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Thursday, June 12, 2008

7 Incredibly Strangely Themed Hotels [PICS]

Take a look at seven of the best theme hotels out there.

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Top 7 Non-US Fuel-Efficient Summer Road Trip Cars

A good road trip vehicle should:1.) Embrace the inevitable discomfort and uncertainty that comes on a long trip2.) Have a degree of iconic style, so that when you're looking back at snapshots of the trip, you have that warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia3.) Be equipped with at least four doors

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5 Roller Coasters Mega-Engineered to Make You Scream

From tiered seating to a hydraulic launch, the built-in smarts of these coasters—even if they don’t stack up to the super-steep new Fahrenheit—make this America’s scariest handful of theme-park rides.

Published in the July 2008 issue.

Maverick | Only Twisted Horseshoe Roll

Cedar Point | Sandusky, Ohio

Maverick roller coaster Cedar Point This steel coaster has ten banked turns from 62 to 92 degrees, plus the only twisted horseshoe roll in the world. It starts with a clockwise corkscrew turn followed by a 180-degree banked turn and finishes with a second, counterclockwise corkscrew.

Griffon | First Floorless Dive Coaster

Busch Gardens Europe | Williamsburg, Va.

Griffon roller coaster Busch Gardens EuropeGriffon uses tiered seating to put every rider in the front row as the coaster pauses at the top of a 205-ft. hill, then plunges straight down at 75 mph. The 3-minute ride also has two inverted loops.

Boulder Dash | Only Mountain Terrain Coaster

Lake Compounce | Bristol, Conn.

Boulder Dash roller coaster Lake CompounceBuilt into the side of a mountain, the wooden Boulder Dash makes the most of the terrain's natural features. The first hill drops riders 115 ft. at 60 mph—through trees. From there, it's a fast-paced 212 minutes of scenic action.

X2 | First Rotating Seats

Six Flags Magic Mountain | Los Angeles, Calif.

X2 roller coaster Six Flags Magic MountainInitially called X, the world's first “4D” coaster has wing-shaped seats that allow riders to independently rotate 360 degrees forward and backward. This summer, the coaster will reopen as X2, with audio, visual and sensory effects that take it to 5D.

Kingda Ka | World's Tallest and Fastest Coaster

Six Flags Great Adventure | Jackson, N.J.

Kingda Ka roller coaster Six Flags Great AdventureKingda Ka's hydraulic launch system catapults riders from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds, up 90 degrees and through a quarter turn to 456 ft., then straight down a 270-degree spiral. Official ride time is 50.6 seconds, but most riders say it feels more like 30 seconds.

How Much Is Your Blog Worth?

Ever sit back and wonder what your blog would be worth if you decided to give it all up and just sell it. Check this cool little quiz out.. It is actually pretty good.

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The 10 Top Paying IT Jobs And What You'll Earn! [Graph]

So you’ve established a career in IT, and now you want to take it to the next level. It’s hard to map out the next move, especially with the rate of change in all the areas of IT. Here are the pay scales for the highest paid senior level IT jobs and the overall national averages.

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Italy and a Mediterranean Cruise

One of me friends just got back from a trip to Italy and a cruise along the Mediterranean Sea. there are some beautiful pictures.

Mediterranean Cruise Pictures

12 Creative Table Designs

Nice collection of creative tables.

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New Stealth Plane Lands Vertical in Test [w video]

Needing a boost after a negative report leak, Lockheed Martin tested a prototype of its latest Joint Strike Fighter for the Marines today—a supersonic F-35 that lands like a chopper (with super lift engines) and thinks like a pilot (with a HAL-esque brain).

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Quick review of 2009 Porsche 911

Look closely and memorize the subtle changes to the exterior. Otherwise, you may overlook the new 2009 Porsche 911 when it appears on American roads this September.

Porsche refers to it as a new generation, even though the internal chassis code 997 remains unchanged. We see it as more of a mid-term facelift with some significant technological changes. Notably, the water-cooled flat-six engines get direct-injection technology, and a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission replaces the previous five-speed Tiptronic automatic while the shift-it-yourself option remains a six-speed.

Let's describe the changes to the exterior as inoffensive. The front end looks slightly more Boxster-like, with a thin glass strip above the air inlet. It houses LED daytime running lights—which can be switched off—and traditional turn signals. Engineers wanted LED turn signals as well, like those on the 911 Turbo, but there was not enough room for the complete unit above the daytime-running lights. The rear lights have a slightly more complex shape than before and are fully LED, including the turn signals.

Mirrors are bigger to comply with upcoming European regulations. The standard Carrera gets larger disc brakes, which share the 13-inch diameter of the Carrera S, but are thinner. Basically the only visible differentiator between the two versions are the tail pipes. The Carrera has two large exhaust pipes; the more powerful Carrera S gets four smaller, circular units. (Step up to the Turbo, and you’re back to two exhaust pipes. Go figure.)

Porsche is initially launching the facelifted 911 with the rear-wheel-drive, narrow-body Carrera and Carrera S models. The four-wheel-drive Carrera 4 will go on sale a few weeks later. Wide-body versions will follow, as will the Targa—the Targa moniker still denoting a big sunroof and not the partly removable roof that was last available on the 964-generation 911.

Interior Little Changed

Inside, you will be hard pressed to distinguish the 2009 model from the one it replaces. In response to customer complaints about the cluttered center console, Porsche has now grouped the buttons in a line without spaces in between. It may look like fewer buttons, but there aren't. We think the pre-facelift 997's console looked more technical and therefore better.

The infotainment unit, supplied by Harman Becker, receives a major upgrade with a touch-screen display. Unlike many other cars with a touch-screen display, the 911 won’t blank out any functions while the car is moving. We will never get used to bringing a car to a full stop to operate the navigation system, and we wish other companies would share Porsche's philosophy of not patronizing the driver.

Nissan GTR spec V two years out

Here in the U.S., the hype continues to build in anticipation of the July on-sale date of the 2009 Nissan GT-R. But in Japan, where the car has been on sale since December 2007, it is the Spec V—on sale this December—that has buyers excited.

In North America, be prepared to wait a couple model years for the performance Spec V, which will be lighter, faster, and pricier than the conventional sports car. We expect to learn more of the specifics at the 2008 Paris auto show in September, but heavy use of carbon fiber coupled with some decontenting reportedly will shed anywhere from 220 to 330 pounds. Visually, the Spec V has a new front splitter and tweaked rear spoiler. A modified suspension sits in between, and the car has distinctive spoke wheels.

Larry Dominique, Nissan North America vice president in charge of product planning, says he wants to see how the regular GT-R plays out and save the Spec V for when the buzz dies down and demand starts to fall off.

With sports cars, that can start as early as the second model year. But the GT-R is somewhat of an exception given its legendary status and limited volumes. The U.S. allotment is an average of 1500 GT-Rs a year for five years, but Nissan is skewing production higher in the first year, to 2400 units. Dominique suspects the U.S. may need 2400 in the second year as well. The third model year is when the numbers are expected to drop off and the Spec V will make its timely entrance as a 2011 model.

Nissan wants to strategically introduce the Spec V to keep the GT-R fresh, Dominique says. The automaker also needs time to educate U.S. buyers on the GT-R itself. While this is the seventh generation of the Japanese icon, it is the first to be sold in the U.S.

Volumes for the Spec V will be even smaller than the limited run for the GT-R. And if customers are clamoring for the higher-performance version from day one, Dominique says he is fine with years of anticipation.

Initial rumors had the Spec V lapping the grueling Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 25 seconds, but with a base production GT-R (480-hp, twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6) on regular tires making the loop in 7 minutes and 29 seconds, we probably need to rethink the Spec V figures as its engine will be tweaked to pump out horsepower somewhere in the 512 to 550 range.

Nissan execs tell us the GT-R itself is not a money-maker for the company, but as more products share its unique platform, it will be.

In addition to the Spec V, the platform will yield products for Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand. We likely will get our first glimpse of what’s to come with a new full-size Infiniti concept slated to be unveiled in less than a year. It will reflect the brand’s new design language for the second generation of Infiniti products. And, presumably, it fills the division’s need for a flagship as Nissan continues to roll out its luxury brand globally and aims to make it a true tier-one luxury marque.

The 10 Worst-Paying Jobs in America

1. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
Mean Annual Wage: $15,930
One-Year Change: 2.4%
No. In Employment: 2461890

2. Cooks, fast food
Mean Annual Wage: $15,960
One-Year Change: 3.0%
No. In Employment: 612020

3. Dishwashers

Mean Annual Wage: $16,190
One-Year Change: 2.7%
No. In Employment: 502770

4. Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers
Mean Annual Wage: $16,320
One-Year Change: 3.3%
No. In Employment: 401790

5. Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop
Mean Annual Wage: $16,860
One-Year Change: 2.6%
No. In Employment: 340390

6. Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop
Mean Annual Wage: $16,950
One-Year Change: 3.5%
No. In Employment: 524410

7. Gaming dealers
Mean Annual Wage: $17,010
One-Year Change: 6.0%
No. In Employment: 82960

8. Shampooers
Mean Annual Wage: $17,050
One-Year Change: 4.5%
No. In Employment: 15580

9. Waiters and waitresses
Mean Annual Wage: $17,190
One-Year Change: 5.4%
No. In Employment: 2312930

10. Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers
Mean Annual Wage: $17,500
One-Year Change: 4.5%
No. In Employment: 101530

The Biggest Greenhouse In Britain Unveiled

The £80million development will include seven glasshouses, growing 1.3million tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and will increase the UK's crop of salad vegetables by 15 per cent.

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20 Hottest Possible Threesomes In TV History

If you could participate in a ménage à trois with two characters from any show in tv history, who would you pick? Here’s our list of twenty TV threesome options, ranked by a combination of the pair’s overall hotness and their cultural notoriety, each out of a possible ten points.

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Mother defends breastfeeding her five-year-old

A mother who still breastfeeds her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son has defended her actions as "what nature intended". Stella Onions, 45, said children should be weaned naturally until their baby teeth fall out to help fully develop their immune system.

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60,000 Eyeballs Are Trashed Every Year [PSA]

Please donate to the blind.

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Forbes: World's 100 Most Powerful Celebrities

Are you on the list?

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New Telescope to Hunt for Aliens

Perhaps ET is just a solar system away, and perhaps all we need is one more telescope to find him. That's the hope, at least, of some scientists who say a new radio observatory being built in Europe may hold a chance of finding alien life beyond our planet.

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Dan Neil on the Pontiac G8

While I agree with some of his points, I still think there is never a bad time for a performance vehicle that gets pretty OK mileage and is priced right. It's what every family guy car enthusiast needs instead of being sucked into the minivan crossover SUV vortex.

As for his point of the BMW being a nonsensical comparison, he needs to check himself. While the BMW is great, a nicely equipped 550i pushes 70 grand and will be dynamically outperformed by the G8 is just about every measurable category. So I can buy two G8's and a trip to Hawaii for my family with the change left over or buy a 550i that is identical except for suspension and engine as a 528i. You do get free maintenance though so that's a plus(sarcasm)

The G8 is an incredible performance value with an upcoming GXP model with corvette power that will be priced under 40 grand.


Pontiac G8: An Australian import

A rejiggered product from Down Under, the G8 tries hard to please. Just don't compare it to the BMW 5-series.
June 11, 2008

If you ever have occasion to share a drink with an Australian -- your luck is bound to run out, sooner or later -- do yourself a favor, mate. Don't offer to buy him a Foster's beer. Though Americans might think they are just being sociable, the lager made famous in the U.S. ad campaign as "Oostraalian fer beyr" is plague-ridden creek water, the downstream effluent of an upstream kangaroo petting zoo. Foster's makes Pabst Blue Ribbon seem like the scintillating golden cataract from Bacchus' boundless fountain.

Australians hate Foster's, just loathe it. Of course, offered a Foster's, the Aussie in question will be polite and probably only head-butt you. If she's a Sheila.

I bring this up because Australians and Americans -- one group loud and obnoxious, bred from criminals, the other group Australians -- have very different expectations of Australian-made products. The new-for-2008 Pontiac G8, for example, is a re-badged version of the Australia-built Holden Commodore, a reasonably quaffable V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedan based on GM's Zeta platform design (Holden is GM's Australian subsidiary). The G8 follows in the wide-track footprints of the now-discontinued Pontiac GTO, which was a badge job of the Holden Monaro.

To be sure, the Pontiac G8 executes hydrocarbons with style and élan. The sedan is available with a 3.6-liter, 256-hp V6 (paired with five-speed automatic), but the marquee powertrain is the V8 with the six-speed automatic (hence the name). The eight-can G8 I drove for a week was significantly solid feeling, all cold-rolled, sintered and cast-in-place. It was quick (zero to 60 in about 5.3 seconds). It could be prodded into an ugly and un-virtuous, tire-peeling tantrum with the traction-control turned off. It was fitted and kitted with high-grade plastics, dense rubberized dash materials and handsome two-tone perforated leather. For a GM car costing $29,310 ($31,845 with all the leather swaddling inside), the G8 is a notable value. It would be a shoo-in for Car of the Year, if the year were 2005.

But it's no BMW 5-series. You will see this preposterous comparison here and there in the automotive press -- words to the effect of "Pontiac G8: Bargain 5-series?" See, this is why you must control your intake of mood elevators before writing car reviews.

Australians would find this comparison wildly laughable, and usually they laugh only when someone is being kicked in the groin. To Australians, Holden is exactly where Chevrolet is in the U.S. marketplace -- mass-market, mid-price, working-class performance. In overall refinement, material quality, sophistication and -- most keenly -- ride and handling, the G8 isn't even on the same island-continent as the 5-series.

This is a common mistake people make, and when I say people, I mean GM. I remember Vice Chairman Bob Lutz going around calling the last-generation Pontiac Grand Prix an American BMW. As we know now, the Grand Prix was a BMW fighter as pointy wooden sticks are nuclear missiles. To invite such comparisons is to court disappointment. It's actually a disservice to the lesser product.

Spared the unfair comparisons to München schteeel, the G8 acquits itself very well. The cabin is big and comfortable, with excellent sight lines. The optional leather sport seats hold your keister nicely in place. The interior design has a nice cross-trainer sportiness to it, upscale if not exactly luxurious. I couldn't quite get the hang of the radio controls, though, which seem to have been randomized like Scrabble tiles.

Driven hard, the G8 wants to please, it really does. The engine leaps into the upper registers like a Gershwin score. The shift-able six-speed automatic -- with an engine-blipping program for smoother downshifts -- gives you lots of in-and-out corner control. I especially like the fact you can switch off traction control. When you get the car turned into a corner, you can get back on the throttle hard and, with the little grind-and-stutter of the limited-slip differential, power out of the corner with easily controllable rotation. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with this chassis and nothing a six-speed manual wouldn't make better. Look for a six-speed and a Corvette engine in the 2009 G8 GXP.

Steering feel is light and tight, with lots of lively feedback. The car delights in long, smooth sweepers spooled out in country lanes. The G8's body motions are well-damped and reasonably flat, although -- and this is where that extra $20,000 and BMW badge goes missing -- on uneven pavement the car wants to load and unload the rear suspension, getting a leetle bit floaty. I reckon when the more aggressively tuned GXP comes out, the laces of this shoe will be tightened.

Personally, I feel kind of sorry for the G8 -- or at least all the capable and talented people who brought it to our shores. This car has landed at an unpropitious moment in petrochemical history. I noted today, while I was standing at the pump putting $4.85-a-gallon hi-test in the galling muscle car, that I kind of felt like a guy standing at an ATM next to a bordello. The reek of monetized sin was upon me.

Surprisingly, though -- considering the flame-tipped bark and violent back-shoving of an angered G8 -- the thing gets really good gas mileage. I put my foot in it so often I almost lost my shoe, and the worst fuel-economy average I got was 16 mpg. This is undoubtedly thanks to Holden-GM's variable-displacement technology that shuts down four of the engine cylinders when loads are light.

Do I love it? Not really. I am pained that this car wasn't around three years ago. The G8 feels like hay that wasn't made while the sun shined. I think the supernumerary nostrils and front end design are small calamities. I could remodel this thing with a sledge hammer with good results. But the G8 is a fine performance car and a good price; it's just L8.

First beaver dam in England for centuries

By Urmee Khan
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 12/06/2008

A pair of beavers have built what is believed to be the first dam in England for centuries.

The animals were hunted to extinction in England and Wales during the 12th century and disappeared from the rest of the country 400 years later.

One of the beavers at home on the River Tale:  First beaver dam in England for centuries
One of the beavers that has settled on the River Tale

However, two beavers from Germany were introduced to a river enclosure in Devon last year.

This year, the pair have built a 6ft dam with mud, bark and twigs on the River Tale at Escot House, near Ottery St Mary.

John-Michael Kennaway, who owns the estate, has been working to reintroduce the animals on the site for three years. He said that the beavers may be rearing young, known as kits.

"The male beaver has been spotted feeding alone some distance from the lodge, whereas the female seems keen to stay close to their home," he said. "This might suggest that she has young inside, but we won't know until at least late July when they're ready to come outside."


The beavers are kept in an enclosure to prevent them from escaping into the wild.

Mr Kennaway said: "We haven't had beavers here for 800 years because they were hunted to extinction. Now, a year after they came to Escot, they have built a dam and we think they are breeding. We won't know for sure for a couple of months but it is very encouraging. It really is a superb structure - quite a feat of engineering for two small beavers."

Over the last few years, 15 beavers have been re-introduced to England, but these have lived on lakes and had no need to build a dam.

In 2002, a group of nine beavers were re-introduced in England at Ham Fen, Kent. In 2005, another six European beavers were released on an enclosed site in South Cerney, Gloucestershire.

More recently, another population was set up at Martin Mere in Lancashire. Beavers have also been released on private land in Scotland.

The animals will only build a dam on a river to form an area in which to construct a lodge to live in. The nocturnal creatures can grow to more than a yard in length and weigh up to 70lb.

Information appearing on is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright

Skiing Mount Everest. [Awesome Pics]

Shots taken by adventure photographer, Jimmy Chin, during 2006 skiing expedition. Group skied Everest's Southeast Ridge. Some of pics are amazing. Beautiful stuff.

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Montezuma’s palace unearthed in Mexico

Mexican archaeologists say they have unearthed the remains of an Aztec palace once inhabited by the emperor Montezuma in the heart of what is now downtown Mexico City.

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A Parasite that Induces Love in its Host

A Brazilian wasp has evolved a very peculiar mind-control power in order to reproduce: It induces love in a species of caterpillar. The wasp lays its eggs in a baby caterpillar, which grows normally as the eggs grow inside it. Eventually, larvae burst out of the caterpillar's body, and that's when things get weird. The caterpillar covers the larvae with silk, and will protect them quite violently until they are full-grown wasps (you can see that in this picture). In fact, the caterpillar refuses to eat or leave until the wasps hatch.

A group of researchers observing this Brazilian insect drama in the wild say it's the first time they've been able to prove scientifically that parasites essentially mind-control their hosts to ensure the parasites' survival.

According to a release from PLoS One:

Inside the caterpillar host, a cruel drama takes place: the eggs of the parasitoid hatch and the larvae feed on the body fluids of the host. The caterpillar continues feeding, moving and growing like its unparasitized brothers and sisters. When the parasitoid larvae are full-grown, they emerge together through the host's skin, and start pupating nearby. Unlike many other combinations of host and parasitoid, the host remains alive but displays spectacular changes in its behaviour: it stops feeding and remains close to the parasitoid pupae. Moreover, it defends the parasitoid pupae against approaching predators with violent head-swings.

The caterpillar dies soon after the adult parasitoids emerge from their pupae, so there can be no benefit whatsoever for the caterpillars . . . The research team found that, in the field, parasitoid pupae which were guarded by caterpillars suffered half as much predation as those which had no bodyguard. Hence, the behavioural changes of the host result in increased survival of the parasitoids.

In other words, this caterpillar is made to love those wasps so much that it will protect them at all costs, including its own life. Now imagine if these researchers decided to figure out whether this wasp behavior mod could be ported to the human brain. A squirt of wasp juice could make you a super soldier, willing to give your life to protect whatever your "parasite" might be.

10 best excuses for coming to work late

Some people wake up each morning before the alarm rings, glad to see the glowing sun and excited to start the day.

They arrive to work whistling and are hard at work before most people even arrive. These rare creatures, also known as "morning people," are incomprehensible to those of you whose morning routines are exercises in panic and frustration.

A lot more people belong in that latter group than you might have guessed. Fifteen percent of workers admit to arriving late at least once a week, according to a recent survey.

Why are so many of us running late?

You might be surprised that the snooze button is not the primary culprit of tardiness.

Thirty-two percent of workers attribute their late arrivals to traffic gridlock. Seventeen percent claim a lack of sleep is the reason, and 7 percent have trouble arriving on time because they need to get their children ready for school or day care.

Other issues, like forgetting something at home or not feeling well, are also popular.

Fortunately for late arrivers, 43 percent of hiring managers won't count tardiness against you as long as you meet deadlines and turn in good work.

Of course, some managers feel differently and will hand you a pink slip if you're late several times within a year.

Use your imagination

More than 27 percent of hiring managers say they are skeptical of employees' excuses for showing up late. It turns out their doubt is warranted: 24 percent of all employees decide to make up a fake excuse rather than tell the truth.

What does this mean to you?

If you're sitting in a traffic jam watching the minutes tick away and you've decided honesty isn't the best policy for you, think of a believable and acceptable reason you're walking in late.

After all, if you were a hiring manager who heard any of these 10 real-life excuses for being late, you'd be suspicious, too.

1. While rowing across the river to work, I got lost in the fog.

2. Someone stole all my daffodils.

3. I had to go audition for American Idol.

4. My ex-husband stole my car so I couldn't drive to work.

5. My route to work was shut down by a Presidential motorcade.

6. I have transient amnesia and couldn't remember my job.

7. I was indicted for securities fraud this morning.

8. The line was too long at Starbucks.

9. I was trying to get my gun back from the police.

10. I didn't have money for gas because all of the pawn shops were closed.

Be a crowd-pleaser

When it comes to punctuality, your best bet is to take cues from your company's culture. If everyone is diligently working when you drag yourself through the door each morning, then you probably stand out.

However, if everyone filters in at their own pace between 8:45 and 9:15, then an occasional late arrival will probably go unnoticed.

Habitual lateness, on the other hand, will help neither your career prospects nor your workplace relationships. For one thing, your boss and co-workers are relying on you to be at work when you're scheduled to arrive; you don't want to disappoint them.

Also, just because nobody confronts you about your tardiness, that doesn't mean no one's watching the clock and forming an opinion about you or your work ethic.

These judgments can damage you when it comes to performance reviews and promotions. Don't let a few extra minutes of sleep cost you your reputation -- or worse, your job