Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why I Don't Go to the Movies

No Movie Theatres for Me

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

People always ask me why I don't go to the movies. I made up my mind a long time ago that movie theaters were not for me. I'd like to share some of my reasons with you here today.

People are crazy.

I've seen more news reports of theater shootings, fights, brawls, and just plain foolishness. What is it about a movie theater that makes folks act like plain fools? All you have to do is go in, sit down, watch the movie, eat your popcorn, and then leave. It can't get any more simple than that.

People are discourteous.

It's amazing to me how many people will bring their cell phones into a movie theater and don't turn the ringer off or keep checking it for messages, thereby releasing a distracting glow from the phone that other moviegoers can see. They also kick the back of chairs, waste drink, and talk incessantly. Seven to eight dollars is too much to pay for a ticket and then not be able to watch the movie in peace.

People don't respect your personal space.

How many times have you gone to a movie theater and found a good seat that had the advantage of both being able to see the screen well and being away from the general crowd, and then despite all of the empty seats there are around the theater that one person, and sometimes a whole gang of them, comes and sits either right next to you or all around you.

People are nasty.

I don't understand how some folks made it through life without decent and basic home training. When you finish with your wrappers, cups, and napkins, toss them in the trash. It's not brain surgery. Instead, a lot of folks just toss them on the floor or, even worse, leave them on the seat.

People are nosy.

I'm trying to watch the movie. I don't know you. Why are you asking me questions about my personal business?

People don't know how to drive.

Movie theater parking lots tend to attract those who have only had their driver's licenses for about a week or so (or so it seems). They can't navigate angled parking and certainly can't parallel park. Pedestrians are made for target practice, and cutting other cars off is just the way it's supposed to be.

All these reasons, and more, are why I don't go to movie theaters. You can do what you want, but I'm going to pop my own bowl of popcorn, pour my own soda, and fire up my own Roku, Netflix for tablets, premium cable channel, or DVD and watch free -- or paid -- streaming movies in the privacy of my own home. That way I actually get to enjoy the experience and keep my inner peace.

Source: Personal experience

*Photo: Sarah Ackerman via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/29/2014 (no longer published there).]

Friday, January 30, 2015

Apple vs. Google

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Is there a clear winner in the battle of the phone wars? You be the judge. Apple and Google continue to square off as each lay claim to being the most innovative in software development and the best and most durable in design build. Even beyond this the two major manufacturers in the game, Apple and Samsung, have had a running legal battle going on for years, inspiring a passionate divide within the global cell phone user community with the different camps drawing clear marks in the sand.

Operating Systems

Apple, of course, uses its proprietary iOS 7 in its famous iPhone brand. Google uses its widely popular Android operating system in a variety of mobile devices suitable for every budget and preference. iOS 7 is best known for its elegant user interface and for being so user friendly that even a child can use it with only a short learning curve. Android is known for its extensive customization ability and is favored by the tech savvy community and those mobile users who designate themselves as power users. iOS 7 is only used in Apple products while the Android OS, as stated above, is used by a variety of phone manufacturers.

Design Build

Apple's design build is legendary for emanating an air of high quality. Using a combination of metal and glass the iPhone is beautiful to behold and fits naturally in the hand. The only downside to this is that they typically tend to be prone to easy damage if not carried in cases specifically constructed for protection. Phones which are powered by the Android OS generally tend to employ a less expensive choice of build materials, most notably plastic, in order to keep costs and the weight of the phone(s) down and appeal to a wider range of users based on economics. Despite this Android phones still have their own unique beauty.

Whose Side are You On?

So, again, the question begs an answer: Is there a clear winner in the battle of the phone wars? Both iOS (Apple) and Android (Google) have firmly established themselves as the world's two most popular operating systems and each have a strong passionate user following. In the final analysis, though, there's no one right answer as each individual must determine for himself which phone best fits his budget, user patterns, and preferences.

Which side do you fall on? Apple fanboy or Android aficionado?

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on xxx (no longer published there).]

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Work at Home Tip: Minimize Distractions

I've been working from home since 1989, and I can tell you that one of the biggest hindrances to productivity is distractions. Whether it be in the form of friends and family stopping by or calling, chaotic thoughts directed towards the household duties that need to be carried out, or a temptation to surf the Web, watch TV, or play a video game while you should be working, these will all make it difficult for you to meet goals and carry out your work in a timely manner if you're not careful.

Here are a few tips to help in this area:

Set boundaries with family and friends

People who don't work from home just don't fully understand the dynamics of what your workday entails. They think that you can do what you want when you want. It's not their fault; they only know what they know. It's up to you to establish boundaries, and enforce them, about when they can call, drop by, or ask you to run errands for them.

Turn off the ringer on the house phone

It's just easier this way. Maintain separate phone lines for your business and personal lives. Turn off the ringer of your personal phone during the hours that you've established as work hours for yourself. You can check your messages periodically, i.e., on breaks and during your lunch hour, to ensure that no major emergencies occurred while you were in work mode.

If you have children, instruct the caretaking adults in their lives to text or call you on your business phone in the event of an emergency.

Don't keep a TV in your home office

Soap operas, talk shows, and reality shows are the banes of productivity. They're such time sinks that you can think that you'll turn on a show for just a few minutes or so and before you know it those few minutes have turned into hours. In the refrain of a popular campaign that was ongoing a few years ago: just say no.

Stay away from social media

Even worse than TV, social media can totally wreck your work day if not properly restricted. Catching up on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever, if they are not platforms directly tied to your work, can result in a whole day wasted sharing, posting, and pinning. Set aside 30 minutes before work and 30 minutes after to devote to these activities, and whatever can't be done during that time just isn't important.

Either don't do housework during working hours or only do it in pre-established intervals of time

This is one that seems to be a primary temptation for my fellow lady workers out there. Even if you have your own office in your home, there's just something about being at home that screams that the laundry needs to be done, meals need to be prepared, trash needs to be taken out, and floors need to be swept and mopped. Either make up your mind that you won't do household chores during your normal work hours, delegate the work to other family members (or even hire a professional), or only do a little bit of each task while on break - maybe for 15 or 20 minutes or so.

By minimizing distractions during your work-at-home day(s) you can stay focused and productive, and as you already know, focus and productivity equate to $$$.

Sources: Get More Done: 18 tips for Telecommuters 10 Tips for Working from Home
Personal experience

*Photo: Paulo Ordoveza via
[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices (no longer published there).]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Poison Ivy and Me: Not a Good Combination

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was the kidlet who never liked going outside. I was always at my happiest holed up in my room at the children's play desk that my parents had set up reading a good book. I had more books than I had toys. Who could have predicted that a bout of poison ivy was in my future?

On this particular day my parents insisted that I get out of the house and get some sunshine and fresh air. I grumbled, I argued, I negotiated, to no avail. They were determined that I was going to go outside like the other little kids and play.

Unhappily I made my way out to the back yard accompanied by my favorite cat, who also was sullen at having been unceremoniously deposed from the throne of her plush-covered perch.

As we walked along I spied a plant-covered mini-field of green leaves that reminded me of something that I'd read in one of my children's books. They were so beautiful and were even growing up around one of the trees. Shamrocks!, I shouted to the cat. Those are shamrocks!

Gleefully I ran in amongst the bed of green and began picking them, my little skirt blowing in the wind and my white sandals providing a complementary contrast in color.

It was a few minutes later that the itching began. Now, as a bit of backstory, I already suffered from chronic eczema, so this additional element in skin problems was most decidedly not a good thing!
Next came the blotches and the swelling. I began to look like a bad walking version of a pepperoni pizza.

How was it treated?

When I ran to the house and showed my parents they immediately went into distress mode. I'm telling you, there's no better form of emotional blackmail against your parents than for everything to go wrong when they've forced you to do something that you didn't want to do in the first place.

Fortunately, we had some calamine lotion in the house and they smeared it all over my tiny body. I was covered with blotches. I had a long history of allergies, so we had plenty of Benadryl of which I received a dose. WebMd also recommends a cold compress and hydrocortisone cream, and we did all that too.

What were my biggest struggles?

As a long-term eczema sufferer, it was bad enough to already have hypersensitive skin, but to add the ravages of poison ivy to the mix was truly a punishment. It took about a week for the irritation to finally fully clear, and that was with constantly dosing with the meds that I mentioned above.

I hope that neither you nor your child ever has this same experience.

Personal experience
*Photo: Leonora Enking via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/23/2014 (no longer published there).]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Your First-Time Cruise: What You Need to Know

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I remember when my first husband and I took our first cruise. It was a wonderful experience! I didn't know that a vacation could be so sweet. He surprised me with it as a belated honeymoon trip, and what a honeymoon it was. If this is your first-time cruise, there are a few things that you need to know in order to be prepared.

What to Expect

Imagine absolutely everything that you need for your vacation all situated in one place. You don't have to leave your "room" behind; it travels with you! That's one of the major perks that you get on a cruise. Your entertainment, food, and shopping are all within just a short walk's reach.

Just about everything that you can think of that can be done on a vacation can be done right there on the ship. The only reason that you would ever have to disembark is to go sightseeing as you dock in different ports.

You have a steward to attend you in your room. He will see to it that your room is cleaned every day and your basic essentials are kept in stock in your cabin. He will also be able to answer any questions that you may have.

How to Prepare

Make sure that all of your travel documents are in order. You'll need ID, and if you're traveling to any foreign ports you'll need a passport. Check with your cruise line or travel agent before departure to ensure that you have everything that you need.

Pack well but pack light. Once you embark on the ship you'll have help for your every need, but having to try and lug a lot of luggage to the plane and on the transport to the dock can be stressful.

Advice I Can Offer

As above, make sure that you have all of your travel documents. Just one missing item can spell catastrophe for your trip.

Take plenty of money. I suggest that you load up on traveler's checks and/or debit or credit cards. Cash is good but subject to be stolen. You will, however, need cash tips for the many folks who work diligently for you during the cruise to make your trip a success (although the end-of-cruise tips can be charged to your account if you wish).

Go to your cruise line's website and read it thoroughly. You'll find all of the information that you need to make your trip happy and pleasant there.

Relax, have fun, and enjoy. You're about to have the experience of a lifetime and will create many memories.

Personal experience

*Photo: Pete Markham via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 05/23/2014 (no longer published there).]

Monday, January 26, 2015

My First Job Out of College: A Bad Choice

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

Almost every day for the last couple of weeks I've received a notification from someone happily announcing their college graduation. As I've received these notifications, I've remembered with no degree of fondness my first job out of college and how and why it was a bad choice. Hopefully you won't make the same mistakes that I did.
I finished my last year of working on my bachelor's degree as a married woman. My husband was a huge motivation and support to me as I worked toward graduation.
After finishing school, I decided that I'd like to start a family as soon as possible, but I both wanted to contribute to the household income and stay at home with the kids.
My First Job Out of College
I had a brand new Bachelor of Arts degree in English. I could type 100+ words a minute. I operated at a high level of proficiency in language. To my amazement, I found the field of medical transcription. Although this job required no degree for entry, the ladies in it made tons of money, had scheduling flexibility, and were able to work at home. It was a dream come true! I applied to three companies, tested, and all three made hiring offers.
I was ecstatic! My focus shifted to making the huge dollars that others were boasting about and becoming a mother so soon in the game fell to a lower place on my list of priorities. Along the way, I kept seeing a lot of "irregularities" in the field: constantly shifting quality guidelines that were used for cost containment, worker unfriendly management, and grueling work conditions. But I was making good money, so I turned a blind eye to it all and kept plugging away!
What Happened Next
The longer I stayed in the field, the more disenchanted I grew. It was becoming harder and harder to make the money, our flexibility was taken away, and our pay was constantly being manipulated. I decided that I wanted to do something more with my life, so I decided to go back to school and get a master's degree.
Biggest Lesson Learned
With my husband's continuing support I studied for two long years until I had a graduate degree in hand -- but it seems I still hadn't learned my lesson. I stayed in medical transcription for another 12 years, and the field continued to decline, wages became stagnant, and it became an electronic sweatshop. And by this time, because I hadn't actually used my degrees in any direct professional application they had become somewhat obsolete.
Tips for You
  • Don't just choose a career based on money. Do what you love and the money will naturally flow to you.
  • If you see that a career field just doesn't make you happy, don't prolong the time. Make an exit plan and get out as soon as possible!
  • Your first job out of college doesn't have to be your last job. You'll find that your career is a living, moving, breathing dynamic. As you continue to grow in your personal development, you'll become more qualified for positions with more responsibility and, correspondingly, more pay.

Enjoy these first few days after you graduate. You deserve some down time after all of the hard work that you've put in. But after you've caught your breath and slowed down a little think seriously and strategically about the career path that you wish to follow.

*Photo: Evonne via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/05/2014 (no longer published there).]

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Three Favorite Brunch Recipes

by A.L. Woods, Staff Writer

I love entertaining, especially in the springtime, and my favorite events to host are brunches. To me, brunch time is the perfect time of the day -- not too early and not too late. You can sit around and enjoy good food and even better fellowship. Today I'd like to share my three favorite brunch recipes with you. They're both simple and easy.

Fruit Bowl Fantastic

Fruit is always a staple at my brunch events. No matter what the season you can always find the perfect fruit to grace your table. Try this combination though and your guests will be singing your praises for days.

1 medium size watermelon
3 large mangoes
2 large peaches
1 bunch of red grapes
3 medium size green apples
Agave nectar
Cayenne pepper
Whipped cream (optional)

Wash all produce thoroughly.

Slice watermelon, mangoes, peaches, and green apples into bite-sized pieces and place in a large decorative crystal bowl.

Add red grapes.

Drizzle agave nectar over the top.

Lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Add a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Frappe Touche

This beverage is always popular with my guests. Most times I have to make a couple of additional batches before the affair has ended. It's simple to make but rates high scores for taste.

One large tub of Neopolitan ice cream
One large Schweppes ginger ale

Allow ice cream to soften at room temperature for approximately 10 minutes.

Scoop ice cream out of tub and into a large decorative punch bowl.

Slowly pour ginger ale over top.

Blend with large spoon.

Ladle into glasses when ready to serve.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Passion

What's a brunch without delicious appetizers? This one is my favorite and is always a hit. I promise you that they'll go fast, so even consider doubling the recipe.

5 tubs of Philadelphia Pineapple Cream Cheese
2 loaves of white bread
1 small jar of pitted green olives

Spread a generous amount of cream cheese on each slice of bread and close it with another slice of bread just as if you are making a sandwich.

Cut the ends of the bread from each sandwich.

Slice each sandwich in four diagonal parts so that each part forms a triangle.

Put a 1/2 of an olive on each sandwich triangle.

As you can see, your brunch menu doesn't have to be stressful or expensive. Keep things simple and you not only can have a delicious multi-course meal, but you can still remain relaxed, enjoy your guests, and won't have to break your wallet. 

Personal experience

*Photo: Myriam M.J. Rondeau via Flickr

[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/06/2014 (no longer published there).]