Senin, 31 Desember 2007

0 Weight Loss: A New Approach for Lasting Results

The clock just clicked to 12:01 AM on 01/01/08. Happy New Year! For many people, this will mark the start of a plan to lose weight. Well it is time to get rid of your panicked, high-stress, rushed approach to weight loss. If you want lasting results, you best choice is to take the slow train. Forget fast and furious weight loss. Instead make your goal to live healthy and with peace.

There is so much more to weight loss than just diet and exercise. My hope is to inspire you to make the weight loss process an enjoyable way of life, not a hardship period of your life. This article will cover the five areas that are critical to your success: healthy eating, physical activity, support systems, stress reduction, and motivation.

Healthy Eating

There are many good weight loss programs out there. Go into any bookstore today and many of them will be featured. The best ones will teach you how to eat healthy for life by choosing mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and good fats such as olive oil. Here are some of the best books out there:
Here is a link to 22 no-nonsense diet tips for a more healthy and trim body. But if all it took was learning the healthy eating tips, we'd all have a slim and trim belly. Unfortunately, the reasons why we eat can be complex. We eat for hunger, of course, but we also eat to relieve stress, to soothe our emotions, and also out of boredom. This is why we need more support.

Support Systems

There are many kinds of support that can help you with your quest to choose healthier habits. The key is to surround yourself with as many support systems as you need. There is the emotional support that can come from loving friends and family. You can seek out a diet coach in a therapist or life coach. A great support program is Weight Watchers. For people who have trouble controlling their eating, there is Overeaters Anonymous. A good book that deals with the issue of emotional eating is The 3 Day Solution Plan by Laurel Mellin. So when you are mapping out your weight loss plan, be sure to include support. Incorporate it into your daily and weekly routines.

Stress Reduction

Your weight loss plan should include activities that help reduce stress such as meditation, yoga, qi gong, or anything else that helps you to let go of worry, anxiety, and stress. Why is this so important? Because chronic stress causes your body to create too much of a hormone called cortisol. Too much of this hormone keeps your appetite stimulated and also raises glucose production. Your body converts excess glucose into fat, which is usually stored in the midsection for access to quick energy. Reducing stress will reduce cortisol which will in turn reduce the factors causing your to eat and store more fat than you need. And just think, all it takes is sitting quietly in a chair. How's that for an easy weight loss activity?

Physical Activity

The best exercise plan is one that you will do consistently. So walking everyday for 30 minutes will fit the bill. For those with major time constraints, 3 X 10-minute walks gives the same benefit as one 30 minute walk. Over time if you can add in these elements you will increase your health, strength, and ability to maintain a healthy weight: aerobic activity, strength training, stretching, balancing, and deep breathing. Here is a link to more information on the 5 areas of physical activity for health. Exercise should be something you look forward to. Use music. Incorporate fun activities like dancing, touch football, soccer, tennis, or anything that makes you feel good. And then commit to doing it everyday, rain or shine, for 30 minutes.


When all is said and done, you'll want to cultivate and maintain a strong motivation level. Here is an article on how to keep your motivation high for the long haul. In a nutshell, stay focused on the benefits of completing your goal. Have them written down and place reminders in key areas such as your kitchen table. Have a plan that you will follow and seek out help from others. Keep a journal of your progress and remember that this is a long term life change. Do this for your health and the physical improvements will take care of themselves. Love yourself today and enjoy the journey.

Please share your weight loss success tips in the comments!

Written by K. Stone of Life Learning Today.

0 Where You Can Find Personal Development People On the Ground

It seems that everywhere you turn on the web nowadays there are personal development resources popping up. Thanks to the Internet, we now have a wide variety of online resources and even virtual communities we can participate in to learn how we can make our lives better. Sites such as, which has a wealth of information on small things you can do to improve your life through practice. Then there is, a blog started by one man who chronicles the ways he improved his life and found his soulmate, and also gives out tips with the sole purpose of how you can change your life for the better.

All of these are great websites, with a lot of good advice and resources. However, there are times when we want to find resources “on the ground” so to speak in our own local communities. There is something to be said for that face-to-face interaction that local groups and people can provide. Yet, for many of us, we may think that nothing like this exists in our community – that we are too rural to have people like this, or that we live in a city so big we’d never find them if we wanted to. I’m here to tell you that personal development groups exist everywhere – and may even be hiding behind different names – but they are out there and I’m going to show you how to find them.

The first place I want you to look is your local Chamber of Commerce. Many people don’t realize that one of the goals of the local Chamber of Commerce is to improve the community at large. You will often find members of the group are very much interested in not only improving the local community, but also their lives. They can also be a great resource to find other personal development groups in the area. Almost every town, no matter what the size, has a Chamber of Commerce. Seek yours out and find out when they meet and mark it on your calendar to attend and see what it is all about.

Another group that is known for the role of providing people with the courage to speak in front of others can also be a great resource for developing not only your speaking skills, but your people skills as well. Toastmasters International is made up of groups around the world in small towns, factory floors and large cities that meet regularly to help build group members up in the art of public speaking. In doing so, they are also helping them build personal development skills that carry into all aspects of personal and business life. Chances are, there is a group in your community.

Another place in your local community that you will find likeminded people who want to improve their lives and the community at large is local volunteer boards. You’d be surprised how many people who volunteer to be on the Library Board or the School Board are interested in improving the lives of people around them. Often, especially in smaller communities, these groups are eager to find others who want to join and participate. It can not only be a very rewarding experience for yourself, but it can also help so many others in your community as well when you volunteer your time to sit on one of these boards.

Finally, ask at your local church or library about groups that might meet in your area. They often know of several that might interest you. Another great resource for finding groups that meet to talk about personal development issues is fraternal organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Lion’s Club and others. These groups often have chapters in every community, large and small, and can be a wonderful way to get involved and help improve your life and that of others.

There is a world of resources out there and they may at times be hard to find, but with a little detective work you could be well on your way to finding the local support you need as you continue your journey of improving and developing your personal skills.

Written by David B. Bohl

Sabtu, 29 Desember 2007


Bimbo enough or not!!!

I had on these super long acrylic nails that were super hard, and Mike tossed me on the bed (he insist that I clarify he was not being violent but just fun-loving) and I had my hands underneath me, so the nail was bent inwards and since it was so hard, it didn't break at the white part, but cracked neatly down the middle of the PINK part!!!

Damn fucking painful la!!!

Mike kept apologizing and telling me it's not a permanent damage because he had his own fingernails torn off before numerous times...

Eh, apparently he worked at this factory or something where he had to carry super heavy cardboard boxes and whenever his grip slipped and the boxes dropped, his whole fingernails would come right off.


Damn gross la!!!

So anyway, I cut off the acrylic tips and so now, I still have two parts of a fingernail on my nail bed!!!


What's going to happen? Is the top pink nail part going to eventually grow out and drop out?

How come when a nail grows out it gets STUCK to your nail bed until it decides not to, and becomes white? When a fingernail gets completely torn out, how does the nail bed that's normally covered feel like?


It's all very confusing to me!!!

Anyway, it's freezing cold here in Dallas!! It was minus zero last night!!! It seems inconceivable to me how heat can escape so damn fast.... I've haven't felt hot in 3 weeks lor! Well except when I shower.

But it's really nice that for a change, there are COMPLETELY ZERO insects (feels almost orgasmic to not have cockroaches and lizards - fucking hate them), and chips don't go soft after half an hour of being left open.

I'm coming back to Singapore on the 2nd though!

I'm gonna eat... Ding tai feng's crab roe xiao long baos, and sambal kangkong... lots of veggies (my shit's very hard here coz people don't eat so much fibre), and also crates and crates of Heaven and Earth Gui Hua tea (OSMANTHUS!! Or however it is spelt!!) and Pokka Green tea!!

I also bought a shitload of sleeping pills and appetite suppressants!! Need to get prescriptions for those in Singapore... Woooo!!!

I'm gonna be SO skinny, instead of calling me, "You know, Xiaxue, the rude/short/controversial/funny blogger", I'd be known as That Skinny Blogger. AWESOME!

I'm super going to miss US shopping lor!! Things are really cheap here (in Texas - apparently in NYC it's damn ex. Stupid), especially considering the quality and trendiness of stuff... For example, I bought a pair of chunky Steve Madden heels that's fuckkkkkkkking chio on 80% discount... $12 USD!! ($16.80 Sing)

Unfortunately they only came in size 7 and above, so I bought a pair for Shuyin and a size 7 one for me (normally I wear 4/5). I don't care if it's damn big lor I'm going to stuff tissue at the front! Well if I can't wear them I'd give them to a delighted Qihua.

In fact, I bought so much stuff that I had to buy an extra suitcase for them!! The "extra suitcase" is SATIN PINK WITH BROWN POLKA DOTS... for $29.90 USD! Freaking cheap lor for such a chio suitcase!

I can't care if nobody cares about my shopping, this is my blog and I wanna record my thoughts and my thoughts right now is about shopping! Well, besides the OTHER thought which is a sense of resentment towards irritating blog readers.

People are fucking annoying lor, people are constantly telling me that I am not as interesting anymore - which would only serve to make me very wary and obviously even less interesting.

So, I've decided I'd stop reading/allowing comments until I feel like my blog readers are all nice and approving people again! Sounds good? Yeah? Yeah??! I did think so!

Back to shopping! I spent maybe a grand total of like 6 hours (over 3 days) scouring through the SALE section of Forever 21, where all the summer clothes were piled, unwanted and unloved, into discount racks - $2.99 and up, $3.99 and up, $7.99 and up.

I had so much clothes in my arms that I had to toss them on the floor while I search for more!! The very sad thing is, the sucky Forever 21 in Singapore is CONSTANTLY sold out on SMALL and XS sizes, so sometimes I end up buying Mediums and wearing them loose... AND I SAW THE CLOTHES I BOUGHT IN SINGAPORE, SIZE S, SELLING FOR $3.99!! Super angry lor!!

In US, the least popular size is S! Bu hui happy!

If you are the Singapore Forever 21 owner, CAN YOU PLEASE TAKE IN MORE S SIZES AND NOT SO MANY OF Ls??! For goodness sake! You can't do this to your loyal customers! You make us see a nice design, and then we fucking can't wear it! What's your problem!!? (Also if you could sponsor me clothes, I'd be happy to wear them on this blog for you. *winks* :D)

I'm going to take photos of all my shopping when I reach home, and hao lian in them in minute detailS to everyone. MUAHAHAHA!!!

Ok I shall end this boring blog entry now and go watch US TV. Cable here is awesome! They are showing this show called A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila.

It's apparently this show about Tila Tequila, the most popular Myspace user, and her quest to find love.

But this is not your usual Bachelorette show... BECAUSE TILA IS BISEXUAL!!

Get to see lesbian action on TV lor! I don't think it'd be approved on Singapore TV, EVER.

But I just like the show coz Tila wears the chioest slutty clothes!! And I don't get how Tila can get blonde hair as an Asian (she's Vietnamese and stayed in Singapore till she was 1!) and still look so good! (although sometimes I think she looks like an alien).

Oh well. Love ya all!!! BYYEEE!

0 The year is 2099...

"A magnetically levitated train could theoretically take you from New York to London in 54 minutes," the Discovery Channel informs us. "But you'd have to go 5,000 mph through a 3,100-mile-long tunnel that was itself floating in the Atlantic Ocean. How might that work?"
Well, let's find out.

Of course, if this interests you, don't miss parts two and three.

Jumat, 28 Desember 2007

0 Turning the 80/20 Rule on its Head

It’s called the Pareto Principle: in its simplest form, it means that 80% of your time is spent doing 20% of your work. It has seemingly become fashionable to apply the Pareto Principle to every conceivable activity and outcome, no matter its suitability. I’ve become convinced that it doesn't work in every situation.

What if we threw out the Pareto Principle? What if we said, it’s not about the 80% or the 20%? What if we set a goal of spending 50% of our time on the truly important things in our personal and work lives?

I bet some of you are thinking, “Why not a goal of 100%? I've read that our goal should be to spend all of our time at work on actual work."

Well, yeah… wouldn’t it be great if we could do that? I simply don't think it's practical.

If you’re like most folks, however, you currently don’t spend anywhere near 50% of your time on the really important stuff. You probably spend a lot of time “putting out fires” because you don’t make time for things before they turn from important to urgent, or you try to exercise control over things that are beyond your control.

When it comes right down to time management and getting things done, your to-do list basically falls into 4 distinct categories:
  1. Pressing (demanding your immediate attention) and significant (meaningful to you).
  2. Significant but not pressing.
  3. Pressing but not significant.
  4. Not pressing and not significant.
What if we spent 50% of our time working on those things that are significant but not pressing (#2 above). That would mean working on things before there’s a deadline looming, handling things before they become crises, and identifying and focusing on what's truly important to us – those things that will provide the greatest returns in our lives.

But some things are both pressing and significant, so let’s spend 30% of our time in dealing with important crises (#1 above).

That’s 80% of our time. What about the other 20%?

What about things that are pressing but not significant? There will always be “other people’s emergencies,” ringing phones, emails, and the like that will eat up our time. But by limiting how much time we allow them, we drastically alter the balance of our day.

So instead of 80/20, it’s 50/30/20, with the “20” being the exact opposite of what it used to be.

Just take a moment and think about what your life would be like if you were spending, essentially, 80% of your time on important stuff.
  • You’d have more time to deal with the work that makes a difference in your job, and you’d have to spend less time fixing things because you would have time to get them done right in the first place.

  • You would be able to spend more time on the actions and relationships that really matter in your life, because you would not be chasing around after things and people that can’t really make a difference in the long run.

  • You would be able to do things that make a difference in your own life and others.

  • You would have time.
Written by David B. Bohl

0 Personal Development: How Old Are You Really?

You may have seen ads for a site on the Internet called This service is supposed to tell you how old you “really are,” based on certain health factors, and help you lower that age. I haven’t ever used it, but I understand the focus is on your physical age and condition. That’s a good idea; many people would probably benefit from an evaluation of where their bodies fall on a continuum of age.

I think we’d also benefit from thinking about where we are, emotionally, on a continuum. Some people have decided, as early as 40 or 45, that they are “old,” and that there is not much they can do to improve their lives simply because they’re “too old.”

I know a woman about to hit 40 who is so excited by the prospect that she’s already reading magazines for over-40 women. Why? Because she has worked so hard on being who she wants to be in recent years that she sees 40 as her opportunity to really embrace who she has become. For her, “Life begins at 40” is the truest statement ever spoken.

I also know people who ascribe to the philosophy "50 is the new 40." What’s the difference? I think it all comes down to believing that age is a gift.

Maturity, anyway, is a gift. Age is something that happens, but we mature because we work at it. Of course I’m talking about emotional and mental maturity. But I think those are the kinds of maturity that really matter, because that’s how we become who we are. People who mature well are people who constantly strive to be more than they are at the moment. These people, and maybe you’re one of them, are always trying to improve themselves. They learn, they exercise (body and mind), they discuss, and they express themselves.

On the other hand, people who believe themselves to be just getting older, and not better, tend to sit in a dark room, sometimes literally. They may not go out, get involved in groups, or try to live life fully, especially once they reach a point they consider “old,” whether that’s 70 or 50.

Think about how old you are, in an emotional and spiritual sense. Are you maturing gracefully, like my friend who’s turning 40 with a huge enthusiasm for life? Are you suffering from the blues about your age? Are you of the opinion that it’s all downhill from here, so why keep going the way you used to?

I fully believe life is designed to be lived. Not just until we get a little older and not just until we decide we’re “done.” Life is to be lived.

You can embrace your life and keep maturing by:
  • Thinking about how old you feel, and whether that’s where you want to be.

  • Finding an activity, at home or outside, that stimulates your mind.

  • Resolving to keep becoming more and better than who you are at this moment.
Embrace life, no matter where you are in the journey. Keep striving.

Written by David B. Bohl

Kamis, 27 Desember 2007

0 All eyes on the city

Like some rogue branch of the independent film industry, private security firms are now installing what The New York Times calls "one of the most comprehensive high-tech public surveillance systems in the world," and they're doing it in China.

[Image: Surveillance cameras for sale in China; photo by Timothy O'Rourke for The New York Times].

While these cameras and other forms of remote sensing are being installed to keep Olympic athletes and their screaming fans safe during the coming summer's Games, the worry is that the surveillance will simply stay put:
    Long after the visitors leave, security industry experts say, the surveillance equipment that Western companies leave behind will provide the authorities here with new tools to track not only criminals, but dissidents too... Indeed, the autumn issue of the magazine of China’s public security ministry prominently listed places of religious worship and Internet cafes as locations to install new cameras.
Think of it as the becoming-cinematic of urban space. Some of the technologies being installed include, but are not limited to, the following:
    Honeywell has already started helping the police to set up an elaborate computer monitoring system to analyze feeds from indoor and outdoor cameras in one of Beijing’s most populated districts, where several Olympic sites are located. The company is working on more expansive systems in Shanghai, in preparation for the 2010 World Expo there – in addition to government and business security systems in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Changsha, Tianjin, Kunming and Xi’an. General Electric has sold to Chinese authorities its powerful VisioWave system, which allows security officers to control thousands of video cameras simultaneously and automatically alerts them to suspicious or fast-moving objects, like people running. The system will be deployed at Beijing’s national convention center, including the Olympics media center. I.B.M. is installing a similar system in Beijing that should be ready before the Olympics and will analyze and catalog people and behavior.
And so on.
James Mulvenon, director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, remarks that "the pace of technological change means that products with mainly civilian applications, like management computer systems with powerful video surveillance features, [have] blurred the distinction between law enforcement and civilian technologies." And it's in that blurring that some U.S. security firms have potentially brushed up against the outer edge of illegal commercial activity: that is, supplying China with these cameras might at least partially violate "a sanctions law Congress passed after the Tiananmen Square killings" in 1989.

[Image: Surveillance in China; photographer temporarily unknown, though this appeared in The New York Times several months ago].

All of this also highlights the increasingly intense overlap between film production, the political administration of urban space, and the private security industry, whereby three otherwise unrelated fields become nearly indistinguishable from one another – or, perhaps more accurately phrased, they become erstwhile partners in pursuit of different goals.
In fact, I have often thought it would be interesting – and I have actually written an entire unpublished novel about a very similar idea, set in London (attention, editors! seriously!) – if a well-known, and wealthy, film production firm such as Universal Pictures, or Warner Brothers, or even Film Four, were to sign a legal contract with, for example, the City of London, after which Universal would financially underwrite the installation of a brand new and geographically extensive security camera system.
Universal (or whomever – maybe Bollywood will do this) would retain all legal rights to the footage thus generated – the ultimate reality TV show: London in real-time – yet they'd be contractually obligated to let the City of London use the footage for law enforcement purposes. Beyond a certain timeframe, though, Universal keeps all the film.
Meanwhile, the City has found itself an additional revenue stream and a partner in fighting crime (or, at least, in filming it), and reality TV – reality cinema – has never had it so good. A bottomless well of new footage.
All London needs is a good editor™.
So might that be the urban security model of the future? Cities will lease urban image rights to film production firms? Your willful participation will simply be assumed.
Soon, London, New York, and Tokyo are owned by Sony Pictures; Paris, Rome, and New Delhi sign binding contracts with Warner Brothers; and every other city in between falls to one of half a dozen rival production companies.
Armed film companies replace mayors and town halls as the urban administrators of tomorrow.
Taxes are cut almost to nothing: government revenue is entirely film-generated. You can syndicate the events of yesterday on televisions round the world, and earn tens of millions of euros in the process.
After all, what would you do if you found out that New Line Cinema, or Dreamworks, or Canal+, had just installed tens of thousands of cameras throughout greater Moscow – and that the footage being generated was starting to show up on TV?
We are the stars now®.
Perhaps I should add that I think this is a very dystopian scenario, and I am not at all advocating that it be implemented; nonetheless, the literary and cinematic possibilities are, for me, quite exciting – and, to be frank, it sounds financial workable for both parties.
In any case, if you're off to Beijing for the Olympics next summer, don't forget to look your best: you'll be on film...

(Vaguely related: Filmmaker Adam Rifkin talks to Wired about the cinematic possibilities of CCTV – with belated thanks to Christopher Stack!)

0 10 Foolproof Tips for Better Sleep

There was a period in my life when I had a lot of problems with sleep. It took me very long to fall asleep, I was easily awaken, and I simply wasn't getting enough of rest at night. I didn't want to take medication and this led me to learn several tips and tricks that really helped me to overcome my insomnia. Some of these tips I try to follow regularly.
  1. Don't worry about not getting enough sleep. Try not to worry about how much you sleep. Such worrying can start a cycle of negative thoughts that contribute to a condition, known as "learned insomnia". Learned insomnia occurs when you worry so much about whether or not you will be able to get adequate sleep, that the bedtime rituals and behavior actually trigger insomnia.

  2. Don't force yourself to sleep. The very attempt of trying to do so actually awakes you, making it more difficult to sleep.

  3. Go to bed only when you are feeling really tired and sleepy.

  4. Don't look at the alarm clock at night. Looking at the clock promotes increased anxiety and obsession about time.

  5. Body-heating procedures. Some studies suggest that soaking in hot water before going to bed can ease the transition into a deeper sleep.

  6. Avoid oversleep. Don't oversleep to make up for a poor night's sleep. Doing so for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it harder for you to sleep at night.

  7. Sex. Sex is a well-known nighttime stress reliever. Healthy sex life enhances your relationship, relaxes your body, releases 'happy' chemicals, and even promotes wellness. And it welcomes sleep.

  8. Avoid alcohol as a sleeping aid. Avoid the use of alcohol in the late evening. The most common myth found among people is that they believe alcohol helps in the sleep. But the fact is alcohol may initially act as sedative, but it produces a number of sleep-impairing effects in the long run.

  9. Associate your bed and bedroom with sleep and sex only. Don't watch TV, eat, or read in bed. Although these things help some people sleep, they can also give your brain the idea that bed isn't just for sleeping - and this can keep you awake.

  10. Naps. If you suffer from insomnia, try not taking a nap. If the goal is to sleep more during the night, napping may steal hours desired later on. If you're a regular napper, and experiencing difficulty falling or staying asleep at night, give up the nap and see what happens.
Written by C. Simmons of

0 How to Kick Your Motivation into High Gear

New Year's resolutions are right around the corner. The problem is not with setting goals, but with sticking with them until completion. For that you need a healthy helping of motivation. But where can you find this elusive ingredient? The resources are right under your nose. Here's how to get your motivation revving! They're not just for new year's resolutions, but for any goal or task you want or need to complete.

1. Benefits. Get real clear about why you plan to do certain things. What is the benefit to you for completing the goal or task? It's best if the benefit is stated as a positive such as "If I quit smoking, I will have less anxiety about my health and a better quality of life." Some of your benefits may be stated in terms of avoiding a negative such as "If I pay my bills on time, I'll avoid late fees." When it comes time to work on your goals, focus on the benefits you'll receive more so than focusing on the work at hand. Benefits are the things that should make you feel good and therefore provide natural motivation.

2. Baby Steps. Begin each day with a small step towards your goal. Tell yourself that you don't have to do a lot towards your goal, just a little. Chances are that once you start, you'll start to feel good and then you'll do more than you planned. It's like having a boulder at the top of the hill. All you need to give it a little push to get it rolling. The benefits of your work and the good feelings that accompany accomplishment will provide the rest of the motivation.

3. Plan Your Day Everyday. It only takes about 5-10 minutes. First, write down what you need to do in any order, then prioritize each item, and then finally place each task into realistic time slots. Three keys are to allow for buffer time in between tasks, include break times, and to plan your most important/most difficult items first. By planning your day you have a road map that will help keep you focused when life's distractions come around. By planning your most important tasks first, you'll be assured that they won't fall through the cracks. This will give you peace of mind and also a great sense of accomplishment that will carry you through the rest of your day.

4. Action First. Don't wait for inspiration to hit. Take action first and the motivation will follow. When you "just do it" and get started regardless of how you're feeling it's like a warm-up. You may start out cold, but keep taking action and watch your motivation muscles warm up! Before you know it you will have heated up your excitement and energy, and you'll be amazing yourself with high productivity!

5. Jumping Jacks. Any type of exercise for 5-10 minutes will get your blood pumping, bring oxygen to your brain, and release those all-natural feel-good chemicals. You can also try stretching with deep breathing, a walk/jog around the block, or a little boogie-woogie to your favorite song. Try it! It works!

6. Use Timers. Time your activities and make it into a little game for yourself. See if you can beat your allotted timeframes. This will help you keep your productivity high during the day. It will also keep distractions from grabbing a hold of your attention. Here's an online timer and here's timer you can download to your computer.

7. Big Rewards. If the benefits of completing your goal or task are not enough, then set up a cool reward for yourself and focus on that. Some possible rewards: tickets to a show, a ski trip, buy a book, a sunset picnic, leave work early, buy a fancy foo foo coffee drink, or whatever puts a big grin on your face.

8. Caffeine. I don't normally recommend coffee for energy, but there's a reason that millions of people drink coffee and tea everyday. It does give you a boost. As long as you realize that the boost will come with a corresponding slump down the line, go ahead and use it when you need it. But be sure to strike while the caffeine iron is hot. I personally hate the irritable post-high slump, but when I need it, there's nothing like caffeine for getting your brain racing along.

9. With a Little Help from Your Friends. I saved this for last, but it just may be one of the most powerful tips on this list. Whenever you find yourself struggling, please don't just sit there and suffer. Call someone. Go into your colleague's office. Talk to your boss. Call your mom. Think about who could best give you the push or motivation to get things rolling. Let go of pride. Be humble. And ask. Ask for help. You'll be glad you did!

What was the best thing you ever did to jump start your motivation? We want to hear what you have to say!

Written by K. Stone of Life Learning Today.

Rabu, 26 Desember 2007

0 Adventures in Stacking

New Scientist published an awesome little article this week about nothing more complex than stacking blocks of wood (subscriber-only)... But, oh, how complex that task can be.
It's the combinatorial architecture of the well-balanced stack.

[Image: The diagrammatic mathematics of a structural experiment by Mike Paterson and Uri Zwick, as reported in New Scientist].

Computer scientists Mike Paterson and Uri Zwick have calculated new shapes and arrangements for the so-called "overhang problem," by which one attempts to stack blocks outward from the edge of a table so that the blocks "overhang" as far as possible (before the stack collapses, or before you and your friends go out for more beer).
Strategically speaking, it turns out to be a matter of well-placed gaps, pressures, and weights.

[Image: Two abstract stacks by Mike Paterson and Uri Zwick].

In two papers, available as PDFs (here and here), Paterson and Zwick write about balancing "harmonic stacks," then stabilizing them, through "minute displacements" of space and weight within the stack structure.
    A stack is said to be balanced if there exists a collection of forces acting between the blocks along their contact intervals, such that under this collection of forces, and the gravitational forces acting on them, all blocks are in equilibrium.
We read about loaded stacks and point weights, and "combinatorially distinct arrangements."

[Image: May the force stack with you; diagram by Mike Paterson and Uri Zwick].

The authors advise that
    one should, at least in principle, consider all possible combinatorial stack structures and for each of them find an optimal placement of the blocks. The combinatorial structure of a stack specifies the contacts between the blocks of the stack, i.e., which blocks rest on which, and in what order (from left to right), and which rest on the table.
They talk about parabolic stacks and spinal stacks ("A stack is spinal if its support set has just a single block at each level"), and about the spatial structure of brick walls, describing "well-behaved collections of forces that stabilize symmetric and asymmetric brick-wall stacks."

[Image: More stack madness by Mike Paterson and Uri Zwick].

But what are the architectural implications of all this? Are there any?
Or, in this age of advanced materials, are basic formal considerations such as these reduced to useless tinkering? Why worry about well-balanced stacks, in other words, when you can just put some cantilevered I-beams up there and be done with it, making experiments like these instantaneously obsolete?
Superficially, these diagrams actually remind me of the demolition of London's P&O Building this summer, in which the building was taken apart from the ground up, as if disappearing into the sky – thus exhibiting a rather unique variety of the overhang problem.

[Image: London's P&O Building gets demolished in reverse; via the Daily Mail. To see what brain death feels like, meanwhile, don't miss the ensuing comment thread over at Gizmodo].

So are there tens of thousands of overhang problems on display right now in the jungly tangles of rebar and steel that remain camouflaged behind the facades of architectural structures? Deep in the guts of engineered buildings the world over, are there interesting mathematical lessons to learn – provided we change how we look at walls and windows?
Is this the architectural equivalent of Rimbaud's "systematic derangement of the senses" – to see mathematics and topology where others see mere elevators and unused attic floors?
Inside our buildings, might there yet be more to find?

[Image: View larger! Speculative demolition in Halle-Neustadt, via Nickzilla].

We could actually attempt to answer that question.
Given billions of dollars, zero insurance liability, and a whole fleet of Komatsu wrecking machines, could you re-examine the overhang problem from an architectural standpoint, seeing how many floors and offices you can remove before a building tips over?
You'd make little Gordon Matta-Clark-esque incisions throughout the city – taking out whole floors and elevator shafts – cutting away at every building, one executive office suite at a time, till each building begins to tilt, warp, or list... at which point you'd stop, take a photograph, calculate something, then submit the image to a mathematics journal, thus winning the next Fields Medal for Applied Mathematics.
All of Manhattan a demolitionist research lab for extremely well-funded and aggressive mathematicians.
Could you then exhibit these removed pieces elsewhere – showing, say, the entire, fully intact eastern elevator shaft from the Empire State Building at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, forming some weird and abstract concrete pillar in the sky, whistling quietly in the desert wind, home to seagulls?
Modernist Totem Poles, you'd call it – and you could then steal the elevator shafts from the Transamerica Pyramid, the Sears Tower, the Chrysler Building, and Taipei 101.
In any case, does the stacking problem contain an architectural lesson? Read the original two papers featured in New Scientist to find out.

Selasa, 25 Desember 2007

0 Planet Battery

A few months back, Nature published an article stating that the "Earth beneath our feet might act as a gigantic circuit built by microbes to power their metabolic systems."

It's not a planet at all, then, but a bio-electrical deposit rotating in space. A living battery.
And while that obviously sounds far-fetched, we actually read that these microbes function as a "geological battery," and that this battery is made from "networks of tiny wires linking individual bacterial cells into a web-like electrical circuit." These circuits could extend for miles – hundreds of miles – whole continents and island chains, linked by reefs.
Who knows?
The article also describes these things as "sediment batteries" – so I have a hard time not imagining some old river in the Andes coming down out of its mountain chain, weathering through and eroding the outer soils and bedrock, exposing elemental belts of copper, silver, zinc, and gold, then depositing those fragments in vast, glittering deltaic arrays downstream.
Over the years, microbes move in; the sediments, hundreds of feet deep now and miles wide, begin fluttering with an undetectably faint electrical trace; finally, that remote riverbed, with its weird subsurface nets of energy, and its scattered metals, and its rare microbes, begins generating power... Birds flock toward it, their migration routes scrambled. Nearby compasses go akimbo.
Over the hills, there is a valley of light. You walk toward it.
The Earth is shining.
Religions develop. Their adherents worship geological deposits.
The person in charge of researching all this is called a geobiologist. One such researcher quips that he's been studying "microbe-driven sediment batteries."
Someday you'll just take a power cord – and plug it into the Earth.

(You can read the original article in this PDF. See also BLDGBLOG's look at the wire garden – and, of course, Merry Christmas! May your day be free of desolation and abandonment. And thanks, Steve, for originally pointing this story out to me).

0 The 10 Step Cure for the Post-Christmas Letdown

Does Christmas Have to End Today?

The buildup to Christmas and all the year end holidays is so long and so pervasive that when Christmas finally comes and then goes, for many people a kind of post-Christmas slump sets in. If this happens to you, I have very good news. You can keep the delightful elements of Christmas alive throughout the year. You can feel the joy of Christmas all year. Here's how you can incorporate the special aspects of Christmas into your life.

1. Kindness. Who says we have to stop wishing each other a happy day just because the holidays are over. There's something to celebrate every day. Seek that out and wish those around you a happy day similar to how you wish them happy holidays at Christmas. Today I rolled down the window of my car to wish a neighbor "Merry Christmas." It made me feel good, and I thought, " Why do I only take the extra 10 seconds to greet neighbors during the holidays? I'm going to try to do this all year."

2. Time with Family and Friends. This is the real magic of Christmas. Why not have a family & friends dinner once a month or once a season? A pot luck or a simple dinner is a nice way to keep this element of Christmas in your life all year long. Have some music, get out the board games that never get used, and have some fun.

3. The Tree. Maybe it doesn't make sense to keep a Christmas tree in your house all year long, but you can certainly bring more plants into your home to bring the freshness of nature indoors. Bring in a new plant once a season and breathe in the fresh oxygen!

4. The Smells. The smells of Christmas are so special from evergreen to candy canes. You can bring these smells back anytime with some scented candles. Try a new scented candle every few months to celebrate each season of the year.

5. You've Got Mail. How nice is it to get real mail in your mailbox? Why not share that goodness a few more times during the year with other seasonal cards to a select few friends to say that you are thinking of them. When you print out your Christmas labels, print out a few extra copies so that sending out "thinking of you" cards will be easy. Send a few every other month or so. Who knows, maybe you'll start a new trend amongst your friends.

6. Giving. You can incorporate the spirit of giving throughout the year quite easily. The first way is through charity. When you give, make the act more of a ritual by taking a few moments to meditate on a sending a special intention along with your gift as well as feeling gratitude for the good fortune to be able to give to others. The other way to give during the year is when you come across a little something that you know a friend would love, go ahead and get it for them. Imagine how good you and that friend will feel. A third way you can give is with your time. This may be the best gift of all. Think about who could use that gift and then find a way to schedule it into your life.

7. Anticipation. The big countdown to Christmas is definitely half the fun. You can create this in your everyday life by scheduling fun activities or making plans to attend special shows, movies, or events. You can create the anticipation by making a simple countdown calendar.

8. Lights. Who doesn't love Christmas lights? It brightens up our world during the short winter days, unless of course if you are living "down under" where holiday lights are a nice summer time bonus. Who says you can't keep some light element alive all year long? If this is something that brings you a lot of joy then, by all means, find ways to keep lights a part of your home and world during the year.

9. Seasonal Stories, Singing, and Food. Find ways to celebrate each season of the year through different seasonal stories, songs, and food. We don't have to wait around for next winter to keep singing, telling special stories, and enjoying seasonal recipies. How do you make sure all these things happen? Schedule them into your calendar, just like Christmas!

10. Nature. The romance of a white Christmas is something many of us hope for. Enjoy the romance that each season in nature brings. Celebrate it with a special seasonal walk with friends and family where the point of the walk is to experience, enjoy, and be grateful for the goodness of that season.

Make celebrating all year long a priority and you'll never have to feel the post-Christmas slump again!

Is there anything special that you do after Christmas? We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Written by K. Stone of Life Learning Today.

Minggu, 23 Desember 2007

0 Green and pleasant land

[Image: Castle Rushen, Castletown, Isle of Man, via Old UK Photos].

I was poking around for images this morning and I somehow ended up at a site called Old UK Photos. They collect old, public domain photographs of the UK (rather cheekily including Ireland) – but some of the photos are so extraordinarily beautiful, and so hard to believe that they really are photographs, that I felt like re-posting a few here.

[Image: Wiltshire, Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge, via Old UK Photos].

The fact that I've also been to many of these places adds a weird layer of delayed misrecognition to many of the scenes, as if stumbling upon landscapes from trips I forgot I'd taken (which is almost accurate).
The old pier in Bangor. One of the Peak District caves. Edinburgh castle.
And, of course, Stonehenge, pictured above from those years in which it hadn't yet been fenced off.

[Image: Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfriesshire; Peel Cathedral, Isle of Man; castle in Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire; castle in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire; Peel Castle, Isle of Man; and Ballower Mount, Ramsey, Isle of Man; all via Old UK Photos].

I don't have all that much to say about these, in fact, other than to point out that they seem to instill something between nostalgia (for myself, an Anglo-American) and a wistful need to travel through non-automobile-based landscapes – and perhaps even a somewhat Gothicized sense of fictive possibilities, like something out of BLDGBLOG's recent interview with novelist Patrick McGrath.
That said, then, here are some photos, with crumbling castles on distant hills and even mysterious pieces of old machinery.

[Images: Castle at Bolsover, Derbyshire; castle in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire; bridge in Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire; the Wheel at Laxey, Isle of Man; Devil's Bridge, Aberystwyth; Templand Bridge, Cumnock, Ayrshire; The Blackrock in Cromford, Derbyshire; entrance to a cave outside Castleton, Derbyshire; all via Old UK Photos].

Some of the coastal photographs – of bays, inlets, coves, rock arches, and cliffs – seem to imply a labyrinthine island geography so complicated and ornate in its expanse, and so remote, that people still must be discovering new places there today... But then, of course, that describes the British Isles. Unless you spend all your time in Leicester Square.

[Images: Castle in Llanstephan, Carmarthenshire; Petite Bot, Guernsey, Channel Islands; La Coupee, Sark, Channel Islands; Dixcart Bay, Sark; Sugarloaf Rock at Port St. Mary, Isle of Man; the coast at the Gouffre, Petite Bot, and the harbor at La Moye Point (3 images), Guernsey; via Old UK Photos].

Actually, I'm reminded of something I read a few years ago in a book called The Dragon Seekers: How an Extraordinary Circle of Fossilists Discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin – which is that a particular stretch of British coastline, near Lyme Regis, is full of fossils.
The book opens with the story of Mary Anning, an amateur "fossilist" – she made an income selling bits of backbones and fragments of mastodons, jigsaw puzzle-like pieces of species that no longer exist – who stumbled upon, if I remember correctly, the body of an ichthyosaur – but only because there had been a landslide. Without that tidally inspired collapse of a nearby cliff, Anning perhaps would never have found her fossil; it would have remained buried in the cliffside for years – decades, centuries – to come.
    Although she had an eye for fossils, she could not find them until they had been exposed by weathering – an achingly slow process. But when wind and rain and frost and sun had done their work, she would find them, peeking through the surface. Others were buried so deeply in the cliffs that it would be aeons before they were ever discovered.
The idea that the fossils of as yet undiscovered creatures still lie buried somewhere in the cliffs of Dorset is almost overwhelmingly interesting.
In any case, the bottom two images are from Bangor, Wales, where my brother and I once stayed in a youth hostel and ate soup. We hiked outside of town one afternoon and we looked up at a tree covered in drooping sleeves of loose vegetation, then we fell asleep on a hillside in some farmyard nearby, jumping over a fence and lying down amidst lichen-covered rocks and small bushes.
In fact, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I was reading The Lord of the Rings and so the whole experience was tinged with an air of the mythic.

[Images: Garth's Pier in Bangor, Caernarfonshire, and a view of Bangor from Anglesey, via Old UK Photos].

Anywho, the old lighthouse at Corbiere, on the Channel Island of Jersey, makes a nice painterly silhouette in this next photo.

[Image: The lighthouse at Corbiere, Jersey, Channel Islands, via Old UK Photos].

And the old paths still whirl and turn through hills, leading somewhere, going everywhere.

[Image: Moulin Huet, Guernsey, Channel Islands, via Old UK Photos].

All of these images, plus a few more, are also saved in a Flickr set I put together this afternoon.

(The title of this post paraphrases a line from William Blake's poem Milton. Meanwhile, it may not be entirely related to the images in this post, but I do recommend giving at least a quick read to BLDGBLOG's interview with Patrick McGrath for some thoughts on the literary impact of these – or similar – landscapes).
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