Posts filed under ‘ProTips’

Magazine Subscription Expiry Date is on Address Label

By Chad Upton | Editor

I love books and magazines and I mean real books and real magazines, printed on paper.

Sure, I love their digital counterparts too. They have snazzy interactive layouts, rich multimedia and they’re always in your pocket. But, sometimes less is more.

There is something powerful and irreplaceable about ink and paper. The experience is linear and there are few distractions along the way. Most importantly, there are no instant notifications, no batteries and you have to actually see one of your real friends to “share” it with them. On paper, you’re alone with your thoughts. Ten percent of that is because the medium consumes you, the remaining ninety percent is because there are no stupid comments at the bottom of each page.

That’s not to say all comments are stupid, there are plenty of useful and thought provoking comments on the internet. But when there are no comments at all, there can’t be any stupid ones either. Comments should be consumed for dessert; people should think for themselves before eating honey from the hive.

That’s where pages beat pixels.

It is why I have books and magazine subscriptions. But, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. First of all, there are at least three subscription cards in each magazine. They should do a print run for subscribers that is exempt from the inserts. That would be a significant incentive for readers to actually subscribe! In the meantime, I’ll keep shaking them over the recycling bin.

Publishers also suggest renewing your annual subscription on what seems like a bimonthly basis. So, it’s helpful to know when your subscription really expires.

Thankfully, they put the expiration date right on the address label.

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November 6, 2012 at 2:00 am 4 comments

How to Cure Hiccups

By Kyle Kurpinski

A hiccup, or “synchronous diaphragmatic flutter,” is a rapid involuntary contraction of the diaphragm, which results in a large volume of air rushing abruptly into the lungs. This is typically accompanied by a “hic” sound as the airflow forces the vocal chords to suddenly close. The physiology of a hiccup is much like that of a knee jerk reflex (when a doctor taps your knee with that little hammer), but the hiccup reaction occurs within a few cranial nerves that extend between the neck/head and the chest. A bout of hiccups can be brought on by a number of different stimuli including prolonged laughing, eating too rapidly, various nervous system disorders, and even chemotherapy. But far more important than how or why we get the hiccups is how we can get rid of them.

I was astonished to discover just how many hiccup “cures” there are on the web. WikiHow has a particularly awesome article listing nearly 80 different methods for curing hiccups. My immediate reaction to this was, shouldn’t ONE be enough? Unfortunately, hiccups are not well understood and many of these home remedies may work for some people but not for others, so an extensive list of alternatives is not entirely unreasonable. What really astounded me, though, was the sheer variety of proposed treatments. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Drink a glass of water while upside down.
  • Cough or scream when you feel the next hiccup approaching. Repeat 3-4 times.
  • Suck on a lemon wedge topped with 4-5 drops of aromatic bitters.
  • Lean your head back and place a penny on your forehead. The hiccups will be gone after 1-3 more times.
  • Drink a half teaspoon of pickle juice every 7-10 seconds until the hiccups stop.
  • Alternate a spoonful of sugar with a sip of water until the hiccups are gone.

As a whole, these remedies have no unifying theme, and I while I haven’t personally tested all of them, I have to wonder if a placebo effect (or just a coincidental cessation) might have been the genesis of more than a few. I am also bothered by the use of the phrase “until the hiccups stop” in many of the treatments on the web. There are reported cases of hiccups (albeit rare ones) that lasted years. How much pickle juice might I expect to ingest before the costs begin to outweigh the potential benefits?

In my personal experience, the “cures” I tried never worked for me (including upside-down drinking and being startled by a friend), and I always resorted to the more apathetic method: waiting it out. That is, until recently. Several months ago, my girlfriend had a bout of hiccups and she decided to experiment with various improvised remedies. Most of her trials had no effect, but she eventually discovered a simple breathing pattern that eliminated her hiccups completely. Her method follows:

1) Take a deep breath through your nose. Fill your lungs as much as you can.
2) Hold the breath for 10 seconds.
3) Breathe out completely.
4) Repeat steps 1-3 once more.

The entire process takes less than 30 seconds, but I have used it at least five separate times now with amazing success (only one initial failure that was cured on a second attempt). While I can’t promise that it will work for everyone, it has worked for the few people I’ve shared it with so far, and it’s strikingly similar to some of the other “breathing methods” listed on the wikiHow site. In fact, a closer look at that article reveals something interesting: there are more than 10 methods devoted predominantly to breathing. Wikipedia provides some reasoning: a few researchers have theorized that hiccups may be an evolutionary remnant of amphibian breathing that is similar to gulping. More importantly, amphibian gulping is inhibited by high levels of CO2, and so are hiccups. When you consciously adjust your breathing using one of these remedies, not only are you taking more active control of your diaphragm, but you are also manipulating gas exchange in your lungs and blood. More simply, holding your breath is an easy way to increase physiological CO2.

There are also more than 15 methods listed on the wikiHow article that include some form of drinking. While these are far less likely to dramatically impact blood chemistry, they will alter your current breathing pattern, which may in turn help disrupt the involuntary reflex of your diaphragm during hiccuping. I can’t say for sure that the “pickle juice method” is complete nonsense, but I wonder if it might work just as well using plain water.

It’s hard to say exactly which methods will work for any one person, but at least a few of these cures appear to have some scientific rationale while many others seem rather arbitrary. Bottom line: next time you have the hiccups, I recommend trying any of the breathing or drinking methods before resorting to balancing a penny on your head. Good luck!

Broken Secrets

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Source: Wikipedia, wikiHow

Image: Cayusa (cc)

March 16, 2011 at 2:00 am 24 comments

Transport Suit Jackets Inside-Out to Prevent Lint

By Chad Upton | Editor

Between high school and college, I had a sales job that required a suit and tie. I learned a lot at that job, more than I probably realized at the time — about operations, sales, security, people and life itself.

I often carpooled with my friend Ryan and I’ll never forget the little secret he passed on from his dad Tim.

Before you get in a car wearing a suit jacket, take the jacket off and turn it partially inside-out: loosely fold it along the middle of the back so the inside of the jacket is on the outside, leaving the sleeves wrapped inside. Then place it flat on the back seat or in the trunk to prevent the jacket from wrinkling or getting lint or stains on the outside of it.

It’s not very comfortable to wear a suit jacket in a car, so you’ll probably take it off anyway. Folding it inside out will cut down on lint rollers and dry cleaning.

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Photo: Swing Candy (cc)

March 14, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Potatoes: Green Means Stop

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you eat potatoes, in any form, you’ve probably come across a partially green one.

Most importantly, don’t eat the green part — it’s toxic enough that you may get very ill, and it can cause death in rare cases. Secondly, it’s very bitter, so you’re not going to enjoy it. French fries and potato chips are also affected, so avoid the green stuff there too.

The green coloration is chlorophyll. Like many other plants, chlorophyll is formed with enough exposure to certain types of light. Of course, many green leaves are part of a healthy diet, so it’s not the chlorophyll itself that is the problem.

Exposure to light can also cause another reaction that forms a substance called “solanine.” It is not related to chlorophyll, but is often formed at the same time. Solanine is toxic. 16 ounces of a fully green pototo could be enough to make a 100lb person sick.

The green chlorophyll is a good warning about the presence of solanine, but solanine can form when chlorophyll does not. So, even if the potato looks normal, the bitter taste will serve as a warning.

Cooking a green potato will not help, it’s still toxic. But, a cooked potato cannot turn green since the required enzyme mechanisms are destroyed in cooking.

Bottom line: if it’s green or bitter, skip it.

Broken Secrets

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Photo: Selva / Eden (cc)

Sources: Purdue, Elkhorn

January 14, 2011 at 2:00 am 8 comments

Google Search Tricks

By Chad Upton | Editor

Google is an amazing search engine. Most of us use it to find websites with information, but it can do so much more than show you websites with answers. There are hundreds of built in features that can give you the information directly, without having to go to another site.

Movies Times

Enter “movies” followed by your town/city/postal or zip code and you’ll see some movie times for a couple popular movies along with a link to get the full list of movie times for your area.

Track Packages

Just type in a FedEx, UPS or USPS tracking number and Google will give you a link to see the shipping details.

Track Flights

Enter the airline and flight number and search. No more clicks, the info will be right there.

Find the Best Price

Enter the model name or number of a product you’d like to buy. Then click the “shopping” link at the top and Google will show prices at online retailers. To ensure you get the lowest price, you can sort by price (including shipping). There will likely be some retailers that you’ve never heard of, so you can read retailer reviews and sort by their rating as well.

Define a Word

Lets say some fancy pants uses the word “noetic” and you don’t know what it means. You could go to your favorite dictionary site, or you could type “define:noetic” into Google search. It’ll give you a list of definitions from various sites.

Unit Conversion

Whether you need to convert cups to gallons or go between metric and imperial units, Google’s conversion engine can help.

Currency Conversion

Just type in the value and the currency to convert from and to, example: 100 Euros in Australian dollars

Time

You think you’re doing a nice thing, calling somebody far away to make sure they’re well and give them a familiar voice to talk to. Then they answer the phone as if you woke them up in the middle of the afternoon, but you forgot that’s 4am in Tokyo. You can easily avoid this by checking the local time before calling.

Weather

Should you pack shorts or pants for your weekend getaway? Get a 5 day forecast in seconds (and easily switch between F/C).

Stock Quotes

Just enter the stock symbol and search.

There are many more of these features and I’ll be sure to share more later.

Broken Secrets

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Search a Specific Site

Some websites do not have good search functions on them. Sometimes I’ll read something on a site and then I go back to find it later and the site search is horrible. Otherwise, you might use google as your homepage, so it could be easier to initiate the search from there.

For example, you may remember reading why some knives have serrated blades on BrokenSecrets.com. But, you want to read it again or send the link to someone who was interested in it. You can type in google, “serrated site:brokensecrets.com” and it will only show results from BrokenSecrets.com.

Using Google as a Time Machine

Because Google’s spiders are constantly crawling the web, storing pages of data so they can resolve accurate and timely information for your search requests. Google actually lets you view the last set of data that was captured.

This information is helpful is a website cannot be reached, but you still want information from it. It’s also useful if information has changed, moved or been removed, you can potentially look at a previous version of the information.

October 13, 2010 at 2:00 am 5 comments

Run When It’s Raining to Stay Drier

Sooner or later, everybody gets caught outside when it starts raining.

I used to have a long walk to school. I mention this because walking to school has the same affect on rainfall as washing your car — it only rains at the worst possible time and it stops immediately after you stop caring.

When you’re stuck in the rain, you might think about whether it would be better to run or walk. When you run, you collide with more rain but you also reduce the amount of time you are exposed to the rain. When you walk, you collide with less rain but for a longer duration. So which is better?

It turns out that running is the better option, assuming you run fast enough to reduce the time you are exposed to rain. Myth Busters tested this in episode 38 if you want to check it out.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Myth Busters, Wise Geek

July 1, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

How to Chop Food Quickly, Safely and Easily

The difference between an amateur and a professional is their technique and practice.

In this case, it’s fairly easy to do it like a pro. You just need to know the right technique.

For a quick tutorial, watch this video from Chef Jacob (if you can’t watch the video, read below).

When you’re slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables, you’ll place one hand on the knife and use your other hand to hold the food and guide the knife. The knuckles on your guide hand will maintain constant contact with the side of the knife. You will curl your fingers under your knuckles to protect them from the cutting edge of the knife. Your thumb will oppose your knuckles and stabilize the food. You can see the correct hand position in the photo below:

For those of us who have never been to culinary school or worked in a restaurant, this is a tip that we can really benefit from.

Thanks to Chef Jacob of FreeCulinarySchool.com.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Source and Photo: @ChefJacob

June 29, 2010 at 5:00 am 1 comment

How to Buy the Right Shoes for Your Feet

Considering how much time you spend wearing shoes, how much time have you spent understanding what’s unique about your feet?

Unless you’re an avid runner or maybe work at a shoe store, you probably don’t know how to buy shoes that compliment your feet and the way you use them. It can be hard enough to find a shoe that looks good, fits on your foot and feels comfortable, but it takes even more to find a pair that fits your arch and the angle of your ankles. But there is a way.

Even if you don’t run, you can still benefit from buying the right running (or walking) shoes — especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet at work or at play.

For example, the only “running” I do is running errands, but I often wear running shoes because they’re comfortable and lightweight. With the right shoes, there is less stress on your feet, ankles, knees and hips.

When you walk, the heel of your foot will touch the ground first and as you roll your foot forward, your weight will be transferred to the front of your foot. Depending on the angle of your foot, you may be putting more weight on the inside or outside of your foot. Doing that hundreds or thousands of times a day can lead to pain and discomfort in your feet and other parts of your body.

If your hips, knees or ankles produce external rotation, you will be more likely to angle your feet as you walk (known as pronation of the foot). Your shoes can compensate for natural irregularities or make them worse and that’s why it’s important to get the right shoes.

Good shoe stores will help determine your arch type and level of pronation. Once you know your arch type and pronation, there are different shoes that will suit you. A local running shop is a good place to start, they’re generally the most knowledgeable retailers of shoes. Some websites with good fitting advice are: Road Runner Sports, Zappos, Dick’s and New Balance.

One way to determine your arch type is by standing (to put weight on your feet), then sliding your index finger under your arch. If you get your finger up to 1/2 an inch under your foot then you’ve got a low arch. 1/2 inch to 1 inch is a medium arch. More than an inch is a high arch.

The other way to determine arch type is the paper bag test. You wet your feet and stand on a paper bag. Looking at your wet footprint and the size of the gap left by your arch, you can tell if you have a low, medium or high arch. This way is pretty common, but it’s a bit more subjective than the index finger method.

To determine your pronation (ankle roll), you’ll need the help of a friend. They will stand behind you to see how your ankles behave as you walk. If your ankles stay very straight, then you have neutral pronation. If they roll slightly inward or outward then you’re considered an under-pronator. If they roll inward excessively, then you’re an over-pronator.

Another way to determine pronation is to put a used pair of your running shoes on a flat surface and see if the shoes tilt inward towards each other, or tilt outward, away from each other.

Shoes are divided into three categories for different feet type: stability, motion control and neutral. Stability shoes are for under-pronators. Motion control shoes are for severe over-pronators and perhaps obviously, neutral shoes are for neutral pronation.

Most online retailers categorize shoes into these groups. A good shoe store will be able to tell you which shoes are your type as well.

The other approach to running footwear is: barefoot. There is a popular book on running called Born to Run which suggests that we are literally born to run in our bare feet and the best runners in the world come from tribes of barefoot runners who run well into old age without injury.

For now, I think I’ll stick with my runners.

Thanks to Kristen for suggesting this secret!

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Wikipedia (Foot type), New Balance (Running Gait), Zappos, Dick’s

Photo: Jason Alley (cc)

June 7, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Exhaust Fans Help Cool Your Home During Summer

The upper floor of your home is likely the warmest place in your home. It’s not usually a big deal in the winter, but it can be very uncomfortable in the summer. It happens because hot air rises.

The ceiling of your upper floor also has the most insulation of any place in your home. It’s there because hot air rises — in the winter, you don’t want to lose that heat. It’s the same reason you put a hat on your head in the winter.

In the summer, that thick insulation in your attic is doing the same thing it does in the winter, trapping that heat on your upper floor. If you have a central heating/cooling system, it should suck hot air from the upper floor and mix it with cooler air. But, it’s not always running and it can’t always keep up with the hot air that is produced inside your home, from people, electronics and appliances.

A good solution is to run the ceiling exhaust fan in a central bathroom on the upper floor during the hottest hours of the day. To help, you can get an automatic timer control light switch; these can be used to run the fan and have it automatically shutoff after a certain amount of time — this might also be useful after somebody uses the toilet.

In some regions, it is even part of the building code that an on/off switch for the upper floor hallway bathroom fan is placed next to the thermostat on the main floor. It’s there so you can turn on the exhaust fan when you turn on the air conditioner (there is also a switch in the bathroom to control it from there). This is not a widespread building code, but it’s worth having a look beside your thermostat. If you’ve got a light switch there that doesn’t do anything, try it again and listen for the hallway fan.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: MSU, About.com

June 2, 2010 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Inactive Cell Phones Can Still Call 911

Over half of 911 calls originate from cell phones. This number will only increase as traditional phone service declines and cell phone adoption rates continue to rise.

In the US and Canada, wireless phone operators are required by law to connect all calls to 911 services, whether the customer account is active, past due or even canceled.

Even if you don’t need a wireless phone for your social life, it may be a good idea to keep an old phone in your glove box in case of an emergency. There is even an organization called AmericanCellPhoneDrive.org where you can donate an old phone or request a free phone for this exact purpose.

If you have a disabled phone without a service contract and want to use it for 911 service, you may want to test it. DO NOT just dial 911 to test it, they will likely send help, even if you say it was just a test. The proper way to test 911 service is to call the non-emergency number for your local public safety answering point (PSAP) office and schedule a 911 test. That way, they will be expecting your call and know for sure that it is a test. In the US, there is a list of non-emergency contact numbers for PSAPs listed here.

When you call 911, you should be aware that your location will also be transmitted to the operator.

Some cell phones have built in GPS receivers, allowing them to receive radio signals from space and accurately determine a very precise location on earth. But, GPS is rarely available when indoors and obviously many calls originate indoors. Calls to 911 may not use GPS location data, because the phone does not support it or because a GPS signal cannot be found (typical when indoors).

When GPS is not available, the wireless provider can get a fairly accurate location of the phone by analyzing it’s signal and the location of the towers that are receiving it. Current regulations require that a phone carrier can pinpoint a cell phone within 300-600 meters, depending on the technology the phone is using. By 2012, phone carriers should be able to pinpoint you location within 50-300 meters.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: 911 Wireless Service, FCC

May 25, 2010 at 5:00 am 6 comments

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