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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Slice of Diana's wedding cake sells for $1,830
Former royal servant kept the 27-year-old piece in clingfilm in an attic
TODAY staff and wire

Getty Images file
Chief petty officer cook David Avery with the royal wedding cake made for Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1981 wedding. A slice of the cake which was given to Moyra Smith, who worked for the Queen Mother at Clarence House was sold at auction for 1,000 pounds ($1,830).

Talk about icing on the cake.

A slice of royal wedding history was sold off for 1,000 pounds ($1,830) at auction. A piece of wedding cake from Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's ceremony in 1981 was sold by a former royal servant, who had kept it wrapped in clingfilm in an attic for the past 27 years.

The large, 23 cm (9 inch) slice of cake icing, with a marzipan base, came from one of 23 official wedding cakes and was given to Moyra Smith who worked for the Queen Mother at Clarence House.

“When the cake arrived at Clarence House Moyra was told she could have a slice from the top tier to keep for herself,” said Diana memorabilia specialist auctioneer Chris Albury of Dominic Winter Book Auctions. “This piece is special because it was from the cake sent to the Queen Mother at Clarence House. Moyra must have been very well thought of by the Royal Family to have been given this slice from the top of the cake.”

The auction house, based in Gloucestershire, described the white icing as having a sugared onlay of the royal coat-of-arms colored in gold, red, blue and silver, with a small silver horseshoe and leaf spray.

The cake was sold on Wednesday to an unnamed bidder along with a typed letter signed by “Charles and Diana” thanking Mrs. Smith for her contribution towards a clock they were given as a wedding present.

The royal couple divorced in 1996.

In 1998, a year after the princess died in a Paris road crash, a similar slice sold for 17,000 pounds.

The auctioneer said the late Mrs. Smith, a Scottish woman, worked at Clarence House, first in the kitchen and then moving to more general duties, and it was here that she was given the cake which was put up for sale by her family.

Her husband Donald told British media that his wife died last month, aged 78, and it was her wish for the cake to be sold after her death, with the money raised to go to charity.

“She worked there for five years in all, from 1981 to 1986, and we had some happy times.”

The auction house also sold three autographed letters from Diana for between 740 pounds and 620 pounds ($1,350-$1,135).

The most expensive one was dated Dec. 17, 1990, and addressed to Eileen and Tracey.

It read: “I was so very touched by all the lovely bottles that were in my Christmas bag today! Thank you both a million times for thinking of me. 1990 was the year that we met. At last, (!) & how wonderful our friendship was (& is) been. With special thanks & fondest love to you both.”

Tracey is believed to be the daughter of Jo Malone, owner of a beauty products business based in London.

Bengals WR Johnson reportedly changes name
Yahoo Sports
4 hours, 8 minutes ago

CINCINNATI (AP)—Maybe receiver Chad Johnson can go by the name that his head coach hates.

The Cincinnati Bengals receiver has legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in Broward County, Fla., a switch that became official this week, according to several media reports. Johnson, who lives in Miami, didn’t return a message left on his cell phone Friday night.

“It’s something I don’t think anyone has ever done before,” he told the team’s Web site. “Have I ever had a reason for why I do what I do? I’m having fun.”

Two years ago, Johnson gave himself the moniker—a reference in Spanish to his No. 85—and put it on the back of his uniform before a game. Quarterback Carson Palmer ripped it off before the kickoff. After the season, coach Marvin Lewis—who dislikes Johnson’s attention-getting stunts—referred to the receiver as “Ocho Psycho.”

Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said the Bengals had no comment on the matter.

Johnson has been a concern for the Bengals this season. He unsuccessfully lobbied for a trade in the offseason, threatening to sit out if he didn’t get his way. When the Bengals refused, he relented and showed up for minicamp, but complained that his right ankle was bothering him.

He had bone spurs removed from the ankle and was limited at the start of training camp. In the second preseason game, he landed awkwardly and temporarily dislocated his left shoulder. Johnson is wearing a harness and expects to play in the season opener against Baltimore.

Ancient gold treasure puzzles Greek archaeologists
By Nicholas Paphitis,
Associated Press Writer

In this hand out image provided by Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on Friday. Aug. 29, 2008, a 2,300-year-old gold wreath among human bones in a water-logged gold jar found is seen. Archaeologists say the discovery, at the ancient city of Aigai in northern Greece, is very important due to the richness of the artifacts and the unusual circumstances in which they were buried. The finds appear to have been removed from a grave and concealed under the marketplace of Aigai, the heart of the ancient city.
(AP Photo/ Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, HO)

ATHENS, Greece - A priceless gold wreath has been unearthed in an ancient city in northern Greece, buried with human bones in a large copper vase that workers initially took for a land mine.

The University of Thessaloniki said in a statement Friday that the "astonishing" discovery was made during its excavations this week in the ruins of ancient Aigai. The city was the first capital of ancient Macedonia, where King Philip II — father of Alexander the Great — was assassinated.

Gold wreaths are rare and were buried with ancient nobles or royalty. But the find is also highly unusual as the artifacts appear to have been removed from a grave during ancient times and, for reasons that are unclear, reburied in the city's marketplace near the theater where Philip was stabbed to death.

"This happened quite soon after the original burial; it's not that a grave robber took it centuries later and hid it with the intention of coming back," excavator Chryssoula Saatsoglou-Paliadeli told The Associated Press. "It probably belonged to a high-ranking person."

The "impressively large" copper vessel contained a cylindrical golden jar with a lid, with the gold wreath of oak leaves and the bones inside.

"The young workman who saw it was astounded and shouted 'land mine!'" the university statement said.

Saatsoglou-Paliadeli, a professor of archaeology at the university, said the find probably dates to the 4th century B.C., during which Philip and Alexander reigned.

"Archaeologists must explain why such a group ... was found outside the extensive royal cemetery," the university statement said. "(They must also) work out why the bones of the unknown — but by no means insignificant — person were hidden in the city's most public and sacred area."

During the 4th century B.C., burials outside organized cemeteries were very uncommon.

In a royal cemetery at Vergina, just west of Aigai, Greek archaeologists discovered a wealth of gold and silver treasure in 1977. One of the opulent graves, which contained a large gold wreath of oak leaves, is generally accepted to have belonged to Philip II. The location of Alexander's tomb is one of the great mysteries of archaeology.

The sprawling remains of a large building with banquet halls and ornate mosaics at Aigai — some 520 kilometers (320 miles) north of Athens — has been identified as Philip's palace.

Aigai flourished in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., attracting leading Greek artists such as the poet Euripides, who wrote his last tragedies there. The Macedonian capital was moved to Pella in the 4th century B.C., and Aigai was destroyed by the Romans in 168 B.C.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mystery 'iPhone Girl' generates Internet intrigue
Internet users around the world are speculating on the identity of the "iPhone girl."

HONG KONG - Who is the "iPhone Girl"?

Pictures of an Asian factory worker found on a new iPhone sold to a British customer have generated keen discussion on the Internet about her identity — and her fate.

The three pictures, posted on the Apple discussion Web site, show a young Asian woman working on what appears to be an assembly line for iPhones.

Dressed in a pink striped outfit and hat and wearing white gloves with yellow fingertips, the young woman now known on the Web as the "iPhone Girl" is shown smiling and making victory signs as she poses next to an iPhone.

The user who posted the photos last week, identified as only "markm49uk" from Kingston-upon-Hull, England, said in a posting that one of the pictures showed up on a new 3G iPhone when the iTunes program was launched.

News reports say the woman may work at a factory run by an Apple contractor, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen.

Calls to Foxconn spokesman Edmund Ding went unanswered Wednesday. Ding also didn't immediately respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.

But the South China Morning Post on Wednesday quoted another Foxconn spokesman, Liu Kun, as confirming that the young woman in the pictures works for Foxconn.

Liu said workers testing the device took the pictures and may have forgotten to delete them, the Post reported.

Dubbing the mystery worker "China's prettiest factory girl," China's Southern Metropolitan Daily on Tuesday quoted an unidentified Foxconn official as saying the woman was not fired.

Apple publicist Jill Tan said the company had no comment.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Boys to men: Why guys aren’t growing up

Welcome to Guyland
Guyland is the world in which young men live. It is both a stage of life, a liminal undefined time span between adolescence and adulthood that can often stretch for a decade or more, and a place, or, rather, a bunch of places where guys gather to be guys with each other, unhassled by the demands of parents, girlfriends, jobs, kids, and the other nuisances of adult life. In this topsy-turvy, Peter-Pan mindset, young men shirk the responsibilities of adulthood and remain fixated on the trappings of boyhood, while the boys they still are struggle heroically to prove that they are real men despite all evidence to the contrary.

Males between 16 and 26 number well over 22 million — more than 15 percent of the total male population in the United States. The “guy” age bracket represents the front end of the single most desirable consumer market, according to advertisers. It’s the group constantly targeted by major Hollywood studios, in part because this group sees the same shoot-em-up action film so many times on initial release. They’re targeted in several of the most successful magazine launches in recent memory, magazines like Men’s Health, Maxim, FHM, Details, and Stuff. Guys in this age bracket are the primary viewers of the countless sports channels on television. They consume the overwhelming majority of recorded music, video games, and computer technology, and they are the majority of first-time car buyers.

Yet aside from assiduous market research, Guyland is a terra incognita; it has never been adequately mapped. Many of us only know we’ve landed there when we feel distraught about our children, anxious that they have entered, or will be entering, a world that we barely know. We sense them moving away from us, developing allegiances and attitudes we neither understand nor support. Recently, a teacher at a middle school told me about his own 16-year- old son, Nick. “When we’re together, he’s excited, happy, curious, and so connected,” he told me.

“But when I drove him to school this morning, I watched an amazing transformation. In the car, Nick was speaking animatedly about something. As we arrived at his school, though, I saw him scan the playground for his friends. He got out of the car, still buoyant, with a bounce in his step. But as soon as he caught sight of his friends he instantly fell into that slouchy ‘I don’t give a sh--’ amble that teenagers get. I think I actually watched him become a ‘guy’!”

Parents often feel we no longer know them — the young guys in our lives.

Just what are they doing in their rooms at all hours of the night? And what are they doing in college? And why are they so aimless and directionless when they graduate that they take dead-end jobs and move back home? When they come home for college vacations, we wonder just who is this new person who talks about ledge parties and power hours — and what happened to the motivated young man who left for college with such high hopes and a keen sense of purpose. And guys themselves often wonder where they left their dreams.

Every time we read about vicious gay-baiting and bullying in a high school, every time the nightly news depicts the grim horror of a school shooting, every time we hear about teen binge drinking, random sexual hookups, or a hazing death at a college fraternity, we feel that anxiety, that dread. And we ask ourselves, “Could that be my son?” Or, “Could that be my friend, or even my boyfriend?” Or, even “could that be me?”

Well, to be honest, probably not. Most guys are not predators, not criminals, and neither so consumed with adolescent rage nor so caught in the thrall of masculine entitlement that they are likely to end up with a rap sheet instead of a college transcript. But most guys know other guys who are chronic substance abusers, who have sexually assaulted their classmates. They swim in the same water, breathe the same air. Those appalling headlines are only the farthest extremes of a continuum of attitudes and behaviors that stretches back to embrace so many young men, and that so circumscribes their lives that even if they don’t want to participate, they still must contend with it.

Guyland is not some esoteric planet inhabited only by alien creatures — despite how alien our teenage and 20-something sons might seem at times. It’s the world of everyday “guys.” Nor is it a state of arrested development, a case of prolonged adolescence among a cadre of slackers. It has become a stage of life, a “demographic,” that is now pretty much the norm. Without fixed age boundaries, young men typically enter Guyland before they turn 16, and they begin to leave in their mid to late 20s. This period now has a definable shape and texture, a topography that can be mapped and explored. A kind of suspended animation between boyhood and manhood, Guyland lies between the dependency and lack of autonomy of boyhood and the sacrifice and responsibility of manhood. Wherever they are living, whatever they are doing, and whomever they are hooking up with, Guyland is a dramatically new stage of development with its own rules and limitations. It is a period of life that demands examination — and not just because of the appalling headlines that greet us on such a regular basis. As urgent as it may seem to explore and expose Guyland because of the egregious behaviors of the few, it may be more urgent to examine the ubiquity of Guyland in the lives of almost everyone else.

It’s easy to observe “guys” virtually everywhere in America — in every high school and college campus in America, with their baseball caps on frontward or backward, their easy smiles or anxious darting eyes, huddled around tiny electronic gadgets or laptops, or relaxing in front of massive wide-screen hi-def TVs, in basements, dorms, and frat houses. But it would be a mistake to assume that each conforms fully to a regime of peer-influenced and enforced behaviors that I call the “Guy Code,” or shares all traits and attitudes with everyone else. It’s important to remember that individual guys are not the same as “Guyland.”

In fact, my point is precisely the opposite. Though Guyland is pervasive — it is the air guys breathe, the water they drink — each guy cuts his own deal with it as he tries to navigate the passage from adolescence to adulthood without succumbing to the most soul-numbing, spirit-crushing elements that surround him every day.

Guys often feel they’re entirely on their own as they navigate the murky shallows and the dangerous eddies that run in Guyland’s swift current. They often stop talking to their parents, who “just don’t get it.” Other adults seem equally clueless. And they can’t confide in one another lest they risk being exposed for the confused creatures they are.

So they’re left alone, confused, trying to come to terms with a world they themselves barely understand. They couch their insecurity in bravado and bluster, a fearless strut barely concealing a tremulous anxiety. They test themselves in fantasy worlds and in drinking contests, enduring humiliation and pain at the hands of others.

All the while, many do suspect that something’s rotten in the state of Manhood. They struggle to conceal their own sense of fraudulence, and can smell it on others. But few can admit to it, lest all the emperors-to-be will be revealed as disrobed. They go along, in mime.

Just as one can support the troops but oppose the war, so too can one appreciate and support individual guys while engaging critically with the social and cultural world they inhabit. In fact, I believe that only by understanding this world can we truly be empathic to the guys in our lives. We need to enter this world, see the perilous field in which boys become men in our society because we desperately need to start a conversation about that world. We do boys a great disservice by turning away, excusing the excesses of Guyland as just “boys being boys” — because we fail to see just how powerful its influence really is. Only when we begin to engage in these conversations, with open eyes and open hearts — as parents to children, as friends, as guys themselves — can we both reduce the risks and enable guys to navigate it more successfully. This book is an attempt to map that terrain in order to enable guys — and those who know them, care about them, love them — to steer a course with greater integrity and honesty, so they can be true not to some artificial code, but to themselves.

Just who are these guys?
The guys who populate Guyland are mostly white, middle-class kids; they are college-bound, in college, or have recently graduated; they’re unmarried. They live communally with other guys, in dorms, apartments, or fraternities. Or they live with their parents (even after college). Their jobs, if they have them, are modest, low-paying, low-prestige ones in the service sector or entry-level corporate jobs that leave them with plenty of time to party. They’re good kids, by and large. They blend into the crowd, drift with the tide, and often pass unnoticed through the lecture halls and multistory dorms of America’s large college campuses.

Of course, there are many young people of this age group who are highly motivated, focused, with a clear vision and direction in their lives. Their stories of resilience and motivation will provide a telling rejoinder to many of the dominant patterns of Guyland. There are also just as many who immediately move back home after college, directionless, with a liberal arts BA that qualifies them for nothing more than a dead-end job making lattes or folding jeans. So while a few of them might jump right into a career or graduate school immediately after college, many more simply drift for a while, comforting themselves with the assurances that they have plenty of time to settle down later, after they’ve had their fun.

In some respects, Guyland can be defined by what guys do for fun. It’s the “boyhood” side of the continuum they’re so reluctant to leave. It’s drinking, sex, and video games. It’s watching sports, reading about sports, listening to sports on the radio. It’s television — cartoons, reality shows, music videos, shoot-em-up movies, sports, and porn — pizza, and beer. It’s all the behavior that makes the real grownups in their lives roll their eyes and wonder, “When will he grow up?!”

There are some parts of Guyland that are quite positive. The advancing age of marriage, for example, benefits both women and men, who have more time to explore career opportunities, not to mention establishing their identities, before committing to home and family. And much of what qualifies as fun in Guyland is relatively harmless. Guys grow out of a lot of the sophomoric humor — if not after their “sophomore” year, then at least by their mid–twenties.

Yet, there is a disturbing undercurrent to much of it as well. Teenage boys spend countless hours blowing up the galaxy, graphically splattering their computer screens in violent video games. College guys post pornography everywhere in their dorm rooms; indeed, pornographic pictures are among the most popular screen savers on male college students’ computers. In fraternities and dorms on virtually every campus, plenty of guys are getting drunk almost every night, prowling for women with whom they can hook up, and chalking it all up to harmless fun. White suburban boys don do-rags and gangsta tattoos appropriating inner-city African-American styles to be cool. Homophobia is ubiquitous; indeed, “that’s so gay” is probably the most frequently used put-down in middle schools, high schools, and college today. And sometimes gay-baiting takes an ugly turn and becomes gay-bashing.

All the while, these young people are listening to shock jocks on the radio, laughing at cable-rated T&A on the current generation’s spinoffs of “The Man Show” and watching Spike TV, the “man’s network,” guffawing to sophomoric body-fluid humor of college circuit comedians who make Beavis and Butt-head sound quaint. They’re laughing at clueless henpecked husbands on TV sitcoms; snorting derisively at guys who say the wrong thing on beer ads; snickering at duded-up metrosexuals prancing around major metropolitan centers drinking Cosmos and imported vodka. Unapologetically “politically incorrect” magazines, radio hosts, and television shows abound, filled with macho bluster and bikini-clad women bouncing on trampolines. And the soundtrack in these new boys’ clubhouses, the sonic wallpaper in every dorm room and every shared apartment, is some of the angriest music ever made. Nearly four out of every five gangsta rap CDs are bought by suburban white guys. It is not just the “boys in the hood” who are a “menace to society.” It’s the boys in the “burbs.”

Occasionally, the news from Guyland is shocking — and sometimes even criminal. There are guys who are drinking themselves into oblivion on campus on any given night of the week, organizing parties where they spike women’s drinks with Rohypnol (the date rape drug), or just try to ply them with alcohol to make them more compliant — and then videotaping their conquests. These are the guys who are devising laborately sadomasochistic hazing rituals for high-school athletic teams, collegiate fraternities, or military squads.

It is true, of course, that white guys do not have a monopoly on appalling behavior. There are plenty of young black and Latino boys who are equally desperate to prove their manhood, to test themselves before the watchful evaluative eyes of other guys. But only among white boys do the negative dynamics of Guyland seem to play themselves out so invisibly. Often, when there’s news of young black boys behaving badly, the media takes on a “what can you expect?” attitude, failing to recognize that expecting such behavior from black men is just plain racism. But every time white boys hit the headlines, regardless of how frequently, there is an element of shock, a collective, “How could this happen? He came from such a good family!” Perhaps not identifying the parallel criminal behavior among white guys adds an additional cultural element to the equation: identification. Middle-class white families see the perpetrators as “our guys.” We know them, we are them, they cannot be like that.

Though Guyland is not exclusively white, neither is it an equal-opportunity venture. Guyland rests on a bed of middle-class entitlement, a privileged sense that you are special, that the world is there for you to take. Upwardly mobile minorities feel the same tugs between claiming their rightful share of good times and delaying adult responsibilities that the more privileged white guys feel. But it often works itself out differently for them. Because of the needs and expectations of their families, they tend to opt for a more traditional trajectory. Indeed, many minority youths have begun to move into those slots designated for the ambitious and motivated, just at the moment that those slots are being abandoned by white guys having fun.

Some think they’re fulfilling the American Dream, yet most feel as if they’re wearing another man’s clothes. Take Carlos, the son of illegal immigrants, who worked in the central California fields, harvesting artichokes and Brussels sprouts. Carlos is their success story, a track star and good student, who got recruited to several colleges and landed a scholarship to USC. But now he feels torn between the pressure from his family “to be the first in everything” — the first college grad, the first doctor — and from his friends in his hometown of Gilroy to hang out with them over the summer.

Or Eric, who just graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He says he’s “out of step” with his other African-American friends; he is highly motivated and serious, eschews hip-hop, and always knew he wanted to get married, start a family, and get a good job. Heavily recruited out of college, he’s already a regional manager for Coca-Cola in Atlanta and dating a senior at Spelman. They plan to marry next June. “Too many of my friends think gangsta is the way to go,” he says, nodding at a table nearby of college guys sporting the latest do-rags and bling. “But in my family, being a man meant stepping up and being responsible. That was what being a Morehouse Man meant to me. I can live with that.”

And while the American college campus is Guyland Central, guys who don’t go to college have ample opportunities — in the military, in police stations and firehouses, on every construction site and in every factory, in every neighborhood bar — for the intimately crude male bonding that characterizes Guyland’s standard operating procedure. Sure, some working-class guys cannot afford to prolong their adolescence; their family needs them, and their grownup income, too badly. With no college degree to fall back on, and parents who are not financially able or willing to support a prolonged adolesence, they don’t have the safety net that makes Guyland possible. But they find other ways, symbolic or real, at work or at play, to hold onto their glory days — or they become so resentful they seethe with jealous rage at the privileged few who seem able to delay responsibility indefinitely.

Greg, for example, never made it to college. He didn’t regret it at the time, but now he wonders. The son and grandson of steel workers near Bethlehem, Penn., Greg knew he’d end up at Beth Steel also — except the steel plant closed and suddenly all those jobs disappeared. Even if he could go to college now, it’s too expensive, and besides, he needs to save for a new car so he can move out of his parents’ house. In the past two years he’s worked at a gas station, Home Depot, a mini-mart convenience store, and as a groundskeeper at a local university. “I’m trying, honest, I really am,” he says, with a certain resigned sadness already creeping into his 24-year-old eyes. “But there is just no way an honest white guy can make a living in this economy — not with these Bush fat cats and all the illegals.”

Rather than embracing Guyland as a way of life, working-class guys instead seem to inhabit Guyland at their local sports bar, on the factory shop floor, and in the bowling league or military unit. Yet the same sense of entitlement, the same outraged response to the waning of privilege, is clear. One Brooklyn bar near my house has been home to generations of firefighters and their pals. There’s an easy ambience about the place, the comfort of younger and older guys (all white) sharing a beer and shooting the breeze. Until I happen to ask one guy about female firefighters. The atmosphere turns menacing, and a defensive anger spills out of the guys near me.

“Those bitches have taken over,” says Patrick. "They’re everywhere. You know that ad 'it’s everywhere you want to be.' That’s like women. They’re everywhere they want to be! There’s nowhere you can go anymore — factories, beer joints, military, even the goddamned firehouse! [Raucous agreement all around.] We working guys are just f------.

The camaraderie of working-class guys long celebrated in American history and romanticized in Hollywood films — the playful bonding of the locker room, the sacrificial love of the foxhole, the courageous tenacity of the firehouse or police station — has a darker side. Homophobic harassment of the new guys, racial slurs, and seething sexism often lie alongside the casual banter of the band of brothers, and this is true in both the working-class bar and the university coffee house.

And although my focus is American guys, Guyland is not exclusively American terrain. Both Britain and Australia have begun to examine “Laddism” — the anomic, free-floating, unattached and often boorish behavior of young males. “Lads” are guys with British accents — consuming the same media, engaging in the same sorts of behaviors, and lubricating their activities with the same alcohol. In Italy, they’re called bamboccioni, or “mammoni,” or Mama’s boys. Half of all Italian men between 25 and 34 live with their parents. In France, they’re called “Tanguys” after the French film with that title about their lifestyle.

Guyland revolves almost exclusively around other guys. It is a social space as well as a time zone — a pure, homosocial Eden, uncorrupted by the sober responsibilities of adulthood. The motto of Guyland is simple: “Bros Before Hos.” (Long “o” in both Bro and Ho.) Just about every guy knows this — knows that his “brothers” are his real soul mates, his real life-partners. To them he swears allegiance and will take their secrets to his grave. And guys do not live in Guyland all the time. They take temporary vacations — when they are alone with their girlfriends or even a female friend, or when they are with their parents, teachers, or coaches.

Girls in Guyland — Babes in Boyland
What about girls? Guys love girls — all that homosociality might become suspect if they didn’t! It’s women they can’t stand. Guyland is the more grownup version of the clubhouse on The Little Rascals — the “He-Man Woman Haters Club.”

Women demand responsibility an respectability, the antitheses of Guyland. Girls are fun and sexy, even friends, as long as they respect the centrality of guys’ commitment to the band of brothers. And when girls are allowed in, they have to play by guy rules — or they don’t get to play at all. Girls contend daily with Guyland — the constant stream of pornographic humor in college dorms or libraries, or at countless work stations in offices across the country; the constant pressure to shape their bodies into idealized hyper-Barbies.

Guyland sets the terms under which girls try to claim their own agency, develop their own senses of self. Guyland sets the terms of friendship, of sexual activity, of who is “in” and who is decidedly “out.” Girls can even be guys — if they know something about sports (but not too much), enjoy casual banter about sex (but not too actively), and dress and act in ways that are pleasantly unthreatening to boys’ fragile sense of masculinity.

Some of the girls have mastered the slouching look, the indifferent affect, the contemptuous attitude, the swaggering posture, the foul language, and the aggressive behaviors of guys. Since Guyland is often the only game in town, who can blame them if they indulge in a little — or a lot — of what I call “guyification?” Observe a group of college-age women. It’s likely they’re wearing jeans, T-shirts, oversized sweatshirts, running shoes or sandals — guywear. If not, they’ll be wearing thong underwear, skimpy mini T-shirts that leave their midriffs bare, and supertight pants, leggings, or miniskirts. And for which gender are they getting all Barbied up? (Here’s a quiz: Which gender invented the thong and presents it as the latest fashion accessory for women?) And listen as they call each other “guys” all the time, even when no actual guys are around. It’s become the generic term for “person.”

Some girls have parlayed their post-feminist assertiveness into “girl power,” or grrrl power. A few think that they can achieve equality by imitating guys’ behaviors — by running circles around them on the athletic field or matching them drink for drink or sexual hookup for hookup. But it’s a cruel distortion of those ideals of early feminist liberation when female assertiveness is redefined as the willingness to hike up your sweater and reveal your breasts for a roving camera in a “Girls Gone Wild” video. And sexual equality is hardly achieved when she is willing to perform oral sex on his entire group of friends.

And most girls also know the motto “Bros Before Hos.” A girl senses that she is less than, not a bro, and that underneath all his syrupy flattering is the condescension and contempt one naturally has for a ho. Girls also know the joke about the difference between a bitch and a slut (their only two choices in Guyland): “A bitch will sleep with everyone but you.” Girls live in Guyland, but they do not define it. They contend with it and make their peace with it, each in their own way.

‘100 Things’ co-author Dave Freeman dies at 47
Writer of the travel guide and ode to odd adventures fell and hit his head
The Associated Press

Taylor Trade Publishing
The book's recommendations ranged from the obvious — attending the Academy Awards and running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain — to the more obscure — taking a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti and “land diving” on the Island of Vanuatu.

VENICE, Calif. - Dave Freeman, co-author of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” a travel guide and ode to odd adventures that inspired readers and imitators, died after hitting his head in a fall at his home. He was 47.

Freeman died Aug. 17 after the fall at his Venice home, his father, Roy Freeman, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

An advertising agency executive, Freeman co-wrote the 1999 book subtitled “Travel Events You Just Can't Miss” with Neil Teplica. It was based on the Web site, which the pair ran together from 1996 to 2001.

“This life is a short journey,” the book says. “How can you make sure you fill it with the most fun and that you visit all the coolest places on earth before you pack those bags for the very last time?”

Freeman's relatives said he visited about half the places on his list before he died, and either he or Teplica had been to nearly all of them.

“He didn't have enough days, but he lived them like he should have,” Teplica said.

The book's recommendations ranged from the obvious — attending the Academy Awards and running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain — to the more obscure — taking a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti and “land diving” on the Island of Vanuatu, which Freeman once called “the original bungee jumping.”

It included goofy graphics with each entry, indicating that some activities were “down and dirty,” and others “grandma friendly.”

The success of “100 Things” inspired dozens of like-minded books, with titles such as “100 Things Project Managers Should Do Before They Die” and “100 Things Cowboys Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.”

Freeman graduated from the University of Southern California in 1983, briefly working for an ad agency in Newport Beach before moving to New York to work for Grey Advertising.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Freeman watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center from his apartment just blocks away. He moved back to Southern California to be closer to his family.

Cat survives being walled in for 7 weeks
Four-year-old cat Bonny was heard from behind tiles beneath a bathtub

BERLIN - A four-year-old cat in Germany called Bonny has survived after being walled in beneath a bathtub for seven weeks, its owner said Tuesday.

"It's a miracle," said Monika Hoppert, a 60-year-old widow from the western town of Stadthagen. "I'm a strong believer, I think she must have had a guardian angel. I'm so happy."

Bonny disappeared on June 19 while workmen were replacing pipes in the block of flats where Hoppert lives. The black cat was last seen in a neighboring apartment, where the cladding around a bathtub had been removed.

Just before tub was sealed up again, Bonny had probably crept underneath, Hoppert said.

"I couldn't believe it. But when I got down there, I knew it was my cat because they all have their own voice," said Hoppert.

Bonny was so weak the vet recommended she be put down. But Hoppert nursed her back to health with watered down kitten food.

"She's almost back to normal now. This morning was the first time she'd jumped onto my bed again," Hoppert said.

"She's a Keeper!"
By Kristin Bailey Murphy

It happens to most men sooner or later: He's dating someone, things are going well, then... wham! The woman does something small and seemingly inconsequential that makes him fall for her, hard. What, you may be asking yourself, is that special element that changes his thinking from "She's fun" to "She's The One?" Well, it turns out men are more than happy to walk down memory lane and reveal those pivotal moments—and Catherine Cardinal, Ph.D., dating expert and author of The Cure for the Common Life, explains what women everywhere can learn from their stories!

"She got my weird sense of humor"
The case history:
"Not long after we'd begun dating, Anneli unexpectedly showed up on the set of a short film I was making. The scene we were shooting was… how can I put it? A little bit crude. I've dated girls that have been kind of uptight about stuff I think is hysterical, so after the scene was over I didn't know what to expect. I was relieved — and kind of surprised — to see that it made her laugh. In fact, she was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face and she could barely breathe. That's when I knew I had a good one. Two months later I proposed."
—Matt Ballard, 35, New York, NY; married to Anneli for two years

Love lesson learned: A shared sense of humor is essential
Let's face it: No matter how much you love someone, your life together will get dull if you can't laugh your way through it. "Choosing someone who is not rigid and who can let go with a good belly laugh, especially over the same things you find funny, is a win-win situation," says Dr. Cardinal. "It ensures you'll have an animated, lively life." And how great is it to know your mate finds you fun and entertaining? In other words, she gets you!

"She challenged me to do the right thing"
The case history:
"I knew Marianne was The One when she encouraged me to work through a tough situation I was having with a co-worker. She allowed me to vent but also challenged me to see things from another perspective and not take the easy way out and ignore the situation, which was my impulse. Because of her influence, I was able to approach my co-worker and get a better understanding of where he was coming from. After that I knew Marianne would never be someone who walked behind me, but someone who would always stand next to me."
—Ken Kish, 33, San Clemente, CA; married to Marianne for six years

Love lesson learned: Disagreements can help you grow closer
It's easy to unconditionally support someone's every decision. Challenge your date to live up to certain standards, though, and you'll gain even more points by showing you've got a backbone—and that he or she will become a better person as a result. "Anyone who encourages you to face a challenge is more likely to be a consistent, predictable partner—and one who realizes that unless you grow, you both get held back," says Dr. Cardinal.

"She allows me to pursue my passion, even though it takes time away from her"
The case history:
"I knew Marnie was a cool girl when she never gave me grief about being a surfer. That was a big deal because my previous girlfriend was always mad when I went surfing instead of spending every nanosecond with her. The clincher? Once, Marnie drove eight hours with me from Atlanta to Florida just so I could get in the water. After that, how could I not fall for her? Even now, she's still OK with me taking off to the beach every weekend. She lets me do my thing because she knows it keeps me centered and happy. I don't know many guys — or any surfers — that get away with that!"
—Dirk Aulabaugh, 36, Los Angeles, CA; married to Marnie for ten years

Love lesson learned: Respecting someone's interests creates greater intimacy
Everyone needs a personal passion or two; otherwise life can become unfulfilling. Allow your partner to find inner satisfaction this way, and he or she will be happier with life, him- or herself and with you. "As far as spending time together, remember this: It's quality, not quantity that matters," says Dr. Cardinal. A person who values you, who makes the most out of the time you spend together and doesn't whine about separation, is a grown-up. That's someone to plan a life with.

"She's not put off by my bad habits"
The case history:
"Marissa is the only girl I've dated that doesn't get grossed out by my bad habits. I'll put the empty OJ carton back in the fridge, and I've been known to make certain bodily noises at inopportune times (like when I'm standing right next to her). I knew she was a keeper, though, while I was clipping my toenails in bed one night. A toenail flew out and hit her on her eyebrow! Most girls would have freaked out, but she just laughed and punched me in the arm. Obviously, I have some bad traits… so for her not to hassle me about them? I'm the luckiest guy I know."
—Danny Murphy, 31, Clarksville, TN; dating Marissa for three years

Love lesson learned: Accept him flaws and all, and he'll love you for it
Each of us has a version of cutting our toenails in bed and wants to be loved in spite of it: It's all part of being human. We're not saying women shouldn't speak up if something truly bothers them, but that they should do so gently, pick their battles—and be at peace with the possibility that he may not change. "Tolerance is vital in a relationship," says Cardinal. "We all have bad habits, but with tolerance, you'll share days together that feel safe and comfortable."

"She preferred take-out and TV to a night on the town"
The case history:
"I knew Dana was special when she took a seven-hour bus ride from NYC to come visit me in Richmond, VA. That may not sound like a big deal, but let me tell you, anyone who's spent the night on a Greyhound can attest to how hellish it is. But she did it for me and she did it without complaining. As if that wasn't enough, when I picked her up, she told me she'd rather get cheap beer and take-out and watch 80s movies all weekend, instead of going out on the town. Man down! Now we have two kids and a mortgage… and I love her more than I ever have."
—Marcus Ashley, 34, Austin, TX; married to Dana for five years

Love lesson learned: Men go gaga for low-maintenance gals
It's cliché but true: High-maintenance women who need to be wined, dined, and paid attention to every moment will wear a guy out. "You shouldn't have to tap dance for your mate!" says Dr. Cardinal. So before you insist on receiving flowers every month or going to the most expensive restaurants in town, ask yourself: Do all these trimmings really matter if you're with someone you truly adore? And trust us, he will adore you all the more when he sees he can kick back and be himself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Scientists Say Invisibility Cloak Now Possible
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Scientists say they are a step closer to developing materials that could render people and objects invisible.

Researchers have demonstrated for the first time they were able to cloak three-dimensional objects using artificially engineered materials that redirect light around the objects. Previously, they only have been able to cloak very thin two-dimensional objects.

The findings, by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, led by Xiang Zhang, are to be released later this week in the journals Nature and Science.

The new work moves scientists a step closer to hiding people and objects from visible light, which could have broad applications, including military ones.

People can see objects because they scatter the light that strikes them, reflecting some of it back to the eye. Cloaking uses materials, known as metamaterials, to deflect radar, light or other waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream.

Metamaterials are mixtures of metal and circuit board materials such as ceramic, Teflon or fiber composite. They are designed to bend visible light in a way that ordinary materials don't. Scientists are trying to use them to bend light around objects so they don't create reflections or shadows.

It differs from stealth technology, which does not make an aircraft invisible but reduces the cross-section available to radar, making it hard to track.

The research was funded in part by the U.S. Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation's Nano-Scale Science and Engineering Center.

Spanish Sweetshop Owner Finds Homer Simpson Euro

August 8: Jose Martinez shows a Spanish 1 Euro coin with the face of Spanish King Juan Carlos and another altered to look like Homer Simpson.

MADRID — A Spanish sweetshop owner was counting cash in his till in the city of Aviles when he came across a coin bearing the likeness of Homer Simpson instead of Spanish King Juan Carlos, Reuters reported.

"The coin must have been done by a professional, the work is impressive," Jose Martinez told Reuters.

The carver didn't touch the other side of the one euro coin, displaying the map of Europe, Reuters reported.

"I've been offered 20 euros for it," Martinez said.

Reuters reported no other coins bearing the likeness of Simpson have been found in circulation.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gay marriage foes mobilize for ban in California
By Tracie Cone and Lisa Leff,
Associated Press Writers

Proposition 8 supporter Christina Hirst, left, gives a brochure to Darren Goddard, right, and Brad Neely, center, during a poll of voters on the gay marriage amendment in Elk Grove, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008. If passed Proposition 8 would amend the State Constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal in California.
(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

FRESNO, Calif. - Michael Bumgarner says he's never campaigned for a political cause before, but his strong opposition to same-sex marriage has prompted him to join thousands of volunteers going door-to-door in support of a ballot initiative that would ban gay nuptuals here.

"I've never stumped before, but I want to be a part of this," Bumgarner said. The retired insurance executive and devout Mormon said his late mother would "turn over in her grave" if she knew that gays and lesbians could marry.

With less than 11 weeks until Election Day, supporters of Proposition 8 are ramping up their field organization and refining their message as they seek to persuade California voters to shut the door on same-sex marriage. It's the first time voters will be asked to weigh in on the issue in either California or Massachusetts — the states where gays have won the right to wed.

An estimated 15,000 backers of the measure, most of them members of Mormon, Catholic and evangelical Christian churches, knocked on doors and distributed campaign literature to registered voters throughout the state this weekend and last, according to Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Yes on 8 campaign.

The initiative is a constitutional amendment, similar to ones already enacted in 26 other states, that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. It needs a simple majority of votes to pass.

Ron Prentice, director of the coalition of religious and social conservative groups that qualified the amendment for the November ballot, said the group has ordered 1 million yard signs and 1 million bumper stickers.

"Unless the people are angry, nothing will happen," Prentice said. "We are going to change the Constitution and say on Nov. 4, 'Judges, you can't touch this.'"

For now, the campaign's goal is to identify supporters and voters who are unaware or haven't made up their minds about the measure, said Al Almendariz, a retired air traffic controller and a Mormon.

Almendariz led a team of five people canvassing a suburban neighborhood southeast of Sacramento on Saturday, and their script was concise. The volunteers told people who answered their doors they were with the Proposition 8 campaign, an effort that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman. They didn't mention same-sex marriage unless a resident brought it up.

"We're just polling — yes or no, not trying to find converts or change people's minds," said Christina Hirst, 28, a photographer with three young children. Hirst and her husband, Justin, 33, a high-school Spanish teacher, said they joined the door-knocking Saturday because they don't want their children hearing about gay relationships at school.

The literature that volunteers distributed was intended to reinforce the campaign's message that the amendment is "pro-marriage and children" instead of anti-gay.

"California should do more to encourage families to stay together," reads the pamphlets illustrated with close-ups of heterosexual couples posed cheek-to-cheek.

Frank Schubert, who is co-managing the Yes on 8 campaign, said the outreach effort is designed to counter the principle message of gay rights advocates, who are portraying the upcoming vote as a matter of fairness and equality.

"They want people to feel like you are a bad person if you support what has been the definition of marriage since the dawn of time," Schubert said. By having face-to-face conversations about why the amendment is necessary, organizers hope to reach potential supporters who may worry that voting for the measure would get them labeled as "bigots or homophobes," he said.

Bumgarner distributed handouts listing "Six Consequences if Proposition 8 Fails" that volunteers were encouraged to use as talking points. They included warnings that ministers who preach against same-sex marriage could be sued for hate speech, churches would be sued for refusing to host wedding ceremonies for gays, and that "children in schools will be taught that same-sex marriage is OK."

The amendment's opponents dispute those claims, saying that the Supreme Court specifically exempted churches from having to participate in same-sex weddings and that nothing in state law requires teachers to discuss marriage — straight or gay — with students.

Recent polls suggest the election could be close. A Field Poll taken last month found that 51 percent of likely voters said they would vote against Proposition 8, while 42 percent said they would vote for it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

5 Things That Make You Wonder: "Is This Work or High School?"
By Robert Half International

High school could be a distant memory, but you may be surprised to learn that not all aspects of your academic experience are behind you. In fact, many of the same challenges you faced then -- standing up to those pesky bullies, for example -- exist in the workplace, too. The good news is that the same approaches you took then to overcome these obstacles can come in handy today.

Here are some situations that may cause you to wonder if you're at the office or back in sixth period, as well as advice for tackling each challenge:

Challenge No. 1: Standing up to bullies
You may have thought you left bullies behind when you donned your cap and gown, but they exist in the workplace, too. The difference is that instead of threatening to take your lunch money, office bullies may dismiss your ideas at a meeting or fail to return your calls. Though the actions are subtler, the effect is still the same: frustration and damage to your self-confidence. Instead of turning a deaf ear, stand up for yourself and let a bully know you don't appreciate how you're being treated. Often a direct approach will cause the person to back down. If the behavior continues, talk with your manager or a human resources representative about the issue.

Challenge No. 2: Dodging gossip
Fueling the rumor mill in school could have come back to haunt you if others found out you were spreading gossip. The same is true in the workplace. Gossiping about co-workers can damage relationships and harm your professional reputation. So try to stay above the fray. Instead of joining a conversation about an inappropriate topic, avoid it by excusing yourself. And if you happen to overhear some "juicy" information, keep it to yourself.

Challenge No. 3: Making friends
Friends were an essential source of support during high school, but sometimes it may have been difficult to identify kindred spirits. Forging relationships with others in the office can be equally beneficial. Workplace buddies can offer you advice for overcoming challenges, keep you informed of new projects or professional development opportunities, and cover for you when you're out of the office. The key to making friends at work: getting involved. Make sure you participate in office functions, like holiday parties and birthday lunches. These events are the perfect way to get to know your colleagues better.

Challenge No. 4: Finding a mentor
Remember the teacher or guidance counselor who pushed you to achieve your full potential? In the workplace, it pays to find someone similar. A mentor can be any person whose success and work style you admire. Approach this individual and explain that you would enjoy finding out more about the skills and techniques that have helped him or her excel. Mentors are invaluable guides in navigating workplace challenges since they've walked the road before you, and they can help you identify interests or strengths you possess but are unaware of.

Challenge No. 5: Participating in extracurricular activities
To balance the time spent in the classroom or at home huddled over a book, you may joined a club, played a sport or participated in a performing art. Keep in mind that maintaining a balance between your personal and professional obligations is still important. Continuously working long hours or taking projects home can cause burnout and lower your satisfaction for your job. Devoting time to outside hobbies or interests can not only prevent this but also enhance your skill set. For instance, doing improvisational comedy on the side can help you think on your feet. And by exploring varied activities, you'll bring unique perspectives and ideas to the workplace.

If your workplace begins to remind you of your high school, remember the strategies you used in school to overcome challenges and excel. Chances are the lessons you learned during those four formative years will still serve you well today.

5 Things Super-Happy Couples Do Every Day
By Ty Wenger

Lord knows this is not the sort of thing guys brag about. But my wife and I have a ridiculously happy marriage. Really, it's almost disgusting.

We paw each other in public. We goof around like a pair of simpletons. We basically act like giddy newlyweds in the middle of happy hour. Sometimes we'll do something so revolting, like sitting on the couch and drawing smiley faces on the bottoms of each other's feet, that we're forced to make hacking, gagging noises to maintain our dignity. Actually, this happened just last week.

See, I told you it was disgusting.

It hasn't always been this way. In fact, I'm not ashamed to admit that our current marital bliss is the result of almost a year of counseling, a desperate effort undertaken several years ago, when we appeared destined for doom. What we learned then is something all happy couples eventually discover: A good marriage is a bit like a pet boa constrictor: either you feed it every day or bad things happen. Daily habits are extremely helpful in forging solid marriages, says couples therapist Tina Tessina, author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. "If you're really interested in making your relationship work, little rituals are a great way to do it."

Want examples? Look no further than Tessina and her husband, Richard, who have developed an array of daily relationship builders during their 19 years of marriage: Every morning, they repeat their wedding vows to each other; they hold regular state-of-the-union meetings; and (my personal favorite) Tina routinely leaves Post-it Notes for Richard ("Hi, honey! Have a great day!") stuck to the underside of the toilet seat (think about it).

"Every marriage has what I call a relationship reservoir, or the stored-up emotional energy of the relationship," says Tessina. And although these daily habits are all very simple things, they help fill that reservoir. When there's a lot of positive energy there, you give each other a little pat on the butt or say, "I'm so glad I'm sharing my life with you," and you're storing it up. Then when the relationship is under stress, you'll have the energy you need to get through.

We asked happy couples across the United States to tell us about marriage-strengthening solutions they've developed. Try your hand at incorporating a few into your daily life and maybe you can be as ridiculously, embarrassingly, revoltingly happily married as I am.

Want to know the one thing that's most important to a successful marriage? That's easy. Walk up to your husband and surprise him with this one-question relationship quiz:

You: "Honey, what do you think is the one thing most important to a successful marriage?"

Him: "Umm, uh did you say something?"

And, well, there you have it.

1. Make Time to Connect.

Happily married couples typically say their relationships work better when they can sit down and gab one-on-one, like thinking, feeling adults. But who's got time for that? Actually, anybody who sleeps at night, if you follow the lead of Julie and Thom and their nightly visits to their "igloo."

"It all started one winter night years ago, when Julie had had a really bad day," says Thom, 33, a marketing director in Columbus, Ohio. "We were huddled under the covers of our bed, and Julie was describing how all the people who made her day miserable were 'bad polar bears' and how she didn't want any of the bad polar bears coming into the bedroom and how the bed was our refuge from them. You realize how embarrassing it is to admit this, right? Anyway, that's when we started calling the bed the igloo."

"The igloo is a place to retreat to," says Julie, 31. "It's our little sanctuary; only nice things happen in the igloo."

Eventually Julie and Thom began holding a powwow in the igloo at the end of every day, making a nightly excursion that Julie says has become a vital part of their five-year marriage.

"It's funny, because I always thought that when you lived with somebody, you'd automatically know everything that was going on," she says. "But we find that if we don't take that time to connect with each other, it's really easy for life to get in the way. The igloo offers one of the few times in the day where there's not a whole heck of a lot else going on, so you're able to focus on each other in a deeper way."

Of course, you don't need to christen major pieces of furniture with cute nicknames to improve the communication in your marriage. You simply have to set aside a few minutes every day to remind each other of why you got married in the first place. And there are as many ways to do that as there are marriages in America.

Lori and Joe, who are happily married in Philadelphia, have a nightly ritual they call crook time. That's when Lori cuddles up in the "crook" of Joe's shoulder and they talk. "The name's a little sappy," Lori admits, "but it's always a nice way for us to catch up."

Every night, Angie and Bob walk their pet Chihuahua, Chachi, through the streets of Brookline, Massachusetts. In addition to keeping Chachi from picking dogfights he could never win ("He has a bit of a Napoleon complex," Bob says), they use the time to strengthen their 11-year marriage.

It may be going a bit far to emulate Tim and Jill, a Connecticut couple who somewhat sheepishly admit that they check in with each other from work "six, maybe seven times a day," Tim says, "sometimes a dozen times when we're really being crazy." (Jill says, slightly more defiantly, "He's just my best friend, and our marriage is a great partnership, and there's no one I'd rather talk to.")

Then again, if you've been married 10 years and still want to talk to each other 10 times a day, you must be doing something right.

2. Remind each other that you're sexy.

Back when you were 14 years old, you probably figured that once you got married, you'd have sex just about every day. (Well, maybe teenage girls don't think that way. But let me tell you, 14-year-old boys sure do.) And why not? Sex is free. It's fun. And it doesn't require the purchase of any equipment, besides the occasional bottle of vegetable oil and about 20 feet of nylon rope.

But as they get older, most couples realize that having sex every night isn't possible, let alone a worthy goal. Indeed, a 1994 University of Chicago survey of Americans' sexual habits found that only about a third of adults have sex more than once a week. Granted, that number might have been higher if all the couples having sex more frequently had stopped to take the surveyor's phone call, but clearly, sex for most married couples is far from a daily reality.

That doesn't mean, though, that you can't at least talk sexy every day, and that's the approach that Ed and Stephanie have taken in the more than six years they've been together.

"It's funny," says Ed, a 33-year-old San Francisco cab driver, "because we know plenty of married couples who fight, a lot, about how often they have sex. The wife's upset because all he ever wants to do is have sex; the husband's upset because he doesn't think they have sex enough. But this has never really been a problem with us, and I think it has a lot do with the fact that we're always talking sexy to each other."

"Absolutely," says Stephanie, a 32-year-old massage therapist. "We're always complimenting each other, tossing out fantasies, telling each other we're hot. He gets to feel like he can have sexual feelings, and I feel like I don't have to have sex all the time to appear attractive.

"Let's put it this way: The way I see it, sex is like chocolate cake. After five days of eating chocolate cake, even chocolate cake doesn't taste that great."

"Right," Ed says, "but after five days of talking about chocolate cake?"

"That cake tastes damn good."

3. Share a guilty pleasure.

Eavesdrop on a conversation between Bob and Angie concerning their favorite shared pastime.

"We are so disgusting. This is so pathetic. It's like a sickness."

"But it makes us happy!"

"It's so stupid it makes us laugh."

"We're yelling at people. High-fiving each other."

"Look, we get a kick out of it because it's so ridiculous. It's our guilty pleasure."

Forgive them if they seem somewhat shy, but they're merely ashamed to admit that the daily ritual that brings such joy to their 12-year marriage is none other than reality TV. That's right. They lived and died with Survivor. They've adopted Big Brother. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? They do.

"Honestly, I think we just need to be dumb for a while," says Bob, 37, a shoe designer for Reebok in Boston. "We're both very into our careers. And when you're at work, with any job there's going to be a certain amount of professional stress. You like to come home sometimes and, for that lousy hour or whatever, kick back and relax."

Or as Angie, 36, a marketing executive, says, "Life is serious enough, isn't it? Sometimes you need to do something stupid. And if you can't be stupid with your husband, who can you be stupid with?"

So hold on, then: Is domestic joy found in partners smothering each other in obsessive daily rituals ("Honey, don't forget, at 7:15 we have our nightly cuddle, followed by the affirmation of our vows, our 7:35 spontaneous flirtation, and then, of course, a new episode of Deal Or No Deal at eight")?

Hardly. In fact, Tessina says that sleepwalking through a series of hollow routines (although probably an apt description of your day job) is worse for your marriage than having no routines at all. The solution, she says, is to also make a daily habit of getting away from each other.

4. Enrich yourselves - as individuals.

"You know that old saying, 'How can I miss you if you don't go away?'" Tessina asks. "Doing things separately gives you a chance to fill in the blanks that your partner can't fill in for you, for example, one of you likes classical music, the other one likes sports. Plus, taking a break from each other gives you more things to talk about, because when you're joined at the hip, what's to talk about? You've already seen it all."

The point, naturally, is not to make space for each other in that I-can't-wait-to-get-away-from-you sort of way but to pursue your own hobbies and interests. It's a distinction that Joe tried hard to make to Lori during their delicate pre-engagement negotiations four years ago.

"As a woman, you get this message that when you get married, you spend every single waking second with your husband and you're so unbelievably happy," says Lori, 34. "And my parents actually do spend every single waking second together, and oddly enough, they are happy. So that's how I grew up thinking you were supposed to be. But when I told him this, Joe was like, 'I-don't-think-so.'"

"Because I watched my parents," says Joe, 29, whose parents divorced when he was 22, "and yeah, they spent every moment together, but they spent every moment together at each other's throats."

"So Joe had to convince me that having our own lives was a good idea," Lori explains. "I'm thankful he did."

These days Lori and Joe are practically poster children for the power of independence. Joe, who works for a nonprofit agency, spends his nights taking painting classes, building youth centers, and recording his guitar sessions. Lori, a college professor, spends hers directing community-theater musicals and indulging in trashy movies on cable television, a passion that Joe (go figure) doesn't seem to share.

"It all brings a freshness to our marriage because we both continue to grow as people," Joe says.

"Plus," says Lori, "getting out of the house and out of each other's hair keeps us from going crazy."

And — we asked the experts, so we know — going crazy is definitely not one of the secrets of a happy marriage.

5. Get spiritual together.

In another University of Chicago survey, this one of married couples, 75 percent of the Americans who pray with their spouses reported that their marriages are "very happy" (compared to 57 percent of those who don't). Those who pray together are also more likely to say they respect each other, discuss their marriage together, and — stop the presses — rate their spouses as skilled lovers.

Not to say that prayer is a cure for all that ails you (were that the case, my beloved Oakland Raiders would have won the Super Bowl years ago). But whether they're talking about a simple grace at dinnertime or some soul-searching meditation, couples routinely say that a shared spiritual life helps keep them close. And as Doug and Beth say, even couples who are on different sides of the theological fence can benefit from praying together daily.

"We have been married for seven years, but praying together is something we didn't start doing until about a year ago," says Doug, a 32-year-old Salt Lake City biochemist. "In the past, whenever we faced big decisions, we'd have discussion after discussion about them, but we'd never really come to a resolution."

After two 1,000-mile moves, the birth of three children, and two job changes, all in the past four years, those difficult decisions had begun to take a toll. So when Beth asked Doug, a nonreligious and self-proclaimed man of science, to try praying with her, he figured they had nothing to lose.

"I soon found that praying together brings out a real sense of selflessness and humility," Doug says. "When you're praying for each other, not yourself, you're focused together and speaking from the heart on a whole different level. I would never have predicted this for us, but it really works."

"As bad as any problem may seem at that moment," agrees Beth, "prayer always helps us see beyond it. It doesn't have to be a long-drawn-out scripture reading, just a few minutes a day. When we pray, it brings another level of honesty to our conversations. I think it's the most intimate thing you can do with another person."

Now they pray together every night, once the "urchins" are in bed, which puts them in the company of the 32 percent of American married couples who say they pray together regularly. It also puts them in the company of Julie and Thom, when the other couple isn't holed up in their igloo, of course.

"It's pretty short and not at all scripted," says Julie about their giving thanks before each meal. "We just join hands and let it rip. Whether we're asking for forgiveness or giving thanks, saying it out loud holds a lot of power.

"Besides, regardless of religion or spiritual preference, I think that most marriages require a ton of faith," Julie sums up. "You've got to believe that somehow the two of you are going to make it through things. You've got to believe that you're being blessed with this person. And even if the power we feel just comes from the strength of our love, even if we don't believe that it's God who is helping us, I still think that it's good to acknowledge that there's a force between the two of us that's helping us out."

Couple's Guide to Dealing With Annoying People
Don't let these 4 types of irritating people cause a rift between you and your spouse.
The Nest Editors

1. The Annoying Houseguest

A college buddy comes to town and needs to crash at your place — leaving you with no time alone.

Yup, you got Dupree-ed. And even if your guest isn't as cute or crazy as Owen Wilson's character, it's important that you both agree on some factors before he arrives.

The Rule: Discuss how long the visit can be and what you'll expect from your guest (help with dinner, cleaning up his stuff). Then lay down these laws with your crasher. During the visit, be your normal selves and get as much couple time as possible — even if you do have an on-looker. We're not suggesting PDA. But cooking together, taking walks after dinner, calling each other by your nicknames — these are all things that will help you feel like your life wasn't rudely interrupted. And before turning in for the night, instead of watching TV for an extra hour, go to bed, close the door, and talk privately about your days. This will give you the alone time you'll crave. If it's an extended visit, give your guest a key and continue with your normal life. Coworkers going out for drinks? You're there. A date with your mate? Plan one as often as you can, without being rude. Just let your guest know — so um, he doesn't have dinner waiting!

2. The Meddling In-law

Your mate's mom calls almost every night and is trying to plan a visit — even though she just saw you!

The reality of marriage is that you two promised to honor your families as well as each other when you said "I will." You might need to rein in the mother-in-law, but also make an effort to build the bond she's desperately trying to create.

The Rule: The spouse with the closest bloodline does the dirty work. You each need to establish boundaries with your own moms while agreeing to meet up every month or so. This will let you grow stronger as a couple without leaving your families in the lurch. And the next time you're waiting for take-out or flipping channels, give the mother-in-law a call or send an email. Keep her up on what's going on with you, sharing whatever you feel comfortable with. After all, you don't want to be a stranger to her.

3. The Over-demanding Boss

Your boss is constantly piling on more work, stressing you out and keeping you at the office so late you barely see your spouse.

As you may have figured out, you'll never be able to change your boss. So if you choose to stay in this field — or office — you can only work on your own habits to make sure you have a better life at home.

The Rule: Develop an understanding for what both of your jobs require from you. Talk this out once so it doesn't become a fight every time you come home past dinner. Then figure out all the personal stuff that you can stop doing at the office. Turn off IM and stop emailing friends about the upcoming high school reunion. These distractions are only keeping you at the office longer. And when you do get home, make it one-on-one time. Turn off the TV and the BlackBerry and focus on each other.

4. The Joneses

You know who we're talking about: The couple across the street who has the perfect everything — car, house, relationship — and you can't help but feel envious of them in every way.

The competitive streak inside of you is bound to come out when your perfect neighbors in the perfect house buy the car of your dreams. This jealousy is bound to turn into spousal resentment, so take a new approach.

The Rule: Every time you feel the rage of envy building inside of you, remember: The grass in their yard is only greener because you can't see over their fence. Yup, they've got issues too, possibly just more hidden than yours. So next time you want to rant at your mate for not pampering you like your princess neighbor, focus on your couple's fortes. Then do something to build on that. You love to laugh? Reminisce about some funny stories from when you first met and talk about how you're so much happier now. You're spontaneous? Prove it tonight. The way you click just might make the Joneses themselves jealous.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grammar police punished for 'fixing' rare sign
Self-styled vigilantes wiped out errors on signs across the United States
The Associated Press

PHOENIX - When it comes to marking up historic signs, good grammar is a bad defense.

Two self-styled vigilantes against typos who defaced a more than 60-year-old, hand-painted sign at Grand Canyon National Park were sentenced to probation and banned from national parks for a year. They had removed an extraneous apostrophe and added a comma to the sign.

Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson pleaded guilty Aug. 11 for the damage done March 28 at the park's Desert View Watchtower. The sign was made by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the architect who designed the rustic 1930s watchtower and other Grand Canyon-area landmarks.
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Deck and Herson, both 28, toured the United States this spring, wiping out errors on government and private signs. They were interviewed by National Public Radio and the Chicago Tribune, which called them "a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation."

An affidavit by National Park Service agent Christopher A. Smith said investigators learned of the vandalism from an Internet site operated by Deck on behalf of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL.

'Haunted' by errors
Authorities said a diary written by Deck reported that while visiting the watchtower, he and Herson "discovered a hand-rendered sign inside that, I regret to report, contained a few errors."

The fiberboard sign has yellow lettering with a black background and is several paragraphs long. Deck wrote that they used a marker to cover an erroneous apostrophe, put the apostrophe in its proper place with white-out and added a comma.

The misspelled word "emense" — rather than immense — was not fixed, Deck wrote, because "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further. ... Still, I think I shall be haunted by that perversity, emense, in my train-whistle-blighted dreams tonight."

Deck and Herson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to vandalize government property.

They were sentenced to a year's probation, during which they cannot enter any national park or modify any public signs. They were also ordered to pay $3,035 to repair the watchtower sign.

The TEAL Web site now has only this message — "Statement on the signage of our National Parks and public lands to come" — without a period.