Weekly Reads: Switch to Monday Edition

No, you didn’t travel in time, and you’re not going crazy. This week’s link collection is being posted on a Monday. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m going to experiment with posting the Weekly Reads at the beginning of the work week rather than on the weekend.

The major reason is that it gives me a bit more flexibility if I happen to head out of town on the weekend or (gasp!) have plans Saturday night — previously, I would have written the piece on Thursday or Friday, and just queued it up. But doing that means that I potentially miss a whole bunch of awesome articles to pass on!

Speaking of Saturday, this past one was Valentine’s Day (or, as some folks I know call it, “singles awareness day”). My day was pretty low key, and featured mostly some good old fashioned home cooking. The highlight of the day had to be some oh so good Chocolate souffles (note, don’t check the link if you’re hungry and/or a chocoholic!)

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

What is School for? and Learning All the Time (from Seth Godin). This pair of posts from acclaimed author Seth Godin reminded me of my early post on education (and how it’s not for everyone). Lifelong learning is a big deal, and it ought to be. Schooling people to think and act a certain way? Not so much. As a bonus, in Learning All the Time, Godin provides a link to the 100 Best Business Books of all time. There’s enough there to keep you busy for quite some time.

Remember Your Vowels to Manage Conflict on Twitter (from TwiTip). Not just for Twitter, actually, this link is a fantastic formula for handling conflict wherever you encounter it. The key is hidden in the vowels: Acknowledge, Engage, Ignore, Open and Understand. My struggle is usually with Ignore — once I get past that point and onto Open and Understand, I’m alright. Being able to identify that as a potential pitfall will be a valuable tool for me going forward.

The Biology of Belief (from Time). It really shouldn’t be a surprise that someone with an interest in both science and religion would find this article fascinating. I personally believe that, despite what the “death to religion” crowd would have you believe, religion must have remained a vital part of thousands of years of human culture for a reason — it must “work” on some level. That something like prayer can actually change the way the brain works, permanently? Very cool.

Money Matters

Retirement Calculations (5-part series; from Canadian Dream: Free at 45). The keeners among us are busy maxing out retirement plans, collecting income statements from employers, and maybe even filing taxes in hopes of a juicy return. For me, it’s also a time to dream — and plan — about achieving financial independence and having the option of leaving the workforce. If you haven’t given much thought to the numbers, or just aren’t sure where to begin (and are Canadian) this series is way cool.

7 Concrete Tips To Curb Your Spending (from Alex Shalman). One of the things that’s becoming more and more apparent given the “economic climate” of the day is that many people have been spending more than they earn, on a regular basis. The problem is compounded by job loss, but even those still employed are having to take a good look at their income and expenses. I’ve never been a big spender, so a lot of what Shalman suggests is familiar territory for me. But it’s a good reminder, and gave me some good ideas for saving money, myself.

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.