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Patch Pro: The Best Advice of 2012

Our panels of experts on various topics helped make the lives of Minnesotans ridiculously easy throughout the past year. Here's a look back at some of the best questions and answers.

You asked, and our experts answered. For much of the past year, Patch has provided local experts on a variety of topics. Here's a look back at some of the most popular advice offered, as measured by the number of readers who "clicked" on these posts:

Minnesota weather

Question: Many times, it seems as though severe storms that follow an I-94 path ... split or shoot north or south of us. Are we just lucky or is there some scientific definition?

Meteorologist Keith Marler: The ole "Metro split", eh? ... The simple answer (but not necessarily the complete answer) is that its simply a perceived effect exaggerated by the fact that we now notice it when it happens to occur ... the slightly longer answer is being studied by a group of Meteorologists/chemists/etc at the Universities of Oklahoma & Michigan to see what effect, if any, pockets of urban developments can actually influence weaker storm's tracks.

Question: What is it that causes people with arthritis to have more pain when the weather changes? Also, do you know of any good websites to find more information about this? Thanks for all you do!

Meteorologist Keith Marler: Weather changes & the old "feel it in my bones" is theoretically a result of the changes in atmospheric pressure ... the bigger the storm system approaching, the bigger the change possible ... (but this correlation is still debated), Here's a link for you: http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/reports/arthritis/44-1.html

Question: Why is it that 3 weather models are used to make predictions, and how do you choose which one to use?

Meteorologist Keith Marler: There are more than just 3 ... there are several generated from the US, Canada & Europe that I use. Each is a computer's "best guess" on the weather, but each has its own type of bias (some run cold in warm weather, some get a little too excited about moisture, etc) - and these biases are dependent upon the current weather scenario (also known as "initial conditions").  The short answer: I don't choose just one ... I use a blend of model output combined with a base knowledge of trends as well as just good old fashioned experience to pop out a forecast each morning!

Pedestrian laws and safety

Question: Can you clarify the law pertaining to pedestrians in marked crosswalks and unmarked crosswalks? I walk a lot, and I struggle with when drivers should be stopping and giving me the right-of-way.

: In Minnesota, every corner is a crosswalk. In other words, drivers must stop for crossing pedestrians whether or not there is paint marking the crosswalk. Check out MnDOT's new Share the Road campaign for safety tips both drivers and pedestrians -www.sharetheroadmn.org

Question: A couple years back when my children were younger I was walking with them to a local playground. We had to cross a road with a marked crosswalk. Several cars passed by without stopping and I noticed a marked squad car approaching, and he was not slowing down either. I made eye contact with the officer and gave him the "Mom" look. He immediately put his lights on, backed up and informed me he "was not required to stop at the crosswalk because we were waiting on the sidewalk and that he was only required to stop if I was actually in the crosswalk." This both surprised and infuriated me because he expected me to actually have myself and 3 children in the crosswalk hoping that speeding cars would stop. So according to law enforcement....walk out into the crosswalk, don't check your safety and the law with protect you from being hit by a passing motorist...good grief!!!

Dale Butler (pedestrian safety blogger): You don't actually have to be in the crosswalk, just one foot into the crosswalk is enough. The officer was right. I always stop on the corner close to the crosswalk entrance and wait for cars to clear. Sometimes cars stop for me and motion me to cross in front of them. although that car may be stopped others may not see me and continue around that car. I refuse and remain out of the crosswalk until I am sure drivers are able to see me and HAVE TIME TO STOP, Right turn lane cars are the most dangerous when a pedestrian is entering the cross walk. Right turners are usually looking to their left to make sure they are not entering the destination street in front of another car. The pedestrian to their right is almost invisible.

Family conflicts

Question: We were just having a facebook discussion re: a friend with a 5 year year old who is very disrespectful to his mom, hitting, sassing, yelling, etc. Her and her husband have been through a divorice over the past year. I feel like he is just acting out and can't sort his own feelings. Others think usual punishment should apply. What do you think? At age of 5 would a boy be greatly affected or is this just a 5 year old testing boundries?

: A divorce is a major change in a family for children whether they are 5 or 25 so it's possible the child is feeling a range of emotions and given his age, may not have words or tools for expressing worry, fear, or anger. How much information does he know about the divorce and what that means for his time with mom or dad? Has there been a move related to the divorce? Did he just start kindergarten on top of this? A therapist who is trained in play therapy can be a great resource for a child to determine the reasons behind the behaviors. It also can be very valuable for the parents to come in together and with a therapist or parent coach, develop a parenting plan because even though they are no longer married they are still parents to the child and many decisions need to be made over the years about things like discipline and if changes occur such as remarriage by one or both parents it can be helpful to have a place to sort through those with a neutral third party.

Question: I have been trying for years to get my kids involved in extra curricular activities. They try something for a while: basketball, piano, track, scouts, then quit after a year or less. Now they are teens and addicted to X-box, Smart phone, t.v. and YouTube. Even playing with friends is over Xbox or the internet. I recently put limits on these distractions until they get involved in an outside activity of their choosing. They have no idea what they want to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

Jenny Reimann (MSW, LICSW of Reimann Counseling Clinic in Maple Grove): Great work in trying to get your kids more active, both then and now! Your teens sounds like many of the teens we see in our clinic as well: participating in screen time instead of face time. Setting limits for them is a great start. I often recommend this to the parents I work with. I would also suggest being very specific as far as time spent on Xbox, Smartphone, etc. It may not be realistic to cut them out entirely, as this is now their main form of communication with their friends, as you also indicated. Another recommendation I give is to let that down time guide them. Often times, when they are unable to look at their phone, watch tv, etc, they gravitate to a natural interest (reading, biking, etc). Lastly, I encourage you as a family, if you are not yet, to participate in active events, such as joining the gym, going to a community concert, attending the museum. Often times they don't know that they like it until they are exposed to it. One last thing to keep in mind is that they are teens, and they can be difficult to read when it comes to recognizing that they are actually enjoying something.

Grilling

Question: I burn stuff. Two questions: What's the best way not to burn stuff on the grill? When I do burn stuff, what's the best thing to do—serve it as is, scrape it and then serve it, or toss it?

Jon Stephen Swenson (from Southwest Minneapolis Famous Dave's): Usually your grill will have hot spots, these are OK if you are watching but can burn if you don't. I would turn up the heat to get the grill hot then turn it down for cooking. If using charcoal try an indirect approach and don't put the meat right above the coal. 

If it is not burned too bad I just scrape or cut the burned part off with home cooking but would throw it away if questionable at the restaurant.

Question: I have issues with cooking kebobs. Stuff never cooks at the same rate and some is good, some is burned, some is underdone. Any tricks? Is it just cutting stuff to the right size?

Jon Stephen Swenson: Yes, also, pre-cooking the marinated meat first will ensure that the veggies don't get overcooked. Don't try to get done too fast, maybe turn down the heat a little.

Winterizing your car

Question: What weight of motor oil should people put in their cars for winter?

Precision Auto Repair: I would suggest you see what the manufacturer of your vehicle recommends. That information will be on the oil filler cap or in the owners manual. 

As far as winter weight, most vehicle require no change in weight. Newer model vehicles use a semi synthetic oil, which is a synthetic based oil to help lubrication at start up, and during the extreme weather seasons. 

Question: At what point is necessary to get new tires so you are adequately protected from snow and ice on the roads?

Baber Auto Repair: Tires will wear differently depending on where they are placed on the vehicle, the tire pressure, and the alignment of the vehicle. Tires with poor tread definitely will need to be replaced. We recommend having a trusted mechanic look at your tires, as well as battery, spark plugs, coolant, wipers, brakes, and other winter critical areas to make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter. Your mechanic will be able to tell you if you should consider replacing tires before winter or if you will make it safely through winter.

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