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Thursday, May 8, 2008

So far, so good for Midway Airport's new screening system

A passenger who had been in the "expert-traveler" line at Midway Airport is savvy enough to move to the shorter "casual traveler" line on Thursday, the first day of TSA's new plan to speed fliers through security screening. (Tribune photo by Nancy Stone / May 8, 2008)

Travelers at Midway Airport zipped through security lines in five minutes or less Thursday morning, with many becoming instant fans of a new classification system that made getting through the airport security more bearable.

"This is good stuff," said Clinton Booth of Atlanta, who was heading home from a Chicago business trip. "I've always preferred Midway to O'Hare because it's faster. But it's flowing even quicker now. I love it."

New signs, color-coded like those at ski resorts that warn of the difficulty level of slopes, are directing passengers to one of three lines—a green circle for beginners, a blue square for intermediate travelers and a black diamond for advanced passengers. Travelers pick the line that fits their experience level, or security workers direct them to the appropriate one.

The goal is to reduce tension and frustration at security checkpoints and speed up the process for at least the experienced travelers who know to whip off their shoes and remove laptops from carrying cases without being told. Improving the efficiency of the process also allows security agents to better scrutinize carry-on items and the behavior of passengers, officials said.

For many, Thursday was their first experience with the new system, which has been rolled out at about a dozen other airports. While several travelers initially looked baffled by the color-coded lines, it didn't take long to catch on. Workers helped steer flip-flop-wearing vacationers one way, and briefcase-toting business travelers the other.

Moms and dads hauling the accouterments of parenthood—strollers, diaper bags and car seats—were funneled in yet another direction.

"We're getting a lot of great feedback from people who say this is really expediting things," said LeVanche Johnson, transportation security manager. "We usually try to get people through in about 10 minutes. But today, we're seeing the average wait time is about five minutes or less."

At the security checkpoint, the biggest difference seemed to be the noise. Expert travelers worked in near-silence, whipping out their laptops for inspection with no instruction. In the family line, some parents needed more instruction on folding down strollers and placing them on the conveyor belt.

Shannon Spicer, who was traveling with her 2-year-old son, Liam, said she liked being able to take her time without other travelers breathing down her neck.

"That family lane is cool," she said, taking off Liam's shoes and letting out a sigh of relief as she unloaded a car seat strapped to her back. "It's pretty awesome."

"Casual" traveler Bonnie Shaner of Hinsdale said she was glad to see security officials taking a common-sense approach to what many consider a hassle.

"Any time you have categories, it speeds things up, instead of lumping everyone together," she said.

Although things appeared to be running smoothly Thursday morning, Nancy Morgan of Chicago was skeptical about how the system would work in the future. Morgan said she fears that because the system relies on self-classification, some might think they are "experts" when they really aren't. "In theory, it could work out well. But I'm afraid you'll have more people thinking they're experts because they think it's faster and they'll start jamming it up," she said.

The TSA is talking with airlines about bringing the program to O'Hare, perhaps as soon as this summer.

By reducing angst among passengers rushing to board planes, officials said they expect the new format to produce an added benefit: The security agency's newly deployed behavior-detection officers may find it easier to discern jittery travelers from criminals or potential terrorists casing out an airport or intending to cause harm, they said.

The behavior detection officers are trained to pinpoint passengers displaying extraordinary stress and fear, or signs of deception during questioning, officials said.
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Lifestyle or Genes? The Health Secrets of a 114-Year Old Man

A research on the bone health of one of the oldest persons in the world raises the question of which has the most effect on the human lifespan: genetics or a healthy lifestyle or some combination of the two? Research reveals that there were no genetic modifications which could have contributed to the longevity of a 114-year old Spaniard. The research team, directed by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona professor Adolfo Díez Pérez, pointed out a healthy lifestyle, a Mediterranean diet, a temperate climate and daily cycling until the age of 102 as the reasons for his excellent health.

The research team studied the bone mass and analysed the genetics of a man with enviable health who at the time of the study was 113 years old. The research was carried out with four other members of his family: a 101-year-old brother, two daughters aged 81 and 77, and a nephew aged 85, all of them born and still living in a small town of the island of Menorca. The research findings reported that the man's bones were in excellent conditions: his bone mass was normal, there were no anomalous curvatures and he had never sustained a fracture.

With regard to the genetical analysis, researchers were unsuccessful in finding any mutations in the KLOTHO gene, which is generally related to a good level of mineral density and therefore healthy bones. Neither did they find any mutations in the LRP5 gene, which is associated with longevity. None of the members of the family who participated in the study presented any mutations in this gene.

The results of the research do not rule out the possibility that other genetic mutations could positively influence longevity. However, researchers do point out the fact that the excellent health of this family, and of the 113-year-old man in particular, is probably due to a Mediterranean diet, the temperate climate of the island, a lack of stress and regular physical activity. The article underlines the fact that until the age of 102, the man cycled every day and looked after the family orchard.

The human life-span and the nature vs nurture question raises the question of why do animals age so differently? Why is it that a tortoise, for example, can live well over a hundred years, while another similarly sized animal would be lucky to live just 10? What’s the big difference?

Scientists say that the secret lies in genetic expression. A new genetic database could help reveal how and why animals age so differently. The process of mapping out this molecular maze will likely unlock some of the hidden secrets of increased longevity in humans along the way.

In some instances, even very closely related animals have drastically different life spans, a fact that has puzzled scientists for years. Mice for example live for about two years while their rodent cousins, the Southern flying squirrel, can live for two decades or so. Chimps and humans are 99 percent genetically identical, so why do humans live twice as long? New databases are helping to identify the genetic expressions that accounts for these vastly varying life spans.

In a study of mice, researchers at Stanford University and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), have now generated a database that catalogues how gene expression, the measure for how active a gene is, changes in various parts of the body as the animal ages. Their findings indicate that different tissues age quite differently over time.

Previous studies have examined how gene expression changes with age in specific parts of the body, such as the brain or the hearts of both mice and humans. But the new study, commissioned by the NIA, simultaneously analyzed the activity of thousands of genes in 16 different tissues at different points during the animals' lives. This has allowed researchers to compare age-related patterns of gene expression between different organs.

The results, published earlier this week in the journal PLoS Genetics, established that the two main culprits previously believed to be primary contributors to the aging process—increased inflammation and slowed metabolism—are indeed guilty parties. But the researchers did find large disparities depending on the different tissues of the body. For example, expression profiles in the liver, brain, and muscle changed little with age, whereas the lungs, eyes, and thymus (an immune organ) experienced more radical transformations.

The researchers compared their results with other previous studies analyzing gene-expression. They analyzed the aging brain, muscle, and kidney tissue in humans, flies, and worms. The researchers found one central theme to gene expression and aging in all four species. They all developed a slowing of the cells’ energy factories. In each species, expression of genes related to energy production dropped twofold by the time the species reached the end of its life span—2 years for mice and around 80 for humans.

"This is the only common property of growing old between the four different animals," says Stanford biologist, Stuart Kim. "Maybe that should alert us to say there is something unavoidable to getting old."

However, the researchers said there were not a lot of universal similarities, which raises the question of how well lab animals can really serve as models for humans as we attempt to unravel the longevity mystery. For example, studies have found that in humans, and some other animals, that the length of repetitive strips of DNA at the end of each chromosome, also known as telomeres, is linked to aging. However, the researchers didn't find changes in the expression of telomere-related genes in aging mice.

"I wouldn't say that this means that model organisms can't be used to study aging in humans," says Promislow. "It does suggest there is a lot more going on."

This analysis will likely be the first of many to come that will take advantage of this new database, know as AGEMAP. Scientists are still working on figuring out the precise functions of the intertwining genetic networks implicated in aging. AGEMAP serves as a way to decipher differences in genetic expression and better map out the ageing process, especially as it relates to humans.

"The scale of this study is phenomenal," says Promislow. "In some ways, this shows us where things are likely to be headed in coming years in terms of the kinds of experiments people will do to understand the genetic basis of complex traits."

Posted by Casey Kazan with Rebecca Sato.

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Second Largest US Physicians Group Endorses Medical Marijuana

(NaturalNews) Transcending political controversy and stigma surrounding the subject, the second largest physician group in the country has endorsed the use, reclassification, and further study of medicinal marijuana. In a position paper issued February 14th, the American College of Physicians (ACP) makes the case that the red tape surrounding the medical use of cannabis is obscuring good science and stifling research.

Several states including California have opened the door for legal use of medical marijuana, but this stands in opposition to the federal government’s Schedule I classification of the plant. This discontinuity has led to legal obfuscation and obscurity as to what is actually legal. Schedule I is a term used to describe drugs such as LSD and heroin, and translates to a substance having “no accepted medical use and being unsafe for use even under medical supervision.”

With their newly defined position, ACP now joins the ranks of dozens of other national medical groups urging an ease on cannabis regulation in the face of what many consider overwhelming scientific evidence of its medicinal usefulness. “ACP urges review of marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance and reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana’s safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions,” the paper states.

Supporters hope that this will be the long-awaited nudge needed to tip the American Medical Association (AMA) in favor of reclassification and legal protection for medical use of the drug. The AMA urges further research, but so far it does not support reclassification of the Schedule I substance.

To date, the most serious argument for potential damage done by cannabis is harm to the lungs caused by smoking. The paper notes that this problem has already been overcome by a technology known as vaporization, in which the active constituents are efficiently released into the lungs without burning the plant.

Another myth dispelled by the paper is that marijuana acts as a 'gateway drug,' leading to the use of more harmful substances. "Marijuana has not been proven to be the cause or even the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse. Opiates are highly addictive, yet medically effective ... There is no evidence to suggest that medical use of opiates has increased perception that their illicit use is safe or acceptable," the group states.

The paper also cites significant evidence that cannabis relieves the nausea, vomiting and wasting that accompany cancer, AIDS and other diseases, while lessening the pain associated with multiple sclerosis and many other conditions.

Calling for further research, ACP points out that the period of validation has passed in more heavily researched areas. In these cases, the group makes clear their position that the time has come to roll out trials designed to determine proper dosage and method of delivery -- a step currently being stonewalled by the drug’s legal classification.

The position paper can be found in pdf format at ( .

About the author

Adam Miller is a student of life who has dedicated literally thousands of hours of personal research on top of formal institutional training in Dietetics to learn the secrets of achieving vibrant health and extended lifespan. His passion and dedication is in bringing the best ideas for self-empowerment through nutrition and nutraceuticals as well as alternative therapies, technology, and information to the public through various means.
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Can you suffer from chronic tiredness?

Tiredness is also known as fatigue. It settles in the human body in a moment when its resources, physical or psychical, are overused and, accordingly, the human body reacts protecting itself by not responding in a prompt manner to various stimulus.

The physical tiredness “is visible” when the body has to respond to stimulus. Reactions are slowed, body movements suppose a bigger effort for their execution and also body weakness and sleepiness are felt. The brain mobilizes itself harder to reproduce the same reactions than it usually does, attention is lowering with every second that passes. Some memory problems, apathy, nervousness and irritability also can be present .

Everyone had experienced such episodes, especially when you were to resolve some various jobs or issues at the same time, or you got very tired because of excess of physical effort. Often a good movie, some music and good sleep, especially when the person next to you understands what you are passing through, may turnout as “miracles”.

What happens when this fatigue becomes a regular lifestyle, and the symptoms don’t seem to go away just by resting?

When fatigue becomes a permanent state of being?

The chronic fatigue syndrome settles in after 6 months of systematic fatigue and exhaustion that interferes significantly with the person’s life quality. The manifestation cause of the chronic fatigue syndrome is not very clear(precise). The symptoms are influenced by environmental causes (stressing, solicitant environment) with physical problems (from flu, cold, to immunity and endocrine systems’ diseases) and psychological causes (vulnerability, depression). Depression can be a cause, but also an effect of chronic fatigue.

If you noticed that lately you have felt tiredness too often, you should take the following facts into consideration:

  1. The fatigue is real. Even after periods of low activity, fatigue is persistent and silent. This thing is hard to understand, especially when the exhaustion feeling is noticed after a long period of apparent rest. Therefore, for those who have these symptoms, it is sometimes hard to communicate with family or friends and to decide together that something more then just rest is needed.
  2. There are good times and there are bad times. There can be times when, apparently with no explanation, you feel good, and afterwards, the fatigue state reappears.
  3. The sleep is not always restful.
  4. Orthostatic hypotension can blow in (the blood pressure decay when we stand up), which for the most part is interpreted as a state of flabbiness, weakness or even swoon.

It is hard to determine the diagnosis of the chronic fatigue syndrome and the variety of treatments is very considerable. As the respect for the own person appears earlier and the feeling of tiredness is being taken seriously, the hope to be restored to health increases.

The useful advices

  • A life rhythm built according to rituals. The same bedtime, fixed life habits, work and time spent with the beloved persons strengthens a feeling of safety and nexus which contributes to the body relaxation, letting it to rest;Tiredness and memory problems
  • Avoidance of exciting substances, regardless of is it alcohol, coffee or even chocolate;
  • Creating a rhythm of work according to availability, even if this involves periods with a reduced schedule. In this case the support of family and its understanding becomes extremely important.
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Natural ways to take care of your teeth

Smileillo_3Tea, vegetables and even cheese and chocolate (woo hoo!) can help

Most of us would go to the doctor if we had a silver-dollar-size infection on our foot. Now picture that infection in your mouth. That's gum disease.

The ailment has been linked to everything from heart disease to premature birth, and it could have a more profound effect on our overall health than anyone ever suspected. "The mouth is connected to the rest of the body," said Chicago dentist Taf Paulson, stating what should be obvious, but often isn't to both dentists and physicians.

(Tribune illustration by Hugo Espinoza)

Paulson, who uses a holistic, whole-body treatment approach, stresses preventive care. And one of her favorite motivational tools is a phase contrast microscope, which allows people to watch nasty bacteria squirming around on their own teeth.

"When patients see a bacterial infection underneath their gums, they have a better understanding of how it can affect their whole body," she said.

Here are a few holistic tricks of the trade:

iFLOSS FIRST. If you floss before brushing, you'll be able to remove the debris stirred up by flossing. But if you're among the 95 percent of Americans who don't floss correctly, try a specially designed plastic tooth pick, or an interdental cleaner, which is easier to hold and use.

BRUSH YOUR MOUTH. There's more bacteria on the tongue and roof of your mouth than on the teeth, said Westmont dentist Ron Schefdore. Brushing twice a day is ideal because bacteria multiply every 12 hours.

BE BRITISH. Rinsing with black tea reduces plaque formation and the production of acids that cause tooth decay, according to research headed by Christine Wu, a professor and director of caries research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. Another ingredient in black tea, tannin (also found in grapes and certain herbs), has been shown to fight bacteria that cause decay. Of course, black tea will stain your pearly whites, so if that's of concern, try green tea.

FESS UP. Tell your dentist about every medication you're taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and herbal drugs, because they could interact with dental treatments.

CHEW SUGARLESS GUM. Chewing any food stimulates saliva production -- which helps neutralize acids. But chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can help prevent tooth decay, according to the ADA. Don't like gum? Salsa or jalapeno peppers also make your mouth water.

BRUSH FOR A SONG. Turn on your radio or iPod and stick with it for the entire length of a song, says June Lee, spokeswoman for the Academy of General Dentistry.

C IF IT HELPS. About 1,000 mg per day of vitamin C helps kill the type of bacteria that causes gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, said Chicago dentist Robert Brandstatter.

WAIT 30 MINUTES. Don't brush right away after eating citrus foods or drinks, because the citric acid in the fruit can temporarily weaken tooth enamel and leave the teeth vulnerable to erosion caused by brushing, according to "Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child."

DISCOVER CHEWING FOODS. Eating crunchy vegetables can wipe away plaque and stimulate the gums, said Dr. Diane Meyer of Fairview Medical Center in Downers Grove.

EAT RAISINS. You may have heard that raisins cause cavities, but Wu's team found that compounds called phytochemicals found in raisins fight bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease.

SNACK ON CHEESE OR CHOCOLATE. Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and American have been shown to protect against cavities, especially if eaten at the end of a meal, says Chicago dentist Taf Paulson, who also is a big fan of pure dark chocolate. Some research has shown that the fat in chocolate might ward off damage from the sugar.

For more:

Read "Holistic dentists offer alternative treatments."

Read "Ten ways to wreck your teeth"

And for another reason to take care of your teeth, read "Lead in Dental Work" an investigative report by the folks at WBNS-TV in Columubs Ohio. The lead (found in crowns, for example,) seems to be coming from labs in foreign countries, but U.S. labs also may be involved, according to WBNS. Unfortunately, consumers often don't know where their dental work comes is produced.

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Breastfeeding Associated With Increased Intelligence, Study Suggests

A new study suggests that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding makes kids smarter. (Credit: iStockphoto)

The largest randomized study of breastfeeding ever conducted reports that breastfeeding raises children's IQs and improves their academic performance, a McGill researcher and his team have found.
n a new article, Dr. Michael Kramer reports the results from following the same group of 14,000 children for 6.5 years.

"Our study provides the strongest evidence to date that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding makes kids smarter," said Kramer, a Professor of Pediatrics and of Epidemiology & Biostatistics in the McGill University Faculty of Medicine and lead investigator in the study.

Kramer and his colleagues evaluated the children in 31 Belarusian hospitals and clinics. Half the mothers were exposed to an intervention that encouraged prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding. The remaining half continued their usual maternity hospital and outpatient pediatric care and follow-up. This allowed the researchers to measure the effect of breastfeeding on the children's cognitive development without the results being biased by differences in factors such as the mother's intelligence or her way of interacting with her baby.

The children's cognitive ability was assessed by IQ tests administered by the children's pediatricians and by their teachers' ratings of their academic performance in reading, writing, mathematics and other subjects. Both sets of measures were significantly higher in the group randomized to the breastfeeding promotion intervention.

"Although breastfeeding initiation rates have increased substantially during the last 30 years, much less progress has been achieved in increasing the exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding," the authors conclude.

"The effect of breastfeeding on brain development and intelligence has long been a popular and hotly debated topic," says Dr. Kramer. "While most studies have been based on association, however, we can now make a causal inference between breastfeeding and intelligence -- because of the randomized design of our study."

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Papa John's surpasses $1 billion in online pizza sales

In this Sept. 23, 2005 file photo, Rich Butler, general manager of a downtown Louisville, Ky., Papa John's restaurant, puts toppings on a deep-dish pizza. Papa John's reported surpassing $1 billion in online pizza sales Wednesday, May 7, 2008, seven years after it began offering the service.  (AP Photo/Patti Longmire, file)
AP Photo: In this Sept. 23, 2005 file photo, Rich Butler, general manager of a downtown Louisville,...

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sometimes during peak hours, the phones are silent in Andy Freitas' pizza restaurants, yet the cooks are busy keeping pace with hungry customers.

That's because orders are rolling in through the Internet.

"It's pretty amazing not to hear a phone ring on a busy night," said Freitas, an operating partner with the largest Papa John's franchisee in the Washington, D.C., market.

In the past seven years, Louisville-based Papa John's International Inc. has made a lot of dough from online ordering — more than $1 billion to be exact.

The nation's third-largest pizza delivery chain trumpeted the $1 billion milestone Wednesday, noting that its U.S. online sales have been growing at an average clip of more than 50 percent per year. In 2001, the chain's online sales totaled $20.4 million. Last year, its online sales approached $400 million.

"It took us seven years to reach our first billion in online sales, and at our current pace and growth rate it will take us less than three years to hit our next billion," said Jim Ensign, vice president of marketing communications at Papa John's.

Other chains in the fiercely competitive pizza industry are tapping into the technology craze to give customers ways to order pies other than through the standard phone call or trip to a restaurant.

Dominos Pizza Inc. put its own twist on online ordering early this year by introducing a "Pizza Tracker," which lets customers keep tabs on the progress of their orders. Consumers can find out when their pies are in the oven, when they're on the way, and even the first name of their delivery person.

The tracking system has given a "big bump" to the growing online business, said Jenny Fouracre, a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Domino's. She declined to disclose specific online sales numbers.

Domino's also lets customers place orders from Web-enabled mobile devices.

Pizza Hut said it's online orders have grown sixfold in the last three years. Company spokesman Chris Fuller said the online segment is a significant part of the overall business, but he wouldn't give specifics.

Pizza Hut, the nation's biggest pizza chain, also allows customers to order via text messaging and mobile Web. The unit of Yum Brands Inc. soon will unveil a new method for ordering pizzas, dubbed "Pizza Hut Shortcut," that it says will be the fastest in the industry. Customers will be able to download a "widget" onto their computers that will let them place their favorite pizza orders with just one click.

Since launching its Web-based ordering in 2001, Papa John's said it has invested more than $15 million in online ordering technology. Customers can place online orders up to 21 days in advance. Another function lets consumers repeat their most recent orders with just one click.

Papa John's said more than 20 percent of its sales come from online or through text messaging, an option it introduced last year. The company said text sales are meeting expectations, but it didn't provide specifics.

Freitas said online business is driving higher overall sales at his more than 50 Washington-area stores. Online orders account for about half of overall sales at a couple of his restaurants, he said.

"I knew it would be a big part of our business, but this has blown my expectations away, and I think it's even going to go higher," Freitas said.

The concept is tailored for customers like Emily Goatcher of Raleigh, N.C.

"I'm so into the Internet and the ease of doing things that way," she said in a phone interview.

The online option lets her scan the menu and look up specials. She also thinks there's less of a chance of getting the wrong order. But the mother of two young children said the main attraction is convenience.

"Being able to log in and do it versus trying to talk over a baby crying or a 2 1/2-year-old that's running around the house is probably one of the main reasons I like to order that way," Goatcher said.

Not everyone in her family has made the Web-based conversion — her husband still places orders to Papa John's the old-fashioned way by phone, she said.

Ensign wouldn't tip the company's hand on future tech-driven ordering, but he said Papa John's plans to roll out new methods in coming months to make it even easier for customers to place orders.

He predicted the ordering options will multiply as technology advances.

"We're just going to maybe have five or six or seven or eight or nine or 10 different ways the consumers can order," he said, seemingly conjuring up new options as he spoke.

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5 Snacks That will Smash That Afternoon Groggy Feeling

You should snack, a lot. During the day you should eat approximately 200 calories every 2 to 4 hours, both for health and productivity. If you let your blood sugar get too low, you could be on your way to some serious binge eating and desperate snack choices. In fact, 90% of your overeating could probably have been avoided if you ate a little before you got hungry.

But you don't plan to snack, so you overeat. Then what happens? Grogginess, sleepiness and the inevitable productivity plummet. Your response to said grogginess? Candy, sweets, coffee, and other quick fixes that cause quick blood sugar highs only to be followed by lower lows. The cycle continues forever until you actually go to sleep. Regular, planned snacking can avoid all this.

So how to we snack? Clearly we have to make some smart choices and they don't have to include baby carrots and diced apples. A snack should meet some physical needs (keeping our blood sugar from getting too low) and some mental needs (i.e. Brain Food!).

So we need snacks that meet the following 4 criteria:

  1. It must have a low Glycemic Index. The higher the GI, the quicker your blood glucose levels will rise. If your blood sugar gets too high, your body releases insulin to bring it down. This makes you tired and hungry again right after you just ate. Lower carbs, more fat and fiber (to slow absorption) will mean snacks with a lower GI.

  2. It must be filling. Ever take a pill in the morning and as soon as you turn around you can't remember if you took it or not? You don't want a snack like that.

  3. It must be interesting to your mouth. Your mouth likes contrasts: sweet and sour. crunchy and chewy. We want a snack that uses this.

  4. Ideally our snack is self-regulating. That means that we won't eat too much of it. This one is tougher, and we won't always find something that has this quality. In those cases we have to practice the dreaded art of self control.
Stumped for ideas? Here are 5 snacks (in no particular order) that fit that criteria and that you're probably not eating:
  1. Spicy Nuts.

    Now regular nuts meet our A, B and C requirements. They're crunchy and interesting and full of fat, fiber and protein. But if you had a trough of them at the office, you'd be buying new pants weekly. That's why I like spicy peanuts, they're self regulating. You can only eat as many as you can handle. I like Ass Kickin' Peanuts myself.

    As an added bonus, snacking on these all day really builds up your tolerance for heat. So the next time you and your brother go out for Thai food you can make him look like a total wimp (I hate my brother).

  2. Homemade Salsa and Tortilla Chips.

    Tortilla chips with any dip are crunchy, creamy and low on the GI. Salsa is the best choice for a dip because it has the highest flavor/nutrition ratio and because when you make a batch it's good for a week. You can pack it up and take it to work, unlike guacamole, which might make it to the table before it turns brown.

    And I say homemade because it's better, cheaper and super easy. I use the Alton Brown salsa recipe (halve that unless you're a pro linebacker) and I buy bulk tortillas from the supermarket and fry them up in some corn oil. In about 10 minutes I have a bag of chips at 1/6 the cost and they're restaurant quality.

  3. Deviled Eggs.

    Boiled eggs have the same benefits, but deviled eggs bring a little more flavor to the mouth party (yeah, I said that). They taste great, they're filling and they have 0 carbs which means they don't even register on the GI. I would call them self regulating because they are not easily packed and transported.

  4. Half a Toasted Peanut Butter and Honey sandwich.

    A whole sandwich is a bit too much for a snack, but a half is perfect. The peanut butter is the key part here, it's got enough fat, protein and fiber to keep the GI low. The honey provides a nice sweetness with fewer calories (sugar is only 80% as sweet as honey) and it won't create the purple slurm on one side of your sandwich like jelly will.

    Don't skip the toasting part though. The toast has a crunchy outside, chewy inside thing that makes this snack interesting; remember that's important.

  5. Homemade Popcorn.

    This is my favorite. It's pure fiber and carbohydrate and it's GI isn't too high. It tastes great and it has the most interesting mouth feel (I'm telling you, that's important) of any snack. It's perfectly healthy if you don't add butter and it's not too bad if you use a healthier olive oil butter spread. It keeps great for a day or so and if you haven't eaten it by then (why would you not eat it by then?) throw it in a bowl with milk and sugar. Popcorn is the original cereal.

    And if you make it yourself (don't buy those overpriced bags of microwave popcorn with carcinogenic imitation butter) it's practically free. It literally costs pennies per gallon if you pop it in a wok on your stove.

Almost free, tasty and healthy. What more could you want? Huh? You want more? 5 isn't enough for you? Fine, whatever. Here is a 6th:
  • Bonus: Diced Apple with Lime.

    This is big in Mexico and it's a great way to make an apple a little tastier. Just dice it up real fine and squeeze a lime or lemon on top. The sour gives a great contrast to the earthy, sweet flavor of the apple. It also stops the apple from turning brown so you can dice it at home and throw it in a zip lock for work.

Snacking is an important part of your day but you have to snack smart. Look for things that have a low GI (fat and fiber) and always plan to snack. It's thinking that you won't eat anything between breakfast and lunch that leaves you standing in front of the candy machine at 10:30 in the morning, starting a cycle that's going to ruin your day.

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The Idiocy of Banning Books

Books have probably been banned since the first one was written - and it's something that is still done today in some countries. According to this article, Tango Makes Three has once again been awarded the top slot for objectionable books. The story is about a penguin who has two fathers and some parents feel this book might give kids the idea that a homosexual lifestyle is acceptable. Forget about promoting the idea of understanding with children that what makes up a family may be different from what they know. Just ban it because the content conflicts with their beliefs or they are too scared to face their own homophobia, not to mention complete ignorance. On a side note, having two fathers does not necessarily mean the parents are homosexual…but, again, understanding is not at the top of the agenda for these people.

Other books on the ALA's top 10 list include Maya Angelou's memoir "I Know
Why the Caged Bird Sings," in which the author writes of being raped as a young
girl; Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," long attacked for
alleged racism; and Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass," an anti-religious
work in which a former nun says: "The Christian religion is a very powerful and
convincing mistake."

I don't see anything wrong with parents objecting to books but I do think some people go too far when they call for a book to be banned. If you don't feel a book is acceptable to your children that's your opinion and you have a right not to allow your child to read the book. Calling for a ban of the book so no one can read it goes beyond that.

There is nothing wrong with parents monitoring what their OWN children read, in fact, I think it is the responsibility of a parent to be educated and aware of what their child is up to, including which books they are reading. Objecting to books because their content is violent, such as 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' is just plain ridiculous in my opinion. I understand that parents want their children to be protected from darker aspects of life; unfortunately that isn't going to change the fact that violence, such as rape, happens. Use novels like these to teach your children about life. Let them learn from it.

Same goes for 'Huckleberry Finn'. This novel is set in an American era where racism was still rampant. Rather than try to bury a dark part of American history, use this book to explain to your children that at one time racism was acceptable and then show them why that kind of thinking is wrong and leads to ignorance and hatred.

The literature that is chosen for schools is chosen because it provides a learning experience for your kid. Books are a safe way to introduce children to ideas, different cultures, different lifestyles... even different worlds. Schools have more pressing issues to deal with than whether or not the context of a novel is deemed violent of offensive.
Original here

The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master

A man can be expert in nothing, but he must be practiced in many things. Skills. You don't have to master them all at once. You simply have to collect and develop a certain number of skills as the years tick by. People count on you to come through. That's why you need these, to start.

By Tom Chiarella

[more from this author]

large picture of people doing all kinds of different activities

Leif Parsons

A Man Should Be Able To:

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. I got run out of a job I liked once, and while it was happening, a guy stopped me in the hall. Smart guy, but prone to saying too much. I braced myself. I didn't want to hear it. I needed a white knight, and I knew it wasn't him. He just sighed and said: When nobody has your back, you gotta move your back. Then he walked away. Best advice I ever got. One sentence.

2. Tell if someone is lying. Everyone has his theory. Pick one, test it. Choose the tells that work for you. I like these: Liars change the subject quickly. Liars look up and to their right when they speak. Liars use fewer contractions. Liars will sometimes stare straight at you and employ a dead face. Liars never touch their chest or heart except self-consciously. Liars place objects between themselves and you during a conversation.

3. Take a photo. Fill the frame.

4. Score a baseball game. Scoring a game is an exercise in ciphering, creating a shorthand of your very own. In this way, it's a private language as much as a record of the game. The only given is the numbering of the positions and the use of the diamond to express each batter's progress around the bases. I black out the diamond when a run scores. I mark an RBI with a tally mark in the upper-right-hand corner. Each time you score a game, you pick up on new elements to track: pitch count, balls and strikes, foul balls. It doesn't matter that this information is available on the Internet in real time. Scoring a game is about bearing witness, expanding your own ability to observe.

5. Name a book that matters. The Catcher in the Rye does not matter. Not really. You gotta read.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. One guy at your table knows where Cobain was born and who his high school English teacher was. Another guy can argue the elegant extended trope of Liquid Swords with GZA himself. This is how it should be. Music does not demand agreement. Rilo Kiley. Nina Simone. Whitesnake. Fugazi. Otis Redding. Whatever. Choose. Nobody likes a know-it-all, because 1) you can't know it all and 2) music offers distinct and private lessons. So pick one. Except Rilo Kiley. I heard they broke up.

illustration of a man using a magnifying glass to cook a piece of meat

Leif Parsons

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.

Buy The Way to Cook, by Julia Child. Try roasting. Braising. Broiling. Slow-cooking. Pan searing. Think ragouts, fricassees, stews. All of this will force you to understand the functionality of different cuts. In the end, grilling will be a choice rather than a chore, and your Weber will become a tool rather than a piece of weekend entertainment.

8. Not monopolize the conversation.

9. Write a letter.

So easy. So easily forgotten. A five-paragraph structure works pretty well: Tell why you're writing. Offer details. Ask questions. Give news. Add a specific memory or two. If your handwriting is terrible, type. Always close formally.

10. Buy a suit.

Avoid bargains. Know your likes, your dislikes, and what you need it for (work, funerals, court). Squeeze the fabric -- if it bounces back with little or no sign of wrinkling, that means it's good, sturdy material. And tug the buttons gently. If they feel loose or wobbly, that means they're probably coming off sooner rather than later. The jacket's shoulder pads are supposed to square with your shoulders; if they droop off or leave dents in the cloth, the jacket's too big. The jacket sleeves should never meet the wrist any lower than the base of the thumb -- if they do, ask to go down a size. Always get fitted.

11. Swim three different strokes. Doggie paddle doesn't count.

12. Show respect without being a suck-up. Respect the following, in this order: age, experience, record, reputation. Don't mention any of it.

13. Throw a punch. Close enough, but not too close. Swing with your shoulders, not your arm. Long punches rarely land squarely. So forget the roundhouse. You don't have a haymaker. Follow through; don't pop and pull back. The length you give the punch should come in the form of extension after the point of contact. Just remember, the bones in your hand are small and easy to break. You're better off striking hard with the heel of your palm. Or you could buy the guy a beer and talk it out.

14. Chop down a tree. Know your escape path. When the tree starts to fall, use it.

15. Calculate square footage. Width times length.

illustrated instructions on how to tie a bow tie in six steps

Leif Parsons

16. Tie a bow tie.

Step 1: Make a simple knot, allowing slightly more length (one to two inches) on the end of A.

Step 2: Lay A out of the way, fold B into the normal bow shape, and position it on the first knot you made.

Step 3: Drop A vertically over folded end B.

Step 4: Double back A on itself and position it over the knot so that the two folded ends make a cross.

Step 5: The hard part: Pass folded end A under and behind the left side (yours) of the knot and through the loop behind folded end B.

Step 6: Tighten the knot you have created, straightening, particularly in the center.

illustration of man mixing a giant batch of martinis

Leif Parsons

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well.

When I interviewed for my first job, one of the senior guys had me to his house for a reception. He offered me a cigarette and pointed me to a bowl of whiskey sours, like I was Darrin Stephens and he was Larry Tate. I can still remember that first tight little swallow and my gratitude that I could go back for a refill without looking like a drunk. I came to admire the host over the next decade, but he never gave me the recipe. So I use this:
• For every 750-ml bottle of whiskey (use a decent bourbon or rye), add:
• 6 oz fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
• 6 oz simple syrup (mix superfine sugar and water in equal quantities)

To serve: Shake 3 oz per person with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice or, if you're really slick, a float of red wine. (Pour about 1/2 oz slowly into each glass over the back of a spoon; this is called a New York sour, and it's great.)

18. Speak a foreign language. Pas beaucoup. Mais faites un effort.

19. Approach a woman out of his league. Ever have a shoeshine from a guy you really admire? He works hard enough that he doesn't have to tell stupid jokes; he doesn't stare at your legs; he knows things you don't, but he doesn't talk about them every minute; he doesn't scrape or apologize for his status or his job or the way he is dressed; he does his job confidently and with a quiet relish. That stuff is wildly inviting. Act like that guy.

20. Sew a button.

21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer.

Once, in our lifetime, much of Europe was approaching cultural and political irrelevance. Then they made like us and banded together into a union of confederated states. So you can always assume that they were simply copying the United States as they now push us to the verge of cultural and political irrelevance.

22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn't have to ask after it.

Otherwise, ask after it.

23. Be loyal. You will fail at it. You have already. A man who does not know loyalty, from both ends, does not know men. Loyalty is not a matter of give-and-take: He did me a favor, therefore I owe him one. No. No. No. It is the recognition of a bond, the honoring of a shared history, the reemergence of the vows we make in the tight times. It doesn't mean complete agreement or invisible blood ties. It is a currency of selflessness, given without expectation and capable of the most stellar return.

24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope. Brand, amount, style, fast, like so: Booker's, double, neat.

25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it.

Use a contractor's hammer. Swing hard and loose, like a tennis serve.

26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat.

27. Play gin with an old guy. Old men will try to crush you. They'll drown you in meaningless chatter, tell stories about when they were kids this or in Korea that. Or they'll retreat into a taciturn posture designed to get you to do the talking. They'll note your strategies without mentioning them, keep the stakes at a level they can control, and change up their pace of play just to get you stumbling. You have to do this -- play their game, be it dominoes or cribbage or chess. They may have been playing for decades. You take a beating as a means of absorbing the lessons they've learned without taking a lesson. But don't be afraid to take them down. They can handle it.

28. Play go fish with a kid.

You don't crush kids. You talk their ear off, make an event out of it, tell them stories about when you were a kid this or in Vegas that. You have to play their game, too, even though they may have been playing only for weeks. Observe. Teach them without once offering a lesson. And don't be afraid to win. They can handle it.

29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped.

Sometimes the laws of physics aren't laws at all. Read The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, by Kenneth W. Ford.

30. Feign interest. Good place to start: quantum physics.

31. Make a bed.

32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. I once stood in a wine store in West Hollywood where the owner described a pinot noir he favored as "a night walk through a wet garden." I bought it. I went to my hotel and drank it by myself, looking at the flickering city with my feet on the windowsill. I don't know which was more right, the wine or the vision that he placed in my head. Point is, it was right.

illustration of a man making a jump shot in pool

Leif Parsons

33. Hit a jump shot in pool. It's not something you use a lot, but when you hit a jump shot, it marks you as a player and briefly impresses women. Make the angle of your cue steeper, aim for the bottommost fraction of the ball, and drive the cue smoothly six inches past the contact point, making steady, downward contact with the felt.

34. Dress a wound. First, stop the bleeding. Apply pressure using a gauze pad. Stay with the pressure. If you can't stop the bleeding, forget the next step, just get to a hospital. Once the bleeding stops, clean the wound. Use water or saline solution; a little soap is good, too. If you can't get the wound clean, then forget the next step, just get to a hospital. Finally, dress the wound. For a laceration, push the edges together and apply a butterfly bandage. For avulsions, where the skin is punctured and pulled back like a trapdoor, push the skin back and use a butterfly. Slather the area in antibacterial ointment. Cover the wound with a gauze pad taped into place. Change that dressing every 12 hours, checking carefully for signs of infection. Better yet, get to a hospital.

man holding jumper cables over his head

Leif Parsons

35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once).

36. Make three different bets at a craps table. Play the smallest and most poorly labeled areas, the bets where it's visually evident the casino doesn't want you to go. Simply play the pass line; once the point is set, play full odds (this is the only really good bet on the table); and when you want a little more action, tell the crew you want to lay the 4 and the 10 for the minimum bet.

37. Shuffle a deck of cards.

I play cards with guys who can't shuffle, and they lose. Always.

38. Tell a joke. Here's one:

Two guys are walking down a dark alley when a mugger approaches them and demands their money. They both grudgingly pull out their wallets and begin taking out their cash. Just then, one guy turns to the other, hands him a bill, and says, "Hey, here's that $20 I owe you."

39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack.

Aces. Eights. Always.

40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. Use his first name. Don't use baby talk. Don't crank up your energy to match his. Ask questions and wait for answers. Follow up. Don't pretend to be interested in Webkinz or Power Rangers or whatever. He's as bored with that shit as you are. Concentrate instead on seeing the child as a person of his own.

41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear.

You don't own the restaurant, so don't act like it. You own the transaction. So don't speak into the menu. Lift your chin. Make eye contact. All restaurants have secrets -- let it be known that you expect to see some of them.

42. Talk to a dog so it will hear.

Go ahead, use baby talk.

43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help. Just turn off the damned main.

44. Ask for help.

Guys who refuse to ask for help are the most cursed men of all. The stubborn, the self-possessed, and the distant. The hell with them.

45. Break another man's grip on his wrist. Rotate your arm rapidly in the grip, toward the other guy's thumb.

46. Tell a woman's dress size.

47. Recite one poem from memory. Here you go:


When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

--William Butler Yeats

48. Remove a stain. Blot. Always blot.

49. Say no.

50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. Cook until the white appears solid...and no longer.

illustrated directions on how to build a campfire

Leif Parsons

51. Build a campfire.

There are three components:

1. The tinder -- bone-dry, snappable twigs, about as long as your hand. You need two complete handfuls. Try birch bark; it burns long and hot.

2. The kindling -- thick as your thumb, long as your forearm, breakable with two hands. You need two armfuls.

3. Fuel wood -- anything thick and long enough that it can't be broken by hand. It's okay if it's slightly damp. You need a knee-high stack.

Step 1: Light the tinder, turning the pile gently to get air underneath it.

Step 2: Feed the kindling into the emergent fire with some pace.

Step 3: Lay on the fuel wood. Pyramid, the log cabin, whatever -- the idea is to create some kind of structure so that plenty of air gets to the fire.

52. Step into a job no one wants to do. When I was 13, my dad called me into his office at the large urban mall he ran. He was on the phone. What followed was a fairly banal 15-minute conversation, which involved the collection of rent from a store. On and on, droning about store hours and lighting problems. I kept raising my eyebrows, pretending to stand up, and my dad kept waving me down. I could hear only his end, garrulous and unrelenting. He rolled his eyes as the excuses kept coming. His assertions were simple and to the point, like a drumbeat. He wanted the rent. He wanted the store to stay open when the mall was open. Then suddenly, having given the job the time it deserved, he put it to an end. "So if I see your gate down next Sunday afternoon, I'm going to get a drill and stick a goddamn bolt in it and lock you down for the next week, right?" When he hung up, rent collected, he took a deep breath. "I've been dreading that call," he said. "Once a week you gotta try something you never would do if you had the choice. Otherwise, why are you here?" So he gave me that. And this...

53. Sometimes, kick some ass.

54. Break up a fight. Work in pairs if possible. Don't get between people initially. Use the back of the collar, pull and urge the person downward. If you can't get him down, work for distance.

55. Point to the north at any time.

If you have a watch, you can point the hour hand at the sun. Then find the point directly between the hour hand and the 12. That's south. The opposite direction is, of course, north.

56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person.

57. Explain what a light-year is. It's the measure of the distance that light travels over 365.25 days.

58. Avoid boredom. You have enough to eat. You can move. This must be acknowledged as a kind of freedom. You don't always have to buy things, put things in your mouth, or be delighted.

59. Write a thank-you note.

Make a habit of it. Follow a simple formula like this one: First line is a thesis statement. The second line is evidentiary. The third is a kind of assertion. Close on an uptick.

Thanks for having me over to watch game six. Even though they won, it's clear the Red Sox are a soulless, overmarketed contrivance of Fox TV. Still, I'm awfully happy you have that huge high-def television. Next time, I really will bring beer. Yours,

60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. It tells a lot about who you are and where you came from. Me? I like Hellman's mayonnaise and Genesee beer, which makes me the fleshy, stubbornly upstate ne'er-do-well that I will always be.

61. Cook bacon.

Lay out the bacon on a rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

illustration of a man talking on the cell phone and holding a baby with one hand

Leif Parsons

62. Hold a baby.

Newborns should be wrapped tightly and held against the chest. They like tight spaces (consider their previous circumstances) and rhythmic movements, so hold them snug, tuck them in the crook of your elbow or against the skin of your neck. Rock your hips like you're bored, barely listening to the music at the edge of a wedding reception. No one has to notice except the baby. Don't breathe all over them.

63. Deliver a eulogy. Take the job seriously. It matters. Speak first to the family, then to the outside world. Write it down. Avoid similes. Don't read poetry. Be funny.

64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. When I was a kid, because I'm Italian and because the Irish guys in my neighborhood were relentless with the beatings on St. Patrick's Day, I loved the very idea of Christopher Columbus. I loved the fact that Irish kids worshipped some gnome who drove all the rats out of Ireland or whatever, whereas my hero was an explorer. Man, I drank the Kool-Aid on that guy. Of course, I later learned that he was a hand-chopping, land-stealing egotist who sold out an entire hemisphere to European avarice. So I left Columbus behind. Your understanding of your heroes must evolve. See Roger Clemens. See Bill Belichick.

65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably.

If you can't, play more ball.

68. Find his way out of the woods if lost. Note your landmarks -- mountains, power lines, the sound of a highway. Look for the sun: It sits in the south; it moves west. Gauge your direction every few minutes. If you're completely stuck, look for a small creek and follow it downstream. Water flows toward larger bodies of water, where people live.

69. Tie a knot.

Square knot: left rope over right rope, turn under. Then right rope over left rope. Tuck under. Pull. Or as my pack leader, Dave Kenyon, told me in a Boy Scouts meeting: "Left over right, right over left. What's so fucking hard about that?"

70. Shake hands. Steady, firm, pump, let go. Use the time to make eye contact, since that's where the social contract begins.

close up of an iron pressing a shirt

Leif Parsons

71. Iron a shirt. My uncle Tony the tailor once told me of ironing: Start rough, end gently.

72. Stock an emergency bag for the car.

Blanket. Heavy flashlight. Hand warmers. Six bottles of water. Six packs of beef jerky. Atlas. Reflectors. Gloves. Socks. Bandages. Neosporin. Inhaler. Benadryl. Motrin. Hard candy. Telescoping magnet. Screwdriver. Channel-locks. Crescent wrench. Ski hat. Bandanna.

73. Caress a woman's neck. Back of your fingers, in a slow fan.

74. Know some birds. If you can't pay attention to a bird, then you can't learn from detail, you aren't likely to appreciate the beauty of evolution, and you don't have a clue how birdlike your own habits may be. You've been looking at them blindly for years now. Get a guide.

75. Negotiate a better price. Be informed. Know the price of competitors. In a big store, look for a manager. Don't be an asshole. Use one phrase as your mantra, like "I need a little help with this one." Repeat it, as an invitation to him. Don't beg. Ever. Offer something: your loyalty, your next purchase, even your friendship, and, with the deal done, your gratitude.

Original here

Stuff-onomics: Hidden Side of What You Own

Coming back from India, I feel like a different person. Not because of India, or that this is the cliché thing to say, but because I’ve been so out of touch with my old reality that I see my old life with a drastically different perspective. On top of being away for 3 months, I’m starting a new job and we are planning to move to another country later this year. Sitting here amongst all my things packed in 50 boxes retrieved from storage, it feels as if someone had pressed the “restart” button on my life.

It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s surreal, and it’s so damn liberating. Gosh, it’s good to be home!

I’ve learned so many life lessons in the past few months, and I’ll start to share them with you over time. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how little we actually need. How little we need in order to be happy.

After traveling for several months in one bag: two pairs of pants, a few shirts, a jacket, several books, and my iPod (which I used once)…. Coming home to 50 boxes full of Stuff, it felt like my world was once again being weighed down by things I didn’t need. It felt as if the things will consume more of me than I will ever consume of it. Thus, my new project: to simplify my life… starting with Stuff.

Why We Collect Stuff?

How little we actually need in order to be happy.

This isn’t news. You knew that, and I did too. But why was it that I couldn’t part with those DVDs I will never watch again? Or, books I’ll never read? Or, clothing that I’ll never wear?

It is the stuff in our lives which we become attached to, because they give us a sense of self, a sense of identity. And by removing them, despite the clutter they cause in our inner space, it will feel as if someone is taking away our identity. It hurts the ego on a subconscious level.

Why do we collect stuff to begin with? For me, I collected stuff, because I wanted my life story to fit a certain persona and I collected stuff that would back up that story. For example, I wanted to be viewed as an artistic person, so I collected art books, photography collectables, and art works. They are displayed throughout my home, so that when I have visitors, they can see that I am indeed an artistic person and validate my story. Similarly, when I was heavily into technology, I wanted to be viewed as a highly technical person. I bought tech books and studied them so that I too could speak the lingo and fit in with my colleagues. These were my stories, but perhaps you can relate?

After playing the part of several personas, I have become the person I am today. What changed is that I reached the point where I was so full of stuff that I didn’t have room for any more. I have played the parts of an artist, an engineer, a fashion diva, a music collector, a dancer, a snowboarder, and an intellectual book worm. All these personas left me with more stuff than I need or even want. The physical stuff clutters my living space and the sense of peace I feel in my inner space. This state follows a quote I once heard: “Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world.”

The Sadus of India are pretty content with life, yet they own very little stuff. They carry all their possessions in light cotton bags. “… the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how little we actually need. How little we need in order to be happy.”

Why We Should Let Stuff Go?

Removing excess baggage will give us peace of mind, clarity and liberty.
We are not slaves to the stuff we own. We are the masters of our lives and the creators of our stories.

Learning to Let Go

If your house was on fire and you lost all your stuff, what would you miss most? If you had to move to a smaller apartment and needed to cut your stuff in half, what can you let go of? If you had to move across the country on a limited budget, what would you take with you? For everything else you’re leaving behind, perhaps they are not adding to your wellbeing anyway?

Moving is a great opportunity to practice letting go, since the process of packing forces you to realize how much you own. The more we can get rid of, the less we’ll need to carry around with us. Even when we don’t make drastic changes to our living location, it is still a therapeutic experience to periodically remove stuff we no longer need. Good questions to ask are: when was the last time I used this? Will I use it again? Will I use it often?

Make it an annual project to sweep through all that you own and see what you can remove. Just for fun, let’s call this the ‘Stuff Reduction Project’. Here’s what I did to give you some ideas.

First, select categories of stuff that will be included in your ‘Stuff Reduction Project’. For me, they were:

  • Clothing - especially Shoes and Jackets
  • DVDs
  • Music CDs
  • Books
  • Kitchen Supplies
  • Household Supplies - including cables, power extensions and blank CDs
  • Bathroom Supplies
  • Pet Supplies
  • Magazines
  • Office Equipment

Each category is given 3 hours max and treated like an assignment. Try to spread the assignments out and don’t try to do too much in one day.

Start tackling each assignment with several empty boxes, or leave enough room on the floor for several sorting categories:

  • Yes - Stuff I’m keeping with no pending action.
  • No - Stuff I’m not keeping, but I don’t want to throw away.
  • Maybe - Stuff I’m not sure about. I want to keep it, but also can do without.
  • Garbage
  • Recycling
  • Todo - Stuff I’m keeping that has a pending action or needs special attention. Examples: Papers to file, empty CD cases where the CDs needs to be recovered, ripped clothing that needs mending, shirts that needs to be hand washed, folders I need to further sort through in detail.

For each assignment, follow these steps:

  • Sort As Fast As Possible - Go through everything within the assignment category and quickly make a decision of where it should go: Yes? No? Maybe? When was the last time you wore that shirt? If it was more than a year ago, consider giving it away. How many times have you watched that DVD? Will you ever watch it again? Consider letting it go. Was the item too expensive to just toss away? Sell it and get some money back. For anything you haven’t used in a year, consider putting it in the No or Maybe bin.
  • If Yes - does it have pending action? If so, put it under Todo.
  • Put Yes’s Away - Take all the items under the Yes category and further sort them if necessary. Put them away in orderly fashion. Make sure everything has a home, so you know where to put things back after using it in the future.
  • Sort No’s - Will someone else want this? Can I sell it or donate it? Is it garbage? Can it be recycled? Break up the items you don’t want into additional categories if appropriate. In this way, you give each item an actionable next step. Some additional categories are:
    • Sellable - I even go as far as breaking items in Sellable into where I’ll be listing them:, Ebay, local listings such as Craig’s list.
    • Give Away to Friend - Put a yellow sticky or attach a note with the recipient’s name.
    • Donate - If you plan to give different things to different charities or organization, do the sorting now. Example, while sorting, I separated new and business clothing for Dress For Success, and all other clothing goes to Salvation Army.
  • Tending the Todo’s - If the Todo items can be quickly addressed, deal with them right away. Otherwise, put them in a box and handle them over time.
  • Take Out the Trash - It is super rewarding to take out a large amount of garbage and recycling after filtering through your house. After sorting through all my paper works, I recycled two moving boxes full of paper & plastic, and two bags of garbage.
  • Sell the Sellables - If you have time to list and sell items online, do it right away. It’s best to sell multiple things at once, instead of one at a time, so you can take advantage of batching and minimize trips to the post office. If things don’t sell in a given period of time, give them away in your donations box or to friends. (I have listed over 150 items and more than half have been sold. Here are some things I have remaining for sale.)
  • Move Out the Donations - Bring your donation boxes to your charity of choice. This too is super rewarding. For me, after moving 10 boxes of unused clothing, books and household supplies out of my house, what felt like big weights lifted out of my shoulders. My closet is now organized and minimal, and I can finally breathe again.

Ideas for Keeping Your Stuff Under Control

I know how difficult it can be to part with your stuff, even if we’ve never used it or will ever use it again, we save it for that day, when it might become useful, except that day may never come. Often times, I’ve kept stuff I’ve never used, simply because I’ve spent good money on it and felt bad for tossing it. As a result, the stuff ends up owning me instead of me owning it.

The following are some ideas for keeping your unused possessions to a minimum.

  • Re-Gift Box - I’ve told my friends and family not to buy me anymore stuff on birthdays and holidays, instead to give me something of theirs which I might be able to utilize or nothing at all. Consider setting aside a Re-Gift Box in a linen closet or dresser for things you no longer wish to keep and can make great gifts. Great choices include decorative objects of value with no apparent use, books you’ve really enjoyed but will not likely read again, home electronics still in great shape, picture frames which can be easily re-gifted with a meaningful picture. Re-gifting box is not the same as the Donation Box, only put useful or meaningful things that you’d feel comfortable giving away to friends. Re-gifting is not being cheap, it’s a practical and environmentally friendly way of re-cycling stuff by giving it a home where it can be utilized. For example, a friend of mine needs a DVD burner to back up his wedding photos, and I happen to have an extra one lying around in excellent shape. I plan to give it to him on his birthday in a month along with some blank DVDs.
  • The Buying & Giving Rule - Try the ‘rule’ to allow yourself to buy something new only when you can remove something you already own. For example, only buy a new shirt if you’re willing to put an old shirt in your donation box. Similarly, only buy a new CD, if you’re willing to give away or sell another CD.
  • Scheduled Sweep - Schedule periodic appointments with yourself to sweep through certain sections of your house.
  • Ask Questions Before Buying - Most stuff accumulation are the result of impulse buys. I am are guilty of this and have found it helpful to ask some simple questions when I feel the urge to buy. Do I need it? How many similar items do I already own? How often do I use them?
  • Waiting Period Before Buying - When you feel the urge to buy something unessential, try giving yourself a waiting period of a few days or weeks before buying it. Often times, you’ll find that you no longer need the item as you had initially felt.
  • Box it. Date it. Toss it. - For stuff that you don’t want to throw away, yet have no immediate needs for. Put them in a box, close it and date the box that’s one or two years from today. Store the box in an attic or closet. Annually check on these boxes, when the date have passed, donate the box without looking to see what’s inside. If you don’t know what’s inside and haven’t used it in over a year, likely it’s not something you need anyways. And by not looking what’s inside, you won’t get attached to these things you don’t need in the first place.

Don’t expect to get rid of everything in one sweep, it’s a step process of letting go and it’s okay to keep a few things from your Maybe pile. I still have a hard time letting go of some things, but with each Stuff Reduction Project, I get better at detaching and end up removing more clutter. Expect to do several sweeps over the next few years. It takes patience, determination, courage and practice to eliminate the unnecessary clutter of unused stuff in your life. You’ll love the sense of freedom once you’re done.

Do you have tips for reducing the unnecessary stuff in your life? Talk to us in the comments. See you there!

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We get all revved up whenever we hear new developments on the fabulously sexy electric Tesla Roadster. We were floored when we caught our first glimpse of this ultra-sleek sports car, and beside ourselves when this amazing electric vehicle started into production. You can be sure that the latest news announcing that Tesla has just opened its first dealership in Los Angeles has got our green vehicle radar on overdrive. Built close to the 405 freeway (11163 Santa Monica Blvd. for those of you living in Los Angeles), the Tesla Store is the first of five stores currently planned to open up in the United States.

We might be a tad bit obsessed with the Tesla Roadster, but what can we say, green roadsters are cool. The pilot store is the first step in what we are sure will end up being the overall world domination by electric vehicles, of all shapes and sizes. We would hope, however, that most REVs perform as well, and look as distinctly cool, as the Roadster.

Tesla production is still ramping up to meet their current demand (with about a year and a half waiting list), so don’t expect to be able to walk into the store and buy one on the spot. But, if you do happen to visit the new LA store you’ll at least be able to see one in person. And, there’s always the dream of the test drive.

+ Tesla Motors
+ Tesla Motors Opens first Dealership in Los Angeles @ Autoweek

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Chrysler to guarantee gas at $2.99 a gallon! For three years!

Who needs an 18-cent a gallon gas tax holiday from pandering politicians when you have Chrysler on your side?! With gas prices rapidly approaching and exceeding $4 a gallon across the nation, Chrysler is offering up a deal that just might make people who are averse to the looks of cars like the Chrysler Sebring and Jeep Compass think twice. Between now and June 2, anyone who buys any new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle will be able to register for a "Let's Refuel America" card. Once the customer registers a credit card with the program, they will receive a new card that they can then use at participating gas stations to fuel up their new car or truck. When the card is used, the credit card that the owner has on file will be billed $2.99 a gallon for either regular gas, E85 or diesel fuel. Chrysler will pay the difference. The best part is the price is locked in for THREE years. Now that's real savings. There are of course limitations on the deal. Get more details on the deal and Chrysler's full press release after the jump.
SRT models, Vipers, Crossfires (they are still around?) and Sprinters are excluded. Also, when you buy the car your card will only be eligible for the pricing for the fuel the car uses. If you buy a diesel truck you can only buy diesel fuel. Similarly gas or flex fuel cars can only get gas or E85. If you buy the opposite fuel you'll be charged the full price plus and extra $2 transaction fee. There are also annual fuel allotments based on 12,000 miles a year of driving and the EPA sticker mileage.

The card can be be used to fuel any car and if the car is sold within the three years, the owner can keep the card and continue buying fuel at the discounted price. This is one hell of a deal, if it doesn't drive Chrysler into bankruptcy, which is a distinct possibility. Because there is no way of knowing what fuel costs will be over the next three years, Chrysler can't estimate the cost. However, Steven Landry, Executive Vice President - North American Sales said the company is doing some hedging to protect themselves. If the price of fuel dips below $2.99 customers can just pay with another card or cash. The program kicks off on Wednesday May 7, 2008.

Chrysler LLC Delivers Economic Stimulus; Protects Consumers from Rising Gas Prices for Three Years

"Let's Refuel America" available throughout the U.S. exclusively at Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge dealerships through June 2, 2008 Three-year price protection from volatile gas prices available on compact, mid-size and full-size models, minivans, crossovers and pickup truck models

Seventy-six percent of customers cite rising gas prices as "top concern" Auburn Hills, Mich. - In response to direct customer feedback citing the prospect of rising gas prices as a top concern, Chrysler LLC today announces its own economic stimulus package: an exclusive gas price protection policy that eliminates the risk of further spikes in fuel prices. With the U.S. purchase of eligible Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles, customers can enroll in the "Let's Refuel America" program and receive a gas card that immediately lowers their gas price to $2.99 a gallon, and keeps it there for three years. The offer is available at 3,521 U.S. Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealerships through June 2, 2008, and is available on vehicles ranging from popular new compacts, crossovers and minivans to full-size diesel-powered pickup trucks.

"Today we are proud to introduce an unprecedented program to help put customers' minds at ease and do something to help working people who are worried about the volatility of fuel prices and vehicle cost of ownership," said Jim Press, Vice-Chairman and President, Chrysler LLC. "The Let's Refuel America Price Guarantee puts money in your pocket today, and allows our customers to better manage their fuel expenses. And you can't get it anywhere else besides a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge dealership."

The Let's Refuel America program offers consumers a combination of the fuel price protection program and additional bonus cash up to $3,000 on available vehicles, including Chrysler PT Cruiser, Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Dakota and Dodge Ram.

Consumer Economic Solutions

Chrysler has a number of solutions to help our customers during these tough economic times. "Chrysler is committed to providing the best value, and the least worries, for our customers," said Press. Chrysler's lineup includes five models for under $20,000 that get 28 miles-per-gallon or better on the highway. To protect consumers from unexpected repair costs in the future, Chrysler models come with the industry's best powertrain warranty, covering the original owner for the life of the vehicle. And Chrysler has made a number of its most popular options standard on its New Day Package vehicles.

Fuel Economy Solutions

Chrysler currently offers six models that get better than 28 miles-per-gallon on the highway: Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Sebring Convertible, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber. Through April, the six of these models combined have higher sales than in the first four months of 2007. The recently-launched 2009 Dodge Journey comes with an available 173-hp four cylinder engine, helping it achieve best in class fuel economy.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel 3.0-liter engine provides a class-leading
driving range of approximately 450 miles and gets an estimated fuel economy of 18 miles/city and 23 miles/highway for 4x2 models and 17 miles/city and 22 miles/highway for 4x4 models. Outside of North America where fuel-saving diesel engines are in higher demand, Chrysler offers 17 models with diesel powertrains.

This fall, Chrysler will launch in the United States, two new hybrid SUVs, the Dodge Durango Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, boasting a fuel economy improvement of more than 25 percent overall, and 40 percent in the city. In 2010, the Dodge Ram Hybrid will reach the market. Chrysler is currently in the midst of a $3 billion powertrain investment offensive to develop new fuel-efficient powertrains and axles for our next-generation models.

Chrysler supports the federal government's new dramatically increased CAFE fuel economy standards, which will increase fuel efficiency by an average of 40 percent by 2020. Recently, Chrysler joined the US Climate Action Partnership, working to find solutions to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Customer Advisory Board

In February, Chrysler created the industry's first Customer Advisory Board to encourage a direct dialogue with customers and gather insight and feedback. A recent Advisory Board survey generated the following results: 76 percent of the community is "very concerned" or "extremely concerned" about fuel prices. 83 percent of the community responded that fuel prices will affect their summer vacation plans. (Note: the poll shows that 19 percent responded "extremely", 22 percent responded "very much", 30 percent responded "somewhat", and 12 percent responded slightly, 17 percent responded that it won't affect their plans.)

Program Description

The Let's Refuel America gas card program works when a customer purchases a new and unused Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle and selects the program in lieu of other available incentives. The customer is provided with the registration process documentation and registers providing their required personal information via the dedicated web site or toll-free 800 number. Once registered, the customer receives their gas card and separately, their Personal Identification Number (PIN) within 4 to 6 weeks of application. The customer then swipes their Let's Refuel America Gas Card at an eligible gas station, selecting up to 87 octane regular, E85 fuel or diesel fuel, and enters their PIN to begin the fueling process. After the fuel transaction occurs, the customer's personal credit card (identified in the registration process) is charged $2.99 per gallon.

Let's Refuel America Eligibility

The following vehicles are eligible for the Let's Refuel America program:
Small/Compact Car
Dodge Caliber, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible
Mid-size Car
Dodge Avenger, Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Sebring Convertible
Large Car
Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum
Dodge Journey
Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country
Compact SUV
Jeep Patriot, Jeep Compass
Mid-size SUV
Dodge Nitro, Jeep Liberty
Large SUV
Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Commander, Dodge Durango, Chrysler Aspen
Pickup Truck
Dodge Dakota, Dodge Ram, Dodge Ram HD
The following vehicles are not eligible for the Let's Refuel America program:
All SRT models, Dodge Viper, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Ram Chassis Cab,
Chrysler Crossfire, Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Sprinter.
Select Program Offer
$2.99 guaranteed fuel card for up to 3 years

Offer valid with up to 87 octane regular unleaded fuel, E85 fuel or diesel fuel only, depending upon purchased vehicle*
Yearly allotment of gallons provided
Annual gallon allotment ends each year on 7/31 (first year ends 7/31/09)

Easily register via a dedicated web site or by calling designated 1-800
Personalized Let's Refuel America Gas Card arrives within 4-6 weeks of
receipt of application
Use & Save
Use the Let's Refuel America Gas Card like any credit card – just swipe
and type in your PIN to use

Check account transactions online

* If mid-grade or premium unleaded fuel is purchased, the customer will be billed for the $2.99 plus $.15 per gallon for mid-grade (88-89 octane) or plus $.30 for premium (90-94 octane). All other grades of fuel higher than 94 octane are not covered under this program and the full pump price will be billed through to the customer plus a $2 service fee per transaction with no gallon usage penalty. If customer purchases unleaded gas (including E85) on a diesel card, or diesel fuel on an unleaded gas card, the customer will be billed the full pump price plus $2 service fee per transaction with no gallon usage penalty
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