Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The greening of a film festival

Last year in May, I was lucky enough to sign up last-minute as a volunteer for the Delray Beach Film Festival, and I had a wonderful week -- which I blogged about May 25, 2009 (A Film Lover's Orgy). At the time, I vowed to take a larger role in this year's festival, the fifth one, which just concluded its May 22-28 run.

So, last November, I attended an early organizational meeting for volunteers, where I announced that I wanted to help make the festival go "green" this year.

Soon enough, I was the head of a one-person greening committee! Not wanting to bite off more than I could chew, I decided to my main goal would be to bring recycling to the major parties and events -- but only glass/plastic and aluminum (baby steps!!).

It was a dirty job -- literally, as I had my hands in trash and recycling bins at every party! -- but it was well worth it: I saved about 20 bagfuls of recyclables from the landfills during the weeklong festival. I also headed up a beach cleanup event on Saturday, which was designated as a specially themed "Green Day."

I kept my eyes open and learned a lot during the entire week -- especially Saturday. In addition to seeing several enviro-themed films that day, I also attended a green workshop, where I got some good ideas on expanding our efforts at next year's festival.

From these little baby steps, we can only get greener!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Damn you, cold bug!

The argument could be made that you NEVER get sick at a good time.

Stomach viruses, colds and flus tend to crop up with pinpoint timing just when you need them least: You're preparing for a big presentation at work, or planning to see your child's piano recital, or embarking on a long-needed vacation, or playing in a crucial softball game in your league.

It's certainly happened to me this week! I started getting a scratchy throat and a dry, persistent cough round-about Tuesday. And I seemed to have less and less energy as the week wore on. By yesterday (Friday), I was barely able to gently get through my morning yoga class. Then the hacking cough, runny nose, and greenish phlegm (yuck!) began in earnest last night.

And guess what? I have an incredibly busy week coming up, starting with a fancy mansion party tonight that I've been planning to attend for at least a month. Then tomorrow (Sunday), the Delray Beach Film Festival kicks off with a 4-11 p.m. Battle of the Bands.

Since I've been on the planning committee for the March 22-28 film fest for six months now -- and have committed myself to the task of organizing and running a recycling program at all of the major parties, as well as a beach cleanup next Saturday -- I can hardly crawl into bed and sleep for the next week! (Though, of course, that's exactly what I'd like to do!)

I'll soldier though, of course, and probably enjoy myself despite this illness inconvenience. ... But I'm sure it's not going to be easy!

Damn you, cold bug-- damn you!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Red wine: A diet aid for women?

As a health and happiness blogger, not to mention a Middle-Age Sexy gal, I'm always on the lookout for stories that make me feel not-quite-so guilty about my guilty pleasures.

So, it was with great interest that I read about a study that indicates alcohol (and especially red wine) might not be as fattening for women as previously thought.

The 13-year study, reported recently in London's Daily Mail and other sources, was conducted on about 20,000 average-weight women ages 39 and older. Over time, most of them tended to put on weight, a standard side-effect of aging in women. However, surprisingly, it was the teetotalers -- those who drank things like water and soda instead of alcohol -- who gained the most pounds. And those who drank moderately (about a drink or glass of wine a day) gained the least!

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston offered several theories for this phenomenon, including that females metabolize alcohol more efficiently than other types of carbs, or that women subconsciously tend to make up for the extra calories by eating less of other foods.

So, the old adage about avoiding alcohol (and its "empty" calories) when you're dieting might not be such good advice, after all!

Since the study found that red wine seemed to bring the most benefits -- with hard alcohol, beer, and white wine less effective -- it seems that indulging in a nightly glass of Pinot Noir or Merlot might help you whittle your waistline a little bit faster! (Not to mention reaping the other benefits of red wine that have made headlines in recent years, such as it helping your heart and your sex life!)

It sure as hell will make dieting a LOT more pleasant!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

BIKE PUMP; or: Why Google is making us all TERRIBLE writers!

Thanks a lot, Google. Because of you, the art of writing is being lost -- to the science of search-engine optimization.

Clearly, the minds behind Google don't care much about good writing, for the algorithms they've created to "rank" pages put the highest value on repetition and density of key words and phrases. This results in a very stilted, redundant style of writing that certainly doesn't flow off the tongue (or out of the word processor) very easily.

Let's say you're writing an article on the best bicycle pumps -- an arguably valuable resource for bicyclists. Now, of course, in the world of the Internet, there are probably thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of Web pages that contain information about bike pumps. And in order for readers to receive your valuable insights, they must first find your article. Thus, the importance of gaining a high page ranking: It greatly increases your chances of catching readers' attention.

This has forced a complete change in the way writers research and compose their articles.

Instead of starting your article off with an interesting statistic, say, or a personal anecdote, and then letting the story flow naturally and pleasingly into your list or descriptions of bicycle pumps, the first thing you need to do is do a little key-word research. This will yield a determination that the phrase "bike pump" is actually the most-searched term in Google.

That's the key phrase you need to use -- and you MUST be sure to incorporate it into both your headline and the first sentence, and then use it every 20 words or so on average. The resulting copy looks something like this:

Bike Pump Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Bike pump
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah bike pump blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Bike Pump blah blah blah bike pump blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah bike pump blah blah blah blah blah blah. Bike blah blah pump blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah bike pump.

Now, to be fair, you're allowed -- even encouraged -- to use up to five similar or related key words and phrases, such as "bicycle air pump," "tire pump" and "bicycle pumps."

Oh, joy! Your sparkling copy will now resemble something like:

Bike Pump Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

Bike pump blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah bicycle pumps blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Tire pump blah blah blah bike pump blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah bicycle air pump blah blah blah blah. Bike blah blah pump blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah bicycle pumps.

Ahhh ... SO much better!!!

BOB-ing and weaving ...

Report: The Sun-Sentinel's BOB (Best of Blog) awards party took place last night (March 3) at YOLO, a hot spot on Los Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale -- and a block away from the Sun-Sentinel building where I worked for almost 10 years.

It was a little strange, in a deja-vu-ey way, to be back in the neighborhood I spent so much time in. And we shivered a bit through the proceedings, as the event was held outdoors on an extremely chilly night (thank god for that roaring fire pit!).

But Gail and I both agreed at the end of the evening that it was well worth attending -- even though, as expected, neither of us won. First of all, we were served the restaurant's Szechuan Calamari (delish!) and a side dish of creamy pasta; second, we drank for free.

Good mood established, we were ready to mingle with other local bloggers, say hello to some old colleagues from the Sentinel, and cheer the winners as they were announced. (In case you're interested, you can read which blogs won the first BOB Awards here.)

Interestingly, two of the winning blogs contain the word "sex." Hmmm ... maybe I'm on to something. Or not.

Regardless, I'll continue this endeavor -- even without any awards or recognition. Because, really, to be honest, I'm kind of hooked on being Middle-age Sexy!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Point ... and, SHOOT!!

I've been camera-less since last summer, when the telescoping mechanism on my Canon Powershot 7.1 megapixel digital camera went blooey -- and they wanted 90 bucks to fix it.

Since $90 was a bit dear to me at that point, I put the camera away and forgot about it. Then, I started thinking I could probably buy a smaller, newer-generation camera for not much more than that after Christmas. (Hello, disposable society!).

After several frustrating incidents of needing a camera but not having one (like, uh -- being in the same room as the Dalai Lama!), I finally decided to get a new camera. I perused the sale brochures from all the local stores, and determined that the clearance prices for 10 megapixel cameras, which are being phased out, were pretty much the same.

So, on a whim last Thursday, I stopped at a nearby Office Depot -- and left the store with a little Nikon Coolpix. Saturday provided a perfect opportunity to try it out, during a trip to Loxahatchee Refuge in western Boynton Beach (here's my Examiner review of the refuge.)

Though the Coolpix camera was nicely compact and very user-friendly, it had a couple of features I really did not like at all:

  • First, there's no viewfinder -- and here in sunny Florida, taking shots in the bright outdoors can be challenging just using the LCD screen, because you can't always see it.
  • And second, the camera's zoom was really quite lame. Zooming in on a gator sunning on a bank with a bird perched nearby, my Nikon didn't get nearly as close to the scene as my friend Cori's little Canon did.
Point ... and, SHOOT!

So, I returned the Nikon Coolpix today and exchanged it for a Canon Powershot Digital Elph -- a better camera for my needs. And, best of all, after the floor-model discount, only 20 bucks more.

Point and shoot, no problem!

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