Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tonights Video: Shop Class

My wife tells the story of how before we met, she got in trouble for using power woodworking tools without the proper safety precautions. I just call her lefty. No, I'm kidding. She was fortunate. I worked for a few years in manufacturing and saw people do some pretty stupid things that caused loss of fingers and worse.

This week, Kim Komando featured this as one of her daily video's.


Listen up.... from the DLM Blog:

Ten Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

Posted: 17 Nov 2008 08:39 AM PST

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”--Leo Buscaglia
Every time I give an assignment to my college students, I ask if they have questions. At first, everyone is hesitant, but in a moment or two, the questions begin. And that’s fine. What I find somewhat disconcerting, though, is that most of the questions reveal that the students haven’t really listened to my explanation, even though they appeared to have been attentive.

I realize many of us need to hear something more than once to understand and process it, and I’m not faulting my students for that. What bothers me is that in school and elsewhere, I’ve noticed most people don’t make much of an attempt to listen to others. In fact, I believe we are in the midst of a non-listening epidemic that is affecting the quality of our relationships, costing businesses thousands of dollars every year, and producing mediocre learning in our schools.

Most of what we learn, we learn by listening. Yet research shows that most of us aren’t good listeners. In their book, Excellence in Business Communication, Thill and Bovee write, “Listening is a far more complex process than most people think. .. . most of us listen at or below a 25 percent efficiency rate, remember only about half of what’s said during a 10-minute conversation, and forget half of that within 48 hours.”

It isn’t surprising that we don’t listen effectively. First of all, most of us haven’t been taught how to do so. We learn how to read and write but not how to listen. Secondly, we juggle so many activities on the job and at home that we don’t give much thought to listening. It’s speaking that takes priority. Yet mastering listening skills is critical if we are to become good communicators.

Cheesebro, O’Connor, and Rios write in Communication Skills, “People are fired, customers are lost, and working relationships are strained because of ineffective listening. Likewise, friendships suffer, marriages fail, and families grow apart when individuals fail to listen with genuine concern.”

The good news is you can improve your listening skills. By learning about the process and putting forth a conscious effort, you can become an effective listener.

The following ten guidelines, adapted from Thill and Bovee’s book, will help you become a better listener:
  1. Minimize both internal and external distractions. You can’t always get rid of a headache, but you can close the windows if the driver of a truck is outside revving his engine.

  2. Adjust your listening to the situation. If you’re listening to a lecture for an exam in Biology class, you’ll want to pay closer attention than if you’re watching the local news. In the former situation, you’ll probably take notes.

  3. Show you’re listening by your nonverbal communication. You might nod, shake your head, or raise your eyebrows. Adjust your posture accordingly. Make eye contact.

  4. If you’re listening to a speech or attending a business meeting, determine the most important points and develop a method to remember them. You might repeat them mentally or even jot them down briefly.

  5. When you’re listening to a friend with a problem, demonstrate empathy. Show her you understand what she is going through.

  6. Realize that people don’t necessarily want you to solve their problem. They may simply want to share how they are feeling. Save advice for another time, unless you’re asked for it.

  7. Don’t interrupt. Let the person finish what he is saying before you explain your point of view or ask questions.

  8. Don’t prejudge a person’s message by the way he looks. You can learn something from almost anyone.

  9. Stay focused on the subject. It’s easy to let your mind wander, especially if the subject isn’t important to you. Train yourself to concentrate.

  10. Remain clearheaded, even if the topic is emotional. Perhaps someone is discussing the victories of the recent election, and you were passionate about a losing candidate. When emotions become involved, you may end up in the middle of a shouting match, which will resolve nothing. Present your points calmly. You’ll gain credibility by doing so.
To truly listen to someone--not just to hear the words the other is saying but to pay attention to the message contained in the words--is the greatest compliment we can give another person. It means that the other is important enough to us so that we are willing to give him or her our most valuable commodity: our time.

It isn’t always easy to listen, especially when we are preoccupied with fifteen different things that needed doing an hour ago or when we simply aren’t interested in what the other person is saying. But making the effort pays off. Listening can provide a bond of intimacy that deepens our connection to others. It can enrich our personal relationships and help us make fewer mistakes in our jobs. It can increase our learning potential. And it might even earn you a special compliment: “I really like Jane. She’s such a good listener.”

Written on 11/17/2008 by Mary Ann Gauthier. Mary Ann is a writer and an adjunct instructor of English at a private college. She teaches listening skills to her business communication students and is also working on a book about the therapeutic benefits of journaling.Photo Credit: The Consumerist

Christmas Trees

I violated rule 1.
I don't care.
We have a real pine tree in the backyard.

From the Art of Manliness blog:

The Christmas Tree Crib Sheet: How To Pick, Set up, and Care For Your Tree

Posted: 09 Dec 2008 10:59 PM CST

2008-12-09_2212 The Christmas Tree Crib Sheet: How To Pick, Set up, and Care For Your Tree

If a man’s job on Thanksgiving is to carve the turkey, his main Christmas responsibility is the selecting and setting up of the tree. The undisputed symbol of the holiday season, the Christmas tree is the centerpiece of one’s holiday decorations, the focus to which the eye is drawn and people gather. A handsome, large, well-decorated tree, with its twinkling lights and festive ornaments, can warm the heart of even the Scroogiest man. No one can resist its allure; even my Jewish friends put up a “Hanukkah” bush.

Selecting, setting up, and caring for your tree is therefore a responsibility you should take seriously. By following these tips, your Christmas tree will be a source of pride for you, and a source of delight for your family and friends.

Selecting a Christmas Tree

1. Never, ever, buy a plastic tree. This is the cardinal rule of Christmas trees. It’s non-negotiable. A lot of myths get floated around about real Christmas trees that simply aren’t true. Yes, artificial trees are convenient. Yes, artificial trees are cheap. But artificial trees are artificial. At a time of year when you’re celebrating the most authentic things in life: joy, family, giving, and faith, a fake, plastic tree is an entirely inappropriate symbol. It’s interesting to note that the creator of the first fake Christmas tree was the Addis Brush Co., maker of green toilet bowl brushes.

You don’t want a gigantic toilet bowl brush in your living room; you want real branches made out of real wood with real green needles on each bough. Most of all, you want the scent of Christmas, the scent of pine to fill your home. Attempting to recreate this scent with an evergreen scented Glade candle is Christmas sacrilege, punishable by 50 lashes.

Need one more reason? While I know not everyone cares about this, for those who do, remember that buying real trees gives jobs to American Christmas tree farmers and others. Buying plastic trees merely spreads some holiday cheer to a factory in China.

2. Buy early. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you want to have the best selection of trees possible; if you go late, all the trees will have been picked over, and you’ll end up with a Peanuts tree. Secondly, if you’re buying a precut tree, those trees are going to be sitting on the lot every day until Christmas. They’re basking in the sun, not being watered, and drying out. If you buy the tree early, you don’t need to set it up immediately (see “Setting up the Tree” below), but the tree might as well be sitting outside your house in a bucket of water instead of flapping around like a parched goldfish on the lot.

3. Measure the ceiling height where you want to put the tree. You don’t want to pay more for a bigger tree only to have to clip off the top.

4. Visit your local Christmas tree dealer. Your best choice is to head to a Christmas tree farm, where you can cut down a tree right then and there. This not only ensures that you get the freshest tree possible, cutting down a tree will make you feel manly. Plus, the setting helps you get in the holiday mindset. If there isn’t a Christmas tree farm near you, find a tree lot that just sells Christmas trees. Under no circumstances should you buy your Christmas tree in the parking lot of Home Depot. Buying a Christmas tree is a crucial step in getting into the holiday spirit; having a big box store as the backdrop simply won’t do.

5. Select which type of tree you want. (This section needs work)

Fraser Fir: The most popular choice for a Christmas tree, the Fraser fire has a nice dark green color, a uniform shape, and that strong, long-lasting Christmas scent you’re looking for. The needles are short and firm, and the tree holds onto them well. The branches are quite sturdy and can support that big clay bagel wreath ornament you made in second grade.

Balsam Fir-Quite similar to the Fraser fir, the Balsam fir has a pleasing shape, long-lasting needles and scent, and a healthy green color.

Douglas Fir-It’s hard to go wrong with a Douglas fir. It has that ideal Christmas tree profile-long and pyramidal-and is uniformly shaped on all sides. The branches hold onto the soft, green or blue-green needles well. Gives off a sweet, citrusy scent.

Leyland Cypress: Popular in the Southeast, the Leyland Cypress comes with a few downsides. The soft, delicate foliage may look pretty, but the branches can’t support heavy ornaments, and the tree has little scent.

Scotch Pine: While we often call every Christmas tree a “pine tree,” most are firs, not pines. But the Scotch pine is the real McCoy. It has a long-lasting pine scent and sturdy branches to hold your heavy ornaments. The tree also resists drying, and even if it does become dry, it won’t drop its needles. On the con side, some people do not like its long, 2-3 inch needles.

Virginia Pine: Typically small to medium in size, the Virginia pine has sturdy branches and a scent Pine-sol will never be able to duplicate. The needles of the Virginia pine grow in pairs that become twisted with each other, resulting in dense foliage. The branches hold onto the needles well.

6. Look for shape, then size. Of course, the thrill of the search is to find a tree that is both nicely shaped and magnificently large. But while is tempting to simply go for the gargantuan tree, the first thing to look for is pleasing proportionality. A nicely shaped tree will get more compliments than a mammoth but gangly one. Look for large gaps or holes in the branches. Don’t buy a tree from a lot where they keep the trees locked down under netting. You won’t be able to tell what the tree really looks like. And the tree is longing to break its shackles and breathe free. But you may want to ask for the tree to be netted before you go home; it makes carrying the tree much easier.

When it comes to size, keep in mind the number of ornaments and strings of lights you have to decorate the tree with. A gargantuan tree with only a sprinkling of ornaments will look silly; likewise, a small tree struggling to support six ornaments per branch with appear garish.

7. Check for freshness. Ask the seller when the trees were cut. Look for a nice, green needles, and check for the presence of brown ones. But remember, many sellers paint their trees to increase the green color. Check the branches and bark for green coloring. While some do this simply to enhance the tree’s greenness, others may be hiding a wilted, brown tree. Run your hand down the branch; most of the needles should stay put. Bend the needles. On a fir tree, the needle should snap crisply; on a pine tree, the needle should bend and not break.

Setting up Your Christmas Tree

1. Wait until about two weeks before Christmas to bring the tree inside the house for decorating. You’re surely eager to get the tree up and decked out, but leaving the tree outside will keep it fresh longer. The more time the tree spends sitting inside your warm, centrally heated home, the faster it’s going to dry out and drop its needles. Keep the tree sitting in a bucket of water while it’s outside.

2. Choose a location away from heat sources. When you do bring the tree inside, set it up away from heating vents, radiators, and other hot spots. This will dry the tree out quicker than Bunnicula sucking on a carrot.

3. Saw off an inch from the bottom of the tree. The bottom of the tree gets sappy, and this prevents water from being absorbed into the wood. Some tree places will do this sawing for you when you buy the tree.

4. Cut off any branches that interfere with placing the tree in the tree stand.

5. Make it straight. When you place the tree in the tree stand, make sure it’s standing as straight and tall as a Marine at attention. While this can be a painstaking task, if the tree is crooked, it’s going to bother you every day until Christmas. So keep making adjustments until it’s just right.

Caring for Your Christmas Tree

Keep it watered. Trees drink water like camels, so be sure to check the level of water in the tree stand every day and make sure the bottom of the tree is immersed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tonights Video: Field Goal

Please don't complain about this,

7 ways to Save $$

They made it official recently. The USA is and has been in a recession for the past 12 months. There is a difference between a recession and a depression, just Google it if you want to know.

If you want to know how to deal with this economy, here are 7 tips from the DLM Blog:

Seven Good Lessons from the Great Depression

Posted: 04 Dec 2008 01:09 PM PST

We may not be getting ready for bread lines or seeing hobos selling apples for five cents on the corner, but all this talk of another Great Depression should have us looking back in history for lessons that we can take with us into the future of this wild and woolly economic mess.

Here are some ideas that we can learn from the grandparents and great grandparents who lived through the lean times.
  1. Patch it, sew it, fix it yourself
    Gone are the days of disposability. If you have a shirt with a tear or a pipe that’s sprung a leak or a tire with a hole, don’t toss it. Fix it. If you don’t know how to, learn it. Back in the old days, everyone did their own basic home repairs and calling in a specialist was something reserved for those with a fat wallet. These days, with do-it-yourself videos and sites all over the web, finding out how to do something should be snap.

  2. Don’t use credit
    Here’s a concept: If you can’t afford something don’t buy it. You ancestors weren’t very keen on credit. Buying something on installment was a rare occurrence, if it ever happened at all. What would someone from that time think of us when we are whipping out the plastic for an Extra Value Meal? Which leads to …

  3. Saving up
    Time to break out the piggy bank. Since you aren’t using credit, it’s time to start saving for big purchases (or emergencies). Maybe that’s throwing all your change in a jar or cutting out that overpriced coffee each morning. Help yourself by keeping track in a savings book, just like grandma used to. Or throw it all into an online bank saving account and make that scratch earn a little extra.

  4. Forget the Joneses
    We’re all in this economic drain-circling boat together, right? If so, if your neighbor is trying to impress someone, they’re only sinking themselves. So don’t worry about if they have a bigger boat or a fancier car. That just put them a lot closer to the edge than you want to be. Want to strike up a conversation with them over the hedge? Ask them about their 401k.

  5. Can it (or at least brown-bag it)
    One of the best skills developed by folks in the Depression was learning to stretch their food supply as far as it would go. No leftovers for the microwave in 1939. Instead garden veggies were canned for the winter, meat bones went into making soup and even grease was saved in a jar under the sink. Follow their lead by brown-bagging your lunch or seeing just how far you can make that rotisserie chicken last this week. Here’s another hint – smaller portions!

  6. Any job will do
    When you are looking for extra cash, check your ego at the door. During the Depression, men would do odd jobs, paint a fence, chop wood or work a farm. Anything for an extra nickel (like selling those apples). If you are in a bind, don’t let your impression resume stand between you and a steady paycheck. The money from Arby’s or tips from being a pizza delivery guy all spend the same as your graduate student stipend.

  7. Help a brother out
    Finally, one of the great lessons of the lean times is that people often were able to give some help, even if it was hard. A man would be hired to pick the crop for a day and get a good meal when he was finished. People took in boarders or picked up someone who needed a ride. Those were more trusting times to be sure, but if you’ve got an opportunity, no reason not to pay it forward. Brother, it’s tough out here for everybody.

Written on 12/04/2008 by Mike Koehler. Mike Koehler is a multimedia journalist in Oklahoma City working full-time to save the newspaper business while helping his wife raise three kids under age 8. In his spare time he sleeps. E-mail Mike at Credit:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tonights Video: Kicking off Christmas

Growing up with a December Birthday, my parents had a tradition of waiting until after my birthday party on December 11th to start putting up the Christmas Decorations. That gave us two weeks before and a week after Christmas to enjoy the tree and stuff.

Holiday Stress Prevention

Yeah, like that will ever happen.

If you were stressed last year and haven't done anything different, odds are this year could be the same. Here's a way to change all that from the DLM Blog:

Use your Management Skills to Build a Stress-Free Christmas

Posted: 10 Dec 2008 06:36 AM PST

ChristmasThe mantra in today's uncertain economy is to build a repertoire of transferable skills, to be flexible in changing times, to work well with others no matter what the project.

The same abilities can be applied to Christmas challenges as well. When you get to feeling overwhelmed in the weeks to come, sit back for a minute and reflect on what you already know that can help.

For example:
  • Anticipate: It helps prevent problems at work and it applies to the holidays as well. I used to snicker at those folks who put up theirs on that long Thanksgiving weekend. Now I am starting to see some sense in it all. You don't have to connect the tinsel and the Santa, but hanging from the eaves to string the lights is a lot easier when the snow isn't flying and the days are a little warmer.

  • Delegate: Just as you can get a lot more done when you delegate at work, review what you can delegate in your personal life as well. For instance, Amazon has a great deal called Prime where they will wrap your packages AND ship them, at no extra charge. Calculate: how many hours standing in line at the post office, how many hours putting on those bows...

  • Work on off-hours: When in a bind, I get the most accomplished arriving at work early that hour before the phones start ringing and other folks show up. A lot of executives that I know do the same thing.

    OK, reverse the process at the end of your day. Consider taking advantage of those longer hours the retailers are offering. You don't find too many older folks with slow carts or moms with cranky toddlers in tow at 10PM.

  • Multi-task: You do it at work - it operates at home, too. There's no better combination than a good football game, a blaze in the fireplace, snow falling outside, and...Christmas cards to address or packages to wrap. You can do it!

  • Just-in-time inventory: Go stock up at Costco or Sam's Club on off hours (see above). Buy some of those big family size freezer packs of hors d'oeuvres: the baby tarts, pigs in blankets, cheeses, you name it. Comes in handy when the gang drops over.

  • The customer is always right: Yeah, I know they aren't, either. But if you are cheerful and positive, they go away feeling good about you and the product. Try the same attitude when you stand in line at the check-out counter. Joke with the clerks. Make small talk with others waiting in line. You'll get better service (trust me, you will) and everybody's mood lightens.

  • A project always takes three times longer than you anticipate. So plan shopping trips, drives to the store, getting the family ready to go to the party. If you build in an extra 15 (or 30!) minutes of lead time, that heavier-than-usual traffic will not tip you over into road rage and ruin your holiday spirit.

  • Accept less than perfection: You know when you're working on that special report and you reach the point when you say, "OK, that's it. That's all they get." The same thing applies to Christmas presents. Accept that there is no perfect one.

  • In your heart you know that the odds are whatever you give might be the wrong color. Or not the exact shade of the right color. One size too small. One size too big. If your objective is to be perfect, you set yourself up for failure. Aim for that golden mean, give your gift with a big smile and a hug and enjoy life.

  • Use the leverage of fixed overhead. Remember your accounting classes? After you cover the fixed overhead, everything else is pure profit. OK, go back to Costco (no I don't own shares!), get the BIG, economy size of gourmet coffee, candy, popcorn, or other seasonal treats.

  • Then go over to the ceramics section and buy that special set of bowls, dishes, mugs, etc. Combine the goodies, put into the containers, and split into half a dozen different gifts. Wrap with special paper. You got it! For a nominal fixed overhead, you've got some really great gifts, and not a Hickory Farms bloated summer sausage among 'em.

  • Finally, remember the corollary to Murphy's Law: "Murphy was an optimist." In the holiday season, as in the business world, if something can go wrong, it will.

    People will be cranky. The wrong person will show up on your doorstep at the right time. The Internet fails you and you can't find this year's equivalent of Tickle me Elmo or the Cabbage Patch dolls anywhere, not even on eBay at twice the price.
Work to be flexible. Repeat after me: There is always next year. Stop, breathe, smell the holly, and you can savor this very special time in your life.

Written on 12/10/2008 by Grace Kepplin. You can find Grace at Face to the Sun where she writes to share some of what she's learned, puzzle about what she's yet to experience, and to make sense of this crazy world we live in.Photo Credit: kevindooley

Happy Birthday?

Yeah, today's the day I'm officially a year older than yesterday and I've been trying to figure out what to put here today.

Then I thought about how age has very little to do with health, at least until we hit 90 or so. But how we live can shorten our lives, or create health problems that can be avoided.

Over the weekend, I heard a couple of friends of mine talking about the weight loss programs each of them are doing and I congratulated them.

Also my son fixed an extremely delicious and healthy lunch on Saturday, cooking from scratch except for the jar of tomato sauce.

Take a look at this list of 10 things you should not be doing and make a couple of changes and next year you can be with me as a celebrate another big day!

10 Ways to Ruin Your Health and Die Young

Posted: 05 Dec 2008 06:26 AM PST

Let's face it, it's hard work to stay healthy. Sure, you might prolong your life by a few years if you eventually quit the death sticks, ease up on the binge-drinking and tackle your fast food habit ... but hey, life's for living, right?
So if you want to be breathless whenever you walk upstairs, if you want to be constantly ill, if you want to be buying sweat pants in a larger size every month ... read on! Here's exactly how to ruin your health and die young (because with a life like that, you'll probably want to). Follow these ten simple instructions, and you'll be guaranteed a short, miserable life.
  1. Smoke like a chimney
    If you’re a smoker, great! You’re driving yourself to an early grave already. And if you’re not a smoker, why not get started now? Remember, you’ll not just be putting yourself at risk of lung cancer … you’ll also be in danger of heart disease, stomach cancer and even vision problems. Smoking is a fast and easy way to ruin your health.

  2. Experiment with drugs
    Tobacco and nicotine just not killing you fast enough? Start “experimenting” with drugs. Kid yourself that you’re not a drug “user”, you’re just “trying new things”. Depending on what illegal substances you’re poisoning yourself with, you could be at risk of imminent death. Psychiatric disorders, serious physical illnesses and, of course, addiction, all await you too.

  3. Binge-drink alcohol
    One drug is easily and legally available – alcohol. Make sure you treat it lightly and irresponsibly, for maximum ill-health. Get completely wasted on a regular basis, and enjoy the immediate effects of vomiting, memory loss, hangover (which is a form of food poisoning) and brain-shrinkage (that’s what causes the headache). Long-term, you’re heading for serious liver damage, vision problems and eventually early death. Oh, and if you’re a bloke, add erectile dysfunction to that list.

  4. Eat fast food regularly
    When you’re drunk, you’ll probably get the “munchies”. Swing by a fast food joint to fill your stomach with saturated fat: great for clogging up your arteries and causing heart disease. Fast food is designed to be scoffed in a hurry, so has none of those tedious nutritional goodies that require actual chewing (like fiber and fruit and vegetables). It’s packed with calories and easy to eat a lot of – perfect for gaining weight.

  5. Avoid fruit and vegetables
    And on that note of fruit and veggies – avoid them as much as possible. Pull the lettuce and tomato out of that burger, drink coke not fresh fruit juice, and use the salad drawer in your fridge as a place to stash cans of beer. You’ll be increasing your risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease and more. Bonus points if you manage to give yourself scurvy.

  6. Never walk when you can drive
    Getting exercise will diminish your risk of some of those health disasters you’re working up to. Never take an unnecessary step. Spend ten minutes driving round the car park to get a spot as near to the store as possible. Always take the lift, not the stairs. Go out of your way to avoid letting any exercise creep into your life. You’ll end up obese, at greater risk of catching illnesses, and probably depressed too.

  7. Have a fat waist
    Measure your waist: if it’s under 32 inches (female) or 37 inches (male), then head back to the fast food joint and make sure you drive there: you've got a lot of work to do. Stuffing in extra food without burning any off is an easy way to gain weight. If you’re feeling too full to eat more, add in a binge drinking session for some empty alcohol and sugar calories.

  8. Refuse to visit your doctor
    To make sure that the health problems you've developed go undiagnosed and untreated for as long as possible, never visit your doctor when worrying symptoms arise. The longer you leave it before getting advice and treatment, the more likely you are to develop something so serious that it kills you.

  9. Sleep is for tortoises
    One sometimes overlooked facet of ill health is getting as little sleep as possible. Make sure you go to bed too late (ideally after a binge-drinking session, to ensure you sleep badly and wake up feeling awful). Stagger around in a zombie-like daze of exhaustion: you’ll be all the more encouraged to scoff refined sugar and fatty snacks to artificially boost your energy levels.

  10. Make life stressful
    Finally, taking all the above ill health measures should make you feel stressed, miserable and in despair about your life. Make sure you’re overworked, under appreciated and on the verge of snapping at any given moment. Stress helps you to store extra weight on your waist, and it puts you at risk of ulcers, depression and a nervous breakdown.
What ill health tips do you have for ensuring a short, miserable, uncomfortable life? Are you going to change them? You know, if you are into resolutions, the time is almost here!
Written on 12/05/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.Photo Credit: MarkyBon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tonights Video: Inspiration

Feeling a little blue, down, like things aren't going your way? If Carl can overcome, you can too:

Email Advice

There are multiple options for handing email these days. When I first went on line in the 1990's I had a Yahoo email address and a Hotmail address. Eventually I narrowed it down to just Yahoo and used them to create my first website. But eventually the spam that was not being filtered by Yahoo forced me to switch to G-mail from Google and now Google products are the ones I recommend most.

On the other hand, I also have a work email account that is thru the radio stations I work for. For this account, I have used Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird.

These days, I have all my email sent to a Google based account which filters out over 100 spam messages a day, and I get to see all email by logging into one account. Despite my enthusiasm for G-mail, there are a few precautions and safety settings that you should follow in the article from the DLM blog:

6 Very Important Gmail Security Tips

Posted: 05 Dec 2008 12:13 AM PST

Some of you might be aware of the flurry which took over the blogosphere for a few days after the MakeUseOf blog broke the story about a gmail vulnerability which led to the hijack of its domain by a hacker (cracker, to be more specific). As many blogs discussed this matter and speculated on Gmail's security features, Google finally reacted and mentioned that it wasn't due to Gmail, but due to a phishing scam. Although I don't agree with Google's argument, as you can see in this comment thread at Lifehacker, the fact remains that like most of the web workers, I love Gmail and I can't even think of using any other email application. Keeping that in mind, it's important to take every preventive measure possible to avoid any compromise of your Gmail account. Here are a few tips for Gmail users that are concerned about security. Note that most of these tips are recommended by Google itself and hence are extremely important.

Always Use HTTPS
This is a very important security feature introduced by the Gmail team recently and every Gmail user must know it. In Gmail, go to "Settings" and under the "General" tab in "Browser Connection" click "Always use https". Then click save. That's it! Such a simple step could add an extra layer of security to your Gmail account.

Check Your Filters Regularly
All the Gmail vulnerabilities which have been reported so far involve the setting up of malicious filters and email auto-forwarding. Hence you should check them regularly by going to your Gmail settings and make sure that you don't see anything suspicious there.

Check For HTTPS
Yes, no matter where you login to your Gmail, make sure the url in the browser address bar starts with https:// and not http://. As Google says, "we recommend you only ever enter your Gmail sign-in credentials to web addresses starting with, and never click-through any warnings your browser may raise about certificates."

Don't Use Gmail In Browser ( Only If You Want To Be Extremely Cautious )
This would be a tip for those who are really concerned and can do without Gmail's web interface. Since most of the security issues reported so far are browser based, you might just want to avoid opening Gmail in browser completely and instead, access it through IMAP or POP. I personally don't do it because I am addicted to Gmail's web interface. :)

Don't Disclose Your Password
Sounds simple, isn't it? Believe it or not, this is a major reason why email accounts are compromised. I'll give you an example. Are you on sites like LinkedIn, MySpace or Facebook? If yes, then you probably know about their friend finder feature where you can enter your Gmail account and password and they check your contacts list and let you know if your friends are on the respective services. Well, when it comes to such reputed sites you could trust them, but don't just start doing this on every other site. Also, beware of emails which ask you for your Gmail account credentials. Gmail would never ask you for that, so you can be sure that they are phishing emails which you need to stay away from.

Backup Emails
This isn't a security tip but certainly a very important thing to do if Gmail serves as your primary email account. I mentioned a few tips to backup your email in my previous post on important backup strategies for your PC. There's another great way to back it up using Thunderbird along with some extensions, as Lifehacker mentions here. If you know of any other tips which would help in making Gmail more secure, then please do mention them in comments. And yes, like anything else in this world, these tips do not ensure fool-proof security but they do help in, as I said, making it more secure. Cheers, Abhijeet

Written on 12/04/2008 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. You can catch him at Jeet Blog where he blogs about different Web 2.0 apps and online tools and how they can help you become more productive.Photo Credit:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tonights Video: Observation

Those clever Brits:

Wedding Bells

A very good friend of mine has done it around 6 times. I've done it twice. My wife has done it twice. My first wife has done it twice. My son has done it once but one day will most likely do it again. My youngest daughter did it a couple years ago, and one day her sister, step-sister, and step-brother will probably do it too.

It's a "family thang."

The Art of Manliness

The Case for Marriage

Posted: 30 Nov 2008 09:55 PM CST

484519473_0ec0da00a0 The Case for Marriage

Image from TooTallVal

Lately, marriage has gotten a bad rap. It seems like many people these days feel marriage is some archaic arrangement that holds people back from realizing their full potential. Even if people aren’t particularly anti-marriage, they will avoid getting hitched for as long as they can.

Many men delay marriage because they believe that dating and co-habitating offer all of the benefits (particularly sex) of marriage without the commitment and responsibility. They are fooling themselves. Nearly all of the true advantages of marriage (yes, even sex) apply only to actual married couples, not those couples living together, and certainly not to those simply dating.

Here at the Art of Manliness, we haven’t been shy about the fact that we’re big proponents of marriage. We certainly don’t advocate that men rush into marriage willy nilly, whether they’re ready or not. That would be seriously unwise. But once your find your true love and you’re sure she’s the one, there’s no reason to delay your nuptials. Why? Marriage offers truly significant benefits that cannot be found outside of it. Here are 6 reasons you should grow up, man-up, and stopping being scared of walking down the aisle:

The Benefits of Marriage

More and better sex. The popular belief is that marriage stifles sexual fulfillment. The reality is that married men are having better and more frequent sex than their single buddies who go to clubs each weekend trolling for a woman who’s willing to take them home. Married men don’t have to go through all the trouble of having to convince near strangers to sleep with them or crossing their fingers that on the third date they’re going to get some. Married sex is even better than co-habitating sex; 50% of married men find their sex life physically and emotionally fulfilling, compared to only 38% of co-habitating couples. Married sex produces an environment of trust and openness, allowing couples to openly express their sexual needs and desires to their spouse. This results in better, more satisfying sex.

More money. Married men are wealthier men. Married men earn between 10%-40% more than single men. They also receive promotions more frequently and earn more glowing performance reviews than their single co-workers. Married men also tend to save more than single men. It makes sense. When you’re married, your entire outlook on money changes. Realizing that you have someone else to take care of motivates you to do whatever it takes to support her. If you’ve been dragging your feet about marriage until you make more money, consider the idea that getting hitched might actually improve your financial picture.

caseformarriage The Case for Marriage

Image from lovedaylemon

Better health. Married men are healthier men. They stay healthier and live longer than either their single or co-habitating peers. Just how much healthier are they? Take a look at these statistics:

-Married men have fewer infections and a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers.

-Married men are less likely to smoke, drink heavily, and be physically inactive

-Married men are less likely to suffer from health conditions like back pain, headaches, and serious psychological distress.

-Single people spend longer in the hospital, and have a greater risk of dying after surgery

-9 out of 10 married men who are alive at age 48 are alive at age 65. Only 6 out of 10 single men who was alive at age 48 was alive at 65.

-Married men live 10 years longer than single men. A whole decade!

So if you’re looking to kick the grim reaper’s butt, get married.

A bigger smile. Married men are happier than their single counterparts. In the Journal of Marriage and Family, studies showed that 40% of married people said they were generally happy with their life, while only 25% of single people said they were. The bigger smile might be due in part because married men are getting more sex than single men. But marriage also provides incomparable companionship and forces people to commit to something bigger themselves, which contributes to happiness.

True Companionship. There is an old Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.” Truer words have seldom been spoken. Marriage basically means always having your best friend around. My wife Kate always tells people that our marriage is like a “party every day!” And I concur. Everything I do from going to the gym to grocery shopping is 10X more enjoyable with my wife by my side.

Some single people say things along the lines of, “I don’t need marriage for companionship, I have friends for that.” With all due respect to these single folks, you have nothing to compare your level of satisfaction with. I have been single and married, and nothing comes close to the happiness and companionship your wife gives you. Your wife is there in the middle of the night when your worries are keeping you up; she’s there when you get off work and need to unload the frustrations of your day; she’s there to give you a pep talk over the breakfast table on the day you have a big presentation. No matter how loyal a friend is, they’re not family. They move; they ditch you when they have a hot date, they distance themselves when you have a big fight. You and your wife made a vow to be together forever; it’s wonderful to absolutely know that someone has your back come hell or high water.

Marriage Can Be as Happy as You Want It. With the divorce rate hovering around 50%, many men view marriage as too risky a chance to take. But marriage is not a lottery, nor is it a game of Russian roulette. You don’t get married and then cross your fingers that you don’t become one of the statistics. Divorce is not a disease that some people catch and some people have an immunity to. There is no more erroneous idea than that of “falling out of love.” Nobody falls out of love. One or both partners stop working at their relationship and they give up. Be absolutely sure you pick the right woman to marry, someone who will be just as passionately committed to making the marriage work as you are, and your chances of having a happy marriage are nearly 100%


Monday, December 08, 2008

Tonights Video: The Doghouse

This is for all of us guys. Pass it on:

How to Avoid Re-Gifting

Re-gifting is the practice of taking a gift you were given and giving it as a gift to someone else. Often it works, until you accidentally re-gift it back to the person who gave it to you.

Re-gifting fruitcakes are another matter.

Check out these tips while you still have time before Christmas:

How To Give Great Gifts

Posted: 03 Dec 2008 11:33 AM PST

While the holidays are supposed to be about giving, admit it, we’ve all experienced some disappointment after receiving a dull gift. Maybe you've even been on the opposite end. Perhaps you felt ashamed after giving someone a lousy gift because you couldn't get creative!

If you aren't provided with a wish list for everyone you purchase for, choosing gifts can become a real brain buster. If you are in that position, here are ten tips for making sure that the gifts you give are ones that will be treasured for years to come.

Take Your Time

This is tricky advice to follow when life feels very rushed, but the biggest thing you can do to improve your gift purchases is to simply take your time. Don’t try to buy presents for twenty different people in a single afternoon of shopping. Allow more time than you think you’ll need. Even if you can’t easily get to the mall more than once or twice before Christmas, you can think of ideas or look for inspiration online while you’re at home.

Ask What They Want
Sometimes, you’ll have plenty of ideas of what to buy someone: maybe your sister is into knitting and always wants unusual wools and accessories, or maybe your aunt loves gourmet food baskets. But, some people are just hard to buy for – especially if you don’t know them well. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything they’d particularly like – you might want to approach one of their close friends or a family member to find out.

Listen For Hints
Many people will hint at gifts they’d like to receive – some more blatantly than others! Listen out for phrases like “I’d really love a new scarf” or “Maybe I’ll wait till the January sales to buy myself a remote controlled plane.” Some hints might not be intentioned and they may not be direct at all. For example, if your husband complains about the poor quality of his headphones but never gets round to buying new ones, a pair of good headphones could make a great Christmas present.

Think About Their Hobbies
Some hobbies – especially craft and art ones – are easy to buy gifts towards. Others are trickier, but think laterally. A keen golfer might appreciate a biography of Tiger Woods, or a joke book about golf. A friend who loves to bake may have all the baking trays and wooden spoons that she needs, but might love some unusual cookie-cutters or a few small bottles and jars of flavorings. Magazine subscriptions can also make great gifts, especially as these will remind the recipient of you all year round.

Give Something Crafty

Perhaps it’s not the recipient who has a crafty hobby, but you! Maybe you can knit, crochet, paint, draw, bake, create jewelery, make candles, etc. Most artistic and creative talents can be turned towards gift-giving. Handmade presents are always treasured because of the time and love that’s spent on them – it doesn’t matter if the materials that make the gift didn’t cost much.

Share a Memory
If you’re giving the gift to an old friend or a relative, try searching for inspiration in shared memories. For example, if you went on vacation to Rome together one year, a basket of Italian delicacies or a book about the Sistine Chapel might be a lovely gift as it will remind the person of a shared memory. If you’re giving a present to someone you were at school with as a child, how about a CD of a band that was popular at the time? Christmas is a great chance to indulge in nostalgia!

Personalize the Gift
Giving a personalized gift demonstrates that you took time and care over choosing it – rather than simply “regifting” a present you didn’t want. You might use an online service such as PhotoBox to create a calendar with snapshots of all your mutual friends, for instance. Many companies will provide personalization of gifts, especially ones aimed at children, such as pencil cases and crayons.

Shop Online

One easy way to reduce stress is to do your gift shopping online. This makes it incredibly easy to compare prices between different stores. Best of all, you can shop at any time of the day and night, and there are no crowds. Many stores will even deliver your purchases ready-wrapped to the recipient: very handy if you’re ordering a present for someone who lives half-way across the world!

Wrap With Care

As well as buying a thoughtful gift, you’ll want to put some time and care into the wrapping. The main thing is that you should actually wrap presents – or at least put them in a gift bag – to avoid giving the impression that you’ve just nipped out to buy them from the 7-11 down the street. To make a really special gift, go a step further than just wrapping it: use ribbons and bows, and a nice tag. The extra two or three minutes you spend wrapping will be well worth it for a truly beautiful present.

Give a Charity Gift

I’ve put this tip last because it’s the one I’d like to leave you with. If you’re struggling to buy for someone who seems to have everything, why not get them a charity gift instead? This means that the money is used for someone who really does need it. Ideally, you’ll still want to pick a gift that is meaningful for the recipient – for example, you might want to donate schoolbooks on behalf of a teaching friend. Oxfam Unwrapped offers lists of gifts for “Animal lovers”, “Bookworms”, “DIYers” and so on.

How do you choose great gifts for your friends and relatives? Share your tips with us in the comments!

Written on 12/03/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.Photo Credit: jslander

Even More Google Tips

Seems like more and more folks are learning how to refine Google. This was from the DLM Blog last week:

How To Become A Google Power User

Posted: 01 Dec 2008 08:17 AM PST

GoogleSearching the Internet for relevant information can be frustrating at times. More advanced researchers know tons of little tricks of the trade, getting them the desired results fast. But for the rest of the population, it isn't always easy to nail down information they are looking for.

If you find yourself amongst the second group, you might like the following tips and hints on how to find information fast. These can be considered Google tips for beginners. The next time you do a Google search, try it with some of these weapons.
  • Define search
    If you are unsure of a word's meaning, you can use the search term define: to narrow down on the list of definitions. Just be aware that sometimes this search isn't as accurate as it should be.

  • Number range search
    This is a cool search, especially if you are out to get an online bargain. Just say you shop for a blackberry phone but your budget is limited, use the following term (exchange your values and keyword to search your own) term = blackberry phone [$50]...[$400]

  • Date search
    If you are in the market for the latest blackberry phone but don't want old results showing in your Google search, use the search term daterange. To do so, enter "Blackberry" daterange:startdate-enddate. However, Google is a funny beast. The dates need to be entered as a Julian date and frankly, it's totally confusing. To speed things up, use Gmacker.

  • Quoted search
    Quoted searches are often used by niche marketers to find accurate results regarding their niche. Even though this is one of the most basic search terms, it seems many people don't use it at all. To do a quoted search, simply wrap your term into double quote marks; like this: "ipod nano 4GB".

    This will allow you to see the most relevant results without having to spend hours sieving through Google's links.

  • Allinurl search
    This is a neat search to give you results with your target keyword contained in the actual domain link. To do this, insert allinurl:ipod nano 4GB into Google's search box and in return you will find URL's containing that keyword.

  • Allintitle search
    This is the same principle like the allinurl search, but instead you will see results featuring your target word in the title of the result sites listed.

  • Cache search
    You might know what a cached page looks like. If you don't, head over to Google right now and search for any term or word. Once the results are presented to you look closer at the right hand side of each result (next to the green text or below).

    You will see a hyperlink called cache. Click on it and you will see what Google does to cache websites. It's like taking a snapshot, which allows us to go back in time and look at sites in the past.

    To do a cache search, enter this term into the search box: for any website URL).

  • Info search
    If you want to get more information on a particular website, you can do an info search by typing for example.

    This will return all sorts of information such as cached pages, similar websites, websites that link to.. and sites that contain the term.

  • Site search
    The site search allows you to look for results from a specific domain only. If you do a site search for ipods on Amazon for example, you use the following search term: ipod

  • Advanced search
    To perform an advanced search, you can specify from any results page whether you want to narrow your search to images, video, news, map or web or more. It will fast track your search and by opening the advanced options field, you can even further drill down for a particular difficult search.

  • Google has also released a personalized search option that is supposed to analyze the searches you perform to provide you with more accurate results over time. To do this go to and sign up for web history.

Written on 12/01/2008 by Monika Mundell. Monika Mundell is a passionate freelance writer and pro-blogger. Her blog Freelance Writing helps new freelance writers to get started in this exciting industry. If you like to work with Monika, feel free to visit her Portfolio site.Photo Credit: Google

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Tonights Video: Movie Quickie

First a warning. Bad language in this clip. The Bull@#%t word. But the music is funny.

Mac or PC?

First of all, the title of this is wrong... it's a myth as you will read in a moment. Nearly a year ago I bought my current laptop and almost bought a Mac, except the price was about $1000 more than what I wanted to spend.

My daughter Tiff has a Mac, she was required to have it for school a few years ago. If you are trying to decide between the two, read this from the DLM Blog:

7 Common Mac Myths Exposed

Posted: 03 Dec 2008 08:11 AM PST

You have heard them from friends, family members or even work colleagues. They are the stories you hear by people afraid to try something new and find comfort in their world of Windows-goodness.

I am not here to convince, I am here to educate and help you see through the clutter of misinformation. Let's look at some of the most common Mac myths to see whether they are justified or not.
  • There isn't a lot of software that's compatible with Mac
    Now that is indeed a funny myth since Apple ships their Macs with everything you will ever need to perform common computer tasks. Out of the box you will receive:

    • Safari (browser)
    • Mail (email client)
    • TextEdit (word processor)
    • iLife (video and photo editing tools)
    • iWeb (web design application)
    • iDVD (DVD burner)
    • iTunes (for music and movie playback and shopping).

    What's even better is the fact that Apple produces their main software in house, meaning they know best what works and what doesn't when it comes to performance.

    Further, you also have the option to add dozens of office suites and applications to your Mac to further enhance its performance. Many of them are available free of charge, such as Open Office. In short, your Mac will come shipped with everything most users will need and plenty of options to expand for the more advanced Mac users out there.

  • Macs are expensive
    This is one of the most common myths about Macs and initially I thought the same. Looking at performance stats and the fact that Windows often requires us to go and buy expensive software updates, Mac is the lower cost option. Mac is perfectly designed to go hand-in-hand with what's inside so you never have to worry about buying updates; they are free. Many Mac users who bought a computer 10 years ago can still use theirs without any issues.

    Windows users on the other hand cannot.

  • Mac's can't run Windows
    While it's a mystery (to me) as to why you'd want to run Windows on a Mac, you can. In the event you come across an application that doesn't support Mac, it's possible to have a Windows operating system running on your Mac.

    They can do this either by way of virtualization or dual-booting.

  • Macs cannot read many websites
    If you are a webmaster then you already know that your site should be coded according to web standards, meaning they get the tick of approval from W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium). If that is the case, Macs can read sites that are properly coded. If on the rare occasion they cannot, you can always use a Firefox browser instead (which is almost a must).

  • Macs don't crash
    Yes they do, albeit a lot less than Windows computers. Macs are way more stable than Windows based computers and if they are properly maintained, they can carry you for weeks on end without a crash - often even longer. One thing you should know: always backup your data – even if you have a Mac.

  • Macs are a designers' toy
    While Macs are indeed loved by designers, they have quietly moved more and more into the offices of home workers and business professionals who have nothing to do with design. A Mac is a statement for a user, much like driving a Rolls Royce down the local streets.

    Mac is a cult and rightly so.

  • Macs are not PCs
    The abbreviation of PC stands for personal computer. Unless your Mac is used by the whole town, it is and stays a PC.
Let us know whether you are a Mac or Windows lover. If there are more myths that need to be covered let us know in the comments please.

Written on 12/03/2008 by Monika Mundell. Monika is a passionate freelance writer and pro-blogger. Her blog Freelance Writing helps new freelance writers to get started in this exciting industry. If you like to work with Monika, feel free to visit her Portfolio site.Photo Credit: powerbooktrance

What about Blogs?

Earlier this year, I began a project that took time and gathered some attention and at the end was challenging.

I was on the search for local (Fort Wayne Area) Blogs and what began as an occasional posting, turned into a nightly feature.

I stopped when I hit 100. I was running out of good, quality blogs. See, there are over 1600 Blogs registered to Fort Wayne on Blogger, yet very few are active.

If you have one that you are no longer using, go ahead and get rid of it. Or better yet use it. Update it at least monthly.

However to start the new year, I am considering an even more ambitious project.

2009 has 366 days. So I am going to feature 366 local websites as an effort to spread the love, to promote what is going on locally, and to encourage us to expand our horizons on line, off line and and as a community.

My list of 366 will feature some of the original 100 that still meet my simple requirements:
  • Active, posting at least once a month if it is a blog.
  • Local, ties to Metro Fort Wayne.
I will include non-blog websites to keep it interesting. I will take suggestions from you and anyone. I will not limit it to any particluar ideology, but I will not promote hate. There is enough of that garbage on the internet.

You can send me a note if there are some sites you want me to consider to:

And I'll wrap this up with an article from Seth Godin:

Death of the personal blog?

A quick look at the list of the 'top' blogs in the world will show you that almost all of them are written by teams of people. There isn't one in the top 10 that's personal.

The best way to increase your ranking as a blogger is to post very often and to have teams of people doing the work. If that’s your strategy, of course you can’t have it be a solo blog. The strategy for showing up on this list is to have lots and lots of posts, so your tactic needs to be to have a team of people doing the work.

Personal blogs aren't going anywhere, though. There’s a difference between a blog about YOU (I call this a cat blog) and a blog about the reader. Guy Kawasaki’s blog, and my blog for that matter, are not about us, about what we ate yesterday or how great we are. They are about you, the reader.

I guess there's an easy analogy:
Your blog could be like a newspaper (written by a staff)
or it could be like a book (written by an author)

9 times out of 10, newspapers outsell books. No surprise. But they’re different. And we need both.

Who cares that you're not writing a mass market newspaper? The point is not to show up on a list, the point is to start a conversation that spreads, to share ideas and to chronicle your thinking. That's the work of an author, and I think rather than kissing author blogs goodbye, someone should just start a new list.

Here's another article about blogging.