100 Things That Are Getting Better
The American Association of Community Colleges reports that virtually every state is seeing enrollment go up—way up, including hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers attracted to the convenience of local campuses and the bargain price (average $2,400 per year). President Obama has pledged $12 billion to expand them over the next decade.
Bye-bye, sugar-laden mystery juice; au revoir, watered-down junk in a box. Thanks to sustainable winemaking technologies and increased competition, populist vintners like Hess and Wente are offering complex varietals at nonruinous prices—less than $15 a bottle.
78. High heels
Say hello to the orthopedic stiletto: Designers like Kenneth Cole, Dana Davis, Joy Chen, and Cole Haan are rethinking the suffer-for-fashion credo, integrating comfort technology (better balance, more cushioning and support) into their shoes. Hallelujah!
79. Fruit options
Peaches, nectarines, plums, yawn. These days we're all about the delectable hybrids—the peacotum (peach/apricot/plum), the pluot (plum/apricot), the mangonana. Okay, we made up the mangonana, but it's only a matter of time.
80. McDonald's coffee
The Golden Arches now offers a revamped "Premium Roast" brew and a new line of McCafé drinks so haute (caramel latte, hazelnut cappuccino), we're thinking of writing our next novel on a laptop there.
81. Granola bars
"Glyceryl lacto esters of fatty acids," begone! Thanks to companies like Lärabar and Kind, you now can power your day the way Mother Nature intended—with honey, almonds, and cranberries.
82. Flu pandemic response
Bad news for hysterics: Google Flu Trends works as an early warning system for flu outbreaks, providing near-real-time estimates of flu activity around the world by aggregating search queries, which can be counted in a single day. Now covers 20 countries.
Big babies, take note: The Buzzy is a new battery-powered, cold-pack gizmo that dulls or eliminates the pain of needles by confusing the body's nerves and distracting attention from the poke.
84. Bikini Atoll
Few messes are dirtier than the one created by the U.S. government in 1954, when it unleashed a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb on this tiny Micronesian island. Radiation levels soared, people fled. But left alone to heal for over 50 years, Bikini's waters now teem with marine life that has vanished from more populated corners of the ocean. It's a sport-fishing paradise, a scuba diver's dream. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade—Bikini's biggest tourist draw is the fleet of sunken warships that dot its crystalline lagoons.
A spring-loaded artificial knee called the XT9 means that above-the-knee amputees can now snowboard and rock climb; microprocessor-controlled prosthetics have sensors that anticipate your every step; and the bionic i-LIMB responds to muscle signals.
86. Contact lenses
Now that contact lenses are made of silicone, more oxygen gets to the cornea. The benefit to us? Safer and more comfortable to wear.
87. Ways to unleash your inner graphic designer
So easy, your Luddite grandma can do it: First, find the perfect typeface on Fonts.com by plugging in a description of your project into the search box; next, scour "microstock" clearinghouses such as iStockPhoto.com for the right photo or illustration to accompany it. Then, use PhotoShop Express (Photoshop.com) or the handy Picnik (Picnik.com) to edit your graphics and add the bells and whistles.
88. Headache treatments
And we thought the only thing that worked was a Valium and total seclusion: Emerging classes of drugs (like cortical spreading depression antagonists) help interrupt the chain of events that lead to a migraine, while high-flow oxygen therapy tames the pain of cluster headaches.
A shot of much-needed vitality and resolve has come to the Environmental Protection Agency courtesy of Lisa Jackson, its first-ever African-American chief. In her crosshairs: greenhouse gases, hazardous waste sites, climate change, tailpipe emissions, protection of our waterways, clean air standards.
From American Apparel to J.Crew to Lanvin, the humble T-shirt has been elevated with better cuts, softer fabrics, and embellishments befitting a blouse and a big night out.
91. Indoor fires
They're hell on Santa, but new chimneyless fireplaces come in cool, sculptural shapes and are totally portable so you can move them from room to room (some can even be hung on the wall like a flat-screen TV).
92. Tattoo removal
Love may come and love may go. Tattoos? Not so fast, kiddo. But advances in lasers—better pigment recognition and deeper skin penetration—are making it easier to hide the evidence of a failed romance or an Aerosmith obsession.
93. Sportsmanship of male tennis players
"Superbrat." "The Brash Basher of Belleville." "The Bucharest Buffoon." There was a time when the gods of men's tennis—McEnroe, Connors, Nastase—were known as much for their verbal shots as their cross-court ones. But today's champions let their rackets do the talking: When the perpetually verklempt Roger Federer and the quietly gracious Rafael Nadal take the court, it's love-love all the way.
94. Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys
In the late '80s, the tiny primate was declared functionally extinct. But last year, 15 to 20 snub-noses were found cavorting in a remote jungle in northern Vietnam. Time will tell whether they'll be enough to save the species, but there was one very encouraging sign: three babies among them.
Cable knit, picante, mulberry, shadow blue... Finally, some variations on the ubiquitous sand-colored stovepipe.
96. National Geographic
The yellow-border magazine has come a long way since the days of boys gawping at the native mammaries in its pages. See the recent dispatch on China's "instant cities," plus unrivaled photojournalism on malaria and the killing of gorillas in the Congo.
97. Parade balloons
Raise your hand if you recall seeing Bullwinkle floating through Times Square (you lose points if you had more than three vodka tonics). But lately we've noticed something: A Keith Haring balloon? A silver bunny by bad-boy artist Jeff Koons? Is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade getting hip?
Bye-bye, Hummer. Coming to a lot near you: Chevrolet's battery-powered Volt and Nissan's zero-emission Leaf; and the next generation of hybrids, including an even better Prius and the sleek, affordable Mercury Milan.
What's better than plain black hose? Just ask our sock drawer: We've got plaid, lace, and argyle tights in burgundy and forest green, in ingenious blends that never seem to sag or snag.
You've just got this glow about you—some combination of wisdom and inner peace, plus a lovely self-awareness. You're not sweating the small stuff; you know what feels good, feels right, and you simply don't muck around with the rest. You're not a kid anymore, and we mean that as a high compliment. There's a new kind of lightness about you. And your hair has never looked better.
4 things that are just fine the way they are