How To Make Studying In Bed More Comfortable

Students study everywhere – lounging in bed, laying on the futon, sprawled out on the floor, and even seated at a good old fashioned desk (occasionally). Perhaps initially comfortable, longer periods spent in these “unnatural” positions leads to discomfort and even back, neck, and shoulder pain. Luckily there are some simple solutions that will increase their comfort with potential positive side effects of enhanced focus, posture, and energy.

Studying isn’t confined to a single location and neither should the textbook holder, laptop stand, or other device designed to improve the user’s comfort. Most often, a simple ergonomic lap desk can be the best solution to boost the student’s comfort. There are several aspects of an ergonomic laptop desk that should be considered prior to purchase – including design, material, and functionality. The most comfortable laptop desks for your lap rest over your legs, on the surface of the couch/bed/chair. By not resting directly on your legs, these laptop desks for your lap let the user move around freely – stretching out, crossing their legs, etc. – without worrying about upsetting their computer. This can be especially beneficial if the user accidentally dozes off during studying. On the contrary, laptop desks that rest directly on your lap restrict movement, freedom, and are generally less comfortable.

The materials used to construct the ergonomic stand can significantly affect stand productivity and longevity. The most common options include wood or a wood composite, plastic, and aluminum. If the lap desk will be used with laptops, the best option is an aluminum panel. Aluminum naturally dissipates heat helping to keep laptops running at a cooler temperature. Many wood and plastic stands come with built in vents or cooling fans that can also cool laptops. Second, when shopping for laptop desks for your lap, it’s important to understand how the student will use the stand and what features may benefit their life. For example, ergonomic lap desks can come with a plethora of options and features; including USB ports, cooling fans, speakers, lights, etc. In addition to the panel material and features, it’s also important to look at the adjustability and ease of use. Adjustable stands tend to be more comfortable, useful, and healthy. However there’s typically a tradeoff between adjustability and ease of use with more adjustments equating to more difficult and timely setup.

Finally versatility of the stand is super important for students. After all, students are studying with textbooks, tablets, laptops, papers, and notebooks. Having a textbook holder, tablet stand, and a laptop stand is overkill and will lead to most of the devices not being used. Choosing one stand that is compatible with all of these media outlets is often the most efficient and useful choice. It can be challenging to find a textbook holder that also works as a computer and tablet stand – but a versatile tilt and boost tray that universally works with all types of media outlets is often the best solution to make studying more comfortable and enjoyable for students.

What Type Of Timber Is Used To Make Wooden Picture Frames?

Your choice of wooden picture frame moulding is important when it comes to making a successful picture frame.Timber that is used to make picture frames over the centuries has included a range of hardwood and softwood. Hardwood has a straw-like structure that gives it a porous appearance when cut across the grain. Hardwood does not refer to the strength of the timber but to this grainy appearance. Balsa wood is a hardwood although soft to work with for example. Softwoods are produced by coniferous trees and the term does not necessarily mean the timber is soft.

The picture frame manufacturers and frame makers prefer hardwoods because of their close tight grain, their stability in regards to resistance to twisting or warping and their easy staining properties. Twist or wind is where the wood twists along its length. Warping is when the timber bends across its grain. In cases of warping there can be solutions like cutting notches across the grain to release the tension in the fibers and straighten the timber. Wind is usually a defect that is impossible to remove and so it is advisable to avoid twisted wood wherever possible when selecting timber for picture frames. Much of the warping and twisting is caused due to poor handling or selection of poor timber in the first place. The structure of the grain is formed by the individual tree cells throughout the life of the tree.

When cutting of the timber into planks careful consideration should be given as to the method and direction of sawing the wood. Wood that is being cut can either be cut by cutting on the quarter or by tangentially cutting the wood. These two systems for cutting wood are referred to as quarter-cutting or back-cutting. When timber is quarter-sawn the medullary ray fleck or figuring is revealed at its fullest. This is sort after by cabinet makers who wish to make a decorative piece of furniture. Back-sawing timber is more appropriate for constructive purposes where structural stability along the length of the beam is important. Cutting timber to get the best result is a skill acquired over many years in the industry and through a deep understanding of the uses for each plank cut.

The commonly used hardwood timbers for picture framing include:

– Ramin

– Obeche

– Meranti

– Jeluton

There are a number of exotic hardwoods used for framing and they include:

– Cherry

– Oak

– Ash

– Walnut

– Cedar

– Olive

– Elm

Applying exotic timbers to frames by veneering them onto a more economical substrate is very common. Veneered frames come in and out of fashion and the degree of finish applied to the veneer varies from season to season. Trends in picture framing are always moving to follow contemporary tastes in furniture. In Australia during the early part of 2012, I have noticed a trend in timber frames harking back to the traditions of Danish furniture with its simple sleek lines. Some of the veneers have an unfinished raw timber look. When you couple this look with Australian hardwood like Victorian Ash, being requested in “raw timber” finishes, there is a clear trend emerging in an expensive minimalist exotic timber look. Not a highly polished look like French polished furniture or lacquered timbers but one allowing the natural appearance and rawness of the timber to shine through. I would expect each region to have a local trend so the barn-wood look of weathered rubbed back timber may be popular in the American market but in Europe it may be olive wood or English Oak or Baltic Pine and in Australia it will be the natural looks of Victorian Ash (Tassie Oak) or Jarrah. These natural timbers can ooze opulence when framing Aboriginal artwork or contemporary art.

Many hardwoods are now in short supply due the over consumption of the slow-growing timbers. Hardwood trees generally are anywhere from 80 – 150 years old and upwards when they are harvested whereas plantation softwood can be harvested in around 20 years. The hardwood has been replaced by softwoods that in many cases are finger-jointed. Finger-jointed timber is made by splicing small pieces of timber together with a zig-zag style joint. The joints occur at quite random intervals and the timber is not suitable for staining. The jointing is visible and when used for picture frames they are covered with paint, composition, foils or leafed to cover them up. There are several natural timber foils that are applied over the softwood base to give a hardwood appearance. One advantage of finger-jointed frames is that if one section of the frame has warped or twisted it can easily be cut out and often the rest of the length is still usable.

Whichever timber you choose to make a picture frame with be sure to check it for Wind (twist) and Warp (bending) before you start cutting it up into pieces. Much of the heartache associated with making picture frames can be avoided by sound selection of good quality frame moulding in the first place.

An Introduction To Floor Plans

A floor plan is a two-dimensional scale drawing of the planning, size and direction of rooms, doors, walls and windows. Normally the plan shows an aerial view. The plan also includes the location of the heating and cooling facilities, electric lines and plumbing.

In order to create a balanced environment it is necessary to define the space and its limitations. These need to be considered before one decides to move into the new space. This might seem a bother, but is worth the time and money in the long run.

A floor plan should be designed to meet the needs of the family. It is best to ensure that there is not much unused space or too little space. Make sure there is enough room for the whole family, for privacy as well as for all kinds of entertainment. While deciding on a floor plan there are some thing that need to be considered. The ideal location for the garage is near the kitchen, because it is easier to transfer recently bought groceries and empty the garbage. A kitchen is also best when located near the dining room, for the easy transfer of food onto the table.

Everybody prefers to have enough space for storage, so ensure there are enough closets. An ideal place for keeping one’s washing machine would be on the top floor next to the bedrooms, so one need not move up and down the stairs. Certain rooms should be located away from heavy noise. Such rooms will be bedrooms and libraries. If the bedroom is above the garage or near a noisy area, one can install special walls and floors to soundproof the room. It is necessary to measure the living area, including the windows, closets, doors and electrical outlets.

Since defining the space is essential in creating a harmonious environment, it is best to plan it accordingly.

How to Prevent Air Conditioning Breakdowns This Summer

In today’s rough economic times the last thing you need is a surprise air conditioning repair. While all mechanical systems require repairs from time to time, many are preventable. In no particular order, here are the ten most common problems we encounter every spring and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Dirty Filter

If you have a 1″ disposable filter, it should be replaced monthly. It’s out of sight and out of mind, so it’s easy to forget to change it. Yet, every year we go on service calls where the air conditioner isn’t cooling and the cause is restricted air flow from an extremely dirty filter. Dirty filters reduce indoor air quality, make the home less comfortable, and can result in frozen indoor coils, eventually leading to serious repairs.

2. Switch Turned Off

Some heating and air conditioning systems have a wall switch at the indoor unit for safety and convenience that can be confused with a light switch. If this is accidentally switched off or left off during mild weather, your air conditioner will not start. Always check the condition of this switch before calling us.

3. Tripped Breaker

One of the most common causes of no-cool calls is a tripped breaker. Reset it before calling us. Hopefully, it won’t repeat. If it does, call us. Something is causing the breaker to trip. Often, it’s something simple, like a bad breaker, loose wire, or a bad capacitor. However, if not addressed, some simple problems could lead to far more expensive repairs.

4. Refrigerant Leaks

An air conditioning system is a sealed system. It should never leak refrigerant. When it does, bad things happen. Your air conditioner efficiency falls and electricity use rises. Your air conditioner may not cool. The coil may freeze. The compressor could become damaged. Plus, refrigerants are greenhouse gases. We use a variety of tools to track down refrigerant leaks. Often the problem is as simple as a bad Schrader valve or a weakened connection between fitting and refrigerant tubing.

5. Thermostat

Some thermostats must be switched between heating mode and cooling mode. If the switch is in the wrong position or breaks, your air conditioner won’t start. Quality digital thermostats rarely fail. Some of the cheap ones available from the big boxes might. So what goes wrong? The switch might break; a voltage spike might cause a malfunction, and so on.

6. Clogged Drain Line

Air conditioners pull moisture out of humid air while lowering the temperature. The moisture is typically drained out of your home through your plumbing system. A drain pan should be present as a back up with a secondary condensate drain. Algae can grow in these lines, clogging them up. This can lead to water damage in your home. We clear the drain lines as part of our spring air conditioning tune-up or you can have it done separately, as needed.

7. Contactor

A contactor is an electromechanical switch in your air conditioner. Sometimes the silver coating on a contactor will wear off and the contactor will stick, causing the outside unit to run continuously, which is expensive. Sometimes ants are attracted to the electricity and get squashed between the contactors, blocking them from closing. When this happens, the outside unit won’t run. Contactors can also fail electrically. We check these as part of a spring tune-up, clean the surface of the contactors if needed, and recommend replacement if failure appears imminent.

8. Dirty Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is located inside your home… Periodically the coil needs to be cleaned or dust and dirt build up will restrict the coil’s heat transfer capabilities and reduce system air flow. Dirty coils increase operating cost and reduce the comfort of your home. * Should be done by HVAC Professional

9. Dirty Condenser Coil

The condenser coil is the outside portion of your air conditioning system. A dirty or restricted coil is inefficient, increasing electricity usage and reducing system cooling capacity. Keeping it clean will go along way in reducing energy costs and reducing the wear and tear on your air conditioning system.

10. Duct Leaks

With a forced air heating & cooling system you pay to condition air. The ductwork delivers the air to the different rooms. If the ductwork that supply’s this air is located outside of the area you want conditioned like basement, crawl space or attic has leaks, you are paying to condition a space that you do not want to condition and reduce the amount of air that could be conditioning the rooms you want to condition. This causes longer run times and higher energy bills. Inefficient ductwork (your air distribution system) is a major energy waster in most homes. I will have more on this in future articles.

Yintang – The Most Requested Acupuncture Point

Yintang is the most requested acupuncture point and is found in the middle of the forehead. It is an “extra point,” a class of points that are mapped but do not fall on a specific acupuncture channel. This point has a few different indications but the most common reason it is requested is because it calms shen. Shen is a term used in Chinese medicine that doesn’t really have an exact translation in English. Basically it refers to the aspect of us that is not physical, like consciousness and thought, and our emotional and spiritual being. There are many points that calm shen and they are used in a wide variety of conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, even pain and shock.

Most acupuncture points have more than one indication and yintang is no exception. Like all acupuncture points it is valuable for treating local conditions such as frontal headaches. It also benefits the nose and can help when there is nasal congestion and discharge or sinus pain. I use it a lot in my practice, especially for stress and sinus allergies and infections.

The location of this acupuncture point corresponds to the third eye, a metaphoric eye in Hinduism and Buddhism that opens as our consciousness expands and we become enlightened. It is the location of the brow chakra, the 6th of 7 major energy vortexes that exist in our bodies, which has to do with inner guidance, mental clarity, and intuition. Even in western medicine this is an anatomically important location, where light enters the skull to activate the pineal gland. As darkness increases in the evening, the pineal gland is stimulated to secrete the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy. As the sun comes up and light increases, the pineal gland stops producing this hormone and we wake up.

Life is a Joy – Avoiding the UG Krishnamurti Syndrome

UG Krishnamurti in a nutshell

Anyone who comes into contact with the ultra fascinating life-story and circumstances of UG Krishnamurti (not to be confused with J (Jedda) Krishnamurti) is in for a ride straight to the gates of whatever you define as your hell. In fact, it’s like being alone in a car in the back seat, blindfolded!

There is no bigger shock in life than to discover that what you have been fruitlessly searching for all of your life, your ‘Restaurant at the End of the Universe’ – simply doesn’t exist! This is putting it ‘nicely’. The way it comes out of UG’s mouth has caused in people prolonged depression and suicidal actions: “There is no power outside of man. Man has created God out of fear.”

Many simply can’t take it. UG spoke with authority and conviction. He loved to be blunt, and it cost him many friendships – but he wouldn’t have considered those people as having as friends to begin with, so it never bothered him.

The Enlightenment of UG Krishnamurti

UG Krishmanurti (everyone called him simply U.G.) achieved worldwide cult status and a strange ‘non-following’ for the last forty years of his life up until his death at the age of eighty-nine in 2007 (read his obituary*).

UG never stopped proclaiming that all of religion, including the greatest enlightened beings of all time, Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama, J.Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi – and all aspects of the ‘guru-business’ including the Vedic literature – was a false and deceiving facade that did more harm than good.

UG was adamant that buying in to any of the innumerable spiritual disciplines and/or methods actually took a body further away from what he insists is the natural state. UG himself lived in that natural state, the state without awareness of self, ever since his ‘Calamity’ transformation in 1967. This is the highly sought-after state of enlightenment called moksha.

Make no mistake about it, UG himself, once proclaimed in his own portfolio (scrapbook) as “One of the most brilliant speakers that India has ever produced” was one of the most highly qualified candidates on the planet during his lifetime for induction into the spiritual hall of fame. He had a extraordinary passion for seeking the truth and exposing what he considered frauds, in a loving attempt to save people from themselves.

He loved to ridicule seekers who came to him by saying such things like “We are all at 25 Sannidhi Street, and you are asking me “Where is 25 Sannidhi Street?” when they asked for enlightenment. The simple act of uttering this question was to UG the ultimate nonsense (“Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see”).

The syndrome that I seek to sooth is the first phase of reaction to the ideas of UG Krishnamurti. The curious attention seekers who followed UG to no end and demanded audiences with him wherever he went kept it up for fifty years. What was the mystique behind UG’s enlightenment (UG himself jokingly renamed the book written about him as ‘The mistake of enlightenment’)?

The Cure

Exposure to the non-God / power of man / there-is-nothing-to-attain philosophy is enough to rock the very foundation of your existence. But it need not be this way. There is a cure. Let us take a look at the technique UG used to gain attention and force people to look inward, outward, and start seriously questioning their own existence.

For conventional guru-ism (or what UG called ‘the business of spirituality’) to survive, to be successful – it needs good marketing. It needs a self-replicating meme that feeds upon itself to keep bringing the customers back. It doesn’t matter, says UG – that the process doesn’t yield results! “You gurus”, he said – “you all sit there meditating and abstaining from sex. To what end? You’re still sitting there and you haven’t got anything. How long will it last?”

A closer look at UG’s techniques

UG himself could have lived a normal life. It was certainly within his means and he never hesitated to do what he wanted to do. But let’s look what he allowed to happen. Basically, he encouraged – however directly or subtly, a circus atmosphere which surrounded and constantly descended upon his entourage.

To be a member of UG’s inner circle was a great honor for these ‘non-disciples’, who UG refused to teach or enlighten. He said that he had no gifts to give. This non-giving (go away, I have nothing to give you) is actually a very clever use of reverse psychology, of which UG was an absolute master. It heightened the desires of those who came wanting.

In essence, what this ‘peek-a-boo’ (now you see it now you don’t) mentality actually does is allow us to ‘glimpse the sugar without actually tasting it’ (to paraphrase UG’s own smiting criticism of fellow guru-mate J. Krisnamurti).

UG was a master of whetting the appetite and then withdrawing the palette. He made no excuses for it. UG destroyed the confidence in people and shattered their beliefs. However, they kept coming back! UG kept telling them to go home and don’t come back. But they had nowhere else to go. They were destitute and had lost their self-esteem.

Taking Revenge on UG

UG would have a ball with this essay if he were to read it. It’s the very stuff of what he was made of. So now let’s take one final aim to gather back the self-esteem of shattered hopes, and an put an end once and for all to the delusional ‘UG Krishnamurti Syndrome’.

We start by looking at the man himself. This self-proclaimed ‘bomb-dropper’, who teased people by saying “You don’t want enlightenment – it will explode every cell in your body and cause intense pain. No, you don’t want this!” was actually a very happy and contented person. His charisma was extraordinary.

Not only was he handsome, intelligent, an expert lecturer, an accomplished practitioner of oriental spiritual disciplines since an early age – he was also of auspicious birth. Numerous experiences confirm psychic pre-awareness and prophecies of his ability. I won’t go into them here, you can read about them in his books.

Ingenious Psychology!

Don’t be fooled, UG had mystic powers, yet he failed to explain them and/or simply shrugged them off as being nothing more than ‘scientific phenomena’. But one thing UG failed to account for was the power of the human mind not only, in his words “To invent God” (where there was none)”, but to manipulate the energy of creation. To bring into being contentment and an end to suffering. To cease desiring through the act of being indifferent.

Indeed, UG Krishnamurti was a master at these things. He lived well, with extreme integrity and was not afraid of life or dying. He inspired and continues to inspire thousands who would need orientation in their spiritual disciplines.

The ingeniousness of his marketing method ensures a healthy skepticism and will enable seekers to jump-start their journey with renewed enthusiasm by un-learning the unhealthy practices that detract from the goal. Make no mistake about it – life is for the living and the zest for life is one that UG Krishnamurti wholeheartedly embodied.

The Basic Functions of Ophthalmoscope and Otoscope

Ophthalmoscope is the instrument used by the doctors and ophthalmologists to examine the eye including its internal parts. Generally it is designed to examine the back of the eye-socket, which is known as fundus. Since it is the tool which is used to see the fundus it is also called fuduscope.

This instrument is of two types: Direct and indirect. A direct Ophthalmoscope is a device which you can hold with your hands and it is used to magnify the inside of an eye. It is the most common type available. Generally it is small. On the other hand, an indirect Ophthalmoscope is larger in size and is worn on head. It is connected with a lens to view the inside of an eye when a detail view of the inside is needed.

Functionality of Ophthalmoscope:

• At first, turn on the device and check the batteries.

• After that, bring all the numbers of the instrument to zero position.

• While using Ophthalmoscope you need a very low power light, not necessarily a pitch black room.

• The patient whose eye is to be tested can wear contact lenses but he/she have to remove glasses, if they have one.

• The patient should look at a particular point at your back.

• Now hold the Ophthalmoscope to your eye and look through the flat eyepiece of the device to the patient’s eye. You are now able to see the red reflex of the back side of the eye.

The Ophthalmoscope magnifies an eye 15 times more than the normal size and makes it possible for you to view the detail of optic nerves, optic disc, retina and the crystal like eye lens. Doctors commonly use it to check the veins and eye nerves without performing surgery.

The instrument used by the physicians to check the small passages of ear, nostrils and upper part of throat with some change is known as Otoscope.

Functionality of Otoscope:

There are two main parts of the Otoscope. A handle and a head. A funnel-like speculum is attached to the head to examine the ear cavity. There is also a magnifying lens and light attached to the head to illuminate as well as magnify the small passage to examine.

For examination, the speculum of the Otoscope is inserted inside the ear and the light and the attached lens enlarges the canal to check the eardrum. Otoscope is commonly used to examine tympanic membrane of the ear. There is also a bulb-like attachment which can used to puff air inside the ear to check the presence of any excess fluid or other related ear problem. The procedure to examine the nostril and upper throat is also same.

Screening for TMJ Dysfunction With Range of Motion Rulers

The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that your dentist is the recommended professional to screen for TMJ dysfunction to his or her ability, and one of the quickest ways to screen for this dysfunction is to take a range of motion measurement of jaw opening.

Since the TMJ is the skeletal foundation of the craniofacial and masticatory system, a dysfunctional jaw joint can have adverse effects on the stability of the teeth and facial muscles.

Modern dentists have many ways that they can screen for TMJ dysfunction, including but not limited to:

  • Imaging (x-rays, MRI, CT scans)
  • Joint Vibration Analysis
  • Doppler
  • Auscultation (stethoscope)
  • Manual palpation
  • Medical history

A quick test that dentists may use to screen for TMJ dysfunction is to take a range of motion measurement. This is done using either a small range of motion scale ruler, boley gauge, or an orthodontic ruler.

What the dentist is looking for is to see if there is any restriction to opening the jaw. Like other joints in the body, the TMJ should be able to move freely without restriction. When there is dysfunction, like a restricted movement for example, it could signify that there is either a muscle problem or a locked jaw.

Locking Jaw

Dentists refer to a closed-lock jaw to the situation when the joint “disc” is stuck in front of the joint head (condyle), thus restricting movement upon opening. A range of motion scale measurement will show limiting at maximum opening. Typically, you should see a maximum opening of 40mm, or about the width of 3 fingers.

A limited range of motion in the jaw may suggest that there is a locked jaw, but it does not always mean that this is the case. As suggested, a limited range of motion can denote a muscle dysfunction, commonly seen in people who clench their teeth a lot and have sore facial muscles.

Dentists also use range of motion rulers to measure the distance that the jaw can move side-to-side. Known as lateral excursions, measuring the distance that the jaw can move side-to-side can tell the dentist if there is an issue with the jaw joint moving in and out of the proper position.

If the right jaw joint is dysfunctional for example, there may be issues moving the jaw to the left side. Abnormal chewing patterns using jaw tracking technology can also identify if there is dysfunction in either joint during masticatory movements.

Even with the abundance of advanced technology available for dentists, many will screen patients quickly at the exam with the aid of dental range of motion rulers.

Prevent Air Bubbles and Bug Holes in Concrete When Casting Cement Stone Molds

After over nineteen years in the concrete stone mold business, some of our do-it-yourself stone, paver and tile making customers and homeowners using our moulds still have problems with air bubbles or bug holes in the cast concrete products they make. Almost one-hundred percent of the time, it’s because they don’t follow the simple, free instructions provided with each purchase. So here are the instructions and techniques again in the form of a Home Improvement DIY article.

Is a mold release really necessary when casting concrete? – We always suggest using a mold release of some kind, even when using rubber molds. Mold release will help prolong the life of concrete, cement, or plaster molds. Using a mold release will also make de-molding the stone, tile, pavers, or other items you are duplicating, an easier and faster chore.

Make a home-made liquid mold release for use with Plaster of Paris, molding plaster and other plasters. When working with plaster, a simple mixture of a tablespoonful of liquid dish detergent to a cup of water makes a good release agent. Keep in mind that different plasters offer different shrinkage properties. The less a plaster shrinks, the more difficult it may be to de-mold the plaster item from a plastic or other semi-rigid mold. Be sure to read the instructions and properties on the package of all plasters before choosing one for your project. We also recommend using a soapy release when working with rubber molds and plaster. It makes a cleaner release and smoother finished piece, as well as helping to keep the plaster from sticking to the rubber molds— thus saving cleaning time and effort.

How to Make a Mold Release for use with Concrete and Cement – There are a number of commercially prepared concrete mold releases on the market. We actual offer our customers two types— a water-based and an oil-based mold release. We market it as a convenience to our customers. A light vegetable oil works just about as good as a commercial blend. The commercial releases may contain a suspended wax or other agents to make it easier to use, or offer other benefits.

Regular vegetable oil is fine, with a “light” vegetable oil being even better. But don’t worry about that. The problem with air bubbles in concrete castings is seldom the type of release used— it is usually the quantity left behind before pouring. It’s usually excess release, or it’s too much vibrating used to dislodge any air attached to the surface of the mold— or should I say between the mold and the freshly poured concrete. Have you heard the old saying about “too much of a good thing”? That’s normally the problem. With too much vibration, you can actually introduce air bubbles into the mix. And over-vibrating— especially with only half of the concrete batch poured into the mold first, can certainly cause excess air.

How much oil should be left to coat the mold? – For best results, be sure to wipe most of the oil out of your molds prior to filling them with concrete. You need to be especially aware of the low crevices of the mold where the oil can puddle. You should barely be able to see that there is a coating on the mold. Then fill your mold about half to three-quarters with your concrete mix. On a flat, level surface, lift each side of the mold about a half-inch or so and let it fall back flat to the table or other surface you are using. If it is a larger mold, say over 12″ in diameter lift it higher so that the center gets the benefit of the vibration as well. Do this about four or five times on all four sides. Then fill the mold to the finished depth that you want. This time, lift all four corners one at a time four or five times, letting them fall back down. Now shake the entire mold a couple of times in each direction to be sure that the concrete is level. Cover with plastic sheeting and wait for it to harden. This technique allows you to dislodge any air bubbles from what will be the surface of your stone.

Why is there air in my concrete mix? – Yes, having a certain amount of air in your mix is actually desirable… especially if the stone is for an exterior application. This is called air entrainment. It allows a space for any moisture within the concrete to expand and contract in a freezing environment. This is called freeze-thaw. When you use our mix additives, there is actually an air-entrainment agent in the additive to put air into the concrete! Normally, air entrainment in concrete and cement should only be about 5% though. That air really has little to do with “bubbles” or what are called “bug holes” in the industry to appear on the surface of your stone casting.

Think of how happy your arms are going to be now that they don’t have to vibrate that heavy concrete as much!

Polarity Therapy, Healing and Sexuality

So – What do sexuality, polarity therapy and healing have in common? The immediate misconception is that our sexuality (sexual behavior, sexual thoughts, internal visual images, sexual partner preference and choice, body-concept, arousal pattern, level of desire, etc.) can be separated from who we are, how we think and what is going on physiologically in our body. The second misconception is that healing happens piecemeal, that we can “heal” or change one body part or one aspect of our mind-body-spirit without affecting every other part. Our body is a hologram, every part affects and reflects every other part. The third misconception is that healing equals perfection (perfect health, perfect relationship, perfect finances, a perfect life). Our body is a metaphor, a physical representation of our thoughts, actions and responses, revealing to us what we need to pay attention to, change or learn. I remember hearing about AIDS patients, on their deathbed, claiming that they were “healing.” They were not healing their physical bodies because they were dying. Yet they were healing something – perhaps their relationships, perhaps their accepting the love that was always there, perhaps realizing their own loving potential, or perhaps healing or letting go of their sense of control and superiority as a mere mortal being.

Touch Heals.

Touch is the first sense to develop and one of the last to fade. Touch triggers the release of endorphins, hormones that help to suppress pain and make us feel good. In fact, there is one gene in our body, ornithisnecoborulase, that is only turned on through touch.

Numerous studies about the healing effects of massage, conducted by the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida and other locations, by psychologist Tiffany Field, Ph.D. and her colleagues, indicate that touch lowers stress hormones and increases levels of serotonin, which is just what many anti-depression drugs do. Massaging touch (15 minutes, 3 times per week, for 5 weeks) has been shown to relieve and manage pain, improve circulation and breathing, lower heart rate and blood pressure, decrease anxiety and stress, enhance flexibility, relaxation, energy, and body awareness, elevate mood, and even improve performance of mathematical calculations. Studies at The Upledger Craniosacral Institute in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, have indicated that craniosacral therapy can help clients to heal from post traumatic stress disorder, autism, migraines, and many other physical and psychological ailments.

Sexuality Heals.

In 1994, the 14th World Congress of Sexology adopted The Declaration of Sexual Rights, which declared: “Sexual pleasure, including autoeroticism, is a source of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual well-being.” (WAS, 1994. The Health Benefits of Sexual Expression, White Paper. April 2003. Published by Katharine Dexter McCormick Library, Planned Parenthood Foundation of American). Regular sexual activity has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, increase fitness and brain stimulation, lower blood pressure, relieve pain, improve sleep, enhance immunity, increase longevity, and promote peak spiritual experiences.

Normal sexual response depends on the interplay of sensual stimulation (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) and vascular and neuromuscular activities, precipitated and mediated by hormones and neurotransmitters. Sexual attraction, desire, arousal, orgasm and tendency toward bonding result from a delicate and fragile combination of events.

Sexual desire is a mental-emotional-sensational event which may operate separately from our natural sexual functioning. In other words, our body may be able to perform sexually without our feeling desire or we may feel sexual desire without becoming

physiologically aroused.

The significant hormones in the sexual response cycle are:

Attraction, Sexual Desire and Tendency Toward Bonding

o DHEA – androgen precursor to testosterone, estrogen and pheromones which stimulates limbic arousal in men and women

o Dopamine – located in the mesolimbic “pleasure center,” presumed to enhance sexual response, bonding and monogamy

o Vasopressin – a peptide hormone, released in the brain during sexual response, increases pair bonding and aggression by males toward other males

Arousal

o Estrogen – keeps vaginal ph lower, increases number of lactobacillus (good bacteria, and increases blood flow but increased estrogen can decrease sexual desire

o Progesterone – balances estrogen so that oxytocin can be high but may also

inhibit testosterone

o Testosterone – androgen, a threshold level is needed for sexual arousal

o Choline – precursor of neurotransmitter acetylcholine, essential for memory, muscle control and cardiovascular health, it transfers the sexual arousal messages to the genital arteries and releases nitrous oxide (necessary for

penile erection and clitoral swelling

o Epinephrine and Norepinephrine – stress hormones, increase during sexual activity

Orgasm and Post-Orgasm Tendency Toward Bonding

o PEA – amphetamine-like stimulant whose levels spike at orgasm and ovulation and mediate feelings of romance and love

o Oxytocin – the cuddle hormone, spikes at orgasm leading to post orgasm inertia facilitating attraction, touch sensation and bonding

*Note – Effect increased by estrogen and yohimbine and decreased by alcohol

o Prolaction – released after orgasm to give the body a rest, it inhibits appetite as well as sexual desire, arousal and orgasm,

o Serotonins – creates relaxing, dreamy, after-sex glow and sleeping better

*Note – serotonin can inhibit release of dopamine, decreasing sexual response

Drugs that increase serotonin are associated with anorgasmia and delayed ejaculation

o Endorphins – feel good hormones, relieve pain, stimulate immune system

Healthy sexual functioning involves adequate neural signals from the central nervous system and an optimum balance within the autonomic nervous system, fluctuating between the stress response (activation of the sympathetic nervous system) and the relaxation response (activation of the parasympathetic nervous system).

Sexual arousal (vaginal lubrication and penile erection) is a neuro-vascular event mediated by the autonomic nervous system. Adequate central nervous system stimulation triggers the male erection reflex at spinal cord segments S2, S3, and S4. Adequate parasympathetic stimulation triggers the relaxation of smooth muscles and blood flow within the penis as well as female vaginal tissue engorgement and lubrication.

Orgasm and ejaculation are neuromuscular events. They require adequate central nervous system stimulation to trigger the male ejaculation reflex at multiple spinal cord levels, receptors in the skin of the penis, firing of the pudendal nerve causing compression of the penile urethra and rhythmic smooth muscle contractions and vascular constriction as well as female orgasmic response, a similar but more diffuse response that may be mediated by the vagus nerve.

Polarity Therapy Heals

Dr. Randolph Stone developed a comprehensive system of healing, Polarity Therapy, that assists us to recognize, understand and implement the healing process from the inside out and the outside in. Dr. Stone travelled the world, gathering research and information about healing. He studied theories and practices of chiropractic, naturopathy, osteopathy, homeopathy, ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, energy healing including meridians and chakras, astrology, Vedic scriptures, ancient Hermetic philosophy, and other esoteric teachings and perspectives.

Dr. Stone saw the body with all its aches and pains and physical problems as a manifestation of our thoughts and beliefs, “As we think, so we are.” He viewed health as freely flowing, uninterrupted life energy and disease as imbalance and blockage of energetic flow. He saw our bodies and our lives, in fact the entire universe, as a hologram, interconnected and mirroring, “As above, so below; as within, so without.” Dr. Stone taught that healing occurs when the necessary changes and transformations have occurred, first in the subconscious mind and in the most subtle and least dense aspect of the energetic field and then gradually, slowly stepping down into the dense tissues of the body and its organ systems. He taught about the profound effects and psychological meanings of the five tattvas or elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth).

Dr. Stone discovered that the human energy field is affected by everything that affects our senses (touch, sight, sounds, taste and smell) as well as the ways that we move or restrict our physical bodies and the ways that we interact with our environment and everything in it (plants, animals, and people). He also emphasized the continual expansion and contraction, yin and yang, manifested cyclically throughout the universe, within our own bodies and in our interactions with the world and the people in it.

As polarity therapy practitioners we know that our hands are energy conductors, that as we touch our clients’ bodies they respond to our touch and also to our consciousness, and that our clients’ mind-body-spirit has its own intelligence and self-regulating capacity. Our clients’ systems already know what they need in order for healing to occur. As practitioners, our task is to facilitate the unfolding of this exquisite knowing.

How Can Polarity Therapy Assist Clients With Relationship and Sexual Problems?

This article began with some comments about the profoundly negative effect researchers and therapists are finding as more and more people, especially men, become compulsively attached to internet pornography. Instead of dealing with current life problems, images of scantily clad bodies temporarily pacify the angst, restless mind, insecurities and anxieties, acting as a stimulus as strong as the most addictive drugs. At the same time, relationships are being neglected and undermined. Another epidemic in this country is the use of properly prescribed prescription drugs for almost everything, from relief of pain to reducing anxiety, to alleviating restless leg syndrome. For sexual arousal difficulties, men now have a host of little pills to take in addition to such paraphernalia as a vacuum pump and papavarine injections into the penis (regardless of the man’s state of emotional and physical health, the quality of his movement or the contents of his diet). Women are being offered surgeries for vaginal vestibulitis (vaginal inflammation) and the possibility of a new pill to improve sexual desire (regardless of the functioning of her body or the dynamics of her relationships).

Polarity therapy practitioners can have a profound and life transforming effect on clients who present with sexual and relationship issues. These clients usually do not understand the holographic interconnection among their thoughts, feelings, physical activities, dietary habits, emotional state and relationships. Beginning with observation of the body, the postural presentation, the tone of voice, facial expression, muscular tension patterns as well as the emotional content of the client’s story, the polarity therapist already has some understanding of the possible underlying energetic blockages. Following his or her intuitive knowing, the polarity therapist can begin the process of touching the client and allowing the energy to unwind and flow. This process will naturally allow the pituitary gland to reinstate a balanced flow of hormones and neurotransmitters as needed.

During this process, the client may reveal some significant past life or earlier in this life emotional or physical traumas, confusions or unresolved dilemmas. The therapist can discover which tattva is most out of balance or which chakra is blocked. By listening with full attention and honest intention to assist the healing process, the therapist can engender trust and openness in the client.

Sexual issues are very personal, private and often reveal a sense of embarrassment, shame, humiliation, distortion, cognitive dissonance or complete denial. I highly recommend investing in a few consultation sessions with a certified and qualified sex therapist to get a more comprehensive understanding of the depth of a client’s issues and how they can be handled. As a polarity therapist, you can also work in conjunction with a sex therapist, providing insight into the emotional and energetic underpinnings and assisting the client to open up enough in your sessions so that he or she can bring that newly uncovered material into a psychotherapy session for greater illumination.

Sex therapists usually do not utilize touch with their clients. They may encourage their clients to do some touching homework assignments with their sexual partners in the privacy of their own bedroom, but the touch is usually focused on sensual and sexual arousal. The touch utilized by polarity therapists has a different purpose and focus. Polarity therapists touch clients to assist the energetic flow throughout the client’s body. There is no agenda that this or that should happen. There is only touch, observation and allowing, sometimes encouraging, the energy to move and flow where it needs to go.

Advantages of Outdoor LED Flood Light Fixtures

With the development of more efficient technology, science has also made progress in educating the human kind as to what must be done and what are to be used in order to conserve the resources of this planet. Several inventions like cars running on water and electricity are being developed in order to lessen the use of petroleum, and therefore leading to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. This will greatly help in eliminating its harmful effects, both to human beings and to the environment.

Another eco-friendly development is the creation of the LED. A light emitting diode, or LED, is a light source that releases energy in the form of photons. Since it offers a higher lumen per watt emission than that of ordinary light sources, it is known to save more energy than all other variants.

Though this has already been proven and tested, other people are still undecided as to whether or not they should convert to using outdoor light fixtures, given the slightly higher price range compared to that of standard light bulbs. However, once the advantages are laid out, there is no doubt as to its cost efficiency.

First, these outdoor LED light fixtures have a longer lasting life, compared to that of ordinary lighting systems. Records show that these lights has a life span of around 50,000 hours – this makes it outlast the traditional light bulb of up to about 50 times longer. At the same time, a single light fixture is composed of numerous LED emitters. This assures the user that even if one LED emitter burns out, the outdoor LED flood light will remain to be an effective source of light.

The second advantage when one converts to lighting is the fact that it does not produce too much heat. With the way these outdoor fixtures were designed, it no longer emits the infrared radiation that ordinary bulbs normally emits. In turn, LED lights no longer produce harmful UV radiation and, at the same time, leaves the light fixture at a normal temperature. This reduces the risk of any unwanted accidents, and makes it the more suitable choice for when there are plants or other flammable items nearby.

The third advantage of installing these fixtures is that the light it omits is similar to the brightness of daylight. This makes it the more convenient choice for when illuminating low-lit open spaces. At the same time, these LED floodlights produce a significantly brighter light compared to ordinary floodlights.

Finally, these outdoor flood light fixtures have low maintenance costs. It has already been proven that LEDs are more resilient and has a longer life than that of standard light fixtures. In general, this lessens the servicing and replacement costs.

The only known disadvantage of these LED floodlights is that the initial cost is slightly pricier than that of conventional lighting fixtures. However, once all these advantages are taken into consideration, one will soon realize that it is, indeed, a worthy investment.

The Car Rental Industry

Market Overview

The car rental industry is a multi-billion dollar sector of the US economy. The US segment of the industry averages about $18.5 billion in revenue a year. Today, there are approximately 1.9 million rental vehicles that service the US segment of the market. In addition, there are many rental agencies besides the industry leaders that subdivide the total revenue, namely Dollar Thrifty, Budget and Vanguard. Unlike other mature service industries, the rental car industry is highly consolidated which naturally puts potential new comers at a cost-disadvantage since they face high input costs with reduced possibility of economies of scale. Moreover, most of the profit is generated by a few firms including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis. For the fiscal year of 2004, Enterprise generated $7.4 billion in total revenue. Hertz came in second position with about $5.2 billion and Avis with $2.97 in revenue.

Level of Integration

The rental car industry faces a completely different environment than it did five years ago. According to Business Travel News, vehicles are being rented until they have accumulated 20,000 to 30,000 miles until they are relegated to the used car industry whereas the turn-around mileage was 12,000 to 15,000 miles five years ago. Because of slow industry growth and narrow profit margin, there is no imminent threat to backward integration within the industry. In fact, among the industry players only Hertz is vertically integrated through Ford.

Scope of Competition

There are many factors that shape the competitive landscape of the car rental industry. Competition comes from two main sources throughout the chain. On the vacation consumer’s end of the spectrum, competition is fierce not only because the market is saturated and well guarded by industry leader Enterprise, but competitors operate at a cost disadvantage along with smaller market shares since Enterprise has established a network of dealers over 90 percent the leisure segment. On the corporate segment, on the other hand, competition is very strong at the airports since that segment is under tight supervision by Hertz. Because the industry underwent a massive economic downfall in recent years, it has upgraded the scale of competition within most of the companies that survived. Competitively speaking, the rental car industry is a war-zone as most rental agencies including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis among the major players engage in a battle of the fittest.

Growth

Over the past five years, most firms have been working towards enhancing their fleet sizes and increasing the level of profitability. Enterprise currently the company with the largest fleet in the US has added 75,000 vehicles to its fleet since 2002 which help increase its number of facilities to 170 at the airports. Hertz, on the other hand, has added 25,000 vehicles and broadened its international presence in 150 counties as opposed to 140 in 2002. In addition, Avis has increased its fleet from 210,000 in 2002 to 220,000 despite recent economic adversities. Over the years following the economic downturn, although most companies throughout the industry were struggling, Enterprise among the industry leaders had been growing steadily. For example, annual sales reached $6.3 in 2001, $6.5 in 2002, $6.9 in 2003 and $7.4 billion in 2004 which translated into a growth rate of 7.2 percent a year for the past four years. Since 2002, the industry has started to regain its footing in the sector as overall sales grew from $17.9 billion to $18.2 billion in 2003. According to industry analysts, the better days of the rental car industry have yet to come. Over the course of the next several years, the industry is expected to experience accelerated growth valued at $20.89 billion each year following 2008 “which equates to a CAGR of 2.7 % [increase] in the 2003-2008 period.”

Distribution

Over the past few years the rental car industry has made a great deal of progress to facilitate it distribution processes. Today, there are approximately 19,000 rental locations yielding about 1.9 million rental cars in the US. Because of the increasingly abundant number of car rental locations in the US, strategic and tactical approaches are taken into account in order to insure proper distribution throughout the industry. Distribution takes place within two interrelated segments. On the corporate market, the cars are distributed to airports and hotel surroundings. On the leisure segment, on the other hand, cars are distributed to agency owned facilities that are conveniently located within most major roads and metropolitan areas.

In the past, managers of rental car companies used to rely on gut-feelings or intuitive guesses to make decisions about how many cars to have in a particular fleet or the utilization level and performance standards of keeping certain cars in one fleet. With that methodology, it was very difficult to maintain a level of balance that would satisfy consumer demand and the desired level of profitability. The distribution process is fairly simple throughout the industry. To begin with, managers must determine the number of cars that must be on inventory on a daily basis. Because a very noticeable problem arises when too many or not enough cars are available, most car rental companies including Hertz, Enterprise and Avis, use a “pool” which is a group of independent rental facilities that share a fleet of vehicles. Basically, with the pools in place, rental locations operate more efficiently since they reduce the risk of low inventory if not eliminate rental car shortages.

Market Segmentation

Most companies throughout the chain make a profit based of the type of cars that are rented. The rental cars are categorized into economy, compact, intermediate, premium and luxury. Among the five categories, the economy sector yields the most profit. For instance, the economy segment by itself is responsible for 37.7 percent of the total market revenue in 2004. In addition, the compact segment accounted for 32.3 percent of overall revenue. The rest of the other categories covers the remaining 30 percent for the US segment.

Historical Levels of Profitability

The overall profitability of the car rental industry has been shrinking in recent years. Over the past five years, the industry has been struggling just like the rest of the travel industry. In fact, between the years 2001 and 2003 the US market has experienced a moderate reduction in the level of profitability. Specifically, revenue fell from $19.4 billion in 2000 to $18.2 billion in 2001. Subsequently, the overall industry revenue eroded further to $17.9 billion in 2002; an amount that is minimally higher than $17.7 billion which is the overall revenue for the year 1999. In 2003, the industry experienced a barely noticeable increase which brought profit to $18.2 billion. As a result of the economic downturn in recent years, some of the smaller players that were highly dependent on the airline industry have done a great deal of strategy realignments as a way of preparing their companies to cope with eventual economic adversities that may surround the industry. For the year 2004, on the other hand, the economic situation of most firms have gradually improved throughout the industry since most rental agencies have returned far greater profits relative to the anterior years. For instance, Enterprise realized revenues of $7.4 billion; Hertz returned revenues of $5.2 billion and Avis with $2.9 billion in revenue for the fiscal year of 2004. According to industry analysts, the rental car industry is expected to experience steady growth of 2.6 percent in revenue over the next several years which translates into an increase in profit.

Competitive Rivalry Among Sellers

There are many factors that drive competition within the car rental industry. Over the past few years, broadening fleet sizes and increasing profitability has been the focus of most companies within the car rental industry. Enterprise, Hertz and Avis among the leaders have been growing both in sales and fleet sizes. In addition, competition intensifies as firms are constantly trying to improve their current conditions and offer more to consumers. Enterprise has nearly doubled its fleet size since 1993 to approximately 600,000 cars today. Because the industry operates on such narrow profit margins, price competition is not a factor; however, most companies are actively involved in creating values and providing a range of amenities from technological gadgets to even free rental to satisfy customers. Hertz, for example, integrates its Never-Lost GPS system within its cars. Enterprise, on the other hand, uses sophisticated yield management software to manage its fleets.

Finally, Avis uses its OnStar and Skynet system to better serve the consumer base and offers free weekend rental if a customer rents a car for five consecutive days Moreover, the consumer base of the rental car industry has relatively low to no switching cost. Conversely, rental agencies face high fixed operating costs including property rental, insurance and maintenance. Consequently, rental agencies are sensitively pricing there rental cars just to recover operating costs and adequately meet their customers demands. Furthermore, because the industry experienced slow growth in recent years due to economic stagnation that resulted in a massive decline in both corporate travel and the leisure sector, most companies including the industry leaders are aggressively trying to reposition their firms by gradually lessening the dependency level on the airline industry and regaining their footing in the leisure competitive arena.

The Potential Entry of new Competitors

Entering the car rental industry puts new comers at a serious disadvantage. Over the past few years following the economic downturn of 2001, most major rental companies have started increasing their market shares in the vacation sector of the industry as a way of insuring stability and lowering the level of dependency between the airline and the car rental industry. While this trend has engendered long term success for the existing firms, it has heightened the competitive landscape for new comers. Because of the severity of competition, existing firms such as Enterprise, Hertz and Avis carefully monitor their competitive radars to anticipate Sharpe retaliatory strikes against new entrants. Another barrier to entry is created because of the saturation level of the industry.

For example, Enterprise has taken the first mover advantage with its 6000 facilities by saturating the leisure segment thereby placing not only high restrictions on the most common distribution channels, but also high resource requirements for new firms. Today, Enterprise has a rental location within 15 miles of 90 percent of the US population. Because of the network of dealers Enterprise has established around the nation, it has become relatively stable, more recession proof and most importantly, less reliant on the airline industry compared to its competitors. Hertz, on the other hand, is utilizing the full spectrum of its 7200 stores to secure its position in the marketplace. Basically, the emergence of most of the industry leaders into the leisure market not only drives rivalry, but also it varies directly with the level of complexity of entering the car rental industry.

The Threat of Substitute

There are many substitutes available for the car rental industry. From a technological standpoint, renting a car to go the distance for a meeting is a less attractive alternative as opposed to video conferencing, virtual teams and collaboration software with which a company can immediately setup a meeting with its employees from anywhere around the world at a cheaper cost. In addition, there are other alternatives including taking a cab which is a satisfactory substitute relative to quality and switching cost, but it may not be as attractively priced as a rental car for the course of a day or more. While public transportation is the most cost efficient of the alternatives, it is more costly in terms of the process and time it takes to reach one’s destination. Finally, because flying offers convenience, speed and performance, it is a very enticing substitute; however, it is an unattractive alternative in terms of price relative to renting a car. On the business segment, car rental agencies have more protection against substitutes since many companies have implemented travel policies that establish the parameters of when renting a car or using a substitute is the best course of action.

According to Tracy Esch, an Advantage director of marketing operations, her company rents cars up to a 200-mile trip before considering an alternative. Basically, the threat of substitute is reasonably low in the car rental industry since the effects the substitute products have do not pose a significant threat of profit erosion throughout the industry.

The Bargaining Power of Suppliers

Supplier power is low in the car rental industry. Because of the availability of substitutes and the level of competition, suppliers do not have a great deal of influence in the terms and conditions of supplying the rental cars. Because the rental cars are usually purchased in bulk, rental car agents have significant influence over the terms of the sale since they possess the ability to play one supplier against another to lower the sales price. Another factor that reduces supplier power is the absence of switching cost. That is, buyers are not affected from purchasing from one supplier over another and most importantly, changing to different supplier’s products is barely noticeable and does not affect consumer’s rental choices.

The Bargaining Power of Buyers

While the leisure sector has little or no power, the business segment possesses a significant amount of influence in the car rental industry. An interesting trend that is currently underway throughout the industry is forcing car rental companies to adapt to the needs of corporate travelers. This trend significantly reduces supplier power or the rental firms’ power and increases corporate buyer power since the business segment is excruciatingly price sensitive, well informed about the industry’s price structure, purchase in larger quantities and they use the internet to force lower prices. Vacation buyers, on the other hand, have less influence over the rental terms. Because vacationers are usually less price sensitive, purchase in lesser amounts or purchase more infrequently, they have weak bargaining power.

Five Forces

Today the car rental industry is facing a completely different environment than it did five years ago. Competitively speaking, the revolution of the five forces around the car rental industry exerts some strong economic pressure that has significantly tarnished the competitive attractiveness of the industry. As a result of the economic downturn in recent years, many companies went under namely Budget and the Vanguard Group because their business infrastructure succumbed to the untenability of the competitive environment. Today, very few firms including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis return a slightly above-average revenue compared to the rest of the industry. Realistically speaking, the car rental sector is not a very attractive industry because of the level of competition, the barriers to entry and the competitive pressure from the substitute firms.

Strategic Group Mapping

As a moderately concentrated sector, there is a clear hierarchy in the car rental industry. From an economic standpoint, disparities exist from a number of dimensions including revenue, fleet size and the market size each firm holds in the market place. For instance, Enterprise dominates the industry with a fleet size of approximately 600,000 vehicles along with its market size and its level of profitability. Hertz comes in second position with its number of market shares and fleet volume. In addition, Avis ranks third on the map. Avis is among one of the companies that is having issues recovering its revenue margins from prior to the economic downturn. For instance, in 2000 Avis returned revenues of approximately $4.23 billion. Over the course of the next several years following 2000, the revenue of Avis has been significantly lower than that of 2000. As a way of reducing uncertainty most companies are gradually lessening the level of dependency on the airline industry and emerging the leisure market. This trend may not be in the best interest of Hertz since its business strategy is intricately linked to the airports.

Key Success Factors

There are many key success factors that drive profitability throughout the car rental industry. Capacity utilization is one of the factors that determines success in the industry. Because rental firms experience loss of revenue when there are either too few or too many cars sitting in their lots, it is of paramount importance to efficiently manage the fleets. This success factor represents a big strength for the industry since it lowers if not completely eliminates the possibly of running short on rental cars. Efficient distribution is another factor that keeps the industry profitable. Despite the positive relationship between fleet sizes and the level of profitability, firms are constantly growing their fleet sizes because of the competitive forces that surround the industry. In addition, convenience is one of the crucial attributes by which consumers select rental firms. That is, car rental consumers are more prone to renting cars from firms that have convenient rental and drop off locations. Another key success factor that is common among competing firms is the integration of technology in their business processes. Through technology, for instance, the car rental companies create ways to meet consumer demand by making renting a car a very agreeable ordeal by adding the convenience of online rental among other alternatives. Furthermore, firms have integrated navigation systems along with roadside assistance to offer customers the piece of mind when renting cars.

Industry Attractiveness

There are many factors that impact the attractiveness of the car rental industry. Because the industry is moderately concentrated, it puts new market entrants at a disadvantage. That is, its low concentration represents a natural barrier to entering the industry as it allows existing firm to anticipate sharp retaliations against new entrants. Because of the risks associated with entering the industry among other factors, it is not a very attractive sector of the marketplace. From a competitive standpoint, the leisure market is 90 percent saturated because of the active efforts of Enterprise to dominate this sector of the market. On the other hand, the airport terminals are heavily guarded by Hertz. Realistically speaking, entry in the industry offers low profitability relative to the costs and risks associated. For most consumers, the main determining factors of choosing one company over another are price and convenience. Because of this reason, rental firms are very circumspect about setting their rates and that generally force even the industry major players in the position of offering more to the consumers for less just to remain competitive. Hertz, for example, offers wireless internet to its customers just to add more convenience to their travel plans. Avis on the other hand, offers free weekend specials if a customer rents a car for five consecutive weekdays. Based on the impact of the five forces, the car rental sector is not a very attractive industry to potential new market entrants.

Conclusion

The rental car industry is in a state of recovery. Although it may seem like the industry is performing well financially, it is nonetheless gradually regaining its footing relative to its actual economic position within the last five years. As a way of insuring profitability, besides seeking market shares and stability, most companies throughout the chain have a common goal that deals with lowering the level of dependency on the airline industry and moving toward the leisure segment. This state of motion has engendered some fierce competition among industry competitors as they attempt to defend their market shares. From a futuristic perspective, the better days of the car rental industry have yet to come. As the level of profitability increases, I believe that most of the industry leaders including Enterprise, Hertz and Avis will be bounded by the economic and competitive barriers of mobility of their strategic groups and new comers will have a better chance of infiltrating and realizing success in the car rental industry.

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1 Main Material to Avoid For the Floor of Your Chicken Coop (And What to Use Instead)

Chicken coops are the most expensive initial investment in backyard chicken keeping. There are lots of creative ways to reduce the sticker price by building your own. Hen coops can be as original and varied as their owners, from traditional red barn shapes to retro funk to sleek modern chicken tractors. But some materials are not suited for keeping these fine birds, and particle board is one of them.

Particle board (also known as chip board) is made up of wood chips and saw dust held together with a large quantity of glue and then compressed into slabs. It is cheaper and lighter than plywood, which makes it tempting to use in a chicken coop. However, it has two big drawbacks.

One major problem is that particle board soaks up dampness unless it is coated with some serious paint or sealer. Anyone who has put a glass on a cheap table and discovered an instant ring on the “wood finish” wallpaper-like covering of particle board knows what I mean. Chicken poop is very wet. Constant exposure to droppings will make particle board warp, discolor and potentially disintegrate.

Which brings up problem number two. Chickens have a high respiratory rate, and are very close to the ground. Air quality is very important to keeping them healthy. Since particle board is made up partially of sawdust and glue, when it comes apart those can get kicked into the air and end up in the chicken’s lungs. If you use good bedding, this is less likely to happen, but why take the chance? Especially when you can easily avoid the potential in the first place?

So what can you use? A popular choice is placing your coop on bare earth. This can get mucky, and is slightly less safe from ground predators than other options. A next step up, is to raise your chicken coop off the ground using wood. “Repurposed” wood can include table tops, doors, or scraps from any local lumberyard.

You can also use plywood. Plywood is similar to particle wood in that it is layers of wood. However the wood is in sheets and the sheets are glued at right angles to each other, it is less likely to warp and the top surface is straight wood. Another option is to use any sort of board and cover it with linoleum. This will make the surface easier to clean.

The most expensive option is concrete. Concrete has the advantage of being long lasting and easy to clean. It also is harder for predators to penetrate – there’s no burrowing through well laid cement.

Water Damage To Hardwood Floors Is Inevitable

If you have hardwood floors in your home, sooner or later, one way or another, you are going to have them damaged due to water. Out of control humidity issues, spills, floods due to broken pipes or appliances, tracked in water, snow, or ice, and even accidents by pets can all be extremely damaging to hardwood floors. You can avoid a lot of these problems if you keep in mind some simple steps that you can take to limit hardwood floor damage.

Step 1: Limiting Hardwood Floor Damage – Take Action Immediately

Water damage to hardwood floors is progressive. The longer the floor is exposed to excess water or humidity, the greater the damage becomes. As wood floorboards absorb moisture, they expand, both vertically and horizontally. The vertical expansion is caused by water being absorbed by the edges of each board and creates cupping, the edges becoming thicker than the board’s center. Horizontal expansion causes the boards to “grow” in width. As each board expands horizontally the gap on each side of the room’s walls gets smaller and smaller. There will come a point where the floor’s side-to-side expansion completely fills the gap between the floor and the wall. The floor will continue to expand but will have nowhere to expand to. With no more room, the boards will buckle, or move upward, to release the pressure. The damage from buckling is permanent and will require costly board replacement. The entire floor will then require sanding and refinishing.

Step 2: Preventing Hardwood Floor Damage – Immediate Cleaning

When a spill of any kind occurs it is imperative that the spill be cleaned up as fast as possible. Small spills can be cleaned up with soft, absorbent towels because the water will have not penetrated beyond the surface of the floor.. After drying up as much of the spill as you can, you should place a fan next to the affected area to help increase the rate of evaporation. In the case of a large spill or flood, such as those from a broken water line, a water heater, or a refrigerator ice-maker line for example, you are going to need professional assistance. The correct professional restorer will have the specialized equipment necessary to remove the excess water quickly and to promote rapid drying. The longer a hardwood floor remains wet, the greater the damage to it. A larger water loss will allow the water to penetrate under the floor and affect the sub-floor, which will make drying the floor next to impossible for a homeowner. If acted upon within the first 24-36 hours, most hardwood floors can be dried successfully with little or no further repairs required.

Step 3: Restoration – After Water Damage Occurs

If your hardwood floor is already showing signs of warping or cupping, call a professional restoration company as soon as the damage is noticed. A hardwood floor installer will not be able to help you at this point. The floor must be dried back to NWFA/NOFMA (National Wood Flooring Association / National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association) standards. These standards will vary depending on the region of the country in which you live. A qualified restoration professional will know this standard. If your floor is sanded and/or re-finished before being brought back to the proper dryness standard, it may be damaged beyond repair.

Hardwood floor damage is something you can prepare for and limit, depending on the cause of the damage. Small spills can be easily taken care of by homeowners, large spills and floods, or leaks over time will require professional assistance. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better your chances of saving your floor.

Pond Air Pumps – Can You Have Too Much Oxygen in a Pond?

In a typical pond you could not have too much aeration, in certain circumstances you can get what’s called ‘super saturation’ which can be very dangerous to fish. Super saturation occurs when air is added to water under pressure, in a pond system this could happen if you had a pin hole in a pipe leading to a pump, as the water is drawn through the pipe air is pulled in through the hole, however this is quite rare.

More likely in a pond you can waste oxygen by pumping too much in via an air pump, oxygen is very important in a pond, particularly if it is heavily stocked for fish and in particular koi. In a traditional garden pond you may have a waterfall and some oxygenating plants, as these may add enough oxygen into the water. However koi are quite large fish, some as long as a metre and would quickly eat any plants in the pond, also the large filtration units used on koi ponds require large amounts of oxygen in order to work, so you will quite often have to add additional aeration to both the pond and filtration system, remember the warmer the water the less oxygen will be available, ponds with excess algae growth can also suffer from lack of oxygen as the algae uses it up.

However this is where many people start to add too much air, it won’t do any harm but it can be unsightly seeing a Jacuzzi type water swirl, and most of the air evaporates back into the atmosphere rather than dissolving in the pond water.

Tips for Adding Aeration to Your Pond Filter

Pond filters use large amounts of oxygen in order for the filtration process to work, remember a pond filter is a ‘living microclimate’ with bacteria converting harmful pollutants in the pond water into harmless nitrate which evaporates, in most pond filters the easiest way of adding extra air is by using a suitable air pump with some air stones, place the air stones at the bottom of the filter media, as a rough guide use one air stone for every square foot, for large filters you may use larger air disks or air rings, not only will the air bubbles help feed the bacteria, but it will also stop solid waste settling, helping to keep your filters cleaner, so a few extra bubbles here won’t do any harm.

Tips for Adding Aeration to Your Koi Pond

This is where I often see excess use of aeration, if you place a large 20cm air disk for example in you pond with a 40 litre air pump attached, you are probably straining the pump which will shorten its life, and at least 50% of the air you are putting in the pond will come straight back out at the surface of the pond.

All air disks and stones have a limit to how much oxygen can be pumped through, when you pump too much air into them you will generally find that the bubbles are larger, the finer the bubbles the more oxygen will be dissolved into the pond water, as an example if you used a 20 litre air pump on the 20cm air disk, the result would be less disturbance pond surface and more oxygen dissolved into the pond water. For a pond of around 3000 gallons a 20 litre air pump and suitable air disk or if preferred around 6 standard air stones would provide more than adequate aeration into your pond.

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