Sunday, 27 January 2013

Feather her Nest ~ Santa Barbara Baby Shower - Melissa Musgrove

My niece Kelly is having her first baby, and I was delighted, with the help of my sister Sydney, to throw her a baby shower in my home. She and her husband chose not to find out the sex of the baby, so we didn?t do a pink or blue theme. Since her family and friends are helping to ?feather her nest? I thought it would be cute have a bird themed baby shower.

A special thank you to my dear friend Nico for sending over his design team with bird cages, twigs, daffodils, birds nests, faux eggs, white vases and blue mercury glass. Up for an international design award, Nico was in Chicago, but insisted on sending his talented team over to help with the decor.

Kelly with her Grammy and and Mom, Sharon. (My big brother?s wife)

My sister Sydney, made most of the food. Tuna, and ham & cheese wraps, potato salad, deviled eggs (bird theme), chilled green bean vinaigrette . I didn?t have room at my dining room table for everyone, so we wanted mostly finger foods that would be easy to eat off a plate in your lap.

I bought some unpainted wooden bird houses at Michael?s craft store?, painted them white, and hot glued them to this twisty branch. (Thank you Tenley for loaning me the branch) It?s been so long since I had a glue gun in my hands. It was fun to be crafty.

I printed the table tent menu cards on my printer and hot glued these cute little nests to each of them.

Kelly and me.

I had the cupcake tree. I bought it at Pottery Barn in Santa Barbara last year. It was perfect to display our dessert. I?ve learned well from my event planner friends to use dessert as one of the key elements in your design. Give it a table of it?s own in an area where it will stand out.

I made chocolate and vanilla cupcakes and frosted them with cream cheese frosting and toasted some coconut to look like a nest. I used Jordan almonds as the bird eggs. Again, Michaels comes through with the grass printed cupcake liners.

Kelly didn?t want to do any shower games. But while we all sat in a circle about to open gifts I asked everyone to make a guess about the sex of the baby. My guess is it?s a boy. I?m sure it will be, because I have ESP.

After the party, on the way out the door, we had pretzels (twigs) for party favors. A little messy to make, but worth the effort. Dip pretzel rods halfway up the pretzel in melted caramel, let cool and dip into melted white chocolate. While wet, roll in chopped peanuts and almonds. You can buy the chocolate for melting and the pretzel bags at Michaels. Another great resource for crafts is

I had such a great time planning and enjoying Kelly?s Santa Barbara Baby Shower. Thank you so much to our family that flew in from Philadelphia, and to our local friends that feel like family. We love you all.

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Armstrong to help "clean up cycling"

FILE - In this July 19, 2009, file photo, Lance Armstrong crosses the finish line during the 15th stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Verbier, Switzerland. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France during a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, reversing more than a decade of denial. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours, File)

FILE - In this July 19, 2009, file photo, Lance Armstrong crosses the finish line during the 15th stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Verbier, Switzerland. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France during a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, reversing more than a decade of denial. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours, File)

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, file photo provided by Harpo Studios Inc., Lance Armstrong listens as he is interviewed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France cycling during the interview that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, reversing more than a decade of denial. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc., George Burns, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) ? An attorney for Lance Armstrong told the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency the cyclist will cooperate with efforts to "clean up cycling," though it's the sport's governing body and world anti-doping officials who should take the lead.

In letters sent this week between attorneys for Armstrong and USADA, and obtained by The Associated Press, USADA attorney William Bock requested Armstrong testify under oath by Feb. 6, but the cyclist's attorney, Tim Herman, responds that Armstrong cannot accommodate that schedule.

Last week, Armstrong admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France seven times.

Herman's letter said Armstrong intends to appear before the International Cycling Union's planned "truth and reconciliation" commission.

Herman says the cycling union and the World Anti-Doping Agency should take the lead in cleaning up the sport.

"As you have candidly confirmed, USADA has no authority to investigate, prosecute or otherwise involve itself with the other 95 percent of cycling competitors. Thus, in order to achieve the goal of 'cleaning up cycling,' it must be WADA and the UCI who have overall authority to do so."

The letter from USADA also confirms a Dec. 14 meeting in Denver between Bock, USADA CEO Travis Tygart, Herman and Armstrong.

"Mr. Armstrong has already been provided well over a month since our meeting in December to consider whether he is going to be part of our ongoing efforts to clean up the sport of cycling," Tygart said in a statement. "He has been given a deadline of February 6th to determine whether he plans to come in and be part of the solution. Either way, USADA is moving forward with our investigation on behalf of clean athletes."

Armstrong has been banned for life and, in his interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, said he would like to compete again.

Bock's letter does not mention the ban, though Armstrong's full cooperation could lead to a reduction, perhaps to eight years, which would allow Armstrong to compete in 2020, when he'll be 49.

Associated Press


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Friday, 25 January 2013

Why you need to think about Christmas cards in February | Profitable ...

  • Santa Claus
  • Rudolph and the sleigh
  • The Christmas tree
  • Carols
  • Snowy scenes

Why on earth am I encouraging you to think about Christmas in February?

Christmas should never be far from a print company?s mind ? expecially when it comes to cards

I recently wrote an article about how to kill customer relationships with Christmas cards.? One of the key pieces of feedback that I received is that many printers choose not to send cards in December.? They feel that the impact of the cards is lost because so many other people are sending them.

Some printers choose to send out cards at other time of the year, including Easter and at key holiday times.? They feel that their cards stood out more at this time.

Printers should think about cards all through the year

Otherwise they may lose keeping in touch with clients and prospects in an engaging way.

Print companies that use cards as a communication strategy will begin to establish a new level of customer relationship.? It will help them with control over customer communications.? That means they have a much better chance of achieving their sales targets.

Companies that ignore cards may struggle to achieve the same sales.? They are unlikely to have a high level of customer engagement.? So that means less control over their sales pipeline.? And it means less effective relationships with customers and prospects.

To have the right relationships cards should be part of how you communicate with your customers and prospects.? Here are three ways to make sure they work.? The first is all to do with planning.

Use cards as part of a constant engagement plan

You should aim to communicate with your customers in many different ways (at least until you know their preferred ways).? The trouble is that we are all used to phone calls and e-mail and even mail-shots.? We often tune out of these messages.? Good cards will definitely stand out because they are different.

But they only work if you manage them in the right way.

Make sure you are personal with cards

Cards should be hand-written and contain a personal message.? Your client or prospect needs to realise that you really are thinking about them.? They need to know that you care about them.? So a birthday card or a thank you card makes the message even more personal.

It goes without saying that the card should exhibit the best of your printing.? But you can do more than just send a personal, well printed card.

Send something extra with the card

People love a little extra.? It doesn?t have to be expensive.? You could include some artistic postcards.? Or you could enclose a few sweets.

One Welsh printer I know used to send me a bunch of daffodils with a card on St David?s Day (St David is the patron saint of Wales).? It made the card personal to them as they celebrated their own heritage.? And the gesture has stuck in my mind over the years.

However, some people are not so convinced of cards being worthwhile.

Do cards really work?

If you communicate only by card then you may not be communicating with a client or prospect as efficiently as you might be!? Cards should be regarded as part of the general mix of keeping in touch.

To get the best out of them, there?s something else you should remember with cards.

Get other staff to sign your cards too

It?s a great way for more people at your company to be personally engaged with clients and prospects.? Your company will come across as a caring company.

So there is really no excuse not to be sending cards to key clients and prospects.

Here are three things you need to do to get going

  1. Review your Christmas cards.? What did people think about them?? Were they as good as they might have been.? Apply the lessons to the cards you send in 2013.
  2. Create a customer engagement plan.? How will you communicate with customers in 2013?
  3. Make sure cards are part of the engagement plan.

Maybe it isn?t such a strange idea to be thinking about Christmas cards right now

But you can safely leave the rest of your Christmas planning until later in the year!
P.S.? This is just one of dozens of tips that you?ll get from the Profitable Print Rleationships newsletter.? Sign up right now to receive ?Ten Common Print Buying Errors and What To Do About Them? and to make sure you receive similar articles to this.

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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Chameleon star baffles astronomers

Jan. 24, 2013 ? Pulsars ? tiny spinning stars, heavier than the sun and smaller than a city ? have puzzled scientists since they were discovered in 1967.

Now, new observations by an international team, including University of Vermont astrophysicist Joanna Rankin, make these bizarre stars even more puzzling.

The scientists identified a pulsar that is able to dramatically change the way in which it shines. In just a few seconds, the star can quiet its radio waves while at the same time it makes its X-ray emissions much brighter.

The research ?challenges all proposed pulsar emission theories,? the team writes in the Jan. 25 edition of the journal Science and reopens a decades-old debate about how these stars work.

Unexpected X-rays

Like the universe?s most powerful lighthouses, pulsars shine beams of radio waves and other radiation for trillions of miles. As these highly magnetized neutron stars rapidly rotate, a pair of beams sweeps by, appearing as flashes or pulses in telescopes on Earth.

Using a satellite X-ray telescope, coordinated with two radio telescopes on the ground, the team observed a pulsar that was previously known to flip on and off every few hours between strong (or ?bright?) radio emissions and weak (or ?quiet?) radio emissions.

Monitoring simultaneously in X-rays and radio waves, the team revealed that this pulsar exhibits the same behaviour, but in reverse, when observed at X-ray wavelengths.

This is the first time that a switching X-ray emission has been detected from a pulsar.

Flipping between these two extreme states ? one dominated by X-ray pulses, the other by a highly organized pattern of radio pulses ? ?was very surprising,? says Rankin.

?As well as brightening in the X-rays we discovered that the X-ray emission also shows pulses, something not seen when the radio emission is bright,? said Rankin, who spearheaded the radio observations. ?This was completely unexpected.?

No current model of pulsars is able to explain this switching behavior. All theories to date suggest that X-ray emissions would follow radio emissions. Instead, the new observations show the opposite. ?The basic physics of a pulsar have never been solved,? Rankin says.

Looking for the switch

The research was conceived by a small team then working at the University of Amsterdam, including UVM?s Rankin, who has studied this pulsar, known as PSR B0943+10, for more than a decade; Wim Hermsen from SRON, the Netherlands Institute for Space Research in Utrecht, and the lead author on the new paper; Ben Stappers from the University of Manchester, UK; and Geoff Wright from Sussex University, UK.

These researchers were joined by colleagues from institutions around the world to conduct simultaneous observations with the European Space Agency?s X-ray satellite, XMM-Newton, and two radio telescopes, the Giant Meter Wave Telescope (GMRT) in India and the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands, to reveal this pulsar?s so-far unique behavior.

?There is a general agreement about the origin of the radio emission from pulsars: it is caused by highly energetic electrons, positrons and ions moving along the field lines of the pulsar's magnetic field,? explains Wim Hermsen.

?How exactly the particles are stripped off the neutron star's surface and accelerated to such high energy, however, is still largely unclear,? he adds.

By studying the emission from the pulsar at different wavelengths, the team?s study had been designed to discover which of various possible physical processes take place in the vicinity of the magnetic poles of pulsars.

Instead of narrowing down the possible mechanisms suggested by theory, however, the results of the team?s observing campaign challenge all existing models for pulsar emission. Few astronomical objects are as baffling as pulsars, and despite nearly fifty years of study, they continue to defy theorists? best efforts.

Of the more than 2,000 pulsars discovered to date, a number of them have erratic behavior, with emissions that can become weak or disappear in a matter of seconds but then suddenly return minutes or hours later.

B0943+10 is one of these erratic stars. Discovered at Pushchino Radio Astronomical Observatory near Moscow, ?this star has two very different personalities,? that were uncovered by Svetlana Suleymanova in the 1980s, says Rankin.

?But we?re still in the dark about what causes this, and other pulsars, to switch modes,? Rankin says. ?We just don?t know.?

?But the fact that the pulsar keeps memory of its previous state and goes back to it,? says Hermsen, ?suggests that it must be something fundamental."

Recent studies indicate that the switch between ?radio-bright? and ?radio-quiet? states is correlated to the pulsar's dynamics. As pulsars rotate, their spinning period slows down gradually, and in some cases the slow-down process has been observed to accelerate and slow down again, in conjunction with the pulsar switching between bright and quiet states.

This correlation between a pulsar?s rotation and its emission has led astronomers to wonder about a connection between the star?s surface and the much-larger surrounding magnetosphere, which may extend up for 30,000 miles.

These new observations ?strongly suggest that a temporary ?hotspot? appears close to the pulsar?s magnetic pole which switches on and off with the change of state,? says Geoff Wright, one of the team?s astronomers from the University of Sussex.

But the new results also suggest that something in the whole magnetosphere is changing suddenly and not just at the poles or other hotspots. ?Something is happening globally,? Rankin says, across the whole star.

In order for the radio emission to vary so radically on the short timescales observed, the pulsar's global environment must undergo a very rapid ? and reversible ? transformation.

?If that is true, it means the entire magnetosphere is alive and connected in very important ways,? Rankin says, allowing a change in the pulsar?s basic mode of shining in about one second, less time than it takes it to spin once on its axis.

?Since the switch between a pulsar's bright and quiet states links phenomena that occur on local and global scales, a thorough understanding of this process could clarify several aspects of pulsar physics,? says Hermsen. ?Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to explain it.?

No model works

The team planned to search for the same pattern in X-rays that has been observed in radio waves ? to investigate what causes this switching behavior. They chose as their subject PSR B0943+10, a pulsar that is well known for its switching behavior at radio wavelengths and for its X-ray emission, which is brighter than might be expected for its age.

?Young pulsars shine brightly in X-rays because the surface of the neutron star is still very hot. But PSR B0943+10 is five million years old, which is relatively old for a pulsar: the neutron star's surface has cooled down by then,? explains Hermsen.

Astronomers know of only a handful of old pulsars that shine in X-rays and believe that this emission comes from the magnetic poles ? the sites on the neutron star's surface where the acceleration of charged particles is triggered. ?We think that, from the polar caps, accelerated particles either move outwards to the magnetosphere, where they produce radio emission, or inwards, bombarding the polar caps and creating X-ray-emitting hot-spots,? Hermsen adds.

There are two main models that describe these processes, depending on whether the electric and magnetic fields at play allow charged particles to escape freely from the neutron star's surface. In both cases, it has been argued that the emission of X-rays follows that of radio waves.

Monitoring the pulsar in X-rays and radio waves at the same time, the astronomers hoped to be able to discern between the two models.

?The X-ray emission of pulsar PSR B0943+10 beautifully mirrors the switches that are seen at radio wavelengths but, to our surprise, the correlation between these two emissions appears to be inverse: when the source is at its brightest in radio waves, it reaches its faintest in X-rays, and vice versa,? says Hermsen.

The new data also show that the source pulsates in X-rays only during the X-ray-bright phase ? which corresponds to the quiet state at radio wavelengths. During this phase, the X-ray emission appears to be the sum of two components: a pulsating component consisting of thermal X-rays, which is seen to switch off during the X-ray-quiet phase, and a persistent one consisting of non-thermal X-rays.

Neither of the leading models for pulsar emission predicts such behavior.

In the second half of 2013, the team plans to repeat the same study for another pulsar, PSR B1822+09, which exhibits similar radio emission properties but with a different geometry.

In the meantime, these observations will keep theoretical astrophysicists busy investigating possible physical mechanisms that could cause the sudden and drastic changes to the pulsar's entire magnetosphere and result in such a curious flip in how they shine.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Vermont. The original article was written by Joshua E. Brown.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. W. Hermsen, J. W. T. Hessels, L. Kuiper, J. van Leeuwen, D. Mitra, J. de Plaa, J. M. Rankin, B. W. Stappers, G. A. E. Wright, R. Basu, A. Alexov, T. Coenen, J.- M. Griessmeier, T. E. Hassall, A. Karastergiou, E. Keane, V. I. Kondratiev, M. Kramer, M. Kuniyoshi, A. Noutsos, M. Serylak, M. Pilia, C. Sobey, P. Weltevrede, K. Zagkouris, A. Asgekar, I. M. Avruch, F. Batejat, M. E. Bell, M. R. Bell, M. J. Bentum, G. Bernardi, P. Best, L. Birzan, A. Bonafede, F. Breitling, J. Broderick, M. Bruggen, H. R. Butcher, B. Ciardi, S. Duscha, J. Eisloffel, H. Falcke, R. Fender, C. Ferrari, W. Frieswijk, M. A. Garrett, F. de Gasperin, E. de Geus, A. W. Gunst, G. Heald, M. Hoeft, A. Horneffer, M. Iacobelli, G. Kuper, P. Maat, G. Macario, S. Markoff, J. P. McKean, M. Mevius, J. C. A. Miller-Jones, R. Morganti, H. Munk, E. Orru, H. Paas, M. Pandey-Pommier, V. N. Pandey, R. Pizzo, A. G. Polatidis, S. Rawlings, W. Reich, H. Rottgering, A. M. M. Scaife, A. Schoenmakers, A. Shulevski, J. Sluman, M. Steinmetz, M. Tagger, Y. Tang, C. Tasse, S. ter Veen, R. Vermeulen, R. H. van de Brink, R. J. van Weeren, R. A. M. J. Wijers, M. W. Wise, O. Wucknitz, S. Yatawatta, P. Zarka. Synchronous X-ray and Radio Mode Switches: A Rapid Global Transformation of the Pulsar Magnetosphere. Science, 2013; 339 (6118): 436 DOI: 10.1126/science.1230960

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Movie Review: 'Mama,' and 'The Last Stand' - Centreville, VA Patch


January ? everyone knows it is when the mediocre to the truly awful hobble off to die a quick death?after beating each other senseless for a quick buck in the box office arena. When a film gets slated for release it is because there are no other contenders to fight for those dollars, or it won't survive any other time anyway.?

After all, everyone with any sense is scrambling to see the Oscar nominees. So one approaches January movies with a mix of optimism and dread. Two genre-specific movies are being released this week. If you are a fan of horror or ultra-violent action flicks, the studios are expecting you to gravitate away from those Oscar-nominated and towards these unproven offerings.?

The Last Stand is a "comeback" vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger directed by Korean auteur Jee-woon Kim in his first American film. Mama is produced by Guillermo Del Toro, offering a feature-length version of director Andres Muschietti's impressive terror-filled short of the same name, and stars box office and indie darling Jessica Chastain.?

While both movies have their strengths, they both fall significantly short of filmgoers' expectations, and neither rise far above the usual January fare.?
Mama is respectably creepy but uneven from the start, and ultimately unsatisfying and muddled.?The Last Stand, which should be far more ashamed of itself,? amounts to just so much NRA porn. ?

The film Mama starts off well enough. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays a husband who snaps, killing his wife and running away with his two small daughters, whom he intends to kill as well. ?The something or someone who (surprise! ?not a spoiler as it's in the trailer) kills him instead, leaves his kids alone in a cabin to fend for themselves.?

Five years later, they are discovered subsisting on cherries and bark, and placed with his (it is assumed, but not stated) twin brother, also played, the script allows, in true soap-opera fashion, by Coster-Waldau. His bass-playing, rock and roll girlfriend played by Chastain, sporting a black-dyed blunt cut, heavy mascara, and band tats, is expected to dutifully fall in as foster mom. ?

Did something unearthly come to live with them and these now creepy, grunting, feral kids? The rest of the movie seeks to answer that question and why. ?It too often stumbles into the world of cliches to maintain the arty European horror aesthetic that is clearly its inspiration and aspiration. Fans of Del Toro expecting something in line with the modern classics he directed, Cronos or The Devil's Backbone, might be vaguely satisfied at first but will find too little tension building and too little story evolving to place it in the same cinematic strata.? ?

There has been a movement lately of A list actors taking on horror roles that offer more diversity to their filmography, and sometimes it pays off in a great fresh new take on an old ghost or murder story. The trouble is if a movie wants to play in the big pool with the big boys, it has to have enough water. By the inexplicable ending, this one dries up like a desiccated moth, many live ones of which are batting their creepy quivering wings on the camera, close up, throughout the film. ?

Chastain is Mama's brightest spot, usurping attention from the two surprisingly compelling child actors.? She exposes her character's fears, showing us an arc from reticence to acceptance of motherhood. The audience is witness to her self-discovery, which keeps us rooting through scenes that were written more compellingly in ghost movies like The Woman in White, The Innocents?and its remake, The Others. ?

Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), whom I've loved as an actor since the great Danish thriller Nightwatch and the pre-vamp fad vamp show New Amsterdam, does his best with very little screen time, much of which is spent in thanklessly trite action. Too bad, because I still expect great things from him. It is Chastain who creates, in the audience, compassion and a desire to see them survive to become a family living in safety and love. ?

By the time the ending blasts onto the screen, we've been creeped but cliched out. What might have been a great twist is wasted. Back to the drawing board for all those involved. No harm, no foul. For a passible diversion and a bit of a scare, it will do. Is that worth $12?? You decide.

Far more troubling, is the mind-numbingly violent bigotfest The Last Stand.? This vehicle for Arnold Swartzenegger's comeback has him holding big guns and spouting one liners again, which he does with affable aplomb. To say that he is one of the better aspects of the movie is a more terrifying proposition than anything in Mama. ?

Director Kim Ji-woon's stylized take on a blood-soaked action-er has its charms.? He uses lovely camera angles, inventive lighting and interestingly composed shots, especially during car chase scenes and showdowns in which he obviously wishes to evoke a topsy turvy '80s version of High Noon. ?

The script is so full of cliched dialogue, it made Cinema Siren want to start a petition to ban the lines "Let's DO this!" "You wanna play? Let's play!" and "Game ON!" from films in the future.?

The representation of Latino and Latina characters is shockingly one-dimensional.? The drug cartel jokes about border control, the reluctant deputy whines about getting involved, and the arc written for the female agent taken hostage will likely equally puzzle and piss off most women in the audience. I am going to ignore the fact that Forest Whitaker is in this film. I love him and always will, no matter what movies he inexplicably chooses to support with his monumental talent.

As to violence, it goes way too far. By the time the movie is over, the audience will feel like they've been through war. So many secondary characters get shot in the head, it's like we are all sitting in the back of Vince and Jules' brain splattered car in Pulp Fiction.

Most troubling is the violent extremes the film goes to, without any substantive reason. At one point, a large group of policemen get machine gunned to death. ?While censorship in movies is the last thing Cinema Siren supports, it is valid to ask why filmmakers feel it's OK to show a whole stationhouse full of policemen riddled? by machine gun bullets. If children are still sacred in film, why are policemen the new and acceptable sacrificial lambs? We should perhaps question the necessity to use that particular circumstance as a plot device to manipulate the audience's sympathy. ?

This movie does gun lobbyists proud. ?There is even a gun-toting grandma who gets into the action. The audience laughed. Maybe you will, too. Maybe you don't mind a body count in the dozens, with blood splatter becoming as ubiquitous as the cliched one-liners. As for myself and any discerning movie fans, let me suggest there are less offensive flicks starring Scharzenegger on Netflix. This movie doesn't deserve your dollars. ?

This is Cinema Siren guiding you through a sea of celluloid. Listen. It's January.? Pace yourselves. There will be plenty of great, empty-headed films waiting for you come Memorial Day. For now, either venture out to one of the great movies nominated for Oscars:?Argo, Lincoln, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, or Zero Dark Thirty, or stay home, and see an old action classic.? ?

There is plenty to keep you busy until the Oscars on Feb. 24. Until then, the less blood splatter and moth flutter, the happier I suspect you'll be.?


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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

U.S. to lift ban on women in front-line combat jobs: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military's ban on women serving in combat, a move that could open thousands of front-line warfighting jobs to female service members, a senior U.S. defense official said.

The move was welcomed by U.S. Senator Carl Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said it reflected the "reality of 21st century military operations," and by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a suit in November seeking to force the Pentagon to end the ban.

"This is an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation," said Senator Patty Murray.

The decision, expected to be formally announced later, would give the individual military services until 2016 to seek an exemption if they believe any jobs should remain closed to women, a defense official said. It was unclear when the change would go into effect.

"This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop a plan to implement this decision, which was made by the secretary of defense upon recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," the official said.

The decision overturns a 1994 policy that prevents women from serving in small front-line combat units.

It comes nearly a year after the Pentagon unveiled a policy that opened 14,000 new jobs to women but continued to prohibit them from serving in infantry, armor and special operations units whose main function was to engage in front-line combat.

Asked last year why women who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan conducting security details and house-to-house searches were still being formally barred from combat positions, Pentagon officials said the services wanted to see how they performed in the new positions before opening up further.

About 2 percent of U.S. deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have been women. Some 280,000 women have been deployed to the war zones over the past decade, about 12 percent of the U.S. total.

Defense officials noted that 10 years of combat had made it clear that some of the military's gender-based restrictions were obsolete because the battlefields faced by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan had no clear front lines and no obvious ways to limit exposure to the fighting.

"This policy has become irrelevant given the modern battlespace with its nonlinear boundaries," the Defense Department said in a report to Congress.

More than 200,000 women serve as active duty members of the military, including more than 37,000 officers.

(Reporting By David Alexander and Phil Stewart; Editing by Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman)


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Monday, 21 January 2013

Building Muscle: Protein | Care2 Healthy Living

  • Health Guru
  • January 20, 2013
  • 5:30 am
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Need a quick tip on choosing the best foods that'll help you build muscle? Watch this! Related Link: Want Protein? Eat Your Veggies

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Videos

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Why We Write in Coffee Shops ? Writing Out Loud

It used to be with a typewriter in a garret, but now the image of the writer is of the corner table at a Starbucks with laptop and latte. Pre-industrial writers locked themselves away in?monasteries? Ok, not exactly the order of events but you get the picture?writers who get away from their homes and hide away to suffer the pains of writing in silence.

It may seem counter-intuitive?that the coffee-house writer is locked away alone when they are surrounded by the hubbub of a busy place. Yet it is that hubbub white noise that protects the writer. In a crowd, one can actually be solitary and observing.

And even better, the coffee shop writer has some wonderful benefits that go beyond the easy access to snacks and drinks. ?There?s no laundry to be done, or desk to be cleaned out, or pets that need petting, or any of the million of distractions that are hard to ignore at home. ?Because at home, we have a limited amount of time to get things cleaned and organized and family to make happy. ?It?s much harder to put those distractions aside when they are right there in your face demanding attention.

The coffee-shop writer does have other hazards that might not be there at home. ?The food and drink that?s so easily available is expensive and generally not very good for you. ?The wifi is generally just as ubiquitous and hard to turn off as at home. ?You can?t control the temperature of the room, or the comfort level of the seating. ?There will be days where the place is filled with screaming children, adults yelling into cell phones, people who interrupt your work to ask how you can possibly be working in this place, and the like.

Still, I like writing in coffee shops. ?I don?t drink coffee and avoid the pastries, but I always try to buy something and am extra nice to the staff for the?privilege?of taking a table for a few hours.


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Sunday, 20 January 2013

Warmer soils release additional CO2 into atmosphere; Effect stabilizes over longer term

Jan. 20, 2013 ? Warmer temperatures due to climate change could cause soils to release additional carbon into the atmosphere, thereby enhancing climate change - but that effect diminishes over the long term, finds a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, from UNH professor Serita Frey and co-authors from the University of California-Davis and the Marine Biological Laboratory, sheds new light on how soil microorganisms respond to temperature and could improve predictions of how climate warming will affect the carbon dioxide flux from soils.

The activities of soil microorganisms release 10 times the carbon dioxide that human activities do on a yearly basis. Historically, this release of carbon dioxide has been kept in check by plants' uptake of the gas from the atmosphere. However, human activities are potentially upsetting this balance.

Frey and co-authors Johan Six and Juhwan Lee of UC-Davis and Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory were curious how increased temperatures due to climate change might alter the amount of carbon released from soils. "While they're low on the charisma scale, soil microorganisms are so critically important to the carbon balance of the atmosphere," Frey says.

"If we warm the soil due to climate warming, are we going to fundamentally alter the flux of carbon into the atmosphere in a way that is going to feed back to enhance climate change?"

Yes, the researchers found. And no.

The study examined the efficiency of soil organisms - how completely they utilize food sources to maintain their cellular machinery - depending upon the food source and the temperature under two different scenarios. In the first short-term scenario, these researchers found that warming temperatures had little effect on soils' ability to use glucose, a simple food source released from the roots of plants. For phenol, a more complex food source common in decomposing wood or leaves, soils showed a 60 percent drop in efficiency at higher temperatures.

"As you increase temperature, you decrease the efficiency - soil microorganisms release more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere - but only for the more complex food sources," Frey explains. "You could infer that as the soil warms, more carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate problem."

That effect diminishes, however, in the second scenario, in which soils were warmed to 5 degrees Celsius above the ambient temperature for 18 years. "When the soil was heated to simulate climate warming, we saw a change in the community to be more efficient in the longer term," Frey says, lessening the amount of carbon dioxide the soils release into the atmosphere and, in turn, their impact on the climate. "The positive feedback response may not be as strong as we originally predicted."

The research team also examined how changes in soil microorganism efficiency might influence long term storage of carbon in soils as predicted by a commonly used ecosystem model. Models of this type are used to simulate ecosystem carbon dynamics in response to different perturbations, such as land-use change and climate warming. These models generally assume that efficiency is fixed and that it does not change with temperature or other environmental conditions. The team found a large effect on long-term soil carbon storage as predicted by the model when they varied carbon use efficiency in a fashion comparable to what they observed in their experiments. "There is clearly a need for new models that incorporate an efficiency parameter that is allowed to fluctuate in response to temperature and other environmental variables," Six says.

The researchers hypothesize that long-term warming may change the community of soil microorganisms so that it becomes more efficient. Organism adaptation, change in the species that comprise the soils, and/or changes in the availability of various nutrients could result in this increased efficiency.

This study was based on work done at the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Petersham, Mass., where Frey and Melillo have been warming two sites - one 9 meters square, the other 36 meters square -- with underground cables for two versus 18 years. "It's like having a heating blanket under the forest floor," Frey says, "allowing us to examine how this particular environmental change -- long-term soil warming -- is altering how the soil functions."

This work was supported by an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award, the NSF Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, a DOE National Institute for Climatic Change Research (NICCR) grant, and a Harvard Forest Bullard Fellowship to Frey.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of New Hampshire. The original article was written by Beth Potier.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Serita D. Frey, Juhwan Lee, Jerry M. Melillo, Johan Six. The temperature response of soil microbial efficiency and its feedback to climate. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1796

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Top Accounting Software for Small Business | Minnesota School of ...

Accounting, small businessSmall business owners are passionate about what they do. They love the service or product they provide and have turned what they love into a business. A part of small business ownership that they often do not love is the accounting aspects of their business.

Small businesses have many of the same accounting needs as a large business. The owner still needs to bill clients, pay bills, make deposits, pay the staff and control inventory. As the chief financial officer of your small business it makes good sense to consider getting an accounting degree from Minnesota School of Business. Having that depth of knowledge on your financial situation can be the difference between success and failure.

When it comes to managing the accounting details of a small business, having a good accounting software package designed for what you do is an absolute must have. The most important thing to look for when checking out accounting software is the ease of use. Top accounting software packages for small businesses have the easy to use and understand aspect down pat.? Small business owners do not have the time to pour through?instruction books trying to figure out how to get a check to print.

Some of the highest rated accounting packages used by small businesses are:

For small business owners, these programs provide the the ease of use with the basic functions that your business needs.? The really great thing about these software packages is that someone with an accounting degree can use them to produce not only all the applications your business needs but the advanced reporting ability as well.? If you do have an accounting degree these programs will provide you with all the higher level tools that much bigger packages provide.?

After ease of use, the next thing these programs offer is a?large variety of reports. As a business owner you need to know where you stand at all times. These packages can provide easy to read reports that are available at any time.

Some of the reports that are especially useful to small businesses are:

  • Cash flow reports to give you information on what your?cash status is.
  • Accounts Receivable reports can tell you who owes you money and how long they have been unpaid.
  • Accounts Payable reports let you know what bills are due and when they need to be paid. This report can also help you take advantage of discounts on purchases.
  • There are special reports that can tell how much money you made or lost on a job. Job costing reports are very helpful for giving you the information on what the job made.? This information can also allow you to bid better or adjust pricing for future jobs. These reports can give you all the material, labor and time spent on getting the job finished. Having the entire cost in one spot is a?time saver.
  • Payroll reports will give you the tax amounts that need to be paid in and where those payments need to go. Payroll will also flow to the job cost report so you have a complete picture of the costs.
  • Financial statements will give a business owner the big picture on their business. These reports will also provide some graphical summaries which can be very helpful.

All of these programs can provide the small business owner with the tools they need to streamline the accounting process and provide the information they need to make informed decisions. With an accounting degree from Minnesota School of Business, interpreting the reports will be a breeze.? The processes that these software programs use and the reports they produce are essential to the success of your small business.



This entry was posted in Accounting and tagged Accounting, reports, small business. Bookmark the permalink.


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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Report: Europe luxury destination for Chinese

(AP) ? A report says Europe is surging as a popular luxury destination for Chinese millionaires.

The Hurun Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey 2013 says France is number one and half of the top 10 destinations are European countries. They include Switzerland, Britain, Italy and Germany.

The U.S. and Singapore are 2 and 3.

The survey released Tuesday says Chinese millionaires who send their children abroad still prefer the U.S., followed by Britain and Canada.

It also found the richer they are, the less happy they are, with both male and female millionaires generally dissatisfied with their health and wanting to spend more time with their children.

Swimming is their favorite hobby and the Internet their medium of choice for news.

The report surveyed 551 mainland Chinese millionaires between June and December 2012.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Monday, 14 January 2013

Research in Motion surges 10% while Apple tanks

Oh, how the tables have turned in the smartphone world ... at least when it comes to stocks.

Apple shares continued to take a tumble, while shares of Research in Motion rallied again. Traders on StockTwits could barely contain themselves.

$AAPL?breaks below $500. Meanwhile,?$RIMM?up nearly 25% in less than 2 trading days.

Yes, RIM (RIMM) shares jumped 7% in early trading Monday. And the mighty Apple (AAPL), the most valuable tech company in the world, were down more than 3%.

Apple shares fell after reports, citing unnamed sources, indicated the company had cut orders for certain iPhone 5 components due to weaker-than-expected demand for the device.

Shares of Apple have been under pressure since the stock hit an all time high above $700 a share in September, when the iPhone 5 came out.

While the company has predicted record sales for its most recent quarter, Apple has been facing increased competition from rival smartphone makers such as Samsung, Nokia (NOK), HTC and LG.

RIM could be a viable new threat soon as well. It is set to release its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and two new smartphones on Jan. 30. That would be a year behind schedule, but it's better late than never, right?

A pioneer of smartphone technology, RIM has seen its share of the market decimated by Apple's iPhone. The stock has been pummeled during the past few years due to concerns that the company could eventually go out of business if it does not turn its fortunes around.

But investors now appear wiling to bet that new Blackberry devices could help to stabilize RIM.
Fundamentally its seems that?$AAPL?sales have peaked short term, while HOPE that BB10 will boost?$RIMM?shares aided the recovery.

Some investors were encouraged by the growing number of apps for the new Blackberry, an area where it has struggled to match Apple.

It's becoming clear that developer support for BlackBerry 10 is in full swing as over 15k apps get submitted in just under 2 days.?$RIMM

But Apple purists -- and presumably Blackberry haters -- weren't buying it though. One trader said the rally Monday was driven by investors covering short positions in RIM stock.

$RIMM?there is no rationale to this run other than possibly short covering. Announcement on Jan 30, in store Feb 28, give me a break!


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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Konka Expose 970 hands-on

Konka Expose 970 handson

Konka phones rarely (if ever) grace our desks at home, but the company certainly makes a solid effort to show them off to the masses at trade shows like CES. The latest device featured at Konka's booth is the Expose 970, which offers a 4.5-inch qHD IPS screen, dual-core 1GHz unspecified CPU, Android 4.0, 8MP rear camera and 2MP front-facing cam. We took a few minutes out of the last day of the show to stop by and peek at the 970, and our experiences are just about the same as what we anticipated: the qHD display was clear and bright, the screen was actually quite responsive and the processor seemed to perform pretty well for a lower-end dual-core. The Kanzi UI is pretty easy to figure out -- the icons are very reminiscent of what you'd find on Meizu's Flyme OS. The phone is a little thicker than we'd like to see, and the back cover is definitely on the glossy end of the fingerprint magnet spectrum. If curiosity gets the best of you, head below to scope out a few images of the latest Konka.

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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Hasbro aims to jazz up Monopoly with new token

This image provided by Hasbro shows a possible new Monopoly game piece. Makers of the classic game Monopoly want players to ?take a chance? on a new token. In an effort to jazz up the board game, which debuted around 1935, Hasbro announced Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, it is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight classic tokens and introduce a new one that will be decided on by a Facebook vote. (AP Photo/Hasbro)

This image provided by Hasbro shows a possible new Monopoly game piece. Makers of the classic game Monopoly want players to ?take a chance? on a new token. In an effort to jazz up the board game, which debuted around 1935, Hasbro announced Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, it is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight classic tokens and introduce a new one that will be decided on by a Facebook vote. (AP Photo/Hasbro)

This image provided by Hasbro shows a possible new Monopoly game piece. Makers of the classic game Monopoly want players to ?take a chance? on a new token. In an effort to jazz up the board game, which debuted around 1935, Hasbro announced Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, it is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight classic tokens and introduce a new one that will be decided on by a Facebook vote. (AP Photo/Hasbro)

This image provided by Hasbro shows a possible new Monopoly game piece. Makers of the classic game Monopoly want players to ?take a chance? on a new token. In an effort to jazz up the board game, which debuted around 1935, Hasbro announced Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, it is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight classic tokens and introduce a new one that will be decided on by a Facebook vote. (AP Photo/Hasbro)

This image provided by Hasbro shows a possible new Monopoly game piece. Makers of the classic game Monopoly want players to ?take a chance? on a new token. In an effort to jazz up the board game, which debuted around 1935, Hasbro announced Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, it is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight classic tokens and introduce a new one that will be decided on by a Facebook vote. (AP Photo/Hasbro)

This image provided by Hasbro shows a possible new Monopoly game piece. Makers of the classic game Monopoly want players to ?take a chance? on a new token. In an effort to jazz up the board game, which debuted around 1935, Hasbro announced Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, it is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight classic tokens and introduce a new one that will be decided on by a Facebook vote. (AP Photo/Hasbro)

NEW YORK (AP) ? The gig is almost up for one of the eight Monopoly tokens. But which will it be? Iron? Thimble? Top Hat?

Or another of their board game buddies?

Hasbro is holding a Facebook contest to eliminate one of the eight tokens that identify the players and introduce a new one. Possible new tokens include a cat, diamond ring, guitar, toy robot and helicopter

It's the latest effort by the toymaker to jazz up the game which debuted almost eight decades ago.

In recent years Hasbro introduced a version that replaces paper money with an electronic bank and another that incorporates an iPad. There is an app-only version of the game for smartphones and tablets.

Monopoly's tokens have actually changed quite a lot over the years. The original version also included a lantern, purse, cannon and a rocking horse. A horse and rider token was used in the 1950s. During World War II, metal tokens were replaced by wooden ones.

But this time, users have a say.

So if you are tired of the iron token and would rather be represented by a robot, here's your chance to make those wishes known. Beginning Tuesday, Facebook fans of monopoly can vote on which piece to eliminate and which one to add. The voting ends Feb. 5.

Up for elimination: all eight current tokens including a battleship, iron, racecar, Scottie dog, shoe, thimble, top hat and wheelbarrow. Most tokens were introduced with the first Parker Brothers iteration of the game in 1935, and the Scottie dog and wheelbarrow were added in the early 1950s.

Eric Nyman, global brand leader for Hasbro gaming, said the impetus for the contest came from chatter on Facebook, where Monopoly has over 10 million fans.

"We're constantly interacting with those fans and we're always getting suggestions from fans about what tokens they would love to see," Nyman said. They took five of the top suggestions from Facebook for the contest.

A special $17.99 limited edition of the game called Golden Ticket will be available in Target stores beginning Feb. 15 with golden versions of both the old and new tokens. It will be the last time all of the classic tokens will be available with the game.

Versions of Monopoly with the new token will come out later this year.

Monopoly's iconic tokens originated when game creator Charles Darrow's niece suggested using charms from a charm bracelet for tokens.

On the Web:

Associated Press


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Innovative And Inexpensive Ways To Decorate A Landscape

No matter whether your house is big or small, a beautiful, clean, and well-maintain landscape can enhance the overall look and appearance of a house. It can increase the aesthetic value of your home and make it look even more appealing and inviting. You may think that decorating landscape requires spending a lot of money and may burn a hole into your pocket. However, thats far from being true! Decorating a landscape requires more of your innovativeness and creativity, rather than money. So, let us here take a look at some of the unique and creative ways to decorate a landscape.

Lighting: One of the best ways to decorate a landscape is installing unique lighting that does not require you shelling a lot of money. You can create a stunning landscape that can be enjoyed during the day and night by incorporating some of the mind blowing lighting ideas. You can install patio lighting, pathway and step lighting, patio cover lighting, driveway lights, pond lights and lighting. Rock solar spot lights, tricod stainless steel tube solar light, brown grizzly bear with lantern light, bollards/post light are some of the great lighting ideas to beautify your landscape more.

Ceramic waterfall and bird baths: The most beautiful natural looking idea for decorating a landscape is to display a ceramic waterfall as a decoration accessory for your pretty outdoor. You can also decorate your landscape with bird baths. You may wonder how weird they sound, but these can be some of great decorating accessories for your landscape. There are several ways of making these birdbaths. You can choose mosaic to make the birdbaths over a pre-made bath available at the hardware store. You can even use a decorative show bowl or dish to simple place it in the nook of a tree or on a stump. To be a little more creative, you can even use a spiral of flexible copper tubing to support the bowl or a copper pipe to plant it in the ground. Over time, the copper plate will look like a gorgeous patina.

Old utensils: Here is one of the most amazing ways to decorate your landscape. You must be having a lot of old utensils at your home, which you do not wish to throw because they are your favorites, right? So why not utilize them to decorate your landscape? Its time to take them out from the store room and give a new look to them. Paint them with colorful hues and use them for plant containers. This will make your landscape look different, unique, and gorgeous.

Furniture: Home garden or landscape is one of the most visited and peaceful place of your home. So, make it a more comfortable and inviting area by adding furniture to it. To make your landscape look more stylish and elegant, you can incorporate some of the splendid sitting arrangements. You can add wooden furniture painted in green. This will make your landscape look cheery and lively. To add a little more comforts, you can add seat cushions to the furniture. Lounge chair, potting bench, log table can add more charm to your garden.

However, if you reside in Aurora and looking for more landscape decorating ideas, then surf on the internet or go through magazines for more designs of landscaping in Aurora.

About the Author:
Josh Turner is a professional blogger, who loves to write for different blogs, specifically on home decorating and landscape designing ideas. Some of the interesting topics that he has written upon are landscape designing tips, innovative and inexpensive ways to decorate a landscape, things to consider when hiring the services of a landscape designer and many more.


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