Monday, November 26, 2007

Favorite Foods for Losing Weight

Why does the concept of weight loss conjure up images of, frankly, unappetizing foods? Why do carrot sticks always spring to mind?

The answer seems to lie in the common delusion that to pare pounds you have to barely eat, and the calories you do eat should be no more than required by a mouse. But researchers are repeatedly finding that food quality is more important than quantity when it comes to weight loss. Combined with adequate exercise, your meals can be regular serving sizes. The food just needs to be, well, wholesome.

“We’ve lost sight of that word—diet,” says Kristina Campbell, runner up in a recent weight-loss challenge held in Phoenix, Ariz. “Diet used to mean what your food is for the day, not losing weight.”

Below, Kristina and clinical nutritionist and author of Dare to Lose, Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., pinpoint some essential healthy foods for anyone who wants to lose weight and/or retain good health.

1. Yams and sweet potatoes.

Great diet foods because they’re low on the so-called glycemic index, says Dr. Lieberman. The glycemic index measures the values of various foods based on how quickly they break down and are absorbed into the bloodstream. The slower the digestion, the lower the score, the better the food is for regulating blood sugars, insulin, and overall metabolism—all of which affect fat deposition.

2. Oranges, apples and grapefruit.

Dr. Lieberman recommends these particular fruits because they contain high levels of the soluble fiber pectin. Fiber slows digestion, helps eliminate toxins stored in body fat, and gives you a feeling of fullness.

3. Killer sandwiches.

To lose 40 pounds in 21 weeks, Kristina relied on plenty of hearty sandwiches stacked with vegetables, such as tomato, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and onion, as well as deli meats – but always oven-roasted turkey over anything vacuum-packed. For bread choice, Kristina suggests anything brown with lots of seeds and heavy grains you can actually see, because less-milled ingredients contain much more fiber.

4. Cereal

They can be a little hard to find, but low-sugar cereals packed with protein and fiber are hitting the market. The Kashi brand is one of the best, says Kristina. “I eat my cereal with skim milk and blackberries or raspberries, which contain about 8g of fiber per cup. That’s like three or four slices of bread!”

5. Salad

“If you eat a salad, make it valuable,” suggests Kristina, also a former five-star chef from New York City. “Get field or Asian greens and add a yogurt dressing. Plus you need a ton of vegetables and some good lean protein, like grilled salmon.”

6. Quiche

Quiche made with egg whites and just a couple of yolks is one of Kristina’s favorite protein sources. She also tosses in a little low-fat cheese, broccoli and spinach.

7. Yogurt

And other dairy goods that come in great-tasting, low-fat products.

8. Almonds

Nuts are loaded with monounsaturated fats—the good fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known to lower cholesterol. Fats are as necessary to a healthy diet as protein and carbohydrates. “I recommend that 20 percent of calories come from [healthy] fat,” Dr. Lieberman says. Small amounts of nuts are a good starting point.

9. Peanut butter

Likewise, nut butters are a great source of those healthy, monounsaturated fats. Kristina likes unsalted, all natural brands of peanut butter. But almond or cashew butter is considered an even healthier option (especially if you’re allergic to peanuts!). Enjoy your favorite, but in moderation.

10. Hummus.

AKA pureed chickpeas, garlic, and a little lemon juice. Great with whole-wheat pita bread or organic corn chips.

11. Salsa.

Another favorite for dipping, and a homemade batch is easy to make. Fresh salsa is simply tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Now, tell me, what could possibly be unhealthy about that?

Eat Your Way Slim in 20 Simple Steps

The real secret to healthy eating? Good habits.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Make a beeline for popular Wii

If you missed out on buying a Nintendo Wii during the holiday season last year and have it on this year's list, you had better start shopping now.

Even before holiday shoppers invade, retailers can't keep the still-popular game system (price starts at $250) in stock a year after its debut. And the Wii is the top-requested game system on holiday wish lists, according to a new Weekly Reader Research survey of 1,000 8- to 17-year-olds for retailer Game Crazy. The Wii was on 32% of wish lists, the Sony PlayStation 3 on 19% and Microsoft Xbox 360 on 17%.

"Our recommendation: If you see one now, buy it," says Brian Lucas of Best Buy.

An imbalance of demand and supply for the Wii confounds retailers as well as consumers. "We don't always know when and what we will get," says Circuit City's Jim Baab. "When we get inventory from Nintendo, we put it out and it generally sells within a couple of hours."

Nintendo, which has sold more than 5 million Wiis, recently increased the number of units expected to be shipped worldwide by the end of March to 17.5 million from 16.5 million. "Consumers are going to have to stay on top of it, but we have definitely ramped up," spokesman Perrin Kaplan says.

The demand for the Wii recalls that of the PlayStation 2, which after being launched in 2000 also remained elusive more than a year later, says NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier. "The Wii is going to be in short supply this holiday relative to the strong demand," she says.

This year has marked a reversal of fortune for Nintendo. Its previous GameCube system came in third in worldwide sales to Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox. For most of this year, the Wii has outsold the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Only in September, thanks to the release of Halo 3, did the Xbox 360 outsell the Wii (527,800 to 501,000, according to The NPD Group).

Nintendo's momentum also extends into handhelds, selling about 4.5 million DS systems ($130-$150 each) this year, more than any of the console systems. "These systems are highly entertaining but relatively intuitive," Kaplan says. "That is what really fits into global lifestyles right now."

Nintendo's competitors, particularly Microsoft, are now courting the same family and casual gamers attracted to the Wii. A new $280 Xbox 360 Arcade version comes with games such as Pac-Man and Uno. Also just out for Xbox 360: Viva PiƱata: Party Animals ($50), the trivia game Scene It?($60) and a free new feature to limit a youngster's time on the system.

"Microsoft is livid that Nintendo has taken the lead in the console wars with a technically inferior but more-fun-to-play system," says Geoff Keighley, host of Spike TV's Game Head. "Microsoft has struggled to make the system appeal to a broader consumer. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero III will help, but both of those titles are also available on the PS3."

Sony also hopes to woo shoppers weary of searching for Wiis. Last week, Sony chairman Howard Stringer said PS3 sales had more than doubled since Oct. 18, when Sony reduced the price of the 80 GB PS3 model to $500 from $600. This month, it also began selling a $400 40 GB model. "It's a little fortuitous that the Wii is running out of hardware," he said.

Determined Wii shoppers may want to look online — and be ready to loosen their wallets. Amazon is not selling any Wiis directly, but on Monday, about 90 third-party sellers were offering new and used Wiis starting at $460; eBay has similar prices.

Bundles were listed in stock on starting at $677 (with seven games), with delivery by Nov. 29. The Wii is out of stock at GameStop and Electronic Boutique websites, but each is taking pre-orders for new systems with five games (starting at $585) expected to ship Dec. 17.

But supply is not guaranteed. "Our stores will have them from time to time, but we are encouraging people to shop early because this year there are going to be a ton of kids of all ages with the Wii on their wish lists," says Chris Olivera of GameStop. "Consumers are just going to have to be very diligent."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

He wants last laugh against Clinton bid

Businessman from Texas targets candidate through Web site humor

DALLAS — When Hillary Clinton complains about the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, she's talking about people like Texas businessman Richard H. Collins.

Collins, a community newspaper publisher and online education entrepreneur from Dallas, has raised millions of dollars over the past three decades for Republicans such as conservative icon Jesse Helms to establishment favorite Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The charismatic heir to a family real estate and insurance fortune is a longtime donor to the Media Research Center, a Virginia-based group that documents what it sees as liberal bias in the news media. He counts GOP uberstrategist Karl Rove among his friends.

"The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is alive and well and flourishing in Red State America," boasts Collins, "and I'm glad to be a part of it."

Such Texas-sized bravado may serve Collins well in his latest political venture: a Web site designed to defeat the person that many on the right consider the most dangerous liberal in America, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The site, called, describes the New York senator as "a confirmed left-wing radical" and "experienced political chameleon" who is attempting "a massive makeover campaign" to appear "mainstream."

That's the kind of blow-torch rhetoric conservative groups have used in recent elections to make Massachusetts rapist Willie Horton a household name and to sully 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's Vietnam War record. But Collins' group is offering more than the same old smash-mouth politics.

At a time when more young people get their political news from satirists such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from network anchors, Collins is betting that humor will be a potent weapon against the Democratic presidential front-runner.

"While there is a place for negative advertising, we've heard so much of it that we're almost immune to name-calling," Collins said. "But we're always eager to hear a new joke. Humor can be an effective political tool."

In an election that Collins expects to be tough and close, he's hoping to turn the tide against Hillary Clinton one joke at a time. There are limits, though.

"No profanity," he said. "Chelsea is off-limits. No gay-bashing. And Bill's womanizing is OK, but we don't name names unless they're public knowledge."

Collins, a fourth-generation Texas political activist, is the great-grandson of a state senator, the nephew of a congressman, and the son of the first woman ever elected to the Dallas City Council. To launch his project, he's anted up $400,000 in seed money, but he hopes to raise up to $4 million in outside donations.

The Dallas businessman has company on the anti-Hillary bandwagon.

Citizens United, run by the creator of the 1988 "Willie Horton" ads against Democrat Michael Dukakis, is preparing a documentary on Clinton. The Hillary Clinton Accountability Project has taken the Clintons to court on behalf of an estranged Clinton fundraiser. On the Web, spews anti-Clinton vitriol, and more than 563,000 people have joined Facebook's "Stop Hillary Clinton" group.

Amid hundreds of incoming verbal missiles from critics on the right and left, the Clinton campaign has launched its own "Fact Hub," to present her side of the story.

Democratic activists are convinced that the anti-Hillary zealots will create more sympathy than antipathy for the target of their venom.

"She doesn't fit the stereotype of the unreasonable, radical woman that these Swift Boat types have created," said former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, a Clinton friend for 35 years. "The reality is that their spending money has become a plus for her campaign."

Undaunted by Democratic darts, Collins and his merry band of Hillary hunters is convinced that their made-in-Texas site will avoid a sympathy backlash simply by being funny.

"Everybody loves a good villain," said Collins associate Kameron Bell, a baby-faced, 25-year-old Texas A&M graduate with short blond hair and a wicked sense of humor.

But Bell knows she has to be careful as she tries to transform the former first lady into a modern-day Lady Macbeth.

"It's easy to be mean," Bell said. "It's hard to be funny. It's even harder to be funny and clever."

StopHerNow tries to be funny by using stylized, Jetsons-like cartoons to make its political points.

Its centerpiece is "The Hillary Show," featuring Clinton as an acerbic talk show host with screaming sidekick Howard Dean. The "Target Room" includes current political foes including former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

"Nice hair, pretty boy," the faux Hillary declares.

For Thanksgiving, has added an interactive video game dubbed "Whack a Turkey." Players score points each time a Pilgrim-suited Hillary wields a mallet to bonk celebrity turkeys on the head. Guest turkeys include Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Edwards, Republican hopefuls Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, President Bush and — for twice the points — Bill Clinton himself.

Collins acknowledges that some Republicans remain skeptical of his approach.

A few, he says, don't understand the satirical humor. Some feel that Republicans need a positive vision for 2008 and not just negative campaigning.

And still others fret that attempts to ridicule Clinton will further energize fired-up Democrats.

The defiant Dallasite doesn't buy any of it.

"Hillary has used the woman-as-victim routine throughout her career," he said. "She claims she's a woman. We say she's the front-runner, no different than anyone else."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

House's Morrison Joins Trek

J.J. Abrams, director of Star Trek, told TV Guide that he has hired Jennifer Morrison (TV's House) for the cast of the reboot movie.

"She is indeed in the movie," Abrams told columnist Michael Ausiello. "And she is most excellent!"

Last week, Morrison was spotted outside one of Trek's Hollywood soundstages, sparking rumors that she had quietly come aboard the ensemble alongside Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Heroes' Zachary Quinto.

Abrams won't say what role Morrisson will play but denied rumors that she would be Yeoman Rand, the role originated by Grace Lee Whitney.

Mmmmmm Jennifer Morrison. :-)

Wii Rules!


Not every parent whose child wants a Nintendo Wii this holiday season will be able to get their hands on one. Instead of Tickle Me Elmo, this year parents will stalk the aisles of retailers and surf the Web in hot pursuit of the tiny, white "waggle box." The $250 kid-friendly console has already been on the market for a year, and more than 13 million are already in the hands of gamers.

"Nintendo (other-otc: NTDOY - news - people ) is making as many Wiis as it can," says IGN GamerMetrics analyst Nick Williams. "There's a limited supply, a continuously high demand." Though Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) Xbox 360 sold more units than the Wii in September due to the launch of "Halo 3," analysts predict the Wii will be back on top in October, selling as many as 450,000 units.

The Wii has made headlines for entertaining the elderly at retirement homes and putting motion-based controllers in the hands of many non-gamer moms. But the system has also delighted very young children because of its easy-to-grasp style of play and lack of button manipulations. Many parents, understandably cautious about putting 6-, 4- or even 2-year-olds in front of a videogame console, seem to have warily endorsed the Wii because of its anti-couch potato imperative and shallow learning curve.


In Pictures: Great Games For The Wii

1. Wii Sports

Why parents like it: It gets the kids off the couch and swinging for the fences, together. This is the game that created the initial Wii buzz. And if it has managed to please even octogenarians in retirement, chances are that youthful 30- and 40-something parents will enjoy a few rounds of virtual tennis, golf, baseball and boxing, too. As with all Wii games, remind kids to wear the Wiimote wrist-strap so they don't put a crack in that new flat-screen TV.

Why kids want it: Wii Sports comes bundled with every new Wii system, so if your kid has the console, he has this game, too. If he wants a Wii, it's mostly so he can play this active game in the living room with his siblings and friends.

2. Wii Play

Why parents like it: It's a good deal. For the price of a game, you also get a second Wiimote controller (the Wii comes with only one). This bunch of mini-games--including target-shooting, fishing, table-tennis and an I Spy-type game for spotting your own avatar, is ideal for the very youngest end of the Wii's fan base.

Why kids want it: The second controller--it lets two players engage in all games, not just this one. Older siblings are willing to play together with younger ones on these simple-to-learn gestural activities.

3. Super Mario Galaxy

Why parents like it: This first-ever 3D, outer space Mario game is tough to maneuver for new gamers. But the appeal of the classic plumber franchise is great, and kids will clamor for it anyway, perhaps hoping that an older family member (Dad? Mom?) will show them the ropes, such as how to jump across that widening interplanetary chasm without plummeting. And that electronic theme music? Pure nostalgia for parents.

Why kids want it: What kid doesn't root for Mario? The game has the highest rating for Wii--a 97--in reviews round-up site It is bright, polished and provides hours upon hours of entertainment.

4. Carnival Games

Why parents like it: Like Wii Sports and Wii Play, "Carnival Games" is a collection of quick, simple-to-learn mini-games that require movement and are devoid of violence. Rounds of miniature golf, test-your-strength hammer slams and milk-can tosses last mere seconds, quieting the usual gamer whine of "Mom, I need to get to a save-game place," right before bedtime.

Why kids want it: Just like a real carnival, players earn tickets redeemable for cheapo prizes. In the game, tickets can be used to buy accessories to dress up players' avatars, like a ninja mask or pirate outfit.

5. Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party

6. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Why adults like it: For parents who happen to be fans of the six-film series, a game where everyone from Obi-Wan to Han and Leia are rendered in Lego blocks is pretty funny stuff. Tongue-in-cheek Star Wars humor fills the game, and violence is kept to a minimum. When characters "die," their Lego parts simply break up into bricks and reform. No flesh wounds to worry about.

Why kids want it: Light saber action. Even kids who aren't yet old enough to watch the movies--which can be legitimately scary--know enough to want to wield a Lego-cartoon light saber, and the Wiimote is the perfect proxy.

7. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Why parents like it: Some won't. The game contains mild sexual imagery, a devil and the occasional bad word in song lyrics. But parents willing to trust their children with a soundtrack that includes "Anarchy in the U.K.," by the Sex Pistols and even play along with them in multiplayer mode will be amazed at the ease and agility with which even 7-year-olds can pluck the plastic guitar's buttons. Parents can play lead guitar while the kid plays bass or rhythm, which usually requires only one note at a time.

Why kids want it: Guitar Hero has been a best-seller on several other videogame consoles, so if a child wants the game for her Wii, she's probably played it at a friend's house on Sony's PlayStation 2. Wailing on Alice Cooper's "School's Out," during winter vacation has an edgy appeal.

8. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games

Why parents like it: The game is mercifully easy to play. Each Olympic event (environments are based on the official venues of the Beijing 2008 games), including the 100-meter dash, archery and even Judo, requires only a very easy-to-grasp skill: shaking the Wiimote really, really fast. Kids will succeed here with little help.

Why kids want it: This is the first game where Mario--the most well-known Nintendo character--and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog team up to play together. Sega doesn't make consoles any more, but Sonic is still a favorite character. Better yet, kids can insert their "Miis" from Wii Sports into this Sega game to swim and run against Sonic and Mario.

9. Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

Why parents like it: "Zack and Wiki" is primarily a puzzle game, requiring logic skills to help a pirate boy uncover 16 missing pieces of a famous pirate's body. But the game isn't creepy. Even still, Capcom seems to hint that parents should play this game alongside kids: It comes with an unusual player mode that lets people interact with the game by pointing at the screen with a controller and hinting at how to solve a problem, without actually spoiling the game for the main player by taking over the action.

Why kids want it: They may not want it yet. That's because they don't know about it. "Zack and Wiki" is unlikely to be on many kids' wish lists because it isn't part of a well-known franchise. Third-party publishers have struggled to get traction for their original games on the Wii, but this one is worth watching. Tell them this will be something that the rest of the neighbors don't have yet.


And although older gamers might find it limiting, the Wii's online functions are currently limited to a Web browser and sharing avatars. Instead of pairing players with random gamers around the world in chat rooms like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo's system encourages multiplayer action in the living room.

"We hear all the time from parents that they take a look at the Microsoft Xbox 360 controller or the Sony (nyse: SNE - news - people ) PlayStation 3 controller and they get instantly intimidated," says John Davison, co-founder of What They Like, a start-up that in mid November launched a Web site called devoted to helping parents learn about videogame content.

While Microsoft's Xbox 360 team aims to make its machine as family-friendly as possible--on Nov. 8 the company announced a new feature called the "Family Timer" that allows parents to set automatic game-over times before bedtime--Xbox 360 thus far hasn't positioned itself as the child-friendly game platform.

With so many veteran Wii owners and wanna-be Wiisters hinting at which games they'd like to unwrap in December, parents must now take on the daunting task of vetting their kids' wish lists for age-appropriate and appealing titles.

Fortunately, the nature of game development for the Wii platform has evolved some bedtime enforcement techniques of its own. Some of the most in-demand and kid-befitting games are played in bite-size two-minute chunks.

With titles like Nintendo's own "Wii Sports" (which comes with every Wii), Sega's (other-otc: SEGNF - news - people ) "Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games" and Take-Two Interactive's "Carnival Games," kids choose from among several mini-games that don't elicit refrains of, "Mooooom, I need to get to a place where I can save my game before I quit!" With mini-games, mothers can graciously grant the kids one more round of Wii baseball or one last ring toss--and still pack them off to bed on time. These games last literally only a few seconds, or a couple of minutes, at most.

Beyond the quick mini-games, titles like Capcom's "Zack and Wiki," LucasArts' "Lego Star Wars" and Activison's (nasdaq: ATVI - news - people ) "Guitar Hero III" are perfect for playing together with friends, and especially with older relatives. These three games allow adults to take on the role of guide without spoiling puzzle-solving and discovery for kids, and their tongue-in-cheek jokes should keep parents entertained.

Not sure your kid is mature enough to battle it out with Guns 'n Roses' Slash and a rock-and-roll devil in "Guitar Hero III?" Some aren't ready for the content, but don't worry about their ability to get the hang of the game. "Little kids are very good at "Guitar Hero" because they have no nostalgic point of reference about how 'Sweet Child o' Mine' should sound," says Davison. "I've seen 5-year-olds play a perfect game."

Which Wii games should parents avoid? Well, there are obvious no-nos, like Take-Two Interactive's "Manhunt 2," a horror game about a murderer that Target (nyse: TGT - news - people ) won't even stock on its shelves. "Metroid Prime 3" and "Resident Evil 4" also glorify shooting things up. Other innocuous titles, like the ever-popular "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," and "Super Paper Mario," are simply too difficult for most new gamers.

Some of the most anticipated new Wii games just won't be out in time for this year's holidays. "Wii Fit," "Super Smash Bros. Brawl," and "Mario Kart" are all expected in early 2008. That will, of course, give kids something to covet for upcoming birthdays.

The best way to find out which games are most appropriate and most enjoyable for your child is, of course, to play along. But many parents don't. A survey conducted in October by AOL Games and the Associated Press found that 43% of parents say they never play games with their kids. About 30% said they've joined in, but never for more than an hour.

Meanwhile, another survey by the NPD Group found that between the ages of 6 and 8, kids form videogame-playing habits that will determine how "serious" they'll be about gaming as big kids. "This appears to be a critical age at which to capture the future gamers of the world," says NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

Parents of young children can either withhold game machines, play along with a watchful eye, or look the other way. Either way, the Wii will be impossible to ignore.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Yikes! Yao vs. Yi is huge

This is what NBA Commissioner David Stern had in mind that night of the 2002 NBA draft when, with visions of a vast global market waiting to be conquered, he called out the name Yao Ming.

This is what Rockets owner Leslie Alexander thought the next morning when he said, ``This is the biggest individual sports story of all time.''

This will be a night that seemed impossible a few years ago when a November game between the Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks represented anything but what tonight's game will be, a must-have ticket and an international sporting event.

Tonight will bring the first NBA meeting of Yao and the player expected to be the next Chinese NBA star, Yi Jianlian, an occasion that could draw the largest global audience to see an NBA game.

``Friday night's really big,'' Rockets CEO Tad Brown said. ``It's really a watershed moment for the development of the game as an international product and of what the NBA is doing to market itself internationally.

"The presence of Yao Ming, and what an international superstar he has become, and this young and very gifted countryman coming to play against him for the first time in the NBA, is very special," Brown said. "Hundreds of millions of people will be watching. It will be a phenomenal sporting experience."

It is not the first time Yao has played against a teammate from the Chinese national squad, having gone against his former China Basketball Association rival Wang ZhiZhi and Mengke Bateer.

But Yi, the sixth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, is the first significant NBA player from China since Yao, and he arrives in town with a passionate and devoted following.

"Here we have two gentlemen, from different regions, Shanghai (Yao) and the Guandong Province (Yi), and who mean so much to this enormous country, with an enormous television market and enormous love for basketball," Stern said. "Now we have the exclamation point."

Networks, Webcasts

The game will be on 19 networks in China, including CCTV-5, Guangdong TV, Guangzhou TV, and ESPN Star Sports in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also will be available live through two Webcasters.

Though ratings estimates in China are difficult and vary widely, today's game is said to be certain to draw 150 million viewers and could reach 250 million. CCTV-5 alone is available in 210 million households.

Yao's first game against Shaquille O'Neal in 2002 drew an estimated audience of 220 million and the largest cable television ratings in the United States for a regular-season game since the 1995 comeback of Magic Johnson.

"I heard there were close to 200 million people that watched," Yao said. "But come on, in our country, we have (1.3) billion. That's still a small part of it."

Yi's first televised NBA game drew an audience estimated at 100 million, but it went up against a Rockets game that was available on other regional cable networks.

When the Indianapolis Colts played the New England Patriots last Sunday, the average audience during the game was 33.8 million; 66.4 million saw at least a six-minute portion.

The average audience for Super Bowl XLI was 93 million, with 139.8 million seeing at least six minutes. There have been estimates Super Bowls draw a global audience of roughly 150 million.

The audience for tonight's Rockets game, starting on a Saturday morning in China, could exceed the Super Bowl, Colts-Patriots game and the Friday ESPN NBA games combined.

For the Rockets, and by extension for Houston, it will be considered a showcase to the vast Chinese market.

Best Belly All-Around

4 moves that strengthen your abs and back — so you look trimmer from every angle!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Whedon Can’t Get Enough Serenity

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on November 6, 2007 Sign up now!

By Wil Moss -- Publishers Weekly, 11/6/2007 10:03:00 AM

Joss Whedon isn’t very good at good-byes. When his Buffy the Vampire screenplay was made into a movie in 1992, that would have been enough for most. But Whedon ended up bringing Buffy back in 1997 as a television show—again, most people would have been satisfied with that. But as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic book indicates, Whedon couldn’t let go just yet.

All that goes double for Serenity. The sci-fi western about a group of rogue space travelers started out in 2002 as a TV series called Firefly, but it was canceled after only 11 episodes. Whedon then managed the impressive task of bringing the property back to life as a feature film called Serenity.

And he’s not done with it yet. In November Dark Horse is releasing a hardcover collection of the Serenity: Those Left Behind miniseries he co-wrote in 2005, and he’s already got another miniseries in the works for early 2008. As he explains in the following interview, there’s something about Serenity that makes it harder for him to let go, harder than even Buffy—which means no riding off into the sunset for the Serenity crew anytime soon.

PW Comics Week: So Buffy has this attractive blonde female and a popular genre as a framing device. What is Serenity’s appeal?

Joss Whedon: Ultimately, anything with spaceships and a compelling cast of funny, pretty people is pretty much something a certain section of people are going to tune into. It was definitely not as pop-simple as Buffy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells you the joke in the title; Serenity is something you have to reach out to—which is one of the reasons why Fox killed it with an ax (or I should say [killed] Firefly). But it’s kind of actually a fairly timeworn formula in the sense of mixing genres we understand—the western in this particular case with sci-fi trappings—perhaps a little more overtly than other people have, but pretty much to the same effect. It’s “How can we tell the kind of stories we love in the genre we’re comfortable in, we’re excited by?”

PWCW: How much do you credit the success of Serenity with your fan following?

JW: I think I have to credit all of it to the fan following. Fans obviously have gone a lot further than just seeing the movie, they’ve kept it alive—they even kept it in theaters with their charity screenings; they’ve made it mean something with the charity work they’ve done; they’ve created a community. The comic book has been a big deal for Dark Horse, that’s why we’re working on another one right now, and also because we thought of another good story to tell. [The fans] had a lot to do with it getting from TV to movies—[they] can’t be overestimated in this particular instance.

PWCW: What’s it like taking something from screen to comics?

JW: It’s complicated, with Serenity particularly. It’s easy with Buffy in a way because again it’s a pop idea, it could have been a comic book before it was a movie. Serenity doesn’t really lend itself to that in the same way. You can tell fun, compelling stories about it, but you have sort of an ensemble drama that you’re making into a comic book, so you have to find stories that are gonna move in a different rhythm than Buffy stories.

With Serenity and Firefly, you couldn’t do a regular monthly comic the way you can with Buffy because their life isn't [event after event] in the same way. I know that’s strange because we did do a TV show that was not monthly but weekly, but it lends itself to these stories that we tell in a few issues that we really think out beforehand.

Whereas Buffy, maybe because it was on for so many years, already has its own "Marvel universe" attached to it, with hundreds of ancillary characters and situations, so it’s easier to build that kind of story. With Serenity, you want it to feel more like a novel than a straight-up superhero comic.

PWCW: Can you tell me anything about the plot of the second miniseries?

JW: The second one basically involves the rather stunning concept of the gang trying to pull a heist that doesn’t go completely wrong. And what happens when things go right for them, how that’s not going to work at all.

PWCW: Does it have a title yet?

JW: Better Days. And that’s also a reference to the fact that it takes place before the movie and before certain people were iced.

PWCW: Are there more Serenity comics planned?

JW: Scott [Allie, Dark Horse editor] was definitely like, “Can we not wait three years in between comics next time?” I’m like, “I hear where you’re going with that.” It is definitely contingent on us having time and finding a particular story. With Buffy, I have an overarching story and I can do anything I want in that. Obviously, like I said before, Serenity doesn’t work that way, so it has to be right. It’s not simple. And the dialogue is very easy to get wrong. Luckily [co-writer Brett Matthews] worked on the show, so he really understands it, but it’s hard to make sure—you can’t take a wrong step with that or it won’t work. Hopefully, we’re not doing that with Buffy, either, but it’s a little more delicate.

The difference also with Serenity is I have more trouble letting it out of my hands. Buffy I ran as a show, and obviously Firefly had a writing staff, a great one, but, for example, with novels—they’re like, “[Let's do] Serenity novels!” The idea of somebody else writing a Serenity novel, I can’t handle. [But] there are 10 Buffy novels.

PWCW: Do you think that’s because you had more time with Buffy?

JW: I think so. If anybody wrote a Serenity novel right now, it would be the only thing apart from these comic books, which come out very rarely—that there is to say about Serenity. If something’s going to be said about Serenity, it’s going to be said by me. It’s too close to me still. It’s the child that never got to grow up and go to college.

PWCW: And to just touch briefly on your contribution to the new Dark Horse Presents on MySpace, SugarShock—how has that experience been? We don’t see a lot of short, one-off things from you.

JW: I’ve done a few. I vaguely had the concept in my head for a while, and Scott said, “Hey, we’re doing Dark Horse Presents.” I write these things like manic episodes, which is exactly how they read. That’s not to say I don’t take time honing them, but they really do sort of happen fast. I just wanted to do something that was deeply silly, kind of indie, and would just let me play. Scott found me the staggeringly best artist—Fabio [Moon] just captures exactly what I had in mind and doubles it. It’s been just fun, just straight out, nothing but fun to do SugarShock.

Scientists go into orbit over solar system similar to ours

Astronomers scanning the heavens for planets spinning around distant stars have found one solar system in particular that looks a lot like home.

For the first time, scientists say, they have found a star with at least five planets in orbit. The star, 55 Cancri, is similar to the sun in both size and age and lies about 41 light years from Earth.

Our solar system has eight planets, not counting Pluto.

"This discovery has me jumping out of my socks," said Geoff Marcy a University of California, Berkeley, astronomer and co-leader of a team that made the discovery. "The significance is marvelous, as we now know our sun and its family of planets are not unique."

Astronomers have now found more than 250 planets orbiting other stars.

Interesting orbit

But scientists have found only a few stars with more than one planet. That's because their technique of finding distant planets — measuring the gravitational tug that it exerts upon its star — is not ideal for finding more than the biggest planets.

Before Tuesday's announcement, scientists knew of four planets surrounding 55 Cancri. With additional observations and data-crunching, however, the research team found a fifth planet. This one is fourth from the star and is about 45 times more massive than Earth.

Its location is tantalizing. At 72.5 million miles from its star, the planet is just a bit nearer to its star than Earth is to the sun and, therefore, is probably only slightly warmer.

The mass of the planet means it has a crushing gravitational field. However, if our solar system is any guide, big planets like this should have moons, and its moons could be habitable with Earth-like gravity and water. Moreover, scientists say, it's possible that more planets orbit 55 Cancri.

To find distant planets, astronomers use the fact that stars wobble slightly as their planets circle around and tug on them. This produces tiny changes in the light given off by stars.

The wobble factor

As scientists have refined the technique, they have found smaller planets but have yet to find Earth-sized bodies. That doesn't mean they don't exist.

Finding planets around a star has been a challenge, since astronomers must differentiate the tugs made by several planets. Scientists use computer models that attempt to explain all of a star's wobble by adding in planetary tugs until the right configuration is found.

Yet even with five planets, residual wobbles that the mathematical models cannot account for still come from 55 Cancri. Scientists are intrigued, because there is a large gap between the fourth and fifth planet, a possible nesting place in the star's habitable zone for a small, rocky, Earth-sized planet that may be discovered later.

"Because of the residuals they have left, they're guessing there's another planet, and it's entirely possible" said Barbara McArthur, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin, who found one of the planets orbiting 55 Cancri but was not involved in the current study.

Fritz Benedict, another UT-Austin astronomer, said the 55 Cancri system is rich in metals. The theory of planet formation suggests such systems should produce a lot of planets.

RoboMan Webcam

From -

A little silver robot stands at attention on our desk. We've named him RoboMan. It's not very original, but it fits. He likes to hang around and talk to us about his desires and aspirations. How he has always wanted to run away and join the RoboCircus and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a professional age/weight guesser. We think he's full of bunk but he is cute, so we keep him around.

Ok, so we lied a little. We really keep RoboMan around because he is the most enjoyable webcam we've found in a while (he doesn't really talk to us). He's incredibly posable, so we can have him sitting, standing, balancing on one foot, or almost anything else we can imagine. He does have an integrated microphone and two bright LED eyes - so he can see and hear us in the gloom of our dark office. This is probably the first webcam we've ever found that's as fun to play with as it is useful. Fun and functional rolled into one. RoboMan . . . we salute you.

RoboMan Webcam

  • 350k pixels
  • 30 frames per second
  • Drivers disc included
  • 6" tall (standing)
  • 11 points of articulation
  • approx. 52" USB/Microphone In cord
  • USB 1.1

Chris Baker's talk show canceled on KTRH and KPRC - this sucks, Chris, you'll be missed.

As Houston radio talk-show host Chris Baker continues working on his documentary film about talk radio, he'll have a new plot twist to incorporate into the mix — his dismissal from Clear Channel Houston's KTRH (740 AM) and KPRC (950 AM).

Baker, who had been on the air in Houston since 2001, and Cynthia Hunt, who recently joined him as co-host for an early afternoon show on KPRC, were told Monday night by Michael Berry, Clear Channel Houston's director of AM programming, that their shows had been canceled.

Baker's shift on KTRH will be filled by extended hours for the syndicated Sean Hannity show, which will air from 2 to 5 p.m., and by Berry's local show from 5 to 8 p.m. KPRC will extend the morning Walton and Johnson show and shift time slots for syndicated Erich "Mancow" Muller shows to fill the Baker/Hunt gap.

Hunt, a former KPRC (Channel 2) and KTRK (Channel 13) reporter, said the show she co-hosted with Baker for the past two months was canceled because "they're going more into the Radio Mojo format, which is kind of like Radio Maxim for men."

"I will absolutely miss the show and getting to talk to people every day and hear what they think about important issues," she said.

Baker, who works as a stand-up comedian in addition to his radio duties, said his removal was "just show biz." He did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding his departure, citing ongoing conversations between his agent and station management.

However, Baker, who grew up in Dallas and worked in Kansas City before coming to Houston to appear on KPRC and later on KTRH, said Tuesday he was grateful to local listeners for advancing his radio career.

"Under Ken Charles (Clear Channel's former AM programming director who now works for the company in Miami), who is the best programmer I've ever known, we completely changed the face of talk radio in Houston," Baker said.

"We had a lot of fun and made a lot of great radio. I have no complaints. I'm proud of what we did here. We did it right. We did it in an honest fashion, and my career is going to go on because of it."

Baker said he will spend more time on his stand-up act and will continue working on his documentary, which has a working title of Don't Tell Me What to Think, and will focus on the federal Fairness Doctrine. His collaborator on the project for Spindletop Films is Cesare Wright, a Rice University graduate who attended film school at USC.

In the most recent Arbitron ratings book, KTRH ranked 18th in the market among listeners 25-54 in the 3-7 p.m. afternoon-drive period. KPRC ranked 28th among listeners 25-54 in the 10 a.m.-3 p.m. time slot among listeners 25-54 during September.

Berry did not return a telephone call or an e-mail message seeking comment on the programming changes.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Whedon, Dushku Enter Dollhouse

Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is heading back to TV, along with his Buffy co-star Eliza Dushku, with Dollhouse, an SF series that Fox has given a seven-episode order, Variety reported.

Dushku will star in the Whedon-penned series, to be produced by 20th Century Fox TV, the studio behind Buffy, its spinoff series Angel and Whedon's SF western show, Firefly.

Dollhouse follows a top-secret world of people programmed with different personalities, abilities and memories, depending on their mission.

After each assignment—which can be physical, romantic or even illegal—the characters have their memories wiped clean and are sent back to a lab (dubbed the dollhouse). The show centers on Dushku's character, Echo, as she slowly begins to develop some self-awareness.

Whedon has already hammered out the basic outline for all seven episodes. Barring a writers' strike, Fox hopes to have the show in production by spring, giving the network an opportunity to be so far ahead of schedule by fall that it could potentially air a full season uninterrupted by breaks. The long lead time also gives Whedon, as well as the network and studio, plenty of time to evolve the show if needed.

Dushku, who brought Whedon back to Fox, will get a producer credit on the show as well.

Whedon had left TV to pursue a feature-film career, which included Serenity, a movie based on Firefly, and Wonder Woman, for which he wrote a script, but from which he departed before he could direct it.

Fan site

Talking thru Boris

Interactive talking skull