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Archive for February, 2008

A Little Self Promotion

I would love your thoughts!

Turtle Soup On The Half Shell

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This Friday, a special treat for all of you out there who wish the world was a bit more logical.

First, a little historical perspective.
The Hindenberg Incident

Some gaming fun.
Pac-Man Chart

A critically important chart which has helped me repeatedly in the past.
Panflutes!
Or… You know… Not so much.

Another really important one.
Oh Snap!
Oh snap!

One that I’ve found comes in really handy in the office.
Fuck it.

Now, some so important, that they wont even fit here.

More work advice.

And one so important my roommate and I posted it on our door as a public service to our college community.

And finally, a game that helps save the world.

(For fairness’s sakes, my sources: first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth,, and seventh. Thanks to all!)

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Alex Shalman is a student (not much older then myself) who keeps a blog on practical personal development. His site (www.alexshalman.com) is worth a look. In particular, though, I am interested in his Happiness Project.

It helps that he starts of the introduction with this great line:

From the most selfish human, to the most selfless saint, the one thing that we share in is the desire to be happy.

I have to agree. The Happiness Project is a series of interviews with prominent bloggers that aims to find out what this diverse collection of minds thinks about the fundamental problem of happiness. He has five standard questions he asks, and the answers are surprisingly diverse.

I wish he had asked a few more questions of some people. Some interviews are short, but others are very in depth and are extremely honest. Alex says in the introduction page that he hopes to “inspire and empower.” So check it out, and hopefully he succeeds.

It would seem that the project is ongoing through the end of February, and updates daily. You can see the newest posts here. Enjoy! And consider asking yourself the questions. Maybe it will be insightful.

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The Debt Snowball

Debt, I think we can universally agree, is bad for you. Not only is it a constant drain on your financial resources, but it’s also a source of stress. For many people, though, it’s difficult to imagine getting out of debt. It can seem insurmountable.

If you are ready to start going after your debt, though, there are a few ways to go about it. The first is to simply up your payments on all you debts by whatever you can. This is going to be a slow and arduous process, and wont save you much money.

The most logical is to sit down with your statements and brush the dust off your high school math; figure out which debt is going to cost you the most in interest in the long run. It will probably be a high-interest credit card. Once you find the debt that will cost you the most, start paying extra over the minimum payments on that. When you have eliminated it, take the extra you were paying and the monthly payment on that debt and put it towards the next debt. This is called a debt snowball; each debt you pay off makes the next debt easier to pay off. Eventually, you are paying far above the minimum monthly payments on your last debts, and the process picks up speed until you are debt free (and in the habit of making a large monthly payment to put towards savings every month).

However, the most expensive debt is often typically the hardest to pay off. It’s easy to lose the will to fight the debt while your balance oh-so-slowly creeps downwards. It’s not your fault – it’s human nature to be deterred when progress is that slow. Which is why many personal finance advisers recommend a second kind of debt snowball. Instead of attacking the most expensive debt – the most logical goal – go after the debts with the smallest (and there-by easiest to pay off) balances. Otherwise, the system works the same: pay extra towards the loan, then use the extra and that monthly payment towards you next loan, etc. True, in the long run it will cost you a little more, but the psychological rewards come more quickly, and if it lets you win the psychological battle, then it’s worth it. I’m sure using all your monthly payments to pound on those high interest, high balance loans at the end is fun too.

You can use one method or some mixture of the both to rank your loans; the important thing to note is that it’s an easy system to organize your attack on debt. Defeating your debt can be difficult, but it is by no means impossible, and well worth the effort.

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Everyone has some goals. Most people, at some point, have voiced specific goals, tried to work towards their goals, and come up short. Why?

The problem is, most people don’t set good goals. Bad goals are hard to follow and hard to succeed with. But what makes for a good goal?

A site called Top Achievement suggests you make SMART goals:

Specific – Answers six W questions: who, what, when, where, which, and why.
Measurable – You need a concrete test by which to determine success.
Attainable – You can do almost anything, but give yourself the time and resources to do it.
Realistic – Make sure the goal is something you are willing and able to complete.
Timely – Grounded in a specific time frame (and tangible: able to be physically experienced)

I made an effort to set goals last year instead of making resolutions, and I accomplished a lot. It’s important, though, to limit yourself; too many goals can dilute your focus. Also, limiting yourself to a few will insure that your focus is on what is most important to you, and passion can be a significant part of getting where you want to be.

This year, I’m setting goals for my next birthday (Jan. 15th). I’ve mentioned previously my aborted attempt at the 101 Things in 1001 Days project, but I’ve been working on narrowing down my list to the most important (S.M.A.R.T.est?) goals for the year, which are as follows:

  • Double my 20th birthday savings (=$4000)
  • Lose 20 pounds (=155lbs.)
  • Learn the basic guitar chords and a few songs
  • Publish a story or article in print
  • Sell a t-shirt design
  • Bike 20 miles in one day
  • Jog daily for a week
  • Participate in Lent

I’m pretty happy with the list. I think it’s a little on the long side, but many of the tasks are fairly straightforward, one time goals, and some goals (like biking/jogging) support others (losing weight).

Take a few minutes to think about what you’d like to accomplish this year and set those goals down in a concise, measurable way. I think you’ll find that when your goal is specific, the path to completing it becomes much more clear.

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Monday morning, and I think most of us could use a little inspiration to get us going.

Randy Pausch is an amazing person. If he had given this lecture just as a normal Last Lecture Series lecture, it would be impressive. Instead, this is the whole story:

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium.

He has to be one of the most upbeat lecturers I’ve heard, which is awesome. I wish I had a chance to take a class with this guy. Enjoy, and listen carefully.

If you can’t see the link on this page, you can watch it here, or see him reprise the lecture on Oprah.

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Fun Friday: Pachelbel Edition

First, here is Pachebel’s Canon in D, a beautiful piece of classical music.

Second, here is Rob Paravonian explaining why he hates Pachelbel.

If you, like me, find that you love the songs he references, here is the list, in the order he plays them. Or you can just watch this handy YouTube play list I made.

Pachelbel’s Canon

Graduation –Vitamin C

Cryin’ – Aerosmith

One Tin Soldier – Coven

Hook – Blues Traveler

Basketcase –Green Day

Push – Matchbox 20

??? (This would be the Machine Head one. Anyone recognize it?)

Without You – U2

Torn – Natalie Imbruglia

Sk8ter Boy – Avril Lavigne

We’re Not Gonna Take It – Twisted Sister

The Laverne and Shirley Theme Song

No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley

Let It Be – The Beetles

Enjoy your weekend!

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