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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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