Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Online Reads & Sees

Vatican Paper Says 'Simpsons' Are Okely Dokely
Associated Press, updated 7:21 p.m. ET, Tues., Dec . 22, 2009

VATICAN CITY - To put it as the devout Ned Flanders would, the Vatican's newspaper thinks "The Simpsons" are an okely dokely bunch. L'Osservatore Romano on Tuesday congratulated the show on its 20th anniversary, praising its philosophical leanings as well as its stinging and often irreverent take on religion. Without Homer Simpson and the other yellow-skinned characters "many today wouldn't know how to laugh," said the article titled "Aristotle's Virtues and Homer's Doughnut." ...

AT&T to NYC: No iPhones for you!
Posted by Elizabeth Strott to MSN Money
Monday, December 28, 2009 10:32 AM

Apple (AAPL) sold 7.4 million iPhones in its most recent quarter, making the device extremely popular and profitable, as well as a boon for exclusive service provider AT&T (T). So why, then, is AT&T not selling the smart phone in New York City? Well, "because New York is not ready for the iPhone." ...

Does Your Name Spell Success?
By M. Wolfe for AOL Find A Job
Posted February 2nd, 2009 12:00 PM

"What's in a name?" a man named Shakespeare asked long ago. Potential employers may ask this same question of you. After all, your name is the first thing on your resume. Along with your appearance, it's one of the things most people use to form a first impression.

Much effort goes into understanding the power of names-ask anyone having their first baby. Some believe a name is the single most important influence on development of our personality and helps create our destiny. Can your name help you succeed? What can you do to increase your chances of success in the name game? ...

Notable Deaths of 2009
The New York Times Obituaries
Slide Show Photo: Gary Hershorn/Reuters

Michael Jackson, who went from boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery, died June 25 in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 50.

Farrah Fawcett, an actress, television star and pop-culture phenomenon whose good looks and signature leonine hairstyle influenced a generation of women, died on June 25 in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 62. ...

Ad Rant: The 10 Worst Ads of the Decade
Posted by Jami Bernard to WalletPop Blog
Monday, December 28, 2009 10:00 AM

The decade was awash in such truly awful commercials that we were hard pressed to choose just 10 of the best (worst) from this embarrassment of riches. Please join us now as we lose our appetite entirely for fast-food sandwiches and candy. You'll never feel comfortable again in a shower or hotel room. You'll realize what a dupe you've been by relying on credit cards, you'll feel insulted by the very brands you've come to trust, and you'll never take your big toe for granted again.

Here, then, are 10 of the worst ads of the past 10 years: 1. White Castle: Pole-Dancing Pig ...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top Online Reads & Sees

Students See Hard Future if Free Fares Are Ended
Sharon Otterman, December 17, 2009, The New York Times

When Alejandro Velazquez, 15, was selecting a high school last year, he decided on Washington Irving in Manhattan because of its strong Spanish-English bilingual program. It was a 40-minute trip from his home in the Bronx, but his mother assented, in part because he could travel free.

His family’s calculus, he said, would have been different had he needed to pay $40 a month or more to get to and from school, a reality that will begin next fall if budget cuts passed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday are carried out. ...
7 Soldiers Cited in Pregnancy Ban on Soldiers in Iraq
MSN Lifestyle, staff and news service reports, December 22, 2009
Four female and three male soldiers in northern Iraq have been reprimanded for disobeying a ban on pregnancies, but the general in charge of troops there has backed off an earlier threat of courts-martial and prison time for such cases. ...
Hairstyle How-To: Sleek Evening Ponytail
By Danilo, Pantene celebrity hairstylist
This no-fuss, sophisticated style is easy to create at home and works well for both the office and all of your after-work events. Get more hair inspiration here.

A ponytail is a quick style that can be enhanced with jeweled combs or decorative pins. Since more attention will be drawn to your face, compliment this simple style by playing up your eyes. ...
DirecTV Thrives On 'Deception,' Lawsuit Alleges
By Bob Sullivan, Friday, December 18, 2009 MSNBC The Red Tape Chronicles
A lawsuit filed this week by Washington state against DirecTV could have a secondary purpose: It could serve as a textbook for consumers on tricks companies play to take their money.

The suit filed by Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna alleges so many forms of misbehavior that he thinks DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite TV provider, has "built deception into their business model." ...
Food History: How Your Favorite Foods (and One Appliance) Were Invented
By Lauren Donaldson, MSN Delish
Did you know one of your beloved candies was intended as an anti-smoking treat? Or that chocolate chip cookies were discovered by mistake? Check out the strange beginnings of some of your fave foods and one appliance you probably wouldn't want to live without. ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Next Blog

Feel like traveling but can't get away from the house? Spend an hour or so clicking on Blogger's "Next Blog" link, and you'll find yourself wandering blogs from all over the world.

Before recently embarking on my own "Next Blog" journey, I had been confused as to why my site received seemingly random visitors from locations such as Paraguay, Quebec, London and Iran in addition to America. Once I had finished my journey, though, I understood: simply by clicking "Next Blog," I too could travel into and learn about alternate realities through the minds of various world characters.

On my "Next Blog" journey, I reached the sites of all sorts of intriguing bloggers in unique life situations. I visited, for example, a blog that provides updates to a 7th grade Social Studies class (and their parents) in Southern California; it includes recent instructions for a History Day project and a hint for extra credit on an upcoming final.

I also indulged in the classroom experiences of a student-teacher; and I read about one woman's preparations for her move to Norway, where her husband will further his studies. I even found the blog of a Lutheran pastor from Anchorage, Alaska, who included a post on Evangelist Rick Warren's dubious denial of any relation to the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda. I especially enjoyed the artistic sensibilities of "Bloody Crafts," which showcases Bloody Bunny tote bags, iPhone holders and other products bearing the blogger's original designs.

My favorite discovery of the evening? The blog of a talented Etch-A-Sketch artist who cooly replicates an image of The Breakfast Club. Of course, I am now a follower of this blog and several others; and I am interested in seeing what sorts of worldly information I can glean from the authors' future postings. I encourage you to click on chance too, and check out the next blog! You just may like what you find.

Monday, December 14, 2009

XAM: Top Online Reads

Sparkling Holiday Displays Worldwide
Slide show text by Sonja Groset, Bing Travel; photo editing by Connie Ricca.

Spectacular light displays are a hallmark of the holiday season in many locations around the globe. Amusement parks, gardens, piazzas and plazas all glow under the flicker of thousands of lights. For shoppers in the world’s top cities, window displays are another herald of the holidays, as children and adults alike press their noses against the windowpane to view animated figures and wintry scenes. Christmas in the Philippines is symbolized by "parols," or star lanterns. ...

Cozy-crazy couple makes tight all right in the city's tiniest studio
By ANGELA MONTEFINISE, Posted: 4:01 AM, December 6, 2009

If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere. Zaarath and Christopher Prokop -- and their two cats -- live in the smallest apartment in the city, a 175-square-foot "microstudio" in Morningside Heights the couple bought three months ago for $150,000. At 14.9 feet long and 10 feet wide, it's about as narrow as a subway car and as claustrophobic as a jail cell. But to the Prokops, it's a castle. ...

Beyonce Takes a Dive at London Concert
PopEater, Posted Thursday 19 November 02:45 PM By: Megan Rumph

Beyonce made an unexpected leap at a free concert in London Sunday night. During her performance of 'Halo,' she took a daring head-first stage dive into the audience of screaming fans, in nothing but a sequined leotard. Watch the video.... ...

Green Car of the Year 2010
By Josh Condon of MSN Autos

Walk around the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show for any length of time and you'll start to hear the same buzzwords and phrases over and over again. "Moving forward" is the first one that comes to mind — after all, pretty much every company wants this financially dismal period to end. With at least as much frequency, however, you'll hear a spate of environmentally pointed terms: "eco-friendly," "reduced emissions" and the most heinously overused of eco-conscious idioms, "green." Being green seems to be the way automakers plan to climb in their customers' hearts — and wallets - in the future. Some already have the eco-friendly bona fides and are making a difference, right now, on a road near you. Here are the five finalists for the Green Car of the Year, an award given out by the Green Car Journal. Who won? Read on to see. ...

T-Mobile Didn't Ask Me!

T-Mobile says they asked America... but T-Mobile didn't ask me!

I wasn't even looking at the television when I first encountered T-Mobile's most recent commercial. I heard a man's voice ask, "What do you want from a wireless company?" I yelled "Service!"

My voice echoed in the tiny studio apartment where I get no wireless service, and I sighed with frustration because I could not even call Customer Service to tell them what I wanted.

T-Mobile, you suck!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I want to write songs like Shakira!

There's nothing scarier than standing in front of a white canvas and not knowing where you're going next.
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll
In this Pepsi Music exclusive interview with Shakira on Yahoo, Shakira speaks about her most recent album, She Wolf, which was released on October 9, 2009. She says, "I wanted She-Wolf to be an album different from everything I've done before...."

I remember being a young adolescent buying Shakira CDs in Puerto Rico and falling in love with her the moment I listened to her songs; that was when her albums were in Spanish and could only be found in one section of Union Square's now defunct Virgin store. But it seems that Shakira refuses to be boxed into any one genre. Latin? Latin Pop? Dance? Electronic?

"It [She-Wolf]," Shakira says, "still keeps the fusion of different elements and influences from India, the Middle East, or even my own country, Colombia, or... Jamaica... but everything within this electronic context." As much as I long to see Shakira with dark hair and red highlights and tiny braids again, I appreciate her evolution as an artist. From Pies Descalzos (1995) to Laundry Service (2001) to She-Wolf (2009), Shakira consistently searches for new ways to express herself. And I am surely enthralled by the fierceness of her lyrics and the synthesis of diverse sounds in her songs.

It's only been two months since the release of She Wolf, but I can't help but wonder what artistic masterpiece Shakira will produce next. "I'm like Haley's Comet," she says. "You know, I make an appearance every 4 years, and... that's because I spend a huge amount of time in the recording studio working on the arrangements... and tailoring each song to my needs, to my vision.... It's like craftsmanship." I'll be waiting... for however long it takes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jesus, Yogi Tea, Midol & Always Infinity

We live in a culture where a woman's menstrual period, and thereby a woman, is often described as "disgusting" and "dirty." I've watched men look away and cover their ears when a pad commercial comes on the television or run away, in actual fright, from the sight of unused tampons.

Even worse, I've heard different groups of men say, "You can't trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn't die," accompanied by laughter, in response to comments on the natural process of menstruation. "Trust," as defines it, is "reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence." Apparently, women cannot be given responsibility or authority because our non-pregnant bodies shed their uterine linings!

Furthermore, topics surrounding a woman's period are generally considered taboo, which is why men may use demeaning 'jokes' to quiet a woman who brings them up in conversation. But why should I be silenced and made to feel bad about myself or my integrity when I complain to a male friend about my menstrual upper leg muscle aches and lower backaches? Why the fear and disgust, Man? Why the timidity and shame, Woman?

The notion that a woman who bleeds cannot be trusted has existed for centuries. In Old Testament biblical times, an Israelite woman who recently gave birth was considered "ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period" (Leviticus 12:2). By law, such a woman "must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over" (Leviticus 12:4). In fact, women could only be "purified," after the passage of a certain amount of time, by providing the priest with "a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for a sin offering" (Leviticus 12:6).

If you grew up in a Christian church like I did, you may remember the New Testament Bible story, found in Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 8, of the woman who had an illness that caused her to bleed for 12 years until she touched the hem of Jesus' cloak. As a woman, especially an "unclean" one, she risked further social ostracization and even physical harm in touching a rabbi.

But imagine bleeding and not being allowed to go out because of it for 12 years. Imagine being made to feel disgusting for having your period every day for over a decade. Imagine hoping to just fit in.

Jesus' revolutionary reaction to the woman's risky action seems to take these psychological, social, emotional and physical sufferings into account: instead of condemning the woman, as any other man would have in that society, he says, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace" (Luke 8:48). In this story, Jesus regards the woman as a human being, as a suffering person deserving of attention and help. So I am thinking, if Jesus wasn't reduced to little-boy squeals of disgust by a woman who bleeds, why should anyone else be?

Interestingly, when women complain, "I hate my period!" their reasons for such loathing are not framed by comments on feeling "dirty" or "disgusting." In fact, the appearance of one's period commonly comes with two major woes with which most women can empathize-- physical agony and fears of leakage. Women's remarks about their menstruation usually include: "I am in so much pain;" "I feel so sick;" "I can barely walk or get out of bed;" and "I keep having to check the seat of my pants." Instead of saying "Ew" in response, we can learn a lesson from Jesus and focus on the fact that a woman who is experiencing a painful period is suffering and in need of help.

Hence, my response to such comments is a list of recommended products that have been helping to ease my menstruation pain and leakage fears this week:

1) Yogi Woman's Moon Cycle Tea: Although Yogi is sure to say that the statements made on its tea box "have not been evaluated by the FDA," I have been relying on this tea, which was given to me by Krystal, "to help relieve the minor tensions and discomfort" of my period. The tea is made of Dong Quai Root, Chaste Tree Berry, Juniper Berry and a proprietary blend of organic herbs, including fennel seed, ginger root, cinnamon bark, chamomile flower, raspberry leaf, anise seed and parsley leaf. Even if it didn't physically comfort me, I would drink this tea because I thoroughly enjoy this combination of flavors and the tea's texture.

2) Midol Complete: Midol, which contains acetaminophen, caffeine, pyrilamine maleate pain reliever, stimulant and diuretic, is used to provide relief of menstrual symptoms, such as cramps, bloating, water-weight gain, breast tenderness, headache, backache, muscle aches and fatigue. I switch between Pamprin and Midol, both which work wonders. Some tips: A) Take two Midol caplets before you feel pain because once your uterus starts contracting to push out the lining, it'll take at least half an hour after you take the medicine for you to start feeling better; and B) Do NOT take Tylenol in addition to Midol because you can overdose on acetaminophen.

3) Always Infinity: Always has designed yet another pad that I first tried through a free sample I got at a Seaport fair. After the first four hours of wearing this pad, I was hooked. Although the pad's wings do not necessarily fit all of my panties right, the "revolutionary wing design for secure protection" works phenomenally and it doesn't feel as if I am wearing a folded up tee-shirt down there. My only issue with this pad is its cost! Note Rite Aid's $5.59 price tag on a box of only 16 pads. Get a FREE SAMPLE of Always Infinity and other Procter & Gamble products delivered to your home within 4-6 weeks by clicking on the link above. It really works!

*Try Always Feminine Wipes too. They come individually packaged now.

4) Playtex Sports Tampons: These tampons have a contoured plastic applicator, which is so much more comfortable and easy to slide into the vagina than the uncontoured cardboard applicators my mother buys at the 99-cent store. This tampon also sports a "custom fit design" that "expands all around with every move you make" and a "unique second backup layer for defense against leaks." Again, my only issue with such a high quality product is its price. So try it out for FREE by clicking on the link above!

Happy period!

Top Online News

Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans to Design Window for Eldridge Street Synagogue
By ROBIN POGREBIN, The New York Times, Arts Beat, November 23, 2009, 12:52 pm
Photo: Michael Nagle for The New York Times The Eldridge Street Synagogue

The Museum at Eldridge Street has commissioned the artist Kiki Smith and the architect Deborah Gans to create a new east window for its 1887 synagogue, a National Historic Landmark on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.... The synagogue reopened in 2007 after a 20-year restoration, but there were no available records of the original window.... While the design has yet to be released, Ms. Smith said it would feature the Star of David at the center “in a field of blue five-pointed stars.” The Eldridge Street Synagogue — reputed to be the first house of worship built by Eastern European Jews in the United States — has a neo-Moorish interior with 50-foot ceilings faux-painted and stenciled ceilings, 68 stained-glass windows. ...

Oasis of the Seas: Largest Cruse Ship Afloat
Text by Robin Dalmas, Bing Travel; photo editing by Connie Ricca

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas debuts in December as the world’s largest cruise ship. It’s nearly five times the gross tonnage of the Titanic, and 1½ times longer than the U.S. Capitol building, has 16 decks and has a capacity for 6,296 guests. You may also be pleased to know that Oasis has the largest lifeboats in the cruise world. Each one can hold nearly 370 people. ...

*Note: This article features 18 fantastic photographs of the ship's various features, including an aquatic amphitheater, 7 themed neighborhoods (a bar that moves across three decks, Central Park, and the Royal Promenade), a beach pool, a zip line, 2 SurfRiders, a Rock Climbing Wall, loft suites, 24 dining options. Check them out!

Homeless brothers in line to inherit billions
Hungarian cave-dwellers could split grandmother's $6.6 billion fortune
updated 6:44 p.m. ET, Thurs., Dec . 3, 2009

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Talk about a reversal of fortunes. Two brothers who are so poor they live in a cave on the outskirts of Budapest and get by selling scavenged junk are in line to receive a $6.6 billion inheritance from a long-lost grandmother, the U.K. Daily Telegraph reports. Zsolt and Geza Peladi have been informed that they are entitled to the fortune, along with a sister who lives in the United States, the newspaper reported Wednesday. “We knew our mother came from a wealthy family but she was a difficult person and severed ties with them, and then later abandoned us and we lost touch with her and our father until she eventually died,” Geza Peladi, 43, was quoted as saying by ATV television in Hungary. ...

15 Cities Top 15% Unemployment
By MSN Money staff and wire reports

October's unemployment rate topped 15% in 15 metro areas -- nine in California, three in Michigan and one each in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. And despite its 30% jobless rate -- the nation's worst -- the situation in El Centro, Calif., actually improved from 32.2% in September, as it did in 168 of the 372 metro areas tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor. Compared with a year ago, not a single metro area showed an improvement. ...

Saving the Last Wild Horses From Extinction

Dec. 2nd - The Przwalski horse came close to extinction in the 1970s, but thanks to research from the Smithsonian's Conservation and Research Center it's making a comeback. NBC's Wendy Jones reports. ...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, December 4, 2009

Birthday Blue

I cling to sleep through night, through day;
the sanctions grow stricter when I wake.

I walk tenderly, bitter I let him capture me,
handcuff my words with fabric trees.

Oh, how I long for him who lets me
weave theories and dream!

If magic existed, I would drink strength
from it as if it were a fountain.

Copyright Xiomara A. Maldonado 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Amelia McDonell-Parry's Thanksgiving

In "Fun With Family: Roman Polanski Ruined My Thanksgiving," (the Frisky), Amelia McDonell-Parry writes about her experience trying to teach her brother about rape during Thanksgiving dinner. Her rage at men's obvious lack of education about the nature of rape and their insensitivity at its deeply personal aftereffects resonates with my own. She concludes:
But beyond drilling the legal definition of “rape” into the male (and female) brain, shouldn’t we also be teaching men about the aftermath of rape and sexual assault? The toll it can take emotionally, physically, and psychologically? Many times rape survivors show no visible scars, but the effects are still there and can be extremely long-lasting. Hell, it’s been years since my virginity was taken from me without my consent and while I’ve never really thought of myself as being extremely “scarred” because of it, the experience was front and center in my brain when I was arguing with my brother. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t look at the Polanski case objectively and withdraw my own personal experience, but considering Polanski’s fate is not in my hands (the judicial system would make sure that it wouldn’t be—I would never be selected for a jury in a rape case, and rightfully so), why should I? And, for that matter, shouldn’t all human beings—men and women—see rape as a deeply personal issue (not necessarily to them, but in general)? Wouldn’t doing so potentially do more to end sexual violence than even the deafening cry of “no means no”?
As McDonell-Parry remarks, people's ambivalence about rape thrives because we live in a rape culture. Rape is ingrained into the very fabric of our society - in the patriarchal commands of our bosses, in the unjust taking of land from others by force, in the unacknowledged moment where a girl says neither 'yes' nor 'no' yet has her virginity taken from her.

"Fun With family" emphasizes the argument that men and women should receive more comprehensive rape education; this argument is one I introduced in "Tragedy of Errors: A Story of Rape and Consent." Men and women can spread and gain awareness of rape by sharing and listening to stories of sexual violence and learning about its traumatic life consequences.

Hopefully, with people's increased exposure to the concept of consent and the consequences of sexual assault, violence against others will decrease.


Creative Writing On Sexual Violence
Incubus (Posted 9/20/2009)
Karintha (Posted 10/31/2009)
En el Espejo Mio (Posted 10/6/2009)
Tragedy of Errors: A Story of Rape and Consent (Posted 8/18/2009)

Online Articles
What's Being Taught In College Rape Prevention Programs?
Sex Offenses on the Subways Are Widespread, City Officials Are Told

NYC Garbage - Part I - Garbage Cans

Ever step on a banana peel? Or dog poop? Or wet newspapers? Notice a bunch of litter around an almost empty garbage can? Feel thankful when people actually put their food wrappings in the garbage can?

Ever rush past the dumpsters late at night in fear of the rats loudly scurrying about? Or rush past the sanitation truck with your fingers clamped on your nose to keep the rot from playing on your tongue?

Garbage, whether it is in a can, lying on the floor, falling from your hand, or stuck in a tree, is a prominent feature of New York City. Hence, I give to you Part I of NYC Garbage: original photographs of garbage cans in Manhattan and the Bronx.

The shape, order and content of garbage cans in New York City attract me for the following reasons:

1. Each garbage can has a unique situational identity.

2. No garbage can look the same from day to day.

3. They are really helpful when they're there.

All images in this post are watermarked and copyrighted by Xiomara A. Maldonado.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Top 5 Online Articles

Round Two: 12 Recipes for Turkey Leftovers
Delish, Lauren Donaldson

When you wake up from your post-Thanksgiving dinner slumber you're likely to encounter a full plate of leftover turkey. Now you have a choice: Eat plain, boring roast turkey sandwiches for the next few days or turn your leftover bird into delicious new dishes you'll actually enjoy. Need some ideas? These 12 flavorful options will leave you (and your family) feeling full and satisfied. But be warned: These delicious dishes may cause more Thanksgiving-like naps.

Why Counting Blessings Is So Hard for Teenagers
Nurture Shock, Nov. 24, 2009 By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

As Thanksgiving preparations shifted into high gear, media outlets large and small have been opining on the importance of gratitude, but, more specifically, they've often targeted their sights on the most ungrateful creature of all: the adolescent.

Walking by the score: Fall's a fine time to discover America's walkable neighborhood treasures
By Michael E. Ross for MSN City Guides

It's finally here: autumn, the season when the days get noticeably shorter and a sense of things winding down starts to take hold. As the leaves on the trees morph from gold to red to nonexistent, it's a great time to discover the joys of walking during this time between the action of summer and the hibernation of winter.

Top-Selling Christmas Gifts - The Evolution of Shopping
MSN Lifestyle

From pet rocks and potato heads to Tamagotchis and Tickle Me Elmo, take a year-by-year look back at that one must-have present that put parents in a shopping frenzy. How many do you remember?

118 Days, 12 Hours, 54 Minutes
NEWSWEEK, Nov. 21, 2009 By Maziar Bahari

On June 21, reporter Maziar Bahari was rousted out of bed and taken to Tehran's notorious Evin prison--accused of being a spy for the CIA, M15, Mossad...and NEWSWEEK. This is the story of his captivity--and of an Iran whose rampant paranoia underpins an ever more fractured regime.

Call for Dancers/Movers!

Call for Dancers/Movers!

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