Why A Stranger’s Comments In A Fast Food Restaurant Were So Important

3 months, 1 day ago

It is likely you don’t understand the ramifications of your comment. It is likely you didn’t put much stock in it, either at the moment you said it, or at any point afterward. It is very possible that the incident never crossed your mind again.

The scene that inspired it was simple: you saw my son run up to the counter and ask for stickers. I stopped him and asked him to repeat himself, but this time to ask while making eye contact with the woman at the register. He paused, connected, thanked her, and ran off to create his sticker masterpiece.

That’s when you said it.

It is likely that you didn’t know I had spent many hours and numerous occasions working on this social skill with my son. It is likely that you didn’t realize this is one of the indicators that led his doctor to diagnose him with autism.

Even if you had simply been praising a mother for encouraging her child to make eye contact with the counter attendant, that would have been enough to deserve this letter. It made it just that much for meaningful to me.

Our Parent-Shaming Culture

It’s all too rare that parents hear praise from strangers, and yet that simple act was a powerful one, so powerful that I’ve remembered it for months and finally decided to write about it.

Parenting is often described as a thankless job, but in my experience, the most thankless element is not that our kids don’t yet get the gravity of what we do for them. It’s that everyone else doesn’t.

People who watch us on the street as our kids have meltdowns, utter curse words, run out in front of cars, or roll their eyes at our well-meaning affections — in other words, act like kids — often write us off as negligent, irresponsible, poor disciplinarians, or worse.

Judging parents is so automatic that there is often no lag time between the offending action and the judgment, no moment of pause that might otherwise be an opportunity for compassion, understanding, or simply neutral curiosity about the context that parent and child might be living in.

The fact is, most environments in the modern world are designed for adults, have adult rules, and tacitly expect adult behavior. This makes bringing kids almost anywhere a challenge. There is a secret, unspoken class divide between the parent and the non-parent.

For a moment, you bridged this gap.

I was on my way home from work waiting for a train when a little boy who looked to be between the ages of four and six bounced up the stairs to the platform with his parents, humming and singing and hopping around like a ball of sheer delight.

A nearby elderly woman made a snide remark to her husband about moving away from the “nuisance” and getting on a different car. “If I had a son,” she said, “he would never act like that”.

For some reason, overhearing that judgmental comment lit me on fire, and I even considered shooting one back. Obviously, that wouldn’t have done much good.

Luckily, the parents and their son were out of earshot and continued on blissful and oblivious. There is justice in the world.

Where Have All The Children Gone?

The thing that struck me most about this woman was how entitled she felt to have a certain kind of experience even in this very public place, an experience that was patently un-childlike.

It also struck me how simple and natural this little boy’s behavior was, and how even the most basic understanding of child development would support that conclusion.

My unposed question to this woman is, what if this attitude were taken to its logical extreme? What if we, as a society, were to sequester “childish” behavior even further than we already have?

What would it actually take for that bouncy, cheerful little boy to suppress his natural behaviors and “act like an adult” at the train station? I shudder to think.

Kids are already relegated to parks and plastic play places, or expensive indoor museums and experiences that aren’t accessible to every income bracket. We’ve already compartmentalized family life so much that, in a way, it’s becoming fringe.

What does it mean that we, as a culture, are developing such an aversion to kids? Why are we trying to expunge the spontaneous and causeless joy that an energetic, playful little boy expresses at a train station? Does it remind us of something lost in ourselves that is too uncomfortable to see?

And even if we aren’t going so far, there is a growing number of people who identify as “not a kid person.” There was a time when I counted myself as part of their ranks. Interestingly, it wasn’t motherhood that changed it for me but inadvertently teaching preschool.

After a long stint in academia, being around these little humans who were completely logic-and-rhetoric-free bundles of feelings, impulses, and reactions had a profound effect on me. It did something to my heart, and I no longer identified as being a person who isn’t into kids.

In fact, I imagine that the way I began to see those little kids is the way that God might see us: completely irrational, dramatic, exhausting, inconsistent, and maybe even a little bonkers.

But say what you will — those little kids running around, screaming, jumping on each other, wetting their pants, and falling asleep on our shoulders are nothing if not love embodied. And if we let them, they can elicit in us the most unadulterated kind of love there is.

Finding Joy In Kids And The Kids In Ourselves

From an evolutionary perspective, disliking the young of our own species is pathological. It’s kind of that simple.

Certainly, animals in the wild abandon their young for various reasons, but we are basically programmed to be nurturing and affectionate to not only our own progeny but those of other species, as well.

In some cases we’re even favoring the latter; after all, “fur babies” don’t talk back, they don’t have teenage angst, and they don’t usually force us to confront things about ourselves we might not like to see.

It took me a while to recognize that my general avoidance of kids said much more about me and what I was avoiding in myself than it said about kid behavior in general. I’m grateful every day that falling into the preschool-teaching profession shook me up and taught me to reflect, and more than anything, to open my heart.

After all, that is the quality in you, the anonymous man at In-N-Out, which led you to spontaneously thank a mom — a total stranger — for encouraging her son to make eye contact. Your open heart touched mine and opened it further.

I’ve noticed that the more my heart opens, the more I become a better mother. Heck, a better friend, sister, daughter, coworker, neighbor, customer, even fellow driver, too (none of us are immune to road rage).

Parents deserve to get a little lift to their hearts because theirs is some of the greatest emotional work that there is to do as a human being. Parents are raising the future, the workforce, the culture-makers, the inventors, the creators, and the stewards of the earth. Thank you, if only for an instant, for recognizing that.

Parent or not, love and compassion is our greatest emotional labor, and it doesn’t always come easily. Somehow, in that moment at In-N-Out, you nailed it.

You have my deepest gratitude for your seemingly inconsequential act of kindness and respect that has already rippled this far. May I do it justice and allow it to ripple even further.

The post Why A Stranger’s Comments In A Fast Food Restaurant Were So Important appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Read more: scarymommy.com

Value, not growth, to matter for next 1-2 years: Sunil Singhania

6 months, 9 days ago

2019 would be a change in the sense that foreign inflows should also be quite strong both on the equity and fixed income side, Sunil Singhania, Founder, Abakkus Asset Manager, tells ET Now.Edited excerpts: Will it be a great 2019 for investors or is this going to be another challenging year? First of all, any equity investor has to be optimistic. If one is not optimistic, then one should not be an equity investor. Also, in a growing economy it makes sense to be optimistic. As far as challenges are concerned, we have seen many challenges over the last few years and these will continue. I think that is the essence of life. Notwithstanding the challenges and notwithstanding fact that 2018 was a very challenging year, we remain quite optimistic about 2019 and the years forward. But sometimes you have to be realistic. I mean in 2008, if you had become optimistic, then your optimism did not help. Now you are talking and comparing it to a very different year where it was euphoric. I do not see that in the last three-four years we have at any point of time been euphoric except for a period of six months when specifically on the mid and smallcaps we had become euphoric. The world overall has not been euphoric and that makes us believe we are not seeing an overboard kind of a market where people are long left, right and centre and are over-leveraged, In fact, it is the reverse. People have been very cautious. Investors have not been investing as aggressively as maybe their cash balances in the bank are. There is definitely not an over-leveraged situation, not only in India but anywhere else in the world. The situation is far different from the year you mentioned. What makes you so hopeful? 2018 was a year full of uncertainties — be it on crude, on geopolitical situations or for that matter currency. Do you believe that maybe finally after that long wait, we are going to see earning recovery kick in from the next quarter itself? You mentioned it all. Oil has been a godsend for us. From $85, we are down to $53-54. Fundamentally at least, we do not see oil moving beyond $60-65 even in the medium to long-term. Currency has come back to $70. If you see the last 20 years of trend on an average, rupee depreciates by anyway between 3% and 3.25% a year but that is like a step of function. We have a 10-12% depreciation and then the rupee stabilises for three-four years. It is fair to presume that after this 10% depreciation, rupee should be quite stable for the next three-four years. Inflation is down and going forward, the way oil prices have corrected, does not seem to be inching up despite the fact that we expect the minimum support prices (MSP) for a lot of farm products to be increased and consequently the 10-year G-Sec yields have fallen to 7.25%. Internationally, there was this fear that US interest rates might inch up to 4%. They have actually fallen to 2.65%. US markets have been volatile but again my view is that it is a very healthy market and I am quite optimistic even on the US equity markets given the fact that the S&P 500 is trading at like 14-14.5 times earning which is like 7% yield in a country where the interest rates are at 3%. On the flows front, we have always had good domestic inflows over the last three-four years. My view is that 2019 would be a change in the sense that foreign inflows should also be quite strong both on the equity and fixed income side. The last point which you also touched upon is earnings. It is generally led by a couple of sectors, predominantly corporate banks. We expect earnings for FY20 to inch up to 20% plus in terms of growth. Obviously a large part of that would be contributed by corporate banks but other small sectors should also kick in. Overall, given the fact that we are not in a very euphoric zone, we are may be at around 16 times FY20 earnings and three-four months ahead, we would start to discount FY21, I think there is reasonable optimism both on the economy front as well as from market front. My only concern with the current environment is that are we underestimating the fall in US markets? I remember this kind of situation happening in 2007 when world discovered a problem call subprime. Indian markets started outperforming for many months. Today we can take a lot of pride in saying that US market has gone down but we were up in December. We are better and we have better growth. But will that really last for a long period of time? Again you are comparing two different times and situations. 2007. as you rightly said was more of a crash over leveraged position. And in fact, I was yesterday seeing the documentary The Big Short. It is incidental that we are talking about it today. It was more about the banking system being levered up like 40 times. If you see the banking system in the US now, it is very healthy compared to 2007, in terms of their capital adequacy, in terms of their profitability etc. Second. we are not looking at PEs of 40-50 times in US. We are looking at a PE of 14.5 times for S&P 500. Again just to give you a perspective, there was a trillion-dollar buyback in US in 2018. If you add the last five years of buybacks, they have totalled around $4 trillion which is almost 20% to 25% of the market cap of the US. We are seeing companies having huge cash balances, having huge cash profits. The economy is doing very well. If you go to US and you just talk to people, there is hardly any unemployment. In fact, there is shortage, specifically on the technology side of people. I do not see a scenario of something like 2007-08 even near that and I would say that definitely things are much better and very different from 2007-08. As far as markets are concerned, even there we had this phenomena of the FAANG stocks among the technology stocks, where there was a little bit of over-optimism and those are the stocks which have fallen the most over the last three-four months. So one segment had moved up very sharply and has fallen equally sharply. It is similar to what we had in India where midcaps and small caps went up sharply, they fell sharply or quality was getting unusual premium and wherever that quality has disappointed a little bit, you have seen a sharp fall. It is more a case of over-optimism in a few stocks or a few sectors getting patted down and the fall is more pronounced there. Again, just to conclude, I do not see a scenario of like a meltdown of 2007-08, I do not see it as enything near that. In fact, if I were an investor, I would also bet on the US markets from here on.We had some interesting data thrown up yesterday with respect to the Russell 2000. A 10% fall historically has been followed by a positive year. Perhaps we could see that for the midcap index as well? Where are you seeing opportunity within the midcap universe?Over last three years, we have seen challenges which were quite significant compared to what we have seen earlier and those challenges meant that investors got comfort in the so-called growth stocks or companies which were not impacted by what was happening on the economy front. So, consumption and quality got disproportionate PE. What we are seeing now is that some kind of multiples are not sustainable if we have even a slight sort of correction in their growth rates. And we have seen that with a large innerwear company and a two-wheeler company, how the multiples have corrected very sharply. My view is that over the next one two years, value will take precedence over growth. Companies which have been slowly growing but have not seen rapid growth have been ignored by the investors and a lot of those companies are on the mid and smallcap side. Going forward, maybe companies which have value and which have been in sectors that have been ignored for their challenging past like may be a construction company, some old gen companies, capex companies. Moving towards them because they have seen sustainable addition to their balance sheet in terms of strength, in terms of their cash and the high PE stocks which were getting unusual flows just because they were performing well. Maybe, it is time to see money moving out of them into so-called value and predominantly they are even on the mid and smallcap side.I was hoping you will get slightly more specific in terms of what are the themes you are betting on.There are a lot of power generation and distribution companies which are now trading at like 7-8 times cash PE multiples. It has been sort of a taboo sector because of all the stress they have undergone over the last four, five years. But going forward, India is a growing economy and we are seeing power demand growing at 7-8%. If we believe that there is going to be power for all and standard of living is going to improve, there is going to be growth in the power generation side as well as on the distribution side because you need to take the power right to the final customers. Also, there has not been any significant addition to capacities. So, companies which have good assets on the generation and distribution side, which have balance sheets that are not stressed or which can raise a question mark regarding their survival, some of these companies will do well. Also on the EPC side, one interesting phenomenon in the September results which we were analysing is the fact that for the first time after a lot of years we have seen EPC companies not only start to generate 15-18% ROE, but have also seen their debt levels go down. This is a dream for an investor in EPC companies because over last 7-8 years, EPC companies have only seen their balance sheets bloat by higher and higher debt. These are some interesting observations and obviously there are other companies in sectors which have been ignored because they do not grow fast. It may be a very boring sector but a few textile companies would be worth looking at. They are boring, they do not grow fast but with the kind of cash which some of these companies are generating maybe in the next three, four years, you will have one period where they will give like 50-100% return. From investor point of view, we have to find whether returns can be made in a block of three, four, five years or whether you are looking at making returns every week or every month. If you are in the former category where you are cognisant of the fact that returns will be made but you are indifferent whether returns will be made in three months but ultimately will be made in a block of three, five years, there will be a lot of companies which will keep on improving their cash flows, balance sheets and that is where the focus should be. On the other hand, there are companies which are doing well, which are growing and have huge brand value, huge ROEs and are at 60-70-80 PE .I do not see a scenario of these companies making you a lot of money unless the growth rates can last for 10, 20 years. So, on the consumption side, our view is that one should stick to consumer discretionary where the penetration is still low, where you can still hope to grow in double digits for the next 10-15 years and I think one of my favourite themes, the beverages sector comes into play. But there are a few emerging discretionary consumption stories which can also be looked at but for a consumer staple kind of companies to give 50-60 PE at least I do not find merit in that.Since you track the financials very, very closely where else do you find opportunities? Can PSBs be looked at right now? Corporate banks are a sort of a consensus trade but despite that, decent returns should be made there because even now, the markets are underestimating the recovery as far as earnings is concerned. On the other sub themes, we like select niche NBFCs. The current issue over the last three, four months has meant that the competition from new NBFCs will reduce quite significantly. On the other hand, NBFCs which are well capitalised, which have a history of managing risk quite nicely over the last five, 10 years will get a disproportionate sort of growth opportunities because of lack of competition or reduction in competition. On the other sub themes we like insurance as a theme though we would like to wait for the markets to give us an opportunity which is much more entailing. I believe that India is going to grow in terms of both asset as well as wealth management businesses because of the huge savings which we have and despite under-penetration, select wealth management companies which we can play through maybe a few brokerages definitely looks to be a good option. A good thing is that valuations now are much more reasonable than what they were three, six months back and at this point of time, we would be very constructive in quite a few NBFCs across different segments. A few areas where we still have issues are obviously again the consensus kind of things which are wholesale funded with a lot of exposure towards real estate. That is one segment where we are not seeing an uptick at least as far as the high end residential markets are concerned.A lot of regulatory headwinds and savings which were going into real estate from an investment perspective have completely stopped and that also makes us believe that those savings will come into the asset/wealth management space. You are better off playing the savings part through the asset/wealth management companies rather than trying to bet on NBFCs which are more exposed towards real estate.Since you are bullish on asset managers, would you buy your previous company Reliance Nippon AMC? It is a listed pure asset management company?As I said, the business of asset management as well as wealth management is definitely good. There are near-term headwinds predominantly from the regulatory front. The reason I started my own company Abakkus is because of the fact that I am quite bullish on this segment and at this point of time my biggest investment in asset management company would be in my company.

Read more: economictimes.indiatimes.com

Busting the Myths About Vaccination

6 months, 26 days ago

Many parents are still wary about getting their children vaccinated as there still exist a lot of myths around the same. However, it is utmost important to realize that getting your kids immunized will increase their immunity to fight against various life-threatening diseases.
Here we share with you some of the most common myths facts about Vaccination. So parents must read this carefully so as to make up their minds to immunize their children.
MYTH: Vaccines are not necessary if better hygiene and sanitation is maintained as it will make diseases disappear.
FACT: The diseases we can vaccinate against will return if we stop vaccination programs. Better hygiene, hand washing and clean water do help in protecting people from infectious diseases but many infections can spread in spite of one’s cleanliness. Diseases that have become uncommon, such as polio and measles, will quickly reappear if people aren’t vaccinated.
MYTH: Vaccination can be fatal because vaccines have several damaging and long-term side-effects that are yet unknown.
FACT: Vaccines are very safe and not at all harmful! Usually, vaccine reactions are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever. Only in extreme rare cases does a very serious health event occur which are carefully monitored and investigated. The chances of getting seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease are higher than by a vaccine.
For example:-
a. In the case of polio, the disease can cause paralysis.
b. Measles can cause encephalitis and blindness.
c. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can even result in death.
While any serious injury or death caused by vaccines is highly unlikely, the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risk, and many, many more injuries and deaths would occur without vaccines.
MYTH: A sudden infant death syndrome is caused due to combined vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) and the vaccine against poliomyelitis.
FACT: There is no causal link between the administering of the vaccines and sudden infant death. However, these vaccines are operated at a time when babies can suffer sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In other words, the SIDS deaths are co-incidental to vaccination and would have occurred nevertheless. It is important to remember that these four diseases, that are diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and poliomyelitis, are life-threatening and babies who are not vaccinated against them are at serious risk of death or severe disability.
MYTH: There is no need to get vaccinated as vaccine-preventable diseases are almost eradicated in my country.
FACT: The infectious agents that cause vaccine-preventable diseases continue to circulate in some parts of the world even though they have become uncommon in many countries. In a world that is highly inter-connected, such agents can cross geographical borders and infect the unprotected. Thus, two key reasons to get vaccinated are to protect ourselves and to protect those around us.
Successful vaccination programs, like successful societies, majorly depend on the cooperation of every individual to ensure the good of all.
MYTH: Vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses are nothing but an unfortunate fact of life.
FACT: Illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella can lead to grave complications in both children and adults, including pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, diarrhea, ear infections, congenital rubella syndrome and death. All these diseases and suffering is preventable with the help of vaccines. If one gets vaccinated then vaccine preventable diseases do not have to be ‘facts of life’.
MYTH: By giving a child more than one vaccine at a time, there is an increased risk of harmful side-effects, which overload the child’s immune system.
FACT: Scientific evidence has proved that giving several vaccines at the same time does not have any adverse effect on a child’s immune system. Every day, children are subjected to several hundred foreign substances that trigger an immune response. The simplest of acts like eating food also introduces new antigens into the body, and numerous bacteria reside in the mouth and nose. It is a fact that a child is subjected to far more antigens from a common cold or sore throat than from vaccines.
Key advantages of having several vaccines at once are:
1. Fewer clinic visits which also save time and money.
2. Children are more likely to complete the recommended vaccinations on schedule.
3. Also, having a combined vaccination like for measles, mumps and rubella results into fewer injections.
MYTH: The vaccine for Influenza isn’t very effective and Influenza is just a nuisance.
FACT: Influenza is a serious disease that takes the lives of 3, 00,000-5, 00,000 people around the world every year. Pregnant women, small children, elderly people with poor health and anyone with a chronic condition, like asthma or heart disease, are placed at a higher risk for severe infection and even death. Vaccinating pregnant women has the added benefit of protecting their newborns as there is currently no vaccine for babies less than six months.
Vaccination is the best way to lower your chances of getting severe flu and of spreading it to others. Avoiding the flu means avoiding extra medical care costs and lost income from missing days of work or school.

MYTH: Getting immunized through disease is better than through vaccination.
FACT: Vaccines interact with the immune system to cause an immune response very similar to that caused by the natural infection, but they do not trigger the disease or put the immunized person at risk of its potential complications. In contrast, there are massive implications for getting immunity through natural infection such as-
1. Mental retardation from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
2. Birth defects from rubella.
3. Liver cancer from hepatitis B virus.
4. Death from measles.
MYTH: Vaccines contain mercury and are very dangerous.
FACT: An organic, mercury-containing compound called Thiomersal is added to some vaccines as a preservative. It is the most widely-used preservative for vaccines that are provided in multi-dose vials. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the amount of Thiomersal used in vaccines pose to be a health risk.
MYTH: Vaccines cause autism.
FACT: A 1998 study which raised concerns about a probable link between measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism was later found to be seriously flawed, and the paper was retracted by the journal that published it. Unfortunately, the damage was already done as its publication set off a panic that led to dropping immunization rates, and subsequent outbreaks of these diseases. There is absolutely no evidence of a link between MMR vaccine and autism or autistic disorders.

This article has been written by Dr. Somendra Shukla, Pediatrics Neonatology, W Pratiksha Hospital

Read more: momspresso.com

Here are MOFSL’s Rahul Shah’s top three bets for traders

7 months, 6 days ago

Bullish on ITC among largecaps, Tata Elxsi in midcap IT and Eicher Motors in auto, Rahul Shah, Motilal Oswal Financial

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Services, tells ET Now. Edited excerpts: What changed in November that made Nifty rally 800-900 points? We have seen the dollar. We have seen oil. We have seen bond yields. So all three things put together pushed up the market. It should continue till the time all the macros have been taken care of. I do not see any reason for the market to correct near term. For more than a month and a half we have not heard anything negative. We have seen the RBI operations — OMOs as well as policy matters being taken up. So they have been in sync with market requirement. Now the only thing people are questioning is the result of the assembly elections. That is a week ahead. If macros are placed well, I do not think any other things are going to bother the markets much in the near term. What is the sense that you get in terms of flows? Do you think that FII flows are turning positive? As I said, if the macros improve, flows can improve. FIIs have been sellers since last six-eight months and we have seen a huge outflow but things have started improving. Obviously, there is some kind of money to be invested at this point of time and a lot of opportunities. In terms of valuations, a lot of stocks look attractive. We have seen flows coming in. FMCG and tech which are doing well are where they are focusing. There is no reason for FIIs not to put in money as of now. The IT sector did particularly well this week. TCS was up almost 8-9%. What is your call on that sector? We have seen a fantastic runup in last one year and all IT stocks have done quite well and obviously they are backed by good numbers that should continue. This quarter, the results are also good for IT. By and large, the management commentary is in line with what they predict. In my view, the IT results were good. Going forward, I do not think there should be any problem. There will be more conviction in sectors with earnings visibility. The IT pack is least affected by any other noise that we hear other than the marco and political factor. IT will continue to do well. Largecap IT remains a sweet spot still. My view is TCS, Infy amd HCL Tech should all do well, going forward from here also. Week after week, Airtel or Idea have been coming in the top losers’ list. This week is not different despite markets doing pretty well. What is your view on the telecom pack? Could you even include Reliance in that list? I would stay away from this underperforming sector. These two stocks have been underperforming for the last two years. I would avoid Bharti and Idea. Reliance looks interesting and should be give another 15% to 20% return for positional traders. How important will this RBI meet be? Whenever RBI comes, there are a lot of questions in people’s mind about what is going to happen next, whether a rate cut can be expected. Inflations are under control, bond yields have cooled off and some action in terms of rate cut can be expected. The markets have been rallying and in case of a rate cut, we can expect the markets to rally more. It is important for investors and as well as traders to understand what RBI has to say. What will be your call on the real estate pack? Should one start to look at real estate names selectively? I would still avoid. There is enough opportunity in the markets in the other sectors rather than playing in sectors which have underperformed for quite some time. In the bull market also, real estate stocks did not perform. I am not so keen on them and I do not recommend any of the real estate stocks to add at this current level. Any picks for our viewers? In largecap space, in the FMCG pack, ITC looks very convincing in terms of valuations. A 10% move from here could be a positional trade. One should look at tech stocks also. Midcap IT has underperformed for quite some time now. Tata Elxsi from that pack looks convincing. In auto space, Eicher Motors is one which has also underperformed. So these are the few ideas which I feel could be good bets at current market levels.

Read more: economictimes.indiatimes.com

How Often Should You Change Your Bed Sheets?

7 months, 20 days ago

Slipping into a bed of clean, crisp bedding is a wonderful feeling. A survey by Bupa a couple of years ago revealed that a freshly made bed was voted number one in a list of things that make us feel great – it’s a genuinely easy-to-achieve, feel-good phenomenon.

So why do so many people shirk on the sheet washing – and how often should we really be doing it?

It comes down to more than just good quality bedding and a lovely smelling fabric softener – although these things are very important to us here at Sleepypeople! It’s a health issue too.

We spend a lot of time in bed. In fact, the average person spends around 25 years of their life in bed – and that’s just sleeping. So there is naturally a bit of a build of up on the sheets. An adult can actually lose up to a litre of sweat in one night alone, and there is more than just sweat getting soaked in; your sheets absorb skin, food, cosmetics, creams and general dirt and dust.

This creates a build up of bacteria, which will naturally fester for longer as the sheets get dirtier. Exposing your skin to this can cause irritations, particularly if you suffer from sensitive skin already. Ironically, any preventative cosmetics and creams you apply will add to the situation. Dirty pillowcases in particular can cause spots and pimples on the face and neck.

While spots and itchy skin can be irritating, there is more. The build up of sweat helps mould and fungi to grow within the fibres of your sheets, which can lead to a range of infections – sometimes in some pretty intimate places!

In addition, our skin attracts mites; microscopic creatures that feast on our skin – and we naturally shed the stuff when we sleep, so we are very attractive to these tiny organisms! Their droppings contain a pretty potent allergen, which may lead to asthma-like symptoms, eczema or sinus problems.

So clean, good quality bedding is a must for a healthy night’s sleep.

The general advice is to change your bedsheets at least once a week. Ensure that it is washed in high temperatures – 60 degrees or above is recommended. In between washes, turn down the duvet in the morning to give the bed a good airing. Hoover around the bed and over the mattress to reduce dust levels – and don’t forget to wash your pillows and duvets every month or so too: a pillow will be one third skin, dust mites and mite droppings after remaining unwashed for just a few months.

Another tip is to use pillow and mattress protectors between your sheets and bedding, these should be washed regularly, ideally with your sheets.

Getting into the habit of a weekly sheet wash is about more than just the feel-good factor; it’s a health issue for the whole family. Keeping spare bedding to hand is a must and needn’t cost the earth; we stock a range of bedding sets for all bed sizes, from cot bedding up to king size bed sheets.

Newer ranges include the Silentnight Safe Nights collection, which has been specially created for babies and infants, as well as a range of luxury adult bedding in a variety of textures and colours, from waffle to stripe, grey to pink.

With a little planning and organisation, you can ensure your sheets are clean and your bed is healthy. Which all contributes to a better sleep and a happier you.

Read more: sleepypeople.com

For F***’s Sake: Why Is Modern Flying Such A Soul-Crushing Time Suck?

7 months, 24 days ago

“It was an unforgettable nightmare,” says Donna Beegle. In 2015, she and her family were attempting to travel in coach class from Houston to Portland on a United flight. Midway through, they were removed from the aircraft by police. The reason? The pilot “didn’t feel safe” flying with Beegle’s then-15-year-old daughter, Juliette, who has autism.

Juliette was experiencing low blood sugar that day. Like many people with autism, she has some specific sensory issues, one of which being that she only eats hot food. The family hadn’t been able to get her anything prior to the flight, and when they politely asked if they might be able to purchase one of the extra hot meals being served to first class passengers, they were repeatedly told no by crew members. Over the course of about an hour, Juliette began crying and was visibly agitated. Eventually, Beegle says, they were given some rice from one of the meals.

After that, Juliette was able to calm down, and by the time the plane made an emergency landing in Utah, she had settled quietly into a movie. “My husband and I both turned to each other thinking, oh my gosh, somebody probably had a heart attack or something,” Beegle remembers. But suddenly, the paramedics arrived at their aisle. Beegle explained the situation and said that Juliette was fine now. “[The paramedic] rolled his eyes and he said, ‘Oh my God, another over-reactive flight attendant.’”

That should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. The police were summoned. About ten minutes later, Beegle and her family were removed from the plane. They were eventually rebooked on a Delta flight. Beegle says both she and Juliette were “crushed” by in the incident and the lack of compassion displayed by United staff. They initially filed charges against the airline, but after the National Autism Society got involved and used the incident to broker with the airline for a staff training on how to better interact with people with developmental disabilities, they dropped all charges. Nevertheless, the interaction haunts them. “I cried and cried. I cried for the ignorance toward my daughter. It just broke my heart,” Beegle says.

This is just one entry on an ever-growing list of people who have been shamed, discriminated against, and otherwise wronged by major corporate airlines. There was the passenger who was violently dragged off an overbooked United flight, the dog who died on another flight by the same carrier after its owners were forced by staff to store it in an overhead bin, and the family with a toddler that was kicked off a Southwest flight because the child wouldn’t stop crying. A flight attendant reportedly instructed the two-year-old to “shut up.” All of these instances occurred in just the past year. This month, a passenger on a Delta flight sat in dog poop that had somehow been left in his seat from a service animal on a previous flight.

These stories and videos often go viral, followed by a brief period of outrage. We talk of boycotting. Sometimes there’s a lawsuit. (It’s usually settled out of court.) But rarely does any meaningful, lasting change occur. A few days or weeks pass, and there’s another ugly confrontation. Another child or animal or person with disabilities is mistreated. Another pile of dog shit, metaphorical or otherwise, waits atop a seat. The specifics may change, but the moral of the story does not: flying sucks.

Even if you’ve never personally experienced anything quite as dramatic as the Beegles did, air travel is, for many of us, a necessary inconvenience at best. If you have family members that live in different parts of the country or world, or have a job that requires you to visit different places regularly, you really don’t have much of a choice but to fly. Plus, traveling is fun and enriching. It expands our minds, fosters acceptance, and helps us to grow as human beings. But these days it feels like there are a lot of reasons to be wary of getting on a plane. There are the often inexplicable delays, which according to the Department of Transportation, happen on 15% of flights. There are the tiny seats, which have shrunken up to four inches over the past two decades, even as Americans themselves have gotten larger.

“The industry could make flying more comfortable, that meaning the bigger seats bigger with more legroom,” says Annette, a flight attendant with an unnamed carrier who asked that we not use her last name. “That would make it better for the passengers and the flight attendants. That would reduce revenue for the company and drastically increase airfares. We probably will never see this.”

The worst part, though, is that “you have to take whatever they give you because they can just take you off, and so you people put up with things they wouldn’t normally put up with,” says Beegle. “When you’re on a plane, you have no power.”

Illustration by Louisa Cannell 

The fact that we’re able to move people and objects from one place to another through the air is, if you think about it, very impressive. It’s safe to say air travel ranks pretty high within the canon of human achievement. But the evolution of flying from something absurdly rarefied to something increasingly akin to an airborne dictatorship leaves a lot of room for inquiry into why things are the way the are, what made them that way, and how they need to change.

There’s a constant push-pull within the airline industry that makes it feel like as soon as one thing gets better, another gets worse. For example, while an increasing number of planes have TV screens and charging ports, flights are still regularly delayed and overbooked. It’s the same with airports: While there are healthier food options and more electrical outlets, TSA security is time-consuming and seems to randomly change requirements based on which airport you’re in and even who happens to be on duty that day. There are many Band-Aids, but few opportunities to get at the larger issues of air travel, some of which have been festering below the surface for decades.

Kelsey Myers, a new mom who was traveling in May of this year, was attempting to board an already-delayed American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Chicago when she was told she’d have to check a bag containing her breast pump, even though she’d checked the rules on American’s website before the flight and the pump and its accoutrements had not been an issue when she had gone through her TSA screening that day.

It didn’t matter. The man in charge of boarding the flight was unfamiliar with all of this, and he wasn’t about to take Myers’ word for it. After an increasingly heated exchange, she requested he call his supervisor, who arrived on the scene seemingly uninterested in her side of the story.

“You’d think if it was a supervisor, they would know the rules, but also, if you are coming into a situation, that you would ask both parties involved what’s going on,” she remembers.

After more heated back-and-forth, she gave up and said she’d check the bag with the breast pump equipment in it, despite the fact that she needed it, and later observed there was plenty of room in the overhead bins. But that wasn’t the end of it.

He asked her: “‘do you have extra breast pump stuff in your luggage too?'” Myers recalls. “And I was like, actually I do have pumps in there. And then that’s when she responded with: ‘uh, lady, how many boobs do you have?’”

Illustration by Louisa Cannell 

Perhaps you’ve heard stories from your parents or grandparents about the golden days of air travel. In the 1950s and ‘60s, flying was a glamorous affair worth getting dressed up for. So-called “flying boats” glided through the sky as well-heeled passengers sipped stiff cocktails from the comfort of their plush, roomy seats. “Air hostesses” were, in a way, the equivalent of today’s Instagram influencers — young, beautiful, well-travelled and even better dressed. People smoked and socialized and ate three-course meals from 35,000 feet. It was like a cocktail party in the sky, and the sentimentality over this era is well-established in everything from Chrissy Teigen’s 2017 birthday party to a Pan Am-themed restaurant in Los Angeles, which for $300 a head recreates the experience of flying in the ‘50s.

But for all the storied glitz and glamour, flying was also prohibitively expensive, a luxury only afforded to the upper class. “The full fare was probably the equivalent of a secretary’s monthly salary,” according to Guillaume de Syon, Ph.D, a professor of history at Albright College. “Very few people could afford it.” And those pretty young airline staffers faced sexism and discrimination, forced to, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, meet job requirements like being unmarried, maintaining a maximum weight of 135 pounds, and wearing a “well-fitted girdle” at all times.

Competition between airlines to make flying more accessible began in the late ‘60s, De Syon says. The proliferation of fanjets enabled planes that could both fly faster and carry more passengers. Propeller planes faded away, and airlines began flying to a wider range of destinations.

A deregulation act passed in 1978 dissolved the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had strictly regulated airlines as a public utility, including disallowing them to sell tickets below a certain price point, and only approving one or two carriers to fly on a given route. For years, the government had hoped to curtail competition between airlines through these regulations.

Suddenly, it was a free market — meaning carriers could more or less fly where they wanted, charge what they wanted, and serve passengers how they wanted. The pomp and circumstance didn’t immediately disappear, but many in the industry see this as the beginning of the end for flying’s glamorous days. By the early 1980s, ultra low-cost airlines had sprung up everywhere, and others had to struggle to compete.

Deregulation also led to the shrinking of seats, which have been whittled down over the years from 18 to just 16 inches wide. The “pitch” of the seat, which accounts for legroom, has shrunk from 35 to 31 inches on average in coach class. Some seats, on budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit, have pitches that go as low as 28 inches. Meanwhile, American men and women are both significantly heavier on average than they were in 1960. Consumer advocates have been arguing against the so-called “incredible shrinking airline seat” for years, but earlier this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration rejected a rule that would have imposed a minimum size restriction on seats, arguing that seat size has no impact on passenger safety.

This isn’t to say that deregulation was a bad thing. Without it, the vast majority of people would probably not be able to afford to fly today. But by the time four planes were hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, the experience of flying was already trending toward the unpleasant. Then—quite literally overnight—there was an extreme tightening of security measures, which extended from the substantial pre-boarding procedures we’ve grown accustomed to today (shoes off, laptops out, pockets empty, etc.) to heightened levels of caution from staffers when dealing with passengers aboard the aircrafts themselves.

There was also a sudden, drastic reduction in passenger demand. According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines experienced a $22 billion revenue drop between 2000 and 2001. That led to a government bailout of several airlines, lest the whole American air travel system effectively collapse.

In an effort to recoup funds lost after the attacks, airlines began charging extra for things like checked luggage, and even as their profit margins have corrected, those fees have mysteriously stuck around. A joint study by IdeaWorks Company and Cartrawler revealed that in 2017, global airline carriers took home a whopping $82 billion from these kinds of fees, with $57 billion of that going to US-based carriers.

“It’s a bit of a cliche, but 9/11 took away the innocence of flying — the sense that you could go and, for example, meet your party at the plane in United States. There were some very civilized elements that still existed in the US that were gone after that,” de Syon says.

Meanwhile, in the past decade, mega-mergers of airlines have led to decreased competition, which means pricier flights and increasingly lackluster customer service. “You have four airlines that control over 80 percent of traffic [in the US],” explains Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, a company that curates deals on flights and hotels. “So the fact that each of those airlines has effectively divided up the country by city and there’s only a handful of cities with really, really good competition has essentially made it more difficult for people to find a cheaper ticket there.”

The so-called “big four” that Seaney refers to are American, United, Delta, and Southwest, and it’s estimated that nine out of ten domestic flights are operated by one of those carriers. If you wanted to boycott one of these airlines, but you still want to visit your parents without defaulting on your student loan, the logistics are not in your favor.

From the perspective of flight attendants, it’s passenger behavior that is at the root of the problem.

“We are to de-escalate when we can, and assume we are being videoed. If I am unable to de-escalate, I would leave and have a flying partner step in. She may have a totally different approach that works. We do not want any confrontations onboard,” explains Annette, the flight attendant. She says that within the company she works for, there have been numerous conversations about how to minimize these type of flare-ups between employees and passengers. And that the first priority is to focus on safety, not comfort.

Annette cites factors like sleep deprivation, stress, and excessive consumption of alcohol as common reasons why some passengers become aggravated on and around airplanes, and take their anger out on them. The high cost of airport food and parking, hassles they may have experienced getting through TSA, and confusion navigating the concourse can also rev up passengers, she explains. None of these are factors the airlines themselves have much control over, but, flight attendants bare the brunt of the complaints, she says. “A passenger finally finds their gate, and they hustle to get onboard, find their seat, and put their bag in the overhead compartment. Just as they think they get to relax, here I come, asking them to put their tray table up.”

Illustration by Louisa Cannell 

And yet, it’s likely none of this will ever get fixed. Because even in an era where everything from feminine hygiene products to money transfers have been “disrupted” by eagle-eyed innovators, no Elon Musk-type has really emerged with big promises to do it all better. The closest is Richard Branson, whose beloved airline Virgin was absorbed and then retired by Alaska Airlines in 2017 following a struggle for profitability. Branson referred to the watering down and eventual termination of the brand as a “castration.” Because Virgin was a US-registered airline, Branson and his foreign businesses were unable to control voting interests during the acquisition

“It was a long and hard journey but in the end you are the best consumer airline in America. You invented concepts like ‘moodlighting’ and ‘on-demand food,’ you reinvented cabin amenities from seat-to-seat chat to Netflix in the sky. You chose warm and soothing pink to purple moodlighting that transitions based on outside light,” Branson wrote in a farewell letter to the airline. “You proved it is possible to run a business with a strategy that does not rely on low fares and a dominant position alone: you attracted premium flyers with a fun and beautiful guest experience.”

There are several companies, including FareCompare, Hopper, and Hipmunk, who purport to make finding a deal on flights easier. And, hey, when you’re paying something like $200 (as opposed to $500) for a flight, maybe you’re less likely to be annoyed when the seat is small and the food is bad and it’s delayed an hour and a half.

But when it comes to actually revamping the experience of flying, that’s easier said than done, apparently even for someone with the resources, vision, and business acumen of Richard Branson. As you might imagine, it costs a lot to run an airline. There are countless regulations and tons of red tape to navigate. And it’s almost impossible to compete with industry behemoths like American and United, even as they continue to bungle interactions with passengers. While most airlines do undoubtedly want to create better PR for themselves, there’s little financial reason for them to make real, substantive changes. For a country that so values competition and choice, we have very little of it.

A 2016 survey by Airlines for America shows that, for all we like to complain, more people are flying than ever before. As Annette revealed, the biggest thing on carrier’s minds isn’t how to make flying more pleasant, or even how to cut down on heated altercations between their staff and passengers, but simply how to squeeze more people onto aircrafts to meet this demand (and, yes, turn a profit).

Thatcher A. Stone, a prominent aviation lawyer who has argued cases for people discriminated against or harmed by airlines, thinks there are accessible solutions: “If they gave you a box of chocolates, a pair of earplugs and either a toy for a kid or a newspaper for an adult as you walked on the airplane or as you left the gate… [Passengers would] have a sugar high from the chocolates. They’d plug their earphones in and they wouldn’t bother anybody. They’d listen instead of talk, and then they’d read and watch, the kids would play with the toy. But [the airlines are] not smart enough to do that, which is unfortunate.”

To be fair, certain airlines are taking small steps in that direction: Delta, which already offers complimentary beer and wine on all international flights, recently revealed that it’s testing out offering three-course meals and gratis champagne in economy class on flights between Portland and Tokyo. American has decided to allow early boarding for people with nut allergies, giving them time to properly sterilize their seat and tray table. These small comforts probably won’t do a lot to mitigate the stress felt by people regularly victimized by racial profiling, sizeism, and other types of discrimination that still run rampant on planes, in airports, and during TSA screenings. And they also won’t fix the problem of delayed flights and insensitive staffers and insulting $75 vouchers. But they are, at least, an acknowledgment on the parts of airlines that a lot of people are pissed off — and that if there is, for example, the ever-looming threat of accidentally sitting in dog poop (or something like that), they have every right to be.

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The best places to live in video games

8 months, 23 days ago

Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia – a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.

Right in the corner of the Hinterlands in Dragon Age: Inquisition is the Grand Forest Villa. Its position in the landscape is not obtrusive or jarring, and in turn makes use of the surrounding Hinterlands as its grounds and gardens. Not only does it look fantastic in its geographical context, the residence fits the medieval-fantasy context, oozing grandeur and splendour. But it also serves a purpose: in the Dragon Age lore, it was built for a special friend of the Arl of Redcliffe to allow him to stay near Redcliffe Castle, but far enough away to not raise eyebrows or induce scandal. Designed to be elegant and bold, the Villa – which is a generous term – would have been a beautiful place to live. Even though there are no obvious living spaces on show to relate to they are there – probably within the thick stone walls that add a strange, yet weirdly complete juxtaposition of woodland villa aesthetic next to defensive fortress.

Its semi-open nature permeates its design. Opening up sides and boundaries has the effect of bringing the outside, inside – nowadays, think about homes that have entire walls made of glass to bring their garden ‘inside’ – blurring the boundary between indoor luxury and the pleasantness of nature, landscapes and plants. It also opens up expansive and brilliant vistas from the Grand Forest Villa, the importance of which is demonstrated by the design of designated viewing decks or points offering fabulous views over the lush and rolling Hinterlands landscape.

Read more…

Read more: eurogamer.net

Shaping the Future: What to Consider When Designing for Children

10 months, 7 days ago


© Kyungsub Shin

© Kyungsub Shin

Le Corbusier stated in his seminal text, Towards a New Architecture, that “…man looks at the creation of architecture with his eyes, which are 5 feet 6 inches from the ground.” Logical and rational codes such as this form the standard for much of architectural production – but of course, these “norms” are as constructed as architecture itself. This particular standard is especially irrelevant when designing for children, for whom the adult-centric assumptions of architecture do not and should not apply.

As of 2018, children (i.e., people aged 15 years or younger) make up 26% of our global population; a statistic we should all appreciate given that a whopping 100% have, in fact, been children at some point ourselves. While there are a multitude of factors that shape the kind of adults we become, the architecture we encounter as children – be it the stacks in the library where you played hide-and-seek or the door handle you had to stand on tiptoes to reach – can have a great impact on your perspective of the world. When designing architecture for specifically for children, we are in a way molding these future perspectives, and it is therefore vital we treat the process with both rigor and empathy.

“Memories like these contain the deepest architectural experience that I know. They are the reservoirs of the architectural atmospheres and images that I explore in my work as an architect” – Peter Zumthor, speaking of his childhood memories in Switzerland

It is perhaps practical to first consider this from a literal standpoint: a young child’s eyes are, on average, about 3 feet 6 inches from the ground. Bad design for children is relatively simple to pick out as it typically ignores this fact (and often continues to fail from there.)


© arch-exist

© arch-exist

As many architectural governing bodies (such as the AIA and RIBA) push for more localized standards for school design, particularly those aiming to promote safety and healthy learning environments, architects must still consider things such as. What spaces will encourage learning? What plans will promote play? How can we create the right level of social interaction between ages?

Generally speaking, there are no universal laws for good design. But thanks to decades of research regarding the sociological and psychological development of children at universities across the world, there is data to at least suggest a number of key principles: the encouragement of social interaction, the promotion of playful learning, and the involvement of nature. How these things principles are realized can vary immensely. 

In his speech to congress, the new Sandy Hook School architect Jay Brotman referenced how design for children, in particular schools, depends heavily on the individual community and the context. This, with the added individuality of the architect, creates a bespoke and organic design process from the off. Certain schemes promote certain characteristics, and some projects lean heavily on certain techniques, all doing so to achieve a successful child-friendly space that suits the function best. Through delving into what makes a successful, child-centric design, we can begin to make note of the binding attributes that great schemes share.

“We have an innate capacity for remembering and imagining places.” – Juhani Pallasmaa, the Eyes of the Skin

Safety

While often not the most appealing of design influences, safety is by far the most important characteristic of any scheme for children. This need not, however, refer to the “bubble” approach to safety; an approach which lazily often results in soft edges with soft materials in soft designs. A more basic understanding of safety for children is the notion that, as an adult, you are able to see the child anywhere in the space. 


Courtesy of VERSTAS Architects

Courtesy of VERSTAS Architects


© Andreas Meichsner

© Andreas Meichsner

Schools and kindergartens are key proponents of using plan to protect their children. VERSTAS Architects demonstrate this in their Saunalahti School scheme, where a dominating, linear brick facade creates a border to the public, and the enclosed area uses the typology of the site to ‘herd in’ the students, without the feeling of complete enclosure.

Play

Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child states that “every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.” Architects have a responsibility to design spaces that enable the essential natural creativity and freedom of play, and nurture it. This can be achieved in several ways, but can be boiled down to structured play and abstracted play.


© John Donat RIBA Library Photographs Collection

© John Donat RIBA Library Photographs Collection


© arch-exist

© arch-exist

U.K. based Turner Prize winning design collective Assemble created an exhibition that summarized the themes of abstract play in 2015. ‘Brutalist Playground’ used the play areas of the 1950s and 1960s social estate architecture, promoting the ability of their solid and non-descript forms to create a space that encourages children to fill in the blanks with their imaginations. According to the research, these spaces gave the children the autonomy to do as they pleased, learning and growing along the way. ASPECT Studio applied many of the same principles into its colorful Wantou & Vanke Paradise Art Wonderland park in Heifei, China.


© Antoine Espinasseau

© Antoine Espinasseau

Contrasting this open-ended approach, the work of French architects NP2F demonstrates equal success from a more structured approach. Utilizing the traditional methods associated with urban sport spaces and play areas, NP2F guided the development of their Evolution Ground Alfortville project in such a way as to “promote a decompartmentalization of sport spaces,” maintaining a known method of interaction for the children. The project, with its areas of “urban gentleness” creating an adaptable, highlights this approach in a multi-use space. “The importance given to detail (ground, morphology, folds and boundaries) allows us to offer to the young people of the ZAC, beyond a simple football ground, a “configured” space, space of encounters and exchanges,” the architects explain in the description of the project.

Liberation

In a world designed for adults, sometimes one of the most important features of child-centric architecture is child-only features. Enabling children to interact or navigate with the architecture in a way that is unique to their circumstance can be essential to the idea of play, letting the children truly be independent and self supporting through the nature of the design.


Courtesy of Matter Design + FR|SCH

Courtesy of Matter Design + FR|SCH


Courtesy of Matter Design + FR|SCH

Courtesy of Matter Design + FR|SCH

Five Fields Play Structure by Matter Design + FR|SCH shows how multiple levels of space can be juxtaposed into a fun, condensed setting, that allows adults to access each part but at a hindered pace and freedom to the children. “Dedicated to imagination” and “resisting literal and singular readings”, the structure is designed with the nimble nature of its client in mind. Sitting on a green, sloping context, Five Fields uses a carefully imagined plan to create several areas where children can interact with the architecture on their own terms, “liberating the kids to fly through the spaces”.

Adaptability/Openness


© Katsuhisa Kida

© Katsuhisa Kida

The one thing universal about children it is that no child is the same. By extension, no one interaction with a child is the same, and the day-to-day ways in which a child uses space may differ significantly. This is partly the reason why your traditional square, isolated classroom has been proven inefficient in the teaching and developing of young people. Spaces must be malleable, and must be able to adapt to any given situation. They must also be open, and have access to nature, as children are not meant to be restricted to the confines of our adult preconceptions of space.

One of the greatest examples of this adaptability and openness is the award winning Fuji Kindergarten by Tezuka Architects. The distinctive oval shaped plan, which features a large green space in the center and a generous, wooden roof terrace all around promotes the natural movement of children through the space. The kindergarten, as a consequence of this plan, has one of the highest athletic abilities in the area, as children who go there move on average 4km per day. The classrooms themselves have no walls, as the continuous plan means the children can never get lost or wander far away, and this open architecture is summed up by Takaharu Tezuka when he says:


© Katsuhisa Kida

© Katsuhisa Kida


© Katsuhisa Kida

© Katsuhisa Kida

This kindergarten is completely open, most of the year. And there is no boundary between inside and outside.So it means basically this architecture is a roof. And also there is no boundary between classrooms. So there is no acoustic barrier at all. When you put many children in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous. But in this kindergarten, there is no reason they get nervous. Because there is no boundary.


© Dorte Mandrup

© Dorte Mandrup


© Adam Mørk

© Adam Mørk

This openness and involvement of nature is something that Danish office Dorte Mandrup consistently shows within their work, from the hillside-like Råå Day Care Center to the more urban Kanderborggade Day Care Centre.

Understanding


© Sean Ahlquist, University of Michigan

© Sean Ahlquist, University of Michigan


Courtesy of Luckey Climbers

Courtesy of Luckey Climbers

In many recent projects, research and design are fused together in order to create specialized spaces for certain groups of younger people. The research project Social Sensory Architectures use their work to create spaces that are both comforting and helpful to children with autism, while Spencer Luckey’s abstract, undulating platforms “form a blank canvas for the children to establish their own narrative” in a gender-neutral playground.

Catalytic Action create design play structures within refugee communities, letting the children take ownership of the design to provide relief and independence to a community of children that often has to grow up faster than others.


Courtesy of CatalyticAction

Courtesy of CatalyticAction

Providing spaces for counseling and support within schools is a key issue, as the mental pressure of being a child has arguably never been more of an issue. Architect Karina Ruiz emphasizes the importance of locating these spaces in key areas, in order to avoid disenfranchisement or the feeling of isolation. “Simple things like moving a counseling wing and putting those where students are located—near commons, near libraries—and then making them transparent.”

Read more: feedproxy.google.com

Is There a Social Quant Alternative that Twitter Won’t Shut Down?

1 year, 1 month ago

Social Quant is Dead!

If you don’t believe me, go to their homepage. You’ll probably see what we did when we went there.

social quant alternative-- Social Quant is dead

The platform many of us have used for years to help grow our Twitter following is another victim of Twitter’s focus on enforcing their rules.

With Social Quant, you connected your Twitter account to their site, picked keywords (which were likely hashtags) tweeted by people you wanted to follow, and you were done. The tool would start following those lucky people.

The hope was that those that you followed would follow you back– a technique that has been proven to work over and over.

I had my personal Twitter account @scottayres connected to their site for over a year, and more than doubled my following due to their work.

Everything was going great for Social Quant and its users until …

Social Quant Gets Squashed by Twitter

On April 3, 2018, Twitter sent this email was sent to any user they believed had used Social Quant and a few of the other apps that found themselves in their crosshairs.

social quant alternatives-- twitter email

social quant alternatives-- twitter email 2

Then a week or so later Twitter shut down Social Quant’s Twitter account, along with the accounts of several employees (including the founder of the company).

This caused tons of users to immediately disconnect from Social Quant due to fear of being punished themselves.

On Monday May 7, I hopped over to their site to check my account (I was still connected) and got the “winding down operations” screenshot I shared at the beginning of this post.

I reached out to their team and got this reply:

Hi Scott,

Pursuant to Social Quant’s Terms of Service, we may at any time ‘modify or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, the Company Services (or any part thereof) with or without notice.’ Accordingly, Social Quant has decided to discontinue our services permanently. We apologize for any inconvenience.

We have stopped service and billing for everyone.

 

Like you, I’m now looking for alternatives to do the heavy lifting, just like Social Quant did.

Social Quant Alternatives

Let’s take a look at how you can use a few other apps to do the work Social Quant did.

1. ManageFlitter

ManageFlitter has been in business since 2010 and complies with all of Twitter’s rules.

They also come highly recommended by Twitter power user Madalyn Sklar — if she trusts it, I know I can!

social quant alternatives-- manageflitter

 

Here are some of the features that the tool offers.

Account management

This tab shows me how many people don’t follow me back and gives me the option to then unfollow each of them (one-by-one) if I so choose.
social quant alternatives-- managflitter unfollow

Filtering options on the left navigation bar allow you to search by these categories:

No Profile Image.
Non-English.
Inactive (haven’t tweeted in the last 30 days).
Fake (shows you what accounts you follow that they have deemed fake, not sure on what criteria).
Following Ratio (lets you see who has a high/low following ratio. High is bad.)
Talkative/Quiet (shows who tweets more than 5 times per day, or less than 1 time per day).
Influence (self-explanatory).
Never Unfollow/Follow (allows you to whitelist or blacklist users. Only for their Pro plan).
Manage Muted Users.
Everyone You Follow.

With the free account, you are limited to just 20 follows/unfollows per day, although they present you with few options to increase that limit.

Analytics

The “Analytics” section is only available for paid plans. I don’t have a paid plan so can’t see the analytics, but did find this screenshot from ManageFlitter’s blog:

social quant alternatives-- manageflitter analytics image

Engagement

To my surprise, there is a scheduling option inside ManageFlitter called “Powerpost” that picks an “ideal” time to post.

social quant alternative-- manageflitter

Pricing

ManageFlitter has plans as low as $12 per month if the free plan doesn’t suit your needs. It can get quite pricey if you manage multiple Twitter accounts.

2. Agorapulse

At first glance, Agorapulse might not seem like an alternative to Social Quant, especially when it comes to following and unfollowing automatically.

But the Agorapulse’s “Listening” feature can easily find people tweeting about relevant subjects or mentioning you.

Just choose the social profile you want to build a following for and click “Listening.”

social quant alternatives-- listening with Agorapulse

Then click the “Create a new search button”, which shows you the next option.

social quant alternatives-- social listening

Here you can see any searches you already created. You can edit them or create new searches.

Click “Create a new search.”

social quant alternatives-- creating a new search

As you can see, you can enter a hashtag to search for and give that search a title. You can also add multiple words, phrases, or Twitter handles to your search. Click “Next” when done.

social quant alternative agorapulse

You can “heart” each tweet, reply to it and open it in Twitter if you’d like. Since in this search it’s from a word or phrase, I can’t choose to follow that person inside our app due to Twitter restrictions. I’d have to open that tweet in Twitter to do so.

But if it was a search that mentioned my username I can follow the account, as in the example below (notice the Follow button on the right):

social quant alternatives-- following users

You could set up multiple searches for different phrases and usernames, and follow anyone not following you.

Granted there isn’t a way to then unfollow anyone that doesn’t follow you back, but it’s a great way to start growing targeted followers based on your searches.

Plus you are in complete control, and can reply to Tweets as well. Those replies and/or retweets are valuable and will get people to notice you.

(And shall I mention that you’d be using a tool that abides by Twitter’s rules?)

You could also add tags (like the “ambassador” tag on the image above) to each person so you could organize who the users are.

Unlike ManageFlitter, Agorapulse works with many other social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Pricing starts at $49 and offers three social profiles in its intro plan. (Manage Flitter’s starter “Pro” plan only gives you one profile.) All Agorapulse’s plans give you access to all of its publishing and reporting features — whereas you’d have to upgrade to the Manage Flitter “Business” plan to get everything.

To manage 10 Twitter profiles on Agorapulse will run you $99/mo. On Manage Flitter, it’s $199/mo.

Twitter management tool Agorapulse

3. Other Social Quant Alternatives

I’ve had a hard time finding other Social Quant alternatives that I trusted enough to test. That said, I’ve compiled a list of a few you might consider.

Some require you to download their software, which will keep you from running into issues that Social Quant users had with multiple IP addresses logging into your Twitter account.

But there is no way to know what sort of information that software is taking from you, or what it’s adding to your system.

So use wisely.

CrowdFire (works in a similar way to ManageFlitter)
FollowLiker
TweetAttacksPro
Audiense
Tweepi

Whether you use a tool to grow your followers for you or do it manually on your own, the key is to follow the right people who will in turn engage with you.

Otherwise, you’re basically getting fake and useless followers — which used to fool the boss in say, 2010. Now, a large following of unresponsive followers serves no use whatsoever.

What Social Quant alternative are you considering? Let us know in the comments!

The post Is There a Social Quant Alternative that Twitter Won’t Shut Down? appeared first on Agorapulse.

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