What really matters

If you're burning yourself out at work, coming home stressed, but
don't see a way to get your boss to balance the load better, STOP.

Stop before it stops you.

Bad resource management is the problem of your employer, not you.

This is not a nice allegorical idea I came up with out of idle
thoughts; one week ago my dad, whose work has been especially demanding
of late, felt tension in his chest which was unlike heartburn. He had
radiating pain out to his arm. His father died of heart failure. He,
wise fellow, went to the emergency room and they kept him over the
weekend for observation. On Monday they did an angiogram and found his
arteries to be over 85% blocked. They said, "Tomorrow or the day after
we will give you a quadruple bypass." On Wednesday he had surgery and
on Thursday he is, after having the front of his body opened up and the
arteries into his heart altered, recovering very nicely.

His life just hit the reset button.

He says things are going to change and his employer will just have to work it out.

Don't wait for your body to force it on you; if a situation is killing you, don't let it get away with it.

Yes, what you do does, in fact, matter

Discard the "someone else will solve it" and "what difference can one person make" attitudes.

Go see An Inconvenient Truth.

Why let a bunch of big companies continue to tell you that something isn't bad for you so that they can make more profit before the shit hits the fan? Surely everyone learned by now that the cigarette companies don't have your best interests at heart. Why should anyone think oil and car companies are different when they argue against scientists?

We really don't have any more time to waste.


There is probably a sharp edge in your life. It's gonna get ya if you don't deal with it.

That nail that's started to come up out of the floor or toenails that run the risk of hamstringing your spouse one night in bed or the stupid beaten tin light switch cover at the top of the stairs that threatens to tear open someone's sleeve one of these days…

Today, right now, go get rid of that problem.

So sayeth the girl who is sad about the hole in her sweetheart's nice suit jacket.

What the hell is that? Anyone want some meatcake?

Today's discard target is the mysterious collection of aged condiments in your fridge.

Grab yourself a trash bag and start weeding the safe from the dubious, the known from the unknown & frankly frightening.

Here's a handy list of how long foods can be safely stored for.

Once you've eliminated the bad and the things you know you won't eat before their "toss by" date, take a laundry marker (a.k.a. a Sharpie) and write on all the condiment bottles – over the barcode for example – one of two things:

– a greater than sign and today's date to indicate this is definitely older than today
e.g. ">20060319"

– when it should be tossed according to safe food storage
e.g. "toss June 06"

Next time you decide to do a fridge purge you'll be more accurate in throwing away those things which may be a danger to your health.

Discard your illusions about housefires

There's a classic question to help reveal your personality "if the house were on fire what would you save?" Unfortunately, if you really do try to save things, you dramatically increase your risk of being injured or killed.

You need to know and deeply believe the following things:

1. Fire is incredibly fast and dangerous. A room can go from one small smoking smolder to full flashover inferno in 2 to 3 minutes. There is no time in a fire for anything but getting out. Call the fire department from a neighbor's house. Don't delay, just get out!

2. Smoke is the killer. Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire uses up the oxygen you need and produces carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that kills. Breathing even small amounts of these gases can make you drowsy and disoriented. This is why having an escape plan that you practice is critical.

3. Stay low for safety. Room temperatures in a fire can be 90 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super hot air will burn your lungs.

4. Fires are dark. Though flame is bright, the smoke can quickly fill rooms and render them pitch black. Fire victims who did manage to escape report having been completely disoriented in homes they've lived in for years.

5. Smoke alarms save lives. Keep yours well-maintained and test it monthly.

6. Fire drills and escape plans save lives. Always have more than one exit route planned, practice how to test closed doors for heat (use the back of your hand and don't touch the knob!), and desiginate a meeting place outside the building.

Check with your local fire department for more details on how to protect your household.

Electronic Tidy Week: Step Number One

It is my wild assumption that those without computers are not reading this site. Perhaps that's a trifle bold of me, but I feel strangely confident in proceeding with a whole week devoted to getting your digital ducks in a row.

First, always first: make backups!

Here's a helpful page to remind you of the kind of files you should back up.

Remember that in addition to physical media under your control – external drives, CDs, DVDs, second computers – you may also have some space for things on a hosted service. For example, if you own your own domain and have hard drive space on a server you could put some backup information. Just remember that if that service goes out of business the backup could be lost to you and that if it gets hacked, personal data could be stolen. Be selective about how you use these resources.

It's advisable to make a couple big backups periodically on separate media (e.g. onto CD or DVD and onto an external harddrive) and store them in separate locations.

Regularly – every week or at least every month is advisable – make a backup of those things which have changed since the last backup. When you do this backup, I recommend keeping the previous one or two backups. That way, should you lose your current information and turn out to have a corrupted backup, you still have the prior one.

Doing backups can be tedious and is easy to put off, so figure out a good system that works for you and make sure you have the supplies you need. Get help from a geek friend if you're not sure of the process or the best approach for you.

Build time into your schedule to do backups regularly. It may seem like a hassle, but compared to the loss of all your personal files, it's not a big deal at all.

There is such a thing as Too Much Discardia

Change the battery in your smoke alarm and test any other warning and safety equipment in your home and car.

Do you have appropriate fire extinguishers in good, charged condition in the kitchen and at least one other place in the house? (I keep my extra in the bathroom because it's not an area likely to spontaneously combust and it's by the front stairs and therefore handy for an emergency escape).

Do you have renter's or home insurance and an up-to-date inventory of the things you'd want to replace? (Walk around with a video camera for a really quick way to do this inventory and then store the tape away from the house, eh?)

Discard what you want to let go of, but be sure to do what you can to prevent losing what matters to you.

Good Medicine

All right, now that you have decluttered your bathroom, it's time to get your first aid kit (or kits) organized.

Here's a handy page about building first aid kits for your home. (Sorry about the overbearing nationalistic imagery, folks).

Pull together all your various medical emergency supplies. See what you have already for the kit and start a shopping list for what you need to add.

You may find you have more than you need of some things (little bandages are a common culprit here), so separate things out and start kits for your office and/or car. Here's a guide to making a portable first aid kit.

Alternatively, buy a good kit from the Red Cross and, after you get it, donate all this jumble of stuff to your local shelter (except what you'll use to restock the kit for regular home use, e.g. bandaids in your favorite sizes).