The value of analog

Top of homemade letterhead

Slow can be better.

Taking time to write a letter by hand adds value to communication that is just not part of an email or a text message.

Hand-written communication is much more personal than reading someone’s thoughts on a screen.

And you can personalize your letter with an additional layer of communication… using a custom letterhead. Above, you can see a simple letterhead I made by clipping the Onyx logo off one of their amazing coffee packages.

The coffee mug my daughter made is worth far more to me than the Starbucks mug I picked up at the Goodwill.

A watch that is hand-made in Switzerland is worth more than an Apple watch made mostly by machines in China.

More time invested in producing an object is often reflected in the final value. A Singer Porsche can cost $1,000,000 – compared to a new Porsche 911 starting at a sweet $114,00.

So write a letter. It’s an easy way to share yourself with a friend.

If you liked this, I also wrote about how slowing down can improve your life and the value of retro things.


It really adds up!

A Paulmark card - illustrating cumulative savings

I haven’t done the math, but we have saved a lot.

1. For the many years that Heather and I have been married, she has cut my hair. I’ve probably only paid a barber three times.

Admittedly, I am blessed to be married to such a talented woman. Not everyone has a partner who can cut their hair.

2. I’m old enough that I like to send greeting cards to people for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, memorials, illnesses or just to say thanks.

For most of my adult life, I have made my own greeting cards. I “publish” them (one-offs, all) under the brand “Paulmark.”

These days, a basic greeting card costs between $5 and $10. That adds up!

Each time one of our kids graduated from high school, that meant coming up with five or ten cards. Three kids… you do the math.

My point is not that you or your partner should learn to cut hair or that you should design your own greeting cards – but rather that you can come up with a small idea to save money – and do it over and over and over.

You can give the money you save away… think of someone in your life who could use a little boost!


How can I help?

finger with a bandaid strip

I was dropping off some packages for FedEx to deliver.

Kayla, the lady that helped me, noticed that my finger was bleeding… “Can I get you a bandaid?”

That was certainly above and beyond the call of normal duties… she had to go to a far corner of the store to find a first aid kit that had a bandaid.

Her smile and positive attitude conveyed her heartfelt willingness to be helpful.

And she made my day.

How can you make a positive difference in the life of someone today?


Font problems

Apple Font Book screenshot

Those of you who have met me know that the first half of my career involved graphic design.

The tool of choice for graphic designers remains a Mac computer.

I recently made a life change that means my main daily tool is once again my beloved Mac. (Yay!)

As a designer, fonts are important.

One of the pain points of most of the applications on my Mac is the list of long fonts. For some of them, to choose an appropriate font means scrolling through a long list.

Font Book is a built-in Apple app that lets users manage their fonts. It allows you to disable some of the fonts. Then they won’t appear in your font list. But many global fonts and useless obscure-styled fonts are not removable.

Life is never perfect.


No-Alcohol Beers For the Win

Three low-alcohol beers

Surprisingly tasty!

Brewdog, WellBeing & Athletic Brewing no-alcohol beersI was amazed when I first tasted a beer created by Athletic Brewing. They managed to brew a beer that’s very low in alcohol content and yet tastes like a decent microbrew.

Besides no alcohol, these beers have very low calories. Win-win!

My favorite brew by Athletic is their Free Wave Hazy. When I went to my local Whole Foods to get a refill, I discovered that Athletic Brewing has some competition…

WellBeing takes no-alcohol beer to another level by packaging their beer in pint cans bundled into four-packs. Their Intentional IPA tastes mighty fine – hoppy and refreshing. And their package design is definitely the best.

Brew Dog has several flavors and sell variety packs.

And I’m sure there are more tasty no-alcohol brews from brands that I haven’t discovered.

Warnings and caveats:

  • These are not cheap. It costs money for these breweries to work their magic.
  • These beers are for the US market. If you live in England, try Small Beer.
  • There might be a tiny amount of alcohol in these brews. So if you’re 100% against consuming any alcohol, skip to another aisle in your supermarket.
  • I avoid beers like Heineken 0.0 and Budweiser Zero. (Basic seltzer water also has no alcohol. But I like basic seltzer water.)

A diamond in the rough

Episode home theater speakers

I love shopping at the Goodwill. It’s a great way to discover diamonds in the rough.

Amidst furniture that should have been taken to a dumpster and lightly-used wedding dresses, you might find something of great value!

Over the weekend, I dropped by our local Goodwill to buy a specific-sized container. I found a small ceramic masterpiece and avoided a trip to IKEA -making less environmental impact than buying something new.

For me, a trip to the Goodwill is not complete without stopping in the electronics aisle. This time, I discovered a pair of large audiophile speakers, shown above at a 90-degree angle.

These beauties were a brand I had never heard of – Episode. Apparently, they were sold by home theater installers about ten years ago – retailing for $1,500! Goodwill was selling the pair for $80.

They were about three feet tall, very heavy and covered in a deep black gloss finish.

Alas, these speakers were not to be part of my life. Since I’m married, decisions about purchases like this are not made alone. Heather thought they would be too visually overwhelming in our living room. And we don’t fire up our stereo enough to justify that expenditure.

(I could have bought them and tried to sell them on eBay or Craigslist, but it wouldn’t have been worth the hassle.)

Any discussion of the Goodwill would not be complete without mentioning my dad and my daughter.

My dad passed away long before my daughter was born, but they are united in their love of Goodwill stores.

My father was a child of the Great Depression, and poverty was integral to his life. He learned to shop secondhand because back then, everything used was far less expensive than new. (Today, that’s not always true.)

He and my Aunt Mary spent many joy-filled days together scouring countless Goodwill aisles for treasures.

My daughter takes great delight in finding Lululemon apparel at the Goodwill for far less than retail – and reselling it on Poshmark.

Like father, like son, like granddaughter.


The folly of luxury

Paul wearing Apple AirPods Max headphones

A small windfall hit me like welcome summer rain. I decided to celebrate by getting a pair of Apple AirPods Max.

Ebay was the perfect shopping destination. I found a pair in great condition in happy neutral space gray at way less than retail.

Setting them up was super easy. The software interface was very simple to use and had numerous options.

Then reality hit…

  1. The biggest problem I faced was intolerable sound when listening with noise cancellation. My favorite podcasts sounded like the participants were speaking from inside a small narrow tunnel.
  2. Listening in an airplane almost worked. But each time we took off, there was a loud “pop” that Apple’s software injected after detecting a sound made by the airplane.
  3. The magnificent quality construction resulted in a heavy pair of headphones. After an hour or so of listening, they started to get uncomfortable.
  4. The Smart Case seemed like an afterthought. Its design was about a tenth as good as the headphones’ design.
  5. A very minor glitch in the software meant that it never remembered the noise cancellation modes I selected.

So, goodbye AirPods Max. I sold them yesterday on Facebook Marketplace.

I enjoyed exploring this product that I had always been curious about. I only lost $20 in the exchange.

I left with a nice little reminder that the only satisfaction available will be in heaven.

And then I went back to a modest pair of Sony phones.


Estate Sales Are Great

I have this rule that whenever I see an open house at a home on the routes I regularly take to get places, I will go.

An even better alternative to the fun involved in touring a stranger’s home is an estate sale.

Today, I was riding my bike back from a long errand and saw an estate sale on one of my normal routes.


This one was excellent. Sadly, the former residents had moved out probably due to the death of the remaining member of the older married residents. You can see posts on my Instagram feed in the next week or so that reflect this presumption.

The house and the former residents’ belongings were a time capsule from the 1970s.

And I bought a harmonica for $3. (The same one goes for about $25 on ebay.)

What a great way to capture some of the fun of my childhood.

(I never became a true harmonica player… but when I was a kid, harmonicas were something that kids loved, even if they couldn’t play.)

A final sad note… at least one of the former residents of this home was a hoarder. Besides the remaining harmonicas for sale numbering about seven, the homeowner had accumulated six chainsaws! And that doesn’t even count any that may have sold.

(If it’s broken, get a new one and keep the old one.)


England. And the Queen.

An English crossing guard lady toy

Queen Elizabeth II died. You know that.

She was very well loved across the world. I read several well-crafted reflections by both English citizens and Americans about what a wonderful lady she was. Besides being the sovereign of a country for more years than most people live, she was able to ride the balance between leadership and humility. She commanded respect by her character and not by requesting it from her subjects.

So what does a crossing guard toy have to do with the Queen? In some ways, very little. But in other ways, she reflects some of the best parts of English culture. Ms. Lollipop Lady (as it says on the back of her coat in small print) commands respect, though she may not be the fiercest presence you could imagine at a street crossing.

And the Queen reflects consistent branding in England. Around 25 years ago, crossing guards all across England had the same uniform. Likewise, the queen was part of the brand of the English Empire. Her visage appears on currency and postage stamps of several countries. Slowly, Charles will replace the Queen on both money and letters. Sad.

So when I heard about Elizabeth’s passing, I was sad. I know less about Charles. And I promise you, his aura won’t outshine that of his mum.

What a wonderful lady she was.


How to solve global warming

nightime skyline with office lights on

Global warming, whether you believe in it or not, is bad.

Or you can say we’re just in a big swing of climate change that will correct itself someday, somehow.

In either case, we can do a little bit here and there to make a difference about the increasing temperatures of our globe.

One small thing that wouldn’t be hard – turn off those lights in downtown offices.

A big plus to this happening is that the coal-fired power plants could run at less capacity at night.

It wouldn’t be that hard to accomplish…

All offices would have motion detector light switches that would turn the lights off between 7 pm and 5 am. If someone were actually working at night, they would just move and the lights would stay on for another hour.

The federal, state and local governments would pass this as a law, giving businesses a year’s advance notice.

Light switch creation and installation businesses would be funded by … well, I came up with the rest and will leave that idea up to you.

The photo was shot by Jörg Angeli and is used under a Creative Commons license.