Joeleonhart’s Weblog

To Learn and To Share

Pengalaman di kantor Bank Indonesia (BI)

Baru sekali ini (pagi ini) saya memijakkan kaki ke kantor BI (Bank Indonesia – Medan). Itu pun karena menemani teman saya yang ingin menukar uang lama (yang sudah mau rusak) dengan uang baru. Dari luar, gedungnya terlihat lumayan megah berwarna putih. Begitu masuk ke dalam, saya melihat sudah ada 20-30an orang yang sedang duduk menunggu.

Pada saat kami tiba, waktu menunjukkan pukul 09.35 WIB. Sambil menunggu, saya iseng-iseng melihat-lihat sekeliling. Di loket tertulis:

Kas Buka

Pukul 09.00-12.00 WIB

setiap hari Senin-Jumat

Hari Sabtu Tutup

Kembali saya perhatikan jam di Kantor BI tersebut. Saya lihat waktu menunjukkan pukul 09.50 WIB. Tetapi tidak ada seorang pun pegawai loket yang tampak di sana. Pada kemana ya? Begitu pertanyaan di hati saya.
Lalu saya perhatikan lagi ada tanda “No Smoking Area” (Kawasan Bebas Rokok). Tapi, kuperhatikan ada beberapa pegawai di bagian lain, yang dengan santainya mengisap rokok, padahal …..
Selanjutnya…

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Life Style | Leave a comment

Pasca-418 Tahun Kota Medan

Pasca-418 Tahun Kota Medan

Apa Kabar Pengamanan Fasiltas Umum

Usia 418 tahun untuk sebuah kota sebenarnya sudah cukup menjadikannya paripurna. Persoalannya, kecenderungan kita memaknai pembangunan dari segi fisik semata, sehingga barometer keberhasil pun ke arah itu.

Misal, keberhasilan pendidikan selalu diukur dari banyaknya gedung-gedung sekolah dan fasilitas pendidikan. Keberhasilan kehidupan beragama diukur dari banyaknya rumah-rumah ibadah dan tidak adanya konflik dalam kehidupan beragama.

Keterkejutan Budaya

Padahal, sesungguhnya makna pembangunan lebih dari sekadar fisik. Pertanyaannya, jika saja orang-orang pedalaman yang terisolir dikenakan pakaian modern, apakah otomatis ia jadi orang modern. Maaf, suku Aborigin di Australia sana banyak tewas bukan karena dibedili, tetapi karena mengalami culture shock (keterkejutan budaya), ketika berhadapan dengan modernitas yang tak terpahaminya.

Ya, pembangunan sesungguhnya bagai dua sisi mata uang: fisik dan nonfisik, keduanya harus seiring dan sejalan, tidak boleh saling meninggalkan. Secara fisik bangsa-bangsa yang tertinggal dapat mengejarnya dengan speed yang maksimal. Secara nonfisik, jika speed dipaksa maksimal, niscaya akan terjadi keterkejutan budaya yang berdampak luas ke seluruh sektor kehidupan.

Jujur saja, meski di sana-sini masih terdapat kelemahan, Medan sudah berkembang ke arah kota sebagaimana layaknya kota-kota yang ada di belahan bumi mana saja. Persoalannya, sikap mental masyarakatnya, masih banyak yang tertinggal jauh, sehingga sarana dan prasarana, infrastruktur dan suprastruktur terkadang tidak terjaga dengan baik.

Sebuah kota, dewasa ini belum dalam dikatakan paripurna bila sarana fasilitas umumnya tak terawat dan terjaga dengan baik seperti taman kota, kabel listrik serta telkom dan sejenisnya, rumah-rumah ibadah, sekolah dan lain sebagainya. Untuk Medan yang sudah 418 tahun (1 Juli 2008 lalu) ketimpangan itu terdapat pada manusianya.

Pada kesempatan ini penulis mencoba melihat infrastruktur telekomunikasi (kabel) yang merupakan salah satu fasilitas umum yang sangat penting dijaga. Data yang sampai pada penulis, kota Medan menjadi lokasi pencurian kabel tertinggi di Indonesia. Selain Medan ada beberapa lokasi lainnya, seperti Ceribon, Bandung, Malang, Solo, Semarang dan Jember. Tingginya kasus pencurian kabel di area layanan Telkom Kandatel Medan (meliputi Kota Medan, Kabupaten Langkat, Kota Binjai, Kabupaten Deli Serdang) mengakibatkan ribuan telepon pelanggan terputus. Bahkan di banyak lokasi terjadi pencurian berulang. Kerugian akibat pencurian aset negara ini mencapai miliaran rupiah, baik di sisi Telkom mau pun pelanggan.

5000 Telepon Terputus

Penegasan itu disampaikan General Manager (GM) Telkom Kandatel Medan R. Umam kepada Wartawan awal Juni 2008 lalu. Diperkirakan, sekitar 5000 telepon pelanggan terputus akibat pencurian. Karena itu, Umam menyampaikan permohonan maafnya kepada pelanggan yang menjadi korban pencurian ini. Tapi, apakah persoalan selesai?

Upaya yang dilakukan Telkom untuk mengatasi terputusnya kabel telepon itu, dengan melakukan penyambungan kembali. Tapi dibeberapa lokasi kabel yang baru saja disambung, bahkan belum hidup ke pelanggan, sudah hilang keesokan harinya. Kerugian disisi Telkom tidak sedikit, yakni mencapai Rp 200 juta setiap bulannya. Kerugian itu belum dihitung kehilangan pulsa percakapan. Yang sangat menyedihkan tentu saja kerugian yang diderita pelanggan khususnya pelanggan bisnis dimana fasilitas telepon adalah bahagian dari kebutuhan bisnis mereka.

Upaya lain yang dilakukan Telkom Medan untuk mencegah terjadinya pencurian aset negara ini adalah dengan melakukan kerjasama, baik dengan pihak kepolisian, masyarakat setempat, melakukan patroli internal. Tapi kasus pencurian itu belum bisa ditekan. ”Medan adalah lokasi pencurian kabel tertinggi di Indonesia,” kata Umam. Dari data yang disampaikan, untuk periode Januari-Mei 2008 terjadi 587 kasus. Jumlah kasus pencurian itu mengalami peningkatan. Tahun 2005 terjadi 21 kasus, tahun 2006 : 377 kasus dan tahun 2007 : 741 kasus.

Dari 587 kasus yang terjadi selama Januari-Mei 2008 itu masing-masing terjadi pada bulan Januari 107 kasus, Februari 85 kasus, Maret 107 kasus, April 144 kasus dan Mei 144 kasus.

Ada tiga lokasi paling rawan pencurian aset negara ini, yakni kawasan Tembung (Jln Beringin, Pasar 7, Pasar 11, Bandar Setia, Laut Dendang), Sukaramai (kawasan Mandala dan Jermal), Simpang Limun (kawasan SM Raja, Marendal dan Johor) serta beberapa lokasi lainnya, seperti Marelan, Belawan dan Binjai.

Saat ini pihak Telkom sedang melakukan upaya kerjasama untuk melakukan operasi mencegah kasus pencurian ini dengan melakukan pemetaan lokasi rawan pencurian. Kerjasama juga akan dilakukan dengan pemerintah daerah guna melibatkan peran aktif desa melalui pola siskamling yang ada. Sejauh ini dari kerjasama itu, tertangkap 29 orang pelaku pencurian selama tahun 2008. Persoalannya, para penadah tidak pernah tertangkap. Ada apa?

Flexi Home

Menurut GM Kandatel Medan itu, Telkom saat ini mengalami kesulitan untuk melakukan perbaikan (recovery) karena tidak amannya kabel telepon. Ada pelanggan yang sudah terputus selama beberapa bulan. Untuk itulah, kata Umam, Telkom Kandatel Medan akan mengusakan recovery dengan penggantian telepon wireline (kabel) dengan telepon wireless (Flexihome) khususnya di daerah rawan pencurian.

Katanya, pada bulan Mei 2008, telah dilakukan penggantian lebih dari 500 telepon pelanggan dari wireline ke wireless di berbagai lokasi. Pada bulan Juni 2008 kembali dilakukan penggantian sebanyak 2000 sst (satuan sambungan telepon) lagi. Untuk penggantian itu, Telkom tidak memungut biaya apa pun.

Tim Recovery Telkom Kandatel Medan mendatangi pelanggan yang teleponnya rusak akibat pencurian dan menggantikannya dengan pesawat Flexi Home. Namun, karena teknologi yang digunakan adalah wireless maka nomor pelanggan terpaksa diganti dengan nomor yang baru ( dengan prefix 77xxxxxx atau 76xxxxxx).

Kata Umam, untuk lokasi yang tingkat kerawanannya sangat tinggi, Telkom tidak akan melakukan penggantian kabel dan diharapkan Flexi Home akan menjadi solusi permanen.

Tingginya tingkat pencurian kabel ini, di samping mentalitas yang rendah, juga karena kondisi kemiskinan. Coba bayangkan, satu kilogram kabel telepon para penadah berani membayar Rp 85 ribu. 10 kg saja, para pencuri sudah dapat mengantongi Rp 850 ribu, tanpa menyadari yang 10 kg itu, Telkom mengalami kerugian ratusan juta rupiah.

Penyuluhan

Saran penulis, di samping melakukan pembinaan dan penyuluhan kepada masyarakat tentang betapa pentingnya menjaga sarana dan prasarana umum, juga pengawasan. Penyuluhan, di samping membangun kesadaran juga sanksi yang harus diterima para pencuri kabel. Pasal 55 UU No 36/1999 tentang telekomunikasi menyebutkan: Setiap pencurian kabel telepon atau merusak fasilitas Telkom dapat dihukum maksimal 6 tahun penjara atau denda 600 juta rupiah.

Di samping penyuluhan, Telkom pun dapat menerapkan pengawasan yang tidak konvensional, seperti memanfaatkan tekonlogi CCTV, alaram atau sejenisnya. Dalam pada itu kerja sama dengan pihak kepolisian, OKP (organisasi kepemudaan) dan lain sebagainya terus ditingkatkan. Semoga.

*Peminat Masalah Sosial Budaya

Menetap di Medan

July 3, 2008 Posted by | Life Style | 2 Comments

Ways to Earn Extra Money

Looking for ways to earn extra money? Then, consider these ideas:

Sell Things You No Longer Need

Are things that you no longer need or use cluttering up your home? Then, turn them into cash. Sell any items of value on Ebay, in the newpaper classifieds or at a consignment store. Then, have a yard sale to sell the rest.

 

Get Paid for Your Time Online

Did you know that there are companies that will pay you to read e-mails, to do web searches and to complete other online activities? It’s true. Sign up with several of them, and get paid for the time that you spend online. Check out Volition.com for a list of companies to consider.

Get Paid to Take Surveys

Turn your opinions into cash by answering online surveys. Just sign up with several survey sites, and wait for the survey invitations to roll in.

Have Your Car Wrapped

Do you spend a lot of time on the road? Then, consider turning your car into a rolling billboard. Many companies – big and small – are willing to pay to have your car “wrapped” with their advertisements.

Earn Money from Hobbies

Hobbies usually cost money, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Find ways to turn your favorite pasttime into a source of income, and enjoy playing for profit.

Bank for Profit

Many banks – on and offline – offer cash incentives for opening a new account (anywhere from $25 to over $100). Take advantage of these offers, and turn banking into a more lucrative experience.

Blog

Have knowledge that you’d like to share with the world? Then set up a blog, and put in the work to monetize it.

  • Directory of Advertising Opportunities for Bloggers
  • Earn Money Through Ads on Your Blog

Get a Paper Route

Paper routes aren’t just for kids with bicycles any more. If you have a reliable vehicle and a need or desire to boost your income by several hundred dollars a week, a newspaper route could be the answer. Talk to your local newspaper to find out what routes they have available in the area.

Tutor

Are you a math whiz? A grammar pro? A chemistry master? Then, become a tutor, and transform your knowledge into a paycheck. Just advertise where parents are likely to look – on campuses, at the library, in the newspaper – and you’ll soon build a list of clients.

Deliver Phone Books

Someone’s got to deliver all those phone books, and it may as well be you. Contact your local phone company to find out what you need to do to apply for the job. Then, hussle those books from door to door for some extra green.

Note: Often phone companies will place an insert in with your phone bill to announce their need for deliverers. Keep an eye out for this advertisement, and act quickly when you see it.

Become a Mystery Shopper

Like to shop? Yep, you can get paid to do that too. Sign up to become a mystery shopper, and turn your trips to the mall into a source of income.

Recycle

Your trash can or cluttered garage could be yet another source for money. Aluminum, steel and many other materials can be recycled for profit – now, that’s good news for your bank account and the environment.

July 1, 2008 Posted by | Life Style | 1 Comment

10 Ways to Help Kids Develop Healthy TV Viewing Habits

  1. Preview movies and TV shows before your children watch them. Watch the show or read reviews/ratings to verify that the show meets your standards for content and value.

     

     

  2. Watch TV with your kids when you can. Co-viewing allows you to discuss the show with them, and if something inappropriate is shown or said, you can point out that it is something that doesn’t meet your family’s standards. 

     

  3. Set time limits. Limiting children’s viewing time can be difficult, but being consistent with the rules can help avoid a conflict. 

     

  4. Establish TV rules around your family schedule. For example, make a rule that homework and chores must be done before watching TV. 

     

  5. Be aware of commercials. Discuss the concept of commercials and the goal of advertising with your kids. Young children sometimes have trouble distinguishing between shows and commercials. 

     

  6. Limit eating while watching TV. Research has indicated possible links between eating while watcing tv and childhood obesity. 

     

  7. Use Parental Control Tools. Technology such as V-chips, blocks and filters can help you monitor what your children are watching. TIVO and other recording devices can also come in handy to record, block, or allow you to fast forward through commercials. 

     

  8. Plan other family activities. Engage children in fun activities that do not center on the television. 

     

  9. Set a good example.  

     

  10. Make it a game. Employ a “three strikes” your out rule. Younger children will especially like yelling “Strike One!” when something happens on the TV that doesn’t meet your family’s standards. After three strikes, the channel is changed. Another idea for making good TV habits a game include working on a project, like housecleaning, during commercials and challenging everyone to go as fast as they can. Or, exercise on a mini tramp or tread mill during the show.

July 1, 2008 Posted by | Life Style | 1 Comment

Top 10 Reasons to Turn Off Your TV

Turning off your television will gain you, on average, about 4 hours per day. Imagine if you took that time to exercise, give your brain a workout and develop strong relationships. Not only would you be adding years to your life, you would become more interesting, energetic, and fun. So take the plunge and try not watching TV for a week. At first it will be strange and awkward, but stick with it and soon you will love all the extra time.

1. Television Eats Your Time

The average U.S. adult watches more than 4 hours of television a day. That’s 25 percent of waking time spent every day. Imagine if you suddenly had 25 percent more time — that’s three extra months per year! You could get in all your exercise, cook your meals from scratch and still have time left over to write a novel.Over a lifetime, an 80-year-old person would have watched 116,800 hours of television, compared to only 98,000 hours of work. As a nation, adults watch 880 million hours of television every day or 321 billion hours per year. Whew! Imagine what could get done if we all just stopped watching TV.

2. Television Makes You Stressed

With the average of four hours a day gone, it’s no wonder everyone is feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. We put aside paying bills, finishing projects, making phone calls and cleaning our homes to watch TV. We feel overwhelmed because of all the things we should be doing (exercising, spending time with family, eating right) go undone.And when we feel overwhelmed, tired, and exhausted we don’t have energy to anything but — you guessed it — watch TV. It is a dreadful cycle. So take a break from TV for a week and see what happens to your life.

3. Television Makes You Overweight

Eating while distracted limits your ability to assess how much you have consumed. According to Eliot Blass at the University of Massachusetts, people eat between 31 and 74 percent more calories while watching TV.This could add, on average, about 300 calories extra per TV meal. Now consider that at least 40 percent of families watch TV while eating dinner. It becomes clear that TV is a big part of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and that TV, in fact, makes you gain weight.

4. Television Makes You Uninteresting

Many people have whole conversations that are recaps of TV programs, sporting events and sitcoms. When asked about their real lives, there is little or nothing to report and no stories to tell (except the TV shows they have watched).Life is too interesting and wonderful to spend your time either watching TV or recapping television to your friends. Find something interesting to do: volunteer, read, paint — anything but watch more TV.

5. Television Ruins Your Relationships

A television is turned on an average of 7 hours and 40 minutes per day in many U.S. households. With the TV on that much, there is little time for you and your significant other or children to spend time together, share experiences, and develop deeper relationships.Sitting together and watching TV does not grow a relationship. Turn that TV off and find something to do together — cooking, exercising, taking a walk, anything.

6. Television is not Relaxation

TV is the opposite of exercise. If you are watching TV you are usually sitting, reclining or lying down. You are burning as few calories as possible. All that extra food you eat while watching TV does not get burned off. Your brain goes into a lull.But you are not relaxing — your mind is still receiving stimuli from the TV, you are processing information and reacting emotionally. Have you ever found yourself thinking about TV characters? Do you ever dream about TV shows? These are signs that the brain is working hard to process all the TV you have been watching.

7. Television Loses Opportunities

If you are sitting and watching TV, nothing new or exciting is going to happen to you. New opportunities and ideas come from being out in the world, talking to people, and reading interesting things.Watching TV isolates you. Nothing is going to change in your world if you are watching TV. Turn off the TV, go out into the world, talk to people, and see what happens.

8. Television is Addictive

Television can become addictive. Signs of TV addiction include:

  • using the TV to calm down
  • not being able to control your viewing
  • feeling angry or disappointed in how much TV you watched
  • feeling on edge if kept from watching
  • feeling a loss of control while watching

If the idea of giving up TV for a week is horrifying, you may be addicted to television. Luckily, TV addiction is a habit and not a physical addiction like smoking. You should be able to control it once you are aware of the problem and make a decision to change.

9. Television Makes You Buy Things

By age 65, the average American has seen 2 million commercials. Your knowledge of products and brands comes from these TV commercials. Your perception of what you need also comes from these commercials.If you didn’t know that your iPod could talk to your running shoes, you wouldn’t feel like your current shoes are too low-tech. If you didn’t know about vacuums that never lose suction, your current vacuum would seem fine. Our perception of need is determined by what we see. Need less by watching less TV.

10. Television Costs Money

A basic cable package costs $43 per month and many packages cost much more than that. That comes to at least $500 a year spent on TV. For that much money you could: buy a membership to every museum or zoo in your town, get a gym membership, buy a nice bicycle, invest it every year for 10 years at 10 percent interest and have more than $10,000.Sources: TvTurnOff.org; US Census Bureau

By Mark Stibich, Ph.D

July 1, 2008 Posted by | Life Style | Leave a comment

Should You Let your Child Blog?

According to WiredSafety.org, over 6 million underage children write blogs with or without their parents’ knowledge. Blogging is particularly popular among children who see their parents blogging either professionally or personally.

Should parents allow their children to blog? How can parents ensure their children are blogging in a safe manner?

What’s all the Fuss About?

A vast number of blogs written by children can be found through MySpace whose terms of service clearly state that anyone over 14 may start a blog through the service. LiveJournal is another popular blogging option for kids and teens. The policy for LiveJournal states that anyone over the age of 13 can start a blog through the service. Unfortunately, there is also a large number of blogs written by children younger than 14 on MySpace, LiveJournal and through other blogging services and software programs. These kids simply lie about their age in the registration process.

Online safety is a big concern for most parents. Should children under 18 be allowed to blog at all? How can parents keep their blogging children safe online. Following is a review of the benefits of blogging for children as well as a number of tips to help parents keep their children safe in the blogosphere.

Benefits of Kids Blogging

Blogging brings a number of benefits to children, including:

  • Improved writing skills
  • Improved communication skills
  • Improved social skills
  • Improved Internet skills
  • Improved computer and technical skills and knowledge

Online Safety Tips for Kids

Use the following tips to ensure your child’s online activities are safe:

  • Rules: Establish rules for blogging and online activities. For example, children should not use their full name, address, school name, personal photos, and so on online. In other words, personally identifiable information should be prohibited.
  • Password protection and privacy: Find a blogging service that allows your child’s blog to be private and password-protected so only established, trusted friends can view it.
  • Screen the content: Screen what your child writes before he or she publishes it online and discuss potential problems with him or her.
  • Monitor the blog: Monitor your child’s blog on a regular basis. Read the content and comments, follow links, read friends’ blogs, and so on to get a full picture of your child’s online activity as it relates to the blog.
  • Talk to your child: Take the time to discuss your child’s blog with him or her. Allow him or her to share what he or she is doing and learning technically and socially with you. As he or she shares his or her knowledge with you, take the time to share Internet safety tips (“street smarts”) with him or her. Make your child’s blog a shared experience. When in doubt, Google your child’s name to get a complete picture of his or her online activities.

Where it Stands

Bottom line, most teens and tweens who want to have a blog will try to do so with or without their parents’ permission. No matter what age your child is, the best way to keep him or her safe is to talk to him or her. Keeping open lines of communication and monitoring their online activity are the best ways to maintain Internet security for children.

By Susan Gunelius, About.com

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Computer & Techs, Life Style | Leave a comment

Parent’s Guide to MySpace Safety

Unfortunately, this is one of those moments that parents dread. Your kids are probably going to find a way to use MySpace, so you may be better off having them do so at home under your supervision. The good news is that there are some safe guards in place you can use to help protect your kids. First, though, you need to understand why MySpace is a danger for your children.

The Ugly Truth

  1. Kids connect with people they shouldn’t.
    MySpace is a social networking site. It’s designed to connect people. Unfortunately, MySpace is also a slice of the real world. That means that, along with all of the friendly people, there are plenty of not-so-nice kids and adults looking to cause your child harm.
  2. Kids see things they shouldn’t.
    MySpace is open to all ages and personalities. The site has got quite a bit of highly suggestive and nearing-on-the-pornographic content. It’s easy to stumble upon something you’ll wish you hadn’t.
  3. Kids post things they shouldn’t.
    For some reason, kids (and a lot of adults) think that their online profiles are private. They post their own suggestive pictures and stories, they share far too much personal information, and they make up vicious lies about each other to get revenge. Some kids will even share their full name, address and phone number freely with others.As more and more people use the Internet to perform background searches, everyone should put more thought into what they say and do online. There are plenty of stories of people losing their jobs, getting expelled, and not getting into college based on information they posted on the Internet.

What Parents Can Do

  • Set boundaries.
    Children under the age of 14 are not allowed to register, so that should be a non-negotiable point. Once they turn 14, it’s up to the parents to create the rules. If they are allowed to register, consider setting aside a time of day for spending on MySpace. Make sure that you are present during this time to keep an eye on your child’s activities.
  • Create your own MySpace profile and add your children as friends.
    First of all, it’s important for you to learn how the site works, what type of content is available, and how to navigate the system. It will help you understand what your children are doing and gain a better sense of how to keep them safe.
  • Talk with your kids about Internet safety and explain why you’re concerned.
    Have them agree to a set of guidelines and let them know that their Internet privileges are at stake. Also, make sure that they understand that you will be watching their activities.
  • Follow through.
    It is important that you follow through on your own commitments to your children. If you say you’ll be monitoring their activities, make sure you do so regularly. Not only does it help you keep them safe, but it lets them know how serious you are.

 

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Computer & Techs, Life Style | 1 Comment

5 Reasons to Ride a Bike

Lots of people ride bikes for lots of different reasons. Here are the top five reasons why you should be out there too.

1. For Your Body

Riding a bike offers many health benefits. Here are just a few:

 

  • increased cardiovascular fitness
  • increased strength
  • increased balance and flexibility
  • increased endurance and stamina
  • increased calories burned

 

It can be done by people of all ages, from childhood up even through the adult years when achy joints don’t allow for more stressful exercise like jogging.

2. For Your State of Mind

Riding a bike is a proven stress releaser. Regardless of if you are riding purely for pleasure or for a specific purpose, you will arrive at your destination feeling relaxed, energized and happier about the world and yourself.

Plus, being out on your bike is just flat-out fun. The more time you spend on two wheels, the harder it is to take yourself too seriously.

3. For Your Community

Being out on your bike is good for the people around you as well. You are able to go the places you want to go and yet put one less car on the road.

You don’t bring with you the noise that a car generates and are actually able to interaction with people as you move. From my bike I can wave to a neighbor, say hi to a kid, smell someone’s dinner cooking and be a warm and friendly human presence on the streets.

Also, not insignificant: operating a bicycling does not harm the environment. There is no polluting exhaust released, no oil or gas consumed. And the energy and materials used to manufacture one automobile could be used to created a hundred bikes.

4. For Convenience

There is an undeniable convenience factor you’ll discover when riding a bike. Front row parking spaces are guaranteed no matter where you go. Traffic jams are also irrelevant.

Though cars will certainly make better time on long trips, you’ll find for many short trips or through heavy traffic, you can travel just as fast or faster on your bike.

Have you ever been to a massive festival or concert in a park somewhere, the type of event that draws so many people that just getting there is a problem? Going in on a bike is a perfect solution. Zip in, zip out. You don’t have to get there hours early to get a parking spot or else face parking miles away from the event. And you won’t have to wait hours in traffic to get out once it’s over.

5. For Your Pocketbook

It costs between 20 and 30 cents per mile to operate a car, depending on the vehicle. This is based on expenses like gas, oil, maintenance, etc., that go up when you drive more. This figure doesn’t include the hidden costs of vehicle ownership like depreciation, taxes, and insurance. These factors make the actual per mile cost to operate a car much higher.

When you start multiplying cost per mile to operate a car by the distance you ride, you can easily calculate how much money you save by riding a bike.

For example: my daily roundtrip commute is 16 miles. If I do that just twice a week, I will save over $400 in operating costs alone in the course of a year. (16 miles x 2 trips per week x 52 weeks x .25 cents per mile.)

And if you would otherwise have to pay for parking, tolls, and the like, don’t forget to factor that in too. It can add up quickly.

Ride For You

When you ride your bike, you are doing a lot of good things, many of which are for the benefit of others. But ultimately, the one who benefits the most is you, through better health, peace of mind, increased confidence and self-reliance, heck, even through a fatter bank account.

So for all these reasons, get out there on your bike today. Even if you don’t save the world in the process, you’ll still have fun trying!

By David Fiedler, About.com

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Health, Life Style | Leave a comment

Tips for Cooking the Best Hamburgers

Burgers — most of us love them. But sometimes they are dry, sometimes they don’t have much flavor, and sometimes they turn into “hockey pucks” on the grill. Here are some tips to bring your burgers from “good” to “great”.

Select the Best Meat

I surveyed a lot of authorities on cooking burgers, and there is agreement on this point. The best, juiciest burgers are made from ground beef chuck, which is about 20 percent fat. Less fat makes a drier burger (however, see tips below when using leaner meat). Meat labeled “ground beef” or “hamburger” can be up to 30 percent fat, and authorities agree that it is also best to know what part of the animal your burger is coming from.

Even Better…and Best Ways

Select a piece of chuck and have your butcher grind it (yes, there are people behind those doors — just ring the bell). Ask for a “coarse” grind. Or, best, grind your own with a meat grinder or chop in the food processor (cut into 1- to 1½-inch cubes first). An advantage to this is that there are fewer worries about contamination and you can safely cook your burgers medium-rare, if that’s how you like them.

Don’t Handle the Meat Too Much

The heat from your hands begins to melt the fat and makes the patty too dense. Move it lightly from hand to hand and loosely make a patty ¾- to one-inch thick (no thicker, or you will have to cook it too long).

Don’t Press Down on the Burgers When Cooking

This compresses the meat, making it denser, and also squeezes the juices out of the meat.

Make an Indentation in the Top

Have you noticed that your burgers tend to form rounded tops when cooking, causing the condiments to slide off? So did the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. They found that by pushing down slightly in the center, creating a round area about ¼ inch lower than the surrounding meat, made the burger come out flat.

Try Different Types of Meats or a Combo

Almost any kind of ground meat can be used to make burgers, or mix together different ones. I’ve heard of mixing pork with beef, chicken with lamb, or even buffalo with beef. For flavor, try mixing some fresh sausage in with another type of meat.

Adding Flavors to the Meat

Many people just want great beef, straight up with salt and pepper. But it’s also fun to add flavors, and if you are using leaner meats, or leaner cuts of beef, you can add moisture at the same time. Finely minced vegetables such as onion, mushrooms, or mild chiles are especially good for this. You can also take a lean cut of meat and add some olive oil for good fat, although this will cook faster than meats that are naturally fattier. More Tips on Cooking Low Fat Burgers from Fiona Haynes

Tip: When adding other ingredients to ground meat, use a spoon or spatula to avoid heating the meat with your hands – see above.

Liquids – Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are perhaps the two most common liquids to add to burgers. Most recipes call for about a Tablespoon of liquid per pound of meat, but I have seen anywhere from a teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons. Wine is another possibility, or, for blander meats, concentrated beef stock or Better Than Bouillon.

Spices – Other than salt and pepper, almost any spice in the cabinet is a good addition. Garlic or onion powder is probably the most common, but everything I’ve seen everything from chili powder to Asian spices to Middle Eastern to packets of salad dressing mix (but watch the sugar on that one).

Cooking the Burgers

Get the grill or pan really hot. If using lean meat, oil the grill or put a little oil in the pan. Put the burger in and don’t move it until it naturally releases. Some people turn it at this point (and then flip again later), and others cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is, the type of meat (leaner meat cooks faster), and how done you want it to be. Then flip the burger and cook on the other side until done, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

If you have a thermometer, cook until 160° F., unless you have fresh meat ground at home. In that case, you can take them off around 140 if you like.

By Laura Dolson, About.com 

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Life Style | Leave a comment

How to Avoid Six Dieting Mistakes

Are dieting mistakes keeping you from getting to your goal weight? You’re not alone; many of us are guilty of one if not several of these dieting faux pas. Learn why they are a problem … and how to avoid them!

 

  1. Mistake: Gulping Down Extra Calories

    Do you start each morning with a couple glasses of orange juice? How about a frothy coffee drink on the way to work? Was that you hitting the vending machine for a sports drink at the gym?If this sounds familiar, take note: What you drink can be as important to weight loss as what you eat.

    Some beverages provide as many — if not more — calories than a full plate of food. Liquid calories don’t satisfy you like food does, and many beverages bring no nutrition benefit. Even if you were to drink 1,500 calories of beverages a day, you would still feel hungry and then overeat.

     

    Solution: Cut Liquid Calories

    Just say no to the followng: sugar-sweetened sodas and other sweetened canned and bottled drinks; flavored and sweetened coffee beverages, such as frappes, lattes and frozen coffee; sweetened tea (hot or iced); and smoothies.
    While juice is healthier than all these choices, whole fruit is preferable to a glass of juice; it has fewer calories and more fiber and is more filling. Water and herbal tea (without adding sugar) are ideal replacements for high-calorie beverages.

     

  2. Mistake: Depriving Yourself

    So you’ve sworn to lose weight this time around. You rid your pantry of your favorite fattening foods. You sweep the fridge and all bad foods make their way to the trash can. You do okay for a few days. Then, one night, you lose it and eat everything left in the house that isn’t a fruit or vegetable.
    No matter how resolved we are to lose weight, we crave treats (especially sweet ones) we are accustomed to. You will eventually get the urge to indulge no matter how well those first few days go.

     

    Solution: Giving in … a Little

    Swearing off foods you enjoy is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. It’s like a form of torture: Everyone else can eat the things you love while you can’t even taste them. How’s that going to help you stick to your diet? It won’t. Allow yourself a special treat every now and then. Keep your portion sizes in check and you can still have your favorite foods in moderation

  3. Mistake: Believing Your Genes are to Blame

    You take a look in the mirror and you see your mom. It’s not her hair or even her eyes. It’s your body. And there’s nothing you can do about it. After all, it’s hereditary. 

    The Solution: Get Real!

    Genes do play a role in some cases of obesity. Often you will see family members who share the same body type. But for many of us, the most important factor in weight loss is calories in vs. calories out … how many calories we eat and how much exercise we get. Even if family members are heavy, there are steps you can take so that you do not share their fate. Working out and strength-training will build muscle and give your metabolism a boost, both of which will help you head off the propensity for weight gain your genes might bring. 

  4. Mistake: Meal Skipping

    It only stands to reason: If the key to losing weight is cutting calories then why not cut a bunch at once by skipping a meal? If you skip meals when you’re trying to lose weight, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. Meal-skipping can cause your metabolism to nosedive. That will set you up for sluggish calorie-burning all day long and ravenous hunger and overeating at night. 

    Solution: Don’t Be a Skipper

    Most meal-skippers forgo breakfast. It seems to be the easiest meal to do without. But in reality, breakfast may influence weight loss more than any other meal! If you aren’t hungry first thing in the morning, have something small. Do you actually forget to eat in the a.m. hustle and bustle? Set an alarm to go off some time after you normally rise to remind you to stop, take a breath … and eat. 

  5. Mistake: Giving in to a Food-Pusher

    You’ve met her. She pushes doughnuts on unsuspecting office mates. She brings cupcakes for the bookgroup while only tasting the icing herself. She hands you the takeout menu when you’ve already told her you brought a brown bag. Who is she? She’s a pusher! A food pusher, that is. 

    Solution: Put Yourself First

    Whether office baked goods temptress or the well-meaning Mom who suggests seconds of her best dishes, some people just refuse to take “no” as an answer. They probably don’t even realize they are making your weight loss efforts that much harder. Learn how to say no in a way that works. You may have to distance yourself from the “pusher” for the time being. Sometimes it’s better for all parties concerned. 

  6. Mistake: Giving Up On Losing Weight Your Way

    Sometimes, telling your friends and family you are on a diet can actually backfire. If they don’t understand your diet or think they know a better way to lose weight, it can lead to unwelcome input or even arguments. You get to the point that you want to throw in the towel. 

    Solution: Keep it Under Wraps

    Only you know what works for you. So keep doing what works for you. There’s no rule that says you have to tell friends or family that you’re trying to lose weight. Weight is a personal issue. It’s your prerogative to keep it that way.

By Jennifer R. Scott, About.com

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Health, Life Style | Leave a comment