Improve Public Speaking By Breaking Bad Habits

I’m going to admit deep, dark secret.  As loyal readers, I trust you not to be too harsh. Here goes…

I judge people based on how they speak.

Ok, ok, I know it’s bad. I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t help it.

Let me explain. I don’t expect people to drop ten dollar words into conversation to sound intelligent. I’m talking about “weasel words,” little words such as “like,” “you know,” “umm”s and “uhh”s. The filler words that you use when your brain and mouth try to sync back up.

Here’s an example. Several years ago, I had a professor who was at my school as a guest lecturer, filling a fairly prestigious and competitive slot. She graduated from Yale University having completed their program for a doctorate in dramaturgy, the only one of its kind in the country at the time. Everything about this woman’s record suggested that not only was she smart, she was really smart. Unfortunately, hearing her lecture, you would never know it. Read the rest of this entry »

Using A Timer To Break Up Work

We live in an age of distraction. If you watch TV, you’re interrupted every 8-10 minutes by three minutes of commercials. Radio stations will play five or six song sets before they too are forced to allow various companies to interject.  If you’re trying to work, there’s always the constant influx of emails, phone calls or text messages. Particularly in a society where multi-tasking is see as the pinnacle of efficiency, I feel pretty justified in saying that life has trained me to have a short attention span. Unfortunately this kind of attention span can be a problem if you want to get anything done. Writing and reading comprise the bulk of my work, but just like the XKCD comic, I apparently can’t sustain more than a few minutes of typing without heading over to Firefox or my RSS reader. While reading, my mind wants to think about anything except the text in front of me. How do I work around this?

Following the notion of half an hour of cardio a day is good for your heart, I’ve decided to focus in half hour increments. The units are small enough that I’m not overly taxing my attention span, but long enough that I can work up some solid productivity. The way it works is that I’ve installed a timer on my computer. When I’m ready to settle down and be productive, I start the timer going. While the timer is running, I’m not allowed to concentrate on anything other than what I’m working on. If there’s a fact I need to look up, I write TK in the document so I can search it after the time’s up. (Of course, that’s a different story when researching…) After half an hour is up, I move about for a bit, tidy up, maybe have a quick snack, something to use up some energy, and then it’s back for another half hour’s worth of work. Divvying the time up into smaller increments makes tasks less daunting than they might be otherwise, and you’d be surprised at just how much you can do in half an hour.

Photo Credit: XKCD

Adjust Your Cell Phone Minutes by the Month to Save Money

I found out something interesting recently.  About a year or two ago, any change to my cell phone plan would require a new contract.  Even something as simple as going from 100 text messages to 250, or adding the capability of sending picture texts, would require another year added to my contract.  Even though I rarely jump from one provider to another, the idea of being locked in for another 12 months just makes me squirm.

Because of this, I avoided talking to customer service to lower the family plan that Jonathan and I share.  We rarely get close to our plan’s 1400 minutes, but there are some months of the year (November-December, for example) when we do make lots of calls and need the larger plan.  I’ve been burned by this in the past – selecting a small plan and then paying $20-50 extra on a busy month.

I can’t vouch for all carriers, but I did finally call Verizon about this and found out that their policy has changed.  No more 1-year contract extensions, whether you’re increasing your minutes or decreasing them.  So if you know ahead of time that you will need more minutes, bump up your plan.  If you don’t think you’ll need as many, drop it down. Read the rest of this entry »

13 ways that people waste money

I am going to go over some ways we may be wasting our money. Of course, you are welcome to add your own thoughts.

1. Lottery — Your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 195,249,054 or you could put together a Hummer made from losing lottery tickets.

2. Buying a new car every few years — Buying even a used car can be a waste if you do it every few years. The exception to the rule might be someone like my uncle who can take the car apart to the last screw, clean all parts and make it look better than when it was bought, take it back to the dealer and make money on the trade in.

3. Anything you already have that’s “new and improved” — cell phone, computer, most technology or house ware appliance fit into this catagory

4. Credit Life Insurance — This is a waste as it only prolongs payments you have to make anyway and the annual percentage just keeps ticking away on what you owe. Read the rest of this entry »

Buying Bulk Tea: Ultimate in Cheap Drinking

I am a tea snob. I admit it. I love drinking tea, and generally drink a minimum of 12 cups a day. At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s an addiction. Fortunately, it’s not a terribly expensive addiction. I practically live in the bulk tea section of the grocery store, where there are 24 silver bins full of tea and delicious possibilities.

Buying tea in bulk allows me to sample a wide variety of teas without paying too much for a type I may not like. I purchased 31 cents worth of lapsang souchong the other month, and I’m fairly certain I’ll have it for at least another month if not longer before running out. 84 cents of rooibos was enough to last me more than a week straight of drinking just this tea.

When I decide on a tea I like, even a modest supply isn’t terribly expensive. More recently, I picked up a scoopful of tea that costs $129 a pound! Sounds ridiculous, right? Enough of this blend to last me a month worked out to $2.10. Compared to the myriad brands of tea available, the bulk section offers a wide variety of flavorful teas for incredibly cheap.

From the tea section in the store, I picked up a measuring spoon and a strainer. One spoonful in the strainer is enough to fill my favorite mug three times over, or about 8-9 cups total. The special spoon ensures that I don’t use too much tea each time so I know I’m getting my money’s worth out of each cup. Read the rest of this entry »

The hidden costs of Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden

When I was in grade school, my mother and I began the tradition of planting a small vegetable garden in our backyard each spring. The patch was strategically placed next to the cement slab upon which the air conditioning unit rested; deemed undesirable and away from the reach of the chained up dog during his “doing-his-business” time.

From what I recall, we only planted tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and pumpkins. The first three choices were dictated by my mother (apparently, our 3-5 recommend daily servings were limited to the only vegetables she liked) and the last one was my decision… after all, when you watch a pumpkin grow, the end of October provides a natural goal with a deadline. Even as a kid, I liked my activities to have purpose.

Looking back, I realized how unhealthy those backyard vegetables probably were. Why? Lead may lurk in backyard gardens unless you grow them in a raised bed:

As backyard vegetable gardens undergo a renaissance, environmental officials and scientists are warning homeowners to be careful before planting the carrots and chard: There might be lead in the soil.

Flakes of lead paint from old homes often create a halo of contamination around houses that vegetables can take up. Remnants of leaded gasoline might also be in the soil, especially near busy roads. While the problem is pervasive in urban areas, suburban homes that were built on or near apple orchards are also at risk because lead arsenate was once used regularly as a pesticide. The heavy metal can remain in soil for hundreds of years. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Alternatives to Coinstar Coin Counting

At my part-time job I work in the accounting office and get quite a few Coinstar receipts that show the depositor gave up 9% of their coins to get them changed into bills. I would say that on average in a day that machine makes between $30-$50 and then there are the days when people dump in 100-300 dollars for a single receipt.

It just breaks my heart to see people give up even a penny when there are other options they could be using and still keeping their money – some of which is enough for a cheap lunch of even making a minimum payment on a credit card bill.

I remember one morning a guy asked me if I wanted to buy some rolls of coins and I declined (he had about $300 worth, it looked), but I did mentioned that the bank would be opening in less than an hour if he wanted to wait, but he declined. The end result was that the machine got almost $30 in fees.

When I was growing up it was no big deal to bring in your coins to the bank, they would either dump it in a coin counter (bigger banks) or pull out a wooden coin counting tray. There were no fees and it was no big deal, except for the occasional sigh I would hear if I had a larger amount of coins. Read the rest of this entry »

Being Frugal? Just Use a Little Less.

I’ve been thinking about it.

Do I really need that much -

  • shampoo when washing my hair?
  • laundry soap per wash?
  • dishwasher detergent per load?
  • Spic and Span washing my floors?
  • Drano unclogging my sink?

Simple answer: No, I don’t. As Dawn pointed out in her post for Queercents last October, a little dab’ll do me.

I find cutting back on cleaning products pretty easy. And I get a good “green” feeling about it. The planet’s happier, and I have a little extra jingle in my pocket. Read the rest of this entry »

A Two For One Hack

I wish I could give credit where credit is due for the first part of this hack, but it’s something I’ve been using for so many years I’ve completely forgotten. I’m going to attribute it to my father because he is very much a function over form type of person, and this seems like just the thing he would have passed on to me when I was a kid. If you have a rip in your clothes, a button fell of, or something that needs particularly sturdy patching, replace your standard thread with dental floss. Unlike regular thread, dental floss is substantially stronger, making it far less prone to accidentally ripping. Both the waxed and unwaxed work well, though you can decide based on how it’s going to be used.

Because I don’t use a dryer, I don’t have any concerns about the wax melting when clothes are being dry, but the temperatures are something to keep in mind when deciding. I always seem to have plenty from check-ups at the dentist, just don’t forget to use it for your teeth too. I try and keep a needle and some dental floss handy for whatever crises or projects pop up, which leads me to the second half of my DIY hack.

Messenger bags seem pretty trendy for Gen Yers. While they may not be as nice in terms of proper weight distribution, they’re convenient and often far less clunky than backpacks. The problem is that sometimes they can be tough on your shoulder or back and if you’re biking, eventually they’ll slide all the way ’round your body until they settle at the least comfortable position possible, ensuring that your knee will be knocking against it with every pedal. Read the rest of this entry »

FedEx Resume Promo

If you’re job hunting, FedEx’s “today only” promotion may come in handy today (March 10, 2009).

“This offer is good for 25 black-and-white resume copies per customer and is only valid for orders placed and picked up in-store. Customers may place orders by submitting their resume in printed format or as a digital file, and the copies will be printed single-sided on resume-quality paper.”

Want more info? Check out the promotion details page.

Photo Credit: FedEx