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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Kids May Be Getting Dumber By The Minute

In the past decade, the number of college grads who can interpret a food label has fallen from 40 percent to 30 percent. And not too long ago, a high school teacher out west handed out an assignment that required students to use a ruler. But she discovered not a single one of them knew how. Kids today seem way dumber than they used to be. That's because they spend all their time playing computer games and hanging out with one another on Myspace and Facebook.

They don't know the most basic stuff like who fought whom in World War II, how many pints are in a quart, and in some cases, even the months or the days of the week. The average kid spends nearly 9 hours  a day in front of computers, TV and  iPhones screens. Add in 8 hours of sleep and 7 hours in school, that just leaves 1/2 hour when their senses are not under siege while they take a shower. Technology was supposed to set us free, but it seems to be binding our youth to mundane, time-consuming tasks. Each day, kids send and receive more than 4,000 text messages each month or about 100 a day. Plus they have an average of 450 friends on Facebook.

Reading is highly unnatural in that it requires us to filter out distractions and focus on a  single task. But a study done at Stamford last year revealed that heavy users of multimedia have a very hard time filtering out distracting information. When the phone rings, their behavior is driven by that distraction. In fact, kids today are assailed by such a constant stream of input that they can't even remember what they see.

Here are some examples of how technology is effecting our brains.  Heavy computer users take longer than light users in moving between different tasks and have trouble tuning out irrelevant information. Computer  gaming can become literally addictive. Under the stress of playing, a part of the brain produces more endorphins, leading to euphoria. If a kid stops playing, the endorphin level drops and he has to play again.
Computer gaming over time also increases the level of stress, and releases stress hormones.

When kids multitask, their brains become wired for instant gratification. And that makes their attention span shorter. If you ask a kid a question, they get restless. That's because they're used to getting everything at a click. That's why they don't have conversations anymore. If they have something important to say, they text it.

On a final note, with Facebook, their cell phones and laptops,  kids don't ever have to be alone but they're always alone.  Research has shown that the more  they use the internet to connect, the more vulnerable they are to depression. Plus the incidence of depression has doubled among teens in the last decade. In addition, a quarter of all Americans report not having even one person they can confide in. More than half have no close friends outside their immediate family.         

Employers Are Spying On You At Facebook, Twitter And Linkedin

Remember that hazy trip to Cabo San Lucas with old friends a few years ago? Those margaritas were huge. You just had to post photos of them on Facebook, along with a few other Kodak moments. Then you mostly forgot about them.

Even if you don't recall all of the sordid details from that weekend of debauchery, your employer may know all about it. That's because a new company called Social Intelligence billing itself as a social media private eye will observe your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online accounts on behalf of employers to make certain you're not a liability. Background checks involving criminal records and credit histories are typical and even expected of many major employers responsible for children, nursing homes or public safety.

But the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company takes this concept to a new level offering an automated tool that mines social media content for troubling signs. Search filters can be customized "to reflect corporate culture," and additional manual reviews are conducted by "social media experts."

A display tells the human resources manager in your workplace how many "negative" hits are uncovered, placing the names of both job applicants and active employees next to red flags like "drugs/drug lingo," "gangs," "poor judgment" and "demonstrating potentially violent behavior."

Social Intelligence is the latest in an ever-expanding movement by both corporations and government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to use new communications tools for surveillance
purposes. Some of the most provocative examples yet emerged only in recent weeks.

The trend raises fresh questions about how standards enforcing privacy online can withstand the rush of data about you and everyone else that courses through the Internet.

After finally landing a job, the information gathering has only just begun. From there, Social Intelligence will carry out near "real-time surveillance" of your behavior with screenshots and customizable reports used to document activity and keep the front office informed.

Its marketing materials play into larger fears every employer could have. According to the company's website: Once employees have been hired, their online behavior poses a possible threat to your company. Employees may criticize managers or coworkers on a social networking site, post questionable photos on a blog, or regularly update personal sites while on the clock. Consistent monitoring creates awareness and strict adherence among employees, thereby reducing 'cyber slacking,' fraud and negative company publicity.

Internet.com pointed out Sept. 29 that Social Intelligence doesn't actively "friend" users to surreptitiously access more private posts online. The goal is to shield companies from job seekers and employees who turn out to be dangerous or untrustworthy. Litigation following violent episodes in the workplace can hinge on warning signs an institution may have been aware of in advance. But clearly bloodshed isn't the only thing Social Intelligence is promising to help prevent.

Government investigators, meanwhile, will quietly friend you and more generally use social media to seek out evidence of possible security threats and spy on political organizations.New documents unearthed recently in Pennsylvania show that state homeland security officials used Twitter accounts to watch people who had not violated any laws, including elderly anti-war protesters linked to Quaker activism.

The news came shortly after Pennsylvania's homeland security director resigned amid revelations that the state paid a private contractor thousands of dollars to monitor gay and lesbian groups, environmentalists and even a nonprofit tied to the governor. Findings from the surveillance were compiled in intelligence reports ostensibly designed to inform authorities about potential terrorism. But the public reacted angrily. Gov. Ed Rendell apologized, calling the intel-gathering "ludicrous" and insisting he wasn't aware of it.

Then in October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showing that the federal government created a special center prior to Barack Obama's
inauguration for analyzing oceans of data passing through Facebook, Twitter and other sites in an attempt to identify hazards.

Further records turned over to EFF revealed that federal investigators were taught how they could deceptively "friend" people applying to become citizens and snoop for relationship details meeting the
government's standard of a legitimate marriage. According to one internal memo:

Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of 'friends' link to their pages, and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don't even know. Once a user posts online, they create a public record and timeline of their activities.

In documents made publicly available earlier this year by the Department of Homeland Security, officials described another new program for maintaining "situational awareness" that involved tracking social media sites and other online destinations.

Personnel at the department's National Operations Center scan the Web using dozens upon dozens of key search terms and phrases, among them "militia," "cops," "riot," "dirty bomb," "Mexican army,""decapitated," "Iraq," "radicals" and many more. The NOC stores and analyzes its results before determining what tips should be distributed to other government agencies and even private companies authorized to receive such information.

As for Social Intelligence, attempting to expose online criticism from employees could become its own liability. The National Labor Relations Board is arguing that condemnation of your boss on Facebook
doesn't justify termination. Lawyers for the labor board alleged in late October that an ambulance company violated the law when it fired an employee for disparaging remarks made on the Web. Observers are
calling the case ground-breaking.

You can check out the company snooping for employers at: http://www.socialintelligencehr.com/home

How To Make Venetian Rainbow Cookies For The Holidays

The holidays would not be the same without the almond sponge cake pastries known as rainbows or  tricolors which first originated in Venice.  For starters, you'll need:

12 Large Eggs, Separated
2 3/4 Cups Sugar
24 Oz Almond Paste
8 Sticks Butter Softened
5 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Red Food Coloring
2 Tsp Green Food Coloring
16 Oz Orange Preserves ( Smuckers will do fine)
heated and strained
8 OZ Bittersweet Chocolate, Chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Beat egg whites in electric mixer until they hold stiff peaks. Add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks, the refrigerate. Beat together almond paste and remaining sugar in mixer. Add butter gradually and beat until mixture is fluffy , about 3 minutes. Add yolks and beat until well combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour and salt and mix until combined. Fold in egg whites. Divide batter equally among 3 bowls; wearing gloves. (1) whisk red food coloring into one, and green into the other, leaving the third batch plain. Spread each batch separately and evenly, about 1/4" thick, onto 3 half-sheet  pans , each greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake until barely set, about 7 minutes. ( 2) When layers are cool, spread half the preserves onto the green layer. Invert plain layer over it and discard paper. Spread on remaining preserves , and invert red layer over it, discard paper. Wrap with plastic and top with a weighted baking pan. Refrigerate for several hours. Remove plastic and bring to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, and (3) spread thinly on top layer. Chill in freezer briefly until firm. Cover with wax paper, place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet pan and remove paper. Quickly spread remaining chocolate and return to freezer until firm. Trim edges, slice and serve.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Best Coffee Shops In NYC

Best Tasting Stump Town Coffee Roasters In The Ace Hotel, 18 W. 29th St, between 5th Ave & Broadway, and http://www.joetheartofcoffee.com/ various locations around New York City
For Hanging Out www.MudNyc.Com 307 E. 9th between First & Second Aves 212-228-9074
For Doing Work  www.ThinkCoffeeNYC.Com 28 Mercer St, between 3rd  & 4th Sts 212-228-6226
For Work Space  www.CoffeeFoundry.Com Rent booth/work space for $15 hr lst hr $10 hr thereafter,
186 W. 4th St between Barrow and Jones Sts

Sunday, December 5, 2010

15 More Incredible Must Know Travel Tips

1. Before You Go Join every airline's frequent flyer program from jet Blue to Continental's One Pass even if you fly just once a year.  In any situation, from better seating to bumping passengers off flights, the airlines always pay more attention to and take better care of the passengers they consider loyalist, whatever their mileage balance. 2. Buy One Way Tickets   These days, there's no price difference between buying a one way ticket and a return. It's way smarter to buy two one-ways. That's because if the first leg goes unflown, the second is automatically cancelled. So if you miss your flight, you end up shelling out for two replacements. Keeping them separate avoids this problem. 3. Get The Best Fares at http://www.kayak.com/and  www.Hipmunk.Com 4. Make Photo Copies & Photos Whether you travel domestically or abroad, make photo copies of your passport and ID and stuff them in your hand luggage in case you lose the originals. It makes them a lot easier to replace.  And while you're at it, snap photos of your luggage and keep them handy on your cell phone in case your luggage is lost. Airlines often complain that traveler's can't describe a lost bag which makes it harder to find. 5. Never Pack A Single Suit Case For Each Family Member For more than one person, never allocate a single suitcase. That's because if dad's case is lost, he's not left with nothing to wear but mom's swimsuit. Instead, divvy up clothes for each family member across s the cases so no one will be left shirtless. 6. Check Your Hotel's Website  Most hotels list comprehensive amenities. So you can avoid lugging around an iron or hair dryer when you don't need to. 7. Watch Your Books Watch how you pack books. That's one big reason why TSA guards search your luggage. A column of stacked books shows up on X-rays as a blank space. That triggers a search by hand. So pack your books in layers across the case rather then piled up. 8. Remember 311 The 3-1-1 rule which limits you to 3 one ounce containers in a 1 quart zip lock bag. One clever way around this is to use solid shampoos and sunscreens from http://www.lush.com/ 9. How To Handle Cancelled Flights Planes are cancelled for a lot of reasons besides weather.  Weather issues rarely result in refunds.If the airline has to nix a flight because of mechanical or labor issues, you're entitled to the next flight to your destination on ANY airline, rather than the same company's next scheduled route. For cost reasons, that's what they're likely to offer you. If so, politely decline and ask to be "FIM-ed". That stands for Flight Interruption Manifest which is the code for switching to another airline's schedule. And no matter what, minimise your plane problems by standing online at the ticket counter while calling  your airline's customer service HQ on your cell phone. Work with whomever you reach first. 10. By A Lounge Pass When there's a delay or a snafu, shell out $25 for a lounge pass. Besides buying you drinks and a comfy chair, it will mean you have quicker, easier access to desk clerks than the chumps stuck in line at the main airport. It's also a family stress buster on Christmas Eve. 11. Avoid Outdated Guide Books When you buy a guide book, flip to the small print and check out the publication date. If it's more than 2 years old, it may be outdated. Plus guidebooks sometimes  hit the book shelves a year after their printed. So watch out. 11. Best WiFi Reception Since a  few airports offer free WIFI reception, it may be spotty. So just lurk outside the airport lounge and piggyback off the gratis signal offered to VIPS. 12. Avoid Credit Card Fees If your traveling overseas, most credit card companies levy fees on foreign transactions. Only Capital One levies NO handling fees and fair exchange rates. 13. Beef Up Your Memory Buy the biggest memory card your camera can handle even if you rarely need to empty it. Holiday snaps pile up quickly and its a pain to ration out how many snaps you can take. 14. Insider Info The best way to get on the ground insider info is by having breakfast at a local sit down cafe and linger over your coffee. Forget Starbucks or other chains. Wait  staff folks are least rushed at breakfast  and will often like to chat up a friendly guest. This is especially true if you come back more than once. 15 Survive The Language Barrier  Even if you flunked high school French, just carry a small note book and pen. No matter how rough your sketch, people will get the gist of what you're trying to convey. A