Computer Era Arrives for TOEFL

Computer Era Arrives for TOEFL

Mouse to replace pencil for international students

Beginning in Summer, 1998, students taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in many countries will leave their No 2 pencils behind and use a computer instead. This change is part of an evolutionary effort to create a new and better generation of English proficiency tests.

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The transition of TOEFL to computer is part of a project called TOEFL 2000 which began in 1993. It reflects the beliefs of the TOEFL Policy Council and Educational Testing Service (ETS®) that the computer offers new opportunities for better English proficiency assessment that is more responsive to test takers and score users. Use of performance based questions will also provide schools with better information about an international student’s ability to understand and use English.

The computer based TOEFL will be administered in four sections Listening, Structure, Reading and Writing. Most sections will have new or improved question types by using computer technology.

The Listening section will continue to measure the test taker’s ability to understand English as it is spoken in North America, including frequently used vocabulary, expressions and grammar. With the computer based version, test takers will now listen to dialogues, talks and group discussions through personal headphones while they see context-setting visuals on the computer screen.

The Structure section will measure the ability to recognise language that is appropriate for standard written English. The Reading section will still use passages to measure the ability to understand non-technical reading material, but new tasks that require the test taker to become more closely involved with the text have been developed. The Writing section will measure the person’s ability to generate, organise and support ideas using standard written English in an essay. In order not to disadvantage people who lack keyboard skills, test takers may handwrite or type the essay. The essay rating will now be combined with the Structure section score to create a compiled Structure/Writing scaled score. The essay rating will constitute one-half of the Structure/Writing scaled score.

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Another improvement is that the Listening and Structure sections will be computer adaptive. Test takers receive questions that are appropriate for their performance level. The section begins with a question of average difficulty. If the test taker answers the question correctly, the next question will be one that fulfils the test design and will typically be of the same or higher difficulty level. If the test taker answers incorrectly, the next question will he one that fulfils the test design and will typically be of the same or lower difficulty level. Thus, all subsequent questions presented are based in part on the test taker’s performance on previous questions and in part on the test design.

Computer-based TOEFL will be offered worldwide at Sylvan Technology Centers, specified university test centers, ETS field offices and other locations worldwide. Testing will be available year-round at more than 300 test centers around the world. Test takers will make appointments by calling either their local test center or Regional Registration Center. The appointments can be made within a few days of testing. However, test takers should consider admission deadlines and call early to maximise chances of getting preferred test dates at the most convenient center.

The entire testing experience will also improve as test takers will sit in private carrels where they will use volume-controlled headphones. Score reporting will also be faster as students will see partial scores on the screen at the test center and official score reports will be sent usually within two weeks of testing.

Because the content and format of the TOEFL test have changed, scores on the computer-based test will be reported on a new score scale. This new score scale has been designed to distinguish scores received on the computer-based TOEFL from those received on the paper-based test. For the computer-based test the examinee will receive four scaled scores:

Listening (0 to 30), Structure/Writing (0 to 30), Reading (0 to 30), and a total score (000 to 300). The three section scores and a total score will be reported on the score report. The essay rating will be integrated in the Structure/Writing score; in addition, the score on the essay will be reported as an independent rating on this form. To assist score users in setting new score standards on the new scale, work has begun to produce a concordance study and table that will relate scores on the computer-based test with those on the paper based exam. Results of the concordance study and table will be available in the Spring, 1998.

The TOEFL program has taken steps to assure that an individual’s test performance is not influenced by a lack of computer experience. A tutorial designed especially for non-native speakers of English, has been developed to teach the skills needed to take the computer based TOEFL. The results from a study conducted by ETS indicate the tutorial is effective because there was no practical difference between the performance of test takers who were familiar and unfamiliar with the computer. Additional information on this computer familiarity study will be available in early 1998.

Although the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and eight areas in Asia (Brunei, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Sri Lanka) will make the transition to computer in 1998, the paper based test will continue to be administered in the other areas in Asia. However, once computer-based TOEFL is introduced in a country, the paper-based program will be eliminated ETS plans to complete the transition to computer by the year 2001.

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The World’s Best Art Consultancy

The World’s Best Art Consultancy

The World’s Best Art Consultancy

art-exchange.com unveils Release III of its art tool for designers

The Future Art Consultancy

Locating and placing artwork in a design project is arguably the most difficult part of the project. While some designers take on this task themselves, many enlist the assistance of an art consultant. One limitation of this approach is the consultant’s limited universe of artists. Most art consultants end up with a few “go-to” favorites.

Imagine an art consultancy able to directly access 10,000 artists, with technology capabilities aggregating art choices in a portfolio for emailing or high-resolution printing for presentations. Add the ability to correspond with clients via e-postcard including selected images. And finish with the ability to access framing options online thus enabling the designer to actually show the customer how the pieces will look framed.

Does It Work?

Can a website help you find art? Art-Exchange (www.art-exchange.com) is not a new website, not a new service, not a new company. It does, however, take a new approach to providing art to designers. And it has a new site design that Art-Exchange claims will make the service even more powerful and easier to use.

I spoke with Richard Gipe, President and CEO of Art-Exchange, to find out why he thinks his company’s service is so special. I asked him, “If you had to communicate Art-Exchange’s value to designers in a single sentence, what would you say?”

Here’s what he said: “If you want to access as much art as we have on Art-Exchange, you would have to go to 20,000 galleries, and you would have to deal with so many different sellers that the logistics would be overwhelming.” That sounds pretty good. But does the site work?

About Art-Exchange

Art-Exchange is a business service provider that specializes in solutions for the design trade. They can offer solutions to designers as an art consultancy, or they can provide solutions to art consultants to help them be more effective and efficient.

For the past five years Art-Exchange has been actively contacting artists to list their works on the exchange. Today there are approximately 100,000 different works of art created by over 10,000 different artists. Imagine searching 100,000 records to locate the perfect art solution. Nearly 60% of all the works are originals, and the remaining 40% is a variety of editions. All of these works are organized in a database, and a search engine locates works using any or all of the following criteria:

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• Artist’s name

• Title

• Subject matter

• Style

• Medium

• Size

• Colors

• Price

• Orientation

Suppose you need oversized original works and price is an issue. Maybe you want only works with lighthouses. Or perhaps you need large public works. That’s how specific the search engine can be. And with the new design, if you enter several criteria and the search engine can’t find a work that matches all your criteria exactly, it will refer you to the works that match your criteria most closely, so that you don’t have to start over. As one of the new site’s designers said, “We don’t ever want to show nobody anything.”

Normally, designers hire an art consultant or visit multiple galleries or view print books to find the perfect art solution. That’s the old way of finding art. Now designers can look in one place and view tens of thousands of originals alone. This is the new way of finding art. Art-Exchange let’s designers search for all the art they need in one place. That alone has the potential to save time, but the website has some other very powerful features that give designers even more flexibility and power.

Powerful Features

One very important new feature is the Designer Portal. Art-Exchange has four different portals that members can use to enter the site. There’s one for retail clients, one for community partners, and another for artists and other sellers. But the Designer Portal is available only to designers. Once you enter the portal, you can search for the art you want, view images of the art, and immediately see designers’ wholesale pricing.

Here’s another great new feature: Portfolios. How do you keep track of the works that fit your client’s needs? You keep a portfolio. Designers can set up portfolios for individual clients, different locations, or just for future reference. It’s easy to save works to custom-made portfolios. And it’s easy to show the portfolio to clients—from anywhere in the world.

Another terrific feature is the Exhibitions section. Exhibitions include the works of around 200 artists and are compiled topically. Prior exhibitions, which are still accessible, include Realism, Landscape, Watercolor, and Impressionism. In order to have fresh ideas readily available for clients, designers need to be reviewing art all the time, and these exhibitions can help. It takes only fifteen minutes to view an entire exhibition.

Another feature that can help designers and clients work together—especially when clients have trouble describing their interests—is the Postcard feature. Clients can go to the website to browse for themselves. They can view an exhibition, browse by artist, or do a search. When they find something they like, they can send images to their designer using electronic postcards.

Soon, Art-Exchange will even offer the ability to create Custom Frames online so that clients can view the artwork in different frames and choose the one they like best.

Full-Service Art Consultancy

Art-Exchange goes far beyond just the website, however. They also provide full-service art consultancy. They have a full staff of qualified art consultants who can do as much or as little as a designer wants them to. Anything a typical art consultancy does, Art-Exchange will do. If a designer works with an art consultant already and wants to maintain that relationship, Art-Exchange will even work with his or her current art consultant.

How to Access the Features and Benefits of Art-Exchange

Go to www.art-exchange.com and visit the Designer Portal. Log in as a designer and learn about how the service works. You can easily search for art, access their full-service art consultancy, or guide your favorite art consultant to Art-Exchange. A subscription is free. Art-Exchange is paid by the sellers on completed transactions; so they only get paid if they’re helping designers find the right art, for the right job, at the right price.

When asked what he would most want to communicate to designers about the company and the service it provides, Gipe said, “I want the members of ASID who place art to try the art consultancy service at Art-Exchange, and if they’ll give us 10% of their trust, we’ll earn the other 90%.” If you’re a designer or an art consultant, it’s worth trying. Does it work? Is it really whole new way of finding art? Yeah, that’s what it is. And for designers, the world of art will never be the same.
Go to www.art-exchange.com and visit the Designer Portal. Log in as a designer and learn about how the service works. You can easily search for art, access their full-service art consultancy, or guide your favorite art consultant to Art-Exchange. A subscription is free. Art-Exchange is paid by the sellers on completed transactions; so they only get paid if they’re helping designers find the right art, for the right job, at the right price.
When asked what he would most want to communicate to designers about the company and the service it provides, Gipe said, “I want the members of ASID who place art to try the art consultancy service at Art-Exchange, and if they’ll give us 10% of their trust, we’ll earn the other 90%.” If you’re a designer or an art consultant, it’s worth trying. Does it work? Is it really whole new way of finding art? Yeah, that’s what it is. And for designers, the world of art will never be the same. www.art-exchange.com
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A Globetrotter’s Guide To Budapest

A Globetrotter’s Guide To Budapest

The city of Budapest is quite rightly renowned as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city was born in the late 19th century from the merging of three major towns – Buda, Pest and Obuda, and the river Danube flows right through the center, dividing it still into two unequal city-halves: the hilly Buda and flat landed Pest.

Budapest is full of history – the Magyar conquest in 896, destruction and rapid recovery from Mongol invaders in 1241 and Ottoman rule throughout the majority of the 16th century have all contributed to what Budapest is today – a grand, thriving, cultural city with so much to see, do and experience.

Budapest is known as “the city of baths” due to it’s profusion of high quality bath houses – some would say the best in the world. A turkish bath is, therefore, an almost mandatory experience whilst staying in Budapest! The places to visit include the Csaszar, the Szechenyi (one of the largest spa complexes in Europe), the Gellert and Lukacs Baths. Bath houses usually have two main pools, along with smaller ones that contain water of varying temperatures. Elsewhere you’ll also find saunas and steam rooms, together with a wide-array of medical treatments. Massages come in two flavours, namely orvosi (a relaxing medical massage) and vizi (water), a much more rigorous – dare we say sadistic – Turkish based variant!

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Below the city lie the famous Budapest caves, formed from the same springs that today form the thermal baths. These were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, when house buildings and drainage construction works were carried out. Budapest has 9 strictly protected caves, 3 of which are open to the public.

Be sure to visit one or two of Budapest’s many museums during your stay. They range from fine arts and military history to the Roman Ruins of Aquincum. The main shopping district is Vaci utca, though there are plenty of other modern shopping centres to explore. Visit the Falk Miksa utca for antiques and in and around Vaci utca for designer stores.

Beautifully lit up in the evening, Budapest has plenty to keep you up all night. The Budapest dance scene is gaining international prestige, and there are all the pubs and bars you can dream of. Thanks to the good public transport system, most places are easily reached, and the relatively cheap prices mean that you can really let yourself go without the risk of bankruptcy.

Visit Franz Liszt Square and Raday utca for many cafes, bars and restaurants. Las Vegas Casino, located in the Sofitel Atrium Hotel, is a professional gaming establishment open 24 hours that has welcomed many a famous face. For fun cabaret nights, head for the Moulin Rouge.

Matt Davies writes travel articles for HotelHippo.com, who offer cheap hotels in Budapest.
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Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple

Located in the heart of Lhasa is the Jokhang Temple which is considered to be one of the most holy and sacred places of worship by the Tibetans. The temple has also been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It covers an area of almost 6 acres and is known for the famous statue of Buddha that it houses. It also marks the advent of Buddhism in to Tibet. It was only after the temple was built that Buddhism grew to its present position in Tibet.

The temple was built by the first King of Tibet Songtsem Gampo as premises for the Buddha statues that were bought by his Nepalese and Tang wives. The temple was built in 647 and had only eight shrines. But it has been extensively renovated many a times under the Yuan, the Ming and the Qing dynasties.

The temple is mostly Timber and is divided into four stories. The tops of the domes are golden while the entire temple is open air. There is a central square which allows complete view of the entire temple. Two steles recording the alliance between Tibet and the tang dynasty and ways to prevent small pox are erected on the central courtyard. The architecture of the temple is essentially Tang as well as Nepalese.

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It is also believed that the original temple was built seeking inspiration from the Indian vihara design. Apart from the shrines there is are two golden deer guarding the wheel of dharma that stand atop the main hall. This hall is said to be 1300 years old and has a pathway of lights leading up to it. The temple was looted several times by the Mongols yet this hall survived all the destruction. The hall is supported by many pillars that are decorated with various religious items. It is here that the famous Sakyamuni statue sits. The statue depicts the great Buddha at the age of twelve. There were only three statues of Buddha that he allowed to be made during his life time.

These were likeliness of him at the age of eight, twelve and then after attaining Nirvana. Since Buddha did not believe in idol worship no more statues of him were made during his life time. This great statue was designed by Gautam Buddha himself. It was bought by the Tang wife of the Tibetan king. This hall is considered to be the most auspicious place in the entire temple and devotee’s flock here to pay homage. Many worshippers can be seen lying prostrate in front of the statue as well as the hall.

There are golden dragons depicted all over the temple. Typical Tibetan spherical prayer bells are also found here and devotees are seen rotating them in order to worship Buddha. Legend also has it that the temple was built on a lake that was filled up with soil transported on sheep back. In fact the name of Lhasa is also said to be derived from the former name of the temple which was Ra-Sa-Vphrul-Snang.
Lac Tran is part of http://www.renmenbi.com – We are a market insight company facilitating the world professional community to better understand and prepare for the Chinese market. Language barrier, cultural differences, and lack of transparency create confusion for foreign companies. Our local market analysis, case study series, custom research, and cross-lingual business terminologies service can help you gain the necessary insight and adopt the appropriate business perspective.
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Islam 101- Was Islam Spread by the Sword?

Islam 101- Was Islam Spread by the Sword?

Islam 101

Was Islam Spread by the Sword?

The idea of Islam being spread by the sword is one of the most common misconceptions among both the Muslims and non-Muslims. Many non-Muslims have written untold volumes of anti-Islamic literature propagating the fallacy of Muslims holding swords above the heads of Christians and forcing them to convert to Islam. This is total nonsense. On the other hand we have some Muslim apologists who, in their great fervor to defend Islam and portray it as the peaceful religion it is, seem reluctant to admit that Muslims did indeed fight wars to expand their territories. So what is the truth of the situation? I would like to begin our quest for the truth on this matter by quoting the Qur’an, the literal word of God and the primary source for Islam: “Say the truth from your Lord, then let whomsoever wills believe and let whomsoever wills reject.” 18:29

Let’s start with the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and look at his example. He did preach Islam peacefully in Mecca for 13 years without once raising a finger against his enemies even though he and his followers were harshly persecuted, tortured, mocked and sometimes murdered. The first wars with Mecca did not occur until after the hijra to Medina, and those battles were defensive against Abu Sufyan and his amassed troops. After the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, the peace treaty between the Muslims and the Meccans, was unilaterally broken by the Meccans, the Muslims conquered Mecca without any bloodshed. Tribal customs would dictate that the Meccans should then be slaughtered for their transgressions against the victorious Muslims, and indeed the Meccans anticipated this, but Muhammad (PBUH) granted them amnesty on the condition that they cease fighting the Muslims. This was a beautiful act of mercy which led to the majority of Meccans choosing to convert to Islam, though no person was ever forced to do so.

What is conversion to Islam? Converting to Islam is something that has to be done by choice, it is something that you believe in your heart, that there is only one God and that Muhammad is His prophet and messenger. Words without belief are meaningless. Of course God alone knows what is in each and every person’s heart, so you won’t be able to fool God by meaningless lip service to Islam, and religion is solely for God and the benefit of the individual. So, forced conversion is impossible. The Qur’an attests to this fact in 2:256 where it states: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

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So how did Islam spread so rapidly across North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula and east across India and Central Asia all the way to Southeast Asia? Primarily it spread by trade. Very often while Muslim merchants were traveling abroad they would impress the people they did business with by their honesty and integrity, so much so that those people would ask questions, learn about Islam, and eventually choose to convert.

However, there were indeed wars as well, most of which were in the times of the first four caliphs. The prophet Muhammad advised his armies of how to approach the non-Muslim governments, he told his armies to call them first to Islam, and if they accept it then leave them alone. If they reject Islam, call on them to submit to the Muslim government and pay the jizyah tax, a poll tax paid by non-Muslims to the Muslim government for their protection and upkeep of the lands and buildings. If they refused both of those options, then they were to fight. But, the fighting itself had many rules, it wasn’t just a bloodbath, free-for-all like we’ve seen in other times, for instance by the Mongols and the Christian Crusaders, rather it was warfare waged only against the armies themselves. It was forbidden to fight civilians and it was forbidden to destroy their agriculture and means of livelihood. There was no raping, pillaging and plundering by the Muslim armies; they fought only the armies sent out by the government until they surrendered and left the innocent civilians alone.

There are numerous hadiths of the prophet (PBUH) where he clearly distinguishes between the combatants and the non-combatants. In a hadith related by Abu Dawud he said, “Do no kill any old person, any child, or any woman,” and he said, “Do no kill people sitting in places of worship.” Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, gave detailed instructions to his army heading for Syria based on his knowledge of Qur’an and hadiths:

“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.”

Once a government had fallen into the hands of the Muslims, the citizens paid a poll tax and were free to practice any religion they chose. Christianity and Judaism flourished under Islamic rule since the Muslims protected their churches and synagogues and other holy places, even though they had the power to wipe them out if they had so chosen. Perhaps the most amazing law of all is that if a Christian or a Jew committed a crime and was found guilty, they were tried by their own courts and punished by their own laws, not by the courts and laws of the Muslims. Can you imagine in America today a Muslim being tried in an Islamic court rather than the American system? This was truly progressive governing.

Many of the citizens welcomed the Muslims as their rulers and viewed them as liberators who had rescued them from oppressive kingships, granting them their basic human rights and so much more. Many of the citizens of a conquered land would choose to embrace Islam once they came in contact with the Muslims, and Islam did spread rapidly through these acquired lands. But, individuals were never forced to convert to Islam.

The proof that individuals were not and are not forced to convert to Islam is in the facts of populations. In Egypt there are over 14 million Coptic Christians, in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all the other lands ruled by Muslims there have continuously been large populations of Christians and Jews. Muslims ruled over Spain for more than 800 years, yet the Christian and Jewish populations have thrived throughout that time. There are over 450 million Muslims in Indonesia today but there was no war by Muslims that brought the religion there, it was only merchants. And, perhaps the most fascinating, the fastest growing religion in the United States and Europe is Islam. Are Americans and Europeans being forced to convert? Of course not, it’s something else. These people see truth and justice in Islam that they don’t find in any other religion or way of life. These people choose Islam for themselves, by themselves, just like the Meccans did 1400 years ago. That is the truth about how Islam has spread throughout the world.

Peace be on you and yours.

Laura Cosse’ converted to Islam in 1996. She is the author of several Islamic children’s books and currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband and twin sons, Muhammad and Hamza. For more info and articles please visit www.AdvocateIslam.com
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Burying Your Novel’s Message

Burying Your Novel’s Message

In the first two articles, we’ve explored how essential it is to have a theme to give your novel direction, and how to find those themes that will resonate with you.

You’d think that once you have a theme, you could just sit down and write your book about that, and you’d bring powerful emotions and passionate storytelling and compelling, page-turning action to your tale—but it just ain’t so.

If you just write your theme, what you’ll have is a harangue. A message book. Something that will have the readers who agree with your precise point of view nodding along—whether it be “Global warming is going to destroy the planet” or “Global warming is a pile of cow-flops”—and readers who hold any other point of view bouncing your book of the nearest wall and never buying anything else by you, ever.

Bad.

So now you bury your theme. You write about something utterly unlike the theme you fought so hard to come up with in the first place.

One of you just went, “Waaaaaait a minute! If I write about something besides my theme, how are people going to get my message? How are they going to know that global warming is evil/ irrelevant/ actually the dawning of a new ice age? How will I convince them that I’m right?”

They won’t know, and you won’t convince them. It’s as simple as that.

The theme is there for YOU. Your job as a novelist is to tell a story that entertains your reader, that makes him think, that haunts him long after he finishes the last page—maybe even that STILL haunts him long after he’s read the whole thing for the fourth or tenth or twentieth time. I get letters and emails from readers who have done that, and it’s great. They frequently tell me what they got out of the book, too, what hidden meanings they found, what they took away from the story.

Funny thing is, they never find what I put in there. That’s okay. They found something that mattered to THEM, that changed the world for THEM. So I did my job.

If you want to send a message, buy an ad.

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If you want to create resonance, you work your theme in. If you want to have people love your book and treasure it for what it meant to them, you bury that theme so deeply only you will ever know what it was.

Here’s how.

1) Figure out the key elements of your theme.

I wrote one book the theme of which was “if the Democrats and Republicans don’t recognize each other isn’t the enemy and start working together toward a common cause, real enemies are going to destroy the country while those morons are bickering over pork and entitlements.”

The key elements of that theme were:

* People who had more in common than they knew fighting over trivialities

* Enemies disguised as friends bearing gifts

2) Plan your hiding place.

That book was not set in this time, in the US, or even in this world. It was a high fantasy novel set in another world, on an island nation about the size of England and about the location of Australia with the climate of Alaska through the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the US. The cultures were Iron Age plus highly developed magic, with levels of sophistication ranging from 18th-Century France to the nomadic hunter-gatherer-herdsmen of the Mongol Horde.

So figure out YOUR disguise. Your most meaningful themes are always going to be drawn from the here and now, from the events in your life that trouble you and frighten you and elate you—but those themes go into Westerns and SF and fantasy and mysteries and romances and hard-boiled detective tales and mainstream novels set in every possible time and place.

3) Create your metaphors.

In that novel, the Democrats became one nation, the Republicans the other. I made a point of locating the good and the bad in both parties, and giving the two nations those good and bad characteristics. I created the real villains from current events, too, (though not from obvious current events), and worked out a complex metaphor for them, too, creating their culture from elements of a handful of different cultures. My two protagonists were from warring nations, magic was the physics of the world, and the villain was disguised as a good guy for the first half of the novel.

4) Never even hint at what you’re talking about underneath it all.

I didn’t then write a story about how the politics of the warring nations and the outside world clashed. I didn’t give a little nudge, nudge, wink, wink and call my nations Demos and Republis. I spent time developing deep cultures built not around my particular axe to grind, but around the needs of the story. And then I built three characters, one from each of the three cultures.

And the story I wrote was a love story set against the backdrop of war and peace.

I wrote about the characters, I didn’t confine them to my metaphors, I didn’t try to push any points or convince anyone of anything. I let my folks become who they were, good points and bad, and I told the story of their lives in that world, that place, and that time—and because I knew what underlay it, it meant a lot to me. And because SOMETHING underlay it, it meant a lot to a whole lot of readers.

With the possible exception of its sequel, it was the best book I’ve ever written.

That story remains a favorite for my readers, too—even though what they take from it is sometimes the exact opposite of what I put into it. They have found their own meaning in it, have felt the resonance of it being about something bigger than the story on the surface, and have taken it to heart.

And if you’re a novelist, that is what you want them to do. (If you’re still hung up on requiring that they get YOUR meaning from your book, you’re in the wrong line of work.)

In BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, Part IV, Playing Chicken With Your Story, you’ll learn how to take the personal risks in writing that will keep your readers glued to their seats turning pages.
Holly Lisle is a full-time novelist who also writes extensively about writing. You can find her website here: HollyLisle.com and sign up here to receive her free newsletter.
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Korean Martial Arts – Hapkido, Taekyon, Kwan Moo, Yongmudo, Gwon Gyokdo, Hwa Rang Do

Korean Martial Arts – Hapkido, Taekyon, Kwan Moo, Yongmudo, Gwon Gyokdo, Hwa Rang Do

Sun Kwan Moo

A little-known, Buddhist-based martial art, sun kwan moo includes meditation and physical training with the aim of advancing students toward enlightenment. Probably of Zen origin (called “sun” in Korean), it started after 1945 and, in the 1960s, was taught at Bom Oh Temple in Korea.

Uniquely, students engage in a remarkable exercise known as “tol palki,” which involves hopping from rock to rock on a mountain top, with the hope of achieving the elusive state of “no mind.”

Yongmudo

Developed by professional sport scientists and former gold medalists at Yong-In University in Korea, Yongmudo is a new hybrid martial art aimed at enhancing physical action, mental endurance, and functions requiring both. It has become a compulsory element in the physical education of students, with three levels of difficulty or rank- beginner, moderate, and advanced. Yongmudo combines kicking techniques from tae kwon do, shifting and throwing techniques from hapkido, and throwing techniques from judo. This art also includes elements of ssireum and fencing.

Gwon Gyokdo

Also known as “kun gek do,” gwon gyokdo is a hybrid art incorporating techniques from traditional Korean martial arts and muay Thai. Founded by Jung Do Mo, who studied muay Thai, gwon gyokdo combines kicks from tae kwon do with kicking and boxing techniques from muay Thai. Unusually, open-hand techniques are removed due to the danger of injury to fingers.

Still in its infancy in Korea, gwon gyokdo is a competitive sport that includes ring fighting and 27 self-defense techniques, some of which defend against a staff, iron bar, and knife. Training includes boxing-style techniques, such as lunging knee and elbow strikes, practiced with protective gear. Unlike other Asian martial arts, it focuses solely on “wai gong,” or external energy skill. Students increase physical strength through weight training and drilling of techniques, and condition their hands and feet with heavy-bag work and by repeatedly striking a wooden plank wrapped in rice-straw rope.

Hwa Rang Do

This system of defense and offense is named after an elite officer warrior unit called the Hwa Rang, which existed during the Three Kingdoms period of Korean history (57 BCE to 668 CE) and was unique to the Silla region in the south of the country.

Modern style

Two brothers, Joo Bang Lee and Joo Sang Lee, developed the syllabus after studying with a monk named Suahm Dosa at the Suk Wang Sa Temple in Ham Nam, North Korea. They escaped to South Korea when the Communists took over and then, during the 1960s and 70s, appeared in documentaries that were broadcast around the world. Viewers watched in amazement as they demonstrated extraordinary feats of strength and concentration, such as smashing bricks on their foreheads and withstanding the weight of trucks driving over their abdomens.

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The brothers’ system teaches the use of 108 different weapons, along with three categories of distancing: striking with the hand, foot, head, or weapon; close-quarter leverage, grappling, and throwing techniques; and ground fighting.

Students learn qi gong (“ki gong” in Korean), meditation, breathing, full-and semicontact sparring, drills, and routines. The ultimate aims are balance in life and harmony with others and with nature. Proper alignment is a focus of training when using strikes, throws, and holds. To achieve a first-degree black belt takes up to 15 years of continuous training. Joo Bang Lee is currently the leading exponent of hwa rang do and the only holder of the black belt (10th Dan)-the highest grade.

Taekyon

Recognized by the Korean government in 1983, but little known outside of Korea, taekyon is a traditional dancelike and athletic martial art. It uses highly effective and deadly accurate kicks for both attacking and defending maneuvers.

It may be accompanied by dancing and singing-in a three-three rhythm as opposed to the four-four timing of other martial arts-that recall its Mongol ancestry. The basic stepping pattern is unique and extremely difficult to learn, with unusual angles of attack that are very effective in felling opponents.

Some experts regard taekyon as a sport because matches were held as form of entertainment in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Triangular footwork

Combat techniques include “sonkisul”(a grabbing action), head-butting, grappling, and trapping moves, as well as kicks, pushes, sweeps, stamps, and “palgisul” (trips). These are combined with “pumbalki,” the triangular footwork that is supposed to mimic the timing of a galloping horse. One startling fact about taekyon is that players are taught to be happy and relaxed during fighting and must not focus overly on aggression or negative mental attitudes, such as hate or anger. The attitude reduces muscular tension, leading to quicker responses and reflexes. It also reduces fear, which further enhances performance.

Renewed popularity

Taekyon’s popularity has fluctuated over the centuries-at one point it was even banned-but recently there has been a renewed interest in the art. However, in the past it was practiced mainly by farmers, peasants, and gangsters, so training was random and there were many teachers. With success in combat as the primary objective, today’s practitioners focus on learning and using a handful of effective techniques with a high degree of proficiency.

Hapkido

Hapkido is a systemized form of combat that uses throws, restraints, locks, chokes, kicks, and strikes. The system is sweetly and succinctly described in the hapkido poem: “As the flowing stream penetrates and surrounds its obstructions, and dripping water eventually penetrates the stone, so does the hapkido strength flow in and through his opponents.” The principles of focus, balance, and leverage underpin hapkido. Timing and motion on the physical plane can also be adopted into the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual realms.

Influences on hapkido

Over 2,000 years of tradition have influenced hapkido, including the ancient tribal techniques (or “sado moosul”) of archery, and sword and knife-fighting, which may have been practiced on horseback. Confucian doctrine shaped its philosophy, while Buddhism taught warriors to meet their responsibilities and act with benevolence. Martial arts, such as judo, jujutsu, and karate contributed to hapkido’s techniques. Added to this, the kicking and striking techniques from Korean arts, such as taekyon and subak, fermented hapkido’s collection of techniques into a way of living rather than just a fighting method.

Modern hapkido

After Choi Yong Shul founded the modern art of hapkido in the 1950s, only small groups practiced it. Later, through Jihan Jae, the head hapkido instructor to the presidential bodyguard, hapkido became very popular in Korea and abroad.

Hapkido’s emphasis is on self-defense as opposed to sport. Students learn to use weapons as well as ways of defending themselves against an untrained opponent-who is likely to mount an unusual, smothering-type attacks rather than a more coordinated, linear one. They learn to strike the pressure points of acupuncture in order to unbalance opponents prior to a throw or lock, or to disable them.

To become a master of hapkido, practitioners must grasp, apply, and live by three principles: water moves around an object, yet never loses force; the circle represents never-ending, continuous movement; and harmony applied internally must also be directed externally to every situation.
Troy Macraft Chief Editor, The MMA Zone: “the ninja swords experts” http://www.themmazone.net The MMA Zone: The MMA Supplies Experts 1.866.447.8222 corporate@themmazone.net
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Scientific Wrestling: Strength Training for the Eons

Scientific Wrestling: Strength Training for the Eons

I was first introduced to the traditional Indian gada (aka the mace) by my friend Karl Gotch a few years ago. As gracefully as Karl swung it, I was equally clumsy. I nearly knocked myself unconscious with it the first time I swung it. It was the toughest and most awkward exercise implement I had ever held. It was then and there that I challenged to master this bad boy.

This killer training implement was preferred by legendary wrestlers for centuries, from the Pehlwans of India to ‘God of Wrestling’ Karl Gotch. Historically, the mace has had both strong spiritual and combative connotations in folklore. Robert L. O’Connell, on page 119 of his book Ride of the Second Horseman: The Birth and Death of War points to the mace as the first weapon made specifically for use against other human beings (as opposed to a modified hunting weapon). In the Hindu religion, the mace of Vishnu is named “Kaumodaki” and represents the elemental force from which all other powers (both physical and mental) are derived.

Anyone that owns a genuine Macebell will find it fitting that mace-work is associated with the Indian god of strength, Hanuman. Hanuman is traditionally depicted in the form of monkey brandishing a mace, and this Mace is generally understood to symbolize bravery. Hanuman serves to remind the faithful that there is limitless power within each individual. In folklore, Hanuman focused all his energy into the worship of Lord Rama. This devotion freed him from all physical fatigue.

The mace is recognized as the main tool of the Pehlwans (the Hindu wrestlers of India). Competition trophies (symbolizing significant achievement) are made in the shape of gold and silver maces.

I have recently taken it upon myself to re-introduce mace-work to the West (with the wonderful help of Torque Athletic) with the development of the Macebell.

This brutal kettlebell/indian club hybrid actually originated in ancient Persia where they were known as “Meels”. These “Meels” were utilized by the Pahlavan (ancient Persian grapplers and strongmen) to increase their strength, endurance, and health. The lighter version generally weighed in the range of ten to fifteen pounds and were used in high rep sets to build stamina while the heavier class weighed from anywhere between twenty-five to sixty pounds and were used to build great strength.

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According to longtime Pahlavani researcher Farzad Nekoogar, Meels first made their way to India as late as the thirteenth century by Persian grapplers fleeing the Mongols. Indian mace swinging is derivative of ancient war club practice. Nearly every depiction of the gods and goddesses in Hindu religious art finds the deity brandishing a war mace of some kind.

Probably the most famous and feared embodiment of the Mace Swinging athlete was a man known as The Lion of the Punjab, “The Great Gama” Baksh. He was born into a famous family of grapplers from the northwestern part of India.

To give you the scope of his commanding physical presence, Gama had thirty inch thighs and a fifty-six inch chest. At only six years old, Gama’s father died and this event, in many ways, drove him to excel in grappling. Gama’s first feat of physicality came at a national physical culture competition held sometime around 1888. Despite the fact that Gama was a mere ten years old, permission was granted for him to compete when the powers that be learned that he was the son of the great wrestler Aziz Baksh.

As Joseph Alter, Ph.D. tells the story of Gama’s abilities (see his article entitled GAMA THE WORLD CHAMPION: WRESTLING AND PHYSICAL CULTURE IN COLONIAL INDIA in the October 1995 edition of the journal Iron Game History for more);

“the main contest in the competition was to see who could do the highest number of repetitions of free squats called “bethaks”. Indian wrestlers regularly do hundreds if not thousands every day, and even at ten years old Gama’s daily routine included five hundred. Over four hundred wrestlers from around the country had gathered for the contest. after a number of hours had passed, only fifteen wrestlers were left exercising. At this point Jaswant Singh ended the contest saying that the ten year old boy was clearly the winner in such a field of stalwart national champions. Later, upon being asked how many (bethaks) he had done, Gama replied that he could not remember, but probably several thousand. In any event he was bed-ridden for a week.

1928: World Champion wrestler Stanislaus Zybysco with Gama before their match. Despite being 50 years old and outweighed by 50 lbs, Gama prevailed decidedly in an amazing 42 seconds.

Starting at the age of ten, Gama’s daily exercise routine included not only five hundred bethaks, but five hundred dands (jack-knifing push-ups) as well. He is said to have regularly done three thousand bethaks and fifteen hundred dands and run one mile every day with a 120 pound stone ring around his neck.

In 1908, two years before he went to London to compete for the world championship belt, Gama’s regimen was increased to five thousand bethaks and three thousand dands. Every morning he would also work out by wrestling with forty compatriot wrestlers in the royal court. Added to this, he began weight-lifting with a one hundred pound grind stone and a santola (wooden bar-bell made from a tree trunk).

His phenomenal diet and regimen of exercise was meant to develop a kind of pervasive subtle energy rather than just the kinetic power of particular muscle groups. Even at the age of fifty, Gama was still doing 6000 bethaks and 4000 dands every day, and wrestling with eighty compatriots in the royal court.”

Clearly Gama’s regimen encompassed much more than just the Mace but nonetheless they were a big part of every Indian wrestler’s training.

During the nineteenth century, while stationed in India, the British army, utilized Indian-club exercises as part of its own military PT (physical training) regimen. In 1861, an American fitness enthusiast and businessman by the name of Sim D. Kehoe observed the art of Indian-club swinging while visiting England. Soon thereafter he began to produce and sell clubs on the American market in 1862.

Indian Clubs were used in the Olympic Games in 1904 in St. Louis under the auspices of “Rhythmic Gymnastics” and remained an Olympic sport until 1932. These days it seems like everything old is new again and certainly mace swinging should be no exception.

Today there is a resurgence of interest in Indian Clubs among modern physical culturists, especially combat athletes. The non-linear motions work the shoulder girdle and core like nothing else. The grip also benefits from mace-work. If you are interested in changing up your routine and challenging yourself with the Macebell, it is a brutal strength training implement that will earn your respect.

Jake Shannon is the author and creator of http://www.scientificwrestling.com where you’ll find a wealth of information on scientific wrestling. Have a look now: => http://www.scientificwrestling.com
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Spread And Development Of Buddhism In Burma, Cambodia, Thailand And Laos

Spread And Development Of Buddhism In Burma, Cambodia, Thailand And Laos

Development in Burma
In Burma, Buddhism reached its golden era in the reign of King Anurudh (or Anawrata; B.E. 1588 -1621 or 1044 – 1077 C.E.), when Burma was first united into one country and its capital city of Pagan became a great centre of Buddhist culture. After the end of the Mongol occupation under Kublai Khan (from B.E. 1831 to 1845; 1287 – 1301 C.E.), Buddhism flourished again under King Dhammaceti (B.E. 2004 – 2035; or 1460 – 1491 C.E.). During the next centuries, Burmese Buddhism contributed much to the stability and progress of Buddhism. Some monks came from Ceylon to be reordained and took the ordination procedure back to their country. The study of Abhidhamma flourished. Pali texts were translated into Burmese and a great number of Pali scriptures and books on Buddhism were written by Burmese scholars. A council called the Fifth Great Council was held in Mandalay under King Mindon in B.E. 2415 (1871 C.E.) and the Tipitฺaka was inscribed on 729 marble slabs enshrined at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

The British rule from B.E. 2430 to 2492 (1886 – 1948 C.E.) caused in the Burmese a strong feeling of nationalism which combined political independence with the protection of the national religion. After the independence, national and religious leaders were very active in supporting and encouraging the Buddhist causes and activities. In B.E. 2498 (1954 C.E.) the Burmese government in cooperation with the Burmese Sangha invited representatives of all neighbouring, Buddhist countries and of Buddhist groups in various countries to participate in the Sixth Great Council which met in Rangoon to recite and revise the text of the Pali scriptures and to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Great Demise of the Buddha.

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Development in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
From ruins and art-objects, it is evident that Buddhism must have been introduced into the great kingdom of Founan (modern Cambodia) at least by the 10th century after the Buddha (5th century C.E.). However, little is known about this early period, except that soon after this time it lost ground to Hinduism which flourished under a series of Hindu rulers* from about the 7th to the 18th century after the Buddha (2nd – 13th century C.E.). During this Brahmanical period, Mahayana Buddhism was found existing side by side with Hinduism, and sometime before the end of this period gained ground over Hinduism. The great king who first upheld Buddhism was Yasovarman who reigned in the 15th century B.E. (9th century C.E.).

Three centuries later the ancient kingdom of Founan was at its height of power and prosperity under Jayavarman VII who reigned from B.E. 1724 to 1763 (1181-1220 C.E.). Jayavarman was a devoted Buddhist. Trying to follow the Buddhist ideal of the righteous king, he built numerous roads, 121 resthouses, and 102 hospitals and did other meritorious deeds. The next century saw the independence of the Thais. To this there was a royal reaction away from Buddhism back to orthodox Hinduism.

After the 18th century B.E., however, through the influence of the reform of Buddhism in Ceylon during the reign of Parakramabahu I the Great, Theravada Buddhism returned, first through Thailand and then directly from Ceylon. Within the next two centuries, it replaced Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism and became the national religion of Cambodia. As in Thailand, traces of Hinduism can be found today only in public ceremonies and customs.

In Laos the history of Buddhism followed the same line as that of Cambodia and Thailand. The Laotians have been devoted adherents of Theravada Buddhism since the introduction of the Lankavamsa tradition into these regions, and follow practices which are similar to those of Thailand and Cambodia.
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Bengali weddings

Bengali weddings

The entire process of tying the nuptial knot in Bengali matrimony is very beautiful and colorful, involving many traditions and ceremonies. These rituals and ceremonies are not only enjoyable but also they hold deep meaning and history. These rituals span for several days.

Traditional Bengali marriages have multiple rituals that the bride and the groom have to perform before weeding, during the wedding and post wedding. The basic customs that symbolize a Bengali wedding ceremony are the blowing of shank (shell), ululation by the females, shehnai playing at the wedding etc – these making the wedding day bright and more inviting.

Rituals before the wedding:

Ashirbaad – the ashirbaad ceremony is when the elders from the Bengali groom side shower the bride with their blessings and likewise the elders from the Bengali bride side bless the groom; ashirbaad (ashirvad) meaning blessing is the prime most ceremony in a Bengali marriage. The ceremony is performed by sprinkling rice and trefoil on the bride and groom and giving them gold ornaments. This ceremony also symbolizes that both the parties accept that the bride and the groom are going to be tied into a holy bond.
Gaye holud – this is the ceremony where turmeric (haldi) is grinded and prepared by the ladies and applied on both the bride as well as the groom. In this ceremony, the groom and his family go to the bride’s house with brides wedding outfit, henna and turmeric to decorate the bride. They also carry with them two fishes decorated, symbolizing the bride and the groom.
Aai budo bhat – this is the pre-marriage bachelorette party thrown by the friends and relatives of the bride to shower her with their blessings, acceptance and joy.
Dodhi mongol – in this ceremony, about ten to eleven married women go to the nearest pond or river and offer prayers to goddess ganga inviting her for the wedding and asking her blessings for the couple; after which they bring a pitcher filled with the water from that pond. After this, they adorn the hands of the bride with a bangles one pair being red and the other being white also known as shakha and paula.

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These are the main pre wedding rituals that are performed in order to bless the bride a groom, followed by the main wedding rituals.

Main wedding rituals:

Bor jatri – also known as the groom’s arrival, here the groom and all his friends and relatives dress up in their wedding dresses and arrive at the brides house. The groom carries with him a mirror through out the wedding, and the women on the bride’s side welcome the groom and his family by ringing bells and shells.

Potto bastra – where the groom is seated at the altar (chadnatolla) and only the bride, groom and the priest are present.

Saat paak this is where the bride is made to sit on a low stool and the brothers of the bride carry her and take seven complete circles around the groom (also known as pheras in Hindu marriages) and all along this the bride keeps her eyes covered by beetle leaves. This ceremony signifies that they are now tied to each other from this day onwards.

Mala badal – this ceremony signifies that the bride and the groom have accepted each other. Here, they sit on a piri and exchange flower garlands three times. After this, the bride and the groom are suppose to finally look at each other in front of the entire crowd that is witnessing the progression of marriage, which is also known as subho drishti.

Sampradan – the bride is then made to sit at the chadnatolla where the elder males on the bride side hand her over to the groom. The bride places her hand on that of the groom’s and their hands are tied by the holy thread followed by reciting holy chants given by the priest.

Yagna – the bride and groom take holy vows in front of the sacred fire, praying the agni devta (god of fire) to bless them and their marriage. Then, the bride and the groom take seven rounds of the yagna, followed by offering anjali to the fire where the brother of the bride puts rice in her hands and the groom holds her hands from behind and together they offer this to the yagna .

Sindoor dan – after the anjali, the bride and groom take their places again, and then the groom puts sindoor (vermilion) on the bride’s hair parting.  After that, the bride is made to cover her head with a new saree gifted by the groom’s family as the ghoongat.

These ceremonies mark the completion of the wedding process, tying the bride and the groom as one in the process of holy matrimonial.

Post wedding rituals:

Bidaay – as the name suggests it’s the stage of bidaye i.e. bidding farewell to the bride by her family and friends, blessing her to start a new and happy life with her husband.
Kaal ratri –per the Bengalis, this is the night where the bride and groom are kept separate for one entire night, and are not allowed to see each other. Then, the next day, the bride has to prepare a meal for the groom and his family, followed by an elaborate reception party for relatives and friends.
Phool sajja – once all the marriage ceremonies are over, the bride’s family sends a new saree to the bride and a set of dhoti kurta for the groom. The bride and the groom then retire to their nuptial room decorated with a bed full of colorful flowers, concluding the wedding ceremony.
Jharna Bhatnagar writes on behalf of Jeevansathi.com, which is India’s fastest growing matrimonial website, provides online Indian matrimonial classified services. Jeevansathi.com enables users to create a Bengali matrimony profile on the website and allow prospective grooms and brides to contact each other. Users can search for profiles through advanced search options on the website. Users can avail free registration and make initial contact with each other through services available on Jeevansathi.com via Chat, SMS, and e-mail.
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