Friday, June 27, 2008

The Fight to End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

Gandhi once said, describing his critics, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

After declaring, essentially out of nowhere, that he had a program to end the disease of aging, renegade biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey knows how the first three steps of Gandhi's progression feel. Now he's focused on the fourth.

"I've been at Gandhi stage three for maybe a couple of years," de Grey said. "If you're trying to make waves, certainly in science, there's a lot of people who are going to have insufficient vision to bother to understand what you're trying to say."

This weekend, his organization, The Methuselah Foundation, is sponsoring its first U.S. conference on the emerging interdisciplinary field that de Grey has helped kick start. (Its first day, Friday, will be free and open to the public.) The conference, Aging: The Disease - The Cure - The Implications, held at UCLA, is an indication of how far de Grey has come in mainstreaming his ideas.

Less than a decade ago, de Grey was a relatively unknown computer scientist doing his own research into aging. As recently as three years ago a cadre of scientists wrote in the Nature-sponsored journal EMBO Reports, that his research program, known as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, was "so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community." Also in 2005, MIT-sponsored magazine Technology Review went so far as to offer a $20,000 prize to anyone who could prove that de Grey's program was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate." (No one won.)

Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach -- looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology -- as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.

What's more, other researchers have also found some success pursuing similarly structured research programs. For example, late last year, the Buck Institute for Age Research received $25 million from the National Institutes of Health to establish a home for the "new scientific discipline of geroscience." The new field, and its research institute, are dedicated to proactively fighting aging with researchers from a dizzying array of fields.

"There are vast areas of what we're calling geroscience, which is the interface between aging and disease," said Gordon Lithgow, a Buck researcher who is managing interdisciplinary geroscience research for the institute.

And de Grey seems to have earned Lithgow's respect not necessarily by the power of his ideas, but rather his powers of persuasion in getting money for researchers to put his ideas into practice.

"We're all out here doing the best damn experiments we can think of … So the response to Aubrey was, go off and get a grant to do [experiments]," Lithgow said. "And to be fair, that's what he's done. He's gone out and raised money in an unconventional way and funded his research."

In research that will first be presented on Friday at the conference, Methuselah-funded scientists will demonstrate a proof-of-concept experiment for using bacterial enzymes to fight atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. That's an idea that de Grey has been pushing for years.

"Back in 2002, I published an inconspicuous review paper that suggested we might be able to use this approach," he said.

But de Grey isn't quite an establishment figure yet. Instead, he seems to have made the move from outsider crackpot to, well, insider crackpot. Lithgow maintains that de Grey still makes predictions far beyond what the messy lab work of biology can support.

"Aubrey extrapolates from current hard science into, 'If we can do something about this process and that and seven or eight other ands, then there's this great opportunity for great human life extension,'" Lithgow said. "And it's at that point that a lot of scientists are dropping off."

For now, de Grey and his foundation keep trucking along trying to pick off each of those processes one by one.

"In perhaps seven or eight years, we'll be able to take mice already in middle age and treble their lifespan just by giving them a whole bunch of therapies that rejuvenate them," de Grey said. "Gerontologists all over, even my most strident critics, will say yes, Aubrey de Grey is right."

Even as he imagines completing Gandhi's fourth step, de Grey always keeps his eye on the ultimate prize -- the day when the aging-as-disease meme reaches the tipping point necessary to funnel really big money into the field.

"The following day, Oprah Winfrey will be saying, aging is a disease and let's fix it right now," de Grey said.

Original here

10 IT health risks — and how to combat them

Everybody seems to understand that movers and construction workers can have serious back and neck problems from their strenuous work. But when you sit at a desk most of the day, people aren’t necessarily as sympathetic when you moan and groan about your spine, your sore throat, or your mood. Based on anecdotal evidence gathered in various workplaces, here are the top ailments people in a typical IT office may face.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: A slug’s life

When the only body part you move in your job is your mouse finger, you just have to take fitness into your own hands. Do you have to train for a marathon to lose some weight? Not at all, according to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic. He found that the time spent sitting was more likely to correlate with weight gain than the lack of vigorous exercise. You can keep slim, according to Levine, by walking slowly (about 0.7 mph) two to three hours a day.

Although few of us can stroll around the neighborhood that long, several companies have developed workstations with treadmills attached so you can pseudo-walk while you check your e-mail or debug code. It all makes CNET’s Mike Yamamoto wonder if there’s a conspiracy to tether workers to their desks. (You can download several tools from TechRepublic to help you evaluate and manage your weight, including a body mass index [BMI] calculator.)

#2: SIT happens

Weight gain can creep up on you, but it’s not an emergency in itself. A much more serious hazard of office work is seated immobility thromboembolism (SIT). This problem occurs when blood clots form in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism) in people who spend a long time sitting. People may develop these clots while on a long trip, if they don’t get out of the car or stroll around in the plane’s cabin a bit. CNET noted the risk of deep vein thrombosis increasing back in this 2003 article. More recently, results of a New Zealand study suggested that a sedentary job may double the risk of developing clots in the legs (DVTs) or, even more dangerous, clots in the lungs.

#3: So many headaches

From the flicker of fluorescent lights to the hunched-up debugging posture, the conditions of your cube farm conspire to cause headaches. Pagers, end users, and the threat of outsourcing provide additional stress to kindle a dandy migraine or tension headache. Downing Tylenol or ibuprofen several times a week can backfire by making your pain more tenacious. If you get in a pattern of frequent headaches, see a doctor to get out of the rut.

You may have tension headaches, which can be treated with massage or stretches to help relax your muscles. Migraine is another possibility. Even if you don’t have the visual disturbances (auras) that are the hallmarks of a “classic” migraine, you may have a common migraine. The good news is that there are many medications you can try to treat and prevent migraines. Although some are quite expensive ($25 or more per dose), treat the headaches aggressively. Migraines can affect your mood, your threshold of pain, and perhaps even your risk of stroke.

#4: The bobblehead syndrome

Do you nod off frequently at your desk and perhaps even have brief dreams? These episodes, called microsleeps, may indicate you’re sleep deprived. It’s natural for the human body to crave a siesta after lunch, but excessive daytime sleepiness needs to be treated. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so simply going to bed earlier may be all you need.

If you’re in the sack long enough but are still tired, consider your environment (a snoring spouse, a hot or cold room). Crying babies and pagers can jar you out of sleep and seriously disrupt normal sleep cycles. Sleep apnea is a fairly common but scary-sounding problem: People with the disorder briefly stop breathing, often hundreds of times a night, which disrupts normal sleep phases. Physical abnormalities that cause excessive snoring can also lead to poor sleep. So check with your doctor, who may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist or sleep clinic to sort out your sleep problems.

#5: Hurting hands

Although your hands and wrists may be sore from intensive typing, there’s not a whole lot of evidence to link keyboard use to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A 2007 study of men who worked at video display terminals found an association of CTS with high body mass index (BMI) and job seniority — but not with specific tasks related to computer usage. Still, many conditions other than CTS can make your hands and wrists hurt, so it’s wise to check with your doctor to try to get some relief.

Severe carpal tunnel syndrome is usually treated with surgery, but many other conditions that cause hand pain don’t require such drastic treatment. Tendonitis, for example, is a fairly common cause of hand pain that may be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) and splinting.

#6: Relax harder!

How is it that sitting on your chair and looking at a monitor can make your back, neck, and shoulder muscles feel like you’ve spent eight hours painting a ceiling? Your tense posture may be part of the problem. Improving the ergonomics of your work area may help take the stress off your upper body. Try not to transfer the tension in your mind to your muscles and take a break now and then to unclench.

#7. Noxious invaders

The dry air of a typical office certainly doesn’t help your immune systems ward off your coworkers’ coughs, but hey, at least you’re not sitting in a daycare center. There are hundreds of cold viruses, plus several influenza viruses each year. What can you do to stay healthy and help keep your coworkers healthy, too?

No replicable scientific studies have proven that vitamin C, Echinacea, or zinc will prevent or shorten colds, but many people swear by them.

As far as gastrointestinal illness goes, remember that the most common transmission route is fecal-oral. So, for God’s sake, wash your hands after going to the restroom. Also, consider the effective, but possibly neurotic, act of opening the door with a paper towel when you leave.

#8: Eye strain

Watching a backlit screen two feet away for four hours at a time isn’t really natural, is it? So it’s no surprise that people in IT complain about irritated eyes and declining visual acuity. Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Remember to blink. Yes, blinking is pretty much automatic, but some people really keep their eyes peeled when they’re engaged in work. Their eyes dry out, which is extra hard on people who wear contact lenses. A few drops of artificial tears can make your tired eyes much more comfortable.
  • Change your focus. Look out the window or down the hallway — anything to get away from your two-foot focus. There are even programs designed to remind you to give your eyes a break.
  • Get an eye exam. Your doctor may have more tips to help you feel more comfortable as you work. And everyone needs to be screened for glaucoma and other eye diseases anyway.

#9: Heavy lifting

If your job requires you to lift, lower, and/or carry equipment around, you might find yourself battling back pain. Maybe you spend your days installing workstations or inserting/removing computers from racks — and if you’re used to the work and know the right way to protect yourself in the process, you might not have any problems at all. But if it’s an occasional task, or if you don’t follow some basic precautions, you could wind up with a painful injury or chronic back trouble.

Despite the fact that best practices for lifting are largely common sense, people often ignore them — and often wish they hadn’t. Here are some basic recommendations for protecting your back:

  • Examine an object before you try to pick it up to determine how awkward and heavy it is. Tip it a little to test its weight and make sure you have a comfortable, secure way to grip it.
  • If you think an object might be too heavy for you move, find an alternative: Get someone to help you, unpack or dismantle the object and move it in pieces, use a dolly, etc.
  • Don’t extend your arms when you pick up or lower a heavy object. That puts a big strain on your back.
  • Watch your footing — the last thing you want to do is stumble or trip while carrying something heavy.
  • Lift correctly. Keep your straight back, kneel to pick up the object, and then lift using your leg strength, not your back.

#10: Something in the air

If you work on a lot of systems, you’re no stranger to dust. Even a well-maintained machine in a clean, ventilated area is going to pull in plenty of it. And if you work on customers’ computers or make a lot of workstation calls, you’re going to feel like Tom Joad before long.

This may not faze you at all, but if you’re like many techs out there, it could spell big-time allergy, respiratory, and sinus woes. Among the suggestions from veteran dust-sensitive IT pros: Put on a dust mask before opening a case (or crawling around under a grubby workstation). And if you plan to use compressed air to blow some of the dust out of the case, definitely mask up first. You might also want to consider vacuuming that dust out rather than blowing it around — but you should use an ESD (electrostatic discharge) safe vacuum designed for electronics.

Original here

Top Ten Reasons People Use to Get Pain Meds Early

I work as a Medical Assistant in a Rheumatologist’s office. One-hundred percent of our patients are chronically ill, and are living with constant often debilitating pain. I also have an autoimmune disease, and have been a patient of this doctor’s for twelve years. I live with chronic pain 24/7 and know first hand how physically and emotionally devastating it can be to all aspects of a person’s life. There are many times when coping and just getting through the day seems close to impossible. There are no cures for the diseases we treat, and part of our job is to do our best to improve the quality of our patient’s lives by treating the symptoms.

Most of our patients are on some type of medication to provide pain relief. With pain and fatigue being the chief symptoms of most autoimmune diseases, helping our patients maintain a decent quality of life is a very big priority in our practice. Consequently, this makes it necessary to carefully monitor how our patients are using these particular drugs. I would say close to 90 percent of the patients take their medications correctly without abuse, but of course, there is always that 10 percent who will do what ever it takes to get more of their pain meds filled early one way or another.

Please understand that I take pain medication on a daily basis as well. Being a patient myself, I definitely see both sides of the coin, but some of the stories we hear on a daily basis are just too good not to share. So, I came up with of a list of the top ten most creative reasons people have actually used in an attempt to get their meds before their prescriptions allowed.

10. I just found out two hours ago that I’m leaving unexpectedly for Mexico this afternoon and don’t know when I’ll be coming back. I’ll be in contact with you for refills of my other meds, but I need … um … oh … let’s say … 3–4 months of Oxycontin now.

9. Either you’re doing the math wrong, or the pharmacy shorted me again. There is no way in Hell I could’ve taken that many pills already.

8. I don’t care if both yours and the pharmacies records show it’s ten days early for my refill, one of you is lying.

7. My truck was stolen and my Morphine was in it.

6. I never received the prescription in the mail. It’s been lost for the fourth time, but I did receive the scripts for all of my other meds.

5. The neighborhood kids picked the lock on the cabinet in my garage where I keep my meds and stole them. I have no idea how this keeps happening.

4. My house burned down and I was able to get all of my meds out except for my Oxycontin.

3. I left the trunk open when I brought my groceries in. My prescriptions were in one of the bags and someone stole that bag out of my trunk. No, I don’t need any of my other meds, they were in a different bag.

2. I opened my Opana bottle in the driveway, dropped it and the pills spilled everywhere. It was raining, and they melted, so I guess I need a new prescription.

And my personal favorite …

1. My son got me arrested this weekend and the police officer confiscated my Vicodin. I also had a small amount of weed on me at the time and was wondering if you could write a letter to the judge saying it was for medicinal use.

Original here

12 Ways to Save Money on Your Electric Bill This Summer

The ridiculously high cost of gas may be what's got everyone grabbing pitchforks and torches and calling for a revolution, but gasoline isn't the only utility draining money away from your weekend entertainment fund. Electric bills are set to jump this summer as well. And powering your 42" plasma and the rest of those high-tech gadgets you bought back when you actually had equity in your home to borrow against, is gonna cost you. Especially if you're not watching how you use it, or don't realize where it's being wasted.

According to recent studies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average family household is spending nearly $2,000 per year in utility costs. And wasteful kitchen appliances alone are at fault for almost half of these costs. That's a whole bunch of Benjamins that could be back in your pocket. So here are some tips to help you reduce your need for the juice, and give you a greener (as in more money) summer.

Clothes Washer:
1 - Only use your clothes washer when you have large loads to do and avoid using warm/hot water unless necessary. And if that means buying more boxers to make it to the weekend, so be it.

2 - Avoid overheating by allowing a space of at least one inch between the wall and the back of the refrigerator. This will help allow air to circulate and control the temperature.
3 - Try to steer clear of placing your fridge by areas that produce heat. Radiators, vents, heat ducts, stoves, and even sunlight from your windows can cause the unit to use more power than needed.
4 - Check the temperature of both your fridge and freezer regularly. Keep the fridge between 35 and 38 degrees and your freezer at 0 degrees.

5 - Make sure your door and windows are closed while the unit is running.
6 - Change your filters on a regular basis. A build up of dirt can hinder its performance causing the unit to use more energy to do its job.
7 - Keep it in a centered area by making sure it isn’t near walls, furniture or dusty areas.

8 - Try to prevent washing small loads. Larger loads will use less water and electricity.
9 - Only use standard options. Pre-rinse, heat-dry and rinse-hold are simply extra features that tend to use more energy.

Air Conditioner:
10 - Make sure that any way for air to escape is closed off. This would include open windows and doors. And check for, and seal off, any large gaps in doorways and windows.
11 - Set your timer for temperature control. No need to keep the place cool while you're at work.
12 - Select the correct unit for the size of your room. Going bigger is not be the best choice here.

And if you're in the market for some new appliances... Realizing something needed to be done about rising energy costs, the EPA along with the US Dept of Energy (DOE) created a classification system called Energy Star. (The government actually helping? I'm stunned.) This system is designed to pinpoint domestic appliances that are more energy efficient, boost air quality and decrease utility bills.

Although appliances equipped with the Energy Star label can potentially cost up to 40% more than standard models, they can save up to half of the daily energy you use. So not only are you saving money in the long run, but you’re helping to protect our environment.

Here's the 411 for qualified models to help guide you before you buy:

Energy Star Clothes Washer:
While using 50% less water, these washers also extract more water from your clothes in the spin cycle to help reduce drying time, as well as reducing normal wear and tear. Up to 40% less electricity and $110 can be saved each year.

Energy Star Refrigerators:
The energy these refrigerators consume is at least 40% less than standard models and that means you can save nearly $150 every year.

Energy Star Dehumidifier:
Save up to $30 on your yearly costs while using approximately 20% less power.

Energy Star Dishwasher:
You can save $90 over the dishwasher’s average lifetime and by using half the water of regular models, reduce over 40% of the energy used.

Energy Star Air Conditioner:
Over its lifetime, you can save $250 while using 10% less energy than standard models.

Information provided by, an appliance parts retailer.
Original here

14 Simple Ways to Super Charge Your Brain

Have you ever felt exasperated when you bumped into someone at the store but absolutely couldn't remember their name? Sure, it happens to all of us.

Despite being the strongest computer on the planet, our brains do lapse. It's hard to blame them really. As humans, we spend much of or existence stuffing our brains with stuff. Some stuff is worthless, some of it's meaningful, some of it, well, it's just stuff and there is an endless amount of it.

No matter how powerful our brains are, they need recuperation time, to be kept in shape, and even an occasional charge. Think of it as a tune up for your brain. Skipping brain maintenance is as silly as the person wandering the parking garage because they forgot where they parked. Is that you? Are you that person? Sure. We all are at some point. No worries, there is hope.

Now I am not a brain surgeon and I am not going to suggest you do anything surgical or dangerous. I am however an astute student of human behavior, so I always look for simple ways to super charge my brain.

Here are some things you can begin doing as soon as today to begin the great brain tune up.
  1. Eat Almonds
    Almond is believed to improve memory. If a combination of almond oil and milk is taken together before going to bed or after getting up at morning, it strengthens our memory power. Almond milk is prepared by crushing the almonds without the outer cover and adding water and sugar to it.

  2. Drink Apple Juice
    Research from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) indicates that apple juice increases the production of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, resulting in an increased memory power.

  3. Sleep well
    Research indicates that the long-term memory is consolidated during sleep by replaying the images of the experiences of the day. These repeated playbacks program the subconscious mind to store these images and other related information.

  4. Enjoy simple Pleasures
    Stress drains our brainpower. A stress-ridden mind consumes much of our memory resources to leave us with a feeble mind. Make a habit to engage yourself in few simple pleasures everyday to dissolve stress from your mind. Some of these simple pleasures are good for your mind, body and soul.

    • Enjoy music you love
    • Play with your children
    • Hug a stranger
    • Appreciate others
    • Run few miles a day, bike or swim
    • Start a blog
    • Take a yoga class or Total Wellness routine

  5. Fast for a day
    Fasting cleans and detoxifies our body. It is known fact that heavy food not only causes stress on our digestive system but also drains our brainpower. Fasting relieves toxic emotions such as anger, grief, worry, and fears - before they accumulate and cause disease. By cleansing toxic emotions, fasting strengthens metal clarity with increases memory, concentration, creativity and insight.

  6. Exercise your mind
    Just as physical exercise is essential for a strong body, mental exercise is equally essential for a sharp and agile mind. Have you noticed that children have far superior brainpower than an adult does? Children have playful minds. A playful mind exhibits superior memory power. Engage in some of the activities that require your mind to remain active and playful.

    • Play scrabble or crossword puzzle
    • Volunteer
    • Interact with others
    • Start a new hobby such as blogging, reading, painting, bird watching
    • Learn new skill or a language

  7. Practice Yoga or Meditation
    Yoga or Meditation relives stress. Stress is a known memory buster. With less stress, lower blood pressure, slower respiration, slower metabolism, and released muscle tension follows. All of these factors contribute significantly towards increases in our brainpower.

  8. Reduce Sugar intake
    Sugar is a non-food. It’s a form of carbohydrate that offers illusionary energy, only to cause a downhill slump once the initial burst has been worn off. Excess intake of sugar results in neurotic symptoms. Excess sugar is known to cause claustrophobia, memory loss and other neurotic disorders. Eat food without adding sugar. Stay away from sweet drinks or excess consumption of caffeine with sugar.

  9. Eat whole wheat
    The whole wheat germs contain lecithin. Lecithin helps ease the problem of the hardening of the arteries, which often impairs brain functioning.

  10. Eat a light meal in the night
    A heavy meal at night causes tossing and turning and a prolonged emotional stress while at sleep. It’s wise to eat heavy meal during the day when our body is in motion to consume the heavy in-take. Eating a light meal with some fruits allows us to sleep well. A good night sleep strengthens our brainpower.

  11. Develop imagination
    Greeks mastered the principle of imagination and association to memorize everything. This technique requires one to develop a vivid and colorful imagination that can be linked to a known object. If you involve all your senses - touching, feeling, smelling, hearing and seeing in the imagination process, you can remember greater details of the event.

  12. Sex
    Our sexual imagination often empowers our ability to daydream, which strengthens our brainpower with greater imagination, visualization and association.

  13. Control your temper
    Bleached food, excess of starch or excess of white bread can lead to nerve grating effect. This results in a violent and some time depressive behavior. Eat fresh vegetables. Drink lots of water and meditate or practice yoga to relieve these toxic emotions of temper and violent mood swings.

  14. Take Vitamin B-complex
    Vitamin B-complex strengthens memory power. Eat food and vegetables high in Vitamin B-complex. Stay away from the starch food or white bread, which depletes the Vitamin B-complex necessary for a healthy mind.
I don't believe these are that tough. If you find yourself increasing stumped, give a couple of these a try.

Mercedes to go Green. ALL Green. No Petroleum by 2015.

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch
Thursday, 26 June 2008

In less than 7 years, Mercedes-Benz plans to ditch petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup. Focusing on electric, fuel cell, and biofuels, the company is revving up research in alternative fuel sources and efficiency.

The German car company has a few new powertrains in the line-up that European journalists have had the opportunity to test out in their facility in Spain. One vehicle includes the F700, powered by a DiesOtto engine that combines HCCI and spark ignition to get nearly the same efficiency as diesel, but minus the expensive after-treatment systems. The engine can run on biofuels, and we may have a purchasable vehicle by 2010 – a year that seems to be popular for the debut of a lot of new alternative fuel car models, making ’08 and ’09 simply thumb-twiddling years for consumers. I don’t know, maybe car makers just like the roundness of “2010.” The company’s next big step will be to launch a Smart electric car which is fuel and emission-free.

Anyway, Mercedes is looking into electric vehicles, both battery powered and fuel cell powered. Not only are models in development, but we’ve also seen the company making steps towards their zero petroleum goal right now, from better cabs in London to Li-Ion battery improvements. The company also has about 100 Smart electric cars undergoing testing in London, with that favorite 2010 year as the projected market release date. Mercedes is making serious investments, already putting nearly $4 million into the pot of their long-term Sustainable Mobility plan, with another nearly $1.4 billion going in before 2014.

While car models may be able to run on fuels other than gasoline or diesel, we have yet to find a method of both running and producing vehicles entirely free of fossil fuels. I’m waiting for a mainstream car line that creates renewable fuel, clean running vehicles out of 100% recycled materials in plants run on 100% renewable, clean power…Will I even be alive when that finally happens? I have hope.

Used Cars Make A Comeback

Gas prices aren't the only thing going up these days. Prices for used hybrids and more fuel-efficient small cars have risen dramatically in the past six months.

A shortage of new, popular and fuel-efficient vehicles has sparked interest and a surge in demand for older, fuel-efficient models in the used-car market. The same cars that were cheaper and virtually ignored last year are now selling at a premium, thanks to gas prices that have topped $4 a gallon.

The sharp rise in prices for used, fuel-efficient compact cars and hybrids is so "dramatic and one-sided," says Ricky Beggs, vice president and managing editor of Black Book, which compiles new- and used-car data for the industry. "We have never seen it where it was so focused [in one vehicle segment]," he says.

The most fuel-efficient vehicle in the market today is the 2007 Toyota Prius hybrid. It gets an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated average 46 mpg. The new 2008 Prius is in short supply, since Toyota has capped production of the model at 180,000 units for the year. Buyers who are just fine buying a used 2007 Prius paid an average of $21,850, or $1,900 more in mid-June than they did in January of this year. That's a 9% increase in a six-month period.

On Jan. 1 of this year, gas averaged $3.12 a gallon; today it is at $4.07, a 30% increase in the same time period.

It's not just used hybrids seeing a price increase, however. This year's Mini Cooper buyers expecting to find a lower-priced used 2007 Mini were in for a big surprise. They paid, on average, $2,300 more for a used Mini in mid-June, a 12% increase over the average transaction price on Jan. 1 of this year. The car has proved its value during the past six months; it gets an average EPA estimated 29 mpg.

Behind The Numbers
Black Book compiled data for used cars for model years 2002 through 2008 that dealers purchased at auction from Jan. 1 through June 16, 2008. The amount consumers actually paid for the vehicle is higher than what the dealer paid (since dealers mark up the price of the vehicle to make a profit).

Used cars typically depreciate in value from to 14% to 16% each year, so a vehicle that holds or increases its value is unusual, says Beggs. Any vehicle showing an increase of $400 or more in a six-month period is "out of the ordinary," adds Beggs, "and anything like a $1,800 increase is exceptional."

Dominating the list of 15 fuel-efficient used cars making a comeback is the Mini Cooper with four model years, including 2005 ($1,900 average transaction price increase, or 11%); 2006 ($1,600 average transaction price increase, or 10%); and 2004 ($1,050 average transaction price increase, or 7.4%).

As expected, the Toyota Prius hybrid is also popular, with four model years, along with the 2007, in high demand and commanding higher prices. The 2006 model saw a $1,600 average transaction price increase (8.5%); the 2005 jumped $1,200 in price on average (7%); and the 2004 jumped $800 in price (5.2%).

Other hybrids making the list are the 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid ($1,550 average transaction price increase, or 9.4%); the 2008 Mariner ($1,550 average transaction price increase, or 6%); and the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid ($950 average transaction price increase, or 5.5%).

Rounding out the list are the 2006 Suzuki Aerio ($900 average transaction price increase, or 11%); 2004 Toyota Corolla ($400 average transaction price increase, or 4.3%); and the 2007 Nissan Versa ($400 average transaction price increase, or 3.4%).

The only SUV to make the list is also a hybrid, the 2008 Ford Escape ($700 average transaction price increase or 3%), which gets an EPA estimated 32 mpg.

Are you willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient used car? Is the price hike still lower than the long-term cost of gas? Add your thoughts in the Reader Comments section below.

Hybrid SUVs, it seems, stand in a different class from regular SUVs. The overall value of used SUVs has depreciated at a rate of 27% over the past several months, says Beggs. This time last year, the 2005 and 2006 Ford Expedition full-size SUVs were selling, on average, $1,760 higher at the end of May 2007 compared with Jan 1, 2007.

Auto experts say the used-car market is merely reflecting emerging trends in the new-car market: People want more fuel-efficient cars, plain and simple. Sales of the once popular Ford Expedition, which gets an EPA estimated average 14 mpg, tanked between January and April of this year by 27%, according to J.D. Power and Associates. At the same time, sales of the new 28 mpg Nissan Versa soared 37%.

While you can likely purchase any used gas-guzzler at a discount today, it'll cost you in the long run due to rising fuel prices. But as gas prices continue to rise, so will the cost of used, fuel-efficient cars.

Original here

British Steam Car Hits the Road En Route to 170 MPH at Bonneville

British Steam Car
THORNEY ISLAND, England — “No one goes round the back, there’s 360 horsepower of colorless death ’round there.”

It was a statement that made nearby fireman at a secure military base here prick up their ears. The British Steam Car, a potential Land Speed Record breaker, wasn’t belching its intense fire when it revved up on a track for the first time today, so there was no need for the firefighters’ services. Still, loose talk about dangerous infernos from Matt Candy, the vehicle’s project manager, was bound to get their attention.

The Jules-Verne-meets-Batmobile vehicle is being loaded up for a trip across the Atlantic, bound for the Bonneville Salt Flats and a potential rendezvous with racing history in late August. Burning liquid petroleum gas at 750° F to pressurize that 360-hp Curtis turbine, the 25-ft.-long Steam Car can turn 10.5 gallons of water a minute into some boiling-hot action for the record books—and wicked fast, with velocities in excess of 150 mph. That’s not much compared to the absolute land speed record of 763 mph, but it would be enough to top the 88-year-old international steam record of 127.66 mph­. The target speed for later this summer: 170 mph.

When the attempt is made, it will be the first time the Steam Car will run as a complete unit. All the car’s systems have been exercised individually on a test bed, and it got an eye-popping early workout in motion here today. But the whole thing will run together for the first time in the third week of August, when the supersonic engineering team will test the time-bending machine prior to an all-guns-blazing attempt at the record the following week.

“When I heard it was a steam car, I certainly had some mixed feelings about coming out of record-breaking retirement,” said Don Wales, nephew of the late Donald Campbell and grandson of Malcolm Campbell, who between them set some 20 land and water records. Don himself set the electric-car Land Speed Record in Bluebird Electric in 2001, and serves as chief test driver for the Steam Car. “The driver’s cockpit is probably the safest place on the entire car—it’s the blokes working on the machine who face the most risks.”

If the speeds the team aims to break are modest by most standards, the technical challenges certainly aren’t. The biggest problem has been the 12 micro boilers that have to make super heated steam, very quickly. Getting the maximum amount of energy from the burners into the water without allowing it to escape has been a formidable challenge.

Unlike a steam locomotive, which uses a steam-powered injector system, the British Steam Car uses compressed-air-powered hydraulics to inject distilled water and pre-prime itself. The water is pumped into the start of 1.86 miles of tubing to develop three megawatts of heat to convert water into 750 F steam. This super-heated “dry” steam is then directed down the car via heavily lagged pipes and two enormous industrial steam valves, which act as throttles, and then into the two-stage turbine. “That’s where we turn pressure into velocity,” says Candy. The steam is injected into the turbine at over two times the speed of sound; under the assault, the turbine revolves at up to 13,000 rpm. The turbine drives the rear wheels via a conventional crown wheel and pinion. The vehicle turns 10.5 gallons of water a minute into super-heated steam at 40 times atmospheric pressure.

“It’s a total-loss system,” says Candy. “We’re not condensing the steam or anything, we just throw it out the back and, as a consequence, we’re only about 10 percent thermally efficient.”

It takes longer to start the machine than it can run—eight minutes to get going with enough fuel, compressed air and water to run for three minutes, although the vehicle only needs two minutes to cross the measured mile. “We’ll actually coast through the line,” says Wales. “We’ll then let it roll to a stop rather than use the brakes, and by the time the team manages to find it, things should be cool enough to turn it around and prepare for the return run. If they can’t find it, it’s got a GPS system on it.” —Andrew English
Original here

Connect with Your Creative Writer

Do you have to complete a piece of writing but are putting it off? A report, a blog article, or a letter? Are you finding that the moment you sit down to write, your mind seems to go blank? Crap! Writers block! What can you do about it?

Although, the term writers block is popular, this feeling of blockage and mind blanking is not specific to writing, but of any creative feats. Other examples include, brainstorming for a new business, dancing, musical performances, music composition, painting or photography. I’ve personally experienced this during my photography work, blanking out as I stand in front of a client waiting for me for direction. I call these Creative Blocks, where your mind just comes up empty and you feel lost. It’s purely mental.

Through practice and observation, I’ve gotten pretty good at getting past these blank moments, and this article shares some insights for unlocking your creativity. Throughout the article, I will be using writing as the example, but keep in mind that it is equally applicable to any creative activity.

Creativity & Mental Blocks

Before digging into how we can unlock these creative blocks, here are some observations on the subject of feeling mentally blocked.

  • The more we Think about it, the worse it becomes. The more we think about not knowing what to write, the stronger the feeling of not knowing what to write, the harder is it to come up with creative and original content.
  • Creativity is a miraculous interaction of the mind and spirit. Regardless of how we label it, I believe it is inter-linked with spiritual realm of things (not religion). Talk to any exceptional artists and they’ll explain that the creative space is comparable to that of no-mind spiritual state. My brilliant cellist friend once explained it perfectly, “that place in you which is infinite and unexplainable and nothing physical can compare to that space. When I am in that place, all thoughts clear out. It’s just me and the field of infinity.
  • We all have the capacity within us to access this place of infinite creativity. However, what may be blocking us is our mind, our thoughts, the inner noise created by ourselves, consciously and unconsciously.
  • When we are working in that creative space, we are experiencing flow. We feel happy, content, and passionate. Time just flies. Think of the last time you were deeply in joy with writing, creating something or deeply immersed in a project. What did that feel like?
  • There is no such thing as “I am not a creative person“, it may only be the case because we keep telling ourselves that. Creativity is something that can be cultivated. We are born with access to the creative space, some of us may be more in-tuned to it, but it is never too late to get in touch with that side of ourselves.
  • When we need to produce something creative on a deadline, we may succumb to fear and start to procrastinate. Our thoughts get in the way sometimes, because we are afraid that we won’t be able to produce quality result in time, and so we push it away.