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Yesterday, the New York Times profiled a project being run by the Scholar's Lab at the University of Virginia. Kelly Johnston, a geographic information systems specialist, created a series of maps that used Census Data to calculate the Jeffersonian ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The "life" map was made by color-coding areas of the country according to their life expectancy at birth statistics (the south, unfortunately, faired poorly in this area). The "liberty" map was made by color-coding areas according to their incarceration rates (not so free: Nevada, Texas, the panhandle of Florida and Colorado) The "pursuit of happiness" map, however, was based on "the ratio of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments to the total population."
The Times suggested that low population numbers of Wyoming and Montana skewed their high happiness levels. But speaking without any authority whatsoever, I find the whole criteria a bit fishy. Arts, recreation and entertainment (ie: paintings, skiing, and a matinee showing of Planet of the Apes)? Yes, these things make us happy, but what about people who don't like those activities? Surely, these folks pursue happiness too.
After doing zero research and obtaining not a single Phd, I deeply believe that the only truly accurate measure of national happiness is...drumroll...ice cream. Have you ever met a person who didn't smile at a double-dip in a waffle cone with sprinkles? Even raw food people like it. And vegans, if it's sorbet. And people who slam the door on children shaking little boxes of change for UNICEF.
A map of the country's ice-cream parlors, ice-cream trucks, and restaurants serving the frozen dairy delicacy might give us a much clearer view of just how assiduously the nation is pursuing happiness. Then again, if people are eating ice cream, they may not have to pursue anything—they're already happy.
What would it take to change your life for the better? It may be less than you think—we've got mini-makeovers to help you upgrade everything from your workout to your weekend. #3: Getting photos onto your wall (your real one) in a snap.
Click, Click, Print
We take 28 billion digital photos each year, most of which languish on our hard drives. To get those third-grade plays and surprise birthday parties off your computer and onto the fridge, consider the digital-photo collage. Photovisi.com offers customized tools that can be downloaded free of charge, smilebox.com provides more than 1,000 collage templates for home printing, and shutterfly.com and snapfish.com will deliver printed collages to your home or office.
Make getting over today's hump a little easier with these fun finds:
Bracedlets, $5 each. Created by the founder of Lulu Frost jewelry and two New York City orthodontists, these stretchy bangles made of power chains and metal brackets give a whole new (and stylish) meaning to the term "metal mouth".
Tili Reusable Zip and Seal Bags, $7.50 for 12. Why use a boring Ziploc when you can upgrade to one of these colorful versions instead? Tuck spill-able items inside one for your next weekend escape.
Uncommon Customized iPhone Case, $40. Personalize your cell phone with your favorite photo. Bonus: The unique printing process embeds the photo into the case so it will never chip, fade or peel from bouncing around in your bag.
Sandwich Coasters, $7.50. Before you plop your lemonade down on the table, pull out one of these playful coasters—which resemble slices of salami, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion or bread—to keep watermarks at bay.
What would it take to change your life for the better? It may be less than you think—we've got mini-makeovers to help you upgrade everything from your workout to your weekend. #2: Martha Beck has a simple trick to help resolve conflict.
You're mulling the night's TV options when your significant other grabs the remote and starts clicking away like a sugar-fueled 5-year-old. When you mention this, he asks how your OCD is going. Your counterstrike that his mother raised her sons to be boorish louts—eliciting his usual rant about your mom still serving him meatloaf when he's been a vegetarian for years.
Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. On sale today, the paperback version of the quiet, heartbreaking sleeper novel:
by Michael Knight
The story only a novelist could think up: Van, the fastest U.S. Army typist in the occupied nation of post–World War II Japan, becomes the babysitter to the young son of General MacArthur.
The blurb says it all: "This book awed me." — Elizabeth Gilbert
The words that capture recovering Hiroshima, circa 1947: "A scrap of metal. A hunk of concrete. A man alone. Difficult to imagine that anything had ever existed in this place until you noticed the scorched and gutted hulks of buildings big enough to survive the blast rising like weird barnacles on the landscape."
The astonishing event that takes place in that same landscape: A football game, the Tokyo Giants versus the Hiroshima Bears.
The reason to read: Quirky, must-be-true historical details pop up throughout the book, but the straightforward narrator makes us question difficult, universal concerns, like, How can you possibly take care of the people you love who seem to be unable to love even themselves?
Looking for a good book? Try these 27 sizzling summer reads.
My toddler has a blue fabric banner that hangs on the wall at home. On the banner is a little bear with a blank face. Below him are little pockets, containing all the different faces you can stick on the blank one: the sad face, the happy face, the silly face, the sick face, the angry face. This is supposed to teach my son about emotions (as if life doesn’t do that already). However, one face is missing: the movie-sad face.
A good movie-sad, as we all know, is totally different than a regular sad—in that you get all that sorrow and grief without having to actually lose or break up with anybody. Movie-sadness will stay with you over time,too, causing you to cry openly, should you remember a certain scene while spacing out a work or should you hear the theme song by accident (The Way We Were? Love Story? Anybody? Everybody?)
A few weeks ago, Scientific American reported on the film clip most used during psychology experiments to inspire tears. The winner...drumrolll...is the final scene in the The Champ. Even thinking about this scene makes me want to cry. I can hear Ricky’s scraped little voice, see an earlier image of his dad carrying a stuffed animal that he won for Ricky at carnival but was unable to give him because of some tragic plot twist that now escapes me since 30 years have passed since I’ve seen the film.
The doctors in charge of selecting the scenes say that finding the right scene is tough: “Some film scenes were rejected because they elicited a mixture of emotions, maybe anger and sadness from a scene depicting an act of injustice, or disgust and amusement from a bathroom comedy gag. The psychologists wanted to be able to produce one predominant, intense emotion [sadness] at a time."
Perhaps they need some help from a woman with absolutely no qualifications save for the ability to weep madly into box of popcorn slathered in butter-flavored oil byproducts.
Monday is too stressful. Wednesday is already hump day. But Tuesday is "you" day: a day when you have the energy to do—or plan—something fresh and unexpected that might just turn your whole week around.
Indulge in a sweet summer campfire classic. How to cook up a totally new kind of chocolate-marshamallow-graham-cracker sandwich tomorrow, National S'mores Day.
Get a little closer to a Great White than your TV screen. Shark Week is over; learn how to swim with sharks ...which, by the way, you don't want to do.
Impress babies, priests and bosses by curtailing your cursing. How to make a life-boosting change by cleaning up your language (except when you're hurt).
Get ready—mentally and logistically—to declutter your home and life this Saturday, Garage Sale Day. How to throw a fast, freeing yard sale with expert advice from Peter Walsh.
A little sweet, a little sour, roasted grapes are an easy addition to many foods and dishes you're probably already making. Holly Smith, the chef at Cafe Juanita outside Seattle, folds them into risotto with hazelnuts and cheese. Brad Farmerie, of the restaurant Public in New York, spreads creme fraiche on a toasted scone and drizzles it with roasted grapes for a sweet-savory breakfast. Farmerie also spoons the grapes over ice cream, uses them as a finish to grilled chicken or pork, or tosses them with baby spinach, olive oil and crispy pancetta.
And the recipe could not be simpler...