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Daylight Saving Time: Why Did We Do It?


At 2:00 a.m. local on Sunday, most of the United States (except Hawaii and Arizona) will leave daylight saving time behind and fall back an hour to standard time.


The annoyance of resetting clocks (or forgetting to, and showing up an hour early for appointments on Sunday) may raise the question of why we bother with this rigmarole in the first place.


Daylight saving time is most often associated with the oh-so-sweetextra hour of sleep in fall (and the not-so-nice loss of an hour in spring), but some of the original reasons for resetting our clocks twice a year including saving energy and having more daylight hours for retailers, sporting events and other activities that benefit from a longer day.


As far back as the 1700s, people recognized the potential to save energy by jumping clocks ahead one hour in the summer – Benjamin Franklin even wrote about it – although the idea was not put into practice until the 20th century.


During both World Wars, the United States and Great Britain began observing daylight saving time.


After the war, U.S. states were free to choose whether to observe daylight saving time and the calendar start dates of the time change. The result was time confusion for travelers and newscasters. In 1966, Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act, which stated that if any state observed daylight saving, it had to follow a uniform protocol, beginning and ending on the same dates throughout the country.


Starting in 2007, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 lengthened daylight saving time by four weeks, starting it three weeks earlier in spring and ending it one week later in fall. Daylight saving now begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November.


Formerly it began on the first Sunday of April and ended on the last Sunday of October, so that extra week gives trick-or-treaters a precious extra hour of candy-gathering before sunset.


But not everyone is wild about daylight saving time, with some states opting out all together and others proposing to do so.


Hawaii has never observed daylight saving time, as its tropical latitude means its daylight hours stay fairly constant year-round. Arizona likewise has not observed daylight saving time since 1967 because the extra daylight in the summer would just mean more energy consumption to keep the desert state’s residents cool.


Many Alaskans would like to stop observing daylight saving time because the change in daylight from summer to winter is already so extreme at their northerly latitude. A petition has even been set before the state this year to abolish the observance of daylight saving time in Alaska.


Florida too finds daylight saving time less useful because of it’s southerly latitude. In 2008, a Florida state senator introduced a bill to abolish the practice in Florida.


From 1970 to 2006, most of Indiana didn’t observe daylights time, but began to do so in April 2006 after eight counties in the western portion of the state switched from the Eastern to the Central Time Zone.


None of the U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, observe daylight saving time.


November 3, 2008 Posted by | Lifestyle | , , , | Leave a comment

The pros and cons of netbooks

Reader Tom writes: What can you tell me about the “mini-laptops” or netbooks that seem to be popping up all over the place? My wife saw one that sold for about $350 with built-in Wi-Fi and she says she wants one now. I have yet to see one in person, so I have no idea if they are worth the money.


Yeah, what’s the deal with all the netbooks?

If you’re unfamiliar with the devices, here’s the pitch: You get a small, cheap laptop with a basic set of features, limited performance, and often a small hard drive (or an even smaller amount of flash storage). Some netbooks run Windows (usually XP), some don’t. And that’s the sell. The emphasis: cheap.

Prices typically range from about $300 to $500, but there are exceptions on either side. As with standard laptops, the more you pay, the more you get… but at some point you get into the realm of those regular laptops, and the appeal of the netbook fades considerably.

There are numerous pros and cons to the netbook phenomenon that should impact your decision whether to buy one. First, some pros: They’re cheap. Oh, I mentioned that. But they’re also very portable and generally more rugged than you’d expect, which makes them great for people looking for a second laptop to use as a “getaway” computer. Just toss it in your bag and head out for that adventure weekend. If it gets lost, stolen, or broken, you’re out a much smaller investment than if it had been your $2,000 Mac that you dropped into a ravine.

Now for the flipside. Netbooks are, again, cheap. To get prices down, sacrifices must be made. That means dog-slow processors, no graphics ability, (usually) no optical drive, and minimal RAM. Netbooks won’t work as an emergency DVD player for the kids. Battery life is often poor (with a few exceptions). Many netbooks look more like toys than real laptops, so they aren’t appropriate for business users. And the smaller the keyboard gets, the harder it is to type. On machines with an 8.9-inch screen (the smallest and typical standard among netbooks), touch-typing is pretty much impossible. Then there’s the OS issue. While some netbooks run Windows, many run Linux. Whether that’s a pro or con depends on your opinion of Microsoft, but many users dislike having to learn a new operating system and instead prefer the familiarity of Windows.

Should you buy one? Tough question, but I highly recommend that if you do, you consider a model with a 10-inch screen, which will give you a less cramped experience on both the eyes and the fingers (thanks to the bigger keyboard). My two favorite models: The Asus Eee PC 1000H and the new Lenovo IdeaPad S10, both with 10.2-inch screens and Windows XP. Both are available for under $500. The Eee has much longer battery life (but weighs half a pound more), while the IdeaPad has better performance and a larger hard drive. Take your pick.


November 1, 2008 Posted by | Lifestyle | , , , | 1 Comment

7 Ways to Learn More Without More Study

7 Ways to Learn More Without More Study

By Nancy Shute


The abundance of new research on how teenage brains work, aside from being cool for its own sake–teen brains are developing madly, pruning synapses and insulating neurons to build a lean computing machine–is fueling a new movement to help kids make the most of the brain they’ve got. Think of it as a user’s manual for a machine that’s still being wired.

One of the leaders in that movement is Wilkie “Bill” Wilson, a neuroscientist and director of DukeLEARN, a Duke University project to teach teenagers the practical applications of neuroscience. DukeLEARN’s curriculum for 9th-graders won’t be in the schools until 2009, but with the first homework of the fall already being stuffed into backpacks, I asked Bill for a sneak preview. He asked: “How would you like to learn more without having to study more?” Sign me up! Here’s how:


1. Get to bed and go to sleep. Sleep enables memory consolidation, which is psych-speak for saying that you remember stuff after you sleep on it. What’s more, overall performance, attention, and the ability to concentrate are damaged by lack of sleep. “So you’re hurt in two ways,” Wilson says. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep a night for optimum performance.


2. Start studying a few days in advance of a test. Memories are embedded better if the brain is exposed to information repeatedly. Cramming doesn’t work, because your brain doesn’t have enough time to embed and consolidate.


3. Feed your head. The brain is an energy hog, and it runs badly if it doesn’t get high-octane fuel. That means protein and complex carbs–eggs and wheat toast for breakfast, say, rather than sugary cereal and orange juice. The biggest mistake teens make, Wilson says, is to skip breakfast or to go for sugar, which raises blood sugar, followed by a quick crash.


4. Body exercise is brain exercise. Aerobic exercise really improves brain function, perhaps because it increases blood flow, or perhaps because it reduces stress and anxiety. Exercise also prompts growth of new brain neurons, at least in rats. Twenty minutes or so a day of activity that raises your heart rate will do it.


5. Learn now what you want to remember for the rest of your life. Teenage brains are much better at remembering things on a conscious level than the brains of young children or adults. Scientists aren’t sure why, but they know that human brains are primed to notice and remember what’s new, and teenagers are exposed to lots of new stuff. “You’re going to remember the first time you had sex more than the 33rd time,” Wilson says. Whatever the reason, the teenage years are the time to learn new languages and acquire other lifelong skills.


6. Harness the power of risk-taking. Adults are always harping on the downside of teenage risk-taking, and it’s true that teenagers are more apt than adults to get themselves in trouble with drinking, driving, and unsafe sex, to name the biggies. But the fact that the parts of the brain that drive people to try new, risky, and exciting things appear to be more developed in teenagers can be a huge plus. Pick appropriate challenges–difficult sports, a tough job, mastering a performance art, traveling overseas–and the teenage brain is uniquely primed to tackle them. (Click here to read what the 19-year-old Harris twins told me last week about their “do hard things” campaign.) Wilson says: “You have this power you’re given to go out and do it without fear.”


7. Learn what you love. Because emotional systems develop faster in teenager brains than do inhibitory systems, teenagers learn things they’re passionate about quickly and well. “Your brain gives you tools like attention on the project, focus,” Wilson says.


Wilson’s project is a work in progress; DukeLEARN will be testing whether teaching teenagers how their brains work will improve academic performance and lead them to take better care of their brains. But nobody says you can’t do your own experiment, starting right now.

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Lifestyle | , , , | Leave a comment

Luxury with zip in modern Bentley

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: The Bentley Continental GTC convertible that I tested did not have the standard-issue gas cap lurking under its filler flap.

No, my example of this British icon was a bit more upscale. It was fitted with the “Mulliner Alloy Fuel Filler Cap,” a $290 option.

According to David Reuter, Bentley’s spokesman in the North American colonies, the difference is the Mulliner model is graced with the Bentley logo (a winged B).

You may wonder why someone would spend an extra $290 for a B you can see only when you open the filler flap to put gas in the car. But, if you have to wonder, you cannot afford this particular $211,475 ragtop.

So, who can?

“Our median buyer has a net worth of a little over $3 million,” Reuter said. “And that doesn’t include real estate holdings, just liquid assets.”

That buyer is also predominantly male, typically in early middle age, Reuter adds. And he “has three or four other automobiles, like a Ferrari or another British car.”

That buyer is also pretty recession-proof, observes Joe Innaurato, general manager of ultra-luxury car sales at F.C. Kerbeck & Sons, in Palmyra, N.J.

Innaurato says Kerbeck’s new Bentley sales have been going “very, very well, in contrast to the regular auto industry, because people with money aren’t affected by this economy.” He adds that Kerbeck is selling Bentleys at a 150-a-year clip, and came in second in U.S. sales in July, behind the Beverly Hills franchise.

And what are these folks getting for these big Bentley bucks?

The answer is a lot more than they were before Volkswagen bought the brand a decade ago. The old, British-designed car had nothing to sell but high-quality materials and a mind-boggling amount of hand work. From a technological standpoint, the cars were antediluvian. Their pushrod V-8 was designed before the Earth’s tectonic plates assumed their present positions.

The folks who design Volkswagens and Audis changed that. The test car was powered by a techy, twin-turbocharged, 6-liter V-12 that developed 552 horsepower. This power was dispatched to all four wheels by a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system featuring a Torsen center differential. Three rear-drive models use an extensively modified, turbocharged version of the old V-8.

“It’s a real car now,” Innaurato said. “It’s very well-engineered and styled, and performs well.”

And it does perform. Despite the fact, it weighs a morbidly obese 5,478 pounds, the big droptop gets from 0 to 60 in a factory-claimed 4.8 seconds, then finishes up at 195 miles an hour. The big guy is also surprisingly light on its feet in the corners.

Read whole story here. 

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Lifestyle, Money | , , , | Leave a comment