Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and décor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

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Home Built Is Exciting

Experience

When it comes to custom homes, you don’t want to put that into the hands of just anyone. Look for a provider with a history of offering well-made homes. They should be completed on time, on budget, and with quality materials. They should have a reputation of listening to the buyers and offering a variety of floor plans as well as other options to pick from.

You need a provider who can guide you through the entire process from start to finish. It all begins with a free consultation where you can share your dream about custom homes. What would the ideal home look like and where would it be located? They can spend time giving you the opportunity to check land available, various sizes and layouts of homes, and more.

Getting Started

As you start to share with them what you want the outcome to be, they can give you more specific ideas and concepts. They can also give you an idea of what the cost will be. Typically, they are going to give you the base package price. As you add various upgrades, the cost can increase. Keep that in mind as you are making your final decisions.

If the cost is too much, you will either have to increase your budget or you will need to make some changes. It can be useful to get pre-approved for a loan before you discuss details with the creator of custom homes. This helps you to know how much you can afford to spend. It will also speed up the process of getting it all in motion once the last paperwork has been completed.

Communication

One of the key aspects of making it all fall into place is excellent communication. The provider should get back to you timely with information. They should be willing to sit down and discuss with you various options, show you samples of colors and materials, and make sure you feel comfortable with how it is all moving forward. You shouldn’t ever feel rushed or pressured.

During the planning stages, you need to ask questions as you go. Don’t feel intimidated or like you should know more than you do. Providers of custom homes deal with this all day, every day and they realize you are new to the process. They are going to be patient and they are going to be motivated to help you feel confident about the entire process.

Building Process

Once the specifics are in place and the financing has been taken care of, the real building can begin. Custom homes should be built to your specifications with quality materials. During various stages of the building there will be required inspections that have to be done. They are conducted by an outside 3rd party to make sure the home is being built safely and up to code.

It is a good idea to find out about any warranties that apply. Usually, there will be a warranty that is applied for the materials and another given by the contractor for their role in the construction of your new home. Find out exactly what is covered and what isn’t under such a warranty. You don’t want to feel blindsided if you need to make a claim down the road.

Mining Industry Builds Up Smart Solutions

The present-day mining industry provides large-scale possibilities for the latest automotive and connective technologies to be tested out.

It goes without saying that the process of recovering the planet’s natural resources is hard. Apart from being difficult, it can be environmentally damaging. In these circumstances human safety is of top priority. It is provided by such IT revolutionary systems as: ‘extreme Wi-Fi’ that is able to cover vast deserts; autonomous vehicles that deal with extracting vital minerals and rocks without the need for operator action; smart communications that warn employees if they get close to gigantic machines and much more. The experts in the field believe that the potential of these systems will help to achieve the ambitious goal of the fully autonomous mining site, where the actual presence of humans is not required.

Smart mining premises

All the leading manufacturers of mining machinery are currently developing the best autonomous practices to increase efficiency and productivity, reduce cost, and lower emissions without sacrifice of safety. By using connectivity and valuable data analytics they develop the optimal dig patterns at the coalface and enable the vehicles of exact autonomous routing. Mining has become the mutual combination of big industry, big data and big money.

The underground IoT provider

One of the most ingenious contributions to smart mines so far is the Smart Rockbolt. Basically, this is the device that creates an underground Internet of Things. The global mining industry uses 100 million of bolts every year. These tools are used to prop up walls and ceilings during dynamiting. The concern is that they are rather susceptible. Being damaged, they lose their load bearing capability. As a result, there is the risk of deadly collapsed tunnels and cavities.

The innovative Smart Rockbolt was designed at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden and has an impressive list of virtues. It is equipped with sensors that measure vibrations and strain. When linked to 4G or Wi-Fi it empowers a mesh network with the might of a 24/7 safety monitoring system. What is more, a single non-rechargeable battery cell is able to run for years.

The art of geofencing

Geofencing technology serves to keep workers away from dangerous equipment. It is integrated with various microclimate monitoring systems, which benefit from sensors that measure humidity, temperature, sound and gas levels in the area. In case of any problems mining workers and engineers receive the corresponding text messages on their phones. Employees can get warnings not to enter an area because the air quality is not satisfactory or because there is heavy machinery working. A worker also can send an alert to the control center when they are in need of assistance. Another important value of the technology is that it can give real-time feedback on the physical condition of workers (e.g. blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) by means of special wearable devices.

The ultra-reliable Wi-Fi

To guarantee successful remote operation, the connectivity should be just flawless. But in case of the open mines somewhere in high mountain ranges the task demands a lot of effort. Sometimes, the environmental conditions are so tough, that for electronics it’s like going to Mars. But there is such advanced networking equipment with ruggedised routers that allow remote mining and construction workers to take advantage of the so-called ‘extreme Wi-Fi’ everywhere they go.

The need for 5G

Providing reliable connectivity that is flexible and durable enough for underground mining operations is quite a challenge. To arrange the work of autonomous mining machinery on a regular basis, the connectivity should be of no less than the 5G standard. Telecommunications equipment companies have already launched the projects that aim at investigating how to remotely control monster-like vehicles. For this reason, distributed radio networks with carefully arranged antennas are being set up in the mines to deal with the long underground tunnels and rough walls.

Mine of the future

Autonomous haulage around the mine is not a dream, but the reality that is tested nowadays at the Pilbara iron ore mine in Western Australia. The concept under the big name ‘Mine of the future’ is being realized with the help of 69 partially autonomous trucks. Other outstanding plans include automated drilling and even a fully autonomous long distance railway to get the ore to market.

In the near future a fully remote control over dump trucks is planned to be ensured through an electric steering module, installed between the steering wheel and valve. Moreover, the trucks will use data from the on-board sensors, as well as digital maps that will help to navigate around a mine and identify an exact location for dumping.

Great Expectations

Alongside big behemoths in the form of haul trucks, there are smaller versions of transportation trucks in the form of tippers that are also used for bulk cargo haulage around a mining site. Autonomous transport solutions for construction sphere have become one of the prime concerns for Swedish automotive manufacturers. Thus, Scania tippers represent the company’s ongoing commitment to profitability and sustainability. As an initial result, two collaborating construction vehicles from Scania have already demonstrated its self-driving abilities. A distinctive feature of the project is that its final goal is not to take away the need for human intervention but to make the driver to be a key player in proficient autonomous transporting and dumping solutions.

Protect Yourself Against, and Mitigate Damages From, Identity Theft

We’ve all heard of it. But we all think that we’re invincible to it. Identity Theft!

What is it? It refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

If your identity is stolen, do you have a plan in place to mitigate the damages? If not, you should at least bookmark this, just in case you need it in the future.

Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
• full name
• date of birth
• Social Insurance Numbers
• full address
• mother’s maiden name
• username and password for online services
• driver’s license number
• personal identification numbers (PIN)
• credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
• bank account numbers
• signature
• passport number

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft, and there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and help bring the thief to justice.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now to protect yourself:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the ‘For’ line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won’t have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SIN printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. When you travel abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Insurance number, credit cards, etc…

If your identity does get stolen, what kind of things can you expect to have happen?

Here are just some of what they can do:
1. Access your bank accounts
2. Open new bank accounts
3. Transfer bank balances
4. Apply for loans, credit cards
5. Make purchases
6. Buy cell phone packages
7. Credit line approved by retail stores
8. Access your driving record, and change your information online

If you are a victim, here’s some critical information to act on immediately:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. This is why we photocopy them (see above). Call your local bank/financial institution as well.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the nationwide credit reporting companies immediately. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your name and credit report. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers for two national credit bureaus:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
2.) TransUnion Canada: 1-877-525-3823
3. Order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Have you even been a victim of identify theft? Tell us your story and maybe others can learn from what you did, or didn’t do.