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Archive | October, 2011

How To Avoid The Flu

25 Oct

Admit it: flu season is here, and you want to know how to avoid the flu. If you haven’t succumbed to an allergic reaction or mild cold due to the seasonal change, consider yourself blessed. Continue that pattern of good health by following a few simple tips to avoid the full-blown flu. Symptoms of the flu are more extreme than a simple cold; the flu hits suddenly and includes a high fever, sweating, chills, headache, severe fatigue, optional vomiting, nasal discharge and a cough.

1. WASH YOUR HANDS!

There is no simpler way to avoid germs than to wash your hands properly. Stop and consider all the surfaces your hands touch throughout the day, then consider how many of those surfaces are able to hold the flu germs. Both lists are endless. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and after eating, after wiping your eyes or nose, after dealing with baby diapers or pet waste, after handling a pet and whenever they are sticky or soiled. Washing your hands after each of these activities doesn’t necessarily wash away flu germs, but it does wash away any germs which will reduce your immune defenses, allowing the flu a free pass to your body. When you wash your hands, turn on the water and pass both hands under the faucet. Apply a liberal amount of antibacterial soap to the hands. Rub the hands together, covering the wrists, palms and each finger with plenty of lather. Place the tips of your fingers on the palm of the opposing hand and gently scratch your palm with your nails. This lathers underneath the nails as well as foaming the palm. Rub around each finger cuticle. Rinse thoroughly and use a paper towel to not only turn off the faucet but also to open any public bathroom doors. Again, consider how many people don’t care for their hands after using the bathroom. You’ll want to avoid touching that door.

2. USE LYSOL

Use a Lysol-type spray or wipe on any shared surfaces at work or at home. The idea is to rid the tactile surface of any germs, so use the spray or wipe alternately for different surfaces. For example, use a disinfectant spray carefully on a keyboard to allow the spray to reach the crevices between the keys. Use a disinfectant wipe on a table or desk surface. It is essential to clean off any communal objects, even if they are non-porous or sealed. Desks, keyboards, a mouse and mousepad, cups, coffee makers, pens – the list is endless. Clean, clean, clean before you use and avoid picking up those nasty germs.

3. USE A TISSUE TO RUB YOUR EYE

We all rub our eyes throughout the day for various reasons. Rather than use your finger to satisfy that itch, grab a disposable tissue to avoid the flu. If you forget to clean a surface or don’t thoroughly clean your hands, those germs will grab the mucus membranes in your eye and wreak havoc in your body. Wrap the tissue around your finger and carefully rub it along the part of the eye causing irritation. Be sure to move from the outer edge to the inner edge. The eye naturally cleans itself and deposits waste at the inner corner, closest to the nose. Moving from the inside to the outside of the eye drags this waste into the eye, which is cause for infection. Again, an infection lowers the immune system and invites the flu into your body. Make sure you use the tissue from the outside in toward the nose.

4. GRAB A BOTTLE OF HAND SANITIZER

Stores such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and Bath and Body Works sell tiny bottles of hand sanitizer. Buy one of these bottles and keep it in your purse or pocket. Don’t worry guys, there are some more manly, or even unscented, varieties. It is important to use this bottle when you cannot reach a sink to wash your hands, such as when you must shake hands before a meeting or you are switching between shared surfaces with no time to clean. The most important tip under this heading, however, is to NOT SHARE THIS BOTTLE! Sorry ladies, but we are largely at fault here. We share with our friends without a second thought. Give this little bottle more thought when your friends ask for some. Either say no or pour the product into their hand for them. Do not let someone else handle that bottle – it defeats the purpose of keeping your hands germ-free. Also, avoid the communal hand sanitizer bottles provided by some bathrooms or companies. Many hands have touched that dispenser, leaving a laundry list of germs for you.

Purell makes a full line of sanitizing products.

5. PERSONALIZE EVERYTHING

Think about how many times you grab the cashier’s pen to sign your debit card receipt. Even worse are the electronic pens we all use at the cashier’s station. Try to avoid this situation by following that electronic pen with the hand sanitizer and by carrying your own pen. Think about a typical day for you and determine what you can realistically carry with you that will be exclusively for you. For example, that pen – keep your own pen with you and do not lend it out. This will avoid germ sharing typically found with sharing pens. Other items which need to be kept personalized are combs, eyeglasses, toothbrushes, jewelry, timepieces, cell phones, purses and wallets. Be stubborn about letting others use these items; these are YOURS and yours alone if you truly want to avoid the flu. Use the wipes and spray on those pesky “must be shared” items.

6. LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER

I cannot count the number of times I tell my daughter in the store, “Look with your eyes not with your hands.” Some people are naturally tactile, “look with your hands” shoppers – they touch everything in the store. My daughter and I are both tactile shoppers. Avoid catching flu germs from people like us by leaving your hands off the displays in the stores. Make sure to buy the boxed version and never the discounted display model if you are trying to avoid germs. If you must buy the display model, insist that it is wrapped at the store for transport then clean it immediately after unwrapping at home. Be especially careful around the holidays – merchants count on people touching their products to create an emotional bond with the product. Combine this with the natural flu season, and you’ve got double trouble.

Be careful this season, and stay healthy. If you have any other surefire flu avoiding tips, please comment below! Let’s all learn how to avoid the flu together!

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Why Do We Believe In Ghosts?

19 Oct

Ghost images and perceptions are everywhere, from childhood sheets thrown over the head to orbs of light found on photographs and mysterious bumps in the night. Humans have believed in ghosts for centuries. Droves of people have stepped forward with their own ghost stories, which range from mysterious sounds to full body apparitions which appear as an actual flesh and blood individual. Psychics cash in on the belief that we do not truly go away when we die, instead we remain with loved ones for support or we attach ourselves to the place where we died. There are many personal reasons to believe in ghosts, however, scientists are beginning to research and discover the empirical reasons for the human insistence on life after death.

According to The Daily Beast, the mind has been proven to “fill in the blanks” where the senses end. The eyes and the ears cannot take in every aspect of an image, so the brain takes over and fills in the missing pieces. The Daily Beast uses the Kanizsa Triangle as an example. Three Pac Man shapes are arranged at three points of a triangle with mouths facing inward. The brain fills in white lines connecting the Pac Man images when no actual lines exist. The human senses are easily tricked into believing something exists when in fact it does not. An interview with a Friar at St. Bonadventure stresses the same point with a different explanation. The Friar insists that emotions contribute to spectral sightings. When college students, mere children afraid of being away from home, begin talking about ghosts, they can create the illusion in their mind then project the illusion into their reality.

The Daily Beast article proceeds to discuss emotions and relations to spacial reality. Certainly, the article argues, emotions at a heightened state will cause a person to see what is not there. The same effect happens in reverse in the brain when a person is not paying attention to what is happening. The brain does not see an object then take in the fact that the object is there; in fact, the brain pays attention to emotions before it pays attention to vision and hearing. Therefore, if a person is deeply saddened by the loss of their mother, the brain recognizes this emotion well before it recognizes the fact that the room is empty, and the brain may project the mother’s image into the room, leading the grieving child to see their mother.

While scientists are continuously studying the human brain and reasons why we see or believe the way we do, the research is ongoing. Perhaps after more research, the facts in The Daily Beast article will be proven or debunked. Either way, people have always believed in ghosts, whether they want to hold on to their loved ones, they have neurological connections that have gone wrong or they have truly seen something that no one can explain. Science is, however, attempting to find the source of ghosts, just as it tried to find the source of lightning, stars, planets and life. Science has succeeded so far; perhaps one day the questions of ghosts will no longer be a question.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/10/24/why-we-believe.html

http://web.sbu.edu/friedsam/archives/studentpages/ghost/new_page_6.htm

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Kanizsa_triangle

How to Make a Website Evergreen

18 Oct

Information is provided to search engines nearly instantaneously, however, the ability to scan those pages for correct and current information is not. Web surfers need t dust off the old research skills and read every page which looks promising to discover if the information is useful now or if it was useful ten years ago. We are diving head first into an age where the Internet is no longer new and everyone but everyone is allowed to post whatever they please, whether it is pertinent, true or current. Keeping your own website evergreen means that in fifteen years, you’ll still get hits because your information will still be pertinent.

Leave Out Dates

Leave out dates which will make your information irrelevant in ten years. A great example of this mistake is including the age of people or years in business. If you are trying to reach out to clients by making a familiar connection, leave off the age of your new baby because that baby will grow. Ten years from now, you want to avoid possible embarrassment by having to apologize for this discrepancy on your website. Leave off your years in business as well, because every year brings new experience, and unless you plan to change this number every year to reflect your experience, you will not correctly reflect your business expertise. An acceptable way to include an age or years in business is to type the year of birth or the year of opening. Another acceptable method to include dates is to lead with the date. “In 1999, Better Homes and Gardens claimed….” is an acceptable date insert.

Use Statistics Sparingly

Statistics are extremely difficult to include in an evergreen website. If you are interested in updating the statistical information periodically, then go ahead. Otherwise, leave the statistics off your site. The information changes consistently and it’s just not worth the hassle that comes with traffic driven away from your site due to misinformation. Consider your own web searches. If you encounter a website with outdated statistical information, won’t you go elsewhere to discover the correct answer? Your web clientele will also skip your page if it is known for incorrect, outdated statistical information.

Skip the Cultural References

Sorry, Mr. Smith, you are a cultural icon.

It’s apparent when a television program is ten or more years old almost immediately. The same is true for a website which uses cultural references. These references include bands, styles, trends and slang. While slang is never a good idea for a professional site, it is certainly the best way to destroy your site’s evergreen feel. If you must refer to a cultural image, be sure to phrase the reference to keep the content fresh for years. For example, discuss Tori Amos in this manner: “When Tori Amos released her record “A Piano: The Collection,” she included a song named, “A Sorta Fairytale,” which reflects on a sordid love affair.” The subject of the song is discussed while giving credit to the artist and album, but there is no inference which will change ten years from now. A statement which will not work is as follows: “The XBox 360 is the HOTTEST game system out there for first person shooters!” You don’t know if the XBox will be the hottest game system forever, so don’t include such statements on an evergreen web page.

Do Not Include Opinions

This point is a no-brainer for professionals. We know, as professionals, that we need to keep our sites from delving too far into our personal lives. However, for those of you creating personal websites, do not include your opinions unless you plan to return to the site and correct yourself later. Opinions change over time and are too ambiguous to be evergreen. If you are writing a professional review or commentary, the opinions are appropriate, but if you are trying to start a business website, keep it to yourself. For example, if you are starting a business in freelance writing and printing, do not proclaim that the Epson CX7400 printer is the only printer you will ever use. In fact, at the time of this blog late in the year 2011, I don’t even think they make that printer anymore. So already, I have ruined the evergreen quality of this blog post with that sample.

Do Not Reference the Future or Near Past

Do not talk about what is going to happen in the coming months or years or what happened last year if you are attempting to maintain an evergreen website. View this sample to best understand what this paragraph is trying to communicate:

In the coming years, we will grow to serve the West Side of New York as well as the North Side of New Jersey.

If you expand as planned, the website is obsolete within a few years. You will need to pay a web designer to fix the information or spend time away from your business fixing this yourself. Instead, include the new stores or locations as they open with announcements, such as:

Visit Vinnie’s Pizza in Manhattan! The facility is open as of 2011 and is eager to server the best New York style pizza in town!

Vinnie and his pizza shop are now able to continue to serve top notch pies to New York instead of revising an outdated website. Since Vinnie was reactive rather than proactive, his site will always be evergreen.

Follow these few tips to get started on an evergreen website. While you are creating the wording for the site, read and reread it, then imagine yourself sitting in your chair ten years from now, needing the information which is provided on your website. Is it still relevant to you ten years in the future? If it isn’t, change it to make it relevant. The best thing any web site designer, writer, business owner or blog writer can do for themselves is to ask a friend to read the site or imagine themselves in the role of consumer trying to glean information from the site today, tomorrow, and years from now. Keep your website evergreen and watch the page hits continue for years!

My Commentary on “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller

6 Oct

THIS BLOG INCLUDES SPOILERS

“The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller is a 200 page novel about a four day love affair. A photographer travels from Washington to a dusty, small town in Iowa on assignment for National Geographic. He is assigned to photograph the old covered bridges in Madison County. When he gets lost, he stops to ask a woman for directions. This woman is an Italian immigrant who met her current husband while he was assigned to Italy through the military. She has two children who are away with her husband showing cattle at the State Fair. The photographer is named Robert Kincaid and is referred to by his first and last name throughout the novel. The family of four is father Richard, mother Francesca,  daughter Carolyn and son Michael. They are all referred to by their first names only.

Robert Kincaid and Francesca spend four days alone together while the rest of the family is at the State Fair, loving, talking and relating to each other. He asks her to go with him when it is time for him to return to Washington; she replies she is bound by responsibility and he needs to respect her wishes. He does, but neither of the lovers ever truly loves again, and they both die without seeing each other ever again. Carolyn and Michael find out about the relationship after their mother’s death and decide to tell the story to a writer, who puts it into this novel.

This is the basic outline of this story. It may seem that the tale does not require 200 pages, but the story reaches beyond the love affair to reveal a commentary on art. It was written in 1992, when the world was just coming out of a few decades of free love, random intimacy and a serious AIDS outbreak. Sexually transmitted diseases were gaining much needed attention and “sleeping around” was gaining notoriety for its despicability. The art of love and the deep emotion of art in general was seriously overlooked, even ignored. Robert James Waller brought the world back to the emotion and the art form of real love and lovemaking with this deeply impassioned story of two people who found it then lost it in a space of only four days.

Admittedly, this story omits the basic, underlying idea that this is sex outside of marriage. However, if this had become a theme within the story, Mr. Waller would have lost the deep artistic direction he had gently built in the first few chapters. While giving away nothing of Robert Kincaid, Mr. Waller describes Robert in a way which creates an admiration for the character within the reader. The reader is so in love with the idea of Robert Kincaid that the basic sin of extra-marital sex doesn’t occur to bother the reader until Richard calls on the lovers’ third day together.

The lovers, as well, make the whole ordeal acceptable with the poetic rhythm of their whirlwind romance. The words Mr. Waller chooses to describe the feelings that occurred in that kitchen carry such poetic, perfect, romantic appeal that the reader simply melts for the basic want within every human to feel that way. When the lovers find themselves in bed, the description of their lovemaking is complete in a non-pornographic, romantic, artistic manner. Women feel sex in an emotional manner; Mr. Waller captures the female emotion in the lovemaking scene and draws the reader into the bedroom through the raw love between Robert and Francesca.

Throughout the novel, the artistic theme stays true, through Robert’s refusal to let go of Francesca’s memory and through Francesca’s annual celebration of Robert. The letter Francesca pens to her children explaining the affair is not apologetic, it is simply explanatory and informative. The love is never shameful, afraid or in need of apology from anyone. It simply is.

This novel is truly written for the female need to be accepted and loved in an emotional manner, not in the practical manner of many men. While there are many different types of love which are acceptable and fine for those who can make them work, this novel was a best seller in 1992 due to its terrific connection to the artist in every one of us and its excellent interpretation of an emotional attachment which many people will only read about but never truly feel.

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