Archives for January 2011

Video Parody (Let’s Try This Again)

Since the video parody I attempted to post on Friday ended up in a blank post, here it is again! Sorry about that. The embed code appears as if it will post, but hasn’t been! If you can’t see a video below, simply go to

Video of the Month

This parody made me laugh.

7 Tips on Working With Someone You Can’t Afford

So you would love the services of an artist, or writer, or web designer or massage therapist. Although you can’t afford their steep fee, they’ve agreed to either work for free or cut their hourly fee drastically to work within your budget. Lucky you! Here’s some tips to help you minimize conflict and feelings of resentment.

  • Tip #1: Find a way to make things easier for this person.

If you’re getting a substantial reduction in fee for web design (as an example), can you get something basic done without the bells and whistles? Can you wait longer for your services so that your buddy can prioritize clients paying the full fee? If you’re getting a free service that needs to be scheduled, is there a way you can schedule it at a slow time rather than the busy time of day?

  • Tip #2: Barring that, don’t make it more difficult for them.

Don’t call up the person doing you a favor at 2AM with silly questions. Don’t ask them unrelated questions you could easily find the answers for yourself. Don’t add to their workload by arranging multiple meetings, or to the cost of their services by asking for work requiring additional supplies (which you can’t provide). Don’t treat their work as if it has less value simply because you’re not paying (or not paying full-price) for it.

  • Tip #3: Ask yourself, what can you offer them?

Maybe you can’t afford to pay the full fee (as we’ve established), but is there a way you can help the other person out? I got bodywork done once at a very low fee, and went out of my way to bring in relevant articles and books for my bodyworker to borrow. I also referred people to him regularly. I’ve brought gifts of baked goods or done proofreading and editing for people who basically helped consult me for free, or even sent them books as presents.

  • Tip #4: Don’t work with people whose services you don’t care for, even if the price is right.

I once got sliding scale work done from someone, and realized that it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t afford her services if she was charging full price, but that I didn’t think the quality of her work was worth her full fee. If I had the full fee, I reasoned, I’d go to someone who was a better fit. Perhaps that’s what I should have done in the first place. Fewer sessions from a quality practitioner at a higher price are often more effective than going with the least expensive option.

  • Tip #5: If it feels wrong, stop.

Sometimes people offer “free services” because they’re expecting “special favors” which could include something as innocent as referrals,  or something else entirely. (And that’s when you should run the other way. This should go without saying.)

  • Tip #6: Renegotiate, as needed.

So you got a sliding scale fee because you were out of work, but you finally got your first paycheck from a brand new job. Now’s a good time to renegotiate your fee–before your practitioner or provider asks you to do so.

  • Tip #7: Pay it forward.

What can you do to help people in the same way as this person helped you? Spread the love.

Yael’s Variety Hour: Winter Depression Edition

Welcome to the weekly Variety Hour, where I pull up random funny, interesting, amusing or thought-provoking posts found on the interwebz. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty awful week so far. Since last Variety Hour, I had an article butchered in the editing room, dealt with many mean and unappreciative people, had (guys, cover your ears) evil cramps from hell (okay, it’s clear now) and the beginning of a killer cold, and spent many hours reading a book with no real ending (what’s the point, then?!) for a book club meeting that ended up getting canceled at the last minute. And worst of all, I lost my very favorite pink glove/mitten hybrids. They were so soft and warm (wool) and fuzzy, and I had no idea just how attached I was to them until I lost them and threw a fit. I always know things are bad when I pull out the Sylvia Plath quotes and the Juliana Hatfield music. One can only hope the coming week will be better for me–and that you, my dear readers, are faring much better than I. Here’s some links to help guide the process.

  • I saw these profanity earrings listed in a magazine, and just had to share. Though it’s so much more fun to swear. Luckily we do not have to choose.
  • Hyperbole and a Half has a cute comic on the days when we used to be able to yell “Please stop!” and everything would be ours. I wanted to yell that at the last week, but it wouldn’t listen to me anyway.
  • My friend Sean tells me that even though some people should read the book Radical Honesty, I myself need to stick with the sequel, Tone It Down a Notch. However, this article on the authenticity of bad manners made me feel better about my candor. Read it if you’re like me and tell people the truth when they ask you questions.
  • Ever wonder what your state is worst at? The United States of Shame map is for you. Some are obvious, some are surprising and some are downright funny. (Apparently, I moved from a state with the worst alcoholism to one with the most binge drinking. Luckily, chocolate is my drug of choice.)

Shameless self-promotion

  • The end of the month is slow for me, since the February publications I’ve written for aren’t out yet, so I’ll have more shameless self-promotion next time. The only thing I’ve got right now is that Daily Writing Tips launched a freelance writing e-course, and an interview with me was included in one of the bonus gifts. Check it out if you are so inclined. (Not an affiliate link.) Although the course is closed, you can sign up for the list–it reopens in May.

Your turn

How was this week for you? If it sucked, what did you do to make yourself feel better? Any links you care to share?

A Pause to Savor: My Ode to the Semicolon

I have a soft spot for the semicolon and its way of injecting a sentence with suspense. Although use of this punctuation mark is somewhat habit-forming, when properly deployed it creates a taut, tantalizing gap between related independent clauses. Periods, though often necessary, have a certain finality to them. The semicolon can perfect a paragraph when used on occasion; it announces that there is more yet to come. As someone who is constantly searching for additional information, I am delighted when I come across a semicolon, promising me that another juicy nugget is imminent.

Speaking on both colons and semicolons, author Lynne Truss compares these stops to internal springs, propelling readers forward towards new ideas[1]. Lawrence A. Weinstein attributes the semicolon a noble, unselfish quality, offering “an unrequited gesture of amplification”[2] by elaborating on preceding text. “It’s a sign of forthcoming, of being ungrudging in providing for the needs of others,”[2] he writes.

Experts such as William Zinsser[3] entreat writers to use the semicolon with discretion, thus contributing to its intrigue. Like a morel mushroom or an exquisitely rich piece of chocolate, a deftly handled semicolon is rare and must be savored.

[1] Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Great Britain: Profile Books, 2003)

[2] Lawrence A. Weinstein, Grammar for the Soul: Using Language for Personal Change (Illinois: Quest Books, 2008)

[3] William Zinsser, On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990)

Search Engine Optimization (and a sale)

Jennifer M. Bean, Creative Commons license

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing visibility to your website or blog in search engines (such as Google and Bing, and ideally drawing more traffic and increasing sales. That’s the easy part that everyone knows, but it gets a bit more complicated from there. How do you increase *targeted* traffic–that is, people that will actually buy your product, come inside your physical store (if you are the owner of a brick and mortar store) or even just come back to keep reading your posts? And how do you do this in a way that doesn’t make you feel icky about it?

The answers to this question can be quite complex, since they depend on what you’ve already done to improve visibility (guest blog posts with backlinks and solid anchor text, pay-per-click ads), capture information (mailing lists, RSS feeds), interact with readers (through contests or posts), etc. as well as what you feel comfortable with and know about your own readers. Sometimes just an hour of information specifically targeted for your website, business and favored approaches is worth about ten hours of reading SEO e-books–many of which happen to be vastly outdated.

That’s why I’m practically giving away eight hour-long SEO phone consultations at only $25 a pop. Although SEO firms often charge around $250/hr, I am trying to raise money for this really amazing SAD lamp to help me get through the winter while also taking a bit of a break from my regular writing and editing assignments. The consultations (for anyone who hasn’t registered yet) will take place during the first week in February. Simply drop me a line ( with some available times (ideally between 11-5 Central time) and I’ll get back to you to let you know if you’re one of the first 8 and we’ll go from there.

Otherwise, stay tuned in the coming weeks and months when I’ll post information about my favorite SEO e-books (free or paid) which you can apply to your business.

Book Of The Month: Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle’s Sweaters to Maine’s Microbrews

Now that we live less than one CD away from civilization, my boyfriend and I actually get to go to cool events during the week. So I was thrilled to learn that Christian Landry, of Stuff White People Like fame, would be speaking at our favorite indie bookstore in Minneapolis.

One of the things I’ve noticed since moving to the Midwest is that racist comments are made in polite company with alarming regularity, often making me wish to quote poetry by Daphne Gottlieb (overheard at a dinner party), which goes something like, “What I hear you saying is that it’s your experience that undercapitalized people of color are responsible for most of the problems in this country. I don’t want to invalidate what you feel, but I think we can agree to disagree on this. It’s so good that you feel this is an open and free environment in which you are safe to express yourself.”

Perhaps more effective, and definitely more enjoyable, is responding in kind by making fun of white people, especially if you happen to be white yourself. Landry’s work effectively and amusingly stereotypes white people (or, more specifically, upper middle class liberals–many of which happen to be white) in a hysterical and only mildly offensive way. “If you thought you had white people pegged as Oscar-party-throwing, Prius-driving, Sunday New York Times–reading, self-satisfied latte lovers—you were right. But if you thought diversity was just for other races, then hang on to your eco-friendly tote bags. Veteran white person Christian Lander is back with fascinating new information and advice on dealing with the Caucasian population,” explains a review of his book before delving into, well, stuff white people like. The sequel to the first book is Whiter Shades of Pale, which explains diversity inherent in Caucasian culture.

The book is hysterical and highly recommended, especially for those of us who think too much and need some lighthearted reading to pass the time, or perhaps take ourselves a touch too seriously. Landry’s books are the next best thing to The Field Guide to North American Males. It was also fun to hear him speak in person and have him sign my book, even though he misspelled my name. (How come white people thing Yael starts with a W, anyway?)

Seven BJJ Posts For Women (and Men Who Coach Them)

My recent post about deciding between an all-female environment and a co-ed environment for martial arts training piqued some interest, and though I’ve posted my five favorite resources for beginning BJJ players I wanted to focus specifically on helpful advice online about training as a woman (or training women).

These posts are almost all from the same site, Grapplearts, but they were written by very different people and had the best information I have found. I hope they are useful. If you’ve got other favorites, please post them in the comments.

  • Why Should Women Grapple? Probably you already know the answer to that if you’re still reading, but a good review is always useful.
  • Tips For Female Grapplers is an amazing article by Krista Scott-Dixon (who is a goddess among women). Apparently, you need to watch out for her oma plata.

Even though the above articles were written specifically for women who are grapplers, it can be useful for male instructors to read as well to understand the dynamics.

  • How to Get More Women Into Grappling is specifically for coaches and gym owners and has some sound suggestions, though I disagree with Krista on the smell thing. (I don’t trust a gym that doesn’t reak of sweat and ammonia.)

And a couple posts that aren’t specifically for women but will apply for obvious reasons.

Best of luck on your journey.

Yael’s Variety Hour #12

Welcome to my weekly variety hour, where I post the most insightful, useful, thought-provoking, amusing or otherwise interesting links I’ve found, followed by a friendly dose of shameless self-promotion or links to articles I’ve written around the internets.


  • Less Domination, More Tea: A Mini-festo is an excellent post about alternatives to metaphors about world domination and kicking ass. I personally happen to like those metaphors, and they work for me, but I found this thought-provoking and it’s good to know that there are other options.
  • I Already Know This, But I Need To Hear You Say It Again is part of the Usual Error Project, where Pace and Kyeli teach solutions for common communication problems. I enjoyed this quote: “We’re not computers. We’re human beings, and we’re made of meat! We have hormones and neurotransmitters and all sorts of fluids and goop sloshing around in our bodies, our brains, and our nervous systems. Every one of us has emotions and our emotions don’t listen to reason. This isn’t wrong or bad. It’s the way we’re made, and it’s okay to be that way. If we can’t get our emotions to listen to reason, that doesn’t mean we’ve failed in some way. It means that our emotional side is acting in accordance with its nature.”

Health & Wellness

  • Deadly Medicine is a very scary article about deaths from pharmaceuticals, which are tested in countries with virtually no regulation in order to obtain results that can’t be verified. Highly disturbing.

For Freelancers

  • Rushed Expectations is a cute little cartoon which explains what to do when someone wants a rush job and to discuss payment later.

Shameless self-promotion

Training Logs: Girls Against Boys Part 2 (Martial Arts Edition)

In yesterday’s post, I began to answer a reader question. She asked: “I have the opportunity to do weight training and martial arts training either with all women or in a co-ed environment, and I’m not sure which I should do. What do you think?” I covered weight training yesterday, and today I’ll delve into martial arts. (You may want to look back at yesterday’s post, too, as a lot of the factors I mentioned [cost, location, equipment, etc.] still apply.) Although I’ve trained primarily in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and no-gi submission grappling, I have also dabbled in boxing, Filipino martial arts (knife and stick) and, of course, did many years of traditional martial arts while growing up. However, since the vast majority of my experience is the ground game my answers will be colored by that. Your mileage, as always, may vary. Having said that, here’s some specific criteria to look at.


This is absolutely the most important thing I’d look for in a training environment, and it has nothing at all to do with gender. I’ve trained in good gyms and bad gyms, all of which were either with all guys or with just one or two other women. Do you feel safe and comfortable at your gym? Is it relatively drama-free and devoid of cult-like behavior and people getting overtly upset for no legitimate reason? Do you have freedom to say, read and watch what you want outside of class? Do people take you seriously as a martial artist? Do you trust your coach(es) and training partners? If not, you won’t be able to learn as well and you may have trouble being consistent. (You may have trouble with consistency even if you have an awesome gym, but that’s another article.)


If you are at all planning on competing, or even if you simply want to gauge your skills in class, training with people close to your size every once in a while is important. Again, this isn’t entirely based on gender. I personally would rather train BJJ with a 165-lb. male than a 205-lb. female. It is true that women move differently, though, and since I compete against women ideal training partners for me would include women my weight at various skill levels. But that brings me to the next point.


When I’m training primarily with men, I sometimes find myself making excuses about why I am not able to execute a technique. My training partner is stronger or way bigger than me, I’ll tell myself. I recently visited an all-women’s jiu-jitsu class and found myself having the exact same problems against women my size, so perhaps it’s the technique I need to hone after all. Training with people around my size and strength (who usually happen to be women) is a great way to stop myself from making excuses.

On the other hand, there’s another way to stop making excuses–and that’s to realize you’re doing it. I’m aware of the fact that many of the (bigger, stronger) I train with are not going as hard as they could be and many are not using their weight. I also know that everyone feels heavier and stronger than they really are in a tournament anyway. Training with people my size is a good reminder of this, but not absolutely necessary.


The skill level of your coaches and training partners is important, and becomes even more important as you yourself become more skilled. This has more to do with experience than gender. I’ve rolled with a female wrestler and female judokas who were insanely skilled in their arts, and I’ve rolled with men who had absolutely no martial arts background. And of course working with people in different levels is great to work on both offensive and defensive techniques. Finding people who are both more advanced and less advanced (or will pretend they are less advanced momentarily to allow you to try things) is crucial. I’ve never gotten good enough that I’ve had to worry about the skill level of my coaches and training partners, but I hear this concern often from other women.

Comfort Level

This is the elephant in the room. I’ve heard lots of men discuss how uncomfortable they are working with women because they don’t want to accidentally put their hands in the wrong place, and likewise I’ve talked to women with the same concerns. I don’t know how much this has to do with gender as it does experience levels and it’s personally something that’s crossed my mind with women as well as men (and something I don’t think about anymore) but if it’s a stopping point for you then that’s something to consider.

Your Stuff

We all have our own stuff. It often has nothing to do with the people around you but rather the stories you are telling yourself. These may be colored by your training partners. For example, I always get really self-conscious in male-dominated gyms during warm-ups. I worry that my conditioning isn’t as good as it could be and that I’ll stand out for finishing last in a drill and people will attribute it to my gender, think I’m not as serious or it would otherwise reflect poorly on me. This has nothing at all to do with my training environment, but it feels that way in my own mind. (I’ve never been in an all-female training environment for long enough to know which of my stuff will crop up, but I’m sure something would…probably something similar if it was studly women who I desperately wanted to keep up with.) Anyway, if your stuff is getting in your way too  much you may want to experiment with a different environment while you work through it…especially if you are getting super emotional in the middle of training on a regular basis, which can make things awkward and uncomfortable for everyone else there.

Their Stuff

Definitely there are people with ego who enjoy smashing people who are smaller and weaker, as well as people who will quit because they don’t want to get beaten by a girl. Again, though, this goes back to gym vibe. There are male and female bullies and a good coach won’t tolerate either. Ideally, they’d have a conversation with them to discuss it instead of just smashing them (which usually doesn’t solve the problem).

Their Stuff, Part 2

Some men don’t feel comfortable training hard with a woman. A little bit of this can be a good thing, helping you prevent injury and work on technique. Too much of it is incredibly frustrating and a waste of time (or it’ll just lead you to believe your skills are way better than they are). You’ll want to make sure that the *majority* of time you spend in the gym actually allows you to perform against a realistic level of resistance.

Dance Partners

I was the only woman in a submission grappling seminar once, and although I stood next to the smallest guy I could find I of course did not find a partner. Once you become a part of a gym and people get to know you, this can improve but it sometimes still lingers. Most guys would prefer to work with people around their weight and skill level (just like we do) and if you ARE at their skill level some guys also don’t like that. And it’s hard to tell what’s going through anyone’s head at a given moment so you could either be not noticing it or imagining it completely. *Smile.* In any case, this is something to keep in mind.

Switching Partners

There’s a really annoying thing that can happen in martial arts classes when two women are present, and that’s that many coaches will not allow women to switch partners when it’s time. They’ll say, “Oh, you girls can stay together.” This can be incredibly frustrating, especially when there’s a huge weight difference (probably it’d be better to put the 135 lb. woman with the 155 lb. guy, and the 205 lb. woman with the 195 lb. guy, even for drilling purposes). It also creates a weird dynamic when one of the women is far more skilled than the other. This makes the more skilled woman feel resentful that she can’t work with people closer to her level all class, and is likewise not fair to the less skilled woman who is either getting smashed or maybe even just wants some variety or would like to test techniques out against someone else. Or she could just feel bad for wasting the other person’s time (no matter how gracious her training partner may be). Anyway, just something to be aware of in co-ed classes with just a few women.

Dude(tte) With A ‘tude

One of the worst things that can happen when training in a co-ed gym with just one other woman is that they sometimes hate you for no reason. This isn’t always the case (I’ve had some awesome female training partners in co-ed gyms–Michelle and Kirsten in AZ come to mind), but happens more often than you think. For a while I thought this was just me, but have since talked to two female MMA fighters and several women who train in BJJ, boxing judo, and they’ve all noticed it too: the token female who’s been there longer getting bent out of shape and eyeing you up and down because you are infringing on their alpha female turf, or women who behave strangely and are either hypersensitive or downright hostile. So this is another thing to be aware of.

Save the Drama For Your Mama

I’ve always made it a practice to *not date guys in the gym* and would highly recommend this to both men and women. Although there are some people who can pull it off, people who date multiple training partners and/or instructors and/or students in one or more gyms can create awkward or tense situations which spill over into training as much as everyone tries to ignore it or remain uninvolved. (This isn’t to be heterosexist. The potential for men dating men or women dating women certainly exists but for various reasons is less likely.) Then, of course, there’s people who hit on their training partners which is a whole ‘nother can of worms. (Luckily this never happens to me.)

False Dichotomy

The chances of you having both a co-ed environment and a women-only environment to train in is not that common, so for most people the choice doesn’t even exist. It goes without saying, though, that you can do both. Most places with women-only classes also have co-ed classes you can attend, which can help you test your skills against men (important if you’re training for self-defense). I myself train at a co-ed gym but just recently visited an awesome all-women’s class which I loved. It’s a bit of a drive, but I very much enjoyed dropping in. I absolutely love training with men (in a good environment) but also appreciate working with women, especially when they’re my weight but way more skilled than I am. It’s all good.


I think I just about covered everything, but am interested in your thoughts. Whether you’re an instructor or a student and whether you’re male or female, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.