9 Days of Green Extended to June 7th

Well I have missed a few days here in the 9 Days of Green so I am going to extend it through June 7th, because I have had a busy week of bike selling, bike repairing, GF B-Day, and today I had a long interview (yay). So I will still have the 9 Days of Green (meaning 9 blog posts - 2 down, 7 to go), but just spread it out over the next two weeks to get things done.

So post in the comments over at Grant's Corner Office Blog and/or here until June 7th and win some some swag.

The Management


9 Days of Green: Simplify

(Day 2 of the ReJAVAnate Bag contest, comment to enter. Don't forget to visit Grant at the Corner Office Blog as well and enjoy your weekend!)

"Simplify, Simplify, Simplify"

It was my mantra a year ago after we had moved into our new home. All of our belongings fit in a 10' deep x 10' tall x 20' wide storage room and yet when we brought everything to the new house we filled the entire house up. It was baffling but we had too much for there to be a spot for everything. So my GF and I did what we have always said that we would eventually do, "Simplify, Simplify, Simplify." Out went what we didn't need, out went what we had too many of, out went the clothes that didn't fit, out went the TV's we didn't need, out went a lot of things. Mind you that these were not trashed but garage sale'd and eventually donated to the thrift stores.

The point though was that we wanted to not have what we really didn't need. You know simplify. For years we collected items for 'that house we would get' and just stored those items away, only to realize that we had way more than what we ever needed.

So, what do we really need in life? When you think about it all we really need is food (and the stuff to prepare and eat it) and a roof over our head (and the stuff to support that). Maybe that is way oversimplifying the idea, but it is a good place to start.

I think it is common in Americana to dream about the stuff you always want when you are young: favorite car or truck, the perfect home theatre, the ultimate bed, the pottery barn living room, the perfect house, etc. Then when we finally find a job and begin earning real money, we try to buy all of those things, which is great for a while. Then you have a child or you just grow up a little and realize, "Hey, it's great that I finally made my 4X4 truck that I dreamed about, but I never drive it, and we really could use a family vehicle." There just isn't anything that is really that important.

My brother who spent years not making much finally completed is training and began making real money, bought a lot of stuff he thought he really wanted. Today, most of it sits unwatched, unused, and gathering dust. He constantly talks about that what he thought mattered just doesn't. He now lives a fairly bohemian life with his family and he truly believes that the only things that are actually important are his family and getting to travel.

After we made the choice to simplify, I can tell you that it is both uplifting and annoying at times. Uplifting because everything has a place, clutter is more easily eliminated, and costs go down because less is bought, maintained, and used. Annoying because you will constantly ask yourself if you really need something and while that is extremely helpful, it can get old. It is almost like religion, when you violate the lifestyle, that guilty pleasure can turn into just plain guilt.

All that being said, no one simplifies completely but utilizing it as a mantra will no doubt save you money and skip that regret that we all get from poor purchasing decisions. It helps too when it is time to make big home decisions like thinking that you need a bigger home when maybe you have too much stuff or when it is time to clear out the garage. It's a big step but I am telling you it can be a freeing feeling when you finally decide to simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pictures of the Prize

I wanted to add some pictures of what you are working for:

(Click on the pictures for high resolution)

I also wanted to add some more information about the Arc Organization whom sponsors the makers of this bag, from their website:

"The Arc is the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 780 state and local chapters across the nation. The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Local chapters of The Arc come in every shape, form and size – from small voluntary groups to large and sophisticated multi-million dollar organizations. To maintain a strong and cohesive movement, The Arc’s network of chapters share a common thread – our core values. We invite you to get to know The Arc by meeting a chapter near you (click here for our chapter locater)

The Arc’s vision is that every individual and family affected by intellectual disability in the United States has access to the information, advocacy, and skills they need to participate as active citizens of our democracy and active members of their community. We work to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families have the supports they need to live an ordinary, decent American life:

* People with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are valued, respected and included in all communities.
* People with intellectual and developmental disabilities direct their own lives. People choose their services and supports from many available sources.
* People are empowered through nonprofit advocacy. State and federal governments administer programs and set budgets that meet everyone’s needs.

The Arc is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors."


9 Days of Green: Reuse 2.0

(Day one of the ReJAVAnate Bag contest, first topic is a new old one of mine here at Dyslexic Research, Reuse. Comment to enter. Everyone but Grant and myself are eligible.)

While waiting in Manila for a flight to Dumaguete, I flipped through a current Dwell Magazine. This issue was about the popular topic of green building / sustainability and one article in particular sparked my thoughts about what is the most green thing one can do with building or buying anything. The article was about someone’s modern expansion and makeover of a home with new green, recycled, processed, and organic materials and its design process. It’s a very beautiful home but I can’t help think about all of the energy used to make these new recycled panels, parts, and materials, not to mention of the fuel needed to power the equipment used to build the house. Sure they utilized biodiesel fueled trucks, processed hay, denim insulation, special insulating windows, solar panels, and low-VOC paint but what if first they took a trip down to the local recycled materials store (KC Restore, etc) first for windows, doors, sinks, wood, flooring, and tubs.

Reusing what isn’t “new” is the best way to keep trash out of dumps and not use time, money, and energy to produce a product. This obsession with “new” is what is truly wrong with the American lifestyle. We all are obsessed with “new”, you suffer from it, and I suffer from it. If we all just stopped at the thrift store first for some clothes, not all, but some, it would reduce some of that time, money, and energy needed to produce new clothes. Just being satisfied with the furniture we have or with the current layout of our kitchen, should be considered just as green, if not more so than some LEED’s certified property built from the ground up. Okay truly if we have to build something new, then using and investing in these new recyclable or more sustainable materials is great and needed, but not reusing older, perfectly fine materials and goods is just reckless, snobby, and wasteful.

Go back just 100 to 200 years ago to America and farmers would use as much wood as they could from the old barn to build the new barn, the old bath tub in the old house would get transferred over the to the new house, the old sink was the new sink, and on and on. The products were typically more robust then, usually made to last a little better than our current throw away society.
Somewhere in Americana, we all started to want “new” and more “new”, and in order to afford the variety of more “new”, we needed cheaper and cheaper stuff. First came the old Sears and Roebucks and then came out Wal-Marts, providing us with all of the crap we wanted as cheap as it can get. At one time the little closets in the old houses Americans owned fit all of the clothes that a person held, all of them. Now we need so much stuff that huge closets and rooms are needed to pack all that crap in. More stuff, more crap, more space, and it all has to be “new”, that is the problem (somewhere I hope George Carlin is smiling). Enjoying what we have, or reusing someone else’s perfectly good stuff, is the best, most green solution. Magazines may never write about it, media may never promote it, but there really is just no better thing to help the green movement than to reuse.


ReJAVAnate Bag Contest!!!

With my massive Internet influence that span tens and tens of people, I have been able to finagle some free stuff for the viewers of not only this blog but those of The Corner Office Blog run by my old college bud Grant. So what is the prize? Two super nice ReJAVAnate grocery bags are up for grabs. Yup, I gracefully asked ReJAVAnate to donate a couple of bags for me to review and then offer up to the commenting public. I can't believe it either. (Quick note: Actual pictures of bags to come tomorrow)

From this Saturday the 23rd of May to Sunday the 31st of May I am going to run 9 Days of Dyslexic Research's Guide to Green. I missed Earth Day, sure but I plan on 9 days of topics that should help inform the everyday person of real, green ways to live your life, with no hype. Believe me these will not only be green ideas but also ways to save you money. With day 9 devoted to my final informed review on the ReJAVAnate bags. The Corner Office Blog will do whatever Grant wants to do.

So to enter the contest simply comment here at Dyslexic Research or over at The Corner Office Blog between May 23 to 31. You get one entry per blog post per day either here or there. So a commenter that commented 8 times on my post one day would get only one entry, but if that commenter posted 8 comments on eight different posts he/she would get 8 entries. Or if they posted a comment on each of our blogs on the same day they would receive 2 entries that day. It will probably take a couple of days after the 31st, but I will put all of the comment entries together and pick a winner the following week.

So how nice are the bags? Well ReJAVAnate sent me two of there Large Grower Bags that are lined with recycled canvas for extra sturdiness, an $18 value. I should add that these bags were sent to me in an old phone box to 'shamelessly' reuse packaging (hey that's their own words). These bags are roughly 15" wide by 15" tall and look to hold at least two gallons of milk per bag with room to spare for a lot more tasty groceries. If books were your thing, between the two of them I think you could clear a shelf of paperbacks. Stitching looks to be top notch, especially when you compare this to one of those $.99 bags from the store. Unlike those flimsy bags made in China of polypropylene, these bags are made to last. So far they incorporate everything green thing that I believe in: quality product, long-lasting looks, reused materials, and a good cause. Not bad.

Also cool is the grower's logo on the burlap of each bag. So cool in fact that guys can carry these things around and not feel like a tool with some flowered or pastel thing slung over your shoulder. No, these bags look like souvenirs from your trip to Columbia after helping farmers carry coffee beans over the mountain cliffs avoiding various jungle guerrillas or whatever. In reality your helping both workers with disabilities have real work with real value and recycle burlap and canvas keeping these materials out of landfills. Still pretty cool.

So tune in here or over at Grant's blog and comment and enter to win!

More Info on ReJAVAnate (from their website):

"ReJAVAnate - making a difference one bag at a time! This is a great story.
These bags address three important issues:
1). They reduce a significant
source of landfill waste - burlap from coffee
2). They provide jobs to those
that often have difficulty finding jobs - The

3). They provide a good way to reduce our paper and plastic bag

The ReJAVAnate story is one of the most compelling sustainability stories
you will find - our material, who makes the bags, where they are made and that
the bags are completely biodegradable. Much better than the usual reusable bags
made from nonwoven polypropylene in China!

Did you know:
- Coffee is the second largest commodity in the world
- 800,000 tons of burlap are put into landfills every year
- The ARC
helps 140,000 people find housing and employment
- US consumes over 380
billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps
- 14 million trees were cut to produce
10 billion paper bags for grocery stores in the US"


This Week: Making Something Out of Nothing

This week I learned a lot about type of people here in Kansas City, and I have nothing but good thoughts for this town.

This week my time was spent fixing bicycles, truing wheels, and cleaning parts. There was big, free bike swap meet in KC today and I worked my butt off this week getting ready. It was quite the ordeal, but I am committed to making my life more simple and if I can get this stuff all sold, I will be that much closer. I guess I need to share, if you hadn't guessed already that a great love in my life is riding bikes. When I was in high school on through college, I think I had 2 mountain bikes, a road bike, 3 BMX bikes, a unicycle, and 5-6 huge Rubbermaid bins of bike parts. Well in the past 5 years I have sold all of that stuff down and am down to 2 bins of parts and 3 bikes, 2 of which I am trying to sell right now. So this week was pushing to get more and more of that sold off, and so far, so good.

This week I was amazed by how powerful Craigslist has become. I predict Ebay is going to fall out, if you have your money in there stock, pull it out ASAP. After preparing all of this bike stuff for Saturday's swap meet, Thursday night I posted my four ads on Craigslist late that night and by 6AM the next morning, I had an inbox full of potential customers. Craigslist is the new king for me. Another story to share about Craigslist is that you can post your resume there anonymously, which I did weeks ago, and (other than the random weird emails) someone shot me a lead for a job here in KC that isn't posted anywhere. No idea why or who, or if it will check out, but it was a solid lead. He said he was just helping out a fellow machinist, kind of cool.

This week I felt the great sense of community at the swap meet. I have never been around a bike group at large that wasn't snobby, uptight, and think that they are faster than you. Traditionally bicycling is a deeply personal sport. How many miles I did, what my bike is, how fast I am, etc. Lots of non-team sport kids that grew up. However, I am amazed to say I saw just the opposite. Lots of friendly people, that just love to ride, like to shop talk, and work on bikes. Bicycle community is definitely the best way to describe it, I really felt like I met 20 new friends this weekend. This has to be what it feels like to be a Star Trek fan for a long time and then to finally go to a Trek convention.

This week I have decided to start a small no cost business. Can you guess it? Bike repair out of my home, it will be kind of a litmus test to see if it is an avenue I would like to pursue for a real business. This swap meet probably put together a small list of clients for me to start with and I can see how it goes. If it feels right and like something I can actually make money with, I might step forward with something more bold. Either way it will feel like I am progressing again, it will be fun to make something out of nothing.

Yup this week was pretty fun. And next week, Dyslexic Research will have a contest!!! Details coming soon...

Where in the World is MJ?

If any of you frequent readers of Dyslexic Research have been wondering what MJ has been doing with all of his time off lately, here's a video of him describing his recent freedom from work in front of an audience of his closest friends. (No, that's not David Spade)


The Quick Guide to Unemployment

Having helped a couple of neighbors now with the unemployment process, I thought I would put together a quick reference for those getting ready to start filing for unemployment. All three of us have had the unfortunate luck of living in Kansas and working in Missouri. Most of you don't know that Kansas has a straight forward well laid out unemployment system, that also has a higher payout limit than Missouri per week, so when you realize you are dealing with Missouri a big "son-of-a" will enter your mind. It is not the greatest realization. Enough about our story, so without further delay:
  • The state you work in, is the state you file in. No, it is not the state that you live in that pays unemployment, it is where you work. Your old HR department can get this wrong as my two neighbors' were told that they would be filing in Kansas.
  • To receive unemployment, you must qualify. The biggest qualification is either being fired or laid off. Each state may have a minimum amount of days worked and some other qualifications.
  • This brings up a point, if you are worried about your job in this economic environment, don't quit, unless you have another job lined up. Also try not to worry either about your job security to the point of stressing yourself out, if you get laid off you may have over 6 months of unemployment you can gather before finding the next job.
  • Fill out forms when you receive them and return them. Yes, most unemployment departments now have most, if not all, of your forms online, but there are a lot of forms, especially in the beginning, that may come through the mail. Fill these out promptly and return them back to the state. Failure to do so, can default your money for the week. This is probably the most important step!
  • Do everything that the state tells you to do, otherwise you will not receive the payout. Missouri asks that you show up every 4 weeks to an unemployment center. I show up, log in on a computer there and go home, it is a seemingly asinine process, but failure to do so defaults the payout until you do it. I understand the point, because those centers have a lot of useful options that can assist you in looking for a new job. Those centers often have real jobs lined up, mock interviews, resume writing help, and more so it can be a useful place if you need it.
  • File every single week, you have to. If you miss a week, it isn't too big of a deal, most let you file for weeks you miss, but know that you will not get paid unless you file. Most will not payout the week you file, but the week after. So if you miss a week, you will receive that payout a week after you do file for it. Obviously you may receive two weeks of payout that following week to make up.
  • Understand your state's rules on severance packages. Kansas wants you to include your severance information on the weekly claim and the state will not payout for that severance week, so you may want to file for unemployment in a state like this near the end of your severance period. Missouri doesn't care about severance, they consider that like bonus money from your past employer, so you could apply if you needed for unemployment right away. In state's like this, I would say it is up to you. I still think that you should begin filing near the end of your severance to maximize the time that you can be unemployed, you may need it, but if you need more money up front to pay off some bills you have the option.
  • How to mark the forms for taking classes or training step by step. Say you want to take a class or two while you are unemployed, please follow these steps so you are not denied payment. Step one always mark the box for did I train or take classes this week. Typically the state will send you an additional form for the first week you do this to know more. Fill the form out honestly with what classes your taking, where, when, etc. Typically these forms will have a spot asking if it affects your ability to work during a normal time period, which it is fine to say yes, but it is brutally important that you mark the next box correctly. If the form asks that you can readjust your class schedule if a job is found, ALWAYS mark this yes. If there isn't a box for this write on the form's note area or attach a sheet saying this. This is the truth, you can quit the class if you need to. Make sure that this form is immediately returned to the state and you should be okay.
  • Start the list of contacted potential employers from the beginning. My neighbor did this, I did not. It took me most of a day one day to put the list together. Forms for making that list can come from the state but you can easily make one yourself. It just needs to have the job, person and company you contacted, their email and/or phone number, and date.
  • Most states have a website with lots of information and a phone number to call. Help is there you just have to look for it.

That's all I have for now. I may edit this some more as I think of other things that I forgot and add something others may comment on.


Friday I Rode My Bike

Friday I rode my bike and rode it and rode and rode for 25 miles. It is the longest I have ridden a bicycle in 8 years and all I can say is that it sure felt like more than that.

It took me three hours on a mountain bike and it led to a lot of internal thinking. This time I thought a lot about how nothing great is acheived unless something great is attempted. I don't ride to earn miles, usually I just pick a destination in the city and just go for it. Well for Friday I picked a park quite a ways away just to see if I could do it. I tried not to think too much about it and just told myself to start out.

Now this isn't a great story or anything and I am certainly not a great cyclist either, but I like to push myself and without work this is the way I know to do this. So that long ride continues to keep me thinking of ways I should push myself. Should I start a business for myself? While I am young, but not too young (30), I definately have had my share of lousy bosses and if not them then it is my boss' boss that I dislike. I really like the thought of getting real money back for something I put time into. There are lots of appealing reasons to open a small business, but is this the economy to take a chance? I know I have the will power to figure this stuff out, but I always wanted to start something at a much more stable point in life. Why should I wait? What is a stable point? These are all good questions, maybe I will get them worked out on the next ride.


What is the best grown-up fun?

It was a friend of mine's 31st birthday on Saturday and his phone kept ringing off the hook. The rest of us started discussing while he was on the phone, what would be the greatest thing that you could be telling someone your doing on your birthday that would actually make them jealous. Some that we came up with:
  1. Blow up bouncy gym with a fully iced keg in the middle?

  2. Rented Monster Truck at the local salvage yard? Wait for it, with dual USA flags in the truck bed.

  3. Baby Alligator filled kiddie pool with $10K in $100 bills?

  4. An old school bus, 500 pumpkins, an open field, and a trebuchet?

  5. Go-Carts on a hockey rink?

  6. Free trips in the General Lee provided by one of the Duke boys? No you don't get to drive, but you do get to shoot the explosive arrows.

  7. Build anything with the members of the A-Team? Cigars included.

  8. Chase down jets in Air Wolf?

Not sure how the last three came up. What would you love to say your doing to someone on the phone for your birthday?


Saving at the Grocery Store

So being that I am on continued "financial lockdown", I thought I would share one place that my GF and I have been particularly good at keeping costs low: the grocery store. We were $120+ spenders at the grocery store every two weeks and we are now averaging constantly in the $70-$85 range. Doesn't seem like too much until I did a little analysis. Also, disclaimer for those in expensive cost of living cities, these are Midwest prices.

First, there are three adult mouths to feed at my house. My GF, her brother, and myself. When we were paying $120 per trip, you have to remember that I was a frequent out to eater (4-6 times a week), the GF was only 1-2 times a week, and her brother 3-4 times a week. So there is a whole set of costs that are now reduced from me eating out once a week max and everyone else continuing their same habits. That being said, with me eating at home more, more food should be consumed and thus more groceries needed, right? Well, yes more food is consumed but it is important to know what I am eating. Basically very little is getting spoiled and not eaten now that I am around. All that being said, the savings is coming from being a better picky shopper.

Enough explanation of my personal situation and let's move on to some tips:
  • Pay attention to what is on sale: This is the number one rule! Look at your store's flier (usually right there when you come in), look online, and plain just look at the tags on the aisle. Coupons that come in your mail obviously can be handy too. Adjust your eating habits to what is on sale for that week. Last week, strawberries were $.99 a pack so we ate a lot of strawberries. The trip before that whole pineapples were a $1.50 so two week of carved pineapple was served at our house. Hy-Vee in Kansas City has been having amazing deals every week in their fliers and then we get coupons from the mail from them that have been ridiculously good, I am going there today to use my 5lbs of potatoes for $.58 coupon and my $.59 loaf of Hy-Vee bread coupon. It's been great, we can get a lot of food for very little, and by giving in to what is on sale we get variety every trip to the store. It prevents that same 'ol' food feeling you can get from eating at home rather than going out. Some stores are transitioning from newspapers to the internet and even email fliers, so sign up.

  • Know what generic products really save you money: Key generic food that can save you lots of dough is cereal and bread for sure. At my store, Hy-Vee, makes great bread of all types and usually something is on sale for cheap every week. Sometimes it is plain old white bread for same price as a candy bar, and other times it can be some butter top wheat or cottage wheat for a buck. Generic cereal (I mean store brand not Malt-o-Meal) can be tricky at times, as some can end up tasting like saw dust, but for the most part generic cereal still tastes pretty good. You have to try some to really see what works, but for me generic apple cinnamon tasty-o's, cinnamon toast squares, and golden honey crisps are pretty delicious. Generic bread and cereal are particularly cheap compared to the full price brand names, often times half the price. Some other generic products may not really save you a lot of money ($.10-$.20 off) and really just name brand stuff on sale is just as cheap so just take note. Other good high-savings cheap generics are ketchup, mustard, chips, oatmeal, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and crackers.

  • Watch the meat prices (Vegans skip ahead): For the meat eaters out there, don't just buy what you like. I get at least a pound of deli meat every trip for sandwiches, and every time I want to buy roast beef, but if it isn't on sale then I won't get it. Look at the sale deli meat, it is again like half the price of the rest of the stuff. Most delis will let you try a slice if you are worried about the taste and buying only what's on sale forces the variety in your diet. As for other meats, I am a snob when it comes what I call the grilling meats, like hamburger meat, steaks, pork chops, chicken quarters, etc. I look for light meats, and yes they are on sale just as much as the fatty stuff, you just have to look. Again be open to what is on sale (notice a trend) and also look at the pre-wrapped stuff away from the butcher's counter, a lot of times there is the same stuff cut the day before for a lot cheaper (30-40%). Don't forget to check the bologna, brats, and hot dog aisles, usually one is on sale for cheap.

  • Pop is expensive: The real deals on pop are $1.20 and less on two liters, and $11 and less for 3 12-packs. You can figure out the math on your own to adjust for price. When these deals come around load up if pop is important to you, otherwise try to avoid it.

  • You don't have to buy all 4 pizzas to get the 4 for $10 deal: Pop, pizza, chips, cookies, condiments, ice cream, among others tend to have deals that are 2 to 5 for some good price. Most grocery stores will still give you that value price even if you only get one item of the deal, so only buy what you need.

  • Buy food not condiments: Okay sometimes you need condiments, but seven types of salad dressing is overkill. Limit your variety of condiments at home so you use things up and open up on your variety of food. For me I like all sorts of barbecue sauce, but if I haven't used one up at home, then I won't try a new one. Food fills you up, not sauce.

  • Conversely stir fry sauces are like gold: Stir fry is delicious and easy to make. Buy a wok, preferable stainless, cook your meat first (any meat), add your vegetables, mix, cook, and then lastly add the stir fry sauce until your stir fry is sufficiently flavored. It doesn't take much sauce at all for everything to taste great. Prepare some noodles or rice on the side (also cheap) and you will be amazed how close this tastes to your favorite Chinese food place. A lot of times I just cook the vegetables and not add any meat. Super healthy and super good. Yes the sauce can be a little pricey at times, but it takes very little to fully flavor what you eat.

  • Quantity and Quality is key: Make sure to look at the weight or amount of stuff that is in the box/bag when comparing prices. For instance chip amounts in bags vary wildly, so be aware of when a bag is cheap but gives you nothing and when a bag is cheap and can feed a football party. When I refer to quality, I am talking calories. For example Miracle Whip is typically cheaper in price and contains something like 30-40% less calories than mayo. Butter vs margarine vs margarine spread also varies wildly in calories, price, and amounts. (Note: don't mess around, if you are making cookies at home, use butter)

That's it, if you have some more good tips please share it in the comments as I am sure I will do a version 2.0 of this article as I figure out more.


On Wednesday...

I rode a bike and walked more miles than I drove. If this rain will stop in KC I will keep trying to do so.


Bike: 12 miles
Walk: 3 miles
Car: 10 miles

I thought that was kind of cool for the day. As Kermit the frog puts it, "It's not easy being green."