Saturday, April 10, 2021

Salt Mine Tours

Taking a tour of a salt mine? On the surface, it seems like a strange way to spend a day. What could be so interesting about seeing miners dig salt out of the ground? After all, it's not like taking a tour of a location steeped in history such as the Alamo or the Tower of London. Or a famous government building such as the White House. Or a tour of an interesting city such as San Francisco.

But a salt mine? You'll be surprised…

WIELICZKA SALT MINE IN KRAKOW, POLAND.  I saw a segment on the Travel Channel about this unusual tourist attraction. The mine consists of a lot more than just the tunnels and pits where they have been extracting salt for approximately 700 years (one of Europe's oldest salt mines). It was opened in the 13th century with commercial mining discontinued in 1996 but it continued to produce table salt until 2007. This is a unique tourist attraction and is listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.

The tour is spread out over the three upper levels of the mine complex, ranging from 64 to 135 meters (208 to 439 feet) below ground. You'll need to take nearly 400 steps down to the mine but there is an elevator that returns visitors to the surface. Tourists can walk the 3 kilometers (1.8 mile) trail through a collection of objects related to the mine and mining industry over the centuries. You'll see underground lakes. But perhaps the most surprising and fascinating feature of this salt mine is all the works of art made by the miners themselves over the centuries, hand hewn entirely of solid salt—statues, frescos, beautifully adorned chapels including one very large chapel with chandeliers and staircases made entirely of salt along with other hidden treasures. In addition to the spectacular works of art, the complex has a reception room used for private functions including weddings.

The salt mine reaches a depth of 327 meters (1065 feet) and is over 287 kilometers long (172 miles) with the tour covering only a small portion of this total area.

STRATACA IN HUTCHINSON, KANSAS, USA.  Interactive dinner theater below ground in a salt mine? Scout campouts below ground in a salt mine? A large Hollywood film storage/vault facility underground in a salt mine? An event center underground in a salt mine? Yes to all of these…and more.

This salt deposit was formed approximately 275 million years ago when the Permian Sea dried up. This is one of the largest salt deposits in the world covering 27,000 square miles in central and south central Kansas. Adjacent salt deposits extend the entire area to include parts of Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and south eastern New Mexico for a total overall of 100,000 square miles. The purest portion of the main salt vein is 650 feet underground and is still being mined. Strataca (when first opened for tours was called the Kansas Underground Salt Museum) has access to about 300,000 square feet of the mined out area.

Salt was discovered southwest of Hutchinson in 1887 by a land developer who was drilling for oil as a means of increasing land sales. Instead of oil, he struck salt. Strataca is located in the original Carey rock salt mine.

Even though the mine tour existed earlier and a large storage facility had been there since the 1940s, in 1999 the Reno County Historical Society recognized the importance of preserving and presenting to the public the Hutchinson salt story. Today's museum is the result of a collaboration of the Historical Society and two businesses that already existed in the mine—the Hutchinson Salt Company and the Underground Vaults and Storage. In addition to storing a vast number of original Hollywood movies (such as the master prints of Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz), it also stores millions of documents and items from around the world in a secure and environmentally conducive atmosphere.

The newly revamped and renamed Strataca was opened to the general public May 1, 2007. Their first Murder In The Mine interactive dinner theater was held in 2007 as was their first underground scout campout. The Visitor Center opened in July 2008. And in 2013, they launched The Salt Safari Adventure Hike.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Are You A Right-Brain Or Left-Brain Thinker?

The two sides of the human brain have distinct abilities unique to either the right side or left side.  An individual's strengths and weaknesses are often based on which side of the brain is dominant.  It's always been presented to me as left-brained being the logical, methodical, and pragmatic side and right-brained is the creative side.  There have been books written on this phenomenon.

 At least that's the way I've always understood left vs. right brain.

The first thought is that writers must be right-brained since writing is a creative effort.  And many writers are also involved in other creative endeavors such as various forms of art and music.  But it seems to me that's only partly true.

As a writer, I certainly deal with my right brain creative side.  But as a writer, I also need my left brain methodical, logical, pragmatic side as part of my creative effort.  I would consider doing research as being methodical left-brained.  And then there's the switch over from right brain creative to left brain logical when writers go into edit mode.  And that edit mode is necessary in order to take a creative effort and hone it into a marketable effort.  And the many facets of self-promotion for our books is certainly methodical and logical.

I recently came across a ten question quiz to test whether someone is a right brain thinker or a left brain thinker.  Not sure I agree with all the conclusions, but I found it interesting.

Are you ready?

1)  Are you better at math and science than art and literature?

If your answer is YES:  People who are left-brained thinkers (logic) are often better at math and science over art and literature.

If your answer is NO:  People who are right-brained thinkers (creative) are usually better at art and literature than math and science.

2)  Do you love playing sports outdoors over reading indoors?

If your answer is YES:  Right-brain thinkers (creative) enjoy the great outdoors and athletics.

If your answer is NO:  People who are left-brained (logic) usually prefer staying indoors and reading.

3)  Do you prefer verbal communication over physical communication?

If your answer is YES:  Left-brain thinkers (logic) love to work things out by talking.

If your answer is NO:  Right-brain thinkers (creative) believe actions speak louder than words.

4)  Would you rather draw pictures freehand instead of putting together a model airplane?

If your answer is YES:  Those who are right-brained (creative) are not fans of tremendous structure and prefer having some creativity at work.

If your answer is NO:  Those who are left-brained (logic) are in need of structure and prefer having specific guidelines at work.

5)  Do you like being in groups more than being alone? (this goes along with question #2)

If your answer is YES:  Group oriented people are usually right-brained (creative).

If your answer is NO:  Loners are usually left-brained (logic).

6)  When given instructions, are lots of pictures easier to understand than text?

If your answer is YES:  Right-brained (creative) people love picture explanations.

If your answer is NO:  Left-brained (logic) people much prefer text explanations.

7)  Have you noticed that you're better at providing the details and necessary information for a project than coming up with the initial idea?

If your answer is YES:  Left-brained (logic) are more into processing information and details than being involved in the creative process.

If your answer is NO:  Right-brained (creative) are more interested in the initial creative process rather than the information gathering.

8)  Do you need a quiet environment when you are working?

If your answer is YES:  Left-brain (logic) people usually need quiet environments.

If your answer is NO:  Right-brain (creative) people don't mind a bustling background as they work.

9)  Would you enjoy helping someone solve a relationship problem more than a math problem?

If your answer is YES:  Solving relationship problems is a natural for right-brain thinkers (creative).

If your answer is NO:  Solving math and technical problems is right up the alley of the left-brained (logic).

10)  If you were a writer, would you prefer to write non-fiction books instead of fiction?

If your answer is YES:  The left-brained (logic) are obsessed with details and truth.

If your answer is NO:  The right-brained (creative) are more imaginative.

As I said, there are one or two of the conclusions that I disagree with.  How about you?

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Things NOT To Say At A Job Interview and Six Red Flags That Say Perhaps That Job Isn't For You

We all know that going on a job interview is cause for varying degrees of anxiety.  We're uncomfortable, very concerned about making a good impression both personally and with our resume and work history.  Saying the wrong thing…misspeaking…is upper in our mind.

All of this discomfort is part of the process.  But, there are those who go beyond the bounds of mere jittery nerves.  The following comments were actually said during the course of a job interview.

Q:  Why did you leave your last job?

A:  "I have a problem with authority."

Q:  Why should we hire you?

A:  "I would be a great asset to the events team because I party all the time."

Q:  Do you have any questions?

A:  "Cross dressing isn't a problem, is it?"

Q:  Why are you leaving your current job?

A:  "I was fired from my last job because they were forcing me to attend anger management classes."

Q:  Why do you want to work for us?

A:  "My old boss didn't like me, so one day I just left and never came back.  And here I am!"

Q:  What are your weaknesses? [related to job skills]

A:  "I get angry easily and I went to jail for domestic violence.  But I won't get mad at you."

Q:  When have you demonstrated leadership skills?

A:  "Well my best example would be in the world of online video gaming.  I pretty much run the show.  It takes a lot to do that."

Q:  Is there anything else I should know about you?

A:  "You should probably know I mud wrestle on the weekends."

Q:  When can you start?

A:  "I need to check with my mom on that one."

Q:  Have you submitted your two weeks' notice to your current employer?

A:  "What is two weeks' notice?  I've never quit a job before.  I've always been fired."

The following are random responses and comments made by job seekers at interviews.

"If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test?"

"When you do background checks on candidates, do things like public drunkenness arrests come up?"

"May I have a cup of coffee?  I think I may still be a little drunk from last night."

And finally…

[During a telephone call to schedule the interview]  "Can we meet next month?  I am currently incarcerated."

While we put a lot of effort into that all important job hunt, we should not be so anxious to land a job…any job…that we ignore those red flags trying to tell us this might not be the best place to work.

While those red flags might be flying during your interview, you could be so busy talking about how well you work with your team or bragging about your killer sales record that you don't see them flapping in the wind trying to get your attention. Or you pretend you don't see them. You pretend you don't hear the interviewer complain about a colleague or working long hours. Or you decide it's no big deal that she interrupted your interview twice to take a call.

If getting the job means a large pay increase, or if you've been looking for a job for quite a while with no luck, you're more likely to ignore the signs. But if you don't want to be job hunting again in a few months, you need to pay attention to those red flags.

The good news is that there are usually clues during the interview process that you could be heading for trouble. Spot any of these signs, and you may want to turn down that job offer you've been seeking.

Your interviewer is late. Being a few minutes late for an interview is no big deal. However, if someone is 15 or 20 minutes late, that deserves some added attention on your part especially if your interviewer doesn't appear to care. Being on time is a sign of respect for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

And rescheduling your interview a few times doesn't bode well, either. Your interviewer might be overworked or disorganized, and you really don't want to work in that type of situation and atmosphere.

Your interviewer hasn't reviewed your résumé. If the hiring manager isn't familiar with your background, you have to wonder why you're being interviewed at all. If the person who is doing the hiring hasn't taken the time to read your résumé then that person isn't doing their job.

Ideally, the hiring manager and your potential boss will have called you in because they've carefully read and discussed your résumé and read your online profiles. If they haven't done this, they're not invested enough in bringing in the right person, or they're just desperate to hire someone…anyone.

There's confusion about the position. Sometimes you get called in for an interview through a referral or because you have a great résumé, and the manager is trying to figure out where you fit. You may wind up getting hired, but the job you get might not be best suited to you.

Taking a job because you like the company or the manager isn't enough. Try to pin down specifics about what you will do and how you will be evaluated. Can't get any information? Perhaps it's best to walk away.

Your interviewer checks email and texts. It's just too rude. Your interviewer should be paying attention to the interview, not checking his cell phone. And if someone is that uninterested in what you are saying, there's a good chance that you won't be hired anyway.

The department has a lot of turnover. During your interview, ask why the previous employee in that position resigned, as well as how long that employee had been in that specific job and how long with the company. When you meet other team members, ask them about their career paths.

If many team members are recent hires, be sure there is a sound business reason for the hiring spree, such as a new product or client or a round of funding. Otherwise, too much employee turnover hints at a toxic boss, culture, or work atmosphere.

You hear negative comments about the job situation you're interested in or read them online. If your interviewer criticizes the person you will be replacing, other team members, a boss or even the company in general, don't disregard it as unimportant. It isn't professional, and it might mean you will be working for someone who doesn't respect other people or is impossible to please.

Pay attention to negative comments in online reviews of the company as well. A few negative reviews are one thing—there are always a few disgruntled employees. But if there are many such comments, consider yourself warned. Look for patterns in the comments, too. If the same negative words or phrases pop up in many reviews, such as political, lacking vision or endless hours, the problem might be the general atmosphere or the leadership, rather than a single manager.

So, with all of this information at your fingertips…good luck with the job search!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

5 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER PUT ON YOUR RESUMÉ


I think of doing a resumé when job hunting to be similar to writing a synopsis of your story before writing the manuscript…a dreaded task that no one wants to do but it's necessary.

With a synopsis you need to convey the storyline, who your main characters are, their conflict and how it's resolved, and the emotion that fits into the story—providing an editor with the feel of your story as well as the events that take place. And the catch that makes it a daunting task? Trying to fit all that into the very limited number of pages as set forth by the publisher without it reading like an impersonal listing of items.

A similar problem exists when putting together a resumé. I've heard it said that a resumé should never be more than one page long, therefore brevity is a must. But on the other hand, you need to provide a prospective employer with a clear picture of your qualifications and experience.

So, what do you put in and what do you leave out?

I recently came across a list of 5 things you should not put on your resumé which I'd like to share with you.

Your Age:

People doing the hiring need to know what you can bring to the company rather than how many years you've been alive. I think it's actually illegal in the U.S. for a prospective employer to ask the age of anyone 18 years of age up to the retirement age. And along with listing your specific age goes the following no-no items:

            Listing professional experience more than 15 years old.

            Providing an exact number of years of professional experience in your opening summary. For example: 'senior accountant with more than 25 years of experience in...'  According to experts, this type of data invites age discrimination. And don't forget that age bias goes both ways—a resume that says you are too young for the job isn't to your advantage, either.

Listing Tasks or Duties Without Results:

Your resumé needs to go beyond listing the jobs you've done: It must convey what you've accomplished on those jobs. Many applicants miss this key distinction. Saying you reorganized the filing system conveys the task but that's all. But saying that you increased office productivity 20% by reorganizing the filing system conveys both the task an positive results.

Explanations of Anything Negative

A resumé needs to present a positive picture of the person applying for a job. If there's something negative that needs explaining, do it in person at your interview rather than in your resumé.

A List of Every Job You've Ever Held

Prospective employers don't want to know about that summer job you had—unless you're applying for a job where that specific experience is relevant. List the work you've done in the past 10 to 15 years that tells an employer you're a skilled, reliable fit for the job. However (tricky line here), employers don't want to see gaps in your employment history so you need to account for that time.

Personal Details

Employers usually don't care about your marital status, race, sexual orientation or hobbies, unless they are somehow relevant to the job. Including personal data is a novice mistake. Your resumé is just the first step in securing a job. At this phase of the process, those personal details aren't necessary. Today's job seeker usually sends a resumé via email and that means there's no way to know exactly who or how many people will see it. With identity theft becoming a larger and larger problem, you need to protect your personal information from anonymous eyes.

And here's a few more quick tips:

Make sure your resumé is free of typos, grammar goofs, and factual errors (like getting a company's name wrong).

Don't list your salary history unless the employer demands it.

Don't worry about providing references on your resumé. You can do that in a separate document.

Good luck on the job hunt. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

10 Incredible Scientific Discoveries About Dogs

Dogs—commonly referred to as man's best friend. Somewhere between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago, dogs were among the first of the animals to be domesticated by man and are well known for being loving and loyal. They also have many lesser-known and quite fascinating traits.

Here's a list of 10 of those qualities.

10) They have 3 eyelids. Like people, dogs have top and bottom ones that move up and down. They also have one that originates in the corner of the eye and moves side to side. Its purpose is to clear mucus and debris from the eye, something we humans do with our hands.

9) Dogs really do love their humans. MRI scans reveal that when presented with the scents of various people and canines, the reward centers of the dog's brain is most responsive to the aromas of their human companions.

8) They're just as smart as toddlers. Specially designed IQ tests show that dogs' capabilities are on par with the typical 2-year-old. That means they're capable of learning over 150 words and gestures.

7) Dog paws often smell like snack foods. There's some debate as to whether the particular scent is popcorn or corn chips, but either way the cause of it has been linked to a bacteria dogs pick up while walking.

6) Canines possess the ability of night vision. It's not on the same level as cats, but it is superior to that of humans. A dog's pupils are larger and their central retinas have more cells dedicated to light sensitivity than to color detection. That gives them an upper hand when it comes to making out objects in dim light.

5) Every nose is unique. The Canadian Kennel Club has been using nose prints as a means of individual identification since the 1930s and many organizations have followed suit.

4) They most likely dream. Proof isn't at the 100 percent mark, but there is an abundance of support backing the claim. Much of it is based on brain attributes and behaviors that dogs and humans share. Among them are structure and the occurrence of electrical impulses during the deep sleep stage.

3) Fur isn't just about warmth. In the summer it acts as insulation, keeping heat from reaching their bodies. Fur also protects their skin from the sun's damaging rays.

2) They really do listen when you talk. Even better, they've been shown to understand a lot of what's being said. Though they're not able to decipher the words, dogs can interpret certain sounds and the message's overall emotional tone.

1) Dogs aren't nearly as sweaty as humans. That's largely because rather than having sweat glands all over the bodies, as people do, dogs only have them in their paws. To cool off, they rely mostly on panting. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Cats Have Super, Psychedelic Vision

Science has known that birds, insects, reptiles, and fish can detect ultraviolet light. Recent studies show that more animals share this ability than originally believed. A new study shows that cats and dogs may be able to see UV, too.

Cats are nocturnal and have been thought of as being able to see in the dark. They have long been a symbol of the mysterious. It's now believed they can see things invisible to humans such as psychedelic stripes on flowers and flashy patterned feathers on birds. The secret to this is ultraviolet light detection, an ability shared by many animals but not humans. Snow reflects UV but white fur does not, allowing reindeer to see polar bears at a distance. Humans would just see a blur of all white.

It is assumed that most mammals do not see UV because they have no visual pigment sensitive to UV. They have lenses like those of man that prevent UV from reaching the retina. Certain people, such as those who have had their lenses replaced during cataract surgery, can see some UV, but most humans cannot.

Humans are good at seeing detail. If we didn't have a lens that removed the UV so that we don't see it, the world would appear more blurry.

Next week I'll share some facts about dogs. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

March Bizarre and Unique Holidays

Just like all the other months, March has its share of bizarre, unusual, and unique holidays.  March also has month long celebrations:  Music in Our Schools Month, National Craft Month, National Frozen Food Month, National Irish American Heritage Month (designated by Congress in 1995), National Nutrition Month, National Peanut Month, National Women's History Month, Red Cross Month, and Social Workers Month.

In addition to the month long celebrations, March also has some week long celebrations.  The second week in March is host to two celebrations: National Bubble Week and also Crochet Week.

March 1          National Pig Day

March 1          Peanut Butter Lovers Day

March 2          Old Stuff Day—When asking someone "What's new?" or "What's happening?" you quite often get the stock answer of "Same old stuff."  Old Stuff Day is in recognition of that standard answer indicating a boring life.  This is a day to NOT do the same old stuff and perpetuate your boring routine.  Do something…anything…as long as it's different.

March 3          I Want You To Be Happy Day

March 3          If Pets Had Thumbs Day

March 3          National Anthem Day

March 3          Peach Blossom Day

March 4          Holy Experiment Day

March 4          Hug A GI Day—Give a big hug to any and all GIs you see today.  It's a small thanks to the men and women who serve their country.

March 5          Multiple Personality Day.

March 5          Employee Appreciation Day (the first Friday in March)

March 5          National Salesperson Day (the first Friday in March)

March 6          Dentist's Day

March 6          National Frozen Food Day

March 7          National Crown Roast Of Pork Day

March 8          Be Nasty Day

March 8          International (Working) Women's Day

March 9          Panic Day—Try to stay calm.  Take a deep breath.  Will you be able to handle today?  Don't worry or fret and, above all, don't panic.

March 10        Middle Name Pride Day

March 11        Johnny Appleseed Day

March 11        Worship of Tools Day

March 12        Girl Scout Day

March 12        Plant A Flower Day

March 13        Ear Muff Day—This seems to be doubly appropriate given all the cold, snowy, and icy weather we've had this winter.  In addition to keeping your ears warm, they protect you from ear infections and ear aches resulting from icy cold wind and weather.  They come in a variety of designs and colors to fit almost anyone's personality.

March 13        Jewel Day

March 13        Popcorn Lovers Day

March 14        Learn About Butterflies Day

March 14        National Potato Chip Day

March 14        National Pi Day—celebrated on 3.14, which is the value of Pi.

March 15        Everything You Think Is Wrong Day—always celebrated March 15.  This is the day when nothing goes right and we've all had those days.  This is a special day to recognize that everyone has the occasional bad day.

March 15        Ides Of March, as made famous by Shakespeare when the soothsayer says to Caesar, Beware the Ides of March.

March 15        Incredible Kid Day

March 15        Dumbstruck Day—This is the day to be dumbstruck over the things you see, hear, and read.  Today is the day to be dumbstruck like the rest of us without guilt or embarrassment.

March 16        National Quilting Day

March 16        Everything You Do Is Right Day—This could be the perfect day.  Some days are good, some are bad, and most are a combination of both good and bad.  Today is the opposite of yesterday…Everything You Think Is Wrong Day.

March 16        Freedom Of Information Day

March 17        Submarine Day (the sandwich or the boat? Perhaps both.)

March 17        St. Patrick's Day

March 18        Goddess of Fertility Day

March 18        supreme Sacrifice Day

March 19        Poultry Day

March 20        International Earth Day

March 20        Extraterrestrial Abductions Day—Keep an eye on the skies and be ready to duck and hide.  Celebrate today by reading and watching science fiction stories about UFOs, but be sure to keep out of sight…just in case.

March 20        Proposal Day

March 21        Fragrance Day

March 22        National Goof Off Day

March 23        National Chip And Dip Day

March 23        Near Miss Day

March 24        National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day

March 25        National Agriculture Day (date varies)

March 25        Pecan Day

March 25        Waffle Day

March 26        Make Up Your Own Holiday Day—The object of this day is to allow one day for a topic or event of your choice that has otherwise escaped special recognition.  Simply declare this to be whatever special holiday you wish.

March 27        National "Joe" Day

March 28        Something On A Stick Day

March 29        National Mom And Pop Business Owners Day

March 29        Smoke And Mirrors Day

March 30        National Doctors Day

March 30        I Am In Control Day—This day is closely related to March 9th Panic Day.  Perhaps you went through Panic Day before getting things under control and now you're celebrating.

March 30        Take A Walk In The Park Day

March 31        Bunsen Burner Day

March 31        National Clam On The Half Shell Day—Thank goodness someone thought to create this holiday.  Don't hide in your shell today and don't clam up.  Get out and celebrate!