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Friday, February 29, 2008

Mathematical art

The recent Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego featured an exhibition of work by forty mathematician/artists. Science News looks at several of the artworks that draw from dynamical systems, topology, and fractals. At left, a piece by Oberline College professor Robert Bosch:
The white line above forms a single loop, dividing the page into two regions. Looked at from afar, the image forms a Celtic knot.
At right, work by University of Houston professor Michael Field:
"Coral Star" shows the motion brought about by one particular dynamical system.

LSD: The Beginning of Something Wonderful

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The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life

Spring equinox will be here in just a few weeks, and there's no better way to get ready for the seasonal change than to dig into some great science fiction books. io9 wants to help you get in the mood for transformation by offering this list of twenty science fiction novels that could change the way you see the world, and maybe even change your life. Whether it's because they've altered the course of science fiction writing, or simply provide a genuinely alien perspective on ordinary life, these are novels that will rearrange how you think. Check out our list below.

These are in chronological order by publication date, not in order of importance.

Frankenstein (1818), by Mary Shelley
This is the first modern mad scientist novel, which set the stage for so many mad scientist tales of the next 200 years. You've got the lab full of bubbly stuff, experiments with lightning, stolen body parts, humans brought back from the dead, monsters, and a man who wants to play god. Just try to name a mad science story that doesn't have a little Frankenstein in it. This book changed your life already by creating an entire subgenre of science fiction devoted to science run amok.

The Time Machine (1895), by H.G. Wells
Another genre-shaping novel, Wells' Time Machine was one of the first stories to link time travel with science rather than magic or spiritualism. Plus his depiction of the underground-dwelling, industrial Morlocks and the willowy, surface-dwelling hippie Eloi shaped the way many people imagined the future for the next several decades.

180px-At_the_Mountains_of_Madness_.jpgAt the Mountains of Madness (1931), by H.P. Lovecraft
This longish short story by H.P. Lovecraft brings together all of Lovecraft's greatest and most memorable obsessions. When a group of explorers discover a lost Antarctic city, they learn that the Earth was once the home to many alien races, some of whom still lurk under the ocean (Cthulhu's spawn), and others of whom can be summoned (the Shoggoths). Reading this book will take you deep into the subterranean imagination of Lovecraft, full of lost civilizations and slimy monsters who haunt our dreams. Lucky for us, Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) is working on a movie version.

I, Robot (1955), by Isaac Asimov
This collection of linked short stories quite simply changed the way we think about robots. Asimov invented the "three laws of robotics," which are included in so many subsequent tales of humanoid robots and also in the work of robotics engineers. So this book has already changed your life, by changing robot history -- reading it, you'll be surprised how much this work of fiction has become accepted wisdom about the way real robots will function.

The Dispossessed (1974), by Ursula LeGuin
LeGuin pulls no punches in this novel about an anarchist-feminist society that broke away from an oppressive, consumer-driven world to live on its barren moon. Out of this vivid portrait of two flawed societies, and one brilliant physicist, comes a story about how no culture can completely erase injustice.

200px-OctaviaEButler_Kindred.jpgKindred (1979), by Octavia Butler
A black woman living in 1970s America finds herself sucked back in time to protect the life of her distant ancestor: a white slaveowner with a perverse crush on one of his slaves. Expect no political correctness, but a lot of tough questions about racial identity, in this seriously action-packed story about how the people you trust least may be the source of your existence.

Wizard (1979), by John Varley
A schizophrenic man falls in love with a centaur who has three sets of genitals and lives inside a giant cyborg in orbit around Saturn. You want to change your perspective on the world? This book will do it for you.

Consider Phlebas (1987), by Iain M. Banks
A good way-in to Iain M. Banks series of Culture novels, Consider Phlebas deals with a war between a posthuman culture of game-loving anarchists, and a hierarchical civilization of religious zealots. Beautifully-written and action-packed, the book never allows you to get complacent about what it means to be ethically right and wrong.

He, She, and It (1991), by Marge Piercy
A woman and her cyborg warrior lover fight to protect a free Jewish town from being taken over by a neighboring corporate city-state in this cyberpunk homage to the Jewish myth of the Golem. The most fascinating part of the book is what happens when the cyborg, who has been programmed to love combat, realizes that his pleasures are morally wrong. What would it feel like for a weapon to grow ethics?

Sarah Canary (1991), by Karen Joy Fowler
A mysterious alien who doesn't understand humans very well lands in nineteenth century California, blundering her way towards San Francisco with the reluctant help of a Chinese railway worker, an escaped lunatic, and a Suffragette preaching free love. Haunting and funny, this novel is as much about the alienness of human history as it is about aliens.

firedeep.jpgA Fire Upon the Deep (1992), by Vernor Vinge
This novel was the first great epic of the internet age, leapfrogging over cyberpunk and into a posthuman future where UNIX is thousands of years old and newsgroups span the galaxy. A powerful computer virus that transforms matter is attacking civilization, and our only hope may lie with two kids marooned on a medieval planet full of dog-like creatures with collective consciousness. This is quite simply one of the most inventive, astonishing, and humane space operas you'll ever read.

The Bohr Maker (1995), by Linda Nagata
One of the first novels to explore the revolutionary potential of nanotech, this globe-spanning epic is mind blowing on many levels. When a Sudanese prostitute learns to manipulate a molecular foundry better than its Western inventor can, the balance of power in the world is turned on its head.

thesparrow.jpgThe Sparrow (1996), by Mary Doria Russell
Everything you learned about first contact between humans and aliens was wrong. This strange and sad book chronicles what happens when the Catholic Church sends missionaries to a planet where astronomers have discovered life. The two species of aliens our protagonist priest meets are terrifying in their difference from humans -- and make the priest an alien to himself. Hauntingly written, this is literary science fiction at its best.

Cryptonomicon (2000), by Neal Stephenson
This dense, multi-layered story jumps around in time, space, and consciousness, exploring the interconnected forces of money and science that brought humans to the twenty-first century. Warning: reading this book will rearrange your brain permanently.

The Mount (2002), by Carol Emschwiller
After human civilization is destroyed by a group of invading aliens, the survivors become the ponies of their new alien overlords. Generations later, our hero is a happy mount to the alien prince, but slowly begins to realize that the life of a pampered pet is not all he wants.

Perdido Street Station (2002), by China Mieville
Set in on a planet where a strange weather system called The Torque periodically destroys the fabric of reality, Perdido Street Station is about a scientist, a man who has lost his wings, a woman with an insect head, and a city full of people whose dreams are being eaten by moths. As the dreamless city slowly goes insane, only the scientist can stop the moths -- with the help of a sentient garbage heap and a cross-dimensional spider who loves wordplay. Nothing can truly capture the sublime beauty and weirdness of a Mieville novel. But it might change your life.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), by Cory Doctorow
Not only did this novel usher in a new wave of postcyber writing about downloadable brains and uploadable desires, but it also changed the way science fiction writers thought about books. Doctorow has always insisted on making his novels available for free online, and has helped popularize the idea of questioning traditional copyrights in the scifi world. So this novel has changed your world already, by helping to make the business of scifi writing as tomorrow-minded as scifi itself.

Pattern Recognition (2003), by William Gibson
One of the best novels in Gibson's new cycle of science fiction tales set in the present day (which is to say, novels that feel like science fiction but aren't by strict definition actually scifi), Pattern Recognition is a masterpiece about consumer capitalism, mass-produced illusions, and video-sharing technology. Read and be dazzled.

newtons_wake.jpgNewton's Wake (2004), by Ken MacLeod
From the first moments in this novel, when a group of Scottish organized criminals (erm I mean "combat archaeologists") jump through a wormhole with their "search engine" -- a giant machine for finding and pillaging cool treasure -- you'll be hooked. Funny, bizarre, and politically-savvy, this novel is about treasure hunters and rapture fuckers out to get a little cash and have a little revolution. You won't be able to forget it.

Glasshouse (2006), by Charles Stross
Stross has said he had the Stanford prison experiments in mind when he wrote this far-future tale of drifters who sign up for a "glasshouse" experiment to recreate the twentieth century in an isolated space habitat. They'll be arbitrarily assigned genders, and forced to engage in certain kinds of conformist behaviors for points. Our heroes, ill-at-ease in the genders they've been given, figure out that there's a deeper plot at work and must try to outsmart the glasshouse prison game while fighting mind viruses that can reorganize your whole consciousness. With unexpected twists and turns, this book is the very best mindfuck you've ever had.

Original here

Thursday, February 28, 2008

7 Abandoned Wonders of the European Union: From Deserted Castles Retrofuturistic Factories

Seven Abandoned Wonders of the European Union

The European Union may appear on the surface to be a unified body but underneath each member country retains a unique and complex history. The rich stories of individual European nations can be read in part through the amazing abandoned buildings found across the continent. It is truly remarkable how intact some of these structures are even after centuries. From Finland to France, Belgium to Denmark and Poland to England here are seven amazing abandonments from all over Europe.

Berlin Germany Historical Abandoned Military Hospital

Berlin Germany Hospital Abandonment Urban Exploration

Berlin, Germany has been at the center of European history in many regards, most recently as the divided core of Germany before East and West reunification. This abandoned complex located in Beelitz (just outside of Berlin) dates back to the 19th century and was used by the Germans as a military hospital through the second World War. From the 1940s on it was continuously occupied and used as a military hospital by the Russians complete with a surgery, psychiatric ward and rifle range before being abandoned in the 1990s. During its years of operation, famous (or infamous) patients included Adolf Hitler and former East German leader Erich Honecker.

Belgium Historical Abandoned Castle Photographs

Belgium Abandoned Castle Urban Exploration

Mesen, Belgium is the smallest town in Belgium with fewer than 1,000 residents. However, it is the home of one of the most beautiful abandoned castles one could imagine, built, rebuilt, modified and expanded from the 1500s onward. This gorgeous structure evolved from a defensive fortress to a boarding school over time before being abandoned in the middle of the 20th century. It has has decayed by natural means with very little outside interference or vandalism and conjures picturesque images of beautiful deserted buildings. Nonetheless, it is under threat of destruction. It seems that only in Europe, where such buildings are more abundant, could such a lovely structure be considered common enough to not necessarily warrant rehabilitation.

Denmark Abandoned Refrigeration Factory Building

Copenhagen Denmark Factory Building Infiltration Images

Copenhagen, Denmark has developed a rich tradition of industrial production in part due to its geography. Flanked on virtually all sides by water, it is no wonder this country has spawned many facilities like the refrigeration factory featured above. These pictures show the internal story of desertion, fire and other internal tales as well as the future plans for redevelopment on the site. Adjacent condos (shown in the last image) represent the likely direction of this abandoned property as waterfront real estate continues to replace old industrial uses.

England Abandoned Victorian Factory Building

England Abandoned Structure Urban Exploration

Ryhope, England is home to an abandoned water pumping station that almost seems like a retrofuturistic structure straight out of a cyberpunk novel. This deserted structure is a monument to the Victorian era of industrialization, dating back to the middle of the 19th Century. It was an important step in the modernization of clean water distribution in an era where urban densification and disease went hand in hand. Though the station is no longer in active use all of the machinery still works, a true testament to the capabilities of Victorian English engineers.

Finland Abandoned Matchstick Factory Building

Finland Factory Urban Exploration Images

Tempere, Finland is one of many places that saw considerable growth and prosperity during the industrial revolution. With a thriving Finnish timber industry came the matchstick factory featured above. Built between world wars, the factory was in continuous use until the mid-1970s at which point it switched industries with the times, become (among other things) an automobile plant for a period of time. Since being entirely abandoned the main building and surrounding structures have become hangouts for local teens as evidenced in the images above.

Warsaw Poland Abandoned Lightbulb Factory Building

Warsaw Poland Urban Abandonments Photography

Warsaw, Poland has had a long and trying history of war and strife. It is perhaps no wonder that even in the heart of a relatively prosperous Polish city one can still find a vast abandoned factory complex. This series of deserted structures began as an electric lamp production facility in the 1920s before being converted to construct radios for submarines by the Germans during World War II. It reverted to its old function after the war but was poorly managed and eventually abandoned altogether, with remnant containers of chemicals and other assorted scientific equipment left behind as a testament to its earlier uses.

Paris France Abandoned Metro Subway Stations

Paris, France is notorious of late-running Metro trains due to frequent worker strikes - but perhaps less well known for its numerous abandoned Metro stations. Urban explorers manage to find their ways into some of these abandoned subway tunnels while others have been converted to new uses including (appropriately enough) official homeless shelters. Some of the tunnels can even be visited privately late at night in groups led by sanctioned rail-expert tour guides.

Original here

An inconvenient truth -- kids aren't perfect

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Often in the course of family life, a parent must face inconvenient or downright disturbing truths about children that fly in the face of what we believe about our influence as parents and human nature itself.

Before becoming a parent, for instance, I genuinely believed I could convince my offspring that Barney the Dinosaur is in fact evil and does not actually love them.

I was also convinced that my children would be the first toddlers in history to possess, thanks to their kindly father, impeccable table manners and a keen appreciation of historical documentaries, late-90s acoustic mope rock and Alaskan scenery.

On all these counts, I was forced to face facts. News flash: kids love Barney, do not generally appreciate the genius of Ken Burns or Elliot Smith and will never, ever, even if you shell out many thousands of dollars on a pleasure cruise of Glacier Bay, give a damn about the majesty of the wild when there's a buffet table piled with cookies behind them.

Still, hope dies hard. Throughout my first years of fatherhood, I clung to some ridiculously starry-eyed and politically correct notions about children.

I believed they are born virtuous and free-thinking, that meanness, superficiality and arbitrary gender norms are learned via reality TV and unlicensed child care providers.

Left to their own devices, I imagined children would establish a just, happy society filled with toys and cake.


I managed to maintain this cheery outlook despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Qualities I'd assumed would come naturally to my kids -- fairness, patience, civility - seemed entirely absent in my young charges. Often, they could be just plain mean.

My three-year-old son, for instance, appeared to enjoy nothing more than batting his infant sister on the head with a Lincoln Log.

Even as I disciplined him, I found a way to justify - or at least reconcile - the occasional outburst of savagery. He was, I mused, simply expressing the innate impulses of his primate forefathers.

Which also helped explain the kids' stubborn refusal to conform to the carefully constructed gender-neutral world my wife and I had assembled for them, painting their nursery a neutral shade of avocado and providing each with unisex playthings.

We cringed when a relative, usually a grandparent, did something so gauche as give our daughter a baby doll or our son a toy steam locomotive.

But wouldn't you know it: our firstborn son came out of the womb crazy for trains and our daughter instantly gravitated to ballerinas and princesses and to this day gripes about putting on any garment that isn't sufficiently pink and sparkly.

One militantly gender-neutral friend who had withheld dolls from her daughter says she once walked in on her daughter cooing to a toy truck she'd swaddled in a pink blankie.

OK, so children are born barbarians, boys like boy stuff and girls often fall prey to the tyranny of pink.

But none of that quite compared to the hard lesson in human nature I learned from the hot babysitter.

Allow me to explain. A few years ago my wife and I took the kids for a weekend to a fancy hotel. We planned to have a grown-up dinner and arranged a babysitter look after the kids.

When informed of our plans, the kids expressed terror at the prospect of spending the entire evening with a stranger; they whined and worried the entire day. Then the door opened and in stepped a 19-year-old yoga instructor with impossibly long limbs and the bone structure of Sophia Loren in "The Black Orchid."

Both kids latched on to the sitter's pantleg and looked up at her adoringly. For the two of us, they had just one word: "Bye!"

All their fears and insecurities had evaporated in an instant. I've since heard similar stories from other parents - even naturally nervous and clingy kids, it seems, often display an eerily natural level of comfort and security when left with comely caretakers.

None of this should be so surprising. Scientists have proven that aesthetics are hard-wired into the brain, that even infants stare longer at pictures of lovelier faces, that otherwise unconditionally loving parents lavish more attention and praise on prettier kids than goony ones.

In other words, kids are just as superficial and shallow as we adults are. Hard lesson in human nature indeed.

(Christopher Noxon is a freelance writer. Any opinion in the column are solely those of Mr. Noxon. You can e-mail him at

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Souped-Up Contact Lenses Promise On-Demand Bionic Eyesight

An inventor at the University of Washington holds a flexible contact lens embedded with microcircuits. Researchers will place circuitry outside of the transparent part of the wearer’s eye. The lens will not obstruct a user’s sight when it isn’t activated.

Most advances in retinal implants concentrate on restoring, not enhancing, sight. But there’s hope yet for superhuman vision, and without surgery: A team at the University of Washington has created a contact lens assembled with functional circuitry and LEDs.

Potential uses include virtual displays for pilots, video-game projections and telescopic vision for soldiers. A working prototype of a lens-embedded antenna that draws power for the device from radio frequencies has also been created. The next steps are to build a version that can display several pixels—and then to test it on a person.

The UW team uses a technique called self-assembly to manufacture the eyewear. Researchers dust a specially designed contact lens with microscale components that automatically bond to predetermined receptor sites. The shape of each component dictates where it attaches.

“There’s a lot of room to expand,” Babak Parviz, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UW, says of the technology. “You can let your imagination run wild.”

Original here

Exotic Foods of the Worldly Traveler

Part of traveling is sampling the local fare. Now many of these delicacies can be ordered online. So my question is: without a few tequilas and the feeling of exploration, will we order these things online and try them at home? Will our cornflakes taste better with a few crickets? Will your sweetheart believe lizard wine will liven up your love life? You be the judge. Here are my favorite exotic edibles available for purchase.

The Giant Japanese Hornet is the largest species of wasp in the world and it contains special enzymes in its body which are reputed to increase strength and energy levels. It supposedly has a “pick me up” effect.

The scorpion is first put through a special detoxifying process and then infused in the vodka for three months before hitting the shelves. The scorpion imparts a pleasant, soft woody taste to the vodka; it also effectively smoothes the sharp edge of the vodka. Alcohol infused with a scorpion is said to possess many excellent health properties. It helps increase libido, lowers blood pressure, and helps remove toxins in the bloodstream. Best served cold.

This brandy-like liquor is produced by steeping rice wine in a clay vat full of Tokay Gecko Lizards and ginseng. After a twelve-month fermentation process has taken place, the liquor is then strained, resulting in this green-colored drink. Consumption of Lizard Wine is said to ward off evil and improve vision!

For those that like their coffee better the second time around, I give you the Civet Coffee. The Common Palm Civet Cat (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditis) prowls the Sumatran coffee plantations at night, choosing to eat only the finest, ripest cherries. The stones (which eventually form coffee beans) are then collected by cleaning through the droppings by the natives who collect it. This has to be among the weirdest jobs in the world.

I guess if coffee from the bowels of a Civet is too much, you could try Weasel Coffee. This coffee is first eaten by weasels and then regurgitated—no one knows why they do this, but it is collected by locals in remote forest areas who then clean and roast it. The coffee has a unique, rich chocolaty flavor and is best served as an espresso with a dash of condensed milk, just as they do in Vietnam.

Pearl Lollipops are made from raw cane sugar, wild Madagascan vanilla essence, and ground natural pearls. Since ancient times in China and Japan, pearls have been used in child-bearing rituals and foods were often decorated with tiny pearls, which were to be eaten in order to secure a pregnancy prior to sex. Caution: do not eat if allergic to shellfish.

Supposedly these baked worms taste similar to popcorn. Make sure you buy the ones raised for human consumption. I guess what I’m saying is no freelancing cooking up the ones in the backyard.

And lastly, for the faint of heart, how about a lollipop with a few ants? I’m pretty sure I could achieve this by leaving a previously licked one on a counter at home.

This one is a peppermint-flavored lollipop that contains real farm-raised ants. The ants are specially bred Polyrachis Black Ants and they have a spicy, peppery taste similar to chili peppers. Ants are said to be good for giving you an energy boost, and the peppermint is great for freshening your breath

So if you are thinking about trying these items yourself, I found most of them (and more) for purchase at Please let me know if you try any of them. I think I could pull off the liquor and the lollipops; I’m not sure about the rest.

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12 Practical Steps for Learning to Go With the Flow

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” - Lao-Tzu

No matter how much structure we create in our lives, no matter how many good habits we build, there will always be things that we cannot control — and if we let them, these things can be a huge source of anger, frustration and stress.

The simple solution: learn to go with the flow.

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

For example, let’s say you’ve created the perfect peaceful morning routine. You’ve structured your mornings so that you do things that bring you calm and happiness. And then a water pipe bursts in your bathroom and you spend a stressful morning trying to clean up the mess and get the pipe fixed.

You get angry. You are disappointed, because you didn’t get to do your morning routine. You are stressed from all these changes to what you’re used to. It ruins your day because you are frustrated for the rest of the day.

Not the best way to handle things, is it? And yet if we are honest, most of us have problems like this, with things that disrupt how we like things, with people who change what we are used to, with life when it doesn’t go the way we want it to go.

Go with the flow.

What is going with the flow? It’s rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.

“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” - Chuang Tzu

A reader recently asked me to write more about going with the flow, so this is my attempt to share some of the things that work for me. As always, I don’t have any claims to perfection, and I’m learning as I improve, but the tips below should help anyone.

  1. Realize that you can’t control everything. I think we all know this at some level, but the way we think and act and feel many times contradicts this basic truth. We don’t control the universe, and yet we seem to wish we could. All the wishful thinking won’t make it so. You can’t even control everything within your own little sphere of influence — you can influence things, but many things are simply out of your control. In the example above, you can control your morning routine, but there will be things that happen from time to time (someone’s sick, accident happens, phone call comes at 5 a.m. that disrupts things, etc.) that will make you break your routine. First step is realizing that these things will happen. Not might happen, but will. There are things that we cannot control that will affect every aspect of our lives, and we must must must accept that, or we will constantly be frustrated. Meditate on this for awhile.
  2. Become aware. I’ve mentioned this step in previous articles on other topics, but that’s because it’s extremely important. You can’t change things in your head if you’re not aware of them. You have to become an observer of your thoughts, a self-examiner. Be aware that you’re becoming upset, so that you can do something about it. It helps to keep tally marks in a little notebook for a week — every time you get upset, put a little tally. That’s all — just keep tally. And soon, because of that little act, you will become more aware of your anger and frustration.
  3. Breathe. When you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take a deep breath. Take a few. This is an important step that allows you to calm down and do the rest of the things on this list. Practice this by itself and you’ll have come a long way already.
  4. Get perspective. This always helps me. I get angry over something happening — my car breaks down, my kids ruin my microwave — and then I take a deep breath, and take a step back. You know how you’re watching a movie and the camera zooms away and you can see much more of the world on the screen than you could before? How it goes from closeup to a larger, panoramic view of things? That’s what happens in my mind’s eye. I start to zoom away, until I’m pretty far away from things. Then whatever happened doesn’t seem so important. A week from now, a year from now, this little incident won’t matter a single whit. No one will care, not even you. So why get upset about it? Just let it go, and soon it won’t be a big deal.
  5. Practice. It’s important to realize that, just like when you learn any skill, you probably won’t be good at this at first. Who is good when they are first learning to write, or read, or drive? No one I know. Skills come with practice. So when you first learn to go with the flow, you will mess up. You will stumble and fall. That’s OK — it’s part of the process. Just keep practicing, and you’ll get the hang of it. Someday, you may even become a Zen Master and write a guest post on what you’ve learned for Zen Habits. :)
  6. Baby steps. Along the same lines, take things in small steps. Don’t try to become that Zen Master mentioned above overnight. Don’t try to bite off huge chunks — just bite off something small at first. So make your first attempts to go with the flow small ones: focus on the tally marks (mentioned above) first. Then focus on breathing. Then try to get perspective after you breathe. And you might try the easier situations first — if your work problems are easier to accept than your frustrations with your kids, for example, start with work.
  7. Laugh. It helps me to see things as funny, rather than frustrating. Car broke down in the middle of traffic and I have no cell phone or spare tire? Laugh at my own incompetence. Laugh at the absurdity of the situation. That requires a certain amount of detachment — you can laugh at the situation if you’re above it, but not within it. And that detachment is a good thing. If you can learn to laugh at things, you’ve come a long way. Try laughing even if you don’t think it’s funny — it will most likely become funny.
  8. Keep a journal. This is one of the best uses of a journal actually. Once a day, try to recall what all your tally marks were for — and then write about those situations. Why did you get upset? What did you try to do? Did it work, and if not, why not? What can you do next time? This kind of recollection and examination, after the fact, will help you learn from the process.
  9. Meditate. If you aren’t good at keeping a journal, at least do a daily review in your head. Do some meditation, or have a bath, or a cup of hot tea, and as you’re de-stressing, go over your day and examine it. Don’t get frustrated — you’re learning. Do some deep breathing, and then go over each situation, trying to see it as a detached observer. This kind of review will help you improve in the learning process.
  10. Realize that you can’t control others. Ah, one of the biggest challenges. We get frustrated with other people, because they don’t act the way we want them to act. Maybe it’s our kids, maybe it’s our spouse or significant other, maybe it’s our coworker or boss, maybe it’s our mom or best friend. But we have to realize that they are acting according to their personality, according to what they feel is right, and they are not going to do what we want all of the time. And we have to accept that. Accept that we can’t control them, accept them for who they are, accept the things they do. It’s not easy, but again, it takes practice.
  11. Accept change and imperfection. When we get things the way we like them, we usually don’t want them to change. But they will change. It’s a fact of life. We cannot keep things the way we want them to be … instead, it’s better to learn to accept things as they are. Accept that the world is constantly changing, and we are a part of that change. Also, instead of wanting things to be “perfect” (and what is perfect anyway?), we should accept that they will never be perfect, and we must accept good instead.
  12. Enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty. Remember when I asked what “perfect” is, in the paragraph above? It’s actually a very interesting question. Does perfect mean the ideal life and world that we have in our heads? Do we have an ideal that we try to make the world conform to? Because that will likely never happen. Instead, try seeing the world as perfect the way it is. It’s messy, chaotic, painful, sad, dirty … and completely perfect. The world is beautiful, just as it is. Life is not something static, but a flow of change, never staying the same, always getting messier and more chaotic, always beautiful. There is beauty in everything around us, if we look at it as perfect.

“I accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me.” - Bob Dylan

Original here

The Art Of Flirting (And How To Do It)

Image by maveric2003 *Image changed because she DID look like a 10 year-old girl!

A lot of men struggle with the basic concept of flirting. I’ve seen it myself with friends looking to hook up with a girl in a bar who tried everything in their tired and clichéd arsenal of pick up lines. Believe it or not, the following quote is not going to help you get the girl:

My love for you is like diarrhea, I just can’t hold it in.

Source: CO-ED Magazine

The main problem guys have with flirting is that they relate it directly to sex. If I flirt with the girl for long enough, she’s more likely to have sex with me. Women, on the other hand, view flirting as nothing more than some harmless fun with no determined end-game.

The differences between male and female flirting

if we were in a cave, the man would fling the woman over his shoulder and stomp away.

Dutch-born psychoanalyst Manfred Kets de Vries blames the male super-ego. “A man behaving selfishly will ignore the implicit conduct of flirting in the blatant pursuit of sex.” He’s basically saying that if we were in a cave, the man would fling the woman over his shoulder and stomp away.

As far as human behaviours are concerned, flirting is the one that confuses us most. According to evolutionary psychologists flirting is man’s way of engaging pleasurably with a member of the opposite sex, with the ultimate goal of reproduction. Now call me crazy, but most men looking to pick up a girl are not thinking about having children with the woman! Regardless, women view flirting as a way of checking out the merchandise without compromising their virtue. So women use flirting to get attention, and men use it to initiate sex - but how do you untangle this web of crossed wires?

The key to flirting successfully

You’d think that common sense might help you to flirt more successfully, but you’d be wrong. And here’s why. Dr Antonio Darmasio, MD and head of neurology at the University of Iowa, claims that the reason it all goes wrong is because the process of flirting actually mimics brain damage. “The limbic system, responding to a cue that says ‘this person is attractive’, overrides the neo-cortex. Therefore, for a brief moment, we are completely out of control.” Now this quote won’t hold up in court should you ever get too out of control with a girl but it does explain why we struggle to flirt.

Understanding the brain’s response to flirting should help us to engage with women on their level, rather than as a covert operation to get naked with her! Here are some ideas for flirting successfully without coming across like a sex-crazed lunatic:

  • Keep contact to a minimum. Nothing is more powerful in the flirting world than well-timed and placed body contact. Touching a woman should be the same as using your Diesel Fuel For Life aftershave. Use With Caution! If you overdo it, you’ll appear overbearing and creepy. The best times to engage physical contact are when you’re standing together or when putting her coat on. When standing together you can lean in close and place your hand on the small of hear back, as if you were telling her a secret. Putting her coat on at the end of the evening allows you to lift her hair up over the back of her coat. Very subtle and sensual but she will notice.
  • Avoid over-confidence. If you’ve got all the right words and know exactly what to say to get her interested in you, there is a danger that she’ll take you as one of those slippery guys who have played women one too many times. She’ll be imagining you as the guy who flirts for sport and prefers the thrill of the chase to the catch. I’ve known a few of these cads myself and although he was successful with the women, it never amounted to more than a one night stand. That’s not being a man at all.
  • Don’t play it too cool. Some guys prefer to take the ‘mysterious and cool’ approach by appearing dark and brooding from afar. This is all well and good but be aware than you have a limited window of opportunity to talk to her before you turn into the weird stalker who won’t stop looking at her. Another downside to this method is the tendency to sit and watch as other guys attempt to talk to the object of your affection. Don’t sit and sulk in the corner giving the death stare to any man who dares talk to your woman. You’ll come across as jealous and lacking in self confidence. Both unbecoming character traits. Instead, enjoy your evening and when she is available, just head over and talk to her. It’s really not rocket science!
  • Don’t flirt with every girl in the bar. Women talk. With their friends and with strangers at the bar or in the toilet. Find a girl you’re interested in and focus on her. If it doesn’t work out then you might need to move on to the next place to find somebody else. Women will be extremely wary of a man who she has seen talking to other women in the club. You may be a masterful flirt, but you’re seeking an audience and in the end you’re only amusing yourself and are not really that interested in any of the women. They’ll pick up on it and before you know it you’ll be known as the annoying guy who sends dirty text messages an hour after meeting someone in a bar.
  • Technology and it’s impact on flirting

    Technology has added an entirely new dimension to the flirting game. You can now use text, e-mail and instant messenger to flirt, but you find yourself trying to become a wordsmith to formulate the perfect combination of words. It’s now a digital minefield as well. However, I think that if used correctly, communicating in this way can help you to become more successful. Here’s why:

    • You have time to think about your message. Rather than being put on the spot in a face-to-face setting, you have time to put together a message or a reply without having to do it immediately. This removes the pressure and allows you to flirt more effectively.
    • You can be more open via text. Things you would never dare to say in person can now be said through a message. The beauty of this is that if she takes it the wrong way you can say it was a joke but the message didn’t convey the sarcastic tone intended (yes, I have used that before to get out of an inappropriate text) or you can be a little unscrupulous and just never speak to her again.
    • What you say in text messages often becomes what you say in real life. Back in the single days I was a bit of a master at the whole text flirting game, regularly with 4 or 5 women texting me at any given time. As my confidence grew, I found there was a great deal of transference from my text game to my face-to-face game. I was more open, more outrageous and more confident and the end result was that approaching women was easier and more successful than ever before.
    • Now, obviously I’m not a psychologist or psychoanalyst but I am a self-taught flirt with a lot of experience and a lot of success. My final advice to you is to flirt wherever you can. Build up your confidence talking to waitresses, barmaids, checkout girls, or even your friends mother! There’s no harm in flirting and it will boost your confidence so that when you meet someone you really like, you know what to do.

      If you’ve had some great flirting experiences or know a method that’s worked wonders for you in the past, then let us know in the comments.

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Survey Finds Teenagers Ignorant on Basic History and Literature Questions

Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492.

The survey results, released on Tuesday, demonstrate that a significant proportion of teenagers live in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature, said the group that commissioned it, Common Core.

The organization describes itself as a new research and advocacy organization that will press for more teaching of the liberal arts in public schools.

The group says President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind, has impoverished public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics, but in no other subjects.

Politically, the group’s leaders are strange bedfellows. Its founding board includes Antonia Cortese, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that is a powerful force in the Democratic Party, and Diane Ravitch, an education professor at New York University who was assistant education secretary under the first President George Bush.

Its executive director is Lynne Munson, former deputy chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former special assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne.

“We’re a truly diverse group,” Mrs. Munson said. “We almost certainly vote differently, and we have varying opinions about different aspects of educational reform. But when it comes to concern that all of America’s children receive a comprehensive liberal arts and science education, we all agree.”

In the survey, 1,200 17-year-olds were called in January and asked to answer 33 multiple-choice questions about history and literature that were read aloud to them. The questions were drawn from a test that the federal government administered in 1986.

About a quarter of the teenagers were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in World War II, instead identifying him as a munitions maker, an Austrian premier and the German kaiser.

On literature, the teenagers fared even worse. Four in 10 could pick the name of Ralph Ellison’s novel about a young man’s growing up in the South and moving to Harlem, “Invisible Man,” from a list of titles. About half knew that in the Bible Job is known for his patience in suffering. About as many said he was known for his skill as a builder, his prowess in battle or his prophetic abilities.

The history question that proved easiest asked the respondents to identify the man who declared, “I have a dream.” Ninety-seven percent correctly picked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About 8 in 10, a higher percentage than on any other literature question, knew that Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about two children affected by the conflict in their community when their father defends a black man in court.

In a joint introduction to their report, Ms. Cortese and Dr. Ravitch did not directly blame the No Child law for the dismal results but said it had led schools to focus too narrowly on reading and math, crowding time out of the school day for history, literature and other subjects.

“The nation’s education system has become obsessed with testing and basic skills because of the requirements of federal law, and that is not healthy,” Ms. Cortese and Dr. Ravitch said.

“You can be supportive of N.C.L.B. and also support strengthening the teaching of history and literature,” a spokeswoman for the Education Department, Samara Yudof, said. “It’s good to talk about expanding the curriculum, but if you can’t read, you can’t read anything at all.”

A string of studies have documented the curriculum’s narrowing since Mr. Bush signed the law in January 2002.

Last week, the Center on Education Policy, a research group in Washington that has studied the law, estimated that based on its own survey 62 percent of school systems had added an average of three hours of math or reading instruction a week at the expense of time for social studies, art and other subjects.

The Bush administration and some business and civil rights groups warn against weakening the law, saying students need reading and math skills to succeed in other subjects.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The 10 best ways to see the real States

Rev your bike, strum a chord, hit that trail, says Sarah Barrell. There's a whole other country out there

1 Roswell, New Mexico

Why go? Join the 150,000 Americans who travel across the country each year to Roswell's UFO Festival (1-4 July 2004). This cult community celebration of the supposed crash of a UFO near Roswell in 1947 knocks little green spots off Nevada's area 51. Expect alien costume parades and parties and earnest conferences on alienology. Extend the weekend with a trip to Santa Fe, arts hub and home to an opera festival (July-August).

Where to stay: The Inn of the Five Graces (001 505 922 0957; is an elegant Spanish Colonial adobe hacienda. Doubles from $295 (£164) per night.

How to get there: American Airlines via Dallas, Continental via Houston or Newark, or Delta via Atlanta. The best fares can often be secured through discount agents such as Trailfinders (; 020-7938 3939), Bridge the World (020-7916 0990;, Flightbookers (020-7757 2444; or Travel Bag (0870-900 1350;

Further information: Contact the New Mexico tourist information in the UK (01329-665 777;

2 Austin, Texas

Why go? A happening liberal college town with great nightlife and a thriving live music scene, Austin is in most respects as far from cowboy country as LA or New York. A southern refuge for artists, musicians and writers, the capital of Texas won't have tourists doing their frantic rounds but is simply a darn good place to hang out. Austin also hosts the unique South by Southwest Festival, which annually draws the biggest names in "alt-country" (alterative country/blues) and "borders" music - a hip hybrid of US alt-country and contemporary Mexican. This year's festival starts on Wednesday and runs to next Sunday. Little Richard headlines, along with The Thrills, The B-52s, Papa Roach, Athlete, and The Scissors Sisters.

Where to stay: The Austin Motel, a retro 1950s billet with a cute kidney-shaped pool, on the edge of town (001 512 441 1157; Doubles from $50 (£28).

How to get there: Continental flies to Austin from Gatwick, via Newark, Houston and Cleveland. Delta flies from London City and Gatwick via Paris, Charles De Gaulle, Atlanta and Cincinnati.

Further information: South by Southwest Festivals (001 512 467 7979;; Austin Convention and Visitor Bureau (001 512 474 5171;

3 The Presidentials, New Hampshire

Why go? Not for the election but the tallest and most impressive mountains in New England. The Presidentials stand at the heart of New Hampshire and represent the best leaf-peeping terrain. The Appalachian trail, through the heart of the range, is beloved of hikers but almost any road in this rugged region offers spectacular views. Mount Washington Auto Road and Kancamagus Highway afford jaw-clanging panoramas.

Where to stay: Mount Washington Hotel (001 603 278 1000;, at the western foot of the mountain, is the smartest hotel in the area with doubles from $369 (£205) per night.

How to get there: Boston is the nearest international airport. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American, Continental and United all fly direct from UK. British Airways Holidays (0870-243 3407; and Virgin Holidays (0870-220 2707; can arrange fly-drive deals.

Further information: New Hampshire Tourism (001 800 386 4664,; Discover New England, in the UK (0870-264 0555,

4 The Southern Rockies

Why go? Beyond the international flash of ski resorts such as Aspen and Vail, there are quiet, quirky little mountain towns. Try Redstone, Colorado, "the Ruby of the Rockies", or, just to the south, Dunton Hotsprings. This is a gold-rush town, renovated by an inspired hotelier into a rustic resort for well-heeled outdoor types. It's located in Telluride, a valley overlooking the Four Corners, where mountains of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet.

Where to stay: The 100-year old Redstone Inn (001 970 963 2526; has cottage-style rooms from $60 (£33) per night.

Dunton Hot Springs (001 970 882 4800;, 12 original miners' cabins with outdoor hot tubs, costs from $250 (£139) each per night full board (two-night minimum).

How to get there: The closest international airport is Denver. British Airways, Delta, Continental and United fly there via Cincinnati, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Houston or Chicago.

Further information: Colorado tourist information, contact Cellet Travel Services, UK (01564 794999;

5 Charlotte, North Carolina

Why go? A cool small city with southern charm and an artistic flair, non-stop flights from London make Charlotte easily accessible while leaving it its off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. The city is well within striking distance of the "real" Cold Mountain, partial setting of the recent film and great place for panoramic road trips. Follow the twisting Blue Ridge Mountain parkway to spot soaring views of the mountain itself with plenty of short hiking trails, and camp sites and lodges en route for the adventurous.

Where to stay: Many of Charlotte's hotels are aimed at conference travellers, but the Morehead Inn (001 704 376 3357; in the Dilworth neighbourhood is a colonial revival b&b that retains some of the home comforts of this former private estate. Doubles from $125 (£69).

Getting there: British Airways flies non-stop from London to Charlotte.

Further information: For the North Carolina Division of Tourism, call Cellet Travel Services, in the UK (0870 533 3123,

6 Paradise, Arizona

Why go? A road trip from Tucson to Tombstone on the Old Spanish Trail goes via the Saguaro National Park, a 100,000-acre reserve famous for its iconic wiggly cacti. Follow State Highway 80 for about 75 miles (along the route of the Old Spanish Trail, formerly the main highway across the southern US) and you'll pass some curious roadside attractions before ending up in Tombstone, the site of the OK Coral. Paradise, above Tombstone in the mountains of the Coronado National Forest, is an 1880s silver-mining town. Here you'll be confronted by Cave Creek Canyon's vast red-rock walls, as impressive as those in the parks of Zion or Yosemite, but with fewer tourists.

Where to stay: Tucson is home to some of America's most luxurious spa hotels. Try the Miraval Spa Resort (001 520 825 4000; with doubles from $495 (£275) per person, per night, including full-board accommodation, one spa treatment, use of all resort facilities and transfers from Tucson airport.

How to get there: British Airways flies direct from Heathrow to Phoenix (about 100 miles north of Tucson). Both American and United Airlines offer services to Phoenix and Tucson via Chicago.

Further information: Arizona Office of Tourism (001 866 275 5816;

7 San Diego, California

Why go? If you've done LA, the Californian wineries and San Francisco, the next stop has to be San Diego. The most instantly likeable coastal spot in southern California, San Diego has almost constant sunshine, smog-free beaches, plus galleries and nightlife in its historical Little Italy district. And it's only 20 miles from Tijuana.

How to get there: British Airways offers non-stop flights to San Diego from London. Airlines flying from London to LA (about 100 miles away) include Air New Zealand, Continental, United, Virgin and British Airways.

Where to stay: The W Hotel (001 619 231 8220; opened last year in Little Italy, and has arty sea-themed décor, with doubles from $199 (£110) per night.

Further information: California Tourism in the UK (0906 5770032;; or log onto

8 Memphis, Tennessee

Why go? The Stax Museum of American Soul Music opened last year in the dilapidated southern part of "America's music capital". It is named after the record label that produced so much talent in the 1960s that this part of town became known as Soulsville, USA. The "Stax sound" produced monster hits, including Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" and Otis Redding's "The Dock of the Bay". The museum looks set to revitalise Memphis, which, while known as the "home of the blues", "birthplace of rock'n'roll", and site of Elvis Presley's old home Graceland, may have seen better days.

Where to stay: Virgin Holidays (0871 222 0306; offers a two-week fly-drive to Memphis from £899 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick to Memphis and 14 nights room only at the Heartbreak Hotel.

How to get there: There are no non-stop flights to Memphis.

Further information: The Stax Museum (001 901 946 2535;; The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau (001 901 543 5300,

9 Louisville, Kentucky

Why go? Better known for the Kentucky derby (16 April to 2 May), Louisville has gained more cult attention lately for Lebowskifest (18-20 June 2004), an annual celebration of all things Lebowski. This homage to "The Dude" (the off-beat American par excellence from the 1998 Coen Brothers' film, The Big Lebowski), includes costume contests, screenings, bowling competitions and far too many White Russians.

Where to stay: The official hotel for Lebowskifest is the Executive West Hotel (001 502 367 2251;, next door to the festival bowling alley where there will be unlimited bowling and free shoe rental for ticket holders. Rooms from $56 (£31) per night.

How to get there: There are no non-stop flights to Louisville from the UK.

Further information: Tickets for Lebowskifest 2004 will be available online from April (

10 Sturgis, South Dakota

Why go? The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally started 60 years ago as a small road race and now attracts a quarter of a million bikers. Harley-riding chief executives from Milwaukee (where the Harley-Davidson was born) pull up beside teenagers from Iowa on second-hand Hondas for the biggest celebration of the open road in America. The festival (9-15 August, 2004) sends chapters of bikers on competitions and cruises to such hallowed American sights as Mount Rushmore and the spooky Badlands National Park.

Where to stay: Most bikers use Sturgis's many camp grounds - and pretty much every private yard, house and outhouse rented out by locals. In the old Gold Rush town of Deadwood, just outside Sturgis, try the grand 19th-century Bullock Inn (001 605 578 1745; which offers doubles for $30-$95 (£17-£53) a night.

How to get there: Harley Davidson offers bike rental at destinations across the USA, starting from around $80 a day. Harley-Davidson Rentals at or contact the Harley-Davidson Motor Company (0870 904 1450). There are no non-stop flights from the UK.

Further information: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally information (001 605 642 8166,

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