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Posted by Aliona


Celebrating the Chinese New Year:   

Chinese New Year, or Chinese Spring Festival, ["holds the most significant position among all Chinese festivals and holidays."] It's also called the Chinese Lunar New Year, because its date is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls sometime from late January to late February and varies from year to year. The celebration lasts 15 days. There are many exciting things happening during this New Year. If you want to participate in the celebrations, there are many things you can do to join the festivities and to pay homage to Chinese traditions; the Chinese people have many ways to celebrate this special time of the year, such as putting money in red envelopes to give to children; writing Chinese lucky symbol Fu and putting it on the door.

Steps

The first step is to Research Chinese New Year. If you're already familiar with the Chinese New Year, take a little time to learn some more about it. It's a very significant holiday in Chinese culture and the festivities extend over a period of two weeks. The Chinese New Year is accompanied by a belief in good fortune, and there are many decorations around to herald the new year.

Chinese celebrators head to temples to pray for good luck during the New Year celebration period. There they burn incense sticks and can also have their fortunes told. If you are not of Chinese descent but would like to participate, attend a Chinese temple and take a tube of fortune sticks which can usually be found at the entrance to the temple. Ask a question, shake the tube and the number that falls out can be interpreted by one of the fortune tellers at the temple.

Clean your home in time for New Year. This tradition is founded in the belief that cleaning the house at this time of year will "sweep away the bad luck" that has accumulated inside over the past year. Cleaning also makes the house ready for the good luck to start entering again.

  • Put away dustpans and so brooms that the good luck won't be swept away after cleaning.
  • Keeping fresh and hygienic is also an important part of celebrating; even a new haircut will do.
  • Be aware! Do not clean your home during the New Year, such as sweeping or wiping the windows. To do so is to "sweep away" the good luck you've just received for the New Year. Over the following 13 to 15 days, you're relieved of cleaning duties. It may be a little dirtier than usual but it is an important part of observing the tradition.

Decorate your home. The color that is most recommended is red. Red is the color or symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. The number "8" also symbolizes good luck and wealth, as in Chinese the word for eight rhymes with fortune or wealth.

  • Take care not to overdo the decorations. Display a few good ones to bring life and fortune from their brightness and colorful nature.
  • Place flowers through the house, such as lotuses. Lotus flowers symbolize rebirth and new growth.
  • Place mandarins in bowls throughout the house. Mandarins with their leaves still intact are the fruits of happiness for the New Year. Keep their numbers even though, as uneven numbers bring unhappiness. When offering mandarins to others, always offer them in pairs.
  • Set out a tray of candies with eight different types of candies arranged along it. The traditional candies are those made from lotus seeds, longan, peanuts, coconut, red melon seed, candied melon, etc.

Offer a sacrifice to the Kitchen GoHave a traditional dinner on New Year's Eve. This is one of the most important parts of the holiday and the food eaten at this time of year has traditional meanings related to the Chinese New Year. Some Chinese choose not to eat meat on the first day of Chinese New Year because each new year carries the name of an animal.The remaining days carry no such restrictions. Traditional dishes include fish, jai, chicken, law pak ko, lin guo (sticky rice cake), noodles and desserts. Dumplings play a special role in New Year food because of their shape, a shape which resembles the ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots. Some of the food meanings include:d. While this deity may have a funny name, it is like all gods and should be worshiped. This sacrifice could include foods such as fruits, for example. Good behavior should be used so that he will make a "good report when he goes back to Heaven." Many families have a large poster of him in their kitchen.

  • Jiu, a traditional hard liquor, and daikon, the Chinese radish, carry the meaning of longevity.
  • Red chilies mean good luck.
  • Rice ensures harmony.

Cook your own Chinese cuisine, if you'd like to do more than simply order at the local Chinese restaurant, try these delicious recipes suitable for Chinese New Year:

  • Chinese dumplings
  • Pot stickers
  • Chinese New Year cake nian gao (sticky rice cake)
  • Chinese noodles in a peanut sauce
  • Chinese bean paste bun
  • Shrimp with Chinese lobster sauce          

Dress for the occasion. If you have traditional Chinese clothing, this is the perfect time to wear it. Outfits can be purchased in Chinatown, and silk Chinese clothing is very beautiful. Prefer the color red for all your clothing during this time. Associated with joy, happiness, good luck, wealth and good fortune, red clothes will ensure that you're fully participating in the spirit of the celebrations. Gold is another suitable color; try combining the two for a very elegant look.

  • Avoid wearing too much black during the celebration period. Black symbolizes bad luck and even death. This is a time of good fortune and life!

Interact with others in a positive manner. Chinese New Year is a time of happiness and good fortune and it's important to spread the goodwill. Avoid having any quarrels, fights, or negative attitudes during the New Year. These will bring you bad luck.

  • When greeting other people during the New Year period, use greetings such as: Gung hay Fat Choy"/ "Gong Xi Fa Chai" – these mean "Happy New Year" in Mandarin Chinese.
  • "Kung hei fat choy" means: "We hope that you will be wealthy".

Visit your relatives and friends. This is the most important part of the New Year and is a time of connecting and sharing the celebrations together.

  • Bring Angpau, the red envelopes, with you, to pass to children. Usually, the red envelopes are filled with money or treats. The red color is meant to scare away any evil spirits. These envelopes are usually given to the unmarried from the married. And for the sake of continued   prosperity it's a good idea (or lesson) to encourage children to save the money that they're given in the envelope.

Set off firecrackers. The firecrackers used in China and Hong Kong are loud, banging fireworks that are mostly lit on the ground. The loud noises are thought to scare the bad spirits away, to prevent them from bringing bad luck. Many Chinese choose to decorate their homes with plastic firecrackers too, to ward off bad luck and to symbolize the deafening noise made when the real firecrackers are set off.

Visit a parade. Parades are full of excitement, including firecrackers, activities, and dragon dancers. There are people who are disguised as dragons and lions; the dragon is revered in China rather than being viewed as a monster. Indeed, it could be said that the dragon almost symbolizes China itself. A five clawed dragon used to be worn by emperors on their clothes and they also wore yellow and other people were forbidden from doing so. Nowadays you can wear yellow and dragons too, as it's not only for royalty. The lions and dragons also scare off the bad spirits like the firecrackers, and the dragon dance and lion dance are an important part of the Chinese New Year. They're decorated beautifully and are a sight worth seeing.

  • Look online or in your local newspaper for information about local Chinese New Year parades in your area. Be sure to take your camera and to wear adequate clothes if it's cold outside.
  • The Lantern Festival is held on the last day. People carry lanterns designed as insects such as dragonflies or animals with them on the streets. Sweet rice cakes and other sweets are eaten on this day and people put candles around their house to guide the spirits home.

Recipe:  

Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi) are very popular during the Chinese New Year season
 
Ingredients:
 
  • Jiaozi dough:                               
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • up to 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Filling:
  • 1 cup ground pork or beef
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 TB Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
  • 3 TB sesame oil
  • 1/2 green onion, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
  • 4 tablespoons shredded bamboo shoots
  • 2 slices fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
 
Preparation:
Stir the salt into the flour. Slowly stir in the cold water, adding as much as is necessary to form a smooth dough. Don't add more water than is ncessary. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling ingredients. Add the soy sauce, salt, rice wine and white pepper to the meat, stirring in only one direction. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring in the same direction, and mix well.

To make the dumpling dough: knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 60 pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle about 3-inches in diameter.

Place a small portion (about 1 level tablespoon) of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with the remainder of the dumplings.

To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half the dumplings, giving them a gentle stir so they don't stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Cover and repeat. When the dumplings come to a boil for a third time, they are ready. Drain and remove. If desired, they can be pan-fried at this point.

Mark Zuckerberg may be welcome in Vietnam, even if his brainchild Facebook is not.

The Facebook founder is vacationing in the communist country that blocks its citizen from using his social networking site.

According to The Associated Press, Zuckerberg, his longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan and a group of friends arrived in Vietnam Dec. 22. They spent Christmas Eve in popular tourist spot Ha Long Bay and Christmas Day at an ecolodge in the northern mountain town of Sapa, where Zuckerberg rode a buffalo.

Vietnamese website Tuoitre News reported that Zuckerberg, 27, and Chan have already spent about $6,000 on travelling by private helicopter.

The pair have been dating since Zuckerberg's sophomore year at Harvard, where they met at a Friday night party for Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. Chan, a Chinese-American from the Boston suburbs. struck up a conversation with Zuckerberg while waiting in line for the bathroom.

"He was this nerdy guy who was just a little bit out there," Chan told the New Yorker last year.

When Zuckerberg left Harvard in 2005 to focus on Facebook full time, he recruited classmates, including Chan, who, according to The Harvard Crimson newspaper, told him, "I'd love a job at facebook," before offering him a Twizzler.

These days, Chan identifies Zuckerberg as her partner on her Facebook page and, according to tech writer Sarah Lacy, she has imposed a set of rules on her steady, including, " One date per week, a minimum of a hundred minutes of alone time, not in his apartment, and definitely not at Facebook."

While the couple seem to be enjoying their vacation, it's likely, given Zuckerberg's insatiable work ethic, that he's finding some time for business, namely expanding Facebook to Vietnam, where social media is growing. Though Facebook is blocked by the government's censors, locals can still access the site with relative ease, but it seems they would rather choose local offering Zing Me.

Zuckerberg, whose net worth is measured in the billions, doesn't need the money. Rather he seems motivated by his obsession to bring Facebook to one billion users worldwide.


Is This Toy on Your Kid's List? Santa Tried Hard But...

The recent flooding in Thailand has disrupted more than exports of cars and PCs. It also has knocked out supplies of a popular toy at the height of the holiday season.

Inventories of Magna-Tiles, which are magnetic connector toys, have disappeared, says its manufacturer, Valtech LLC. Flooding in the suburbs of Bangkok, where the Chicago-area company's factory was located, destroyed the machinery that makes the square- and triangle-shaped tiles used to construct rocket ships, roadways and skyscrapers.

That has triggered a run on the toys, which have caught on in schools and with young children, who find that the magnets make the toys easy to assemble. Prices have soared, more than doubling in the past month since the company announced it had run out of product.

A 32-piece set of colored tiles retails for $49.50, and a 100-piece set lists for $110. But sellers on eBay are asking $150 to $250 for the 100-piece sets, while sellers on Amazon.com are offering the large set for $349.99 plus shipping. Smaller sets are listing for $65 to $100.

"We did not think the flooding would get to our industrial park but it did," said Rudy Valenta, chief executive and owner of 14-year-old Valtech. "You can't fight mother nature."

Roger Glazebrook, a manager at Manhattan store Mary Arnold Toys, said the company was lucky because it stocked up on the Magna-Tiles months ago. They are the store's top seller, he said. But the store finally ran dry on Tuesday.

"Now everyone is calling," he said. "It's one of those unobtainable toys."

Magna-Tiles were introduced in 1997 and got off to a slow start. When schools began buying them as educational tools, the business took off around 2003 and it has been growing steadily ever since.

The floods came at the worst possible time. The company generates about 35% of its sales in the last three months of the year, said Mr. Valenta.

Valtech subcontracts the manufacturing of its Magna-Tiles to the factory of a major toy maker in the suburbs of Bangkok. The arrangement has worked well since the deal was struck nine years ago, said Mr. Valenta, who wouldn't identify the company.

But in early October, monsoon rains triggered the worst flooding Thailand has seen in decades. The deluge left the factory under more than six feet of water for more than a month as runoff from the north besieged the city. Production came to a halt and ruined Valtech's machinery.

All hasn't been lost, though. Valtech officials were able to salvage the molds used to make the plastic squares and triangles. They plan to restart production at a new factory outside the flood zone by early next year. But even then it could take two months or more to ramp up production. Mr. Valenta hopes to start selling tiles by April.

Until then, consumers have been left to hunt for the last available Magna-Tiles. Sophia Chiang, the chief executive of a California start-up that helps nonprofits to raise money, was looking to buy more tiles for her two children. "My kids love the Magna-Tiles," she said. "We have 150."

But Mrs. Chiang was shocked when she searched for the tiles on Amazon.com and found sellers on the site were asking $300 for a toy she spent $100 on just months ago. She passed, because she only buys from Amazon merchants when they offer products at a discount. "I thought it was holiday markup," she said. "I had no idea it was the Thai thing."

Some retailers have also taken to the Internet, touting their tile inventory. "Yes we have @Magnatiles! We stock up so you don't have to worry," announced the Twitter account of Baltimore toy retailer aMuseToys. On Dec. 14, the company posted a follow-up tweet: "Just had an economist here say we need to raise our prices on @magnatiles. Told him we understand supply and demand, but will never raise 'em."


Super Young Retirement Savers

Older Americans who haven't saved enough for retirement could learn a lesson or two from these young retirement savers -- they've already socked thousands of dollars away for their golden years.

Fabian Fernandez-Han                   

    

Age: 14
Age started saving: 10
Amount saved: $10,000
Hometown: Houston, TX

One day I saw my dad trading on eTrade. It looked interesting so I wanted to do it. I had always saved my allowance money and birthday money, and the first thing I bought was Apple stock -- when shares were only $100.

I now have an eTrade account and a Scottrade account. In addition to Apple, I've also invested in other stocks like Google, Microsoft and Rim. I have some money in a savings account, too. But most of the money I plan to use for retirement is invested in stocks.

This January, the New York Stock Exchange was sponsoring a competition where the challenge was to create something to teach other kids how to save and invest. I decided to make an iPhone app called Oink-a-Saurus targeted at kids and teens who want to learn ways to save money, and I ended up winning first place.

I want to help other kids learn to save and invest more responsibly. The current generation cannot rely on Social Security, so we have to save for our own retirement and can't depend on that.

When I was 7 years old, all the kids would get trophies whether they won or lost and I thought they were worthless. I asked my mom, who would actually pay for the trophies and how much they cost. When she said they were $10 apiece and parents paid for their child's trophy, I asked if I could keep the $10 to save in a bank account instead of receiving the trophy.

I'm not planning on spending most of the money I have invested for a very, very long time. I'm not that scared about investing most of it in stocks, because when you're a kid it's not that big of a deal if you lose a little money -- you still have time to get it back.

Chana Goldstein 

Age: 16
Age started saving: 13
Amount saved: $1,000
Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel

I started saving for retirement when I was 13 years old, as soon as I started working. I started my own website, 2learnhebrew.com, where I tutor people one-on-one who want to learn Hebrew and charge $12 an hour.

I've saved a lot of the money I've made, and I've also spent some on some nice little expensive gifts for myself, like a nice camera and a fancy pen.

Overall, I've put away about $1,000 for retirement into a bank account where I only get a little interest -- but I'm nervous about the stock market. I've probably spent about $800 to $900. And my family gives 20% of everything they earn to charity, so I do that with my money, too.

I'm only in 10th grade, so I haven't yet thought about what I will do when I retire. I don't watch TV now, so I won't then either. But I think having money saved up when I'm older will help me continue doing good things and helping other people.

19 Dec 2011


Businesses You Can Start for Under $5K

The biggest thing holding most people back from starting their own business is money. But the truth is, you don't have to have a lot of money to start a business.

"If I get one more stinking, whining email about how impossible it is to start a business without any money, I am going to explode!" entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz wrote in his book, "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur."

In fact, Michalowicz argues that having the money could actually be bad when you're starting a business.

"The lack of money is actually advantageous," he said. "I've seen better businesses start off with no money than those with a lot of money. If you have no money, it forces you start asking better questions, which leads you to better answers."

"If you have the ability to send me an email, you clearly have access to a computer or cell phone — more than enough tools to get started," he wrote in the book.

In fact, there are many businesses you can start for under $5,000. Buying a franchise isn't one of them: Most fast-food franchises cost $100,000 or more to start and with some, you need at least half of that in cash.

Consider the story of Stewart Vernon of Macon, Georgia, who used a few thousand dollars he'd saved up in college to buy a truck and some chemicals, and opened a pool-cleaning business. Every year for the first four years he doubled his revenue; he became a millionaire by 25. He has now turned the business into a franchise.

Or, the story of Dave Petrillo and Dave Jackson, two twenty-something engineers who have been friends since childhood, who invented Coffee Joulies, stainless steel beans that instantly cool down your coffee and then keep it hot for up to five hours. They didn't have a lot of money to start their business, so they bought some supplies and made prototypes in Petrillo's parents' basement and then put their product on Kickstarter.com, a grassroots-fundraising site. They set a goal of raising about $9,000. The product was such a hit, they made over $300,000 and recently moved to Oneida, NY, where they've contracted an old silverware factory to crank out Coffee Joulies to meet the booming demand.

Michalowicz says you can start just about any business for under $5,000.

"I would even argue you could start your own airline for under $5,000! People might say, 'A jet costs $50 million, no way!' but maybe you start out teaching flying lessons or opening a business that caters to the airline industry, then build up your business until you have enough to buy that first plane."

Whether you're selling products or services, your biggest expenses will be space and salaries, said Michalowicz, who learned the hard way about blowing too much money too soon. He picked up a few tips for saving money along the way. For example, redirecting phone numbers. He thumbed through the phone book and called the number of every competitor. If any were disconnected, he would call the phone company and ask for that number.

"I had no money to advertise but I thought, 'I need my phone ringing now!'" he said.

Consulting

Consulting is probably the easiest business to start on the cheap, because you're selling your expertise, be it in human resources, technology, the environment, social media or whatever, and you can launch the business from home. Consulting is big business: Companies are expected to spend more than $360 billion on consulting services this year, according to Plunkett Research.

Overhead costs will include business cards, marketing and any required certification. Plus, Michalowicz notes, most people forget that when you work from home, your utility bills jump — and it's more wear and tear on your car, driving to clients' offices, meetings or networking events.

Selling an Invention

The Coffee Joulies guys are a testament to the fact that you don't need a ton of money bring your product to market. They spent $4,000 of their own money to have a local machine shop make a mold for them and then just started cranking out prototypes of Coffee Joulies by hand in one of their parents' basements. They raised more than $300,000 on grassroots-fundraising site Kickstarter.com, which helped them take their business to the next level — mass production.

Other ways to sell an invention without a lot of money include entering an inventors' contest, like those held by the Future Business Leaders of America, By Kids for Kids, MIT, FIRST and Intel. Or, some catalogs will allow you to submit your inventions directly to them for consideration. The Walter Drake catalog, for example, will even help you develop and tweak your product to take it from a rough prototype to a polished ready-for-market form if they think you have a good idea.

Selling a Hand-Made Product

Here's how simple and inexpensive selling a creative product can be: 10-year-old Maddie Bradshaw took out $300 of her birthday and tooth-fairy money to buy supplies for her product, SnapCaps, bedazzled bottle cap accessories. The product was so successful, she was a millionaire by age 13!

Today, there are a variety of sites that can help artisans sell their hand-made products including jewelry, stationery, bags and clothing, such as Etsy, Artfire and Boticca.

Jill Bliss sells her products on sites like these , as well as in stores and on her own website , JillBliss.com. Her business has grown large enough that she has a fulfillment house taking orders and packaging them, but she still has to find new shops and sites to work with on her own. If she reads or hears about a store she thinks might be a good fit, she sends them a postcard or pops in with some samples , and then follows up. "A personal connection works better than cold-calling or emailing," she said. "Old-fashioned relationship-building and maintenance is key."

Vending Machine

When you walk past a vending machine you might not think, "Wow, great business opportunity!" but it's actually a profitable business that's inexpensive to start. You can buy a used soda machine for $800 to $1,000 or a used snack machine for $1,200, according to Chris Robertson, author of "Vending Business Tactics." New machines can run you $2,000 to $4,000.

The most profitable items tend to be Coke, Diet Coke and bottled water, Robertson says. And, in some places, you can buy a bottle of water for as low as 17 cents a bottle and then turn around and sell it for $1, so the margins are nice.

Some property owners might charge you 10 to 15 percent of your sales to put your machine on their property, but that's not always the case, Robertson says. If they do, you just up the price from $1 to $1.25.

App Development

If you make an app, sell it for $1.99 on iTunes and it sells a modest 1,000 copies, BAM! There's $2,000. Apps require a lot of upfront work but can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue very quickly. If you're making iPhone apps, you have to register with Apple as a developer, download a software-development kit specifically for the iPhone as well as Xcode, which helps you put it all together and then debug it. You will also need to learn Objective-C language, which most people don't do in a day. To this point, all of that is free, but then Apple charges you $99 per year to upload your app to the iTunes store. That may seem like a lot but, as Beth Ritter-Guth points out on MakeUseOf.com, it gives you access to the cool club that is iPhone app makers, who can help you test your app. She also points out that, if you were selling crafts at a craft fair, you'd have to pay to rent a table there, too .

Smartphone-app development has also spawned a cottage industry of app consultants who, for $999 to $2,000, will help you take your app from an idea to a revenue stream. Ritter-Guth recommends the tutorials on ManiacDev.com. And, of course, there's always YouTube!

And, when he needed an attorney but had no money to hire one, he contacted a business-law professor and offered to allow the class to use his business as a case study, in exchange for the students drafting his legal work and having the professor look them over to make sure they were done properly.

Jill Bliss, who sells posters and stationery online and in stores, has her own money-saving strategy: Recycling. Whatever doesn't sell, she recycles and turns into something else.

19 Dec 2011


Elizabeth Taylor's Jewelry Sells for $115 Million                                                               

"These have always brought me luck," Elizabeth Taylor famously boasted of her diamonds,  

in a fragrance commercial.

She wasn't kidding. Yesterday her jewelry collection broke records and toppled expectations

when it sold at auction for an estimated $115 million.

While Taylor's cache added immense value, the astounding sale had a lot to do with the

merchandise: big rare rocks of the sparkling nature.

Taylor was a life-long collector of unique gems. Many of the milestones of her life were marked

by additions to her collection, now valued at well over $100 million.

There was the diamond brooch passed down from the Duchess of Windsor.

And the diamond encrusted bracelet, a gift from her best friend in later life, Michael Jackson. On Tuesday that gift sold at Christie's auction house for almost $200,000 -- four times the price it was expected to command.

The two biggest sales in Taylor's collection were markers of another famous relationship. During her two (that's right two) marriages to Richard Burton, she amassed some of the rarest, most coveted jewels from around the world. The 33-carat Cartier diamond ring Burton designed for his bride sold on Tuesday for $8.8 million to a private buyer from Asia. That was a steal, compared to the $11.8 million dollar necklace, purchased by Burton for his love in 1969. It was estimated to sell for $2 or $3 million at Tuesday's auction, but bidders skidded right into the double digits for the charm. The ruby and diamond necklace, named La Peregrina, boasts a two-inch pearl that dates back to the 16th century. Burton had paid $37,000 for it at an auction. When Taylor lost it in her suite at a Las Vegas hotel she spent the night crawling around the floor in search of it. Burton found it the next day in her dog's mouth.

It's fitting that one of Hollywood's greatest, most volatile and most over-the-top romances would live on in the form of highly-coveted gems. But there's another side to Taylor and her sparkling collection. In addition to being a hopelessly garish romantic, she was also a generous and powerful AIDS activist. A portion of the proceeds of Tuesday's auction go to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS foundation, a non-profit organization the actress started in 1991 to support people living with the virus. For Taylor, diamonds offered more than just luck, they paved her legacy.

15 th Dec 2011


Forgotten Treasure: Library Janitor Discovers Silver Coin Cache 

A curious library caretaker in the Bavarian city of Passau has discovered a treasure trove of ancient silver coins and medals that went overlooked for more than two centuries. The surprise find is reportedly worth as much as six figures.

 Janitor Tanja Höls had often passed by an unassuming wooden box stowed away in an archive in Passau's historic state library, but it wasn't until about two weeks ago that curiosity got the best of her and she was decided take a look inside.

 What she found were dozens of coins, most of them made of silver. "I had no idea that I'd found a treasure," the 43-year-old told the German news agency DAPD on Wednesday. But when she told the head of the library in the Bavarian city what she had seen, he soon realized their value.

 "This find is a real bonanza," Markus Wennerhold said, adding that it happened to coincide with preparations for the library's 400th anniversary.

 The library believes that the collection of 172 well-preserved coins likely belonged to Passau's prince-bishops. Wennerhold suspects that they were hidden there around 1803 during Germany's secularization, when such church assets were transferred to the state. They may have wanted to keep them out of the hands of tax officials.

Old Furniture and a Stuffed Crocodile

 Dating back from the years between the Roman Empire and Napoleon's rule, initial Internet research has revealed that the coins are worth a "low six-figure sum," Wennerhold said. Experts must now determine their exact value. The most valuable pieces will likely turn out to be decorative medals from the Baroque era, Wennerhold estimated.

 The coins were probably forgotten because their value was underestimated by past library workers, Wennerhold told DAPD. "None of the current workers here knew that these coins existed," he said.

 Library janitor Höls said she frequently goes to the fourth-floor archive -- where old furniture and even a stuffed crocodile are also stored -- in order to retrieve books for library patrons. The wooden box containing the coins was even periodically dusted by library employees without an inkling as to what was inside, Wennerhold said.

 This week the Passau state library plans to release photos of each coin on its homepage. Next year they will be put on display as part of the library's anniversary celebration. Founded in 1612 as part of a Jesuit college, the library claims to be home to one of the oldest book collections in Germany.

12 Dec 2011


Rare 1787 gold coin fetches $7.4M

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An exceedingly rare 1787 gold Brasher doubloon has been sold for $7.4 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a gold coin.

Blanchard and Co., the New Orleans-based coin and precious metals company that brokered the deal, said the doubloon was purchased by a Wall Street investment firm. Identities of the buyer and seller were not disclosed.

Minted by Ephraim Brasher, a goldsmith and neighbor of George Washington, the coin contains 26.66 grams of gold — slightly less than an ounce. Worth about $15 when it was minted, the gold value today would be more than $1,500.

The Brasher doubloon is considered the first American-made gold coin denominated in dollars; the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia didn't begin striking coins until the 1790s.

12 Dec 2011


Dog Shoots Owner in Behind

With best friends like this, who needs enemies? A 46-year-old man was shot in the rear over the weekend by his dog, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

The man from Great Salt Lake in Brigham City, Utah, had been hunting ducks from a boat at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refugeabout 60 miles north of Salt Lake City. As he climbed out of the boat to move decoys in the shallow marsh, his yellow laborador got excited inside the boat and jumped on a 12-guage shotgun, which then fired, unloading 27 pellets into his owner's behind.

NEWS: Dogs Walked by Men Are More Aggressive

Kevin Potter, the Box Elder County Sheriff's deputy chief, told the Tribune that the man had left his shotgun in the boat before the dog stepped on it.

"One of the hunters was inside the boat with the dog, and the other hunter was in the water setting up decoys," he said. "The guy in the water had put his 12-gauge shotgun across the bow of their boat. The dog got excited, was jumping around inside the boat and then it jumped on the gun. It went off, shooting the (decoy setter) in the buttocks."

The owner and his hunting partner called 911 and walked to a road to wait for help. The wounded hunter was treated at a local hospital and released.

Good thing the dog wasn't a better shot.

7 Dec 2011


Despite the Gray Hair, Presidents Live Longer

(President Barack Obama with his daughter Sasha at the 2011 National Christmas Tree lighting; Credit: Getty Images)

Speculation has long existed that U.S. presidents age at twice the normal rate, with many tabloid stories fixating on President Obama's every new wrinkle, gray hair and weight change. But a new study finds just the opposite: Most U.S. presidents live longer than predicted for men of their same age and era.

The study, published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, came to fruition when University of Illinois at Chicago demographer S. Jay Olshansky, noticed a flurry of news reports in the summer of 2011, when President Obama celebrated the big 5-0 birthday. The president still looks in shape to me, but a lot of reporters then commented that he was aging quickly. Some have even done then-and-now photo comparisons to prove their point.

PHOTOS: LESSER-KNOWN PRESIDENTIAL KEEPSAKES

"In the world of biology we know that you can't actually measure the aging of an individual," Olshansky, a professor of epidemiology at the UIC School of Public Health, was quoted as saying in a press release. "There isn't any single test to actually measure how long you've aged from point A to point B, nor is it possible to predict specifically how long an individual will live."

Using the assumption that presidents age at twice the normal rate, Olshansky calculated how long U.S. presidents would have been expected to live based on their age and the year they were inaugurated, and compared it to how long they actually lived.

Aging at twice the normal rate was estimated by removing two days of life for every day in office. For example, a 4-year term led to a reduction in estimated remaining lifespan of 8 years.

Olshansky determined that 23 of the 34 U.S. presidents who died from natural causes lived longer, and in many instances significantly longer, than predicted. Their average age at inauguration was 55.1 years.

Four presidents who were assassinated were removed from the analysis.

Consider that the average lifespan of the first eight presidents was 79.8 years, during a time when life expectancy at birth for men was less than 40.

"This is about how long females born in the U.S. today live," Olshansky said.

The study also found that living ex-presidents have either already exceeded their predicted longevity at the time of their inauguration, or are likely to do so.

"We know that socioeconomic status has an extremely powerful effect on longevity now," Olshansky said, "and it was likely to have been a factor in the past."


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