The 16 worst places to stash your stuff

Location, location, location: Store owners aren't the only ones concerned with finding the perfect spot in which to situate their stuff. Researchers in a wide variety of fields know that how you organize your environment — from where you stand in fitness class to the place you choose to store your meds — has a surprising effect on everything from your weight to your chances of staying well. In other words, when it comes to how you feel, it's not just what you do, it's where you do it. Here, surprisingly bad locales for your health — and the best places to optimize it.

The worst place for your toothbrush: on the bathroom sink
There's nothing wrong with the sink itself — but it's awfully chummy with the toilet. There are 3.2 million microbes per square inch in the average toilet bowl, according to germ expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona. When you flush, aerosolized toilet funk is propelled as far as 6 feet, settling on the floor, the sink, and your toothbrush. "Unless you like rinsing with toilet water, keep your toothbrush behind closed doors — in the medicine cabinet or a nearby cupboard," Gerba says.

The worst place to set your handbag: the kitchen counter
Your fancy handbag is a major tote for microbes: Gerba and his team's swabs showed up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch on purse bottoms — and a third of the bags tested positive for fecal bacteria! A woman's carryall gets parked in some nasty spots: on the floor of the bus, beneath the restaurant table — even on the floor of a public bathroom. Put your bag in a drawer or on a chair, Gerba says — anywhere except where food is prepared or eaten.

The worst place for your sneakers and flip-flops: in the bedroom closet
Walking through your house in shoes you wear outside is a great way to track in allergens and contaminants. A 1999 study found that lawn chemicals were tracked inside the house for a full week after application, concentrated along the traffic route from the entryway. Shoes also carry in pollen and other allergens. Reduce exposure by slipping off rough-and-tumble shoes by the door; store them in a basket or under an entryway bench. If your pumps stay off the lawn, they can make the trip to the bedroom — otherwise, carry them.

The worst place to try to fall asleep: under piles of blankets
Being overheated can keep you from nodding off, researchers say: A natural nighttime drop in your core temperature triggers your body to get drowsy. To ease your way to sleep, help your body radiate heat from your hands and feet, says Helen Burgess, PhD, assistant director of the Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Don socks to dilate the blood vessels in the extremities — then take the socks off and let a foot stick out from under the blankets.

The worst place to cool leftovers: in the refrigerator
Placing a big pot of hot edibles directly into the fridge is a recipe for uneven cooling and possibly food poisoning, says O. Peter Snyder Jr., PhD, president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, MN. The reason: It can take a long time for the temperature in the middle of a big container to drop, creating a cozy environment for bacteria. You can safely leave food to cool on the counter for up to an hour after cooking, Snyder says. Or divvy up hot food into smaller containers and then refrigerate — it'll cool faster.

The worst stall to pick in a public restroom: the one in the middle
The center stall has more bacteria than those on either end, according to unpublished data collected by Gerba. No, you won't catch an STD from a toilet seat. But you can contract all manner of ills if you touch a germy toilet handle and then neglect to wash your hands thoroughly.

The worst place for a workout reminder: stuck on your post-it laden fridge
A visual nudge can help — but only if you notice it, says Paddy Ekkekakis, PhD, an exercise psychologist at Iowa State University. In one study, a sign urging people to use the stairs rather than the nearby escalator increased the number of people who climbed on foot by nearly 200 percent. Put your prompt near a decision point, Ekkekakis says — keep your pile of Pilates DVDs next to the TV; put a sticky note on your steering wheel to make sure you get to your after-work kickboxing class. Just remember: The boost you get from a reminder is usually short-term, so change the visuals often.

The worst place to sit on an airplane: the rear
Avoid this section if you're prone to airsickness, says retired United Airlines pilot Meryl Getline, who operates the aviation Web site "Think of a seesaw," Getline says. "The farther from the center you are, the more up-and-down movement you experience." Because the tail of the plane tends to be longer than the front, "that's the bumpiest of all," she says. "The smoothest option is sitting as close to the wing as you can."

The worst place to pick up a prescription: the pharmacy drive-thru
In a survey of 429 pharmacists, respondents ranked drive-thru windows high among distracting factors that can lead to prescription processing delays and errors, says survey author Sheryl Szeinbach, PhD, professor of pharmacy practice and administration at Ohio State University. If you don't want to give up the convenience of a rolling pickup, be sure to check that both drug and dose are what the doctor ordered.

The worst place to stand during your first few fitness classes: front and center
You might think that you'd want to be near the mirrors so you can check your form, but your sweat session will be more motivating if your view is obstructed, suggests a 2003 study at McMasters University. In that research, 58 sedentary women all exercised at similar intensity levels. But those who did it in a mirrored room reported feeling more anxious about their body's imperfections after their workout than women who sweated without mirrors distracting them.

The worst place for a nighttime reading light: overhead
These fixtures put out relatively bright light — enough to significantly delay the body's secretion of melatonin, showed a 2000 study. That can wreck your night, since rising melatonin levels are a major cue for your body to prepare for sleep. A low-power light clipped to your novel will let you read but leave the room dark enough for your brain to transition into sleep mode. Try the LightWedge ($25 to $35; or the "Itty Bitty" Slim Book Light ($40;

The worst place to keep medicine: the medicine cabinet
It's not uncommon for the temp in a steamy bathroom to reach 100°F — well above the recommended storage temperatures for many common drugs. The cutoff for the popular cholesterol drug Lipitor, for instance, is around 77°F. To stay out of the red zone, store your meds in a cool, dry place, such as the pantry.

[via msnbc]

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Futuristic Floor Glows With Each Footstep

A new rug that lights up when you step on it could be the future of floor fashion, not to mention of nocturnal home safety.

As if a glowing runway, the electroluminescent flooring could keep you from stubbing your toe during a groggy trek to the bathroom, guide you to the bedroom after a late-night out and even replace a child's conventional nightlight.

"The glow that the rug emits is very soft," said co-inventor Leona Dean, of London South Bank University, who also noted the innovation's party applications, "It can provide ambient mood lighting or flash in time to music as a talking point at a party."

Dean and another LSBU engineering student Zoe Robson developed the light-up rug, called Footlume, for a college course, and they will exhibit the innovation at the Daily Mail Ideal Home Show in London this month.

The electroluminescent rug uses rechargeable batteries and lights up in response to the weight applied when a person walks across the carpet.

Electroluminescence relies on an electric field to generate visible light. Other light producers include photoluminescence, which is used in many glow-in-the-dark toys; and chemoluminescence, which involves light-producing chemical reactions (as in the body of a firefly).

So-called responsive surfaces such as Footlume are considered by some experts the next big thing in interiors for fashion-savvy and techie homeowners.

The Footlume invention is currently a prototype, but the inventors say it will "attract attention from all the right people" at the Home Show, for future commercialization.'

[via livescience]

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Screw the new car, just get a new engine!

Engine Repower is a new (as far as I can tell) service that gives car owners the option of replacing their old, worn out engine with a rebuilt engine of the same vintage instead of simply buying a new car or repairing specific problems. When a first saw this page, I was very interested, as I am a proponent of keeping your car as long as possible to reduce wasteful manufacturing processes, even in the face of promises of lower emissions made by newer cars.

For more on repowering, follow the jump!

Here’s what Engine Repower has to say about their service:

Technology and auto manufacturing have advanced dramatically in the past two decades. Cars and trucks last longer. Paint is better. Bodies are more corrosion resistant. Interior materials are more durable, and even suspension and other components last longer. So when an engine “dies,” it does not have to be the end of your vehicle. When a car or truck suffers major engine damage, the first response and reaction of many consumers is to buy a new or used vehicle. Sometimes disposing of your current vehicle might make sense, but often it’s simply not necessary.

Obviously, being an advertisement, they are very high on themselves, but they do make some good points. When cars die, it seems it is most often due to accidents or blown engines. Very rarely do cars rust so badly or generally devolve to a point of undrivability before the engine begins to have trouble. Also, one of the biggest issues with emissions from old vehicles is that those vehicles have fallen out of spec and are no longer getting the best fuel economy or releasing the least emissions.

The Engine Repowering Council seems to focus on domestic vehicles, but using their find-a-shop feature, it’s likely that you can find someone to rebuild an engine of almost any make. These engines almost always come with warrantees and, in my opinion (as someone who has worked at a shop in the past), will be rebuilt as carefully as anything else coming from that shop. So, if you’re considering this, pick a shop you know and trust, and that offers a good warrantee.

While the service is certainly not ideal (you can’t just put a newer, cleaner engine in an old car), the ability to put life and reliability back into an old car is about as close as you can get to recycling and reusing in the automotive world.


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Voiceless Phone Calls Now Possible

A company called Audeo has just demonstrated their subvocal speech input device in a new context; a neckband that translates thought into speech by interpreting signals sent from the brain to the vocal chords. Audeo used it in their Thinking Man's Wheelchair for quadraplegics demonstrated last September.

The device does not provide unlimited translation; it is able to respond with about 150 basic words and phrases. It is anticipated that the device will offer unlimited vocabulary by the end of the year, through recognition of speech phonemes (see video).

Science fiction writer David Brin wrote about it specifically in his 1990 novel Earth.

She took a subvocal input device from its rack and placed the attached sensors on her throat, jaw, and temples. A faint glitter in the display screens meant the machine was already tracking her eyes, noting by curvature of lens and angle of pupil the exact spot on which she focused at any moment.

She didn't have to speak aloud, only intend to. The subvocal read nerve signals, letting her enter words by just beginning to will them...
(Read more about the Subvocal Input Device)

This technology could also make our involuntary participation in the cell phone conversations of a million strangers obsolete.

[via livescience]

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Woman Pried From Boyfriend's Toilet After Sitting on It for 2 Years

WICHITA, Kan. — Deputies say a woman in western Kansas became stuck on her boyfriend's toilet after sitting on it for two years.

Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said it appeared the 35-year-old Ness City woman's skin had grown around the seat. She initially refused emergency medical services but was finally convinced by responders and her boyfriend that she needed to be checked out at a hospital.

"We pried the toilet seat off with a pry bar and the seat went with her to the hospital," Whipple said. "The hospital removed it."

Whipple said investigators planned to present their report Wednesday to the county attorney, who will determine whether any charges should be filed against the woman's 36-year-old boyfriend.

"She was not glued. She was not tied. She was just physically stuck by her body," Whipple said. "It is hard to imagine. ... I still have a hard time imagining it myself."

He told investigators he brought his girlfriend food and water, and asked her every day to come out of the bathroom.

"And her reply would be, `Maybe tomorrow,"' Whipple said. "According to him, she did not want to leave the bathroom."

The boyfriend called police on Feb. 27 to report that "there was something wrong with his girlfriend," Whipple said, adding that he never explained why it took him two years to call.

Police found the clothed woman sitting on the toilet, her sweat pants down to her mid-thigh. She was "somewhat disoriented," and her legs looked like they had atrophied, Whipple said.

"She said that she didn't need any help, that she was OK and did not want to leave," he said.

She was taken to a hospital in Wichita, about 150 miles southeast of Ness City. Whipple said she has refused to cooperate with medical providers or law enforcement investigators.

Authorities said they did not know if she was mentally or physically disabled.

Police have declined to release the couple's names, but the house where authorities say the incident happened is listed in public records as the residence of Kory McFarren. No one answered his home phone number.

The case has been the buzz Ness City, said James Ellis, a neighbor.

"I don't think anybody can make any sense out of it," he said.

Ellis said he had known the woman since she was a child but that he had not seen her for at least six years.

He said she had a tough childhood after her mother died at a young age and apparently was usually kept inside the house as she grew up. At one time the woman worked for a long-term care facility, he said, but he did not know what kind of work she did there.

"It really doesn't surprise me," Ellis said of the bathroom incident. "What surprises me is somebody wasn't called in a bit earlier."

[via foxnews]

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World Tallest Snow Fence!

OTTAWA — 'I'm crazy," he keeps saying.

"He's nuts," says his next-door neighbor.

"All my friends think it's crazy," says his youngest son.

Just maybe Luc Guertin of Orleans has figured out how to love this winter when the rest of us are cursing it - particularly after this weekend of the endless snowfall for most of the country.

Guertin's driveway snowbank stood higher than two very tall men Friday morning before the latest blast hit in the Wicked Winter of 2008. By yesterday afternoon, the growing bank had passed the second storey of his home in this Ottawa suburb and was threatening the chimney.

Guertin is certain he now holds the world's record because, well, who else would be "crazy" enough to spend an entire winter hauling the snow up from his drive to pack it into a monolith? It has become the National Capital Region's oddest tourist attraction - and many hope its most fleeting.

The 44-year-old Ottawa native began it, he says, simply because Environment Canada was predicting a winter to end all winters and, besides, as a carpenter, his natural inclination is to build things. There is the perfect backyard rink. And there is the robot costume - but more on that later.

He began in November with a normal shovel, lifting the snow and packing it down, then carefully squaring it off, just as he has done for years in the backyard to create snow banks around his rink every bit as upright and resilient as arena boards.

He then switched to a shovel with a longer handle, and then longer still. He built a special adapter for his snowblower so that, on a calm day, it would spray straight up like a fountain and curl just so that the snow would land on the brow of the growing hill and he could then pat it down with the longer shovel.

Around December, he had to bring in a two-step stool, then a four-step one, then a stepladder. In February, he had to borrow a full extension ladder and, today, even that is not quite high enough as he heads up and then has to crawl to get out onto the top for the packing down.

There was a time around Christmas when he thought he would create a snow version of the Gaspé's popular Percé Rock, but the bank grew so high and heavy that he began to worry that a hole through it might be seen as a safety concern.

Already this past weekend the fire department and the local bylaw officer have come to cruise by Guertin's Toulouse Crescent home, their official vehicles carefully picking their way through the amateur photographers and video recorders who have come to see for themselves.

Guertin is now hoping for more snow, at least one more big wallop that will provide him without enough cold raw material to complete the turret he is now thinking of constructing at the end closest to the road.

[via theglobeandmail]

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Kentucky Lawmaker Wants to Make Anonymous Internet Posting Illegal

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Action News 36 asked people what they thought about the bill.

Some said they felt it was a violation of First Amendment rights. Others say it is a good tool toward eliminating online harassment.

Represntative Couch says enforcing this bill if it became law would be a challenge

[via wtvq]
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Daylight savings is found to waste energy

March 5, 2008 For decades, conventional wisdom has held that daylight-saving time reduces energy use. Now a university study of a unique situation in Indiana has provided compelling evidence challenging that view. Daylight savings may actually waste energy.

The Wall Street Journal is running a story on a study that unambiguously concludes that Daylight Saving Time not only doesn't save any energy, it actually wastes it and costs more. The study mirrors recent findings in an Australian university and it's a big shame because the concept first championed by Benjamin Franklin more than 200 years ago is now not just conventional wisdom but in widespread usage.

Last year the US switched to summer time, three weeks earlier than usual and added another week at the other end to cut fuel consumption and help the environment. The concept is that electricity demand falls in the evening because of the extra hour of usable daylight.

DST was signed into law with the Energy Policy Act and was expected to save US$4.4bn in energy bills over 15 years and avoid the need for three electric power plants. So someone has done their sums wrong - either the Government has unknowingly destroyed enough resources to feed a third world nation, or the new studies are wrong.

There are of course, many other factors to consider in this equation – there are documented social benefits to daylight-saving time such as more recreation time and increased economic activity, and others that claim it results in less crime and even less traffic accidents.

[via gizmag]

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101 Year Old Man Runs 13 Mile Marathon & Stops for a Beer.

Buster Martin is an unlikely candidate to set a marathon record. He drinks beer, smokes cigarettes and stays out late. And he's 101.

But Martin expects to shatter, or at least ease past, the record next month when he runs London's marathon. And he is counting on having a beer at the finish line.

"He smokes, drinks, stays out late, which is probably why he is still alive," said Charlie Mullins, the managing director of the plumbing company where Martin cleans vans.

When not working three days a week for Mullins, Martin can be found in a nearby boxing gym working with a pair of trainers in preparation for April's run. He refuses to be impressed by the fact that he is still running.

"I am not doing anything unusual. I am just running a marathon," he told ABC News.

Age is no more an obstacle to Martin's running than that strip of winners tape at the finish line. "You are never too old to do what you enjoy."

And Martin likes running, "but not as much as I like my beer," he added.

He is already a man of many firsts. Martin holds three world title records for the oldest person to run the 5K, 10K and the half marathon.

Martin says that in the last weekend, he's completed a 13-mile half marathon that took him a little more than five hours. It would have been faster, he says, but he says he stopped for a beer and a cigarette.

Martin runs in the name of charity. He is raising money for the Rhys Daniels Trust, which provides a "home from home" for parents of children having treatment for life-threatening illnesses.

Mullins describes him as a "remarkable chap, unbelievable. He's an ordinary fellow but remarkable at the same time especially for someone at his age to get involved in this sort of charity."

Martin is also the father of 17 children, which also doesn't impress him. "Pity I didn't have anymore kids," he said with a sigh.

He "likes to live life to the full. … He is as sharp as a razor," Mullins said. He told ABC that Martin's got "unbelievable hearing."

To his colleagues, at 101 years old, Martin is a "great inspiration, he's got a million stories to tell, he is so knowledgeable," his manager said.

[via abc]

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Teen back from the dead!!

A Florida teen says he still can't grasp that he was medically dead for several minutes. WTLV's Jeannie Blaylock reports.

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Living snowflakes: bacteria important to snow formation

With winter still in effect, the enthusiasm with which one greets fresh snowfall has tended to diminish. Every snowflake may be unique and beautiful, but when millions of them are standing between you and your car, beauty can be ignored. Now a team of scientists has taken a closer look at the particulates that cause snow to form, and it seems that most of them are... alive.

Ice formation in the troposphere doesn't tend to happen on its own if the temperatures are higher than -40˚C (coincidentally -40˚F), but biological particulates can catalyze ice formation at higher temperatures by acting as a nucleus. A new study, published in Science, examines samples of fresh snowfall from sites in Montana, France, the Yukon, and Antarctica in order to get a better idea as to the makeup of those ice nucleators.

Compared to remote sites, snow samples from Montana and France contained higher concentrations of particulates--more than 100 per liter. Antarctica, by contrast, averaged just four parts per liter. Biological cells made up around one percent of these particulates, with Pseudomonas syringae being the most common bacteria.

DNA-stained cells of P. syringae (green dots) frozen within individual ice crystals. Image courtesy of Shawn Doyle and Brent Christner, Louisiana State University

Exposing the particulates to lysozymes—enzymes that disrupt cell walls—or 95˚C heat reduced their ability to act as ice nucleators. Both of these treatments would affect living cells but not inorganic particulates such as dust, sand or soot.

One of the authors of the study, Prof. David Sands, postulates that forming rain or snow is part of the bacterial life cycle; "We think if (the bacteria) couldn't cause ice to form, they couldn't get back down to the ground," Sands said. "As long as it rains, the bacteria grow."

Sands suggests that changing bacterial populations may affect rainfall; for example, overgrazing during a summer could reduce the bacterial population, resulting in lower raindrop formation, although more work would need to be done to firm up this theory. Regardless, it is an interesting glimpse into the world of the snowflake.

[via arstechnica]

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