Tuesday, August 23, 2016

10 Things You Should Know About Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are not only nutritious, but one of the most inexpensive green vegetables to harvest and purchase. Here are ten facts you should know about Brussels sprouts.

1. There’s more Vitamin C in Brussels sprouts than in an orange. Just one half cup of Brussels sprouts contains 88 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C. The average sized orange is made up of only 65 percent Vitamin C. Brussels sprouts are also high in Vitamin A and beta carotene, and are low in calories.

2. Brussels sprout production in the United States began in 1800 when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. By the 1920s, California began growing Brussels sprouts and is today the largest producer of this vegetable in the US, followed by Washington and New York. More than 70 million pounds of Brussels sprouts are produced in the United States annually.

3. Brussels sprouts are the most hated vegetable in the UK. According to a 2002 survey, Brussels sprouts are the most reviled food in all of Britain. A Royal Navy captain even went so far as to ban Brussels sprouts from his ship, labeling them the “devil’s vegetable.”

4. Brussels sprouts are named after the capitol of Belgium where it is believed they were first cultivated in the 16th century.

5. Brussels sprouts are high in protein. Unlike most green vegetables, Brussels sprouts are not only high in fiber, but also protein. One serving of Brussels sprouts has 3.38 grams of protein.

6. Brussels sprouts may help to prevent colon cancer. A Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer found that Brussels sprouts eaters had a 25 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who abstained.

7. Brussels sprouts belong to the cabbage family and are closely related to cauliflower, broccoli, kale and collards.

8. Fresh Brussels sprouts should always be kept chilled. Storing Brussels sprouts at room temperature will cause their outer leaves to turn brown and yellow and reduce shelf life. Fresh Brussels sprouts should always be refrigerated or frozen. When refrigerating, never prewash sprouts. Fresh sprouts can be stored safely in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.

9. Brussels sprouts help protect the liver because they contain high amounts of Indole-3-carbinol. Clinical trials have also shown that Indole-3-carbinol helps women lower their risk of breast and cervical cancers.

10. Brussels sprouts are the perfect vegetable for pregnancy because they contain high amounts of Folic Acid. Just one cup of sprouts has 55 mcg of Folic Acid.

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10 Things You Should Know Before Buying Made-to-Measure Dress Shirts

Most men view made-to-measure shirts as a lavish expense, and custom shirting is often seen as being out of reach for all but the 1-percenters. While made-to-measure shirts from companies like Zegna often carry hefty price tags that can easily top $300, there are far more affordable options from companies like Skip Gambert. Custom shirts from the likes of Skip Gambert often sell for prices comparable to shirts from Polo and Lacoste, making them suitable options for a much wider audience.

Though Polo, Lacoste, TailorByrd, and other famous mass-market clothing companies make genuinely good dress shirts, they are made to fit most people well, but few people perfectly, which is why more men are flocking to the custom made-to-measure market. While the sartorial specialist at your local haberdashery should be well versed in sizing and custom options, there are some things you should know before booking an appointment for a custom dress shirt fitting. Knowing these 10 things about made-to-measure shirts will make your shirt fitting more efficient and ensure that you are able to easily converse with the tailor and choose the best possible shirt options for your body type and personal tastes.

Custom Shirt Measurements

Any made-to-measure specialist will be able to properly measure you for your custom shirts, so you need not know these dimensions prior to your appointment. However, consider how you like your shirts to fit and if you normally experience fluctuations in weight and/or muscle tone that could skew your body’s current dimensions. During your fitting, alert your sartorial expert to these things so they can fine-tune your measurements.

Wrist Watch

Just as most people don’t realize they need a luxury car until they own one and then they have a hard time going back to a mass-produced vehicle, a custom shirt fitting will change the way a man views his wardrobe. If you usually wear a watch, wear one to your dress shirt fitting so the tailor can take that into account when sizing your shirt cuffs. This allows your custom-made dress shirt to fit effortlessly over your timepiece. If you ever wear especially hefty diving watches with bulky profiles, you should make this known so your custom shirts can be crafted accordingly.

Existing Wardrobe

You will have a choice of hundreds of different shirt patterns, and it can likely be overwhelming for those used to buying off the rack. Consider your existing ties, sport coats, and suits when you are going over the different patterns. Matching colors is important, as always, but also consider how those window-pane or striped shirts will match with your other pieces. When choosing patterns you should note that proportion is crucial, and if you wear bold ties you should stay with finely patterned shirts and vice versa. Pairing clothing pieces of similar pattern size together can lead to a dizzying effect that is not flattering.

Made-to-Measure Shirt Fabric

Thread counts dictate price. Your 80s thread-count made-to-measure shirts will generally price just a bit above off-the-rack offerings from TailorByrd, Polo, and Ike Behar. Once you start getting into 100 and 120 thread-count shirts, the price goes up but the feel is definitively nicer to the hand, and your chest. When going over fabrics with your custom shirt specialist, feel the fabrics and consider the differences between pinpoint oxford, twill, brushed twill, and other fabrics. It is all a matter of personal preference, but keep this rule of thumb in mind as you make your selections: The coarser and heavier fabrics pair better with tweeds and thicker wool, while those fine oxford pinpoint shirts are better paired with finer suiting fabrics like those made of silk blend and finely processed wool. The weight, thickness, and coarseness of your custom shirt’s fabric should be relatively similar to that of the suits and sport coats you intend on wearing them with in order to maintain congruity in terms of feel, look, and seasonal comfort.

Shirt Monograming

There are countless options for monogramming your initials. Different fonts, colors, and locations for the monogramming are all options you will be presented with during your custom shirt fitting. There is no right answer for such a personalized option, so don’t fret over doing it wrong, just consider the options before your fitting so you have some idea of your personal preferences.

Cuff Options

The main decision about cuffs that you will have to make when customizing your made-to-measure shirt is the choice between barrel and French cuffs. French cuffs allow you to make a statement with limitless cuff link options, while barrel cuffs offer a more conservative option that doesn’t require accessorizing. Once you have decided on whether or not to go the cuff link route, the options cater to more specific and discriminating tastes. Do you want a straight/standard, rounded, or angled cuff? There is no right answer and it is all a matter of personal preference, but consider the shirts you currently own and if you particularly favor a certain cuff style. Remember that most off-the-rack shirts have straight/standard cuffs, and deviating to the rounded or angled style cuff lets you show off a splash of discriminating taste. If you choose a barrel cuff you are likely to have the option of choosing a one-button or two-button arrangement. The choice is entirely up to your personal preferences but two-button barrel cuffs tend to provide a more rigid cuff, which appeals to those favoring a taut feel and aesthetic.

Collar Selection

The first choice you must make regarding the collar of your made-to-measure shirt is if you want a button-down collar or not. Button-down collars should only be worn for more casual occasions and never with a suit and tie, so keep the intended purpose of your custom shirt in mind when making this decision. There are also snap tab, round eyelet, and band collar options, but these are less common and for the very fashion-forward man. There are varying degrees of collar spread and each maker of made-to-measure shirts offers different options in this area. Those wide cutaway English collars are best for the man who prefers beefy tie knots, while the narrow straight-point or narrow-point collars are for the more conservative man looking for a traditional, safe look. It is also important to note that the narrow collar spreads treat men with rounder faces more kindly, as they provide balance that detracts from the roundness. Collar height is another option you could be presented with. Men with shorter necks should avoid tall collars since they make your neck look even shorter. Also, note that taller collar heights should generally be paired with wider collar spreads and larger tie knots in order to keep things proportional.

To Pocket or Not to Pocket?

Do you want a pocket on your custom-made shirt or not? This is usually just a matter of personal preference, but there are a few guidelines to follow when putting a pocket on your made-to-measure dress shirt. Pocketed dress shirts are totally acceptable, but they usually evoke a less-formal feel. Do not put a pocket on any French cuff dress-shirt…ever. Also, avoid flap pockets on any shirt that you intend on wearing with neck wear; once that flap adorns the front of the shirt it becomes a sport shirt and should only be worn as such.


The placket is the fabric surrounding the button-down portion of your dress or sport shirt. The two main options you will have to decide between are the plain or standard placket. The plain placket provides a smooth finish around your shirt’s buttons, while the standard placket features top-stitching on the sides of the shirt’s buttons. Plain plackets are more cosmopolitan and formal, while standard plackets are more traditional and American. The choice is yours on shirts with barrel cuffs, but when making a custom made-to-measure French cuff shirt, you should stick with the more streamlined plain placket design.

Yoke Preferences

The shirt yoke is the fabric extending across the back of your shoulders and is one of the most often overlooked portions of a custom dress shirt, but can make a world of difference in overall aesthetic and fit. You can choose between a plain or split-back seam. The split-back seam requires more labor in order to match the shirt’s fabric, so the option is a way of denoting quality shirt craftsmanship. A split-black seam also allows the shirt maker to make tedious tailoring adjustments if your back is not symmetrical, which is very common.

Another yoke option you are likely to encounter deals with pleats. A non-pleated shirt back denotes truly good tailoring, as the shirt has to be fitted to your body in order to ensure such a precise fit. Side pleats provide a bit more forgiveness to the tailor’s measurements but they don’t provide a truly tailored look. The center box pleat is generally reserved for sport shirts and not for dress shirts worn under tailored coats, since the design inherently allows for more fabric to bunch up, which can create a rough look under a suit coat or sport coat. Hang loops between the box pleat and shirt yoke are reserved for the most casual of button-down shirts and should be avoided on dress shirts worn with tailored clothing, or those optioned with French cuffs.

More from this contributor:

6 Essential Black Friday Shopping Apps for iPhone and Android

Five Accessories That Will Keep Your Wardrobe Looking New for Years

Understanding What Makes a Modern Slim-Cut Suit

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10 Things Mothers Lie About

Lovely, nurturing, and capable of providing extraordinary baked goods, mothers are typically high up on the ‘favorite person’ list for most people. But mothers have a dark side, a deceptive tool set used to keep their kiddos in line. These outright lies have been passed down through generations for so long that most are considered facts. Here are the top 10 lies that mothers tell their children.

10. Caffeine Will Stunt Your Growth – For all those moments when you begged for a cup of dad’s morning coffee, only to be turned down swiftly by your mother because ‘it will stunt your growth’, the truth finally comes out. This common misconception about children and caffeine has no solid science behind it. In fact, the complicated hormones involved in adolescent growth makes it even harder to argue that caffeine could make any difference at all. And although consumption of caffeinated beverages has risen in recent years, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Americans are taller now than they were in the 1960s.

9. It Takes Gum 7 Years to Digest – This myth certainly made me fear for my life when I accidentally swallowed my gum as a child. Although gum does take some time to digest, due to the thickness of the gum resin, seven years is a bit of a stretch. Most chewing gum is made of natural materials and therefore digestible. Think about it, you would likely have a massive ball of chewing gum lodged in your abdomen by now if this tale was anything more than a fib, something that would surely show up in a simple x-ray.

8. Sitting Too Close To the TV Will Make You Blind – Imagine you are 6 years old and the heartbreak of Mufasa’s early demise is sweeping over you. Five inches from the TV you enthrall yourself in that sweet moment of emotional discovery, the music swells and suddenly your mother is yelling at you to back away from the TV before you go blind. Luckily this lie never stood between me and The Lion King for very long, but for generations mothers and kids alike have accepted it as truth. Still the facts are the facts, and there is no proof that sitting too close to the television will damage your eyesight. Watching too much TV can be detrimental in other ways however, such as an increased risk for obesity.

7. Eating Carrots = Great Eyesight- It’s true that most lies told by mothers involve the consumption of vegetables, and this lie is no different. My grandmother often linked her 20/20 eyesight to her love of carrots, but the truth is carrots don’t necessarily help your eyes. Vitamin A is an important dietary need when it comes to feeding healthy eyes, however carrots do not directly provide it. This myth comes from two sources; one being that carrots do contain beta-carotene, which aids in the absorption of A vitamins. But the real start to this lie came from World War II British propaganda posters that praised carrots as the reason behind British fighter pilot’s keen aim. The actual reason for their success was a newly developed radar system.

6. Catching Colds – Perhaps this lie is told to keep kids safely indoors during the winter months, or maybe mothers simply have to worry about something in order to maintain their life force, either way the idea that going outside in the cold will cause you to catch a cold is completely false. Colds are caused by the spread of viruses, and are easier to catch inside where the conditions are ideal for the virus to proliferate. Other variations of this myth exist, like going outside with wet hair, or without a hat, all of which are untrue.

5. If You Cross Your Eyes They Will Stay That Way – As a child, permanently crossed eyes may sound like a horrible side effect of a little fun. But in truth this lie is likely devised by your mother to keep you from looking stupid in public. There is no scientific proof that crossing your eyes will cause them to stay that way, because that is not how the human eye works. Crossed eyes are caused by a disease called Strabismus, which can usually be cured if corrected early enough.

4. They Are Just Jealous – Part of being a human is dealing with other humans, sometimes mean ones. Some people are just mean, and not because they are jealous of you. Mothers are notorious when it comes to ignoring the faults of their own children, faults that might just cause you to become prey to the dreaded school bully.

3. Sugar Will Make You Hyper – Just one more brownie mom! Rejection is a cruel sting for a small child, especially when it involves the heavenly taste of sugar-laden treats. But moms for decades have been limiting the sugar intake of their children by using the excuse ‘it will make you hyper’. But sugar has nothing to do with hyperactivity, in fact several studies have been done on the subject and it turns out that caffeine is the real culprit. So unless your favorite childhood sweets were loaded with caffeine, or crack, your mom probably just lied to keep you out of the cookie jar.

2. Sneezing With Your Eyes Open – No your eyes won’t fall out if you sneeze with your eyes open. Firstly, there are numerous muscles that hold your eyes in place, and allow them to move in various directions. These muscles are stronger than you think! Also the body naturally contracts the muscles in your face when you sneeze, projecting mucus at incredible speeds. However, even without this reaction, your eyes stay firmly in place.

1. Happy Holidays? – Nearly every child has experienced the heartbreak of learning that both Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny are fictitious creations that are passed off as real until one day, it all comes crashing down. Though these lies are meant to make your childhood better, the revelation of truth can be traumatizing. Thanks mom.


CDC http://ift.tt/2bcsTbO

Wrigley http://ift.tt/18bXxK4

NY Times http://ift.tt/VbO9cJ

ABC Science http://ift.tt/1iwo6yk

WebMD http://ift.tt/1xzfA7Z

National Library of Medicine http://ift.tt/1PP1e8l

BBC http://ift.tt/1bKsOUG

Discovery http://ift.tt/2berRXd

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10 Things to Know Before Planning a Trip to the Queen Mary

Visiting the permanently docked luxury liner The Queen Mary is a great vacation activity for anyone. There’s a lot more to do than you might expect though, and as with every other vacation activity, you can only get your time and money’s worth if you plan ahead. Here are ten things to know before you visit The Queen Mary about prices, tours, activities for different age groups and more.

1. You can stay aboard The Queen Mary in the ship’s hotel. It makes the perfect weekend getaway if you live nearby, especially if you’re looking for something romantic. The ship’s art deco design hearkens back to every Fred and Ginger movie, making it a great couples retreat. (Although, there will always be a steady stream of tourists and kids, so it may not offer the dignified movie scenario you picture.) Rates vary greatly according to the time of year, so they ask that you call to check prices. (1-877-342-0742)

2. There’s more than one tour to choose from. The Queen Mary offers a variety of tours. There’s the self-guided audio tour that I would highly recommend, this comes free with the price of admission. There’s also an escorted tour that walks you through the ship. But probably the most popular tour is the Ghosts and Legends of The Queen Mary tour. We bought a general admission ticket for $33.00 that included the Ghosts and Legends tour, the audio tour, access to the entire ship, Submarine Tour (We’ll get to that later…) and WWII tour. There are several combinations of events and tours offered at different prices. For example, just the submarine tour is about $10.00 for an adult ticket.

3. Special events may limit your access to The Queen Mary. The day we visited, there was a wedding in the ballroom that I had been counting on seeing. (For it’s appearance in my favorite X-Files episode “Triangle”.) The Queen Mary hosts a lot of weddings and anniversaries and corporate functions. The ship is huge, so you’ll always have plenty to see, but if you want to walk around the ballroom, the wedding chapel, or a specific restaurant then make sure to plan ahead by calling and asking what dates are booked.

4. Speaking of restaurants, there are plenty of restaurants onboard. There’s a casual deli, an elegant art deco lounge, and plenty of sit down dining. (Full catering too for those special events.) The variety of restaurants ensures that those visiting for just a day can grab lunch onboard so they don’t have to leave and lose their parking pass driving around to snag some fast food. Also, The Queen Mary offers so many activities that you will want to stay for as long as you can to get the most out of what you paid for your tickets. Of course, you can also pack some snacks in your purse or bag…but skip the cooler. They may frown upon that…

5. The ship is docked, but people sensitive to motion sickness can still feel the effects. If you or a member of your family gets nauseous at sea, just know that they may feel sick on The Queen Mary. Though the ship is permanently docked, you can still feel the motion of the waves as the ship rises and falls, rises and falls with the tide. If you or someone you know is really sensitive to this, I would recommend against staying in the ship’s hotel. We visited for about four hours and I did experience a minor amount of dizziness and nausea. But in all fairness, it had only been twelve hours or so since we de-boarded our plane.

6. There’s a Russian submarine docked next to The Queen Mary. It may seem like an odd pairing, but when you learn more about the history of The Queen Mary, it will all make sense. I happen to be a sucker for WWII history, so I was thrilled to see the sub. But you can also tour it if you want. However, the tour includes a lot of very tight spaces that may not be for anyone who feels claustrophobic easily. Like the Ghosts and Legends tour, there is some reenactment elements involved that may frighten little ones. Think twice before taking them on the tour and know that taking a stroller is impossible.

7. The Queen Mary is not very far from Anaheim and L.A. proper. If you’ve never been to L.A. before, the idea of driving on those famous California freeways can be intimidating. But Long Beach, where the Queen Mary is docked, is not very far from several other tourist attractions. The day we visited, we got up in our Anaheim hotel at 6:00 a.m., had breakfast, left at 7:00 and made it to The Queen Mary so early we had to walk around the parking lot and relax because we arrived before it even opened. (Getting to The Queen Mary is even easier if you have an iPhone with Goggle Maps installed.) In one day we were able to do The Queen Mary, Griffith Park, and Disney’s California Adventure. By the end of the day we were exhausted, but thrilled! If you make it all the way to Los Angeles for a vacation, you might as well put the pedal to the medal and enjoy it!

8. Prepare to pay for parking. This seems like a given nowadays, but remember to factor in the cost of parking. We paid about ten dollars for four hours. You snag a ticket on your way in and pay on your way out. It’s an easy procedure. Don’t let it stress you out, just factor in ten or twenty dollars depending on how long you want to stay.

9. Come with a camera. The Queen Mary offers countless photo opportunities. There are beautiful views of the coast, plenty of props, the bow and stern are open, you can walk right through the Captain’s and Steward’s cabins, the Engine Room and there are so many interesting nooks and crannies, interiors and exteriors, that you’ll want to snap away the whole time you’re onboard.

10. Research The Queen Mary’s showbiz connections to make your visit extra special for any film or TV fans in your family. Admittedly, my main motivation for going was the ship’s connections to film and television. One of the most intricate episodes of “The X-Files” was filmed there, full of long takes without cutting, and I wanted to walk the halls that Mulder and Scully walked. That’s not to mention all the legends of the silver screen that spent time onboard like Fred Astaire, Laurel and Hardy and so many more. If you’re into shows like “Ghost Adventures” or “Fact or Faked” (I prefer the debunking of “Fact of Faked” myself.) they’ve all been there chasing down the ship’s legendary ghost stories. Do a little bit of research before you visit The Queen Mary to unearth some showbiz connections and the visit will be just that much more special.

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10 Things to Do in London, Southern England

There’s always something to see and do in Britain’s colorful capital, from famous landmarks to pageantry to art to music to exclusive restaurants and shops. London’s lesser-known sights can be equally enjoyable – leafy parks, elegant leafs and street markets.

1. Visit the British Museum

The museum fascinates those people as well those who don’t have interest in history. It features more than 15 million artifacts and is both an educational experience and an eye opener. You should roam around whole museum and in case if you get tired, you can sit and relax at the museum cafĂ©.

2. Take some time to see the Big Ben and Clock Tower

Four-faced world’s largest clock, the clock tower has been designed very brilliantly. The giant bell lying in the clock tower is referred as the Big Ben. They are one of the icons associated with London and you can surely have fun there.

3. Click photos of the London Bridge

It is not an icon of London but its architecture is also beautiful. The London Bridge has been build over the River Thames. It presents a contrast between the steady flow of river and busy traffic on road. You can head here for photography at dusk.

4. Tour at Westminster’s palace

You can visit this architectural wonder and learn about the layout and beautiful architecture of the Palace. Visitors can stay there for sometime and hear the educational commentary about the Palace.

5. Observe the changing of guards of Queen

In case you visit Buckingham Palace and at right time, then you can witness the changing ceremony of Queen’s guards headed by the military band. Old guards are replaced by the New guards and this happens on alternate days from August and March and everyday from April to July.

6. Walk around Trafalgar Square

The place is still enchanting, although pigeon’ feeding is not allowed now. You can have a brisk walk while enjoying the interesting monuments around this open square.

7. Shopping at Horrods

It is amongst the icons of London and it must be visited even if you don’t like shopping. Harrod’s seasonal Food Hall and Christmas Department is very famous here. You can also look around for the memorial sculptures of Dodi Al Fayed and Princess Diana.

8. Sit in globe of Shakespeare

This historical playhouse has been there since the times of Shakespeare and it provides you opportunities to go for an education tour or watch a play.

9. Visit the London Eye

It is a huge structure similar to a Ferris wheel and lets you observe the panoramic view of London.

10. Head at St. Paul’s Cathedral

This beautiful church was built in 1710 A.D and aimed at replacing the Gothic predecessor. It has an excellent architecture with fantastic acoustics. Don’t forget to visit its Whispering Gallery.

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10 Things You Never Knew About Disney's "Lady and the Tramp"

1) This was Disney’s 15th animated film and was the highest grossing film since the first full length animation produced, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

2) Peggy Lee was the very first star ever hired to voice a Disney movie. She co-wrote all of the songs featured in the film except for a piece called “Home Sweet Home” which the dogs howl in the dog pound. While she attributed much to the movie and helped garner publicity, years later she actually sued Walt Disney for millions over a discrepency in the copyright.

3) A full size model of the inside of Jim Dear and Darling’s home was built as a set for staging.

4) Walt Disney originally didn’t want to include the “Bella Notte” phase of the movie, in which Lady and Tramp eat spaghetti at Tony’s and then stroll in the moonlight. Today it is the most iconic scene in the entire film.

5) Barbara Luddy, who voiced the role of Lady, went on to lend her voice to “Merryweather” in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, four years later.

6) Jim Dear and Darling’s faces are rarely seen through out the entire movie. The animators chose this route to keep a better perspective from the dog’s point of view.

7) Originally Trusty was intended to die during the scene when he gets hit by the wagon, which is why he does not budge when Jock nudges him. When Disney viewed the finished scene he was shocked and insisted that Trusty be included in the closing scene.

8) If the Beaver that Tramp and Lady meet in the zoo appeared all too familiar to you, you were right! He was merely recycled from the gopher found in Winnie the Pooh.

9) This is the first full length animated film to be produced in wide screen.

10) George Givot, who played the Italian chef Tony, has also played the roles of French and Irish men during his career.

Read my related articles:

10 Things You Never Knew about Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Life Lessons We Can Learn From Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Don’t Blame the Princesses – Defending the Girly Girl Culture

“Finding Lady: The art of the storyboard”
“Lady’s Pedigree: The making of Lady and the Tramp”
International Movie Database

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10 Things that Keep Teachers from Doing Their Jobs

Almost everyone in this country seems to have an opinion about what is wrong with our public school educational system and what should be done to fix it. The problem is that many if not most of these analyses are way of the mark, in terms of what is most at fault with the system and what solutions are most urgently needed. For example, people keep talking about coming up with better ways to test teachers (to see how knowledgeable they are), to assess student performance (relative to the quality of teaching they are getting), to evaluate schools (to see if they are doing their job), and to see if tax payers’ money is being used in the best possible ways relative to our educational system’s overall performance. All these things sound wonderful but they are meaningless if order and control in the classroom is not being maintained, if students are basically not being held accountable for their behaviour, and if teachers are being put in classrooms with, basically, their hands tied behind their back. One cannot talk about teacher performance (which must come before student and school performance) if teachers are being asked to do a job that they cannot realistically do under present classroom conditions. This will remain the case until and unless we can either remove or somehow control the following 10 obstructions presently standing in the way of teachers:

1. Spineless administrators. When a student deliberately misbehaves in a classroom, there is only so much teachers can do these days. Unfortunately, students manipulate this realization in ways that favour them but not schools, fellow students, or teachers. There comes a point when writing up students, keeping them after school (which is often not feasible), or sending them to “detention” just fail to have the desired effects. Teachers must then depend on principals, vice-principals and counselors to back them up and, if possibly, expel students that continue to disrupt classrooms, disrespect teachers, and even pose a physical threat to other people. What often happens, though, is that administrators, who don’t want to offend parents and like to play the “popularity game” with students (i.e., siding with students gets them more popularity than siding with teachers), fail to do their jobs. Yet another reason for their not doing their jobs has to do with unhelpful expectation by counties and school boards, those that give negative points to schools with excessive disciplinary disruptions. Sending students back to class, instead of expelling them, is more politically correct and helps avoid the school being labeled as a “problem” school (which might keep it from getting state and federal funds). Whatever the reason, administrators are not backing teachers up and this, in turn, keeps teachers from being able to manage their classrooms effectively and safely.

2. Uninvolved and uncooperative parents. Many parents don’t bother to get involved in their children’s “education” until they find out that Junior misbehaved at school-actually, he may have been misbehaving for an extended period of time, but maybe the latest infraction became more difficult to just sweep under the carpet (what many schools do on a regular basis, to the detriment of behavioural accountability for all students). Parents, instead of siding with the teachers, who are being unfairly made to provide “structure” that is not being provided at home, more often than not side with their misbehaving “brat”; in general, they just cannot believe that their progeny can be so underhanded, manipulative and, for lack of a better word, “evil.” What teachers face, more often than not, for disciplining students is a tongue-lashing from these out-of-line parents and written warnings from spineless administrators asserting that maybe the teacher is “ineffective” (for not being able to control these perhaps illegal-drug-using, gang-connected, or potentially psychotic young criminal wannabes, especially in high school)-and people wonder why students think that they can get away with anything these days?

3. Dysfunctional students. Many of the students in our schools have serious problems, some of which greatly affect (negatively speaking) their behaviour. Some of these are outside of their control (such as learning disabilities, possible abuse at home, lack of proper diet, inadequate medical care, etc.) but then there are those that revolve around poor attitudes, defiant behaviours, violent dispositions, manipulative abilities, and generally disruptive strategies. To be blunt, some of these so-called “students” belong more in juvenile detention centers than in public schools but, yet, teachers are forced to deal with these young bullies and thugs, often at great risk to themselves and to more “normal” students. These perpetually disruptive students routinely interrupt classroom instruction and are a constant pain-in-the-derriere to teachers and, yet, they are allowed to stay in school.

4. Clueless politicians. Almost every day, one can hear a politician or two getting behind the microphone to talk about what is ailing the public school system and what needs to be done to fix it. Clearly, they are only trying to vie for votes for the next election or make it look like they actually care. More often than not, though, what they have to say does not come from direct observation of what is actually happening in classrooms, feedback from teachers (who are the most knowledgeable people regarding what is wrong with schools and what solutions are most needed to address those problems), or actual experience at being educators themselves. In fact, what they have to say is something that usually sounds good to the public but does not directly address the specific problems hurting our educational system. One popular suggestion, for example, is that teacher pay should be directly tied to student performance. That would be fine if teachers were not thrown into the teacher arena with hands tied behind their back. How about untying their hands (so they can effectively do their job) first, then maybe such an idea might be feasible. When students continue to disrupt a classroom, the teacher should be able to expel that student-and, no, spineless administrators and marginally-involved parents should not be able to repeatedly come to that disruptive student’s rescue, which is the case right now.

5. Misinformed legislators. When one looks at the laws (like “No Child Left Behind”) that are passed by many legislators, one has to wonder if they bothered to talk to teachers before sponsoring their bills. For some reason, legislators and politicians in general continue to depend more on their own personal opinions (based on only God knows what), on feedback from parents, and concern for the welfare of supposedly-“innocent” and in-need-of-protection “children.” How else can one explain why many of the laws passed fail to address the real problems that are destroying our educational system? Some simple laws that can help right now are one that would make it illegal for parents to have any say in who gets appointed (or gets fired from being) “principal” in public schools (since parents tend to support principals that side with students, regardless of how disruptive they are-and, more importantly, they fight hard to have principals who are strong disciplinarians fired from their jobs), one that would make expulsion from school mandatory for students that continue to disrupt classrooms, and one that would seriously penalize school administrators who fail to do their job (by siding with students more than they side with teachers or for reasons they cannot in writing cogently defend).

6. Stupid policies, laws and societal expectations. One popular county policy that needs to be challenged is the one that requires teachers to give students passing grades when students did not earn enough points to get those passing grades. This is done to avoid having too many students being held behind or not graduating, which can be reason for built-in penalties from the state or federal government. Yet another policy is to label teachers as “ineffective” if they discipline students too often or too much. This is pure nonsense. A teacher who disciplines students a lot is, simply put, doing his or her job well and should be commended, not called “ineffective.” The ineffective teachers are those who go along with stupid county school policies-then again, this is how they keep their job and get promotions and pay raises. Without doubt, the officials who enforce these stupid policies are the ones we need, as a society, to go after, not the teachers caught under the web of their incompetence and negligence.

7. Too many classroom interruptions. Almost every day teachers have their routines interrupted, often by other school staff members who may not see anything wrong with their actions. There are school assemblies, special trips, sporting events, career days, “college introduction” days, counselor meetings, ROTC and JROTC events, entertainment venues (such as plays and musicals), etc. Many of these things occur at times supposedly reserved for teaching and learning. Overshadowing all these interruptions, though, are behavioural disruptions by students. When all of these things are added up, though, there is, mathematically speaking, very little time left for actual teaching. If teachers are going to be evaluated based on their performance, how about letting them teach without all the mostly unnecessary interruptions they now have to put up with?

8. Poor equipment and teaching facilities. While our schools are much better prepared than those in poorer countries, they can be improved in many ways. Some schools are now using outdated technological equipment, books that are falling apart (literally) or outdated, and classrooms that are too small or inappropriately ventilated, aid-conditioned or heated. It is difficult (and sometimes impossible) for teachers to teach under those conditions and for students to learn. This is yet another reason why a so-called “performance-based remuneration programs for teachers” would be, at best, unfair and ridiculously out of line with reality. Since teachers have very little control of the learning environment that is provided for students, how can they be held 100% accountable for whether students learn and how much they learn?

9. Lack of accountability for student misbehaviour. Right now, students do not face the types of punishments and administrative actions they should be facing when they misbehave in classrooms. Part of it has to do with schools not wanting to report disciplinary disruptions (so they do not lose much-needed support from the states and Uncle Sam) or teachers not wanting to be labeled as “ineffective” just for doing their jobs, which is difficult to do when one is not being allowed to maintain control of one’s classes. Students these days, who are very “street-wise” (a term that is, coincidentally, used to refer to convicted felons and criminally-minded teenagers), knowing that they can use to their advantage the discrepancies and weaknesses of the system partly enumerated in this article, are manipulating things in their favour. Not only does this negatively affect a teacher’ ability to do their job, but it also, ironically, prevents the students being able to learn as easily and efficiently as possible. Knowing this, fixing this and other problems should be done not only to help teachers do an “impassable mission” job but so that students who want to learn can learn, even if this means expelling the thousands of the, behaviourally-speaking, young hooligans presently compromising our whole educational system.

10. Fewer and continuously-deteriorating incentives for becoming and being a teacher. Somewhat because of the state of the economy, some incentives that had been implemented in order to attract more people into teaching are slowly being taken away; more seriously, the perks that have been put there in order to reward teachers in general (for doing one of the most difficult jobs in this country), are also being either removed or weakened. Some counties, for example, are getting rid of substitute teachers. This is one huge mistake. When schools cannot call sub teachers to come in (when teachers have to miss work days), they have to cover for other teachers. Teachers are being overworked as it is. Other moves include reducing teacher pay, number of paid hours worked, and medical coverage. This is only removing incentives to become a teacher; it is also motivating many good teachers to leave the profession. This will have long-term repercussions that may take decades to fix-assuming that the system can be “fixed” at all!

Tags:10 Things that Keep Teachers from Doing Their Jobs

10 Things a Man Should Occasionally Do for His Wife

If you love your wife, truly and deeply, and like her more than anyone ever, then show her occasionally how much she means to you. It’s not enough to just be there, or to do what she asks. You need to remind her occasionally that you thank your lucky stars that she is yours. Below are ten things you should do occasionally to remind your life that you do really love her.

1 – Bring her flowers. If you bring your wife flowers, and she looks at you wondering what you’ve done wrong, then you’re not bringing her flowers often enough. Whether it’s a single rose, a bouquet on Valentine’s Day, or a simple tulip you’ve swiped from the neighbor’s garden, bring her flowers. She’ll like it.

2 – Compliment her. Oftentimes when people are in a relationship for awhile, they become complacent and no longer notice or speak of the good things they see in their spouse. Don’t let that happen. If you think she looks beautiful, tell her so. If she’s done something nice, or sweet or considerate, note that and tell her so. Thank her for the good she does.

3 – Bring her something. Women love to know their man is thinking of them when he’s not right there where she can see him. To do this, bring her things; whether it’s a free sticker from the doctor’s office, leaf from a pretty tree you happened upon, a car, or note. Whatever it is, anything that demonstrates that you were thinking of her when she wasn’t there.

4 – Surprise her. While it’s true that surprises are not always good, you can do your best to surprise her with things you’ve planned. What you do will depend greatly on her and the type of relationship you have. But make it good and make it sweet and you’ll have her heart forever.

5 -Get her something. A lot of women hate to be considered materialistic. But that won’t stop them from enjoying the occasional gift from the man that has promised to love and cherish her so long as they both shall live. It doesn’t always have to be something fancy or expensive, though sometimes that is nice too. Just get her something you know she’ll like and give it to her.

6 – Do something she likes. Men, deservedly so, have a reputation for being hesitant in doing things they don’t particularly enjoy with their women. Whether it’s going to the opera, dancing or attending the local town hall meeting, men dig in and refuse to go. Try to fight that. Not all the time of course or you’ll be miserable. But it won’t kill you to every now and then go and do something with her that you know she’d like, and do it without complain or hesitation.

7 – Dance with her. Whether it’s in the kitchen, a wedding reception or a night club, dance with your girl. If you don’t know how, learn. If you feel like a dork, get over yourself. If you’re a really good dancer and she’s not, teach her. The point is, dance with your girl and learn to enjoy it.

8 – Give her space. Everyone needs time alone to think or do things they want to do alone. When life gets busy, it becomes easy to lose sight of the other’s needs for privacy and undisturbed downtime. Make it a priority. Every now and then, give your wife some time to be alone, to do whatever she wishes with no input from you. Then, leave her be. You’ll have a much happier girl for it.

9 – Do something she won’t. Most everyone has some things in life that we know we should do, but don’t. This is one of the perfect opportunities to show your girl that you love her. Perhaps her garden needs weeding, or the plates on her car are about to expire. Or maybe she’s meant to go all the way across town to get some ridiculous thing for her sister. Whatever it is, do it without being asked.

10 – Take her somewhere. It’s easy to get in a rut, especially if everyone is busy all the time. It’s easy to forget how easy it is to book a room at a B&B for a weekend away, or to drive over to the river and sit on the bank together. It’s easy to just do what you do every day and forget about doing things that might interfere with the routine. But don’t let that happen. Make it a habit to take her somewhere, anywhere. Just get her out of the house and away from whatever it is you always do.

The ten things a man should occasionally do for his wife, can be used by men that aren’t necessarily married but are in a serious relationship and truly want to have a happy, healthy and meaningful union with their girl. If you are such a person, I hope this list helps. Good luck.

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10 Things You May Have Forgotten to Budget For

I’ve written before about the importance of budgeting. In fact, one of the biggest disruptions in maintaining a budget is the appearance of an unexpected expense. To help you prepare for these before they happen, I’ve decided to put together a list of ten things that you might have forgotten to include in your budget so that you can think of the best way to incorporate them.

Without further adieu you might have forgotten to budget for:

1. Big once a year payments. These could be things like car insurance payments, gym membership payments, club dues, homeowners association fees, magazine or website subscriptions, or dues for professional organizations.

2. Birthdays. Don’t let the cost of birthday gifts crush your finances. Consider setting up budgeted amounts to spend for everyone you may have to buy a gift for in the upcoming year.

3. Christmas and other holidays. It always amazes me just how much money we spend on Christmas and holiday presents. Use your budget to start saving early and say good buy to maxed out credit cards in December.

4. Anniversaries. Maybe budgeting for one will actually motivate you to remember the date and not wind up in the doghouse this year.

5. Vacations. It’s important to have fun with your money and I am a big believer in vacations. But they can be expensive. So start budgeting for them as soon as possible. You’ll be surprised at how fast you can save up for a vacation if you are motivated to do it.

6. Personal Savings. I include both short term saving and retirement savings in this category. If you haven’t set your savings automatically withdrawn from your paycheck then you should definitely be budgeting to save as much as possible each month.

7. The emergency fund. This is a fund of about 3-9 months worth of living expenses. That you use to support yourself in emergencies. If yours isn’t fully funded then budget in monthly contributions until it is.

8. Big sporadic purchases. Things like new furniture or a new computer. They only come up once in a while but when they do they hurt.

9. New Car. A new car can cost a lot. I’d really recommend using your budget to start socking away new car money as soon as possible.

10. House. Why yes, you can even use your budget to start saving money for making a down payment on a house.

Tags:10 Things You May Have Forgotten to Budget For

10 Things to Have in Your Medical Cabinet for Your Newborn

As a new parent, I know that the process of figuring out what to have on hand for your newborn can be overwhelming. This is especially true in the case of medical supplies. What do I need? How much will I need? These are common questions you might find yourself asking.

I’ve listed ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ten items that every parent should have on hand for your new bundle of joy. This list is not all inclusive, as your baby may have his own specific medical needs. Also, this is simple parenting advice, and in no way should replace a call or visit to your pediatrician.

1. Infant Tylenol drops®- This item is crucial, as babies tend to get high fevers when they’re sick, after vaccinations, or teething.*

2. Children’s Benadryl Dye-Free Allergy drops®- These drops can be used if your child has a mild reaction to any environmental allergies, (pollen, pet dander). Also, your baby may have a mild reaction to the MMR vaccine.

3. Saline Nasal drops- Perfect for aerating your child’s nasal passage during flu/allergy season. When your newborn comes home from the hospital (s)he may have some congestion. These drops are pediatrician recommended, and non-medicated.

4. Tri-Vitamin, or Poly-Vitamin drops- At your child’s three month check up, your doctor will probably tell you to start giving vitamins within the next month or so. Tri-Vitamins (Enfamil TriViSol®) contains Vitamins A, C, and D. Poly-Vitamins (Enfamil PolyViSol®) contains small amounts of what an all-in-one adult vitamin would contain, plus iron. Talk with your doctor about what is right for your child. Generic brands are available in all major pharmacies.

5. Vicks Baby Rub®- For those nights when your little one is stuffed and can’t sleep. Nothing beats a mother’s touch with a little help from Vicks!

6. Decorated Band-aids- Getting a cut can be traumatic for a baby or young toddler, but it doesn’t seem as bad when they have a band-aid with their favorite cartoon character on it.

7. A bulbed nasal aspirator- Many times hospitals will give you the aspirator you used at the hospital, but if they didn’t, you can find it at any major pharmacy or baby store.

8. A rectal thermometer with disposable thermometer covers

9. Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline®)- This has many uses (see item 8 on the list…) but it can also help baby combat those nasty germs during flu season. Keeping the inside of your baby’s nose moist helps to keep the germs from being able to adhere, and therefore cuts down the chances of them getting sick. Our pediatrician recommended putting a very small amount of Vaseline in her nose, using a cotton swab.

10. Gentle Naturals Cradle Cap Care®- Most newborns will get cradle cap at some point. Cradle cap is areas of dry, scaly skin on the baby’s head, which is painless, and does not irritate the baby. It can be, however, alarming and a little unsightly to the new parents. Within one application of this, you’ll notice a significant improvement.

* If your baby has a fever, always check with your pediatrician to determine if Tylenol® is appropriate, or if the child should be seen.

Tags:10 Things to Have in Your Medical Cabinet for Your Newborn

10 Things You Ought to Know About the iPad 2

Apple officially announced the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011 and while the internet is busy buzzing with tons of coverage, following are the only 10 things you really need to know about the iPad 2.

1 – The Front and Back Facing Cameras

Just as everyone expected, the iPad 2 will feature both front and back facing cameras and will support Facetime video chatting with iPad 2s, iPod Touch 4Gs, and iPhones.

2 – The Dual-Core Processor

The iPad 2 will feature a dual-core processor A5 processor, that will double the power of the original single-core A4 processor on the original iPad.

3 – The Graphics are a Huge Upgrade from the Original

Gaming, apps, movies, and everything graphical will be better than the original on the iPad 2 which is reported to have a graphics chip that will be up to nine times more powerful than the first generation’s GPU.

4 – The New Thinner and Lighter Design

The iPad 2 underwent a major makeover that is more efficiently designed with a 33% thinner frame and weighs 15% less than the first Apple tablet.

5 – HDMI Out Support

One of the biggest concerns with the first iPad was “how do I get what’s on my screen onto my HDTV” and that concern was addressed with the all new Apple Digital AV Adapter that will feature HDMI support via a $39 Apple Digital AV Adapter.

6 – Available in Black and White

The iPad 2 has put a lot of focus on customization and unlike the original iPad that only shipped in all black form; the iPad 2 will ship in both black and white colors from day one.

7 – Apps Will Be Awesome

Along with the big March 2nd, 2011 iPad 2 announcements, lots of great iOS 4.3 apps were also announced including Facetime, iMovie, Photo Booth, and Garage Band – showing how truly awesome apps on the iPad 2 will be.

8 – Battery Life Will Remain 10 Hours Long

With all of the awesome new features of the iPad 2, battery life was the concern of lots of fans and it’s a “breather” to know that the iPad 2 – in all its glory – will retain the same 10 hour battery life that was featured on the first generation

9 – All for the Same Price as the First Generation

Most iPad 2 rumors sites had the Apple’s tablet price pegged as high as $1,000 at launch, but to the surprise [and amazement] of everyone, the iPad 2 will stay the exact same price as the original [starting at $499 and ranging as high as $829].

10 – The Release Date

The iPad 2 will launch on Friday, March 11, 2011 and will be available for sale in stores after 5:00pm.

For more, read The Best Features Original IPad Users Will Miss Out on If They Don’t Upgrade to the IPad 2 , Several Ways IPad 2 Apps Will Likely Be Better Than Original IPad Apps , and Why the iPad 2’s Camera is a Bigger Deal Than You Think

Check out my blog for more Tech and Gaming news.

Tags:10 Things You Ought to Know About the iPad 2

10 Things to See on Route 66 in Illinois

Our family recently wrapped up a month long road trip on historic Route 66 and saw a lot of really amazing things. From natural attractions to roadside oddities, vintage motels, restored gas stations, iconic restaurants, and more, we made a point to see everything that we could.

One state that really surprised us was Illinois. Our family had no idea that there was so much countryside, having the weird idea that the entire state of Illinois looked like Chicago. We loved Illinois and especially loved driving along Route 66. Here are 10 standout attractions and sites that we are glad we didn’t miss.

1932 Standard Station in Odell
This wonderful gas station was restored by volunteers and now is home to a tiny museum.

Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac
A fun, eclectic mix of genuine Route 66 memorabilia. This museum is a great way to start a Route 66 adventure.

Funk’s Grove
A family business since 1891, this charming business is tucked away in a maple grove and sells maple “sirup” (when in season) that has been tapped on site.

Atlanta, Illinois
We loved everything about the tiny town of Atlanta from its octagonal library-turned-museum, to the hand-operated clock tower and the big Paul Bunyan in the center of town.

Lincoln’s home in Springfield
We spent a full day in Springfield following Lincoln’s footsteps and of all the Lincoln attractions available to view, being able to go in Lincoln’s home and walk his old neighborhood was by far our favorite experience.

Cozy Dog
After hearing so much about the legendary Cozy Dog Drive-in in Springfield, we just couldn’t pass it by. Our family is pleased to report that Cozy Dogs are delicious to eat at 8am, which is when the restaurant opens for business. (They also sell plush Cozy Dogs).

The new Illinois State Capitol Building
Really one of the most beautiful Capitol Buildings we have ever seen.

Old Route 66 from Girard to Nilwood
This section of 1920s road wanders through farmland and more than any other section of Route 66, has the ability to whisk you back into the past. My teen especially got a kick out of the 100 year old turkey tracks found in the concrete west of Nilwood.

Sugar Creek Covered Bridge.
This 1880 covered bridge is located a few miles off Old Route 66 but is definitely a “must see”. The bridge is closed to vehicle traffic but can be walked across.

Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton
A cute and quirky Route 66 roadside attraction, Henry has loveable rabbits and a great collection of old signs and old vehicles out in the yard that are fun to photograph. (There’s also a bunny you can sit on in the back yard which is the twin to the one found at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Arizona)

For Route 66 travelers who are exploring Illinois for the first time, there is far too much to see to make it across Illinois in just one day. Our family took four days to travel the 300 mile stretch from Chicago to St. Louis and while we saw plenty, we could have easily spent an extra day or two in sightseeing along Route 66.

More by this contributor:
How long is Route 66?
9 fun gift shops to visit on Route 66
How to start a travel diary with your children

Tags:10 Things to See on Route 66 in Illinois

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