What You Should Know Before You Choose Wallpaper

Wallpaper varies very in its material content, which helps determine how paper looks and how it handles. Vinyl wallpaper are popular because they are durable, fairly easy to install, and easy to maintain. There are fabric-backed vinyl, paper-backed vinyl, and ones designed to look like a three dimensional surface, such as plaster, granite, or grass cloth, which are suitable for walls that are not perfectly smooth.

Fabric wallpaper are usually made of cotton, linen, or other natural plant fibers, such as grass cloth, hemp, or burlap. Most textiles fray easily and are not washable. Solid paper wall coverings include hand-screened papers, foils, flocked papers with textured patterns, and murals. Both textile and paper wallpapers should be installed by professionals.

To determine how much wallpaper to buy, measure the height and width of each wall using a steel tape measure. Round up to the nearest foot. Multiply the height and width of each wall, and then add the figures together to get the rough square footage. How a room is used will help you determine what wall covers are most suitable. Get a sample or one roll and look at it in the room with your other furnishings or samples.

When it comes to wall-coverings choices, you may want to think outside the box, as they say, and consider new materials as well as traditional materials used in new and different ways. Think about new places to use them, such as decorative tile in the dining room or wood in the bathroom. You may choose an elegant linen or flocked paper for the living room. Either kind of paper texture will add richness to a room.

Fireproof File Cabinet – Choosing One That Suits Your Needs

I still remember it. The flames, the smoke, my neighbor's wife sobbing, tears streaming down her face. Fortunately this family got out safe, they had good insurance to pay for their losses, and close friends to help them recover. However, they lost several irreplaceable photos and difficult to replace documents. Richard, my neighbor, later lamented about the hassles he and Eleanor experienced getting official copies of birth certificates, a new drivers' license, passports and the title to one of his vehicles. He stated that having one form of ID would have helped him immensely.

One of the saddest parts of Richards' experience is that if he would have invested in a fireproof file cabinet, he probably would have had a storage place for those documents, photos and other digital media. I had the opportunity to learn from his oversight and chose to do so.

Fireproof storage does not have to be inconvenient or expensive. Not everybody needs a $ 1,500, 4 drawer lateral file cabinet rated at 6 hours to protect their documents and small valuables. Here are a few economic and practical options that will fit most people's needs and budget.

The most basic is the fireproof file box. This system is ideal for those who only have a handy of documents and sometimes a little jewelry that they want to protect. The file boxes that range in price from $ 50 up to $ 200 are rated up to a half hour at 1550 degrees F, which is sufficient in most house fires. The advantage of these is that they are easily stored and moved. Amazon is a good place to look for these, or if you prefer the retail shopping experience, you can pick one up at Office Depot or Office Max.

The next step up will be the 1 or 2 drawer file cabinet. These are a good choice and may be the answer for those that work from home and need to store several files, or if tax documents are extensive. Unfortunately, there are some low quality products made by some big names. Sentry in particular makes a 1 drawer fireproof cabinet with a poor slide mechanism for the drawer. However, Sentry's 2 drawer 1 hour rated cabinet gets great reviews, including the smooth operation of the drawers. A 1 drawer model will set you back somewhere between $ 150 and $ 300 while 2 drawer models run $ 400 to $ 600.

FireKing is one of the leading names in fireproof document storage and produces UL listed, high quality products. The smallest cabinet they offer is a 2 drawer model. Those interested in enterprise level safe document storage should seriously consider the FireKing line.

While the vast majority of us will not personally experience our place of residence burning down, it is still a possibility. The cost of a fireproof file cabinet is a bargain compared to the loss of those documents that can help you get your life back in order after experiencing such a devastating event.

A Few of Our Favorite Things (That Can Lower Homeowners Insurance Rates)

We all want to get the most bang for our buck, no matter what we're buying. Below you'll find some factors that can affect how much you'll pay for homeowners insurance. Pay attention and you just might save some money on your home insurance policy!

Factors that Affect Your Home Insurance Premium

Get the facts . Start by gathering as much information as you can. Find out what kind of building materials were used in your home. What is the age of the wiring, plumbing and other systems? All of this can effect your home insurance premium. In parts of the country that are susceptible to earthquakes, a masonry home could have a liability, but in areas that are more prone to fires, a masonry home could be an asset.

Geography . Where you live effects your home insurance premium. You will pay more for homeowners insurance if you live in an area prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the states paying the most insurance in recent years are Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

Your neighborhood can also affect your homeowners insurance policy. For example, being close to a fire department may lower your premium. Living in a high crime area will probably raise it.

Is Enough Enough? Many homeowners are under insured. They have not bought enough insurance to cover the replacement value of their home. Many are over insured because they calculated their insurance needs by including the value of the land. Make sure you're ideally insured for the rates you pay.

Personal Articles Floater . You may need to add a personal articles floater to your standard homeowners insurance policy if you have valuable items that exceed your policy limits.

Protect Your Financial Assets . Increased liability coverage is especially important for pool owners. Other urgent items such as trampolines can drive your insurance up by 10% or more.

Consider Your Comfort Level . To some extent, you can determine your deductible level. A higher deductible can significantly lower your monthly premiums. However, you may feel more comfortable paying higher rates just in case disaster strikes. Your best bet is to choose the highest deductible you can afford. But remember, the downside to this is that smaller claims such as broken windows will have to be covered by you, the homeowner.

Embrace Preventive Maintenance . Making repeated claims for minor problems will raise your premium. Consider implementing a regular maintenance schedule for your home. Repairing small problems in a timely manner will help you avoid big losses down the road.

Review and Compare Policies Regularly . It's a good idea to review your homeowners insurance policy regularly and compare it to other policies. As you review your existing policy, you should note any changes to the property that could lower your premium. For example, if you have paid off your mortgage or removed the trampoline and you can provide proof of these changes, your insurance company will lower your premium. Changes in your neighborhood can also reduce rates. For example, if a fire hall has been built next door to you, this will lower your premium.

Pay Off Your Mortgage . If you pay off your mortgage, you will likely see your home insurance premium drop because insurance companies that once you own a property outright you'll take better care of it.

Allowable Discounts . When you start making calls to find the best home insurance coverage, you should know what kinds of discounts you are entitled to. Home security systems and dead bolts will also help you save on your insurance. Here's a list of common discounts:

  • Impact-resistant roofs
  • Noncombustible roofs
  • Burglar, fire, and smoke alarm systems. These can lower your premiums by as much as 5%.
  • Installing smoke detectors in older homes can save you as much as 10% on your policy.
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Home security devices
  • Age of house (companies set their own standard)
  • Premises in good condition (companies set their own standards)
  • Home insured to full replacement cost
  • Good claims history for three years
  • Marking personal property with an identifying number (inspection required)
  • Other policies with same company
  • Senior citizens discount
  • Age and Condition of Home

The age and condition of your home will be considered. Companies can not refuse to insure homes in poor conditions, but they can deny solely because of a home's age or value.

Cost to Replace . Premiums are more expensive for homes with high replacement costs.

Construction Material . The materials a home is constructed of will effect your premium. For example, homes built primarily of brick are less expensive to insure than wood frame homes are.

Plan Ahead for Construction . If you are planning on adding to your home, consider that highly flammable materials such as wood, cost more to insure. If you choose cement or steel-frame construction, it will cost less to insure because it is less likely to be damaged by fire or adverse weather conditions.

Claims History . Companies will charge more if you have made claims in the past. Keep your deductible in mind. It may be less costly in the long run to make the repair yourself instead of filing a claim.

Your Credit Score . Companies may take into account your credit rating to determine your premium. However, a company can not refuse you based solely on your credit rating.

Remove Potential Risks . Check your property for potential risks such as heavy tree limbs. Remove all potential risks.

Watch Out for Crime . Of course you can not stop crime yourself, but you can make yourself less vulnerable. The following precautions can help lower your premium:

  • Have crime prevention officers inspect your home and give you advice on protection.
  • Start a Neighborhood Watch Program. The local police department can help.
  • Install a burglar alarm system.
  • Keep shrubs and trees trimmed around windows and entryways. Overgrown shrubbery is a good hiding place for vandals.
  • Keep the area around your home well-lit.
  • Permanently mark personal property with an identifying number to aid in identification if the item is stolen and then recovered. A good time to do this is while you are doing your home inventory.

Maintain Your Home and Yard . Companies want to avoid losses from injuries or accidents. A cluttered yard and a peeling house could have caused an unsafe home. If your house is peeling, consider repainting. Remove anything from your property that could cause harm. Fix any obvious signs of damage such as rotting boards and sagging screens. Replace damaged roofs. Keep your yard trim and neat.

Multiple Policy Discounts . Many insurance companies will give you a 10% discount if you also buy other insurance from them, such as auto or life.

Get to know these factors that can lower your homeowners insurance premiums – and then put them to work saving money for you!

The Benefits Of uPVC For Your Home Or Office

As far as building materials is concerned, you may have heard of uPVC. But what exactly is it? This article will give you the answer to this question in addition to shedding some light on the benefits of uPVC. After reading this article, you will come to know why local builders go for this material instead of other stuff out there. Read on to know more.

uPVC

Actually, uPVC is a short form of unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, which is commonly known as a high quality rigid PVC. Since it hard but won’t flex, it falls under the category of PVC. The beauty of the product is that it leaves out BPA or phthalates, so it is quite safe. Apart from this, it is safe and stable and can be used to manufacture mouth guards and dental retainers as well.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can enjoy if you go for this material.

Low Maintenance

Windows and doors made from uPVC don’t need to be sealed or painted. As a result, the cost of maintenance is not that much with the passage of time. The reason is that these windows and doors are easy to clean with water and detergent.

Tough And Durable

Due to the durability of the material, it has been used for making sewer and water pipes for more than 100 years. You can get the idea from the fact that vinyl windows that were installed more than two decades back are still in use. Moreover, quality uPVC doors and windows go through different rests for ultraviolet resistance to make sure that they don’t fade in the sun.

Rot Resistant

Unlike other materials, uPVC is not prone to corrosion or rotting as time goes by. So, this is another great benefit of opting for this product instead of many others available in the market.

Thermal Comfort

You know metals are conductive. But uPVC doesn’t fall under this category. Therefore, windows and doors don’t transfer heat. As a result, you can enjoy consistent temperature in your rooms. As a matter of fact, the windows of your rooms will be a lot more efficient provided they are made of this material.

Tilt And Turn

These windows can be opened in two directions in order to allow you benefit from the cross ventilation, which is another great benefit.

Acoustic Insulation

With double glazed doors and windows, you can reduce the noise by up to 70%. So, you can have peace of mind especially if there is a lot of noise outside your house all the time.

Salt Erosion

You won’t have corrosion problem caused by salt-filled air. So, they are an ideal choice as far as coastal properties is concerned.

High Security

As far safety and security is concerned, these windows feature multi-locking systems that provides higher security for your house or office.

Long story short, if you are looking for the best doors and windows for your office or home, we suggest that you give a go to uPVC doors and windows due to the many benefits they offer.

Care for Hardwood Flooring

Maintenance is another thing that hardwood flooring needs. You need to clean and wax the hardwood floor quite often, if you want the shine and the smooth finish to last long enough. This may be particularly difficult if you are a busy person without much help on hands. Hiring a person to get the cleaning done is another expense involved in the maintenance of the hardwood floor. You also need to be extremely careful when you use the hardwood flooring for your home. You can not drag or push any heavy object on the floor since these are not scratch resistant floorings. You will require to be careful when you use these floorings.

You have a huge range to choose from for getting hardwood flooring done in your home. You can choose from the classic oak, chestnut, cedar types of wood to the latest introductions like the bamboo, cork, etc. People have found the new types of woods like the bamboo and cork as very interesting ones. If you are interested in getting a classic flooring done for your home, you should be advised to get an oak or chestnut wood flooring done, since these are known for their very classic looks.

The best thing to do when you are making a decision on floors of your home would be to use a combination of floorings for each room. This way you will be able to use elegance of the hardwood flooring in the main room of your home or the room where you entertain guests. For other rooms you could use stone or the laminate floorings so that you can put your floors to a practical and tough use. You will also not require devoting long time in order to maintain your floorings all the time. Attention will be required to be paid only those floorings, which will require maintenance.

You can shop for the hardwood flooring at any local hardwood and floorings store, you can also browse on the Internet, if you wish to get a better idea of ​​prices and the latest trends in hardwood in the market. You will also be able to find different ways hardwood has been laid on the floors to make it look all the more attractive. There are several chemicals and stuff you will find which have been made to maintain the shine and the look of hardwood, you can use these and find more information regarding the maintenance of hardwood flooring.

Internet can also give you information regarding costs and an idea about efforts required to make hardwood flooring. This way, if you are in the mood of installing a hardwood floor yourself you will find the tips and instructions helpful. Most of the flooring manufacturing companies sell the floorings without including the installation costs. Therefore, you need inquiring about the installation fees if you are going to get a professional help to get the hardwood floors done.

There are different qualities available in hardwood. You should try to buy the best quality that you can afford if you want long term investment in the hardwood flooring. The better the quality of the wood, the longer it is going to last. You will be able to handover not just your home to the generations to come but also the floor which will remain as good and shiny till you maintain them with care and attention.

Hardwood flooring can be your choice if you are looking for longevity and elegance. You will find you have better ambiance for your home than any ordinary flooring provides.

Last Minute Checks Before You Drive to the Airport

Going to the airport for your holiday is exciting and stressful in equal parts. Of course it's a great feeling knowing that you're heading off on a holiday to get away from it all, top up your tan and see somewhere new, but at the same time it's also stressful knowing how much money you've spent, worrying about things going wrong, and having a strict timescale that you absolutely can not miss.

It's crucial then to make sure that you are prepared for this journey and that you've accounted for everything that can go wrong if you want to avoid losing money unnecessarily or being extra stressed. Here we will look at some of the very last minute checks to make before you leave.

Your Car

If you are driving to the airport then it's crucial that your vehicle is fit to get you there and that everything is in working order. Chances are that this will be a medium-long journey, so ensure that your tires are fully pumped up, that you have enough fuel, oil and water. Likewise you should pack certain things in your car with you to help you out in case you do end up stranded. For instance you should always take a first aid kit, and you should take supplies and tools that you could use to repair your car or make life more comfortable should you get stranded.

The Route

Knowing the way to the airport is also rather important to avoid driving lost for ages. Make sure you know the best route and that you are aware of any traffic hold-ups too. If you are concerned about getting to your destination then investing in a sat nav can help a great deal to put your mind at rest and to avoid potential problems. If you do not have a sat nav, then having a navigator in the front with a printed map may help to ensure you do not make any wrong turns.

Parking

You should also have some parking for when you get to the airport if you are going to be driving. Make sure this is booked in advance as well, but also that you know the way there. It's no good knowing where the airport is then struggling to find where you are going to park.

Flights

Before setting off you should double check your flight times and the terminal you need to be at. You can check this using your flight number but it's important that you do as these details can be subject to change. You should do this a little before you leave of course, as waiting may mean it's too late for you to get there for the new time.

Your Files and Documents

Going on holiday normally requires you to show any number of e-tickets, confirmation e-mails and documents for identification (as well as lots of cash and / or travelers' checks of course). If you do not have any of these then it can lead to serious stress when you're out there, so doing a last minute check of everything is important.

Muscle Definition Workout – For a Lean and Chiseled Body

A muscle definition workout involves working on two very important elements:

• Muscle size
• Body fat percentage

Increasing muscle size is important for muscle definition. Working to add definition would be impossible and futile if you do not have enough muscle. Therefore, you should perform strength training exercises and complete as many repetitions as possible pushing your body to its maximum strength to build muscle mass. The higher body fat percentage is just what you do not need. Low intensity fat burning exercises are a must in your muscle definition workout program.

Exercise for a Muscle Definition Workout
There is a dual approach to such a workout program; one, where individuals want to build muscle mass and definition and second, where they only aim at defying the muscles that are already present. Based on the group you identify yourself with you will have to choose exercises. This type of workout includes a combination of Strength training exercises and Cardio exercises. You should train the entire body and not specific muscles. To increase muscle size before you work on muscle definition work with heavier weights and do fewer repetitions.

Superset training is a popular method when it comes to muscle definition workout and help you get the best out of it. They speed up the process of fat burning in the body. It involves repeatedly performing two sets of varying exercises with minimal or no rest between the sets. The minimal breaks prevent the heart rate from dropping and continuing the process of fat burning. Dedicate one day of the week for the different muscles of the body. Circuit training workout programs are also recommended.

Win half the battle by eating right
You can not only rely on a muscle definition workout if you want to sculpt the body muscles. "What you eat" plays a vital role in your efforts to build visible muscles. Like we already stated, muscle definition is consistently related to percentage of fat. Thus, cutting back on the fat content in food is important. Your diet should eliminate or reduce the proportion of saturated fats, sodas, refined sugars and alcohol. Substitute it with fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables and lean meats. Eating the right meals at the right time is also very important. A proper diet in combination with the right fat burning exercises will limit fat accumulation in the body.

Plan your workout program carefully
Working out to add definition to the body muscles and making them clearly visible requires that you workout constantly, do as many sets of exercises with maximum repetitions you can manage, but there should be breaks to separate high intensity workouts in order to give the body rest and time to recuperate. Absence of rest will increase muscle size tremendously giving a beefy and unpleasant look.

Remember to consult your doctor before you implement any changes in your diet or your exercise routine. It will be some time before you achieve the prefect ripped look. Patience and persistence is the key to it. Results will also vary based on your physical condition. Good luck with your training program.

How To Stop Your Dashboard From Cracking

Drivers face many perils associated with heat and direct sunlight but the effect they have on your car can be the most worrisome. From your paint job on the outside to car's interior you're in a constant battle against the invisible yet powerful energy of the sun. These days, online retailers offer a number of advanced products specifically designed for car care and one of these is the car sun shade.

How can a basic car sun shade prevent your dashboard from getting unsightly cracks and crevices? It's really simple actually – a car sun shade will just sit and look pretty all day long. Once you put a sunshade in your windshield it puts put and although it has no mechanical parts and can not move it works hard. It does one big push-up on your windshield which is worth an entire day of protection from harmful ultra violet rays.

One of the most important things you can do for your car is to use a sun shade because it spans the entire width of your car so your dashboard gets the maximum protection. Direct sunlight does not only contain Vitamin D it also consists of harmful UV rays. The moment that UV rays touch any surface it accelerates an object's aging process.

There are several products on the market that condition your dashboard after it has been lying out in the sun, but when that is like putting on a Band-Aid after you get a cut or scrape. The fading process has begun and the aging process has started and there is no amount of surface cream with a high enough SPF value to completely reverse those effects. However, if you keep leaving your dashboard at the mercy of the sun's heat even daily doses of conditioning cream will not be enough to patch up the damage the sun would have caused over time.

The reason that people use a car sun shade, especially the type made from UV-treated material is to ensure that the quality of their dashboard remains untouched. What if there was a way to stop cracks before they happen? Well, that is precisely what a car sun shield proposals.

There is a variety of interior cleaners that are used in car care to restore the luster of interior surfaces but none can take the place of the windshield shade. Many drivers see greater results by using a car sun shade in addition to using cleaning products and protectants for general maintenance.

Secrets of Double Protection From Sun – Porch Retractable Awnings

Retractable awnings have a lot of advantages. There was a time in Europe, USA and other parts of the world, when awnings used to be found in all the houses. Awnings were the only means of keeping homes cool during hot summer days as air conditioning system was not there in the market.

Both fixed and retractable awnings were popular along the mass. Technologies of today's automatic retractable awnings may not be known at that time, but people invented their own methods to fold and unfold their awnings and sunshades for the sake of better usability.

Ancient awnings were not as much useful and advanced as today's sunshades are. However, they could serve the main objectives of awning effectively.

  • Sun protection
  • Rain protection
  • Snow protection
  • Allergen protection

These are the need of all time. Ancient sunshades were made to meet these requirements. Shades used to be weaved by leaves, herbs, straw and logs. Such awnings were good for sun and heat protection. Sometimes a coating of mud or clay was applied over the natural awning to get rain protection.

With advancement of technologies, air conditioning machines came in the market and awnings lost their status. There were several other methods for rain protection and cooling systems that could provide adequate protection from heat. Here, people did the mistake of removing awnings from their homes.

When most people got habituated with air conditioning machines, another problem started. Energy cost began to rise high, high and higher. People started thinking how to cut on energy bill and then they returned to the shelter of awnings once again.

Sunshades effectively lessen energy consumption and help you lower your bills. Customized shades over windows and doors keep the mercury level low inside your home. It has been observed that by installing retractable awnings one can reduce loads from the cooling system efficiently.

The secret of Double Protection – More energy saving

I have never seen two awnings installed over the same window or over the same door. Even I am not sure whatever that will help to lower energy consumption few notches down or not. But, you can indeed get double protection by installing porch awnings.

Porches are the spaces that surround the room. By attaching a shade over the porch you put the first barrier. And then when you install sunshades over the doors and windows, heat waves face a second obstacle.

The result is cooler rooms, reduced load on the cooling system and energy savings.

Type of awning – Does it matter?

Both fixed and retractable sunshades can help you save energy and keep the rooms cool. However, retractable awnings boast a lot of advantages. Since they can be folded as per your requirement you can get following advantages:

Durability: You can fold the shade during harsh weather and protect the awning from possible damages.

Flexibility of use: The shades can be retracted when you do not need them. You may like to remove the shades in the evening and let the cool breeze come in.

Where to look for awnings?

The best way to find awning manufacturers is by asking friends, relatives and neighbors. They can refer you to reputed retractable awning companies in your locality.

Alternately, you can search online for awnings manufacturing companies. Once you find a suitable company, tell them your requirement and get customized awnings crafted for your home.

Types of Pavement Reflectors

Reflectors are materials that are used to reflect light. These are pavement marks that are typically rectangular or dome-shaped, depending on the make. These devices are fixed to the road or pavement surfaces to supplement other road marking such as road lines. But pavement reflectors are used primarily in the streets for the same purpose – to reflect light. However, these marks reflect light coming from the headlights of the passing vehicles. This is the reason why most of these are used for traffic control and safety.

These pavement reflectors are normally not obscured wherever the area is dark or under weather conditions that may affect the visibility of the road such as rains or snowfalls. Reflecting light in the streets can guide the road users in driving, especially during the night. It makes the street and its traffic lanes more visible. But aside from that, such reflectors also have different purposes. They also serve as traffic delineators that serve as effective guides for the drivers as well as the pedestrians.

These type of reflectors can also serve as a traffic control solution. When these reflectors, combined with road reflectors, road lines and marking, are placed in dark areas or in accident, the area can be significantly safer. Reflectors are also used in zones such as the pedestrian crossing zone. Ultimately, these reflectors encourage safe driving conditions.

Different pavement reflectors are available. The different pavement reflector types are used depending on the specific purpose. The different types also have different characteristics to make it suitable for the road users' needs. Such reflectors that are yellow or amber in color are often used to mark the different lanes in the roads with two way traffic. In some areas where fire hydrants are common, blue pavement reflectors indicate the presence of a fire hydrant. Red reflectors indicate the things not to do such as entering a one way street in the wrong direction. White reflectors mark the edge of streets along the side streets. All these different reflectors are placed in strategic areas to make the road users be more aware of the hazards that are present in the area, particularly in the streets.

The placement of road reflectors and its suitability are often accompanied with studies and analysis. This is because road reflectors must satisfy the different factors affecting the area. These factors include weather, temperature, etc. Weather and climate factors can have an effect on the visibility of the marks and the accompanying painted road lines. Also, special types of reflector marks are used in areas where snowfalls are common occurrences. The area and its traffic properties where these road reflectors will be installed must also be considered. This can be a big factor in the installation of the reflectors.

For areas with relatively a low to medium amount of traffic and car volume, road reflectors can be placed on the roads by use of a simple adhesive, normally a butyl pad. But for areas with high traffic volume, the reflectors must use a more adhesive substance. The reflectors are then installed by use of an epoxy. All the different factors of the area to be placed with reflectors are normally combined in the analysis for the pavement reflectors. These marks may be costly and difficult to install. An analysis with all factors considered would ensure that the placement of these marks would be the most cost-effective and at the very least, bringing sufficient changes that can help the road users.

Bridge Out! Consumer-Driven Health Plans will Change How We Get Care

Bridge Out: A road sign you really never want to see. Its appearance in your path means that there has been a failure and that you have to find a new way of getting where you want to go. The rise of consumer-driven health plans indicates that the era of managed care failed to control the increased cost and demand for care and that many things about the way we receive healthcare in the US.

In late August 2006, Wellpoint, one of the nation's largest healthcare insurance providers, has gone on record stating that in 2007 that they will the first insurer to have consumer-driven health plans in all states and for all types of people (from major employers to small groups to individual plans).

"Our customers who choose these consumer-driven products will have new opportunities to lead healthier lives because of this first-of-its-kind national offering," Wellpoint CEO, Larry Glassock

The press release also goes on to share:

"We're empowering consumers through unique and robust online tools and incentives that encourage and reward them for choosing to live healthier lifestyles … Consumers who choose Lumenos will be eligible for intensive preventive care and personal health coaching, as well as smoking cessation and weight management programs. In addition, most consumers will receive financial rewards for completing various wellness programs. "

WOW! That sounds great, right?!?!?! Well, I always read these things and think about what my parents and my in laws know about healthcare / health policy and what they would think.

So for those of you who are not familiar with this new type of health plan, their implementation will produce significant changes in how care is reimbursed. Consumer-driven health plans are designed to shift some of the financial decision-making and responsibility to the individuals who consume healthcare services. Health savings accounts and high deductibles are key components to this new type of health plan. The thought behind all of this is to allow patients to determine how best to spend their healthcare dollars.

If you buy into traditional economic theory as applicable to the healthcare industry, this is not a bad way of trying to control skyrocketing costs. Since the price of services has a direct impact on demand for services, in theory, this type of plan has the potential to reduce duplication of services and unnecessary utilization of higher levels (more expensive) of care. In very simple terms, if patients are required to share some of the financial responsibility of their care, then they are more likely to choose the cheapest, most effective care.

There are at least two very big 'rubs' to this plan. First, in order to be able to make appropriate choices, consumers will need to know the cost of the care. While it seems easy enough, a physician or facilities' billing rate for a service is significantly different than a contracted rate. A a contracted rate or allowable charge is significantly different from the acutal amount paid for services by an insurer or other third party payer. So healthcare consumers will need to understand all of these to be able to make the appropriate choices. Also healthcare providers will need to set up a system to be able to accurately inform the consumer the costs for a service. While this seems easy enough, it becomes increasingly complex when one understands that every, single, solitary insurance plan is different in regards to deductible, copay, contracted rate and reimbursement rate.

Second, in order to be able to chose the cheapest, effective treatment, healthcare consumers will have to know and understand their treatment options. This means that they will need to better understand the science behind their illnesses as well as the science behind the possible treatments. This would be a whole lot easier if we went back to the old world model of having healthcare providers that were able to develop rapport and a trusting patient-provider relationship. In the past, providers were given the time and opportunity to really partner with individuals, understand the complexities of care and develop a truly individualized treatment that best fit the patient / consumer's need. However, in the days of the 15 minute visit, this becomes increasingly difficult to do.

President Bush's recent executive order [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060822-2.html] pushing for many things including transparency of pricing information is an attempt to address the issue of understanding the financial aspects.

However, how do we make sure individuals have the information they need to be able to get the best treatment value? In reality, doctors and healthcare providers, because of their ability to understand and evaluate individual cases and circumstances, are the best resources for helping individuals make these decisions. However, they will likely need to develop new ways of doing this that are cost and time efficient. If healthcare providers do not develop these new ways, consumers / patients will be left to fend for themselves.

If consumers do not adequately educate themselves or access resources / advocates that will assist them, then this plan too is doomed. Costs will not be contained, health will not be preserved and access to appropriate, effective care will continue to be compromised.

Chester – the Hammer of the Welsh

Celts rarely forget, are not quick to forgive. In the early fifteenth century Henry IV waged war on the people of Wales and their king, Owen Glendower. After a campaign that started in 1400 and lasted a dozen years Henry won handily. In victory, vengeance.

Henry vented his rage on the Welsh people with fines and restrictions and impositions that kept them poor and downtrodden for centuries. Mark you, this was only an extension of what Edward I had started at Rhuddlan Castle.

English history books rarely refer to this and, indeed, there is a spectacularly mendacious plaque at Rhuddlan which tells how Edward II greeted the Welsh peace and prosperity. Pig's bum, he did.

My father used to speak of Edward II with respectable bitterness and it took me quite a while to realize that the subjugation of the Welsh had not happened in my father's time but in the twelfth century. My father was always pleased that Rhuddlan castle was slighted in 1648. (A lovely word, it is meant to bash great holes in castle walls so that they can never be used for their original purpose.

Once he had beaten the Welsh Henry IV and his successors kept them caged and supervised from a series of castles many of which had been started by Edward.

One of the key points for the control of the barbaric Welsh tribes was the walled city of Chester which is right on the Welsh border, was called Deva by the Romans and is now one of the most attractive cities in England. Perhaps the most attractive. I am at one with James Boswell who wrote, 'Chester pleases my fancy more than any town I ever saw.'

Until the sixteenth century the good burghers of Chester were encouraged to murder any person of Welsh descent who was found inside the city walls after sunset and were rewarded for the efforts by the sheriff.

The last law preventing the Welsh to be penalized with a smart thumping for being Welsh and being in Chester at night was not repeated until 1958. Note most carefully that date. 1958. Less than 50 years ago. Recent history.

Thus, although I love Chester as a place of serene beauty, I tend to keep my eyes peeled when wandering around after sunset. Perhaps not everyone who lives in Chester has been kept fully informed as to the changes in the law.

The best way to get Chester into perspective is to walk right around the city walls. There is still a lot standing and restoration work continues apace. These walls are Roman with medieval admixtures. Indeed, parts of them might even be older than the Roman occupation.

The Romans enjoyed Chester although it was viewed as a frontier post to protect England against attacks by the ferocious Welsh tribes. For a time it was the headquarters of the Valeria Victrix legion who proud boast was that it was never beaten in combat. Near Eastgate is the largest Roman amphitheater in Britain which could hold as many as 8,000 spectators.

The walls cover a distance of just under four kilometers and give you marvellous views of the city and of the surrounding countryside and the threatening hills owned by the Welsh barbarians over there on the near horizon.

You also see the meandering river Dee which made Chester an important seaport during sailing ship days and exported cheese, candles and salt. When steam came the ships went to Liverpool.

A Roman engineer laid out the streets of Chester sometime around 79 AD. Chester was important then, has been important ever since. For the land surrounding Chester was rich farming land and the wealth from the land and from the seaport was used in the building of the city.

The most obvious aspect of this wealth are the rows. Great galleried galleons of buildings in magnificent black and white. Some ancient dating back to the 13th century; some Victorian conceits that meld in perfectly.

The cathedral is a wonder of 14th century sandstone. The bells call the people to worship with a peal of Bob Major where the lead bell is driven by a carillon, a system unique, I believe, in the world. William Makepeace Thackeray and his wife are buried there.

From the sacred to the bravely profane. Chester Castle dates from the 13th Century – an original Welsh restraining order – but was further modernized by the Victorians so that now only the Agricola Tower is original.

Try if you go to Chester to avoid Saturday when the whole of Cheshire dressed in its best comes to parade the town. A complete people jam. Made worse by the fact that Chester joins the very best buskers in Britain.

Last time I was there I heard a Peruvian Band playing the Andean flutes and a group of dashing young men in white ties and tails playing 42nd Street con brio. Magic stuff but the crowds make it difficult to even walk from the Eastgate to King Charles' Tower.

Weekdays is the time if you want to walk with a guide. They depart at 10.45 am from the Tourist Information Center in the Town Hall. Or you can patrol the walls with a Roman legionnaire. My legionnaire had flaming Welsh red hair and an accent which owed more to Wrexham than Rome but let us not be picky.

If, like me, you prefer more solitaire pleasures early Sunday is the time. The earlier the better. Then you can wander round and see the wonderful architecture without bouncing off people.

If you lose your way and stop to ask for directions explain carefully that you are Australian. It could be a disaster they thought you were Welsh. Old habits die hard.

Get Creative With Special Effect Glass Tiles

With the superb range of new effects, twists on traditional tiles and ranges now mixing up the UK tile market, you really are able to get very creative.

There are no boundaries to your creativity, with tiles in 3D-effect, new colors, unusual texture and stunning colors cutting up the traditional approach to tiling. So think big. Be creative. And let your ideas go and create the stunning, special effects you've only ever dreamed of before now.

Glass tiles can really finish a room so now is the time to take your designs to the next level with the tiles currently available on the market. Here are some tip, ideas and suggestions to get your juices juices and ideas working to the max.

There are new twists on traditional colors and fabulous new palettes of colors now available. However particular you want to be, or even how exactly you want the match between glass tiles and other design Touches in your new room, there will be colors there for you.

Add a real zangy twist of color to your kitchen with outstanding orange mosaic tiles. Zesty shades include aurora orange which will brighten any space and add a touch of wow. There are more oranges available: the bright Bazille orange, Renoir orange and Rodin orange will add a touch of the Impressionists hand to your walls, as if washed with a brush from one of the great artists.

There are also many collections of ripple glass mosaic tiles, as well as tiles which come in Aztec patterns and colors, or glass and stone mosaic tiles in orange, too. You might even consider the latest in new 3D-effect glass mosaics to give a futuristic and stylish finish to your room.

If a stylish and creative finish is the look you want, then do be tempted to add another finish and possibly try metallic glass tiles in mink brown, mocha brown, red copper orange, soft gold, suede brown and taupe brown.

Or why not mix up the mosaics by adding mosaic glass brick tiles in brown and metallic Brown for a glistening, glossy seasonal look. Or take a walk on the wild side with the tiger orange and gazelle brown glass brick mosaic tiles from the Safari collection.

Go on cook up a creative storm of color in your room. There's never been a better time to get really creative, as autumn really is a season that demands a richness and warmth to counteract the crispness of the ever-colder weather and the crunchiness of the falling leaves. So take inspiration from this season, and go create.

How to Lay Seamless Travertine Marble Tile Successfully

Laying a travertine marble tile floor seamlessly (i.e., without grout) is a skill that you can easily develop. Only a little bit of knowledge, a few tools, patience, and diligence are required to complete this job successfully.

There is no need to be intimated by this type of project. After all, if the ancient Romans and Greeks were able to do it, why can’t you?

There are only a few things besides the tile that are required to complete this kind of home improvement job: a thin-set mortar, notched trowel, a level, and a soft rubber mallet. The difficulty level of this do-it-yourself project is considered to be medium or moderate; however,that is due to the fact that some tiles may need to be reset in order to ensure a level plane across the floor.

It Is All In the Preparation

Preparation is key to a seamless installation of this type of natural stone. Ninety-nine percent of all successful home improvement jobs start with proper prepping of the working surface. For any surface–whether it be a floor, countertop, or wall, make the working area as level as possible before you do anything else. Check your work with a level prior to any travertine tile installation.

Application of Thinset On Flooring – Kick It Up A Notch

Working from the middle of the room, use the trowel’s notched edge to apply an even coat of thinset mortar to the flooring surface, spreading it evenly in the area where you will set the travertine. Take your time when doing this in order to avoid ridges and/or air pockets which may cause the tile to settle improperly.

Application of Thinset On Back of Tile – Flat Is Beautiful

Now it is time to use the trowel’s flat side to apply a skim coat thinset to the back of the travertine marble tile. Ensure it is evenly distributed throughout, taking care to coat the edges of the tile.

Apply the Tile With Gentle But Firm Persuasion

Set the tile in place on the floor, applying pressure, and moving it back and forth in all directions to form a good bond and to eliminate any unforeseen trapped air bubbles/pockets.

Then it is time to set the second tile next to the first, lining up the corners, and moving that tile back and forth as you did the first one.

Make sure the tiles are the same height. Using a soft rubber mallet, tap gently on the second travertine marble tile until it abuts the first tile. There should be a tight fit with no gaps.

Keep a Level Head and Get a Level Floor

Lay a level on the tile floor to ensure that tiles are flat and flush. If a tile is too low, remove the tile and add more thinset on the floor. If the opposite is true and the tile is too high, pry up the travertine and remove excessive thinset. Either way, there is a remedy so you can get a level floor by keeping a level head and doing what needs to be done to get the perfectly seamless travertine marble tile floor.

House Painting – Correcting Problems

Buying a home can be a wonderful investment and will likely be one of the largest investments that you will make in your lifetime. If you are buying a home that needs some work done on the outside, you will have to decide if you want to do the work yourself or hire someone to complete it for you.

Many problems can exist with the house painting of a home that you buy. Unless you are well versed in the variety of problems that can exist on an exterior home painting and how to properly correct them, you may want to hire a contracted painter to do the work for you. A contracted painter will be able to thoroughly inspect your house painting to determine if any problems exist. Some problems with your exterior home painting, such as mildew growth, can sometimes be hard to spot. Mildew tends to grow in the shaded, moist parts of your house painting, so it can take some searching to find it. It is a problem that should not be left untreated and a painter can quickly resolve the issue once it has been located. Mildew growth is not the only problem that can occur with your house painting, so unless you are familiar with all of the problems, you are probably better off firing a painter.

Once all preexisting house painting problems with your home have been addressed, your contracted painter can then move on to apply the new exterior home painting. A new house painting can do wonders to the appearance of the outside of your home, making it look new again.