Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to properly store fishing equipment

Spending a day on the water can equate to paradise for the millions of people who enjoy recreational fishing. While fishing is a source of income for countless people, many others view fishing as a recreational retreat.
The American Sportfishing Association reports that there were roughly 40 million Americans who enjoyed angling in 2008. In Canada, there were more than 3 million people who registered for fishing licenses in 2005 (Editor's note: Both numbers are the most recent statistics available.) The National Sporting Goods Association ranks fishing sixth out of 42 recreation activities in terms of its popularity, preceded only by walking, swimming, exercising, camping and bowling. The highest concentration of anglers can be found in the state of Florida.

The mass number of fishing hobbyists spend millions of dollars on equipment and gear for their fishing excursions each year. With so much money being spent, it is essential to properly care for gear and store it well. Here's how to get started.


There are many components of fishing gear that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. From fileting knives to bait hooks, there is the potential for injury should young children get into the fishing equipment you have. Also, sinkers made out of lead can be toxic should children put these items in their mouths.
Emphasize safety when storing your equipment. If you are keeping rods and reels on your boat, be sure they're in a locked cargo area so they're not easily accessible. If tackle and other gear is kept at home, be sure to have a locked cabinet where it can be kept, or place it high enough where it is out of reach.
Make sure sharp lures and hooks are kept together in a tackle box and placed out of the way. Not only will this keep people safe, but it also helps to keep gear organized.


In order to work properly, gear should be cleaned and inspected prior to storage. Cleaning will also prolong the life span of fishing equipment. Fishing rods should be wiped down after each fishing trip to prevent harmful contaminants and corrosives from eating away at the clear coat on the rod and any metal components. Wiping down also reduces the chance of salt water corrosion.

In terms of cleaning lures and tackle, start out by soaking them in distilled water. If there is a smell or debris stuck on it, some people have used a spray like WD40 with success. If using a soap-based cleanser on soft rubber lures, choose one that is gentle, like baby soaps or even gentle laundry detergent. Just be sure to rinse well.

Rod storage

It is important to store fishing rods horizontally to prevent warping or bending. If using a rack specially designed for fishing rods, it will keep rods straight despite them being stored vertically. Try to keep rods out of a humid room, which can further exacerbate warping and bending of the equipment. Also, never stow a rod in its tube. This can trap humidity and cause corrosion of the guide rings.

Reels should be rinsed after use and disassembled to clean the gears inside. Water can become trapped in small crevices and may rust out ball bearings. Never soak reels in water and try to keep them out of the water on fishing trips. Fly fishing backing may be left on the reel, provided it is completely desalinated and dry. Application of lubricant between uses of a reel can improve performance.

Fishing is a popular recreational activity that is enjoyed thanks to myriad gear. Properly storing this equipment can prolong its life span and keep things safe and organized. 

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Achieve perfect pics with tips from a pro

Photographs are the way many people document life's special occasions, milestones and even the daily moments that are worth saving and sharing. Nowadays, it's easy to take photos for granted since digital technology has made taking photos simpler than ever before.

The U.S. Library of Congress says that the oldest known photograph in the world was taken by French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1825. The photo depicts a man leading a horse. Niepce's heliographs, or sun prints, were the prototype for the modern photograph.

Although people have been taking photographs for nearly 200 years, some people still struggle to perfect their style and execution. Professional photographer Laura Kyle Bruen, of Laura Bruen Photography, works across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and shares her expert tips for creating visual photo perfection.

Photo taker: My camera has automated settings, but I'm interested in having more control over my photos. What are some things I need to know?

Laura: Step one would be learning the three elements of creating a correct exposure. This involves finding the balance between: ISO, shutter speed and aperture setting. ISO is the measure of a digital camera's sensor's sensitivity to light. Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens, which allows light to enter. It also controls your depth of field (how in-focus or out of focus the background is behind your subject). Shutter Speed is the amount of time the shutter open and closes.

The most important thing to remember is once you change one of these settings it will directly affect the others. I highly recommend Bryan Peterson's book, "Understanding Exposure," to learn about the balance of these settings and how it affects your images overall. Once you learn the rules of creating a correct exposure balancing these three settings, you can learn how to break them when deemed creatively desirable.
PT: My photos seem great at first glance, but then I see something in the background that ruins the overall look. How do I remedy this?

L: While the subject, not the background, should be your main focus, it makes sense to evaluate your surroundings when composing a shot, as an ugly background may distract from the subject. Training your eye begins with looking through the viewfinder and making some conscious decisions. A good method of doing this is to mentally divide your frame into nine equal parts. Evaluate your frame: Does that large box of tissues need to be in the background? Are there any large obstructions, garbage cans? Is the light behind you? See any objects with clashing colors to your subject or other undesirables? If so, recompose your shot. Make it a habit to perform this exercise and when your eye is trained, you will compose images before you even put your eye up to the viewfinder.

PT: How do I get my subjects to pay attention ... especially children?

L: In addition to knowing your camera and the basics of photography, depending on your subject matter you will either play director or documentary still photographer. If you're working with an adult in a portrait, engage him or her in conversation to relax the atmosphere. Getting your subjects relaxed results in great images. With children, life is silly -- I'll do anything to get the shot -- dance, hop around making silly faces, even mount things on my cameras to get a rise out of small children. Do not force your subjects to do things they are not comfortable doing or do not want to do. Keep it light, fun and comfortable.

PT: How do I know when to use the flash?

L: The correct answer to this question depends on the current lighting situation. In every environment you have to analyze whether or not flash is necessary to achieve your desired outcome. As you progress/advance you'll learn techniques where you can add supplemental light to existing light. Some of today's best consumer digital cameras have very high ISO ratings that allow the photographer to shoot with relatively low light. On-camera flashes can be harsh. If you need to use your pop-up flash, I highly recommend purchasing a pop-up diffuser. It is a solid investment as it softens the light and subjects won't have that deer-in-headlights look.

PT: Everyone has had a horror story with a photo that makes them look awful. I want my subjects to look their best. Are there any tips for achieving this?

L: We can all use posing tips! Direct your subject to bend his or her elbows and lift arms slightly away from the body to avoid flat arms against the body -- which is not flattering. Shoot from above if your subject has a full face to eliminate any double chins. Make sure everyone is standing up straight! Have subjects cross one leg in front of the other to slim the thighs. Rotate the upper body of the subject slightly at the waist (slight twist) to slim the waistline. Tell subjects to relax their faces and to smile with their eyes -- it works! I also tell my clients to get a good night's rest the night before a shoot. They arrive well rested and fresh faced, and it's amazing what a good night's sleep can do!

PT: Are there times when portraits or other shots are better left to an expert?

L: A professional photographer would be best documenting major milestones in life, such as a newly born baby, first birthday, communion, or wedding or for commercial purposes where a professional shot will sell you, your product, or your service.

Learning photo basics is the first step in taking beautiful photos. Then photographers can experiment to achieve the photos they desire.

Laura is a member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), as well as the National Association for Professional Women (NAPW). She regularly blogs about her creative life interests on her official blog, 

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

History of the crossword puzzle

The crossword puzzle is a beloved yet relatively new component of popular culture. Crossword puzzles have evolved into popular pastimes, educational tools for children and methods of keeping the brain sharp.

Arthur Wynne, an English journalist who emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, is credited with the creation of the first crossword puzzle. He is the first modern-day cruciverbalist, or crossword creator. Wynne wrote the puzzle for an American newspaper called the New York World. It was published on Sunday, December 21, 1913. The first crossword was actually called a "word-cross" and was diamond shaped. The name of the puzzle was later switched to "cross-word" and then crossword.

Wynne said he based his crossword puzzle on a game that was played in ancient Pompeii. It was called "magic squares" when translated from Latin. Although the crossword puzzle became a frequent inclusion in newsprint, it wasn't until 1924 when publisher Simon & Schuster published the first collection of crosswords in book form that the crossword became available in a more widespread manner.

Crossword puzzles are governed by a series of rules. There are different types of grids for these puzzles depending on origin. For example, crosswords often follow an American style, a British style, a Japanese style, and a Swedish style. Each of these styles has their own series of rules. These rules pertain to the number of cells and how many are shaded or white. A white cell that is part of two entries, meaning part of an Across and Down clue, is called checked. A white cell that is only part of one clue is unchecked.

Crossword grids such as those appearing in most North American newspapers and magazines feature solid areas of white squares. Every letter is checked, and usually each answer is required to contain at least three letters. In these puzzles shaded squares are usually limited to about one-sixth of the design. Another component of North American puzzles is that the grid should have symmetry when rotated 180 degrees. The pattern should appear the same even if the puzzle is turned upside down. Most puzzle designs require the white cells to also be connected in one mass through shared sides, which is a concept called being orthogonally contiguous.

Puzzles are often standard sizes. Easier puzzles have fewer cells and may have 15x15 squares. Puzzles can increase in complexity as they grow larger, up to 25x25. Many newspapers start out with easier puzzles earlier in the work week and move to a harder puzzle in time for the Sunday puzzle.

In terms of American-style puzzles where all of the white cells are checked, not all of the solutions will be full words. American puzzles allow for abbreviations, variant spellings or even foreign words. This isn't the case with British puzzles. Most American puzzles follow a theme.

Crossword puzzles have become a component of the daily lives of people all around the world. They continue to be a source of entertainment and even competition.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Craft projects to help fight cabin fever

As families huddle inside, protected from the winter weather, there are things they can do to pass the time until warmer weather returns. Engaging in some craft projects are ways to beat cabin fever while dreaming of warm, springtime weather.

There are many craft projects families and children can tackle, but ideas that involve projects that can be put to use outdoors may be the most fitting. Fortunately, there are a number of ideas for crafty projects to involve everyone in the household.

* Birdhouse: Head to the hardware store and pick up a few supplies. Otherwise, chances are items that can be made into a birdhouse probably can be found from scraps of materials already around the house or in the garage. Scraps of wood, metal, tiles, plastic, and the like can be used to craft a bird house or feeder. Even an empty plastic bottle can be used. Some nesting material, such as pieces of yarn or cotton, can be placed inside the house to entice birds to take up residence once the weather warms.

* Stepping stones: Stepping stones can be a whimsical way to dress up an outdoor garden or yard. A trip to the craft store for some plaster or even a quick-set cement can be the medium to use for the stones. Experiment with shapes that can be used as molds, and gather different materials that can be embedded into the stepping stone, such as pebbles, marbles, beads, etc. Use a pencil or another pointed tool to engrave a message or name on the stepping stones before allowing them to dry and harden.

* Kite: Make the most of the blustery conditions common in late winter and early spring by crafting a kite from a kitchen trash bag, some sticks and string.

* Garden gnomes: Craft stores often sell unfinished pottery that can be painted and sealed. See if garden gnomes or other whimsical creatures can be found. Use acrylic paint to decorate the figurines in your favorite colors.

* Outdoor games: A large piece of plywood or fiberboard can serve as the game board for a number of different activities. Use spray paint to stencil on alternating squares of red and black for a larger than life checkerboard or chess board. For those with more time and creative stamina, use large stones to paint on letters and make an outdoor Scrabble(R) board for fun times with family and friends.

* Painted flower pots: If the colors and designs at the local garden center don't fit with a particular design scheme, buy unfinished terra-cotta or plastic pots and paint them with the designs and colors that coordinate better.

Getting crafty doesn't have to mean knitting sweaters or decoupage hat boxes. By making items that can be put to use outdoors, families can send winter off with a creative bang and reap the rewards for months to come. 

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Puzzles, games and educational value

Why do people buy and play games? Entertainment value certainly factors in, but there are several other benefits to puzzles and games, including their educational value.

Just think about what happens when children (or adults) sit down to play a board game or contemplate a puzzle. Individuals come together, learn lessons about getting along and strategize. Games also encourage following guidelines for play and winning or losing with good manners. There are many who believe these are valuable life lessons, but games and puzzles also may have other intrinsic educational value in the real world.

Although it can't be assumed that playing games or doing puzzles will help make better students, there are some indications that playing certain games can have academic benefits.

In a 2008 study by Geetha Ramani and Robert Siegler, preschoolers were involved in "number line"board game research, where the player had to move a game piece through a series of sequentially numbered spaces. Prior to and after the game play the children were given math tasks appropriate for their age group. The kids who were in the control group and didn't play experienced no math skill improvement. But the ones who had played the line game had marked improvement in measured math skills. Ramani and Siegler have also found correlations between the number of board games that a child plays and a greater propensity for better preschool math performance.

Puzzles are another form of recreation that also have some educational merit and could trigger certain areas of the brain, resulting in improvement in intellectual skills. Puzzles develop hand and eye coordination and foster skills in problem-solving. They also encourage kids not to give up until the finished product is reached.
Chess has been a game of strategy played throughout the ages. There have been statements that chess can help a child become more intellectual and do better at school. Others argue the flip side, that it is the intellectual child who gravitates toward chess play and therefore skews the numbers in the terms of intelligence and chess relation.

Still there is some evidence that chess has educational merit. Markus Scholz of the University of Leipzig in Germany studied kids with learning disabilities. Researchers assigned students to receive either 5 hours of math instruction each week or 4 hours of math and 1 hour of chess instruction each week. The kids were tested at the beginning of the school year and again at the end. The students who had received chess lessons showed more improvement in basic math skills like counting and addition than those who had just received tutoring.

When choosing games for children, educational value is derived most from games that require deductive reasoning and not pure chance from the spin of a wheel. A game like "Clue" or chess requires strategy and reasoning to become the winner. Even games like "Connect Four," "Boggle," "Scrabble," and other deductive games are good choices to consider.

Although games and puzzles have the fun factor, there are educational benefits that may arise also in play. 

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Create a Christmas countdown calendar that rewards good behavior

Forget the naughty or nice list, parents and other caregivers can celebrate well-behaved children with a different sort of rewards system -- a good behavior calendar that can be used to mark days of minded manners, exemplary acts or help around the house.

Children often respond well to positive reinforcement. Instead of just reprimanding children when they have done something bad, reward good behavior by focusing on all the things that they do well. A calendar that showcases the days that children were on their best behavior can be a way to showcase all the good things kids do.

Here's how to make a countdown calendar:

1. Purchase and gather supplies for the calendar.

* posterboard

* markers

* construction paper

* glue

* ruler

* pencil

* glitter or other embellishments

* Christmas-themed stickers or pictures

2. Lay the posterboard on the table and use the ruler and pencil to draw the boxes of the December calendar. Outline the calendar grid with markers, if desired.

3. Inside of the boxes, write different "prizes," such as a night out for dinner, a trip to the toy store, staying up an extra hour, etc. You can repeat ideas if you cannot come up with one for every day of December.

4. Cut out construction paper squares the same size as the calendar date boxes. Place a bead of glue at the top of the squares and attach them over the calendar grid so that you cover up the "prizes" but can flip up the construction paper to reveal the prizes when necessary.

5. Mark the calendar dates, 1 through 31, on each piece of glued-down construction paper.

6. Use the rest of the craft supplies to decorate the posterboard so that it is holiday-inspired.

7. Explain to your child that if he or she behaves well on a particular day, the prize beneath that day can be revealed. Then the following day that prize can be redeemed. As the parent you can use your discretion when determining which behaviors warrant a prize. This way you won't have to have all 31 days' worth redeemed.

The calendar will help encourage children to act responsibly and behave during a stressful month when it can be easy to misbehave. It will also serve as a countdown calendar for Christmas and New Year's. Vary the rules according to your household.

If the calendar works well for December, consider making one a few times a year.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Pianos come in many shapes and sizes

For centuries piano enthusiasts have tickled the ivories. The piano, once known as the pianoforte, is an often integral component of an orchestra and the basis for composing music. There are several different sizes of piano and styles that can fit various spaces.

The pianoforte has its origins in the Tuscany region of Italy. Harpsichord maker Bartolomeo Cristofori unveiled his pianoforte in 1709. It had the wooden frame of the harpsichord, but implemented a unique keyboarding mechanism that was similar to that of the clavichord.

Through the years several different innovators fine-tuned the design and functionality of the piano to what it has become today.

Piano Components

The modern piano keyboard is made up of 12 notes that repeat in a black-and-white pattern across 88 wooden keys. Originally there were only seven notes on the piano that repeated, as musicians were still discovering just how many musical notes could be played.

Pianos also have three foot pedals. The pedal on the right is the damper, which causes all the keys to vibrate and sustain. The middle pedal causes only the keys currently pressed to vibrate. The pedal on the left creates a muted sound.

There are two clefs played when operating the piano. On a sheet of music, the treble clef is the top portion of the sheet, also known as the G clef, and is played with the right hand. The bass clef, also known as the F clef, is played by the left hand.

Types of Pianos

There are different types of pianos whether they are vertical or horizontal styles.

Horizontal Pianos: These are the images many people call to mind when envisioning a piano. Horizontal pianos are also called grand pianos because of the placement of their strings. They are also thought to produce finer tones. There are six basic types of horizonal pianos.

1. Petit grand: The smallest of the horizontal at around 4 feet, 5 inches.

2. Baby grand: One of the most popular of the grand pianos because of its modest size and affordability.

3. Medium grand: Slightly larger than the baby grand, coming in at around 5 feet, 7 inches.

4. Parlor grand: This piano is also known as the living room grand piano and is about 6 feet.

5. Ballroom: Between 6 and 7 feet long.

6. Concert grand: The largest of all the grand pianos is the concert grand, coming in around 9 feet.

Vertical Pianos: These vertical pianos are taller than grand pianos. There are four different types.

1. Spinet: Spinets are the smallest of the pianos. They are ideal for individuals with limited living spaces. However, spinets may be less accurate in the notes and have less power due to their diminutive size.

2. Console: At 40 to 43 inches high, this piano is very popular because it comes in different styles and finishes for complementary decorating.

3. Studio: A larger soundboard and longer strings help this piano to produce good tone quality. It is the piano most commonly found in music studios.

4. Upright: The tallest of the vertical pianos, this model ranges from 50 to 60 inches in height. This is one of the classical vertical pianos.

Pianos have withstood the test of time as an important component of historical and modern music. From classical composers to today's musicians, the piano has been one of the most important resources in musical creation.

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