Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gene 'triggers unhealthy eating'

Man eating
Children with the gene chose more fatty, sugary foods

People who carry a gene variant linked to obesity eat an average of 100 extra calories per meal, research suggests.

The key variant of the FTO gene is thought to be carried by 63% of people.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, by the University of Dundee, carried out eating tests on 100 children aged four to 10.

Those with the gene variant chose foods with more sugar and fat, suggesting they were instinctively drawn to them rather than healthy options.

Each child in the study took part in three eating tests, offering a range of different food types.

People with the relevant variants on the gene have a trait which may lead them to eat more unhealthy, fattening foods
Professor Colin Palmer
University of Dundee

The researchers found that the gene variant had no impact on the speed at which the body broke down food, or on how active people were.

There was also no evidence that those who carried it had any trouble registering when they were full up and should stop eating.

However, they did seem to be instinctively attracted to more calorific foods.

Lead researcher Professor Colin Palmer said: "This work demonstrates that this gene does not lead to obesity without overeating and suggests that obesity linked to this gene could be modulated by careful dietary control.

"What it effectively shows is that the people with the relevant variants on the gene have a trait which may lead them to eat more unhealthy, fattening foods."

Professor Palmer said the findings also reinforced the idea that soaring obesity rates were closely linked to the widespread availability of cheap, calorie-packed foods.

For people carrying the relevant gene variant, these may simply be too tempting to resist.

Research has shown that people carrying one copy of the key FTO variant (49% of the population) have a 30% increased risk of obesity, while for those carrying two copies the increased risk is almost 70%.

'Get smarter'

Professor Palmer said it was likely that many different genes were involved in obesity.

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said: "Given that half of us have the FTO gene, making us more prone to eating fatty, sugary foods, this must surely help us to understand how difficult it can be for individuals to simply use will-power to change their behaviour and adopt a healthier diet when their genetic make-up is telling them to do the opposite.

"If we are to tackle this problem adequately, we need to get smarter and start dealing with all the underlying forces that influence our choices.

"We need to find ways to make a healthier lifestyle a more attractive and, therefore, an easier option."

Original here

The 10 Greatest Fast Food Sides

Because three pounds of processed meat won’t tide you over until dinner.
10. Cheesy Tots – Burger King
If there’s one thing cheese and potatoes need, it’s a thick coating of deep-fried batter. The starving African girl I sponsor for a cup of coffee a day isn’t capable of comprehending these.
Calories/12pc: 430
Total Fat (grams): 24
9. Chicken Rings – White Castle
A little known fact: The ring is the most succulent part of the chicken. White Castle knows this. White Castle knows all. (It should be noted that the Castle also offers you the option of a Chicken Ring Sandwich. With or without cheese. God bless you White Castle.)
Calories: 320
Total Fat (grams): 23
8. Sausage Poutine – Chez Ashton (Canada Only)
For those of you who haven’t ventured north of the border, Poutine is the reason we have not invaded Canada. Consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy, this little heart attack in a bowl will leave you waving off the defibrillator. But Chez Ashton decided to toss a few sausages on top just for good measure. This belongs on this list of school lunches.
Calories: 630
Total Fat (grams): 37
7. Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya – Popeye’s
While this is found under the “Legends” section of the menu, eagle-eyed members of the Popeye’s Krewe will know that you can also order up a side dish of their “award winning” spicy Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya. I have no idea what award they won, but I’d like to work for the organization that gave it to them.
Calories: 220
Total Fat (grams): 11
6. Jack's Cheesy Macaroni Bites - Jack In The Box
Because, when you really think about it, macaroni and cheese should be fried. This belongs with these works of art. Photo courtesy of our pals at Yumsugar.
Calories 6/pc: 440
Total Fat (grams): 25
5. Cheesy Bread – Dominos
Sure, there are a few other pizza establishments that have their version of the cheesestick, but Dominos was the first to say, “Hey, you just ordered three greasewheels, but you’re going to need something to wash them down with. Why not try a little more breaded cheese?”
Calories/stick: 140
Total Fat/stick (grams): 7
4. Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges – Jack in the Box
Does it have bacon? Yes. Does it have cheese? Yes. Does it have potato? Yes. If you have anymore questions about the worthiness of this side, please email them to
Calories: 720
Total Fat (grams): 48
3. Crumblies – Long John Silvers
These crusty little deep fried bits of delicious heart disease will fit into any of the aortic crevices that weren’t clogged by your entrée.
Calories: 170
Total Fat (grams): 12
2. Curly Fries – Arbys
Arby’s has a very respectable side menu. With such creative options as Onion Petals with Southwest Tangy Sauce and Jalapeno Bites with Bronco Berry Sauce you can really expand your fast food palate on the sides alone. But nothing beats the teeth-shattering crunch of Arby’s classic take on the potato. These are even good cold.
Calories: 397
Total Fat (grams): 24
fast food sides, kfc, fast food, kentucky fried chicken
1. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy – KFC
I have no idea if there are any real potatoes found in these mashed potatoes, but I don’t care. Salty, creamy and rich, they make a great dip for your home-style biscuits or a surprisingly sturdy spackle for your shower. If mom could make mashed potatoes like these, I wouldn’t have left the womb.
Calories: 140
Total Fat (grams): 5

It’s High Time for Tea

By: Brie Cadman (View Profile)

These days, a coffee shop on every corner is the rule, not the exception. Here in San Francisco, I’m within spitting distance of a Peet’s, a Starbuck’s—make that three—and a smattering of other local caffeinating holes. But in the past few years, there’s also been a shift toward another type of beverage hot spot—tea shops.

It’s not just in the Bay Area; on my last trip to Seattle, I noticed at least two in a weekend, and friends in Portland, Chicago, and NYC are all familiar, if not well accustomed to, tea shops, lounges, gardens, and bars amidst the beans. Similarly, the variety and presence of tea on our grocery shelves seems to be increasing without abatement. But has tea really caught on as much as coffee, soda, and beer?

Brewin’ Up a Storm
America has long been low on the tea-drinking totem pole. While places like India, China, and the UK share a rich history with tea, ours is more recent and less imbued with culture and tradition.

And although we certainly haven’t adopted the traditional ceremonies or slow, loose-leaf brewing techniques that characterize authentic tea making, we have begun a shift toward it. Two American tea inventions—the tea bag and iced tea—have helped create a totally American style of tea drinking—fast and sweet. Eighty-five percent of tea drunk in America is iced, according to the Tea Association of the USA, and the rise of ready-to-drink beverages and sugary bottles of brew common in quickie marts and convenience stores has greatly upped our consumption.

Always looking for health-conscious choices, Americans have also latched onto the antioxidant benefits of tea—green tea in particular—catapulting it into the mainstream. Now we have green tea everything—cocktails, chocolate, ice cream, and body creams.

But the rise of tea shops represents a shift to the more traditional type of tea consumption—loose leaf, hot, and slowed down. While the foundation for these establishments couldn’t have happened without our taste buds tweaked toward specialty foods and the benefit of being able to drink our antioxidants, the new type of tea drinking is different. At the Numi Tea Garden in Oakland, for instance, there are more than forty different teas on the menu. At the Samovar lounges in San Francisco, you can choose from Russian, English, Japanese, and Chinese Tea services, and at specialty shops, like Cooks Shop Here in Massachusetts, purveyors shop the globe looking for the most exotic and high-quality loose leaf teas to offer to their consumers.

This is good news for tea lovers, who previously had to travel abroad to taste authentic brews. Outside the U.S., tea is sometimes hard to avoid. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide. Its use dates back before written history and its long standing prevalence among varied cultures is evident in its linguistic roots—no matter where you are in the world, the beverage will be referred to as either a variation on te (the, tea, teh) or a variation of cha (chai, chiya, sha).

All true tea comes from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. Differences among tea result from terroir, or “taste” of the land on which it was grown, place of origin, and processing, including length of oxidation.

What we call herbal “tea” really isn’t—only brews made from the leaves of this c.sinensis, which contain caffeine, are true teas. Herbal infusions are made from seeds, barks, leaves, and flowers of plants and are without caffeine.

There are as many variations of tea as there are places where they are grown, techniques for roasting and processing, and methods in which they are consumed.

Despite differences, all teas share high amounts of antioxidants, like flavonoids and polyphenols, which can fight off cellular damage. The health benefits of tea aren’t completely clear, but some studies have indicated that drinking green tea may reduce the risk of heart disease and improve memory, and that black tea may have a role in cancer prevention.

Whether drinking to health or enjoyment, the five most popular teas to consider are:

Black Tea
Black tea, the most commonly consumed tea in America, is the most caffeinated, and is oxidized the longest, resulting in a strong flavor and color. Popular varieties are Assam, Ceylon, and Darjeeling. These teas hold up well to milk and sugar.

Oolong Tea
Oolong teas, oxidized for two to three hours, have complex flavors and can have a wide range of flavors and colors. Oolong is midway between black and green teas, retaining flavors and strength of both. It undergoes the most complex of processing and therefore contains the most complex and varied flavors. Many oolong teas are thought to be best after multiple steepings.

Green Tea
Green tea goes through no oxidization, so most closely resembles fresh tea leaves. High in antioxidants, green tea has been associated with increased immune system functioning. Flavors can range from sweet to earthy. It is mild in caffeine and traditionally consumed throughout the day.

White Tea
White tea is a delicate tea with a mild flavor. The leaves are harvested in early spring, when only buds are present. Unprocessed, the leaves are characterized by soft white hairs and a sweet flavor. White tea has a small amount of caffeine and is high in antioxidants.

Relatively unknown in the U.S., pu-erh is an aged tea that is low in caffeine and has a deep, rich flavor. The leaf is often compressed into a cake, called a beeng cha, and sold as such. It is common in China as an aperitif.

In addition to the above, there are thousands of variations, including flavored black teas, like Earl Grey, blends, organic, scented, and yellow teas. No wonder they’ve created lounges just for them. So while I’m still sipping bagged tea on the go and a simple loose black at home, the fact that I have two tea shops within walking distance of my work makes my foray into pu-erh inevitable.

Original here

How to Achieve Anything


Photo: Kevin Russ. Check out his stock portfolio.

Is there a goal you want to accomplish, but just cannot find the time to start it? It might be something trivial like, to reduce the amount of TV watching, or time spent browsing the Internet. It might be, to become an early riser, or to quit drinking alcohol, or to start a home business. Whatever it is, what is keeping you where you are instead of reaching your desired destination?

I have several such targets in my life that I often think about, but rarely take action on. Each time I’m reminded of one of them, I would guiltily say, “I really should do [blah]”, and then forget about it until the next time guilt creeps back into my head.

One such target I have is to exercise. I’ve been talking about wanting to get in shape for about two years now. I even setup an arbitrary goal of doing a triathlon to get me excited. I did start to go running shortly after setting the goal, which lasted for about a week, before I became distracted with another target.

I like to think of myself as a pretty disciplined and motivated person - I mean, I write about this stuff! But, something about this particular target has been very psychologically challenging for me to take consistent action on. And I want to understand it.

Overcoming the mental blocks and actually taking action towards this outcome has been my focus over the past few weeks. I am proud to announce that I have been doing 5-mile walk-runs, every other day, successfully for fourteen days now.

I’m confident that since I have kept it up for two weeks, then surely, I can keep it up for a month. And if I can consistently do it for a month, I will have habituated the activity into my daily rhythm and be able to keep it up indefinitely.

The point of this article isn’t about running, but rather, extracting lessons from achieving a goal, and applying them to other areas of our lives.

Analysis of ‘Why It Didn’t Work’

Looking back over past failed attempts at this target, I realized that I didn’t have enough reasons to keep myself motivated, thus I wasn’t fully committed to making the change. Here are some observations:

1. Excuse: “I don’t have enough time”

I used to assume that it I was working too much and simply did not have the time. Well, I’ve come to learn that “I don’t have the time” is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves to justify for the lack of action towards activities that can (sometimes) significantly improve the quality of our lives. If we added all the time we spend on unimportant and not urgent things - like web browsing or TV watching - we would have the time, easily. We do have the time!

I used to tell myself, “When I leave my day job, I will have much more time to pursue the things on my lists, which I don’t have time for now.” Things like exercising.

You’d think, now that I’m in a position to create my own schedule (or lack thereof), surely, I should have enough free time to exercise. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I still don’t have enough time. It’s become obvious that without a measurable target and a reasonable plan, life has a way of magically inserting random (often unimportant) activities to fill up our day. The same items on my list while I had a day job are still on the list.

We don’t have time for things, until we create time for these things. If something is important enough to us, we will find the time, regardless of how busy we are. End of story.

It’s a matter of finding the compelling reasons why something is important to us - enough of a nudge to drive us to lasting change.

2. Focus on Pain

The more I focused on the uncomfortable factors associated with exercise, the less motivated I became, and the more excuses I made to skip workouts - before I stopped completely.

Here are my favorite excuses to justify not exercising:

  • It’s hard! I can’t breathe.
  • My leg hurts
  • It’s cold outside
  • It’s raining (I do live in Seattle, after all)
  • It’s late, if I go jogging, I won’t have enough time to do X.

3. Lacked Motives to Action

Although I kept telling myself that I should go jogging, I wasn’t fully clear on why I wanted it. I wasn’t overweight, and didn’t have an explicit incentive to get active. I didn’t have the motives to justify the necessary action for a vaguely defined goal.

Did you know that we will do more to avoid pain than we will to gain pleasure? In this case, the affects of not doing it, was not painful enough to drive me to get it done. In my mind, the pain of doing was greater than the pain of not doing.

4. Language, Focus & Priority

The goal was a should and not a must. “I should go jogging”, I would say , when it’s better to say, “I must go jogging, in order to gain the energy I need”. When something is a should, it is wishful thinking, and we don’t get it done. When something is a must, it becomes a priority that deserves our attention. Because the target was a should, I never gave it the focused attention necessary for it to become a reality.

The Art of Change: From Desire to Result

The actual change happened very quickly - the moment I decided to change. Instead of thinking about it, and silently beating myself up for not doing it, I just did it. It was beautiful!

Photo: Kevin Russ.

Sometimes, the best motivators are the ones we find when we hit a personal low point. My low point came a few weeks ago, when I realized that I hadn’t been outside for seven days straight (Eeeek!). I felt groggy, my body was aching, my energy level was low and I felt a slip in my grip on clarity.

When my clarity is threatened, I start to take notice. I now had a strong motive. I got up instantly and went for a run - a long one.

The System of OPA

OPA is a trick I picked up from Tony Robbins, which when applied, will assist us in achieving the results we desire. It stands for:

  • Outcome (O) - Having a clear vision.
  • Purpose (P) - Focus on results and purpose.
  • Action (A) - Create a massive action plan for meaningful results.

Let’s expand on these and apply them to the jogging example.

O, Outcome

Most of us have vague ideas on what we want. We know roughly the direction we want to go, but because we aren’t clear on the vision of our destination, we get pushed into whichever direction the wind is blowing. Without a vision, we will obsess over “the how”, and will often overanalyze and fail to take action, or take ineffective action.

In the jogging example, “wanting to go jogging” is not the ultimate vision. The ultimate outcome I am seeking is actually mental clarity and physical energy. One activity that contributes to this outcome is regular exercise. Additionally, because I am focused on the desired outcome and not on the how, I have realized that there are other things I can do which will contribute towards this outcome, such as deep breathing, swimming, and yoga.

What is the ultimate vision for what you want? Be specific in describing the outcome you desire.

P, Purpose

Knowing what we want isn’t enough to give us the push towards massive action. We must know why we want it. Why is it important that we achieve our desired result? When we achieve this outcome, what will it bring us? Without strong enough reasons, we simply will not be moved into action.

In the jogging example, my reasons for wanting mental clarity and physical energy are:

  • To feel physical wellbeing. To live fully and consciously.
  • To have the clarity to write articles that serve others. To empower and inspire readers towards a fuller life with more joy and passion.
  • When I have energy, I can get more out of my day. I can do more activities which will benefit my personal wellbeing, and in turn make more contributions to others.

Why must you achieve the target outcome? What are the reasons most important to you? What does achieving the outcome mean for you?

A, Action

Armed with your clear vision of the outcome and with the burning reasons why it is important to you, come up with an action plan for achieving the results you seek. Once you have your action plan, take one small action immediately. Then commit yourself towards taking some action regularly (everyday if possible) towards your target. Regardless of how small the action may seem, it will move you one step closer to your outcome, and - importantly - help build the momentum you will need to reach your destination.

In addition to knowing what you want, why you want it, and having a battle plan, the following are tips to overcome potential pitfalls on the road to lasting change.

  • Quantify & Measure - What gets measured gets managed. It’s important to be able to quantify results, so that we can evaluate our improvements and effectiveness. For my jogging example, I got the Nike sport kit for ipod nano - which allowed me to measure distance ran, duration and calories burnt. Once I had the numbers after each workout, I just wanted to beat them! As if playing a video game and trying to beat the top score.
  • Know Your Excuses - List out all the excuses you’re known to use in order to avoid action for a particular result. Now come up with an antidote for each excuse. Even without an antidote, at least, now you’re aware of which excuses might come up, and you’re ready to ignore them. For myself, “I am committed to going jogging every other day, regardless of weather, or how late in the day.”
  • Focus on One Target at a Time - When we try to focus on many results at the same time, rarely will we succeed. When we focus on one thing at a time, we can devote our undivided attention and energy on realizing the single result, thus giving it a higher chance of actualization. Move on to other targets only after we’ve successfully reached or habituated the current target. I’ve found it helpful to write the targeted outcome on a piece of paper, and posting it on a wall where I can see it regularly.
  • Change Your Language - Turn ‘should’ into ‘must’. The language we use carries with it energy. Notice that if you must do something, suddenly you feel a sense of urgency and priority? What is that thing that you’ve wanted to complete, and if you got it done will improve the quality of your experience? Now say, “I must do , because it will give me .” See how much more energy this sentence has, versus “I really should do .”
  • Consistency - When cultivating a new habit, consistency is more important than quantity. Have you noticed that when we skip a routine activity even once, it’ll be harder to get back into it? And the more we skip, the easier it is to skip it again the next time. Before we know it, we no longer have the habit which we’ve worked hard to create.
  • Fun Ingredient - Find ways to make the experience fun and enjoyable. For example, I will listen to motivational audio books or personal growth seminars when I run, and it really enhances both experiences. This added enrichment to the running experience, makes me look forward to the activity.
  • The 30 Day Challenge - If you can repeatedly do an activity for 30 days, it will become a habit, and will integrate automatically into your routine. Take it one step at a time, first commit yourself to following something for 7 days, then extend it to 14 days, then 21 days and 30 days. If you can do it for 30 days, you can likely continue it indefinitely (if you want to).
  • Change Your Questions - If you’re not getting the kind of results you’re looking for, perhaps it’s the questions you are asking yourself. Ask questions which lead to possibilities instead of limitations. Here are some examples of the limiting questions vs. more resourceful alternatives:
    • Why can’t I do this? Vs.
      How can I make this work?
    • Why can’t I make more money? Vs.
      How can I add even more value?
    • Why is this happening? Vs.
      What can I do to help change this?
    • How can they do this to me? Vs.
      How can I use this?
    • What is wrong in my life? Vs.
      What am I grateful for?

Parting Words

We are the ultimate author of our life story. Within each of us, we hold the power to change anything in our lives, and in doing so, experience more joy and fulfillment. Lasting change starts with a change in the way we think - a clear vision for our desired results, meaningful reasons why we must have them, and building momentum towards massive action to make our visions a reality.

With meaning, understanding, awareness, and conscientious planning; we can turn massive responsibilities into actual possibilities, we can incorporate healthy habits, we can realize dreams, and we can live more deliberately and intentionally shape our own destiny.

Thank you for listening to my jogging story and allowing me to share my own life victories, regardless of how trivial they may seem. Through observing this experience, the jogging example accentuated some simple fundamental principles of achievement that can be applicable to other outcomes in our lives. I wish you success!

* What are some outcomes you would like to see in your life? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comment section. See you there!

Original here

Saturn owners hope GM doesn't abandon them

By Jim Kavanagh

SODDY-DAISY, Tennessee (CNN) -- Kat Koonce loves her Saturns. She owns three, and has pictures of them on, where she is one of almost 2,500 Saturn devotees who've posted photo albums of their vehicles.

Saturn owners show off their Sky roadsters after a Christmas parade in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, on Sunday.

Saturn owners show off their Sky roadsters after a Christmas parade in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, on Sunday.

Judy Pearson shows off a photo album of her Saturn Sky roadster the way a grandmother might show off one of her grandchildren -- pictures of vacations and happy times together.

The women are exactly the kind of customers General Motors was looking for when it introduced the Saturn brand two decades ago as "a different kind of car company." The brand's slogan is now one word -- "rethink" -- but its fate may soon be summed up in another -- "done."

General Motors has raised the prospect of eliminating the nameplate as it tries to restructure to regain profitability.

"I just can't stand the thought of them doing away with Saturn," said Dianne Pollard of Hixson, Tennessee. She created the Sky Club of Chattanooga, dedicated to the sporty two-seater.

General Motors hasn't officially announced the end of Saturn, but in a restructuring plan submitted to Congress, the automaker said it would concentrate resources on four core brands -- Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.

That leaves Saturn, along with GM's Pontiac, Saab and Hummer brands, with a dim future.

Pollard drove her black 2008 RedLine (that's Saturn's name for a turbo) Sky in Sunday's Christmas parade in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, northeast of Chattanooga. Fellow Hixson residents and Sky devotees Connie Terrell (red 2007 RedLine) and Pearson (dark blue 2007 standard edition) were there, too.

All three have owned other, more sedate Saturns than the Sky, which praises for "sharp styling, low price and everyday comfort" and Car and calls a "mini-Corvette" at around half the price.

They were joined by George and Brenda Holloway, who drove their 2007 Sky almost 100 miles from their farm in Centre, Alabama, to join in the parade.

"We thoroughly enjoy the Saturn. Our next vehicle, when we buy one, will be a Saturn," Brenda Holloway said.

"This is the only car I've ever owned that you can be driving down the interstate and people pull up beside you and take a picture of it," her husband, a retired 20-year Army veteran, said with amusement-tinged pride.

But it's not just the cars -- including the original S series sedans and coupes -- that turn people into "Saturnistas"; it's also the pleasant buying experience and over-the-top customer service.

"It's a family. It's the Saturn family. And you become part of that family," Pearson said.

All three Sky owners from Hixson had stories to tell about a sales consultant who went the extra mile or a service call that exceeded their expectations. Pearson said she has owned many makes of cars, including foreign nameplates, and Saturn's treatment of customers beats them all.

"The best experience I've ever had was with Saturn, bar none," she said.

Koonce, of Dayton, Ohio, used to feel that way, too.

But Koonce now says GM might as well kill off the brand, because that would be preferable to the slow death she sees as inevitable.

Saturn sold slightly more than 8,000 cars in November and has delivered about 175,000 this year. That's a far cry from the half a million GM had hoped to sell each year when it introduced Saturn.

Koonce said she fell in love with Saturn before she was old enough to drive. She became such a familiar figure at her local Saturn dealer and so knowledgeable about its lineup that she was hired as a sales consultant.

She and her husband, Nick, met at a Saturn owners' event, their wedding was a Saturn owners' event, and they have owned six Saturns between them. They have brought numerous relatives and friends "into the Saturn cult," said Nick, whose dream is to own a Saturn dealership.

Saturn sales

November 2008 deliveries: 8,130
November 2007 deliveries: 15,105
Change: down 46.2%
2008 Jan.-Nov. deliveries: 175,434
2007 Jan.-Nov. deliveries: 221,895
Change: down 20.9%

Source: Saturn Corp.

Saturn was conceived in the early 1980s as a separate-standing division of GM, with then-unheard-of features:

• an innovative new plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee;

• a separate agreement with the United Auto Workers that embraced more teamwork between union and management;

• the use of plastics instead of metal for many body parts;

• and a highly personalized consumer experience, including no-haggle buying and "Homecomings," a sort of family reunion for Saturn owners at the Spring Hill campus.

The first Saturn came off the Spring Hill assembly line on July 30, 1990.

Unfortunately, Kat Koonce said, GM has abandoned what made Saturn different. The cars are now made of metal, and the models all have twins in other GM divisions. Even the original Spring Hill factory has been converted to build Chevrolets instead of Saturns; the Saturn VUE is built in Mexico.

So disillusioned was Koonce that she quit her job at the Saturn dealership and went back to college.

"It was a success that became a failure," she said.

Walter S. McManus, the head of the Automotive Analysis Division of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, says he could see it coming.

"Brand loyalty is overrated," McManus stated flatly. "It is costly to do all the fuzzies, and Saturn's example is clear that it doesn't pay off for what is essentially an economy-car company. Women especially appreciated the Saturn way, but Honda sells more cars to women, despite having a less female-friendly approach."

Don't tell that to Charlie Eickmeyer, who runs the Saturnfans Web site and has posted a "Save Saturn" petition for the site's 35,000 members to sign. And don't tell the Sky Club of Chattanooga.

"I think Saturn really is a different kind of car company, and that is what has brought me back to them," Pearson said.

Original here

Next-Gen Dashboards Teach Leadfoots How to Hypermile

By Chuck Squatriglia


When new hybrids from Ford and Honda roll into showrooms this spring, drivers will find flashy dashboards that turn hypermiling into a videogame.

Ford and Honda's next-gen instrument clusters feature trees (a vine in Ford's case) that grow more lush as drivers learn to hypermile — the fine art of maximizing fuel economy. Leaves grow like crabgrass in springtime if you use a light touch on the accelerator and go easy on the brakes. Drive like Jimmie Johnson and they'll wither faster than General Motors stock.

The idea, says Honda VP Dan Bonawitz, is "to help drivers improve their efficient driving skills by making the hybrid experience more fun and rewarding."

It's easy to dismiss the LCD displays as gimmicks — and some have — but we're going see more of them. Auto designers, academics and industry watchers say it won't be long before everyone's offering green gauges in an effort to make us all greener drivers. Some automakers are even thinking about using emerging technology in in-car internet development to let people compare stats and compile "top score" leader boards to make green driving a social activity.

"That kind of eye candy has huge appeal to consumers," says Eric Noble, president of The Car Lab, an auto industry consulting firm. "They'll provide huge amounts of information regarding fuel economy. There already are prototypes that are 3-D."

With demand for fuel-sipping cars rising and consumers more aware of the impact they have on the environment, automakers see a chance to help drivers use less fuel. Small changes in driving style — eliminating sudden acceleration, say, or minimizing the time spent idling — can have a huge impact on fuel efficiency. And nothing will make you ease up on the gas like seeing exactly how much gas you're sucking down, so automakers are creating easy-to-use interfaces to teach leadfoots good hypermiling habits.

With a glance, green gauges will offer everything from real-time driving economy to instant feedback on your driving style. They're a big step forward from the rudimentary fuel-efficiency gauges that Toyota's "eco-drive" updated a few years ago, and they're more engaging than the basic display found in the Prius.

Ford and Honda are leading the green gadget charge in America, and Nissan offers a similar system only in Japan.

Honda's display is part of the Ecological Drive Assist System featured in the Insight Hybrid that goes on sale in April. Eco Assist includes a driver-activated "econ mode" that adjusts the transmission and engine to deliver maximum fuel economy, and the background lighting of the speedometer changes from blue to green as driving efficiency increases.

Ford's version is called SmartGauge with EcoGuide. It debuts in the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids available this spring. SmartGauge tells you everything from the amount of gas in the tank to the temperature of the coolant in the radiator, while EcoGuide tracks real-time fuel economy and keeps a running tally on your efficiency.

Honda_eco_assist_system_2 Neither system offers constructive criticism — you won't hear your car tell you, "Back off on the throttle, pal." But the two automakers say providing drivers with data and rewards will make them more efficient.

"We wanted to emulate the world's best coach," says Jeff Greenberg, senior technical leader for Ford. "That was the basic metaphor underlying the whole idea."

Honda isn't saying much about Eco Assist before unveiling the Insight in January at the Detroit Auto Show. But Ford says it spent two years developing its system. Designers and engineers quizzed drivers in San Francisco, Chicago and Dearborn, Michigan, to learn what kind of information they want to see and how they'd like it displayed, then spent months working with focus groups to fine-tune the displays in a driving simulator.

So what's with the leaves?

"We wanted the SmartGauge to have an emotional component," Greenberg says. "We wanted something that would appeal to the data geeks, but we also wanted something that would create an emotional response."

Therein lies the challenge, says Cliff Nass, whose work with the Stanford University CarLab focuses on the psychology of making cars safer and more enjoyable. People may realize on a rational level that driving like a maniac consumes more gas and therefore creates more CO2, he says, but it rarely crosses their mind behind the wheel.

"There's just too much abstraction between pressing the gas and impacting the environment," he says. "That's a very difficult link to make."

Still, he says, Ford and Honda have done a pretty good job. The displays are pleasing to the eye and they convey information quickly, and people like trees because they're calming. But the systems make a mistake of using reward and punishment to change behavior.

"That's actually quite dicey," he says. No one likes to be criticized, especially when they think it's coming from something that should be subservient to them — like their car. So although people will enjoy adding leaves to their trees, they're going to be ticked off if those leaves disappear.

"It would be better to just have the tree turn off," Nass says. "If the tree turns off, people will say, "Uh-oh" and change their behavior. If the leaves fall off or the tree dies, they're going to say, 'Who the hell are you to criticize me?'"

That said, Nass believes the gauges can make drivers more efficient because people respond to calming influences. But Darin Cosgrove, founder of the hypermiling site, says the displays might teach people not to stomp on the gas, but there's a risk drivers will tune out once the novelty wears off.

"I don't want to dismiss it because it's a really great idea," he says. "Putting numbers on the dashboard is helpful, but the growing leaves bit is a little gimmicky."

If the automakers want to make the gauges more than a gimmick, Cosgrove says, they should offer them in all of their cars, not just the hybrids. So far Ford and Honda plan to offer the eco-gauges only in the Fusion, Milan and Insight hybrids, although both automakers say we might see them in other cars.

Still, they're already looking ahead to the next-generation technology. Ford, for example is considering using Sync and in-car internet connectivity to allow drivers to "compete" to be the greenest driver. "We're really interested in that," Greenberg says. "We think there could be a big social component to it."

Nissan has offered something along those lines in Japan, where in addition to providing tips for improving fuel efficiency, the Carwings Eco-Driving service lets you know how you stack up against people with the same car. Nass says bringing that kind of social networking to hypermiling could make make eco-driving more popular, but he offers one warning.

"If you make it too much like a game, you'll have people concentrating on the game and not on the road," he says. "If you're driving and thinking only about the environment, you're going to smack into a tree."

Original here

Exile youth lead 'double lives'

Mohammed Halif
Mohammed Halif volunteers with Somali youth in Birmingham

By Samanthi Dissanayake
BBC News

On a street corner in Stratford, Birmingham, is a place where stylish Somali youth can be found. It is an internet cafe that doubles up as a barber-shop.

From here 24-year-old Mohammed Halif hatches plans to transform the life of Somali youth in this city.

"I looked at the youth, and they were suffering from lack of a social life. Parents don't understand. Most youth have never even seen Somalia."

At the age of 16, Mohammed left Mogadishu and travelled alone to Birmingham. He started volunteering with young Somalis and says he realised that their parents prepared them not for life in Britain but for life in Somalia.

"Somalis are like wolves," he says. "Never settled."

Parental pressure

The children of the first wave of refugees fleeing conflict in Sri Lanka, Somalia, Turkey and Iraq are coming of age now and are confronted with the expectations of their parents and their peers.

The only thing I don't like about British Kurdish youth is how far they are from Kurdish culture
Serhado, Kurdish rapper
The first imperative is to preserve their cultural and ethnic identity, to engage with their homeland. Then there are the expectations of the society they were born into.

The evidence so far is that many are expected to lead parallel lives.

Mohammed does not have to worry about such parental pressure. Earlier this year his father was killed in Mogadishu by a small missile.

"I am the oldest. My dad was helping my little brothers and sisters."

He says he wishes to stay in Britain but his claim for asylum has been rejected. He shares with the first generation of Somali refugees a profound sense of responsibility towards people back home and a deep involvement with their daily travails.

But community workers say that a preoccupation with life in Somalia, rather than in Britain, has led to a neglect of young people here and is one possible reason for some of the problems they face, such as gang violence and educational under-achievement.

"They don't want their kids to change," says youth worker Ayadrus. "They want their children to know that one day they will go back. They are in transit."

Threatened identity

L-R Gorby, Jeyanethan, Kirthiga, Caroline
Young Tamils in Harrow discussed politics and identity
For the settled Tamil and Kurdish communities in the UK, there is the added pressure of feeling their ethnic identity is under threat not only in the countries they fled but in the diaspora as well. It is for that reason that Tamil and Kurdish schools can be found across London teaching language, history, dance and music.

Many offspring of Sri Lankan Tamils who came to Britain in the 1970s and 1980s appear to have taken on their parents' political ambitions. Analysts describe the Tamil community as close-knit and deeply conservative. But many Tamil youth are becoming more outspoken and confident. One small group in Harrow discussed politics, love and youth identity quite openly.

Gorby, 22, was born and brought up in Britain and has been to Sri Lanka only once. But he has inherited a sense of responsibility towards Tamils in Sri Lanka and a belief that they must have a separate state.

"I don't like to do things excessively. There is a background guilt. I feel I shouldn't spend money because of what is happening," he says.

Student Caroline Francis says: "We are very close to our families compared with other groups. With expectations, you have to fulfil them or you feel you have let them down."

There are expectations on every front. Kirthiga says most of her friends are Tamil and she knows when it comes to questions of marriage, pressures over issues like caste still exist. But, she says, that is changing - the older generation are loosening their grip.

At the Western Kurdistan Association, L-R Homa Reziya, Alleh Jonroy, Shom Shaswar, Pava Amin
Different generations meet at the Western Kurdistan Association

Those gathered in Harrow were also members of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO), which, they say, is primarily a social club and charitable group. But the TYO has also been politically active, taking part in protests against the Sri Lankan government.

Jeyanathan, 28, is a member of the TYO and also a full-time worker for a campaigning group, the British Tamils Forum. He hopes one day to see a separate homeland for Tamils.

"If it was just the Tigers [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], I wouldn't support it. Tamils must have the right to self-determination," he says.

Shanthini Cowley-Sathiakumar has conducted research on Tamil youth identity among professional middle-class Tamils, many of whom voluntarily migrated to Britain in the 1960s.

"Children of professionals don't have much of a clue as to what is going on [in Sri Lanka]. Children of refugees tend to be much more politically involved and aware," she says.

She added that those middle-class professionals also tended to be quite disapproving of the LTTE and dissociated themselves from the refugees who came in the 1980s. In a polarised and politicised climate, this has presented quandaries for young middle-class Tamils.

Jana, a second-generation Tamil from North London recently took part in a peace protest but is wary of being labelled as an LTTE sympathiser.

"The terrorist brush is like a broad brush which is being moved from the Tigers over the whole Tamil people. There's a huge underpinning of extremists out there.

"I think of myself as Asian British. Even saying the word Tamil, people just think Tamil Tigers, you see it on their faces. I wouldn't say it very often and I blame both the [Sri Lankan] government and the Tigers."

Kurdish challenges

Where young Tamils tend to do very well academically, Turkish-Kurdish students can struggle. This is of great concern to organisations such as Day-Mer, a community centre that has invested large resources in educational support.

Shom Shaswar
I'm starting to get the passion. I feel British here, but I say I am from Kurdistan
Shom Shaswar
It says students from the Turkish-Kurdish community in north London secondary schools are among the lowest achievers - fewer than 10% of Turkish Kurds go to university. One pro-Kurdish activist also said it was notable that the first Kurdish student group was founded only in the past few years.

But at the Kurdish Community Centre a few miles away, a youth reading group regularly discusses political texts as a way of raising political awareness among Kurdish youth.

Earlier this year, Serhado, a celebrated Kurdish rapper from Sweden came to north London for a gig. He says he loves performing for London's Kurds but adds: "The only thing I don't like about British Kurdish youth is how far they are from Kurdish culture. While performing I asked how many understood what I had said - not many raised their hands."

Contact between the generations in other Kurdish communities has been critical for keeping alive the Kurdish issue. At the Western Kurdistan association in Hammersmith, west London, young Iraqi Kurds can meet older refugees from Syria and Iran.

Shom Shaswar feels very British having lived here for 15 years. But she says: "I'm starting to get the passion. I feel British here, but I say I am from Kurdistan."

Medical student Pava Amin says that she took the Kurdish flag to university with her.

There is a background guilt. I feel I shouldn't spend money because of what is happening
Gorby, 22-year-old Tamil
Most young people said they saw themselves as both British and Somali, Kurdish or Tamil. Politics played a part, but only in certain contexts. They gave expression to their ethnic, British and youth identity.

In Birmingham Mohammed Halif might have fled extreme violence, he might be jobless and facing deportation, he might now be responsible for his family back home and a family here. But he has been in Britain since he was 16 and is firmly entrenched in British youth culture.

"Let me put on my fancy jacket, man," he says, before he is photographed.

Original here

Science Dweebs Often Virgins

By Amanda Schupak

Think back to your college years. Did you spend more time at the lab bench than at the bar? Was getting a date harder than organic chem? If you carried protection was it for your pocket? We thought so.

A study published in the current issue of the journal Sexual Health found that science students were more likely to be virgins than their artsy classmates.

Researchers in Australia surveyed 185 men and women, ages 16 to 25, at the University of Sydney on their sexual history and STD knowledge. Responses to questionnaires revealed that “art students were younger [and] more likely to be sexually active” than science students (who, presumably were too busy doing homework to get out and get busy).

And on average across groups, males were less likely to have had sex than females.

As for the reasons behind the disparity between art chicks and science geeks, lead author Bernadette Zakher, of the university’s Department of General Practice, reserved comment, saying that the survey did not delve deeply into demographics or sexual history, “There isn’t enough information for conjecture.”

Nature podcast editor Adam Rutherford has a few ideas. “I just hate it when stereotypes are right,” he posted on the UK’s Guardian website. “The research does not go into the potential causes of this lack of bedroom activity by my boffin brethren, nor does it detail the worthy sacrifice of cheap carnal thrills for rational agility and mental development, which I have convinced myself lies at the root of this problem. That, and the personal hygiene issues.”

He blames a dearth of sexy role models for today’s blossoming men of science, citing, for instance, Charles Darwin’s marriage to his cousin and positing that Sir Isaac Newton “almost certainly died a virgin.”

The main purpose of Zakher’s research was to look at young people’s attitudes toward chlamydia screening. “The important findings,” she says, “are that young people are not aware or concerned about chlamydia infection despite their risk for acquiring it.” As if talking to girls wasn't already scary enough.

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