Monday, December 31, 2012

I mean, what geek wouldn?t? (Unqualified Offerings)

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Black-eyed pea and cornbread skillet

Black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is a Southern tradition loved by many. Here is a variation that bakes black-eyed peas beneath a cornbread topping.

By Perre Coleman Magness,?The Runaway Spoon / December 31, 2012

Simmer black-eyed peas with country ham, onions, tomatoes, chilis, and seasoning before baking beneath a crusty cornbread topping.

The Runaway Spoon


No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year?s Day pass without at least one bite of black-eyed peas. They are supposed to bring good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin? John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here?s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.

Skip to next paragraph Perre Coleman Magness

The Runaway Spoon

Perre Magness has studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France has broadened her own culinary skill and palate. The kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

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This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It?s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year?s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham ?biscuit slices? readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped ?seasoning pieces? are great for seasoning, but don?t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year optimism, serve these with greens, like Foldin? Money Cabbage.

Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet

Serves 4

For the Black-eyed Peas

4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices

4 cups of water

Half of a small yellow onion

2 garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere?s)

12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas

3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained

Salt to taste

For the Cornbread:

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

For the Black-eyed Peas:

Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and 1/2 teaspoon of the creole seasoning.? Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.

Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes.? Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil.? Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top.? Set aside while you make the cornbread.

For the Cornbread:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg and melted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden, and set.

Serve immediately.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Black-eyed peas for luck

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of food bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by The Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own and they are responsible for the content of their blogs and their recipes. All readers are free to make ingredient substitutions to satisfy their dietary preferences, including not using wine (or substituting cooking wine) when a recipe calls for it. To contact us about a blogger, click here.


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A Guide To Help You Prepare For Your Breast Augmentation ...

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Get the chest size you have always wanted by getting a breast augmentation. It is a very safe and affordable procedure that continues to make women appreciate their looks even more.

Source:A Guide To Help You Prepare For Your Breast Augmentation

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The authors of this book, respected plastic surgeons, have performed hundreds of body contouring procedures on weight loss patients, and they understand your concerns as you explore having reconstructive surgery. Among the questions they answer are:
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Flesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic SurgeryFlesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic SurgeryWhen did cosmetic surgery become a common practice, the stuff of everyday conversation? In a work that combines a provocative ethnography of plastic surgery and a penetrating analysis of beauty and feminism, Virginia L. Blum searches out the social conditions and imperatives that have made ours a culture of cosmetic surgery. From diverse viewpoints, ranging from cosmetic surgery patient to feminist cultural critic, she looks into the realities and fantasies that have made physical malleability an essential part of our modern-day identity.
For a cultural practice to develop such a tenacious grip, Blum argues, it must be fed from multiple directions: some pragmatic, including the profit motive of surgeons and the increasing need to appear young on the job; some philosophical, such as the notion that a new body is something you can buy or that appearance changes your life. Flesh Wounds is an inquiry into the ideas and practices that have forged such a culture. Tying the boom in cosmetic surgery to a culture-wide trend toward celebrity, Blum explores our growing compulsion to emulate what remain for most of us two-dimensional icons. Moving between personal experiences and observations, interviews with patients and surgeons, and readings of literature and cultural moments, her book reveals the ways in which the practice of cosmetic surgery captures the condition of identity in contemporary culture.
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Now, Cosmetic Surgery For Dummies is here to guide you through today?s top procedures, candidly addressing both the benefits and the risks. R. Merrel Olesen, MD, the medical director of the La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, and Marie B.V. Olesen, a nationally known cosmetic surgery consultant, give you the tools you need to:

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Facebook's High-Stakes Poker Game | TechCrunch

AntoneJohnsonEditor?s note:?Antone Johnson is?a startup?lawyer specializing in?early-stage?consumer Internet and location-based?businesses, with particular emphasis on?social and digital media. Before founding his own firm, he served?as eHarmony?s first VP?of Legal Affairs and was one of the original in-house lawyers?at Myspace. Follow him on Twitter @antonejohnson.

?Ma?am, we at the FBI do not have a sense of humor?that?we?re aware of.??? Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black

Is it juvenile to snicker at the obvious double entendre of Facebook?s new ephemeral messaging app, Poke, given its utility for sexting? If so, send me back to repeat sophomore year, but the powers-that-be are unlikely to crack a grin.

Facebook has rightly been accused of creating a slavish copy of Snapchat, a viral sensation that surpassed one billion shared photos last month. ?The speed with which Facebook was able to emulate and release a competing app ??12 days in the making, according to Facebook?s Blake Ross?? is cited as an example of the competitive threat Facebook and other giants pose to new social startups. Yet Poke may turn out to be a poster child for why most multi-billion-dollar public companies try not to break things, and as a consequence, are often precluded from moving fast like startups.

GP-fb-pokerIt would be foolish for most companies to build a clone and expect it to succeed at all, let alone approach Snapchat?s massive usage, but Facebook isn?t your ordinary competitor. With its billion active users, trove of personal data and immediate access to their social graphs, the network effects are unparalleled. Facebook also has unique competitive disadvantages on multiple fronts that could render Poke a crippling liability for the company; paradoxically, the more successful Poke becomes, the more it may hurt the company as a whole.

Facebook has grappled with the consequences of its market dominance for years. The recent ruckus over Terms of Use changes for Instagram under its ownership is only the latest example of Facebook?s uneasy relationship with the public on privacy issues. The company?s governing philosophy of stretching the boundaries of personal transparency while simultaneously insisting on the use of real-world identities ??coupled with its tendency to ask for forgiveness rather than permission ??has drawn the ire of regulators and advocacy groups.

More than any other company, Facebook surely appreciates the extent to which massive use of a social service draws massive abuse, as predators ?go fishing where the fish are.? The sheer volume of tragic incidents involving teens at Myspace and Facebook forced the companies to come to the table and strike a ?voluntary? deal in 2008 with attorney generals nationwide to address vexing, persistent child-safety issues.? The thousands of smaller sites were largely ignored. Scale can make all the difference between benign obscurity and CEOs being hauled into Congressional committee hearings.

Setting aside the debate over what proportion of usage and growth is driven by sexting, the ability to send images that disappear after no more than 10 seconds using an app that alerts the sender if the recipient takes a screen shot, removes some psychological barriers. The percentage of total ?snaps? involving nudity may be low, but the possibility that interactions could take that turn at any moment undoubtedly adds a charge to the hormone-flooded young brain. Speaking from experience at Myspace, a site that banned outright nudity from inception, our young user base had seemingly infinite desire to push the boundaries and circumvent those rules at every opportunity. They also knew that to freely exchange nude images they had to go elsewhere: From ImageShack or Photobucket to Kik or MMS. Today, Snapchat is that elsewhere; tomorrow it may be Poke.

There?s nothing inherently problematic or illegal about sexting between consenting adults, but minors are another story. Law enforcement is currently grappling with a head-on conflict between the realities of teen behavior and the legal status of sexting images: Possession and distribution of child pornography is a serious felony ? one of the FBI?s highest enforcement priorities ? punishable by lengthy prison sentences and registration as a sex offender. Authorities often use discretion not to prosecute peer sexting incidents among teens, rightly viewing those laws as disproportionately harsh for the context. Yet that doesn?t mitigate the fact that a service such as Snapchat (and now Poke) at any given time is guaranteed to be in possession of thousands or millions of images the FBI considers to be ?contraband.?

If there is one existential threat to Snapchat, assuming its continued popularity and eventual revenue model, this is it. Even if we instantly became comfortable as a society with sexting among teens as relatively benign (fat chance), there will still be interactions between adults and minors. As it scales to tens of millions of users and ugly headlines begin to appear about creepy use by sexual predators, it?s a certainty that law enforcement will come knocking with search warrants in hand for records in cases of suspected underage porn and solicitation of minors.

Encryption keys be damned; under the right kind of court order or warrant, services will be compelled to retain and produce some images and data for specific users. (Privacy advocates may be outraged at the concept that ?ephemeral messaging? isn?t completely ephemeral, but consider how you would react if a 35-year-old man were sending pictures of his genitalia, however ephemeral, to your 13-year-old daughter.)? This is why Snapchat, like most social media services, includes ?CYA? language in its privacy policy:? ?We may share your personal information with third parties? [to] comply with laws or to respond to lawful requests and legal process.?

These issues aren?t new, of course. Myspace at its peak received hundreds of law enforcement subpoenas and warrants each month. We also employed and ultimately outsourced an army of image reviewers. Age and identity verification have been thorny challenges throughout the age of social media. That didn?t stop state attorney generals from ganging up on MySpace and Facebook in 2007 to demand action on child online safety.? The pressure to ?do something? was intense, and companies resist such demands at their peril.

At scale, the gravest threats are political and reputational. When asked, ?What are you going to do about this?? the acceptable CEO answer is not ?nothing.? Snapchat and its investors may have thought a few moves ahead in this chess game, but if they have a brilliant solution to prevent the kind of abuses that come with scale, I?d love to hear about it.

Returning to Poke, Facebook faces a unique competitive disadvantage from its long history dealing with child-safety issues, its ubiquity, and unparalleled scale. Simply put, Facebook will be held to a higher standard than startups from day one. Unlike Snapchat and others, Facebook can?t plead ignorance or lack of resources to address abuse issues that accompany explosive growth. In fact, no other company in the world has access to the same range of resources and depth of knowledge in the area of online social interaction among teens and adults.

This is not a technical problem that can be solved by engineering or sheer resources. It?s a byproduct of a legal regime that makes the same interaction perfectly legal between two adults; not-really-legal-but-essentially-unstoppable between two minors; and a felony involving prison time and sex offender registration between an adult and a minor. Anything Facebook does to make the product cleaner or safer is likely to degrade the user experience, add friction to new user registration, and so on. These tradeoffs could well keep Poke a ?PG-rated? product with the accountability of real-name, real-identity culture, while the more adventurous remain over at Snapchat ??at least until it too gets called on the carpet.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Silicon Arabia, Bottom Line Law Group, ideakick, Gust, Kibin, AHHHA , eHarmony, MySpace, Intermix Media, Excite@Home, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, Fox Interactive Media, Gemstar-TV Guide, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Antone Johnson is a California business lawyer and executive advising technology and media companies, entrepreneurs and investors in corporate, commercial and intellectual property matters. His area of focus is the intersection between technology, media, finance, law and public policy, with particular emphasis on lean startups and growth companies in social media, Web 2.0, digital media, location-based services, and other IP-intensive, consumer-facing businesses. Johnson is Founding Principal of Bottom Line Law Group, a business and IP law firm in San...

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Super Mario Bros. 3 bounds onto Japan's 3DS Virtual Console Jan. 1

Super Mario Bros. 3 will be available for ?500 on Japan's 3DS Virtual Console next Tuesday, January 1, Nintendo has announced. No announcement has been made regarding whether the port will ever see the light of day on North American and/or European shores, but the fact that it exists at all is a good sign.New Years is a big deal in Japan, so it's not surprising that Nintendo would digitally re-release one of the most beloved games in its back catalogue to celebrate. As cool of a gesture as that is, though, we feel it lacks the flair and panache displayed by the game's original unveiling, as seen above. Continue reading >


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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon to head national ...

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon will take over as president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners as the new year begins. The group is focused on developing standards and best practices for insurance regulators across the country and coordinates regulatory oversight of the insurance markets.

?Donelon has been a member of the organization since he was first elected insurance commissioner in 2006 and over the past five years has chaired the group's Surplus Lines Task Force, which deals with outside insurers who provide high-risk policies.

"I am pleased to have this opportunity to serve the NAIC and the citizens of Louisiana in this capacity," said Commissioner Donelon. "Louisiana is a significant consumer of insurance in the national, and even international, marketplace. Through this position, I will be able to engage in the insurance debate on a leadership level, and place Louisiana at the forefront in the study and development of insurance regulation."


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2 arrested after Guinea treasury chief killed

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) ? Officials in the West African nation of Guinea say they've arrested two suspects in the case of the killing of the country's treasury chief, who was shot to death nearly two months ago.

Authorities paraded the pair in front of journalists Friday. Aissatou Boiro was killed as she was driving home. She had launched an investigation into the loss of 13 million francs ($1.8 million) which went missing from the state coffers.

The government says the suspects were found with Boiro's computer memory stick and mobile telephone.

The men denied any involvement in her slaying and said a friend had given them the items.

Boiro's colleagues say she had zero tolerance for corruption and was intent on putting an end to the mismanagement of state funds.


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2013 Best Time For Investing In Real Estate | American Apartment ...


by Lex Levinrad

If you read the mainstream media, the forecast for real estate seems bleak. This is especially the case in hard hit states like California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and New York.

In 2010 and 2011, one in every 17 households in Arizona received a foreclosure notice. In Florida one in every 18 houses went into foreclosure last year. Many experts are predicting that lenders will take back more homes in 2012 than in any other previous year since the foreclosure crisis began.

All of this bad news in the media gives the average reader the impression that now is not a great time to be buying real estate.

After all, why would you invest in real estate if there is so much negative news?

Negative news has a negative effect on buyers, forcing them to sit on the sidelines while they wait for better news. Adding to the negative news is the fact that over the past few years it has been very difficult for home buyers to get approved for a mortgage. This is yet another reason why potential home buyers might sit on the side lines and wait for the situation to improve.

Foreign Cash Buyers Snapping Up Deals

By the end of 2010 and throughout 2011 more and more cash buyers had entered the market looking for bargains. Over the past year many of our buyers have been foreign buyers and we have been fielding phone calls in our office from Canadian, European, South American, Russian and even Chinese investors. It seems that these foreign investors have figured out something that many local investors have not. These foreigners know just like I do that real estate is a screaming buy right now. Real estate is such an amazing bargain right now that I coined a phrase to characterize the current state of the real estate market. This is the quote that I use: ?This will be the best time in your lifetime to buy real estate?. Or expressed another way, between now and the day that you die, you will never get another opportunity to buy real estate at such cheap prices. Adjusted for inflation housing prices are cheaper than they have ever been since the Great Depression.

The prices that some of these bank owned properties are selling for is such an incredible opportunity for cash investors (you cannot buy bank owned properties with a mortgage). Many cash buyers are scooping these properties up as fast as the banks can list them. The banks know this and very wisely are listing them slowly to maintain demand. Most of the action that I see is in the affordable lower priced homes. These are the types of homes that make great rental properties for landlords and also make great properties for fixing and flipping to first time home buyers.

FHA Loans & First Time Home Buyers Rising

FHA loans are getting approved and many first time home buyers are buying their first home instead of renting which means there is a substantial pool of buyers for these entry level homes. In South Florida most of the homes that we sell are priced at less than $100,000. Potential landlords are especially attracted to houses in the $60,000 to $90,000 price range since the cash flow opportunities are tremendous. One example is a student of mine that purchased a house for $37,000, spent $12,000 repairing the house and then rented the house to a section 8 tenant for $1,250 per month.

Where Are The Best Deals?

We haven?t seen that kind of cash flow in real estate for at least 30 years if not longer. I speak to my real estate associates in California, New York, Arizona and Nevada and they all tell me that the situation is the same in their states. Affordably priced single family homes are where the action is right now in the bank owned property market.

Low priced homes will move first because these homes have the most buyers. Potential buyers for these homes are landlords, retirees and real estate investors looking to fix and flip properties for a profit. For the first time in many years homes are finally priced affordably. First time homebuyers can purchase a home with an FHA mortgage and have a monthly mortgage payment equivalent to what they were previously paying in rent. In many cases their mortgage payment can be lower than what they would pay in rent. And these first time home buyers only need to put down 3 1/2 percent for an FHA mortgage which means that anyone with decent credit that is renting could probably afford to buy the home that they are currently renting if it is an affordably priced home.

Foreign Buyers Focusing On Rehabbing & Flipping

There is also a tremendous opportunity in flipping properties for a profit. Investors can purchase a bank owned home for $70,000, spend $15,000 repairing it and flip it for a profit of $25,000 or more. That is why so many foreign investors are trying to buy these properties. We have investors that are purchasing multiple properties every single month for the purposes of fixing and flipping these properties for a profit. These investors can buy 20, 30 or even 40 homes per year to fix and flip.

If you are a cash investor your return on fixing and flipping houses is much higher than any other type of investment that you currently have. For this reason many of our investors are liquidating real estate in other countries and even their stock portfolios in order to invest in single family houses that can be flipped for a profit. The returns that are being made right now in this market cannot be found anywhere else. And this is especially true if you live in a country where you are worried about the stability of your currency or economy like many countries in Europe right now.

Luxury & High End Homes Sputter

Houses that sell at higher prices still suffer challenges because so many buyers cannot qualify for a mortgage. As long as banks are reluctant to lend, it will be hard for this market to move significantly. However there is still opportunity for cash buyers to fix and flip these houses for even larger profits. The key is to find a buyer that can get approved for a mortgage which is still very challenging. Over time, as banks begin lending again this market too will improve and we are already seeing signs of improvement in this market.

2013 Foreclosure Shadow Inventory

Many experts are predicting that lenders will take back more homes in 2013 than in any other previous year since the foreclosure crisis began. Which brings me to what REO agents and asset managers call ?shadow inventory? ? homes that are in foreclosure that have not yet been listed for sale by the banks. Since these properties theoretically will eventually end up being listed for sale on the multiple listing service (MLS) the inventory is considered shadow inventory because everyone assumes that it is coming but yet you cannot see the inventory since it has not yet been listed on the market.

2013 Great Time to Invest In Real Estate

In summary, now is a great time to be buying real estate. This is a good time to be investing in real estate regardless of whether you are a first time home buyer looking for your first home at a great price, a real estate investor looking to fix and flip a property or a potential landlord looking to buy real estate and hold rental property for the long term for cash flow. Many retirees are taking advantage of the discount in prices to buy themselves their retirement home at a fraction of what they would have paid just 5 years ago. Returns for landlords on rental properties are the best they have ever been. If you are looking to buy rental properties now is the time to buy.

Do not wait for the media to start painting a rosy picture about the real estate market before you buy. 2012 or 2013 might just be the year when the shadow inventory hits the market. This could be the year which in hindsight will turn out to be the unprecedented real estate buying opportunity of your lifetime. You must take advantage of this and start buying real estate right now while you can still get great deals at great prices. Remember that prices have already started moving up.

When there are no more sellers left to sell and when all of the banks are finally done liquidating their properties at bargain prices then prices can only go one way. And that way is up.

Lex Levinrad has been a full time distressed real estate investor since 2003. He has been involved in buying, rehabbing, wholesaling, renting, and selling hundreds of houses in South Florida.

Lex is the founder and CEO of the Distressed Real Estate Institute, which trains beginning distressed real estate investors about how to find wholesale real estate deals. He specializes in buying foreclosures and bank owned REO homes and offers private mentoring, bus tours, boot camps and home study courses for real estate investors.

Lex Levinrad is an accomplished national public speaker and has shared the stage with some of the countries best real estate speakers. Lex Levinrad has authored numerous books about real estate and is also the the founder of the Distressed Real Estate Investors Association (DREIA) and the co-founder of the Port St Lucie Real Estate Investors Association (PSLREIA).

This post provided by for creative real estate investors.Copyright 2002-2011 All Rights Reserved. Published with Permission of Author. No part of this publication may be copied or reprinted without the express written permission of the Author and/or


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Friday, December 28, 2012

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)The majority of us rely on "external memory" of some kind. Whether it's calendars, to-do lists, notes, or even Google Maps, we frequently outsource our memories to paper. I wanted to see how much I could remember if I ditched all these. Here's how it went.

We talk a lot about to-do lists, and notes, but relying on moving your memory elsewhere means you spend a lot of time managing your notes instead of actually getting things done. They can be fantastic tools to help you remember things, but they can also be a burden.

For me, the big motivator was that I found myself pushing ideas onto paper, then immediately forgetting about them. They weren't stewing and working to become better, they were stagnant and sitting in an unkempt state on my hard drive. So, I decided to take Jeff Atwood's challenge:

Here's my challenge. If you can't wake up every day and, using your 100% original equipment God-given organic brain, come up with the three most important things you need to do that day?then you should seriously work on fixing that. . . You have to figure out what's important to you and what motivates you; ask yourself why that stuff isn't gnawing at you enough to make you get it done. Fix that.

I decided to take Atwood's challenge a step further. So, for the last month I haven't written down anything to remember it. I haven't looked on Google Maps to get the exact address of a restaurant, I haven't jotted down a quick note to remember an idea. I didn't use shopping lists, to-do lists, or schedules. I even stopped looking up trivia facts on my phone. I wanted to see how much I could force myself to remember. In the end, I was able to remember a lot more than I thought possible. I remembered locations, lists, names, and even a complicated holiday schedule. Here's how to make sure you remember everything without those tools.

Practice Makes Perfect

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)The first few days of this experiment were tough. I rely on my phone as an external memory device for far more than I thought I did. I often search for stupid trivia facts when I'm in conversation, or I'll frantically whip out my phone when I'm walking the dog to write down an idea. Now, I have to dig through my memory to find those facts, and I have to actually remember an idea if I wanted to pursue it further. It's not as easy as it sounds.

I deleted every app from my computer and phone I might use. I got rid of to-do lists, notes apps, my calendar, Google Maps, and anything else I might be tempted to write in. For everything that couldn't be deleted, I just told myself I couldn't write things down or look up information while I was out and about (obviously I still had to research and double-check things for work).

How I Embedded Lists In My Memory

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)Things like to-do lists, shopping lists, and schedules are probably the most common things we write down. It makes it easy to recall the information without expending any real brain effort. A while back I started turning my to-dos into a story to help me remember them, and I employed that same technique here.

Instead of merely writing out a list of what I have to do throughout the day, I turn it into a story. For example, here's what a (shortened) to-do list for an average day might look like: four posts for Lifehacker, email grandma, get new tires, and cook lunch for tomorrow. Instead of putting all that into an app, I just mentally walk through the day: I wake up and bust out my four posts for Lifehacker. When I finish up, I email grandma a quick thank you note before heading out and dropping off my truck to get new tires. When I get home, I cook up dinner and then store everything for lunch tomorrow.

I did the same for everything else in a list format that needed my attention for the day. For shopping lists I mentally walked through the store in my brain and picked up what I needed. Scheduling things, I did the same thing. It took a few days to really get into the habit of this, and it was taxing to try and remember the non-recurring items (grab zip-loc bags at the store, pick up the dog's medications). Eventually, it all settled into place and a quick runthrough of my day each morning was enough that I didn't need to resort to apps or paper.

The reason this works is pretty simple. It essentially uses pattern recognition and "chunking" to create a web of information that's tied together instead of a series of random things. When we link items together, we have a better chance of remembering them, and making a micro-story does just that.

Another trick is the memory palace, a technique that our own Melanie Pinola found useful for remembering random bits of information. The basic premise is simple: for each bit of information you need to remember, peg that information to a location in an imaginary home with an additional piece of weird information. For example, if you need to remember a grocery list, you can peg that information like: yellow bananas in a monkey's hand on the porch, kiwi on a keychain in the foyer, an overweight Chewbacca eating sausage on the sofa, and so on.

With just a little effort I was able to train myself to remember my lists. Typically these weren't longer than 20 or 30 items at the most, but it gave me the assurance that I could live without lists if I wanted.

How I Memorized Dates, Facts, and Other Random Information

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)Of course, our lives aren't just lists. We need to remember all types of different things. We store everything from dates of events to short facts you want to remember. For me, this mostly included a splurge of holiday plans, tidbits of facts I wanted to remember for articles, and other minor things like where I saw a pair of shoes I wanted.

For all of these more random bits of information, I combined bizarre visual images with the information. In my case, this usually meant lurid images combined with mundane details. For (a tame) example: Bryan and Jen's wedding is on August 24, the day Augustus spent 24 hours eating and puking cake non-stop. I will not forget that image, and every piece of information I need is right there, August, cake, and 24.

I did the same thing for other random details, including names (Betsy Sheff, like Betsy Ross the Chef who cooked the flag), and facts (William Taft on his sweet sixteen in a bathtub cursing corporations for the 16th Amendment).

Addresses were a lot easier. Instead of combining random bits of information I took the time to stop and look at the signs at the cross streets. The visual memory of the sign itself (not the physical address) was enough to help me remember. When I got an address wrong by a few blocks, I learned the right one pretty quickly as I navigated the city again. It turns out that getting lost is a pretty good way to remember where you want to go.

These techniques didn't always work, of course. I'd occasionally have to ask again ("You said August 24, right?"), or on some occasions the memory was just lost completely. Once, I had to ask several friends to get the name of a person I was talking to because I had no idea what her name was or why she knew me.

But over time, I got better at remembering to remember. For me, that's the crux of this experiment. When I actually pay attention and try to remember, I'm considerably more likely to remember something. I've had to rewire my brain away from the, "Oh, I can just look that up later," or "I'll put it in my calendar" mentality, and actually pay attention to what's going on. Photo by Marcin Wichary.

Replacing My Notes with Fully Fleshed Out Ideas

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)Remembering notes, story ideas, and project ideas was the hardest part of this experiment. I love note-taking apps, and I write down every single idea I have. This was a hard habit to break.

I came up with two solutions. The first was to take single line ideas and combine them with bizarre visual images or mnemonics, just like remembering facts or names (Make Parking Better by Barking Letters). This worked great for when I was out in a car where I couldn't take a note anyway, or if I just needed to quickly remember an idea while working on something else.

But when I had time to work through an idea, things changed considerably. My second approach was pretty simple: just start working. Instead of jotting down an idea for a post on Lifehacker, or whatever other project started in my head, I started work on it. For example, I had an idea for a writing and editing iOS app one day while watching a movie. Instead of jotting down the note, I started working out the interface and user experience. I didn't stop until it was done, and then I emailed the idea off to a friend who actually knows how to program.

This was big for me. More often than not I come up with a problem I want to solve, and then leave it sitting there on a notepad. This forced me to start dealing with it right away. I had to pay attention to the idea and immediately start working through it actively. If I was out walking the dog and had a idea for a Lifehacker post, I started organizing and writing it in my head. If I was home playing video games I'd pause it and start typing. This cemented ideas in my head because they weren't just single lines, they were actual half-baked plans.

How I'm Taking This Into the Real World

How I Learned to Rely on My Own Memory (and Stop Depending on Technology)Obviously this is an extreme example that most people aren't going to bother with. But it's still easy enough to take bits and pieces and apply to your own external memory.

Ditching all the apps that help you remember doesn't exactly improve your memory?I still forget things like my bike lock when I walk out the door, or that I'm out of olive oil?it's more about teaching yourself how to remember. I feel like I've spent a lot less time dealing with to-do lists because, as Atwood points out, if it's not important, I'm not going to remember it. And I'm okay with that.

As for other lists, I'll stick to my paperless method whenever I can. Shopping and daily to-dos seem easy enough, but remembering far off dates or details will still get relegated to a calendar or tasks app. The same goes for Google Maps. I'll continue to use to find a new place, but I won't rely on it for directions or addresses to places I've been before.

Note taking, however, is something I'll certainly return to, but with a few new rules. I like just jotting down an idea and leaving it to stew for a while?especially if it's something that simply isn't usable right now (like a Valentine's Day post, or an idea for next Black Friday). However, if I have the time to instantly start working on something, I'm going to embrace that. It's far too easy to plop a potentially brilliant idea away in a note where it gets forgotten. Forcing yourself to immediately start work on it captures that eureka moment and extends it for a little longer. Photo by Dvortygirl.


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Indian rape victim dies in hospital

FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2012 file photo, Indians participate in a candle light vigil to seek a quick recovery of the young victim of the recent brutal gang-rape in a bus in New Delhi, India. A statement by Singapore?s Mount Elizabeth hospital, where the 23-year-old victim was being treated, said she died Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2012 file photo, Indians participate in a candle light vigil to seek a quick recovery of the young victim of the recent brutal gang-rape in a bus in New Delhi, India. A statement by Singapore?s Mount Elizabeth hospital, where the 23-year-old victim was being treated, said she died Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

(AP) ? A young Indian woman who was gang-raped and severely beaten on a bus in New Delhi died early Saturday at a hospital in Singapore, the hospital said.

The 23-year-old victim "died peacefully," according to a statement by Singapore's Mount Elizabeth hospital where she was being treated.

The woman's horrific ordeal galvanized Indians, who have held almost daily demonstrations to demand greater protection from sexual violence, from groping to rape, which impacts thousands of women every day, but which often goes unreported.

She and a male friend were traveling in a public bus on Dec. 16 evening when they were attacked by six men who raped her and beat them both. They also stripped both naked and threw them off the bus on a road.

The attack two weeks ago brought new focus on police and community attitudes toward woman in India. Demonstrators in New Delhi have demanded stronger protections for women and stronger punishment for rapists.

Indian authorities have been accused of belittling rape victims and refusing to file cases against their attackers, further deterring victims ? already under societal pressure to keep the assaults quiet ? from reporting the crimes.

After 10 days at a New Delhi hospital, the victim was flown to Singapore on Thursday for treatment at the Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplant. Media reports have said that her assailants beat her and inserted an iron rod into her body during the assault, resulting in severe organ damage.

But by late Friday, the young woman's condition had "taken a turn for the worse" and her vital signs had deteriorated with indications of severe organ failure, said Dr. Kelvin Loh, the chief executive officer of Singapore's Mount Elizabeth hospital.

"This is despite doctors fighting for her life including putting her on maximum artificial ventilation support, optimal antibiotic doses as well as stimulants which maximize her body's capability to fight infections," he said, adding that family members are by her side.

She had earlier suffered a heart attack, a lung and abdominal infection and "significant" brain injury, according to the hospital.

Police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries. She was traveling in the virtually empty bus with a male friend when they were attacked.

Some politicians have come under fire for comments insulting the protesters and diminishing the crime.

On Friday, Abhijit Mukherjee, a national lawmaker and the son of India's president, apologized for calling the protesters "highly dented and painted" women, who go from discos to demonstrations.

"I tender my unconditional apology to all the people whose sentiments got hurt," he told NDTV news.

Separately, authorities in Punjab took action Thursday when an 18-year-old woman killed herself by drinking poison a month after she told police she was gang-raped.

State authorities suspended one police officer and fired two others on accusations they delayed investigating and taking action in the case. The three accused in the rape were only arrested Thursday night, a month after the crime was reported.

"This is a very sensitive crime, I have taken it very seriously," said Paramjit Singh Gill, a top police officer in the city of Patiala.

The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped Nov. 13 and reported the attack to police Nov. 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.

Authorities in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.

Associated Press


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Egypt's prosecutor orders probe against opposition

AAA??Dec. 27, 2012?9:59 AM ET
Egypt's prosecutor orders probe against opposition

FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 file photo, former Egyptian presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, left, speaks to former director of the U.N.'s nuclear agency and Nobel peace laureate, Mohamed El Baradei, during a news conference flanked by other prominent politicians, not shown, from outside the Muslim Brotherhood, to decry what was interpreted as a de facto declaration of emergency law by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt. An Egyptian official says the country?s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into accusations against opposition leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, of incitement to overthrow the regime. (AP Photo/Mostafa El Shemy, File)

FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 file photo, former Egyptian presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, left, speaks to former director of the U.N.'s nuclear agency and Nobel peace laureate, Mohamed El Baradei, during a news conference flanked by other prominent politicians, not shown, from outside the Muslim Brotherhood, to decry what was interpreted as a de facto declaration of emergency law by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo Egypt. An Egyptian official says the country?s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into accusations against opposition leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, of incitement to overthrow the regime. (AP Photo/Mostafa El Shemy, File)

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 file photo, released by the Egyptian Presidency, Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the opposition Egyptian Constitution political party, Mohamed ElBaradei, left, meets with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian official says the country?s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into accusations against opposition leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, of inciting the overthrow of Egypt's first elected president, Mohammed Morsi. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency, File)

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 file photo, former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa, center, greets supporters as he arrives to Tahrir Square to join other liberal and secular parties for a major protest against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's latest decrees granting himself almost complete powers and allowing a rushed constitution to be presented for a vote. An Egyptian official says the country?s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into accusations against opposition leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, of incitement to overthrow the regime. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell, File)

FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 file photo, former U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed el Baradei talks during an interview with the Associated Press at his house in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian official says the country?s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into accusations against opposition leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, of incitement to overthrow the regime. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 file photo, Egyptian opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at his office in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian official says the country?s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into accusations against opposition leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, of incitement to overthrow the regime. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

(AP) ? Egypt's chief prosecutor ordered Thursday an investigation into the leaders of the country's opposition after a lawyer accused them of incitement to overthrow the regime of newly elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, a prosecution official said.

The order, issued by an appointee of Morsi, is likely to aggravate political tensions that have erupted into street violence, most recently surrounding the newly passed but divisive constitution.

The accusation, filed last month, alleged that Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Prize laureate and former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, along with Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister, and Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate, campaigned to seek Morsi's overthrow.

The probe does not necessarily mean charges will be leveled but it is unusual for state prosecutors to investigate such broad charges against high profile figures. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policies.

Yara Khallaf, a spokeswoman for Moussa, said there were no official charges or summoning for investigation, declining to comment on the accusation.

Emad Abu Ghazi, the secretary general of the opposition party ElBaradei heads, said he had no details about the investigation but that the accusations and probe were "an indication of a tendency toward a police state and the attempt to eliminate political opponents."

Abu Ghazi said the former regime of Mubarak dealt in the same way with the opposition. There was no immediate comment from ElBaradei or Sabahi.

The accusation came during a political crisis over a series of presidential decrees that granted Morsi, Egypt's first elected president, and the committee drafting the disputed constitution immunity from judicial oversight.

The opposition called on Morsi to rescind his decrees and accused him of amassing too much power in his hands. It also asked for the draft constitution to be withdrawn.

The opposition organized a number of massive rallies in protest, including one outside Morsi's palace in which protesters chanted "Leave." It was a common refrain during the protests against former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising last year.

The rally turned violent when supporters of Morsi, who perceived the protest as a threat to his legitimacy, attacked their opponents.

Clashes erupted that turned deadly and were followed by attacks on offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main backers of the constitution and from which Morsi hails, and the office of a liberal opposition party, al-Wafd. At least 10 people died in the violence, and the Brotherhood claimed they were mostly its supporters.

Morsi and Brotherhood officials accused the opposition of working to undermine the president's legitimacy, and accused former regime officials of working to topple him.

Associated Press


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Thursday, December 27, 2012

C. African Republic president seeks foreign help

(AP) ? The president of Central African Republic on Thursday urgently called on France and other foreign powers to help his government fend off rebels who are quickly seizing territory and approaching this capital city, but French officials declined to offer any military assistance.

The developments suggest Central African Republic could be on the brink of another violent change in government, something not new in the history of this resource-rich, yet deeply impoverished country. The current president, Francois Bozize, himself came to power nearly a decade ago in the wake of a rebellion.

Speaking to crowds in Bangui, a city of some 600,000, Bozize pleaded with foreign powers to do what they could. He pointed in particular to France, Central African Republic's former colonial ruler.

About 200 French soldiers are already in the country, providing technical support and helping to train the local army, according to the French defense ministry.

"France has the means to stop (the rebels) but unfortunately they have done nothing for us until now," Bozize said.

French President Francois Hollande said Thursday that France wants to protect its interests in Central African Republic and not Bozize's government. The comments came a day after dozens of protesters, angry about a lack of help against rebel forces, threw rocks at the French Embassy in Bangui and stole a French flag.

Paris is encouraging peace talks between the government and the rebels, with the French Foreign Ministry noting in a statement that negotiations are due to "begin shortly in Libreville (Gabon)." But it was not immediately clear what, if any, dates have been set for those talks.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, meanwhile, spoke via phone with Bozize, asking the president to take responsibility for the safety of French nationals and diplomatic missions in Central African Republic.

Bozize's government earlier reached out to longtime ally Chad, which pledged to send 2,000 troops to bolster Central African Republic's own forces. But it was unclear if the Chadian troops had all arrived, and even then, it is far from certain if the combined government forces could withstand rebel attacks.

At least four different rebel groups are involved, though their overall numbers could not immediately be confirmed.

Central African Republic, a landlocked nation of some 4.4 million people, is roughly the size of France. It has suffered decades of army revolts, coups and rebellions since gaining independence in 1960 and remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

The rebels behind the most recent instability signed a 2007 peace accord allowing them to join the regular army, but insurgent leaders say the deal wasn't fully implemented.

Already, the rebel forces have seized at least 10 towns across the sparsely populated north of the country, and residents in the capital now fear the insurgents could attack at any time, despite assurances by rebel leaders that they are willing to engage in dialogue instead of attacking Bangui.

The rebels have claimed that their actions are justified in light of the "thirst for justice, for peace, for security and for economic development of the people of Central African Republic."

Despite Central African Republic's wealth of gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, the government remains perpetually cash-strapped. Filip Hilgert, a researcher with Belgium-based International Peace Information Service, said rebel groups are unhappy because they feel the government doesn't invest in their areas.

"The main thing they say is that the north of the country, and especially in their case the northeast, has always been neglected by the central government in all ways," he said.

But the rebels also are demanding that the government make payments to ex-combatants, suggesting that their motives may also be for personal financial gain.

Bozize, a former military commander, came to power in a 2003 rebel war that ousted his predecessor, Ange-Felix Patasse. In his address Thursday, Bozize said he remained open to dialogue with the rebels, but he also accused them and their allies of financial greed.

Those allies, he implied, are outside Central African Republic.

"For me, there are individuals who are being manipulated by an outside hand, dreaming of exploiting the rich Central African Republic soil," he said. "They want only to stop us from benefiting from our oil, our diamonds, our uranium and our gold."


Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris contributed to this report.

Associated Press


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World's Oldest Man Ever: Jiroemon Kimura Sets New Milestone


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Unilever to phase out 'microplastics' by 2015

(AP) ? Unilever, the maker of Vaseline, Axe deodorants and Dove soaps, among other cosmetic and hygiene products, says it will phase out the use of microplastics by 2015.

Many soaps, skin scrubs and shower gels contain microplastics, which are tiny polyethelene beads. Scientists and environmental groups are concerned that they contribute to polluting oceans.

The company said Thursday that it has "decided to phase out the use of plastic micro beads as a 'scrub' material in all of our personal care products" by 2015.

Unilever is one of the world's largest consumer product companies, competing with Nestle SA and Procter & Gamble Co.

Associated Press


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Xmas Camera: Deck Your Photos With Boughs of Holly

Merry Christmas! Today your day is all about friends and family and you're probably taking a lot of pics. We've got a little something for you to give those snaps a little extra holiday cheer. More »


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