Audio Fest NOW and Best Buy!

~Written in a partnership with Best Buy and their Audio Fest. All opinions are my own.Did you know Audio Fest is happening right now at Best Buy stores across the country? It goes from March 2nd to April 4th, 2014, and is filled with specials, deals, and events for all things audio–making Best Buy the place to be! I just went this weekend We’re big music fans and especially since having kids because there’s nothing better to cure a bad day or a sad mood than a DANCE PARTY!Maybe you h ave a home entertainment area? Ours is in our basement and our 4-year-old calls it the movie theater. It makes family movie nights extra special! Best Buy can enhance your experience and upgrade your …

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Fires, floods, winds and snow – 4 seasons in 1

By being connected through social media we find out and éxperience’ where others live around the world without actually leaving home! That is what makes social media so fascinating – the fact that we can keep in touch thanks to modern technology, being connected to the internet and even seeing/sharing immediate pictures of our lives and day to day experiences. Fires have been near here the last few days, floods and strong winds in UK and heavy snow falls in USA and Canada.Valentine’s day yesterday was interesting as to how it is celebrated globally. What is extra special is seeing not just it being celebrated with couples in love, but also families counting their blessings having the love of children, friends and other ‘friends’ they have …

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12 days in beautiful sunny and warm Queensland, Australia

We have only recently returned from 12 days in south east Queensland catching up with family, friends and was so pleased to be able to meet up with some of our mesothelioma family while on the Gold Coast.The first evening we attended a birthday dinner for Keith’s brother – Ross who turned the big 60. A great night spent with family and friends. The next night he held a party and we caught up with grandkids and son Elton. So very proud of him, he has just moved back to Queensland/Brisbane where he is working in a profession that he loves and is so good at too – Building Design.Friday morning I caught the bus to Pacific Fair shoppingtown and met Kim and her beautiful mum Margaret. They …

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Sleepy’s Grand Openings in Chicago (giveaway)

I previously wrote about how the mattress professionals were opening NEW Sleepy’s stores all over the Chicago area. Well, I just happened to be shopping in Algonquin with my mom so we headed 15 minutes north to check out the new Sleepy’s in Crystal Lake, IL!It’s right on the corner and can’t be missed. It’s a nice little store FILLED with mattresses. We were greeted as we entered and mentioned we just wanted to look around. I stopped to see all these great pillow first and we quickly had tons of questions for Sleepy’s, haha. There were pillows designed for side sleepers and stomach sleepers and cooling pillows and… so much to choose from!Then we moved on to the mattresses… my mom is looking for a …

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Positive emotion increases life satisfaction and creates a happy state

Sep. 10, 2013 — By combining the experience of self-reported positive and negative emotions among 1,400 US-residents, researchers created four affective profiles which they then used to discern differences in happiness, depression, life satisfaction and happiness-increasing strategies. The differences between these profiles suggested that promoting positive emotions can positively influence a depressive-to-happy state (defined as increasing levels of happiness and decreasing levels of depression across the affective profile model), as well as increasing life satisfaction.The study, titled “The affective profiles in the USA: happiness, depression, life satisfaction, and happiness-increasing strategies”, was published on September 10th in PeerJ, and targets some of the important aspects of mental health that represent positive measures of well-being. Happiness, for example, can be usefully understood as the opposite of depression. Life satisfaction, another positive measure of well-being, refers instead to a comparison process in which individuals assess the quality of their lives on the basis of their own self-imposed standards. As people adopt strategies to increase their overall well-being, it is important to know which ones are capable of having a positive influence.”We examined 8 ‘happiness-increasing’ strategies which were first identified by Tkach & Lyubomirsky in 2006″, said Danilo Garcia from the University of Gothenburg and the researcher leading the investigation. “These were Social Affiliation (for example, “Support and encourage friends”), Partying and Clubbing (for example, “Drink alcohol”), Mental Control (for example, “Try not to think about being unhappy”), Instrumental Goal Pursuit (for example, “Study”), Passive Leisure (for example, “Surf the internet”), Active Leisure (for example, “Exercise”), Religion (for example, “Seek support from faith”) and Direct Attempts (for example, “Act happy and smile”).”The researchers found that individuals with different affective profiles did indeed differ in the positive measures of well-being and all 8 strategies being studied. For example, individuals classified as self-fulfilling (high positive affect, low negative affect) were the ones who showed lower levels of depression, tended to be happier, and were more satisfied with their lives.With respect to specific happiness-increasing strategies, the researchers found that strategies related to agentic (e.g. autonomy, responsibility, self-acceptance, intern locus of control, self-control), communal (e.g., social affiliation), and spiritual (e.g., religion) values were positively related to a ‘self-fulfilling’ profile. “This was the most surprising finding, because it supports suggestions about how self-awareness based on the self, our relation to others, and our place on earth might lead to greater happiness and mental harmony within the individual” said Garcia.

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Vegetarian diet for fish: Scientists discover key to easing aquaculture’s reliance on wild-caught fish

Aug. 6, 2013 — For the first time scientists have been able to develop a completely vegetarian diet that works for marine fish raised in aquaculture, the key to making aquaculture a sustainable industry as the world’s need for protein increases. The findings led by Aaron Watson and Allen Place at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology, are published in the August issue of the journal Lipids.”Aquaculture cannot sustainably grow and expand to meet growing global population and protein demand without developing and evaluating alternative ingredients to reduce fishmeal and fish oil use,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Aaron Watson.Supported by another paper published in the Journal of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the team has proven that a completely plant-based food combination can support fast-growing marine carnivores like cobia and gilthead sea bream in reaching maturity just as well as — and sometimes better than — conventional diets of fish meal and fish oil made from wild-caught fish.Nearly half of the world’s fish and shellfish supply is supplied by aquaculture — growing fish in tanks or ponds instead of catching them from the oceans or streams — and scientists have been trying to figure out how to make growing fish sustainable. Many high-value fish such as cobia, sea bream, and striped bass are predators and eat other fish to survive and grow. As a result, their food in captivity is made of a combination of fishmeal and fish oil, and must be caught from the wild to feed them. This is expensive (for example, it can take 5 pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of fish), and it further depletes the world’s fisheries.”This makes aquaculture completely sustainable,” said Dr. Allen Place. “The pressure on natural fisheries in terms of food fish can be relieved. We can now sustain a good protein source without harvesting fish to feed fish.”The replacement of fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture diets has been a goal for researchers for decades but has met with limited success. …

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Pornography reinforces sexist attitudes among a subgroup of heterosexuals

Sep. 6, 2013 — Pornography has long held a controversial place in society, and its relationship with a number of behaviors and attitudes has been highly debated. But the concern remains: How does viewing pornography affect our attitudes towards women? A recent paper published in the Journal of Communication found that exposure to pornography was related to and increased sexist attitudes, but only among a subgroup of users.Gert Martin Hald, Theis Lange, University of Copenhagen, and Neil Malamuth, University of California, Los Angeles, asked 200 Danish adults aged 18-30 about their past pornography consumption; assessed a central part of their personality (the trait of agreeableness i.e., individual low in agreeableness typically holder higher levels of antagonism, coldness, hostility, suspiciousness, disagreeability, unfriendliness, and self-interest); and exposed them to hardcore pornography in the laboratory. They then evaluated how participants’ personality and the exposure to pornography affected a variety of sexist attitudes.Among women increased past pornography consumption was not found to be associated with any of the sexist attitudes investigated. Among men increased past pornography consumption was initially found to be associated with more negative attitudes toward women including more hostility, negative prejudices, and stereotypes.However, when the researchers actually exposed participants to pornography, personality (agreeableness) was found to influence the relationship between pornography and sexist attitudes so that it was only among participants low in agreeableness that pornography was found to increase sexist attitudes. Among this group it was found that laboratory exposure to pornography modestly increased hostile sexist attitudes. Further this increase was found to be brought about by increases in sexual arousal to the pornographic exposure material. For all other participants, pornography exposure was found not to influence sexist attitudes.”The study is important because it may help nuance the view of effects of porn and enable us to better understand for whom adverse effects of porn are most likely and the mechanisms by which such effects occur. This could be used in prevention, education, or clinical interventions,” said Hald, the lead author. …

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Interstellar winds buffeting our solar system have shifted direction

Sep. 5, 2013 — Scientists, including University of New Hampshire astrophysicists involved in NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, have discovered that the particles streaming into the solar system from interstellar space have likely changed direction over the last 40 years.The finding helps scientists map our location within the Milky Way galaxy and is crucial for understanding our place in the cosmos through the vast sweep of time — where we’ve come from, where we’re currently located, and where we’re going in our journey through the galaxy.Additionally, scientists now gain deeper insight into the dynamic nature of the interstellar winds, which has major implications on the size, structure, and nature of our sun’s heliosphere — the gigantic bubble that surrounds our solar system and helps shield us from dangerous incoming galactic radiation.The results, based on data spanning four decades from 11 different spacecraft, including IBEX, were published in the journal Science September 5, 2013.”It was very surprising to find that changes in the interstellar flow show up on such short time scales because interstellar clouds are astronomically large,” says Eberhard Möbius, UNH principal scientist for the IBEX mission and co-author on the Science paper. Adds Möbius, “However, this finding may teach us about the dynamics at the edges of these clouds — while clouds in the sky may drift along slowly, the edges often are quite fuzzy and dynamic. What we see could be the expression of such behavior.”The data from the IBEX spacecraft show that neutral interstellar atoms are flowing into the solar system from a different direction than previously observed. Interstellar atoms flow past Earth as the interstellar cloud surrounding the solar system passes the sun at 23 kilometers per second (50,000 miles per hour).The latest IBEX measurements of the interstellar wind direction differed from those made by the Ulysses spacecraft in the 1990s. That difference led the IBEX team to compare the IBEX measurements to data gathered by 11 spacecraft between 1972 and 2011. The scientists wanted to gather as much evidence from as many sources as possible to determine whether the newer instruments simply provided more accurate results, or whether the wind direction itself changed over the years.The various sets of observations relied on three different methods to measure the incoming interstellar wind. IBEX and Ulysses directly measured neutral helium atoms as they coursed through the inner solar system. IBEX’s measurements are close to Earth, while Ulysses’ measurements were taken between 1.3 and 2 times further from the sun.In the final analysis, the direction of the wind obtained most recently by IBEX data differs from the direction obtained from the earlier measurements, which strongly suggests the wind itself has changed over time.”Prior to this study, we were struggling to understand why our current measurements from IBEX differed from those of the past,” says co-author Nathan Schwadron, lead scientist for the IBEX Science Operations Center at UNH. “We are finally able to resolve why these fundamental measurements have been changing with time: we are moving through a changing interstellar medium.”

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Woodland salamanders indicators of forest ecosystem recovery

Aug. 28, 2013 — Woodland salamanders are a viable indicator of forest ecosystem recovery, according to researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station.PSW Research Wildlife Biologist Dr. Hartwell Welsh and Garth Hodgson examined two species of woodland salamanders across four stages of tree development at Mill Creek — a disturbed old-growth redwood forest in northern California. They found that the numbers and body condition of two common species of salamander tracked closely with forest stand growth, development, and structural changes. Using salamander population numbers and physiological condition on adjacent, never harvested old-growth parkland to reference advancements along this developmental pathway, they demonstrated relationships between salamander counts and body condition and aspects of forest advancement including stand age, tree size, ambient moisture, canopy closure, and litter depth.The case study established that when woodland salamanders are found in high abundance, it indicates a healthy forest, having undergone ecological advancement and ecosystem recovery.There have been concerns about using indicator species as metrics of ecosystem conditions; however, amphibians are increasingly becoming accepted as researchers verify their applicability and usefulness. The woodland salamanders evaluated in Mill Creek were deemed credible due to their conservatism, trophic role, and high site fidelity, which tie them closely to conditions of place.The findings of this case study are important because old-growth forests are quickly diminishing, but they provide crucial environmental services to society. According to the researchers, this type of forest is a unique carbon sink containing the most abundant land carbon stocks on the planet. Old-growth forests sequester carbon pollution and support the world’s most diverse ecosystems.Mill Creek is an old-growth forest located in Del Norte, Calif. in a geographically limited coastal redwood forest bioregion, which has seen extensive commercial logging for more than 100 years. …

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Woodland salamanders indicators of forest ecosystem recovery

Aug. 28, 2013 — Woodland salamanders are a viable indicator of forest ecosystem recovery, according to researchers from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station.PSW Research Wildlife Biologist Dr. Hartwell Welsh and Garth Hodgson examined two species of woodland salamanders across four stages of tree development at Mill Creek — a disturbed old-growth redwood forest in northern California. They found that the numbers and body condition of two common species of salamander tracked closely with forest stand growth, development, and structural changes. Using salamander population numbers and physiological condition on adjacent, never harvested old-growth parkland to reference advancements along this developmental pathway, they demonstrated relationships between salamander counts and body condition and aspects of forest advancement including stand age, tree size, ambient moisture, canopy closure, and litter depth.The case study established that when woodland salamanders are found in high abundance, it indicates a healthy forest, having undergone ecological advancement and ecosystem recovery.There have been concerns about using indicator species as metrics of ecosystem conditions; however, amphibians are increasingly becoming accepted as researchers verify their applicability and usefulness. The woodland salamanders evaluated in Mill Creek were deemed credible due to their conservatism, trophic role, and high site fidelity, which tie them closely to conditions of place.The findings of this case study are important because old-growth forests are quickly diminishing, but they provide crucial environmental services to society. According to the researchers, this type of forest is a unique carbon sink containing the most abundant land carbon stocks on the planet. Old-growth forests sequester carbon pollution and support the world’s most diverse ecosystems.Mill Creek is an old-growth forest located in Del Norte, Calif. in a geographically limited coastal redwood forest bioregion, which has seen extensive commercial logging for more than 100 years. …

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Video killed the interview star

July 29, 2013 — Job applicants interviewed through video conferencing come across as less likeable, according to a new study from McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business.The study — conducted by Greg Sears and Haiyan Zhang when they were PhD students at DeGroote, and co-authored by associate professor Willi Wiesner — shows that using video conferencing for job interviews disadvantages both employers and candidates.”Increasingly, video technology is being used in employment interviewing because companies feel it provides convenience and cost savings. Despite their growing use, our study shows that video conference interviews are not equivalent to face-to-face interviews,” explains Sears, now an associate professor at the Sprott School of Business.With use of video conferencing growing — in recent surveys up to 65 per cent of employers have reported using the technology — the DeGroote study raises concerns about widespread use of video in recruitment.In simulated job interviews, candidates who were interviewed by video were rated lower by interviewers and were less likely to be recommended for hiring. On the other side of the webcam, candidates also rated their interviewers as less attractive, personable, trustworthy and competent.Accurate assessments of candidates and positive evaluations of interviewers are essential as organizations compete for talent. Candidates who evaluate their interviewers more positively are more likely to accept a job offer.Wiesner, associate professor, Human Resources at DeGroote, says, “These findings suggest that using video conferencing can adversely affect both applicant reactions and interviewer judgments. Video conferencing places technological barriers between applicants and interviewers. Employers and applicants should work to reduce the barriers that arise through video conferencing and improve the interpersonal aspects of the interview process.”The researchers recommend that video conferencing be used only for preliminary screening interviews. Final selection of candidates should be conducted through face-to-face interviews.The findings were published in the journal Management Decision.10 tips for using video conferencing for job interviewsUse the same interview approach on all candidates who are competing for the same job. Don’t interview some by video and some in person. Candidates might first be interviewed using video technology, with successful candidates invited for on-site face-to-face interviews. Both interviewers and applicants should use the best equipment and internet connections they can afford to lessen delays or technical limitations which can lead to conversations becoming less fluid or interactive. …

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From the mouths of babes: Toddlers’ speech is far more advanced than previously thought

June 14, 2013 — The sound of small children chattering away as they learn to talk has always been considered cute — but not particularly sophisticated. However, research by a Newcastle University expert has shown that toddlers’ speech is far more advanced than previously understood.Dr Cristina Dye, a lecturer in child language development, found that two to three- year-olds are using grammar far sooner than expected.She studied fifty French speaking youngsters aged between 23 and 37 months, capturing tens of thousands of their utterances.Dr Dye, who carried out the research while at Cornell University in the United States, found that the children were using ‘little words’ which form the skeleton of sentences such as a, an, can, is, an, far sooner than previously thought.Dr Dye and her team used advanced recording technology including highly sensitive hidden microphones placed close to the children, to capture the precise sounds the children voiced. They spent years painstakingly analysing every minute sound made by the toddlers and the context in which it was produced.They found a clear, yet previously undetected, pattern of sounds and puffs of air, which consistently replaced grammatical words in many of the children’s utterances.Dr Dye said: “Many of the toddlers we studied made a small sound, a soft breath, or a pause, at exactly the place that a grammatical word would normally be uttered.””The fact that this sound was always produced in the correct place in the sentence leads us to believe that young children are knowledgeable of grammatical words. They are far more sophisticated in their grammatical competence than we ever understood.”Despite the fact the toddlers we studied were acquiring French, our findings are expected to extend to other languages. I believe we should give toddlers more credit — they’re much more amazing than we realised.”For decades the prevailing view among developmental specialists has been that children’s early word combinations are devoid of any grammatical words. On this view, Cchildren then undergo a ‘tadpole to frog’ transformation where due to an unknown mechanism; , they start to develop grammar in their speech. Dye’s results now challenge the old view.Dr Dye said: “The research sheds light on a really important part of a child’s development. Language is one of the things that makes us human and understanding how we acquire it shows just how amazing children are.”There are also implications for understanding language delay in children. When children don’t learn to speak normally it can lead to serious issues later in life. For example, those who have it are more likely to suffer from mental illness or be unemployed later in life. …

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Taking back the yard: Dealing with invasive plants

June 12, 2013 — There’s nothing more frustrating for gardeners than discovering that their well-planned plots or rolling lawns have been infiltrated by invasive plant species, the perennial marauders of the back yard set. While many panic and immediately start yanking or mowing the intruders when they first make their appearance, gardening expert Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., chair and professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University, advises that it’s best to investigate the plant that’s choking your columbines or blighting your lawn before complicating the problem with an errant course of action.”Education is key,” Snetselaar says. “Find out what it is that you’re pulling from the ground. Knowing more about the invader will help you make better choices, and it’s less likely that you’ll be responsible for the proliferation of an invasive species.”According to Snetselaar, there are great online sources to consult, and each state’s department of natural resources will typically provide information about problem plants. In addition, the National Park Service’s Weeds Gone Wild site has a manageable list of factsheets for some of the most common invasives.Timing is critical for removing the more pernicious trespassers, says Snetselaar. Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) is a prime example. A weed that is spreading rapidly in the Mid-Atlantic States, this Asian native is dispersed by seed and grows prolifically in lawns. While it’s tempting to fire up the lawn mower when it’s detected, Snetselaar says that if it’s mowed, the stiltgrass will just produce seeds on tiny little plants. “It’s better to wait until the grass matures a little — not to the point where it’s actually making seeds, but just before that stage — and then pull it up by the roots.”On the other hand, Snetselaar notes, pulling up Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), a notorious invader, isn’t recommended, because it can re-grow from even the tiniest bit of root. Herbicides and repeated cutting and bagging of the stems are the prescribed approaches.Invasive plants are likely to keep most of us busy for a long time, Snetselaar says, and factors that we can’t control, such as climate change and stormwater runoff will continue to result in new invasions. …

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NASA’s WISE mission finds ‘lost’ asteroid family members

May 29, 2013 — Data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to a new and improved family tree for asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomers used millions of infrared snapshots from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE all-sky survey, called NEOWISE, to identify 28 new asteroid families. The snapshots also helped place thousands of previously hidden and uncategorized asteroids into families for the first time. The findings are a critical step in understanding the origins of asteroid families, and the collisions thought to have created these rocky clans.

“NEOWISE has given us the data for a much more detailed look at the evolution of asteroids throughout the solar system,” said Lindley Johnson, the program executive for the Near-Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will help us trace the NEOs back to their sources and understand how some of them have migrated to orbits hazardous to the Earth.”

The main asteroid belt is a major source of near-Earth objects (NEOs), which are those asteroids and comets that come within 28 million miles (45 million kilometers) of Earth’s path around the sun. Some near-Earth objects start out in stable orbits in the main asteroid belt, until a collision or gravitational disturbance flings them inward like flippers in a game of pinball.

The NEOWISE team looked at about 120,000 main belt asteroids out of the approximately 600,000 known. They found that about 38,000 of these objects, roughly one third of the observed population, could be assigned to 76 families, 28 of which are new. In addition, some asteroids thought to belong to a particular family were reclassified.

An asteroid family is formed when a collision breaks apart a large parent body into fragments of various sizes. Some collisions leave giant craters. For example, the asteroid Vesta’s southern hemisphere was excavated by two large impacts. Other smash-ups are catastrophic, shattering an object into numerous fragments, as was the case with the Eos asteroid family. The cast-off pieces move together in packs, traveling on the same path around the sun, but over time the pieces become more and more spread out.

Previous knowledge of asteroid family lineages comes from observations of their orbits. NEOWISE also looked at the asteroids’ reflectivity to identify family members.

Asteroids in the same family generally have similar mineral composition and reflect similar amounts of light. Some families consist of darker-colored, or duller, asteroids, while others are made up of lighter-colored, or shinier, rocks. It is difficult to distinguish between dark and light asteroids in visible light. A large, dull asteroid can appear the same as a small, shiny one. The dark asteroid reflects less light but has more total surface area, so it appears brighter.

NEOWISE could distinguish between the dark and light asteroids because it could detct infrared light, which reveals the heat of an object. The larger the object, the more heat it gives off. When the size of an asteroid can be measured, its true reflective properties can be determined, and a group of asteroids once thought to belong to a single family circling the sun in a similar orbit can be sorted into distinct families.

“We’re separating zebras from the gazelles,” said Joseph Masiero of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who is lead author of a report on the new study that appears in the Astrophysical Journal. “Before, family members were harder to tell apart because they were traveling in nearby packs. But now we have a better idea of which asteroid belongs to which family.”

The next step for the team is to learn more about the original parent bodies that spawned the families.

“It’s as if you have shards from a broken vase, and you want to put it back together to find out what happened,” said Amy Mainzer, the NEOWISE principal investigator at JPL. “Why did the asteroid belt form in the first place and fail to become a planet? We are piecing together our asteroids’ history.”

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, managed and operated WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The spacecraft was put into hibernation mode in 2011, after completing its main objectives of scanning the entire sky twice.

More information about the mission is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/wise .

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