Blog Posts by Dory Devlin, Shine staff

  • Scrabble green lights proper nouns. Is LOL far behind?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesFor the first time since Scrabble was trademarked in 1948, the rules of the game have changed. Proper nouns, long the source of many a mid-game argument, are now allowed.

    So, were there not enough words? Could the reason for the change be that our celebrity-soaked culture just cannot make it through a board game without conjuring the likes of Lady Gaga or maybe Perez (48 points with a triple word score square) Hilton? At first, I thought the impact texting has had on creating a whole new abbreviated vocabulary might have something to do with Mattel's need to change up the game, especially for younger players. But I think the celeb angle has more to do with it. A Mattel spokeswoman said proper nouns would "introduce an element of popular culture into the game," BBC News reports. "This is one of a number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved."

    Maybe the whole thing is just about

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  • White House garden grows bigger in year two

    The first-year yield from the White House vegetable garden, Michelle Obama's first salvo in her bid to get us all eating healthier and tackle childhood obesity in the United States, was impressive: 1,000 pounds of food that fed many at the White house and nearby homeless shelters, as well as the beginning of the first lady's nationwide anti-obesity movement.

    So, naturally, this spring when Mrs. Obama returned with school children to sow the garden for its second year, she is digging and tilling wider and planting even more. Just like we often do with our own gardens, move them out just a bit every year once we get our footing in the homegrown game. Now 1,500 square feet, the vegetable garden is 400 square feet larger than last year and will grow four new vegetables: bok choy, cauliflower, artichokes, and mustard greens.

    Do you plan to plant a garden this spring, or expand the one you already have?

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  • April Fools! What's your favorite (or not-so-favorite) prank?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesAfter a winter of crazy snows melting into a spring of flooding rains, with far too many people still unemployed or underemployed, and the partisan political discourse muddier than all of the rain-soaked fields, it seems a good time for some levity. April Fools' Day has rarely been more welcome.

    Unless, maybe, the joke's on you.

    It was pretty tame at our house this morning, just a little Vaseline on the inside of our bedroom door to remind my husband of the date as he went to take the dog out for a walk. I still smile, thinking back to the time my then pint-sized crew tricked me into thinking the youngest spilled a bucket-load of milk one rushed school morning, only to hear them all dissolve into giggles as I predictably lost it, running in with an armload of paper towels.

    Too early to tell if any advertisers will make a foolish splash with ads like Burger King's "Left-handed Whopper" (1998) or Taco Bell's 1996 announcement that it had bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it the

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  • The other legislation: changes to student loans

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesA little bit lost in the bright spotlight over passage of health care reform are the changes to student loans included in the major legislation. It's a big change that hopefully will put more money into the hands of low- and moderate-income college students by cutting out the middlemen (banks) that have profited greatly from student loans while a college education has grown more and more unattainable to many.

    The bill basically cuts banks and financial institutions out of the student loan business and sets up the government as the direct provider of certain student loans. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the changeover will save $68 billion over the next 11 years. A big chunk of those savings will go to Pell Grants, which have not kept pace with rising college costs. The aim is to provide more Pell Grants in larger amounts to assure more students of going to and graduating from college.

    Here's a quick look at what some of the changes will bring:

    • More than $40 billion
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  • POLL: Are you spending?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesEconomists closely watching the slowly unfolding recovery of the U.S. economy were heartened by an uptick in consumer spending in February, even if it only rose 0.3 percent while personal income remained flat. And because income didn't rise, savings dropped as most Americans needed every bit of cash coming in the door to pay the bills.

    The takeaway seems to be a hopeful sign that we're spending again since consumer spending rose for the fifth straight month, nudging the recovery forward. But economists agree this recovery, unlike past rebounds, will not be driven in a big way by consumer spending. Rather, job growth and small-business spending are being eyed as the true drivers of major, sustained recovery.

    Still, we're curious.....

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  • Sarah Palin: Next stop, reality TV

    We asked if you'd watch AP Photo/Al Grillo: Sarah Palin during her resignation speech as governor in July in Fairbanks, Alaska.AP Photo/Al Grillo: Sarah Palin during her resignation speech as governor in July in Fairbanks, Alaska.if it were to happen, and it's happening: Sarah Palin has signed on with the Discovery Channel to air her eight-part series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on the TLC network.

    Filming is set to begin this summer on the mini-series, which will be produced by Mark Burnett, he of "Survivor' and other reality-TV-fare fame. The AP reports that Discovery is paying $1 million an episode for the deal.

    Even though many questioned whether quitting was a good professional idea, clearly leaving the Alaska governor's office early was a good financial move for Palin. Aside from her Fox News gig, she earned $100,000 for a speaking fee at the Tea Party Convention--though it remains a source of court-destined contention between the convention organizer and the fundraiser who reportedly contributed $50,000 so they could meet the former Republican vice president's speaking tab. Palin has since said she is donating her fee, but the additional $18,000 requested for private jet travel has

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  • New rules for fee-depleting gift cards

    AP ImagesAP ImagesGift cards have become so popular, given to or by 95 percent of Americans, angering so many of them with unexpected fees and timing-out deadlines, that the Federal Reserve has stepped in with some new rules.

    Have you ever found a gift card tucked away only to pull it out and use it and find that all but $3.25 cents of it has been eaten up in fees? I'm not exaggerating. My kids get lots of gift cards as gifts, and because they are not the best at keeping track of such things, this kind of thing has happened around here. So it's good to hear about these changes, though don't expect them to put an end to all fees on gift cards.

    Here's what the Fed says will happen as of August 22:

    Consumers must have at least five years to use gift cards before they expire.

    However, service or inactivity fees can still be applied, under certain conditions --

    • if the consumer hasn't used the card for at least a year
    • if the consumer is given clear disclosures about them, and
    • no more than one
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  • History is made: Health care reform bill passes!

    Reuters via Yahoo! News: President Barack Obama addresses the nation after the House passed historic health care reform legilsation late Sunday night.Reuters via Yahoo! News: President Barack Obama addresses the nation after the House passed historic health care reform legilsation late Sunday night.When Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat held for 46 years by the late Ted Kennedy, you could almost hear the resounding sigh and see shoulders shrugging as Democrats in Washington, D.C. were ready to admit defeat before a vote on health care reform was called. With no clear majority in the Senate, it was game over, according to lots of chattering cable pundits.

    But late Sunday night, House Democrats voted 219-212 on a health care bill that would extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, and reduce deficits. No Republican representative voted for the bill. President Barack Obama, who decided to dig in and make this a central cause of his administration, to not give up despite pleas to scale back and start over, because "it's the right thing to do," had this to say after the late-night vote:

    "This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health

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  • Jobs bill passes in Senate, but will anyone notice?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesWas that the sound of our deficit growing by another $38 million?

    For good reason, we hope, Congress stopped along the way in the partisan slog to a vote on health care reform to pass jobs legislation for President Barack Obama to sign. The first of promised jobs-related bills in an election year, this one would provide a payroll tax break for employers who hire unemployed workers.

    The Senate bill passed with a clear bipartisan 68-29 vote. It provides for about $18 million in tax breaks, allowing exemptions for businesses that hire formerly unemployed workers from paying the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December. It also gives employers an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay hired for at least a year. The bill also provides another $20 million for highway and transit programs.

    Experts disagree over whether these added funds will make a difference in who and how many are hired. But the in-favor thinking goes that if there is an employer who is on the cusp

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  • Detroit to city workers: Leave smelly perfumes, deodorants, and candles at home!

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesDetroit officials are telling workers in city offices to leave smelly perfumes, deodorants, and other strongly scented toiletries and items at home.The signs are going up in response to a federal lawsuit, which also awarded $100,000 to Susan McBride, who sued the city under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming a coworker's perfume made it difficult for her to breathe and do her job.

    The city fought the 2008 suit, citing a lack of a medical diagnosis and arguing that McBride is not disabled. But the move this week to warn workers to refrain from using strong-smelling products is a clear sign the city is following through with some of the measures the judge ordered last month. The signs will warn workers to avoid "wearing scented products, including ... colognes, aftershave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions ... (and) the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, spray or solid air fresheners."

    At some point in our working lives, we all have sat

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