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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Easy Tricks for Beautiful Skin

When did choosing skin-care products get so complicated? I want to make sure my skin looks great, but I don’t want to spend hours trying to figure out how (or waste money choosing stuff that doesn’t work). I’m lucky enough to have a team of beauty editors who can answer my questions and steer me to the right products.

My editors are full of useful information, including these quick tips for every skin type:

Got dry skin? I do, and this super simple tip works great for me: Wear a night cream for day. Formulas meant to be applied before bed usually contain the most hydrating ingredients. If you’re seeing flakes or your skin just feels parched, go for the big guns, even in the a.m. (Night creams don’t protect from the sun, though, so you’ll want to follow with a sunscreen.)

To find out the night cream voted the best by SELF readers, plus the winners in pretty much every other category, go to’s Healthy Beauty Awards shopping list.

Is your skin sensitive? If so (and a reported 40 percent of Americans believe theirs is), you might find that sunscreen stings. To guard against that, smooth on a lotion with antioxidants before you apply your sun protector. It creates an irritation-preventing barrier.

Are you trying to control oily/combo skin? Wash your skin at the sink, not in the shower. The steam from the shower can swell the skin’s top layers, trapping bacteria and oil. Bonus: Sudsing up in front of a mirror ensures you cover every oily prone area; your hair and jaw lines, for instance, often get neglected.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

The end of the 0% down payment

That train has left: If you want to buy a house now, you'll have to put something into the deal. Here's what you need to know if you're looking to buy.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

Mortgage lending has changed dramatically in so many ways, but one of the most critical developments for homebuyers has to do with down payments.

Now you need one.

You didn't at the peak of the mortgage lending boom. Lenders were delighted to loan you the full purchase price of a house. Waiting to build up your savings seemed foolish because ever-rising home values in many cities could quickly price you out of desirable areas.

Today, as foreclosures skyrocket and home values tumble, lenders are demanding that borrowers have skin in the game, as I wrote in "Need a loan? Borrow like it's 1975." Though you can buy a house with as little as 3% down, a bigger stockpile can lower your payments and increase your mortgage options.

Here's how to figure out how much you need and where to get it.

To start, there are three break points you need to know: 3%, 10% and 20%.


Friday, December 26, 2008

World's Best Awards Islands "Galápagos Islands, Ecuador"

The Galápagos Islands offer some of the best wildlife viewing in the world, not only because the animals themselves are beautiful and interesting but because they are virtually fearless of humans. Through a quirk of evolution, large predators failed to evolve here, meaning, for example, that the famous blue-footed booby will perform its awkwardly elegant two-step mating dance right under your nose, oblivious to your camera. Mockingbirds will hop onto your shoes. Sea lions will do figure eights to show off their swimming prowess as you snorkel among them. The local penguins are, admittedly, a bit aloof, but even they aren't above using a snorkeler as a human shield as they attempt to sneak up on schools of fish. In the Galápagos, you don't have to get downwind and peer through the bushes to glimpse the wildlife; you do, however, have to be careful not to step on sea lions sleeping on the beach as you position yourself to take a photo.

The islands' geographic isolation, over 960km (600 miles) off the continental coast, has led to the evolution of numerous endemic species here. This, combined with the animals' fearlessness of humans, played a key role in Charles Darwin's development of the theory of natural selection.

Nearly every visitor to the Galápagos arrives by plane, and only two airlines make the flight from the mainland. Seats are often booked solid far in advance, and fares are certainly not cheap. The best way to see the islands is to book a package tour out of Quito or Guayaquil. Most packages will include airfare and a berth on a local cruise ship, or a planned land-based itinerary. The ships that tour the islands vary widely in size and quality. My advice: Spend as much money as you can afford. But no matter what you can pay, you won't be disappointed. The wildlife here, which so beguiled Charles Darwin and Herman Melville in the 19th century, is no less astonishing now than it was when they visited.

The Galápagos Islands were formed over 5 million years ago by volcanic eruptions. These (and the ongoing formation and development of the islands) occur primarily over a relatively localized hot spot. However, due to continental drift, the islands are slowly but steadily migrating eastward. Today, the most active islands are Fernandina and Isabela, the westernmost islands, although several others have ongoing volcanic activity.

The first European to discover the Galápagos Islands was the Spanish priest Father Tomás de Berlanga, who landed here in 1535. In the centuries that followed, the islands were frequented by various settlers, pirates, fishermen, and whalers. Today only five of the islands are populated -- Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Floreana, Isabela, and Baltra.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eat Right Without Thinking

By Tamar Haspel, Women's Health

From the instructions for some diets, you'd think losing weight was more complicated than calibrating a sextant against Orion on a cloudy night. The food diaries you need to write; the nutrition labels you need to read and pronounce and translate; the protein, fat, and carbohydrate grams you have to add up. It's time to try an easier way. No math, no more squinting at the fine print and trying to decipher those words with no vowels. Instead, just 20 everyday tactics that will get you started on your weight-loss plan and then help you stick to it. Soon enough, your diet will simply become the way you eat.

1. Always eat dessert. Yes, always. "A small amount can signal that the meal is over," says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. She ends her meals with a piece of quality chocolate and she's a doctor.

2. Get help from a paper napkin. You can use it to blot a teaspoon of fat off a pizza slice. That may not sound like a lot, but multiply it by a slice a week, and that's more than a whole cup of fat you won't eat or wear this year.

3. Take the beltway. When junk food beckons, tighten your belt a notch. Not so you can't breathe, but so you have a gentle reminder of the size you'd like to be. "The scale isn't the only measure of weight," says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

4. Go public. Enlist the help of friends, family, and coworkers and know they're watching. "The power of embarrassment is greater than willpower," says Stephen Gullo, Ph.D., author of The Thin Commandments.

5. Milk it for all it's worth. Consuming 1,800 milligrams of calcium a day could block the absorption of about 80 calories, according to a recent University of Tennessee study. Jump-start your calcium intake by filling your coffee mug with skim or 1 percent milk, drinking it down to the level you want in your coffee, then pouring in your caffeine fix. That's 300 mg down, 1,500 to go.

6. Scrape by. Always order your bagel or burger with a plastic knife. Use it to scrape off the excess cream cheese and mayo. You could shave off as many as half the calories.

7. Spice things up. Capsaicin, the substance that puts the hot in hot pepper, temporarily boosts your metabolism. Just make sure you're drinking a yogurt lassi with that searing-hot chicken vindaloo. Dairy blocks capsaicin's sweat-inducing signals better than water.

8. Case the organic section. That's where you're likely to find bread and cereal with fiber counts that put the conventional choices to shame. Thought you were doing well with your 3-grams-per-serving Cheerios? Nature's Path Slim blows it away with 10 g. (And it really doesn't taste like a shredded shoebox.)

9. Increase your a-peel.
Speaking of fiber, a lot of it's in the peel, whether it's potatoes, apples, or pears. Even oranges don't eat the whole peel, but keep the pith, that white stringy stuff; it's packed with flavonoids. More nutrients, more fiber, less labor. It's a win-win-win.

10. Spend lavishly on precut vegetables at the supermarket. Sure, they cost more, but you're more likely to eat them. "Make low-energy snacks as easy as possible," Dr. Rolls says. "Keep vegetables as near to hand as you can. Make it so you have no excuse."

11. Upgrade your restaurant selection. Pick a place where you'll actually want to linger. "When the meals are not hurried, the presentation is beautiful and the portions are reasonable so you can regulate your attitude," Anding says. That means your body not the empty plate will tell you when to stop.

12. Eat a snack at 3 p.m., no matter what. "Have a 150-calorie snack [now], and it can save you 400 calories later," Anding says. An ounce of nuts or two sticks of string cheese weigh in at about 170 calories.

13. Drink with your dominant hand. If you're circulating at a party, Dr. Rolls suggests keeping your glass in the hand you eat with. If you're drinking with it, you can't eat with it, can you?

14. Plate it. Whatever it is, don't eat it out of the container and don't bring the container to the couch. "Part of satiety is visual," Anding says. "Your brain actually has to see the food on the plate, and when you reach into the jar, or the box, or the bag, you don't see it." If it's worth eating, put it on a plate. Eat what's there, then stop.

15. Send back the bread. All it takes is a wave of the hand, a smile, and a "No, thank you."

16. Start with salad. It's the holy grail of dieting eat less by eating more. Dr. Rolls's research has found that eating a salad as a first course decreased total lunch calories by 12 percent. Avoid the croutons and creamy dressings, which have the opposite effect.

17. Go out for ice cream. Or an eclair. Or even guacamole and chips. Just go out. Don't keep your danger foods in the house. You can't eat half of a carton of ice cream that's not there in the first place.

18. Give yourself a hand. Find a way other than food to work off your nervous energy. "It's behavior modification," Anding says. "Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, you pick up your knitting. Art works, woodworking works anything that occupies your hands."

19. Wait a minute. Well, 10 minutes. When your mind strays from your desk to the vending machine, it could be hunger or it could be boredom or irritation with your boss. If you're still thinking about snacking 10 minutes later, then you're probably hungry. Think of it as a chance to have one of the nine servings of fruits and vegetables you need each day.

20. Go wild once in a while. Deprivation won't make you thin or happy. Designate a meal or two a week when you can eat absolutely anything you want.


About Miranda Cosgrove

Used to be, every kid wanted to be a pop star when she or he grew up. Now every kid just wants to have his or her own Webcast, apparently. Or at least that's the concept behind iCarly, new 'tween sensation-in-the-making Miranda Cosgrove's Nickelodeon vehicle. Cosgrove stars as Carly, just a normal eighth grader who happens to live with her wacky older brother, a sculptor, in his super-cool artist's loft while her parents are overseas. Oh yeah, and she broadcasts her own Web show. So where does the music come in? Well, 14-year-old Cosgrove sings "Leave It All to Me," the theme song to iCarly, but she also got her start in music at age three, when she started singing and dancing the Taste of L.A. restaurant and impressed an agent who was dining there. From there, she went on to commercials, a part in School of RockDrake and Josh, which led to iCarly. (she played bossy boots Summer Hathaway), guest-starring gigs on several Nickelodeon shows and a starring role as the bratty kid sister on Nick's

- Rachel Devitt

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How to make "Coca Cola Cake"

2 Cups unsifted flour

2 Cups sugar

2 Sticks butter

2 TBSP. cocoa

1 Cup Coca-Cola

½ Cup buttermilk

1 teas. Baking soda

2 Eggs, beaten

1 TBSP vanilla

1 ½ cups miniature marshmallows

Sift flour & sugar in bowl

Heat butter, cocoa and coke to boiling point. Pour over flour/sugar mixture.Add buttermilk, baking soda, eggs, vanilla and marshmallows. (Batter will be thin and marshmallows will float to top)Pour batter into greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake @ 350º for 30-35 minutes. Ice cake while hot

Icing for Coca-Cola Cake

½ Cup butter

3 TBSP cocoa

6 TBSP Coca-Cola

16 oz. confectioners sugar

Combine all ingredients & heat to boiling.

Pour over cake while hot.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dance Body Beautiful DVD

I loved my time on Dancing With The Stars and, not only did I have the best time, but I got in fantastic shape doing it. It gave me the idea to create a DVD so everyone could get a workout at the same time as having all the fun that comes with dancing…

So here it is, my Dance Body Beautiful DVD. I loved making it and I am sure you will love watching it. If you are one of those armchair dancers who watch Dancing With The Stars every week and keep on saying “I wish I could do that”, here’s your chance. Also, I am sure if you aren’t one of those armchair dancers yourself, you sure know one! So why not shut them up by dropping this great DVD in their stocking!

Top Baby Names of 2008

The Year in Baby NamesThe top 100 names for 2008 are in! Big news this year: Aidan is at the top of the list for boys for the second year in a row, while Isabella skyrockets to #1 for the first time ever.

Top 10 Girl Names of 2008

1. Isabella
2. Ava
3. Emily
4. Elizabeth
5. Abigail
6. Madison
7. Emma
8. Addison
9. Madeline
10. Olivia

For a complete list of the Top 50 Girls' Names of 2008, click on the "Top 50 Girls' Names of 2008" link at left.

Top 10 Boy Names of 2008

1. Aidan
2. Jayden
3. Jacob
4. Michael
5. Ethan
6. Caden
7. James
8. Caleb
9. Andrew
10. Matthew

This list is based on the names receiving the most traffic on between January 1 and December 10, 2008. Copyright 2008 Meredith Corporation.

Sunglasses Work ?

If it's a bright, clear day outside, you may instinctively reach for your sunglasses when you head for the door. And you probably do it without much thought about them. But you probably do think about sunglasses when you go to buy a new pair -- whether you walk into the discount store or the Sunglass Hut at the mall, you are immediately struck by the bewildering array of choices before you! For instance, there are differences between tinted, reflective, photochromic and polarizing sunglasses. The style of the frame and size of the lenses also make a difference. Is that $200 pair of Serengeti sunglasses really any better than a $10 pair from the flea market?

Now, we'll take the mystery out of sunglasses and help you understand what to look for when you buy a pair. We'll analyze the different styles and look at the technology behind the different lens compositions. You will also learn how light works and see why light, in certain situations, can make sunglasses absolutely essential. You will be amazed at how complex and sophisticated a simple pair of dark glasses can be!

Is There Really Any Difference?
A pair of sunglasses seems so simple -- it's two pieces of tinted glass or plastic in some sort of plastic or metal frame. How much more straightforward can something get? It turns out that there are many different things you can do with two pieces of glass, and these things can have a big effect on you when you use the lenses. As you will see in this article, there really is a difference between the various sunglasses you'll find out there.

There are four things that a good pair of sunglasses should do for you:

  • Sunglasses provide protection from ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) light damages the cornea and the retina. Good sunglasses can eliminate UV rays completely.

  • Sunglasses provide protection from intense light. When the eye receives too much light, it naturally closes the iris. Once it has closed the iris as far as it can, the next step is squinting. If there is still too much light, as there can be when sunlight is reflecting off of snow, the result is damage to the retina. Good sunglasses can block light entering the eyes by as much as 97 percent to avoid damage.

  • Sunglasses provide protection from glare. Certain surfaces, such as water, can reflect a great deal of light, and the bright spots can be distracting or can hide objects. Good sunglasses can completely eliminate this kind of glare using polarization (we'll discuss polarization later).

  • Sunglasses eliminate specific frequencies of light. Certain frequencies of light can blur vision, and others can enhance contrast. Choosing the right color for your sunglasses lets them work better in specific situations.
When you buy a pair of cheap sunglasses, you often give up all of these benefits and can even make things worse. For example, if your sunglasses offer no UV protection, you increase your exposure to UV rays. The cheap sunglasses block some of the light, causing your iris to open to allow more light in. This lets in more of the UV light as well, increasing the damage UV light can cause to the retina.
So there is a difference. Buying the right pair of good sunglasses for the conditions in which you use them gives you maximum protection and performance.

The sidebar shows some of the top sunglass manufacturers. Manufacturers of other products sell sunglasses, too. From Nike and Timberland to Gucci and Kenneth Cole, many big brands include sunglasses among their product lines. Many sunglass manufacturers make huge claims about the features and special qualities of their products. Prices can range from less than $20 to several hundred dollars depending on the features and the name.

Then there are the imposters. You go to a discount shop or a flea market and see vendors offering sunglasses that look exactly the same as the high-dollar brand names for a fraction of the cost. Are you really paying that much for a name or are there fundamental differences between the look-alike sunglasses and the brand-name ones?

The biggest problem with cheap sunglasses is in the way the lenses are made. Inexpensive sunglasses have lenses made of ordinary plastic with a thin tinted coating on them. While the tint color and a similar frame design may make them look like Oakley X-Metal Romeos or Ray-Ban Predators, the actual lenses are very different. You will learn exactly how different they are, and how important the differences are, in the following sections.

Choosing the Perfect Features for You
The key to finding the perfect pair of sunglasses is to pick the right features for your situation. Here are some of the most important features to compare when you buy a pair of sunglasses:

See the section on sunglass technologies for a complete description of specific technologies like polarization, photochromic lenses, anti-reflective coatings and so on.

Creative Holiday Light Displays

From unusual Christmas lights to picture-perfect scenes, see how holiday displays in your community compare.
A Griswold Christmas? San Marcos resident Bill Gilfillen, 68, has over 85,000 Christmas lights around his home. It is lit from the weekend after Thanksgiving until January 2nd.

No snow required: an Orange County resident decorates their home for the holidays.

This photo of Crested Butte at night is as perfect as a miniature Christmas village set.

This remote pine tree is decorated for the holidays in Chugach National Park, Alaska.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Major flaw revealed in Internet Explorer; users urged to switch

The major press outlets are abuzz this morning with news of a major new security flaw that affects all versions of Internet Explorer from IE5 to the latest beta of IE8. The attack has serious and far-reaching ramifications -- and they're not just theoretical attacks. In fact, the flaw is already in wide use as a tool to steal online game passwords, with some 10,000 websites infected with the code needed to take advantage of the hole in IE.
Virtually all security experts (as well as myself) are counseling users to switch to any other web browser -- none of the others are affected, including Firefox, Chrome, and Opera -- at least for the time being, though Microsoft has stubbornly said it "cannot recommend people switch due to this one flaw." Microsoft adds that it is working on a fix but has offered no ETA on when that might happen. Meanwhile it offers some suggestions for a temporary patch, including setting your Internet security zone settings to "high" and offering some
complicated workarounds. (Some reports state, however, that the fixes do not actually work.)
Expedient patching or switching are essential. Security pros fear that the attack will soon spread beyond the theft of gaming passwords and into more criminal arenas, as the malicious code can be placed on any website and can be adapted to steal any password stored or entered using the browser. It's now down to the issue of time: Will Microsoft repair the problem and distribute a patch quickly enough to head off the tsunami of fraud that's about to hit or will it come too late to do any good?
Meanwhile, I'll reiterate my recommendation: Switch from Internet Explorer as soon as you can. You can always switch back once the threat is eliminated. (To clarify: You don't need to uninstall IE, just don't use it for the time being.)
Links for other browsers to try:
Firefox Chrome Safari Opera

The Best Christmas Gifts and Christmas Gift Ideas for Everyone

There's one place that Santa goes to find unique Christmas gifts that everyone will love - and now you can too! Collectibles Today has the top Christmas gift ideas that will help you wrap up your shopping with ease this year. From beautiful jewelry to charming figurines, special ornaments and more, you'll find something for everyone on your list in our one-stop shop.
No more guessing on finding the perfect
Christmas gifts for Mothers. Shop our wide selection to find loving sentiments that are sure to make her holidays merry. Find even more stocking stuffers with our exclusive daughter Christmas gifts and special granddaughter Christmas gifts that will bring tidings of comfort and joy.
Looking for something to brighten up the holidays? Shop sparkling
Christmas jewelry gifts for designs that shimmer with Christmas spirit or surprise someone special with a Christmas music box gift that will fill their heart with the sounds of the season. We have plenty of gifts to fit your price range, including a wide variety of Christmas gifts under $100 that offer priceless sentiments at a great value to you. Hurry, December 25 will be here before you know it. Shop now!

Old Roses

Recently, there has been a great surge of interest in old roses. These consist of all the classes that were in existence before 1867, when the first hybrid tea rose called "La France" appeared. Gardeners of today are in love with the disease resistance, wonderful fragrance, hardiness and old-fashioned flower forms of the many beautiful varieties that are now widely available.
Alba Roses
Albas comprise an ancient group of roses that have been in existence since classical times and were widely grown in the Middle Ages for medicinal purposes. They are thought to have been brought to Britain by the Romans. A natural hybrid between the damask rose and rosa canina, they are tall, shrubby plants, disease proof, and extremely winter hardy. Although they bloom only once a year, in the late spring or early summer, they are very vigorous and pest resistant. aThe word Alba means white, but this lovely rose also comes in shades of pink. Albas have a tall, slender and upright growth habit reaching heights of 6 to 9 feet. They are wonderfully fragrant and have distinctive grey-blue green foliage. They have an ability to grow well even in the most difficult of situations, including light shade. However, they do require dormancy in the winter. Albas can be trained to grow as climbers, and appreciate some pruning of the longest and oldest canes once grown into a mature bush. This will result in new canes being produced from the bottom of the bush. Some Albas have showy autumn hips.
Examples of Alba roses:
Felicite Parmentier
Small Maiden's Blush
Queen of Denmark
Damask Rose
The Damask rose also dates back to ancient times. It seems that it originated from the Eastern Mediterranean, and was introduced to the Europeans by the Crusaders. Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, and Romans all grew this extraordinarily fragrant, perfume-like rose. Although Damasks are thought to have a mixed parentage, it is likely that they originated from a natural hybrid between the Gallica rose and a wild rose species. They are quite hardy, very thorny and have a rather lax and arching growth habit reaching 3 to 7 feet. To show off the lovely pink or white blooms of the Damask rose, staking may be necessary. Most varieties only bloom once a year, and require good fertile soil if they are to look their best. Damask roses are pruned after flowering.
Examples of Damask roses:
Madame Hardy

Gallica Roses

Gallica roses are the oldest cultivated species that is still available today. Grown by the Persians as early as the 12th century B.C. they were also loved by the Greeks and Romans. These most ancient of roses have in some way influenced the development of all other families of roses. Empress Josephine's famous rose garden at Malmaison was mainly comprised of Gallicas. Even though they bloom only once a year in early summer, they give an amazing show. They are heavy bloomers and almost all Gallicas are fragrant. They are fairly hardy, and quite tolerant of poor soils. They have a strong, dense and upright growth habit of 4 to 5 feet. However, they are quite prone to mildew and have a tendency to spread by underground suckers. This can be annoying for the smaller garden; growing a variety that has been bud grafted onto an understock will alleviate that problem. Gallicas come in many shades of pink, deep red, purple, marbled and striped with white. In the fall you will be rewarded with beautiful, round, red hips. Mature Gallicas will benefit by pruning out some of the old wood to encourage new growth, and by shortening all the other canes by 1/3.
Examples of Gallicas roses:
Charles de Mills
Rosa Mundi
Apothecary's Rose
Belle de Crecy
Belle Isis

Monday, December 15, 2008

upside down house

An installation of an upside down house in Trassenheide Germany was opened to the public two weeks ago and was designed by Polish partners Klaudiusz Golos and Sebastion Mikuciuk for the Edutainment exhibition company.
People who have visited the house reported feeling dizzy and disorientated. An interesting alternative view of every day items and the designers did a great job with the interior. Similar buildings have been designed upside down before but only from the exterior.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Britney Spears: Biography

More than any other single artist, Britney Spears was the driving force behind the return of teen pop in the late '90s. The blockbuster success of the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys certainly paved the way for her own commercial breakthrough, but Spears didn't just become a star -- she was a bona fide pop phenomenon. Not only did she sell millions of records, she was a media fixture regardless of what she was (or wasn't) doing; among female singers of the era (many of whom followed in her footsteps), her celebrity star power was rivaled only by Jennifer Lopez. From the outset, Spears' sex appeal was an important part of her image. The video for her debut single, "...Baby One More Time," outfitted her in full Catholic-school regalia and sent her well on the way to becoming an international sex symbol. Yet Spears' handlers seemed to be trying to have it both ways -- there was a definite tension between the wholesome innocence Spears tried to project for her female audience, and the titillating sexuality that enticed so many male fans. Those marketing tactics made Spears a somewhat controversial figure, the subject of endless debates concerning appropriate role models for teenage girls. Early on, Spears tried to defuse the controversy by preaching abstinence until marriage, and even denied that she was consciously cultivating such a sexualized image. Of course, the more provocative and revealing her on-stage wardrobe became, the less plausible that claim seemed. But apart from her ability to tiptoe the line between virginal coquette and brazen tart, Spears had a secret weapon in Swedish pop mastermind Max Martin, who had a hand in the vast majority of her hits as a writer and/or producer. With Martin crafting the sort of contemporary dance-pop and sentimental ballads that made stars of the Backstreet Boys, Spears kept on delivering the goods commercially, as her first three albums all topped the charts.

Britney Jean Spears was born December 2, 1981, in the small town of Kentwood, LA, and began performing as a singer and dancer at a young age. With a nationally televised appearance on Star Search already under her belt, Spears auditioned for the Disney Channel's The New Mickey Mouse Club at age eight. The producers turned her down as too young, but one of them took an interest and introduced her to an agent in New York. Spears spent the next three years studying at the Professional Performing Arts School, and also appeared in several television commercials and off-Broadway plays. At 11, she returned to The New Mickey Mouse Club for a second audition, and this time made the cut. Although her fellow Mouseketeers included an impressive array of future stars -- *NSYNC's Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez, Christina Aguilera, and Felicity actress Keri Russell -- the show was canceled after Spears' second season. She returned to New York at age 15 and set about auditioning for pop bands and recording demo tapes, one of which eventually landed her a deal with Jive Records.

Spears entered the studio with top writer/producers like Eric Foster White (Boyzone, Whitney Houston, Backstreet Boys) and Max Martin (Ace of Base, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC). In late 1998, Jive released her debut single, the Martin-penned "...Baby One More Time." Powered by its video, in which Spears and a troupe of dancers were dressed as Catholic-school jailbait, the single shot to the top of the Billboard charts. When Spears' debut album of the same title was released in early 1999, it entered the charts at number one and stayed there for six weeks. Once the ubiquitous lead single died down, the album kept spinning off hits: the Top Ten "(You Drive Me) Crazy," the near-Top 20 ballad "Sometimes," and the Top 20 "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart." By the end of 1999, ...Baby One More Time had sold ten million copies, and went on to sell a good three million more on top of that. Its success touched off a wave of young pop divas that included Christina Aguilera, Pink, Jessica Simpson, and Mandy Moore. Spears was a superstar, drooled over in countless magazines, including a Rolling Stone cover that prompted immediate speculation about the still-17 year old having received breast implants.

By the time ...Baby One More Time finally started to lose steam on the singles and album charts, Spears was ready to release her follow-up. Oops!...I Did It Again appeared in the spring of 2000, and the title track was an instant smash, racing into the Top Ten. The album itself entered the charts at number one and sold over a million copies in its first week of release, setting a new record for single-week sales by a female artist. Follow-up singles included "Lucky," the gold-selling "Stronger," and "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know," which was co-written by country diva Shania Twain and her producer Mutt Lange. A year after its release, Oops!...I Did It Again had sold over nine million copies. Rumors that Spears was dating *N Sync heartthrob (and fellow ex-Mouseketeer) Justin Timberlake were eventually confirmed, which only added to the media attention lavished on her.

For her next album, Spears looked ahead to a not-so-distant future when both she and much of her audience would be growing up. Released in late 2001, Britney tried to present the singer as a more mature young woman, and was accompanied by mild hints that her personal life wasn't always completely puritanical. It became her third straight album to debut at number one, although this time around the singles weren't as successful; "I'm a Slave 4 U," "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," and "Overprotected" all missed the Top Ten. In early 2002, Spears' feature-film debut, Crossroads, hit theaters, but its commercial performance was somewhat disappointing; moreover, her romance with Timberlake fizzled not long after. Spears next made a cameo appearance in Mike Myers' Austin Powers: Goldmember, and contributed a remix of "Boys" to the soundtrack. Meanwhile, sales of Britney stalled at four million copies, perhaps in part because a new breed of teenage female singer/songwriters, like Michelle Branch and Avril Lavigne, was emerging as an alternative to the highly packaged teen queens. Spears took a break from recording and performing for several months, and began work on a new album in early 2003. The results, In the Zone, reflected a wish to be taken seriously as a mature (though still highly sexualized) adult. Predictably, it topped the charts and launched several singles into orbit, including the musically adventurous "Toxic," "Everytime," and "Me Against the Music."

In the Zone hit number one on the Billboard 200, and "Toxic" snagged a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. But by 2004 there were no longer any illusions of Britney's personal life being all wholesome candy canes and kisses. First there was the star's bizarre two-day marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander, followed by the controversial, highly sexualized Onyx Hotel tour, which was eventually canceled (allegedly because of a knee injury) despite positive financial numbers. Starbucks and cigarettes were Britney's constant accessories in the endless paparazzi photos, and the revelation of her relationship with former backup dancer Kevin Federline made the tabloids even more ravenous. Spears and Federline married in September and were tabloid regulars in the months after the ceremony. (A photo of a barefoot Britney leaving a dingy gas station bathroom made the Internet rounds.) The couple also starred in Chaotic, a UPN reality show consisting mostly of their own home videos that was met with howls from the critics and blogs.

2005 was no less eventful for Spears. She released Greatest Hits: My Prerogative that January, but it was the announcement of her pregnancy that really garnered the headlines. Sean Preston Federline was born in September, and a bidding war ensued for first rights to the baby photos. As the hubbub surrounding Sean's birth continued, Britney released a remix album just in time for the holiday season. In 2006, Spears discovered she was pregnant again; shortly after the birth of her second son, Jayden James Federline, she divorced Federline, thus sparking a long string of custody battles that were eventually settled in Federline's favor. Following another headline-grabbing incident in early 2007 (in which Spears spontaneously shaved her head at a salon in Tarzana, CA, much to the delight of nearby photographers), Spears sought help at Malibu's Promises Treatment Center. After leaving the center, she began working on her comeback album and performed a few small shows at House of Blues locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim, and Las Vegas that May. Despite ongoing turmoil in her life that summer and fall -- including a disastrous performance at MTV's Video Music Awards -- Blackout arrived in October 2007. It proved to be her least successful album to date, charting three Top 40 hits but failing to achieve platinum certification within its first year of release.

Spears' public image was dealt more blows in early 2008, when she lost custody of her children, made several court appearances, and was placed on involuntary psychiatric hold two times in one month. Blackout nevertheless won several MTV-sponsored awards, including "Album of the Year" from the Europe Music Awards in November 2008. That same fall, the leadoff single from Spears' next record, "Womanizer," became her first number one single in nearly a decade. The full-length Circus arrived in December, featuring a mix of syrupy ballads and uptempo dance numbers that were designed to fuel Spears' comeback. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide

Sunday, December 7, 2008

2009 Hyundai Accent Summary

The 2009 Accent is a 2- or 4-door, 5-passenger family sedan, available in 3 trims, ranging from the GS 3-Door to the SE 3-Door.
Upon introduction, both trims are equipped with a standard 1.6-liter, I4, 110-horsepower engine that achieves 27-mpg in the city and 33-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional.
The 2009 Accent is a carryover from 2008.

Pricing Definitions
Estimated Market Price (EMP)

Estimated Market Price (EMP) is the estimated price that people are currently paying dealers to buy a specific vehicle. EMP is based on real sales data, and factors in current supply and demand levels as well as information about dealer incentives and profit margins. EMP is calculated at a national level and is quoted at the base trim level, meaning that EMP is not adjusted to specific regional markets, nor does it include any tax, title, or license fees that a dealer is required to charge. Yahoo! Autos receives Estimated Market Pricing from Automotive Information Center (AIC).


Invoice, also commonly known as "Dealer Invoice", is the price that the vehicle manufacturer charges a dealer to purchase a new vehicle from the manufacturer. The Invoice price includes the base price plus any equipment installed on the vehicle, and it also can include destination charges that the dealer incurs when purchasing the vehicle from the manufacturer. Dealers generally mark-up the invoice price and seek to sell the vehicle at its Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), also commonly known as the "Sticker Price", "List Price", or "Window Price", is a price that the vehicle manufacturer suggests that the dealer sell the car for. The MSRP shown for a vehicle includes the base price plus any equipment installed on the vehicle, but excludes fees and taxes, transportation and destination charges that the dealer commonly includes in the final price. It is important to know that a dealer may choose to sell the vehicle above, below, or at the listed MSRP. The MSRP is only a "suggested" or recommended price that the vehicle manufacturer provides to the car dealer.

Total Cost To Own

The Total Cost to Own is an estimate of what it will cost you to own the vehicle over the next 5 years. More detailed Total Cost to Own information is provided at the yearly level (years 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 after purchase) on Yahoo Autos' trim and car comparison pages. The Total Cost to Own uses numerous data elements to calculate the typical price a consumer pays to own the vehicle in a specific market (such as Texas, California, Florida, etc). Included in the Total Cost To Own price are projected depreciation costs, fees and taxes, financing costs, fuel costs, insurance costs, maintenance costs, repair costs, and opportunity costs. The vehicle's market price, destination charge, and current rebates and incentives are factored into the Total Cost to Own price.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Introduction To Photography And Easy Techniques For Beginners

The exact reproduction of all forms of pictures from one medium to another, is commonly known as photography. These images can be transferred on any photosensitive material. Photography includes taking and printing pictures.

The backbone of photography equipment is the camera, the instrument or device that works on the principle of optics. It’s hard to imagine what the earliest cameras were like, when you consider how sophisticated modern camers are. The earlier model did not contain the film; instead, it had a small light-shield box with lens and translucent screen on either side.

The image that traveled through the lens was stored on the screen. Known as ‘camera obscura,’ it was no more than a sketching device for artists. A major factor in the development of photography was the discovery that silver nitrate underwent a color change with exposure to light. This was the beginning of photogram, a method of making permanent images.

Another of the photography techniques they used was to place objects on paper dipped in silver nitrate and expose it to the sunlight. After sometime the area covered under the object stayed white while the rest of the space turned black. However, the image formed was temporary, so the method did not last long.

Over the centuries, the principles, the method and the material used in photography went through many changes. After experimenting with various methods like Daguerre and calotype process, finally collodion, or the wet plate technique was universally accepted.

Modern photography has given a totally new meaning to the entire perception of life and privacy. Photography has made it possible to capture and preserve special moments, in private and in public life. The advent of photographic evidence brought to life in great detail many historical events. People made their family tree in their albums.

Suddenly life was so much more fun and meaningful. With the tremendous technological advances in the art of photography, it is no more just fun and frolic but has acquired the dimensions of a full-fledged profession. Photography has many branches and types:

Aerial photography is the art of taking photographs from the air. Art photography is devoted to beautiful pictures for the sake of beauty only. Studio or advertising photography is dedicated to promotion of products and institutions.

Photojournalism takes pictures of events to support the news story and to create awareness among the people. Outdoor and travel photography is focused on taking pictures of landscapes and natural places.

Sports photography records images of the sporting events and games that take place in the world. Some types of photography like macro, scientific or close up photography are restricted to specific fields and are not widely known.

The charm of amateur photography lies as much in the end product as in the process of taking pictures. Perhaps the joy of browsing through family albums is one of the most precious benefits of recording family memories photographically.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Only you

A Friend should be Radical;

They should love you when you're unlovable,

Hug you when you're unhuggable,

And bear you when you're unbearable.

A Friend should be Fanatical;

They should cheer when the whole world boos,

Dance when you get good news,

And cry when you cry too.

But most of all, a Friend should be Mathematical,

They should multiply the joy, Divide the sorrow,

Subtract the past, And add to tomorrow,

Calculate the need deep in your heart,

And always be bigger than the sum of all theirparts.

Only you can be this kind of friend to me.