Sunday, August 8, 2010

How to always have a charged camera battery

We have two camera batteries, and we try to keep the spare one charged and ready to go so we can swap out the dead one and keep on shooting. The problem is remembering to charge the dead one when we get home. The solution: the first picture we always take with the fresh battery is of the dead battery. Then when we are dumping pictures on the computer later we remember to put the dead one in the charger, so it is ready the next time we need to swap.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recycled Goodies for Halloween

Parent Hacks has a short post about using leftover toys, stickers, etc. from birthday party goody bags to pad your Halloween candy supply. We're going one step further this year: We collected a big bag of candy from summertime parades and saved it to give out at Halloween. Maybe you're the kind of person who digs the suckers, tootsie rolls and hard candy they give out at parades, but my family isn't too fond of them. (These sweet treats are what my wife and I call "Not worth the calories.")

What's your opinion: Is this a smart idea for saving money and recycling otherwise unwanted candy, or is it on par with handing out used dryer sheets and socks with holes in the heel?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life's too short to peel potatos

Here's a quick tip that will enrich your home life: Don't peel potatoes before you mash 'em. Rinse your potatoes while scrubbing with a brush, cut 'em up into 1-2" cubes, boil 'em tender, and then smash those suckers with the skins right on! This not only saves you from some serious, Beetle-Bailey-style drudgery, but I'm fairly sure those skins are highly nutritious. You know: fiber and vitamins and stuff. Look it up.

Another mashed potato tip: For creamier potatoes, add sour cream or cottage cheese instead of pouring in skim milk like you usually do.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Caught in a trap

A recent article on, "Seeking: How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that's dangerous", brings in modern brain science to explain why we'll fritter away hours of our lives on pointless internet browsing. My mind immediately jumped to a recent episode of the Radiolab Podcast, which had a segment on a woman descending into a spiral of compulsive gambling behavior shortly after being put on a medication which increased the amount of dopamine in her brain.

The next time you're on the internet for more than a few minutes, stop and think about what you're doing and whether it needs to be done at all. It could be all useful activity on the internet is done for the day, and you're compelled to keep clicking by an ancient reward-seeking system inside your brain. Turn the computer off. See what your spouse, partner, or child is up to. Enjoy some recreation with a book or hobby. Live as a real person. I know I'll be rethinking a lot of internet behavior in my own life.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Cash to "Romaine" in your Bank Account

For a year or so, since the last Rapidly Inflating Gas Prices Scare - or was it the Worldwide Economic Implosion of 2008 - I've become a fan of buying staple grocery items at Aldi, where they are cheaper than anywhere else I've looked. Aldi's model is to reduce overhead as much as possible to sell you a limited number of grocery items efficiently and inexpensively.

It takes a couple of trips to Aldi to get into the mindset. The first time you go, it's so different from an ordinary grocery store trip as to bit a little off-putting. You have to make a quarter deposit to get a cart (which you get back when you click the cart back into the cart return). Most of the products available are store-brand, and the selection is limited. You join your fellow customers, all following a specific route through the store, and then checkout with factory efficiency. Trying to make friendly small talk with the cashier usually doesn't work out. But the fact is, part of bringing you low prices is limiting staff to a bare minimum, meaning this checker has to get you through as fast as possible to keep the line moving. In part, you earn the discount you get by shopping at Aldi by virtue of the fact that while you're there, you work there too.

Every week, milk is definitely on my Aldi list, as they are always the lowest price in the area. Eggs, too, are a good price if you aren't picky about getting organic or free-range. Aldi will only sell you one kind of egg. We've often had good luck with their romaine lettuce. Aldi now has boxed pasta in whole grain varieties, which my wife and I love. And, of course, basic baking supplies like flour, sugar and chocolate chips are a great deal.

If you have an Aldi in your area, I recommend giving it a try to see if it works for you to make part of your weekly shopping list an Aldi List. I've discovered that the blog Cincinnati Cents has a weekly post about Aldi specials, which is very helpful. Aldi has a weekly ad, but not all of these specials are in it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Best Kids' Books

NYT op-edder Nicholas Kristoff shared his list of The Best Kids' Books ever in a recent column, citing the importance of school-age children reading during the summer months. He claims that he recently came across the fact that kids actually shed a couple of points of IQ during the long vacation from school. He doesn't specifically cite the relevant study, but what a hook for a column! Okay, I'm scared! I'm interested! I'll read the rest of the column already! Check out his recommendations here, with a follow-up blog post here.

Having a young child about the house has encouraged me to keep awesome juvenile fiction around (as well as classic science fiction, in the hopes of raising a fellow sci-fi fan). Libraries are a very important (and free) source for reading material, but I think it's also a good idea to have some of your own material on hand. The more readily available great books are, the more likely your kid will reach for them when she's "boooooored" this summer. Books need not be expensive, there are a lot of second-hand sources. The library near where I work has a second-hand book store inside where kid's fiction paperbacks are a quarter. My amazing finds so far include A Wrinkle in Time and a couple of the old Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators mysteries.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Discount Me, Please

Many online retailers give out special "coupon codes" via email, newspaper ads, coupon books, etc. These coupons can give you a very attractive discount on items you buy online, but of course you aren't in the know about every coupon that's available when you're buying something. aims to provide a one-stop clearinghouse of currently available online coupon codes. I used it to get 10% off the Barnes and Noble order I mentioned in my previous post!