Today’s Apps Gone Free: Tadaa SLR, Get ‘Em, PXL and More

4 months, 10 days ago

Take SLR-quality photos, clean up the city as a canine crusader, and create beautiful collages with today’s collection of apps and games.

All app prices are subject to change at any time and without notice regardless of stated free duration. Price changes are solely under the control of the developers.

iPhone:

Tadaa SLR ($3.99 → Free, 58.4 MB): Take fantastic SLR-quality photos with Tadaa SLR. Those who want to put their subject in focus.

Tadaa SLR does most of the heavy lifting for you, but it includes a handful of powerful editing features that will please even the most seasoned iPhoneographers. After taking your photo you’re able to apply a mask to your subject manually or have Tadaa SLR detect the edges automatically. The aperture, highlight and gloss levels, and range of your blur effect can be adjusted via sliders. Circular, linear, and complete blur options are available as well. With your subject fully in focus and background blurred out, go ahead and add some filters before sharing it.

Tadaa SLR is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4.5-star rating with a total of 844 ratings.

Universal:

Alphabet: Letter Confidence ($2.99 → Free, 16.1 MB): Learn to recognize letters and their order in the alphabet in Alphabet Game. Children in preschool and kindergarten.

Dots with letters within them will populate the screen, and your child must tap on them in the correct order to remove them. The game includes popping sounds, vibrations, and smooth animations to keep your child engaged. You can also customize the dots and gameplay in a variety of ways.

Alphabet: Letter Confidence is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4-star rating with a total of 42 ratings.

PXL – mosaic art ($2.99 → Free, 30.8 MB): Create beautiful collages in a snap with PXL. Artists.

PXL can take the photos from your camera roll and turn them into intricate collages in seconds. Choose any photo from your camera roll to act as the main image. With just a tap, PXL will utilize all of the other images from the camera roll to create the collage. The process may take a few seconds, but in no time you’ll be presented with a high resolution piece of art that can be saved or shared.

PXL – mosaic art is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4.5-star rating with a total of 165 ratings.

Get ‘Em ($0.99 → Free, 393.9 MB): Help clean up the city as a canine crusader. Fans of open world games.

When dogs go missing and no one has a lead, it’s time for their four legged friends to take action. Canvas the streets and parks, dig for clues, and takedown harmful humans. Along the way, team up with the K9 unit to bring all of the dognappers to their knees.

Get ‘Em is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4-star rating with a total of 82 ratings.

That concludes today’s issue of Apps Gone Free. If you like staying on top �of these daily deals, don’t forget to check out our free AppsGoneFree app. It provides all the deals each day, and even an archive of past deals that are still active.

Developers:

If you are a developer who would like to get your app included in our “Apps Gone Free” daily lists, here’s our basic set of rules:

It must have at least a three-star average rating at the time it goes free.
The app must not have been free numerous times (3+) over the last six months.
The free version of your app must not include ads.

To submit an app, simply send a request to tyler@appadvice.com with the subject “Apps Gone Free.” Please include the name of the app, a link to it in the App Store, when and for how long you intend to offer the app for free, and anything else you would like to share. We will take it from there.

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A Week In Paris, France, On A $101,000 Salary

6 months, 5 days ago

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

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Today: a communications director working in software development who makes $101,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on roses. Editor’s note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.

Occupation: Communications Director Industry: Software Development Age: 39Location: Paris, France Salary: $101,000Paycheck Amount (Month): $5,000 (I also get food vouchers as part of my company benefits — about $200/month.)

Monthly ExpensesMortgage: $1,235 ($1,185 a month on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.15%, with homeowner’s insurance at $50/month)Utilities: $485 for electricity, gas, and waterInternet: $43.75 (includes international calls, TV, and broadband)Cell Phone: $0 ($96 paid for by my work)Navigo Pass: $94Gym Membership: $200Subscriptions: $31.25 (This includes newsletters and business tools for my side business in communications consulting.)House Emergency Fund: $490Savings: $1,000

Day One

5:30 a.m. — On Mondays I take the train to Paris, which costs $15 if I buy my ticket ahead of time online. It’s three times as much if you buy it at the station, so I avoid that whenever possible. I can’t afford property in Paris, but there’s no work in my field where I live, so I work in Paris and live in a rural region about two hours away. My boyfriend, R., and our infant daughter will follow in the afternoon by car. We’ll spend Monday through Thursday afternoon in Paris, where my boyfriend owns a small two-bedroom apartment. $15

7:50 a.m. — It’s my first day back in the office since maternity leave started four months ago. No one else is here yet. I caffeinate with free office coffee and grab some fruit and nuts.

12:21 p.m. — Morning meetings are over, so I duck outside for lunch. I head to the supermarket to stock up on soup, yogurt, and bars for the next week. Paris is a lunchtime minefield, and if I’m not careful, I know I’ll end up spending more money than I can afford. I used to watch my expenses in this area and stick to a strict food budget, but I don’t anymore. It was unrealistic while I was single and working all the time, and it’s unrealistic now that we’re a family of three. When she was my age, my mother had two children and cooked three square meals a day, all while working. Despite the current constraints of my life, I feel like I should be, too, and feel halfway guilty when I cop out by buying bricks of soup. $21.17

5:17 p.m. — I can’t seem to settle down, so I go out for a quick walk around the block. I duck into a Starbucks for an herbal tea, as I’m trying to go to bed earlier and don’t need caffeine right now. I immediately regret throwing away money on vegetable-tasting water. I leave work early. Well, it feels early. I used to stay until 8 or 9 p.m. several days a week, and that’s just not possible anymore with a kiddo. So I get in two or three hours before everyone in the morning and leave around 5. $5.25

5:41 p.m. — I walk to the express train stop right at the Grands Boulevards next to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I top up my Navigo pass with a monthly subscription before taking the express train to R.’s place. It’s $94 for monthly access to the Paris metro, trams, buses, and suburban trains across a 60-mile radius of the city. Not great value if you’re just using it to commute within the city, but a steal if you use the suburban stations like I do. There are so many exquisite things in the store windows. When I first moved to Paris, I redid my budget to bump up the amount I thought I’d be spending on clothes and personal maintenance. Living here had the opposite effect, though. For one, everyone seems to wear the same thing all the time. Also, there’s so much trash and junk covering this city — even the pretty, touristy parts — that I’m put off by the idea of buying more stuff and adding more waste to the pile. Black sweaters, Chapstick lips, and eyeliner it is.

6:40 p.m. — We live at R.’s place three days a week, although “live” is a pretty big word for what we do, which is squeeze into his tiny two-bedroom and watch TV until we fall asleep. Before we moved to the country, he was supposed to renovate his place. This hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not sure how long I can live without a basic kitchen and a shower that doesn’t leak. I run some numbers in my head and figure that it will take at least $7,500 to redo the plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom, put in an oven and fridge, and finish the rest of his move. I don’t have that money just sitting around right now, so it’ll have to wait a few months. It wouldn’t bother me that much, but it’s different with a kid.

7:45 p.m. — R. and our daughter, B., have arrived. I consider stepping out to get noodles from the Chinese restaurant down the street, but R. has just finished an early dinner at his parents’ place a few miles across town. I’m not that hungry, so I eat an apple, make some tea, and answer some emails before it’s time to get B. ready for bed. Goal: no screen time at all while she’s awake. Nighttime is precious. I’m in bed and drifting off to an old episode of House by 9 pm.

Daily Total: $41.42

Day Two

6 a.m. — Alarm goes off at 5:07 a.m. I lie around for five minutes or so before I drag myself out of bed and set off for the 15-minute walk to the express train. I change metros and get off at Strasbourg-Saint Denis to go to the gym. A few bars and sex clubs are still open, and the bakeries are just pulling up their shutters. I realize that the gym has changed its hours since I was last here, pre-birth, and now opens at 7. I grab a seat at Sarah Baker and send a few emails over a double espresso until it opens. $3.30

7:47 a.m. — Finish working out and showering. Time for a quick hop into the steam room before dressing. This gym membership, at $200/month, is my only real indulgence. Unlimited entry to the steam room and sauna alone are worth the price.

8:18 a.m. — At my desk with a free office coffee. I have meetings all morning and afternoon, but I block off an hour from 10 to 11 to squeeze in some writing reports and plans.

9:49 a.m. — Coffee break on the second floor patio. I half want a cigarette, but there’s no way I’d go back to smoking now that I’m nearly 40, have a child, and work to stay in reasonably decent health.

12:23 p.m. — Time for lunch. I heat up a soup and then go out for some bread and a walk. End up getting a cheese roll from the bakery. $1.50

12:39 p.m. — On my way back from the bakery, I see a can of B.’s formula in the window of a pharmacy. I had problems breastfeeding, and as a result, B. started full-time on formula at two months when her weight gain lagged. We use an organic goat milk-based one, which is $37.50 a can here at the pharmacy. I can get it for $17 online by ordering a pack of six cans and using a promo code. I stop in anyway to pick up some ibuprofen for my back and shoulders, which have pretty much been in constant pain since I gave birth. $6.68

1 p.m. — I call a physical therapist when I get back to the office – I have a doctor’s prescription for 15 sessions for my back and shoulders, which will be covered by national health insurance. This therapist comes recommended, but part of his fee isn’t covered by insurance. (Guess that’s why I got an appointment so quickly). I decide I don’t mind paying the extra $50 per session fee out of pocket. My back has been bothering me for years. I can only imagine what it would cost me to get it fixed in the States. $750 isn’t so bad, especially since the payments will be spread out over four months.

1:19 p.m. — R. sends me a text message to let me know to meet him at his parents’ place after I leave work. He doesn’t have a full-time job, and when he’s in Paris, he spends a lot of time hanging out with his retired parents. (He has a net worth 10x mine, mostly in property and stocks, but is cash-poor. His family’s generosity has allowed him to not work full-time or pursue a career over the years.) He and his mother take care of B. during the day. We’re lucky to have this childcare arrangement, I just don’t know how long it’s going to last. I get off one stop before R.’s parents’ place to go by the florist’s shop, where I pick up a small bunch of miniature roses for his mother. $12.50

6:41 p.m. — R., B., and I are in the car on the way home to the apartment. We park a block away and I stop by the Chinese takeout place for fried rice and dumplings to split. We can’t cook in the apartment, so if we eat a full meal at night it’s usually Chinese takeout or sushi. $22.50

Daily Total: $46.48

Day Three

4:43 a.m. — I manage to sleep from about 8:20 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., when I hear B. cooing. I mix up a bottle, feed her, and change her diaper. I probably won’t go back to sleep before I get up and go into town. I hop online and place an order for more formula. It’ll arrive at my house in time for the weekend. $127.43

5:45 a.m. — Out the door as quietly as possible so as not to wake R. and B. I leave $62.50 on the table for R. He’ll probably need to buy diapers for B. and lunch for himself. I don’t mind leaving him money, but it makes both of us feel weird. I don’t like feeling like I’m giving him an allowance, but he has expensive tastes that I can’t afford, and aside from housing, gas, and food, we don’t agree on priorities. Money is a huge sore point between us. We don’t share finances per se, and neither of us has debt, but I pay all of our basics and 90% of other expenses. Plus I contribute to my own retirement. $62.50

7 a.m. — Gym. Treadmill. Listening to RTL through my headphones. I want to start lifting again but I’m not ready. Pregnancy and childbirth were rougher on my body than I was expecting. I hate admitting that I just can’t get up again and bounce back.

9:14 a.m. — At my desk with breakfast eggs and lentil salad from Prêt à Manger ($10), plus free fruit and coffee from the office kitchen, when I get a phone call from R., who wants to know what the money is doing on the table. He “doesn’t need money,” except I know that he does, and the next time we need something or he wants something while we’re out, we’re going to play some stupid game of “Mother May I” that’s going to leave both of us with hurt feelings. He hangs up in a huff. $10

11:15 a.m. — Macarons! One of our favorite partners has stopped by with goodies from Pierre Hermé. Time for an office coffee and a salted caramel macaron. I feel defeated about the R. situation; I can’t win. My salary package finally reached six figures last year, but four years ago I was making a grand total of $34,000. Living in substandard housing for many years and being worried about how I would pay for groceries at the end of the month took a toll on me. It’s why I usually drink office coffee. The idea of going to Starbucks so much that you would want a loyalty card horrifies me. (No judgment, just the residual effect of years of being poor.)

12:30 p.m. — I heat up some soup purchased earlier this week, supplement with a veggie salad and cheese roll takeout from the bakery, grab a pot of yogurt from my stash in the fridge, and head to the lounge to check out the FIFA action happening on the big screen. $6.50

2:20 p.m. — Long distance calls with an American client, who congratulates me on how well I speak English. I’ve learned not to say anything other than “thanks.” Men at my level never get these kinds of questions, like where they’re from or how long they’ve been wherever, whether or not it’s hard to move somewhere completely different, and do they like living in France?

3:35 p.m. — Seven minutes until my next meeting. I order a cool poster of wine — I’m a wine lover and a map geek and want to cover the bare walls of my house with all kinds of maps and graphics. I leave the office at 4:15 p.m. I worked straight through with 20 total minutes of break, so I’m out early to go to pilates at the gym. $24.75

7 p.m. — Pilates is over, I’m showered, and we’re at R.’s parents’ place waiting for traffic to die down so that we can get in the car and drive to mine. I’ll work from home tomorrow. I stopped at Franprix to bring some fruit and chocolate to the in-laws and pick up some diapers for B. She’s gone up a size in the last week, and for some reason the next size up is nearly three times as expensive as the ones she was wearing. I can’t really compare, though, since the packs of diapers have different quantities. This frustrates the comparison-shopping American in me. $26.84

9:21 p.m. — On the road with a sleeping B. in the backseat. We stop to fill up the car and I knock out a few emails before losing the 4G signal about an hour down the highway. $108.51

Daily Total: $366.53

Day Four

5:40 a.m. — Up early and caffeinated with B. fed and diapered. I check emails from my desk downstairs. I remember that I still need to send back a bunch of holiday orders for R. and B. that didn’t fit.

9:15 a.m. — Break for more coffee and a trip to the bakery ($6.25) and post office. I open the huge shutters facing the street and watch the light flood in. This place is so pretty (and cheap), but over the past few months I’ve had the nagging feeling that it was the wrong decision, for lots of reasons. $6.25

9:20 a.m. — Spend more than expected sending back the holiday items and buying stamps. Sending a letter will go up to around $1.25 this year. Crazy. On the way back from the post office, I see our neighbor coming out of the bakery. He’s a mysterious figure who, like me, works in the city. Sharp and well-dressed, in his mid-60s. I have no idea what he actually does or what he’s doing here in this poky little town. His girlfriend is closer to my age, and I’ve been wanting to hang out with her for a few weeks. I make a note to call her. I’m back on calls from 9:30 straight until noon. $45

12:07 p.m. — R. runs downstairs in a panic that we’re going to miss the Friday market. The market comes to town twice a week. Today it’s the fruit and veg wagon, plus the cheese van. R.’s thing is cheese. I’m in the middle of something, so I hand him $40 and tell him to get whatever he likes. He comes back 30 minutes later with two and a half pounds of cheese and $15 worth of muscle car magazines. “Some light reading for the lady,” he smiles triumphantly as he hands them to me. His cheek is incredible, but so is his ability to make me laugh. Market haul includes potatoes, pears, salad, and clementines. And two and a half pounds of cheese. We’ll probably do a raclette tonight. $40

4:40 p.m. — I finish up work, we pile in the car, and drive the 10 miles down the road to the butcher shop. It’s the kind of place that tourists love to come for the authenticity. We buy some beef for stroganoff, some smoked sausage for freezing and quick weekend dinners, and a couple of slices of pâté for snacking. Everything is local. $34.76

5:17 p.m. — On the way back, we veer off toward a neighboring village and pass in front of Cédric’s bar to see if it’s open. It is, so we go inside and share a pint of the local microbrew while showing B. around to the regulars we haven’t seen since she was born. We’re back home by 6:30 p.m. I start messing around with a communications plan for the local organic grocery store, which is in danger of closing. It’s not really clear why, but inexperienced management seems to be a factor. It’s one of the few oases of progressive thinking here, and it would be a shame if it went under. I attended the last co-op meeting and volunteered to help where I could: marketing, communications, sales. I stop to make the stroganoff around 8 p.m., then call it a day around 10 after B. is fed and things are reasonably clean. We drift off to an old episode of House. $5

Daily Total: $131.01

Day Five

6:13 a.m. — Wake up to B. glurgling happily beside me. She’s not hungry or dirty, so I check messages before heading downstairs. There’s a WhatsApp from a number I don’t recognize. Then I remember it’s M., a 20-something investment banker I met last summer shortly after R. left me. We had a few dates before R. came back. M. didn’t mind that I was single mom-to-be in my late 30s, but he was scared off by the fact that I was moving to the country part-time. I told him that R. was coming back and we dropped out of contact soon after. He kind of ghosted me on WhatsApp, which is why I’m surprised to see the message. Decide to wait awhile before replying.

6:30 a.m. — M.’s avatar is once again greyed out and there’s no status. I don’t have the mental energy to wonder what just happened. He’s a sweet guy, and I hope he finds someone.

8:17 a.m. — I ‘m caffeinated and the baby is changed, fed, and entertained. R. goes down the street for bread and pastries. $6.98

10:15 a.m. — Working on grocery store messaging when the doorbell rings. It’s the postal carrier with a package. I ask her to wait a second so that I can get her tube of homemade cookies and her yearly tip. In France, it’s traditional to tip service workers a little something at the end of the year. The concept is completely foreign to me as an American, but I play along. Connections mean a lot in a small place like this, and if you’re cheap, crazy, or strange, word gets around fast. $25

11:14 a.m. — Browsing clothes for B. I order a couple more pants and another jacket in a warm, comfy style I bought for her a few weeks ago. She looks and feels like a cuddly little penguin in them. $59.96

12 p.m. — Pâté sandwiches with goods from the butcher, fruit from the market haul, and tea. Then story time with baby, which turns into nap time.

2:30 p.m. — Get up and realize I’m late for a meeting with R.’s real estate agent. He bought a property to renovate in the same town at the same time as I was buying my house. I want to drop off a gift for her since she went out of her way to introduce us to people here, and since the transaction had a lot of ups and downs. Normally I wouldn’t pick up this particular chore, but R.’s not going to do it because it’s a “waste of money” — his words. But I know how hard she worked to get the deal done and smooth things over when things went belly-up with the owners. I want her to know that someone noticed and appreciated the extra effort that she made. $64.44

4:45 p.m. — Just discovered the air wash function of my washing machine. How did I not know about this?! This is going to save a ton on dry cleaning. I also discover that moths have eaten my new-last-season cashmere sweaters that were in storage this summer. I bought them on Grana, but I’m not sure I want to shell out $100 each to replace them. That’s not expensive for a decent cashmere, but it’s still more than I’m used to paying for a basic sweater. I may go with some merino Uniqlo ones for $29 a pop.

5:30 p.m. — Laundry and Columbo marathon until the late hours of the evening. I make a pot of tea and sandwiches, and a bottle for B.

Daily Total: $156.38

Day Six

1:24 a.m. — Can’t sleep. Browsing Amazon for The Feynman Lectures on Physics. I’m looking for something to do; a longer, bigger thing that is greater than the sum of its parts. Raising a child is part of it, but I feel like my intellect is going unchallenged. The last 10 years of my life have been about money and career. I grew up in an unglamorous place on the frugal end of middle class. No one had any particular expectations of me. I arrived at adulthood with no idea of what I should do, and no idea how to do it. Somehow – and most of the time I don’t know how – I arrived here at this place I never expected to be. Mostly because I was tired of worrying if I was going to be able to afford groceries and a house one day. I came to France with dreams of making a living from my translation and writing, but gave up during yet another year of grinding anxiety about finances. I just didn’t have the personal fortitude to push through. I feel like I failed sometimes, and wish that I had pushed anyway.

1:30 a.m. — The Lectures are over $100 for a box set, plus shipping. It’s an unnecessary expense I don’t feel like I can afford right now. I add them to my wish list. I keep thinking about the whole work-money-life thing. We often judge people who synchronize their lives to the fluctuations of the balance sheet and promotion cycle (I used to), but when you’re on the other side of that looking in and hungry…damn it feels good to even get within striking distance. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve pulled it off.

5:32 a.m. — Up and on the train. I got my ticket early, so it was only $15. I put on my noise-canceling headphones and try to sleep. Today’s a big day: the usual Monday meetings plus lunch out. $15

7:20 a.m. — Arrival in Paris. I take the metro to Grands Boulevards and pop into the Prêt à Manger on Haussmann. Get some eggs, a sandwich, and a small bar of chocolate. Fruit, coffee, and sparkling water will be free at work. $11.01

7:51 a.m. — At my desk and answering emails with office coffee.

8:22 a.m. — Scheduling all the little moving parts of an announcement this week. There’s a lot to coordinate and a lot of areas where information can potentially fall through the cracks. I got into marketing and communications by default. Good communication is a real job and an art, though. If I’m doing my job right, everything should look and feel seamless. That’s the part that takes the most work – making the rough edges invisible in order to create and highlight the main messages.

10:05 a.m. — Coffee break with the guys from finance. They’re talking about their next vacations. Realize that I’m happy enough going home on the weekends and don’t feel the need for anything more exotic than pushing a stroller through the forest at the edge of town.

12:03 p.m. — Meet a new friend at a Parisian corner bistro where we’re getting lunch. We met on a Facebook group for single parents a few months ago after R. left me, and she recently wrote to ask me for advice about buying an apartment. It’s the first time we’ve met in person. I also want to ask her about her family lawyer and her experience in the court system here. So far R. has been good with B., but I haven’t been able to get over the fact that he left while I was pregnant, and the fact that there’s increasing tension in our household — especially his badgering about money and our lifestyle in general. $20.08

1:20 p.m. — I stop at a Starbucks on my way back to the office. After hearing my friend’s story, I’m more resolved to at least contact a lawyer. Lately, there have also been some temper fits that leave me feeling on edge and unsafe. On the one hand, I feel gutted knowing that my daughter will probably not grow up with her two parents living under one roof. On the other, I know that this leads nowhere good in the long run, and that I need to sort things out now rather than wait until they get worse. Also, I don’t want her to grow up believing this is okay. It’s going to take a long time to get unstuck from this particular situation, but I’ve resolved to do it this year. $5.75

3 p.m. — Two pieces of fruit from the kitchen to get me through the rest of the afternoon of meetings. I call it a day around 6 p.m., think about going to the gym but am too tired, and get on the suburban train.

8 p.m. — I call in a sushi order for R. and me. One order is more than I can eat by myself, and he’s already eaten at his parents’ house, so we’ll split one order of sushi, tempura, rice, soup, and salad. It’s not great, but it’s food. I’m in bed by 9. $22.50

Daily Total: $74.34

Day Seven

7 a.m. — At the gym and on the treadmill after a 5:40 wake-up call. My goal is to be showered, dressed, and in the office by 8:20. Hope I’ll have time for the steam room. Even five minutes would be great.

11:07 a.m. — See an envelope lying in my bag and realize it’s the check for the plumber. Why have I not sent that back yet? I remember that there’s some complicated tax form that comes along with it that also needs to be completed. I want R.’s dad to take a look at it before I mess something up. I shoot his dad a quick email.

11:32 a.m. — Takeout lunch of pesto salad, lemonade, and a yogurt pot from M&S. I also pick up some chocolates for my team and a can of double-acting baking powder for some cookies I want to make this coming weekend. I text with R. He’s trying to entertain B. with some rudimentary version of a puppet show. It sounds cute, and I’m sorry to be missing it. $20.01

2:45 p.m. — Office fruit won’t cut it today. I’m famished, so I head out for one of those prepackaged triangle sandwiches with egg salad and bacon. $4.50

5 p.m. — My friend T. texts me to let me know he’ll be a few minutes late picking me up. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to Paris. We went out twice but weren’t right for each other, and he’s now dating another friend. We drive to a bar over on the Left Bank where we catch up over drinks every month or two. It’s one of those typically Parisian places with gold-plated furniture, glass tabletops, saucy service, and classics like Picon bières, rosé in pitchers, and vermouth by the glass.

5:22 p.m. — T. orders us each a glass of champagne. We’re celebrating a career accomplishment of his today. I admire his resilience and work ethic.

7:20 p.m. — R. and B. get home about 30 minutes after I do. R. is hungry and wants Chinese. I go across the street, order, and sit down to wait for another our fried rice and dumplings. Takeout and lunches out are a bigger portion of our budget than I’d like, but we really can’t do any differently right now living in a place without a kitchen four days a week. $22.50

7:25 p.m. — Making lists in my head of stuff I need to get within the next week. I order some baby pictures of B. $73.75

7:31 p.m. — I go ahead and buy my train ticket for next Monday. The online price has inexplicably gone from $15 to more than double. The national rail service is trying out dynamic pricing, except it’s not dynamic, it’s just bad and half-baked. $31.25

7:45 p.m. — Back at home, eating with one hand and cuddling B. with the other. I make a deposit on some baby books at Shakespeare & Co. I’m trying to get B. into a bedtime routine. She has some books in French, but only one or two in English. I’ll go pick up the books during one of my lunch hours next week. $25

11:41 p.m. — My eyes snap open after sleeping for two hours. I can’t sleep. This has been happening a lot lately. As usual for the past few months at night, I’m worried about something. Objectively, life is good. It hasn’t felt this way in a long time, though – last year was horrible and full of fear of instability. But then I look at the result: a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and my health is good. My salary and career are better than they’ve ever been. I’ve bought a house I can afford and have been careful to not squander the seeds of long-term financial security. I’m making new friends and volunteering again. I just wish I could relax.

Daily Total: $177.01

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here. Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

Have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we’re looking for potential diarists along the following themes:

Women over age 45: We want to read your Money Diaries! Submit here.

What’s your sign? Are you a strong-willed Taurus? An always tidy Virgo with a perfectionist streak? Or maybe an adventure-seeking Sagittarius who always sees the glass half full? If you strongly identify with your astrological sign and want to write a Money Diary, get in touch with us here. (Get excited star gazers: We’re looking to run one diary from each sign!)

Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

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Beyond paper: reimagining behavioral demand side management

6 months, 14 days ago

For a company working to protect our environment, we print and mail a lot of paper. Personalized direct mail has been—and still is—the only option for utilities to reach all their customers and help them save energy at scale.

We invented paper Home Energy Reports a decade ago, and for ten years the Opower platform has produced them by the millions, each one to exacting standards.

We love what we’ve accomplished with paper reports, and we believe it’s time to begin moving beyond them. In fact, while other providers still struggle to meet savings goals with paper-based programs, we’ve been quietly reducing paper and ramping up digital interactions for years now. In 2017, for the first time in its history, the Opower platform delivered more personalized, digital DSM communications than pieces of paper, and Opower did that while meeting or exceeding our clients’ savings goals.

We are reimagining how utilities run behavioral demand side management (DSM) programs. Over the past couple years, Oracle Utilities data scientists, along with our friends in academia and the EM&V community have crafted the experiments and thoughtfully assembled the data that show what’s possible with behavioral programs right now.

The bottom line of these experiments: Our utility clients can confidently begin moving beyond paper-based behavioral programs to digital DSM. It’s no longer a hypothesis that a deeply personal, digital utility customer experience can help massive numbers of people save energy.

We’re doing it right now.

Digital DSM interactions powered by email home energy reportsproactive billing alerts, behavioral demand response notifications and online audits add up to a customer experience utilities can use to create and claim new energy savings. And utilities can use that digital customer experience to taper the paper in their behavioral programs: ramp down paper reports over time by replacing paper savings with digital savings.

We’re not telling our clients to stop sending paper tomorrow morning—today paper reports remain our best single instrument for creating savings among otherwise hard-to-reach customers. We’ve learned to play quite a few more instruments, and it’s time to make some music.

But don’t take my word for it. Starting in early January, we’re going to look at some data on this blog. You’ll hear from some data-driven Opower leaders about what we’ve found, what it means for the state of the art of behavioral DSM, and our ambition to continue experimenting and discovering with our clients.

We’re going to see exactly what we’re capable of achieving today and tomorrow by elevating the digital utility customer experience.

Editor’s note: Opower joined Oracle Utilities in 2016. Learn more here.

Read more: blogs.oracle.com

Today’s Apps Gone Free: Pepi Super Stores, Anchor Pointer, TimeClock and More

6 months, 24 days ago

Explore the mall, find your way back, and track and report work hours with today’s collection of apps and games.

All app prices are subject to change at any time and without notice regardless of stated free duration. Price changes are solely under the control of the developers.

iPhone:

Anchor Pointer Compass GPS ($1.99 → Free, 46.8 MB): Store GPS locations and find your way back to them with this navigation app. Adventurers and travelers alike.

We really enjoy using Anchor Point because of its simplicity. Just tap the Add Anchor button to pinpoint your location, and attach a name and icon to it. The location will be stored in your personal list where you can also share it with your friends. When you want to make your way back to your anchor point, just follow the compass or view the directions on the built-in map.

Anchor Pointer Compass GPS is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4.5-star rating with a total of 987 ratings.

Universal:

TimeClock ST ($11.99 → Free, 11.1 MB): Track and report work hours for employees with TimeClock. Business owners.

Throw away that old time clock machine and step into the future with TimeClock. The app takes a little bit of setting up, requiring you to enter information for each employee including their name, ID number, and a PIN. But after that, the process for clocking in and out is seamless. Just tap the screen to record. Reports can be generated for each or all employees and exported as an XLS file. The app works best if you have a single iDevice that acts as a terminal for all employees.

TimeClock ST is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4-star rating with a total of 143 ratings.

Pepi Super Stores ($2.99 → Free, 149.6 MB): Spend the day exploring in Pepi Super Stores. Parents.

Pepi Super Stores provides endless entertainment. The mall is filled with seven different stores along with a parking garage. Your child will be able to shop for sporting goods, clothes, food, music, jewelry, and so much more. Items can be carried through the mall via the elevator system. Each store includes tons and tons of interactive objects and characters, and they can be freely explored without any objectives.

Pepi Super Stores is available for free today only (12/15). It has a 4.5-star rating with a total of 162 ratings.

Learn Italian – MosaLingua ($4.99 → Free, 48.3 MB): Learn Italian in no time with this language app. Everyone from students to frequent travelers.

MosaLingua will help you memorize thousands of Italian vocabulary words, key phrases, and conjugations in no time. All it takes is five minutes each day for two months and you will have memorized 600 words and key phrases. Nothing to it, right? The app utilizes a flashcard system with audio pronunciations by native Italian speakers. MosaLingua includes more than 3,000 flash cards, 14 categories, more than 100 subcategories, and the ability to unlock fun bonus content.

Learn Italian – MosaLingua is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4.5-star rating with a total of 86 ratings.

That concludes today’s issue of Apps Gone Free. If you like staying on top �of these daily deals, don’t forget to check out our free AppsGoneFree app. It provides all the deals each day, and even an archive of past deals that are still active.

Developers:

If you are a developer who would like to get your app included in our “Apps Gone Free” daily lists, here’s our basic set of rules:

It must have at least a three-star average rating at the time it goes free.
The app must not have been free numerous times (3+) over the last six months.
The free version of your app must not include ads.

To submit an app, simply send a request to tyler@appadvice.com with the subject “Apps Gone Free.” Please include the name of the app, a link to it in the App Store, when and for how long you intend to offer the app for free, and anything else you would like to share. We will take it from there.

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How I Became The Most Successful Legal Sex Worker In The U.S.

6 months, 29 days ago

Last month, we ran a Money Diary from Alice Little, a legal sex worker in Nevada who managed to book $1 million in a calendar year. We followed up with Little to chat about the diary and how she became the most successful legal sex worker in the country (it involves a 60-to-80-hour work week).

Can you talk about what’s changed in your life since you did a Money Diary last year?”One big change is that I’ve had to hire an assistant to help me manage my busy schedule, help take care of all my animals, and do some of the editing that I’ve simply run out of time for. I’ve got a podcast called Coffee with Alice, a show on YouTube, and I’m doing sex toy and sex book reviews.

“I pay my assistant around $40,000 each year, and I have it set up right now with her as a private contractor underneath my personal LLC.”

You also mentioned in your diary that your minimum booking is now $2,000.”That is an absolutely massive change. Whereas before, I might have been available in lineup, I’m now available by appointment only. I was getting so many requests that I had to make a business decision and say, okay, I can’t handle three or four appointments each day and still be able to do my work in a way that I can feel comfortable. I had to adjust my business model so I could still get days off and manage my schedule in a way that works for me.”

Are you seeing clients less?”I would say I spend the majority of my time still working with my guests in a one-on-one context, but I’ve definitely taken some of my free time and dedicated it to my other projects. If I don’t have an appointment, I can finish up a sex toy review or get together show notes for a podcast. All of those little administrative tasks take up a surprising amount of time. In between that and social media photo shoots, I’m probably working a good 60 to 80 hours a week.”

You also hit a big goal during your diary: $1 million in bookings. How did that goal come about?”When I first started in the industry, it was just to see if it would be a good fit. But during that time I started to look at things from a different lens, switching from a short-term view to a long-term one. I saw potential for what [being a sex worker] could look like if I ran it as a full-time business. I set up what I called the ‘Million Dollar Sex Work Business Plan.'”

What does that entail?”I basically thought, If I wanted to book a million dollars in a calendar year in this industry, what would I have to do to accomplish that? I knew I would need a strong social media presence, since we can’t advertise in a traditional way. I would have to make time for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Fetlife, as well as updating my own blog and writing for other blogs. It was all about trying different things, measuring how successful each thing was, and then determining where to best invest my energy to achieve my goal.

“Then I broke it down. A million dollars divided by 12 became a goal of $84,000 a month. If I have an overnight client every month, which is in the $20,000 range, that brings it down. Then I should have a range of five-figure parties between $10,000 and $15,000. If I have three of those, then I would only need to do so many $5,000 parties. I set time aside to build connections with my guests and arrange my schedule so I could meet that goal — and now I’m even exceeding that.

“We know, generally speaking, that the more successful individuals in our industry book somewhere between $400,000 and $700,000 in a calendar year. I’m almost doubling their performance, and it’s really astonishing.”

Could you call yourself the most successful legal sex worker in Nevada right now?”Even crazier: I can say that I am the most successful legal sex worker in America. Sex work is only legal in Nevada. But I’m not saying this to brag; the reason why I talk about what I earn is because it’s the only way that people will understand that legal sex work is a valid and real career. People always think of sex work as something short term, a stop gap, but I’m not unique in the sense that this is what I do full-time.”

Let’s talk about what it takes to ask for that kind of booking fee. How do you justify your rate?”A lot of what I do is emotional labor. This is essentially where you moderate and regulate your own reactions, feelings, wants, and desires in order to take care of someone else’s feelings, needs, wants, and desires. This is something that is oftentimes used within therapeutic models, and psychologists, counselors, therapists, and top relationship counselors might charge well over $1,000 an hour. So start there as a benchmark.

“Then we add in the physicality aspect. I am interacting with people in a physical way that is unique to my industry. It doesn’t just look like sex; it also looks like intimate touch, connective touch in the form of massage, cuddling, making eye contact, holding their hands out in public and giving that sense of normalcy and warmth that others get to enjoy but they haven’t been able to experience.

“Then you look at the communication aspect of it. Leading up to my meeting with that particular individual there have oftentimes been tens if not hundreds of hours of text communication, email communication, photos back and forth, and building rapport over time. The connection doesn’t just end when we’re not physically together. I continue to assist people, answer their questions, ask them how their day is going, so they feel warmth and support. Those kinds of things are all part of the services I offer.

“There’s also a huge educational component to what I do. Oftentimes, I am giving them advice. For my guests who are virgins I might be giving them some advice on where to meet ladies and some ideas for a first date.

“By the time that you add up all my job titles — essentially a sex professor, a psychologist, a relationship counselor, a companion, an escort, someone who is doing physical labor — I’d say I’m undervaluing myself for the amount of work I’m actually doing. Sex work is so much more than just sex. And personally, I love my job, which is why I choose to do it. I do this because I love people, and I love getting to meet people and establish these new connections. Of course, the financials are very helpful. Those will allow me to achieve other goals I have for my future. But that’s not the primary reason why.”

I think one thing we have to touch on is how your circumstances allowed you to choose the industry, and how privilege has helped your success in some ways. Can you talk about that?”I have been privileged in several different ways. We have to acknowledge that there is a privilege in society that is associated with being conventionally attractive. It would be unrealistic to say that looks have zero influence on success. It is unfortunately an industry that, to some degree, looks for, and favors, certain features more so than others. If someone is looking to enter this industry, they have to think, O kay, how am I going to choose to present and market myself? You can change things like your hair color, how you do your makeup, your styling, and the way you dress. You could choose to show your tattoos or hide them. Those are all business decisions that each person needs to make based off their own individual circumstances. You have to consider what aesthetics are most marketable to the industry.

“It’s also not just looks. It does pay to have an education. I am lucky because I am a member of MENSA, and when I was a freshman in college I chose to make sure I did everything to graduate debt-free and have my education covered by various scholarships. That involved applying to probably 500 different scholarships, writing at least 100 essays, several phone interviews, numerous in-person interviews, all sorts of different things. I ended up getting less than 5 percent of the scholarships I applied for. I just tried to play the numbers game for it.

“And of course, there’s also a financial aspect [of becoming a legal sex worker]. You have to fly yourself out to the Bunny Ranch, pay for your doctors expenses, pay for your license, and all of that comes out of your own pocket before you even start earning income at the ranch. You have to have certain financial abilities to enter this industry, too.

“I was privileged enough to take advantage of the opportunity. I think when I’m done with this and choose to retire from being a legal sex worker, I most likely will lobby and work on furthering legal sex work in other areas so others will have the opportunities I had.”

But it’s a specific career that works for you — it won’t work for everyone, right?”It’s not a career for everyone, and that’s okay. I’m somebody who has a very high emotional IQ. I understand how I am feeling, and I’m able to control my emotions and feelings so I can better assist someone else in the process of handling their own feelings. That’s not a skill everyone has.

“It’s also not a job of desperation. It is not a last-resort job. It requires a lot of business planning to be a successful legal sex worker. For example, I thought long and hard about how I wanted to portray myself, what kind of photos I wanted to share, what kind of individual I wanted to see. I sat down and did brand strategy and market research to determine what services I’m comfortable offering and not offering. If someone enters this industry from the standpoint of get rich quick, could you make a little bit of money right away? Absolutely. But generally speaking the long-term successful people in this industry, much like any industry, are putting in a tremendous amount of hard work.”

I think a lot of discussion in the comments of your first Money Diary was around the question of whether you chose this career willingly, and why. “The reason why people have this last-resort perception is because it’s such a stigmatized industry. I turned down a six-figure offer from a Fortune 500 company because I love the job I’m in now. That happens to be a privilege that I’ve had, but it goes to show that this is genuinely a choice for me. I could choose to do something else but I chose to do this instead.”

Are there other misconceptions around what you do?”Recently, I had to ask a crew to leave the Bunny Ranch after not respecting my autonomy when I told them No, I’m not comfortable filming this on camera. I don’t want to blow little kisses at the camera. That’s inauthentic, that’s not who I am, and I don’t want to do that.

“When they wouldn’t take no for an answer I asked them to leave. They were sitting there, trying to beg and plead with me, saying, Oh please honey baby, please help me out. This perception of sex work is so terribly skewed by all aspects of society. Even the media fails to understand us and interact with us in a way that’s respectful.”

Can you talk about why that depiction is so problematic for you?”I’m a professional in my industry. If you want to film what my job looks like, it looks like me doing field research on different scientific studies surrounding sex. It looks like me answering emails or doing a sex toy review. It looks like me doing a podcast interview. It does not look like me wearing skimpy sexy lingerie and shaking my booty back and forth or blowing kisses at the camera. That’s representative of a Hollywood stereotype that I simply am not, nor does that stereotype actually exist. They’re trying to paint a fake story and to essentially take my professional business and pantomime it and mock it on film. It’s just so inappropriate.

“They wanted me to crawl around on all fours towards the camera like a dog while making flirty faces at the camera. There’s literally no other profession where someone would ask a professional to get on their hands and knees to crawl towards the camera. It’s just so grossly inappropriate and shows such a lack of understanding for who I am and what I do.

“I am a flesh and blood human being who loves my dogs and cats as any other person does. I have hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with my career. I spend a crazy amount of time playing Dungeons and Dragons and video games. My entire existence cannot just be summarized as being a sex worker, and they wanted to paint me as my profession rather than paint me as a person. And I’m so opposed to that that I refuse to let it happen.”

Recently, there was a high profile campaign by the self-described “faith-based non-profit” Awaken to potentially end the legalization of brothels in your county.”General public in Lyon County has shown us their incredible and overwhelming support, but if [legislation] had passed, I would have had to change counties, get licensed in different locations, find somewhere new to live. It would have turned my life upside down; I’ve had to put my life on hold because of this petition, and it’s been very, very frustrating.

“It’s the girls who are hurt by closing the brothels — it takes away their careers. It also hurts 134 staff members who certainly don’t earn what I do and might not have the savings to weather it out in-between jobs.

“What happened with the petition blindsided us, but after [Awaken] has done this once and endangered our careers, we’re going to be ready for them next time. We’re not going to be caught off guard. I want to do some proper research on who is working in the brothels, why are people choosing to enter the industry, and I want to look at the financial impact of having so many people fly into the region. We’ve never done an economic impact report on what sex work does for society. There is already a bill introduced to potentially remove legalization statewide, and in the next couple of years, this could turn into a statewide issue. Our industry is going to have to defend itself, so I think my focus is shifting to that next year.”

A lot of discussion in comments of your most recent diary was centered around the Bunny Ranch’s late owner Dennis Hof, including allegations of rape. Can you comment on that?”I can only speak for my personal experience during my three years working here. I have never been pressured [by Dennis], I’ve never seen him pressure anyone, and I’ve never seen him assault anyone. It goes so far against what I know of him. If something of substance does arise I’m absolutely willing to look at it with a fresh set of eyes.

“Much of all of this is sex workers being used in a political forum. We just want to be left alone to do our jobs. I just want my life to go back to normal. I want to be able to focus on my business and not defending my business. I want to work on my book and my podcast. It’s ridiculous and unfair. It’s no longer good enough for me to say, Hey here’s my Money Diary. I have to now justify everything going on in my life, everything in the brothel system.”

If evidence does come up that you believe, if something does arise, would that change your outlook on your work or career? Would you stop what you’re doing?”No. Dennis has passed on; he no longer even owns the brothel, so if anything arises posthumously, even better for having Suzette in charge in that case. At this point, the brothels are being run by a woman. That’s very empowering.

“We cannot undo the ills of the past; we cannot take back mistakes, but what we can do is do better. Let’s make sure we do better in the future.”

Can you talk about what changes might be happening at the Bunny Ranch? What’s next?”I really think the sky is the limit. I think that this next year with Suzette at the helm of the Bunny Ranch, we’re going to see a lot of changes being made, updating some aspects of the business. I’m going to continue to be an advocate, but I’d like to formalize things a little bit more moving forward. One of my goals in 2019 is to establish a Nevada Brothel Association that acts as a legal advocacy group for the continual legalization of sex work in Nevada.”

This interview, conducted over two phone calls before and after the midterm election, has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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Improve Your Health by Optimizing Your Circadian Rhythm

8 months, 16 days ago

Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., is a leading researcher in a very important field of study: the circadian rhythm, which is the topic of his book, “Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy and Sleep Well Every Night.” It’s a great read, written at a level that is easy to understand.

Growing up on a farm in India, he was initially intrigued by the fact that he slept best during the summertime. Then, going through agricultural school, he realized that different plants flower at certain times of the day.

“A few years later, when I was thinking about grad school, I realized there are so many things about biology of time,” Panda says. “Every biological system depends on time; just like throughout the day we have a clear timetable when we should be doing this and that — meeting people and having conversation and having dinner.

Every organism has that [but] we haven’t learned the biology of time. That’s why I got excited about circadian rhythms, because this is a universal timing system, starting from pond scum to humans … Every organism has to go through this 24-hour timing schedule.

If this is disrupted, then plants will flower at the wrong time and animals will not reproduce well. In humans, lots of different diseases can happen. That’s why I got excited about circadian rhythms and got into my Ph.D. Now I’m at the Salk Institute, a nonprofit research organization in San Diego, California.”

Circadian Rhythms Are Under Genetic Control

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three U.S. biologists — Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young — for their discovery of master genes that control your body’s circadian rhythms.1,2,3,4,5 Panda explains:

“The bottom line is almost every cell in our body has its own clock. In every cell, the clock regulates a different set of genes, [telling them] when to turn on and [when to] turn off.

As a result, almost every hormone in your body, every brain chemical, every digestive juice and every organ that you can think of, its core function rises and falls at certain times of the day [in a coordinated fashion].

For example, your growth hormone might rise in the middle of the night, in the middle of sleep. At the same time, if there is not [too much] food in your stomach, then the stomach lining will start to repair. For that repair to work perfectly, the growth hormone from the brain has to coincide with the stomach repair time.

In that way, different rhythms in different parts of our body have to work together for the entire body to work optimally. In fact, to have these daily rhythms and sleep-wake cycle, being more alert in the morning, having the bowel movement at the right time, having better muscle tone in the afternoon, these rhythms are the fountain of health. That’s the indication of health.”

Shift Work Disrupts Your Circadian Rhythm

The idea that you could possibly micromanage this intricately timed system from the outside is foolish in the extreme. As Panda notes in his book, the key, really, is to pay attention to and honor ancient patterns of waking, sleeping and eating.6 By doing that, your body more or less takes care of itself automatically.

“Yes, to leverage these daily rhythms that are so ingrained in our body, we just have to do a few things: sleep at the right time, eat at the right time, and get a little bit of bright light during the daytime. That’s the foundation. We can do very simple things to reap the benefits of the circadian rhythm and the wisdom of our body,” Panda says.

One of the most common circadian anomalies in today’s modern world is shift work. If you’re like me, you might be under the misconception that it’s a relatively small minority of people that engage in this activity, but Panda cites research showing a full 20 to 25 percent of the American nonmilitary workforce disrupt their natural circadian rhythm by working nights.

In his book, shift work is defined as any work that requires you to stay awake for three hours or more between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for more than 50 days a year (basically once a week).

The fact that 1 in 4 is exposed to this circadian rhythm aberration is bad enough, but on top of that there are the health effects of dirty electricity and the unhealthy light spectrum emitted by pulsing light-emitting diodes (LED) and fluorescent lighting, which further exacerbates the problem.

“Only in the last 16 years we have come to understand the impact of light on our health,” Panda says. “Before this, we thought that lighting is only for vision. Our eyes just have retinal cone cells to guide us throughout the world. Sixteen years ago, myself and two others … discovered this blue light-sensing light receptor called melanopsin.

These light-sensing cells in the retina — 5,000 of them per eye — are hardwired to many parts of the brain, including the master clock in the hypothalamus, and the pineal gland that makes … melatonin.

That discovery completely changed how we look at light. It’s not only lighting for safety or security. We have to now think about lighting for health … We [also] have to now think about blue light.

It’s not that we should get rid of blue light completely. We need more blue light during the daytime, and we need less at least three to four hours before going to bed.

The bottom line is in the last 100 to 150 years, we have cleared the man-made world without paying attention to circadian rhythms. Now we have the excellent opportunity to recreate and rebuild this entire world that will optimize our health.”

The Price You Pay for Chronic Sleep Disruption

It’s extremely difficult to estimate the price paid for widespread sleep disruption, but what is known is what happens when you chronically disrupt your circadian rhythm. Panda explains:

“Starting from babies all the way to 100-year-olds, we know that a few nights of staying awake for three to four hours or even eating at the wrong time can cause irritation, foggy brain, mild anxiety, loss of productivity and insomnia.

At the same time, this can flare up underlying autoimmune disease … We can look at shift workers in controlled clinical studies. When we make a list of diseases that circadian rhythm disruption contributes to, it’s a huge list.

It goes from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder [to] obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease …

Many of these affect more than 10 percent of the population. And then you bring in gastrointestinal diseases: irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, and even heartburn and ulcerative colitis.

If you combine all of these, then we can see clearly why nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S. have one or more of these chronic diseases, more than two-thirds of adults at the age of 45 have some of these chronic diseases. Nine out of 10 at the age of 65 have two or more of these chronic diseases.

Now, the question is, ‘How much of this is due to circadian rhythm disruption and other factors, or maybe circadian rhythm disruption with underlying genetic cause?’ We cannot come up with a clear figure, but it’s very clear that if we optimize circadian rhythm, we can really move the needle.”

Sleep Deprivation Induces Glucose Intolerance in as Little as Four Days

Research by Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago, also shows that sleeping less than six hours a night dramatically increases your risk of insulin resistance, which is at the core of most chronic diseases, including those mentioned above. There’s actually a daily rhythm in insulin sensitivity.

For example, if you do a glucose tolerance test in the morning, it may be normal, but done in the evening, it may suggest you have prediabetes. She also showed that when otherwise healthy people are deprived of sleep and allowed to sleep only five hours or less per night, they develop glucose intolerance in as little as four days. As noted by Panda:

“That’s really eye-opening. Because many of us go through that kind of disruption on a monthly or weekly basis. Shift workers go through that half of their life. That might explain the rise in glucose intolerance and having 85 million prediabetics in [the U.S.].”

Melatonin Production and Sleep Disorders

In his book, Panda discusses how melatonin production changes with age. With increasing age, melatonin production starts going down such that a 60-year-old may produce one-tenth the melatonin of a 10-year-old. As noted by Panda, reduced melatonin production is at the heart of many sleep disorders seen in the elderly.

So, how can you optimize your melatonin production as you age? One common solution is to take a melatonin supplement. Melatonin receptor agonist drugs are also available. However, a simpler solution that anyone can do, which costs nothing, is to control your lighting.

“Just imagine, 150 years ago, the firelight, the lamplight or even the full moon light was only 1 to 5 lux. Full moon light is maximum 1 lux. Now, we have 50 to 100 lux. In some department stores you can get 600 to 700 lux of light in the evening. That’s a tremendously high amount of light. That would slam your melatonin [production] down to almost zero,” Panda says.

Ideally, replace LEDs and fluorescent light bulbs in key areas where you spend time in the evening with low-watt incandescent bulbs, and avoid electronic screens for a few hours before bedtime.

An alternative is to wear blue-filtering eyeglasses at night. Just make sure don’t wear them during daytime. Also, make sure the glasses filter out light between 460 to 490 nanometers (nm), which is the range of blue light that most effectively reduces melatonin. If they filter everything below 500 nm, you should be good to go.

The Importance of Meal Timing

Panda has also investigated the impact of meal timing on circadian rhythm. Just like many cleanout functions occur in your brain during deep sleep, all other organs also need downtime. Many organs actually need between 12 and 16 hours of rest, meaning a minimum of 12 hours without food, to allow for repair.

In time-restricted feeding trials, Panda has shown that mice whose feedings are restricted to a window of eight to 12 hours are protected from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, systemic inflammation, high cholesterol and a host of other diseases. This, despite the fact they’re eating the same amount of calories and the same type of food as animals allowed to graze throughout the day and night.

More importantly, when fat mice are placed on an eight- to 10-hour time-restricted feeding schedule, many of these diseases can be reversed. Human trials suggest the same results can be obtained in humans who adopt a time-restricted eating schedule where all food is eaten within a window of eight to 10 hours.

According to Panda, at bare minimum, you should fast for 12 hours a day — that’s eight hours of sleep, plus three hours of fasting before bed, plus another hour in the morning, to allow your melatonin to level off. At 12 hours of fasting per day, you will maintain your health, but you’re unlikely to actually reverse disease. For that, you need to fast longer.

“The question is how short one can go. This is where there is some limitation in doing controlled studies like we do on animals, where we can do this for a long period of time, because if you reduce access to food for less than six hours in many animals, they will reduce their caloric intake.

So, then we cannot figure out whether the benefit or harm we are seeing is due to the reduction in calories or reduction in timing,” Panda says.

The way I look at it, 12-hour time-restricted eating is something everybody should do. It’s like brushing your teeth every day. What is surprising is only 10 percent of the population consistently eat within 12 hours … [Then] once every six months or once a year, [go down to] eight-hour eating for a month or so.”

There’s an App for That

Panda has developed a very helpful free app, available on Android and iOS, called myCircadianClock. By using this app, you will contribute to Panda’s circadian research.

“We ask people to self-monitor themselves for two weeks, because we know their weekdays and weekends might be different. We just want to get a broader picture of what is your lifestyle from one day to another. And then after two weeks, people can self-select whether they want to eat all their food within 10 hours, 12 hours or eight hours.

You’re free to do whatever you want to do … Over a long period of time, we can figure out what is good or bad for people. In this new app, you can log your food. It also has other bells and whistles. The app can be paired with your Google Health or Apple Health Kit. It can extract your step count, sleep, et cetera. …

After 12 weeks, we also want you to enter your body weight. If you have been collecting lots of other health data, then it’s good to enter that. That’s how it will help to figure out, at the epidemiological level, in real life situations, what our habits are and how we can change it.

The same app is being used in many controlled clinical studies. There are nearly 10 different studies going on in different parts of the world that use the same app … In that way, we can benefit from a controlled study as we launch this large open-to-all kind of studies.”

According to Panda, most people will notice improvements in their sleep within two to three weeks of time-restricted eating. Symptoms of heartburn will also typically begin to resolve. Between weeks four and six, daytime energy levels typically increase while evening hunger pangs are reduced.

Between six to 12 weeks, people with prediabetes or diabetes will begin to see improvements in fasting blood glucose. Those with mild hypertension also tend to notice improvements at this time, as do those with irritable bowel syndrome, as the microbiome improves and the gut begins to repair.

“Once the gut repair improves, then systemic inflammation goes down. Between eight to 12 weeks, that’s when a lot of people report that their joint pain goes down, because that’s a good sign of inflammation.

Once in a while, we get random reports. For example, some people who have inflammatory disease or autoimmune disease, they sometimes say the severity has gone down,” Panda says.

On NAD and Circadian Rhythm

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) — one of the most important metabolic coenzymes in your body that helps redox balance and energy metabolism — is primarily generated through a salvage pathway rather than de novo or building NAD+ from scratch pathway.

The rate-limiting enzyme is nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT), which is also under circadian control. When your circadian rhythm gets disrupted, it causes NAMPT impairment. NAMPT also helps set the circadian rhythm. In short, by optimizing your circadian rhythm, you’re going to optimize your NAD production. Panda explains:

“Studies say it goes both ways, because NAD also affects sirtuins, and sirtuins integrate with circadian rhythm. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) ratio also affects your [circadian] clock and transcription factors bind to DNA.

The bottom line that we have seen with circadian rhythm is if the clock regulates something, then there is a reciprocal feedback regulation from that output into the clock. That’s the best way you can clear the homeostatic system. It’s the chicken and egg story.”

More Information

To learn more, be sure to pick up a copy of “Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy and Sleep Well Every Night.” Also consider downloading myCircadianClock. It’s free of charge, and will help you track your circadian rhythm while simultaneously contributing to Panda’s research. 

Read more: articles.mercola.com

Time-Lapse Photography – Beyond the Basics

11 months, 11 days ago

Time-lapse photography is a different way to show the world around you. They are videos which are made up of a serious of still images and combined to look like a movie. The frame-by-frame gives a sped-up view of the world. People find them interesting to look at and if done well they are fascinating.

Time-Lapse Photography – Beyond the Basics - sunset and lighthouse

One of the hundreds of photos taken at Point Lonsdale while trying to get a time-lapse there.

There are a few ways of making time-lapse videos The obvious way is to do a video and speed it up, however, most are made from lots of individual still images. Using special programs, you can put them together and set the time for the video to run.

In this article, I’ll share my experiences with you testing out some time-lapse gear and settings so you can learn along with me.

Basic Time-lapse

Doing time-lapse photography is relatively simple. All you really need to do is set your camera up on a tripod and get it to take a photo every few seconds. Put the images on your computer, batch process them if you like, then run some software that will allow you to make them into a time-lapse. Here is an example.

That is a very simplified way of looking at it. Of course, there are many other factors, like what is moving in the scene, how quickly it is moving, etc.

As you experiment more you will learn how to work out what time is best and how many images you need. On average, you will need 30 images for every second of video you want. So if you want a one minute video you will need 30 x 60 = 1800 images.

Adding panning to your time-lapse

Over the years I’ve played around with doing time-lapses, such as I just described. It didn’t seem hard and I thought that adding some new equipment would be fine, That it would just work. I was wrong.

Recently I was loaned quite a few products from Syrp here in Australia to try out. It seemed like the ideal time to step up what I was doing with these. Perhaps get more serious about doing time-lapse photography.

I was loaned enough gear to do panning, tilting, and sliding. In the kit were two Syrp Genie Minis, the tilt bracket, the Genie and the magic carpet rails.

Time-Lapse Photography – Beyond the Basics

Photo by Syrp showing a kit with the magic carpet rails, Genie, and tilt bracket.

Initially I decided to try just the Genie mini. Start with the easy one.

Time-Lapse Photography – Beyond the Basics

One of the stills from the first attempted time-lapse.

Syrp Genie Mini – first attempt

My first attempt was at the Tesselaar Kabloom Flower Festival. There were fields of flowers and lots of clouds, the conditions were perfect time-lapse photography. For a successful time-lapse it is best if there is something moving in the image.

I moved around a bit to various places, but the very first series I shot had to be deleted. The exposure was okay, but none of the images were in focus. It was my first big lesson with doing them this way. I learned that you have to focus the image and then turn off autofocus, otherwise, the camera will attempt to refocus for each image.

The Genie and Genie Minis are all controlled by an app on your phone. It is fairly simple to use, but the arcs for shooting can be confusing.

Next, I worked out how panning worked and wide it should be. Several different arcs were attempted and when I got home and loaded the photos, the problems were clear to see.

The first one was okay, but that was probably more luck than skill. I didn’t really know what I was doing and just let it go for ages, with the camera taking a photo every two seconds. There were around 450 images total.

For the next few, I told the Genie Mini to run for 6 minutes, and for the camera to shoot an image every two seconds. This time it took 360 images. The area it was panning over was increased. When converted to the time-lapse it was jerky and the panning was too fast.

Solutions, if you are going to do a wide pan, you need to take a lot more photos than you think you will need.

flower garden - time-lapse photography

Another one of the stills from the flower center.

Next attempt

I went down to a local area to try it out again, this time giving it more time. Unfortunately, I made a similar mistake.

As I was setting up, I had it in my head to do an image every 5 seconds and to set the pan to last for 20 minutes. This only gave me around 240 images for the video. It wasn’t enough, and the same problem occurred. Next time if I only want to do 20 minutes I should take a photo every two seconds. That will yield 600 images, which should make it a better time-lapse. That is what will be attempted next time.

A couple of other problems happened as well. While panning, the camera was not level for the whole scene. So, I need to work out how to make that happen. Practice will make it easier.

All the tutorials I’ve been watching say to use manual mode for exposure. However, this really only works for constant light. If you are shooting a scene where it is variable, then you may need to use aperture priority.

Working it out

There did come a point when I realized the smaller the arc the better. Not covering such a wide area was better. Making sure there was something interesting in the image as well, something moving.

The number of images and how far apart they are shot is another aspect that can be hard to work out. Taking a photo every 2 or 5 seconds is good for some scenes, but not others. However, it is a good place to start and as you do more time-lapse photography you will begin to understand what settings you need.

Most time-lapse series will result in a video of around 5-10 seconds. When you are compiling it, you need to think about how many images you will need.

As a general rule most are done with 30 frames per second, or 30 images per second. In theory then, for a 5-second time-lapse you will need 150 images. However, if you are adding panning to that, then it will depend on how far you pan. If you are covering a really wide area you might need a lot more images.

time-lapse scene at sunset

You have to make sure there is something interesting in the scene, and that there is movement.

Adding Tilting

Once you think you have worked out how to pan you can try tilting the image up and down as well as panning. I only tried this a couple of times, as the biggest problem I had was my camera is very heavy and the tilt bracket struggled with it. You could see that it was too much weight for the system.

I found that using the Genie Mini with it was a bit tricky and it would tilt the wrong way. The lens would hit the bracket if it went the wrong way. It was the most frustrating aspect.

Again, you have to be careful what you use this for. There needs to be a reason to tilt up or down. Waterfalls are a good choice for tilting. Maybe looking up at a building. Think about why you would do this beforehand.

Gliding along the Magic Carpet with the Genie

The magic carpet rails with the Genie on top will glide the camera along in a straight line. It can add a small amount of movement to your video to make it appear like the camera is moving.

The Genie was very complicated to use and after doing so once, I really didn’t want to use it again. It wasn’t as easy and intuitive to use as the Genie mini. I had been shown how to use it, but when I went to do it myself, I had trouble working it out. In the end, I only used it once.

It does add a nice effect to the final time-lapse, but I’m not sure it is worth the aggravation. Perhaps, if you really wanted to get into doing time-lapse photography seriously it would be worth spending the time learning how to get the best results.

However, Syrp have now upgraded it to the Genie II. It is supposed to be easier to use and can do a lot more. Though at $1599 USD, the price will put it out of the range of many photographers, myself included.

Syrp gear

For most of the time that I had the gear on loan, I used the Genie Mini the most. It was small enough that I could carry it around in my bag most of the time and it was easier to use. Using the phone to control it was never a problem.

It is something that will take a lot of getting used to, but for anyone starting out doing time-lapse photography it would be enough. The Genie Mini is what I would recommend. It isn’t cheap, for what it is, but not that expensive that if you really wanted to do time-lapse. The Syrp Genie Mini sells for USD$249.

In the end, by the time I had to give the gear back, I knew I wanted to do more time-lapse photography. So I have since purchased the Genie Mini. I like what I can do with it, it’s simpler to use and the price-point is doable for most people.

Storage and processing the time-lapse

Everyone recommends you take raw images for your time-lapse series, that way you can process them in Lightroom. The biggest problem is the size of the raw files. My D850 has raw files that are approximately 50MB each, so when you are taking a few hundred images, that requires a lot of space.

Thankfully, the D850 has the ability to change the size of the raw files, so I can use smaller ones for time-lapse. If your camera has this feature, then I suggest you do so. Once the images are processed and the time-lapse is done, you can delete the raw files as you will be unlikely to use them again.

time-lapse still Princes Pier

Princes Pier is a popular place for photos, so it seemed like a good idea to try a time-lapse. This is one of the still images from the series.

Using Lightroom to process the images is good as you can edit one image, then sync the rest of them. This will help give all your images the same look. You can then export them to make the time-lapse.

I used Photoshop to build the time-lapse. However, there are many different programs available to try. Some will give you more control, however, Photoshop is quite basic. It’s a good place to start.

If you have trouble getting Photoshop to work it could be the sequence of images you are using. They have to be consistent, or Photoshop won’t load the images properly.

Getting into time-lapse photography

If this is something you want to try, then start with your camera on a tripod. Take photos every few seconds.

However, if you want to get some camera movement, then I would try the Syrp Genie Mini. Learn how to use it completely to get the best videos. If you decide to add more then you can look at doing tilting and gliding. Don’t confuse yourself by trying to learn it all at once.

Read more on time-lapse photography here:

How to Shoot and Create a Time-Lapse Video Using Lightroom
How to Shoot a Pine Cone Time-lapse: A Mini Tutorial
Time-Lapse Photography Equipment Guide to Getting Started
Discover the Wonder of Time-Lapse Photography
10 Pro Motion Control Time-Lapse Tips
Time-Lapse Photography – a Quick Guide to Building Your Movie

The post Time-Lapse Photography – Beyond the Basics appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Read more: digital-photography-school.com

12 mistakes you’re making that are sabotaging your sunscreen

1 year, 6 days ago

sunscreen applyingJordi C/Shutterstock

Despite the overwhelming body of research that proves just how dangerous too much sun exposure can be, far too many of us aren’t wearing sunscreen daily, increasing our risk for sunburn and several types of skin cancer … all of which is largely preventable if you’re properly protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Whether you’re enjoying the summertime sun or simply sitting in the car for long periods of time, you absolutely need to wear sunscreen every day, no matter what the weather forecast predicts.

Your skin is at risk even on cloudy, cool, and windy days, so the easiest and most foolproof way to lessen your risk of skin cancer is by wearing sunscreen. But just because you’re slapping some SPF on doesn’t mean you automatically get a gold star and a pat on the back.

From not using a high enough SPF to enjoying margaritas poolside, you’re likely doing some things that are inadvertently making your sunscreen less effective, which can lead to dangerous sun exposure you didn’t even realize you’ve been getting.

Here are the 12 most unexpected things that could be making your sunscreen less effective and how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to keeping your skin safe and healthy.

You’re not using it every single day.
Kristian Dowling/Getty

You need to wear sunscreen every single day, in every single season, no matter what the weather forecast says or if you’re not spending the day outside. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation which cause genetic mutations and damage to DNA, leading to skin cancer. But you’re exposed to these UV rays every time you step outside, even when it’s cloudy, cold, or windy out.

Sun damage can happen in any weather condition, which is why skiers wear goggles to protect their eyes from snow blindness, because fresh snow is also a powerful source of UV radiation.

Because it can pass through even the thickest of clouds and through your car or office windows, the only surefire way to protect your skin is by wearing sunscreen every single day, even when you’re miles from the nearest beach.

You’re not applying enough sunscreen.
TanyaRozhnovskaya/Shutterstock

So you’ve heeded our advice and wear sunscreen every day. It’s a great start, but you must ask yourself if you’re applying enough.

There’s no such thing as too much sunscreen, so you’ll want to be very generous in your application … especially if you are planning any outdoor activities.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using about an ounce of sunscreen (the size of a standard shot glass) for your body, liberally covering all exposed skin. Experts recommend a quarter-size amount for your face, though this all depends on your body size. The more, the merrier, when it comes to sun protection, so when in doubt, add more.

You apply it, but never reapply.
Zoe/Flickr

OK, so you put sunscreen on, thinking you’re done for the day and your skin is protected. Wrong, say dermatologists, who recommend reapplying at least every two hours if you’re in direct sunlight, and more often if you’re swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, only water-resistant, so even sunscreens with the highest SPFs need to be applied routinely in order to maximize effectiveness.

“If you’re in the sun, your sunscreen is good for a max of two hours, and depending on the sunscreen it might not even last that long,” explained Lisa Garner, a Texas-based dermatologist, who told HuffPost that when our skin absorbs our sunscreen, it “uses up” the active ingredients that are protecting skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

This happens even faster when you’re swimming or sweating, so be sure to constantly reapply, giving skin enough time to absorb before you head back into the water.

As for days when you’re mostly inside at home or at work or aren’t enjoying any outdoor activities, you should still touch up, choosing a cosmetic-based powder or mineral sunscreens, or moisturizers and lotions that have a solid amount of SPF in them, before you see any sun exposure.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

See Also:

11 DIY acne remedies that actually work, according to a dermatologist15 surprising things you didn’t know about ‘Vanderpump Rules’13 foods you can eat if you’re vegan and keto

Read more: feedproxy.google.com

5 Red Flags to Look for in Your Google Analytics Data

1 year, 14 days ago

In today’s marketing world data is more valuable than ever. It helps you make more informed strategic decisions and get you the results you need — but only if you take action on it.

Luckily, Google Analytics (GA) provides concrete data on what’s happening on your website every day and help you find and take down red flags before it’s too late.

Once you start making Google Analytics a normal part of your routine, you’ll likely notice what’s wrong with your website immediately rather than finding out you were missing key things from the start.

If you’re noticing that your website performance has dipped, you need to use the resources you have to figure out why.

Here are the top 5 red flags you should be on the lookout for:

1. Low Time On Page

Time On Site is a key metric that you need to look out for when analyzing your Google Analytics account.

It informs you of how long people spend on your overall website but can be boiled down to look at the average time on page as well.

Looking at the average time on page can give you a lot of information, good and bad.

If a page has a low time on page, but also has a lot of conversions then you know it’s doing its job, or you know they found what they found what they needed quickly; that’s great!

However, if you see the average time on page as low AND see this page on a list of high exit pages then you may have a problem with visitors finding what they’re looking for on your page.

In order to find out how much time users spend on your website go to the Average Time on Page and Average Session Duration metrics within your Google Analytics account.

To get there go to your Behavior menu, click on Site Content -> All Pages.

google-analytics-red-flags-1

At this point, you organize your website pages by decreasing page views to see what pages led users to spend the least amount of time on-site.  

These insights allow you to determine which pages have captivating content that keeps your visitors on the page or persuasive copy that pushes them down the funnel.

Take the 10 pages with the lowest on-site time and really take a look at the content on those pages.

Make a plan to rework what you have and then let it run for a month then check back in to see the improvements! Continue down the list of pages until you’ve made improvements to each page.

2. High Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.

A high bounce rate on your site means someone came to your site from Google and then leaves almost immediately.

According to RocketFuel, “ A bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 percent is roughly average. 56 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc.”

Having a high bounce rate generally means that you have misleading marketing copy that doesn’t relate to what you had in your meta description or the keywords you were aiming for.

It can also mean that your website is taking so long to load that the person just gives up! Another website issues that cause slow bounce rate are no-mobile friendly designs, tons of pop-ups and ads, or videos that auto-play.

If the page has a high bounce rate, but also a high conversion rate, then this actually isn’t a bad thing. It means those who are coming to the page are immediately completing the action that you want them to complete.

Be sure to take all of these into consideration when reviewing bounce rates.

You can see your average bounce rate on your dashboard, but to view which pages have the highest bounce rate head back over to the Behavior menu and select All Pages.

google-analytics-red-flags-1 

Sort your results by decreasing bounce to see which individual pages have the highest bounce rate.

Take a look at your list of pages and, again, pull the top 10 or so pages that have the highest bounce rate and see which of the above issues could be the problem: is it content based or is it a site-wide design issue?

Either way make those changes to start keeping visitors on your page and decrease your bounce rate.

 

3. High Self Referrals

Self-referrals is a big metric that a lot of people don’t pay attention to, but they should!

Simply put, self-referrals are referral traffic that originates from pages within your own domain.

You’re probably saying to yourself okay, why’s this a problem?

It means that when you set up the tracking on your website, you either missed adding a tracking code, didn’t set-up cross domains, or other tracking specific issues that allowed Google to capture this information.

This is bad because it skews your results and affects your ability to make informed decisions.

To fix this issue go to Acquisition > All Traffic in Google Analytics, then click the “Referrals” source. Then you’ll need to figure out which pages are the cause of the issue, by finding your domain name under “Source” viewing all the individual pages that show up.

google-analytics-red-flags-2

Luckily, if you only see a couple pages, you can easily add the tracking code by copying the Tracking Code Google provides and adding it into the <head> tag of each page.

If you have a whole folder of pages, then you need to update each of your templates with the code so that it’s across the whole site.

Once you update this those pages will be all set, but make sure you continue to add the tracking code to ANY new page you create moving forward.

4. Low Website Visitors to Leads Ratio

Visitors to leads is basically your conversion rate.

If you’re in Google Analytics and you see that you have a lot of visitors but none of those visitors are turning into leads, then that’s a major red flag that those coming to your site don’t feel there’s enough value to start working with you or even subscribe to your content.

There are a lot of reasons why your website could not be converting visitors into leads, but the most important might be the wrong audience. It’s very difficult to achieve any of your goals if your website is targeting an audience that makes zero sense for your end goal.

Take a hard look at the people coming to your site and your current customers. Are you pushing them to the correct path? Does your copy speak to their pain points? Is it consistent with your brand message?

Take a good hard look at your site and ask yourself these questions.

If the answer is no then it’s time to start building out a better plan for creating conversion opportunities on your site and making sure your copy speaks to your visitors.

You can also get a more accurate representation of your audience by creating strong buyer personas and interviewing your current customers to see what brought them to you in the first place

This one will take a lot of time and effort to correct, but will 100% be worth it in the end. You may end up making some big changes, but those changes will help you make your site a customer producing machine.

5. Low Number of Visitors

Your number of visitors is exactly what it sounds like, the number of people visiting your website; in other words, your traffic.

You may be in a position where you don’t even have a lot of visitors coming to your site, which essentially means your site isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.

If you’re not getting views on your site how will it attract customers?

There are a couple of big things that could be causing this.

I’ll start with the easiest one and then make my way down to the most time-consuming.

Your Website is Blocked

This could mean that you have a “no index no follow” in your head tag that’s blocking Google from crawling your website. If this is so, that means new people aren’t going to find you in search engines, and we all know you ultimately want search to be your highest traffic source.

Luckily, you can easily remove that code from your pages and re-submit your sitemap.

Once you take care of that your pages will start being indexed by Google and you should see your traffic rise!

Slow Load Time

If your website is loading slow then Google won’t rank it in the top search results. It doesn’t hold as much weight as relevance, but your rank will decrease if Google notices it takes forever to load a page.

Head on over to Pingdom and test your website speed.

If you find your site is slow (10 seconds or more), this is another issue that can be fixed by making a couple small changes.

For instance, make sure your image sizes aren’t too large or you’re not hosting large files on your pages.  There are several others things you can do to speed up your site which we share here, but start with those and then work on making more major improvements

Wrong Focus Keywords

Now we get into the tricky stuff that could affect your marketing efforts.

If you have low site visitors, dive in to see how your organic traffic is.

Check that the keywords you’re trying to hit are actually highly searched terms.

If you’re targeting keywords that get 10 views a month, then that’s the number of views you should expect your website to get.

Use tools like Moz Keyword Explorer or SEMrush to check the search volume of your current keyword targets. These tools also offer suggestions as to how you expand your search volume so use those and start building them into your marketing plan.

Stay On the Lookout!

Your website isn’t static digital billboard; it requires oversight and analysis. You need to constantly be reviewing and making improvements on it.

Utilizing Google Analytics can help you take the pulse of your website, and tell you what is or isn’t working.  It also gives you actual data to go off, which will produce actual results for your company. Don’t ignore the warning signs when it comes to your website. Keep an eye on out for them, make updates, and then test out the changes.

Read more: impactbnd.com

Which mental ‘deficits’ are really hidden strengths? | Heather Heying

1 year, 1 month ago


There are many different ways in which the brain is rewired differently than the norm. But Heather Heying, evolutionary biologist and former Professor at The Evergreen State College, is saying that these so-called differences are really strengths.Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/heather-heying-neurodiversity-many-mental-deficits-are-really-hidden-strengthsFollow Big Think here:YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcomTwitter: https://twitter.com/bigthinkNeurodiversity is a pretty new term, and I’m grateful—very grateful for it.It gets to something that is absolutely real and has been hard to discuss before it existed.That said, I’m not sure I have a perfect definition. It recognizes a fact that we are not singular, that we are not all identical, that we have a variation of brains, of connectivity, of aptitudes, of weaknesses, of blind spots, and of sensitivities, and of capabilities.People on the autism spectrum who are very functional, in my experience, tend to have extraordinary analytical skills and also often, actually, insight into social interactions so long as they’re not the ones participating.And so you have, I’ve had a number of autistic students actually point out to me dynamics that were emerging in classrooms that I hadn’t yet seen, and once they were pointed out I could see, and these are the same students who have a very hard time recognizing when it is or is not time to speak or get up or walk through the middle of the classroom and such.There are a number of ways to be neurodiverse.We have names for some conditions that actually represent ends of continuum.Dyslexia is a big one. These are going to sound like they’re coming out of left field, but color blindness, left-handedness… in each of those cases being what in evolutionary biology we call the non-dominant phenotype.Sorry. I’m a lefty. That’s the one of those that I belong to as a group. And about ten percent of people across all cultures (that have been studied) are left-handed. It’s a persistent, stable, rare phenotype, which suggests that it’s adaptive, that it’s persistent, it’s complex, and it provides the different wiring of the brain associated with being a left-hander provides benefit in the social group in which left-handers show up.I mean we can put together analyses for why being a left-hander might allow you to approach a physical problem differently than a right-hander would have a harder time solving, but the different wiring of the brain allows for different approaches as well.Similarly with color blindness that it might be really easy to say, “Well, okay, that just is going to give you some ability to see past color and to see patterns that aren’t color based,” perhaps, but I suspect that there’s wiring in the brain that is associated with color blindness that also allows for enhanced abilities that are different from those who are color-sighted.Dyslexia for sure. Dyslexia is obviously a very modern condition because writing is a very modern condition. So as an evolutionary biologist when I say modern I mean thousands of years. So dyslexia is modern in terms of thousands of years, and language was always about sound and never about writing until recently, and so the lessened ability—it’s almost never an inability, but the lessened ability—to process written symbols into meaning in your head looks to me like it’s a trade-off relationship with the ability to engage in real time and speech. And that’s not to say that all of us can’t learn through practice to be better at any number of these skills, but that being born with what the world is calling a deficit is almost always going to exist in a trade-off relationship with some often hidden strength.

Author: avatarbigthinkofficialTags: Posted: 06 June 2018

Read more: dailymotion.com