5 Fun Facts About Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day!  To all of the veterans out there, we appreciate your service—thank you.  In honor of the holiday, we thought that today would be a great time to share with you some fun facts about this special day:

  1. There Is No Apostrophe in Veterans Day.  Although this is a typo you'll commonly see, the US government has declared that there is no apostrophe.  An apostrophe would indicate possession; instead, Veterans is an attributive noun that modifies the word Day.

  2. People Often Confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day.  Memorial Day, which we celebrate in May, is a holiday primarily designated for remembering those who died in service to our country, particularly those who died in battle.  Veterans Day honors all those who served in the military, either during war or peacetime.

  3. Veterans Day Wasn't Always Veterans Day.  Initially, it was called Armistice Day, and it occurred on November 11th, 1919, because that was the first anniversary of the end of World War I.  In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance, and November 11th became a national holiday in 1938.

  4. Veterans Earn More Money Than Their Peers.  According to a 2013 release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, working veterans have a median income of $35,367.  By contrast, the US population as a whole has a median income of $25,605.

  5. Veterans Vote More than Civilians.  During the 2012 presidential election, 70% of the more than 14 million veterans voted.  In that same election, only 61% of civilians voted.  And if you're wondering, veterans tend to vote conservative.  For instance, a dissertation reports that over 60% of 4,000 active-duty United States Army officers identified as Republican; only a little more than 17% of the officers identified as Democrats.

Entity-Relationship Model 3/3

In the previous two articles we have been talking about the entity-relationship model.  We have talked about entites and attributes, relationships, different types of relationships, cardinality and participation constraints etc.  In this article we are going to be learning about something we have mentioned before, which is crucial if we want to efficiently model our relational database: keys.  We are also going to give an introduction to creating entity-relationship diagrams, before giving an example diagram in the next article.

One of the most important concepts in relational database modelling is the following: there can be no multiple entities with the same values on all attributes.  This uniqueness property is regulated by keys.  Now, we are going to introduce the concept of a primary key.  A primary key is a special relational database table column (or combination of columns) designated to uniquely identify all table records.  A primary key's main features are that it must contain a unique value for each row of data, and it cannot contain null values.  Proper selection of primary keys is very important for the organization of the entire database, which is why this is something which should be carefully thought through.  When modelling the database, it is important for the administrator to notice certain properties of things in real life which need to be unique.  For example, if we are defining a table called Student, our primary key will probably be something like StudentID, and not, for example, the student's name, since that does not have to be unique.  A good practice is giving every table in your database an integer ID as a primary key which can be auto-incremented when a new record is entered.

Sometimes, we have a situation in which entities of a certain table are defined by a property from another table.  This is when we use foreign keys.  In the context of relational databases, a foreign key is a field (or collection of fields) in one table that uniquely identifies a row of another table.  In simpler words, the foreign key is defined in a second table, but it refers to the primary key in the first table.  The purpose of the foreign key is to ensure referential integrity of the data.  In other words, only values that are supposed to appear in the database are permitted.  We are going to give examples of using primary and foreign keys when we create our entity-relationship diagrams, and for now, we will make a short introduction about the elements of the diagram.

Entity-Relationship Diagram

Like we said earlier, the entity-relationship conceptual model of a database can be represented graphically, using a diagram.  These diagrams are simple and intuitive, and their basic components are:

  • Rectangles - specifying entity types
  • Ellipses - specifying attributes
  • Romboids - specifying relationship types
  • Lines - connections between entities and attributes, or entities and relationship types.

In the picture, you can see a more detailed overview of the notation:

We have talked about all of the concepts mentioned in the picture, except for weak entities.  Sometimes, entity types don't have attributes which constitute the primary key.  Such types are called weak entity types.  This kind of entity can be identified through their relationship with a strong entity type.  This is why these strong entity types are also called identifying types, and the relationship between them is called an identifying relationship.  Another concept related to entity-relationship diagrams (which is not shown in the picture, because it is usually considered a part of the "extended" entity-relationship model) is specialization/generalization.  Specialization is the process of identifying and representing sub-groups in a certain entity type.  This is very closely related to the concept of inheritance, parent and child classes, which we learned in object-oriented programming.

The Problem With Perfectionism

Do you sweat over every last detail of a work assignment, even changing a document's formatting repeatedly until it's “perfect”?  Do you feel guilty if you leave the gym after 50 minutes instead of an hour?  Feelings like this are common among perfectionists.  However, while society tends to view perfectionism as a badge of honor, there are some unpleasant consequences that often go hand-in-hand with this quality:

  1. Procrastination.

    Unless they have the time to do a task perfectly, perfectionists will often put it off until later.  Unfortunately, later may never come as you might never have the time and energy to catalogue your spice collection or organize your library alphabetically by genre.

  2. Less Resilience.

    Because perfectionists tend to take criticism and setbacks personally, they can be less resilient than others.  Rather than viewing the occasional setback as an ordinary fact of life that happens to us all, perfectionists are more inclined to take them poorly, viewing them as evidence that they're “not good enough.”

  3. Inefficiency.

    While it's tempting to imagine that perfectionists are capable of doing a lot of things perfectly, it's probably not true.  In fact, perfectionists tend to be less productive than they'd like.  For instance, after completing a task, most people will move on to another one.  Not so for perfectionists—they'll continue to review the task over and over again to make sure it's perfect.  While this may not seem like a lot of time when it occurs with just 1 task, the cumulative impact of perfectionism is a reduction in productivity.

If you've recognized yourself in this article, no worries.  There are strategies for reducing your desire to do things perfectly.  To get you started, you may want to check out the book, How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism

3 Intriguing Ways Others Influence Us

Would you be surprised to learn that just about everything in your life—from your performance at the gym to your choice of spouse—has probably been influenced by your peers?  That's what Jonah Berger, marketing professor and author of the book, Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, claims.  According to Berger, virtually every decision that we make is influenced by others including:

  1. Our Choice of Spouse.

    Berger cites an experiment that was done where students in a lecture hall were asked to rate the attractiveness of 4 different women.  Unbeknownst to them, one of the women had sat in on the class 5 times, one had sat in 10 times, one had sat in 15 times, and one never sat in the class at all.  Overwhelmingly, students preferred the woman they had seen the most frequently, followed by the woman they had seen the second most frequently, and so on.  The conclusion drawn was that the more often you see someone, the more appealing you find them.  And in case you're wondering, the women's attractiveness was also rated by students in a class that the women hadn't sat in on, and those students found all of the women equally attractive.

  2. Our Gym Performance.

    When we're feeling particularly confident about our abilities, we perform better when others are watching.  However, when we're engaged in tasks that we feel less confident about, bystanders can have a negative impact on our performance.  To test this, cockroaches were given 2 races to run with their cockroach “peers” watching.  When the race was a straight path, they ran faster than usual.  When their race was more complex—with multiple lanes to select from—their performance was worse with spectators!

  3. Our Energy Consumption.

    In an interesting study mentioned in Invisible Influence, several types of door hangers encouraging conservation were hung on door knobs of homes throughout San Marcos, California.  Some hangers promoted saving money by using less electricity and others promoted saving the planet through conservation efforts.  Surprisingly, these had no impact on consumption habits at all.  The only message that did have an impact was informing households that they were consuming more energy than most of their neighbors.

Bad Day? 3 Tips for Turning It Around

If you've ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed, then you already know how common it is to have an unpleasant day quickly go from bad to worse.  However, rather than allowing your day to unravel, we have some suggestions that are going to make it easier for you to rapidly turn things around:

  1. Breathe.  Bad days are often caused by stress, and that go-go-go mindset—where you feel like you're continuously putting out fires and not taking the time to recharge your batteries—can only contribute to your anxiety.  Yet deep breathing is a very effective way to quickly get centered, and it doesn't take a lot of time.  To help yourself relax, spend a few minutes breathing slowly and counting.  For example, you can slowly inhale for a count of 8, hold your breath for a count of 8, and then, exhale for a count of 8.  This activity will go a long way toward helping you feel more relaxed about the day ahead.

  2. Practice Gratitude.  While it may seem counterintuitive to look for the positive when you're in a bad mood, this practice really can turn your negativity around.  Either spend a few minutes thinking about those things in your life that are going well or make an effort to find things to appreciate as you go about your day.  They can even be small things like the friendliness of a cashier, the great weather, or the minimal traffic you encountered on the highway.  When you look for things to appreciate, you tend to find even more things to feel good about.

  3. Exercise.  Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood.  Not only does it release endorphins which make you feel great, but it can also be a useful distraction when you're feeling bogged down by negativity.  Plus, after a workout session, people tend to feel enthusiastic about what they just accomplished.  If you're feeling unhappy about your day, hit the gym, take a yoga class, dance around your bedroom, or go for a walk on your lunch hour.  Any of these activities will help you experience a happier outlook going forward.