Your Mind: Quick Picks

50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2008: Quick Picks for Your Mind

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Take an International Look at the News

Curious about opinions from across the globe? Find them on foreign news sites. After native readers, Americans are the second-largest users of websites for Germany's Der Spiegel and Japan's Daily Yomiuri publications. About a third of the hits to the British Guardian come from America.

Bill Mitchell, director of Poynter Online, says that international news sources generally offer more eyewitness accounts of overseas news than the American media provide. Also, following an ongoing event through one of these sites and a hometown paper allows for comparative perspectives. —Amy Golod

Make Your Favorite Blogs Come to You

Instead of going to each of your favorite news sites and blogs individually, try setting up an RSS ("really simple syndication") feed reader.

First, sign up for a feed reader. The best include Google Reader, Netvibes, NewsGator, Bloglines, and My Yahoo! Next, subscribe to feeds. The most universal way is to go directly to your favorite sites; navigate to the RSS page (for example, USNews.com/rssfeeds); then paste that URL into your RSS reader. You can subscribe to an entire site or just one specific topic. Then all you have to do is check your RSS feed reader for new content. —Alison Go

Get (And Use) a Library Card

America's more than 16,000 public libraries do more than just lend books. While a recent poll found that most people go to a public library to check out books, it also found that visitors end up using the library's computers and exploring its cultural exhibits and programs.

For example, the Princeton (N.J.) Public Library offers workshops that include genealogy and scrapbooking, a weekly technology talk, book clubs, and author discussions. At the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, a $27 million project brings "stories to life" in its two theaters. You can find your local public library by visiting ilovelibraries.org. —Jill Konieczko

Get Lost in the Art of Geography

"Geography is not just learning something that you will forget," says 15-year-old 2007 National Geographic Bee winner Caitlin Snaring. "It will help you for the rest of your life."

Not bad advice in a world where GPS navigation devices top many holiday gift lists. It's not so hard to master the fading art of geography. In fact, there is a simple remedy. "What I recommend to people is to use an atlas like they use a dictionary," says geographer Matt Rosenberg. "If you come up against a place in the paper or on the TV news that you haven't heard of, just pick up the atlas and look it up."

And guess what? You'll even know where you are when that fancy GPS navigator breaks. —Eddy Ramírez