Monday, December 18, 2017

My Favorite Things

Some of the things we like best about life aren't always things. Give some thought to what your favorites are this holiday season, and how we're all wealthy in small ways.
Here are a few of my favorite things....

  • The smell of rain
  • Thunderstorms
  • Puppies
  • Kittens
  • The first tulips in spring
  • The sound of wind chimes
  • Going barefoot on soft grass
  • Singing
  • Cupcakes
  • The Library!!!
  • Children with their front teeth missing
  • Snow that falls in clumps
  • A blizzard
  • Soup
  • Receiving a letter or a package in the mail
  • Holding a baby as she sleeps
  • Hearing a great song for the first time
  • Cheesecake
  • Rainbows
  • Having a day all to myself
  • The sound of snow crunching under my feet
  • The smell of a campfire
  • Small town parades
  • Hot apple cider
  • Being unable to stop laughing about something
  • Oboes
  • A full tank of gas
  • A sound sleep
  • Otters

  • Butterflies
  • Taking one perfect picture
  • The entire season of Fall
  • Most of Winter
  • Sitting on a dock in summer with my feet in the water
  • Completing a project and knowing it turned out well
  • Plays and concerts
  • Smores
  • A great haircut
  • Sitting with a quilt tucked around me, reading a great book
  • Walks
  • Warm cookies from the oven
  • My grandmother's pocket watch
 What are your favorites?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Freezing To Death

We've published this before, but it bears repeating....

It seems like every year, we hear of a young person, usually a college student, who is found outside, dead from exposure to the cold. Frequently, if not every time, there is alcohol involved. The person drank too much, tried to walk home, fell or passed out while walking, and lay in the snow until he or she died by freezing to death.

How does that happen?

There is a reason there is a "legal" age to drink alcohol: when you're too young, you don't know how to handle it. In fact, plenty of people much older don't know how to handle it, either.

Once people graduate from high school and begin college, the game changes in a lot of ways. For many, they will live at the college they attend, whether in a dorm or in off-campus housing. Even students who commute will have much less parental involvement in their lives: they will be making their own decisions, since there aren't parents hovering around. There will be underage drinking, and there will be first-time drinkers.

*The 'legal' age for drinking in Minnesota is 21.
Because this is all new and exhilarating, sometimes people will overdo things they have not done before. One thing they'll overdo is drinking: they may drink more than they ought to because they don't know how it affects them. They've never felt what it's like to be drunk, not to mention the 'hangover' the next day. Alcohol is a poison, or toxin, that our bodies don't need and don't want. We have to get rid of these toxins so the body can return to normal, and the process isn't fun.
 *Did you know that your alcohol level actually rises after you stop drinking?

When you live on campus, it's likely you don't have a car, although students who commute often go to parties with friends who will give them a ride. Once a party's over or if you simply want to leave, you'll walk, or try to walk, to get home or to the next party. Maybe you don't know a lot of people there and feel stupid asking someone to walk with you. Maybe you don't think simply walking home is going to be a big deal. The problem is: you're carrying a lot of poison/alcohol in your system and you're not your usual self. You set out walking towards your home/dorm/apartment and think, I know where I'm going, I'll be fine. I'm doing the right thing by not driving. If I drove I'd be endangering myself and others. You may think: It's cold outside, that will sober me up fast.

Yeah, not really.

What happens sometimes is that a person will start walking, find himself confused, and stumble and fall, or pass out and fall, or slip and fall in the snow, and not get up. Here is how fast tissues freeze:

This chart shows what the windchill is when you figure the temperature plus the speed of the wind, and how many minutes until you would have frostbite.

Here is what the Mayo Clinic says about alcohol and hypothermia:

"Alcohol and drug use. Alcohol may make your body feel warm inside, but it causes your blood vessels to dilate, or expand, resulting in more rapid heat loss from the surface of your skin. The use of alcohol or recreational drugs can affect your judgment about the need to get inside or wear warm clothes in cold weather conditions. If a person is intoxicated and passes out in cold weather, he or she is likely to develop hypothermia."
 Read more about this at their website:

And that's how you can also lose fingers and toes to frostbite: Your body figures you don't absolutely need fingers and toes to live, but you do need your heart, lungs, and internal organs. it shuts off blood supply to the hands and feet and tries its best to keep your organs warm.

At first, your fingers, toes, nose, and ears will feel numb or tingly. A bit later, the skin will turn white, and after that, it will swell, bleed, and develop blisters. It will eventually turn color as the damage presents itself. Frostbite causes irreversible damage to your tissues and blood vessels; it is similar to a burn, ironically. It can go deep into the bones of the tissue as well. If the tissue dies, there may be amputation involved. 

From the National Institutes of Health:
Cold weather can affect your body in different ways. You can get frostbite, which is frozen body tissue. Your body can also lose heat faster than you can produce it. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. It can make you sleepy, confused and clumsy. Because it happens gradually and affects your thinking, you may not realize you need help. That makes it especially dangerous. A body temperature below 95° F is a medical emergency and can lead to death if not treated promptly.

Remember, alcohol is a depressant, that is, it slows down your body including reflexes such as reaction time as well. Notice where it says "hypothermia can make you sleepy, confused, and clumsy." These are the same as signs of having too much to drink . Imagine combining the two, and you can see the danger of drinking and going out into the cold.

And so if you've been drinking, whether 'binge drinking' or less, and head out into the cold, you have two things working against you.
Another danger in our area is the rivers and lakes we all enjoy. They are fun to play on and in, but are easy to fall into. Let's say you lose your way and wander into the river, break through some thin ice, and can't move well enough to get back out. You may drown, die from alcohol poisoning, or die from exposure to the cold, or some of all three. Maybe you think it's fun to skate in your shoes because you've lost your good judgment....but it turns out the lake you're on isn't really frozen, and you fall in.

So, what can we do to avoid it?
  • First, of course, would be not to drink at a party, or to have one drink and then stop. It's a bad idea for anyone to take in too much at any time. It helps a bit to eat some food to help the alcohol take longer to process in your body, but it won't prevent you from being drunk.
  • Before you start drinking, do a search online for taxis or Sober Cabs. Put a few numbers in your Contacts list.
  • Establish who would be your walking home buddy.
  • Consider having one drink of alcohol and then only soda the rest of the evening.
  • Drinking coffee after too much alcohol, does not make a person sober.
  • Of course, you should speak up if a friend is getting too carried away. That's easier said than done while everyone is partying, of course.
  • ALWAYS (did I mention always) go with at least one friend. Let another person know where you're going and when you expect to get there. Then call or text when you arrive. A simple "I'm home now" is more than sufficient. If you have 'dropped off'' your friend and you will be continuing to your home, make sure your friend goes into his building, before you walk away.
  • When you arrive at your destination, you should also call or text back that you have safely arrived.
  • Third, watch for someone that's in trouble. Offer to be his/her walking buddy. If you need to, ask around at the party for people to give a dollar or two-take up a collection-and call a taxi to take the person home. 
Here's SoberCar's Facebook page: They have someone who will drive you and your car home safely.

We just want you to be safe this winter. We want you to get home after a party, warm up, and live to enjoy your life.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Microblog: Minnesota Employers-Holiday Stationstores

Holiday stations: A Minnesota-based company that's been around for over 80 years. Holiday has a total of 500 station stores in these states:
  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
 Career opportunities with Holiday Stationstores:  
  • Manager
  • Cashier/Customer service
  • Food Service
  • Telecommunications
  • Network Coordinator
  • Information Technology
  • Accounting
  • Marketing and Merchandising
  • Building Maintenance
  • Operations Engineer
  • Human Resources
If you own a gas station franchise, your job will include:
  • Being aware of and following state and federal regulations regarding your supply of gasoline
  • Following local ordinances regarding your business
  • Managing your employees: Scheduling, pay, supervising
  • Sale of lottery tickets
  • Accounting
  • Stocking shelves, ordering stock
  • Taking delivery of gasoline
  • Customer service
  • Security
  • Buildling maintenance
  • Groundskeeping: keeping the area neat, landscaping tended, snow shoveled in winter
A gas station can run about $500,000 to purchase and is frequently built on leased land.The profit made per gallon of gasoline is minimal, around 5c-7c per gallon. The larger profit or income for the gas station owner is made through sales of food and household supplies at the 'convenience store' part of the station: customers will frequently fill up, then go into the store for a donut, coffee, soft drink, snack, or something they're out of at home: milk, bread, eggs, etc. Another draw for customers is lottery tickets sold at a convenience store, as well as a cash machine, and if they go into the store for those, they may buy something else.

Owners will also often have a car wash, deli, and/or a coffee shop within the station store to attract more people and make more money.

An explanation as to how the price of gas is set:
You can look at job opportunities by zip code at the Holiday Stationstores website:

Monday, November 27, 2017


Amazon began in 1994, and has become an enormous retail store doing business online only, providing competitive prices that draw people away from other big-box stores. Did you know it started from a garage and sold only books in the beginning? Check this out:
In 2017, You can not only download e-books from Amazon (their tablet, the Kindle, has been a huge success), but you can also publish an e-book at Amazon, advertise or sell your products through Amazon, purchase particular items that will donate to charities, including disaster relief. Amazon has online auctions similar to Ebay, and you can  order groceries through Amazon to be delivered to your door. Amazon also has a live-streaming company similar to Netflix. In fact, their logo with the arrow indicates they sell everything from A to Z.

                                     The original kindle was almost the size of a sheet of paper. They were only e-readers.
A new kindle comes in several sizes, 6", 8", and 10", and in colors other than black or white. They are full-featured tablet computers in addition to being e-readers.
Seach for  Amazon jobs:

Amazon has headquarters worldwide and statewide, to wit:
  • Poland
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Germany
  • France
  • England
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Slovakia
  • Netherlands
  • Italy
  • India
  • Spain
  • South Africa
  • Japan
  • And more...
If you'd like the adventure of working in another country...

In the U.S., there are fulfillment centers in:
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • Maryland
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts
  • Kentucky
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania 
A video of how orders are filled: Lots of robotics and precision.
This one speaks to how they can offer such quick delivery: Popular items are housed in many locations, they use massive automation techniques, and have experimented with using drones to deliver within hours of the order being placed:
Amazon has plenty of job opportunities, such as:
  • IT (Information Technology)
  • Retail Sales
  • Technology
  • Web developers
  • Order fulfillment
  • Administrative Assistants
  • Designers
  • Marketing
  • Sales of the Amazon tablet, Kindle
  • Customer relations
Amazon is truly a world-wide retailing giant, a testimony to automation, and an American success story.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Take a Picture of It

When I'm tired of the news and social media, I grab my camera and head out to see if I can get some interesting pictures. Pictures can reflect your own mood, or the mood of the day, the seasons, and can help you discover a way to express yourself. You may even consider doing photography as a career or part of a career.

I take much more pictures of things I see outside; so here some tips that might help you get more out of your camera while taking landscape photos.
  • Find the manual for your camera. If you've lost it, try looking up the make and model of your camera online, sometimes the manufacturer will have a version you can download
  • With or without the manual, play with the camera. What happens when you change this or that? How do you take photos with different effects, such as focus close, blur background? Does your camera have a setting for night pictures? Try it and see how they come out.
  • Use your zoom. Try a panoramic picture, if that's a feature you have-turn the setting to Panoramic. The way it works is, you take three pictures in a row of the same scene, but you move the camera generally from left to right... take a picture, move slightly. Take picture 2, move slightly. Take picture 3, move slightly. When you upload, it will be one wide picture knitted together.
  • You may have features you didn't know you had. After all your playing, you'll probably find one or two settings you use most often.
  • Make sure you move the setting back after you've tried something different, or that great shot might not turn out and you'll wonder why. It may have been because you left it on Panoramic or Video, or you changed your shutter speed without even knowing it.
          This was taken on a sunny fall day: Obviously, I had the settings all wrong, but it's kind of a cool picture anyway.
  • Be sure you have fresh batteries with you all the time. Nothing's worse than having a great opportunity and no battery
  • You don't absolutely need a tripod, but you can always try one. You can get a mini-tripod at discount stores that will actually attach to the camera and fit in your camera bag.
  • Another option to hold the camera steady, especially for a video, is to set it down on something. Find a stump, a walking bridge, a bench, set the camera to face the picture, press the video button and wait a few seconds. Press the button again to stop. Voila, steady vid.
  • A camera bag is really helpful. It doesn't have to be expensive and it doesn't have to be designated as a "camera bag"... you can use a small purse or a cooler (coolers are awesome, lots of pockets and padding), a bag intended for something else, a messenger bag, or anything with a decent shoulder strap that fits the camera plus extra room for batteries and any accessories, preferably with some cushioning.You may or may not like a neck strap for the camera itself to keep your hands free. This could be a sturdy lanyard or even a scarf if it's long enough. Here are some ideas for DIY camera bags if you're crafty:
Your camera likely uses a memory card. A new one might need to be formatted before you use it (or it might not). Let your camera tell you (press Menu and look for 'format sd card') or check the manual. A memory card will hold tons of pictures. You can erase it and re-use it if you're comfortable with that, otherwise keep it, label it, (just a year will be helpful, or an event) and put in a fresh one so you can go back and search for pictures down the line.
  • Memory cards are tiny, and I found that a plastic travel soap box works great to keep them in one place. It might even fit in your camera bag. Here is a chart of how many pictures will fit on a memory card:

On to capturing great pictures....
Anybody can take a pretty picture of a lake or a tree or a child-theyr'e pretty all the time. How you see it using your camera makes the difference.
  • Frame your picture---especially when you're outside and this doesn't mean frame it completely. it means, have something on at least one side of your frame for perspective.

            Good example of a frame.
  • Look at the whole scene---what do you want to focus on?
  • Have a subject. Is it the clouds, an object, a person, a mood?
  • Shadows. Appreciate them. They make amazing pictures.
                                                            Shadows, perspective, boats, and sky.
  • Look for interesting architecture, old or new. Closeups highlight the detail better than an all-inclusive picture.

  • Texture makes an ordinary picture much more interesting
A leaf on a weathered walking bridge
I can almost hear the dry rustle of these reeds and cattails

  • Try taking 'action' pictures, and take many in quick succession to get a feeling of motion
                                                                  I took plenty of pictures as the geese flapped and splashed.
  • Find something quirky and focus in tightly on it.
A fishing lure stuck in a tree, complete with line attached. Wonder what that story is?

Usually you're better off with the sun to your back, when taking pictures outside.
  • Be aware of 'sun dogs,' those little purplish spots that happen in bright sunlight. they can be interesting, but they can be too distracting and ruin the picture you had in mind.

  • Unless you have an advanced camera, you may not be able to get a good picture of the sun, or the moon, but you can capture the bright glow of the sun, through clouds or trees, and you can capture the moon the same way if the light is just right.

  • Remember the different light throughout a day, and also of the different seasons. Light is the most important thing in a picture. Too dark, and you can't even see the subject. Too light and it's uninteresting.
  • Get out there and take pictures in the winter, too--there are great possibilities out there!
                                                 I blew some bubbles at the tree. I thought they'd break, but they didn't. Cool (literally).
  • Keep in mind the Big Picture: Aim your camera up and capture the height of trees, but take a look at some gnarly roots too

  •  Think about how a scene makes you feel, what you want to capture: Does it feel lonely, happy, waiting for something to happen, an experience, does it tell a story?

  • Take LOTS of pictures. Chances are that for every 100 you take, only perhaps 15 will be worth keeping
  • Sometimes you'll find a surprise once you load the pictures into the computer
                             I did not know about the ant or the perfect drop of water on this geranium until I put it in the computer.
  • Keep an open mind as to what a 'good' picture is.
                                         I'm really not a fan of grasshoppers... But look at the detail of the body. Pretty amazing.
Taken at a park where they had put all the picnic tables in one area for the winter. The picture is in color but looks like black and white.
Learn about any photo editing you have on your computer. Windows comes with a photo editor, and you can download others.
  • Play with the editing: Learn how to re-touch to take small elements out of a picture and fix 'flaws.' Remove that fire hydrant or power line or unknown spot.
  • But, be aware that many times retouching means 'cloning,' that is, you'll choose a spot to fix and the computer will pick some other part of the picture and put it where the spot was. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. For example, it might put part of a brick building where you wanted plain sky, because it's a computer and thinks that's helpful. At some point you have to decide if you could just crop out that spot or if it's worth the time to keep trying to fix it.
  • Try filters such as different tints, or see what your picture looks like in black and white or with a sepia (old fashioned brown/tan tint), or as a pencil sketch, or an oil painting.
  • Be open to "mistakes"---sometimes they make great pictures, too.

Editing also includes straightening if the picture somehow was taken with the camera tilted a little; you can change the color of the picture to warmer or cooler, more orange tint or more blue, and darker or lighter. Don't be afraid of it, you can un-do the editing, and your picture stays the same on your memory card.

Try adding a photo to your photo. With this one, I took a picture of a ferris wheel. Then I put it on a Publisher document, then added a picture I found online of the child with a balloon, faded the edges of it, made everything in black and white, maneuvered it to mesh with the existing photo, and this was the result:

So, take yourself outside away from your phone for a while and see what you can see. I hope you've found some helpful tips here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Veterans Day: Did you know?

Originally, the name for this holiday was Armistice Day (armistice is an agreement to stop making war), the end of World War I,  and was held on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
  • Great Britain, Canada, France, and Australia, all have similar days to honor veterans. In Great Britain and Canada, it's called Remembrance Day. For these countries, it is not necessarily on the 11th of November but is usually close to that date.
Of veterans in our country,
  • 7 Million served in Viet Nam
  • 5.5 Million served in the Persian Gulf
  • 16 Million served in World War II
  • 2 Million served in Korea
  • 5.2 Million Veterans have served the country during peacetime; all veterans who have served in any capacity are honored on Veterans Day.
  • 2.9 Million veterans have been disabled while serving their country
  • 2 Million Veterans are female
  • There's no apostrophe in the term Veterans Day

Interestingly, the term "war" is up for debate. What is 'war,' versus 'conflict,' 'Operation,' 'or 'intervention'? An interesting paragraph from MPN:
World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war. Since then, the conflicts we’ve called “wars” — from Vietnam through to the second Iraq War — have actually been congressional “authorizations of military force.” And more recently, beginning with the War Powers Act of 1973, presidential war powers have expanded so much that, according to the Congressional Research Service, it’s no longer clear whether a president requires congressional authorization at all. We could be considered to be currently involved in 0 wars or 134, depending on your definition.

Read the whole article here:
The branches of the United States Military and what they do:
  • Air Force: defending the country by air; also, space exploration
  • Army: The oldest branch, and the largest, they supply troops on the ground
  • Navy:  Defenders of the seas
  • Marines: Ground forces supported by the Navy. The Marines do not have their own medical support as do the Army and Navy.
  • Coast Guard: Defenders of our coasts

If you see a veteran today, offer a Thank You for their service. They don't hear it enough.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pumpkins: Carve, Sculpt, Catapult

Old school pumpkin carving: Triangle eyes and nose, quarter moon mouth...

New School carving:

A pumpkin  is an art medium for some sculptors. Check out what they can do with these time-lapse videos:
Guy with a cigar:

Or a clown:

If pumpkin carving isn't your thing, you could always make a catapult and launch some (Engineering students, great for extra credit). There are people who take that very seriously. Check it out: