Sunday, March 30, 2008

50 Ways VIII

26. Get a raise.
To the extent that having more money could help me pay down my credit card debt faster, yes, this indeed would help to improve my life this year. But the whole idea about ingesting yeast enzymes, covering yourself with a damp towel, and sitting on top of a warm oven...I don't think that's what most non-bakers think of when they hear the term "raise."

27. Click on compact fluorescent lights.
I learned a couple things by reading this section of the U. S. News & World Report list:

  1. Those springy-looking lights are going to be legally mandatory in 2012. (Once again, George Orwell is looking less and less like a novelist with an interesting idea and more and more like a prophet with a bad sense of timing.)

  2. Those springy-looking lights, the poster children of the Let's Get Green Society, contain mercury and will require special handling when they die after 5 years. (Every silver lining has a cloud around it, apparently.)

28. Set up a Roth 401(k).
This I like! The more people squirreling away money for the Roth retirement dream, the better.

29. Use software to catalog your property.
Every year, I get a little letter from my insurance agent reminding me to make an inventory of everything in my house. It will make getting a settlement in case of fire, flood, or fondue malfunction a lot easier. What I've learned by reading this paragraph is that U. S. News must have a financial interest in Quicken, because paper and pencil aren't good enough for keeping an's gotta be computerized using the "Quicken Home Inventory and Savings Suckage" program.

30. Donate your money better to charity.
This suggestion has to do with something called "donor-advised funds," which are run by community foundations, financial-services firms, or other nonprofits. My head starts hurting just thinking about it. Can't I just write a check and put it in the offering? Please? Or isn't that green enough for you? Bleck.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

50 Ways VII

20. Study geography.
What...was this list written by out-of-work teachers? Get off my back.

21. Put the freeze on identity theft.
I've never really been too worried about identity theft. I'm not all that hot about my current identity, so if somebody wants it...

22.Analyze your investing strategy.
I actually did this before reading this list. The report came back, "Your investing strategy sucks. As a matter of fact, so do you. You can forget about ever retiring, though we are flabbergasted that you're currently even able to hold down a job, you pathetic, sniveling excuse of a goof-wad, you."

23. Hedge your portfolio.
Uhhh...this has something to do with Wall Street and stocks and bonds and "past performance is not a guarantee of future results." So, to tell me to hedge my portfolio is like telling Paris Hilton to excercise her brain-power.

24. Use your mobile phone for everything.
The idea behind this tip for improving our lives in 2008 (from the January 7 issue of U. S. News & World Report) is that the 4-in-5 Americans who have both a mobile phone and a landline home phone could save about half of their communication costs by getting rid of their landlines. In addition, you get the added bonus of being able to get out of a boring conversation with that geeky guy from work by saying, "What? Hello? You're breaking up," then snapping your Razr shut and keep driving.

25. Switch to geothermal heating.
Finally! A positive twist to the whole global warming crock!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

50 Ways VI

15. Go to Ivy League classes online.
The exciting thing about this is that several colleges are allowing downloads of class notes, lectures, reading lists, assignments, and exams...for free. Of course, without paying tuition you don't get an actual -- you know -- degree at the end of it all, but self-improvement is self-improvement whether or not you get a piece of paper to prove it.

I took advantage of this before it became an official program. Well...actually...before it even became legal. And I was able to hack in and get the sheepskin mailed to me, too! Yeah, that's right. I've got a degree in political ethics.

16. Make a "Not-to-do list."
And this is the first thing on it.

17. Swing by your local library.
Oh come on...playgrounds are playgrounds...who cares whether it's by a library?

18. Read an international newspaper.
This could be fairly challenging without the help of our friendly, online translator, babelfish. With its help, I was able to turn the Korean version of "Amazing grace: how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me," into "Magnificent grace: With sweetness fortune B together as the sound which stores the person who is unfortunate."

19. Make your favorite blogs come to you.
I know this one really seems self-serving on my part, but there it is: U. S. News & World Report, Vol. 143, No. 23, page 50. Instead of having to traverse the information superhighway in order to keep current with this bit of blathering, you can have it emailed to you or do the whole "RSS feed" thing which is too technical for you to understand, but put simply, involves elves moving the content from here directly into your personal computer by magic. All of which will make your life simpler (yay!) and my ego bigger. (impossible!)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

50 Ways (to Improve Your Life in 2008) V

13. Yawn!
This is one of my favorite activities, and now it is scientifically proven -- "according to a recent study at the State University of New York-Albany" -- that yawning is good for you. It increases heart rate, cools the brain, and heightens attentiveness. Yes, it is a bit contagious -- and I'm sure you've already increased your heart rate, cooled your brain, and experienced a heightened attentiveness just by reading the word "yaaaaawn" -- but when it's a good thing for you, then that's a good thing.

Stay tuned, however, for a study from the University of Minnesota-Duluth which is racking up evidence that yawning is indeed bad for you. It's sure to happen.

14.Build memories through scents.
One of the strongest memory triggers we humans have is the sense of smell, so the suggestion from Rachel Herz, a research psychologist at Brown University and School of Taxidermy, is to sniff things on purpose and increase our aromatic awareness. I've tried this when meeting new know, just giving an extra little sniff to associate their name with something. I've been slapped three times. works for dogs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

50 Ways IV

8. Give a health-care gift card.
The idea here is that, instead of a blouse or a tie, you could give someone you care about a gift card good for paying healthcare costs. What is the deal with U. S. News & World Report? This is suppose to be a list of 50 ways to improve MY life in does paying for someone else's healthcare make my life better? I'll tell you what, it definitely made my life worse when I gave my sister a membership in Weight Watchers. And now that I've read Way No. 7, I should have stuck with my first idea of a box of chocolates.

9. Dump your prescription pills safely. down your throat...the way the doctor told you to.

10. Get screened for an STD.
Nothing good on TV? You've watched every DVD in your collection 87 times? Still too cold and sloppy to go to a park? Then stave off your boredom with this nifty little tip. For fun on the run, there's just nothing like it. (Serious side note: this tip wouldn't be necessary if we followed God's plan for our sexuality and kept it to ourselves until the safe, committed relationship of marriage. I'm just sayin'...)

11. Find a book worth talking about.
Step one: find a book worth reading.

12. Change your reading habits.
This tip could have been written by any of the current presidential hopefuls. It says nothing about whether your current reading habits are good, or whether they're working for you...just change them! Make them different! Change is good.

Whoa...I'm starting to sound like a grumpy old man. I think I need a change.

Monday, March 17, 2008

50 Ways III

Sifting through "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2008," from the January 7 issue of U. S. News & World Report:

4. Turn your work into your workout.
I've read about this in two different places now, so it's on the verge of becoming a wildfire trend. Apparently, it's not enough anymore to simply do one's job. Or even to dependably do one's job. Or efficiently. The Big Thing now is to not only do one's job, but to also increase one's cardio-vascular health, drop a few pounds, and sweat like a politician in front of an ethics review board.

All it is, is walking on a treadmill while doing that all-important computer work, and there are two reasons it will never last: 1) It doesn't have a catchy name. What would you call it, anyway? Workwalking? "Walking 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin'...." 2) With a treadmill going all the time, I can't hear my manager coming down the hall soon enough to minimize my game of Scrabulous.

5. Waltz your way to better fitness.
I quote U. S. News' January W. Payne: "Learning [to dance] can be fun, and it provides a good workout, as demonstrated by celebs like Marie Osmond, who reportedly lost 31 pounds while participating in the popular TV show, [Dancing With the Stars]."

Yeah...but did we forget that it was also demonstrated how fast a celeb can hit the stage floor face first when said celeb passes out? Besides, with all the workwalking going on, who needs another workout? I tried working on this idea, but it just doesn't work for me. Too much stress and not enough chocolate. (See Way No. 7)

6. Detox your household cleaning products.
It seems that most of those wonder-working, grease-fighting, germ-killing blessings of the modern age are actually bad for us. (Well, surprise, surprise...stop the presses.) It is suggested that we Go Green (insert retching sound here) and get rid of anything with ammonia or bleach in it, along with those nasty-nasty dyes and fragrances. Instead, we can create our own weaponry against grime using ingredients we already have: vinegar, baking soda, and baby spittle.

7. Bite into dark chocolate.
Finally! Finally a suggestion on how to better my life in 2008 that I can get excited about! Chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% "appears to help lower blood pressure and boost blood flow to the heart and brain."

I can see it now. College students around the world are saying, "I've got a big test tomorrow...gotta go make a Hershey's run." The doctor looks at his clipboard and announces, "Good news, Mrs. Bingchortle, you've got high blood pressure. Here, have some Godiva."

Friday, March 14, 2008

50 Ways II

I'm belatedly working through the U. S. News & World Report January 7 feature, "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2008."

2. Cut back on corn.
Well that's just great. I guess I need to stop adding to this blog. Once again, something that will most probably improve some people's lives, but not necessarily mine.

3. Don't be afraid to get dirty.
According to experts (X being the algebraic symbol for the unknown, and spurt being a drip of water under pressure, an expert is just an unknown drip under pressure.), "bacteria that routinely inhabit our bodies actually produce vitamins and proteins we need and help make our immune and gastrointestinal systems work. Being excessively intolerant of bacteria can harm you."

I've already begun to put this suggestion to work. You know that "three-second rule," where if you drop something it's still safe to eat if you pick it up within three seconds? I've changed that to the five-minute rule.

In fact, I purposely drop my lunch on the floor, sneeze into my hands, and refuse to wash after going to the restroom. A feller's got to get his vitamins somehow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

There must be 50 ways...

There it is: Cover story of the January 7 issue of U.S.News & World Report: "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2008." It is staring at me. Taunting me. Daring me to read it. But I just know that one of those 50 ways will have something to do with "stop procrastinating and do it now," and judging from today's date, I've certainly blown that.

I'm already down to only 49 ways, and I haven't even read the thing yet. Well, let's give it a go...

1. Try open-water swimming.

There's something new at this year's Olympics in Beijing, and I'm talking about more than the whole let's-all-pretend-that-China-cares-about-human-rights thing. It's called marathon swimming, and it's a 10-kilometer, open-water (as opposed to in a "see-ment pond," as Ellie May would say) race that is "described as a combination of swimming, water polo, and cycling for its elements of strategy and physical contact."

Why is my brain sending me an image of hundreds of carp, mouths agape, piling up on each other in an attempt to get the breadcrumbs being thrown from a small bridge?

One fan of marathon swimming says, "It's an amazing surreal experience to be swimming in the river and to do it as part of a group. You can completely relax and let your head go."

So...are we talking crowd surfing? Now that I could see as an improvement to my life! Just relax, and let the group of swimmers below you carry you toward the finish line. But something tells me that if I "let my head go" it would probably just go underwater...and stay there. Which may improve someone's life in 2008 (life insurance policies being what they are and all), but not necessarily mine.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Just wondering...

When did it become okay for women who dye their hair to have dark "roots" that are two inches long?

Who decided that roundabouts are better than intersections?

How does a word get classified as being vulgar?

Shouldn't "hilarious" be spelled "halarious?" Or "ha-ha-larious?"

If breaking wind in church is not acceptable, why do they call the bench there a pew?

Why is NASA all into rockets and shuttles and Martians are all about saucers?

Who really did put the bop in the bop-shoo-wop-do-wop?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pro Choice

It's a world of choices here in the land of the taxed and the home of the victimized. We may end up picking the most white-bread, middle-class, beige-colored, middle-of-the-road thing we can, but at least we had a choice about it, by gum!

We go to our friendly, neighborhood, big-box grocery/florist/bank/book emporium/coffee shoppe/diner/drugstore to get some green beans. We walk out, having purchased a can of the store-brand green beans that were grown, harvested, and processed in Oelwein, Iowa...but we are smug and self-satisfied knowing that we passed over the vacuum-sealed, organically-grown, individually-inspected, verdant legumes of Puerto Maldonado, Peru.

This penchant for having choices available wouldn't even be worth mentioning except for the following evidence that we have gone far too far. It comes from a conversation I had with a former youth-group member who was doing some work in the admissions office of his college . . .

The question was raised, discussed and decided upon that the college's entrance application was too restrictive when it gave only two choices in the category Gender. Gender. Male/Female. Two choices. Not enough.

Then this former youth-group member told me that he knew of one college that had over 20 choices for Gender. It was at that point of the conversation that I had a brain aneurysm. I mean, I can understand three choices: Male, Female, Michael Jackson...but over 20?

I should be out of the hospital soon, assuming that I have the choice to pay my bill in either dollars or spitwads.