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  • I Downsized My Whole Life To 100 Things

    I was working full time (and then some) in advertising sales and had racked up $40,000-$50,000 in debt from student loans, car loans and credit cards, not to mention my mortgage. But it didn’t really worry me at the time -- I thought it was just how life worked.

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    Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

    It was the last thing I was expecting. It never crossed my mind that I could get diagnosed with something like MS. In fact, when I was diagnosed, I was training for a bike ride to raise funds for MS research!

    As I started learning more about the disease, it became clear to me that my excessive lifestyle -- spending too much, running around like crazy -- had contributed to my illness. So I started changing things. First my money, then my lifestyle.

    Phase One: Money

    First, I looked at our money situation. Our lifestyle simply wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t figure out how my husband and I could both work full-time jobs and still live paycheck to paycheck. We had 401(k)s and were paying our expenses, but we also had a lot of debt.

    Because we were working so much (my husband is a service director in the automotive industry), we had this mentality that we deserved to be rewarded. I was constantly spending on clothing and accessories; my husband and I would treat ourselves to dinners out and expensive vacations. Otherwise, why work so hard?

    Sparked by my diagnosis, I made the decision to simplify my life, and paying down our debt was one of the first ways I did it. We stopped using credit cards and started saying no. Recently, we were invited on a European vacation with our family. In the past, we might have just charged it, but instead we stayed home.

    We started chipping away at over $30,000 of student loans, car payments and credit card debt by paying off the smallest debt first, then used that momentum to keep paying the rest. My diagnosis means I do have significant medical costs, but we use a Health Savings Account to stay on top of that.

    And our measures have paid off: As another benefit of living debt-free, I was able to leave my job in 2011 to concentrate on my writing, photography and business consulting.

    Phase Two: Downsizing Our Possessions

    Next, I started paring down my clothes. That effort was connected to my project of saving and paying down debt, since a lot of my money was going to clothing and accessories and gorgeous purses I thought I couldn’t live without.

    I started Project 333 through my blog, which encourages participants to scale down their wardrobe to 33 items for three months at a time. I chose the threes because a) I live in a four-season state, so thought it made sense to plan three months at a time and b) I wanted to choose a number that was low enough to challenge me and blog readers, but not so low that it seemed too extreme.

    With my own pursuit of Project 333 going so well for two years, I came across Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge, in which he challenged himself to pare down his possessions to only 100 things, to break free of American consumerism and prove that he could live with less.

    I amended his rules to suit my own life (which he encourages) and decided to take part in the 100 Thing Challenge, myself. My version of the rules were:

    As long as the total is 100, it’s okay to lose one thing and gain another–I can change my list any time.

    If someone gives me a gift that I mean to keep, it must replace an existing item.

    Underwear collectively counts as one item and so do another few groupings, like electronic chargers.

    I would only reduce my personal items to 100 (clothing, makeup, accessories, gadgets), not household items.

    I’ll continue to live within the parameters of Project 333, as I’ve been doing for two years.

    If it’s too much, then I’ll modify it further or discontinue. Though after about four months, I still haven’t had to!

    If you’re interested in which 100 things I chose to keep, you can see the complete list on my blog.

    How Living With Less Changed My Family

    People always ask how my family dealt with my paring down, and I answer that you don’t force your family to come on board -- they have to make that choice themselves.

    My daughter is 17, and one of the best things that’s come from this is the open dialogue about money in our family. She will be heading off to college soon, and we’re being realistic about what we can and can’t afford, and what kind of grants and scholarships we might need. Student loans are a non-option (it took me almost two decades to pay off my student loans, and I don’t want that for her). With our new spending habits, my husband and I can put my daughter through school at a reasonably priced institution.

    My daughter knows that I budget every two weeks, and if she wants or needs something within that time, she has to talk to me about fitting it into the budget. A lot is going to change for her as she becomes an adult, but hopefully we’ve instilled the lesson that you spend what you have, and no more. (Inspired? We have tips on setting up your own budget.)

    Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: How Babies Are Made When They're Made in Clinics

    “Now, we’re using your eggs,” Dr. Waller points his pen at Dashiell. “Am I right?”

    Dashiell nods. I feel that Dashiell is probably biting back a “Yes, sir.” Dashiell talks like someone from another era. He’s so polite, it’s like he’s fucking with you, but he’s not. Once a car almost hit us, and he yelped, “Criminy!”

    “’Criminy?’” I repeated for blocks. It was more of a surprise than almost getting run down. “When your life flashes before your eyes, that is the word that just comes out? ‘Criminy?’” Dashiell could say nothing in her defense, just blush a charming shade of pink and smile.

    “Well, that should not be a problem, then,” Dr. Waller smiles at Dashiell. “You should have a lot of eggs.” Incidentally, no one is calling Dashiell Dashiell here. She is going by the name on her insurance and all her IDs: Anne. I never thought I’d have any feelings about Dashiell’s old name, as it just seemed very ill suited for her, but now when I have to use it -- in a situation like this, or around her mom -- I find myself completely smitten with it. Now that she’s Dashiell, the name Anne seems especially tender. I get melty knowing she’s Dashiell but has this other secret name. Or maybe Dashiell is the secret name?

    I can spin out on this dreamy philosophizing about my beloved’s enigmatic gender, but we’re not here for that. We’re here to learn how babies are made. When they’re made in clinics.

    The longhaired, 15-year-old, non-les resident breaks it down for us, drawing it out on paper while she speaks. She’s a little tentative. She tells us that Dashiell will be given medication to stimulate the ovaries.

    The resident stammers, and Dr. Waller takes over. “What we’ll see on your ultrasound today isn’t the eggs, because the eggs are too small, right? You can’t see them. What we see is the fluid the eggs are living inside. You’ll have a bunch of them in there, but then each month one outgrows the rest, and that’s the egg that gets ovulated. And that one egg suppresses the rest of them. They just die.”

    Wait a second! This is big information! The whole narrative around conception is always about that one sperm: the mighty, hardy, fastest, luckiest sperm that outraces all the other sperm and grabs onto the long blond weave of the Rapunzel egg just sitting passively in her castle and, BAM, it totally bores into her and knocks her up! All the activity is on the man-side. This half-assed factoid has laid the foundation of a millennia of misogyny, casting men as active go-getters and women as passive and fragile.

    How is it that I am forty-one years old and I am just now learning that there is a race to the death happening inside my body every month? That some intense Alpha Egg is growing silently inside of me, indistinguishable from all the others until one day she just surges, stealing all the space and energy from the other nests, buffing up to make the trip down the fallopian highway?

    Mark Hamill & 'Star Wars': Luke Skywalker Actor On Episode 7

    It was announced Tuesday that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm, and thus the "Star Wars" franchise. While reactions to the deal have been mixed, one thing that is universal is the buzz surrounding the 2015 release of "Star Wars: Episode VII."

    Who better to get an opinion from than Mark Hamill himself? The Playlist posted a clip Saturday from a 1983 interview with the Luke Skywalker actor discussing the future of the films.

    "It's the last one for everyone except for the two robots - they're the only ones who go through the whole three trilogies, the nine stories." Hamill tells Maria Shriver, who is sporting a delightfully '80s look. "When you see the ending, you'll see why [Return of the Jedi] has to be the last one, period."

    The interview took place days before the premiere of the then-final "Star Wars" film, "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi." Hamill spoke at the time of three trilogies, so the plans for a seventh movie shouldn't be a complete surprise. He also talks about the possibility of coming back in the far-off year of 2004 to appear in the ninth and final film.

    Trib poll shows presidential race in Pennsylvania remains too close to call

    President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney entered the final days of the presidential race tied in a state that the campaigns only recently began contesting, a Tribune-Review poll shows.

    The poll showed the race for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes locked up at 47 percent in its final week. Romney was scheduled to campaign in the Philadelphia area on Sunday, and former President Bill Clinton planned to stump for Obama on Monday. The campaigns have begun to saturate the airwaves with millions of dollars in presidential advertising.

    “They’re both in here because of exactly what you’re seeing” in this poll, said Jim Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling & Research, which surveyed 800 likely voters Oct. 29-31. Most of the interviews occurred after Hurricane Sandy inundated Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. The poll’s error margin is 3.46 percentage points.

    Nearly 60 percent of people say the country is on the wrong track, and economic concerns continue to dominate. Almost half of likely voters say economic issues are the primary driver of their choice for president.

    “I’m concerned about all the young people graduating from college, whether they’re finding jobs,” said Pauline Hoxie, 84, a Republican from Jersey Shore in Lycoming County. Her grandson graduated with a degree in graphic design but works a manual labor job because he can’t find openings in his field, she said.

    Democrats shrugged off the Romney campaign’s late play for Pennsylvania, sending emails to supporters and journalists showing past Republican presidential candidates doing the same thing. Pennsylvania hasn’t given its electoral votes to the Republican candidate since 1988.

    The state’s urban, suburban and rural voters usually give winners narrower victories than Obama’s 10-point win in 2008. John Kerry won by 2.5 percentage points in 2004; Al Gore won by 4.2 in 2000.

    Daniel Craig beat Superman & Perseus to win ‘Casino Royale’ Bond role

    Though Sean Connery is solidly cemented in cinematic history as the original 007, it's become a well-known bit of Bond lore that some legendary actors were initially considered for the part, including Cary Grant, David Niven, and Richard Burton. However, not so well-known are the talented actors that current Bond Daniel Craig beat out to become the fresh new face of the aging franchise.

    In a casting process that lasted nearly two years, Craig beat out over 200 would-be Bonds before officially stepping into 007's no-longer-white dinner jacket for "Casino Royale" (2006). Part of the reason behind the lengthy casting process was that producer Barbara Broccoli and Bond's new distributor, Sony, couldn't agree on the right actor to help lead the franchise in a grittier, post 9/11 direction.

    At Sony's behest, an extensive net was thrown across the British Commonwealth and beyond. Orlando Bloom, Clive Owen, Colin Farrell, Karl Urban, and Gerard Butler were discussed. Rumors also circled around Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Jude Law. But none of these men were ever considered serious enough to merit a screen test. Besides Craig, only four potential candidates made it that far.

    Before making a household name for himself in "Avatar" (2009) and "Clash of the Titans" (2010), Australian Sam Worthington was offered to screen test to play Bond in "Casino Royale". Ultimately, he lost the role, but Worthington does credit the experience as a vital prelude to landing the part of Jake Sully in "Avatar" (2009). "I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I thought the least I'll get out of this is to act a few scenes with James Cameron, and that's a hell of an opportunity. I learned that from going for the James Bond audition," said Worthington.

    Daniel Craig in Sony Pictures' 'Casino Royale'Another relatively unknown 007 screen tester who's gone on to heroic heights is Henry Cavill. According to the ultimate Bond fan site, CommanderBond.net, "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell considered Cavil right up until the very end, when the director opted for Craig instead, feeling that at 22, Cavil would be too young to play the superspy. In another sour casting note, Cavill was "Twilight" creator Stephenie Meyer's first choice to play Edward Cullen, the part for which Robert Pattinson continues to make mad bank. Everything seems to have worked out okay though, as Cavill's set to play Superman in this summer's probable blockbuster, "Man of Steel".

    After impressing Campbell in a screen test for "The Legend of Zorro" (2005), Croatian Goran Visnjic was invited to screen test for 007, even though English isn't his native tongue. Visnjic, who was best known for playing Dr. Luka Kovac on "ER," obviously didn't land the role, but he has worked steadily in film and TV ever since, including an upcoming part in Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" (2013), which also stars "Skyfall" baddie Javier Bardem.

    Finally, another Aussie, Alex O'Loughlin screen tested for Campbell in full wardrobe. Since then, he's gone onto some choice TV roles, as Detective Kevin Hiatt on "The Shield" and as Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-0".

    Ultimately, both Broccoli and Sony agreed that their Bond should be reborn in the same dark vein as Jason Bourne, the part Matt Damon had successfully commandeered in "The Bourne Identity" (2002) and "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004). After nearly 200 candidates and five screen tests, the two sides finally came together and agreed on Craig, the thoroughbred Broccoli had been backing since before Sony came on board. Considering how savvy Barbara Broccoli is, in her mind, it was probably never really a competition at all.

    Christie’s New York Auction Showcases Stunning Luxury Jewelry

    Christie’s New York featured exceptional diamonds and pearls in their fall jewelry auction on October 16. It was Christie’s first auction of the autumn season and featured a dazzling array of magnificent jewels from rare gemstones to flawless diamonds, natural pearls and signed pearls, considered some of the best to come up for sale in the last five years.

    Rahul Kadakia, Head of Jewellery for Christie’s America and Switzerland, explained: “Our team of jewellery specialists has spent the summer months gathering the finest gems to match current collecting tastes, including top-quality diamonds, natural pearls, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, rare vintage jewels and highly coveted, contemporary creations from the best designers.”

    Stunning diamond jewels weighing more than 50 carats each and exceedingly rare double strand of large natural pearls were among the scores of top-quality gems offered from the finest makers. Diamonds in excess of 50ct each achieved in excess of $35 million from 369 lots. Selling for $3.1million, the 68.35ct fancy oval-cut intense yellow diamond is internally flawless and a magnificent sight.

    Even more exquisite was a pear-shaped D-colour impeccable diamond pendant necklace going for an astonishing, $9.5million. This stunning necklace goes well with the diamond ear pendants that went for $4.7million. The stone is mounted in platinum and may be worn dangling from a necklace with a 2.28 carat, circular-cut D-color diamond surmount, available with a GIA certificate noting the stone’s exceptional polish and outstanding symmetry.

    Although diamonds are a girl’s best friend, it wasn’t all about diamonds. Made up of 120 large pearls, ranging in colours from white to light creams, a rare double strand of natural pearls, complete with a 3ct D-colour diamond clasp signed by Cartier, reached its estimate of $3.5 million.

    Also up for auction were a range of signed jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels … the more colourful of these were two mystery-set pieces. Tripling it’s estimate with a $278,500 sale, the “honeycomb” motif ruby and diamond bracelet uses the exclusive setting technique to great effect – the hexagonal stones create a brilliant contrast with the curve of the bracelet. A pair of ruby and diamond ear clips with matching brooch, also by Van Cleef & Arpels, in the form of a flower blossom with diamond pistils and leaves, went for nearly three times its estimate, selling for $260,500.

    Nicki Minaj Learned British Accent From Scary Spice & Hermoine

    If you were wondering where Nicki Minaj gets her English accent from, you can look no further than Scary Spice and Hermione Granger.

    Speaking to The Gaurdian, Minaj says she perfected her British tone by listening to Mel B from the Spice Girls and "Harry Potter" star Emma Watson. Though she was born in Trinidad, Minaj has been working on her accent for years and credits U.K. celebrities for giving her the perfect model to follow.

    "There are so many, but one person was Scary Spice. I used to listen to her all the time and try to make the same faces she'd make when she was talking," she said. "Oh, and Hermione from 'Harry Potter.'"

    Minaj is currently preparing to release "Pink Friday Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up," an extended version of her sophomore album "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded."

    She kicked off the project with the Cassie-assisted single "The Boys." "The Re-Up" will hit store shelves on November 19 internationally.

    93-Year-Old Bodybuilder Is A Medical Marvel

    Dr. Charles Eugster, a 93-year-old British bodybuilder, did not begin weightlifting six years ago as a way to stay in shape or to occupy his time. No, Eugster had a more, shall we say, ambitious rationale.

    "The idea is to turn the heads of the sexy young 70-year-old girls on the beach," Eugster told BBC News.

    After an athletic youth in which he was a competitive rower, Eugster lost his sturdy physique during 30 years as a dentist. In his late 80s, he noticed the complexion of his body had changed, and he wasn't happy about it.

    "I'm extremely vain," Eugster said. "I noticed I was getting fat."

    So for the past six years, Eugster's been hitting the gym three or four times a week, even working with a former Mr. Universe as a trainer.

    At a recent competition he did 57 dips, 61-chin-ups and even pulled off 48 abdominal crunches in 45 seconds.

    If Eugster's routine sounds extremely impressive, that's because he's a human anomaly. Most seniors in their 90s are advised to avoid lifting weights and doing other strenuous forms of activity.

    "[Eugster] is unusual and there is a small minority of the population that can undertake that sort of vigorous activity into their 90s, but that's not true of most of us," said Steve Iliffe, a professor of primary care for older people at University College London. "Within reason it is never too late to start exercising, but you do have to remember there is a difference between exercise and physical activity."

    Eugster said that bodybuilding at an older age is like exchanging an old car for a new one. The better shape the car is in, the easier it will be to trade it in.

    "If you have taken care of your old car, it won't cost you so much," Eugster said. "But if you have neglected your car, it's going to cost you a lot."

    सौ तालों की एक चाबी होंगी आंखें

    आंखों का आम इस्तेमाल देखने के लिए होता है। शायरों की राय में आंखों से कत्ल भी हो सकता है। लोग आंखों ही आंखों में संवाद भी कर लेते हैं, लेकिन अब वैज्ञानिक आंखों को सौ ताले की एक चाबी बनाने में जुटे हैं।
    घर का बंद दरवाजा खोलना हो, बैंक खाते में पड़े पैसों की जानकारी करनी हो या कंप्यूटर लाग आन करना हो, अब इसके लिए किसी कोड या खुफिया चाबी की जरूरत नहीं होगी। यह काम चुटकी बजाते हमारी आंखें कर दिया करेंगी। यह किसी साइंस फिक्शन फिल्म की पटकथा नहीं, बल्कि क्विंसलैंड यूनिवर्सिटी आफ टेक्नोलॉजी की शोधार्थी सैमी फैंग का दावा है।
    फिंग ने आंख की पुतलियों के काम करने की पद्धति पर आधारित तकनीक (आइरिस स्कैनिंग टेक्नोलाजी) की अंतिम बाधा को दूर कर लिया है। उन्होंने बताया कि हर व्यक्ति की आंख की पुतलियां किसी दूसरे व्यक्ति की पुतलियों से अलग होती हैं। बिल्कुल फिंगरप्रिंट्स की तरह। यहां तक कि व्यक्ति के बाएं आंख की पुतली दाएं आंख की पुतली से भिन्न होती है। व्यक्ति की पुतलियों का यह जुदा-जुदा स्वरूप जीवनभर के लिए होता है। फिंग के मुताबिक पुतलियों की इसी खूबी या अनोखेपन को व्यक्ति की पहचान बनाया जा सकता है।
    उन्होंने बताया कि दुनिया के कई हिस्सों में इस तकनीक का इस्तेमाल हो भी रहा है। उन्होंने उम्मीद जताई कि अगले 10-20 सालों में यह रोजमर्रा के जीवन का हिस्सा होगा। हालांकि, पुतलियों के जरिये पहचान निर्धारित करने की पद्धति को पूरी तरह सुरक्षित नहीं कहा जा सकता। दरअसल प्रकाश की व्यवस्था में कोई परिवर्तन पुतलियों के आकार (सिकुड़ना या फैलना) पर भारी असर डालता है। कई बार तो इतना कि इसका स्वरूप ही बदल जाता है। यदि पुतली का आकार काफी ज्यादा बदल जाए तो इससे जुड़ी पहचान प्रणाली ध्वस्त हो जाएगी। इसी कमी को दूर करने के लिए फेंग प्रयासरत थीं।
    फेंग कोई ऐसी तकनीक विकसित करना चाहती थीं जिसमें प्रकाश व्यवस्था में बदलाव से पुतलियों की कार्यप्रणाली में होने वाले बदलाव को मापा जा सके। उन्होंने बताया कि प्रकाश को घटा या बढ़ाकर पुतली के आकार में .8 से 8 मिमी तक बदलाव लाया जा सकता है। फेंग ने अपनी रिसर्च में एक हाई स्पीड कैमरे का इस्तेमाल किया जो प्रति सेकेंड 12 सौ तस्वीरें खींच सकता है। इसके माध्यम से उन्होंने प्रकाश के घटने-बढ़ने का पुतलियों पर पड़ने वाले असर को मापा। उन्होंने पाया कि पुतलियों की वास्तविक इमेज और बदलाव के बाद प्राप्त इमेज की तुलना करके पुतलियों द्वारा पहचान स्थापित करने की पद्धति को काफी हद तक सुधारा जा सकता है।

    Adam Levine Defends Christina Aguilera Against Haters

    Adam Levine and fellow mentor Christina Aguilera are known to squabble on the set of "The Voice," but their relationship is like that of a brother and sister, and Levine is quick to defend Aguilera from critics who want to insult her.

    Levine sat down for a press conference Q&A on Friday in New York City and had some pointed words for Aguilera's haters, who have criticized everything from her weight to her hairstyle.

    “People shouldn’t say those kind of things, because, f—k you! Come on guys, grow up!” Levine said about Aguilera's critics, according to Wetpaint Entertainment. “It pisses me off, and of course I have her back, of course I defend her. It’s not nice to just have your bread and butter be trashing other people. That’s bullying.”

    The Maroon 5 frontman doesn't think celebrities should be easy targets."The one thing about the culture right now, celebrity culture particularly, is people feel like they can just say nasty things about other people whether it's Christina or whether it's me," he said, according to People magazine. "She gets a lot and it pisses me off. Of course I have her back and of course I defend her."

    Aguilera embraces her body, which has changed since motherhood. "I've always been one to make it very clear, love me or hate me, take it or leave it, this is who I am," she previously told People. "I embrace my body, and I embrace everything about myself. Coming full circle is a celebration of freedom and happiness because that's what [my new album] Lotus is representing. I'm embracing everything that I've grown to be and learned to be."

    At the press conference, Levine dished on his relationship with Aguilera, denying that there was ever any bad blood between them.

    “The fights that everyone thought we were having were fictional,” Levine said, according to GossipCop. “We never hated each other. We never were having some sort of secret battles that everyone thought we were having.” He adds, “There were silly bickering things like a brother and sister would do… it’s not nearly what everybody thought.”

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