Weekly Reads: Connecting Edition

Despite what you may think if you only know me from my blog, I actually am not a terribly social person. It’s not that I find it hard to make that initial connection with people, but that in the past, I just haven’t really gone beyond that. In some cases, I would go so far as to completely avoid opportunities to “get to know someone” more in-depth — whether it be making excuses to not join in on some activity or not keeping up with connections I had previously made.

For whatever reason(s), though, that has begun to change. Take this weekend for example. Normally, if you were to ask me if I had plans for the weekend, I would come up with something like “not really” or “going grocery shopping”. You know, real ‘connection’ stuff. However, this weekend, I not only went grocery shopping to the farmer’s market, but I’ve also got plans for lunch with some extended family. And later this week, I’m meeting a friend from university to catch up. So maybe I’m learning a thing or two.

It has got me thinking about ways to make connections, though. In some ways, my honesty on this blog has I think reflected on my new(ish) search for connections. Similarly, my willingness to try different things, like joining in a family lunch now and then. It will be interesting to see how this progresses.

Anyway, enough of that — now on to the links!

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

Tax-Free Savings Account — How Should We Use It? (from Million Dollar Journey). Canadian savers take note: you’ve probably seen all the commercials on TV from the banks trying to get you to save using their Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). While some people are looking at TFSAs as a way to save money for every day, the consensus amongst financial advisors seems to be that it makes more sense to use as a retirement vehicle. So how does it compare to the good old RRSP — and which should you favor when it comes time to planning your retirement?

Clear and Effective Communication in Web Design (from Smashing Magazine). “Clear and effective communication” is important whether you’re involved in web design or not; it just so happens that on the web, there seems to be a lot less of it. As a web designer, I often ran into a problem where my clients just wouldn’t care about their content — so long as the page looked good, that was it. I found this article from Smashing Magazine is a good one from both perspectives: it not only showed the value of clear and effective communication online, but it also showed how you need to be clear and effective in all your communications. Otherwise, you can’t expect others to know where you’re coming from, or where you’re going.

Gay woman fights over hospital visitation rights in Miami court (from The Miami Herald). Let’s put aside the “gay” aspect of this just for a moment. In this case, we have a woman who has power of attorney over medical treatment. She is not allowed to see the patient, nor is kept aprised of her condition. We have three children. They are not allowed to see their mother, who is dying. Does this sound right to you? Why is it that as soon as people hear or see the word “gay” or “lesbian”, simple things (like lawful Power of Attorney) are so simply disregarded? Never mind that the woman was forbidden from seeing the person she loved (and had loved, for seventeen years) on her deathbed. It’s stories like this that remind me that no matter how far we think we’ve come, we’ve still got a long way to go.

“What Next?” The Third Stage of Personal Finance (from Get Rich Slowly). So you’ve paid off your debt, have started saving at something of a higher rate than 0.02%, have set some financial goals, and are living well within your means. Now what? That’s the question that J.D. tackles in this Get Rich Slowly article. It was a good article for me to read, as I find myself bordering on this stage. This part especially resonated with me: “I’m going to write about those times it makes sense to spend — or to invest — for things that make you happy.”  In the search for frugality, let’s not lose sight that ultimately, money is a tool, and it doesn’t do you any good if you refuse to ever use it.

On Music

Auto-Tune: Why Pop Music Sounds Perfect (from Time). I remember in high school, spending time in the recording studio with our vocal jazz group. To this day, there are still some of the recordings I listen to and cringe just a little bit, because I can hear a note here and there that is just not quite on (by myself, of course!). I know that on other occasions, I didn’t miss the note, but when it comes to recording, you often just take the best overall “take” and let the small things through. Or at least, that used to be the way you’d do it. Now, technology has allowed producers to change pitch when it’s not quite right — it’s likened to “photoshop for the human voice.” Strange, but true!

Piano Medley of Mario Tunes (YouTube video). Because I was in a vocal jazz group, I acquired a taste for all sorts of jazz music — from the classics up to the newest stylings. Because I played piano for said group (I sang, too), I acquired an appreciation for jazz pianists and the work that goes in to making all of those individually wierd sounding chords sound fantastic. That’s why I liked this swing-style Mario medley. A neat twist on some familiar tunes. I especially love the “sound effects” (coins, etc.) thrown in.

Weekly Reads: Holiday Edition

Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid …

I mean… er… *Ahem*.

It’s officially less than one week until Christmas. Have you finished your shopping and have everything wrapped and ready to go, or are you a last-minute shopper who will find yourself trying desperately to get the last few things on your list in the next few days? Personally, I finished my shopping pretty early, although my to-do list does see me heading out of town to visit family for a bit this week.

Depending on how things go, posting may be a bit sparse, but it’s probably for the best that way anyway — after all, I’m sure there are people who would rather you spend time with them than with your computer!

Regardless of how you spend the holidays — even if you don’t celebrate Christmas and are working straight through — I hope you’ll take advantage of the festive season, and spend some extra time with those special to you.

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

Stop Being a Loser and Pay Money to Save Money (from I Will Teach You To Be Rich). A very thought provoking article from Ramit Sethi. Very often, we think of frugality as being whether or not you save money in the moment. But as Sethi points out, there is value in also considering future money saved. For example, taking a basic computing course may have an initial cost, but you can very quickly regain the cost because of increased skill level and productivity.

Alchemy: Wealth can’t be created. Only money can. (from Minyanville) If you’re interested in economics — and these days, I think most of us have at least a nominal interest — you’ll undoubtedly find something to consider in this article. Just considering how wealth and money are related (but are not the same) gave me reason to stop and think about how I relate the two in my everyday life.

10 Useful Techniques to Improve Your User Interface Designs (from Smashing Magazine). I spend a lot of time designing and developing websites and web-based user-interfaces. I think a lot of developers and designers (myself included, at times) worry more about making a website look good, rather than making it useable and accessible. Are there things other than these ten that you find make websites more (or less) useable?

Made Me Laugh

In the Snow They Melted (audio by InsideOut). When this song first showed up on my last.fm playlist, I just about stopped listening a few seconds in, but was I ever glad I didn’t. If you’re at all into any music from the past 20+ years, you should hopefully at least get a giggle. Even if you don’t appreciate the comedy, you have to give the artists kudos for their creativity!

If Programming Languages Were Religions (from Aegisub). Geeks with interest in either programming or religions will appreciate this humor piece. My favorite part? “COBOL would be Ancient Paganism – There was once a time when it ruled over a vast region and was important, but nowadays it’s almost dead, for the good of us all.” (Can you tell I was scarred by COBOL as an undergrad?)

Bonus Material

If you’re a Mac user, you won’t want to miss out on Mac Heist’s annual giving tree. They’re giving away licenses for six great apps over the next week or so. The first two are Synergy (an iTunes extender for more convenient control over your music-listening) and Enigmo 2 (a fantastic puzzle game that you have to try, to “get”). I’ve spent a bit of time playing with both apps, and… okay, to be fair, I’ve spent more than a bit of time playing Enigmo 2, it’s quite addictive … but they’re both worth at least a look. And don’t forget to check back for the rest of the apps as they’re made available.