies and pastimes that we could do for hours on end. But the more something is second nature, the less our brains have to work to do it. To really help your brain stay young, challenge it. Change routes to the grocery store, use your opposite hand to open doors and eat dessert first. All this will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again.

7. Go a Different way

Drive or walk a different way to wherever you go. This little change in routine helps the brain practice special memory and directions. Try different side streets go through stores in a different order anything to change your route.

8. Learn a New Skill

Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Your memory comes into play, you learn new movements and you associate things differently. Reading Shakespeare, learning to cook and building an airplane out of tooth picks all will challenge your brain and give you something to think about.

9. Make Lists

Lists are wonderful. Making lists helps us to associate items with one another. Make a list of all the places you have traveled. Make a list of the tastiest foods you have eaten. Make a list of the best presents you have been given. Make one list every day to jog your memory and make new connections. But don’t become too reliant on them. Make your grocery list, but then try to shop without it. Use the list once you have put every item you can think of in your cart. Do the same with your “to do” lists.

10. Choose a new skill

Find something that captivates you that you can do easily in your home and doesn’t cost too much. Photography with a digital camera, learning to draw, learning a musical instrument learning new cooking styles, or writing are all great choices.

20 Innovations That Have Radically Changed The College Experience

Written by Ryan

red bull energy drinkThe college experience is fundamentally different today in comparison to even just twenty years ago, thanks to the mass adoption of revolutionary technological developments such as the Internet and cell phones. College students have many more ways to use their time now (should I play Halo 3 with a buddy in Japan, browse Digg’s popular tech stories, Skype my girlfriend, look at Internet porn, watch a bittorrent movie, or search the ‘net for the perfect term paper?due tomorrow)?

Whether used for good or bad, technological innovations have radically shaped the way college life is lived and the way education is done. From taking classes online to texting your friends during a boring lecture, this ain’t your grandfather’s pencil and paper education.

So without further ado, here are 19 technological innovations that we believe have radically changed the college experience. While you’re reading through, take a moment and consider what college life would be without them!

  1. Cell phones. Call up a friend from practically anywhere – including the college library – if you’re having trouble studying, or simply need a sympathetic ear about how you bombed that major test. Of course there’s also the dreaded scolding from a professor when your phone goes off during a lecture;-)
  2. MMPORGs. Massively-MultiPlayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMPORGs) such as World of Warcraft, and even Second Life in a sense no doubt take up many hours for some students – allowing them to chill out that pent up rage from compulsory Chemistry midterm they bombed on.
  3. Digital Video Compression- Whatever your favorite format, digital video downloading is one of the most popular pastimes for college students these days. Compression technologies made digital video downloads possible in a reasonable amount of time. In addition to movies and tv shows, students can also download and consume class audio or video, lecture recordings, etc.
  4. VoIP. Spent all your money partying it up and can’t afford long distance calls home? With VoIP, you can sometimes call free or very cheap. Skype is the most popular free VoIP technology, and there are many good paying options like Vonage. Some systems allow you to take a local phone number with you on the road. That way mom doesn’t have to pay a long distance bill.
  5. Google/Search. If you need to find information for a term paper fast, Google is a good place to start searching, especially Google Scholar. Whether we like it or not, a large number of term papers are now “derived” from already existing online work. For this reason, Google also serves as a way to check for exact phrase plagiarism.
  6. The Internet. Most professors or their assistants now publish lecture notes, assignments, and info about additional reading material on their class website. There are also many library and study resources online. [On the entertainment side, the Internet’s obviously useful for finding music (U.S. only) and video to relax with. And beyond these two uses (study, entertainment), there’s the chance of earning money online in the blogosphere.]
  7. Textbook DVD/ CDs. Many college textbooks now come searchable on disc, making it that much easier to find that obscure information the professor mumbled about at the end of the lecture. Ideal for reducing study time.
  8. The iPod – There was a time when you could count on the majority of students wearing jeans to class. Now you can count on the majority of students wearing iPods to class. iPods and other digital media players also provide the opportunity to listen to lectures for reinforcement.
  9. File Sharing Applications – Napster became huge because of college students. Then it got shut down and resurrected as a paid service. No worries. Plenty of alternatives have popped up and file sharing (illegal and legal) continues at a rampant pace, though the record companies are fighting back with futility.
  10. Laptops. Laptops make it possible for everyone to have a mobile office. Papers can be started in your dorm room and finished in the library, all on the same computer. Plus, if you type fast, you can actually take legible notes in class. No more scrawled notes, and it’s easy to pass them on to friends. Or, plug in an external microphone and record class. Sure there are lots of makes to choose from, but we like our Alienware laptops?what’s college without some hard core gaming anyway?
  11. Printers. Affordable, good quality printers have made many a student happy, not having to trudge over to the local Stinko’s, or worse, the college library (waiting for some labor union employee to fix the jammed laser printer). While ink cartridges are now often more than the printers (some are free after rebate) total cost per page is a lot less. Perfect for when you have to write a term paper.
  12. SMS texting. Don’t want to make a racket in the college library but need a friend’s help? Send them a query via SMS and get an answer fast, without looking around sheepishly when your phone rings.
  13. Touch Screens. Both PDAs and Tablet Computers are increasingly popular technologies for taking class notes digitally. Rather than scribble notes on paper, or type frantically at the keyboard, touch screens enable natural hand writing, which is converted to digital text. Adoption of these touch screen systems seems to be rising amongst college students.
  14. Virtual learning environments. E.g. web applications such as Blackboard and Moodle have not only helped make learning easier but have also enabled brand new educational opportunities such as distance learning and Internet bulletin board discussions.
  15. Web applications. There’s a huge list of categories that students can benefit from. Here are a few:
    1. Web word processors such as Zoho Writer or Google Docs.
    2. Calendaring, To-do, and organiztion tools such as Google Calendar, Neptune and Backpack.
    3. Project management tools such as Basecamp or Mercury Grove‘s free Web Groups – both of which can be used to manage team term projects, even if someone goes away for the weekend.
    4. Always-on web chat clients or chat rooms, such as AIM and Campfire, for easy access to a friendly chat or coordinating with all the team members on a project. These days recreational instant messaging is a mainstay of college life, and for many students, it is a comforting distraction. Sometimes too distracting!

    All of them offer easy access to files and project info from wherever you can get an Internet connection.

  16. Wi-fi. Wireless internet access in the college library means being able to walk around with your laptop and work from any cubbyhole you can find – especially important during exam time.
  17. Mini coffee brewing machine. Not just a coffee pot, but a full blown mini brewing machine, grinders, etc., for banishing that mental phantom zone around exam time.
  18. Energy Drinks. Speaking of coffee. Now you can get a full dose of caffeine plus other energy enhancing ingredients in drinks like Red Bull. These have become the staple of late night studying.
  19. Myspace and Facebook. If you can find a college student who doesn’t use Myspace or Facebook then you deserve a prize. These two social networks have revolutionized the way people interact and meet each other online.
  20. Time and Location shifting TV. With busy schedules, many college students can’t watch their favorite shows at the time of broadcast. But that doesn’t mean they miss their favorite shows. There are several methods for students can use for watching shows when they want.
    1. Record To A Computer Hard Drive: Set up your home computer with a TV capture card. Program it to record TV shows at specific times to a high-capacity external hard drive. Then watch shows when you go home on weekends.
    2. Subscribe to a Service: TIVO is the most popular way of watching shows when you want.
    3. Location-shifting: Technologies like Slingbox and Orb allow you to catch your favorite sports team from back home, even when you are hundreds of miles out of the area.

Reader Suggestions Prize:
Photocopier (now why didn’t we think of that!)

Reader Suggestions Prize 2:
The Taser – “taking down students with ballz, one tase at a time”

5 Things I learned about Personal Growth by Moving

Written by todayisthatday

Did you ever have a learning experience after a major change in your life that made you realize you could have learned that same lesson without having gone through the major change?

Obviously the change was a necessary catalyst for the lesson, but it still gives you the opportunity to slap yourself in the forehead and say, “I could have learned this years ago!”.

After moving to Port Orange, FL this past weekend, I’ve had several of those moments. In an effort to keep you from needing to bop yourself in the head over similar lessons, I’ll share what I have learned over the past few days.

1) You don’t realize how much your surroundings are a part of your state of mind until you experience the contrast of going through your daily routine in a strange environment.

There were a lot of things about my previous daily routine that were not “ideal,” and as I got ready to move, I certainly looked forward to making some positive changes in that regard. However, when it came down to unloading the last box and saying a final goodbye to my previous lifestyle, I was suddenly very aware of the fact that I was all alone in a brand-new world.

Logistically I was prepared for that, but this was the first time in many years that I was going to be geographically cut off from the environment and the people that I had grown so accustomed to having as part of my life. It was a bit scary, to be honest, and more than just a little sad.

The Lesson: Don’t take your surroundings and your circle of influence for granted. If you don’t enjoy certain aspects of your life, then get out of your comfort zone for awhile so you can experience the contrast of what your life looks like from a different point of view. Make a list of everything and everyone that is part of your daily routine, and then take 2 or 3 days and remove it all. Leave town if you have to. While trying not to have any ties to your “previous life,” you might be surprised how much your normal surroundings and the people around you were part of your security and comfort level.

2) Try being healthy in a way that you normally wouldn’t – you might like it!

I used to be a personal trainer, so I am certainly familiar with the ins and outs of proper diet and exercise habits. Whenever I am doing something healthy or unhealthy, I am always acutely aware of it.

Nonetheless, like anyone else, I have certain routines that I tend to stick to, even if they aren’t the most healthy habits in the world. Two of my vices are coffee and diet soda. I don’t take the sugared version of either one, but instead opt for using flavored creamer and Splenda for my coffee, and whatever chemically-stuffed ingredients are in the diet soda that I buy. I know those habits aren’t good for me, but I do them anyway.

Well, grocery shopping still hasn’t happened since the move, so although I have coffee and coffee creamer, I do not have any Splenda or any diet soda yet. Imagine my surprise when I realized that my coffee was just as good with only the creamer in it, and in less than 3 days of drinking water, I have almost completely curbed my desire to drink soda of any kind.

The Lesson: Healthy habits don’t just look good on paper! Even if you may have resistance to healthy habits as part of your normal routine, just give yourself a few days of doing things in a manner different than what you are used to. Who knows? You might even end up with radically fewer chemicals in your system every day like I did!

3) If you push yourself to the limit, no matter how much it hurts, you’ll be glad you did it.

One of the reasons why I moved to Port Orange is because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. I love the beach and the energy that is always available at the water’s edge, so getting over to the coast was one of the first things that I did once the boxes were all unloaded.

There is a causeway that separates the “mainland” from the peninsula where the actual coastline is, and that causeway is about a mile and a half from my house. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so I hopped on my bike and away I went.

Well, in addition to being beautiful and sunny, it was also very windy, and the causeway itself is a fairly steep incline – probably at least 30-degrees up or more, and about a quarter of a mile from the bottom to the top. Now, between the recent launching of PDP, and the administrative issues of finding and securing the house that I moved into, it has been about 3 weeks since I have gotten any consistent cardiovascular exercise. Let me tell you that getting up that causeway was literally the hardest physical thing that I can remember doing in years!

I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor, so I don’t know what my beats per minute were, but I can tell you that I was well outside of the safety zone! However, in addition to the incredible view of the ocean and the beach that I had as soon as I got to the top of the causeway, the sense of accomplishment that I felt was unbelievable. I felt like I was on top of the world, and that it was all downhill from there!

The Lesson: Don’t wait until you find yourself in an unexpectedly difficult situation to push yourself to the limits. Find ways to take it to the max – every day if you can. Not only will you feel wonderful for having made the effort, but your confidence in what you are capable of will grow by leaps and bounds!

4) You really don’t need all of that junk

This move for me was to a location that was only about 90 minutes south of where I was before, so the physical part of the move was actually done in chunks. In fact, some of my stuff is still back where I used to live because it just wasn’t a priority to get it moved right away.

During the process of moving everything that I own over the course of several different trips, I had to make some hard decisions about what needed to stay or go on any given trip, and what could be left behind for the final low priority trip later on.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that almost 90% of the things that I owned were really not that important to me!

With the exception of my computer, my clothes, the minimum necessary furnishings, and a few other necessary or high priority items, almost everything I own is not used on a daily basis.

Sure, I like having a TV, I would cry if something happened to my iPod, and there are many things that have sentimental value for me. However, most of my belongings are just things that I use because they are there. I have very little attachment to them, nor a strong desire to keep them close to me. Even as I type this, there are things in the garage that I could bring into the house, but I’m simply not in a very big hurry to do so!

The Lesson: Don’t be too attached to the material possessions in your life. Ask yourself how many of the things that you own are actually important to you. If they aren’t, then why not clear out the physical and the mental clutter by getting rid of them?

5) True friendship will show itself when needed.

I saved this one for last because I felt it was the most important thought for you to be left with.

As I went through the process of planning for and preparing for this move, to say that my life was chaotic would not even begin to cover it. Between the work that I do online, and the logistics that went into this entire process, I have been running crazy for months.

Through it all, there was one person who bent over backwards for me on every occasion, although at the same time she maintained her own integrity by not bending so far that she didn’t tend to her own needs in the process.

I am an active social person, and I have a lot of friends from all over the U.S., most of whom I see at least semi-frequently during annual get-togethers that we have planned. However, I could count the people who would do for me what this person did on less than one hand.

The person in question knows who she is, so I won’t call her out by name, except of course to say Thank You for all that you did! I’m quite sure I haven’t expressed that sentiment as much as I should have.

The Lesson: You may have an address book full of names, a contact list a mile long, or even a database of the hundreds of people that you know all over the world, and that is a wonderful thing. However, how many fingers and toes would it take for you to count the number of people who would truly jump through fire for you? Once you have that figure, pick up the phone and call them right now just to say “Thanks for being my friend”.

As I indicated at the beginning of this post, each of these lessons can be learned without having to actually go through major changes in your life. Just stop the presses long enough to actually look around and take stock of your life. Then start doing whatever it takes to live your life to the fullest, constantly pushing yourself to achieve bigger and better levels of success, happiness, and fulfillment!

How to Survive as the Family Tech Support Guy (or Gal)

Written by Dustin Wax

How to Be the Family Tech Support Guy (or Gal)One of the most insidious pressures on tech-savvy people these days is the seemingly constant pressure to provide quick, top-quality computer and web support – to our families. If you happen to do web design, system administration, programming, or other vaguely computer-related work as part of your job, the pressure is magnified all the more.

It’s work we do out of love, and usually because we want our family members to succeed at whatever they’re trying to do. Most of the time, we feel more than a little obligated, since it was probably us that got mom to buy a PC, dad to upgrade to DSL, or brother to launch a website for his part-time weekend job in the first place.

But it’s a responsibility that can quickly grow to wreak havoc on our schedules. You soon find yourself barraged with calls, making house calls, and squeezing in last-minute requests. It’s like the freelancer’s worst nightmare client, except a) you’re not being paid, b) you can’t ask them to take their business elsewhere, and c) you’re expected to offer a lifetime guarantee.

Here are a few tips to help keep on top of demands for help from family members. Much of this is modeled after the way a freelancer handles his or her business relations, figuring that what works for a freelancer, who has to work hard to assure their client comes back with future jobs, ought to work well for us in dealing with our families, who (alas?) will keep on giving us work regardless of performance or attitude.

  • Beware the Curse of Knowledge! The single most important thing to keep in mind when offering your services to your family is that you are a different kind of person than they are. Most people that understand computers well enough to be the “go to” person for their family’s computer woes are actually interested in how computers work and curious about what else it can do. Not so The Others; they’re in search of simple answers that don’t have to explain anything other than how to do task x. This can get frustrating – you say “click on the file menu” and they say “huh?” Don’t assume familiarity with even the most basic tasks (except the whole thing about not talking into the mouse). Don’t talk down to them, but keep it simple and clear. Try reminding yourself that this person gave birth to you/taught you to ride a bike/never told mom about the time you were smoking behind the gym/brought you into this world and can take you out/loves you despite your faults.
  • Get a brief. What exactly does your family member want you to do? Just like a designer wouldn’t start a project without knowing what her client’s needs were, you shouldn’t undertake a project for family without them taking the time to detail what they want. Otherwise you may find you’ve spent a lot of time on something that will never get used.
  • Schedule. Make the best estimate of how long the task will take and schedule it in just like a professional gig. It’s tempting to take on jobs for family members as either a) immediate-priority, drop everything tasks, or b) spare-time tasks. The first will cause stress and the neglect of other projects, the second will cause resentment in family members who feel you’re blowing off something that is really important to them. So let them know when you’ll be able to work on it, explaining that you’d like to give them the attention they deserve without distractions.
  • Learn to say “no”. It’s hard enough saying “no” to a boss or client, I know. But you have to be realistic, too – sometimes family work would be better served by someone else in your family (and boy will they appreciate the referral!) or by a professional. And sometimes you simply cannot find the time to do a good job.
  • Invoice. This doesn’t apply to all cases – when mom needs help setting up her new email account, for example – but some tasks are big and should really be done by a professional. If you happen to be such a professional, let your family member know that you can offer them a nice “family discount” but the job is too big to take on for free. Obviously you’ll want to use your judgment here, but don’t let yourself be taken advantage of – if taking on a task for a family member means you’ll have to give up paid work, you deserve to be compensated.
  • Know your limits. Don’t take on jobs that are too far beyond your own abilities. There’s a world of difference between figuring out how to install a new CPU on your own PC and doing the same on mom’s computer, screwing up, and depriving her of her online Boggle matches and email from her grandkids. Keep the experimentation at home and know when to turn your family member over to a pro.
  • Upsell. If you’re doing a logo for your sister-in-law’s in-home lingerie sales business, why not offer to throw in letterhead for half your usual price? OK, I’m just kidding – I suppose it is possible to take the whole “client relations” thing too far when dealing with family.

Working for family can feel like extortion sometimes – it’s not entirely fair that everyone leans on you for help, and you have very little choice in the matter. Remember that, despite the frustrations, requests for help from family are a sign of pride in your accomplishments and a recognition of your value.

Bonus Tip: install LogMeIn Free on all your family member’s computers and link them to your account. Then you’ll be able to log in to their computers from home and work on it just like you would if you were in front of the computer itself. This is obviously no good for problems when the computer won’t boot or there’s a hardware problem, but for little things like setting up email, updating a program, or troubleshooting a network connection, it’s just the thing. And it’s free.