Saturday, March 31, 2007

Disney World Tickets


Many think of Orlando as only housing Disney World: this isn't actually true at all. Over the years the place has become a veritable treasure house of tourist attractions.

The best way to find out what there is available is to go to this site that sells the Disney World Tickets themselves and have a look at what else is also on offer. Over and above Disney and the associated Epcot Center there are all sorts of things available.

For example, the Kennedy Space Center is not far away (and if you can time your trip to be there for a Shuttle launch, it is the most outrageous sight in the world. Something that big just shouldn't be able to go that fast.)

There's also the Universal Studios place in Orlando, Busch Gardens, The Holy Land Experience. Things for all tastes and budgets, for the young and the not so young, even for the not so young but still young at heart.

There's a great deal more to do in the area than just Disney which is probably why hte Orlando region gets more tourists every year than there are inhabitants of the entire state of California.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Search engines

To make your business stand out online you've got to make sure that the search engines can see it. OK, that's stage one. So you're on hte net, your tags are fine, you're in the engine indexes, but you're still not getting swamped with people wanting to buy your products.

Now what? The answer is search engine optimization.

This is the process of making sure that you get the highest results possible so that when someone searches for something you have, your site will (you hope) appear on the first page of results and thus be one of the ones clicked upon.

There are two basic ways of doing this. One is the simple and obvious one, to make sure that your site is clean, that the spiders can read it (make sure your .robots file is correct) and that you've got the correct tags and meta tags.

Good, so you've done that, what next. Well, what you've got to do is build a network of people, of sites and blogs, that point to you as being a good source of your products. It's these links that the spiders read which make you advance up the results. It is possible to do this alone, but it takes a long time and who has that to waste in business today?

Far better to click through the link above and allow the experts at Customer Magnetism organize it all for you.

Payroll Software

One of the hassles of running a business is in dealing with all of the payroll problems. You've got to calculate the correct deductions, the taxes and so on, and this can, to be blunt about it, a right pain in the bum.

It can also be a pain keepting track of Time and Attendance of the workforce, but fortunately that has now been made easier. Click through there to see what you can get in open source software from Timetrex to make that side of the business oh so much easier.

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Full Press Release:

 

New Open-source Time and Attendance Web-based Package Launched
Westbank, BC, Canada,

 - TimeTrex, unique new open-source software moves web-based time and attendance and payroll into the 21st century.


It's time to toss those punch cards out. TimeTrex's unique, open-source time and attendance and payroll system integrates a number of crucial features into one easy-to-use, web-based package.

"Organizations can often cut significant costs by making their time and attendance and payroll systems more efficient and cost-effective," says Mike Benoit of TimeTrex. "TimeTrex does just that, and best of all, its standard edition, in the true spirit of the open source movement, is absolutely free to download."

TimeTrex features integrated employee scheduling, attendance, job costing, and payroll functions. It has hardware support for iButtons, biometrics, proximity cards, barcodes, and mobile devices. Apart from time management, TimeTrex comes fully integrated with a powerful payroll processing system, available at the click of a button.

Being essentially web-based, TimeTrex allows secure and easy access to its interface from anywhere in the world. By streamlining employee time and attendance functions, the software allows companies to concentrate on their revenue-generating core competencies. TimeTrex has been designed to suit small and large businesses, with one or more locations.
TimeTrex's standard edition is free to download for an unlimited number of employees. Quotes for its professional edition are available on its website.

"Its many flexible features, combined with its open-source nature, make TimeTrex a one-of-its-kind software," says Benoit. "TimeTrex frees up labor and capital, so you can devote your resources to the challenges of growing your business."

Politicians in Latex

Something of a storm in a tea cup methinks. So a female politician poses in a conservative outfit and wears a paid of long latex gloves at the same time.

A German politician who helped to topple Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber has been attacked by her colleagues for posing in latex gloves for a magazine.

Gabriele Pauli, a 49-year-old local politician in the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU), is featured in Park Avenue magazine wearing the long, black gloves.

Her outfit is otherwise conservative but it did not stop extensive German media coverage on Wednesday of the photo shoot.

"Politics needs to have a certain degree of respectability and Ms. Pauli has damaged this," Norbert Geis, a national member of parliament in the CSU, told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung paper.

This is the bit I'm not sure that I understand though. Germans are rather into this leather and latex thing, aren't they? So why all the fuss?

It's My Market

Here's someone looking to follow the Craigslist model in the UK market for classified ads. It's My Market offering free ads in local markets across the country.

Sounds like an excellent idea actually. The cornerstone of the local newspaper industry has always been the classifieds and as has been shown in the US by taking those online you can get a lot more advertisers, a lot more readers, and thus a much more liquid market. This in turn means much better prices for the sellers and a much larger pool of available goods for the buyers.

Once these markets get going they tend to be self-reinforcing, which also helps the first movers.

Looking at the site it's very clean, easy to navigate. You can search by location (for of course, you're really only interested in those things being sold by people in close geographical distance with you) and also by vertical market, like property classifieds or motoring classifieds.

All in all it looks like an excellent system and very much worth checking out.

Disclosure Policy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mystery Meat Day

Is what we used to call it at school. Wondering whether the local dog pound had been emptied to feed us, gosh, there were very few cats around, weren't there?

Never really though it would extend to university caterers though:

The caterer at a dormitory on Bangladesh's Dhaka University has been fired after students complained they were served dog meat, officials said on Thursday.

Students at the Hajji Mohammad Mohsin Hall protested after a student suspected that the meat on his plate was of a "dog or fox," instead of beef or mutton.

He drew the attention of other students, who rushed to the authorities demanding an immediate investigation.

"We have seized the menu and expelled the hall caterer," said Ahmed Zaman Anwar, provost of the 1,200-student dormitory.

Just one question. If you were presented with a plate of meat, how would you work out that it was dog?

Drug Treatment

Now, as people know, I'm from hte libertarian end of the political spectrum (classically liberal if you wish) and I'm adamant in everyone's freedom to ingest absolutely whatever it is that they wish, yes, even at the risk (or even certainty) of harm to themselves.

However, this is (as it has to be) balanced by an acknowledgment that there also has to be an effective system of Drug Treatment for those who have become addicted. That can be to alcohol or to drugs, even to certain forms of behaviour themselves, and while it can be difficult it is indeed possible.

Indeed, centres like The Watershed exist to do exactly that, to help people who do not want to be taking drugs to get off them.

This might sound a little odd, insisting that people should be allowed to take drugs and also insisting that treatment should be available to those who do not want to. But that's exactly the point, it's a matter of human freedom. Those who wish to do something should be at liberty to do so. Those who are involuntarily drawn to it by illness, should be aided in their cure.

Odd perhaps, but then that's being a liberal for you.

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Distance Learning Changes

There's been one of those seemingly minor changes in the mind-numbing bureaucratic regulations that beset education that has actually made a huge difference to the system itself. An, as I say, seemingly minor change that's going to have huge effects.

As we all know, very few people actually pay directly to go to college. Just about everyone takes out federally subsidized student loans. Until recently, you could only get a loan to attend a college that taught more than 50% of its classes on campus.

With the changes in technology, from online video to the internet itself clearly this was ludicrous, but the rule remained because the traditional schools insisted that a purely online college was somehow "second rate". 

Now this wasn't true, it was simply businesses protecting themselves.

Finally, a few months back, the rule was changed, and you can now get federal student loans to attend any college, even if they do all of their teaching online.

Over time this will have huge effects on the distance learning programs of places like Collins College. No longer will they have to make sure that they have only 50% of their students in the distance learning programs, they'll be able to sign up as many as want to take the classes.

This will mean greater choice and greater competition in the market and thus, through the magical voodoo that markets do, lead to better quality and lower prices.

Not bad for a bureaucratic rule change, eh?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Student Loan Consolidation

There's three reasons why you might want to think about a student loan consolidation program.

Firstly though, you need to know that things can be different from state to state, so a Florida student loan consolidation program can be markedly different from a California student loan consolidation program.

That aside the three main reasons are:

1) It is possible that since you took out your original loans that interest rates have fallen. Thus you can refinance them at a lower rate, reducing your payments.

2) When you refinance you are able to extend the term of the loan. So at the cost of making payments for more months or years, you can reduce your current monthly payments.

3) You might have loans from a number of different sources. Student loan debt consolidation means that all of these different ones are bundled together into one. This means just one monthly payment, much easier to keep on top of, and it is also possible that 1) and 2) will also apply.

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New York Wins!

Well, sorta. Wal Mart seems to think that trying to crack into hte market will be too difficult so they're not bothered about whether they ever actually open there or not.

Frustrated by a bruising, and so far unsuccessful battle to open its first discount store in New York City, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s chief executive said, "I don't care if we are ever here."

H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive of the nation's largest retailer, said at a meeting with editors and reporters of The New York Times that trying to conduct business in the U.S.'s largest city was so expensive -- and exasperating -- that "I don't think it's worth the effort."

He said Wal-Mart executives have lobbied for a store in New York, but he remains unconvinced. "It's too hard to make money here," he said.

The winners are the other retailers and the various unions, who by stopping Wal Mart from entering the market are able to continue to make extra money by not having the competition.

The losers of course are the consumers, for those retailers and unions don't face the competition. So, the current power structure in New York wins, and all New Yorkers lose.

Mortgage News

Now again, here's an interesting little web site, again based upon blogging software. The aim is to bring you up to date with the mortgage news and they do this very well.

What it isn't is a place where certain lenders or deals get pushed at you, no, not at all, they're being impartial and giving you the true and real mortgage news, for example, in this post about New Century Financial. It's part of the meltdown of the sub prime sector, has breached its banking covenants and is therefore ceasing to make new loans. As I say, this isn't showing any partiality to the company, it's more like the sort of news you would get through Bloomberg or another financial service....just you don't have to go looking for it, because the editors have pre-selected the mortgage stories for you.

You might also want to check out the first Carnival of Home Improvement, a collection of housing and, well, home improvement links for your reading pleasure. If you've got articles along the same lines you might want to think about sending them in and seeing if the editors will include them in the next version.

With the turmoil and ructions going on in hte mortgage market at the moment it's good to see that there are independent and unbiased sources of news for us out there, and this site is definitely one of them.

Disclosure Policy.

Discount Hotel News

Now here is an excellent site and idea. Based around blogging software the authors are both providing a recommendation service for hotels and also a tour guide as to why you might want to visit a particular city. The two together make up a discount hotel news guide.

As an example, next November there is the international comedy festival in Melbourne Australia and they've got up a You Tube clip of what leastyear's festival was like. They also add in the discount hotel news about the Stamford Plaza hotel in that city. You see how they're going this? Providing a reason why you might want to go to a city, plus showing you where you might want to stay while you're there?

Another example of the way they provide discount hotel news is their listing of the top ten romantic hotels in the world. No, no one will really be all that surprised that the George V in Paris comes top of that list: go on, it had to be somewhere in Paris, right?

Anway, it's a great little site and well worth checking out. There are competitions and interesting data on loyalty schemes and so on, you'll really be able to learn a lot and same some money at the same time. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Californian Jobsearches

Looking for a job in California? More specifically, looking to see what is available for Retail Jobs In California ? Then why not click through there and have a look at what's available? It's one of the biggest career search engines in California. They offer free information, of course, as you would expect, but much of the resources are things not available on any other career site.

Well worth checking out if you're in the market for a new job or a job move in California.

(One useful tip about such sites. Kepp an eye on what's available in your own company. There are many people who have got their old bosses' job by applying as if form outside the company, rather than relying upon HR to say when it might be available).

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Pay Up or You're Dead

Yes, I know, lot's of people have heard that phrase before (often finding that refusal makes it all come true). But perhaps not quite in the way it happens in Romania:

A cashier for Romania's state-owned railway has been asked to pay a month's worth of wages to receive government confirmation that she is alive.

Filoftea Popescu discovered when she applied for a passport that the Romania's People Registration Service had mistakenly declared her dead in November 2005, stripping her of all her rights as a citizen.

"I went to the police ... and I found out that I have no rights in the Romanian state because I died in 2005," the 55-year-old Popescu was quoted on Monday by daily Evenimentul Zilei as saying.

Romania is struggling to cut through vast red tape and complicated legislation to improve a bloated and ineffective administration in order to benefit from new membership in the European Union.

...

But Popescu's family doctor is still reeling from the shock of seeing her at his office not long after receiving a copy of her death certificate from the state.

"When she came to my clinic, I lost my voice," said Nicolae Toboiu.

Still, it is the right part of the world for people to come back from the dead, isn't it?

GHD Hair Irons

Since the turn of the millennium when they were first released the GHD Hair Irons have become a must have brand for the leading ladies such as Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Anniston.

The three different stylers, the New Generation, the GHD Salon Styler and the Mini are now joined the the New GHD Mk4 Hair Iron.

Ceramic technology and infra red heat combine to lock in moisture, colour and shine from root to tip, so that you too can benefit from the care and attention demanded by the leading ladies of the screen and stage.

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Eddie Griffin and the Enzo Ferarri

Err, shouldn't people check out who they lend their cars to?

Maybe Eddie Griffin should leave the driving to his chauffeur.

The comedian destroyed a rare million-dollar Enzo Ferrari on Monday when he crashed it into a barricade while promoting a movie. He was unhurt in the low-speed incident, at Irwindale Speedway, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles.

"The brother's good at karate and all the rest of that, but the brother can't drive," Griffin told reporters.

He was practicing for a celebrity charity racing event tied to his upcoming film, "Redline."

The car, one of just 400 manufactured, belonged to the film's producer, Daniel Sadek. Sadek estimated that the car was worth $1.2 million, and seemed philosophical about the loss, saying he was just happy that Griffin was unharmed.

The real-estate investor has put up his own money for the $26 million picture, and allowed one of his two $200,000 Porsche Carreras to be destroyed for a scene in it.

Can I make this joke yet? That making this movie seems like a slow motion car crash?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Contact Lenses

I'm still mulling over this decision as to whether to try a contact lens solution to the fact that I'm as blind as a bat without some form of correction or not. I don't mind wearing glasses you see, it just doesn't bother me at all.

I've also, as I've previously mentioned, got an astigmatism (or should that be suffer from astigmatism, is it a thing or not?) and I'm not sure that a contact lens solution would actually take care of that or not.

But there's two more things that have made me hesitant. I only wear glasses to drive and work on the computer, look at TV and so on. I don't wear them to read a book for example, never have done (so it's not age related, as yet). But I really don't want to be bothering with taking lenses in and out if I'm switching between, say, watching TV and reading a book (a common occurence in our household).

The other thing is that there's no way I'm going to try and deal with a Portuguses supplier: the local glasses shop here tried to charge me £300 for a pair of glasses, when I can buy them over the web from England for £15. There are plenty of US sites happy to sell me contacts over the net but that won't really work either.

So I'm glad that I've found this contact lens site in the UK. They seem to have the full lists of everything that could be needed, daily lenses, weekly, permanent and so on. I think I'll have a further trawl through that, see if I can make up my mind.

I guess the real answer is to buy a set or two in the right prescription and see how I get on, eh?

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Bob Woolmer: Poisoned and Strangled

Whoops! This corruption in crivket thing is going batshit. Bob Woolmer was poisoned via either his food or drink and then strangled because he was about to go public with information about match fixing in international cricket. Here's the full story from The Telegraph.

Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, was poisoned and then strangled as he was about to go public with allegations of corruption in international cricket, it was claimed yesterday.

Police believe food or alcohol delivered to Mr Woolmer's hotel room in Jamaica after Pakistan's shock World Cup exit might have been poisoned to incapacitate him before he was killed.

Speculation that he was murdered to silence him before he blew the whistle on match-fixing in the game intensified yesterday.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Mr Woolmer was planning to write a book about cricket which would include a chapter on the issue.

In an email, seen by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Woolmer wrote: "I am going to write a book on my tenure as Pakistan coach. I shall only start after the World Cup... I believe, regardless of the money, the story is worth telling, has to be told and in the correct way. I am not a name and shame guy, just the honest facts. Let the punter make up his mind etc."

The Pakistani journalist who received the email is so fearful for his safety that he has asked not to be named.

It came as Barry Richards, one of South Africa's finest Test cricketers and best man at Mr Woolmer's wedding, said: "There was a feeling around that Bob was going to expose something." He added: "There is a dark side to cricket. The game got on top of it for a while but it has never really been stamped out. Bob was passionate about the game. Perhaps too passionate."

Mr Woolmer was also distressed after being told by a trusted friend of suspicious movements in betting markets in Bombay a month before last Saturday's match against Ireland, a game which saw Pakistan humiliated.

Well, it's still only people claiming that this is true: but the connection with Hanse Cronje and his mysterious plane crash is very mysterious indeed. No smoke without fire and all that and I'm not the only person saying things like this.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Russian Dating

Worth givine you a little report on this site about russian dating that I've just been looking through. As I actually lived in Russia for a number of years and still have a business over there I thought I'd try and work out whether it was all on the up and up or not.

I have to say that I think it is, the women all look like entirely normal Russian women do and they all come across, in their profiles, in the way that I would expect.

Much more interested in domesticity, in the creation of family life than anything else. That's common to most slavic women in fact, that the relationship, the marriage and the family, comes before the career.

Worth also mentioning that this site is entirely free for men to join, so there's no risk to trying it out.

One thing that might slightly surprise you about dating over there though. If you've been going out with someone for a few months then you really are expected to then pop the question. There's none of this just dating for years on end before thinking about marriage.

Cingular and AT&T

There's been some confusion in the branding of various cell phone services over the years. The way that the various companies change hands, get bought out, merge, and so on, has meant that there have been all too many changes in name. To the point that people might not actually realise that the service provider is in fact one of the great names of the business, or is just another start up.

One example of this is the way in which the cell phone division of AT&T was, a number of years ago, branded Cingular, to give it a different public profile from the rather old fashioned, even stodgy, implications of the AT&T brand. This worked at the time, as the parent company was still seen negatively, from hte time when it had a virtual monopoly on long distance calls.

All of that has rather changed now, and so the Cingular / AT&T branding issues have also. The parent company is seen as being one of the few reliable providers of solid telecoms services, in direct contrast to the way in which many of the cell phone companies are seen as somehow disreputable. So changing the name back to AT&T makes sense, in that some of that glow of solidity will rub off upon the cell phone subsidiary.

It's likley that the newly named company will be launching it's own phones in the near future and it's highly likely that the first one will be the new Apple iPhone. Many people think of this as a Cingular exclusive and it's certainly likely that they will be providing the best deals on it.

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Dumb Criminals

Thyere really are criminals out there too dumb to get away with anything, even stealing sweeties from babies.

A hapless German thief snapped his credit card in two while prying open a lock, inadvertently leaving behind his name and account details for police.

"He tried to copy what he'd seen them do on television, but the flat-owner woke up and the criminal ran away," a police spokesman said Wednesday. "The victim called up and read us the details off the card."

"When we got round to the burglars house, the other half of his credit card was sitting on his kitchen table."

The 29-year-old burglar was trying to open the door to his neighbor's apartment in Moenchengladbach in western Germany, police said.

The thing is, the credit card trick does work: but best that you steal someone else's creit card first to use, eh?

Black Singles

We've looked before here at how the web allows greater slicing and dicing of a market, along with the greater reach. One of the boom aresa is in dating, where before it was based upon ads in magazines, a high cost way of trying to reach the market. In economic terms, high transaction costs, thus an inefficient market.

The web brings these costs down dramatically, thus making the market much more efficient. There's a greater reach possible, but also more discrimination in the market, as this Black Singles site shows. Looks like it's very sucessful too, hundreds of people joining every day.

Worth checking out.

Disclosure Policy.

Satanic Bar Codes

Believe me, there are weirder things going on in the Russian villages than this:

A hundred residents of a Russian village have refused to switch to new passports because they believe the documents' bar codes contain satanic symbols, state television reported Wednesday.

"We believe these new passports are sinful," Valentina Yepifanova, an elderly resident of the village Bogolyubovo, told Rossiya television as she clutched an old, tattered passport she said she wanted to keep.

"They have these bar codes and people say they contain three sixes. We are against that."

Some residents of Bogolyubovo, which means "God-loving" in Russian, have also stopped collecting their pensions at the local post office because the payment slips also have bar codes that might contain the mark of the devil, Rossiya TV reported.

These villages are more likje something out of 14 th century Europe than anything else, along with all of the strange beliefs that entails.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Refinancing a Mortgage

Different states have different rules about these things so Florida Mortgages are different from California Mortgages for example.

However, it's always true that mortgage refinancing (sometimes known as mortgage refinance) can help you in your pursuit of your financial goals.

It could be that you can refinance upon better terms, thus cutting your monthly payments: this is really something for nothing. You might also want to extend the term of the loan. This will cut the monthly payment while making you pay it for longer. Or, you might simply want to take out some of the equity you have to spend on something else.

Worth looking into: I've just done it myself, using the money to buy a second home.

Disclosure Policy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Begging For Free Speech

Here's an interesting definition of free speech: That begging is an exercise of that right:

Ireland's High Court struck down a 19th century law against begging on Thursday, ruling in favor of a beggar who had argued that his arrest violated a right to free speech, broadcaster RTE reported.

Justice Eamon De Valera rejected the argument made by Niall Dillon that the law discriminated between rich and poor.

But the judge agreed that a section of the Vagrancy Act of 1847, enacted during the Great Famine, was unconstitutional because it interfered with the rights of freedom of expression and freedom to communicate with other people.

Dillon was arrested for begging in Dublin in 2003 and charged under the law. Following the ruling, his prosecution can no longer go ahead.

The little bit that interests me is whether this is part of the Human Rights Act or something directly in hte Irish Constitution.

Car Accessories

Have you ever wondered where to buy your car seat covers from? Sure you have, you've looked in stores for car accessories and found that while they might have something similar to what you want they don't actually have exactly what you want. Or they don't have it in your color, or not to fit, in the case of seat covers , your model of car.
This is a common problem and it's caused by something terribly simple. These people are trying to sell you things out of a bricks and mortar store. The simply limitations of physical space, and having to replicate their stock across the hundreds of stores in a chain, mean that they simply cannot stock everything for everyone.
There's also a simple solution to this simple problem. If you're looking for car accessories
then you should go look online. Click through that link to find one such supplier of seat covers for example. As they only have one location, they dopn't have that horrible stocking problem. As they are also the manufacturers they don't in fact, have any stocking problems at all. All they need to do is to have a photograph of the specific fabric and shape, and a series of plans for the layout of car seats in the different models of vehicle.

This way they can offer for sale something to fit absolutely any car, at a lower price than the traditional bricks and mortar store. A larger selection at a lower price, it seems entirely silly not to take advantage of it, doesn't it?
So, if you're in the market for new seat covers for your car, why not check them out?
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Friday, March 16, 2007

Ouch!

So there's this matador and he gets gored by a bull. Damn lucky to be alive:

Cruz, 25, is recovering in hospital after the second bull of Tuesday's corrida caught him in the upper thigh, throwing him into the air, and gored him in the groin once he hit the ground.

Newspapers reproduced the eye-watering bulletin issued by surgeons at the bullring after a two-hour operation and film of the incident was played on the main evening news.

"Fernando Cruz is suffering from two horn wounds of 25 centimeters in length each. One involves the fibers of the abductor muscle and dissects the femoral artery, the other involves the scrotal area and eviscerates both testicles."

Eviscerates both testicles? Yowsah! Unfortunately the piece leads off with:

If Spanish matador Fernando Cruz ever has children,

Don't think that's really goiong to happen now, do you?

Drug Rehab

Here's an interesting site, in fact, a very interesting one indeed on the subject of drug rehab. Rather than the usual moralising it's a resource centre, telling you about the various types of drug rehab available, support groups and so on. There's also a directory of drugs and of drug slang.

I have to admit that the one that amused me, interested me perhaps, was their description of "party drugs" like sextasy. It's a mixture of Ecstacy and Viagra. The latter will give a man a higher sexual appetite and the former also makes it virtually impossible for him to ejaculate.

Gives doing it all night a new meaning perhaps?

 

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Killer Whales!

This really does sound so ungrateful, doesn't it?

 

A Japanese fisherman drowned on Tuesday after a whale he was trying to rescue capsized his small fishing boat, a coastguard official said.

Three fishermen tried to rescue the sperm whale, about 10-meter (yard) long, after it strayed into a bay off the southwestern island of Shikoku, about 800 km (500 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

But the panicked creature turned on them and struck the vessel, the coastguard official said.

A 58-year-old fisherman drowned while two other fishermen were rescued, he added.

What's that phrase? Ah, yes, no good deed ever goes unpunished.

Savings Accounts

It can be bewildering trying to work out where you should put your hard earned savings. There are so many different offers out there, from the nothing that your bank offers on a current account to some really quite juicy 5 and 6% offers.

It's worth having a look at this new site where you can Compare online banking, find a savings account or checking account and earn more interest today with SavingsAccounts.com.

It's a comparison site, one of the things that the web does really well. Very much worth checking out.

Disclosure Policy.

Vodka and Isolation

Yes, this does sound like a very good description of rural Russia:

Friday is when the action happens in this isolated Russian village, six hours' drive north from Moscow along icy roads, past smoggy industrial towns and through vast pine forests.

That's the day the mobile shop makes its weekly visit selling life's little luxuries to Zimnitsy's 10 inhabitants.

"I've bought bread, frozen fish, cigarettes and vodka," said 53-year-old Vitaly as he bent over to load his tattered rucksack. "What more can a Russian want?"

Village life in Russia seems to have been dragged unwillingly into the 21st century.

Zimnitsy once was three or four times bigger and boasted its own full-time shop, but the crumbling wooden houses now bear silent witness to a population movement away from Russia's countryside into the cities.

Alcoholism, devout religious faith and a sense of scratching a living on the fringes of civilization -- the hallmarks of the Russian countryside down the ages -- linger, sometimes just below the surface.

Those villages in the north, they're all going to go over the next generation. As perhaps they should. Increasing agricultural productivity means there's no reason for them to be there at all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Access

That's what everyone wants isn't it? From the guy in the movie who says that's what he's selling, access, to criminals and hackers everywhere. People like going in where they're not supposed to: and if they think they can make money out of doing so of course their efforts redouble.

Where this causes huge problems is in the running of computer systems for corporations. Tens of thousands of people need to be able to access information on them, to be able to add and change it, and yet billions of others have to be protected from doing so. It's actually been said that the only truly secure computer is one that is never switched on, but of course that is ridiculous.

There's a further problem for those using Unix (and the various flavours of it). If someone can gain access to the "root" account then there's little they can be stopped from doing. This is of course why it is the most targeted of them all.

The solution to this problem lies perhaps with Symark, whose products manage Access Control in a granular manner.  This means that each individual, or groups of them, even layers of management, can be given access only to those parts of the system they require, thus limiting their own temptation. Over and above the other protections that Symark offers this also means that any data breach will be a limited one, most certainly not involving that all important root account.

Keyloggers

I didn't actually know that such a thing as a keylogger existed until just recently and I've been wondering what they could actually be used for. Sure, I know what spyware would do with it, but what would be a legitimate use for a legitimate keylogger?

It took me a bit of time because I'm not all that au fait with the ins and outs of technology but there seem to be at least three very good uses.

1) This one would be useful for me. Recording the various passwords and log ins to everything. Yes, I know you can use windows and or your browser to do most of these but do you really want to trust your security to such?

2) There's a corporate use as well. Not just the above log ins thogh, it'll help managers keep an eye on what users are actually doing on their computers. For example, managment can be held responsible if someone starts sending around dirty pictures and the like and very expensive that can be too. So if they're able to check on who is purveying such images then they can nip it in the bud.

3) A similar use could apply to a child's computer at home. Making sure that they're not straying off the straight and narrow into unapproved pastures.

OK, I think I can see what a keylogger could be used for now. I'm off to investigate the one they've got at Spector.com now.

Disclosure Policy.

Viacom Sues Google and You Tube

Oh good grief, this was obviously going to happen from hte moment Google bought You Tube.

No one bothered to sue You Tube because they didn't have any money. Google has deep pockets, so now the lawyers are out in force trying to get some of it.

Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. said on Tuesday that it was suing Google Inc. and its Internet video-sharing site YouTube for more than $1 billion over unauthorized use of its programming online.

The lawsuit, the biggest challenge to date to Google's ambitions to make YouTube into a major vehicle for advertising and entertainment, accuses the Web search leader and its unit of "massive intentional copyright infringement."

Viacom filed the suit with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking more than $1 billion in damages and an injunction against further violations.

Viacom contends that almost 160,000 unauthorized clips of its programming have been uploaded onto YouTube's site and viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

"YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site," Viacom said in a statement. "Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws."

Viacom said its decision to sue Google followed "a great deal of unproductive negotiation" with the company.

They'll probably get a good chunk of money too. Buying You Tube is going to turn out a lot more expensive than Google originally though.

Sumer is icumen in

Yes, indeed, the clocks have changed, sumer is indeed icumen in. Time to get that beachwear ready, don't you think? Got your reef flip flops already? Why not check out the range at Active Sandals, the great online retailer? The largest range of beachwear with the best prices!

And now, a poem for this time of year:

         Svmer is icumen in,

Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu, cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.

Pes:

Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!
 
 
An excellent little Middle English poem don't you think? 
Disclosure Policy.

Mandatory Carbon Limits

Well, yes, this is true, the UK is indeed going to set up mandatory reductions in carbon emissions:

Britain on Tuesday became the first country to propose legislation setting binding limits on greenhouse gases as it stepped up its campaign for a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

In its draft Climate Change Bill, the government said carbon dioxide emissions had to be cut by 60 percent by 2050, set out five-year carbon-cutting budgets to reach the target and created an independent monitoring committee to check progress annually.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair put climate change at the top of the international agenda when he was head of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in 2005 and Britain could now become the first nation to limit emissions by statute.

Well, yes, but it's difficult to see how they will work in practice. Sure, it's possible to fine big businesses, but each and every household? Or what if it's Government that breaches them? Do the taxpayers then fine the taxpayers for this? Just passing a law doesn't actually do very much now, does it? What, exactly, is the mechanism by which they are enforced?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Low Priced Specs and Sunglasses

Regular readers will have heard my stories about the price of sunglasses and spectacles here in my little neck of the woods: entirely a rip off. So I've been searching around on the net looking for a place I can get Eye glasses at a more reasonable price and I think I've found it at Optics Planet.

For example their sunglasses seem most reasonable in price, with an excellent selection and I'm seriously interested in a pair of photochromic sunglasses as well.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the site to me is here, their motorcycle goggles. You see my little treat to myself, once we've got this house sorted out, is going to be a motor trike. Yup, you'll have me zipping round the back lanes: or at least you will when I've got myself a proper pair of prescription goggles to wear.

It's an excellent site and I'm glad I found it. Now, must go off and ask the wife if I'm allowed to spend any money today or not.

Disclosure Policy.

Greater Love Hath No Man

Than to lay down his life for a friend. Or so the story goes. There are those who take this idea of doing things for their friends just a little too far though, obviously, as this story shows:


If a dog is man's best friend, a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran showed the feeling is mutual by saving his drowning pet with mouth-to-snout resuscitation and CPR.

Lucy, a 10-month-old English bulldog, chased ducks into a partly frozen lake near Randy Gurchin's home in Papillion, Nebraska, but quickly became paralyzed in the icy water and briefly went under.

The 50-pound (23-kg) dog was unresponsive and had a blue face and bloody foam around its muzzle when Gurchin, who flew combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, edged onto the ice.

"The ice started to crack under me. I just picked her up," he said. "I thought she was dead."

But Gurchin, 51, put his military first-aid training to use. He closed Lucy's mouth, put his mouth over her nose and started forcing air into her lungs and pushing on her chest.

Within minutes, the dog began breathing shallowly and was rushed to a nearby veterinarian.

Doctors soaked Lucy in warm water, injected steroids and muscle relaxants and put her in an oxygen chamber. She has since made a full recovery.

A lovely story and all that but I do wonder if this isn't going just that little bit too far?

Proposing Marriage


A little story, a true one in fact, about proposing marriage and fussing about with Engagement Rings and the like. No, not what happened to me, but to a friend (and a real friend, this isn't something made up just to tell a story).
So, this friend, we'll call him Ian, for that was his name, had been dating a woman for some 6 months or so and was very happy indeed. He got his act together, looks around for diamonds, and then purchased the Engagement Ring.
He steeled himself up to ask his beloved: he was certain that he wanted to marry her, and pretty certain that she wanted to marry him and live together, forever, in domestic bliss, but there's always that slight doubt, isn't there?
Anyway, so he picks the right moment and asks her. Yes, indeed, she did say yes, kissed him and plighted her troth.
First though, she fell out of bed.
Perhaps not quite what our forefathers would have thought of as the most appropriate place to ask.
Disclosure Policy.

'Till Death Us Do Part

That is, at least, the normal way that weddings are handled, that the vows last until death do part us. Not always though, as this story shows:

An Indian woman, despairing over her lover's accidental death when he fell down a well soon after their engagement, insisted on ceremonially marrying his corpse just minutes before the cremation.

"It was for just few minutes the girl was dressed as a bride and then as a widow," K.M. Kapadia, a police officer in the town of Anand in western Gujarat state, said on Saturday.

Wedding attendees sat the corpse up by a fire, the traditional center of Hindu wedding ceremonies, and chanted some marriage prayers before cremating the body, police said.

"The girl refused to give away the body of her lover for the cremation till she tied the knot with him," Kapadia said.

Only starting the marriage after death is a little unusual, to say the least. Still, I suppose she wouldn't have tried this a century or more ago. Under the tradition of suttee she would have been thrown, live, onto the funeral pyre herself.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Investing in Gold

There are three ways to invest in gold, each of them with their own merits. You can purchase physical gold, in the form of bullion or coins (like the American Eagle, the Kruferrand or the Sovereign) and simply store it. This has the problem that you can have no gearing and thus can only gain limited exposure to a rise in prices.

You can also play in futures and options but that is only for the true professional really. You get lots and lots of gearing but for a limited time.

The third is to invest in gold miners, like General Metals Corporation. This gives you gearing (the stock should go up by more than the rise in the gold price) and also a long term exposure to it, as equity shares are not time limited.

Now gold has traditionally moved counter cyclically to the stock market, inflation being bad for stocks and good for the gold price. Whether that relationship will hold in the future is another matter. As with all investments you have to accept that it's possible to lose money as well as make it.

However, in this press release there's certainly a very good case made for this stock:

"Gold Expected to Dominate the Investment Horizon, Experts Advise Early Stock Purchases (Reno, NV – March 5, 2007) Traditionally, gold has had an inverse relationship with the stock market. When stocks go up, the price of gold usually falls; when stocks flounder, the price of gold usually skyrockets. Some experts believe it could mean a lot for investors in 2007, because gold is once again catching the eye of the investor. For General Metals Corporation, the news couldn’t come at a better time. “With our plans to begin drilling at Independence Mine, we’re more than thrilled to hear gold is making a comeback,” states company CEO Stephen Parent. “We’re even more excited with our location; it’s a proven producer.” General Metals acquired the Independence Mine in northern Nevada and became a public company last year, trading under the symbol GNLM. Predominantly a silver mine from 1938 to 1987, the Independence Mine is estimated to contain over two million ounces of gold, as well as over two million ounces of additional un-mined silver. As the Independence Mine is essentially an island within Newmont Mining’s Phoenix Mine, the area is already a proven producer. According to Parent, they plan to remove the precious metals in two phases. “Phase one includes our ‘shallow’ targets,” says Parent. “The shallow targets contain less gold, but they’re easily and quickly accessible, which will encourage early cash flow. Phase two is where the majority of our gold will come from. It’s deep mining, but we expect it to produce 1.4 to 2 million ounces of gold.” They expect to produce 20,000 ounces of gold in the first year, 60,000 ounces in the second year and 70,000 ounces in the third year -- approximately $101 million from early estimates. The company also anticipates an additional $1.36 billion to be gained from phase two production. In an effort to increase their mining production, General Metals has recently acquired the Nyinahin Mining Concession in Ghana. Located in one of the most active exploratory areas in the world, this concession shares borders with several major mining companies, including Newmont Mining, Napoli Gold and Dunkwa Continental Goldfields. “Financial experts are predicting gold to play a key role in investor’s profiles during 2007,” adds Parent. “But due to the timely nature, potential investors will need to act quickly in order to maximize their gains.”"

Disclosure Policy.

North Korea and Banks

This little story I find interesting for personal reasons:

North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan warned on Saturday that if the United States failed to lift financial sanctions against it, his country would have to take "corresponding actions" in response.

Washington had promised to look into easing financial sanctions within 30 days of a February 13 agreement that offers North Korea millions of dollars in energy aid and improved security in return for steps on dismantling its nuclear facilities.

"The U.S. has promised to lift the Banco Delta Asia financial sanctions, so we are closely watching developments," Kim told reporters at Beijing airport on his return journey to North Korea from talks in the United States.

"If the U.S. fails to lift all of the sanctions, we cannot help but to partially take corresponding actions," he said.

A decade ago a North Korean company tried to open a letter of credit to us to buy some aluminium from Russia. Their own bank, the State bank, refused them the credit. When a government can't actually borrow a couple of hundred thousand dollars, you know there are serious problems.

Extended Car Warranties

This is common to many items, that we are pressured into purchasing things that we just don't need. But Extended Car Warranty schemes do seem to be worse than many (although I was once offered a warranty on a toaster which cost more than hte toaster itself. Bizarre.)

For one they're expensive and secondly, they may well mean you're paying for something you're already covered for.

It's very much worthwhile having a look at this site on Extended Car Warranty schemes, as they lay out the whole process, what you might indeed want one for and what you might not.

In short, they explain it all, when and where it's a scam and when and where it is not. Extremely useful information in fact.

Disclosure Policy.

Changing the Clocks

One of the more insane ideas put forward to help the environment has been that the US should change to daylight savings on a different day from every other country.
Energy-guzzling Americans, always on the lookout for a painless path to conservation, can celebrate this weekend when they will cut greenhouse gas emissions by simply pushing forward the hands on their clocks.

At 2 a.m. Sunday (0700 GMT), the United States will "spring forward" one hour to daylight saving time, three weeks earlier than usual, and will stay on that schedule until November 4, a week longer.

The additional four weeks each year of shifting an hour of daylight from morning to evening is expected to cut fuel consumption, as demand falls for electricity during early evening peak hours, according to experts.

...

Farmers will lose a precious hour of early light. Orthodox Jews, who wait until sunrise to say morning prayers, lobbied against the provision, and airliners complained it would throw their international schedules further out of sync with Europe, costing the industry millions of dollars.

Owners of BlackBerrys and other electronic gizmos have had to scurry to download "patches" to make sure their devices are aligned with the new time three weeks earlier than programmed.

It's that last change which puts paid to the idea. Changing each and every international schedule twice a year more than swallows up any benefits there might be.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Winzy

Winzy's a free site where you can go and play free games and so on. So far, nothing very unusual. However, they do indeed have a twist to their site. If you register then when you use their search engine you'll be earning yourself entries into competitions. The prizes might be Amazon certificates, games consoles or even straight cash.

Hey, you're going to be using a search engine anyway, so why not get something for it?

They've also got their own games as well, for example a very good version of Deal or No Deal. It looks fun and vastly better than simply watching people on the TV, you can take part directly.

Worth checking out.

Disclosure Policy.

Mount Hitler

Rather embarassing this, Google Earth includes a marker for a Mount Hitler.

The mayor of a small town in Germany on Thursday called on Google Earth to delete a reference to a nearby "Mount Hitler" from its geographic image service, saying it was misleading.

Andreas Wiedemann, mayor of Bad Toelz, south of Munich, said the peak near the Bavarian town had been known as Mount Hitler for a short time during the Third Reich but had been given back its original name of Heigelkopf after World War Two.

Google Earth users who call up a map of the area are given both names for the 1,205-meter (3,950 feet) mountain.

"We've been telling Google for years that they should take it down immediately," Wiedemann told Reuters. "It's misleading as it was only called that for a few years."

I wonder if this sort of thing comes under the glorying of fascism rules?

Christian Dating

As I've mentioned before the web allows business to operate in a new way. Instead of being tied to a geographic location it's now possible to address a much wider audience.

What this in turn allows is the slicing and dicing of that audience into vertical channels. The huge possibilities for social networking also come into play. The end result is things like this Christian Dating site.

Previously, in any one area, there wouldn't be enough people to support such a thing and the expense of print advertising would also make it a non-starter. But with the web, all such things are possible.

Over and above the economic and technological aspects of course, if you're interested in Christian Dating then you should definitely check out the site.

Disclosure Policy.

Pajama Pants on Fire!

It would have to be this word, wouldn't it? Pajamas, bloggers, the internet, it's all related, obviously.

Candidates for British universities have been caught red-handed copying their applications from the Internet after hundreds mentioned "burning a hole in pajamas at age eight" on their online entrance forms.

The phrase, taken from a Web site which provides examples of personal statements used by successful candidates, describes an early encounter with a chemistry set.

Medical course applications from 370 others contained statements beginning with "a fascination for how the human body works" and 175 included anecdotes which involved "an elderly or infirm grandfather."

Jeez, it's there as an example, not as something to cut and paste!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Greek Shirts

Now that the newphews and neices are all growing up (in fact, given that they've all started dating I would suspect that they are indeed grown up) they're all off to college over the next couple of years. This then means they have to make the decision about whether to join a fraternity or sorority, one of the Greek societies. There are huge benefits in doing so and I'm encouraging them that way. There's the immediate way in which you are part of an extended family, for example, and those contacts you make that way will be with you through the rest of your professional life.

In fact, to encourage them I've already said that I'll spring the cash for their greek shirts as and when they actually join one of the fraternities or sororities. They seem to think that's a big deal actually, but then they don't know that I've found Greekt-shirts.com and I'm certainly not going to tell them what a great deal I'm going to be getting. Let them think that they're expensive, just makes me look like an even more generous Uncle than I already am, doesn't it?

Disclosure Policy.

Antonella Barba Nude Pictures

I'm always finding myself late to these sorts of things I'm afraid so I've really only just found out about these Antonella Barba nude pictures. (There are some of someone purporting to be her having sex as well).

She's a contestant in American Idol and she did some professionally posed cheesecake shots. Good looking girl but there's still a streak of the Puritans in American life. Someone who has bared their breasts should not be allowed to sing or something (although they can if they're already famous, as Madonna has shown).

Something that did create real (rather than simulated) outrage was that the posing was done atop a war memorial.

As to the sex pictures, well, unless she's had significant surgery, it doesn't look like that's actually her.

ReNu Solution Recall


Opps, it looks like we've got a problem here. Bausch & Lomb announced on March 6 th that they are recalling a million bottles of their ReNu contact lens solution. You can read the full announcement here:ReNu Contact Lens Solution Recall.

It might well be worth checking your batch numbers. It appears that there is a contamination with iron: not a health hazard, or at least not reported as such, but it does make the solution less effective over time.

Of course, if you'd already had Lasik surgery to orrect your eyesight, this wouldn't be a problem, would it? Might be time to consider it if you haven't already.

Disclosure Policy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Portfolio Diversification

Have you thought about investing in silver?

Standard portfolio theory at least suggests that you should think about it for the secret is to make sure that your investments are diversified across different sources of risk. I don't mean investing in futures or options, no, not at all, rather, making sure that as a part of a well balanced portfolio you have an amount of physical precious metals stocked away for a rainy day.

We should have stocks in our investments, for they've provided the best growth over the decades. We want to make sure that we have some high risk and some low of those as well. We should also look at various types of bonds. Perhaps corporates, with slightly higher returns, or Treasuries with greater security, or municipals with their tax benefits.

But our classical theory about how to allocate your investments also says that you want something to guard against inflation, that's what the precious metals do.

Might be worth contacting Monex Deposit Company through the link above to see what they can do for you. They supply both bullion and coins and so can help you into this market with whatever level of investment you want to make.

Borat's a Human Rights Victim!

No, really, it's not a mistake. An offical State Department report has used Borat as an example of the absence of human rights in Kazakhstan:

Fictional Kazakh TV reporter Borat has made an unexpected cameo appearance as a victim of censorship in a heavyweight annual human rights report issued by the State Department.

The 2006 report, released in Washington on Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, criticized the real Kazakhstan, a vast oil-producing Central Asian state, for increased restrictions on freedom of speech and other abuses.

The State Department, which says Kazakhstan has no independent judiciary, also listed the murder last year of Kazakh opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, his bodyguard and driver as "unlawful deprivation of life."

The report cited Borat's loss of his Kazakh webpage www.borat.kz in late 2005 alongside court cases and limits on free speech faced by the few domestic media critical of Kazakhstan's long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"The government deemed as offensive the content of a satirical site controlled by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and revoked the .kz domain," the report said.

Admittedly, losing your web site is less awful than losing your life but still, interesting to see a fictional character actually has human rights.

The Chicken Eating Cow

Reports from India of a cow that likes eating chickens:

When dozens of chickens went missing from a remote West Bengal village, everyone blamed the neighborhood dogs.

But Ajit Ghosh, the owner of the missing chickens, eventually solved the puzzle when he caught his cow -- a sacred animal for the Hindu family -- gobbling up several of them at night.

"We were shocked to see our calf eating chickens alive," Ghosh told Reuters by phone from Chandpur village.

The family decided to stand guard at night on Monday at the cow shed which also served as a hen coop, after 48 chickens went missing in a month.

"Instead of the dogs, we watched in horror as the calf, whom we had fondly named Lal, sneak to the coop and grab the little ones with the precision of a jungle cat," Gour Ghosh, his brother, said.

Local television pictures showed the cow grabbing and eating a chicken in seconds and a vet confirmed the case.

"We think lack of vital minerals in the body is causing this behavior. We have taken a look and have asked doctors to look into the case immediately," Mihir Satpathy, a district veterinary officer, said by phone.

So, perhaps feeding the cows with  ground up sheep and so on wasn't such a bad idea at all? You know, if these things happen naturally then they must indeed be good for Gaia?

Fairfax Real Estate

One of the oddities of the so called free market system in hte US is the way that so much of the money to be made actually emanattes from hte Federal Government itself. This is what has made the area around Washington DC boom so much in recent decades.

Back when I lived there a couple of decades ago it wsa entirely possible to buy the American dream house on a  reasonable mortgage. The increase in the number of people working for the Feds has made this more difficult now: I will admit that the location of companies like The Motley Fool in Alexandria has also made a difference.

The flip side of this is that it has made it a very hot real estate market: and as we don't think government is going to go away soon one with many fewer risks than other areas of the country.

The Fairfax County real estate market, for example, looks very interesting. It's a lovely part of Northern Virginia and values should continue to rise strongly for, as above, no one forsees any cutting back on the bureaucracy. 

Worth clicking through the link there to see what John Holmes can do for you in this market.

Dedicated Servers

There comes a time in every serious adventure onto the web that you have to consider your hosting options. The free services aren't enough (you're using too muc bandwidth for example), shared hosting means you're open to the problems, spikes in traffic, even denial of service attacks on those you share the host with.

So, as traffic grows you'll need to look at a dedicated hosting solution and DMG Dedicated Servers looks like an extremely good place to get one.

They've grasped the two most important things about the business. The first, that it is their customers that make of break a business, so they must be treated as the most valuable asset. The second is that it is uptime that is most important, which is why they use AT&T as their primary provider.

Very much worth checking out if you need to upgrade from your current hosting solution.

Disclosure Policy.

Smoking and Social Stability

Now here's an interesting admission. The Chinese Communists are more susceptible to hte social pressures of those who wish to continue to smoke than our government in the UK is.

China's stability could be threatened if the government tried to curb smoking, a senior official said on Wednesday at a discussion of the annual meeting of parliament.

"Smoking harms people's health, but restraining smoking threatens social stability," said Zhang Baozhen, deputy chief of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.

"Smokers rioted when the former Soviet Union collapsed because they could not get any cigarettes... The principle applies in China as well," Zhang said, responding to proposals from some members of China's parliamentary advisory body to curtail the smoking industry.

Partial smoking bans are already in effect in many places around the world, including Hong Kong, which returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, several American states and parts of Europe.

So, who is the democracy now?

Dating Single Moms

This internet and web thing does throw up some wonders. The way in which you can target a vertical sector, right across the country, is fascinating. Before, when things like dating sites were based around print media, there was always the problem with the fact that the costs meant that they had to accept everyone, there could be no distinctions made. The overheads meant that men and women, adulterers, Single Moms and so on all had to share the same pool of potential dates.

Now that the web has brought these costs down so much it's possible to slivce and dice that audience, to offer, as this one does, a dating site just for Single Moms.

I think it's great, further segmentation of the market, just what contributes to increasing human happiness.

Disclosure Policy.

Scooter Libby, Guilty

So the jury has found Scooter Libby guilty: but not of the original leak, of perjury in trying to cover it up.


No one is likely to face criminal charges for actually leaking CIA secrets even after a U.S. jury found a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney guilty of lying and obstructing a probe into the affair.

Just after the conviction on Tuesday of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters the leak investigation was over and would not extend to other administration officials.

"I would not expect to see any further charges filed," he said.

...

Libby faces a maximum 25 years in prison for obstructing the Plame leak probe, perjury before a grand jury and making false statements to the FBI.

No charges were brought for actually leaking Plame's name. Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert agent. Some suggested Libby was merely a scapegoat for higher-ups.

Well, that's what got both Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer. One does wonder whether that'll be what gets Ruth Turner and Lord Levy.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Preconstruction Investing

Now here's a sensible idea about preconstruction investing. There are a number of potential problems and pitfalls in the entire practice itself. When things go well very good profits can be made, when they go badly it can be the most almighty mess: that, of course, is why the profits can be high for there is the risk of things going badly.
Essentially the idea is that you buy house or property before it has been built. This gives the builder the capital to go and build it without needing to borrow: thus the house itself should be cheaper.
However, horror stories abound of people making those prepayments and either the project is never finished, or the builder goes bankrupt, or other things mean that matters don't turn out to rosily.
This good idea is that one should join one of the investing clubs. By doing this, by taking a fractional interest in a number of different projects (rather than 100% in just one) you are spreading risks. As in classical financial theory this should mean that you get slightly lower returns, but more certain returns: less profit perhaps, but a lot less risk of it all going horribly wrong.
There's an interesting ebook on the subject here.
Disclosure Policy.

Elvis Is Alive And Well

Yes, the King did not in fact leave us, Elvis Presley is alive and well in Papua New Guinea:

The late Elvis Presley plans to be a ghost voter at the 2007 national elections in the jungle-clad South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea -- if you believe the nation's electoral rolls.

In 2006 almost half of Papua New Guinea's 4.9 million registered voters were regarded by the electoral commission as ghost voters and did not exist.

The commission has been trying for a year to update voter registration ahead of June 30 elections, but admits voter rolls in remote, rugged highland electorates remain vastly inaccurate.

Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen said ghost voters remained a problem with several Elvis Presleys, the U.S. rocker who died in 1977, registering to vote, alongside a handful of Tom Jones, and a couple of kings and queens.

Unfortunately, it appears that his existence will not survive the investigations of the electoral commission.

Secured Loans


Some people seem to be rather worried about secured loans and the secured debt consolidation loan industry. I have to admit I've never really understood why. I've just taken out exactly one of those mortgages myself. By using the security in the house in the UK I've been able to buy the house in Portugal. What's wrong with this? I'm simply leveraging my assets which makes perfect sense as far as I can see.
You can also use the same sort of system to consolidate debts. Because there is now security against the borrowing you'll find that the interest rate being charged is significantly lower: imagine you were over your credit card limits and the like: moving from nearly 30% interest to the mortgage rate of 8% is obviously going to cut the pain of the repayments.
If this is the sort of thing that might interest you you can compare loans here.
Now it's important to remember that borrowing ever more money really isn't the best solution: at some point outgoings need to balance against income. But loans that either cut the interest on your debt, or that help you to leverage assets, seem entirely sensible to me.

Disclosure Policy
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Taking Daddy Home

There is a possibility that people will take things too far. The idea that some would like to die at home, in their own bed, rather than in a hospital bed is one thing, but taking the corpse home two years later is quite another:

Pakistani police are hunting a man who dug up his father's two-year old corpse and took it home in a hijacked ambulance to try to bring him back to life.

Abdul Rehman's family say he is mentally ill and has never been able to cope with his father's death, police said on Saturday.

"He dug up the corpse on Thursday night after he had hijacked an ambulance and its driver at gunpoint and took it to his home," Ghulam Murtaza, a duty officer at Ferozabad police station in the southern city of Karachi, told Reuters.

Police raided the house on Friday after a complaint from the trust that owned the ambulance and from Rehman's brother.

"He kept the corpse, which was nothing but a skeleton in his bedroom, for well over 12 hours. He escaped when we raided the house. We have buried it again," Murtaza said.

Rehman had also kidnapped a vagabond who slept in the graveyard and locked him up at home, police said.

"He told us he saw Rehman chanting magic spells and pouring rose water on the corpse to bring it back to life and was crying bitterly," Murtaza said.

Imagine the effect on his mental health if it actually had got up and walked!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Philadelphia Flower Delivery

Are you in Philadelphia? Are you also in need of a quick peace offering? Or perhaps there's a birthday or anniversary coming up that you need to mark? Why not try out Digital Flowers specialists in Philadelphia flower delivery ?

Not just the flowers though, they also carry teddy bears, chocolates and gift baskets. They're the number one online supplier, capable of meeting your urgent gift needs.

Disclosure Policy.

Take That

Way back when, when I left the country, one motivation was the excreble quality of the pop music, boy bands like Take That for example. I pop back for a couple of days and who is top of he charts? Yes, Take That.

TAKE That tonight clinched top spot in the singles charts and proved that their revival shows no sign of faltering.

The reformed boy band's latest release, Shine, jumped nine places to knock Ruby by the Kaiser Chiefs into second.

Take That's album, Beautiful World, and previous single, Patience, which scooped a Best British Single Award at the Brits, have also both reached number one in the charts.

On Friday, the 22 dates for their Beautiful World arena tour sold out in record time.

Six extra nights have been added to meet the demand from fans who want to see the quartet.

Fortunately I have a ticket out of here tomorrow.

VoIP

Are you fed up with paying over the odds for your telephone service? Then you should be thinking about signing up for one of the VoIP services. If you don't know what that means, have a look at this site explaining all about Vonage.

You can sign up from the US, UK or Canada, no problems, you'll save perhaps 50% on your bills and, in contrast to what usually happens with cheaper services, the call quality actually goes up on a digital line as opposed to the regular phone service.

Definitely worth checking out.

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George Galloway and the Baftas

It looks as if Gorgeous George might win a Bafta:

"SHALL I be the cat?" The memorable image of George Galloway licking an imaginary bowl of cream from the cupped hands of Rula Lenska has landed Celebrity Big Brother with a nomination for a Bafta television award.

The MP's authentic feline impersonation combined with his dynamic modern dance moves, performed while clad in a fetching, bright-red body stocking, helped secure Channel 4's solitary nomination for the Pioneer Audience Award, the only Bafta voted for by members of the public.

The shortlist, announced yesterday, will see the MP's imaginary cat and his fellow contestants, pitted against the genuine big cats filmed for Planet Earth, the BBC documentary series, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, which contained the first TV images of wild snow leopards.

Well, the show that will get the award, not George, but it'll be nice to see that catsuit again, won't it?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Italian Property

When we were mulling over where to go after fleeing the UK we ran through the various options. My wife won't live within five miles of a Frenchman, the Spanish always shout, Greece is too far away and while I was keen on going back into Eastern Europe the wife most certainly was not. So we went to Portugal.

However, the other options was Italy and I'm not sure we made the right choice after all. The food's great, the weather better, I already speak some of the language (and it's a damn sight easier to learn than Portuguese) and looking at this site for property in Italy it seems that we c ould have, for our budget, bought something rather better to live in.

Ah well, as every good little economist knows, there are opportunity costs to any decision you take.

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Well, really, why not?

The Oz p0rn industry wants a change in the rules:

Australia's porn industry began a court challenge to the country's film ratings on Thursday in a test case which family groups said could lead to explicit sex movies being sold openly in shops and petrol stations.

Pornographic movies can only be sold legally in two Australian territories, including the capital Canberra, and generated an estimated A$500 million ($393 million) last year, mainly through mail orders.

While it is legal to own or watch sexually-explicit movies at home anywhere in Australia, sales are banned in the country's six states.

Australia's censors rate films from G, which are open to anyone, to R for violent or disturbing films suitable only for adults, and X for sexually-explicit films with heavily restricted distribution.

Now pornography company AdultShop.com Limited has asked the Federal Court to overturn the X category used by censors, arguing community tastes had changed since standards were drafted in 1984.

I'll admit that it does seem a bit weird. In large parts of Australia prostitution is legal. Odd that you can pay to shag someone but not to pay to watch someone being shagged.

Coupon Chief


We're all familiar with clipping coupons out of the newspaper to use when we go down to the supermarket: hey, if someone's offering free money off something we're already going to buy, then why not take advantage of it?

But how do we find the same sorts of deals online? Obviously, these coupons for the online stores aren't printed in the old style dead tree newspapers: they're online. But, with all those billions upon billion of pages, where can we find them?

One answer, probably the best answer, is through couponchief.com.

They go out and collect all of the online coupons and then make them avalable in one handy place for us. They've over a thousand different stores, as an example have a look at their Best Buy online coupons section. As I write now, there's $150 off certain notebook computers, 15% off WesternDigital hard drives and another 15 or so different offers.

If you're going to be spending the money anyway, to be buying something, it simply makes sense to get money off it if you can, and a regular habit of taking a look at those couons just before you buy something online will save you a lot of money over time.

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Smuggling Hand Grenades

This is a fairly impressive feat, even if one I wouldn't want to try and eumlate myself.

An inmate at an El Salvador jail was caught with a hand grenade stuffed up his backside -- a novel attempt to disguise his apparent escape plans.

Guards at the San Francisco Gotera prison outside the capital San Salvador found the V40 grenade, about the size of a golf ball, lodged up the man's rectum during a security clampdown, a prison spokesman said on Thursday.

They also caught another 16 inmates who each swallowed a mobile phone.

"We'll have to expel the objects and if they won't come out we'll have to perform surgery in hospital," said Alberto Uribe, a spokesman for the El Salvador prison service.

Tempting Hubby


The things that have to be done to stop husbands doing silly stuff:

A German man who spent 10 days in a self-made box atop a 72-foot-tall pole to protest a looming jail term was lured off his perch by his wife -- who sent up a topless picture of herself in his lunch box.

Fred Gregor, 45, was bidding to have his 15-month conviction for fraud overturned by squatting in his tiny cubicle atop a converted television mast. He told Reuters in a telephone interview last week that he wanted a new trial.

His wife Susanne, 25, backed his protest until the former stripper and mother of their five children decided she had had enough.