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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Day 56: Why Use the Plus Sign When Searching the Internet

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 56: Why Use the Plus Sign When Searching the Internet

With the arrival of the Internet, the world is your oyster.  Unfortunately, it’s not just your oyster, it’s anybody’s and with a pearl of information, you find a whole lot of junk.  Along with reputable companies, advertisers, spammers, bloggers, and other Internet users all vie for your attention.  If you’ve heard of the plus sign and you’re wondering, why use the plus sign searching the Internet, your life is about to become a whole lot easier.

The problem

If you’ve never used the plus sign when searching the Internet, you probably shake your head in frustration wading through pages and pages of useless information.  You know what you want, you formulated your request in your favorite search engine, but you still have to put up with bogus sites, websites with misleading ads, link farms and false listings.

The solution

Next time when you use a search engine, start your search with the plus sign (+).  As an experiment, say that you’re looking for information on owls.  Type “owls” in the search engine and you’ll be presented with 72 million listings.  Now type “+owls” in the search engine and you’ll only get 71,000 listings.  The plus sign removes all the rig raff.

What does the plus sign do?

The plus sign removes (almost) all undesirable info from your search.  The plus sign tells the search engine that whatever you’re looking for has to include the word that you specified.  If you’re looking for owls, the search engine will only bring up information on those birds and will ignore pages that link themselves to info about owls.

Broaden your search

In addition to the plus sign, try broadening your search for a particular item.  For instance, if you’re looking for sugar-free drinks, don’t type just drinks in the search engine. Typing “+drinks” produces about 8,660 results, while “+sugar free drinks” generates only 2,300 results.  Try to be as specific as possible.

Where it goes wrong

Clever advertisers know that subjects such as “love”, “employment”, “pets” and “cars” are hot topics.  They link their marketing pages to those popular sites and as a result, you get flooded with millions of search results.  Fortunately, a few search engines are on to those advertisers and eliminate their ads automatically.  Still, it doesn’t take long to type a plus sign before the word or term you are searching for, letting the search engine know that you are not willing to put up with useless pages.

When it gets worse

You might find that, at certain times of the year, you get presented with more and more junk pages while looking for valuable information.  The problem is obvious, annual celebrations such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother and Father’s Day bring on a stream of advertisers all trying to lure you to their sites.  

Wonder no longer about why use the plus sign searching the Internet, try it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and save a whole lot of time finding what you’re looking for.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Day 55: Children and Electronics

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 55: Children and Electronics

A few days ago, I was on a bus in downtown Toronto when a woman with an enormous stroller came on board. I found this annoying, to say the least. Strollers take up a lot of space on a bus and are a danger to passengers. It’s bad enough that these strollers are allowed on a bus, but in my opinion, should be banned during peak hours. Bicycles are not allowed, so why strollers …

To further my annoyance, the toddler in the stroller was watching a video game on an iPhone. When a call came in the mother took the phone away from the toddler to answer it. The kid immediately started screaming and thrashing about.

I wasn’t the only one who sat and stared at this kid and his mother. He couldn't even walk or talk and already his entertainment came from a cell phone!

Then yesterday I noticed a picture on Facebook. A ten-year-old was holding a tablet, a three-year-old was busy with an iPhone, and dad was asleep next to a baby. There you have it readers, today’s modern family. 

Is this what today's parents are like? They don't buy toys for their kids anymore, they don't play with their children anymore, they shove an electronic device in their hands to keep them quiet.

If I find it annoying, the experts are of the opinion that cellphones at a young age can cause damage to these young bodies.

The rate of MWR absorption is higher in children than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. Fetuses are particularly vulnerable because MWR exposure can lead to degeneration of the protective sheath that surrounds brain neurons, they report.
Multiple studies have shown that children absorb more MWR than adults. One found that that the brain tissue of children absorbed about two times more MWR than that of adults, and other studies have reported that the bone marrow of children absorbs 10 times more MWR than that of adults.

Another article talks about the damage cellphones have on children’s eyes.

Other than the possibility of causing harm I can only wonder how these kids will grow up. Experts all agree that regular toys benefit children in a number of ways. Take those toys away and what will happen? Will a lack of physical toys influence their motor skills? 

Soft toys teach children sensitivity. Stuffed toys may develop a love for animals. Blocks can lead to a love for building things. Combing a doll's hair might produce a stylist or beautician. And as the child grows up, will he or she develop a love for books and in the process learn how to write with correct spelling and grammar? Will they have any kind of an imagination?

While most people enjoy playing computer games, how young is too young to play these games?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day 54: Discrimination – Old vs. Young

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 54: Discrimination – Old vs. Young

An HR manager recently posted a message that he had hired a woman over 50 and had taken quite a bit of heat for it from the younger generation. There were a number of comments, I put in my two cents and commended him for his decision. I added that giving the choice between a 25-year-old and a 50-year-old, I would pick the 50-year-old every time.

Most young girls marry, start a family and go on maternity leave several times. Next, the kids get sick and mom has to take time off to look after them. With a 50-year-old, you avoid all that. Women that age are not only experienced, they have grown up children.

Well, when I said as much, I was severely criticized and insulted. It was even said that I discriminated against my own kind. Maybe that’s true, but I’m no stranger to discrimination myself. Over the years I’ve been discriminated against for being too tall, too thin, too young, too old, being from a foreign country, speaking with an accent … you name it, it’s been done.

If I’m partial to older women vs. the younger generation it has a reason, several reasons actually.

Take Tina for instance. Tina’s parents spent close to $250,000 on their daughter’s law school education. She had a brilliant mind, did her articling in one of the top law firms in the city, with a firm job offer after graduation. Six months before she graduated she met a man and married him. A month before graduation she announced she was pregnant and moving to Chicago. Her parents begged her to finish her education. She could practice law in Chicago after the baby was born. But no, Tina didn’t want to listen, she wanted to be a full-time mom. Today she has two children, is divorced and her parents are still paying off her student loans.

Then there’s Betty. Betty is an administrative assistant in a bank. Shortly after she started her job she got pregnant and went on a year’s maternity leave. When she came back she back she announced she was pregnant again and took off for another year of maternity leave. When she came back to work she was already pregnant for the third time and off she went again.

Next up there’s Yasmine. Yasmine also works for a bank, has four children and shows no signs of stopping. Her children range from age 6 to 11. All four go to school and after school they are looked after by their elderly and disabled grandparents. One is blind the other in a wheelchair. When Yasmine comes home from work, she picks up her kids and promptly kicks them out. In spring and summer, they play (unsupervised) in the condo building’s garden, in fall and winter they are banished to the corridor. When it’s time to eat she calls them in and after supper sends them to bed. When asked why the kids have to go to bed so early she openly states that she can’t stand having them around. Well, if that’s the case, why then have four children?

Are there other examples of young people acting irresponsibly? Yes, tons of them, but I think you get the idea. No need to go on and on.

Now women over the age of 50, on the other hand, are a whole different kettle of fish. When they get hired, an organization knows it’s getting value for money. Women who re-enter the job market at that age are either widowed or divorced and need the job for the money. The chances of an older woman quitting because she’s getting married are slim to none, and the chances of her getting pregnant and going on maternity leave are zero.

Other benefits of hiring older women are that they will show up on time, every time. They are experienced, they know what they’re doing, and take pride in their performance.

So, if you want to say that I discriminate against young people, go ahead. My conscience is clear. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Day 53: Updating your Bathroom

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 53: Updating your Bathroom

Bathroom Tile Designs

Nothing gives a tired looking bathroom a face lift faster than new tiles, whether they are ceramic tiles on the walls or the back splash behind the sink. Before choosing a color and style, there are a few things to consider.

Tile Size

The size of the tile you choose can be a personal preference or a matter of aesthetic appeal. Big bathrooms will look better with large square or rectangular tiles, while smaller tiles might be better suited for smaller sized bathrooms. Keep in mind that the smaller the tile, the more precise the installation.  Smaller tiles might also work out to be more expensive.

Tile Weight

When choosing ceramic tiles, you might be wondering if wall tiles can be used as floor tiles. In general, this is not a good idea. Ceramic tiles designed to decorate walls don’t have the same components as floor tiles and over time might crack under walking weight. By the same token, even though heavy floor tiles can be used for a backsplash, this is not recommended as the wall paneling might not be strong enough to hold a heavy tile. Pay attention to tile thickness and weight before choosing where you want to place them.

Tile Color

With a wide variety of designs and colors to choose from, personal preference takes over. However, there are design tips to keep in mind. Dark colors make a small bathroom look even smaller, while white or pastels give the impression of open space and create a fresh and clean look. Keep the resale value of your house or condo in mind when redecorating a bathroom. White and beige tiles are neutral, while pink, blue or green are not for everyone and could turn away potential buyers.

Tile Style

A mosaic design gives a classic feel, while a subway design is more retro. For extra accent, pay attention to the grout. Grout comes in a variety of colors and can dramatically change the look of a floor or backsplash. When using light colored tiles, black or dark grey grout creates a sharp contrast with the tile, while white or sand color grout will create more of a harmonious look. The opposite will be true for dark colored tiles.

Glazed or Non-Glazed

The glaze on ceramic tiles prevents moisture absorption and acts as a protector for the tiles. The most important aspect to remember about glazed floor tiles is that they are very slippery when wet. While they are suitable for a backsplash, they should be avoided as floor tiles in a bathroom to prevent slip and fall accidents.

Tile Sealing

After the floor has been put into place and the grouting is spread and dried, it’s important to seal all areas in the bathroom that are in contact with the floor. Areas around the bathtub, around the toilet and around the vanity cabinet or basin pedestal will need to be sealed to prevent moisture from seeping under the tiles.

Before choosing floor tiles, have a look at a few interior decorating magazines or websites. In addition to bathroom styles and color designs, you might pick up on some do-it-yourself tips for installation.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Day 52: Pain management - Sciatica

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 52: Pain management - Sciatica

It happened on November 3rd. It started with a tiny pinch in my back, by 10:00 p.m. I was in excruciating pain. Nine days of pain, pain and more pain. While sitting, standing and walking the pain is moderate, but one wrong move and the pain is so severe that for a moment my breath gets stuck in my throat, or I scream.

Even since I announced this condition, I’ve been getting advice from readers:

-      Rest
-      Walk
-      Apply heat
-      Apply ice
-      Exercise

While these comments are much appreciated, I wonder if any of these people have actually experienced sciatica pain. Come to that, I wonder if my condition really is related to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain is not like regular back pain or lower back pain. If you look at the diagram you’ll notice that the sciatica nerve radiates pain into one buttock, hip and down the left or right leg. With me, that is not the case. My pain is centralized at the coccyx and radiates in both buttocks.

As for the given advice … I’ve done everything. I’ve rested, I’ve walked, I’ve applied heat and cold. This morning when I went looking for how to alleviate sciatica pain, I came across an article that said ‘Go for a brisk walk’. I closed my eyes and shook my head in wonder … does this person have any idea what sciatica pain feels like? You could promise me a million dollars, you could promise me ten million dollars if I went for a ‘brisk’ walk and I would have to forego the money. On a good day I can walk slowly, on a bad day, I shuffle. Of all the advice received, this is what has helped me the most:
Let me explain what my days are like.

Showering – This happens with the greatest of care. As you well know, one doesn’t shower standing still, there is constant movement, with twisting and turning. A water dance so to speak. This takes its toll on the back muscles. Not to mention that one stands on a slippery surface. A healthy person has no idea how many muscles are at work to keep a body upright and balanced.

Drying off – This too is risky business. Drying face, neck and chest is no problem, but then it starts … drying arms, back, and legs must be done slowly and with caution. When drying your back, you’re technically doing a mini version of the twist and that can lead to shooting pains. As for drying my legs … I do what I can, but anything below the knee must air dry. I just can’t reach.

Dressing – With a little caution, slipping on my bra and shirt goes reasonably well, but stepping into my underwear and jeans … hm, this takes several attempts, usually accompanied by a lot of groaning with pain.

Face and hair – While I used to do this in front of the mirror, now I moisturize and brush my hair sitting down. I know my face, I don’t need a mirror to show me where the moisturizer goes and neither do I need a mirror to fix my hair.

The first walk - When I’m done, I get up (slowly) and walk to the living room where the couch and a thick pillow awaits me. As I sit down and lean back I let out a contented sigh and feel like someone who just climbed Mount Everest … ‘Aaaaaah, that’s over, I’ve done it!’

Making breakfast - After I’ve rested a bit and caught my breath it’s time for breakfast. I make coffee, tea or hot chocolate and slip a bagel in the toaster. As I wait for the beverage to get ready and the bagel to pop, I have to support myself on the kitchen counter. The pain sags and my coccyx feels like it’s being attacked by several hot bricks. After carefully walking back to the living room I enjoy the satisfaction of sitting down.

When I fire up my laptop and read advice about treating sciatica pain, I come across advice such as … ‘getting on with your day’, ‘doing everything you usually do’ and ‘go for a walk’. I wonder about the experience of these writers. Getting on with my day … walking … hm, I shuffle more than what I walk and a trip to the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom leaves me exhausted and often nauseous with pain.

I do get up from time to time, to get my blood flowing and my muscles from stiffening up, but every time I’m more than happy when I can finally sit down again.

I’m seeing my doctor on Monday. For this, I have to go all the way downtown Toronto and at this time, I have no idea if I’ll be able to make the trip. Fortunately, I have today, tomorrow and part of Monday to get better. To get from home to the station, take three trains and walk from the station to the clinic. Mount Everest, here I come.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Day 51: Book review – The Break by Marian Keyes

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 51: Book review – The Break by Marian Keyes

With Marian Keyes’ books, you never know what you’re going to get. Some books are great, especially ‘The woman who stole my life’ and ‘The brightest star in the sky’, others are downright disappointing, such as ‘The mystery of Mercy Close’ and ‘Lucy Sullivan is getting married.’

And then there’s Marian Keyes’ latest book … ‘The Break’. With ‘The Break’ she really dropped the ball. It’s not just disappointing, it is so far below level, one can’t even see the level anymore. It’s like her publisher wanted a new manuscript from her, she had zero inspiration, so she wrote about herself and her family.

The main character is Amy, a short, slightly overweight woman, with an obsession with makeup and shoes. Just like Marian.

The story of ‘The Break’ is that Amy’s husband Hugh wants a six-month break from their marriage to go whoring around South-East Asia. Of course, he doesn’t say that, he says that he needs to find himself and that he wants to go backpacking. But if it was about hiking and backpacking he had on his mind, he could do that in Switzerland, Alaska or Greenland. But no, he’s going to South-East Asia.

He states that he still loves his wife and that he will come back, but for now, he wants complete physical and sexual freedom and nothing and nobody can stop him.

This brushed me up the wrong way from the start. What woman in her right mind would stand for this? I can tell you one thing, if my husband informed me that he wanted a six-month break from our marriage, to visit South-East Asia with free sexual reign, I would tell him he could go and not bother coming back.

Not only is it bad enough that he could sleep with anything on two legs, but who knows what kind of diseases he would come home with. And I would have to welcome him back in my bed … OH HELL NO!!! This is something Marian Keyes didn’t think of. She lives in a world where Aids and other STDs don’t exist.

When I got to page 87, I did something I've never done ... I skipped to the end to see if Amy takes her cheating husband back. If Amy, during the course of Hugh's six-month absence, hooked up with another guy and decided to give her cheating husband the boot, I would have finished the book, I would have continued reading. But no, he comes back, he promises to never do it again, and like a good little girl, she takes the bastard back.

Please, give me a break. Is that how Marian Keyes sees the modern woman … as a complete idiot? Maybe she is, but I wonder how many women would stand for such betrayal with or without sexually transmitted diseases?

As for the writing style of ‘The Break’ … the critics claim that the book is witty, full of laughs and wisecracks. Really? I found Marian Keyes’ wisecracks downright silly.

Here’s the thing … if one occasionally makes a joke it’s funny. If everything is turned into a joke, it gets annoying. I can best compare it to food. You might like fresh fries, ice cream, or cheesecake, but if you had to eat these foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, chances are you would soon tire of them.

The critics aside, let see what Marian Keyes readers have to say about ‘The Break’. There are those who rave about the story, but I tend to agree more with these reviews:

Only got about halfway through and couldn't go on. The main character is too much of a doormat for me.

I have loved all her books until this one. Her books are usually full of warmth and humor, but they were entirely missing in this one. She fills her stories with lovable quirky characters but in this one they are quirky without being lovable (or even likeable). Amy is shallow, immature, whiny, complaining, self-centered, self-pitying and manipulative. Most of Keyes' characters have been young people however in this book Amy is 44 but acts like she's still 20. Hugh's story would have been much more interesting. I hope Keyes isn't starting another series about a family - no one in this one was worth reading more about.

I usually enjoy Marian Keyes novels but this one just irritated from the start. I thought the premise of the book was ridiculous and Amy's reaction unbelievable. Very little happens and I was left feeling that I just wanted to give her a good talking too. I also felt that the other characters could have been developed more as they were way more interesting that dull Amy and duller Hugh. 

This last review sums it up perfectly.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Day 50: Why shacking up before you get married is a good idea

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 50: Why shacking up before you get married is a good idea

Couples are more reluctant than ever about getting married.  Whether they are crazy in love or just seem right for each other, saying those wedding vows that will bind them to each other for life is a risk fewer couples are willing to take.  Couples offer the following reasons for why shacking up before you get married is a good idea.

You don’t really know someone until you live with them

Dating someone a few times a week with an occasional sleep-over may give you an idea of their personality, but it doesn’t show you what they are like on a day to day basis.  

Little things make a difference

When you live with someone 24/7, you get to experience firsthand how the person handles stress, disappointment, anger, and life in general.  For some those little flaws might be endearing, while for others they could become major obstacles.

Avoid taking each other for granted

Others prefer shacking up before marriage because it keeps both partners on their toes.  Once married a lot of men and women feel they have it made and overnight develop a careless attitude. They relax to the point that their partner no longer recognizes the person they dated. They may quit their job, put on weight, or generally no longer take care of themselves. By living together, especially in the early stages, there is always the chance of the other calling it quits. That percentage of danger keeps the relationship fresher.

Children and family in the mix

If one or both partners have children, shacking up before you get married is a good idea. The adults may love each other, but can they tolerate each other’s offspring? It worked for the Brady bunch, but it may not work for you if the kids don’t get along which, in turn, puts stress on your relationship.
The same could apply to extended family members.  You and your partner may get along perfectly, but inconsiderate parents and difficult siblings could sour the deal. 

Sexual compatibility

You might love each other dearly, but are you sexually compatible? While you may have tested the waters already, dating sex and relationship sex are two different things. Your partner’s needs may be different from yours over the long haul or you may discover some unusual requests which you may or may not like. 
Maintaining a healthy and compatible sex life over the long-term becomes a challenge for all couples. Shacking up before you get married can be a good barometer of how your sex life will mature if you remain together.

Financial compatibility

Why shacking up before you get married is a good idea also applies to whether or not the couple is financially compatible. She may love to shop and be addicted to shoe shopping, while he may be hardcore thrifty. When you live with someone it becomes more difficult for them to hide their money habits.

Lower exit costs if the relationship fails

Probably the biggest reason why shaking up before you get married is so popular is because if the relationship doesn’t work out, no divorce is needed. With no lawyers or alimony in the mix, the couple can walk away with a clean slate without spilling as much financial or emotional blood that usually happens during a divorce. 

Most people don’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first. Before making a legal and spiritual commitment to another person, many couples today are opting to go slow and take that all-important test drive first.