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Friday, June 22, 2007

Fans Flock to 'Sopranos' Jersey Haunts
The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. -- Fade to black? Not a chance for fans of "The Sopranos." Almost two weeks after the series finale, the addiction to the show seems stronger than ever, with legions of fans making a journey to Jersey to see real-life remnants of the hit TV mob drama.

For many, their obsession starts at the place where the series ended: Business is booming at the diner where lead character Tony Soprano sat with his family in the controversial series finale.

Fans not only want to eat at Holsten's (actually an ice cream parlor in Bloomfield), they want to sit in the same booth where Tony, the fictional New Jersey mob boss, played the Journey song, "Don't Stop Believin'."

"The phone just rings constantly all day from people wanting to make reservations," said co-owner Chris Carley. "They ask `Can we reserve the booth? Can we get a T-shirt?'"

Carley, who watched the final scenes filmed there over two days, fields calls from fans wanting to talk about the ending. Customers who want to relive Tony's last meal can buy some of the onion rings he raved about(for $2.50), but they cannot listen to the juke box, which was a prop for the show.

"It's just so funny that people want to sit in that booth," Carley said. "A lot of people are taking pictures."

The Emmy-winning HBO show explored the life of the fictional Jersey mob boss and his family, and scores of scenes have been shot across the Garden State since it debuted in 1999.

The series buzz-inducing final scene ended abruptly with the screen suddenly going black as Tony and his family sit down to dinner at Holsten's, leaving fans guessing about what happens next.

Part of "The Sopranos" fascination is fueled by the lack of a real ending, said Roland T. Rust, chairman of the marketing department at the University of Maryland.

"The fact you don't have that resolution makes it more difficult for people to let go," Rust said.

Some fans are flocking to a "Sopranos"-themed bus tour.

With 47 sites, it's one way fans can still connect with the show. The cost is $42 per person, which includes a cannoli (a nod to "The Godfather"). Afternoon tours for the next two weekends are already sold out.

The tour begins in Midtown Manhattan and transports up to 54 people through the Lincoln Tunnel into Jersey (the start of Tony's journey in the opening credits). Fans see the fictional Satriale's pork store in Kearny and the diner under the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City where Tony's nephew, Christopher, got shot.

For many the highlight is Satin Dolls, a strip club that fronts for the "Bada Bing," on Route 17 in Lodi.

"People are really in withdrawal," says Georgette Blau, president of On Location Tours. A third tour has been added, and a fourth is likely to begin next month, Blau said.

Satriale's, which is one of the most popular stops, is slated to be whacked come August or September.

Manny Costeira, the owner of the building who leased it to HBO, is demolishing it to make way for nine condos and a garage, aptly named "Soprano Court."

Costeira said construction will begin in the fall or spring and fans can buy a piece of the building.

"We'll be salvaging the stones off the building for those people who are totally heartbroken about the pork store going down," he said.

The obsession with "The Sopranos" doesn't just include New Jersey.

Music downloads of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" jumped 371 percent in the week after it played in the show's final scene, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign borrowed from the series ending when it unveiled its new campaign song with a Web video spoof of the "Sopranos" exit.

Even Pizzaland, a shack that zips by in the show's opening credits, has seen a huge spike in business from fans trying to still starving for the show.

The store got so busy fielding requests for custom pizzas from across the country — the pies are sent by mail in dry ice — that it had to shut its doors to walk-in customers five days before the final episode aired.

"We had to stop answering the phones," said owner Todd Maino.

His employees worked for 48 hours straight to accommodate 800 to 1,000 orders before the finale, and they're still taking 300 to 400 weekly orders for the thin-crust pizza.

Pizzaland shipped two pies to Jeri Hershberger last week in Spokane, Wash. The 56-year-old is still looking for a connection to the show.

"It never was finalized," she said. "It keeps people's imaginations going."

American M.B.A.s Flock to Asia to Acquire Overseas Experience
By Cris Prystay
Provided by

When William Lee, a manager at Microsoft Corp., decided to seek to leapfrog his career by getting an M.B.A., he signed up for a joint-venture executive program in Singapore run by the Anderson School of Business of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the National University of Singapore (NUS). Lee, 37 years old, lives in Reno, Nevada, and his job is entirely based in the United States. By the time he graduates in August, he will have flown to Asia four times over 15 months to earn a degree he easily could have done at home.

The commute is worth it, he said. This way he can ramp up his Asia experience to help fast-forward his career.

"That's where the economic growth is. If you want to be a business leader in the next 10 to 15 years, understanding the Asian business environment is important," Lee said. "When I was weighing which school to go to, credibility came to mind. The perception that I have a better understanding of the environment is easier to sell when I can say I've gone over there to study and observe the business environment and meet Asian business leaders."
U.S. and European business schools that have expanded to Asia in the past few years to tap growing demand for management education there are starting to see new demand from an unexpected clientele: students from back home.

A number of high-profile business schools, including the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and French business school INSEAD, have set up campuses or joint-venture executive M.B.A. programs with local universities in Asia to tap demand from both local students and global expatriates working in the region. As Asia's booming economies, led by India and China, gain more global muscle, business students worldwide have become eager to get Asia on their résumés. These schools have seen a pickup in enrollment from students who commute from places as far away as London and Los Angeles.

"These students want the Asia exposure, even if they aren't working there now. They view the trend in business as requiring a significant understanding of Asia," said Judy Olian, dean of the Anderson School of Business. In the class that just began in May in UCLA's program based in Singapore, 48 percent of the students are U.S. residents, up from 29 percent in May 2004.

The growing number of Asia-bound M.B.A. commuters, meanwhile, lends fresh credence to business schools' decision to head to Asia themselves. For nearly a decade, U.S. and European business schools have wrestled with how best to address Asia's boom. While some have plowed ahead in Asia, others have held back, concerned that offering a satellite degree would hurt the brand power of the degree offered at their U.S. campus.

"As important as Asia and other international markets are in the global economy, we don't believe we could expand the faculty to fulfill the needs of a full-fledged 'branch campus' abroad without diluting the nature of the kind of education we offer," said Krishna Pelapu, senior associate dean for international development at Harvard Business School. Harvard has more than 200 full-time professors who are occupied at home with full course loads; it would be difficult to get faculty of the same stature and quality to teach abroad, he said.

Other business schools believe they can strengthen their brand by offering a degree overseas. Kellogg, for example, has run an executive M.B.A. in Hong Kong through a partnership with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's (HKUST) School of Business and Management for ten years, and it also offers joint-venture M.B.A.s in Israel, Canada, and Germany.
Kellogg's brand is based in part on the quality of the student the school admits and the quality of instruction, said Dipak Jain, Kellogg's dean. Students admitted in places like Hong Kong must have the same qualifications as the students who take the program at the school's campus near Chicago, he said.

For staffing reasons, Kellogg offers only its part-time executive M.B.A. overseas. Its professors fly to Hong Kong on weekends and teach half the courses, and business-school professors from HKUST teach the other half. "We only partner with schools we know have quality people who can deliver the quality experience," Jain said.

"We think the quality of our program and our brand has gone up, overall, because we have programs in Europe, in Asia, and a new one in Miami," he said. "In the Hong Kong program, for example, we have electives on doing business in China; students in our German program or in Chicago or Tel Aviv can go to Hong Kong and take these electives. Or they can fly to Hong Kong and take the whole M.B.A. program."
Dutch citizen Michael Hamelink, 39, commuted from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Singapore to do his executive M.B.A. at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business program five years ago. "At that time, I had just moved from Hong Kong back to Johannesburg, and I was impressed by the huge impact Asia had on the world economy and especially China on the business world. This made me choose to commute to Singapore to sense and gather most of Asia's business insights," said Hamelink, who now is chief financial officer of KLM City Hopper, KLM's regional airline for Europe. He said he would like to return to Asia to work in the next few years, and that the contacts he made in the program would prove helpful.

Kellogg and Chicago charge the same prices for the executive M.B.A. programs they run in the United States as those they run elsewhere. UCLA and National University of Singapore charge slightly less for the Singapore-based degree compared with UCLA's own Los Angeles-based executive M.B.A.: Fees for the degree in Los Angeles cost $100,000, and fees for the Asia-based program are $69,800.

But there also is the cost for travel. The Singapore-based program, set up in 2004, is broken into six intensive two-week blocks that are split between countries: two sessions in Singapore, one in China, one in India and two in Los Angeles. Students pay for their own flights and hotels for the 12 weeks the course is in session.
Assuming a student pays $250 a night for a hotel, he would save about $15,000 on the Asia-based program. Students get two degrees, one from UCLA and one from the National University of Singapore.

"We have quite a few Americans based in the U.S., but who have Asia responsibilities and/or interests, such as supply chains out of Asia, or working for an Asian company, or marketing to Asia," said Jochen Wirtz, a business-school professor who is co-director of the UCLA-NUS program. The program's structure of two-week sessions "allows participants to fly in from anywhere. We are probably the only program in the world where some 50 percent travel from another continent--not just country--to attend our sessions."
Lee, the Microsoft manager, said cost savings weren't a factor in his decision to go the Asian route. He had first considered doing a full-time M.B.A. at an Ivy League school, but the Singapore-based program struck a chord.

He has loved the pan-Asian exposure, including meetings with senior business executives that the school set up. Students also work on a real piece of consulting business as part of a final project. Lee prepared an Asian market-entry strategy for a hedge fund based in the United States.

"I had never been to Asia before the program, but I know you have to understand Asia if you want to take on a senior business role," he said. "That's where the growth will be. The U.S. economy simply isn't growing like the Asian economies."

Bridging the Generation Gap at Work
Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y on the Job
By Kate Lorenz, Editor

More and more older workers are refusing to take retirement lying down. Instead, they are choosing second careers with companies ranging from MetLife to Borders Group. In fact, a recent article in USA Today cites that by 2010, one in three workers will be aged 50 or over.

It's figures like these that prompted the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to launch its Featured Employers Program to help workers over 50 connect with companies that appreciate the talent mature workers bring to the job.

Many companies see retired or second-career seniors as a valued part of the workforce. Why? "Research has shown that the mature workforce is more punctual, more loyal, has a lower rate of turnover and is extremely dependable and flexible," says Cindy Milburn, senior director of staffing at The Home Depot, the first of 13 companies to participate in AARP's program.

So what can both young, and not-so-young, employees do to make the most of this generation gap?

Learn From Experience
As with most things in life, younger employees could learn a thing or two from their chronologically advanced counterparts. Senior workers "have excellent industry experience, wisdom, leadership and knowledge," Milburn says. And, they can act as mentors to younger employees.

Develop a Reciprocal Relationship
By the same token, younger workers can coach older employees in areas in which they excel. For instance, they can help older workers with newer software or technology learned recently in school.

Realize Your Goals May Vary
Recognize that younger and older workers may hold differing views of what they want out of a job. Merrill Lynch's "The New Retirement Survey" shows most baby boomers surveyed identified cycling between work and leisure time as the ideal retirement employment situation. In contrast, younger workers may be more willing to put in the extra hours or travel, if necessary, to advance their positions.

Recognize Contrasting Work Styles
Just because your cube is adorned with pictures of SpongeBob Squarepants doesn't mean you don't work hard. We all need to de-stress and take a moment to refresh our minds -- be it throwing balls at a Velcro target or quietly reading on break. Employees need to accept these differences and realize what works for one may not work for another.

Understand That the Workday Isn't Just 9-to-5 Anymore
Today, workdays can encompass individual flextime arrangements or telecommuting. However, older workers may be more comfortable keeping with traditional full- or part-time workdays. Whatever the case, employees must realize the changing definition of a "workday."

Try to Fit In and Fit Together
Sometimes older workers can feel outmoded, and younger workers, inexperienced. But the truth is a multi-generational workforce is an important company asset because each age group brings its own strengths and skills to the job. Only by working together can the different groups bring out the best in themselves and their company.

Appreciate Contrasting Motivational Factors
According to "The New Retirement Survey," 67 percent of baby boomers surveyed identified mental stimulation and challenge as the main reasons they continue working past retirement. In contrast, younger workers are more apt to have their eyes on big bonuses and the corner office.

The multigenerational workforce is not going away anytime soon. That same survey found that 76 percent of baby boomers expect to keep working during retirement. So we all need to embrace these generational differences.

“My kids found me love”
By Chelsea Kaplan

Sure, it’s tough to be a single parent who’s ready to date again. And while you might think that kids — with their constant needs and insane schedules — would hinder a new relationship, it’s often children who help ignite love. Just ask these people whose little ones unknowingly played Cupid.

Hitting a home run
“I was probably at my 800th little league game, only this time, without my husband, who was newly my ex-husband. Seated next to me was Chip, an extremely cute single dad whose son was playing for the opposing team. Despite our adversarial fandom, we ended up chatting and hitting it off. We exchanged numbers, and soon, met up in a non-ball-field locale and had a great time! We’re still dating, and it’s looking like this one may go out of the park, so to speak!”
– Jill Kashun, 43, Bloomfield Hills, MI

“After my divorce, my husband moved to another state. I felt like my son needed to be around some positive male role models, so I signed him up for a junior football team in my town. The coaches were all great with the boys, but one of them, Brian, was especially sweet, not to mention easy on the eyes. At the end-of-the-season party, we ended up talking and found out that we had a lot in common. He asked me out, and after a few dates we realized we really liked each other. We’ve been together for about a year now.”
– Bonnie Kirklan, 36, Fort Worth, TX

Hot for teacher
“My fiancée Kris was actually my son’s kindergarten teacher! I couldn’t help but find her attractive on his first day of school, but I never considered asking her out until the school year was over; not only did I think it was inappropriate, but I was also concerned she’d be freaked out by a divorced dad hitting on her! The day after school let out for the summer, I called her, offering to take her to lunch as thanks for being such a great teacher. Eventually, we began seeing each other exclusively, and the rest, as they say, is history!”
– Mike Lowell, 38, Easton, PA

Care to go for a stroll?
“While shopping for a jogging stroller for my kids, I needed a price check on an unmarked item. The salesperson called the store manager, who absolutely took my breath away—he was so good-looking! I don’t even remember the price—I would have paid a thousand dollars for it, just to keep talking to him. He ended up giving me a discount, and after thanking him profusely for his help, he gave me his card. I called him about a week later, asked him out, and we’ve been dating for a few months now. The great thing is that I like the stroller as much as I like him!”
– Traci Saxton, 33, Germantown, MD

Getting along swimmingly
“My wife and I got divorced when my daughter was six months old, but we were amicable enough to share custody. I signed up to take a swimming class with the baby, and there was one single mom in the group (the rest were couples), so we gravitated towards each other and soon became friends. We began meeting up with the kids after the class was over, and always had a great time together. One afternoon, I just went for it and kissed her, and she kissed back! I’m pretty glad I signed up for that class—we’ve been together ever since.”
– Eric Farrington, 37, Oakland, CA

Shopping for love
“I was shopping for a birthday gift for my daughter at Nordstrom and had absolutely no idea how to navigate the preteen girls department. A woman who was also shopping in the department at the time must have noticed my distress and came over to help. She was so charming and funny that I asked her if she’d like to join me for a cup of coffee after shopping. She agreed, and we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together. I’ve been on a few dates with her since, and each is more enjoyable. As a side note, my daughter loved what my date picked out for her.”
– Bob McWilliams, 44, Colorado Springs, CO

Artsy hearts-y
“My daughter’s art project was featured at a local museum, and there was a reception for all the kids and parents. A local, fairly celebrated artist was in attendance to present certificates to the kids. At the end of the evening, the artist came up to my daughter and remarked how much he loved her painting, and I was instantly smitten. My daughter couldn’t have cared less who he was, but he and I began discussing art, and then about every other topic on Earth. We were the last people to leave the place. I did finally go home, but not until after we exchanged email addresses. He contacted me soon after that, and we ended up dating!”
– Jeanine Eagleton, 39, Columbus, OH

Setting sights on the sitter
“This sounds like a creepy cliché, but I began dating my kids’ babysitter. I have custody of my kids, and during one tax season — I’m an accountant — I needed some extra help taking care of them. A friend said that her sister Pam could help me out. Pam wasn’t a teenager—she was only a few years younger than me. When she came over, I just fell in love with how warm, gentle and fun she was. It was like this light had been brought back into my house after my divorce; it felt like a home again. After tax season was over, I was so sad to see her go, so I asked her out and we began seeing each other romantically. I was happy, my kids were happy and so was she! About two years later, we got married and have been together for four wonderful years.”
– Kurt Schneider, 58, Kansas City, MO

7 signs your honey may cheat
By Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

Most of us — even the not-so-jealous types — know that feeling of, “Is my sweetheart really working late… or could this person be two-timing me?” I’ve counseled many individuals dealing with this concern, so let me share my knowledge with you about the signs that someone is cheating (or seriously contemplating it). Use this information and insight—and either stop worrying or have a serious talk with your partner!

Sign #1: Your sweetie keeps you a secret from his/her family & friends
Cheaters keep you in the dark while they play in the light. Your relationship won’t work if you’re getting what I call the Shadow Treatment. The Shadow Treatment means that you are often kept waiting in the wings while your mate is out socializing. Think about it: Are there gatherings of friends, family reunions or workplace parties that you are not invited to? Do you only meet some of your honey’s network of friends? If you are kept on the sidelines, there’s probably a good reason. Maybe your sweetie is on the prowl for someone else. Or perhaps there is already someone else and so your role in his or her life can’t be made public. Anytime you are kept on the fringes once you believe you are an exclusive couple, be suspicious. And know that the only way to end Shadow Treatment is to stop accepting it. Once you challenge it, you will either be fully accepted in your sweetheart’s life… or know it’s time to leave.

Sign #2: Your sweetie is emotionally absent
Cheaters conceal their emotional whereabouts so they can be evasive about their physical whereabouts. Love is exhausting when you have to pry the truth out of a partner.

Consider this story: After enjoying a platonic friendship for a decade, Margaret and Roy began dating. Roy was a traveling sales manager. While he was on the road, Margaret heard from him only occasionally. But he continued to say he wanted to spend more time with her—which he never did. Margaret was obviously a low priority for him. She was shocked to learn he had another girlfriend across the country.

An emotionally absent partner may say what you want to hear, but will not change his or her actions—unless he or she wants to. Saying the right thing and doing the right thing are very different. If your honey talks a good game about spending more time with you and paying more attention to you but never delivers—look out! This person may be juggling multiple relationships.

Sign #3: Your sweetie says he or she wants a no-strings-attached romance
If someone says, “I don’t want a commitment,” take the sucker at his or her word. Don’t fall into that “I’ll be the one to change all that!” trap. Cheaters rebel against control and might even have an affair to spite a partner who wants to rein him or her in.

Too often, people ignore the clear message a potential date sends. If someone tells you, “I’m not into serious relationships,” “I won’t give up my freedom,” “I’m not ready to settle down,” or anything resembling that, take a giant step back! He or she is clearly telling you, “I want to play the field.” If you pursue the person anyway, hoping for an exclusive relationship, you may find yourself two-timed and broken-hearted. Never push a person into a situation he or she doesn’t want to be in. Never pursue a committed relationship with someone who tells you he or she doesn’t want one.

Sign # 4: Your sweetie admits to cheating on exes—and justifies the betrayals
Cheaters rationalize their behavior to let themselves off the hook. The way they justify their actions tells much about their character.

Listen to the excuses for past cheating your sweetie uses. Here are a couple I’ve heard from clients in my therapy practice over the years:

* “My ex was abusive because of a drinking problem, so I deserved to see someone kinder on the side.”
* “My father cheated on my mom, so cheating on my girlfriend is how I’m working through my past.”

Everyone has a tale to tell. But are these rationalizations — or any rationalizations — acceptable to you? A person who admits to infidelities in the past and explains them away has a good chance of straying again. He or she has not taken responsibility for past actions, nor worked through the issues involved.

Sign #5: Your sweetie has never been without a mate
Cheaters won’t ride solo... ever! Leaving one romance and hopping into a new one — or having simultaneous affairs at once — doesn’t leave time for assessing whatever went wrong. They don’t bother with introspection; their focus is squarely set on pulling new people into their orbit. If you are dating a person who shares a romantic history that always involves finding a new partner before breaking up with the current partner, take heed. This person may think of his or her mate only as void-fillers. Filling a void is never a basis for lasting love.

Sign #6: Your sweetie tells lies about little things
Cheaters lie about everything, which leads you to question their truth from their fiction. When the need to embroider overshadows the desire to be honest, the relationship becomes a sham.

Craig’s friend set him up on a blind date with divorcée, Alice, who was a top attorney in town with no children. Each time they were together, Alice described her interesting caseload. Craig was fascinated—and falling hard. He was so caught up in her charismatic personality that he chose not to focus on the fact that some of her stories contradicted themselves, and that Alice seemed to change certain details as she got further into her story sharing. One day, the local newspaper featured someone who had been indicted for impersonating an attorney. He was shocked to find that it was Alice, and that she was a wife and mother as well! Alice had lied to both Craig and his friend.

If you are dating someone who seems to be untruthful about mundane topics — where he or she had lunch, what he or she is doing on Sunday morning — take note. The lies probably run deep. As my Gilda-Gram warns, “Without truth, there is no love.”

Sign # 7: Your sweetie brags about his or her sex appeal
Cheaters are insecure, and need to attract constant attention on the side. They flaunt their popularity in attempts to boost their own low self-esteem. Let me give you an example: Marilyn met a “hot guy” on a singles cruise, and the pair became inseparable for the week. When they returned home, they spoke to each other constantly. He sent her a plane ticket to visit him. While together, Hot Guy boasted that he was his town’s “go-to” guy for all the lonely women. Instead of Marilyn reading that as a sign to stay away, she interpreted his description of himself as “cute.”

Visiting her two weeks later, he said he was available throughout the week—except for a lunch date he had with a woman he had just met. Marilyn found that peculiar, but said nothing. After a dinner party, he detailed how many women had come on to him. Marilyn began feeling disrespected and put down. Finally, after crying herself to sleep, she told Hot Guy he was too hot for her.

If a partner boasts how in demand he or she is, recognize how insecure he or she really is—and steer clear. This person probably needs more ego-stroking than any one person can provide... and will look where he or she has to in order to find it.

So now you know the signs that indicate that maybe your sweetie isn’t such a sweetie after all. Life and love are all about learning. Remember this Gilda-Gram: “Everyone who touches you, teaches you.” Instead of getting bummed out about a cheater who stole your heart, think of what you learned, and how your experience got you to grow. Your new insight will arm you to attract someone more trustworthy in the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dolphins' Welsh accent

Scientists say that dolphins off Wales have their own accent.

The 240 living in Cardigan Bay have developed different sounds from others around the British Isles, reports the Sun.

Scientists analysed 1,882 noises from Irish Sea dolphins - and found those nearest Wales had a unique whistle.

The experts from University of Wales and the Shannon Dolphin Foundation in Ireland are now building a "dictionary" of meanings.

Project leader Dr Simon Berrow said: "We're trying to associate whistle types with different behaviour - like foraging."

Passengers pushed to limit

Hundreds of passengers on a train in India were asked by the driver to get out and push.

The train, in the state of Bihar in eastern India, came to a halt when a passenger pulled the emergency cord, reports Metro.

But it stopped in a 'neutral zone' - a small section of the track in which there's no electrical current in the overhead wires.

The passengers were forced to get off the train and it took them half-an-hour to push it the remaining 12 feet into the powered stretch of the line.

A spokesman for Indian Railways commented: "In so many years of service in the railways, I have never come across such a bizarre incident."

World's most embarrassing shark attack

A Folkestone fisherman has told how the world's most embarrassing shark attack left him with a nasty bite on his nose.

Tackle-shop owner Phil Tanner was attacked by a lesser-spotted dogfish after he reeled it in off the local pier.

He fought for five minutes to wrench the thrashing creature, a member of the shark family, off his nose, reports the Sun

Phil, 38, was left with a bloody gash and rows of tiny teethmarks round his nostrils after trying to show off his catch to pal Scott Allen.

He said: "I called out, 'Hey mate, look at this whopper'. But somehow Scott nudged my arm and the fish catapulted itself up to my nose with its jaws wide open.

"It clamped around my nostrils and wouldn't let go. It was agony and I was screaming. The fish didn't just hang on, either. I could feel it chomping its teeth as if it wanted me for its last meal.

"Everyone on the pier was watching me jumping up and down with a shark hanging off my nose. People were singing the Jaws theme tune - I've never felt so embarrassed."

Phil finally pulled the fish away and tended to his wound.

He added: "I probably did need stitches but I couldn't go to the hospital because I didn't want the doctors to laugh at me too. My mates take the mickey, but I am a shark attack victim. I could have lost my nose."

Granny grows horn

A Chinese grandmother has a five inch horn growing out of her forehead.

The horn curves downward and looks like the stalk of a pumpkin, reports the Yangcheng Evening Post.

Granny Zhao, 95, of Zhanjiang city, Guangdong province, says it first appeared three years ago.

"At first, it was only a mole, but it gradually grew and became like a horn," she said.

Zhao says the horn causes her little trouble except to affect her vision slightly: "It causes me no discomfort, but blocks part of my view."

But her family are hoping that medical experts can explain the phenomenon.

Mickey Mouse-shaped tomato

A Chinese man bought a Mickey Mouse-shaped tomato from his local agricultural market.

Chen Guoping, of Dongzhuangqiao village, Zhejiang province, bought the 150-gram tomato.

"It looks so much like a mouse head that I bought it without hesitation. It looks very funny," he said.

His fellow villagers all say they have never seen a tomato like it, reports People's Daily.

Man sinks pint, fiancee sinks van

One last pint cost a Cumbrian man his fiancee and all of his worldly possessions.

Jason Wilson, 24, wanted to stay out for a final pint but fiancee, Emma Thomason, wanted to go home.

Enraged, she put everything he owned, from clothes to CDs, in his £10,000 van and drove it into the harbour near their home in Whitehaven.

The couple, who have two children together, have now called off their August wedding, reports Metro News.

They had bought the wedding rings, Miss Thomason's dress and just 24 hours before the row had booked a £2,000 honeymoon to the Caribbean.

Mr Wilson, now living with friends, said: "'I can't go back to her if she has a temper like that. I can't live with that for the rest of my life - I don't think nobody could."

The first Mr Wilson knew of his company van's plight came was when his boss, Graham Wilson, no relation, called him.

The van was left in 12ft of water. Finally, it was hauled back up the slipway using winches, which had to be attached by a professional diver.

Boss Mr Wilson added: "I haven't had the bill yet. I just hope that the insurance company are prepared to pay out."

Police confirmed that a woman had been questioned and bailed.

Men 'too PC' to pay compliments

Men have become too concerned about political correctness to give a compliment to the opposite sex, a new survey says.

And 65% of women suspect there is nothing innocent behind a flattering remark from a work colleague or new acquaintance.

While 89% of women loved to receive a compliment, 67% felt uncomfortable if it came from anybody other than their partner.

Some 12% said no one had paid them a compliment in the past three months, the poll for Loire Valley White Wines found.

Christine Webber, a relationship expert, said: "While it may seem somewhat frivolous, a compliment is in fact a vital ingredient for well-being.

"The trick though is to be able to pay someone a compliment and make them feel good about themselves, rather than coming over as smarmy or, worse, a bit lecherous."

Drunk crashes car without realising

A drunk Austrian motorist woke up at a petrol station to find himself surrounded by police after smashing into a crash barrier on a motorway without realising.

The 36-year-old ploughed into the crash barrier at the side of the motorway as he drove from the German city Rosenheim to the Austrian capital Vienna.

But the car bounced off the barrier and Thom carried on driving to a nearby petrol station where he pulled over and went to sleep.

He was woken up by police who had been called out by other motorists who saw the man crash. He was given a breathalyser test and was found to be almost three times over the legal drink-drive limit.

A police spokesman said: "He was so drunk he did not even realise that he had crashed. He was very surprised when he saw the state of his car."

Curry explodes at 35,000 feet

A stewardess caused £20,000 of damage on a jumbo jet when her curry exploded in a microwave at 35,000ft.

The transatlantic flight from Heathrow carried on to Miami after cabin crew grabbed a fire extinguisher to douse the blazing oven, reports The Sun.

British Airways insisted there was no threat to passengers' safety - although the Boeing 747 needed days of repairs.

The air hostess was heating up a ready meal she bought from a supermarket when the curry exploded.

BA has now banned staff from using new high-powered microwaves in club class kitchens for non-airline food on its fleet of jumbos.

A secret memo emailed to all BA long-haul crews - entitled "Microwave incident" - warns that grub needs special packaging because the ovens are twice as strong as domestic ones.

It says the incident with the curry had "disastrous consequences". One BA employee said: "Many cabin crew like to bring their own meals to eat.

"At first we thought the microwaves were a godsend. But this unfortunate incident has left us with egg on our faces."

BA stressed: "At no time was there any danger to passengers or the aircraft."

Courier's final delivery

Courier Leslie Wright's final delivery was his own body to his funeral - in a coffin-shaped cardboard box.

The 71-year-old was dispatched to Cambridge crematorium in the package, marked fragile, this way up and handle with care, reports the Daily Mirror.

Leslie's family even got funeral director Andrew Patey to sign a form, in duplicate, accepting delivery of the body which was dressed in his work uniform of burgundy trousers and jacket with a white T-shirt.

Son Chris, 41, said: "Dad had a fantastic sense of humour and he would have loved this send-off.

"He must have delivered tens of thousands of parcels over the years and it was fitting his last delivery should be at his funeral."

Divorced dad-of-two Leslie, who died of bowel cancer, had told his family he hated the idea of "going in a hearse".

So they paid £250 for the cardboard coffin. Management consultant Chris and Leslie's grandson Kris, 20, drove him to his service in his old Mercedes Sprinter van.

He added: "The coffin actually cost a bit more than a standard plywood one with a veneer finish, but it was worth it."

Chris addressed the delivery note on the box to Cloud 9, Peace and Quiet Road, Heaven, Near Scotland".

14 years at school and no days off

A schoolgirl is believed to have created a record by never having a day off in 14 years.

Since starting her education at four, Michelle Boorman, 18, has turned up for lessons on 2,660 consecutive school days.

Other children would bring in sick notes to Newlands Primary School in Ramsgate, Kent, but not Michelle. Nor did she at Clarendon House Grammar School in Ramsgate.

"There is no secret as to why I have not had a day off sick in the whole of my school life," she said.

"I love school so have never been tempted to have a day off or use feeling unwell as an excuse not to come in.

"I have been lucky with my health, but if I have a cold or feel ill, coming to school helps as it takes my mind off it."

Jane Bennett, head of Clarendon House, said: "I have never come across someone with Michelle's attendance figures. I doubt if any teacher has because it is quite remarkable."

Michelle's mother Vanessa said: "If she gets a cold she works through it. When Michelle has been ill, it has been during school holidays."

The teenager, who got four A*s and five As at GCSE, plays netball, tennis and golf and takes a multi-vitamin tablet every day.

After sitting A-levels in English literature, statistics, information technology and general studies, she hopes to study information technology at Kent University.

Falling girl saved by brolly

An 18-year-old schoolgirl was saved by her umbrella when she was blown off a six-storey building in China.

Zhang Haijing's umbrella slowed her fall and allowed her to land relatively softly, reports the Today Morning Express.

Zhang, from Jingning County in Zhejiang Province, was soaked when she was caught in rain on her way home from school.

She decided to wash and dry her clothes in a laundry at the top of a six storey building but was blown off a slippery walkway by a sudden gust of wind.

The wind caught her raised umbrella and blew her over the edge of the building but she managed to cling on to the umbrella as she fell.

It slowed her descent and she landed in the soft soil of a waterlogged vegetable garden.

Zhang is now stable in hospital after undergoing a number of operations for her injuries.

Her family are appealing for help to allow her to continue her studies as they have spent all of their savings on her medical bills.

Clown hired to cheer up monkeys

A German zoo has hired a clown to stop its monkeys getting bored.

Zoo bosses got local entertainer Christina Peter, 45, to act the fool after vets said the chimps, baboons, gorillas and orang-utans in zoo cages were more often sick or aggressive when they grew bored.

Christina said she keeps the animals amused by making games and puzzles for them, using footballs, plastic bags, cardboard boxes or blocks of wood among other things.

She said: "When I was young I would go to a zoo and see animals and a lot of them looked bored and that made me feel very sad. Doing this makes me feel good because I am making their lives as comfortable as possible.

"And they seem to be enjoying it. They go wild when they see me coming because they know they're going to have some fun."

Animal psychologist Jennifer Ringleb said: "In nature, animals spend their whole day looking for food. In zoos they have nothing to do, they get bored. In extreme cases they will get sick or aggressive. Animals that have something to do are happier and more balanced."

Cop gear too arresting for court

A judge was blasted after ordering a cop out of his court for wearing full uniform.

Judge John Rogers said: "Why are you wearing all that equipment?"

The policeman - in body armour with baton, handcuffs and pepper spray - replied: "It's my work dress, your honour."

The Sun reports he apologised but the judge at Mold Crown Court, North Wales, said: "You don't come to court dressed like that."

It was the second time Judge Rogers has blasted a cop for turning up in full uniform.

Richard Eccles, of North Wales Police Federation, said: "Officers are often asked for help at court. They must be equipped for their own and the public's protection."

North Wales Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has told the Courts Service he will still send officers to court in operational uniform.

A police source said: "This judge is out of touch."

Man finds £350,000 under leaves

A Russian man out walking his dog found £350,000 under a pile of leaves.

Yuri Lavrov found the money stashed in a plastic bag after his pet Labrador began sniffing and scratching as he walked through the forest near Chita in Siberia.

But Lavrov handed the cash over to cops who later identified it as part of haul from a recent bank robbery in the city.

They said the money had been stashed in the forest by one of the robbers who had been planning to come back for it.

Five men have been arrested in connection with the robbery.

Iraq hero puts medal on eBay

A hard-up soldier faces a court martial for trying to sell his top bravery medal on eBay.

Cpl Trevor Coult, who got a Military Cross for heroism in Iraq, said he needed the cash to support himself when he quits the Army.

But under Forces regulations, it is strictly forbidden for serving soldiers to sell medals, reports The Sun.

Top brass were furious as the Military Cross is so prestigious - with only the Victoria Cross and George Cross regarded as higher gallantry awards.

Trevor, 31, won the Cross for single-handedly defeating a suicide bomber's ambush in Baghdad in 2005. He put four other gongs on the auction website and wanted £80,000 for the lot.

Trevor, serving in the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, wrote: "I'm leaving the Army and need the money, otherwise wouldn't want to sell."

He told his furious CO he placed the ad only to see what price they could fetch. It has now been withdrawn from eBay.

The MoD said: "Action will be taken where necessary."

As a junior NCO, single Trevor, of Belfast, earns £23,000 a year.

Tory MP and former Army officer Patrick Mercer said: "If the Government paid soldiers properly, his hand may not have been forced in this way."

Dog saves piglets

A Romanian farmer was shocked to find two 'dead' piglets had been nursed back to health by his pet dog.

The man said he threw away the 'bodies' of the two piglets because he thought they were still born.

But a few days later he heard unusual sounds in the dog's kennel and discovered the two piglets were alive.

Vasile Borza, from Hodisel village in Bihor county, said: "After they were born, I threw the two piglets away because I thought they were dead.

"But my dog Lola found them and realised they were alive. She fed them and took care of them along with her puppies."

Cat grows wings

A Chinese woman claims her cat has grown wings.

Granny Feng's tom cat has sprouted two hairy 4ins long wings, reports the Huashang News.

"At first, they were just two bumps, but they started to grow quickly, and after a month there were two wings," she said.

Feng, of Xianyang city, Shaanxi province, says the wings, which contain bones, make her pet look like a 'cat angel'.

Her explanation is that the cat sprouted the wings after being sexually harassed.

"A month ago, many female cats in heat came to harass him, and then the wings started to grow," she said.

However, experts say the phenomenon is more likely down to a gene mutation, and say it shouldn't prevent the cat living a normal life.

Not so stupid boy

A 15-year-old Norfolk schoolboy has set up a Dad's Army museum in his back garden.

Darren Stride, 15, of Scratby, near Great Yarmouth, has created a Dad's Army museum in his garden shed /PA Photos

Darren Stride is obsessed with the classic BBC sitcom and his collection has filled his dad's shed and workshop in Scratby, near Great Yarmouth, reports the Daily Mail.

One contains a 1940s living room, filled with gas masks, uniforms, newspapers, documents and a black and white television showing footage from the period.

The other has a shop with shelves lined with cigarette packets, Oxo cubes and jars containing sherbet lemons and licorice sticks.

The schoolboy's fascination began as a four-year-old when he watched episodes of Dad's Army perched on his grandfather's knee.

Now his homespun museum, called Bygones, is lending memorabilia to schools and taking visitor bookings via a website.

"My grandad gave me his World War II medals and that started the collection. He started giving me newspapers and all sorts of things after that," said Darren.

"My mum didn't like the musty smell so my dad said "All right, you can have my workshop". That started when I was 12."

His mother Pat, 56, said: "Darren started going round his playgroup saying his grandad was John Le Mesurier. It all stemmed from there.

"Now, whenever Darren's late for the bus, I tell him "You stupid boy" - which he loves."

Robber asked victim for date

A robber who held up a Milwaukee store asked one of his victims for a date.

He was one of two men who robbed a U-Haul store, reports local WTMJ TV news.

"He stuck around and was trying to get the female employee's number," U-Haul general manager Patrick Sobocinski said.

"She said he was just saying, 'Hey baby, you’re pretty fine'."

The two robbers accosted two employees and forced them to open the till. One grabbed the money, forced the workers to the ground and then fled.

But the second man stayed at the counter and asked the woman for a date.

"She said he was saying, 'Can I get your number and go out sometime?'" Sobocinski added.

The man left after the women told him she was not interested in seeing him again.

Local police, however, are very interested in meeting up with both men.

Dwarf mechanic mistaken for 'abducted' boy

German police staged a major operation to find a kidnapped child after a woman spotted a "young boy" being locked into a car boot.

The panicked woman alerted authorities as the car drove off, and police set up road blocks and dispatched patrol cars to intercept the vehicle.

But when the car was finally sighted and stopped, police found the "boy" was actually dwarf car mechanic Klaus "Shorty" Mueller, 27.

He had climbed in the boot and asked to be driven around so he could see where a strange rattling noise had been coming from.

Police in the northern city of Bremen confirmed a woman had called after she looked out her apartment window and saw a child in the boot - just before the driver slammed it shut and drove off.

The spokesman added: "A major investigation and manhunt was immediately launched and the car and its driver were apprehended. It seems the driver had been worried by inexplicable rattling noises in or near his boot. He called a mechanic, who was very small, and who climbed in the boot to get to the bottom of the problem."

Police said the mini mechanic had often used the same method to solve the problem and had found it the best way to detect the source of strange noises.

Big screen romance

A movie fan got the shock of her life when she found herself watching a giant image of her boyfriend propose to her on a cinema screen.

Heather Hickey, 24, was settling down to enjoy the new Pirates of the Caribbean film when long-term lover Mark Spencer showed up on screen.

Heather, 24, mum of their two kids, told the Manchester Evening News that everyone in the Odeon cinema cheered.

"I was completely in shock, just overwhelmed. One minute we were sitting in our seats eating popcorn and then the next Mark appeared on screen," she said.

"He said, 'I hope this is romantic enough. I love you to bits and I want the whole world to know it'.

"I turned round to look at him and he was down on one knee holding a ring. I was too stunned to say anything, we just hugged each other. Then I cried my eyes out."

Mark, 27, of Rochdale had asked Odeon bosses if they would show a written proposal when he took her to the movies, but they went one better and helped him make the clip.

He said: "I've surprised myself because I'm not one for big gestures, but Heather means everything to me and I want to be with her for the rest of my life."

Search for an heir unearths rock star

An English aristocrat searching for an heir for his £7.5 million mansion may have found one - a US rock star.

Sir Benjamin Slade has spent the past 18 months scouring the world for a relation prepared to take on Maunsel House in Somerset.

And Isaac Slade, 24, lead singer with Denver-based Christian rockers The Fray, has turned out to be one of his closest living relatives, reports The Times.

Sir Benjamin said: "If Isaac moves in he and his band can have huge concerts in the grounds. It would be fantastic and pay all the rotten bills."

The singer and his wife, Anna, 23, and the band's guitarist, David Welsh, and his wife, Janell, are staying in the Grade II-listed house for two days as guests of Sir Benjamin.

His search for an heir was turned into a TV programme, I'm Really a Royal, which led to 15,000 applications.

Sir Benjamin went to see The Fray in concert in London and the two are now firm friends as well as relatives.

Slade, a self-confessed Anglophile, said that he was overwhelmed by the sense of history during his visit to the 13th century family seat.

Unlike most of the hopefuls who answered Sir Benjamin's appeal for an heir, he could probably afford the upkeep.

The title track from The Fray's debut album, How to Save a Life, sold more than five million copies in the US and reached number four in the UK. It is also the biggest selling album on iTunes.

Beatles blast for beer burglar

A judge sentenced a Beatles-loving thief by quoting 42 of the band's song titles in his verdict.

Andrew McCormack, 20, had been asked what sentence he thought he should get for stealing beer, he wrote: "Like The Beetles say, Let it Be."

But he had clearly come up against the wrong man in Montana's Judge Gregory Todd, reports the Daily Mirror.

Judge Todd replied: "'Hey Jude', 'Do You Want to Know a Secret'? The greatest band in history spelled its name B-e-a-t-l-e-s.

"Your response suggests there should be no consequences for your actions and I should 'Let it Be' so you can live in 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.

"Such reasoning is 'Here, There and Everywhere'. It does not require a 'Magical Mystery Tour' of interpretation to know 'The Word' means leave it alone. I trust we can all 'Come Together' on that meaning.

"If I were to overlook your actions I would ignore that 'Day in the Life' on April 21, 2006. That night you said to yourself 'I Feel Fine' while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted 'Money' or were just trying to 'Act Naturally' you became the 'Fool on the Hill'.

"As 'Mr Moonlight' at 1.30am, you did not 'Think for Yourself' but just focused on 'I, Me, Mine'. 'Because' you didn't ask for 'Help'. 'Wait' for 'Something' else or listen to your conscience saying 'Honey Don't', the victim was later 'Fixing a Hole' in the glass door you broke."

Judge Todd went on: "After you stole the beer you decided it was time to 'Run For Your Life' and 'Carry That Weight'. But the witness said 'Baby it's You', the police said 'I'll Get You' and you had to admit 'You Really Got a Hold on Me'.

"You were not able to 'Get Back' home because of the 'Chains' they put on you. Although you hoped the police would say 'I Don't Want to Spoil the Party' and 'We Can Work it Out', you were in 'Misery' when they said you were a 'Bad Boy'.

"When they took you to jail, you experienced 'Something New' as they said 'Hello Goodbye' and you became a 'Nowhere Man'.

"Later you may have said 'I'll Cry Instead'. Now you are saying 'Let it Be' instead of 'I'm a Loser'. As a result of your 'Hard Day's Night' you're looking at a 'Ticket to Ride' that 'Long and Winding Road' to prison.

"Hopefully you can say both now and 'When I'm 64' that 'I Should Have Known Better'."

McCormack got probation, a community service order and a fine.

'Flowers grow from steel'

A Chinese man has reportedly found flowers growing from a steel pipe in his vegetable garden.

Grandpa Ding told Sohu News: "I was cleaning the pipes, then my hand touched something fluffy."

The unidentified flowers growing on a steel pipe in a Chinese man's vegetable garden /Lu Feng

Ding says he was surprised to see the patch of tiny white flowers growing on the smooth steel.

"The stems are slimmer than human hair, and altogether there are 38 small white flowers on top," he said.

The flowers open in the mornings, then close when the sun grows strong. Each flower has a diameter of 1mm.

Ding has consulted his neighbours, who believe the flowers are the legendary Youtan Poluo flower, which blossoms only once every 3,000 years.

"No soil, no water. These flowers can bring me good luck," he added.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stay or Go?
Five women who were stuck in unfulfilling relationships share their wake-up moments.
O, The Oprah Magazine,
September 2005

Five women who thought they were stuck in not-great-but-not-terrible relationships recall the sudden flash that freed them - for better or worse - to make the right decision.

Alexis Smith: "I wanted to believe him"

Her Story
Alexis was a party girl studying fashion, and George was a shy art student when they met in college. "We were attracted to what the other had to offer," Alexis says. After years of dating, she married George, shortly after giving birth to their first son.

Alexis began to notice a change in her marriage once her husband opened an art gallery and started staying out late. George admitted to cheating on Alexis while she was pregnant with their third child.

Wake-Up Moment
George begged forgiveness, and Alexis, who was eight months pregnant, gave him another chance. They moved from Manhattan to a quaint country house. But, on the first Christmas Eve in their new home, Alexis discovered that George was in love with another woman and decided that it was time to leave him - for good.

George moved out, and Alexis was on her own. That's when she realized she'd been on her own for years. When George was once again ready to reconcile, Alexis had an epiphany: "If I go back now, I'll lose any self-respect I've mustered over the past months." She carried on building up her own clothing line and then, unexpectedly, fell in love. "I never thought I'd find love again. Or that someone would love me for me."

Myra Tillotson Nuriddin: "Seven years of invisibility piled up"

Her Story

Myra was 47 years old and divorced when she met Sulaiman, a man who had 10 children from three previous relationships. Myra, mother to a grown son, and Sulaiman eventually said their "I dos." Their decision not to invite all of Sulaiman's children to the wedding backfired, and Myra's relationship with her stepchildren suffered. Tension built up for years, and Myra often felt disrespected and resented by Sulaiman's children. "But if I brought it up with Sulaiman, he'd say, 'Don't play children's games; you'll never win,'" Myra says.

Wake-Up Moment
One Christmas Eve, Myra invited all of Sulaiman's children over for dinner. After a full day of cooking, her stepchildren trickled in more than an hour late. Angry and hurt, Myra remembers Sulaiman's oldest son walking right past her when he finally arrived for dinner. "Seven years of painful invisibility piled up into that one moment, and I lost it," Myra says.

After confronting Sulaiman with her concerns, she found a therapist who suggested that she and Sulaiman try an Imago workshop focusing on couples and communication. At the workshop, they learned how to "mirror" each other. "When I'm angry, Sulaiman repeats what I'm saying to him before he responds. That calms me instantly," Myra says.

The Imago method has also helped work things out with her stepchildren. For their 10th wedding anniversary, Myra and Sulaiman renewed their vows. "All the kids were invited," Myra says. "When I first said 'I do' to Sulaiman, I thought it was just the two of us. This second time around, I knew it was actually 13."

Michelle Barrett: "We'd get meaner with every fight"

Her Story
Michelle began dating Joe, a rival marketing rep who proposed a year later over ice cream cones in the park. Soon after, the fighting began. "We were constantly getting into stupid arguments that left me feeling alone," Michelle says. They sought help but the arguments continued to escalate. "We'd get meaner with each fight," Michelle recalls. "I threatened to leave, and he called my bluff. That's when I got really scared."

Wake-Up Moment
Michelle's biggest fear was losing Joe. A friend mentioned a weekend "reconnecting" workshop for couples, but Michelle had burned out on therapists. Faced with a decision, Michelle's mother asked her, "If you don't do this, are you prepared to live with the consequences?" That struck Michelle like lightning. "Joe and I were in a hurtful holding pattern," she says. "My mom's words jolted me into action."

At the workshop, the first exercise was an exorcism. "We had to act out a scary childhood moment," Michelle recalls. "[My stepfather] was extremely verbally abusive to me, and my model for how men acted. So if Joe disagreed with me, I'd hear my stepfather and freak out."

Following the workshop, Michelle confronted her stepfather, who apologized for treating her badly. Now, she says, "whenever I'm mad at Joe, I ask myself, 'What's this really about?'" As a result, the arguments don't escalate. "We love each other too much to let minor blowups tear us apart," Michelle says.

Megan Davis: "I wanted to help him get better"

Her Story
Megan met Greg while studying abroad in Australia. He was a free spirit who often needed time by himself and would often go off for weekends alone. Meanwhile, Megan took on all the domestic duties of their relationship. "I was so often worried about his feelings that I would do all these things to make his life easier," she says.

After eight years of dating, Greg confessed to Megan that he was depressed and began taking antidepressants. Soon after, he proposed to Megan during a trip to Taiwan. Six weeks before their September wedding, Greg came home in tears and wanted to postpone the wedding. He started therapy and, two months later, asked Megan to join him in seeing the therapist. "I readily agreed," she says. "I wanted to help him get better."

Wake-Up Moment
After eight sessions, Megan felt "we were going in circles." The therapist told them to work on their communication skills, but they still hadn't done the assignments from the first session. "I knew then that I had done all I could, and that Greg's moodiness was going to be his lifelong struggle," Michelle says. "I wanted him to be happy, but I finally realized that I couldn't do that for him."

At first, the loneliness was palpable. "I spent my 20s with one man, and suddenly I was alone," she says. "Regaining my self-confidence was hard."

Now, Michele says she knows she made the right decision. "I have a therapist friend who once told me if I was meant to leave Greg, I'd know in my gut when the time came," she says. "Acting on that moment made me realize I can trust myself."

Sarah Albertson: "He was a good man, but he was dull"

Her Story
After Sarah's first date with Richard, she didn't plan on seeing him again. But after getting fired from her job and facing a July 4 weekend alone, she called him back. He was different from the guys she normally dated, but he filled a void. "I was very lonely and insecure - and unlucky in love," she says. "I thought he was as good as it would get for me."

They married, moved from Manhattan to Santa Barbara and started a family. "My life seemed full, but it wasn't. I didn't love my husband," she says. "I faulted myself for not liking him more - he was a good man, but he was dull."

Wake-Up Moment
One night, Sarah came home late, exhausted and looking for comfort. Instead, she found her husband and two children asleep in her bed - leaving no room for her. After putting her kids to bed, she decided that she couldn't pretend anymore. "My husband initiated sex," Sarah recalls. "And I started crying. He asked, 'What's wrong?' I said, 'I don't want to do this anymore.'" He didn't fight it.

"I had finally found the courage to leap," she says.

Sarah signed up for several months after the split. "Everybody told me it was too soon to date," she recalls. "I was like, 'I've waited my whole life for romance.'"

Through Match, Sarah met Adam, who she married in 2000. Their relationship isn't perfect;"we have disagreements that leave me frustrated - but I feel passionate about him. That's the big difference."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Who knew? Freshwater crabs thrive in Roman ruins
by Gina Doggett

A freshwater crab, Potamon fluviatile, walks in the ancient ruins of Trajan's Forum in Rome. A colony of freshwater crabs has lurked in canals built by the Etruscans nearly 3,000 years ago. The ancient ruins have provided the ideal habitat for the omnivorous crustacean, whose average size is much larger than its counterparts in lakes and rivers.(AFP/File/Christophe Simon)

ROME (AFP) - Who could have guessed that throughout the rise and fall of Rome's emperors, monarchs and politicians a lowly creature has reigned supreme in the ruins of Trajan's mighty empire?

Potamon fluviatile, an unassuming freshwater crab, has shown superior staying power, thriving in the canals built by the Etruscans nearly 3,000 years ago, Italian zoologists say.

The ancient ruins of Trajan's Forum in the heart of the Eternal City have provided the ideal habitat for the crustacean, which is much larger than its counterparts in lakes and rivers, Massimiliano Scalici told AFP.

The narrow canals that flow under Trajan's Forum lead to the Cloaca Massima, the ancient Roman sewage system built in the sixth century BC initially to drain local marshes.

"Early results of a genetic analysis that we are doing show that the genes of the crabs at Trajan are very close to those of Greek freshwater crabs," Scalici said.

"So it's very likely that they were introduced by the Greeks 2,500 or 3,000 years ago, which means they were here even before Rome was founded in 753 BC," he added.

While in nature the crab grows to a length of five centimetres (two inches), it is more robust in the ruins, growing to more than eight centimetres. "Once we found a moult (shed exoskeleton) measuring 12 centimetres!" Scalici said during a tour of the site.

"Gigantism is one animal response to isolation, and it is a phenomenon that requires a long time," he noted.

The hardy crabs have also "shown extraordinary adaptation" in a habitat that "is obviously very different" from that inhabited by their cousins in nature, Scalici said.

Rome's crabs have a longer life expectancy at 15 years instead of 10 to 12, he noted.

But for all its success, Potamon fluviatile has kept a low profile in Rome, revealing its existence only a decade ago.

It was in 1997 that Scalici and another zoology student happened on a specimen minding its own business under a stone in Trajan's amphitheatre, part of the largest of Rome's imperial forums, built in 113 at the territorial height of the Roman Empire.

Intrigued, a small group of researchers from the University of Rome III went to work studying the only known colony of freshwater crabs living amid the noise, pollution and humans of a large city.

"We think there are about 1,000 of them, but it's hard to say because we can't mark their shells, given that they shed regularly," Scalici said.

The researchers are considering fitting specimens with microchips under their shells, but they are expensive, he added.

Scalici said the crabs have very few predators, since stray cats -- a frequent sight at Roman ruins -- "aren't interested, and gulls don't come at night because the site is lit up all the time."

As for their diet, the omnivorous crustaceans feed on algae, insect larvae and snails, as well as the occasional cigarette butt and fast-food container, Scalici said.

The amphibious creatures burrow deep to their hideaways, sometimes reaching several metres below the ruins, leaving small mounds of dirt on the surface.

"Of course we are still working with hypotheses -- the genetic study isn't finished -- but it's very tempting to believe that (the crabs were introduced by the ancient Greeks), especially because lots of aspects like the gigantism suggest that the crabs have been here for a really long time," Scalici said.

And after his proteges managed to survive through the millennia, Scalici hopes their age-old tranquility will not be disturbed by work on a new subway line, which is to pass close to the Forum's foundations.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

No laughing matter
By Celine R. Lopez

When my best friend died suddenly early this year, I felt the kind of sadness that I never knew existed. That’s a bit of a statement since sadness was nothing new to me. Yet when I saw him in his coffin, I cried because I couldn’t feel anything. The overwhelming power of grief took over my emotions like a wet rag on a live wire. I sort of short-circuited.

I was always a sad girl. Although my exterior belies the truth, it’s a thing I do to cope. Who wants to deal with some sad mope? I’m very ambitious and if a charade was necessary for me to get what I wanted, then so be it. Sometimes I believe my act so much it becomes the truth even for just a little while.

As the months rolled by, things started to become normal again. We all went back to work, we all went on with our lives. I told myself that the vacant feeling I had in me was nothing new. It’s simply an after-effect of the flotsam and jetsam of the life that was when Joel was alive.

It took my fiancée to make me realize that I was more than grieving. He surmised my condition was more than a crash from an earthquake of emotions. It was also something I was all too familiar with. The cycle had started to begin. I just dreaded going through it all over again.

You see, for nearly 10 years I have been treated for depression. When I first realized I had it, I was in college. I feared my parents would think I was just “making arte” and my friends would think I just wanted attention. I thought the same of myself as well. However, after the third day of not moving from my bed I knew something was wrong. I had to see a doctor.

I remember just scanning the list of names in the hospital and choosing the one that sounded the kindest. I went for that person. I went in and left with a wad of prescriptions. I was told I had depression and anxiety, a fairly common combo. I was told not to worry and just to take my medicine as prescribed and not to stop treatment without consulting with her first. It was pretty sloppy of me to handle it that way, but I was lucky that I found a good doctor. This does not happen all the time, though.

I took my medicine secretly. I was scared I was going crazy. I just feared it would turn into some hardcore lunacy for me.

I mean, really, what did I have to be sad about? My parents were together, I had a home, food, friends, education — the whole lot. Was I just being a drama queen?

It took me years to accept that this was an illness and to not feel guilty about my condition. It took me five years before I told my mom. To which she replied, “Why, what did I do wrong?”

It’s really hard to explain this condition to people who don’t have it. It doesn’t have the physical signs to warrant an alarmed reaction and to be legit. It’s easy to dismiss it as being moody. As Tom Cruise says, vitamins and exercise will do the trick.

This was around the time I started perfecting my craft of looking okay. The medicines helped. I felt vacant, which was fine since I couldn’t bear being the sad girl anymore. Depression gives you a dull ache that may manifest itself in psychosomatic symptoms such as backaches and migraines. You can’t really cry or laugh. You’re simply just in motion, like an aimless paper boat.

Sooner of later, the paper softens and crumbles away.

I was so sick of being sick.

There were days in the past before I sought treatment, I thought I just couldn’t do it and would just sleep and hope for a better day. This is when I slept for three days. Despite years of treatment, I still have those days but I do know how to control them.

I started obsessing over what had made me this way. Was I not loved as a child? Did my nutty ex-boyfriend, who gave me a walkie-talkie so he could keep “tabs” on me, leave me scarred for life? Did I think I simply couldn’t do anything right? Every- thing that went wrong in my life was closely examined.

The answer to everything was “No.” I’m no doctor, but I continue to fight this illness with a professional. I know its demons and I also know how to trick myself and exorcise myself from all the weakness this condition can bring. I know right now I’m in control.

The reason why I am writing about this now is that over the years people have come up to me and asked me what the eff is wrong with them. I guess with this condition, we’re all like dogs: we all smell it on each other. I’m pretty lucky and rather proud I took it by the balls. Some are not. Some start having random sex with strangers as a lifestyle, some live dependently on drugs and some simply kick the bucket.

With depression it’s easy to slip into the role of the victim.

I realize how many people who are also afflicted with this condition think that it will just go away like a cold. There is so much shame in their eyes when they tell me what they think they have. Then there are others who use it as an excuse to waste their lives and squander golden opportunities. It makes me sick when I see that.

Depression is often used as a cop-out when you just feel like shit and don’t want to deal. However, in reality it’s more than that. It’s something that you will have to deal with every day. You will have happy days, yet the moment you realize it you start panicking, thinking something will take your happiness away.

This is how panic attacks happen and for some the turbulence that comes with an anxiety attack proves to be too much, so that some sufferers just shield themselves from any stimuli that may give them pleasure.

Depression has many faces, and over the years I’ve seen how it affects other people differently. However, one thing I know to be true. It is an illness. If you let it be and hope that it will just go away, it may consume whatever is left of you. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. Admitting you might have it is important. This will make you control your depression and not allow it to control you.

It is odd to think that a pill will take all this away. However, medicine is just a tool. The most important thing to remember is that how you handle this condition has nothing to with those around you.

Support is great but your road to healing should not be dependent on the support of others. If there was one thing I learned, it’s that people can disappoint, even if they don’t mean to. You can’t make this stop you.

It is a personal struggle and, alas, a personal victory.