The only New Year's resolution I've ever kept was not to make any more New Year's resolutions. Works for me. Why mess with success?
For the resolution-minded of you out there, though, I have a couple of suggestions. (You've heard the adage, "Those who can't, teach"? Well, this is the lesser-known corollary: "Those who don't, suggest.")
Feed the hungry by testing your knowledge. This is an armchair geek's idealist dream come true. Go to FreeRice and answer the questions. Every question you get right donate's ten grains of rice to the world's neediest people. The default subject is English vocabulary. Give you the shivers? Then click at the upper right to change subjects, from famous paintings to the periodic table to math to geography. Make it a web stop every day, and see how many grains of rice you can donate in five or ten minutes.
Want to do something for the four-legged among us? Then visit FreeKibble, answer the daily question, and, whether you get it right or not, you'll donate ten pieces of kibble to an animal shelter. Prefer cats to dogs, or want to do something for both? Then play FreeKibbleKat, too. This was yesterday's cat question:
One male cat and one female cat and their offspring are capable of producing how many cats in seven years? (answer below)
a) 420 cats
b) 4200 cats
c) 42,000 cats
d) 420,000 cats
(For the math-adept among you, a single female cat can produce up to 3 litters per year; the average litter size is 4 to 6 kittens. Calculate away!)
Flunking your FreeRice vocab questions? Sign up for A Word A Day. It's free, it's fun, it's geeky, it's a little piece of heaven in your daily inbox.
Been meaning to pop into that little independent bookstore across town? DO IT.
I know some of you live in towns with no independent bookstores (sometimes, no bookstores at all.) But if you do have an indie, go the extra mile. Browse around. Buy at least one of the titles on your list, and if you don't have a list (or you can't remember a single title on it as soon as you step into a bookstore--something that invariably happens to me) then chat up the bookseller for a recommendation. Indie booksellers are passionate book people and they're tuned into their customers; they know whereof they speak. If they don't have the title you're looking for, they'll happily order it in for you--and they'll get it faster than Amazon.com, with no shipping charges.
I fibbed about the resolution thing. I made this one a while back and I intend to keep on keeping it in 2009. Why?
Because ten years ago, there were about 3500 indie bookstores in the country. Today they're down to 1500...and the vast majority of those losses were before the economy tanked. 2009 is going to be a make-or-break year for many of the remaining indies, and they can only do it with our help.
Because the biggest national chain bookstores have a couple of people in corporate deciding which books to carry. They carry books they think will sell...which leaves thousands of fabulous books and authors out in the cold. Without independent bookstores, your chances of ever hearing about those books is virtually nil.
Because the more independent bookstores go under, the narrower our book choices will be.
If you take only one suggestion, take this one. Shop locally, and not just for books. Support your neighbors, keep those dollars in town. If you're not sure whether you have an indie bookstore nearby, check IndieBound and find out. Meet a bookseller in 2009. You'll be glad you did.
Answer to kittycat question is...d) 420,000 cats. A bit of mind-boggling to start your year off right. Spay and neuter in 2009...and Happy New Year, everyone!