Sabtu, 31 Mei 2008

"An army of inflatable, spherical robots might one day roll around on the Martian surface," New Scientist reports. These "rolling spherical rovers" could prove key in mapping other planets – and they might even be put to work spelunking deep caves here on earth. Or, say, exploring large architectural structures: unmanned drones bouncing down the steps of Angkor Wat.
In what sounds like a fairy tale written by Freud, a woman in Japan was arrested last week for living inside another man's flat – without his knowledge or consent. The Woman Inside. The man noticed food had gone missing from his refrigerator, and so he set up a home surveillance network... which revealed the woman coming and going from a small "cubby hole" in the floor of his closet. She had apparently been living there for nearly a year. BBC. (Thanks, Alex!)

0 Buildings and books

[Image: From The Transparent City by Michael Wolf; browse through the project on Wolf's website].

I've got some essays coming out this year in books that might be of interest to BLDGBLOG readers; so while the blog has been a little slow over the past few months, I've been working like crazy on other projects.
In any case, one of those books has already been published, and the others will be available in the next few months.
The already published book is What is a City? Rethinking the Urban After Hurricane Katrina, edited by Rob Shields and Phil Steinberg.

For that book, published by the University of Georgia Press, my wife and I co-wrote a chapter about New Orleans and urban flood control, citing John McPhee, China Miéville, the floating houses of Dura Vermeer, the "engineered deterrestrialization" of the lower Mississippi through the implantation of genetically modified artificial marshlands, and maybe a hundred other things, including a short history of the Army Corps of Engineers.
It was an extremely fun chapter to write, and it appears alongside some great papers; those run the gamut from geography and public policy to community activism and philosophy – and it would look great in your own university library...
A book forthcoming this Fall, meanwhile, is Library of Dust by David Maisel.

[Image: From Library of Dust by David Maisel; read about the project on Maisel's website].

If you haven't read the long interview I did with David a few years ago for Archinect, then I would urge you to check it out.
For that book, published by Chronicle, I used a few scenes from Haruki Murakami's novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World to discuss the universal presence of dust and what Walter Benjamin might call the auratic nature of historical artifacts (the essay does not use the word "auratic," you'll be happy to hear).
Maisel's book also has essays by Terry Toedtemeier, curator of photography for the Portland Art Museum, and Michael Roth. Maisel's own description of the work is fantastic:
    Library of Dust depicts individual copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of patient from a state-run psychiatric hospital. The patients died at the hospital between 1883 (the year the facility opened, when it was called the Oregon State Insane Asylum) and the 1970s; their bodies have remained unclaimed by their families.
He continues:
    On my first visit to the hospital, I am escorted to a dusty room in a decaying outbuilding, where simple pine shelves are lined three-deep with thousands of copper canisters. Prisoners from the local penitentiary are brought in to clean the adjacent hallway, crematorium, and autopsy room. A young male prisoner in a blue jumpsuit, with his feet planted firmly outside the doorway, leans his upper body into the room, scans the cremated remains, and whispers in a low tone, "The library of dust." The title of the project results from this encounter.
The book should be out in September.

Coming out even sooner is Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration by Troy Paiva; that's also published by Chronicle. For that book I wrote an introduction, citing W.G. Sebald, the Romanticism of desert ruins, and the strange visual appeal of catastrophe.
Troy's Flickr page is a must-see as you wait for the book to be delivered; there's even a special set for Night Vision (and many others). Don't miss High Desert Nights.
Troy's first book was Lost America: The Abandoned Roadside West.

[Images: The Cube and Lenticular by Troy Paiva, from his forthcoming book Night Vision].

And, last but not least, there's The Transparent City by Michael Wolf, which also contains an essay by Natasha Egan.
Wolf is an amazing photographer; his Architecture of Density series is now legendary, and his many other projects are worth several hours – whole days – of your time. Glimpses of The Transparent City, shot entirely in Chicago, can be found on Wolf's website.
My essay in that book draws heavily on J.G. Ballard's novel High-Rise, exploring the psychology of large architectural structures. Harvard's Project on the City also makes a brief appearance. You can read an excerpt from it here.

[Image: The Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Mies van der Rohe, photographed by Michael Wolf, from The Transparent City].

So check those books out if you get the chance!

Amazon Links:
What is a City? Rethinking the Urban After Hurricane Katrina edited by Rob Shields and Phil Steinberg
Library of Dust by David Maisel
Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration by Troy Paiva
The Transparent City by Michael Wolf

Jumat, 30 Mei 2008

0 When Does Your Healthy Eating Plan Go Awry? Let's Fix it!

Written on 5/31/2008 by Ali Hale who blogs about healthy living for busy people at The Office Diet. You can grab the RSS feed here.

So you’re on a diet. Maybe not trying to slim (though, if you’re Joe Average, you’re probably a few pounds overweight) – but you might be attempting to kick the junk food habit, spend less on food, or make better nutritional choices. Whatever it is, you know you need to plan ahead and make conscious decisions on what you’re eating. But it keeps going wrong…

There are seven flash-points in the day when it’s easy to screw up your diet. Everyone will most likely fall into one of these categories of failure. The key is identifying your weak point and planning for it. You might need to put in a bit of effort to begin with, but get these sorted and you’ll be set for success.

What time of day kills your healthy eating habit?

  • Waking up: You can start your day badly before you even get out of bed. How? By hitting “snooze” repeatedly on your alarm. Sure, you had good intentions the previous night when you set it for 6am – but now you fancy an extra hour’s kip. Suddenly you’re running late.

    There are many, many articles online to help you spring out of bed in the morning. Read How to Wake up With Energy Each Morning and on Dumb Little Man, or Steve Pavlina’s hugely popular How to Become an Early Riser.

    Why does getting up early help your diet? You start the day in a relaxed, unrushed frame of mind. You have time for some exercise, journaling, reading inspirational health and fitness blogs, and, crucially, you can prepare a healthy breakfast and lunch. Which leads me on to…

  • Breakfast: I don’t need to tell you that you should eat breakfast if you want to succeed in losing weight: it’s the one piece of advice that diet gurus seem unanimous on. If you’re genuinely not hungry when you first wake up, try eating less at dinner time the night before.

    Don’t just grab a doughnut on the way to work or class – loading up your body with with sugar first thing is going to lead to an energy crash well before lunch. And spending a few dollars on coffee and a snack every morning just because you couldn’t be bothered to wake up earlier (see above) is bad for your wallet, too.

    The healthiest breakfasts are ones you prepare yourself. Nothing complicated – a bowl of cereal with skimmed milk, or a couple of slices of wholegrain toast with baked beans, are perfect. If you really can’t have breakfast before you leave the house, can you keep milk and cereal at your workplace and get in ten minutes early to eat?

  • Mid-morning: When eleven o’clock comes around, you might feel peckish. Maybe you’re tempted by the tray of brownies in the cafeteria … or if you’re at home, you feel you deserve a treat after working hard for hours on end.

    You don’t need me to tell you that a giant cookie isn’t likely to fit well into your diet plan. If you’re hungry, have some fruit. (Not sure if you’re hungry or not? Try asking yourself “Would an apple or granola bar satisfy me...?” If only a king-sized chocolate bar tempts you, you’re not hungry, you're craving.)

    Keeping healthy snacks on hand is a must; easily done at home, but trickier if you’re in work or school. Your desk drawer, locker or bag are all good places for a stash of fruit, trail mix, granola bars or plain popcorn.

  • Lunch: You’ve successfully made it through the morning. For most dieters, though, that’s the easy bit; lunch is where it all goes wrong. Whether it’s a mayo-laden sub, a pizza with friends, or something deep fried from the canteen, an unhealthy lunch can ruin the rest of the day – leaving you lethargic in the afternoon, thinking “I might as well give up.”

    As with breakfast, prepare your own meal: whether that means brown-bagging leftovers the night before, or taking five minutes to make a sandwich in the morning (you got up early, so you’ll have plenty of time). You’ll have complete control over what goes into it: wholegrains, lean sources of protein and plenty of vegetables and fruit works well. And if you’re not buying lunch out every day, you’ll save a lot of money.

  • Mid-afternoon: Many people manage a healthy breakfast and lunch, only to be tripped up by the 4 o’clock energy slump. Late afternoon is not your best time of day – you’re a bit tired and cranky, lacking energy and motivation. If at work, you’re tempted by the office cookie tin, feeling you “deserve” something fat and sugar laden. And if you’ve just come home from school, raiding the cupboards can be almost automatic.

    If you ate a light, healthy, lunch, you may well be feeling a bit peckish by 4 o’clock. That’s fine – and there’s no point waiting till 7 o’clock to eat if you’ll be so ravenous that you’ll scoff down triple helpings. Have a healthy snack – 5 Snacks That will Smash That Afternoon Groggy Feeling might give you some ideas”

  • Dinner: Don’t resort to getting takeout or microwaving a frozen ready meal every night. Not only will you be denying your body decent nutrition, you’ll be wasting a lot of money, too. Plan ahead, and make sure you’ve got easy to cook foods in the cupboards: simple ingredients like rice and pasta, chopped tomatoes, plenty of veggies and some skinless chicken breasts can be thrown together for a variety of meals.

    If you can’t cook, get a good “beginner’s” style book that covers all the basics. Learning to prepare healthy, tasty meals is an essential skill: if you’re still living at home, offer to help out in the kitchen once in a while, and get your parents to teach you, and if you’re at college, don’t eat in the canteen every night.

  • Evening: Have you ever had an almost perfect day – healthy breakfast and lunch, nice dinner, fruit for snacks – only to spoil it all right at the end? It’s easy to slump in front of the television after dinner, maybe with a sweet treat for dessert. Then you get an ice-cream, followed by a cookie, followed by a handful of chocolates … followed by the inevitable feelings of guilt.

    Don’t do this to yourself. Brush your teeth as soon as you’ve finished eating for the day, and don’t have anything else till breakfast time. Doing some activity which involves your hands (knitting, writing, painting) or mouth (talking to friends or family) is a big help, as you won’t feel that constant temptation to grab a snack.
Which of these seven is the worst time of day for your diet? How do you plan ahead and cope with it? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below.


0 So What Really Is The Meaning of Life?

Written on 5/30/2008 by Michael Miles, writer of You can subscribe to his RSS feed here.

Miguel Torga, the great Portuguese writer, said that 'life has the meaning we give it -- our richness, our enthusiasm, our pride -- or our cowardice.’ The search for meaning is a constant theme in our lives and we try to find it in many different ways. But in the end, I believe that meaning can only be found in the way we add something to the world.

What is adding value?

Ask 100 people what they think gives meaning to their lives and you will get 100 different responses. Money, property, a successful career, a big car, an attractive spouse, partner,… But I’m sure most people would agree that these things in themselves do not add lasting and profound meaning to us.

Albert Einstein said that ‘only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile,and I believe that a life of service to others is what truly brings meaning.

The term ‘service’ may suggest that we have to give up our jobs and money to go help the poor and destitute. I know several people who have done just this, and they have certainly found happiness and peace in their choice of lifestyle. But a life of adding value does not mean abandoning your own needs and desires. It is not the same as sacrifice; far from it. When we truly add value to the lives of others, we cannot help but receive value ourselves. Adding value is the only real way to live a meaningful life.

Love what you do
So the question remains: How can we add value? I believe the answer to this is surprisingly simple.

To quote Steve Jobs in a speech he gave in 2005:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.
Through Apple, Steve Jobs has undoubtedly added immense value to the world. He did it by following his heart and has been richly rewarded for it. The same can be said for many famous, successful and wealthy people.

Loving what you do means starting right here, right now. Whatever you are doing, you can start to love it.

Of course, you’re not suddenly going to love a job you’ve hated for years. In fact, if you hate your job so much then you probably ought to leave. But it’s unlikely that there is no aspect of your job that you like. The trick is to identify these good bits and focus on them, making them more central to your experience. And the things you don’t like? Can you find any redeeming qualitative in these things? Can you change your attitude so that you see these tasks as useful or meaningful?

If you can start to love what you’re doing, then you’ll be adding value in some way.

Do What You Love
Interestingly, Steve Jobs didn’t say do what you love. He said love what you do. You don’t have to quit your dull nine-to-five job and start all over again. But doing what you truly love certainly has its rewards. In Making a Life, Making a Living, Mark Albion cites a study carried out by Srully Blotnick. The careers of 1,500 business school graduates were tracked from 1969 to 1980 and were split into two groups: group A said they wanted to make money first so they could do what they really wanted later, and group B said they would follow their interests first, regardless of financial considerations. At the end of the study, there were 101 millionaires. All but one came from group B.


Kamis, 29 Mei 2008

0 7 Ways To Manage Your Email Like An Expert

Written on 5/29/2008 by Abhijeet Mukherjee, of Jeet Blog.

If you are someone like me who is online 15 hours a day, then I am sure you understand the importance of email and are always hunting for ways to manage it better. It won't be an exaggeration if I say that today, email is the second most common way to communicate after telephone. And I am sure it will surpass it soon because I can already see people using their phones to in fact send email.

Hence today I decided to list 7 simple ways to better manage your email and increase your productivity while dealing with your inbox. These are the methods that I have followed and they have helped me a lot. Before I start, I'd like to mention that these ways are only for those who get less than 300 to 400 emails (excluding spam ) a day. If you get more, then I strongly suggest you to immediately hire someone else like a virtual assistant, to manage your email.

For the rest of you, here are the ways to manage your email like an expert:
  1. Set a time frame: This is very important; it is easy to lose track of time while checking your mail. In between the deleting and replying, you simply lose track of time and find later that 4 hours has slipped by. You could probably set 3 slots of 20-30 minutes each, during different times of the day, to check your email. Use reminders or other time tracking tools to keep track of your time.

  2. Use Gmail: If you are using a different web based email then waste no time in switching to Gmail. It will make you much more productive. You could also switch to Gmail without changing your original email address, which is probably preferred. Here is an article that explains how to do it.

  3. I advocate the use of Gmail, not as a die-hard Gmail fan, but as someone who has tried out various email clients in the past 5 years and found that nothing else compares. It has some amazing features including filters and keyboard shortcuts and if you use a desktop client like Outlook or Thunderbird, then Gmail also provides for IMAP access which makes life easier.

  4. Prioritize using Labels / Folders: It's important to differentiate the important mails from the unimportant ones. If you use Gmail, then you can set filters which will do the job automatically by applying labels or re-routing the incoming mail. In all the other email clients, there are folders which you can use to prioritize your email as well. You can make folders named "friends", "Reply today", etc. and when you open your inbox, immediately start shifting mails to their respective folders.

  5. Be Precise: Be precise and to the point when answering emails. You could even skip 'Hello' and 'Regards' if you want; I don't think anyone will mind it. Learn to use one-liners effectively. If you use web-based email and Firefox as your browser, then there are some add-ons like Paste Email which helps you to paste repetitive texts in forms or emails with one or two clicks.

  6. Delete Ruthlessly: You can easily conclude from the subject line of an email if it's worth reading. If it isn't, delete it without thinking twice. If you slack, thinking that you probably might read it later, then believe me, that email will remain there as unread until you finally decide to do away with it. Act upon the email the first time you see it by either responding immediately, deleting it, or setting it as a task to accomplish at a specific time.

  7. Don't leave it for the next day: Try and finish replying to the emails and clearing your inbox within the time frame you decided. I know, it's not always possible, especially if you get more than 100 emails a day, but if the emails go pending then the next day it becomes much more difficult for you to sift through your inbox. Think of your inbox like a snowball, the more it rolls, the larger it gets.
    Tip for Outlook users from Jay: If you receive an email that you want to address tomorrow, right click on it and drag it to your task pad. You can then assign a due date and a priority level. Heck, you can even assign it to someone else on your team. If you constantly do that, you'll have a good task list to work from and a clean inbox. This will completely remove the constant inbox browsing that you're doing now; not only is that habit unproductive but it's downright frustrating. If it's something that will take a long time or if it's a critical task, drag it to your calendar instead and actually create an appointment with yourself to dedicate time to it.
  8. Replace the source: Inspite of trying out the aforementioned 6 steps, if you still find it difficult to manage your email, then check the source of emails and try to replace it with something more useful. For example, if you get tons of emails from the contact form in your website, then identify the major concern which visitors have and then publish something on your website which will help those visitors, thereby helping to reduce your incoming email flow.
Email is a great tool if you learn how to manage it. Unfortunately most people are managed by their email. Get it under control by implementing some of these tips. If you have other keen ideas, let us know in the comments.

- Abhijeet

Rabu, 28 Mei 2008

0 10 Super Creative Uses for Everyday Things That You Already Have

Written on 5/29/2008 by Shilpan Patel of Success Soul.

I'm a pretty frugal guy. With that said, I like to explore ways that we can use common things in unconventional ways. In some cases, these unconventional approaches actually work better than the solutions we've learned to love and most of the time, they cost a lot less. Some will even put useless pieces of clutter to good use so we're taking otherwise worthless items and repurposing them. Not bad right?

I have to admit that these creative uses are not mine. However, I've learned about them from different sources and experimented to prove that they work for their intended use. What kind of weird solutions have you come up with either out of necessity, boredom or ingenuity?
  1. Get a Shine with Banana Peels: If you are not eating bananas, you should be. In addition to the health benefits of the fruit itself, its skin is a built in shoe shine kit. A banana peel can shine your leather furniture and shoes. Just remove the stringy matter from inside and rub the inside of the peel on your shoes.

  2. Treat sunburn with tea bags: Plain and simple, sunburn is terrible. If you forget to add the SPF before your day at the beach, apply a few tea bags on the affected area to escape the pain. If sunburn is widespread, fill the tub with hot water and put some tea bags in the hot water. Then soak your entire body in the tub. It works.

  3. Remove price tag with peanut butter: Have you felt exasperated when you purchased a gift for a friend and before gift-wrapping, you tried to remove the price tag with no avail? Apply some peanut butter on the tag and rub it gently. You'll be happy to see the price tag and its sticky residue gone.

  4. Deodorize the refrigerator: Is your refrigerator smelly despite the thorough cleaning and defrosting? Dampen a cotton ball with vanilla extract and leave on the shelf. After few hours, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you open your refrigerator.

  5. Repel ants: Are ants invading your home? Aside from cleaning up, chalk powder has been known to stop ants in their tracks. Spread chalk powder around the house and in the closets. Ants will be repelled by the calcium carbonate in the chalk. If you have a major ant problem, this site has a ton of good anti-ant info.

  6. Control your dandruff with baking soda: Do you feel low self-esteem due to dandruff that scares you every time you are on a date or other social gatherings? Well, create some homemade baking soda shampoo. Use this solution every time you shower and after a dry spell, you'll find your hair free of flakes and softer.

  7. Slip off the stuck ring: If you have hard time slipping off a ring on your finger, rub the finger with baby oil. Then, swing the ring to apply baby oil under the ring surface. You will be able to slide the ring off smoothly.

  8. Deodorize your garbage disposal: Does your garbage disposal smell yucky? Pour 1/2 cup of salt into the bottom of the disposal and rinse it with warm water. The smell will go away quickly. Add a little lemon if you want to freshen things up even more.

  9. Remove car dents: Before paying a good bit to a body shop to fix the dents on your car, wet a plunger, push it over the dent and pull it out sharply. It may remove the dents at free of charge.

  10. Streak free glass with a newspaper: Before pitching old newspapers into the recycling bin, try cleaning your glass windows with glass cleaner or warm water and a piece of newspaper. You'll see an absolutely streak-free glass surface as a result.
I have tried these tricks and they work. It's fun to be creative. You'll save environment and hard earned money as well.

What have you learned throughout the years?
Share your oddest tip in the comment section below and Jay will send the submitter of the most unique and helpful suggestion a copy of It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. The winner will be announced in the comment section on June 02, 2008.


0 I do look like a tranny

Been very busy lately! It's 6.30am now and I don't even feel vaguely like sleeping, so I thought I'd blog some random thoughts and recent happenings!!

1) I had a horrible shock when I had my first MacDonalds Grilled Chicken Foldover yesterday.

The first 2 bites were terrific, and then... BAM! Like a slap to the face, I bit into a giant, raw onion!!!!!!!!

I never knew the bloody foldover has onions inside!!

So here's a warning to everyone who, like me, hates onions, and have a sudden urge to eat a Grilled chicken foldover. Order it without onions!!

To my surprise, when I started telling everyone that the stupid foldover had onions (and honestly, I couldn't get rid of the taste on my tongue till the next morning. SOMPAH! Never exaggerate one!!), NOBODY BELIEVED ME.

Everyone just skeptically and patronisingly told me, "Got meh?"

When I reply "GOT!!!!!!" in a perhaps overly loud manner, they mostly just recoil and say they never noticed the onions inside, ever.

SO NOW... Does the Grilled Chicken Foldover contain onions, OR NOT?

If it usually doesn't, then did my delivery guy delibrately put some in to give me this lifetime trauma?!

Anyway speaking of mac delivery... It's awesome man!!


- 24 hours! Perfect for MJ food.

- Order-takers are ALWAYS, CONSISTENTLY, polite, smart, and articulate. HOW? Where do they find such people? They all sound like Uni students.

- Special orders never get forgotten.

Also, I love the new McGriddle! But it seems like I am the only one, because everyone else thinks it is "weird".

Pancakes kiaping sausage, melted cheese, and egg!! What's there not to like?!

2) Continuation of my maid's awesomeness.

Remember the lizard trap I bought?

That day, the maid came and saw that the trap caught an adult-sized lizard dead inside.

Frankly, it is super gross. The lizard got stuck on the edge of the relatively big trap, so theoretically the rest of the trap (full of glue) is a little wasted.

She took up the box, completely undeterred by the dead lizard, and told me...

She is going to cut/peel off the part of the trap with the dead lizard, so that the trap can still be used again!!!!!


She is not only awesomely brave but damn frugal lor!!!

I am recently mad over Edamame peas!!

These are the peas that are commonly seen on the moving belt in Sakae Sushi, and I was super surprised when I ate them and they don't taste like normal peas at all!

Hate normal peas.

To my delight, they are commonly found in NTUC in a large frozen package (NTUC house brand somemore lor...), so all you have to do is to boil them (lightly) and sprinkle some salt on them. Yums!!

I am still eating them right now as we speak and I've almost finished the whole package already (!!!).

But it's ok coz it's supposed to be healthy food!! IMMA BE SO SKINNY! But I hope I don't start to have a green tinge.

In case you are wondering about the title, some time ago Shuyin and I stayed over at Wanyi's before she went back to Australia to study.

We then decided it will be fun to put ugly make-up on each other.

The chosen theme for me that day was heavy Minah make-up, you know the kind with the severely drawn skinny eyebrows?

Unfortunately, all I turned out looking like was Tranny-ish.

Shuyin having fun slapping on loads of concealer and foundation on my eyebrows to conceal them, then drawing my pseudo-eyebrows 3 cm above my normal ones. -_-

Very fugly.

They then added bright blue eyeshadow as well as blood red lipstick...

Wait for it....
Wait for it...


I totally agree now: I do look like a tranny!!

I think girls who have long face or long chins look like trannies lor!! I have a long face. BAH!

Anyway that's not the worst of the photos but I shall not put anymore to scare people.

Shuyin was also a victim of the tranny make-up but I shall not post her pics coz I don't know if she will like that. I know I won't!! Super ugly!! Hahaha!!

And just in case there are new readers here who are horrified and think that I look like that all the time, I just have to say that with proper make-up I look like THIS:

Still a bit tranny-ish but at least not a super ugly tranny...

And lastly, to end off this blog entry, I present you with Wanyi as...


I had to blacken her tooth, but other than Wanyi's good complexion, UNCANNY, you think?


p/s: Almost finished the eyeliner stick when drawing her eyes.

0 How to Get the Most From the Wi-Fi Cafe

If you ever have time and want a good laugh, head to any Panera Bread or Starbucks at 2:00 PM. This my friends is 'regular' hour and I am not talking about the coffee. Right around 2:00 is when the at-homers, digital nomads, freelancers, and entrepreneurs head in and take over.

OK, yes, I am one of them. After working from home, alone, for days on end, it's good to get out and actually see real people for a while. Heck, even office workers could benefit from this; walls are walls at home or not and it's occasionally good to break away.

Believe it or not, the simple act of barking, "I'll take a hot tea" does wonders. Add the change of scenery and sounds you will experience and your senses are on a mini-field trip. You have your work on the laptop, but you're not in your pajamas and you're not at home - the brain juices are happy, ideas flow, and at least for me, my energy level seemingly doubles.

On to my point and it is important. As the world evolves into mobile-everything, you will most likely become a regular at one of these Wi-Fi hotspots. No, you won't visit daily, but in my opinion, once or twice a week makes you a regular. With that, comes responsibility. Do you know how to act and how to get the most out of the time you spend "out there"? You see, there is an art to it.

Here are a handful of things I've picked up over the last few weeks. What did I miss?
  • Head for free stuff: One day the bean counters will get it; offering free Wi-Fi will bring in more long term customers and revenue versus charging me $2.95 for an internet connection. Where I live, Panera Bread is constantly packed with people and the Starbucks is quite empty. The economy is slipping and people are skipping the morning latte so they can afford automobile fuel; you MUST give them a reason to come in. Free Wi-Fi is that reason and it's the reason I hit up Panera - it's free, no questions asked, they simply get it.

    Here are some other hotspots to consider:

    • Starbucks: Free now if you are an AT&T DSL subscriber at home.

    • Panera: Always good, always free

    • Caribou Coffee: Always good, always free

    • McDonald's: Anywhere from free - $2.99, where available (UK) If you can't say no to fries, say no to this hotspot

    • Libraries: Not as fun but hey, many libraries offer free Wi-Fi these days

    • Hotspotr: Enter your city or zip code and hotspots are listed on a Google Map. If one is missing, add it without a login.

  • Know The Rules: Ok, so you have found your favorite spot, now get to know it. I am not saying that you have to become best friends with the busboy, but pay attention to the rules of the establishment. While these hotspots like to have their seats full, they want you gone from 11-1 during the week. You see, you're solo. The group of business people that just walked in for lunch isn't. They will spend more money in 20 minutes than you will in 30 days. Be courteous and look out for posted Wi-Fi rules asking you to vacate at lunch time. Following the rules will ensure you're welcomed back and provided with good service.

  • People Watching: Honestly, this is one of the best free pleasures on Earth and it's pretty addicting - albeit unproductive. If you often find yourself staring at people and mentally criticizing their outfit or habits, find a corner seat and stare towards the wall. However, if you are there to get rid of a creative block or if you just need a break, then stare away; there is something about watching everyday people that releases the creative juices.

    • TIP: When people watching, keep your laptop open and peer just over the top of it. To everyone else, you appear to be staring at your monitor when in reality, you're watching someone chew with their mouth open.

    • TIP: A lot of airports now have Wi-Fi access so this is a good spot to get some work and people watching done at the same time. It's often funnier than the coffee shop.

  • Speaking of Tips: Take this one or leave it but when I am loitering and using a Panera Wi-Fi network for three hours while sipping a single Green Tea, I occasionally feel guilty and quite paranoid. Is that busboy giving me dirty looks? If he is or not, I do actually toss a couple bucks in that tip cup near the register. I know they are not paying for the Wi-Fi but they are cleaning up my mess everyday; why not do a little something for them?

  • Cost / Weight Containment: Atmosphere change is good so get out of the office and work from a coffee shop occasionally, but, don't get a Venti Mocha Frappuccino with 2 muffins. First, that's like 1,000 calories and second, it's $9. Do that twice each week and you're dropping $72/month while adding a couple pounds. I stopped drinking coffee so for me it's tea (which is actually pretty cheap). I also skip the baked goods. Who knows the fat content of those muffins!
  • The Million Dollar Idea: Remember, this is a hotspot, not an office. If I am sitting behind you and you are gabbing on your iPhone about a new website you're creating, the invention you thought of in the shower, or the movie idea you came up with, there is nothing stopping me from stealing your idea. Now, I am Dumb Little Man so I wouldn't do that, but the guy next to you right now just may.

    Just because this hotspot has a couch, doesn't mean it's
    your casual corner of the world.

  • Cells: Speaking of iPhones and mobile phones in general, use a library voice. I am not going to turn this into a rant, but remember, this is not your office and you're not alone. Your loud voice is distracting everyone (ok, just me, but still).

  • Food Court: If you work in an office building and there is a hotspot in the attached Food Court, don't use it if your intention is to break away mentally. You will inevitably have Joan from the office chewing your ear off the second she sees you. You have to leave your office building in order to get the maximum benefit. If you have a nationwide access card, heck - sit in a forest or go find a secluded beach. For you, location is up to you!

  • Security: The last point to consider is security. While there are bound to be people that know how to secure their public Wi-Fi connection by tunneling to their home VPN (or something), I am not a professional at this. So, I would recommend NOT doing your online banking or taxes from a Panera or any other public Wi-Fi network. Maybe I am paranoid and it's totally safe; I am sure someone will let us know in the comments
So what did I miss? How can we get more from this ability to work wherever we want?

- Jay White

0 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Always Be An Optimist

Written on 5/28/2008 by Alex Shalman, creator of the Practical Personal Development blog.

"A pessimist? That's a person who has been intimately acquainted with an optimist." ~Elbert Hubbard

There are many people out there who will swear that a bit of positivity will solve all the problems in the world. They're out there strutting their big smiles, great days, and unrealistic expectations of the world. The rest of us are annoyed -- maybe even a little offended.

There's a reason we're all a bit put off by the constant optimist. Their behavior does not reflect the status quo nor does is fairly represent what's going on in the news or global community. It makes you wonder how someone can get up the nerve to have a great day when there are typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and global warming that are killing thousands as we speak.

Sure positivity could reduce some stress for the person exhibiting it, but let's take a closer look at the overall cons of obsessive optimism:

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Always Be An Optimist
  1. Creating stress. Not everyone can handle your overbearing optimism in the face of adversity. Even if you have no survival story, people get worked up, frustrated, and irritated at the fact that you're prancing around like you cured world hunger. And so what if you did, there are still people dieing for diamonds -- get back to work.

  2. Breaking deadlines. An overly optimistic person will think it takes them way less time to complete an assignment than it really does; they do this all the time! How do you think this affects their co-workers, friends & family, and the general population?

  3. Decreased productivity. Without carefully analyzing all the steps that take you from point A to point B, you're bound to have too many obstacles that you cannot cope with. Try getting anything done when you've gone over budget, underestimated your resources, or got 5 unexpected monkeys on your back.

  4. Coping with people. When you're overly optimistic, you can't possibly cope with the realistic people in your life. They're talking about real things like CNN, ABC, MTV, and XYZ. You want to talk about hearts and butterflies, and frankly... nobody cares.

  5. Leave things broken. Sure, the pessimist might see things as too far gone to fix, but at least he may try, and at certain times succeed. But, an optimist will be completely oblivious that there ever was a problem. Without any attempts to patch things up, a downward spiral of death, carnage, and chaos ensues.

  6. Losing first impressions. Do you really want to walk around introducing yourself to people when your head looks like a smiley face? Do you think people will take you seriously? Do you even want to get making that face... you know it could get stuck that way.

  7. Huge let downs. If you're always the type of person that always expects the best to happen to you, you are very much bound to be let down -- often. You can avoid this, and be in a much better place, if you never set those expectations so unrealistically high.

  8. Create unhappiness. The happiest nation in the world are the Danes. Researchers into happiness have got a good guess as to why this is. It's because they do not expect great things to happen, so anything above average that occurs during their day-to-day feels like a huge victory. Being an optimist deprives you of this satisfaction.
The message here is not to become a downright pessimist; it's to remain realistic. There are definitely ways to have a positive outlook on things without taking it too far. Do you have a story where optimism failed you or someone you know? Share it in the comments below.

If you enjoy the article please vote for it on StumbleUpon, bookmark it on and digg it! I'd appreciate it.


Selasa, 27 Mei 2008

0 Olympic Choreography

The visually underwhelming London Olympics stadium, designed by HOK Sport, might actually be broken down into its constituent parts once the 2012 Summer Games are over and shipped off to Chicago – where it will be partially reassembled.
Perhaps this act will open the door to a new choreography of reused, plug-and-play architectural structures, with fragments of existing buildings being FedEx'd around the world to fit one into the other in a delirium of improvised building space. Cathedral pods and office modules meet in a haze of stadium seating and hobby lobbies on the outskirts of San Francisco. New rooms are trucked in from somewhere east of Reno.
You buy part of the London stadium for yourself and build a treehouse with it.
Of course, does this also imply that there could be architectural stowaways? Crossing borders and exploring the complex fringes of territorial sovereignty by hiding out within pieces of mobile architecture – riding conference halls and classrooms throughout the circuits of global commerce... before stepping out, like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock film, onto the tropical streets of Manila. You then jump into a nearby taxi and disappear.
The taxi is then shipped to New York.
Where surrealism meets the postal service. Or perhaps surrealism is a kind of postal service, with objects popping up where they are not supposed to be.

0 9 Excellent Ways To Use Your Cell Phone Productively

Written on 5/27/2008 by Abhijeet Mukherjee, of Jeet Blog.

There are no two opinions about the fact that today, in this tech-savvy world, that a cell phone is not only ubiquitous but also an indispensable part of our life that most of us can hardly imagine living without. There are all kinds of cell phones available which seem to virtually bring everything into our reach. You can watch movies on your cellphone, create videos, check email, listen to your favorite songs, capture moments of your life, ...the list goes on.

So today I decided to focus on this small but extremely useful device and list out certain ways which help you to use it productively and get the most out of it. I won't talk about the entertainment quotient of a cell phone but instead some basic and useful stuff which would help you manage your life better, through your cell phone.
  1. Talking and messaging: I could not avoid it, this had to be the first one; this is the reason why mobile phones came into existence. It makes us productive by helping us to communicate in the quickest way possible. Today, a cell phone is definitely much more than talking and messaging, but still, when it comes to productivity through a cell phone, this has to be the most useful function.

  2. Store Ideas: I live in India, which is the world's fastest growing cell phone market. The caption of a famous telecom company here, says- "An idea can change your life." Thats very true and when you get an idea which charges you up, but you don't have a pen and paper to write, use your cell phone to store it before your brain gets rid of it. If that is too time consuming and if you are in the US or Canada, use Jott and have it emailed to you!

  3. Track progress: Whether it is a diet, an exercise program, or saving cash, many of us have goals that we're actively working towards. Why not use our phone to track these things instead of relying on your inefficient memory. Check out Fitday to start tracking your diet and workouts or Buxfer for tracking your spending.

  4. Pay bills: Almost all the companies which provide cell phone service allow us to pay our credit card and other bills through our cell phone. It's a nice feature and if it is available to you, you should use it.

  5. Set Reminders: You just remembered that you have to drop that letter at the post-office tomorrow. Will you remember? Don't take a chance, use your cell phone to set up a reminder. It's a busy life and there is every chance you may forget the task tomorrow in the hustle and bustle of your life.

  6. Use Google Mobile: Google Mobile is an excellent set of products by Google for your cell phone and you should definitely try it out. It helps you to get the maximum out of your cellphone and further enhances your productive usage of the cell phone.

  7. One last check: Before making an in-store purchase, do a quick price check on your cell phone. Using Frucall, you can get a quick glance at what the item would cost at Amazon, Yahoo Shopping, etc.

  8. Wake Up Alarm: Simple but useful. Imagine waking up 2 hours late and missing that important event. So use the cell phone alarm either alone or to supplement your normal alarm clock. Almost all the cell phones have it and it will never ditch you ( provided you set the alarm correctly :)

  9. Back up your contacts: Always have a back up of your contacts and other important stuff stored in your cell phone. Remember, using a device productively also means that you are not completely dependent on it. Most of us, when lose our cell phones, cry over the lost information in it then the device itself. Hence you can avoid such situations by backing up the information before hand.
So don't forget to make the most of your cell phone. You're already carrying it around with you everywhere, why not use it :)


Senin, 26 Mei 2008

0 The Other Night Sky

Every once and awhile there's a flash in the sky, lasting roughly twenty seconds, and – provided you look into these things – you can accurately predict when the flash is coming. It's thus possible to be there when it happens.
You can point up at the sky for amazed friends, saying watch this – and a light appears, way up above you, beyond even where airplanes fly.

What's passing overhead in this instance is something called the Iridium constellation, an artificial, non-astral pattern made up of 66 telecom satellites (there were supposed to be 77, which would have corresponded with the number of electrons in an atom of iridium).
The whole thing was sold less than a decade ago for a mere $25 million to private investors – after being launched and constructed, in the 1980s, at a price of nearly $6 billion.
The company that initially sponsored the project went bankrupt in 1999 – raising the prospect, like something from the Greek myths as rewritten by Philip K. Dick, or perhaps something out of Arthur C. Clarke as rewritten by Homer, that our sky will someday be full of artificial constellations, their creators having long since disappeared.
Cold, dead objects, they'll encircle the world in silence.

I'm reminded of an experience of my own, nearly ten years ago, hanging out with a friend on an outdoor spiral staircase in Berlin. We were talking about sink holes – how the earth's surface can give way and swallow whole houses, streets, and shopping malls, as if there's nothing solid at all in this life, not even the planet we stand on – when we both looked up to see that the stars were moving. It felt like the world was deliberately robbing us even of that celestial referent, the fixed sphere of known astronomy.
But it was nothing special: we were just looking at satellites, moving wildly out of pace in straight lines against a background of other lights and constellations.
Everything we refer to, moves.

In any case, there's also a new exhibition of photographs by geographer Trevor Paglen, called The Other Night Sky, which opens here in the Bay Area next week. The Other Night Sky "looks to the night sky as a place of covert activity," we read:
    [W]orking with data compiled by amateur astronomers and hobbyist “satellite observers,” cross-referenced across many sources of information, [Paglen] tracks and presents what he calls “the other night sky.” Large-scale astro-photographs isolate barely perceptible traces of surveillance vessels amidst familiar star fields, and a digitally animated projection installation covers the globe with 189 currently orbiting satellites.
In other words, Paglen is tracking surveillance satellites – false stars that would otherwise have blent in with astronomy.
It genuinely amazes me to think, though, that 45,000 years ago groups of cognitively modern humans were wandering around Australia and the Middle East and Africa and South Asia, and they were looking up at and navigating themselves by recognizable patterns in the nightly firmament – but, now, we can just install our own stars in the sky.

[Image: The International Space Station, from a series of photos by Dirk Ewers].

We are participating with astronomy – an act of both indescribable beauty and utter revulsion, as if we've designed and constructed the most spectacular cathedral in the world... but it's for a new fun ride at Disneyworld.
We are now partially building ourselves a new night sky – and this surrogate astronomy is being put there so we can make international phone calls.

In any case, I'm also reminded of a line from Richard Kenney's monumental 1993 book of poetry The Invention of the Zero. At one point, Kenney writes: "Imagine, all new constellations!"
But the weird irony of life is that we've done it – and we didn't overthrow the astronomers, or plan a coup in the planetarium of human history, we just launched some telecom satellites and bought a bunch of mobile phones, and now we have it: we have new constellations – what Kenney calls "unfamiliar skies" – flashing through the night at timed intervals.

Meanwhile, I've been tracking these constellations on a little Applet today – but there's a certain sinister side to all of this, too.
Space warfare is the militarization of the earth's high atmosphere, weaponizing low-orbit space. You can thus strike anyplace on the earth's surface within minutes of ordering an attack – including the infamous "rods from god," or non-explosive tungsten rods dropped from extremely high altitude.
    These rods, which could be dropped on a target with as little as 15 minutes notice, would enter the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 36,000 feet per second – about as fast as a meteor. Upon impact, the rod would be capable of producing all the effects of an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon, without any of the radioactive fallout. This type of weapon relies on kinetic energy, rather than high-explosives, to generate destructive force.
All these coordinated astronomical stand-ins – patterned groups of satellites moving around the world, a kind of remote puppetry of the sky – might also someday serve as malign horoscopes of impending war.
To what zodiac would such military constellations correspond – and what defensive measures might a person take when a strange metallic glint appears in the evening sky, a 20-second flash on the horizon?

[Image: The Perseus Cluster, photographed by Jean-Charles Cuillandre & Giovanni Anselmi].

And what would we do if we found out that Orion, say, or the Southern Cross, was not a natural constellation at all, but something placed there, installed above us, in our imaginations, in our myths?

(Trevor Paglen's The Other Night Sky, from which this post's title was taken, opens June 1 at the Berkeley Art Museum).

Minggu, 25 Mei 2008

0 Caverns in light

[Images: An exploding star's "light echo," as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope back in 2002. View larger!].

"In January 2002," NASA reported half a decade ago, "a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun." This "mysterious star" produced, in the process, a "light echo" that "uncovered remarkable new features" in that star's astral architecture. "These details promise to provide astronomers with a CAT-scan-like probe of the three-dimensional structure of shells of dust surrounding an aging star."
In the above sequence of images, then, you are looking at "continuously changing cross-sections of the dust envelope" – a visual effect compared by NASA to "a spelunker taking a flash picture of the walls of an undiscovered cavern," where the "cavern" in question is an exploding sphere of light. A spectacular geology, indeed.
Imagine if the most beautiful thing in the universe only exists for a billionth of a second.
Imagine if no one sees it.

0 Radio Reservations

[Image: Photo by Dave Bullock for Wired; these images are only visually related to this post].

Flipping through back issues of New Scientist, in a late spring cleaning of the BLDGBLOG office, I came across two plans for radio astronomy parks that I thought worth mentioning here.
On the one hand, there's the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). The Array, which will consist of "thousands of antennas with a total collecting area of 1 square kilometre," requires a "radio-quiet reserve." That is, it can only function properly given "little or no interference from radio signals of human origin."
There are two sites now in competition to host it: South Africa's northern Karoo region and someplace in the Australian outback. The South African site refers to itself as a Radio Astronomy Reserve; the Reserve, if protected by South Africa's so-called Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act, could include as much as 12 million hectares of landed radio silence (close to 31 million acres).

[Image: Photo by Dave Bullock for Wired].

On the other hand, there are plans for a radio astronomy reserve that would not even be with us here on Earth: Paris-based radio astronomer Claudio Maccone "is calling on the United Nations to recognise a 1820-kilometre-diameter zone on the moon's far side as the 'Protected Antipode Circle'. A crater called Daedalus within this area would be suitable for a future radio-astronomy base," Maccone suggests – implying that "the moon's far side will one day be a haven for radio telescopes, free from the electronic chatter of Earth and the many satellites now orbiting it."
Briefly, I wonder if this future lunar radio base should be open to an architectural design competition. And what of the site in South Africa – could we invent some sort of new architectural typology here: the radio astronomer's hut, complete with sleeping quarters, skylights, and stacks of back-up harddrives?
Both terrestrial and otherwise, these "optimal radio environments," as New Scientist describes them, would exist within interesting overlaps of land use policies, preservation statutes, and massively coordinated techno-financial investment networks – complete with quite sizable maintenance and security bills.
How strange it would be, then, to be an armed guard standing there alone at night in the darkness with your back to a machine, its towering dish pointed upward, a mere silhouette in the sky, tracking galaxial magnetism and the slow evolution of stars – till the quiet whir of recalibration tilts that hulking mass a fraction of a degree back down toward the horizon. It's the only sound you hear for the next two hours.
The radio astronomy reserve as a new site for experimental forms of human solitude.

Jumat, 23 Mei 2008

0 Sleep Adjustment - Gain 10 days per year

On Dumb Little Man I have mentioned (several times) that I am generally awake each morning at 4AM. While that time may seem inconceivable to most of you, the simple idea of at least waking up earlier in general should be easy to swallow.

From 4-6 AM, I simply get a ton of things done. In fact, I'd argue that I get more done from 4-6 AM than I do from 8-Noon. No matter what I decide to do, it's uninterrupted simply because no one else is awake and functioning. It's purely a time for knocking out tasks (work or home related), reading, project work, planning, etc. It's great.

My life was not always this way, I used to be the guy that stayed up late and woke up with barely enough time to shower before work. So, how did I change that? It's actually pretty simple, I installed a regimen that I have now followed for years. On average, I believe that I have given myself an extra 5 hours per week or (do the math) an extra 10.8 days per year to get stuff done.

  • Lying in bed is not sleeping: 10:00 PM was my previous bedtime. Frankly, I chose that time because that's when my parents went to bed when I was a kid. I had no real reason for it. What I found was that I would watch the news and then end up lying in bed for an hour pondering and stressing.

    In my belief, the key to extending your days is to lie down when you simply cannot ponder any longer. If you are drifting off at the computer, while reading, or watching TV, it's time to get to bed. Your bedtime should and will vary from night to night. Let your body tell you when to sleep as opposed to the following the 8-hour rule. Really, how good is that rule if you a laying in bed awake for an hour?

  • Rise and Shine: No matter what time you to go to bed - you're alarm should go off each morning at the same time, 7 days per week. When I started this self-programming, I chose 4AM and today, regardless of the time I hit the rack, I am up at 4AM without an alarm. I have gone to bed at 2:30 AM on occasion and still gotten up automatically at 4:00 feeling good.

  • Sleepy at Noon?: We've all heard the some countries encourage lunchtime naps. Well, me too. For lunch, I eat a sandwich and when possible (and only when I feel tired, this is not daily) I take a power nap that lasts all of 20 minutes. Instead of sitting at my desk for lunch, I will hop in the car and head to a forest preserve, behind a strip mall, etc. I eat, and then turn the radio down for a quick nap (set your cell phone alarm). I wake up totally refreshed. It's actually kind of eerie because the energy I have after this little midday nap easily trumps the energy I had in the morning.
These 3 simple things have created a self-adjusting alarm clock inside my body. Since I wake up at the exact same time each day, my body knows how to adjust. In the evening, it will (through drifting off) tell me to go to bed earlier if in fact I am tired. On the flip side, if my body has the energy, I can write on this site or do whatever until 1AM if I want. This is essentially due to a hormone release that happens internally. I am programmed to be drowsy when I need to be and productive when I don't.

Think about what you could do with this added 5 hours per week. I am not implying that you have to be up at 4AM, but if in fact you find yourself "trying" to fall asleep or watching TV for hours at night, this may be something for you to try.


0 Create a Richer Life in 24 Hours or Less

Written on 5/23/2008 by David B. Bohl, the author of Slow Down Fast.

The overwhelming majority of people wish for more money. Unfortunately, it seems that the more money we accumulate, the richer we want to become. The way I see it, a wish for material wealth is one that is never really fulfilled.

Thank goodness there are two types of riches or wealth that define our lives: there's being financially rich and there's being life rich -- one doesn't necessarily exclude the other. You can be both at the same time, at different times, or at no time.

While there's nothing wrong with striving to have a larger bank account, it's important to remember that money really can't buy happiness. Just ask Chris Farley or Kurt Cobain about that.

That's why it's so important to strive for having a rich life as opposed to material wealth.

Here's how to make yourself richer in 24 hours or less.
  1. Be thankful for life. Every single one of us takes for granted that when we go to sleep at night, we're going to wake up the next morning. I'm not trying to frighten you, but to make you understand how thankful you should be for every single morning you open your eyes because it's not a guarantee that it'll happen. I know you don't think about it because when you wake up, you've already got a ton of things on your mind.

    Well, stop. Lay in bed for a few seconds and just be thankful that you've got another day because they're so few in number.

  2. Make a new friend. True, it's tougher for adults to make friends than it is for kids. When you were a kid you could easily walk up to whomever had a new toy at the playground and he was instantly your new best friend. However, for adults, friendship too often comes with more strings attached than a marionette show. We tend to see friends as people who can help us achieve something rather than another soul to be enjoyed.

    Well, life is nothing if it isn't about relationships, and friendships are the easiest to come by if you're willing to put forth the effort.

  3. Count your blessings. Okay, I know it's a cliché, but if you truly want a richer life, then you have to be thankful for what you already have. And don't tell me that you have nothing because no one truly has nothing. You can be living on the street with only a garbage bag full of possessions, but as long as you still have breath in your lungs, you have opportunity. The world is filled with examples of people who appeared to have nothing left to live for only to rise up and show everyone what life is all about. Stephen Hawking, anyone?

  4. Try living life instead of surviving it. How many of you feel like you just went 12 rounds with the champ at the end of each week? How many of you really need a weekend on the couch just to store up enough energy for Monday? If this sounds familiar then you're not living life, you're surviving it - and that's no way to live.

    You don't have to fill up your entire day with work to be worth something. I'll tell you right now, for nothing, that you could spend a week earning ten thousand dollars and it wouldn't be worth as much as spending an hour with your kid, your wife, as a Big Brother or Big Sister, or as a volunteer to a family in distress.
Leading a rich life has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of money and stuff you leave behind when you're gone - the universe really doesn't care about that. Rather, it's about the effect you had on those around you. That's what lasts and gets passed on forever.

What little things do you routinely do to make you feel great inside?


0 Inside the Test Village

I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night – a film I'll resist reviewing here, despite the temptation – but there is at least one scene that I want to point out. I won't give away any real plot details, but you might not want to read this post if you plan on seeing the movie.
So, quite early in the film, Indiana Jones escapes from a U.S. military warehouse at night on a remote base in Nevada, where he's been taken by alien-obsessed Russian captors. After the sun comes up the next morning, he finds himself climbing over a fence into a cul-de-sac of detached houses.
It's a suburb in the middle of nowhere, impeccably maintained.
He knocks on one of the doors, hears nothing, and so goes inside, calling for help. A TV is blaring in the other room – but when Indiana Jones walks through to the front of the house, he finds that the house is full of mannequins.
There are mannequins watching TV – fake, plastic people with their eyes fixed to the screen.
So he goes out onto the street – and the street, too, is lined with mannequins, little brown-haired kids on bikes and men outside in driveways as if to wash their family cars.
And then a distant, amplified voice booms out over the roar of an air raid siren: the weapons test will begin in ten... nine... eight...
Because he's just walked into an atomic bomb testing village – and now he has to find someplace to hide.

0 The Hidden Benefits of The Avocado

Written on 5/07/2008 by Garrett Whelan who writes about cooking for men or anyone trying to kick the fast food habit at

Everyone says avocados are great. That’s all well and good but with California wildfires destoying large portions of the crops, costs have soared to $2 each. For $2, are these little fruits really worth it?

Actually, yes. Delicious, healthy and versatile, avocados are one of those foods that we let slip under our radar as we walk through the produce section; but we shouldn’t. So next time you see the alligator pair next to a bushel of apples and are opting for the latter, consider these 5 reasons you should be eating avocados:

  1. They travel well. You probably think this doesn't matter since you weren't planning on hauling them with you on vacation. But I've written before about the shenanigans produce shippers go through that makes food tough enough to truck. Unfortunately these processes make the food taste that way too.

    Luckily avocados need no enhancement. They don't start to ripen until they are picked, so the grower doesn't have to do anything weird to spread his season out. They are also hard as a rock for a good 5 days after being picked so they can be shipped from California to anywhere in America without being harmed.

  2. They're a good fat. I can't believe people are still confused by this, yet they are. They hear that avocados are full of fat and they assume that must be bad. Avocados do have fat, but they have no cholesterol and the majority of the fat is polyunsaturated. That's good for you, similar to olive oil.

    Think of it like Kim Kardashian, fat in the right places is awesome.

  3. They're nutritionally dense. Even with the calories that come with fat, avocados have a high calorie/nutrient ratio. They are very high in fiber, they have more potassium than a banana and avocados are rich in vitamins B, E and K.

  4. They're a green fruit (not just literally). Avocados are one of the most environmentally friendly bits of produce you can buy. The California avocado growers practice IPM which makes avocados some of the lowest pesticide fruits out there. One avocado tree sucks up the CO2 caused by a car driving over 2,600 miles over the course of a year.

  5. Avocados are a great replacement food. They can be substituted for a whole host of other, less healthy alternatives. You can use them like a cheese spread on crackers (particularly if you make guacamole), you can spread them like butter on a bagel and you can use a few slices to replace mayo on a sandwich.
There you go, 5 solid reasons you should be eating avocados. And just for you a little bonus tip to get you started:

Bonus Tips:
  • Typically you open an avocado by cutting it in half and twisting. This leaves the pit in the center which is just slippery enough to be nearly impossible to dislodge. Lay the avocado on the table and stab the tip of your knife into the pit. Twist and it should come right out.

  • When choosing an avocado, choose one that is soft but not soft enough that your finger leaves a dimple when you apply pressure. A rock hard avocado is not yet ripe so if you choose that one, don't plan to eat it that day.

  • Sure, we all know about Guacamole but there are dozens of other recipes that include avocado.

Kamis, 22 Mei 2008

0 How to Forgive: The Tug-of-War Between Heart and Head

Written on 5/22/2008 by Shelly DeVous.

This is not an easy article to write. I have been hurt by someone very close to me and I know that I need to forgive that person, but it is easier said than done. Intellectually, I know that until I can forgive, I will stew in my resentment and hurt - harming myself, not the person who hurt me. I could seek revenge, but countering a wrong with a wrong is… well, wrong.

What to do?

As I reside in the limbo between true forgiveness and painful hurt, I struggle with the tug-of-war between heart and head. I won’t seek revenge, but I am also not ready to forgive despite the realization that forgiving is precisely what I have to do to stop hurting. People don’t ask to be hurt, but the offended must be the ones to initiate the resolve.

Forgiveness is the pill we must swallow when we suffer from hurt inflicted by others. We must move past the feelings of a hurt-felt heart and use our reason, our mind, to guide us to healing. Age, maturity, teaches us to “let it go,” “forgive and forget,” but sound reason does not manifest a quick cure. It does, however, keep us from making a bigger mistake. The mind must win the tug-of-war between heart and head. To do otherwise, we would be hurting ourselves even more.

How do we make the head win?

When our heart and mind are conflicted, thinking more about the offense will only exasperate the situation; we need to distract the mind. Our thoughts need to move on, get off-track, and the best way to distract the mind is to busy the hands.

Performing tasks like cooking, gardening, car maintenance, writing, anything that requires the mind to think about what the hands are doing will give our heart and head the time to eclipse the pain and coalesce into a more productive, positive realm. Manual exercise restores the balance to life necessary to heal. The sooner we become productive, the quicker we will be able to forgive. Busying the hands also gives us the time to move past the initial harm. We still may feel hurt, but the hurt won’t feel as deep. The urge for revenge will pass; the head eventually wins.

If you’ve been hurt and find yourself in the tug-of-war between heart and head it may be helpful to take the Forgiveness Test created by Dr. Susan Brown as part of her doctoral dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary. It is a 14-question, multiple-choice test which helps to identify personal thoughts and behaviors regarding forgiveness. I took the test and discovered I’m half-way there.

What I neglected to consider (as I wallowed in my self-pity) was the source of the problem. Question 13, “I looked for the source of the problem and tried to correct it,” caused a light bulb to go off in my head. Again, the heart was clouding my rational thought. The test made me realize that if I don’t want to be hurt by this person again, I should look for the source of the problem and work to correct it. Being hurt involves two people. Forgiveness is what I do, but that is only half the solution. Resolving the source of the hurt involves both of us. That is what’s necessary for true reconciliation and lasting peace...the ability to truly forgive and forget, forever.

I’m glad I took the test and I’m glad I wrote this article. I took the time to busy my hands. I don’t feel as hurt now as I did when I began writing. I’m getting closer to true forgiveness and realize I have more work to do before all is well again. In the end, my head won, but so did my heart.

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