Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Last week, I was called in to teach a group of kids that are more difficult to teach than most. Many have already graduated from school, but are still forced to go because of their age. Many will never see the outside world as free men or women. Very few of them care about school at all. In short, they have nothing to lose by missing school, and not much to gain by going. The teacher that I was replacing had given a stock lesson in writing a specific kind of poetry.


Pointless wasted

Sucking, wasting, boring

Punks dorks teachers bitches

Sitting sleeping learning


That’s an actual example (near as I can remember from reading it) of what the students turned in. I can see why the other teacher didn’t want to deal with this class anymore.

When I found out that I was teaching this class, I knew I had to do something that would catch their interest, but that would still be educational and appropriate for them. I worked for most of the day and evening to come up with a kick-ass lesson that would be entertaining and educational. I had hundreds of pages to print out so that the kids could actually complete the assignment. Not wanting to waste my personal printer ink, I saved everything to DROPBOX so that I could print it out at work the next morning (by the way, if you don’t already have a Dropbox account, and you ever save any kind of file, you need one. Click on the link and you’ll get extra space when you sign up for an account. In fairness, I’ll also get a little free space, but I’d use the service regardless).

When I got to work, I learned that for some reason, my district’s internet security policy blocks Dropbox access. No worries, I could use my phone and print remotely to a printer. No dice there either, since the printers wouldn’t accept a connection to print from my phone. I was getting a little worried, since I realized that I was well and truly screwed.

By the time I got to class, I had about two minutes to think of something, or face the very real possibility of a minor riot on my watch. Luckily, I try to have a backup plan for whenever my first two (or three, but whatever) ideas crap out. I learned this by virtue of being caught many times with no plan, and having to pay the consequences. To make a long story end, my backup worked, possibly better than my original plan would have, and I was told by the sheriffs’ staff that I was one of the best teachers to have dealt with these kids.

I told you that for a couple of reasons. Number one, I was really impressed with myself and I wanted to brag a little. Number two, and more importantly, I did it because the lesson I learned and demonstrated has real-world application when it comes to personal finance.

Everybody tells you to keep a small, liquid fund to use in case of an emergency. Most people will say six months worth of expenses should cover you. But what happens if your emergency keeps you away from the bank or safe-deposit box, or wherever you keep it for a few days? What do you do then? One quick way you can protect yourself is by also keeping a small (very, very small) stash of cash within easy access. When I say small, which is the operative word here, I mean just enough to help you survive for a weekend or a few days until you can access your emergency fund if needed.

While we’re talking about emergency funds, what happens when you have exhausted your emergency fund completely? In today’s economy, being out of work more than six months is more the norm than the exception. If the worst ever happens, and you have exhausted your emergency fund, you will still need money. I suggest planning ahead. While you are building your emergency fund, you are putting some money towards it every pay-period. Let’s assume that an emergency doesn’t happen right away. Transfer one month of your emergency fund into something a little longer in term, with a higher interest rate. Keep making your contributions till you have replenished it. As you do this, you are building a bubble for when you run out of emergency “cushion”. If you have a problem with saving, you are also building a painless nest-egg for the future.

At work, you like your job, but what happens if you were the last hired, and your company needs to lay someone off (hint: In most cases, you are screwed). While you are working, in addition to saving your emergency fund, as we’ve discussed above, start building skill sets that will help you to be able to find a job sooner. This may mean formal schooling, or this may mean polishing your resume’ so that your skills and abilities are properly showcased.

At home, stock up on non-perishable foods and water in case of a natural disaster. With the summer we just had, with earthquakes in the east, hurricanes in the south, and floods everywhere, stores are running out of basic supplies. Those people who are prepared, are able to “weather the storm”. But what if something happens to your stored food? Maybe this is a good time for you and your community or your family to work out a plan where everybody contributes for a larger group to survive.

Look, I’m not trying to scare you, but shit happens. Sometimes, you are prepared and you bring your umbrella. Sometimes, your umbrella breaks as soon as you open it. When this happens, you will be glad when you put a change of clothes in a bag for just such a situation. Are you going to be prepared for everything? Not even close, and I don’t recommend that you even try. Sometimes, even the best prepared still lose in the end. I can’t stop that, but you can limit your exposure to losing by having a few backup plans ready should they be needed.

I believe it was Robert Burns who said:

“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men

Oft go awry

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!”

Given my students, and the lesson I just re-learned and related, I can think of no better message than to be prepared. Enjoy!


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This morning, I was all set to have a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, maybe some grits (yes, I eat grits. They’re pretty good.), or oats. I went to the fridge and couldn’t find any eggs. Luckily, we live near enough to a park, so remembering today was Easter, I found some. Unfortunately, they were all hard boiled. Oh well, maybe for lunch.

Happy Easter, everybody!

This Valentine’s Day, turn off the computer, find that special someone, and be with them.  Spend like there’s no tomorrow:   and tomorrow?  Spend like it was today.  Of course I’m talking about time here.  It doesn’t cost any money to spend time with the ones you love, and you’ll feel better having done it.  Have a happy Valentine’s Day! 

Today, celebrate the fact that we live in a country where we have ultimate freedom.

Today, remember that there are those who wish to destroy that ultimate freedom, and do what you can to stop them.

Today, enjoy all the freedom you have, in every possible way.

Today, shed a tear for all of those who have gone before who died to make sure you could celebrate your freedom.

This isn’t one of those chain letters, this is simply advice from one human to another.  Don’t forward it.  Just read it, and follow it.

Happy Independence Day!

Check out MySpace to see why. Also check out the ad.

Okay, I’ve reflected.  While I still don’t believe that my contest is bad or harmful in any way, I don’t want the image of impropriety.  I’m going to go over the rules one more time, the prizes one more time, and then– that’s it.  For the few No!Spec people out there, I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I was trying to devalue your work.  I understand all too well that for some, work is like our children.

Here Goes


1.  Nothing that you can’t show to teenagers.  By that, I mean nothing you wouldn’t want me to show your child or grandmother.

2.  Nothing that you don’t own.  You have to be able to transfer the winning entry over to F4Y.

3.  The entries should evoke thoughts of education, teens, finance, money, etc.  You art people know what I mean.

4.  If you win, your art becomes My cover.  If not, your art becomes my deleted file.  I won’t use it.

5.  If you think your art is too good for this kind of contest, it probably is.  Don’t enter.

5a.  If you think you are too good for this contest or this site, you probably are.  Please leave my site.

6.  I’m not telling you what I want to see.  The whole point is for you to show me what you think of finance, teens, youth, money, education.

The prizes:

1.  Finance For Youth Gear

1a.  There will be several items that aren’t yet available for purchase.  You get these free.

2.  Free copy of the book with your artwork on the cover.

3.  Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss.

4.  My thanks, eternal gratitude, and adoration.

5.  CASH!!!!!!!

5a.  For every entry received, I will put cash into a pot.  There is no limit to the amount of cash that can go in.

5b.  Each entry must be substantially different.  Submitting one entry with four different fonts?  Guess what, it counts as one.

5c.  When in doubt, I will ask a disinterested third party whether to count an entry as one or as more than one.  Their decision is final.

The last day to submit entries is June 30th, 2007.  Any entries received after that will be returned, and will not count.  To enter, email me at

with the subject line : F4Y contest entry request.  Some variation of that will probably also work.  I will send you a file on which submit your entry.

For those of you who feel that this is a slap in the face of a professional, and who compare art to medicine, I never meant to insult you or your work.  I sincerely hope you will get past that feeling.

If I receive no entries by the closing date, the contest will close, and I will go through an alternative process.

Good Luck!

I’ve been doing a little research for the F4Y art contest, and I found a site No Spec website. This site tells students to not enter ‘contests’ like mine. After spending hours reading, I’m not sure I blame them. It seems young, inexperienced, artists get screwed pretty hard by people who want something for nothing. While I don’t think this applies to me, I can easily understand those that do. So have you heard of this movement? Is that the impression I’m giving with my contest? What do I need to do to make sure this is not the perception, while still maintaining my desire to have this done by someone who “gets” my work? Let me know.