Kitchen Renovation – Laminate Bench Tops

The wife and I are renovating our kitchen, what a nightmare this has become. At first I thought it was going to be a moderately expensive exercise but had no idea just how expensive things could get. For instance kitchen countertops can get very expensive especially is using stone such as Marble or Granite. You might be surprised to know this kitchen nightmare had a happy ending with our kitchen ending up with a lovely laminate countertop. Laminate you ask? Isn’t that kind of ugly? Well the truth is it used to be but thanks to modern manufacturing processes and attractive design laminate can provide you with a quality result and importantly save you quite a bit of money. Read on to find out more.

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What Goes into Organic Products?

We all know companies fill their shampoos with chemicals. They do this because it is often the cheapest way to create a thick lather or attractive scent. These chemicals can be damaging to both hair and skin however especially if you have a pre existing skin condition.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)


One of the most common chemicals placed in shampoos is Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. This is often abreviated “SLS”. This chemical can cause skin irritation if used in soaps, scalp irritation if used in shampoos and gum issues such as canker sores if used in toothpaste. The problem is it;s everywhere and at last count was in about 75 well known household products.

Artificial Coloring

Artificial coloring can also cause allergic reactions in some people. Paraphenylenediamine, which is found in most hair dye products can effect some people causing scalp rash and flaking skin.

Natural / Organic Shampoos

Most natural shampoos use plant extracts and natural oils to condition the scalp. One of the most common is avocado oil. This natural substance is easily absorbed by the scalp and helps with scalp rash and unhealthy or damaged hair.

Some individuals who have a latex allergy may find that they are sensitive to these types of shampoos. An alternative for those who are allergic to avocado is to find a shampoo using a different oil. Tea tree oil is used as a base and is very unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in most people. Many other ingredients are used in combination with the oil.

Aloe vera can be used as a moisturizing agent. Companies can add extracts of fruit or flowers to add a pleasant scent to the shampoo. It may be necessary to try several different natural shampoos until you find the one that is best for your hair. Natural shampoos, just like traditional shampoos, are often designed and marketed for a specific type of hair. Some may be volumizing where as others are moisturizing. You may be able to get advice from your stylist on what type of hair you have, and what natural shampoo would be best. They may not be able recommend a natural company, but knowing what type of hair you have and why type of shampoo you need will help you determine what natural shampoos will work for you.

colored-hairThe most important thing to remember is that just because something has an organic label it does not mean that it is the best shampoo for you. Some types of natural occurring substances may harm your head or your hair. It is important to check the labels of each natural shampoo and make sure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients, and that you recognize each ingredient. Some things are marketed as natural when they are not actually natural. Every person will have to carefully consider their options when looking for a natural shampoo. A shampoo that works for one person may not be the best option for someone else. Thankfully, their are many companies dedicated to selling natural shampoo.

Breathalyzer Keychains…Accurate or not?

A breathalyzer keychain is an option if you are considering a personal breathalyzer. As this type of breathalyzer is with you wherever you take your car it has the obvious advantage of being convenient. As a result they can look good value but how accurate are they really? can they be relied upon to provide you with an accurate blood alcohol reading? I wasn’t convinced going into this and am even less so now but read on if you are considering buying one.

You get what you pay for

In short the answer is you get what you pay for..most of the time at least. There are a number of different options in this category and my advice is the same as if choosing a more expensive personal breathalyzer device. Choose an established brand, look at reviews to gauge buyer feedback and don’t expect a reliable device for a small outlay. Generally speaking any breathalyzer that is priced under $10.00 (which these frequently are) is going to give you inaccurate and inconsistent readings. Really what can you expect, it’s at a price point so low that refunds are less likely and complaints of inaccurate readings will likely be met by friends as “What did you expect for ten dollars”. The danger is in relying on these devices at all.

Consistently Inconsistent

The most common form of feedback from those who have purchased a breathalyzer key chain is regarding inconsistent readings. For example the blood alcohol reading can change from one test to the next even when there has been no further alcohol consumed and the tests are carried out only minutes apart.

If you are serious about owning a personal breathalyzer that you can rely on to help you make a decision about driving it’s best to avoid a breathalyzer keychain. We also recommend you avoid purchasing these as a gift for a friend or family member as they have the capacity to cause problems for people that have not researched breathalyzers in any great capacity. At best a Keychain Breathalyzer is a gimmick, at worst it can be considered dangerous in the wrong hands.

The Pick of a Bad Bunch

bactrackThe most well received Keychain Breathalyzer available today is without doubt the BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer, Portable Keyring Breath Alcohol Detector. Not surprisingly this offering from BacTrack is priced higher than most keychain breathalyzers at just under $30 but most who have purchased and provided feedback agree that this is the best of the smaller devices available. It also has some of the features you would expect in a more expensive breathalyzer such as mouthpiece, 2 digit LCD display and a wide test range (up to .40%)

Again it has to be said this this isn’t near as accurate as a more expensive personal breathalyzer and as a result cannot be entirely trusted to provide an accurate reading however it does provide more than just gimmick value and is a much better bet than the less expensive key breathalyzer options available.

Training for Personal Trainers

personal-trainerIn a previous life I was heavily into nutrition and exercise and actually worked as a personal trainer for a short time. I understand I’m probably a hard one to figure out for some e.g. a musician who’s into sport, partially addicted to criminal justice television dramas and a marketing geek is probably not all the common but nontheless that’s me.

Personal Training as a Career

Anyway long story short I really enjoyed this line of work until an unfortunate back injury put paid to my ambitions of becoming the next Ashley Borden (Joke!) Most people see personal trainers as people that don’t work real jobs and get to boss unfit people around at local parks and gyms. This misconception has led many unsuitable people into giving personal training a red hot go.

What most fail to understand is it’s a difficult job, your customers have high expectations so you are seen as somewhat of a miracle worker, you have to be high energy all day and then there’s the red tape involved in fitness certification, insurance and marketing your fledgling business. One tip on the latter that I’d like to share re: marketing your personal training business is to think like your customers.

The Lost Art Of Empathy

Having the ability to think like a customer (e.g. have empathy) is one of the real keys to marketing a business especially a personal training business. So what does this mean in a practical sense?

Well for one if you are going to advertise stop telling people how amazing you are and start making your marketing all about them, speak about the benefits THEY will receive not just how qualified you are and mix this in with some trust building exercises such as using testimonials e.g. Anne lost 12kg’s training and following our recommendations. Show before and after pics, seriously anyone that has lost weight is dying to show of their new body anyways so it’s a win/win for personal trainers.

The Bottom Line

Now you can’t just fake empathy, you have to be real about things. I guess that’s the crux of what I’m trying to say here. If you are going to try and help people be it with personal health and fitness or marketing a business then you should actually care….a lot. If you truly don’t care you are probably in the wrong job!

I’m not living some utopian existence where I expect anyone who doesn’t enjoy their job can just leave it for another one, don’t get me wrong but I really do believe if you are going to work as a personal trainer you wont be successful until you care about your customers.

An Environmental Engineer in the Family

My son recently told me he wanted to become an environmental engineer. I had a vague idea of what that may involve but don’t really understand in a day to day sense what these people actually do. I thought I’d look into it a little and share my findings below. 

thumbs-up-on-engineeringWhat Makes a Good Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers must have knowledge of engineering, chemistry, soil science, and biology in order to help with the creation of solutions for environmental problems. They are involved in planning and improving recycling and waste disposal. They contribute to ways to maintain public health and control water and air pollution.


The requirement to be an environmental engineer is a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering or a related field such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Having practical experience and a license increases the chances of employment and higher pay.

The Future….A Viable Career?

The working opportunities are expanding as federal, state, and local governments are becoming concerned with efficient use of water. This includes resourcing water and not just waste water treatment. Because of new environmental regulations, employment within the government sector should remain relatively stable through 2020.

Another demand for environmental engineers is the requirement of the federal government to clean up contaminated sites. A new concern is the waste water treatment from new methods of drilling for shale gas. This type of drilling requires massive volumes of water. There will be an increase in demand for environmental engineers for this. There are also new federal and state environmental regulations for utilities and water treatment plants.

Job Growth, A Bright Future

There is a 22 percent job growth for the field. It is expanding because of the concern for contaminated sites that need to be cleaned up, concerns of water use demands, aging infrastructures, increased populations, and new environmental safety regulations.
Due to these environmental regulations and higher awareness for eco-friendly living, there are big career gains. Some estimates are that the job market will increase by 31 percent by 2018. Whether it’s 22 percent or 31 percent, the environmental engineering field is the fastest growing occupational opportunity field.

Statistics  show the median salary in the industry was $79,000. The lowest salary was $50,000 for just starting out. The top pay for experienced workers was $120,000. Salary depends on location. Utah, Alabama, DC, Vermont, and New Mexico, are the top five areas for pay ranging from $110,000 to $97,000. By considering the cost of living in an area can help to stretch the paycheck.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the breakdown for highest to lowest pay in the top five jobs opportunity markets are:

  • Oil and gas extraction – $124,000,
  • Pipeline transportation of natural gas – $102,000
  • Motor vehicle manufacturing – $97,000
  • Federal executive branch – $98,000
  • Computer systems design and related services – $95,000.

As more stringent regulations and the demand for water and ecological preservation increase there will be bigger demands for career gains in the environmental engineering field.

A Word on Pop Filters

What is a Pop Filter

singer-using-pop-filterA pop filter (occasionally referred to as a pop screen) is an essential tool in a recording environment and is used to reduce microphone pop (often referred to as plosive noise) when recording human vocals (either sung or spoken) into a microphone. The pop filter serves to filter the impact of sound projected directly onto the microphone from the vocalist generally a singer or voice over artist. 

A pop filter is typically used for vocal recording only and is generally not considered for recording instruments such as guitar as the impact of sound onto the microphone is more controlled and less likely to be affected by plosive noise.

A pop filter is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment ranging from approx. $12.00 up to and beyond $100.00 for a shock mounted model. It is considered essential for producing professional sounding vocal audio whether in a professional recording environment or for a low budget podcast production recorded in a bedroom and should always be used for this purpose if the objective is to product a professional sounding vocal recording.

The alternative to using a pop filter involves a sound engineer spending countless hours in an audio editing suite (software) editing out the offending noise which is sometimes almost impossible to completely remove regardless of the skill and experience the audio engineer possesses.

A pop filter is typically a circular ring of metal with woven nylon stretched tightly across the frame. Some models feature double filtering using two sheets of woven nylon and some models use an aluminium metal as opposed to nylon. There are advantages to using an aluminium mesh as it is much easier to clean and will stand the test of time a little better but it will filter the sound slightly differently which some audio engineers have commented results in a tinnier sound. Another option is to make the pop filter yourself using wire and stockings or a similar nylon material.

The pop filter is generally fixed onto the same microphone stand as the microphone itself, although we recommend where possible to use a separate microphone stand to position the pop filter with less chance of effecting the placement of the microphone which can be crucial if the ideal position of the microphone has already been established. Typically most pop filters utilize a clamp and an adjustable arm often made of the same pliable material as the frame and is quite easy to make minor positioning adjustments.

The pop filter is typically placed approx.20cm from the microphone however this can often vary greatly depending on the strength of the vocalist’s voice and intensity of the actual track.

The Lost Art of Songwriting

There really is no exact way to write a song, songs come in all shapes and sizes and convey different emotional context. Some of the more distinguished songwriters in recent memory have had vastly different approaches. Consider Bob Dylan a revered songwriter who relied on the power of his words to capture the attention of an audience through folk music and completely transformed the musical landscape around him. Dylan knew how to write lyrics for songs and then deliver them in such a way that it left an indelible mark. One of Dylan’s great strengths was that he painted a picture with his words, something all great story tellers do extremely well.

dylankobainOn the complete opposite end of the spectrum consider the music of Kurt Cobain who’s main tool was the dynamics he created and the sense of angst and fury his music encapsulated. His songwriting

If we are discussing great songwriters it would be remiss to not mention the most
famous songwriting team of all time Lennon / McCartney. Although the two stopped writing together much earlier in their career than many realize the music they wrote together is considered timeless and brought about the birth of pop music which we all take for granted today. But if you stop and think for a moment it is difficult to imagine where music would be today without the Beatles? You can’t just assume another Beatles would have been blessed upon us. It is possible that what we consider ‘pop’ular music nowadays may have been something completely different without them.changed the direction of music from the indulgent 80’s metal bands and the power ballads of the era and ushered in a completely new direction for popular music and he did this with very little emotional connection with his lyrics at all.

What Makes a Great Song

Some songs lift us up and inspire, some songs leave us feeling melancholy and some songs just make you feel like moving. There really is no tried and true method that songwriters use that is the ‘right’ way to write an original composition. There is no long held secret that has been passed down through the great songwriters however if one is observant enough one will start to notice some common threads amongst all the great songwriters.

Great songs make us feel something and it doesn’t always have anything to do with lyrical content. Like all great artists songwriters encourage a reaction from the listener and the truly great songs make us feel something very deep inside regardless of the actual message.