Sunday, May 18, 2008

5 Tips to Help You Live a Well-Balanced Life

With the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we often find ourselves yearning for a quieter, more balanced life. If your life has come to resemble an endless race to the finish line, take a look at the suggestions below to bring a greater sense of peace, calm, and even simplicity back into your life.

Tip # 1: Manage Your Time Better
Having effective time management skills will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends. Not great with time management? Then here are a few steps to help you improve your skills:

  • Prioritize your time by rating tasks in the order of importance and urgency then direct additional time to activities that are most meaningful to you.
  • Deal with procrastination by using a day planner, breaking large projects into smaller ones, and setting short-term deadlines.
  • Keep a record of how you spend your time, including work, family, and leisure and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Save time by focusing, concentrating, and realizing when it’s time to delegate responsibilities to others.
  • Don’t over or under commit yourself or commit to anything that’s not important to you.

Tip # 2: Learn Healthy Coping Strategies
Living a balanced life means that it’s important to learn healthy coping strategies. We all get overwhelmed from time to time so we need to know how to deal with stress and issues as they arise. One way to do this is by recording stressful events, your reaction to it, and how you could have reacted in a journal.

Using this information, you can change unhealthy coping strategies into healthy ones. This will help you focus on the positive and what you can change or control in your life.

Tip # 3: Evaluate Your Lifestyle
You may not realize this but in most instances our behavior and lifestyle choices greatly affect whether or not our life is balanced. To get things into perspective examine your beliefs to reduce conflict between the life you believe you live and the life you really live.
This does not bring balance directly to your life, but it can interfere with the way your body deals with stress in edition to other issues. If your perception is different from your reality try to:

  • Balance your personal, work, and family needs according with your other obligations.
  • Get to know yourself by spending some quality time with you. This will help you to find your sense of purpose in life.
  • Don’t drink or smoke and make sure you get enough sleep. These are major stressors to your body and cause you to feel “out of balance.”
  • Yes your doctor was right—you need moderate exercise several times a week and a balanced diet for a physical and mental strength. Think about it … how do you feel after you eat a Big Mac? Enough said!
  • Do something for someone else and expect nothing in return. This will help boost your “feel good” endorphins!

Tip # 4: Have a Support System in Place
Sometimes we need someone to talk to and having a support system in place keeps you balanced because you know you have someone to turn to. Having a positive support system in place is like having “mental security.” You know that you are cared for, loved, esteemed, and valued by those you care for the most. If you don’t have a support system in place the best place to start is to look within your family, friends, church and the community. Research indicates that having social support leads to having better mental and physical health and a better overall quality of life.

Tip # 5: Change Your Thinking
When an event triggers negative thoughts, this may cause you to feel out of balance. Usually when this happens you experience fear, insecurity, anxiety, depression, rage, guilt, and a sense of worthlessness or powerlessness. These are all emotions that trigger your mind and body to disconnect and cause you to react instead of act.

When issues such as these come up the best way to get your self back into a safe zone, where you feel you are in control is change your way of thinking and act (not react) on the problem. To change your way of thinking start by:

Ridding your mind of any irrational thoughts. This will help you avoid exaggerating the negative thought, anticipating the worst, interpreting an event incorrectly, and will eliminate unnecessary stress.

Learning to solve your problems by identifying all aspects of the issue. Then instead of putting it off find ways to deal with it immediately.

Changing your communication style so that you communicate in a way that makes your views known without making others feel put down, hostile, or intimidated. Poor communication causes a lot of issues that otherwise would never have surfaced.

By implementing a few of these tips you may also increase your performance and productivity which in the end will help reduce your stress and allow you to focus on what matters most to you: Living.

Living a simpler life is all about learning how to slow down and connect more deeply with your inner self. Whether you do that by simplifying your surroundings, calming your schedule or enjoying a quiet respite each day, the result is the same—a happier, balanced, and more peaceful you!

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Eight Forbidden Delicacies

Foie gras is back on Chicago menus after a two-year ban, but it's not the only traditional delicacy that's been restricted or deemed socially unpalatable. Maggot cheese, anyone?

James Marshall / Corbis
Deadly Delicious: The potentially toxic puffer fish, or fugu, is a gourmet treat in Japan, where chefs must prepare it carefully to avoid poisoning diners

Chicago's gourmands got some good news this week when the city's two-year-old ban on foie gras was officially lifted. The repeal was a defeat for animal rights groups who pushed to ban the French delicacy because it is made from the fatty livers of geese and ducks that have been force fed. But the pricey dish is not the only traditional food that's restricted (or shunned) around the country because of health or political concerns. Here are some other controversial gourmet favorites, from maggot cheese to haggis, that you may or may not be able to find on a menu near you.

1. Casu Marzu Maggot Cheese Yes, you read that right: maggot cheese. This is one delicacy that's both an acquired and a forbidden taste. Casu marzu is a runny white cheese made by injecting Pecorino Sardo cheese with cheese-eating larvae. The cheese can pose various health hazards, such as an intestinal larval infection or even the risk of larvae jumping into your eye. Because of these threats, casu marzu can't legally be sold in Italy, though farmers on Sardinia and in northern Italy's Piedmont and Bergamo areas still produce it for their own clandestine consumption. United States regulations don't even address this particular type of cheese—perhaps because no one has been brave enough to put it on an American menu.

2. Puffer Fish The eyes and internal organs of this fish are highly toxic, but the meat is a delicacy in Japan and Korea. Japanese chefs are specially trained to prepare fugu, as the dish is known, so as not to kill their customers, but it's a tricky business. Your life is in the chef's hands. The animal contains tetrodotoxin, a powerful neurotoxin that damages nerve tissue and for which there is no antidote. Puffer poisoning can result from touching incorrectly prepared puffer soup, chiri, or from raw puffer meat. Saxitoxin, the cause of paralytic shellfish poisoning, can also be found in puffers. Adventurous diners can find the dish at top Japanese restaurants in some American cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and L.A., though harvesting puffers is forbidden in Florida.

3. Raw Milk Cheese Don't get caught driving cross-country with a ripe hunk of unpasteurized French brie; it's against FDA regulations. The FDA says you can't transport raw milk across state lines, and you can sell unpasteurized cheeses only if they have been aged at least 60 days and stored at a frigid 35 degrees Fahrenheit—treatment that would likely be considered by the French to be cruel and unusual punishment of an innocent fromage.

4. Absinthe This green liqueur, which was reputed to produce hallucinations and act as an aphrodisiac, became popular in France in the 1850s. In July 1912 the Department of Agriculture banned absinthe in America for its "harmful neurological effects." Federal authorities now permit the sale of absinthe only if manufacturers can prove that thujone (the ingredient that produces the neurological effects) levels are almost undetectable and if they added a qualifier to the word absinthe. But recently a team of scientists analyzed samples of the original preban 19th-century French absinthe and found that it didn't have enough thujone to be mind-altering, but that at 70 percent alcohol the drink was about 140 proof, which may account for some of those hallucinations.

5. Sassafras The dried root bark of the sassafras tree native to North America has been used for centuries for making tea, as a painkiller and as a seasoning for Creole soups and stews. The bark contains an oil called safrole, which the FDA banned for use as an additive in 1960 because studies linked the consumption of safrole to liver cancer in rats. Since then the United States has banned the sale of any ingestible product that contains more than a small amount of safrole. The root bark extract and leaves are now treated commercially to produce a safrole-free product that provides sassafras flavor without the health risks.

6. Haggis In 1989 imports of this traditional Scottish dish made from the internal organs of sheep were banned from the United States due to concerns that it could carry bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a. mad cow disease. British authorities dispute these concerns, and haggis is widely sold in Scottish supermarkets. Recipes vary, but the pungent delicacy usually contains sheep lung, liver and heart minced with onion and then boiled in the animal's stomach, though modern versions sometimes use artificial casings.

7. Lobsters The organic supermarket chain Whole Foods stopped selling live lobsters in 2006 in response to PETA and other animal protection groups that said the store could not guarantee that the crustaceans were handled humanely in transport. Other supermarkets have followed suit, but there hasn't yet been a widespread removal of the creatures from seafood counters. According to the Lobster Liberation Web site, created by PETA, lobsters can feel pain, and they suffer when they are cut, broiled, or boiled alive. (In fact, boiling lobsters alive is illegal in Reggio, Italy.)

8. Foie Gras Chicago foie gras fans may have gotten a reprieve this week, but now Californian fans may have to look for the rich treat far from home. The sunshine state has passed a law banning the French delicacy as of 2012 because of animal cruelty concerns. (Ducks and geese are force fed up to four pounds of food a day though metal pipes down their throats. The dish is then created from the enlarged liver.)

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Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Ink Rolling Ball Pen

Quick Facts:
Pen Type Gel pen
Point Size(s) Ultra Fine, Extra Fine(.5mm), Fine (.7mm) and Bold
Water-resistant No - regardless of what some office supply sites may claim
Ink Color 14 - Black, Blue, Red, Green, Purple, Pink, Turquoise, Burgundy, Orange, Hunter Green, Navy Blue, Periwinkle, Lime, Carmel
Capped/Retractable Retractable
Clip Yes
Approx Price ~$2 for 1 pen. $16 for 8 color pack

I’ve been refusing to get/use G2’s since I first saw it from a coworker in the office many years ago — because they are so tacky looking. They look quite clean at first, but the clear barrel showing off the yellow/orange gel(?) at the end of the refill just looks yucky, and golden color label on the clip just looks cheesy. I just can’t picture using it. At the time, I was using “Zebra Sarasa Gel Retractable” and “Uniball Signo 207” which are both more elegant looking to me.

It wasn’t until recently that I took a second look at the G2s again. Everywhere I turn, everyone seems to be using it. Even people who are normally not picky about pens claim to like it a lot. I needed to know what they are so drawn to. So I decided to take the plunge and get one. I was at the store and saw the standard package of “1 black, 1 blue, 1 red” pens and “2 black” pens. Looking at them, I remember all the reasons the G2 did not appeal to me. As I was walking away, I noticed the package of “turquoise, purple, and pink”. I wasn’t very fond of the pink, but the turquoise looked very interesting and purple is always a good color to test (I have a theory that purple ink is the most difficult to get right based on experiences of the many purple pens that died unexpectedly on me).

Anyway, back to the review of the G2…

The grip of the pen is pretty awesome - one of the things I was suspicious about regarding the grip was the shape. There’s a slight concavity followed by a slight bump. I’ve had some bad experiences previously with pens that don’t have a straight shape grip that did not fit the fingers/hand properly – sliding/slipping in wrong direction, etc. But the G2 does not have that problem. Now that I think about it some more, it’s actually a very smart design. Usually people with smaller hands want smaller grip and they tend to hold the pen closer to the tip. Whereas people with bigger hand would want a bigger grip and hold the pen higher. By creating this increasing barrel size as you get farther from the tip, it satisfies a much wider audience than that of a straight grip. And the genius is that it tilts back out really near the tip creating a cradle for the fingers and added extra horizontal grooves to increase friction.

The flow of ink is pretty smooth and consistent - on the better end for a gel pen. The weight and balance of the pen is good. It’s a bit heavier than the zebra sarasa - which I like. It gives it a more substantial feel (i.e. less cheap). But then again, I’m comparing a new g2 with old sarasa, so may be it’s the weight of the gel ink. Hmm, let me just remove the ink and redo the test in my hand. Ok, so correction, the 2 pens are about the same weight without the ink (never realize how heavy the gel ink was). Btw, an interesting design note, the screw on the G2 is in the middle of the barrel instead of the more common placement – at the tip of the pen. This is a great design decision - making it much easier to screw on/off (because of larger surface area to hold on to) than its other retractable competitors.

Overall, G2 is a good, solid, well balanced pen. But at the same time, it is also one of the more commonly seen pens in the office. So if you don’t want to look like everyone else, or just want to add a little bit of spark or personality, get one in a unusual color that you like. I am currently in love with turquoise. (And I still hate the black and blue ones - probably for the wrong reasons, but I don’t care!!) Looking forward to trying hunter green some day.

Rating: 17/20
Nib/Ink flow 4/5 (consistent, smooth for fine point – I’m reserving the last point for when I try the other point sizes)
Design/Looks 3/5 (depends on color - for me at least)
Grip/Balance/Weight 5/5 (superb grip, great balance, good weight with full ink)
Construction 5/5 (well made, very sturdy, especially like the the screw in middle of barrel)

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16 Tips For Getting Good Sleep

MmonwindowSixteen tips for getting good sleep.

There's a lot of advice out there about getting good sleep -- it's VERY important. We quickly adjust to being sleep-deprived, and don't notice that we aren't functioning at a normal level, but lack of sleep really affects us. If you're feeling blue or listless, try going to sleep thirty minutes earlier for a week. It can really help.

Here are tips that have helped me get good sleep:

Good habits for good sleep:

1. Exercise most days, even if it's just to take a walk.

2. No caffeine after 7:00 p.m.

3. An hour before bedtime, avoid doing any kind of work that takes alert thinking. Addressing envelopes--okay. Analyzing an article--nope.

4. Adjust your bedroom temperature to be slightly chilly.

5. Keep your bedroom dark. Studies show that even the tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle. We have about six devices in our room that glow bright green; it's like sleeping in a mad scientist's lab. The Big Man has a new pet, a Roomba (yes, he loves his robot vacuum) that gives out so much light that I have to cover it with a pillow before bed.

6. Keep the bedroom as tidy as possible. It's not restful to fight through chaos into bed.

If sleep won't come:

7. Breathe deeply and slowly until you can't stand it anymore.

8. If your mind is racing (you're planning a trip, a move; you're worried about a medical diagnosis), write down what's on your mind. This technique really works for me.

9. Slather yourself with body lotion. This feels good and also, if you're having trouble sleeping because you're hot, it cools you down.

10. If your feet are cold, put on socks.

11. Stretch your whole body.

12. Have a warm drink. Supposedly warm milk contains melatonin and trytophan and so helps induce sleep, but in fact, a glass of milk doesn't contain enough to have any effect. But it's still a soothing drink. My nighttime favorite: 1/3 mug of milk, add boiling water, one packet of Equal, and a dash of vanilla. A real nursery treat.

13. Yawn.

14. Stretch your toes up and down several times.

15. Tell yourself, "I have to get up now." Imagine that you just hit the snooze alarm and in a minute, you're going to be marching through the morning routine. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.

16. If you still can't sleep, re-frame: re-frame your sleeplessness as a welcome opportunity to snatch some extra time out of your day. I get up and tackle mundane chores, like paying bills, organizing books, or tidying up. Then I start the day with a wonderful feeling of having accomplished something even before 6:45 am.

What am I missing? Are there some more great sleep-inducing strategies out there?

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project.

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Roots of Breakdance (Run DMC - It's Like That


‘Second Life’ aims to become the world of tomorrow

Professors Susan Barnes and Neil Hare will be demonstrating the ‘Second life’ virtual world at the Imagine RIT festival.

An increasing number of people are ditching their jobs in the real world to make a living entirely online within Second Life’s virtual economy—making thousands of U.S. dollars selling designs, developing virtual property or creating virtual market branches to offer real products.

Familiar with social networks like Facebook and MySpace, Professors Neil Hair (E. Philip Saunders College of Business) and Susan Barnes (College of Liberal Arts) decided to collaboratively teach an online advertising class—initiating business/marketing and advertising/public relations students into the virtual marketplace of Second Life.

“We are teaching students how to use Second Life, working for real clients on consultancy projects,” Hair says. “It’s not a game anymore; we’re actually helping clients make money.”

The project was a WOW Center exhibit at Imagine RIT. “We re-conceptualized the classroom and gave students online experience where they had to create advertising and marketing proposals for real consumers in Second Life," says Barnes.

“If you were going to charge for similar work in the commercial world, you’re looking at $4,000 worth of work per project,” adds Hair.

Slated to be featured at Imagine RIT was a virtual design of the Saunders College of Business’ Lowenthal Building, created by senior Matthew Anthony—showcasing Hair teaching the world’s first in-world advertising class.

“I fully believe this kind of technology will be the next evolution of the Internet, like the World Wide Web was after news groups,” Anthony says.

As class participant Ryland Bacorn confirms, “These new ‘worlds’ are where the consumer economy is moving at a furious rate.”
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