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Frugal Photos

Ok, so for those unfamiliar with it, istockphoto.com is a site where one can buy clip art, photographs and whatnot for use in your projects. Along with stock.xchng, which I use for free images, it is one of the first places I go whenever I have some particular need for an image. I can’t say enough good things about itockphoto – I love the quality of their product, I find their prices reasonable, I’m an absolute fanboy.

So, the latest issue of Before & After Magazine made mention of a feature I was unaware of. They have a search function that lets you search photos by the places available to put text, search by copyspace. This excited me, but it took me a while to find where the heck to do it (click advanced search, it’s in the lower right). This is a fantastic feature, but while I was looking I found something in the sidebar that I had never noticed before. A magical link, full of promise and wonder, and it said:

Dollar Bin

Ok, so I admit I am from frugal New England stock. I am unable to resist looking through discount tables or bins hoping to find overlooked treasures. I have had occasional successes and frequent failures, but hope springs eternal. When I saw that link it called me with a song I could not resist.

I’ll pretty much cut to the chase. I bought ten bucks worth of images that caught my eye and which look like something I might someday get some use out of. This is not practical, but man is it fun. There were something like 2500 images in the dollar bin. Some of them, sure, were there for a reason (in at least a few cases because they’ve been used in enough places to join the ranks of recognizable clip art), but the vast majority were high quality and awesome.

Anyway, I know there aren’t a lot of folks who make regular use of resource like this, but I also now a few who do might be reading, so let me just suggest that the dollar bin (though it’s more like a dollar thirty bin, the way credits are priced, but whatever) is a great way to dip your toe in the clip art waters without getting too wet.

As an extra special bonus, I share a new font term I heard yesterday: keming. It means badly applied kerning, and it absolutely gave me a laugh.

Coffee Mix and Match

I’m a giant coffee drinker. Enough to know that Starbucks roasts are all two shades darker than they are anywhere else, which makes the beans more consistent in their quality, but also puts them in a certain spectrum of flavor. But not enough to let that keep me from drinking at Starbucks when I need a cup. Cream and splenda cover a multitude of sins.
I had been using a Cuisinart Grind & Brew for most of my coffee-making for quite some time. Now, the grind & brew is an impressive machine. In theory, you just drop in the beans, fill the reservoir, hit a button and it will grind the beans a brew the coffee right into a very nice thermal carafe that will keep your coffee hot all day. In practice, the thermal crafe part is really, really good, but the rest of it is terrible. See, there’s this core engineering problem – the grinder and bean hopper are above the carafe, so when you make coffee, steam flows up through them. This turns any coffee dust from the blade grinder (yes, it’s a blade, for those that it matters to) into a sort of brown paste which needs to be cleaned immediately or it will set and make your life miserable. SInce cleaning requires disassembling the whole thing, it more or less counterbalances all of the convenience of the all in one device, with annoyance to spare.

So, as a brief aside, these look great, they seem like fantastic gifts for people who like coffee, and I know a lot of people have made gifts of them with all good intentions. Before that happens to you, please, heed my warning and get them something else.
Anyway, the annoyances with that machine left me looking for another, but I was hooked on convenience. Coffee that I could prepare with the limited facilities that the morning grants me was now a necessity. Swayed by the advertisements and that guy from Queer Eye, I picked up a Senseo. The Senseo is a “pod” coffee maker. This means it’s got a reservoir or water and a place to put the pod – a paper wrapped packet of coffee that looks like a large round tea bag – which seals so the coffee is made under slightly high pressure (like espresso, only not so much) and is quickly produced into a small cup. It was pretty bad. I tried to convince myself that the coffee really wasn’t that bad. I mostly failed, but I did make the interesting discovery that the supermarket brand pods were almost tolerable, while the name brand pods were just paralytically bad.

keurig.jpgI was up visiting my parents for Thanksgiving and was exposed to their Keurig coffee maker. The idea was similar to the Senseo, except the pods were small sealed plastic cups, and the coffee was actually good. In fact, it was Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a brand I’ve enjoyed since they were a little shop in Winooski, and whose meteoric rise to success continues to amaze and amuse me. I’d seen machines like this before, only much more extensive, at car dealerships. I ended up ooh-ing and ah-ing over it that they ended getting me one that Christmas. I’ve been using it ever since. The coffee’s not quite as good as it would be if I took the time to hand brew or press a pot, but it’s finished in under a minute, and it’s close enough to keep me content.

It does have one weakness – it’s not cheap. At the cost of the pods, I’m paying about 50 cents per cup, which is vastly cheaper than buying it, but much more expensive than brewing it. I’m ok with this, but I realize not everyone prioritizes coffee the way I do. If you want to make a better cup, for less money, I’s suggest doing it the Alton Brown way.

contigo.jpgSo, I’ve been using the Keurig for quite some time, but the final piece of the puzzle fell into place last week. I was stopped at a Caribou Coffee, and I lingered over the assorted cups and services they had, and the Contigo Extreme brand cups caught my eye. They seemed like the right size for me, but they were $20 a pop, so I let them pass. But that weekend, Costco had a pair of them for $20, and that was worth giving them a try.

I was blown away. These cups manage to keep my coffee hot for an insanely long time, and you can never tell by touching it. It can be cold to the touch, and still crazily hot inside. Even more importantly, it fits _exactly_ into the Keurig, and holds precisely two large servings, with just enough room for cream. And it seals well enough that I could flip a full cup over to read the bottom without concern.

This has transformed my merely excellent coffee system into something that is making my every day better, and anyone in the same boat might want to take a look at these.

Moleskine makes some fantastic, lovely planners, but I always have a problem actually using them. As it stands, it’s one more notebook for me to carry around, and I’m near critical mass most of the time as it. Since the planner doesn’t allow me the flexibility of notetaking, it gets bumped in favor of whatever notebook I have on hand, and sometime around March I just give up on the whole idea.

This year I decided to change that, and taking inspiration from Start Here, I threw together a simple hack to attach a moleskine cahier (one of their softcover notebooks that come in packs of three) to my moleskine planner. While I specifically made this for the weekly notebook, this works just as well with any other Moleskine, including regular notebooks, or even other cahiers, if you’re feeling adventurous. Additionally, this idea is simple enough that it can probably be ported over to other notebooks and planners whose binding allows it, but I leave that as an exercise to the reader.

With all that said, and an apology for my novice photography, let’s make a planner.

Step 1. Supplies


Pretty simple – 2 notebooks (a cahier and a planner here), some scissors, heavy cardstock and tape. If you don’t have cardstock, you can get by with paper, but I wouldn’t trust it. Instead, I’d suggest a manilla folder, or possibly a tough magazine cover.

Step 2: Cut a Strip


Cut the paper not-quite-in-half lengthwise. Ideally, you’re looking for a strip that’s 11 inches long (or some appropriate metric unit for those elsewhere) and just under 3.5 inches (~9cm) wide, but it can be a bit wider. If you don’t have a ruler, don’t sweat it – just cut the paper lengthwise a bit off center, and use the narrower of the two pieces produce.

Step 3: Fold the Top of the Strip


Take the top of the strip and fold down the top inch. Is this complicated enough to merit a photo? Probably not, but I have one anyway.

Step 4: Slide into back


Ok, flip your cahier over and open up the back cover. You’re going to place the strip, with the flap up and hook it over the top of the back cover. Go ahead and slide it under the pocket, and push the whole thing out away from the spine, so it’s tucked in as tightly as possible. If you cut the paper just so,the flap will just be covered by the pocket. I don’t measure, so mine tends to stick out a little.

If this isn’t entirely clear, just look over the rest of the pictures, and it should become apparent.

Step 5: Fold over Bottom


There should be about an inch of strip sticking out from the bottom of the back cover of the cahier. Go ahead and fold that around the cover, nice and snug.

Step 5a. If your strip is too wide


If your strip is wide, there may be a bit sticking out past the edge of the pocket. This isn’t a problem, but if you think it looks messy, (and you don’t want to just resize the strip) then just go ahead and snip off the corner of the strip at a diagonal, cutting from the fold to where the edge of the strip meets the pocket.

Step 6. Tape!

By now, you probably have a pretty good sense of what we’re doing. THe next step is to just take the tape and secure the strip where you have it.

First the top:


Then the bottom:


Step 7: Hooking it Up

Close the cahier and lay it on the table like you just finished reading it, with the spine to the right. It should look like this:


To the right of it, lay down your planner, spine to the left. Open the front cover of the planner, and start to tuck the front cover inside the strip, like so:


Keep tucking until the covers align like so:


This may take a little finagling, especially if your planner has a soft cover. I find it easier to push it in a ways, then pull it the rest of the way. I tend to pull it a little to far, then pull it back out to square it off. Once you’re done, just close the whole thing, pull the elastic around both notebooks, and you’ll have something that looks like this:


Putting it to Use

Because this mod is so easy, it allows me to replace the cahiers if they get used up or if I change projects without disrupting my planner, and since I now have something I can write or take notes in freely, it’s much easier for me to bring the utility planner along.

Anyway, this is such a simple idea that I feel like the photos were overkill, but I had a camera that needed testing out, so I figured that I’d just go ahead and kill several birds with one stone. Comments, questions and the like are, of course, welcome.

Lunch Express

Back in November, I heard Nigella Lawson on NPR talking about her new cookbook, Nigella Express. It was a good enough piece that I scribbled the title down and tossed it onto my Amazon wishlist, where my wife found it and grabbed it for me for Christmas. It went in the stack until this morning when I found myself in need of soup ideas.

See, yesterday I took a suggestion from some friends to drop a whole chicken into the slow cooker, rub it with a little salt and pepper, and just fire it up with no vegetables or liquid. Leave it for the day and not only is the chicken delicious, with the meat falling off the bone, it’s generated a lot of liquid: some really good chicken stock. I used a little to supplement some soup I had to good effect, so I stripped the chicken, tossed the bones back into the pot with the existing liquid, a few more cups of water and left it overnight. This morning, I filtered out the stock and set it aside and pulled down the cookbooks to find a soup recipe that I could pull together with a minimum of fuss. In the stack of cookbooks I pulled out was Nigella Express.

It’s an attractive book, and the format is a familiar one – one recipe on a page, photograph of the food on the opposite page. It’s the same format as Jamie Oliver’s new book, Cooking With Jamie, which I mention because I looked through it in Borders before Christmas as a potential gift, and discarded for something I consider the YKR (“You’re kidding, right?”) factor. I look down the list of ingredients for a few recipes, and if I see too many things that are not only not in my pantry, but which I am not sure where I could find, I’ll put that book right back.

I had expected some YKR with Nigella Express so I was pretty much shocked when the first few recipes I looked at were almost all using things I either had or could go and pick up at Giant. It also had a soup recipe that looked pretty appealing, so I decided to pull it down and give it a read.

The book is pitched as quality recipes that can be prepared with a minimum of time and prep. It’s the sort of thing which invites clever phrases about food fast not fast food and whatnot, but the the reality is thankfully a bit more substantial. The bulk of recipes are straightforward in their preparation and ingredients, and most of them seem good enough that I’m gung ho to make them asap (in fact, I made some of the no-flour brownies this afternoon because I already had the ingredients. They were easy and turned out very well).

All in all, my main complaint is that there’s no real organization to the book, which is a joy when reading through it, but is probably going to be a bit of a pain when it comes to looking things up. Aggressive use of post-its will probably be my solution, so it’s not that much of a big deal.

This book has proven to be a very pleasant surprise, enough so that I’ll at least look at her other books and TV stuff. So far all I’ve known about her is that apparently her show is supposed to be soft porn for food, an amusing description of an emphasis on the sensual elements of cooking and eating. That’s entertaining enough to make me curious, and this book has been enough to push to make me look it up.

So, bottom line, this book is worth pulling off the shelf in the bookstore and flipping through if you’re looking for a fun cookbook. I’m happy to have it, and it’s probably going to get a place in my second tier of cookbooks (the first tier being the bigs books like The Joy of Cooking).

(And if anyone has any suggestions of which of her books I should hunt down, I’m all ears).

Mad All Over

So, I picked up the new Jim Cramer book, Stay Mad For Life pretty much as soon as it came out. Now, I am already a big fan of Cramer – I catch his show, Mad Money, on CNBC whenever practical, and I’ve read an enjoyed his previous books, Real Money and Mad Money. I’ve not yet read Confessions of a Street Addict, or the resurrected You Got Screwed, but I suspect I’ll get to them in time.

Cramer’s books are a big part of why I’m a fan. Don’t get me wrong, the show is great, but it has a lot of spectacle. It’s the sort of show which, if you watch only a few minutes of, seems like a stock-picking show with a colorful host and a lot of high-energy gimmicks to keep the viewers entertained. That impression is not entirely off base – it is all those things. That’s just not ALL it is.

The books have always laid out some pretty clear guidelines. Only invest with money you can afford to lose, and only invest in stocks if you are in a position to do the homework to stay on top of them. He talks about how to do the research, lays down the kind of discipline to maintain. All in all, it’s great stuff, and that’s what I expected in this book.

I was wrong, but in a fantastic way.

The basic gist of this new book is about that other 80% of investing – the stable, safe stuff that you do to make sure you’ll be able to retire, buy a house, send a kid to school and so on. The presentation is typical Cramer. As he put it, he spent his time talking about stocks and assumed that there was plenty of useful information out there for safer investments. But when he sat down to look at the resources available he determined they pretty much sucked, and thus the book was born.

So the long and the short of it is that this is a book about the investments that you are (hopefully) already making. Retirement accounts, educational accounts and so on. But even more than that, it starts at the very basics. Some of it’s familiar – snowballing payments and the like – but some of it is unexpected and to the point. For example: the first thing, the very first thing before anything else, you need? It’s not paying off debt, it’s getting health insurance. Nothing’s going to financially wreck you faster than a trip to the hospital without it, so that needs to be in place before you start worrying about other things.

This sort of emphasis on the basics permeates the book, and really transforms it into the book I would put in the hands of anyone wondering what to do with their money. From debt management to 401k advice that is straightforward and actionable to a suggested list of a kids first stocks to Cramer’s list of smart long term stock and mutual funds, this is wall to wall good stuff.

As with Cramer’s other books, I picked this one up at audible and subsequently picked up the book itself (Costco had it on the cheap). Cramer has an enjoyable voice as a writer, and he reads his own audiobooks, which is always a big plus from my perspective. It’s a fast read or a fast listen, and quite enjoyable.

Bottom line: reading Cramer is like reading a good diet book. There’s a whiz-bang hook to get you reading it, but the essential emphasis on eating right and exercising (or rather, doing your homework) rather than mainlining cabbage soup keeps your feet under you. Stay Mad is the book you get when you’re not yet in fighting trim, but you want to start getting in shape.

What’s old is new

So, my unhappiness regarding the death of the Foleo has been offset by the fact that there clearly is some interest in this sort of device. The eee PC from Asus and the formerly-nanobook now Cloudbook from everex both fall into this niche, an ultralight, ultraportable, linux based machine designed primarily for working online. Especially now that Openoffice can sync with google docs, this is pretty tempting, and it’s a fascinating return of the thin client.
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I’ve been waiting for Q4 this year for a few products, most notably the Livescribe Smartpen and the Palm Foleo. The smartpen is still on track (knock on wood), but Palm just announced that they’re pulling the plug on the Foleo.


So, for those disinclined to hit the links, the Foleo was a small, laptop like, Linux based device which could do light laptop duty, but was most potently going to serve as an interface for a smartphone. Price was going to come in at $500 and, there’s a good case to be made that this was a device that no one needed. It’s big enough that it calls into question why you’re not just using a laptop, yet not really much more powerful than a PDA.

Now, I love the idea of it simply as something I could write on that’s around the same size as a book. As much as I dig my Alphasmart Dana, it’s a bit long in the tooth, and what I really want is that functionality (and durability) in something foldable with a decent screen, and I’d kind of hoped the Foleo would be that. It wasn’t. Crappy battery life, iffy durability and the mighty high price point meant that it was more promise than reality. Still, for all that I probably would have gotten one, even though I don’t have a smartphone, because the simple prospect of having it for writing was vary appealing indeed. Still, this is probably a smart decision for Palm, as this would probably have gone the way of the Lifedrive.

Now, one of the interesting things about this decision is the fact that it is to allow Palm to refocus, rather than split its attention to a new platform. Realistically, this means “We’d like Treos to not die a slow death in a Blackberry/iPhone world”, and that’s admirable, but what’s most telling is how aggressively people jumped out of the woodwork hoping that it might mean a new focus on PDAs. As far as I can tell, Palm has spent thepast several years taking the people who just want a non-phone PDA and kicking them in the face. Repeatedly.

Presumably, Palm considers the pda-only segment of their audience to either be captive or to not be a major income source. The alternative is that the neglect is just dumb, but honestly, they’re still in business so they probably have some reason. They might be wrong, but it’s unlikely that they’re acting without some motivation. Whatever the reason, the PDA community seems to have a wish that Palm might actually make a PDA that uses current technology. It doesn’t seem like a huge stretch to ask for, but it seems very optimistic to expect that it will be answered.

So far, this is only moderately interesting. I liked the Foleo in concept, but I’m used to products dying. But what makes this fascinating to me is recent announcement of the iPod Touch, basically an iPhone without the phone for about $100 less. Yes it plays music and videos, and that’s all well and good, but I look at it an it looks a hell of a lot like the Apple PDA to me. It’s still a youngish platform, and it has some development hurdles, but the heart is there – decent memory, fantastic screen and wifi.


It’s not being marketed as such, which is smart. Everyone buys ipods, but only nerds buy PDAs, and the functionality may not be there right now. But in a year or less, as the illcit third party market for the iphone grows, we could easily see that functionality improve, and the ipod could become a de facto PDA.

It’s not much of a stretch. Some people use theirs that way now, and the appeal of needing to carry only one device around is really strong.

Of course, this is really only necessitated by the fact that the iphone’s phone end is so painful. There are hacks for getting different service, or for activating it with a prepaid AT&T card, but so long as the phone service is closed (and crap) then it’s hard to become the one device carried in-pocket, which is the real dream. That gap also creates the opportunity that the Google Phone may yet manage to step into, though that’s still smoke and mirrors.

Anyway, the real question in my mind is what Palm sees when they look at the new iPod. An MP3 player that does everything their PDAs do, only better, is hopefully a wakeup call. It was possible to close their eyes and pretend the iPhone wasn’t a threat – it’s expensive and problematic. But iPods are ubiquitous, and anyone who owns one of these new ones is going to find themselves in a position where they will ask “Why would I want a PDA?” I’m watching, hoping to see what Palm’s answer will be.

So, the nice folks at Red Sweater software rolled out a new version of Marsedit pretty much the same day I paid for the old version. I was a little miffed at first, but thankfully they offer a free upgrade to people in my position, and I’ve taken advantage of that generosity.


If nothing else, it’s a testament to the idea that I should use flickr a bit more, since one of the big upgrades involves improved flickr interoperability. Theoretically they have improved markup macros, but so far I’m putting in urls by hand, so I’m not seeing it yet.

So, is this worth the money? I paid for Marsedit after using it for a little while, but it’s certainly not everything I want (though it may be everything I need). It ended up winning out over ecto because ecto can’t handle livejournal, and I had difficulties convincing it to speak with blogger. Marsedit has played nicely with everything I’ve pointed it at so far (though it still has a ways to go with LJ), and that utility merited a buy.

However, this is really a vanity purchase. I’m not a pro blogger, and I maintain multiple blogs, mostly for my own entertainment. For that, the convenience of having them all in one place (and not having to use a text-entry form, however sophisticated) is definitely worthwhile. Other benefits, like working offline, seem nice on paper, but realistically, this computer is usually online, and when it’s not, I’m working on non-blog related writing. On some level, the real competition to this is a text editor, followed by pasting what was written into the web form. This certainly saves one step in that regard, but is it worth it?

No. It’s not. But I’m still using it, partly to justify my own expense, but partly out of a more irrational attraction. Dedicated blogging software makes me feel more like a blogger, and that’s cheesy, but there it is. Now, people who are saps like me yet are also able to set up wordpress are a great segment of the market to hit up for cash, but there aren’t a lot of us, so who else is this good for?

One answer I can see is the multi-blogger. If you have more than two blogs that you actually update regularly, the combination of the ability to keep things sorted out, backed up and well maintained is probably pretty appealing. Another possibility is the blogger who write a lot of posts at once, then spreads out their release. This seems like a good way to keep that under control.

All in all, I’d still probably suggest trying ecto (or a client specifically designed for your blog type) first, and only moving onto the pay software if you find something is lacking. That said, I think it’s moving in the right direction, but it faces a catch-22. If someone I knew without a lot of technical saavy was setting up a blog, I might suggest they use something like Marsedit to post. However, if they’re setting up a blog in the first place, that demands a certain amount of saavy. Now, maybe they’re using livejournal or something like that, but that’s not yet where the support is. The big question is, at least to me, is the future of this software in catering to the power users, or in making the process more friendly to duffers? I definitely will be curious to find out.

So, I had reason to add about 20 new feeds to my newsreader today. This may be a little extreme – I’m a bit inundated with news as is – but I found an excellent list of blogs in a given field, so I ran down that list, getting the feed for each one. Now, I’m a giant booster of RSS. I think that we’re starting to see some of the things promised in the late 90’s when “push” technologies were going to be the next big thing. That’s pretty cool, but I tell you this – take the time to subscribe to any twenty blogs, and you will find yourself painfully reminded just how unfriendly this technology is.
In each location, the first problem is finding where the link for syndication is located. Some have standardized on putting the RSS icon right up top, which is perfect from my perspective. I load the page, click the link, NetNewsWire pops up a window for me to confirm, and voila, good to go. Maybe a quarter of the pages were that simple.

For the rest, I scroll the length of the page for a link. Maybe it’s in a sidebar. Maybe it’s down in the footer. There’s a good chance it’s buried in a list of other things, so here’s a tip – if I have to use the search function of my browser to look for words like ‘RSS’ ‘subscribe’ and ‘XML’ then your links are buried and need to be moved.

Now, realistically, unless there’s some sort of standardization on feeds, automating this process is not going to be very practical. I would love it if I could have right-clicked on any of those blogs and had “Subscribe” show up as one of the options. Half an hour of annoying poking around could have settled out in 3 minutes of soothing clicks. Now, I appreciate that browser integration is materializing, but I use a third party client for a reason – it’s just that much more readable. I dig the built-in browser readers and Google’s effort, and in two more years, it may be smooth enough to use for reading news. And two more years after that, it may be smooth enough that I can explain it to my mother. But I’m not holding my breath.

Still, I feel like we’ve got a confluence coming, between twitter, widgets and RSS. Sooner or later someone’s going to effectively tie these things together enough, maybe with some calendar foo, to start having easily disposable feeds. For a quick example of what I’m talking about, I currently have a desktop widget that tracks packages for me. It’s cool, but every time I use it, I have to set it up with the information for that shipment, then manually toss it when the package arrives. That’s clunky and unnecessary – what is keeping me from getting a stream/twitter/whatever of that information in one click? And how soon can we fix that?

Money Thoughts

A month or two back, I had no idea who Jim Cramer was. It was only when my friend Morgan’s father was visiting that I was introduced to this peculiar sort of celebrity. See, Morgan’s dad wanted Morgan to see an episode of the CNBC program, Mad Money, which is Cramer’s vehicle. We didn’t want the viewing to interfere with going out, so we offered to Tivo it for them, and we all ended up sitting down and watching it together. I really enjoyed it, but more, it left me feeling like there were things going on here that I could actually get to know about. Historically, my version of investing comes in two forms – contributing to my 401k and, when I’m feeling crazy, putting money into a spider fund (an index fund that matches the S&P 500). The idea of actually tracking a portfolio was always interesting, but not something I was willing to pursue. I was intrigued.

So I decided I’d check out his books. In addition to a biography, he has two money books, Real Money and Mad Money. BJ’s had Mad Money on the cheap, so I picked it up, but starting it left me with the impression that I’d be better off with Real Money under my belt, so I checked out Audible and it turns out they had both, and read by the author no less. A few unrelated technical snags later and I ended up listening to it.

First off, I liked it enough that I’ll probably pick up the book. One common failing of audio books is that diagrams and charts translate poorly. Apparently in the CD audiobooks, they include image files, which is great, but of no help to me. But short form – thumbs up.

The best thing I can say about this book is that it was an absolutely fantastic introduction to a lot of concepts I’d had some understanding of, but had never really gotten into. It’s a solid breakdown of what goes into a stock and factors that play in the market. The fact that I now feel like there’s a reason to watch the fed, other than because the news tells me to. This book has turned a lot of noise into signal, and that always pleases me.
I have some concerns about hucksterism. I have no specific reason to expect it from this book than I do from any other source, but any book that promises that you’ll be able to do anything is suspect in my mind, and when money’s on the line, that suspicion automatically ratchets up a notch. He’s definitely a booster for his own site, thestreet.com, but he’s also pretty up front about it.

There are certain patterns you get to recognize when someone is blowing smoke up your ass, as my painfully large collection of diet books will testify. Simple rules, vaguely elaborated, coupled with promises of ease or success without effort, and if there is effort, it is more or less handwaved. What I like about Real Money is that at no point did I feel I could take what it had to say and just start investing without busting my hump with work. or rather, I probably could, but it’s made clear what a bad idea that is. Where the book shines is in pointing to the kind of work that you need to do. I don’t feel that this book guarantees me money if I invest and, in fact, it goes to great lengths to say that this is for fooling around after you have money going into your retirement account. I feel that it leaves me with more tools for when I do invest, but does not provide a magic bullet.

Ideally, this book seems to be for someone with $10k or so set aside that they’re looking to start investing with. That is, for the record, not me, since I’m a big chicken looking at dipping my toe in the pool before I start. That means that I’m still in the world where paying for certain subscriptions is not yet worth it, and that the cost of a transaction is a significant part of my potential costs. What’s more, certain concerns, like taxes, are given short shrift.

I’m planning on listening to Mad Money next, and we’ll see if it’s more friendly to my needs. If not, there’s still a lot of reading I need to do before I feel like jumping in, but even so – that’s exactly what the book suggests I do.

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