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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cancer survivors 'left in limbo'

Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy can have long-term health effects

Many long-term survivors of cancer are not getting the help they need to cope with the after-effects of the disease, experts warn.

More than 60% of adults with cancer can expect to live five years or more, according to an article in the European Journal of Cancer.

Yet they are left "in limbo" to deal with ongoing symptoms from their disease or harsh cancer treatments.

The government said it was working to improve services for cancer survivors.

Professor Marie Fallon, an expert in palliative medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said the number of people living with the effects of cancer was rising as more and more people were surviving the condition.

There is an enormous population of long-term survivors of cancer, many of whom are living with a range of symptoms
Professor Marie Fallon

She added that cancer survivors would suffer ongoing symptoms but often be confused about whether they were treatment-related or whether they were a sign the cancer had come back.

"Traditionally, palliative care has been aimed at one end of the spectrum where it is used to help patients near the end of their lives," she said.

"However, there is an enormous population of long-term survivors of cancer, many of whom are living with a range of symptoms."

"These patients exist in a limbo.

"They fall between two stools - they have finished being treated by oncologists, but are not receiving the care and support from palliative care teams that patients at the end of life receive."

She added the ongoing problems, which included pain, swelling and depression could result in poor quality of life.

Better provision

Better integration was needed between oncology services and palliative care to prevent people falling through the gap, she said.

And there needs to be a clear agreement of where patients can access help and who should be responsible, she added.

Professor Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organisation, said: "To be cured from cancer, but living with symptoms that are related to often complex multi-disciplinary treatments involving surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy is already difficult enough.

"To reintegrate into society, resuming work full or part-time adds to the complexities and socio-psychological pressure that an ever-increasing number of former-patients have to deal with.

"We better start tackling these issues now as they will only increase in number and magnitude."

A Department of Health spokesperson said deaths from cancer in people under 75 fell by 17% between 1995 and 2006.

"The Cancer Reform Strategy published in December 2007, recognised that the services and support available to those living with and beyond cancer needs to be improved and announced the establishment of a new National Cancer Survivorship Initiative to deliver this."

Original here

Drinking water can be harmful to smallest babies

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Babies younger than six months old should never be given water to drink, physicians at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore remind parents. Consuming too much water can put babies at risk of a potentially life-threatening condition known as water intoxication.

"Even when they're very tiny, they have an intact thirst reflex or a drive to drink," Dr. Jennifer Anders, a pediatric emergency physician at the center, told Reuters Health. "When they have that thirst and they want to drink, the fluid they need to drink more of is their breast milk or formula."

Because babies' kidneys aren't yet mature, giving them too much water causes their bodies to release sodium along with excess water, Anders said. Losing sodium can affect brain activity, so early symptoms of water intoxication can include irritability, drowsiness and other mental changes. Other symptoms include low body temperature (generally 97 degrees or less), puffiness or swelling in the face, and seizures.

"It's a sneaky kind of a condition," Anders said. Early symptoms are subtle, so seizures may be the first symptom a parent notices. But if a child gets prompt medical attention, the seizures will probably not have lasting consequences, she added.

Water as a beverage should be completely off limits to babies six months old and younger, Anders and her colleagues say. Parents should also avoid using over-diluted formula, or pediatric drinks containing electrolytes.

Anders said it may be appropriate in some cases to give older infants a small amount of water; for example to help with constipation or in very hot weather, but parents should always check with their pediatrician before doing so, and should only give the baby an ounce or two of water at a time.

If a parent thinks their child may have water intoxication, or if an infant has a seizure, they should seek medical attention immediately, she advised.

Original here

3 Surprising Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Your toothbrush isn't the only weapon capable of protecting your teeth -- your diet helps too!

In addition to brushing and flossing, a healthful diet (with natural or added fluoride) protects teeth from decay and keeps the gums healthy. Read on to discover how to keep your smile safe and strong.

Tooth decay (cavities and dental caries) and gum disease are caused by colonies of bacteria that constantly coat the teeth with a sticky film called plaque. If plaque is not brushed away, these bacteria break down the sugars and starches in foods to produce acids that wear away the tooth enamel. The plaque also hardens into tartar, which can lead to gum inflammation, or gingivitis.

A well-balanced diet provides the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients essential for healthy teeth and gums. Fluoride, occurring naturally in foods and water, or added to the water supply, can be a powerful tool in fighting decay. It can reduce the rate of cavities by as much as 60 percent.

Dental Health Guidelines
Start right by eating right during pregnancy. Make sure that your children's teeth get off to a good start by eating sensibly during pregnancy. Particularly important is calcium, which helps to form strong teeth and bones, and vitamin D, which the body needs to absorb calcium.

You need lots of calcium for healthy teeth and gums. Low-fat dairy products, fortified soy and rice beverages, canned salmon or sardines (with bones), almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of calcium.

You need vitamin D to help absorb the calcium. Vitamin D is obtained from fluid milk, fortified soy and rice beverages, margarine, fatty fish such as salmon, and moderate exposure to the sun.

Fluoride is key. To a large extent, cavities can be prevented by giving children fluoride in the first few years of life. Fluoride is supplied through fluoridated water (not all municipalities fluoridate their water supply, however), beverages made with fluoridated water, tea, and some fish, as well as many brands of toothpaste and some mouthwash. Fluoride supplements are available for children who don't have access to fluoridated drinking water. It is wise to check to see if the water supply in your area is fluoridated. Excess consumption of fluoride can cause mottling of the teeth.

Also needed are phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, and beta carotene. In addition to calcium and fluoride, minerals needed for the formation of tooth enamel include phosphorus (richly supplied in meat, fish, and eggs) and magnesium (found in whole grains, spinach, and bananas). Vitamin A also helps build strong bones and teeth. Good sources of beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A, include orange-colored fruits and vegetables and the dark green leafy vegetables.

Children are particularly vulnerable to tooth decay; parents should:
  • Provide a good diet throughout childhood

  • Brush children's teeth until they're mature enough to do a thorough job by themselves (usually by 6 or 7 years old)

  • Supervise twice-daily brushing and flossing thereafter

  • Never put babies or toddlers to bed accompanied by a bottle of milk (which contains the natural sugar lactose), juice, or other sweet drink

  • Never dip pacifiers in honey or syrup

1. The sugar factor. Sucrose, most familiar to us as granulated sugar, is the leading cause of tooth decay, but it is far from the only culprit. Although sugary foods, including cookies, candies, and sodas, are major offenders, starchy foods (such as breads and cereals) also play an important part in tooth decay. When starches mix with amylase, an enzyme in saliva, the result is an acid bath that erodes the enamel and makes teeth more susceptible to decay. If starchy foods linger in the mouth, the acid bath is prolonged, and the potential for damage is all the greater.

Be careful when eating dried fruits. Dried fruits can have an adverse effect on teeth, because they are high in sugar and cling to the teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juices can contribute to tooth decay -- they are acidic and contain relatively high levels of simple sugars.

Fresh fruits, especially apples, are better choices. Fresh fruit, although both sweet and acidic, is much less likely to cause a problem, because chewing stimulates the saliva flow. Saliva decreases mouth acidity and washes away food particles. Apples, for example, have been called nature's toothbrush because they stimulate the gums, increase saliva flow and reduce the build-up of cavity-causing bacteria. A chronically dry mouth also contributes to decay. Saliva flow slows during sleep; going to bed without brushing the teeth is especially harmful. Certain drugs, including those used for high blood pressure, also cut down saliva flow.

2. Gum disease. More teeth are lost through gum disease than through tooth decay. Gum disease is likely to strike anyone who neglects oral hygiene or eats a poor diet. Particularly at risk are people with alcoholism, malnutrition, or AIDS/HIV infection or who are being treated with steroid drugs or certain cancer chemotherapies. Regular brushing and flossing help to prevent puffy, sore, and inflamed gums.

Gingivitis, a very common condition that causes the gums to redden, swell, and bleed, is typically caused by the gradual buildup of plaque. Treatment requires good dental hygiene and removal of plaque by a dentist or dental hygienist. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis -- an advanced infection of the gums that causes teeth to loosen and fall out. There may even be more serious consequences of gum disease. Studies have shown a link between poor oral health and heart disease. Bleeding gums apparently provide an entry port for bacteria or viruses that can cause heart problems. Women with tooth or gum problems are also more likely to give birth to premature babies.

Bleeding gums may also be a sign that your intake of vitamin C is deficient. Be sure that your diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day; munching on hard, fibrous foods, such as a celery stick or carrot, stimulates the gums.

3. Helpful foods. You can protect your teeth by concluding meals with foods that do not promote cavities and may even prevent them. For instance, aged cheeses help prevent cavities if consumed at the end of a meal. Chewing sugarless gum stimulates the flow of saliva, which decreases acid and flushes out food particles. Rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth after eating are important strategies to prevent cavities. Here are some tips:

Consume Plenty Of
  • Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins A and C, and for chewing in order to promote healthy gums.
  • Tea, which is a good source of fluoride.
Limit
  • Dried fruits and other sticky foods that lodge between the teeth.
Avoid
  • Sweet drinks and snacks.
  • Steady sipping of acidic drinks for prolonged periods.
Original here

Top ten French wines

Britons love New World wines but across the Channel, something stirs. France is fighting back, writes Jonathan Ray

France is fighting back. It's true that in Britain we continue to drink more Australian wine than French, but our chums across the Channel do seem to have risen to the challenge from the New World - and from elsewhere in the Old - by producing some hugely enjoyable and very interesting stuff of late.


Crates of French wine
On the case: French wine is fighting back

Yes, prices in Bordeaux and Champagne continue to rise, with modestly-priced examples in either region hard to come by, but elsewhere in France fascinating and rewarding wines are easily found.

Alsace remains a particular favourite of mine, with tasty, aromatic, food-friendly whites of a style and charm that you simply won't find anywhere else.

The Rhône Valley is hard to beat for reds of real character and value, while Languedoc-Roussillon and the more obscure appellations of the Loire, southwest France and Provence are home to some delightfully quirky and individual wines, made both from the classic varieties as well as from rediscovered and revitalised local ones.

Although the euro is working against us, I have found myself turning more and more to French wines in the past few months. Listed here are 10 that I have particularly enjoyed.

THE TOP 10

1) 2006 Bourgogne Chardonnay 13% vol (£7.99; Marks & Spencer)

Made by the Nicolas Potel stable from hand-picked grapes grown in and around the village of Meursault, this is an absolute belter of a white burgundy. With its soft supple fruit, well-judged use of French oak and juicy finish it could pass for something far grander. Match it with creamy fish dishes or chicken and mushroom pie.

2) 2005 Château Barreyres, Haut-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois 13% vol (£8.99; Sainsbury's)

As we all know, 2005 was a cracking year for red bordeaux and the big names were bought up long ago en primeur or remain prohibitively expensive. But for well under a tenner, Château Barreyres is superb value.

With ripe, smooth blackcurrant and black cherry fruit and structured tannins, it is drinking beautifully now and will continue to improve. Ideal for the Sunday roast.

3) 2006 Bourgogne Pinot Noir 13% vol (£7.99; Marks & Spencer)

Made from 50-year-old vines, this is the red equivalent of the chardonnay above and is similarly great value. 2006 was a marvellous year for grape ripeness and there's no shortage of spicy, jammy fruit on the palate with silky soft tannins and hints of vanilla. The classic match for boeuf bourguignon, it can also partner grilled tuna steak, bangers and mash or simple salads.

4) 2007 Domaine Josmeyer Alsace Pinot Blanc "Mise du Printemps" 13% vol (£10.95-£11.95; Taurus Wines 01483 548484, Haynes Hanson & Clark 020 7584 7927, Booths 01772 693800)

A lovely wine from Josmeyer's biodynamic vineyards in Wintzenheim that's fresh and lively, with scrumptious honeyed pears on the palate and a long, dry finish. I can't remember tasting a finer example of Alsace Pinot Blanc. Delicious with onion tart or baked sea bass.

5) 2005 Château Mont-Redon, Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 13.5% vol (£85.18 per dozen; Justerini & Brooks 020 7484 6400)

Established in 1344, Château Mont-Redon is one of the oldest wine-producing estates in France and the largest single property in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The estate's soft, spicy Côtes-du-Rhône, blended from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, is the best I've had in many a year. Great value and perfect for early summer barbecues.

6) 2006 Château Puysserguier, Saint Chinian Blanc 13% vol (£8.99-£9.49; Bacchanalia 01223 576292, Corkscrew Wines 01228 543033, Hoults 01484 510700, Martinez Wines 01943 603241)

This white Saint Chinian from a Languedoc cooperative is something of a rarity and utterly delicious. A blend of Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne - part oak-fermented and part steel-fermented - it is soft and buttery with hints of acacia flower, honey and spice. Try it with butternut squash risotto or pumpkin ravioli.

7) 2007 Côté Tariquet, Côtes de Gascogne 11.5% vol (£6.25-£6.50; The Wine Society 01438 737700, Advintage Wines 020 8286 0089)

I love the wines of Domaine de Tariquet - France's largest independent vineyard - and this is one of my favourites. A very un-French blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, it is deliciously fruity, with a dry to off-dry finish and makes for classy quaffing wine.

8) Laurent Perrier NV Brut Ultra Champagne 13% vol (£36; Selfridges 0800 123400, Harvey Nichols 020 7235 5000, Harrods 020 7730 1234)

Made from 55 per cent chardonnay and 45 per cent pinot noir, this wonderfully invigorating champagne has had no sugar added at any stage and is as dry as they come. A worthy successor to Laurent Perrier's fabled "grand vin sans sucre" of years ago, it makes a guilt-free, low calorie, aperitif.

9) 2005 Château Roques Mauriac "Classic" Bordeaux Rosé 12.5% vol (£5.49 as part of mixed case; Bordeaux Undiscovered 0800 876 6958, www.bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk)

This blend of 60 per cent merlot and 40 per cent cabernet franc from the Entre-Deux-Mers in Bordeaux is a beguiling rosy pink with elusive hints of wild strawberries on the nose.

Light and undemanding rather than full-bodied and characterful, it is crisp, dry and very refreshing when served chilled, either as an aperitif or with simple starters of smoked salmon or parma ham.

10) 2005 Irouléguy, Domaine Ilarria,"Cuvée Bixinto" 12.5% vol (£16.50; Yapp Bros 01747 860423)

Peio Espil is one of only half a dozen independent winemakers in Irouléguy at the foot of the Pyrenees and his feisty red is a delight. Made from 100 per cent organic tannat (famous for its antioxidant powers) and a splash of cabernet sauvignon, it's practically a health drink. Decant and serve with barbecued leg of lamb.

  • jonathan.ray@telegraph.co.uk

  • Original here



    Hot dog, haute dog!

    Chicago chefs welcome summer by putting their own spin on a Chicago fave

    Classic Chicago-style hot dogs are legendary, with their all-beef snappiness, poppy seed buns, neon-green relish and racy little sport peppers. It's the summertime nosh of choice for many, residents and visitors alike. But there are times a classic needs updating.

    Who better to reinterpret the classic dog for today than some of the chefs whose cooking has put Chicago's on the culinary map.

    Good Eating asked five chefs to put their own spin on the wondrous wienie. The only caveat: Create something the home cook can feasibly replicate.

    The chefs responded with considerable enthusiasm. And their results, well, were sometimes unusual but always delicious.

    Charlie Trotter: Asian tuna hot dog

    Add another phrase to the long list of adjectives describing Charlie Trotter: "Lifelong hot dog eater."

    Whether at the ballpark or a neighborhood joint or the airport terminal before a long flight, expect to see the world-famous chef eating a hot dog.

    Trotter has fond memories of post-Little League hot dogs with the team at the north suburban Hot Dog Island, particularly the "fluorescent" green relish. "I thought it had great texture," he said, chuckling.

    In developing his Asian-themed tuna hot dog in the kitchen of his eponymous restaurant, Trotter said that he wanted a dish that represented how people eat today: lighter, healthier.

    "If a cook can make a tuna burger, why not a tuna hot dog?" Trotter wondered. And that decision led him to the Asian flavors and garnitures found in his sushi-grade tuna hot dog.

    As with many tuna presentations today, Trotter's calls for the outside to be seared and the inside undercooked. He also likes to use sheep casings from nearby Gepperth's Market on Halsted Street to encase the chopped tuna in a classic hot dog shape.

    Rick Bayless

    Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo knew instantly who would serve as inspiration for his recipe. He turned to his grandmother, Gladys Potter, who used to serve chili- and cheese-topped hot dogs to her grandkids in toasted New England-style buns.

    "I can remember my brother, sister and I standing next to the stove with our forks and knives waiting for these hot dogs to come out of the oven," he recalled. "I thought that this recipe, put in the context of Chicago as I know it today, would make a memorable recipe."

    That meant using Mexican ingredients, naturally, but Bayless also chose the meat with care. He went with a Polish-style spicy beef sausage to salute another of the immigrant communities that made Chicago what it is today.

    Developing the recipe was clearly lots of fun, both for Bayless and his team.

    "It was so hilarious in the test kitchen," he said. "People were coming out of the woodwork to try them."

    For Bayless, the use of cheese, chorizo sausage and black beans "embraces" the texture of the hot dog well.

    Bernie Laskowski

    Executive chef Bernie Laskowski of Park Grill turned to a Greek gyro sandwich in developing a recipe for a lamb hot dog topped with olives, onions, tomatoes, pepperoncini, feta cheese and tzatziki, a yogurt and cucumber sauce.

    Delicious, yes, but Laskowski still owes allegiance to the classic Chicago hot dog.

    "I work out a lot because I eat too many hot dogs," he said, laughing.

    "I grew up with corn dogs as a staple in the small hot dog stands that studded the South Side," Laskowski added. "I would scoop up $2 by doing odd jobs for the neighbors and looking for loose change in the cushions. This led to my obsession with hot dogs or anything encased in an intestine."

    You'll find a variant of the corn dog now on his happy hour menu: mini duck hot dogs with cherry ketchup.

    Koren Grieveson

    There's a lively smoky and spicy attitude to this hot dog from chef de cuisine Koren Grieveson of Avec. That's no accident.

    "If I'm going to eat a hot dog, these are the flavors I want," she said. "I love grilled, charred flavors, I love grilled onions ... It's kind of a simple win-win. And I had to throw some bacon in it."

    Grieveson said the hot dog recipe reflects what she likes to cook personally, with the dish taking on a definite Latin cast.

    "I love hot spicy food," she said.

    Shawn McClain

    "I think tofu, although scary-sounding to most, is getting more mainstream," said Shawn McClain of the Spring Restaurant Group.

    This vegetarian tribute to the hot dog may help make tofu win even more appreciation.

    "I pictured the Chicago dog with all its fun ingredients on top and thought we could do a little kimchi and hot sport peppers," he said. "I kind of wanted to have the similarity and appearance of the Chicago hot dog, but when you bite into it, it's like a fresh, spicy summer salad."

    Though McClain's recipe calls for creating tofu "dogs" out of a 1-pound block of extra-firm tofu, he said commercially made tofu sausages can be used instead.

    Original here

    A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue


    Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

    RADISH, WHERE IS THY STING? At flavor-tripping parties, guests find that miracle fruit makes everything sweet.

    CARRIE DASHOW dropped a large dollop of lemon sorbet into a glass of Guinness, stirred, drank and proclaimed that it tasted like a “chocolate shake.”

    Skip to next paragraph
    Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

    HOW’S IT DO THAT? Franz Aliquo, who calls himself Supreme Commander, right, supplied miracle berries grown by Curtis Mozie, left, to party-goers in Long Island City, Queens, last weekend.

    Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

    Those who attended sampled the red berries then tasted foods, including cheese, beer and brussels sprouts, finding the flavors transformed. Beer can taste like chocolate, lemons like candy. Mr. Aliquo says he holds the parties to “turn on a bunch of people’s taste buds.”

    Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

    Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

    Nearby, Yuka Yoneda tilted her head back as her boyfriend, Albert Yuen, drizzled Tabasco sauce onto her tongue. She swallowed and considered the flavor: “Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!”

    They were among 40 or so people who were tasting under the influence of a small red berry called miracle fruit at a rooftop party in Long Island City, Queens, last Friday night. The berry rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy.

    The host was Franz Aliquo, 32, a lawyer who styles himself Supreme Commander (Supreme for short) when he’s presiding over what he calls “flavor tripping parties.” Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket.

    “You pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute,” he said. “Then you’re ready to go.” He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf Patrón.

    The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to a scientist who has studied the fruit, Linda Bartoshuk at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste. Dr. Bartoshuk said she did not know of any dangers associated with eating miracle fruit.

    During the 1970s, a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration dashed hopes that an extract of miraculin could be sold as a sugar substitute. In the absence of any plausible commercial application, the miracle fruit has acquired a bit of a cult following.

    Sina Najafi, editor in chief of the art magazine Cabinet, has featured miracle fruits at some of the publication’s events. At a party in London last October, the fruit, he said, “had people testifying like some baptismal thing.”

    The berries were passed out last week at a reading of “The Fruit Hunters,” a new book by Adam Leith Gollner with a chapter about miracle fruit.

    Bartenders have been experimenting with the fruit as well. Don Lee, a beverage director at the East Village bar Please Don’t Tell, has been making miracle fruit cocktails on his own time, but the bar probably won’t offer them anytime soon. The fruit is highly perishable and expensive — a single berry goes for $2 or more.

    Lance J. Mayhew developed a series of drink recipes with miracle fruit foams and extracts for a recent issue of the cocktail magazine Imbibe and may create others for Beaker & Flask, a restaurant opening later this year in Portland, Ore.

    He cautioned that not everyone enjoys the berry’s long-lasting effects. Despite warnings, he said, one woman became irate after drinking one of his cocktails. He said, “She was, like, ‘What did you do to my mouth?’ ”

    Mr. Aliquo issues his own warnings. “It will make all wine taste like Manischewitz,” he said. And already sweet foods like candy can become cloying.

    He said that he had learned about miracle fruit while searching ethnobotany Web sites for foods he could make for a diabetic friend.

    The party last week was his sixth “flavor tripping” event. He hopes to put on a much larger, more expensive affair in June. Although he does sell the berries on his blog, www.flavortripping.wordpress.com, Mr. Aliquo maintains that he isn’t in it for the money. (He said he made about $100 on Friday.) Rather, he said, he does it to “turn on a bunch of people’s taste buds.”

    He believes that the best way to encounter the fruit is in a group. “You need other people to benchmark the experience,” he said. At his first party, a small gathering at his apartment in January, guests murmured with delight as they tasted citrus wedges and goat cheese. Then things got trippy.

    “You kept hearing ‘oh, oh, oh,’ ” he said, and then the guests became “literally like wild animals, tearing apart everything on the table.”

    “It was like no holds barred in terms of what people would try to eat, so they opened my fridge and started downing Tabasco and maple syrup,” he said.

    Many of the guests last week found the party through a posting at www.tThrillist.com. Mr. Aliquo sent invitations to a list of contacts he has been gathering since he and a friend began organizing StreetWars, a popular urban assassination game using water guns.

    One woman wanted to see Mr. Aliquo eat a berry before she tried one. “What, you don’t trust me?” he said.

    She replied, “Well, I just met you.”

    Another guest said, “But you met him on the Internet, so it’s safe.”

    The fruits are available by special order from specialty suppliers in New York, including Baldor Specialty Foods and S. Katzman Produce. Katzman sells the berries for about $2.50 a piece, and has been offering them to chefs.

    Mr. Aliquo gets his miracle fruit from Curtis Mozie, 64, a Florida grower who sells thousands of the berries each year through his Web site, www.miraclefruitman.com. (A freezer pack of 30 berries costs about $90 with overnight shipping.) Mr. Mozie, who was in New York for Mr. Gollner’s reading, stopped by the flavor-tripping party.

    Mr. Mozie listed his favorite miracle fruit pairings, which included green mangoes and raw aloe. “I like oysters with some lemon juice,” he said. “Usually you just swallow them, but I just chew like it was chewing gum.”

    A large group of guests reached its own consensus: limes were candied, vinegar resembled apple juice, goat cheese tasted like cheesecake on the tongue and goat cheese on the throat. Bananas were just bananas.

    For all the excitement it inspires, the miracle fruit does not make much of an impression on its own. It has a mildly sweet tang, with firm pulp surrounding an edible, but bitter, seed. Mr. Aliquo said it reminded him of a less flavorful cranberry. “It’s not something I’d just want to eat,” he said.

    Original here

    Mythbusting: Ideas Do Not Spread Because they are Good

    If you like this post, follow me on Twitter.

    I’d like to debunk a myth that has gone on, rampant and unchallenged in marketing circles, especially viral and social marketing, for some time now, but first I feel a few caveats are in order.

    First: product quality is important, no amount of marketing will alchemize a bad product into a good one. Second: even the most virulent of viral marketing campaigns can leave a brand or product right where it started. And third: I acknowledge that far too often the term “viral” is thrown around, misunderstood and slathered on like a panacea, but most of the people who do this, also attempt to ruin many other good concepts with psuedo-science and smoke-and-mirrors.

    Now the myth: For an idea, piece of content or product to spread or (cringe) “go viral” it has to be a great product. This is WRONG.

    When Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in 1976 (over three decades ago and before I was born) he said:

    Remember that `survival value’ here does not mean value for a gene in a gene pool, but value for a meme in a meme pool.

    That book, The Selfish Gene, posited (and largely put the argument to bed) that genes replicate for their own good, not the good of the host. Genes survive and thrive not based on how much value they bring to the creature they inhabit but based on how good they are at replicating, they’re selfish. There are plenty of genes who’s phenotypes produce negative results for their hosts, yet they continue to spread.

    The same is true, and perhaps even more obviously, for memes. Auto-toxic memes are harmful to their host, and exo-toxic memes are dangerous to others. The list of virulently “adopted” bad ideas is endless, but here’s a small sample:

    • Blood feuds
    • Terrorism
    • Suicide
    • Drug abuse
    • Antisemitism
    • Pyramid schemes
    • Cults


    Daniel Dennett gave a talk on harmful memes at TED in 2002:

    So clearly, ideas do not spread based on their “quality” or the “value” they provide, in fact they have an entirely different set of selection criteria, which Francis Heylighen has detailed.

    Perhaps finally we can rid ourselves of the admittedly quaint and comforting notion that we only adopt ideas, content and products because of how good and useful they are and start to understand that we adopt them because they are good at getting adopted.

    If you liked this post, follow me on Twitter.

    Original here

    You're not getting the job -- 25 reasons why

    When you're job hunting, you can go mad if you think about the amount of factors beyond your control that affect your chances of getting hired.

    art.job.search.pd.jpg

    Leaving a trail of angry bosses or co-workers will come back to haunt you when you need references.

    The economy, your location, industry trends -- even the hiring manager's mood -- can influence whether or not you get a job.

    Still, as nice as it would be to blame your lack of offers on external factors, you can't forget that common denominator in your job hunt -- from the résumé to the interview -- is you.

    Here are 25 ways you might be unknowingly sabotaging your own job search:

    The first steps

    1. Not keeping track of your accomplishments

    When you're happy with your job, it's easy to forget about possible future job hunts. You never know when you'll end up looking for new work, and if you don't keep a running list of awards, promotions and accomplishments, you might not remember them when it's time to update your résumé.

    2. Leaving on a bad note

    As much fun as it is to fantasize about telling off a bad boss, don't actually do it. Leaving a trail of angry bosses or co-workers will come back to haunt you when you need references.

    3. Not networking

    If you're silent about your job search, your friends, family and colleagues won't think of you when they hear about job opportunities.

    4. Only using the Internet

    Online job boards are fantastic resources, but you need to do some footwork if you want to increase your chances of finding a job. Contact companies whom you'd like to work for, even if there are no job listings. Not all companies advertise openings online.

    5. Only searching for the perfect job

    Yes, your job search should be focused. After all, applying to every job posting that comes your way is a good way to waste time but not an effective way to find a job you want. However, if you approach your job hunt unwilling to accept anything less than the precise job title, pay, vacation time and hours you want, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

    The résumé and cover letter

    6. Writing a generic cover letter

    If your cover letter looks like it could have come from a word processor template, right down to the "To Whom It May Concern," don't bother sending it. Hiring managers look for a candidate who wants that specific position, not someone who sends out applications en masse. Write a new cover letter for each job application and include details specific to that company.

    7. Typos

    Sending a cover letter or résumé filled with grammatical mistakes and typographical errors shows hiring managers you don't care about the quality of your work and probably not about the job, either.

    8. Including your current work info as the best place to contact you

    Making sure employers can get in touch with you is important, but they shouldn't be contacting you at work. "Potential employers are going to question if these people will search for a new job on their time," says Kathy Sweeney, résumé writer for the Write Résumé.

    9. Focusing on yourself and not on the company in the cover letter

    "When 'I' is the predominant subject -- and there are times when it is the only subject of all the sentences in the cover letter -- it indicates to me that they don't understand my organization and its needs, and, in fact, says they don't care to know," says Dion McInnis, associate vice president for university advancement at University of Houston-Clear Lake. "And therefore, I don't care to know them."

    10. Not targeting your résumé to the position

    Just like the cover letter, your résumé should build a case for you to be hired for a specific position. If you're applying for a financial analyst position, don't waste space including your teenage stint as a lifeguard.

    The interview

    11. Showing up late

    Nobody likes to be kept waiting, especially hiring managers evaluating whether or not you would make a good employee.

    12. Dressing for the wrong job

    Your interview attire should match the dress code of the company, or be one step up. If the office dress code is business casual, wearing jeans and a t-shirt won't work in your favor. On the other hand, if you're told dress is casual, you'll stick out if you show up wearing a double-breasted suit.

    13. Not asking questions

    When the interview comes to a close, the hiring manager will undoubtedly ask if you have any questions for him or her. Not asking anything is the equivalent of saying, "I don't care all that much about the job."

    14. Badmouthing a former boss

    When you talk to hiring managers about a previous employer, you're also talking about them. The way you talk about a previous employer is how interviewers think you'll talk about them in the future, so keep it civil.

    15. Not paying attention

    Another way to show you don't care much about the job is to get distracted. Answering your phone, sending texts or digging through your bag tells the interviewer that your focus is anywhere except on the interview.

    16. Not researching the position

    Your chief objective in an interview is convincing the hiring manager you're the best candidate for the job. How can you prove your qualifications if you don't have an idea of what skills you're expected to have and what your responsibilities will be?

    17. Not researching the company

    Employers want to know that your motivation for work is more than a paycheck. If you demonstrate that you know something about the company's history, its goals and its culture, you prove you want to be a part of the company.

    18. Forgetting common etiquette

    Don't cuss, chew gum, burp, take off your shoes, forget to shower or do anything else that's not appropriate in a business setting. Don't give the interviewer a reason not to hire you.

    19. Forgetting you're being interviewed from the moment you walk in

    Just because you're not sitting down at a desk across from the hiring manager, don't think you're not being evaluated. For example, employers will often ask their receptionists if you were nice them. Even if your interview involves lunch or dinner, you're trying to get a job, not show off your ability to down tequila shots.

    20. Bringing up salary too soon

    A rule of thumb is that you should never bring up pay; let the hiring manager do it. Of course employers are aware that you want to know about the salary, so they will bring it up when the time is right. Appearing too concerned with money suggests you aren't passionate about the position or the company.

    After the interview

    21. Not sending a thank-you note

    Interview etiquette extends beyond the goodbye hand-shake. Follow up with the interviewer by sending a thank-you note, either by e-mail or in the mail. Not only is it standard business practice, it's also common courtesy.

    22. Being over-aggressive in follow-up

    Thanking the hiring manager for the interview is acceptable. You can even check in to see if a candidate's been hired if you were given a deadline for the decision. However, calling, e-mail or stopping by the office repeatedly is not persistent; it's annoying.

    23. Not learning from your mistakes

    Not every interview goes off without a hitch, so don't beat yourself up if you flubbed an answer or two. However, if you don't take the time to review each interview you go on, you're bound to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

    24. Forgetting where you've applied and interviewed

    After a few weeks, you've applied at more than dozen places and probably interviewed with a few companies. Eventually it's harder to remember where you've sent a résumé or interviewed, and applying to the same place makes you look like an applicant who applies to any posting that pops up, not the best fit.

    25. Stopping your job search while you wait for a response

    Even if your interview for the job of a lifetime went well, don't freeze your job hunt while you wait to hear back. For a variety of reasons you might not get the job, or you might stumble upon an even better opportunity. You don't have anything to lose by continuing the hunt.

    Original here

    Oral Is Normal

    Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

    Every day, thousands of parents sit down with their children to talk about the facts of life. They want their kids to know how babies are made, how serious sex is, and how they can protect themselves. For most of us, the topic is awkward enough without getting into advanced stuff. That's why the coverage of President Clinton's blow jobs felt like such a cultural assault. We just want to stick to the basics.

    Well, you can kiss that era of innocence goodbye. I'm not talking about your kids' innocence. I'm talking about yours. For your information, Mom and Dad, oral sex is now more basic than vaginal sex. That may not be part of God's or nature's plan. But according to survey data, it's a fact of life.

    The latest evidence comes from "Noncoital Sexual Activities Among Adolescents," a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study analyzed the U.S. government's first survey of such practices, conducted in 2002 and released three years later. When the data first came out, I chided the media for ignoring the findings of widespread anal sex. Don't worry: I'll spare you that topic today. What's interesting in the new analysis is the correlation between oral and vaginal sex. If your kid is doing one, he or she is almost certainly doing the other.

    The raw numbers indicate that 50 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 19 have had vaginal sex. Fifty-five percent have had heterosexual oral sex. Are kids substituting oral for vaginal? Nope. Among technical virgins—teens who have never had vaginal sex—23 percent have had oral sex. That number sounds high until you notice that among nonvirgins, the oral-sex figure is 87 percent. If your teenager has had "basic" sex without somebody's mouth being involved, congratulations. You're probably the only such household on your block.

    The data on timing underscore this connection. Among teens whose first vaginal sex happened less than six months before the survey, 82 percent admit to oral sex. That figure barely increases for teens who began vaginal sex three years before the survey. In other words, teens lost their oral virginity at around the same time they lost their vaginal virginity. If you think your daughter is going to learn the basics now and the advanced stuff later, you've got another thing coming.

    Look at the data for older adults, and you'll see similar patterns. At ages 20 to 24, the percentage who admit to oral sex trails the percentage who admit to vaginal sex by around five points. (A study of Georgia college students, published last year, produced similar numbers: 96 percent of those who had lost their vaginal virginity had also lost their oral virginity.) At ages 25 to 44, the gap is around eight points. If anything, these numbers understate the prevalence of oral sex, since they're based on self-reporting. The discomfort most of us feel around this topic surely affects some survey responses, even with guaranteed anonymity.

    The near-disappearance of lifetime oral virginity makes sodomy laws fairly ridiculous. The percentage of Americans aged 25 to 44 who deny ever having had oral sex now barely exceeds the percentage who admit to same-sex activity. By empirical standards, if gay sex is deviant, so is chastity of the mouth. Indeed, there's some evidence that what's vanishing isn't oral abstinence—which perhaps never really existed—but stigma. That's the implication of a decadelong Australian college study, published three years ago, which showed a significant increase in female, but not male, admission of oral activity.

    So cheer up, Mom and Dad. You don't have to be embarrassed any more about discussing the facts of life with your child. She'll be happy to explain them to you.

    (For the latest Human Nature updates and blog items, bookmark humannature.us.com.)

    Original here

    Nuclear Weapons Test-596-Chinese Test 22kt


    Next phase of working at home: Leaving home

    ROSWELL, Georgia (CNN) -- More than a decade after the Internet allowed millions of people to work at home, the next phase of telecommuting involves, well, not working at home.

    art.jelly.ho.randall.jpg

    Web developer Toby Ho, left, has joined a coworking group called "Jelly" in Roswell, Georgia.

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    Organized "coworking" -- the concept of working solo alongside like-minded independents -- has spread to dozens of cities.

    The irony of coworking isn't lost on organizers, including Kevin Bachman, who set up a group north of Atlanta as part of an informal Web-based network called Jelly.

    "The reason people work alone, is because they're looking for freedom," said Bachman, a 34-year-old Web developer who telecommutes part time. "It may be ironic that you crave isolation, but you also want to be socially interactive with others like you." See how Jelly works together »

    Once a month, Bachman's group takes over a room provided by Tony's American Grille & Tap. A handful of home-based Internet workers hunch over laptops writing code, tweaking administration systems or enhancing databases.

    "It's a great way to get out of your bubble," said Bachman.

    Tony's doubles as a neighborhood sports bar at night, complete with a "beer pong" game table and projection TVs. But during the day, this location takes on a more business-like tone as colleagues help each other work, said Randall, a freelance database programmer who wouldn't give his last name.

    "I've probably gotten some tips just today from people that had the same problems that I've had," he said. "So, all-in-all it's been a productive day and it's not even 2 o'clock yet."

    Coworking also provides an oasis for nomadic coffee-bar campers who struggle to collaborate among a random crowd.

    "Starbucks was a place to get out of the house and be around other people," said Sherry Heyl, a Jelly coworker and home-based social media consultant. "But you can't turn to the person next to you at Starbucks and say, 'Can you look at this proposal and tell me if it looks all right or check it for typos?'"

    Coworking is gaining popularity as number of single-person businesses in the United States is skyrocketing.

    The nation added nearly 4 million one-person businesses between 2000 and 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Back in 2005, Web programmer Javan Makhmali said he was "missing the work atmosphere to get me in the zone -- to get work done" at his home office in Portland, Oregon. So he and a few friends created a coworking cooperative and called it -- appropriately -- Less Distracted.

    "We found a space in a cool warehouse, put an ad on craigslist and Less Distracted was pretty much born like that," said Makhmali, a 27-year-old computer programmer.

    By early 2006, a 1,500 square foot space in the North Coast Seed building was filled with more than a dozen other programmers and designers looking to break out of their home offices.

    In exchange for a $100 deposit and $150 per month for utilities, tenants get 24/7 use of DSL Internet, Wi-Fi, a kitchenette and a hang-out area with couches for meetings and relaxing.

    The Less Distracted Web site describes it as "your own space that's not in your living room and certainly not a cube."

    Ryan Tyler, another original tenant, said coworking made a huge improvement in his productivity, while allowing him to make quite a few friends and great business contacts through the office.

    The idea that home-based workers are returning to officelike environments isn't surprising to close followers of the commercial real estate business.

    "For at least 50 years 'experts' have said technology will eliminate office demand," said real estate consultant Prof. Peter Linneman of the Wharton School of Business. "But the evidence clearly shows that we use ever more office space as technology advances."

    Coworking suits the lifestyle of Portland's many free-spirited self-employed workers, said 39-year-old Tracey Weidner, an independent private investigator who's been managing Less Distracted for about a year. "It won't replace the corporate mentality of a traditional office, but it fills a need."

    Makhmali displayed some of that free-spiritedness when he started holding movie screenings on the warehouse's seventh-floor roof. Safety concerns prompted the building's owner to close down the makeshift theater.

    "The working vibe was something that we all created just by being there," said Makhmali, who has since moved to California. "We all encouraged each other to stay focused and keep working."

    But Makhmali's Less Distracted experience didn't create a permanent convert to coworking. These days, instead of coworking, he's simply working.

    Makhmail said it's "a real job," programming for an education-based Los Angeles software firm ... in the company's office.

    Original here

    Hybrid Technologies Building 220+ MPG Supercar With 'Wild' Horsepower: Exclusive First Look

    As if the Silicon Valley sportscar darlings at Tesla didn’t have enough competition from the startup pal it just sued and the company that built the world’s cheapest ride, now EV gurus lurking in the hills of North Carolina are well into R&D on a new green supercar.

    Is your mouth not watering over the concept designs pictured above? Well, how do two versions of it sound—a gas-electric hybrid entrant for the Automotive X Prize, and an all-electric for (almost) the rest of us? Yeah, we thought so. Best part: A drivable prototype should be ready by September.

    Mooresville, N.C.-based Hybrid Technologies offered PM first-look video test drives last year of its electric roadster, Mini Cooper and motorcycle—and the company’s impressive li-ion-powered sedan’s drivetrain led us to vote them an early favorite to win the AXP. Full-scale production, however, has always been the holdup for Hybrid Tech breaking out into Tesla territory. With its still unnamed X Prize entry, however, comes a larger plan to conquer the fuel-efficient market for supercars. And if the exclusive early specs and sketches that we got our hands on serve as any indication, Fisker’s Karma isn’t the new cool kid on the block anymore.

    “We’re looking for this car basically to end up mainstream—not just built for a one-and-done,” says project development engineer Ron Cerven. “The X Prize car is going to be the purchasable—obviously a higher-end car, but there might be something else from us in the X Prize.”

    Other than to say they wouldn’t necessarily be in the “alternative” class, Cerven declined to comment on any other AXP ideas from Hybrid. But he said this high-end exotic hybrid would retain regenerative breaking, as well as movable aero parts to alter the vehicle’s downforce and drag. Citing an “overwhelming” lack of comfort in today’s supercars, Cerven stressed that design would center around the passenger and drivetrain.

    But power under the hood will have to trump a cushy ride: Hybrid Technologies is aiming for a 150- to 180-mi. range per charge from the all-electric model, while the lithium-ion-meets-gas hybrid needs to hit 220 mpg—minimum. And that’s not to mention performance. When we asked Cerven if Hybrid Technologies could hit ZR1-level horsepower equivalent numbers in the mid-600s, he laughed, vaguely adding that we were “way out of the ballpark—it’s gonna be wild.”

    Along with nearly every other big-time player in the race for production plug-in cars, Hybrid is gunning for that magic market timetable of late 2009 to the first half of 2010. But suffice it to say, we want a test drive. —Matt Sullivan

    Original here

    How to Unleash Your Creativity


    In a discussion with Scientific American Mind executive editor Mariette DiChristina, three noted experts on creativity, each with a very different perspective and background, reveal powerful ways to unleash your creat­ive self.

    John Houtz is a psychologist and professor at Fordham University. His most recent book is The Educational Psychology of Creativity (Hamptom Press, 2002).

    Julia Cameron is an award-winning poet, playwright and filmmaker. Her book The Artist's Way (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002) has sold more than three million copies worldwide. Her latest book is The Writing Diet.

    Robert Epstein is a visiting scholar at the University of California, San Diego. Contributing editors for Scientific American Mind and former editor in chief of Psychology Today, Epstein has written several books on creativity, including The Big Book of Creativity Games (McGraw-Hill, 2000).

    Mariette DiChristina: Let’s start by talking about what has drawn each of you to the study of creativity. What’s so fascinating about it?

    John Houtz: There’s so much power in a new idea taking shape and changing the way people live and act. Often the rest of us are in awe, or we are even afraid of a new idea, and sometimes our fears spur us to learn more about it. In addition to what some academics call Big Creativity or “Big C”—profound ideas that sometimes change the world—there is what we call the “little c” type of creativity: the everyday problem solving that we all do. The bottom line is that we’d all like to be more creative. We’d all like to be able to solve our problems in a better way. We don’t like being frustrated. We don’t like having obstacles in our path.

    Julia Cameron: What drew me to working on my creativity was running into a couple of bumps. I had had a blessed decade in my 20s, and then when I got to my 30s I felt thwarted. I was writing movies and selling them to studios, but they weren’t getting made. I needed to find a way to maintain equilibrium and optimism in the face of creative despair. I fought my despair with what I call “morning pages”—three pages of longhand writing about anything: “I don’t like the way Fred talked to me at the office”; “I need to get the car checked”; “I forgot to buy kitty litter.” They don’t look like they have anything to do with creativity, but in fact, as we put these worries, which are sort of a daily soundtrack for most of us, down on the page, we are suddenly much more alert, aware, focused and available to the moment. And we begin to see that we have many creative choices. As I wrote those pages, new ideas began to walk in. Over time, I began to share the morning-pages technique with other people.

    Robert Epstein: My interest in creativity started in a peculiar way—while I was working with pigeons at Harvard in the 1970s. I was intrigued by the fact that they always did things I hadn’t taught them, and I wanted to know where the new behavior was coming from. I began teaching them different things systematically and then placing them in new situations and watching new behavior emerge. There was an orderly relation between what I had taught and the new behavior, and eventually I discovered principles or laws that allowed me to predict the new behavior, literally moment to moment. Eventually I began similar research with children, and then with adult humans, and found that those laws, somewhat tweaked, were still helpful. I came to believe that the creative process in individuals is orderly and predictable every moment in time. At some point I developed tests to see whether people have the competencies they need for expressing creativity, and then I developed games and exercises to boost creativity. I think that the fact that creativity is orderly is good news, because it means we can all tap into this rich potential we all have.

    Cameron: I, too, have found the creative process to be teachable and trackable. I teach people three simple tools, and anyone using those tools has what might be called an awakening. They become much more alert; they become much more friendly in interacting with people—much less threatened by change.

    Houtz: I think that some of the techniques Julia teaches are similar to the competencies Robert has uncovered. Perhaps, Robert, you might explain what those competencies are.

    Epstein: There are four different skill sets, or competencies, that I’ve found are essential for creative expression. The first and most important competency is “capturing”—preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them. Your morning pages, Julia, are a perfect example of a capturing technique. There are many ways to capture new ideas. Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize for work based on an idea about cell biology that he almost failed to capture. He had the idea in his sleep, woke up and scribbled the idea on a pad but found the next morning that he couldn’t read his notes or remember the idea. When the idea turned up in his dreams the following night, he used a better capturing technique: he put on his pants and went straight to his lab!

    The second competency is called “challenging”—giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas. The third area is “broadening.” The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections—so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things. And the last competency is “surrounding,” which has to do with how you manage your physical and social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.

    Cameron: I’ve mentioned the morning pages, which sounds like your capturing, and the second technique I teach everybody—the artist “date” or “outing,” I call it—is to take an adventure once a week, which probably involves both broadening and challenging. The third tool is to walk out the door for 20 minutes or so and see what happens to your thinking. When people walk, they often begin to integrate the insights and intuitions that they have had through morning pages and outings.

    Houtz: I think if we want everyone to have a way to be more creative, we have to convey the message that they have to work at it; creativity isn’t necessarily going to come naturally. And what strikes me about Julia is her high productivity. Creative people are productive. They may have lots of ideas that don’t work, but the point is that they have lots of ideas. So if people want to be more creative—and to be effective problem solvers—they’re going to have to be disciplined like Julia is.

    DiChristina
    : I was talking with a couple of attorneys about creativity, and one of them said, “Well, some people just have more than others, don’t they?” Could we talk about why so few people express creativity?

    Epstein: When children are very young, they all express creativity, but by the end of the first grade, very few do so. This is because of socialization. They learn in school to stay on task and to stop daydreaming and asking silly questions. As a result, the expression of new ideas is largely shut down. We end up leaving creative expression to the misfits—the people who can’t be socialized. It’s a tragedy.

    Cameron: I sometimes ask people to list 10 traits they think artists have. They say things like “artists are broke,” “artists are crazy,” “artists are drug-addicted” and “artists are drunk.” Doesn’t this make you want to rush right out and become an artist? We have a mythology in America around creativity that’s very, very negative. As a result, when young people tell their parents, “I’d love to be a writer,” their parents respond, “Oh, darling, don’t you think you might need something to fall back on?” We’re also trained to believe that some people are born knowing they’re artists and that they are the “real” artists, the ones who give us the Big C creativity. In other words, we have a mythology about artistry that tends to be very daunting.

    Houtz: I think that comes from some of the studies of Big C creativity. When we look at individuals who have had a tremendous impact on some field, for whatever reason, they often turn out to be unstable or living a wild life—the misfits, as Robert said. That’s very unfortunate. But there also are real obstacles for creative people. Julia, you mentioned that many of your creative projects were failing at one point. People who want to be more creative have to realize that many new ideas will at first meet great obstacles. When Robert talked about “challenge,” you could read that word “challenge” in two ways. You need to challenge yourself, that’s true, but you also have to realize that the world out there—society, the audience for your new idea—will perhaps need a lot of time to get used to it and may initially not want to reward you. It’s important not to become discouraged. You have to keep at it!

    Cameron: When I first gave the manuscript for The Artist’s Way to my literary agent at William Morris, she said, “Oh, Julia, no one is going to be interested in this.” So Mark Bryan and I self-published the book by photocopying it at a little communist bookstore and selling a few copies at a time. Emma Lively and I have been working for eight years on a musical that is only now getting its lucky break.

    You have to put up with dry spells and keep creating in the face of them.

    Epstein: When I do seminars on creativity, I teach stress-management techniques to help people cope with the rejection that goes hand in hand with creativity. You have to learn not to fear failure and even to rejoice in it. When I’m failing, I say to myself, “I’m in good company. I’m in the company of some of the most creative and productive people in the world.”

    Houtz: The creative individual thinks of failure as a new opportunity: “Okay, why did I fail? What was wrong? Let me try to do something else. Let me go forward with it.”

    Epstein: In the laboratory, failure also produces a phenomenon called resurgence—the emergence of behaviors that used to be effective in that situation—that leads to a competition among behaviors and to new interconnections. In other words, failure actually stimulates creativity directly. It really is valuable.

    Cameron: You also need to be able to take criticism. When I write a novel, I send it to about 10 people whom I consider very trusted readers. They come back to me with their criticisms, and I write another draft. Sometimes I write as many as seven drafts of a work before it goes forward into the world.

    Houtz: There’s also a stereotype that creativity is just involved in the generation of ideas. But after the ideas are generated, you then have to evaluate them, sift through them, embellish them, repair them, revise them and get them tested, which all means that the creative process is actually quite complex.

    Epstein
    : But you’ve got to capture now and evaluate later. A big mistake people make is to start visualizing the criticism or the feedback while they’re still generating. That can shut you right down.

    Cameron
    : Morning pages allow you to bypass the censor, because there’s no wrong way to do the pages. You just keep writing. They allow you to take risks freely with your ideas.

    DiChristina: There’s another dynamic here, too, John, which I’m hoping you can speak to: the group dynamic of creativity. People often play different roles in the creative process, don’t they?

    Houtz
    : A key factor here is personality, which has been researched extensively. Some personality characteristics seem to close off the expression of new ideas. Other personality characteristics encourage that expression.

    Epstein: I’ve found that no matter what their personality, people can learn skills that boost creative output. I also doubt that there’s any real difference between the little c and the Big C types of creativity. If you write enough morning pages, now and then some Big C items have a chance of creeping into the little c list—no matter what your personality.

    Houtz: We may all have the same potential or at least the potential to be better, but if we know about our strengths and weaknesses, then we can better capitalize on our strengths, and we also know what we need to work on.

    Epstein: No question about that. Getting back to Mariette’s question about groups, let me give you an example of an exercise I do with people that boosts group creativity. It’s called “the shifting game.” In this exercise, half of my teams stay together for 15 minutes to generate names for a new cola. The other teams work together for five minutes, then shift out of the group to work on the problem individually, then come together for the last five minutes. Even with all the moving around, the shifting teams produce twice as many ideas as the nonshifting ones. This happens, I think, because groups inhibit a lot of creative expression. Dominant people tend to do most of the talking, for one thing. But when people shift, everyone ends up working on the problem.

    DiChristina: Don’t many people believe they’re not creative at all? What can you do about that?

    Epstein: Sometimes that’s a permission issue. Many of us feel like we need permission to be creative, maybe because of a teacher who shut us down when we were young—like my eighth grade English teacher! One thing I like to do with people is to give them permission to have a daydream. We all just close our eyes and daydream together. It can be quite a liberating experience. Virtually everyone has amazing daydreams and dreams, and those can be used to boost creative output. In fact, when you really start letting yourself go, you can end up with too many ideas. Your own output can overwhelm you, and you can get stuck!

    Houtz: What might be some tools to help people that have the problem Robert just described?

    Cameron: I have a tool that’s called “blasting through blocks.” It’s very simply sitting down with a piece of paper and writing down all of your angers and fears related to finishing a project. Sometimes they’re very petty: I’m afraid I’ll finish it, and no one will think it’s any good; I’m afraid I’ll finish it, and I won’t think it’s any good; I’m afraid I’ll finish it, and it will be good, but no one will recognize that. Just getting those reservations on a sheet of paper and maybe sharing them with someone can give you the freedom to go back to work on the project.

    DiChristina: How about the idea of taking breaks to promote creativity? There’s the old adage about sleeping on something. Isn’t a lot of creativity about being mindful of those times and paying attention?

    Epstein: Absolutely, but you can also be strategic about how you’re going to use those breaks. Salvador Dalí made deliberate use of his naps to get ideas for his art, for example. While relaxing on a sofa, he’d hold a spoon out over the edge and place a plate on the floor beneath the spoon. Just as he’d drift off to sleep, his hand would relax and the spoon would fall. The sound of the spoon hitting the plate would awaken him, at which point he’d grab a pad and sketch out interesting images he might have seen in the semisleep state. Thomas Edison used a similar technique to get ideas for his inventions. And the good news here is that we all experience this state—the so-called hypnagogic state. Think about how deliberate Dalí and Edison were or about how deliberate Julia’s techniques are. You don’t need to leave creativity to chance.

    DiChristina: I think many people make the ­mistake of believing that there’s just no time to be creative, even to do something simple like paying attention to your thoughts and capturing them.

    Epstein: Well, high tech is making this easier, fortu­nately. These days all you have to do to capture an idea is to pick up your PDA or memo recorder or even just to leave a message for yourself on your voice mail. You can even capture new melodies that way.

    Houtz: This is where one’s style or various personality traits might come into play. If I’m an internal person, I might enjoy the reflectivity and the quiet time and the incubation time. If I’m an external person, I might take my strength from interactions with others in a dynamic group that’s giving and taking and making lots of noise.

    DiChristina: How about fostering creativity and maintaining it in children? What tips do you have for educators and parents?

    Epstein: Well, all four of the basic creativity competencies can be taught to children. But when I’ve suggested to teachers that they set aside a few minutes each week for creativity training, these days they tell me that’s impossible. This is an area where I see our society moving in the wrong direction—toward an obsession with raising scores on standardized tests.

    Cameron: I think that creativity is contagious and that the best thing we can do for children is to model for them what it’s like to be a creative individual.

    Houtz: There is no legitimate reason why we can’t develop more creative problem solvers from nursery school on up. There are many techniques that could be introduced into the curriculum alongside the content domains. But, as Robert said, the emphasis right now is more political than educational.

    DiChristina: How might we be able to challenge our children in small ways so that we’re at least keeping creativity alive at home?

    Epstein: One thing I like to do is make all problems open-ended. Never say, give me three ideas for this; always say, give me at least three. When tasks are open-ended, a lot more ideas are generated. I also like to use what I call “ultimate” problems with kids. Those are problems that have no real solutions. Children have great fun with problems like those. Ask them questions like “How could you get a dog to fly?” or “How could you make the sky a different color?” You can also supply your kids with idea boxes and folders—special places for putting drawings and poems and scraps of anything new. That encourages capturing on an ongoing basis and tells children that their new ideas have value.

    Houtz
    : It’s also important to give children permission to make decisions rather than always making decisions for them.

    DiChristina: When my children have a question that I might be able to answer, I sometimes instead say, “Why don’t we find out?” Then I guide them through a process of discovering the answer for themselves. They sometimes find amazing ways to get there. Are we leaving anything out?

    Epstein
    : Maybe just that there’s something both humbling and exhilarating about generating a new idea. I’m looking at Julia Cameron’s eyes right now, trying to imagine the extraordinary things she’s put on paper that have never been seen before by anyone in human history. I believe everyone has that kind of potential. Imagine that.

    Original here

    RECYCLED COFFEE STIRRER LAMP from Studio Verissimo

    If you are a coffee drinker with a hard-to-kick habit, you are probably all too aware of how many coffee stirrers are wasted at places like Starbucks every single day. Day in and day out, millions of these single-use sticks go straight into the garbage and off to the landfill after a quick 10-second swirl of cream or sugar. You may have even wondered - like we sure have: “Isn’t there something that we can do to get better use out of all these toss-away coffee stirrers?” Well we are happy to report that there finally is answer to the java-waste woes: Portuguese design group Studio Veríssimo has just debuted a gorgeous eco-luxe chandelier that not only provides a glimmer of hope for discarded coffee sticks, but also created quite a stir at the recent Touch | NY exhibition during New York Design Week.

    Created from hundreds of recycled plastic coffee stirrers collected in cafes by the resourceful Studio Veríssimo, this eye-catching, sparkly chandelier is more delicate, beautiful, and captivating than crystal - despite its being made from cafe waste. The name of the stunning chandelier is ‘Spoon’ - and while we wouldn’t quite call these little plastic jobbies ’spoons’, we’ll certainly call the lamp inspired. Most of the coffee stirrers that we see or use in NYC tend to be either wood strips or little black plastic straws, but apparently, the coffee stirrer (or ’spoon’) of choice in Portugal is made from clear plastic, which obviously lends itself to supreme light refraction and disco-ball-like reflection. Proof indeed that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

    Studio Veríssimo is the collaboration of Cláudio Cardoso and Telma Veríssimo, both young and up and coming designers from Portugal. They have exhibited their electic, conceptually driven and design work in Italy, the U.S.A., Japan, and Holland. In addition to finding innovative ways to re-use and recycle throw-away materials, the designers have also set a goal of making people happy and light-filled with their designs. It’s a feel good sort of enterprise all the way around, and if recycling can result in lots of smiles, well then, we are stirred to the core.

    + Studio Veríssimo
    + TOUCH Collective
    + TOUCH | NY
    + Inhabitat coverage of New York Design Week

    Original here