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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Simple living yields simply millions in savings
Many people who lead simple lifestyles are millionaires. Their wealth is the result of hard work, perseverance, planning and self-discipline.
By Janet Luhrs

Many people already lead simple-living lifestyles and don’t know it. And many of them are millionaires. Proof can be found in the best-selling book, "The Millionaire Next Door," by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. You’d never guess that the subject of millionaires could have anything to do with simple living, but it does.

Compulsive savers vs. the rest of us
The millionaires in this book were not born wealthy, nor do most of them have high-level, exotic jobs. What they do have are simple lifestyles. It’s the simple lifestyles, not the big paychecks that turned these people into millionaires. According to the book, their wealth is the result of hard work, perseverance, planning and most of all, self-discipline.

So why aren't all of us hard-working souls rich?
Answer: We regularly and continually give our money away to other people so they can become wealthy, while we live paycheck to paycheck. We buy the latest cars, biggest houses, full wardrobes, daily espressos, high-tech gizmos and gadgets of all kinds. As a result, we're on treadmills, never allowing ourselves the time to create the kind of lifestyle we want. On the other hand, the millionaires are described in the book as "compulsive savers and investors." After surveying 1,115 millionaires around the country, authors Stanley and Danko came up with seven common denominators among those who successfully build wealth:
1. They live well below their means.

2. They allocate their time, energy and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth.

3. They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status.

4. Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care.

5. Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.

6. They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.

7. They chose the right occupations.

This list represents simple living at its finest. Here’s why. Simple living is about living consciously and with a purpose. This means being in control of your money and your life. When you save your money rather than continue spending, you buy yourself control. Then you have a say in how you'd like to spend your time.Your money, fast.

With money saved and invested, you can live for years without earning money, or you can at least afford yourself the luxury of working part-time. This is vastly different from living paycheck to paycheck. These millionaires have created lifestyles and jobs that are meaningful to them because they took a look at the big picture and made choices accordingly.

The millionaire next door
"The flashy millionaires glamorized by the media actually represent only a tiny minority of America's rich," Stanley and Danko say in the book. "Most of the truly wealthy in this country don't live in Beverly Hills or on Park Avenue -- they live next door."

The authors say that the typical wealthy individual is a businessman who has lived in the same town for all of his adult life and owns a small factory, a chain of stores or a service company. He lives next door to people with a fraction of his wealth. Their survey indicated that while the paycheck-to-paycheck crowd drives new cars, most millionaires don't. They’re not wearing expensive clothes and watches and their houses are relatively modest compared to their financial status.

You don't need to be a millionaire to lead a simple life, and indeed, no one said that money equals happiness. But you can learn from millionaires how to get off the treadmill and create a satisfying life.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Why does dry ice burns our hands when come in contact?

A: If you hold a piece of dry ice too long, it feels like it is burning your skin. Your skin isn't actually burning, though. What is actually happening is that the dry ice is freezing your skin. The dry ice is carbon dioxide that has been frozen at -110 F (-79 C). That's why it hurts when you hold it too long, because your skin is starting to freeze from its cold. Freezing skin is a bad thing, so I recommend not letting dry ice 'burn' you.

The reason that freezing and burning can feel the same is because touching things that are very cold can do the same thing to your cells as touching things that are very hot. The burning feeling comes from some of your skin cells being damaged and breaking open. This happens when the cells' membranes are broken open. (You can think of the cell membrane as the wall of the cell.) If you touch something hot, some of the cell membranes are actually melted, breaking the cells open. If you touch something very cold, the water in your cells turns into ice, forming crystals that can tear through the cell membranes. In either case the result is the same - the cells are damaged. This is what you feel.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

PO3 ‘X’ leads PNP Day awardees
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star 01/28/2004

A police officer who has only the letter "X" as his first name has been chosen as the best non-commissioned officer of the year by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Police Officer 3 (PO3) X M. Yap, of the Western Visayas Regional Police Office (RPO) 6, will be among the eight recipients of individual awards during the 13th PNP anniversary celebration tomorrow.

Roy Navales of the PNP Public Information Office said Yap has been practicing for the past two days as he is among those who will participate in the arrival honors during the celebration of PNP Day at the headquarters grandstand in Camp Crame.

With X as his first name and only a three-letter surname, Yap caught the attention of reporters covering the PNP.

Yap was not available and has not granted interviews as to the reasons why his parents simply named him X.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Ten Surefire Ways to Tick Off Your Coworkers

Let's face it, not everyone gets along perfectly. To be successful in your work, you at least need the respect and support of others—your customers, suppliers, coworkers and management. But sometimes, despite your best efforts to win their support, bad habits creep into your daily work life and drive others crazy. Here are ten surefire ways to make sure your efforts to win their support don't backfire. If any sound familiar, you could be leaving your coworkers fuming.

1. Is it always all about you?
Are you preoccupied with your own career path and looking good at the expense of others? Do you put others down while you pump yourself up? Instead, conduct yourself in such a way that other people will want to see you succeed-- let their genuine support and admiration of who you are pull you to success.

2. Answering cell phone calls during meetings.
A surefire way to aggravate people is to consistently respond to calls, emails and pagers when in conversation with others. This sends a message that they are less important than the caller. Let the calls go and return them when your current conversation is over. If you are expecting an urgent call, alert those present. They will appreciate that you value their time and that you stay focused on matters at hand.

3. Sending voicemails that go on and on and on.
At the end of a voice message, replay it and hear how you sound. Difficulty in getting to the point? Just like giving a speech - state your objective or main message first and follow it with brief, supporting sub-points. Some people prefer voicemail, some email - each workplace has its own expectations.

4. Acting like a bureaucrat.
Do you drag out turnaround times and play control games? Do you create obstacles or barriers for others to do their work? Making mountains out of molehills is another surefire way to alienate people. Teach people how to navigate your organization efficiently, knowing when to stick with the rules and when to break them.

5. Reading the newspaper or hammer on your laptop during training sessions or meetings.
Yes, there are way too many meetings and you've got more important things to do. Yet doing non-relevant tasks when there is a set agenda sends a clear message that this event or these people are unimportant to you. Instead, be fully focused - chances are if you completely engage, you will make important contributions while you show you are a committed team player.

6. "I'm like, ya know . . ."
You are your words even more so in virtual relationships. You may be communicating with people worldwide who know you only by the sound of your voice or the tone of your emails. Become conscious of how you use language and stop communicating in ways that cause you to sound inexperienced or unprofessional. Ask those you trust and respect for feedback.

7. Doing your bills at the office.
Whether you are paying your bills, planning your wedding, or placing an online order for a special gift, avoid doing them on office time. People understand short personal calls and respect emergencies, but they don't appreciate seeing you get paid to manage your life.

8. Skirting around the dress code.
Ask ten companies to define business casual and you have ten different definitions. Dressing for work has never been more complicated - especially if you work at multiple locations. Prioritize matching your customer's dress code and if visiting more than one on a given day and the codes conflict, go for a classic, neutral look and be prepared to flex - adding or losing a jacket or tie between locations.

9. Taking it too easy on telecommute days.
Run a few errands and throw in a load of laundry? Hey, you're a hard worker and deserve work-life balance. Telecommuting can be a tremendous win-win but if you stretch it to its limits, you may blow the policy for yourself and others. Meet your deadlines, be readily available during business hours, and do great work -- skip the temptation to make it appear like you are working but you're really not.

10. Acting unethically.
Make sure you are clear on your organization's ethics policies and have the courage and conviction to uphold them. It's easy to draw the line on major violations but watch for the subtle ways you may be pulling others in the wrong direction to achieve goals—massaging numbers or data, violating copyright, or providing misleading information. Raise the ethics bar high and hold yourself and others to it.

'Sexing it up' doesn't necessarily sell albums
In lean times, buyers more interested in message than T&A

Christina vamps like a burlesque stripper. Britney's gone from schoolgirl to slut. Pink is punk.

Many of music’s reigning divas are partying like it's 1999, even though the world has become a darker, more uncertain and more anxious place since September 11, 2001.

With the economy in a funk and record sales down for three years running, even established artists are sexing it up -- no doubt encouraged by edgy industry executives.

The problem is, the public just doesn't seem to be in the mood for it, and the recent mediocre album sales by Spears, Pink and similar artists may reflect a classic case of mismarketing.

"When social and economic times are more threatening and pessimistic, we actually prefer others with more mature facial, body and personality characteristics," says Terry Pettijohn, a Ph.D. social psychologist at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania.

If Pettijohn's observations are accurate, then industry executives who are pushing artists to "tart it up" are miscalculating the market and could be damaging careers.

"Audiences are listening to lyrics more," says Ron Vos, president/chief executive of Hi Frequency Marketing in North Carolina. "They're focused on content and story line, not dancing and having fun, and they want the artist to reflect that."

Post-9/11 soul searching
Indeed, female artists who are succeeding on the radio and on the charts have tapped into the nation’s post-September 11 soul-searching.

Vos, whose firm worked with Avril Lavigne and Norah Jones, says these artists are writing music that’s about being in touch with your values. They portray themselves as self-made people who write about their feelings, he says.

Sex certainly sells. The concept has been around as long as advertising. But Lavigne and Jones reflect a different kind of sexuality that's much subtler, more genuine and thus more alluring in a time of crisis.

Given the national mood, such nuances could easily be the difference between strong and mediocre sales.

One of the hottest breakthrough groups of last year, rock band Evanescence, is fronted by Amy Lee, who is appalled by the crass marketing of some pop stars. "Talking bad about Britney is like beating a dead horse; I won't even go there," she says.

But what really bothers Lee are female artists who are good writers or good singers but have gone from being "really classy and cool to just stripping it all away."

Jewel, for example, has gone from folk songstress to cover girl, and 40-something Sheryl Crow struts onstage in hot pants even as she bemoans that other artists are being marketed like "porn stars."

"Obviously, sex is the most basic thing that you can sell," Lee says. "I mean, you sell yourself, and I just hate it."

Trampiness trend
From Spears' kiss with Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards to Pink's onstage antics at the Billboard Music Awards, the trend toward trampiness shows no signs of abating.

But some academic research suggests that it runs counter to current economic, social and demographic trends.

Last spring, Pettijohn and University of Georgia professor Abraham Tesser presented a paper to the American Psychological Society in Atlanta that examined how the social and economic environment affects human preferences.

"In times of trouble, strong, stable, supportive people are favored," he says. "When times are good, we tend to favor the fun person."

To reach that conclusion, the researchers studied the public's preferences for actresses between 1932 and 1995.

Individuals preferred smaller eyes, thinner cheeks and larger chins in bad times, and women with larger eyes, fuller cheeks and smaller chins in good times, the study found.

"The U.S. is always going back and forth between our puritan values and our need for indulgences," says Sharon Livingston of the Livingston Group, a Windham, New Hampshire, marketing and research firm.

Currently, songs with a mellow, introspective approach are finding a receptive U.S. audience, in part because of the confusion and sense of change in the wake of September 11, according to Ball State University pop culture expert Richard Aquila.

That mood plays into the resurgence of the singer/songwriter, where audiences are eager to hear what the individual has to say, he says.

"There's been a turn toward traditional values," Aquila adds.

Alicia Keys is representative of the trend. Her songs are introspective and soulful. Her image, while sexual, also exudes strength and character. Not surprisingly, her latest album is doing well on the charts.

'Constructive use of her libido'
Norah Jones is sexy, Livingston says. But "she's using libido in a gentle way and talking about relationships. It's a more constructive use of her libido, but she's still creating interest and intrigue."

She's saying, "'Come be with me, and you'll feel good about yourself,"' she explains.

Spears, of course, has played the sex card most often and most blatantly in the face of declining sales.

Her biggest single, "... Baby One More Time," cut when her image was more wholesome, spent 39 weeks on the singles charts in 1998, including seven weeks in the top spot.

Her last single to hit No. 1 on the charts was "I'm a Slave 4 U" in 2001. It spent one week at the top.

Despite massive hype, Spears' latest album is posting only so-so sales. And Pink's latest release is suffering as well. Sales of "Try This" have fallen far short of her previous blockbuster album.

According to a source, her label is privately worried that she has been tarting it up too much. For her part, Pink says artists are just using what they've got.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with being sexy, but people use what they have," she says. "If people have a great voice, then you use your voice; if you have a great mind, then you speak a lot; if you have a great body, then you take your clothes off."

That may work if you’re 20-something, but Evanescence's Lee isn't the only person who finds the trend disturbing among such established, talented female artists as Toni Braxton, Liz Phair and LeAnn Rimes.

Gina Vivinetto, pop music critic for Florida's St. Petersburg Times, noted in an article last summer that it’s as if someone had issued a memo to every woman in rock. "No matter how seriously she once took herself, no matter how good her voice or her level of talent, she must start looking like a tramp."

When your interviewer is a freak

Not everyone marches to the same drummer. This includes interviewers. While many who interview job applicants ask some predictable questions and have a certain sense of decorum, not all follow the same style or fit the typical mold. The truth is that if you participate in more than a few interviews, you are likely to run into many kinds of personalities.

What do you do if you end up seated across the desk from an eccentric person? You may feel a bit uncomfortable with his or her unorthodox approach.

While your first instinct is to think that you don't want the job if this person is representative of the company, give the firm the benefit of the doubt and focus on yourself, not the interviewer. Just be yourself and say what you came to say.

If you have core messages prepared and rehearsed in advance you should be able to cope with any of the following interview types:

The mute.
This is the person who doesn't seem to know what to ask you. He or she looks at your resume and can't formulate any questions or reach any conclusions. You get very short responses to any questions you ask. It's clear that you are going to have to help this person through the interview. Break the silence by saying "Why don't I start by giving you an overview of my experience?" Then head into your core messages.

The chatterbox.
This person runs on and on, busily talking about what she does, what the company does, the corporate climate, his life history, blah, blah, blah. The good news is that you are learning some things about the company and the work environment; the bad news is that the person is learning nothing about you. While it's best to let this person blab on, when he or she takes a breath, be prepared to inject your key messages. You might say, "This is great information, I see where my experience as a brand manager at XYZ can help the company reposition its product. For instance…" Now, you can become the chatterbox.

The quirky questioner.
This person goes beyond the expected questions such as: tell me about yourself, what are your strengths and weaknesses, where do you see yourself in five years. He or she may ask something out of left field - "Did you buy that suit just for this interview?" "Do you like clowns?" "What do you think about Bush's chances in '04?" "Do you think women make good managers?" "If you were a cloud, what kind would you be?" If you think the recruiter is just odd but harmless, dodge the question with a laugh and bridge to a point you want to make about yourself. You could say, "That's an interesting question, when I think of clouds it reminds me of dealing with corporate change. In my previous position I spearheaded a task force to …" If the question is simply inappropriate, it's OK to say so.

The close talker.
Straight out of Seinfeld, this person has a different idea of how much space to leave between the two of you. If it's making you crazy, fake a cough and back up your chair. Try to find an excuse to adjust your seat by dropping your pencil or getting up for a minute to look for something in your briefcase. When you return, re-adjust your chair. If this isn't possible, try leaning into the interviewer's space. Sometimes this will cause the person to back away. If you can't create a buffer zone, don't let it bother you, consider the closeness as intense interest in you and stay focused on your key messages.

Whatever screwball behavior you encounter, take charge of the interview. Put the question you want to answer on the table then answer it. You came to talk about yourself. If you can relate at least one interesting example of how you solved a problem, achieved a goal or contributed to a team, you may actually engage the interviewer in a dialog about you. After the interview, follow up with a brief thank-you letter that re-states the key messages your intergalactic interviewer may or may not have heard.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Documentaries Draw on Animation
By Jason Silverman

PARK CITY, Utah -- Had he been born a a few years later, Henry Darger might have been an animator. Instead, the now-famous outsider artist, who died penniless in 1973, left behind an illustrated novel with thousands of watercolor paintings plus music and lyrics. Many of Darger's works were painted in sequence, almost as if he were drawing storyboards for a movie.

When Oscar-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu began a documentary about Darger, she decided to take what seemed like a logical next step for this work -- she animated it. Yu's film In the Realms of the Unreal, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, includes both standard documentary footage -- talking heads and archival photos -- and animated sequences that add movement and sound to Darger's paintings.

Even 10 years ago, mixing animation and documentary would have been both impractical and taboo -- animation emerges from the brain of an artist, while documentary is supposed to be grounded in objective truth.

But the plummeting costs of animation and dissolving rules of nonfiction have brought this cinematic odd couple together. Michael Moore's Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine featured an animated sequence created by Howard Moss. Recent PBS documentaries Hybrid and Repetition Compulsion were largely or entirely animated.

Animation, according to Cara Mertes, executive director of the PBS nonfiction series P.O.V., is one sign of a brave new era of documentary.

"Documentary has never been more exciting, and that's because of the expansion of the form," said Mertes. "Filmmakers are incorporating fictional elements, experimental elements and animation, and the animation that documentary filmmakers are using has been wonderfully imaginative and extremely effective."

Filmmakers are bringing a number of different styles and methods of animation to their documentaries. In the Realms of the Unreal used After Effects to create a staccato, childlike motion -- like Colorforms come to life -- perfectly appropriate to the subject matter. David Lebrun, in his documentary Proteus, used quick cutting of photographic images to create an animation-like effect.

Proteus explores the life of the 19th- and 20th-century scientist Ernst Haeckel, who discovered, among other things, the radiolarian -- a single-celled organism that comes in a startling diversity of geometric forms. Haeckel sketched more than 4,000 of these, and Lebrun, through a complicated and painstaking photographic process, transferred 1,000 to film.

Lebrun then combined these still images in a process similar to traditional cel animation. Because of that, Proteus is as much a visual experience as a narrative one.

"The animation throws Proteus into something that is beyond documentary into a sensory experience -- hopefully an ecstatic, visionary one," Lebrun said. "If I just presented the animation by itself, outside of the context of the documentary, it would probably seem experimental or radical. But by creating a documentary, I can hopefully propel the audience into a very intense, stroboscopic, hallucinatory animated experience."

Perhaps the best-known practitioner of the fully animated documentary is Bob Sabiston, the animation director of Richard Linklater's cult favorite Waking Life. Sabiston has created a series of animated interviews, including Grasshopper, also premiering this week at Sundance, along with Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions, for which Sabiston animated a sequence.

To create Grasshopper, Sabiston took a video interview with a man on the street and overlaid it with animation. As the man talks, the background shifts, his eyes bulge, and colors flash and pulse. It's beautiful to see -- far more visually striking than the average nonfiction film -- and elevates what would have been an interesting monologue into a deeper meditation on truth and perception.

"I'm not sure if I consider it a documentary -- I guess it is because it is real," Sabiston said of Grasshopper. "People who have seen my films have told me that the people somehow seem more real than they would if it was just video. And they pay more attention to what is said. The animation is useful because you can heighten what is interesting and drop out what is not."

And animation, Yu added, actually can help remind viewers that even documentary is a product of a filmmaker's own agenda and attitudes.

"In any documentary you take liberties, but with animation those liberties are more obvious and transparent," Yu said.

Five "Dos" and "Don'ts" of Genealogy

In celebration of the New Year, why not kick a few of those bad family history habits? Because unlike losing fifty pounds, changing the way you do genealogy is actually a reasonable resolution. Greater success with family history may be as simple as avoiding these all-too-common mistakes:

Mistake No. 1
Not documenting your research.

If you don't keep track of where you've been, you're likely to keep searching the same records over and over again. Needless to say, this wastes a lot of time.

Keep a research log.

You can either download a free research form from or create your own. As you explore each new resource, be sure to write down the name of the database as well as any page numbers. Also, keep track of the different search terms and word combinations that you've been using.

Mistake No. 2
Using only one spelling.

If you've been sticking with a single name spelling when searching for an ancestor, you've probably missed out on a lot of good stuff. Always remember that an ancestor could have used one of several names during his or her lifetime.

Use different spellings and name combinations.

Try several variations of your ancestors' names incorporating middle names, nicknames, and married names. You can also try changing the spelling slightly (e.g. "Andersen" instead of "Anderson"). As with any genealogical search, broadening your search criteria will return maximum results.

Mistake No. 3
Accepting fiction as fact.

Never take anything at face value. Finding your ancestor's name does not guarantee that you've found the right ancestor. Remember that nothing is truly fact until you can back it up using more than one resource.

Use multiple records and resources.

To verify your findings, check multiple source documents. If you have a birth record, for example, you can cross-reference it with a census document. If the name, age, and birthplace match up, then you’ve probably found the right ancestor.

Mistake No. 4
Extracting only part of the record.

You can miss a lot of important detail by not paying attention to context. Who created this record? When was it created? Who else is listed on the document?

Look at the bigger picture.

Rather than recording fragments, photocopy the entire page whether it's a birth certificate, parish record, or census document.

Mistake No. 5
Going straight to a country of origin.

Many Americans are anxious to establish cultural identity, be it Austrian, Italian, or some other nationality. But searching for an ancestor in the Old World is almost impossible without a strong base of preliminary research.

Follow the trail and move backward.

Rather than jumping into foreign research, it's better to begin with recent information like a last-known residence or a death record. Establishing a thorough paper trail will help you narrow your research before moving on to an entirely new country.

Friday, January 23, 2004

A long time ago, there was a huge apple tree. A little boy loved to come and play around it everyday. He climbed to the tree top, ate the apples, took a nap under the shadow... He loved the tree and the tree loved to play with him. Time went by... the little boy had grown up and he no longer played around the tree everyday.

One day, the boy came back to the tree and he looked sad. "Come and play with me," the tree asked the boy.

"I am no longer a kid, I don't play around trees anymore." The boy replied, "I want toys. I need money to buy them."

"Sorry, but I don't have money... but you can pick all my apples and sell them. So, you will have money." The boy was so excited. He grabbed all the apples on the tree and left happily. The boy never came back after he picked the apples. The tree was sad.

One day, the boy returned and the tree was so excited. "Come and play with me" the tree said. "I don't have time to play. I have to work for my family. We need a house for shelter. Can you help me?"

"Sorry, but I don't have a house. But you can chop off my branches to build your house." So the boy cut all the branches of the tree and left happily. The tree was glad to see him happy but the boy never came back since then. The tree was again lonely and sad.

One hot summer day, the boy returned and the tree was delighted. "Come and play with me!" the tree said.

"I am sad and getting old. I want to go sailing to relax myself. Can you give me a boat?"

"Use my trunk to build your boat. You can sail far away and be happy." So the boy cut the tree truck to make a boat. He went sailing and never showed up for a long time.

Finally, the boy returned after he left for so many years. "Sorry, my boy. But I don't have anything for you anymore. No more apples for you." the tree said.

"I don't have teeth to bite" the boy replied.

"No more truck for you to climb on" "I am too old for that now" the boy said.

"I really can't give you anything ... the only thing left is my dying roots" the tree said with tears. "I don't need much now, just a place to rest. I am tired after all these years." The boy replied. "Good! Old tree roots is the best place to lean on and rest. Come, Come sit down with me and rest." The boy sat down and the tree was glad and smiled with tears.

* This is a story of everyone. The tree is our parent. When we were young, we loved to play with Mom and Dad... When we grew up, we left them... only to come to them now when we need something or when we are in trouble. No matter what, parents will always be there and give everything they could to make you happy. You may think the boy is cruel to the tree but that's how all of us are treating our parents. Please enlighten all your friends by forward this mail to them. And love your parents. (Sat. July 15, 2000 email)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Pet Prescription: Is It for You?
Owning a pet can reduce stress and improve many aspects of your health. But not everyone is cut out for pet ownership.

By Leanna Skarnulis

For many pet owners, having a dog or cat fills their lives with companionship and affection. But having a pet may do much more. Evidence is mounting in support of a "pet prescription" for many things that ail you.

Research has shown that when dog or cat owners were asked to perform a stressful arithmetic task, they showed less stress in the company of their pets than in the company of a friend. Other studies have found that owning a pet relieves depression, reduces blood pressure and triglycerides, and improves exercise habits, all of which can lower the risk of heart attacks. Studies even suggest that having a pet might improve survival after a heart attack.

The Pet Prescription

Some studies linking health to animal companionship are very compelling. K.C. Cole, RN, MN, is director of UCLA's People-Animal Connection (PAC), whose volunteers take dogs to visit about 400 hospital patients each month. Besides having witnessed the therapeutic value of animals, Cole has reviewed studies of the human-animal bond and is convinced there are many social, psychological, and physiological benefits.

"Among other things, animals contribute to raising self-esteem, significantly lowering anxiety levels, improving attitude toward others and opening lines of communication," she says. "With geriatric patients we see a bridge of communication develop with staff and family when a dog visits."

Cole says the most credible studies of the health benefits relate to cardiovascular disease. Heart attack patients with pet companions survive longer than those without, according to several studies.

Karen Allen, PhD, a medical researcher at the University of Buffalo, conducted a 1999 study of 48 stockbrokers who had high blood pressure and concluded that owners of a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than those who had no pets. "When we told the group that didn't have pets about the findings, many went out and got them," she says.

In another study, elderly pet owners expressed more satisfaction with life than those without pets. Other studies have shown that pet ownership lessens the likelihood of depression in men with AIDS and can help people with Alzheimer's disease or those with orthopaedic disorders.

Should you get a pet? Before you trade pills for a pooch, consider whether you can make the commitment that owning a pet requires.

What's Your Lifestyle?

Look at your lifestyle to determine whether a pet will be a joy or a burden. If you're on the go working and traveling, you'll have to make arrangements for someone to look after a dog, and to a lesser extent, a cat. Physical limitations may prevent you from taking a dog for walks, especially in the winter months. And a dog that barks at everything may add to your stress (not to mention that of your neighbors). Family members or friends with allergies may decide your home is off-limits. If you pride yourself on a clean house, dog or cat hair will become your nemesis, not to mention that a dog will track mud inside on a rainy day and a cat doesn't care where she spits up a fur ball. Finally, be aware of costs, not just for spaying or neutering, shots, bed, carrier, toys, and food, but also for the unexpected things. Talk to pet owners, and you'll find at some time their cherished pet chewed a keepsake photo album or urinated on an heirloom loveseat or ruined some other valuable. Then there's the problem of illness. Medicine and trips to the vet can be costly.

Lessons From the Pound

The two main reasons people take pets to the pound are 1) the owners move, and 2) the pets' behavior is a problem, according to Mo Salman, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He led a study of why people relinquish pets. "One thing that surprised me about the study was finding the short turnover of dogs and cats relinquished to shelters," he said. "Average time was less than a year. My interpretation is that people just didn't give it thought before getting a pet."

The study also revealed people were more likely to give up a pet if they received it from someone else as opposed to getting it on their own. "I think well-meaning friends and family should recognize the person's ability to accommodate the pet's needs," Salman says. "Some matchings are perfect, but others are dangerous. Perfect matching is giving an elderly person who mainly stays at home a sweet, older cat that's always been a house cat. A risky match would be giving her a puppy. There's a balance. People need to consider both the animal and human needs."

Enjoy Pets Without Responsibility

You can get all the pet companionship you want without the responsibility of ownership. Just ask Jackie Ireland of Omaha, Neb. She and her husband vowed never to own another animal after their beloved cat, Tinker, became seriously ill and was euthanized at age 13. Eventually she found she could indulge her love of felines by cat sitting for neighbors in her townhome complex.

Other options to pet ownership carry varying degrees of responsibility. Many animal shelters need "foster parents" for pets not quite ready for adoption. If you don't want animals in your home, you can volunteer to work at an animal shelter. Tasks may be as unglamorous as cleaning cages or as rewarding as bottle-feeding kittens. Animal shelters also provide educational outreach services that depend on volunteers to take animals to schools or shopping malls. Animal-assisted therapy groups also need help taking animals to visit nursing homes, children's hospital wards, and residential treatment facilities.

Whether a part-time relationship with animals as a volunteer carries the health benefits studies attribute to pet ownership isn't known. But many people, like Ireland, say they derive immense satisfaction from the interaction. "I get the best of all worlds," she says. "I'll never have to face putting another cat to sleep, I don't have full-time responsibility for a pet, but I still have cats in my life."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Porn Factor
In the Internet age, pornography is almost everywhere you look. But what is it doing to real-life relationships?

By Pamela Paul

In a Friends episode titled "The One with Free Porn," Chandler and Joey discover to their delight a free pornography TV channel, which they leave on and watch endlessly for fear it will go away. Later, a startled Chandler reports to Joey, "I was just at the bank, and there was this really hot teller, and she didn't ask me to go do it in the vault." Joey describes a similar cold shoulder from the pizza-delivery woman. "You know what?" Chandler concludes. "We have to turn off the porn."

Chandler may be on to something. Call it the porn factor. Whereas pornography was once furtively glimpsed at dimly lighted newsstands or seedy adult theaters, today it is everywhere. It pours in over the Internet, sometimes uninvited, sometimes via eagerly forwarded links (Paris Hilton, anyone?). It titillates 24/7 on steamy adult cable channels and on-demand services (the pay-per-view reality show Can You Be a Porn Star? made its debut this month). It has infiltrated mainstream cable with HBO's forthcoming documentary series Pornucopia: Going Down in the Valley. And in ways that have only begun to be measured, it is coloring relationships, both long-and short-term, reshaping expectations about sex and body image and, most worrisome of all, threatening to alter how young people learn about sex.

In recent years, a number of psychologists and sociologists have joined the chorus of religious and political opponents in warning about the impact of pervasive pornography. They argue that porn is transforming sexuality and relationships--for the worse. Experts say men who frequently view porn may develop unrealistic expectations of women's appearance and behavior, have difficulty forming and sustaining relationships and feeling sexually satisfied. Fueled by a combination of access, anonymity and affordability, online porn has catapulted overall pornography consumption--bringing in new viewers, encouraging more use from existing fans and escalating consumers from soft-core to harder-core material. Cyberporn is even giving rise to a new form of sexual compulsiveness. According to Alvin Cooper, who conducts seminars on cybersex addiction, 15% of online-porn habitues develop sexual behavior that disrupts their lives. "The Internet is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction," says Jennifer Schneider, co-author of Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession?

Yet most users say sex online is nothing more than good (if not quite clean) fun. According to a 2001 online survey of 7,037 adults, two-thirds of those who visit websites with sexual content say their Internet activities haven't affected their level of sexual activity with their partners, though three-quarters report masturbating while online. The vast majority of respondents--85% to 90%--according to Cooper, who heads the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Center, which conducted the study, are what he calls "recreational users," people who view pornography as a curiosity or diversion.

The question is, Can even recreational use be unhealthy? A 2003 online study by Texas Christian University found that the more pornography men watch, the more likely they are to describe women in sexualized terms and categorize women in traditional gender roles. Mark Schwartz, director of the Masters and Johnson clinic in St. Louis, Mo., says porn not only causes men to objectify women--seeing them as an assemblage of breasts, legs and buttocks--but also leads to a dependency on visual imagery for arousal. "Men become like computers, unable to be stimulated by the human beings beside them," he says. "The image of a lonely, isolated man masturbating to his computer is the Willy Loman metaphor of our decade."

Other psychologists are more tolerant. Most men use pornography in secret, and as long as it doesn't affect their relationships, some say that's O.K. "If a client is enjoying a healthy use of pornography without his wife's knowledge, I would counsel him not to tell her," says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, who studies men and relationships. Yet many therapists say such behavior creates a breach of trust. Spouses often view porn as a betrayal or even as adultery. The typical reaction when a woman discovers her husband's habit is shock and "How dare he?" According to therapist Lonnie Barbach, based in Mill Valley, Calif., many such women "feel like they're not good enough. Otherwise, why would their mates be seeking this?"

Sometimes pornography tears couples apart. At the 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said the Internet played a significant role in divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases. "This is clearly related to the Internet," says Richard Barry, president of the association. "Pornography had an almost nonexistent role in divorce just seven or eight years ago."

Still, couples therapists sometimes suggest pornography as a way to refresh relationships or spark desire. Increasingly, women are game. Sociologist Michael Kimmel has found that each year more of his female college students approve of porn, which may reflect women's increased sexual empowerment. Nonetheless, he says, "their attitude is surprising to those of us who think it an impoverished view of liberation to construct your sex life the way men do." The key, therapists say, is for mutual consumption to be seductive to both partners and for material to be "erotic" rather than "pornographic." Most describe the difference this way: porn is objectifying and derogatory while erotica depicts mutually satisfying sex between equal partners. Others say it's a matter of taste.

Trouble is, often the taste is not shared. Jessica (not her real name), 28, a product manager in New York City, tolerates her boyfriend's pornography habit, but his admiration for bodies like that of porn queen Jenna Jameson has made her insecure, so she plans to get breast implants. "My boyfriend told me lots of his friends' girlfriends have done it," she says. "He said to me, 'Imagine what an awesome body you'll have!' I can't blame him for his preferences." But Jessica isn't sure that surgery will improve their sex life. "He tends to be selfish sexually," she says. "I think pornography has a lot to do with it. For him, porn is easy."

Jessica's experience is pretty typical, says Aline Zoldbrod, a sex therapist in Lexington, Mass. She says men's use of porn for undemanding relief often distracts them from the task of trying to please their real-life partners.

Porn doesn't just give men bad ideas; it can give kids the wrong idea at a formative age. Whereas children used to supplement sex education by tearing through National Geographic in search of naked aboriginals and leafing through the occasional Penthouse they stumbled across in the garage, today many are confronted by pornographic images on a daily basis. In a 2001 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 70% of 15-to 17-year-olds said they had accidentally come across pornography online. Older teens may be aware of the effects of such images: 59% of 15-to-24-year-olds told the pollsters they believe seeing porn on the Internet encourages young people to have sex before they are ready; 49% said it promotes bad attitudes toward women and encourages viewers to think unprotected sex is O.K. "Pornography is affecting people at an increasingly young age," says sociologist Diana Russell, who has written several books on the subject. "And unfortunately for many kids growing up today, pornography is the only sex education they'll get."

Because children learn sexual cues early, boys may train themselves to respond only to images shaped by porn stars, while girls may learn that submission and Brazilian bikini waxes are the keys to pleasing men. Recent studies show a correlation between increased aggressiveness in boys and exposure to pornography, and a link between childhood use of porn and sexually abusive behavior in adulthood. "It's not easy to shock me," says Judith Coche, a therapist in Philadelphia who has been in practice for 25 years. "But one 11-year-old girl's parents discovered their daughter creating her own pornographic website because it's 'cool' among her friends." As such incidents multiply, more Americans--parents especially--may come to Chandler's conclusion: We have to turn off the porn.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

5 things they'll notice about your place
By Bob Strauss

By the time you've reached a certain age — barring bankruptcy, flood or other natural disaster — your place looks pretty much the way you want it to. But while you may be comfortable with your living situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend is bound to inspect the premises like a cranky elementary school teacher grading an overdue diorama. Here's a quick rundown of what your significant other is likely to focus on, with a view to how men and women (surprise!) tend to see things slightly differently.

The bathroom
What women look for: Cleanliness. Even if she never, ever plans to do serious business there, a gal won't settle for anything less than sealed-for-her-protection sterility: No scum in the toilet bowl, no fungus on the shower curtain, no nudie magazines stashed clumsily inside the hamper. What men look for: Weird stuff in the medicine cabinet. There could be a six-inch cockroach leading a kazoo chorus in the sink, and your boyfriend will be so fascinated by your UFO-shaped birth-control-pill dispenser that he won't even notice the blaring bug band.

The closets
What men look for: Lack of room. If a gal's closets are crammed to bursting with pocketbooks, cocktail dresses and enough shoes to stock a Macy's warehouse sale, it makes the average guy wonder: Will I be able to support her in the manner to which she's become accustomed? What women look for: Room, and lots of it. Your girlfriend doesn't care if your sports jackets are 100% cashmere or a rayon/Garanimals blend; she just wants space for all her pocketbooks, cocktail dresses and shoes.

The CD collection
What women look for: Death metal, early '70's synth rock (think Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer), or "novelty song" compilations. Ownership of any of these genres in bulk points to a guy who is constitutionally incapable of having a mature relationship. What men look for: Waif-like, weepy oh-so-liberal female folk singers. Any gal who owns more than one Kate Bush, Sarah McLachlan, or Jewel CD is, to the average Joe's ears, already way more trouble than she's worth.

The pictures
What men look for: Old boyfriends. Framed 8X10 glossies of you and your ex-beau sipping champagne aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean are bound to make the new flame in your life a bit, well, depressed. If you're divorced or separated, prominently displayed wedding portraits may make him suicidal. What women look for: Old relatives. It's nice to have one or two pictures of mom in the living room, but any more than that, anywhere in the vicinity of the bedroom, reveals a lot more than you probably intended.

The TV set
What women look for: Size — screen size, that is. Anything over 32 inches is bad news; it means the guy they've hooked up with is either a sports junkie or owns the complete Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD box set. Anything less than 17 inches, on the other hand, points to a fellow who's unemployed and/or six months behind in his alimony payments. They'll breathe a big sigh of relief when they see that standard 27-incher parked in the living room. What men look for: The remote.


1. Don't force a fit--if something is meant to be, it will come together naturally.

2. When things aren't going so well, take a break. Everything will look different when you return.

3. Be sure to look at the big picture. Getting hung up on the little pieces only leads to frustration.

4. Perseverance pays off. Every important puzzle went together bit by bit, piece by piece.

5. When one spot stops working, move to another. But be sure to come back later (see #4).

6. The creator of the puzzle gave you the picture as a guidebook. Refer to the Creator's guidebook often.

7. Variety is the spice of life. It's the different colors and patterns that make the puzzle interesting.

8. Working together with friends and family makes any task fun.

9. Establish the border first. Boundaries give a sense of security and order.

10. Don't be afraid to try different combinations. Some matches are surprising.

11. Take time often to celebrate your successes (even little ones).

12. Anything worth doing takes time and effort. A great puzzle can't be rushed.

13. When you finally reach the last piece, don't be sad. Rejoice in the masterpiece you've made and enjoy a well-deserved rest.

-- By Jacquie Sewell

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

If for an instant God were to forget that I am a rag doll and gifted me with a piece of life, possibly I wouldn't say all that I think, but rather I would think of all that I say. I would value things, not for their worth but for what they mean. I would sleep little, dream more, understanding that for each minute we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

I would walk when others hold back, I would wake when others sleep. I would listen when others talk, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream! If God were to give me a piece of life, I would dress simply, throw myself face first into the sun, baring not only my body but also my soul.

My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hate on ice, and wait for the sun to show. Over the stars I would paint with a Van Gogh dream a Benedetti poem, and a Serrat song would be the serenade I'd offer to the moon. With my tears I would water roses, to feel the pain of their thorns, and the red kiss of their petals...

My God, if I had a piece of life... I wouldn't let a single day pass without telling the people I love that I love them. I would convince each woman and each man that they are my favorites, and I would live in love with love. I would show men how very wrong they are to think that they cease to be in love when they grow old, not knowing that they grow old when they cease to be in love! To a child I shall give wings, but I shall let him learn to fly on his own. I would teach the old that death does not come with old age, but with forgetting. So much have I learned from you, oh men...

I have learned that everyone wants to live on the peak of the mountain, without knowing that real happiness is in how it is scaled. I have learned that when a newborn child squeezes for the first time with his tiny fist his father's finger, he has him trapped forever. I have learned that a man has the right to look down on another only when he has to help the other get to his feet. From you I have learned so many things, but in truth they won't be of much use, for when I keep them within this suitcase, unhappily shall I be dying.

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Accepting Yourself Unconditionally
By Brian Tracy

Self-acceptance begins in infancy, with the influence of your parents and siblings and other important people.

Your own level of self-acceptance is determined largely by how well you feel you are accepted by the important people in your life.

Your attitude toward yourself is determined largely by the attitudes that you think other people have toward you. When you believe that other people think highly of you, your level of self-acceptance and self-esteem goes straight up.

The best way to build a healthy personality involves understanding yourself and your feelings.

Letting the Light Shine In
This is achieved through the simple exercise of self-disclosure. For you to truly understand yourself, or to stop being troubled by things that may have happened in your past, you must be able to disclose yourself to at least one person. You have to be able to get those things off your chest. You must rid yourself of those thoughts and feelings by revealing them to someone who won't make you feel guilty or ashamed for what has happened.

Become Aware of Your Feelings
The second part of personality development follows from self-disclosure, and it's called self-awareness. Only when you can disclose what you're truly thinking and feeling to someone else can you become aware of those thoughts and emotions. If the other person simply listens to you without commenting or criticizing, you have the opportunity to become more aware of the person you are and why you do the things you do. You begin to develop perspective, or what Buddhists call "detachment."

Accept the Person You Are
Now we come to the good part. After you've gone through self-disclosure to self-awareness, you arrive at self-acceptance. You accept yourself for the person you are, with good points and bad points, with strengths and weaknesses, and with the normal frailties of a human being. When you develop the ability to stand back and look at yourself honestly, and to candidly admit to others that you may not be perfect but you're all you've got, you start to enjoy a heightened sense of self-acceptance.

Do an Inventory of Your Accomplishments

A valuable exercise for developing higher levels of self-acceptance involves doing an inventory of yourself. In doing this inventory, your job is to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. Think of your unique talents and abilities. Think of your core skills, the things that you do exceptionally well that account for your success in your profession and in your personal life right now.

Think About Your Future
Think about your future possibilities and the fact that your potential is virtually unlimited. You can do what you want to do and go where you want to go. You can be the person you want to be. You can set large and small goals and make plans and move step-by-step, progressively toward their realization. There are no obstacles to what you can accomplish except the obstacles that you create in your mind.

Action Exercises
First, sit down with your spouse, or a good friend, and tell him or her about something that is troubling you and is still causing you unhappiness.

Second, develop perspective on your problem by standing back from it and imagining that it was happening to someone else. What advice would you give to that person?

Third, think continually about the good experiences and accomplishments you have enjoyed in the past. Remind yourself regularly that you are a pretty good person and you've done a lot of good things in your life.

Who's your hero?
By Steve Goodier

The people who make a difference are those who care

One of those strange newspaper stories told of a 19-year-old woman who had been charged in Los Angeles with two counts of trespassing, after sneaking into the home of actor Brad Pitt and trying on his clothes. I suppose we have different ways of adoring our heroes...

But who are our real heroes? I was given a little quiz recently. See how well you do:
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name five Olympic gold medalists.
3. Name the last five winners of your national beauty contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half-dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's national or world champions in your favorite sport.

These people, of course, are the best in their fields. But fame is fleeting and outstanding performance is too soon forgotten.

Now try another quiz:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
6. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

If you found the second quiz easier, it may be because those people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the best degrees or pedigrees, nor are they the most honored or honorable. The people who make a difference are those who care. They may never have seen a battle; never scored a winning goal; never been featured in a magazine. But they have been busy helping you to be the best you can be.

Let's remember and thank our real heroes. And don't be surprised if someone thanks you.

Leyte Delight
Text and photos by Yvette Lee

Beyond the walls and reefs of Sogod Bay , divers are quietly beginning to see the Leyte in encounters with whale sharks, rays and other pelagics?

For as long as she can remember, Lina Moritt knew summer was around the corner whenever the kaliki-tikis gathered at the base of the lighthouse of the sleepy town of Liloan . The boys would jump on the backs of these gigantic, spotted, gentle creatures and go for a short ride as the whale sharks vacuumed the surface for their meal of plankton.

As a young lady Lina moved to Manila , where she met an Australian named Peter. They got married, moved to Australia and raised a family. Peter was a keen diver and would regale his wife about his adventures as a diver growing up Down Under.

Peter told her about mantas, giant groupers and about Ningaloo reef, where divers would flock from all over the world, to pay an arm and a leg just to swim with the whale sharks. Lina laughed and said they should visit her hometown, where he could have his fill of whale sharks for free.

With a tinge of disbelief, Peter took an extended leave to investigate his wife's tall tale. Sure enough, the whale sharks appeared along the coast of Liloan from December to May, close to the river mouths that emptied into the sea where the convergence of fresh and seawater resulted in plankton and algal soup for the kaliki-tikis .

As luck would have it, Peter was introduced to a young man, Rio Cahambing, whose job was to set up fish sanctuaries around Sogod Bay , in a bid to improve the fish catch of the local communities. Rio showed him the areas he had surveyed during the course of his duties and Peter realised they had stumbled on a prized find.

Not only did the area host the whale sharks, the bay also offered hidden treasures of walls and reefs that could make every underwater photographer swoon with delight! Seizing the opportunity that was pounding on his door, Peter returned to Australia , packed up his family and set up a dive resort in Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte .

Love at First Sight

I made arrangements to visit during the Christmas and New Year's holiday. When we arrived, the northeast wind was blowing in full force. Peering out my window the next morning, I was quite discouraged by the gloomy conditions, until I bumped into Peter, who was merrily preparing for a full day of diving in Limasawa Island .

Peter assured me our dive area would be sheltered, and indeed my scepticism dissolved when we pulled up to the azure waters of Zach's Cove. Intact fields of both young and mature table and staghorn coral greeted my eyes. Purple anthias and humbug dascylus populated the pastel colours of the baby coral heads, with the vibrant parrotfish bullying their way in search of the next meal.

Dropping off into the wall, gorgonians and sea fans provided the backdrop for some hastily squeezed shots of diver silhouettes. In the deep, a grand staircase of orange sea fans emerged while a giant Napoleon wrasse weaved its way out of our path.

The next day we motored across the bay to the Napantaw Fish Sanctuary ? also home to Rio 's Wall. Two dives were needed to fully appreciate this site. The top of the reef is covered in of both soft and hard coral, colourful reef fishes and juvenile tridacna clams with electric blue smiling lips. A series of boulders that break the surface are coated in a profusion of soft yellow and maroon corals, while purple sponges cover whatever space is left.

Gliding past the teeming reef I descended along a wall chock full of gorgonians, pink, purple and magenta dendronepthya corals, white sea fans, whip corals and a forest of fluorescent black coral bushes. Intact green coral trees hid bright blue-spotted red coral groupers. The deeper portion was inhabited by regal, emperor, yellow mask and six-banded angelfish. Long after I'd shot my last frame, I swam off the wall to marvel at this creation of nature.

Motoring up the coast to Liloan (which means whirlpool), we passed tall hills plastered with coconut trees reaching up to the clear blue sky. We dropped into the water in a gentle cove, and as we settled into the channel the current picked and swept us rapidly along a wall, again covered by pink sea fans, yellow soft coral and more dendronephtya corals.

The uneven bottom provided some respite from the rampaging water and we were able to see the juvenile fishes the site was famous for. Pinnate batfish, young angelfishes and their mothers sheltered in the recesses of the wall. A real blast of a dive ? tight buoyancy control and a trim profile was a must!

Home Sweet Home

Closer to home, and actually part of the house reef when the current is right, sits Max Climax Wall. What I thought was another ho-hum house reef turned out to be a healthy slope that dropped off sharply at around 20m. This spectacular dive was a tug-of-war between pelagics and schools of surgeonfish in the blue water, or the fan and black tree corals that grew in profusion at the edge of the reef. In the shallows, there were dozens of anemones with their resident clownfish, while soft corals hid a number of tiny boxfish and trunkfish.

Only 10 minutes north of Peter's Dive Lodge is Picketts Plunge, named after a friend whose house is almost directly opposite the dive site. Best dived in the early morning, it's literally an anchor line plunge to the top of the mound at 27m. Groupers, pelagics and surgeonfish are prolific while the reef itself is host to whips, even more sea fans and gorgonians.

After two or three dives at the ?Plunge', we headed north of Liloan. As we approached the cove where one of the small rivers emptied into the sea, not unexpectedly a telltale dorsal fin broke the surface, followed by a very spotted tail! Divers immediately grabbed fins and snorkels and slipped as quietly into the water as they could.

?Ooohs' and ?aaahs' turned to gasps of delight as the majestic fish turned towards the snorkellers with its huge mouth agape! It submerged and disappeared, then proceeded to play hide and seek for the better part of two hours. Another fin broke the surface, and it dawned upon us that we were playing with two whale sharks: one 10m adult and a juvenile that was six metres long!

Clambering back up on our dive boat, I thanked King Neptune the province had an environmentally oriented, pro-active governor by the name of Rosette Lerias. This tough lady makes sure the conservation laws designed to protect the country's marine and wildlife is strictly enforced in her domain. As a result, Sogod Bay is one of the few areas where dynamite and cyanide fishing is unheard of, and is justly emerging as the newest dive destination of the Philippines.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Miller's second-banana ad
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Spot: "Dominoes."

Product: Miller beer.

Synopsis: People fall down. One knocks over the next, like human dominoes. The chain reaction snakes through city streets, jumps onto and off of a bus, and traverses a train station. The mayhem finally ends inside a bar, when one guy manages to hop aside just before he gets knocked over. He turns to the nearby bartender, who hands him a Miller Lite. Closing voice-over: "At Miller, we brew great tasting beer. Because you can get in line and take what they give you, or you can make your own choices." The tag line text fades in: "Miller. Good Call."

* * *

MSN Encarta Presents: Do Elephants mourn their dead?

5 first-date blunders to avoid
By Jim Sulski

Bob, a marketing professional, contacted Beverly, an attorney, after he spotted her free profile online. The two began an email relationship that went smashingly well. After a few weeks' worth of email, they set up a first date at a local restaurant that was halfway between their respective homes in the Boston area.

The first date seemed to be going well, and Bob was barely able to finish his meal he had so much to say. But when he asked Beverly out for the following weekend, she replied she was busy for at least the next several weeks. They parted with a lukewarm handshake.

Bob's mistake? "I didn't give her a chance to get a word in edgewise," he admits. "I spent the entire date talking about myself."

Doing all the talking is a classic example of how guys can screw up that exalted first date. "I blew it," Bob says.

It doesn't have to be that way. Follow these five simple tips and make sure you get that second date:
Don't brag
"Women want to know that you're doing well, but more importantly they want to know that you like what you do," says Chris, an ad salesperson. "You don't have to go on about how much you make, how you creamed the competition in sales or what your car costs." And don't boast about your massive intellect. Forget about bringing her a copy of your dissertation or the merit badges you acquired to make Eagle Scout.

Don't go on about your ex
Save detailed conversations about ex-lovers for later dates — if ever. Nobody cares that you once dated Ms. Oil Change 1998, nor do they want to hear about how some woman ditched you at the Goo Goo Dolls concert for a roadie. Instead, focus on the person on the other side of the table.

Don't force your faves on her
That bar you love that serves nickel beers and 10-cent chicken wings may be perfect for hanging out with the guys, or even for a future date, but think about your lady's likes when planning your first get-together. What works best is when you head to a neutral place — something that appeals to both of you.

Don't drop her off and scram
At the end of that first date, don't just drop her off in front of her house (which assumes you're a good boy and offered to pick her up). At the very least, double-park and walk her to the front door, no matter how hard it may be raining. "Chivalry still has its merits," Chris says. "One of my most successful second dates happened because I actually walked this girl 10 blocks to her apartment. She was pleasantly flattered."

Don't press for a goodnight kiss
Lean in, slowly and carefully, for the first big kiss. If she wants to reciprocate, she will. If she doesn't, she won't feel trapped or obligated to reward you because you coughed up for the calamari and Cosmopolitans. "Women are usually nervous about the first kiss and they want it to be a memorable one," Bob says. "Which means they're already thinking about a second date."

TV's 'Friends' are so very influential
Canadian study says show changed language use

The study's co-author spent a year
going through transcripts of "Friends",
taking note of every single adjective.

TORONTO - The days may be so numbered for Chandler, Monica and the rest of the gang on the final season of the hit U.S. sitcom, "Friends", but they may have left a lasting imprint on contemporary English, with their perpetual use of "so" -- as in "so cool."

A study by researchers at the University of Toronto suggests the language used in the popular television show both reflected and influenced speaking trends.

In the report "So Cool; So Weird; So Innovative", to be presented this weekend at the American Dialect Society's annual meeting in Boston, linguistics professor Sali Tagliamonte and co-author Chris Roberts focused on intensifiers -- words used to emphasize a point -- and found that the language used by the TV characters not only mirrored what goes on in the real world, but actually pushes it forward.

"'So' is the new favorite -- at least among mainstream culture," Tagliamonte told Reuters on Thursday, adding that no study has been done on why the word is so popular.

Co-author Roberts spent a year going through transcripts from each episode of the first eight seasons of "Friends", taking note of every single adjective for the study.

The study found Monica, Phoebe and Rachel used "so" much more frequently than Chandler, Ross or Joey, reflecting what researchers have established through previous studies: women are generally the leaders in linguistic change.

The authors also found the show's popularity peaked at the same time the characters said "so" the most, and as the use of the word declined, so did the show's popularity.

Intensifiers provide researchers with an ideal way to examine language trends, because they change and are cycled over time.

In the 13th century, it was "well", which eventually gave way to "full", which then gave way to "right" in the 15th century.

"Some old person off the beaten track in a more rural community might still say: 'Well, that's right good'," Tagliamonte said.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

These are pictures sent by email of street paintings done on flat surfaces. I'm not sure what medium was used since it wasn't specified.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Do you feel that you are getting older?

Let's see. The majority of students in universities today were born in 1984.... They are called "youth".
For them, they have never heard of "We are the World, we are the children..." And the "Uptown Girl" they know is by Westlife not Billy Joel.

For them, there have always been only one Germany and only one Vietnam.

AIDS exists since they were born.

CD exists since they were born.

Michael Jackson is a white guy .

John Travolta is always round in shape and they can't imagine how this fat guy could be a god of dance.

They believe that Charlie's Angels and Mission Impossible are just new films out last year.

They can never imagine a black and white screen for a computer.

They never knew Pac-Man.

They can't believe a black and white television ever existed and they don't even know how to switch on a TV without a remote control.

And they never understand how could we go out without a mobile phone when we were in university...

Let's check if we're getting old...
1. You understand what was written above and you smile.

2. You need to sleep more, until afternoon, after a night out.

3. Your friends are getting married.

4. You are always surprised to see small children playing comfortably with

5. When you see teenagers with mobile phones, you shake your head.

6. You developed more and more feelings about your work. It's now your life.

7. You spend less and less time talking on phone with your friends daily.

8. You meet your friends from time to time , talking about the good old days,
repeating again and again all funny stories your experienced together.

9. Having read this mail, you are thinking of forwarding it to some other
friends. You think they will like it too.....

Ha..ha...ha....Yes, I'm getting old too.


boy - n. a male child from birth to puberty
-let - n. suffix small one

"Ano ba ibig sabihin ng boylet?"

Tanong yan sa akin ng isang boylet. Pero ano nga ba ang ibig sabihin ng 'boylet'? Ewan ko ba, pero napulot ko yan sa mga baklakekok kong kaibigan. "Ate, yummy ang boylet mo." "Bakla, saan ba may boylet dito?" Pero kung talagang pag-iisipan, mahirap ma-define ang boylet. Ito ba'y dahil sa age? Sa maturity? Sa height? Sa looks?

Ang boylet, kailangang bata, or at least, ka-age mo. Kasi pag mas matanda ng ilang taon, hindi na boylet yon, tander-cat na. As in tanders. Tanders from matanda -- matanders -- tanders -- tander-cat (origin - thundercat). Grabe ang evolution ng mga salita, di ba?

Dapat din daw, ang boylet, hindi mo boyfriend, pero hindi lang din friend. So, ibig sabihin, napakalalim ng kahulugan ng "-let" sa suffix sa boylet. Biro mo, ang "-let" ang nag-define ng isang relasyon na mas malalim, at malamang mas intimate sa friendship, pero less committed at non-exclusive kung ikukumpara sa boyfriend. Tsk, tatlong letra lang yan, pero it makes a world of difference. Kaya ang isang boy, para maging boylet, kailangang maging isang tao na kayang tumawid sa pagitan ng pagiging isang boyfriend o lover at isang kaibigan.

So pwede din ba gamitin ang "-let" sa mga tander-cats? Hmmm... parang masagwa -- tander-lets? Tander-cat-lets? Kasi naman pag tander-cats, mas malamang na naghahanap ng isang relasyon na hindi passing fancy lang. Pero hindi yan generalization, okay? Madami pa din namang mga tander-cats na isip-boylet. So, anong tawag natin sa kanila? Closet-boylets? Ay, ambot!

Ano pa ang distinguishing factor ng isang boylet? Sabi ng isang kaibigan na nagkaroon na ng relasyon mula sa both ends of the continuum -- from the youngest of boylets to super tander-cats, ang boylet, fling lang daw. Kapag naging seryoso ang relasyon o "arrangement" sa isang boylet, pwede nang tanggalin ang suffix na "-let" at palitan ng salitang "friend". But it is not necessarily true na promotion sa boylet ang pagiging boyfriend. Isipin mo yon, pag may boyfriend ka na, bawal na ang mga boylets. Eh kung puro boylets lang, walang hassles, walang guilt involved, kasi nga, ang "-let" ang sasalba sa iyo. Ang "-let" ang nagsasabi na hindi naman kayo exclusive sa isa't-isa. Ang galing talaga ng "-let"! Pwede din kaya itong gamitin sa ibang salita? Halimbawa, kung itatanong sa iyo ng jowa mo, "Do you love me?" Ang problema, hindi ka sigurado kung anong isasagot. Isipin mo, pag sinabi mong 'yes', sangkatutak na exclusivity na yan. Pag naman 'no', aba, eh, baka mag-isip ang jowa mo at iwan ka. So, pwede bang "yes-let" ang isagot? Ang "-let" na lang uli ang bahala to fill in the gaps. Ibig sabihin pag 'yes-let', oo, love kita ngayon, pero may possibility na bawiin ko in the future. O kaya naman, oo, love naman kita, pero pwede pa ba akong humirit ng one last boylet?

Boylet... boy na maliit o cute? Di ba't ang ibig sabihin ng suffix na "-let" at cute o naman kaya'y maliit? Parang islet, maliit na island; booklet, maigsi o manipis na compilation ng materials. Hindi naman kasi magandang pakinggan kung tatawagin silang mini-boys. Mas maganda at endearing nga ang tunog ng boylet, parang honeylet.

Pero pano naman pala ang tawag sa girl version ng mga boylet? Girlet? Parang hindi akma. Mas maganda siguro kung girlash. Pero hindi nito ganap na mailalarawan kung ano ang essence ng pagiging quasi-gf, semi-friend. So, in short, sa mga boys lang pwedeng magkaroon ng suffix na "-let", ganon ba yon? Baka naman kasi ibang suffix ang angkop sa mga girls.

Kung ikaw ang mamimili, ano ang mas gusto mo, isang boylet na nagpapaka-tanders, o isang tander-cat na nagpapaka-boylet? Magulong isipin, pero ang isang boylet na nagpapaka-tandercat ay yung tipong pa-mature effect. Ang dami kunwaring angst sa buhay, pinapalaki ang pinakamaliit na issue - para nga naman makasabay sya sa lahat ng angst ng nakakatandang babae. Insecurity siguro ng mga boylet, o maaari rin namang mature na talaga, pero hindi natin malalaman, unless, gusto mong makilala ng masinsinan ang boylet mo. Ang mga tandercats naman na nagpapaka-boylet ay yung mga feeling groovy at w-a-a-a-y-y C-O-O-L, na kadalasan ay hindi naman talaga, nagpupumilit lang. Maaari din naman na sila yung mga tandercats na may mental age ng isang 15-yr old. Ito ang isang proof na may mga taong walang pinagkatandaan, at ang emotional at mental age ng tao ay iba-iba sa biological age.

Ang isa pang tanong, gaano ka-boylet ang kaya mo, kung baga sa low-waist pants, how low can you go? Basta siguraduhin na above 18 ang boylet, kundi, sa kalaboso ang bagsak mo, statutory rape yon, kung di mo alam. 3 years? 4, 5, 6? Depende naman talaga sa iyo yan. Pero isipin mo lang na kung 9 years ang gap nyo, aba ineng, nung pinanganak sya ay may monthly period ka na! Hindi ba kapangi-pangilabot yon? Pero kung kaya mo, o 'carry' mo, ika nga ng aking mga baklakekok na kaibigan, eh di sige, magpakadalubhasa sa pangangarir ng mga boylet. I-career! At bakit hindi? Ilan pa lamang ang may MA at PhD degree sa Boylet Affairs Management.

Pero bakit nga ba natin kailangan ng mga boylet? Sabi ng isang kaibigan, gusto nyang ma-re-affirm na sya ay may asim pa. Suggestion ko lang, pwede naman litmus test na lang for acidity ang gamitin, di ba? Yung iba naman, pantawid-gutom daw. Ano ang akala nila sa mga boylet, mini-cup na pansit canton? Yung iba naman, just so they'll feel alive again daw, to feel young, fresh and to get their groove back. Aside from botox treatment, napakadami pang mga services ni Dra. Vicky ang pwede para magmukha at maging feeling young.

Pasalamat tayo at nandyan sila - para magbigay ng kasiyahan, company, aliw, o kung ano pa man. Sa dami ng mga benefits na dinadala ng mga boylets na ito sa ating buhay, gusto ko lang magbigay ng pugay sa kanila. Mabuhay ang mga boylet, dakila kayo! Go forth and multiply!

The 'Nice Guy' Syndrome

The nice guy, they say, finishes last. But in romantic relationships, the nice guy often isn't even in the running. The nice guy is the one that you consider your friend. The nice guy is the person that you can talk to about anything, you feel comfortable with, and feel you can trust. He is often the person you talk to about "guy" problems, the one you seek when things aren't going well in a relationship. The nice guy may have expressed an interest in dating you and, although you may have thought this to be a compliment, you weren't interested. After all, you are "just friends." The nice guy is the person who you trust and feel comfortable with, but don't see as "fun" or "challenging" or really all that "interesting," other than as a friend, of course.

As your friend, I never understood why you continued to pursue guys who mistreated you, or your attraction to guys who even I considered to be jerks. I never understood why you seemed to make the same choices and mistakes repeatedly. And as a friend, I never understood why you didn't appreciate the qualities that I had to offer. After all, you said you wanted a man who was caring, sensitive, strong and intelligent, who treated you with respect. Instead, you seemed most attracted to men who were emotionally distant or abusive, dishonest, and uncommunicative.

Something interesting started to happen as we both got older. You seemed to notice me more. You weren't interested in a relationship with me, but you seemed to appreciate me a little more. You still tend to be attracted to men who are unavailable or abusive to you, but you now seem to notice me. This is confusing to me since I have tried for so long to gain your attention. And now that I have your attention, I don't understand why. I haven't changed that much. What is different about you? Are you tired of being mistreated? Are your priorities and values changing? Why are you interested in me now? Now that I am gaining your attention, I am noticing a change in me. I no longer feel as comfortable with you. I no longer trust you as I had before. And I have no idea why you are suddenly interested in me. It becomes really confusing when you show an interest in a relationship with me. For one thing, I have been hurt by your rejection and taking me for granted. And secondly, I notice that I have lost some of my respect for you because of the choices you had made repeatedly in the past. And I find it interesting when you and your girlfriends discuss men and say that all the good ones are taken. This seems surprising to hear since many of the so-called "good ones" are nice guys that you were not interested in. You may also be surprised to know that another change for me is that, while I still find you interesting and attractive, I am no longer willing to take the risk of having a relationship with you. In fact, I've found that I prefer relationships with "nice girls" who appreciate me, respect me, like me, and genuinely value the qualities that you found to be dull, boring, or uninteresting. We can be friends because I still do like you. But I doubt that we can be close friends because I no longer have the same respect for you, and I question whether you ever did respect me. But, we can still be friends.


Just because no one has been fortunate enough
to realize what a gold mine you are,
doesn't mean you shine any less.

Just because no one has been smart enough
to figure out that you can't be topped,
doesn't stop you from being the best.

Just because no one has come along
to share your life,
doesn't mean that day isn't coming.

Just because no one has made this race worthwhile,
doesn't give you permission to stop running.

Just because no one has realized how much
of a man/woman you are,
doesn't mean they can effect your masculinity/femininity.

Just because no one has come
to take the loneliness away,
doesn't mean you have to settle for a lower quality.

Just because no one has shown up
who can love you on your level,
doesn't mean you have to sink to theirs.

Just because you deserve
the very best there is,
doesn't mean that life is always fair.

Just because God
is still preparing your king/queen,
doesn't mean that you're not already a

Just because your situation
doesn't seem to be progressing right now,
doesn't mean you need to change a thing.

Keep shining,
Keep running,
Keep hoping,
Keep praying,

Keep being exactly what you already are..... COMPLETE

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Local comic book creators fight foreign superheroes
By Candy G. Villanueva
Inquirer News Service

IF DARNA were pitted against Wonder Woman, she probably would have a good fighting chance. Sadly, in the comic books stands, Darna and a group of other Pinoy comic book character underdogs don't stand a chance against the superheroes of D.C. Comics or Marvel Comics. The Philippines is home to dozens of talented comic book creators but unfortunately, the comics stands are dominated by foreign names. However, thanks to several brave and talented comic book creators, like Zach Yonzon, our local heroes are slowly taking charge of the comics battleground.

Zach Yonzon is editor in chief of Mango Comics, a new comic book company based in Tagaytay that recently released a new version of the Filipino classic, Darna. Yonzon is also one of the creators responsible for drawing and writing comic books or what they call sequential art.

Endangered art

Local comic books used to have a great following but due to the overwhelming rise of different forms of entertainment, our local comic book heroes nearly became part of the endangered species. Still, Yonzon believes that there is hope. "The readership of comics remains constant and, we believe, is slowly growing again. This is evidenced by the success of companies like Culture Crash, PSICOM, and Summit Publishing, who have great titles out on the shelves."

Aside from the marbles and the slingshots, comic books are a part of most growing kids. Many of these kids have grown up but have never outgrown their dog-eared comic books. It has become part of their lives (as attested to by countless adult comic book collectors) and their jobs. Zach, his dad and many other comic book creators are among this group. Yonzon enthuses, "My dad is publishing and writing comics! He buys comic books, or toys or DVDs of cartoons for research. A 54-year-old guy buying and writing comics is just the coolest thing."

Sources of inspiration

There is no such thing as a typical day for a comic book creator according to Yonzon. Most of it is spent lounging around waiting for the creative juices to flow. Lounging around could mean the mandatory caffeine fix at the coffee shop, watching DVDs (apparently the source of some ideas) and playing video games (another abundant source of inspiration). In between, when the inspiration hits, a creator would whip out his tools, a PowerBook in the case of Yonzon, and write or draw.

But for Yonzon, like most creators, the source of inspiration is a bit closer to home, his heart. "I'm pretty much driven by God and the person I adore."

Back at the studio, a comic book creator spends most of what's left of the day in front of the PC researching and doing correspondences via the Internet or solidifying ideas into works of art. If you think these creators have it easy, think again. Although the work pace may seem slow, sometimes they stay up till the wee hours of the morning to finish a project.

No formal school

With the great number of comic book aficionados, it is unfortunate that the comic book industry is not recognized in the country. No school offers courses for this art, save for the occasional summer workshops that teach comic book drawing and the short courses on comic book appreciation.

The good news is anybody with a taste for the art can pursue a career as a comic book creator. "The only real background you need to become a comic book creator is to have an appreciation of the medium. It would probably help if you had some artistic training or training as a writer, but it's not a requirement," explains Yonzon. "The truth is the comic book industry is so diverse that virtually anybody can put out a comic book. There're no credentials required."

However, Yonzon admits, "The Philippine comic book industry isn't a terribly financially rewarding industry except for the lucky few." Filipino comic book creators earn only about a tenth of what foreign creators earn from the big publishers abroad.

"Comic book creation isn't something you get into for financial reward, at least not in the initial stages. It's really an industry of love," confesses Mango's creator. "People do this here (Philippines) because they want to, because they love the medium, because they want to create, to inspire. This is the best way to nourish the creative spirit."

Creative spirit

It is the hope of these local comic book creators like Yonzon to stir creativity through the comic book art. "We feel that we're contributing something to the country's creative spirit, it's important for us to inspire other people to be creative."

But there is a lot of skepticism from the Pinoy market. "There's still so much resistance to the comic medium because big companies still see it as something only kids read. So market definition is pretty challenging for us."

According to Yonzon, even Jose Rizal used to draw comic strips. Yonzon feels that if our own national hero believed in comics, there is no reason why the rest of us shouldn't. This young visionary hopes to be able to use comics as a tool for education. "There are many educational comics today, and comics are a great way for children to learn English."

But in the end, it is the art's contribution to the country's creative spirit and legacy that really weighs the most for these local comic book creators. "It's very important to stay creative in the midst of despair, and comic books are easy avenues to be creative."

10 Interview Fashion Blunders to Keep You From Your Dream Job

First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to job hunting. That's why executive coaches, career counselors and others put so much stock in "dressing for success." The truth is, an interview might just be your only opportunity to impress. If you don't take your appearance seriously, you give the impression that you won't take your work seriously, either. Here are some common "fashion blunders" that job seekers make when getting ready for an interview.

1. They Can Smell You Before They See You
When it comes to perfume or cologne, less is best. Of all the things you want to be remembered for after an interview, how you smelled is not on the top of your list. Additionally, you never know when you will meet with someone who has allergies or is sensitive to fragrances. In most cases, it's best to hold off on the perfume, cologne or aftershave, at least for interview day.

2. The Painted Face Syndrome
Another good way to be remembered for the wrong reasons is to wear your "out on the town" makeup. Wearing makeup that is too showy will be distracting to the person interviewing you. You want to be known for what you have to say, not for the glitter in your eye shadow.

3. We Can't See Past the Tie
Although accepted styles vary from company to company, your multi-colored fish tie will not send the impression you're trying to impart. Stick to conservative, solid color or limited design ties and leave the novelty pieces for an informal occasion.

4. The Noisemaker Effect
If you don't want your interviewer to be distracted while you are talking, it's best to steer clear of pockets full of change or oversized jewelry. Interviewers often meet with several individuals, many on the same day, and you do not want to give him or her any reason not to listen to you intently. Too much jewelry or excessive pocket change will cause an unwanted distraction in the room.

5. The Hair Speaks for Itself
Unless you are interviewing at a highly creative, extremely casual company, avoid hair dye and extreme styles. The same thing is true for hairstyles such as pigtails, the "tousled" look, hair that hangs in your eyes, or any other unkempt look. Your hairstyle is large part of your overall professional demeanor and even if you have a wild side, you should sport a conservative ‘do for an interview.

6. Hey Gals, This Isn't a Nightclub
In the majority of interview situations, conservative is best. This means forgoing tight, short skirts and revealing blouses for an outfit that is more demure. Instead of wowing your interviewer by an outfit that leaves little to the imagination, wow them with your qualifications and answers.

7. The Five O'clock Shadow
While companies have different policies on facial hair for men, looking neatly groomed is important in any situation. If you don't, take the time to shave in the morning. Nothing says "I just rolled out of bed," like a five o'clock shadow. If you have a beard or goatee, make sure it has been trimmed.

8. Hey Guys, This Isn't the Nightclub
So you've got a shiny silver shirt that you wore out last weekend and you think it really make an impression at your interview. You might be right, but the impression you'll make isn't optimal. While interview dress is boring to some, it's still best to stick with conservative suit colors, such as dark blue or gray, and neutral or basic color shirts.

9. Killer Nails...Literally
Like excessive jewelry, flashy fingernails will only distract your interviewer. Make sure your nails are neat, clean and trimmed before the interview, and opt for a neutral or clear polish. Men should pay attention to nails, too. Going to an interview with nails that look like you've been gardening all day will not win you points with a professional interviewer.

10. Is it Casual Friday?
Even if you are interviewing with a company you think is casual, showing up in jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes will send the wrong impression. The basic rule of thumb for dressing for an interview is to find out about the accepted attire at the company and then dress one level higher in professionalism. If you are in doubt about the company's dress code, ask. Just make sure you don't show up looking more casual than the company's employees.