Archive for October, 2009

Happy Garden: How To Make Compost Tea

2009 31, 10

Vol. 4, Num. 44, October 29, 2009 (Read It Online)

Hello Dee, Leaves are changing color and falling in the Pacific Northwest, as they probably are where you live. Today we have a great article from Ellen about Compost “Tea” and a tip about using your leaves as mulch. Please send in your tips and photos for gardening this time of year, such as how you are preparing for winter or next spring.

Thanks for reading,

The ThriftyFun Team

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Garden: Walking Stick

I started out of the front door the other day only to stop dead in my tracks seeing this walking stick sunning on the glass. I rerouted my steps to grab the camera and finished my coffee inside!

By melody_yesterday from Otterville, MO

Garden: Walking Stick

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Garden: Volunteer Gourd

The seed that started this plant was dropped in front of our hay rake and started growing. It climbed up our rose and grew quite large! You can see a small gourd growing if you look closely!

By Jackie from Enumclaw, WA

Garden: Volunteer Gourd

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Garden: Burning Bush

This is our brilliant fall burning bush and variegated barberry.

By Jackie from Enumclaw, WA

Garden: Burning Bush

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Reuse Halloween Pumpkins In Fall Displays

After Halloween last year, I took down my scarecrow, but his pumpkin head was still fresh. I added his head to a bale of hay in the front yard for a fall decoration. My granddaughter asked, “How did the scarecrow get inside of the hay?”

By Vickie from Earle, AR

Reuse Halloween Pumpkins In Fall Displays

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Leaves are Free Fertilizer

Why are people raking or blowing their leaves to the street for the city government to collect? Leaves are a type of free fertilizer, and yet we pay our cities to haul our free fertilizer away every fall, and then buy unnatural, non-organic chemicals, or organic fertilizers in the spring to replenish our lawns.

Why are we doing this? This has been bothering me for years. I garden; and, because we all need to “think green,” (before the mulching mower) I would rake all the leaves up, and dig a huge hole in the garden, or vice-versa, and rake all of the leaves into the hole I created in the garden, then back fill all of the dirt into the hole.

The first spring, when I dug into that tree leaf back fill, I was surprised by some of the darkest, most lovely soil I had ever seen in my life.

I truly feel that deciduous trees are trying to give back to us in the fall everything they accumulated from the sun, rain, and soil that spring and summer.

Yet, without thought, so many of us rake those leaves up, waiting for the city to come take them away, and we devoid our own property of those nutrients, replenishing them in the spring with other nutrients – organic, or not.

In the years that have passed, I’ve gotten married, and we now own a mulching lawnmower. I really like the idea that the lawnmower mulches the fallen leaves; however, the mulching lawnmower uses gasoline.

For ourselves, and those that are here, and those to come, let’s “think green.” Really, what are we doing to our own properties when we give the city our leaves, and devoid our own land of those nutrients?

Source: Myself. I was inspired to write this today, after I heard a noise outside and asked my husband what that noise was. He replied that it sounded like it might have been a leaf-blower, or even a leaf-mulcher.

By Carol L. from South Bend, IN

Leaves are Free Fertilizer

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Frugal: Steak by Any Other Name – FYI

2009 29, 10

Steak by Any Other Name – AARP – Paul Lempert

“There are more than 60 different cuts of beef in the average supermarket today. And identical ones can go by lots of different names, making the navigation of the meat case more than a bit confusing.

Did you know that a New York strip is the same as a top loin boneless steak? And that sometimes packages for those two could be sitting side-by-side in the case at difference prices per pound?

Here’s a quick reference list to make sure you are not getting ripped off.”

Name of cut: T-bone
Also known as: Porterhouse

Name of cut: Tenderloin
Also known as: Filet, Chateaubriand

Name of cut: Top loin boneless
Also known as: Strip, Kansas City, New York strip

Name of cut: Top loin bone-in
Also known as: Strip, Sirloin strip, Club

Name of cut: Ribeye
Also known as: Delmonico

Name of cut: Skirt
Also known as: Fajita meat, Philadelphia

Name of cut: Hanger
Also known as: Hanging tenderloin

Name of cut: Flank
Also known as: London broil

Name of cut: Sirloin
Also known as: Flat-bone, Round-bone

Name of cut: Top sirloin boneless
Also known as: London broil, Sirloin butt

Name of cut: Round tip, thin sliced
Also known as: Beef sirloin tip, Sandwich steak, Minute steak

Name of cut: Top round
Also known as: Top round London broil

Name of cut: Top blade boneless
Also known as: Flatiron, Butler

Live Long Enough To be a Real Concern to your Kids

2009 27, 10
Live long enough to be a REAL concern to your kids.



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Recipes: Easy Diet-Diabetic Desserts – FYI

2009 22, 10

Subject: Recipes: Easy Diet-Diabetic Desserts – FYI

Easy Diet-Diabetic Desserts from Eating

Quick “Cheesecake”
4 whole-wheat graham crackers
4 tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese
8 teaspoons sugar free jam
Spread each graham cracker w/ 1 tablespoon part-skim ricotta cheese and 2 tsps jam.
159 Calories; 6 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 1 g Mono; 10 mg Cholesterol; 42 g Carbohydrates; 7 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 259 mg Sodium; 39 mg Potassium 3 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 3 other carbohydrate, 1 fat

Chocolate Malted Ricotta
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
1 tablespoon hot cocoa mix
1 teaspoon malted-milk powder
Combine ricotta with hot cocoa mix and malted-milk powder.
128 calories; 6 g fat (4 g sat, 2 g mono); 21 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrates; 9 g protein; 2 g fiber; 107 mg sodium; 212 mg potassium. 1 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 1/2 medium-fat meat, 1 carbohydrate

Baby Tiramisu
1/2 cup nonfat ricotta cheese, (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 ladyfingers
4 tablespoons brewed espresso, or strong coffee, divided
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips, melted (see Tip)
Combine ricotta, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Place 6 ladyfingers in a 9-by-5-inch (or similar size) loaf pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons espresso (or coffee). Spread the ricotta mixture over the ladyfingers. Place another layer of ladyfingers over the ricotta and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons espresso (or coffee). Drizzle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
Tip: To melt chocolate: Microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.
107 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 3 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 0 g fiber; 125 mg sodium; 29 mg potassium. 1 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 carbohydrate (other), 1/2 fat

Chocolate Pudding with Chopped Nuts
1 prepared low-fat chocolate pudding snack cup
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios or any other nuts
147 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 2 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 193 mg sodium; 318 mg potassium. 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 fat

Chocolate Banana Slices
1 tablespoon semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 banana, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon nonfat vanilla yogurt
Melt chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave. Top banana slices with the chocolate and yogurt.
117 calories; 3 g fat (2 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 14 mg sodium; 277 mg potassium. 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1 other carbohydrate, 1 fat

Cinnamon Oranges
4 navel oranges
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
With a sharp knife, remove rind and white pith from oranges. Cut each into 5 or 6 slices and arrange on 4 plates. Whisk together orange juice and lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Spoon over the orange slices.
86 Calories; 0 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 0 mg Cholesterol; 22 g Carbohydrates; 1 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 2 mg Sodium; 258 mg Potassium 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 1/2 fruit

Chocolate Ginger Snaps
Dip gingersnaps into melted chocolate. Let the excess drip off. Place on a wax paper-lined plate. Sprinkle with crystallized ginger and cranberries. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. 
Tip: To melt chocolate: Microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Stir until melted.
157 calories; 6 g fat (3 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 97 mg sodium; 96 mg potassium. 2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 2 carbohydrates

Peach Ginger Gratin
4 peaches, halved and pitted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 gingersnaps, crushed
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Place peaches cut-side up in a shallow 1-quart baking dish. Bring sugar, lemon juice, water and ginger to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour over the peaches and sprinkle with gingersnaps. Bake until the peaches are tender and the syrup is thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
168 Calories; 1 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 0 mg Cholesterol; 42 g Carbohydrates; 1 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 46 mg Sodium; 306 mg Potassium 3 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 fruit, 2 other carbohydrate

Pineapple or Orange Parfait
1/3 cup reduced-fat vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup crushed canned pineapple, or canned mandarin oranges
1 tablespoon toasted coconut, (see Tip)
Top yogurt with pineapple (or canned mandarin oranges) and coconut.
Per serving (with pineapple) : 155 Calories; 3 g Fat; 3 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 4 mg Cholesterol; 28 g Carbohydrates; 5 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 57 mg Sodium; 325 mg Potassium 2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: pineapple: 1/2 low-fat milk, 1 fruit, oranges: 1/2 low-fat milk, 1 fruit
Nutrition Note: Per serving (with oranges): 133 calories; 3 g fat (3 g sat, 0 g mono); 4 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber; 60 mg sodium; 333 mg potassium.1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 1/2 low-fat milk, 1 fruit
Tip: To toast: Place coconut in a small dry skillet & cook until golden, about 5 minutes

1 banana
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges
1 cup fresh or canned, drained pineapple chunks
1 8-ounce container low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup mini marshmallows
Cut banana into thin slices. Put slices in a large bowl. Open can of oranges and pour juice into a small bowl. Add oranges and pineapple chunks to the bananas in the large bowl. Add yogurt to the large bowl and stir yogurt and fruit together with a wooden spoon. Add marshmallows and some of the juice you saved.
115 Calories; 1 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 2 mg Cholesterol; 27 g Carbohydrates; 3 g Protein; 1 g Fiber; 35 mg Sodium; 263 mg Potassium 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1 other carbohydrate
and other tasty treats
Vanilla Banana Cookie

1 Vanilla cookie
1 slice banana on it
1 tsp. instant diet vanilla pudding on top of banana
Sprinkle a little vanilla cookie crumbs

Cinnamon Popcorn
4 Qts Popped Popcorn
3 Tbl I can’t believe its not Butter
1/4 Cup Splenda
1 Tbls Water
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
Place popcorn in a large roasting pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. In a saucepan, slowly heat the ICBIN butter over low heat. Add the splenda, water, cinnamon and salt; cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour over popcorn; toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately

Zucchini Brownies
2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup light olive oil
1-1/4 cup No Sugar maple syrup
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix. Gently stir in the grated zucchini. Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, testing with a toothpick. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into 24 squares.

Hints: Uses for Lemons – FYI

2009 16, 10

Uses for Lemons from

The science behind these ingenious household uses of lemon is citric acid: a natural, organic acid that is present in concentrations as high as 8% in some varieties of lemon.
The wonders of citric acid have been known by scholars in Europe since the medieval times. The benefits of lemon and lime juice were recorded in a 13th century manuscript.

Get rid of cat litter box odor
Cut up a few lemons and put near the cat litter box. The lemons will soon neutralize the odor, leaving the room lemony fresh.
Get rid of stain on marble
For stubborn stain on marble, cut a lemon in half. Pour some salt on top of the stain and rub with the cut lemon. Be careful, however, as the acid in the lemon can actually cause more damage.
Get rid of ants
Squirt some lemon juice into holes and cracks where the ants are coming in. Place small pieces of lemon rinds or peels around the house.
Get rid of roaches and fleas
Wash your floor with the juice of 4 lemons in about half a gallon of water.
Get rid of moths
Hang a sachet of dry lemon rind in the closet to get rid of moths.
Get rid of mothball smell
Now that you can use lemon to get rid of moths, you won’t need those mothballs anymore … but how do you get rid of the lingering mothball smell? Lemon to the rescue (again!) – simply wash the drawers and closet with a solution of lemon juice in water.
Polish chrome
Got dull chrome faucets? Simply rub lemon rind, rinse and dry with a paper towel.
Clean tarnished brass, bronze, copper, and stainless steel
Make a paste of lemon juice and baking soda and apply to the tarnished area. Let soak for 5 to 10 minutes and wash in soapy water.
Air freshener
Put a mixture of lemon juice and water into a spray bottle. Voila! A natural and inexpensive air freshener. You can also put slices of lemon in a dish or a dish of lemon juice and baking soda mixture to help absorb bad odor and freshen the room.
All purpose cleaning solution
Add lemon juice, vinegar, and water in a spray bottle for a natural, all-purpose cleaning solution.
Furniture polish
For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a cup of water.
For unvarnished wood, mix equal parts of oilve oil and lemon juice. Use dry cotton rags to wipe the furniture.
Toilet bowl cleaner
Make your own toilet bowl cleaner with 1 part of lemon juice to 2 parts of borax. You can get rid of toilet rings by applying this solution and letting it sit for a couple of hours before rinsing.
Microwave lemons for 20 seconds before squeezing – that way, you get a lot more lemon juice out of every single one.

Use lemons instead of bleach
Soak clothes in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for half an hour before washing.
Get rid of stain, mildew and rust
Scrub mildewed clothes with a paste of lemon juice and salt. Let dry in the sunlight, then wash. Remember to test for color fastness before using this technique!
Whiten clothes
To boost your laundry detergent and whiten clothes, add 1 cup of lemon juice into the washer.
The custom of serving a slice of lemon with fish dates back to the Middle Ages. It was believed that if you accidentally swallowed a fish bone, then the lemon juice would dissolve it. Most people now do it because lemon to enhance flavor and get rid of that “fishy” smell.

Get rid of garbage disposal odor
If your garbage disposal smells bad, simply put leftover lemon and orange peels and grind them down the drain. Do this as frequently as needed to keep the garbage disposal odor away.
Get rid of bad fridge odor
Here’s an easy way to get rid of musky or bad refrigerator odor. Soak a sponge with lemon juice, place on a plate and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Get rid of cutting board odor
After cutting meat, fish, onion, garlic and other smelly food, you can get rid of bad cutting board odor simply by rubbing it with half a lemon. This also works for wooden cutlery and bowls.
Clean your microwave
Got hardened gunk of food in the microwave? Don’t reach for harsh chemicals, use lemons instead! Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to 1-1/2 cup of water and microwave on High for about 10 minutes. The water will boil and steam will condense inside the microwave. The gunk will easily wipe away with a paper towel or cleaning rag.
Lift tough grease stain
Put lemon peel in a water with some water in a blender. Apply the mash to the tough grease stain and scrub.
Brightens aluminum pots and pans
Fill the pot with water and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, then boil for 15 minutes. For the outside of the pots and pans, scrub with a half of a lemon.
Prevent potatoes and cauliflower from turning brown
Potatoes and cauliflower can turn brown after being boiled. To prevent this, simply add a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water before you turn on the stove.
Prevent avocado and guacamole from turning brown
The culprit is oxidation – when a cut avocado is exposed to air, an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase change the structures of phenolic compounds in the flesh of the avocado and thus their color. Since the enzyme doesn’t work as well in acidic environment, you can slow down this reaction by sprinkling lemon or lime juice.
Prevent apple slices from turning brown
Same idea as above. For apple slices, simply rub them with half a lemon.
Prevent rice from sticking
Add a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water before you cook the rice. The lemon will also make the rice whiter and brighter!
Make lettuce crisp again
Got soggy lettuce? Don’t toss it way – You can “revive” it by squeezing half a lemon into a bowl of ice water. Soak the soggy lettuce for about an hour. Rinse and dry the lettuce before serving in a salad or sandwich.
Get rid of cabbage odor
If you don’t like the smell of cooking cabbage, simply put a slice of lemon in the pot.
If you only need half a lemon, don’t throw the other half away! Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into an ice tray and freeze. Each ice cube of lemon juice is equals two tablespoons. (You can pop ’em out after they’re frozen and put them in a freezer bag for storage).

Soften dry and scaly elbows
Make a paste of lemon juice and baking soda. Rub into your elbows to exfoliate and soften the scaly skin. Repeat daily as required.
Soften rough hands and feet
Soak in equal part of lemon juice and water. Rinse, then dry with a towel. Repeat daily as required.
Clean your face
A rinse with lemon juice and water will clean and exfoliate your face for pennies as compared to expensive facial soaps.
Clean your hands
If your hands smell from peeling garlic or cleaning fish, rub your fingers with a lemon wedge to remove the odor.
Get rid of dandruff
Got itchy, scaly dandruff? Apply lemon juice directly to your scalp and massage it in before you hop on the shower. Then rinse away and wash your hair as usual.
Remove warts
Apply lemon juice directly on the wart with a Q-tip. Repeat daily until the wart disappears.
Treat poison ivy rash
Apply lemon juice directly to the rash to soothe the itching.
Treat insect bites
Apply a slice of lemon onto insect bites to help soothe the irritation.
Lighten age spots
Got liver spots and freckles? You can lighten them without expensive skin creams with lemon juice. Apply lemon juice directly to the spots for 15 minutes. Then rinse with water. Repeat daily until you lighten that age spot.
Whiten nails
Soak your fingertips in a mixture of lemon juice and water (1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 cup of water). You can also rub lemon rind on the nails to whiten them.
Treat acne and blackheads
Got blackheads? Dab lemon juice directly on the acne breakout once a day for several days until the condition improves.
Disinfects minor scrapes
If you’ve got minor cuts and scrapes and don’t mind a little stinging, you can use lemon juice as a disinfectant. Simply apply a few drops of lemon juice to the cuts and let sit for a minute or two before rinsing with water.
Heartburn relief
Drink a glass of water and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.

Shoe polish
Add a few drops of lemon juice to olive oil. Apply to shoes, then buff with a clean rag for a perfect shine.
Soil amendment
If you need acidic soil (for azaleas and rhododendrons, for example) , simply add lemon rinds to the ground.

How To Do Better In Loud, Crazy Group Conversations

2009 14, 10

How To Do Better In Loud, Crazy Group Conversations

Ah, the bane of my reserved existence for so many years: the loud, chaotic group conversation. I think most people can do fine in a more orderly group discussion, one where people stick to a topic, let each other finish their points, listen respectfully, and add their own input to further enlighten everyone else. But put a less social person in a more crazy conversation and they’re likely to shut down. That’s what I did. Everyone else would be talking over each other and I’d just sit there and stew.

Loud, crazy group conversations usually have these characteristics:

  • There’s a hectic, impatient, excitable vibe in the air as everyone wants to get their two cents in
  • Several people are often talking at once
  • Interruptions are common
  • Everyone is talking loudly, and the volume gradually increases as people try to talk over each other to get their point across
  • The conversation doesn’t stay on one topic for all that long
  • Conversational threads can easily be get derailed
  • Immaturity, stupid jokes, and showing off are fairly common

Of course, there’s also a middle ground between a totally loud, insane, free-for-all, and a completely calm, orderly discussion. Some of what I talk about in this article could apply to this area as well. Here’s my advice on how to get more out of these situations:

Accept these types of conversations for what they are and what they aren’t

Reflecting on all the times I’ve been irritated by these chaotic, boisterous conversations, I think what bothered me most is that they could have been something else, but they weren’t. They could have been more polite and organized, but they weren’t. They could have been more intellectual and stimulating, but they weren’t. They could have been quiet and easy to follow, but they weren’t. The other people could have let me get a word in edgewise, but they didn’t.

But that’s not what these conversations are like. They’re technically on the same continuum as more restrained, sophisticated conversation, but they’re their own animal. By nature they’re loud, scattered, inconsiderate, and ‘dog eat dog’. I realized there was no point in getting pouty over them because they weren’t what I wanted them to be.

Conversations like this are more for fun, cheap laughs, light entertainment, socializing for its own sake, and enjoying the company and ‘essence’ of all your friends at once. There’s also aspects of them that can be an acquired taste. Being in the middle of the vortex of noise and chaos can be energizing and stimulating, and it can be something of a cheap thrill to try to hold your own in it.

Accept you’re not going to have an in-depth, logical discussion

Just to emphasize the point above. Don’t go into these types of conversations expecting them to be a certain way and you won’t be disappointed. Sometimes the conversation will be a discussion of a certain issue, but because everyone is chomping at the bit to talk, they’re only going to be so orderly. People will raise their voices. People will talk over each other. People will cut you off to make a counterpoint, etc. At other times these conversations are going to be more random jokes and stories than anything. The more people in the mix, the more scattered they’re going to be.

Try your best to tolerate the inherent annoyances of the situation

These conversations are usually loud. They can create a maddening din as everyone talks at once. It can be confusing and frustrating to try and follow every sub-discussion at once. One or more people may be derailing every tangent with retarded jokes. Faced with these things in the past, I became annoyed and exasperated. I often just gave up and shut down. “God these people are irritating…” That was easier than, say, trying to make out what two people were saying as five other people were squawking at the same time. I still kind of wince in pain when faced with the sound of a table of people all talking together.

This isn’t some scientific statement, but I’d guess some less naturally social people are more sensitive to the discomfort and irritations of this situation. Still, the first step to doing better in these conversations is to suck it up and try to tolerate all the noise and stimulation so you can make something out of it. No matter how frustrating and hard it seems to keep focused, try your best to pay attention and follow the madness. Going back to the first and second points, don’t feel resentful because everyone isn’t being more keyed-down. That’s just the way these things are.

Realize if you want to get your speech time in, you pretty much have to grab it for yourself

These conversations are more cut throat. Nobody owes you anything in them. Not that they’re purposely heartless, it’s just that everyone is excited and wants to talk, and they’d rather it be them than you. If you want to say something you’ve got to fight to get your share of the air space. Waiting patiently for the others to recognize you have something to say may not work. Trying to get your rightful time in the spotlight can be part of the fun though:

  • Interrupting someone or cutting them off
  • Raising your voice to be heard over the din
  • Making it obvious with your body language that you want to talk after the current speaker is finished
  • Talking quickly to get your point out before someone cuts you off
  • Using gestures to indicate to other people that you’re not done talking yet and not to cut you off
  • Being the first one out of the gate when one person finishes talking and you and several others want to jump in with their contributions
  • When you and several other people want to start talking at once, raising your voice to overpower them
  • Making a statement such as, “I want to say something after him.”
  • Repeating the start of your statement several times until you’re given the floor.

All these things are much more acceptable in loud group conversations than others. You can still go overboard with interrupting people or drowning them out, but if you don’t do it too obnoxiously it’s accepted as part of the package. No one takes it too personally if you do stuff like this in the heat of the moment.

All these things can make these conversations more like a game than other types. You don’t just need something you want to talk about, you have to figure out how to get it out there. Often there are some people who are louder and more dominating in the conversation than others. If you want to talk you have to ‘beat’ them. I’ll admit it’s a twisted sort of internal logic, but just play along.

Alter your communication to be more effective for these interactions

You can’t talk the way you normally would in these conversations. If you do you’ll likely get cut off. You’ve got to make your messages quicker and more to the point. Once you’ve gotten the spotlight you’ve only got so much time before someone else will want it, so don’t ramble on too much. Figure out what you want to say then get it out succinctly. And say it with enough volume and force that no one will cut you off. It also helps to zest up your statements to make them more entertaining, so people will be likely to want to hear them.

A mistake quieter, or less game, people make is they won’t actively try to jump into the conversation, but eventually everyone will see they have something they want to say and give them a chance to contribute. People usually aren’t total jackasses in this situation after all. “Ah, I finally have my chance”, the quiet person thinks and proceeds to launch into a meandering three minute dissertation. Unless that person is really venerated, someone is going to get antsy and cut them off. Giving the quieter person a break is one thing, but they don’t get a free pass to babble on forever. These conversations aren’t the place for long bouts of patient, respectful listening.

Don’t get too attached to your own agenda and put the good of the conversation as a whole first

Any time lots of people are talking, you have to accept that the conversation may veer away from where you’d like it to go. If you’d like it to be about x, but it’s gone off on a tangent about j, then go with it. Don’t try to shoehorn it back towards x. If you had something you really wanted to say about x, but the two last people who talked changed the subject, then when it’s your turn to speak, abandon your old thread and contribute to the new topic. It’s usually not the best idea to try to go all the way back to x just because you want to get your clever point out.

Often, when I’d go into a conversation I’d have an agenda like, “I would like to talk a lot and show people how smart and knowledgeable I am” or “I would like to talk about this particular topic because I just read a book about it and want to discuss it.” I still do that, it’s only natural really. Still, I think the better play is to go with the flow and do what makes the conversation the best for everyone involved. To get all abstract, the conversation has a life of its own beyond your own wants and needs. Contribute things that make it entertaining and interesting for the others as a whole. Say things that move it into good territory. Not that everyone else will be doing this, but I think it’s preferable to trying to make it all about you.

Start a side conversation if you can

Sometimes a group conversation will obviously involve everyone talking together. At other times it’s more that many people are gathered in the same area, but it’s okay if little side conversations break off. If you’re at a table of six people, and four of them are talking about something you’re not interested in, you can try starting a new conversation with the one other person. Don’t worry about talking as others are speaking, that’s fine is it’s apparent you’re chatting to someone on the side.

The other side: Scoring points by controlling the madness

As you’ve just read, these conversations can get a bit hairy and out of control at times. To a point you have to go along with their unwritten rules, but you can also demonstrate good social skills by not getting too carried away and helping other people along:

  • Help the quieter or less eager people in the group get a chance to talk by signaling to the others that they something they’d like to say.
  • If you can tell someone really wants to make a point, restrain that sometimes irresistible urge to interrupt.
  • If a less forceful person makes a point and it’s falling on deaf ears because other people are distracted, direct the conversation towards them (e.g., “Sorry, what’s that Derek? You were talking about…”)
  • If you’re good at getting your speech time, then don’t be selfish and ease off a bit to give other people a chance to talk.

And those are my tips. I have a feeling some of the readers out there are even less keen than before to tackle this kind of discussion. Yeah, it really is an acquired taste. Once you get past the initial, “Holy crap this is annoying” barrier and get a handle on how they work, you can start to enjoy them on their own terms.

Beauitful Bridges

2009 14, 10

Pedestrian Bridge Texas

This beautiful arched bridge in Lake Austin was built by Miro Rivera Architects and is
used to connect the client’s main house to the smaller guest house on the other side of the
pond. To make the bridge seem as natural as possible within its surroundings they made the
decking and reed-like hand rails imperfect but still structurally sound.

Kintaikyo, Iwakuni, Japan

The original Kintai Bridge was built in 1673 but collapsed due to flooding. The rebuilt bridge survived for more than 200 years until a typhoon destroyed it in 1950. The bridge that stands now over the Nishiki River has five wooden arches displaying an incredible amount of detail and craftmanship. Interesting fact: no nails or bolts have been used to build the arches, only clamps and wires.

Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, Brasilia, Brazil

The JK Bridge in Brasilia is a lesson in elegant bridge design. The three huge diagonal arches over the deck of the bridge give the structure an amazing visual fluidity (yeah, but was the designer slightly inebriated when he designed this structure?).

Rolling Bridge, London, UK

Thomas Heatherwick’s award-winning rolling bridge is an ingenious addition to the grand union canal system in London and is unique. Unlike regular movable canal bridges, the rolling bridge curls up to form an octagon by way of hydraulic jacks to let ships pass.

Beipanjiang River Railroad Bridge, Guizhou, China

Beipanjiang River Railroad Bridge in Guizhou is an enormous railway bridge that was built as part of the ‘Guizhou-Shuibai Railway Project’. Connecting two mountains over a deep ravine, at its highest point the bridge’s deck sits 918 ft above the ground. Parenthetically the bridge connects two of the country’s poorest areas.

Henderson Waves, Southern Ridges, Singapore

‘Henderson Waves’ is Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge and is at the ‘Southern Ridges,’ a beautiful 9 km (six miles) stretch of gardens and parks. The deck of the bridge is made from thousands of Balau wood slats, perfectly cut and arranged, and along the length of the deck a snaking, undulating shell forms sheltered seating areas on every upward curve.

Pont Gustave Flaubert, Rouen, France

This incredible vertical lift bridge is in Rouen, France, whose spans weigh 1,200 tons each but can be hoisted 180 ft vertically in an impressive 12 minutes. The angular lift structures at the top of each tower weigh 450 tons each. The huge vertical lift allows even the largest cruise liners to sail through.

H egigio Gorge Pipeline Bridge, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

This bridge supports two pipelines – one gas, the other oil – across the extremely deep gap in Papua New Guinea. If this were to be officially recognized as a vehicular or pedestrian bridge it would rocket to the top of the ‘world’s highest bridge-span’ with the pipelines at an impressive height of 1,290 ft above the bottom of the gorge. By comparison, the current highest bridge span title belongs to the Royal Gorge Bridge  in Colorado, hanging a mere 1,053 ft above ground level