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November 16, 2010 9:42 pm

Holiday Shopping Tactics

Thanksgiving is coming up, which means Black Friday is right around the corner. I am too much of a wuss to actually go shopping that day (I don’t want to be trampled and I don’t enjoy crowds) so I will fill you in on my secret to successful, budget-mindful, stress-free holiday shopping.

Step 1: Assemble Your Spreadsheet

Stay with me here – I create an Excel sheet (or a Google Doc) for what I want to get people. I usually start this in November, but you could do it much earlier if you were so inclined. The first column contains the names of the people I will be shopping for. The second column contains what I intend on buying/making for them. The third column is optional and generally contains either a link to the product, the brick-and-mortar store from which I can buy it, or additional information like size or color. Sometimes I throw in a fourth column detailing price.

Step 2: Plan Your Attack

Most online shops will have Black Friday sales, and most start at midnight. You can see lists of participating online stores here. Since you already have your spreadsheet with what you want to buy and where, this part is easy. In the past, I would stay up until midnight to get all the sales right as they went up and was usually done in about an hour or two. You don’t have to stay up though… this year, with the baby, I probably won’t.

Step 3: Bringing It All Together

Make your purchases! Amazon.com often has great deals that day; many stores will offer free shipping or greatly discounted shipping. (This is where Black Friday sales have the potential to save you a lot!) I also hit up Retail Me Not to see if I can get any further savings.

Step 4: The Remainders

You probably won’t end up finishing everything all at once. I typically make a few Christmas gifts, which takes time but doesn’t involve Black Friday deals; you’ll have to find time to hit the brick-and-mortar stores still on your list; you might be totally lost on what to get Great Aunt Tillie. That’s okay. Due to your awesome planning, you’re not worried. You now have time to finish those items and visit those stores and bug your family members for additional ideas for Great Aunt Tillie.

Step 5: Reap The Benefits

Sit back and wait for all your holiday shopping to arrive! Yes, doing your shopping (mostly) in one go and (mostly) online takes a bit of upfront planning. There’s not really a good way to browse the collective internet for the most amazing present ever, so you brainstorm ideas ahead of time and see what you can come up with that day based on deals and what your instincts tell you.

This has worked spectacularly for me in years past and removes a ton of holiday stress. You’re basically done and it’s not even December yet! Look at you go!

Now if someone could let me know how to manage getting Christmas cards done and mailed in a timely fashion…

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November 26, 2006 12:20 pm

Public Service Announcement: Get Fitted For A Bra

:note: Storm – “Villemann”

In a continuing bra theme, I am writing today to urge all you ladies out there to go get a professional bra fitting. I don’t care if you just had it done last year, go do it again. And please try to get it done somewhere like Nordstrom’s or its equivalent – Victoria’s Secret will work if you are truly desperate and can’t find anything else, but Nordstrom’s is far, far better.

Why? Eight out of 10 women wear the wrong bra size. You should be fitted every year. So what if it’s the same measurement year after year? At least you know you’re not part of the 80% that wear the wrong size.

I myself got fitted at a VS in high school sometime because I had just purchased yet another bra that didn’t fit. I was in denial that my boobs were as big as they really were so I’d buy bras at the size I hoped I was, not the size I figured I was. After being told my real size, I left VS that day in a funk, saddened that I probably wouldn’t ever be able to shop for bras at “normal stores” anymore. I’d been wearing that same size bra since then, apparently figuring that once you discover the holy grail that is your true bra size, you never have to do it again. I was wrong.

I finally got the guts the other day to go in and get fitted by someone in Nordstrom’s, and LET ME TELL YOU, it was an experience. The saleslady measured me and quickly declared me a size I dare not say here, but let it be known that the words “triple” or “quadruple” were uttered and I nearly had a heart attack in the dressing room. I have since resigned myself to buying expensive European bras since apparently manufacturers in the States do not realize that some people are, ah, well-endowed.

BUT! At least I know my size now. And I know that I will never, ever be able to buy a cute, matching bra-and-undies set from Target for $20. *sigh*

They say that ignorance is bliss, and I think in some ways, that’s true. Before I got fitted the other day, I probably would have continued to buy ill-fitting bras, happy that I could at least find my size at JC Penney’s stores. Now that I know, I can’t continue buying the wrong size – that would be stupid! I will probably have to exclusively shop at Nordstrom’s and spend upwards of $50 to get a good bra now, but I suppose at least it fits nicely and things sit where they should.

If you’re interested in more information, or curious about what sparked these bra posts, please read Bitch Ph.D‘s Ultimate Bra Post I and Ultimate Bra Post II. They’re terribly informative, and shed a lot of light on how stupid and arbitrary women’s bra sizes are.

Now get thee to a Nordstrom’s!

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August 8, 2006 11:37 pm

Fake Cheesecake Recipe

:note: Rasputina – “Ye Olde Headboard”

Based on the dessert Daniel and I had tonight, I will share a yummy recipe with you.

My recipe for fake and easy cheesecake

2 3.4oz. packages (the small box) Cheesecake-flavored Jell-O instant pudding mix
2-3/4 cups milk
1 graham cracker crust (premade if you like – easiest way to go)

Make pudding for pie purposes as described on package (In short: mix.) Pour into graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for a few hours (three-ish). Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Okay, so it’s not perfect and it doesn’t taste exactly like a cheesecake, but it’s so much faster to make, way less expensive, and tastes like a cheesecake. It is good in my book.

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November 19, 2005 10:47 am

Procrastination

:note: Silverchair – “Tomorrow”

Lots of people think procrastination means being lazy. This is not so. In fact, it really has nothing to do with being lazy. It has everything to do with being fearful and anxious.

Don’t believe me? If someone were to give you a project and tell you that you have a 100% chance of success – there’s no way this project will turn out less than perfect – wouldn’t you start on it right away? I sure would. That’s the test. If you still wouldn’t work on it, that’s you being lazy.

Procrastination is all about questioning your abilities, a lack of self-trust, a project that has “lost the magic,” and the fact that the ultimate evaluation causes fear and anxiety.

In order to fix this you have to get more courageous, which means you must be willing to be uncomfortable. If you never break out of your comfort zone, there’s no way you’ll have confidence because you’ve never took on something and mastered it. That’s how you build confidence. You have to practice what you fear. If you’re afraid to use a particular color in a project because you don’t like it, or because your teacher doesn’t like it, just do it anyway. Try. Experiment. Put more trust in yourself and the fact that you’ll do well on the project. Once you trust yourself to do well, it’s almost like you’ve got the guarantee I mentioned above.

To beat procrastination, you must diminish the power the project has over you. It’s not a life-or-death situation, it’s a project. Chances are, if you try, you’ll do well. So why all the freaking out? You’re thinking about the end result instead of just DOING the project. You’re way too far down the road. Slow down and think about what you’re doing now, not what it will come out like in the end.

This public service announcement brought to you today by Meggan, champion procrastinator, courtesy of her Psychology of Creativity class.

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August 28, 2005 1:55 pm

To Myspace or Not to Myspace

:note: Cake – “Satan Is My Motor”

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks, but for some reason I’ve only started it now. The following is my opinion of Myspace.com, the popular networking website.

On one hand, I think Myspace is fantastic. It’s a great way for people (like all my friends from high school) to keep in contact with one another even though we’re far away. Freya’s in Spain for chrissakes, and we talk more now than we have in a while, simply because Myspace makes it easy. You can send message, upload pictures, make comments, post blogs… Everything.

It lets people you haven’t seen in forever get in contact with you. I used to be friends with a guy named Chris when I was in high school – he hung out with Daniel’s brother and some of their friends. I always thought he was cool and I recall wanting to steal a bunch of his t-shirts. Anyway, he graduated when I was a sophomore, and the last time I saw him was for about five minutes sometime during my junior year. He recently sent me a message on Myspace and we caught up with what the other had been doing for the past four years or so.

On the other hand, Myspace profiles tend to be the degenerate form of the internet. All the things I thought we had overcome (7pt hot pink Comic Sans, marquees, embedded video codes, huge tiling background images that take days to load, text that can in no way be read over said background image, chat speak, crappy email forwards, sticky caps… etc) are all back with a vengeance.

Case in point:

OK THiS iS HOW iT GOES……THiS iS CALLED THE HOOK-UP GAME….iF YOU WANNA HOOK-UP WiT THE PERSON WHO POSTED THiS….THEN REPLY TO THEM iN A MESSAGE SAYiN…..”i WANNA HOOK-UP”……NOW REPOST THiS N SEE WHO WANTS TO HOOK-UP WiT U…..BUT IF DONT REPOST THiS N DECiDE TO BE A LiL PUSSY….THEN U WiLL NEVER FiND OUT WHO WANT TO HOOK-UP WiT U….SO HAVE FUN…..NOW REPOST THiS……N SUMTHiN GOOD WiLL COME OUT OF iT JUS TRUST!!!!!

Gah! :yuck: No offense to the person that posted that bulletin (they’re actually very nice), but JEEZUS. That’s completely unreadable, offensive, and ugly. Why perpetuate it?

The “personal website community” has finally overcome most of these disgusting trends (thank god) but notice how long it has taken us- five, six years? I hate to think that it’d take Myspace profiles that long to shape up. There are people “pimping out” their profiles and making them so “cool” that they’re virtually illegible. Can they read their own profile? Because I certainly can’t. Gah.

My advice to Myspace users:

  1. If you’re going to “customize” your profile, please ensure that it is, in fact, readable. Don’t use busy backgrounds. Make sure your type isn’t too small, and please please try not to use Comic Sans.
  2. Don’t embed videos. I’m typically listening to my own stuff, I don’t need yours interfering. Also, I’m on dial-up, so your videos look like crap to me anyway.
  3. Make sure your images aren’t gigantic. What’s the use in having a cool image if nobody can see it? If things take too long to download, I’m gone. I won’t wait for it, unless I’m expressly coming there to see that image and really really want to wait around for it.
  4. Avoid chat speak and sticky caps like the plague. Chat speak is talking like, “hey u, r u thr? y u not say n e thing?” and sTicKy CaPs TeNd To Be SeLf ExPlAnAtOrY. They make you look dumber than you really are. Is it seriously that hard to type “you” instead of “u?” It’s also very difficult to read, since we’re not used to the word “anything” looking like “n e thing.”
  5. Don’t use marquees. They’re the words that scroll back and forth on the page. They’re just obnoxious.
  6. Same for badly animated gifs. Obnoxious and irritating.

My hope is that this list can help someone redeem their Myspace profile. Because really, on a whole, the site is a pretty cool networking tool.

2 Comments >

April 26, 2005 6:59 pm

The Very Belated Tip of the Week

:note: The Scissor Sisters – “Better Luck”

I am so crap at doing these on time.

How to Properly Center Align

So you’ve got an element you want to center. It could be an image, it could be a div, a span, whatever. You want it centered. Do you use the antiquated <center> tag in HTML? NO! And I’ll tell you why.

It is because the <center> tag is being deprecated. What does that mean? I’ll tell you.

dep�re�cate (dep’ri-kat’):
To make invalid or obsolete by removing or flagging the item. When commands or statements in a language are planned for deletion in future releases of the compiler or rendering engine, they are said to be deprecated. Programmers should begin to remove them from the source code in subsequent revisions of their programs.

That is an awesome definition of deprecation, and it explains why you shouldn’t continue to use the <center> tag even though browsers still support it. Because eventually (and yes, this is probably ages away still) the <center> tag won’t work.

So how to do it properly? you might ask. It’s simple, and all it involves is a bit of CSS. I’ll start with the quick and dirty way first.

Inside the tag of the thing you’re trying to center, add a style attribute-value pair that sets the left and right margins of the element to auto. For instance, on a div:

<div style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;">

or on an image:

<img src="blah.gif" alt="blah" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />

You get the idea. The “better” way to do this is to set a class in your CSS file that looks something like this:

.centerthis
{
margin-left: auto;
margin-right: auto;
}

…and then anything you want to be centered, just add a class="centerthis" to the tag.

It’s terribly easy. Have fun centering things!

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April 18, 2005 9:56 pm

Tip of the Week: Writing XHTML

:note:

I totally forgot about my tip of the week until I read JessicaRabbit’s. So I will do mine a day late. I hope you can forgive me.

Writing XHTML

First, I will explain what HTML, XML, and then XHTML is. HTML is the code that programmers use to “mark-up,” or code webpages. It is meant to organize information, not control how it looks. Therefore, if you’re using <font> tags, just stop. Now. It’s for your own good. CSS can be used to accomplish all that and more.

XML was designed to describe data and to focus on what data is – it doesn’t do anything. It just holds information. In XML, you make-up and create your own tags. If you had an XML document that you wanted to hold addresses, you might have a <firstname> tag, followed by a <lastname> tag, and so on and so forth. <firstname> and <lastname> tags do not exist in HTML, you made them up. I might eventually post some XML files on my nutmegg site so you can see what they look like. They’re very boring.

XHTML is HTML defined as an XML application. It is meant to replace HTML and is basically a stricter and cleaner version of HTML.

Now that that’s out of the way (if you have questions, comment and I’ll try to help) I can begin letting you know how to write XHTML. There are a few main differences between it and regular HTML.

1. XHTML must be well-formed.
What this means is that you can’t put tags out of order. An XHTML document should start with the <html> tag, just like HTML does, and the <head> and </head> tags should come next, followed by the <body> and </body> (with your content in between, of course) and then the </html> tag. You can’t be putting the body before the head and things like that.

2. Elements must be properly nested.
This kind of goes along with the well-formed bit. Basically, if you have something like <b><i>This text is bold and italic</b></i> it’s wrong because the end tags are out of order. You opened the italic tag inside of the bold tag, so you should close it inside of the bold tag. Not very difficult.

3. All elements must be closed.
This sort of goes along with the previous two as well. Notice how these tags all have an open and a close tag? You MUST have both in order for it to be XHTML. What about things like image tags, or line breaks, that don’t HAVE an end tag? Simple. You “self-close” the tag, meaning that you put a space and a slash before the ending triangly bracket. Example: <br /> -or- <img src=”blah.gif” />

4. All tags must be in lowercase.
This one’s easy. It’s not hard to write code in lowercase. In fact, I personally think it’s harder to try to write it in all uppercase. Anyway, just for the sake of having an example, this: <BODY> is wrong, <body> is right.

Other than those four (relatively easy) things, XHTML is exactly like HTML.

To see if your code validates, you should first have a doctype definition, aka a DTD. All that is, is a bit of code in the beginning of your page that tells a browser what kind of language the page is written in, and what sort of rules to test it against to see if it validates. The W3C has a list of available DTDs for you to choose from. You should know what language you’re writing (this would be XHTML 1.0) and you choose the one based on your needs. If you use frames (eep!) you should use the one labeled XHTML Frameset. XHTML Strict is what it sounds like – the rules are more rigid and it will display things a bit differently than XHTML Transitional. I myself use transitional, because while I typically code well enough for it to validate as strict, I don’t like how the browsers display it. It’s up to you.

Once you have your DTD, run your page (still with a .html or .htm extension, no need to change it) through the W3C’s HTML Validator and it will tell you exactly what you need to fix.

XHTML is very easy. As according to w3schools.com, “XHTML pages can be read by all XML enabled devices AND while waiting for the rest of the world to upgrade to XML supported browsers, XHTML gives you the opportunity to write “well-formed” documents now, ones that work in all browsers and that are backward browser compatible!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weekly installment of Meggan’s Tip of the Week.

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April 10, 2005 10:14 pm

Meggan’s Tip Of The Week

:note: Queens of the Stone Age – “First It Giveth”

My tip of the week, I decided, will typically be something relating to websites, valid coding, standards, etc. (not terribly useful to everyone I know, but they say “go with what you know”) because that is what I know best, but I’m not going to hold myself strictly to that. :)

On to the tip.

Colored Scrollbars

A popular effect for many personal sites is to have colored scrollbars (which will hereafter be referred to as “cs”), and I totally know the motivation to do so – it makes your entire site seem more cohesive, it makes the scrollbars seem less intrusive if you use scrolling divs (or iframes, but we all know those are evil) and it just downright looks neat.

However, there are some things you should know about those colored scrollbars.

They don’t show up in ANYTHING but Internet Explorer.
While many people still use IE, Firefox is quickly catching up. I myself use Firefox, but people on Macintosh computers frequently use Safari instead of IE (if you’re not, you should. IE on a Mac totally blows – even worse than on a PC). Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Netscape Navigator do not show colored scrollbars.
They’re not valid coding.
Since the cs only show up in IE, the CSS tags used to accomplish this are called “proprietary tags,” meaning they only work for one particular, very specific browser. The purpose of valid coding is to let as many people as possible view your site regardless of browsers or resolutions, and if you’re using proprietary tags, you’re defeating the purpose.
There is a valid way to code them.
It has to do with JavaScript, which I’ll explain further in a bit.
It still doesn’t show up in anything but IE.
Further proof that IE needs to get its act together and start complying with standards.

In order to have cs, you must add this bit of JavaScript into the <head> of your document:

<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
<!––
function colorscrolls() {

if (document.all && document.getElementById) {
document.body.style.scrollbarFaceColor="COLOR";
document.body.style.scrollbarArrowColor="COLOR";
document.body.style.scrollbarHighlightColor="COLOR";
document.body.style.scrollbar3dlightColor="COLOR";
document.body.style.scrollbarDarkshadowColor="COLOR";
document.body.style.scrollbarTrackColor="COLOR";
document.body.style.scrollbarShadowColor="COLOR";
}

}
// ––>
</script>

Where COLOR is your six-digit hexadecimal color.

THEN, put this:

<body onload="colorscrolls();">

…in place of the plain <body> tag.

Now, you have the best of both worlds: your CSS will still validate because you don’t have any pesky proprietary tags, and your cs will be visible to anyone using a crap browser. Teeheehee.

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