The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Life 101 article image
Life 101
By Beth English, Lanita Withers Goins, Mike Harris and Dan Nonte
Photography by Chris English, photography editor

You know campus is full of experts. From history to literature to chemistry, UNCG has top-notch professors. But what about information you can use when you're juggling jobs, parenting and just general life? We've got that too. Take yourself back to college for a few minutes and read the “how to” items below. From avoiding bee stings to starting blogs, we've got great information for you. And it doesn't stop here. Look for more in future issues.

How to avoid bee stings

Dr. Olav Rueppell Dr. Olav Rueppell

Bees are lovely creatures. They pollinate the flowers. They create honey. But as every child knows, they can also sting. Dr. Olav Rueppell, associate professor of biology, is probably more familiar with those stings than most. He researches social insects and spends a great deal of time at the UNCG bee station just off Northridge Street. Bee stings come with the territory. Here are his tips.

Why they sting
First, understand that bees only sting in defense. If you constrain them, whether by holding them in your hand or by accidentally trapping them in your clothes, they will sting. They will also sting in defense of their colony.

Prevention is the most important thing. Wear shoes on a flower- or clover-covered lawn. Keep a healthy distance away from bees, especially when they are swarming in the open or near their hive.

If a bee does buzz nearby or land on you
Bees react to motion. Wildly swatting a bee is not good. Moving away slowly and calmly is the best way. There's also no danger in gently brushing a bee off. Or you could just flick a bee off with your fingers.

If you're on a picnic
Bees are attracted to sweet things, which they perceive as a potential food source. Sometimes bees like to drink sweat.

By late summer, bees will start getting desperate for food. When they discover soft drinks or sweets, they will quickly be back with reinforcements.

Cover your food and drinks so that the bee scouts don't find them. Or, if several bees are already working on your food, relocate. Even moving 50 yards will keep them at bay.

If you're near a hive
Don't agitate the bees with sudden movements such as running back and forth. Avoid alarming the bees by bumping their hive, and the worst thing you can do is squish a bee.

Wear light colors. There's a reason beekeeping suits are white. Bees dislike dark colors and fuzzy things. (Think bears.)

If you're not with a beekeeper, don't open bee boxes.

If you get stung anyway
When bees attack, they go for the highest point. Unfortunately, that's our heads. Whatever you do, protect your neck and eyes.

If attacked, bend over so that your back is the highest point. Usually, they can't sting through a thick shirt. However, if clothes are tight, it is possible for them to sting through the fabric.

When a bee stings, its stinger — complete with hooks — is ripped off the abdomen and stays with you. As long as the stinger stays hooked in, it continues to pump venom into your skin. And the stinger also sends out an alarm pheromone, triggering more bee attacks at that spot.

It is essential to get that stinger out quickly. The best thing to do is scrape or brush it off. The worst thing? Pinching it off. That just squishes more venom into you.

Then cover the area to get rid of the smell that will agitate other bees.

You can take an antihistamine, such as Benedryl™, after a sting to reduce swelling and itching. If you experience any systemic changes (shortness of breath, hives, a rash, or swelling in areas away from the site of the sting, etc.), it's a sign you might have an allergic reaction. Get to a doctor right away.

Dr. Olav Rueppell studies a variety of facets about bees — from genetic diversity to bee health to how social roles affect longevity.

How to find the Big Dipper, Little Dipper and Cassiopeia

Dr. Steve Danford Dr. Steve Danford

These circumpolar constellations can always be found, no matter what the season. While other stars and constellations move in and out of visibility as the Earth orbits the sun, you can always count on the North Star and the constellations nearby.

(Note: This is written for early November star gazing.)

1. Take a compass and find true north.

2. Stand looking north.

3. If it's early evening, say 9-10 p.m., look slightly to the right of true north and see if you can identify a constellation that looks like an M or W (or even a sideways version of those, like a “3”). That's Cassiopeia, a constellation named for the vain queen who was the mother of Andromeda in Greek mythology.

4. If you have a good horizon (a space with few trees or buildings blocking the view), look low and to the left to locate the Big Dipper. In early fall it might be hard to see because it's low on the horizon.

5. Once you find Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper, draw an imaginary diagonal line between them. Halfway up that line will be the North Star. It's not the brightest star in the sky, but it will be visible. It forms the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.

From Dr. Steve Danford, associate professor of physics and astronomy

How to “paint up”

Tim Howell (shown at the arrow in the photo) Tim Howell (shown at the arrow in the photo)

Tim Howell, a fifth-year senior, was one of the eight freshmen in 2006 who started the Ocho. They painted up for big games — sporting chests and faces of blue and gold. When they stood in a line in the stands they spelled out SPARTANS. “I was the P,” Tim says. His favorite memory was when the Ocho traveled to Furman in 2006 for the men's soccer SoCon Tourney finals. They painted up and cheered the Spartans to victory, then the team came to them and insisted they join them on field for a celebration. The original Ocho are no longer together — but Tim was on hand for the big men's soccer exhibition game versus UNC Chapel Hill to help supervise as lots of members of the Blue Crew painted themselves before the game. He noted that showing school spirit with things like painting up can't be forced. “It has to be an organic student movement.” He offered some tips.

Get the right paint, such as Palmer facepaint. Regular paint tends to flake off. We get it online. [It's available at] arts and crafts stores or online.

Don't try to paint yourself. Friends would paint us [the Ocho]. It's rather difficult to paint yourself. … We guys didn't want to paint each other. [Some girls] liked to do it — so we let them.

Avoid applying with fingers. I would suggest a sponge brush. No streaks!

Make it really stand out. Try to outline letters in darker colors. For example, for the yellow letters, outline or put a box around it. … Blue letters and yellow background? Not so good. But the opposite? It really pops.

Shaving chest hair is unnecessary. Joey, the first “S,” he tried shaving it once. The paint tends to mat it down. … It doesn't irritate hair.

Get yourself pumped up. Put some music on as you do it. [Then] run chanting from the dorm to the stadium.

It usually washes right off, but … Just scrub. [If that doesn't work] just scrub a little harder.

Sunscreen before painting up can be a good idea. We got burnt around the letters [once]. I had a P stuck on me all the time. Joey had his S. So put on sunscreen ahead of time.

Tim stresses two rules the Ocho had, which he passes on to the current Blue Crew members. You might get tired, you might get cool, but: “We don't sit down! We don't wear coats!”

How to start a blog

L. Danielle Baldwin L. Danielle Baldwin

You have thoughts and ideas you want to share with the world. But, man, billboards are expensive. What's the best way to let your voice be heard?

Start a blog.

L. Danielle Baldwin, a web manager for UNCG University Relations, has had several, dating back to her very first attempt in 1998. “It was just about my day-to-day life,” she says. “I'd slip in something about my favorite music, what I was listening to.”

The content and focus of her various blogs have morphed over the years, from music to knitting to Adobe Creative Suite (after all, she does work in IT). But the need to express herself has never waned. And with blogs, Baldwin found a way to share about her life without relinquishing control over how much is shared.

Want to start one of your own? Off the top of her head, Baldwin has seven or eight tips for blogging newbies. But for the sake of simplicity, she's boiled it down to three:

  • Create a blog.
  • Buy a domain name.
  • Write.

And, she says, it's really that simple. But for those who want a more in-depth to-do list to get started, she shared some additional tips:

  • Decide what you want to blog about and understand it may change. Search out other blogs that you enjoy. Most importantly, when deciding what to write about, keep this thought in mind: “What exactly can I contribute to the conversation?”
  • Decide what service you want to use. Baldwin recommends Google's blogging service, Blogger, or as good services for beginners.
  • Buy a domain name. “A lot of people think you don't need one, but if you continue to blog and your blog becomes popular, then it's about branding and having a name associated with your blog,” she says. Domain names can range in price from $10 to hundreds of dollars.
  • Take the time to set up your blog correctly the first time. Choose your settings, add pictures and add widgets to the sidebar. Do what you can within your limits to make your blog look as nice as possible.
  • Sign up for a Gmail account and Google Analytics. Both services are free. Analytics will help you understand what content resonates with your readers.
  • Spread the word about your blog. “A good way to help people find your blog is to go comment on other blogs that do the same things you do,” Baldwin says. And while you've entered the world of cyber communication, don't forget old-fashioned word-of-mouth as a way to spread the news. “There's nothing wrong with shameless self-promotion,” Baldwin adds. “Tell people about it. Tell your family, your friends. Put the address for your blog on a business card.”

How to talk to your college-age student about drinking and drugs

Dr. David Wyrick Dr. David Wyrick

It is no surprise that college students are at risk for a number of serious alcohol and other drug-related consequences. While colleges/universities certainly take great strides to address alcohol and drug use we cannot forget the positive impact parents can have even when separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, says Dr. David Wyrick. Parents have the responsibility to talk with their children about the negative impact alcohol and drugs can have on their lives and how they can protect themselves and their friends.

Wyrick provided tips to help parents have these conversations.

  • Alcohol and drug use are major reasons for academic failure for too many students. Remind your student that they are going to an institution of higher education to focus on their academic development and work with them to set clear expectations.
  • Your student needs to know that alcohol and drug abuse can result in serious injury and even death. The point in discussing this is not to scare your student but rather to make them aware of the fact that students die every year from alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses. Parents need to pay special attention to their student's experiences and activities during the crucial first six weeks on campus. Throughout the semester the parent should be aware of signs of possible alcohol and/or drug abuse (e.g., lower grades, never available or reluctant to talk with you, unwilling to talk about activities with friends, trouble with campus authorities or serious mood changes).
  • Discuss with your student the importance of being a good friend. Encourage them to intervene when their friends are in trouble with alcohol and/or drugs. As a parent, take the time to inquire about their friends' behavior.
  • All students should be encouraged to advocate for a healthy and safe academic environment. Many students who report that they never consume alcohol or drugs report that they are still negatively affected by the behavior of those who do.
  • Gather facts about alcohol and drug use on campus. Most colleges have statistics about actual use on their specific campus and are willing to share that information. Students grossly exaggerate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers and it is important to confront any misperceptions your student may have. Our misperceptions about the prevalence and acceptability of alcohol and drug use put us at increased risk for related problem behaviors.
  • Do not share tales of your own drinking exploits when in college. Entertaining students with stories of drinking back in “the good old days” normalizes the behavior and contributes to the misperceptions of what is prevalent and acceptable.
  • Encourage your student to get involved in community/campus service. Campus service/involvement is consistently shown to be a protective factor across a broad range of health outcomes and is also positively related to academic success and retention.
  • Parents should always remind their students that drug use and underage drinking is against the law. Make sure that your son or daughter understands the penalties for underage drinking, possession, aiding and abetting, public drunkenness, using a fake ID, driving under the influence and other alcohol-related offenses.
  • Pay your child an unexpected visit. Ask to meet their friends. Attend Parents' Weekend and other campus events open to parents.

By Dr. David Wyrick, associate professor of public health education. Wyrick is the co-founder and president of Prevention Strategies, a UNCG-affiliated company dedicated to creating alcohol and drug prevention products to promote the health and well-being of young people. He has three children, ages 3, 7 and 9.

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