HashOut: 2007.09
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Get smarter on Sunglasses

Summer. The time when sunglasses are most used. Some glaring facts about them from eye doctors.
  • Not everybody needs sunglasses: most of us can tolerate normal sunlight unaided. Wear sunglasses if you constantly encounter dust, glare, wind, or prolonged exposure to intense sunlight. Wearing them at all times can reduce your eyes' tolerance to light, making even normal light seem unpleasant.
  • Spurious sunglasses can harm your eyes. Select a pair with a brochure or sticker that says "UV400" or "100% UV protection." But manufacturers often falsely make the claim, so it's safest to pay extra for a reputed brand. Shaded behind sunglasses, your pupils dilate. So glasses that are not UV-safe will let in excessive ultraviolet rays which cause cataracts, a gradual clouding of the eye's natural lens.
  • Glass colour has no bearing on quality or UV protection. But grey, light green or brown do not adversely affect our colour perception -- unlike yellow, red and other colours.
  • Plastic lenses being unbreakable and light are safer than those made of glass for games or diving, and for kids, Ask for "scratch proof plastic."
  • To test the optical quality of non-prescription glasses, hold them at half an arm's length and, with one eye closed, look through a lens at any object. If the object seems to move or wobble as you move the glasses, the lens has imperfections and may cause headaches. With a good lens, the object will stay as is.
  • Polarized sunglasses are best for cutting the glare -- suitable for driving, boating, beaches or snow.
  • Photo chromatic glasses adjust to UV -- a better choice for those who often wear sunglasses.
  • Don't encourage small children to wear sunglasses habitually -- they're likely to grow up unable to manage without them.
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Land of Dracula


Panoramic view with the Clock Tower
Sighisoara, 11 hours by train from Bucharest, the Romanian capital is the sleeping Beauty of Romania, a perfectly preserved medieval town in a pristine countryside, all but unknown, visited by only a venturesome handful. Now it seems about to be kissed awake by the unlikeliest Prince Charming -- Dracula. Who says you can't go home again?

For we are in the heart of Transylvania, whence the vampire legends sprang, mountaintop setting of ominous Castle Dracula where, in reels and reels of horror film and mountains of literary gore, fiction's best known ghoul sucked his victims' blood to keep himself alive. This Dracula was the invention of a hyper-imaginative novelist, but he was based on a real-life 15th century swash buckler name Vlad Tepes, also no bundle of charm. They called him Dracula, meaning Son of the Devil, because of his penchant for impaling captured foes and watching them writhe while he ate his dinner.


A street in Sighisoara with Clock Tower in the background
The Romanian government had announced a joint venture with German investors to build a theme park, Dracula Land, in Sighisoara but ultimately rejected, as it would have detracted from the medieval style of the city.

Sighisoara remains off the beaten track offering not plasterboard castles on a make-believe landscape, but an authentic journey into the past. Without elbow-to-elbow tourists.

A thousand years ago it was a Roman citadel high in the gentle Transylvanian hills, circled by a silver coil of river. Western Europeans made it into a commercial center that flourished for three centuries, then slipped into the shadows of history. Now, frozen in time, it looks much as it did then.

It is the only inhabited medieval fortress in Central Europe. Each of its 137 houses is a historical monument, but families live in all of them. Of the nine towers that rise above the spires and battlements, the most magnificent is the 64-meter clock tower with its dazzling tile roof. The clock works.

Wednesday and Saturday are especially good days to visit. Villagers in horse-drawn wagons clatter into market with home-grown fruit and vegetables, and jewelery, scarves and T-shirts of a distinctly Romanian or Gypsy style. Bargains abound.


The supposed birthplace of Vlad Ţepeş
If none of this matters to you more than the Dracula myth, you can visit the place where Vlad Tepes was born, a stout medieval homestead that now houses a beer hall and restaurant. And there, for a reasonable fee, you can have your portrait painted -- in your own blood.
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Think Fast - Test your first-aid skills with this quiz

  1. If a child swallows poison, give liquids.
  2. Put ice on a burn.
  3. Place a knocked-out tooth in milk.
  4. Only cuts longer than 2.5cm need stitches.
  5. Leave a chocking person as is.


Answers
  1. False. Call a doctor or hospital emergency instantly. Experts there can tell you whether to induce vomiting, give liquids, or stop worrying.
  2. False. Ice reduces blood flow, which can slow healing, "It also hurts like hell," says David Vukich at the American College of Emergency Physicians. Instead, run cool water on the burn for at least ten minutes. Then look at the spot: If it's blistered or charred, go to a hospital.
  3. True. Milk's minerals and consistency closely match the environment in your mouth. To have a good chance of saving the tooth, get to a dentist within 45 minutes.
  4. False. A cut can be short but deep and still require attention. If you can see into the cut or if bleeding doesn't stop after 15 minutes of applying direct pressure, call a doctor.
  5. True. But only if the person can speak or is coughing. If he isn't, he's not breathing. Call a doctor and perform the Heimlich manoeuvre: Link your arms slightly above his navel and pull up sharply.
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How to be more commanding

All set to confront, negotiate, or impress? Take care! These top ten distracting behaviours can cost you the upper hand:
  • Touching your hair
  • Licking your lips
  • Playing with rubber bands or paper clips
  • Twirling your moustache
  • Drumming your fingers
  • Clicking pens
  • Biting your fingernails
  • Tapping your feet
  • Picking your teeth
  • Repeatedly adjusting your glasses.
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A Real Heel

Women, you're not doing your legs any favours by wearing those fashionable wide-heeled shoes instead of stiletto pumps, according to Harvard researchers. Using a barefoot stride for comparison, the researchers recorded the jump in knee stress as 20 women walked in shoes. Heels at least five centimeters tall -- regardless of width -- boosted pressure by about 24%. The doctors say you're better off sticking with flats. » Continue reading

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Pet Poison Control

Preventing Pet PoisoningTo prevent a life-threatening situation for your pet, be aware of these common house-hold hazards:
  • Chocolate. In dogs, it can cause irregular heartbeat and seizures. Just 85 grams of chocolate can even kill a 10-kilo dog. Other paws-off foods: onions, onion powder, yeast dough and mouldy foods.
  • Plants. For dogs and cats, ingesting common plants can cause depression, tremors, even death. Among poisonous plants -- both indoor and outdoor varieties -- are castor bean (seeds), sago palm, dieffenbachia, rhododendron, azalea, oleander, hyacinth, lily and tulip. Also read Pets are at risk outside too for the symptoms of consuming poisonous outdoor plants.
  • Chemicals. Cleaning agents, lawn chemicals, rat poisons and automotive products should be kept completely out of reach. Just one teaspoonful of automobile coolant could kill a cat; less than one tablespoon could be lethal to a 10 kilo dog.
  • Medications. Administer pet medicines exactly as prescribed. And keep your own medications safely away.
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Tired? Water Works

Fatigue is an early sign of mild dehydration, according to experts. Staying on top of your liquid intake will keep you fresh. Though you can get a third to a half of your daily water needs from food, you still require eight-plus cups of fluid to feel right. Make sure at least five of them are water, say experts, and add a cup every time you down diuretics -- beverages that drain body fluids -- like coffee or liquor.

Also read
When do you need water?
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Breakup Predictors

Engagement, marriage or relationship breakup predictorsWant to know if a relationship will last? Ask the woman's friends. According to Christopher R. Agnew of Purdue University, USA, they're particularly astute. His team studied 74 couples and their friends. All were asked to judge the couple's commitment. Her friends proved better at predicting outcome than anyone, including couples themselves. » Continue reading

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Healing Power of Forgiveness

Forgive and forget. Most of us find the forgetting easier, but maybe we should work on the forgiving part. "Holding on to hurts and nursing grudges wears you down physically and emotionally," says Stanford University psychologist Fred Luskin, author of Forgive for Good. "Forgiving someone can be a powerful antidote."

In a recent study, Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, an assistant professor of psychology in Michigan, USA, and colleagues asked 71 volunteers to remember a past hurt. Tests recorded steep increases in blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension -- the same responses that occur when people are angry. (Research has linked anger and heart disease.) When the researchers asked volunteers to imagine empathizing and even forgiving the people who had wronged them, they remained calm by comparison.

What's more, forgiveness can be learnt, insists Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project. "We teach people to rewrite their story in their minds, to change from victim to hero. If the hurt is from a spouse's infidelity, we might encourage them to think of themselves not only as a person who was cheated on, but as the person who tried to keep the marriage together."

Two years ago Luskin put his method to the test on five women from Northern Ireland whose sons had been murdered. After undergoing a week of forgiveness training, the women's sense of hurt, measured using psychological test, had fallen by more than half. They were also much less likely to feel depressed and angry. "Forgiving isn't about condoning what happened," says Luskin. "It's about breaking free of the person who wronged us."

The early signs that forgiving improves overall health are promising: In 2001 a survey of 1423 adults by the University of Michigan's Institute for social research found that people who had forgiven someone in their past also reported being in better health than those who hadn't.

However: While 75 percent said they were sure God had forgiven them for past mistakes, only 52 percent had been able to find it in their hearts to forgive other. Forgiveness, it seems, is still divine.

Also read
Healing Power of Laughter

Coming shortly...
Healing Power of Music
Healing Power of Sleep
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Gentle Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia"Slovenia?" a would-be tourist might remark, "I don't think so. Haven't they just had a war?"

Well no, actually. Except for ten days in 1991 when Slobodan Milosevic sent troops in a futile bid to stop his smallest child from leaving the collapsing federal Yugoslav nest, this doughty little nation nestled on the sunny side of the Alps has seen no fighting and no terrorism.

Slovenia is the golden goose that got away. But in truth, it never really felt part of Yugoslavia. A thousand years of Austrian and Venetian domination have left their cultural imprint on its towns and villages; and with three distinct microclimates crammed into its 20,000 square kilometres, it can be an eerily convincing Italy, a bona fide Bavaria, even a plausible Provence, with the culinary trimmings to match.

Tromostovje and Prešeren Square, Ljubljana, SloveniaIn the markets of the tiny capital, Ljubljana (population, 270,000), bosomy grandmothers selling mounds of pale sauerkraut, pumpernickel and sausage vie with wiry peasants toting the lighter far of the Mediterranean world: goat's cheeses, aubergines and forest mushrooms. And all plucked form a countryside that runs the topological gamut from snowcapped mountains, through south-facing slopes awash in grape vines and wide plains smothered by sunflowers, to a sandy strip of Adriatic coast. "It's Europe in miniature," exults Steve Fish, an expatriate London businessman who markets golfing holidays.

It's actually a kinder, gentler Europe, which has long since disappeared elsewhere. In Ljubljana there's a refreshing lack of commercialism and a surfeit of civic pride. Baby spires and turrets peek up from postage-stamp squares and pocket handkerchief promenades. The river Ljubljanica is criss-crossed by a series of tiny white stone bridges and flanked by terraces of oversized dolls' houses whose pastel facades soothe strollers and waterside diners.

There are advantages to living in a time warp. There's no smiley theme park ethos in these parts. "Why try and improve on what God gave us?" asks a local cabinet minister. "It would be like sticking Disneyland on top of Everest."
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Better B-ware

You may be at risk of a vitamin B-12 deficiency. According to an American survey, scientists tested the blood of 2999 participants; 510 had B-12 levels low enough to put them in danger of suffering anaemia and nerve damage over time. Most multivitamins contain B-12. Good food sources include fish, eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals. » Continue reading

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Will the Lady in Red Get Away With It?

Test your sleuthing skills by reading the Five-Minute Mystery below from bestselling author Ken Weber. The solution is at the bottom.

"This letter proves that the government owes us, so when do we get the money? Can't you just tap something into your computer there and take care of it?"

The woman standing over Walter Banks wore a vivid red dress set off by an elegant gold necklace. As she spoke, her strident voice carried far down the hall of the Veterans Administration building.

Walter tried to compensate by speaking softly. "Can you tell me how you obtained this letter, Mrs..."

"Porch," the woman said. "Eviana Porch. I've told you that already." She paused to rein in her irritation. "The letter was written to my grandmother. I found it yesterday when I was cleaning out the attic."

She reached across Walter's desk and tapped the paper. "Take a look at the signature. It was sent to her by Pershing himself."

Walter had definitely noticed the name: Gen. J. J. Pershing (Ret). He'd been commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, and his name was all over the VA building. The signature was authentic, or else the best imitation he'd ever seen.

"Now read this paragraph here," Eviana said, tapping the paper again. Walter did.

Mustard gas was used at Argonne in 1918, as it was elsewhere during World War I. If your late husband was at Argonne as you say, with 91st division of Cameron's V Corps, then in my opinion you are eligible for a pension. It has been my custom to act on behalf of veterans' widows in these cases, but I have been retired from active service now for two years, since 1924, and therefore suggest you pursue this matter with your Congressman.


"I guess you owe us big-time," Eviana said. "With interest, too, because my grandmother never got one cent of pension."

Walter looked up at her. Clever, he thought, but not clever enough. The letter clearly was a fake.

How does Walter Banks know that Mrs Porch's letter is a fake?

Answer
Pershing allegedly wrote this letter in 1926, two years after his retirement. Not until World War II was the "Great War" of 1914-18 referred to as World War I.
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Purr-ly White Care

We wouldn't dream of not brushing our own teeth. So why aren't more of us brushing our pets' choppers? According to the veterinary scientist, oral disease is very common among older dogs and cats. It can lead to serious health problems, as well as painful tooth loss or gum disease. Yet it is easily preventable with home and vet care.

Start by dipping a baby toothbrush in warm water or in a vet prescribed mouthwash before brushing. Or you could dip a piece of cloth in salt and rub it over your pet's teeth. If the pet doesn't let you do either of these, hold a brush and allow it to chew on its bristles. Keep changing the direction of the brush at interval's.

Vets recommend that you clean your pets' teeth at least once a week.
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Keeping out the creatures

Want to keep your home from being invaded by roaches, ants and termites? Here's how:
  1. Trim back tree branches that overhang your roof. Many insects gain access to homes from tree limbs, and work their way in through small opening and vents.
  2. Keep leaves and other dead plant material 15 to 30 cms away from your home's outer walls. They retain moisture and attract pests.
  3. Look for tiny gaps around windows, at joints and corners, and between door-frames. Insects can easily squeeze through. If you see activity, spray insecticide into the cracks, let dry, and then close with a household seal. Even otherwie, just seal off cracks and gaps.
  4. Watch for insulation or sawdust-like debris around the house, in attics and in crawl spaces -- a possible sign that ants or termites are tunnelling through. Remove moisture sources and replace rotted wood or boards immediately.
  5. Call a pest-control company if you need to.
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Tripped Up By Summer Allergies?

Five ways to ease your misery.

The heat and dust of summer can be hard on may allergy sufferers. If you're one of the millions who's prone to allergies, follow the steps below to minimize your sneezing and wheezing.

Wait to work out. Avoid exercising outdoors in the early to midmorning hours, when pollen counts are highest.

Wash away pollen. Nightly shampooing rids hair of microscopic allergens, which can collect on your pillow and spark nighttime sneezing attacks and morning puffiness.

Shut windows. Use the air conditioning in the car and at home to reduce your exposure to dust and pollen.

Cover up. Wear a face mask when gardening, dusting, sweeping, and engaging in other activities that stir up pollen, mould and dust.

Take drugs early and often. Antihistamines and prescription nasal sprays work best when they are taken daily, before symptoms begin. Check with your doctor.
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Magical Moscow

When flying to Moscow sit near the front of the plane and get off ahead of the crowd. Have a folding stool, water bottle and a good book in hand. You'll need them at immigration as it could take up to 4 hours to get through.

As you drive into the city, you pass the shabby suburbs you expect after years of spy movies and Cold War indoctrination. In between are multinationals like IKEA and McDonalds. In the city centre, most buildings are marvelous pastry confections in milky ice-cream colours -- citron, pistachio, strawberry, cappuccino -- with frothy architectural flourishes. Even the infamous Lubjanka, HQ of the KGB in the bad old days, is a pretty canary yellow.

Onion domes of churches (their congregations now flooding back), some gold , some midnight blue; cafes in shady parks and interesting little squares; restaurants in alleys close to traffic; cold drinks for sale on every corner: before you reach the hotel all your preconceptions will be blow to bits. Moscow on a bright summer evening is magical.

The big boulevards carry eight lanes of traffic each way: to cross on foot, take the underground passages lined with stalls. A pedestrian light tests your courage. When the green man flashes you get about half a second before traffic is unleashed like a herd of bulls. No warning beepers on the metro, either. Doors slam shut and the train accelerates instantly.

Red Square is a hundred times more beautiful and impressive than you'd have ever imagined, especially St. Basil's Cathedral with its cluster of domes and spires.

Passenger boats ply the river, making frequent stops. A ride of an hour, will take you in the crenellated towers, golden domes and red-brick walls of the Kremlin -- citadel of the Czars, headquarters of the old Soviet Union, now the seat of government and home of the president.

Strolling along the Arbat, a pedestrian street dotted with stalls, souvenir shops, street acts and restaurants, you will never be pestered once, although there are lots of beggars. Although, more people give to them than elsewhere abroad.

The sun doesn't set until 10.30pm. In the evening you can visit an outdoor restaurant in the warm twilight with a trio of balailakas playing. Then, from your hotel room, watch the full moon rising over the Kremlin.

No doubt it's different in winter, but on a summer evening Moscow charms you to death. Just don't forget the airport. The line to get out can be just as long.
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Healing Power of Laughter

No joke - guffaws, giggles, chortles and snickers could be the prescription you need.

Ever heard the one about the doctor who gave his patient six months to live? When the man couldn't pay his bill, the doctor gave him another six months.

Go ahead, laugh. It's strong medicine, researchers are learning. Even the physical act is good for you, says William Fry, an American university professor who is a pioneer in laughter research. It increases blood flow and contracts abdominal muscles. A hundred belly laughs is the aerobic equivalent of ten mintues on a rowing-exercise machine, according to Fry.

But the benefits go beyound a workout. The most astonishing evidence of laughter's power comes from a 1997 study of 48 heart-attack patients. Half watched comedy shows for 30 mintues every day; the rest served as controls. After a year, ten patients in the control group had suffered repeat heart attacks, compared with only two in the group that watched the shows.

"Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress," says laughter expert Lee Berk of the University of California and co-author of the heart-attack study. In earlier research, Berk showed that watching a humorous video decreases levels of two key stress hormones that can cause irregular hear rhythms which may lead to heart attacks. Indeed, heart disease patients are often given drugs called beta-blockers specifically to block these hormones. "Laughter can do exactly the same thing," says Berk. "And it can be a lot more fun."

Can a good laugh help patients get well? In a landmark experiment at the University of California, called Rx Laughter, scientists plan to test the effect of laughter in children with serious illnesses, including cancer. Early results suggest that humorous videos help kids handle uncomfortable or painful procedures.

Justin Ybarra, 13, already knows that. he was in considerable pain when he woke up from surgery -- untill Bill Marx, son of the legendary Harpo Marx and a volunteer for Rx Laughter, appeared at his bedside. Marx told jokes, made faces and pranced around the hospital room.

"Having something to laugh at took my mind off the pain," says Justin. "When you're laughing, you can't help but feel better."

Coming shortly...
Healing Power of Forgiveness
Healing Power of Music
Healing Power of Sleep
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Flight Rules

For safety's sake and to ease your way through the airport, remember the following:
  • Check your flight status before you go to the airport -- schedules change more these days.
  • If you're taking a flight after a stopover, reconfirm your onward booking a day in advance.
  • Allow at least an hour for check-in on domestic flights, three for international trips.
  • Fly in the mornings -- takeoffs are less likely to be slowed by earlier delays. (One famous exception: foggy New Delhi in winter!)
  • For a good ID, take your driver's license or passport with you.
  • Check heavy stuff. Assume carry-ons will be scrutinized. The less you carry, the faster you'll get through.
  • Don't wrap gifts. You may have to unwrap and show them to security.
  • Leave knives, scissors, nail clippers, tweezers, screwdrivers, knitting needles, toy guns at home or pack them in checked luggage.
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Foods that fight aging

Foods for health that prevent aging - green leafy vegetablesYes, sun ages skin. Yet some people are wrinkle-free while others look like prunes. The difference may be a good diet.

Australian scientists tracked eating habits and measured wrinkles of 450 people over 70 years old who lived in Australia, Greece and Sweden. Invariably, those with good diets had the best skin. Greeks who ate green leafy vegetable, olive oil, garlic and beans had baby-bottom cheeks compared with compatriots who favoured processed meat, sugary foods and butter. Aussies who sipped tea and dined on melons, sardines, asparagus, apples, prunes and multigrain bread fared best. So did Swedes who said ja to skim milk, eggs, low-fat yogurt, lima beans and spinach pie and nej to raos beef, friend potatoes, ice cream, pastries and aerated soft drinks.

The resulting advice is sound whether you're worried about your skin, waistline or heart: Replace foods high in saturated fats with fruit and vegetable, fish, beans, olive oil, whole grains and low fat dairy products.
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Hotel Rates: New Deals Daily

Prices of rooms used to be dictated by the seasons. Today hotels are using "yield management," the same system airlines use to ensure their seats don't go empty. Some tips:
  • Hotel chains periodically offer special promotions. Check newspapers. And if you book early, you may get a beter discount.
  • To learn more about hotels in different cities, visit hotel websites like www.hoteldiscounts.com.
  • At check-in, Ed Perkins of the American Society of Travel Agents says: "Politely ask, 'Can you upgrade my room?' A hotel would rather have a happy customer than an empty room." Dare to bargain.
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How long does it take to train before you get any benefits?

How long does it take to workout before you get any results?It may take a month or two before aerobic workouts get noticeably easier, but you'll shed weight within a week. And your strength will sharpen: Studies done at a US university demonstrate that muscle responds to weight-lifting after only four sessions. It gets better: Recent research suggests reduced stress, a rosier outlook, more confidence, better sex, sounder sleep all kick in after one workout. » Continue reading

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Programmed to Care

Robots on wheels may one day help elderly people. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, Nursebots are being designed to carry dishes and other household items, remind patients to take medications, monitor movement to prevent falls, and provide a video link to outside professionals.

As baby boomers age, a shortage of caregivers is expected, says Sebastian Thrun of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. Some of the slack can be taken up by personal assistants like this prototype (left), whose "face" includes eyes with lids that open and close, and eyebrows that tilt up and down It can respond to simple questions ("What's on TV?"), and nod or shake its head. Circular "ears" twirl slowly when it's thinking." The robot -- commercially viable perhaps within a decade -- is already scoring high on a test run with some senior citizens near Pittsburgh.

Also read
Robots have already proven to be killer machines
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Adventure Site to Save

Thought of a budget, adventure trip to exotic places like Bhutan, Leh, Kerala's rain forests, Arunachal Pradesh, Burma or Sikkim? Check out www.explorersindia.com. » Continue reading

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Pray Mates

75% of people who pray with their spouses often describe their marriages as "very happy" (compared with 57% of those who don't), according to a survey of 657 couples by sociologist Andrew Greeley. Those who pray are also more likely to rate their spouses as skilled lovers. » Continue reading

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Steer Clear of Hotel Phones!

Way to beat the rip-off

Hotels usually overcharge on phone calls made from your room. To save money:
  • Use the neighbourhood PCO
  • Use a lobby pay-phone, if your hotel has one.
  • Use a cell phone. Before leaving home, make sure your mobile has a roaming option, either with your regular billing plan or prepaid card.
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Stretching not a good warmup for exercise

Stretching not a good warmup for workoutThough you see people doing them, toe touches and calf stretches won't prepare your muscles for a workout. The only way to warm up, say experts, is with light aerobic exercise: walking, easy jogging, or stationary cycling, for example. Do this for five to ten minutes, and you're good to go. Muscles are like toffee -- when cold, they're stiff and can tear if you overextend them. But they're pliable once the blood is pumping.

In fact, you can save stretching for post exercise. But don't skip it; the range of motion that limbering up supplies protects against injury and makes your next workout easier. When you do stretch, hold each position steady for ten to thirty seconds.
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Once upon a Mattress

Men and women fret differently.

According to a survey by home furnishings retailer IKEA, the top five worries keeping people awake at night are:

Men
  1. Fear of aging
  2. Own weight
  3. Wife's weight
  4. Career
  5. Personal finance

Women
  1. Personal finance
  2. World issues
  3. Children
  4. Friends' health
  5. Fear of aging


Moreover, 61% of men reported they sleep better with their dog in bed. But having Rover in the sack is annoying to most women, who'd prefer to let sleeping dogs lie elsewhere.
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High-Tech Airport Crime

Millions of travelers never have trouble, but thieves are out there -- especially in international airports. Watch out for "shoulder surfers" -- one crook pretends to videotape friends while zooming in over your shoulder to steal your mobile phone or credit-card numbers. Another trick: One thief stalls the metal-detector line with keys, change and other metallic objects, distracting everyone while an accomplice steals carry-ons from the other end of the conveyor belt. » Continue reading

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Do you know WHO is Thoof?

It has been reported that Thoof is spreading wildly within the blogosphere and there have been lots of rumors about the meaning of the word "Thoof". I couldn't digest any of the explanations and so I took the next flight out to Egypt to research on the word in St. Catherine Monastry's Library. After going through tons of books over a period of 14 sleepless days, I finally succeeded in finding out the meaning of the term "Thoof".

It turned out to be the name of a mythological giant man-dog which lived in Rome between c.1025 BC and c.32 BC and played an important role in Julius Caesar's civil war. Thoof had the body of a dog but the mind and speaking ability of a human being. Thoof was named Thoof because he had a nasty habit of showering saliva (Thook in Hindi) from his mouth while barking. It seems he was named so by his master who was an Indian immigrant living in Hispania.

During the years in which he lived, there were no news channels or blogosphere that provided information to people. So, he became famous for providing personalized news to individuals. It is said that Thoof provided vital news about the opposition party's strategies to both Caesar and Pompey.

What I found most interesting about Thoof was that he was gifted with the ability to prioritize news according to its relevance to the individual person's interests and the number of people who liked listening to the news, using a highly sophisticated and complex algorithm during those times called ThoofRank.

The founders of Thoof.com are commendable for choosing a name with such a deep meaning, which is highly relevant to their service and yet unique. And unlike the man-dog this Thoof can spread the news across the globe and hopefully will never die!

If you already don't know... Thoof.com also has the ability to prioritize news according to its relevance to your interests and the number of people who liked reading that news item. And if you have asked Thoof to spread your news item to the world, don't forget to append a ThoofRank Badge to your post or news item for readers to inform Thoof that they liked reading your news.

One thing I still don't understand is their revenue model. How do the founders plan to make a living out of it? Or are the founders planning to do some social service by making this social bookmarking service ads-free - the delicious way?
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