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  1. Being Happy Starts at Home!

    July 19, 2012 by Bill

    Our homes are an extension of who we are: what we do within the walls of our abodes shapes our mood, affects our productivity, and influences our outlook on life. Scientific studies have shown that we can have an impact on our happiness by adjusting the tiny little habits and routines that constitute our daily lives — we are, in fact, in control of our outlook on life. It's amazing how a few tweaks to our daily habits can become a catalyst for meaningful, positive change. Here are a few simple things you can do every day to feel happier at home. 1. Make your bed. In a popular post last month, I explained the many benefits of daily bed-making. Gretchen Rubin, New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project, explains that this three minute task is one of the simplest habits you can adopt to positively impact your happiness. 2. Bring every room back to "ready." I learned this trick from Marilyn Paul's clever book, It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys. It's a known fact: Clutter causes stress; order creates a haven from it. This mood-boosting routine is simple: Take about three minutes to bring each room back to "ready" before you depart it. (Unless you have a toddler, or a partner who likes to simulate earthquakes, three minutes should be sufficient.) 3. Display sentimental items around your home. One reason that experiences (and memories of those experiences) make us happier than material things is due to the entire cycle of enjoyment that experiences provide: planning the experience, looking forward to the experience, enjoying the experience, and then remembering the experience. Make your home a gallery of positive memories. 4. Start a one-line-a-day gratitude journal. Before bed, simply jot down one happy memory from that day. (If you have kids, you can ask them, "What was the best part of today?") Reflection is an important part of happiness, and pausing to reflect on a positive event from each day cultivates gratitude. (An added bonus: Later, when your memory is defunct, you will already have all of your meaningful adventures recorded!) If you have trouble getting started with journaling, consider buying a book to guide you. Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, is a great one. 5. If you can't get out of it, get into it. This tip comes from The Happiness Project. I love the message: The dishes are not going to clean themselves, so you will do it, and you will like it! (Unless, of course, you can outsource this job, in which case I say: Nice work!) Otherwise, get into doing the dishes. Feel the soothing warm water on your hands. Enjoy the tickle of the tiny bubbles. Crank your favorite album at an unusually loud volume, do a couple fist-pumps while shouting "Can I get a hell yeah for the dishes? Hell! Yeah!" and pretend you love it. 6. Before you get up each morning, set an intent for the day. In The Art of Happiness, the Dali Lama says ""Every day, think as you wake up: today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it." Wow. What a wise man. I tend to wake up with a strong visceral reaction that says, "Attention human beings: Be afraid of me before coffee. Be very afraid!" Setting a daily intent makes a huge difference. Your daily intent could be something like "be productive" or "enjoy today's delicious moments" or it could be something more specific like "say thank you to my loved ones today." But it should not be another "to do" item on your list. 7. Do small favors for your housemates, expecting nothing in return (not even a thank you!). (That's right, I said it: nothing!) Mow the lawn for your husband, but don't expect him to pat you on the back. Make the bed for your wife, but don't try to get bonus points for it. Take the trash out for your roommate, just because. The ability to cultivate strong, healthy relationships is one of the biggest contributors to health and happiness, but when you start to keep score, the benefit is lost. (No! It's YOUR turn to clean up the dog poop!) It's a well-known fact: When you do good, you feel good. 8. Call at least one friend or family member a day. You can do this while you clean, while you make the bed, or while you walk the dog. Texts and emails do not count! Make an actual phone call to a loved one, just to chat and catch up. We humans are social beings and studies show that even when we don't feel like it, even if we are naturally introverted, socializing with our loved ones makes us feel better. 9. Spend money on things that cultivate experiences at home. Save money for a new grill for parties or a new DVD for family movie night — something that will encourage you to have people over and entertain. Plan a summer barbeque, invite your closest friends, kick back and relax. (And don't forget to print out the pictures to remember the good times.) 10. Spend a few minutes each day connecting with something greater than yourself. Whatever your spiritual beliefs — or non-beliefs — may be, studies show that connecting to a high power is correlated with happiness. Just stepping back to realize that we are part of an enormous universe can put some perspective on your annoyance with the those-are-definitely-not-mine-and-they-are-abso-fricking-lutely-repulsive socks under the coffee table. Before bed, spend just a few minutes contemplating something larger than yourself. Take a walk in nature. Write in a journal. Create a sacred space in your home. (Or if spirituality is really not your thing, create a home spa: light some candles, soak in a hot bath, delve into a good book… are you feeling better yet?) Apartment Therapy

  2. Inflatable Obstacle Course!

    July 17, 2012 by Bill

    If you've got $13,000 burning a hole in your pocket, and a desire to have the most kick-ass backyard in the neighbourhood, no swingset or even tree house is going to outdo this mind-blowing 1,850 square foot inflatable obstacle course. The Adrenaline Rush Extreme—as it's been dubbed—features side-by-side lanes chock full of challenges that will have competitors crawling through tunnels, racing down slides, or battling their way past various inflatable obstacles. The entire structure is kept standing by three industrial fans running constantly, but just because it's inflatable don't expect it to be easy to transport. At 1,500 pounds you'll need a hefty ride to haul it around, not to mention a UPS delivery person strong enough to get it off the truck. Gizmodo

  3. One Minute Tip: Clean Out Your Car!

    July 12, 2012 by Bill

    • The Star: Drawing from his life-long struggle with the clinical form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Justin has transformed the cumbersome disorder into an organization that promotes stress reduction and manageability. Branded as "Master Organizer" on CBS's The Talk and "Organization Expert" on the Anderson Show with Anderson Cooper, Justin works hard to bring order to his clients' lives. With O.C.D.'s guidance and expertise, clients can get through the most difficult obstacles to create a systematic approach to living.

  4. Crazy Jeans

    July 10, 2012 by Bill

    The most daring denim company in the world, Naked and Famous, is back at it again. Not satisfied with just making jeans glow in the dark or scratch-n-sniff> or pans that feel like silk and hemp and gauze, Naked and Famous is making jeans with camo, jeans that marbleize, corduroys that act like denim, more glow in the dark gear and other wacky denim. Camo Jeans The Craziest Jeans Company Is Making Camo Denim, Bumpy Denim, Jeans that Marbleize and MoreI think camo gear is supposed to, like, camouflage you but these pants just scream look at me, look at me. The camo is printed on both sides of the jeans so when you roll 'em up, it shows off a different pattern. $175         Irregular, Bumpy Denim The Craziest Jeans Company Is Making Camo Denim, Bumpy Denim, Jeans that Marbleize and MoreThe 18oz selvedge denim is purposefully bumpy and irregularly textured because the machine that stitches em together is put at a lower setting "to create more loom chatter". When the jeans fade, it actually turns into something from the 80's.         Dirty Fade Denim The Craziest Jeans Company Is Making Camo Denim, Bumpy Denim, Jeans that Marbleize and MoreThe yarn in these selvedge jeans are actually core dyed beige and then rope-dyed indigo so after time when the jeans are worn longer, the fade looks more beige, hence more dirty looking.         Corduroy Jeans The Craziest Jeans Company Is Making Camo Denim, Bumpy Denim, Jeans that Marbleize and MoreNow this is pretty neat, the pants are corduroys but they fade like regular jeans because of the indigo. Cords that wear like jeans! There's actually a ton more options from Naked and Famous, from their popular red core selvedge and glow in the dark denim to what sounds really awesome like Soft Raw Selvedge, jeans that are less abrasive than typical raw denim, and Denim that marbleizes when it fades and even jeans made from double woven sashiko fabric normally used to make judo and kendo uniforms. Yeah. You got to love the crazy at Naked and Famous.

  5. How to Update your Facebook Email

    June 26, 2012 by Bill

    Hey, here's something really stupid and annoying: Facebook abruptly switched everyone's default email address to the @facebook.com account you've never used. Here's how to switch back Facebook's obnoxious overreach right now. So people can actually, you know, contact you. Luckily, it's easy to reverse this foolish move. Go to your Timeline. Click about, under your contact info. Scroll down to "Contact Info" and hit edit. Switch all of the crossed out circle symbols to a full circle for each inbox you want visible on your profile. If you don't want @facebook.com to show up, switch it from a full circle ("Shown on Timeline") to crossed out ("Hidden from Timeline"). This is also a good opportunity to check your privacy settings and make sure your various inboxes are visible only to friendlies. Hit save. Facebook: don't do this again.   [Gizmodo]

  6. Dating Advice from Kids

    June 21, 2012 by Bill

    Some adults tend to overthink things when it comes to dating. But for kids, the key to winning over a crush is as simple as planning a romantic trip to the dinosaur museum. In a hilarious video segment titled "Kidstructive Criticism," writer and actress Corey Podell asks children for advice on multiple topics including joining an online dating site, getting out of the friend zone and dressing to impress. But a woman can't take pointers from just anyone. She has to get to know these so-called experts before even thinking about heeding their advice. "What do you look for in a guy?" Podell asks a young girl in the video. "I look for love," the girl says. Fair enough. But when Podell asks one boy a similar question, he reveals he isn't exactly looking for a deep connection. "What do you look for in a girlfriend?" Podell inquires. "Pretty much the prettiness," the young boy says. And ladies, when things aren't going exactly as planned, remember there's always a way out: "Just cancel."

  7. Loch Ness Lives? Not So Much.

    June 19, 2012 by Bill

    Some students at private schools in Louisiana are being taught that Scotland's fabled Loch Ness monster is real, a claim that is then held as evidence disproving Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The Times Educational Supplement, a British publication for teachers, published this in 1995:
    Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all."
    Bruce Wilson, a researcher specializing in the American political religious right, told the Scotsman that one of the texts also claims "dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons." "It has little to do with science as we currently understand. It’s more like medieval scholasticism," Wilson told the paper.

  8. Jon Stewart vs GOP Fundraising Efforts

    June 14, 2012 by Bill

    After holding a swanky retreat in Park City, Utah this past weekend for people who made donations in the $250,000 range, Mitt Romney seems to be safely maintaining his strong fundraising streak. On Monday night's "Daily Show," Jon Stewart took a minute to look into what exactly happened at the event. Among the list of activities? Watching Olympic skiiers flip off of a ramp and into a pool of water. "Are we sure they were Olympic ski jumpers and not just poor people being thrown off a mountain?" Stewart joked. The lavish spending and vacation destination convention tactics are just the GOP's spin on fundraising, so Stewart checked in with the Dems to see what they have up their sleeves. But Obama's latest fundraiser -- an Event Registry that lets you ask for donations in lieu of gifts -- probably isn't going to pull in contributions in the $250,000 range. "You're f*cked, dude," Stewart joked. Watch the full clip here:

  9. 3 Phones NOT to Buy Right Now

    June 12, 2012 by Bill

    In your left hand, you hold the smartphone you've been eyeing for months -- you know, the one from the TV commercials? Committed to the purchase, you step up to the register to pay for your new phone.  But looking up, instead of an AT&T or Verizon salesperson behind the counter, the smarter version of you shouting some truth in your face: "Don't do it! Don't buy that smartphone! It's going to be obsolete in three months!" Allow me to grab control of the PA: ATTENTION, SHOPPERS: Three of the most popular, most heavily advertised smartphones on sale right now -- the iPhone 4S, Nokia Lumia 900 and the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx -- are teetering on technological extinction. In the coming months, we'll see next-generation releases that will make you wish you had waited to buy, with features that won't be coming to older models. If you buy any of these three phones today, you might be shaking your head tomorrow. Here's why: The iPhone 4S Yes, it's that time of year again, when potential iPhone buyers go into hibernation and don't emerge with their credit cards until the new model is announced. Right now, it looks like Apple will unveil its new iPhone in late September or early October. That might be reason enough for some buyers to wait a few months for a re-designed device. But for iPhone shoppers, there are good, hardware-related reasons to wait for the so-called "iPhone 5" -- not just so that you can show off the new design to your friends. One technology which will not be available to older iPhones, is 4G LTE connectivity. The 4G LTE network is, quite simply, much faster than the 3G networks on the current iPhone models.  4G LTE will retrieve what you need from a phone at a faster pace. The next iPhone will also apparently come with NFC (for mobile payments via touch), a larger screen and a smaller, more efficient dock connector. The Nokia Lumia 900 (And Every Other Windows Phone) Last week, Microsoft showed us the Windows Phone 8, expected to come out this fall.  One of the most exciting features is a new "shared core" between Windows Phone and desktop Windows, which will make it super easy for developers to write apps for Windows 8 (for the desktop) and easily transfer them over to the Windows Phone app marketplace. That's huge news for Windows Phone...developers were slow to write apps for Windows Phone 7, and they probably won't be as slow to write for Windows 8, the next installment of Microsoft's desktop OS. If porting those apps from Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 is as easy as Microsoft says it is, that means there will be way more options for Windows Phone owners. EXCEPT: The Nokia Lumia 900, and every other Windows Phone, will not be upgraded to Windows Phone 8. And apps written for Windows Phone 8 will not be able to run on older Windows Phone devices (like, say, the Lumia 900). So, if you buy a Lumia now, you're missing out on potentially killer apps that will come out in the future; you risk being locked in to the 100,000 or so apps that exist right now, for the next two years. Motorola Droid Razr Maxx You probably love the Razr Maxx, right? It's thin yet durable, packs a great flavor of the Android OS, and enjoys much, much better battery life than whatever smartphone you have. While your phone is charging, the Droid Razr Maxx is pedaling around on a unicycle, bursting with energy, laughing like a maniac. Enter a mysterious, tempting update called the Droid Razr HD, and the laughter dies down. The Razr HD will supposedly ship with the same paranormal battery life as the Razr Maxx, while adding a faster 1.5GHz processor, a 720p HD screen and a beast-mode 13-megapixel camera. All of those blow away what the Maxx currently offers, and should give pause to power-hungry smartphone shoppers. And here's what really ties your hands: The RAZR HD will arrive with Verizon some time this summer or early fall. For comparably crazy battery life with an improved display, camera and processing speeds, you're better off waiting a few months, no? So, What's Okay To Buy? Don't buy an iPhone, or ANY Windows Phone, or a Droid RAZR, you say. What CAN I buy then? The Galaxy S3 is a powerful, speedy LTE-packing choice, as are the new HTC models (the One X, Droid Incredible 4G and EVO 4G LTE). The Galaxy Note doesn't seem like it will be refreshed any time soon, nor does the Galaxy Nexus or Droid 4. If none of those sound appealing, it's time to either wait until autumn, or else buy now and tempt fate. Just don't say I didn't (make you imagine me in a fancy tuxedo and) warn you.

  10. Prometheus Movie Reviews Are In!

    June 8, 2012 by Bill

    The highly anticipated Ridley Scott blockbuster -- which lives in the same universe as Scott's seminal 1979 sci-fi film "Alien" -- arrives in theaters with mostly positive reviews and many head-scratching questions. (One of the many your friends at HuffPost Entertainment have: What is David doing?) "The virtuosity on display makes the weakness of the story -- the screenplay is by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof -- all the more frustrating," writes A.O. Scott in his wonderful New York Times review. "I’ll avoid spoilers here, but 'Prometheus' kind of spoils itself with twists and reversals that pull the movie away from its lofty, mind-blowing potential. Geeks and dreamers will hold onto scraps of splendor and wish for more. There are no revelations, only what are called, in the cynical jargon of commercial storytelling, 'reveals,' bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance. For example: A sequel is coming." The same things that frustrated A.O. Scott seemed to delight film critic Roger Ebert. "Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' is a magnificent science-fiction film, all the more intriguing because it raises questions about the origin of human life and doesn't have the answers," Ebert writes in his four-star Chicago Sun-Times review. "This puzzle is embedded in an adventure film that has staggering visuals, expert horror, mind-challenging ideas and enough unanswered questions to prime the inevitable sequel." Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum mostly agrees with Ebert, boiling down "Prometheus" to its essential core. "All one needs to know to understand 'Prometheus' and honor 'Alien' is that women can be tough fighters," she writes, referring to Noomi Rapace's lead character Elizabeth Shaw. "That the characters with the goofiest accents get killed first. That nothing beats a really primo close-up of a gooey ET creature just before it goes berserk. And that, in the great tradition of the best sci-fi films, space would be a lot more boring without intrepid human idiots who touch stuff even when told 'Don't touch that!'" Those "intrepid human idiots" are the one big flaw for Salon.com critic Andrew O'Hehir, who nonetheless writes that "Prometheus" "damn near lives up to the unsustainable hype, at least at the level of cinematography, production design, special effects and pure wow factor." Still, those humans (played by Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron among others) are troubling: "Do its so-called heroes really have to be such blithering New Age idiots?" O'Hehir writes. "Let’s allow for the narrative possibility that someone or something created human life, and/or all life on Earth. Is traveling to the edge of the universe to ask that entity why they did it likely to yield an interesting answer? If Dolly the cloned sheep had been able to talk, would she have chased those Scottish scientists into their lab and baaed for explanations? 'Because we could, sweetie. Now stop eating my trousers.'" Of course, not everyone is as forgiving of the film's flaws. "Watching 'Prometheus' is like opening a deluxe gift box from Tiffany’s to find a mug from the dollar store. Everything in the film’s first third primes you for what months of hype have promised," writes Ty Burr in the Boston Globe. "Yet somewhere along the way, you begin to detect the odor of thrice-cooked hash." For more reviews check out RottenTomatoes.com.