Saturday, February 22, 2020

Personal finance

Why should students learn about personal finance?

As a young person with few financial responsibilities, it can be tempting to spend impulsively. That's why it's important to learn responsible money management strategies early on, so you don't end up with poor spending habits later in life when more serious financial responsibilities take hold. In fact, the earlier you can learn about personal finance, the better. Knowing the importance of financial management can help you avoid or minimize debt, making it less likely that you become trapped in a cycle of lifelong money struggles.

Knowing this, how does one learn about personal finance? It depends. While in some cases personal finance education can happen in the home, be aware that not all parents wish to, or are even capable of, teaching their children about personal finance. If your parents are unwilling or unable to teach you about managing your personal finances, then it will be up to you to find other ways to learn about the subject matter. Fortunately, there are several places you can start.

If possible, enroll in a personal finance course at your school. While not all schools offer such courses, you should definitely consider taking them if your school does - even if your parents are willing to teach you some personal finance lessons at home. If no such courses are currently available at your school, check the school library or your local library for books about responsible money management. There are also many wonderful online resources available, like Dave Ramsey's Web site or personal finance videos on YouTube.

When learning about personal finance, there are many topics worth exploring. Some of the more useful ones are the importance of spending less than you make, balancing a checkbook, understanding debt, and the consequences of having a low credit score. Having an understanding of such topics allows you to make better spending decisions, so you'll be less likely to find yourself in a never-ending cycle of debt.

It's also important that students transitioning into post-secondary (college) education have a basic understanding of typical tuition costs and know how much of their future income will be tied up in student loan repayments. After all, many students who enroll in post-secondary education later leave with huge student debts. If you plan to continue your education by attending a post-secondary institution, it's crucially important that you learn about personal finance.

Though exploring the topic of personal finance may seem overwhelming at first, it's still something that you really should do to ease your transition into adulthood. To help keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed, seek outside help whenever possible and work through the topics a little at a time. By tackling the subject in stages, you will gradually gain a deeper understanding of how personal finances work, so you can strengthen your money management skills before facing any serious financial decisions.


Do you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

It's no surprise why so many people consider the path of entrepreneurship. After all, working for yourself can be great - you can set your own schedule, and there's no boss constantly breathing down your neck. In knowing that such an appealing work environment actually exists, many people question if they, too, could become successful entrepreneurs. While there's no set formula to ensure someone will succeed as an entrepreneur, many successful entrepreneurs do seem to possess several of the traits listed below. If you also possess such traits, you may have what it takes to be an excellent entrepreneur.

Here are nine traits that are often seen in successful entrepreneurs:


To succeed as an entrepreneur, you'll need to set realistic goals and have the willpower to see them through. Failing to set appropriate goals can leave you working aimlessly, which can be detrimental to productivity. For more on goal setting, see my previous post, What are SMART goals?


It takes a lot of hard work to become a successful entrepreneur. Often, this work comes with little to no recognition for the effort. To meet the demands of entrepreneurship, you'll need to continue working hard, even when no recognition is forthcoming.


Entrepreneurs often have long working hours and no one around to keep them on task. To become a successful entrepreneur, you'll need to motivate yourself to keep working, especially when you'd rather be doing something else.

Financially responsible

Entrepreneurs aren't often the most financially stable people around, especially early on. By being financially responsible during the more prosperous periods of the business, you can better withstand any future dry spells.


Confidence can be extremely useful when you need to sell yourself, your service, or your product to potential customers. Having a confident disposition will instill confidence in whatever it is you are selling, which should help convince more potential customers to purchase your product or service.

Happy to learn

Entrepreneurs are faced with many challenges. To overcome these challenges often requires a great deal of research. To thrive as an entrepreneur, you'll need to learn whatever knowledge or skills are needed to move forward with your job. See my previous post, The importance of learning outside the classroom.

Emotionally stable

Being an entrepreneur can be very stressful and plays on many emotions. To stay focused on the job, you'll need to keep a level head while experiencing even the most taxing emotions.

Can move beyond failure

Successful entrepreneurs are able to move beyond their failures and keep working toward their goals. Things won't always go smoothly as you continue down the path of entrepreneurship, but if you can push past failures aside, you can get back on track toward your next success.

Good leader

If you expand your business and hire employees, then you'll not only have to motivate yourself to complete the work, but others, as well. Being a good leader will help you motivate others to successfully complete their assigned tasks.

So, after reading about some traits that are often found in successful entrepreneurs, do you think you might have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur yourself? If your answer is yes, then you should definitely take a closer look at entrepreneurship. It could be one of the most impactful decisions you ever make. To learn more about this subject, see my previous post, the Pros and cons of entrepreneurship.

Monday, February 17, 2020

What are SMART goals?

How to create and achieve reasonable goals: The S.M.A.R.T. method

Simply setting a goal doesn't mean that you will actually achieve it. To increase your chances of success, try the S.M.A.R.T. method the next time you have a goal in mind. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Read on for more information about how each of these key elements can help guide you on your path to creating and achieving reasonable goals.

S – Specific

Setting a very specific goal helps pinpoint exactly what it is you want to achieve. Knowing what you want to achieve is vital because planning for success is hard when you don't really know what you want. When outlining your goal, be specific in what you want, why you want it, how you'll go about getting it, when you want to get it by, and who (if anyone) may need to assist you along the way. Instead of setting a vague goal (e.g., make lots of money), create a more specific goal (e.g., make enough money mowing lawns to buy a new phone in September).

M – Measurable

It can be hard to know when or if you've achieved a vague, unmeasurable goal. If your goal is simply to improve your health, then how will you know when you've done enough to meet your goal expectations? Instead of setting an unmeasurable goal (e.g., improve your health), ensure your goal includes easily measurable components (e.g., exercise on the treadmill 20 minutes per day for 30 days).

A – Attainable

It's always better to set goals where you have a reasonable chance of success. After all, failure to achieve your goals can be very discouraging and might even prevent you from setting other goals in the future. When creating goals, be sure to consider factors like how much time, effort, and money will be required to complete your goal. Use this information to decide whether the goal is actually attainable and, if need be, adjust your goal so that you'll have a more reasonable chance of actually succeeding.

R – Relevant

How relevant is your goal to you personally? There's nothing wrong with seeking outside inspiration when hunting for a new goal, but if your chosen goal isn't really relevant to you or your desires, then completing it isn't going to feel very rewarding. Just because someone tells you that you absolutely must run with the bulls in Pamplona, doesn't necessarily mean that running with the bulls is a relevant goal for you. If you feel no connection with your goal, then it's probably not relevant to you and you'd be better off working toward a different, more relevant goal.

T – Timely

It's unlikely that your goal will be immediately attainable, otherwise, you'd have already accomplished it. Consider the steps required to achieve your goal and factor in reasonable amounts of time to complete each step. When you have a better idea about a possible timeline for your goal, set a deadline for reaching your final objective. Do keep in mind that because things don't always go as planned, it's important to have some flexibility in any deadlines you set for yourself.

Regardless of what goal you have in mind, it can be well worth refining it with the S.M.A.R.T. method. By employing the SMART method of creating and achieving reasonable goals, you can better define whatever it is you'd like to achieve and fully understand the steps you'll need to take in order to make your goal a reality. Armed with this new information, you can then decide if your goal is something you'd actually like to pursue.

How to get more out of reading

All too often, reading is seen as a chore where the end goal is merely to finish. Though people may feel a sense of satisfaction upon reaching the end of a piece, there are so many more rewards that can be reaped if the reader just puts forth a little effort during the reading process. By actively trying to get more out of reading, you can grow your vocabulary, get a better understanding of the document's overall subject matter, and retain more of whatever it is you're reading. Here are some tips to help you succeed in these three areas.

Growing your vocabulary

You're bound to come across many unfamiliar words while you read. To grow your vocabulary, always look up any words you don't know. While online dictionaries are perfect for looking up unknown words, a physical dictionary can also get the job done in most cases. If you can't look up a specific word during a reading session, then jot down the unknown word so you can look it up later.

To help ensure you won't forget your newly discovered vocabulary, record each new word you come across on an index card, then write its corresponding definition on the back of the card. So you can continuously reuse the same set of cards, use a pencil when recording the words and corresponding definitions. Review these cards once a day until you're confident that you've committed the words to memory. Once a card is memorized, it can then be removed from the pile.

Getting a deeper understanding of the subject matter

Many written works, especially nonfiction publications, barely scrape the surface of a topic. To get a deeper understanding of the subject matter you're reading about, seek out additional information whenever you come across a topic you know little about but find particularly interesting. By learning more about the topics mentioned in the document you're reading, you'll obtain a wider perspective of the subject.

Seeking out a deeper understanding of the subject matter can also be beneficial to those reading fictional works. To expand your horizons while reading a work of fiction, seek out further reading on the particular book, series, or author. Also, consider researching any locations and time periods mentioned in the book, as they may be relevant to certain themes seen in the work.

Retaining more of what you read

No matter how interesting people find a topic to be, many still forget a large part of what they read shortly after reaching the end of a written piece. To retain more of what you read, slow down. While speed reading can be tempting - especially if you have a lot to read - slowing down will give you time to really process the information so you can better commit it to memory. Rereading something in its entirety can also help commit its contents to memory, though this method isn't often practical due to time constraints.

Taking notes or highlighting passages as you work your way through a document is another method that can help you retain more of what you read. If something seems to be rather interesting or important, highlight the section or make a quick note of it so you can easily review any vital passages later on. Reading important phrases aloud may also help you retain more of what you read, particularly if you are an auditory learner.

Regardless of what you are reading and why you are reading it, it is always worth trying to get more out of the experience. By actively trying to get more out of reading, you'll be able to grow your vocabulary, get a deeper understanding of the subject matter, and retain more of what you read.

How to choose a tutor

Finding and choosing the right tutor for you

Whether you are falling behind in certain subjects or simply want a head start on future lessons, it can be well worth hiring a tutor to help you get the most from your academic life. Tutors can do more than just help students academically, however. They can also help students build confidence in the classroom so they can excel in areas like class participation and public speaking. No matter what your reason is for seeking out a tutor, here is some advice to help you find and choose the right tutor for you.

Finding potential tutors

There are various ways to seek out potential tutors. For starters, you may want to try asking your teacher or school counselor if they know of any tutors who specialize in the areas you happen to be struggling in. Even if your teacher or school counselor is unable to recommend any formal tutors, they may still offer to set up some in-school study sessions between you and a fellow student.

A second place to seek out potential tutors is online. Simply search for "Tutors in X," where X is the name of your city or town. If your search turns up any local tutors, then take note of the ones specializing in your problem subjects so you can contact them for more information about their services. While online searches often yield more results for those in larger cities, students in smaller towns may still be able to find a local tutor by performing such searches online.

If you are still having trouble finding a local tutor after contacting your school and searching online, then you may need to consider signing up for sessions at an online tutoring agency instead. While online tutoring agencies may have some advantages over local tutors (like their tendency to offer more flexible tutoring schedules), do note that not all agencies are open to students lacking a stable internet connection, web camera, and microphone.

Choosing the right tutor for you

You'll want to ask potential tutors a variety of questions so you can narrow down your options to include only the tutors that meet your needs. By interviewing each tutor, you can get a better idea about whether or not a specific tutor may be a good fit.

Here are some sample questions to ask during the tutor interviews:

1. What formal training or first-hand experience do you have tutoring students in the same grade and subject that is to be focused on? Ask for references so you can verify their claims.

2. What are your available hours? If the tutor can't provide tutoring sessions that fit into your schedule, they won't be a suitable match.

3. What are your fees? You can easily narrow down your options by excluding any tutors who don't fall into your or your parents' budget. You should also ask each tutor about their payment options and cancellation policy.

4. Where would the tutoring sessions take place? If the tutoring sessions aren't to be held directly in your school or online, ask if the tutor would be willing to come to your house or if they prefer tutoring in a public space like a library.

Please be aware that no matter how careful you are when choosing a tutor, it's entirely possible that you end up choosing the wrong one. If, after a number of sessions, you feel like you've chosen the wrong tutor, don't be afraid to make a change. Do be sure that you allow yourself enough sessions to give the tutor a fair shake before giving up on the pairing, however, because it can take time for any new tutoring relationship to reach its full potential.

It's also important that you realize that working with a tutor won't be an instant fix to your learning struggles. It can take several sessions to see noticeable results. If, after a reasonable amount of time, you find you aren't seeing the kind of results you were hoping for, then it could be worth looking for a new tutor. If you do end up looking for a new tutor, be sure to put these tips back into action so you can once again increase your odds of locating the best tutor for the job.

Exploring your career options

Whether you are on your first job hunt or your fifth, there are many things to consider when exploring your career options. To increase your chances of ending up in a career that meets your needs and goals, be sure to carefully explore all of your options before making your final decision. This exercise will help guide you through the process of carefully exploring your career options, so your final decision will be more informed.

Before starting, please note that this exercise has been split into two parts: the self-questionnaire and the external search for more information. Before delving into part one, create a list of potential careers and add to it throughout the exercise each time you think of a new job you might enjoy. This will help ensure you don't accidentally forget any options, so you can take a closer look at more jobs before making your final decision.

Part One: Self-Questionnaire

There are many questions to ask yourself when considering your career options. Though the questions listed below aren't the only ones that can be asked, hopefully, they are enough to give you a better idea about which jobs will be most suited to you. Now on to the questions.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses that may affect their working life. For instance, if you are good with people, then it may be worth considering a job in the service industry. If, on the other hand, you're the type of person who works better alone, a less social profession could be more your style. Once you figure out your strengths and weaknesses, you can use this information to influence your final decision.

What are your scheduling preferences or requirements?

Do you want to work full-time or part-time? Maybe you need a job with flexible scheduling options that won't interfere with your other commitments. Knowing your scheduling needs and preferences can help you determine whether you should seek a career with fixed working hours or one with a more open schedule.

How far away from home are you willing to work?

Some jobs may take you around the world while others may take you no further than a home office. Knowing how far you'd be willing to travel for work can help you narrow down your career options. Also, consider setting a limit for the longest commute you'd be willing to make on a daily basis. Don't forget to factor in possible complications like access to a private vehicle and the availability of public transit in your area. If you're lacking a reliable mode of transportation, it may be necessary to focus on jobs in your immediate vicinity.

Is money your only objective, or do you also want to make an impact on the world?

Certain jobs aren't likely to make a major impact on the world. If you just need the money and don't care about making a major impact, then it won't really matter which type of job you end up choosing. If, on the other hand, you are looking to make a difference in the world, you will likely need to be pickier about the type of career you'll enter into.

If you have prior work experience, what did you like or dislike about your previous job(s)?

While not everyone will have prior work experiences to draw upon, if you do, it can be helpful to figure out which parts of the job you enjoyed or disliked. By determining which parts of your previous jobs were and weren't so enjoyable, you can factor such preferences into your final decision. For example, if you really didn't like the long commute to and from your previous job, then you should probably look for something a little closer to home this time around.

Part Two: External Search for More Information

Hopefully, after taking some serious time to reflect on the previous questions, you have a better idea about the types of careers that will suit you best. Now it's time to look outside yourself to continue your search. For more information and possibly a little inspiration, continue exploring your career options via the following avenues.

Search Engines

Grab your list of potential careers and search for each listed job using an online search engine. When researching a potential career, you will gain more insight into the realities of the job, which will help you determine whether the job in question may be right for you. Searching the various careers can also help you figure out which jobs are in high demand, plus it should give you an idea about each job's estimated starting salary.

Online Career Assessment Web sites

Various Web sites offer online career assessments. Most will present a series of multiple-choice questions and ask you to select the answers that best represent your current situation, personality, and interests. The site will then show you a list of suitable careers based on your previously submitted answers. While there is no guarantee that the assessment site will suggest your perfect career, at the very least, it may point you in a good direction for continuing your search.

Family, Friends, and Acquaintances

You can learn about a variety of careers by simply asking people about their job. If something happens to pique your interest during one of these conversations, inquire further with the person about what they had to do to enter their field of business. As a bonus, if you do find your perfect career through someone you know, they may be able to put in a good word for you if you ever apply for a job within their company. What a great networking opportunity!

While careful preparation can help direct you toward an excellent career, there's sadly no definitive way to ensure your new career will be as perfect as you dream. That's why there's no shame in changing careers if you start a new job only to realize that it isn't for you. Do keep in mind that all careers have a learning curve, meaning it may take some time before you become fully accustomed to your new job and industry. If, after you've given the job a fair shake, you still believe that you've fallen into the wrong career, then there's nothing wrong with regrouping and re-examining your career options.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Play checkers online

A couple days ago, I had a little time to kill in a study hall, when all of a sudden, I had this urge to play checkers online. I haven't played a good game of checkers in ages. So I simply entered "play checkers online" into Google, and I came across an awesome Web site called

The Web site offers checkers and quite a few other fun strategy games, as well as all things - you guessed it - math.

Check the site out sometime. It's very clean and neatly organized, easy to navigate, and there's plenty you can do on it. You can even create and print your own math worksheets.

play checkers online at

Gary Lewis and the Playboys

In this latest installment of my occasional "Exploring the world of music" series, I'm excited to bring you some music by Gary Lewis & the Playboys, a pop and rock band that had its heyday in the mid-late 1960s.

Gary Lewis, who still tours today, is the son of legendary comedian, actor, singer, and telephon host, Jerry Lewis. Gary's mother, Patti Palmer, was also a singer of note. You can read about Gary's father, Jerry Lewis, here on Wikipedia.

Check out these Wikipedia articles on Gary Lewis and Gary Lewis & the Playboys.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

The benefits of playing an instrument

Playing a musical instrument has many benefits for your brain and your ability to learn. Following are three videos I came across today on a YouTube search that discuss these many benefits. Do you play a musical instrument? What are your thoughts on the points being discussed in these videos? Feel free to share your observations and insights in the comments section below. We'd love to hear, and learn, from you!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Career and technical education CTE resources

I came across a few videos today that I thought were definitely worth sharing with you here. They're all on the subject of Career and Technical Education, or CTE for short.

I'm a big advocate of CTE in high school curriculum, and I really wish I had more exposure to these resources and opportunities when I was younger. Take advantage of these awesome possibilities that you have right now.

How to save money on cell phone expenses

It's easy to lower your cell phone bill with these simple tips and strategies.

While cell phones are a relatively modern convenience, they have become something that many people would struggle to live without. If you, like most people, depend on your cell phone and aren't willing to give it up, then it may become necessary to find ways of lowering your monthly cell phone expenses.

One of the easiest ways to save money on cell phone expenses is to review your past usage history and alter your plan accordingly. Believe it or not, you could be overpaying for services you don't actually use. For instance, many people pay for unlimited data but never exceed three gigabytes of data usage per month. In such cases, consumers can easily save money by downgrading their plans.

Another way to save money is to shop around. Different wireless providers offer similar services at a range of prices. If switching to a different provider can get you a similar plan for less than you are currently spending, then consider switching. Also, keep an eye out for new deals as wireless providers periodically change up their plans.

A final strategy that can reduce your cell phone bill is calling your current wireless provider and asking an agent about possible discounts. If you know of another provider with cheaper services, mention that to the agent. Such conversations may push the agent toward offering you a better deal, just so you'll stay on as a customer.

Tips for healthier and tastier coffee

If you're a fan of drinking coffee in the morning, then your morning beverage of choice may not be the healthiest option around. Even so, are you willing to forgo the drink in exchange for healthier alternatives? If your answer is no, then fear not - coffee doesn't have to be your enemy. Here are five simple changes that can make your morning coffee a healthier drink.

1. Choose organic coffee beans.

Many coffee farmers spray pesticides on their fields to rid their crop of bugs. For a healthier option, choose to brew your coffee using certified organic coffee beans as they are free from pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

2. Use filtered water.

As water makes up the bulk of your beverage, you should avoid subpar water sources when aiming to brew a healthier drink. Filtered water makes for a healthier option as it's free from heavy metals like copper and lead, which may leach into tap water as it passes through older pipes. Filtered water is also free from chemical disinfectants like chlorine, which are often present in municipal water supplies.

3. Avoid artificial sweeteners and refined sugars.

The consumption of artificial sweeteners and refined sugars can lead to all sorts of health issues. If you must sweeten your coffee, try to keep the sugar servings small and opt for more natural sweetening agents like stevia that don't affect blood sugar levels.

4. Avoid artificial creamers.

Most artificial creamers contain unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. You can avoid consuming many unnecessary ingredients by simply using real cream in your coffee instead of an artificial creamer. If you'd also like to reduce the fat content of your beverage, then substitute the cream with low-fat milk.

5. Brew your coffee at home.

It's hard to know the quality of your beverage's ingredients when you buy premade coffee from an outside source. By making your coffee at home, you'll know precisely what you are consuming. It's also worth noting that many specialty coffees sold at big name coffee establishments contain substantial amounts of sugar and fat. To avoid consuming an excess of these unhealthy substances, brew your coffee at home and prepare it to your preferred taste by adding your own measured ingredients.

Many people like to start their day off with a good cup of coffee. Unfortunately, coffee isn't always the healthiest of drinks to consume. Thankfully, there are several ways you can make your morning coffee a healthier beverage. By following at least some of the proceeding five suggestions, you'll be making your morning coffee consumption a healthier experience.

Online weight loss support groups

Alone no more: Find hope with online weight loss support groups

If you have lost your motivation and can’t find the courage to talk about your weight loss goals with others, it can be hard not to lose hope and give up altogether. Perhaps you have brought up the subject, but your close friends and family members are just too busy to help. Whatever the situation may be, if you are feeling alone on your weight loss journey, don’t give up. Support is just a click away.

The real beauty of Internet weight loss support groups is how diverse they really are. Some groups meet up locally for scheduled walks or sporting events. Others connect with members over live video chat sessions from around the world. There are even support groups that provide complete anonymity - connecting through anonymous usernames in a public weight loss forum.

With so many different types of support groups out there, you are bound to find one that suits your needs. So, if you’ve been looking for a supportive group of people to help you achieve your weight loss goals, but didn’t know where to turn, it’s time to consider joining an online weight loss support group. The key is not to give up. The right support for you is out there somewhere; you just have to find it.

How to lose 10 pounds

Follow these simple strategies to shed ten pounds and keep it off.

There are many people who aren’t considered overweight, but would still like to lose around ten extra pounds. Though ten pounds might not sound like much, this seemingly small amount can actually be quite challenging to lose. Sure, crash diets and fasting can quickly lose the weight, but unfortunately, these methods rarely keep it off for good.

When thinking about permanent weight loss, the key is to burn off more calories than you are consuming. That might sound good on paper, but how exactly is a person supposed to go about burning all these extra calories? The easiest and most effective way to burn calories is to exercise. The kind of exercise doesn’t matter, so be sure to choose activities that you enjoy. If it feels like a chore, you won’t want to keep it up for very long.

To make this process even easier, you might want to consider lowering your daily intake of calories. The fewer calories you consume in a day, the smaller amount of exercise it will take to burn them off. This doesn’t mean you should starve yourself, however. Instead, look for foods that are low in calories like lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables, while avoiding meals that are high in fat, salt, and carbohydrates.

Once you know which foods to eat and which to avoid, it’s always a good idea to keep a written record of your calorie intake. By keeping track of the calorie content in the foods you are consuming, you will have a better idea for the amount of exercise needed to burn through those extra calories. Don’t forget, however, that you will need to be burning more calories than you are consuming in order to lose weight. Once you’ve lost the ten pounds, you can maintain this weight by burning an equal amount of calories to what you are consuming.

For an additional boost to your weight loss strategy, consider eating five or six smaller meals during the day, instead of the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By eating smaller amounts of food more often, your body will maintain a higher level of metabolism, which, in turn, will help you burn off more calories without any extra effort. Just remember that these meals are supposed to be smaller.

Though it’s not always as easy as it sounds to lose ten pounds, it's definitely possible if you're willing to put in the extra effort. By eating right and burning more calories than you consume, you'll be well on your way to enjoying a more physically-fit you. Just remember, perseverance is the key to any successful weight loss program. So, determine your best course of action and stick with it.

How to organize a neighborhood swap meet

Neighborhood swap meets can be a fun way to get to know your neighbors better while doing some house cleaning and perhaps picking up a few nice items you'd like to own.

Do you have things around your home you no longer use? Are there any items you'd like to have but haven't yet acquired? If so, consider organizing a neighborhood swap meet. By swapping items with your neighbors, you can declutter your home and possibly bring back some treasures you actually want.

Organizing a neighborhood swap meet is fairly simple. First, decide the rules of the swap meet, then determine the time and place where the swap meet will occur. After sorting out the details, ask some neighbors if they'd like to participate.

Now, there are several things to consider when planning a swap meet. To keep things simple, most swap meets have a one-for-one rule when swapping items. To reduce complications even further, consider accepting only one type of item like books, movies, or clothing. Another option that works well is setting a value range for swappable items.

If your chosen location has limited space, it may also be wise to limit how many items each person can contribute. For example, each neighbor can bring up to ten items. These items are then exchanged for tokens, which can be used to "purchase" other items at the swap meet.

A final consideration is what will happen to the remaining items when the swap meet concludes. One option is to return any unclaimed items to their original owners, though this will require keeping track of who provided which item. Another option is to donate the remaining items to charity. To avoid any confusion, always inform participants beforehand about what will happen to any remaining items.

Neighborhood friendships and home security

Three reasons neighborhood friendships strengthen home security

Seeking out a group of friendly neighbors can go a long way toward improving your home's security. Not only can neighbors watch out for each other's homes and property, but they can also help keep a home from appearing obviously vacant during vacations or other prolonged absences. Here are three reasons why having a mutual rapport between neighbors strengthens home security.

1. Neighbors can watch out for each other's homes and property.

Neighbors who share a friendly bond are more likely to watch out for each other's homes and property. If something's amiss in or around your home, watchful neighbors can alert you or the police about the situation to help bring it under control. If there's interest, consider starting up a formal neighborhood watch program. Such programs have been known to strengthen home security in tight communities.

2. Neighbors can help keep your home from appearing obviously vacant.

If you'll be away for an extended period, your neighbors can help maintain your home's security during your absence. Be sure to alert your neighbors about your upcoming trip and ask one to collect your mail until you return. Having a neighbor collect your mail keeps it from piling up outside, preventing your home from appearing vacant to passersby. Beyond simple mail collection, helpful neighbors may also be able to complete certain season-dependent tasks, like mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, which too can help keep your home from appearing obviously vacant.

3. Neighbors can deal with minor security issues that arise while you are away.

Consider swapping your house keys with a trusted neighbor so they can help you remedy any minor security issues that arise while you are away. Ever forgotten to lock your door before heading to work? How about leaving a window open before embarking on a family vacation? A neighbor with a key can easily solve issues such as these if you notify said neighbor about your predicament.

There are many ways that neighborhood friendships can strengthen home security. Whether this means creating a formal neighborhood watch program or simply helping each other stay on top of things during times of absence is up to you and your neighbors. Whichever way you choose to go about it, it's nice to know that by initiating community friendships, you can strengthen your home's security while making your neighborhood a safer place to live.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Wish Man movie

Over the weekend, I was surfing Netflix and stumbled upon the movie Wish Man, which was just released this past year, in 2019. Wish Man tells the story of Arizona motorcycle cop Frank Shankwitz, who founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

I didn't even know the film was going to be about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That detail isn't explicitly revealed until the very end of the movie, and the title alone didn't give me any clues. All I know is that I kept watching, glued to the screen, because it was just that good. Very well done.

I highly recommend seeing Wish Man if you get the chance. It's a very powerful and moving story. Highly inspirational and uplifting. And I'm not going to hide it - I was moved to tears with some scenes. See it if you can.

Tips for getting to know your neighbors

Meeting your neighbors can be great on many levels. Not only can meeting your neighbors help you feel more connected to your community, but doing so can also help you form new friendships and valuable networking connections. Below are three tips that can help you become better acquainted with your neighbors.

Tip #1 - Always greet your neighbors

The first step in getting to know your neighbors is not looking away when you see one. Smile, greet, and wave at your neighbors whenever the opportunity presents itself. These simple gestures may spark the conversation that leads to a lasting friendship.

Tip #2 - Host a backyard party

Once you've made first contact with some of your neighbors, invite them to a backyard party. An informal event like a backyard party can be an effective way to transition from small talk to deeper conversations. Live in an apartment complex? Utilize a common room or host a "roaming party" with several neighbors on your floor.

Tip #3 - Hold themed gatherings

As you get to know your neighbors and begin learning about their interests, plan more intimate get-togethers to strengthen your friendships. Determine your common interests and schedule related events. Some popular events include weekly card games, book clubs, and movie nights.

Getting to know your neighbors doesn't have to be a daunting task. Simply start small and work your way up from there. By first greeting your neighbors and then hosting a backyard party and some themed gatherings, you'll be well on your way toward forging new friendships and valuable networking connections with those living in your community.

Talking fast food, the economy, and sudden geniuses

Read a couple interesting articles this past weekend that I thought were worth sharing here:

"How Fast Food Reveals Secrets of the Economy"

From the Pizza Principle to the Waffle House Index, fast food can reveal surprising things about our behaviour and hidden changes in the market. 

"The Mystery of Why Some People Become Sudden Geniuses"

There’s mounting evidence that brain damage has the power to unlock extraordinary creative talents. What can this teach us about how geniuses are made? 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Preparing for the science test on ACT

Following are some tips and strategies for doing well on the science portion of the ACT test. This advice comes directly from several teachers, as well as a number of students and former students who have taken the ACT test in recent years.

The science portion of the ACT comprises a total of 40 questions, and you have a time limit of 35 minutes. According to this page on, "The ACT Science test will contain 7 passages...The passages fall into three categories: Data Representation, Research Summaries and Conflicting Viewpoints."

For starters, think of the science portion as being more of a reading comprehension and skills-based test, rather than as a science content test. Chances are you probably never learned or will remember half of the actual content (the various scientific vocabulary, concepts, ideas, etc.), if not more. We already know that, so don't let that fact spoil your confidence going into the test. But if you can read, and if you can analyze and draw conclusions from data presented to you at a basic level, you can, and you will, do well on the science portion of the test.

Now that we know to think of the science portion as more of a reading comprehension and skills-based exam rather than as a test identifying your knowledge of actual science content, and now that we've established the fact that you've never learned a lot of the science anyway, it's time to discuss skipping around in the test as a time-saving strategy. Don't just start answering the questions in order. This will most likely hurt you.

As soon as the test begins, take a little time to have a look around. This will help you settle in and get a general lay of the land. You'll want to avoid the conflicting viewpoints questions (they're arguably the most difficult and time-consuming) and instead go straight for the data representation questions. Take a good look at the data (the various charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, etc.) first, before even looking at the questions. Do you spot any easily-recognizable trends in the data right off the bat? Are numbers climbing up? Are they going down? Anything else you spot? Looking at the data first will ultimately help you save time and answer these questions with greater ease.

After you've gotten through the data representation section, you'll next want to tackle the research summaries questions. Save the conflicting viewpoints questions for last.

Some general guidelines and final thoughts here: As with any portion of the ACT test, remember not to take too long on any one question. You don't have time for that. Don't hesitate to guess with the "letter of the day method" if you need to, and just move on. Tying into that point as another general rule of thumb, go through the questions you're most familiar or comfortable with first. You can save the others for later. Don't be afraid to skip around. Like we said earlier, answering the questions in the order given will most likely end up working against you. Finally, remember what we established earlier - don't look at this test as being a science test. It's a reading and skills-based test. If you can read, and if you can answer questions based off of data that is being presented to you, you can, and you will, do well. Many of the answers in this test are right in front of you. You don't have to be familiar with the actual science content. In fact, we know you won't be.

Now go get 'em!

Visit this page for more ACT test strategies and learning resources.

Do you have any thoughts or observations about the ACT science test? Feel free to share your advice and strategies in the comments section below. We'd love to hear and learn from you!