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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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