2011 in Review

At the start of this year, I wrote a list of goals for 2011. Now that the year is coming to a close I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how I did and how I can improve for next time. I'll just put the headings on this post, but you can still read the full list with notes.

  • Read 56 books. Hahahaha. Whoops. According to Goodreads, I only read 15 books to completion this year. And about half of those were children's books for works. Again, whoops. I did an awful lot of living this year those so I'm OK with this outcome. The pile on my night stand is huge though! Gotta keep up appearances ya know.
  • Lose 30 pounds. I proud to say that I lost 10 pounds and kept it off too! I've been hanging out in the low 180s for most of this year. The smaller I get, the harder the weight loss so in my book a good week is when I stay the same size. And even though I've stayed the same weight most of this year, my body composition has changed tons. Regular-ish yoga has given me some sexy arms.
  • Become a full-time student. YES!!!!! Starting August 2011, I'm a full-time student at the Community College of Denver. I love, love, love being back and look forward to being challenged more in the future.
  • Respond to any communication (email, phone, fb, etc.) in a timely manner. I would like to say that I did better in this category but I think I probably maintained the status quo. And I have no good way to measure this one either (Shame on you, Kaleena! INVST taught you better! Measurable goals...) So no. Better luck next time.
  • Find ways to like my job again. Weeeeeellll. Again, no. Education in the U.S. is terrible and I don't know what to do about it or where to begin. My job daily felt hopeless and while I grew a lot, I don't think education in East Saint Louis is any better as a result of my limited efforts. I did have countless enjoyable moments in my job in 2011, however. 
  • Blog more about life and less about crap I think is interesting. YES! Few posts this year, but high quality ones, IMHO ;) My English 101 class at CCD helped in this department by helping my confidence as a writing grow. (Shhhhh... don't tell, but I kinda like writing right now) I would still like to blog more and frequently have 75% of a really awesome post about some cool event I've attended but skip out on the final polishing and the post lives forever in drafts.
  • More alternative transportation. Ohmygoodness. YES! I'm all over this one. Near the end of my time in STL I frequently posted prior to events, "Who wants to carpool?!" and although I hate heat and humidity starting in about April I regularly biked the two miles to the gym and home. Now that I'm living in the heart of Denver with a full bus pass I rarely drive. My rule that I love to break is: <2 miles, walk; 2-6 miles, bike; 6+, bus/carpool/don't go. Since my trip odometer broke in my car I log my mileage so I can keep track of gas mileage and love calculating how long it's been since my last fill-up.
Stay tuned this week for my goals for 2012!

And my favorite "year in review" articles I've seen so far:

TL/DR: 2011 was a fantastic year and I'm proud of my accomplishments

Gmail Labels and Filters

In honour of the new year and fresh starts and whatnot I deleted all my gmail labels and filters and started from scratch. I'm terribly proud of the results needed to share:

I used nested labels for the first time and like them so far! The "KEEP!" label is for junk like airline frequent flyer numbers and library card numbers and cell phone serial numbers. The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

I also love the easter-egg-y color scheme. I need some purple in there though. Pretty!

I'm not done yet and likely need more labels. What am I missing/forgetting?

**update** The nested labels look great on my Android too and are denoted by a "/" following the larger heading i.e. Money/ENT


All I want for Christmas is YOU!

I LOLed over and over again. This was one of my brother David's favorite songs early in his naval career. Thanks mom for sharing!!



Opt In Pretty Please

Dear Representative Crisanta Duran,
Dear Senator Pat Steadman,

There are few things I hate more than waste: of time, of money and most especially of resources. Every Wednesday, I find a large stack of brochures of mostly grocery stores advertisements in my mailbox. This huge stack of unwanted paper goes promptly into the recycling bin and try as I might, I cannot get the ad agency, Redplum, to remove my apartment from their mailing list.

I am not the only one who does not wish to receive these ads. My apartment complex has about 200 units full of mostly 20- and 30-something young professionals and the last place we are going to look for a good deal on seedless grapes is in a paper advertisement. This is seen by the full trash can in the lobby next to the apartment’s mailboxes every Wednesday night and Thursday morning. (I’ve even started a tradition of emptying the entirety of the lobby trash into the recycling a couple times a week since we produce so much recyclable paper.)

This pesky, weekly packet is only part of the problem. I will also automatically receive a four-inch thick phone book which will also be promptly thrown into the recycling as well. When I need to look up a phone number or address I use the Internet and get the answer instantly with no need to thumb through a 1000+ page pile of waste.

This is important to me for a couple reasons. First, I care about the waste that all this unwanted mail is producing. While recycling helps offset the costs to our precious natural resources, it should come second to avoiding the use of those resources in the first place. Second, I care about the nuisance all this extra waste brings to so many people: Our postwoman, Juanita, who has to carry these advertisements for every mailbox on her route as well as stuff these advertisements into our too-small mailboxes; Our custodian, Manuel, who has to frequently empty the heavy lobby trash that is exclusively full of discarded advertisements; And finally, it is a nuisance to me. I spend time transferring the “trash” into the recycling, making phone calls to put an end to this unwanted mail and generally feeling guilty that I am not doing more.

Neither the United States Postal Service nor the advertisement agencies and phone book companies have any incentive to change this system. Both the producers and the deliverers derive financial gain from this waste. It is only we, the consumers, of this waste that can change the system. I have recently made several phones calls to opt-out and even then, there really is not a way to fully opt-out because passing the message from the customer service representative who took my call to the courier who is told to place a phone book in front of every door is a tricky endeavour.

As a first step, I have posted signs with instructions for how to be removed from the most commonly received bulk mailings near the mailboxes in the lobby of my apartment complex. I included pull-off tabs that will direct my neighbors to either a website or a phone number to call. I also included a list where my neighbors can simply add their name and apartment number and I will do the time-consuming part for them. Hopefully this will help send the message to the advertisement agency that “We don’t want this garbage!”

Ultimately, I would like to see a bill in the Colorado Legislature that requires a “by request only” (or frequently called “opt-in”) system for all free, paper advertising that arrives at my doorstep automatically. This has to be done with a change to public policy since the major stakeholders, the producers and the deliverers, have no incentive for change.

But what of the elderly, low-income or internetless? Even my parents still regularly use a phone book. (Although they are quickly catching up and realizing that the Internet can give them faster and more accurate information.) With an opt-in system, those that still want free grocery store ads and phone books can still receive them. They would just have to seek out those free deliveries. I would recommend a post card, with return postage pre-paid, to every address. Mail back the postcard and your free phone book will arrive on your doorstep as requested. Do nothing and your stoop remains garbage free. This would cut down on thousands of pounds of paper waste that is going straight to the recycling, or worse, the landfill.

Similar bills have passed successfully in other municipalities including San Francisco, CA and Seattle, WA.  I think Colorado is primed and ready to become the leader in the “opt-in” movement.

Thank you for your time, public service and consideration.


Kaleena Menke
Resident, State House District 5 and State Senate District 31

(Click here and fill out the form if you would like to stop receiving Redplum's packet each week)