Radiation in-flight? Is this another reason to hate flying?

COCOA BEACH — For those of you nervous or apprehensive about the radiation coming from full body scanners at the airport, new studies give you a different worry: in-flight radiation!

This has been a well known phenomenon for years, but only within scientific circles. This may change soon, however, due to a prediction of an increasing number of solar storms over the next five years.

According to officials at NASA, the amount of additional radiation during storms can be profound.

A jet leaves a message in the sky during the Cocoa Beach Air Show on Halloween weekend. But could it be risky for the pilot and crew to be flying that high above the Earth's protective layer for solar radiation?

The Earth’s atmosphere protects the planet’s ground level from the majority of solar radiation, but in the air, jets ride above the protective layer, and this is especially so on polar routes — routes between the United States and Europe or Asia, for example.

Flying one or two times a year is no real cause for alarm, but business flying is different. On a single flight from Chicago to Bejing, crew and passengers are exposed to about 12 percent of the annual radiation limit, according to a study by NASA scientists.  The greatest risk lies with a fetus, prompting the Association of Flight Attendants to warn their employees to request reassignment to a ground job while they’re pregnant or trying to conceive.

Pregnant women are flying through solar storms at the time without full knowledge of this, possibly putting themselves at risk.

Ask your airline what options you have — or try flying a different route.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

“Dickens by Candlelight” is an enchanting theatrical experience.

ORLANDO – In his day, Charles Dickens would act out his classic short story “A Christmas Carol” in front of family, friends and other audiences, performing all the roles himself.

Considering how many characters there are in the saga of Scrooge and the ghosts that haunt him into an emotional reawakening, a theater could easily find a cast of more than 20 actors to tell the entire story.

And it might seem an odd choice to have just one actor play every role, even if, for example, the actor happens to be someone as talented as Orlando’s veteran actor/director John DiDonna, who seems more than capable of tackling Scrooge one second, Tiny Tim the next, and making both roles seem believable and engaging.

In “Dickens by Candlelight,” DiDonna plays Scrooge and a host of other roles, although he’s not alone on the stage, since he’s aided by actresses Morgan Russel and Monica Tamborello. Their goal is to bring Scrooge’s epic holiday journey to life in a way that seems fresh, invigorating, and funny. But with just three people alternating so many different characters and locations, does it work?

Before the show starts, the actors gather around a piano and lead the audience in singing Christmas carols.

As it turns out, quite magically.

To start with, Robin Olson’s adaptation of the Dickens holiday favorite has found the ideal location for this piece: the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Lake Ivanhoe. The renovated and restored home for the Orlando Ballet and the former Orlando Opera has a huge room ideally suited for this production, which dispenses with the traditional notion of audience members seated before a stage that the actors perform on. Instead, “Dickens by Candlelight” follows the much more engaging concept of having the audience seated at 10 tables decoratively set across the room, where pots of tea and plates of fresh cookies await them. There’s a huge and beautifully lit and decorated Christmas tree in the front entrance, and bows hanging in the windows. And, not surprisingly, there are lit candles on every table, and you’ll be thrilled at the moment when the room falls into total darkness – save for those candles, which give the room an enchanting feeling.

It gets better, though. When you first walk into the main hallway of the Performing Arts Center, you discover a grand piano that the actors stand next to as they lead the audience in singing several Christmas carols, before taking them into the theater. Everyone gets shown to their table, and they have a few minutes to meet the people seated with them. They can also use this time to pour some hot tea and enjoy the cookies awaiting them. If some holiday productions are just about seeing the show, “Dickens by Candlelight” goes a few steps further in making it a shared experience among audience and actors alike, a festive holiday event where we sing together, dine together, and experience together the glory of Scrooge’s newfound spirit of giving.

The three actors stay engaged with the audience even after the show has started, moving from table to table, talking occasionally to the people seated there, even inviting a few audience members to act out a scene with them. All the while the tea keeps flowing and the cookies keep disappearing, and DiDonna, Russel and Tamborello keep you fascinated with their energetic, electric command of the show.

Perhaps my favorite moment: there are bells at the every table, and at one point in the show, the audience is asked to ring those bells, filling the room with that happy sound. Waiting a few seconds for the bells to stop ringing, DiDonna paused, then added, “Not bad.”

As Scrooge, DiDonna takes a highly familiar character – a cynical, cold-hearted miser who despises the notion of employees being given a day off with pay once a year, just to celebrate a silly old holiday – and makes him seem both all too human and familiar, and at the same time larger than life. His journey of self-discovery and then rebirth is exciting, funny and, happily for the season, life-affirming.  

"Dickens by Candlelight" is magical.

This 90-minute production, performed without intermission, moves so briskly that you might be surprised at how quickly it goes by. And at the very least, if this doesn’t send you right into the mood and spirit of the season, check your pulse on the way out the door. “Dickens by Candlelight” is a happy reminder of why we love this time of year: the joy of being together, celebrating the things that make us feel like a little family, even for just one night.

“Dickens by Candlelight” will be performed tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at 1111 N. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $30 for seniors and students. For tickets, call 407-409-1619.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

When it comes to massage therapy, silence is golden.

ORLANDO — Wayne Parker is quick to point out that he likes to be quiet where he works – very quiet.

That’s not intended to create a soothing or relaxing work environment for himself, but for his clients. Relaxation, in fact, is the key word at Lotus Blossom Massage.

“We definitely want to give customers something to make them feel good as far as their health goes,” said Parker, the owner of this new business in south Orlando. “There are a lot of people who realize massage therapy is medically necessary to help the body. If they do, their bodies will cleanse themselves.”

Lotus Blossom Massage opened a month ago on John Young Parkway in South Orlando.

About a month ago, Parker and his wife Marlene opened Lotus Blossom Massage in a commercial plaza at 10249 S. John Young Parkway in Orlando, very close to the Central Florida Parkway and International Drive.  Inside, they have five rooms where customers lie on a table and wait to be relaxed, and three full time massage therapists and several on call employees ready to help those customers relieve their stress.

So far, he said, for a brand new business, they’ve been getting a steady flow of customers.

“I am totally new to the business,” said Parker, who spent years working in the trucking industry. “But with the economy being what it is, I think we’re doing well. We are a new establishment, and we are trying to be separate from the others.”

Lotus Blossom has one room, for example, where a pot steams rocks until they’re plenty warm.

These rocks are used for a relaxing hot stone massage.

“This is a room where we do the hot stone massage,” Parker said. “The stones are heated up to a certain temperature, and then they’re placed on parts of the body to relieve muscle tensions. This technique has been around for many years. It’s set at a certain temperature where it relaxes the muscles. It’s a good, relaxing feeling that people enjoy.”

Across the hall is the “couples” room – two separate tables where couples can come in and get massage therapy at the same time.

“We give the customer good services,” Parker said. “I think that’s the key to this business.”

And the reason why he urges visitors and staff alike to be relatively quiet as they walk down the halls? Customers inside these rooms don’t want to be disturbed by loud talking in the hall.

“We have a good, clean, quiet atmosphere here,” Parker said. “If you were to have a real noisy atmosphere, then you can’t relax, and it’s important for people who come in to do just that – relax.

There are a lot of health benefits to getting a massage, Parker said. It can relieve stress in the body, which in turn can help release toxins as well.

“You have to be able to treat the problems people have,” said Lin, who has been working as a massage therapist for the past five years and now treats customers at Lotus Blossom.

“If people come in with a problem in their neck, you have to know what muscle to treat so they can leave here relaxed,” she added.

Massage therapy requires a lot more skill than people realize, Lin said.

Lin has been working as a massage therapist for five years.

“We know a bit about the pressure points of the body, and we do different techniques,” she said.

“All the therapists here are licensed with the state and county,” Parker added.  “We’re very professional here.”

That’s particularly true, he said, since this industry is often misunderstood.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand the massage business,” Parker said.  “They’re not aware of the benefits of a massage. I think a lot of people think it’s frivolous, but it’s not. It keeps the body healthy.”

And that request to be quiet in the hallways really is important, Lin said. Lin noted that she used to work as a hair stylist, which was a very different environment, one where the women who came to her office always wanted to talk while getting their hair done. But at a massage office, silence is more of the rule.

“At a hair salon, most of the clients are women,” she said. “With massage therapy, it’s more male clients, and they like to be quiet. Some customers like to talk, but mostly they like to relax.”

To learn more about Lotus Blossom Massage, call 407-674-7986, email info@lotusblossommassage.com, or log on to www.lotusblossommassage.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

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