Education, Awareness, and Charity

Many communities have amazing walking and running events to celebrate holidays such as 4th of July, Veteran's Day, and Thanksgiving. Loving to run and inspired at the thought of bringing such an event to my small town, the idea of a turkey trot hopped into my head. I had participated in several in other towns and my family and I had created one or two when we were in an area that did not offer such a fun-run, I had the background knowledge and the desire. With a little conversation with our mayor and city council, the high school cheerleaders and wrestlers and a few friends, the local Thanksgiving morning walk/run transformed from a sketch and a doodle into a firm reality. The day and the place were easy and the charity to benefit from registration proceeds was easier. Being a volunteer for Alzheimer's and our local hospice and wanting to spread awareness, we were off and running, so to speak, with a wonderful beneficiary as well.

The local hospital provided some up-front funding for long-sleeved shirts and a local business designed and printed them for us with Alzheimer's purple as a primary eye-catcher. Other organizations donated raffle prizes, water, chocolate milk, and bananas. The high school let us start and end on the track at the football field with the vice-principal as our announcer and the local police made sure cars looked out for participants along the route. The cheerleaders spread out along the course to cheer, offer support, and separate the 3K, 5K, and 8K walkers and runners. That is one of the advantages of a small community: everyone cares and is willing to pitch in to bring success.

Because the wrestlers already run on Thanksgiving morning, they were the logical and perfect begin to the event. Lining up at the starting line, their bright blue running gear stood out against the fresh skiff of icy, white snow. While 1* had been forecast, a delightful 23* took its place. With everyone bundled and excited we sang a rough version of the national anthem and then zipped into action. As walkers and runners exited the field and took to the streets, volunteers raced to set up the raffle drawing and snacks for after the walk/run. Within one deep breath, the first 3K runners entered the stadium - father and son - to the cheers of our remaining crowd. Just a few seconds later the rest of the participants started pouring onto the track for their victory lap, cheers, goodies, and smiles. Invigorated by it all, my heart soared thinking of the good that had been produced by a group of locals who care about our community. "Far out, man!"

Some of the greatest aspects were the thanks, the happiness, the enthusiasm of everyone in attendance. Thrilled with an early morning excursion, they were ready to head home for a yummy dinner. Parting words of encouragement set me into motion for next year's turkey trot. An annual celebration is now in place.
By Gini Cunningham

Safely Ensconced? Maybe It's Time to Break Loose

I readily agree that there are times when it is pleasant, relaxing, and refreshing to be safely ensconced. It nice to go home, sit down and let worries wander into the air. It is enjoyable to take off on a vacation with no tethering to the busy world of work by cutting the electronic tethers. It is joyous, at times, to state, "Not my problem" and then walk off into a distant realm. But what happens when this safety and distance becomes the norm and everyone looks out for him/herself while ignoring the plight of others?

Currently there are many national and worldwide issues that should strike at our hearts and minds and motivate us to action. The immigrant crisis in Europe is one frightening scene, with hundreds of thousands of displaced persons seeking asylum, the chance to live life in peace. Although some may rant about ending all abortions regardless of the safety to the mother and the child, have they looked at the extenuating circumstances that might bring a mother to such a decision or the consequences of unwanted babies? People rage about the Affordable Health Care Act but they refuse to offer a better solution as they ignore those in need by denying medical services. Safely ensconced in individual bubbles, many decline to glance around in all directions before making a blanket statement, thinking of their own personal beliefs with disregard to the right of others to hold different beliefs.

What action can you take to make a difference in your community, county, and state? There must be something that is bugging you that requires your attention and energy. Finding that special drive moves you from safety, to be sure, as you are nudged from "ensconcement" into a place of movement and action. Change takes time and effort but with a supporting friend or group, you may be able to change current conditions into wonderful new opportunities. You just have to think, research, think some more, and then reach out and react.

Last evening we held a Town Hall meeting on driving and dementia. We drug the proverbial "elephant" out of the closet and into the limelight as we discussed other conditions that lead to impaired driving such as a stroke, how to stop dangerous drivers (demented or otherwise) from having a license renewed, and what to do to help these former drivers remain independent without the freedom of wheels. It was great to listen to panelists and then to hear from community members concerning what we have in place now and where we need and want to go next. For example, the hospital has advanced Telemedicine to alleviate long drives to medical services and is also working on paramedic, in-home health services. Local entities are seeking volunteers to act as drivers, conversation buddies, and errand runners to help those who are unable to complete tasks alone or who just need a friend to stave off loneliness and depression.

Local citizens discussed making our city age-friendly with bike paths and more civic performances and volunteer opportunities. The latter is a tremendous way to permit people to give to others while enriching their personal well-being. Safely ensconced folks are now moved to action - maybe just a tiny bit, perhaps only a baby step, but these are movements forward to improve quality of life. What calling is ringing in your ears to make a difference in our town?
By Gini Cunningham

In Crisis Mode: Excessive Student Absences and Truancy

Under President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, billions of tax dollars have been spent "reforming" public education. Their efforts include the Race to the Top ($4.35 billion all by itself), charter schools, the Common Core State Standards, the Common Core-related online assessments, charter schools, Teacher Improvement Grants and on and on. The result: Student performance still lags and teacher morale has plummeted.

Meanwhile, not on the reform agenda are the effects of poverty, inadequate parenting, rampant absenteeism, and truancy on schooling. And, although September was Attendance Awareness Month, it went pretty much unnoticed.

The bottom line: Kids can't learn if not in class, and absences, in turn, negatively affect grades, standardized test scores,behavior, graduation rates, and more. As the Center for American Progress puts it: "Education has long been seen as the means to prosperity, but that only happens if students attend school."

And apparently large numbers of them are staying away. In fact, of the some 50 million kids enrolled in our country's public schools, 5 to 7.5 million are "chronically absent." In other words, they miss 20 days or more every year.

Writes The Washington Post's Emma Brown: "The nation's large and persistent achievement gaps are rooted in a largely hidden crisis of chronic absenteeism from school, especially among low income and minority children."

Moreover, it starts at a surprisingly young age. As Attendance Works reports, about 10% of kindergartners miss at least 18 days of school. That translates to almost an entire month of their first-ever public school year.

That same report found that, "Poor attendance is among our first and best warning signs that a student has missed the on-ramp to school success and is headed off track for graduation... "

Seems the powers might have missed such reports.

Meanwhile, in addition to impacting poor academic achievement and the dropout rate, the American Bar Association's Youth at Risk Commission finds that truancy is associated with:
  • Increased odds of first-time substance abuse and middle school drug use starting with marijuana.
  • Higher rates of daytime crimes, such as vandalism and assaults.
  • The likelihood of nonviolent and violent offenses by the young.
  • Teen pregnancies
Such findings have now prompted superintendents around the country to join forces and sign Attendance Works' Call to Action. Acknowledging that up to 7.5 million children miss nearly a month of school every year, they say they are:
  1. "Prioritizing Attendance: We are making reducing chronic absence a top priority in our district from the superintendent to the teachers, from the school staff to the families.
  2. Mobilizing the Community: We are making student attendance a broadly owned and widely shared civic priority. That includes engaging families and tapping civic and elected leaders, local businesses, health providers, housing authorities, clergy members, and more.
  3. Driving with Data: We are using data to determine how many and which students are chronically absent in each grade, school, and population. And we are intervening to ensure absences don't add up."
Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, so far only Ken Cherry, head of the Dover Area School District, and Pittsburgh Public Schools' Linda Lane have reportedly joined the movement. That's right; just two and neither hails from Philadelphia where about 15,000 of its students miss school each day-50% of them without an excuse!

In fact, in the 2014-15 school year, more than 11,700 Philadelphia students were truant, with 37% of them (4,332) in grades K-8.

Meanwhile, research conducted by the Philadelphia Education Fund and Johns Hopkins University, in conjunction with the district, found that kids who attend less than 80% of the time stand only a 10% to 20% chance of graduating on time.

And here's another Philly fact: 40% of all of its students drop out, and, currently, it's on-time graduation rate stands at just 65%, up from 2008's lowly 58%.

Plus, more bad news awaits. That's because, back in 2008, then Governor Rendell called for Graduation Competency Assessments-actually ten of them. These ultimately morphed into the three Keystone Exams covering biology, algebra I, and literature. Implementation kicks in as a graduation requirement in the 2016-17 school year, with a recent district report suggesting that only 22% of the Class of 2017 will, therefore, graduate on time.

No wonder, then, that Philly schools are "expected to make significant and sufficient efforts to curb truancy" by:
  • Conferencing with caregivers after no more than three unexcused absences
  • Engaging all of a school's social and academic supports along the way to the tenth unexcused absence
  • Having ten unexcused absences lead to Truancy Court where children and their families appear before a Master and ultimately before a judge if attendance doesn't improve, every 60 to 90 days to review and report on progress.
  • Having truancy case managers, together with community-based providers, try to discover the causes and develop an improvement plan with the family using multiple resources to address and remove the barriers to good attendance.
Truth be told, however, although Philly's is now one of the country's "most sophisticated truancy response systems"--the problem still persists. That's why District Attorney Seth Williams now wants to step in and send letters to the families of kids with ten or more unexcused absences threatening criminal charges unless things improve.

In a recent interview, he explained, "I want the District Attorney's office to be the hammer for [Superintendent] Hite or the administrative judges in Family Court or [the Department of Human Services]." He also said that he doesn't want to prosecute or criminalize parents, just motivate them.

Looks like he might not get a chance, however. District officials say that, because of federal privacy laws, they are prohibited from sharing certain student information. According to Karyn Lynch, head of student support services, "If we could find a way, we would certainly do this."

Stay tuned but don't expect schools and concerned politicians like Seth William to do all the heavy lifting. It all starts at home and knowing your obligations under Pennsylvania's attendance and truancy laws, such as:
  1. Children between the ages of 8 and 17 must attend school; in Philly, the start age is 6.
  2. A child's caretaker-parent, guardian, relative, or foster parent-is legally responsible for ensuring a child's attendance.
  3. Most districts excuse absences for illness, emergencies, a family member's death, medical/dental appointments, school activities, and approved educational travel.
  4. A parent note is required for even one day's absence; when due to illness, a doctor's note is to be sent, if possible.
  5. A request in writing to the school principal is required to excuse a child for a religious holiday or instruction.
  6. A max of 10 cumulative excused absences is permitted in any given year; more than that requires a doctor's note.
Then, on the home front, make schooling everyone's top priority, and...
  1. Make sure all homework gets done accurately; if frustration is noted, contact the appropriate teacher(s)
  2. Set a reasonable time, keeping in mind that teens need about 9 hours a night.
  3. At bedtime, keep all electronics in the kitchen. Screen light can suppress the hormone melatonin, key to falling asleep. Have them book it, instead.
  4. Delay wake-up time as long as possible and have a quick but healthy breakfast at the ready, packed school bag waiting by the door.
  5. Accept only illness as a stay home excuse, not tiredness or unpreparedness.
  6. Insist that all family members get their flu shot and required vaccines.
  7. Schedule all dentist, doctor appointments, and such after, not during, school hours.
  8. When sick, have your child ask a friend to collect all missed work and drop it off or leave it in the main office for pickup.
In other words, be part of the solution instead of the problem.

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy University and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for; find her articles at For more information, go to

Top 10 Questions about Body Piercing

Body piercing has grown so much in popularity in recent years that it has become almost mainstream, with more and more people sporting navel rings and multiple ear rings. Facial piercings, surface piercings and lots of others to choose from can make things confusing. If you don't know what to expect when you decide to get a piercing, it can be even more intimidating. Here are some of the top questions people have about body piercing. 1. I want to get a body piercing. How much will it cost? The cost of a body piercing varies depending on several factors, including where you're located, how close to a major city you are, and what kind of piercing you're having done. Generally the more difficult the piercing, the higher the cost. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for as well, so don't depend entirely upon cost to choose your piercer. If a piercer is charging significantly under the market cost in your area, he may be cutting corners in areas he shouldn't, such as sterilization and other safety procedures. On average, the cost of piercings fall somewhere in these ranges:
  • Ears (lobes, cartilage, etc.).....anywhere from $25-$50
  • Navel...................................$45-$55
  • Tongue.................................$45-$55
  • Labret..................................$50-$60
  • Eyebrow................................$40-$50
  • Nipple...................................$45-$55
  • Nostril..................................$45-$55
  • Genital..................................$75-$100
2. Does it hurt? In simple terms, yes. Does it hurt much? Most people will tell you, "No, not really." It's usually more like a pinching or popping sensation than anything. The sensation of pain is relative--some people feel it more than others. The adrenalin rush of the piercing usually means the pain in minimal. After the initial pain when the needle goes through the piercing, you may feel some dull pain or an aching sensation for a few hours, which can be relieved with an over the counter pain reliever. One piercing that does hurt a bit more than others is the tongue piercing, which will swell and be sensitive for a few days. Ice chips and popsicles will help soothe the pain of this kind of new piercing. 3. How long does it take a body piercing to heal? The healing time for a body piercing varies depending upon what you've had pierced. Some parts of the body heal more quickly than others. For instance, if you pierce your earlobes, you can expect them to heal within two months and be ready for jewelry other than the original piercing jewelry. The belly button is in an area that heals slowly, however, because it's right where the body twists and turns, which slows the healing process. It also doesn't get as much air circulation because it is covered much of the time. It can take up to six months or even a year for a belly button piercing to heal completely. Some general healing times are:
  • Ear lobes..........6-8 weeks
  • Cartilage...........4-8 months
  • Eyebrow...........6-8 weeks
  • Nostril..............3-4 months
  • Septum.............6-8 months
  • Labret..............2-3 months
  • Tongue.............4-6 weeks
  • Nipple..............4-6 months
  • Navel...............5 months-1 year
  • Genitals............6 weeks-6 months
The better you care for a body piercing, the more quickly it will heal, so be sure to discuss the proper care of your piercing with the piercing professional who does your body piercing to ensure a quick, clean piercing and you will heal in the least amount of time possible. 4. How can I tell if a piercing is infected, or it's just normal healing stuff? All body piercings will have some drainage during the first several days. This is because you have basically given your body a puncture wound, and your body will bleed for a while, and then have drainage of some fluids as it heals. These fluids are actually good for you, as they keep the area moist and clean and will wash away some of the dirt and germs that might otherwise stay in the area. Bleeding should stop within a few hours or the first day and be only small amounts. Often it will look watery. Drainage will be mostly a clear, watery discharge, although it can sometimes be somewhat white in color. The drainage will form "crusties" around the jewelry that can be washed off with warm, soapy water when you clean your piercing each day. A piercing is infected when the discharge is either green or yellow. Also, if the area becomes swollen or inflamed again after the initial swelling has subsided. Any time you see green or yellow pus or discharge; you should see a doctor and get appropriate medical treatment. It won't necessarily mean you have to remove your piercing; you may simply have to take a course of antibiotics. If the area becomes red and inflamed with red streaks radiating out from the area, see a doctor right away. 5. What should I look for in a good body piercing studio? A good body piercing studio must first and foremost be clean, clean, and clean! The most common cause of infection is piercings is simple exposure to germs, so look for a piercing parlor that is very strict about its cleanliness and sterilization procedures. They should have a separate room where nothing else is done but piercings. They should always have an operational autoclave, which is a wet steam sterilization unit that is to be used to clean and sterilize all tools and equipment used during piercing. They should also pierce only with single-use, disposable needles that are pre-wrapped. Ask them if this is what they use, and insist that the needles not be opened until they are actually ready to do your piercing so that you can confirm they are sterile-wrapped. Look for experience and qualifications. Have all the piercers been through an apprenticeship program? If so, for how long did they train and where? Also make sure they are licensed to operate a piercing studio by their state's department of health. In most states this is now mandatory. Also check the date to make sure it isn't expired. Finally, look for a certificate of membership in a professional society such as the Association of Professional Piercers, an organization that supports safe and professional piercing practices and offers extensive ongoing training. 6. Why can't I just pierce myself? You can pierce yourself, but it's not really a good idea. It's simply too hard to keep the area in your own home (or wherever you happen to be) clean and sterile enough. You also may have trouble lining up and placing a piercing squarely where you want it, and if you lose your nerve half-way through the piercing, you're stuck with it half done. If you do it at home, you'll probably do it on an impulse, which will mean you won't have the right tools. Piercing needles are incredibly sharp in order to reduce the pain and make a good, clean cut. No matter how sharp that sewing needle is at home, it's not as sharp as a piercing needle, so it will hurt more, bleed more, and may not heal as cleanly. 7. What should I clean my piercing with? Today most professional piercers agree that the best way to clean a fresh piercing is with a mild antibacterial soap. These should not contain perfumes or dyes, which can irritate a piercing and lead to discomfort or an allergic reaction. There are a few on the market that are specifically designed for body piercings, including Provon® and Satin®. After cleaning, you should follow up with a sea salt water soak. Sea salt is available at natural health stores, piercing and tattoo studios and a variety of other stores. The sea salt solution helps soothe the area and draw impurities out of the wound to promote faster healing. H2Ocean is an excellent pre-mixed sea salt solution that can be sprayed on for ease of use. It's highly recommended by many professional piercers and is convenient especially if you're traveling or on the go. 8. What kind of jewelry should a piercing be done with? A body piercing is, in the simplest terms, a puncture wound, so you want to use a high quality metal that won't react with your body chemistry to create an allergic reaction or contaminate the open wound. Never use cheap or base metals to get a body piercing. The best metals to use are titanium or surgical steel, both or which are essentially inert and won't react with your body. In some cases, you can use high quality gold, but even this sometimes creates a reaction because of the nickel content, so do be cautious. Once a piercing is completely healed, you have more leeway on what you can use, but if you are at all nickel sensitive, you will probably always have to stick with surgical steel and titanium for your body piercings, unless you are using alternatives such as glass, which is completely non-reactive and safe for nearly everyone. 9. What causes migration? Is it the same as rejection? Rejection is a more severe form of migration. Migration is when a body piercing begins to move through the flesh because the body is trying to force it out of the skin and get rid of it. In some cases, the body only partially succeeds, and the piercing "migrates" so that it ends up being crooked or misaligned. When the body completely forces a piercing out of the body, it is called a "rejection," because the body has completely rejected the piece of jewelry, basically "spitting it out." This is because any piercing jewelry is a foreign object that the body sees as an invader to be gotten rid of, especially if the piercing is poorly done so that the jewelry aggravates the skin tissues. 10. What if I want to become a professional piercer? Behave responsibly. Visit a few piercing parlors that you know are top quality and ask about internship programs and other options. Order some videos that take you through the introductory steps of piercing and educate you on the process of proper preparation and sterilization. Many of the larger piercing websites offer these video series' at a reasonable cost. You should also take courses in first aid in blood borne pathogens and other illnesses that are commonly transmitted by needles. Many of these courses are offered through community colleges or local hospital extensions. The most important thing is to be fully trained and completely experienced in all manner of piercing before setting yourself up as a piercer on your own--both for your own legal protection and the safety and well-being of those who come to you for body piercing. The Association of Professional Piercers ( is an excellent source of information on how to get started as a professional piercer. In Conclusion Body piercing and wearing body jewelry should be an informed choice, not a snap decision. If you have been thinking about getting a body piercing, talk to others who have done the same and get their feedback. Ask them if they are happy with the results and for their suggestions on good piercing studios. Ask yourself if you're ready for the commitment to proper care and the expense of a body piercing. Remember that a body piercing is a form of body modification that will affect how others perceive you. Obviously, this is part of the appeal for most people. However, the reactions will be mixed, and you should keep in mind that while some people will love it, others will not. So think through the consequences of body piercing thoroughly before you proceed. Then, if you decide its right for you--follow the tips above for a safe, attractive body piercing you'll be proud to wear! This article on the "Top 10 Questions about Body Piercing" reprinted with permission.
Copyright © 2004 Evaluseek Publishing.

Who Exactly Are Fanning The Flames Of The Syria Crisis?

The ongoing Syria crisis, described as the 'greatest humanitarian disaster since WWII' continues to shock and appal in equal measure, and it's not hard to see why.

As the world wakes up to the realisation that these refugees are not freeloaders after all, but are literally fighting for their very existence, and are willing to risk life and limb to be allowed settlement in Europe.

Since the Arab spring in 2011, the Assad regime has struggled to maintain control with the rise of the various rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army and ISIS among them.

There have been an estimated 11 million Syrian people displaced, which equates to half of the population of the country, and more than 50% of these are children. With over 220 thousand deaths so far and climbing; a lack of hospital care, basic sanitation or shelter and the threat of being an unwitting victim of the ensuing violence on a daily basis, life can appear very bleak for those that choose to remain.

How to manage the sheer influx of refugees is at issue, causing tension and infighting across the European political landscape, but just who is fanning the flames and allowing this crisis to flourish?

Assad the tyrant or more Western propaganda?

Does the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have a point when he argues that this is a clear case of propaganda by the West to demonize him in the eyes of the world, creating the ideal climate to pursue their aims? He states that he could have dealt with the terrorists at the outset, more than likely defeating them within a matter of weeks, had it not been for foreign intervention that has allowed the terrorists to strengthen their resolve with a constant supply line being presented to them from sources such as Western allies and Saudi Arabia, providing extra military personnel, equipment, training and funds to continue their campaign.

One of the most serious accusations levelled at Assad has been the use of Barrel bombs, metal containers packed with oil, explosives and shrapnel which are then dropped from aircraft. These are said to deliberately target civilians, which have reportedly killed more people than ISIS and Al Qaeda combined.

In interviews, Assad has scoffed at the suggestion that he would deliberately target his own people, calling the barrel bombs 'cooking pots', and says this would be 'illogical' as his soldiers are Syrian, and his armies would simply implode if it were known that possibly their own families and friends were being killed on their president's orders, and would not therefore, be conducive to maintaining a motivated and committed fighting force.

Assad states with conviction that he would be willing to talk with anyone with sincere intentions of eradicating terrorism. He goes on to say that the doctrine of the terrorists does not allow for discussion, and is futile as their only wish is to establish an Islamic state and that they do this by systematically making civilians desperate and reliant on support... any support... their support.

A geopolitical chess game

Russia, supporters of the Assad regime, are looking to strengthen their position in the world in Eurasia, and the West are unsurprisingly vying to curtail their ambitions, with Syria holding a strategic position, and essentially the location where this power struggle will be fought.

To describe Bashar al-Assad as innocent may be a step too far, but allegations of using chemical weapons against Syrians are baseless at best. How could we possibly know if this were true and is not merely a fantasy dreamt up by Western powers, much like the weapons of mass destruction narrative we now know was a fabrication for the Iraq war in 2003. Assad may well be the victim of what amounts to a 'coup', with evidence that this intervention has been long in the planning, stretching as far back as 2006, instigated by forces wishing to see his removal and a Western puppet installed in his place.

No one is going to tap us on the shoulder and reveal the truth of it, but we should at least remain sceptical and keep an open mind, rather than following the herd, and risk stepping in something that they often like to shovel our way.

Wayne C. Dyer is the author and founder of Critical Eye, a website dedicated to debating societal issues, international affairs as well as other topics. To view more articles like this please visit

How Body Piercing Works -- The Ins and Outs of this Cutting Edge Process

Body piercing (defined as any piercing beyond the standard earlobe piercing) has become such a popular form of body modification that between five and ten percent of the population of the United States has indulged in at least one form of it at some time in their lives. In most cases, once a person gets a body piercing, they follow the first one with more. There are lots of considerations; however, for making sure that your body piercing is done safely so that you don't end up with either an infection or a poorly done piercing that could leave an unsightly scar.

It ain't ear piercing, honey...

The procedure for a good body piercing isn't the same is for getting your earlobes pierced. Most earlobe piercings that you see done in a mall or jewelry store involve using a piercing gun that quickly shoots the actual earring post through the earlobe. This may be fine for an area of the body that has soft tissue and is easily pierced, but it isn't a good idea for other parts of the body for a few reasons.

First, it isn't as accurate as a needle, so lining it up won't always work. Just as with any gun, there is a recoil that will make the aim inaccurate. Second, the force of the gun will cause bruising and damage to the skin that isn't necessary and will slow the healing process. Third, a piercing gun can't be sterilized completely, so there is a higher risk of infection. The message is clear -- never get a body piercing done with a piercing gun. Always go to a professional who follows procedures approved by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).

Once you get to the piercing parlor, there are several steps to the body piercing process that will take place to ensure both the success of the piercing and your health and safety. Each of these steps should be followed and nothing skipped.

Getting the preliminaries out of the way

You must be comfortable in the environment and comfortable with your piercer before moving ahead with anything. If he or she attempts to rush you through the procedure without answering your questions or putting you at ease, do not continue. This is a long-term commitment you are making, so it's up to you if you want to go through with it.

There is paperwork to be filled out, and don't let a piercing parlor tell you otherwise. A good piercing studio always keeps accurate records to ensure the health and safety of their clients. If there would ever be a question of contamination or some other health hazard, they must be able to contact you. If you are a minor, they must have the signature of your parent or guardian, who must be present at the time of the piercing.

Sterilization -- the only route to safe body piercing

Sterilization is all-important in body piercing -- the piercing area must be sterile, the piercer's hands must be sterile, the tools used must be sterile, and the piercing needle must be sterile.

A separate area for sterilization should be available in the piercing parlor where a steam heat autoclave is operational. The autoclave is the only approved sterilization device that can sufficiently heat tools such as forceps to a high enough temperature to kill all bacteria. Before beginning any piercing, all tools will be sterilized in an autoclave and laid out carefully on a clean tray. After this, they will not be touched until your piercing begins, and then only by your piercer when he has safely cleaned and gloved his hands, just as a surgeon would.

You can't be too clean

The piercing chair or table will also be cleaned, usually by being wiped down thoroughly with an antibacterial spray and disposable cloths or paper towels to prevent recontamination. You will not be allowed to enter and prepare for your piercing until the area has been prepped and sterilized.

The needles used for body piercing are sterile and individually packaged, and no reputable piercer will ever use a needle that has already been used once. When you are pierced, the sterile needle's package should be opened in your presence just before your piercing. The same is true of your starter jewelry -- it should be sealed in sterile packaging and only opened in your presence.

The piercer will wash his hands and wrists with an antibacterial liquid soap and dry them before donning disposable gloves. At this point, he will be ready to begin your piercing.

Prep work means straight piercings and fewer complications

With properly gloved hands, your piercer will first check the area you want pierced to determine if you are really a candidate for the type of body piercing you're seeking. In some cases, he may tell you that the conditions aren't appropriate.

For instance, if there is damage to the cartilage or heavy scarring in the area you want pierced. He will also tell you if you have a current cut or skin condition that means you should postpone piercing. If this is the case, in order to protect your health and prevent possible problems down the line, he will not go any farther with the procedure. If everything looks fine, he'll tell you so and you'll move on to the next step.

  • He'll change to a fresh pair of gloves after having handled your skin to examine the area.
  • He will clean the area to be pierced with an antibacterial solution.
  • He will mark the area to be pierced with a sterile, disposable marker.
  • You'll have the opportunity to check the marking (in a mirror if necessary) before he proceeds to the piercing stage.
  • He will ask you if you are ready for the piercing procedure and allow you a moment to get comfortable.
  • He will arrange his tools at hand and open the sterile package with the piercing needle.

And now, you're ready for the real deal -- the piercing itself!

But first, a word about those piercing needles...

Piercing needles are not your average sewing needle or push-pin. Piercing needles are highly specialized and were designed specifically to pierce the flesh while causing the least amount of pain possible. They also help encourage faster and cleaner healing than a regular needle.

These needles also come in a variety of gauges suited for specific types of piercings. For instance, if you are getting a nipple pierced, the piercer will probably not want to use anything smaller than a 12 gauge (the smaller the gauge, the larger the needle), while a lip or nostril could be pierced with a 14 or 16 gauge. Thicker gauges prevent migration in areas prone to this movement of the jewelry, and prevent tear-out of piercings in more delicate flesh.

Piercing needles are made from surgical steel -- the same material that hospital scalpels and lancets are made from. This ensures that they are biocompatible with all skin types and won't cause an allergic reaction. They are also extremely sharp because they are laser cut with precision edges so that they slice cleanly through the skin without tearing or pulling. The piercing needles are hollow rather than solid so that they actually cut a tiny hole through the skin being pierced rather than punching through the skin.

These hollow needles leave a clean-edged, precise hole in the flesh that will heal relatively quickly, while a regular needle (which is much duller by comparison) actually pushes its way through the skin, tearing and bruising the skin along the way.

This is why a professional piercing needle provides a much less painful piercing with minimal bruising, and is much safer and easier for your body.

The main event -- the body piercing

The basic procedure is the same for most piercings, but all piercers have their own way of handling the process. Some piercers will clamp the area with forceps to stabilize the area before putting the needle through, while others prefer to use a steady hand and their own eyes to guide the needle. If the person being pierced seems like they may flinch, it is more likely the forceps or surgical pliers of some type will be used to steady the area and hold the skin in place. This doesn't hurt, and is simply to make sure you don't get a crooked placement.

When the needle is lined up with the marking, the piercer will ask one last time if you are ready, and then quickly push the needle through. Some piercers use a cork as a backing, others don't. This usually only takes a moment and feels like someone is pinching the skin hard. In most cases, the build-up to the moment is far worse than the actual piercing. Areas that are more sensitive include the genital area and the bridge of the nose.

Starter jewelry needs to be high quality

After the needle is removed, the starter jewelry is immediately put into place. One of the most important things to know about starter jewelry is that it is being put into an open wound, which is what a fresh piercing really is. Obviously, you don't want your starter jewelry to be something that can cause an allergic reaction or infection.

There are three materials recognized by professional piercers as acceptable for starter jewelry for their high quality, purity and their low incidence of allergic reactions:

  • Surgical Steel
  • Titanium
  • 14K or 18K gold

Other materials are more likely to cause either an allergic reaction, rejection of the piercing by your body, or migration of the piercing.

Starter jewelry is generally a captive bead ring or barbell. The piercer will choose an appropriate size for the area that is slightly larger than what you would normally wear to allow for some swelling, which is normal for the first several days after a new piercing. He will screw the ends onto the new jewelry and make sure it is securely in place.

At this point, the piercer will remove this set of gloves and put on another fresh set, clean the area around the new piercing and examine it one last time. He will let you take a look at your new body jewelry while he explains the aftercare and any potential problems you should watch for. He will also give you a sheet of detailed aftercare instructions to take home with you.

Before you leave, take a few moments to relax either in the piercing room or the waiting room, as sometimes the adrenalin rush and its aftermath can leave you feeling a bit light-headed. Once you feel steady and sure of yourself, it is a good idea to get something like fruit juice to drink or a light snack. Your piercing is done!

What if I want to try body piercing myself?

If you love body modification, you may be considering piercing yourself. It's really not a good idea for a number of reasons. If you want to try piercing, do it the right way -- become a fully trained, licensed professional. Without the proper training and an understanding of proper sterilization techniques you risk scarring, infection, and permanent damage to the area.

Using makeshift piercing tools like sewing needles is also a great risk because they simply cannot be sterilized properly. Even heating over an open flame (such as a lighter) will not kill all bacteria. The only guaranteed way to kill all germs is with an autoclave or by using packaged, sterile surgical needles. Even then, the entire area and all tools must be sterilized properly.

If you are truly interested in piercing, consider it not as a hobby or a momentary activity but as a career. Becoming an apprentice at a piercing parlor means learning proper technique and learning a trade at the same time, combining your interests with a way to make a living.

An apprentice usually trains for at least a year under a licensed, professional piercer learning all aspects of sterilization, piercing and customer service. In many states they are also required to take courses in first aid, blood borne pathogens, anatomy and other Health and Safety standards and practices. You will observe piercings and work with the sterilization process for several months before actually doing any piercings, but when you do pierce you will be doing it properly and professionally. A good place to find out more information is through the Association of Professional Piercers' website at

This article on the "How Body Piercing Works" reprinted with permission.
Copyright 2004 Evaluseek Publishing.

Phone Card Buyers Guide - The Book of Tricks

I know a lot about buying phone cards. The reason I know so much is because I am the developer for the phone card price comparison tool on a website called Time Dial. If you don't buy many calling cards you might be surprised to know that calculating calling card prices is complicated and if you are experienced with them then you will know the calling card companies don't make it easy for you.

Phone cards have hidden fees. The degree to which they are actually hidden varies from site to site. As we develop the price comparison tool we are discovering more ways companies add fees and create different ways of determining price.

The most obvious charge is the rate per minute; this varies depending on whether you are calling a local number to access the service, using toll free access or a payphone. For one company we work with it is also more expensive if you are calling from a cell phone. Local access numbers have the cheapest rates but you will pay for calls to the access numbers which are not available in all areas where as toll free access is free from landlines and free from cell phones in some countries including the US.

Most phone cards do not have a payphone rate they charge a payphone fee. Often people reach our site by typing in Google something like "phone card no payphone fee". We have an option which allows users to find calling cards without a payphone fee so they have come to the right place. However if calling cards don't have a payphone fee they will usually charge a high payphone rate per minute or have a very high standard rate resulting in higher prices than those phone cards that charge a payphone fee. There are very rare exceptions to this rule for example the "Aussie card" from Cloncom has a good rate per minute which doesn't increase when used from a payphone and has no payphone fee. Cloncom are a good company to work with, have good customer service and good rates but it really best to go through our site to find the best possible deal.

Another important fee especially if you make a lot of calls is the connection fee this is a flat rate charged for every call that is made. The maintenance fee is charged the day after you make your first call then is continuously repeated after a given period... often monthly sometimes weekly or daily.

You can select an option on Time Dial for no maintenance fee but again the catch is usually higher rates per minute. No payphone fee and no maintenance fee options are in an advanced options section on the site; this section is really best left alone in most circumstances. All the phone cards on Time Dial charge maintenance fees (if they exist) to the cards balance so if there is no credit there is no charge. Some companies charge the maintenance fee to your bank account but only tell you about this in the small print so watch out for these if you only want to use the card for a limited time.

Taxes are another charge we discovered when developing the tool. These are not real taxes that go to the government as they are for none standard amounts usually ranging from 10% to 30%. They are charged on the rate per minute for the duration of the call; connection fees etc are not included in this calculation.

The final fee to talk about is rounding which varies usually from 1 second to 3 minutes. Good rounding terms comes at the price of higher rates.

All these charges discussed are dependent on each other a good value for one charge often means there is a bad value for another. The best phone card to choose depends on how many calls you make and how long you talk for. This is where our tool shines as you can simply answer 7 questions including estimated number of calls and estimated calling time for your chosen period and it will list the cheapest phone cards in order of total cost.

Each time we add a site to the comparison tool we have to ask many questions about the calling cards' charges. We are quite meticulous about it but still it demonstrates how they don't make it easy. For example one site lists local rates in the search results section labeled "rate per minute" but doesn't make it clear that you can find the toll free, mobile and payphone rates per minute 3 clicks away in a long list.

An important thing to mention is that you shouldn't use phone cards from cell phones in a foreign country. You will pay roaming charges. Phone cards can be used from any phone in your home country and payphones / other people's landlines whilst abroad. You make the biggest savings when calling from cell phones in your home country.

I hope I haven't bored you too much and that now you know what to look out for.

UK students lose out on Euro jobs

Students in the UK are missing out on top jobs in Europe because they do not have the skills or the right attitudes, a study suggests.

A survey of 5,000 students across Europe found that British students were less likely than most to speak a foreign language and were more likely to say they would not want to leave their friends to work abroad.

The study was carried out by the education and recruitment group Hobsons.

Researchers canvassed 5,000 students aged from 19 to 29 in 28 different countries.

Language gap

British students were the least likely to say they had the right skills to work abroad - only 36% said they had what it takes.

They were much less confident than their counterparts across the rest of Europe, where 63% said they were equipped to work abroad for their first proper job.

Going some way to explaining the lack of confidence perhaps, almost half of British students said they spoke no second language.

In Germany, Italy and Spain, about nine out of 10 students said they spoke English as a second language.

Only the Irish Republic fared worse than the UK, with 59% saying they had no second language.

Missing you

Chris Letcher, the managing director of Hobsons, said: "Our research shows that UK students do not view the European job market as a serious career option.

"This is worrying in the light of the fact that increasingly companies and universities are looking to recruit students across borders in Europe."

Half of the UK students questioned said they would seriously consider working abroad for their first job, but more than a quarter said they would miss their friends too much.

The Italians and Spanish were least likely to say their friendships would stop them working abroad. Only 4% of Italians said this and 5% of Spanish.

Chris Letcher says British students are holding themselves back: "UK students stand to miss out on tops jobs in Europe if they do not develop a European outlook and adapt their skill sets accordingly."

Gorgeous Disaster

Mrs. Flood uttered with terrible flamboyancy that they were touring Spain this year, and added to it imprudently that the previous summer vacation had been a kind of a sheer waste, since Barcelona was too very gloomy and serious to be a vacation spot that is supposed to be ideal for merry making, as she had felt; an old intelligent lady, her next-door neighbor, grinned and asked if Geography used to be a part of her course in her school days...

Well, we have just celebrated the 61th Independence Day and that was followed by some stunning and long awaited performances at Beijing, but all were evanescent; 'show time over' and we have got ourselves inclined back to the Singur~Tata conflict, trains have once again started going derailed and looting, arson have regained the reputation of almost regular affairs, not at all a wonder, after all we are driven by folks like Mrs. Flood, who happens to be striving for her PhD!

Sky scrapers and high rise buildings dot the landscape in the present scenario, we live in an age when humbleness, loyalty, simplicity and related nouns have lost their essence; a bit of idiocy amalgamated with worthless pride(in ignorance) is what one requires to bear the badge of the era on her shoulders. It seems we have learned everything, without having learnt the meaning of learning.

When Rushdie celebrates the launch of The Enchantress of Florence, there aren't many to participate in his frolic but as soon as he gets over his plans for the 4th marriage, we have newspapers and magazines blooming with his close-ups on their cover pages, this is what our learned men have always indulged in, the basic ideology hasn't changed much though scores of years have passed, it was the same with Solzhenitsyn when August 1914 had been brought to the market, the nation pounced on the poor wretched man, only because he hadn't compromised(even a bit) with what he had actually felt with the inauguration of the World war.

The property of oscillation fits better for the masses than the laboratory pendulum, they are always in a puzzled stature of mind, not really concerned with anything, but for the sake of their beggarly prestige (that is dangling in the middle of a chain built by puny, apocryphal strings of sincerity) and can get fragmented any moment, Sydney Porter had written this decades ago, what an unnatural analytical power, he had been blessed with.

I could have been brought up in an India which would be a glowing script of success and approbation, had my people known to live and love, alas they have somehow altered the word and have made it all the more vile; I presume, this is only the forecast, perhaps we still have time to save a gorgeous disaster heading our way.

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