Contemporary Publishing vs. Self-publishing

Publication is the act of disseminating information to the public. While the term now extends towards all forms of information including digital and broadcasted content, it traditionally referred to written and printed works such as books, newspapers, magazines, posters, etc. Publication is the final step an author takes in order to complete his/her wok; it is also one of the most critical and sensitive steps to consider as far as written works are concerned.
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A Guide to Self-publishing

A number of methods of publishing independent works exist, and it is up to the author to choose which method is best suited for his/her work.

One of the oldest types of self-publishing, often called vanity publishing, involves an up-front payment by the author to a publisher in order to have written work mass-produced; in contrast to contracts in mainstream publishing where the author is paid a sum of money in exchange for rights to the work. The term originates from the idea that authors with the drive to pay publishers with the belief that they will make all their money back are driven with extreme confidence in their writing skills and talents. In this scenario, the author retains control of many aspects of the book, including the case and/or cover, artwork, and the format the book follows, essentially paying the publisher to market and distribute the book. While this is a good way for authors to guarantee the quality and spread of their work while retaining most if not all copyrights, it is very expensive, and requires a budget of at least a few thousand dollars.
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Skin tear, pimples under skin

Everyone experiences pimples. Even if research shows about 80% of teenagers experience acne, I refuse to believe a person can go through an entire lifetime without getting one or two of those evil bumps in the skin. Therefore, everyone knows how much of a bother they can be. They swell, turn red, and then pop in the most disgusting way. It even becomes second nature for many people to break the skin themselves to drain the pimple; and while that sometimes works, regardless of how strongly health and beauty experts disagree, it cannot be done when dealing with sub-dermal pimples.

What are pimples exactly? Well, pimples are sebaceous glands that become infected with a bacteria species called Propionibacterium acnes. These mostly harmless, and often helpful creatures live on the surface of (and in) the human body, and feed on oil produced by the sebaceous glands. When a gland becomes hyperactive however, or when the path of the oil produced by the gland is blocked, the species is able to feed, grow, and multiply much faster than normal, to the point that the waste it leaves behind becomes a problem. The body responds by sending white blood cells to the infection site, triggering inflammation and the formation of pus. When inflammation begins, the pimple is called a papule. When it fills up with pus, it is called a pustule.

Pimples normally fill up until they drain on their own, so it is not recommended to tamper with the skin to relieve the pressure. Besides the risk of greater infection is the possibility of scarring over the damaged area. Sometimes however, the infection of P. acnes is so deep under the surface of the skin, and the feeling of irritation is so intense, that it becomes difficult to resist the temptation to poke at the pimple. The person will then squeeze the pimple, often worsening the inflammation. If the pimple is squeezed hard enough, or if the person uses nails to try and rupture the pimple, what results is a skin tear, where blood, pus, and oil all leak out.

Fortunately, there are better ways of dealing with pimples under the skin. In fact, there are so many ways to treat pimples that provided you know enough about them, you can make your own remedy.

First, because sub-dermal pimples are deep under the skin, you may want to bring it closer to the surface. Placing a hot, moist towel on your face increases circulation, and speeds up the process of filling up the pimple with white blood cells. While the thought is disgusting, it does push the pimple out, making it easier for other treatments to deal with the problem.

Once the pimple is out from where you can’t reach it, there are a number of methods to dry it out. Many substances found at home seem to be toxic towards P. acnes. Most soap easily kills it, making regular washing of the face a great way for both treatment and prevention of acne. Even honey possesses ingredients toxic to the bacteria. A face mask can be made from any such substance to deal with acne. One popular homemade face mask involves egg whites and baking soda. It dries out the oil, and doesn’t leave a mess on your face (not from the pimple anyway). In fact, the effect of baking soda on acne is so well-known, that some people recommend rubbing a bit of toothpaste on a pimple simply because most toothpaste has baking soda in it.

Acids are another efficient method of treating acne. The acidity of vinegar, combined with other antiseptic qualities it has, kills of P. acnes in short spans of time. Without the bacteria, the body finds no need for the inflammatory response, and ceases to keep sending white blood cells to the affected area. Other acidic foods such as lemons or limes can be just as effective, but be ready to deal with dry skin if you use too much.

Remedies such as these really do more than the simple brute strength of squeezing pimples until they pop. So the next time you feel that burning, swelling sensation on your nose, do yourself a favor and don’t squeeze. Letting it under your skin won’t make things better; especially when it literally is there anyway.

A Crazy Pain

If you, like me, are an avid soccer fan and player, then the odds are you’ve experienced something similar to this: a painful pulling sensation somewhere deep in your hips, extending all the way to your lower back, and sometimes, down to your legs. Sometimes, the pain is easy enough to deal with, and you can keep running and playing the game you love. Sometimes, it seems much worse, and you end up bedridden for days, weeks, or even months.

I’ll tell you right now: that kind of pain – hip flexor pain – is nothing to be taken lightly.

The lower half of our body has muscles largely focused on locomotion. In our hips lie a set of muscles that work together to perform movements that allow our legs to move; when contracting, these muscles pull our femur up towards our chest. These muscles are collectively known as the iliopsoas, pronounced with a silent “p,” and so named because it is a combination of the psoas major, and iliacus muscles. They are the strongest of the hip flexors and, together with the rectus femoris (part of the quadriceps) and the sartorius muscle, are responsible for are responsible for the movement of the femur. They basically allow us to run, jump, and kick.

The ilipsoas is the strongest of the hip flexors because it is subjected to more force than any of the others. If too much force is exerted, the muscle can tear, resulting in hip flexor pain. The injury can vary from a grade one tear where only a few muscle fibers are damaged, to a grade three tear where the entire iliopsoas is severed, and all function is lost. Without proper anterior hip precautions however, even a simple grade one tear can turn into a grade two or grade three muscle tear. Too many times, I’ve found myself lying on my back in the middle of the field after having torn my hip flexors during a long pass because I ignored the slight but undeniable jolt of pain of a grade one muscle tear.

In order to care for hip flexor pain, the first thing to do is rest the injury. By denying the muscle any more stress, the body is able to heal much faster, and the risk of worsening the tear is minimized. A damaged muscle is a weak muscle capable of handling less physical force than a fully functioning muscle. Application of ice or some other cold compress is then recommended to reduce blood flow to the area and prevent excessive internal bleeding. Keeping the injury elevated also assists in this. If all goes well, the muscle will repair itself, although a grade two or grade three tear may require medical attention. Worst-case scenarios may take months to recover from, but avoiding physical exertion of the iliopsoas can dramatically reduce this period to a few weeks.

Most athletes will tell you of course, that muscle injury is avoidable; and I agree. I’ve found that the best way to avoid hip flexor tears is to keep your muscles in good condition. This requires a good diet to supplement your muscles with the nutrition necessary for them to function and maintain themselves, but, more directly and importantly, it means exercise. A good stretch during a warm-up routine will develop flexibility in muscles, allowing them to take on physically straining movements without giving way. A proper training regimen also develops muscle memory, allowing you to perform actions such as kicks with proper form, and minimal risk of injury.

Injury is a part of any sport. Hip flexor pain happens to be one that plagues soccer players. Still, it isn’t a new problem, and there are time-tested methods of dealing with it. Therefore, while hip flexor pain is an injury that can and often will happen, I’ve accepted the risk as part of the game. All I have to do is reduce the odds that I fall prey to it. I take care of my body, and I have never believed it to be a reason to stop playing the game I love.

Poodle Mixes: Cotton-coated Craze

Dogs have been considered as man’s best friend for God-knows-how-long. They come in many breeds of different appearances and sizes, and everyone who has ever owned a dog, or wanted to own a dog has their own personal favorite.

My cousin in particular, owns a Bichon-poodle hybrid she has been VERY attached to since I decided to adopt it and give it to her for her birthday a few years ago.

The Bichon Frise is a non-sporting dog breed that originally descended from a Poodle and a Barbet. They grow to about a foot high at the shoulders. They carry their tails curled up on their backs, and they have a characteristic dense, curly coat that comes in an assortment of colors. When bred with a Poodle, this usually results in a much thicker coat of fur. The particular one I got my cousin has a rather thick, but adorable gray coat.

The dog – which she had named Asher – must have sparked something in our group of friends, because two of us had other Poodle mixes about six months later; a pair of charcoal-black Shih Tzu-poodle puppies named Rolo and Casey. After another half year, another friend was sporting around a Pomeranian Poodle mix – Pomapoo – named Jackson.

The truth is I’m not entirely sure what started the craze among us. Curiosity got the better of me, and I started digging for information on what makes the Poodle so attractive to us; it didn’t take me long to find some good stuff on the Poodle, too.

As it turns out, one of the most desirable traits of a Poodle is its resistance to shedding. Unlike other dog breeds, the Poodle can grow a fairly thick coat of hair without it falling off when groomed or giving the animal a bath. This also means it’s very easy to clean up after a poodle, as it is unlikely to leave fur all over the carpet, on the couch, or on clothing. That is all just as well, as my friends all enjoy lounging on the couch with the dogs.

Poodles are also very intelligent. In fact, the breed is popular for its ability to recognize new commands with minimal effort. This makes them easy to train, and much easier to bond with. They can recognize given situations and act accordingly and appropriately. Their intelligence also gives Poodles a competitive edge in dog shows and contests. Among us however, the most valuable attribute granted by Poodle intelligence is their ability to recognize human emotion. Rolo and Casey in particular, were smart and emotionally intelligent enough to try and cheer their owners up when the latter’s mother passed away last year.

I can’t really say for sure however, if those traits are what make us love the dogs so much. Definitely, to my friends, the bond is more than just one of convenience to other breeds.

I’ve always been an animal lover. I’ve always loved dogs in particular, and remembering things like that makes me think of how deep and primal our relationships with the animal world really are. It doesn’t just extend to pets as well, but to just about anything that breathes. There’s just something about my friends’ pets that stirs something in us. I might not be able to identify it, but it’s undeniably there.

Maybe if I get a Poodle mix of my own, I’ll find it easier to say what it is exactly. Maybe I should get one.

Breathe Easy: The Low Cost Asthma Remedy

Asthma is a common chronic disease characterized by a number of symptoms including inflammation of the human respiratory tract, fluid in the lungs, coughing and wheezing. Its name has a Greek origin meaning “pant,” and it plagues hundreds of millions of people every year, with a fatality rate of over ten percent. Despite the grim facts however, asthma is a manageable disease. There are thousands of generic and prescribed brand labels designed to combat asthma and its symptoms.

But what if you can’t afford to buy medicines over the counter? Let’s face it: doctor’s appointments alone cost a lot of money, and what most pharmacies provide just adds on top of that cost. What if you are stuck at home and just need a quick fix to help with the before they overwhelm you?

Well the first thing to do is understand what you have. Asthma is classified as allergic or non-allergic. Allergic asthma is triggered by the same things the person is allergic to. When the substance enters the lungs along with air, the bronchioles detect it, triggering an inflammatory response. This causes the asthma attack. Non-allergic asthma on the other hand, is caused by actual irritants entering the body through the respiratory system. Regardless of type of asthma, the common factor here is the trigger. If you want to deal with an asthma attack, the start by learning what causes the attack, and then avoiding it altogether.

The next thing to do is alleviate the symptoms. While I agree when physicians say that an actual medication is necessary for proper treatment of asthma, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do without medical help. Following are a list of home remedies for asthma attacks. Please note that they are alternatives meant to treat symptoms, and are not meant to replace a doctor’s advice.

Take a warm steam bath for example. Singers will often say that singing in the shower loosens moistens the vocal chords. In the same way, warm steam will restore moisture to dried and irritated bronchioles. The temperature can also get rid of nasal congestion some asthmatics get, and cause blood vessels to dilate for more absorption of oxygen into the body.

Hot ginger tea is another home remedy that people tend to swear by. This is because of the root’s anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger has been used in folk medicine around the world for thousands of years, and some research in modern-day medicine supports many traditional beliefs about the plant. Asthma is an inflammatory disease, and so it makes perfect sense to use ginger as a quick fix for it; or at least, for the symptoms.

Some cough and cold treatments also list honey as an ingredient. In medicines, it is used to help soothe an irritated throat and bronchial tract. It is commonplace for people to mix a spoonful of honey with tea to alleviate symptoms. Though insufficient research has been conducted to conclude whether or not this actually works, it really doesn’t hurt to try. At the very least, it is comforting; honey sends shots of dopamine – the human body’s natural feel-good hormone – straight to the brain.

Garlic is another plant people swear works wonders when dealing with asthma. Unique sulfur compound known as vinyldithiins are produced in garlic when the allicins it naturally contains break down. These compounds are responsible for inhibition of inflammatory responses in the human body, particularly in the cardiovascular system. Research is being conducted on how effective garlic really is, though even in the early stages of the studies, things look bright for those who support garlic and its properties.

Finally, there is chicken soup. While it has the same qualities of temperature and moisture that help heal irritated airways, the real value is that it white blood cells have been observed by doctors to be less likely to congregate and cause an inflammatory response when in the presence of chicken soup (I wish I was making this up). While the biological effects are unclear, the effect is definite. In addition, I really don’t want to argue with science when it backs up good food.

While it remains advised to seek professional help when dealing with asthma, it’s still a good idea to take a pick. There’s nothing wrong with wanting quick relief; and the truth is that everything mentioned above is either a health food, or a healthy activity. In the end, that is usually the point when it comes to well-being: a healthy diet and lifestyle is, and always will be cheaper and more convenient than a medical bill.

 

Body Tattoos: Up Front, or To the Side

It goes without saying that when you plan to get inked, you need to be sure of yourself. You need to be able to visualize what your life will be like once you have it. You need to know what it will look like before it’s on your skin. After all, like any important turning point in life, getting a tattoo is a decision you have to live with once it’s made.

I remember a few years ago, when I went with a couple of my friends to watch them get inked. One of them was a skinny guy named Samuel who wanted a chest tattoo; he wanted to tattoo the name Rose across his chest as a tribute to his girlfriend Roselyn. The other one was his older sister, who wanted to get her first tattoo; a monochrome dolphin on the lower right side of her abdomen.

We joked with her as we rode to the shop, trying to make her nervous. It was funny because the more we tried to scare her, the tougher she wanted to look. So by the time we had reached the tattoo shop, she was adamant that she would go before her brother. While she was getting inked, I continued to joke around with her and say that the artist screwed up the design. Still, she got through it admirably, with a few laughs and tears in between. When she got up from the chair, she sported a new dolphin side tattoo done in black; poised curled, as though it was leaping out of the water.

Sam had his tattoo done faster than his sister did. There wasn’t much to joke about with him, as he was no stranger to ink, having gotten his first one the day he graduated high school. He was also sensitive about why he wanted the tattoo on his chest, as he wanted it to be proof that he loved his girlfriend. It was sentimental, I suppose, but respectable.

So the day went by without a hitch. We spent the rest of the day’s hours together before going home.

The interesting part was a couple of months later when my phone rang while I was getting ready for work; Sam had apparently broken up with his girlfriend.

Of course, his sister and I were there by his side to keep him company. Still, the part he regretted the most was that he was still sporting the name Rose across his chest, just below the collarbone. Removing it right away wasn’t an option too, as none of us had any money to spare for laser tattoo removal at the time.

My friend Sam has been doing better since then, I suppose. In the end, he decided to keep the tattoo, often joking that maybe the next girlfriend he would end up with might also be named Rose (she wasn’t), but his real reason is that he wants it as a reminder that choices can’t be undone. Even if he DID go through laser removal, it doesn’t change the fact that he DID get a tattoo. His girlfriend seems to understand the logic behind his decision; a rare and mature trait these days.

At the end of the day, my friend Sam learned the gravity and the permanence of choice, and that is a respect the world does not offer to everyone.

Bolstering Your Defenses: How to Deal with Neutropenia

Have you ever had a cold that just seems to keep coming back? Or maybe you’ve had a bout of fever, and after having it treated, it seems to return and attack you again after a couple of days of good rest? Have you felt like you seem to get sick repeatedly even after the doctor’s orders seem to have initially worked out? If, like me, you can relate to that, then the odds are you too have felt the effects of neutropenia.

Neutropenia is a medical condition where the human body produces an unusually low number of neutrophils; these are white blood cells that are associated with defense against bacteria, fungi, and other large invaders in the human body. In a normal, healthy human being, neutrophils are produced in bone marrow, and are abundant enough to keep bacteria in check. For example, if a blood vessel is breached, and bacteria enter the human body, neutrophils are sent to the site of injury to engulf and digest pathogens. In a person diagnosed with neutropenia however, the number of neutrophils is too low for the body to adequately deal with infection. This causes the patient’s immune system to develop. As a result, he/she may feel sickly, or show weaker resistance to diseases that otherwise should be easy to deal with.

Interestingly enough, neutropenia isn’t usually a disease in itself; rather, it is a symptom of a larger problem. In fact, most patients don’t even realize they have neutropenia until a test that is usually meant to find other problems detects it. When I was found to have neutropenia, it was thanks to a blood test I had taken to find the cause for a rather bad bout of cough I had been going through.

Neutropenia can have several causes, including viral infections, tuberculosis, certain cancers, and even medications. In generally, any condition that can target and damage neutrophils, or prevent the formation of the cells can cause neutropenia. Malnutrition for instance, can cause neutropenia due to lack of nutrients necessary to allow bone marrow to produce neutrophils. In that sense, unhealthy bone marrow can also be a root cause of neutropenia.

The condition is not life-threatening in itself. However, the risk of infection gradually goes up as neutrophil count goes down. In addition, the length of time that passes with a low neutrophil count not only increases the risk of contracting disease, but also reduces the chances of your body being able to defent itself. This situation is most obvious in HIV patients, and individuals with autoimmune disorders.

Thankfully, neutropenia has a few solutions, though many medical practitioners will prefer to deal with the root cause of the problem instead of specifically target neutropenia as a symptom. If the case of neutropenia is deemed mild enough, treatment may not even be necessary. If the case is severe, a doctor may prescribe antibacterial medications to aid in ridding the body of invaders. Alternatively, the doctor may use a form of treatment to stimulate the bone marrow into producing greater amounts of white blood cells.

Of course, it is best to try and avoid catching any disease that can cause neutropenia in the first place. Sometimes, the doctor may place certain neutropenic precautions to assist in recovering from neutropenia, and to minimize the odds of it happening again. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it is possible to keep the body in full-functioning order. A healthy diet combined with adequate rest and exercise boosts the immune system’s ability to respond to invaders. Even hygienic habits such as washing hands and wearing clean clothes help to fend of sickness and infection. In comparison to the price of a hospital bill these days, I would take these precautions any day.