Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR: 2014

Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.

Early New Year's Celebrations

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.
Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

January 1 Becomes New Year's Day

The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius. Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today.
As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

New Year's Traditions

In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere. In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.
Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular "Auld Lang Syne" in many English-speaking countries. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)
In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City's Times Square at the stroke of midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of items ranging from pickles (Dillsburg, Pennsylvania) to possums (Tallapoosa, Georgia) at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Friday, December 13, 2013

13 Freaky Facts about Friday the 13th.

Does Friday the 13th freak you out? If so, hold on to your rabbit's foot extra tight, because there are three of these supposedly unlucky dates in 2012, though perhaps luckily, this Friday (July 13) is the last of them. Though, there's always some fear to be had next year, 2013.
Read on for 13 strange facts about this day of superstition.

1. This year is a special one for Friday the 13ths: There are three of them: Jan. 13, April 13 and July 13. The freaky thing? The dates fall exactly 13 weeks apart. That hasn't happened since 1984.

2. If that scares you, you may have paraskavedekatriaphobia (also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia). Those are the scientific terms for fear of Friday the 13th. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.

3. It's not clear when or why Friday the 13th became associated with bad luck. The association may be biblical, given that the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus. His crucifixion was the next day, apparently a Friday. Or maybe 13 suffers from coming after the more-pleasing number 12, which gets to number the months, the days of Christmas and even the eggs in a dozen. (There are also 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus.)

4. Whatever the reason, fear of 13 has spread far and wide: Hotel and hospitals often skip the 13th floor, and even airports quietly omit gate 13 sometimes.

5. The next year in which we'll have three Friday the 13ths is 2015. They'll fall in February, March and November.

6. If you think your Friday the 13th is likely to be bad, be glad you aren't a 14th-century Knight Templar. On Oct. 13, 1307, officers of King Philip IV of France raided the homes of thousands of these Crusades warriors, imprisoning them on charges of illegal activities. Though the charges weren't proven, more than a hundred died of terrible torture, according to "Tales of the Knights Templar" (Warner Books, 1995).

7. Fittingly, director of psychological thrillers Alfred Hitchcock was born on the 13th — Friday, Aug. 13, 1999, would have been his 100th birthday. Perhaps aptly titled "Number 13," a film that was supposed to be Hitchcock's directorial debut never made it past the first few scenes and was shut down due to financial problems. He allegedly said the film wasn't very interesting. (Meanwhile, Fidel Castro was born on Friday the 13th, in August 1926.)

8. Why does the Friday the 13th superstition stick so firmly in our minds? According to Thomas Gilovich, who chairs the department of psychology at Cornell University, our brains are almost too good at making associations.

"If anything bad happens to you on Friday the 13th, the two will be forever associated in your mind, and all those uneventful days in which the 13th fell on a Friday will be ignored," Gilovich said in a statement. [13 Superstitions & Traditions Explained]

9. For pagans, 13 is actually a lucky number. It corresponds with the number of full moons in a year.

10. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is said to have avoided travel on the 13th day of any month, and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and President Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.

11. Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. "It was bad luck," Twain later told the friend. "They only had food for 12." Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest. [13 Odd Occurrences on Friday the 13th]

12. Stock broker and author Thomas W. Lawson, in his 1907 novel "Friday the Thirteenth," wrote of a stockbroker's attempts to take down Wall Street on the unluckiest day of the month. Reportedly, stock brokers after this were as unlikely to buy or sell stocks on this unlucky day as they were to walk under a ladder, according to accounts of a 1925 New York Times article.

13. This fear of Friday the 13th can be serious business, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., which, among other things, offers therapy to help people overcome their fear of the freaky friday. Their estimates suggest hundreds of millions of dollars, up to $900 million are lost due to people's fear of flying or doing the business as usual that day, though that number isn't backed up with other estimates.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Maintaining a TOP PERFORMANCE level


People perform better in mental tests at the age of 50 if they have engaged in regular intense activity, such as playing sport, running, swimming or working out in the gym, since childhood.
*Lifelong exercise can lead to improved brain function in later life*

More than 9,000 individuals took part in the research from the age of 11.
Interviews were conducted at regular age intervals to monitor levels of exercise. Participants also undertook tests of memory, attention and learning.
Those who had exercised two to three times per month or more from the age of 11 scored higher in the tests than those who had not.

Study leader Dr Alex Dregan, from King's College London, said: “As exercise represents a key component of lifestyle interventions to prevent cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, public health interventions to promote lifelong exercise have the potential to reduce the personal and social burden associated with these conditions in late adult years.”
The findings are published today in the journal Psychological Medicine.
Government guidelines say that adults aged 19 to 64 should exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.
“It's widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind,” said Dr Dregan. “ However, not everyone is willing or able to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. For these people any level of physical activity may benefit their cognitive well-being in the long-term and this is something that needs to be explored further.
“ Setting lower exercise targets at the beginning and gradually increasing their frequency and intensity could be a more effective method for improving levels of exercise within the wider population.”
Intense exercise appeared to provide greater benefit for the brain than regular moderate activity, said Dr Dregan.


Monday, December 9, 2013

                                                                     



It may be cold outside but winter needn't be the unhealthiest time of year for you and your family.
Here are five ways to make sure that even when your body is telling you to hibernate you can keep healthy and fit, no matter what the weather's like:

1. Eliminate your sleep debt

"On average we sleep six-and-a-half hours a night, much less than the seven to nine hours recommended," says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson at the Sleep Council, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of a good night's sleep to health and wellbeing. But in winter, we naturally sleep more, due to the longer nights. "It’s perfectly natural to adopt hibernating habits when the weather turns cold," says Jessica. "Use the time to catch up."
Read more about how to get a good night's sleep.

2. Drink more milk

You are 80% more likely to get a cold in winter so making sure your immune system is in tip-top condition is important. Milk and dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are great sources of protein and vitamins A and B12. They're also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones strong. Try to go for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, rather than full fat, and low-fat yoghurts.
Read more about healthy eating.

3. Eat more fruit and veg

When it’s cold and dark outside it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important to ensure that you still keep your diet healthy and include five portions of fruit and veg a day. If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or satsuma instead, or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.
Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal for the whole family. Explore varieties of fruit and veg that you may not normally eat.
Read more about how to get your 5 A DAY.

4. Try new activities for the whole family

Don’t use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, get out with the whole family to try out a new activity, maybe ice-skating or taking a bracing winter walk on the beach. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.
Read more about different types of exercise for your and your family.

5. Have a hearty breakfast

Winter is the perfect season for porridge. Eating a warm bowlful on a cold morning isn’t just a delicious way to start your day, it also helps you to boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre, which give you energy and help you to feel fuller for longer, stopping the temptation to snack mid-morning. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals.
Make your porridge with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk or water, and don’t add sugar or salt. Add a few dried apricots, some raisins, a sliced banana or other fruit for extra flavour and to help you hit the five-a-day target.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Determination: How to get what you want

Twenty-nine-year-old Micha Burden wasn't the fastest swimmer when she was in college. She didn't have the most powerful—or graceful—strokes either. But she had always dreamed of becoming a professional swimmer. So when she was two years out of school (and out of shape) and heard about a grueling ocean marathon called open water swimming, she not only wanted to compete at the highest level, she wanted to win.

"I showed up for my workouts and got my butt kicked every day," she says. But she didn't give up, despite the fact that even Kenneth Baum, the sports performance consultant she had hired, pointed out how difficult it would be for her to reach her ambitious goal. "Her times were so slow; she was far off the national mark," admits Baum, author of The Mental Edge, who nonetheless stuck by his client. "At one point I was thinking, You're kidding—this isn't going to happen. And then she blew everybody's mind."

And everyone out of the water. In October 2007, Burden managed to beat 24 superior athletes to win the U. S. Open Water World Championship Trials in Fort Myers, Florida. How'd she pull it off? Baum chalks it up to grit.

Researchers today are homing in on this previously neglected mental trait and uncovering its colossal influence on success. Turns out, grit explains why your college roommate is a business wunderkind, and how Molly-down-the-street became a black belt in tae kwon do after popping out four kids. It's not that they have more brains, athletic prowess, or talent than you do. They just may have a better-developed ability to gut it out—that is, to set a far-reaching goal and drive relentlessly toward it.

"Micha Burden is living testimony that great things can happen when you dream big and follow through," says Baum. "She had a real fire inside her to perform her best. She lived it every single day. That is grit. Athletic abilityshuts down when there's adversity. Grit doesn't."