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Posted by on Dec 13, 2009 in Tips & Tutorials |

Money-saving gifts for the crafty sort: be awesome & save cash.

Money-saving gifts for the crafty sort: be awesome & save cash.

Money sucks right now for a lot of us. Everywhere I look there’s someone lamenting over what they can get for people for Christmas, without relying on something from the dollar store. How can you give a gift that really says, “hey, I fucking love you!,” without breaking your bank and your relationship with the gift giver this year?

Hand made gifts. Yes, I said it–I think home made Christmas gifts are the way to go this year!  Nothing says I love you more (I think), than:  I didn’t just go to some store and buy this–I made it specifically FOR you and it even has googly eyes–you love googly eyes, right?

There’s something to be said about working on a gift by hand for someone you love and respect.  Nobody wants those two pencils and note pad you won last year at work to show up as their gift on Christmas. Nor do they need pages of glued macaroni art–so put that shit aside and let’s smash faces with awesome crafty, money saving gifts!

Hand Made Gifts For Her

Cut out & Keep: Bathbombs

Teach Soap . com – Soap Making Instructions, tutorials and advice
(Remember! Unless it is Glycerin all soaps need sodium hydroxide, also known as “caustic soda”. Lye is needed to make soap. Here’s a great article to read more on this: Soaps With No Lye? )

Snowdrift Farms – How to make Whipped body butter/creams

Not Martha – Bubble Bath

TipNut – Homemade Sugar Scrubs

futuregirl Tutorial: Lace Bracelet

Design Sponge: Teacup candles

Papier Mâché Trinket Box

Hand Made Gifts For Him

Microwebtech – Homemade beef jerky

Epinions – A memory jar tape Wallet
(For a good laugh!)

Mix that drink – Skittles flavored Vodka

Wiki-How- How to Make a Hollow (Secret Compartment) book – Sew a BBQ apron

Hand Made Gifts For Either Her or Him

Neither Hip nor Funky – Freezer Paper & T-Shirt tutorial
(This is a great tutorial for several reasons: you can customize the shirt with anything and you can rejuvenate a shirt you purchased at a thrift or second hand store. No need to spend $$ at jinx, or t-shirt hell! Make it yourself!)

Cut Out & Keep: Cozy slippers made from towels

Wikihow- Tiny Polymer clay Book

Letterfu – Make your own letters without using envelope

Origami Instructions – Simple Origiami Box

I know I haven’t covered nearly half of what can be hand made this year for Christmas gifts but hope this is a great start to leading you along the path of frugal, heart-felt and awesome.

Speaking of not covering it all, tell me 2phatgeeklings–what have I missed? What have you crafted by hand for Christmas, recent or past, that’s become a solid hit?

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Posted by on Apr 4, 2009 in Tips & Tutorials | 2 comments

Stinky and scary: tips and tricks for bus travel.

When I first came to the states eons ago it was by bus. It was a five day trip and I had wished I was dead. I then got on another bus and went to Denver. From there, I got on yet another bus and went home. But I wasn’t done yet! I turned around later and grabbed another bus to Florida. This was another five day trip which I have been trying my very best to block out.

Now, however, since I am on my way on April 15th to visit my parents in Airdrie, Alberta via–you guess it–bus, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks, a few pros and cons for long travel or short.

Avoid getting touched in Nono places. Or at least, having all your stuff stolen.

Sit on it, eyeball it. Seriously, wherever you are that is not on the bus take all of your stuff with you at all times and be in physical or visual contact with it 100% of the time. Going for a smoke? Take it all with you. Gotta pee? Take it all with you. Going to go eat? Take it all with you. Going to stretch your legs? Take it all with you. It seriously sucks but it will seriously suck worse to have all your stuff stolen.

Much like people found in various other places, some of them chilling at bus stops aren’t stellar examples of humanity. Some may just be waiting for a tired passenger to screw up and they are watching.

  • Tuck your backpack under your feet and wind an arm strap around ankle while sitting
  • Sit directly on your suitcase if you can
  • Keep a hand or arm woven through straps or handles
  • Take it all–yes, all of it–to the bathroom with you. Never ever leave it behind on the bus, in the station, with someone you don’t know.
  • Keep your wallet, passport, cellphone and other valuables either around your neck, in your pockets, or at your waist. People are going to notice someone sidling up to you to fondle you for your shiznit more than a snatch n’ grab of a bag.
  • Overhead racks on the bus really aren’t any safer. Consider keeping the most important stuff with you and on you. Just because you and a potential thief are on the same bus together does not mean they will think twice about attempting to snatch yo’ stuff.

Boarding: it’s not just for 2×4’s and your baggage anymore.

Vroom vroom, bitches.

Vroom vroom, bitches.

Getting off the bus and on the bus and off the bus. It seems pretty cut and dry at first, but there are a handful of things to keep in mind here, not all boarding and unloading is the same.

Buses occasionally have maintenance stops. This is when everyone is required to leave the bus and is probably the only time I would semi-sort of be all right with the idea of leaving a bag or two behind. However, common sense applies here–pick your bags off the floor, take anything extremely important to you with you. The bus company will not be responsible for anything lost, stolen or destroyed during this time either.

In between your maintenance stops you’ll have your regular change overs. When you do, get whatever you need to do there done and then attempt to get to the line to re-board first. Most buses are a first come, first serve deal.  Get to the gate, line, door or wherever you need to go A.S.A.P. It is first come, first serve when it comes to travel by bus. So be aware most of your stop over time will probably be spent waiting in line.

Getting in line first is not only beneficial to make sure you do not miss a bus, but seats are also first come, first serve. If you want a particular seat in a particular area, the only way to get there is to get it first.

During all of this boarding, re-boarding, loading, unloading and change over business your luggage has to follow you, too. You are the only one responsible for your bags. Someone will chuck them, heavily, into the under belly of the bus and someone will dump them on the side of the road when it is time to go. Otherwise the moving and transferring of your luggage is all you baby.

If the bus stops to pick up new passengers at a depot, station or stop, if the stop is a longer one–don’t fret. Those who were on the bus first will be allowed back on first while new passengers will have to wait to take their seats. So if you take a break in Missouri but don’t get off there, the bus driver will let you on first before those just starting their journey at Missouri board.

Last but never ever least and most important: buses and drivers will not wait for you. If you leave your bags on a bus and miss it, if you are late to the gate, if you are held up inexplicably it doesn’t matter. They will leave whether you’re on the bus or not. So stay sharp! If you miss the re-boarding call or boarding call, you may be stuck for however long it takes at wherever you are waiting for the next bus!

Comfort, Clothing & Munchies

If you’re going long distance there are some things you should seriously consider packing or taking with you. Buses and bus stops as well as depots are not known for their glorious comforts.

Bus terminals and bus stops often take advantage of tired, hungry, worn out travelers. Their prices are ridiculously high for food, drinks and other such needful things. Save yourself some cash by packing your own food.

Some great travel foods are:
Granola, Fruit cups, Canned Fruit, Any kind of nuts, and bottled water/juice/drinks. Perishable food, such as a sandwich or fruit could work for the first day but will perish quickly without refrigeration. Look for canned, sealed, nonperishable food at a size favorable to traveling by bus. As in: food you’d be willing to lug around with you in a bag or other carry on storage.

Some excellent clothing choices are:

  • Loose, comfortable clothing that will allow your skin to breath.
  • A sweater, shawl, small blanket or warm extra shirt. Temperatures on the bus and off will veer wildly if you are traveling long distances.
  • Sneakers or super comfy shoes. Sitting upright for long periods of time can cause feet to swell. There are only two positions generally on the bus: sitting up right and standing to get off it and back on. Wear shoes that make sense for you.

And you can keep yourself sane by:

  • Carrying your favorite book(s)
  • Your preferred Mp3 player
  • A hand held game system
  • A cell phone to text the hell out of your husband and friends wishing for the boredom to stop (oh, wait, that’s just me I guess)
  • A sketch pad
  • A diary to write in between long stops or on the bus if you are a master at bumpy writing

Does this Bus seat make my butt look big?

Where to sit on a bus? That’s the question. Some people don’t really care so long as they get a seat and some are particular. Here’s some tips for my fellow picky bitches. Representin’.

Mmm, comfy spine breakers.

Mmm, comfy spine breakers.

  • Back aisle seats do not recline.
  • Front aisle seats close to the driver do not have lights.
  • If you like to get up and down a lot, a seat nearest the aisle is best.
  • If you like to sit in one place, take a window seat.
  • Sitting on the aisle seat tends to discourage people from trying to squeeze in by the window and may net you two seats to yourself. That’s only if the bus isn’t crowded.
  • Major stops in major cities will always be crowded.
  • Bus bathrooms are only meant for emergencies and –well–stink. Sitting near them might be an experience you’ll want to avoid.

Safety Tips

Don’t look like a mouse. Sit up straight, look around you alertly (but not like a crack addict looking for the police okay?) and don’t be afraid to look people in the eye. Try and keep proper posture with shoulders back. Even if you are tired and beat, try and walk with confidence.

One of the first thing most predators of any kind look at is body language. The guy hunched over his feet staring at his toes is going to be a hella lot easier to steal from than the chick beside him that seems to have her shit together.

I would even advise some sort of self-defense extras if possible and legal. Mace is great for doling out the justice and laying the Spicy Eyes smack down if really needed. Use at your own discretion however…a baseball bat or machete might hamper your travel.

Random Bus Fun Facts:

  • Travel is best in the middle of any month because it is less crowded. The first and last of every month tends to be far more crowded.
  • Children, students, seniors and those who order their tickets well in advance get discounts.
  • Rules regarding luggage can be very strict. Call ahead of time or visit your local Grayhound website to learn before hand weight specifics and any other restrictions on luggage and carry on’s.
  • Label your bags in a manner that will make them stand out to you. Not only will it help you find it, it’ll be harder for the 300 pound bearded man to explain why he’s wheeling away a black suitcase with SPARKLY PRINCESS (YOUR NAME HERE) 😀 in bright bold, pink, and glittered suitcase to the security and/or police.

Pros and Cons

The good:

  • Dude this is way cheap, way cheaper (now that gas prices are down) than flying or the train.
  • Lots and lots of time spent by yourself. You can blend easily with the thousands of other human fish minnowing about their day to day traveling with you.
  • Get to meet some super interesting folks that are traveling with you.
  • Get to stop some times in the weirdest and best places and depending where you are going, major cities.
  • You aren’t driving and you aren’t making your significant other, friends, parents and the like drive either.
  • Travel is stimulating, period. New places, new faces, new people, new sights and things to take in.

The bad:

  • You can’t lay down to sleep. If the bus is full you can’t even recline well.
  • There’ll always be that guy or girl that REALLY NEEDS A BATH sitting near you, passing you by, or doing the same during your stops/change overs.
  • You can’t always get two seats to yourself and have to deal with other people’s body parts all up in yours. Maybe even some one sleeping and drooling on you.
  • You could get your stuff stolen at any time, on or off the bus.
  • Traveling very long distances–there’s no accounting for the weather. A snow storm, flood, torrential rain and other lovely things can screw up a route. You may end up waiting hours for a road to clear.
  • Vehicle accident death is still way, way, way, way higher than airplane. How many bus crashes do you hear about in a year? Okay, now how many airplane crashes? Right.
  • People are rude bitches and 90% of them will take the bus.
  • Bus bathrooms smell like pee.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is my advice to you. I hope that if you’re ever faced with bus travel that my mind numbing experiences will be able to help you out.

Have you traveled by bus and feel that I have missed something? What important tip or fact would you give someone traveling by bus? I’m interested in hearing it!

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Posted by on Oct 27, 2008 in Computers & Internet, Tips & Tutorials | 4 comments

Time & Money Saved. Shawn’s Easy Computer Tips: Part III

Alrighty, kids, we’re about 80% into our better computing lifestyle and so far we’ve focused pretty much on the computer, now it’s time to grab the mirror and take a good hard look in it. All of what I previously posted is completely useless unless the talking monkey sitting at it (that would be you… ooop oooop) doesn’t know some basic rules when it comes to actually using the dang thing.. Viruses spread because people don’t take a few moments to check attachments before running them, people download dubious software from unheard of sites and then wonder why they have 5,000 pop-ups. Here are a few ways to help realize the risks out there and take a little extra time to keep your computer safe and functional.

Part III – The user

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Posted by on Oct 24, 2008 in Tips & Tutorials | 5 comments

Tabula Rasa: A clean slate and why it may not be bad for your blog.

Your heart is pounding, you have visions of all the wonderful comments and fun conversations had within every post. You spend hours reading other blogs, visiting to see what they’re using and what’s ‘cutting edge.’ You download plug ins and add ons and extensions to help promote your web blog, give a little back to the commenter and just to have some neat touches to your site.

And then, it happens.

Your site is slower than that old lady in front of you at the coffee shop.

Or at least, it happened to us on 2phatgeeks. The plug ins and add ons we were using became too much and too many. While Shawn was away, the wife had played–with plug in after neat plug in, switched on and off until 2phatgeeks began to slow down significantly.

Oops. Did I do that?

In my enthusiasm and attempt to keep up with the Must Haves and You Needs and the Things To Look Out For, the speed and ease to which one could navigate through 2phatgeeks suffered. It’s hard work keeping up with everything, though, isn’t it? There are hundreds of pages of advice on what people will tell you  one must have in order to have a successful web blog. A lot of it is good, excellent advice that would not harm you to follow–but the problem is, there is so much of it. How do you know which one to follow? This plug-in you just downloaded seems to have a newer, better version? This plug-in just downloaded actually needs four more to function correctly? This plug-in works best with another plug-in!

Stop. Breathe. Don’t let it get too confusing and don’t make the same mistake I did. In my beginner’s enthusiasm and hopefulness, I downloaded and installed too many. I didn’t stop to truly consider the difference between what I thought was neat, what I thought I needed, and what I thought was absolutely important to have.

So many plug ins slowed 2phatgeeks down and no doubt cost us readers.

Choose your plug ins wisely, grasshoppah.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t experiment and enjoy yourself by trying out what’s hip, happening and out there–what I am saying is that when it comes to the core plug ins to use with your weblog, make sure they are all the plug ins you absolutely cannot live without and make sure you aren’t compromising the speed, in addition to the performance of your site! Too many plug-ins and add ons can and will do that. Trust me when I say that I know, because we were experiencing it.

So what did we do?

Shawn and I sat down last night and played “Turn off and on.” It’s not as kinky as it sounds. We turned off every single plug in and one by one reactivated them to see which plug-ins slowed down or effected performance of 2phatgeeks the most and chucked ’em. We then decided which plug-ins were essential to us. Obviously, we felt that several plug-ins aimed to commenter and commenting were absolute must, SEO plug-ins as well as one or two other plug ins to help with SEO. We kept the core group of plug-ins that seemed the most important to us as well as the main group of plug-ins almost everyone in the blogosphere appeared to recommend the most.

Everything else was deactivated and removed and then tidied up after.

  • Take more time to consider what plug ins you really need as opposed to want.
  • Compare what everyone is telling you what you need to have. Is there a plug in that shows up on nearly every list? Chances are, that’s a plug in you will need or should have.
  • Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by it all. There’s plenty of time to build yourself a blog that is kick ass. Take your time and don’t rush yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow bloggers if you truly feel lost. You’d be surprised how awesome and willing to help some of them are.

After running down the list and cutting away what we don’t need, we have noticed a significant rise in kick-ass speed and performance, and that’s something of a relief for us. There’s nothing that irks me more than a site that takes forever to load or get somewhere, I can’t imagine what first time visitors were feeling when they came to our site!

For those of you who may have experienced this, or something like it, how did you decide which plug-ins were an absolute must and which ones weren’t? Are there any plug-ins you believe is an absolute-must-have for any blog owner?

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Posted by on Oct 22, 2008 in Computers & Internet, Tips & Tutorials | 4 comments

Time & Money Saved. Shawn’s Easy Computer Tips, Part II

In the last part of this guide, I spent some time laying the hardware foundations of your computer system. In this portion of the guide we’ll spend some time discussion tips tricks and tweaks for making your operating system to get the most out of your hardware. There are many good options for your OS, but since most of you are going to be using Windows XP or Vista, these tips will be targeted to those OSes.

Part II – Software

Most systems start with waaaay, waaaaaay, waaaaaaaaaaay more extra crap, doo-dads, bells, whistles and useless nonsense on them than is really necessary.  Start the system off properly by removing as much of this excess fat as you can, getting to the delicious meaty center that we all want and need. Remove programs you have no intention of using, don’t know how to use, or are out of date and you’ll have yourself one kick ass geek steak of a machine.

Updating – The OS and it’s drivers is the foundation upon which you’ll be running. When building a home, you don’t use rotten wood from the old barn to build it, so it makes sense that you don’t use shoddy out of date programs and drivers on your brand new hardware. As soon as Windows is installed (and you have an internet connection), run Windows Update until nothing else is left to install. When all of this is done (and it might take a while) then go to the appropriate websites and download new drivers for every piece of hardware in your system and install them one at a time, with a reboot in between each install.
Install your drivers in this order:

  1. Chipset – These are basically the drivers for your motherboard. Making sure these are properly installed can have a massive effect on your computer’s performance. Most commonly they are Intel and VIA and more recently nVidia.
  2. Video Card/GPU – these are usually self explanatory. Generally, every manufacturer has its own customized driver package, but you’ll usually find the newest drivers at either nVidia or ATI , since 90% of the video cards you’ll be buying will have chips made by those manufacturers. Keeping these up to date can not only improve speed, but can also improve stability and the performance of certain games can be significantly improved. Updating your monitor drivers at this time will often make things a bit clearer, too.
  3. Sound Card/Chipset – whether your Sound card is built into your motherboard or a secondary card like a Soundblaster X-Fi, making sure you have the latest and greatest is always a plus. While it’s not always a speed booster, it almost always increases stability.
  4. Everything else – Cameras, Scanners, Tablets, card readers, video and audio codecs. The only things you really don’t usually need to install are things like keyboard and mouse drivers. 99 times out of 100 these drivers are usually a waste of valuable RAM. And speaking of RAM…
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Posted by on Oct 20, 2008 in Computers & Internet, Tips & Tutorials | 3 comments

Time & Money Saved. Shawn’s Easy Computer Tips, part I.

I wasn’t always a customer service manager.

In a former life I worked for–and at one point, owned–a small, honest, computer repair business; working on everything from large office networks to private home computers. Unfortunately, as usually happens with any good business, the market became crowded and turned into the abusive used car lot that is computer business today. I bowed out as gracefully as I could before losing my shirt.

In that time, I learned quite a bit about the best ways to build computers and keep them running. I’ve managed to turn this knowledge into a few bucks here and there and build and maintain my own tidy little home network, including two gaming grade machines, with a minimum of time and effort and without spending every dime I own to do so.

Here’s the thing, though: About 90% of the money I make and the tricks I use are basically the sort of thing that anyone can do. No, seriously. Anyone.

So, rather than horde this knowledge to myself and dish it out to our internet friends and readers through rushed IMs typed by my better half, I’ve decided to put together a little guide to making and keeping your computer running as quickly as it can. There are billions of guides available on the internet for people that are technically minded, but this guide is not for them. This guide is for you, semi-normal people.

In order to keep your brain from exploding, I’m going to split this up into three installments. Each installment will cover one of the three key components of any good system, the is the Holy Trinity of Computery goodness: Hardware, Software and The User (That’s you, if you hadn’t guessed).

So, let’s get on with it shall we? Shawn’s easy computer tips to save you time and money:

Part I – Hardware

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