Monday, July 12, 2010

I Spit Hot Fire

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

It’s been…a bit of a hectic week at work. Don’t worry, not going into details. Business, busyness and miscommunications. All will get resolved and I’m sure there’ll be much more in the near future…but that’s the way it is. Life’s 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. How did I react? Well, Thursday night I went to Truckee Thursdays and had a swingin’ time with some coworkers and the fellow townspeople, went bar hopping a bit, walked home. Friday was work…and then I didn’t really do much. I watched a movie…but I’m gonna wait to review it for another day. Leave you with a little suspense. Saturday, I think I may have eaten a tainted banana for breakfast (not joking) because I ate one…and then about a half hour later, vomited…and then was perfectly fine. “Thanks for sharing, $teve.” You’re welcome. Anyway, that kinda kept me from going to Beerfest later in the day…because I knew that I was going to my coworker’s going away party…and I didn’t want to push it. Besides, trying to save a little money. So that night, I went to the Crystal Bay Casino…and basically for less than the $30 just to get into Beerfest, I was able to enjoy the Roulette wheel, a half dozen beers, the company of good people, dancing up a storm (and the ladies love it when I dance), a concert by one of the best bands I’ve heard called Albino, kind of a funky Afrobeat group…and yes, I even got one of their CDs. Oh don’t worry. Because I was there for a good six hours & cut myself off early, I was perfectly fine driving home. Good times. Here are some pictures…
Crystal Bay Casino's Red Room

Other than that, I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with my family & friends because… apparently they miss me… and I miss them. My brother wants me to come visit next weekend for his birthday / bachelorhood barbecue… but I may have a date instead, so we’ll see. I also heard a lot about LeBron James, as I’m sure you all have. Okay, to sum up for those of you who don’t know (half my readers?), LeBron James is probably the world’s greatest basketball player…and he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 17…and he’s 25 years old now. He was also a free agent, free to sign with whoever he wants. Well, the thing is that he was born & raised in Akron, Ohio…and since he was 18 has played professionally for the Cleveland Cavaliers…so he’s basically the hometown hero that comes around once in a generation. However, he’s a free agent…and free to sign with whoever the hell he wants. He could go to Greece for a few years and that’s perfectly fine. Confusing…but fine. Well, everybody wants him. There were seriously six franchises who completely jeopardized their futures in anticipation of signing him…which meant that at least five of them were going to be sorely disappointed with the outcome no matter who he chose. The city of Cleveland was hoping he would stay the hometown hero. The Knicks & Nets of the five borough area were hoping that they could bring him to the Big Apple. The Bulls wanted him to forever be in the shadow of Michael Jordan. Even the f**king Clippers thought they had a shot for some reason. “Oh yeah, I’ll share a stadium with Kobe.” So he holds this primetime press conference to announce his decision, on ESPN, over ten million people watching. So who did he decide to sign with? The Miami Heat. Why? Because two of his friends from the past decade were going to sign there…and let’s face it, Miami vs. Cleveland? Really? Who’s not going to pick Miami? Well, he’d made about $50 million if he stayed in Cleveland…but money isn’t everything. Then it hit the fan…

People in Cleveland went nuts…and to a certain extent, understandably. I’m not for the burning effigies and death threats or any of that stuff…but it definitely could’ve been handled a lot better on LeBron’s part. As soon as it was announced that there was going to be a press conference, I thought “Awesome.” Then I heard it was in Connecticut instead of the Boys & Girls Club of Akron or his old high school or the various other locations where he usually holds press conference, “Oh sh*t, he’s not staying in Cleveland. He’s at neutral ground far away from there. This could be bad.” Then the day before the announcement, there’s a press conference where his two buddies are all smiles & saying they’re going to join the Heat, and I get that Will Smith song stuck in head, “Party in the city where the Heat is on, or lie on the beach til the break of dawn” You all know it, don’t front. Now, basically I see the LeBron decision…as exactly like one of my other favorite heartbreaking celebrity tales…but with a major twist that makes him seem like more of a douche. Ladies, do you like Brad Pitt? Of course you do. Remember when he was with Jennifer Aniston? Then he started hanging out with Angelina? And then they became Brangelina? You hated him for a second…but then you understood…because it was Angelina. Same with LeBron. He dropped his homegrown all-American routine with the girl he grew up but realized it wasn’t going anywhere, like winning a championship because Cleveland may be cursed…and left it for the sexy new possibilities of a seemingly greener pasture & warmer climate with his buddies. Have you never made a decision like that? Really? The thing he f**ked up on…was the press conference. Basically, it was the equivalent of Brad calling a huge conference to announce that he’s going to marry the woman that he loves…and instead of it being the woman he’s been with for years, it’s the one that he met last week…in front of an audience of MILLIONS!!! Like I said, burning effigies and death threats are a little extreme…because you can understand the decision when you break it down…but it was just done in a horrible way. Anyway, I hope he’s happy in Miami playing with his buddies…and I hope that Cleveland exacts revenge by bouncing them in the playoffs on the way to a championship or something…but hey, we’ll see how it goes. I just have no idea what the Nets are going to do now. They banked EVERYTHING on James coming there. However, the funniest thing of this whole free agency debacle in my opinion…is there was a big deal about a lot of big names moving for the money…and the guy who got the biggest contract was Joe Johnson, who’s basically an average player that looks amazing on a horrible team. It’s not all about money. Anyway, here’s some other news…probably more interesting to you.

Vegas Update – One of the cool things about where I live…is that I’m in California…but if I want to see what the Old West was like (but with cell phones & clean water) I can hop over to Nevada, where the state flower…is sagebrush (no joke, just funny). A place where you can find company for the evening at affordable rates (pending you have insurance that covers the follow-up) and everything can be settled on a gentleman’s bet, apparently even politics. Here’s an update for a story a while back. Last Thursday, the 10 of clubs just wasn't quite good enough. That's what Carl Moore Sr. drew in the tiebreaker between two rural Nevada county commission candidates who sought the Republican nomination in the June 8 primary. Nye County Commissioner Andrew "Butch" Borasky, who survived a recall last year and is seeking a second term, drew a queen of clubs to advance to the November general election. The drawing took place in a courtroom in Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas. Both tied with 381 votes in the primary. They remained tied after two recounts. State law calls for candidates to draw lots to get a winner when an election is deadlocked (I was kind of hoping for a quick draw duel at twenty paces myself). It can be cutting cards, throwing dice, drawing straws or flipping a coin. Before the big moment, Borasky and Moore agreed on procedure, down to the color of the deck that Clerk Sandra Merlino used (red, for blood). Merlino then shuffled the cards seven times and fanned their Fate out on a table. "We decided on high card," Borasky told The Associated Press in a telephone interview afterward. "There was no disagreement between us. We shook hands before and after." No takesy-backsies. Moore, co-owner of a family-owned hardware store, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Borasky will face Libertarian candidate Sandra Darby in November. It's not the first time a Nevada election has been determined by chance. In the past decade, county commission races in White Pine and Esmeralda counties were each decided by a cut of the deck. Two card draws were needed to decide the winner of a seat on a rural television district board last year. After a tie in 2008, one candidate lost an initial draw before Washoe County election officials discovered some votes weren't counted. They tied again in ballots, and the eventual winner was declared after he drew an ace of clubs to beat a 10 of spades in January 2009. Funny, right? I’m still a fan of the duel thing, even if it’s just paintball guns. Or heck, arm wrestling, tug-o-war, beer pong, wet t-shirt contest, some kind of actual competition. Flipping a coin? Is that how it should be done? Bush & Gore in 2000? How would that have been? (Slips into dream world of Al Gore busting a cap Aaron Burr style and saying, “Yippee ki-yay, mother f**ker. I’m President now!”) Anyway, just interesting…and not the only Vegas Update today…

Vegas Update: Part Deux – You love the Hostel movies, right? Have they convinced you to never ever visit Slovakia? Or trust any European girl that’s too damn hot to be associated with your silly ass? Does it chill you to the core that there might be some underground organization that really might be out there, getting tourists drunk, abducting them, and then charging a pretty penny for eccentric adventurers to fulfill their sick sadistic fantasies on your body? You too? Well, Vegas is REALLY going to hate this news because it may f**k up their tourism industry even more. Bloody Disgusting reports that a third film in the "Hostel" series is in the works. Michael Weiss penned the script… which is set in beautiful Las Vegas, where a bachelor party goes horribly wrong (as they often do). The setting and tone sounds notably different from the first two which used European locales as a big element of their production. At present the title will go direct-to-DVD and writer/director of the first two flicks, Eli Roth, will only be involved as producer. Scott Spiegel (“From Dusk Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money” which was also straight-to-DVD a decade ago and yes, I bought it for $2) is taking over the director's chair. There is "some speculation" it may go theatrical. Will this movie cause me to never venture to Vegas ever again (much like Slovakia or anywhere east of Prague)? I doubt it…but hey, we’ll wait until the movie comes out to find out for sure.

Lincoln Update – Speaking of the Stepmotherland, Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted" & “Nightwatch”) is in talks to direct an English-language remake of last year's Russian superhero feature "Black Lightning" for Universal Pictures reports Variety. Bekmambetov produced the Russian original which followed a Moscow University student who discovers a flying car and becomes a superhero in order to take on the Russian underworld. A sequel to the original is also in the works. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Maybe. “But $teve, what the hell does this have to do with Abraham Lincoln? You called this a Lincoln update and you’re talking about flying Ruskies.” Patience young one. The reason this is a Lincoln Update…is because it was through this article that I found that Bekmambetov remains attached to do another flick before this. The title is "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" though no word as yet on when it will begin production. Oh yes. I am not joking. I’m sure there’s some legal thing because that was going to be the twist in Spielberg’s “Lincoln” movie that he’s been dragging his feet on, where Liam Neeson was president by day, vampire hunter by night…and then he finds out that Andrew Johnson (Harrison Ford) is really Dracula!!! Oh yeah, spoiler alert? Sorry, that probably should’ve gone before I gave away the plot, right? My apologies. So that’s why it’s a Lincoln update.

Flying Car Update – In addition to a Russian superhero movie with a flying car, there’s also a great update in the realm of a world where we don’t need roads. A highway-worthy airplane moves one step closer to production with a recent weight exemption approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The Transition Roadable Aircraft, developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm Terrafugia, will be allowed a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 pounds, the same allowance made for aircraft designed to operate on water. Other planes in the class, called Light Sport Aircraft, are limited to a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds. "The main reason for that additional weight is the additional safety features that the Transition has -- because it's designed to be operated on the road -- that aren't found in other light aircraft," said Anna Dietrich, Terrafugia's chief operating officer. A protective safety cage, airbags and an energy absorbing crumple zone are among the extra features. Light sport aircraft are limited to carrying two people -- a pilot and a passenger. The pilot must have a Sport Pilot certificate (which only requires 20 hours of flight training). "It's a certification more appropriate to the size and complexity of these simple aircraft," Dietrich said. "There's actually programs that you can do in about two weeks. You can take a couple weeks off of work and come home a pilot, so it's a very accessible, very exciting way of getting into aviation and giving yourself that additional freedom and flexibility," Dietrich said. Going from plane to car "takes about the same amount of time as putting down your convertible top," and the transition takes place from inside the cockpit. After landing, a cockpit-operated system folds up the wings, and the pilot can drive away. Transition is designed for trips of up to about 450 miles and can travel about 100 miles per hour in the air and "highway speeds" on the ground of "65, 70, [miles per hour] -- something like that. We're really not pushing the performance as an automobile because it is really designed to be used as an airplane that has this additional capability. Functionally, it's a lot closer to an airplane than it would be to your car." The price is more in line with aircraft as well; Terrafugia anticipates the Transition will cost $194,000 (yeesh, and it won’t even go as fast as Gretchen on the freeway?). The first delivery will occur in about 18 months, Dietrich said. The Transition still has to receive FAA certification and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing before it goes into production. The Transition completed more than 20 test flights last year. Is that f**king awesome or what? Basically with a quarter million dollars (perhaps with a flux capacitor option) and two weeks time, you can be a certified pilot of a flying Peugeot. I could hop onto Highway 267 a block from my apartment, take off, say “f**k your toll, Bay Bridge” and land on the Embarcadero two hours later. All the while enjoying the majesty of the Sierra Nevadas from about the same altitude as a hot air balloon…and perhaps a lucky passenger enjoying the trip with me. I like it. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. “Traffic jam on the freeway? F**k that. Zoom zoom zoom…and away we goooooo…”

Ugliest Car in Production, No Longer – Think of the most ridiculous & hideous cars in history. Got a good clear picture of it. Do you even have the color picked out? Probably some ugly monochromatic orange hue known as Rust? You’re thinking of a PT Cruiser, aren’t you? How did I know that? Magic!!! By the way, is THIS your card? Well, on July 9th, the last of Chrysler’s retro-styled PT Cruisers has rolled off of the assembly line. As the 2010 model year winds down at Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico plant, so too will the final Cruisers. (Champagne corks pop across the world) When it first debuted a decade ago, the PT Cruiser was a sensation (to idiots…much like “Twilight”). Customers flocked to Chrysler showrooms and paid over the sticker price to be able to get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, over the years the Cruiser’s styling did not age well (it was always ugly), and it lost its edge while Chrysler essentially ignored the model. The Chrysler PT Cruiser was already slated to for discontinuation when the automaker entered bankruptcy. In desperate need of products to sell, the automaker kept the PT Cruiser around for just a little while longer. Now as the car’s production comes to an end, the Toluca factory will be retooled in preparation for the Fiat 500. This fresh new minicar will arrive in Chrysler showrooms later this year. Sigh… so yeah, just wanted to let you all know. And if you willingly drive a PT Cruiser and love it, I apologize… and I’m sorry. I just think they’re the most atrocious vehicles ever mass produced…and every time that I see one on the street, I get physically ill.

Mind Taking Update – You may still be asking yourself, “How did he know that I was thinking about a PT Cruiser?” Well, it wasn’t just because of the picture in your peripheral line of sight as you read…but maybe it was magic as well. Or perhaps science? Researchers have found that brain scans may be able to predict what you will do better than you can yourself, and might offer a powerful tool for advertisers or health officials seeking to motivate consumers. They found a way to interpret "real time" brain images to show whether people who viewed messages about using sunscreen would actually use sunscreen during the following week. The scans were more accurate than the volunteers were, Emily Falk and colleagues at UCLA reported in the Journal of Neuroscience. "We are trying to figure out whether there is hidden wisdom that the brain contains," Falk said in a telephone interview. "Many people 'decide' to do things, but then don't do them," Matthew Lieberman, a professor of psychology who led the study, added in a statement. But with functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, Falk and colleagues were able to go beyond good intentions to predict actual behavior. FMRI uses a magnetic field to measure blood flow in the brain. It can show which brain regions are more active compared to others, but requires careful interpretation. Falk's team recruited 20 young men and women for their experiment. While in the fMRI scanner they read and listened to messages about the safe use of sunscreen, mixed in with other messages so they would not guess what the experiment was about. "On day one of the experiment, before the scanning session, each participant indicated their sunscreen use over the prior week, their intentions to use sunscreen in the next week and their attitudes towards sunscreen," the researchers wrote. After they saw the messages, the volunteers answered more questions about their intentions, and then got a goody bag that contained, among other things, sunscreen towelettes. A week later we did a surprise follow up to find out whether they had used sunscreen," Falk said in a telephone interview. About half the volunteers had correctly predicted whether they would use sunscreen. The research team analyzed and re-analyzed the MRI scans to see if they could find any brain activity that would do better. Activity in one area of the brain, a particular part of the medial prefrontal cortex, provided the best information. "From this region of the brain, we can predict for about three-quarters of the people whether they will increase their use of sunscreen beyond what they say they will do. It is the one region of the prefrontal cortex that we know is disproportionately larger in humans than in other primates. This region is associated with self-awareness, and seems to be critical for thinking about yourself and thinking about your preferences and values." Now, Falk said, the team is looking for other regions of the brain that might add to the accuracy of the technique. While the findings can be important for advertisers seeking to hone a motivational message, they can be equally important for public health experts trying to persuade people to make healthier choices, Falk said. The team is now preparing a report on experiments to predict whether people would quit smoking after seeing motivational messages. Interesting, right? As a gentleman with a marketing degree, this does interest me…but hey, even the scans are pulling 75% accuracy…and it’s hilarious to me that about half of the subjects did what they said they would do. Want me to blow your mind? My guess is that the half that didn’t do…were the women. No? Am I wrong? Did you see the results? Neither did I. That’s just my guess. Call me sexist if you must…but I just know that guys are extremely simple…and women are constantly thinking about dozens of things at a time, so something like sunscreen (or a research project concerning it from a week ago) may have slipped their mind in the presence of relaxation at the beach. Then again, I may be way off. If only there was some kind of brain scan that could tell me what I was thinking…

Test Errors - The school superintendent in Springfield, Massachusetts, has taken responsibility for tests given to the district's 11th- and 12th-graders that were rife with spelling, grammatical and factual errors. Two tests given in May to about 2,600 students contained about 100 errors combined. The mistakes included the phrases "truning around" and "For God's skae," as well as a note on one test that read "This is the end of the Test," when there were two more pages. The district contracts with an outside company to develop the exams (hmm, wonder if that should be “contracted”). Superintendent Alan Ingram said Monday it wasn't that company's fault. He said the district's own proofreaders dropped the ball. He said he would make sure the district does a better job of checking the tests in the future. The funny thing to me…is that this even made a little news blurb. Being an all-star in academia for over 20 years, I don’t think I have yet seen a test without errors like that. Heck, there were NUMEROUS occasions (the Wingman will confirm) that I was basically able to turn a test score from a C to an A because of explaining how poorly the test was prepared…and providing evidence (with a little BS) that proved there were multiple answers. For example, let’s say the question was something like “Which is the most populous nation in the world?” Always a constant struggle between China & India…and depending on the reference materials that you utilize, it could swing either way. Heck, I think even for fun I tried to convince a teacher that it was Indonesia or something, just to see if I could get away with it…and would’ve gotten away with it too if not for those meddling kids. Yeah, those quizzes where the question says something like “Find X” in a math problem, I’ll circle the X and draw an arrow to it. Now “Solve for X” or something more specific, I’m down with. I’m a smart ass…and I’m not afraid to be one. Thinking outside the box is what’s given me many opportunities in my life. So yeah, I’m more intrigued as to why in the hell there’s something like “For God’s sake” in a test than a spelling error of “skae” in that same phrase. Maybe I just need to know the context. Perhaps it’s something like “This is a standardized test that will help us to evaluate your scholastic aptitude. You will have three hours to complete this section. If you complete the test within allotted time, please notify your teacher so that you can be excused from the room. Please do not lay your head down and take a nap causing drool marks to appear on your test and for God’s skae, don’t doodle on the form. If you do, the answer form won’t be able to be processed through a computer scanning system…and then somebody with the Board of Education will have to check it manually and know that you think George Washington Carver was the 1st President of the United States. Good luck. Turn page over.”

Presidential Rankings – With just having the 4th of July earlier this week, I thought this was a little interesting. A new poll of leading presidential scholars ranks Barack Obama as the 15th best president of the United States, just below Bill Clinton but ahead of Ronald Reagan. The Siena College poll, which surveyed 238 presidential scholars at U.S. colleges and universities, asked scholars to rate the nation’s 43 chief executives on 20 attributes ranging from legislative accomplishments to integrity and imagination (really, imagination). In the overall ranking, Obama rated two places below Clinton (#13) and three better than Reagan (#18). Franklin D. Roosevelt again earned the top spot, as he has every time since the poll was first conducted in 1982. He and the Mount Rushmore presidents — Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, George Washington (Carver) and Thomas Jefferson — have consistently been the top five presidents in the poll’s findings. Obama’s 15th ranking is slightly higher than other presidents who have taken office since the poll started nearly 30 years ago. Most start out at about number 20, said Siena statistics professor and poll director Douglas Lonnstrom. “[Obama’s] doing a little better, but he’s generally in the same ballpark,” he said. While he ranked high on traits like imagination (6th), communication ability (7th) and intelligence (8th), Obama rated poorly ratings on background (32nd), which was composed of traits like family (is this poll racist?), education (Hawaii?) and experience (he was a senator for a few years & a president for even less). Lonnstrom said the main factor that gives a president a top-five or top-10 ranking is his accomplishments — and an all-around high ranking in most categories. FDR, for example, ranks in the top 10 for every category except integrity (vastly overrated), he said. “The experts really are looking for consistency, a president who is looking good across most of these categories,” he said. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, was ranked at #23 in 2002 (the last time Siena’s presidential expert poll was conducted) but has since dropped like the Dow Jones to #39, qualifying him as one of the five worst presidents. Bush came in at #42 (2nd to last) on issues such as handling the U.S. economy, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence. (FYI - Warren Gameliel Harding was rated the least intelligent president…because he was caught in a bunch of obvious scandals & thought the cure to the Depression was more taxes, which led to the Grapes of Wrath type depression). Bush joins Harding, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce, all of whom have consistently ranked as the worst presidents since the poll started, in the bottom five. Several other presidents also saw movement in their ratings this year. Bill Clinton moved up five places; John F. Kennedy also moved up, from #14 to #11. Carter, Reagan and Nixon all dropped in the rankings this year — Carter dropped seven spots, from #25 in 2002 to #32 now; Reagan dropped two spots, from #16 to #18; and Nixon fell four spots, from #26 to #30. Hmm, weird that the guys before AND after Lincoln were in the bottom five…but hey, that’s how it goes sometimes. What do you think? Can Obama break the Top 10? These are tough times…but hey, it’s not like FDR (Depression & WWII), Lincoln (Civil War & vampire uprising), Georgie & TJ (Revolutionary War & establishing EVERYTHING) had cake walks. It’s gonna be tough to get that monument in DC…but all you’ve gotta do is be better than JFK. My suggestion – Bang a couple Hollywood starlets. Hell, if you can pull Beyonce away from Jay-Z, MAD street cred, which I believe was one of the 20 attributes on this poll. I’ll have to double check the figures. Anyway, I believe. Good luck, President Obama. I really hope that you can crack the Top 10 and help the United States of America, the land that I Love.

Wealth & Happiness - The United States may be the richest nation on Earth, a new study indicates, but it's not the happiest. The new analysis of Gallup World Poll data suggests, however, that trying to compare the happiness of one nation to another is not straightforward. Rather, there are two major categories of happiness: overall life satisfaction; and more moment-to-moment enjoyment of life. And while overall satisfaction of life is strongly tied to income, meaning richer nations and individuals have more of this overall bliss, how much one enjoys life (by measures such as laughing and smiling) depends more on social and psychological needs being met. These include having social support and using one's abilities, as opposed to sitting at a mind-numbing job (you think?). The United States, which had the highest gross domestic product per capita, came in at #16 for overall well-being and #26 for enjoyment, referred to as positive feelings. The #1 spot for overall well-being went to Denmark, and New Zealand landed the #1 slot for positive feelings. "Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income," said study researcher Ed Diener of the University of Illinois and the Gallup Organization. "And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life." The positive feelings aspect of happiness could have evolutionary roots. "Whereas life satisfaction reflects whether people are obtaining their values and goals in a long-term and big picture sense, positive feelings seem to arise from momentary things that are prewired, since feeling good about the support of others and about using skills are both necessary for humans to thrive and survive," Diener told LiveScience. The findings are detailed this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. How does one tally happiness in a study? The data was collected from a representative sample of more than 136,000 people across 132 nations from 2005 to 2006 (so smack in the middle of the Bush years). The poll used telephone surveys in more affluent areas, and door-to-door interviews in rural or less-developed regions. For global life satisfaction, respondents indicated how they would rate their lives on a scale from zero (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life). Participants also answered questions about positive or negative emotions experienced the previous day. On average respondents were relatively happy, judging their current life as slightly above neutral and experiencing frequent positive feelings and infrequent negative ones. While the majority of participants indicated their psychological needs are met, about 25% don't have basic needs met. Overall satisfaction with life went up with both personal and national income, suggesting societal circumstances play an important role in happiness. But positive feelings, which were slightly higher in relation to higher income, were much more strongly tied to feeling respected, having autonomy and social support and working at a fulfilling job. "Some of the nation rankings are indeed surprising, at least if we assumed that money was the only type of wealth. How do some mid-level nations in terms of income, such as Costa Rica, do so well? And conversely, why do some relatively rich nations such as South Korea do less well than expected? In part, because of the quality of social relationships." Of course there were places that got either mostly stellar or mostly dismal happiness marks. No. 1 in overall satisfaction, Denmark also came in at No. 7 for positive feelings. Impoverished nations in Africa generally scored low on both happiness measures. While Northern European and Anglo societies are currently most successful in the economic area, Latin American societies proved to be relatively high in social-psychological well-being. Sierra Leone scored consistently low, but other nations showed divergent rankings across the measures. For instance, Russia and South Korea had substantially lower scores for meeting social-psychological needs and in positive feelings than for income. Some economists think money increases happiness at the low end of the pay scale as it helps people meet their basic needs, but doesn't do much once a person is lifted out of poverty. This new study suggests the link between money and happiness goes beyond basic needs. While the steepest rise in overall well-being with money occurred in the poorer individuals and nations, there was still a bump in overall happiness at the higher socioeconomic status regions. "Money is an object that many or most people desire, and pursue during the majority of their waking hours," Diener and his colleagues write. Since most people want money, they use their financial success as a measure of overall success and a reference for how "good" their lives are. The study also showed the income-happiness link was tied to a person's ownership of luxury conveniences and their satisfaction with standard of living. "We don't know why there's a strong link between income and life satisfaction, but most economists would say it's because dollars buy stuff and humans like stuff," said Andrew Oswald, a professor of behavioral science at the Warwick Business School in England, who was not involved in the current study…but then again, doesn’t really need to be a professor of anything to make a connection like that. He doesn't think "stuff" fully answers the happiness question though. In addition, and possibly a more critical link between money and life satisfaction, is security. "I think it has more to do with money providing a kind of buffer against the bad shocks and insecurities of life. If you have a low income and little money in the bank, you feel much more vulnerable to the threat of layoff or the threat of sickness in your family," Oswald said in a telephone interview. As for what happiness really means, Oswald said, "We're only beginning to scratch the surface on what happiness means and ways to measure it. It's a multifaceted concept and researchers will be working for the next 200 years trying to get to the bottom of this."

So what do you think? Obviously you know I think about this stuff all the time. Do I need more money? Is my job secure? Why am I not completely overjoyed with my current living situation (which is spectacular)? Is it because I’m lonely and have very few social relationships established here? Is my appetite for growth just so insatiable that I can’t get no satisfaction? Though I try…and I try. Do I just need to get laid? All great questions…with difficult answers. This past week’s vacation & visitors have shown me a few things. Money isn’t everything. Sure, it’s nice…but it shouldn’t be your focus. Basically, the only place to get Happiness is from within. Sure, other people may really influence you to be happy every time that they’re in your presence…but you’re the one who chooses to receive it. To nerd it up, the other person is a constant. Your reactions to that person are the variable, thus it’s not how they make you feel but how you feel about them & their actions. It’s the same when you look in the mirror… or at your living arrangement… or your job. You may knit-pick at all the insignificant flaws or how it doesn’t please you… or you can focus on the good stuff – your smile that makes everybody’s day, the fact that it’s YOUR place & you love that you can crank up the jams whenever you want, that you enjoy your career in helping others, stuff like that. See, the past little while, I kinda forgot that… or maybe just pushed it to the side. I was too busy thinking about what I didn’t have, where I wasn’t, where I might end up, who thought what of me & why, stupid stuff that I don’t really control. Then with my family around, I got to hang around them, see the city, see other cities, spend time with nephews & my niece, hang out with friends, remember why I moved out here all by myself, and it just kinda reenergize that I am the master of my own Destiny. I make my Fate. If I think I’m going to be miserable & lonely, I will be. If I go out and enjoy every moment that I can, I will. If other people can’t dig that or choose not to, their loss. I can’t wait for other people to verify how nice of a life I have, cuz it’s gooooood. I just have to enjoy it & allow others to come along for the ride. As the saying goes, every Paradise has its price…but if focus too much on the costs, you never get to enjoy the benefits. I guess what I’m saying is…be good to yourselves…and each other. Sigh… damn you Jerry Springer. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Tons of other clichés to put here…but yeah, just enjoy the ride. You can certainly try to better yourself every day, like learn a new language, go to school, work out, all that jazz…but don’t forget what makes you awesome & amazing in the first place. Blah blah blah.

Anyway, that’ll do it for today. Gonna go shoot some hoops or something at the park, maybe watch a movie later, talk to a squirrel from on my deck, the possibilities are endless. Have a great day everybody!!!

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