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Monday, December 30, 2013

LYRICS: Natalie Maines - Free Life


Natalie Maines - Free Life

Let's take a little trip down where we used to go
It's way beyond the strip, a place they call your soul
We'll sit down for a while and let the evening roll

Don't worry about the time, we'll find a place to stay
The people 'round here seem familiar in some way
Look kind of like we did before we got so cold

And in the air the questions hang
Will we get to do something?
Who we gonna end up being?
How we gonna end up feeling?
What you gonna spend your free life on?
Free life

Let's fall in love again with music as our guide
We'll raise our ready hands and let go for the ride
Down into unknown lands where lovers meet and hide

We got these lives for free, we don't know where they've been
We don't know where they'll go when we are through with them
The starlight of the sun, the dark side of the moon

And in the air the questions hang
Will we get to do something?
Who we gonna end up being?
How we gonna end up feeling?
What you gonna spend your free life on?
Free life, free life, free life

It seems so long ago, those empty afternoons
With nowhere much to go and nothing much to do
But sit up in my room and let the world unfold

And in the air the questions hang
Will we get to do something?
Who we gonna end up being?
How we gonna end up feeling?
What you gonna spend your free life on?

In the air the questions hang
Will we get to do some, do something?
End up being
How we gonna end up feeling?
What you gonna spend your free life on?
Free life, free life, free life, free life

Monday, December 23, 2013

NEWS: Joint Statement Between Mongolia and Thailand

Originally posted by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 29, 2013

Introduction

At the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Norovyn Altankhuyag, Prime Minister of Mongolia, Her Excellency Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, paid an official visit to Mongolia from 27 to 29 April 2013 and attended, as Guest of Honour, the opening session of the 7th Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies at the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia.

During the visit, Prime Minister Yingluck called on President Elbegdorj and His Excellency Mr. Zandaakhuugiin Enkhbold, the Speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia, and had a bilateral discussion with Prime Minister Altankhuyag.

A New Chapter

The two Prime Ministers shared the view that the visit, the first ever by a Thai Prime Minister, marks the opening of a new chapter in Mongolia-Thailand relations.

Prime Minister Yingluck commended Mongolia for the remarkable progress made in building a democratic society, a free market economy and for its recent achievements in economic and social development. Prime Minister Yingluck also applauded Mongolia’s active foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region and international fora. The Thai Prime Minister also reaffirmed the Royal Thai Government’s commitment to deepening ties of friendship with Mongolia.

Laying Down Frameworks for Future Cooperation

The two Prime Ministers witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of Mongolia on the establishment of the “Consultative Body on Bilateral Cooperation” and the Agreement between the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Ministry of Education and Science of Mongolia on Cooperation in the Fields of Science and Technology, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking of Thailand.

Increasing High-level Exchanges

The two Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction the increased high-level exchanges between the two countries in recent years. In particular, the Royal Visits of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to Mongolia and the visits of the President and the Prime Minister of Mongolia to Thailand, respectively, have significantly reinforced the momentum for cooperation between the two countries.

Both sides agreed to promote the exchanges of visits at all levels, particularly between the government leaders, ministers, parliamentarians and senior officials.

Expanding Bilateral Trade and Investment

The two Prime Ministers agreed that the two countries hold tremendous economic potential for each other as market, source of imports, investment destination and tourist destination.

Both sides agreed to double the volume of their bilateral trade in the next three years (2014-2017). With a view to realizing their bilateral trade target, they also agreed to conclude the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Mongolia and Thailand in the near future.

Prime Minister Altankhuyag expressed his appreciation for the presence of Thai investors in Mongolia and expressed his wishes to see Thai companies further explore investment opportunities in Mongolia in the areas of mining, agriculture, food processing, healthcare, tourism, and energy.

Both leaders acknowledged that the Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments is one of the most important legal instruments in promoting investment between the two countries. Both leaders looked forward to the conclusion of the Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of Mongolia for the Promotion and Protection of Investments.

Continuing Technical Cooperation

Prime Minister Altankhuyag expressed gratitude for the contribution made by the Government of Thailand during Mongolia’s transitional development period through technical assistance and various training programs. The Mongolian side further noted that Thailand’s assistance is crucial to Mongolia at this stage of rapid economic development.

Prime Minister Yingluck also reaffirmed the Thai Government's commitment to continuing technical cooperation with Mongolia through the Thailand International Development Agency (TICA), other relevant Thai agencies, the private sector and academic institutions.

Enhancing Public Awareness and Cultural Cooperation

The two Prime Ministers recognized the need to promote greater awareness and understanding between the peoples of Thailand and Mongolia. Both leaders therefore agreed that the two countries will intensify efforts to promote exchanges at all levels and utilize all frameworks of interaction including Sister-City Relations between Bangkok and Ulaanbaatar, Parliamentary Friendship Groups, and the Mongolia-Thailand Society for Economic Cooperation. Both leaders noted the shared cultural similarities, Buddhist belief and traditions, and historical links. Both leaders agreed that the two countries should take the opportunity of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2014 to organize cultural and educational activities in their respective countries.

Intensifying Regional and Multilateral Cooperation

Recognizing their shared values, the two Prime Ministers agreed to work together to promote democracy, human rights, environmental conservation, and the empowerment of women; tackle the scourges of terrorism, drugs and transnational organized crimes; as well as to work together in various UN peace-keeping missions.

At the regional level, the Thai Prime Minister noted Mongolia’s interest in joining the East Asia Summit, becoming a dialogue partner of ASEAN, as well as a member economy of the APEC. The Thai Prime Minister also welcomed the appointment of the first Mongolian Ambassador to ASEAN.

On the Mongolian part, Prime Minister Altankhuyag praised Thailand’s initiative to host the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit, under the theme “Water Security: Leadership and Commitment,” and appreciates the cordial invitation extended to the President to attend the event. The Mongolian side promised to dispatch a high-level delegation to attend the Summit.

At the international level, Prime Minister Yingluck congratulated Mongolia on its successful Chairmanship of the Community of Democracies (CD) for 2011-2013 and expressed support for the CD Presidency’s priorities, including education for democracy and regional cooperation. Thailand applauds the Asian Partnership Initiative for Democracy (APID) as a framework to strengthen democratic values in the region and appreciates Mongolia’s invitation to consider joining the APID.

The Prime Ministers exchanged views and agreed to give due positive consideration with respect to each other’s bids and candidatures for positions in the UN and its system organizations, as well as other various international organizations.

Future Directions and Next Steps

The two Prime Ministers agreed to work closely through the newly established mechanism and all channels of communication to ensure concrete outcomes of bilateral cooperation in the years to come.

In this regard, Prime Minister Altankhuyag welcomed Thailand’s proposal to host the first meeting of the “Consultative Body on Bilateral Cooperation” in Thailand next year. The Prime Minister of Mongolia also accepted the Thai Prime Minister’s invitation to pay an official visit to Thailand next year as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Mongolia.



Definition List:
  • to pay a visit: to visit someone or something
  • bilateral: involving two groups of people or two countries
  • to mark: to be a sign that something new is going to happen
  • chapter: a period of time in a person's life or in history
  • remarkable: unusual or surprising in a way that causes people to take notice
  • to applaud: to express praise for somebody/something because you approve of them or it
  • deepening: becoming stronger
  • ties: a strong connection between people or organizations
  • memorandum: a proposal or report on a particular subject for a person, an organization, a committee, etc
  • Memorandum of Understanding: A memorandum of understanding (MOU or MoU) is a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties
  • noted: to notice or pay careful attention to something
  • momentum: the ability to keep increasing or developing
  • realizing: to achieve something important that you very much want to do
  • to reaffirm: to state something again in order to emphasize that it is still true
  • to promote: to help something to happen or develop
  • to tackle: to make a determined effort to deal with a difficult problem or situation
  • scourge: a person or thing that causes trouble or suffering
  • cordial: pleasant and friendly
  • dispatch: to send somebody/something somewhere, especially for a special purpose
  • mechanism: a method or a system for achieving something
  • channel: a method or system that people use to get information, to communicate, or to send something somewhere
Pronunciation MP3:
= paid
= bilateral
= chapter
= remarkable
= applaud
= deepen
= memorandum
= noted
= momentum
= realize
= reaffirm
= promote
= tackle
= scourge
= cordial
= dispatch
= mechanism
= channel

Monday, December 16, 2013

How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps

Originally posted on HuffingtonPost.com on Sept 20, 2013



The covers of most men's and women's magazines have similar headlines: "Get Great Abs" and "Have Amazing Sex."

From the looks of it, these two issues have been recycled over and over (with some other stereotypically gender-relevant articles thrown in) on every Men's Health, Maxim, Cosmopolitan and Glamour cover since the dawn of time. In fact, I'd bet that if we could get a better translation of cave drawings, they would read something like "Grok get flat belly. Make girl Grok moan with joy."

And we keep buying them. We keep buying this lie that these things will make us happy. I've had washboard abs (past tense) and I've had some pretty phenomenal sex. Neither one made me a better person. Neither one completed me or made my life more fulfilling.

We chase this idea of "I will be happy when... "

I will be happy when I have a new car. I will be happy when I get married. I will be happy when I get a better job. I will be happy when I lose five pounds. What if instead we choose to be happy -- right now?

If you can read this, your life is pretty awesome.

Setting aside our first-world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and WiFi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here's the thing: You are alive.

Because you are alive, everything is possible. So about those eight tips...

1. Stop believing your bullshit.

All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It's bullshit, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14 year olds at heart. We're all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we've tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, childlike sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the bullshit.

2. Be happy now.

Not because The Secret says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It's a small, significant shift in perspective. It's easier to look at what's wrong or missing in our lives and believe that is the big picture -- but it isn't. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.

3. Look at the stars.

It won't fix the economy. It won't stop wars. It won't give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it's important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. I do it daily -- it helps.

4. Let people in.

Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you're depressed -- or you're happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half way. Go all in -- it's worth it.

5. Stop with the crazy making.

I got to a friend's doorstep the other day, slightly breathless and nearly in tears after getting a little lost, physically and existentially. She asked what was wrong and I started to explain and then stopped myself and admitted, "I'm being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head." Life is full of obstacles; we don't need to create extra ones. A great corollary to this one is from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Don't take things personally. Most of the time, other people's choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you've been behaving like a jerk, in which case...

6. Learn to apologize.

Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do (what's up with that, anyway?). The ability to sincerely apologize -- without ever interjecting the word "but" -- is an essential skill for living around other human beings. If you are going to be around other people, eventually you will need to apologize. It's an important practice.

7. Practice gratitude.

Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. I saw a photo recently, of a girl in abject poverty, surrounded by filth and destruction. Her face was completely lit up with joy and gratitude as she played with a hula hoop she'd been given. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe; as I mentioned with looking up at the stars, it's that sense of wonder and humility, contrasted with celebrating our connection to all of life.

8. Be kind.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best (though admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly -- I am not a Vonnegut fan): "There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'"

Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can't save the whole world. I can't bring peace to Syria. I can't fix the environment or the health care system, and from the looks of it, I may end up burning my dinner.

But I can be kind.

If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better.

That's a hell of a lot more important than flat abs in my book.

Previously published on Be You Media Group.
For more by Kate Bartolotta, click here.
For more on happiness, click here.



Definition List:
  • headline: the title of a newspaper article printed in large letters, especially at the top of the front page
  • to recycle: to use the same ideas, methods, jokes, etc. again
  • to buy: to believe that something is true, especially something that is not very likely
  • washboard abs (6-pack abs): abdominal muscles with no fat so individual muscles can be seen (which looks like a washboard that is used to wash clothes)
  • phenomenal: very great or impressive
  • to chase: to try to obtain or achieve something, for example money, work or success
  • awesome: very impressive
  • pettiness: caring too much about small and unimportant matters, especially when this is unkind to other people
  • -phobe: a person who dislikes or is afraid of a particular thing or particular people
  • bullshit, crap: nonsense
  • insecure: not confident about yourself or your relationships with other people
  • to tuck [something] away: to hide something somewhere or keep it in a safe place
  • to tack [something] on: to add something to something that already exists
  • to bury: to hide something
  • significant: large or important enough to have an effect or to be noticed
  • to shift: to change from one state, position, etc. to another
  • lack: not having something or not having enough of something
  • infinitesimally: extremely small
  • conversely: in a way that is the opposite or reverse of something
  • vast: extremely large in area, size, amount, etc.
  • truly: used to emphasize that a particular description is accurate or correct
  • existentially: connected with human existence
  • obstacle: a situation, an event, etc. that makes it difficult for you to do or achieve something
  • corollary: a situation, an argument or a fact that is the natural and direct result of another one
  • jerk: a stupid person who often says or does the wrong thing
  • ridiculous: very silly or unreasonable
  • self-depreciating: done in a way that makes your own achievements or abilities seem unimportant
  • to nterject: to interrupt what somebody is saying with your opinion or a remark
  • gratitude: the feeling of being grateful and wanting to express your thanks
  • virtue: a particular good quality or habit
  • hula hoop: a large plastic ring that you spin around your waist by moving your hips
  • dividend: benefit from an action or policy
Pronunciation MP3:
= headline
= recycle
= washboard
= phenomenal
= chase
= awesome
= pettiness
= bullshit
= crap
= insecure
= tuck
= tack on
= significant
= shift
= lack
= infinitesimally
= conversely
= vast
= truly
= existential
= obstacle
= corollary
= jerk
= ridiculous
= interject
= gratitude
= virtue
= hula hoop
= dividend

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Find Happiness

Originally posted at Wisebread.com



Definition List:
  • relentlessly: refusing to give up or be less strict or severe
  • avarice: extreme desire for wealth
  • eccentric: considered by other people to be strange or unusual
  • subversive: trying or likely to destroy or damage a government or political system by attacking it secretly or indirect
  • resignation: a letter, for example to your employers, to say that you are giving up your job or position
  • ambition: something that you want to do or achieve very much
  • flake: a person who is strange or unusual or who forgets things easily
  • abandon: to leave somebody, especially somebody you are responsible for, with no intention of returning
  • potential: that can develop into something or be developed in the future
  • subtle: not very noticeable or obvious
  • guarantee: a firm promise that you will do something or that something will happen
Pronunciation MP3s:
= relentlessly
= avarice
= eccentric
= subversive
= resignation
= ambition
= flake
= abandon
= potential
= subtle
= guarantee

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mongolians bend over backwards to be world's top contortionists

Originally posted on CNN.com on September 6, 2013

As one woman in glittering Lycra gently bends her legs backwards over her head, another balances on top, slowly twisting her own limbs into a human pretzel.

They move as one -- a fantastical insect bewitching the Las Vegas crowds in Cirque Du Soleil's legendary stage show, called simply "O."

But despite their ethereal demeanor, each petite performer possesses a rare Herculean strength and snake-like flexibility. And almost all hail from one country: Mongolia.

"When you want a top baseball player, sometimes you look in America. Where we need a contortionist we look to Mongolia," said the show's artistic director, Sandi Croft.

"When they dance they have a natural flexibility, even in their folk dance. It is just part of their culture to have this extra bend in delivery with their movement."

Introducing the remarkable contortionists
of Cirque du Soleil's legendary Las Vegas Stage show, called "O."

Why Mongolia?

The bright lights of Las Vegas are a long way from the plains of Mongolia, a sparsely populated country bordering China and Russia.

But in the last 70 years, Mongolia has become a breeding ground for the world's top contortionists, who have performed everywhere from Russia's Bolshoi Theater to the Monte Carlo International Circus Festival.

Indeed, while other well-meaning parents around the world might send their little girls to ballet or piano lessons, in Mongolia they're more likely to drop them off at contortion school.

While Mongolian contortion has some similarities to ancient folk dances and yoga poses, it was the launch of the State Circus in the 1940s that saw it really take off as a professional art form.

When the contortion school's first official trainer, the now legendary Tsend-Ayush, began performing across the country, she quickly inspired a generation of girls hoping to quite literally mold themselves in her likeness.
By eight years old I could do most of the technical moves -- I was considered a professional. - Nomintuya Baasankhuu, former contortionist
One of those children was then-eight-year-old Angelique Janov, now the trainer for Cirque du Soleil's "O."

"We'd never seen anything like Tsend-Ayush before," she said. "It was her combination of strong technical skills and the beautiful way she moved to the music -- she made it look so easy.

"After that, every little girl wanted to be a contortionist."

Of the show's 20 contortionists, almost all are women,
and almost all hail from one country: Mongolia.

Child's play

Of course, training to be a contortionist is far from easy. Students as young as five train for around three hours a day, five days a week. They build up their strength, flexibility and balance through various exercises such as handstands, splits, and push-ups.

"My homework was 300 push-ups a day," said 29-year-old Nomintuya Baasankhuu, former contortionist and Arts Program director at the Arts Council of Mongolia.

"It was intense. But by eight years old I could do most of the technical moves -- I was considered a professional."

There are some risks -- Baasankhuu suffered a knee injury after falling from a human tower three meters high. But many contortionists insist that much like any sport, it is safe if done properly.

"Contortion is not dangerous," said 63-year-old Cirque du Soleil trainer Janov. "It's like yoga -- if you're stretching every day you stay young."

The Cirque du Soleil contortionists train for up to three hours-a-day
in preparation for their spectacular show.

Naturally gifted?

Such rigorous training regimes have been a huge factor in the Mongolians' success around the world. But how much of a role does genetics play?

"Some people are naturally more flexible and this is often due to genetics -- if one of our parents is flexible, we're more likely to be flexible too," said Tim Allardyce of the British Osteopathic Association.

"That said, a naturally flexible person would not be able to get themselves into positions that contortionists can without extensive training -- it is only very gradually, over many months and years, that the ligaments and muscles lengthen, allowing the joints to become more mobile."

World of opportunity

For many youngsters in Mongolia, contortion is seen as more than simply a hobby -- it's a golden ticket to the world.

"Mongolian contortion is globally competitive -- today many performers work for Cirque du Soleil and other international circus companies," said Baasankhuu, who also researched the history of Mongolian contortion at the National University of Mongolia.

"That is why so many girls would like to become contortionists and travel around world and make living from it."

So what is it about these mysterious performers that continues to beguile audiences across the world?

Janov perhaps summed up their allure best: "It's the realization that an individual can do things that seem impossible."



Definition List:

  • glittering: shining brightly with many small flashes of light
  • pretzel: a crisp salty biscuit in the shape of a knot or stick, often served with drinks at a party
  • to bewitch: to attract or impress somebody so much that they cannot think in a sensible way
  • ethereal: extremely delicate and light; seeming to belong to another, more spiritual, world
  • demeanor: the way that somebody looks or behaves
  • petite: small and thin
  • Herculean: needing a lot of strength, determination or effort = From the Greek myth in which Hercules proved his courage and strength by completing twelve very difficult tasks.
  • contortionist: a performer who can twist their body out of its natural shape to entertain others
  • to mold: to shape a soft substance into a particular form
  • splits: an act of leaping in the air or sitting down with the legs straight and at right angles to the upright body, one in front and the other behind, or one at each side.
  • spectacular: very impressive
  • rigorous: done carefully and with a lot of attention to detail
  • regime: a method or system of organizing or managing something
  • to beguile: to attract or interest somebody
  • allure: the quality of being attractive and exciting
Pronunciation MP3s:
= glitter
= pretzel
= bewitch
= ethereal
= demeanor
= petite
= Herculean
= contortionist
= mold
= split
= spectacular
= rigorous
= regime
= beguile
= allure