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Invisible Stat Counters Are Watching You: 4 Things You Need to Know

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If you don't have your own Web site, (or quite possibly even if you do), you probably don't know that most of them have invisible statistical counters programmed into the code. In a nutshell, this means that every time you visit a page on the Web, someone knows it. What follows is a list of just some of the data these counters record:

1. The name of your server or Internet provider:

This is potentially damning, depending on the size of the server and the way the company is listed online. For example, my personal Web site's stat counter can show me when someone from the company I work for is poking around my site. My company, which I'll call The Charity Group (for these purposes), has its own server, which is clearly labeled "The Charity Group" online. So when someone working for The Charity Group hits my site, it registers as The Charity Group. Now, there are over 200 people working for The Charity Group, so I don't know exactly WHO is looking, because they're all lumped together.

But it has happened that someone working in a small office of, say, two or three people, (a company with its own server) has hit my site, someone I know, and in that case, it's pretty easy to determine who's on there. So if that's your situation, be careful what sites you hit.

Here's an example of someone who hit my site, who works for The Elizabeth Board of Education in Elizabeth, NJ. I don't know anyone who works there, but if I did"¦

Those of you browsing through AOL or Comcast or Verizon, etc., are pretty safe. Here's the kind of info I'm getting on you:

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Basically just the city and state you're in"¦ nothing really incriminating there.

2. How you arrive at a site:

The stat counters show what site or referrer you came from. For instance, if The Los Angeles Times links from one of my pieces on their site to my Web site, and you click through, my stat counter points that out. It also shows me who is coming in through Google searches AND--this is the fun part--what you're searching when you land on my site. Usually, it's my name, but every day there are some whacky searchers looking for the most unusual things. I used to have a photo on my site of the giant breast in Woody Allen's film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but had to remove it because I was being bombarded by people looking for "breasts" and "boobs."

In this screen grab, you can see how this person came to my site through Google by searching the title of my novel.

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3. The exact date and amount of time you spend on a site

Stat counters clock the amount of time you spend on each page of a Web site. By simple subtraction, one can, for instance, determine how long you spend reading different pages of a site. In this screen grab, you can see someone who found me by searching my name on Google, and you can see them clicking around through various pages on my site, and the date/time of each click.

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4. Your browser:

Though there are other things the stat counters track, I'll end here with a fun one:

Stat counters are able to see what browser you're using to access a site. By far, the most popular, of course, is Internet Explorer. But it's interesting to see more and more Mac Safari users (as seen in this screen grab), especially in Europe. (BTW: anyone know what Auna is?)
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While much of the info is meaningless, I once had an Internet stalker and the stat counter really came in handy in determining who the person was. I now open the comments for those who want to explain other bits of useful info stat counters capture.

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The Brain Chemistry Behind Your Caffeine Boost
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Whether it’s consumed as coffee, candy, or toothpaste, caffeine is the world’s most popular drug. If you’ve ever wondered how a shot of espresso can make your groggy head feel alert and ready for the day, TED-Ed has the answer.

Caffeine works by hijacking receptors in the brain. The stimulant is nearly the same size and shape as adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down neural activity. Adenosine builds up as the day goes on, making us feel more tired as the day progresses. When caffeine enters your system, it falls into the receptors meant to catch adenosine, thus keeping you from feeling as sleepy as you would otherwise. The blocked adenosine receptors also leave room for the mood-boosting compound dopamine to settle into its receptors. Those increased dopamine levels lead to the boost in energy and mood you feel after finishing your morning coffee.

For a closer look at how this process works, check out the video below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.

1. EASE INTO THE HABIT.

If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.

2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING.

Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.

3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM IDEAL FOR SLEEP.

Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”

4. TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY WIND DOWN.

Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.

5. GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF LIGHT.

Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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