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Monday, February 18, 2008

The World's 16 Least Inspiring Flags


People in some countries, regions, organizations and religions must contemplate high treason when they see the banner they're forced to rally 'round: ugly, wrong-headed, plum baffling, symbolic of failure. In honor of President's Day, an examination of some flags, past and present, that don't make anyone angry when burned.

#16.
Antarctica

Meaning:

Non-existent. It's a landmass. It's white. It's the place you're in. It's literally Antarctica, surrounded by ocean. If anything, this flag's existence is a metaphor for make-work projects, and the peon whose lap it fell into didn't pad his deadline enough.

Drawbacks:

* You don't need any kind of flag to be reminded that you're in Antarctica. The urine freezing inside your urethra is enough.

* Hard for the kiddies to make out of construction paper in school, what with all 11,000 miles of coastland, detailed to the last inlet, sound and fjord. But then, who raises kids here? Asshole scientists. Probably.

* Not one penguin.

Motto inspired by flag:

"This is Antarctica."

#15.
Jainism

Ah, Jainism. The Indian religion that's going to kill the next person who says, "What's it like to be Hindu?" Yes, religions have flags. Turns out that ineffable tenets of faith can be summed up in a few snazzy graphics just like the rich history of any country:

Meaning:

Each color represents a group who has done more than just drop some coins in the Jain Salvation Army pot. Monks, teachers of scripture, souls who have transcended the material world--they all get their own happy stripe. The three dots remind one of the "jewels" of Jainism: faith, knowledge and good behavior. If a man asks you to "embrace the jewels," make sure he's a Jain before answering. Or at least attractive.

Drawbacks:

* Just one. Can you pick it out? Let's face it, you could have the greatest flag ever, but a couple decades of putzes with armbands and your 1,000-year legacy is tainted forever. Even the transcendent souls must find themselves sweating when a B'nai B'rith tour bus pulls into the village. Sorry, entire religion of Jainism: your swastika is lovely, but ... you know.

Motto inspired by flag:

"Heil, mein f,hrerwalla!"

#14.
Hezbollah

Overall, this is a pretty badass flag.

Meaning:

Hard to parse the subtlety. As if the red Arabic slogans weren't enough to loosen the bowels of western governments, the letters of "Allah" morph into a hand holding an AK-47. Wow. Was the dead Jew too difficult to draw?

Drawbacks:

* Once again, try and spot the flaw, just to the left of the arm. They'll tell you it's a minaret, they'll tell you it's a Katyusha rocket, but let's be honest. Besides screaming "Party of God," this flag screams, "Behold the mighty cock that will ream the west."

* The gun is higher than the leafy branch, suggesting Hezbollah values violence over ... over ...okay, why did they include the erection? I mean, you can't not see it. Are they trying to court gay radicals? Is there pressure from GLAAD Beirut?

Motto inspired by flag:

"Jizzbollah."

#13.
Libya

Meaning:

Clearly, Libya wanted to immortalize the Green Revolution in flag form, but came up short on the "revolution" side, leaving a blank spinachy field. Possibly Moammar Qaddafi's lawn, possibly one of Qaddafi's millions of American petrodollars, possibly a tribute to Mark Rothko.

Drawbacks:

* Laaaaazy. Maybe the flag council was worried about inadvertently adding a giant wang, and avoided all graphics.

* We'd imagine half the fun of being a dictator is decorating every available surface with your haunting visage. It's part of your reward for a job well-assassinated. Qaddafi has missed a great chance to further scare his people here. We expected more from Crazy-Eyes Moe.

* Rothko would have his hands cut off in most Islamic states.

Motto inspired by flag:

"She's a grand old sea of snot."

#12. & #11. & #10.
Indonesia & Monaco & Poland

And now, the death of originality.

Meaning:

"Okay, get ready for this: red bar, white bar! Can I get an amen? No one, I mean no one, is gonna see this coming! The rest of the world can dick around with stars and triangles and more than two hues, but they're gonna shit a brick when we bust out this monster! What? Of course no one else on earth has thought of this! Red and white have no significance anywhere but here. If I'm wrong, may our prince's wife die in a car accident."

Drawbacks:

* Guess which one is Poland?

* Each flag has a fascinating history, they each have origins in the olden days and the colors have a long and storied histories, all of which was canceled out at the first Olympics when two dames showed up in the same dress, so to speak.

* Does this mean Indonesia is already halfway to brutally annexing another tiny country? Harsh.

Motto inspired by flag:

Indonesia: "Hey Monaco, what the fuck?"

Monaco: "Hey Indonesia, what the fuck?"

Poland: "Would you like to hear about Lech Walesa?"

#9.
The Special Olympics

Meaning:

Now we know the real reason the Special Olympians aren't allowed to compete in the regular Olympics: These mofos have SIX ARMS. How is that challenged? They can swim a lap in three strokes. They can box you in both kidneys and three spleens. And the hugs--the hugs would last for days.

Drawbacks:

* Reinforces the negative "freak show" image of the games, while giving false hope to those of us who would pay top dollar to see such people compete.

* Whatever sport these hexapuses are engaged in, it involves making a circle. Beyond that, your guess is as good as ours.

* If the stick arms are meant to represent wings, then draw wings. Otherwise it just looks like a ring of poor schmoes flapping their arms. Message: you can't fly with Down Syndrome.

Motto inspired by flag:

"The spider people are closing in."

#8.
Wallonia

Meaning:

Walloons have a deep reverence for that saucy dickens Chanticleer, iconic French rooster of song and legend, though not iconic enough for the French flag. Chanticleer is a rooster from a children's fable designed to teach children that the fox is smarter than the rooster, or something. He also appears in the movie Rock-a-Doodle, meaning the Wallonian flag violates the most important rule of flag design: your flag shouldn't be based around any characters that could logically appear in a movie called Rock-a-Doodle.

Drawbacks:

* Imagine going into battle behind a jive-talking rooster.

* Out of sheer immaturity, we present the French name of this flag: le coq hardi.

* Look at the flag of Wales:

Wales is about as important as Wallonia these days, but their flag is all kinds of awesome. There you have it Walloons, being regional doesn't mean you can't be cool.

Motto inspired by flag:

"I am frightened of you. Leave me alone with my quilting."

#7.
Balochistan Province, Pakistan

Meaning:

The traditional Arab green, the rugged mountain spine in a desert backdrop, the holy star and crescent of Islam, and Pakistan's most prized commodity, the Baloch flying camel.

Drawbacks:

* None, really. Just a magical camel, gently gliding over the hills at night, perhaps on his way to cheer up a sick child. Or jumping really high. Over the moon, maybe. Either way, it's adorable.

* It's possible the camel is being dropped on an enemy. But until it lands, it's adorable.

Motto inspired by flag:

"A place much more whimsical and less war-torn than you think."

#6.
Mauensee

Next in the parade of fantastical beasts:

Meaning:

Points for originality go to Mauensee, a picturesque lakeside town in the Swiss canton of Lucerne, which scorns the usual golden lions and eagles and skips right to the flag equivalent of a hash trip. You didn't know Victor Moscoso designed Swiss flags, did you?

Drawbacks:

* Suggests two terrible puns, "angel fish" and "flying fish," which we guess is better than "disgrace to our ancestors."

* Too cartoony to be truly daring, not cartoony enough to be a true parody.

* It's only funny if city fathers have built an entire fetish economy around this symbol--winged fish costumes, a festival, tourist tchochkes, theme restaurants. And even then, it's not funny if you have to live there.

Motto inspired by flag:

"Land of half-assed kitsch."

#5.
Baie-James

Here's a case of three great elements that add up to horrible:

Meaning:

Unspoiled nature and hydroelectric plants go together like income and taxes, and Canada's own James Bay has plenty of each. The Quebec municipality of Baie-James crams a snowy owl, water and electricity into one box, which results in scary, green lightning bolts and white tendrils of owl smoke.

Drawbacks:

* Hurting owls makes the baby Harry Potter cry.

* The stars in the background remind us that the northern night sky offers a stunning view of the constellations of every dead species screwed over by man.

Motto inspired by flag:

"Zap! You're next, arctic hare."

#4.
Sicily

We wouldn't want to bring the wrath of Sicily on our whackable children, but if you must insult Sicilians, you could do worse than telling them to "shove it up their asses," because they will immediately think of this:

Meaning:

The triskelion made of legs is an ancient symbol, somewhat related to the original swastika. The Isle of Man has also adopted it. But the Isle of Man left out the spiny, fuzzy stalks of wheat protruding from between those legs. Is it growing out naturally? Or does Sicily literally have so much wheat that they've found other, more satisfying uses for it?

Drawbacks:

* Depending on the artist's rendering, the face is either in surprised discomfort or ... kind of grinning. Does not bode well for your reputation as a nation of toughs. * The bottom-most stalk almost looks like it's tied in a noose around Medusa's head, which gives it a hint of Euro art-film pretension.

Motto inspired by flag:

"If you ain't had bread from a Gorgon's asshole, then you ain't had bread."

#3.
Bermuda

Meaning:

In 1609, the mighty Sea Venture, an English merchant vessel bound for Virginia, smashed on a South Seas' reef, washing its passengers and crew on the shore of a new island. Thus Bermuda was gloriously discovered, and a classic crest idea was born. I guess that's ... patriotic? Sadistic? Maybe not so surprising, as this disaster is really the last time native Bermudans had an upper hand over their British overlords.

Drawbacks:

* Unfortunately, it looks like Bermuda's ship of state is in mid-plunge too, suggesting self-governance is not Bermuda's strong suit. The classy Union Jack seems to say: we grant you independence, your country sinks like a rotten barge.

* Depressing reminder of what happens when the British fall ass-backwards on to an island--namely, three centuries of colonialism.

* There must be 500 flags with lions on them, and this lion is the most pissed of them all. He wishes there had been no survivors.

Motto inspired by flag:

"Don't let the stark randomness of death keep you tourists from enjoying your Rum Swizzle."

#2.
Drnis, Croatia

Meaning:

Saint Roch poses with a shepherd's staff, holding up his clothes to reveal a leg wound, as his dog looks on with a loaf of bread in its mouth. Rather than going through who Saint Roch was, why his cloak is red, what that thing on his staff is, what that shell means or how the dog got the bread or why this is relevant to a Croatian town you've never heard of, we'll provide only this most savory of details. Legend has it that Saint Roch cut his leg open on purpose to feed the dog. Presumably, before he found some bread.

Drawbacks:

* Saint Roch appears to be licking that pole.

* A scene in Cronenberg's Crash comes to mind for some reason.

* Violates the simplicity of the great flags: this color means bravery, this color means freedom, this circle is the sun, this diamond is that time we won the World Cup. Done and done. But no--the flag of Drnis is a fascinating puzzle box! Open her!

Motto inspired by flag:

"A tiny town with a nut-achingly complicated history."

#1.
Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

What? You've never heard of the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic? You'd think a country with such talent for self-expression would be in every schoolchild's textbook. Observe:

Meaning:

One sure sign that your country will be axed is when people from your ethnic group invade the immense empire in which you're situated. Ethnic Germans living on the Volga knew they were gefickt when Hitler betrayed Stalin and sent his armies east in 1941. Maybe they thought the tiny letters on their flag would make the Russian army get up real close to read it, at which point they would presumably slap them and run away because they were too poor to afford rocks to throw.

Drawbacks:

* Simply put, this is not a flag. This is, at best, a letterhead. We don't believe anyone in this short-lived republic understood what a flag was. A lot of early SSRs rocked the red field and plain words, but most threw a token hammer and sickle up there.

* It's not even cringe-worthy--there's nothing offensive here. There's nothing at all, really. We don't care if your socialist ideals are too severe for snappy stripes or chest-pounding stars, this is duller than donkeyshit. The perfect flag to wrap yourself in while sitting in a damp hovel, smoking rat-poison-infused tobacco under a 20-watt bulb, hoping some party hack shoots you because you can't afford a noose.

Motto inspired by flag:

Brings us full circle to Antarctica: "This is the Volga German ASSR."

Read about The Insane Histories of the World's 6 Tiniest Nations, each of which has more moxie than all the above nations combined (moxie is illegal in the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic). Or go read Mike Swaim's post about Allah, and stay for the funny pictures of Jesus.

Original here

Through the keyhole at the world's most expensive flat which costs £100million in central London

This is the first image of how the interior of London's most expensive property will look.

The computer-generated picture visualises the £100 million One Hyde Park penthouse, the most expensive flat in the world, upon completion in 2010.

Other homes in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, have already sold at record prices of £6,000 per square foot.

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Early viewing: The first image of how one of the penthouses at One Hyde Park will look. The £100m properties will feature bullet-proof windows and purified air systems

Russian oligarchs, oil barons, Saudia princes and A-list stars are among those said to be buying the Candy brothers apartments.

Managed by brothers Christian and Nick's development company Candy & Candy, the project features 80 flats designed by architect Richard Rogers with communal spas, squash courts and a private wine-tasting facility.

The most expensive penthouse apartments will feature bullet proof windows, purified air systems and "panic rooms" and everyone on site will have access to an underground passage leading to the nearby Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Half of the units have already been sold at an average of more than £20 million each with average per square-foot prices hitting £6,000 this year.

The figure dwarfs London's earlier record struck last June when a newly converted flat stretching across the first and second stories of two Regency houses in the nearby Lowndes Square, Belgravia, sold for more than £4,250 per square foot.

New heights: Christian and Nick Candy have already sold flats at their Knightsbridge development for the record price of £6,000 per square foot

A consortium-of which Christian Candy's offshore development company CPC owns a third share, bought the One Hyde Park site for £150million in 2004 when it was occupied by the run down Fifties office block Bowater House.

Knight Frank's head of residential research, Liam Bailey, said sales at One Hyde Park proved the super-prime property market was still strong.

He said: "One Hyde Park is the most prominent example of activity at the top of the market, but its performance is not an anomaly. The pull effect of One Hyde Park has meant that whereas £2,500 per sq ft represented the peak of the market in Knightsbridge in 2006, 18 months later £4,000 per sq ft is not only achievable, it is now expected for refurbished and newly developed properties in the super-prime sector."

The biggest group of buyers are Russian, making up a third of the total. A quarter of buyers are Middle Eastern, 20 per cent are British and the remaining 22 per cent is split equally between the European and American markets.

Nick Candy said: "We are not surprised by the variety of purchasers at One Hyde Park; it is a truly international development and is representative of London's status as the global capital of the world."

At the end of last month the Candy Brothers sealed Britain's most expensive home property deal when Chelsea Barracks, located between Sloane Square and the Thames, was bought by the Qatari government and the Candy brothers for £959 million.

Original here

Saving the Planet One Drink at a Time

If you’re like me, there has been many a time when you’re on your fourth or fifth bottle of beer and you think: “If only drinking was a more environmentally friendly hobby.”


Well crack open an ice-cold bottle of brew and celebrate, because drinking is going green.

Beer and wine retailers across the UK are getting caught up in the latest green trend as they try to cash in on the wave of environmental consumerism. The hot new thing in “green” alcohol retailing at the moment is “lightweight” glass bottles.

New technology means that less glass is needed to create a bottle of suitable strength. A bottle created using the latest technology uses over 30% less glass than a traditionally created bottle. While that doesn’t translate to huge amounts of glass for each individual bottle, the cumulative effect is huge.

In the UK alone, over 1 billion bottles are used each year just for wine. Not only does using lightweight bottles save tons of glass, it can also save a lot of energy as it takes less energy to manufacture and ship the bottles.

Tesco, one of the UK’s largest retailers, will sell 40 million lightweight bottles of wine this year. They aim to sell 25% of their wine in lightweight bottles within 2 years, a move they estimate will save almost 75,000 tons of glass.

It’s not just winemakers who are introducing the lighter bottles either. Major breweries are on board the bandwagon. Scottish and Newcastle, which owns Fosters, Kronenbourg, and several others, as well as SABMiller, which owns Pilsner Urquell and a variety of other brands, are both introducing lighter bottles.

The changes are part of the GlassRite campaign, organized by the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP). The group attempts to make consumers and businesses more aware of the materials they use in products.

I would also be remiss in my duties as an environmental writer if I didn’t point out that all bottles of booze, lightweight or not, should be recycled. Bottoms up!

Original here

USDA orders recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a Southern California slaughterhouse that is being investigated for mistreating cattle.

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Officials said this is the largest recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 recall of 35 million pounds.

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Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats.

The amount of beef -- 143 million pounds -- is roughly enough for two hamburgers for each man, woman and child in the United States.

The federal agency said the recall will affect beef products dating to February 1, 2006, that came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., which supplies meat to the federal school lunch program and to some major fast-food chains. List of products in the recall

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said his department has evidence that Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, violating health regulations.

"Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection, Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall," Schafer said in a statement.

A phone message left for Westland president Steve Mendell was not immediately returned.

Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an undercover video surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts. Video Watch video of cattle being mistreated »

Two former employees were charged Friday with animal cruelty. No charges have been filed against Westland, but an investigation by federal authorities continues.

Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing "downer" animals that were apparently too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Some animals had water forced down their throats, San Bernardino County prosecutor Michael Ramos said.

No charges have been filed against Westland, but an investigation by federal authorities continues.

Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten. There have been no reported illnesses linked to the beef at any of the schools.

"We don't know how much product is out there right now. We don't think there is a health hazard, but we do have to take this action," said Dr. Dick Raymond, USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety.

Most of the beef was sent to distribution centers in bulk packages. The USDA said it will work with distributors to determine how much meat remains.

Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.

About 150 school districts around the nation have stopped using ground beef from Hallmark Meat Packing Co., which is associated with Westland.

Jack in the Box, a San Diego-based company with restaurants in 18 states, told its meat suppliers not to use Hallmark until further notice, but it was unclear whether it had used any Hallmark meat. In-N-Out, an Irvine-based chain, also halted use of the Westland/Hallmark beef. Other chains such as McDonald's and Burger King said they do not buy beef from Westland.

Raymond countered a claim leveled by Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, who said a USDA inspector was at the Westland plant for about two hours each day. USDA inspectors are there at slaughterhouses "continuously," Raymond said.

Federal lawmakers on Thursday had called for the Government Accountability Office to investigate the safety of meat in the National School Lunch Program.

Upon learning about the recall, some legislators criticized the USDA, saying the federal agency should conduct more thorough inspections to ensure tainted beef doesn't get to the public.

"Today marks the largest beef recall in U.S. history, and it involves the national school lunch program and other federal food and nutrition programs," said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. "This begs the question: how much longer will we continue to test our luck with weak enforcement of federal food safety regulations?"

Advocacy groups also weighed in, noting the problems at Westland wouldn't have been revealed had it not been for animal right activists.

"On the one hand, I'm glad that the recall is taking place. On the other, it's somewhat disturbing, given that obviously much of this food has already been eaten," said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union. "It's really closing the barn door after the cows left."

Original here


Libraries Turn Up the Noise, Draw Teens

Libraries in Michigan Turn Up the Noise With Video Game Events and Attract Teenage Clients


Libraries in southeastern Michigan are turning the page on peace and quiet.

Video game events at public libraries are drawing crowds of teens, including about 100 competing monthly at "Guitar Hero" at the Rochester Hills Public Library.

"Getting teens to come to the library is right up there with getting them to go to church: It's not exactly the first place they want to go," Christine Lind Hage, library director, told the Detroit Free Press for a story Sunday.

Hage stocked the shelves with 1,823 games. And the games are hot items, with an average of 1,300 checked out daily.

A competition in Rochester Hills was held Feb. 9, and similar events are being held at other Detroit-area libraries.

Nearly 30 teens play "Guitar Hero" or "Dance Dance Revolution" every few weeks at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, which offers 300 video games in its collection.

"It's a big social event," said Stephanie Jaczkowski, 17. "I've met a lot of friends there, and they're really good friends."

The Canton Public Library six months ago began offering games and holding monthly tournaments for Nintendo Wii bowling and "Super Smash Bros."

"Many of the games are complex. They're worthy in their own right. They can help build cognitive skills," said Brad Bachelor, teen librarian.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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How To Ask For (And Get) A Raise Like a Man

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from The Art of Manliness reader and my good friend, Josh Wilsie.

One of the fastest and easiest ways to increase your income is to ask for a raise. But some men’s palms get clammy just thinking about doing so. Here are five tips on how to ask (and get) the raise you deserve.

1. Just ask

Just like anything in life, you aren’t going to get what you want if you don’t ask for it. It’s the same principal as asking girls out on dates (instead of “hanging out”). You will never make any sales if you don’t make any calls. I am constantly surprised by how many of my friends and coworkers are fearful of asking for a raise because they don’t want to seem ungrateful or are afraid of getting turned down and feeling rejected.

People don’t seem to grasp the concept that you are simply selling a service to your company by being employed with them. That service is your time and your labor. If you’ve been with your company for over 6 months or up to a year and haven’t received any pay adjustments, I’d say just asking will work 75% of the time (if you’re good at your job). Learn these magic words: “I’d like to talk to you about a salary adjustment.”

2. No ultimatums

A big mistake I have heard a few people make when asking for a raise is giving ultimatums to their employers. I can’t stress enough that the workplace is a competitive environment, and while there is nothing wrong with asking for a raise, demanding one can backfire in the worst kind of way. Many managers, faced with this situation, will simply call your bluff.

Obviously if you suck at your job, or the company is losing money hand over fist, you don’t stand a snowballs chance, ultimatum or no ultimatum. If you aren’t yet sure if you are worth more, then read on, as you can do something about that too.

3. Determine your value by job browsing.

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what a fair and competitive wage is in your industry. Recruiters and online job websites can be great resources for determining what you can expect to make. Even if you aren’t looking for a new job, check out Monster.com, dice.com, and other job boards (not at work preferably). Find a similar job suited to your talents and send them your resume.

Feel them out, and if given a phone interview, ask for specifics with regard to salary range. If you know you aren’t interested because they’re not paying enough or you’re comfortable with your existing job, be upfront and courteous. Inform the person with whom you’re speaking that you’re happy with your current position (if you are) and be sure to thank them for their consideration. Hopefully you have wasted as little of their time as possible.

Remember that you aren’t indebted to your employer. You entered a business arrangement with them when you were hired. You sell them your time and labor in return for your salary. Shopping around isn’t unethical. It’s good business. Who knows? You might even go on an interview and land a great new gig.

4. Ensure people know your value

Everybody knows the brash and obnoxious “hot-shot” type at work that needs to validate his worth publicly. Everybody resents that person for it too. A real man knows the thin line between confident and cocky. Mastery of this line at work is key to proving your worth to those around you. Just as Teddy Roosevelt was famously quoted, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick, and you will go far.” Instead of trumpeting every small success you have every day, quietly get everything assigned to you done and done well.

When people around you struggle with their work, give them the help they need to get it done, unless of course you work in some ultra-competitive Glengarry Glen Ross type boiler room (Third place is: You’re fired). In that case, get a new job.

Having a “go-to” and “willing to help” attitude has a strange way of uplifting everyone around you. It increases morale and productivity. If your boss or supervisor doesn’t pick up on this and recognize this kind of leadership, get a new job.

5. Increase your value

If you are still having trouble establishing value in your position, consider learning something relevant in your free time. Not everything requires a class or course to be learned. Often times it only takes putting down Call of Duty 4 and reading about the subject. If your employer ever offers optional training or certifications, do not pass up on the opportunity. For example, I was offered an optional training course in Asterisk, an open source PBX (like Linux for phone systems) in 2006. With that course and a bit of tinkering in my free time, I became an authority on the subject. Ever since our company moved our software platform onto Asterisk, I’ve received three separate pay increases. Seriously, do everything you can to improve your worth.

Once you’re sure you have established your value as a go-to guy, it’s time to seek your reward for all that hard work. Without sounding accusatory or argumentative, let your employer know about the successes you’ve had since you’ve been at your current position. Show them projects you have spearheaded and people you have helped. Make sure they know about all the relevant job skills you’ve picked up while working there. If through conversations with others in your industry, you’ve discovered your salary isn’t competitive, let your current employer know. Win them over to your side and you’re almost guaranteed to be earning more.

Original here

20 Things that culturally define Australia

Living in the United States is an interesting experience for someone who was born and raised in Australia. Quite often, I get asked a lot of questions about what it is like back home. Sometimes I even get questions such as, "Do you know Crocodile Dundee?" - To which I reply a line made famous by Kevin Bloody Wilson: "Know him? Mate, he's my brother!"

The longer I live here in the US, the more it becomes clear that a lot of Americans have some really interesting concepts and visualizations about what the land down under must be like. For example, I get the impression, quite often, that many of our American friends see Australia like these images:

If you ask an American who the current leader of Australia is; or what the capital city of Australia is, they would be hard pressed to answer you correctly; despite Aussies and Yanks being quite close friends on the international scene. If you ask an American what images (besides kangaroos) come to mind when they think of Australia, they would talk about these landscapes:

Well, I'm here to tell you that there's more to us Crazy Australians than koalas, kangaroos, the outback, and Sydney. So, to help you understand why we are the way we are, I have compiled a list of things that culturally shape Australians into the fun-loving, laid-back, hard-asses that we are. On we go:




Christmas during Summer

Australian ChristmasIn Australia, during the Christmas season, we don't have snow or winter wonderlands, or any of that rubbish. In fact, it's summer during Christmas down under, and it is something that I've found a lot of Americans find difficult to fathom when telling them. While Americans tend to try to "stick to tradition" during the holiday season, Australians are more flexible. Yes, there are those families that have the big traditional meal on Christmas Day, but there are other families that celebrate with a barbecue at the beach. Other families might go out and have some fish and chips. I remember one year, our family celebrated Christmas with a champagne breakfast. There's an element of Aussie families wanting to make the most of the holidays (so much so that we have two public holidays for it - Boxing Day is on Dec 26). And the warmer weather helps the beer go down better too.







Australia Day

AUSTRALIA DAY CELEBRATIONS It would be remiss of me to not include this in the list, but Australia Day is the country's national day of celebration. It is similar to Independence Day, except it's not about the beginnings of a war for independence. Originally, it was established as a celebration of when the British started colonizing Australia; but has since become more about a celebration of our Aussie identity. People hang out on beaches and in parks for spectacular fireworks displays. Music fans listen to Triple J FM to find out which songs made it onto the Hottest 100; and many hope that the number 1 band is an Aussie one. Families go out to lunch; and people flock to the beaches to enjoy the summer weather on Australia Day.







Kangaroos can box

THE BOXING KANGAROO One of the greatest aspects of our national symbol, the kangaroo, is that it can kick your ass; seriously. Americans seem to think of the kangaroo as a cute and cuddly marsupial, representative of the land down under - and this is true to a degree. But get to close to one of them, and it'll rear back on its tail then propel its legs forward to kick your sorry ass across the room. And before you can regain consciousness, help yourself up, and try to figure out shit from Sherlock, the kangaroo will most likely follow up with using its paws to box the hell out of you. Believe me, if you try to go rounds with one of our roos, you'll go down like a sack of shit. Ask SilentJay74 for verification on this. This is why the kangaroo represents Australia; not just because it's native to the land - but that we may be cute and cuddly, but we can also kick your ass. Some Americans have likened this Australian nature to being a "Work hard, but party hard" philosophy. It's ingrained into us.









Ned Kelly

NED KELLY Aussies seem to have a respect for the "underdog", meaning we tend to want to support those who have the odds stacked against them. Ned Kelly was an outlaw known as a bushranger, and was basically the equivalent to the American Billy the Kid. Yes, he was a criminal, but as the years moved on, an air of myth and legend surrounded Kelly and his gang to the point that they are now looked upon as cultural heroes of our history. He is well known for his metal armor. Heath Ledger portrayed Kelly in a recent film made in Australia. If you haven't seen it, you should. Like, right now.







Comedy

KEVIN BLOODY WILSON Australian comedy is different from American comedy. It's a little closer to the British sense of humor, but is indicative of how laid-back we are. It is irreverent and views nothing as sacred. As far as Aussie comedians are concerned, anything is game. Take a look at some of these videos - but be warned, Americans, some of these may be considered NSFW. But believe me, you would be seen as a much cooler person by Aussies after having watching them.











Don Bradman and Cricket

Don Bradman I'm not going to explain how cricket is played, because the Americans I've tried to explain it to have about as hard a time as I do trying to understand American football (That is, I just don't get it, and may never will). However, the sport itself is ingrained in our culture, as it is not just about good sportsmanship and skill; but a game of strategy. Australian cricket fans take pride in the accomplishments of our national team. Donald Bradman is heralded as a hero of Australian Cricket, and like Ned Kelly (though Bradman was no criminal!) his story has been influenced by legend and myth over the years. He is regarded, worldwide, as the best cricket batsman of all time, and faced up against a reprehensible set of tactics called Bodyline established by the English cricket team (bloody Poms!). It is a fantastic game, played not only by Australia, but in over 100 countries. It's better than bloody baseball; and besides, you guys stole baseball from cricket anyway. Nevertheless, it is a huge aspect of shaping Aussie culture.







Real Barbeques

BBQ American men love to "grill"; but I can tell you, with absolute conviction, that you have not had a real barbeque until you have had an Australian barbeque. I'm not talking about the stereotypical shrimp on the Barbie (they are actually called prawns, not shrimp), but you will not see any ribs or hot dog wieners on an Aussie barbecue. You would have real Australian barbeque sausages (which, I'm sorry to say, do not seem to be found anywhere in the USA), some great steak, and maybe some barbecued onions. There might be some bread rolls - and as far as Aussie barbecues are concerned, there will be some salad if the sheilas are in attendance. Aussie barbecues are usually accompanied by great beer, great music, and great times.







Larrikinism

Larrikin with Stupid PM Larrikinism is something that has shaped our culture over the years, and it is something that Americans seem to have a little difficulty understanding. Because of our laid back attitude, we seem to find amusement in some misbehavior from time to time. Think humorous smart ass remarks, pranks, and typical "naughty boy" behavior. Because of this, some Americans find the Aussie sense of humor a little "too much" - but it's part of our humor, and exemplified by many of our national heroes and celebrities. Let me give you an example. Media personality John Safran is renowned in Australia for his larrikin style behavior in all aspects of his reporting. When cricketer Shane Warne announced he was quitting smoking, Safran set a remote controlled fake seagull onto a cricket ground Warne was playing at - complete with smoking cigarette on offer for Shane. Now if this kind of thing would have happened in America to a popular sportsperson, a lot of people would have taken it seriously. Let's try a reverse example. If the notorious Superbowl wardrobe malfunction had happened in Australia, there would have been no controversy. People would have found it funny, and Timberlake's action would have been labeled as good old larrikinism. Basically, what it comes down to is that you guys take things way too seriously.







Mateship

Mates Mateship is different from friendship. It means more than that. In Australia mateship is not just the expression of being one's friend, but being loyal to one's friend. You stick by your mates, no matter what. If they are in a bit of strife or under fire with criticism, you stick up for them. If your mate needs a helping hand, you give them that helping hand, and then enjoy a beer with 'em afterwards. Having moved to America, I still keep in touch with my mates back home. And when I visit home, we always without fail catch up for a few beers. It is almost like a lifelong friendship. American teenagers might be familiar with this, when they say, "my friends are like my family". That is exactly what mateship is like; but it lasts through adulthood. It stems from our growth of a nation; and also from the closeness the diggers (soldiers) had during wartime.







ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day Speaking of wartime, Australians have a very different view of military than Americans do. In America, great national and patriotic pride is placed in their troops; in a very visual sense. American flags, slogans of "support our troops", and so on. Australians also have this great pride in our troops, but it is less visual, and more of a sobering reflection. This culminates in a national holiday called ANZAC Day, a veterans day that gets its name from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. Made up of soldiers nicknamed Diggers, the ANZACs fought in World War I; and were on the front of Gallipoli; a battle during the war that had a profound effect on the shaping of our culture. It was a brutal and bloody campaign, with many major losses of young men on both sides. Yes, we have pride in our troops; but it remains within the range of reflection upon those who lost their lives in battle - and with great respect to those who survived and came home. As written in 1914 by Laurence Binyon in his poem FOR THE FALLEN:







VB

Victoria Bitter I hate to break it to you, guys, but Foster's is not Australian for beer. Foster's is Australian for "this beer is crap, so we will send it overseas to the US and keep the good stuff for ourselves". Over recent history, it would seem that the most popular beer that Aussies keep coming back to is VB, short for Victoria Bitter. Strong, and bitter, it stomps all over the Budweisers and Coors of America; and any of the other lolly water you guys refer to as "beer". If you want real beer, go to Australia, and crack open a VB.







Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil, fronted by Peter Garrett Aussie rock has a special place in our culture. While we have great respect and pride for the bands that made it big in the United States and worldwide (such as AC/DC, INXS, the Bee Gees, Men at Work, Jet, etc.), there are a few bands that have not only successfully represented Australian culture through their music, but consolidated it and helped shaped it further. One of these bands was Midnight Oil, fronted by activist (and now politician) Peter Garrett. The band had their early origins in the 1970's; but became very successful in the late 1980's and beyond. With the ferocious and uncompromising stand on national and international issues - be they political or environmental; in the journey of their music they helped bring awareness on several issues important to Aussies. Perhaps their most well-known example of this is their 1987 song Beds are Burning from the album Diesel and Dust. The song (and the album) focuses on the struggles faced to this day by Australian Aborigines.







Meat Pies

Meat Pies...  In the USA?  Click the pic to buy some Meat Pies at Australian Products Co. The great Aussie Meat Pie is something I miss from my homeland. Basically speaking, it is a hand sized pie containing meat and gravy; and often eaten with tomato sauce (that is what you blokes call ketchup). It's considered a symbolic part of Australian culture, and if you ever visit the land down under and not have one - then you have not had a true Aussie experience. They are often eaten by fans watching an Aussie Rules Footy game - real football with no protective armor like you Americans... I told you we were hard-asses...







Slim Dusty

Slim Dusty If Midnight Oil helped shape Australian culture in the world of rock music, then it was Slim Dusty who did the same from the perspective of Australian country music. I have never been a big fan of country music; but I will say this: Aussie country music is far different from what Americans see as country music. It has less flair, less smooth edges... it's grittier and down to the point. Slim Dusty was a representative of this - and he was a hard working musician that brought his music all around the country. He is best known for his songs Duncan, and The Pub With No Beer.







Originality with "Cussing"

Bugger me I quickly discovered when I moved to the United States that I had to watch my mouth. For some reason, many Americans have this adhesion to a policy that the good old f-word (read: FUCK) comes from the realm of bad language. I disagree, I think there are far more horrible words and names people use; but that's another discussion for another time. Back home in Australia, we do watch our language in certain settings where it may not be acceptable... but where it is deemed to be fine, we use swearing as punctuation. In fact, the most taboo word in cussing (the almighty dirty C-word. Yes. That C-word), is seen as offensive - but is also often used as a term of endearment between male mates. It is a part of our culture, but what's even more interesting is the creative array of swearing colloquialisms we come up with and use. Examples include "bored shitless", "map of Tassie", "he stands out like a shag on a rock", "he's as useful as tits on a bull", and "root rat". Don't know what they mean? You can find out what the definitions are at this site. Oh, and by the way, the next video is NSFW...







The Republic Movement

Australia is a part of the British Commonwealth, and has been since English colonization. This aspect of our status is still represented by our flag, which still portrays the Union Jack


The Australian Flag

Over recent decades, there has been a strong push by many Australians that it should be time to stand tall individually, and become an independent republic. There have been numerous debates on it; and the question of whether we should become one has become a big part of our cultural trends over the last 10 years or so. Personally, I think it will be an inevitable development eventually; but for the time being the debate still rages on between republicans and monarchists back home. Some supportive of the movement have proposed some new Australian flag designs. Here are some of them:


The Australian Flag

The Australian Flag

The Australian Flag



Mandawuy Yunupingu

Mandawuy Yunupingu Yunupingu is probably better well known by some Americans as the Aboriginal lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of the band Yothu Yindi. The band's 1991 song, Treaty, experienced some success in America; but more notably back home in Australia. Yunupingu is not only a musician though - he is also a teacher and community leader; who has worked very hard to promote Reconciliation between Aboriginal Australians and White Australians. In 1992 he was named as Australian of the Year for his efforts, and is well known for his statement: "Racism is a disease in society. We're all equal. I don't care what their colour is, or religion. Just as long as they're human beings they're my buddies."







Hoges

Paul Hogan Including Paul Hogan in this list was inevitable; but I want to point out that by talking about Hoges (as we lovingly refer to him) here, I am talking before he did Crocodile Dundee. While the Dundee films were good, they dealt with the already stereotypical aspects of Australian culture and tradition (kangaroos, crocs, outback, etc). Prior to Crocodile Dundee, he had his own comedy television show in Australia during the late seventies and early eighties. This era in Australia was somewhat of a renaissance of the Aussie culture; Paul Hogan epitomized this on Australian TV, and the culture benefited from it as well. None expressed this Aussie culture better than his regular skits of "Hoges and Strop" - two Aussie mates hanging out together. However, Paul Hogan once said that his favorite character to play was Leo Wanker - and here he is:







Aboriginal Flag

Designed by Harold Thomas in 1971, the Aboriginal Flag represents Aboriginal Australians as a symbol of their rich culture and history. The black represents the people on the land, and the dark skies of night. The red represents the land, and the ochre used in Aboriginal Art - and also the blood of Aboriginal Australians during fighting with early white settlers. The yellow circle represents the sun; the renewer of life.


The Aboriginal Flag

The Aboriginal Australians are a very significant part of Australian culture. I am sorry to say it, but our indigenous Aussies were very poorly treated by the White Fellas that invaded their land. In fact, the policies that were placed upon the Aborigines were absolutely reprehensible. Things have become better in recent years, though there is a long way to go. Further steps towards reconciliation between Aboriginal Australia and White Australia must be made; and more political work has to be done with the issues of health care and education.

The future is looking bright though. The long standing traditions and culture of Aboriginals is very strong in Australia through The Dreaming, their art, and their music. I'm not trying to paint too rosy a picture here, because there is still some racism towards Aboriginal Australians even now, but it is not as prevalent or as bigoted as it seems to range in the United States. I believe there is a lot that the entire world could learn from Aboriginal culture.







Vegemite on toast

Vegemite on toast This is the staple of every Australian citizen. I can remember being a little bloke eating Vegemite sandwiches, Vegemite on toast, Vegemite on crackers, and so on. I buy Vegemite online here in the States just so I can feel like I am back at home. You haven't had a real Aussie experience until you taste Vegemite. I dare you to try this. If you ever have the opportunity, make some toast, and spread a little Vegemite on it. Then eat it. Go on. Eat all of it. If you can get through it, you're as tough as a traditional hard-assed Australian like me. & do not for a minute think that just because you don't like the taste that "it is weird" - you Yanks are the ones that put peanut butter in chocolate... now that's weird.







So there you have it. There's more to Australia than kangaroos, crocodiles, Sydney, and the Outback. But do not think because we swear a lot and we're hard asses from eating Vegemite that we are an unfriendly lot. Far from it: we are a very laid-back and friendly group. If you ever head down there for vacation, you will find that Aussies will go out of their way to make you feel at home - yes, you heard that right: we won't even hold that chimp George W. Bush against you Americans =)

In all seriousness, if you do ever get the chance to take a holiday down under, I strongly recommend that you check out Perth, Western Australia where I am from. All the tourists mainly go to Sydney, Melbourne and/or the red centre. They miss out the other half of the country. So check it out.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to fire up the Barbie, rip the scabs off a few tinnies, and drop my guts.

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