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The Internet of Things and Mechatronics: Frequently Spoken, Seldom Understood

Imagine running your chores at the barest minimum of effort you can possibly do them. Imagine freeing up all the wasted manhours that are spent doing rote and dull chores, and using them on more pleasurable activities. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Not if you’ve been following the latest trend in home technology. Technology marches on at the speed of light; smart homes are not a thing of the future like we all thought they would be, but they are right here, right now, with the advent of mechatronics and the internet of things. Let’s examine why they will be an important force in the years to come.

See, the drudgery of washing dishes, adjusting thermostats, cooking, cleaning, and everything in between will soon be a thing of the past. The future of tomorrow’s homes will have everything inside it interconnected thanks to the introduction of the Internet of Things.

Furthermore, smart appliances will take over the functions that our old analog appliances once did, with greater precision and with greater convenience for all, while saving us time and energy costs on the other hand.

It’s an interesting world we live in since the introduction of the internet of things, as well as a new scientific field dedicated to the advancement of smart appliances; that of mechatronics.

What do we do with all these frequently spoken, yet seldom understood buzzwords? Well, the key is to first discern what the main difference is between the internet of things (IoT) and mechatronics.


The fundamental difference between mechatronics and the internet of things is in their applicaiton to homes and home appliances – that is, the presence or absence of an internet connection. Although both of these disciplines are based on computing, mechatronics focuses itself more on the use of sensors and control systems that govern the machines and their performance.


Sounds fancy when you hear it, right? But yes, mechatronics have already been used in homes everywhere. You may already have a device powered by mechatronics in your home right now. Sensor-powered washing machines, for instance, detect the right amount of laundry detergent to apply to a washing load, as an instance. Then, after doing this, the system interprets the signals from the movement in the washing machine, and thus allowing it to control the consumption of energy. Amazing, isn’t it? Using an eco-friendly detergent will then complete the cycle, thus reducing your carbon footprint as you wash.


Thanks to the technologies that have been applied to household appliances, every chore you used to hate doing will be made easier; in another ten years’ time, they may even be rendered obsolete.

For instance, with a flick of a switch or a tap on a smartphone app, the food you’ve been cooking in the oven will be able to automatically adjust temperatures and cooking times for maximum energy efficiency and the least amount of effort required. The same oven will also be able to clean itself and the grease and gunk that builds up in it without even needing to be inspected in the first place; burning all that into an ash that is easily disposable.

This is just a taste of things to come for the disciplines of the internet of things and mechatronics; there’s plenty more to find. All of the things you thought were never possible in a million years in terms of smart appliances are all there to be seen and reviewed on http://www.thesmartfuture.net.

Get those shades on – the future’s looking bright for all of us.


Teach your children to look after themselves

The world is a hazardous place for kids and the sooner they learn to look after themselves, the better for everyone. The best time to start is early as good habits can become second nature quite easily, without resistance or forgetfulness. If you haven’t started early, be reassured that it’s actually never too late to learn.

Safety in and around the home is usually learned very early on, partly through the child’s own misadventures – they quickly learn how to avoid trapping their fingers in doors, banging their heads on the table and falling outside etc. through their own mistakes. Parents or guardians usually castigate and warn their children not to play with electrical sockets, the medicine cabinet etc. and not to climb up on the worktops. This is reinforced by the behavior the child observes in others – they never see adults or other children engaging in those behaviors and so they believe the warnings must be true and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Personal hygiene is best taught in a similar way, although some kids take a lackadaisical attitude towards this (as do some adults, unfortunately). By having everyone wash their hands before and after handling food, or using the bathroom, cleaning their teeth after eating, washing regularly etc. it simply becomes natural behavior to the child. At some point, especially if the child becomes lazy or begins to resist hygiene, you should sit them down and explain to them about germs and the dangers they pose and how we deal with them. Quite often, visual aids and videos are helpful for this purpose. You can also explain to them about plaque and decay if they don’t clean their teeth properly. Try choosing a nice electric toothbrush with them from http://www.toothbrushbest.com/ as part of the deal.

Next up, children need to start to learn how to do things for themselves. These things are often best learned as part of their household chores. For example, a very young child can begin to learn how to sort and even how to fold clothes and where to put them. They may not quite be ready to even dress themselves just yet, but these skills and this knowledge will come in handy when they do. As sorting clothes is similar to tidying up, this is another chore which can be taught early.

Once they are able to use the bathroom, wash themselves and dress themselves properly, plus tidy their rooms, you can start to set them chores in other rooms – setting the table, for example, and tidying up after a meal. You can also start teaching basic cleaning principles, but it will be a while until they can use chemical cleaners and cleaning appliances safely.

Tasks such as washing up and putting away cutlery and dishes are possible for young children, too, but their ability to perform the tasks will depend on other factors such as the height of cupboards and the sink. Don’t ask them to do anything which could result in an injury.

Once they are tall enough to get around the kitchen, you can begin to teach them about food safety and how to prepare simple snacks and meals. Lessons such as checking that food is safe to eat, what should be refrigerated and so on can be taught simply by showing a child what to look out for. In most cases they will be repulsed by the smell, but they need to be made aware of things like mold and bacteria which are easily missed.

The kitchen is perhaps the most dangerous room in the whole house, so every time you teach your child something new there, you need to supervise them until they have safely mastered the task. Once your child knows how to safely prepare a cooked meal, using blenders, knives, boiling water, frying oil and an oven, you can be pretty sure that they can handle learning about anything else in the house – although when you teach them about electrics, power tools, using ladders etc. you need to have them under strict supervision.

By instilling notions of self-discipline and responsibility in your child at an early age, you win half of the battle. If they approach everything they learn with those attitudes, they will mature into a sensible young adult without any problem.


You don’t always have to rely on Shank’s pony

Walking is a great way to keep fit and stay close to nature. When going to work or getting around the city, it’s often preferable to walk than it is to take the car. You don’t get stuck in traffic, it’s healthier and you are more connected to your surroundings. However, walking does, of course, have its limitations. You can’t take that much stuff with you, compared to using a car. Your range is limited, unless you use public transport, it’s repetitive and can end up being tiring and even result in injury. But getting around is far from a two-way race between Shank’s pony and the car. There are plenty more options.

Bicycles have been around now for nearly a couple hundred years and cycling is the main form of transportation in many parts of the world. Even in places with high-speed trains, autobahns and extensive subway systems, the bicycle is often preferred as a means of getting around. It’s cheap and easy to maintain, plus most problems that come about through heavy use can be fixed by the rider with no need to call out a mechanic. They’re much more affordable than most automobiles and represent much better value for money in the long term. On top of that they are much faster than walking, skateboarding or running and often don’t require much effort. They can, however provide great exercise when going up steep hills – this is seen by many as one of the disadvantages of the bicycle, however. In cities they travel just as fast as cars, don’t get caught in traffic much and don’t pollute the environment anywhere near as much as cars do. Lastly, it’s quite easy to find parking spaces for them and when returning home, don’t need to be kept in a garage or take up space on a driveway.

One of the major downsides of bicycles is that they, and their riders are not protected well against collisions. This fact, especially in cities, can make it a dangerous means of transport, as there are many reckless and thoughtless drivers on the roads of the world’s cities. It’s not possible to carry as much weight or bulk on a bicycle as it is in a car, and the car has a speed advantage over longer distances, although the bicycle can be used to get to and from the train station relatively quickly. As they require on the input of energy from the rider, they can cause people to sweat more and get dirty on the roads. This means the rider might need to wash and change clothes after a long ride, whereas a person driving a car can remain cool and relatively clean sitting in their car, driving with minimal effort and using the air conditioner. When compared with walking, cycling has many advantages and is certainly an affordable alternative.

These older methods of getting around have recently been joined by innovations such as the Segway. Segways are kind of like a cross between walking and driving – you’re standing upright and you’re out in the elements, but you’re not propelling yourself forward. You can also move much faster than you can walk. You’re not getting any exercise and most people probably think you’re just too lazy to walk, which you probably are. But if you’re not lazy and you have a leg or a knee injury, a Segway gives you a painless way to get around. You just won’t be able to get up and down stairs easily and you’ll have to find a place and a means of securing it when you want to sit down, let’s say, in a swanky restaurant.

Segways and bicycles can also be entertaining in themselves. Kids and childish people learn to do all kinds of tricks on them – just as those who get around on skateboards do. A lot of them are very impressive, they not something anyone can do the first time they try.

Then there are methods of getting around which will catch others’ attention – horse riding, riding a unicycle, riding a snowmobile (in snow, of course) and even getting to work in a microlight.


Helping your teenager start to make money

Families with teenagers are used to hearing about how expensive everything is for kids these days, how all the kids at school have got the latest sneakers, phone and so on. All of this usually comes out in a big build up to the real point of the conversation taking place: Will you increase my allowance?

Parents and their children seem to have very little understanding of what an allowance is about. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of discussion when it comes to the idea of earning an allowance, or what the allowance is to be spent on, or why they should get an allowance in the first place. It seems parents just accept it and kids demand it as a right, as if it were in the Constitution, or the Bible.

As it happens, there are perfectly good reasons why you should give your child a certain amount of allowance without any prerequisites. The main reason is to give them some money to spend at their own discretion, so you can see how it is spend and give them financial guidance. You hope that your child will enjoy a part of the money and set another part of the money aside in savings, either for a rainy day, or even better, to invest in other money-making methods.

Some parents set the amount of allowance according to their child’s grades. This is both fair and unfair, in that it acknowledges the fact that the child cannot work full-time to make money as they are told to prioritize their studies. On the other hand, it does not reward effort, simply talent or even cheating. So the amount should be fixed and not depend on grades.

When your child asks you for the allowance to be increased, you may consider asking them to do something for you in return. Don’t, whatever you do, pay them a wage for their labor, painting the fence, for example. This is reinforcing to them the idea that they should survive as wage slaves when they grow up. Instead, ask them to solve problems for you. Once such example goes as follows:

One January evening in Syracuse, NY, a teenage son asked his daddy what he could do to get a higher allowance. His father told him that he would pay him more if he agreed to wake up early every morning and clear the driveway of snow with the shovel. The boy thought about it. He hated shoveling snow. Then he asked his father to buy a snow blower – if he would agree, the boy wouldn’t ask for an increase in allowance, but would clear the driveway with the snow blower every morning anyway.

The father considered it to be a pretty good deal, but he hadn’t yet figured out why his son would be effectively offering to get up early every morning and clear the driveway of snow for no extra money. He could see how using a snow blower beats doing it manually, of course. So his son explained that he could likely clear around ten driveways with a snow blower in the time that it would take to clear the one driveway with only a shovel. He would clear his own house’s driveway and then set about clearing the neighbors’ driveways for five bucks a go.

Father and son got online right away and ordered the snow blower they thought would fit the bill. Dad got a new snow blower and his driveway cleared for free every morning. The neighbors also got their driveways cleared every morning at the very reasonable price of $5 a day. And the son got the extra money he wanted –a cool $900 a month on top of his regular allowance, all thanks to a flash of financial genius, sparked by his father’s response to being asked for money.

You don’t have to live in a winter wonderland to find similar opportunities for your child to earn money. Some children walk their neighbor’s pets, mow lawns, wash cars, wash dishes, fetch groceries and whatever else they can think of to make a buck. Remember that when your teenager asks you for a raise next time.


What to do when you can’t go outdoors

It’s a fact of life that some of the most lucrative jobs on the planet are to be had in the most inhospitable and even dangerous places. These jobs are often found in the energy sector or as part of scientific research teams. Take one of these jobs and you’ll probably save a lot more, too, as you won’t be able to find too many ways to spend your money. Just as submariners are paid more than their naval counterparts in the surface fleet, the trade-off is that they go for months at a time limited as to where they can go, what they can do in their free time, what they can eat and how they can take care of their health.

This kind of lifestyle will sound familiar to people who live in places such as Svalbard. An Arctic archipelago under the sovereignty of Norway, Svalbard is home to a couple thousand people, mostly working in the energy sector. With a harsh Arctic climate, winter averages of just of 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the constant dangers caused by co-existence with polar bears, plus the disorienting phenomena of two months of darkness and two months of uninterrupted daylight, it can be difficult to live what most of us consider to be a ‘normal’ life. In fact, even during the light months, if you want to leave the limits of your settlements and wander out into the wild, you are required by law to carry a firearm – usually a high-caliber rifle, to protect yourself for polar bears. The other side of the coin is that, should you wound or kill a polar bear in Svalbard, the case will be closely scrutinized by the police, as polar bears are a protected species.

In dark winter – one of Svalbard’s five seasons (the others being spring, summer, fall and light winter) – you’re not going to be spending much time outdoors. It’s extremely cold, there’s nowhere to go and even if there was, the perennial darkness, snowfall and threat of being attacked by bears makes it too dangerous to make all but the most essential trips. Faced with this situation for at least two months of every year, what would you do to stay sane?

People who live in such places will tell you that physical exercise is key to staying sane. In the light months, outdoor exercise can be exhilarating – sled racing, skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, snowmobiling and other sports can make you really appreciate the part of the world you live in. Even running is possible, using studded running shoes to cope with the ice. However, in dark winter all of these options become risky. Smart people have already had any home gym equipment delivered earlier in the year. Options may be limited, but you can go to Treadmill Trends to get an idea of what would suit you best. Using a combination of cardio and muscle-building exercises, you’ll give your body the work out that it needs to stay healthy. As exercise triggers the release of endorphins, you’ll also feel much happier for it, too.

You can find mental stimulation from reading and writing – one of the best ideas is to take online classes or learn a new skill at home – perhaps learn how to program, build a robot or build 3D models of things. This is all very good but there comes a time when you just want to relax. You’ve probably watched everything you wanted to on Netflix and you don’t want to spend every evening drinking (drinking alcohol every night for two months of night is not recommended at all – there are many reasons why this could be the end of you). Entertainment is such conditions requires a special level of creativity.

In some communities, bets are placed on the exact dates the rivers will break, i.e. the ice will crack and the river will begin to flow again. You can enjoy the beauty of the northern lights from the safety of your rooftop. In fact, you could get yourself a telescope and begin your hobby as a stargazer.

It’s a different way to live, but most people can survive two months of mostly staying indoors, knowing that the natural beauty gifted to them throughout the rest of the year makes up for it.


Things You’re Not Told Before Becoming An Adult

Life is one great big permanent progression and the easiest section of it definitely comes right at the beginning. From being born up until the age of around 13 the only things you have to worry about in the entire world is what’s for dinner and how late you are allowed to stay out with your friends. Your biggest problem is most likely to be which sweets you want from the shop or getting a puncture on your bike. Things are all going rosy. Then they begin to change. 

The next period of life is the teenage years. These are some of the toughest and most confusing years of your life. You don’t know what to like or what to do as both of these seem to change almost daily. Your teenage years are also some of the most important in your life as well as they form where you will be heading later in it. They may not have had as big of an impact as your teachers and parents told you they would, but they are still a big part of what points you in a particular direction later in life. These years take a while but eventually you will get through them. Then comes the tough part. 

Almost immediately after you leave university or school you are thrust into the adult world without so much as a warning. You better learn quickly all about the professional services there are out there and pick which job you would like otherwise you’ll be in trouble! Throughout the entirety of your younger life you were told “It’s ok, you have a loads of time to choose, don’t rush your decision” and then, without so much as a warning, it’s time to make that decision. Even if you are lucky enough to settle straight into a job, this is just the beginning of the things that are harder than you expect. 

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the education system today is with regards to teaching of everyday things that you will almost certainly need in your adult life. The best example of this is taxes. I could happily tell you that A2 x B2 = C2, but what would I rather know? Pythagoras’ theory or how to accurately submit my taxes? Well I can tell you that nobody has ever asked me to measure the sides of a triangle but I have had to worry about taxes so that should tell you a lot!

Adult life is essentially a permanent worry about money. This is the other thing you are not told before you become a fully functioning human being. Everything costs a lot more than you expected it would. When your dad wouldn’t buy you a PlayStation and you moaned, you probably see why he didn’t know. A quick rundown of the things that need paying for after the age of 18 reads like: a car, taxes, food, electricity, going out, water, gas, birthdays and just about everything else under the sun! It is a horrible catch 22 situation as you won’t have a lot of money when you start out but you will probably have a lot to pay for so something else to avoid is getting into debt! 

I don’t know why we all thought that growing up would be fun. Everyone is in such a rush to do it that they glaze over the fact that it might not be as good as they think it is. We need to ensure that future generations have a better grounding when they are growing up. We need to tell them about all of the important things we weren’t told. Let’s teach them how to do taxes, how to save some money, and most importantly the value of money! This makes it sound like our generation had no up bring which is not true, but things can always be improved. 

If we begin to think of these facts now then we can make sure that the future youngsters have it better than we did, and is that not what being human is all about? Let’s all just be a little bit nicer! 


Insider advice for expats going to live and work in China

China has exploded back onto the world stage over the last thirty years after a couple of centuries out of the limelight. An economy which stagnated for decades was kicked into gear and has seen the highest growth rates of possibly any major economy in history, meaning that the country now boasts the world’s second largest economy and its largest manufacturing base. As a result of China’s successful reintegration into the world economy, hundreds of thousands of non-Chinese nationals have made the country their home, as leaders in industry and commerce, international traders, bankers, teachers, students and countless other professions. But going to live in China isn’t without its challenges, and the experience can be very different from one place to another – the expat lifestyle in one of China’s super modern mega cities on its eastern seaboard is a world apart from life as an outsider in the country’s troubled rural western provinces.

Daily life in China as a foreigner is not particularly difficult, even if you don’t speak the language. Many young people know enough English to help you out and will often be thrilled to have a chance to meet someone from another country. In cities such as Shanghai you are just as likely to meet another foreigner as you are a Chinese person, whereas in rural parts you might be the only foreigner that has ever visited. As a result, don’t be surprised if the whole village comes out to take a look at you. You might have to get used to being stared at and having kids shout “hello!” before giggling and running off. In general, people mean well and will try to help you out if they can.

Having said that, in places frequented by tourists, there are a number of scams to watch out for, many along the lines of being invited to drink tea with a group of students or a pretty girl, only to find out that you are paying the bill and that a cup of tea in that particular tea house amounts to double the average Chinese worker’s monthly salary. These tricks are common in many major cities around the world and you shouldn’t have any problems in the smaller, less-visited Chinese cities.

A lot of China is either hot and humid or cold and humid. As a result it can be a pain drying clothes. Thankfully, laundry services are efficient and cheap. A majority of expats living in China probably never wash or dry their own clothes thanks to these services. If you have long hair, take care to blow dry it before you leave home. You can find a decent blow dryer at http://www.oomphed.com/. It can be so humid that your hair won’t dry a bit on the journey between home and work. In the far north, if you leave your home with wet hair in winter it will freeze instantly and could be seriously dangerous.

Traffic in most of the country is horrendous. Beijing and Shanghai have some of the best mass-transit networks in the world, but they are still at near breaking point all of the time due to the sheers number of people using them. To give you an idea of how crowded these cities are, let’s take a look at Shanghai. The city by itself has more people than the whole of Australia. Twenty minutes outside the city lies Suzhou, a city the size of London. A further thirty minutes out and you’ve got two more cities the size of London and one that is significantly bigger. It’s incredible that the Greater Shanghai Area doesn’t just sink under the weight of all those people. So be patient when it comes to traveling.

If you are planning to stay for a while in China, you should really make an effort to learn the language. Chinese grammar is relatively simple and you’ll get used to the tonal system by listening to the locals speak. As soon as you can have a short conversation in Chinese, the country and the people will really open up to you. There are cultural differences and annoyances that some expats never get to grips with. If you learn the language, you’ll understand the culture, too.


Stay cool when it snows

Despite the chaos on the roads, the long wait until you can get the grill out in the yard again and the boiler making decidedly unhappy grumbling noises, winter snow can bring a smile to pretty much everyone’s faces. It brings back memories of snowball fights, building snowmen, building igloos and that feeling when you come back to a warm house with a fire and hot food after a day out in the cold. It’s great for kids but it can be even better for grown-ups.

Unless you live in the flattest part of the country, there will be a hill somewhere around that you can get to. If this is the case, get down into your workshop immediately and start putting together a sled. You’ll just need timber, screws, a saw (have a look at these recommendations at Straight Kerfs) and a power drill. If you’re good with tools and want to come up with a fancy design, all the better as long as it can carry a couple of kids and a couple of adults down the snow. Good old winter fun without too much effort!

Two of people’s favorite activities when the white stuff has fallen are skiing and snowboarding. Towns like Ruidoso and Aspen get snowed under with tourists and prices skyrocket. Instead of heading for those famous resorts, why not head up to Minnesota and try out cross-country skiing? It’s a little bit trickier and it can be more hazardous, but it’s more satisfying than shooting down a hill and dragging yourself back up fifty times a day.

Perhaps counterintuitively for some, winter is a great time to have a bonfire outside. You can invite the neighbors over, keep warm (but keep the beers cold) and do some good old outdoor cooking on the fire. Throw in some fireworks (not into the fire) to make it more exciting for kids.

Another great idea for the daytime is to go ice skating. If you’ve known the area for a long time, you’ll know which lakes are safe to skate on. If not, go along to an organized event – it’s better for kids and there will probably be other youngsters there that they can play with while you hit the bar. Don’t go ice skating at night unless the area is very well-lit – it can be just too dangerous with kids to be out of the ice in the dark.

If you can, see if you can check out a dog-sled race. You’ll be surprised at how much fun they can be and taken aback at the scale of the event. Some of the races can go over a distance of a thousand miles – that’s the equivalent of racing from Wisconsin to Vermont. How fast could you do it in the snow?

If you’d like to test your speed in the snow, you could rent out a snowmobile or two for your family. You might just love it so much that you decide to sell up and move to somewhere in the Yukon where folks do their grocery shopping on snowmobiles. Now, wouldn’t that be awesome!

One fun activity which it’s probably better not to do with young kids is ice fishing. It’s totally different from regular fishing and takes a while to get the hang of. But the experience of sitting out, wrapped up in the cold, waiting to get a bite is unique. And if you’re lucky enough to take something home the first time, it’s going to taste so much better. If you can’t wait to take it home, you could try eating it raw with the ice, Inuit style!

Whatever you do, don’t spend all the winter indoors, hiding away. Sure, it’s great to come back home to a warm fire and some mulled wine but you’ve gotta earn it!


How to be the best at fancy dress

When I was about eight years old, my school held a disco. I’d already been to plenty of discos and I knew that there would be food and probably some games, and there would be music and I knew the moves to a lot of the songs. The faster songs you could just run around to but the slower songs you had to find someone to dance with. Simple! Only this disco was going to be different. It was a fancy dress disco. That meant that you had to go dressed up as somebody famous or as a character from a movie or a cartoon. I had a lot of ideas – perhaps I would go as Spiderman, because as it happened, I had some Spiderman pyjamas somewhere. Or at least I thought I did, it turned out my mum had given them away as hand-me-downs. Never mind, I thought, there are lots of cool characters I could dress up as, I’m bound to think of something great!

A couple of weeks went by and I’d actually forgotten all about the fancy dress disco and I was shocked when the other kids started asking me “what are you going as tonight?”

“Tonight?” “It’s a secret, you’ll have to wait and see”, I lied. I hadn’t got anything ready. Would it be too late to somehow conjure up an amazing costume from what I had in my wardrobe? After I got home I started to look at all the clothes – not just in my wardrobe but in everybody’s! I just didn’t get any inspiration. I started to think I might have to miss the disco. I started to rummage through the drawers trying to find anything that looked like the beginnings of a costume… a stamp collectors’ book, sticky tape, envelopes, glue, a washing basket, bicycle oil, a packet of one hundred green balloons – wait… why on earth did we have a packet of one hundred green balloons? My mum explained to me that they were for a St. Patrick’s Day party that never happened, but by the time she finished telling me, I didn’t care. I had found my costume!

I had a pair of dark green corduroy trousers which I almost never wore. I put them on immediately and then began to look for something green to wear on top. All I could find was y green cub scout jersey but it was covered in award patches. That couldn’t stop me now, though. I turned it inside-out and ran down to the kitchen. I climbed up onto the shelf in order to reach the top cupboard where I found the green food colouring. I took this upstairs and asked my sister to rub it all into my face and my hair which she willingly did. It’s the kind of thing she would have liked to have done without being asked but would have been worried about getting into trouble. Once we had expended the bottle of green food colouring and my face and hair were truly verdant, I ran into my mother’s bedroom to fetch her hairspray. I held my hair up while my sister sprayed it all over, again and again. “Make it look like something growing in the garden!” I told her. We had to dig out a little used hairdryer to try to dry off the food colouring, which was a slow process. At that time, we didn’t have the range and quality of hairdryers such as the ones featured in Ellie’s recent project.

When it came to blowing up the balloons, my sister decided to leave me alone. It took me a very long time to pump up around twenty green balloons with the air from my little lungs. Once they were all full, I stapled them by their ends to my sleeves, my jersey’s chest, waist and back and all down my trousers. I was finally ready to go to the fancy dress disco and I was certain that nobody had a costume like mine!

It took me a while to get out of the front door of my house, but once I was outside I ran all the way down the road to the hall where the disco was being held. Lord knows what passers-by must have thought when they saw me. Perhaps they thought aliens might have landed in our sleepy village?

I didn’t have time to ask myself that at the time. All that mattered was getting to the disco now. As I approached I could see the flashing lights through the tall windows of the hall and I could hear the music. A lady opened the door for me and welcome me inside. She looked me up and down and then suggested I go to sit down on the buffet table.

“On the buffet table? But why would I want to sit there? It’s full of food!”

“Exactly”, said the lady. “You’ll fit right in. We could really use a bunch of grapes. You look delicious, by the way!”


Is Your Brushing Technique the Best Way To Brush?

There are several techniques that have been taught throughout the years, but many of these are actually wrong. There is only one way to brush your teeth and that is thoroughly. It is always a great idea to check in with dentists at least once a year, even if you are not a regular patient at one. Places, like Azamay, offer free consultations for dental care. When keeping a check up on your teeth, you are preventing serious damage and possible diseases in the future.

The Right Type of Brush

There are many people who believe that a hard tooth brush cleans their teeth harder. This isn’t true. The soft brush heads are recommended for everyone’s teeth. After you eat, the particles of food are soft and only need a soft brush to remove. Using harder bristled tooth brushes could cause damage to the enamel and to the gums. When choosing between a manual toothbrush and one that is battery operated, the difference is that the power of the battery operated toothbrush gives your mouth a better clean that you could do manually. This is why many dentists recommend electric tooth brushes for cleaning efficiency.

Using the Tooth Brush Right

There are four major issues with the way that people are brushing their teeth. These four issues are simply brushing back and forth the right way, moving the tooth brush head all around, not brushing their teeth for the right amount, and being too aggressive when brushing. All of these issues can cause major problems with your teeth and gums in the future. No one should aggressively brush their teeth as this will damage the enamel. A simple, smooth brushing should be efficient to clean the food and bacteria.

The best brushing technique that is recommended by dentists is to brush in a circular type motion. The tooth brush bristles should have an angle of forty-five degrees from your gum line. It is also recommended that while brushing, attempt to focus on just a few teeth. Trying to focus on more can cause you to miss some areas. When your tooth brush is angled as recommended it allows the bristles to grasp underneath your gums and get rid of pesky plaque.

How Much Toothpaste is Too Much?

Dentists have repeated themselves for the past two decades regarding how much toothpaste should be used on your toothbrush. The recommended amount to use on the bristles of your tooth brush is the size of a green pea. Some toothpastes can require a tad more to do an efficient job. By slopping toothpaste onto the end of your toothbrush you could mistake areas in your mouth for already being done or cause inflammation in your gums from the excess of toothpaste. Whenever in doubt on how much toothpaste to use, always remember that if it is bigger than a pea, you’re using too much.

Tooth Brush Tip for Keeping Your Mouth Clean

There are several people who will use a toothbrush for six months or more, until the bristles span out and it is no longer a tolerable feeling when brushing. However, the average soft-bristled toothbrush should be changed out every three months. After this amount of time the bristles have lost their usefulness. When it comes to a battery operated toothbrush, changing the brush head every three to four months is recommended. If you will be unable to remember this, leave a note on your calendar, or place a sticky in your bathroom to remind you.

It takes more than just brushing your teeth to be able to keep your mouth clean and fresh smelling. Mints and other store bought items can help mask the smell of bad breath, but are insufficient for actually cleaning and ridding your mouth of the nasty bacteria and food debris left behind from your last meal. To avoid bad breath, be sure to brush at least twice a day and floss and rinse regularly. You should also remember to brush your tongue, as many have forgotten. This removes any bacteria or food particles that were left behind from your brushing. It can also stop the discoloration of your tongue, if you happen to be a smoker.


Buying a Bird Cage?

Every species of bird will require a different sized cage to keep it safe. If you follow these few simple rules you will be sure that your pet is happy in its home for many years.


When you are choosing a new bird cage, it is very important that you buy the biggest cage that your budget can stretch to, ensure the bars are coated with non-toxic paint, and check that you have enough room in your property to comfortably home the new cage.

When purchasing a cage, especially a larger cage, ensure that the bar spacing is appropriate for your bird. A cage for a larger parrot that has wide bar spacing is not suitable for a small finch, for example.

The following information will give you a good guideline to which cage is suitable for each size of bird.

  • Canaries, finches and budgies will need a cage at least 18” x 18” x 30” with a bar spacing of between ¼” – ½”
  • Ring neck parakeets, parrotlets, lovebirds and the like will need a cage that has dimensions of 24” x 24” x 36” with bars 5/8” – ¾”
  • Amazons, African grey’s, mini macaws and cockatoos will require 36” x 24” x 36” with the bars spaced ¾” – 1” apart
  • Large cockatoos and macaws will need a cage of at least 36” x 36” x 60” with bar spacing of between 1” – 1.5” 

Cage Shape

Some birds may feel insecure in a round cage, which will make them noisy and misbehave. Try to avoid round cages for larger birds.

For smaller, flighted birds, the length of the cage is more important than the height, as this will allow room for the birds to fly. There are many cages on the market that serve well as flight cages for smaller birds. Cages that are rectangular in shape are ideal.

For parrots and other bigger species, a rectangular or round cage is ok. Click on the following link for some unbiased and reliable reviews for large parrot cages. You will also find detailed information on a wide range of makes and models. 

Bar Spacing

Do not overlook the bar spacing when purchasing a new cage. Your bird needs to be both secure and safe. Having the wrong sized bars can easily cause injury to your bird.

For parrots, bars that are horizontally oriented are important as this allows them to use their beak and feet to climb. For smaller birds such as finches and canaries that do not use their beaks and feet to climb, orientation of the bars is not as important. 

Easy to Maintain

Choosing a cage that is easy to maintain will make your life, and more importantly, your birds life a happier one. Choose a cage with a wipe clean, pull out tray and seed containers that are removable.

You need a cage that is powder coated with a non-toxic coating, or made of stainless steel. 


Make sure you are buying a cage that is big enough to house your bird. Some species can live for many years, so the cage will be there home for a long time.

A simple rule to follow is to buy a cage that is at least two times the size of its wing span, this way the bird will easily be able to exercise and move around the cage in comfort.

Always remember that a happy bird is a well behaved and quiet one. No one wants a noisy or naughty pet, and keeping a bird locked in a cage for its entire life is completely unethical.

Look around for reviews, there will be the perfect cage that fits both your home, and the needs of your pet.


Important Steps to Take During a Power Outage

A power outage can occur for many different reasons and at almost any time. The main reasons for a power outage are as follows:

  • Blackout
  • Grid failure
  • Heat waves
  • Hurricanes
  • Ice storms
  • Maintenance to power grid
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Transformer failure
  • Utility outage from downed power lines
  • Windstorms

This list is not exhaustive, but while other reasons can cause a power outage, these few would be the main reasons.

Below you will find some interesting facts about blackouts, and a few helpful tips to ensure you and your family remain safe during a power outage.

Why Buy a Generator? 

Restoring power to your home as quickly as possible can keep food stocks and medicines fresh and usable. While a freezer will keep foods edible for a period of time, they are not insulated, so the food will eventually ruin.

The electrical grid in the USA is now old (50+ yrs) and becoming more and more susceptible to outages. Be prepared and buy a portable generator, click here to go straight to a website dedicated to the world of portable generators.

A loss of electrical power can cause stress to family members and pets. This can be easily avoided by having a generator around the house.

During an emergency it is very important to remain in a constant state of communication with local/national news, weather and information. All of this information can be found on the internet, but your router will not work without power.

Important Facts

It is unlawful to hook up a generator to your electrical system without a transfer switch.

  • Most portable generators run on gasoline. Make sure you store your spare gas in a safe and dry area, out of the reach of children.
  • If not sized correctly, portable generators can be over-powered, causing damage to appliances and the generator. Always calculate how much power you will need before purchasing a particular model.
  • When purchasing a portable generator, you may also need an electric transfer switch, heavy duty extension cords, gasoline cans and gasoline. Always ensure you have a plentiful supply, there is no point in having a generator without any fuel to power it.
  • Remember you will have to go outside to place the generator in the correct position. This could be at any time throughout the day or night, you will also need to replenish the fuel supply. Make this job easier with a good quality wind up torch.

Standby Generators

These are powered by natural gas or propane. Most units are plumbed right up to your gas meter. You never have to worry about stale gasoline varnishing up the carburetor.

Standby generators are automatic. They start themselves weekly for a test run to make sure all systems are working as designed. You never have to worry about the system starting during an emergency.

Having a standby generator installed at your home will provide you with standby power during power outages. 

What can a standby generator power in my house?

By installing a 15kW air-cooled standby generator, you can expect to power your refrigerator, freezer, lights, television, and computer. Just about your whole house. If you happen to have an electric cook top stove, you may want to consider stepping up to a 20 or 25 kW unit.


By taking a few safety precautions, and ensuring you are not without power, you can keep your property, and more importantly, family safe during a power outage.

Ensure you buy a model with enough wattage to supply energy to all of the appliances you wish to use. Never overload your generator, this can be extremely dangerous.


How to Store Ice Without a Freezer

The summer heat is much easier to take when we have a nice cool drink in our hand. Unfortunately, the coolness only lasts as long as the ice in the glass. When we are planning an outdoor activity in the summer, it is important to include ice on the packing list. Although there is no way to completely keep ice from melting in the summer heat, it is possible to incorporate a few tricks to at least make the ice last longer when there is not a freezer available.

Get to Know Ice

Ice begins forming at 0 degrees Celsius or lower. Temperatures above that level will begin the melting process. There are three methods of heat transfer to deal with when it comes to the melting properties of ice; convection, radiation, and conduction. To be successful in keeping ice from melting, insulate the ice, the container, or both.


This is the amount of heat rays that the container or insulation allows to penetrate to the ice. Wrapping the ice in a shiny or reflective material will help to bounce the heat rays away from the ice and keep it cool longer. Materials such as aluminum foil or a clean potato chip bag turned inside out make great reflectors to keep out the heat.

Tips and Tricks

Using these guidelines it is possible to keep ice frozen longer in the summertime. A few other tricks can help to shorten the melting time of ice. Some suggestions include:

  • Keep in shaded area
  • Use larger pieces of ice
  • Insulate around ice
  • Keep container closed
  • Wrap in insulating material
  • Use light colored container

When it comes to enjoying the sunny summer outside, keep cool with some fresh ice from a customized cooling system. Implementing these ideas will help store ice longer when the temperatures soar in the heat of the summer afternoon.

Full articlehttp://www.icemakercubes.com/how-to-store-ice-without-a-freezer/


3 Top Over the Counter Toenail Fungus Treatments

After suffering for years from a toenail fungus problem, I have discovered that I am not alone. Based on various reputable websites, it’s a problem that affects at least 5% of the U.S. population. The breakdown in age groups is also surprising since approximately 50% of these individuals are over the age of 70. With numbers like these, finding a cure has become even more essential and should be placed on the top of everyone’s priority list. Toenail fungus is an infection that can thrive for a very long time until the proper treatment is found. So I have compiled a list of the best over the counter toenail fungus treatment solutions.

Kerasal Nail Fungal Nail Renewal Treatment – Advance Formula

At first, this over-the-counter anti-fungal treatment could only be found in Europe. The formula used in this product has had a very high success rate because approximately 92% of its users showed noticeable improvement (77% of which stated that their improvement could be seen within two weeks). The formula contains several powerful ingredients including those that help with softening, hydrating and penetrating the nail in order to restore a healthy appearance. The advance formula is considered to be safe, odorless and quick performing.

Fungi Nail Anti-fungal Solution – Double Strength Anti-Fungal Solution

When I was searching for the best nail anti fungal products, I found that there were a great deal of products that were made to address the infections that toenail fungus presents. However, some of these products were considered to be much more effective than others. In some cases, these anti-fungal solutions were backed by pharmacists as being the top recommended on the market today. This statement is true for Fungi Nail Anti-fungal Solution (Double Strength Anti-fungal Solution) because it has had proven results that can be traced back over a 20 year time span. It is a coveted choice by many consumers because it has no side effects, it is available without having to obtain a prescription and the results are visible in at little as two weeks. It is also very important to note that this formula works very well because it even inhibits additional growth of the fungal cells.


Another great product that can be found on the top of the list of best over-the-counter anti-fungal solutions is ZetaClear. ZetaClear can be described as a two step process that is used to treat nail fungal infections. This two step system is not only designed to completely clear up the infection, but it can also prevent it from reoccurring again. Because these kinds of infections tend to reoccur, it is a system that addresses the root of the problem instead of just focusing on improving the look of your skin. Even though this product works extremely well, the manufacturers also take time to offer different application methods to help speed up the process. One of these methods suggests that users wrap the infected toe in a bandage after the treatment has been applied. With regular treatment, users can expect the problems to begin to disappear in at little as four to six weeks.

To be honest, there are a large amount of anti-fungal toe nail treatments from which we can choose. And this is why I think it is best that everyone take the time to do their own research before consulting a doctor. I have found that some products are much more effective and yield quicker results than others. Also, there are those that will provide a healthier appearance in as little as two to four weeks.

Even though the entire treatment may take several months in order to get the desired results, people can expect most of these products to work just as the companies claim. While Kerasal Nail Fungal Nail Renewal Treatment – Advance Formula and Fungi Nail Anti-fungal Solution – Double Strength Anti-Fungal Solutions are excellent choices, there are many people who may actually prefer Zetaclear. This is because ZetaClear offers a dual system that clears the toenail fungus problem within 4 weeks and it contains ingredients which will help to prevent these problems from coming up again. No matter what type of product an individual chooses, these are three of the most effective over-the-counter toe nail fungal treatment solutions in the industry.

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