Harem   Harem is a fascinating attempt to separate fact from seedy legend. The viewer is placed inside Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace during the 16th century reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, and given an authoritative glimpse into the lives of the concubines…

Is this the end of shouty men in hats?

If you pay attention to the icons of games in the top grossing charts on the AppStore, you will have noticed the Shouty Men in Hats phenomenon.



For a while, all the top grossing strategy games had for their icon a man. Wearing a hat. In an open mouthed shout.

Yesterday, that all changed. According to Twitter, Supercell closed the mouths of their shouty men on both Clash of Clans and Boom Beach (but not, by the look of things, Clash Royale).

The identikit icons are a classic example of a local maximum, and one of the perils of data.

If I want to get to the top of Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, I can follow the simple instruction “Always go up”. I will soon find myself at the top of the nearest molehill.

I have found the local maximum by following a simple dataset. But to actually get to the top of Mount Everest, I have to go down and back up again, over and over again. It requires belief not in the data, but in a combination of data and a wider-understanding.

I use this analogy in explaining why data-driven design is weak, but data-informed design is amazingly powerful. In short, we still need designers and creators to make new leaps of faith, to come down of their molehill to start climbing the foothills, and eventually mountains.

The icon designers at Supercell and Machine Zone have tested their icons. They have found that “shouty men with hats” get the best conversion rates. So they use those icons, and everyone else copies them, and soon all icons in the Appstore look the same.

One day, someone will come along with a radical new design (no, not just closing the mouth), and they will get oodles of free downloads. That will be refined, and copied, until again it is local maximum. And the cycle repeats.

Local maxima like this show the dangers of relying too much on data. It is a powerful tool for optimisation. But it can also reach the point where it stifles growth.

The post Is this the end of shouty men in hats? appeared first on Gamesbrief.

Volunteer Spotlight: Guided Hike Leader Steve Coz

 What do volunteers do? Volunteers lead SHTA Guided Hikes!

Below is an interview with volunteer Steve Coz, who will celebrate leading his 30th SHTA Guided Hike this weekend at Hike Fest:

How did you become a Hike Leader?: Many years ago some hikes were on Wednesdays and finding a hike leader was problematic because not many people were interested in leading.  I contacted the SHTA office and volunteered.  My first guided hike was from Lutsen to Oberg and it still remains my most memorable guided hike. (See bottom of page for that first-ever hike report.)

What is the smallest group you’ve led, and what is the largest?: Smallest group I’ve ever had was 7 on 1/21/12 from  Oberg to the Leveaux Pond West campsite.  The largest group was 54 (!!) on 9/27/14 from the lower chalet at Spirit Mountain to Beck’s Road.  Not surprisingly, the January hike was a snowshoe hike (without much snow) and the September hike was a fall color hike.

Do you have a favorite section to lead hikes on?: Starting at Lutsen and going in either direction is always a favorite.  There’s an overlook between Oberg and Britton that rivals the view from Oberg, which I’ve always felt offers the best view from ANYPLACE  around Lake Superior and this overlook is worthy of more of my attention.  In Duluth, the section between Highland and Haines is hard to beat.

A winter hike led by Steve

What advice do you have for people coming to their first SHTA guided hike?: Check the website for a description of the hike and pay particular attention to how the hike is rated (easy, moderate, difficult).  Honestly and critically review your ability and experience–people have an almost unlimited capacity to delude themselves.  Make sure that you know your gear, whether it’s clothes or poles or boots or snowshoes. And pack more water than you think you’ll need.  Release your expectations and focus on what Nature gives you that day because it’ll be different the next day. Most important:  The goal is never finishing the hike.  The goal is always not getting hurt.

What advice do you have for people wanting to lead SHTA guided hikes?: What are you waiting for??  Leading hikes is a wonderful way to meet new people.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself into a group of strangers–most of the people on the guided hikes don’t know most of the other people, so you won’t be alone in not knowing whoever shows up.  You never know who is going to walk into your life.

Steve’s first guided hike

What do you think will change about guided hikes over the next five years?: Over the years, more and more people have expressed interest in leading hikes and I expect that to continue, as people who have never led a hike learn about all of the benefits that come with leading hikes.  I think that 5 years from now, it’ll be harder for an individual to lead more than 1 or 2 hikes in a year.  I try to lead 4 or 5 hikes a year but with more people wanting to lead hikes, that’ll be harder to do.  It pays to be on the committee that schedules the hikes!!

Here is Steve’s first-ever Hike Leader report:
October 5, 2005, found one hike leader, one naturalist and 12 other amphibious souls wading, treading and swimming the seven miles from Lutsen to Oberg Mountain on a day that could only be described as “wet, wet, and more wet.  Windy too!”  People that wished for brilliant blue skies to complement the colors of the leaves were instead given the opportunity to enjoy the colors in a cool rain, when the sights and sounds and smells of a wet forest give a hike pause to reflect:  one doesn’t need nice weather to have a nice time.  Fog drifting up from a river valley, a tree crashing to the ground, cool air on your cheeks, and in the background…everywhere…the soothing sound of rain.

Thanks to Steve and all our Hike Leaders for helping hundreds of people discover the joys of hiking . . . even in the rain.

The post Volunteer Spotlight: Guided Hike Leader Steve Coz appeared first on Superior Hiking Trail Association.

How meditation helped me yell less at my kids

How meditation helped me yell less at my kids

Not long ago, parenthood was driving me up the wall. Whining would wear away at my sanity and the unrelenting mess was a source of constant ire. More often than not, I would find myself yelling at my kids, and subsequently feel like I was completely failing as a parent. I didn’t seem capable of getting a grip on my emotions. No matter how many times I resolved to not yell, it still happened almost daily.

Beyond the problem of being angry and reaching my wit’s end, I couldn’t predict when these outbursts were going to happen. I never meant to yell. I never saw it coming. I would think I was handling a situation well then suddenly the anger would bubble to the surface with unexpected gusto.

When I confided in a friend about my yelling and the level of wear I felt in my day-to-day parenting, she assured me that she had been there—that she was still there, but with one noticeable difference. She had managed to curb the yelling with meditation.

She invited me to join her in a meditation challenge she was undertaking the next month, working up from five-minute- to 30-minute sessions of guided meditation over 30 days. The thought of meditating for 30 minutes seemed completely out of the question for me, but I figured I could at least start. Five minutes? That I could try.

To be honest, I didn’t expect it to change much in my parenting. I was looking more for the escape of doing something for myself, and the feeling of connectivity I would gain from doing it alongside a friend. The first few times, it was nearly impossible to quiet my mind, so I figured it was a bust—not to mention my kids interrupted me five out of seven times. But as I reached the end of my first week, I noticed something pretty extraordinary: I was yelling a lot less.

I didn’t completely stop. It wasn’t an absolute miracle, but it was an improvement—one which, quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting. I became more present throughout the day, and more aware of the warning signs that I was reaching my mental limit so I could remove myself to cool down instead of blowing up at my kids without any advance notice.

Read more: I asked my kids to meditate with me. Here’s what happened.

Even though my mindfulness practice was far from perfect (and still is), the results made it worthwhile. Nowadays, I try to set aside time when I know I won’t be interrupted by my kids, but if I can’t, I don’t sweat it. I’ve learned that even the times when I don’t get through my meditation without someone tugging on my sleeve asking me what I’m doing, or why, that working through the distraction is worth it. Even on my less-than-stellar parenting days, I feel confident I’d be doing far worse if it wasn’t for finding those quiet moments to practice being present.

I’ve even started getting my kids on board, trying simple meditation exercises with them. [Editor’s Note: Headspace actually has several different meditations for kids, including Focus, Calm, and the ever elusive Sleep.] Meditation as a whole has been a practice of letting go of my expectations and notions about what it should be, and accepting my practice for what it is: messy, imperfect, and exactly what I need.

The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.

Cucumber Basil Body Scrub


We are calling it now, kitchen is the new spa… well, sort of! Booking your next spa-cation has never been easier. In fact, you don’t even need to leave your home.

As you gear up for warmer weather it’s time to get your skin into shape and feeling fresh with a fresh exfoliation treatment.

Whether it’s a spa treatment for yourself, or perhaps a loved one, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and reach for the freshest ingredients and our favorite new line, Beauty Hack from SheaMoisture to start operation: Smooth Skin.

To create a Cool Cucumber Basil Body Sugar Scrub, you will need some essential ingredients from SheaMoisture, all available at Ulta and Ulta.com.

We recommend making one serving at a time to stay as fresh as possible.

After mixing the sugar base with both butter and oil, reach for a hand blender (or shop it the old fashioned way) and add fresh cucumber and basil to your mixture.

Use a small whisk to evenly mix ingredients until completely blended.  Use a spoon to scoop into a clear jar with an air-tight lid.

Now, you are ready to massage into the skin (we recommend while showering) exfoliate with a sponge and rise like a champ!

Tips for Working from Home

There are several instructions and tips that should be followed when you are working from your home. Working from home is a good idea if you are good at staying on task. There are several ways by which you can work from home and get paid easily.

Get everything planned

When you are working from your home office, some things should be kept in the mind such as the timing and various other factors. Some people when they are working from home find it to be very relaxing and easy. What happens next is that they find they are unable to complete work or a project that they are given. They lack that discipline in them to complete the project in the time that is allotted to them. It is very important to complete work in the given time. So, if you are lazy then it’s a big “no” to do work from home. Consider the coolest products for your home that can be tried out to furnish your home in the best way that will foster productivity.

Submit everything on time

It’s very important for any job to do the work or submit work on time so that you can easily enjoy the time that is present. Completing the job from home is a good way to not put your brain through too much pressure and stress to complete the task.

Jot down all the points

All the points that you will need or require should be jotted down first so that you can easily complete a task. The idea is smart because it will save you time and keep you organized. If you jot down main points and search the internet well beforehand then you can save time, making your task easier.

Organize the tools

When you are working from home it is very important to organize the equipment and tools that you will need and place them in front of you so that you don’t face any kinds of problems. Problems should be avoided so that you can complete your task with ease. Finding the right tool may take a lot of your time. So, it’s good to organize things in a strategic way.

The right job

It is very important to find the right job that will suit your personality. The correct job is very important to find out. Working a job from home is ideal but only the correct job will give you fulfilment which will lead to a long and prosperous career.

The post Tips for Working from Home appeared first on Home Business Magazine.

Quesadilla Burgers

Christina Dicken has been awarded a Blue Ribbon for Quesadilla Burgers
“The concept of using quesadillas as a bun is genius. They add a cheesy crunch to the delicious burger. The meat itself is moist and full of taco flavor. The fresh pico on top is a burst of flavor while the ooey gooey pepper jack cheese is perfection. These are definitely decadent… and delicious!”

Pinch It!