Monthly Archives: September 2011



Glaucus atlanticusimage credit:

image credit:

image credit: the doubtful guest

image credit: | Dan |

Glaucus atlanticusimage credit:
Habitat: around the world in temperate and tropical waters

I’ve decided to start a tradition that every Monday I will post a new species of nudibranch. I absolutely love them, as does our reader Monica! What is a nudibranch you ask? Well, a nudibranch is a marine snail that lost its shell back in its early evolutionary history. There are more than 3,000 known species. They are known for their elaborate patterns and beautifully wild colors.

This particular one I’ve chosen to feature is commonly known as a Blue Dragon nudibranch. It spends its life floating on the surface of the ocean, much like the Violet Sea Snail. They feed on the poisonous Man of War Jellyfish, collecting the animal’s toxins and storing them in little sacs on the end of their feather-like “fingers.” The Blue Dragon can produce a much more powerful and deadly sting than the Man of War due to its ability to store the poison.

So what do you think? Do you like the idea of having a “New Week Nudibranch” posted every Monday?

edit: reader Gabriele has pointed out another common name for this nudibranch – the Sea Swallow!

Be sure to subscribe to never miss out on a Featured Creature! 🙂

How to Get Bruce Lee Like Strength Without Ever Going to a Gym


How to Get Bruce Lee Like Strength Without Ever Going to a Gym

Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead; follow him on twitter.

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a paragon of cool and an icon of the ultimate bad-ass. Not only were his martial arts skills incredible, but he had such an impressive physique that even bodybuilders in the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger admired him.

What’s more impressive is that Bruce trained his body without ever stepping into a gym and with very little use of weights or machines.

Here are just a few of Lee’s physical feats:

  • Performed one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger.
  • Could hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer.
  • Could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.
  • Could break wooden boards 6 inches (15 cm) thick.
  • Performed 50 reps of one-arm chin-ups.

While you may not get to Bruce Lee’s level overnight, you can start getting in shape without the use of a lot of fancy (and expensive) equipment. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, in a space as large as a bathroom.

Part of the reason I started training without a gym was because I began training in Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s method of martial arts). But I also got tired of paying monthly gym dues. At the time, I was looking for things I could cut out of my monthly budget to save a little extra money.

I thought about getting rid of my gym membership altogether, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my health or physical fitness. So I found another way. For months, I haven’t had a gym membership, yet I’m getting stronger and faster than I’ve ever been in my life.

You don’t have to buy lots of weights or machines, either. The most expensive equipment you’ll need (a simple doorway pull-up bar) will cost no more than $35.00.

Bruce Lee was a big proponent of holistic or total fitness. His workouts included strength, speed, endurance, and flexibility training.

Here’s just a few of the ways you can start getting stronger, faster and more toned without ever stepping into a gym:

  1. Calisthenics. There are so many different bodyweight exercises out there, but we’ll start with the basics. For the lower body: lunges and squats are a good start. For upper body: pull-ups, push-ups, and shoulder press ups. For your core: crunches, chops, and reverse crunches will get you going. What’s great about bodyweight exercises is that they build functional strength. They’re natural movements you would use in real life situations like sports, self-defense, gardening, or doing chores. Plus when you do bodyweight exercises, you force your body to use more supporting and balancing muscles than you would on machines. For more bodyweight exercises check out these great resources: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Training: 100 Killer Resources and for an awesome list of bodyweight exercises with illustrations check out Combat Fitness. Bonus: Top 10 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Advanced and Beginners.
  2. Isometric exercises. These are basic bodyweight exercises, but where you hold your body in a static position. Examples of these are the frog sit, v-sit, horse stance, hanging from a pull-up bar, and the plank. Calisthenic exercises will improve muscle strength over a range of motion, but isometric exercises are great for joint and stabilizing strength.
  3. Range of motion and flexibility. The best exercise I’ve found for range of motion and flexibility is yoga. The best thing about yoga is that no equipment is required and you can find tons of free resources online for yoga routines. Check out Anmol Mehta’s Yoga Illustrations to get you started.
  4. Balance. Balance is the ability to keep your equilibrium when your center of gravity is thrown off-balance. There are many ways you can practice balance every day (we won’t get into tight rope walking here). When you’re putting on your shoes or getting dressed, do it on one foot. Walk on the curb and try to walk in a straight line without stumbling. Or if you’re really ambitious, there’s always pogo sticking and unicycling.
  5. Dynamic exercise. Dynamic exercise is anything where you’re not performing routine after routine. Things are in flux and constantly changing. You’re moving in more natural movements, rather than continuous repetition of fixed patterns. I recently started doing Jeet Kune Do in the park every weekend. It’s a great way to get a good work out and learn self defense. Not to mention, practicing martial arts tends to make you inspired to further pursue and achieve higher levels of physical fitness. If you’re not into martial arts, you can always pick up a sport like tennis, handball, basketball, or take dance classes. Do whatever you’re naturally drawn to. Or if you struggle with seeing fitness as an enjoyable activity, you might consider getting a Wii Fit.

There’s a lot of other opportunities for exercise that don’t include a gym that I haven’t listed here. Hiking, jogging, skiing, yardwork… The list could go on. Just use your imagination. Make it fun and change it up. That’s the great thing about exercising without a gym, there’s so much to choose from.

On a side note, I will, however, say that for me, it took a lot more discipline to work out from home. It was easy for me to just go to the gym. Once I’m there, there’s not a lot else I can do other than work out. But at home, there’s always distraction, always other things you can do besides working out (like laying on the couch or surfing the internet). For me, practicing martial arts inspires me to be physically fit. While you might not have this problem, I thought it only fair to be upfront about this issue.

The other motivator for me to work out from home — besides saving money — was the variety of workouts. There’s just so many more options with bodyweight exercises than machines. You can always do something to further challenge yourself. If push-ups are a breeze, you can try doing them on your fingers or in a close grip (with a medicine ball). If pull-ups become too easy, train for a one arm pull-up (insanely difficult).

Attaining Bruce Lee like fitness isn’t just about doing the types workouts he did and eating the same diet. What made Bruce so great was his natural curiosity and drive to constantly explore and learn more about fitness and personal growth. (His personal library contained over 2,000 books!)

Tap into your own curiosity and make fitness enjoyable. Challenge yourself to new levels of fitness. Go beyond what you think you can do.

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

This article was written by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind. To learn more about how to reclaim your life, grab a check out his book – Reclaim Your Dreams.

(Note: If you’re interested in learning more about Bruce Lee’s training methods, check out: The Art of Expressing the Human Body by John Little)

If you liked this article, please share it on, StumbleUpon or Digg. I’d appreciate it. 🙂

Talk Your Way Into (or Out of) Her Heart


Talk Your Way Into (or Out of) Her Heart

By: Laura Roberson

It’s 7:30 p.m. You’re tearing into a work file on your laptop, a beer on the table next to you and a ball game muted on the TV across the room. Enter your best girl; trailing closely behind her, inevitably, is The Question.

“How was your day?” she asks.

This is a test. Can you engage?

It’s not that men don’t, won’t, or can’t talk. In fact, a 2007 University of California at Santa Cruz meta-analysis concluded that men are more talkative than women. Although women take more turns during conversation, men make more statements overall. Men also speak longer and make more suggestions.

Which she really hates.

Here’s the problem: Women use language to bond, while men use it like a power tool. “Men are literal communicators,” says Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., a gender communication expert. “It serves them well in the business world but often causes them trouble with women.”

Learn how to minimize verbal damage, and you’ll achieve more-satisfying intercourse—both the social kind . . . and the other kind.

“How Many Women Have You Been With?”

Right answer: “I’ve had relationships with different women, but none worth holding on to.”
Wrong answer: “Fourteen. And a half. Not counting rounding errors.”

What she hears: “Unlike those other women, you’re worth holding on to, babe.” She hears that even if you don’t yet know how you really feel. No woman wants to be a conquest, says Nelson. She wants to know you value her as a partner in and out of the bedroom. “Emphasize the fact that your past behavior isn’t an indication of where you are now,” says Sandor Gardos, Ph.D., a sex therapist and founder of “You don’t have to give her a spreadsheet.”

“Do I Look Fat in This?” (She Does)

Right answer: “It just doesn’t do you justice. Wear that black dress you look so sexy in.”
Wrong answer: “I wouldn’t say fat . . .”

You call it annoying, blatant, and desperate. Psychologists call it “fat talk”—a way women bond with other women, but also a tactic to show that she pays attention to her body, according to a 2010 study in Body Image. Take “fat” out of your vocabulary—if you drop that f-bomb, she won’t receive the message, says Nelson. “Accentuate the positive instead.” No need to point out her muffin top. Just pull out a more flattering outfit and compliment her on the way it plays to her best assets.

“Do You Think that Woman is Hot?” (She Is)

Right answer: “She’s attractive. What do you think?”
Wrong answer: “In a slutty kind of way.”

If your girlfriend springs this question, she knows the woman is sexy. The key is tempering your honesty, says Chris Fariello, Ph.D., of the Council for Relationships. That means using mild, nonsexual words, such as “attractive” or “pretty,” while avoiding erotic words that tip her off to your own lusty feelings. Then ask for her opinion; suddenly you’re paired Idol judges, not individual oglers. “You take the focus off the other woman by turning it into a conversation,” says Justin Lookadoo, author of Dateable: Are You? Are They?

You Suspect that She’s Cheating

Say: “I may be totally off base, but I’m concerned about your relationship with John. Will you be honest with me?”
Don’t say: “You’re screwing John, aren’t you?”

In a College Student Journal study, 63 percent of men agreed that they’d cheat if they knew their partner wouldn’t find out. Only 52 percent of women said the same. You’re wired to be suspicious; male jealously evolved to prevent the unknowing nurturing of another man’s child. “Men tend to sling insults when they suspect infidelity,” says Todd Shackelford, Ph.D., an evolutionary psychologist at Florida Atlantic University. “It may be an attempt to decrease her sense of value as a mate so she won’t look elsewhere.” But if you act like a litigation attorney, she’ll react defensively and be more likely to hide the truth. Ultimately you need the truth, so proceed in a way that’s most likely to lower her defenses so you can coax it out of her. “Present your suspicion not as a fact but as a feeling or concern,” says Sheenah Hankin, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and the author of Complete Confidence. “You’ve opened the door for the truth.”

“Where is This Relationship Going?”

Right answer: “I need to be honest. I’m not looking for a serious relationship right now.”
Wrong answer: “I think there’s some potential here.”

The bottom line is, she wants to hear you’re committed. And if you’re not, she’s handing you an invitation to sugarcoat. “You don’t want to hurt her feelings, and you probably want her to stick around for sex,” says Fariello. “But if you give her fluff, she’s going to cling to it.” Translation: If you split in 3 weeks, she’ll sling “potential” at you like a poison dart. An honest answer lets her make an informed decision—and allows you to gauge her emotional maturity, says Fariello. If she snarls like a she-wolf, you’ll know your commitment fears are dead-on.

“What Do You Think About Marriage?

Right answer: “These are my reservations, but that doesn’t mean I can’t resolve them.”
Wrong answer: “Well, it’s okay for married people.”

Relax. Chances are your girlfriend isn’t springing a trap—she’s just gauging your commitment level. “She needs you to approve of her but also to want to affiliate with her,” says Nelson. Your strategy: Be straightforward but future-oriented, and use “affiliation cues,” like nodding your head, smiling, and leaning toward her. These nonverbal signals may trigger the same chemical response in her brain as long-term commitment does, a recent University of California study found. No, it’s not as good as bending a knee and proffering a rock, but such signals make her feel more engaged, even if she’s not actually being engaged.Then consider inviting her to take a road trip together or to meet your parents—this provides concrete proof you’re invested, without the ring.

You Think Your Sex Life Is Getting Old

Say: “Would you be willing to try this position? If you don’t like it, we can do what we know works.”
Don’t say: “You be the wheelbarrow, and I’ll be the farmer delivering the load.”

“Don’t just spring a new position on her. Women need time to process,” says Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., author of Why Can’t You Read My Mind? “She wants to feel included.” That means planting the idea before you two hit the sheets. During the day, send her a sexy text message, or an e-mail saying you can’t wait to see her. This warms her up, pressure-free. Then in the bedroom, emphasize the sexiness, not the success, of your new maneuver. “Be willing to fall flat and laugh,” says Gardos. “Say, ‘That didn’t work,’ and then move on.” And if you do pull it off, admire her adventurousness—chances are, she’ll request a repeat performance.

“I Love You” (But You’re Not Entirely Ready)

Right answer: “I’m not ready to say that yet. But I’m getting there.”
Wrong answer: “Thanks.”

First off, don’t freak out. A recent Baruch College study found that modern technology—text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging—is one reason the phrase is used more freely. That said, you shouldn’t disregard her admission. Tell her your feelings are growing, and go ahead, change your relationship status on Facebook. It may sound asinine—okay, it does sound asinine—but in a recent Michigan State University study, 20 percent of participants said they didn’t consider a relationship “official” until it appeared on Facebook.

You Think The Relationship is Over

Say: “I won’t be able to give what you deserve.”
Don’t say: “You knew I wasn’t ready to commit.”

Nobody enjoys rejection. Take the blame for the relationship deficit, says Les Parrott, Ph.D., founder of and author of L.O.V.E.: Putting Your Love Styles to Work for You. This softens the blow without giving her false hope for reconciliation. “Explain the breakup in terms of your own values, rather than pointing out what she did wrong,” he says.

The Best And Worst Federal Workplaces For Innovation


The Best And Worst Federal Workplaces For Innovation


Published: August 17, 2011

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While many government leaders might give lip service to the merits of creativity and innovation in the public sector, few actually put the idea into practice, according to a recent survey and ranking of innovation in federal workplaces.

Beyond that, the survey might actually offer some motivation.

As part of its research into the best places to work in government, the Partnership for Public Service has found federal workers are motivated to drive change through creativity, but need stronger support from their organizations and leaders to do so. Specifically, the vast majority look for ways to perform their jobs better, but few are encouraged to initiate new ways of doing things or rewarded for creativity and innovation.

Overall, results suggest government agencies have considerable opportunity to improve. But a few score high in a ranking of federal agencies’ innovation and are among the best workplaces for federal employees.
Not surprisingly, the most innovative agencies drive creativity through leadership. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration topped the list, followed closely by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The analysis also underscored that innovation depends on the total environment leaders create for employees and identified the following workplace conditions that have a disproportionately high impact on the overall innovation score:

  • Employees are recognized for providing high-quality products and services
  • Employees are given real opportunities to improve their skills
  • Employees are involved in decisions that affect their work
  • Employees are given a sense of personal empowerment with respect to work processes
  • Employees are provided with opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills
  • Leaders work to gain employees’ respect

Interestingly, factors that were not as important in driving innovation included salary, workload and resources.

According to the PPS, understanding how to leverage leadership and employee satisfaction to drive innovation is especially important, because it suggests that the negative impact of today’s pay freezes and shrinking budgets on employee satisfaction can be mitigated as long as employees feel they are being listened to, engaged in decisions and are recognized in other ways for their hard work. In addition, leaders who are most successful in engaging their employees rarely rely on their own technical expertise or positional power, but instead understand that creating an environment where employees are empowered and engaged will generate the most innovative results.

Making the necessary investments in employees will result in more satisfied and committed employees, a more innovative team, and ultimately, in better results for the American people, the PPS survey concluded.


It’s all about perception (as usual)


Color Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Posted by JacobSloan on September 6, 2011

vintage-color-wheel-6We think of a physical object’s being a certain “color” as a solid, immutable property (grass is green, lemons are yellow, et cetera). However, the way our brains see and process color is largely determined by the language we learned as an infant.

Case in point: the Himba tribe of remote northern Namibia, to whom water looks “white” like milk and the sky looks “black” like coal, and who struggle to distinguish between blue and green, yet can easily pick out micro-shades which Americans cannot see. Via BBC Horizon, a reminder that the world looks different to everyone:

(And on and on and on. Why didn’t I write a book about all of this so many years ago?)

Note: Spotted the weird green in 2 seconds 😛 It’s olive(ish)