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The Weekend Links

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"¢ A great green initiative: amazing urban art utilizing plants, grass and moss.

"¢ From Dawn, have some fun with Google by typing the following phrases and clicking on "I'm Feeling Lucky" (seriously fun stuff—I'm going to make the black background search engine my new homepage): elgoog, google goth, google black, google fudd, google pig latin, google 1337, google linux, google klingon, and of course, google chuck norris.

"¢ Danish artist Peter Callesen creates beautiful pieces of art using only a single piece of paper. Some of our Flossy Readers are pretty talented with paper art themselves.

"¢ Here's this week's video from Michael Caruso at The Daily Tube ("The Best New Videos on the Web").

"¢ What do Paris Hilton, Kate Winslet, the native New Zealand bird the Pukeko, and yours truly have in common? We all have big feet. An energy commercial from New Zealand features these big-footed creatures (the Pukeko that is, not Paris and Kate) with adorable results.

"¢ The Washington City Paper recently featured an article about a chef who came to a staff writer's home to sift through his pantry and create an amazing meal with whatever he found. To do this for yourself, try Cookin' with Google—it can help sort out what to make for dinner by asking you to list the assortment of goods and leftovers in your kitchen.

"¢ Jason apologizes for yesterday's lack of a Friday Happy Hour. He has no good excuse, but several mediocre ones (internet problems, accompanying his wife to a doctor's appointment, heavy rain). The Happy Hour will be back next week.

"¢ We've all seen Power of 10 animations, but here's a cool site that lets you manipulate it for yourself. Go from the Milky Way to the subatomic level of a simple leaf, a journey from one end of the spectrum to the other as far as we can fathom (Thanks Paul!)

"¢ With the economy hitting rock bottom, frugality is key. But that doesn't mean you can't still take vacations ... just be smart about them. Consider then the European Sewer Safari, and this helpful guide on how to find some fantastic filth.

"¢ Speaking of saving cash; if you're trying to do so by not eating out, yet still crave those delicious foods from your favorite restaurants, check out this link to Top Secret Recipes (http://www.topsecretrecipes.com/home.asp); a guide to duplicating some of your favorite dishes.

"¢ From Angie: "I've had two friends work in Antarctica. They both have done 2-3 summers there and one of them did an entire winter as well. It's tough not seeing the sun for a couple of months. Anyway, one of them sent me a link to the NPR story on Antarctica and said that it was an accurate account of the place. Since most people don't know anything about Antarctica, I thought I'd pass it on." Discover for yourself!

"¢ Some seriously AMAZING cakes that I don't think I could ever eat for fear of messing 'em up! But it would seem a shame to let them go to waste ...

"¢ This might be right up the alley of some of you Flossers (I know it makes me want to take up the cause): One man's valiant attempts to right the typo wrongs across America. Scroll through his picture gallery to see what good he's done so far.

"¢ God forbid ... what if life was really like Facebook? A hilarious and spot-on clip from England. (Here's the obligatory mention of the mental_floss Facebook page.)

"¢ From Celeste: if you think your job's the pits, try working for one of these fictional companies from TV. I just started season 2 of Lost (I know, I'm JUST catching up), and I have to say that so far, I still might take my chances with the Dharma initiative. But what's up with that Doomsday button? Don't tell me!

"¢ In case you missed any wisdom from special guest blogger Patricia O'Conner's, here's a recap. Yesterday: Five Lessons in Punctuation. Wednesday: Five Lessons in Grammar. Tuesday: Debunking Etymological Myths. Monday: Debunking Grammar Myths.

"¢ I don't know about you guys, but I for one have a had a long and tiresome week. Here's a good way to end it: a beautiful and soothing time lapse video of cherry blossom trees in Brooklyn.

You guys have been fantastic about sending in links! Keep it up! Send all pictures, links and shameless plugs to FlossyLinks@gmail.com. Have a fantastic weekend!

[Last Weekend's Links]

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The Brain Chemistry Behind Your Caffeine Boost
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Whether it’s consumed as coffee, candy, or toothpaste, caffeine is the world’s most popular drug. If you’ve ever wondered how a shot of espresso can make your groggy head feel alert and ready for the day, TED-Ed has the answer.

Caffeine works by hijacking receptors in the brain. The stimulant is nearly the same size and shape as adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down neural activity. Adenosine builds up as the day goes on, making us feel more tired as the day progresses. When caffeine enters your system, it falls into the receptors meant to catch adenosine, thus keeping you from feeling as sleepy as you would otherwise. The blocked adenosine receptors also leave room for the mood-boosting compound dopamine to settle into its receptors. Those increased dopamine levels lead to the boost in energy and mood you feel after finishing your morning coffee.

For a closer look at how this process works, check out the video below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Live Smarter
5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.

1. EASE INTO THE HABIT.

If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.

2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING.

Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.

3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM IDEAL FOR SLEEP.

Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”

4. TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY WIND DOWN.

Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.

5. GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF LIGHT.

Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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