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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CDC study says at least 1 in 4 teen girls has STD

CHICAGO —
At least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease, or more than 3 million teens, according to the first study of its kind in this age group.

A virus that causes cervical cancer is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection in teen girls aged 14 to 19, while the highest overall prevalence is among black girls — nearly half the blacks studied had at least one STD. That rate compared with 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens, the study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Among girls who admitted ever having sex, the rate was 40 percent. While some teens define sex as only intercourse, other types of intimate behavior including oral sex can spread some infections.

For many, the numbers likely seem “overwhelming because you’re talking about nearly half of the sexually experienced teens at any one time having evidence of an STD,” said Dr. Margaret Blythe, an adolescent medicine specialist at Indiana University School of Medicine and head of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on adolescence.

But the study highlights what many doctors who treat teens see every day, Blythe said.
Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC’s division of STD prevention, said the results are the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls. He said they likely reflect current prevalence rates.

“High STD rates among young women, particularly African-American young women, are clear signs that we must continue developing ways to reach those most at risk,” Douglas said.

The CDC’s Dr. Kevin Fenton said given that potentially severe effects of STDs in women include infertility and cervical cancer, “screening, vaccination and other prevention strategies for sexually active women are among our highest public health priorities.”

The study by CDC researcher Dr. Sara Forhan is an analysis of nationally representative data on 838 girls who participated in a 2003-04 government health survey.

The results were prepared for release Tuesday at a CDC conference in Chicago on preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Four common diseases were examined — human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18 percent of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4 percent; trichomoniasis, 2.5 percent; and herpes simplex virus, 2 percent.

Blythe said the results are similar to previous studies examining rates of those diseases individually.

HPV can cause genital warts but often has no symptoms. A vaccine targeting several HPV strains recently became available. Douglas said it likely has not yet had much impact on HPV prevalence rates in teen girls.

Chlamydia and trichomoniasis can be treated with antibiotics. The CDC recommends annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women under age 25. It also recommends the three-dose HPV vaccine for girls aged 11-12 years, and catch-up shots for females aged 13 to 26.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has similar recommendations.
Douglas said screening tests are underused in part because many teens don’t think they’re at risk, but also, some doctors mistakenly think, ‘“Sexually transmitted diseases don’t happen to the kinds of patients I see.’”

Blythe said some doctors also are reluctant to discuss STDs with teen patients or offer screening because of confidentiality concerns, knowing parents would have to be told of the results.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports confidential teen screening, she said.

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20 Stress Fixes for Better Sleep

Target the Enemy!

When stress interrupts your sleep on a nightly basis, it sets you up for a chronic insomnia that can send you sliding down the rabbit's hole toward sleeping pills, alcohol, and chocolate cake at night and a zillion cups of coffee during the day. Here's how to step back from that precipice.

Target the enemy. "Every night a couple of hours before bed, sit down and make a list of all the issues, problems, and things you have to deal with," says Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of Kettering Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. "Next to each item, write a solution or plan." If you're mad at your mother-in-law, for example, the solution could be to call her and talk it out.


Even if it's not something you want to do, write down your ideas for dealing with each stressor you've listed, urges Dr. Arand. Then mull the solutions over.


When you're ready for bed, put the list by the bedroom door. That way, if thoughts of your problems arise as you're trying to sleep, you can tell yourself, "I've got a plan and I'll work on it tomorrow," says Dr. Arand. The reassuring presence of your plan by the door will give it a concrete reality that will allow you to shift your mind to more peaceful things.


Put your work in perspective.
A Canadian health agency that tracks health-related statistics reported recently that on-the-job stress has reached alarming levels. They point to the fact that the workplace no longer has any boundaries and that work has spread into every corner of your life. It's gotten to the point that 52 percent of employees take work home -- almost double the number who did in 1990. What's more, 69 percent of employees check their work e-mail from home, 59 percent check voice mail after hours, 30 percent accept work-related faxes at home, and 29 percent keep their cell phones on at all times.


Not surprisingly, 46 percent feel this work-related intrusion is a stressor, and 44 percent report "negative spillover" onto their families. A poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 52 percent of American workers said that work interfered with their responsibilities to their families. The problem, however, is not just that work is intruding into familial life, it's that it's actually interfering with the most effective buffers to workplace stress available.


A joint study of 314 workers conducted by the University of South Australia and the University of Rotterdam found that workers with higher levels of active leisurely activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and social activity, were able not only to bounce back from workplace stress better than their always-on-the-job coworkers but also sleep significantly better than others.

Money, Mobile Phones, and the Miracle Nap

Take charge of your gadgets. Although each new, more multifaceted electronic device that appears in the marketplace promises to make the logistics of our lives a snap, they may actually tie us into too many never-ending webs.

First we have to pay for them. Then we have to master how to use them. Next we have to show them off by contacting our network of business associates and friends. They will, of course, respond in kind. Being able to keep in touch with the kids is a boon to working parents. Allowing the office to track you down after hours is not. We need to keep the two things separate, save discrete times in the day to receive and answer business e-mails, and learn to screen the after 6:00 P.M. cell phone calls. That goes for the whole rest of the evening as well. It also wouldn't hurt if everyone in the family turned off their devices for a stress-free dinner. And under no circumstances should you check your e-mail right before bed.

Do with less. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 4 of the top 10 stressors we experience are related to money -- how we get it and how we spend it. Given that, doesn't it make sense that if we want less and are content with less -- smaller houses, fewer gadgets, and simpler forms of transportation -- our stress levels will go down?

Perhaps that applies to our career choices as well. Do you really want to work yourself to death to be the woman in charge of the world? Or will just being in charge of a small portion of it make you happy and let you sleep? A recent poll of nearly 2,000 Americans reveals that 22 percent declined a promotion or refused to seek one because they thought the job would be too stressful.


Give a nod to a nap.
It's doubly unfortunate that stress makes it hard to get to sleep because, chemically speaking, the antidote to stress is sleep, says Sara Mednick, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained research scientist at the University of California at San Diego and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. That's because when you're asleep, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop and your levels of growth hormone -- cortisol's opposite number -- significantly rise.


Unfortunately, if you're getting the typical working woman's six hours of sleep (or less) a night, you're sleep deprived on a chemical level -- your cortisol's too high and your growth hormone never gets enough time on the streets to hit its stride.


There is a way to tamp down the cortisol and get a hit of growth hormone during the day, however. And that's by taking a nap.


It's true that several naps during the day, particularly after dinner, will reduce your ability to fall sleep at your usual 11:00 P.M. bedtime, but studies show that one nap of up to 90 minutes between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 P.M. will not interfere, says Dr. Mednick. In fact, it will reenergize anyone who's not dead.


Begin orienting your body to afternoon naps with a 20-minute period of quiet relaxation that occurs at the same time every day, says Dr. Mednick. If you have a sofa in your office, all the better, but you can create a temporary nap place with a chair and an improvised ottoman. You may want to keep a pillow and an alarm clock at work, too, for nap time. Some cities even have sleeping pod franchises where you can rent a comfortable sleeping chair for 20-minute naps for less than $15.But what about your job? "If you can take a 20-minute break to run to Starbucks for coffee," says Dr. Mednick, "you can find 20 minutes for a nap." If your employer objects, send him or her to Dr. Mednick. She will be happy to show him data from NASA studies demonstrating that a 26-minute nap boosts on-the-job performance by 34 percent.

What Raises Your Stress Levels?

Recognize yourself. How do you deal with stress? Pig out on chocolate mousse? Skip meals? Refill your wineglass a couple of times after dinner? All of these classic stress responses actually make falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult. But if you realize that you're one of those who responds to stress in a way that will sabotage your sleep, plan ahead of time how you're going to handle something you just know is going to raise your stress level.

If you know the big year-end sales conference is coming up next week and you've got some pretty lofty goals to achieve, for example, get into bed an hour early every night this week, which will give your body a biochemical boost of stress-proofing growth hormone to ride into the week.



If you know you're going to see your ex when he drops off your daughter Saturday evening, take time out and meditate for 20 minutes before he's supposed to arrive.


Or if you're planning to attend a huge wedding and you know that hanging out with a few hundred people raises your stress level, find a nice quiet spot at the gathering -- outdoors under a tree, indoors in an upstairs bathroom, out in your car -- where you can take a deep breath, close your eyes for 10 minutes, and enjoy the peace of being alone.

Check out comedy central. If you like to unwind in front of the television each evening, tune in to one of the channels that offers a few laughs. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine asked 16 people to watch a funny videotape while the researchers measured various biochemicals related to stress. The result? When study participants watched the tape, their levels of stress hormones dropped significantly and levels of the antistress growth hormone rose 87 percent.

Cut yourself some slack. If you know a situation will add to your stress level, avoiding it when you're not sleeping may well be the healthiest thing you can do. One woman who worked the counter in a bakery found herself tossing and turning every night as she thought about all her stressors -- her kid, the mortgage, her husband's health, the whole nine yards.

But one morning the lack of sleep, her stressors, and the fact that she had to deal with customers niggling back and forth between caraway or sesame seeds put her right on the edge. So she swapped places with a baker in the back of the store. The baker -- not unhappy with the change at all -- waited on customers while the stressed-out counterwoman peacefully kneaded dough.


That night, the counterwoman slept well.



Plant an herb garden.
Line your bedroom windowsill with lavender plants, pinch off some leaves before bed, and slip them into your pillowcase. Studies show that the effects of herbal fragrances such as lavender reduce stress levels. In one study people exposed to lavender showed an increase in the type of brain waves that suggest increased relaxation.


Take fido to bed.
In one analysis researchers evaluated the heart health of 240 couples, half of whom owned a pet. Those couples with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels when exposed to stressors than the couples who did not have pets -- a sign that stress is less likely to be affecting their sleep!


Connect.
Studies at UCLA reveal that women's friendships and relationships with their children can block stress hormones. Conducted by researcher Shelly Taylor, Ph.D., the "tend and befriend" studies, as they are called, indicate that when women are stressed, they tend to their children and seek out other women. Possibly an ancient survival mechanism that allowed women to band together to protect their children, the studies show that when women tend to their children and hang out with friends, they increase levels of a biochemical called oxytocin, which blocks cortisol, the body's chief stress chemical. The result? Low-stressed women are more likely to sleep at night than their wired male counterparts.


Forgive the past.
Anger toward someone who has wronged you can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that can haunt you through the night. To prevent that effect, think about how you were hurt, your response, and how you feel right now. Then think about whether or not there's anything in the background of the person who hurt you that explains what he or she did. If there is, put yourself in their shoes -- and see if you can't forgive them. If you can, you'll sleep like a baby.

More Tips for the Hurried

Catch up. If you're always running late, sit down with a pencil and paper and see how you're actually allotting your time. Say it takes 40 minutes to get to work. Are you leaving your home on time? You may very well be able to de-stress life a bit just by being realistic. And if you can't find the time for all the activities that are important, maybe you're trying to do too much.

Get physical. Burn off a rush of stress with a 15-minute walk. Studies show that those who regularly exercise sleep better than those who don't.

Find spiritual friends. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington found that those who routinely hang out with others who share their religious beliefs were less likely to be affected by stress when confronted with major stressors.

Dilute the effects of stressful people. One example: If you don't get along with your father-in-law but don't want to make an issue of it, invite other in-laws at the same time you invite him. Having other people around will absorb some of the pressure you would normally feel.

Ditch the multitasking. Can't remember what you did all day or what you accomplished? Boy, that'll jack up your stress level! Unfortunately, multitasking only looks as if you're accomplishing a lot. Studies suggest that it actually impairs memory and performance.

Try doing only one thing at a time for a few days. You'll be able to remember what you've accomplished each day and -- if you've done a good job -- feel relaxed about your work at the end of the day.

Take some time to say thanks. Take 10 minutes every morning to sit down, close your eyes, and give thanks for the blessings in your life. Name each one, and hold the purpose in your thoughts. The sense of gratitude you'll experience will set a serene tone for the entire day.

Choose not to get angry. Being angry not only revs your stress motor, it makes you feel bad. So next time someone cuts into your lane on the freeway, recognize your instinctive surge of adrenaline and then decide not to let it control you. Instead, smile and say to yourself, "I'm not going to let someone like that affect how I feel." Amazingly, it works.

Cover the basics. As you work on bringing your stressors under control, pay attention to the basic framework that sleep experts say will set your body's circadian rhythms for nighttime sleep.

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Why We Fantasize: The Science of Sex

If you want to enliven your next dinner party, bring out this question: what was the subject of your last sexual fantasy?

Forks and jaws might drop, but only because almost everyone in attendance will be recreating the scene last played in their head, or claiming that they don’t fantasize, or claiming to only fantasize about their partner. However, chances are everyone at the table (assuming you’re not dining at a senior center) has erotic and illicit fantasies, and does so on a normal basis. But rarely, if ever, do we want to talk about it.

Titillating Taboo
Sexually fantasies are something we rarely discuss, even among good friends. Our deepest sexual thoughts are often considered too weird, perverse, or just plain wrong to be shared amongst polite company; fantasizing might indicate there is something wrong with our relationships, or worse, ourselves. But research indicates that having sexual fantasies is an absolutely normal, if not necessary, part of being a sexual being. It’s not having them that is aberrant.

Large research studies indicate that almost everyone fantasizes and almost none of us talk about it. While researching his book, Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head: The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies, Brett Kahr, a psychologist based in the UK, anonymously surveyed 18,000 people in Britain and America. He asked them questions about the frequency and content of their fantasies and found that nine out of ten people have sexual fantasies. What’s more, he believes the remaining tenth person has them too, but is too embarrassed to admit it.

Even those of us that admit to fantasizing are reluctant to discuss what it is that gets us going. Ninety-five percent of the research subjects had never detailed their fantasies to another person. While some fantasies might be better left undisclosed—such as revealing to a new partner that you think about an ex while having sex with him—we don’t even talk about our imaginative sexual escapades with friends. Erotic fantasy is taboo.

Wine Me, Dine Me, 69 Me
Many people suffer shame and guilt about the perverse nature of their fantasies, even though what we think of as “perverse” may actually be quite common. Though a typical and unremarkable fantasy for both men and women is dreaming about sex with their current partner, Kahr also found that bondage, incest, sadomasochism, and voyeurism are also part of the varied fantasy life of “normal” people.

Shame regarding sexual fantasies may stem from earlier notions about the role of fantasy in our lives. In the 1900s, some psychoanalysts interpreted “kinky” sexual fantasies as being caused by “kinky” desires or wishes. Strange fantasies were often treated as pathology.

But we now know that fantasies are no more pathologic than masturbation. They allow us to think about doing something we would never actually do, or about things we’ve done before and would like to do again. (An ex-flame, for instance.) They allow us to sleep with celebrities. (You and me, Robert Downey Jr., just you and me.) Furthermore, fantasy may help our sex lives by increasing desire and arousal; those who fantasize frequently also tend to have more sex. And cerebral foreplay has certainly helped millions (billions? trillions?) of masturbations end in success.

Safe Sex
Kahr also found that sometimes fantasy is a way of putting a positive spin on a negative childhood memory. For instance, he describes a happily married woman whose fantasies help turn memories of sexual abuse by an older brother into an arousing experience. In this way, fantasy can be a coping mechanism. However, even if you fantasize about abuse, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a survivor of abuse or want it to happen. Women may fantasize about being dominated by a stranger, but we are able to control every one of their actions. Our minds are a safe place to try new and risky deeds without ever getting hurt. In the book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, Michael Bader writes, “Safety is the concept that functions as the key to unlocking the meaning of our fantasies.” Being bound and gagged by a dominating partner may not seem safe, but somewhere in the unconscious, submission is desired.

All this is somewhat reassuring. Rather than feeling guilty about thinking about another person while having sex with your partner, we can see it as a way to help spice up the sex, without committing any transgressions. Just keep it in your head.

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Cancer Myths Debunked: Antioxidant Supplements Protect You From Cancer

Ask 10 random women on the street today if antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C help protect them against cancer and 9.5 of them will answer: Yes.

It’s not their fault; it has been drilled into them by countless magazines, product ads, and television commercials. Vitamin C, pomegranate, resveratrol, coffeeberry: Eat them! Apply them to your face! Add them to your cereal! Surely soaking up bad free radicals must protect you against cancer, no?

Well, if you are standing right now, then I suggest you sit. I have bad news. There is little if any good data to show that taking antioxidant supplements protect you against against cancer. In fact, the best data seems to suggest just the opposite — it increases your risk for cancer. Are you sitting now?

A study last year published in the Journal of Nutrition found that women who took a vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc supplement (thats one mega antioxidant pill) developed skin cancer at a rate of 1.3%.

In contrast, the women who were not taking the supplement developed skin cancer at a rate of only 0.7%; this was significantly less.

In particular, the study found that the rate of melanoma was 0.3% in women on the antioxidant pills and 0.08% in women not taking the pills. Again, significantly higher in the women taking antioxidants.

This is not the first study to show an increased risk of cancer in patients taking antioxidant supplements. A large trial of smokers several years ago showed that those taking high does of vitamin A actually had increased risk of lung cancer compared to those not taking vitamin A. A different study showed that patients taking vitamin E had increased mortality as compared to those not taking vitamin E. Another study has shown that taking dietary supplements of antioxidants leads to increased risk of colon cancer. Several aggregated analyses (studies that look at all published studies together) have concluded that beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E all increase the risk of death, while vitamin C seems to have no effect either way.

How can this possibly be?

It is plausible that cancer cells are at increased risk of damage from oxidative stress compared to your normal, healthy cells. In other words, taking antioxidants might ironically be protecting your cancer cells, allowing them to survive more than anything else.

It is likely that because cancer develops from long term damage to your cells, as in the case of skin and lung cancer, that trying to limit damage for a relatively short period of time by taking antioxidants like vitamin E or vitamin A probably has little or no effect. It is analogous to a car that is already rusted when you apply a protective sealant to it. The damage has already been done. Just as the sealant is protecting the already rusted car, the antioxidant is protecting the already cancerous cells.

Here are some recommendations that have stood the test of time and clinical study in preventing cancer:

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables every day (in contrast to supplements).
  • Limit your intake of simple sugary carbohydrates such as white bread, chips, etc.
  • Exercise every day and keep your weight down.
  • Protect yourself from the sun with broad spectrum sunscreens and protective clothing.
  • If you decide to take a daily supplement, the only vitamin that I recommend taking everyday is vitamin D. There is good evidence that vitamin D supplements can be protective against certain cancers. Taking 1,000 mg of vitamin D3 a day is the best way (much better than sun exposure) for elevating your vitamin D levels. More on this in a later post.
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9 Ways To Jumpstart Your Writing Goal

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Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it's so hurtful to think about writing.

~Heather Armstrong
In the past I conducted a writing project called Gotta Get Goals where people blogged about the life goals that they just had to get done before their time was up. Not surprisingly, the majority of the people said that writing a best selling novel was high up on their goals list.

This tells me that a lot of people can relate to the desire to create beautiful writing, while a lot of people lack the discipline to put the pen to the paper.

Like most goals, accomplishment comes with investments in time, in brain power, and consistent commitment. Here I will discuss some specific things you can do to get a jump start on developing a writing habit. If writing is not for you, think of a life goal that you have and then build a plan for it.

Let's now take a look at some writing-specific habit making techniques.

Building The Writing Habit
  1. A set time. Each and every morning I wake up at 6am and begin writing. They say the first waking hour is the Golden Hour, where you concentrate and experience the most creativity. I think this is true for me, and it can be true for you even if you aren't a morning person. Once you are in the habit of writing at a certain time, that is your Golden Time.

  2. A set place. Since I do my writing right when I wake up, it's pretty much always done in my bedroom, at my writing desk, on my laptop. While I will occasionally write from other locations or on different computers, this is home base (literally). The purpose of this is to continually trigger my mind into a creative flow. You might want to have a completely separate computer just for your writing in order to build an even stronger connection with writing and this apparatus.

  3. Writing Utensils. I do 95% of my writing on my Dell Inspiron 6000 machine. It may not be luxurious, but it gets the job done. My program of choice for all initial writing happens to be Dark Room. It is a very basic program that takes up the whole screen and forces concentration on the written word.

  4. Idea Lists. An important part of stimulating creativity is the act of bringing plentiful ideas to the writing table. To do this it is important to carry a Moleskin or a Voice Recorder with you throughout the day. You might be in a very random place when you get your million dollar idea and you'll want to capture every nuance of it instead of letting it get forgotten by trusting your memory.

  5. Kill Distractions. I hope no one skimming this list is going to throw a hatchet at the first person to knock on the door while they're writing. On a serious note, it's very important to preserve quiet in a distraction free writing space because it takes several minutes to enter a creative flow state after a disturbance. If it takes you 15 minutes to get into maximum flow, and you get distracted every 20 minutes, you aren't realizing your full writing potential as you throw yourself into the writing world.

  6. Quit Quitting. Get used to quitting all those self-limiting beliefs that say you have nothing to write about, no fresh ideas, and cannot properly articulate the language. Forget that. Put the pen to the paper, and write anything that comes to mind, and see where that takes you.

  7. Sit In Dark and Silence. Create a time where you can just sit with your eyes closed for 15 minutes and think. You can concentrate on the stillness and block out all ideas or try asking a question of someone that has all the answers in the world. You'll be surprised to find that your mind will generate the answers for you, then get up and write.

  8. Ideas, Not Grammar. I know that my ideas are worth their weight in gold, but my grammar might not always be on top of the class. If that is the case with you, don't worry about it; write however you write. If it's a serious piece of work, the editor will take care of it for you. Otherwise your purpose should be to make the ideas as understandable as possible, and nothing more.

  9. Revisit. Contrary to number 8 that says 'Write and don't worry about it', a great writing habit is to revisit your work to revise. On a second run, especially after a day break from the work, you get to see it with fresh eyes, and a fresh state, that can word things in a completely different way. This is where you make your ideas even more understandable.
What have you done to kick start your long term writing goals? Let us all know in the comments. Who knows, your words of wisdom may help the next person that stumbles into this article!

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How to Make the Time for Your Personal Goals


“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” - Henry Ford

One of the biggest challenges in trying to accomplish any personal goal is that we tend to put them off until tomorrow, or next week, in favor of more pressing matters at work and home.

Unfortunately, tomorrow never gets here.

If you want to accomplish a goal, you have to start on it today. Finding the time to take the steps necessary is the problem, of course, as we all lead busy and complicated lives, and when we do have time, we’re too tired to do anything that requires energy or thought. We want to veg out in front of the TV, or take a nap.

So how do you find the time for your personal goals? That’s what reader Trin recently asked:

How to do you honestly make the time? I’m not even sure where to begin with my own goals, as I already feel I have to sacrifice something important to take care of me. I would really love your opinion, as a father of 6 children, what activities were cut out of your daily life in order to insert your personal goals?

I’m not going to be able to give an easy answer. There isn’t a single little trick I can give you to find huge blocks of time where you can pursue all the goals you’ve ever dreamed of. It takes work, it takes commitment, it takes motivation … but it can be done, without a doubt. I’ve done it — despite being married with six kids, and until recently working two jobs, I found time to train for a marathon, to work on eliminating my debt, to eat healthier, to declutter and become organized, to wake earlier, and more.

How? Again, there was no one step that did it for me, but a series of them that add up over time:

  1. One goal at a time. Often the problem is that we try to take on too many goals at once. We have a list of things we want to accomplish, spanning the spectrum from gardening to learning Italian to getting in shape. It can be overwhelming, and because of that we never start. Or instead, perhaps we start with a head full of steam, but then run out of steam quickly, because it’s extremely difficult to maintain focus and energy (the two key ingredients in accomplishing a goal) for too many goals at once. Even two goals at once is difficult, if you aren’t already running on autopilot for one of those goals. For now, focus on one goal at a time. Once that’s on autopilot, you can go to the next one. Figure on at least a month per goal.
  2. Make sure you really want it. It’s not enough to say, “It would be nice to learn French” or “It would be cool to do yoga every morning”. It has to be something you really want. Ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal, and how much you want it. Figure out your motivations. That’s important to do early on, or you won’t make time for it.
  3. Make it your top priority. We all have multiple things to focus on in our lives, from school or work to family to errands to various goals and commitments and hobbies and civic activities. If we put all these focuses before our One Goal, we won’t ever find the time for our goal. There’s only so much time in the day. At some point, we’ve got to prioritize, and if we make our goal our top priority,we’ll make the time.
  4. Reduce your commitments. I’m a big fan of simplifying your life — and one of the first things you should do when simplifying is to make a short list of the 4-5 things that are most important to you, that you want to make time for, that you love and that bring you joy. I’ve said this before, but just to give you an example, my top things are spending time with my family, writing, reading, and running. Everything else is non-essential. Once you’ve made your short list, you should reduce some of the non-essential commitments. Is being a member of the Harley-Davidson club no longer bringing you joy and fulfillment? Gracefully bow out. If you reduce at least a few commitments, you’ll now have room in your life for the things you want to do — including your personal goal.
  5. Keep it simple. It’s important not to make your personal goal too complicated. You don’t want to have a huge list of things to do in order to accomplish your goal. You’ll be overwhelmed. Instead, focus on a smaller sub-goal that will lead you to your bigger goal. If you have a goal to invest for retirement, for example, make your first goal simply to learn what you need to know about investing. Make your second goal to open the necessary account and transfer money. Then make it your goal to have regular, automatic contributions and not to touch those contributions. Another approach is to focus first on creating a habit that will get you to your goal. If your goal is getting in shape, for example, focus on forming the habit of walking each day (or running, or cycling, or whatever). Once you’ve formed that habit, focus on drinking only water. Then on eating fruits and veggies instead of junk snacks. And so on, until you’ve reached your goal.
  6. Stay focused. One of the most difficult things when it comes to achieving goals is maintaining your focus on that goal. It’s easy to become obsessed with something else, and when we lose focus, we suddenly stop making time for the goal. Instead, find ways to maintain that focus. Put a poster on your wall, or a printout on your fridge, or make your goal your computer desktop picture. Send yourself daily reminders. Tell others about it, in real life and on your blog, and have them ask you about it daily.
  7. Block off time. OK, this is a crucial step. Maybe it should be No. 1 on this list, but I felt it important to lay the foundation with the steps above first. But once you’ve laid that foundation, you absolutely must block off time to work on your goal. Whatever time works for you — first thing in the morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, right after work, late at night. Try to schedule a time when you won’t be interrupted by other “urgent” requests (meetings, calls, kids, etc.) and when you have good energy. For me, that’s in the morning, as mid-afternoons are times when other things come up to interrupt your schedule (especially when I worked in an office) and early evening (right after work for most people) I tend to get a bit tired. You have to find the right block of time. Designate no less than 30 minutes, although really an hour is much, much better. Two hours isn’t feasible for most people, but your schedule might be different.
  8. Make it your most important appointment. That block of time you just scheduled has to be given the utmost priority. There are appointments we take seriously — a doctor’s appointment, or an important meeting — and we will do everything we can to ensure that we make those appointments and are not late for them. “Sorry, I have a doctor’s appointment at that time — can’t take the conference call until a couple hours later.” But when it comes to our time for working on our personal goal, we will often push it back because of other pressing things. Don’t let that happen. Make that block of time on your schedule become sacrosanct, and never let it be violated.
  9. Show that you’re serious. Be fully committed. Tell as many people as possible about your goal, and the scheduled block of time that is sacrosanct. Write down your goal, and be specific. If you can’t even write it down, you’re not serious. Then write out a plan, with dates and actions. Think about obstacles, and write down your strategy for overcoming them. The plan shows you’re serious.
  10. Find your time wasters. In every person’s life, there are things that can easily be cut out without making much of a difference. Things that waste our time without giving us much benefit. Things such as TV, video games, fun stuff online, going to bars, etc. If you can identify those time wasters, you can free up time for working on your goals. Remember, if it’s not on your short list (No. 4 above), you can eliminate it.
  11. Make it a part of your daily or weekly routine. This is important to keep the goal going for a long period of time. If it’s a goal you can complete in a week, you don’t need to do this step. But the most worthwhile goals are ones that take time to accomplish, and for those, you’ll need to make it part of your routine. Some goals will need to be daily — say, drinking water, or exercise, or perhaps decluttering. Find a time in your daily routine where you will always do this activity, and don’t let yourself drop it. Put it immediately after something that’s already firmly ingrained in your routine — say, showering or brushing your teeth, or arriving at work — so that you won’t forget to do it. For other goal activities, a weekly schedule would be better — say, making a weekly savings deposit or debt payment, or a weekly yoga class — put this on your calendar and have a reminder sent to you so you don’t forget it.

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back

Original here

Teachers mull ending homework for pupils

Homework should be scrapped for primary school children because the pressure to complete assignments makes pupils "unhappy and anxious", say teachers.

  • Failure seen in ban on faith school interviews
  • Funding threat to private schools
  • A Royal Commission should also investigate why so many children dislike school, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said.

    Child struggling with homework
    For some children the stress of homework can lead them to resent school and fuel discipline problems

    The union, which represents 160,000 teachers, will debate a motion at its annual conference next week calling for homework to be abolished for younger children and cut back for teenagers.

    The move comes amid growing fears that children are being increasingly stressed by too much work too young.

    Pupils in England are the most tested in the western world and it is claimed that exposure to academic study - coupled with a reduction in play - may harm children's long-term development.

    Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: "I think a lot of homework is a waste of time. It puts a huge amount of stress, particularly on disadvantaged children from disadvantaged homes."


    Speaking ahead of the ATL conference in Torquay on Monday, she said that for many poorer children, who do not have access to books, computers and well-educated parents to help, homework can lead them to resent school and fuel discipline problems.

    "Middle-class children can go home and get help with their homework; disadvantaged children can't and then they get in trouble," she said. The union's motion will raise "deep concern" that an increase in homework leaves many children "unhappy and anxious".

    "Children should be able to explore, experiment and enjoy their learning without feeling pressurised," it says.

    "Homework has become an increasing pressure."

    A Royal Commission should be established to investigate why so many children feel unhappy and "to recommend a plan of action".

    The Department for Children, Schools and Families said teachers should not be discouraged from setting homework.

    "A good, well organised homework programme helps children and young people to develop the skills and attitudes they will need for successful, independent, lifelong learning," said a department spokesman.

    Original here





    The Ultimate Office Etiquette Guide


    If you’ve ever been sat at your desk, hard at work, trying to finish your report in time for that very important meeting with the Managing Director; you’ll know just how annoying it is to have the wacky office comedian come striding up to you in his Homer Simpson tie, wanting to play his new collection of stupid cell phone ringtones. Welcome to the dark and murky world of Office Etiquette.

    I actually made a big etiquette faux pas at my new employer just this week. I was well-groomed, well-dressed and I was polite, pleasant and smiling as I greeted my new co-workers. But as I sat down after making myself a cup of tea, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone in the office was looking at me like I’d just murdered their cat. I’d committed a cardinal office sin: never, ever make a drink just for yourself.

    So how do you know what the politics of your office are? Well, like the many different cultures and societies of other countries and continents, it varies from office to office. In England you could be hung, drawn and quartered for not making a round of tea for your colleagues. In Russia however, they’d be more upset if you forgot to slip a drop of vodka into their brew. For this very reason, we’ve created The Ultimate Office Etiquette Guide so that you never again make the mistake of taking a stapler without first asking for permission!

    General Office Etiquette

    While different offices have different policies, there are a few universal truths about etiquette that you need to be aware of at all times.

    • Ask before you borrow anything. There’s nothing worse than being branded the office thief because your stash of ‘borrowed’ rulers is discovered by the cleaning lady.
    • Wash your mug after you’ve used it. If you expect the cleaners to wash up for you, you’re going to be in for a big surprise. You might find your mug covered in mold and thick, congealed milk floating around the bottom. Clean it yourself.
    • Any release of bodily gases is highly frowned upon. Farting may have been okay back in High School, but you won’t be taken seriously if you perform a rendition of Flight Of The Bumble Bee through your ass.
    • Don’t fall asleep at your desk. And if you do, make sure you’re at a desk that faces away from everyone else and you don’t snore.
    • Open doors for your colleagues. You won’t do yourself any favors by letting the door close on the geeky guy from I.T while he’s carrying a computer tower and monitor into the office.

    Colleague Relationships

    It’s important to always be respectful of your colleagues and avoid burning your bridges with them. You never know when you may rely on their help to get you out of a tricky jam. Here are a few things you should be aware of:

    • There’s nothing more annoying that a ringing phone that goes unanswered. If you don’t want to answer your phone put it on silent or divert calls to your answerphone. Also, keep your cell phone on vibrate because if I hear another rendition of the Crazy Frog ring tone, I will kill someone.
    • Office politics is unavoidable. Don’t let people undermine you or draw you into arguments. Let your achievements do the talking for you and make sure that the right people are aware of what you have accomplished without you needing to brag about it.
    • If you’re going to take lunch at your desk, keep it simple. A sandwich is best. Don’t go bringing in a homemade spicy chicken and pasta dish that’s going to stink up the office and annoy people. On the lunch subject, make sure you don’t disturb people with work-related problems when they’re on their lunch. They won’t thank you for it and you’ll be repaid in kind at a later date.
    • Always offer to make tea and coffee for your colleagues. If you don’t chip in and help out with drink rounds and buying in the milk, you may find that your “World’s Best Guy” mug mysteriously disappears, never to be seen again. You’ll also be seen as the cheapskate who won’t stump up for a bottle of milk. Evil eyes and anonymous hate e-mail will surely ensue.
    • If you really must have sex with the insanely hot girl in Accounts; be a gentleman. If you love her and leave her, you better believe the office will be rife with talk about your lack of stamina and ‘pinky’ sized penis. You’ll look unprofessional to your bosses and, worse still, when an even hotter girl joins the Sales team, she’ll know about your indiscretions almost immediately and you’ll never have a chance with her.

    Verbal Communication

    The way you communicate with fellow employees is very important to your career. Get it wrong and you’ll be cast out into the abyss and moved to the office in the basement with no windows or heating. Here’s what you need to know about verbal office etiquette.

    • Although you may hate the idea of being formal, it is a necessity in the workplace. You’ll be speaking to people you’ve never met before, customers, other departments and so on. Answering the phone, “Yo, ’sup homie?” just isn’t going to cut it in the business world.
    • If someone gives you their name, remember it. Especially if you’re in a role where clients regularly come to the office. Using their name to address them throughout the meeting makes it more personalized and makes them feel more relaxed and willing to engage in conversation with you.
    • Leave the bad habits at home. Don’t swear and don’t chew gum when speaking to someone. Even over the phone. They can hear it and it is annoying.
    • Make sure you listen when people are speaking to you. Looking around and wondering what time you’re meeting the guys in the bar later while your boss briefs you on a new campaign is poor form and when you can’t remember what he’s said, you’ll look incompetent and unprofessional.
    • Over time you can reduce the formality, but for an initial meeting play it safe and keep conversation solely on work matters. You don’t want to be telling the I.T. Manager about the bedroom antics of the hot girl in Accounts.
    • End your meeting with a hearty handshake, thank them for their time and exchange business cards if necessary.

    Outside the office

    Office etiquette extends beyond the walls of your workplace and into any venue that involves work. This is where it gets tricky because, as they say, you should never mix business with pleasure. Apparently.

    • If you’ve got a business lunch, then get there on time. Leave early if you need to but do not be late because it isn’t a lunch per sé, it’s a meeting in an informal location.
    • Turn your phone off during any business lunch you go to. Nobody wants to look inconsiderate while taking a call during an important meeting.
    • Keep your greeting short and sweet with the aforementioned handshake. Proper business meeting etiquette allows for a few minutes of small talk but keep it simple. The weather, the latest football results and so on.
    • If you invited your guest to the lunch, you’re the one who should be paying for the meal. You can of course discuss splitting the bill when arranging the meeting but don’t leave it till the bill arrives as some people see this as a sign of professional weakness. Don’t forget to tip the restaurant staff.
    • When networking at business conferences you should make the first move to approach people wherever possible. Remember that first impressions count so dress to impress and keep the conversation formal.
    • You can build your business contacts by networking with the speakers at conferences. Do your research and find out who is speaking and what they are about. This will give you some good topics to discuss with them if you get the chance.
    • Set yourself a target to meet during a conference. Say, five new contacts through networking. Using the amazing etiquette tips you’ve learnt so far, it should be easy.
    • Don’t get too drunk at the office party! How many people have lost respect, pay rises and even their job from drunken antics over the years. Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation and avoid fornicating with the boss’ wife wherever possible.
    • Don’t moan and complain about the lack of direction in the business while enjoying a cocktail with the girl from Accounts. It will inevitably get back to someone senior and you’ll be the guy who cleans the toilets for the next 30 years.

    On top of these tips, you’ll need to be aware of the following as well:

    • There is always a ‘mother’ figure in the office who will sort out birthdays, collections and the office milk fund. When she asks for a donation to Jeff in Marketing who is leaving for pastures new, don’t make the mistake of thinking the donation is voluntary. If you don’t put a bit of money in there you can forget about ever getting a collection yourself and you will be branded as the office Scrooge for the rest of your professional career.
    • Most offices have some sort of Friday ‘ritual’. One office I worked in had a dress-down Friday where everyone came in jeans and t-shirt. The first time someone told me, I thought it was a hazing thing and so turned up on the Friday suited and booted as usual. Imagine my surprise when I saw the MD waltz into the office wearing a Nike tracksuit with matching sweatbands. Find out if your office has a Friday ritual so you don’t look a fool like I did. (Or was it the MD that looked the fool?)
    • Office etiquette is basically about communicating with people in a professional and formal environment. When it comes down to it, it’s about making the right impression and every office has a different environment and structure. If you have any thoughts and ideas on office etiquette, tips and tricks for business meetings or not getting too drunk at the Christmas party then leave a comment for everyone else to learn from. This guide will only become truly Ultimate when the community of readers have put across their thoughts.

      Original here

    Aptera - Aerodynamic Three Wheeler

    The American company Accelerated Composites aims to keep the design of its Aptera concept car even closer to an aerodynamic ideal shape. The company claims to be able to achieve a drag coefficient of less than 0.06 using a highly unconventional aerodynamic body shape. Combined with a lightweight composite construction, the Aptera should achieve a fuel consumption as low as 0.7 litres per one hundred kilometres (336 mpg US).

    The styling of the Aptera concept car shows more resemblance with airplane than with car design. The car has a wide front with two separate front wheels and a tapered rear section with one, fully enclosed rear wheel. Because of the very low drag, the Aptera is equipped with movable fins on the back to create active aerodynamic stabilization at high speeds.

    The Aptera will be equipped with a parallel hybrid-electric propulsion system.
    The first prototype of the Aptera is under constructed during 2006. Accelerated Composites is planning production in Southern California, which could start as early as 2008.

    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    DRIVE SYSTEM: Parallel hybrid-electric + combustion engine
    POWER OUTPUT
    Diesel engine: 9 kW (12 hp)
    Electric motor: 18.6 kW (25 hp)
    FUEL: Diesel
    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 0.7 l / 100 km (335 mpg US)
    MAXIMUM SPEED: 155 km/h (95 mph)
    ACCELERATION 0-97 KM/H (60 MPH): 11 sec.

    Original here

    Shockwave traffic jams recreated for first time


    6 Things that Resemble the Death Star


    It’s a simple shape, a sphere with a concave dish set in the surface. In 1977, the shape was forever linked to the movie Star Wars and is known as the Death Star. In the movie, it was a space station as large as a natural moon that housed the “ultimate weapon”, a planet-destroying laser.
    435_deathstar.jpg

    1. Hotel Full Moon

    435_FullMoonHotel.jpg

    The Hotel Full Moon in Baku, Azerbaijan is a design from Heerim Architects of Korea, to be built on a peninsula overlooking Full Moon Bay. The luxury hotel will have 382 rooms in its 35 stories. Another hotel on the bay will be called Hotel Crescent, also with a shape to follow its name.

    That’s only the most recent example. Keep reading for others.

    2. Convention Center Near Dubai

    435RAKconventioncenter.jpg

    The RAK Convention and Exhibition Center in the new city of Ras al Khaimah, UAE looks very much like the Death Star. A project still in the concept stage from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the design is the result of a competition. The project team is led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who also designed the CCTV building in Beijing. The building will hold hotels, offices, restaurants, and stores as well as a convention hall. See more pictures here.

    3. Belarus National Library

    435_BelarusNationalLibrary.jpg

    The Belarus National Library moved into a new building in 2006. It’s not spherical; the shape is a rhombicuboctahedron (try saying that three times fast). During the day, the 24 sides sparkle with glass panels. At night, they are illuminated by 4646 color-changing LEDs. The Minsk building is imposing and not without controversy. It has been referred to as the Death Star both because of the way it looks and how it was financed.

    4. AT&T Logo

    435AT&Tlogos.png

    AT&T’s world globe logo was designed by Saul Bass in 1984, replacing the phone logo that had been in use for nearly 100 years. This came about because of the forced breakup of Ma Bell into seven regional “baby bells”. SBC Communications bought AT&T in 2005, and a new, slightly different logo was unveiled. The newest one hides the classic death star spot somewhat better, but some can still see the Evil Empire in the logo.

    5. Panapet

    435_Panapet.jpg

    The distinctive shape of the Death Star was around before Star Wars. It’s possible that George Lucas, or some of the other creative minds behind Star Wars owned a Panasonic R-70 transistor radio, marketed as the Panapet. Very likely, in fact, since it seemed everyone had one. They were produced in the early 70s.

    6. Mimas

    435_mimas.jpg

    The most amazing similacrum of the Death Star is Mimas, one of the inner moons of Saturn. It has an 80-mile-wide crater named Herschel, which looks like it could easily focus a superlaser. The uncanny resemblence is coincidental, as Star Wars was made several years before the first photographs of Mimas with its crater were taken.

    If you love the shape, and don’t want to travel to Dubai, or Minsk, or Saturn, you can build your own Death Star with a Lego kit -or just watch someone else do it.



    Original here

    Dear Political Graffiti Artist

    On a wall, otherwise freshly painted, where someone sprayed: "Don't walk away in silence."

    Original here