Saturday, July 28, 2007


Crura (Photo)

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Prisoner of War

About a month ago, a man in Amsterdam felt that he needed to confess, so he went to his priest, "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. During WWII I hid a refugee in my attic."

"Well," answered the priest, "that's not a sin."

"But I made him agree to pay me 20 Guilders for every week he stayed."

"I admit that wasn't good, but you did it for a good cause."

"Oh, thank you, Father; that eases my mind. I have one more question..."

"What is that, my son?"

"Do I have to tell him the war is over?"


Michael Talastas

Michael Talastas (Photo)


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dear Carol

Messed-up Friend My guy friend knows I'm crushing on him, but he said he doesn't want to ruin our friendship. But then I cried, which was a HUGE mistake. Now he won't even reply to my IMs. I just want everything to go back to the way it was. Help!

Dear Messed-up Friend,

Time helps. For now, give him space. Be friendly but casual. Your situation isn't unusual, so hang in there. You may be a wreck today, but tomorrow you will feel a little bit better. A guy who is uncomfortable with your affection wouldn't make a good BF anyway. You'll eventually meet a guy who will be thrilled you like him.
Gutter Girl

I have three older brothers who are great but, because of them, I have a dirtier mind than most girls. My guy friends think it's funny — they can relax and joke around me — but my girl friends get grossed out. One asked if I was a guy in disguise! How can I show I can have a clean mind while keeping a sense of humor?

Dear Gutter Girl,

You're a girl with a sense of humor who's comfortable around guys — and that's a good thing! It's a co-ed world, so seeing things from both perspectives is a strength, not a weakness. However, it's smart to be aware of whom you're talking with. You might talk one way with certain guys, another with certain girls or teachers or friends' moms. Don't turn everything into a joke, but don't censor your thoughts.
Period-less I'm 15 and still haven't bad a period. I feel left out. Everyone says I'm lucky, but I want to fit in. A period comes with advantages, such as boobs. I don't have those either. What's wrong with me?

Dear Period-less,

Nothing's wrong with you — period. For every girl who started at 10, there's one who started at 15. Even after menstruation begins, not everyone has the same bra size. Appreciate your body for what it is. You'll probably get your period soon, but you can't rush Mother Nature. Be patient, and trust that your body is changing inside and out. If you focus on activities you enjoy, you'll realize you fit in better than you think.
Flustered and Confused I was abused when I was little, and I told my boyfriend. He says he understands, but he doesn't. Sometimes I pull away when he tries to kiss me or hold me, and he thinks I don't love him. How can I show him affection even when I'm jumpy and scared?

Dear Flustered and Confused, I'm so sorry someone took terrible advantage of you. It's normal to want to take things slowly, and it's admirable that you're honest with your boyfriend. Try saying, "I care about you, but I get nervous." Remind him not to take it personally when you pull away. It might also help to talk to a counselor or to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. Take your time. If your boyfriend pressures you, you should re-evaluate the relationship. If he isn't supportive, he might not be right for you.
Concerned Friend My friend's parents have been divorced for years, but she just found out her dad is gay. She says she's OK with it, but I don't think she is. I'm pretty sure she feels different about her dad. What can I do to comfort her?

Dear Concerned Friend,

Just listening without judging or gossiping is helpful. If you think your friend wants to talk, say, "You must have complicated feelings about this." If she doesn't open up, respect her right to be discreet. It's not always easy to accept when a family secret is revealed. It will take time for your friend to absorb and get comfortable with these new circumstances.
Lost Without a BFF My BFF and I have been friends since pre-K. Lately, she ignores me for other friends. She rarely invites me over. When I tried talking to her about it, she smiled and walked away. How can I make her understand I'm lonely?

Dear Lost Without a BFF,

I'm sorry you're feeling lonely. But instead of striving to make your friend understand this, make new friends. Can you meet some girls at the pool or rec center? Who else likes to swim or throw Frisbees or go to concerts or whatever it is you do in the summer? Going away for a vacation might also help clear your mind. Is there a camp friend or cousin you can visit? It's possible you and your BFF will become close again, but when you see her, be upbeat rather than letting her know you feel lost. When you want to get closer to someone, it's better to seem less needy.
Desperate I'm 14 and desperately anticipating sex. Enough to where I simulate it. I promised myself I'd stop, but I keep breaking my promise. I keep thinking what my relatives and friends would think. I can't talk to my parents about it.

Dear Desperate,

Don't be so hard on yourself. Simulating sex is safe and common. A really bad idea would be to rush into the arms of a random guy just because you feel curious or desirous. Too-soon sex can leave a girl pregnant, diseased, heartbroken or all of the above. But simulation? Not a crime. Just be sure to lock your bedroom door during these private moments.
Best of the Best I feel the need to be the best at everything I do. I can't stand people who don't take school or sports seriously. It stresses me out, but how do I fix this?

Dear Best of the Best,

It is stressful to aim for perfection and to think less of those who do things at their own pace. Summer is a good time to learn to enjoy life — not just conquer it. Decide what you want to excel in rather than pushing to be the best in every single activity. Maybe you love to win at tennis. Fine. Work on your serves. But when you go bowling or play Monopoly, relax and enjoy. As long as you have fun, you're always a winner!
Bad Friend Blues I have a friend who hits, pinches, steals and calls me names. She is a deceiving, backstabbing meanie. She always tells me what she took from other girls. She never gets in trouble because she denies it. What should I do?

Dear Bad Friend Blues,

Consider making her your ex-friend. Don't announce, "It's over." But slowly become less available. Stop texting or inviting her over. Stay civil because someone who is no fun as a friend is much worse as an enemy. You can't change her, but you can put more space between you and her.
Toe Tall I'm going out with a boy. He's 16, and I'm 14. He's smart, funny and nice. I like him, except he is shorter than I am. By a lot!

Dear Too Tall,

He might be too old for you, but I don't think he's too short for you. Why not wear flats? If you really like this smart, funny, nice guy, don't let a height difference bother you. He's probably still growing.

My grandma moved in with us, and I had to give her my room and move to the basement. I don't like my grandma. She's always sad and acts like she's lost. I'm not talkative, so our conversations last about five seconds. I had a dream about her falling down the stairs. My mom says I'm too negative, but I can't help it. I kinda hate myself now.

Dear Negative,

Don't hate yourself. It is natural to feel less than pleased about giving up your room. Accept your mixed feelings. Can you say, "Mom, I respect you for inviting Grandma to live with us, but I wish you'd acknowledge that it's a bit difficult"? A silver lining: Summer is the season for sleeping over at friends' homes.
Boys or Friends My friend is anti-boys, while I'm totally obsessed with them. She says if I don't start being less boy-crazy, she won't be friends with me. She's a great bud, but what is better — boys or Mends?

Dear Boys or Friends,

Since when do you have to choose? And since when do friends have to agree on everything? Don't lose a great friend — just make an effort when you're with her to cease the talk about your endless crushes. Discuss the boys with other girls, but since this friend has made it clear that your incessant conversation about cuties is annoying, choose topics you both care about. Books? Movies? Sports? Actors? Vacations? College? Careers? Clothes? Horses? It's OK to be boy-crazy, but know when to change the channel.

Carol Weston's advice books include For Girls Only and Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You (HarperCollins). Her novels, including The Diary of Melanie Martin (Knopf), are out in paperback. Her website Is You can also write Dear Carol, c/o Girls' Life, 4529 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21214. For a reply, include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. She can't answer every question personally — but she tries!

Life thrown you a curve ball? Carol is now online and ready to help! Chock out for answers to your dilemmas.

By Carol Weston

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Thousand Dragons

Master chao rushed forward like a tidal wave, heedless of what lay in his path. Like a tidal wave, he crashed into the shore. In this case the shore was a plaster wall. He fell with little "Oh!" as if surprised.

The old servant called Matron flew to him like a black crow landing on a helpless gray mouse. "Aiyeeeee!" she shrieked. "Aiyeeeee!"

Ling froze, paintbrush in midair, the tip of her tongue pressed against her upper lip in concentration.

Master Chao lay motionless on the ground. Slowly he opened his eyes. Did he shout or curse? He did not. He laughed.

Matron plucked him to his feet. She hovered about, brushing the courtyard's yellow dust from his silken robes. The more he laughed, the more she scowled.

Master Chao regarded the wall. On it was a mural of a beautiful garden: silvery green willows reflected in shiny, dark water--shapely rocks among pale purple flowers--a charming pavilion.

The artwork shivered with life. One could almost hear birdsong and smell a cool, green breeze. A bee buzzed toward the flowers. Was the bee real, or was it a clever dab of paint? It was real, and it hit the wall again and again in frustration.

The painting had fooled Master Chao, too. His mind on other things, he had tried to enter the painted garden smoothing depths.

"This looks like my prize student's work," the master said. "Ling, did you paint this?"

Matron cocked her head and gave Ling a sharp look.

"Yes, sir," Ling said, stepping forward. She bowed so low that the ends of her pigtails swept the ground:

"The student surpasses the teacher," Master Chao cried. Then he hugged Ling so hard she thought his brittle bones would break.

"You have sent your spirit into this painting and brought it to life," the master said. "I have taught you much, but this cannot be taught. It is a gift of the heavens. I am proud of you."

Master Chao was the finest artist in all of China and the emperor's favorite. Praise from him was like a rare pearl.

In pleasing him, Ling had done more than please a revered tutor. She had pleased her mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and holy ancestors, all in one.

For Ling had never known her real family. She had been left on Master Chao's doorstep as an infant ten years ago. The master had raised her, loved her, and turned her into an accomplished artist.

He taught her everything he knew--except how to paint the pupils in a subject's eyes. "Eyes are where the soul lives," he said. "You will learn to paint them when you are ready."

Ling's work was always remarkably lifelike. When she was five she painted a wasp that practically hummed. When she was six she painted a dog that almost growled,

When she was seven she painted a portrait of Matron, all sharp black angles and angry lines. She captured Matron's beaky nose, waxy skin, and lone chin hair.

Matron had never forgiven her.

Now Master Chao was doing a little dance, holding Ling by both hands. "The painted garden is your masterpiece. Let us celebrate!" he said, dancing her into the house.

Master's happiness stuck in Matron's craw, "So the little dabbler brought a painting to life?" she cawed. "What skill does it take to fool an old man?"

But Matron was worried. I suppose I will have to wait on Ling hand and foot from now on, she thought. And what if the emperor hears of her talent and likes her better than Master? If Old Chao loses favor at court, I lose, too. ..FT. Then Matron hatched a plan that would solve the problem of Ling for good.

"Ling's paintings trick and mislead," Matron cackled to anyone who would listen. "She is a danger to the emperor. His enemies may use her powers against him … unless he gets to her first."

Rumor flew to the emperor's ear as if on blue-black wings.

One day four imperial soldiers appeared at Master Chao's gate while the master was away. Matron knew why they were there.

"We have come for the girl called Ling," one of the officers proclaimed.

Matron plucked Ling by the sleeve and handed her over. "You are going to the emperor," Matron told her. "Do his bidding without complaint."

Ling cried out for help. Master Chao could not hear her.

The soldiers hurried Ling through town. They entered the imperial palace and passed through several chambers. Finally, they entered the imperial room and dropped to their knees, pulling Ling down with them.

Before them sat the emperor on a huge throne. He was a fearsome sight, until Ling looked closer. Here was a small, soft man in big, stiff clothes. The emperor's robes were padded. His shoulders were comically broad. His lavishly styled hair nearly doubled his height.

This mighty Son of Heaven looked like a little boy wearing his father's garments--a cruel little boy with a rattail mustache.

"I would not ordinarily trust an important task to a female, and certainly not to a child," the emperor said, "but only you have the necessary skill. You will paint one thousand dragons on the wall that surrounds the palace. You must make them so real that my friends will faint with awe, my enemies with dread."

"I am honored," Ling replied, choosing her words carefully, "but I still have much to learn from Master Chao. When will I see him again?"

"You may return to him when you have completed the thousandth dragon," the emperor said, "but that may take a long, long time, and Master Chao is a very old man."

Then to the soldiers he said, "Take her away."

I will never see Master Chao again, Ling thought. The emperor means to hold me prisoner forever.

The soldiers hauled Ling outside and chained her to the palace wall. Within her reach were paints, brushes, a ladder, a lantern, and a cloth to keep spatters off the stone pathways.

One soldier stayed to stand guard. He brought Ling a bowl of rice and sat on a stool nearby to eat his own supper. Soon he was snoring.

Now I am alone, Ling thought, with an empty wall of many miles and the spirits of one thousand dragons waiting to be born.

Ling heard a noise. She spun around. There stood a beggar with a mud-caked face and tattered muslin robes. She knew at once it was Master Chao in disguise. He wrapped his arms around her.

"You say I have a gift from the heavens," Ling said. "Help me use it to satisfy the emperor and regain my freedom."

"The emperor forbids me to see you until you have finished," Master Chao whispered. "But I have a plan. By day, you will draw outlines of the dragons on the wall. By night, when the guard sleeps, I will help fill the outlines with paint. The work will go quickly. Then we shall open a few eyes."

Master Chao kissed Ling on the forehead. "Sleep now," he said. "Our work starts tomorrow. I will return tomorrow night."

He vanished, slipping into the shadows. Ling folded herself into the cloth and slept. Dragons slithered through her dreams.

The next morning, Ling began to draw. She drew dragons with camels' heads and snakes' necks, fishlike dragons, horned dragons, winged dragons, and the five-toed dragons said to be the emperor's ancestors.

That evening when the watchman fell asleep, Master Chao reappeared. "You have been busy, little artist," he said. "Now I will take over." The master tucked Ling safely into her makeshift bed. She gratefully fell asleep.

In the morning, Master Chao was gone but the dragons shone with color.

The days passed, and Ling's army of dragons grew. They looked so real, they caused a bandit to die of fright and sent a band of rebels screaming into the hills.

Ling and her secret helper, Master Chao, grew thin and pale from their toil. Only Matron grew fat on the emperor's gratitude. No longer welcome in Master Chao's home, Matron had moved to the palace. Now servants waited on her.

The emperor was amazed at Ling's progress. He would soon need another way to keep her busy and out of his enemies' hands.

The dragon mural would be finished on New Year's Day. There would be a grand celebration with music, food, and fireworks. Master Chao was invited to attend, along with all of the other royal artisans. Ling could not wait to be reunited with Master Chao, but also feared what might happen.

The night before, as always, he came to the wall in his beggar's disguise.

Ling confided her fears. "The emperor may not keep his word and set me free," she said.

"Do not worry," the master told her. "The dragons have a surprise in store for him … and for you. Sleep well. I will finish painting the thousandth dragon tonight and see you at the festivities tomorrow."

Ling awoke at dawn and walked as far as her chain would permit. Over the past months, she and Master Chao had painted their way around the palace wall. Their first dragon stood to the right of the main gate. Their last dragon stood to the left. The dragons were so real that their manes seemed to blow in the breeze, their tails seemed to snap like whips.

Even Ling was astonished by their work. What was that flapping noise? Was it a flag flying over the palace, or was it a dragon's wings? What was that burnt smell? Was it goose fat sizzling on a merchant's stove, or was it a dragon's hot breath?

A guard interrupted Ling's thoughts. He unchained her and took her to a small room inside the palace. After several hours, a servant entered.

"Come meet your admirers," the woman said and guided Ling to a platform near the dragon wall.

The emperor and his courtiers were already there. An excited crowd had gathered. Master Chao was there, too, calling Ling's name, arms open wide.

Ling walked toward him. The crowd cheered.

"Behold the dragons," Master Chao shouted. "Do they not seem real?"

"Real!" the crowd yelled. "So real!"

"They are more real than you imagine," Master Chao continued. "Ling has an eye-opening demonstration for you."

He turned to Ling. Quietly he murmured, "Look at the dragons, little artist. I did not paint their eyes. I left that for you. You are ready. Take this brush. Climb the ladder. Open the dragons' eyes."

Ling obeyed, putting a shiny black pupil in the first dragon's eye. The dragon blinked. The painting shimmered, and the dragon shook itself like a wet dog. Then, incredibly, it climbed down from the wall.

Master Chao moved the ladder to the next dragon. Shaking, Ling raised her paintbrush again. When she put dots in its eyes, it flapped its great leather wings and flew into the air.

Each dragon escaped the wall as Ling opened its eyes. Finally, one thousand dragons were gathered around the platform. All of the spectators had fled.

The cruel emperor looked for his courtiers, but they, too, had deserted him. There was only one thing left for him to do. He ran for his life. One thousand dragons gave chase.

If he had looked over his shoulder, the emperor would have seen a dragon flying away with something struggling in its jaws. Was it a fat black crow? Was it Matron, screaming, "Aiyeeeee"?

Master Chao and Ling stood alone. Dust and debris settled around them as the flapping of wings died down.

I am afraid, Ling said, clinging to the man who was her mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and holy ancestors, all in one.

"You have no need to be," the master said. "The emperor cannot harm you now, and the dragons are your friends."

"But, Master Chao," Ling said, "it is this power of mine that frightens me."

"You have power," the master said, "but you will also have the wisdom and strength to control it. I will guide you. Then one day you will guide me."

The air stirred with a blur of colorful wings. The thousandth dragon had returned for Ling and Master Chao. It landed and bowed at their feet. They climbed onto its back and flew home.

By Patricia Bridgman


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why is air a lot like sex?

Because it's no big deal unless you're not getting any!

What do attorneys use for birth control?

Their personalities.

What's the difference between a girlfriend and wife?

45 lbs

What's the difference between a boyfriend and husband?

45 minutes

Why is it so hard for women to find men that are sensitive, caring, and good-looking? Because those men already have boyfriends

What makes men chase women they have no intention of marrying?

The same urge that makes dogs chase cars they have no intention of driving.

What's the difference between a porcupine and BMW?

A porcupine has the pricks on the outside.

Why do men find it difficult to make eye contact?

Breasts don't have eyes.

Why do drivers' education classes in Redneck schools use the car only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?

Because on Tuesday and Thursday, the Sex Ed class uses it.

How do you get a sweet little 80-year-old lady to say the F word?

Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell *BINGO*!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lubricants for Wheels

Which Lubricant Works the Best for Hobby Wheel Applications? William Pete, 11, Lakeville, Minn. Discovery Education "Educator" Award, Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, 2006

Project background: After participating in derby car races, William wondered whether any of the lubricants used on the cars' wheels might reduce friction more than other lubricants. He hypothesized that dry lubricants, such as graphite, would work better than liquid lubricants, such as motor oil.

Tactics and results: William mounted a single wheel on an axle. He designed a machine that made the wheel start to spin and then allowed it to rotate freely. He applied five lubricants individually to the connection between the wheel and axle. After each application, he set the wheel in motion and counted how many rotations it made before coming to rest.

William found that graphite gave the wheel the greatest number of spins, followed by graphite with molybdenum, silicon, motor oil, and white Teflon.

Finalist William Pete gets hands-on as he demonstrates part of his project.