Tuesday, August 26, 2014

15 Facts You Didn't Know About Robin Williams

Actor, comedian and screen legend Robin Williams has died aged 63.

As tributes continue to pour in for the Oscar winner, here are eight facts you probably never knew about this comic genius…

1. Robin Williams first achieved international fame playing the alien Mork alongside Pam Dawber in the hit sitcom Mork and Mindy, which ran from 1978 until 1982.

When Robin Williams auditioned for the role of Mork from Ork on Happy Days (1974), producer Garry Marshall told him to sit down. Williams immediately sat on his head on the chair. Marshall hired him, saying that he was the only alien who auditioned.

The series was, in fact, a direct spin off of the longer running sitcom Happy Days. Williams appeared as Mork in the season five episode My Favorite Orkan in which he attempted to abduct Ritchie Cunningham (Ron Howard).

In 1979, Williams (now already a success in Mork and Mindy) made a return visit to Happy Days. As a prank, Williams ensured one episode of Mork and Mindy featured a character called Arnold Wanker.

2. As with many comedians, Williams’ humor stemmed from an unhappy childhood.

He was grossly overweight as a boy and voted ‘Least Likely to Succeed’ at High School although he was also voted ‘Most Humorous’.

3. When Williams was first starting out, he performed as a mime outside New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to make money.

4. Steven Spielberg hired Williams to entertain cast and crew during the notoriously grueling shoot for the harrowing Holocaust drama Schindler’s List.

Williams was otherwise not involved in the film, but his relentless ad-libbing provided a much needed boost to morale between shots.

5. Williams played a huge number of diverse roles in his Hollywood career.

Including everything from a starring role in a live action version of the cartoon Popeye, elderly bald US President Eisenhower in the recent The Butler (2013), Peter Pan himself in Hook (1991) and the voice of a hologram of a scientist in Steven Spielberg’s AI (2001).

6. Robin Williams improvised most of Genie for "Aladdin."

Apparently, the Academy Awards rejected the bid for "Aladdin" in the Best Adapted Screenplay category because so much of Williams role ended up being improvised. According to producer and director John Musker, Williams ended up improvising about 70 impressions to be used in the film as well. In a Reddit AMA, Williams explained: “Initially they came in and I was just doing the scripted lines and I asked 'Do you mind if I try something?' and then 18 hours of recording later, they had the genie. I just started playing, and they said "just go with it, go with it, go with it." So I improvised the character. I think that in the end, there were something like 40 different voices that I did for that role”.

Williams was known for improvising most of his iconic roles in some way or another.

7. Williams and Robert De Niro were the last stars to see John Belushi alive, albeit on separate visits to Bungalow #3 of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles that fateful day in March 1982 when he died of a drug overdose.

8. Robin Williams dressed in scrubs and surprised his friend Christopher Reeve in the hospital following his career-ending accident.

Reeve and Williams became good friends when they both attended The Juilliard School together. Williams claimed at the time that Reeve was "literally feeding me because I don't think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn't come in yet, and he would share his food with me." In his book, "Still Me," Reeve wrote about Williams visiting him in the hospital:

Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately...it was Robin Williams...for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.

9. Williams received $20 million for his role in 1999’s Bicentennial Man.

Ironically, it is one of his worst films.

10. Robin Williams enjoyed cycling and occasionally trained with Lance Armstrong.

11. When “Blame Canada”, a song from South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999), was nominated for a Best Song Academy Award, it was Williams who performed the song at the ceremony because the actress who sang the song in the film, Mary Kay Bergman, had taken her own life a few months before the awards show.

12. Williams co-owned the Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco with Robert De Niro and fellow Bay area resident Francis Ford Coppola

13. Williams was nominated for four Oscars in his career for the films, Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Dead Poet’s Society (1989), The Fisher King (1991), and finally winning for Good Will Hunting (1997).

14. Asked by James Lipton about what he would like God to say when he arrives in heaven, Williams answered that “There is a seat in the front” in the concert of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elvis Presley.

15. In 1997, Robin Williams was voted ‘The Funniest Man Alive’.

Robin Williams: 1951-2014.

Sources and Additional Information:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

14 Natural Ways to Repel Mosquitoes

Bloodthirsty mosquitoes spread disease like the West Nile virus and cause major skin irritations, yet the most powerful insect repellents contain the chemical DEET, which may be responsible for insomnia, mood disturbances, epidermal reactions and impaired cognitive function. DEET melts some plastics, so perhaps putting it on your skin is not the best idea.

Yet you don’t have to choose between malaria or toxic chemicals. There are numerous natural bug repellents that work well and don’t melt nail polish – in fact, many of these natural insect sprays have been proven to work better than DEET, even in mosquito-thick regions like South East Asia. Try the following natural mosquito repellents and enjoy a summer season free from those pesky bug bites.

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1. Garlic

It would make sense that mosquitoes are related to vampires. The urban legends claim that all vampires hate garlic, and that is true for mini-vampires mosquitoes. Just eat lots of garlic, which is good for your health anyway. One clove a day probably won’t make much difference, but increasing your garlic intake substantially when entering mosquito heavy areas may repel the little buggers towards someone sweeter.

Definitely, there is a minor, but substantial drawback - gnarly breath.

2. Light covering clothing

Mosquitoes also have their visual preferences – they are attracted to dark clothing, so go light and save yourself few bites. Note that long-sleeved shirts and long pants will help to protect you from mosquitoes when you're outdoors. Covering your skin is a key approach to repelling mosquitoes.

3. Unscented toiletries

Mosquitoes love flowers and fruit, so if your shampoo smells like a mango wrapped in rose petals, you’re in trouble. Choose unscented products, skip the perfume and watch out for hidden scents in your hair products and laundry soap.

4. Deep relaxation

When you exercise, your body gives off carbon dioxide, lactic acid and moisture, and mosquitoes are attracted to your effort. Avoid exercise in mosquito-prone areas as possible, or just choose indoor activities for your workout.

5. Citronella candles

Made from the oil of citronella grass, the candles are characterized with the strong lemon smell, preserving the area of mosquitoes and other flying pests. Although citronella oil can also be used directly on the skin, the candles work best in combination with other natural repellent methods.

Drawbacks: The candles must be stationary, and the smoke is quite heavy.

6. Lemon eucalyptus oil

Together these natural essential oils combine to wallop the mosquitoes with a one-two punch. Providing natural protection from mosquitoes and other carnivorous bugs, lemon eucalyptus oil lasts longer than any other natural repellent (6 hours) and is tested to be better than DEET by Consumer Reports Magazine and the New England Journal of Medicine. You can easily purchase lemon and eucalyptus oils separately and mix them with your favorite lotion or sunscreen for customized mosquito protection, or purchase a pre-made mixture in a handy spray bottle like Repel.

Drawbacks: oily texture and pungent lemon smell.

7. Geranium, soybean and coconut oil

Found in a product called Bite Blocker, this unique blend of oils repels mosquitoes for about an hour and a half and ranked more effective that products with DEET in a recent study by the USDA. Available as a spray or lotion, this natural product has a sweet tropical scent and stays effective even in the water.

Drawbacks: Hard to find, must reapply often.

8. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has numerous benefits for your skin and hair and is a very powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal agent as well, but it is also perfect to drive mosquitoes away. So if you want to use this remedy you could either rub some tea tree oil on your skin or add a few drops of it to a vaporizer. This way the scent of tea tree oil permeates the air keeping mosquitoes at bay.

9. Listerine

This is uncommon use of the common product. Spray your lawn and deck floor with Listerine, and the mosquitoes magically disappear. Don't spray directly on a wood door (like your front door), but spray around the frame.

10. Fabric softener sheets

Rubbed onto the skin, the fabric softener sheets are known to protect you from mosquito bites for the full evening.

Drawback: There are people who might be allergic to rubbing these sheets onto the skin, so, use caution.

11. Parsley with vinegar

Crushed parsley mixed into a bottle of apple cider vinegar is also good for deterring mosquitoes. For best results, apply gentle rubbing of the mixture onto your skin, or soak a handkerchief in it to tie around your neck.

12. Dish of soapy water or glass of beer

If you're having an outdoor meal, you can keep mosquitoes away by placing a dish of water with some dish soap in a discreet place nearby. The mosquitoes will be attracted to the water source, and they'll get trapped in the soap bubbles and drown.

There is also alternative approach, which is quite controversial and may not be well accepted by some readers. Surprisingly, the mosquitoes are attracted to those who drink beer. So, placing cups filled with cheap-o lager around the meeting area would make great bait for the pests.

Drawback: Mosquitoes will still seek you out if you're drinking beer as well.

13. Use lighting that doesn't attract mosquitoes

Place LED lights around doorways, windows and porches. Mosquitoes won't hang around if the light is sourced from LED lights, yellow bug lights or sodium lamps.

14. Keep it breezy

According to entomologists, mosquitoes aren't active when wind gusts exceed 10 miles per hour. Create your own windstorm with a rotating fan, which, set on “high,” should provide enough of a gust to keep bugs away. Plus, fans help dissipate the carbon dioxide you exhale, and reduce body heat, both of which have been found to attract mosquitoes.

Sources and Additional Information:

Monday, July 7, 2014

National search trends to predict 2014 World Cup results

Tomorrow, soccer fans will have the opportunity to watch World Cup semi-finals, and as usual closer is to the end, higher the heat of competition. At the beginning, Google has launched a special World Cup microsite that analyses how each country is feeling about their upcoming fixtures based on their search terms. If you never reviewed it, it is highly recommended to take a glance there before the most important games.

The World Cup trends page compares the search habits of two countries that are going to meet on the field, then uses a "newsroom" of engineers, analysts and writers to find interesting pull-out facts.

Additionally, the page lists standard trends for each of the matches happening in the tournament, which team is more popular worldwide, and the top World Cup-related questions on each side.

The newsroom serves up a "front page" of headline-worthy curios from the vast swathes of data streaming through Google's databanks. Helped in part by interactive agency R/GA London, the team of designers, search engineers and analysts put the data in context to give a small window into national feeling about each match-up.

This is explicitly quantified by the sentiment each country feels towards their national team on Google+. Status updates and posts from users in each country are analyzed for positive, neutral or negative reaction words in relation to their team and used to calculate how the country as a whole is feeling towards their next fixture.

For example, here are the searching trends for the semi-final match between Brazil and Germany.

And here is the picture for the next semi-final match between Nederland and Costa Rica.

Access the website through the link: http://www.google.com/trends/worldcup#/en-us/