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Friday, January 25, 2008

3 Email Dating Secrets
You can boost your response rate if you remember to be original
By Evan Marc Katz

Of all the things that clients (especially men) ask me to help them with, the most common query involves assistance with writing introductory emails. And while I never write emails for others, the request makes perfect sense. After all, most people's profiles don't exactly give you a ton of material to work with, do they? So how do you cobble together something from a pile of nothing? Well, you can start by remembering these three basic rules:

Three basic rules

1. If someone else can say it, don't say it. Ask yourself if what you're writing sounds completely original. If not, the person you're contacting probably has 10 emails just like yours.

2. Cut to the chase. Don't waste time with a whole bunch of text that doesn't tell the recipient anything new. Look at this message:

Dear JB, I read your profile and thought it was really amazing. Plus, you're really cute. So please look at my profile and if you like what I had to say, write back to me when you get a chance. Yours, Evan

Every line of this message can be thrown out. Why? Because anyone whom you contact knows by virtue of you writing to them that a) you liked their profile, b) you liked their photo and c) you'd like a reply.

3. Be flirty. Be confident. Be different. Keep in mind that YOU are the commodity here. Even though you're writing to someone out of the blue, do so with the belief that this person would be lucky to have you. If you're too complimentary in that initial email, you can come off as desperate and needy. So don't go overboard. Say a couple of funny, coy lines and get out. Your profile ultimately does the selling; your email just has to pique their interest.

How to separate yourself from the pack

Still, the question remains: how do you say something original and flirty? That, my friends, is what separates the most successful online daters from the rest of the pack. Here are three steps to set you on the right path. In this case, I've written them for men replying to women, but the steps are applicable to everyone.

Step 1: Read her profile closely. Every word of it. Men who treat women as unique and interesting individuals stand a much greater shot of receiving a response. The thing is, even if she's interesting, she most likely wrote a whole bunch of cliches in her profile: "I'm nice, smart, kind, warm, funny, honest and family-oriented. I like hiking, biking, movies, music, travel. I'm looking for my best friend, lover and partner in crime for a lifetime of love and laughter." (Scary how easy it is to approximate the typical online dating profile, isn't it?) Obviously, there's not much to respond to here. So let's think outside the box, shall we?

Step 2: Find the most interesting tidbit in her profile. NOT the thing you like the most, NOT the thing you have in common. The most interesting tidbit in her profile is the thing that sounds like it couldn't have been written by anybody else in the world. It might be how she hates pigeons. It might be how she was once a foot model. It might be how she doesn't know how to program her TiVo. Whatever it is, take her quirky tidbit and turn it into your pickup line.

Step 3: Take her factoid and apply it to yourself in a fictional fashion. The sillier and more over-the-top your email, the funnier it'll be. A good joke doesn't require an explanation - it's obviously a joke. For example, if you're writing to the foot model, you might say:

Once upon a time, I was a knee model. Great money, tons of fame, you know the deal ... Then I skinned my knee when rollerblading. I never modeled again. Let's drink to our fashion careers, Evan

Sure, it's a little goofy, but people actually respond to this stuff. Why? Because it's different, it's audacious and, in a strange way, it's kind of smart. Most importantly, it's confident. It's not an idle compliment or a generic, "Look what we have in common" line. It's a joke and, as we all know, people like people who make them laugh.

Wanna try again? Let's take the TiVo woman. Start your comment in the subject heading of the email, like this:

TiVo for Dummies

I can fix your computer, landscape your backyard and probably even hotwire your car, but, for some reason, TiVo programming seems to elude me as well. So if you're interested in watching the entire season of "When Animals Attack" ... in Spanish ... with subtitles ... I'm definitely your guy.Talk to you soon, Evan

Now, what are you gonna say to that pigeon-hater?

Woman saves 55,000 pennies in 19 years
The Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La. - It took Vicki Armstrong almost 19 years to save $550, which isn't much of an accomplishment — except that she did it one penny at a time.

Armstrong was planning to take her 55,000 pennies to the bank this week. She said saving them helped her reinforce frugal spending habits.

"It helped me be a little bit more conservative in my lifestyle," said Armstrong, who is planning to retire at the end of the year from Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital, where she works as a maternity technician.

Armstrong has been storing pennies in vases, bowls and the occasional shoebox. In 1993, The (Shreveport, La.) Times reported she had squirreled away 14,000 pennies. Armstrong resisted the temptation to cash them in and kept saving.

Her co-workers and friends have chipped in over the years. "They all hand over pennies generously," she said.

Her husband, Melvin, said he never interfered with her healthy obsession, even when their bicycle rides were interrupted by tiny treasure hunts.

"She would see a penny in the road and just stop," he said. "I would to have to do circles just to let her catch up."

Woman searching for father discovers ... it's her boss

An undated handout photo, released January 12, by the Kinmen Police Bureau, shows Vietnamese Tran Thi Kham with her father Tsai Han-chao in Kinmen, a northern island of Taiwan. Tran -- who travelled to Taiwan looking for her father -- worked at his home in Taiwan for seven months without realising who he was before the relationship came to light.

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Vietnamese woman searching for her father worked at his home in Taiwan for seven months without realising who he was before the relationship came to light, her father and police said Tuesday.

Tran Thi Kham, 40, travelled to Taiwan in 2005 hoping to find her biological father, who fell in love with her Vietnamese mother in Hong Kong in 1967, police said.

Tran's mother became pregnant but was forced to return home for family reasons. She died two months after giving birth to Tran, leaving the baby an engraved gold ring and a photo of her Taiwanese father, who did not know she existed.

Giving his reaction to the meeting, Tran's father, Tsai Han-chao, told the local TVBS cable news channel: "Life's ups and downs are just like television drama. How could I have ever dreamed that she is my daughter? I can't stop crying when we were finally united."

Tran was hired by Tsai in Taipei county to look after his paralysed wife and was reassigned by an agency to a family on the offshore Kinmen island seven months later, after the woman died.

After arriving in Kinmen, Tran realised that she had left a bag containing her father's ring and photo in her ex-employer's home and asked the local police for help, the police in Kinmen said.

When Tsai opened the bag, he immediately recognised the items he had given his girlfriend.

He wasted no time flying to Kinmen for a tearful meeting with his daughter.

"This is incredible and really touching to see the father and daughter get together after all these years," said policeman Ku Ker-ya.

Ku told AFP that DNA testing had confirmed Tran's parentage and she returned to Vietnam last week to deal with legal documents.

Ribbit! This green isn't part of salad
The Associated Press
15 minutes ago

NEW YORK - You just don't want to eat some greens.

That's how a Brooklyn mom felt when she found a tiny frog comfortably nestled in the leaves of organic lettuce she was preparing to eat.

"I jumped away," said 39-year-old Yvonne Brechbuhler, who described the green critter as no bigger than the tip of her pinky finger.

"I didn't know what it was. But once I realized it was a frog, I was OK," she told the Daily News in Thursday editions.

Intrigued, she named the frog "Curious."

Brechbuhler, a stage actress, said she bought the lettuce at her local food co-op and kept it in the refrigerator three days before using it last week.

Brechbuhler and her 7-year-old daughter, Orla, placed the frog in a jar on a bed of lettuce leaves and water, and fed it fruit flies they collected at a nearby garden. Afterward, they decided Curious would be happier at an animal facility specializing in reptiles and amphibians. The facility, Sean Casey Animal Rescue, has put it up for adoption.

An employee at the food co-op said it was the first such incident in memory.


On the Net:

Sean Casey Animal Rescue,

Pair accused of stealing, eating pet dog
The Associated Press

HONOLULU - Two former golf club employees have been charged with theft and cruelty to animals in the death of a pet dog the owners say was cooked and eaten.

An Oahu grand jury indicted Saturnino Palting, 58, and Nelson Domingo, 43, both of Kalihi, after the Moanalua Golf Club fired them as maintenance workers.

They are charged with stealing a dog owned by Frank Manuma and his wife, Debbie Weil-Manuma. The 8-month-old German shepherd-Labrador mix named Caddy had been tied up near a maintenance shed on Dec. 16 while Frank Manuma played a round of golf.

Manuma said police told him the two men butchered and ate his pet.

The charges are both felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"We're delighted that it's moving forward," Manuma said when told of the grand jury indictments.

He said the club had given him permission to bring the dog to the club.

Witnesses told golf club officials they saw the workers load the dog into a car and drive away at the end of their shift on Dec. 16. Both were fired after the incident.

Manuma said he and his wife considered the dog like a child they never had. When the arrest was first reported, they received expressions of sympathy and offers of new dogs from as far away as Colorado.

He said they now have a 3-month old mixed German shepherd-Golden retriever named Caddy 2.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Bulletin,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Police probe actor Heath Ledger’s death
Actor was found in NYC apartment; no obvious indication of suicide evident
MSNBC News Services

NEW YORK - Heath Ledger, the talented 28-year-old actor who gravitated toward dark, brooding roles that defied his leading-man looks, was found dead Tuesday in a Manhattan apartment, face-down and naked at the foot of his bed with prescription sleeping pills nearby, police said.

There was no obvious indication of suicide, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.

Ledger’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement this Tuesday night, saying, “We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this accident. This is an extremely difficult time for his loved ones and we are asking the media to please respect the family’s privacy.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Ledger had committed suicide. He had an appointment for a massage at the residence in the tony neighborhood of SoHo, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. A housekeeper who went to let him know the massage therapist had arrived found him unconscious at 3:26 p.m.

According to The New York Times, his body was moved to the floor, and after receiving no response from the actor after shaking him, the masseuse and housekeeper called authorities.

“We are investigating the possibility of an overdose,” Browne said. “There were pills within the vicinity of the bed.”

Police do not suspect a crime, The Times reported.

A source told's Courtney Hazlett that Ledger had been turning down roles lately.

The Times initially reported that Ledger was found in an apartment owned by actress Mary-Kate Olsen, but a spokesperson for the actress, who is at the Sundance Film Festival, later told the Times the apartment was not Olsen's.

Heath Ledger, 1979-2008
The actor, who was Oscar nominated for “Brokeback Mountain,” died at age 28.

A large crowd of paparazzi and gawkers began gathering Tuesday evening outside the building on the upscale block, where several police officers guarded the door. According to The Times, city workers rolled Ledger’s body, encased in a black body bag, out of the building on a stretcher.

An autopsy was planned for Wednesday, medical examiner’s office spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

While not a marquee movie star, Ledger was a respected, award-winning actor who chose his roles carefully rather than cashing in on his heartthrob looks.

He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain,” where he met Michelle Williams, who played his wife in the film. The two had a daughter, now 2-year-old Matilda, and lived together in Brooklyn until they split up last year.

He once said he was ready to die because he could live on in his child.

“Having a child changes every aspect of your life — for the better, of course. The sacrifices are large, but what you get in return is even bigger than the sacrifices you make. I feel, in a sense, ready to die because you are living on in your child,” Ledger told In Touch Weekly in November.

It was a shocking and unforeseen conclusion for one of Hollywood’s bright young stars. Though his leading-man looks propelled him to early stardom in films like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “A Knight’s Tale,” his career took a notable turn toward dramatic and brooding roles with 2001’s “Monster’s Ball.”

“I had such great hope for him,” said Mel Gibson, who played Ledger’s vengeful father in “The Patriot,” in a statement from the actor’s publicist. “He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Ledger eschewed Hollywood glitz in favor of a bohemian life in Brooklyn, where he was one of the borough’s most famous residents. “Brokeback” would be his breakthrough role, establishing him as one of his generation’s finest talents and an actor willing to take risks.

Ledger began to gravitate more toward independent fare, including Lasse Hallstrom’s “Casanova” and Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” both released in 2005. His 2006 film “Candy” now seems destined to have an especially haunting quality: In a particularly realistic performance, Ledger played a poet wrestling with a heroin addiction along with his girlfriend, played by Abbie Cornish.

But Ledger’s most recent choices were arguably the boldest yet: He co-starred in “I’m Not There,” in which he played one of the many incarnations of Bob Dylan — as did Cate Blanchett, whose performance in that film earned an Oscar nomination Tuesday for best supporting actress.

And in what may be his final finished performance, Ledger proved that he wouldn’t be intimidated by taking on a character as iconic as Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Ledger’s version of the Batman villain, glimpsed in early teaser trailers, made it clear that his Joker would be less comical and more depraved and dark.

Curiosity to see Ledger’s final performance will likely further stoke interest in the summer blockbuster. “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan said earlier this month that Ledger’s performance as the Joker would be wildly different than Jack Nicholson’s memorable turn in 1989’s “Batman.”

“It was a very great challenge for Heath,” Nolan said. “He’s extremely original, extremely frightening, tremendously edgy. A very young character, a very anarchic presence that taps into a lot of our basic fears and panic.”

Ledger told The New York Times in a November interview that he “stressed out a little too much” during the Dylan film, and had trouble sleeping while portraying the Joker, whom he called a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”

“Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,” Ledger told the newspaper. “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.” He said he took two Ambien pills, which only worked for an hour, the paper said.

Before settling down with Williams, Ledger had relationships with actresses Heather Graham and Naomi Watts. He met Watts while working on “The Lords of Dogtown,” a fictionalized version of a cult classic skateboarding documentary, in 2004.

Ledger was born in 1979 in Perth, in western Australia, to a mining engineer and a French teacher, and got his first acting role playing Peter Pan at age 10 at a local theater company. He began acting in independent films as a 16-year-old in Sydney and played a cyclist hoping to land a spot on an Olympic team in a 1996 television show, “Seat.”

After several independent films, Ledger moved to Los Angeles at age 19 and costarred opposite Julia Stiles in “10 Things I Hate About You.” Offers for other teen flicks soon came his way, but Ledger turned them down, preferring to remain idle than sign on for projects he didn’t like.

“It wasn’t a hard decision for me,” Ledger told the Associated Press in 2001. “It was hard for everyone else around me to understand. Agents were like, ‘You’re crazy,’ my parents were like, ‘Come on, you have to eat.”’

Monday, January 21, 2008

Customers desert smoke-free restaurant

A Chinese cigarette vendor displays her merchandise at a sidewalk in Beijing February 10, 2006. Beijing's first smoke-free restaurant chain faces going out of business after its customers deserted it in droves after the ban was enforced, state media reported on Friday.
(Claro Cortes IV/Reuters)

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing's first smoke-free restaurant chain faces going out of business after its customers deserted it in droves after the ban was enforced, state media reported on Friday.

The Chinese are the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of more than 350 million, making it a magnet for cigarette companies and a focus of international health concerns.

The occupancy rate at Meizhou Dongpo, a chain serving the spicy fare of southwest Sichuan province, had dropped to "about 80 percent of that enjoyed by other restaurants across the street" after it banned smoking in October, the China Daily quoted its manager as saying.

"We figure that if we're going to die, at least we're going to die honorably," the paper quoted Guo Xiaodong, deputy director of the restaurant chain, as saying.

Meizhou Dongpo had trained its waitresses how to discourage people from lighting up, but met resistance from customers who would lock staff out of private dining rooms to sneak a quick puff, Guo said.

"It just illustrates how much resistance there is to kicking the habit among Chinese smokers," the paper quoted Zhang Xuemei, a Beijing reporter who lobbied the restaurant to ban smoking, as saying.

Beijing, set to mark the 200-day countdown to the Olympics on Monday, has yet to issue clear rules on smoking bans, despite Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promising a "smoke-free Olympics."

Along with spitting, and not queuing, Olympic organizers fear Chinese people's tendency to smoke anywhere at any time could taint the country's image in foreign eyes.

China banned smoking in taxis in October and launched a drive to ban smoking in hospitals, schools, and government offices last year.

But resistance to the campaign has been fierce.

Beijing authorities had written to 30,000 restaurants asking them to put smoking bans in place, but not a single one had taken up the suggestion, the paper said.

Mystery man's annual visit to Poe grave
By Ben Nuckols,
Associated Press Writer

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, walks away from original grave of Edgar Allen Poe with a bottle of cognac and roses left by a mysterious visitor, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008, in Baltimore. Since 1949 someone has marked Poe's birthday by mysteriously leaving the items by the writer's grave.
(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

BALTIMORE - Undeterred by controversy, a mysterious visitor paid his annual tribute at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe early Saturday, placing three red roses and a half-filled bottle of cognac before stealing away into the darkness.

Nearly 150 people had gathered outside the cemetery of Westminster Presbyterian Church, but the man known as the "Poe toaster" was, as usual, able to avoid being spotted by the crowd, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum.

The tribute takes place every Jan. 19 — the anniversary of Poe's birth.

The visitor did not leave a note, Jerome said, electing not to respond to questions raised in the past year about the history and authenticity of the tribute.

Sam Porpora, a former church historian who led the fight to preserve the cemetery, claimed last summer that he cooked up the idea of the Poe toaster in the 1970s as a publicity stunt.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," Porpora, a former advertising executive, said in August. "It was a promotional idea."

Porpora said someone else has since "become" the Poe toaster.

Jerome disputes Porpora's claims and says the tribute began in 1949 at the latest, pointing to a 1950 article in The (Baltimore) Evening Sun that mentions "an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle (of excellent label)" against the gravestone.

Jerome invites a handful of Poe enthusiasts to join him inside the church every year but withholds details of the tribute in an effort to help the toaster maintain his anonymity. He said the visitor no longer wears the wide-brimmed hat and scarf he donned in the past.

In 1993, the visitor left a note reading, "The torch will be passed." A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his two sons.

This year's visitor was the same man who has come to the grave site many times in the past, Jerome said.

"We recognize him from his build, the way he walks," he said. "It would be very easy for us, visually, to see if this were a different person."

Poe, who wrote poems and horror stories including "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart," died Oct. 7, 1849, in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern. Next year will be the 200th anniversary of his birth.


On the Net:

Poe House and Museum:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Personality may be set by preschool
Study finds shy kids stay shy while rambunctious tots withdraw some
By Linda Carroll
MSNBC contributor

New research shows that in most cases the personalities displayed in preschool will stay with us into adulthood.

Ever wonder if that quiet girl who hid in the back corner of the classroom ever burst out of her shell? Perhaps she became a whiz at computers. And what about the class clown? Did all his attention-grabbing antics develop into a charm that would later earn him big bucks selling timeshares in Bermuda?

New research shows that in most cases the personalities displayed very early in life — as young as preschool — will stay with us into adulthood. The wallflowers will stay shy and reticent, though they will learn in time to be a little more sociable and assertive. And the average kids, the more resilient ones, will remain so.

But there is an interesting exception: The study found that as the most noisy and rambunctious kids hit their 20s, they still were more aggressive than the others yet they had become considerably more withdrawn than they were earlier in life. The researchers suspect that negative feedback from peers over the years makes these kids more self-conscious and quiet.

"At first, their impulsive behavior may appear 'cool,' gaining them social recognition," says the study’s lead author Jaap Dennissen, a professor of psychology at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. "However, as people grow up and are expected to act more mature, such impulsive behavior is increasingly rejected. Because of this expected rejection by peers, [they] may act in an increasingly shy manner.”

The new study, which appears in the February issue of the Journal of Personality, followed 103 kids for 19 years, starting when they were age 4 and ending when they hit their early 20s. To get an initial sense of the preschoolers’ personalities, the researchers surveyed both teachers and parents when the children were ages 4, 5 and 6. Based on the observations of their parents and teachers, the children were identified as having one of three personality types: overcontrolled, undercontrolled or resilient.

The overcontrolled kids were generally the ones most of us would categorize as shy: quiet, self-conscious, uncomfortable around strangers. “Overcontrollers control their emotions too much,” explains Dennissen. “So they are less able to act ‘natural’ and ‘spontaneous.’ Because they are so slow to warm up, they are seen by others as shy.”

Undercontrollers have too little control over impulses, Dennissen says. “When they feel frustrated they may act aggressively towards others, notwithstanding the negative consequences.”

The resilient kids are the ones in the middle who are good at modulating their emotions, interacting with others and bouncing back from adversity.

Some mature faster than others
Over the course of the study, Dennissen and his colleagues checked back in on the kids through questionnaires filled out by the parents every year up until the children were 10, and then again when the children reached the ages of 12, 17 and 23.

Interestingly, compared to the resilient children, both undercontrollers and overcontrollers took longer to move into adult roles, such as leaving home, starting a romantic relationship or finding a career. Accomplishing these milestones requires social adeptness that over- and undercontrollers may take longer to develop.

Ultimately, though, no matter which group kids start out in, they usually turn out just fine in the end, experts say. One factor that may help things along is a part-time job during the teen years, according to Dennissen. He and his colleagues found that such work experience led to lower levels of aggressiveness among both over- and undercontrolled kids. With the early job experience, teens learn some of life’s rules, such as that aggression generally doesn’t pay, Dennissen explains.

One thing that isn’t clear from the new study is whether actual personalities were changing with time — or just behaviors.

Even though behaviors, such as shyness, appear to change as kids get older, the underlying personality may remain the same, says Jerome Kagan, an emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard University. So someone may remain an introvert on the inside but work at being more outwardly sociable.

An earlier study by Kagan and his colleagues used MRI scans to show that the brains of young adults who were identified as shy when they were toddlers worked differently than those who had been more extroverted as kids.

Kagan faults the new study for not looking at the impact of social class on behavior. Kagan, who has spent a lifetime studying whether personality changes with age, says that a host of factors, including class, can make a huge difference in how kids mature.

Kids from middle- and upper-class homes realize pretty quickly that they are from a privileged class, Kagan says. This gives them confidence. Those from poor and/or blue collar homes may become angry at their starting place in the world and that can lead to more aggression.

Other researchers believe that brain wiring — and hence personality — may actually change depending on what types of experiences people have as they grow up.

It’s quite possible that life events change the brain’s biology, says Rebecca L. Shiner, an associate professor of psychology at Colgate University and an associate editor of the Journal of Personality.

“There may be genuine changes at the biological level,” Shiner says. “We don’t yet know enough about that. The research out there suggests that there is moderate stability to personality by the time we reach age 3, but also that tremendous change occurs even up until the 50s. We need to figure out what causes change.”

Rounding off the 'sharp edges'
Parents should understand that just because kids start out over- or undercontrolling doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in life, says Daniel Hart, a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Children and Childhood Studies at Rutgers University.

By taking the time to teach overcontrolling kids social skills that seem to come naturally to the more resilient ones, parents can help their children overcome, or at least compensate for, shyness, Hart says. In the same way, undercontrollers can be taught to rein in their emotions and be more sensitive to others.

“There are studies that show you can round off the sharp edges of personality,” Hart says.

10 offbeat places to meet guys
By Lisa Lombardi

Heard about the woman who met an amazing guy browsing placemats at Williams-Sonoma? Us neither. Fact is, dating is an odds game—if you want to meet a guy, you’ve gotta go where the boys are. Here, in no particular order, are 10 surprising hot spots. But keep in mind that you can find someone practically anywhere, so don’t overlook the guys you whiz by every day as you pick up your dry cleaning, add cinnamon to your latte or scarf down your sandwich at your cubicle. As Steve Santagati, author of the book The Manual, puts it: “There’s probably a guy within 10 feet of you checking you out right now.”

1. Your local hardware store
If Flip This House has taught us anything, it’s this: Cute Homeowning Guys Do Their Own Renovations! (And save a bundle in the process.) Your neighborhood hardware joint is a hangout for not just handy condo-owning types, but all guys—even the ones whose last big project was the pig-shaped cutting board they made for Mom in eighth-grade shop class. “Being surrounded by tools brings out any man’s masculine side,” explains Patrick Carone, an editor at Maxim magazine. “Added bonus—if you go alone, you’re pretty much letting him know you don’t have a man in your life.” Ask for his advice on a DIY project (“Do I need special hooks to hang a giant mirror?”). Whatever you do, “don’t introduce yourself,” advises Santagati. “Just go up and start talking as if you know him.” Because now you do.

2. The driving range, early on Saturday afternoon
Used to be, you’d only find two types golfing: guys over 50, and guys who dress like they’re over 50. These days, though, it isn’t just your dad’s cardiologist teeing off: Cute non-prepped-out guys are hitting the links en masse. Don’t feel like killing 18 hours at an actual golf course? Luckily, hitting balls at the driving range is a quicker way to sink a Saturday night date. “At a driving range, you’re close to the other golfers, making it easy to fall into conversation,” points out Carone. And when you go after lunch you’re more likely to find guys who just want to hit balls for fun (scary serious-golfer dudes show up at the range in the late afternoon, after they’ve finished their regular round of golf). How to spark something? Just ask the cutest golfer in the immediately vicinity if he can show you how to hold the club. “Voilà, he’s got his arms around you already,” says Carone.

3. Jury duty
So you think the only men in the jury pool are ones who weren’t bright enough to get out of jury duty? Linda Barlow, of Warrington, PA, begs to differ. “I met my husband Bruce at jury duty,” Linda says. He asked her to lunch; she said no, but quickly reconsidered because he didn’t seem like an axe-murderer. “I always tell my girlfriends who complain about getting jury duty that it’s a great place to meet men,” she notes. And all that waiting makes it a natural hook-up spot: “The guys are bored and thinking about women,” promises Santagati. That means making one small move (from “Hey, any interest in the other half of my muffin?” to “Want a section of my paper?”) can reap a big romance payoff. And, as Linda and Bruce can attest, you can’t fail with, “Know where to get Chinese/Thai/good sandwiches around here?”

4. Improv class
Why? They’re jam-packed with men, for one. (Which sex loves Second City and consistently stays up for Conan? The men.) Two: The class is all about interaction, notes Carone, so you don’t have to think up cheesy lines (like, “Who’s your favorite comedian?”) to start a conversation. Not to mention, the nature of spontaneous ad-libbing gives you a chance to see if you two have Bogart-Bacall chemistry, says Debbie Magids, Ph.D., author of All the Good Ones Aren’t Taken. By the time your first date rolls around, don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve known each other since back when Saturday Night Live was funny. “You are opening up to parts of yourself that are hard to get to, and it could really make for a true connection,” says Dr. Magids.

5. A store’s flat-screen TV section
Have you noticed that every guy is in the market for a plasma TV? “Single guys between 18 and 34 are much more likely than the general population to say they plan on buying a plasma TV,” confirms Carone. So he already has one? He wants a bigger one! So he can’t even afford an iPod? He heard the prices are dropping fast! Next time you’re in Best Buy or WalMart, swing by the stupidly-big TV aisles and do a little shopping of your own. If you want to strike up a conversation, say, “What’s the first movie you’d watch on that?” His answer could be a deal-breaker (think: Big Momma’s House 2) or a deal-sealer (insert name of obscure movie you love here).

6. The blackjack or craps table
“This is the absolute best place to meet,” says Santagati. “Everyone’s close to each other and having fun.” And few guys can resist a woman who knows her way around the real games. “Slots are for old ladies,” adds Carone. “When a man sees a girl at the craps table who’s doing more than just blowing on dice, he takes note. And if you roll and double his money, he’ll be in love.” Just please don’t blow the rent money, OK?

7. In line at the DMV
At first thought, this doesn’t seem like the optimal place to meet your soul mate. Almost everyone’s cranky, the lighting is horrible and filling out 70 forms doesn’t leave you much time to flirt. But the DMV is actually a great place to guy hunt. Here’s why: If a man can stay good-natured and polite even though he has 800 people in front of him and just waited half-an-hour in the wrong line, he’s a good guy. Actually, lines in general are underrated: Eva Pereira, 31, met her husband, Ron, 33, buying coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. He asked her if she was following him (she had parked next to him, then ended up behind him on line). This made her laugh. “We spent the next hour drinking our coffees and chatting,” she says. “We’ve been together ever since.”

8. The nearest bar to the sports arena after a big game
“Sometimes, numbers count,” says Dr. Magids. “The more men you meet, the better shot you have of finding the one.” Where can you be guaranteed to find guys in bulk? At the closest pub to your local sports arena. (It must be the closest one, because guys in search of a post-game beer don’t walk far). “This is a great place to find men in partying mode,” says Dr. Magids. If their team won, you know they’ll be in a great mood. And if they lost, you’ll be a welcome distraction—just don’t say, “It’s only a game!”

9. Sam Ash (or another musical instrument store)
If you have a thing for brooding band guys, hit up your local instrument store. Bonus: the guy-girl ratio tends to be more favorable than Alaska, so you don’t have to sweat the competition. “Many women compare and contrast constantly, and when they have a lot of competition they wipe themselves out from the game,” says Dr. Magids. “Without that element, you can just be yourself.” Don’t worry if you haven’t picked up an instrument since the 4th grade. “See if he’ll play a chord from your favorite Fall Out Boy song,” suggest Carone. “Even if he can’t, it’ll lead to a rocking conversation.”

10. Frequent-flyer lounge in your hometown airport
First off, you know he isn’t an international terrorist (thanks, security check!). But there are other perks to mingling in the VIP lounge. It’s easy to strike up a conversation because you have “an easy opening topic,” notes Dr. Magids. “Where are you going? Then you can start talking about where you have traveled in the past. Also, if there is a delay, people naturally start to commiserate.” So he’s not in the VIP area? Go ahead and board, because Passenger Right may be seated right next to you, which is the serendipitous situation Vanessa Ton found herself in on a flight from Detroit to her home base of Los Angeles. “We talked for four hours straight, about everything,” she reports. “Now he’s moving to L.A. to be near me.” Memo to airlines: Make that perk standard, and you’ll all get out of chapter-whatever-it’s-called fast.

Love where you least expect it
By Steve Mazzucchi

At some point in your single life, the usual skirt-chasing stomping grounds — bars, parties, the gym — start to lose their luster. But don’t worry, these locations represent only a fraction of the places you can encounter amazing women. And really, you should be on the lookout for love everywhere you go. “Dating is a numbers game,” explains April Masini, author of Date Out of Your League and creator of “The more opportunities you give yourself to meet women — in places you hadn’t thought of before — the greater your chances of success.” With that in mind, here are 10 unusual spots where you just might run into the girl of your dreams. Be prepared.

1. At a boring work event
This scenario’s ripe for the smart fellow who knows how to make light of things. And yet, “don’t open with a complaint—it’s too negative,” cautions Lynn Harris,’s Dating & Personals advice columnist and co-creator of “Acknowledge the boring-ness in a positive way. Say, ‘Those are some impressive doodles,’ or ‘Are you looking forward to the Tuscan chicken wraps as much as I am?’” Use this sort of casual, non-threatening chit-chat as an opening to learning more about her. And you don’t have to try too hard to be clever. As Harris points out: “Even a boring line is still going to be less boring than the event.” It worked for Jason, 28, a New York City magazine writer. “I was late for some ski association press luncheon, but it turned out to be a good thing,” he says. “When I spotted a seat next to a cute editor, I threw my jacket on it. I cracked a few upbeat jokes and made sure to get her business card when it was over. We ended up dating for several months.”

2. On vacation
When women are away from their normal routine, it’s easier to woo them. “On vacation, women are focused on relaxation, not work and home tasks, so they’ll be more receptive to your advances,” observes Masini. Start with harmless, touristy questions about cool things to do while you’re there, and let the conversation flow. “Vacations are great because it’s easy to invite her out,” adds Harris. “Let’s say you’re both at a beach resort with friends. You can say, ‘Hey, you guys want to meet up later at the Ocean View?’ It’s much more casual than a date.” Also, don’t rule out the possibility that a fling could turn into something more. Chris, 33, an art director in Los Angeles, met Kristi while both were kicking back in Cancun. “We got each other’s phone numbers and emails, and we actually did keep in touch,” he says. “Ten months and 6,000 emails later, I moved to California to be with her. We got married a year later.”

3. Playing sports
“Co-ed adult sports are great, because you automatically have something in common,” notes Harris. Most teams head to happy hour after games, giving you plenty of time to get things going as you converse about the sport. “After a softball game, instead of a pick-up line, you can go with, ‘Where’d you learn to hit like that?’” Once you’re talking and drinking, it should be easy to mention you have two tickets to the hometown team’s upcoming game and invite her along. (Get on the field at, which runs soccer, basketball, softball, and other sports leagues in 29 U.S. cities.) If you’re more of an individual sport kind of guy, bring some sunscreen along on your next bike ride, hike or jog, advises Masini. Then offer it to that hot-looking woman stretching on the side of the trail, and go from there.

4. Stuck in line
Lines give you a completely captive audience, especially when you’re somewhere inherently dull, like the DMV or post office. That’s when a joke can instantly lighten the mood. “You could say, ‘Should we take bets on whether we’ll be home by Sunday to watch The Sopranos reruns?’ If she laughs and says, ‘Yeah, totally,’ keep going with it.” Other places are equally workable. “Women love to be asked for their advice, so ask them what candy you should buy at the movie concession stand or what they recommend at a baseball game—popcorn or hotdogs or both?” says Masini. “You can get into a comparison/information-sharing conversation easily.” That and a sense of humor should be all the opening you need. “My little sister was a huge Backstreet Boys fan way back when,” says Van Ray, 25, a Cleveland police officer. “I ended up in line behind a beautiful girl buying tickets for her niece. Of course, she didn’t believe I was there for my sister at first, but we did wind up meeting for dinner before the concert.”

5. At a community meeting
Attending gatherings of neighborhood groups and city council meetings about recycling initiatives and proposed bike paths wins you automatic points by making you appear to be a concerned citizen—which, to many women, is pretty sexy. And because the issue is important to both of you, it lends itself to hanging out in the doorway afterwards and letting the conversation blossom. “You need to talk about the issue and you need to be sincerely interested in it, but you don’t have to be an expert,” says Harris. “If you don’t really know everything, you can ask a woman who’s there, ‘What’s your take? How’d you get involved?’ If she’s a cyclist, you have a whole other thing to talk about.” James, 32, a Washington, D.C., attorney, went to a meeting for a group opposing the building of a new mall. “I ended up talking to the group’s president,” he recalls. “We exchanged numbers so we could ‘discuss some things,’ and the next thing I knew, we were dating twice a week.”

6. In a hotel bar
“Many upscale hotels have a lounge area where women sip a drink waiting for a friend to arrive, a dinner reservation to be called, or luggage to be found,” suggests Masini. “It’s the perfect place to strike up a conversation with someone you find attractive.” A comment on her drink choice followed by some friendly travel talk (‘Where are you in from?’ ‘What brings you to the fair city of Scranton?’) should get the ball rolling. Two tips: 1. Don’t look desperate—have work, phone messages to check, or reading material. 2. If you’re not staying at the hotel, have a darn good reason why you’re there.

7. At a political rally or protest
With so many key issues (think global warming, the upcoming election) coming to a head these days, rallies and protests aren’t uncommon. As with the community meeting, conversation about the issue is a great place to start. “If you’re both holding signs outside an animal-testing lab, you’re not going to walk up and say, ‘So what’s your favorite color?’” notes Harris. “There’s a lot of passionate energy, so it’s a good time to chat and bond, and then maybe take it up a notch at the next sign-making meeting.” In other words, don’t go asking Miss Political on a date right away. Simply find out when the group’s getting together again, and say you hope to see her there. If she smiles, you just might have a new kind of social change to look forward to.

8. At the doctor’s office or a hospital
Waiting rooms, lobbies and the hospital cafeteria are great places to meet fellow visitors because, really, everyone’s just killing time. What to do? If you’re lucky enough to be a guest on a maternity ward (the only area of the hospital filled with happy people) go to the nursery and look through the window at the babies—and the other women there! “Which one is your relative?” is a great opener, says Masini. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re related to one of the newborns—women are often attracted to guys who simply like kids. Other medical situations offer opportunities, too. While waiting at the allergist’s, chat up that woman about the poor choice of reading material. Ask her if she knows the best place to get an espresso nearby. It could lead somewhere.

9. At a Laundromat or in the laundry room
Laundromats fit into that have-to-be-here-anyway category, making them a great spot to start conversations. But how? “Ask her advice,” says Masini. “Let her be the clothes-washing expert. ‘Is yellow a color or a white?’” A magazine or book can be a potent ally; choose it wisely. “The Robb Report is for a guy on his way up the ladder—way up the ladder. A political autobiography says worldly, smart, and current.” If you’re feeling pretty comfortable with yourself, go ahead, pick that Us Weekly up off the stack. “Most women love gossip, and if you know a little — but not too much — she’ll like talking to you.”

10. On the street
Females can be a little wary on the pavement, but that doesn’t mean this environment’s hopeless. Keep an eye out for women you see regularly—that means they live in your area and may have noticed you, too. Then, when you find yourself on the same route, you can say something like, ‘I think I know you, but I can’t remember where from,’ says Masini. “And then you figure out that you both walk to the dry cleaners after work and bump into each other once a week.” As in other situations, playful comments about common experiences (dilapidated sidewalks, bad local restaurants, the dry cleaner who lost both of your blue shirts) can boost her mood and her attraction to you. Play it right, and one day you could be picking up her dry cleaning…

It’s Bozology 101: Clowns scare kids
They’re ‘universally disliked by children,’ British researchers discover

Maybe that's why Jobito Globitos (shown here at the XXII International Clown Convention in Mexico City in October) is tearing his hair out: Researchers have found that clowns scare the Globitos out of kids.
Mario Guzman / EPA file

LONDON - Bad news for Coco and Blinko — children don't like clowns, and even older kids are scared of them.

That's the finding of a poll of youngsters by researchers from the University of Sheffield who were examining how to improve the decor of hospital children's wards.

The study, reported in the Nursing Standard magazine, found all the 250 patients aged between 4 and 16 they quizzed disliked the use of clowns, with even the older ones finding them scary.
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"As adults we make assumptions about what works for children," said Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer in research at the university.

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Memorials, drills mark tsunami 3rd anniversary
Waves triggered by massive quake killed 230,000 people in 12 countries
MSNBC News Services

An unidentified Thai woman lays a rose in remembrance at the Tsunami Victims Cemetery in Bangmuang, Thailand, on Wednesday, on the third anniversary of the Asian tsunami. More than 8,000 people in Thailand were killed when the tsunami wave struck the area following a massive earthquake.

CALANG, Indonesia - Survivors prayed at mass graves and mosques Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of the Asian tsunami, while warning sirens sent hundreds fleeing beaches during a drill to test an alert network established since the disaster.

The waves on the morning of Dec. 26, 2004, spawned by the mightiest earthquake in 40 years, killed around 230,000 people in 12 Indian Ocean nations, just under half of them in the Indonesian province of Aceh on Sumatra island.

Coastal communities in Sri Lanka and India lost some 45,000 people between them. The waves also crashed into tourist resorts in southern Thailand, killing more than 5,000, half of them foreign vacationers.

The disaster overwhelmed authorities in Aceh, where bodies littered devastated neighborhoods for weeks. Most victims were never formally identified and tens of thousands were buried in mass graves.

Nur Aini lost her husband and one of her two children to the waves.

"We are praying for them today even though I don't know where they are buried," she said. "My remaining child still calls out for his father."

The disaster, one of the deadliest of the modern age, promoted a global outpouring of sympathy, with governments, individuals and corporations pledging more than $13 billion in aid.

‘I hope we can turn a new page’
In Aceh, more than 100,000 houses, scores of schools and hospitals and miles of roads have been rebuilt. While there have been complaints of corruption and waste, most people involved in the reconstruction process say it has gone well.

Rungroj Yongrit / EPA
Thai police officers hold wreaths during the 3rd anniversary of the boxing day disaster at Tsunami Victim Cemetery, Phang Nga province, southern Thailand, on Wednesday.

"I hope we can turn a new page now and leave sadness, cries and tears behind us," Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf told hundreds gathered at a prayer ceremony in the hard-hit town of Calang. "I hope one day we can pay our debt to the world by becoming a donor to other countries hit by disasters."

Thailand held ceremonies throughout the day along its white-sand southern beaches.

Survivors and families of victims were invited to Phuket's Patong beach, a popular strip of hotels and restaurants, to lay flowers in the sand. Chanting Buddhist monks were to light incense and lead an ecumenical prayer service.

High-tech alert system tested
The tsunami drill in Indonesia took place on the western tip of Java island close to the capital, Jakarta. It was attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other top government officials.

Those taking part ran or walked around a mile inland after the siren sounded.

As part of the drill, authorities also tested the response of emergency relief teams to a mock chemical leak in a factory on the northwestern Java shore if an 8.5 magnitude quake were to hit the area.

"We hope through this exercise people begin to understand that they live in a tsunami-prone area and know what to do in a case of an emergency," said Ami Pramitasari of the research and technology ministry which led the drill in Ciwandan district.

"The Sunda strait is a meeting point of several plates, making it prone to high-magnitude quakes," she told Reuters. "At the same time, this is an industrial area and a tsunami could leak hazardous chemicals and case multiple disasters."

Foreign governments are helping Indonesia establish a nationwide network of buoys and high-tech communications equipment that would give coastal communities warning if there is a tsunami. The network is up and running in several regions of the country, but 20 more buoys are due to be launched in 2008.

Indonesia is frequently rocked by powerful earthquakes because of its position on the "Pacific Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and tectonic fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Japan police receive 400th secret pledge to poor after 33 years

A clerk counts yen notes in Tokyo in 2006. A Japanese police station has paid tribute to an anonymous donor who has handed in envelopes full of cash to give to the needy every month for more than 33 years.
(AFP/File/Kazuhiro Nogi)

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese police station Wednesday paid tribute to an anonymous donor who has handed in envelopes full of cash to give to the needy every month for more than 33 years.

The police station in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, received the first envelope in August 1974, which contained 1,000 yen, or nine dollars at the current rate.

It did not bear a sender's name but enclosed a piece of paper only saying: "Please use this for the unprivileged people."

The envelopes kept arriving punctually every month with the enclosed money gradually increasing to 3,000 yen, 5,000 yen and eventually 8,000 yen, the police said.

The station received the 400th envelope on Tuesday, taking the total amount donated to 1,744,000 yen, the police said, adding that the money had been given to the town's social welfare council.

"I just take my hat off for the act of continuing sending donations over three decades without expecting rewards," said station chief Taisuke Kimura.

"We will continue working for the safety of this town in return for this goodwill act," he said.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Diners find rare pearl in plate of clams
The Associated Press

Leslie and George Brock pose with a rare purple pearl found while eating a plate of steamed clams at Dave's Last Resort in Lake Worth, Fla. Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007. At least one expert said the find could be worth thousands of dollars.
(AP Photo/The Post, Bruce R. Bennett)

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - A Florida man was about halfway through a plate of steamed clams when he chomped down on something hard — a rare, iridescent purple pearl. George Brock and his wife, Leslie, had been spending a day at the beach Friday in South Florida and stopped at Dave's Last Resort & Raw Bar for a bite. Their find could be worth thousands.

"Few are round and few are a lovely color, so this is rare," said gemologist Antoinette Matlins. "I think they have found something precious and lovely and valuable."

The gems occur most frequently in large New England quahogs, clams known for violet coloring on the inside of their shells. The clams in the $10 plate came from Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle, said restaurant manager Tom Gerry.

The Brocks, of Royal Palm Beach, plan to have the pearl appraised and said they may sell it if it is valuable.