Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh

  • ASK TIP SHEET

    "CE" stands for the French term Conformite Europeenne (European Conformity). The symbol shows up on products like electronic gadgets, medical devices and toys to demonstrate that they comply with legal requirements in the European Union. Why does it appear here? To make life easier, says Paco Cabeza-Lopez of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, products from big manufacturers include "every single certification mark they have." It's sort of like bringing your U.S. passport on vacation to Hawaii.
  • A CLASSIC DILEMMA

    If you can't judge a book by its cover, then how can you judge different editions of the same classic novel? Start shopping for your favorite summer reads with reviews on amazon.com or other sites, but don't look for plot holes. Instead, dig up dirt like a recent posting that lambasted spelling errors in a paperback edition of "Madame Bovary." Next, log off and hit bookstore shelves. Different editions can be distinguished by notes from the editor (skim to see if he or she is from a familiar college) and supplementary readings at the end of the text. Brenda Silver, an English professor at Dartmouth, says novels that include "things like maps make for a much richer text for teaching." But for recreational purposes, "I probably wouldn't buy the [edition] with essays." Instead, consider footnote placement, especially for older texts like Shakespeare. You'll probably want individual words, not lines, to be noted; the Signet Classics get it right. And footnotes should be on each page,...
  • SKIMPY STITCHES

    Show off your curves--and crafts-- this summer with the latest trend in knitting: bikinis. To start, get water-friendly yarn with "some kind of stretch," like nylon or microfiber blends, says Edith Eig of La Knitterie Parisienne (800-228-9927 for free tips) in Studio City, Calif. But stay away from whole cotton or your suit might sag. Most patterns, available at sites like knitwhits.com, are simple enough and take only a few days to complete--especially if you make two triangles for the top. Crochet the straps or use knitted cord. For your suit bottom, rely on a simple shaping technique. "Increase the fabric and decrease the fabric" to create leg holes, says Miriam Maltagliati at Knit New York. Next, try "a sexy bikini for the bedroom" that you can wear all year-round.
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    Studios release box-office numbers--and after splurging on films, they're interested in the bottom line. "It's been done this way forever," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co., a box-office tracking firm. "It sounds a lot sexier to say a movie has made $100 million than sold 20 million tickets." The major drawback? Inflation. Go to boxofficemojo.com, and you'll see that "Gone With the Wind"--not "Titanic"--has filled more seats than any other film.
  • Fairy Tales: I'm A Believer

    So "Shrek" doesn't have a monopoly on fart jokes after all. Here are our favorite fractured fairy tales--and the important lessons they'll teach your kids.The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka ($15.99). Marriage to a frog turned prince croaks--and it isn't just because of the pond breath. Girls, get him to sign the prenuptial.The Three Little Pigs Buy the White House by Dan Piraro ($12.95). Don't trust little piggies named Rummy, Dickey and Dubya. Tax "cuts" will blow your paycheck down.The Princess and the Potty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison ($6.99). Off with the diapers. The time will come in every young princess's life when she'll need to learn how to sit on her throne.Fractured Fairy Tales by A. J. Jacobs ($10.95). Oldskits. The lesson: if you remake a moose cartoon and leave out the witch Grizelka, you're cursed.
  • Entertainment: Fast Ride

    Who wants to wait hours to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean when you've got the DVD? This year, theme parks offer ways to beat lines. Skip crowds at the gate by printing your tickets at home (check sites for availability). An upgraded $99 ticket at Universal Studios Hollywood lets you jump to the front of all lines. Or try a "virtual queue" at the Disney and Six Flags parks. Pick up a ticket or pager that saves your place--then go back and hop on.
  • Movies: 13 Going On 17?

    Katherine Bell was carded when she went to see "The Girl Next Door," but it's not what you think. Bell, 15, got through the doors of the Peoria, Ill., theater with her R-Card--a new offering that allows viewers under 17 into restricted films without their folks. "I got it because I want to see movies with my boyfriend, and he's older," Bell says, adding that "lots of underclassmen have it" at her school.Bell received the card, offered by GKC Theatres, a Midwestern chain, after her father, David, signed a form at the box office that said she could see R-rated movies. "I think kids mostly get into movies anyway," he says. In test markets as many as 12 percent of local high-school students signed up, along with kids as young as 11.Not everyone's a fan. "I'm totally opposed to it," says Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America. "I think it's ruptured the intent of the rating system." The National Association of Theatre Owners is putting pressure on the chain...
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    Why are bagpipes the music of choice at public funerals? When did this custom begin? --Dale Taliaferro, Winnemucca, Nev.We dug up an ancient poem that referred to bagpipes at the funeral of King Donnchadh of Ossory (modern-day Ireland), who reigned in the 10th century--so the tradition is at least that old. Recent performances probably trace their roots to Sir Robert Peel, a 19th-century statesman who helped establish the modern British police. (They were named "bobbies" in his honor.) Bagpipes became the preferred instrument at memorials in England, since many officers had Irish roots. Next came Boston. Soon other mourners caught on.
  • Family: Like, Hire Me, Dude

    Help Wanted!" might be the cry from your high-schooler when he starts looking for a job this month. Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, predicts the job market for teens this summer will be one of the worst in 40 years. Without being too pushy, parents can help guide the search.First, suggest that they start now, since employers hire early for the summer. Usually resumes aren't necessary for entry-level positions at movie theaters and fast-food joints; they should pick up an application instead. When they go in, they should dress "like the other people who work there," says Renee Ward of teens4hire.org, and avoid peak hours.For the interview, coach your teen to use anecdotes that demonstrate responsibility. If all else fails, try the networking game. Or suggest volunteer work. Anything beats staying home with reruns of "Friends."
  • Television: Reality Does Bite

    In reality TV, the toughest competition takes place off-camera--even if you don't have to eat bugs. At the "Apprentice" audition, Sam Solovey greased a rival applicant $50 for his place in line, then used the story to wow casting agents. "It was the hunger in my eyes that mattered," says Solovey, who made the cut--only to get sacked in the third episode.If you want your own shot at infamy, start by surfing network sites to see who's casting. "Extreme Makeover" is taking applications (see abc.com for details). "The Contender" (nbc.com) is looking for boxers to be mentored by Sylvester Stallone, and the producers of "America's Next Diva of Domesticity" (cbs.com) want someone with Martha's craftiness. Ready to apply? Skip the open calls and make an audition tape (check the application for specs). Casting agents look for strong personalities--and "sex, conflict and humor," says Lynne Spillman of "Survivor." Creativity counts. Think up clever songs and cameos. But keep your clothes on...
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    Where does the term "hack writer" come from? Did writers of yore drive taxis, or is there another reason?We went to the place all words come from (the Oxford English Dictionary) and discovered that "hack" is short for "hackney": "One who is used to do mean or servile work for hire." That includes carriage, or taxi, drivers and ladies of the evening--both uses of the word "hack" that date to the 18th century. Somehow, writers were also lumped in with that group--in the sense of "a literary drudge who hires himself out to do any and every kind of literary work." In journalism, we have another term for people like that: freelancers.
  • Science: Fly Me To The Moon

    Look up in the sky this month and you might see... a comet. (What were you expecting, Superman?) Linear and Neat are two long-period comets--with orbits of more than 200 years around the sun--making their debut in recorded history. To spot them, your best shot is to flee the city lights for "a place dark enough to see the Milky Way" at night, says Donald E. Brownlee, astronomy professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Neat will be at its brightest this week, in the southwest horizon near Sirius. Linear can be seen in late May and early June at dusk in the west-southwest. Search skyandtelescope.com for more information and cometography.com for recent photographs. A third comet, Bradfield (pictured), is also out there. But it's fading, so you'll need a good telescope to catch it.
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    How do stadium grounds managers cut grass so that it looks striped or checkered? The common thought is they mow in different directions, but so do I.Dana Saal, Springfield, Ill.Well, you're on the right track. High-end stadium mowers are mounted with rollers, a mechanism that pushes grass down. Blades are bent in opposite directions as you move up and back--so light reflects off the grass to show patterns. You can get lawn tractors with full-width rollers at Sears starting at $1,500. One catch: "If you layer the grass," says Grant Trenbeath, head groundskeeper for the Arizona Diamondbacks, "sometimes the ball has a tendency to snake."
  • Video Store: Prom Flicks

    It's prom season, so bust a move--for the remote. Here are Tip Sheet's top prom pics, and the wise lessons they can teach our nation's young. 'American Pie' (1999) Proms can be fun, but losing your virginity is a serious decision. Also: don't get naked in your parents' kitchen. What the hell is the matter with you?'Carrie' (1976) Keep in mind that regardless of what happens, your prom won't be the worst.'Pretty in Pink' (1986) If you have to choose between someone named Duckie and someone in the Brat Pack, stay home and watch "Carrie."'She's All That' (1999) You, too, can be Pygmalion. Just make sure the ugly girl you choose is actually incredibly hot.'Whatever It Takes' (2000) Here's the lesson: if you rented this movie, you have god-awful taste. Immediately rethink your tux.
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    When we "strain to hear" a faint sound, are we really straining anything?Nancy Pfeffer, Long Beach, Calif.Sounds like a mind-boggler. We asked Dr. Joseph B. Roberson of the California Ear Institute to hear your question out. "You are not straining anything in the ear," he says. "But you are stopping other cognitive ability to focus on the sound." In other words, mental juices are needed to concentrate, so the strain is put on the brain. If you're a telemarketer--or a star TIP SHEET reporter--trying to hear distant voices on the phone all day, you might get tired faster. Um, boss, here's another reason we need a nap room.
  • Health: Patch Up That Scar

    Unless you're Harry Potter, friends probably don't admire your scars. So make them go away. Over-the-counter "scar sheets" from brands like Neosporin and Band-Aid are proliferating. But do they really work? Most of the adhesive patches contain silicone, which studies show can soften scars (the sheets aren't meant to be used on open wounds, so let them heal first). Two caveats: the patches are more effective on raised scars. And they must be worn for at least eight weeks. Of the topical gels that claim to reduce scarring, Mederma "probably works best," says Dr. Hayes Gladstone, director of the division of dermasurgery at Stanford University. Experts advise you to keep a new scar in the shade; apply sunscreen and a moisturizer, or vitamin E, regularly. If it doesn't improve after several months, a dermatologist may be able to flatten and fade it with a laser. That way you won't be scarred for life.
  • Theme Parks

    Amusement parks have had a busy winter of construction. Now you can spend your summer riding the rails--and slides. Tip Sheet maps the best new attractions:BorgAssimilator Now open at Paramount's Carowinds, Charlotte, N.C. Trekkies get beamed up on a flying roller coaster that reaches speeds of 50 miles per hour. It's fast enough to blow off your Spock ears.Revenge of the Mummy Universal Studios (opens May 21 in Orlando and June 25 in Hollywood). A massive indoor coaster with dips and CGI special effects. It'll scare you--but not as much as Brendan Fraser's acting.Journey to Atlantis SeaWorld, San Diego (opens May 29). This water ride, with simulated earthquakes, water cannons and a 60-foot plunge, will be the park's biggest attraction. Sorry, but Shamu can't swim along.The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror California Adventure, Anaheim (opens May 5). A fat drop, based on Disney World's. Amy Henry of "The Apprentice" tried a test run last week and got fired... up.
  • TECHNOLOGY: SAFER SURFING FOR LOVE

    Rene Pengra, 36, thought she'd met her match on Yahoo! Personals. The guy sounded intelligent and introduced himself as a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan. But she grew suspicious when his name didn't show up on the school's Web site. (He also claimed to be the only man alive to have been bitten by a shark and struck by lightning.) When he asked her out, Pengra--a lawyer--ran a background check. "It turns out he was still married, he wasn't a philosophy professor and he'd lied about his age," she says.If you've surfed the Net for love, you know that losers are easy to come by. But along with the harmless fibbers and philanderers can come dangerous creeps and felons. How do you separate the Romeos from the Pinocchios? Many of the larger dating sites are acknowledging the problem. Match.com drops 2,000 of its 12 million members a month, mostly from reports of "unwelcomed and inappropriate" communication, says the site's president, Tim Sullivan. But as online dating...
  • TECHNOLOGY: HOBBIT HUNTING

    This Easter, hunt for digital "Easter eggs"--hidden extras on your favorite DVDs. Once a cult-fan secret, these concealed outtakes and trivia cards are (not) showing up in more and more films.To begin, choose a disc (your best bet is a special edition) and scout the main menu for secret buttons. For example, try to scroll up even if it appears you can only scroll left or right. Some eggs are more difficult to find: take a gander at less popular menus like sound. Stumped? The first disc of "The Two Towers" extended edition comes with a link to Gollum's bleep-laced acceptance speech at the MTV Movie Awards. To find it, skip to the last page of select a scene, scroll below the chapters and select the hidden ring that pops up. On the "Matrix Revolutions" DVD, out this week, select the second disc's white-rabbit icons to watch behind-the-scenes featurettes. For more extras, go to eeggs.com and look up "Gladiator," "Memento," "Spider-Man" and other titles. They're treats even the Easter...

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