Sages of soaps

One may not associate the dysfunctional, duplicitous and often deranged characters on a soap opera with healthful and/or sane living (although you gotta admit they're proficient at coming back from the dead). However, the actors who portray them sometimes are models of holistic happiness, as evidenced in a new book called, "Days of our Lives Better Living: Cast Secrets for a Healthier, Balanced Life." The title pretty much says it all. It's recipes, exercise tips and life inspirations from the cast of the seems-like-forever-running NBC soap that my mom and I used to watch religiously, even recording it daily on our giant, first-gen VCR so as not to miss a salacious moment.

A cow hangs out in the pasture at the Strauss family dairy farm in Marshall, Calif. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Albert Straus’s parents Bill and Ellen
A cow hangs out in the pasture at the Strauss family dairy farm in Marshall, Calif. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Albert Straus's parents Bill and Ellen Straus began the farm in the 1940s. Straus Family Creamery was founded in 1994 by Albert and is the first 100% certified organic creamery in the U.S. Straus is in favor of an upcoming state ballot measure which would require labeling of genetically engineered food items. (Jane Tyska/Staff) ( JANE TYSKA )

And really, if Julie Williams (nee Olson, previously Banning and Anderson), played by Susan Seaforth Hayes (an Oakland native -- cool!), could survive the whole "Kim" affair and win Doug back, and if Dr. Marlena Evans Black (formerly North, Craig, Brady and Bradford) could make it through several comas and countless kidnappings by Stefano DiMera, we might want to consider their advice.

I see sick people

Hey sickos, you can't hide behind that Kleenex box anymore. We know where you are, and we plan to avoid you. That's right, there's a new app that sends real-time alerts to users when they're in the vicinity of sick people. It's from Sickweather, www.sickweather.com, a company that tracks reports of illness gathered from social media.

So when someone publicly posts "Ugh, I have the flu" on Twitter or Facebook, Sickweather somehow figures out where that person is (don't ask me how), plots the location and alerts app users when they get in range -- at school, traveling or in a coffee house. They then can opt to avoid the area, go wash their hands or hermetically seal themselves in plastic wrap. Seems like extra freaky sci-fi stuff, but it's true! Yet another benefit (?) of social media.

Have a cow, man

Or a sheep, or a camel. Whatever gets your goat, go ahead and give it this holiday season through Heifer International (www.heifer.org or 800-696-1918). Yes, you can actually give one of these animals as a gift, in a range of donation amounts from $10 to $850.

If you've not heard of the organization, you may think it a bovine bluff. However, Heifer's been around since 1944, providing livestock and agricultural training to more than 20 million families in more than 30 countries around the world, including the U.S., Nepal, China, Brazil, Rwanda and Armenia. The idea is to help people become more self-reliant and lift them out of poverty. And this year, Bill and Melinda Gates are including Heifer in their #GivingTuesday event, Dec. 3, at www.givingtuesday.org.

D'oh! Working yourself stupid

Yes, if you regularly toil through 14-hour days, catch up on reports over the weekends or even on vacation, you might in fact be lowering your IQ, according to Tasha Eurich, author of the new book, "Bankable Leadership," who I'm pretty sure didn't write it on a beach in Tahiti.

"We actually get stupider when we work too much," she says, citing a five-year study at the University College of London, which examined the relationship between long hours and brain function. Eurich suggests working fewer hours, taking more breaks and vacations to be productive. Brain ... becoming ... mush. Gotta go!

-- Angela Hill, ahill@bayareanewsgroup.com

Follow her at Twitter.com/giveemhill.