Monday, May 16, 2005

Piano Man

A smartly dressed man found wandering in a soaking wet suit near an English beach has baffled police and care workers after he refused to say a word and then gave a virtuoso piano performance.

The man, wearing a formal black suit and tie, was spotted by police in Kent on April 8 and taken to a psychiatric unit where it proved impossible to identify him because he stayed silent.

It was only after he was given a pen and paper that care-givers were given an intriguing clue to his possible background when he drew an intricate picture of a grand piano.

He was taken to the hospital's chapel where he played classical music on the piano for hours.

However, despite his picture being posted on the National Missing Persons Helpline's (NMPH) Web site, no one has come forward to identify him.

"Very little is known about him as he has not been speaking with staff at the hospital where he is being cared for, but he has a talent for playing classical piano," an NMPH spokesman said in a statement. Newspapers said members of the public had contacted authorities to say they may have seen the man giving concert performances around Europe.

The Daily Telegraph said the man, in his 20s or 30s, is believed to be English and may have suffered a mental breakdown.

His story echoes the 1996 Oscar-winning film "Shine," in which actor Geoffrey Rush played Australian pianist David Helfgott, who overcame a nervous breakdown to return to performing.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

45 of the Smartest Diet Tips Ever


by Top Dietitians of the American Dietetic Association

Got a diet dilemma? Ask a true diet pro: an RD, or registered dietitian. Her job is turning complex nutrition research into doable plans for real people.

Courtesy of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), we took our readers' toughest diet problems and ran them by some of the top dietitians in the US: RDs who, in addition to their private careers, serve as media spokespersons or heads of specialty practice groups for the ADA.

Here's what they told us, in their own words. These tips are solid gold, learned from successful experience with thousands of clients. Some tips are new. Some you've heard before, but they're repeated because they work. This treasure trove of RD wisdom could change your life-starting today.

I Can Only Handle One Diet Change Right Now. What Should I Do?

1. Add just one fruit or veggie serving daily. Get comfortable with that, then add an extra serving until you reach 8 to 10 a day.

2. Eat at least two servings of a fruit or veggie at every meal.

3. Resolve never to supersize your food portions--unless you want to supersize your clothes.

4. Make eating purposeful, not mindless. Whenever you put food in your mouth, peel it, unwrap it, plate it, and sit. Engage all of the senses in the pleasure of nourishing your body.

5. Start eating a big breakfast. It helps you eat fewer total calories throughout the day.

6. Make sure your plate is half veggies and/or fruit at both lunch and dinner.

Are there Any Easy Tricks to Help Me Cut Calories?

7. Eating out? Halve it, and bag the rest. A typical restaurant entree has 1,000 to 2,000 calories, not even counting the bread, appetizer, beverage, and dessert.

8. When dining out, make it automatic: Order one dessert to share.

9. Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate.

10. See what you eat. Plate your food instead of eating out of the jar or bag.

11. Eat the low-cal items on your plate first, then graduate. Start with salads, veggies, and broth soups, and eat meats and starches last. By the time you get to them, you'll be full enough to be content with smaller portions of the high-calorie choices.

12. Instead of whole milk, switch to 1 percent. If you drink one 8-oz glass a day, you'll lose 5 lb in a year.

13. Juice has as many calories, ounce for ounce, as soda. Set a limit of one 8-oz glass of fruit juice a day.

14. Get calories from foods you chew, not beverages. Have fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.

15. Keep a food journal. It really works wonders.

16. Follow the Chinese saying: "Eat until you are eight-tenths full."

17. Use mustard instead of mayo.

18. Eat more soup. The noncreamy ones are filling but low-cal.

19. Cut back on or cut out caloric drinks such as soda, sweet tea, lemonade, etc. People have lost weight by making just this one change. If you have a 20-oz bottle of Coca-Cola every day, switch to Diet Coke. You should lose 25 lb in a year.

20. Take your lunch to work.

21. Sit when you eat.

22. Dilute juice with water.

23. Have mostly veggies for lunch.

24. Eat at home.

25. Limit alcohol to weekends.

How Can I Eat More Veggies?

26. Have a V8 or tomato juice instead of a Diet Coke at 3 pm.

27. Doctor your veggies to make them delicious: Dribble maple syrup over carrots, and sprinkle chopped nuts on green beans.

28. Mix three different cans of beans and some diet Italian dressing. Eat this three-bean salad all week.

29. Don't forget that vegetable soup counts as a vegetable.

30. Rediscover the sweet potato.

31. Use prebagged baby spinach everywhere: as "lettuce" in sandwiches, heated in soups, wilted in hot pasta, and added to salads.

32. Spend the extra few dollars to buy vegetables that are already washed and cut up.

33. Really hate veggies? Relax. If you love fruits, eat plenty of them; they are just as healthy (especially colorful ones such as oranges, mangoes, and melons).

34. Keep seven bags of your favorite frozen vegetables on hand. Mix any combination, microwave, and top with your favorite low-fat dressing. Enjoy 3 to 4 cups a day. Makes a great quick dinner.

Can You Give Me a Mantra that will Help Me Stick to My Diet?

35. "The best portion of high-calorie foods is the smallest one. The best portion of vegetables is the largest one. Period."

36. "I'll ride the wave. My cravings will disappear after 10 minutes if I turn my attention elsewhere."

37. "I want to be around to see my grandchildren, so I can forgo a cookie now."

38. "I am a work in progress."

39. "It's more stressful to continue being fat than to stop overeating."

I Eat Healthy, but I'm Overweight. What Mistakes Could I Be Making without Realizing It?

40. Skipping meals. Many healthy eaters "diet by day and binge by night."

41. Don't "graze" yourself fat. You can easily munch 600 calories of pretzels or cereal without realizing it.

42. Eating pasta like crazy. A serving of pasta is 1 cup, but some people routinely eat 4 cups.

43. Eating supersize bagels of 400 to 500 calories for snacks.

44. Ignoring "Serving Size" on the Nutrition Facts panel.

45. Snacking on bowls of nuts. Nuts are healthy but dense with calories. Put those bowls away, and use nuts as a garnish instead of a snack.

The American Dietetic Association RDs serve as media spokespersons or heads of specialty practice groups for the ADA.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

California Health Insurance

Options for first-time purchase of california health insurance

Eric Berkowitz

ONCE small businesses grow past the mom-and-pop stage, employees often look to the company for greater health coverage. This puts employers in the difficult position of either spending a lot of money or potentially losing their best people. Gregory Good, a senior vice president in Marsh's employee benefits practice, has advice for entrepreneurs faced with having to choose a small group health plan.

"The main considerations are cost and customer service. On the service side, work with your broker to see which insurance companies are the most user-friendly. On the cost side, there are a lot of variables, including the level of coverage and the age, sex, and resident ZIP codes of your employees.

"HMO plans are typically the least expensive health plans in Southern California. Often there are also preferred provider organization plans available, which are more expensive and are typically carried by the owners and key employees.

"Insurance companies will not deal with you directly. Your business insurance agent or workers compensation insurance broker should be able help you arrange a small group medical plan, but you can also use regional brokers.

"The rates for employers for fewer than 50 employees are filed with the state of California. Your agent or broker can access this information so you can make comparisons to get the best possible price.

"People worry about whether pre-existing medical conditions will be covered under their new plans. For the most part, state and federal laws make certain that pre-existing conditions are covered. For PPO plans, it can affect the price, but not generally more than 10 percent. There is no preexisting condition limitation for HMO plans.

"Your employees should count on paying 20 percent to 25 percent of the premiums. It depends on how generous you want to be as an employer.

"Once you get your plan in place, the rates are guaranteed for a year. At the end of that period you'll be told your renewal price, which is generally about 8 percent to 13 percent higher. It's a good idea to shop your plan again if you are unhappy with the rate increase.

"Don't worry too much if one of your employees has a large claim. The small group plans are pooled by the insurance companies, meaning that they are thrown in with hundreds, if not thousands of other group plans. One big claim shouldn't have a significant effect on your rates."

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

New Nokia cellphone to challenge MP3 players

April 2005
Paul Marks

A cellphone that can store as much music as Apple's popular iPod Mini MP3 player will be launched by Nokia later in 2005.

The move follows Sony-Ericsson's unveiling in March of a music-storing "Walkman" phone and marks another nail in the coffin for pure MP3 players. Cellphone makers are betting that people will prefer to carry one gadget rather than two.

Like the basic iPod Mini, Nokia's new phone incorporates a diminutive 4-gigabyte hard disc drive capable of storing at least 3000 music tracks. By comparison the first Walkman phone - the W800, also to be released later in 2005 - will store about 150 tracks on a 0.5 gigabyte flash-memory card.

"But users can buy their own 2 gigabyte memory cards and store almost 1000 songs," says a Sony-Ericsson spokesman. "And remember this is only the first Walkman phone, we will be launching more with greater storage."

Apple has already struck a deal with US phone and chip maker Motorola to jointly create an "iPod phone" capable of interfacing easily with Apple's iTunes music purchasing and track management service, but the relationship has yet to bear fruit.

Hard-disc jockeying
Nokia's N91 phone was launched in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on Wednesday, where vice-president of multimedia, Anssi Vanjoki described it as a "connected mobile jukebox".

A version with a 3G connection will be available to allow the wireless downloading of music - an approach proving popular in Japan - while the standard GSM phone will use a computer and USB connection. Like the Sony-Ericsson W800, the N91 has a 2-megapixel camera built in.

Hard disc drives are being incorporated into small-scale consumer products very rapidly, thanks to research - carried out by firms like Hitachi and Samsung which is shrinking disc size.

But there are disadvantages. The spinning discs make for increasingly power-hungry gadgets, notes Carl Franklin, technology analyst with the stockbroker Bridgewell Securities in London, UK. "Once your phone is running a hard drive your battery lifetime could suffer. That's going to be a major challenge for Nokia's engineers."

“Active working time”
In early tests, Vanjoki says the N91 gave five hours of "active working time", with the phone, music and camera functions frequently used. "Old terms like ‘standby’ power and ’talk time’ are just not applicable concepts anymore because the phones are doing too many other things," he adds.

Sony's W800, based on flash memory - which has no moving parts - offers between 15 and 30 hours of battery life, depending on how often the phone and music player are used simultaneously.

The N91 was one of three multimedia-heavy phones launched by Nokia, all of which stick with the Symbian Series 60 smartphone operating system. One of the other handsets - the N90 - uses a Carl Zeiss lens to improve the quality of camera images users.