All Work, No Play: Why Americans Are Afraid to Go on Vacation

Mother and father with three children on the beach.If you’re planning a vacation but haven’t told your coworkers or boss yet, you’re not alone.

In fact, withholding vacation plans from your colleagues is all too common. Karen Firestone, CEO of the investment firm Aureus Asset Management, recently wrote in Harvard Business Review that her employees are either reluctant to take time off in general, or are hesitant to share their vacation plans.

And according to a survey by U.S. Travel Association and GfK, approximately 40% of all Americans don’t use up all their annually allotted vacation days.

Vacation days aren’t only enjoyable, but they’re necessary. As Leigh Weingus reports in the Huffington Post, vacationing is actually healthy.

She writes, “studies show that taking time off helps your problem-solving skills and makes you happier.”

So what gives? If vacationing is fun, beneficial, and allowed, why aren’t employees reaping the benefits of their days off?

According to psychologist and professor Michael Leiter, the hesitance has a lot to do with America’s perception of work ethic, and how it would be perceived if they were to take off.

“Fundamentally, what’s going on there is fear,” Leiter told Huffington Post. “People are afraid if they’re not present and they’re not continually churning stuff out that bad things are going to happen.”

And believe it or not, this mentality is much to the chagrin of supervisors, CEOs, and the higher-ups in general. Not giving your employer a decent amount of notice of your planned vacation makes things difficult for the company at large.

“As CEO, I find this frustrating,” said Firestone. “It’s a waste of time to set up a client visit or an internal meeting only to hear from one of the essential participants that he or she will be on vacation”.

The moral of the story is simple here. There are 31 national airports located throughout the United States. Pick one, get the well-needed rest you deserve, and be sure to tell your company in advance.

Your brain and your company alike will thank you.

Detroit Congresswoman Pushes for FDA Action Toward E-Cigarettes

Within the span of less than a decade, electronic cigarettes have evolved from a niche product to one of the most popular ways to satisfy one’s nicotine cravings. In fact, sales of these devices have skyrocketed from just 50,000 in 2008 to more than 3.5 million in 2012. It’s estimated that one in five U.S. adult smokers have tried e-cigarettes today.

However, one Detroit Congresswoman isn’t as keen on e-cigarettes as many local residents.

According to the Detroit Free Press, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell is seeking stricter FDA regulations on e-cigarettes after one of the devices exploded in a Wyandotte man’s hand, severely injuring him.

In a letter to FDA acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff, Dingell, D-Dearborn, explained that the incident involving Jason Diekman — an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who suffered burns from the e-cigarette explosion — highlights the need for federal regulations on the devices. Dingell also noted that Diekman’s injury is just one of many similar incidents that have taken place across the country.

“Consumers deserve peace of mind in knowing the products they buy at the store are safe for use,” Dingell wrote. “Such assurances currently do not exist for electronic cigarettes due to the absence of federal regulation of these products.”

While the FDA has proposed rules regarding e-cigarettes, they haven’t yet passed, meaning e-cigarette regulations are largely determined by individual states. When passed, the FDA’s rules will regulate e-cigarettes much like tobacco cigarettes are regulated.

In her letter, Dingell pushed for FDA approval of certain brands of e-cigarettes already on the market. She also decried congressional opposition to the FDA’s proposed rules. Such regulations are necessary to protect American consumers from dangerous injuries, she said.

“It is my hope that this important regulation is finalized as soon as possible because every day we wait is another day that the American people are put at risk of using faulty products,” she wrote.

Man Arrives Home To Find Belongings Sold By Squatter

According to a recent report from NBC News, a man from Puyallup, Washington, who was in the process of selling his family’s home, pulled into the driveway last Tuesday and discovered something wasn’t quite right. Ed Saurds, 58, expected to see his real estate agent’s car, but instead, saw an unknown Chevy that belonged to a young man who was waiting in the front hall.

“I asked: What are you doing in my house?” the former Air Force loadmaster remembered. “He said, ‘I’m here to buy the microwave.’ I said, ‘My microwave is not for sale.'”

While Saurs was away, an intruder had broken into his house, used it as a landing pad, and began selling his personal belongings on the internet. The items sold included a lawnmower, an iPod, the microwave, and Saur’s 84-year-old father’s golf clubs. The man who Saurs encountered initially was not the culprit, but one of the customers of the scam. Saurs recalls seeing the real perpetrator down the hall in the kitchen.

“He peered around and saw me coming, [so] I ran out the side and chased him.”

Unfortunately, his chase was unsuccessful, and the suspect escaped, though his image was caught on a nearby surveillance camera. Saurs reports several thousand dollars’ worth of items were stolen, including the new refrigerator and the house’s convection oven, known for cooking food 25% faster with less energy. (Points that probably contributed to the items’ speedy sales.) The appliances didn’t bother Ed nearly as much as the invasion of privacy.

“We’ve got 25 years of memories here. Christmases. My daughter was married in the backyard. …To cap it off with a violation like this? It doesn’t sit real well.”

Police took fingerprints from a water bottle left in the house by the suspect, who also left behind some assorted drug paraphernalia. No word from police on whether or not they’ve found a match.

Woman’s $20,000 Lottery Ticket Is Worthless

Winning the lottery can set you up for life. You can take all the money in one go, and pay off staggering debt, or invest in a business opportunity. You could also get the money as an annuity, and have an amazing source of income for decades. The Mega Millions annuity, for example, is paid out as one immediate payment followed by 29 annual payments that increase 5% each time.

Now, imagine being told that your winning lottery ticket doesn’t count.

When a Washington D.C. woman won $20,000, she couldn’t have been more excited, she told WJLA. However, the Virginia State Lottery said that her ticket doesn’t count. Apparently, Ardella Newman’s ticket had been issued in error.

Apparently, winning tickets have winning numbers at the top, but Newman’s winning numbers appeared toward the bottom. The Virginia Lottery said that this likely happened, because the machine cut the ticket in the wrong spot, basically allowing Newman to combine two tickets to win.

She argues that she bought it as one ticket, and that since the error wasn’t hers, she deserves to receive the winnings.

“I want the money that I thought I won. If you look at the ticket, it says I won this money,” said Newman. “It wasn’t anything that I did wrong. It’s what they did wrong.”

This isn’t the first time something like this happened in the lottery. Earlier this year, a New Mexico man’s $500,000 winning ticket was misprinted, making it worthless. Two numbers that looked like winners actually had extra digits that were printed as smudges. The New Mexico Lottery offered him $100 in the form of lottery tickets as compensation, but told him he wouldn’t receive the $500,000 under any circumstances. Now, he’s filed a lawsuit against the state lottery.

“It’s like I told them, I didn’t misprint it,” the New Mexico man told KOB. “I bought the ticket in good faith thinking if I won I was going to get my money.”

Newman has only filed a complaint, so far, while the Virginia Lottery says it’s investigating her case.

Acupuncture Could Lower High Blood Pressure, New Study Suggests

Acupuncture, the Chinese treatment of inserting one to 20 FDA-approved, metallic needles into a person’s body for between 15 to 30 minutes as a way to treat pain, has long been seen as a form of medicine without any genuine scientific benefits. However, more and more research has been proving acupuncture has real, medical benefits — including the ability to help lower blood pressure.

The new study, which was published in the journal Medical Acupuncture, analyzed acupuncture’s effects on 65 hypertensive patients who weren’t taking any hypertension medication at the time of the study.

Researchers divided them into two groups. The first received electroacupuncture — a low-intensity electrical stimulation on different needle points in the body — on the patients’ inner wrists and below their knees. The second group received electroacupuncture treatment on their forearms and lower legs.

In the first group, 70% of participants saw a reduction in blood pressure, which lasted for over a month, and a reduction in blood concentration levels of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that constricts blood vessels and elevates blood pressure.

The second group didn’t see the same lowered blood pressure effect as the first group, which suggests that the location of electroacupuncture has a role in determining the efficacy of the treatment.

“This clinical study is the culmination of more than a decade of bench research in this area,” said study author Dr. John Longhurst in the press release. “By using Western scientific rigor to validate an ancient Eastern therapy, we feel we have integrated Chinese and Western medicine and provided a beneficial guideline for treating a disease that affects millions in the U.S.”

High blood pressure is both a widespread and tricky problem. About one in three U.S. adults — 70 million — have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it’s believed that only half of those adults have it under control, which means that half have a condition that could lead to stroke and heart disease.

Getting into shape, taking medication, or a combination of both can lower blood pressure, but these approaches don’t always work. Medication can also cause side effects, particularly among elderly.

The results of this new study are promising, in that they suggest acupuncture as a possible alternative that could help that some 35 million people get their high blood pressure in check.

As Dr. Longhurst explained, “Potentially, blood pressure can be kept low with a monthly follow-up treatment.”

Google’s Logo Undergoes a Major Digital Facelift for the First Time in Years

If you’ve used Google recently — oh, let’s be honest, everyone in the U.S. who uses the internet is probably using Google every single day — you noticed that the new Google doodle is oddly simple and not very creative. And then you realized that it isn’t a Google doodle, but instead, the new Google logo.

The company announced on September 1 that it would be releasing a new logo design, and the design is what Forbes described as a more modern representation of the company’s importance in the digital age.

The logo was revealed just a couple weeks after the company announced that Google would be headed by a new parent company, Alphabet, and the font in the new logo certainly looks like the font you’d find in a child’s first learn-to-read book.

Google made a very small change in its logo’s design last year, Business Insider reported, which was such a minuscule change in the position of the second “g” and subsequent “l” that the difference was virtually undetectable. In fact, you probably didn’t even know that the logo had changed until just now, and to be fair, no one seems to know — even now — why the change was made at all.

The new logo change is much more obvious, as is the purpose behind it. The sans-serif font presents a friendlier picture of the company, but even more importantly, the font is better optimized to adjust to mobile device screens.

Even though approximately 19,000 new apps hit the App Store each month, a surprising amount of mobile device users still prefer to use mobile websites even when an app provides the same features and is free to download, as Google’s app is.

The company explained in a corresponding blog post that the new logo is the result of extensive testing and engineering, and is hopefully more representative of how Google will thrive in the mobile-focused future of online searches.

“Since its inception, the homepage has been strikingly simple: The quirky, multicolored logo sits above a single, approachable input field on a clean white canvas,” the company’s blog stated. “Users now engage with Google using a constellation of devices, and our brand should express the same simplicity and delight they expect from our homepage, while fully embracing the opportunities offered by each new device and surface.”

McDonald’s Sweepstakes Are A Lot More Tricky Than Anyone Realized

A Mississippi woman has defied unbelievable odds to win $250,000 playing a McDonald’s sweepstakes game.

On September 1, the fast-food chain announced Megan D. as the winner, and presented her with the big check. She was one of four $250,000 winners, and plans to use the money to fund retirement and pay for other expenses.

In order to participate in the sweepstakes, players could peel a game piece from the McDonald’s meal, or enter an online code. Each week, there was a guaranteed jackpot of $250,000. According to officials, the fast-food chain gave away a cool $1 million during the nationwide promotion.

Companies often uses sweepstakes as a way to encourage people to do their marketing for them. Consumers can tell their family and friends about the contest — and the company — not only through a phone call or face to face, but instantly through social media, blogs, text messaging and e-mail, where the brand can be exposed to others. It was through a Facebook ad that Megan D. found out about the Minion Mania sweepstakes.

That’s not all. In addition to the increased generation of brand awareness, sweepstakes marketing is also cost-effective. It draws staggering amounts of participation, despite the rough odds of winning.

Consider McDonald’s most famous sweepstakes: its Monopoly contest.

Every sweepstakes needs to have a “no consideration” clause such as “no purchase necessary.” In 2012, a man decided to see if he could win the Monopoly contest without having to pay for anything at McDonald’s. He looked through the rules, and found that in order to participate without purchasing anything, he had to request game pieces be sent through the mail, using hand-written letters sent in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Since the cheapest thing on the menu that came with game pieces was the 99 cent hash brown, he realized that 90 cents in postage was a more cost-efficient way to play.

Ultimately he spent about 10 hours and $117 to send 100 letters and get 400 stamps. So while it is technically free to play, it’s more or less easier to purchase to participate.

Once participants do wind up playing (by purchasing something, most likely), they’re probably going to lose. Business Insider reported that there are about 602,490,060 game pieces in play, which means that there’s about 1.2 billion game stamps, or individual attempts to win. However, only one stamp in each of the sets is actually worth something.

The logical thing most people assume about the game is that each space is equally likely. For example, if McDonald’s wants the odds of drawing a green piece to be one in 1,000, they’ll make the odds of getting each of the green squares one in 1,000. What they actually reportedly do, though, is make one green piece show up about one in 10 times, and another show up one in 100,000 times, which means that the majority of the game pieces are essentially worthless, except for one from each set.

In other words, although McDonald’s does just give away copious amounts of prize money and other goods in its contests, sweepstakes marketing is an ingenious ploy to get more business. And people like Megan D. will wind up being a brand follower for the rest of their life. Who wouldn’t for $250,000?

New Study May Lead To Chlamydia Vaccine, Thanks To Koalas

While fewer than 40% of sexually active women are tested for chlamydia, even fewer koalas are tested for the STD, which seems irrelevant, except when you consider that they’re absolutely lousy with it. According to a recent report from The Telegraph, nearly 70% of koalas are carrying chlamydia, causing major health risks and fatalities for the populations in Queensland and New South Wales. Usually associated with infertility in females, two Queensland scientists have discovered how chlamydia damages male koalas’ sperm DNA. This study will help to contribute to science’s understanding of human sexual health, as well.

Professor Ken Beagley, of QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, explained the basic results of the study, which tested how chlamydia effects the sexual health and fertility of male koalas.

“Looking across populations, between 40 and as high as 70 per cent of koalas will be carrying chlamydia somewhere in their body. Damage to sperm DNA has certainly been demonstrated in males with chlamydial infections and a history of chlamydial infections is associated with reduced fertility. For males, if they’ve got it in the testes that’s causing degradation of their sperm so they can’t breed as successfully. But it’s still understudied and there’s a lot of debate.”

The team spent seven years developing a chlamydia vaccine for the koalas. “We have a vaccine we think is effective. We’ve run a number of trials on captive koalas and are currently immunising some wild koala populations,” Beagley added. One of his team members, Stephen Johnston, is hoping to find the right way to catch the disease before it starts.

“Based on our findings in the koala, we are attempting to develop methods whereby we can either treat the whole animal or the semen sample before natural mating.”

This could mean big strides in developing a version of the vaccine that would be effective on human chlamydia. The team’s research will be presented by Professor Beagley in Adelaide at a conference some time this week.

Millennials Are Making Two Major Mistakes With Credit Cards

Considering the number of financial issues that have been thrust upon them by older generations, Millennials have been forced to adapt and learn how to be financially savvy, whether they like it or not. But a new NerdWallet survey reveals that, while these money-saving efforts might be well-intentioned, some habits — specifically relating to credit cards — might be hurting Millennials more than helping.

This generation, considered to be adults currently between the ages of 18 and 34, appears to be making two major mistakes: applying for a credit card without having the minimum qualifications, and avoiding credit cards altogether.

As NBC News reported, nearly 50% of all Millennials have applied for a credit card because of an advertisement or limited-time promotional deal. The good news is that credit card companies are still monitoring qualifications closely, so that the country doesn’t experience another major financial crisis similar to that of 2008. This means that Millennials who fail to meet the qualifications aren’t getting approved for credit cards they can’t handle.

The bad news is that, whenever a person applies for a credit card, his or her credit score is affected, slightly more so when the line of credit is denied. Add up multiple applications over a short period of time, and the individual will begin to see a low credit score for no apparent reason.

The other major problem that Millennials are making, TIME stated, is that they’re avoiding credit cards entirely. Almost one-third of this generation has never applied for a credit card, according to the NerdWallet data, and this negatively impacts one’s credit score as well, because 15% of a person’s total score is based on his or her credit history length.

Many financial advisers believe that these two problems are exacerbated by the fact that Millennials are, quite often, choosing the wrong company or type of card when they finally do apply for a credit card. These young adults are particularly astute when it comes to seeing through temporary promotional offers and too-good-to-be-true promises; instead, the majority of Millennials (60%) value factors such as customer service and convenience.

While that predisposition is beneficial in most cases, it also means that credit card companies can win over Millennials easily by ensuring that a friendly and persuasive sales rep is taking care of them.

Missouri City Faces E. Coli Scare in Water System

For one small Missouri city, chlorine has become a bigger problem than they ever could have imagined.

According to The Missourian, it all started when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources found traces of the e. coli bacteria in the water supply of Washington, MO. The city immediately installed chlorine injection pumps at all nine city wells.

Upon installing these chlorine pumps, residents began noticing that their water tasted a little “off,” and the city began exploring ways to balance the chlorine levels in their new pumps.

“We’re trying to tweak the system to minimize the chlorine taste in the water,” City Administrator Jim Briggs told council members Monday night.

The chlorine levels in the water system need to be exactly right to protect the health of Washington citizens, and for reasons more important than taste. When heated, chlorine releases a vapor that can lead to serious health effects, including breathing problems, headaches, and even cancer.

While attempting to rectify the situation, the city issued a “boil water order” for all homes and businesses. Some locals did not get this memo, wasting money on bottled water to last them until the problem was fixed.

Many residents are asking for reimbursement from the city for this bottled water, having been unaware of the “boil water order” and finding it a poor and unrealistic solution to the chlorine problem, especially in the long-run.

The Missourian also reported that the Washington Board of Public Works urged the city council to appeal the mandated chlorination of their water system until they conducted an independent review of the water supply.

Board President Kurt Voss is urging the city to fix the problem as soon as possible.

“I think it’s awful,” he said. “It’s like I walk into a swimming pool every morning. You might as well just dump chlorine on me.”

The city council unanimously voted against an appeal, with Briggs noting that it was “very unlikely” they would win in a circuit court.

If there is a silver lining, Briggs says there have only been 38 reports of a chlorine taste or odor in the water and 59 reports of rusty water in homes.

“Actually I thought we would’ve had more than that,” Briggs told the council.

Nobody is reported to have contracted E. coli and the city feels lucky they noticed the problem as early as they did.

Hopefully, Washington, MO can find that perfect balance between clean water and “walking into a swimming pool every morning.”