Archive for category Entertainment

The Haunted White House

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Rumor has it there’s more than one President that resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But only one is alive.

It may seem like a ghost in the White House would be fictional nonsense, especially at such a serious place. But it’s difficult to disregard these ghost stories as folk lore or myths, when they came from some very reputable sources that include former and present White House staff, former First Ladies, visiting Heads of State, and former Presidents.

The White House is owned by the National Park Service. Technically the White House is one of America’s National Parks; the second most popular National Park with Yellowstone being the first. Construction began in October of 1792, and a lot of renovating took place to make the White House the modern structure it is today. Indoor plumbing and central heating were added in 1835, the East Wing was added in 1866, and the West Wing was added in 1902. White House renovations are actually a continuing process. The style of the interior is still pretty much the same since the White House was rebuilt after British Forces set it, and almost all of Washington DC, on fire on August 24, 1814.

Most of the people who visit the White House are amazed by how much smaller it is in person than it appears on TV. Almost every room has been the setting for many significant events that shaped American History. A visit to the White House is an inspiration for any American or foreign diplomat, as walk through the stark white finely appointed rooms that reflect a period when America was a developing country. Whether it’s for a tour, a legislative visit with White House staff, or even a meeting with the President, any American can’t help but amazed to be in the same place where so much history has taken place.

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In the East Room of the White House the crown molding designed by Dolly Madison remains the same till this day

While walking through the White House it seems like those scenes in that history book you studied in school come alive each time you enter a room. It’s as if you can almost imagine with vivid detail historical events happening right in front of you. Being in the same setting makes ir easy to picture in your mind what it was like when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, when President Nixon paced the White House halls with torment during Watergate, or when Jackie Kennedy mourned beside the casket of her husband as he lied in repose in the East Room. Could that same vivid recall of prior influences, combined with being in the actual place where many events occurred be a logical explanation for these ghost stories? Maybe the mind playing tricks? That certainly could be an explanation if there were no consistency to the stories. But may of these claims of ghost came from different people who never met. And each account had the same vivid detail

Hearing unexplained noises and feeling the presence of ghost are a common occurrence in the White House. Seeing actual apparitions have also happened on several occasions. There have been several reports of hearing President Andrew Jackson stomping and swearing throughout the presidential residence. In a letter to his wife Bess, President Truman made reference to ghost residing with him in the White House ghost; “I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches, all the while listening to the ghost walk up and down the hallway and even right here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth.”

At one time there were plans to move the Rose garden that was created by Dolly Madison. That was until gardeners claim they were chased off by Dolly, who was very upset and vehemently opposed the idea. The Rose Garden remains where it’s at with no future plans to move it. There have also been several reports of a demon cat that haunts the White House basement. It is alleged this cat will first appear as an adorable kitten, but will immediately glow in size and increase a demon like appearance. It appeared during two very sad times in American history; just before the stock market crash in 1929, and before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

According to her blog featured on the website Huff Post 50 in October of 2013, Journalist Joan Gage chronicled a conversation with President Reagan during a state dinner at the White house in 1986. Reagan claimed one time their dog pointed his nose up in the air and stood on his hind legs, then began barking at the ceiling and continued to do this while walking around the room. On another occasion Reagan’s daughter Maureen and her husband were sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom during their visit her husband woke up and saw a transparent figure standing at the window looking out. His wife didn’t believe him, until she saw the same thing on a different night.

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The North Portico entrance to the White House where sightings of a British Soldier with a flame lit torch have taken place on several occasions

There have been several sightings of a British soldier wearing a red coat and carrying a flame lit torch while standing just outside of the North Portico. The East Room is where Abigail Adams has been seen hanging laundry to dry just as she did when she was alive. Its also alleged the ghost and a child in their preteens can be heard running up and down the central hallway on the State level. There have also been several reports of ushers and doormen who passed away several decades ago and still tending to their duties today. According to all accounts the most haunted room in the White House would be the Rose Room in the third floor Presidential Residence. The Ghost of both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln were both seen there.

The most popular ghost of all is that of Abraham Lincoln. Several of the people who once lived in the White House including First Ladies Grace Coolidge, Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and President Ford’s daughter Susan have sensed or literally seen Lincoln’s Ghost. Lincoln has been seen in the Presidential Residence, the East Room, and the Oval Office. On one occasion Roosevelt’s valet ran screaming from the White House after seeing Lincoln’s ghost.

wh 2The most famous Lincoln sighting of all came from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill while he visited the White House during World War II. After taking a bath Churchill came from the bathroom and saw Lincoln sitting by the fireplace in his room. On subsequent visits Churchill refused to step foot in the Lincoln Bedroom. According to psychics, Lincoln hangs around the White House to help current Presidents when they’re facing difficult situations.

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Look Before You Share; some websites are not what they seem.

Social media has emerged as one of the most important tools of communication. What you communicate on social media says a lot about you. The things you share, your post, and even comments you make come together to create your digital personality. Any and all information posted or shared by you gives others a glimpse into who you are, what you do, what you stand for, and what you react to.

OuoteIf you think nobody’s looking at your profile, you better think again. In addition to your friends and family, others may also be reading your profile. Sometimes privacy settings aren’t that private, some agencies have authority to override them. You can also give access to your social media profile without even realizing it. When you sign on to a site using your profile; you also give that organization full access to everything about you. If you’ve applied for a job there may be a chance the employer you’ve applied to reviewed your profile during the employment screening process. Police can also access social media profiles. Evidence from social media has been used in court to prosecute criminal and civil cases. The internet in general does provide certain anonymity but social media does not.

What ever you say says a lot about you and where you get your information you share is key. This tells people what type of media outlets you go to for news, facts, and how you get the facts that help you form opinions about what is important to you. There are some questions you need to ask yourself when you see something you’re thinking about sharing. Is this information accurate? Who is saying this and are they a credible source? You have to do some filtering. This step can clarify information for you and possibly spare you embarrassment.

POST“Things are not always what they seem” is an old adage that has more meaning now than ever before. These words describe about 70 percent of content on the internet. You may see some slick websites or post that look legit, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Anybody can say anything on the internet and look believable doing it; especially if they package themselves as an objective and reputable news organization. Often you will see zealous organizations that make false and outrageous claims, but they market that information as a news story and it looks creditable. All it takes are flashy headlines, some slick pictures, and information presented in a news format. The picture in the left margin is a perfect example; a ridiculous claim but packaged in a professional format.

While browsing websites we see things we laugh at, things we’re concerned about, and things that are important. You owe it to yourself to check that website for authenticity because once you gather facts they will become your knowledge. Closely examine who is giving you these facts. Who are the sources they cite? Are they good sources? Look at other articles or claims the website makes. Is this news or propaganda? Before you share from that website, especially if you’re a first time visitor, make sure what you share is true. When you do share, you’re telling people this is what you believe.

If you notice on most social media websites any article posted or shared has a website address in the lower left hand corner. This is where the filtering starts. That website address tells who is publishing this information. Before you share what they’re saying, go to that website and check it out to make sure what their saying is correct. Is this a place you want to get your information and how true is it? Keep in mind by and posting sharing information, you are giving information to others that will also have an opinion. You can spare some yourself some criticism if the information is the truth.

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Change your thoughts; change your life

Attitude and behaviors are two things that can determine success or failure, both are influenced by memories.    

 

According to Dr Norman Doidge, “The discovery of neuroplasticity, that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age, is the most important breakthrough in our understanding of the brain in four hundred years.”

According to Dr Norman Doidge, “The discovery of neuroplasticity, that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age, is the most important breakthrough in our understanding of the brain in four hundred years.”

We’re going to be hearing a lot more about rewiring your brain in the near future. Research done by neuroscientist has yielded some very interesting findings. According to a recent article in New Yorker magazine, attitude and behaviors are two things that make you successful in whatever you set out to do. It turns out attitude and behaviors are formed by your memories, both good and bad.

In a similar article on the INC.com website, your memory is not like to video playback which is most commonly presumed, but more like a video editing process. We have the ability to diminish bad memories by changing details if we remember them to be small and insignificant. For good memories we do the same thing in reverse; exaggerate good memories by focusing on the good outcomes from that incident.

Harvard University researchers conducted studies at Massachusetts General Hospital to see what effect meditation had on the brain. Results from using magnet-imaging have shown individuals who mediated for an eight-week period dramatically strengthen the brain structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. This supports the theory that you can modify your brain.

The term “thoughts are things” may have more credence that just an old adage. Negative and positive thoughts and memories directly affect how we perceive our world and how we react to situations but they are not equal. Unfortunately the negative is three times stronger that the positive. This is called the negative bias. As a result of a survival instinct left over from our hunter gatherer days, we are wired to focus more on the negative. But in our modern-day world, the negative can hold us back and limit us from achieving real success and potential.

 

The brain produces electrical signals, which, together with chemical reactions, let the parts of the body communicate. Nerves send these signals throughout the body.

The brain produces electrical signals, which, together with chemical reactions, let the parts of the body communicate. Nerves send these signals throughout the body.

Selective memory and just recalling good memories is not going to help remedy the situation, it is important to get to the source and modify the bad memories so they will have less of an impact. When you recall these bad memories, imagine them smaller and change the details of the incident so that memory no longer gives you bad feelings. If you learned or gained something from a bad experience focus on what you took away and not how bad the incident was. When we recall good memories relive them attentively by paying attention to every detail. Go to that place in your mind during that incident by recalling the great feelings you felt during that time. Nothing worth having is easy to come by. This is going to involve some effort to change your thinking so don’t get discouraged and keep trying.

Can you climb a mountain? What was your first thought after reading this question? Was it a list of reasons why you can’t climb a mountain? If so, you really need to change your thinking about yourself and your abilities. Now if I repeated that same question instead of thinking why you can’t, try thinking about how you can. And also try removing these two words from your vocabulary; “should have”.

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Is the Economy Recovering?

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united states currency seal – IMG_7366_web (Photo credit: kevindean)

Prior to 2008, everything seemed ok. Everyone I know had a job and was doing well. The majority of people I knew took vacations and drove new cars. Then came the economic downturn and things have not been the same since. Currently, many Americans are wondering how long is this economic climate going to last? Some of the leading economists have said we’ll soon see light at the end of the tunnel. According to Jan Hatzius, a Chief Economist at Goldman Sachs, “We do expect another relatively weak year for growth in the global economy. But I think there are, underneath the surface, some important reasons why 2013 might feel a little friendlier than 2012.”

How ironic Hatzius would use the term “friendly” in that same sentence about the economy. Americans have been through a lot and I hardly think the term “Friendly” could be used to describe it. It’s now been five years, and here are some facts that can indicate just how slow our recovery is;

• There are about 400 million people living in the United States. 46 million of them are on food stamps.

• One out of every four children in the United States are living on food stamps.

• According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 per cent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that

pay poverty level wages.

• Approximately 48 percent of all Americans are currently considered to be low-income or living in

poverty.

• Today, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents.

• In the middle of the last century, the United States was #1 in the world in GDP per capita.  Today, the

United States is #13 in GDP per capita.

• The median price of a home in the city of Detroit is now about $6,000.

• The U. S. national debt is now more than 22 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter was president.

• According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, approximately 167,000 Americans have more

than $200,000 of student loan debt.

Throughout this entire economic crisis not one economist used the term “depression”, while it felt like one to many people who lost houses, jobs, and most of what they had. According to behavioral scientist, it’s human nature to acclimate and accept things even during the worst of times. Humans also have the ability to be resilient. Maybe there are some benefits to the conditions we’ve had to endure in the last five-year. Now many are less wasteful, recycle instead of buying new, and operate in a leaner fashion.

Still, the question remains; is there light at the end of the tunnel? If economist claim we are in an economic “recovery” its quite obvious that “recovery” seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, if at all.

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What if Benjamin Franklin were alive today; how would his twelve virtues apply to a modern-day setting?

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next time you go into a tall building you may want to thank Benjamin Franklin. Had he not flown a kite during that storm we wouldn’t have tall buildings. Franklin’s experiment and his discovery that electricity is actually a current, lead to his invention of the lightning rod. Prior to that, many people died in buildings that caught fire after being struck by lightning. This just one example of how we, in our modern age of technology, still benefit from the brilliance of Benjamin Franklin. Many of Franklin’s inventions could have made him a lot of money. Yet he chose not to patent his inventions; his motives were to benefit a greater good.

Many historians and biographers have written extensively about Franklin and his many accomplishments, but there was one historical piece of information that is not widely known or as popular. Franklin attributed much of his success to guidelines for living life that he wrote. Franklin called this his twelve virtues. These twelve virtues were comprehensive rules he prescribed for leading a successful and content life. Keep in mind Franklin wrote these twelve virtues in a time when there was no television, internet, cell phones, or satellite communication. The following is a review of those twelve virtues, and a simple interpretation of how they may apply today.

Temperance

Temperance calls for a person to avoid overindulgence in food or drink. By conquering your primal urges for food and drink, you’ll have the confidence to start making improvements in other areas of your life. The term “ Super-size” sure does ring a bell here. If you look at current statistics you’ve heard it said; we are an obese nation. Too much of anything is not good.

Silence

A person must learn when and when not to open their mouth. It’s ok to say nothing if what you’re going to say is inappropriate or makes no sense.  Not only is it better to be silent that look like a fool, but this applies to friendship as well. Often times being silent can be constructive because it gives the other person a chance to talk and increases your listening skills. Shut up and listen; most often people don’t want advice, they want to be heard. The best thing you can do is just listen to them vent or talk about their problem. Most of the time when people talk like this they’ll work it out on their own without your wonderful words of wisdom. Just be silent and listen.

Order

If a person wishes to thrive in this world they must develop order. But the laws of physics tell us that the universe and everything in it tends towards chaos and disorganization. A person must fight against these natural laws and the path of least resistance. Yet taking on complex organization will only cause more imbalances in your life. Instead make small changes by rectifying each slip in to disorganization the moment it happens. Wouldn’t life be wonderful if you could change everything, but the reality is; you can’t. But you can change, organize, or make sense of one thing at a time.

Resolution

Resolution is the firm determination to accomplish what you set out to do. For example, look at how Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre. An easy way to do this is have a main goal, then set smaller daily goals that will lead up to the main or long-range goal. At the end of each day reflect “What have I done today”. This sounds easy but is not. If you have to answer that question with “nothing”, the next day it will be in the back of your mind and you will accomplish something. Even if it’s something small, it will be an accomplishment.

Frugality

Credit cards and charge accounts are a double edge sword. They allow a person to purchase something they need now and pay later, but they also have many consequences. One good thing about the recent recession; it has forced our society to back off on spending habits just as our grandparents learned do to from living through the great depression.  This is why frugality has made a comeback. To put it simply; Spend less money than you earn.

Industry

Hard work is paramount to success. But has being industrious become no longer trendy with today’s “get rich quick” or “easy payout” temptations? The truth is the rich didn’t get that way with minimum effort. Well, not legally. Ask any millionaire and they’ll tell you it took goal setting, planning, and determination. Recent studies suggest winning the state lottery is not always a good thing. A majority of Lotto winners go bankrupt within five years of winning. Perhaps the term “easy money” is an oxymoron.

Sincerity

This electronic age with the quick exchange of information and anonymity has had a profound our society at large. I’m sure you’ve noticed on blogs and social network websites a prevalence of gossip, lying, and sarcasm. With this in mind, let me a couple of questions; what influence has this had on our society at large? Has this become a social norm or status quo that has infiltrated our real life as well? We are the ones that define the rules of our society. It seems there are more “gray areas” in terms of social acceptance than there were before. Is this a good thing?

Justice

In addition to standing up for those who are disadvantaged, there is another facet to justice; when you feel strongly about a topic or involved in an argument, try to consider the other point of view. Theses no doubt there are an abundance of apathy and ignorance in our society, but we can work to change that one person at a time. Let’s start with ourselves. Find out how you can develop the virtue of justice in your life as well as areas that you can implement the virtue.

Moderation

The easiest way to define moderation is use it as the opposite of greed. We all want more in our lives. More material items like the newest car, the latest electronic gadgets, computers, clothes, jewelry and other trappings do not define the person we are. Living a good life and having what you want is one thing, but are you crossing a line when it causes you stress to get it? Sometimes “Keeping up with the Jones” is not a good thing.

Cleanliness

This virtue tells other people a lot about you, and it also tells you a lot about yourself. Not only does this have a profound effect on a person’s self image, but it also includes a discipline that helps to increase attention and order. Cleanliness includes more than just appearance; it also includes your surroundings as well. In a clean environment, you’ll function much better in it.

Tranquility

The ability to control anger is just one aspect of tranquility. Making sure your living space is tranquil is also important. Another way to achieve tranquility is to “weed out” or do not give power to those toxic people in your day-to-day lives. You know the ones I’m referring to; the acquaintances in your life who are stressful and invoke that in others by being argumentative or constantly focusing on the negative. They’re draining energy from you, get rid of them, you don’t need them. Focusing on tranquility has more benefits; it can give you a sense of well-being and improve your health. You can look inward for tranquility as well; do you ever keep thinking things like “what if this happens, or what if they do this”? That’s called Mental Masturbation and is not at all constructive.

Chastity

Today, in a society where we’re constantly bombarded by sex in movies, TV, commercials, and almost everywhere else we look. This virtue seems to be outdated. Perhaps this is why one hundred years ago, people married for life. Currently, fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. If I may ask; have we cheapened the act of sex by turning it into a conquest instead of an exchange of love and emotions on several different levels? Recently there was a trendy question; “What is your number?” The higher your number gets could that possibly make it harder for you to love just one person and experience a true and fulfilling love?

    It’s amazing to thing a man sat and wrote these guidelines over two hundred years ago and they’re just as relevant as they were then. Maybe this is a testament to Benjamin Franklin’s keen insight into human nature. That’s pretty impressive for a man who had never taken a psychology class. There’s no doubt we needed Franklin to live in the time he did; we needed that progress to take place at that time. But just think of how he could influence and shape mankind if he were alive today. Something old with something new; maybe we could better handle our marvels of technology if we combine them with ideologies of the past.

 

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The Twinkie; your tax dollars at work!

You may never eat a Twinkie as long as you live, but your still buying them!

It’s not exactly an American Tradition, but whether you want to admit it or not, the Twinkie is somewhat of an American Icon. Almost everyone in the United States has had a Twinkie at some point in their lives. In spite of the fact that very few people actually admit to eating a Twinkie and liking it, each year over 30 million packages of Twinkies are sold around the world. This infamous snack cake has been the subject of many controversial rumors, urban legends, and has earned a rightful place in pop culture. A little known fact that some may find shocking, each year the United States federal Government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to ensure the manufacturing, production, and longevity of Twinkies.

The Twinkie was born in Schiller Park, Illinois in 1930, and is currently manufactured by Hostess, the largest wholesale baker and distributor of baked goods in the United States. Other snack cakes manufactured by Hostess include Ho-Hos, Ding Dong’s and Zingers, but none have surpassed the Twinkie in terms of longevity and shear controversy. The Twinkie was even used unsuccessfully in the defense of the criminal trial of Dan White, the man convicted of fatally shooting San Francisco Mayor George Mascone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. In the course of the trial, defense attorneys called a psychiatrist as a witness who testified the defendant ate junk food that included Twinkies. His testimony claimed the Twinkies caused depression, which was a major factor in the shooting.

The shelve life of a Twinkie has been the topic of urban legend and controversy for many years. According to rumor they can last fifty to one hundred years, some say even survive a nuclear holocaust. It was reported in the New York Times in 2000, “Even though the Twinkie is made with no unstable dairy products, it will spoil more slowly than other baked goods, but Twinkies are only on shelves for 7 to 10 days.” The spokesperson for Hostess who was interviewed for the article also said a Twinkie can be eaten with no fear of expiration up to 25 days after it is manufactured.

The Twinkie has even been the subject of scientific experiments. According to the website The Twinkies Project, several very scientific experiments were conducted that proved some interesting but useless facts about this famous snack cake. To test the resistivity of a Twinkie, a 110 volt standard AC Household current was run across it. This experiment proved they have no ability to pass an electrical current. To document the total volume of a Twinkie, they measured its volume which was 101.6 cubic centimeters. The volume after it was totally compressed is 31.99 cm. This experiment proved that the Twinkie is 68 per cent air by volume.

Twinkie the Kid

Twinkie the Kid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The same website conducted a Gravitational Response Experiment using a Twinkie as the subject and dropped it from the sixth floor of Lovett College at Rice University, it survived the fall almost undamaged. This was a hypothesis I had to test for myself. With nothing to do on a Sunday Afternoon, and more importantly in the interest of Science, I dropped a Twinkie from the tenth story of the Park Manor Building in San Diego. After the fall, the Twinkie actually retained almost all of its structural integrity with only one small split on the bottom between the points where the crème filling is injected.

To do this experiment without causing personal injury to anyone, with the exception of the Twinkie, we blocked off the sidewalk to ensure the safety of passing pedestrians. What I found amazing, once people found out what we were doing a crowd gathered. After the Twinkie hit the ground and was examined by impartial inspectors who determined the structural integrity was maintained, there was a thunderous applause from the crowd.

The Twinkie contains 37 ingredients; they include cellulose gum, Polysorbate 60, and calcium sulfate. What other products contain these same ingredients: sheet rock, hair shampoo, and rocket fuel. According to the labeling on the package, each Twinkie has 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day, eight Twinkies would exceed your daily allowance of saturated fat.

Whether or not you ever purchase or eat another Twinkie in your lifetime, your actually paying to ensure their production and prolonged existence. The truth is; don’t like it, too bad, you have no choice in the matter. No doubt your wondering how this could be possible; each year Americans pay taxes to the United States Federal Government. Those tax dollars are then used to fund various programs throughout the United States.

One such program is the federal government paying subsidies to American Farmers. Fewer than four per cent of farmers actually see those payments. In reality those subsidies go the largest agribusinesses, these are major mega conglomerate corporations that have gone into the farming business, but not for the purpose of farming.  These large agribusinesses spend those subsidies mostly to produce corn and soy, which are processed into junk food ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils that are the main ingredients in… oh yeah, here it comes, TWINKIES! So eat up, it doesn’t matter if you like ’em or not. Or, you could always send a Twinkie to your congressional representative to voice objection. But if you should choose to do this, may I strongly suggest you send them Twinkies in an unopened box purchased directly from the supermarket.

 

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San Diego is not this City’s Real Name.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe City of San Diego is the second largest city in California, and the ninth largest city in the United States. This city is a major vacation and conference destination where you can experience coastal, mountain, and desert environments all in one day. There are several little known facts about this city: San Diego has the largest wooden structure in the world, the Hotel Del Coronado. San Diego County is the most biologically diverse county, there are more animal species in San Diego than anywhere in the continental United States. Hypnotism is banned by public schools, and San Diego has the worse flea infestation than any other city in the United States.

The first baby panda born in the western hemisphere was Hua Mei, who was born in San Diego’s Zoo. The world’s oldest, still working ship, the “Star of India” built in 1863 has her home port in San Diego. She has completed 21 circumnavigations. And each year over 200 cruise ships berth in San Diego harbor.

Everyone including residents and tourist have been calling this city San Diego since 1602. The truth is, all references to the city of San Diego have been incorrect and this is why; In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States. Cabrillo was actually the first european to step foot on this part of the American Continent. Prior to this, it was thought that California was an island.

Cabrillo started his journey on June 24, 1542, and one hundred and three days after his departure, Cabrillo’s flagship, the “San Salvador”, landed in the area now called the San Diego harbor. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is building a full-sized, fully functional, and historically accurate replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s San Salvador in what is presumed by some to be the actual place where Cabrillo first landed.

According to the most accurate account of history, when Cabrillo first landed, he did not name it San Diego. On September 28, 1542 Cabrillo named this city San Miguel, not San Diego. Cabrillo died four months later. It wasn’t until 1602 when explorer Sebastián Viscaíno came along and unofficially renamed it “San Diego de Alcalá”. He had no right to name a place that had already been named, but Cabrillo had already died so there was no one around to argue.  But technically, to be absolutely correct; San Diego is Actually the City of San Miguel.

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Cycling in San Diego; its a Uphill Battle.

18172_102802593080578_100000525123091_75113_7946437_nCycling is gaining a new popularity in the United States and its about time. Most European and Asian countries have been cycling for years. According to the website top10hell.com, In the USA only 0.9% of all trips are made by bike. The average distance cycled per person is 0.1 kilometer. Those aren’t very good statistics when you compare us to other countries. In the Netherlands 27% of all trips and 25% of trips to work are made by bike. The average distance cycled per person per day is 2.5 kilometers. But recent trends indicate Americans are catching on to cycling, for environmental and mostly health concerns.

Now before we go any further, I am not recommending everyone jump on a bike, not before checking with your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough for the challenge. This is even more important especially if you’re over forty. All effective workout routines, regardless of what form of exercise, should begin in a doctor’s office. This is for three good reasons; to check your health, avoid serious injury, and your doctor is a tremendous resource of information that can help you achieve your fitness goals. One of the reasons men die before women in our society; women will go to the doctor more often than men, and men usually don’t go see a doctor unless they have symptoms. When you decide to exercise to improve your health, a checkup should be the first step.

Many cities in the United States are now making it easy for cyclist. Bike lanes and bike paths are being constructed in almost every major city. If one so desires, they can cycle almost anywhere in America. But the city that surpasses all others in terms of offering challenge  and benefits for cyclist is San Diego California. Because of this city’s topography, no matter where or how far you cycle in San Diego, you are going to cycle up a hill. There are steep hills and gradual hills. There are hills on top of hills. There are hills so steep, halfway up you will cry for your mommy. Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit I did that going up Laurel Street. Because San Diego is a city on the Ocean, when you’re not going up a hill you’re going against the wind. Sometimes you’re going up a hill against the wind.

It’s obvious when cycling uphill gravity comes into play, in a major way depending on the steepness of the hill. While pedaling up an incline, Cyclist use almost every muscle in their body. Along with the obvious leg and foot muscles, their also using arm, back, chest, and stomach muscles. It’s mainly calf and thigh muscles that do the most work getting you up that hill, so you’ll begin to see those become more toned and add muscle at a faster rate.

Your heart will work more effectively once you begin cycling uphill, faster than cycling and a level area. According to adultcycling.com, studies have shown cycling just two or three miles a day may increase cardiovascular fitness by three to seven percent. Cycling uses the largest muscle groups which are the legs, which raises the heart rate more effectively to benefit stamina and fitness. Cycling in general is a good way to lose excess body fat. Cycling burns as many as 300 calories per hour, even more going uphill. Cycling boost your metabolic rate even after you’ve finished your ride. Just regular cycling 30 minute every day can help you to shed 11 pounds of body fat a year.

Cycling uphill, or any form of regular exercise has many obvious benefits, but there are some we don’t realize. There is actually evidence that exercise can arrest the aging process. According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology titled, “Age-associated Declines in Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Protein Quality Control Factors are Minimized by Exercise Training,” researchers found animals that underwent exercise training, consisting of treadmill running at 60% of the initial maximal aerobic capacity, which is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise, reversed or attenuated significant age-associated (detrimental) declines in mitochondrial mass,” as well as a wide range of additional age-associated mitochondrial changes. Here is how researchers summarized their conclusions: “Exercise training also decreased the gap between young and old animals in other measured parameters including NRF1, TFAM, Fis1, Mfn1 and polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNPase) levels. We conclude that exercise training can help minimize detrimental skeletal muscle aging deficits by improving mitochondrial protein quality control and biogenesis.”

Just as the old adage states; nothing that comes easy is worth having. Before you decide to cycle the hills of San Diego, here is a plan that may help you to conquer those hills. Start out at your doctor’s office. A checkup won’t kill you and you can get some good advice from your doctor while you’re there. Then start easy to build your endurance. Set out on cycling a distance that gets your heart rate elevated and keeps it elevated for a while. When your body gets accustomed to that distance go further and cycle longer. Listen to your body, it will tell you what you need and when too much is too much. Before you know it, you’ll be climbing hills in no time at all.

 

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It’s not always a bed of Roses

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Author of “The Lottery” first published in the New Yorker magazine in 1948

Recently I read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Not only was this a good read but I thought about it more hours after I read it. To be more specific, it was somewhat haunting. I particularly enjoyed Jackson’s use of imagery. Her writing style, with short and concise sentences, managed to paint a picture in the mind of this reader with explicit detail to the human emotion of characters. The author seemed to guide me through the story so well, I felt like I was a witness rather than a reader. I’m not going to divulge the end because I strongly suggest this as a good read and I don’t want to ruin it. Instead, I’ll let the author pilot readers to the reveal as she did for me. I will say there is a surprise.

But this article is not about the story itself; rather the reaction the author received from readers after it was published. Jackson described the letters she received after The Lottery was first published as falling into one of three categories, “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old fashion abuse.” She went on to add that it wasn’t until this story was dramatized and even made into a ballet did she start receiving letters which addressed her more politely.

When I sat down to read this, the person who recommended this story wouldn’t tell me anything about it, especially the ending. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect that ending. I can certainly understand the bewilderment, but I can’t understand why some readers gave opinions of ridicule.

If someone reads the work of Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe, they expect to get scared with a tale where the good guy doesn’t get the girl in the end and rides off into the sunset. There is not much of a surprise, with the exception of a turning point in the plot, because the reader pretty much knows what to expect. But if an author composes a tale that doesn’t end the way a reader expects, they on occasion feel as though they’ve been manipulated.

Unless their writing instructions or a technical manual, the writer’s mission is to chronicle life and the human experience during our time on earth, which on occasion, is not always good.  In many cases life takes unexpected turns and twist. Whether a story is fiction or fact, shouldn’t it reflect those surprises to achieve the reality of life that many can identify with? Even a romance novel will incorporate despair and conflict. Not that I’ve ever read one, I have heard many say this. Ok, I may have read one, but without the bad elements of a situation, how can we appreciate the good?

Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to, and it doesn’t always end the way we want it to either. The fact that life itself must end at some point is something no one wants, unless their suicidal. The struggles of life and even death itself are an important refection of humanity. So don’t blame the writer, their just doing their job.

 

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Planting tips for the Urban Gardner

Légumes

Légumes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing fresh vegetables is an American tradition gaining a new popularity. Fresh grown vegetables taste better, help to promote healthier a diet, and reduce grocery costs. Gardening may also be a means of reducing stress and help to ease the impact on our environment. To have a highly functioning and well-designed garden you can’t just put some plants in the ground. It may require some planning and a little work, but the results of your efforts may be better than expected. There are some simple steps that can increase a garden’s efficiency, the yield, and reduce unexpected problems.

First determine the amount of garden space available for use, and then evaluate your family’s vegetable choices. This will help in selecting the variety and quantity of vegetables to grow. Determine how many people will be eating the vegetables, and the type they eat the most. Input from each member will initiate interest and help establish which vegetables are favorites and which are not. If you get your children involved in the routine upkeep and charting growth progress, your garden can also serve as an educational tool. This will teach a child where vegetables come from and how they grow. The more familiar children become with vegetables, they will be more likely to eat them.

Optimum utilization of space can make a good gardener a great one. Smaller gardens are capable of growing fewer vegetables, but they’re not as restricted as you may think. If space is limited, the challenge is to get the most yields from that small space. Take some time to learn which vegetable plants can be used in small spaces and produce bigger yields. Some fruits and vegetables such as zucchini and squash take up more room than others and may produce less. According to the University of Illinois Extension Web site, “for small gardens, plant vegetables with a high yield per plant space such as bush snap beans, bush lima beans, leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli.”

Larger gardens are not limited as smaller spaces; they have more options in terms of variety and yield. Plants that require extra room while they grow can be included. Things like watermelon, cucumbers, and cantaloupe grow on vines that tend to spread out as they get larger. If you have a large area to designate for a garden, keep in mind the more time and maintenance may be required. Also, make sure the amount the vegetables from that larger garden doesn’t surpass your family’s produce needs, or you’ll be giving vegetables to friends and neighbors. Giving away more than you need is better than wasting vegetables. This may not be a concern if you plan to do some canning.

Preparation of soil prior to planting can make a world of difference in the overall health of plants and amount of vegetables produced. If the quality or type of soil isn’t the best for the plants you want to grow, you don’t have to abandon a gardening project. It may require some work, but you can change soil to improve the quality and create a better growing environment. Soil issues can range from something simple like adding specific fertilizer before planting, to changing the soil’s composition entirely.  For example, adding organic material like compost or peat moss to soil that contains a lot of clay or sand will improve the overall condition. Check to see what resources are available in your area. Some counties in the United States offer agriculture or extension services that analyze soil and give recommendations at little or no charge. Another very useful information source is the internet. Several farm bureaus, universities and government agencies now have websites that provide a wealth of horticulture information.

Choosing the right fertilizer may require some research. Not all plants are the same, and fertilizers are different for that reason. This is why a multipurpose fertilizer used for house plants may not be the best for a garden. The contents of fertilizers vary to address specific plant needs. Three main ingredients of most fertilizers are nitrogen for green-leafy foliage, phosphorus for root-structure, and potassium to help roots and seeds to resist disease. Most fertilizers will include a series of three numbers on the label or packaging. The first number represents levels of nitrogen, the second represents phosphorus, and the third number represents levels of potassium.

Before planting vegetables, review steps in the planning and preparation phase. This includes designating the right garden size and resolving soil issues. Try not to waver from the amount of plants to include and the variety of vegetables you choose during the planning phase. Plants that require the same type of fertilizer should be planted in the same areas of the garden.

After you complete the planting, you’ll need to determine how much and how often to water your garden. This will depend on the region where you live and the type of soil in your garden. Water behaves differently in different environments. In dry climates, soil may not retain moisture because the water evaporates faster. This will require using more water and watering gardens more often, or adding a moisture retaining ingredient to the soil. It’s important to check for moisture about four or five inches below the surface to make sure the soil hasn’t dried out. Inspect plant leaves to make sure aren’t wilted and from becoming too dry.

In humid climates, water evaporates at a slower rate. This may help soil retain moisture longer, and the garden may not need to be watered as often. Closely monitor how long soil stays moist to identify watering needs. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Web site recommends one deep watering is better than watering several times lightly.

Pulling weeds from your garden should be done on a regular basis and never neglected for long periods of time. The more you pull weeds the better because weeds will not increase in size. The bigger weeds get the more damage they can do to your vegetable plants. The roots of weeds can disturb the environment for vegetable plants and deplete nutrients from the soil. Think of pulling weeds as your quiet time to unwind and enjoy the serenity your garden provides.

Your choice to plant a garden has more benefits than just fresh vegetables. You may not realize the far reaching effects your garden has. AcrossAmericathere are many others just like you with gardens. Even though your efforts seem to be on a small scale, when combined with others they make a big difference. The vegetables you’ve grown weren’t transported from somewhere else. This helped to reduce transporting and consumption of fossil fuels.America’s dependency on foreign oil was also reduced. We can all breathe a little easier because there were less carbon emissions, and the plants in your garden produce oxygen. You and many other Americans will enjoy those fresh vegetables, but all ofAmericawill enjoy the benefits from those gardens.

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