Category Archives: Awesome Tips

The Soda Debate

Perhaps I should re-name this the “Quitting Soda Blog”.  My post about how I quit my insane Diet Coke addiction continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog and is still generating comments.

One of which comes from Everyday Health, who suggested I share their infographic on sugary sodas.  And even though we could argue about whether or not this really qualifies as an “infographic”–note the quotes, y’all!–it’s pretty and the site itself looks like a great resource for all things health.  So, without further adieu…

sugary soda infographic

Courtesy of Everyday Health

How to Quit Drinking Soda

Diet Coke racks

CC/BY-NC Flickr user naillkennedy

If you’ve stuck with me throughout my extended absence, you may remember this little infographic I shared about how terrible soda is for your body. What I neglected to mention at the time was that I was a total diet-cokaholic. I’m talking AT LEAST a 2 liter a day… usually in the form of a fountain drink (it tastes better that way, I swear).

Now, my commitment to quitting diet coke did not just spring up at the sight of an infographic… although it was pretty convincing. I’d been thinking about it, attempting it, and failing at it for years. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It! that I really got serious about banning this stuff from my body.

So on January 1, 2012–in true new years fashion–I put down the diet coke. And I haven’t had one since. That’s 116 days if you’re counting! Other than quitting smoking, puttin down the DC was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. So I’m super proud of myself and can say with 110% confidence that I will NEVER go back to chuggin that stuff again.

So, dear friend, if you’re contemplating following my lead and putting down the bubbly, here are a few things that will help:

Gather Inspiration

While there is no shortage of “diet coke will kill you” articles on the web, not every one of them is gonna spur you to action. You’ve gotta take some time to learn about why this is a positive step for your health. In the process, you’ll likely find an article, story, or two that really resonate with you and your decisions to quit. Hold on to them… you’ll want them handy for when you need a motivational boost.

Set a Quit Date

I’m the kind of person who likes to start things on a Monday, or the beginning of the month, or well, on new years–it’s the virgo in me. But pick any day you like as long as it’s not a hectic one… you may be a little sluggish due to the lack of caffeine. Which reminds me…

Prepare for Caffeine Withdrawals

If you drink tea or coffee regularly, this won’t really apply. But if you’re like me and consume the vast majority of your caffeine through soda, you’re gonna have to prepare yourself for caffeine withdrawals. Headaches, fatigue, and irritability are common, but they only last a few days. You can supplement with some iced tea twice a day, which is what I did. But be careful not to replace one crutch with another.

Find a New Beverage

Without a doubt, water is the best beverage choice you can make. It keeps you hydrated without any yucky chemicals, calories, or caffeine, and does wonders for your skin. But sometimes ya just need a little TASTE. Iced tea (unsweetened or with a natural sweetener like stevia or agave) is still my go-to tasty beverage. But I also experimented with flavored waters and unique tea concoctions, which are great because you can design a recipe to suit your personal tastes. And whenever I hit a convenience store, I grab a Vitamin Water Zero, which is sweetened with stevia. So, try a few different things until you find something that you like.

Be Patient

Sure, the first few days are gonna suck. And you’ll be thinking about a tall, cold glass of bubbly for at least the first two weeks. But I promise you… after about a month you will adjust to your new soda-free lifestyle. And if you dare to relapse, that soda you once loved will taste like ASS. Because your body has fought off that evil trick your brain plays on you to keep you drinking, you can taste all of the chemical crap it’s really made of.

Taking the plunge?  Let me know in the comments!

xo Em

 

Creating an ePortfolio for your Job Search

In honor of the beta release of my portfolio site–embowman.net–and crossing off lucky #17 from my 101 in 1001 list, I’ve decided to share a post I wrote for the SI Career blog last year about building an e-portfolio.  Even if you’re not in a tech field, I highly recommend having one.  At the very lest, it makes you look like a BOSS cuz you can make a website.  Woohoo!  Have other tips for job seekers?  Share ‘em in the comments!

 

Although artists, designers, and architects are the traditional users of portfolios, just about any professional can (and should) have a portfolio. In our current age, this means developing an electronic portfolio; a website or page that showcases the skills and abilities you have gleaned from your past work. These sites are appropriate for all professionals, but are almost required for job seekers in technology fields.

Building Your ePortfolio

While there are plenty of options for the less tech-savvy–Carbonmade, Krop, Portfolios.com, and Coroflot are a few–those with some technical ability would be well-served to show off your prowess by building your own. Especially if web development is a marketable skill for your field, go the old-school route and built it from the bottom up. Using a content management system such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla! might be a great option, too.

What to Include in Your ePortfolio

Before working on the content or the design of your ePortfolio, spend some time researching your ideal job descriptions at your ideal employers. What kind of skills are they seeking in a new hire? What responsibilities are emphasized? Having an idea of what is most important to your ideal employer will help you in crafting the most appropriate site.

When planning for what to include in your ePortfolio, you must decide how you want to organize it. Will you organize your content by projects? Skill sets? Will you organize things chronologically? Put a little effort into the content mapping on the front end; it will make building your site much easier. Keep in mind, how you organize your site may be influenced greatly by your industry or desired career path.

Some of the most common and appropriate content for professional portfolios fall inot the following categories: an introduction, contact, or “about me”, professional/educational projects or accomplishments, skills, work experience, extracurricular projects or accomplishments, relevant hobbies or personal interests, and a complete resume. Here are some of the things you may want to include in those sections:

Professional/Educational Projects or Accomplishments

  • Courses completed
  • Scholarships
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty members or peers
  • Course papers, projects, and presentations
  • Conference presentations

Skills

  • Software you are proficient with
  • Professional methods you know and can apply
  • Languages you speak or understand

Work Experience

  • Samples of your work, positive evaluations, or accomplishments
  • Recommendations from supervisors or project group members

Extracurricular Projects or Accomplishments

  • Flyers, programs, awards, letters of appreciation, certificates

Relevant Hobbies or Personal Interests

  • Awards, certificates, photos
  • Travels
  • Blog and/or work website

Be sure to include an introductory personal statement to demonstrate who you are, your values and philosophy, and a summary of the contents of your site on your home page. For each section or page, write a brief summary of the contents and their relevancy to your role as a professional. Visual elements are also strongly encouraged. As you amass experience, take the time to gather photos, screenshots, and PDF’s of your work (in process as well as finished products) to add to your site.

Once you have a site built, take extra care in checking your work. You may want to enlist help from classmates, friends, or colleagues.  Just as with a resume, any misspellings or grammar errors may immediately disqualify you as a candidate. So, spend the time to make sure your ePortfolio is just right. Other things to review: functioning links, consistent labeling, and smart and usable site navigation.

Sharing Your ePortfolio

Once it’s finished, your ePortfolio URL should be on your resume, included in your cover letter, on your business cards, and in your email signature. You may even consider an increasingly popular way to share online links in the material world: a QR code. QR codes allow for users to connect with your site directly by snapping a picture of it with their mobile phones. They can be printed on the back of your business card, added to your resume, or printed on a wide variety of promotional materials. Of course, if you choose to include a QR code, make sure you also include the full URL as well. And be sure your site renders well in a mobile browser!

Ten Tips for a Great ePortfolio

1. Limit your samples; do not include everything you have ever created – only what’s most relevant.  If you do have many examples, place your best designs toward the front/top of the ePortfolio.
2. To make it easy for people to find you, be sure to include full contact information somewhere on your site in a searchable text format.
3. When developing your ePortfolio, be aware of download times – try everything out on several browsers.
4. Include a logo and a tagline – every major company has both, so why shouldn’t you?
5. Have an ePortfolio-only website – don’t mix your freelance site with your job-searching site.
6. Be sure that your code is simple, clean, semantically tagged, and accessible.
7. For tech-oriented students, use more than HTML/CSS to develop your site.
8. Include your ePortfolio as part of your LinkedIn Profile – or create one using the Creative Portfolio Display tool.
9. If you have the know how to increase the search engine optimization of your site, do so!
10. Demonstrate your web presence: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Blogs, and other social networking tools/sites.

Other Online Resources and Tips

Looking for more tips and tricks for building an effective ePortfolio? Check out the following resources:
Build A Killer Online Portfolio
5 Tips for a Better Online Portfolio
Creating The Perfect Portfolio
10 Steps to the Perfect Portfolio Website

xo Em

How to Protect Your Digital Photos from Ruin

Do you have a back-up plan?
CC BY-NC-ND Flcikr user Images by John ‘K’

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my coursework at SI, it’s that LOTS OF COPIES KEEP STUFF SAFE.  This is also the tagline of LOCKSS, a Standford University digital preservation project, but nevertheless.  It’s true.  Let me tell you a little story about how I almost lost 10 years of photographic memories…

Five years ago I realized that the digital photos that I was amassing were filling up the 128Mb hard drive of my old HP desktop at an alarming rate.  Since upgrading that beast was outside of my budget at the time, I purchased an external hard drive on super blowout from Best Buy.  Problem solved!  I’d been using that hard drive for my primary storage of photos and videos ever since.  Fast-forward 5 years later and I’ve got close to 200Gb on that sucker.

After getting a new laptop and moving a couple of times, that old external spent a good year or so locked up in a box until the day that I needed to dump the photos from my phone and my laptop on it.  Never backed up.  Not even once.  So, I dig it out, plug it in, and–as you can imagine–nothing.  It powered on, but my computer wouldn’t recognize it.  It made weird sounds.  It blinked and buzzed.  I tried a new cord.  Nothing.  Scoured the internet for troubleshooting tips.  Still NOTHING.  At this point I was hyperventilating.  Photos and videos of nearly every memorable event of the past 10 years gone for good.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

So I think, “Okay, there’s got to be a data recovery service I can use.”  Newsflash!  Data recovery services are HELLA EXPENSIVE.  Best Buy, the least expensive service I could find, charges $200 just to see if it’s possible to recover your data.  If they can, you’re lookin at a grand, baby.  This, I could not afford.  Long story short… after wallowing in depression for a few weeks, I decide to try one more time on my Mac.  After giving it a couple of swift kicks to the groin (figuratively speaking), it worked!  HALLELUIAH!

My point here is this: BE YE NOT SO STUPID!  You best be makin lots of copies of your stuff or you might find yourself in a similar situation.

Here are a few tips for preserving your photographic memories for a lifetime:

  1. Know what digital photos you have.  You may not want to go as far a complete inventory, but keeping a list of what you have–and where–is helpful in making sure you keep them all preserved over time.  Honestly, I find it easiest to keep them all together in one directory.
  2. Organize your files.  Use whatever method makes the most sense to you.  I’m a fan of organizing by date, but you can also categorize your photos according to their content.  An easy way to do this is by using a photo management software like Picasa or iPhoto.
  3. Make copies and store them off-site.  Whether on an external drive, CD/DVD, or in print, you should always maintain at least 2 copies of the photos you want to preserve.  One of those copies should be kept elsewhere… a friend’s house, a safety deposit box, a storage unit (climate controlled, please!).
  4. Back-up your files!  Perhaps the most important (and easiest) thing you can do to preserve your photos is to utilize an automatic back-up service for your machine.  There are plenty to choose from… I use the CrashPlan Unlimited Family Plan so that all of our computers are backed-up online to the same account automatically, no matter how big our directories get. They can also back-up external drives!  At $119 a year, it’s worth every penny.
  5. Still have analog photos?  Digitize!  I fancied myself a photographer way back in the pre-digital camera days and I’ve got TONS of prints that I want to preserve.  I’ve started sending small batches of photographs to scanning service PeggyBank to digitize and back-up.  If you have a lot of prints, it may be a little costly to do this all at once–which is why I do a little here and there.  You could, of course, do this yourself with a quality scanner.  I highly recommend PeggyBank, though.  They sent me a hand-written thank you note for my order!  How awesome is that?
  6. Protect your files from data loss.  Did you know that digital files corrupt over time?  It’s called bit rot.  To protect your files, check them every year to make sure that they can still be read.  And every five years, make new copies.

It may seem like a lot to do, but just think of how awesome it will be opening up your photos from college when you’re on your death-bed!

xo Em