Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mastering the Art of Depth Creation

In the simplest terms, photography is a method of duplicating reality. While you cannot change reality, you can present it in the best way possible. Though you are duplicating reality, you can present your subjects in a way that tells a story — you can make the everyday seem ordinary or fantastic, by using simple photographic techniques.

Photo by Christopher Wesser

No matter what your subject is, taking classic photos involves managing several attributes simultaneously. When light, composition, framing and timing all come together just right, the results can be spectacular. You can control some of these attributes; others, you must simply respond to correctly. Great photographers have mastered the art of combining all of these attributes in an artistic, beautiful way.

In photography, some objects are closer to you than others; we refer to this difference in distance as depth. By using different photographic techniques, you can minimize or maximize the effect that depth has on your photographs. Try using these six techniques to add a greater sense of depth to your pictures.

Linear Perspective

Parallel lines converge as they get farther away. The brain is accustomed to using this to judge distances. Try looking down a long, straight road, and you will notice this effect. If you can see far enough, you will notice that the sides of the road seem to come together and disappear; the place where this happens is known as the vanishing point.

When you are taking pictures, try varying your angle and focal length to add different effects. Try taking a picture while standing, and then take the same picture while squatting or lying down. You will notice that when you are closer to the ground, the low angle tends to exaggerate perspective.

Diminishing Perspective

Even a small child can understand that objects appear smaller when they are farther away. When you can, use similar objects repeated at different distances to add an increased sense of depth. When objects such as fence posts, columns or stairs appear at regular intervals, they form a pattern, and the effect of diminishing perspective can be dramatic. Using this technique is also known as layering.


In the right conditions, the atmosphere itself can help you achieve a sense of depth. Haze, smoke, steam and fog all obscure objects more as they get farther away. Some of the greatest landscape photographs in history have used this technique to great effect. The early morning is a great time to take pictures using the atmosphere. Ansel Adams was one of the great masters of this technique; look at some of his work to see some incredible inspiration.

Depth of Field

Objects closer to you tend to appear sharper than objects that are farther away. Squinting can make this effect more obvious when you are looking at objects, and changing the amount of light entering your camera can add this effect to your pictures. Do this by adjusting your camera’s aperture value or f-stop number to make this effect more extreme. Use a smaller f-number, and just a small area of your image will be in sharp focus. Use a large f-number, and you may be able to have your entire image in sharp focus. Shooting through glass magnifies the effect; by taking pictures with objects on either or both sides of a window or glass door, you can get some interesting effects.

Composite Framing

Composite framing is the idea of using objects to frame other objects. You can do this with objects that are in the foreground or background. Try taking pictures of people, buildings or mountains through doorways or arches. By varying your depth of field, you can keep the foreground, the background or both in sharp focus. In the outdoor environment, tree branches can be particularly effective at framing other objects. For an interesting twist on this effect, try framing something in the foreground with something in the background, such as buildings or hills. This can be useful in a city situation, where you can combine composite framing with linear or diminishing perspective.

Familiar Objects

The human brain knows the size of familiar objects, like people, trees and animals. You can include these objects in your photographs to give the viewer a rough idea of the distance to other unfamiliar objects. Try taking a picture of a person with a tall object such as a tree, a building or a lighthouse in the background. With some attention to framing, you can make the person and the object appear to be the same height.

Another way to highlight this effect is to take a picture that makes it look like a person is holding a faraway object in his or her hand. This can give your pictures a whimsical, fantastical look.

Depth Creation = Better-looking Photos

Great photographers throughout history have used these tools to take striking photographs. It has never been easier to learn to take great photographs — with modern digital photography you can take as many pictures as you want to practice and master these techniques; you can simply delete pictures that do not work out. Unlike the great photographers of the past, you can have instant feedback.

The combination of photography tools, such as digital cameras and smartphones, with easy-to-use software has revolutionized the art of photography. Once you have taken your photographs, it is easier than ever to share them with your family and friends. Use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to demonstrate your increasing prowess. Once you have a collection of great photographs together, you can easily put them together in a professional photo book that will look great on your coffee table or your desk.

Truly great photographers are rare. By practicing with these and other techniques, almost anyone has the capacity to become one. Whether you want to remain a hobbyist photographer or want to make professional photography your career, experimenting with these techniques can make your pictures look better. Mastering the art of depth creation is not difficult, but it takes a lot of practice. Get out there today and start practicing. Who knows what kind of pictures you might be taking tomorrow?

Author’s Bio: Molly Stillman is a writer forArtsy Couture. She is a marketing executive, blogger, mama, and wife. She also is extremely passionate about lifestyle and portrait photography and loves encouraging others in the pursuits of their goals and dreams.

Tests Suggest 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife' Is Authentic

By Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor   |   April 10, 2014

A small scrap of brown papyrus paper, about the size of a business card, has ignited a red-hot argument that spans all of Christendom.

The papyrus document, known as the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife," was unveiled in 2012 and instantly set off a debate over its authenticity. Perhaps its most controversial elements are lines that suggest Jesus had a wife.

But a recent announcement from the Harvard Divinity School that the document is probably genuine has rekindled the disagreement over its provenance and meaning. [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

In one segment of the papyrus's text, the words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" appear in a crude, hand-lettered Coptic script. (Coptic is an ancient language used by Christians living in Egypt.)

In another segment, the words "she will be able to be my disciple" have led some to argue that Jesus was promoting a woman to hold a position in the early Christian church — a controversial position then as now.

The existence of the papyrus document was first announced in 2012 by Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity and a professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School. King first examined the privately owned fragment in 2011, and has since been studying it with a group of biblical scholars.

But is it real?

Since its discovery, the document has beendismissed as a forgery by some historians. "It is very probable that it's a fake," Christian Askeland, a Coptic scholar based in Germany, said in a widely disseminated YouTube video.

First, the writing is sloppy, according to Askeland. Compared with authentic Coptic papyri, in which letters are written with varying thickness and subtle curves and details, the letters in the Gospel of Jesus' Wife are formed by rigid, straight strokes of equal thickness. 

Some experts have also noted that the scribe does not seem to have used either of the writing instruments common to the time period: a stylus (Roman metal pen) or a calamus (Egyptian reed pen). Additionally, the textual content raises questions, because even though much of the manuscript's text is cut off, its meaning is "too easy" to decipher, Askeland said.

No evidence of fraud

Further testing of the papyrus, the ink, the handwriting and the grammar, however, all point to the document's authenticity, according to a recent statement from the Harvard Divinity School.

A technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy, which measures the scattering of light from a sample, revealed that the carbon in the ink matched samples of other papyrus documents that date from the first to eighth centuries A.D.

"The main thing was to see, did somebody doctor this up?" Timothy M. Swager, a chemistry professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The New York Times. "And there is absolutely no evidence for that. It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible."

Swager used infrared spectroscopy, which analyzes the low-frequency light from an object, to see if the ink showed any inconsistencies or variations that would suggest it was a recent forgery. None were found.

A "Monty Python" sketch?

Not all skeptics, however, are dissuaded by these recent findings. Leo Depuydt, a professor of Egyptology at Brown University, said in a statement in the Harvard Theological Review that the fragment is so obviously fake that it "seems ripe for a 'Monty Python' sketch."

The papyrus also contains "gross grammatical errors," Depuydt said, adding that "an undergraduate student with one semester of Coptic can make a reed pen and start drawing lines."

Nonetheless, the document has renewed questions about the role of women and married men in the church — in both ancient and modern times.

"This gospel fragment provides a reason to reconsider what we thought we knew by asking what the role claims of Jesus' marital status played historically in early Christian controversies over marriage, celibacy andfamily," King said in a statement.

Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter andGoogle+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

A Real Corker: Message in a Bottle May Be World's Oldest

by, staff

Date: 09 April 2014 Time: 11:56 AM ET

This old beer bottle, and the message it contained, were thrown into the Baltic Sea in 1913.
CREDIT: International Maritime Museum Hamburg

More than 100 years ago, a young German man named Richard Platz stuffed a message into a brown beer bottle, then tossed the bottle into the Baltic Sea during a nature hike.

Platz, the 20-year-old son of a baker, had no way of knowing that his message would survive two world wars, the Great Depression and the Cold War — not to mention more than a century of brutal winters and ocean storms.

Last month, a German fisherman trolling the waters of the Baltic Sea fished Platz's bottle out of the water, where it apparently had been floating since May 17, 1913. Some authorities believe that — at 101 years of age — it may be the world's oldest message in a bottle. [In Photos: Archaeology Around the World]

"This is certainly the first time such an old message in a bottle was found, particularly with the bottle intact," Holger von Neuhoff of the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg told The Guardian.

Researchers were then able to locate his granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, 62, through a Berlin-based genealogical group. Erdmann never met her grandfather, who died in 1946 at age 54.

"It was almost unbelievable," Erdmann said upon being presented with her grandfather's bottle and message, as quoted in The Local. "That was a pretty moving moment. Tears rolled down my cheeks."

Platz's bottle joins other rare finds, such as a bottle left under a rock pile in the Canadian Arctic in 1959 by Paul T. Walker, an American glaciologist. His message — describing his glacial research — was found 54 years later by other researchers.

Walker suffered a stroke during that expedition — though he was rescued by a bush pilot, he died shortly thereafter. "We were reading some of his last words," said Warwick F. Vincent, director of the Center for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec City, and one of the researchers who found the message.

The previous record-holder for the oldest message in a bottle was tossed overboard in 1914 and was discovered off the coast of Scotland in 2012, 98 years later. That message was one of a group of thousands that were released in Scottish waters as part of a scientific research project to track the currents of the seas around Scotland.

Platz's bottle contained a postcard with a message for the finder to return it to his Berlin address. The rest of the message is illegible, the ink having been smeared by moisture inside the bottle. Experts are now trying to decipher the entire message. 

Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter andGoogle+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Possible Mars Mission 'Showstopper': Vision Risks for Astronauts By by Mike Wall, Senior Writer3 hours ago

Mars may possess a stark and austere beauty, but a manned Red Planet mission will likely not be easy on the eyes.

Recently, scientists have begun realizing that spaceflight can cause serious and perhaps permanent vision problems in astronauts. NASA researchers are working hard to understand the issue, which could present a major hurdle to mounting manned missions to Mars and other faraway destinations.

"This is one that we don't yet have a good handle on, and it can be a showstopper," Mark Shelhamer, chief scientist for the NASA Human Research Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston, said last week during a presentation with the agency's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. [The Human Body in Space: 6 Weird Facts]

Another peril of microgravity

The human body suffers in the microgravity environment of space. For example, without effective countermeasures — i.e., vigorous weight-bearing exercise — astronauts' muscles atrophy and their bones shed calcium, becoming more and more brittle over time.

Spaceflight can also affect the eyes. Researchers have known this for decades, but they're just now beginning to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

"Over the last 40 years there have been reports of visual acuity impairments associated with spaceflight through testing and anecdotal reports," a 2012 NASA report about spaceflight-related vision problems states. "Until recently, these changes were thought to be transient, but a comparison of pre- and postflight ocular measures have identified a potential risk of permanent visual changes as a result of microgravity exposure."

The problem is not confined to just a few isolated individuals, either. Postflight examinations performed on about 300 American astronauts since 1989 showed that 29 percent of space shuttle crewmembers (who flew two-week missions) and 60 percent of International Space Station astronauts (who typically spend five or six months in orbit) experienced a degradation of visual acuity, according to a report published this year by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Though they don't yet know for sure, researchers think these eye problems stem primarily from an increase in pressure inside the skull. Cerebrospinal fluid flows into the head more in space than it does on Earth, where gravity pulls it down toward the lower body.

"That increased pressure of cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain, works its way down the sheath of the optic nerve and pushes on the back of the eyeball," Shelhamer said during his FISO presentation.

Loss of visual acuity and other problems can result from this scenario, which researchers call VIIP (Visual Impairment/Intracranial Pressure). And the issues can persist for long periods after astronauts touch down, Shelhamer said.

"This has really got our attention," he said, "because when you start talking about affecting the vision of astronauts, who are in high-performing, demanding environments, and those vision changes do not always correct themselves after weeks or months back on Earth, so you might be causing permanent damage — this is really a serious problem for us."

Adding to the concern, Shelhamer added, is that researchers don't yet know if VIIP-related problems will level off or intensify for astronauts who spend more than six months off the planet. A yearlong mission to the space station involving one NASA astronaut and one cosmonaut, which is scheduled to blast off next year, could help in this regard.

More information about the effects of long-term spaceflight is crucial for NASA, which aims to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet by the mid-2030s. With current propulsion technology, roundtrip missions to Mars will require a year of spaceflight at the minimum, in addition to any time spent on the planet's surface.

What can be done?

Researchers are still working to understand exactly what's causing the vision issues. For example, the elevated levels of carbon dioxide found within the space station may be a significant factor in the VIIP phenomenon, Shelhamer said, since high CO2 concentrations are known to increase production of cerebrospinal fluid and dilate blood vessels in the brain.

Speculating on how to prevent or mitigate astronauts' vision problems may thus be a bit premature at this point. But if the main VIIP hypothesis pans out, artificial gravity would be an obvious countermeasure, Shelhamer said.

Artificial gravity can be induced by spinning a spacecraft — or parts of it.

"You could have people sleep while they're spinning, so then they just get eight hours or so of artificial gravity," Shelhamer said.

Artificial gravity would also help mitigate bone loss and muscle degeneration, reducing the need for exercise and potentially freeing up more time for astronauts to perform scientific experiments or do other work during long space missions, advocates say.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us@SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on

How to Craft the Perfect Social Post [Infographic]

How to Craft the Perfect Social Post [Infographic]

By Wendy Frink|April 10, 2014

Looking to maximize the effectiveness of your social media posts? Look no further. Bookmark or print the handy infographic below from social-campaign company My Clever Agency and reference it anytime you get befuddled.

Some things to keep in mind for each of the major social networks:

Pinterest: Posts without human faces get repinned 23 percent more.

YouTube: Make sure your file name reflects your clever title.

Facebook: It’s okay to post after your business closes. Your audience may be more available.

Twitter: Shortened links with get more retweets.

Google+: Use full size images (800x600px) to stand out.

Instagram: Use the rule of thirds. Put the subject of the photo in only two-thirds of the photo, it’s visually more appealing.

Vine: Use a tripod to keep videos steady.

Tumblr: “Like” and “Reblog.” Tumblr is built on community and this will get your name your blog out there. If you just post mindlessly, no one is going to find you. Be visible.

Blogging: Keep blog posts between 500-800 words.

Of course, what works for one company might not always work for another. The important thing is to experiment and see what works for your audience.

Take a look.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Soldiers Prefer Synthetic Marijuana

Soldiers Prefer Synthetic Marijuana By By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Staff Writer Apr 14, 2014 10:03 AM

Synthetic cannabis, also called "spice" and "K2," was the most commonly used drug among soldiers who recently participated in an intervention program for substance use, new research finds.

The study of 368 active-duty Army personnel found that 38 percent of the participants who reported using any drug over the last 90 days said they used synthetic marijuana, whereas 14 percent of the soldiers said they used marijuana. The soldiers may have been drawn to synthetic marijuana because unlike many other drugs, it is difficult to detect in a urine test, the researchers said.

Moreover, the participants reported they perceived that synthetic cannabis was more popular among army members than among civilians.

"For every category of drug that we listed, soldiers believed that civilians use more drugs than soldiers. However, for spice, or synthetic cannabis, soldiers believed folks in the military use more than civilians," said study researcher Tom Walton, a project director at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"So that gives credence to the idea that spice is a popular drug in the military," Walton told Live Science.

Substance abuse problems carry serious consequences in the military, as they can lead to automatic terminations, he said. Soldiers don't want to get caught using drugs, because they are generally greatly invested their careers, Walton said.

Still, soldiers often have to deal with stressful situations and therefore may resort to substance use in an attempt to cope. Spice can provide users with intoxicating effects like those of marijuana.

However, the synthetic variety proves harder to detect, in part because the drug's chemical formula changes frequently and varies among products.

"In the laws they create to ban the substance, they name specific chemicals that are typically found in the substance, and so in order to the evade the law, the chemists who create the drug tweak the formula a little bit so that the named chemicals are no longer involved," he said.

Spice's changing formula makes it difficult to create a urine test that can detect the substance, Walton said.

Still, the military plans to include spice in the standard urine analysis screen, he said, although it is not clear when exactly this new policy will be implemented.

"This could mean the end of spice's popularity in the military," Walton said.

Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter. Follow us @livescienceFacebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

‘MH370 Did Not Disappear, Crash’: ‘Impossible’ New Report Says

Saturday, April 12, 2014 





It is impossible for MH370 to have ”disappeared and crashed,” Press TV reported in an exclusive interviewthis weekend about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.


In fact this aircraft cannot be just lost. It cannot have just disappeared. This makes no sense,” Dr. Kevin Barrett reported.


“There is military radar and satellite coverage of that area. The CIA base in Alice Springs Australia knows precisely what happened to that plane. And it is interesting the Malaysian government has asked them and they are not getting any response,” Dr. Barrett, Veterans Today editor, author and radio host said.


“What we do know is that this story that it just disappeared and presumably crashed is impossible,” he stated.


“It takes only a second or two to squawk an emergency code. If it is a hijacking, there is a hijack code – it is I think three digits – it is just tap, tap, tap and it is done. So there is no way that a plane is going to start having problems that are going to lead to a crash and it is not going to squawk that code.


The plane turned and flew in a westerly direction and must have been under some kind of control, and yet there was no emergency code, there was no hijack code, nothing like that. This is very, very strange,” Barrett said.


The Malaysian government was searching for plane wreckage where it already knew it could not be and did not say that for a couple of days.


“This makes no sense,” Barrett said. “There are so many of these anomalies. Passengers’ cellphones were ringing out days after the plane disappeared, meaning that they were not under water and they were powered on.”


Single most important clue of a false flag suggests Israeli involvement

Again, something very odd happened to that plane, Barrett said, adding that the single most important clue in his opinion is the fact that the two alleged Iranian passengers supposedly travelling with stolen passports were photoshopped.


“The security pictures we see of these Iranians supposedly boarding this plane were photoshopped. Their legs are exactly identical. There is no question about that,” Barrett says, as many independent reporters and readers have pointed out..


“Why are they giving us photoshopped pictures of Iranian passengers? Obviously there was some kind of a setup to try to blame this on Iran. Precisely what that is we do not know, but the Israelis have been using their assets, including the head of … security, who is a 9/11 suspect lives in New Jersey…


“He and other Israelis have been putting out as much media propaganda as they can, trying to blame this on Iran, saying that it is a waste of time to look anywhere other than for this being an Iranian hijacking.”


Christopher Bollyn found an identical clone to this plane in a hanger in Tel Aviv, Israel for the past couple of months. Barrett cals that “a show game play with his aircraft.”


“It was in Southern France. They moved it down to Israel and speculation is that there was some sort of false flag plan at foot, perhaps another [plane] into buildings deception like 9/11. 


We have so many parallels between this event and 9/11 with planes just disappearing, transponders going off for no reason, no hijack codes, no emergency codes being squawked, and cell phones anomalies. So a lot of people are speculating that there was a 9/11-style plan and it may not have gone right.     


Press TV said that there at the network, they take very seriously trying to deal with sensitivity of this subject, especially for the families of those on the plane.


“It’s a very difficult time for them, we understand that. However looking at this situation, how likely is this some type of setup and if so what could it be? What could be the goal of this situation?” Press TV asked.


“Well you are right,” replied Barrett. “It has been very hard on the families and they have been protesting because they know they are being lied to, just like the 9/11 families. We would not have a 9/11 commission unless the family members hadn’t been protesting and basically camping out on the White House lawn for months and months and over a year until finally they were able to get that commission which turned out to be whitewash and likewise the Malaysian family members are putting pressure on the Malaysian government and they are not getting anywhere.


“They know that there is some huge deception going on here.


Planes cannot just disappear like that. There are all sorts of reasons to believe that something strange has happened with this plane. I suggested one scenario earlier which is the possibility that this plane was going to be, well, either blown up and this would be blamed on Iranian guys who were photoshopped into being patsies boarding the plane or maybe it was going to be taken somewhere and then flown into a building somewhere in a 9/11-style false flag event and it is possible that all the publicity in which the mainstream media at this time has actually been asking questions about what happened to this plane unlike 9/11 when nobody was asking any questions because they were still in shock.


The most advanced computer chip in world with many, many military applications


Barrett spoke about the other angle: 20 employees of a Semiconductor firm on board, Free-scale Semiconductors, that had just patented the most advanced computer chip available, with many, many military applications. Barrett called it a “very, very important piece of an electro property they were heading for Beijing and it is possible that somebody did not want them to get there.


“These were Chinese nationals working for a Houston, Texas-based firm and there have been some unconfirmed reports – at least I can tell if there are confirmed – that say four of these passengers were Patent holders for this chip and the fifth Patent holder is the company owned by Jacob Rothschild to shell entities.


“So they are pointing out that possibly this Patent may now belong to Jacob Rothschild and that this would be a motivation for taking over this plane and there are indications the plane may have flown towards Diego Garcia which is a rendition site.


“The fishermen spotted this plane and accurately described its colors without even knowing what color the Airline was. So we have eyewitness reports that the plane was heading for Diego Garcia which is a black military rendition site run by the British and the Americans.                  


Press TV pointed to internet sites the public can follow planes and the flights that planes are taking real time for any novice who can just get on a site. Why do you think we are not hearing all of a sudden the Malaysian government say they changed the path of the aircraft two weeks into this? Why now? What exactly do you think is going on? Is there a cover-up that the Malaysian government and others may be involved in?


“Well there is obviously a cover-up,” Barrett responded. “It is simply unthinkable that this plane would simply turn, fly off in the wrong direction, be spotted over the Maldives Islands heading for Diego Garcia and just disappear. And all of these other indications, these cell phones ringing out and so on, suggest the same thing.


“It is something very strange that happened to this plane. That is really the only explanation for the fact that the government of Malaysia lied to the world and to the families of these victims for so long. They essentially gave the wrong story and searched in the wrong place when they knew that this plane was not in the place where they were looking. Why was that? 


Barrett cautioned about leaping to conclusions and saying we know for sure what we think happened based on preconceptions and past experience.


“I do think that you do have to apply context though,” he said, “and we do know that false flag events are extremely common. Turkey just got caught planning to attack its own country. It fired missiles from Syria into Turkey. It happens all the time. Israel has a long history of false flags.”

Email  Follow on Twitter @DeborahDupre  See daily MH370 Crisis reports by Dupré here. 

Proof of Ancient Aliens in the National Museum of Iraq?

Paula Froelich01/28/14 02:40 PM ET

One of the most amazing, inspiring museums a lot of people will (sadly) never get to visit is the National Museum Of Iraq in Baghdad.

It has collections that include art and artifacts from ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Chaldean civilizations - collections that put the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre to shame. And, despite being looted in 2003, it also has the Nimrud gold collection--which features gold jewelry and figures of precious stone that date to the 9th century BCE--and the collection of stone carvings and cuneiform tablets from Uruk that date back to 3500 and 3000 BCE.

Basically, there's some old, ancient shizz in there. And amongst the old, ancient art are some jars with some really weird, unexplained figures on them.

I found this guy (above), let's call him Xorx, on some pottery in a back room in the Museum. Due to some looting and the place being a general mess, the jar was marked "4000 - 6,000 BC" and they left it at that. Now, I know that artwork back then wasn't exactly realistic but, seriously, WTF? They drew what they knew - and this does not look human. I don't care what your Uncle Bubba says.

Let's look a closely at Xorx. Large bulging eyes: Check. Weird wiggly arms: Check. No Hair: Check. More than five fingers (or is that less?): Check. No lips: Check. Weird elongated body: Check. Therefore, Xorx is an alien.

Okay, fine. I'm not nuts. Nor am I a faithful watcher of the (new) History Channel. I'm just saying there's some weird, unexplained art in the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.

Click here for more more extraterrestrial art (and some of the other jaw dropping pieces found in the Museum). Because, If this ain't proof of aliens, I don't know what is.

Is it really that bad? Best Advice…I got from Ray…

March 28, 2014 



Sometimes the struggles in life make it hard to breath. Meet my buddy Ray…and his Marvin the Martian hat! Bet you just smiled...

We all have discouragements throughout life. We all have hard times that cause us to focus inward and feel heaviness of heart. We have something hit us like a flood that brings us down to our knees.

We have some hurt that runs deep, and we just cant seem to get past it.

We hit a wall and we just can't seem to get over it.

We see a mountain, and cant figure out how to get around it.

Some of the best advice I ever got, was to think of and help others, when I'm down.

So, when I'm down, I think of others…

I think of Ray…

Ray is a man in his 30’s (I’m not 100% sure, because he doesn't know), that is confined to a wheel chair, but he’s not just confined, he can’t do anything. He can't extend his arms - they are curled up. He can barely get a finger moving to reach the joystick of his electric wheelchair and make it roll. He can lift his head slightly, but just for a moment to adjust the way his head is laying.

He can’t really talk - he kind of mumbles some things, but if you take some time, you can learn to speak “Ray” and have a sort-of-conversation with him. He understands conversations, I think, but he seems to have the mindset of someone the age of 10. He has a lot of disadvantages, in this life, but he’s one of the happiest people I know. He loves to laugh, and does it a lot!

Ray comes to my church regularly on our handicapped bus, and I have to take time to talk to him, because he lifts me up. He doesn't care that he’s handicapped (in fact, I don't think he even knows it, so don’t tell him). He enjoys the attention he gets from folks at our church, as he rolls down the hallway, running people over - I often direct traffic for him, because he's a bull in a china shop. He finds all the pretty girls at church and makes sure he talks to them, so he knows what he's doing, at least to some extent.

He will sit and listen to you as you talk to him, and when he sees me from afar, he will grunt-yell out a “Hey!” several times in a way that only Ray can. Guess what I do when he calls for me? I immediately yell back and head over to see him and talk to him. Some words can be understood, and he asks about my wife often, in a grumbled mumbly way, “Where your baby at?” I tell him to stop flirting with my wife, and he grins a huge grin, that takes the worries of the day away.

Ray doesn't have a single advantage that I have.

He has never tweeted.

He has never written an article.

He has never fed himself.

He has never gone for a walk.

He has never taken a picture.

He has never read a post.

He has never…

He has never…

He has never…

You fill in the blanks, and you'll begin to realize just how good you have it. His list goes on, and on, and on…but he still carries that huge grin in the picture above.

If Ray is still smiling, still going and has joy, I better not let my little problems get me down.

I said little on purpose, because I don’t have a single problem that’s nearly as big as what Ray has. My problems are little compared to his…

As you can see, Ray didn't really give me any advice, by what he could say, he just lived out his life the way I should be…full of joy!

Sometimes I think the most devastating disability, in life, is a bad attitude. I know many with disabilities (like Ray) who's attitude is their greatest asset!

Did Ray just lift your spirits today?

Who are you impacting today, like Ray impacts me?

If you liked this post, please share it and I would be thrilled if you hit the Follow button above, to get more like this!


Craig Stumpf (@CraigStumpf) is focused on leadership help, while impacting others. He understands that failure helps each of us learn and grow. His credo is “Help Others” and his blog, articles and social media accounts focus on creating a better life experience for his readers.

His articles, 5 Simple ways leaders fail… andDon't Give Up! were featured on LinkedIn’s Pulse. Craig is devoted to having the right impact socially, and within business relationships.

He writes regularly on LinkedIn - below are some of his more recent posts:

5 more ways leaders fail... How to influence a decision maker...

Leading like a Telemarketer? How to be great at writing on LinkedIn...

'Bud and Breakfast' Joins Emerging Marijuana-Friendly Colorado Hotels

By JOANNA PRISCO | Good Morning America – 3 hours ago

Email Share81




View Photo

'Bud and Breakfast' Joins …

Travelers heading to Denver with a desire to "wake and bake" will have a new lodging to consider this May, when a local hospitality group launches the latest in a handful of marijuana-friendly accommodations in the area.

The MaryJane Group has announced that it will be taking over the Adagio Bed and Breakfast, a longstanding inn located in the Wyman Historic District, and relaunching it as "the first all-inclusive Bud and Breakfast," catering to clients who desire a fully immersive cannabis-infused vacation.

"When the previous owner Helen [Strader] ran it, she allowed it to be 420 friendly but all of the smoking was done outside the premises and she didn’t advertise it," Dawn Schiermeyer, the new director of lodging at the property, told ABC News. "So it’s been an easier transition for us because some people are already aware of it. But we’re in the process of modernizing the space to make it appealing to a younger crowd."

One the way out: all of the antique Victorian furnishings.

On the way in: fully renovated, themed guest rooms, marijuana-edibles from a local dispensary as well as a "humidor smoking room" on the third floor.

READ: Why Marijuana Edibles are Harder to Regulate and Don't Get You as High

The Adagio 'Bud and Breakfast' joins just a handful of properties in the Denver area that have braved this uncharted travel territory. But despite such small numbers, the options are diverse.

Get High Getaways, a clothing-optional, marijuana-friendly environment advertises a raucous-yet-private environment complete with female staff wearing pot-leaf pasties on its website.

Meanwhile, The Cliff House, a historic property in nearby Morrison that was built in 1864, offers eight romantic cottages and also entreats those who indulge in cannabis.

"Even with the legalization of 'Mary Jane,' finding a friendly hotel environment might not be as easy as you think," reads a blog post on The Cliff House Lodge's website. "It may take some time before others join in, but until then, we have no problem being the leader in this movement! Cliff House Lodge welcomes the responsible connoisseur."

READ: Colorado Couples Say 'I Do' to Cannabis at Weddings

For gourmands whose tastes extend beyond hashish, The Adagio Bud and Breakfast will also be employing an in-house chef, said Schiermeyer.

"We'll begin with a basic breakfast menu and then expand to lunch and dinner options," she said, adding that dispensary sample packages, drivers and add-on tours will be available by the beginning of May.

"Our concept is to provide our guests with a complete all-inclusive package where they can enjoy the marijuana lifestyle without having a care in the world," said Joel C. Schneider, president and CEO of The MaryJane Group in a statement. "The Adagio is our pilot project in the marijuana-friendly lodging industry. If our concept is successful, we intend to expand through the leasing or acquisition of additional inns and bed and breakfast establishments."

Also Read