Don’t Believe All Your Mama Told You!

Despite what you may have been told:
DebunkedMyth– Poinsettias are NOT toxic
– Vaccines do NOT cause the flu
– Cold weather can NOT make you sick
– Sugar does NOT make the kids over active
– Eating holiday turkey does NOT make you drowsy
– Reading in the dark will NOT harm your eyesight and neither will sitting too close to the TV.

A study that looked at 23,000 Instances of poinsettia exposure found that none was fatal and the worst reactions were stomachaches. So, as you think about decorating for the holidays, don’t worry about having poinsettias around.

“Those beautiful flowers you’ve been so wary of keeping in your home during the holidays, lest they poison pets or children, are not toxic,” reports Live Science. Citing a study that looked at nearly 23,000 cases of
poinsettia exposure reported to poison control centers. None was fatal, and the most severe reactions were stomachaches.

This is just one of the supposed medical facts that the website knocks down as myth. Live Science says the poinsettia fears probably were sparked by a 1919 case in which a child was said to have died after eating parts of a poinsettia, but neither the death nor the poinsettia connection was ever confirmed.

Live Science also addressed the myth that vaccines can cause the flu. No, they can’t. The flu shot contains
flu viruses, but they are inactivated. “A dead virus cannot be resurrected to cause the flu,” Rachel Vreeman, a doctor who has written about medical myths, told the website.

Another myth says that cold weather makes you sick. No. People feel more chilled when it’s cold, but that does not translate into actually getting a cold, a major study found. “Whether … shivering in a frigid
room or in an icy bath, people were no more likely to get sick after sniffing cold germs than they were at more comfortable temperatures.” We probably get more colds in winter just because there are more people
stuck together indoors, making it easier to spread germs.

A lot of parents are convinced that sugar makes kids really wired. Nope, even though many parents swear this is true. Live Science writes: “In one particularly clever study, kids were given Kool-Aid sweetened with
aspartame, a compound that contains no sugar. Researchers told half the parents the Kool-Aid contained sugar, and told the other half the truth.” Wrist sensors on the kids found they were “actually acting subdued,” but the parents who thought their kids had ingested a sugary drink “reported that their children were uncontrollable and; overactive.” More likely it is, the excitement of parties where sugary treats are served that makes kids wild.

Some believe that eating holiday turkey makes you drowsy. You will read stories about tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, and how it makes you want to nap – but, in fact, chicken and beef have pretty similar amounts of the chemical. Your sleepiness is probably just from overeating, with lots of carbo-
hydrates and a few alcoholic beverages added in, experts told Live Science.

And, in this season of longer nights and more indoor activity, it’s good to know that neither reading in the dark nor sitting too close to the TV ruins your eyesight. These behaviors may tire your eyes because they work harder, but “there is no evidence that these practices cause longterm damage,” Vreeman told
Live Science. However, she said, if you tend to sit so close to the TV (or computer) that your eyes
hurt, it’s probably worth getting tested for nearsightedness.

Think Your Email is Private? Dream On!

Email2In just the last several months, hackers have leaked emails belonging to some highly influential people — former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta – to name a few. Some of the hacked emails contain embarrassing tidbits and became a major theme in the U.S. presidential campaign.

The hacking problem, however, extends far and wide, hitting not only those with influence and power, but plenty of ordinary Americans, too.

In September, for instance, Yahoo confirmed that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen from the company’s network in 2014 by what it suspects was a “state-sponsored actor.” The pilfered information may have included names, email addresses and answers to some security questions.

Such high-profile breaches serve as a reminder to take basic precautions when it comes to using email, whether it’s for work or personally. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails unless you have verified the sender’s identity.

Phishing emails — like the one that reportedly allowed hackers to access Podesta’s personal account — often contain links or attachments that can install malware on computers, allowing cybercrooks to get their hands on sensitive personal information, send spam and commit fraud.

Think twice about what you write in your emails, said Davia Temin, an executive coach and crisis manager who has worked with victims of hacks. Many business and government leaders, she said, have long known that they shouldn’t expect privacy with regard to email, which can be subpoenaed in lawsuits or government investigations or land in the wrong hands through forwarding.

“Folks who are in high levels of leadership within corporations or other organizations pretty much know intellectually that they should never put in an email something they wouldn’t want” covered by the media, said Temin. She noted, though, that many still find it difficult to censor themselves.

The Powell hack, like other recent high-profile breaches may have been conducted by parties with ties to the Russian government. The hack revealed that Powell considered Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a “national disgrace,” Hillary Clinton “greedy” and former Vice President Dick Cheney an “idiot.”

“People, no matter who they are, are human, and their need for self-expression, or to get things done efficiently, is great. They often get caught up in the moment and do things they shouldn’t do,” said Temin.

Like it or not, email messages, particularly work-related, should be innocuous, added Temin. They obviously shouldn’t contain corporate secrets, but snarky remarks about others, lewd comments, angry rants or complaints about the boss are a bad idea also.

More than a few workers, she noted, have been shown the door for writing a boss-bashing email that circulated widely, before somehow landing in said boss’s inbox. It’s also best to assume, noted Temin, that your managers have the ability to snoop on your emails, even if they aren’t actually doing so. “There are all kinds of monitoring devices that companies have on email,” said Temin.

You don’t have to be stilted or old fashioned, but the tone of your emails should be respectful and a bit formal, she explained. Don’t hit send, she added, unless you’ve taken the time to re-read what you’ve written and are fairly confident that you’ve chosen your words carefully.

“Pretty much all of us have to re-read our emails at least once after we’ve written them and think about how they would appear to people who don’t know us and don’t know what we are talking about,” said Temin.Email2

Imagine a House Without Utility Bills

You no longer need to imagine living without utility bills or, for that matter, operating a commercial building without utility bills. In California it is a reality, a reality mandated by 2020 for all new homes and by 2030 for all new commercial buildings.

ZeroNetHomeThe California Energy Commission will require these structures to meet a “zero net energy” code. The code requires these new structures to consume no more energy over a year than the structure generates, such as by solar roof panels.

Some industry analysts believe the ultra energy-efficient goal is too ambitious. Builders are targeting tech companies to help them meet the goal, from Internet-connected thermostats, light dimmers and more gadgets that can help to reduce a home’s footprint.

“We have to figure out a way to deliver this without hiking the price,” Dan Bridleman, senior vice president for sustainability, technology and strategic sourcing at KB Home, told The Wall Street Journal.

Compliance with the ZNE code could raise the price of a $300,000 home by $23,000, according to Mike Hodgson, chairman of the California Building Industry Association’s energy committee. For each $1,000 increase in home prices, 14,000 families in California would be priced out of the market, according to a study by the National Association of Homebuilders. “We’ll have very efficient homes, but I don’t know who is going to be able to afford them,” Hodgson says.

The California Energy Commission, however, is banking on energy efficiency becoming more affordable with the costs of solar and other energy-saving features decreasing over the next few years. “You basically purchase an income stream in reduced energy bills,” says Andrew McAllister, the commissioner of the Energy Commission. “The barrier is getting the financial community to recognize the low operating costs.”

California legislators have set a goal that by 2050 the state will reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 80 percent below the levels it produced in 1990. Buildings are becoming a primary target to reach that goal. Residential buildings currently account for about 32 percent of electricity usage across the state while commercial buildings use 37 percent.

Some builders already are pushing forward. Meritage Homes Corp. began offering its first ZNE-standard homes four years ago, priced at the median market price for the local market. So far, it has built and sold 100 of these homes in the U.S.; half of the homes have been in California. The company now looks to go beyond the ZNE standard by building homes sealed more tightly and that consume even less energy so they’ll need smaller solar panels to power them.

Adages, Meanings & Origins

Our language is filled with strange expressions that we often use and hear. Our understanding of these maxims usually is clear, but if you just look at the expressions some seem pretty strange.

Take the phrase “Bite the Bullet,” for example. Do we really know anyone who chews on bullets? Not likely, but we certainly know that it simply means to accept something difficult or unpleasant. In times past there was no quick access to anesthesia before emergency surgery during battle, or no time to administer it. The surgeon told patients to bite down on a bullet in an effort to distract them from the pain.

Paint the Town Red. One theory suggests this phrase was born out of the brothels of the American West, and referred to men behaving as though their whole town were a red-light district. A more common explanation is that the phrase owes its origin to one legendary night of drunkenness. In 1837, the Marquis of Waterford – a known lush and mischief maker – led a group of friends on a night of drinking through the English town of Melton Mowbray. The bender culminated in vandalism after Waterford and his fellow revelers knocked over flowerpots, pulled knockers off of doors and broke the windows of some of the town’s buildings. To top it off, the mob literally painted a tollgate, the doors of several homes and a swan statue with red paint. The marquis and his pranksters later compensated Melton for the damages, but their drunken escapade likely is why “paint the town red” became shorthand for a wild night out.

Give Him the Cold Shoulder. Rudely tell someone he isn’t welcome. In medieval England, giving someone the cold shoulder was a polite way to let guest know it was time to leave by giving them a cold piece of meat from the shoulder of beef, mutton or pork.

Go Cold Turkey. People once believed that during withdrawal the skin of drug addicts became translucent, hart to touch and covered with goose bumps – like the skin of a plucked turkey.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water. Today we accept this as meaning that family comes before everything else. In ancient Middle Eastern culture, blood rituals between men symbolized bonds that were greater than those of family. The saying also relates to “blood brothers” – warriors wjho symbolically shared the blood shed together in battle and who were said to have stronger bonds than biological brothers.

Break the Ice. Today this has nothing to do with ice. It simply means to initiate a friendship or start a project. But before the days or trains or cars, port cities that thrived on trade suffered in winter because frozen waters prevented ships from entering the city. Small ships known as “icebreakers” would rescue icebound ships by breaking the ice and providing a path for them.

Butter Someone Up. When we say this, we mean that we flatter someone to ingratiate ourselves with them. The phrase stems from an ancient Indian custom of throwing balls of butter at statues of the gods to seek their favor.

Cat Got Your Tongue? When someone is at a loss for words, we may utter this expression. This phrase has two possible origins. One might refer to the cat-o’-nine-tails whip used by the English Navy for flogging. The whip caused so much pain victims were left speechless. Or the phrase may have come from the practice of cutting out the tongues of liars and blasphemers and feeding them to cats.

Go the Whole Nine Yards. World War II fighter pilots received a 9-yard chain of ammunition. When a pilot used the whole chain on one target, it was said he gave it “the whole nine yards.”

Caught Red-Handed. An old law said that if soeone butchered an animal that didn’t belong tom, he had to be caught with the animal’s blood on his hands to be convicted. Being caught with freshly cut meat did not make the person guilty.

Wake Up On the Wrong Side of the Bed. Wake up in a bad mood. The left side of the body used to be considered sinister. To ward off evil, innkeepers made sure the left side of the bed was pushed against a wall so guests had to get up on the right side of the bed.

Eat Humble Pie. Today this simply means to make an apology and accept the humiliation that goes along with it. During the Middle Ages, the lord of a manor would hold a feast after hunting. Tjhe lord would receive the finest cut of meat at the feast, while those of lower standing were served a pie filled with the entrails and innards, known as “umbles.” Receiving “umble pie” was considered humiliating because it told the others at the feast of the guest’s lower status.

Kick the Bucket and Bucket List. To kick the bucket is to die and the bucket list outlines what one wants to accomplish before doing so. Used to be that when a cow was killed at a slaughterhouse, a bucket was placed beneath it while the cow was positioned on a pulley. Sometimes the animal would kick during the process and literally kick the buck before being killed.

More Than You Can Shake a Stick At. Farmers controlled their sheep by shaking their staffs to indicate where the animals should go. When farmers had more sheep than they could control, it was said they had “more than you can shake a stick at.”

No Spring Chicken. Chicken farmers in New England generally sold chickens in the spring, so chickens hatched in the spring yielded better earnings than the older birds that survived the winter. Sometimes the farmers tried to sell the old birds for the price of a new spring chicken. Clever buyers complained that the fowl was “no spring chicken,,” so the term came to represent anyone past their prime.

Pleased As Punch. In Punch and Judy, a 17th century puppet show for children, Punch always killed people and always felt pleased with himself afterwards. Hence today’s meaning of the phrase is to be very happy.

Rub the Wrong Way. Today’s meaning is to irritate, bother or annoy someone. It stems from colonial times when servants were required to wet-bub and dry-rub the oak floors each week. Doing the rubbing against the grain caused streaks to form, making the wood look awful and irritating the owner.

Saved By the Bell. Today’s meaning is simply to be rescued from an unwanted situation. But originally it literally meant life over death. Being buried alive once was a common occurrence and those who feard such a fate were buried in special coffins that connected to a bell above ground. Guards listened for bells in case they had to dig up a living person and save them by the bell.

Show Your True Colors. Reveal your tyrue nature. Warships once flew multiple flags to confuse their enemies. The rules of warfare, however, stated that a ship had to hoist its true flag before firing, thus displaying its country’s true colors.

Spill the Beans. Beans were used in ancient Greece to vote for or against candidates entering various organizations. One container was used for each candidate and group members would place a white bean in the container if they approved of the candidate and a black bean if they did not. A clumsy voter sometimes knocked over the container, revealing all of the beans and allowing everyone to see the otherwise confidential votes.

Halloween History & Origin

Halloween is the one of the oldest holidays we celebrate. It’s also one of the most popular holidays, second only to Christmas. The history of Halloween make the holiday more fascinating.

For many people Halloween is a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating and having theme parties. Others see it as a time of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits that should be avoided at all costs. Some see it as evil, but mostly it is celebrated with no reference to pagan rituals or the occult.

halloweenartHalloween is on October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar. It was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back more than 2000 years. It is the evening before All Saints Day, which was created by Christians to convert pagans, and is celebrated on November 1st. The Catholic church honored saints on this designated day.

There are many versions of the origins and old customs of Halloween, some remain consistent by all accounts. Different cultures view Halloween somewhat differently but traditional Halloween practices remain the same. Halloween culture can be traced back to the Druids, a Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. Roots lay in the feast of Samhain, which was annually on October 31st to honor the dead.
Samhain signifies “summers end” or November. Samhain was a harvest festival with huge sacred bonfires, marking the end of the Celtic year and beginning of a new one. Many of the practices involved in this celebration fed on superstition.

The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages at night. Since not all spirits were thought to be friendly, gifts and treats were left out to pacify the evil and ensure next years crops would be plentiful. This custom evolved into trick-or-treating.