FYI Articles

River Recovery - Everybody Can Help

Boom!
One fine morning, the old wooden dam went up in clouds of smoke and broken timber. It was a huge thing—ancient and strong, built to tame the Rappahannock River. Once the power of the water pushing against it had provided electricity for the town. But that was years ago. The dam was falling apart, but so slowly that it was becoming dangerous. So the Army Corps of Engineers blew it up one morning.

Tales from Tolkien: A Retrospective on Film Adaptations of Middle Earth

It has been over a decade since the first of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released.  This film was greeted with both critical and audience acclaim upon its debut, and became a definitive cinematic event of the early 21st Century.  On December 14, 2012, Jackson’s long-awaited adaptation of the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, will be released.  Jackson’s films have become regarded as classics to the point that many fans may become unhappy with anyone other than Peter Jackson making a cinematic Tolkien adaptation, and it may come as a surprise to them that some film adaptations of Tolkien’s mythic cycle had already been made prior to Jackson’s! While waiting for the release of the first film in Jackson’s Hobbit adaptation, let’s take a look back at some prior cinematic versions of Tolkien’s works, and at Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Avoiding Sneakware

I see it all the time: PCs choking on gobs of uninvited software to the point where they barely function.  They may be Web browser toolbars or antivirus utilities or programs that promise to speed up your computer, when in fact they do exactly the opposite.  It enrages me to see programs like these on my customers’ computers because I know that they did not knowingly install these programs--these programs waltzed in with another that the customer did want.  This sort of software is referred to as “sneakware.” It’s kind of like the plus-four your buddy brings to your small gathering that was really only supposed to be a plus-one at most. It’s rude, annoying, and most people don’t know how to properly say “no.”  I can’t help you with your social skills, but I can tell you how to say no to sneakware.

Folktales of the American Indians

The tribes who lived in the Western Hemisphere before the coming of the Europeans were as different from each other as the countries that came to claim their lands. The many stories of the people who farmed, hunted, and herded in the plains, forests, deserts, and hills of what we call North America tell how they saw the Universe and the wisdom that they found in Nature.

Speak Up: Giving a Good Oral Report

It's true: most people would do just about anything to get out of having to speak in public, whether it's the standard "everyone in this class will give an oral report" situation or an acceptance speech for some nifty award you've just received. The knees knock, the heart pounds, and the words you've practiced and practiced and practiced fly right out of your mind. You find yourself resorting to reading from the index cards with your eyes down, your voice a droning monotone, and the sweat beading on your forehead. Yuck. Not a good situation. It's painful for you as the presenter and even more painful for your audience to watch. Here's a bit of advice for beginning public speakers.

A Room of Your Own

It's the first thing you see when you get up in the morning and the last thing you see when you go to bed at night. It should be a space that really expresses you, not just a collection of random backpack kibble.

With the right paint color, some interesting fabric, cool posters, and one or two fun yet functional light fixtures, you can create a room that's perfect for your daydreaming self and may even make homework time a little easier to take.

To get started, think about what you need to make your room work for you. You may think a calendar and a desk are pretty dorky, but you have to have some place to put your work stuff, yes? And your room is a MUCH better place to get down to school business than the dining room table or the den. So figure out where you're going to put the hafta's and then feel free to play with the rest. After all, Mom and Dad are going to be much sweeter about springing for a few decorating extras if the purpose is to improve your studies. ; )

An American Thanksgiving

Everybody knows that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, right? Well, probably not, but it was the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving that gave us our Thanksgiving holiday as we know it today.

The Pilgrims came to the New World looking for a way to worship God as they wished. They were not Puritans. Puritans wanted to change the Church of England to do away with its bishops but keep its ties to the government. The Puritans went on to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Colony were Separatists.

Dig This!

Wouldn't it be cool if even a few of the old stories were true? Legends say that giants walked the Earth, Atlantis vanished under the sea, and Greece and Troy fought a devastating war over a beautiful woman. Amazing, but true: all these stories are based on facts.

Archaeologists digging in China discovered the fossils of Gigantopithecus, a giant ape standing 9 or 10 feet tall. These huge but probably gentle apes died off 500,000 years ago. Traditionally, villagers collected their bones and made them into medicines. They called their finds dragon bones. Some have wondered whether pockets of the animals may have survived into later centuries, giving rise to the legend of Big Foot.

Hanukkah: A Festival of Lights

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, begins on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev, at sundown. Lasting eight days, Hanukkah usually occurs during December, but sometimes begins in November. This Jewish holiday is known as the Festival of Lights, commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C. after three years of war. Hanukkah means "dedication."

Jerusalem at the time was part of the Hellenistic empire and was ruled by Antiochus IV. His government instituted a different religion from Judaism. When the Temple became a site of sacrifices and icons, the people resisted, sparking three years of fierce rebellion. The Maccabees led the rebellion and were triumphant in 164 B.C.

Keep the Fun. Lose the Sun.

Or at least its harmful rays.
Spending the afternoon outdoors without sunscreen is asking for trouble now and way into the future. Burn marks are not attractive. Wrinkles--or worse yet, possibly skin cancer--will eventually be a problem if you don't protect your skin now. You will definitely need sunscreen so go ahead and get it now before you're spirited off on a picnic or a trip to the beach. Look for the SPF rating of at least 15 and also make sure it has UVA protection. Apply it half an hour before going out and reapply it after getting in the water or sweating.