How to Keep Your New Years Resolutions

So, it’s that time of the year again…when you get to start all over again with a bright, positive smile and shout out, “this year is going to be FANTASTIC!!!”

champagne toast

According to Statistic Brain, 48% of Americans make New Years resolutions. Out of this chunk, however, only a mere 8% succeed at honoring them. What is this 8% doing differently, and how should you avoid falling into a cycle of commit, break, repeat? Here are a few tips to remember before making these resolutions, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as the clock strikes midnight and as the champagne sizzles away.

1) THINK SMALL

russian

As with some things in life, making New Years resolutions aligns with “less is more”. If you’re dying to start a band, learn a foreign language and become a
Jedi Master, you may want to choose one of these new ventures as opposed to all of them. “Learn something exciting” ranks sixth on Statistic Brain under their Type of Resolution list. “Learning to make realistic goals” should rank first. So don’t set yourself up for failure by signing up for every course you come across or starting every venture you’ve been dreaming of. Don’t run out of febrile “I can conquer the world” energy in the first two weeks of the new year– you still have about twelve months to go!

2) BE SPECIFIC

scale

Surprise surprise– “lose weight” ranks as number one on the aforementioned list. “Stay fit and healthy” is number five. If your goal is to start exercising, eat healthier or get your blood pressure under control, ask yourself exactly HOW you will be achieving this. Will you be joining a fitness group? Which one? How many times a week will you be exercising and when? A general “eat healthy” might not get you where you want. Are you cutting out fast food? Limiting sweets to once a week? Hiring a dietician or a trainer? Joining Weight Watchers? You get the gist.

Bizarre French Sayings

As a speaker of both French and English, I find the differences in common idioms and expressions very peculiar, especially when translated literally. Whether you just want a good laugh or are interested in different languages, here are a few of my favorite French sayings.

1) GO BOIL YOURSELF AN EGG!

go boil an egg

The French expression “VAS TE FAIRE CUIRE UN OEUF!” dates back to ancient times when a wife’s place was confined to the kitchen. If her husband ever complained about her cooking, her way of telling him to “go to hell” was suggesting he “go boil himself an egg” for dinner since he wasn’t happy. So rather than telling the next telemarketer who calls you to “get lost”, try suggesting he go boil himself an egg instead.

2) DON’T SELL THE BEAR’S SKIN BEFORE YOU KILL THE BEAR

selling bear skin

Dating back to the colonization of Québec by France during the 16th – 18th centuries, this expression makes allusion to the French Canadian coureurs de bois (a.k.a.– “runners of the woods“) trading European artifacts for various beaver and bear furs with the native American tribes. “IL NE FAUT PAS VENDRE LA PEAU DE L’OURS AVANT DE L’AVOIR TUÉ” is a hunter’s take on the farmer’s expression, “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

I am no hunter, but I still like to use the expression to confuse people and it usually makes them laugh.

3) I HAVE OTHER CATS TO WHIP

whipping cats

Sounds awful, I know, but saying “J’AI D’AUTRES CHATS À FOUETTER” has nothing to do with torturing cats. The expression dates back to the 17th century where sayings such as “it’s no reason to whip a cat” were used to refer to unimportant matters. It’s unclear as to why the poor kitties are being whipped in this cruel expression, but the English counterpart, “I have bigger fish to fry”, does make a little more sense since fish is usually cooked (except for avid sushi lovers).

I’d stick to the frying fish expression in this case.

First Flight, 1903

Wright Brothers Trivia

Unless you’ve been living in an underground convent, you’ve heard of the Wright Brothers before, a.k.a.– those “two guys from Dayton, Ohio who flew the first airplane somewhere in North Carolina.” Sounds familiar? I certainly hope so. If not (or still, if it does), read on– chances are you may not know the entire story. Here are a few facts you just may find interesting…

Jedi Training with Faraday’s Law

Do you like physics, math, Star Wars and consider yourself a geek? Then chances are you will enjoy this immensely. If not, feel free to press the X located in the upwards corner of your computer to close this window as I continue to type away.

If you grew up like any other other kid out there, you probably attended at least one cheesy magic show in your life. Do you remember that really impressive trick– no, not the rabbit coming out of a hat– but the other one…the really impressive one where the magician uses his powers of telekinesis to make a ring jump up from some kind of rod?

Chances are, he wasn’t using telekinesis, nor was your long-gone great-great Aunt Gertrude coming back to scold your lifestyle from beyond the grave. The magician was probably a poor physicist unable to pay back his student loans, and unemployed due to the harsh economy of the US. The real trick here at work is actually a physics concept explained by Faraday’s Law.

Here you frown at once: “Faraday’s Law?” you whine out. “What happened to the magic, the bunnies, and all the fun stuff? Where’s the guy in the cape?”

Patience, Young One. You have much to learn.

Kat Trivia

Here are five random interesting trivia facts I’ve learned in the past decade, year, month, week or whatever.

1) Texting dates back to the 19th century…..kind of.

The shortest telegram was sent from epic writer Victor Hugo in 1862 when he was exiled by Napoleon on a small island called Guernsey in the English channel.

Victor Hugo

Monsieur Victor Hugo understands efficiency.

Curious to know how well his new novel Les Misérables was doing, Monsieur Hugo fired off a telegram to his publisher. The telegram consisted of a single question mark, and it was answered just as efficiently with an exclamation point. The novel was doing so well that the first printing had already sold out in Paris.

Considering that Monsieur Hugo is known for his elaborate descriptions (i.e.– simple inscriptions on sewer walls generate hundreds of explanatory pages), I personally find this extremely ironic.

So ladies, next time a guy claims he wasn’t available to call or text, please think of Monsieur Hugo, alone and exiled on his island, yet still managing to communicate to the outside world.

The Kiss

Valentine’s Day Romantic Alternatives

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, where you and your loved one are supposed to got out canoodling, gazing into each others’ eyes and playing the parts of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Or not.

Bored of doing the same thing? Ordering/receiving a dozen roses, chocolate, and signing cheesy Hallmark cards? Or dropping a couple of hundred dollars in a candlelit restaurant to enjoy the Valentine’s Day Special (which costs more than on the average day, so should really be called the Valentine’s Day Scam)?

Yes? No? Regardless, here are four last-minute, simple alternatives on how to profess your everlasting love/lust for each other, celebrate the famous holiday without feeling (too) cliché-tarized and most importantly, while still being romantic.

Arwen and Aragorn

I would rather spend one life with you than face all the ages of this world alone…

Costa Rica Highlights

Highlights of Costa Rica

Need a break from following museum guides, signing up for walking tours, and learning a city’s entire history in one day? Add visiting Costa Rica on your to-do list. Your itinerary now includes conquering beaches on horseback, trekking volcanos, and zipping through the jungle over forests and rivers.

Here is a list of top 5 destinations and activities to plan while adapting to the country’s Pura Vida lifestyle, which can be loosely translated as This is Living!.

1) SURFING AT PLAYA DE TAMARINDO

Playa de Tamarindo is known as one of the top prime surfing locations in the world. You don’t have to be an expert to give it a go– there are beginner’s lessons offered everywhere, along with shops that offer great board rental rates so you can practice what you’ve learned. Enjoy yourself and remember that, after a day or so, there’s always someone else who looks even more incompetent on their board than you do.

Surfers there tend to plan their lives around the ocean, so don’t be surprised to see a flock of them patiently floating like corks on their surfboards whenever high tides are predicted, including at the crack of dawn.

2) HORSEBACK RIDING AT PLAYA BRASILITO

Playa Brasilito (meaning “little Brasil”) is only about 15 minutes driving from Tamarindo, whether this implies taking a taxi, bribing a papaya merchant on the road, or driving your own car if you’ve been brave enough to rent a vehicle. There’s also a rickety tourist station on the “Main Road” (there’s only one) that can organize everything for you. If the idea of galloping straight from the beach and onto gorgeous mountains exhilarates you, you can book a horseback tour near Hotel Brasilito for around $25/hour.

Know who’s the boss when you mount a Costa Rican horse– they also seem to follow the Pura Vida guidelines. Tell the guide your experience level (i.e.: rapido or lentamente will do), and he’ll be glad to slow it down or take it up a notch.

You’ll be sore the next day, so remember to coordinate your expedition with respect to your newly-acquired surfing skills.

Plus White 5 Minute

Goodbye Yellow Smile

Whether your eating and drinking habits are imprinted on your teeth, literally, or you’ve made a habit of engaging others with a fake, forced smile (as the French expression goes), please read on.

Let’s face it. The minute you open your mouth, people notice your teeth. Hopefully you don’t have spinach stuck in there, but even if you don’t, and enjoy your coffee/glass of red wine/soda every day, you may have stains that make you feel self-conscious, therefore transforming that genuine smile into an actual French yellow smile.

As someone who put myself through braces not once, but twice in my twenties, I care about my teeth. Unfortunately, they also tend to stain easily. If you’re like me and smile a lot, but your enthusiasm (and your target audience’s) gets somewhat subdued by the color of your teeth, there are easy ways to remedy this that go beyond the obligatory routine dentist cleanings and check-ups (which you should never skip anyways for health reasons).

SIDE NOTE: Please don’t panic; I’m not suggesting you give up caffeine, or any sort of beverage of choice– that is completely up to you.

partial solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse Coming Up!

I believed I called 2014 the “lucky astronomical year” in an earlier blog post and it looks like I was more than right: a partial solar eclipse is scheduled to occur this Thursday on October 23rd 2014.

Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when our lovely Moon, going about its orbit, intersects our view of the Sun and casts its shadow on the Earth. The eclipse will be visible from all of the US (except from New England and Hawaii) with a wide coverage ranging from 12% in Florida to 70% in Alaska. Although once again, like this month’s blood Moon, habitants of the West coast are much better positioned than their Eastern counterparts to view this astronomical phenomenon (weather-permitting of course), the East coast may just catch a glimpse of the eclipse as the Sun sets, according to this NASA chart.

Catching a glimpse here is used very metaphorically and no one should get swept off their feet and ride into this particular sunset. Looking at a solar eclipse can cause permanent damage to the retina and lead to blindness. Although sometimes love may be blind, horses and fairy tales are always experienced better with a healthy set of eyes. Taking into account the fact that retinas don’t feel pain, imprudent/misinformed viewers never quite realize what is happening until it’s too late.

Yes, it’s kind of a morbid thought but I don’t see why the Weather Bureau doesn’t broadcast a warning along with its tornado, hurricane or earthquake announcements. Shouldn’t Do Not Look At Sun be included with Warning: Seek Shelter Immediately?

Blood Moon

Blood Moon Tomorrow

A second total lunar eclipse is scheduled to occur tomorrow morning, October 8th 2014, which will be best viewed from the West Coast according to NASA.

Fear not, East-Coasters: we can still witness this spectacular astronomical event in the wee hours of the early morning.

Lunar Eclipse Chart

The partial eclipse will begin at 09:14:48 UT and progress for the next three hours. The Moon will be covered in its totality at 10:25:36 UT. Due to scattering effects caused by Earth’s atmosphere, our satellite will take on the appearance of a glowing, reddish ball, otherwise known as a “blood Moon”. This particular blood Moon will  appear about 5.3% larger than the one seen in April,  due to a recent lunar perigee.

Apocalypse

What are these mysterious strange scattering effects, you ask? No, a blood Moon does not indicate the end of the world, nor an upcoming apocalypse, (nor the birth of a thousand werewolves, for that matter), but is simply the result of scattering effects from Earth’s atmosphere. Since atmospheric particles tend to absorb blueish colors, the red end of the light spectrum passes through the atmosphere more easily, and, in the case of a celestial object at low altitude, has to travel a larger distance to reach us. A larger distance entails a larger portion of atmosphere, which translates into a copper-colored moon.

The same phenomenon is seen in reddish sunsets and sunrises, by the way, should this come up at trivia or if you run out of things to say during your next date.

So if Earth had no atmosphere, not only would we not be alive, but our non-existent selfs would end up staring at a black circle cutting into the celestial sky in the event of a total lunar eclipse. That alone has a much more impactful “apocalypse feel” in my humble opinion.

Hopefully it’s nice and clear tomorrow morning; if not, we can all crawl back into bed or carry forth our matinal jog knowing the end isn’t coming (yet).


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