All About Freshwater Blue Lobster

I am of the opinion that any person who wants an aquarium in their home should definitely learn all about freshwater blue lobster in order to make their aquarium complete. You can get the standard goldfish, or clownfish, but I recommend getting something different. This article will tell you all about this amazing fish (including the secret behind its name) and how you can care for it and introduce it into its new aquarium home.

The Secret About Freshwater Blue Lobster

So, you see this term and you wonder what kind of lobster it is. Does it taste good? How do I cook it? Well, the secret is this: the freshwater blue lobster is not actually a lobster at all! It actually is a crustacean called a crayfish (or crawfish, in certain parts of the world). Lobsters and crayfish are distantly related, but are not the same thing – and the freshwater blue lobster will definitely not be found at any Red Lobster or seafood restaurant. So, the next time you hear this name, do not think of a nice, steamed lobster tail drenched in butter. Instead, think of a great addition to your aquarium.

Is there a real blue lobster out there? Sure – but it is extremely rare, appearing in about 1 out of every 30 million lobsters caught. If you get one, you can eat it, but it is so rare that many people keep them in captivity to observe them.

Learning About Freshwater Blue Lobster

This creature, as mentioned above, is a crayfish, and has the scientific name Procambarus alleni. It is a crustacean and goes by other names, including Hammers Cobalt Blue Lobster. These creatures can grow to be as long as eight inches, and have a blue shell – hence their name. Like most crayfish, they resemble lobsters in that they have two pincher claws, along with hard shells that are molted (shed) when the crayfish grows. Some can be found off the coast of Florida; others can be found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

About Freshwater Blue Lobster: Caring For Your Pet

If you decide to get a freshwater blue lobster for your home, you will need to first purchase an aquarium that is big enough for your pet. You should buy at least a 20-gallon aquarium so your crayfish has plenty of room to swim. You should then line this aquarium with substrate, such as sand or fine gravel. Put enough in there so your crayfish can burrow. Also put plants and rocks in your aquarium to add color and decoration, as well as additional hiding spots for your aquarium.

The water in your tank for your fish should be kept at a temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that temperatures above 80 degrees should be avoided if at all possible. Excessive temperatures can stress out your lobster – resulting in it turning a sickly brown color. For food, use algae, flakes, pellets that sink to the bottom, or even small cut up pieces of vegetables. They are scavengers and will eat just about anything you put down there, provided it is edible.

About the Freshwater Blue Lobster: Conclusion

This wonderful crayfish is a great addition to any aquarium. Just be sure to not include them with fish; they are aggressive and will attack just about anything. But they are great pets to watch, especially for their bright blue shells. While you can eat crayfish, I would not recommend eating this one. It is better to keep it in an aquarium and admire it for its beautiful blue hue.

Ideas for Re-Designing Your Existing Swimming Pool

Whether you are tired of the same old look of your pool or you want to enhance it to match the appearance of a newly constructed home or landscape, consider a redesign as opposed to a totally new swimming pool. Pools can be re-designed to not only save the money on the cost of demolition of an old one and construction of a new one, but also to customise your pool to give it a whole new look.

Changing the Size and Shape

You may not realise that your existing pool can be deepened, extended, widened or even reshaped using the latest in concrete pool techniques. You are not bound by your current style and size. This is great news if you want to turn a shallow wading pool into one that you can dive into or perhaps change the shape to accommodate your new home or landscaping additions.

Altering Pool Designs and Appearance

The colour of the interior plaster finish, paint and tiling can be changed to create an entirely new look. With the latest advances in pool technology, you can get a Spectrum quartz finish which comes in a variety of textures and colours and can be complemented by designer tiles. You can invest a little extra in your pool re-design and get a mosaic tile pattern too which can be customised to your specific design scheme.

Adding Some Extra Features

With a pool re-design, you have the option of choosing some extra features which can really enhance your swimming experience. Pool landscaping such as additional paving, garden planter boxes, decorative fencing, raised platforms for lounging and water features such as fountains and water walls add visually appealing elements.

New lighting, particularly the kind that can change colours underwater can be quite interesting. Spa features are popular too, especially if you want a place to kick back and relax to enjoy hot, pulsating jets of water to ease muscle aches and pains.

Making your Re-Design a Reality

Regarding swimming pools and their re-design, it is best to work with a professional pool company to ensure your ideas can be made into reality. A professional can walk you through a re-design and let you know what is possible, given the current state of your pool. They will be able to create a solid estimate of cost as well as a timeline to complete the project, keeping building permits and specifications in mind. Re-designing your pool is an excellent option if you don’t want to demolish your old one and start over.

How to Paint Eyelashes – Painting Techniques

When painting eyes in a portrait, eyelashes are sometimes the final touch and can make or break your work. All eyelashes are not created equal. Sometimes just a few strokes of the brush is all that is needed to give the suggestion of lashes. Other times it is necessary to delicately detail lashes since that is the feature you want to stand out.

One of the things to remember when painting eyelashes is to study your model or reference photo. Seldom are human eyes lashes uniformly straight up from the eyelid. Even so this is a common way for beginning artists to paint them. If you look carefully, you will see that the top lashes usually go off to the side, then gently lift upward. The bottom lashes are similar.

Be careful when painting eyelashes on male subjects. Too much paint and they will look too dark. The same is true on children. A good technique to follow is to use a tiny brush, and to use quick strokes. Stand back and view the painting before adding more. Often times just a few strokes is all you need. Paint too many and you may be unhappy. It’s easy to overdo eyelashes.

When I paint portraits I like to paint the eyes, and then the eyelashes last. The reason is that the eyes define a person and finalize the portrait in a sense. There are other portions of the eye that need to be painted correctly of course as well. When it comes to the eyelashes however, sometimes less is more. My advise it to use a tiny detail brush, quick strokes and to know when to stop!

The Top 7 Largest Crystal Chandeliers In The World

The growing popularity of crystal chandeliers has really take its toll and from its popularity in which have reached all over the world. Let me give you the Top 7 Largest Crystal Chandeliers in the world. You want to know the prices of it? Well even I can’t compute, so without further a do here it is:

Going at the 7th place is the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois.

The smallest-biggest chandelier in the world, the chandelier in the Theatre is known as the ‘Duchess’ took two years for ‘her’ to be born, and cost one and a half million dollars before her birthday. That was one and a half million, back in the 1920s, when you could buy a house for a person’s weekly wage nowadays. Now let me see you do the math on that one.

#6 on the list can be found at The Jai Vilas Palace houses two chandeliers, each one weighing 3.5 tons. To test whether the roof would take their weight, ten elephants were used to stamp on the roof, to make sure, now that is what I call durability, don’t you think? The palace was designed by a British colonel during colonial times in India, and has survived until now. The gold paint used in the room the chandeliers are in, is estimated to weigh 58 kg. Now how much would that be?

At Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul, Turkey The #5 ranked largest Crystal Chandelier is found. A 4.5 ton chandelier resides at the Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul. It contains 750 lamps, and is made of Bohemian crystal. It was a gift from Queen Victoria of Britain, to the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s. The building also houses the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat chandeliers in the world, with even the staircases being made of Baccarat crystal, imagine that much royalty in one home.

In Knokke Casino in Belgium us where the #4 ranked resides. Well Knokke is a seaside resort close to the Dutch border, and is home to one of Belgium’s ten casinos, and also one of the world’s seven biggest chandeliers. The Belgians are so fascinated by their chandeliers that they even have a word for ‘chandelier room’ which is Kroonluchterzaal, I can’t say it, no matter how hard I try. The chandelier is made of Venetian crystal, 22,000 pieces of it to be exact, and includes 2,700 lamps creating light for the crystals to refract. It has a diameter of 8.5m and a height of 6.5m. The entire structure weighs 6 tons. Well how about that.

#3 on our hit list is at the Palais Garnier Opera, France. The chandelier in the Palais Garnier in France, a country known for its fascination with things beautiful, objets d’art, also weighs 6 tons. It is in a fitting setting. The building, which is home to France’s traditional operas, is very ornate, decorated with marble friezes, columns, and statues around its interior. Napoleon began its construction in 1858, and it stands even today. The huge chandelier is actually in the auditorium where the operas are played out. So when you watch operas in the theater for sure you’ll be fascinated with its chandelier as well.

The #2 rank is at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara, Turkey. God has always been the source of man’s greatest inspiration to create so many beautiful cathedrals and churches have been designed and created for religious purposes and the chandelier at the Kocatepe Mosque, in Ankara, Turkey, holds to that tradition. It weighs 7.5 tons, is 5.5m in diameter, and has 32 sidelights and 4 corner lights. The mosque is used by around 80,000 worshippers, and the building itself, along with the chandelier, is considered one of the great triumphs of Turkish architecture.

The undisputed #1 rank goes to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Oman.

The largest chandelier known in the world, and weighs 8.5 tons. The actual chandelier is made of Swarovski crystal, has gold-plated metalwork, and hangs down for a length of 14 metres. It has a diameter of 8m to go with this height, making the size of the chandelier comparable to a five-storey apartment block or block of flats. It contains staircases and platforms necessary for maintenance, and has 1,200 dimmable halogen lamps triggered by more than 36 switching circuits. Well talk about high maintenance there.

The Mystery of Hillary Clinton’s Astrology Chart

As the 2008 Presidential race heats up, astrologers are somewhat at a loss in making predictions because two of the major players’ birth times are unknown-Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. For Hillary, the two most commonly given times are 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time on October 26, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. In one chart, she has Gemini Rising, while in the other she has Scorpio Rising. The two Midheavens-the career point at the top of the chart-are opposite one another – 4° Virgo in Chart 1 versus 5° Pisces in Chart 2. The house positions of the planets, however, are not all opposite one another in the two charts, so the house placements ought to be revealing.

In general, with a questionable birth time, I’d recommend against making a snap judgment based on the rising sign. So many factors could affect how the rising sign is expressed: planets in the 1st house; planets that make hard aspects to the Ascendant itself; and the sign, house placement, and aspects of the ruler of the Ascendant. For instance, Pluto square the Ascendant would give a certain Scorpionic cast to the outward personality, though not as obviously as with Pluto conjunct the Ascendant. Uranus conjunct the Ascendant could make for an Aquarian type – in spades. A Leo-rising person with the Sun (Leo’s ruler) in Cancer in the 12th would not necessarily register as Leonine.

In Hillary Clinton’s case, however, the differences between the two Ascendants are suggestive. The 8:00 p.m. time gives Gemini rising, with Uranus in the 12th house conjunct the Ascendant. It’s true that Hillary espouses liberal causes, yet Uranus conjunct the Ascendant should indicate more of a rebel or maverick, and with Uranus in the 12th house, her involvement might be likely to backfire on her. The 8:00 a.m. chart, with Mercury in Scorpio in the 12th conjunct the Ascendant, makes a bit more sense. She’s a potent speaker, political to the core, shrewdly analyzing every move. Yet, her shrewdness shows through a bit too clearly, making her less than beloved by some segments of the population. In either case, however, the Ascendant has a Mercurial tinge to it – Gemini rising vs. Mercury conjunct the Ascendant – so we must remain undecided at this point.

The 12th house is extremely prominent in the 8:00 a.m. chart, with four planets (including personal ones – the Sun, Mercury, and Venus – and Chiron) in Scorpio. It’s a popular misconception that 12th -house types tend to fade into the background: George W. Bush also has the Sun in the 12th, along with Saturn. All we can say for certain about a 12th-house Sun is that the person’s true self is hidden from the general public. Since the 12th is traditionally the house of secret enemies and “self-undoing,” Hillary’s stellium might be relevant to the political scandals that tarnished the Clinton administration. The 12th -house Venus-Chiron conjunction in Scorpio might also partly explain her apparent tolerance of Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances. (With a completely unknown birth time, it would be hard to say whether Pluto or Scorpio was operating in the 12th – recall what I said earlier about false positives.)

Uranus is the only planet in the 12th in the 8:00 p.m. chart; the 5th house is prominent instead, with three Scorpio planets plus Neptune in Libra. This combination does not ring true. Even though former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton is clearly a much-loved child, with that stellium in the 5th you would not expect an only child, but rather a lively brood. (Of course, not everyone with a strong 5th house has children; for instance, some of these natives are creative artists or performers, and some work with children as a career.) On the basis of our analysis so far, I am leaning toward the 8:00 a.m. chart.

The biggest remaining difference is the placement of the triple conjunction of Mars, Saturn, and Pluto in Leo. In the 8:00 a.m. chart, these planets are in the 9th house; in the 8:00 p.m. chart, they are in the 3rd. Yes, having the trio in the 3rd house (communication and thinking) of the 8:00 p.m. chart could fit Hillary’s penetrating mind and powerful speaking ability. However, that quality could also be accounted for in the 8:00 a.m. chart by Mercury on the Ascendant, closely square Saturn and trine the Moon. The placement of this planetary trio in the 9th house in the a.m. chart also shows Hillary’s Ivy League law school success and persistent activism in legislation. Mars, Saturn, and Pluto in the 9th might also represent the legal battles and even dirty politics that she has become entangled in, including several legal actions taken against the Clintons during their years in the White House.

Finally, the transits to the a.m. chart make the most sense, with Saturn transiting the 9th house, given her highly political stance and congressional post for the past few years. Saturn has been crossing back and forth over that 4 degree Virgo Midheaven since October, 2007, and she’s been running and running hard for all these months. As a good test of 8:00 a.m. birthtime, Saturn will make its last conjunction to that Midheaven around the first of July, 2008.

If it’s the correct chart, her race for the Democratic Presidential candidate should come to a decision point at that time where she either prevails or quits, and if she quits, we’ll know whether she’s willing to run for Vice President or not. The specifics I can’t predict, but when Saturn crosses one’s Midheaven, they usually get a promotion. The Presidency is the promotion she’s hoping for, but Vice President is a step up from either senator or First Lady.

How to Practice Business Etiquette in Japan

The etiquette system in Japan is perhaps one of the world’s elaborate. It involves every aspect of one’s life, with its strict codes of behavior governing daily etiquette and manners. Although the Japanese mostly adhere to these codes, it is not expected that people visiting Japan be familiar with them and would not be reprimanded. However, making an effort to be polite and to show at least some understanding of local customs can make life in Japan a bit easier.

Hierarchy and social standings – Japanese etiquette is based on a social ranking. For example, “me-ue-no-hito” (or “person whose eye is above”) are those of higher social standing such as a top ranking corporate executive, government official, or teacher. Meanwhile, “me-shita-no-hito” (or “person whose eye is below”) are those of lower social standing relative to the other person such as a corporate staffer, a government employee, or a student. Older people have higher social standing than younger people, and that the emperor and his royal family are considered “me-ue-no-hito” by all. This hierarchy is evident in speaking, such as the polite speech (keigo), regular speech, and casual speech, as well as male speech and female speech.

The “Giri” – The “giri” refers to one’s innate sense of duty, obligation, morality and the absolute need to return a favor. Everyone in Japan is bound by the giri, like a person’s bond towards his parents or towards his teachers and benefactors. It is also expressed by meeting one’s obligations and responsibilities as best as possible. Meeting the demands of giri is the same as defending one’s personal honor even under the most adverse circumstances, which includes taking suicide (for some Japanese).

Bowing – The practice of bowing is basic to Japanese etiquette. It is the way Japanese people greet each other, say farewell, express thanks, and even apologize. The Japanese can be particularly conscious of his or her personal space, which is why bowing establishes a comfortable and respectful distance between two people. Although modern Japanese have become used to the Western “handshake” as a form of greeting towards foreigners, they are very much appreciative when a westerner shows respect by bowing when meeting. The degree of bowing is determined by social status, bow deeper towards a person of higher authority. Typically, a bow is done at about 15 degrees of bending your body towards the front; the longer the bow is held the more feeling it evokes. When bowing as an apology, it must be as low as 90 degrees.

On the street – It is very common to see packs of tissues being given out on the street for free. Rule of thumb is that you should take one, as using a handkerchief for blowing one’s nose is a definite no-no. You may also notice some people wearing face masks while walking, especially during spring. Do not worry about an unannounced epidemic. It is just that they are protecting themselves against pollen inhalation. Meanwhile, eating on the street is considered impolite, even if you see people doing it these days. Spitting and urinating in public (mainly by middle-aged or drunk men) may seem obnoxious, but these do not necessarily raise eyebrows in Japan.

Basic table manners – A typical Japanese meal involves many different foods and sauces presented in little dishes. It is considered polite to pick up these small dishes and bring them close to your mouth, especially when eating soup and rice. The soup bowl (usually on you right side) is picked up and the broth is directly sipped from the bowl. Chopsticks are used to pick-up tofu, seaweed, vegetables, and other food items in the soup. The rice bowl (usually on your left side) is also picked up and brought near the mouth, using the closed chopsticks as a shovel. When dipping sauces are used, chopsticks are used to pick up the food, dip it into the sauce, and then you place it on the rice before eating it.

Basic restaurant manners – Upon entering a Japanese restaurant, bars, or inns, guests are given a wet face or hand towel called “oshibori,” which is used to freshen-up the face and hands before eating. After using, it is taken away by the hostess. There are no napkins at restaurants in Japan; that is why most Japanese carry handkerchiefs that they use during meals and place it on their laps. If you are having difficulty with using chopsticks, asking for a knife and fork is all right (especially if the restaurant serves Western food). Toothpicks are used in restaurants after eating, and it is all right to pick one’s teeth after a meal as long as it is done discreetly.

Slurping – Slurping is a double-edge sword. It is considered impolite, but if you don’t do it the chef would be insulted. Consider slurping when eating “ramen” (noodle soup), “donburi” (big bowls of rice topped with meat or vegetables), and on “miso” soup.

Saying grace – Before eating, it is important to say “itadakimasu,” which literally means “I shall partake” and serves as a kind of pre-meal grace. You could practice it by quickly saying “eat a duck he must.” Once the dinner is over, remember to say “gochisosama deshita” to show your appreciation for the meal.

Drinking – The Japanese may be quiet and reserved, but not when they are drunk. Drinking with fellow students or coworkers is almost a ritual in Japan, and considered the best way to break the ice as well as solidify relationships. However, the Japanese can get pretty rowdy when drunk, but all is forgiven and forgotten the next day. It is polite to pour other people’s drinks and then hold your own glass while your host or friend fills it. Upon toasting, remember to shout “Kampai,” which literally means “dry glass.” If you are invited out, it is common for your host to pay the bill.

Gift giving – There are many considerations in buying a gift for a Japanese person. In Japan, gift giving etiquette specifies when, to whom, under what circumstances, and what type of gift is appropriate to give. Also you should also take note how much the gift costs and how the gift should be wrapped. Traditionally, the Japanese do not celebrate birthdays or Christmas. Instead, give gifts to people you feel indebted to (like a business owner towards his customers, or a patient towards his doctor) during June’s Obon Festival (in which the gifts are called “oseibo”) and in December before the year ends (in which the gifts are called “ochugen”), not to mention during special occasions like weddings, gradutations among others. When presenting or receiving gifts, it is polite to hold the gift with two hands and bow respectfully at the exchange.

The “Omiage” – Another highly ritualized practice of gift giving is called the “omiage.” This is done by thanking someone for an invitation, paying someone a visit, and before and after taking a long trip. For instance, when visiting a friend or acquaintance in Japan, you should bring food items like a baked cake, rice crackers, or a beautifully-wrapped fresh fruit. Meanwhile, when visiting the office of a client, potential business associate, or government official, the omiage might be in a form of tea cups or laquerware and would be more expensive.

Visiting someone’s home – If you have been invited to someone’s house, remember to bring the omiage. Upon visiting, say to the house owner “Tsumaranai mono desu ga,” which is similar to “This is just a little something for you.” Before entering, take off your shoes by the “genkan” or hallway and put on the slippers provided by the host. If you have to use the toilet, you would have to change slippers again. Upon leaving, the host would usually say “Kondo asobi ni kite kudasai” or “Please come around my place sometime,” but this is only said just out of politeness. Visiting the house unannounced could be embarrassing to both of you.

Business cards – In business meetings, it is customary to exchange “meishi” or business cards but in Japan there is a certain manner of giving and receiving it. Business cards are given and received using both hands and each person bows at the exchange. Take note to present your business card written-side up and facing the person receiving it so that he doesn’t have to turn the card around and read it. After receiving a business card, you should read (or look as though you are reading) the card and make comments about the company or the address (it is some sort of “breaking the ice”). In keeping the card, it should be handled with respect and place in a special “business card holder” and not in your pocket or purse. When meeting new people in a conference or dinner setting, you should place your business cards in front of them on the table so that they can easily refer you by name.

Bathing – Communal bathing in Japan dates back for centuries and visiting one of its thousands of “onsen” (hot springs) or “sento” (public bath houses) can be a highlight of your trip. Like in any bathroom, you should wash yourself outside the bath before getting into the hot water and soak. You would notice that people usually scrub each other’s backs. Remember to bring your own toiletries and put your shoes and clothes in designated lockers. Bath houses are always separated by sex, but these days there are a few mixed bathing places that you could try.

How to Get Buff – 8 Simple Secrets to Get Buff and Build Muscle Fast Without Steroids

Want to know how you can get buff and show off sleeve ripping arms in just months from now? In this article you’ll discover the simple secrets of how to get buff and finally show of the body of your dreams! Well the truth is that it takes some effort, but if you have been putting in effort now and not seen results then this will be piece of cake for you.

Anyway, here are the 8 simple tips on how to get buff for you:

1. Lift Heavy Stuff

The secret to gaining muscle is to lift heavy weights with correct form. The idea is to lift heavy and increase the weight as often as possible keeping your reps in the 5-8 reps range. Keep lifting and work hard and you’ll see amazing results with this style of lifting.

2. Lift Compound Lifts

You should be getting the most bang for your buck when lifting. Obviously this happens when you spend the least amount of time at the gym and get the most results. You will gain the best results for the time invested by using compound movements. This is because a compound lift uses more than one muscle group and stimulates a larger release of growth hormone, testosterone and other muscle building hormones. A good example is to switch the tricep extensions for heavy dips which would target your triceps and chest at the same time.

3. Full Body Workout

It is a good idea to start out with building solid ground foundational strength through full-body workouts first, before moving on to split routines. Using full-body workouts you are effectively stimulating muscle growth and fat loss at the same time which again, is more bang for your buck. Here’s an example of a workout you might try: Deadlift, squat, bench press, dips, military press, barbell row, Pull-Ups

4. Eat More

In order to build muscle you need to have broken down the muscles and stimulated growth through lifting heavy weights, but you also need to eat a lot of food in order to build up the muscles. You gain muscle from eating excess calories, as opposed having a deficit in calories when you are trying to lose fat.

5. Eat Frequently

The body will need a pretty much constant supply of protein during the day, and since you’ll be eating a lot more calories than you have ever done before it is not uncommon to split up your 4000-5000 calories in many meals throughout the day. Not many people can eat that many calories in just 3 meals!

6. Proper Supplementation

A majority of people who want to get buff will try supplements. Don’t go for steroids though, because what you will be doing is almost as powerful. Anyway, you should be on a protein supplement, vitamin and omega-3 supplement. Those are the 3 basic ones that I personally use, but you might also try Creatine Monohydrate.

7. Train Until Failure

The best way to grow is to take each heavy set to failure. That means you cannot do any more repetitions with the weight using correct form. This means being broken down in the muscle to the fullest extent possible. After my chest days for example, I lift 2 sets of heavy dumbbell presses and 2 sets of bench press, one of them being incline. Then I do 2 sets of dips and my chest workout is done… Yep, that’s it. Yet my chest continues to grow like crazy. That’s the power of training to failure.

8. Sleep A LOT

Most people forget to sleep when they want to get buff. The problem is that you grow when you sleep, not in the gym. So be sure you are sleeping enough each day and not going out too late. Anything that disrupts sleep is negative for your process. Remember your muscles grow at rest, so go to sleep early!

Those are my 8 tips on how to get buff and hopefully you find them useful. Take care and good luck!

The Benefits Of Staying In A Motel

We have all heard of all the bad publicity that motels are receiving these days. Aside from complaints about them being unclean, sometimes smelly, and often pest-ridden, the safety of guests has always been a cause for concern. With some motel rooms being turned into meth labs and the highly publicized incidents of break-ins, burglaries, and other criminal activities in motel rooms in various parts of the country, travelers are often apprehensive when they face the prospect of checking in at a motel.

However, these incidents, while true, do not reflect the general condition of staying in a motel. Spawned mostly by Hollywood suspense thrillers and horror movies, these urban legends are mostly that – urban legends – and do not really outweigh the advantages of staying in a motel. Below are some of the benefits of choosing a motel over any other accommodation while you are on a vacation:

Motel room rates are generally cheaper compared to the rates of hotel room accommodations. If you are a budget traveler and all you need a lodging for is a place to sleep, then motels are the perfect places for you. You get to stretch your dollar for other worthwhile activities while on vacation.

Motels are smaller and more comfortable establishments. With lesser rooms compared to hotels, they are generally more quiet places to stay in. And since the guests are fewer, the staff can give more personalized service to each guest.

A motel is generally very accessible compared to hotels where you have to enter a lobby, walk endless corridors, and ride in an elevator before you can finally get to your room. Some motel rooms even open to your own garage, enabling you to access your vehicle easily and look out for it from your bedroom window.

While you can find no expensive shampoos and other “ritzy” stuff, most motels do have a coffee and tea maker and a refrigerator, which you can use during your stay. This allows you to save on food expenses while on vacation.

While not every motel allows pets in the house, most do. This allows you to bring your pet-friend with you during your vacation.

With all these benefits, there is no reason why you should think twice about staying in a motel while on a vacation. As long as you practice caution and you select the right motel, you can enjoy all the above mentioned benefits without all the disadvantages.

Book Review – Refuse To Choose By Barbara Sher

Have you always wondered why you get bored easily, never stick to anything for long periods of time, quickly lose interest in things or change your mind about what you want to do and end up doing nothing? Good news: according to Barbara Sher’s book you might just be a ‘scanner’.

Summary

Barbara Sher brings us closer to a type of person who, just as described above, doesn’t follow the traditional ‘find out what you want, get a career and follow it with might and passion for the rest of your life’ scheme.

More in details

The subtitle of this book is ‘A Revolutionary Programme for Doing All That You Love’ and alludes to the fact that scanners often find themselves arguing about not being able to choose one thing and stick with it. Barbara suggests otherwise: Refuse to choose.

The author identifies seven types of scanners, divided into two groups: cyclical scanners and sequential scanners. The first 3 belong to the cyclical scanners:

  • Double Agent: These are people who have fantasies of being two people, one who does the right thing and another who is free to live their dreams.
  • Sybil: This is someone who has many areas of interest and they return to these over and over but rarely finish anything.
  • Plate Spinner: They are energized by having many things going on at the same time, they love solving problems but all of this leaves little time for any of their own projects.

The cyclical scanners know what their interests are, unlike the sequential scanners who always discover a completely new interest. The following six types belong to the sequential scanners:

  • Serial Specialist: They often excel at whatever field they are in, commit completely but then, often when on top of their game, quit and start something new.
  • Serial Master: For these people, interests come and go, but the love of mastery always stays. Once they have mastered something, they go looking for a new project.
  • Jack-of-all-Trades: Jacks enjoy learning for its own sake. They are usually not passionate about any one career but the love of learning something new and helping people.
  • Wanderer: This is someone who loves random experiences and allow themselves to move toward whatever looks attractive and interesting.
  • Sampler: These people look for a special kind of richness in their lives and find that there are very few ways to fill it.
  • High-Speed Indecisive: They are maybe the most misunderstood of all Scanners as the get pulled away to something new sooner than any other, but not because they lost interest, rather because they see something more fascinating.

Besides the in-depth description of the different types of scanners, Barbara also shares many valuable tools and techniques that will make scanners lives easier.

About the author

Beside being an author of six self-help books Barbara Sher is also a motivational speaker, workshop leader, business owner and has collected much experience working as a counselor, working with many scanners. In addition to that she has appeared both on national and local radio and television, including shows like Oprah, Today, 60 Minutes and Good Morning America. She lives in New York City.

Recommendation

This is a great book if you feel that you might be a scanner, have lived your life wondering: Why is it that everyone finds their passion but I can’t seem to find it, start and stop many projects or never finish anything?

In my work with clients I have found it extremely valuable to assist people in finding their freedom and passion through the realization that they achieve by reading this book.

What Is Tri Ply Cookware?

Tri Ply displays one of the worlds most popular and functional cookware concepts. Tri Ply is basically two or three different metals that are laminated or bonded together to obtain the advantages of the two metals in one piece of cookware.

The metals most often used to create this high quality cookware are stainless steel, aluminum and copper. This type of cookware is often more expensive but is very durable and conducts heat faster and more evenly. The two main types are with just a base or disc inserted in the bottom and on your top quality cookware the inside layer goes up the side as well as at the base.

The most popular type of tri ply is stainless steel with aluminum. This type has an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. The construction of this type of cookware starts in the raw material stage, with sheets and blanks. The aluminum is laminated between two sheets of stainless steel and then molded into the desired shape.The highest quality of this type is when 18/10 stainless steel is used to cover the aluminum core with 18/8 and 18/0 being of slightly lesser quality due to the different amount of nickel and chromium used to make the stainless steel. This type of cookware, because of how it is constructed is expensive but worth the money since it lasts so long. It is great for all types of cooking and most brands can go from the stove top to the oven.

One thing to keep in mind when buying this type of cookware is that you can get the same high quality product without having to spend your life savings. There are quality cookware companies out there that can give you the same great product, made with the same materials as the top brands. Just be sure that you read up on the materials used and how it is made. The big companies know they are popular and will charge you more for their name so be careful.

Another type of tri ply cookware is made with copper, aluminum and stainless steel. It starts the same way as the stainless steel/aluminum kind but has copper laminated on the outside instead of stainless steel. It has three layers with copper on the outside, aluminum in the middle and a stainless steel interior. Copper is used for it’s conductivity as well as the aluminum since stainless steel alone is not a good conductor of heat. The process of making this type of cookware is also expensive, a little more so than the stainless steel and aluminum type. It is better for the stove top because of the insulation properties of the copper. Copper does react with food and will discolor it and can even be toxic with some foods which is why most copper cookware is lined with tin, nickel or stainless steel. Despite this fact it is still a top quality product. Having copper cookware will also make a statement in your kitchen with it’s classy look and mirrored finish.

As with all cookware products, as stated earlier, you want to do a little homework. Sometimes the big name brands are not the best buy for the money. You can look at what they offer for the price and compare. With a little knowledge you will most likely find a quality cookware set for about 30 to 50 percent cheaper than the big guys without compromising on quality.

Get Grounded: How to Center and Ground Yourself

Have you ever finished doing something and realized that while it normally takes you twenty minutes, today it took you two hours? For some reason you could not stay focused on the task; you ended up getting sidetracked about ten times for no particular reason. Perhaps you feel like the world has started spinning faster and you might fly off? Maybe you have so much going on each day that when you get into bed you need to check the calendar to make sure it’s the same day. Or you might have just travelled for several hours, and while you arrived at your destination an hour ago, your brain and body still think they are travelling. These are all instances where you may be, or become, ungrounded and uncentered.

How do you know you are ungrounded and uncentered? One of the easiest indications is how easy it is for you to focus on a task. If you find that your mind wanders and you get sidetracked easily, there is a good possibility you are ungrounded. However, having a lot on your mind, juggling many tasks at one time, focusing for long periods, or travelling can all knock you off center.

Being uncentered and ungrounded is associated with the air element, vata, in Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine. For whatever reason, vata is easily unbalanced. You know your vata is out of balance if you start to feel unfocused and spacey-headed. All of the above scenarios can throw your vata out.

How do we come back to center, though? Does it take something crazy like dancing in the rain under the light of the moon on the third Tuesday of the fifth month of a leap year? As amusing as that scenario may be, grounding yourself and coming back to center is much easier than that.

1. Your fuel source

One of the first places to check if you are feeling unbalanced is the food you eat. How much processed, packaged food are you eating? (And this includes tinned food, pre-made mixes, and of course fast food.) Like gasoline for a car, food is fuel for you body. If you put sub-standard, adulterated gasoline in your car, what happens? It doesn’t run very well. The same holds true for your body; if you fill your body up with processed food high in sugar, salt or an assortment of dubious chemicals and preservatives, it won’t run very well.

Processed food is quick and convenient, but it is lacking in vital Life energy which has been sapped out during the processing. This Life energy is essential for physical, emotional and mental well-being (This has long been recognized by schools of traditional medicine around the world, but forgotten in our modern “scientific” age). The key to getting as much Life energy from your food as possible is to consume natural, whole (preferably organic) foods.

While it does take a little more time to cut up vegetables than open a can, the benefits you reap are worth the extra effort. If you’re really struggling with time, using a pressure cooker will help speed up the cooking wonderfully. Another convenient option is a slow cooker: prep it the night before, pop it in in the morning and you have a home-made dinner ready that night.

Consuming a natural, wholesome diet is one of the key factors in keeping yourself balanced and centered. So, are there any specific foods that you may look for when you get knocked out of balance?

2. Food to bring you back to center

Since vata is usually out of balance when you are feeling ungrounded or uncentered, eating food to balance vata can help. Think along the lines of warm, cooked, moderately spiced food. You can try lentil soups with oil or replacing your regular potatoes with sweet potatoes (good just by themselves!). Spices like ginger, cumin, and basil are good. (We’ll talk more about Ayurvedic diets in a future issue.)

One of the most delightful things I discovered was that dark (preferably organic) chocolate, with a cacao content of 70% or higher, can help you to come back to center. If you are not a fan of dark chocolate, don’t worry. You usually don’t need to eat very much to ground yourself. A square or two will sometimes be all you need.

Another food that is incredibly helpful to eat is called kitcharee (pronounced khich-ree). This is a South Asian dish, but don’t worry, it’s not spicy at all, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make. There are many different recipes for kitcharee from all over the different parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Apart from eating the right foods, there are other steps that can be taken to bring you back to a centered state of mind.

3. Alternate nostril breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana, is a great way to bring your mind back to center. It will take you about 5-7 minutes to do, and you can do it anytime of the day or even multiple times a day, if necessary.

Start by sitting with your back straight, in a chair or on the floor. Take a deep breath in and let it out. Put your right thumb on the outside of your right nostril, blocking the nostril. Breathe in through your left nostril. Hold the breath in momentarily while you press your right ring finger to the outside of your left nostril and release your right thumb. Breath out through your right nostril. Now, take a breath in through your right nostril, hold it momentarily while you press your right thumb to the outside of your right nostril, release your ring finger from your left nostril, and breathe out through your left nostril. You have completed one round. Do ten rounds in total.

Counting breaths will help you keep track of how many rounds you’ve done. Each round consists of two breaths in and two breaths out. So, on the first breath in through the left nostril say, “In one.” Then on the breath out of the right nostril say, “Out one.” Then “In one” again as you breathe in through the right nostril, and finally “Out one” for the final breath out of the left nostril. The next round would be “In two”s and “Out two”s and so on through three to ten.

When you finish the ten rounds, take two or three deep breaths and feel the calm and peace in your body. This is a great practice to do every morning before you start your day.

4. All work and no play?

Whether it is school work, painting the next Mona Lisa, or designing the next space shuttle, too much work will knock you off center. If you ever want to see a large group of uncentered people, stroll through a university at exam time. You’ll see the result of people who are focusing intently for long periods of time without taking a break. A balanced lifestyle of work and play are crucial to keep you centered and grounded. Try to introduce relaxation time into your daily schedule. This should be reserved especially for you to do anything you really enjoy or that helps you relax. And stick to it as faithfully as you would to your “work” schedule; try not to fall for the trap of thinking that it’s just relaxation and you should continue with your work and be more productive. Paradoxically, you’ll find that your productivity actually increases as you give your mind the relaxation time it needs to rest and get back to center.

5. Meditate for 5-9 minutes

Years ago I was talking about meditation with a friend of mine. I had established a daily practice of meditating for nine minutes in the morning and nine minutes at night. She wanted to start meditating, but insisted she didn’t even have two minutes out of the entire day to spare for it. If this sounds like your response to meditation, then two things come to mind: you may be uncentered and really in need of the centring that meditation can offer, and you might have a substantial unbalance of work and play in your life.

There is a misconception in the West that only people wearing loincloths with dreads who can contort themselves into pretzels and deprive themselves of creature comforts can meditate. While I’ve achieved some pretzel-like poses in yoga, I’ve never found the need to do the others for meditation. If you are called to, however, then run with it.

To start meditating, simply sit quietly (in a chair or cross-legged on the floor or bed), breath through your nose, and focus on your breathing. Focus on watching your breath go in and out of your body. If you find your mind starts following a train of thought, just let the thought go and come back to your breath. As you practice meditating, you’ll find it easier to stay focused on your breath and not get distracted by your thoughts. It is important to meditate daily, even for five minutes. This will help you immensely in staying centered.

(And yes, there is a whole lot more to meditation, but that is for another day.)

6. Back to nature

One of my favourite ways to center myself involves a trip to the park (or any patch of grass I can find). Take off your shoes and socks, lay back in the grass, and let the earth support your body. As you lay there, wiggle your toes in the grass and feel the stresses of daily life seeping into the earth. How long do you need to lay in the grass? That is something only you can answer, but you’ll feel when it has been long enough. For me, I find a minimum of ten minutes is best, as often as possible.

If you have kids and finding ten minutes alone to go the park seems impossible, take your kids with you. While you are watching them play, take off your shoes and sit on the grass. You’ll feel refreshed by the time you need to go home.

Laying in the grass is a key way to help yourself center after you’ve been travelling. I find that especially after airplane travel laying in the grass somewhere helps me to adjust the most quickly. Sometimes after a long flight you can actually feel your body ‘land’ while you lay in the park.

If you cannot find grass, then get as close to the earth as possible. Try walking barefoot in the sand or dirt. In the winter, take a walk through the park and breath in the cold air. Stop and listen to the sound of the snow falling. When I lived in Osaka, Japan (where even a patch of dirt was hard to come by), I found standing barefoot in my third floor apartment and visualizing myself connecting to the earth could work wonders. The only limit is in your mind.

Whether you have been neglecting your diet, working long hours, travelling, or don’t know exactly how you became uncentered and ungrounded, the techniques outlined above will help you get back in line. When you start introducing them, remember that small steps lead to big results. So, choose one or two to start with and then slowly go through trying them all, until you find which ones work best for you.

Outdoor TV Options Compared

When planning for an Outdoor TV or Digital Signage display you have 3 choices to compare, standard TV, Weatherproof TV, Outdoor TV Enclosure. I will attempt to give you a brief overview of the options. The best advice is to do your research to be sure you understand the options and to make the proper choice for your application.

As Americans continue their migration to warm weather states industries associated with outdoor living have seen a significant growth in business as well. Companies that supply outdoor kitchens, outdoor furniture, outdoor entertainment and landscaping have experience a steadily growing market during the past decade. We relocate to more tempered climates to enjoy the outdoors for longer stretches of time. Even in the colder northern states we see growth in outdoor living. Since my expertise is in Audio Video Integration I will focus this writing on a growing segment of the market, outdoor TV.

Over my 20 year career in Home and Commercial entertainment products outdoor TV screens went from a small majority of wealthy clients to basically a standard feature in every home. The desire to extend living space outdoors, watch the game while barbecuing some burgers or maybe watch a night time movie while relaxing on your patio has been a driving force in the expansion of outdoor living products.

Going back to my early experience with outdoor TV the only choice we had was to select an inexpensive TV, do our best to protect it from the elements and hope for the best as far as durability and longevity. A few TV mounting manufacturers introduced protective outdoor enclosures but the pricing was very high and again only for the wealthy. When you combined the high price of Plasma or LCD TV’s at the time with the high price of the TV enclosure the cost became prohibitive for all but a few clients.

When placing a standard TV the expected lifespan of the TV was greatly reduced due to moisture and particle infiltration in to the electronics and possible damage to the TV from airborne debris. Some clients had great luck and their TV’s lasted for a few years. Many were not so lucky. That is one reason the market was restrained to the more wealthy clients who could afford to replace their outdoor TV when necessary. Of course TV manufacturers would void any warranty on an indoor TV used in outdoor conditions. This is still the case today.

You have three options for outdoor TV and Commercial Digital Signage applications.

1) As discussed above, purchase an inexpensive indoor TV and hope for the best.

2) Purchase a value added third party weatherized outdoor TV.

3) Purchase an outdoor TV enclosure.

There are pros and cons with each solution. I would suggest that you do your research to select the best solution for your application.

Option #1, Standard TV placed outdoors;

The main change from what we have already discussed with option #1 is the huge reduction in the price of flat panel TV’s. Anyone who purchased one 10 years ago and has gone shopping for a new TV has experienced this first hand. Beyond that the same potential issues still exist. If you choose this option be prepared for the possibility that your TV may just go “poof” one day never to shine again. Ironically this of course will occur in the middle of the game or during the climactic scene of the movie neither of which is a fun experience. I can’t tell you how many times we would get calls from clients whose TV’s decided to stop working at the worst possible times.

Option #1 Summary; for those with a limited budget and that have a bit of a gambler in them this is the right solution. Just keep in mind that the clock is ticking from the first day you mount your TV outside. I would recommend buying a new TV for your family room and moving the old TV outdoors. It will hurt much less when it decides to go “poof” on you.

Option #2 Weatherproof TV;

As the market for outdoor living continued its growth a few companies introduced the Weatherproof TV. The weatherproof TV offers an attractive self contained package that fits nicely into most designs. Most of the weatherproof TV models offered were from “value added manufactures”. These are manufacturing companies that take an already existing product and customize it for more specialized applications.

The process;

1) utilize a standard indoor TV

2) disassemble it

3) weatherize the components

4) reassemble it under their brand name.

One outdoor TV manufacturer lists; LG, Hitachi, Vizio, JVC, and Hisense as “model donors” for their TV’s.

The weatherproof TV offers a solution to the protection from rain or water infiltration but offers little or no protection against vandalism or airborne debris striking the screen. A review of their websites shows no mention of the protection capabilities of the

The weatherproof TV also comes at a premium price. The price could be 5 times or more of the price of a standard TV. This is still the case today. While these TV’s offer protection against the weather they.

Here is an example from the Best Buy website on 9-10-2014.

Outdoor TV – SunBrite TV Signature Series – 55″ Class – LED – 1080p – 60Hz – HDTV $4,100.00.

Standard TV – VIZIO E-Series – 55″ Class – LED – 1080p – 120Hz – Smart – HDTV $680.00.

Option #2 Summary; when design aesthetics are the most important element of your project, price/budget is not a concern and protection from vandals or debris is not an issue then the weatherproof TV is the right choice.

Option #3; Outdoor TV Enclosure;

In recent years a popular alternative has emerged, the outdoor TV enclosure or outdoor TV cabinet. The benefit of the outdoor TV cabinet it that you can place any flat screen TV outdoors and have it protected from the elements and potential vandalism. The pricing on these units range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the size, quality and level of protection offered.

Let’s take our 55″ TV from above at $680.00. The price for a weatherproof,vandal resistant outdoor TV cabinet will range from $1000 to $2000. Add that to the price of the TV and you’re still well below the cost of the weatherproof TV. When we look at commercial applications for restaurants, sporting facilities, digital advertising where multiple displays are required the potential savings could be substantial.

The two main construction materials used for the enclosure/cabinet are;

1) Polyethylene, is the most common plastic. Polyethylene is a thermoplastic polymer consisting of long hydrocarbon chains. a durable plastic with good outdoor use properties.

2) Powder Coated Steel, Powder coated products are more resistant to diminished coating quality as a result of impact, moisture, chemicals, utraviolet light, and other extreme weather conditions. In turn, this reduces the risk of scratches, chipping, abrasions, corrosion, fading, and other wear issues.

The proper research to address your specific requirements is required you ensure you make the correct choice.

Outdoor Plastic Cabinet

Pros; plastic is waterproof, durable, large operating temperature and light weight.

Cons; the material can’t support heavy loads and has then tendency to flex or bend in larger sizes. This limits its effectiveness to smaller size TV’s.

Steel Cabinet

Pros; waterproof, strong rigid material, large operating temperature, durable when powder coated, can be manufactured to accommodate large TV’s.

Cons; steel cabinets are heavier than the plastic enclosures.

Polycarbonate

Pros; strong material, used in bullet proof glass applications.

Cons; lower light transmission then glass, tendency to scratch which can’t be repaired, will yellow over prolonged exposure to sunlight, high reflection and glare from the material.

Optically Bonded Tempered Glass

Cons; heavier then polycarbonate, will shatter with severe impact

Pros; high visibility, high light transmission, hard to scratch, can repair scratches, low reflection.

Option #3 Summary, when a balance between performance and appearance is required there is no better choice than an Outdoor TV Enclosure.

Ultimate Army Themed Games & Activities for Your Child’s Birthday Party

Are you looking for the Ultimate Army Themed Party Games and Activities? Well stop looking because they are right here…

Good Luck and happy reading…

“Water Brigade” For their first high priority assignment, your unit must put out a fire that is destroying civilian crops! Divide the soldiers into two teams; line the teams up next to each other. Put a bucket full of water at the head of each line and give the first person in each line a large cup full of water. Place an empty bucket for each team about 35 ft away. Blow a whistle or say “GO!” the first person runs to the empty bucket, pours the water into it, and races back to their team with the empty cup. They should pass off the cup to the next teammate who fills the cup, runs to the bucket, pours the water in it and brings the cup back for the next player. When each team member has run down and back the game is over. To see which team has carried the most water down, insert sticks into each bucket and compare the water lines.

“Drill Sergeant Says” This is a simple game of Simon with a twist of Army. Next you are going to need a Drill Sergeant. Any volunteers? Oh yes, we have the honorary Mom and Dad. Try and dress up with a hat, sunglasses and shaved head. To play the game, the Drill Sergeant will give commands like: Drill Sergeant Says run for 10 seconds! You can have them respond with a Yes Drill Sergeant. If the Drill Sergeant didn’t say “Drill Sergeant Says” and a few kids keep doing the commands, they have to go down for a few pushups. This really gives the kids the feel of Army-like drills!!

“Pack Up Relay” Find or borrow full size backpacks and things that would go inside (canteens, compass, pack of food, plate, etc). You will need one pack per team and one item per person. Have the teams line up with their pack. The first person must run to the pile of item #1 with the pack on, take the pack off, put the item into the pack, put the pack back on and run back to their team. Continue this until each child has picked up at least one item. The kids will love this game because they get to work as a team.

“Missing In Action (MIA)” Hide plastic Army Men outside and inform your soldiers that there are some fellows Soldiers Missing In Action. Send your soldiers out on a Top Secret Mission to locate and bring back as many plastic Army Men as they can find. You can keep score by how many they bring back.

“The Balloon Pop” This is a perfect game to get the kids to interact with each other more. Before the party, blow up a bunch of balloons and put a piece of paper inside that has different instructions, such as, “Do 10 Push-ups”, “Run 2 Laps”, “Do 15 Jumping Jacks”, “Tell another soldier to do 15 Jumping Jacks”, “Just got Promoted”, etc. The kids will love the anticipation of popping a balloon and finding out what their orders are. Have fun and be creative.

“Rescue the Injured Soldier” Divide up the soldiers into two teams. Provide each team with a gurney (tarp or beach towel) and a roll of toilet paper. One person on the team will be the “Injured Soldier” and should be positioned about 40 yards from his teammates. When you say, “Go” the team runs across the yard to their injured soldier. They first wrap up the injured soldier in toilet paper, then transfer him to the gurney and finally transport him back to their starting position (I would suggest having one child hold a corner). This game is guaranteed to be loads of fun!

“Mine Field” Start out by placing a bunch of water balloons in the yard and blindfolding each soldier. Have them try and walk across the minefield without breaking any balloons.

“Grenade Toss” Before the party, construct some bean bags out of camo fabric and fill them up with rice. You could also purchase beanbags at your local party or fabric store. Place to cement blocks about 3 feet apart and place board on them. Next, setup of different types and sizes of pop bottles for the targets. Give the soldiers the beanbags and let them take aim. Try different distances to increase the difficulty.

“Water Grenade War” Begin by constructing two barricades for the children to hide behind (these can be made out of cardboard and spray painted for effect). Give the kids the balloons and watch the fun unfold before your eyes. Just remember, you can’t have too many grenades!

“Obstacle Course” I would suggest placing this game last in your order of Birthday Party Games. This will be the most challenging and exciting. Here are few ideas on different obstacles you could incorporate into your Ultimate Course. Use a board as a plank to run across a water obstacle or between to cement blocks. Get some tires for the soldiers to step or run through. Use 5 gallon buckets with poles taped across for the soldiers to crawl under. Make some obstacles the soldiers can run and weave around, such as, garbage cans or buckets. Throw in some physical exercises like jumping jacks and pushups. While the soldiers are running through the obstacle, make sure you are acting just like a Drill Sergeant. There should be lots of yelling and encouragement. You could also be shooting a water gun at them or throwing water grenades. This should be the Ultimate game, so take your time designing the course and have fun!

Don’t forget to check out the Ultimate Kid Birthday Parties website and submit your Kid Birthday Party ideas for a chance to win over $500 worth of prizes. The Grand Prize is a Sony Cybershot DSC-P93 Camera. Don’t forget, because the contest ends 31 May 2005. Good Luck!!!

Important Facts about Strategic Planning

Every person has a goal; regardless of what areas of their lives it is being associated. A goal will remain a goal unless it was successfully achieved. Many would ask why some people are successful and some are not. Well, the answer lies on strategic planning.

Strategic planning is the process of developing strategies and defining objectives to reach a particular goal or set of goals. If you labeled your planning as “strategic” then you must expect that it would perfectly operate on a grand scale. It will achieve success in a broader field.

It is very different from “tactical” planning which focuses more on individual detailed tactics of activities. “Long range” planning however projects current programs and activities into a modified outlook of the outside world where it describes the phenomenon that will likely occur.

Strategic planning is creating more desirable results in the future through influencing the external world, and adapting current actions and programs to achieve a more favorable result in the outside environment.

There are different reasons why most people are doing strategic planning.

1. To acquire the capability in obtaining the desired objectives.

2. To fit well on both the organization’s core competencies and resources, and to the external world. Make sure that your plans are appropriate and feasible.

3. To acquire the capability in providing competitive advantage that is sustainable within the organization.

4. To prove that it is flexible, dynamic, and adaptable even to changeable situations.

5. To be sufficient in providing favorable results without cross-subsidization.

These advantages will not be realized without its methodologies. Strategic planning depends on STP (three-step process) process. “S” for situation where it was been thoroughly evaluated, “T” for Target where goals and objectives are defined, and “P” for path where the routes of goals and objectives are clearly mapped.

However another alternative approach can also be used. It is known as the Draw-See-Think-Plan procedures. “Draw” creates the desired image and achievements. “See” evaluates current situation and detects gaps between ideal situation and current situation. “Think” develops specific actions that must be done to bridge the gaps between ideal situation and current situation. “Plan” lists down required resources for the execution of activities.

Strategic planning is also considered a set of creative and logical steps.

1. It clarifies the objectives to be achieved. These objectives are ranked according to the level of its importance. It can either be TRO (Top Rank Objective), 2nd Rank Objective, 3rd Rank Objective and so on. The lower rank objectives answers the “How” question while higher rank objective answers the “why” question. However TRO is exempted because the objective here is defined.

2. It gathers and analyzes the information. It includes internal assessment on resources, and external assessment which include environmental scanning. Morphological analysis is used by both internal and external assessments. SWOT analysis can also be incorporated to assess the aspects of environments and organizations that are essential in achieving the strategic plan objectives.

3. It evaluates objective feasibility in the SWOT view. SWOT is the acronyms which stands fro Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Threats.

4. It develops strategy involving SWOT.

5. It develops action programs creating a more attractive strategy.

To summarize everything, strategic planning provides overall strategic direction on the core management of the company. It gives a more specific direction in areas such as marketing strategy, financial strategy, human resource strategy, organizational development strategy, and deployment information technology strategy to achieve success.

How to Keep Your Treadmill Running

Your treadmill is probably the most expensive fitness investment you’ve ever made. It’s only natural therefore if you want to prolong its life. One of the ways to doing that is to keep a regular maintenance schedule.

A quality treadmill, however, should not require frequent maintenance schedule. Upkeep for your treadmill includes period dusting, and, if need be, occasional belt lubrication. The following are some tips to help you maintain your treadmill and prolong the life of your fitness investment.

Keep it Clean and Dust-free

The number one cause of premature belt failure is dirt. That has always been the case ever since the first treadmill was sold in the fitness equipment market. And the number one way of avoiding dust from totally ruining your precious treadmill is to adopt a cleaning routine of sorts.

Dusting between the belt and deck at least once a week will ensure longevity of the machine. The deck should be kept dry and debris-free at all times. In addition, make sure the area where you place your treadmill is relatively dust-free, to minimize the dust from getting between the belt and/or the deck.

Apply the following cleaning procedure once a week or as needed:

Wipe down display with a mild solution of Non-Phosphate cleaner on damp soft cotton. Cloth should be damp not wet.

Wipe down handrails and traction strips with soft cotton cloth and mild soap and water. Cloth should be damp not wet.

Vacuum or wipe down the deck area between tread belt and frame.

For once a month cleaning:

Unplug treadmill. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Take off motor cover and vacuum inside the motor area, being very careful not to directly touch the static-sensitive electronics.

Slide clean towel under tread belt and wipe deck and under the belt. Rotate belt 180 degrees and repeat.

Apply lubrication (only when recommended) under tread belt.

Check drive belt tension and adjust as necessary.

Check tread belt tension and tracking and adjust as necessary.

Adjust the Tread Belt Properly

The best treadmills are those that provide you with easy access to belt tracking. But even the best treadmills with the most easily accessible belt tracking are also susceptible to stretch slightly under initial use. That is why it is important that you adjust the tread belt every so often to keep down stretching.

Most manufacturers include the Allen wrench in the package when you buy a treadmill from them. Use that to tighten both belt adjustment screws clockwise. If your manufacturer did not supply you with an Allen wrench, use another of the right size.

A ¼ turn clockwise should tighten tread belt if it has loosened from breaking in. The screws for belt adjustment are usually located at the rear end of the treadmill. Some belts do require looser running than others so don’t be surprised if your tread belt is a little loose even when you haven’t used it yet. Check the user’s guide before making adjustments just to make sure.

Moreover, be sure to keep the belt running at a low speed of around 3 mph when adjusting the belt tracking. This is the ideal speed when making any adjustments with the screws.

Ensure Proper Alignment of Belt

The tracking adjustments may also be used to properly align the belt of your treadmill. So, when adjusting your belt tracking, be sure not to turn either side more than ¼ turn at a time only. Belt tracking adjustments are almost always minor anyway, so don’t overdo your adjustments.

Roller knocking occurs with improper belt tracking. This should be avoided at all times. If you hear a knocking noise when running your treadmill, that most often means that you have a defective roller. However, there are instances where the noise results from the belt placing too much force on the roller from side to side. You will recognize the difference between the cases in that the knocking noise in the latter will be at a much slower rhythm than roller rotation.

One way to reduce the loan on belt is proper tracking. Not only that, it will also help guide the belt and ensure that the front and rear rollers are parallel. Just follow the manufacturer’s directions on belt tracking to keep from misaligning or over-stretching the belt. A word of caution: be careful not to over-tighten belt when adjusting alignment.

Use Treadmill on Level Floor

Wondering why your treadmill is making all those squeaking sounds? Well, before you decide to pick up the phone and call your manufacturer, check if your treadmill is running on a non-level floor. Often, the number one reason why treadmills make squeaking noise and its belt mistracking is that people place their treadmills on ground that isn’t consistently leveled, without even realizing why.

Most treadmills have level adjustment in rear supports. If your treadmill cannot be leveled with the floor, then level the floor with your treadmill instead.

Power Cord, Belt, and Deck

It’s standard procedure among all electronic equipment – you should keep the power cord free and away from places where people are likely going to step on it. The same rule applies with treadmills, especially if you are using the electronic type as opposed to its manual counterpart. Also, make sure that the power cord is clear of the incline mechanism.

When it comes to maintenance of your treadmill’s belt, it is accepted that you lubricate the belt every so often. When you do that, try to avoid using silicone or oils, unless the manufacturer itself recommends it. The ideal combination for a long-lasting treadmill is often a clean, dry and dust-free bed and belt.

Only use silicone spray when the manufacturer recommends it. And even then, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions closely, especially when it comes to application schedule and type of lubricant. Some treadmill decks may require initial waxing to help reduce friction with the belt. Unless recommended by the manufacturer, however, do not wax a deck. Lubrication to pretreated wax decks may gump the wax.

Ensure Low Friction between Deck and Belt

To begin with, you want low-friction contact between the deck and belt. Damage to the motor electronics is more likely if the friction between the deck and belt is high. In addition, high friction belts will not coast when power is shut off. Neither will they be easy to dead-walk on when the power is off. Basically, high friction belts can cause the motor to stall – a situation which you do not want to happen as this is one sure-fire way of damaging your treadmill’s motor.

To avoid high friction contact between the deck and the belt, be sure to follow your treadmill manufacturer’s guidelines for proper deck and belt maintenance. Lubrication when unnecessary can lead to excessive amp draw and subsequent damage to motor electronics.

Blown Fuses

You don’t usually discover blow fuses, unless you are doing or having someone do some technical diagnostics on your treadmill. And even then, it is generally not recommended for users to replace blown fuses in the motor or motor controller.

When replacing blown fuses, you have to use the recommended fuse. This is true even if you’re referring to an electronic piece that isn’t a treadmill. When it comes to treadmill fuses, however, you have to understand that they are not interchangeable with automotive fuses. And so, if you discover a blow fuse in your treadmill, do not even attempt to make replacements on your own. Instead, contact a dealer for proper replacement.

Ground to an AC Wall Outlet

Why an AC wall outlet, you ask? Well, with many users owning treadmills that come equipped with computer consoles (such as those with programming) these days, console crashes are also becoming common. A computer crash may be anything that occurs out of the ordinary, such as a display blanking out, locking up, or not recording information. It could even be that the treadmill simply wouldn’t shut down altogether. One way to determine that a crash is not due to a defect is to turn the treadmill power off and then on again.

The process of cycling power on and off will reset the computers most of the time. If the crash is caused be a computer defect, this will likely result in loss of control to incline and speed or the treadmill may not even start at all. One way to safeguard your treadmill from console crashes is to plug the equipment into a grounded AC outlet.

If, however, the crash occurs frequently or is repeated, then consider the option of having it replaced. Most manufacturers that offer warranties in their products include console crashes in their warranty.

Read the Owner’s Manual

All of the above are meant to be steps you take once everything else in the owner’s manual fails to yield the result you want. But as what the old adage says: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” No amount of repair and maintenance tips can compare to what you can prevent by just reading through your treadmill owner’s manual.

The manual contains all the tips and advice for your treadmill’s proper maintenance – something you can really use if you want to save from costly repairs. All maintenance procedures should be listed in the owner’s manual, along troubleshooting guidelines, parts listings, and instructions on repairs. Damage to your treadmill from improper use or unauthorized tampering can result in the manufacturer voiding the warranty. That is why, if you are in doubt about proper handling of your treadmill, contact either your dealer or the manufacturer for recommended care.