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Tips To Get More Views on Your Blog

16 Sep
  • Use lists.
  • Be topical… write posts that need to be read right now.
  • Learn enough to become the expert in your field.
  • Break news.
  • Be timeless… write posts that will be readable in a year.
  • Be among the first with a great blog on your topic, then encourage others to blog on the same topic.
  • Share your expertise generously so people recognize it and depend on you.
  • Announce news.
  • Write short, pithy posts.
  • Encourage your readers to help you manipulate the technorati top blog list.
  • Don’t write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids.
  • Write long, definitive posts.
  • Write about your kids.
  • Be snarky. Write nearly libelous things about fellow bloggers, daring them to respond (with links back to you) on their blog.
  • Be sycophantic. Share linklove and expect some back.
  • Include polls, meters and other eye candy.
  • Tag your posts. Use del.ico.us.
  • Coin a term or two.
  • Do email interviews with the well-known.
  • Answer your email.
  • Use photos. Salacious ones are best.
  • Be anonymous.
  • Encourage your readers to digg your posts. (and to use furl and reddit). Do it with every post.
  • Post your photos on flickr.
  • Encourage your readers to subscribe by RSS.
  • Start at the beginning and take your readers through a months-long education.
  • Include comments so your blog becomes a virtual water cooler that feeds itself.
  • Assume that every day is the beginning, because you always have new readers.
  • Highlight your best posts on your Squidoo lens.
  • Point to useful but little-known resources.
  • Write about stuff that appeals to the majority of current blog readers–like gadgets and web 2.0.
  • Write about Google.
  • Have relevant ads that are even better than your content.
  • Don’t include comments, people will cross post their responses.
  • Write posts that each include dozens of trackbacks to dozens of blog posts so that people will notice you.
  • Run no ads.
  • Keep tweaking your template to make it include every conceivable bell or whistle.
  • Write about blogging.
  • Digest the good ideas of other people, all day, every day.
  • Invent a whole new kind of art or interaction.
  • Post on weekdays, because there are more readers.
  • Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t bore your readers.
  • Post on weekends, because there are fewer new posts.
  • Don’t interrupt your writing with a lot of links.
  • Dress your blog (fonts and design) as well as you would dress yourself for a meeting with a stranger.
  • Edit yourself. Ruthlessly.
  • Don’t promote yourself and your business or your books or your projects at the expense of the reader’s attention.
  • Be patient.
  • Give credit to those that inspired, it makes your writing more useful.
  • Ping technorati. Or have someone smarter than me tell you how to do it automatically.
  • Write about only one thing, in ever-deepening detail, so you become definitive.
  • Write in English.
  • Better, write in Chinese.
  • Write about obscure stuff that appeals to an obsessed minority.
  • Don’t be boring.
  • Write stuff that people want to read and share.
  • America’s New Build Police Car (pics)

    15 Sep

    Fire Falls Yosemite national park

    5 Sep

    Underwater Musium

    5 Sep

     

    What is the same point in These Pictures

    5 Sep

    is That All These Photoes Were Hand Painted By

    Cincy chemistry just one of NFL's mysteries

    5 Sep

    Terrell Owens (left) was wanted by Chad Ochocinco (right) and other Bengals.

    Three weeks through the NFL preseason, we’ve answered several of the lingering questions from the summer. Will Brett Favre be the Vikings quarterback? Yes. Will the Panthers start Matt Moore over Jimmy Clausen? Yes. Will Tom Brady really sport a Justin Bieber haircut? Absolutely.

    But there are still several questions that remain unanswered. Here are 10 Unsolved Mysteries Heading into the 2010 NFL Regular Season:

    1. When will “Batman and Robin” have their first Boom! Pow! Bam! moment in Cincinnati?

    It’s bound to happen at some point, right? Whether it’s in September, October or during the second half of the season, you have to assume there will be a play, a drive or a game in which T.O. and/or Chad Ochocinco is unhappy with the lack of attention, balls and/or media he is receiving in comparison with the other. This is a train wreck waiting to happen, right? Right?

    Well, maybe not. Solomon Wilcots, the former Bengals defensive back turned broadcaster, who has spent time with the team this summer, had a different take on the situation.

    “The Bengals fizzled down the stretch last year,” Wilcots said. “No one will deny that. But people forget the amount of adversity that this squad went through. Mike Zimmer’s wife, Chris Henry — these were major, major tragedies. And yet, through both of those events, that club stuck together and won the AFC North. This is a mature group of young players who’ve already been through a lot of real-life issues together. They’re not going to be easily sidetracked.”

    Remember, Ochocinco was all for bringing in Terrell Owens. So was Carson Palmer. As the story goes, immediately after the now-released Antonio Bryant signed with Cincinnati five months ago, Palmer told Marvin Lewis to go out and get Owens, too. In Ochocinco, T.O. and rookies Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, there appear to be four reliable options on any given play for Palmer.

    Maybe this all works out, after all. Stranger things have happened.

    2. How much will the Vikings offense miss Sidney Rice?

    In ‘09, Rice looked far more like the dominant receiver he was in college at South Carolina than the underwhelming, lost kid backing up Bobby Wade during his first two years in Minnesota. Capped off by a monstrous three- touchdown performance against the Cowboys in the playoffs, Rice had established himself as a legitimate figure in any discussion of top 10 NFL wide-outs held this past summer. Now, he’s out until at least midseason.

    But he’s not the only significant loss for the offense in Minnesota this season. Chester Taylor, Favre’s reliable third-down back and security blanket, is in Chicago with the Bears. He has been replaced by two unproven youngsters in second-year man Albert Young and rookie Toby Gerhart.

    Gerhart, a Heisman Trophy finalist and much ballyhooed second-round selection in April, has been, at best, less than impressive this preseason. Meanwhie, 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin has been battling a lingering case of migraines that has kept him on the sidelines and in and out of the lineup since late last season. Did a trade for Greg Camarillo or an over-the-hill Javon Walker address all or any of these major setbacks?

    Darrell Bevell, your work is certainly cut out for you.

    3. Does Jake Delhomme have any good football left in that 35-year-old tank of his?

    There are certain moments in time that you’ll always remember exactly where you were when they happened.

    The birth of your first child.

    Your best friend’s wedding.

    Jake Delhomme’s implosion in the 2008 playoffs.

    That dud of a game was so bad that it carries a heinous stench over Delhomme’s otherwise rather splendid NFL career. Delhomme threw for a career-worst five interceptions, lost a fumble and got his butt kicked all over Carolina’s home field during that 33-13 loss to the Cardinals. A Saturday night in January with most of the East Coast snowed in, a revved-up national audience and two of the league’s highest-scoring offenses and Delhomme was…well, awful.

    The following offseason, the Panthers surprisingly signed Delhomme to a five-year extension worth $42.5 million, with a $20 million guarantee, putting him under contract through 2014. Yet, after his worst season as a pro and a season-ending injury in December, the club finally cut bait with Delhomme, releasing the best quarterback the franchise has ever known in March.

    Most pundits and talking heads figured he was done. Fortunately for Delhomme, Mike Holmgren is not a pundit or a talking head. The Browns signed Delhomme to a two-year deal, and the early returns have been fantastic.

    Through three preseason games, the 12-year veteran has completed 38 of 48 passes with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. More importantly, he has been a positive force in the locker room, the huddle and on the sideline.

    “I think Jake’s done a good job,” coach Eric Mangini told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week. “He runs the offense well, and he’s engaged the whole game. He’s working on the sideline whether he’s in or out, to try to either help the guys that are in or try to figure out answers. A lot of the answers he knows, and the ones he doesn’t know, he’s going to get.”

    A lot of folks have already written off Delhomme. For a guy who found his way from Louisiana-Lafayette to NFL Europe to the Super Bowl, something tells me he’s not done just yet. Don’t be shocked if he’s the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

    4. Are Ed Reed and Bob Sanders going to be Ed Reed and Bob Sanders this season?

    Reed and Sanders, recognized around the league as two of the best all-around safeties in the game, have had their fair share of injury issues over the past two seasons.

    Reed, who said he was “50-50” while considering retirement this offseason, is set to miss significant time at the start of the season recovering from recent hip surgery. Reed played hurt during Baltimore’s two playoff games last season, further complicating his injury. He’s on the physically unable to perform list and has been spending a large portion of his time away from the team, seeing a rehab doctor in Atlanta. His status for the start of the regular season is still unknown. Baltimore’s secondary is the team’s one major question mark heading into the season even with Reed in the lineup. Without him? The results could be disastrous.

    Sanders, on the other hand, saw his first action in 10 months during Indianapolis’ second preseason game two weeks ago in Toronto. A bit rusty, he was still a force in the secondary. On Thursday night in Green Bay, however, he looked fantastic. The 2007 Defensive Player of the Year appears to be back, having played 45 snaps in that contest and was in on just about every play. Paired with rising star Antoine Bethea, Sanders is part of the top safety duo in the NFL.

    5. Will the Saints suffer a Super Bowl “hangover”?

    Though I don’t exactly envision Drew Brees walking into next week’s season opener with a baby strapped to his stomach and a scruffy beard, there’s obviously a concern about any defending Super Bowl champion.

    The Steelers, the 2008 Super Bowl champions, failed to quality for the playoffs in 2009. The Saints had a well-documented offseason-long Super Bowl celebration that included multiple parades, talk show appearances on both coasts, books by Brees and coach Sean Payton, promotional media tours around said books by Brees and Payton, trips to Los Angeles for the ESPYs, EA Sports Madden cover obligations and everything in between.

    Was this Saints squad satisfied with just one title? Or is it ready to defend the Lombardi Trophy and start that rare quest for another one? History says a repeat is unlikely. But it’s tough to question the toughness and preparation of Brees, Payton and Gregg Williams. The Saints have looked refreshed and determined in the preseason. Then again, the preseason is an entirely different story than a late December contest with a playoff berth on the line.

    6. What can the Redskins expect out of Albert Haynesworth?

    When Haynesworth is in the lineup and on the field, he’s still the most dominant defensive tackle in the game. Whether it’s forcing opponents into false starts or attacking the quarterback, the oft-criticized Haynesworth is undeniably one of the league’s top talents. Despite a media maelstrom and an absolute circus spanning from the start of the offseason through a locker room rant following Washington’s second preseason game, Haynesworth had a solid week of practice and an impressive outing in Friday night’s all-important third preseason contest against the Jets. Playing both defensive end and defensive tackle in Jim Haslett’s 3-4, Haynesworth was a force.

    In second-year man Brian Orakpo, linebacker London Fletcher and a 100 percent Albert Haynesworth, the ’Skins feature arguably three of the top 10 overall defensive talents in the NFC.

    If they get “Good Albert,” Washington could end up surprising some folks in the crowded NFC East this season. If the Redskins get “Bad Albert,” well, who knows?

    7. How will the movement of the umpire from the middle of the field to behind the line of scrimmage affect the game?

    During the offseason, the competition committee voted to move the umpire from near the linebackers to behind the deepest running back behind the line of scrimmage. The change is intended to improve safety for the league’s officials.

    But you may have noticed an increasingly frustrated Peyton Manning in Thursday night’s preseason bout with the Packers. Manning was twice called for illegal snaps because the umpire had not gotten into position before the ball was snapped. Colts president Bill Polian acknowledged the Colts were “pushing” it to see how things might work under regular-season conditions, but it was clear the pace of any up-tempo, no-huddle attack will change in 2010. Teams are now at the mercy of the umpire’s foot speed.

    Aside from a herky-jerky pace to any no-huddle attack, how else will this slight change impact the game? I reached out to former NFL head of officials and new FOX Sports personality Mike Pereira for his thoughts. Pereira said: “Don’t be surprised to see the umpires call more holding penalties once they get accustomed to their new position. They will now have a better view.”

    Warren Sapp, a man who knows a thing or two about the line of scrimmage, said: “Receivers won’t be able to use the umpire in the middle of the field to their advantage. There’ll be less picks being set. I’ve seen Derrick Brooks scream at umpires for them being in his path and getting in the way.” Sapp then laughed and said: “And quarterbacks won’t mistakenly throw balls to them, either.”

    8. Can this Martz/Cutler marriage experiment end up being an utter disaster?
    Rick Telander’s Chicago Sun-Times column headline Sunday was “Cutler-Martz Combination Looking Like a Bust So Far.” That tells you all you need to know about the Bears offense this preseason.

    Saturday night’s performance against the Cardinals was arguably Jay Cutler’s worst outing in a Bears uniform. Hell, it was possibly the worst performance of his entire career. He looked lost, indecisive and frustrated. As my FOXSports.com colleague Adam Caplan tweeted Sunday: “If you’re a believer in body language, Cutler’s isn’t very good.”

    Through three preseason games, the golden-armed fifth-year quarterback’s passer rating is a paltry 62.3. He has thrown two interceptions and been sacked 10 times. “Greatest Show on Turf?” Eh, not quite.

    You’ve heard the statistic a million times. When Cutler has a passer rating higher than 100 as a starter, he is 15-0. But when you’re throwing behind receivers (as Cutler has been doing throughout the preseason) and throwing ill-advised interceptions (as Cutler has done his whole career), getting to that 100-plus rating is nearly impossible.

    There are high expectations in Chicago for the Bears offense this season. If the preseason is any indication of how the regular season will turn out, there will be a lot of disappointed Bears fans in 2010.

    9. What will football on Sundays be like without Dick Enberg behind the mike?

    When 75-year-old broadcasting legend Dick Enberg announced last spring he’d be joining the San Diego Padres broadcast team for the 2010 season, he was forced to give up his gig as CBS Sports’ No. 3 NFL play-by-play man. I, for one, will certainly miss hearing his voice on Sundays.

    Ian Eagle, a guy who deserves about two dozen sports Emmys for his energetic work during past season’s anemic 12-70 New Jersey Nets campaign, will replace Enberg and join Dan Fouts in the booth this season.

    The Padres are likely headed to the playoffs, and Enberg has been an absolute joy to listen to throughout the 2010 baseball season.

    Eagle, great in his own right, may just need to give the fans a Week 1 “Oh My!”

    10. Will there be any football to watch next year at this time?

    At this point, it’s hard to definitely say yes.

    How’s that for a slap in the face?

    In short, savor the 2010 football season. With talk of stadium money, labor deals and men in suits arguing over millions and millions of dollars, actual football may be put on the back burner next fall. So, enjoy it while you have it.

    Because as Joni Mitchell once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

    9 of The Most Beautiful Places Of The World!

    5 Sep

    We live in a world blessed with sights that are beautiful beyond words. Every human being probably dreams of visiting at least one of those places in their lifetime. Living in modern cities with high-rise buildings, we tend to miss out on what Mother Nature has to offer as well as some of the most incredible man-made structures built throughout the course of history.

    Look at the places below, and you will see beauty that fills the eye and warms the heart. It wouldn’t be appropriate or humanly possible to just pick a few places from the huge collection of amazing sights around the world and call them the “best.”

    They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and there are perhaps other places that have touched your heart. For this reason, we do not claim the places included in our list are the best, but rather among the vast collection of the most beautiful places of the world.

    The Grand Canyon, United States

    The Grand Canyon

    The Grand Canyon

    A steep gorge by the Colorado River, Arizona in the United States, the Grand Canyon has some truly enjoyable scenery. It is 277 miles in length, 4 to 18 miles in width, and about a mile deep. Scientists believe that the canyon was created by the Colorado River over a six million year period.

    The Grand Canyon

    canyon_viewpoint

    Native Americans built settlements in the caves within the canyon before the emigration of Europeans. It was also considered to be a site of pilgrimage by the Pueblo people. The first recorded visit to the Grand Canyon by the Europeans was in 1869. Although it is not the deepest canyon in the world, it is known for its extremely large size and beautifully intricate landscape. The Grand Canyon National Park is said to be one of the first national parks in the United States and it attracts more than five million visitors a year. Weather conditions in the Grand Canyon vary greatly between seasons as well as varying at different elevations. While winter snow is experienced by the higher forested rims, the inner gorge has a desert temperature because of the low elevation.

    The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

    One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia is the world’s largest coral reef. It has the distinction of being placed in the World Heritage as well as the National Heritage lists.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Great Barrier Reef

    Great Barrier Reef

    With more than 600 islands and coral cays, the reef covers more than 300,000 sq. km. Corals make up the reefs and cays and are responsible for a huge variety of sea life in the reef — green turtles, several varieties of whales and dolphins, the dugong, about 4000 types of mollusks, 1500 different species of fish, as well as beautifully colored bird life encompassing at least 200 species. The Great Reef Marine Park is a huge tourist attraction with millions of tourists visiting the area each year. Sporting activities include reef sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling, amongst others.

    Cape Town, South Africa

    Aptly called “Heaven on earth,” this beautiful town at the tip of the African continent, with small roads surrounded by huge mountains, makes a person feel small; showing how marvelous and dominating nature can actually be.

    Cape Town at Night

    Cape Town

    Cape Town

    The Cape Dutch style buildings depict the architectural heritage of the place. Beauty abounds in the black clouds that seem to pay homage to Table Mountain at all times. Cape Point, Signal Hill, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Robben Island, Rhodes Memorial, and the beaches are some of the famous tourist attractions. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town is famous for its natural floral kingdom as well as its harbor. This town is one of the most popular tourist attractions of South Africa with its wine tasting day trips, whale watching, and dolphin watching.

    Taj Mahal, India

    The Taj Mahal in India is one of the wonders of the world and is one of the most beautiful mausoleums constructed by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his favorite queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Located in Agra, white marble was used in the construction of this symbol of love, and the Taj Mahal is considered to be the pinnacle of Mughal architecture.

    Taj Mahal

    Taj Mahal

    Taj Mahal

    As the story goes, the emperor was grief-stricken when he lost his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It took thousands of craftsmen and artisans, and about twenty years to construct it. The masons, stone cutters, carvers, inlayers, calligraphers, painters, and others were brought from throughout the entire empire as well as from Iran and Central Asia. Semi-precious stones were used for inlay ornamentation. It later became the mausoleum of Shah Jahan too. This is a huge tourist attraction with one to two million tourists visiting it every year.

    Canadian Rockies, Canada

    The majestic Canadian Rockies are the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains. They are a visitor’s wonderland and the playground for western Canada. They are older than the American Rockies and are formed from over thrusting.

    Canadian Rockies

    Canadian Rockies to Moraine Lake

    Glacier at Canadian Rockies

    The Canadian Rockies house five national parks, and four of those national parks (along with other provincial parks) combine to form a single UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of beautiful mountain landscapes, lakes, canyons, waterfalls, glaciers, peaks, limestone caves, and fossils. Mount Robson is the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies and climbing it is considered a challenge. These beautiful mountains are a haven for hikers and walkers alike.

    Machu Picchu, Peru

    Machu Picchu in Peru, which means ‘Old Peak,” is one of the most enigmatic ancient sites in the world. According to legend, Machu Picchu was long ago considered to be a sacred place. The credit for the creation of the extraordinary city goes to the Inca people who have erected many stone structures and turned the place into a work of art.

    Machu Picchu

    Machu Picchu

    Machu Picchu

    Two thousand feet above the Urubamba river, these ruins consist of baths, temples, palaces, and about 150 houses, all very well preserved. These gray granite structures, some of which weigh more than 50 tons, are so perfectly sculpted that they are nothing less than works of architectural genius. They were rediscovered by a Yale archaeologist in 1911. The ethereal beauty, workmanship, and history of the place attracts millions of tourists each year.

    The Pyramids, Egypt

    The Egyptian pyramids are massive monuments with a square base and four triangular sides rising up to a point. There is still a lot of curiosity (and many theories) as to how the pyramids were actually constructed.

    Egypt

    Egyptian Pyramids

    Pyramids of Egypt

    sphinx_and_pyramids

    It is generally believed that the Egyptians began constructing them after 2700 B.C. and that they were built as tombs for the pharaohs. The most well-known (and the largest) pyramids of Egypt are the Pyramids at Giza which are said to be the largest ever built. It’s said that the Great Pyramid at Giza took 23 years to complete, using a work force of around 30,000 people. About 118 pyramids have been identified, and they are popular and intriguing to tourists and home researchers alike.

    Petra, Jordan

    Described by the UNESCO as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”, Petra is an archeological site on the slope of Mount Hor. It is one of the new wonders of the world and is famous for its rock-cut architecture.

    Petra

    Petra

    Petra Attraction

    Ed Deir Petra

    This site was kept hidden until 1812 when it was discovered by a Swiss explorer. It was said to have been prepared by God for the Jewish people. Petra once flourished under the Roman empire but a rapid decline began with the Arabian trade being taken elsewhere. Then an earthquake caused a great deal of destruction. Tourists frequent the place to get a glimpse of the ruins of this beautiful city.

    Great Wall of China, China

    One of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China is a man-made structure that was constructed over two thousand years ago and took about 100 years to complete. The vastness of this project brings to light the immense capabilities of man.

    Great Wall of China

    Great Wall of China

    Great Wall of China

    The constructions started in the 5th Century B.C. It is actually not a single wall, but rather many walls put together, and it stretches over 4,000 miles. It was constructed to protect the Chinese Empire from the Xiongnu people in the north. The wall was initially built of stone, grass, earth, and wood, but bricks were used once the production started. It is believed that about 2-3 million Chinese died during the construction project.

    The Iguazu Waterfalls, Argentina-Brazil Border

    Heralded as the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, the Iguazu Waterfalls are a true wonder of nature. They are located at the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. While the Argentinean side allows visitors to walk right around the water or explore the National Park, the Brazilian side is known for its panoramic views and splendor.

    The Iguazu Waterfalls

    The Iguazu Waterfalls

    The Iguazu Waterfalls

    First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is believed to have exclaimed upon seeing these falls, “poor Niagara.” The area surrounding the falls provides ample opportunities for rock climbing as well as water sports. Iguazu has the distinction of having a greater annual flow than any other waterfall in the world.

    With all of these, and many more beautiful places that exist in our world, we surrounded by choices. The only way to decide on the places to visit is to follow your heart. While some may love the tranquility of water, others may bury themselves deep in architectural miracles, ancient sites, or the serenity of a small town.

    Billboard CD reviews: Katy Perry, Trace Adkins

    5 Sep

     

    ARTIST: KATY PERRY

    ALBUM: TEENAGE DREAM

    NEW YORK (Billboard) – Don’t be fooled by the first two singles and the candy-covered “California Gurls” video: Katy Perry’s second album, “Teenage Dream,” is not all sugar and rainbows. Two years after “One of the Boys,” the hit-loaded debut that made her a star, Perry is tempering all that innocent light with a bit of more experienced dark. Tracks like the delectable “Gurls,” “The One That Got Away” and “Teenage Dream” have more texture than anything on “Boys,” conjuring the high school fairy tale promised by the album title. But “E.T.,” “Who Am I Living For?” and “Circle the Drain” get heavier sonically and lyrically, with a boom-boom-pow electro punch and Perry discussing more toxic relationships. With a co-writing credit on every track, she name-checks biblical heroine Esther and classic novel “Of Mice and Men” and uses pearls and pyramids as metaphors. But this new depth shouldn’t surprise; for all the pomp and watermelon costumes, Perry is primarily a smart and personal pop songwriter. And “Teenage Dream” shows — in carefully selected spots — that she’s ready to grow up.

    ARTIST: TRACE ADKINS

    ALBUM: COWBOY’S BACK IN TOWN (Show Dog/Universal)

    The country veteran’s first album for Toby Keith’s Show Dog label seems well suited to Keith’s manly-man worldview. After offering up “Hold My Beer” and “This Ain’t No Love Song,” Trace Adkins closes “Cowboy’s Back in Town” with a plain-talking ditty called “Whoop a Man’s Ass,” in which he admits that the high road isn’t always his preferred route. Truth be told, Adkins’ ninth studio disc contains its fair share of thoughtful sensitivity, too: It’s demonstrated in “Still Love You,” where the former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant describes a devotion longer-lived than the moon or the ocean, and “Break Her Fall,” a finely observed account of an angel’s helpless attraction to “a long-haired country boy.” (Think “Wings of Desire” crossed with “Splash.”) The album’s liveliest cut is the delightfully titled “Ala-Freakin-Bama,” which recalls the hard-rocking boisterousness of Big & Rich. “I grew up on Skynyrd, and I’m a Bear Bryant fan,” Adkins sings. Yep, sounds about right.

    ARTIST: WEEZER

    ALBUM: HURLEY (Epitaph Records)

    “Hurley,” the veteran alt-rock band’s speedy follow-up to last year’s “Raditude,” should mollify old-school Weezer fans horrified by that album’s oddball forays into shiny top 40 territory. Instead of punching up his tunes with help from the likes of Dr. Luke and Lil Wayne, here frontman Rivers Cuomo emphasizes Weezer’s core values: fuzzy guitars, catchy melodies and self-pitying lyrics. “That’s the story of our lives,” he sings at one point, “We are trainwrecks.” Not that “Hurley” — which was named after either the clothing company or the “Lost” character, depending on which member of the band you’re talking to — is entirely free of Cuomo’s well-known eccentric streak. The song “Unspoken” features a cameo from smooth-jazz saxophonist Greg Vail (on flute, no less), while peppy lead single “Memories” contains at least one surprising reminiscence (“Watching all the freaky Dutch kids vomit and then have sex”). But as the band’s first disc for Epitaph after a 15-year major-label run, the stripped-down “Hurley” mostly delivers what you’d expect.

    ARTIST: LITTLE BIG TOWN

    ALBUM: THE REASON WHY (Capitol Nashville)

    The star of any Little Big Town album is the harmonizing, a four-part treat that’s offered in abundance on the group’s latest release, “The Reason Why.” The openings to “Why, Oh Why” and “All the Way Down” approach a cappella and are so tight and melodious that it’s easy to get stuck on those two parts alone. But “The Reason Why” boasts plenty of other reasons to recommend it. The 12-track set plows some new ground for Little Big Town, from the way Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook’s duet intertwines with the group harmonies on the title track to the traditional country flavor of “You Can’t Have Everything” and the bluegrass tinge on “Little White Church.” “Life Rolls On,” “Runaway Train” and “All the Way Down” are buoyant bursts of joy, while “Kiss Goodbye,” “Shut Up Train” and “Rain on a Tin Roof” are bona fide heartstring shredders.

    ARTIST: RA RA RIOT

    ALBUM: THE ORCHARD (Barsuk Records)

    Syracuse, N.Y.-based rock act Ra Ra Riot has been tiptoeing around the cusp of major fame since the release of its 2008 debut, “The Rhumb Line.” The quintet’s follow-up, “The Orchard,” is a polished effort that blends syncopated pop beats with a sophisticated string section. Lead vocalist Wes Miles really stretches his pipes on the set, pushing it to an even higher register on tracks like “Massachusetts” and “Foolish.” Elsewhere, cellist Alexandra Lawn takes the lead on “You and I Know,” where her smoky-voiced delivery creates a welcome change from other material on the set. Popping drum rhythms and Miles’ sharp vocals drive the tune “Boy” to full speed, while Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller drench it with melancholy accompaniment. Ra Ra Riot also does a fine job of juxtaposing slow-paced folk (the title track) with danceable rhythms (“Too Dramatic”). The set might not be as catchy as Ra Ra Riot’s well-received debut, but fans should appreciate the band’s musical growth.

    ARTIST: !!!

    ALBUM: STRANGE WEATHER, ISN’T IT? (Warp Records)

    !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk) makes music for the body. The California dance-punk outfit’s slick bass lines, pounding polyrhythms and uncomplicated lyrics make it easy to shut off your brain and lose yourself in the grooves. Its 2007 album, “Myth Takes,” included some memorable dance jams. But on its latest release, “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?,” the band wholeheartedly commits to upbeat movement. The track “The Most Certain Sure” combines Talking Heads-esque guitar licks with a sweaty techno beat, while “Jump Back” uses a sinister undercurrent to expand the album’s lighthearted aesthetic. !!! hopscotches across multiple styles, but Nic Offer’s deep, breathy vocals give the group a defining sense of danger that similar acts like the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem lack. “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” is not life-altering fare, but the album’s 40 minutes of club-approved funk-rock signals another noteworthy entry in the band’s discography.

    ARTIST: APOCALYPTICA

    ALBUM: 7TH SYMPHONY (Jive Records)

    Finnish orchestral metal band Apocalyptica’s latest studio album is befitting of its title; “7th Symphony” is the seventh symphonic offering from the classically trained cellists and percussionist. This time around, the act boasts even more impressive instrumentation than 2007’s “Worlds Collide.” The 10-track album contains strong guest vocals by Bush’s Gavin Rossdale, Shinedown’s Brent Smith and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, but the instrumentals are just as gripping. The set opens with “At the Gates of Manala,” the first of five instrumental tracks that make up half of the set. Later, Rossdale lays an anthemic chorus over descending power chords and cello injections on the first single, “End of Me,” while “2010” (featuring Lombardo) opens with an eerie-sounding cello and guitar before sliding into grandiose metal percussion. With production by Joe Barresi (Coheed and Cambria, Queens of the Stone Age) and Howard Benson (Three Days Grace, My Chemical Romance), Apocalyptica continues to impress with its unique ability to meld classical with metal.

    Google pays $8.5m to settle Buzz privacy invasion suit

    5 Sep

    Google has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit claiming it violated the privacy of Gmail users when it released Google Buzz, a Gmail bolt-on that turned the email service into a Tweetbookish social networking tool.

    The suit in question consolidates several civil cases filed against the company over Google Buzz, which was rolled out to all Gmail users in February – before it had been publicly tested. By default, Buzz automatically exposed users’ most frequent Gmail contacts to the public internet. You did have the option of hiding the list from the public view, but many complained that the checkbox that let you do so was less than prominently displayed.

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    Within days, Google agreed to move the checkbox to a more prominent position, and it rejiggered the way it handles user contacts. But this didn’t prevent a spate of lawsuits.

    In settling the consolidated case, Google will create an $8.5 million fund that will be used to distribute awards to organizations focused on internet privacy or privacy education. It will also be used to pay the lawyers and class representatives – i.e. the people who sued.

    Clearly, Google is desperate to challenge the Facebooks of the world with a widely used social networking service of its own, which would expand its its efforts to collect data on users that can then be used to target ads. But like Orkut before it, Buzz hasn’t exactly achieved that goal – just judging from anecdotal evidence. Google has not said, however, how many people actually use the service.

    World's priciest food and drink

    5 Sep

    At US$25,000 this chocolate sundae is the world’s most expensive dessert. But how can an ice cream cost so much and what else is out there for people with expensive tastes?

    Most expensive food and drink

    The Frrozen Haute, shown in the photo to the left, is rated by Guinness as the world’s most expensive dessert. Costing US$25,000, it was created by Stephen Bruce, the owner of Manhattan restaurant Serendipity 3, and luxury jeweller Euphoria New York.

    It contains 14 of the most expensive and exotic cocoas from across the world, 0.2 ounces of edible 23-carat gold, and a side of La Madeline au Truffe (described as “the most extravagant chocolate in the world”) from Knipschildt Chocolatier, which sells for US$2,600 a pound.
    You eat it with a gold spoon decorated with white- and chocolate-coloured diamonds and there’s an 18-carat gold bracelet with one carat of white diamonds around the base — both of which you get to keep.

    However, it’s not the only edible item that costs thousands of dollars. We take a look at some of the world’s priciest food and booze.