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‘Inspiration’ Category

  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. 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.

  3. Office Feng-Shui

    June 1, 2012 by Bill

    Here are the top 5 rules (though they're more like principles, really) to achieve that mysterious "feng shui" thing everyone keeps talking about. OUR TOP 5 RULES FOR FENG SHUI: 1. Function. If anything, you should let functionality guide your decisions on placement of any furniture or technology around the office. Should this printer go here? How much is it really used? Can I reach it easily when I need it? Every item should be placed in the context of use and optimized according to personal subjective preference. 2. Comfort. A primary rule of feng shui is making sure you are comfortable. Doing so suggests maximized productivity and a calming environment to work in at all times. This also means if you have your back facing anything other than a wall, you might need some adjusting. The optimal feng shui setup allows you to face the people coming into the room, creating an affordance for conversation rather than "I'm trusting you not to be a ninja spy, so please don't attack me from behind." 3. Fashion. Even go into a room and say to yourself, "Man, that sofa really throws off this room." In all honestly, there's no scientific measure for something like aesthetic design, but one can always try. If a huge couch needs balancing, try adding a large painting or wall-shelving. An empty corner? Add some potted plants. Or simply rummage through our on-going Perfect Workplace Contest 2010 for some great ideas inspired by your own fellow readers. 4. Rearrange often. Like anything design related, one must accept the fact that rearranging is inevitable. We like to do it at least once every three months to optimize our working environment for upcoming projects. 5. Declutter. One of the original key rules of feng shui involves knowing what you should leave out. A room overstuffed with anything, from office furniture, to unruly computer cords, to overcrowded file drawers, is not acceptable. Get rid of it. Keep only what you need. And for goodness sake, clean up those wires! via Apartment Therapy  

  4. In L.A.? Visit Caine’s Arcade!

    April 10, 2012 by Bill

    This kid blows every imaginary thing I ever created as a kid out of the water. Behold, 9 year old Caine Monroy, who built an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad’s used auto parts store, is about to have the best day of his life.

    Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

    A short film by Nirvan, produced by Interconnected.

  5. A Real-Life Battlestar Viper

    March 21, 2012 by Bill

    SO SAY WE ALL! 5 high school students from Marin and San Francisco are building a full BSG Viper simulator with 360-degree motion in all directions.  The story itself is pretty amazing.  They found a Piper fuselage in an airplane scrap yard, cut it and installed a racing seat inside with a six-point harness. They used Autodesk Inventor to create the frame for the motion and asked a professional welding to put it together according to their specs. Right now they are developing the software themselves putting the controllers and the motors needed to make it "fly." The simulator will have three front screens, control joystick, thrusters, and a fully working cockpit simulating the one in the real Battlestar Galactica Vipers. It's quite amazing, but they need your help. It's only a $2,500 goal, so this can be easily achieved. Pass it around, because I want to be able to fly this thing at MakerFaire this year!

  6. A Bridesmaid Sequel? Don’t Hold Your Breath!

    January 18, 2012 by Bill

    Looks like the "Bridesmaids" won't be taking any more walks down the aisle. After weeks of speculation and comments from various co-stars and crew, the hit comedy's co-writer, producer and star Kristen Wiig has nixed the idea of a sequel, telling E! Online that, "We'e not planning on doing one. We had a special time making the first one, but we're really excited to try something else." Back in September, co-star Jon Hamm shot down the idea of a sequel, saying that he didn't think Wiig was too interested in a revisiting of what became a Golden Globe-nominated film. That clashed with more recent statements from director Paul Feig, in an interview published earlier this month in Vanity Fair, seemed a little bit more optimistic -- and perhaps less updated -- about the potential for a sequel. "Everyone is up for it, and yet it's hard to say," Feig said. "Everyone's very busy right now is one of the problems, and kind of doing their own thing, but we're very open to it. My only stipulation is I just want to make sure it's as good or better than the first one. You definitely don't want people to be like, 'Oh, shoot, I wish they didn't make that." Earlier in the month, The Hollywood Reporter relayed the news that Wiig was said to not be interested but that Universal was interested in pursuing a sequel without her, which is perhaps what Feig was referring to. Still, he probably won't have much luck convincing the supporting cast to come back if Wiig maintains her opposition; co-star Melissa McCarthy has said it would be "a terrible idea" to do a "Bridesmaids" film without its main star. Wiig will next star in another film she wrote and produced, the indie flick "Imogen," in which she'll star as a troubled writer who goes back to live with her even more troubled mother (Annette Bening) and strikes up a romance with a younger man (Darren Criss). For more, click over to E! Online.

  7. Memorable Quotes from Steve Jobs

    October 6, 2011 by Bill

    Steve Jobs didn't just leave us iPods, iPads, iPhones and other technology that will continue to change our lives. Apple's co-founder, who died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday at the age of 56, also shared his wisdom with the world through his words. Below are some of the late innovator's most memorable quotes: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life... Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." -Stanford commencement speech, 2005 "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me... Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful... that’s what matters to me." -Wall Street Journal, 1993 "Things don't have to change the world to be important." -Wired Magazine, 1996 "It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy." -Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987 "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." - Stanford commencement speech, 2005 "Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations." -Steve Jobs: The Journey is the Reward, 1988 "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle." - Stanford commencement speech, 2005

  8. Top 10 Vacation Travel Spots

    September 21, 2011 by Bill

    Plan your next vacation to one of 2011 Top Vacation spots...or go the quiet route and go somewhere less traveled. Paris, France Like all great cities, you can spend months in Paris and barely scratch the surface of the city’s cultural treasures. It has museums galore, stellar shopping and busy cafés perfect for people-watching. New York, New York New York is true to its roots and remains a city of immigrants with inspiring architecture and a thriving arts scene. Take in a show on Broadway, shop in SoHo, spend a lazy day in Central Park and explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods. Rome, Italy The Eternal City Rome celebrates its long history with monuments, churches and restored ruins that offer a glimpse into life during the days of the great Roman Empire. Celebrate the city’s roots and immerse yourself in the culture over a heaping bowl of pasta and a taste of gelato. Cancun, Mexico Miles of beaches, endless luxury accommodations and a nonstop party atmosphere in Cancun have transformed this once sleepy village on the Yucatan coast into one of Mexico's most popular tourist attractions, particularly during spring break. London, England London is a cosmopolitan city with a unique blend of historic traditions and a hip, modern culture. You can enjoy tea and crumpets and celebrate the city’s royal roots before heading out to a slick gastropub for gourmet dinner and drinks. Miami, Florida The American Riviera, Hollywood of the East, SoBe, or the Art Deco District -- whatever you call it, Miami's South Beach is hot year-round. The embodiment of excess, South Beach is an international playground offering non-stop nightlife, sandy shores, unique architecture and plenty of eye candy. Orlando, Florida There’s fun around every corner in Orlando with wild roller coasters, twisting waterslides and theme-park fun. Mickey Mouse certainly plays a starring role in the festivities, but there’s plenty of magic beyond the realm of Disney. San Francisco, California Bring a hearty appetite and good walking shoes to the City by the Bay. For a quintessential San Francisco experience, climb aboard a cable car, peruse the farm-fresh goods at the Ferry Market, stroll through Golden Gate Park and board a ferry to the island of Alcatraz for a dose of history and great city views. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina As the largest resort along South Carolina's 60-mile Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is the East Coast's ultimate vacation hub. The town teems with summertime action along the Strand with beaches, amusement and water parks, restaurants and live entertainment and a host of hotels ready to pamper guests young and old. Branson, Missouri Branson is an unassuming vacation destination with small-town charm and big-city entertainment in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Millions of visitors come each year to see a show at any of the 50 theaters and enjoy outdoor fun on the lake.

  9. A Year Without Mirrors

    August 30, 2011 by Bill

    When Kjerstin Gruys got engaged to her longtime boyfriend, the former fashion merchandiser turned sociologist feared she would relapse into an eating disorder as she hunted for the perfect wedding dress. She was fiercely committed to researching her sociology Ph.D. on beauty and inequality, but was overwhelmed by the pressure of having a picturesque wedding. Her values and behavior were at odds, and she knew had to do something -- and quick. Instead of becoming engulfed in a vanity obsession, she committed to a year without mirrors -- and launched the blog Mirror Mirror...OFF The Wall six months before her wedding date. "I've been trying to stick to my own goal of writing honestly and openly about the process," Gruys said. Her inspiration for the blog and staying mirror-free for a year came from "The Birth of Venus," a novel about an order of nuns who lived in Italy hundreds of years ago and gave up looking at their bodies and reflections for a lifetime. Since kicking off her blog five months ago, she's written about everything from her "No Makeup Mondays" to the history of mirrors, referencing stats such as how women spend five full days a year staring at their reflection. Her objective for the blog? To get women to rethink body images and what they're told about beauty. To help her stick to this goal, she volunteers at the nonprofit About Face, which aims to equip women and girls with the tools to understand and resist media messages that negatively affect their self-esteem and body image. "If I had a magic wand, I'd ask women to think about and try to challenge some of the assumptions they have about their appearance, and loosen the grip that body ideals can have," she said. One of the biggest themes that has stemmed from her project is trust, Gruys said. "I have to trust people to let me know if I have poppy seeds in my teeth. A bigger, deeper issue is trusting people in your life to not care about how you look and to love you even more for spending time with them instead of complaining about your looks." Although Gruys said she has a supportive group of peers who have nudged her on, she has been criticized by online commenters who say she is not dealing with the root of her insecurity. "In my case, I am avoiding the mirror so I can get on with my life and do other things. I hope to take the emphasis away from my body and just focus on other things." "I recently read something that said looking in the mirror for more and more time doesn't give you anymore information. It's so plain and true," she added. Gruys' interest in beauty and its role in society began long before she launched her blog. The Missouri native said she has always had an interest in the interplay of culture and fashion. "We live in a culture that is very stigmatized towards larger bodies and that stigma is directed towards women, much more so than men," Gruys said. "Research shows attractive people are given a 'halo complex' ... Most of this is unconscious, but there are real repercussions if we're looking at employment discrimination, in terms of how people are hired, fired and paid." While at Princeton University, Gruys wrote her undergraduate senior thesis on body image and sorority culture while overcoming an eating disorder. "That was probably one of the biggest steps in terms of my personal recovery because it felt so empowering to be facing these issues from a different position," she said. "It felt like a transition, away from being a victim and towards being an activist." For her master's dissertation, Gruys worked at a plus-sized women's clothing store and discovered some unique power plays happening with what she calls "fat talk," a term coined by anthropologist Mimi Nichter, who wrote "Fat Talk: What Girls and their Parents Say About Dieting." "I noticed a pattern that these low waged workers, time and time again, were responsible for soothing the body insecurities of their customers ... and also their supervisors," Gruys said. "And that became particularly interesting to me because while all of the customers were plus-sized, a majority of management at this particular store were not plus-sized." "There's a rule of 'fat talk' that says you shouldn't complain about your body to someone who is worse than yours, but some people do it anyway and get away with it because they are in a position of power," she added. "If someone says, 'Does my butt look big?' they tend to do that in the direction where someone they know will respond kindly." For her Ph.D. research, Gruys has moved on from body image and started examining vanity size -- when clothing that was once, say, a size 8, becomes a size 6 so that women feel better about themselves, she said. By analyzing Sears catalogs from the past 100 years, Gruys said she's seen drastic changes in clothing size over time. "I think the most interesting thing I've found so far is simply that clothing sizes have changed so dramatically, especially for women, and in the direction of getting away from having the clothing size and clothing measurements having any relationship to each other." "When we think of standards we think of things that make our lives more standard and more efficient," she said. But clothing size standards are different across every fashion firm and even across brands within a firm. "We attach so much emotion to body size, women especially and companies want us to feel good when we are trying on their clothes." Making customers feel good has meant that when it comes to standards, fashion has flouted the medical community. "The medical standards are telling us that we are getting bigger, where fashion standards are telling us we are getting smaller," Gruys said. While Gruys maintains that her blog and Ph.D. research are separate projects, she has used her studies to understand how beauty culture shapes women's lives and explore how her own story fits into the larger picture. And with less than two months to go before her wedding, she has learned to place less value on physical appearance and invest more in her relationships and volunteer work.

  10. Top 10 Cities for “Living Green”

    August 24, 2011 by Bill

    Many Americans root for their hometowns, whether they do so by supporting a sports team, participating in local government or just bragging about their origins and environs. Even those who have lukewarm feelings about where they live would agree on one thing: not all cities are created equal. This list ranks metropolises across the U.S. on aspects of green living, pollution, health and technology. Today we feature lists that rank cities based on their green living opportunities, and then add up each city's rankings to find the best overall green living cities. Admittedly, this summed result may be invalid. (For starters, what if other lists were generated and added in to change the outcome or what if the methods across each list are inconsistent?) We think, however, it still offers a benchmark worthy of consideration. Greenest Thinking New York City Las Vegas San Francisco Washington, D.C. Albuquerque, N.M. Boston Gainesville, Fla. Chicago Philadelphia Baltimore The Daily Beast compiled this ranking based on residents' survey responses. To make the "greenest thinking" list, each city had to contain more than 100,000 citizens, a high percentage of whom self-identify as eco-conscious. A relatively high number of residents also had to state that they recycle, ride public transportation regularly and use solar power. Each city's score, however, dropped when citizens responded that they were unconcerned about environmental issues. Most Energy-Efficient Buildings Los Angeles Washington, D.C. San Francisco Denver Chicago Houston Lakeland, Fla. Dallas–Fort Worth Atlanta New York City The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created this ranking of American cities. These energy-efficient commercial buildings had to reduce energy use although still perform well in comparison with similar buildings. (From The Huffington Post) Best Public Transportation Systems Denver–Aurora, Colo. New York City-Newark, N.J. Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, Calif. Boston, Mass.–New Hampshire–Rhode Island Portland, Ore. San Jose, Calif. Salt Lake City San Diego Seattle Honolulu To qualify for this U.S. News & World Report list, cities had to have public transportation systems that stood out from the crowd. The magazine based its ranking not only on how many people used any given system, but also on that system's quality. For example, cities that provided multiple travel options (buses, light rail, metro, elevated trains and so on) could increase their score. Most Bikeable Minneapolis Portland, Ore. Boulder, Colo. Seattle Eugene, Ore. San Francisco Madison, Wis. New York City Tucson, Ariz. Chicago Bicycling.com based its list on how the city's streets and community treated bikers. Having segregated bike lanes and public bike racks helped a city's rank, but these cities also support bike culture and possess good stores for bicycles and biking equipment. Most Walkable New York City San Francisco, Calif. Boston Chicago Philadelphia Seattle Washington, D.C. Miami, Fla. Minneapolis Oakland, Calif. To find the most walkable cities in the U.S., Walk Score started small, by analyzing the score of each individual city block. A block's walkability depended on its proximity to amenities such as grocery stores, weighted by the local population density. Blocks combined to help Walk Score find neighborhood walkability, which in turn added up to a city's total walkability. Top 10 Overall Green Living Performances New York City San Francisco Washington, D.C. Boston Los Angeles Chicago Denver Portland, Ore. Seattle Minneapolis These cities rank highly on more than one of the above green-living lists. Not all of the above lists were created using conventional statistical or scientific methods, therefore their validity should be suspect. Scientific American gathered the lists from several online sources. To earn a place on the "overall performance" list, cities had to make repeat appearances on multiple lists, and earned points based on their rankings. Each city's points were added up to arrive at the overall score.