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thAt the end of April I got some unpleasant news concerning my teeth, news so unpleasant that it made me want to go out and waste money. Regular readers know that would indicate some serious upset.

As I explained in “How to avoid takeout,” the Maryland dental bridge I’ve had for 31 years needs replacing due to a cavity underneath it. The first stage — cutting apart the bridge, fixing the cavity and crowning the tooth — would cost approximately $1,222.

Today I had the first part done and the appointment revealed both very good and very bad news. Typical.


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The 876 scam is back.

thWhen the phone rang yesterday and caller ID noted an “876” area code, a warning bell dimly clanged in my head. Some kind of scam, I think. As I started to say so, DF answered the phone.

“Hello…Pretty busy, actually, what’s up? Oh, really? Well, send it to me.” He ended the call – and along with it, our chance to win $8.1 million dollars in a foreign lottery.

Yep, the 876 scam is back. Previous scammers have claimed to be associated with Publishers Clearinghouse, UPS, loan originators or credit repair agencies.

The crooks explain that once they’ve received a wire transfer or prepaid card to cover “taxes and fees,” their prizes will be sent along.

Of course that sounds ludicrous. But people fall for it all the time – especially the elderly.


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thWant a $50 head start on your summer fun? Let the Swagbucks rewards site give it to you.

The program, which is my favorite rewards site, is sponsoring a “Gateway to Summer Fun Giveaway.” The prize: a $50 card from its Rewards Store.

Normally you get up to five ways to enter my site’s giveaways. This time it’s different: Only one entry per person is allowed, and you have to do a little work to get it.

The good news? Some of this “work” will actually benefit you – that is, if you like earning free gift cards year-round.


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thRecently I flew from Anchorage to Las Vegas to give a talk at the New Media Expo. Going from a chilly climate to a potentially blast-furnace-hot one meant I’d need nothing but sandals, so why bother wearing shoes on the plane?

But this was an overnight flight and I can’t sleep when my feet are cold. Sighing, I made a sartorially awkward choice: gray wool socks with my Teva sandals.

And yes, I know how fugly that looks, but I’m built for comfort, not for speed. Besides, it wasn’t wearing the socks with sandals that left me feeling embarrassed. It was the removal.

The terminal in Los Angeles made my feet feel overdressed, instantly. Yet I felt it absolutely necessary to remove the socks in the ladies’ room. Doing so in the waiting area – even an empty one – seemed indecent somehow.


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thAlaska is full of kick-ass women, and I was privileged to meet a bunch of them during my 17 years of working for the Anchorage Daily News. That’s because I wrote for the features section, which meant getting sent out to interview women who’d either suffered great losses or done something intriguing. Sometimes both.

I learned something from all of them, and was fortunate enough to get to know some of them better. When I met Dana Stabenow she was at the tail-end of a carefully chosen yet potentially disastrous decision: to quit her lucrative job, get a master’s degree in creative writing and become an author.

She went broke in the attempt, but that’s not the end of her story.


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thMemorial Day weekend is coming up, as is a summer full of potential getaways. If the idea of paying $1.59 for a one-ounce tube of toothpaste irritates you as much as it does me, then you need this week’s prize.

These TSA-friendly travel bag giveaways are always insanely popular. The price of that toothpaste probably has a lot to do with it.

In addition, you won’t have to refill travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Plus: A free Ziploc freezer bag!

This time around, we’re looking at toiletries both luxurious and mundane:


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th-2Once upon a time people kept journals to deal with the tedium and trauma of daily living. These days the online world is a stage on which we can play out our lives in public, if we choose.

Not every personal website is about someone’s cute kids or cute shoes, either. Or even about a race to pay off student loans, learn a skill, start a business, homeschool their kids, buy a home or retire early.

Sometimes the poor players strut and fret some pretty intensely personal business: love, genderqueer politics, marriage, divorce, infertility, midlife reinvention, empty nests, aging, dying.

Writing helps us feel our way through chance, challenge and change. Or so I note in “When life hands you blog fodder,” a piece on the blog associated with my online writing course.

The Internet is crammed with the drab and the dramatic, adorableness and grotesqueries, rampant TMI and TL;dr. What makes for the most readable work, I think, is what one of my newspaper editors called “conflict.”


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th-1Recently I was quoted in a U.S. News and World Report article about affordable Mother’s Day gifts. My suggestion was, of course, writing-related: Buy her a journal.

A written account of your days on Earth isn’t just a chronicle of the way you work, eat, love, parent, spend, vote and play, however. It can also be:

A safety valve. Write down what happened at work/on that first date/as you walked past a construction site, or risk having your head ’splode.

A historical document. Some day your descendants will be startled that you once earned only $50,000 per year or that you had to hold your phone in your hand in order to communicate. Preserving these memories will add to your family history.

An intimate friend. You can tell your journal anything, although it might be wise to have a stout lock on the thing.


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thFor the first time in seven years I’m shining on my contributions to a Roth IRA. The $6,500 that would have gone into that account will go into savings instead.

That doesn’t mean I’m ignoring retirement. I’m just changing the way I do it. The reason may not make 100 percent financial sense, but it will make me feel better.

Here’s why.


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IMG_20150503_130130I saw “Moose: The Movie” again on Saturday, on the drive back from Fairbanks. The first time was at the world premiere of this goofy horror-film spoof, the brainchild of cartoonist Chad Carpenter, creator of the “Tundra” comic strip.

In the past I’ve given away “Tundra” books, playing cards and a calendar. Reader interest has always been high because Carpenter’s work is syndicated in some 600 newspapers worldwide. Not bad for a homegrown cartoonist.

Carpenter was on hand at the Saturday screening and was giving away “Tundra” 2016 calendars. In addition to signing the calendars he added a little moose drawing. Look to the left and you’ll see the result.

Enter to win and you may wind up owning the result.


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How to avoid takeout.

thYesterday I woke up with this phrase in my head: “Something about the bridge.” Not the conveyance type of bridge, but the kind in my mouth.

Unfortunately, my dentist appointment proved that my precognitive flash was correct. The X-rays showed decay in a place that can’t be fixed unless the dentist removes the cantilevered bridge (aka a “Maryland bridge”) to do it.

That bridge was on borrowed time anyway. It was installed 31 years ago. When I said as much, the dentist’s eyes widened. It’s had an impressive run, but time for it to go. And for a crown to be placed on that tooth.

My self-funded dental insurance covers only preventive work like X-rays and cleaning. The work needed will run a little over $1,200 if I pay by check. Which I will, of course.

My decidedly non-frugal reaction was to say, “Let’s go out to eat.” You can see that I wasn’t thinking clearly.


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th-1The typical U.S. resident will pony up big-time on or around May 10. According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, we’re planning to spend an average of $172.63 on things like brunch, jewelry, gift cards and, of course, flowers.

That’s about $10 more than we spent last year. It isn’t clear whether that’s due to an improvement in the economy of just plain old guilt.

Or maybe the things we want to give (more on that below) are pricier this year?

My mother died in 2003. I never came anywhere close to spending an adjusted-for-inflation $172.63 for a Mother’s Day gift. If I had, she would have raised the roof.

On the other hand, I did visit her whenever I could – and since I was coming from Alaska those were some pretty pricey tickets. Travel definitely averaged out to more than $172.63 per year, especially when I brought my daughter and/or then-husband along for the ride.


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