Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coca-Cola to put calorie counts on front labels

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Coca-Cola Co said on Wednesday it will include calorie information on the front of nearly all its packages, as the world's largest soft drink maker seeks to raise consumer awareness about nutrition.

The move, which Coke said is the first among beverage companies, comes a day after it said it was intensifying its efforts to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet as a way to fight the possibility of a soft drink tax.

There have been increasingly vocal calls for taxes on sugary drinks and junk food to help fight the problem of obesity in the United States.

Coke plans to give nutritional information on the front of all its packages worldwide by the end of 2011.

It has already rolled out the new labels in Europe and Australia and is now doing so in Mexico and the United States.

Coke's drink portfolio ranges from Coca-Cola and Sprite to vitaminwater and Powerade, and also includes Minute Maid juice and Georgia Coffee.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Gary Hill)
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Single and Confident

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Do you find yourself worrying what others think about you? When someone tells you to reconsider your ideas, do you stop in your tracks and reconsider your decisions? Maybe it’s just a passing comment about your choice of friends, career change, or your desire to remain single for now. Just remember, no matter what you do in life, there will always be people who don’t like you or the choices you’ve made. Everyone should simply learn to take criticism and move on. But single people must make it a priority in their lives to stop caring what other people think.

While it can be difficult, or even painful when others disapprove of our behavior and exclude us, it becomes just as hard to try living up to standards set by others. These standards may be contradictory to our emotional or physical well-being. The price we end up paying for living our lives according to someone else’s rules can prove to be dangerous. It can lead to depression and a crippling sense of unworthiness.

Take Criticism and Move On -

Get a different outlook on the situation. If someone disapproves of you, try to realize that it may have more to do with their view of the world than it does with you. However, if you look at the situation and feel that they may have a point, it is important to remember that the criticism is about what you’ve done, not about who you are.

Although it is normal to care about the thoughts of those you love, understand that sometimes their condemnation may be their own feelings of jealousy or insecurity. Always take a step back and get perspective on the situation.

It may be worth asking yourself the question ‘’ Why is their opinion of me more important than my own?’’ When you answer this question honestly and find that the answer is ‘‘it is not more important’’ then you just may be surprised at how good it feels to let go of the worry.

Take a risk and loose the habit of being dependent on the approval of others. It may feel dangerous at first to start letting the opinions of others roll-off-your-back, but before you know it, you’ll be free from the fear of disappointing the world. Step into the unknown and let go of the habit of taking someone else’s opinion above your own.
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Adult Lifestyle: Five Creative Dates She'll Love for Under $20! | Adult Lifestyle

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Dating can be an expensive endeavor, especially in the early stages of courtship. Guys want to impress the object of their affection but for many, money is tight. Of course, no one wants to come across as a cheapskate. So that leaves the question, how can one date when funds are low? Well, it takes a little creativity and a little more work, but it is possible to impress a woman for under around $20.

Candlelight Picnic

What is more romantic than sitting under the stars with that special someone, feeding each other strawberries and having a little bubbly? To impress her though, it will take more than just throwing down an old blanket and unwrapping a Subway sandwich. Ask friends, especially women friends, to borrow some candles and a nice quilt. Rather than a full meal, prepare some fruit, cheese, bite-sized, easy-to-eat snacks, and get an inexpensive bottle of champagne. If possible, set up the picnic beforehand and surprise her. Women love romantic surprises and she will be impressed at your forethought and ingenuity.....Continue

Wine Tasting

This is such an excellent cheap date, and in most cases won't a penny. Search online for wine tastings in your area and make a reservation for two. Often, these are very classy events lasting an hour or two, and most have refreshments. They do all the work for you; all you have to do is show up.

Take a Class

Most places offer a free introductory class as a marketing tool to draw people in to signing up for future classes. Is there something your date has talked about before that she would love to learn? Whether it is ballroom dancing, Thai cooking, or martial arts, contact the school and ask if they offer free introductory classes for demonstration. Then, impress your girl by showing her you listened when told you she always wanted to learn how to cook. She will love that you tailored a date especially for her.

Death by Chocolate

As long as your woman isn't on a diet, this is an excellent date she'll love. Search your area for bakeries that offer sample sizes of their products. Then, for a small fee, you can get many different desserts to try (some bakeries will sell small slices of cake for a nominal fee for example). Invite your date over for coffee and dessert. You can purchase sample-sized coffee too, and brew a couple of different flavors. Then, rent a movie like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or more romantic, Chocolat to continue the theme. Alternatively, you can melt chocolate and create chocolate covered strawberries or cherries together as a fun activity.

Drive-In

If you can get your hands on a home projector, this is a very impressive idea. Ask around for anyone who has one you can borrow, and treat your date to an old-fashioned night at the drive-in. Project a film onto the side of a house, a garage, or even a sheet tied between two trees. You can purchase popcorn, Coke in glass bottles, and movie-style candy, and either literally watch in the car, or sit on chairs. If you really want to impress her, bring the couch outside so you can get comfy and snuggle up.

The common theme that runs through all these inexpensive dates is forethought, planning, and effort. These are truly what most women want out of their men after all is said and done. In the process though, you can have some creative, memorable dates for under around $20.

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6 Tips to Help You Clear Your Single Lifestyle Clutter | Adult Lifestyle

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As soon as the sun starts shining and the birds flutter around the feeder in my garden, I develop this uncontrollable urge to clean out the clutter from my life. I start with my desk drawers and end up cleaning out my bedroom closet, and my telephone book. I also start feeling more hopeful and optimistic about my life. There is just something about the warming weather, blooming flowers, and more sunny days than cold rainy ones that make me want to start anew. It is time to make your life clear and fresh with less home-clutter and even less mind-clutter.

Over the years I have discovered that this is the exact same feeling I get when I’m doing something I love, like writing or painting, falling in love, or getting rid of a relationship that seems more toxic than tonic. Clutter can sneak up on you over time, and when you are single and there isn’t anyone around to help keep you in check about the amount of stuff filling your rooms, it’s easy to find yourself feeling unfocused and unhappy. So, here are a few tips to help you keep a close check on your inner and outer clutter magnet:

1. Let go of out-dated items. If you have lots of clothing that you haven’t worn for at least a year, take it to a salvation store. Or, if you have items that can be sold at a consignment shop, take them in too.

2. Get rid of negative people in your life. They are the ones who make a point of bringing you down and never seem to have a nice word of encouragement. It’s time to say good-bye. These kinds of people are like parasites sucking away at your self-esteem and zest. Make it a clean break and don’t worry about their well-being – they will always find another ‘’host’’ to feed from.

3. Sell those old DVD’s and CD’s that you no longer listen to or watch. Download the music onto your computer, or compile then onto as few discs as possible. Sell the originals and use the extra cash to buy paint for your new office or bedroom.

4. Get active! Nothing makes you feel greater than the feeling you will have when you find a purpose in life. Finding time to help strangers, family, or friends, will do wonders for your mood. If you have extra time during the week or at weekends, volunteer your time to some lonely shut-ins, or a teenager who is in need of a mentor. If you have a marketable skill and are good with people, hire out your services to companies or schools who may need your expertise. One of the joys of being single is that you don’t have to report to anyone but yourself at the end of the day. Moreover, those days can be as full or as relaxed as you deem them.

5. Take up a new language or other interesting hobby. However, always make certain that you have time to follow it through. The purpose of starting out fresh is to make you feel optimistic and hopeful, so you want to verify that you have the time, energy, or money needed to make this a reality instead of something that will cause you more headaches and stress.

6. Open your life to healthy and happy relationships. Don’t cling to an old flame. Let them go! Don’t hold onto fear either, nothing positive ever happens when you hold on to things you no longer need. Besides, you have lots more adventures ahead of you for the next ‘’spring cleaning’’ time.

Whatever you decide to do, make certain that you have fun. The purpose of spring-cleaning is to make room for better things in your life. So, open up those doors, throw out the old, and let the fresh and new back into your life.
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Adult Lifestyle: Five Creative Dates She'll Love for Under $20!

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Dating can be an expensive endeavor, especially in the early stages of courtship. Guys want to impress the object of their affection but for many, money is tight. Of course, no one wants to come across as a cheapskate. So that leaves the question, how can one date when funds are low? Well, it takes a little creativity and a little more work, but it is possible to impress a woman for under around $20.

Candlelight Picnic

What is more romantic than sitting under the stars with that special someone, feeding each other strawberries and having a little bubbly? To impress her though, it will take more than just throwing down an old blanket and unwrapping a Subway sandwich. Ask friends, especially women friends, to borrow some candles and a nice quilt. Rather than a full meal, prepare some fruit, cheese, bite-sized, easy-to-eat snacks, and get an inexpensive bottle of champagne. If possible, set up the picnic beforehand and surprise her. Women love romantic surprises and she will be impressed at your forethought and ingenuity.

Wine Tasting

This is such an excellent cheap date, and in most cases won't a penny. Search online for wine tastings in your area and make a reservation for two. Often, these are very classy events lasting an hour or two, and most have refreshments. They do all the work for you; all you have to do is show up.

Take a Class

Most places offer a free introductory class as a marketing tool to draw people in to signing up for future classes. Is there something your date has talked about before that she would love to learn? Whether it is ballroom dancing, Thai cooking, or martial arts, contact the school and ask if they offer free introductory classes for demonstration. Then, impress your girl by showing her you listened when told you she always wanted to learn how to cook. She will love that you tailored a date especially for her.

Death by Chocolate

As long as your woman isn't on a diet, this is an excellent date she'll love. Search your area for bakeries that offer sample sizes of their products. Then, for a small fee, you can get many different desserts to try (some bakeries will sell small slices of cake for a nominal fee for example). Invite your date over for coffee and dessert. You can purchase sample-sized coffee too, and brew a couple of different flavors. Then, rent a movie like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or more romantic, Chocolat to continue the theme. Alternatively, you can melt chocolate and create chocolate covered strawberries or cherries together as a fun activity.

Drive-In

If you can get your hands on a home projector, this is a very impressive idea. Ask around for anyone who has one you can borrow, and treat your date to an old-fashioned night at the drive-in. Project a film onto the side of a house, a garage, or even a sheet tied between two trees. You can purchase popcorn, Coke in glass bottles, and movie-style candy, and either literally watch in the car, or sit on chairs. If you really want to impress her, bring the couch outside so you can get comfy and snuggle up.

The common theme that runs through all these inexpensive dates is forethought, planning, and effort. These are truly what most women want out of their men after all is said and done. In the process though, you can have some creative, memorable dates for under around $20.
Read more!

6 Tips to Help You Clear Your Single Lifestyle Clutter

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As soon as the sun starts shining and the birds flutter around the feeder in my garden, I develop this uncontrollable urge to clean out the clutter from my life. I start with my desk drawers and end up cleaning out my bedroom closet, and my telephone book. I also start feeling more hopeful and optimistic about my life. There is just something about the warming weather, blooming flowers, and more sunny days than cold rainy ones that make me want to start anew. It is time to make your life clear and fresh with less home-clutter and even less mind-clutter.

Over the years I have discovered that this is the exact same feeling I get when I’m doing something I love, like writing or painting, falling in love, or getting rid of a relationship that seems more toxic than tonic. Clutter can sneak up on you over time, and when you are single and there isn’t anyone around to help keep you in check about the amount of stuff filling your rooms, it’s easy to find yourself feeling unfocused and unhappy. So, here are a few tips to help you keep a close check on your inner and outer clutter magnet:

1. Let go of out-dated items. If you have lots of clothing that you haven’t worn for at least a year, take it to a salvation store. Or, if you have items that can be sold at a consignment shop, take them in too.

2. Get rid of negative people in your life. They are the ones who make a point of bringing you down and never seem to have a nice word of encouragement. It’s time to say good-bye. These kinds of people are like parasites sucking away at your self-esteem and zest. Make it a clean break and don’t worry about their well-being – they will always find another ‘’host’’ to feed from.

3. Sell those old DVD’s and CD’s that you no longer listen to or watch. Download the music onto your computer, or compile then onto as few discs as possible. Sell the originals and use the extra cash to buy paint for your new office or bedroom.

4. Get active! Nothing makes you feel greater than the feeling you will have when you find a purpose in life. Finding time to help strangers, family, or friends, will do wonders for your mood. If you have extra time during the week or at weekends, volunteer your time to some lonely shut-ins, or a teenager who is in need of a mentor. If you have a marketable skill and are good with people, hire out your services to companies or schools who may need your expertise. One of the joys of being single is that you don’t have to report to anyone but yourself at the end of the day. Moreover, those days can be as full or as relaxed as you deem them.

5. Take up a new language or other interesting hobby. However, always make certain that you have time to follow it through. The purpose of starting out fresh is to make you feel optimistic and hopeful, so you want to verify that you have the time, energy, or money needed to make this a reality instead of something that will cause you more headaches and stress.

6. Open your life to healthy and happy relationships. Don’t cling to an old flame. Let them go! Don’t hold onto fear either, nothing positive ever happens when you hold on to things you no longer need. Besides, you have lots more adventures ahead of you for the next ‘’spring cleaning’’ time.

Whatever you decide to do, make certain that you have fun. The purpose of spring-cleaning is to make room for better things in your life. So, open up those doors, throw out the old, and let the fresh and new back into your life.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Alternative Adult Lifestyle: Single Dating and Relationships with a Twist

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Alternative lifestyle can be defined as a mode of living or doing something in a way that is not within the accepted norms or values. Adult alternative lifestyle is simply an unusual sexual lifestyle.

Some activities considered alternative adult lifestyles include (But Not Limited to):

1. BDSM: This stands for Bondage and Discipline (B&D), Domination and Submission (D&S), and Sado-Masochism (S&M). As the definition suggests, BDSM involves bondage, that is restraining or being restrained, domination as well as submission, Sadism (taking pleasure in inflicting pain on another person) and masochism (taking pleasure in being subjected to a certain degree of pain).

2. Swinging: This can be defined as a form of recreational social and sexual activity between consenting adults whereby partner swapping is acceptable. Swinging is also referred to as "wife swapping", but this definition is inaccurate as it narrows down the activity and makes it look like a male domain. "Partner swapping" may be a simpler but more accurate description.

3. Sexual Fetishism: The arousal and/or gratification through some object, or non-genital part of the body. Such object or body part is referred to as the fetish. Fetishes include but are not limited to shoes (boots or high-hills), feet or digits of the foot, hair, underclothes or lingerie, body piercing, clothing (size, garment-type or size), stockings, etc.

4. Polyamory: This is the practice of having more than one intimate relationship at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. In polyamory there is no partner swapping, as opposed to swinging where swapping is the norm. Polyamorous relationships are usually serious and long term.

Why do people pursue adult alternative lifestyles and relationships? The answers are as many as the individuals. But one that tends to go across the board is- you guessed it- fun. Another reason is fulfillment of sexual fantasies.

There are many more forms and variations of sexual alternative lifestyles than can fit in this article, as well as sub-groupings of the same. For example, Bondage as in the B in BDSM can be considered as a lifestyle on its own.

It is not uncommon for alternative lifestyles to overlap. For example, at a swinger's party (an alternative lifestyle), one person may be getting a body part pierced (a fetish), a man may be receiving a spanking while restrained in chains (BDSM) from a woman in leather garments and boots (dress or shoe fetish), while a polyamorous trio (an alternative lifestyle) may be joined by another couple for a sexual activity.

Thinking of exploring your alternative, fantasy or fetish? There are dating sites specifically dedicated to adult alternative lifestyle, where people of like interests get to meet.
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5 Simple Strategies for a Happier Single Life

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If you had to write down a motto that described your single life philosophy, what would it be? "Single life is not for the faint hearted?" "One day at a time?" Sometimes, when we are going on with our everyday lives, a wave of unhappiness can come at us out of nowhere and send us into a fit of uncertainty or depression. Yes, unhappiness can creep up on you even while you are busy going on with your life. It can cause you to change your previous motto from "If I’m unhappy, I can make some positive changes" to "What’s the point?"

When being single makes you feel lonely and depressed it is time to go through some of the endless possibilities of change that can bring happiness into your life. Knowing the freedom that being single brings can actually be exhilarating and liberating. The fact is, when you are single you do not have to consult any person, other than yourself, when you want to make important decisions that will change your life for the better. Being single gives you this kind of freedom, and with freedom comes personal responsibility.

But it is important to note, that if you take the motto "If you’re unhappy, it’s time to make some positive changes" that you do not make those "changes" quickly. By going too fast it may lead to making some decisions that you may later regret. While the first idea that pops into your head may be the simplest, it may not address the root of the issues. Finding the underlying cause of your unhappiness is imperative and sometimes it may take getting some distance from your daily life to get the perspective you need.

5 Simple Strategies to Help Guide You to Greater Happiness:

1. Take a day trip or schedule a weekend spa getaway with the objective being to mull over the things in your life that are not working for you as a single person. Buy a special notebook, something beautiful and personal, and use this book to keep a journal of your thoughts and any decisions you make. Taking a break from your daily life enables you to get a better perspective on your life.

2. Get a pet. If you have the kind of job whose hours make it possible to have a pet, then by all means, get a pet. There is no better way to bring you out of your funk than having a wonderful critter to care for. However, if you simply do not have any extra time to devote to the care of a pet, then find something that can make you feel needed and only requires the time that you have available. This can be houseplants, a small herb garden, or, if you are a computer person, a "virtual" pet that you can adopt online.
The important thing to remember is that you must look for changes in your life that will make you less focused on being alone, and more focused on being happy.

3. If you do not like sleeping alone, then treat yourself to a "snuggle-buddy" pillow. These are pillows that you can curl your arms and legs around, or you can curl up into them in the same way that you would snuggle into the arms of a partner. Now, I can already hear the gasps of "is she kidding?" No, I am not. One of the things I missed the most was snuggling up to a warm body and drifting off to sleep. However, when I made the investment in getting one of these pillows, I found that I slept much better and I rarely thought about the fact that I was sleeping alone. Try it. You may like it.

4. Exercise, exercise, exercise! I cannot emphasize this enough. Even if you can only spare ten minutes a day, do something. Get your body moving. You will feel so much better having done so. Moreover, if you are truly motivated, decide today that you will prepare for a marathon of some sort. Volunteer to walk for a cause, or get a DVD and make a personalized workout plan all your own.

5. Lastly, include in your strategy a game plan to take better care of yourself. This may be the most important choice you make. Being healthy will make you feel happier, and when you feel better, you make better choices in your life. Instead of spending time thinking about what you do not have in your life, take the time to care for your wellbeing. Set up a space in your home or apartment that is devoted entirely to your personal growth and health. Whether you use this space for meditation, or as a place to sit and read books about better nutrition – use a portion of your day, and a section in your home, just for you.

Having a happier single life is really up to you. But, you must decide that you are worth the time and energy it will take to create a personal motto that will motivate you to strive for feeling less lonely and less out of sorts. Decide now to feel more joy and happiness, and it will become a reality.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lifestyle: Hope for Home Builders?

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Hope for Home Builders?
Outside of the nation's pricey metros and suburbs, there are pockets where new building permits are surging

Homebuilders still have a confidence problem. But they're starting to believe that the stabilizing housing market could lay the foundation for them to build on.

In much of the country, it's hard to justify putting up shiny new subdivisions with so many low-cost existing homes up for sale, unemployment rising, and buyers struggling to qualify for loans. But look outside of the nation's pricey metros and suburbs, and you'll find pockets where the builders are back.

BusinessWeek teamed up with Costa Mesa (Calif.)-based Hanley Wood Market Intelligence to rank the nation's strongest building markets. They found booming metros where military, government, and energy jobs—as well as natural disasters—are driving up demand for new construction.

Rebuilding Projects

Many of the areas had a surge in apartment construction to accommodate younger populations and workers looking for temporary homes. In Lake Charles, La., building permits rose 122% during the first six months of the year. Construction now plays a major role in the local economy as the metro rebuilds after Hurricane Ike last year and Hurricane Rita in 2005. But the economy also has gotten a boost from the petrochemical industry as well as large projects such as the new nuclear power fabrication facility now under construction.

Builders in Fayetteville (N.C.) metro, home of the U.S. Army's Fort Bragg, are preparing for a flood of new residents arriving as part of the Base Realignment and Closure program. About 40,000 civilians, defense contractors and soldiers are expected to move into the 11-county region around Fort Bragg by 2013. Already, $2 billion in construction projects are under way on the base alone, says Tim McNeill, chairman of the Bragg Regional Task Force. "Construction has slowed here but it never stopped," McNeill says. "People are moving in and buying houses, and a lot of folks in the construction trade have maintained their employment."

Building permits issued in the first six months of this year increased from the same period last year in 10 metropolitan areas, including Lake Charles; Beaumont, Tex.; Fayetteville; Salt Lake City; Huntsville, Ala.; and Little Rock, Ark. Permits for the nation as a whole, by comparison, plunged 32% in August from the year before, according to a U.S. Commerce Department report released Sept. 17.

The rest of the country is showing more modest improvements. Building permits issued for new homes and apartments rose 2.7% in August from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis. A National Association of Home Builders index released this week said that builder confidence in the sales prospects for new homes—though very low—is better than it has been since May 2008. But builder pessimism is still well above normal.

Build Builders

While much of the new permits are going to local area builders, the national giants are also beginning to see an uptick. Los Angeles-based KB Home (KBH) is resuming construction in the Washington, D.C., and mid-Atlantic region after pulling back from those markets last spring, the Washington Business Journal reported Sept. 16. The homes it plans to build in the D.C. area are part of its new low-cost, energy-efficient Open Series of homes, which have sold well since launching late last year. Even luxury builder Toll Brothers (TOLL), which has started cutting back on incentives in some markets, says it is feeling more confident as demand edges up—even for its $1 million-plus homes in Hoboken, N.J.

David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, says builders are largely limiting work to projects that would appeal to first-time homebuyers, the market's strongest segment. An $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers might be largely responsible for recent improvements in housing starts and permits as builders scramble to take advantage of the credit before it expires Dec. 1, he says. "Builders as a whole are very careful about future planning," Crowe says.

Developers in Huntsville, Ala., where building permits for apartments jumped 400% this year, have reason to be more confident. Huntsville's economy, bolstered by a growing job base at Redstone Arsenal and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, is one of the best in the country. "It's a really good place for builders to be," says Buck Barnhill, owner of Southern Exposure Information, a publisher of Alabama construction and market reports. "If you came to Huntsville, you wouldn't even know there was a problem in the U.S. Construction crews are everywhere. They're building hotels, the downtown is being renovated, and new schools are being built."

A recovery in the new-home market also could give the area a further boost, says builder Mark Harris, since newcomers might need to sell homes elsewhere before they can buy one in Huntsville. "As the national real estate market picks up, ours picks up," he says.
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4 Quick Ways to Enjoy the Single Lifestyle

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Some people may argue that as we grow older, and wiser, ‘’experience’’ makes us less innocent. But why can’t we enjoy maturity AND have fun at the same time? Do we really have to trade one in for the other? We need to take a step back and reclaim our right to just have fun. Period. Let’s salvage our ‘’joie de vivre’’ before we loose it entirely and end up not finding the pleasure in anything in our lives.
Having fun means finding the best of ourselves, and sharing that greatness with others only if we choose to do so.

Here are a few ways to have fun, either alone, or with others:

1. Take a Hike. Seriously. Take a nice, long, meditative walk somewhere peaceful and serene. If you are the athletic type, go for a walk where there are challenging trails and pride yourself in being able to enjoy whatever challenges nature throws in your path. If you prefer a milder way of enjoying nature – go for a walk through one of your favorite public gardens or nature trails. Don’t forget to spend the time thinking about all the things that you have to be thankful for in your life. No negative ‘’mind chatter’’ is allowed to accompany you on this trip.

2. Take up a new hobby or language that you have always wanted to know. Don’t worry about whether you have the time or the energy to start something new. Or whether you think you are intelligent enough to pick up new information in your life. Just do it and enjoy the time that you do have to devote to your new venture. Get some books from the library or take a class at the local community center. Do it for yourself, and no one else. In fact, see if you can start this project without mentioning it to any one else. Decide that you are going to have fun learning something new without the consent or opinions of others. This is your very own project to be completed when you decide it is time.


3. Book an afternoon at a spa. Get a facial, or massage, or just sit in a sauna and meditate. Bring a good book with you and spend an hour or two just thinking of nothing but comfort and how much you deserve to be pampered for the day. If you can’t afford a spa then make your own at home. Shut out the rest of the world for the afternoon and make your very own spa day at home. Give yourself a facial steam with soothing herbs followed by a pedicure or manicure. Put some thin slices of fresh cucumber in a pitcher of ice water and sip on the cooling mixture throughout the day. Play relaxing music and put your feet up. You can always get back to the daily grind the following day. But for now, this is your time.

4. Two words – Board Games! Get out your favorite board game, invite a few friends over and have a game party. This completely ridiculous act can be a whole lot of fun. Make it as simple or as festive as you wish. But make it fun. Go ahead, revert to your childhood days and bring a few friends along for the ride.

Just remember that fun doesn’t have to be complicated, and being a single adult doesn’t have to mean that you can’t be a bit silly at times. Do the things that bring a smile to your face because then you know that you are on the right track.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lifestyle: The Cars You Won't See in the U.S.

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The Cars You Won't See in the U.S.
Differences in emissions and safety standards, as well as consumer preferences, have kept some fuel-efficient superminis off U.S. shores

Automobiles and apple pie: about as American as you can get, right? Well, no. The U.S. gave up the global car crown years ago. While Detroit cranked out gas-guzzling behemoths, carmakers elsewhere worked toward building smaller, more fuel-efficient models. When gas prices hit dizzying new heights in September of 2005, American consumers realized they could admire all sorts of vehicles they would never be able to buy. "Why can't we get that car here?" has become a common refrain.

U.S. auto consumers may have only themselves to blame. Critics have been quick to decry the glut and poor planning of the Big Three automakers, but manufacturers have pointed the finger right back at consumers, charging that the huge vehicles they made were simply a response to demand. A Sept. 9, 2009, survey of 32,000 new car and light-truck buyers in the U.S. conducted by AutoPacific, a Tustin, (Calif.)research firm, concluded that American consumers still want cars that are "bigger, faster, and with more bells and whistles." Why then, the automakers figured, should they bother with cars such as the tiny Ford Ka (F), now available in the U.K., Latin America, and Mexico but missing from U.S. lots?
Wary of Diesel

Tough fuel economy and emissions standards in the U.S. also make it hard to import cars designed for less stringent markets. Fuel-efficient diesel vehicles designed for Europe used to spit out lots of greenhouse gases. In the U.S., states such as California cracked down on emissions because of smog problems, and so diesel was a nonstarter. Despite improvements in diesel technology, it's still not a sought-after fuel supply, so Americans might not find the Mini Cooper D (BMWG.F) for sale near them any time soon. "Americans can't figure out that diesel is more efficient, cleaner, and has better performance," says Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com, a Web site that tracks the auto industry.

Safety standards are another reason European and Asian superminis don't make it to U.S. shores. Vehicles in America have to reach a certain weight. The bare bones design of Tata's Nano (TTM) would not likely meet the restrictions necessary to be considered roadworthy in the U.S.

Then there's the bottom line. It's neither practical nor profitable for companies to make all vehicles for all countries. Much of the time, it's cheaper to make cars in countries such as China or India, where labor costs are low. Having to ship vehicles across oceans adds costs too high to pass on to U.S. consumers. For now, consumers will have to content themselves with looking but not driving.
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Loving Your Single Self

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When we think of our sense of self, whom do we see? Is it someone who is a good daughter? A good girlfriend? A wonderful wife? A great single mother? Or, do you define yourself based on what you do? Do you see yourself as an average student, an efficient secretary, a compassionate lawyer, an attentive teacher, or any number of jobs that women do in our culture? Is your vision of your self yours, or did someone else grace you with his or her definition of ‘’you?’’

So much of how we see ourselves has been formed by the roles and qualities that our family and peers assign us that it is easy to lose sight of our fundamental sense of self. Sometimes, these ‘’perceptions’’ are so forceful that we change who we really are in order to fit the mold that has been chosen for us. Until one day, we look in the mirror unable to identify the woman at whom we are looking.

Challenging these perceptions can seem scary, feel dangerous, and we end up doing things that sabotage our chances at happiness and success in order to play-it-safe, or worse, to be ‘’liked’’ by others. How often have you found yourself skipping a meeting that may have helped advance your career? Perhaps, you found other ways of avoiding success like putting off an important decision until the last moment, or constantly being late and ill prepared. But confronting this challenge can open our world to a new way of thinking about ourselves and give us the chance to discover our full potential.

What are your core beliefs?

What are some of your fundamental beliefs? Has your belief system been dictated by your family’s voice, or your cultural or religious upbringing? Do you believe the things that your parents or peers believe, or do you feel that you have no choice and must conform? Examining your core beliefs give you an opportunity to discover which ideas work for you and which ideas do not. By asking yourself essential questions, you are getting in touch with your true nature. You will be embarking on a process that is designed to steer you towards fulfillment and satisfaction. Rediscover the things you feel strongly about. Ask yourself what you believe inspires you to greatness.

Questioning yourself can become an important tool in raising your level of awareness and gaining control of your life. However, the questions you ask need to be honest with no concern as to how others may perceive your answers. They should be questions that challenge you in a way that makes it easier to know whom you really are deep inside. Because without this self-knowledge it is difficult to learn from our pasts, to accept and love the people we are, and to make the changes we want to make in our lives. Tapping into your true potential involves re-examining your fundamental view of your self, your limitations and finding your true purpose.

Let go of negative self-talk;
Listen to the words your inner voice uses as it speaks to you in difficult times. Is it a kind and compassionate voice the reassures you? Does your inner voice guide you in ways that help you relax and take things into perspective? The way we ‘’self-talk’’ can make the difference between going forward or our remaining stagnant and immobilized by fear. Being kind to yourself is not and ‘’option,’’ it is as essential to our wellbeing as the water we drink and the air we breathe. Make it a habit to set aside time to re-evaluate the things that you find essential to making you the person you want to be, and if you do not already love that woman looking back at you every morning in the mirror, decide today that you are going to do whatever it takes to fall in love with your ‘’self.’'
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Single Dating Again

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Recently, I got a letter from a friend of mine named Carol who has decided to give Internet dating a try. She had never tried dating online before and didn’t know anyone who had had any experience using it. She is in her early fifties, travels a lot, and rarely has time to develop an ongoing relationship. Carol is a confident, successful woman with a degree in international law. She concluded that the only way she was going to meet someone who could share her love of travel was going to be on the web.

She met a man, whom she liked, and they began writing one another. They exchanged mail daily, sometimes several times a day. Then, as suddenly as the correspondence to flight, it crashed without warning. It had been two weeks and he has not written her back during this time.

She was frantic and wrote me a long letter asking me some questions that had come up for her in retrospect. Questions such as, how often should she write him without sounding desperate? How many times should she email him in a period of a week and not seem too anxious? When is a good time to accept a meeting date after your first cyber contact? And where should your first meeting take place? And before I knew it, my confident, successful, intelligent friend had disappeared. She was replaced by a ‘’Pod-Woman’’ who looked like Carol, but was void of all her lovely self-assured traits.

One of the things I personally dislike about being single – especially being single and over 40 – is that the rules for dating etiquette are constantly changing. I can barely keep up with the latest film release let alone what I’m supposed to know and when I’m supposed to know it when it comes to starting all over again. And this uncertainty can make it fertile ground for self-doubt. If I’m not careful enough to keep perspective on my objectives and who I know myself to be, I can quite easily loose my footing and tumble into the abyss of ‘’fear.’’

But even having said this, I still find that it is easy to feel insecure when we are wandering though new territories. And Carol, even though she was doing something brave by making the decision to take control of her situation and try an online dating service – found herself becoming insecure about a situation that she had little control.

The questions brought up bigger issues for her, and for me - Issues such as our place in this world as women of a certain age who are single. Single either by choice or by circumstance. We found comfort in taking a step back and looking at the state of affairs from a different vantage point.

It turned out that the ‘’man-in-question’’ had a legitimate reason for not getting in touch with her for a fortnight. And they have now resumed their online relationship. But one thing has changed – Carol is no longer possessed by the temporary ‘’Pod-Woman’’ and the brief experience taught us both a valuable lesson. The foundations of our confidence must be built on concrete beliefs; otherwise, that foundation will crumble like sand at the first sign of trouble.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Adult Lifestyle: How to Get Guys to Respond to Your Online Dating Profile

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Getting a guy to respond to your online dating profile is not so difficult, but it is widely over thought to the point where many people think it is a lot harder than it is. So, here are some things to remember when creating your online dating profile.

First, remember to above all, be yourself. You need to be yourself, not someone else when you are dating online. If you don't think that someone would want you, you are wrong. Where you really get into trouble is when you start trying to be somebody you are not. When you try to do this,
you come off as shallow or dishonest, which are not things that will attract nice guys.

Second, the best way to get guys to respond to your online dating profile is with your picture. You need to take a cute photo of yourself that will flatter your better features. If your face is the feature that you want to promote on your online dating profile, make sure the photo flatters this feature and make it look its best.

If your body is what you want guys to see, include a whole body photo instead of just a head and shoulders shot. Remember that you are not trying to promote a different person, but rather the best version of you that is possible. It is not really necessary to get a professional photo taken, but rather, it is actually better to take one yourself.

So, here's what you should do. Get your best friend to take some pictures of you. In addition to what I said earlier, try taking pictures at funky angles, not at typical ones. These angles, sort of like the ones you see on Myspace and Facebook, can really make you look like you have a lot of character, which you do.

You need to define yourself through this picture. Once your best friend believes that a picture represents you, and you get one that you feel good about and post them to your online dating profile, you are ready to go. Remember that this picture is the first step to getting someone interested in you online and traffic to your online dating profile.

Third, when it comes time to write about you, be lively and talk about your interests on your online dating profile. Writing a dating profile that catches someone's eye sounds, at first, like an easy job. But then, you sit down at your computer, and go blank. What should you say? What shouldn't you say? What shouldn't you include? Are there any special secrets that you can learn to catch more looks online?

As funny as it sounds, many people actually over-think their dating profiles by thinking that they have to write something groundbreaking and intellectual. Actually, the complete opposite is true. You just need to write a profile that is purely you. That is what someone is looking for. If what describes you is naturally intellectual, then it will come off that way, and intellectual people will notice you. If, however, you have a flair for the "flightier", than you can attract people who are looking for you as well.

You see, writing an online dating profile should not be something you think about over and over. Here is a good method to follow. First, you need to sit down, open up a word processor, and start talking about yourself. Just describe you as accurately as you can. Once you get done with it, read it three times. Of course, correct any spelling and grammatical errors that you see, but also read it for content.

Were there any parts that sounded annoying? Were there any points that you wanted to change? Well, change them! Keep re-working it, keep reading it, and keep making changes until you feel good about it. You know when you have written a good profile when you feel good about it, and feel excited to see it go up on the Website. Review it every once in awhile, and if you need to update it, do so. But if you don't feel the need, than don't sweat it.

Talking about what music you like, what movies you enjoy, and your favorite date ideas are great ways to get responses. At the same time remember not to be overbearing or annoying in your online dating profile.
Intriguing someone and getting guys to visit your online dating profile is not rocket science.

So to recap:
  • Be yourself.
  • Your picture is the first thing that will attract guys.
  • Your online dating profile is the second.

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Lifestyle: The World's Biggest and Most Expensive Yacht

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Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's new yacht, Eclipse, is 560 ft. long and costs more than $1.2 billion

Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich rose from obscurity and successfully navigated the shady world of early Russian privatization to become one of the world's wealthiest self-made billionaires. His 40-man private army of security personnel make him one of the best-protected businessmen in the world, and when his private gigayacht the Eclipse is handed over in time for Christmas this year, it will be the largest (at a staggering 560ft) and the most expensive (at US$1.2 billion) private yacht the world has ever seen. Security will be as tight as you'd expect, with missile defence and intruder detection systems—but the Eclipse's most notable feature is a privacy system that can detect the digital cameras of snooping paparazzi and blind them with laser bursts, ruining spy photos.

The Eclipse is absolutely ginormous—at 560ft (170m) long, it makes minnows of Wally's Floating Island, Paul Allen's Octopus and every other monster yacht in the world. And while owner Roman Abramovich has lost an estimated 3 billion UK pounds in the current financial crisis, word is that he's still sparing no expense on his biggest and best toy yet.

Abramovich will need as many as 70 crew members to run the Eclipse, which also features two helipads, 11 guest cabins, two swimming pools (one of which can be drained and converted into a dance floor), three launch boats, an aquarium and a mini-submarine that can dive to 50 meters below the ocean surface.

The billionaire's master bedroom will be armor-plated and fitted with bulletproof glass, as will the bridge. Missile detection systems will warn the crew of any incoming rockets, and there's a bunch of anti-intruder, anti-bugging and other security systems on board—which might come in handy if Russia qualifies for the Soccer World Cup in 2010. Should Abramovich decide to take the Eclipse for a spin down to South Africa to watch, this gargantuan pleasure craft would make a tasty prize for the increasingly bold Somali pirates that work Africa's East Coast.

But it's the Eclipse's anti-paparazzi system that's stirring up the most interest. Abramovich and his ex-model girlfriend Daria Zhukova are so keen not to appear in tabloid spy shots that he has fitted the Eclipse with an innovative laser system that is said to be able to detect the CCDs of digital cameras and blind them with laser bursts—rendering any photos useless, presumably without destroying the cameras.

The anti-paparazzi system won't be permanently activated, so Abramovich's guests will be able to take happy snaps while on board—but if security personnel see a nearby vessel and suspect that there are photographers on board, it can be quickly switched on.

This kind of protection, of course, will do little but stir up the interest of the most hardcore paparazzi—and presumably the system is useless against good old film cameras. But it's an indication of just how annoying such intrusions must be when you're one of the world's richest men, riding on the world's biggest private yacht with your supermodel girlfriend. Sorry Roman, but I'm not sure if I can drum up a whole lot of sympathy here.
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A Happier Single Lifestyle

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Sometimes being single and living alone can feel like a negative rather than a positive choice. It can feel isolating when coming home to an empty house. Or, the lack of intimacy in a life without a relationship may seem like the worse part of living by yourself. This kind of listing can go on endlessly.

The frustration of finding alternatives to companionship can cloud your focus on personal fulfillment and leave you feeling lonesome. And, it doesn’t matter which aspect seems negative, loneliness matters as much as other issues and should not be ignored. So, when being alone starts to feel like something less than a positive choice - it is time to find good healthy reasons why being single can be a stabilizing and harmonious experience.

I find that when I’m feeling pessimistic about something in my life it is usually because of fear. While many people are not afraid of being alone, fear can creep up on you when least expected. It may appear because you had a bad day at the office, car problems, or exchanged angry words with a friend. Things that may be unrelated to your status as a single person can magnify any negatives you unconsciously feel about living alone. Trepidation can get out of control if left unchecked. And before you know it, you may find yourself in a panic about your life.

Focus on personal fulfillment:
Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is single again after her long-term relationship just ended. She has teenaged children and is on a very limited budget. She mentioned that she wanted to take better care of herself but could not afford going to her local gym. As we spoke, she was getting more depressed about being unable to achieve her goal without having lots of money and not having a partner to lean on.

I noticed that she had a nice television and a DVD player. Moreover, she lived near a public library. She said she could not afford a gym membership and eventually confessed that she would feel uneasy in a spa-like environment. That’s when I realized that she was turning a potentially good situation – good health, desire to go forward – into a negative because of her fear of not having the right ‘’tools’’ for success.

I suggested that we go to the library and look for some exercise DVD’s to rent. Then we bought two 1.5 liter bottles of water at the corner store. After putting the water in another container, we headed off to a nearby park and filled the empty water bottles with sand. And with a bit of safety alterations for the homemade weights, she was now set to start on her goal of exercise and self-improvement.

The time had passed with no mention of feeling depressed or lonely and she was now excited about putting together her new, affordable, workout schedule.

Many women value independence rather than interdependence. It is important to look for alternatives that empower us and not let fear take hold. You don’t have to have lots of money or a relationship in order to make your life fulfilling and harmonious. Many times, everything you need is right within your reach.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Equity Lifestyles: Go RVing

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You may have heard by now but this past summer Equity Lifestyles Properties acquired substantially all the assets of Privileged Access, which is the parent company of Thousand Trails, the largest private system of RV camping and outdoor preserves in America.

Thousand Trails (TT) has a long history of providing premium outdoor destinations to more than 130,000 member families at over 80 preserves in 22 states and British Columbia. Thousand Trails sets the bar for excellence because of their strong commitment to the environment striving to protect the nature and beauty of these natural preserves.

This acquisition opens up a whole new range of opportunities for our devoted lifestyle enthusiasts. Our portfolio has grown quite a bit and that means more choices for travel for Equity Lifestyles customers.

TT offers a variety of membership programs available at various price points that we believe our customers will find attractive from not only a cost standpoint but more importantly from the additional locations we now have available through TT. Many of these preserves are located in areas where ELS did not have a presence so there’s much more of the world to see. For example, to explore the Pacific Northwest, consider there are five preserves available in Oregon and 12 in Washington alone. Quite a presence — quite an opportunity!
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When the employment door closes, find an open window

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When the employment door closes, find an open window
By Clark Howard

The official unemployment rate inched up three-tenths of a point to 9.7 percent in August. Not good news, obviously; it's dangerously close to the psychologically devastating 10 percent mark.

At the same time, teenage unemployment is at an all-time high with roughly 26 percent of teens going jobless.

Meanwhile, a much broader gauge of unemployment called U6 is edging closer to 17 percent.

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics crunches U6 numbers, they take into account those who are involuntarily working part-time because they can't find full-time work and those who have given up looking for work out of sheer frustration.

Seventeen percent means about one in six Americans who want a traditional full-time job can't find one. But I'm here to tell you that things are not as bad as they seem, and the only thing that is the end of the world is, well, the end of the world.

Without a doubt, the employment thing will be a slow recovery. That's why it's important to remember that jobs are always a lagging indicator of economic recovery. Watch Clark help a caller find the right job.

Think about it: Employers will start laying people off when business contracts. And then when things pick back up again, they'll start with the overtime instead of rehiring new employees. But that approach only works for so long until you exhaust your existing workers. That's when you have to start hiring again.

Yet opportunity comes up in unexpected places. The big, bad federal government has some 270,000 "mission critical" positions that must be filled over the next several years. Medical, intelligence and defense are among the hottest areas of federal hiring. Beyond that, there are more than 300,000 government jobs not considered critical fills, which account for normal turnover and vacancies created by retirement.

USAJobs.gov is the official clearinghouse for federal hiring.

In addition, technological advances will create new types of jobs in the private sector. For example, clean energy -- whether you agree with it or not -- will translate to jobs such as the retrofitting of residential and commercial real estate for new green standards.

While much of the world has embraced alternative forms of energy, we're still playing catch-up in America.

The problem for homeowners has been figuring out how to implement technologies like solar, wind and geothermal. You can't exactly just call around for quotes. That's where the power of the Internet comes in.

Sungevity.com allows you to enter your street address and get a guaranteed quote on installation of a home solar system. The assessment is done by satellite mapping, so no visit to your home is required. However, this service is only available in select areas of the country.

There are now newly revised federal tax credits in place through 2016 to help defray 30 percent of the cost of installing solar panels at your home. The old cap on that tax credit is now gone. That alone should be a real boon to solar energy adoption.

I'm exploring the idea of solar panels at my home. I love the tax incentive, plus the long-term incentive of reducing what I pay to heat hot water.
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So I'm predicting that this could be another employment opportunity for that hard-hit segment of jobless hard hats.

Remember, when one door closes in the employment world, you've got to find an open window -- just make sure it's an energy-efficient window!

Information about how you can install your very own solar panels.
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How the Travel Industry Can Win You Back

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How the Travel Industry Can Win You Back
By Christopher Elliott

The travel industry wants you back. But before you say "yes," listen to Laura Salisbury, a teacher from San Jose, California. She mistakenly typed the wrong return date when she booked a vacation for her and her mother through Expedia.

"All I wanted to do was give my mom a trip of a lifetime to celebrate the successful end of her cancer treatment," she says. The two women planned to visit Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

When she asked Expedia for help, it deferred to Delta Air Lines. "A representative at Delta said that the tickets were nonrefundable, but that the company would change the flight dates for me for a $200 fee per ticket," she says.

"I said the flight change charge is more than what the tickets even cost, and that new tickets would be cheaper. I was then told that I was welcome to order new tickets if I did not wish to pay the fees."

Before all of you airline apologists pounce on Salisbury for booking a nonrefundable ticket -- and on me for being naive enough to give her a platform (what part of "nonrefundable don't I understand?" I can almost hear you saying) -- let's take a minute to think about this.

The vacation package she bought didn't offer a prohibitively expensive, fully-refundable airfare. But more to the point, why couldn't Expedia go to bat for her? Why couldn't Delta change her ticket if she made an honest mistake? Is the $400 it would pocket in change fees worth the lifetime of business it will probably lose from her?...........

There's no better time to be asking "why" than now. That's because things probably can't get any worse for the travel industry. Hotels are in foreclosure, airlines are once again on the verge of bankruptcy, tour operators are selling their products at ridiculous discounts, and destinations are resorting to publicity stunts to attract visitors.

For example, Southwest Airlines held a two-day blowout sale a few weeks ago, in which tickets were offered for less than it costs to fill the tank of an average SUV. The Copley Square Hotel, a luxury hotel in Boston, was hawking rooms for less than the price of a cab ride to Logan Airport. And in a move that can only be described as utter desperation, the notoriously unfriendly Parisians, in an effort to "show that Paris loves its tourists and knows how to welcome them," strapped on rollerblades and formed an enormous human smile at Place Vendome.

I'll give you a few moments to ponder that image.

The fare sales and sideshows may lure some of us back in the near term. But over the long haul, they do nothing to fix the real problem. Basically, we've concluded that the travel industry is largely comprised of money-grubbing opportunists, and no fire sale is going to fix that.

But here are a few things that might:

1. Try "YES"

Instead of gimmicky sales and two-for-ones, why not just stop saying "no"? For instance, why can't you change the name on airline tickets? Well, airlines insist it's for "security reasons." So why do carriers like Allegiant Air allow name changes? Granted, there's a $50 fee, and Allegiant throws an obscene amount of other surcharges at its passengers. But why not allow the name on a ticket to be changed? Simple thing, really.

2. Roll back recent rule changes

Some of the recent rule changes, which appear to be designed solely to make a quick buck for travel companies, need to be nullified in order to make us come back. For example, why did car rental companies abbreviate the one-hour grace period for late rentals to half an hour? Why did some of them eliminate it altogether? Answer: They wanted to make more money. But it only made customers upset. Are these ridiculous new policies worth the frustration they cause? Short term, yes. They do boost revenues. Long term, no. They'll drive us away.

3. Enough with the fees, already

It's time to say it: A la carte fees are a failure. Sure, they bring in lots of money -- just look at how much the airlines have made this year from luggage fees -- but a closer look reveals an often-negative correlation between fees and profitability. In other words, the more an airline charges in fees, the less profitable it is. Put differently, travel companies aren't just killing us with their fees. They're killing themselves.

4. Common sense, please

Why does a one-way airline ticket cost more than a round-trip ticket? Why is changing a ticket sometimes more expensive than the ticket itself? These rules make no sense whatsoever to customers, even when you explain the apparent logic behind them. Believe me, I've tried.

People like Katerina Naumenko, a medical student in Grenada who missed her American Airlines flight and had to pay $544 for the last leg of her flight -- which was more than the cost of the entire round-trip ticket -- don't buy it. "I explained the situation to them and they still insisted that I had to purchase another ticket," she told me. How about a new rule? The change fee can't be more than the value of the ticket.

5. No more double dipping

Ever canceled a hotel room or cruise, and forfeited the entire value of your reservation because of a nonrefundability policy? If you have, maybe you've wondered if the travel company ever resold the room or berth, and effectively cashed in on the room twice. It's a legitimate question: Should a company be able to collect the money two times, or should it offer a refund if it can find someone else to fill the room? Giving the money back, particularly when the room is resold, would go a long way to restoring the goodwill between travelers and the travel industry.

6. Show some compassion

Here's a summer travel paradox: Travel companies are bending over backward for your business, yet at the same time, they're throwing the book in our faces when we run afoul of one of their "gotcha" rules. Let's say you're delayed by a flight problem and arrive a day late for your vacation. Don't even bother asking your hotel to adjust your rate. It probably won't.

What if you missed the flight? You'll lose the value of your ticket, plus you'll have to pay for a new one. Ditto for your rental car, if you've pre-paid for it. But when the tables are turned -- when the hotel is oversold, the airline can't take off because of air traffic control problems, or a hurricane shuts down your hotel -- travelers cut the companies a lot of slack without demand for compensation. Why shouldn't those same companies give us a break? It's only fair.

I can almost hear those of you in the travel business saying, "Never. We're not running a charity." (And a note to the travel agents reading this -- take a deep breath. I don't think of you as being part of the travel industry for the purposes of this discussion. You're on the traveler's side when it comes to fighting these silly policies. You are often victims, too.)

To those of you who think hotels are just lodging and airlines are nothing more than transportation, I have just one thing to say to you: You're in the wrong business. There's a reason they refer to the hotel industry as the hospitality business, and it's a reason you've apparently forgotten.

Only now, in a moment of desperation, are travel companies rediscovering what their customers want.

And it's simple, really. We want a reliable product at a fair price. We don't want to be taken advantage of. And we want to feel loved.

(Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. This column originally appeared on MSNBC.com. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org).

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California Wildfire Doubles in Size

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Hot, dry conditions feed California wildfire

Hot, dry weather worked against Southern California firefighters early Thursday as they battled a quickly expanding fire in the rugged terrain of Ventura County.

The blaze had consumed more than 16,000 acres, fire officials said late Wednesday.

The Guiberson fire, named after the road near where it started, had nearly doubled in 24 hours, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. Despite the fire's growth, teams were making progress, gaining about 40 percent containment -- up from 20 percent half a day earlier.

Investigators determined Wednesday that the blaze originated in a mulch pile and were trying to figure out how it started.

Arson is one possible cause of the fire, which is burning in the largely farming and ranching area near Los Angeles, Robert Lewin of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, told reporters.

He said fire officials hoped to contain the fire by Saturday. Nearly 1,000 firefighters joined the lines Wednesday, bringing their total to 1,831. Four firefighters had suffered minor smoke- and heat-related injuries.

Lewin urged residents to leave their homes if asked to do so.

"Don't make it hard on the firefighters and law enforcement folks who are out there to protect the citizens," he said. "It's dangerous for us."

The fire began Tuesday morning between the towns of Moorpark and Fillmore, and flames were lapping at the northern edge of Moorpark on Wednesday, fire spokesmen said. Authorities ordered residents to evacuate the area between the two towns.

The fire was growing on its west edge, including the southwest area where Moorpark College is located, Lewin said.

The public community college in the foothills between Moorpark and Simi Valley called off classes Wednesday. The school was scheduled to reopen Thursday, its Web site said early in the morning. But that depended on the fire.

The blaze northwest of Los Angeles threatened 1,000 mostly ranch homes and 20 commercial properties, in addition to more rural areas to the west, county fire officials said late Wednesday. Included in that count were 500 to 600 homes in the Bardsdale and Meridian Hills communities. The town of Somis, south of Moorpark, also was threatened.
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The weather has been hot and dry in Southern California, hampering firefighters. Thursday's forecast had a high temperature around 90, with 30 percent humidity.

Authorities estimate that the fire has cost $2.9 million to battle so far.
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Bowhunter bags 30-point buck

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The 30-point buck a Fond du Lac man shot has people talking all across Wisconsin. WLUK reports.
Source: WLUK


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starbucks Unveils Its First iPhone Apps

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Starbucks Unveils Its First iPhone Apps
By Andrew LaVallee


Starbucks is launching a store-finding and menu-information application for the iPhone, and is testing a second app that will let customers use the phone as their Starbucks card.
The two apps are the coffee chain’s first for the iPhone and iPod touch. It has previously offered mobile services, such as the ability to send a text message to locate a nearby store, and has worked with Apple to make in-store songs available through iTunes.

The apps resulted from customer feedback it received via social-networking sites and My Starbucks Idea, the online community it launched last year, said Stephen Gillett, its chief information officer. “We think it’s really talking to our customers in new ways.”


Starbucks will be competing with several unofficial iPhone apps, such as iApp’s Find a Starbucks Coffee, Snow Storm’s Expresso Pro and ourLivez’s Sbux Card, and tech blogs have pitched concepts of what a Starbucks iPhone app might look like for a while now.


The first app, myStarbucks, lets customers locate stores and bookmark favorite locations. They can search by additional information, such as hours and amenities, to find, for example, a nearby one that’s open and has a drive-thru window. It also includes a menu and nutritional information for Starbucks’s drinks, food and coffee beans, and a “drink builder” that displays nutritional information based on the selections.


The second app is being tested in 16 stores in Seattle and the Bay Area — due to the high usage rates of both Starbucks cards and Apple products in those regions, a Starbucks spokeswoman said. It lets users check their card balance and transfer more money to it. It also displays a scannable bar code on the cellphone screen, allowing it to be used to pay for purchases, like a Starbucks card, at those stores.


Starbucks will gauge customer feedback during the trial and then decide whether to extend it to other markets, Mr. Gillett said. Both apps are free and don’t contain ads, and there are no plans to charge for them, he added.
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The Art of Shopping Smart (Six Tips for "Thrift" Conscious Singles)

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The Art of Shopping Smart (Six Tips for "Thrift" Conscious Singles)
by Jennifer Brown Banks

"One Man's Junk is Another Man's Treasure” There's a common misconception that folks that frequent thrift stores are either “fashion challenged,” cheap, or have cheesy standards.

Though these labels might hold true for some of the bargain hunters found here, many of us are actually quality conscious, fashionable, fabulous, law abiding people from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, who just happen to be savvy about stretching our hard earned dollars.

For me, it's actually about more than saving a buck or two (really it is, mom).:-) Thrift store shopping is an adventure!

I love the fact that it's like “treasure hunting” for adults! I kid you not. You can find everything from missing parts to your no-longer manufactured vacuum cleaner, to antique china items, to hair weave, to beautiful handmade jewelry, to arts and crafts items, to hard to find classical music.


In fact, some of my most fashionable “finds” have been discovered while combing the isles of my local store. Like my stylish, leather Gloria Vanderbilt black vest, or my many pairs of designer jeans.

Yep, many consumers would be surprised to learn that thrift stores also carry designer wear, as well as new, never-used items everyday.
I also love the fact that thrift stores allow a great deal of individuality in your choices. You don't have to settle for carbon copy cuteness.

For example, you won't find 10 of the same pants in the same colors in a size 10 made by the same designer. Which means that you won't shell out a $150.00 bucks for some dress that you wear to an event only to find someone else dressed like your twin. (To make matters worse, she looks better)!

And did I mention that the shoppers are really friendly? That's another plus. You won't typically encounter the tugging and pushing and word wars that can result when females fight over scarce merchandise and sale deadlines. Instead, we're like a secret community. We see each other weekly, have similar mindsets and goals, and to be honest, we feel smarter than our high-end-store-shopping peers!


Why?
We're not incurring excessive credit card debt, or dealing with “shoppers' guilt”, or falling victim to the foolish belief that expensive always equals better .

Still, I'm happy to report that our “secret society” is expanding and gaining in popularity every day. Whether it's the economy or simply that shoppers are becoming more enlightened; folks are finding that thrift stores aren't your “granny's store” anymore.


But, be forewarned, there's an art to shopping smart, even at thrift stores. You can't approach this shopping excursion half-cocked! There's a science to it.


Here are some tips to follow for the best experience and for the best savings.
  • Remember that it's not where you shop, but how you shop. Look for quality merchandise in good condition. It's quite possible, in fact to find some of the name brands you love on the racks, if you look carefully and diligently.
  • Start early. Good gear goes fast here. Everything is on a first come basis. As they say, “the early bird catches the worm.”
  • Have a goal in mind and a budget. Just like shopping with credit cards, have an agenda. It's easy to get caught up in the cheap prices and the many treasures. So be mindful of your time, your spending cap, and your objectives.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. This is not the place for high heels, heavy purses, or tight restrictive clothing. You can make your fashion statement after you shop.
  • Take advantage of sale days. To get more bang for my buck, I often shop on Mondays, when prices at my local spot are 50% off the price tag. Thursdays also offer 25% savings.
  • Comparison shop. Know that not all thrift stores are created equally. Even in my own area, the type of stuff sold, the prices, and the quality of merchandise varies. Generally, the more upscale the neighborhood, the better the offerings.
Follow these six tips and you'll soon discover how thrift stores can increase your shopping options and your money mileage!
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Green Buildings: Affordable, Eco-friendly Modular Homes

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Green Buildings: Affordable, Eco-friendly Modular Homes
By Robyn Griggs Lawrence

In the midst of all the gloom, we’re happy to report some good news. Clayton Homes, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, has announced its line of green modular homes. These 750-square-foot eco homes, dubbed “i-houses,” can be purchased online for less than $75,000.

The green buildings have enough eco-friendly features to achieve the platinum rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. To achieve LEED certification, homes must incorporate a design that saves energy and water, reduces carbon dioxide emissions, improves indoor environmental quality, and considers the impact of the materials used on natural resources. The platinum rating is LEED’s most prestigious award.

The i-houses include low-flow faucets, low-VOC materials, high-efficiency heat pumps, dual-flush toilets, roofs designed for rainwater harvesting, and insulated walls, roof and floors. Upgrades to bamboo flooring, Energy Star appliances and solar panels are also offered.

Despite the housing crunch, Clayton Homes is putting additional research and development into the i-houses, which CEO and president Kevin Clayton thinks will keep the project thriving.

Exact pricing is determined by several factors, including the model and features that are chosen. You can learn more at Clayton Homes online.
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Calculating Solar Power Potential with PV Watts

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Calculating Solar Power Potential with PV Watts
By Megan Phelps

I like solar calculators, and this is an interesting one to explore.

The PV Watts1 calculator from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a simple solar calculator that can help you figure out how much electricity you can generate with a PV system at many locations around the world. (Disclaimer here.)

When you use the calculator, it gives you a measurement of solar radiation in kilowatt-hours per square meter, which is also known as peak sun hours. (Here’s a very detailed explanation of that concept from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

I used the calculator to compare peak sun hours and kWh of electricity generated for several different locations. You should know that I used all the default settings on the calculator, so the measurements below assume a 4 kilowatt PV system and a fixed tilt, south-facing PV array.

OK, here we go!
  • According to this calculator, here in Topeka, Kan., we get an average of 4.95 peak sun hours per day. Over the course of a year that would add up to 5,238 kWh a year, which is worth $403.33 at local electricity prices.
  • How about a sunnier location? Well, it looks like Albuquerque, N.M., has 6.48 peak sun hours per day, which produces 6,726 kWh a year for a value of $585.16 in electricity.
  • Or, for less sun, we could look at the Northwest. Famously rainy Seattle, Wash., gets 3.76 peak sun hours a day for 3,879 kWh a year, and $248.26 worth of electricity.
  • What about outside the United States? Stockholm, Sweden gets 2.98 peak sun hours a day, and generated 3102 kWh a year. Cairo, Egypt gets 5.66 peak sun hours, and generates 5727 kWh a year.
You can take a look at your location and see how it compares. There’s also a PV Watts 2 calculator, which is more complicated to use, but will allow you to select any location in the United States.

More information on how you can use and afford solar power
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It's Almost Time for the 2009 Solar Decathlon

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It's Almost Time for the 2009 Solar Decathlon
By Anna Flin

On the morning of Oct. 1, 2009, 20 student teams from universities across the United States and around the world will crowd onto the lawn of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They will work around the clock for seven days, compete in 10 contests, and, on the ninth day, guide curious tourists and locals through the results of an endeavor the students have been living for the past two years. It is the fourth, biyearly Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Student teams apply and prepare at least two years in advance, meticulously constructing their solar-powered homes at their sponsoring universities, then disassembling them, transporting them to D.C. and reassembling them on the National Mall, where they will be judged in the following 10 categories:
  • Architecture
  • Market Viability
  • Engineering
  • Lighting Design
  • Communications
  • Comfort Zone
  • Hot Water
  • Appliances
  • Home Entertainment
  • Net Metering
In a recent webinar providing information about the upcoming event and requesting volunteers, Director Richard King shared his enthusiasm about the decathlon, and pointed out that the original motivation for the project was a need to integrate aesthetics with reliable technology. The DOE reached out to architectural universities to develop this possibility. The result is a temporary village consisting of beautiful, structurally sound, energy-efficient homes.

But the vision doesn’t dim when the houses are disassembled on Oct. 21. King noted that the buildings are always placed in a permanent location after the competition, with many being housed on their sponsoring campuses as educational facilities.


The University of Darmstadt, Germany took first place in 2007, with a deceptively box-like structure discovered to be enclosed with tri-fold, floor-to-ceiling doors. It was followed by the University of Maryland in second place, and Santa Clara University in third.

This year, eight teams will return from 2007 and one from 2005. They will be joined by 11 new teams. We’ll be keeping you updated as the teams reach D.C., begin assembly and are judged on the overall quality of their solar-powered homes.
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