how russians celebrate the new year

russian food

russian food

This is a guest post from my wife, Bubelah, originally posted on another blog.  I’ve reprinted it here, although I’ve taken out some of her commentary and added my own – so by this point it’s a “joint” post.  But it’s still written as if she wrote it?  Confused? Forget it, read on…

New Year’s Celebration is a big holiday for a Russian family; in our family the holiday is accompanied by lots of traditional foods, vodka, cognac and champagne drinking. I call it the “New Year Russian Style.” For Russians, the New Year’s Eve celebration is bigger than Christmas or any other holiday or all of them combined together. It arose during the secular regime of the former USSR.  The celebration lasts all night and spills over to the next day. The preparations for the celebration of the New Year are as busy as for Christmas in the western world.

Before moving from New Jersey to Florida, we usually were the hosts for my family. But since we moved, we’ll be visiting my sister’s house in Long Island and celebrating there.  One thing that won’t change, though, is the elaborate menu.

The “Russian table” is an overwhelming experience if you haven’t eaten it before.  Dishes begin with cold foods and zakuski (appetizers) and course after course is added throughout the night.  Alcohol flows freely.  The highlight of the evening will usually be a large meat dish; in our family this is usually a dish called shashlik, which is the rough equivalent of shish-kabobs.  By the time it arrives, dozens of plates of food will be crammed onto every square inch of the table; the idea is that your New Year’s table should be full and abundant to invite an abundant year into your lives.

Father Frost (in the form of my husband Steve, wearing a costume) will visit us with a big bag full of presents. Presents don’t have to be anything big.    If you know a person you can tell what they like the most. And I know that my husband loves to drink coffee all day long – you can guess what he is getting for New Year’s.

But the real magic of the holidays is about festivities, food, laughter and drunken dancing on the table with your family. Have a healthy and abundant 2011!

photo  Attribution Some rights reserved by mathiasbaert

one resolution a month

have goals

have goals

As we prepare to wrap up yet another year and start a new one, I’ve been trying – unsuccessfully, in most ways – to put some serious effort into thinking about my goals. Honestly, 2010 has been a year to forget for me – I’ve fallen behind in almost every aspect of my life that matters to me. Some areas I’ve fallen behind quite badly; others have simply slipped a little. But as I’ve thought about how to fix all of them, I’ve realized that a piece of oft-repeated advice is key: it’s tough to change multiple habits at once. If you start January 1st making ten resolutions, you’re less likely to keep any of them. What I’ve considered doing – and I’m still trying to steel myself to something like this – is to start to change one bad habit each month of 2011. I believe I picked this up from Zen Habits a few years ago, although I don’t know if this thought process was originated there.

I’ve picked up recently on the concept of fear of success. Even though people claim to fear failure, they really fear success even more. I can relate to this in terms of career, of course; if you fail, little is expected of you. You don’t stay busy. You don’t have to get out and do things. But if you succeed, you’ll be doing more. You’ll have to talk to more people, deal with the ancillary parts of success such as professional events and so on. So it’s scary. It’s easier to fail at fitness, too; if you commit to the hard work of running or lifting weights or whatever you choose, you’ll have a lot of work in front of you. Even though people claim to WANT to be fit, they are afraid of what will be required to succeed. Anybody can fail to be fit fairly easily; it’s not much work. So as I cross the finish line of 2010 stumbling rather than sprinting, I’ll be doing some serious thinking about how to refocus my efforts on various areas of my life: physical, financial, career, emotional, family, friends, intellectual, spiritual. Just not all at once.

Have a great New Year’s Eve – be careful out there!

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by ky_olsen

the double-threat holidays, and links

It’s been a hectic week for me; when you have an American family who celebrate Christmas as the big family holiday of the year, and a Russian family who celebrate New Year’s Eve as the big family holiday of the year, the week between the two ends up being fairly frenetic, too! So catching up on a few links:

charity for Russian children

letters_happychildhood_rcwsI originally wrote this post a couple of years ago, but in the Christmas spirit I decided to update it a bit.  At the time I took place in a group writing project over at Babylune.  The project asked bloggers to highlight their favorite charity. I thought it was a great chance to offer a little support to my favorite charity, and support a very positive writing project.

I came across the Russian Children’s Welfare Society a few years ago through an Internet search trying to identify a charity for the benefit of Russian children. Having lived in Russia for several years in the mid-90s, I’ve always had a soft spot for the country. In addition, I’ve always been very moved by the plight of the most helpless people in any society – the very young, the very ill and the very old. The RCWS has been in existence since 1926. The primary purpose – to help Russian children – has become especially critical after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia now has nearly 700,000 children in orphanages, a sad total, but nothing compared to the estimated 2.5 million homeless children. The RCWS directs its giving in several ways (from the website):

  • Medical care, the education of the Russian doctors that provide it, and supplies
  • Orphanages and homeless shelters
  • Rehabilitation centers for the disabled or mentally challenged
  • Educational scholarships
  • A Moscow “Yelka” (New Year) party during the holiday season for over 2,000 children. We believe it is the most important celebration of its kind in Russia. Each child receives a gift. For many, it is the only one they will receive for Christmas.

There are also programs specifically benefiting the survivors of the Beslan massacre. The Beslan massacre took place September 1, 2004 at a school in the North Caucasus. A group of terrorists took the school hostage, and on the third day of the standoff a gun battle broke out with Russian security forces. Over 300 civilians were killed, including 186 children. For a town with only 35,000 residents this was a horrific blow, and the need for psychological and emotional support is critical.

Most Westerners have never had to see the horror of children begging and stealing in the streets. It is truly one of the most awful things you can see, and it affects me even more deeply as a parent now. The thought of children meeting Ded Moroz (Santa Claus/St. Nicholas) at the RCWS Yelka (basically the Russian equivalent of a Christmas party) for the first time in their lives and receiving what may be for many of them the first present they’ve ever received in their lives always makes me tear up.

RCWS also helps with scholarships for older orphans, reconstructive surgery (cleft palates, etc.) and many other programs. There’s simply so much to do that I’m sure even if they received millions every year they’d still spend it all without spending a minute worrying about HOW.

RCWS spends more on direct aid to children than it takes in (as of 2005, the latest available public data). You can read more about them at Guidestar (registration required).

I know there are many important and desperate causes in the world, and everyone has to decide what is important in their own mind. Here is the contact information for the RCWS.

Russian Children’s Welfare Society, Inc.
200 Park Avenue South, Suite 1617
New York, NY 10003
Fax: 1-212-473-6301

Note 1: RCWS does not assist in adoptions in any way, shape or form. They are not an adoption agency, so please don’t assume they will help in any way, shape or form with adoptions!
Note 2: I am not in any way affiliated with RCWS other than as a donor.

And the happy ending to this post can be found here.

Kindle gifts: last-minute gifts for the book lover

kindle 3g

Since Kindle introduced their eBook reader in November 2007 they’ve revolutionized the way (some) people think about books and reading.
I’ve been interested in these eBook readers (or eReaders or whatever term you like) since they were introduced.  After years of toying with the idea of buying one, my parents graciously gave me one as a gift – but only after I spent a lot of time comparing the various options available.  In the end, I narrowed it down to the Kindle 3G and the Nook.

In the end, I liked the Kindle’s access to a 3G network (making it usable anywhere), the Wi-Fi ability and the read-anywhere ‘electronic paper’ format. The Nook’s touch-screen capability and color were neat, but I decided the eye strain would be significant.  So I’ve been using a Kindle for a few months now, and I love it; if you’re a reader and want the portability to carry a huge library with you wherever you go, it’s an ideal device (and not that expensive, either – as of writing this post, the cheapest model goes for $139).

So I’ve been using my Kindle for everything from reading blogs to magazines to books. There are many, many sources for free books (public domain mainly) and I’ve even splurged on buying a couple of books directly from Amazon (many books can be purchased for as little as $.99).  In the end, one of the greatest advantages of the Kindle was the ability to use it with Amazon; I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for years (a service I highly recommend if you do a lot of shopping with Amazon) and because of that I use Amazon much more than Barnes and Noble.

One of the biggest shortcomings, though, was that you couldn’t really give someone a Kindle e-book as a gift. That’s been fixed this year thanks to Kindle gifts.  If you know someone with a Kindle, that’s an excellent last-minute gift.  But even if you know someone without a Kindle, and you need to give them a last-minute personalized gift, you can give them a Kindle book via Kindle gifts and they can read it on their Blackberry or iPhone if they get the Kindle app (I have it on my Blackberry and it works perfectly).  And if they don’t have a smart phone, Kindle books can still be read on a computer using Amazon’s free Kindle app.

So it’s a good choice for a last-minute gift for a bookworm, and a little bit more personal than a gift card. As eBooks become more popular (and hopefully Kindles specifically), Kindle gifts will become a great choice for that book lover you (accidentally, of course) forgot.

*This post contains affiliate links; they don’t affect the price you pay for anything, but they do help support this blog.

I don’t want to leave this job in a coffin

This post was inspired by a great post over at Money Smart Life called Life’s Too Short for a Crappy Job; I left a comment there, but I felt like I should repost and expand what I talked about there.  I’ve been a victim of the keep-your-job-at-any-cost mentality.  This is what happened to me.

I vividly remember about 12 years ago working at a consulting firm I hated. The hours were ridiculous.  During the busiest part of the year 80-90 per week was standard.  I broke the magic 100 one time; I’ll save you the math and point out that’s 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.  In at 8 or 9 am, out at 11 pm or so..  The pay was pathetic (on an hourly basis less than minimum wage, since I didn’t get overtime).  I worked so much that my girlfriend at the time dumped me after one too many cancelled dates.  And worst of all, my hatred for the job and exhaustion started to cause me to make mistakes, which made me work even longer hours to fix them.  But worse problems loomed.

In the story at Money Smart Life, a few of the people sticking out their terrible jobs develop tooth-grinding conditions that require dental care and maybe even surgery.  And here’s what killed me about that:  someone develops a teeth-grinding condition and doesn’t realize their job is killing them?  They complain about their job, they suffer terrible illnesses, and don’t DO something about it?  Like quit, right away?

I thought “that’s ridiculous” and then I remembered that close to the end of my awful consulting job I developed an ulcer and threw up blood a few times…. and didn’t quit. I was throwing up before and after work and thought it was just because I was stressed.  Think about that and wonder why I’m not crazy.   Or why I am.

What finally made me quit was this: I was getting ready to go to work one morning.  I had a cold and was feeling a bit woozy, but it was a big meeting.  As I put on my tie, I fell down on the floor and passed out for a few minutes.  When I got up, I STILL went to work (not the hospital).  I waited until after the meeting to go to my doctor, who informed me that I didn’t have a cold – I had pneumonia AND bronchitis.  And that I would probably be dead in six months if I didn’t address my health.

Really – he said that.  Dead in six months. He wasn’t kidding.  He said it in a very doctor-ish tone, so I knew he was serious.

It took that to make me quit. And I was single and didn’t have a mortgage or car payments or anything that really tied me to that job, other than the idea that this was MY JOB (in all caps).  I had destiny, and the Protestant work ethic, and I would NOT QUIT (again, in all caps).  There was no reason I couldn’t quit, though, except that I was career driven.  I’m not in that line of work anymore, by the way.  What a waste.

I look back on it and wish I could go back and punch myself in the head and tell myself “life’s too short for a crappy job.” Completely true.  Well worth remembering here, close to the start of a new year.  If you’re having health problems because you hate your job that much – don’t kid yourself.  It’s not you… it’s the job.  Quit.

Photo is Some rights reserved by longhorndave

crappy jobs, Wal-Mart and links

florida sky

This week I came across a couple of articles that I had something to say about, and a couple I simply enjoyed for reading pleasure – plus a bunch of others that might be useful to you or that just caught my attention for one reason or another.

I’ve gotta say…

Two articles are going to prompt a few comments from me.  First came Life’s Too Short for a Crappy Job.  I wrote a fairly lengthy comment at the end of this post, so hop over there to read it, but the gist of my comment (and the post) was this:  do not kill yourself for a job.  Work hard, sacrifice, fine.  Endanger your health, your sanity, or your mental stability?  Never.  Times are tough – I’m having a terrible time with my consulting business – but don’t assume that a job that is going to hurt you in the short term, or the long term, is something you need to pursue.

The other article was “Wal-Mart Saves You Money Even if You Never Shop There.”  Well, of course it does.  It depresses local communities so buying power is lower.  It uses near-serf labor from developing countries for many of its goods.  It doesn’t respect unions, or help with health care costs like most major corporations.  It’s a bargain.  I’ve come all the way from being a Wal-Mart shareholder – I made a lot of money off their stock in the 80s and 90s – to refusing to shop there.  Companies like these simply can’t be the future of American capitalism.  Don’t shop there for the holidays.  At least shop at their marginally more responsible big-box competitors like Costco and Target (and of those two, Costco is far better).

And then a few more comments…

Using a Health Savings Account to Lower Your Medical and Health Insurance Costs: Health care costs are on the rise. Learn how a Health Savings Account can help you save money.

Should I Use a Debit Card or Credit Card? Frugal Dad examines the pros and cons of both credit cards and debit cards.

I’m switching to e-bills and e-statements: No more paper for this guy!

Best Small Business Credit Cards – Have a small business? Consider one of these cards to help provide the cash flow flexibility to meet the needs of your growing small business. Provide purchase protection and earn rewards too.

6 Things To Consider When Moving For A Job. Moving for a job can be a bad thing, or a great thing. Make certain you make that decision with your eyes wide open.

What Is Peer to Peer (Person to Person) Lending? – A description of what peer to peer lending is and how it works. Best Military Movies Giveaway. Share your favorite military movies and enter to Win $100 in Amazon Gift Cards!

And lastly, the grab bag:

a moment without

My kids go to a Waldorf-inspired preschool.  Not because we send them there for childcare or because we both work, but because I got inspired by Waldorf philosophy and then Bubelah did, too.  We felt our children needed to experience some time with other kids outside of playgroups, and so we settled on a Waldorf-inspired school, first for Little Buddy, and this year for Pumpkin.  Both of my children have responded well to it – the environment is warm (for lack of a better word) and creative, and it’s provided them with some magical childhood moments.

One such moment was this Saturday, the Winter Spiral – basically an Advent ceremony. The single most important element in the Winter Spiral is the mood. It is supposed to be a quiet, dark, calm ceremony.  The room is laid out like this: a large spiral created of pine greenery and interesting branches is decorated with pine cones and other seasonal natural items. In the center stands a large pillar candle, lit, on a stump. Outside of the spiral someone stands with a tray with one red apple per child. The apples need to have been cored and a small candle put into each. In turn, the kids stand up and take an apple with a lit candle from the person holding the tray.  The room is dimly lit, and Christmas carols are being played on a harp or lyre.

Each child walks the spiral, slowly. The child approaches the candle in the center and lights their candle. Each child then turns back and finds a good place to put their candle amongst the greenery.  Then they return to their seat.  That’s really the whole ceremony – light a candle, place it, listen to some gentle Christmas music.

Now, I know this sounds a little new-age-y. There’s no educational purpose to it.  But I’ll also add that it’s the first child-centric activity I’ve been to since I’ve had kids where ALL the adults listened to the request of the Waldorf teachers NOT to record the event with cameras; to keep crying babies or restless siblings out of the room; and to really respect an attempt to make a magic moment for the children.

In my opinion, it did. It was a beautiful moment in a quiet, small space, and the children seemed properly awed by the ceremonial nature of the event.  It’s true – it’s a pagan-inspired ritual, it’s a gimmick, it’s a primitive recognition that the lifegiver Sun is at solstice and the year is at its darkest point.  I get all that.  I’m a rational person.  But I think childhood can also be made of beautiful moments – even if invented – and removing the flash of lightbulbs and chatter of adults and babies and siblings can render a fun moment breathtaking.

So that was our Winter Spiral.  As I said yesterday, I get a little frustrated with the consumerism surrounding this season, and so I’m positively predisposed to enjoy something non-electronic, non-consumerist and simply calm.  I’m the target audience for this type of activity.  But even if it’s simply a brief respite, it’s a welcome one, and something that most kids (and parents) should experience; that or something similar.

Photo reprinted without permission (but I hope they don’t mind) from The TARREMAH STEINER SCHOOL

the war on Christmas, such as it is, and links

kris kringle criminal

kris kringle criminalConsumermas (yes, I’m that clever) is upon us – the pressure to buy is there, big time. Even if you aren’t a “War on Christmas” partisan (I could care less if people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “December Rocks, Dude”), the overwhelming materialism of the season is getting to be a bit much.  I’m always slightly relieved when I have December 25th in the rearview.  Part of it is being adult, no doubt – I’m sure it’s still a magical time for my kids (who get the double fun of Hanukah AND Christmas).  But people really do need to tamp down some of the consumerist fever; the commercials are getting crazy.  I don’t need to be reminded about how I need to buy my loved ones a new phone to show my love.

The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents: This strikes me as a “line in the sand” decision. Opposed to the occult nature of Halloween? Well, you’d better not let the kids dress up and trick-or-treat. Opposed to the commercialism of Christmas? Pretty much need to opt out altogether. It’s a tough sell – particularly if your kids watch TV, have friends who celebrate Christmas and so on. I don’t think we overwhelm our kids with materialism, but they certainly get presents on birthdays and Christmas (and, in our odd family circumstance, Hanukah). I honestly don’t know what the answer is – reject gift-giving or just try to moderate it.

Why You Should Not Get Married (Financial Speaking): Some good points, although – at the end of the day – getting married is not really a financial decision, any more than having kids is.

How Do You Like Your Coffee?: Black as the depths of night. Since my 20s I’ve taken coffee only one way – uncut, without dairy.

Celebrating 4 Years of Million Dollar Journey: Congrats! A few good prizes to be had, too.

Bought a New Television Today… Finally: We had a 19-inch LCD for about 3 years before breaking down and buying a 40″ LCD. Honestly, I don’t understand TVs. I watch maybe 2 hours per day (for myself) and I usually enjoy it – and then feel ashamed of enjoying it. I imagine TV is just another one of those things that I could give up if I had a little bit more of a spine.

Synonyms For Love: Appreciation is a great synonym for love. You can’t love something if you don’t appreciate its existence and presence in your life.

The open road: Outstanding insight. As usual with Seth’s stuff, it make take a minute for it to sink in, but his point really, really resonated with me.

How to get a workplace spouse: I’ll just say…hmm, don’t agree, but a lot of interesting responses…

Making the Most of What We Have: Memories are made by people, not by weather. 🙂

Why You Should Ignore Politics and Politicians: I allow myself to succumb to this type of thinking from time to time, and then I remind myself that President Gore probably – PROBABLY – wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but in 2000, who won probably did make a difference.

What Other People Think IS Your Business: It does matter what other people think of you. I’d like to tell my kids “it doesn’t matter what other people think about you” – but in truth, it does.

The Quick and Easy Guide to Coming Out as a Minimalist: Interesting thoughts. I feel I’d meet some resistance if I decided to head down this path, so this was an interesting post to read.

And more:

Attribution Some rights reserved by kevindooley

10 Tax Deductions You Don’t Want to Overlook

Millions of Americans overpay on their taxes every year.

Although some of these tax deductions are small, missing too many of them can add up to a lot of money. To make sure that you don’t make a costly mistake that could mean missing out on major savings opportunities, check out these 10 frequently overlooked tax deductions.

Out of Pocket Costs for Charity

While most people already know that they can deduct donations of cash or goods, many are unaware that they can also deduct all of their out-of-pocket expenses when they volunteer. This includes everything from transportation – including mileage, parking fees and tolls – to other travel expenses when away from home, such as meals and hotel stays. It is strongly recommended that you have good documentation to back up these expenses and that you never attempt to deduct an expense unrelated to charity.

Job Hunting

If you are actively seeking a new job, any expenses incurred during the search can be deducted. You are permitted to deduct money spent to send out resumes, including paper, ink and stamps. You can also deduct any internet expenses – such as posting your resume to different job sites – and any travel expenses sustained to and from interviews. It is important to note that you cannot deduct job hunting expenses for your first job.

Moving Expenses to Take a New Job

You can take this deduction even if you do not itemize. As long as your new job is at least 50 miles farther from your old residence than your previous job location was from your prior residence, you are allowed to deduct mileage and the transportation of your household goods to your new location.

Refinancing Points

If you buy a new home or refinance your current mortgage and buy points, you can deduct the cost of the points. If you purchased a home, you can deduct the cost all at once. If you refinanced, however, you have to take the deduction over the course of the loan.

Home Improvement Loan Interest

While most people claim interest on their home loan, many overlook interest paid on a home improvement loan. As long as the loan is intended for a major renovation, you will be able to deduct any interest paid.

Tax Preparation Fees

If you paid to have your taxes prepared or purchased software to complete your taxes, these fees are deductible. You can also deduct any fees associated with e-filing your tax return.

State Sales Tax

All taxpayers have the option to deduct state sales tax. Typically it only makes sense if you are living in a state that has no income tax because you have the option to decide between deducting state and local taxes or state and local sales taxes. For the individuals that live in states that have an income tax it is a no brainer to deduct that instead of the sales tax since it is likely a lot larger. This deduction may not save you a lot, but why pay uncle sam more than you need to.

Student Loan Interest Paid By Parent

If you are a parent and are paying back your child’s student loans, you can deduct the interest you paid, up to $2,500.00.

Transportation for Medical Visits

Many people forget to deduct transportation to and from doctor visits. You can deduct mileage if you take your own car, in addition to parking and tolls. If you take a bus or pay cab fare for transportation, those expenses are also deductible.

Jury Pay Turned Over to an Employer

If your employer paid your full salary while you served jury duty and you turned over your jury duty pay to your employer, you still have to report the jury duty money as income; however, you are allowed to deduct the amount that you turned over to your employer.

Tax laws are complex and constantly changing. It is very common for people pay more in taxes than they have to each year. If you feel you missed a large deduction in the past, consider filing an amended tax return. To file an amended tax return you have three years from the due date of the return that was filed. When filing your taxes, it is a good idea to use tax software or go to an experienced tax preparer to help ensure you take advantage of all the deductions that apply to you.

This guest post was provided by, a website that helps taxpayers find the best solution to their tax problems. Visit their site and find more information on IRS levies, tax penalties and more.

it might not be the job…

… it might be YOU.

If you’re like me, you probably complain about your job at least once in a while. It’s too boring.  You aren’t paid well enough.  You don’t get enough experience, or enough exposure to the Grand High Poobahs of the company.  You don’t have enough staff.  You get no respect.  Your job sucks.

Yet the pattern continues. Even after you change companies, or departments, you find that you have a boring job, or you’re underpaid, or you sit in a cubicle far distant from the Lords of the Company.  You sit there surreptitiously surfing amazon and gawker, hoping that something new is about to happen.

Every job can’t be that terrible. A simple minute of reflection will tell you that.  There is almost no way that every single job you hold could be so bad that it’s worth complaining about, constantly.  You have to consider a terrible possibility:  the common element in all of the bad, boring, terrible, underpaid jobs you’ve held is YOU.  YOU are the problem, not the corporate job, not the dead-end retail job, not the failing entrepreneurial effort.  Each job is different in so many ways that you can only point to one common element.  YOU are the common thread.

So what do you do? Change your mindset, or change your career. If you find that one job after another is painful and dull and annoying, it may be that YOU aren’t suited to that career.  You may need to consider a change, and not just a minor one.  Don’t assume that if you’re working for Bank XYZ that a shift to a new, exciting position working for Bank JKL will suddenly fulfil you.  If you weren’t happy in one position, you probably won’t be happy in the next unless there was something about that last job that was uniquely bad (a horrible individual who worked in the cube next to you, for example).  Make a big shift:  try something completely different.  Don’t let yourself be the stumbling block to your own career success and happiness.

Florida, the Hornet’s Nest, the Batman and links

Mosaic Map of Florida

This is the time of year I’m happy to be in Florida; I was able to walk around outside in flip flops and shorts all day without feeling cold.  We had the windows open and the Alvin and the Chipmunks playing (can’t have everything you want – have to concede to the kiddies on the music).  One of the posts below really got me thinking, though.  I need a definitive goal in 2011:  make a concerted effort to read more.

Don’t get me wrong – I read a lot, but it’s mostly online short-form stuff – articles, blogs and so on. Blogs are fine, but I realized that I really need to hammer my brain into shape on the anvil of long-form writing… books.  I do read books, but it has been in bits and spurts recently; two books in five days then three weeks before I read the next.  It’s a habit that’s easy to fall into (and out of) and now that my parents gave me a Kindle as a gift, I have no excuse not to be reading like a maniac.  I just finished reading Andrew Carnegie’s autobiography, which was fascinating in parts and horrifically dull in others, but I think next I’ll tackle fiction – just because I’ve only read one fiction book in the last several months (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, affiliate link).  The Millennium trilogy made for a decent read, but I’m sure there are contemporary fiction novels out there that would appeal to me more than the sometimes-graphic Swedish thrillers.

Link it!

Drive Like They’re Crazy. Blog Like They’re Lazy: Don’t take Pat’s advice the wrong way, but he’s made a great point here. One of the best mentions I ever had was this one from Hunter, who wrote on “The 10 Most Readable Blogs (That I Like)“. I thought it was great that I wrote so simply, to be honest.

TIME GOES BY | REFLECTIONS: On Elitism: Any time a Pulitzer Prize-winning author mentions your blog, it’s a good thing; and it’s a good artist that reflects my feelings on elitism quite well.

Have You Forgotten That Stock Markets Go Up? : I’m not sure, myself – I still feel we may be facing an adjusted paradigm. But be that as it may, this is a compelling argument for investors who think the market will inevitably resume an upward overall trend.

What Are Your 2011 Goals?: Still working on mine. Time to lose weight again, develop my writing skills and start reading BOOKS – not the Internet, but books – more frequently.

The Federal Reserve Plunders America: Do yourself a favor – read the article and watch the video. The Fed’s a tricky beast.

Let’s do the curbside hustle: This one’s a few weeks old, but it’s an interesting thought. I doubt it’s as easy to do a side hustle as many might think; consulting business is slow for me right now and I’m not just jumping out there to rake leaves or anything. It’s a tough mental adjustment. But I suppose it’s one that more and more people are going to have to be willing to make.

And more:

And if you’re in the mood for Batman YouTube parodies, this one is great for the true fan (click through to the article if you’re reading via RSS or email):