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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stocks Find some Footing

Stocks' bumpy ride continued Thursday, including a late surge despite another strong dose of recession fears.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung in an 816-point range, including outsized gains and losses. The blue-chip measure finished 401.35 points higher, up 4.7%, at 8979.26, recouping more than half of the previous session's painful losses.

Economic reports out Thursday contained a few bright spots, including signs that U.S. inflation is in check. But the overall picture that emerged was one of a reeling economy that may take considerable time to right itself. Factory activity in the Philadelphia area slumped severely, and homebuilder sentiment remained at extremely depressed levels.

"Everyone is starting to change their [trading] models to figure out what stage of the recession we're in," said Anthony Conroy, head trader at BNY ConvergEx, a New York brokerage. "All the nervousness is breeding a lot of volatility. I've never seen swings like this," including occasional triple-digit moves in the Dow and other indexes in the course of a few minutes.

In the last 90 minutes of trading on Thursday, the Dow soared nearly 480 points. Traders said the move was driven largely by an influx of buyers attracted by what they perceive as low stock prices following an historic slide in the market. But it remains unclear whether that trend has been put to rest for good.

The S&P 500, which on Wednesday suffered its worst percentage drop since the 1987 crash, was up 4.3% at 946.43. Its health care and technology sectors gained more than 5% each.

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The small-stock Russell 2000 rose 6.9% to 536.57. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.5% at 1717.71.

But in general, investors remained jittery, a mood evident in the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which uses prices of options contracts to measure investors' nervousness about upcoming market swings. The measure, known as the VIX, briefly soared to an intraday record above 80, although it finished down 3.2% at 67.06 as the market rallied. Still, the latest reading is high in historic terms.

"The question of whether or not there is going to be a recession is moot at this point," said strategist Bob Hoye of the research firm Institutional Advisors in Vancouver. "It's just a matter of saving yourself some pain in your portfolio of stocks, bonds and everything else."

At several time lately when the Dow has flashed signs of life, it has failed to sustain them. The blue-chip measure has fallen in 10 of the last 12 full trading sessions, sliding about 17% during that stretch – nearly a deep enough slide to constitute a bear market unto itself.

Traders and analysts say the selling has been driven in large part by hedge-fund selling to meet margin calls from brokers and redemption requests from clients. Hedge funds surveyed by the San Francisco research firm TrimTabs reported about $43 billion in selling of various assets in September, a record.

That figure could go even higher once the October data are in hand, perhaps as high as $50 billion across TrimTabs' survey sample, which represents about a third of the secretive hedge-fund industry, said analyst Vincent Deluard.

In many cases, the funds seem to be raising cash preemptively, in anticipation of client redemption requests that may roll in later, said Mr. Deluard. He said that may mean the trend is getting ready to play itself out, but he added: "It's difficult to tell, because this situation is so unprecedented. The historical data aren't really any help to look at."

Monthly data on outflows from traditional mutual funds are due from research firm Lipper on Friday, and are also likely to show heavy activity, analysts said.

Crude-oil futures fell after a report showing a weekly rise in U.S. petroleum inventories, underscoring how weak demand for the commodity has become amid the broader economy's weakness. Crude futures contracts briefly fellbelow $70 a barrel, a price the commodity hasn't touched in more than a year.

Energy shares tracked crude early in the session but rose in unison with the rest of the market late in the day. Chevron, a component of the Dow industrials, finished 5.2% higher. The S&P's energy sector rose 5.7%.

Treasury prices fell and yields rose. The two-year note slipped 4/32, nudging its yield up to 1.620%. The benchmark 10-year note fell 2/32 to yield 3.955%. The yield on three-month Treasury bills nearly doubled to around 0.4%.

Elsewhere in credit markets, interbank lending rates improved. Three-month U.S. dollar Libor dropped to 4.5025% from Wednesday's fixing of 4.55%. The one-month rate fell to 4.2775% from 4.35875%. The overnight rate tumbled to 1.9375% from Wednesday's 2.14375%, edging closer to the Federal Reserve's fed-funds target rate of 1.5%.

Microsoft shares were up 6.8% after Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said that he thinks a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo would still "make sense economically" for both companies' shareholders. Yahoo shares jumped 10.6%.

Citigroup shares slipped 2% after the bank reported a $2.8 billion net loss for the third quarter, reflecting $4.9 billion in credit losses and a $3.9 billion boost to its loan-loss reserves. Merrill Lynch reported a third-quarter loss of $5.2 billion versus a loss of $2.24 billion for the same period a year ago. Its shares were down about 0.6%.

Switzerland's government and central bank early Thursday offered emergency help to the country's two largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, although the latter declined a government capital injection. UBS shares rose 3.8% and Credit Suisse leapt 13.1%.

How to Raise your Credit Score

Here's how your score is sliced and diced - and how to kick it up a notch. Remember: The bigger the slice, the more it affects your score.

  • 35% Your payment history Pay your bills on time. Automating payments online can help.
  • 30% How much you owe Keep balances on credit cards and other revolving accounts below 50% of your credit limit (lower is better).
  • 15% Length of your credit history Rather than let old cards go dormant, charge a latte a month (then pay it off). No activity lowers your score.
  • 10% Your new credit Don't open unnecessary new accounts. And if you're rate shopping for a mortgage or an auto loan, do it within two weeks; multiple requests could ding your score.
  • 10% Your mix of loans You can't do much to change this (except get a credit card if you don't have one).
  • Bonus Request a free copy from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies at Then tell them about any mistakes you find that are not in your favor. --George Mannes

Ferrari California: real-time CAR review blog

By Chris Chilton

First drive

15 October 2008 17:03

Bit of a CAR Online experiment here. We're driving the new Ferrari California today and attempting what, as far as we're aware, is the first real-time review of the Cali on the internet. Road test editor Chris Chilton has filed his thoughts electronically from the launch in Sicily to CAR HQ where we've updated this blog minute by minute with his first drive review of the new Ferrari California drop-top. Traditionalists fear not: we will be publishing his full, regular road test report as well. So tune in to join CAR in Sicily as we review of the new V8 from Maranello. We've updated the words and photos throughout the day, so start at the bottom and work your way up!


5.45pm: The Ferrari California verdict
What a day! What a car! The California is by no means perfect – it's pricey and we can quibble over the finer points of the handling, brakes and rear packaging – but it's hard not to be impressed by the California. Especially when we were so sceptical before. It's everything that a slightly softer Ferrari should be and brilliantly judged to tempt buyers out of top-rung Merc SLs and the like. The folding metal roof (Ferrari's first) is well executed, the boot space is truly astonishing and the interior a roomy, comfy place to be. That the California also manages to pack the mother of all V8s, with fuel-miser direct-injection present and correct, and hit the bullseye first time with the superlative new transmission is quite a feat. Don't believe the doubters who say this Ferrari is too soft. It's not. It's nigh-on perfect for its target market. That leaves this road tester deeply impressed.

Note from Ed: come back to CAR Online overnight for Chris's full first-drive test review of the new Ferrari California. And don't forget to click 'Add your comment' and tell us what you think of our real-time road test blog.

5.01pm: The handling verdict
Right, we've dispatched some rollercoaster roads around the coastline and can deliver the final verdict on how the California handles. In a nutshell, this is brilliantly judged. Yes, it's softer than a 430 Scuderia but then it's meant to be. There's not quite the front-end grip, the fluency that marks out Ferrari's smallest sports car, but the California is remarkably adept at stringing together a sequence of cross-country roads. It's not perfect, mind. The brakes are slightly weird, with a longer pedal travel and lack of initial bite – presumably so as not to scare SL newcomers. And that steering is quick and responsive, but it can't compete with the telepathic helm of, say, a Porsche Cayman. But make no mistake, the California is every inch a junior Ferrari in the driving department.

4.23pm: One last blast
Don't worry, it's only superficial damage. Time for one last proper drive of the Ferrari California before we have to hand the keys back. I haven't yet mentioned the new, simplified mannettino. The steering wheel control has just three, not four settings: Comfort, Sport and CST off (basically the same as Sport, but with stability control disengaged for sideways action). It's brilliantly simple and works well, tweaking the transmission's abruptness and damper settings (although I should stress the Cali rides really virtually anywhere on our Sicilian test route). And this is one very stiff structure – it's remarkably free of shake and shudder.

4.16pm: Bugger, we've pranged the Ferrari!
Woops, we've just scraped the front bumper while doing a three-point turn for photography. Gutted! In our defence, the California is very wide on these narrow roads and you can't easily see the nose. Just wondering how to break this one to the Ferrari PRs...

3.27pm: The gossip from lunchtime
A few other journos at the lunchstop were being a little negative about the California. I think they're wrong. It isn't too soft at all – for its target market, it's brilliant. In fact, it's brilliant even if you're not a woman looking to buy your first Ferrari. Macho road testers with a deep love of Ferraris (that's me and others on the CAR team) will love it too. It's not a big blancmange through the corners; rather it's incredibly balanced, you can really feel the benefits of the transaxle and aluminium construction. It's remarkably neutral and we've had no trouble getting it crossed up for the obligatory magazine cornering shots. Purely for research purposes, you understand...

3.09pm: The aural pleasures of the new V8
Just done one of the best drives I can remember in recent times. The V8 sounds different from its relation in the F430: it's mellower, deeper – but by no means softer. And I now understand why the California is being launched in Sicily not Maranello. The roads here are empty and we can really give the Cali its head. And the Ferrari types are at pains to say this is a new type of Ferrari. The SL is – unofficially – mentioned often. So the California ain't destined for track days and we're not receiving our usual three laps of Fiorano that every Ferrari launch involves. This probably explains why I'm impressed by the gearbox creep and other refined niceties. The scenery is stunning here and we keep passing salt fields that captivate the eye. I still prefer the Fezzer with the roof up though...

2.31pm: Run-in with a local
Woops – just had a run-in with a local in an Audi A8. Think we surprised him doing a cornering shot. Plenty of gesticulations and pointing, but he's clearly impressed with the car and after a brief round of Anglo-Latin charades he leaves us in peace. Just as well, we have a long magazine feature to shoot as well as keeping web editor Tim Pollard happy with this blog. Must crack on!

2.03pm: Is the California really a four-seater?
It's not bad in the back, you know. The rear seats could just be used by adults for a trip to the pub (sorry, casino in Monte Carlo) and they'll be fine for kids. But we're in the realms of Porsche 911 and Jag XK accommodation frankly. One nice touch in the cabin is the new touch-screen sat-nav. It is s-o-o-o much better than the downright dire electro-maps in previous Ferraris. We've seen single DIN units that look like they've come from a dusty corner of the Fiat Palio parts cupboard – hardly worthy of a place in a Ferrari. Not this time. The new screen is fast, easy to use and – get this – it actually works.

1.31pm: Money, money, money
Don your millionaire's hat for a moment. Does the California represent good value at – confirmed today – £143,000 in the UK? I'd say so. The initial price was rumoured to hit £160,000, but at £3000 less than a 430 Spider I reckon it's great value. It sits slap bang halfway between a hard- and soft-top 430. Decisions, decisions...

1.17pm: Erice for lunchstop
I'm in one of those lunch-is-for-wimps type days. Who needs seafood platter when I have eight courses of V8 parked up outside, still ticking gently in the lunchtime heat. We scoff our lunch with greedy gusto and head for the open road.

12.52pm: Ah yes, the styling...
Hmmm. The California has split opinion since day one – and I'm still no more decided, even as I stand next to it in the searing mid-day heat. I quite like the front, but the rear wobbles a big ass. And it's definitely tidier with the roof up. Perhaps we're just adusting to a new type of Ferrari. Perhaps it is in fact ugly. I'll take a raincheck and come back to you in our full review at the end of the day on the aesthetics...

12.43pm: The sensible bit
It's baking hot here – a world away from the sludge-grey autumn enveloping CAR's Peterborough HQ. As we stop to take yet more photos ('just one more, mate,' lies our Aussie cameraman Mark Bramley), I look at the packaging of the California. Ferrari predicts that more than half of this car's buyers will be new to the brand. Conquest sales, in marketing speak. And half of them will be women. So this car must be practical, useable and not as track-focused as other Ferraris. It certainly is the most sensible Ferrari I've driven for a long time. The boot is huge for a car of this type – apparently, with the roof in place, it's bigger than a Suzuki Vitara's. And I never thought I'd write that about a car wearing the Prancing Horse badge!

12.24pm: Can the California live with the SL as an everyday car?
We've just driven through the umpteenth fishing village on our Sicilian adventure. If we keep up this pace, we're going to circumnavigate the island several times over before the day is out. What impresses is the California's ability to waft. You know, in a Jag style. The gearbox turns from violent harbinger of screaming new velocities to a smooth, slurrer of gearchanges. It's smooth and doesn't jump straight to seventh in true eco style. And the ride quality is impressing. I'm beginning to wonder what the California can't do!

12.01pm: Ferrari California: the heart and soul is the V8

The twin-clutch box is damn smooth too. Like the road round here – which are also blissfully quiet. Unlike Maranello's latest V8. Direct injection hasn't muted this engine one jot: the noise is great, especially when we find a tunnel and floor it. You can't rev quite as high as in a 430 (the redline is some 500rpm lower), but the noise is addictively blood-curdling. We repeat the tunnel experiment just to make sure...

11.55am: Ferrari's first twin-clutch box impresses
I'm deeply impressed by this transmission. It's brilliant. There's no difference in the economy and emissions of the manual and twin-clutch California; unlike Porsche's 911 PDK box, seventh isn't an overdrive – it mirrors the sixth ratio in the manual. So the ratios are stacked as close as those Sicilian sardines we saw earlier at the port. It helps to make the Cali fly when you stab the throttle.

11.20am: Time to give it some beans
Finally, I'm on the open road in the California. Let's find out what this landmark new Ferrari can do. Come back in the next half hour as we update this blog to find out how the California behaves when taken by the scruff of its neck and thrashed mercilessly. God, I'm looking forward to this bit.

10.00am: Sensory overload

My mind is awash with sensations, my brain rapidly assimilating reams of data streaming from my fingertips, ears, stomach and arse. They've done it! The California is a true Ferrari. The twin-clutch box is brilliant – one of the absolute best of its type. Changes are quick, seamless and – if you're pushing on – violently quick. Very impressive.

9.00am: The first miles of our road test

We negotiate the first few miles around the Sicilian roads. First impressions are very positive. My nagging doubts that this could prove to be a roly-poly SL in chubby tifosi spec are instantly dismissed. The engine feels alive, edgy, downright loud when provoked. There's no muzzle on this Ferrari.

8.30am: Moment of reckoning

At last, we get the keys to a blood-red Ferrari California. My heart beats a little faster in nervous anticipation. This is going to be an event – but will the Cali live up to the hype? It's a gorgeous day: blue skies, searing sunshine and very little traffic in sight. Let's go.

6.00am: Sparrow's fart, alarm call

California dreaming over, snapper Mark Bramley and I wake early to prepare for a busy day ahead. Lenses are checked, routes consulted, editor's brief checked. Time for a quick breakfast and then we form an orderly queue to be first into the California.


Afternoon: mooching around, pestering Ferrari personnel, waiting
This is really frustrating. We see glimpses of Californias at the hotel, but frankly there's a lot of waiting around. I harangue as many technical bods as I can find to ask the tricky questions at the back of my mind. What's the point of the California? Why ladle so much new tech on one car? Who's it aimed at? Will it still retain its edgy responses despite its new SL territory ambitions? Is it just me, or does it have an enormous arse?

12.00pm: Kempinski Hotel Giardino di Costanza
We arrive in north-west Sicily. We're not going to drive the California until Wednesday. Which is rather like taking a coachload of children to Santa's grotto on Christmas Eve and making them wait outside for 24 hours. Dammit.

10.30am: Bus transfer, anticipation galore
The dreaded transfer from airport to hotel. You'd be surprised how much time motoring journos spend in transit – but I can't wait to see the California for the first time on the road, rather than in arm-length photos or the safety of a motor show stand. This is such a different beast – folding hard-tops, twin clutches, direct injection – I just can't decide if I like it or not. I re-read the press pack on the bus to familiarise myself with the techincal story.

10.10am: Palermo Airport, Sicily
We arrive in Palermo. It's my first time in Sicily and I'm interested to see what the island is like. It's the first Ferrari launch I've been on that's not at Maranello, which is telling... we'll find out why.

4.00am: Stansted Airport, London
Check in to Ryanair flight from Stansted Airport outside London. Who said Ferrari launches were all glamour? We take off at ten past six in the morning; let's hope the weather in Sicily is better than it is in Essex, which feels decidedly autumnal in the early-morning gloom.

It's a Small, Small, Small, Small World (PICS)

Have a look at the images that won this year's 2008 Nikon Small World contest --images taken by professional and amateur scientists around the world using visible-light microscopes.

read more | digg story

Holy Grail: 1000+ Free High Resolution Photoshop Brush Sets

Hundreds of thousands of incredible Adobe Photoshop brush sets are all over the web. Due to this phenomenally vast amount of Photoshop brushes available, you can now add patches of dirt, rust, floral effect, swirls, mold, oil stains in your artworks and photos to give them an aged, damaged, dreamy or any look you want.

read more | digg story

The giant pink rabbit that can be seen from space

A giant pink rabbit has been created in the Alps that can be seen from space.

Visitors are encouraged by those who made it to climb all over the 200ft toy sculpture and even sleep on it.

But the Austrian art collective who created the bunny were amazed to find that it is so large the rabbit can be seen from space via the Google Earth programme.

Enlarge The giant pink bunny that can be seen from space, thanks to satellite images from Google Earth

The giant pink bunny that can be seen from space, thanks to satellite images from Google Earth

The pale-pink bunny which lies flat on its back in the Italian Alps took more than five years to build and is set to stay there until 2025.

It is made of soft, waterproof, materials and stuffed with straw to make it comfortable to rest on.

It was placed in a rural spot called Artesina in near Cuneo and attracts many visitors each year.

Wolfgang Gantner of the Vienna-based art group, Gelitin, said: 'It's supposed to make you feel small, like Gulliver. You walk around it and you can't help but smile.

'We like to see hikers climb up the bunny's 20ft sides and relax on his belly.'

Click here for google maps

Enlarge The Gelitin bunny as seen from space via Google Earth

I spy...The 200ft bunny as seen from space via Google Earth

The group have posted the rabbit's location on its Gelitin website along with a poetic description of the creation.

It reads: 'Behind a hill, as if knitted by giant grandmothers, lies this vast rabbit, to make you feel as small as a daisy.

'Happy you feel as you climb up along its ears, almost falling into its cavernous mouth, to the belly-summit and look out over the pink woollen landscape of the rabbit's body, a country dropped from the sky; ears and limbs sneaking into the distance; from its side flowing heart, liver and intestines.'

The rabbit was moved to the 5,000ft-high Fava region in 2005.

Enlarge giant rabbit

We made this: The Vienna-based artists who created the rabbit

If Only Advertisements Were This Truthful

It’s an advertisers job to display their products in a way that makes it seem like you can’t live without them. But we decided we’d show you what they’d look like if they just told you the truth

read more | digg story

What is the Greatest Car in Film History?

CAR is attempting to answer one of the classic pub arguments: which is the greatest car in film history? James Bond's DB5 in Goldfinger? Or the Minis from The Italian Job? Rather than us decreeing our favourites from on high, we need your help. This will be your list, compiled by the users of CAR Online.

Vote in our poll below for your favourite cars in film – and influence a forthcoming feature in CAR. Pick the car with the best chase sequence, the one that's coolest, or just your favourite automotive moment from Hollywood history. All you have to do is vote in the poll below for your choice, and that's it.

Don't worry if your favourite cinematic car moment isn't listed – add the model and name of the film in the 'Other' option at the foot of the poll. We will monitor the suggestions and if there are enough votes for a particular car, we will add your choices to the poll. This is just our opening gambit, but with your help we'll create the definitive list of the greatest cars in film to be published at a later date.

So get voting. And get your friends to vote too!

Which is the greatest car in film history?

Microsoft announces 20 editions of Windows 7! (j/k)

Earlier today, Microsoft confirmed that its next operating system, codenamed Windows 7, would in fact be called just that when it hits shelves at some point in the next few years. Good on 'em, I say: a simple, no-nonsense name suggests they're approaching it with a clearer eye than they had cooking up the hypefest that was Vista.

But if there's an instinct that Microsoft will find hard to put to bed, it's the one that led to more versions of Vista than can be counted on one hand. The place is run by a sales guy, after all! Click through for our exclusive leaked ad covering the 20 separate editions of Windows 7, straight from our anonymous sauce.


Mercedes Coupe plans

By Georg Kacher

14 October 2008 13:28

Mercedes is to shake up its entire family of coupes, CAR hears. The changes kick off with the new E-class coupe and will include a proper new C-class coupe (instead of today’s short-cut CLC), as well as repositioning the top-dog CL.

The CLK badge will die next year, replaced by the E-class coupe. It was shown in concept guise as the Fascination shooting brake concept car at the Paris motor show, which shows the front-end styling of the new E family, including the coupe.

Why launch a sporty two-door E-class? Simple. It’ll at a stroke boost sales figures for the total E-class range, especially against its 5-series and A6 rivals. It’ll move the old CLK up half a notch (with, we suspect, according price rises). And it’ll pave the way for the subsequent switch from CL to S-class coupé designation.

Yes, Mercedes-Benz is secretly preparing to tweak its entire coupe range.

From CLC to C-class. Why Mercedes is rethinking its cheapest coupe

In sync with these name changes, the CLC replacement due in early 2010 will be sold as a C-class coupe. About six months after the signed-off fixed-head, we are likely to see a four-seater soft-top C-class cabrio.

We don’t yet have any artist’s impressions of the new C-class coupe, but we’ve attached a couple of official designers’ sketches for the current CLC, which give a flavour of what Mercedes is trying to achieve with its smallest coupe.

Although the engineering bods in Stuttgart have made provision for a cabriolet version of the new C, marketing has yet to give the green light to what could be the fifth C-class bodystyle.

The best bit of the new two-door C-class cabrio is its positioning. It’s aimed precisely at the gap between the A3 and A5 soft-tops, and open-air 1- and 3-series. Not just in price, but also in terms of size, accommodation, equipment and engine line-up.

How much will the new C-class cabrio cost?

The fun-in-the-sun C-class will be substantially less expensive than the most basic SLK, and around £7000 less than the cheapest two-door E-class. That points to a starting price around £27,000.

The two-door C offers slightly more rear legroom as well as a bigger boot (450 litres with the roof up, 405 with the top down) than the longer, sleeker and more elegant E-class spin-off.

To keep a lid on costs, the chassis and basic vehicle architecture will be taken over from the C-class saloon – so it should be a roomy convertible package. You won’t have to send the kids ahead in a Smart Fortwo.

Will the C-class cab have a folding hard-top, or old-school cloth?

Our sources point to a power-operated fabric hood, motorised belt-bringers, a clever pop-up wind deflector and the practical Airscarf neck warmer we’ve already seen on the SLK. All this tech will add a lot of heft, mind you…

There will also be new engines galore on the C coupe and cab. Highlights include:

• The super-frugal and extra-clean direct-injection petrol-fed 2.0-litre four (codenamed M271)
• A similarly fuelled V6 (M272)
• The new 2.2-litre diesel CDI (OM642)
• Top-dog 3.0-litre V6 CDI (OM651)

And – inevitably – the hybrid C-classes

These offer an average increase in power and torque of between 10 and 20 percent, but the big news is the hybridisation offered across the board. By specifying mild, full or plug-in hybrid modules, Merc will be able to reduce the CO2 emission in the EC cycle by 10 to 50 percent.

As soon as lithium ion batteries are widely available and more affordable, a useful power boost of up to 65bhp will also become part of the BlueEfficiency package.

Batman and Superman Are Diamonds on the Soles of Your Shoes

Express your superhero preferences with what you're wearing on your feet. Nike's new shoes from its skateboarding line are inspired by Batman, Superman and Venom, and they're a lot more subtle than last month's DC Comics line of superhero kicks. Who wins the war on the ground?
While the D.C. Comics shoes from Limited Soles announced last month that you rep a particular superhero, the new Nike SBs simply suggest the presence of greatness is in the area. You don't need Bruce Wayne on the back of your heels...your tailored suit, sneakers, and butler tells the ladies everything you need to know.
The Nike SB shoes come out in November, and you can preorder them here.

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Scifi Clothing You Can Wear Without Fear of Reprisal [io9]

Mercedes AMG plans greener, cleaner cars

AMG is going green – the maker of unfeasibly fast Mercedes-Benz models is gearing up for hybrid and diesel versions, using advanced low-weight materials to retain their tyre-smoking performance credentials while satisfying the nagging greener conscience.

In an exclusive CAR interview, Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach boss Volker Mornhinweg spoke candidly about the company’s future and outlined why a raft of imminent eco measures would enhance AMG’s performance capabilities rather than stifle them.

‘Of course emissions and economy are important to us at AMG – only a fool would ignore these factors today,’ said Mornhinweg (pictured). ‘But we have the technology to improve economy and performance – and you’ll see it sooner than you think.’

Very interesting. Tell me more about the new AMG Mercedes

The new SL65 Black Series (670bhp and 738lb ft) will mark a turning point for AMG – it’s likely to be the last AMG car to feature such massive outputs. Even the upcoming Gullwing supercar – the first of AMG’s ground-up new models – develops a relatively modest 571bhp and 479lb ft.

‘Power is not a problem for us, so we’ll be focusing heavily on materials technology to lower weight and boost the power-to-weight ratios of our cars. And because they’ll be lighter, they’ll be more agile and engaging to drive.’

Mornhinweg singles out the SL65 Black Series. Only the doors are original – the rest of the composite bodywork is AMG’s work, and it’s a full 250kg lighter than the SL63.

How will a hybrid AMG work?

The AMG boss says that by the end of the decade AMG will unveil a mild-hybrid petrol-electric model with start-stop technology, energy recuperation and on-demand functionality that will best the current 6.2-litre V8’s economy and emission figures by around 30 percent. Expect it to borrow heavily from the recently launched S400 BlueHybrid model – the most economical petrol-powered luxury saloon on the market.

‘Although hybrids normally mean more weight, we’ll use our knowledge of lightweight material to offset this increase. And don’t forget, AMG is all about torque, and electric engines develop their torque at standstill.’

What about – dare I ask – a diesel AMG?

‘Of course if we did a diesel it would have to be part of a business plan that really stacks up,’ says Mornhinweg. ‘But given the current price of fuel and America’s growing acceptance of diesel, I can see a single diesel model working for us.’

He kills the idea of a big torquey diesel in a large coupe – CL or next-gen CLS – dead in the water. ‘No, this is not what we’d do – I envisage more of a smaller responsive diesel in a smaller saloon.’

Perhaps a twin-turbo version of the current 3.0-litre V6 in the C-class?

‘That would work, yes!’ I ask about the SLK Vision concept car of 2005 and its trio of blowers – one either side of the V6 engine’s banks and one nestled in the vee. Mornhinweg just smiles knowingly.

‘For AMG the challenge will be finely balancing ecology and emotion – and this will take us down a new path of course.’

It’s a path that Mornhinweg hopes will boost AMG annual sales to 30,000 – but no more. But rest assured, wherever that new road leads AMG, it will be one covered very briskly.

T-Mobile G1 - The Engadget Review

Will Android and G1 live up to the hype? Is this the first coming of a serious new contender in the mobile space, or has the triple threat of Google, HTC, and T-Mobile not delivered on their promises? We've put both the device and the software through its paces to bring you the definitive review of the T-Mobile G1. Read on!

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5 Eco-Cars Faster than the Porsche 911

by Michael Graham Richard, Gatineau, Canada on 10.15.08

Porsche 911 Driving photo

Why the Porsche 911?
There's nothing inherently special about being faster than the Porsche 911 which can get from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5-5.0 seconds (I'm talking about the regular 911s, not the $194k GT2). It's not like you actually need that kind of acceleration in regular driving... But, it does strike the imagination of gearheads everywhere and create a halo effect. If that can help make eco-cars more desirable, why not?

Lets check out 5 green cars which are actually faster off the line than the Porsche 911.

Tzero Electric Car photo

TZero by AC Propulsion

The TZero is an all-electric sports car made by AC Propulsion. Launched in 1997 with the goal of bringing it to production, three hand-made prototypes were built. They originally used lead-acid batteries and could do 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, but in 2003 a new prototype with lithium-ion batteries was made and it could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Unfortunately, it was also in 2003 that plans for commercial production were dropped.

Tesla Roadster Electric Car Driving photo

Roadster by Tesla Motors

The Tesla Roadster is also all-electric. Compared to the TZero above, you could say that it is part of the new generation of electric cars. More refined and higher-technology, it even made the Forbes list of most coveted cars. Using a lithium-ion battery pack, a 248 hp (185 kW) electric motor designed to spin at 14,000 RPM and a new 1-speed transmission, the Tesla Roadster can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Sadly, the financial crisis is affecting Tesla Motors and it just announced a change of CEO, a delay for its next model, and some layoffs.

Ultimate Aero EV Electric Car photo

Ultimate Aero EV by Shelby SuperCars

Shelby SuperCars makes the kind of cars that have over a 1,000 hp and can reach 250 mph. Not what you'd immediately associate with "low emissions" and "powered by clean energy", but the times they are a-changin'. Shelby's next hyper-fast car will be an electric vehicle, the Ultimate Aero EV. It's supposed to use a 500 hp electric motor, though 1000 hp twin-motor version, possibly with 4WD, is also on the drawing board. Unfortunately, we don't know yet the acceleration numbers for the electric version, but the regular Ultimate Aero accelerates from 0 to 60 in 2.78 seconds. We trust that the EV will be in the same ballpark, if it isn't faster.

Tango Electric Car George Clooney photo

Tango Electric Car

The Tango is another all-electric vehicle, and while it isn't exactly the most practical car on the road, it can't be faulted for lack of originality... Or lack of acceleration. Its twin electric motors can make it accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds, and it can do the quarter mile in 12 seconds. You can see a video of the Tango here. Hey, if it's good enough for George Clooney...

Wrightspeed X1 photo

Wrightspeed X1

According to Wrightspeed: "The X1 prototype is a concept car, and a test platform. It is not a production car, and never will be. It’s a proof-of-concept vehicle that will lead to a production car in the future." It uses a modified Ariel Atom chassis, but the drivetrain is all electric. So what you see above isn't likely to end up in the showroom, but many parts of it, including the drivetrain, have a chance to make it. What's so special about the Wrightspeed X1? How about an acceleration from 0 to 60 of 3.07 seconds (in 117 feet)?

Fisker Karma Plug-on hybrid Car photo

Honorable Mention: Karma by Fisker

With an acceleration from 0 to 60 mph of 5.8 seconds, the soon-to-be made in Finland Fisker Karma is not technically not faster than a Porsche 911, but it is a halo car that helps change the public's perception of greener cars. The Karma is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (similar to the GM Volt) with an all-electric range of 50 miles. Over that distance, a gasoline generator kicks in.

Tim Burton talks about Johnny Depp, 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'The Dark Knight'



I got Tim Burton on the phone the other day while he was on the set of "Alice in Wonderland" and I had to admit right off the bat that I was surprised that, with the filming just underway, he was taking the time to chat. "Yeah, well, me too," he said in his droll deadpan, and I wasn't sure whether to laugh or apologize and hang up. Then he let me off the hook. "Actually," he said in a sunnier voice, "we're just about to get going so we'll see how things go. Good, I hope."

John_tenniel_alice_in_wonderland I'm guessing things will go quite well for the 50-year-old filmmaker, who seems like the ideal auteur to bring Lewis Carroll's surreal 1865 classic "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" to the screen for a 21st century audience.

Young Aussie Mia Wasikowska will be Burton's Alice, while Johnny Depp is the inspired choice to play the Mad Hatter.

I told Burton that it seems as if Depp (who has other upcoming roles as an Old West hero, a pirate and a vampire) approaches his acting choices the same way a gleeful kid rummages through a trunk of dress-up clothes. The filmmaker let out a loud laugh. "It's true. Yeah we have a big dress-up clothes trunk here. We take it with us wherever we go."

Batman_with_michael_keatonMore on a Depp and "Alice" in a moment, but first: This Saturday night Burton will be at the Scream 2008 Awards at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, an event that in just its third year has become a signature event in sci-fi, comics, fantasy and, yes, horror, which was is its original mandate but is now just part of its genre cocktail. Burton is getting something called the Immortal Award and the Scream people boldly say that Burton has "contributed more to the genres of fantasy, sci-fi and horror than any other filmmaker of his generation," and there's certainly an argument to made that they are completely right. "Batman," "Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Wood," "The Nightmare Before Christmas"...the list just goes on and on. Burton's film visuals -- a sort of cemetery cabaret ethos -- have put him on an short list (Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Woody Allen spring to mind) of filmmakers who have such distinctive on-screen traits that they become evocative brand names to even casual filmgoers.

Burton will be making quite the dramatic entrance on Saturday (which you can see yourself when the show airs on Spike TV on Oct. 21) but he has a reputation as a fairly shy fellow. I asked him if he was looking forward to the trophy night or dreading it.

"I haven't been to the event but I've seen a bit on TV and it looks quite fun, you know, which in itself is different from most of these kind of shows. It looks like a nice big Halloween party, which is always good. It seems like all the type of people that nobody liked in school all getting together for a nice big party. A prom for the kids that didn't go to prom."

Tim_burton_2006 I told Burton that, for the night, the venue should change its sign to read 'The Geek Theatre' and he laughed again. "That's very good! I like that. I can't use, that, I can't take credit for that." He said he had a better way to sum up the geek and Goth crowd that will attend: "We're all the people on the yearbook pages devoted to "the most likely to disappear before the semester ends and no one will notice..."

Burton was making "Batman" films when the cape genre was still viewed as a campy ghetto by serious Hollywood creators, so it must be interesting for him to watch the fringe entertainment move so squarely to the center of mainstream film and to finally do so with respectable reviews. "It is a different time now, yes. It's strange to me. At the time back in school when everybody tortured you, it didn't seem quite the same. It wasn't fashionable then. It didn't seem viable and vibrant and accepted at the time. But sometimes those things take a while."

With "Alice in Wonderland," the defining pop-culture version of the story for modern American audiences is the 1954 Disney animated adaptation with its little blond Alice in her blue dress with white pinafore. That film was met with acidic reviews by the literary world (especially in England) for its bland and blunted vision of the Carroll classic. Burton is not a fan of the film, either, and, as with "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," it appears his mission is to reclaim a children's classic, resharpen its edges and remind everyone that sapping the weirdness out of a tale often renders it flat and forgettable.

Tim_burton_at_wax_museum"It's a funny project. The story is obviously a classic with iconic images and ideas and thoughts. But with all the movie versions, well, I've just never seen one that really had any impact to me. It's always just a series of weird events. Every character is strange and she's just kind of wandering through all of the encounters as just a sort of observer. The goal is to try to make it an engaging movie where you get some of the psychology and kind of bring a freshness but also keep the classic nature of 'Alice.' And, you know, getting to do it in 3-D fits the material quite well. So I'm excited about making it a new version but also have the elements that people expect when they think of the material."

I told Burton he's right, the Disney movie is a meandering tour of a funhouse without any gripping story arc. "Yeah, I know, it's just, 'Oh, this character's weird' and 'Oh, that character's weird.' I can't really recall a version where I felt really engaged by it. So that's the goal, just to try to give it a gravity that most film versions haven't had."

How easy was it to persuade Depp to conjure up yet another enigmatic oddball? "He loves doing that. That's never a problem. He doesn't like to be the same way twice. That's good, it always keeps it fresh and all. And he likes the material we have here and he gets it. It's nice to have people involved that are fans of the material and all."

Is there a plan yet on "Dark Shadows," based on the vampire soap opera, also set to star Depp? "Oh I don't know. Take one at time, you know? It's something I'm interested in of course. Definitely. But I'm going to start shooting this one first!"

Johnny_depp_and_tim_burton_on_todd_I asked Burton if it's more than a coincidence that over the past decade his live-action films have often revisited and reimagined existing works, be they literature ("Charlie," "Alice," "Sleepy Hollow," "Big Fish"), musicals ("Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"), movies ("Planet of the Apes") or television shows ("Dark Shadows").

"Hmm. That's interesting. I don't know. I think we're all a product of our upbringing, you know, in a sense. I wasn't a very literary person. I loved movies. What you grow up with is what influences you. Whether you were a reader and there's a lot of books that you sort of want to translate to film or if it's other things that took in. I was definitely of a generation where the things I grew up watching still have impact on me. There's something about exercising that aspect of your personality or working with something that's meant a lot to you. It's just another way of processing ideas and all. So it's not really a conscious decision. I don't open up old 'TV Guides' and sit there and think, 'Hmmmm, 'Sanford & Son', that's the the movie I want to do. I watched that when I was a child...' "

Nightmare_before_christmasBurton said he is ramping up his bravery for the Saturday night event with its hot spotlight and crowd. "I don't do it very often so it's not something I'm very used to. I'm not comfortable in big public situations, but at the same time it's a very nice thing. It's a very nice thing to do. But while it is nice, it's not the thing you think about a lot. For me, it's the people that come up to you on the streets, the people that say something to you in person, something nice and thoughtful, that's so much more interesting than connecting with a sort of staged event. you know? The types of people you grew up with, the people that enjoy certain kinds of movies, there's a connection with people like that. I certainly feel that. I mean, when someone comes up to me on the street and they have one of my drawings as a tattoo on their body, a real tattoo... I mean, that's pretty amazing. That's happened to me a few times."

Then there was a question I had to ask: What did Burton think of "The Dark Knight"? After a bit of fumbling around for words, Burton said: "I haven't seen it yet. I'm just, you know, busy. I do want to see it. I've heard it's very good. And I'm sure it is very good. Mostly everybody that I know that has seen it has said that it's very good and I take their word for it."

I thought it would be good to change the subject. There was a recent anniversary DVD of "Beetlejuice," so I asked Burton how he frames that film in his mind when he looks back on it as both a career and creative moment.

"With that movie, I just remember that back then it was the second film I did and I felt very strange making it because everyone was thinking, 'This movie really has no story and it doesn't move along like a Hollywood movie.' It just felt very funny and strange having the opportunity to make that. i just remember that feeling every day: 'Wow, they're letting me make this, which is really weird.' And it continues to this day, that dynamic. It's still weird."

Seemed like a good place to stop. I thanked for Burton for his time and mentioned that I'm hoping to visit the "Alice" set soon. "That's great, I'll see you out here! I'll be on the green screen. Just look for a load of green. Take care."

-- Geoff Boucher

5 Foods to Help You Look Good and Feel Better

Smooth wrinkles, burn fat and shed stress by eating right

You know the drill: Eat less fat and you'll be less fat. Eat more protein and your muscles will be fuller and firmer. Eat more bean-curd salads and you'll probably beg someone to stop serving you bean-curd salads.

"However, there's more going on below the surface to healthy eating than most people realize," says Nicholas Perricone, M.D., adjunct professor at the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University and author of The Wrinkle Cure. "It all comes down to how your body responds to the foods you're taking in."

What the good doctor is talking about is inflammation. Not mere redness and swelling, but subclinical inflammation, which can't be seen by the naked eye. Inflammation exists throughout your body in various degrees, and is influenced by external factors such as the food you eat and the air you breathe. For example, researchers at the University of Buffalo have found that eating large quantities of sugar and fats causes an increased concentration of free radicals in your bloodstream, which creates inflammation in the body.

Perricone, who has given several lectures about inflammation on PBS, is world-renowned for creating nutritional plans designed to help the body counteract these inflammatory responses. His clients have become stronger, leaner and healthier by following his advice.
Perricone has given Men's Fitness five ways to help you look younger, lose fat and feel better through avoiding inflammation.

The goal: Cut back on your sugar intake.

The challenge: Most people don't realize the toll sugar takes on their appearance. "Sugar is responsible for nearly half of all skin aging, because it inhibits the effectiveness of collagen within your skin cells," says Perricone. Excess sugar in your system binds with collagen, causing a chemical change called glycosylation. Ideally, collagen molecules slide easily over each other, giving the skin a soft, elastic look. After being attacked by sugar, the collagen fibers become cross-linked and stick to each other, resulting in sagging and wrinkled skin. Glycosylation can also cause age spots and discolored marks on the skin by overworking melanocytes, the cells that provide pigment.

The plan: Avoiding sweets is a must, but identifying hidden forms of sugar is even more important. "Try to stay away from foods that are higher on the glycemic index, such as corn, bananas, potatoes and peas," says Perricone. Instead, eat more foods that are low on the glycemic index, such as kiwi, blueberries, peaches, leafy greens, broccoli and spinach. "These types of fruits and vegetables deliver sugar into your system at a slower rate, since they're also packed with fiber. They're also rich in antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals and reduce inflammation in the skin. Left unchecked, [free radicals] can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, a weakened immune system and other health issues."

Perricone green-lights the regular use of topical anti-inflammatories such as alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin C ester to increase elasticity in the skin. Antioxidant creams can be found at health-food stores such as Whole Foods. If creams aren't your thing, try taking 100 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid in tablet form (available in most health-food stores) twice daily. "This anti-inflammatory antioxidant also inhibits the attachment of sugar to protein, minimizing the amount of damage sugar can do to your skin," says Perricone.

The goal: Switch from coffee to tea.

The challenge: All those high-priced lattes not only subtract cash from your wallet, but all that milk, cream and sugar can deposit a Venti-sized amount of calories around your midsection. Moreover, a single cup of coffee raises cortisol levels for 12 to 14 hours. Cortisol, a hormone pumped out by the body at times of stress, is necessary for survival, but when cortisol levels are chronically elevated, you're asking for all sorts of trouble beyond fat deposition.

"Too much cortisol in the system is toxic to brain cells, thins your skin, decalcifies your bones, and suppresses your immune system," explains Perricone. Cortisol also kicks up insulin levels by raising your blood sugar, encouraging the storage of excess calories as fat. "Making the switch has been proven to show an average weight loss of up to eight pounds in just six weeks," says Perricone—and that's if no other change, such as beginning a workout program, is implemented during the same period.

The plan: Actually, caffeine is not the culprit, but rather the organic acids found in coffee that cause cortisol levels to skyrocket. Switching to tea, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, can curtail cortisol release and insulin spike while keeping you healthy minus the withdrawal symptoms.

The goal: Limit your intake of processed carbs.

The challenge: Eliminating carbs may be a trendy way to lose weight, but it also severely limits the amount of insulin your body releases, which will stunt muscle growth. "In normal proportions, insulin is just as important for triggering the metabolic functions that encourage muscle growth as testosterone is," says Perricone.
Hence, you don't need to expel carbs from your dietary curriculum—they're crucial, in fact. Simply avoid the high-glycemic types that promote insulin secretion.

The plan: Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables with glycemic ratings below 50. Cucumbers, plums, pears and peppers are good choices. (For a comprehensive list, go to "These types of foods can give your body enough of an insulin response to have an anabolic effect on the muscles without storing excess body fat," says Perricone.

The goal: Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big ones.

The challenge: Throwing down a large, high-calorie meal raises your glucose levels drastically, causing an increase of free radicals in the bloodstream that can last up to three or four hours. "For your body, this means an inflammatory burst that can affect your serum levels and increase your risk of developing heart disease, among other health problems," says Perricone.

Breaking up those three meals into five throughout the day keeps your blood-sugar levels stable and produces an even flow of energy. But allowing yourself to snack between sit-downs doesn't mean you can ignore the rules of nutritional balance. "Most guys throw out any semblance of smart eating when they eat between their main meals," says Perricone. "Every snack should always include three things: a good source of lean protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates in the form of fruits or vegetables, and an essential fatty acid like olive oil or fresh, unsalted nuts."

The plan: Eat what you would usually reach for, and figure out whether it's composed primarily of a protein, carbs or fat. Then balance it with the other two macronutrients, even if it's just a bite of each. For instance, if you like munching on slices of smoked turkey, add a few celery sticks and a handful of olives. If pears and apples are your thing, combine them with a few grilled shrimp and some almonds.

The goal: Avoiding harmful oils.

The challenge: Certain types of artificial fatty acids, notably partially hydrogenated oils, have to first be altered by your body by an essential enzyme called delta-6 desaturates. Never mind the arcane tech stuff, here's what you need to know: It's this very process that triggers inflammation throughout your body. But avoiding oils altogether can have a negative impact on the matter between your ears. "Having little to no fat in the diet has been shown to cause clinical depression," says Perricone. "The brain has to have enough fatty acids in order to function properly."

If you're more concerned with your waistline than your cranium, you can put your mind—and belly—at ease. "As odd as it may sound, you can actually lose body fat by eating the right kinds of fat," says Perricone. "Without enough essential fatty acids in your system, your body tends to retain the very body fat you're hoping to lose."

The plan: Perricone recommends always using olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, instead of vegetable oil, which is a polyunsaturated fat that can make your body more susceptible to free-radical damage. "Olive oil also contains oleic acid—an omega-9 fatty acid—that makes it easier for your body to utilize fatty acids on a cellular level instead of converting them first."

Sex on the First Date, Do or Don't?

Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. ... How many people have wondered that the morning after? Whether completely crushed or in total remorse, a number have pondered this very matter, often during their morning “walk of shame.”

Was it wise to have sex right away? Should I have waited a few dates? Some will never know.

To sleep or not to sleep with someone on the first date — or after a chance meeting, for that matter — is a major decision. Yet between husky whispers, succulent kisses and clothes on the floor, the decision often becomes an afterthought.

Budding love affairs don’t always launch as lovers rush to home plate. So is staying on first base ultimately your best bet?

It can be hard to resist sexual advances on a first date. Signals of interest are very seductive, like lip-licking, head tossing and lingering glances. People have trouble resisting opportunity, especially with a flaming hot risk-taker who wants to get naughty.

We’re drawn to people who are friendly and interested in us. We like people who are willing to do things, including the sexually taboo, for us. And it catches us in a sexual trap all too easily.

According to research published in Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 30 percent of women who use online dating services have had sex on the first date. It’s probably safe to say that a great deal of e-flirting took place before they met their date. Regardless, one has to wonder if those gals ever went on a second date.

I don’t say that to sound judgmental. It’s just that it’s a valid matter to consider, given that both men and women don’t often get a second dance.

Like it or not, sex on the first date instantly introduces a number of beastly and complex problems and perceptions as lovers size each other up. Suddenly, your possible soul mate has become so-so attractive, given issues like ...

Post-Sex Expectations

Even if you were hoping that this person could be “the one,” a love affair on sexual fast-forward can be a bit much to swallow. In dealing with real or perceived too-much-too-soon pressure, either lover can freak out, feeling that they’re not ready for the emotional responsibility that comes with being sexually intimate.

Do You Do This with Everybody?

Sex on the first date may not be your style, but try convincing your new partner that you don’t normally do this. Unfair or not, people who are “easy” are labeled “promiscuous,” even if they have star qualities in every other respect. While a partner may try to accept the defense that you don’t do this with everybody, he or she is going to be having serious questions about your sexual history. And such concern is likely to go both ways.

Can This Person Be Faithful?

People who at least appear to “sleep around” are often scrutinized on their ability to commit. The thought is: if you can fall into bed that easily with somebody, who’s to say that you won’t be so easily seduced when you’re in a relationship? Some people will be uneasy with your desire and your capabilities of commitment.

Oh ... So That’s What We Are

For those who wooed each other before the big date, sex so soon can indicate that you’ve just entered nothing more than a “friends with benefits” situation — if that. While some may relish that they’ve just found a “fornication” buddy, others will become disenchanted with any hopes they had of something much, much more. The would-be relationship becomes one of casual sex, and often a short-lived one at that.

Game Over

People like a little bit of chase. And when that comes to a grinding halt at the start of the show, lovers lose interest. If that game was too easy, even a “match made in heaven” cannot be resuscitated. Being a bit hard-to-get is actually effective, up to a certain point, if you’re longing for long-term loving.

Scarlet Letter Factor

For those ruled by social notions of “proper” sexual behavior, the mere stigma of having a partner who was willing to put out prematurely can eat away at them. While hypocritical, they can’t bear the idea of being attached to somebody who is socially frowned upon in his or her sexual behaviors.

So given all of the headaches sex on the first date can create, how long should you wait?

This is a very personal question — based on your values, age, experiences, and wants, such as the type of relationship you need, and a host of other factors. Some people can pull off sex on the first date. I know couples who have gone on to fall madly in love with each other for the long-term.

But most aren’t so lucky, which is why every person — and every potential or committed couple — needs to take the time to contemplate when to go all the way. For some people, such “sexpectations” involve anywhere from four to nine weeks of dating. For others, it may take months or even a couple of years. In the meantime, most expect plenty of kissing — at least just for the first date.

Sexpert Q&A: How do I get over my fear of being on top?

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

The Bright Spot in a Dark Economy- Americans Saving More

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- The economic storm pelting the U.S. economy is going to do plenty more damage to already flattened job and housing markets.

But as dark as the next three or four quarters could be, the U.S. economy appears to be undergoing a more lasting, and ultimately uplifting, shift.

Americans who for decades have spent an increasing share of their incomes and taken on more and more debt are now, for the first time in years, saving instead.

The personal savings rate, which measures the amount of disposable personal income that isn't spent, ticked up to almost 3% in the second quarter of 2008, after almost four years below 1%.

While Americans still aren't going to win any awards for thrift - consumers save more than 10% of their paychecks in creditor nations such as Germany and Japan, for instance - the return to saving carries big implications for U.S. economic health.

More saving is good over the long haul, because domestic savings create a pool of money from which companies can borrow to invest in new plants and equipment, creating the jobs that push living standards higher over time.

A growing domestic savings pool could also reduce America's need to borrow money overseas - which would make the U.S. less beholden to foreign creditors who now supply us with hundreds of billions of dollars in financing every year.
The trouble with virtue

Unfortunately, thrift will cost in the short run. Saving more means spending less - which translates into more hard times in retail and other consumer-driven businesses like the auto industry. The latest evidence of the shift came in Wednesday's steeper-than-expected pullback in retail sales. They dropped 1.2% in September, in their first year-on-year decline in six years and only their third drop in the past 16 years. Economists had been looking for a 0.7% drop.

Given that two thirds of economic activity is consumer spending, today's thrift will exacerbate a general downturn and will weaken the impact of the massive interventions the government has made in the financial markets.

"The breadth of the decline shows a broad-based pullback in consumer spending that will not quickly turn around," writes PNC economist Stuart Hoffman, "even with the arsenal of federal firepower now aimed at the Great Financial Crisis of 2008."

Federal actions such as a $250 billion plan to buy preferred shares in banks, along with a public guarantee of bank deposits and bank debt, are aimed at unlocking credit markets and boosting economic activity. Policymakers have promised to get banks lending again, to restore economic growth that has clearly been ebbing even as government data chalked up modest gains in gross domestic product for the first half of the year.

"This plan is a means to an end," Hoffman says of the Treasury's agreement to make capital injections in banks such as Citi (C, Fortune 500), JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500). "The key concept is that reasonably prudent lending should be supported."

But as the economy shows further signs of deceleration - factory production and industrial capacity utilization fell sharply in September, the Federal Reserve said Thursday - the question is who the banks will be lending to. Indeed, merely plying the banks with capital isn't certain to get them lending in a world in which businesses and consumers are trying to reduce their leverage after a long run of credit expansion.

William Cline, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, notes that the decline of saving in the U.S. over the past two decades was accompanied by a sharp increase in the rate of bank lending, as consumers cashed in on the appreciating value of their houses.

Bank credit growth, after averaging around 6.5% in the 1990s, spiked to 12% in the four years ended in 2007, Cline says. Meanwhile the U.S. personal saving rate turned negative at the height of the housing bubble in 2005, down from around 7% in the early 1990s.

"We were already on course to have some return to saving," says Cline, who is the author of the 2005 book The United States as a Debtor Nation. With the credit crunch making consumer credit scarcer, he adds, and reduced house prices making Americans feel poorer, "We're going to see some more pressure on household spending."

For now, that will mean more pressure on companies that sell their goods to consumers. GM (GM, Fortune 500) and Ford (F, Fortune 500) have traded at multi-decade lows this month as U.S. auto sales slowed to a pace last seen in the early 1990s. Macy's (M, Fortune 500) dropped 12% Wednesday after the department store chain cut its profit forecast, prompting ratings agency Moody's to warn that further problems could prompt a costly credit downgrade.

The government interventions mean deleveraging can continue without the risk of an economic collapse, which is obviously "extremely positive" in the long run, says Ken Kamen, a financial adviser who is president of Mercadien Asset Management in Trenton, N.J. But that doesn't mean the short run is going to be particularly enjoyable, as Wednesday's 9% stock market decline suggests.

Kamen warns his clients that before they make any hasty decisions, they should decide how much stress they can tolerate in their portfolios.

"You don't want to be resetting your financial future while the compass needle is spinning," he says. "You may need to sell assets - but only to the point where you can sleep at night."

The Ground Breaking Pictures Of Animals In The Womb

By Jenny Johnston
Last updated at 12:45 PM on 14th October 2008

As this little fellow's countryman Rolf Harris might say, 'Can you see what it is yet?'

No? Well, that's not surprising. How many times have you seen a baby kangaroo (joey) photographed this early in his mother's pouch? He's still at the embryonic stage, and about the size of a jellybean, but has been captured on camera for a remarkable documentary called Extraordinary Animals In The Womb.

Enlarge A baby kangaroo in its mother's pouch, where it will stay for six months before it hops into the world

A baby kangaroo in its mother's pouch, where it will stay for six months before it hops into the world

But the cameras for this joint National Geographic Channel and Channel 4 series - from the same people who brought us last year's unforgettable images of baby elephants seemingly dancing in the womb - have traced his incredible journey, from conception to birth, using revolutionary film-making processes.

Ground-breaking photographic techniques, plus state-of-the-art graphics, 4-D scanning techniques and the most sophisticated natural history models ever, have all been used to provide an unparalleled glimpse into a world that few of us would ever expect to see.

For the first time ever, we can follow the embryonic journey of four different animals: our kangaroo, the lemon shark, the Emperor penguin, and the parasitic wasp. And one of the most jaw-dropping sequences is a glimpse of the joey just before he is born - a mass of kicking legs and punching arms, raring to go.

Enlarge An Emperor penguin chick embryo inside its egg after about one week's gestation

An Emperor penguin chick embryo inside its egg after about one week's gestation

It is a staggeringly ambitious project, and one that has taken several years to make. As Jeremy Dear, head of development at Pioneer Productions, puts it, 'Illustrating what goes on inside a living creature involves the very latest digital technology and innovative filming, combined with anatomically accurate models, to create the impression of really being in the womb.'

It's fair to say that, apart from little joey, the series is a much less cuddly piece of TV than its predecessor, but, if anything, it's more gripping. And it's not one for the faint-hearted either, as it turns on its head whatever assumptions you might have about life in utero being akin to a nice calming waft around a flotation tank.

'One of the most exciting journeys in the series that we look at is that of the lemon shark,' explains the show's producer Peter Chinn. 'We see that this animal's embryos are cannibalistic - they eat their own siblings in order to survive. What goes on inside that particular womb is astonishingly brutal.' With a mixture of high definition (HD) scanning and intricate modelmaking, the fight is recreated for the cameras.

'We've kept it as accurate as possible, and it is really gruesome in places. It happens just as their teeth have begun to form. The embryo is blind, but can sense that it has rivals in the womb, so starts eating its brothers and sisters.' So not one for teatime viewing then.

Fledgling life isn't a barrel of laughs for the cute penguin chicks either. They must battle the coldest weather on the planet, where it really is a case of only the strongest surviving. And as for the parasitic wasp, Peter explains that its larvae must first hijack and exploit the body of another creature, such as a caterpillar. 'By using incredibly detailed scans, we were able to see what was actually going on, and the torment this caterpillar was subjected to. It gives some sense of what remarkable fights for life go on.'

Enlarge After about five weeks in the womb, this lemon shark embyo has started growing gills

After about five weeks in the womb, this lemon shark embyo has started growing gills

Peter and his team travelled across three continents to obtain the footage involved, and were lucky enough to witness the birth - within a one-hour time frame - of an incredible 14 shark pups. 'It's hard enough to film sharks, never mind trying to capture them mating or giving birth, but we spent five days in a boat in the Bahamas, hoping to find pregnant sharks.'

So how does one spot a pregnant shark? 'There is a specific time of year that pregnant sharks gather, and the local experts we working with knew roughly where to find them,' says Peter. 'But, as is so often the case, it is largely down to patience - and luck.'

Once they had identified their mummy-to-be, the divers were dispatched with special HD cameras, the size of a hand. 'Shark births had been filmed before, but not with the quality of these images. That's the remarkable thing about working in this field - the technology is improving all the time, so the boundaries are always being pushed back.'

In terms of scanning the pregnant animals, medical advances have now made this much more straightforward. 'There was a lot of collaboration with the medical world.

We used a special medical endoscope with an integrated camera. This gave us much better access, so that we could film inside such places as a kangaroo pouch.' But there is only so far that cameras can go. 'You can't just stick a camera into an animal's womb because you'd end up killing the embryo,' says Peter.

Enlarge This baby kitten is just a week away from being born

This baby kitten is just a week away from being born

Enlarge A Chihuahua foetus in the womb during the final week of pregnancy

A Chihuahua foetus in the womb during the final week of pregnancy

Where the photographic and scanning efforts ended, computer imagery took over. A team of model-makers was enlisted to recreate the embryos at various stages. 'These guys had an incredibly difficult job to do,' says Peter. 'Their background is in creating gremlins and the like for movies, but for us they had to produce incredibly accurate representations of embryonic animals.

'Every tiny detail had to be perfect, and everything was checked and double-checked with a team of experts and against scan images. With the shark, for instance, every gill had to be in exactly the right position. It was quite a tortuous procedure.'

Not least when it came to the Emperor penguin. It is virtually impossible to examine the eggs up close in order to make models of them, because they are protected by law. 'We worked with old samples belonging to the Natural History Museum, which dated from about 1910.'

The end result, however, is a programme so slick that you genuinely cannot tell where the real footage ends and computer-generated images begin. 'There is no intention to deceive, and we are clear about just how far our cameras can go,' says Peter. 'But the picture we've been able to build up goes further than my wildest dreams.'

Those viewers who like their baby animals to look like cute little furballs will be relieved to know that other episodes in the series offer a more conventional peek inside animal wombs.

Enlarge A cocooned parasitic wasp larva beginning to morph into adult form

A cocooned parasitic wasp larva beginning to morph into adult form

One looks at cats, offering glimpses of the foetal development of the domestic cat, and also that of the lion, with 4-D ultrasound technology showing our feline friends stretching in the womb, while infra-red cameras capture a lion cub being born. And dogs, too - from the grey wolf to the miniature Chihuahua; the cameras even capture the tiny unborns panting.

By happy coincidence, Peter's wife became pregnant during the series' production process. Did his professional expertise help his wife much? 'I kept coming up with useful facts about what would be happening to a kangaroo foetus at the particular stage that our baby was also at. I'm not entirely sure she found that helpful. Actually, I think she got a bit annoyed. She'd say, "Would you stop with the stories about cannibalistic sharks. It isn't helping."'

Watching his own little boy's limbs flailing around on the ultrasound screen provided, perhaps, the most powerful reminder possible of how diverse the journey to life really is. 'I was struck by how calm the human process is in comparison,' admits Peter. 'It really makes you appreciate what a straightforward ride evolution has given us human beings. We have it pretty easy, really, all things considered.'

Extraordinary Animals In The Womb is on Channel 4 on 20 October at 9pm.