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George R.R. Martin will publish Fire and Blood, the 640-page Game of Thrones history book no one asked for, this fall

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George R.R. Martin has announced that he’ll be releasing a new book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series this fall — sort of. No, it’s not the long awaited The Winds of Winter, which promises to finally continue the saga that Martin begin back in 1996 and which fans have been waiting almost seven years to read. Rather, fans will be able to enjoy 640 pages of Fire and Blood, a collection of short stories that tell “the definitive history of the Targaryens in Westeros.”

Fire and Blood is said to be the first of two planned volumes of these historical stories, which Martin has alluded to before in the main series of the books, as well as in his companion history, The World of Ice and Fire. But Fire and Blood, along with its unnamed sequel,...

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2 hours ago
Fuck you, George. Nobody gives a shit about the books anymore, anyway. The show is the definitive version now.

Put Tape on Your Apple TV Remote

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Apple, the good design company, bundles its Apple TV with a pitch-black and horizontally symmetrical remote. This means that if you can find the remote in the dark, you’re likely to grab it by the wrong end, grasping the touchpad and clicking the wrong button. Thankfully you can fix that by attaching an ugly spot of…


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5 days ago
If you have to put tape on something to make it usable, it's poorly designed.

Cheap DIY Solutions to Spring Yard and Household Hassles

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When spring arrives, plants return to life and many creatures stir from dormancy.

Sometimes, you wish they hadn’t.

When my wife and I bought our house five years ago, it was the first home of our adult lives that wasn’t an apartment. We found ourselves surrounded by 80 acres of neighboring farm and, suddenly, with roughly two acres of property to maintain along with our house.

We moved in during December, but received an introduction to most of our household headaches by late March and early April. Ants suddenly made trails to any piece of kibble left behind by cats. The cats, meanwhile, had their paws full with the random shrews and field mice that had appeared in our basement. Moles and voles left dirt piles in our yard, moss began to show up in small green patches on our roof shingles, wasps appeared from under the eaves, and weeds of all sorts appeared amid the grass.

We learned the hard way that we couldn’t buy our way out of every problem. Ant traps were largely ineffective. Mouse traps and poisons were out of the question thanks to the cats. Moss killer would damage some of our gutters and surrounding plants. Two people using weed killer on two acres of property is like trying to bring down an elephant with a pellet gun. But through our continuing battles with pests of all stripes, we learned some lessons about how to deal with them both effectively and frugally.

The following are just a few of the problems we’ve encountered along the way, and some of the solutions we’ve adopted to help them out. We don’t claim that they’re perfect, and I encourage tips and feedback in the comments if you have better solutions. But if they help out some poor homeowner besieged by the same issues, we’ll have done our part.


Cleaning out a bowl of cat food crawling with tiny sugar ants is no fun. It took only one invasion of that nature for my wife and I to head to the local Albertsons and stock up on Raid Ant Baits ($3.49 for a pack of four).

The ants proceeded to walk by those as if they were roadside hotels that just looked riddled with bedbugs. The next step was a trip to Home Depot and a 1.3-gallon jug of Ortho Home Defense for about $13.50. It worked well for a time, but with cats a bit too close to the spray areas for comfort, we sought other solutions.

One site suggested sprinkling Borax detergent booster ($6.79 for 65 ounces) and granulated sugar ($7.99 per 10-pound bag) around the places ants get in, like door thresholds and window sills. The ants are drawn in by the sugar and take the Borax, toxic to ants, back with them. That worked well, but left us with candied doorways and windows by the end of the season. Also, the sugar-Borax mixture isn’t great for pets that run afoul of it.

This year, however, we’re going with DIYNatural’s suggestion of taking Borax and powdered sugar instead of granulated ($2.99 for two pounds), rolling the mixture up in cotton balls ($2.79 for 200), and placing them on shallow dishes near the ant trails. So far, no ants beyond the first sighting and, at $12.57 total, it provides roughly 16 batches of bait while giving us roughly 200 traps — making each worth just cents apiece.


It’s a pleasant-looking weed that resembles clover with a bit of daisy, but shotweed gets everywhere and will turn into unwanted ground cover if you don’t take care of it. For years, our approach was to simply pluck it as soon as we saw it in the spring. But shotweed is small, delicate, and resilient. It’s also crafty: Hiding beneath boxwood or laurel and reappearing in a more sizable patch a year later.

The most effective solution, however, was to raid the kitchen for some white vinegar, salt, and dish detergent and spray areas where shotweed was most prevalent. We had to restrict spraying in areas close to beloved plants, reverting to hand weeding in those instances, but it was more effective than simply weeding and less damaging to the yard than a commercial weed killer.

Paper Wasps

Small, round, grey nests began appearing under the eaves of our house and around some of the outbuildings. Our first line of defense was a $4.27 can of Spectricide Hornet & Wasp Killer ($3.27 at Home Depot). It was relatively cheap, it put 20 feet between me and the nests, and it was incredibly effective at killing wasps.

Unfortunately, it left an oily sheen behind that posed a danger to a nearby colony of wild honeybees. Searching for a safer solution, we found that simple soap and water did the same job, and that a strong spray bottle or hose attachment could give me just as much distance from the wasps. It’s worked on both our house and goat shed so far, and some strategically planted mint (which wasps hate) have kept them away since.


Living in the Pacific Northwest, moss is just a fact of life. It’s in your sidewalks, its in your lawn and it’s on your roof. While a moss-covered roof under a grey sky may fuel some romantic notions about life in this portion of the country or places like Ireland and Scotland, that moss will turn into a leaking roof if you let it sit around long enough.

During our first year, we bought bags of Rid Moss for the grass ($10.99 at Home Depot) and cans of Moss Out ($18.95) and a pump sprayer for the roof and sidewalk ($49.95). The Rid Moss met with limited success after the first year of spreading, but the Moss-Out was far more effective — clearing out the sidewalk and keeping low roofs on the house and garage moss-free. However, it wasn’t all that great for the higher, more steep-pitched second-story roof of the house. I turned to a garden hose attachment in ensuing years ($15.98), but there are other options.

Fortifying a lawn with lime and fertilizer can restore pH balance enough that moss can be killed with a simple soap-and-water solution. Meanwhile, you can make moss killer at home by mixing either vinegar, dish detergent, or bleach with water.


Thistle appears everywhere and is a nasty-prickly weed to get rid of once it’s established. Weed killer was never really an option for us, and spray made of vinegar solution that was so effective for others never seemed to work out as well for us.

However, after crushing apples for cider and feeding the skins to our goats near a particularly thistle-ridden patch of their pen, we found that thistles that came into contact with decaying apple bits withered and never returned. We began using apple cider vinegar ($6.59 per gallon at Safeway) cut with water, and have steadily slain thistle since.


They are everywhere and it’s nearly impossible to kill two acres of them. While we haven’t given up or resorted to Roundup, we’ve performed some triage and addressed them where they’re most visible.

During the first years, we were simply uprooting as many as we could. However, as anyone who’s battled dandelions knows, leaving any part of the root just means you’ll have another dandelion next year.

We were advised that boiling water would kill dandelions, but it turned out to be a less-than-permanent solution. However, this is the one instance where vinegar absolutely works. While you can use undiluted white vinegar or a combination of vinegar and lemon juice, you really need to follow up. Either pull the withered plant and spray again or, if you’d rather leave it, make another pass with the vinegar before rinsing out the area with water.

Moles and Voles

Moles and voles will make your yard a mess of high-piled dirt mounds if left unchecked, but even checking them doesn’t always work. We started out with $20 mole traps, but ended up with a handful of dead moles and no fewer holes. We tried friendlier solutions like vibrating mole spikes $15 and glass bottles and pinwheels stuck in the ground (with wind creating vibration). The moles and voles laughed. We’ve even poured castor oil down holes. Nothing.

With that said, the best way you can save time and money in this instance is with the $20 Victor mole traps we’ve mentioned. All mole-related advice says this — not $50 jugs of castor oil or $15 packs of mole stakes — is the only way to get rid of them permanently. Maybe one year, we will.

Mice and Shrews

We live on a two-acre property surrounded by a neighboring 80-acre farm. We couldn’t eliminate mice or shrews if we tried. However, they were ubiquitous during our first year in the house despite the presence of two barn cats and two indoor cats. While we’d used $16 plug-in sonic deterrents while living in an apartment in Boston, we can’t recommend them for everyone since experience with them varies drastically. Also, our house is a bit bigger than the apartment.

We began using D-Con mouse bait from Home Depot ($11) in our closets, but were warned off of it because of its toxicity to our cats. The same went for the $35 self-contained traps we tried using next. Friends recommended peppermint oil ($10 for 4 ounces) on cotton swabs placed throughout the house, but the answer that worked best was under our nose the entire time: Cats.

When a barn cat passed away, we brought a young tabby into the house who, like the remaining barn cat and one of our existing cats, loved hunting down mice and shaking them to death. His first year in the house, the mouse and shrew body count was roughly eight. The next year, it dropped to four. This year, we’ve had the cats leave us just two, with no signs of permanent mouse activity anywhere in the house.

We adopted our tabby from a local shelter for just $50, which also covered his first vet visit and shots. It costs just slightly more to feed him than it did to feed the existing cats, but the cost was well worth it for both the mousing and the companionship. If you’re allergic to cats, the peppermint oil or sonic deterrents are inexpensive solutions. If not, a compatible, low-maintenance cat is a fine solution.

Related Reading:

The post Cheap DIY Solutions to Spring Yard and Household Hassles appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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24 days ago
In my experience, Terro is the only thing that works for ants.

The A Song of Ice and Fire book coming this year is still not the one you want

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Notoriously slow Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin plans to release a book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series this year. Unfortunately, it’s not the long-awaited sixth novel, The Winds of Winter. Instead, it’s the companion book Fire & Blood, which will be a written history of the franchise’s House Targaryen. Martin confirmed on his LiveJournal that the first volume is “planned” for a 2018 release, while “the second is hardly begun.”

Fans have been waiting for The Winds of Winter for years at this point, with no definitive answer on when it will actually arrive. The last official entry in the saga, A Dance with Dragons, was released all the way back in 2011. According to a follow-up LiveJournal comment by Martin, The Winds of...

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69 days ago
Does anyone really care about he 6th book anymore? Most people probably consider the TV show canon.

Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues: Using One Week to Change Your Life

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Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 into a family of very modest means. Today, they’d probably be called lower middle class at best. His parents had just enough money to send him to school for a couple of years out of hopes that he could eventually join the clergy, but by the age of ten, he was done with school and was a print shop apprentice by the age of twelve, climbing around on printing presses, sorting letters, mixing ink, and all of the other tasks needed to keep a printing press running.

From that humble background, Franklin became a highly successful printer, a well known writer, a scientist, a politician, and a diplomat, among many other hats. During those efforts, he accumulated enough wealth to effectively retire independently wealthy in his forties, and he largely devoted the rest of his life to public service (and his individual interests). He was such a towering figure in the American Revolution that he was deservedly called the “first American,” and his light shines brightly even today.

Even to this day, Franklin’s Autobiography is a splendid read. You can get a nice pocket edition of it for just a few dollars, check it out at your library for free, or download it and read it electronically for free. No matter how you read it, I highly recommend you do so, as it’s an insightful book about an amazing person.

One of the things that has really stood out to me each time I’ve read his autobiography is the fact that he attributed most of his success (beyond that of luck) to practicing thirteen core life virtues, to the best of his ability. He believed that by living those virtues, he had done everything he could to put himself in a position to be on the good side of the unexpected events of life.

He actually had an incredible system for working on those virtues, which I want to talk about today.

Ben Franklin’s “Virtue Cards”

For a large portion of Franklin’s life, he carried around a card in his pocket that depicted a simple table with seven columns and thirteen rows on it.

Each column on this card represented a day of the week – Monday through Sunday. Each row on this card represented one of thirteen virtues that he wanted to work on.

During the day, he might glance at these virtues a time or two to keep them fresh in his mind. At the end of each day, however, he’d pull out a pen and go through those virtues, asking himself if he’d actually practiced them during the day and marking the box if he had done so. His goal was to fill in as many boxes as possible, and each week, he would start anew with a fresh blank chart.

That wasn’t all. Not all of the charts were identical. In fact, he had thirteen variations of the charts, which he cycled through every thirteen weeks. On the top of each variation of the card was listed one virtue, which was the main one he wanted to practice that week, along with a brief description of that virtue.

For example, one week, he might really focus on frugality, while the next week might particularly focus on temperance. He’d reflect on and record his success with all thirteen virtues each day, but he would intentionally focus on just one virtue each week.

You can download a generic duplicate of his virtue card (without the specific focus for the week) here.

A final key part of his practice is that he’d review the cards as a whole at the end of each week, evaluating which virtues were successful that week, which ones were not, and which areas really needed focus and improvement in his life. He’d also review them as a set, and thus with thirteen cards to review, that roughly covers three months of living. A larger review like this – a “quarterly review” if you will – can point you to some larger patterns along your path to becoming a better person.

Over time, these virtues became more and more ingrained in his character. He found himself naturally practicing them more than he once did, which made him into a more well-rounded and successful person and a better participant in society, which he attributed to being a healthy part of the success that he found in almost every attribute of life.

So what were these thirteen virtues?

Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

Here are the virtues that Franklin tracked and reflected upon each day. His goal was to improve himself with regard to each virtue so that over time he was a better person in that regard, and by being a better overall person, he was more open to life’s opportunities.

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
This one’s pretty simple. Eat until you’re not hungry any more rather than stuffing yourself, don’t eat just for entertainment’s sake or for boredom’s sake, and stop drinking when it begins to impair your judgment and sensibilities. It’s about self-regulating what you put into your body and making the conscious choice to put in only enough for good living.

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
If you don’t have anything of value to add to a conversation, don’t do so. Instead, just listen to what’s being said – and actually listen. Try to seek out meaningful conversations and avoid meaningless chatter. This doesn’t mean that you avoid getting to know other people and small talk, but that you recognize that there is a distinct purpose to such conversations and you keep a focus on that purpose. Idle chatter for no purpose is the problem, as is speaking just to fill space in the conversation.

Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Keep your physical possessions organized so that you can always find what you need. Do the same with your time, so that you always have time for the things that are important to you; if that’s a struggle, adopt some form of time management or a smarter approach to one’s possessions. If you have too many things that it becomes very difficult to keep them all straight, then this is a call to start downsizing the less important things.

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
If you decide to do something, carry through with it. Don’t commit to things that you can’t follow through on or aren’t actually intending to follow through on. Say “no” if you’re asked to do something that you can’t actually follow through on. In fact, if you’re unsure, say “no” just so you’re not left with someone else holding the bag due to your failure of resolution. If you say “yes,” follow through on that yes.

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
My favorite virtue, perhaps. Don’t be wasteful with your money. Whenever you spend a dollar or use something, have it be genuinely purposeful. You want to get maximum value for the dollars that you have when you choose to spend them. If you’re not choosing to spend them, put them to work for you in some aspect of your life, either by paying down debt or building an emergency fund or saving for a big goal like retirement.

Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Don’t spend your time idling. Try to spend your time doing something productive, and if you lack the energy or focus to do the task at hand, find something else that fits where you’re at. If you don’t have anything on hand to do, spend that time improving yourself. If you’re too tired to do anything, sleep, and if that tiredness is consistent, engage in purposeful leisure or talk to a doctor.

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Be honest in your words, but also kind in terms of the impact that they can have on others. Don’t be hurtful with what you say, but strive to lift up the other person. Don’t lie and don’t mislead, but don’t be cruel with your words, either. If you must criticize, find ways to criticize without being “brutally honest,” which is insincere in its intention.

Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Don’t bring harm to others for your own benefit. Try to find ways so that everyone involved in your interactions finds some genuine benefit. Seek out solutions so that everyone wins. If you agreed to an arrangement, stick by that arrangement, or renegotiate it if it’s now untenable.

Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Choosing extreme positions or acting toward others in extreme ways often ends up with negative consequences for you without any real benefit. Avoid taking positions or behaving in ways that bring harm towards others unless you intentionally are bringing harm, in which case be careful in the amount of harm you bring.

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
Practice hygiene. Keep your clothes clean. Keep your home clean. Keep your office clean. Keep your teeth clean. This is not only for your own health, but also for how you present yourself to the world.

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Don’t be upset by the unexpected events that life throws at you. They’re going to happen – being upset does not help resolve them. If you recognize your emotions swelling, consciously keep them in check. Learn how to recognize your own emotions inside and understand them without reacting to them or acting upon them. Use them as information instead in order to make better decisions.

Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Don’t let physical passions become a distraction or a main focus in your life. Don’t allow it to cause you to betray or harm others. Again, if you find yourself in a position where things are untenable, seek outside help and don’t simply toss the virtue to the side.

Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Undersell and overdeliver in everything that you do. Don’t talk about how great you are; instead, be great and give abundant credit to others.

A person who is a true master of these thirteen virtues would be a great person, indeed, and would likely find that great success nearly falls on their lap.

Make Your Own Virtues

While I believe that these are all worthwhile virtues to practice, one might want to choose other virtues – or even personal skills – that they want to improve and substitute them into Franklin’s plan. One could easily remove some virtues and substitute other ones, or even start from scratch with one’s own virtues.

For example, let’s say that someone wanted to use this practice to strictly improve their finances. They would likely retain frugality and temperance, but they might want to add other virtues and skills to the mix, such as mastering food preparation, using deliberate practice in one’s career path, building social skills, and so on.

Let’s say that you wanted to master becoming a calmer person. You might include things like meditation, stoicism, and prayer in your list of virtues.

It all depends on what you want to achieve. However, I will say that Franklin’s list of thirteen virtues really will go a long way toward improving your overall character and life situation no matter where you’re at in life.

The goal with all of this is to come up with a set of very specific virtues or skills that you can apply every single day to become a better person, the person you want to be, and then review your progress with those virtues and skills each day. Over time, those skills and virtues would become natural to you, shaping you into the person you desire to become.

Make It a Practice

The key to this, of course, is to make it a daily practice.

Once you’ve defined a set of virtues or specific skills that you want to work on in your life and integrate into your normal behaviors, take it a step further and copy Franklin’s entire system, using your desired virtues and skills as the basis for your practice.

You can start by making a set of cards for the virtues you want to practice. It’s pretty simple to design a small table, with rows for each thing you want to improve and columns for each day of the week, in your preferred word processing program. Just design a size that prints easily on a blank 4″ by 6″ index card and print them yourself. If you prefer, you can also design them by hand using a ruler and a pen.

On each card, simply write the days of the week at the top of each column and an abbreviation of the skill or virtue you want to practice to the left of each row.

Consider designing a set of these cards, one with each virtue or skill you want to practice at the top with a brief description, so that you have a particular virtue or skill to focus on that week. Print off (or make) the entire set at once, cycle through all of them, and then make a new set and start from scratch.

You can also implement this practice electronically. Just use a note program on your smartphone that contains a list of the virtues that you can use to review each morning and each night. A simple program like Evernote can handle the job quite well.

At the end of the week, review your overall progress. Which virtues are you particularly weak on right now? What can you do to strengthen those virtues going forward? Use the data you recorded – both the marked virtues and skills you succeeded with and the ones you missed – as a source of insight on how to continue to improve.

The key thing to always remember with a process like this is that it takes time. People always want immediate results that appear like magic. Improving yourself takes time, and then it takes even more time for the effects of that improvement to propagate out into your life. The key thing with this is to remember that you are getting better, little by little. If you strive to be a little better than the day before, you’re always heading in the right direction, and given enough time, that change will ripple out into the world.

This really is a simple yet brilliant system for genuine self-improvement. It can help you change your character as a whole or help you bring about true lasting improvement in specific areas of your life. The key is to trust the process – keep doing this over a long period of time and you’ll find yourself in a better place.

Good luck.

The post Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues: Using One Week to Change Your Life appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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111 days ago
This is great. I send a daily email to my staff, and I try to include some worthwhile ideas. I'm going to share this with them.

Tesla unveils its largest Supercharger station in the US — and it kind of looks like a truck stop

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About halfway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, right off Interstate 5, is the tiny town of Kettlemen City. It’s home to a cheese factory, a hazardous waste facility, and as of today, the largest Tesla Supercharger station in the country. It has solar rooftops and a lounger for vehicle owners to hang out while their Tesla car recharges. And if you look closely, you’ll notice that the layout of the station mimics a truck stop, which sure is interesting when you consider that Tesla is unveiling its first semi truck this evening.

While the Kettlemen station isn’t the largest in the world — that honor goes to the 50-stall Supercharger station currently under construction in Shanghai — it...

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160 days ago
Well, what did you expect it to look like?
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