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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

President Obama begins vacation on Martha's Vineyard with round of golf


President Obama plays golf at Farm Neck Golf Club on Martha's Vineyard on Monday.

OAK BLUFFS, Mass. - President Obama has been known to talk some trash on the basketball court, but on the golf course he leaves pride behind.

"I just want to say ahead of time that I am terrible," the First Duffer told a crowd of onlookers Monday as he began his vacation on celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard with a round of golf. "Thank you."

With that, Obama stepped up to the first tee at the Farm Neck Golf Club, took two casual practice swings, then clubbed his drive a solid 200 yards or more - and into the woods left of the fairway.

The crowd cheered anyway, and Obama - dressed in a black golf shirt, brown pants, a beige cap and two-tone golf shoes - acknowledged his gallery with a small bow.

"Look at that - no mulligan," one woman exclaimed after Obama - said to be a stickler for the rules - declined to take a do-over.

Obama golfs regularly, but almost never in front of an audience. Experts on hand for Monday's rare peek at his form declared themselves impressed - to a point.

"He has a naturally athletic golf swing, very well-coordinated," said Farm Neck golf pro Michael Zoll, a PGA member who watched Obama warm up. "He does what few golfers do, and that is he trusts his wrists at the top of his backswing. And he generates a lot of club head speed not by trying to muscle the ball, but as a result of the natural timing he has."

On the other hand . . .

"He did push the ball to the left," noted Zoll, "and that came from his picking his club up, as opposed to swinging his arms more freely. . . . That kept the club face slightly open at impact."

Left unknown was the President's final score Monday in a round that included included UBS CEO Robert Wolf, Chicago pal Eric Whitaker and White House aide Marvin Nicholson. Once the foursome left the first tee, Secret Service agents kept the public and the press away.

Obama's sporting day also included a round of tennis with First Lady Michelle Obama at the family's rented 28-acre compound.

The President has no calls or meetings on his schedule at the moment, presidential spokesman Bill Burton said, but he is staying up-to-date with developments on the economy, health care and foreign policy.

Obama plays a lot of golf, but doesn't often play in front of an audience. Egan-Chin/News

Obama plays a lot of golf, but doesn't often play in front of an audience.

Burton hit back at Republican critics who said Obama should forgo his week-long vacation when many Americans are struggling economically.

"As I recall, the previous President took quite a bit of vacation time himself, and I don't think anyone bemoaned that," Burton told reporters, referring to George W. Bush's month-long summer getaways. "I think it's important for the President, as with anybody, to take a little time, spend time with his family, and recharge his batteries."

Obama's plan for the week is not to have one, Burton said. "You know, he's on vacation, so everything is a little bit loose," Burton said. "You know, you wake up, you have some breakfast, you work out and then you decide, oh, what do I feel like doing today? He's doing that just like anybody else."

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9 Real (or Fake) Edible Aphrodisiacs

Learn which foods rev up your sex drive—and which don’t

By Sarah Jio


From oysters to avocados—we’ve all heard the rumors about the so-called aphrodisiac properties of certain foods. While a few are based on folklore, health experts say that some foods are better for sexual function than others. “Diet plays an important role in sexual function, including sex drive,” says Debby Herbenick, PhD, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. But which foods have greater libido-boosting powers than others? We sorted through fact and fiction to bring you the answers.

Real: Oysters

Everyone has heard about the so-called aphrodisiac properties of oysters, but will a dozen on the half-shell really do anything for your sex drive? Perhaps, says Jessica Baye, a registered dietician and clinical nutrition manager for MCGHealth in Augusta, Georgia. Here’s why: “Oysters contain high levels of zinc,” she explains. “Zinc stimulates the hormone testosterone, an essential sex drive hormone.” Try incorporating oysters in a romantic dinner with your partner, suggests Baye. But take extra care when shucking them; oyster shells are sharp and a deep cut in the hand—and subsequent trip to the emergency room—would definitely spoil the mood.

Fake: Bananas

You may have heard about the libido-boosting properties of bananas, but does eating one as an afternoon snack mean you’ll have better sex that night? Sorry, this one’s a myth, says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, a Seattle-based psychologist and chief relationship expert at “There’s a whole school of thought about things that are shaped like genitals being turn-ons,” she says. “A banana is shaped like a penis, but other than that, there aren’t any aphrodisiac properties here.”

Real: Wheat Germ

Wheat germ is a great source of vitamin E, which could help you in the bedroom. “Vitamin E is often called the main sex vitamin,” says Lauri Grossman, DC, the chair of the Department of Medicine and Humanistic Studies at the American Medical College of Homeopathy. “It's a powerful antiaging antioxidant that protects cell membranes from free-radical damage and is required for the synthesis of hormones.” It also helps female bodies balance estrogen. Too much estrogen, explains Dr. Grossman, can cause PMS, anxiety, bloating, headaches, muscle aches and mood swings—all things that put a damper on a woman’s sex drive.

Fake: Avocados

According to legend, the Aztecs referred to avocado trees as "testicle trees,” and folklore has long associated avocados with an improved libido. Is there any truth to it? “I’m sorry to say, it’s a myth,” says Dr. Schwartz. “There is nothing that suggests that avocados can do much for your sex drive.” She says that the vitamins and minerals they contain may have some relationship to increased libido, but you’d have to eat a ton of avocados to get the effect.

Real: Chocolate

You’ve already heard about the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate, but does it really have any aphrodisiac effects? Maybe. “Chocolate has a multitude of qualities that put it in the category of aphrodisiac,” says Baye. “Because it has a high fat and sugar content, it's often considered forbidden to eat. For some people, eating chocolate makes them feel ‘naughty’ and can cause an endorphin rush, similar to a runners’ high.”

Chocolate also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that plays a role in the production of serotonin. “Increased levels of serotonin are associated with feelings of being relaxed and satisfied,” she says. Baye also points to an Italian study that showed a correlation between daily chocolate consumption and an increase in libido. Though the study’s outcomes were largely inconclusive, she and other experts believe that a little chocolate now and then can’t hurt—and may even help—your sex drive.

Fake: Pumpkin Seeds

You may have heard the rumors about pumpkin seeds being “nature’s Viagra” for women—and what a great concept, right? The idea of eating a few pumpkin seeds, which are a healthy source of magnesium and iron, and feeling “in the mood” shortly after almost sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately, it is. Dr. Schwartz says don’t go out and stock up on pumpkin seeds just yet. “There’s no science behind this, or anything that really proves this,” she says. “It’s widely believed, but it’s never been tested.” Bottom line: If you like pumpkin seeds, snack away, but know that they may not do anything for your sex drive.

Real: Hot Chile Peppers

Can spicy foods rev up your libido? Yes, says Dr. Schwartz. “Anything that starts a sweating reaction, whether it’s in your palms or your forehead, starts it everywhere,” she explains. “Spicy foods, like hot chile peppers, get your blood flowing—and increased blood flow is an arousal mechanism that gets your juices going.” The easiest way to add spice to your favorite foods without going overboard is by sprinkling a bit of crushed chili flakes on your meal at dinner, suggests Dr. Schwartz.

Real: Champagne

While it’s true that alcoholic drinks can reduce your inhibitions, do they really increase your sex drive? Most won’t, says Dr. Schwartz, who notes that many alcoholic beverages actually have the reverse effect: They’ll give you a buzz, but quickly leave you with little energy or a lack of the blood flow that you need for arousal. Champagne, however, is the exception, she says. “Champagne is the perfect arousal drink,” she explains. “Because of the carbonation, you don’t have to drink as much and you feel the effects a lot quicker.”

Fake: Almonds

According to folklore, the scent of almonds makes women feel amorous. But this one’s better off left in fairytale land, according to Dolores Kent, MD, a gynecologist and cosmetic surgeon in Los Angeles. But here’s the interesting news: An ingredient in almonds might actually be beneficial for your overall sex drive. “Almonds contain L-arginine, a substance that is found in some medicated creams and gels that you apply to the genitals to increase arousal,” she says. While it’s not clear how many almonds you’d need to eat to reap the same libido-boosting effects, Dr. Kent says it wouldn’t hurt to snack on almonds every once in a while in the name of better sex (and health).

Top 10 Best Video Games For Couples

By Merritt Martin


I'm coming out of the first three months of shacking up with my boy. We're still learning each other's quirks. Some things about the boy are excellent: He makes a great sandwich, he--without complaint and often without being asked--brings me cold, bedside water, he has no problem that my feet are essentially 'bergs that gravitate toward his lava-like legs at 3 a.m. But there's one thing that's forced me to do some research: He plays one-person video games. They require him to fight off scavengers after a nuclear holocaust (Fallout 3's music is cool, but I'm OVER it), unite with blood elfs and perform excessive tasks for other people (because I want to watch him run errands during World of Warcraft), and drive a badass race car when I can't (GRID is so not fair).

So, I took it upon myself to trade in some games of my own, ask some pro gamers I know for help and appeal to my boy's desire to please to find some rather awesome games that we can play together. Because as much as I want him to have fun playing his games, he's got plenty of time for that--and it's not when I'm cuddled up next to him...with a controller in my hands ready and willing to kick his ass*. Digitally speaking, of course.

*Keep in mind, I may use boy-girl talk, but that's because it's my experience. These games can rock for girl-on-girl and guy-on-guy video fun times too. And that's not nearly as dirty as it sounds ...unless you do it naked, which is totally an option, no matter how you couple up.


10. Guitar Hero (PS3/Wii/X360)

Easy pick, but Guitar Hero is excellent for the gamer who's gradually bringing a non-player into his world. When I asked my gamer friend, VicTwenty (I'll use his gamer tag, because I think he'd like that) his thoughts on this list, he went right to da Hero. It's fun, it's silly, it provides an easy common bond and neither of you need musical experience to play. And if one of you happens to actually play bass or guitar in real life, well, this just evens things out since that actually makes it harder to play Guitar Hero (according to my boy who says that it makes no sense on any level below hard). The two of you can jam out together, swapping between parts each song, throwing the rock sign and kicking like the Wilson sisters when appropriate. From experience, Aerosmith and Metallica can prove way more challenging than expected, but singing along while trying to play can incite huge belly laughs. Also, how funny is it to see what heavy metal avatar your S.O. will pick? It's never who you expect... Go Judy Nails!

9. Lego Games (PS3/Wii/X360)

From Indiana Jones, to Harry Potter, to Star Wars, the Lego franchise is badass for creating two-player storyline games that couples can play simultaneously. Some complaints have been that tasks can be a little repetitive, but given that you're actually achieving stuff and moving through a challenge, it's fairly forgivable. VicTwenty also offered these games as another suggestion for the gamers-at-different-levels issue. Characters we all know and give a shit about also help. And it's not like anyone ever hated a Lego.


8. TIE: Wii Sports/Resort (Wii) and FIFA Soccer 09 (PS3/Wii/X360)

OK, so shoot me, I'm lumping the sports games together. But that's only so I can talk about both and not leave a really awesome game out. Basically, Wii Sports is great for peeps who actually want to get up off of the couch when they play a game (not as much off the couch as Wii Fit, but a little). "Play" tennis, baseball, golf, bowling or boxing, using the remote and occasionally a nunchuck, depending on the game. You could box your boyfriend without laying a hand on him. You could strike out your girlfriend without knocking her to the mound. It's fun--especially for couples of varying size who could never actually participate in certain sports together ... which is kind of a strange bonus, but is actually valid. Resort includes swordplay, wakeboarding, Frisbee, cycling (so strange) and more. Now, FIFA is different. This is a sit-down, pick out the team, switch from player to player, and maybe organize a tournament situation. Great for when you and your partner are both fans of a particular sport, or for when you're trying to convey just how awesome soccer really is (because it is truly awesome) and you really can't stand John Madden's voice no matter how much fun it is to play video game football. As with most pro sport games, you can pit dream teams against each other or play actual line-ups and historical rivalries (Chelsea FC or ManU?).


7. Hasbro Family Game Night (Wii/X360)

So maybe you like board games but your partner digs on the video. Meet in the middle. Thus far, our favorite of the suite (which also offers Connect Four, Battleship, Sorry, Sorry Sliders and Boggle--and is hosted by Mr. Potato Head) is Yahtzee, since he gets a few poker-like challenges and, well, I just love a satisfying dice game. Plus, unlike Battleship, you don't have to look away when the other person plays. The huge bonus with the Game Night suite though, is that you never lose pieces or run out of the pads that come with board games, and there is no passive-aggressive conflict a week after playing, concerning who should put up the game box. Because that happens. It really does. And it's never pretty.


6. Mario Kart (Wii)

Everyone loves a good driving game. Why not play a driving game where, instead of having to go to the bowling alley and bully tweens out of the Need For Speed driver seats just to use a steering wheel and play against each other, you can simply hold up a clean white one on your couch and drive go-karts and motorcycles while throwing banana peels, squid ink and other weird shit at each other ... or your enemies--but you know you're totally throwing it at each other. The vehicles are fun, the characters are old familiars we all love (except the Princess, with her holier-than-thou attitude--what an asshole), and the various levels are diverse and fun. Well, except that twisty, turny Rainbow Road. That level can eat a dick.


5. Noby Noby Boy (PS3)

Now, I'll be honest, I was thinking Katamari Damacy (PS2) for this position, but then my buddy Sam Machkovech, games critic for The Escapist and The Stranger, set me straight. "It's only $5, and if you thought the guy who made Katamari Damacy couldn't get weirder, well, holy crap." Sam went on to entice with this: "The two of you control rainbow-colored worms, and all they can do in this 'game' is walk around, eat the world's citizens, then poop them out as if your butts are rifles. No point or purpose--just silly. As a bonus, see what happens when you eat and fart your boyfriend or girlfriend." Um, SOLD. This one is really great for the super-competitive, grudge-holding couple. There's nothing to compete for but who's laughing harder.

4. Contra (NES)

What? Did I just go Nintendo Classic on your asses? Yeah, I totally did. You know why? Because from the first time I ever played Contra with my best friend back in the day, I knew it was the perfect two-player shoot-the-aliens game in the world. It's simple, it moves from right to left. You're both working for the same goal, which means you can cuss out the bastards together and warn each other of evildoers looming in the brush. Plus, with a little of the ol' up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-select-start on the opening screen, you and your hunny-bunny can revisit that classic shit with 99 lives. That's right, bitches! I know the code! There will be many high five's. Contra never say die! Someday, I want to play this game while eating room service on my honeymoon. Followed by Rad Racer. There, I said it.


3. TIE: Peggle (X360) and Bust-A-Move (various incarnations for various platforms)

Both of these ball-shooting games seem simple in concept, and are relatively easy to play--to begin with. This means that those fairly unfamiliar to video games will have no trouble aiming and shooting, but those who feel they're bad asses may be quickly schooled and knocked down to size should their newbie S.O. have the wiring for aim and strategy. Likewise, two skilled players could own each other back and forth on both, keeping things interesting. A warning, however: For such an innocent-looking game (shoot a colored ball at like-colored balls to make them disappear from your side and show up on your opponent's), Bust-A-Move has caused some of the most intense insults ever to come from a seemingly mild-mannered person. The tension created from lining up shots before a slew of balls is added to your play area is crazy. It can become entirely too intense for super-competitive couples, but incredibly fun for those who are just really into playing games for fun. Peggle, on the other hand, is like a cross between B-A-M and pachinko, so more is left to chance, but you still get the zany cartoon characters with special powers. Basically, if your couple falls into the paranoid "the game is against me" category, go with B-A-M; if your couple falls into the "he's/she's against me" camp, go with Peggle. Either way, you get to play with balls.

2. House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)

Game critic Sam Machkovech rocked his suggestion again with this one. He promised me "point-and-shoot zombie killin'" in what he said was a top-notch gun game. I like gun games and zombies, and, well, based on the boy's penchant for Fallout 3, it sounds about right. But Sam couldn't have been more right when he said, "The dialogue and cut scenes are campy, exploitation-era delights that pair well with a case of PBR and a laughing S.O." Get out of my head! Just be aware that if you're not paying close attention, you might try to drink your Wiimote and wand your beer. Not that there's anything wrong with that, G.


1. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (X360)

Combine Galaga, Centipede and any other awesome space-themed arcade game from the '80s and you have Geometry Wars. Play competitive or co-op, depending on if you want to speak to each other later. The gist is that using your toggles, you drive your craft and shoot your enemies. Seems simple, except for the fact that said enemies just keep coming at you. Or time is running out. Or you only have one bomb left. Or you're in the mode where you can only shoot from within the circles. It sounds overwhelming and it is. But it's also totally amazing and addictive. You'll say, "Just one more round and then we'll go to bed" about seven times and love every minute of it. Skilled gamers of the first-person shooter variety (the boy) may need just as much time as those of the puzzle type (myself) to get the hang of this one, which really makes things fun. Go download it right now via Xbox Live Arcade. Just don't download the mobile version and play it at work, during dinner, during quiet moments alone together or while driving.

Former TV Star's Plans For Beverly Hillbillies Casino

max baer jr.Beverly Hillbillies star Max Baer Jr. may be a long way from his days on the popular 1960s sitcom but he hasn't given up the character of Jethro yet. Baer, who is 71, is looking into buying a closed hotel-casino in Sparks, Nevada and turning it into Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Hotel and Casino. The mayor of the town says that Baer has met with city officials and councilmen on the possible purchase of what was the Silver Club. Baer already has a home at Lake Tahoe.

The former actor has had this idea for a while and already had approval to build his casino in another location, next to a retail complex being built in northern Douglas County about 30 miles south of Reno and Sparks. But the construction of the retail complex has stalled and so Baer, who feels the pressure of age and the economy, is looking at other options.

The Silver Club is one is six Holder Hospitality casinos in Nevada that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and all the properties are for sale. Baer's casino plans as shown on his website include a facade that looks like the Beverly Hillbillies mansion and a large oil derrick sign. That sign would be a problem in Sparks because it would be 200 feet tall and the municipal code only allows signs that are about 50 feet tall. His desire to build a huge derrick with a flame on top kept him from building this project in Reno around 10 years ago.

According to his website the multi-million dollar project will feature unique applications of The Beverly Hillbillies theme including Granny's Shot Gun Weddin' Chapel, Jethro's All-You-Ken-Et Buffet, the Cement Pond, Granny's White Lightnin' Bar complete with rain & lightning, Elly May's Buns (Bakery), gourmet meals from Drysdales' Fancy Eatin' Fo Da Richins and Granny's Vittles & Hog Jowls Coffee Shop.

10 Extraordinary Lakes

Discover which bodies of water boast the most unexpected traits


When a body of water is inland, not part of an ocean, deeper than a pond and fed by a river, it is classified as a lake. Usually created by rifts, tectonic shifts and ongoing glaciations—often found in basins or along mature rivers—they’re some of the most beautiful nature-made landmarks on earth. See for yourself: Whether dotted with mineral accumulations, cascading down mountains or home to a rare breed of flamingo, each of these 10 lakes is definitely worth veering off course for.

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Sixteen cascading bodies of water called the Plitvice Lakes are divided into upper and lower basins by dams made of moss, algae and bacteria. The surrounding setting is heavily forested and home to a multitude of animal life, including brown bears, eagles and approximately 140 bird species. In varying colors of azure, green, gray and blue, the lakes make up the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 for its “outstanding natural beauty.” Photo courtesy of

Laguna Colorada in Bolivia

Speckled with white borax isles, the Laguna Colorada—also referred to as the Red Lagoon or Red Lake—is a shallow salt lake in southwest Bolivia. Red in color due to sediments and pigmented algae, it attracts a rare Chilean breed of feathered flamingo friends that feed on bacteria at the bottom of the lake and thrive amidst the protected habitat. Photo courtesy of Ian Cowe via

Dead Sea in Jordan and Israel

This landlocked lake in Southwest Asia, which sits at the lowest dry-land elevation on the earth’s surface, is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean—making it one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. Its closed drainage system, which allows no outflow (water levels are balanced by evaporation or seepage), creates conditions too harsh for animals to survive in, thus its name. However, the Dead Sea is believed to have powerful health benefits for humans due to the mineral content, lack of pollens and allergens, reduced solar radiation and higher atmospheric pressure. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Spotted Lake in Canada

In Osoyoos, British Columbia, there is a 38-acre natural phenomenon called Spotted Lake—though some still refer to by its Native Indian name, Klikuk. Containing one of the world's highest concentrations of minerals, including magnesium sulfate, calcium and sodium sulfate, the lake’s mud is used by residents of Okanagan Valley to heal aches and pains. As summer progresses, the lake dries out and its pools of minerals form white, pale yellow, green and blue circles. The lake is on private land, and is therefore not publicly accessible, but can be viewed from a nearby highway. Photo courtesy of Rammed Earth via

Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru

Lake Titicaca boasts three major physical distinctions: It’s located on the border of Peru and Bolivia; it sits at the highest point above sea level of any lake in the world; and is, by volume, the largest lake in South America. Though it’s fed by rainfall, melted water from glaciers, five major rivers and 20 small streams, water doesn’t flow out as easily as it does in. Nearly a closed lake—with just one single outlet at the Rio Desaguadero—the majority of its water input is balanced out by evaporation. Photo courtesy of Adam Jones, PhD, via

Pitch Lake in Trinidad

Pitch Lake, the biggest nature-made deposit of asphalt in the world, is located in La Brea, Trinidad. Not just a beautiful landmark, the body of water—which is spotted with several isles of asphalt—is a main source for cement export companies, and is used in both Trinidad and Tobago to pave roads. Attracting nearly 20,000 visitors a year, the lake is thought to be located over two tectonic fault lines in the Caribbean Plate, resulting in an inlet for oil—which, after lighter components evaporated, left behind the weightier asphalt. Photo courtesy of Frank Julien Felix via

Five-Flower Lake in China

Jiuzhaigou Valley is a nature reserve in southwestern China known for its waterfalls and lakes. The preserve’s prized possession is the Five-Flower Lake—the most awe-inspiring of all of its bodies of water. Its vast color palette (azure blue, blackish green and light yellow) is caused by calcium carbonate as well as hydrophytes, which also leave the water crystal-clear. From above, visitors can see fallen tree trunks scattered across the bottom, laid out in a magnificent maze. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Protected within the borders of Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, Lake Nakuru—which means "dust” or “dusty place" in the native language of Maasai—boasts an abundance of blue-green algae, which attracts a myriad of pretty pink flamingos. Pollution and drought continue to destroy the avian feeding ground, forcing the flamingos to relocate to nearby lakes; however, boasting over 400 resident bird species, it still remains one of the greatest bird-watching spots on earth. Photo courtesy of Mircea Giurca via

Kelimutu Crater Lakes in Indonesia

Atop a stratovolcano in Flores—one of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia—sit three crater lakes: Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People), Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake). Each lake is distinct in appearance, chemical makeup and historical sequence of color. Typically green, red, black or blue, each lake’s hue is controlled by changes in external conditions (though neighboring villages have their own myths revolving around immersed souls of the deceased). Their colors are most apparent in the morning, as the sun shines on them from above. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Boiling Lake in Dominica

Bubbling with grayish-blue water, the Boiling Lake—located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the Caribbean island of Dominica—is the second largest hot spring in the world. Approximately 200 feet wide, the lake experiences dramatic fluctuations in activity and is only accessible by foot. Fun fact: In 2007, Canadian adventurer George Kourounis crossed the lake for Angry Planet, a Canadian reality-based television show. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Carbon Negative Hemp Walls are 7x Stronger than Concrete

by Daniel Flahiff

sustainable design, green design, hemcrete, building materials, concrete, green building, architecture, carbon negative concrete, tradical

Buildings account for thirty-eight percent of the CO2 emissions in the U.S., according to the U.S. Green Building Council, and demand for carbon neutral and/or zero footprint buildings is at an all-time high. Now there is a new building material that is not just carbon neutral, but is actually carbon negative. Developed by U.K.-based Lhoist Group, Tradical® Hemcrete® is a concrete substitute made from hemp, lime and water. What makes it carbon negative? There is more CO2 locked-up in the process of growing and harvesting of the hemp than is released in the production of the lime binder. Of course the equation is more complicated than that, but Hemcrete® is still an amazing new technology that could change the building industry.

sustainable design, green design, hemcrete, building materials, concrete, green building, architecture, carbon negative concrete, tradical

Good looking, environmentally friendly and 100% recyclable, Hemcrete® is as versatile as it is sustainable. It can be used in a mind-boggling array of applications from roof insulation to wall construction to flooring. It is seven times stronger than concrete, weighs half as much, and is less prone to cracking. Hemcrete® is also waterproof, fireproof, insulates well, does not rot and is completely recyclable. In fact, the manufacturers say that demolished Hemcrete® walls can actually be used as fertilizer!

Available for years in the U.K., Hemcrete® is only now finding its way into North America. The species of hemp used to manufacture Hemcrete® is illegal to grow in the U.S., making Hemcrete® an expensive option for U.S. builders for now. As pressure for more sustainable building materials grows, lawmakers are certain to revisit this and other similarly restrictive statutes, particularly if there is money to be made. And judging from the success of Hemcrete® in Europe and elsewhere, there is plenty to be made; it is so profitable overseas that Hemp Technologies, one of the biggest manufacturers of hemp products in the UK, is actively recruiting as many new growers as it can.

+ Tradical Hemcrete

The 7 best features in Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Apple's under-the-hood update includes some surprisingly nice changes for users
by: Galen Gruman
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August 24, 2009 (InfoWorld) When a new OS upgrade costs $29, you can be forgiven for thinking of it as a service pack. Such may appear to be the case with Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, which Apple has positioned as an under-the-hood upgrade whose new capabilities won't be so obvious to users, and thus not worth the usual $129.

I agree with that price assessment (if only Microsoft had made the same judgment about Windows 7), but I don't agree that what Snow Leopard offers resides merely under the hood. Instead, it provides many enhancements and some new features that Mac users of all persuasions will really like. (Note: The $29 upgrade price is for Leopard users; if you have an older Mac OS X version, it'll cost you $169 to upgrade.)

[ Get all the details on the new Mac OS X features in InfoWorld's "What's new in Mac OS X Snow Leopard" slideshow trio: new features for all users, new features for office users, and new features for power users. | Follow InfoWorld's ongoing coverage of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. ]

Much of Snow Leopard's focus has been internal. For example, Apple has revamped the kernel, included apps, and much of the OS itself to be 64-bit (to allow virtual addressable memory of 16 exabytes and physical addressable memory of more than 32GB).

But until apps are rewritten for 64-bit and the new Mac models support that kind of memory, there's little immediate benefit. Ditto for multicore enablement in the Grand Central Dispatch engine. But the revamped QuickTime X and Java engines should result in faster processing of streaming media and Java applets (such as on Web sites).

Putting aside these important but long-term changes, here are Snow Leopard's most immediately beneficial new features and enhancements.

1. ActiveSync and Exchange 2007 support

Following in the footsteps of the iPhone, Snow Leopard makes these Microsoft technologies native to the OS. That means Apple's e-mail, calendar, and contacts apps work just peachy with Exchange 2007 server, giving users the same capabilities as Microsoft Entourage but with the better-designed, less-memory-intensive apps -- Mail, iCal, and Address Book -- included in OS X.

2. Exposé integration in the Dock

The Mac OS X Dock makes it easy to access applications, open documents, and common folders, a concept Windows 7 is stealing in its retooled taskbar. Open documents are even more easily accessed in Snow Leopard, thanks to the integration of Exposé.

Now when you click and hold an app icon in the Dock, you get preview windows for each of its open documents, allowing you to switch easily among them or to close them, all without having to clutter your screen with document windows. I never cared much for Exposé in its traditional role (providing hot corners and shortcuts to open application windows), but I love the Dock-integrated Exposé functionality that Snow Leopard adds.

3. Automatic location detection

When you travel, it's easy to get mixed up as to when your appointments are, since your computer is still in your "home" time zone, and you have to mentally calculate the current time when looking at the calendar or clock. Sure, you can change the time zone in the Date & Time system preference, but it's easy to forget.

So Snow Leopard changes the time zone for you automatically (if you set that as the default behavior), using Wi-Fi mapping to figure out where you are -- you will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi access point or router. iCal can also be set to adjust the times to the current time zone automatically, so your calendar always reflects the current times.

4. The new Preview: More like Adobe Reader

I have nothing against Adobe Reader, but I love that Preview now can open multiple PDF documents, display their contents as contact sheets, and show thumbnails of pages in a sidebar for easy navigation. In other words, it works a lot like Adobe Reader. That's one fewer app to launch -- and since Preview loads much faster than Reader, I can get to my PDFs' contents much faster now.

[ Get all the details on the new Mac OS X in the "Snow Leopard Bible," by InfoWorld's Galen Gruman and Macworld U.K.'s Mark Hattersley. ]

5. Movie and screencast recording

Snow Leopard takes the formerly $35 QuickTime Pro and makes it a standard, free app in Mac OS X. That means you can record movies and -- great for many marketing, education, and Web professionals -- screencasts from your Mac with no additional software.

6. Systemwide automatic text replacement

Automatic text substitution as you type is nothing new; Microsoft Word has had it for more than a decade. But Snow Leopard lets you specify such substitutions via the Keyboard system preference, so you have a common set of substitutions available to all applications. Right now, only TextEdit, Mail, and various Apple apps use this common auto-text service, but if other software developers adopt it, you may finally get all your text-oriented apps to autocorrect the same way.

7. No more gesture segregation

I have a late-2006 model MacBook Pro at home, and it's frustrating that its gesture-capable trackpad supports only the first generation of touch gestures (one- and two-finger moves), not the second-generation three- and four-finger options. Snow Leopard fixes that, so gesture-capable trackpads now support all gestures, no matter what Mac model you have. (Of course, your Mac has to have a gesture-capable trackpad, so models before 2006 aren't helped out by this update.)


POSTED BY Wookie Johnson

The gods have been kind to us today. Here we have a first look at the new A&E reality series Steven Seagal: Lawman. Now that he's run out of C-Level rappers to co-star with, Seagal has been moonlighting with a New Orleans Sheriff's Department between film roles. And this fall we get to go on a ride along. Although the show is probably heavily staged, it's still more exciting than the alternative idea they were tossing around, Steven Seagal: Catsitter.

Quentin Tarantino: Britney Spears, Jason Mraz Helped Inspire Inglourious Basterds

quentinmraz.JPGRecently, Quentin Tarantino declared that the forgotten Jason Biggs comedy Anything Else was one of the twenty best films he’d seen since he first became a filmmaker. It was a bold statement, to be sure; still, we should have assumed that the perennially over-the-top filmmaker would be capable of going himself one better. Now, by releasing a playlist of songs that inspired him while making Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino may have done just that.

Tarantino debuted the list this weekend on the Sirius channel Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and also used his two-hour special to tell personal anecdotes about each song and, randomly, to bash The Matrix Reloaded. Here’s the lineup:

· Wu Tang Clan - “The Rulez”
· KT Tunstall - “Hold On”
· Bob Dylan - “Political World”
· Barbra Streisand - “Stony End”
· Andy Kim - “Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me”
· Sir Douglas Quintet - “Mendocino”
· David Bowie - “Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)”
· Jay Z - “S. Carter”
· Roy Orbison - “There Won’t Be Many Coming Home”
· Jason Mraz - “I’m Yours (Acoustic)”
· Maroon 5 - “Wake Up Call”
· Steve Poltz - “Waterfalls”
· Britney Spears - “My Prerogative”

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the noted American Idol superfan carries a torch for the mainstream pop of Spears and Mraz, but to see those selections nestled so close to the Bowie song that actually made it into Basterds conjures up an alternate version of the film to go along with its alternate history: Basterds’ suspenseful, Nazi-killing climax, set to Britney’s yelping remake of Bobby Brown.

· Listen To Quentin Tarantino’s Personal Playlist On Sirius XM [BeatCrave]

World’s Tallest Wooden Building Planned for Norway

August 24, 2009

by Bridgette Meinhold

Norwegian Barents Secretariat - World's Tallest Wooden Building

Recently the Norwegian Barents Secretariat announced plans for a new cultural center that is being touted as the world’s tallest wooden building. The Secretariat hopes that the new structure will serve as a physical symbol of their important role in the High North - a lighthouse of sorts and a beacon of knowledge and development. As part of that role, the new office and cultural center will also act as a model for sustainable building and carbon neutrality.

wooden structure, wooden building, world's tallest wooden building, kirkenes, norway, norwegian barents secretariat, local materials

Currently the world’s tallest wooden structure is said to be a 144 ft, 13-story home in Arkhangelsk, in North-West Russia built by Nikolai Sutyagin. The new tower by the Secretariat will be located in Kirkenes, Norwayand will be 16-17 stories tall and constructed from natural materials with innovative and environmental solutions in all parts of the building. Oslo-based Reiulf Ramstad Architects are responsible for the ambitious project, which will be situated in downtown Kirkenes on the historical ground of a multiethnic area.

To achieve carbon neutrality, Reiulf Ramstad Architects is relying on integrated systems that also enable it- to adapt to the changing seasons and climate. The firm also plans to reuse biodegradable household and industrial waste to produce biogas. Recycled materials from the surrounding area will be incorporated into the design, which is based on traditional architecture from Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

The interior of the center will house energy-efficient offices for the Barents Secretariat as well as a library, a theater and a creative environment for artists, researchers, students and other relevant institutions. Their goal is that the wooden building will serve as an example of sustainable construction for the surrounding region while acting as a center for cooperation between Russians, Finns, Swedes, Saamis and Norwegians.

+ Reiulf Ramstad Architects

Grease? New Coating Comes Clean With Water

Jessica Marshall, Discovery News

Oil-Resistant | Discovery News Video

Aug. 21, 2009 -- Removing oily smudges from mirrors, countertops or fabrics usually requires some elbow grease... and a strong soap or solvent.

A new coating developed by Jeffrey Youngblood and colleagues at Purdue University promises that grease stains can be wiped away with plain old water.

Incorporating this material into cleaning products, paints or sealants could reduce the need for environmentally damaging solvents and phosphate-containing detergents, the researchers say.

Phosphate detergents can kill aquatic life by allowing algae and microbes to overgrow bodies of water, suffocating other animals by consuming the dissolved oxygen.

The new coating is made by binding a water-loving molecule to a Teflon-like molecule that repels oil. This pairing makes for a surface that prevents oil from sticking to it, while also allowing it to be wet by water.

"Most surfaces that repel oils are inherently very water repellent as well. This works great for making something 'non-stick', but when the surface does get dirty, it's basically impossible to clean the oil off without using soap," said polymer scientist Ryan Hayward of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"Youngblood's group has introduced a clever twist to this picture by directly incorporating soap-like components in their polymer coatings," he added.

"These materials are resistant to oils but at the same time can be easily wet by water, meaning that an oil-coated surface can be cleaned simply by rinsing with water. If these polymers can be made into robust coatings or fabrics, they could have real potential for reducing the amount of detergent that we use."

The first generation of the material was complicated and expensive to make. It took a graduate student about a week under stringent conditions to coat a piece of glass, Youngblood said.

The latest work simplifies the process, creating a compound that can be mixed straight into a window cleaner, for instance.

"We are learning that our [new products] are not as good as our original technology, but add other benefits in terms of ease of use," Youngblood said. "One might have to make a tradeoff. "

The best quality coating might be worth the effort to apply to a telescope or camera lens (the coating also has anti-fog properties), he explained. "For consumer products, we would have another system. It doesn't work as well, maybe doesn't last as long, but it's much cheaper to produce."

While the team continues to experiment with coating formulas, a product with a shorter lifetime might be good enough for use in a window cleaner where a consumer would apply it periodically, anyway, he suggested. "Every time people clean their windows, it's going to redeposit itself. "