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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ten Green Getaways

Long before green and ecotourism became travel buzzwords, I chose to sleep on woven mats in stilt huts in Asia in order to give a meager donation to the village chief for my stay. Now, ecotourism—defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people,” is a booming industry, with eco resorts springing up like rice in paddy fields after monsoon season.Travelers are going green and spending more green in their efforts to be responsible. Tourists who stay in eco resorts on the Caribbean island of Dominica, spend eighteen times more than the average cruise passenger. And independent travelers who go to Komodo National Park in Indonesia to witness the Komodo dragons spend almost one hundred U.S. dollars more than those on an “irresponsible” holiday package tour.

I went on a hunt to seek out ten spectacular green getaways, because I figured if I’m going to lay down the green, I may as well “tread lightly” when I go.

Lapa Rios
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
A couple from Minnesota sold it all to create this eco resort on 1,000 acres of lowland tropical rainforest—the last of its kind in Costa Rica. Sixteen thatch bungalows sit overlooking where the Pacific Ocean connects with the Golfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula near Corcovado National Park. The lodge employs fifty locals, helps to preserve the primary forest reserve, and educates their workers at the Carbonara School. Guests can enjoy ocean activities, camp in the jungle, and observe wildlife all while their stay supports the preservation of their natural neighbors.

Ecocamp
Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Ancient inhabitants lived in huts that blended harmoniously with Mother Nature, which was the inspiration for EcoCamp’s geodesic domes that allow 100 mph winds to roll off their design. Patagonia’s eco concept is to expose guests to the elements with the comfort of a four-star hotel. With their nomadic spirit alive (the hotel is portable and can be removed each winter to allow the terrain to recover), thirty guests can enroll in any of Patagonia’s surrounding adventures and come home to their toasty dome and composting toilets.

Hotel Terra
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
During summers spent near Jackson Hole two years ago, I watched the Terra Resort Group build this six-story green hotel in town using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification as their process. By using reclaimed lumber, crushed glass, and even seatbelts in finishes throughout, as well as a runoff water system that collects in an underground tank, filters and releases drip water back into the environment, Hotel Terra reduces any pollution from flowing back into the surrounding habitat. Jackson Hole boasts natural wonders in nearby Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, as well as some of the best skiing, fly-fishing, and rafting in the world.

Jungle Bay Resort & Spa
Dominica, West Indies
As winner of Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s 2007 World Saver Awards for poverty alleviation, Jungle Bay is an eco resort dedicated to its community. Built using TIES principles, thirty-five cottages sit on wooden posts beneath the canopy of Gomier and Cedar trees in order to minimize any soil disturbance, Jungle Bay donated $53,000 to help develop a community-operated facility for indigent children with severe disabilities from Dominica’s southeast and continues with a new venture in their House of Hope. Guests can scuba dive, hike to waterfalls, or hire a local guide trained in responsible travel techniques for a guided tour of the surrounding ecosystem.

Chumbe Island
Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa
Named one of three conservation finalists for the Smithsonian Magazine and Tourism Cares for Tomorrow Sustainable Tourism Awards, Chumbe Island allows only fourteen people on the island at one time. Seven eco beach bandas made with local materials (one banda has a palm front wall that can be lowered in order to take in the waves and beach just outside the front door) is rustic in nature but introduces guests to incredible biodiversity from the ocean floor. A non-profit run by local employees manages the resort while one of East Africa’s most diverse coral reefs allows for snorkeling trips by local guides. Those here to relax can also visit the old lighthouse at sunset or get to know the other guests and staff while enjoying a mixture of European-Swahili cuisine.

Teniqua Treetops
Near Western Cape, South Africa
Guests should ask to stay in Loerie’s Nest, so the sunrise can shine through the trees as you bathe in your personal bathtub while looking out over the trees through the flap of your tented tree house. Teniqua Treetops Eco-Friendly Tented Treehouses give guests the remote experience of relaxing in the canopy of the forest. They harvest their rainwater for guests’ use and process grey and black water by using the latest toilet systems in to keep any waste out of the catchment areas.

Mauna Lani Resort
Kohala Coast, Hawaii
Mauna Lani’s solar energy innovations have earned the resort the distinction of generating more solar electric power than any other luxury resort in the world. The golf water system pumps brackish water into its thirty-eight golf holes and the 8,000 square foot air-conditioned pro-shop uses solar power during peak hours. Guests can enjoy the pools and ocean or take part in the resort’s green sea turtle program, which collaborates with Oahu’s Sea Life Park by Dolphin Discovery to raise turtles in its saltwater ponds until large enough to be released into the wild.

Danzante Eco Resort
Baja, Mexico
With no TVs, phones, or internet to distract guests, this 100 percent solar powered resort overlooking the Sea of Cortez includes a communal dining palapa amidst eight other casitas. Helping to maintain the local fishing village, fishermen’s wives cook the daily catch in the kitchen and a local hiking guide helps guests discover the wild. Danzante also helps local families by providing no-interest loans to help them incorporate solar panels into their architecture and each guest’s stay includes entrance to the Loreto Marine Park, which doubles as Danzante’s donation to the park for maintenance, operations, and program development.

Whitepod
Near Les Cerniers, Switzerland
Perched like life-size snowballs in the Alps at over 5,000 feet, Swiss local, Sofie de Meyer, designed five pods around a traditional 1800s Alpine chalet. The resort encourages its ten guests to use low-impact travel by train, and then clip into skis or snow shoes to access their highly insulated pods (with a luminescent wall for passive solar heating), each equipped with a wood-burning stove. Whitepod also contributes to local organizations and charities to help the environment and restore landmarks, making this a ski holiday that allows guests to leave more than just their ski trail.

Three Camel Lodge
Gobi Desert, Mongolia
This eco resort uses wind and solar power to run its main lodge, which artisans built using ancient architectural techniques (without one nail) as well as the thirty Gers—the indigenous felt tents of nomadic herders—where guests can relax after venturing out into the Gobi desert by camel or horseback. The owners worked with the local government and National Park authorities to agree to a No Hunting clause within a twelve-mile radius of the lodge, which doubles as a wildlife research center and includes nature conservations clubs for local schoolchildren.

With these rewarding options, I think I’m going to have a hard time choosing which environment I’ll want to tread lightly on—the snow, jungle, or the desert.

Photo of visitor center at Chumbe Island courtesy of Craig Zendel

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A trip to the dentist could save your life

More than just a pretty smile, clean teeth and gums are a sign of total body health. And those painful sessions with the dental hygienist could save your life, new findings suggest.

Most people know that the tedium of good oral hygiene — regular brushing, flossing and trips to the dentist's office — reduces tartar, plaque, cavities, gingivitis and bone loss and helps the breath smell like roses.

But recent research shows that diabetes, low birth weight babies and heart disease are also linked to gum and bone disease in the mouth that can be prevented by teeth cleanings. Treating gum disease might even prevent heart attacks, a new study suggests.

"Systemically, visits to the dentist and hygienist may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and possibly heart attack, and can decrease the likelihood of tooth loss for diabetics," said Gwen Cohen-Brown, a dentist and lecturer for the New York State Department of Health.

The tooth-heart link
When people neglect to brush their teeth or floss, bacteria accumulate between the teeth. These bacteria can make their way into the blood stream.

"Certain bacteria present in the mouth may be related to clogging up the arteries by contributing to the plaque that builds on the walls of the arteries," said New York University oral microbiologist Walter Bretz.

And treating gum disease, or periodontal disease, can improve the long-term function of endothelial cells that line blood vessel walls, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center. With better performing endothelial cells, plaques that cause heart disease will decrease, diminishing the risk of triggering a heart attack.

The authors of the study, detailed in the March 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, estimate that severe periodontitis affects up to 1 percent of adults in the U.S., and as many as 80 percent of American adults have some form of periodontal disease.

Unclear pregnancy results
Periodontal disease is also quite common among pregnant women. Expectant mothers' gums react differently to the bacteria due to their increased levels of estrogen and progesterone. Women may experience swelling, bleeding or tenderness in the gum tissue.

Several studies have linked gum disease to an increased risk of giving birth to a premature and underweight baby.

Yet, an article published in a 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported that, although treatment of gum disease in pregnant women is safe and improves periodontal health, preterm birth and low birth-weight babies were unaffected by the treatment.

The jury is still out on whether a mother's unhealthy gums can affect her unborn baby, but scientists are learning more from a large clinical trial currently under way at the University of Minnesota, focusing on whether treating periodontal diseases in pregnant women may prevent preterm and low birth-weight babies.

Diabetes and dental health
Unlike the case for pregnancy, researchers have found direct links between gum disease and diabetes. Gum disease is known to increase the risk of diabetes, and vice versa.

Studies show that inflammatory periodontal diseases may increase insulin in the same way that obesity increases insulin.

Meanwhile, doctors recognize diabetes as an important risk factor for severe gum disease and infection that may result in the destruction of tissues and bone surrounding the tooth.

Taking care of teeth can combat complications of diabetes and may reduce inflammation throughout the body associated with diseases such as cardiovascular disease.

In addition to biannual visits with the dentist and hygienist, Cohen-Brown recommends patients brush after every meal, of course. If that's impossible, she said, brush in the morning and at night before bed, floss daily and stay away from carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods.

"When oral health improves, overall health improves," Cohen-Brown told LiveScience.

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7 Steps to Center Yourself

Steps 1-4

Take time to get in touch with yourself, your feelings, your dreams, and the way you want to live a good, healthy life.



1. Admit the Importance of Sleep. Sometimes it seems as though our culture has begun to view the need for sleep as a sign of weakness. It's the new macho -- and women are buying into it big-time. But your body was genetically programmed to spend one-third of its life asleep and to sleep in specific cycles of light sleep, deep sleep, and active-brain sleep. Each cycle takes 90 minutes, and each has a specific assignment that affects thinking, memory, growth, your immune system, and even your weight. Trying to tuck anything that important into an hour here and an hour there just won't get the job done.

2. Begin the Day in Gratitude. Take 10 minutes every morning to sit down, close your eyes, and give thanks for every one of the blessings in your life. Name each one and hold it in your thoughts. The sense of gratitude you'll experience will set a serene tone for the entire day -- and reduce a day's worth of stress hormones that can trigger insomnia that night.

3. Strike a Balance. Toning down a tightly wired nervous system will encourage a balanced sleep/wake cycle, says Dr. Yan-Go. Think about tai chi, meditation, prayer, biofeedback, yoga -- any daily activity that allows you to cultivate a peaceful center and a sense of balance.

4. Play with Friends. Studies at UCLA reveal that women who have healthy friendships and interactive relationships with their children actually sleep better. The "tend-and-befriend studies," as they are called, conducted by UCLA researcher Shelly Taylor, Ph.D., 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 themselves and their families. The studies show that when this happens, a woman's level of a biochemical called oxytocin, which blocks cortisol, the body's chief stress chemical, is increased, allowing them to rest easier than their wired male counterparts.

Steps 5-7

5. Use Guided Imagery. "Mind/body stuff really works in helping you get to sleep," says Cleveland therapist Belleruth Naparstek, M.S. The imagery seduces the brain into seeing and thinking about other things, while the voice tone, pacing, music, and images will persuade the ramped-up part of your nervous system that it's time to calm down. The imagery will shut down the adrenalin that's keeping you too aroused to sleep, and shoot some calming hormones into your nervous system. Slip a CD of guided imagery into your CD player, snuggle into bed, turn out the lights, and follow the imagery into sleep.

6. Invoke the Relaxation Response. Okay, so it sounds kind of boring. Maybe even useless. But the fact remains that one study after another has demonstrated that progressive muscle relaxation and meditation will block the chemical effects of stress, anxiety, and 24/7 living on your brain -- even rebalance your neurochemistry. And practiced right before bed, that often means a night of deep, restorative sleep. Here's the 4-step method pioneered by Herbert Benson, M.D., a cardiologist who heads the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston. Choose a word that has deep personal meaning for you such as "peace." Close your eyes and focus your attention on the word. Repeat it silently to yourself. When your attention wanders, as it will, gently bring it back to the word. Take a deep breath and exhale. Begin to consciously relax each of your muscles from your face to your toes. When you're finished, continue to focus on your chosen word for another 10 to 15 minutes. Then allow yourself to gently move into sleep.

7. Fight Brain Clutter. Every time you start thinking about bills or work or kids gone astray, turn your brain off and focus on something that is less stimulating, says sleep researcher Dr. Moline. One woman prays. Another meditates. A third dreams of what she's going to plant in her garden next spring. As long as it doesn't make you worry, you'll be asleep in no time.

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Why eating just one sausage a day raises your cancer risk by 20 per cent

sausage boy

Just one sausage a day could dramatically increase the risk of bowel cancer, experts say (picture posed by model)

One sausage a day can significantly raise the risk of bowel cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease, experts have warned.

Eating 1.8oz (50g) of processed meat a day - the equivalent of one sausage or three rashers of bacon - raises the likelihood of the cancer by a fifth, research shows.

The sobering statistic adds to growing evidence that too much meat in the diet can be deadly.

Bowel cancer claims 16,000 lives a year in Britain, with lung cancer the only form of the disease which kills more.

However, fewer than one in three Britons is aware of the danger posed by favourite foods such as bacon and sausages, the World Cancer Research Fund warned.

Professor Martin Wiseman, the charity's medical and scientific adviser, said: "We are more sure now than ever before that eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel cancer and this is why WCRF recommends that people avoid eating it.

"The evidence is that whether you are talking about bacon, ham or pastrami, the safest amount to eat is none at all.

"When you consider that eating 50g of processed meat a day can increase your risk of bowel cancer by about a fifth, it is clear that you can make a positive difference by cutting out as much as possible."

Processed meats - those preserved by smoking, salting and any other method apart from freezing - include bacon, ham, pastrami, salami and hot dogs.

Sausages, hamburgers and mince fall into the bracket if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives.

Those who can't bear to cut out processed meats will still benefit from eating smaller quantities, said Professor Wiseman.

"We do recommend that people avoid it completely, but it is not a case of all or nothing," he added.

"Cutting down the amount of processed meat you eat can also reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer.

"But we need to do more to get this message across because if two-thirds of people don't know about the link between processed meat and bowel cancer, then they are not in a position to be able to make informed decisions about whether to eat it or not."

A survey of 2,000 Britons carried out for the World Cancer Research Fund ahead of the start of Bowel Cancer Awareness month tomorrow found that only 30 per cent were aware of processed meat's role in the disease.

The poll follows a landmark report from the charity last year which blamed putting on weight, drinking and a whole range of everyday foods, including processed meats, for causing cancer.

Among the findings of the analysis of thousands of studies on lifestyle and cancer was that small amounts of processed meat raise the risk of bowel cancer by 20 per cent.

Processed meats may also trigger cancer in the prostate, lung, stomach and oesophagus.

The analysis, published last November, also found that red meat raises the risk of the disease, but to a lesser extent.

Both types of meat can be high in fat and iron, both of which are linked to cancer.

However, processing raises levels of cancer-causing chemicals called N-nitroso compounds, making bacon, sausages and the like more deadly.

It is estimated that if everyone cut down on red and processed meat, one in ten cases of bowel cancer could be prevented.

The charity's warning coincides with the discovery of three genetic flaws behind bowel cancer, taking the number of known mutations to seven.

Pinpointing more rogue genes could lead to the development of a genetic test for the disease.

Edinburgh University researcher Professor Malcolm Dunlop said: "It is important to catch bowel cancer at an early stage when it is more likely to be treated successfully."

Three steaks a week - but no more

Meat is a good source of protein as well as vitamins B and D and minerals such as iron and zinc.

However, these benefits have to be balanced against increasing evidence that red and processed meats raise the risk of cancers including bowel cancer.

Experts say red meat need not be eaten every day and that 18oz (500g) a week in cooked weight (or 27oz/750g uncooked weight) is sufficient.

That is the equivalent of three steaks, although the definition of red meat covers pork and lamb as well as beef.

Processed meat's stronger links to bowel cancer have led to advice that it should be avoided altogether.

The World Cancer Research Fund advises that any meat bought should be as lean as possible, with any visible fat trimmed before cooking.

Fish, low-fat poultry and plant sources of protein such as beans or lentils are convenient and healthy alternatives to red meat.

When making a chilli with mince, the quantity of meat can be halved and extra kidney beans added in its place.

Chops or sausages can be swapped for fish, with a chicken or tuna sandwich providing a healthy alternative to bacon.

Diets rich in fish and fibre-loaded fruit and vegetables may also cut the risk of the cancer, as could cutting down on alcohol, exercising more and losing weight.

Bowel cancer is one of the most easily treated cancers if caught early.

However, embarrassment over discussing tell-tale signs such as diarrhoea or rectal bleeding leads to thousands of victims a year not seeking help until it is too late.

The disease is most prevalent in the over-60s and is slightly more common in women than men.

Women have a one in 18 risk of bowel cancer in their lifetime, while for men the figure is one in 20.

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Appendix Removed Through Vagina: U.S. First


Surgeons from UCSD Center for Future of Surgery remove appendix through vagina, a US first. (Credit: UC San Diego Medical Center)

On March 26, 2008, surgeons at UC San Diego Medical Center removed an inflamed appendix through a patient's vagina, a first in the United States. Following the 50-minute procedure, the patient, Diana Schlamadinger, reported only minor discomfort. Removal of diseased organs through the body's natural openings offers patients a rapid recovery, minimal pain, and no scarring. Key to these surgical clinical trials is collaboration with medical device companies to develop new minimally-invasive tools.

The procedure, called Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES), involves passing surgical instruments through a natural orifice, such as the mouth or vagina, to remove a diseased organ such as an appendix or gallbladder. Only one incision is made through the belly button for the purpose of inserting a two millimeter camera into the abdominal cavity so the surgeons can safely access the surgical site.

Santiago Horgan, M.D., director of the UC San Diego Center for the Future of Surgery, is a world leader in minimally invasive surgeries, having performed 14 of these scarless NOTES procedures in the U.S. and Argentina. Horgan cites the critical role of biotechnology companies in bringing NOTES devices into the operating room for clinical trials.

"The path to innovation is dynamic, requiring quick response from the companies developing the tools," said Horgan, president of the Minimally Invasive Robotics Association. "Partnership with industry keeps us rolling from one success to another. The evolution of surgery to incisionless techniques is on the horizon."

By avoiding major incisions through the abdomen, patients may experience a quicker recovery with less pain while reducing the risk of post operative hernias. This procedure received approval for a limited number of patients by UC San Diego's Institutional Review Board (IRB) which oversees clinical research.

"The UC San Diego Center for the Future of Surgery is investigating and refining techniques that are rapidly transforming the world of surgery," said Mark A. Talamini, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego Medical Center. "Imagine a day when surgery requires no incisions or just one tiny incision that is only millimeters in length. Scarless, painless techniques are what the UCSD Center for the Future of Surgery is setting the stage for right this minute. Patients deserve it."

Schlamadinger, a third-year graduate student at UC San Diego working toward her Ph.D. in chemistry, reported her pain as a '1' or a '0.5' on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest. The opportunity to participate in the clinical trial was attractive to the scientist in her.

"The surgery appealed to me because the work and study I do every day relates to science research and discovery," said Schlamadinger. "I understand the need for these trials to provide patients new information and new procedures."

This is the fourth NOTES surgery that UC San Diego Medical Center has performed. The first surgery took place in September 2007 and the most recent on March 26, 2008.

Talamini will assume the position of President of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) in Philadelphia the second week of April 2008. SAGES represents a worldwide community of surgeons who are bringing minimal access surgery, endoscopy and emerging techniques to patients in every country.

Horgan and Talamini used FDA-cleared RealHand High Dexterity instruments, developed by Novare Surgical. These laparoscopic instruments give the surgeon greater dexterity and control to move around organs and blood vessels. RealHand allows the instrument tip to track the surgeon's hand movements and have been customized for transvaginal NOTES procedures. The surgery was guided by imagery enabled by a flexible, high-definition digital endoscope made by Olympus America.

In addition to Horgan and Talamini, the surgical team included: Bryan Sandler M.D., John Cullen M.D., Karl Limmer M.D., Emily Whitcomb, M.D., Benjamin Beal, M.D., Kathleen Naughton, R.N., and Jocelyn Floresca, R.N.

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Cops Bust a (Root) Beer Kegger Party

When his friends got suspended from school sports because of photos showing them drinking from red cups, Dustin Zebro decided to mount a protest of sorts: he invited scores of kids to a kegger party, which got busted by the cops.

But the kids got the last laugh, and here’s why:

Cars lining the street. A house full of young people. A keg and drinking games inside. Police thought they had an underage boozing party on their hands.

But though they made dozens of teens take breath tests, none tested positive for alcohol. That’s because the keg contained root beer.

The party was held by a high school student who wanted to show that teens don’t always drink alcohol at their parties.

Link - Thanks Louise! | And shock of shock, there’s a YouTube Clip:

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Time Traveler: Everyone In The Future Eats Dippin' Dots

NEW YORK—In an announcement with far-reaching implications for the fate of human civilization, a time-traveling man from the 22nd century revealed Monday that, in the future, earth's inhabitants consume Dippin' Dots rather than traditional ice cream.

"People of the 21st century, the future holds great and wonderful things," said the man, who only identified himself as "Wolcott," during an address televised in all of the world's countries. "One hundred years from now, dessert items are made by flash-freezing beads of cream with liquid nitrogen, then storing them in subzero conditions. People enjoy these treats with great regularity, and often remark upon how delicious they taste."

Enlarge Image Time Traveler

'Put down your crude melting desserts of churned animal's milk and embrace the glorious world of high-tech flash-frozen treats.' –The Future Man

"We call this ubiquitous dessert of the future 'Dippin' Dots,'" the man added.

Wolcott, a self-described physicist and adventurer who traveled back in time from 2147 New York City, expressed disbelief that cryogenic encapsulation was not yet humanity's primary dessert-making technique, and called present-day dessert options "confusing."

"What is this primitive 'iced cream' you people consume?" Wolcott asked as he cautiously handled a two-scoop chocolate ice-cream cone and examined it with curiousity. "Today, I saw human beings putting cold dairy products into their mouths—products of an odd, thick consistency and bland monochromatic color. Why would people eat this syrupy gruel when they could eat hundreds of individually frozen orbs? In my time, when a meal is completed, we all eat bowls of Dippin' Dots. I cannot conceive of any other way of life."

As ice cream melted and dripped onto his hand, Wolcott shrieked, threw the cone to the ground, and stamped on it repeatedly with his foot.

Pressed to explain what life is like in his time, Wolcott described a fantastical world in which grocers' freezers are stocked exclusively with Dippin' Dots, birthdays are celebrated with hot-fudge Dippin' Dots sundaes, and, in the summertime, children run excitedly through the streets following the familiar jingle of a Dippin' Dots truck. The Dippin' Dots man then distributes cups of Dippin' Dots to the children, who rejoice heartily. Dippin' Dots, the future man said, are a world-famous treat and a staple of Americana.

"As soon as I arrived in your era, I entered a dining establishment and asked to see the dessert menu, as I had a not-unusual craving for Dippin' Dots," Wolcott said. "Yet my eyes encountered a series of words and pictures completely foreign to me, and I began to weep, for I realized that I am a stranger in a strange land where Dippin' Dots are not a popular and universally beloved dessert."

Enlarge Image Dippin' Dots

The soon-to-be ubiquitous delight.

According to Wolcott, technological advances in microbiology and cold storage will make it possible to mass-produce Dippin' Dots and distribute them worldwide, allowing mankind to abandon its archaic system of slowly churning fresh dairy ingredients into a rich, velvety cream.

"It seems the legends of 21st-century man's crude ice cream–eating habits are all true," Wolcott said. "I see the way you consume these dripping concoctions with protruding tongues, the way the dark cream dribbles down your chins, the way your workers must dig tirelessly with spherical metal 'scooping' devices to even obtain this product."

"Barbarians!" Wolcott added. "Dippin' Dots can be poured effortlessly into cups. They do not melt or make a mess, and plus they are very fun to eat."

Wolcott revealed that, a century from now, standard flavors such as chocolate and vanilla will be replaced by more innovative Dippin' Dots flavors like Cherry Berry Ice, Tropical Tie-Dye, and Candy Bar Crunch. He also cryptically foretold of something called the "dotwich," a mysterious confection he only described as "a combination of Dippin' Dots and fudge placed between two cookies."

The prevailing reaction among U.S. citizens has been one of dismay. "No ice cream?" said Deborah Cirillo, 42, of Montville, NJ. "Boo."

"I must go now, for I grow tired and I hunger for Dippin' Dots," said Wolcott, concluding the address. "I only hope that your culture survives long enough to experience an era in which the delicious and unique Dippin' Dots–brand frozen dairy dessert that I enjoy so freely is fully embraced and widely available. Good luck, and godspeed."

Before he left, Wolcott also mentioned that, in the future, 99 percent of the world's population has AIDS and we are all slaves to the machines.

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What Every American Should Know About the Middle East

middle_east

Most in the United States don’t know much about the Middle East or the people that live there. This lack of knowledge hurts our ability to understand world events and, consequently, our ability to hold intelligent opinions about those events.

For example, frighteningly few know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and most think the words “Arab” and “Muslim” are pretty much interchangeable. They aren’t. So here’s a very brief primer aimed at raising the level of knowledge about the region to an absolute minimum.

Basics

  1. Arabs are part of an ethnic group, not a religion. Arabs were around long before Islam, and there have been (and still are) Arab Christians and Arab Jews. In general, you’re an Arab if you 1) are of Arab descent (blood), or 2) speak the main Arab language (Arabic).

  2. Not all Arabs are Muslim. There are significant populations of Arab Christians throughout the world, including in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Northern Africa and Palestine/Israel.

  3. Islam is a religion. A Muslim (roughly pronounced MOOSE-lihm) is someone who follows the religion. So you wouldn’t say someone follows Muslim or is an Islam, just as you wouldn’t say someone follows Christian or is a Christianity.

  4. Shia Muslims are similar to Roman Catholics in Christianity. They have a strong clerical presence via Imams and promote the idea of going through them to practice the religion correctly. Sunni Muslims are more like Protestant Christians. They don’t really focus on Imams and believe in maintaining a more direct line to God than the Shia.

  5. People from Iran are also known as Persians, and they are not Arabs.

  6. Arabs are Semites. We’ve all heard the term antisemitism being used — often to describe Arabs. This doesn’t make sense given the fact that the word “Semite” comes from the Bible and refers to anyone who speaks one of the Semitic Languages. That includes both Jews and Arabs.

  7. According to the Bible, Jews and Arabs are related [Genesis 25]. Jews descended from Abraham’s son Isaac, and Arabs descended from Abraham’s son Ishmael. So not only are both groups Semitic, but they’re also family.

  8. Sunni Muslims make up most of the Muslim world (roughly 90%). 1

  9. The country with the world’s largest Muslim population is Indonesia. 2

  10. The rift between the Shia and Sunni started right after Muhammad’s death and originally reduced to a power struggle regarding who was going to become the authoritative group for continuing the faith.

    The Shia believed Muhammad’s second cousin Ali should have taken over (the family/cleric model). The Sunni believed that the best person for the job should be chosen by the followers (the merit model) and that’s how the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, was appointed.

    Although the conflict began as a political struggle it now mostly considered a religious and class conflict, with political conflict emanating from those rifts.

Sunni vs. Shia | Arab vs. Non-Arab

Here’s how the various Middle Eastern countries break down in terms of Sunni vs. Shia and whether or not they are predominantly Arab. Keep in mind that these are generalizations; significant diversity exists in many of the countries listed.

  • Iraq Mostly Shia (roughly 60%), but under Saddam the Shia were oppressed and the Sunni were in power despite being only 20% of the population. Arab.

  • Iran Shia. NOT Arab.

  • Palestine Sunni. Arab.

  • Egypt Sunni. Arab.

  • Saudi Arabia Sunni. Arab.

  • Syria Sunni. Arab.

  • Jordan Sunni. Arab.

  • Gulf States Sunni. Arab.

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World's most expensive car wax cleans both your car and your wallet

If you thought paying $99 at the local Buff 'n' Shine for a wax and detail was a bit of a rip, you've probably never come across the products from Swizöl of Switzerland. Their top of the line Divine wax is "blended for a very limited number of collectors and enthisiast each year," and is specially formulated for the exact type of paint and color of the customer's car. Of course it wouldn't be complete without a presentation box with a certificate of authenticity and a hand-engraved plaque bearing a serial number and the owner's name. You get all of this for a mere 1,800 Euros, or about $2,750. At that price, their entry level Onyx wax at $95 looks like a relative bargain, which I guess is the idea.

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Why Cars Have Become Difficult

Last weekend, I had to replace a burned out headlight on my daughter's Chevrolet HHR. I figured this was a do-it-yourself job. So I went to my local auto-parts store, scored a new halogen bulb, went home, and popped the hood.

Roughly 45 minutes and a few choice words later, I got the job done. In the course of replacing one burned-out bulb, I used a socket wrench and pliers to partially remove a plastic liner inside the left front wheel well. I took out about a half dozen fasteners, of two different kinds. Then I had to work my hand through a tangle of wires to get at the offending bulb, disconnect it, twist it out, and then replace it. I did all this by feel, because I couldn't see my hand, wedged inside the fender between the half removed plastic liner and the wires and metal around the light.

When I was done, I had to toss everything I had been wearing into the wash, since I'd wound up on my back under the car during the process of detaching and reattaching the fender liner.

Yes, I read the directions in the owners' manual and did what they instructed. Let's just say the manual understated the degree of difficulty by half.

It turns out amateurs like me aren't the only ones wondering why some of today's vehicles are such bears to repair. The difficulty of replacing broken parts or restoring vehicles damaged in collisions is a growing concern to the auto service and collision trades and the insurance industry.

"Vehicles are becoming more and more difficult to repair," says Denise Caspersen, manager of the collision division for the Automotive Service Association.

In their quest to make cars safer, lighter and more fuel efficient, car makers are using more exotic materials in the bodies of vehicles, such as high-strength steels, aluminum, steel-plastic sandwiches. That presents a challenge to body repair shops, because technicians now can't just assume that the metal they are cutting or welding is old-fashioned steel.

Modern vehicles also have more airbags, and more sophisticated electronics under the hood and throughout the body. The complexity of repairing a badly crashed vehicle has led to a rise in the number of vehicles that are declared total losses by insurance companies, rather than repaired, Ms. Caspersen says.

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Tom Calloway, manager of fixed operations for AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto retailer, says in an email that routine repairs can get "pretty serious" given the proliferation of new technology such as continuously variable transmissions, electric steering or onboard computer networks managing various functions.

Throw in a hybrid drive system, and things get even more interesting. Auto service technicians are going back to school to learn how to work safely on hybrid systems.

The concern about repair complexity is spurring efforts by the insurance and repair industries to persuade car makers to make ease of repair a higher priority.

One group called the Research Council for Automobile Repairs (www.rcar.org) is planning to launch a Web site that will offer vehicle designers data aimed at encouraging them to make vehicles more repair friendly, says Joe Nolan, senior vice president for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Research Center.

The IIHS isn't directly involved in repairability issues, he says. But the Institute has highlighted the problem of high repair costs in its tests of vehicle bumpers.

Auto makers, as is often the case, must juggle competing demands. When it's time to change a light bulb or an oil filter, I wish I had an old-fashioned car where you could open up the hood, and see the driveway through the big spaces between the body and the engine. But when I go to the fuel pump, or try to find a parking space, I want a car that's light and efficient -- which means all the bits and pieces need to be very close together under the hood.

The drive to reduce weight by making cars more compact will only get more intense as auto makers strive to achieve the new 35 miles per gallon fleet average fuel-economy standard.

Still, car makers are responding to the service and insurance industry's pleas.

Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Bill Kwong says in an email that Toyota is also designing vehicles with "front crush boxes," that are designed so they can be unbolted after a collision and replaced. Toyota is also designing headlamps to be more easily replaced.

General Motors Corp., about five years ago, intensified efforts to consider ease of repair during the vehicle-design process, assigning engineers from the service operation to work alongside vehicle designers and engineers, says Joseph Fitzsimmons Jr., chief engineer for the GM Service and Parts Operations.

GM engineers now can use a virtual hand, wielding a virtual wrench, to test whether a design that exists only in digital form on a screen will result in a hard time for a mechanic, he says.

The result, Mr. Fitzsimmons says, is that GM is now designing instrument panels so that there are access panels a mechanic, or do-it-yourselfer, could remove easily to get access to fuses or other components, rather than disassembling the dashboard.

For collision-repair specialists, GM designed its new large pickups so that the frames can be cut in sections so that only damaged pieces need to be replaced. The same trucks are designed so that a new front end can be installed without replacing the entire frame of the truck, he says.

"It does get more challenging when you've got a smaller physical space" in a small vehicle, Mr. Fitzsimmons says. "But it's not impossible."

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Circuit City Tries To Install Navigation System, Causes $12,119 Of Damage To Your Car

Circuit City caused $12,119 worth of damage to VTECnical's 2007 Honda Civic while trying to install a Pioneer AVIC Z2 navigation system. Honda later declared VTECnical's car a fire hazard and told him it was unsafe to drive. Despite destroying the car's heater ducts, stock wiring harness, and dashboard, Circuit City has refunded only $3,190, and insists that VTECnical speak exclusively to their third-party insurer. Hit the jump for Honda's damning condemnation of Circuit City's shoddy workmanship and a video of the damage.


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The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss Speaks

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

This is Tim Ferriss. The real Tim Ferriss.

This is the first time I have written a post on this blog since March 30, 2007, 366 days ago, when I penned “How to Live Like a Rock Star in Buenos Aires.”

In the meantime, a virtual pair—Vanhishikha “Van” Mehra and Roger Espinosa—have taken my blog to the Technorati-1000 (around 600 at best) and had their content featured, under my name, in media from The New York Times to CNBC.

I’ve suggested topics and asked explicitly for some when I had photos or video to post, but Van and Roger are the short answer to the common question: how can you work four hours a week if you spend so much time on the blog?

The answer is: I don’t.

The impetus was an on-stage challenge at the 2007 SXSW two weeks earlier, and I resolved to demonstrate just how well the concepts in 4HWW could work. This is one of several pending year-long examples…

Here’s how my longest-term outsourcing experiment to date was executed:

1. Preparation: I used Elance.com to post an online editorial position, and I asked for three writing samples of 250 words on the topics of travel and productivity. There were 11 qualified applicants and four finalists, who further submitted a single 750-word article each.

2. People: Two of the four were selected on a trial basis to produce blog content as a pair.

The first, Vanhishikha “Van” Mehra, an undergrad and computer science major in Bangalore, had an impressive ability to choose topics and spot trends, but her English—learned through private schooling with non-native speakers—contained both British colloquialisms and mistakes common to Indian learners of English. She would be the content originator.

Roger Espinosa, the second, was raised in Chicago until 17 and then educated in Manila to become a systems administrator. He didn’t have the same knack for original content as Van, but his writing was native in appearance and not only grammatically correct but also idiomatically correct (e.g. “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” vs. “jelly and peanut butter sandwich”). He would become Van’s editor and publisher.

3. Process: Roger had sole rights to publish via Wordpress, and their collaborations were were initial proofread by my Canadian assistant Amy, then later spot-checked by her via RSS. There have been fewer than half a dozen corrections after publication. I will often suggest topics on Mondays after checking e-mail and sometimes explicitly request posts that will allow relevant photos and video to be posted.

4. Van is paid $20 per post and Roger $15. Both get 100% performance bonuses if a given post front pages on Digg but must follow a “best practices” spec sheet to avoid violating user rules and getting blacklisted. I offered to increase the bonus to 200% for Van if it was directly applied to private English lessons with a tutor of my choosing, to whom I would remit payment directly. She has elected this since month 3, and it contributed to a more than 20% increase in front paging on Digg and other social ranking sites in the subsequent six months.

5. The “Odds and Ends” updates and miscellaneous are usually selected or created by me but transcribed by Amy after our once-daily 10-minute action item calls.

So, dear reader, there you have what I’ve been dying to tell you all for the last year, but I wanted to see if it was possible to make it to the 365-day mark.

Some of you have noticed TOEFL-esque phrasings here and there, and more than a few have noted the strange inflection of a few comments (Roger has written about 75% of my comments).

Please don’t be upset by this, and I encourage you to view it as I intended it: a major example of how well personal outsourcing and “offchoring” can work.

I’ll be writing at least once per week for the next two months, and we’ll see if my posts are half as popular as Van and Roger’s :) If you have any topic suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

Much more to come,

The Real Tim Ferriss

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Important Postscript!

Happy Japanese April Fool’s Day!

Man, oh, man. I was going to wait until tomorrow, but this post has kicked up some dust, so I wanted to own up. Yessir, it’s an April Fool’s Day prank. Sorry for any confusion! It would have been too obvious on April 1st in the US, so I used the alternate time zone. More to come tomorrow, but I write all the posts (minus attributed guest posts) myself. As _Jon put it in the comments: “a personal blog shouldn’t be work, it should be a passion. If you need to outsource it, you have the wrong motivation.”

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’m here writing the posts, including the stupid ones (man crush anyone?).

This little prank has been in my head since Jan. 10th, when the infamous Tucker Max suggested a much better version that I was unable to pull off due to this London trip:

“BTW—I had a hilarious idea for what you need to do for an April Fools prank: Write a post, complete with video, about how you have taken outsourcing to the next level. You’re paying people to workout for you, to eat for you, sleep for you, watch TV for you, do literally everything. The vid would show you sitting in a chair in a white room,
cutting intermittently to people doing things with shirts that have “I am Tim Ferriss” on them. It would be f*ing HILARIOUS. You have to do this.”

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