In weird food news…

Should you be reading this column while consuming a meal, you might want to press pause on the eating thing. Although neither of these two stories is overly graphic, they do cause the eewww-factor meter to rev up.

Bizarre food news item #1:

Making cattle ecstatic the world over, scientists recently grew hamburger in a lab without harming any of our bovine, cud-chewing friends.


To do so, they took stem cells extracted from a biopsy of a cow and grew 20,000 muscle fibers. (Bet you won’t find that recipe in the “Joy of Cooking.”) When ready, these fibers were cut open and straightened — after all, who wants crooked meat? — and pressed together to form hamburger. Although biologically identical to beef, it isn’t actually beef. Moreover, before you fire up the barbeque for some good petri-dish burgers, you might want to be aware of the cost. Whereby “traditional” ground beef sets you back about three or four dollars a pound, this grown-in-a-lab version costs more than the average price of a house; about $340,000!

So why might a six-figure hamburger be of interest?

Well, aside from eventually being able to help feed more people, our appetite for meat means that about 30 percent of the Earth’s useable surface is covered by pasture land for animals, compared with just four percent used to feed humans. Moreover, livestock accounts for about five percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 40 percent of methane emissions. Summed up, cows are inefficient as food and they’re quite gassy. Who would have thunk?

Needless to say, a hamburger requiring a mortgage to finance it has a few hurdles to overcome, but the doctor who created “Frankenmeat” is confident that in two decades — when it’s more affordable and more tasty — people will actually prefer it.

To increase the appeal and give it better taste, he plans to add lab-grown fat cells and perhaps even bone cells for those who want a fully lab-cultured T-bone steak. Speaking for myself, I’m pretty competent at growing fat cells. I’ll be glad to share a few.

Which leads to… [Read more...]

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Change in Pace: 3 Ways to Improve Boring Meetings

boring meeting

Meetings are boring, but surviving them seems to be a right of passage in the American workforce. Part of your job description could probably be listed as “endure endless meetings” – even when you are the manager running the show. Meetings do not have to follow the same stale formula without any deviation. You can make the exception to the rule through mixing extra planning and liberal doses of creative thinking into these office gatherings.

Involve everyone

The simplest antidote to a boring meeting is to get everyone involved in the discussion. People become more invested in a meeting when they feel like their presence matters.

Involve the entire group in a meeting and you can enhance the quality of decisions. A study done at Cal-State Northridge found that group discussions are effective in making more information available, generating more ideas, reducing individual bias and producing a decision with fewer errors.

It can start with taking attention away from the person leading the meeting and turning the spotlight back on the group. Encourage people to speak out with ideas and suggestions. Ask open-ended questions. Breakout into group discussions. Give everyone in the meeting a chance to get involved in the decision-making process.

Avoid information overload

Meetings can feel overwhelming if there is too much information to take in all at once. You can prevent this problem by setting an agenda ahead of a scheduled meeting. The agenda can guide what things are discussed in the meeting and offer a road map for the direction of the meeting.

It helps to tackle one issue at a time. Multitasking can serve a good purpose in some situations, but can be a negative influence in a meeting. WebMD notes that the average person can actually lose time shifting between two tasks and take longer to accomplish each task.

One meeting cannot focus on every problem at hand. Set priorities and tackle issues one at a time in order of importance. When things are more specific, it can allow for shorter meetings and better results.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on the issues that are most pertinent to the people in the meeting. This will make it easier to solve problems because you can involve those same people in creating a solution. It allows them to take ownership of the meeting and become more engaged in driving the discussion in positive directions.

Make it count

Meetings represent a significant investment of both time and money. There is no excuse for having a meeting that does not accomplish a tangible purpose.

Make each meeting count by following up on the decisions made in the meeting. The founder of GoDaddy, Bob Parsons, notes that effective leadership requires always moving forward. A leader, according to Parsons, should never stop investing, improving or doing something new because a lack of improvement causes organizations to die.

When you solve problems in meetings, apply those solutions outside the conference room. A meeting that produces measurable results is not a waste of time. Measure progress and offer positive reinforcement to the whole staff when goals are met. It will reinforce the original meeting’s value.

About the Author: Samuel Perry is a PR consultant who lives in Arlington, Va.

Photo used from Flikr by Robert Couse-Baker

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5 Things to Consider Before Choosing the Right Home Security System for Your Family

According to the FBI, in 2012, the number of home burglaries rose by 4.7 percent. With one in six homes being broken into, have you considered a home security system to prevent theft at your residence? Here are five things to consider helping you choose the most effective system.

What Features Does the Company Offer?

Image via Flickr by vagawi

It’s important to make a list of features you want in your security package. Some possible options are:

  • Alarm and monitoring services only
  • Fire and smoke detection and monitoring
  • Carbon monoxide alarms
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Motion sensors (indoor and outdoor)
  • Home automation and remote control features
  • Wireless service in you don’t have a landline
  • Window or window screen alarms
  • Monitors for measuring water levels or home temperatures
  • Identity theft protection
  • Pet monitoring
  • Medical alert monitoring
  • Affordable service contracts

Make a list of all the home security features you need before you begin searching for the right company.

Is the System Easy to Use?

No family wants a system that’s so complex, it’s too hard to use. A good security company will not only offer adequate training but also systems that are easy-to-use—even for young children.

If you have out-of-town guests coming but can’t be home to let them in, can they easily enter using verbal instructions from you or via remote disarming?

If an alarm is accidentally tripped, what are the next steps and how do you inform the company to cancel emergency medical, fire or police from coming to your home? Will the company be able to cancel these organizations from arriving in time so you avoid “nuisance alarm” fees that some counties charge?

Do you own or lease the equipment? If it’s owned, does it come with a warranty? If leased, what are the lease terms and buy-out options? If elements are defective or not functioning properly, how quickly can they be replaced?

Considering your desired features, how long will it take to install the system? Do they use employee and company-wide security controls so your passwords aren’t leaked?

Will the System Fit Within Your Budget?

Based on the features you choose, how much will you pay each month in total? Figure this dollar amount into your monthly budget to see if you can afford it. If it’s beyond your budget, you may need to prioritize the system a bit, keeping the features that are most important to you, and eliminating anything you can do without.

How to Choose the Right Company

If you’re seeking home security systems in Nashville TN, once you have made a list of desired features, what should you look for before choosing a company?

Before making a selection, call various companies and ask if they:

  • Have positive ratings from the Better Business Bureau
  • Participate in the community by supporting non-profits and other community events
  • Provide free videos that demonstrate and teach how to operate their systems
  • Have made the top 100 ratings list compiled by the Security Distributing and Marketing organization
  • Offer in-home training until everyone in your home is properly educated on the system

Will You Save on Homeowner’s Insurance?

Call your insurance carrier and ask them if they offer a discount for homes equipped with security systems. You may also want to ask if the amount of the discount depends on the type of system and the number of features.

If you consider these five things before choosing a home security system, the process will be much smoother.

About the Author: Susan Pizarro is a freelance writer based out of Florida with a degree in Marketing. She loves writing about personal finance, health, and frugal living tips; and she enjoys travelling the world and trying different foods.

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