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Sunday, September 7, 2008

MIT tool aims to cut airline delays

screen shot of weather and flight information

Image / MIT Lincoln Laboratory
A screen shot of weather and flight information for Newark, NJ, as compiled by the computer tool developed at MIT that could cut weather-related airline delays. Enlarge image

MIT researchers are working toward a computer tool that could reduce airline flight delays due to weather. Already, they have found that a prototype deployed in the New York City region cut delays last year by 2,300 hours, saving the equivalent of some $7.5 million in operating costs.

The team, led by Richard DeLaura of MIT Lincoln Laboratory's Weather Sensing Group, estimates that fully implementing the Route Availability Planning Tool (RAPT) in the New York region alone could save 8,800 hours per year, or $28 million.

"It certainly provides us with exceptional benefits in most scenarios with severe weather," says Leo Prusak, the Federal Aviation Administration district manager for the New York area. "I think it's a fabulous product."

Deploying RAPT at other key spots all over the country could reduce delays at both large and small airports, DeLaura says. Lincoln Laboratory studies suggest that getting even two or three additional flights per hour out of airports during thunderstorms in highly congested areas can significantly reduce the weather-related delays that ripple across the nation's air travel system.

RAPT gives air traffic managers assistance in deciding whether to allow planes to take off during inclement weather, increasing the odds of sneaking a few jets out between thunderheads. The computerized tool takes weather information from satellites and radar systems, makes predictions about whether a pilot would choose to fly through such conditions, and displays the information graphically to enable an air traffic controller to make a quick decision.

The RAPT display shows a map of the airport with lines radiating outward to indicate the various departure routes. A grid below the map lists departure times in rows, divided into columns of five minutes running from the present to half an hour in the future. The color of each rectangle on the grid indicates whether departure at that time along that route seems feasible. Red means the route is blocked. Yellow means there's some heavy weather that might pose problems. Dark green says there's weather, but that it shouldn't be an issue. Light green represents clear sailing.

Generally, air traffic managers get weather information and have to come up with a picture in their heads such as the one RAPT displays, then make decisions based on that mental image. If the weather is changing rapidly and there are many flights in the air, the process of conjuring such a picture can become so time-consuming that controllers decide not to let any flights out. Instead, they concentrate on landing the ones in the air.

But if too many departures are stuck at their gates, the arriving aircraft have no place to go once they land. The result is a major traffic jam.

DeLaura hopes that RAPT will take away some of the managers' burden, making more departures possible and thus minimizing delays.

RAPT bases its guidance on a computer model that combines the departure route geometry, forecasts for precipitation intensity and the height of radar echo tops (a measure of storm height), and a model for pilot behavior in thunderstorms. It estimates the probability that pilots will deviate significantly to avoid the weather along their routes and assigns the departure route status color based on that probability.

A prototype of the system has been used in the New York City region -- including LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark airports -- for about four years, with modest funding from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

This past year, the FAA began funding RAPT. The researchers are currently adjusting the model to take more account of the impact of incoming planes. They are also picking a site for the deployment of a second prototype system.

Original here


When sex becomes an addiction

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN
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(CNN) -- "Californication" star David Duchovny made headlines for voluntarily entering rehab last week. But it wasn't for drugs or alcohol. It was for another dependency, one that affects millions of Americans but is seldom discussed: sex addiction.

While sex can be healthy for a relationship, some people develop an addiction to porn, affairs, and other behaviors.

While sex can be healthy for a relationship, some people develop an addiction to porn, affairs, and other behaviors.

Sex addiction, also called compulsive sexual behavior, is like a gambling compulsion or alcoholism: It's about devoting your free time to a behavior that you cannot stop, even if you damage relationships or prompt other negative consequences. That could mean extensively using pornography, having affairs, sleeping with prostitutes, and masturbating excessively, to the point where such behaviors get out of control.

If you think it's just about primal desire, think again. For many addicts, sex becomes a way to numb out painful feelings, kill time or stop feeling lonely, says Kelly McDaniel, licensed professional counselor in San Antonio, Texas, and author of "Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction."

"Most people I talk to get to the point where they don't even like sex," said McDaniel, who has no connection to David Duchovny and did not speculate about his specific situation.

Who are sex addicts?

Sex addiction is estimated to affect 3 to 6 percent of adults in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic, but the American Psychiatric Association has not classified the condition in its diagnostic handbook. Sexhelp.com, run by psychologist Patrick Carnes, provides an online test to help people determine if they have a problem.

The Internet, providing endless opportunities for porn-watching and cybersex, has fueled a surge in cases of sex addiction, experts say.

"We're seeing it with epidemic proportions now, particularly with regards to cybersex," said Mark Schwartz, psychologist and former director of the Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. "There isn't a week that goes by where I don't get two calls" about sex addiction.

Therapists have recently seen more women with the condition in connection with Internet porn, which has become a "gender-neutral" addiction, McDaniel said. Before, female sex addicts generally tended to have affairs or become sex workers, she said.

Experts acknowledge that people who have affairs or use pornography are not necessarily sex addicts. Such pastimes form an addiction when they generate negative consequences for a person's relationships, take over free time and become impossible to quit.

Where does it come from?

About 80 percent of sex addiction cases have sexual abuse or emotional trauma in their backgrounds, said Doug Weiss, therapist and executive director of the Heart to Heart Counseling Center. Schwartz also noted that huge numbers of people coming forward as sex addicts have been abused, assaulted or raped.

"When you have abuse in your background, you're less likely to trust people, [and] you're more likely to turn to something like sex addiction as a manifestation," Schwartz said.

Feelings of neglect as a child -- whether from divorced parents or parents who both worked and didn't spend a lot of time with their kids -- may also lead to sex addiction, Schwartz said.

Research into the neuroscience of sex addiction has not been conclusive, the Mayo Clinic said. Naturally occurring chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin do contribute to sexual functioning, but it's not clear how they are related to sex addiction. McDaniel said these two chemicals are lower in the brains of children who have suffered abuse, which may explain why some of them use their own bodies -- or, in other cases, food -- to increase dopamine and serotonin levels.

A lot of teenagers develop their sexuality with pornography, and then find that relational sex isn't as satisfying, Weiss said. Porn gives them a "very strong chemical hit," and alters ways of thinking about sex, somewhat like the classic "ring the bell, feed the dog" stimulus-response mechanism. Addicts thus learn to become sexually attached to objects, and have trouble getting the same kind of satisfaction from sex in a relationship, he said.

For many people, especially women, sex addiction occurs in tandem with another problem such as an eating disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, McDaniel said.

How does treatment work?

A good treatment center will review the reasons why the addiction has come about, along with the brain chemistry of it, McDaniel said. A premier rehabilitation facility would have a combination of individual and group therapy, 12-step support, and possibly psychiatric medications such as antidepressant medications if necessary.

The 12-step programs, which have components that parallel Alcoholics Anonymous, are the most widely used form of treatment, said Sam Alibrando, therapist and consultant in Pasadena, California. They involve having a sponsor and being available for others in the group at any time. Anecdotally, however, they work less well than AA because sex is harder to give up, said Alibrando, author of "Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst."

"Treatment is long-term, and it's not easy," McDaniel said. "I really recommend that a woman or a man find someone who's trained and understands that sex addiction is a brain disease and does not further the shame that comes with this disease."

Unlike drugs or alcohol, the goal of sex addiction therapy is usually not abstinence, but rather learning to have sex in a relationship, experts say. Similarly, someone who recovers from an overeating disorder does not stop eating entirely but learns how to manage diet. Marriage counseling often becomes part of the treatment, Weiss says.

The goals of recovery vary for different people, says Alibrando. He's currently treating a couple in which the wife cannot tolerate her husband even looking at other women. On the other end of the spectrum, he has treated couples in which a woman will buy her boyfriend pornography.

"The spectrum is so wide in terms of where people draw the line," says Alibrando.

Some recovering addicts join support groups requiring that members only have sex with their partners, even prohibiting masturbation.

What's after recovery?

Weiss considers himself a former sex addict, having recognized his problem in his early 20s. Women weren't making him happy; he was using pornography and felt "in conflict" about it.

Now, he runs a resource Web site for recovery at sexaddict.com, along with three-day intensive workshops to jump-start recovery for sex addicts.

Weiss said he's proud of Duchovny for voluntarily seeking help, apparently without prodding from press reports or lawsuits.

"This kind of person who decides to get recovery for themselves without getting exposed" is "likely to get better," he said. "People who voluntarily get better have a much better chance of staying well."

Original here

Can a family eat on $100 a week?

By Melinda Fulmer

Feed a family of four for $100 a week -- no coupons, no backyard garden or mystery meat.

That was the challenge MSN Money gave me (and, indirectly, my husband and two children).

I knew it wouldn't be easy. Even a food stamp allowance for a family of four is $117. With gas and corn prices surging, the retail costs of basic items such as milk, apples, pork chops and potatoes have gone up 8.5% in the past year, according to the most recent American Farm Bureau Federation's Marketbasket Survey.

But with a little planning and the help of a couple of nutritionists, I figured out what to buy and what to leave on the shelf. And no, we didn't eat beans or pasta every night. The rules:

  • All of the food had to come from a major national grocery chain. No low-priced ethnic markets or bag-your-own-groceries warehouse stores. I could have saved even more, but this had to be something everyone could do.
  • No coupons. I'm not a big coupon user anyway, and besides, many of these are for things that are too fattening or just too expensive to begin with.
MelindaFulmer @ Maya Myers

Melinda Fulmer

  • No cleaning products or paper goods. There wasn't enough room in the budget.
  • The meals I served had to be relatively healthful. Otherwise, what's the point?

Did we make it?

First, let's say that any reduction in my grocery bill was welcome, as most weeks we spend nearly $250 at a grocery store. That's well above the $182 budget the U.S. government considers "moderate" for a family of our size and ages.

Spending less than half what we normally do was tough. A $100 budget gave us $1.19 a meal per person, obviously not enough for dinners or coffees out and barely enough to put decent meat on our plates.

Did we spend $100 or less? No.

I cheated twice, and both were on items I wasn't proud of.

The first time, I bought a sodium-packed $1.07 bean burrito at a fast-food place as I rushed off starving to an appointment for my son. The second time was at the end of the week, when I caved to several minutes of back-seat whining for soft-serve ice cream.

Those purchases brought my total expenditures for the week to $105.03, meaning I overspent by about 6 cents a meal per person.

The experts weigh in

With a $100 budget, there's no room for error. Every meal and snack has to be meticulously planned, and the whole family has to eat it. In my case, with two adults, a toddler and a 4-year-old, that's a pretty wide swing.

"That's a real challenge," says Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietitian and the author of "10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet."

Original here

Women pick men who look like dad

Zoe Ball
Zoe Ball's choice appears to support the theory

Women tend to choose husbands who look like their fathers, a study shows.

And it works both ways - the women in the Proceedings B study also resembled their partner's mother.

The latest work from the University of Pécs in Hungary provides yet more evidence for the phenomenon, known as sexual imprinting.

Others have shown women use dads as a template for picking a mate even if they are adopted, suggesting imprinting is led by experience not simply genes.

This notion is backed by other work showing the imprinting link is lost on women who did not have good relationships with their fathers.

Norman Cook
Zoe's husband Norman Cook looks like...

The Hungarian team measured the facial proportions of the members of 52 families.

They found significant correlations between the young men and their fathers-in-law, especially on facial proportions belonging to the central area of face - nose and eyes.

Women also showed resemblance to their mothers-in-law in the facial characteristics of their lower face - lips and jaw.

Lead researcher Tamas Bereczkei said: "Our results support the sexual imprinting hypothesis which states that children shape a mental template of their opposite-sex parents and search for a partner who resembles that perceptual schema."

Johnny Ball
...Zoe's dad Johnny Ball

Familiarity alone does not appear to account for choosing a partner because the participants did not adopt templates for their same-sex parents, they said.

They say males and females choose different facial areas of parents to be models in accordance with their general sexual preferences for facial traits.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Does nobody else think it's a little bit weird to pick a partner because he looks like your dad?
Morris, Wrexham
Experts say there may be an advantage to selecting a mate somewhat similar to themselves genetically.

Dr Lynda Boothroyd from the University of Durham, a psychologist who has carried out similar research, said: "There is an argument that a certain degree of similarity makes people more fertile and genetically compatible."

But there is a balance between the benefits of marrying someone genetically close and the risks of inbreeding.

"We have a lot of mechanisms - such as pheromones and smell - to stop us choosing someone too similar to us, like an immediate family member," said Dr Boothroyd.

Original here

Seven exceptions to job search rules

By Rachel Zupek

Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

Job seekers shouldn't begin résumés with a weak point just to follow a template format, experts say.

Job seekers shouldn't begin résumés with a weak point just to follow a template format, experts say.

Don't talk with your mouth full. Don't talk to strangers. Look both ways before crossing the street.

These are rules we've heard since we were young -- but like mama always said, rules are made to broken.

Job search rules are no different. Throughout the years, we've had it drilled into our heads that résumés have to follow a specific format; we must dress professionally at all times; and always send a cover letter -- no ifs, ands or buts.

Au contraire, my friends -- like every rule, there are exceptions to these rigid rules of the job search.

"Break the rules any time it can help you stand out in a crowded field of job seekers, which is to say, break them every day," says Kevin Donlin of The SimpleJobSearch.com. "About 95 percent of job seekers follow a 'me too' approach; they are copycats copying the copycats. The smart 5 percent or so of people who market themselves creatively get on the radar of hiring managers -- and get hired faster as a result."

For example, many résumé formats suggest listing education first on one's résumé -- but what if he or she didn't do well in school? Job seekers shouldn't begin their résumé with a weak point just because a résumé template suggests you should, says Jake Greene, author of "Whoa, My Boss Is Naked! A Career Book for People Who Would Never Be Caught Dead Reading a Career Book."

Here are six common job search "rules" and when it might be acceptable to break them:

Rule No. 1: Keep your résumé to one page

When to make an exception: For entry-level applicants with only a few years of experience under their belt, it makes sense to send a one-page résumé. After all, no one wants to read three pages of irrelevant filler.

But, for job seekers with five or more years of experience, one page simply might not be enough to showcase their accomplishments. In this case, it's acceptable to use an additional page to describe your work history and undertakings.

Rule No. 2: Never try for an interview with a company that isn't hiring

When to make an exception: If your dream is to work for XYZ Company but it isn't hiring at the moment you need a job, there's no harm in setting up an informational interview with someone who can tell you more about the company. You'll build your network and perhaps learn of future opportunities at the organization.

Rule No. 3: Avoid sending a résumé with fancy formatting

When to make an exception: While a cardinal rule of job search is to send a simple, uncluttered résumé to employers -- sometimes that just won't cut it. If you're applying to a creative position, say graphic design, you'll want to send a résumé that will set you apart from the masses. For example, send a résumé using a format inspired by the company Web site.

Rule No. 4: Don't apply to a job for which you have no experience

When to make an exception: It's true that hiring managers want someone with the skills, education and know-how needed to get the job done -- but more than that, employers want the perfect fit for their company.

Forty-six percent of executives said they rely heavily on instinct when making a hiring decision, according to a survey by Robert Half International. If their gut says to hire the candidate with minimum experience but an explosive personality over the aloof applicant with years of experience -- they'll usually take the former.

Employers know they can teach you the hard skills necessary for any position -- it's the soft skills like personality and teamwork that will give you a one-up on a more qualified applicant. Go for it, even if you aren't "technically" experienced enough.

Rule No. 5: Develop a pitch to market yourself to employers

When to make an exception: When an employer says, "Tell me a little bit about yourself," most job seekers deliver the same 30-second spiel to everyone with whom they interview. Not only can your "commercial" sound scripted, you don't want to give the generic version each time.

Instead, think about the person you're interviewing with and the job for which you're vying. Cater your response to the situation and the person. If you're talking with a sales manager, for example, talk about your passion, energy, drive and ability to connect with people. If you're talking with someone from HR, expand on your teamwork capacity.

Rule No. 6: Never say negative things about your previous employer in an interview

When to make an exception: While a general rule of thumb is to keep a positive outlook about your previous employment, there might be some circumstances under which you can break this rule. If your negative comments are factual and they contributed to why you left the position, they might be OK to tell a hiring manager.

For example, if an employer asks why you left your old job after only four months and the truth is because your boss invaded your privacy, it's fine to say something along the lines of, "I got along well with my boss but I found him sitting at my desk going through my things every day. I need to work with a boss whom I can have a trusting relationship."

This way, you're being honest about a negative situation but making it into something positive you need from your new manager.

Rule No. 7: Never have typos in your résumé

When to make an exception: Psych! This is actually the one rule you can't break. While you can break a few other résumé rules, including typos is not one of them. Eighty-four percent of executives said all it takes is one or two typos on a résumé to remove a candidate from consideration for a job opening, according to a survey by Robert Half International; 47 percent said a single typo is all it would take to dismiss someone.

Be cautious but confident when breaking of the above rules -- doing so might be the ticket to your dream job.

Original here

E-books don't furnish a room


If there were a device that could make Toni Morrison, the 77-year-old Nobel laureate, feel 30 again, would you buy one? What if James Patterson promised that it would blow your mind? If the manufacturers claimed it could transform thousands of years of literary culture and change the way we live our lives, would that make it worth £400? Would it matter that you could never take it in the bath?

The arguments for and against electronic books are perverse ones. Some authors say they are in love with the gadget that freed them from landslides of tattered review copies. Others miss that smell of Cotswolds second-hand bookshops in the rain. Fans love that they can carry dozens of books on holiday on one. Phobics are afraid of dropping them in the sea. For critics, it's all about smell and touch and reading in bed; the way we read books is an intimate part of our personalities, it turns out. Nobody seems to feel neutrally about the e-book.

The debate is about to get even more personal. Sony's eReader went on sale at Waterstone's yesterday. Amazon's Kindle is America's New Big Thing. The Iliad is available from Borders or www.iliadreader.co.uk. Its maker boasts that it can hold 41,000 books, or 100 tonnes of documents, and with a USB port you can carry an extra 32,000 books on your key ring in case you get bored with those.

As the market leaders in electronic book sales, Amazon has anticipated potential opposition to its new gadget and is countering with some heavyweight support. On its website are video clips of well-known authors claiming joyously that the Kindle has changed their lives.

"I [increase] the font size so I don't have to wear glasses when I read," says Toni Morrison. "This morning... I realised I was as comfortable as I was when I was 30 without my glasses... When you are interacting with a book you own it... read it whenever and wherever and however much you like. So I think it's huge."

The ownership of books is a big deal, of course. Books do furnish a room, as Anthony Powell knew. There is nothing like finding your A-level notes – or your parents' – in an ancient Penguin paperback. Your new temporary crush can't scrawl his book recommendations on the title page of the novel you are reading if that novel is trapped inside 260g of plastic. And imagine walking into a new acquaintance's house to find no books. It wouldn't seem right to examine the contents of a friend's Kindle while he was out of the room making coffee.

Once you get over the lack of book smell/ handwritten notes, e-book readers are curious devices. The eReader is the nicest object: faux leather-bound with a heavy click as it closes and an iPod-lookalike screen. That could explain why people keep picking it up and prodding its pages, expecting things to happen. They don't. The menu and page-turn buttons are on the right edge, which is unfortunate for left-handed readers.

The eReader comes pre-loaded with an eclectic selection of 14 books and extracts: Patrick Bishop's 3 Para, Agatha Christie, a historical romance called The Wicked Earl... The menu is easy to navigate, but problems started when I tried to download something to test its legendary battery life. (6,800 page turns, according to Sony – or, in the new unit of measurement, five readings of War and Peace.) The eReader comes with a CD containing 100 classic titles; but I couldn't make it work. Was it just me? There not being a 13-year-old boy available, I called IT. They didn't understand it. I tried Sony's technical support helpline. "To be honest, it's the same for us," said a friendly man. "It's new..." In the time I spent listening to their funky hold music, I could have read War and Peace five times – in a real book. I could have learned to read, for heaven's sake.

It wasn't much clearer at the Gutenberg Project website, where eager readers can download 100,000 books – 25,000 of them free. That is, if they can understand the instructions. The site advises: "Palm OS up to release 4... does not support .txt files stored on internal memory. You will have to convert to .pdb or .prc in order to store Project Gutenberg texts on these machines." Somebody must understand this, because more than three million books are downloaded from the site each month.

Things went slightly better with the Iliad – but only thanks to a nice man at iliadreader.co.uk and something called Mobipocket. He's updating his instruction leaflet for people like me, he reassures me. By the end of our conversation I had Pride and Prejudice in e-form and had equipped the Iliad to update itself nightly with the news from the BBC. Just don't ask me how I did it. You can also write on it. The Iliad is about more than just books, I'm told: this is an e-document reader for professionals.

The launch of the Sony eReader

Critics claim that the Iliad looks like an Etch a Sketch. The Amazon Kindle, rather, resembles a ZX Spectrum. Amazon has yet to announce plans to launch it in the UK, but early signs from America don't look good for paper book lovers. Estimates vary: some say that sales of e-books for the Kindle have doubled in a year, from six to 12 per cent of Amazon's total sales. Because of the way that US wireless networks operate, users really can download a book (one of 140,000 currently available, at about $9.99 each) from the beach or the cafe, in less than a minute. You don't get to smell the book first, of course, but things move on.

Because of "revolutionary new e-ink", e-book readers don't strain the eyes like screens do. They can be read in the sun (but not in the dark). Much like... well, books. Because of e-ink, however, the screen "blinks" with each page turn. Some people like this effect. Others want to throw the things across the room, but that isn't clever when they cost £199 (the Sony eReader) or £399 (the Iliad).

Nevertheless, the gadgets are impressive. Until you see an Apple iPod Touch. Then you realise something is still missing from the e-book market. Sooner or later, someone will launch a reader that is cute, tactile and intuitive, and which costs less than the price of 400 paper-backs. Until then, lovers of the smell of book shops can rest easy.

A History of Reading

Stone Tablets

900 BC - 650BC

The Olmec people, who lived in south central Mexico between 1400 and 400 BC, may have been the first to develop a writing system. They used stone tablets, about the size of sheets of A4, each one containing 64 characters. ]

The history of reading

Papyrus Scrolls
800 BC - 800 AD

Though famous as the source of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, papyrus was used in Greece and Rome, until it was replaced by parchment and vellum (animal skins) in some countries and Arabian paper in others. Thanks to Egypt's dry climate, some ancient papyri still exist.

Illuminated texts
From AD 400

Most of the illuminated manuscripts that still survive were produced in the Middle Ages, initially on vellum and later on paper. Thanks to a literate groups of Christians many early Greek and Roman works still survive.

The Printing Press
c. 1439

The first mechanical device for transferring ink to paper or cloth was developed in Germany by the goldsmith Johann Gutenberg. It was brought to England by William Caxton, who set up a press at Westminster in 1476.

Cheap Paperbacks
1935

When Allen Lane founded Penguin in 1935, his idea was to sell cheap quality paperbacks for the same price as a pack of cigarettes, in train stations and corner shops. By March 1936, a million paperbacks had been sold.

The e-book Reader
2008

It has been possible for some time to find electronic books that are compatible with hand-held devices, but the involvement of companies such as Sony, Amazon and Waterstone's is likely to transform the market. Sony says its new eReader will "revolutionise reading". Just not in the bath, or during take-off and landing.

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