A Brief Message From the Future

I had a dream Friday morning about being in the future. In this future, humanity had gotten its act together and had arrived at a place of peace, harmony, and wisdom, such that we were no longer trying to coerce each other or force each other into thinking or believing or being certain ways. We also had interstellar travel, and I had been sent to another planet as an envoy to present our offer of friendship and help. Continue reading

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Ways to Save Money #3: Rent DVDs

Although it can be satisfying to have a large video collection, most people don’t ever watch a movie again after purchasing it. That constitutes a waste of money—sometimes, a lot of money. I have seen struggling young couples with children to care for who have trouble making ends meet, yet they own hundreds of DVDs. At $20 to $30 or more per DVD, that adds up pretty quickly to thousands of dollars they could have better spent on other things.

What can you do instead? In order from least costly to most costly, you can

  • Ask for it free from your local Freecycle group
  • Use your local library
  • Buy used instead of new
  • Subscribe to Netflix
  • Use the rental cost rule of thumb before buying

Continue reading

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Ways to Save Money #2: Freecycle

This is the second entry in my series on ways to save money. Unlike the first entry, which proposed that you stop subscribing to television service, this one is much easier to do. Join your local freecycle group.

A freecycle group is a group of people who very simply do one of two things: They offer items for free, or they ask for items for free. Because of its nature, although all groups fall under the umbrella of the national Freecycle.org group, each freecycle group has to be local.

I have gotten rid of CD cases, DVD cases, supplements, partially used shampoos, and a host of other things that I might otherwise have had to throw out. Although I rarely am on the asking end, and although I have had much less success getting items I ask for, many people get exactly what they want. I’ve seen people ask for cell phones, computers, and even cars.
Continue reading

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SuperFoods Rx

With a life-long interest in diet (as in what we eat) and nutrition, I like to keep up with the latest thinking on what foods are considered best for us. My mother was an early adopter of Adele Davis’s books, so I was raised on whole grains, whole foods, and not a lot of sugar, soda (soft drinks), white bread, or other such foods.

Recently, I’ve been reading SuperFoods Rx, and like it very well indeed. There’s a lot of information packed into that book, organized in a very nice, clean way; however, although there is a one-page summary of the ideas in the book, it isn’t as complete as I would have liked it to be. So I made my own one-page summary that shows all the foods and their sidekicks, arranged by food type, with recommended servings per day as well as serving sizes. Although the print is quite small (so I could fit it all on one page), it is quite useful to have it on my refrigerator for reference.

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Ways to Save Money #1

When I was a child, we didn’t have much money. Invention being the daughter of necessity, we learned early that one must “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” as the old folk saying goes. Although my finances got easier, many of my thrifty habits remained (though my natural generosity tends to take a bite out of my finances when I am doing well).

In these times, every little bit helps, and so I am going to share some of my tips on how to cut back your costs. I have a lot of them—65 on my list, and I’m not done listing everything. I’m not simply going to give you a list, however, but am instead going to have a separate  post for each item on the list so I can discuss it a little bit, say why it works or how it works, perhaps give instructions if it is something along the lines of reusing something for a new purpose (“repurposing,” as it is known in the corporate world), and even, if you don’t mind, sharing a bit of the philosophy behind the item.

Some of the ideas I will be sharing with you will simply involve changing habits—doing something differently than you have before. Some will involve buying things in different ways. Others will involve not buying something entirely. It is of course completely up to you whether you choose to take one, some, or all of these ideas and make them your own. All I ask is that you read through them with a neutral eye. If you find one you like, consider making it a goal to incorporate that idea into your life.

Ways to Save Money #1: Cancel Your Television Service

Television does not exist to entertain us; it exists to sell to us. (Commercialism by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen)

In some ways, there isn’t a priority to these ideas, but idea number one is so important in so many other ways than saving money that I am sharing it first. It is also going to be an idea that many people will resist, so I am throwing it out there first so that you have a chance to mull it over, maybe do a little research yourself, perhaps give it a try for a month and see how you do with it. Continue reading

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Style Guides

For writers, a style guide is an essential tool for ensuring consistency and clarity. When a company I am working for does not have an in-house style guide, I recommend the following style guides:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. The CMS, which is the standard of the publishing industry and has a long and venerable history, is a well-loved manual that I’ve used through several editions. The CMS is available in hardcover, on CD, and as an online, subscription-based version. When a new edition comes out, I geek out and read through it to see what might have changed.  If you have no other guide, this is the one to have.
  • Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, Third Edition. (Currently out of print.) As a supplement to the CMS, because of its emphasis on computer-related terminology, I’ve followed the Microsoft Manual of Style since its inception back in the early Windows days. Some of the approved terms have changed (even flip-flopped) since those early days, and I only recently switched to the third edition, so you may note older style choices in my writing samples. However, I am always consistent, whichever style I follow.
  • As an alternative to the Microsoft Manual of Style, some people prefer to use Sun’s Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry (there’s a new edition coming out in November 2009).
  • For Apple-based software, there’s the Apple Publications Style, which is free to view on the Web. Note that Apple has it wrong when it comes to the correct capitalization of Web and the separation of the words Web and site (as in, “this is my Web site”), though some day it may become the lowercase web by sheer weight of usage. (Microsoft has it right on both counts in their style guide.) Continue reading
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“It used to be home to old cars and one angry dog”

I read today about how San Francisco’s mayor wants an audit of all unused land in the city in order to grow food there. It’s a good article and I encourage you to read it. One phrase in particular caught my eye, and that was discussing a former junkyard-turned-farm in Oakland:

“…it used to be home to old cars and one angry dog, but now is run by the nonprofit City Slicker Farms.
With a handful of staff members and scores of volunteers from the neighborhood, the nonprofit operates six small farms in West Oakland and sells the produce, along with honey and eggs, on a sliding scale to local residents at a Saturday farm stand. The 2,000-square-foot former junkyard now produces 2,000 pounds of food every year, including lettuce, squash, tomatoes, parsley, sage, collard greens, grapes, cherries and plums.”

If every town and city used empty land to grow food, we’d all be better off, and so would Mother Nature.

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