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Shop Talk

The Effects of Moving on Children and Some Ways to Cope

-- by Dan the Moving Man

One seldom discussed aspect of moving is its potential negative effects on children. Recent studies have shown that moving can cause emotional distress as well as lowered academic performance in children.

Indeed, when children have to move, they are uprooted: friendships are torn, they are displaced from familiar routines and surroundings, and life can seem tragic and unfair. And the stress can be multiplied if they have to leave beloved pets behind.

So what are the consequences of moving on children, and what can be done to soften those effects?

According to a study by the MacArthur Foundation, moving can degrade children’s school performance and their social skills. It also found that these effects are cumulative in children who move multiple times, putting them at greater risk. Moves that required changing schools produced more profound negative effects than moves in which the child could remain in the same school. And children who moved earlier in life (early childhood through middle school) were more deeply affected by moving than those who moved in high school.

Moving Companies What can be done to reduce or even ameliorate these negative effects?

The Department of Defense school system has a program that has some good features. Students who are leaving a school are provided with a farewell package consisting of a memory book made by students and teachers to let departing students know that they will be missed.

At the student’s new school, teachers prepare their students to welcome the new student, and a counselor will meet with the new student on the student’s first day at school.

Five San Diego school districts teamed with the Engineering and Social Work Departments at the University of Southern California to develop a mobile app that connects incoming students of military families with groups and individuals who can assist them with their transition to their new home.

This brings up a very important point. In an article in Psychology Today, a professor of Psychology (who had moved 10 times during the first 25 years of her marriage) recommended using technology to help soften the blow of moving.

She pointed out how using social media to stay connected and using webcam technology to show one’s new digs on a real-time basis could keep old relationships vital in a way that was never possible in the past. They could even play on-line games, and games like chess and checkers.

Such technologies could be used in a pro-active way, too. Google Earth could show new homes and neighborhoods, and internet searches could also show local hobbyists’ and special interest groups’ locations, history, meeting schedules, pictures of members and of past events, etc. This might even generate some enthusiasm for moving.

As for small children, you might involve them by having them package and label some of their precious belongings, with plenty of supervision, of course. But involving them organically might help them to feel that they have more control over their lives and circumstances, which could be very important at this juncture. And they, too, could take full advantage of the webcam and certain social media features to stay in touch with old friends.

These technologies can help to take the sting out of moving and even make it a positive experience. In some ways, the applications are limited only by one’s imagination.

There are also some old fashioned ways to make parting less painful, such as having a party for your children and their friends. Be sure to take lots of pix and videos.

Hopefully, these tips will help to ease the trauma of moving for your children. But nothing beats understanding your child’s pain and letting them know that you care, and then giving them a big hug.

Shop Talk

Tips and Pointers for a for a Better Move

-- by Dan the Moving Man

Welcome to the first edition of Shop Talk, where you can learn more about the nuts and bolts of planning and completing a move.

Every week, we’ll cover such topics as packing fragile items, how to do-it-yourself (and not “damage-it-yourself), insurance matters, reducing the psychological stress of moving for children, and other such subjects.

We’ve already discussed the issue of whether to use two or three movers for your move and what the cost/benefit ratios are for each particular situation.

In this edition, we’ll look at some ways you can save money if you do part of the labor yourself.

First of all, there’s the full service move – the most expensive option – where you leave the packing, disassembly, loading, driving, unloading, unpacking, and re-assembly to the moving company.

Moving Companies The least expensive option (if done right, otherwise it can be a much more expensive and time-wasting nightmare) is to rent a truck yourself and do all the packing, loading, driving, etc., yourself. Just be certain to get a truck that’s large enough to hold all of your goods, and know all the laws pertaining to hazardous materials (i.e., you can’t transport hazardous materials, period), transport of live plants or of fruit and vegetables, and crossing state lines if you’re going to do that.

Probably the best option for saving time and money and still keeping your goods and yourself safe is a hybrid option, where you do most of the packing and disassembly (be certain to tape hardware such as screws in a secure plastic bag to the underside of the item disassembled, and mark it just to be safe). You then leave the packaging of fragile and heavy items to the moving company, as well as the loading.

Loading requires some expertise to ensure safe handling of the truck on the road (avoiding unbalanced loads that will cause you to tip over when you’re negotiating sharp curves, especially while going downhill, or anchoring heavy items so they don’t jiggle loose and smash into other items, etc.).

Unloading typically requires much less skill than loading, but re-assembly of certain items can be frustrating and physically demanding, such as in the case of certain furniture items, playground equipment, gazebos, etc. And it must be stressed again: be certain to tape hardware in a plastic bag securely to the underside of the item from which it was taken. And mark the bag just to be sure in case it’s accidentally pulled off.

If you have some items that are tricky to assemble or very heavy or bulky, you will be better off having the professional movers helping you throughout your move. You can still economize quite a bit by packaging all the “easy” stuff yourself and marking it clearly as to what’s inside and what room you want it to go into at your new destination.

Some items that are fragile should probably also be packed by professional movers, such as breakable plates and glasses. The most common mistake that most Do-It-Yourselfers make is stacking plates on top of each other. Even with a good amount of paper, you’re likely to end up with a lot of broken plates.

Plates should be wrapped in paper (such as blank newsprint) and then stacked on their edges as in a dish drainer rack, only without the “lean” or angle that you have in a drainer. They should be upright and resting on a bed of crumpled paper in the bottom of the box that they’re going into. Also put crumpled paper around the sides and top to fill any empty spaces. This will prevent plates from jarring loose and striking other plates

Glasses should be put into special boxes that have separate cells bordered with corrugated cardboard and with thin foam covers that slip over each glass. You can purchase boxes made just for this purpose from Uhaul or from Moving Connections.

Glass desktops and tabletops, etc., can explode spontaneously (just do a search for “exploding glass tables” on YouTube to see), and they can do this also as they’re being carried. It’s best to leave such items to professionals. While safety glass tends to break into thousands of small pieces, other kinds of glass can break under their own weight (especially when handled incorrectly) and can act as a huge guillotine, shearing a limb clean off. To prevent this catastrophe, let the professionals handle these things.

As a rule, anything with glass in it should be left to professionals, and that includes paintings.

However, there are many things that amateurs can pack well, and to help you do that, some moving companies sell moving kits with an assortment of boxes (small boxes for books and other heavy things, medium boxes for things that are not so heavy, and large boxes for light things, such as comforters and pillows. They even have wardrobe boxes, which are tall boxes that have metal bars for hanging clothing on. Some have used these to ship small chandeliers.

Be certain to mark each box clearly. You might even want to purchase large white adhesive labels to make them stand out.

If you follow these tips, you should get the most bang for your buck.

Remember, the more labor you do, the more you save. But leave the dangerous and fragile items to the professionals.

Shop Talk

How to Enhance Your Landscaping

-- by Dan the Moving Man



A law enforcement officer in a small town had nagging reservations about charging a man with attempted murder of his wife. She had been taken to the hospital in very poor condition, and was found to have lethal amounts of arsenic in her system. She didn’t know how she could have gotten such a thing in her bloodstream, so naturally, the husband became a prime suspect immediately.

However, the sheriff decided to hold off before charging the man, who seemed to a good natured man who had a happy marriage. So the sheriff called an FBI expert with decades of experience in poisoning cases. The FBI lab technician laughed when he asked, “Well, have you tested her husband for arsenic yet,” and the sheriff answered, “No.” So the technician suggested they test the husband.

They tested the husband and found that the levels of arsenic in his system were well above his wife’s, but he had a much higher resistance to it. A very short investigation ensued and they found that the couple had been working on a large backyard deck and that neither had used masks while sawing the pressure treated wood used for the project. The sawdust was what had given both of them lethal levels of arsenic poisoning.

The couple now use approved masks when sawing pressure treated wood.

Good landscaping can not only make your house look stunning, but it can increase the market value of your home substantially. It might be a good thing to look into a touch up of your landscaping before you sell your home.

Moving Companies There are a lot of misunderstandings and even myths about landscaping, and unfortunately, this seems to be true even of landscape architects.

The first myth is, “Don’t make your landscaping formal.” This is wrong and demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the most fundamental concept of landscaping: your landscaping should match your architecture.If your architecture is formal, then your landscaping should be formal. Period.

In fact, one of the most common mistakes that people make in landscaping is that they use materials that are exceedingly informal (grubby), namely, railroad ties.

The creosote in them, if still wet, will destroy any item of clothing that touches them. Creosote also leaches into the soil so that you absolutely should not eat anything grown near railroad ties or “downstream” from them.

Creosote smells bad, too, especially on hot days.

Unless your house is made of railroad ties (or something like them), your landscaping should not include them. In addition, they are technically illegal to use in landscaping according to the EPA, but enforcement is non-existent, so old railroad ties are sold as landscaping materials, even at the national chain “big box” stores.

If you must use wood, there are at least two commonly used woods that are naturally rot-resistant: cedar and redwood. Although the sawdust from these (and the oils in cedar) can cause allergic and other negative reactions, they are generally regarded as being safe and are recommended for use as borders for vegetable gardens. And cedar is particularly beautiful. But don’t use any treated woods, as these are usually infused with toxic ingredients, often arsenic.

If you want a more rustic, informal look, consider rough granite slabs or some other kind of stone slabs that can section off a garden or other area without sharp geometric lines. These can be pricey (and heavy), but they’re well worth the money and effort when you consider their beauty, their durability, and the fact that you won’t poison your family if you feed them strawberries grown near them.

It might be best to do an image search for “granite slabs for landscaping” or “stone slabs for landscaping” to get some ideas of how to use them, and then add your own touch. And you can always use the internet for landscaping ideas. Just make certain that they’re good ideas.

In the next two or three weeks, we will have some more ideas for landscaping, such as “Xeroscaping Does NOT Have to Look Like an Abandoned Gravel Pit”, “How to Use Contrast for a Stunning Effect” and “Making a Beautiful and Accessible Herb Garden.”

Shop Talk

Xeriscaping Does Not Have to Look Like an Abandoned Gravel Pit

-- By Dan Grover



If you’re ever at Smith’s Food at 8th South and 9th East in Salt Lake City, look at the tall tree right on the corner. Notice that it’s planted directly under some very high power lines, and that they’ve cut away much of its foliage in order to prevent it from touching the lines. Planting that tree there was a blunder, especially when you consider the species of tree that it is. It’s a Giant Sequoia.

There’s also a small Giant Sequoia growing in postage-stamp sized front yard across the street from Liberty Park, along with some other trees. Fortunately, they grow very slowly here in Northern Utah

Xeriscaping has come a long way in the past forty years or so, but many such “xeriscapes” still look bland or perfunctory, like a gravel pit that was abandoned decades earlier and weeds have sprung up there. The reason for this is that many people, including some landscape architects or contractors, don’t understand simple, basic principles for xeriscaping, such as use of color, proper design techniques, and what type of plants to use.

Of course, the stated reason for xeriscaping is water conservation, but we all know the real reason: husbands don’t want to mow lawns. Still, we will pay attention to the concept of reducing water usage. Let’s first take a look at a good example of what xeriscaping should be. In this picture, what is the overriding factor that makes this good landscaping? That’s right, it’s the first principle of landscaping: your landscaping should match your architecture.

Moving CompaniesIt also employs some techniques of the use of space to draw the eye in certain directions.

Notice the effect created by the sinuous stone curb in front, the planter on the pedestal in mid ground towards the right, and themission tile roofs beyond. The large boulder on the left lends balance to the structure and actually draws attention to it, almost like a klieg light highlighting it. The walkway beyond makes a neat, but not too crisp border.

Also, the plants are not evenly spaced, but are more clustered and varied to add a natural look to it. The tree overarching all ties it together and gives it a vibrant unity that makes it even more attractive. With regards to color selections – and this is where many landscapes fail – they have used pebbles of the perfect hue to create a pleasant sweeping effect that draws the eye to the home. It creates a very pleasant, natural picture.

“Bravo” to TLC, The Tree and Landscape Company, a Division of Firewise Landscapes, Inc., located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You can visit their website at from

When selecting the “hardware” (pebbles and rocks) for your xeriscaping, think of earth tones and subdued colors, such as rust, dusty pink, beige, and light rose.You’ll probably find very nice pebble assortments with names such as “Peaches and Cream” if you search online. These can be excellent to make your xeriscaping vibrant and colorful without being gaudy.

Avoid gray pebbles, unless you’re using a particular shade to contrast with the greens and blues of succulents and other plants. But first be certain that the pebbles you choose go well with the color of your architecture. They should provide a nice complement to it and offset it in an attractive way.Remember, the plants you use should contrast nicely with the color of your architecture. Unless you have a very particular effect that you want to employ, and you know what you are doing, avoid using plants that are close to the color of the structures in their nearby background.

In other words, putting a Red Japanese Lace Leaf Maple right in front of a red brick structure is a mistake. Light green would be a much better color, as it stands out and allows its beauty to show. The red maple would be spectacular before a yellow or white background. So keep this in mind when you’re planning, because it is one of the most essential principles of successful landscaping, and one that even some professionals lose sight of. Use plants and rocks in clusters. Don’t space them evenly as this makes your landscape look utilitarian at best, and like a loosely strewn weed patch at worst..

Also, imagine how your largest accent plants are going to appear from various angles and distances. This is also essential to good planning as it will help you to avoid blunders. Temporarily select a spot for your shrub or tree in your mind, then imagine how it will look when you’re 5 feet away, 15 feet, 40 feet, and 60 feet away. Do this at sharp as well as at shallow angles, and be certain to look up to see if there’s anything low enough to hinder the plant’s growth or that would make it unadvisable to plant it there.

Avoid totally geometric shapes in your landscaping. Break up the monotony by making gradual curves (or tight curves, if they work well in a particular spot). If you have a long stretch with a straight line border on one, two, or three sides, try making the remaining side(s) a sinuous line. While curving lines can make maintenance a bit more tedious for turf (think of mowing), there is no additional stress for caretakers with xeriscaping because there is no maintenance, outside of some minor weeding here and there.

If you want to employ a professional, then check them out online. Look at their work and see if you like it. Also check reviews from their previous customers. And check out plants that grow in arid climates that are available in your area. Look at your architecture, the colors of the background (i.e., structures and fences/walls), and imagine what would look good against their colors.

Do an image search for “xeriscapes” and select one or a few that you like and see how you would modify them to make them work for your residence.

When you’ve formed an idea of how you want your landscaping to look, then contact a professional and let them know your ideas. If you wish, you can get some graph paper and colored pencils and draw your ideas, and then take them with you.

Of course, you can do it yourself, but planning and laying out drip irrigation lines could be a bit tricky, especially if you have some slopes and large areas. In such cases, it might be best to leave it to the pros.And work closely with them to be certain you get the look you want.

Shop Talk

Herbs: The Useful Plants

-- By Dan the Moving Man

I recently went into a large local grocery store to purchase some sage for the meatballs I was making. When I got to the spice counter, I could hardly believe my eyes: $8.50 for a very small bottle of ground sage.

Since I have grown sage in my own herb garden in the past, I knew that the amount of sage in the bottle was only perhaps 8-10 leaves, dried and ground up, and there are many, many leaves on a single sage plant (note: this is not the same sage that you see growing on the hillsides). And you can get multiple “harvests” from each plant during a single growing season.

I also checked the price of basil in the refrigerated section and they nearly had to call an ambulance because I went into sticker shock. Stevia, the sugar substitute, is another costly item.

The ironic thing is this and other grocery stores sell these same items as live plants that you can grow in your own garden. You’ll find them outside the front doors of the stores in Spring and early Summer.

Just remember that herbs generally love lots of sun. And you’ll have to dry and grind some of them according to their use in foods, but that can be fun. That’s what kids are for. Plus you can sell it to in-laws and neighbors, and make some money on the side J

There are also herbs that you can use freshly cut, such as rosemary, thyme, chives, basil, and a lot of others. There’s nothing like getting some garlic and butter, with some rosemary and thyme, and basting a Cornish hen and rubbing the herbs under the skin, then baking it. Or cutting some fresh chives right outside your kitchen door, rinsing them, and adding them to an omelet for your breakfast.

In addition, if you grow your own herbs, you can select them according to your particular tastes: there are many different flavors of basil, for instance, lemon, licorice (anise or Thai), and cinnamon.

I had five different kinds of basil growing in my tiny herb garden in the mountains of Western Maine. The cinnamon basil was particularly robust, having somewhat thick, woody stems and a nice bushy appearance at the end of the very short 60-day (nope, not even 61-day, just 60-day) growing season there. I think I could have had several harvests of cinnamon basil leaves in that short season.

Although herbs are classified into three main categories – medicinal, sacred, and culinary, they probably should have two additional categories: ornamental and fragrant. Pineapple sage is traditionally used for cooking, baking, and beverages, and even its flowers are edible. But with its green foliage and long, cylindrical bright red blossoms arrayed around tall, slender spikes, it’s a very showy shrub that can be a garden accent or they can be arranged to make a low informal hedge along a back yard walkway.

Moving Companies On picture is Pineapple Sage, both beautiful and delicious. The flowers are edible too.

And scented geraniums come in many wonderful fragrances, such as almond, white oak, lemon, etc. They feature more than 200 such fragrances and look like miniature geranium plants with crenelated leaves. These could be classified as ornamental and fragrant herbs, too.

Sweet marjoram is another very pleasant smelling herb with culinary applications. It’s also good for attracting bees and butterflies.

And some herbs (plants whose foliage is useful) are also spices (plants whose seeds or other parts are useful for flavorings or fragrances). Cilantro is the leaves of the cilantro plant, while coriander comes from the seeds of the same plant. While the seeds can have a nice citrus fragrance, the plant while growing can have an unpleasant scent.

As these culinary herbs become astronomical in price, it might be wise to add a small herb garden in the back yard of your new home. Be certain that it’s in a place that gets a lot of sunlight. And learn the needs of each herb as you would any plant, with regards to watering, soil preferences, and sunlight.

Shop Talk

Protect Your Eyes

-- By Dan the Moving Man

All of us have heard admonitions about protecting our skin against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB (UltraViolet A and B) rays to prevent skin cancer, but there still seems to be confusion about how harmful these rays can be to our eyes and how best to protect them.

The UV rays from the sun can contribute to macular degeneration and cataracts, two of the most common eye diseases. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults. And eyes unprotected from the sun can also develop cataracts, which are cloudy spots in the lenses of your eyes. In addition, exposure to sunlight can cause cancer of the eyelids.

Damage to the eyes and skin is cumulative and irreversible. So the sooner you start protecting your skin and eyes from the harmful rays of the sun, the better.

You might think that if your eyes are in the shade, they need no protection from sunlight. This isn’t true. Indirect light from the sun can still be harmful to your eyes, even if they’re shaded from a hat, a tree, etc. This depends on how much of the UV rays are reflected from surfaces, such as water, snow, sand, and paved surfaces, as well as from the sky itself. The rule of thumb is, the more sky you can see – even if you’re in a shady spot – the more harmful rays can reach your eyes.

One of the first things to do, then, is to purchase a good pair of sunglasses. But how can you determine which pair is best? Do “you get what you pay for” when you buy sunglasses, or, in other words, do sunglasses get better according to price? How much does the darkness of the tint have to do with UVA/UVB protection? These questions are answered below.

First of all, make certain that the sunglasses you buy offer UVA and UVB protection. How can you tell if they do? Well, it’s not a matter of how dark the tint is. That has nothing to do with it. The coating that goes on glasses to make them UV proof is actually clear. So don’t think that you have good shielding from harmful sunlight just because you have dark glasses.

Nor is it a matter of price. The CBS Early Show tested 31 pairs of sunglasses ranging in price from $5.00 to $200.00, and all but one pair offered 100% UVA and UVB protection. The $5.00 pair offered 100% protection as did the $200.00 pair of Versace glasses. The one pair that failed was said to be more dangerous (from the standpoint of UVA and UVB damage to the eyes) than not wearing any sunglasses at all, because the tint of the glasses would cause your pupils to dilate, allowing more of the damaging rays into your eyes.

So how can you know if the glasses you’re looking to buy have good UV protection?

Moving Companies One way is to check the tag attached to your sunglasses to see what the EPF (Eye Protection Factor) is. If it’s 9 or 10, it means that those glasses block out at least 95% of the sun’s UV rays, and these are a good choice. But buy sunglasses that have this rating and also are wraparound or are close fitting with wide lenses to prevent UV rays from entering from the sides and reflecting off of your lenses and into your eyes.

Another way is to contact an optometrist or optometry center to see if they will test your glasses. It’s a very quick test (2-4 seconds) and they shouldn’t charge you for it. UV protection can wear off with time, too, so if you have a good pair of sunglasses that are a few years old it would be a good to have them checked.

Another danger comes from glare. Horizontal glare – whether from ice, snow or water, or from the hoods of cars – can cause tragedies while driving. Drivers are temporarily blinded by intense reflected light from flat or large curved surfaces and fail to see a pedestrian, a red traffic light, or an oncoming car.

If you want to reduce glare, then purchase sunglasses that are polarized. Polarized lenses block out horizontal light, which is the glare usually associated with tragedies while driving (or walking).

A quick way to see if your lenses are polarized is to turn on your computer and then put on your sunglasses. Set your screen to its highest brightness and go to a screen that is white or that has a lot of white in it. It’s best to have your screen at eye level when you do this. Now, tilt your head slowly to the right 60 degrees and to the left 60 degrees. If the screen gets dark when you tilt it, your lenses are polarized. If it doesn’t, then your lenses are not polarized and will not cancel out horizontal glare.

If you’re hiking or working and can’t get under some deep shade, then it’s best to wear broad-brimmed hats and UV protective sunglasses. And wear sun screen to protect your skin, too.

Shop Talk

The Future of Drones and Robots

-- By Dan the Moving Man



Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers an online non-engineering Bachelor’s Degree in Unmanned Systems Applications (Drones), as well as a two-year online Master’s Degree in Unmanned Systems. They also offer relatedengineeringdegrees in robotics and mechatronics at their Florida and Arizona campuses as well as one online Engineering degree.

There are many other top-notch universities that will prepare students for a future in robotics and autonomous unmanned vehicles, and not only aerial and aerospace vehicles, but also maritime and terrestrial vehicles. M.I.T. offers free online engineering courses. You still have to pay for textbooks, workbooks and related materials, and you don’t receive grades or credit, but you get the lectures, quizzes, tests, etc., absolutely free, and this includes every science and engineering course they have, all the way through Ph.D. So if it’s just the knowledge you want, and you work well independently, check out this incredible opportunity for learning.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence to go to a park for a walk or a barbecue and see a drone overhead. These popular toys have also been employed to make videos and post them on YouTube or other websites. And they’ve been the subject of controversy as they have been used to harass people in their own fenced back yards, and municipalities struggle to cope with these menaces using existing laws that never anticipated this phenomenon. There are certain to be many murky legal waters to navigate as automation takes over more aspects of our lives. But one thing is clear: drones and robots are here to stay, and we will see more and more of them as time passes by.

Moving Companies Already, some warehouse jobs have been taken over by robots, and this is not just in the U.S., it’s also in the U.K., Japan, China, and other nations. Many U.S. Postal Service counter jobs will be taken over by machines in the not too distant future. No doubt there will still be a human here and there to help with unforeseen difficulties, but the great bulk of counter work will be done by robotic devices.

In addition, not just manufacturing and warehousing industries will be affected, but we’re on the verge of robotic farming of grains and vegetables, and even fruits. And it’s not just in the harvesting of these crops, it’s in the tilling, planting, fertilizing, weeding, and pest-killing phases of agriculture that we will see automation taking over in the next 5 – 10 years.

Prototype farming robots already plant hundreds of times faster than a human and also do a much better job. This reduces cost of seed drastically, and it also allows for better crop yields per acre.

Using artificial intelligence and machine vision, agricultural robots also apply insecticide only to weeds, and then use just enough of the chemicals to kill each individual weed without overspraying, which drastically reduces the runoff of these chemicals into waterways as compared to crop dusting.

The same applies to the use of fertilizers: the robots spray just enough, and on the plants and surrounding ground only, to give the plants the nutrients they need. Runoff of the chemicals is negligible compared to traditional methods.

There are also a number of companies who have begun delivery of goods to residences using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). At present, they are limited to very small payloads. But in the future, as technology permits and they become safer and more reliable, expect to see much more of this type of delivery system.

The FAA will have to come up with a whole lot of regulations to supervise these aircraft, of which flight lane allocation will be only one of the difficulties they encounter. But it’s probably a safe bet that the huge mega-corporations will get preferential treatment in this and associated areas.

In the meantime, look for cities worldwide to become more bicycle and pedestrian oriented as they try to combat the problems of air pollution and highway gridlock. There will also be much greater reliance on mass transit and carpooling, and this will likely be done mostly by driverless vehicles.

As far as the moving industry is concerned, it will take a bit longer to automate that, but driverless moving vans might be closer than you think. However, when it comes to going into your home and wrapping your furniture with stretch wrap and blankets, then taking these items to the truck and loading them correctly, that might be much further down the road. That’s better left to humans for the time being.

Of course, there’s going to be a collision between the growing workforce versus robots taking over many jobs, and it’s a potentially catastrophic situation. Will there be skyrocketing unemployment rates with rapidly dwindling tax revenues to compensate for jobless citizens? Will we see another Great Depression? Homelessness and hunger of monstrous proportions? Only time will tell, but getting an education or training in the area of robotics and mechatronics might not be a bad idea for young people looking for a stable future, or for older workers who would like to take an opportunity to retrain and reposition themselves for another career, before they lose their jobs to machines.

Shop Talk

Making Your Way in the Winter Wonderland

-- By Dan the Moving Man



Always carry some zip ties when you’re using cleats or microspikes. If a strap does happen to break (and this usually occurs when a chain breaks through the eye of the strap where they both connect), then all you have to do is put the tie around the metal chain and the rubber strap and pull it tight.

I’ve done this with the cheap aluminum small link chain that is sold on spools (by the inch) in hardware stores) and it worked perfectly in both cases. If you’re going to rely on chain, then make certain you have a pair of very small or needle nose pliers to bend the links open and closed. This is very difficult or impossible to do with your fingertips, especially in the freezing cold.

Unless you’re some kind of comic superhero, you’ve probably struggled with slipping, sliding, and falling as you have attempted to negotiate sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways in the winter. Some of these slips can be particularly nasty, resulting in a trip to the emergency room for stitches, braces, or even surgery and a long convalescence.

One thing that can help greatly are cleats or microspikes (like small pointed teeth) that fit over your shoes. A number of companies manufacture these and you can find them online or in stores, and there is wide variation in prices and quality (more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better or more durable).

Moving Companies The smaller cleats are made for walking on winter streets, roads, and other paved surfaces, while microspikes are good for snowy and icy hiking trails, and some off trail use. Crampons are for use by mountain climbers who need to tackle ice walls and similar obstacles.

I make several trips per week, in the evenings, up a small canyon east of Salt Lake City. I cover about 1 ½ to 2 miles each time. The first time I went up the canyon on a snowy night in my daily wear shoes, I nearly fell about forty times. It was very slick, but I was determined to do it (I had lost 19 lbs in two months during the summer doing this, but I was going twice the distance and I was going 3.5+ mph uphill and back down). Normally my trek would take less than an hour. But it took me more than two hours that first snowy night and I had wrenched my back while trying to keep myself from falling. If I hadn’t played hockey in college, I’m certain I would have been airlifted out of that canyon that night.

I was fortunate enough to purchase a used pair of microspikes from someone two days later. They had to be more than five years old from the looks of them, but I was desperate to get something that would give me good traction. I paid $20 cash for them and walked around on some icy spots on the sidewalk to test them. They actually felt pretty good.

That night, I stopped at the mouth of the canyon and sat down on a dry spot on a rock and put my microspikes on (they have a rubber binding that stretches over the tops of your shoes or boots, while a strategically positioned array of stainless steel teeth spreads out underneath the soles of your footwear).

I was almost shocked by the difference. I went from violently slipping to being totally confident and worry free as I negotiated powder snow, ice, icy muck, ice-covered gravel, and hard packed snow, uphill and downhill, as if they were dry turf.

I had this experience again and again, and I couldn’t think of a product that improved my life so much for so little money (I also used them when shoveling sidewalks or walking ½ mile to the bus stop on icy and snowy days).

I also met a co-ed who had been running along the shoreline trail and up some icy paths in Red Butte Canyon. It was exceedingly slippery, but she jogged as if it were a summer day. She was wearing a different brand and I think they were just the smaller cleats, and when I asked her how they performed, she said, “They changed my life,” and went on to explain how she could now run under any conditions.

For me they were life changing, too, and I could kick myself for not having bought them throughout my life, especially when I was a student at the U and learned by experience that the U had the best Zamboni’s that money could buy for icing their steep sidewalks.

As of now, there are so many brands of traction wear, and at least one brand that was somewhat expensive (the brand I bought) has received many recent negative reviews about straps breaking the first or second time out. They had been top-rated for years, but they changed the type of rubber that they were using with predictable results whenever someone with a gleaming graduate degree in business decides to fix something that’s been perfect for years and has your product as a top seller for more than a decade. From the very detailed reviews I read, I will never buy that brand again and I’m glad I got a pair that were made before the system downgrade.

Before you buy, make certain to get what you want. If you just want something to use for light use on city sidewalks to go to the mailbox, etc., then you might want to just invest in some of the smaller cleats or grippers. These are also the least expensive. And less damaging to floors should you forget to take them off.

For more serious use, for walking Long-Distances on ice and snow, for going on winter hikes on soccer mom grade trails, for traversing iced over lakes, microspikes will be an excellent choice. These are shaped like sharks’ teeth and are about ½ inch to 3/8ths inches long, and usually have a dozen or more (up to 18?) teeth positioned for maximum traction and good heel and toe, as well as side gripping power. But make certain to get ones that have stainless steel microspikes, as other materials tend to become brittle and break, especially under extremely cold conditions.

Crampons (really BIG teeth) are for those who want to tackle ice climbing and such ventures. Anyone who engages in these activities already knows a lot more about these than I ever will, so I’ll leave it at that.

By all means, I would suggest that if you’ve nearly had a fall because of ice or snow or you want to prevent such a mishap, then you should definitely get some traction wear. But before you do, read a lot of reviews, paying close attention as to when the review was written and to how credible it is (in my opinion, the more detailed a review is, the more credible it is).

Oh, and one more piece of advice: don’t forget to remove these before driving, and also, they’re not recommended for carpeted floors, much less hardwood.

Shop Talk

Those DNA Testing Kits: Is it Science or a Gimmick?

-- By Dan the Moving Man

Long ago and not too far away, a man named Alex Haley wrote a book about his African ancestry. He entitled it “Roots” and it soon became the first television mini-series. Both the book and the television adaptation of it sparked national (if not worldwide) interest in genealogy.

Enter the age of the internet some years later, which made it possible to research records all over the world from the comfort and relative safety of one’s home. Apparently, the interceding years between the advent of Haley’s work and the age of cybersleuthing had not diminished the popular interest in genealogy, in fact, by all indications, it had intensified. So much so that when the LDS Church launched its own site for genealogical research two decades later, the site quickly became overloaded and crashed.

Since then, various sites dedicated to genealogical research have appeared, which spurred an exceedingly popular spinoff with the marriage of computer science and molecular biology: DNA testing for the purpose of tracing one’s ethnicities. And this has become a multibillion dollar industry on its own, and it continues to grow.

There have been several television series dedicated to finding the ethnicities of individuals and celebrities, with some surprising results for the participants. And you can watch any number of everyday people getting their findings in reaction-videos they have posted on YouTube. Some are delighted, some shocked, some mystified, and some are even angry as they open up their packets and go online to see the breakdown of their ethnic origins.

However, as this industry has exploded, so has it spawned a number of valid concerns about the ethics of it. There have been charges of companies selling individual’s DNA information to third parties. Of particular concern is the selling of client data to insurance companies: there are a number of diseases that can be associated with individuals’ genetic makeup, thereby showing that they are at greater risk of developing certain costly medical conditions. Forewarned insurance companies could refuse coverage to such individuals, or they could price policies for such individuals out of their range.

Another privacy issue is that of law enforcement agencies conducting “fishing expeditions” in which they receive random DNA records and can keep them for future reference. While some are not bothered by this, others feel it is an invasion of privacy and they consider it a violation of due process.

There are also other issues, such as who benefits from your DNA should a testing company find a particular gene sequence that could prevent or greatly reduce the possibility of contracting some disease or condition? These could be extremely lucrative, possibly netting billions of dollars for the seller of such genetic features. And the person who provided the gene could get nothing for it, probably not even knowing of its application and sale. This would be a bitter irony when one takes into account the fact that the client actually paid to provide the lucrative gene sequence to the company that would reap all the profits from it.

There are companies that say in their contracts that they will not sell anything arising from the client’s DNA testing to “third parties.” While they are legally bound by this agreement, what would prevent them from starting their own gene splicing surgical services within their own corporation? That way, they could perform the very profitable genetic interventions directly to patients and still remain a second party. The contract prohibited sales to third parties, but not to the second party. And they would be under no obligation to even inform you that they are using your genes to perform these procedures. This issue becomes particularly prickly when one considers that one of the biggest DNA testing companies has patented the procedures for performing genetic interventions.

Moving Companies Yet another issue presents itself when considering the varying results one can get when testing a single individual’s DNA with different testing services. Often these variations are negligible, but sometimes they are profound. When BYU TV was doing a genealogy segment on a man who felt that he was Native American, they sent away to a DNA testing service to have the man’s ethnic background identified. The results came back, and they said that the man was mostly Scottish and had no Native American ancestry.

Producers of the series wisely decided to have the man’s DNA retested at a different company, which was located in the University of Utah’s Research Park. This company used 14 times as many genetic markers as did the other company. The results: the man was 24% Native American. At the same time, producers of the series had found the man’s sister (both had been adopted, but into different families) and she looked native American – as did the subject of the series – and she also had a picture of their grandfather. He was full-blooded Navajo.

While most companies do a fairly respectable job of testing, they all rely on two main things: 1) their database of “known” ethnicity markers, and 2) the algorithms they apply to interpret the results of their testing. These vary from company to company, and they’re most likely being tweaked constantly. But these are certainly going to provide differences. Also keep in mind that no company is going to analyze your entire genome of thousands and thousands of genetic sequences. Instead, they sample known genetic markers that are associated with genetic sequences that indicate heritage. Each company has a different number of markers that they use, and they use different markers according to their databases.

In addition, most individuals have so many variables in their ancestry and the field of ancestry testing is filled with ambiguities. And different “labels” can refer to the same ethnicity. Some are more specific than others. One might be labeled as “Eastern European” in one test, but “Polish” in another.

At the end of the day, although all DNA testing is based on a hard science – molecular biology – the result is a “best guess” according to the database used and the interpretation of just a sampling of some of the genetic markers for each individual.

As the CEO of one popular genetic testing company admitted, the industry doesn’t claim the results to be 100% certain. In fact, some if not all DNA testing companies show a “confidence level” for each of the ethnicities that they say are associated with each individual they test. And it seems that the smaller a percentage of a particular ethnic group one might have in their ancestry, there is a corresponding drop in the level of confidence that the company has in its own interpretation of the results.

As that CEO said, perhaps they should call DNA ancestry testing “fun science” and advise their clients not to take the results too seriously. And that sounds like a healthy idea.

Shop Talk

Online Degrees: Are They Worth It?

-- By Dan the Moving Man

In the past decade or so, there has been an explosion in the number of opportunities for Internet home study. While these vary in scope and depth and quality of educational value, some do offer degrees that are accredited by the same organizations that accredit the major universities and colleges. Others have put their courses online for free, and these are some very prestigious universities offering all of their undergraduate and graduate courses in Arts as well as Sciences, Engineering, and all of their other programs.

While these free online courses don’t offer degrees (and their online degree programs are usually limited to Business), the opportunity for gaining knowledge and skills is tremendous.

Many universities do offer online degrees now, although these are expensive and they can be very persnickety in their eligibility requirements. Some of these are accredited by the regional college accreditation agencies, or by ABET, which is the prestigious national accreditation agency for engineering, technology, and science courses. If you’re looking for a marketable online degree, one that will get you into a career of your choice, then make certain that it is accredited by a regional accreditation agency or by ABET.

Also, some universities offer certificates for completing programs of study aimed at developing competencies in particular areas. These can be career boosters for those who feel they might have hit the ceiling and can advance no further, and who want to find a way to get to the next level. These can be competitive and expensive, too, even a little bit more expensive than on campus courses in some cases. So do your research and make your selection carefully if you plan on pursuing one of these programs. You might want to check out Columbia University’s engineering courses as they have a highly rated and robust online degree-granting program. But check out other universities as well.

Moving Companies I’ve had several friends and acquaintances, plus one relative, who wanted to go to medical school. The thing that stopped most of them who didn’t make it is a weedout course called “Organic Chemistry”, or as it’s known informally, “O Chem.” So they went to Law School or pursued a graduate degree in Business and ended up making more money than a doctor anyway. But if they really dreamed of being a physician or of pursuing another career that required success in O Chem – like a biologist, or chemist, etc. – it was devastating.

However, now you can take Organic Chemistry courses on line, and you can take them for free and at your own pace. For instance, you can take eight undergraduate courses and eight graduate courses in Organic Chemistry from M.I.T. online, and all you have to pay for is the texts and associated materials. No outrageously expensive tuition or fees.

And although you don’t get grades or transcripts or formal credits of any sort, this program allows you to get a thorough grounding in O Chem over a period of several summers if you’re a student, or during evenings and weekends if you’re already working (you’ll only need one year of O Chem for medical school, etc.). Then you could smash that year of O Chem when you go to college so that your dreams of becoming a doctor (or biologist, chemist, or whatever) won’t end up on the rocks.

In these free online courses, you watch lectures as they were presented to students in their actual classes, so you get much of the benefits of attending the classes. Students ask questions and the professors pose questions to the class, so you get to see that interaction as if you were there. And these are not staged classes, these are videotapes of the actual MIT classes.

However, the courses might be dated, as some go back to 2003. But boo-hoo, you’d only have the knowledge of a student who graduated from MIT in 2003-2007 when you complete your studies.

The courses include quizzes and tests, and possibly some lecture notes and other goodies. But they might not have answers to the quizzes and/or tests. So you would have to check your answers with a tutor or a knowledgeable friend.

Whatever the case, the opportunities for quality education are incredible now and anyone who likes learning should be excited.

If you’re looking for an online degree that will be considered by future employers, then you’ll probably want to make certain that the program you select is accredited by a regional college accrediting agency, or that the individual courses you take are accredited by ABET. ABET is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and is administered by Scientists and Engineers, and courses accredited by them enjoy great prestige.

Arizona State University offers an online degree in electrical engineering that is ABET approved. They have a highly ranked engineering school and a solid program, so it might be good to Google their website and look it over if you’re interested in becoming an electrical engineer.

But even if you’re not interested in a career enhancer or a formal degree program, the opportunities for online learning are practically unlimited. If you want to learn a foreign language, or study art, or you want to brush up on math skills to help your kids with their classes, or you want to keep your mind sharp and alert through studying any subject, you’ll find almost unlimited opportunities to do so. And you can do these things on YouTube.

Three of my YouTube favorites for math, engineering, and science are Fort Bend Tutoring (basic math through Calculus and Probability, etc.), Michel van Biezen, (all levels of math, plus an exhaustive number of college level mechanical engineering, astronomy, physics, and chemistry classes), and The Organic Chemistry Tutor (who has many videos on math, chemistry, physics, and even some things like personal finance, etc.)

If you have kids in junior high school or high school (or maybe even college) who are having trouble with math, I would highly recommend Fort Bend Tutoring as a starting point. He is quick, clear and concise, but you can read thousands of positive comments by kids who are totally lost in their math classes, but then watch a 15 -20 minute video of “Mr. Whitt’s”, and they totally understand the topic and start getting A’s and B’s on their tests. Plus, he’s really “cool” and the kids love him. So do adults who are trying to brush up on their math.

Whatever you want to learn, you can most likely find some excellent instruction on the Internet.

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