Friday, April 30, 2010

The Challenges of Raising and Teaching Middle School Age Children - Part 2

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When I hear the public and political cry for educational reform I wonder if those voices are aware of the effect family and society have on children and their education. There are some problems children have in school that can not be repaired by a change in curriculum, teachers, or adding more funding to schools. The basic needs of many children are not being met at home and these children can not separate their home life from an academic focus. Those who are resilient have a chance for success, but those without an intrinsic motivation to succeed have not the strength to move forward. The nurture, love, and security that all children need to thrive is missing from many homes.

I teach in California. One of my students, I will call him James, has a mother who lives five cities away from the school where her only son attends. She and her husband are recently divorced. James' father now lives on the east coast. James lives within my school district with his elderly grandmother. He is failing in all his classes and has a tendency to bully other children. He is capable of doing the academic work and his scores from his previous school year show this ability. However, after I had a conversation with James he became very sad when I asked him if he wished to live with his mother. James does not understand why he does not live with her. He loves his grandmother, but her English is limited, she does not involve herself with his education, allowing him to play video games instead of studying or completing homework, and will not let him go outside. He has no friends in his neighborhood.

A conference with James' mother left me wondering if she cared for her son at all. Apparently, she has a boyfriend who lives in the house she acquired from the divorce and I can not help but believe that James would interfere with her "new" life. She said she sees her son every weekend, but according to him that is not true. So this boy continues to fail in school perhaps because he has a mother who does not want him and he knows this. I am not using the real names of any of the children in my class or the classes of other teachers in my examples, but the events are true.

Peter's father died in Iraq. He tries not to think about it, but the sadness is visible in his eyes. Getting passing grades can not assuage the pain he feels for the loss of his dad. He tries his best in school, but struggles emotionally. Linda has gang members in her family. She does not want to appear too smart in front of them because it is not cool. Her low grades do not represent her ability, but for her, family's acceptance is more important than school. She also does not want to speak against gangs because she will be a ostracized. So fitting in means more than academic success.

Sexual activity that I recall happening in my high school in the 1970's now occurs in much lower grade levels. Two fifth grade boys were caught looking at pornographic pictures and videos on their cell phones. One third grade boy wrote a note to another boy in the classroom asking him if he wanted to "f---" one of the girls in the class. The technology age has been a blessing and a curse. Students in high school listen to music from ipods, text messages to their friends, videotape teachers and classmates all during classroom instruction, then videotape fights outside. Twelve year old Miriam and Debra go into the school bathroom at lunch time and take cell phone pictures of their breasts to send to friends. Their minds are not on school work.

The current economy has also affected school performance for young people. In Santa Clara County, SIlicon Valley, about 20,000 people are homeless. About 25 percent of those are children under 18 years old. Children know when their parents are stressed and worried. In a National Educators Association (NEA) article titled "The Recession Hits Home--And then the Classroom" by Mary Ellen Flannery, she writes that according to Tripp Jeffers, president of North Carolina's Forsyth County Association of Educators,

"We have always known that socio-economic status and changes in socio-economics affect students and their ability to be successful in the classroom."

Children can be devastated when their parents lose jobs and families lose homes making it difficult to impossible for them to stay focused on their academic success. In the same aforementioned article, The National Bureau of Economic Research discovered that 15 percent of children whose families have lost their homes will possibly end up repeating a grade.

Philip's father is physically abusing his mother. Mother and son moved out of the home to a shelter for safety. This could be why Philip lashes out verbally and physically at other students without provocation from others. He also cries easily when he is upset. He has failing grades in all his classes because school is not that important to him right now.

Some parents do not realize that every day a child misses school is a day of learning that is difficult to recover. Lessons in class are built one upon another. When Allan's mother died a few years ago, he is twelve now, he had to live with his uncle. He is failing in all his classes. He loves having fun and playing at school and does not want to work too hard for good grades. He misses more assignments than he completes because he has missed many days of school. His uncle took him to visit family in another state during Christmas vacation. We had a two week break, but he was gone for a month. In early February, he was in the Philippines for one and one half weeks for a funeral. No one from his family lets the school know he will be gone nor do they get his school work to take with him nor to complete when he returns. Allan does not even ask for the work. Now the school year is half over and he is falling farther and farther behind his classmates. He knows this and is giving up. Yet, he is still absent at least two days a week.

There are so many examples I could give you of children who are in challenging situations at home or who want instant gratification rather than working towards a successful end. This is happening everywhere. I've read blogs from teachers across the United States and in the United Kingdom who are facing the same challenges. No one wants to talk about the responsibility of parents, students, and society in this educational reform. Teachers can not fix all the problems students bring into the classroom. More testing, more money, merit pay for teachers, or variations in curriculum will not change students. Ten years of law enforcement and twelve years of teaching have shown me that there needs to be a change that starts at home. From there society must take responsibility for the events that challenge our children.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Berlin Germany Insider Sightseeing - TOP Sights - Part 4 of 4

What the Museum Island means to the UNESCO, is the Erotic Museum for adults. But let's see what (else) amazingly we will discover today.

X. Erotik Museum

This "museum" lies on the corner of the seediest-looking block in Berlin. The museum in its exhibits honors the "queen of the Rubber Willy" herself, Beate Uhse. It's a household name here in Germany. Her life is documented from her days at the "Deutsche Luftwaffe" to pictures of her at the helm of a large speedboat. This septuagenarian opened the world's first shop devoted to "marital hygiene," ultimately championing the right to sell contraceptives. Today she still heads the world's largest sex-related merchandising business. Downstairs are video cabins filled with middle-aged men in raincoats and a "sex superstore."

However, you start out on the third floor and work your way down (there is no sexual pun intended). Eventually, it is hard to believe, that it has become the fifth most visited museum in Berlin. The museum shelters 5,000 sexual artifacts from around the world. Asian and Indian miniatures of erotic positions; African fertility masks; large carved phalli from Bali; or some Chinese wedding tiles from the 18th and 19th century that were supposed to provide sexual education to a newly married couple. Life-size dioramas explore topics such as fetishism and S&M. Well-worth visiting.

XI. Gendarmenmarkt

Gendarmenmarkt is considered as Europeans most beautiful square, so a must see for every tourist. Here you will find three historical buildings; the "Konzerthaus" (Concert House), the "Deutscher Dom" (German Cathedral), and the "Franzoesischer Dom" (French Cathedral).

The square was laid out from 1688 to the plans of J.A. Nering. It was originally known as Linden Markt, then Friedrichstädtischer Markt or Neuer Markt. Because the square was used by a curassier regiment "gens d'arms," from 1736-82, complete with sentry boxes and stables, the name Gendarmenmarkt arose. From 1777, the square was developed according to unified plans drawn up by Georg Christian Unger. It was badly damaged in the Second World War. On the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the Prussian Academy of the Sciences (Akademie der Wissenschaften), it was renamed "Platz der Akademie". In 1991, its previous name was restored.

==> Konzerthaus

The Konzerthaus is the new building designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel to replace the Nationaltheater built from 1800-02 by Karl Gotthard Langhans, which was burnt to the ground in 1817. The conception of the Konzerthaus integrates the remains of Langhan's rectangular building and adds a higher, wider, gabled solidium in the center, complete with an ionic columned hall projecting at the front. Following its destruction in the Second World War, the building was initially only made safe, and the systematic restoration of the original design only began in 1979. Since its reopening in 1984 it has served not as a theatre, but as a concert hall.

==> Deutscher Dom

The German Cathedral was built from 1701-08. M. Grünberg planned it, and Giovanni Simonetti built it. From 1780-85, during the redesigning of the Gendarmenmarkt, Carl von Gontard added the domed tower onto the cathedral. The cathedral was destroyed in the Second World War as well. However, it had been reconstructed and rebuilt. The reopening was on October 2nd, 1996, five years after the reunification.

==> Franzoesischer Dom

The Französische Friedrichstadtkirche was built from 1701-05 by Cayart. He designed it as a church for Berlin's Huguenot community. From 1780-85, the imposing tower of the French cathedral (Französischer Dom) was added to plans by Unger and Gontard as part of the redesigning of Gendarmenmarkt. In the World War 2, the cathedral was badly damaged. However, from 1977 on it was rebuilt and reconstructed.

And, how was the journey? Did you shoot enough photos? I hope so... :-) And did you recognize, that I gave you 11 instead of 10 tips? Good! :-)

However, enjoy your trips!

Marcus Hochstadt

Copyright Marcus Hochstadt All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Greece - Nafplio, Mycenae, Epidauros

For centuries, the myths and legends of ancient Greece have drawn travelers to the legendary Argolid in the Peloponnesus. More recently this fertile land of olive and orange groves has become one of the country's leading wine regions, centered around Nemea, famous for its Agiorgitiko grape vines. Drive along the well-marked 'wine roads' and stop in for tastings at the many wineries along the way. Your destination is Nafplio, one of Greece's most beautiful towns with its majestic castles, elegant neoclassical architecture, and the indelible mark of Venetian and Turkish occupation in its medieval quarter.

Exploring Nafplio is a journey through the layers of its history. In ancient times it was the harbour for Argos. Abandoned by the Romans, the Byzantines later fortified the hilltop settlement of Akronafplia in the 12th century. In 1210 the town fell to the Franks, and was later occupied alternately by Venetians and Turks until the War of Independence, after which Nafplio served as the country's capital between 1829 and 1834. A hike up the 900-plus steps to Palamidi Castle, built by the Venetians, offers magnificent views of the sea and town, as well as of the Bourtzi, a floating island castle built for the protection of the port and to house the local executioner. Alternatively, ascend to the Akronafplia ruins James Bond-style by entering through the base of the hill, and taking the elevator to the foyer of the super-luxurious Nafplia Palace. Built by a government initiative in the 1960's by Papagiannis & Co., the hotel has recently renovated its bungalows to extraordinary levels of opulence with private swimming pools and stunning views.

Equally beautiful (and more reasonably priced) are the main rooms of the hotel which are being upgraded to provide the latest in technology and modern amenities in this unique historical setting. For a homier atmosphere seek out the Boron Hotel, a converted neoclassical mansion with rooms with a sea view. When it's time for a swim, head down to the pebbled beach of Arvanitia where Frankish fig trees, pines and oleanders line the edge of the turquoise waters.

Away from the cafe and taverna-lined harbour, life centres around Plateia Syntagmatos, a grand Venetian-style square with an archaeological museum containing local Mycenaean artifacts inside the old Venetian naval arsenal. Stop for coffee at Cafe Kendrikon, or have a traditional lunch at Ellas restaurant. In the back streets between the harbour and the square is a cluster of tavernas on Staikopoulou, where real home-cooking can be found at Vasilis and seafood with-a-view at Savouras, right on the harbour. For something more up-market, try the Nafplia Palace's Amimoni restaurant, and for a little taste of Italy drop by Antica Gelateria di Roma, where Claudia and Marcello Ratio serve over 30 divine flavours of gelato and sorbet, made fresh on the premises.

As you wander the narrow streets, stop in at the award-winning Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation with its wonderful collection of traditional costumes from all over the country, and a special exhibition on the production and use of natural fibres in Greece from 1835 to 1945. The museum also organizes periodic exhibitions and has an excellent gift shop. Nafplio is known for such eccentric and eclectic shops as Metallagi, which showcases the jewelry designs of Panagioti Alexopoulos and Maria Koutsoudaki, and has an open atelier enabling visitors to view the works in progress.

The Komboloi Museum also has a komboloy workshop and retail store offering a wide variety of the traditional 'worry beads'. The lively Nafplio nightlife is a popular weekend draw for foreign visitors and locals alike. For romance, visit the restaurant-bar Agnanti at the edge of town, with tables along the pier and waves lapping at your feet, or the Nautikos Omilos bar next door, and for a more trendy club scene, head far the Living Room, off Bouboulinas Square, where the neighbourhood youth congregate.

Nafplio is also the perfect base for exploring two important archaeological sites: Mycenae (24 kilometres away), described by Homer as 'rich in gold', and Epidauros, with its superb theatre (30 kilometres). Mycenae was excavated in the 1870s by Heinrich Schliemann, inspired by his obsession with the Iliad and the Odyssey. Wonder at the Cyclopean masonry of its citadel (so massive it was said to have been built by the mythical one-eyed giants) and the 'Lion Gate' with its two rampant lions, Mycenae's symbol of power.

The most impressive tomb, the so-called 'Treasury of Atreus', dates to 1250 BC and originally contained such gold artifacts as death masks, breastplates, jewelry and weapons, which are now in the archaeological museum in Athens. Epidauros was the site of the important sanctuary of Asclepios, the god of healing and medicine, but is renowned for its splendid theatre, built in the early 3rd century BC. Set dramatically into the hillside, its remarkable acoustics allow even the drawing of a breath to be heard by a1112,000 spectators that the theatre can accommodate. Plan to attend one of the classical dramas performed here during the annual summer festival, for a memorable moonlit experience accompanied by an orchestra of cicadas.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wall Fountains Or Tabletop Fountains - How to Choose

Water fountains are splendid furnishings that provide many benefits, but people are repelled by the need regular maintenance. If you've never tried them before, how can you tell if you would even want to have a wall fountain in the home or office? You certainly should not go through the trouble of buying and installing one, only to regret buying it later.

What are the benefits of purchasing a water fountain? The sound the water makes is effective as a sound mask, to help tinnitus sufferers or improve room privacy. Splashing water also releases negative ions, which are believed to provide therapeutic effects. In general, having a wall fountain improves the ambiance of a room.

When we refer to the maintenance of wall fountains, there are several things to consider. You will need to refill water and clean the pump. You should only be using distilled water, even if you have no plans of drinking from it. Only, you may find yourself spending a lot. The mere effort needed to clean or replace fountain parts is what keeps some people from adopting water fountains.

You will find that all of the benefits you can get from water fountains are also found in tabletop fountains, only at a smaller scale. As the name implies, they can be used on a table or desk, and you can carry them around wherever you go. You can use the same small fountain in both your office desk and your bedside.

Tabletop fountains also have to have the same kind of maintenance that bigger water fountains do. You will still have to get distilled water because tap water has minerals and elements that will discolor your fountain. You must also clean the pump regularly to stop algae and dirt from accumulating and growing.

The benefits you can get from indoor water features can't be copied an outdoor fountain. There is a world of a difference in going to the closest Zen garden from your office building to enjoy the fountain there for a good thirty minutes, and enjoying a small indoor water fountain all day near you.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Life of a Medieval Woman - An Introduction

Life in the Middle Ages was not easy even for the upper classes. Child mortality, poverty, war and death during childbirth were commonplace. Diseases were rampant since there were no vaccinations or cures. During this time women played a variety of important roles. They were nuns, poets, writers, dancers, actresses, princesses, tradeswomen, weavers and farmers to name but a few. Yet as impressive as women's contribution was to life in the Middle Ages both upper and lower class women were treated quite poorly by men. Women were considered spiritually, intellectually and morally inferior to men and were taught to "know thy place". A husband was allowed to physically punish or humiliate his wife when he felt she had stepped out of line. And if a woman owned land as soon as she married she forfeited her land to her husband. When he died, she only regained 1/3 of her property and the rest returned to the state or the King. What's more a medieval woman couldn't inherit her parents' land if she had any surviving brothers.

Although lower class men and women performed the same arduous physical labour a man was paid significantly more for his work than a woman. 90% of Medieval women were involved in some type of farm work since they lived in rural areas. For reaping a farmer received 8 pence but his wife only received 5 pence. For hay making a man received 6 pence a day but a woman received only 4 pence.

Medieval towns made it tough for a woman to earn her living. Very few merchants and tradesmen were willing to take on a woman apprentice unless they were wed to one another. That meant that townswomen were usually permitted to work in some manner with cloth and clothing but they were refused admission into higher paying trades jobs and work guilds. The highest aspiration a woman had in terms of a job was to work for the upper class as a servant or a lady in waiting. However these jobs too paid poorly and required a lot of work.

The upper class Medieval woman did not hold down a job in the same manner as a lower class woman. Instead she volunteered considerable time in hospitals and orphanages. She also had the enormous responsibility of managing her husband's castle while her husband was away at war or tending to his lands, a job that could take him months to complete. Still her life was one of supreme luxury compared to the lower class peasant woman.

Girls usually married in their teens. Girls from poor families married later in life than girls from wealthy families since the absent girl deprived a poor family of a worker. A rich girl was married as a social and political connection within the upper class. She had no choice as to who her spouse would be since these marriages were usually arranged by her parents. The most significant contribution a girl brought into her family was a male heir for her wealthy husband's estate so the young wife spent a great deal of her life pregnant.

People still enjoyed entertainment on occasion. Common and rich folk alike participated in sports and games and enjoyed leisurely activities away from the usual grind. Of course the nature of the entertainment varied with people's financial and social status. Noblemen such as knights took part in jousting tournaments. Common folk watched outdoor theatre and played a game called "dicing", a game of chance much like those that exist today in casinos.

Next Article: Jobs of Upper and Lower Class Medieval Women

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things to Do With the Kids

Sometimes during school holidays or on the weekends the kids will be looking for fun and interesting things to do.

Together with other Australian Mums we have compiled a list great activities and things to do with the kids. Have a look today!

1. Meet with friends at a park and play with the kids on the playground. Push them on the swings or catch them on the slides.

2. Go to a local cycle way/bike track and go rollerblading. A great way to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine and exercise.

3. Go ice-skating - rug up in your warm clothes and head to the closest ice-rink.

4. Have a movie afternoon - great for a rainy day. Rent a couple of good kids movies, make some popcorn and snuggle up with blankets and enjoy the movies.

5. Cook some special treats or family favourites like Gingerbread men.

6. Go to an indoor play centre (if the weather's not great outside). Let the kids try out the playground and you can have a coffee with a friend.

7. Try Tenpin Bowling - make sure the bumper bars are up for the littlies.

8. Explore your local wildlife park or the zoo to see all the animals, birds and reptiles.

9. Grab your bike helmets and go for a bike ride.

10. Organise a KidSwap with friends who work. Your kids get to have their friends over for the day to play, and their are lots more participants for games.

11. Browse through your local museum, great to show the kids how things use to be.

12. Try Horse-riding lots of riding centers provide lessons or short rides for younger children.

13. Visit a farm and see all the farm animals, you maybe be able to feed and pat some of the tamer ones.

14. Take a Day trips to a historic towns or a local attractions. Sometimes we never visit the attractions in our local area.

15. Spend the Day at the beach go for a walk and play some games, take the frisbee.

16. Camp Out in the back yard - kids of all ages will love this experience.

17. Have a Picnic or BBQ lunch at the local park - let the kids help pack their favourite lunch and snacks.

18. Do some Gardening with the kids - make a herb garden pot, they are fantastic and useful too!

19. Smile! Get the camera out and let the kids take some photos - download them on the computer and create a slide show.

20. Play dough - buy some or make your own - this will provide hours of fun for you and the kids.

21. Have a Story writing competitions, of help younger children write and illustrate a story.

22. Create a Treasure hunt in the backyard - write out a list of things to find, and let them start hunting.

23. Bury a heap of old dinosaur toys and 'artifacts' in a sectioned off part of the garden and give all the kids little shovels.

24. Blow bubbles, try different shape bubble blowers for lots of fun..

25. Buy some cheap timber photo frames and get the kids to paint and decorate them for their rooms.

26. Paper mache...messy but always fun - create a bowl or a piggy bank.

27. Make masks from paper plates, with stick on ears and eyeholes.

28. Create a masterpiece - let the children express their creativity with Painting.

29. Play lets pretend - play shopkeeper or mum/baby or anything you like.

30. Teach the kids to sew or thread with lacing cards.

31. Have a theme days - make it blue day so everyone wears blue, you eat blue food, use blue paints/materials for craft work, sing blue songs, etc.

32. Have a lazy day where everyone gets to stay in their PJ's and relax.

33. Write and create a play see who is great at drama and acting.

34. Conduct some simple Science experiments.

35. Try your hand at scrap booking, with some coloured paper, kids photos and embellishments.

36. Grocery shopping - take the kids to the Supermarket and let them help you shop, cross of the items on your shopping list. Buy something easy to make for lunch.

37. Board games - Monopoly, Scrabble, Hungry Hippos, and more if there are a few kids have a tournament.

38. Card games - from the simple Snap to Go Fish to Canasta for the older ones. Have lollies or chocolates for prizes.

39. Do a Jigsaw, set up a special area and let everyone help - the harder the better.

40. Make a Kite then take it outside on a windy day to fly it.

41. Go fishing or crabbing and try to catch dinner.

42. Catch local transport - take a ferry, train or bus ride around the City.

43. National Parks and Wildlife run some great holiday programs - have a look here - Australia National Parks Links for your closest park.

44. Lots of Local Libraries hold story-telling workshops during school holidays, and then the kids can borrow some new stories to read.

45. Go Swimming head to the local indoor pool or to the beach or river.

46. See the latest Movie at the Cinema, lots of Cinema's offer Special Adult prices during School Holidays.

47. See what's on at the Theatre or a live show - the kids will love you for this.

48. Make some music, play some music instruments or sing along to their favourite tunes.

49. Dress Ups - a family favourite find some outfits and play dress ups.

50. Make Plaster Models and then paint them in your favourite colours.

51. Make a collage - go to the park or beach and collect bark, seaweed etc and make a collage.

52. Bush Walk - head of the beaten path and go for a bush or nature walk.

53. Make a Movie - grab the video camera, write a plot, dress up and film your family as the stars of your very own movie.

54. Feed the Birds or the Ducks - get some stale bread and feed these feathered friends.

55. Make Paper Dolls - make a chain of paperdolls and color them all in different colours.

56. Create a puppet show, use soft toys or make small puppets from socks or wooden spoons and put on your own show.

57. Beading - make some jewellery by threading beads, macaroni or small pieces of cut up straws on to string.

58. Build a giant sandcastle or sand sculpture - lots of fun for the beach or a challenge in the Sandpit.

59. Throw hoops - for small children try and throw a ball into a bucket and move it further away, or for older kids use a netball or basket ball ring.

60. Make juice - choose your favourite fruits and squeeze to make lovely fresh juice.

61. Have a skip-a-thon get the skipping rope out and practise your skipping - who can skip the fastest, the longest, try running in together.

62. Go bird watching at the local park or wetlands make a list of birds you see.

63. Do some leaf rubbings, collect an assortment of leaves and place them under paper then use a crayon/pencil to rub over the top.

64. Color experiments - add flowers or celery to jars of different coloured food dyes. Wait and see what colours they go. Works best with white flowers.

65. Play detectives - get some magnifying glasses and a notebook and go exploring write down what you see.

66. Face Painting is lots of fun and you can practice your skills on their trusting little faces.

67. Have a special morning/afternoon tea in the garden. With milkshakes or hot chocolate for the kids and lots of yummy treats. You could even invite Grandma.

68. Play rock, paper, scissors - have a prize for the best out of 10 games.

69. Do some colouring in - there are some great print outs in our Fun & Games Section.

70. Visit the children's grandparents or another special friend, take a picture or something the children have made.

71. Play computer games with the Kids, find out which ones are their favourites, and which ones you can beat them.

72. Have a game of hide and seek - lots of fun for the little ones.

73. Inside Treasure Hunt - make maps and have the kids follow the maps around the house to locate the prize.

74. Kick the soccer ball, set up some goals and try your luck.

75. Jump in Puddles, great wet weather fun, forget about getting wet and remember the fun of being a kid again.

76. Practise hitting the tennis ball to each other or hit it up in the air and see who can catch it.

77. Play Twister with the Kids - get the game out and start spinning.

78. Put the music on grab the kids and dance around the lounge room.

79. Have a game of t-ball in the backyard or the park.

80. - Laugh, Live, Learn and most of all have Fun!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

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Friday, April 23, 2010

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Festivals in Europe

It is highly unlikely for anyone to spend a couple of months touring Europe and never get to attend at least one festival. There are so many annual festivals that range from small traditional village festivals in Switzerland to manic, weeklong celebrations in Italy and Spain. Festivals in Europe can be religious affairs such as Easter and Carnival, traditional events dating back thousands of years, art and cultural festivals, sporting events, or purely musical events. The exact dates for festival is a very from year to year usually because local authorities decided to move the dates around slightly in order to suit the public. The national tourist office of the country you plan to visit can usually give you the accurate dates of the major festivals a year in advance. If you would like to join a big event, you need to book accommodation well in advance or you can expect to sleep rough. Also expect food and everything else to be slightly more expensive during festival time.

In January, the Carnival of Venice is the best-known of the many Carnivals held in Italy during the 10 days that lead up to Ash Wednesday. Venetians and tourists don masks and costumes for a continuous street party. Germany also holds its carnival season at around the same time. In Iceland, the first day of summer is celebrated with a huge street party. At around the same time in March, there are many colorful parades to watch out for during the holy week Festival in Portugal. This festival also features hundreds of barefoot penitents carrying torches around the city. On March 17, a great parade with lots of drinking is held to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.

From mid-May to June, music festivals abound. The Vienna Festival in Austria is one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. Another big music festival held in late June is England's Glastonbury Festival. Norway's Constitution Day held in May is the country's biggest national holiday. A great celebration of opera, ballet and classical music is held in the Athens festival in Greece every June. The Holland Festival is Amsterdam's celebration of arts, dance and theater. It is also held in late June.

In July, France celebrates Bastille Day. Its biggest celebration is in Paris which displays a military parade and fireworks show at the Eiffel Tower. The world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival is held in early July on the edge of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. If you are a fan of Mozart, make your way to the Salzburg international Festival in Austria. The famous running of the Bulls is held amid wild partying in the streets of Pamplona, Spain for eight days in early July. The Nottinghill Carnival in England is also a massive Caribbean street carnival held in west London in late August.

Munich's legendary Oktoberfest usually starts in late September and goes on for a couple of weeks. If you love beer, this is a must. During the last few months of the year, most of Europe celebrates Christmas and New Year's just like the rest of the Western world. If you are on the lookout for one of the world's greatest New Year's Eve parties, be sure to make your way to the pubs and streets of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Turning 16 and Getting a Car

After reading this account, I am sure that most parents will have second thoughts about allowing a 16-year-old to have a car. I am not proud of some of the things I have done or the close calls I have had, but I did learn a lot from those experiences. I only had a real car for less than a year before I left home leaving the car behind. I don't count that first junk car that I bought at the drive in theater and only drove twice while I was 15.

Shortly after my 16th birthday dad took me up the car dealer and helped me buy a good running used 1950 Plymouth 4 door. He even let me charge the gas until I ran the bill up too high. I recall that I even had to drive myself the county seat to get a license and I was nervous that they might ask me how I got there. Having a car meant that I now became more of a leader than a follower, very few students in school had cars. You can do a lot of things with a car and get into a lot of trouble also. I would stay out late at night, drive up town and find anyone who wanted to play poker, drive out to some lonely back road and play on the back of the seats under the dome light for hours at a time.

Some of my friends approached me about a prank they would like to play of some of the older students and because I owned a shotgun and a car, I became one of the main players in the plot. We started spreading the rumor about a woman whose husband worked the late shift and that she was entraining young men while he was at work. Out at the end of Leaper Lane in Providence, Kentucky where we lived, there was an old abandoned house. I would drive out just after dark and park around back, load up the shotgun and wait behind a tree. The others that were in on the prank would gather up some of the eager students in their car and bring them out. They would make us some excuse for parking on the road before getting to the house and have them walk the rest of the way. I would let them get almost to the front porch and then I would step out and put a couple of shotgun blasts up into the trees.

We only used one car and would never let the victim drive their own car. It would usually take us several hours to find all the victims and calm them down. Of course they were then ready to pull the prank on the next group. After a couple of weeks we ran out of new blood and called it quits. Fortunately no one was hurt except for their pride.

One Saturday I ran out of gas out on US 41 about 5 miles out of town. I walked home and borrowed the family Hudson, and picked up some gas. I now had a problem, I needed someone to drive my car back home so that I could return the family car. I drove up to the center of town, this consisted of one traffic light at the top of the hill in the center of Providence. There were a couple of pool halls down one street and the movie theater a half block up the street, a few stores and that was it. You could always find someone standing around in the center of town looking for something to do or someone to talk to. I found a student that was more a friend of my cousin than I and he was older so I knew that he must have a license. For some strange reason he seemed reluctant to help me out, but I insisted, so he jumped in. We drove out to the car and I put the gas in the tank, got it started and told him to just follow me back to the house. Every thing was going fine until we turned down this side street that had a ten-foot ditch on one side that sloped down to the water at about a 30-degree angle. I was watching him in my rear view mirror and could not believe my eyes. He was slowly getting closer and closer to the ditch and then just drove over the bank and slid down to the bottom side ways. He started to get out on the bottom side when I yelled that the car might turn over on him.

I then find out that he did not have a drivers license and not only that I later found out that he had a mental problem that caused him to turn the car in the opposite direction that he wanted to go when he got excited. He had even rolled a pickup truck on a curve one time due his problem. I am sure that there is a name for this but I do not know what it is. I have never forgot this and I am very cautious about being on the side of the road. I think that this is why so many workers and police get hit when working along side the road.

The police drove up to investigate what was going on, and I did not want to get my friend into trouble. I know that I talked my way out of it but I cannot remember now how I explained the fact that I was driving two cars at the same time. One thing that help me was that dad was well known in town and almost everyone at one time or another had worked for him in the coal mine or played football with him in school, he was the football star and school hero. I guess that is the good thing about growing up in a small town. Everyone knows who you are and a lot is over looked.

Late one evening someone suggested that we drive down to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and see what we could find. We drove down to one of the side gates which was closed. We parked on the side of the road and placed the jack under the car so it would look like we had a flat. Then we started out across a field toward the military post. There was a huge sign warning of prison and fines for trespassing, but that did not even slow us down. We found a parking lot full of tanks and climbed into one and played with the controls for a while. My friend had an open knife in his pocket, why I will never know. As he was climbing out of the tank, he put his hand in his pocket and cut it bad. We had blood all over everything, he finely got the bleeding stopped and we left the tanks to check out the barracks. We tried several doors and they all were locked. All of a sudden we heard sirens all over the base and MP cars raced by as we hid. We decided it was time to get out of there, so we headed back to the car. The next day we hear that a plane had crashed at Ft Campbell. Someone must have been watching over us that night or we could have been in a lot of trouble.

A mile out town just before the intersection of US 41 another friend lived who stayed in about as much trouble as I did. We had a fort built across the field behind his house. There was a dirt road that leads to the field and as it left the main road it had a dirt bank on each side close to the dirt road. I was spinning in the mud and had everyone jump out and push. Well the back doors on the Plymouth opened to the front of the car and one of the boys left the door open while they were pushing. I got some traction and took off, catching the open door in the bank and tearing it off. Now I had to drive around with a missing back door. And two odd color finders that I had replaced earlier from the junk yard. My car was beginning to look pretty sad.

The skating rink was on the second floor of one of the buildings near the center of town and it also doubled as the meeting place for the VFW. They had some rifles used for parades and for some strange reason, they stored the rifles in a hole in the wall of the mens rest room. I was told about the rifles and wasted no time, I drove my car around to the back exit and we quickly moved the rifles to the car and out to our fort. The rifles were wrapped in grease and wax paper and there were about five or six of them. I took one home and cleaned it up and my friend was working on the rest at the fort.

A few days later as I pulled up in his yard, the County Sheriff was parked in the yard. He open the trunk of his car and asked me if I knew anything about the rifles he had in there. I explained that I did and if he would follow me home I would give him the last one. Dad was home when we got there and they started talking, after a while I asked if it was all right if I went back up town and they said OK. Things were quite for a while and I was relieved, I did find out later that my friend had ordered ammunition for the rifles. I avoided him after that and later in the year he placed some dynamite in a sewer man hole and blew it up. He was up at the theater bragging about it and got into a lot of trouble. After that the police would stop me after school and question me about drugs and other things, I guess they thought that I knew what was going on around town. I had never heard about drugs and didn't know there were so many problems in our small town. Dad warned me that I had better save up my money for cigarettes for when I went to prison. So I cut back on my wild activities after that.

Winter came and driving became more fun, we would drive on the icy street and cut the wheels to see how many times we could spin around. I am amazed that I survived that winter.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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Monday, April 19, 2010

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Heartcare For Life - My Experience and What Doctors Don't Want Us to Know

Prevention is always better than cure!!! The whole point of this article.

I sincerely hope you enjoy reading my true story and find the advice useful, it is my intention after reading my experience you will take the imitative to do something about your HEARTCARE and hopefully avoid the same thing that happened to me, or at least start to begin HEARTCARE even if you have suffered the same or similar to me. Only when I was lying in the Intensive Care Unit did a few thoughts start to creep into my mind. I remember the night I was brought in, a course of events that I never thought would happen to me. I'd been giving a friend a helping hand not to strenuous but it had been a long day, showered and just having finished eating I moved out into the garden to take in the last of the sun on a beautiful August evening. Having missed lunch my evening meal seemed to go down quite quickly, I remember getting back to my friends house stomach thinking my throat had be cut, I'd have eaten a scabby monkey.

Bolting my food had left me uncomfortable in my diaphragm area, nothing unusual, intergestion I figured, something I hadn't been a stranger to in the past. Forcing frequent belches to try and shift the discomfort didn't seem to be doing the trick, the discomfort didn't seem to be getting any better, nor for that matter any worse! Moving around trying a bit of light exercise didn't seem to do the trick either, the feeling was like I had a giant ball of unmovable wind in my diaphragm area, just below my the centre of my ribs. I seem to recall after about an hour the discomfort was beginning to get increasingly worse to the point now of an aching pain starting to spread from the middle of my upper back and out across each side to my shoulders. No pain in my chest or any kind of tight feeling seemed to alert me to thinking I was having a Heart Attack but never the less the pain was now increasing to the point where I was becoming worried. It was becoming more apparent that I needed medical attention despite being advised by my friend to lye down and relax till the pain passed. Knowing now for sure that if I hadn't insisted that he took me to the hospital I wouldn't be here to tell this story.

The main city hospital was across the other side of the city, but I new at this stage where the problem was coming from, I'd read enough in my 47 years to know a was seeing the typical symptoms of Heart Trauma but didn't say anything in order not to panic my friend, the half hour car journey seemed to take an eternity, I suppose in hindsight the proper thing to have done would have been to call for an ambulance, I new they would have been better equipped for the situation and have the ability to get me across town far quicker but hindsight is a wonderful thing. My friend unfortunately not knowing the full extent of the situation, me not having said, didn't know to pull up directly outside of the emergency entrance to the hospital instead he parked in the main parking area. Little did I know we were more or less 250 meters from the emergency department entrance but with an uphill climb at that? Setting off alone toward the emergency entrance, in truth not all out sure in which direction to go I set off on the uphill incline. As you can imagine with a busy city hospital there were people on the move people coming and going, visitors going to and from amongst others, I was all out struggling even when passing the small kiosk where the security porters were on duty, empathy for one's fellow man didn't seem to exist that evening, no one approached me to enquire if I needed aid or even made a passing remark. Finally having made the 250 metres, which seemed to never end I staggered into the emergency entrance gasping, sweating profusely, clutching my chest and using the doorjamb for support.

I was immediately spotted by a nurse on duty having gone into the crowded waiting area I presume to call her next patient she called for assistance and a wheel chair. Within a few short minutes I was installed on a gurney stripped to the waist with wires attached to an Electro Cardiogram, not being the kind of person to stay still I sneaked a preview of the ECG printout, something that I can only describe as a 9 on the Richter scale, certainly nothing normal about what I was seeing and definitely confirming that my suspicions were right, I was having a HEART ATTACK. The needle having been fitted and the drip attached along with a relaxing shot of Morphine I began to calm, even to the point when the Dr broke the news I already new. To me HAVING A HEART ATTACK was it, THE END, at no point did it even enter my head that I would live, and as far as I was concerned I was going to DIE. Being prepped for the theatre as the Dr was speaking brought hope as he explained the specialist had been sent for to operate. Thoughts of having my chest ripped open and major surgery didn't seem to panic me, possibly because of the Morphine or possibly because of thinking maybe I had a chance. Having being shaved in a matter of seconds in my neither regions my right forearm and wrist puzzled me, Not wanting to boast but I do have a manly chest, quite hairy in fact even though at the time quite overweight. Why hadn't that been shaved? Less than five minutes gave me the answer, laid out on the operating table surrounded by several medically equipped men and woman in gowns masks and gloves the procedure was underway. A small incision was made in the artery on my right wrist and as I watched on the many screens just up to my left I could see the thin wire type implement enter into the picture, strange sensations were apparent as things seem to pass through the arteries on the way to my still beating heart, along with a kind of heat or burning sensation, within 10 minutes of the procedure the Dr informed me he had found the problem, now I'm not medically minded nor familiar with what was going on but he kept me informed as to what was going on, even to the point of asking me if it was ok to fit a stent after he had re-inflated the offending blocked or collapsed artery.

I figured after, he'd probably been obliged by law to ask permission to leave the tent, as far as I'm aware a small plastic or spring like object left behind to keep the blocked or collapsed artery open. Having now conducted a thorough examination of the remanding arteries and my heart I was informed that the surgeon was extremely happy with the results and his work was now finished. He reeled of a 3 or 4-minute technical stream of information to the rest of the team and made his leave un-be-known to me. Up on the ICU still wired up to various monitors and machines slowly administering various drugs I felt at peace and no longer in pain. During the following days being confined to bed completely didn't come without its embarrassments, needless to say I'd never used a bed pan, up to recently and for over 45 years I'd managed to make my own way to the toilet, take a dump and wipe my own butt, I'd even managed to wash myself unaided, possibly as my wife may testify not as often as I should but never the less managed all the same.

A standard 10 day stay saw me on the mend little by little but due to being confined to bed and having sustained damage to my heart from starvation of oxygen (something I'll discus later in this article) getting up saw me in a weakened state, a bit wobbly on the pins. I had been allowed out of bed on the 6th day just to go to the toilet and take a wash, and from then on I'd sat up in a chair for short bursts at a time, I was getting back my mobility but still quite feeble. My friend picked me up on the evening of the 10th day, accompanied with my beloved I made the stop at the Pharmacy to pick up my prescription, something that is now a daily part of my life, pill taking, apart from the odd paracetamol for an in-frequent headache or maybe a flu remedy, something strange to me but now sadly a necessary part of my future.

After effects and their consequences If you can remember earlier I discussed sustaining damage to my Heart. During the following months as my strength grew and I regained my confidence I visited my Cardiolog. His recommendation was to take a stress test at the local hospital, a simple test of effort using a treadmill or exercise bike, afterwards lying on a flat bed type scanner which monitored the blood flow and oxygen levels in the blood, this was when I found out the extent of the damage. His diagnosis was that due to the lack of blood flow on that fateful night the right side of my Heart had been starved of oxygen thus 18 % of my Heart was in fact dead. Another 30 minutes getting to the Hospital that night could well have proved fatal!!!

The Stress Test or Thallium Test This is a type of nuclear scanning test or myocardial perfusion (mi"o-KAR'de-al per-FU'zhun) imaging test. It shows how well blood flows to the heart muscle. It's usually done along with an exercise stress test on a treadmill or bicycle. The thallium stress test is useful to determine: Extent of a coronary artery blockage Prognosis of patients who've suffered a heart attack Effectiveness of cardiac procedures done to improve circulation in coronary arteries Cause(s) of chest pain Level of exercise that a patient can safely perform When the patient reaches his or her maximum level of exercise, a small amount of a radioactive substance called thallium is injected into the bloodstream. Then the patient lies down on a special table under a camera ("gamma camera") that can see the thallium and make pictures.

The thallium mixes with the blood in the bloodstream and heart's arteries and enters heart muscle cells. If a part of the heart muscle doesn't receive a normal blood supply, less than a normal amount of thallium will be in those heart muscle cells. The first pictures are made shortly after the exercise test and show blood flow to the heart during exercise. The heart is "stressed" during the exercise test - thus the name "stress test." The patient then lies quietly for 2-3 hours and another series of pictures is made. These show blood flow to the heart muscle during rest. What does the thallium stress test show? If the test is normal during both exercise and rest, then blood flow through the coronary arteries is normal. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. If the test shows that perfusion (blood flow) is normal during rest but not during exercise (a perfusion defect), then the heart isn't getting enough blood when it must work harder than normal. This may be due to a blockage in one or more coronary arteries. If the test is abnormal during both exercise and rest, there's limited blood flow to that part of the heart at all times. If no thallium is seen in some part of the heart muscle, the cells in this part of the heart are dead from a prior heart attack. (They have become scar tissue.)

HEARTCARE For those who have suffered a Heart Attack and survived like me it's not to late and for those who haven't now's the time to start thinking about prevention? ESPECIALLY if you think your life style may need changes. Before taking any of the following advice I recommend that you consult your Doctor.

STOP SMOKING. Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also a major cause of heart disease for men and women? About 20% of all deaths from heart disease are directly related to cigarette smoking. That's because smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease. A person's risk of heart disease and heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. Smokers continue to increase their risk of heart attack the longer they smoke. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than non-smokers. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills increase several times their risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Cigarette smoke not only affects smokers. When you smoke, the people around you are also at risk for developing health problems, especially children. Environmental tobacco smoke (also called passive smoke or second-hand smoke) affects people who are frequently around smokers. Second-hand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer, and heart disease. It is estimated that around 35,000 non-smokers die from heart disease each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Finally I recommend you take the time out to do a small bit of research on cholesterol, stress, diet, and most of all the effects of Smoking. AND HOW TO QUIT!!!

Cholesterol, Stress, Diet, and most of all the effects of SMOKING

I'm not going to recommend a site or sites for the simple reason that most sites not only tell you what these thing are, but also how to reduce them, or in the case of Smoking, STOP. Most of the sites I've searched shows contradictions in the research and conclusions, the fact is cholesterol, stress, diet, and most of all the effects of Smoking are all part of the major contributory factors in Heart Disease, Stroke and Cancer, the 3 top killers in America and Europe.

I sincerely hope you have found this article interesting and helpful, in addition there are so many web sites on the net regarding keeping your Heart Healthy, in my opinion if you research and find a sure method to keep a HEALTHY HEART the rest of your body will be happy and healthy, HAPPY RESEARCHING.

I really do want to help, visit my blog, Prevention is always better than cure!!! Learn the answers to Preventing Heart Attack, Cancer and Stroke, the 3 Biggest Killers; Learn the ANSWERS to de- toxifying the Blood, Healthy Blood Healthy You. Or e-mail me at I'll get back to you, Promise!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beijing Opera Masks and Face-Painting

One of the more striking aspects of the Beijing Opera is the Masks and Facial Make-up used to portray the various characters in a production. The use of symbolic colors, stylized lines, and fantastical facial exaggeration all serve the performance magic and grandeur. There is really nothing that compares to a skillful and artistic rendition of one of China's favorite stories from historical events and classical literature.

The current Beijing Opera originated from a combination of several sources. In 1790, the four great theatre groups from Anhui came to perform for the Royal Family. They used the traditional melodies and aria called Xi Pi. Around 1828, performers from Hubei joined them to form a combined troupe adding their own music called Er Huang. Thousands of pieces were performed regaling great tales of historic events and popular literature as well as their own versions of Western stories.

There have been scholarly discussions concerning the origins of Chinese theatrical mask wearing and face painting. A widely held theory is that face painting developed from the dances called " Lanlingwang (Prince Lanling)" from the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907).

Another possible origin of this practice is rooted in the ancient use of Masks and Make-up in religious ceremonies, particularly exorcisms. There are examples of artwork that show shamans and other actors with stylized painted faces. Upon closer examination, these look very much like the early used of face painting and mask wearing in the Chinese opera theatre.

There is an old saying from the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties that was, "Shentou guimian", or "masks for Gods, make-up for ghosts." It meant that to play a god you must wear a mask, but to play a ghost all you needed was to slap some paint on your face. This followed the idea that gods were sacred and it would be sacrilegious, perhaps even dangerous, to portray them, whereas ghosts, the embodiment of disease, poverty and evil were not subject to such respect. Craftsmen who carved Deity masks believed that as soon as the eyes were carved out of a piece of art, it then became animated with the spirit of the gods.

Over time, actors began to think that it was less a sin to portray gods and spirits on the stage instead of in temples and palaces. They started to favor make-up over the stoic solid masks in performance. This allowed for more expression over the "dead face" of a mask to the "live face" of paints and dyes.

For the longest time, performers took great liberty in their choice of paint methods and colors. Later, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) did there become some conventions and standards. An agency called Shengpingshu (Shengping Agency) was in charge of the affairs of opera performance. They established painting of more than 200 of the current operas with detailed instructions on the character make-up patterns. This became the official standard for face painting.

There are four basic categories of characters in the standard Beijing Opera.

Ø SHENG - Male roles

Ø DAN - Female Roles

Ø CHOU - Comedy roles

Ø JING - Painted face males

Jing, usually males, are the roles with facial painting representing warriors, heroes, statesmen, adventurers, and demons. Jing are found in three basic categories: Zhengjing, Fujing, and Wujing.

The JING roles are more known for courage and resourcefulness than for intelligence. Sometimes a High-ranking General or Warrior/General they usually have a swagger and great self-assurance. There are many common color schemes associated with Jing roles but some have more convention and are easily recognizable.

The compositions of face painting are classified into several patterns based on the belief that a person's face can reveal much about their personality. The overall designs of the face painting are given names like, "three-tiles face", "six-tenths face", "cross face", "slant face", "butterfly face" as well as many, many others.

The colors used on a Jing actors face have symbolic meaning.

Ø RED - Good character, heroic

Ø WHITE - Sneaky and treacherous

Ø GREEN - Rash, lacking self-control

Ø BLACK - Brusque character

Ø BLUE - Wild nature, a robber or thief

Ø GOLD/SILVER - Used only for Gods and Spirits

There are two main types of facial decorations in Chinese Opera: Masks and Facial Painting. Sometimes there are many changes of masks and make-up (even some without the audience's knowledge), this is called Changing Faces. It is a difficult technique that is only mastered after many years of serious and extensive training. This is sometimes used to display the feelings of a character or change the energy of the particular scene. Facial changes for sudden emotional changes are usually done in four ways:

Ø BLOWING DUST - The actor blows black dust concealed in his palm so that it blows back into his face.

Ø MANIPULATING BEARD - Beard colors can be changed while the beard is being moved from black to gray to white showing anger or excitement.

Ø PULLING DOWN MASKS - The actor can pull down a mask that has been sitting on top of his head to communicate a special emotional change.

Ø MOP - The actor mops out the greasepaint hidden in his sideburns or eyebrows to change his facial appearance.

The colorful and flamboyant Jing characters of Beijing Opera theatre with the Beijing Opera Mask as well as facial make-up are enduring part of this very exquisite and beautiful art form. Audiences around the world marvel at the technical virtuosity as well as the austerity of the productions in this symbolic Chinese cultural event.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

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