Boston Pizza – Franchise Review

Boston Pizza is a Canadian based restaurant chain that known by various names; Boston’s The Gourmet Pizza, Bo Pi or BP. It owns and franchises locations in Canada, the US as well as Mexico. Founded in Edmonton, Alberta in 1964 by Gus Agioritis, Boston Pizza concentrates on the making of pizza, pasta and ribs. It has its headquarters in Richmond, British Columbia and six years since its inception, it already has 17 locations in Western Canada of which 15 were franchised.

A royal Canadian Mounted Police officer was one of the first franchisees, who in 1968 had noticed the growing popularity of Boston Pizza. After purchasing the rights to open his restaurant in British Columbia, he later partnered with his friend and acquired the company from Ron Coyle, who had bought it from Agioritis. They had 16 restaurants, 15 of which they detached and franchised.

They continued to grow and by 1995 their chain had expanded to 95 restaurants in Western Canada with more sports bars founded as an essential part of the business. The expansion continued with the first Eastern Boston Pizza established in 1998. There are currently more than 325 Boston Pizza restaurants in Canada alone.

The United States version of Boston Pizza is known as Boston’s and the first franchise was established in the U.S in 1998. With its headquarters located in Dallas, Texas, Boston’s Gourmet Pizza became a casual dining restaurant and sports bar in the US serving different varieties of pizza, pasta, sandwiches and other delicious meals. It offers a family eating atmosphere with the sports bar consisting of the local teams memorabilia. It is convenient for a family outing or sporting fans. To date, Boston’s has 54 units in the US and 2 franchises in Mexico.

Boston Pizza got a big financial and business boost when it became the official pizza supplier for Expo 86 in Vancouver. This gave the company exposure enabling it to open 17 more franchises in the next 2 years. It is ranked in the top 100 in the fastest growing franchises as well as in America’s top global franchises.
The total revenue in the year 2007 was $755 million with a total investment of $1.7 million to 3.1 million. The franchise fee is $50,000 with a 5% ongoing royalty fee. In order to qualify as a franchise investor, you should have a net worth of $1.5 million and a cash liquidity requirement of $500,000 and general business experience. A franchised unit needs to be run by at least 7 employees and an absent owner of a franchise is prohibited.

When looking to start any business it is important, particularly considering today’s market, that you look for specific ways to cut minimize or reduce overhead and risk. Any business is going to have risk, but it is important to have a full understanding of the amount of investment, start-up cost and “ROI” (Return on Investment).

Most people are not aware that 80% of ALL franchise endeavours fail in the first two to five years leaving large debts looming for years thereafter.

One way and in my opinion the best way to cut overhead, start-up and investment cost is to take advantage of the new age of entrepreneurship and start a business from the comfort of your home. Opportunities have emerged in the online market that are creating millionaires every single day. Learn more about the exciting opportunities tied to a business model that begins profitable by visiting: http://whatsbetterthanafranchise.com.

Essential Minerals – A Critical Part of Your Body's Requirements

Minerals are inorganic substances which exist naturally in the earth, many of which are critical to the growth and production of bones, teeth, hair, blood, nerves and skin.

These minerals are known as "essential" nutrients, which are: calcium, chromium, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc .

We need significant quantities of essential macrominerals (such as calcium), such that they are typically measured in milligrams, and we require minute quantities of essential trace minerals (such as selenium), which are usually measured in micrograms.

A single mineral does not work in isolation, rather, they are necessary as synergistic elements to support physical health. They work best in association with all other minerals and trace minerals, the way they are found in unrefined whole foods.

Why Essential?

They are essential because they critical for the production of vitamins, enzymes and hormones in the body, as well as proper blood circulation, fluid regulation, nerve transmission, muscle contracting, cellular integrity, and energy production.

These minerals work synergistically with each other and with other nutrients, such that any deficiency or overabundance of any mineral can cause disease.

Essential minerals are found in fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, beans and dairy products, however, most of the soil in which our produce is grown has long been depleted of these nutritive minerals. Commercial fertilizer is well known to contain three primary minerals yet there are hundreds necessary for soil to be as fertilizer as to allow plant life to produce the minerals we need for optimum health.

Therefore, amounts of essential minerals in our produce may vary broadly, depending on local soil content and farming methods.

It is widely believed that organic farming methods preserve and replenish the necessary soil nutrients for healthy levels of these minerals in agricultural produce. Some minerals may be obtained from our water supply, but amounts there are also widely varied and often unknown.

The cooking and processing of food also compromises mineral availability and absorption, where many naturally occurring minerals are removed.

Macro Minerals:

Calcium is the most important mineral to add to our diets, since our bodies can not product it. Calcium, along with magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus and fluoride strengthens the bone.

Although most calcium is found in the bone, the small amount found in the blood is essential to metabolic functions, and when depleted causes the bone's supply to be raised when the diet lacks sufficient calcium to maintain the metabolic process.

The National Institutes of Health recommends 1000-1500 mg of dietary calcium per day. Good sources include dairy products, oysters, salmon, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), broccoli and oranges.

Iron is critical for the delivery of oxygen to the cells, is necessary for the production of energy, necessary for the synthesis of collagen and function of the immune system. Iron is typically deficient only among children and pre-menopausal women, but excess iron is more common in men and post-menopausal women.

Excess amounts adversely affect the immune system, cell growth and the heart. Meat, fish, beans, spinach, molasses, kelp, brewer's yeast, broccoli and seeds. Since iron from plant sources is not as easily absorbed as that from animal sources, vegetarians should supplement with, or eat foods high in, vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.

Magnesium is crucial for maintenance of the acid-alkaline balance in the body, healthy functioning of nerves and muscles, and the activation of enzymes to metabolize blood sugars, proteins and carbohydrates. It is also vital for proper bone growth and necessary for adequate calcium absorption. A 2: 1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is essential for the effectiveness of taking calcium supplements to maintain strong bones.

Magnesium deficiency is considered one of the most under-diagnosed deficits in the US today, suffered by approximately 70% of the US population.

Healing properties of magnesium rich foods include the calming of nervous system functions, mental and emotional imbalances including irritability, depression, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders and PMS. It is also helpful in relaxing the functioning of muscles, reduction in symptoms of migraine, cramps and digestion. The best sources of magnesium are legumes, whole grain, and seeds.

Phosphorus is stored in the bones at typically a 1: 2 ratio to calcium, and is also a component of soft tissue and cells, where it contributes to the body's chemical processes, for example to provide the energy necessary for metabolism.

Zinc is required to support the immune system, protein synthesis, and reproductive health, particularly in men. Deficiencies are common, and can adversely affect the ability to heal, physical growth, nerve health, and the skin.

Amounts of zinc in excess of 100 mg / day or more can have adverse effects such as lower HDL (good) cholesterol and poor copper retention. Sources of zinc include meats, fish, whole grains, brewer's yeast, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds.

Trace Minerals:

Chromium is essential to several enzyme systems, including that which works with insulin in the processing of glucose (sugar). Insulin is necessary in the metabolism of triglycerides (the primary form of fat in the body). Therefore, chromium assists with maintaining triglycerides due to its control of insulin.

Chromium deficiency has been shown to be linked to blood sugar imbalance and improper metabolism. Widespread chromium deficiency is recognized by the US Department of Agriculture as being caused by insufficient food intake but also to excess sugar intake which in turn causes chromium levels to decrease. Chromium toxicity can result from taking levels greater than 800 mcg / day. The only common food source is brewer's yeast.

Copper is important for the health of the cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, liver, skin joint and blood. It is most concentrated in the liver and brain, and a crucible component in the absorption and utilization of iron and zinc.

Any excess of copper or zinc causes the suppression and reduced utilization of the other. Copper deficiencies have been shown to be linked to the inadequate production of the critical antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and to red blood cell deficiency. Copper is easily obtained through whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and shellfish.

Iodine is essential to the function and development of the thyroid gland. Deficiencies result in enlargement of the thyroid, and during pregnancy and infancy can cause brain development and growth issues in the child. The most common source of iodine is table salt.

Any more than 150 mcg / day is possibly a concern for those with thyroid abnormalities, but for most people 1000 mcg / day is a safe limit. However, such amounts may result in breathing difficulties or skin irritations for anyone with sensitivities.

Manganese is critical to the metabolism of bones, and is essential for enzyme reactions, and healthy brain, thyroid, and nervous systems. It is easily lost in processed foods. Deficiency may affect the health of these systems, including cartilage and skeletal formation, normal reproduction, and glucose tolerance. The best sources of manganese are legumes and whole grains.

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant which works in concert with vitamin E to support the operation of antioxidant enzymes, and may reduce the risk of abnormal cell growth, as will many other antioxidants. It supports cardiovascular health and supports the thyroid and nervous system. Thyroid disorders are a growing concern in the US, and obesity and low thyroid are directly related.

Toxic heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, can be bound up with selenium and rendered harmless. Sources of selenium are whole grains and vegetables, and seafood.

The dietary intake should be limited to 200 mcg daily to avoid toxicity. Excess amounts can compromise the enzyme functions and skeletal development in fetuses, and in amounts of as much as 75 / mg / day, it can cause nerve damage, nausea, hair loss and skin abnormalities.

Molybdenum is necessary for the proper function of important enzymes. Deficiencies occur most often in those with metabolic conditions, while excess amounts can cause poor copper retention. Sources include whole grains, beans and dairy products.

Fluoride protects tooth enamel from acid forming bacteria, and strengthens bone and tissue. Sources include fluoridated water, tea, and canned salmon and mackerel (because of the bones processed with the fish).

Non-Essential Trace Minerals:

There are other trace minerals not yet recognized by the health authorities, but which are believed essential for human health such as silicon, arsenic, boron, and vanadium.

Boron has been shown only recently (since the 1980s) to play an important role in the motabolism of other minerals, partcularly calcium and magnesium. It is also believed to play a part in regulating steroid hormones. Sources of boron are nuts, beans, soy, and prunes.

Silicon is involved in the formation of cartilage and skeletal system. It is common in most unrefined produce (grains, vegetables and fruits).

Vanadium has been found to be important for metabolizing fat, and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis. Common sources are vegetables and seafood. Vanadium absorption is typically poor, less than 5% of dietary vanadium is absorbed by the body.

Electrolytes:

Electrolytes are essential to maintaining healthy electrochemical activity. Water, along with sodium, potassium and chloride. Sodium and potassium are positively charged, while chloride is negatively charged. Typically we get plenty of these minerals in our daily diet, but through exercise they are excreted through the sweat glands and must be replenished to avoid serious health risks.

Potassium , along with Sodium , is responsible for the regulation of fluids inside of the cells. Potassium is a crucible for a healthy nervous system in nerve impulses, muscle contracting, and blood pressure. Levels are controlled by water consumption and kidney function.

Deficiencies are not common in healthy people but are common in individuals who use chemical laxatives and diuretics, or who have had excessive vomiting, diarrhea of ​​kidney failure. Symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness, intestinal issues, heart and respiratory problems.

Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, although most abundantly in unprocessed foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables. It is only toxic if taken in excess of 18,000 mg / day.

Working With an Acetylene Torch: The Basics

Acetylene welding, also referred to as “oxy-acetylene” welding, is not only a commonly-used method for welding, but also for cutting. Acetylene gas is created by mixing calcium carbide with water. Calcium carbide is a mixture of lime and coal derivatives that are formed within an industrial furnace at temperatures of approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When acetylene and oxygen are mixed, a flame over 6,000 F is created hot enough to weld or cut just about any type of metal.

Acetylene welding equipment is much more universal than electric welding equipment. It is portable, versatile and less expensive. For those unfamiliar with the operation of an acetylene torch – such as what the proper mixture of acetylene and oxygen should be – it is necessary for someone with experience to instruct them. Working with a welding torch can be very dangerous for those who don’t know what they’re doing. But learning to weld using an oxy-acetylene torch is not difficult.

Basic Equipment

  • Safety gear: Goggles or a face shield as well as a pair of flame-retardant welding gloves are essential before welding.
  • Pressure vessels: Two cylinders are needed: One filled with pressurized acetylene gas and the other with pressurized oxygen.
  • Hoses: Flame and oil resistant rubber hoses rated for a working pressure of 200 pounds per square inch (PSI) are needed. Hoses are usually green in color for oxygen and red for acetylene.
  • Gas pressure regulators: These usually consist of two gauges; one for measuring high pressure – the gas in the cylinder – and the other for measuring low pressure, which is the gas emitted into the hose. The pressure in each cylinder is usually measured by PSI with the pressure flow adjusted using these regulators.
  • Flashback arrestors: Connected between the regulator outlet and the hose, arrestors can also be connected between the hose and the torch. A flashback occurs when a flame rapidly burns within the torch and can then pass back through the hose. This usually happens when the gases are not at the proper flow rates and are slower than the flame speed. Loose connections or leaks can also lead to flashbacks. A flashback arrestor will cut off gas flow should a flashback occur; thus preventing damage to the torch or its operator.
  • Torch: Consists of a handle, mixing chamber and valves to control the flow of oxygen and acetylene. The welding or cutting tip is attached to the end of the torch handle.
  • Striker: This is a metal instrument containing a piece of flint that ignites your torch by creating a spark when manually activated.
  • OperationAlways carefully inspect the equipment before using. Make sure all components are connected correctly and that there are no loose couplings or leaks. Also make sure flashback arrestors are in place and the proper hoses and gauges are connected to the proper gas cylinders.

    Make sure the acetylene tank is kept at a constant pressure of 5 PSI. US regulations suggest to not allow the pressure to exceed 15 PSI and that you keep the oxygen pressure at 10 PSI.

Please remember to NEVER operate a welding torch without proper hands-on training from a professional.

Once the equipment has been checked and the proper nozzle for cutting or welding has been attached, you are ready to start your job. The last step is opening up the acetylene and the oxygen valves, located on the tank and handle of the torch.

10 Most Expensive Tax Mistakes That Cost Real Estate Agents Thousands

Are you satisfied with the amount of taxes you pay? Are you confident that you’re taking advantage of every available tax break? But most of all, is your tax preparer giving you proactive advice to save on your taxes?

The bad news is that you probably do pay too much tax and you’re probably not taking advantage of every tax break. And most preparers do a poor job of actually saving their clients money.

The good news is that you don’t have to feel that way. You just need a better plan. This article reveals some of the biggest tax mistakes that business owners make. Then, it gives brief solutions to actually solve these problems. Please note that this article is designed to be an informational tool only. Before you implement any of these strategies, you should consult a tax professional for more specific guidelines and requirements.

#1: FAILING TO PLAN

The first mistake is the biggest mistake of all. It is failing to plan. It doesn’t matter how good your tax preparer is with your stack of receipts on April 15. If you didn’t know that you could write off your kid’s braces as a business expense, it’s too late to do anything when your taxes are prepared the following year.

Tax coaching is about giving you a plan for minimizing your taxes. What should you do? When should you do it? How should you do it?

And tax coaching offers two more powerful advantages. First, it’s the key to your financial defenses. As a real estate agent, you have two ways to put more cash in your pocket. Financial offense is increasing your income. Financial defense is reducing your expenses. For most agents, taxes are their biggest expense. So it makes sense to focus your financial defense where you spend the most.

And second, tax coaching guarantees results. You can spend all sorts of time, effort and money promoting your business. But that can’t guarantee results. Or you can set up a medical expense reimbursement plan, deduct your daughter’s braces, and guarantee tax savings.

#2: MISUNDERSTANDING AUDIT ODDS

The second big mistake is nearly as important as the first, and that’s fearing, rather than respecting the IRS.

What does the kind of tax planning we’re talking about do to your odds of being audited? The truth is, most experts say it pays to be aggressive. That’s because overall audit odds are so low that most legitimate deductions aren’t likely to wave “red flags.”

Audit rates are actually as low as they’ve ever been for 2008 – the overall audit rate was just one in every 99 returns. Roughly half of those audits targeted the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families. The IRS primarily targets small businesses, especially sole proprietorships, and cash industries like pizza parlors and coin-operated laundromats with opportunities to hide income and skim profits.

#3: TOO MUCH SELF-EMPLOYMENT TAX

If you’re like most business owners, you pay as much in self-employment tax as you do in income tax. If that’s the case, you might consider setting up an “S” corporation or limited liability company to reduce that tax.

If you run your business as a sole proprietor, you’ll report your net income on Schedule C. You’ll pay tax at whatever your personal rate is. But you’ll also pay self-employment tax of 15.3% on your first $106,800 of “net self-employment income” and 2.9% of anything above that in 2010.

Let’s say your profit at the end of the year is $60,000. You’ll pay income tax at your regular tax rate, depending on your total taxable income. But you’ll also pay about $9,200 in self-employment tax. This tax replaces the Social Security and Medicare tax that your employer would pay and withhold if you weren’t self-employed.

An “S” corporation is a special corporation that’s taxed like a partnership. The corporation pays the owners a reasonable wage for the work they do. If there’s any profit left over, it passes through to the shareholders, and the shareholders pay the tax on their own returns. So the “S” corporation splits the owner’s income into two parts, wages and pass-through distributions.

“S” corporations are so attractive because even though you pay the same 15.3% on your wages as you would on your self-employment income, there is no Social Security or self-employment tax due on the dividend pass-through. Let’s say your S corporation earns the same $60,000 as your proprietorship. If you pay yourself $30,000 in wages, you’ll pay about $4,600 in Social Security taxes. But you’ll totally avoid $4,600 in self-employment tax on the $30,000 pass-through distribution.

The “S” corporation takes a little more paperwork to operate than the proprietorship. And you have to pay yourself a reasonable wage for your service. That means something like you’d pay for an outside employee to do the same work. But the IRS is on the lookout for agents who take all their income as pass-through. The reasonable wage for agents varies, depending on the amount of time spent on real estate activities and your location.

#4: WRONG RETIREMENT PLAN

If you want to save more than the current $5,000 limit (additional $1,000 for taxpayers 50 or older) for IRA’s, you have three main choices: Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs), SIMPLE IRAs, or 401ks. Generally, if you have a business retirement plan, it must be offered to all your employees and the calculations for contributions must be applied in the same manner as for yourself or any family employees.

The SEP and SIMPLE IRAs are the easiest plans to set up and administer. There’s no annual administration or paperwork required. Contributions are made directly into employee retirement accounts. For SEP plans, self-employed individuals can contribute up to 25% of your “net self-employment income,” to a maximum of $49,000 for 2010. For SIMPLE IRAs, the maximum contribution for 2010 is $11,500 (50 or older can contribute an extra $2,500 catch-up.) SIMPLE IRAs may be best for part-time or sideline businesses earning less than $40,000. You can also hire your spouse and children, and they can make SEP or SIMPLE contributions.

For even larger retirement contributions not limited to 25% of your self-employment income, consider a 401(k) retirement plan. You can even set up what’s called a “solo” or “individual” 401(k) just for yourself. The 401(k) is a true “qualified” plan. And the 401(k) lets you contribute far more money, far more flexibly, than either the SEP or the SIMPLE. For 2009, you and your employees can “defer” 100% of your income up to $16,500. If you’re 50 or older, you can make an extra $5,500 “catch-up” contribution. You can also choose to match your employees’ contributions, or make profit-sharing contributions up to 25% of their pay. That’s the same percentage you can save in your SEP – on top of the $16,500 or $22,000 deferral, for a total maximum contribution of $49,000 per person in 2010. 401(k)’s are generally more difficult to administer. There are anti-discrimination rules to keep you from stuffing your own account while you stiff your employees. Like SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs, you can still hire your spouse and contribute to their account.

If you’re older and you want to contribute more than the $49,000 limit for SEPs or 401(k)’s, consider a traditional defined benefit pension plan where you can contribute an amount to guarantee up to $195,000 in annual income. Defined benefit plans have required annual contributions. But you can combine a defined benefit plan with a 401(k) or SEP to give yourself a little more flexibility.

#5: MISSING FAMILY EMPLOYMENT

Hiring your children and grandchildren can be a great way to cut taxes on your income by shifting it to someone who pays less.

  • The IRS has upheld deductions for children as young as 7.
  • Their first $5,700 of earned income in 2010 is taxed at zero to the child. That’s because of the standard deduction for a single taxpayer – even if you claim them as your dependent. Their next $8,375 is taxed at just 10%. So, you can shift quite a bit of income downstream.
  • You have to pay them a “reasonable” wage for the service they perform. This is what you would pay a commercial vendor for the same service, with an adjustment made for the child’s age and experience. So, if your 12-year-old son cuts grass for your rental properties, pay him what a landscaping service might charge. If your 15-year-old daughter helps keep your books, pay her a bit less than a bookkeeping service might charge.
  • To audit-proof your return, write out a job description and keep a timesheet.
  • Pay by check so you can document the payment.
  • You have to deposit the check into an account in the child’s name. But the account can be a ROTH IRA, Section 529 college savings plan, or custodial account that you control until they turn 21.
  • If your business is unincorporated, you don’t have to withhold for Social Security until they turn 18. So this really is tax-free money. You’ll have to issue them a W-2 at the end of the year. But this is painless compared to the tax you’ll waste if you don’t take advantage of this strategy.

#6: MISSING MEDICAL EXPENSES

Surveys used to show that taxes were small business owners’ main concern. But now it is skyrocketing health care costs. If you’re self-employed and pay for your own health insurance, you can deduct is as an adjustment to income on Page 1 of Form 1040. If you itemize deductions, you can deduct unreimbursed medical and dental expenses on Schedule A, if they total more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. But most of us don’t spend that much.

But there is a way to write off all your medical bills as business expenses. It’s called a Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan (MERP), or Section 105 Plan. This is an employee benefit plan, which means it requires an employee. If you operate your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or S corporation, you’re considered self-employed and don’t qualify. But if you’re married, you can hire your spouse. If you’re not married, you can do this with a C corporation. But you don’t have to be incorporated. You can do this as a sole proprietor or LLC by hiring your spouse.

The one exception is the S corporation. If you own more than 2% of the stock, you and your spouse are both considered self-employed for purposes of this rule. You’ll need to use another source of income, not taxed as an S corporation, as the basis for this plan.

Let’s say that you are a self-employed real estate agent and you’ve hired your husband. The MERP plan lets you reimburse your employee for all medical and dental expenses he incurs for his entire family -including you as his spouse. All of these expenses qualify for reimbursement: major medical insurance, long-term care coverage, Medicare and Medigap insurance, co-payments, deductibles, prescriptions, dental care, eye care, chiropractic care, orthodontists, fertility treatments, special schools for learning-disabled children, vitamins and herbal supplements, medical supplies and even over-the-counter medicines.

You can reimburse your employee or pay health care providers directly. You will need a written plan document and a method to track your expenses. There’s no special reporting required. You’ll save income tax and self-employment tax.

If you have non-family employees, you have to include them too, but you can exclude employees who are: under age 25, work less than 35 hours per week, work less than nine months per year, or have worked for you less than three years. Non-family employees may make it too expensive to reimburse everyone as generously as you would cover your own family. But, if you’re offering health insurance, you can still use a Section 105 plan to cut your employee benefit cost. You can do it by switching to a high-deductible health plan, and using a Section 105 plan to replace those lost benefits.

For example, a married self-employed agent with two children pays 25% in federal income tax and 15.3% in self-employment tax. A traditional insurance plan was replaced with a high-deductible plan – $5,000 for the family which cut his premium by $7,620. So, even if he hits that $5,000 deductible, he saves $2,620 in premiums. And now, since he deducts his medical costs from his business income, his self-employment tax savings add another $1,156 to his bottom line. He’ll save at least $3,121 in taxes by switching from his traditional healthcare plan to the Section 105 Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan.

If you can’t use a Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan, consider the new Health Savings Accounts. These arrangements combine a high-deductible health plan with a tax-free savings account to cover unreimbursed costs.

To qualify, you’ll need a “high-deductible health plan” with a deductible of at least $1,200 for singles or $2,400 for employees and an out-of-pocket limit of $5,950 for singles or $11,900 for families in 2010. Neither you nor your spouse can be covered by a “non-high deductible health plan” or Medicare. The plan can’t provide any benefit, other than certain preventive care benefits, until the deductible for that year is satisfied. You’re not eligible if you’re covered by a separate plan or rider offering prescription drug benefits before the minimum annual deductible is satisfied.

Once you’ve established your eligibility, you can open a deductible health savings account. You can contribute 100% of your deductible up to $3,050 for singles or $6,150 for families. You can use it for most kinds of health insurance, including COBRA continuation and long-term care plans. You can also use it for the same sort of expenses as a Section 105 plan.

The Health Savings Account isn’t as valuable as the Section 105 plan. You’ve got specific dollar contribution limits, and there’s no self-employment tax advantage. But Health Savings Accounts can still cut your overall health-care costs.

#7: MISSING A HOME OFFICE

If your home office qualifies as your principal place of business, you can deduct a portion of your rent, mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, home maintenance and repairs and utilities. You will also depreciate your home’s basis over 39 years as nonresidential property.

To qualify as your principal place of business, you must (1) use it “exclusively” and “regularly” for administrative or management activities, and (2) have no other fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities of your trade or business. “Regularly” generally means 10-12 hours per week. The space doesn’t have to be an entire room.

Your business use percentage is calculated by either dividing the number of rooms used by the total rooms in the home if they are roughly equal, or by dividing the square feet used by the total square footage in the home. Special rules apply when you sell your sell your home, but the home office deduction is still a very valuable deduction for most agents.

#8: MISSING CAR/TRUCK EXPENSES

If you take the standard mileage deduction for your business, you may be seriously shortchanging yourself. Every year there are various vehicle operating surveys that are published. Costs vary according to how much you drive – but if you’re taking the standard deduction for a car that costs more than 50 cents/mile, you’re losing money every time you turn the key. If you’re taking the standard deduction now, you can switch to the “actual expense” method if you own your car, but not if you lease. You also can’t switch from actual expenses to the standard deduction if you’ve taken accelerated depreciation on the vehicle.

#9: MISSING MEALS & ENTERTAINMENT

The basic rule is that you can deduct the cost of meals with a bona fide business purpose. This means clients, prospects, referral sources, and business colleagues. And how often do you eat with someone who’s not one of those people? For real estate agents and other professionals that market themselves, this might be “never.” Generally, you can deduct 50% of your meals and entertainment as long as it isn’t “lavish or extraordinary.”

You don’t need receipts for business expenses under $75 (except lodging), but you need to record the following information: (1) How much?, (2) When?, (3) Where?, (4) Business Purpose?, and (5) Business Relationship.

You can also deduct entertainment expenses if they take place directly before or after substantial, bona fide discussion directly related to the active conduct of your business. You can deduct the face value of tickets to sporting and theatrical events, food and beverages, parking, taxes and tips.

#10: FAILING TO PLAN

Now that you see how real estate agents like you miss out on any so many tax breaks, you should realize what the biggest mistake of all is – failing to plan. Have you ever heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail?” It’s a cliché because it’s true.

With just a simple investment of your time, you can implement valuable tax-saving strategies that will make a major difference come April 15.

The Laptop Computer – Some Basic Knowledge If You Are a Newbie

Laptop computers are great portable offices, and as technology increases and speeds of computers increase, we are seeing battery life also increase and provide longer usage time with out the need to be “plugged in”. They are more fragile than desktop computers, so they tend to have a much shorter operational lifespan. Why a much shorter operational lifespan? Because you’ll be carrying it around with you from room to room or even country to country so the poor thing is bound to have a few accidents along the way.

Laptop computers generally have two main parts, a display screen housing hinged to a keyboard housing and come in all different weights, sizes, and speeds. They take up less space on the desktop and can easily be moved aside to make room for other endeavors.

Laptops are purchased for personal use, business use, or both and have built-in keyboards with a touchpad or a pointing stick for input and ease of use. Usually they run on a single main battery or from an external AC/DC adapter that charges the battery whilst also supplying power to the computer itself even in the event of a power failure. Inside are components which are similar to their desktop counterparts and perform the same functions, but are miniaturized and optimized for mobile use and efficient power consumption, although typically less powerful for the same price.

Do bear in mind that laptops are generally prized targets of theft, and theft of these can lead to more serious problems such as identity theft from stolen credit card numbers. Being vulnerable to theft means the possible loss of all data contained on them. Also of course, due to their small size and mobility, they are much harder to secure than desktop computers.

Laptop computers generally cost more than desktop computers with the same capabilities because they are more difficult to design and manufacture. Remember, they are great tools for teaching and learning.

Comfortable and useful on vacation, these machines are going everywhere these days. They are very popular information products today as they are light, compact, and convenient to carry around and may store voluminous information. So if you want or need one, then get one! But don’t let it out of your sight or it might just walk. Just use the common sense that you already have.

Seven Risk Factors For Lower Back Pain

SAN RAMON, CA – Low back pain strikes hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most will see their primary medical doctor, who will typically prescribe pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and perhaps muscle relaxants. Some will call their local chiropractor and receive chiropractic treatment. And then some will try to manage their pain on their own.

The medical literature is filled with case studies on low back pain. Why some people develop it, while others don’t is still open to discussion. There are some risk factors associated with low back pain:

1. Obesity, or gradual weight gain in the abdomen

2. Overly sedentary lifestyle

3. History of injury to the low back

4. Type A personality

5. Smoker

6. History of playing sports

7. Long torso

If you are in one or more of these categories, you are at a high risk for developing low back pain. Let’s go over the reasoning:

Obesity— when you stopped growing, around your early 20s your skeleton stopped growing. Your long bones and vertebrae settled at a size sufficient to support a naturally lean body weight. Now, the only way to gain weight after you stop growing is to gain fat, or get pregnant. If fat settles in the abdomen, it moves the center of gravity of your stomach forward and pulls your lower spine forward in the process. The additional weight compresses the cartilage (discs) in your spine, as well as in your hips, knees, and ankles. Over time, it will cause the cartilage to develop cracks. The increased pressure and spinal arc jams the posterior vertebral joints (facet joints) together, making the vertebrae less mobile. This causes muscles around the spine to atrophy, or weaken. End result: low back pain and stiffness.

Overly sedentary lifestyle. Many of those who work at a desk for the most part of the day fall in this category. You need to move your spine frequently in order to keep your spinal discs hydrated and healthy, and to keep your spinal musculature exercised and toned so that it can support your spine from the back, the sides, and the front. Sitting and not exercising leads to weak discs and weak back muscles, which can lead to pain.

History of low back injury. If you hurt your back during high school or college, it may have healed. But healed tissue has scar tissue mixed in. Scar tissue is what your body uses to close broken muscle, tendon and ligament tissue. Scar tissue is not as strong or elastic as normal tissue, so if a previously injured area is subject to a heavy load, or sometimes a sudden movement, it can become re-injured. And this time, since you’re older, it may not heal as fast as before, and may even become chronic (permanent).

Type A personality. This means that you are frequently under stress, are aggressive and are always “on the go.” Type A personalities have a very hard time relaxing. Studies show that this can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. These physiological changes are not conducive to a healthy back.

Smokers. Smoking deprives oxygen delivery to tissues. If your job places a lot of force on your back, the cells that make up your discs, muscles, ligaments and tendons need oxygen, as their metabolic rate increases. Limited oxygen will make these structures prone to injury. Also, cigarette smoke contains at least ten known carcinogens.

History of playing sports. Not much surprise here. Any sport that requires jumping and landing will put a tremendous shock to the spine. The spine IS designed to handle such activity, but only so much. 4-6 years of this can overcome the body’s engineering and cause a breakdown in cartilage and bone.

Long torso. Individuals with long upper bodies are often more prone to low back pain. The reason being is that a long torso means a long spine. With the head at the end of the spine (a 10-12 pound weight) a lever-arm is created. Gravity tends to pull the head forward, so if you have a long torso, more force (bigger lever arm) is going to be required from your lower back muscles to stand or sit erect. To help visualize this, picture holding up a a stick with a 10 pound shot put attached to the end, then tilting it forward slightly. You will notice the force required to keep it up. Now, picture holding a broomstick length stick with a 10 pound shotput attached– you won’t be able to keep it up, due to the much larger force created.

If you are aware of these risk factors, you can take immediate steps to help reduce your chances of developing lower back pain.

Dan Perez, DC

Homecoming Mums History Q & A

There are some long standing traditions that are unique to Texas football, and even more so, the fans. Take, for example, the high school homecoming mum. What is a homecoming mum? You may be thinking that the Homecoming Queen simply goes by another name in the South, or that her mother also plays a role in the festivities. Homecoming Queen and Homecoming Mum…would make sense. However, a mum refers to a unique flower collage that is deeply rooted in Texas football history.

This homecoming mum tradition has been alive for many years. So many years, that many Teens are unaware of the actual details that are responsible for the beginning. However, agreement surrounds the idea that Homecoming mums are a vital part of football season, and young girls look forward to the day that they will receive their first homecoming mum.

HISTORY:

The first homecoming mums were given in the early 1930’s at high school homecoming football games across Texas. Boys offered real chrysanthemum flowers to their dates in the form of a corsage. A chrysanthemum is a very large, rare, and beautiful flower, and to receive one was a sure sign of flattery as well as an unusual circumstance in those times.  Even early on, girls competed with one another to receive mums, as they were given out in limited quantities.  Mums were a sign of popularity, so girls that received mums confirmed their social status. 

The styles and variety has evolved as silk flowers became available and concerns over wilting flowers dicipated.  The hefty silk mums could withstand hot glue, heavy attachments, and much more, so the addition of ribbons, streamers, stickers, and more became a way to personalize a mum for a special girl.  The desire to include special details- info on the student, the activities they are involved in, school colors, etc. created a unique masterpiece that could be saved as a special high school memory.  With this, the mums became bigger and better all of the time, and the desire for a custom homecoming mum became commonplace. 

Understanding the Trend Today:

Most Texans are familiar with this tradition.  However, if you’re recently relocated to Texas, or have found yourself examining this tradition in a new light, you may be wondering if, or why, you (or your son) may be pressured to reciprocate in this tradition.  The following topics are intended to shed some light on current homecoming practices.

Who should give/receive a mum?

With high school students today, mums are typically given from a boy to a girl when they are attending the homecoming game or dance together (friends included), or if a boy simply wants to impress a girl for any reason. Today, girls often reciprocate with a male version of the mum, called a “garter”, which is worn on the arm of the young man.  It is much smaller than the homecoming mum.  Know that, if you plan to give a homecoming mum, you will very likely be receiving a garter in return. 

Many high school students view the mum as imperative to their homecoming attire, and some students would prefer to stay home than attend the game than attend without one.  Remember, going “mum-less” can be viewed by the cruel high school crowds as an indicator of social status.  So, for this reason, mothers and friends (whether boys or girls) often give homecoming mums as well.  

Girl can choose to receive a mum from anyone she chooses, and can even accept multiple mums.  Homecoming queens are often photographed wearing several homecoming mums, as she would be expected to receive five, six, or even seven based on her social status.  However, girls can also decline a mum in the same way they may reject a date.

Elementary and junior high aged students, parents of football players, allumni, and teachers may also wear homecoming mums to show team spirit, and excitement for the festivities.

When do people wear homecoming mums?

Students typically begin wearing homecoming mums the Friday before their high school football game. All schools are different, but most students wear them only on the day before the game. Students also typically wear homecoming mums during the football game AND after to their homecoming formal dance.  If you are new to Texas, check with a friend on the common practices in your community.

I want to impress my date. How should I go about purchasing a mum?

The current trends include ribbons (over 3 feet long) which graze the knee, and often include loud noise makers such as whistles and cow bells to use during the football game. More importantly, they includes important information about the student who receives it. For example, a custom mum (and one that a girl would like) might include her name, school name, or graduation year. Extra details would likely describe any “extra curricular” activities that she, and her date, are involved in.

Essentially, this is a keepsake that provides a snap shot of exactly where these two people are at during that one week of their high school life. If a couple is attending as friends, the mum could include general information and be of medium size. Hearts and other romantic details should be kept off so neither party gets the wrong impression from the event. On the other hand, it is fair game to go all out with the above details and any additional important details for a serious high school couple. Keep in mind, most girls save them afterwards, and pack them away as a memory along with high school year books.  She will notice if her mum was “mass produced” at a local grocery store or flower shop just as she will appreciate any personalized details.

What else should I know?

A homecoming mum can weigh as much as 12 pounds or more! Wow!  Often girls take mums off part way through the school day because they are so heavy, and exhausting, to wear!

The only real “down” side to homecoming mums is that the traditional materials that are used can fall apart. The traditional gift ribbons and metallic stickers can suffer adrenalin shock after being worn through crowded hallways and in the stands at the game. Consider how long you (or your date) would like the streamers to be so that the mum is functional and comfortable. Any bent or creased ribbons can take away from the appearance after the game is over, and, years later, your memory may not hold up.

Vertigo Dizziness Caused By Sinus Pressure Alone

Vertigo is NO fun at all. It’s like being on a nightmarish ride you didn’t ask to go on, and one you can’t get off of.

Sinusitis is usually blamed for vertigo, but inflammation of the para nasal sinuses, due to infection, allergy or a result of autoimmune diseases is NOT the only cause.

Most of the cases of sinusitis are caused, due to viral infection and take about 10 days to heal completely. Depending on the duration, sinusitis can either be acute, sub-acute or chronic.

The interconnected cavities or small air pockets in the facial structure are known as sinuses. These air pockets are found around the nose, the forehead and cheeks.

There are four pairs of sinuses, and are lined inside the cavities and have a protective mucous membrane. So much of the information about vertigo is linked to a sinus “infection.”

Light-Headness and Sinus Pressure Vertigo

Allergies are the most common cause of sinusitis, which further leads to pressure build up and dizziness. The human body consists of many complex systems. It’s the interactions between different systems, that help us to maintain our sense of balance.

The eyes capture different images, they are exposed to, while the inner ear takes care of monitoring our directions and movements. It’s the joints and muscle sensors that gauge the parts of the body which are in motion.

The central nervous system acts like a supervisor, and makes all the other systems work. When any one of the systems face a problem, it can cause vertigo.

Usually, when a person suffers from a sinus infection, it leads to sinus pressure build up in the inner ear, or congestion in the inner ear, causing normal air flow to be disrupted.

This causes the connection to the brain to be disrupted as well. The pressure builds up in the back of the eyes, the roof of the mouth and the inner ear.

Since there’s pressure on the inner ear, the brain processes are not able to ensure normal balance. The person loses equilibrium and becomes off-balance, causing dizziness.

Sinus infection and vertigo go together.

In a respiratory tract infection, if the bacteria or viruses attach themselves to the mucus lining of the sinuses, it may spread to the ear tube and cause an ear infection.

How to Relieve Sinus Pressure and Vertigo:

One remedy for sinus pressure relief is to warm a soft cloth on a hot griddle and apply it to the ear.

A hot shower will also help in draining the mucus, that’s blocking the sinuses and relieve ear pressure. Try to avoid being in a room with cool air.

Taking steam is one of the simplest and the easiest way to relieve sinus. Adding eucalyptus oil or menthol oil will help in getting rid of sinus infection rather faster. One can take steam two to three times in a day for faster relief.

My favorite method helps in clearing up nasal congestion. Saline water has to be passed through the nasal openings for the same. I use a Neti-Pot.

Eating spicy food is known to relieve sinus pressure. Once a person eats spicy food, clogged sinuses will open up and mucus will drain out. Adding ginger, garlic, dried lemon etc. in your diet will also work towards relieving sinus pressure.

When you’re suffering from sinuses, one of the home remedies is to increase the intake of fluids. This helps in diluting mucus and eases pressure on the inner ear.

Having the right sleeping position will not only help in relieving sinus pressure, but will also help in avoiding vertigo. Sleep with your head on an elevation.

If you normally sleep with your head on a pillow, you may want to make use of two pillows.

If you have been suffering from these problems for some time, then you may not want to talk to your health care professional immediately.

Although there is a close relation between sinusitis and vertigo, there are other reasons, which may also cause dizziness. You may want to talk to your health care professional and rule out any other cause of the problem.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, “Sinusitis is a common condition that affects millions of people across the world. Estimated to be as many as 35 million Americans suffer from this disease at that it accounts for at least $2.4 billion in direct medical costs alone.”

Sinus problems can cause a number of symptoms and adverse affects on the body like head pain, a persistent cough and vertigo.

The sinuses purpose is to catch any unwanted airborne particles from entering the lungs. The sinuses are very temporal and can be irritated by change in humidity, allergies or the common cold.

This is what I experience. The change in humidity… specifically a lowering in humidity. Dry air is NOT My friend!

When the sinus cavity is inflamed, it swells to its maximum capacity, preventing normal air flow and abnormal amounts of pressure to build up in and around the sinuses.

This is what has caused my equilibrium to become off-balance, causing vertigo.

To properly treat vertigo caused by sinus pressure, a person first must deal with the sinus issue. If the sinuses are infected, you need to kill the infection.

If the sinuses are simply irritated, an over-the-counter decongestant will help calm the swelling and irritation. Vertigo is no fun, but won’t last if you keep the sinus swelling down.

My recommendation for “drainage of the sinuses or no drainage,” is still to use the Neti-Pot and decongestant, to keep the swelling down.

You may still have some vertigo, but it will go away in 3-5 days if your sinuses are better.

How to Clean Up Water Damage

Depending on the amount of water and amount of damage the water has caused usually determines weather or not you should attempt to clean it up yourself or call in a professionals like Ramp Construction, E&M Restorations or a Restoration of NJ to handle the clean-up. They would bill your Insurance Company directly.

The biggest danger is the mold spores that are present everywhere. They need one thing to start to grow and that is water. So if you have a large amount of contents that have been damaged you may want to contact a professional. Depending on how the water damage occurred, it may be covered by insurance. Water Damage Clean-up is a serious matter and unless it’s a small amount you should contact your Insurance Company. If it’s not properly cleaned up you can have a much larger problem on your hands. Mold.

First thing you want to do is obvious, find the cause of the leak and put a stop to it. If your not sure where the water is leaking from, turn off the main. Everyone should make themselves familiar with the location of their main shut-off value. Once you have stopped the water leak there may be left over water that will continue to leak awhile after you have shut the water off. If it’s forming a “belly” in your drywall ceiling, you can poke holes into the water damaged drywall to drain the water. Next you want to turn off the power to the effected area.

Now that you have stopped the water from leaking, you want to minimum the amount of water damage.

1st Move out any contents you can and raise furniture up onto blocks to prevent the furniture from being drawn up the furniture.

2nd Depending on the amount of water, either set a pump into the water with a hose running outside or to a drain. If it’s not that much water you can start to shop-vac the water up.

3rd Any carpets and padding that have been damage must be cut out and disposed of.

4th Any baseboards or drywall that was damaged should be cut out, if there is insulation behind the wall that must be removed.

5th You want to start drying out the structure, for that you want to use air movers or fans to start the water to evaporate into the air.

6th Set up dehumidifiers to remove the water from the air.

7th Spray a mildacide to prevent mold growth from starting, this is why time is of the essence, mold will start to grow with-in 24 to 48 hours after a water loss.

8th Evaluate the damage to your home and make a decision to call your Insurance Company or make the repairs yourself.

How to Swap an H22 Into a CRX Chassis Using a Hasport Mount Kit

This can be a rather difficult swap if attempting it without any instructions or guidance. However, these step-by-step directions can make it a breeze. An H22 engine in an 88-91 civic or CRX chassis exaggerates the old power to weight ratio theory for unbelievable acceleration.

Let’s begin with assuming you have already removed the stock engine. We will start this engine swap by prepping the engine bay. The first step is to remove the passenger side transmission mount bracket that is welded to the frame. It will require the use of a drill with a large drill bit or spot weld drill bit to drill through the factory welds and remove this bracket from the framerail. After removal, use a grinder or similar tool to smooth the framerail of any debris or sharp spots left from the drill.

Next, bolt the passenger side transmission bracket that is included in the Hasport mount kit to the passenger side framerail using the 12mm battery tray bolts and factory threaded holes. You will need to use a sharpie or other marker to trace the outline of this bracket on the framerail. Remove the bracket and grind or sand the paint from the area you traced to prep it for welding.

Bolt the bracket back into place and stitch weld the bracket onto the frame rail. Be careful to fully penetrate the weld, but not burn through the factory frame rail. After the area has cooled, spray primer over the exposed welds and apply your color choice paint over the primed area to prevent corrosion.

Next comes the tricky part. The factory F/H series transmissions are very large and will require some modification to the lower portion of the rail below your newly installed bracket. It is easiest if you lift the engine partially into place to see what area needs to be cut. After cutting enough clearance, you will need to fabricate a brace out of sheet metal or similar material to properly reinforce the frame rail. This can be skipped, but be advised!

Now, some fun stuff. You will have by this time already gotten over the fright of cutting into your car, so this will be a breeze. Use a medium sized sledge hammer and put a large dent in the upper portion of the firewall to make room for the huge H22 intake manifold. It may help to partially lift the engine into place to get an idea where to “put” this dent.

Bolt the rear Hasport Mount onto the lower crossmember using the supplied hardware included with the Hasport Mount Kit. On the timing belt side of your new H22 engine, remove the timing belt covers and unbolt the factory engine mount bracket. Bolt the new Hasport motor mount bracket into place and reinstall the factory timing covers. The covers may need slight trimming to clear the billet hasport mount bracket.

Remove the H22 transmission vehicle speed sensor and replace with your factory 88-91 civic / crx cable driven speed sensor. This should be a direct fit into place. Bolt the Hasport cable to hydro conversion lever assembly onto your H22 transmission. Due to the large size of the H22 engine, you will need to either shave the outer power steering pulley, or install an under-drive style crankshaft pulley that does not have a power steering groove.

Bolt the included Hasport alternator bracket onto your h22 engine using the hardware supplied with the Hasport H22 mount kit. Then bolt your factory D series alternator bracket to the Hasport alternator bracket. You may need to slightly bend your dipstick tube for clearance. Using the remaining factory hardware, bolt your stock D series alternator “upside down” onto your H22 engine. For easier installation into the engine bay, you can wait until the engine is installed to bolt on the alternator.

Now comes the fun part. The easiest way to install an H22 engine using a Hasport Mount Kit is from the bottom. You will need to lift the car up on a hoist and “lower” it down onto the engine. When the engine is nearly in place, bolt the rear engine “L” bracket into place using just the two upper bolts. Leave the two lower bolts for the rear bracket out until the other mounts are bolted in. You can now bolt the timing belt side mount into place, followed by the transmission mount. Only hand tighten these for now. Go back to the rear bracket that bolts the engine to the rear mount and install the two lower bolts. Now tighten all of the engine mount bolts to factory specs.

For wiring, you will need to modify your stock engine harness to fit the Prelude engine. For simplicity, a new custom wiring harness can be also purchased. The axles you will need to use are custom made by Hasport and are to be installed using the H22 intermediate shaft.

55 Creative Entertainment Ideas For Your Next Event Or Meeting

1. Hire a comedian who can poke some fun at your CEO, do an impersonation of him, or even make light of your industry as a whole.

2. Hire a magician that can incorporate your sales message into his magic, or cut your CEO or receptionist in half. He might even be able to vanish the CEO, much to the delight of the employees.

3. Book a vocal improvisation group to take requests and spin them into a funny performance.

4. Have a musician write a song about your company and play it at the event.

5. Hire a celebrity impersonator to come to the event and sign autographs and take pictures with guests.

6. Book a caricature artist to draw personalized sketches of each employee at the company. These are fun souvenirs as well.

7. Book a digital caricature artist who composes his or her photos digitally on a computer right in front of your eyes. They can even personalize the backdrop to reflect the company

or event. This is a great souvenir for the guests to take home.

8. Book a balloon artist that makes the life size figures such as Disney characters, scenery like palm trees, huge company logos, and more. The balloon artist can do these figures with everyone watching making it an experience to watch the balloons being put together.

9. How about a strolling juggler who can mingle through the cocktail hour.

10. Book a stilt walker to make a big announcement for your company at an annual conference or meeting. It is a fun and guaranteed way to get everyone’s attention.

11. A clown is a great option for events with children or families. There are also evil clowns for events with no kids or around Halloween.

12. Book a palm reader to make psychic predictions about the future of the company or to tell people’s fortunes.

13. Hire a reality TV star to interact with guests. They are far less money than big time Hollywood celebrities.

14. Book a tribute band to play the songs of an artist that is popular among the guests.

15. An a cappella group can perform on stage or stroll through the event during a cocktail hour or dinner.

16. Hire a symphony orchestra to play at the event. You will need to consider space requirements for this type of an act.

17. You could have a mime act out a corporate message to employees or event customers.

18. Book a DJ to play only requested songs or songs from a certain era such as the 80’s

19. Break dancers can be lots of fun. They are generally young, hip, and add a sense of youth to an event.

20. How about a mariachi band for some festive music.

21. A steel drum band can be a nice addition to a high end gala event.

22. Booking a fire eater can be a great way to kick off the launch of a hot new product or service.

23. Carolers can be nice addition to any holiday event.

24. A living statue can be a great idea for almost any event. Make sure you ask for a living statue that matches closely to the theme of your event or meeting.

25. Booking a cirque act is a great idea when the event needs something remarkable or to get a buzz going. Make sure you can accommodate for the space some of the cirque acts require.

26. A snake charmer is a unique way break up a meeting or attract a crowd at an event.

27. Hire a mentalist to read the minds of the guests. This is creative way that the performer can interact with the audience.

28. How about an ice sculptor who can sculpt the company logo or a corporate message live while people watch it being carved.

29. Acrobats provide a lively addition to an event.

30. Singing waiters are an a cappella group dressed as formal waiters. This catches guests off guard and is an offbeat way to infuse entertainment into the dining experience.

31. Ballroom dancers can be popular with all the dance themed TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and others.

32. A barbershop quartet is an a cappella group where all the members wear red and white costumes, similar to that of a barbershop pole. This has a nostalgic feel to it.

33. Dueling pianos are a fantastic way to get the audience involved with nonstop entertainment

34. You could have your employees put on the entertainment by having a talent show and getting everyone in the company involved including the CEO. You will want to record this so everyone can watch it later on, or you may even want to send them all home with a copy, or mail it to them afterwards. You could also post them on YouTube for all to comment on.

35. A marching band can be an official way to introduce somebody special at the event. It can also be a way of showing that the company does not take themselves too seriously if they book a fun themed marching band.

36. Book the 60 second novelist. He comes with his own table and a manual typewriter and asks guests a few questions to get a sense of who they are, and he types out a short life story in one minute. He even binds it so guests can take it home. The story is funny, imaginative and true. This is a fun way to get people to open up and share their stories and get to know each other.

37. Face painters are a neat way to entertain the younger kids.

38. A choir can be a nice way to make a grandiose statement.

39. How about an opera singer for a classy event or gala.

40. A graffiti artist that can create a painting of someone or something with a large crowd watching. Some artists do this type of thing super fast, making it intriguing to watch.

41. Book hula dancers to mingle on the dance floor with guests.

42. How about Polynesian dancers to inject a unique culture into the event.

43. A ventriloquist can be a great entertainment choice that can play well for kids or adults depending on the performer.

44. Hire a dynamic storyteller who can weave a message about the goal of the event or meeting.

45. An escape artist is a dramatic way to convey messages such as, escaping or breaking free of limiting beliefs and constraints. This can be a nice way to motivate employees to achieve a goal.

46. Booking a hypnotist can provide a serious element or a comedic one.

47. A rapper could perform a comedic rap specifically written about the company. Some rappers can even improvise this on the spot.

48. A puppeteer is another option for younger children to keep them entertained.

49. Hire a sword swallower to attract the crowd or if it fits into the theme.

50. You can always hire a real Hollywood celebrity to attract the attention and buzz you need or try booking a couple of smaller celebrities to make better use of your funds and get more celebrity drawing power.

51. You might want to book a political impersonator that is popular such as Sarah Palin or Barack Obama.

52. A harpist can add a light musical touch without loud music. This would be nice for a laid back, high end atmosphere.

53. How about having multiple celebrity tribute artists on stage performing a bunch of hits songs from the various artists they impersonate.

54. Have a stage where different executives from the company do karaoke for a variety of songs.

55. Finally, the best way to guarantee a creative entertainment experience is to have the performer or performers customize their acts to your event or meeting. This creates a memorable experience guests are sure to remember for a long time.

Are You Hearing Running Crying Chewing Noises in Your Attic? You Could Have a Raccoon in Your Attic

If you are hearing noises in your attic such as running, crying and or growling you could have a raccoon or raccoons with babies in your attic or soffet area. If you do have raccoons in your home you will know it, they will drive you nuts! It is baby season for raccoons. There are humane ways remove Raccoons and their babies from your home.

First, let’s address the age old question.” How do I know if I have a raccoon problem?” There are many telltale signs to knowing that you have a raccoon in your home.

  • You know the sound your dog makes when it scampers across your hardwood floors? Well put that noise above your head in your bedroom and that’s the sound a grown raccoon makes when he’s running through your attic. Now the problem is,is that you only start hearing that noise when the raccoon or raccoons have been there for a while and have stomped your insulation down enough that they are now walking on your rafters.
  • Especially this time of year you will hear what sounds like a dog fight going on up there. This is because when the female raccoon is getting ready to have her young she kicks the male out. The reason being that the male has absolutely no attachment to the babies and will eat them. Some new females have been known to do the same. On the whole, female raccoons are very good moms and will do anything to protect their young. Anyway once the fight is over don’t think they are gone he is she’s not. She might go out for one more feed before she stays in for almost a week. In that time you could hear panting or moaning in the first night after that she will stay in nurse and keep them warm and safe as the male might still be lurking around she will clean the kitts (babies) and eat the placenta. One for nourishment, two as too not draw her male or any others to the blood and her babies. After a week of no water and crying babies she’s had enough. She’ll leave and you’ll hear her leave as she doesn’t care if you hear her any more. Like any woman after having a baby she needs a break and a drink. Problem being that till now YOU haven’t heard the babies crying. NOW YOU WILL AND THEY WON’T STOP TILL SHE COMES BACK AND NURSES THEM!!!!!! Believe me she takes her time coming back. Then she will leave them for a few hours every night while she goes hunting for food and they will cry the entire time. The other problem being that she usually picks the quietest part of your home to have them which is above your bedroom. So when she goes out you’ll stay up.
  • You will see the male sitting on your roof or back porch just hanging around he is looking for a new place to live as he has lost his usefulness. He doesn’t like to work very hard. He’ll look to your shed, deck or neighbour’s house as a place to go.
  • Where the female raccoons are sneaky and usually have more than one hole, one you can see and one or two escape holes. The male will simply go on your roof and rip your roof vent off and walk in.
  • A raccoon’s favorite entry area is where the roof and the soffet meet. All they have to do is push on the siding and they are in. They then use it like a door.
  • Raccoons will also be found in chimneys, especially in the older houses. This is because in the older houses they ruffed in fireplaces on each floor to let the main fireplace heat the rest of the home. This is the perfect apartment for a female raccoon. It’s a nice warm cubby-hole that is really hard for us to get at. That is until the babies start moving around. Then they all end up sitting on the flu. If you have noticed a dirty cat fishing smell in your fireplace area that’s why. DON’T START A FIRE AND THINK THAT, THAT IS GOING TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM! All that will do is make momma mad she will get as many of the babies up to the cubby space as she can and you won’t get her out. All you will have accomplished is smoking out your entire house with that wonderful dirty cat fishy smell. Your wife will end up kicking you out.

Trapping takes that raccoon away but doesn’t prevent other raccoons from moving in. The reason that fact is SO important is that female raccoons are very clean. They have their babies above your bedroom and they will do their business above your bathroom. That’s why when you turn on your bathroom fan you might also smell dirty fishy cat. When she is looking for a male she will do her business on the roof. She will draw any males that are near. Problem being that, that sent never goes away unless disinfected properly. So you can live trap all you want but it isn’t going to solve your problem in the long run. If you have known anyone that has had a raccoon problem and thought they solved it themselves by buying a trap. They’ll say “Yah trapped a couple of raccoons last year now I got them back again.”. They don’t have the same raccoons back. What they have are the males come looking for the females, or the babies that were born there coming to have their own babies.

Second question “How do I get rid of the Raccoons in my attic? The best most effective way to remove raccoons from your attic is the following:

  • Make a one-way-door to fit the main hole of the raccoons layer. Use Plexiglas so that the raccoon can see out and will go out. Once she is out the heavy duty spring on the door will slam the door shut. Due to the way the door is made the raccoon won’t be able to open it to get back in.
  • Properly seal up any other holes and or areas that she might get back in through.
  • Cap your vents and chimneys. Which means secure your vents including plumbing stacks at the base with heavy gauge mesh that they can’t penetrate but still allows the vents and chimney to work properly.
  • Once momma’s out go into the attic and find the babies if there are any. There are usually anywhere from 2 to 6. Then place them and their nest of insulation outside where she can take them to their new home. This all has to be done right. Don’t think that by reading this you can follow these instructions and do it yourself. Well you can but you will end up calling me to fix the job! If you don’t do it right she could get spooked and move the babies. The babies could fall down into the wall. You will then have at best three days to find those babies before they die in your walls. Then you want to see an angry animal watch out. Momma will rip the siding right off the side of your house to get at them!
  • Once the raccoon and her babies are out you will access the damage that your unwanted tenants have caused. Problem being while the female is very clean. The male and babies aren’t. When momma goes out the babies will chew on whatever is available,wiring, rafters. They teethe just like real babies. They also poop like real babies, everywhere. So we check to make sure that your wiring is intact. That there is no structural damage and that the insulation hasn’t been to badly stomped.
  • If everything checks out you will disinfect the attic area to remove the female scent and odour. So that you won’t have any other visitors.
  • If insulation is damaged it will need to be removed, disinfected and replaced with blown in R75 insulation. The raccoons don’t like it. You will when you get your next heating bill.

I can’t stress enough to leave the entire process to the professionals. It isn’t as easy as it sounds and your always run the risk of another raccoon hiding in the rafters. Females will nest together. This will give you a guideline as to what a professional should do. So that you can make an informed discussion when hiring an Animal Removal Company to help you with your problem.

Steel Grillages, a Foundation Technique Used to Support Structures

A Steel grillage is a foundation technique that is often used to support towers, gantries, signs, overhead line electrification (OLE) masts and similar structures. Depending on the size and weight of the structure being supported, a traditional foundation of this type (sometimes called a floating foundation) is a large box-like structure, not unlike the mesh cages used to reinforce concrete structures.

A steel grillage is placed on several screwpiles – typically between four and eight depending on the overlying structure. Using this system, construction time has been reduced by over half the time; with one lighting column being able to be installed in under an hour. It is fast to install and is a foundation formed with better technology and innovative designs. This technology can be applied to many structures that have a high turning moment and that need to been installed quickly and cost-effectively.

How Grillages work

Where reinforcement is usually created by surrounding the structure with a concrete base, here, a steel grillage (which is a rigid construction that’s placed at sufficient depth below ground that the weight of soil removed to input the grillage equals it in weight) can be used in replacement.

Increasingly, for structures such as road signs or railway gantries, grillages have been designed to consist of one or more steel beams (an interface) mounted on underlying helical piles to give extra support. The fast installation and the fact that the grillage is fabricated off-site make this a very suitable yet versatile foundation solution.

Advantages and benefits

Steel grillages have many benefits to contractors, some of these include –

  • Speed of installation – using a grillage often permits valuable time savings.
  • Convenience – avoidance of poured concrete saves time and simplifies installation.
  • Reduced costs – through minimal disruption of transport infrastructure.
  • Versatility – the technology suits many different applications.

The Most Important Home Care Marketing and Sales Tool – Open Ended Questions

Developing and asking good questions serve to:

* Allow for service or agency differentiation

* Lower resistance or objections

* Build a platform for a sales and marketing strategy specific to that referral source

The Basics of Good Questioning Skills

Open-ended questions that are well crafted and and thought out in advance can really ignite sales or marketing call conversations. After all, conversations are the first step to building a relationship with an individual, and relationships are key to getting referrals in the home care business! The best home care marketing and sales people are the ones that do the least amount of talking in sales call situations. They have mastered the skill of asking good open-ended questions as a way to get conversation flowing. That is not to say that there is no place for close-ended questions. or situational questions. As a home care marketer, you do need to have some basic information about a referral source’s situation. However, asking too many situational questions will feel more likean interrogation session to your referral source.

Examples of Situational Questions

Situational questions are those that a prospect or referral source can answer in one or two words, or simply with a yes or no. They are low value questions to the individual you are trying to sell or market to, mainly because the focus is on you getting information from them. These questions tend to start with the words or phrases such as did you, who, when, do you want to, will you, how often, and have you.

Questions such as…

* Do you make home care referrals?

* How many referrals do you make in a week?

* Who do you refer to?

…are all close -ended questions and situational in nature. They can all be answered with a couple of words, and probably will not lead to a deeper conversation or to understanding what will eventually prompt that referral source to make that first referral.

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

The real sales and marketing payoff comes when you develop good open ended questions. These questions tend to start with the words tell, what, why, and how. The words feel and think will also play a big part in open ended questions. Examples of open ended questions are;

* Tell me about the types of patients you see?

* Why do you feel that is important?

* What do you think a home care agency could do to enhance your patients care?

These questions not only offer your prospect or referral sources an opportunity to provide you good information about themselves or their organization, they also serve to uncover their real feelings about why and to whom they refer.

Take a few minutes to develop and write down your own set of questions. Try them out the next time you are engaging a referral source in a conversation about your agency.

What to Wear to a Funeral – Give a Eulogy Speech in Appropriate Attire

You have been asked to give a eulogy speech; it is written and now it is time to take care of all the other details…like what to wear to a funeral.

For those of us that are clothes horses we take a great deal of time and thought to what we are going to wear anywhere and everywhere that we go. But for others the thought may not come up until the last moment.

Whether you want to know what to wear to a funeral because you are the person presenting a eulogy speech or just because you are attending and wondering what would be right, I have some clothes advice for you.

If you haven’t been to a funeral before and have only read books and seen movies in which people dress only in black then I especially have news for you. Black is not the required color to wear anymore. You can wear any solid color that you want. You may think twice about hot pink or any bright color however because the emphasis is on celebrating the life instead of simply mourning the death.

Clothes that are frowned upon include bright and flamboyant prints (what you would wear on a beach in Hawaii is not what to wear to a funeral) especially if you are the one giving a eulogy speech.

Here is a list of clothing to avoid:

T shirts

Muscle shirts

Mini skirts

Gaps in clothing (regardless of how cute your belly button is!)

Ripped or torn clothing (regardless of how much it cost you to buy it that way!)

Blue jeans – unless you have no other clothes to your name. Be sure they are your Sunday best blue jeans and wear a shirt or blouse with them that has both collar and sleeves.

Tight fitting.

When you are up in front of a group of people speaking there are several factors to take into account:

Can you move without ripping or the buttons popping?

Are people focusing on your words or on your clothing or exposed body parts?

Do you have freedom of movement?

A maxim to remember is that you are there to give honor to the deceased and not to show off yourself.

Suits for both men and women are a good choice especially if you are giving a eulogy speech but if you grew out of your suit several years ago ditch the suit and wear something that fits you properly.

Men look good in ties in my opinion but it isn’t a necessity. My husband has banned ties from his life since he retired from his management job. A tie is never what he would wear to a funeral or any other place for that matter!

The bottom line to the question what to wear to a funeral is to wear a simple, well fitting top that doesn’t show too much skin and a well-fitting pair of slacks. Women can wear a dress or skirt that is of classic length and design. You can wear colors that are moderate in color.

Be sure your clothing is fresh from the cleaners and is well-pressed. Remember you are going to pay your respects to the deceased and to the family and friends left behind. You want them all to know that you thought enough of them to dress nicely.