Tag Archives: how-to

How to Write a How to Guide

If you’ve ever wanted to write your own how to guide, TokenUser shares these excellent tips with the community. If you have any tips or top five lists that you’d like to share (perhaps using these very helpful guidelines), please send them my way!

Before writing a guide on how to do something, there are a couple of questions that you need to ask yourself: do you know the subject well enough to explain it in simple terms, and can you write a concise set of instructions based on that explanation?

If you are good to go on these questions, the best how to guides follow an age-old and simple principle: KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid, or (in this case) Keep It Stupidly Simple. This will enable someone to more easily follow your instructions. I’m hoping to help you write better how to guides with this guide of my own…

[$5+ patrons can read the rest of How to Write a How to Guide here. Not a patron? Consider the benefits here!]

Clean Pores Tutorial: a “How to” Cosmetics Beauty Tip


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If you’ve been paying attention lately to what I’m doing, you know that I’ve begun a small new series I like to call Geek Eye for the Sloppy Guy. The response to these beauty tips and tricks for dudes has been overwhelming! In light of this, I’ll definitely keep these coming. For today’s installment, though, a friend of mine is going to help us out.

Candice decided to help teach us dudes how to clean our pores. Yes – you have to do this! It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too manly… you aren’t. Your face is still dirty, and dirty isn’t a turn on for girls.

She recommends using Biore Deep Cleansing Pore strips for both men and women. The purpose of this is to clean up all the little clogging particles around your nose. Make sure you wash your face first and get all the dirt off that you can. Then, wet your nose thoroughly or the strip won’t stick. Take the strip and place it across your nose, just as the diagram on the box shows.

Once you stick the strip to your nose, press and smoothe it down to make sure it’s sticking down very well. You have to dry this for about 10-15 minutes so that it feels like papier mache. Once you’ve killed time until it’s totally dry, it’s time to rip it off.

You read that right – rip it off! Ok, ok… slowly peel it off. Start on either edge, and slowly peel towards the middle. If you did this properly, you’ll see all the icky crud on the Biore strip. Once you are done, your face will be completely clean, and your pores will thank you.

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How To Turn Your Mac Into a Geek Control Center

Geek!This is Billy Doyle’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

So you’re a geek. And you just got a Mac. Now what? I’m in that position too, and I’m going to share a few things I’ve been doing to turn my Mac into the prefect geek control center.

Use the apps it came with!

Your Mac came with a bunch of great apps like the iLife suite, iChat, Spaces, etc. So use them! For example: Even if you don’t use iChat as an instant messenger, it has lots of other uses too! Paired with notify.me, it can become a news ticker that can keep you up-to-minute on happenings on any site with an RSS feed! Or, use it with the ping.fm bot on Google Talk to update your status with two clicks!

iPhoto is another great one. Not only does it store and organize all your beautiful pictures, but you can use plugins to do all kinds of cool things. Download the Pixelpipe plugin, for example, and create an account if you don’t already have one. Then you can instantly push your photos up to all your photo sharing accounts!

Run Windows!

OK, now you’re thinking: Why would I want to run Windows on the computer I bought to stop running windows??? Well, I have a reason: Not everything runs on the Mac. Gasp! How could that be? Well, it’s true. And no geek would want to have to be in the position of not being able to run that killer app you just can’t possibly live without, right?

Now, here’s the disclaimer: This one’s optional. If you don’t have a copy of Windows lying around, it isn’t mandatory that you run out and get one right this second. But if you do, this is something to consider.

So, if you’ve decided that this might be a good idea, you’ve got two options: Boot Camp or a virtual machine. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages. Boot Camp allows you to run Windows in a partition by itself. This gives you the full power of the Mac’s hardware, but you have to reboot to switch operating systems. A virtual machine allows you to run Windows “in a box”, as a program inside of OS X. This has the advantage of letting you switch between systems instantaneously, but it also can slow down your Mac depending on how much of its resources you grant the VM.

If you go with a VM, or virtual machine, you have a few choices. The two big names in virtualization for the Mac are Parallels and VMware Fusion. They both retail for $80. If you don’t want to pay for your WM software and don’t mind a bit of a steeper learning curve, try VirtualBox. It’s from Sun, and it’s what I use right now. I wont go into depth on Boot Camp here, it has a simple setup wizard. Just click the Spotlight search icon on the menu bar, type “boot camp” and hit enter.

Accessorize!

Your Mac comes with everything you need to get started. Key phrase: get started. Sure, you could probably live without cool things to plug into your Mac, but why take the chance? Here are a few gadgets I recommend to enhance your Mac experience:

  • Griffin Simplifi – It’s an iPod dock with a built-in multi-card reader. Who could ask for more?
  • Chumby – Sure, it doesn’t actually plug in to you Mac, but it does provide you with an RSS ticker, weather gadget, screen licking dog, and much more, all packed into a cute little Wi-Fi enabled beanbag!
  • Timecapsule– Here’s one from Apple itself! Back up your machine wirelessly. Available in 500GB and 1TB flavors.
  • Bamboo Tablet – Here’s one for all the artists out there: A drawing tablet! You can always graduate to a normal Wacom tablet if you need a bigger one.

Never stop geekin’ out!

There are lots more tips that I didn’t cover here, and even more that I couldn’t possibly cover, because I don’t know they exist! So, the number one thing you can do to turn your new Mac into the ultimate geek control center is:

Don’t stop looking for more ways to make it awesome!

There are always more things you can do to your Mac to make it perfectly suit your level of geekosity. Add a touchscreen! Set up live log file readouts! The list is endless. So, I provide you with one more link, the ultimate resource for Mac geekiness. Now go, click the link, and begin your geeky Apple-related adventure! This is the link!

How To Teach Programming To Kids

Geek!This is R. L. Shanker’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

You probably know a kid who is bitten by the computer bug – could be your son or your nephew or your friend’s kid. Since you are the resident uber-geek, you have been given the responsibility of initiating him into the wonderful world of computers. One fine day, you gather the kid, roll up your sleeves and sit down in front of the computer. And then it hits you: What do you teach him – Java? C++? VB.NET? The guy has a concentration span of exactly ninety-six seconds. You start scratching your head. If this sounds familiar, this tutorial is for you.

In this how-to, I review two tools that have been tested successfully in homes/schools across the world. Like any other discussion on “which software to use”, there are unlimited options and fanatic supporters for each one of them. So, kindly use this tutorial as a starting point and do your own research; there are a lot of pointers that I have included for your reference. Before getting down to details, let me clarify one thing: while none of us would want to force programming as a career choice on our kids, all of us would agree on the importance of making kids comfortable with what is unarguably the most powerful tool at our disposal. There, done. Now, let us move on to the details.

Age 6-9 years

Scratch: A product of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT, Scratch provides kids with an exciting environment to create and share computer applications. Applications in Scratch are built around what are referred to as Sprites; these could be animals, objects, people etc. Using simple drag-and-drop programming, students can control their actions and interactions. In the process, they are subtly exposed to basic programming concepts such as conditional statements, iteration, variables, and event triggers. It is easy to be misled by the overt simplicity of the application; however, the scope of Scratch is not restricted to just creating dummy games. One look at the online Scratch gallery is sufficient to dispel all such notions. I even came across an application that illustrates wave harmonics in the most intuitive way.

This brings me to the other great feature about Scratch – it has a terrific online presence. Currently, more than 200,000 applications are shared online. Your kid can get immediate feedback from his peers and they can even work on a collaborative project. Scratch’s online presence, combined with its highly accessible interface, puts it way ahead of its competitors such as Logo, Squeak, Alice , Toontalk, and Gamemaker.

Age: 10-14 years

Phrogram. The most frustrating aspect about dealing with kids is the pace at which they outgrow their interests. As a mentor, it is imperative that you find ways of keeping their passion alive. Enter KPL, Kids Programming Language. KPL was launched in 2005 as a freeware programming language and has since been replaced by its commercial successor, Phrogram. While the focus of Scratch is on designing applications, the focus of Phrogram is on programming applications – a logical next-step. Phrogram supports object-oriented programming and provides an excellent stepping stone for “serious programming”. In order to make the task more appealing, Phrogram provides a range of in-built libraries. You can find details about a course offered in Ohio State University that uses Phrogram exclusively here. Wait, it keeps getting better – you can even write XBOX applications on Phrogram. Talk about getting a kid excited – his own application on XBOX!

The only downside is that Phrogram is not a freeware. However, the basic version is pretty cheap; it is actually cheaper than most popular video games. If cost is still a concern, you can check out Greenfoot. Greenfoot is based on Java and is equally accessible to kids in this age-group. Here, a parent provides a lively account of a game-building exercise he did with his 9-year old daughter using Greenfoot.

Age: 15+ years

The kid is now ready for the big league; it is time to respect his intellect and let him take the deep plunge. We are talking Python, C, C++, Java, etc. Since the questions are going to come thick and fast, I would recommend that you pick a language that you are comfortable with. For instance, I have been working with C++ for a very long time and it would be my natural choice.

Final thoughts

Engage, engage and engage.

The actual choice of software or platform is a subjective one – it depends on the student and the tutor. Whichever software you choose, for the endeavour to be successful, the kid must be actively engaged. What excites you as an adult doesn’t have to (and in all likelihood, will not) excite the young mind. Put yourself in his shoes. Fit in.

Be the inspiration.

The final onus is on you to convince the kid that there is no end to this wonderful experience. You need to tease him, tantalize him, and then cut him loose. Let him experiment. Support him if he fails. Challenge him if he succeeds.

How To Harness the Power of Wellness Journal

Geek!This is Mark Severn’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

“We are what we eat”, both in quantity and quality. We are also the product of what we do or don’t do. The image that you see in the mirror, and the emotional and physical reality that accompanies that view, is the result of many factors. Nothing influences this reality more than the foods and beverages that you put into your body and the activities that you engage in.

The need for a diet or program that works is a booming business. With a new concept and book hitting the Best-seller list every year – the need for an answer never ends. Many of these books are great reads and enlighten the reader to different concepts of nutrition for both weight loss and/or disease management. I have read many and recommend some but I have yet to find one that compares to the power of a food and exercise journal.

The main reason? YOU. You are the author, researcher and analyst. Over time your journal becomes your personal diet and exercise book – one that is specifically suited just for you. What you eat and the activities that you engage in can vary considerably compared to others. The obstacles that we encounter – as we try to make changes – also varies. My Achilles heel may be cookies, but yours may be scheduling issues. Heres Why it Works:

Accountability.

Keeping a journal boosts self-control and increases your accountability. You are probably not going to write down that you just ate 6 cookies. By recording what you eat you are more likely to limit yourself to a 1 cookie serving instead.

Research.

Keeping a journal will help you evaluate your “empty” calorie intake. You may begin to wonder how much fat, protein or calories are in the muffin you have with your morning coffee. You will look at the food label to discover the answers. If there is no food label you will look it up online, or in a Food Counts book.

A journal will highlight Planned Exercise vs. Actual Activity. You can’t avoid the fact that you haven’t entered any activity over the last three days. Why not? Does your workout schedule conflict with your current daily schedule? Is the exercise plan you have chosen boring, are you finding it hard to even show up? There are many ways to increase your activity level – find what works for you – find what fits into your lifestyle.

Analysis.

A journal shows your progress. After recording a starting point and a goal you have a visual representation of your progress and what efforts are paying off. A review of your journal can also be a great motivator when you find yourself backsliding.

Examining your journal can also help you associate the different feelings that you have with certain foods and activities. You can start to identify patterns and make plans for a healthy change.

A journal is a way to evaluate what you are doing. Maybe you are drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or not eating enough vegetables and fruit, or maybe you need to be drinking more water. You can evaluate and make necessary changes.

Guilt Free Indulgence.

Keeping track of your food intake and activity levels also lets you know when you can treat yourself. You can plan to indulge yourself guilt free if you know that you are on track and doing well.

Your next step – Take action. Get a journal and begin recording your nutrition and exercise now. For ease of use I recommend using a pre-made template design that is specifically made for recording food and activity. Ask your favorite Personal Trainer, Health Club or Bookstore – most will have some type of journal that you can use.

The internet also provides some services – both fee based and free – to do the same thing. Although I find writing it down, as opposed to entering info online, to be more effective. A paper Journal is always with you and is easily accessed – it forces you to do the research and analysis. Online programs do a lot of the work for you, thus missing out on some real nuggets of information. Although they are easier you do not have a physical record.

Whether you journal on paper or on the computer it’s time to get started. Keeping a journal is not as easy as following a series of steps outlined in a book, but, the power of that journal will show itself with results and lessons learned. Lessons that will last a lifetime.

As the new year approaches and resolutions begin, make sure that you are using a wellness journal and harnessing the most powerful tool for change. YOU!

How To Tell If Your Date Is a Potential Train Wreck

Geek!This is Katie Darden’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Let’s face it, dating is a gamble – especially today. First you have to find someone who appears to be interesting, then you have to spend enough time together to find out if you’re reasonably compatible. And what makes it harder is that most people start out on their “best behavior” – at least for the first few months.

So you spend several months getting to know each other, becoming comfortable with the cute little idiosyncrasies, and generally investing lots of emotional energy into this new relationship. Imagine your disappointment when you suddenly realize that those idiosyncrasies have become an irritation. And not just a minor irritation, but a major pain-in-the-neck! Now you’re not so sure you want to be with this person any longer. In fact, depending on what you’ve finally discovered or realized, you may be looking for any possible escape from a situation that is making you miserable!

Luckily not all relationships end up this way. And, there’s actually a way to spot trouble before it starts. If you take the time to learn how to recognize a few red flags, you may be able to see the (hand)writing on the wall long before you get into a mess in the first place.

Using simple graphology (handwriting analysis), you can learn a lot about how a person interacts with the world. This information can help you avoid a dating “Train wreck” before it happens. So go grab a sample of your prospective date’s handwriting, and let’s see how it matches up with the handwriting traits listed below. You can use a note, a shopping list, a letter – whatever you can find that has a few words scribbled on it.

Train wreck Traits to Watch Out For

There are several letter formations (traits) that, when taken together, indicate trouble. Here are five you can learn that will help you recognize when to put the brakes on. One or two may be acceptable, but if your date has all five, you’re in for a rocky ride!

Trait #1 – Lying loops

Lying Loops 1 Lying Loops 2
The loops in our handwriting indicate imagination. When the letter “o” has double loops, the person has a difficult time being honest with himself or with others. If the loops overlap, creating a third (inner) loop, this person is a pathological liar and will make up stories even when the truth is better. If honesty is important to you, then avoid this person altogether.

Trait #2 – Low Self Esteem

Low Esteem

Low self esteem is probably the number one problem facing people today. The person with a low self-image is not only afraid of failure, but is also afraid of making changes because those changes could lead to failure.

This shows up in the handwriting as very low cross bars on the letter “t”, and often manifests as being highly self-critical and unworthy. People with low self esteem will often bend over backwards in their relationship and simply put up with unkind treatment from their partner. Unfortunately they tend to believe they deserve the mistreatment they receive, and so they stay in a bad relationship.

While it may be attractive to be with someone who is outwardly very generous in the beginning of a relationship, those with low self esteem can also be so unsure of themselves that they become clingy, needing more and more of your time and energy. In general, the higher the cross bar, the higher the self esteem.

Trait #3 –Needs a Challenge (and Makes it You)

Needs a Challenge

See how the top of the letter looks like a stinger? People who have “stingers” in their writing usually have an unresolved power issue with an authority figure of the opposite sex. This often has its roots in childhood or adolescence and may have been with a parent, a close relative, or some other adult who exerted power or authority over them.

As they get older, they find themselves drawn to people and situations where there is a challenge. It’s the classic story of getting bored with the “nice guy” and dumping him for the class rebel. While these kinds of relationships may be exciting and intense, they can also become destructive, especially if the person with the stinger continually provokes the other partner.

Trait #4 – Overly-Sensitive (or Downright Paranoia)

Overly Sensitive

The person who is overly sensitive to criticism writes the letters “l, d, h, or b” with wider than normal upper loops. This imagination in the realm of the intellect causes the person to believe there is criticism even when none is present. If the loop is exaggerated, then this person can be downright paranoid, imagining all kinds of things which may or may not be true.

The larger the loop, the more room for imagination to fill it.

Trait #5 – Anti-Social (Fear of Needing Others)

Anti-Social

Just as a loop indicates imagination, the lack of a loop indicates lack of imagination. When we are young, we’re taught to write the letters “y, g, j, or z” with a lower loop. As we become adults, our handwriting changes from the textbook examples. This is a natural part of our development as our handwriting begins to respond to our mental processes.

When a person writes these lower loop letters with very wide loops, it indicates he has lots of imagination in the realm of physical relationships. This person is generally very gullible and too trusting of others.

When a person writes these letters with a small loop, or no loop at all, it indicates there is a distinct lack of trust. This person may like to be around others, but will be somewhat reserved when it comes to sharing his personal life. He may have a small circle of friends, or prefer to be a loner.

The smaller the loop, the less trust is felt towards others.

Major Train wreck: Dual Personality

Dual-Personality

While one or two of the previous traits might be unpleasant, they’re not generally, by themselves, a deal breaker. Someone with this particular trait, however, should be avoided at all costs if you value stability in your relationships.

The slant of our handwriting reveals our emotional response to life, circumstances and people. From time to time we all shift our slant in one direction or another, depending on what is going on at the moment. For instance, when I take notes, my writing is more vertical. When I’m writing to a friend it slants to the right.

However, when you see writing that changes within the same sentence – or even worse within the same word – this tells you the person is not emotionally stable. With emotional responses shifting all over the place, you will never know what to expect.

This trait, even by itself, is a red flag saying, “Stay Away!” When it’s found with any of the other traits on this list, it amplifies the dysfunctional part of that trait.

Save Yourself!

No one is perfect, and everyone has some faults. Most of us can deal with one or two of these traits in a partner, provided they’re not extreme. Understanding yourself and recognizing how these traits play out in a relationship will help you determine which ones you can live with. And becoming good at spotting these traits might just save you from your own train wreck.

How to Protect Yourself from Scams

Geek!This is Auriette’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

About 20 years ago, my mom called me at work, concerned that my dad was about to wire a couple thousand dollars to an outfit that claimed he had won a Jeep. They asked him to send the money to cover some sort of delivery fee. The Jeep would then be sent to our local dealer.

The most obvious red flag in this story is the request for money up front for a prize. 99.9% of the companies that sponsor giveaways will cover all costs except taxes, and you pay those to the government, not to the sponsor. Of course, another clue that my dad hadn’t really won anything was that he didn’t remember entering any contests or sweepstakes.

Still, Dad was pretty convinced that he’d won a Jeep, worth a lot more than the “delivery fee.” He had gotten a phone number, and today, I’d try to look it up online. Back then, I simply asked him to call the number and ask for more information about where the Jeep would be delivered. Red Flag number two was the location of the “local” dealership, nearly 400 miles away. Dad called that dealership, and no one there knew of any forthcoming prize deliveries.

On my direction, Dad called the number again and asked for more information about the “company,” like an address. By that time, the scammers were on to our line of questioning and my dad acknowledged that Mom and I were right and just saved him a couple of thousand bucks.

Now, I have nothing against sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways. Don’t buy into the “Nobody wins those things” argument. People do win prizes every day. It is, however, always worth reading the fine print.

The hot tub store at the mall used to keep a podium right outside their door offering passersby the chance to win a hot tub. The fine print on the form showed an entry deadline that was long past. The form also failed to indicate a date for the selection and notification of winners. I skipped that one.

Many entry forms and collection boxes tout great prizes, but their main purpose is in collecting sales leads. That’s not to say that these companies are scamming you, but read the rules and make sure that you are still within the entry period and don’t be surprised if someone calls to sell you something.

Another popular way some companies build sales leads is to tell you that you’ve won a “free three day, two night stay” in a beach town. You have to pay your own way, cover your own meals, and sometimes there are other fees involved. You may also have to sit through a sales presentation. If you get a call like this, be sure you understand what costs you’ll have to pay and what is expected of you.

Some scammers will send you a legitimate-looking check and a letter stating that this is a small portion of a larger prize payout. All you have to do is deposit the check and then wire some of the money back to the sender to cover taxes and fees. Then they’ll send you the balance of the prize. The checks look very real. My husband works in a bank and says sometimes these fake checks look more legitimate than real checks. The account numbers are often real, so calling the bank to verify funds won’t do any good. Some customers at my husband’s bank deposited the check and even got the money deposited into their account, but if that works for you, don’t rush out and spend it. The banks involved will catch up with you eventually and ask for the money back. Remember the cardinal rule: if it’s really a win, you don’t have to pay anything.

Before we go any further, let me say that I have noticed a few online stores and blogs that state clearly in the rules that the winner will be asked to pay shipping cost on the prize. If you read the rules before signing up, you’ll know that in advance, and you can decide if you’re willing to incur that cost to receive the prize.

If you sign up for sweepstakes and contests regularly, whenever the call or e-mail arrives telling you that you won, you may be able to find the rules online. Go to your favorite search engine and plug in the precise name of the contest. You may find the official website or one of any number of contesting websites where rules are summarized or archived. Don’t be afraid to ask the caller to fax or e-mail you a copy of the rules for your review.

Once you have determined that your win is really a win, you may be asked to complete an affidavit of eligibility. This usually includes your name, address and other contact information, and it may ask for your Social Security number. Companies are not required to report small prizes under $500 to the IRS, but they’ll often ask for the Social Security number anyway. If the company and the giveaway is legitimate, you really don’t have anything to worry about, but you can decline the prize if you are afraid of identity theft.

Just today, my husband read about a group of scammers that claim to be shooting a reality TV show about families. They give their marks a date and directions to a remote location for filming. The next morning, all their vehicles have been stolen and their homes have been robbed.

Just because something sounds really good, doesn’t mean it has to be a scam. I once received a very casual-sounding e-mail along the lines of, “I just wanted to check in with you and verify your address and Social Security number because we’re going to be sending your prize this week.” Huh? The e-mail address pointed to an organization that was involved with a contest that I had entered, so I cautiously e-mailed back and made it clear I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I soon got a very apologetic call. Due to a staffing change, he thought I’d been notified already. I won the grand prize of $5,000!

  • Do your research.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Do read the rules before entering.
  • Don’t send money.

Five Ways to Survive the Current Financial Crisis

Geek!This is Matthew Long’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

1. Become a Bank

Unless you have been hibernating lately, you have no doubt read countless news stories about the Wall Street bailout by Congress. These companies had no problem playing with the mutual funds of teachers, social workers and other middle class people, but as soon as their golden parachutes were in danger, it became time to start begging for help. Not only have these institutions received billions of dollars of our tax money in an effort to save their fortunes, but other entities have declared themselves banks in order to cash in as well. That is correct, you read that right, companies are trying to become banks in order to get a piece of the nearly $1 trillion bailout. So, if you want to get by, declare yourself a commercial bank and ask the Department of Treasury for some cash. In order to remain under the radar though, I would not get greedy – $1 billion shouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

2. Do Not Manufacture Cars

There are more than 100 million households in the United States, most of which have at least one car. With these kinds of numbers, it would seem that becoming a car manufacturer would be the way to go. However, another valuable lesson we’ve learned is that manufacturing cars in the United States is a fast track to declaring bankruptcy. While you may feel a compulsion to start building 2-ton behemoths in your garage that get 3 or 4 miles to the gallon, just say no! It’s not worth the pain of hiring employees who, shockingly enough, will want to get paid and receive benefits. So while the allure may be there, you must be strong and at all costs avoid making cars at home. Bikes seem to be doing well, so why not go the way of Schwinn?

3. Get Elected to Congress

The one segment of the job sector that never seems to suffer is also one of the most exclusive, Members of Congress. While thousands of Americans are losing their jobs every month, the number of people on food stamps sky rockets, those who call the Capitol their office place are doing just fine. Usually, when an organization with 535 employees fails miserably, then that organization is no longer in business, or at least someone is fired. Not so if you are a Member of Congress! So quit your job, say goodbye to your cubicle (don’t forget the Dilbert clips) and run for Congress. Good pay, guaranteed job (for a while at least), and awesome bathrooms.

4. Eat Green – Literally

Being green seems to be all the rage today. People are switching to hybrids, installing solar panels on their homes and recycling more than ever. But how can an average person take action locally in order to save the planet? Start saving grocery dollars, and work to conserve the Earth, by eating the common weeds you find in your yard. Chickweed, amaranth and cronewort will soon replace your fancy schmancy bags of Caesar salad and the like. After a few months, you may even start enjoying them.

5. Train Pets to Start Working

We all love our pets, I know we do! Heck, I have three Siberian Huskies that I adore. However, these cute little fur balls sleep 18 hours a day, eat a lot of food, and have health care costs not covered by any insurance! In sum, they cost a fortune. So, in these most hard of times, it is important that you start putting your pets to work for you. While the easiest way to earn fast cash from your cats and dogs may be carnival work or perhaps menial, household labor, there is a much more effective way. Simply train your furry friend to stand at stoplights with little buckets around their necks. Adding a sad sign that elucidates your financial situation would be even more effective. Doing this should generate hundreds of dollars a week easily.

I offer these five ways to avoid financial meltdown in the current economic crisis as a gesture of compassion. Please heed these words and you and your family should be just fine.

How to Write an Informative Product Review

Geek!This is Matthew Savoy’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Have you ever been shopping for a specific product online and read through all the reviews? There’s usually a lot that give a simple “I like this product” or “I wish I never bought this.” These reviews do little, if nothing, to help the reader out. So what is it that makes a good product review? Don’t just throw in a few pros and cons along with an “I like this product.” If you’re truly enthused and want others to enjoy the same product, or want to inform everyone of how bad a product it is, follow these simple steps to writing a great review:

  1. Catch the attention of the reader. Yes, you do need to say whether or not the product is any good, but you want to start off with something that will catch the reader’s attention. That doesn’t mean to slam on the caps lock and start yelling at the reader about how terrible the product is (unless of course you want to catch the company’s attention, then go right ahead and yell; but nothing hurts a product more than a lack of buyers, so think of the readers). The readers of the review are your friends (no, I don’t necessarily mean this literally). If you think of them first, they may take your word to heart. In fact, they might make a purchasing decision based solely on your opinion. To companies, your readers are potential buyers; so if you’re going to write a bad review, get your message out to the consumer.
  2. Break your review up into sections. If you follow these steps, you might turn out an informative review; but there are a lot of people with short attention spans. Start of with a brief opinion and description of the product. Then move into a pros section, a cons section, a section for other thoughts and then finally a conclusion. Your review will probably be one among many, and putting everything important in your conclusion might get the reader to click yes under the “Was this review helpful to you?” question that usually shows up on the end of your review. If you are posting this review to your own personal site, then this might not be as important – but who doesn’t like the look of a good, organized layout? Don’t forget to make sure it makes logical sense, and that everything is easy to understand. This could almost be it’s own separate point, but seriously, it goes along with planning. If you plan well, it will flow properly and make sense.
  3. State something unknown about the product in the description. In you’re description of the product, make sure to put something in there the reader may not already know about the product. Preferably something not in the product’s listed description, or the quality of some of the product’s features. If you think something doesn’t work as good as it should, but isn’t quite a con, the description would be the best place to put it. Like the packaging? That might also be something to include in the product description, because it isn’t really a pro of the product itself (to some I suppose it is). Either way, consumers like to know the details; so if it’s not a feature in the product’s listed description, be sure to include it in your own.

Remember, a review doesn’t have to be too long, but don’t make it too short either. If it’s too short, then the reader should probably just read the product description, but if it’s too long, then nobody’s going to read it. Just follow the three steps: write for the reader, plan and organize your review, and include some original content. If you stick to these steps, not only will you have more friends enjoying the same product you have, but you’ll have a very useful review regardless of whether or not you actually liked the product. So go out there, and inform others.

How to Find Your “How To” Topic

Geek!This is Evan Brammer’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

As I was mulling over the possibilities for my entry, while tossing ideas back and forth with my wife, I realized that I just could not think of anything. What should I teach everyone “how to” do? I don’t know. I suppose it would be good if someone were to post something on “how to” come up with a “how to” topic? That would be good. WAIT! That’s what I can do. I’ll do a “how to” on “how to” discover exactly what your “how to” is.

Step One: Just Start Typing (Free Write)

If you are unsure, as I was, of what to write about – just start writing. Put your fingers to the keyboard or pen to the paper, and let the words fly out from beneath your fingertips. It doesn’t matter what you write about. You are free. Just keep writing, no matter what. If you cannot think of anything to write, then write that: “I cannot think of anything to write. I cannot think of anything to write.” Not incredibly useful, but…

As your fingers move, so will your thoughts. You’ll discover that when you write just anything, you can write anything! Next, you have to focus that “anything” into “something”.

Step Two: Focus that Anything into Something (Focused Free Write)

With your fingers blazing, begin to let you thoughts drift away from the aimlessness and onto a specific course. Just like a kayak on a big river, you can go in any direction you want – but if you want to reach your destination, than you have to chart your course. By allowing your mind to start in the river of aimlessness and then traverse into the bay of specificity, you open yourself to the wideness of possibility and are able to settle on what works best.

To focus your mind, ask yourself a few directing questions, such as: “What do I enjoy?” or “What am I good at?” Use these questions, and others, to bring your free-write into a more purpose-built writing exercise. If something doesn’t immediately come to mind, keep free writing until something does. As your ideas become more focused, the possible topic for your “how to” will emerge.

From there, you will need to refocus your focused thought.

Step Three: Refocusing your Focused Thought (From Broad to Exact)

Now that you have a general idea of what your “how to” could be, figure out if your topic needs to be refocused. Sometimes, the topic at which we initially arrive is entirely too general or broad. To continue on that course to actually writing the article on such a topic would be disastrous, as we cannot write about everything successfully in equal terms.

Think about making your “how to” topic more specific. Your original thought might be, “how to take over the world.” Now, can that topic really be covered in appropriate detail in such an article? Most likely not. So determine one aspect of the general topic and use that. Instead of focusing on “how to take over the world,” try just one part, such as: “how to harness the communicative tools currently available on an Internet that is transitioning from a static web of hyperlinks into a more social 2.0 conversation to bring the world under total domination.” Now that is an article that can be written and enjoyed, I am sure. Just… pick a better title.

With that, we have discovered the three basic steps to discovering what needs to be discovered. From here, we can all learn “how to” write a “how to” for anyone that might need to know “how to.”