Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Deciding upon a web host

We all know that to get anything done these days you need to have a website. It might be a business, a charity appeal, simply a blog, but you do need to get on the internet to be able to get your message out.

This then leads to a second problem. Who should we use to provide us with our web hosting? For there are many different things which we might look for. It might be that we're interested in the cheapest possible deal. Or maybe we need lots of free tools. Or perhaps it's uptime that is most important for a large scale e commerce site.

Fortunately there's a site that can help us in this matter. One that can tell us who provides what and at what price. Then they guide us to who would be making the best offer for the things that we actually want, what's the best deal for us.

For example, you can look through their pick of best blog hosting here or best e commerce hosting here. If you're looking for a window onto the web you should be looking through their recommendations.

Snakes in a toilet!

OK, so it's not snakes in a plane, which has to have been the only movie ever which started with just the title and then went on to do just that, have snakes, on a plane. However, this story about snakes in the toilet is still amusing:

A Taiwanese man became a sitting target for a snake, which bit his penis as sat on the toilet at his rural home, local media reported on Monday.

"As soon as he sat down, he suddenly felt a knife-like pain and reacted instinctively by standing up," the China Times said. "When he looked down, he saw the big snake."

Fortunately, it wasn't a poisonous snake. Getting someone to suck the venom out might have been troublesome.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A new email system

I've been looking around for a new email system. Sure, Google's fine for the personal stuff but it really doesn't do it for the business work I need to do. So, as I say, I've been looking around and I came across these guys at RackNine. I'm going to have to check out their stuff a little more as it looks like it's got all the stuff I need. It's properly spam filtered, filing emails is real simple, it's got a decent search engine incorporated, and, of course, it allows access from any place on the internet.

That's pretty much what I am looking for so as I say, excuse me while I go and check out more of the details.

Sending in the debt collector

Yes, OK, when someone's just a scoff law then you do have to take action. If they refuse to pay the debt owed to you then you've a right to send in a debt collector. Seems reasonable enough really, doesn't it? That people should pay you what they owe you?

However, it can be taken a little too far:

Austrian authorities sent a debt collector to a man's house after he underpaid his trash collection bill by 36 euro cents, about 50 U.S. cents, a newspaper said on Thursday.

The man, from a village in Lower Austria province, told Kronen Zeitung that he had accidentally overlooked the 36 cents after the decimal place on his bill for 236.36 euros ($315).

That's some trash bill there, ain't it?

But then it shows the problem with bureaucracies. They're so concerned with dotting the i's and crossing the t's that there's no room for someone to use common sense and just say "Hang on a moment....."

Failing Auto AC

I've never been all that much of a fan of AC in an auto to be honest. I think it's because when I've lived in a climate where you might need it I've always been driving old clunkers. Which, notoriously, tend not to have very good AC systems. I've had systems fail when I'm all dressed up to go to a meeting, I've had one fail when I was stuck in the middle of traffic at 100 oF. I've pretty much got to the point where I think I'd rather not have the AC so it can't fail on me.

Well, that's the way I used to hink until I founds these guys. Sure, they do diesel parts as well, but they've got just about everything that any AC system could possibly need. So it's not that bad keeping the auto system in good shape any more.

Dogs and new tricks

Here's a dog that you probably won't be trying to teach any new tricks. In fact, she's so old she's probably forgotten all the ones she did know. Or maybe that should be that she's so old that they're imprinted upon her mind and thus cannot in any way be forgotten?

Chanel, the world's oldest dog, celebrated her 21st birthday on Wednesday with a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records and a visit to a dog hotel and spa.

The dachshund, a rescue dog from Port Jefferson in New York, wore an orange sweater and red goggles as her owner, Denice Shaughnessy, accepted the award marking her longevity.

"Chanel is the Guinness world record holder for the oldest living dog," said Jamie Panas, a spokeswoman for Guinness.

That's a pretty good innings for a rescue dog whose owner got her when she was only a puppy, a mere 6 weeks old.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Working out Direct TV vs. Dish

OK, OK, so we all know that there are various ways we can get our TV shows. There's Direct TV, there's dish, there's the local cable service, there's probably someone trying to work out how to feed it down the internet too. But which is the best one?

For that you need to be able to compare the offers and that's not all that easy from the main websites of all the suppliers. But that's where the internet comes to the rescue. Here's a site which makes the comparisons for you, lists the Direct TV deals and those of the other suppliers. Then, when you've got all the facts, you make your choice as to which is the best for you.

Worth checking out.

Horrors! Horrors!

There are so many things one can worry about in this world it sometimes boggles about what people actually do worry about.

Junk food ads account for two-thirds of televised advertisements for food that are shown when children are likely to be watching, researchers into obesity said Friday, based on a study of 11 countries.

Germany and the United States led the way at 90 percent, with Britain and Australia the lowest at about 50 percent, the researchers said, urging governments to limit such marketing in order to combat obesity.

"Internationally, children are exposed to high volumes of unhealthy food and beverage advertising on television," Bridget Kelly, a nutrition researcher at the Cancer Council NSW in Australia, and colleagues told the European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam.

"Limiting this food marketing is an important preventative strategy for childhood obesity."

Oh good grief. Look, there's nothing wrong with eating junk food. As long as the calories you ingest are the same number as the calories you burn you'll be just fine.

Oh, and the reason that Britain has the lowest numbers? Because there's a law against marketing junk food between children's programs. And do you know what the effect of that has been? As there isn't any money (there's no point in advertising cars of washing powders to children now, is there?) no one actually makes children's programmes commercially any more. They just buy in imports.

Heard of Booty Camp yet?

I have to admit I think that whoever came up with the name of this fitness centre is a genius. Booty Camp....what a name eh? It sounds like a pretty good idea too. It's a women only training centre which promises to get you into swimsuit shape in only two sessions a week. They use a combination of hand to hand combat (although non contact), circuit training, body stretching and so on to achieve those ends. They also offer four and 8 weeks courses.

Pity they don't have a male equivalent really. I would like to get into swimsuit shape in only two sessions a week: but then I don't thenk there's a genius out there that would achieve that really.

You can see more information about it all here:


Keeping Mother

I know, it's one of those Biblical injunctions, that you should honour your father and mother. And of course one part of that is that you should care for them in their old age, just as you were cared for in your youth.

However, there does come a time when it's appropriate to actually let go:

A Florida woman has been indicted for keeping her dead mother's body in a bedroom for six years while collecting more than $200,000 in pension benefits, U.S. prosecutors said on Thursday.

Penelope Sharon Jordan of Sebastian, Florida, was charged by a federal grand jury last week with Social Security fraud and theft, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said.

In this particular case she should probably have let go about 6 years and $200,000 ago.

On the other hand, if someone's got $33,000 a year to pay me, I'm pretty sure that I've got a spare bedroom that I can keep a corpse in....

Catching a falling knife

Markets go up and markets go down. The really difficult thing is to spot when they're just turning which is why trying to call the bottom of a market is known as "trying to catch a falling knife". Get it right and you're fine. Get it wrong and you've a bloody mess.

But there's increasing evidence that the housing market is settling down now, it this new, lower price level. The sign of this is that while prices have indeed fallen, the number of transactions is rising. Peopple are coming back into the market.

All of which means that you should be looking for someone to help you come back into hte market yourself, like this Dallas Realtors. You want someone who knows their own local market, who can take you through the oddities and pleasures of a specific area. In this specific case you've got the opportunity to use a good team there. A father /daughter team will be able to give you a view from two generations and both sides of the gender divide.

Well worth checking out if you're going to take the plunge in Dallas. And if you're in another city, well, this still might be the time to get back into the market.

Best job in the world

OK, so it was a Briton who won the best job in the world. I bet he's very excited and happy:

A British charity fundraiser won the "best job in the world" Wednesday -- caretaker of an Australian tropical island -- after an innovative marketing campaign that highlighted the power of social media.

Ben Southall, 34, was picked from 16 finalists in a highly publicised contest by Tourism Queensland which attracted nearly 34,700 video entries from almost 200 countries and surpassed all expectations in promoting tourism in the Australian state.

The job description? Explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef for six months and report back to Tourism Queensland and the world via blogs, a photo diary, video updates and interviews.

Also, if you feel like it, feed the fish, collect the mail and clean the pool -- and earn A$150,000 ($110,000) for your efforts.

But the people who are really excited and happy are the people from the Australian Tourist Board who thought up the whole stunt. For that salary of $100,000 or so plus the cost of a website they've had front page coverage, several times, in most of the newspapers around the world.

It's a fabulous, absolutely stunning, leverage of a very small budget for a very big payoff.

Paying for college

As we move into this new knowledge economy, the one where what you know is much more important than what you can do (for we all have to be flexible these days), the value of an education is rising ever higher. Those with college degrees make hundreds of thousands of dollars more in their lives (on average of course) than those who do not.

But as the value of an education rises, so does the cost. And that's where student loans come in. You're going to have to borrow to get those pay rises in the future. OK, so we all know about the Federal student loans but often they won't lend. You're doing the wrong degree, or at the wrong college, or you're doing a second educational program. Which is where private student loans come in.

That is, if your demand for college loans is greater than what the government wants to let you borrow, there's a whole private sector system out there available to help you do what you want to do.

Might be worth clicking through those links to find out more.


As a writer you're told endlessly not to use cliches. They're tired, stale, hey show that you've not been thinking about what you're saying. The difficulty is though, peoplle came up with the phrases in the first place because they contain a truth. Something that's easily recognisable. And the greater the truth they encapsulate the more often they're going to get used and thus the more likely they're going to turn into cliches.

You know, like the old cliches about drunks in Eastern Europe. Lazy scaremongering of course.

Well, sorta:

Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko was detained by police at Frankfurt airport and prevented from boarding his flight because of drunken and disorderly conduct, police said Wednesday.

See? That's the problem with cliches, you cn't use them because they've been repeated so often but the reason they're repeated so often is because they encapsulate a truth.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A house isn't furnished without art on the walls

Regular readers will know that we've been working on restoring a house for some time now. One side is done and the builders crack on with stage two starting, umm, yesterday morning actually.

All of which means that it's near time to start furnishing the place properly. There's no point in doing until they are finished, but once they are we're not going to hang around in turning a house into a home. And there's an old saying, that a home isn't properly furnished without art on hte walls.

So I've been looking around trying to find a good source of the sort of wall art that we want. And I think I've found it, click through any of the links to see what I mean. I'm more of a fan of modern art than I am of abstract art but my wife is the other way around so it might be that we'll each get to choose for different rooms.

I do like this, "Wide Eyed Wonder" which I think would go very well over the new wood fired fireplace that is just going in. I'm going to haver to let the wife have a look around to see what she likes as well I think. Fortunately it's all so well priced that we don't have to agree on the same piece, we can each get what we like the most.

Cliches about the French

Cliches are, as we know, horrible old tired expressions of stereotypes. We're told thus that we shouldn't use them because they are horrible old tired expressions of stereotypes.

However, the value of cliches is that they are exactly that....they're expressions of old truths, things that are common knowledge. So it's not all that much of a surprise to see a survey proving what we all knew to be true, that the French are lazy gourmands.

True to their reputation as leisure-loving gourmets, the French spend more time sleeping and eating than anyone else among the world's wealthy nations, according to a study published Monday.

As well as confirming our deepest prejudices abotu the Frogs, this survey from the OECD should be very interesting in my work as well. For it tells us about the work life balance in all of the rich countries.

The survey showed that the split between work and leisure time within certain countries is striking.

"Italian men have nearly 80 minutes a day of leisure more than women. Much of the additional work of Italian women is apparently spent cleaning the house," the OECD said in a statement.

I wonder if the UK really does have the longest working hours in Europe?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Where to stay in Vegas

I've never been to Las Vegas, which is odd because I've been around a lot of the US. Just never to Vegas itself. And that's something I intend to remedy pretty soon now. Vegas is simply so famous that not having been there is making me feel very left out indeed.

So, I've been investigating Las Vegas Hotels and to be honest I find that I'm rather surprised. For they simply aren't as expensive as I had thought. Indeed, they're a great deal cheaper, or at least they can be, than hotels in other major American cities. For example, if you click through that link now (or at least, if I click through it now as I'm writing) you can get the Red Rock casino hotel for as little as $61 a night. That's a bit of a deal if you ask me.

Or if you're looking for something a little more downscale (in price at least) then there's the Riviera from $23 night. Or going back up market, the Venetian from $155.

These sorts of prices mean that the gambling isn't the only attraction, or at least it isn't for me. But that the gambling is going on makes Vegas a great place to take a holiday: if you don't gamble but everyone else is, then you get to take advantage of all of the things that are put on for free for those who are gambling.

Now the food in Vegas is famous for being very good and very cheap....if not in some places actually free. Similarly the drinks. Because what the casinos are really interested in is people having a good time while gambling, they compete to offer better, cheaper, food and drinks to those who do and are gambling. This simply makes everything that is on offer better and cheaper for those who aren't.

This is also true of the various tours and visits around the area. Because there are so many coming for that gambling experience there are simply a huge number of options for tours around and about. You can take in the Hoover Dam for example, still one of the most impressive pieces of engineering in the country. Or fly over the Grand Canyon. Or take a bus tour to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (and while I've not been to Vegas yet that is somewhere I've been and thoroughly recommended it is too).

All in all there's a huge number of things to do using Vegas as your base. So excuse me while I go back to that link and carry on planning my visit?

Playboy broadcasts sexy material

In what might be the least obvious case of indecencey, the Playboy channel has been fined in the UK for broadcasting sexy material. And no, it wasn't for what you might think they were doing wrong either. You know, broadcasting images of real people rather than the airbrushed and siliconed models they more normally use.

Nor was it that Playboy is, by the standards of modern s.
pornography, really rather tame and thus they were fined for shipping out something that wasn't sexy.


British media regulator Ofcom has fined Playboy TV 22,500 pounds ($32,990) for airing sexually explicit images in breach of broadcasting rules.

Really. They were fined for doing exactly what they say they will do, broadcast sexy images.

Weird place at times, Britain.

Installing home security

In these troubled and violent times there's a need for us all to make sure that our homes and businesses are secure. Sure, it would be nice to think that the cops have it all in hand and have driven the bad guys off the street. But that's not how we know it all works out, right?

So we have to ponder how to deal with, how to install, a home security system. We can make this easier for ourselves by making sure that we choose a system from one of america's largest companies. We can be sure that General Electric is going to take care of us now, can't we? It's also true that the GE offer is one of the best on the market. There are two costs to any security systems, installation and then the monthly monitoring charge. GE offers systems (in a way that their competitors don't) which are free to install.

You also get all the things that you would expect from such an industry leader: a lifetime warranty for example. And yes, the installation of a system can lead to up to 20% off your home insurance rates.

To find out more about what can be done to make your home or business more secure why not call toll free: 877-470-275.

You'll get two keychain remotes just for discussing your needs and options.

Calvin Borel

Oh my, full marks to Calvin Borel here. He's just ridden the winner of the Kentucky Derby for the second time in three years. That's a huge achievement. He was riding Mine that Bird, a 50 to one outsider, and to bring in a distant hope like that in first place is the sort of thing that everyjockey dreams about.

In one of the biggest upsets in the race’s history, Calvin Borel rode Mine That Bird past the finish line first to be the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner.

Mine That Bird, trained by Bennie Woolley Jr. entered the race at 50 to 1 odds, and was fancied by no one to win the race. Instead, it was a resounding win, with Mine That Bird winning by nearly seven lengths, the biggest winning length since 1946. The payout of $103.20 to win (for $1) was the second-largest payout in Derby history, and the biggest since 1913.

The Kentucky Derby is of course one of the great races of the year and to win it once is to show that a jockey is one of the greats. To win it more than once, and to win on an outsider to boot, is to be even more successful.

Congratulations to Mine That Bird jockey Calvin Borel, who today rode the winner of 135th Kentucky Derby running. This 2009 win is the second time in three years that Calvin Borel has ridden the winner of the Kentucky Derby; he rode Street Sense to a win in 2007.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Dating for punks

One of the joys of this here internet thing is that it just about abolishes the concept of distance. So like minds can reach out across the ether and no longer be constrained by the small towns (or small minds!) around them. As, for example, this site for punk singles. Instead of looking for love amongst only those around you, why not do so amongst those you know share your tastes?

Man bites python!

It's a truism in the newspaper business that dog bites man is not a story. That's just part of the natural order of things. However, when a man bites a dog that's a reversal o said natural order and is thus in fact a story.

So when this little snippet crossed the sub editors desk there was that truism reverberating in his head. No, not man bites dog but:

A Kenyan man bit a python who wrapped him in its coils and hauled him up a tree in a struggle that lasted hours, local media said Wednesday.

Farm manager Ben Nyaumbe was working at the weekend when the serpent, apparently hunting for livestock, struck in the Malindi area of Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.

"I stepped on a spongy thing on the ground and suddenly my leg was entangled with the body of a huge python," he told the Daily Nation newspaper.

When the snake coiled itself round his upper body, Nyaumbe resorted to desperate measures: "I had to bite it."

The python dragged him up a tree, but when it eased its grip, Nyaumbe said he was able to take a mobile phone out of his pocket and phone for help.

Of course the headline was thus "Man bites python."

Very traditional people, subeditors are.

Getting car insurance

One of the reasons I like being alive in this modern day is that we've got this intertubes thing to play with. And not just to play with in fact. It can make dealing with the minutiae of daily life so much easier as well. For example, I remember the old days, trying to get car insurance sorted out.

It was a nightmare of going from office to office to get quotes to see who was offering the best deal. Then once you'd found it you had to raceback to sign up for it before they changed their minds.

Now all you have to do is click through that link above and fill out the form online. So much simpler and leaves time for all the other pleasures of life.

Pigs getting swine flu from people

This sounds very silly indeed, farmers getting worried that pigs will get swine flu from people. But, umm, it's not actually all that silly. For this is exactly what happens with zoonoses:

Humans have it. Pigs don't. At least not yet, and U.S. pork producers are doing everything they can to make sure that the new H1N1 virus, known around the world as the "swine flu," stays out of their herds.

"That is the biggest concern, that your herd could somehow contract this illness from an infected person," said Kansas hog farmer Ron Suther, who is banning visitors from his sow barns and requiring maintenance workers, delivery men and other strangers to report on recent travels and any illness before they step foot on his property.

"If a person is sick, we don't want you coming anywhere on the farm," Suther said.

Those sentiments were echoed by producers around the nation this week as fears of a possible global flu pandemic grew, with more than 200 people sickened, including more than 100 in the United States, and at least 177 dead, all but one in Mexico.

"There is no evidence of this new strain being in our pig populations in the United States. And our concern very much is we don't want a sick human to come into our barns and transmit this new virus to our pigs," said National Pork Producers chief veterinarian Jennifer Greiner.

It's the very point about such diseases in fact, that not only can we humans get it from animals, but animlas can get it from humans. This is why it's a cross species disease in hte first place of course. It's the very definition of it.

Getting your promo gear

We all know that one of the most difficult things about running a business is making people aware that the business actually exists. This isn't just a matter of advertising of course: you also need to do what is known as marketing and even branding. Now many think that such things are really only the preserve of large companies. But thinking that way is wrong. Branding is available to all companies, even the smallest.

Just as one example, one can provide Custom Printed T Shirts which have your company logo on them. Hand them out to customers so that they will be advertising to others that they are your patrons. Have a look at these Logo T Shirts to see what I mean.

Of course, you don't have to Customize T Shirts to get your message and name across. Go through any of those links and you'll find a company that can provide over 500,000 different items. Keyrings, coffee mugs, fund and games, sports cups, just about anything you can think of actually can be printed so it will advertise your business.

It can be a very cost effective way of getting your business known and remembered.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Hiring a stripper

Not all that excited about your high school reunion? Not sure you want to go back and see all those people you spent years trying to escape? Why not do this?

Hire a stripper to be you at your high school reunion?

In 1995, Wachner graduated from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in an upscale Los Angeles-area neighborhood and never looked back. She left for New York City, where she attended New York University, graduating in 2000.

When she received the invitation to attend her 10-year reunion, she said she would not have dreamed of going because she hated her years at the school, where BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars were prized possessions.


She claims that at school, fellow students' drinking alcohol was a problem and eating disorders were common. She said academic competition was tight and the overall environment was "a pressure cooker."

Wachner didn't want to go back to all that, but she did want to see how people would react if the self-described "drama geek" showed up a changed woman -- a stripper, no less.

So, she hired Amy Bernadette "Cricket" Russell, whom she met at a Los Angeles strip club, to impersonate her. Cricket showed up in a slinky dress, fishnet hose and spike heels.

Yes, of course there is all of the usual talk about making a movie out of the story but think of it another way around. As a female geeky student.....

The high school quarterback who wouldn't give you the time of day when he was bonking all the cheerleaders. One of whom he has inevitably married, and who is now a porkish little hausfrau....to turn up in front of him as the exotic stripper.

Priceless, eh?