Friday, June 6, 2008

Herding Sheep with my Australian Cattle Dog

Today I went to a place that lets you take your dog to a to train it to herd sheep. I thought my dog would be a natural for it since its bred to herd cattle. There is a place here in Long Beach, Ca about 5 minutes from my house that has this very setup. I thought bitchen I am getting the ball throwing thing down with my dog pretty good now and she listens to me, let’s go chase a bunch of sheep around and see how she does with that.

Here is a video clip of me and my dog learning how to herd sheep.

Australian Cattle Dog has befriended you, they are a friend for life….but that friendship must often be earned. Australian Cattle Dog are often referred to by their owners as “velcro” or “shadow” dogs…because wherever you go, there they are!
As my health concerns continue to rise, fitness is no longer considered a fad; it is considered a way of life. I am no exception to that rule by any means. I am fat, overweight and as I found out today very out of shape. Smoking sure doesn’t help my stamina and not doing any exercise sure isn’t helping either. I have found the need to start doing some exercise and I want to do it in a fun way I just hate going to the gym.

Here is the lay of the land at the Sheep Herding School in Long Beach California

The deal is you pay $30 and they let you bring you and your dog out with a trainer and they give you two runs and getting your dog to run the sheep. The basic concept is that you get yourself in front of the sheep with the trainer and you try to get your dog behind them to herd the sheep towards you. The sheep are trained to follow the humans around and all you have to do is get your dog to pick up the rear and keep them moving. Well one thing I didn’t realize is that you need to be walking and running backwards the whole time so you have the sheep looking and coming towards you and you can see what the dog is doing and keep her off of your heels.

I was pretty excited about bonding this way with my dog and what a great way to get some exercise for myself. Well what I learned is that you are pretty much running backwards around the corral the whole time because once your dog starts nipping and the sheep’s heels there is no more walking around the sheep are trying to run you over and your in thick dirt which eventually led to me falling on my ass once but I am proud to say that I didn’t let a sheep knock me over because that also happened to one of the other people that were out there to do training. This was one of the best experiences I have had in my life, my untrained cattle dog when not being distracted had a few moments when it went into natural mode and we were working as a team. Of course this scenario only played out about 5% of the time but that 5% is going to get me back next Thursday to see if we can make some improvements.

Here is what the inside of the sheep herding pen looks like

So basically it was a big mess I was trying to run backwards, get my dog off my heels and on to the sheep’s heels which is no easy task. We did manage to get the sheep around the course the 1st time with the help of the trainer and the second time my dog Bonnie wasn’t interested in the course so much so the trainer told me to just get in the with the sheep and try and make it fun for her. So here I am running full speed backwards, trying to give me dog commands all while not trying to fall down or get run over by sheep.

When I finished the second time I couldn’t even finish up properly I felt like I was going to pass out I was exhausted and ready for some water. I gave my dog praise and we both had a great time. With a little work I think we are going to have to take the I out of Louie and the I out of Bonnie and become a team because that is what it is all about.

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Bust a Myth, Get a Benefit

Few subjects harbor more myths and misconceptions than nutrition. Some of the most common:

"Low-fat" means "healthy."
Low-fat foods can be healthy, but not always. The problem? Many processed foods that are low in fat are high in sugar, which gives you extra calories and may cause wide swings in your blood sugar levels. This makes you gain weight and lose energy, and may raise your risk of several diseases. Some people believe "low-fat" means "Eat all you want."

I remember a dieting patient who was puzzled because he was gaining weight. He mentioned he was eating a low-fat cake. When I asked him how much, he replied, "Oh, one or two." "One or two pieces?" "No, one or two cakes!"

An ideal diet is low in fat and low in sugar. Most people can enjoy high-sugar, high-fat treats on occasion, but if you indulge one day, be sure to eat healthier the next.

Canned fruits and vegetables aren't nutritious.
They can be. A recent review of studies found that nutrients are generally similar in comparable fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Many parents have told me that, knowing this, they might be more likely to cook at home rather than eat less nutritious meals at restaurants.

Red wine, not white, prevents heart disease.
Yes, drinking red wine may significantly decrease the risk of heart disease, but white wine may be just as protective, at least in rats.

Resveratrol is a healthy substance found in the skin of red grapes. It's higher in concentration in red wine than white because red wine is fermented with the skins, allowing it to absorb the resveratrol. American and Italian researchers recently found that grape pulp extract (white wine) was equally effective in protecting rats from a heart attack as grape skin extract (red wine). Also, most of the antioxidant benefits of wine come from the grape itself, not the fact that it's fermented.

Studies show that spending time with friends and family may reduce the risk of many illnesses. People who imbibe moderately often do so in the company of others, and these psychosocial factors may be as powerful as the drink itself.

I neither prescribe nor proscribe alcohol, but if you're going to drink, have no more than one or two four-ounce glasses of wine, one or two beers, or one or two ounces of liquor. More than that, and the toxicities of alcohol begin to outweigh any of its potential benefits.

Juice is less healthy than whole fruits.
Not always. "The view that pure fruit and vegetable juices are nutritionally inferior to fruits and vegetables, in relation to chronic-disease risk reduction, is unjustified," concluded a recent review of studies. The impact of antioxidants on disease risk may be more important than the amount of fiber. Whole fruits and vegetables do have more fiber than most juices, and fiber has many benefits. It fills you up before you get too many calories, and it helps regulate blood sugar. Some juice companies are preserving the pulp (which adds to the fiber) or are even putting it back in.

Summer Diet Traps
It's the season for travel, day trips and meals on the run, and it's easier than ever to eat healthy on the road. At airports, look for fresh fruit and packaged salads. Dip your fork in the dressing instead of pouring it on. Amusement parks are providing healthier choices. Disney will eliminate added trans fats from its parks by the end of this year, and kids' meals will include sides like applesauce and carrots -- not fries. Some fast-food places offer better choices, too, so you can eat well just about anywhere.

From Reader's Digest
Original here

Beer for Greenies!

After the introduction of Wal-Mart’s scorecard, I’ve enjoyed watching manufacturers make a mad dash to modify their packaging and processing to reduce waste. Everything from laundry detergent to electronics to soda pop. And beer is not to be left out! While keeping an eye on this evolution of packaging, I noticed Adnam’s efforts. Of course, the fat NPR piece on their new beer helped grab my attention too.

Adnams (a UK beer manufacturer for those dry readers) already has in place an eco-distribution center, an energy-efficient brew house, and a light-weight bottle that reduces transportation fuel requirements. But in their effort to be carbon neutral as a company, they’ve managed to get one of their beers in the zero zone.

East Green is touted the UK’s first carbon neutral beer. It is made with local, high yielding, naturally aphid-resistant hops, decreasing the use of pesticides and transportation of goods. It is processed, bottled, and distributed from their already in-place eco-friendly systems. These factors shrink CO2 emissions down from 583g per bottle to 432g per bottle. They offset this amount through Climate Care, a highly transparent carbon offset project. The Carbon Trust thinks so highly of the product that for the first time ever, they’re allowing their logo to be used on packaging. CRed has worked with Adnams on the research to make sure the numbers are legit, and they give it the carbon neutral thumbs up. As if I needed another reason to pop open a cold one! The only downer is that all that carbon neutral-ness is kaput should I, a US drinker, purchase it and have it shipped to me. Bummer. But for those of you living in or visiting England, you can get your carbon-neutral buzz on!

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Seven Eco-friendly Options for Less Junky Junk Food

snacksI confess: as much as I wish I could say every meal I eat is as healthy as my quinoa and kale salad, sometimes I just have a craving for junk food. Ya know?

When I first went vegetarian seven years ago I quickly realized how easy it was to replace meat with junk food. After all, I’d sacrificed so much my giving up chicken that I should reward myself with donuts, right? They’re vegetarian! And so are potato chips, and candy bars, and french fries…

But not only are these instant gratification foods loaded with calories, sodium, and often trans fats, but they’re not particularly eco-friendly. Consider even “healthy” choices like Nabisco’s 100 Calorie Packs of Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and the like. All come individually wrapped, and I’ve made it clear how I feel about overpackaging.

So what’s an eco-conscious consumer to do when you just want a quick bite? I’ve done you the favor of sampling some of the finest junk foods my co-op had to offer. (The things you do for research.) Consider some of these alternatives:

Instead of Oreos/Chips Ahoy, etc., Try Annie’s Bunny Graham Friends

At only 130 calories per serving, Bunny Grahams rival the aforementioned snack packs, but without the wasteful packaging; the boxes are 100% recycled. They’re 75% organic and according to Annie’s, contain “no icky additives or pesky preservatives.” I can also certify that they are 100% yummy.

Instead of Doritos, Try Rice Chips

I promise this isn’t one of those tricks, like when people got all into rice cakes in the 80’s and tried to convince you they didn’t taste like styrofoam. These Rice Chips from Lundberg Family Farms are the real delicious deal. They come in a variety of flavors, but my favorite, and the most Dorito-esque are the Pico de Gallo chips. (They also offer a Nacho Cheese variety which isn’t vegan so I haven’t tried it.) The family company uses organic rice and has a long history of sustainable farming.

Instead of Pop Tarts, Try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries

They’re about the same in nutritional content as the Kellogg’s treat you may remember from your youth, but made from organic ingredients. And while you won’t find varieties like “Hot Fudge Sundae” and “Smores,” they do offer Cherry Pomegranate and other flavors that are actually found in nature. varieties. Nature’s Path also uses “Green Certificates” to produce their products, which according to their website come from “100% new green electricity.” Check out their cereals, granola bars, and other products as well.

Instead of Cheddar Crackers, Try Eco-Planet Organic Crackers

When I recently tried this dairy-free cheddar flavored snack cracker I was excited but skeptical. Eco-Planet delivered though, and while it’s been years since I’ve eaten a Goldfish cracker or Cheez-It, I’d say these pass pretty well. They’re educational too! The crackers are shaped like suns, earths, wind turbines and electric cars and offer info about alternative energy. The company is 100% wind powered.

Instead of Snickers Bars, Try Mojo Bars

The Clif Bar folks are at it again. Their new Mojo Bars are more oriented towards habitual snackers, like myself than mountain bikers. They’ve got a variety of sweet, salty, and nutty flavors made with 70% organic ingredients. The company also uses biodiesel for shipping.

Instead of McDonald’s Fries, Try Alexia Oven Crinkles

It’s no news flash that McDonald’s french fries are bad for you. There’s more grease in there than potato! The most eco-friendly option of course, is to make some good ol’ oven fries yourself. But if you don’t have the time, pop some of Alexia’s all organic frozen fries in the oven. Their original recipe has only 120 calories per serving. For something a little more sophisticated, try their rosemary oven fries.

Instead of Pre-Packaged Foods, Try the Bulk Foods Aisle

It’s not just for grains and beans. You may be surprised to find snack chips, pretzels and candy there. Also stock up on nuts and dried fruit. Try making your own custom trail mix. Find more tips on buying from the bulk aisle here.

Got a guilty pleasure that’s not on the list? Let me know, and I’ll try to track down a greener version of it.

Original here

The Man Buried in a Pringles Can

Fredric Baur dreamed up the original Pringles can. Now he's buried in one.

In 1966, Baur came up with a clever way for Procter & Gamble to stack chips uniformly rather than tossing them in a bag. He was so proud of the achievement, he wanted to go to his grave with it. So when Baur died last month, his children buried the 89-year-old's ashes in one of his iconic cans.

"When my dad first raised the burial idea in the 1980s, I chuckled about it," Baur's eldest son Larry, 49, told TIME. Larry Baur quickly realized his father was serious. Family jokes circulated about the Pringles plan, but no one questioned the elder Baur's decision. So when Frederic Baur died after a battle with Alzheimer's, Larry and his siblings stopped at Walgreen's for a burial can of Pringles on their way to the funeral home. "My siblings and I briefly debated what flavor to use," Baur says, "but I said, 'Look, we need to use the original.'"

If there were a junk food hall of fame, the original Pringles can would stand proudly next to a Toblerone pyramid in the exhibit on ingenious packaging shapes. Baur's canister has become a treasured symbol of snack culture around the globe, as recognizable as a Hershey bar or Coke can from Argentina to Zambia.

"It's all about the inherent beauty and power of uniformity," says Eric Spitznagle, author of The Junk Food Companion. "Every chip looks the same, acts the same."

Not everyone liked the Pringles can when it first hit the market. "People resented it," says Phil Lempert, founder of Uniform chips didn't jell with 1960s-era individualism, he says. "You gave up the fun of eating potato chips, looking for the big ones, the small ones, the ones shaped liked Elvis." Lempert said it took consumers years to appreciate Pringles' uniform size, shape and color. "The Pringles can was a revolution within the realm of snack food," says Baur.

Although Fredric Baur earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and served in the Navy as an aviation physiologist, the Pringles can proved his biggest hit. At one point Baur engineered a freeze-dried, just-add-milk ice-cream product called Coldsnap. Despite a product team that included a young Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft's CEO, the elder Baur achieved more success with his can than the cone.

Baur's Pringles can helped inspire a burst of innovation in supermarket product packaging. In the tradition of the culinary pioneers who transformed Toblerone into a pyramid, cheese into string and doughnut holes into round Munchkins, here are a few post-Baur supermarket design triumphs.

Method Soap

Design Innovation: Reimagined flat, drab soap dispensers as sleek, rounded objects of translucent elegance and refinement.


Design Innovation: Stuffed a mop into a box.

Heinz Top-Down Ketchup

Design Innovation: Fixed the stuck-ketchup problem by following the lead of toothpaste and shampoo containers. In other words, Heinz finally turned the bottle upside down.

Tic Tac

Design Innovation: Rebranded mints with an identifiable sound, a catchy name and a clear, pocket-fitting rectangular box. The same marketers who brought Nutella to the U.S. made these miniature pill-shaped breath fresheners the candy world's cutest icons.

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The Ultimate Guide to Motivation - How to Achieve Any Goal

Photo courtesy of Looking Glass

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

One of the biggest challenges in meeting any goal, whether it be related to productivity, waking early, changing a habit, exercising, or just becoming happier, is finding the motivation to stick with it.

If you can stick with a goal for long enough, you’ll almost always get there eventually. It just takes patience, and motivation.

Motivation is the key, but it’s not always easy, day in and day out, to find that motivation.

What follows is a guide to motivation using what I’ve learned over the last few years in a series of successful accomplishments, goals and habit changes. I’ve had many failures, but also many successes, and I’ve learned a lot from all of them. Motivation has been a particularly important topic of exploration for me.

What Motivation Can Achieve
What have I accomplished using these motivation methods? Too much to mention, just in the last 3 years: running two marathons, learning to become an early riser, losing 40 pounds, completing a triathlon, becoming vegetarian, becoming more productive, starting a successful blog, writing a book, becoming organized, simplifying my life, quitting my day job, tripling my income, eliminating my debt, and much more.

That’s not intended to sound like bragging, but to show you what can be accomplished (just to start) if you find the right motivation.

How Does Motivation Work?
Before we get into specific methods, it’s useful to examine what motivation is, what it does, and how it works.

Motivation is what drives you toward a goal, what keeps you going when things get tough, the reason you get up early to exercise or work late to finish a project. There are all kinds of motivations, of course, from positive to negative. Having a boss threaten to fire you is motivation — you’ll likely work harder to complete a project with that kind of pressure. But I find that positive motivation works better — if it’s something you really want to do, you’ll do a much better job than to avoid something you don’t want (such as being fired).

So motivation, in its best form, is a way for you to want to do something. There may be times, for example, when you don’t feel like getting up early, and in those times you may seriously just want to sleep in (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But if you have a reason to want to get up early, something you really really want to do, you’ll jump up out of bed with excitement.

The best motivation, then, is a way for you to really want something, to get excited about it, to be passionate about it. Remember that, as there are many other types of motivation (especially negative), but in my experience, this is the kind that works the best.

There is only so long that you can go trying to motivate yourself to do something you don’t like to do, something you don’t want to do. But if you find ways to really want to do something, you can sustain your effort for much, much longer.

8 Ways to Motivate Yourself From the Beginning
I’ve found that it’s important to start out with the right motivation, because a good start can build momentum that you can sustain for a long time. If you start out right, you have a much better chance of succeeding. Here are some tips for starting out:

  1. Start small. I’ve said this before, but that’s because it’s one of the most important tips in motivating yourself toward a goal. Don’t start out big! Start out with a ridiculously easy goal, and then grow from there. If you want to exercise, for example, you may be thinking that you have to do these intense workouts 5 days a week. No — instead, do small, tiny, baby steps. Just do 2 minutes of exercise. I know, that sounds wimpy. But it works. Commit to 2 minutes of exercise for one week. You may want to do more, but just stick to 2 minutes. It’s so easy, you can’t fail. Do it at the same time, every day. Just some crunches, 2 pushups, and some jogging in place. Once you’ve done 2 minutes a day for a week, increase it to 5, and stick with that for a week. In a month, you’ll be doing 15-20. Want to wake up early? Don’t think about waking at 5 a.m. Instead, think about waking 10 minutes earlier for a week. That’s all. Once you’ve done that, wake 10 minutes earlier than that. Baby steps.
  2. One goal. Too many people start with too many goals at once, and try to do too much. And it saps energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make. You cannot maintain energy and focus (the two most important things in accomplishing a goal) if you are trying to do two or more goals at once. It’s not possible — I’ve tried it many times. You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it completely. I know, that’s hard. Still, I speak from experience. You can always do your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.
  3. Examine your motivation. Know your reasons. Give them some thought … and write them down. If you have loved ones, and you are doing it for them, that is more powerful than just doing it for self-interest. Doing it for yourself is good too, but you should do it for something that you REALLY REALLY want to happen, for really good reasons.
  4. Really, really want it. This is essentially the same as the above tip, but I want to emphasize it: it’s not enough to think it would be cool to achieve something. It has to be something you’re passionate about, something you’re super excited about, something you want deeply. Make sure that your goal meets these criteria, or you won’t stick with it for long.
  5. Commit publicly. None of us likes to look bad in front of others. We will go the extra mile to do something we’ve said publicly. For example, when I wanted to run my first marathon, I started writing a column about it in my local daily newspaper. The entire island of Guam (pop. 160K) knew about my goal. I couldn’t back down, and even though my motivation came and went, I stuck with it and completed it. Now, you don’t have to commit to your goal in your daily newspaper, but you can do it with friends and family and co-workers, and you can do it on your blog if you have one. And hold yourself accountable — don’t just commit once, but commit to giving progress updates to everyone every week or so.
  6. Get excited. Well, it starts with inspiration from others (see above), but you have to take that excitement and build on it. For me, I’ve learned that by talking to my wife about it, and to others, and reading as much about it as possible, and visualizing what it would be like to be successful (seeing the benefits of the goal in my head), I get excited about a goal. Once I’ve done that, it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.
  7. Build anticipation. This will sound hard, and many people will skip this tip. But it really works. It helped me quit smoking after many failed attempts. If you find inspiration and want to do a goal, don’t start right away. Many of us will get excited and want to start today. That’s a mistake. Set a date in the future — a week or two, or even a month — and make that your Start Date. Mark it on the calendar. Get excited about that date. Make it the most important date in your life. In the meantime, start writing out a plan. And do some of the steps below. Because by delaying your start, you are building anticipation, and increasing your focus and energy for your goal.
  8. Print it out, post it up. Print out your goal in big words. Make your goal just a few words long, like a mantra (”Exercise 15 mins. Daily”), and post it up on your wall or refrigerator. Post it at home and work. Put it on your computer desktop. You want to have big reminders about your goal, to keep your focus and keep your excitement going. A picture of your goal (like a model with sexy abs, for example) also helps.

20 Ways to Sustain Motivation When You’re Struggling
The second half of motivation is to keep yourself going when you don’t feel the same excitement as you did in the beginning. Perhaps something new has come into your life and your old goal isn’t as much of a priority anymore. Perhaps you skipped a day or two and now you can’t get back into it. Perhaps you screwed up and got discouraged.

If you can get yourself excited again, and keep going, you’ll get there eventually. But if you give up, you won’t. It’s your choice — accomplish the goal, or quit. Here’s how you can stop from quitting, and get to your goal:

  1. Hold yourself back. When I start with a new exercise program, or any new goal really, I am rarin’ to go. I am full of excitement, and my enthusiasm knows no boundaries. Nor does my sense of self-limitation. I think I can do anything. It’s not long before I learn that I do have limitations, and my enthusiasm begins to wane. Well, a great motivator that I’ve learned is that when you have so much energy at the beginning of a program, and want to go all out — HOLD BACK. Don’t let yourself do everything you want to do. Only let yourself do 50-75 percent of what you want to do. And plan out a course of action where you slowly increase over time. For example, if I want to go running, I might think I can run 3 miles at first. But instead of letting myself do that, I start by only running a mile. When I’m doing that mile, I’ll be telling myself that I can do more! But I don’t let myself. After that workout, I’ll be looking forward to the next workout, when I’ll let myself do 1.5 miles. I keep that energy reined in, harness it, so that I can ride it even further.
  2. Just start. There are some days when you don’t feel like heading out the door for a run, or figuring out your budget, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do that day for your goal. Well, instead of thinking about how hard it is, and how long it will take, tell yourself that you just have to start. I have a rule that I just have to put on my running shoes and close the door behind me. After that, it all flows naturally. It’s when you’re sitting in your house, thinking about running and feeling tired, that it seems hard. Once you start, it is never as hard as you thought it would be. This tip works for me every time.
  3. Stay accountable. If you committed yourself publicly, through an online forum, on a blog, in email, or in person … stay accountable to that group of people. Commit to report back to them daily, or something like that, and stick to it! That accountability will help you to want to do well, because you don’t want to report that you’ve failed.
  4. Squash negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. This is one of the most important motivation skills, and I suggest you practice it daily. It’s important to start monitoring your thoughts, and to recognize negative self-talk. Just spend a few days becoming aware of every negative thought. Then, after a few days, try squashing those negative thoughts like a bug, and then replacing them with a corresponding positive thought. Squash, “This is too hard!” and replace it with, “I can do this! If that wimp Leo can do it, so can I!” It sounds corny, but it works. Really.
  5. Think about the benefits. Thinking about how hard something is is a big problem for most people. Waking early sounds so hard! Just thinking about it makes you tired. But instead of thinking about how hard something is, think about what you will get out of it. For example, instead of thinking about how hard it is to wake early, focus on how good you’ll feel when you’re done, and how your day will be so much better. The benefits of something will help energize you.
  6. Get excited again! Think about why you lost your excitement … then think about why you were excited in the first place. Can you get that back? What made you want to do the goal? What made you passionate about it? Try to build that up again, refocus yourself, get energized.
  7. Read about it. When I lose motivation, I just read a book or blog about my goal. It inspires me and reinvigorates me. For some reason, reading helps motivate and focus you on whatever you’re reading about. So read about your goal every day, if you can, especially when you’re not feeling motivated.
  8. Find like-minded friends. Staying motivated on your own is tough. But if you find someone with similar goals (running, dieting, finances, etc.), see if they’d like to partner with you. Or partner with your spouse, sibling or best friend on whatever goals they’re trying to achieve. You don’t have to be going after the same goals — as long as you are both pushing and encouraging each other to succeed. Other good options are groups in your area (I’m part of a running club, for example) or online forums where you can find people to talk to about your goals.
  9. Read inspiring stories. Inspiration, for me, comes from others who have achieved what I want to achieve, or who are currently doing it. I read other blogs, books, magazines. I Google my goal, and read success stories. Zen Habits is just one place for inspiration, not only from me but from many readers who have achieved amazing things. I love, love, love reading success stories too.
  10. Build on your successes. Every little step along the way is a success — celebrate the fact that you even started! And then did it for two days! Celebrate every little milestone. Then take that successful feeling and build on it, with another baby step. Add 2-3 minutes to your exercise routine, for example. With each step (and each step should last about a week), you will feel even more successful. Make each step really, really small, and you won’t fail. After a couple of months, your tiny steps will add up to a lot of progress and a lot of success.
  11. Just get through the low points. Motivation is not a constant thing that is always there for you. It comes and goes, and comes and goes again, like the tide. But realize that while it may go away, it doesn’t do so permanently. It will come back. Just stick it out and wait for that motivation to come back. In the meantime, read about your goal, ask for help, and do some of the other things listed here until your motivation comes back.
  12. Get help. It’s hard to accomplish something alone. When I decided to run my marathon, I had the help of friends and family, and I had a great running community on Guam who encouraged me at 5K races and did long runs with me. When I decided to quit smoking, I joined an online forum and that helped tremendously. And of course, my wife Eva helped every step of the way. I couldn’t have done these goals without her, or without the others who supported me. Find your support network, either in the real world or online, or both.
  13. Chart your progress. This can be as simple as marking an X on your calendar, or creating a simple spreadsheet, or logging your goal using online software. But it can be vastly rewarding to look back on your progress and to see how far you’ve come, and it can help you to keep going — you don’t want to have too many days without an X! Now, you will have some bad marks on your chart. That’s OK. Don’t let a few bad marks stop you from continuing. Strive instead to get the good marks next time.
  14. Reward yourself often. For every little step along the way, celebrate your success, and give yourself a reward. It helps to write down appropriate rewards for each step, so that you can look forward to those rewards. By appropriate, I mean 1) it’s proportionate to the size of the goal (don’t reward going on a 1-mile run with a luxury cruise in the Bahamas); and 2) it doesn’t ruin your goal — if you are trying to lose weight, don’t reward a day of healthy eating with a dessert binge. It’s self-defeating.
  15. Go for mini-goals. Sometimes large or longer-term goals can be overwhelming. After a couple weeks, we may lose motivation, because we still have several months or a year or more left to accomplish the goal. It’s hard to maintain motivation for a single goal for such a long time. Solution: have smaller goals along the way.
  16. Get a coach or take a class. These will motivate you to at least show up, and to take action. It can be applied to any goal. This might be one of the more expensive ways of motivating yourself, but it works. And if you do some research, you might find some cheap classes in your area, or you might know a friend who will provide coaching or counseling for free.
  17. Never skip two days in a row. This rule takes into account our natural tendency to miss days now and then. We are not perfect. So, you missed one day … now the second day is upon you and you are feeling lazy … tell yourself NO! You will not miss two days in a row!
  18. Use visualization. Visualize your successful outcome in great detail. Close your eyes, and think about exactly how your successful outcome will look, will feel, will smell and taste and sound like. Where are you when you become successful? How do you look? What are you wearing? Form as clear a mental picture as possible. Now here’s the next key: do it every day. For at least a few minutes each day. This is the only way to keep that motivation going over a long period of time.
  19. Be aware of your urges to quit, and overcome them. We all have urges to stop, but they are mostly unconscious. One of the most powerful things you can do is to start being more conscious of those urges. A good exercise is to go through the day with a little piece of paper and put a tally mark for each time you get an urge. It simply makes you aware of the urges. Then have a plan for when those urges hit, and plan for it beforehand, and write down your plan, because once those urges hit, you will not feel like coming up with a plan.
  20. Find pleasure again. No one can stick to something for long if they find it unpleasant, and are only rewarded after months of toil. There has to be fun, pleasure, joy in it, every day, or you won’t want to do it. Find those pleasurable things — the beauty of a morning run, for example, or the satisfaction in reporting to people that you finished another step along the way, or the deliciousness of a healthy meal.
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Toyota develops new fuel cell hybrid

Toyota has developed a new fuel cell hybrid, a green car powered by hydrogen and electricity, that can travel more than twice the distance of its predecessor model without filling up, the automaker said Friday.

The improved model's maximum cruising range is 516 miles (830 kilometers) compared with 205 miles (330 kilometers) for Toyota's previous fuel cell model, the maker of the Camry sedan and Lexus luxury cars said in a statement.

The FCHV-adv model, which received Japanese government approval Tuesday, will be available for leasing in Japan later this year, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Kayo Doi said. Pricing and other details weren't available, and overseas plans were still undecided, she said.

Fuel cell vehicles produce no pollution by running on the power of the chemical reaction when hydrogen stored in a tank combines with oxygen in the air to produce water.

The FCHV-adv from the world's second biggest automaker also comes with an electric motor and works as a hybrid by switching between that motor and the hydrogen-powered fuel cell. Toyota's Prius hybrid switches between an electric motor and a standard gasoline engine.

Fuel efficiency in the FCHV-adv was improved 25 percent with better braking and other changes, Toyota said. The new fuel cell vehicle can also start and run in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 Celsius), it said. Getting a fuel cell to work well in cold weather is a technological challenge.

Major automakers around the world are working on fuel cells and other ecological vehicles, including electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which recharge from an electrical outlet. And consumer interest in alternative fuels is increasing amid soaring gas prices and worries about global warming.

Rival Honda Motor Co.'s revamped fuel cell vehicle for leasing in California is rolling off a Japanese factory floor later this month.

For 2010, U.S. automaker General Motors Corp. is planning a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle, while Tokyo-based Nissan Motor Co. is planning electric vehicles for the U.S. and Japan.

Fuel cell vehicles are usually marketed through leasing arrangements since the technology is too expensive for most people to buy in an outright purchase.

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The 5 Most Terrifying Rites of Manhood from Around the World

So what did you do to earn your manhood? At the very worst, some of you had to read a prayer or two from a select holy book, maybe a distant uncle sent you a few bucks. Your parents start bugging you about getting a job and force you to move out by the time you're 20, or maybe 35.

But in some parts of the world, manhood is still something you earn.

Vanuatu Land Diving

When you're a member of the South Pacific Vanuatu, by the time you get to be eight-years-old or so it's high time to prove your masculinity. And what better way to prove you're ready to take on the challenges and responsibilities of adult life than stripping naked and bungee diving off a rickety 100-foot-tall platform?

Oh, and instead of stretchy bungee cables, they use vines. Those things that have been known to drop grapes and tomatoes every once in a while. They will show absolutely no give when you run out of slack and you're still hurtling toward the earth at hundreds of miles per hour. That will show no remorse when you plummet to your death. Vines.

The ritual is intended to impress both the gods and the ladies. Maybe you're thinking, "Hey, tourists do that sort of thing all the time! That's not so terrifying!" The Vanuatu people also realized that and decided that the gods would only be impressed if the boy's head touched the ground.

Jump, plummet 100 feet, hit the ground, don't die. We're not sure why the Vanuatu need to appease gods, because if you can pull off that combo, you're damned immortal in our books.

Australian Aborigines Take Circumcision to a Whole New Level

Waiting until you're a teenager to get circumcised should be terrifying enough, but a lot of indigenous tribes actually do that as a rite of passage. The Aborigines decided they had to find a way to multiply the terror that surrounds your typical teenage penis-cutting incident. Brace yourself:

The ceremony begins by taking a 15- to 16-year-old boy to a secluded place with a number of tribesman. Then begins a several-hour-long chant that's supposed to relax the boy, but we're assuming will do absolutely nothing if he knows what's coming.

Then, two men get on their hands and knees together, and the boy clambers on top of their backs. If ever in the future you find you're in need of a late-in-life circumcision, we challenge you to replace the operating table with two nearly-naked, chanting tribesman. While they do their cutting, the boy is expected to show no signs of pain. You know, because only children feel pain when their penises are cut.

Then, with that fresh in his mind, they make him wait about a week. That's when a second operation is performed. Jens Bjerre, one of the very few men to have witnessed this ceremony, documented it in his book, The Last Cannibals:

"A hole was pierced right through his sex organ near the root, and there was inserted into it, at either end, a splinter to keep the aperture from growing together again. The object was to ensure that henceforth the urine and the sperm would be ejected through this little hole high up on the sex organ, instead of by the normal channel."

Guess what they're all watching.

Just let that soak in for a minute.

The idea is these guys can now have sex without impregnating a woman unless they cover the newly made hole.

In case you've forgotten, or blocked it out, all of this is done with no anesthetic to ease the pain, other than a bunch of men repeating the same phrase over and over again.

Hamar Cow Jumping

Around ages 12 through 15, when most boys are worried about being picked last for kickball, Ethiopian boys of the Hamar tribe are expected to make a leap of pure holy-mother-of-pearl faith over a row of cattle who serve a fate worse than those at a Burger King farm. When these cattle aren't being jumped, stepped, or fallen onto, they're probably more than happy to maul the poor sucker who trips and face-plants.

That guy made it look pretty easy, didn't he? For a real life equivalent, imagine trying to run and jump over your car four times. And that all your family and friends are gathered around to watch you. And the car is a living squirming thing. And that you have to jump over the squirming car about four consecutive times without falling. That you only get one shot. That if you fall, you can forget manhood, a potential wife, and respect from your relatives. That's right, in this reality there's actually a way for you to fail puberty. You couldn't even speak in class without your voice cracking under the pressure, and you think you're going to be running wind-sprints across a herd of cattle?

Stop: Hamar Time.

Once the Hamar boy passes the cow-jumping test, he earns the respect given to a man and also becomes a eligible to participate in the Hamar women-beating ceremony, where the girls of Hamar happily volunteer to prove their devotion to their husbands by being ceremonially hit and whipped. If some woman should ever object, we're assuming a simple, "Hey, I jumped over those cows earlier," trumps any argument she can muster.

The Algonquin Drug Trip

The idea of getting force-fed hallucinogens in order to become an adult will appeal to a lot of you. But this isn't that Grateful Dead concert you remember so well. Boys of the Algonquin Indian tribe of Quebec were brought to a secluded area, often caged, and then given an intoxicating medicine known as wysoccan.

This stuff contained the deadly datura, an extremely dangerous hallucinogen that is said to be 100 times more powerful than LSD. Yes, to the Algonquin people, manhood took the form of spending 20 days in a completely deranged state that included a racing heartbeat, amnesia and hypothermia. If the Beatles had been ballsy enough to graduate from LSD to datura, their musical influence probably would have been deterred due to all of their subsequent songs sounding roughly like a donkey giving birth to a tractor.

The whole idea of this drug-induced party was to force any memories of being a child out of the boy's mind. Unfortunately, memory loss tends to affect, well, everything, including memory of their family, how to speak, or even who the hell they were.

If boys showed recognition towards their childhood after returning to the village, they were taken back and given a second dose and the pleasure of having to cheat death again.

Matis Hunting Trials

As screwed up as the Algonquin ritual is, the Matis, a small Brazilian tribe, top them pretty handily.

The ritual for recruiting boys into the ranks of their hunters begins with dumping a bitter poison directly into their eyes, allegedly in order to improve their vision and enhance the senses. We're sort of interested in how many different combinations of toxic liquids the Matis shamans shoved into their eyeballs before finding a winning formula that didn't dissolve them into a white, gooey mess.

The next series of trials includes beatings and whippings, but those look like Matis massages compared to the final trial. The concluding test revolves around an inoculation of Phyllomedusa bicolor, which is basically Latin for "local frogs that just happen to secrete nature's death juice."

Don't you dare fuck with me.

After burning an area of the skin, the frog goop is injected with the use of a wooden needle. The poison is said to increase strength and endurance. However, those enhancements must come after the unbearable lightheadedness, vehement vomiting and violent relieving of the bowels. After all, REAL men don't need innards.

Once the boys prove themselves able to withstand these trials, they are treated to performing them before every future hunt they partake in. Actually, thanks anyways but we think we'll keep playing with our Tonka trucks over here guys.

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This one is worth a thousand words

Hats off to Luis Vasconcelos for this powerful picture.

The caption says, “An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state policemen who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs. REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE (BRAZIL)”.

Images of heavy-handed oppression really don’t come much better than this - defenceless, screaming woman clutching naked child is shoved and beaten by faceless, armoured authority.
The symbols are reinforced by the strong composition. The woman and her child appear all the more vulnerable as the only elements of humanity and colour against the advancing wall of shields and boots.Such a potent image leaves very little room for any doubt. In such circumstances do we need to know the details of the dispute to have any doubts that what we are witnessing is wrong?

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State of the plumbing art: 10 examples of cutting-edge bathroom design

Regardless of who you are, you’re going to come in contact with plumbing fixtures every day. Where a simple outhouse festooned with a half-moon might have sufficed in days of yore, now there’s a 21st-century renaissance going on with toilets, faucets and the like. Designers, and the plumbing companies employing them, are encouraging us to make the most of our daily ablutions, and have risen to the occasion with admirable aplomb.

In search of the ideal bathroom components, we scoured the world for the prettiest potties, the most sumptuous sinks and the best of the bodacious baths, all certain to help you to complete your daily bathroom tour with style and grace. Prepare to be dazzled; hit Continue for the best of the best…

Design Odyssey Vertebrae
Here’s a space-saving idea that’s decidedly space age. Design Odyssey Vertebrae is an all-in-one fixture with water flowing into it from the top, giving you a shower, a cistern for storing water, a couple of storage areas, a sink and a toilet, all in one stack.

Hansgrohe Showerpleasure XXL
If there’s a bigger shower head in this world, we haven’t seen it. Team up this Hansgrohe Showerpleasure XXL with a few other water jets coming from every which way, and you’ll be standing smack-dab in the middle of a virtual tropical storm. Using special Raindance AIR technology, it provides the perfect mixture of air and water that’ll supposedly get you cleaner than clean. Maybe it'll even relax you enough to prevent a heart attack when you see your water bill.

Toto Neorest Air Bath
If bathing is an art, you can create a masterpiece simply by lying in the Toto Neorest Air Bath. Its flume waterfall cleanses while you control the water temperature, depth and flow speed with its LCD touchpanel. Built for two, it’ll gently cascade warm water onto both occupants' shoulders while they sit across from each other, smirking at their decadence.

Mastella Vov Bathtub
This one will practically take you back to the womb. The Mastella Vov Bathtub’s egg shape might remind you of your origins as you lie back, admiring the sparkling silver chains hanging from a ring above. The floor-mounted water filler adds to the weird illusion, as well as your choice of easter-egg colors adorning the tub’s interior.

Toto Washlet S400
Add this $1,400 Toto Washlet S400 toilet seat to your existing potty, and you get a carwash for your butt. When it's time for cleanup, a tiny spraying wand sneaks out to rinse your nether regions with soothing warm water, and then a blow dryer completes the task. Control that and a lot more with its wall-mounted remote, and it opens and closes the seat automagically for you, too.
Touch360 Ripple Faucet
This Touch360 Ripple faucet is not just a plumbing fixture, it’s “a new way to interact with water.” It's called Touch360 because water gushes out in a circular fashion, converging at an apex before flowing into your awaiting hands. You control the temperature and flow with a small metal ball, with LEDs lighting its translucent surface, color-coordinated with the temperature of the water.
Kohler C3-200 Toilet Seat with Bidet Functionality
Kohler answers Toto’s washlet juggernaut with the C3-200, a bidet seat of its own, offering similar functionality at nearly half the price (find it online for $845). This one gives you a warm wash and dry, deodorizing all the while. There are even LED landing lights for those late-night pit stops. We’ve installed one of these in our Midwest Test Facility, so stay tuned for our hands-on (butts-on?) review.

Wet X-Light Surround Sink
The X-Light Surround sink is a whole lot more than a plumbing fixture. Yes, it’s a speaker, and it’s iPod-friendly, too. Plug in that music player and you’ll be splish splashin’ your way to well-scrubbed bliss. Or something. Wonder if it sounds different when you fill it up with water...?
Aperture Shower Head
The Aperture Shower Head is a design concept whose main idea is to show you how much water you’re wasting in hopes of getting you out of that shower as soon as possible. Using the force of the water to generate its own hydroelectric power, its LEDs pour on the guilt as you get clean. If it can deliver a powerful-enough stream, it might be worth the worry.

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Insane Water Slide Drops You Straight Down Through a Trap Door, Flings You Through a Loop

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Mother's anger turns to delight after her baby survives an abortion

Finley Crampton really shouldn't be here. Although his parents would have loved another child, they knew their baby could inherit a life-threatening kidney condition – and they couldn't take the risk.

After all, their first son had died of the condition and the second was born with serious kidney damage.

So when Finley's mother, Jodie Percival, became pregnant while on the Pill, she and her fiance Billy Crampton, 35, made the agonising decision to abort this child.

Survivor: Jodie Percival and baby Finley who survived an abortion

'Deciding to terminate at eight weeks was just utterly horrible but I couldn't cope with the anguish of losing another baby,' said Miss Percival, 25.

However, Finley had other ideas. And some time after the operation, Miss Percival felt a fluttering in her stomach.

Eventually her doctor sent her for a scan – and she discovered she was 19 weeks pregnant.

The child had survived the abortion and thrived in the womb. 'I couldn't believe it,' said Miss Percival. 'This was the baby I thought I'd terminated.

'At first I was angry that this was happening to us, that the procedure had failed.

'I wrote to the hospital, I couldn't believe that they had let me down like this. They wrote back and apologised and said it was very rare.'

But a week later, another scan confirmed that this baby had kidney problems too, like the couple's previous children.

Miss Percival carries a gene which triggers multicystic dysplastic kidney – which causes cysts to grow on the kidneys of an unborn baby.

Her first baby, Thane, had lived for only 20 minutes after she was forced to deliver him prematurely.

Her second son, Lewis, now 20 months, was born with a similar condition. He survives on one kidney.

However, doctors told the couple from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, that this child was likely to survive, so they decided he deserved a chance.

And in November, Finley was born three weeks premature, at 6lb 3oz.

He had minor kidney damage but is expected to lead a normal life.

'I knew if that operation hadn't failed he wouldn't have been there,' said Miss Percival, a hairdresser.

'I just couldn't believe that this child had got through it all and looked so perfect.

'He may need an operation but as only one of his kidneys is affected he can survive.

'I still struggle to believe just what he has fought through. Now he's here I wouldn't change it for the world.'

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The Iron Man: A Meningitis Miracle

Fighting a Rare and Deadly Disease

I hold a special place in my close-knit Italian family. At 42, I'm the baby brother of three older sisters. My folks retired to Maine more than 20 years ago, and two of my sisters followed them. Since then, all of us get together with our families each year after Christmas Day. My wife, Donna, and I drive up and rent a big hotel suite in the coastal community of South Portland, where about 20 of us have dinner and usher in the New Year.

Mike LaForgia was not only on his feet again only six months after surgery, but he was running with the help of high-tech prosthetics.

On December 31, 2004, after dinner, we were swimming in the indoor pool, just fooling around, playing hide-and-seek and having fun. At midnight, we gathered around the TV to watch the ball drop, kissed and hugged, and said goodbye to those who were leaving. Donna and I were exhausted after we got the kids to bed. Nine-year-old Michael and six-year-old Jenna had made the trip (12-year-old Kaelyn lives in Georgia with her mom). I think we fell asleep the minute we hit our pillows.

But I awoke just after 2 a.m. with what seemed like a nasty case of the flu. I had an excruciating headache and terrible chills. My body was shaking so violently that I was literally bouncing on the bed. Overcome by nausea, I spent the early-morning hours dragging back and forth to and from the bathroom.

We decided to cut our holiday short and head home to Smithtown, Long Island. Donna called my mom and dad to let them know that we were all leaving.

Donna loaded our bags into the SUV and got in the driver's seat while I sat next to her, knuckling down for the seven-hour trip. Michael, Jenna and our dog, Chip, a King Charles spaniel, were in the backseat. At one point, I threw up into a plastic bag. I knew it was horrifying for Donna and the kids to see me so sick and weak. I was an avid runner and athlete who prided himself in being strong and physically fit.

By the time we made it home, at around five that evening, I was barely able to drag myself upstairs to bed. It never occurred to us to go to a hospital, because we were so sure this was only the flu.

At about 2 a.m. on January 2, I woke up and headed for the bathroom. Donna must have been sleeping with one eye open. When I returned to bed, she turned a light on and was shocked to see deep purple blotches that looked like broken blood vessels all over my face. She quickly threw on some clothes and phoned her older brother to ask if he could stay with the kids. Soon I wasn't able to stand on my own, so my strong-willed five-foot-four wife heaped my 200-pound body on her back with strength even she didn't know she possessed and, like a firefighter, got me downstairs and into the car. We sped off to a local hospital.

Soon after we arrived, the ER staff tried hooking me up to IVs, but my veins kept collapsing and the staff couldn't insert the needles. My heartbeat and respiration were extremely rapid. A specialist was called to put in a central IV for antibiotics and fluids. The doctors didn't know what was wrong, but they wondered if I'd developed a pulmonary embolism as a result of the long car trip.

More specialists were called in around 4 a.m. as Donna and several nurses circled around, trying to make me more comfortable. Later that morning, I had a CAT scan, to look for an embolism, and a VQ scan, which shows whether blood is circulating freely through the lungs. The results of both were negative, but an echocardiogram showed some weakening of my heart. Suddenly I went into severe septic shock with multiple organ failure: My liver, kidneys and other organs were shutting down. Donna followed as I was wheeled into the ICU.

Last-Ditch Effort

A hematologist was brought in to consult. He told Donna that I had disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, a condition that causes blood to coagulate irregularly, leading to bleeding throughout the body. Over the next week, Donna watched helplessly as my nose, arms and limbs all turned from purple to black. We later learned that this was my body's way of preserving the really important stuff, like my heart and brain, by decreasing the blood flow to my extremities. A staffer asked Donna, as my health care proxy, for permission to place me under heavy sedation and hook me up to a respirator to help me breathe more easily. She had no choice but to agree to what sounded like a last-ditch effort.

What a thrill to celebrate my recovery with Michael Jr. and Jenna over Italian food.

The rest of the LaForgia clan arrived from Maine by one that afternoon. Each person was allowed in my room for a few minutes before I was placed on the respirator. At four, the medical staff told Donna she had to leave while they got me ready. She kissed my cheek and whispered that she would be back soon. Most of my memories from then on are based on Donna's retelling of the story. One of the doctors told Donna there was nothing else they could do—and that I probably wouldn't make it through the night. Still, there was no definitive diagnosis of what had made a young, healthy man so sick in such a short time.

The only hope was to have me transferred to another hospital, though the staff felt strongly that I wouldn't survive the trip. They were willing to release me, but Donna had to be the one to find a hospital that would take someone so critically ill.

Scrambling for Help

Donna mobilized the group in the waiting room to contact different hospitals. But after learning of my vitals, none would accept me. My sister Teresa calls the waiting room scenario my "big fat Italian hospital scene." My sisters are very emotional, and they were all crying. Adding to the confusion, everyone had a different opinion about what to do next. Donna remained calm and steady, making one last call for advice to a doctor we knew, who suggested Stony Brook University Medical Center. The hospital sent an ambulance and rushed me to the ER.

Donna was told she couldn't go with me. What if I died in the ambulance, she worried, and she couldn't be with me at the end, holding my hand? By that time, Donna had been awake for more than 20 hours straight. When she arrived at the ER at 10:30 that night, she was totally exhausted and finally broke down crying.

At Stony Brook, several doctors examined me and reviewed my records. Things were so grim that they urged Donna to call a priest to administer last rites. They told her they weren't certain about what had caused the septic shock, but felt that rapid and aggressive treatment with antibiotics was the only way to face down the unknown attackers. Because of the DIC and the risk of uncontrolled bleeding, they'd been unable to do a spinal tap, which may have aided in making a conclusive diagnosis.

The IV fluids and the fact that my kidneys weren't working caused me to balloon more than 60 pounds overnight. Donna says I was completely unrecognizable. Every feature of my face was swollen—it looked like I was turned inside out.

My fever spiked to 105.7. Donna told me that one by one, family members came to say their farewells. After rubbing me down with alcohol, she and Teresa put chairs together in the waiting room to catch some sleep. Miraculously, I survived the night.

I remained in critical condition for the next seven days. I was placed on dialysis, and the doctors suspected that my kidney function wouldn't return. Donna and my family were worried about brain damage. The doctors were concerned that if I was lucky enough to survive, I'd lose my nose, hands and feet from the prolonged loss of blood flow.

On January 3, my second day at Stony Brook, the hospital asked for Donna's permission to use a special new medication to treat the inflammation from the infection that was raging through my bloodstream. She gave the go-ahead.

Out of The Dark

On January 9, after I'd spent eight days sedated with Donna at my bedside, suddenly I moved my arm. Excited, Donna took the movement as a sign that things had changed and that I might actually make it through this nightmare. The next morning, I opened my eyes for the first time. Two hours later, the respirator was removed, and I was breathing on my own.

No one is positive about what made me so sick or what finally triggered my recovery. But I now believe that I had meningococcal sepsis, also called meningococcemia, a bacterial infection of the blood that is frequently hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. Although my doctors at Stony Brook had no way to confirm it definitively, they do say the infection was aggressive enough to have been this type of rare and often deadly meningitis. I remained in the hospital for two months and spent five more months in physical rehab.

Meningitis Survivor
Click Here to Play: All About Meningitis
Photographed by Jessica Dimmock
Mike LaForgia was not only on his feet again only six months after surgery, but he was running with the help of high-tech prosthetics.
Photographed by Jessica Dimmock/Redux
What a thrill to celebrate my recovery with Michael Jr. and Jenna over Italian food.
Click Here to Play: All About Meningitis
Click Here to Play: All About Meningitis
Click Here to Play: All About Meningitis
Because I'd been a runner and triathlete since my early 30s, I was in excellent condition, and the doctors say that contributed to my ability to recover. They were able to save my hands, although my nose has some scarring. I lost all the toes on both feet and the arch and heel of my right foot. On Valentine's Day, 2005, the doctors worked nine hours to use my right lat muscle to rebuild my right foot, which they covered with a skin graft from my thigh.

With great effort, I slowly progressed from a wheelchair to a walker, then to crutches and finally a cane. I left the hospital in March 2005, and in late May, I returned to work as a vice president and program manager for technology with JP MorganChase.

Since then, I've had several more reconstructive operations, including a knee surgery and a reduction of the right foot to help it to fit into a shoe. In the past, I'd completed two New York City marathons as well as a Half Ironman in Florida. But now I just dreamed of getting back into a pair of Nike sneakers for running, bike shoes for racing and dress shoes for work.

Before deciding on an elective amputation of my right leg in June 2006, I interviewed dozens of amputees, who convinced me that the operation would enhance my mobility and improve my quality of life. After the surgery, I was fitted with two customized running legs and a customized cycling prosthetic.

I'll never know exactly how I contracted meningococcemia. The evening before that New Year's Eve, we were in a crowded auditorium for a show with my family. It could have been something as innocuous as standing next to an asymptomatic infected person who coughed or sneezed on me in a crowded room.

One of the gifts that came from this vicious disease: I've achieved a better balance in my life, between work, home and community. Also, I always knew that Donna was a remarkably capable and strong woman. But after this experience, I realized that relationships aren't measured by just the good times. How you respond to great challenges, even to loss, can define a relationship. It certainly strengthened the already strong bond between us.

I've got my athletic spirit back, but now I compete in 10K's or triathlons to raise awareness and funding for challenged athletes. I'm also active on the advisory board of the National Meningitis Association, a nonprofit organization founded by five parents whose children died or live with permanent disabilities from the disease. If I can prevent one other person from suffering from this, it will be worth it. I also hope to use my return to running and biking to raise awareness about meningococcal disease and the new vaccine that can help prevent it.

For more information about the symptoms and effects of deadly meningococcal disease, who's at risk, and how you can prevent it with the vaccine, go to

An Expert's View of This Case

This is a classic, not so rare, example of how tough it can be to definitively diagnose meningococcal disease. When someone has disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and goes into septic shock, there is often no time to do a spinal tap. To preserve life, the acceptable medical practice is to administer broad-spectrum antibiotics as rapidly as possible," says Paul A. Offit, MD, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases.

A New Way to Run:
After additional elective amputations on both legs to improve his mobility, Mike LaForgia was not only on his feet again only six months after surgery, but he was running and cycling with the help of high-tech prosthetics. Erik Schaffer, CP (certified prosthetist), owner of A Step Ahead Prosthetics & Orthotics in Hicksville, New York, helped fit Mike with custom-fabricated carbon graphite legs that enable him to compete once again in running and triathlons. Mike is a member of Team A Step Ahead, a team of challenged athletes who receive specialized coaching and physical therapy from the company.

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Groom’s Cake: Dreaming of Beer & BBQ

Let’s be honest. Weddings are usually events that are mostly run by and for women. It’s the bride’s day, and her careful planning runs the show, from choosing her lace-embossed ivory dress to selecting the peach peony bouquet. However, one matrimonial item is reserved for her male counterpart to envision and bring to fruition—groom’s cake. Groom’s cake is about two square feet of edible real estate—Southern tradition dictates that the men in the wedding party decorate the cake at the chosen wedding venue. The groom’s cake may reflect hobbies, interests, or obsessions of the groom; its theme is generally light-hearted (think red-velvet armadillo, á la Steel Magnolias). Let’s see just how creative grooms can be in using (and abusing) their slice of recognition:

Beer-Loving Groom

Photo source: Cakes by Graham

Photo source: PhillipWest on flickr (cc)

You Can Run But You Can't Hide Groom

Photo source: Cool Cakes by Lindsay

Methods of escaping from the trap he’s just agreed to enter.

Shaq-Attack Groom

Photo source: Carty Cakes

Hunting Groom

Photo source: Sugar and Spice Bakery

Photo source: Annie O’s Custom Creations

“Sugar, make sure my shotgun and my deer butt art are nice and safe, then let’s sashay down that aisle, woman!”

Groom’s Cake: Dreaming of Beer & BBQ

By: Neha Grey (Little_personView Profile)

Horny Groom

Photo source: David Geaney

Perhaps the bride’s curves actually resembled those of Eddie Murphy in Norbit, and the groom fashioned this cake to fulfill his fantasies. (Beware gooey white icing … )

Geek Groom

Photo source: DiamondVues

Dreaming of Dungeons and Dragons helps keep him stimulated if you don’t.

Dude, Where’s My Balls? Groom

Photo source: Sedona Wedding Cakes

Man to wife: “I am your Prince Charming, hidden in the guise of a frog.” Wife to man: “You croak first.”

Photo source: Daily Mail

Man to wife: “Baby, I love you so much. I wanna eat you all up …” Wife to man, “Eat me.”

Trash-Eating Groom

Photo source: DVO Enterprises

Photo source: Cute Overload

For those who just can’t do without their daily fix of completely artificial flavors, colors, and calories; also, this cake will never decompose.

Supersize Groom

Photo source: Hilda Special

Photo source: A Catered Affair

Tradition holds that if the blushing bride sleeps with a slice of groom’s cake under her pillow, she’ll dream only of life with her new partner. But with any of these cakes under your pillow? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Original here