From Loren Nelson, NelsonEcom
Internet Solutions | Visual Design
Web Sites, Podcasts, Multimedia, & Usability Engineering

January 10, 2008 – Vol. XII, No. 01


NetBits is the weekly newsletter keeping your informed of various chatter and other tidbits of potential relevance.


In This Issue:

Item One: Web access widens for students, parents
Item Two: The scoop on carbon offsets
Item Three: Fitness Tip – Eat Fish to Lower Heart Rate
Item Four: Word of the Week
Item Five: The Five Secrets to Effective Time Management
Do you know…

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1. Web access widens for students, parents

You can order groceries online, plan an exotic vacation and find lifelong love. Now, Miami-Dade parents and students can look up school bus routes, check grades and report dirty school bathrooms — all in one place.

The school district will unveil a new version of its Web portal Monday, an interactive online site that will give the school district’s 53,000 employees and 342,000 students and their parents unprecedented online access to everything from textbooks to tutoring.

2. The scoop on carbon offsets

Feel guilty about flying? New businesses promise ways to offset your environmental impact. However….

In the post-An Inconvenient Truth world, flying has been targeted as one of the larger culprits that contribute to global warming. To counter-act carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions from flights, a new breed of business sells carbon offsets; the money is used to help avert climate change, often by planting trees or investing in renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. All you need to do is visit a website and provide trip details to calculate how much greenhouse gas your flight is producing. In seconds, you find out how much to pay in order to be "carbon neutral."

While the trend is certainly a positive one, figuring out where to give your money is confusing. A Google search turns up dozens of carbon-offset companies–many of which are for-profit–and it’s difficult to determine which are worthwhile. There’s little consistency in the way the organizations calculate the emissions generated by a given flight. Prices charged for offsets also vary widely. For example, TerraPass, a California-based for-profit outfit, estimates that a Boston-Los Angeles round trip produces 1.02 tons of CO2, and charges $10 to offset it; German nonprofit Atmosfair, meanwhile, says that the flight creates 2.58 tons of CO2, and charges $65 for the offset. Other carbon-offset outfits request a flat amount without factoring in the exact mileage or the type of plane being flown.

Critics point out that offsets fall far short of solving global warming. "It’s hard to truly offset your carbon impact," says Anja Kollmuss, the lead author of a recent study from the Tufts Climate Initiative that evaluates carbon-offset companies. "To really make a difference, people need to fly less and make lifestyle changes."

Still, while the study cautions that fliers shouldn’t see carbon offsets as a way to buy "environmental pardons," it does allow that offsets might help spur innovation–including the financing of carbon-reducing projects–that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

So which offsetters are most effective and deserve your donations? "It’s a mixed bag," says Julia Bovey of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "You have to look carefully at where the money goes." Asking a couple of questions helps narrow the field.

How are donations used?
Only give money to organizations that will disclose the details of the projects they invest in, the percentage of funds that goes to those projects (versus regular business costs), and their status as a nonprofit (or not). They should also reveal how they calculate offsets–some factor in plane type, seat class, and other details, while others are less precise.

Are results guaranteed?
Delta Air Lines made news recently by becoming the first U.S. carrier to offer carbon offsets on its website. The airline gives passengers the option of donating a flat $5.50 (for any domestic round trip) or $11 (for international trips) to its partner The Conservation Fund. Most of that money is used to plant trees, however, which is less than ideal.

According to Brendan Bell, the Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Program’s representative in Washington, D.C., organizations that invest in renewable energy (like solar, geo-thermal, and wind) have a definite, measurable impact and are therefore a better bet than companies focused on reforestation–because the results of planting trees are difficult to verify. The Conservation Fund, which since 2000 has planted more than nine million trees that’ll reportedly capture nearly 13 million tons of CO2, obviously disagrees; for more info, see

Is there a seal of approval?
The fledgling carbon-offset industry is largely unregulated, so before you give any organization money, find out if an objective, trustworthy source vouches for it. Created under the auspices of the World Wildlife Fund, the Gold Standard is the strictest and best-vetted system of verifying carbon-offset projects. Outfits that meet the standard usually mention the fact prominently and display the official seal on their websites. If an organization’s projects aren’t approved by the Gold Standard, find out if another trustworthy third party has verified the quality.

Do you have a pet cause?
As with all giving, you should give to an organization that’s important to you. Some offset outfits allow people to steer donations one way or another., which has begun a partnership with Orbitz, lets donors direct their money to renewable energy, reforestation, energy-efficiency projects, or some combination thereof. Other outfits are attractive because they focus on certain initiatives–NativeEnergy, for instance, helps Native American farmers. By all means, support your favorite cause: Just be aware that environmental impact varies widely.

3. Fitness Tip – Eat Fish to Lower Heart Rate

How fast your heart beats when you are at rest can be an indicator of heart attack risk. In fact, higher resting heart rates have been linked to an increased risk of sudden death. The good news is that eating fish can lower your heart rate. In a new Harvard Medical School study, people who ate five or more servings per month of fish such as tuna or salmon (baked or broiled) averaged 3.2 fewer beats per minute than those who ate less than one serving per month. Researches credit the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, though it’s not clear how they help.

4. Word of the Week

anathematize • \uh-NATH-uh-muh-tyze\ • verb

: curse, denounce

Example Sentence:
The biography presents a balanced account of the life of a writer whose work was beloved by the masses and anathematized by critics.

Did you know?
When 16th-century English speakers needed a verb meaning "to condemn by anathema" (that is, by an official curse from church authority), "anathematize" proved to be just the right word. But "anathematize" didn’t originate in English as a combination of the noun "anathema" and the suffix "-ize." Rather, our verb is based on forebears in Late Latin ("anathematizare") and Greek ("anathematizein"). "Anathematize" can still indicate solemn, formal condemnation, but today it can also have milder applications. The same is true of "anathema," which now often means simply "a vigorous denunciation."

5. The Five Secrets to Effective Time Management

Key #1 – Begin each day with a written list of three to five priorities. Ask yourself: “What are the five things that are crucial for me to accomplish today?" (Hint: ask yourself what five things you can do today that will most affect your bottom line, ie, dollars in your pocket?) Write them down — in order of importance and then….

Key #2 – Start each day with your top three to five priorities and work each one through until it’s done. Then cross it off and work on the next one. Resist the temptation to multitask. Working each one through to completeness is the key. Make sure and cross each one off when you’re done!

This builds momentum, a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, and most importantly you’ll actually be getting your important priorities done each day.

Key #3 – Start with your most important (or most difficult) task first. Accomplishing one or two important tasks always leads to more success — and always frees up the most energy. Once those “mountains" are out of the way, you can easily and more enjoyably take on your other priorities.

Most people do the opposite: they put off the hard (and most important stuff) and get caught up in the time robbers. This is a sure recipe for feeling overwhelmed. Do the opposite — start with the hard, and watch your day get easier!

Key # 4 – Group your other activities. Paperwork, checking e-mail, checking voicemail, etc., are incredible time drains. The worst thing to do is to keep checking them every few minutes. Make a schedule – perhaps after you cross off a priority, you allow 15 minutes to check these things and then go right back to your next priority. Paperwork and other non-essential activities especially are best grouped at the end of the day.

Although these things seem important (and some are) don’t keep getting tangled up in them. You must stick to your top three or five priorities (like 2-3 hours a day spent cold calling — a top five priority that pays for itself many times over). Grouping your activities allows you to get all of the other ‘stuff’ done but not at the expense of your priorities.

Key #5 – Prepare your next day the night before. Before you leave the office, make sure you have your written list of priorities and grouped activities timed and written down. This helps you get off to a running start, and allows you to mentally prepare for your day the night before. It also allows you to get more rest because you’re not worrying about or planning your day as you’re trying to fall asleep at night.

6. Do You Know…
On this day:

  • Thomas Paine Publishes Common Sense (1776)
    Paine was an Anglo-American political theorist and pamphleteer. He anticipated and helped foment the American Revolution through his powerful writings, most notably the enormously successful pamphlet Common Sense, in which he argued that the colonies had outgrown any need for English domination and should be granted independence.
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