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This post have been updated. It was originally published on January 2, 2023.

The holidays are officially over, and many of us are recovering from reconnecting with loved ones and take in some well-earned R&R. And while the vacation time could mean different things to people—catching up on competitive sports, consuming inordinate amounts of food, or finally confronting your racist uncle—one thing is almost ubiquitous: the looming sentiment of “oh no, I have to go to work again.”

It’s easy to understand why we get a little bummed at the prospect of reverting back to everyday life—dealing with the debilitating effects of jet lag is enough to take a person out of a good mood. But for a lot of folks, ever the most seasoned jet setters, the post-vacation blues can have actual health effects. “I absolutely feel sad after returning home from a trip,” says freelance journalist and travel writer Nneka Okona. “For me, the deflation starts around the last 24 hours of a trip. I feel really down and sometimes even teary; the more of a sensational experience, the harder and deeper the deflation tends to be.”

[Related: What is a toxin?]

But if vacations are supposed to be a significant boon to our happiness and wellbeing, why do we crash mentally afterwards?

Know the reason for the post-vacation blues

Jeroen Nawijn, a psychologist at the Breda University of Applied Sciences who’s studied vacations as they relate to quality of life, says that though people generally see a blissful boost on their days off, those benefits taper off quickly after returning home. “They most likely feel best during vacation because they have more freedom to do what they want,” he explains.

Suzanne Degges-White, a therapist and chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University, echoes this sentiment. “Once we get back into the work world, the majority of us have to answer to someone about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and when we’ll be done,” she says. She also attributes the difficulty of reacclimating to the fact that quandaries and responsibilities don’t disappear when we go on vacation. “Many people dread the return as they know that problems may have stacked up in their absence. There may be a pile of new requests of their time on top of the unfinished tasks they left behind,” Degges-White adds.

[Related: For better sleep, borrow the bedtime routine of a toddler]

She also cites the influence of transitioning from a looser sleep-wake pattern on vacation to a more strict and regimented bedtime schedule. That, combined with sluggishness from overeating (and drinking, if that’s your style) can put a real drag on a person’s wellbeing, she says. Thankfully, there are ways to keep the vacation high going after you’ve put the good times past you.

Get ready for work before you return Take another break soon

One more tip: start planning your next vacation right away. “The only thing that has continually worked for me is booking another trip as quickly as possible,” Okona says. “My blues are diminished greatly if I know I have something else to look forward to.” She also recommends nabbing a useful souvenir so that you have something to tie your new experiences with your life back home. (Instead of kitschy magnets and shot glasses, she opts for spice blends, unique snacks, and jams or jellies.)

[Related: The coolest science-themed destinations in all 50 states]

Checking off these little tasks should overall, prepare you better for the reality that awaits post-vacation. And hey, if all else fails, you can always try manipulating your memories to trick yourself into happily ever after.

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I Hate Android: Why? – By A Hardcore Android Lover!

Like millions of people around the world, I am an Android fanboy. Recently I though about sharing some of my  aspects which I don’t like about Android.  Eventhough being Android has gotten better over the years but there are still many things I dont like about it. To put it bluntly, I hate Android, at least some of its features. I have used Linux for a few years since Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon and fell in love with the open source movement. Ive come to realize that all the hype about being open and portraying Apple and RIM as the evil closed platform was all a deception. . Theres a list(I love lists). Lets go through them. I hate some of the UI. Customization is nice but it allows for more things to break. These include themes and design. At first, the UI was cool and beautiful. I felt like I had a computer in my hands, literally. Icons were nice to touch and scrolling was smooth(at first). After using it for a while, I started to experience the pains of using the touch screen. Mistypes, and mistaps were frequent. The Android experience varied depending on manufacturer. All the different flavors of Android pushed by their respective hardware developers all look different. OneUI, TouchWiz, and MotoBlur are all different. OneUI is probably the best(IMO) out of all these. TouchWiz makes me feel like Im using an iPhone and MotoBlur is a mess with all their social networking widgets. These skins load on top of Android making it slower than its vanilla stock core. When I get my phone, I hate all the bloatware that comes with it. All carriers seem to do it. They push Vcast, SprintTV and other bloatware that I dont want. The Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi,Oppo,Vivo are the notorious ones feeding bloatware just to compnsate for the cheap price they offer in some countries. Not only that, but I hate that I cant delete them. I hate knowing that they are on my phone and the only way for me to get rid of them is by rooting my phone. Why do I have to jump through hoops just to get rid of this crapware? Im not scared of rooting my phone. In fact, Ive done so and install a few custom ROMs but there is always a risk of bricking your phone and leaving it useless. Average users dont want to risk the warranty by rooting their phone. Not only are there crapware on the phone, but there is/was malware on the Market. I hate Andoid memory management, being an old Symbian OS user.Symbian was the most efficient Mobile Os in memory management, followed by iOS. My old Nokia 808 Pureview had just 512MB RAM which was handling the Mammoth Camera, the 41MP beast with Xenon flash. I know that comparing a Symbian Phone with very limited apps and strict developer requirements with Android which has an ocean of apps and simpler developer standards is not fair. But are these crazy RAM of 12GB,16GB etc etc in many high end Android Phones really necessary? Or are they worth the performance they offer compared to iOs? Expanding from the 1st and the 3rd reasons, I hate Androids software fragmentation. I hate that Motorola’s flavor is different from Samsung’s. I hate that the buttons are different in all manufacturer, and even sometimes, within the same manufacturers. And I hate that I cant install certain apps because I my phone doesnt have the latest and greatest version of Android. Notoriously all my Samsung Phones from Galaxy S3 to Galaxy S9 Plus started showing sluggishness after 1 year of usage. The problem being whenever I update an app, the hardware is not able to cope with newest software. Android isВ recognized as the open platform and that unadulterated Android experience does not come standard. It only comes standard on Googles Nexus phones  and Selected flagship phones from other manufacturers. But most people dont own these flagship devices. Most people get their Droids from their carriers. Not only are these phones locked down with carrier bloatware but they are also locked down from performing specific tasks. People have gotten around this issue by a process called rooting. This grants the user superuser status allowing him to do anything he wishes with the phone. The Nexus phones are relatively easy to root but carrier phones are harder. Android phones are great if you want the phone to be your hobby, if you dont mind tinkering with the device, rooting it, or if youre just a techno buff.  

After A Brief Pause, Carbon Emissions Are Back On The Rise

Carbon emissions are up again. Here’s why. Deposit Photos

The road to a very hot place is paved with good intentions. No, not hell—just the future. Right now in Bonn, Germany, representatives from all over the world are at the UN Climate Change Conference discussing how to keep the world from warming beyond 1.5ºC, and how to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide to a net zero by 2050. That means that we won’t put more greenhouse gases into the air than can be removed.

Those are the goals stated in the Paris Agreement, which now includes every country in the world—though the current administration in the United States has vowed to leave the pact.

But signing was the easy part. Turning those pledges into action is another matter entirely, as evidenced by new studies published Monday in Environmental Research Letters, Nature Climate Change, and Earth System Science Data. The research, conducted by the Global Carbon Project, found that carbon emissions for 2023 were expected to increase by 2 percent, the first increase after three years of leveled-off emissions.

There’s both good and bad news in the new reports. Let’s start with the bad news, and rip it off like a Band-Aid.

The Bad News

Carbon emissions are up. Again. There was a lull between 2014 and 2024 that led some researchers to think we’d finally hit peak emissions, and that it was all downhill from here to a carbon-neutral future.

Unfortunately, that now appears to be unduly optimistic, with human activities expected to release 41 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2023 alone. China, the largest lone carbon emitter in the world, is responsible for the jump, with an expected increase in emissions of 3.5 percent.

That’s partially attributable to that nation’s economic recovery after a four-year slump. Increased coal use pushed China’s emissions up higher than in the past few years. China also just had a dry spell, reducing the available hydropower.

Carbon emissions in the United States were down 0.4 percent, a smaller amount than declines in recent years. Countries in the EU followed the same trend. In the United States, lower oil prices and higher natural-gas prices offset growth in renewables and increased efficiency in buildings.

“Natural gas use declined, coal went up a little bit, and oil rose faster,” says Rob Jackson, a Stanford professor and co-author of the papers. In particular, changes in fossil fuel use in transportation—not just energy generation—dampened the nation’s emission decrease. “We’re driving more miles, buying larger cars, and as a result we’re using more oil than we had been, and that is a surprise.”

And while going up is clearly worse than staying steady, Jackson points out that being stabilized at a high point in emissions—like we were for the past few years—isn’t great either.

“It’s not enough to stabilize a torrent,” Jackson says. “Right now we’re trying to keep to that torrent from growing, but we need to start ratcheting that down to a trickle.”

“With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tons for 2023, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2ºC, let alone 1.5ºC,” Corinne Le Quéré, a co-author of the research and director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said in a statement.

The 2023 carbon budget grew after a brief stagnation. University of East Anglia

The Good News

OK, that’s all incredibly bleak. But there is a silver lining in those gathering storm clouds.

“A sense of hope is especially important this year. We can’t lose sight of the progress we’ve made,” Jackson says. “This year’s result is discouraging, but I have to stay optimistic that we are going to turn this corner. Eventually we are going to stabilize carbon emissions and start reducing them.”

And Jackson does have some reasons to be hopeful.

“The last three years were the only years that we had emissions drop as the economy grew. Before that, the only times the emissions dropped were when the global economy dropped,” Jackson says. “Historically our economies were tied directly to our energy use, and that was tied directly to fossil fuel.”

But that’s not necessarily the case any more. In 22 countries representing 20 percent of the global carbon total (mostly the United States and some European countries) emissions dropped as economies grew, as countries turned to more energy-efficient tools and renewable or lower-emission energy sources. That shows that it is possible for countries to make money, create jobs, and provide a better quality of life for their citizens without relying on fossil fuels.

“India’s emissions should rise only two percent, and that’s a lot lower than we’ve seen in the past decade,” Jackson says. And even though that’s an increase, it give him hope. Yes, India had some economic issues this year, but they’re also planning extensive expansions of solar power and other, cleaner forms of electricity to meet its goals. If India can put its power plants and cars where its signature is, it could show other nations that are still developing their economies a greener way forward.

“There are still hundreds of millions of people around the world that don’t have electricity,” Jackson says. “Where will those people get their energy from when they have access to electricity and when they are buying cars?”

The answer to that question is only going to get more important in the years ahead. It’s very possible that next year’s emissions will rise again, but that upward trajectory is not inevitable. A concerted international effort to find and use substitutes for ozone-destroying chemicals is paying off, 30 years later, showing that it’s not impossible for humans to change the world. International intentions can yield worldwide results, but only if they are followed with concrete actions.

Why Just Building Links Doesn’t Work Anymore

When it comes to building an online presence, many brands still believe they can take the easy way out.

Although the icky days of black hat SEO and link stuffed copy have gone the way of the dinosaurs, it’s not uncommon for a new or budding company (still) to think they’ll succeed by rattling off cheap, backlink-stuffed online content.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, readers (and Google) are more discerning than they’ve ever been before, and the only way to build an online presence that lasts is to create content that’s designed to offer genuine value and relevance – to both of them.

I’m not talking about cheap, one-off, thoughtless stuff meant to drive quick rankings: I’m talking about thoughtful, in-depth, relevant content that offers something real.

Today, I’m here sharing why building links alone doesn’t work anymore, and the types of content you should absolutely be investing in to seriously grow your online presence. Ready?

Why Just Building Links Doesn’t Work Anymore

Even people who know virtually nothing about SEO, content quality, or engagement know one thing: links are supposed to help you get noticed online.

In some ways, this is true. In others, it couldn’t be more off-base.

Yes, high-quality links can help Google determine the authority and relevance of a page. They can also provide context for your readers and help you make valuable SEO connections between the pages on your site.

Low-quality links, however, can hurt your SEO more than they help it. And this is by design rather than by accident.

Here’s why: years ago, black-hat SEOs made their fortunes manipulating search results. They did this by either buying links or working dozens of them into spammy pages for the purpose of manipulating Google’s search results. Google, not surprisingly, didn’t love this. As such, the search engine developed an algorithm update to address it.

The change went by the name of the Penguin update, and it went into effect in April of 2012. Designed to punish sites that use spammy backlink strategies, the Penguin update sought to ensure that sites focusing on links were doing so for quality and relevance rather than perceived SEO gains.

Today, sites that use spammy backlink strategies pay for it in the form of Google penalties and decreased respect in the online environment.

What’s more, cheap, link-hungry sites are falling out of vogue with content creators everywhere, and many teams and individuals are simply refusing to create content that doesn’t provide value beyond its backlinks.

But the crazy part is that the marketer who thinks crappy content will work still exists. Here’s proof: an example of my writing agency talking to an incoming lead with this mindset just this October.

Are Marketers Still Creating Content for Links? The Answer, Sadly, is Yes

In mid-October, my team got a request from a marketer to create content “just for backlinks’ sake.” The project consisted of web pages for local dentists.

We don’t create content like that. So, when we sent him a quote for engaging content that would be written for the reader as well as Google, and not just created secondary to a link, here’s what he said. I kid you not. (Names removed for privacy.)

The reason we turn people like this elsewhere is because 1) first, at the rates they offer it is impossible to retain knowledgeable writers, and, 2) writing this content would mean that we’d have to lower every standard we have for our other clients that receive engaging copy.

What’s more, this content would not add value to the overall ecosystem of the web.

No time was wasted arguing in the simple reply our support representative sent him:

Holding to high standards will win in the end, in content marketing.

8 Content Types that Will Boost Your Online Presence

So if spammy, backlink-stuffed content doesn’t earn links, what does?

The answer is varied, and it depends in large part what your goals and focuses are.

With that in mind, though, here are the top types of content designed to earn links and help you get noticed online:

1. Engaging, Well-written Content

By far, the best type of content for links is just high-quality material. Forbes calls this “old-school link bait.” According to their definition, “link bait was a piece of content that was great. Insanely great.” When publishers work to develop fantastic content, they can then put it out online and (here’s the key piece) publicize it to a few select sources – the best influencers in the industry, for example – before sitting back and waiting for the results to roll in.

Unlike content that’s designed for the sole purpose of claiming links, quality content is intended first for relevance and value and second for SEO. The value of this content is bone-deep, which is why it succeeds so dramatically.

In many ways, value is the golden rule for the entire content ecosystem. Whether you’re trying to attract readers, earn links, or boost your SEO, quality and value are the foundation, and everything else builds from there.

2. Non-gated Content Resources

With this in mind, keep the majority of your content ungated and open to the public. When you combine this with the first tip (quality first, always), you’ll soon find yourself with a bullet-proof strategy for links, engagement, and brand recognition.

3. Extensively Researched Guides

When people head to the web today, they’re looking for valuable content that teaches them something new. Because of this, content that features deep levels of research, plenty of usable facts and statistics, and opinion-forming material is highly likely to be linked to and shared.

While many marketers believe that creating this type of content will be impossible in their given industry, the fact of the matter is that research-dense content is attainable in virtually any field.  By providing in-depth and well-researched content to your followers, you’ll reap the rewards in terms of shares and links.

Be forewarned that this type of content can take a lot of time and money. I was talking to my friend Sujan Patel (we live near each other in Austin, Texas), and he’s getting ready to do a few of these guides. He estimates a budget of $50,000 to create several, This includes research, copywriting, HTML embed, creating graphics – the whole nine yards.

4. Long-Form Blogs

When it comes to your blogging, long-form content performs better than shorter material. While 85% of the text-based content on the web is 1,000 words or shorter, blogs and articles with between 2,250-2,500 words get the most links and attention.

With this in mind, shift your content strategy to focus more on long-form content. Because it meets several of the above stipulations (it provides value and relevance, and features extensive research), it’s highly likely to perform well among your audience and can help you build an online presence that lasts.

5. List-Style Posts

List posts are famously viral, and while they may seem a bit cliché, they’ll help you get noticed. Here’s why: list posts are readable, actionable, and skimmable, which makes them highly valuable to readers. When a reader comes across a list post, they know the information within it is organized into digestible bits, which makes it easy to implement immediately.

With this in mind, try to incorporate numbers into the headings of your blogs. Because lists are so easy to read and digest, they’re likely to go over well with your readers. While some marketers dislike the formulaic nature of lists, they work. Because of this, they’re a worthwhile addition to your content strategy.

6. Content with Great Visuals

Images are a powerful addition to any content marketing strategy, and they’re a great way to earn links and views. HubSpot reports that colored visuals boost a person’s willingness to read a blog or article by a massive 80% and 34% of marketers name visual material their single most important content asset.

With this in mind, don’t hesitate to add visual content to your online content. A well-placed series of screenshots, some beautiful stock photos, or a custom-made infographic will all add significant value to your online content and may be exactly what you need to gain the attention (and the links) your brand has been working so hard for on the web.

7. Content that Caters to Your Target Audience

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: understanding your target audience is essential in creating content that earns links and shares.

Because content that is targeted directly to your unique base of readers is more relevant, specific, and valuable than less targeted content, it will go the furthest in terms of earning you the views and attention you deserve.

8. Promoted & Sponsored Content

Content that is not promoted often goes unnoticed. Because the web is so vast and the amount of content out there is so extensive, it’s not surprising that un-promoted content often sinks to the bottom of the content sea, never to be seen again. Fortunately, you can bypass this and earn your content the attention it deserves by promoting it.

When I say “promotion,” I don’t mean some half-hearted social media updates. Instead, you’ll need to check the following boxes:

Reach out directly to the largest influencers in your industry (especially if you’ve mentioned any of them in your content)

Share your content several times on social media to gain the widest exposure

Share content in relevant online groups, communities, and forums

Add trending hashtags to your content

Engaging Content Remains the Foundation of Your Brand’s Growth Online

For years, the widespread assumption has been that content is meant to help you rank, first and foremost. While this is, in some ways, true, it’s also heartbreakingly false. While content does help you rank when you do it well, that’s only a secondary effect of its true purpose: delivering relevance and value to your readers.

In recent years, search engines and users have evolved to the point where low-quality content just isn’t interesting anymore. Today, search engines aren’t interested in cruddy backlink-stuffed material that does nothing but clog up the web and suck value from all of the sites around it.

Instead, they want real, well-researched, long-form content that actually adds something to the ecosystem of the online world.

While bad content is easy to create and many people, like the marketer in my example above, believe it’s the golden ticket to outstanding web rankings, good content is the way of the future. It’s the only way to get noticed online today. The climate of the web is evolving, and the glory days of low-quality content have long since passed.

Today, cheap content doesn’t fulfill a purpose in the online environment.

Tech updates like Penguin, coupled with shifting consumer focus, have made it intensely clear that getting noticed online requires skill and attention, rather than just brute force.

With that in mind, marketers operating in the modern online environment will do well to focus on the types of content that do drive results – promoted content, free content, research-dense content, list posts, visually-enhanced posts, and long-form material. While these things all need to work together to build a robust content strategy, they’re a great place for marketers with an eye to the future to start.

Image Credits

Featured image: created by Express Writers

In-post image: Rawpixel/DepositPhotos

Screenshots by Julia McCoy. Taken November 2024.

Why Doctors Are Still Studying Jfk’s Chronic Back Pain

John F. Kennedy was known for his youth and energy, but in the decades since his death we’ve realized that there was more to the story: The 35th President of the United States actually battled an impressive collection of medical problems. Among these was agonizing back pain that led Kennedy to undertake four surgeries.

“This pain affected him nearly continually from his undergraduate years at Harvard until the day of his assassination,” a pair of physicians wrote earlier this month in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. They have examined Kennedy’s medical records to create a detailed report of the youngest elected President’s pain and how it shaped his career—and possibly even his death in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It’s not clear what exactly was awry, and it’s likely that multiple problems were at play. “The imaging studies they used were very primitive,” says coauthor Justin Dowdy, a neurosurgeon at Hot Springs Neurosurgery Clinic in Arkansas. “It’s such a difficult thing to tease out, even with modern-day imaging knowledge, the exact cause of many patients’ back pain.”

He and his colleague, T. Glenn Pait, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute in Little Rock, inspected notes penned by Kennedy’s physicians and images of his spine. They found no evidence of congenital abnormalities or fractures in Kennedy’s spine, contrary to previous speculation.

But, as with other famous figures, understanding Kennedy’s medical history can prove illuminating. Pouring through JFK’s medical records drove home how difficult it must have been for him to juggle a political career and events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis with his gnawing, ongoing back pain. “His public image was very discordant with the amount of pain he was in,” Dowdy says. “He wasn’t a young fit healthy guy—he was possibly the 20th century’s sickest President.”

A world of hurt

Back pain was just one of Kennedy’s maladies; he had a sickly childhood, nearly dying from scarlet fever at one point. Later, he faced stomach, colon, and prostate problems, among other ailments. Kennedy also suffered from Addison’s disease, in which the adrenal glands can’t produce enough of the hormones that help the body respond to stress and regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.

Kennedy’s back pain started when he was a student at Harvard University, possibly brought on by a football injury in 1937. “It could have just caused fairly minor structural damage, whether a mild bulging disc or some early degenerative changes, that unfortunately with our backs can spiral out of control if it doesn’t recover right away,” says Dowdy.

A few years later, Kennedy tried to enlist in the Army and Navy, but was disqualified by his back and other health issues. In 1941, though, his ex-ambassador father’s connections helped him secure a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Then in 1943, a Japanese destroyer rammed Kennedy’s boat in the Solomon Islands, cutting it in half. The survivors swam for a nearby island, Kennedy towing a wounded crew-member with him—clenching a strap from the man’s life jacket between his teeth. After more grueling swims and help from two Solomon Islanders, the crew was eventually rescued.

After that, however, Kennedy’s back pain intensified. He underwent his first back surgery in 1944, which left him with severe muscle spasms. Ten years later, Kennedy was a senator and his back problems were intense enough that he almost constantly relied on crutches. In 1954 he opted to undergo a second operation. His other health problems made this spinal fusion surgery risky, and afterwards he developed a urinary tract infection that put him in a coma. Later on, he developed an infection at the surgical site that reportedly oozed blood and pus constantly. Given his inability to heal, another operation was arranged to remove the plate he’d received during his second surgery.

Kennedy improved after that, but developed an abscess along the surgical scar on his back. He underwent a final, less invasive operation in 1957, after which his back pain ebbed for a time. But a few months after becoming President, Kennedy again hurt his back during a tree-planting ceremony in Canada in May 1961. He had another relapse in 1963, a few months before his assassination.

Did JFK’s back problems help kill him?

Some scholars speculate that the lumbar brace Kennedy wore towards the end of his life played a role in his death. After Lee Harvey Oswald shot him in the neck, the argument goes, the brace may have pulled Kennedy back into an upright position—placing him back into Oswald’s sights for the second, fatal shot. Perhaps without the brace, he would have slumped forward—and just might have survived. But there’s no way to know, Dowdy and Pait concluded. Still, they wrote, Kennedy’s long struggle with back pain may have helped alter history.

So what were Kennedy’s back issues? Different physicians had different ideas, Dowdy says. “Some diagnosed him with a bulging disc and essentially a pinched nerve, sciatica type pain from that bulging disc.” Another diagnosed Kennedy with an unstable lumbosacral joint, a common cause of low back pain.

Whatever the reasons for his pain, Kennedy’s surgeries didn’t bring him much relief (leading him, at one point, to try shots laced with methamphetamine). Today, a few things have changed. We have better imaging, including CT scans and MRIs, to help figure out what must be fixed. “We would have a much better idea of his actual structural changes now,” Dowdy says. “Maybe it would have prevented him from having surgery—or if he’d needed surgery we’d have many more options.”

On the other hand, maybe Kennedy would have had a similar experience if he’d lived today. “It’s the same problem we have now, diagnosing and treating back pain, as his surgeons and physicians were struggling with 80 years ago,” Dowdy says. “Despite our surgical technologies, our imaging capabilities…it’s still an art.”

In good company

Sometimes, we can glean historical insights from investigating the medical problems that famous figures dealt with. Any letters and medical records left behind can highlight the challenges and complications that may have been simmering in the background of key historical events, Dowdy says.

JFK was special, he admits. Kennedy lived recently and still commands the country’s interest, and scholars have plenty of access to his records. But there have been many other medical investigations into famous people from the past.

One popular target is Jane Austen. The British author died in 1817 at age 41. Scholars have since pored over her remaining letters in search of clues to what killed her. In 1964, a surgeon proposed that Addison’s disease was the culprit, citing the skin coloration that Austen herself described as “black and white and every wrong colour.” The disease can cause darkening of the skin, but not everyone is convinced by this explanation. More recently, other scholars have proposed lymphoma and tuberculosis as possible causes of death, and even speculated about accidental arsenic poisoning.

Then there’s Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, who suffered from poor health long before he died at age 39 in 1849. Chopin’s death certificate pins the blame on tuberculosis, but there’s speculation that he actually suffered from cystic fibrosis. This inherited disease causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and pancreas, and could explain Chopin’s breathing problems, diarrhea, enlarged heart and a few other symptoms. Today, people with cystic fibrosis have a life expectancy of around 37 years. In Chopin’s time, the disease had not even been discovered; it would have been extraordinary for the composer to have survived so long. Chopin’s heart is preserved in Warsaw, and researchers have long hoped to take a tissue sample to test for evidence of the disease. But, though a team of scientists exhumed the organ in 2014, they were allowed only to take photos, and the mystery of Chopin’s death endures.

These kinds debates can span centuries. Julius Caesar, who died in 44 BC, suffered from vertigo, dizziness, and limb weakness. The Greek historian Plutarch later described Caesar’s epileptic fits in his biography. Epilepsy remained the dominant diagnosis for hundreds of years, although others have suggested migraines and seizures related to malaria or a parasitic brain infection. In 2024, a pair of physicians at Imperial College London reviewed the general and statesman’s symptoms and concluded that mini-strokes offer a more convincing explanation. Perhaps these strokes could account for Caesar’s collapse in the battle of Thapsus in 46 BC, as well as his reported depression and personality changes. “Whilst Caesar’s death ultimately derived from his assassination, the possible diagnosis of stroke during his life may offer some novel interpretations regarding several notable incidents during his time as a Roman leader,” the doctors wrote in the journal Neurological Sciences.

In most cases, we can’t decisively settle what ailed a person who is long dead. Still, probing the illnesses famous people struggled with, from antiquity to Kennedy’s time, can benefit those of us alive today. People like to know that others have shared their illness, whether it’s chronic back pain or a rare disease, Dowdy says. “Especially when famous people have it…it makes you know that you’re not alone.”

Why Employees Should Surf The Web At Work

A small business owner might frown on the idea that employees are surfing the Web on work time to read about the state of the NBA lockout. But, when done in moderation, giving employees the freedom to roam the Internet can actually help them work better.

Surfing the Web at work is not only harmless but it can even boost productivity, according to a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore. Web surfing offers workers “immediate gratification” and helps them “restore resources that are drained as a result of work,” the researchers reported at last week’s meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas.

The findings were based on a study with 98 participants with an average age of 21, who were divided into three control groups. Each group either surfed the Web for 10 minutes, did whatever they wanted during the time period except look at Web pages, or performed the task of bundling sticks into groups of five.

After the 10-minute time period, each group was given another 10 minutes to highlight with a marker the letter “A” where it appeared in a 2000-word text. After the tests, the participants answered a questionnaire to help determine their levels of boredom, mental exhaustion, and psychological engagement.

The results showed that the group that had surfed the Web for 10 minutes scored the best results in the test that involved finding the letter “A” in the text. They performed the task more efficiently than the other two groups of participants who had either worked by bundling sticks or were allowed to do whatever they wanted during the time period except look at Web pages. The Web-surfing group also reported in the questionnaire that they felt less bored and mentally exhausted and felt more psychologically engaged.

Surfing Is Better Than Email

If surfing the Web is good, where does that leave checking email? After all, leisurely Web browsing usually goes hand in hand with checking personal emails. But according to the study, checking email, in fact, does not offer the benefits that Web surfing does. This is because checking email demands more attention and is more “cognitively taxing,” the researchers said. Also, since workers have no control over the content of the messages they receive, reading and responding to the messages is more mentally taxing than surfing the Web is.

Security Risks Can Be Mitigated

Some small and midsize business (SMB) owners prohibit non-work-related Web surfing because of security concerns. They may worry about employees accessing sites that might offend fellow co-workers or being lured to download malware. However, you shouldn’t prevent employees from surfing for these reasons, because you can take steps to make surfing secure.

Employees Need Their Freedom

So, employees should be allowed to surf the Web at work, but within reason, of course. Someone who spends most of the day perusing chúng tôi or chúng tôi is obviously going to have trouble getting their work done. In fact, the Singapore researchers say employers should allow time for “limited amount of personal Web use,” implying that spending too much time on the Net for non-work-related reasons is not a good thing.

But over-aggressively using monitoring software to prevent users from spending too much time on the Net is not the solution, either, and is arguably unethical. Workplaces in the United States reserve the right to monitor Web use, but that does not necessarily mean that employers should routinely monitor users’ Web surfing, either, even if it is legal. Especially in workplaces where professionals are paid for results, many employees will think that the amount of time spent surfing is none of management’s business.

The best practice is to allow employees to surf the Web while making users aware of policy, and then give them the freedom to get their work done.

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