Tea Tray Bouts For Classical Fencing

In the 1800s some fencing masters were reputed to teach lessons with their students standing in a tea tray. This unusual practice was designed to force disciplined blade work and eliminate reliance on the retreat as a defense. It comes from an era in which fencing was becoming increasingly distant from the realities of the dueling ground, and in which conventional conduct ruled the sport. For example, many fencers believed that it was impossible, or at least unmannerly, to start a phrase from an absence of blade. Anything other than engagement meant that you were doing something very strange with your foil, something that certainly was not fencing. And in some circles there was general agreement that a retreat to avoid an attack was a sign of bad manners, at the least, or outright cowardice, at the worst.

In this environment, the tea tray actually makes sense. It forces engagement out of simple self-protection and it eliminates both the opportunity to retreat and the need to advance. So the classical fencers in my salle (fencing school) decided to see whether it is possible to fence a bout with both fencers figuratively standing in tea trays.

First the rules:

(1) Fencers come on guard at medium distance. If there is an appreciable difference in the lunge length of the two fencers, the distance is set by the lunge length of the fencer whose lunge is shorter.

(2) Fencers start from engagement in either 6th or 4th. Sixth is a more modern choice, dating from the 1890s or later. Fourth is an older choice, being commonly preferred by some masters at least until the 1880s.

(3) All blade actions in the classical lexicon may be used – which includes all techniques you will find in any fencing textbook, excluding the flick.

(4) The only footwork permitted is the lunge and the backward recovery from the lunge. Retreat or advance is penalized with 1 hit.

(5) In keeping with practice of the period the fencers may fence for a set number of hits with no time limit, or for a time limit with no set number of hits.

The outcome was very interesting. The classical fencers really enjoyed the format. It is challenging; we rarely stop to assess how much of our fencing depends on movement and how little a role the blade actually plays. Eliminate the movement, and you have a different game. With no movement except the lunge very few simple attacks work. The emphasis now is on complex blade actions with multipart compound attacks, compound actions prepared by attacks on the blade, and chains of actions using taking the blade. Tactical preparation through well conceived linkages between phrases becomes critical. Eyes open fencing becomes the norm for the successful fencer.

If you are a classical fencer, consider adding the tea tray format to your bouting. I think you will enjoy the challenge.

Fence Repairs and Upgrades

A fence can be just the thing to make your home look and function the way you want it to. Keeping up with your fence is just as important as the initial purchase, as a broken one will start to draw attention to the flaw rather than the beauty of the design itself.

Repairing your fence is easy with the help of a professional. When fences are not kept up the problems are likely to escalate; therefore, it is a good idea to repair it before the entire thing calls for replacement. A professional has skills to repair all types of fences from wood to iron to bring them back to their original beauty.

If looking to repair your fence one might choose to upgrade instead. The cost of fence repairs can outweigh the cost of fence upgrades, or simply be worth the investment. You can upgrade your fence in many ways by adding on to your preexisting fence to make it more unique to your home. For example, some people choose to add on brick to their fence to benefit the overall appearance of their home.

An option to upgrading your fence can be to stain or paint it. Fences go through inclement weather and may not be the color they originally were when purchased. A professional can either stain your fence to revive the once vibrant color or even stain it a different color to change the look of your home.

Whether you decide to choose an upgrade or a repair, both are essential in maintaining the aesthetic value of your fence.

Mumbai Is the Cheapest City to Live in the World

The financial hub of the country – Mumbai is always the economic capital of the country. The economic growth of Mumbai has been the backbone of the city, which has helped in the development of real estate in Mumbai. Mumbai is not only the financial hub of the country, but also the most costly real estate market in the country. Mumbai is known for its expensive properties and housing units.

Though Mumbai is the costly real estate market, it is the cheapest city to live and work in the world among other 12 top metropolitan cities of the world according to the Savills World Research. The most expensive cities to live in the world are London, Hong Kong and New York. Out of these cities, London tops the chart making it difficult for companies to accommodate its employees.

For companies to accommodate its employees in Mumbai has increased up to 2.4% from the year 2008 and now costs up to $29,088. The next cheapest metropolitan city in the world is Shanghai which has increased up to 15.6% from the year 2008 and has reached $38,089.

Hong Kong has shown an increase of only 0.4% and the cost of living in New York has increased about 28.4%. The cost of residential and office space rental on each individual in London has reached $118,425 in the first half of 2015, which has gone up about 20.7% from the year 2008.

The city which has seen a tremendous increase in terms of cost of living for accommodation of employees from the year 2008 is San Francisco with an increase of about 59.8%. Out of the 12 metropolitan cities in the world, cites that have conquered the first three position as most expensive cities are London, Hong Kong and New York.

Though Mumbai is the cheapest city for accommodation of employees, it is the costliest cities in terms of real estate. Mumbai has a special place among other global cities due to its economic and financial growth. It attracts towards it many investors due to the importance and fame that it enjoys globally. The cost of living and working in Mumbai city was only $28,394 per year in December 2008 but now it has increased to $29,088 per year by June 2015.

Though Mumbai city is the cheapest among the other world cities, it is the costliest city in terms of living and real estate in India. This financial hub of the country lures investors from both within the country and from across different countries in the world. The recent growth of real estate in Mumbai has reached new heights due to its industrial and commercial development. This most sought-after city in the country is known for high cost of living among other cities in the country but the cheapest city to accommodate employees internationally. The average cost of living in all cities across the world has shown a significant increase annually and Mumbai is one among it.

Celebrating Special Occasions on a Budget

Times are tough financially for everyone these days, for certain. However that does not mean people cannot enjoy holidays or other special occasions. This is especially true of families with children, but adults can follow this advice as well. There is no need to spend a fortune in order to enjoy an occasion. Here are a few tips that hopefully will inspire you.

First you can dine in rather than going out to a restaurant. This is particularly true if you intend to include guests. You can choose to prepare the meal yourself or you can hire someone to prepare it for you. Either way it is more cost-effective than taking everyone out to eat. For a more formal event, ask everybody to dress up in whatever manner is appropriate for the occasion.

When it comes to decorating for an occasion, make the decorations yourself. You can even have ornament-making parties and involve various family members and/or friends. Not only will making your ornaments save you some money, but you will most likely have decorations that nobody else has. You can create keepsake pieces that you can hand down to future generations of your family. Your family and your guests will love them and you will have spent a minimal amount of money on them.

Most of the allure of going out to celebrate a holiday or occasion is the idea of being part of someone else’s traditions. Instead of doing that, develop your own unique customs and traditions for occasions. Invent your own ritual or ceremony that is relevant to whatever you are celebrating and invite all of your guests to participate. All it takes to do this is a little creativity and some time and effort. You and your cohorts will love it so much, you will want to repeat it time and time again.

If you want to take a trip as part of your celebration, select an out-of-the-way location that is not a tourist trap. Relatively inexpensive lodging options can include a bed-and-breakfast or campgrounds for those who do not mind roughing it. There are also less expensive motels that are simply lovely and often in very scenic places. For even more cost-effectiveness drive to your destination rather than fly. Then instead of dining out at every meal during your trip, purchase food from the local supermarket and have picnics or cookouts. This will be a sure-fire way to enjoy a special occasion without spending extraordinary amounts of money.

If gift-giving is going to be a part of your special occasion, once again you can make your own as opposed to buying all sorts of expensive things from a store. You can incorporate your own talents into whatever you make and create a gift that is so unique, it is way beyond duplication. Whomever the recipients of your gifts are, they will have something that is made especially for them. They are far more likely to appreciate this than any store-bought gifts, as they will know they came directly from your heart and soul. Why not give this a try?

Government Grants for Disabled Veterans

The United States troops are the heart and soul of the nation. They deserve our respect and gratitude because of their endless efforts to protect the American way of living and uphold freedom. Unfortunately, being a soldier exposes you to so many dangers. Thousands of soldiers have lost limbs in battle and were sent home because they can no longer serve the armed forces. These circumstances may cause serious trauma and can hinder these soldiers from getting back on their feet. Fortunately, disabled veterans draw a lot of support and attention from the US government. Because of this, the government designed grants especially for disabled veterans. One of them is the housing grant for veterans.

Housing grants

The problem with some war veterans is that once they are back home, they do not have their own place to live in. This can be a huge burden, especially for those who are disabled. Fortunately, the government can offer them a housing grant.

There are a number of requirements needed in order to get a government housing grant. They are:

? Has served within any branch of the armed forces of the United States on or after September 16, 1940.

? A valid social security number

? A certified American citizen

You may go to the regional office of the Department of Veteran Affairs to apply for this grant. There will be no need to fill out any application form for each applicant will be attended to properly right away. Now, if ever you are denied of this grant, you may still be able to file an appeal. It is recommended that you file this appeal once you are informed of the denial of application.

Aside from the government, there are also different non-profit organizations that aim to help the housing of war veterans that are recognized by the state.

Attaching Wood To Concrete

A very important tip is to use the right tool for each method. When you’re dealing with concrete and masonry, you’re obviously dealing with extremely hard material. Woodworking hammers are too light and steel drill bits too soft. The concrete is also brittle. Hard sharp chips are likely to fly out as you work on it, so always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.

Nails. Nailing wood directly to concrete is probably the simplest, quickest and cheapest method. Unfortunately, once driven, these nails may jar loose from a few hammer blows to the side of the board. So, they are better for temporary fastening.

You’ll usually find two types of special nails at the hardware store, cut nails and hardened concrete nails. Drive nails with a 2- to 4-lb. hammer. Actually, it’s very hard to drive nails into cured (hardened) concrete, even with a 4-lb. hammer. They work best in concrete that’s only cured for a few days.

Nails can be quite effective in mortar joints, however. Mortar is softer than either the concrete block or brick, and it holds nails fairly well. For best results, drive them right along the joint edge. And here’s a professional tip: for improved holding power, run a bead of glue along the backside of your wood before nailing it up.

Predrilled Fasteners. There is a family of fasteners that can be driven into a predrilled hole. These not only fasten wood to concrete, but will fasten just about anything else to concrete as well.

They install easily, simply drill through the wood and into the concrete and drive the fastener.

Drilling the hole is the only difficult part. Use a carbide tip bit. Because these holes are relatively small, your standard 1/4-inch or 3/8 inch power drill can do an adequate job, although each hole may take several minutes to bore. A hammer drill, however, will drill your hole in a matter of seconds. A hammer drill is expensive, but they can be rented. If you have a lot of holes to drill, they’ll save a lot of time.

It’s a good idea to glue your wood to the concrete or masonry with this system as well, especially when using screws. Once screws are jarred loose, they may not retighten.

Expansion Fasteners. These fasteners are simple, effective and can carry a heavy load. They may be retightened should they be jarred loose.

Because they require a larger hole, you really need a hammer drill to bore the concrete. If you can’t buy, borrow or rent one, try boring a 1/8 inch hole first with a carbide bit. Then use progressively larger carbide bits until you reach the proper size.

Buy these fasteners long enough to wedge into the concrete as deep as the wood is thick. Drill your hole an extra 1/4 inch deep, since the bolt draws back slightly when tightened.

Power Fasteners. These are extremely fast, powerful and dangerous. They are primarily professional tools which any untrained homeowner should steer clear of until they fully understanding the safety precautions. With power fasteners you can quickly nail into just about any concrete or masonry surface. Both the air and the power-actuated systems drive hardened nails through the wood and solidly into the concrete in one shot. Flying metal, wood or concrete are certain hazards, so eye protection is essential.

Glue. Over the past ten years construction adhesives have improved and become more specialized. You can securely glue just about anything to a wall now. Since glued wood must be held tightly in place until the glue sets, it’s handy to use an adhesive with another fastening system for mutual reinforcement; the glue dampens the vibration and jarring that may weaken the fasteners, and the fasteners hold the wood tightly until the glue sets.

Proper preparation ensures a good glue bond. Be sure the wood and the concrete surfaces are clean and dry. Loose paint, surface chalking or moisture will cause the bond to release. When working with a very rough surface, apply a generous bead to bridge the wider gaps between the wood and concrete.

Sinus Drainage – How a Few Answers to a Few Simple Questions Could Lead You to a Solution

“Why all of a sudden did I begin to sneeze when we were visiting your relatives? Now I got all this drainage going through the back of my throat. What’s going on?.” Similar questions to these are asked every day by countless thousands who suffer from environmental allergies, but don’t realize it. These type of allergies irritate the nasal membranes and sinuses.’ The clear or light yellow mucus being produced–which is part of the body’s mechanism to wash away the irritating elements–travel to the back of the throat and ends its journey in the stomach. There the stomach acids and juices destroy whatever harmful bacteria and germs are present in the mucus, whether it be green or yellow mucus. Although all this would make sense the fact is that no one likes to deal with the tickling and other discomforts PND–post nasal drip or drainage–produces.

I used to be very allergic to the dander of household pets–especially cats’ and dogs.’ Yet many people do not seem to get the connection between their environment and drainage. Often the reaction is: “I’m catching a cold,” or “I think I got a virus,” etc., The awareness of the environment as the proximate cause of drainage can be very useful. Thus here are some questions one can ask herself or himself, which can help identify the environmental culprit, if indeed an environmental element is the cause of the PND–this article deals exclusively with allergy reaction from common sources in the environment other than from the vegetable kingdom:

If you are suffering from a sinus drainage problem right now that came up rather suddenly ask yourself:

  • Where was I within the last 24 hours before the problem started? Was this a place I had not been before?
  • If I was in a house or other enclosed structure: Were there present household pets, especially with long hair? Was I close to it? Did I begin to sneeze, nose began to run, eyes began to itch when I got close to it?
  • When you or someone else in your household vacuum the house: Do you notice any of the above symptoms, or get PND shortly afterward?
  • If you were traveling: Was there a significant amount of smog in the area you were visiting?
  • Was I exposed, for an extended period, to cleaning or some other type of strong chemicals or dust, or animals hair within the last 24 hours?
  • Could there be an item in the work place: chemicals, special dust, indoor plant, etc., that is contributing to the problem?
  • Is the discharge yellow mucus?
  • Was there sinus pressure before the drainage started?

Depending on how you would answer those questions and using your own common sense you can figure out to what extent, if any, some of those things may affect you. If you have a suspicion that you may be allergic to some of those things you can go back and try to re-expose yourself to them and see if you get the suspected reaction a second even a third time.

We must remember that some nutrition authorities have seen the potential some foods have to be the cause of sinus drainage and other problems. Unfortunately the medical profession, governmental health agencies, and food evaluation governmental entities have been somewhat reluctant to address this. Lack of sufficient research is often cited as the reason for them not to make categoric statements. Yet some with insights into nutritional matters would not hesitate to state that foods do matter, especially if you have sinus problems. I know this to be true from my own experience when I had, for many years, sinus problems and from the experience of others as well.

Drain Cleaning

Basic Drain Cleaning

There are few ways to clean a drain and maintain it today. One such way is to use a mechanical auger or machine such as a “snake” or a plunger. These types of systems require a knowledge of plumbing and physical strength. When was the last time you used a plunger and were not exhausted after fighting with the drain. Hmmm…

Another way is to use a chemical cleaner such as Drano. This and other conventional drain cleaners have an active ingredient known as sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as caustic soda or lye. It is a man-made chemical used for its corrosive properties. According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the substance is not considered a pollutant per se, as it separates into relatively harmless component elements once released into water or moist soil. But sodium hydroxide is an irritant that can burn skin and aggravate nose, throat and respiratory airways, so contact with it is best avoided. If ingested outright it will likely induce vomiting, as well as cause chest or abdominal pain and make swallowing difficult–so keep it well out of the reach of children.

The safest way to clean drains for homeowners is with environmentally friendly drain cleaners commonly called Enzymatic Cleaners. Bacterial cultures and concentrated enzymes make up Enzymatic drain cleaners that interact with organic residue that accumulates on sewer pipes. The enzymes will eat anything in your pipes that was once a living organism e.g. food, grease, hair etc. The enzyme will not eat anything that has never lived e.g. plastic. metal, jewelry, etc.

Benefits of enzymatic drain cleansers are relatively safe when used in an array of plumbing fittings, low environment impact, inexpensive and simplicity of use. The downside on most enzymatic drain cleansers include longer cleaning occasions in comparison to many other drain cleansers.

Chemicals vs. Environment and Family Safety

I strongly recommend the use of enzyme drain cleaner for maintaining your drains. There are a number of enzymatic biological drain cleaners on the market today.

These take advantage of the natural microbial and enzyme mixture to open and keep drains clear, the complete opposite of sodium hydroxide, they’re non-caustic and won’t facilitate combustion. There are several harsh chemical products advertised as safe, but that is not the case.

Maintenance Routine Using An Enzymatic Biological Drain Cleaner

Before going to work or before bedtime pour the enzyme into your drain, run warm water into your drain for approximately 10 seconds and let sit for several hours.

Do this every day for the first week.

Then once a week for the next four weeks.

Then once a month.

FYI: Everything from our drains eventually ends up in our aquifers, rivers, streams, water supply, and oceans, being environmentally friendly keep us and our families healthier.

Drill Bit Sets – Do it Yourself Guide

A power  drill  is what you will need for your small work around the house. These power  drills  can help bore the  drill  a hole into almost any material within the home say wood or glass or even special stained glass. What you need is the perfect  drill  bit set for your needs.

A  drill  bit set containing steel, spiral bits is not very expensive and is almost enough for  drilling  needs at home. However, they cannot  drill  into concrete or metal as they require special  drill  bits. These  drill  bit sets have  drill  bits ranging from size eight millimeters to thirty two millimeters. Now if you need to have some concrete or masonry work done then you need the tungsten carbide  drill  sets as they have the required strength to  drill  holes through concrete. Mind you, they may be expensive than the regular steel bits.

Another advantage of a power  drill  is that they can work as screw drivers if you buy special hardened steel bits which have round shank on the top and the bit head is like a regular screwdriver. If you need to have the  drill  bits for use with nuts and fasteners then you will have to buy a  drill  bit set which has square base and round shaft. That square base fits into the fasteners and the round hole into the power  drill .

For doing  drilling  into the glass or stained glass then you need to have  drill  bit set which contains diamond  drill  bits. These  drill  bits have diamond either bonded or sintered onto the  drill  tip which helps  drill  holes easily into glass. There are special diamond  drill  bits which can also  drill  holes into the porcelain tiles.

All said, the basic set of  drill  bits that you should have is the steel spiral  drill  bits for most of the home do it yourself kind of needs.

Timber Garden Fencing Choices

Choosing a  timber  garden fence is not something most people do on a regular basis. This is mainly because a  timber  fence, once in place, will last for a great many years before it needs replacing. Consequently, it’s quite difficult to know and understand the potential choices you can be faced with when it comes to replacing your existing fence.

The first thing to note is that most  timber  for garden fences can be pressure treated for long life using the tanalisation process. A series of chemicals will be vacuum absorbed into the  timber  at sawmill and this treatment will give your fencing a guaranteed rot free life for a minimum of 15 years. Tanalised  timber , particularly sawn  timber  isn’t great at absorbing stains or preservatives, but tanalisation can be achieved using different color treatments. This  timber  will not take paints and glosses, so for some fences such as picket, if your looking for a high gloss white finish your going to need to use untreated planned  timber  for the application of paints.

In terms of choosing a style of fence, there are a great number to look at, but we will examine the the most popular choices. The style of fence you will choice will probably be down to your requirements for the fence. Do you want decoration, privacy or security or a little of all? The main choices you will have will be to go for a panel fence, picket fence or a close board fence.

Panel fencing has been around for a while, particularly in europe. Pre constructed fence panels of standard 6ft widths in a variety of standard heights and decorative styles are fitted between either concrete or  timber  posts depending on preference and budget. Heights range from 3ft through to 6ft. The panels tend to be made of overlapping boards, so as a result the fencing, depending on height option can offer a degree of privacy and decoration. The panels are often light weight in nature so security is low level, but due to weight and standard sizes they are cheap and easy to replace if they become damaged over time. They can be constructed from either tanalised materials or dip treated but are usually constructed from sawn  timber .

Picket fencing is a great decorative fence but lacking in privacy or any real security. Picket fencing can be constructed in panel format where you just purchase a ready made 2m panel and attach to posts or you construct the fence form individual components. Pickets can be pointed topped, round top, square top or chisel top depending on the effect you best prefer. Heights tend to range from 3ft through to 6ft as standard. As mentioned for a top decorative effect this fencing looks particularly stunning if it is glossed white to finish, but this requires untreated planned  timber  which may not last as well as tanalised  timbers .

Close board fencing can offer both privacy and a greater degree of security than picket or panel fencing. Closeboard fencing is the fencing you see where wedge profile boards are vertically overlapped along the length of the fence. The overlap is generally about 25mm. Close board fences tend to be available in heights from 3ft through to 10ft. Due to the height and lack of foot or hand holds this fencing offers the best security your likely to find from a  timber  fence. As boards overlap privacy is ensured. The fence can be erected on  timber  or concrete posts usually at 2.4m centres and has a good deal of inherent strength given by railings attached to the posts on the rear of the fence.

Choosing a garden  timber  fence is a one off event, but before you decide on type understand your requirements from the fencing and you won’t be disappointed.

Plastic Lumber Vs Wood

Plastic lumber is now becoming more popular among many wanting to build greener projects. Since plastic lumber first started being used for commercial building in 1990, many builders have found out the many benefits of using this green product. Plastic lumber does not fade, warp and does not attract bugs, such as termites. These are all common problems when building with wooden lumber.

Wood lumber can become a high maintenance-building product. Unlike wood, plastic needs little or no maintenance after many years of being exposed to the elements. Plastic lumber does not need to be weather proofed such as water proofing chemicals that need to be applied to wood when used for decking. This saves the consumer money over a period of time since plastic decking is water proof and does not warp due to rain and snow like wood. Plastic decking for instance does not need to be painted or stained. Plastic decking can be ordered from the manufacturer in many colors and can be made to mimic many of the popular wood grains. Many homeowners like the fact that they do not have to strip or paint a deck made out of plastic lumber, because the whole piece of plastic is impregnated with the pigment throughout.

Contractors and construction workers like the fact that when building with plastic, that there are no special tools that are required to use. This helps contractors and do it yourselfers save money on not having to purchasing special tools for a building project.

One of the worst fears of many homeowners is their wooden structure becoming plagued with termites or other wood-burrowing insects. These insects can be not only structurally devastating to wood, but can also cost the homeowner financially in replacing the wood or hiring an exterminator. This is not so with plastic materials since insects are not attracted to it.

Over the years, plastic lumber is now becoming a more common site in the construction field. With plastic not warping, fading or attracting bugs like wood many are choosing this newer building material. Since it is also considered a green material, it is now finding its place in building for those that are worried about the environment.

A Board President’s Checklist For Success

The most successful nonprofit organizations have well-managed boards. These boards are clear about their own purpose, they have strong, positive relationships with Executive Director and staff personnel, and they feel good about the work they’re doing and about the other members of the board.

As the Board President, you can de-motivate your board members by focusing on details and problems or you can inspire them with a positive culture of achievement. How you’re organized to relate to the Executive Director and the staff, what you focus on during meetings, and what you expect from board members during and between board meetings will have a huge impact on the success of your board.

A little introspection goes a long ways. Below is a brief checklist for successful nonprofit boards. How many of these qualities do your nonprofit board exhibit? How many of these characteristics could you work toward over the next year?

Use this Board President’s Checklist for Success as a starting point for discussions with other board members and your Executive Director.

1. We provide oversight and support that are appropriate to the size, life-stage, and staff experience of our nonprofit organization.

2. We are smart about the work we need to do and work well together – even in times of stress. We are not afraid to speak about what’s on our minds – and we welcome new ideas.

3. We have clarified where the organization is going and our role in that process.

4. We communicate easily with our Executive Director and track the most significant, measurable trends, key projects and program results.

5. We are time-conscious so have assigned board members to committees for a more efficient use of everyone’s time.

6. We delegate as much as possible to the staff and board committees.

7. We have streamlined our board meetings by insisting that board discussions follow staff or committee recommendations and focus only on those decisions that the board needs to make.

8. We have fun and care about one another personally.

Regardless of your position on the board, you can use the Board President’s Checklist for Success as a catalyst for discussions about improving the operation of the board.

If you are the Board President, send this article to your Board Development Committee Chair and ask for a meeting to talk about these ideas and how your board’s effectiveness might be improved. Be open to the suggestions he or she has to offer. Start changing those habits, processes and roles that are the easiest to change. If there is no Board Development Committee, consider hand-picking an Ad Hoc committee of experienced board members that want to help improve the management of the board and are willing to lead the other board members through these changes. Agree to permanently alter the board’s ability to do its job well – and decide to make this a priority before your term as president expires. Tell everyone what you are doing and why.

If you are an Executive Director, send this article to your Board President and ask to meet with him/her to discuss the checklist. Include a list of changes you can make to the “Executive Director’s Report” so that the board will be well-informed and better able to provide oversight to your organization. List additional, specific support that you would like from your board members. Suggest ways to create better communication and relationships between the board, board committees and the staff. Be open and willing to react to the Board President’s ideas for improvements you and your staff can make.

If you are a board member and would like to see some of these changes, use this article as a starting point for discussion with your Board President. Send it to him or her and ask to meet to discuss the merits of working toward these goals. Be aware of the potential for the Board President to see the discussion as a criticism of his/her leadership. Share your thoughts about how your board already has laid the groundwork for some of these best practices and discuss how to make others happen. Offer to lead an ad hoc committee for 6 months to see how many of these board standards you can improve.

Front Porch Designs – Know Your Porch’s Purpose

Front porch designs are usually modeled after a home’s architecture – such as country, contemporary, or perhaps a Victorian style. The style of a porch should fit the architectural style of the home as much as possible. Otherwise, it will look out-of-place and not give you the curb appeal you need. But just as important, when deciding the style of porch you want, consider  and plan for its true purpose. 


How will your porch be used?


Many builders give little consideration to the porch although that is changing across the country. Many of us are opting for a porch that is both appealing and functional. The stoop just doesn’t do it. So begin by determining what you will mostly be doing on your porch. Whether building a new porch or updating an existing one, cost is always a factor. That given, make the most of what you are able to afford.


We know someone who is going to demolish an existing long and narrow porch to rebuild another one. We advised them to make it wide enough to accommodate a porch swing and give ample play room for their three children. The porch can then accommodate not only their family comfortably but their kids’ friends as well! They will also potentially have space for a conversation area for adults. They are going to incorporate these ideas into a country style porch that will be approximately nine feet wide.


Porches for Entertaining and Celebrations


  • Do you envision using your porch for entertaining?
  • Or do you prefer to have a space for quiet contemplation to watch the world go by?
  • Do you have a view you’d like to take advantage of?
  • Will you be celebrating summer-time birthdays and holidays on your porch?
  • Do you like to decorate for the holidays?

Once you have identified your porch’s primary purpose, determine what you will need. For decorating purposes additional electrical outlets (on the porch and perhaps in the soffits) would be ideal. If you want more privacy consider its location and landscaping around your porch. If you love to listen to soft music on your porch, consider outdoor speakers.



Screen Porches and Three Season Porches


If you enjoy eating outdoors a great option is to convert part of the porch to a screen porch or three season porch. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and this way you’ll have the best of both worlds. Because there is such a wide variety of screening materials you can find one that will complement the color of your porch and home.


Small Porches


Most people have small porches. You can improve its design by landscaping around it to give you lots more space. You can then use it for quiet conversations or just to relax and read a good book.


Define your porch purpose and include the requirements in the overall design, whether it is Victorian, southwestern, colonial, or contemporary. You’ll be happy you took the time to think through how you will use your porch. You’ll be more satisfied with the results.

Contractor Web Design

Contractor’s Website Design Objectives

Contractors website design and contractor website design objectives revolve around a basic principle; build traffic through relevant content. This is the cornerstone for everything else related to a successful contractor website design.

What is the objective when building a website? Identifying leads? Branding? Selling specific services? Company or personal recognition?

It is our belief that the world wide web is in fact the greatest opportunity for local, regional and national businesses to extract business opportunities at a low cost per acquisition. With a professional contractor website design company, the process is not only expedited,but insures a successful outcome. Whether your business is focused on a local market or the entire globe, with the right placement of you web site, your opportunities are endless.

So let’s begin to discover the ways the Internet can dramatically enhance your business opportunities!

With the proper website, including content that is of interest to your customers, keywords that are relevant to your target customer and skilled web development team that understands these basic concepts, your website will deliver increased opportunities to your business.

The problem!

The problem with most websites is that they are designed to just look good. They aren’t designed not only to look good, but to have all of the components that will attract and sell your customers before they ever call or email you. This is a critical point. Just about everyone can throw a website up on the web. There are over 500 businesses on the web that provide templates for you to insert your text into. The problem is, regardless how good it looks, if no one shows up to look, the site is wasted. Our company is extremely good at identifying what to add or subtract from a website to get the targeted traffic that your business needs. How do we do it? After years of practice and acute knowledge of what the search engines look for as well as a broad background in business, our team can develop a site theme that not only attracts visitors to your site, but inspires them to engage your company to do business with. You see, we look at websites as a 24/7 salesperson for your company. The objective is to sell the customer before they even call you. We have found by doing this, the actual “close” of the sale is dramatically shortened and a huge efficiency is gained. Sometimes this increase in efficiency can mean your business can grow exponentially without the addition of additional sales people, thereby adding significant dollars to your bottom line without much in the way of additional work.

Every business is different. The strengths and weaknesses all result in a different tact as to how a site is developed. With experts on your team throughout this process, success is assured. The ability to key in on your company’s “sweet spot” is an optimal way of attracting significant traffic to your site. Launching a new product or service? What a perfect way to let your target know about new products and services, events and changes in hours or any other information.

Easy exchange of information with prospects and customers.

Having a web presence, is not only a great way to increase business with new clients, but a great way to interact with existing ones as well. Think of it in these terms. Cost and speed. How much does it cost currently to get information to all of your clients? $1, $2, $5, $10 or more each? How long does it take to develop a letter or another form of direct mail? An hour, a day, a week or more. How long does it take to print, process and heaven forbid, the post office to deliver it? With a website, you can immediately add content that is pertinent to your audience. The notification to your customer can be further expedited with the addition of email. The concept of immediately contacting your customer base, directing them to your website for updates is a phenomenal way of positively impacting your business quickly, effectively and cost efficiently.

The national average cost for a single comprehensive direct mail piece is $2.09 each, which is an excellent way of generating business as well but imagine a way that the only incremental cost is based on the development of the direct mail piece. No processing costs or delays. In the form of email the cost of contacting each customer drops to pennies per contact, depending on how much the development costs are. Based on the national average cost for direct mail and the actual cost to process and mail, the savings would be $1.87 each or a rough net cost per contact including development of $ .22 each. Do you think that your company would be more likely to contact your customers more often with this type of cost savings? Most certainly do. The results are staggering. The conversion rates are nearly comparable to direct mail, particularly in the construction trades.

Sales Cycle Shortened!

The ability to develop new customers without the long courtship is also something that is quite notable. As mentioned before, the concept of having a sales person working 24 hours a day everyday is dynamic as well. Say for example, your target customer is in need of your service. They go to their computer, enter a search engine and type in their need. Because your site has been expertly built, the words they type into the search engine match what a page on your site has as a topic. They click on the search link and viola, your site comes onto the screen. The page being viewed has all of the information the customer needs to make a buying decision right there, right now.

If properly built, the customer is “sold” on your company and your ability to deliver what they’re looking for. Let’s say for example that they open their yellow page directory to locate your service. How much information can you afford to put in your yellow page ads? It can become cost prohibitive to put too much information in a phone book advertisement. Some companies spend thousands of dollars every year, year after year to develop new business. With a website, you don’t have the need to spend as much in phone book ads. We are not suggesting that you terminate your relationship with the yellow pages. We are suggesting that the number of people utilizing the Internet to search for contractors is increasing everyday.

As you can see there are many ways the Internet can help your business grow. In these uncertain times, in order to be successful you must look to new, dynamic and cost effective ways to reach as many customers as possible. The solution for most all businesses is to partner with a web design team that has experience in the construction trades, can point to specific success based on results, and build a website for your company that will attract and keep customers 24/7/365.

Investing in Land for Development: Cardinal Rules

People who invest in land for a living, like builders and developers, know that following a couple of cardinal rules can mean the difference between having a deal that’s potentially viable and one that is a disaster in the making. Here are the principles that influence their purchasing decisions.

Rule 1: Location
Location is the most important aspect of a property because it’s the only thing that cannot be changed. You can demolish or add onto a house or maybe even pick it up and move it, but you cannot pick the land up and move it. Location determines not only how the property can be used (zoning) and accessibility to public utilities, but also the parcel’s value based on the surrounding properties. There is no substitute for a good location.

Rule 2: Value Is Always Related to Use
The value of land for development hinges on its ability to be used by buyers. A 10 acre parcel with substantial areas of floodplain, steep slopes or wetlands may produce only one building lot. Its value will ultimately be determined by what a buyer can do with it (i.e., build one house) and not by the number of acres it has.

Rule 3: More Target Markets = Higher Value
Value increases if the parcel can be used by many potential buyers or categories of buyers. Several factors determine the market appeal of development land. These include uses permitted under current zoning, location, availability of public or on-site utilities, physical characteristics, and legal restrictions. Suppose you’re thinking about buying a property that abuts a pig farm. It has everything you want, including a cheap price tag. But chances are, you won’t find many buyers for it when you go to sell. Conversely, you will have to pay more for a parcel abutting parkland, but you’ll have your choice of buyers willing to pay a premium price for it.

Rule 4: Value = Price + Terms
Ultimately, buyers determine what a property is worth, but an offer is much more than just price. It’s a set of scales with price on one side and terms and conditions on the other. The real value of development land is the price a buyer is willing to pay in exchange for terms and conditions. For example, you want to buy a landlocked parcel. You need to know if the owner of the adjoining property will sell off some   frontage . You don’t want to purchase the  frontage  unless the seller accepts your offer and you don’t want to have to buy the property if you can’t get the requisite amount of  frontage . So you would give the seller an offer contingent on your being able to get the  frontage  and anything else you’d need to be able to sell the parcel to builders. You would offer the seller a higher price if the seller would agree to these conditions than if the seller wanted to sell “as is.”

Rule 5: When Buying, Think Like a Seller
Before you decide to buy a land parcel, you should evaluate it as objectively as possible and try to identify objections that buyers might have when you go to sell. In short, when investing in land, think like a seller because your goal is to sell the parcel, not live on it. When builders purchase land for development, they evaluate it in the context of the property’s appeal in the eyes of the end users (i.e., home buyers or those leasing or purchasing office and retail space).

Rule 6: Do Your Due Diligence
Most of what you need to know about the land parcel cannot be seen. So many issues need to be investigated, including zoning, utilities, surrounding property uses and values, deed and other title restrictions, and the site’s physical features. It’s absolutely critical that the due diligence be performed thoroughly, even if that means you have to hire somebody to do it for you. There are no short cuts here. Incorrect assumptions, bad information and what you don’t know could come back to haunt you.