Career Advice Made Easy

You know what I've discovered? Getting a job is hard work. I'm a final year student and for the past year or so I've been relishing the prospect of graduating and getting myself a real job so I can finally have some money. Money, money, money - I'm going to buy so much crap! That optimism has since changed to blind panic over leaving uni life behind and entering the real world. Suddenly getting a job and earning money doesn't seem as appealing as lying in bed all day and recovering from a well earned hangover.

Helpfully my blind panic had been accelerated by the daily updates of how the recession is going to destroy the world. This blind panic has had a strange motivational effect. I decided I could either let it ruin my remaining time at uni or I could get on top of it and figure out the whole career getting mystery. Now I'm still a little scared, but at least I know where I want to end up and how I'll get there.

'How?' I hear you ask. 'You must be some sort of god?' I hear you cry (or that may just be my imaginary friend Steve)? I used the internet. I ignored the endless offers of enlarging my manhood, the hot naked chicks that want me and the various offers of cheap pharmaceuticals and tapped 'career advice' into Google. The Google elf's worked their magic and bought me the following sites that have managed to slow my heart rate and stop the night terrors:

Wiki Jobs

It maybe another Wiki powered community, which I normally write off as being half arsed but it's actually pretty useful and brimming with career advice. Plus it brings together people in the same boat in an interactive community that anything Wiki brings with it, and this community is thriving and very active.

Here Comes The Boss

Here Comes The Boss brings career advice to life. Instead of throwing pages of text full of career advice at me they've made entertaining career advice videos. There's a video for everything, CV advice, interview technique, recession news...everything! It's made career advice quick and easy and above all else they have a puppet - who doesn't love a puppet!?!?

Careers Advice

This is the government powered career advice website. It's amazing and there is so much information at your fingers tips it's hard to know where to start. The only down side is it's a little dry, but it seems to be slowly getting better and I definitely picked up some valuable tips.

Launch Mind

Launch Mind is a free resource for employers, so it's got to be pretty good for us. They ask you to upload your CV and then they show it off for you. Plus they give you a lot of information about improving your CV and presenting yourself correctly.

Job Seekers Advice

Job Seekers Advice does exactly what it says on the tin, or on the front page! It look a bit old fashioned but the information on the site is great breaking down everything from job roles and industry standards to writing a good CV and interview techniques.

Are the Days of Customizing Your Phone Over?

Remember the days where people changed their phone's appearance with their outfit? The mobile phone fascias were a hot trend those days. You could dress up your mobile phone in a trendy or a simple way by using mobile phone fascias to match your dress, earrings or even your nail paint.

The mobile phone fascia was a concept that was popularized by Nokia, where you could buy hundreds of fascias in different patterns, colours and designs. These coloured handsets were a rage at the time. Other manufacturers also followed the trend and soon people were seen with all kinds of mobile phone fascias.

However, like all the other trends, this trend is also on a decline. The reason for this is not hard to guess. When the initial euphoria of selling the mobile phone fascias died out, the mobile companies discovered that this may lead to a loss. Hence, they changed their modus operandi and started selling different colour variants of the same models instead of the fascias.

This was done to sell more handsets that would lead to more profit. While the fascias could only bring a couple of bucks which meant that in spite of selling a hundred of such casings would not yield much profit, selling even ten mobile phones could bring in more profit and market share.

Hence, as a result more and more customers have now started choosing their mobile phone with care. They are more interested in buying something that complements their personality and lasts them for the entire contract period.

Therefore, the recent years have seen a decline in the trend since mobiles have become cheaper and people prefer changing the entire mobile rather than just changing the external covering. Moreover, one can even buy a sim free mobile phone these days which does not require any registration and can be used any time you want to change your phone. There are many more advantages of sim free mobile phones since you don't need to go through rigorous security checks. You can even buy a sim free mobile phone as a surprise gift for your loved one since you don't need to register it during purchasing. The best part about a sim free mobile phone is that you can take it with you when you change networks or operators. Moreover, these mobile phones come with a variety of features as well.

These sim free mobile phones are a complete world of entertainment in them selves. You can browse the net, check your mail, look at the headlines and even use them for social networking options like Facebook and Twitter. Not just this, these phones also have great games and video playbacks as well.

Another great aspect of these phones is digital photography which is now as good as clicking with a stand alone camera. You can shoot videos and pictures without lugging your camera along. These phones are also being used by reporters and media people to capture news events and happenings as well.

Holiday Decorating is a Breeze With LED Technology

Using updated versions of Christmas lights has become very popular in the last few years. They do not get as hot as other versions of Christmas lights and there is less of a chance of a fire breaking out, as there is when Christmas decorations heat up otherwise. The LED light bulbs are more energy efficient and some people believe they are safer. The good news is, these lights do not only have to be used during the holidays. They can be used year round, during all seasons, to decorate and illuminate your home. For instance, a bright led floodlight in your backyard will provide enough lumination to walk through the yard comfortably in the pitch dark of night. It will also make you feel safe if you are arriving home late at night by yourself. All of these instances are great uses of this modern form of illumination.

When it is time to decorate for the holidays, it is often best to use the most energy efficient means necessary. Instead of lighting the Christmas tree, the entire house, and the various outdoor trees and structures the old fashioned way, try to choose some of the newer, more efficient means available. This can save money on the electric bill and it can help the environment by saving energy and resources. You can also try cutting corners other ways, but always make sure you are practicing safe home decorating. Never use real fire on or near the tree, and do not leave lighting and candles unattended.

Once the decorations have come down, you can still use many of these modern, ecologically sound lighting techniques to make your home feel cozy and warm. Use luminaries on the front or back walk that operate with solar power. This means the sun warms them all day and during the evening, the lighting is transmitted from the stored solar energy. If you have a patio area you use for entertaining, string lighting along the perimeter to create a soft glow in the evening hours. This works for the pool area as well and makes for a lovely reflection on the water. The more well lit an area, the safer it is. If you are able to see well enough to navigate a pathway, and you are able to see others, the environment becomes safer for you and your family. Use luminaries or various forms of lighting to guide your way in your yard to avoid tripping over rocks or plants in the yard.

No matter the season, you can create a soft, warm glow in and around your home using a variety of options. Few of them have to be expensive or use a great deal of energy. Instead, look for ways to liven up your environment by using as few resources as possible. You can use simple techniques or you can get as creative as possible. These can be craft projects for the entire family or a quick installation one Saturday morning that will only take a few hours to do. In any case, your new lighted area will bring joy to the entire family.

The Place to Invest Now

The markets are on a roller coaster ride - still. Each day brings more up-and-down news that make us look hard at our battered financial portfolios and ask ourselves "where should I invest today?"
Here's my tip. The hottest place to invest now is in you.
It's time to invest in your knowledge, your confidence, your talents, and your character. No matter what lies ahead for our economy and our world, no one can take those assets from you. The investments you make in you create returns much larger than any spreadsheet can ever hold.
Creating your investment strategy is easy. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Do an expertise exchange.
What does someone else know or do well that you want to do, too? An expertise exchange is an easy (and fun!) way to put that person's knowledge into your toolbox. Are they a great cook? Successful negotiator? Savvy speaker? Ask for a specific block of time where you can pick their brain about their talent. Or, better yet, shadow them while they're actually doing it.
Sign up for a class.
Brain expert Dr. Daniel G. Amen says one of the best ways to take care of your brain is to keep learning and challenging yourself. We're so lucky today that almost every town has an adult education segment of its local college or university. Think classes are too expensive? What's your brain worth? Seriously, I just signed up for a two-day glassblowing class (something that fascinates me yet I've never done) for the price of what I have typically spent on a Saturday at Target. If money is really nonexistent, search YouTube and ITunes U--both have free classes available on all kinds of topics.
Read a little more.
I've mentioned to clients how I fell in love this summer--with my local library. I'd written the institution off as a 20th century dinosaur, but after discovering my library's online services, I can request the latest hot book online and it's delivered to my local branch. It's allowed me to feed the whims of "hey, that sounds interesting" without draining my pocketbook. Cut out one episode of "Entertainment Tonight" this week and read instead.
Read a little more (the periodical version).
If you never get through a complete book (one friend I know called the pile of half-read best-sellers her "guilt stack"), think magazines. Many magazines are offering great deals on annual subscriptions today since they need a healthy subscriber base to keep attracting advertisers. is one place to start for ideas and discounts (they also have several free business magazines available), but Google the title you like to find more deals. When you treat yourself to a periodical you might not read otherwise, you'll generate new insights and ideas--and maybe enjoy yourself, too.
Hire a coach.
Okay, okay, this one sounds a bit self-serving, but I wouldn't be in this field if I didn't believe in the value you can gain from working with a professional coach. Each of us has an issue or three that holds us back from reaching all our goals, having the most fun, leading the most successful career, etc. What's holding you back? Investing a little time and money with a great coach can help you learn more, do more, and achieve more, faster than you can on your own.

Meet "Pre" - America's Greatest Running Legend and Greatest Middle Distance Hero

It has now been 33 years since the untimely, tragic death of America's greatest running legend and its greatest middle distance runner, Steve Prefontaine, and his legacy continues to grow as the void he filled remains open. It is rare but true to say that his legacy may never be matched again.

"Pre"-as he would become known to the world beyond Coos Bay, Oregon-was not only unbeatable on American soil but he captured the hearts of runners and spectators. Fans still swear upon pain of death that many times when Pre would step onto the Hayward Field track at the University of Oregon, the sun would burst through the overcast skies, as if announcing that something great was about to happen.

And happen it did because Steve Prefontaine was there to not just win a competitive race, he was there to entertain his faithful, who could expect a superlative effort as well as a victory.

Pre never thought of himself as the fastest runner in the race, but there is no record of a runner who ever faced him that doubted that he was the toughest, most courageous runner ever. That list included some world-record holders and his most intense rivals.

Like a lot of 5-foot, 100-pound athletes who were 8th grade benchwarmers in the more popular sports like football, Pre turned out for the cross-country team as a freshman and discovered his place in the world.

By the time to graduated from Marshfield High School, he had won 2 state cross-country titles, won state track titles in the mile and 2 mile twice, run a 4:06.0 mile in the Golden West Invitational, and set the national high school record in the 2 mile with a sensational 8:41.5 time.

As an 18 year old he qualified to represent the United States on an international tour and finished 3rd in the 5000-meter run in Europe. His 13:52.8 time was faster than any ever run by the legend of the previous generation, the great Emil Zatopek of Czechoslovakia. He held his own against the world's best, and had yet to begin his collegiate career at the University of Oregon.

In his first 3-mile race against Washington State in a dual meet at Eugene, Pre won in 13:12.8, the 7th-fastest time ever by an American and the fastest time by a U. S. runner in two years. After 21 straight collegiate meets without a loss, he was the hot-shot prodigy, on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a freshman. No one could have known that he was just getting started.

"A strange camaraderie grew up at the time among those of us who lost continually to Pre," said Don Kardong of Stanford. "We were united in our belief that no one should have the success coupled with pride that Pre had. We really wanted, I think, to see the big tree fall." But for Pre, his competitors seemed to not even be on his radar screen.

After his freshman year, Pre never lost a cross-country race, winning 3 individual NCAA championship titles. He would win 4 NCAA 3-mile titles in track, becoming the first runner to ever win 4 consecutive NCAA titles in the same event.

After his junior year at Oregon, he qualified for the U. S. Olympic team in the 5,000 meters and would finish 4th in 13:28.3 as Lasse Viren of Finland won in 13:26.4. The field literally plodded through the first two miles and sprinted the last mile. Pre would take the lead at one point but could not hold it in the end.

In preparing for the Olympic 5,000 meter, Pre had run four 1320s and three 1 milers with decreasing times. His 1320 times were 3:12, 3:09, 3:06 and 3:00, then he came back with the cut-down miles. For sharpening, he ran a solo mile under 4:00; he just walked to the line in practice, got set, then clicked off a 3:39 mile with no competition. He was ready, but he was not as experienced as the world-class runners he was facing.

Because of his relentless front-running, Pre was non-stop, and many of his opponents set personal records in losing against him.

Think about his personal best times: a 1,500 in 3:38.1, a 3,000 in 7:42.6, a 5,000 in 13:21.9, a 10,000 in 27:43.6, a mile in 3:54.6, a 2 mile in 8:18.4, a 3 mile in 12:51.4, and a 6 mile in 26:51.8, all accomplished by 1975. At his best, Pre once held every American record in the middle distance events from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters.

Alberto Salazar, the former American-record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and marathon, had this to say about Pre: "He would not take second effort-it was not acceptable . . . I think it comes down to pride in the end. Not proud, necessarily, that you are better than everyone else, but that you are tougher than anybody else. That if you lose, you are going to make whomever you are running against pay. And that is what Pre did."

John Gillespie, a coach and fan, said "He had charisma. That word-there is something about somebody when you tell people you are going to do something, and then you go out and do it. I know of no single person who could draw people like he did."

Wendy Ray, the Hayward Field announcer for all of Pre's races there, said "He just had whatever that is-I don' t know, actors have it. Singers have it. Some people have it, some people don't. Most people don't. He had a lot of it."

Tom Jordan, a writer for Track &Field News in the early 1970s, said "Pre would fix you with a steady gaze and give the impression that you were the most important person in his life at that instant, and that the things he was telling you were known by few others.

"It was an enormously flattering and appealing trait," said Jordan, "and contributed greatly to what came to be called his charisma."

Pre ran every day of his athletic life. He was up at 6 a.m. and out the door, running again in the afternoon at workouts. Perhaps even more incredible than the records he set and championships he won was the fact that he never missed a single day of practice or a single meet during his 4-year career at the University of Oregon. He was a force that no one wanted to reckon with, or run against.

On May 30, 1975, 24-year-old Steve Prefontaine was killed in a tragic auto accident. A memorial marks the spot of his death in Eugene, Oregon, and attracts runners and admirers to Pre's Rock, the roadside boulder where he died. Like a flame that refuses to be extinguished, Pre lives on.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Picture-Perfect Phuket Weddings

Saying the word forever should definitely be made an unforgettable moment-after all, isn't this the happy ending you have been waiting for all along? And great weddings start with choosing an equally memorable wedding destination.

Most of the people who want to get married in Thailand celebrate their weddings along the much-loved sands of Phuket, Thailand's biggest holiday resort island and a top vacation destination for tourists the world over. Phuket has all the ingredients for a perfect wedding, with its beautiful beaches providing a backdrop for a range of great leisure and entertainment delights.

Conveniently located by the shores of the Andaman Sea, Phuket offers a variety of locations for every kind of wedding ceremony possible. You can choose to tie the knot in a romantic seaside wedding along the island's clear blue waters, by the beaches of Kata, Karon, Kamala, Bangtao, or Patong; or you can have a solemn ceremony by the lake at the Laguna Phuket. You may also opt to rent your own private island or host your reception in one of Phuket's acclaimed five-star hotels for that extra touch of luxury.

You are bound never to run out of honeymoon options in Phuket as well. You can sample the delectable Southern Thai cuisine and feast on seafood, ride a kayak or go parasailing, go diving and explore the coral reefs, and explore the beauty of the nearby islands along Phang Nga Bay. Truly, Phuket is island paradise as we know it, complemented by a wide variety of exciting leisure options.

So if you are planning to have your fantasy wedding in Phuket, it is recommended that you seek the services of a competent Thai law firm that can also help you with processing the legal aspect of your marriage registration and provide you with efficient wedding coordination services to make your wedding celebration a truly unforgettable one.

Paradise is really not just a dream, and you can enjoy a piece of it-and more, if you want to have a Phuket wedding like no other. Be it a Christian, Catholic, Secular, traditional Thai Buddhist ceremony, or something that you have created with your own imagination-- your wedding in Phuket will be the most picture-perfect celebration of love you can ever have.

Shock and Awe - The Works of Martin McDonagh, Part One

This is Part One of my three-part essay on the works of Martin McDonagh.

In the last few years I have become a fan of the dramatic work of Martin McDonagh. I have seen two of his plays performed on Broadway, seen his movie "In Bruges" and read as many of his plays as I've been able to lay my hands on. I've written reviews for Amazon and other venues because of my admiration for his work, gore and all. His characters are often lumpish and funny. You step into a McDonagh work expecting black comedy, absurdist dialogue and blood and guts. How inhumane can one human being be to another in his work? Surprisingly mean-spirited and nasty. View or read McDonagh, and you'll experience shock and awe.

"The Cripple of Inishmaan"

On Broadway I saw productions of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman" and the "The Lieutenant of Inishmore." The latter play had more blood and guts spread over the stage than any play within memory; the former was a dark, scary play that shocked even blasé New York audiences. Some of the weak-hearted even chose to shakily stumble out of the theater. People have been known to wretch at a performance.

This play is about simple folk in a small village in 1934, and one could be forgiven for considering them simple-minded as well. Elements of theater of the absurd, farce, vaudeville-like routines, and inane dialogue add to the great comic effects achieved in this piece. Two women run a grocery store that seems to be overstocked with cans of peas. There is no doubt that Cripple Billy is a cripple because the other characters are constantly mentioning it and indeed call him Cripple Billy. Some of the jokes are stupid, but nonetheless funny.

Billy stares at cows, Helen pegs eggs at Father Barratt, and Aunt Kate talks to a stone.

Billy cons a boatman into taking him to a nearby island where Robert Flaherty is filming his documentary "Man of Aran." Billy even goes to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune.

Johnnypateenmike, the village gossip,(characters use long names in addressing each other) ferrets out and carries the news around the village. His Mammy in her nineties he keeps drunk and hopes she'll croak. These are like stage stock Irish character types.

McDonagh is not aiming for realistic portrayals. This is farcical stuff with the flaky characters uttering vaudeville-like riffs. Some of the dialogue sounds nonsensical, absurdist, but somehow the plot gets moved along, and the audience gets entertained by these nut cases. It's almost like a hillbilly comedy.

The play has its darker elements because McDonagh is not going to let the audience leave with a happy ending. Violence and cruelty are never far out of sight. If it plays as well as it reads, I'm sure it would be a hilarious theater experience.

"The Beauty Queen of Leenane"

This is another of Martin McDonagh's black comedies in his growing canon in the theater of malice and cruelty. He'll soon corner the market on the make 'em laugh, then shock 'em Irish village genre. Here a mother and daughter exist together in am atmosphere of mutual hatred. The mother Mag is a harpy, a harridan, lazy, spiteful, self-centered, and malicious. Her daughter Maureen, frustrated, unstable and equally malicious, is shackled with her. A local man Pato Dooley, headed for the States, dubs forty-year-old Maureen the beauty queen of Leenane which is their tiny Irish village in Connemara.

McDonagh's characters often start with verbal nastiness and graduate to physical cruelty consisting of torture, blood and gore. He's carved out a niche for himself that can cause his audiences to cringe and cower at the lengths he'll go to finish off a character or two. There may be bloody consequences. A McDonagh character must learn to duck to fend off violence and nastiness. In this play, his characters would do well to beware of hot cooking oil and heavy pokers.

His characters often seem like simpletons teetering on the edge of insanity who speak at times in an absurdist nonsensical dialogue. The playwright see-saws his audience between seemingly harmless comic absurdity and dark cruelty and sadism. In his theater of savagery human life is negotiable and precarious, and often valueless.

He's an original, edgy creative talent who may turn off the queasy and those easily shocked in his audience, but he is a force in the theater to be reckoned with. Making his audiences uncomfortable, making them wriggle in their seats may well be his goal. In this play expect less blood and gore than in "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," but don't expect much compassion for the human race. Sick, brilliant stuff is going on. You aren't going to nod off in this one.

"The Lonesome West"

"The Lonesome West" is early Martin McDonagh about the forlorn west of Ireland where according to the author the inhabitants tend to be isolated, insular, slow-witted, barely civilized, violent, and dangerously unneighborly. Remember hearing about the theater of the absurd, the theater of the ridiculous and the theater of cruelty? Here we see them taking on a new life and veering off in a loony, kookie, and gory direction.

"In Bruges" showed you later but barely less barbaric McDonagh. Expect frequent outbreaks of black comedy, burlesque, farce, and shock and awe to emerge.

His characters are drinking the local hootch-poteen. None of the play's inmates can remember whether the local priest is Father Walsh or Welsh, but spiritually he's of no consequence anyway. The only bright lights in McDonagh's plays seem to be good-looking, quite young local lasses who are fiercely independent and don't mind killing things or blinding cows.

The priest has a crisis of faith (did he have any to begin with?) and a tendency to drink too much. McDonagh seems to feed on Irish stereotypes. Two brothers, both dimwits, living together are constantly feuding. One brother has offed his old man for a trivial slight. The other brother keeps silent about it, but only because his sibling has signed all the family property over to him.

They are screwball characters: two of the three stooges, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy in their dialogue riffs. You're on a merry-go-round of illogical talk and absurdist dialogue. The brothers in this play fight over nonsensical stuff, partly because both are dumbbells.

What is the meaning of it all? It's like Pinter's "Homecoming" but more violent and goofy, but with less significance and artistry. Pinter digs deeper, is a bottom fisher: McDonagh feeds closer to the surface.

The younger brother, Coleman, is flippant and irreverent toward the priest. The characters in general are impious, disrespectful with an irreligious attitude toward faith. Between the brothers, Coleman and Valene, there's pent-up violence.

It's a village with a sick group of inhabitants. Cats have more value than people.

People in a McDonagh play apologize, but they never really mean it. Bad stuff and family secrets come out in the dialogue. The brothers give a litany of bad, hateful stuff they've done to each other which increases their mutual hatred for each other.

Brothers in a McDonagh play like the brothers in "Pillowman" seem to deliberately destroy their own kin by their actions.

There is violence and cruelty as nasty people take revenge. Should we worry about these numbskulls, even feel concerned? But it's still such fun to watch them going at it. And isn't that McDonagh's purpose? Making us laugh and feel uneasy all at the same time?

How To Hide Your Mess Quickly When You're Being Invaded By Unexpected Company

There's nothing more annoying than uninvited, unexpected company. Seriously, some people have no manners, dropping by to "chat" with you and "visit on a few moments notice, when you both really know that they are really dropping by to inspect how you live when left to your own devices. Face it, most friends want to think they're better than you, and nothing makes them feel better about their own squalor or pile of dirty dishes than finding that YOU live in a pig sty. It's easier to inspect your mess and feel better about themselves than it is to clean their own house, isn't it? Plus, it gives them fuel to talk about you amongst other friends.

"My, my, did you see Miriam's house? I dropped by the other day and... "

"Wow, Miriam had a stack of dishes in the sink that rival the Washington Monument in size... "

"I think I found Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart in the corner of Miriam's living room but I can't be sure because I couldn't quite scale the peak of the growing cheese mold that ate the sofa to get visual verification. Plus, that mold was making some funky, scary sounds... "

You know how it goes, typical things like that. Well, I'm here to give you a few tips to quickly spruce your home up on a moment's notice to thwart these evil, gossiping, nosy invaders. The next time the phone rings and the chills march up your spine when you hear the words "... be right over, I'm just around the corner," remember these tips, they might save you some embarrassment.

1.Pillow cases hold more than just pillows: Stuff dirty laundry in those cases, stuff old junk mail in them, even a dirty pet if you don't have time to give it a bath, just make sure you fluff it up so it looks like a pillow when you are done.

2.Keep a dirty dish drawer: That's right, an empty drawer just to shove dirty dishes in for when people invade and the dishwasher is full. Make sure it's an out-of-the-way drawer, and empty that sucker as soon as the spies leave, or you might have some lingering smells to deal with next time.

3.Forget Lysol, use glass cleaner and furniture polish: EVERYBODY tries to hide the smell when someone visits by using air fresheners, under-arm deodorant sprays and perfume. That's a dead giveaway that you just quick cleaned your home and are trying to hide something. Forget that, spray window cleaner, furniture polish and oven cleaner around the house, that way you can tell the intruders you were busy cleaning the house when they called and blindsided you.

4.Keep large throw rugs and comforters on hand. If you have a big enough comforter, you can cover the entire dining room table with it, or the dining room for that matter. A good throw rug or cover makes anything decorative.

5.Either buy a huge dog or a RECORDING of a ticked off rottweiler: This way, when you close a room off because it's beyond hope, your nosy visitor won't be tempted to open the door and check when you're getting refreshments, not if they think Fido is ready to attack on the other side of the door. If you use the recording, crank it up full blast. Make sure to make a point to tell your invader that Fido is locked up because he hates visitors and hasn't had his rabies shots yet for added effect.

6.If the beds are unmade don't bother smoothing out the sheets, just spread the comforter so they think it's a water-bed.

7 A great place for hiding things is under the bed, providing there is a dust ruffle.

8.When it comes to the bathroom, don't worry about the dirty tub, just pull open the shower curtain. For the toilet bowl, just throw in some hand soap and swish around with the brush. Make sure you wipe the seat, and sink. Remove the dirty towels and have a roll of paper towels handy. Move the clutter from the counter and throw everything into the cabinet under the sink.

7.What about the dust? Easy, just blow it away.

8.Hide the empty pizza boxes from the week under the sofa.

9.What you can't hide. Throw it into one of the rooms that has a lock and lock it.

10. As for the chair that is loaded with dog or cat hair, just throw an afghan over it and drape it in a decorative way.

11.For the stained end tables, use your place mats to hide most of it.

12.Last but most important dim the lights, which hides a multitude of sins.

Whew! Now wasn't that easy?

There you go. These 12 tips should help you protect your right to privacy and to personal sloth the next time you get an unexpected guest!

Nothing Says 'I Love You' Quite Like Flowers - An Easy Guide to Ordering Online

Flowers have long been regarded as the most romantic gift available, and rightly so. The delivery aspect is also considered to be a favorite part of the process. This is for several reasons: firstly, it gives your nosey neighbors something to gossip about. Secondly, it provides the element of surprise, from the moment the delivery van pulls up outside you house, to the moment the box is opened and the message card is read. On some occasions, the lady's husband is also surprised by the delivery sent by a secret admirer!

Internet delivery.

These days it is easier than ever to choose the right flowers for your sweetheart-; there is a huge selection of online florists vying for your trade, amongst the big hitters on the high street.

Don't hesitate.

If you have never used this wonderful facility, what are you waiting for? You do not need a special occasion to send flowers; certainly you will not be scolded by your loved ones for sending a surprise bouquet. Should you require some steps to follow, to achieve a perfect result, here is a simple guide to ordering flowers online.

Choose your florist.

First you need to select your vendor. Simply type the word 'florists' into any internet search engine, and hey presto! A myriad of eager websites will appear on your screen, however you should choose wisely. Which one is suitable for your needs? You should compare prices for similar products, pay attention to hidden charges and keep an eye peeled for special offers. Perhaps you have more specific tastes; maybe only one supplier has that 'perfect' bouquet you are looking for.


Everyone has different preferences, and when it comes to flowers, you should bear this in mind. If it is a special occasion; Mothers Day, Valentines or a birthday, the florist will usually have separate menus that cater for this. As well as flowers, you will see extra gift options; chocolate, vases and even champagne. You may decide to design your own bouquet, based on the recipients taste. More recently, Bonsai trees, silk flowers and cacti have been a popular choice. As a rule, roses are still the number one in the flower hit parade.


It's wise to spend some time thinking about an appropriate message to send with the flowers, although for Valentine's day, no message is sometimes advisable.

Completing the order.

Once you have chosen the perfect bouquet, ensure your delivery details are correct, particularly if you are sending the flowers to a different location to your billing address. There can be nothing worse than meeting the deadline for a family birthday, only to have the flowers delivered to your own address. Regards paying for the service, as long as you are using a recognized vendor, they will have an encrypted secure payment system set up. If the website looks less than official, steer clear and choose a household name instead.

You're good to go!

Rest assured, as long as you follow this simple guide, your efforts will be most appreciated. So what are you waiting for?

Stress and the Graduate Trainee

Gaining a position as a management or business trainee is an exciting time for a new graduate trainee, full of anticipation for the opportunities that lie ahead. Working for a Merchant Bank, Investment Bank or large institution can feel like an important first step on the ladder to success. This opportunity often generates a desire to justify the faith shown in appointing them, plus a determination to demonstrate their competency.

Gradually the reality of their new life dawns as they discover that they often have to work long stressful hours, sometimes six or seven days a week, often being thrown in at the deep end, required to find solutions to problems on their own and demonstrate a high degree of resourcefulness. The stress of these situations can at times become overwhelming.

When a person lives in a permanent state of stress they often lose their enthusiasm and motivation, become irritable, unable to relax, sleep or enjoy life. Their general health can deteriorate as their immune system becomes depleted. Stress and stress related illnesses are a major factor in sick leave from work as people become more vulnerable to germs, infection and general malaise.

Let's look at the most effective ways for the graduate trainee to learn to manage stress and stay well:

- Have a positive attitude and regard being a trainee as a short-term apprenticeship. The sacrifices can be viewed as part of the learning process, the foundation stone of an exciting career and as such an invaluable opportunity to learn a lot quickly.

- Take opportunities to cultivate allies, a mentor, an advisor. If help is offered be gracious and accept it. If help is needed be sensible and ask for it. Be honest in admitting if a mistake has been made. It demonstrates integrity whilst allowing for things to be quickly rectified.

- Make notes when being given information. They can serve as an invaluable aide memoir when performing tasks for the first time. Lists are a great way of ensuring that outstanding items are not forgotten. Making a list is a useful way of ensuring that important things don't need to be stored in one's head.

- Pick work friends wisely. Avoid gossip or being negative of others. Remember that each person is there to further their own career, so be circumspect in your use of critical or loose chatter.

- Take care to look after yourself. Organise food shopping and meals in advance so that healthy food is readily available. Try to keep fresh fruit and vegetable options handy rather than snacking on junk food and sugary treats. Minimise coffee and other stimulants whilst in the midst of intensive periods of work. They provide artificial highs and accentuate stress on the body.

- Organise clothes in advance. Some people find it helpful to plan their wardrobe the night before to ensure that getting up in the morning is straightforward and free from stress. Keeping one's wardrobe simple can be a help; so for example, regularly wearing black may be a way to make life simpler.

- Try to exercise as often as possible. Yoga and stretching before bed can be a useful part of a wind down routine. Try to schedule in pleasant exercise if possible; a walk in the park, a few lengths of the swimming pool, a body conditioning or zumba class are all fun ways to take a healthy break from the stress of work. Plan some fun use of time on days off.

- Sleep is especially important during periods of intensive work and stress. Keep the bedroom clear of clutter and work related material. Quality sleep provides the best way to recharge batteries and return to work feeling refreshed. Try to wind down each night before bed. Listen to pleasant music, read something light-hearted, switch off for a while.

- It's a fact that people perform better after taking a break from their work; a water break, a little healthy food or a walk outside can provide time to detach, clear one's mind and consequently manage stress.

- Practise self-hypnosis and power napping. Self hypnosis techniques, positive affirmations and scheduled breaks from work can help to raise your mood, keep better focus and minimise stressful responses.

And if at some point it becomes apparent that this is not the life for you there is no shame in moving onto another career. Be positive about having had a go whilst looking for something that suits you better.

Your Eleven Part Hemorrhoid Treatment

OK - so you've got hemorrhoids. You've seen your doctor. You've got the medication. Maybe you're discussing more serious medical intervention. You have scoured the Internet for information on hemorrhoids and are probably suffering from information overload and feeling slightly nauseous at the oh so graphic medical illustrations. I mean, come on!

Hemorrhoids equals swollen veins in your bottom equals embarrassment equals treatment equals getting it sorted. Right?

So this is not another recycled article about hemorrhoid medications and wonder cures.

No, this article is somewhat different. I'm taking each letter of the word 'Hemorrhoid' (there are eleven letters) and using each one as a coat hanger to develop an instant hemorrhoid treatment. Like most of what you find on the web, there probably isn't anything new here, but what I want to do is confirm your hunches that hemorrhoids aren't the end of the world. In fact, they could be the beginning of a new way of living. So here goes:

Healthy eating does make a difference: Now, my starting point is that most of us are aware of what comprises a healthy diet. Five portions of vegetables, low fat intake and so on. But we tend to pay lip service to it. And, possibly, that lip service has contributed to our developing hemorrhoids. Lack of fibre and roughage doesn't help. So, don't go overboard about this, but just choose to make a small change to your diet every day. Small steps are far better than crazy leaps.

Exercise a bit more: Notice, I said "a bit more". If you try to do a half-marathon before breakfast you'll never, ever, jog again. But try a brisk five minute walk. Brisk enough to get you slightly breathless. Then add a few more minutes. If you have to push a buggy, try going a bit faster! Kids love it! Make an inner decision that you 'are' fit - don't go down the self-critical alley that echoes "I'm an unfit slob!

Meditate on wellness: Now, this may seem pretty impossible when you've bought Hemorrhoids 101 and are feeling fed up and depressed. But - don't go there! Meditate on wellness, not your hemorrhoids. Even - especially - if you're sore! And, I said, 'wellness' not ' health'. Wellness is a far broader and encompassing approach, embracing your thoughts and feelings, not just your body. There is research that shows that just thinking intensely about wellness has a beneficial effect on your body. Take five minutes out, and allow yourself to daydream. Visualise yourself walking in warm sunshine, or running through surf, or lying in hot sun, or playing beach volleyball. You'll feel better, I promise.

Organic is probably better than highly processed: notice, I said 'probably better'. I'm not a member of the organic thought police. Studies in Europe suggest that organic is not necessarily the all singing all dancing better-than-anything-else product that it may have been presented as. But highly processed food (let's be honest and call it what it is: junk food) is just that - junk. To me the test is this - would you eat it when it's cold? If it's organic or not too junky, the answer is probably ' yes'. If it's cold junk food, congealed in fat, the answer is definitely 'no'. So which would you prefer to be inside you?

Radiant health is not moonshine: I love the phrase, 'radiant health'. You know how some people have a kind of glow about them? They just look good. There's a kind of energy around them. Well, that to me is what radiant health is. There is something, an aura if you like, that people 'get' when they are around you. And, it's not moonshine. YOU can enjoy radiant health. These eleven themes you're reading are all components of it.

Raw foods count a for a lot. Choose the ones you like. Apples. Oranges. Maybe carrot and ginger juice. Explore. Have fun. Enjoy.

Happiness is an inside job. Now, this came as a breakthrough for me. I realised that I depended on so many externals to feel happy: relationships, possessions, money, and so on. But in practice none of these externals are constant. When you suddenly 'get' that you can choose to feel how you feel, you will be truly wealthy.

Overall, few things matter and most things don't matter at all. Again, this is a key insight into serenity. You don't need to be hysterical about having hemorrhoids. You can chose to be calm and serene. "Hemorrhoids? Moi?" and get on with life. A full life.

Inner wealth is key to health. You'll notice that I come back to this idea again and again. But it's true. When we are bombarded by external stimulation we discover the part of ourselves that is very smart, that can multi-task, handle enormous amounts of information and enjoys music, news and entertainment. That part is good! But constant stimulation also deprives us of another part of ourselves, the part that enjoys a sunrise, a good book, or giving thanks. I recommend time alone. Obviously, some people enjoy more alone time than others, but I suspect we all benefit from at least some time to discover our own thoughts, our preferences, our "self." Schedule a weekend alone at a favorite cabin or resort. Once a week, turn off the iPod and go for a quiet walk or have lunch in a local park, alone. Journal in the mornings or turn off the television, go outside and watch a sunset or the stars.

Daily fitness walks change your mood. That's all I can say. It works for me. And I prefer to feel good, rather than feel overwhelmed, don't you? Try it.

Sound sleep is your right and responsibility. Just imagine: can you imagine when you last woke completely rested after six hours' sleep, bursting with energy, feeling that you haven't a care in the world, looking forward to another exciting day on this planet? Can you remember when it happened on a Monday morning?

So there you are. Next time you think 'Hemorrhoids' break it down into those eleven letters - h-e-m-o-r-r-h-o-i-d -s and start over. It'll be worth it.

My best to you.

10 Ideas For Brainstorming Blog Content

It can be a tough trying to come up with dynamic blog posts that readers will find interesting and useful. Here are a few brainstorming ideas that may help you develop dynamic content that will add variety and personality to your blog while also inviting visitors to be interactive.

1. Post Other People's Articles

You can find many interesting articles written by other authors and they are a great resource for generating blog content.  I will say that posting your own articles is ideal but in a pinch posting articles from other writers can add variety, particularly if it's an article from an author with a creative writing style. Of course posting other people's articles requires including their resource box with a link to the author's website. If this concerns you here's a suggestion. 

Post articles that are useful to your readers but not in direct competition.  For example, a website about dating might post an article from a 'money tips' website that lists ways to save money on a date.   The article is useful to your dating readers but may not necessarily draw them to the money tips website as your reader is focused more on dating.

If you are posting articles from other authors be sure to preface the article with an introduction paragraph on why you like the article and why your viewers should read it.

Then follow the article with a personal comment and invite your viewers to offer their opinions and ideas as well.

2. Attend Webinars, Workshops or Live Seminars

Not everyone has the time or the cash to attend live Seminars or workshops, but if you do, they are well worth it when it comes to learning strategies and getting ideas for content.  In fact I'll guarantee your head will be swimming with ideas and useful information when it's over.  

Of course live seminars are more an occasional event, unlike online webinars that you can attend every day if you like and they are typically free, simply sign up and listen.

Even if the webinars you attend lean more towards a marketing pitch, it's still an easy way to get unique ideas on what people are looking, this in turn will spark ideas on what you can write or comment about on your blog.

3. Read Industry Publications

What's going on in your specific industry?  Is there anything interesting happening? Bookmark 2 or 3 industry related websites and visit them often.  Note what's going on and the highlights.  There won't be exciting news every day but there may be enough interesting things to post a few times a month.

Follow your posts with your own personal comments or opinion and invite your readers to do the same. 

4. Offer Personal tips and ideas

What are your favorite personal tips, strategies or ideas that your readers may be interested in?  Personal tips are often unique and interesting; they're not the usual things people read about everywhere.

Tips could include things that have helped you get something done easier or faster.They could be simple tricks you've discovered or they could be about products you use and the unique ways you use them.  The key here is to offer unique ideas by suggesting only ideas and tips that you have personally developed. 

5. Frequent Popular Topic Related Forums

Forums contain content from members who are typically candid with their comments and questions.  This is a genuine place for you to find out what information people are looking for.  Look for a common interest that people often ask about or need information on.  This will most likely be a hot topic for you to discuss or write about on your blog.

6. Post Fun & Interesting Videos

People are reading less and watching videos more. Adding a video to your post can add personality to your blog.  If you're not camera shy try making your own videos that demonstrate your personal tips and strategies or simply talk about a topic of interest. 

If you're not ready for the big screen YouTube is an excellent resource for finding fun and interesting videos from others. Videos can be informative, funny or unusual. I like to break up the monotony with an occasional funny video. I've noticed that readers will comment more when I post a video that is entertaining and fun.   

7. Create an Audio Pod Cast

Just like video, audio is a popular way to deliver information. So why not record a conversation that your readers can benefit and learn from?  For example, you could interview an expert in your field or record an informative conversation you've have with another business colleague. Just as with video, audio gives your viewers a glimpse into your personality and adds creativity and fun to your blog. 

8. Check your Site Stats

Your hosting service should provide statistics about the visitors to your site or blog. Use this information to determine what keywords your visitors used to find your blog. These keywords make excellent blog content ideas for generating articles, videos, podcasts or commentary posts.

9. Use Google Alerts

Create 'Google Alerts' for your best industry related key phrases. This is an automated alert notification whereby Google will send you an email daily, weekly or monthly, with the web pages, articles, press releases, blog posts, etc. related to your key phrases.  It's an ideal source of current information to spark interesting and useful ideas on a consistent basis.

10. Read Blog Comments

Reading other blogs is always a great suggestion for blog content ideas but don't forget to read the comments too.  This is where good stuff gets posted.  People bring up interesting ideas and unusual tips in the comments section.  I often find that the comments can be more interesting that the actual post and is a great resource for unique tips.

There are lots of ways to brainstorm blog content and hopefully this will get you started. However, avoid overwhelming yourself and take breaks once in awhile.  This clears your mind and opens it to fresh ideas.  It also helps eliminate the stress of information overload.

Cabbage Key, Florida - A Million Miles Away - Ten Miles From Home

It was only supposed to be a three hour tour. The game plan was simple: take a short and scenic cruise on Pine Island sound, grab a cheeseburger in paradise and catch the return boat back home. A three hour tour, five at most, just a small dose of the local waterways, that's all we wanted.

Across the Sanibel causeway we drove, heading for McCarthy's Marina on Captiva Island. Not a cloud in the sky. Light traffic and lush, tropical foliage surrounded us. Glimpses of glistening water and quiet beaches tucked themselves between trees and down side streets and driveways.

Once we reached the marina, we visited the office of Captiva Cruises, clutching half-off discount coupons and reminding ourselves how great it is to live in our little corner of paradise in the off-season. No crowds. No lines. Nothing but azure and emerald Florida in every direction.

Tickets in hand, we relaxed on the dock, absorbing the quiet beauty. Birds flitted along the shoreline. A few fishing tournament stragglers were trying their luck at the vast schools of silvery snook flashing in the shallows beneath the docks. The waterfront residences, empty and uninhabited, invited our eyes and imaginations. Those who can afford such houses very rarely have the time to occupy them. Those who would love to occupy them very rarely have the means to afford them. Capitalism and beauty seem to meet at a paradox.

The Lady Chadwick, Captiva Cruise's flagship vessel, patiently awaited us at the end of the dock. Two or three staff members were scurrying within her, preparing for the daily outing. When boarding time arrived, at 10:00 am, only a handful of others were there to take the trip with us.

The Lady Chadwick is a classic 65 foot long cruise boat, with a climate controlled main cabin and a canopied and open air upper deck. Both levels are carpeted. It has a full service cocktail bar, and spacious men's and women's facilities. It was built to carry 148 passengers. There were only 12 others traveling with us on this particular cruise. With such a small group, it felt like a private charter.

Our boat was on schedule to meander through Pine Island Sound towards its two ports of call. The first stop would be Cabbage Key, an "Old Florida" island hideaway with a restaurant and inn. The second was Useppa Island, an historic retreat and private club for the well-to-do. Somewhere along the course of our hour long narrated cruise, it became apparent we were the only ones getting off the boat at Cabbage Key. Everyone else had tickets to tour Useppa, leaving us wondering if we'd made a tragic mistake in choosing our itinerary.

Two midmorning Bloody Mary rounds from the ship's well equipped bar put our anxieties to rest, as we glided across the smooth sheet of sea past Upper Captiva and Cayo Costa. Quirky spoken-word histories of local significance were playfully passed down to us by the guide. There were stories of destructive hurricanes, creative artists and free land given away on Sanibel Island.

We'll be picking you up no later than 2 pm. If you're not on the boat by the time we sound the horn, they've got some great can spend the night in on the island.

Before long we made the final approach to Cabbage Key. A few small cottages and docks teased the shore of the 85 acre mangrove island. The fauna was thick with cabbage palms (which give the island its name) and bougainvillea. A peaceful marina harbor with a tiny white boathouse and weathered docks awaited us. The harbormaster, looking like a hot and tired Hemingway, guided the Lady Chadwick into its temporary slip. The ramp was extended and we were escorted off the boat. Our cruise-mates waved goodbye as they pulled away and headed for Useppa island, leaving us behind.

The main focal point of Cabbage Key is the restaurant overlooking the harbor. The restaurant doubles as an inn with six overnight guest rooms. There are also six detached cottages available to rent. But it's the restaurant that draws most of the 500 travelers who visit each day of the in-season for lunch. That said...this is the off-season. Perched atop an immense 38 foot Calusa Indian shell mound, the restaurant and inn sits tranquil amidst the few royal poinciana trees surrounding it.

Long told local rumors pinpoint this restaurant as the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett's song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise". While Jimmy Buffett did visit this restaurant, and probably even ate the cheeseburger, I'm afraid I have to be the one to stop the perpetuation of this easily unproven factoid. Jimmy Buffett has repeatedly placed *the* "Cheeseburger in Paradise" at a small bar in Roadtown, Tortola. At Cabbage Key it's still a cheeseburger, and it's still paradise...but that's as close as the legend ever comes to truth.

Our appetites dragged us up the shell walkway to the front porch of the restaurant. Classic rock sang from outdoor speakers. A young male employee offered us the option of indoor or outdoor seating.

"Which do you suggest?"

"Our indoor seating is an interesting experience...the walls and ceilings are covered in thousands of dollar bills."

Indoor it was, and dollar bills there were, over 50,000 of them, to be exact. To walk through the piano bar and into the rear screened dining porch is akin to entering a cave made of money. Dollar bills wave in the island breeze, some are yellowing, some are covering other dollar bills, and all of them have two things in common: names written on them in black magic marker and lots and lots of masking tape.

Built in 1938 by mystery fiction novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart and her son, the restaurant and inn probably look just as they did almost 70 years ago. Everything is still in its original condition, from the rough wood floors to the rustic furniture. Even the dollar bills were around in those long gone days. The first bill was signed and taped up by a fisherman in 1941, as a way of ensuring he'd have the funds to purchase more alcohol on his return trip. The next time he arrived, he had money to spare and left the bill hung up where it was. Other customers soon followed suit. Now the roughly 3,000 bills that routinely fall to the floor each year are all donated to charities.

Throughout the years some noteworthy bills have shown up, including those signed by John F Kennedy Jr., Julia Roberts, Bart Simpson creator Matt Groening, ex-president Jimmy Carter, and one by the cheeseburger man himself, Mr. Jimmy Buffet (his was the first dollar bill ever taped onto the piano, but is framed behind the bar now). Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel, Sean Connery, and Ernest Hemingway are also among some of the many celebrities who are known to have had a soft spot for time spent at Cabbage Key.

Stained and wrinkled menus led us to our orders of tropical mixed drinks and cheeseburgers. Cabbage Creepers sealed our fates, pina colada mixed with rum and a Kahlua float. Two-a-piece of these coconut mind-lubricants and spontaneity became our destiny. Comments became dangerous and day-changing. Peer pressure and an island-instilled sense of adventure led to new plans.

"Imagine what it would be like to spend the night here."

That was all it took to elevate our experience to the next level. Somewhere between the cheeseburger and key lime pie, from within the vibrant fog cast by the Cabbage Creepers coursing through our veins, the idle thought slowly began to become reality. Our waitress overheard our conversation and sent over a female manager. Minutes later she was giving us a tour of a two bedroom cabin, assuring us she could make all the arrangements with Captiva Cruises to stop them from coming to pick us up. She said she would make the necessary phone calls to have us picked up tomorrow. Are we really doing this? And before we knew it, we were down at the white-wooden boathouse gift-shop, giddy and giving her our credit card to charge the cabin on. I can't believe we're doing this. It was a done deal.

When the alcohol began to wear off we found ourselves completely stranded on an island with no paved roads and no general store. We were escaping the punishing humidity, sprawled out in the stark cabin, thanking modern-humanity for the air conditioning. The television had three fuzzy channels. The radio had one broken speaker. There were a few random magazines with last year's news shouting urgently from their covers. On a shelf was a Gideon bible. Our cabin had a large screened-in wraparound porch, the front facing Pine Island Sound and the rear facing mangrove swamp.

We trudged down to the tiny gift store by the docks, assuming they must sell bottled water. They sell T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, and novels by Randy Wayne White and John D. Mills. That's it. You'll find no water or snacks here. The restaurant on the mound is the only game in town. They've got you, and they know it. Tropical alcoholic drinks always lead to dehydration, and our tally for the six 12-ounce bottles of water we needed to bring back to our cabin was $15 before tipping the bartender.

It occurred to us, around this time, that we'd brought no change of clothes, no hair care products, no toothbrushes, no deodorant, nothing but cameras and money. We were stuck with our dirty and sweaty selves until 2 pm the next day. Looking at the clock, I saw it was 1:30 pm...only a little over 24 hours left to go.

The oppressive heat limited our entertainment options. Denial kept entering our minds, demanding there must be somewhere to purchase a few of the items and beverages we were craving. If only we'd come prepared. We told ourselves stories about how next time we're bringing a cooler full of water and soft drinks with us, extra clothes, hygiene products.

"What should we do now?"

"We could read some of that bible."

"Let's go for a walk...they've got nature trails.'

"You want to walk in this heat?"

"We'll just stay here for awhile and go for a walk when it cools down a little."

Cabbage Key forced us to talk and think. We talked to each other about the scenery. About nature. About family. About God. We talked and thought in ways we never would've without being stuck on an island with no way to leave. We faced our appetites. We pondered all the routine comforts we take for granted in our day to day lives, drawing the lines between simple actions and the abundant comfort those actions deliver us. Fresh clothes. A trip to the refrigerator. Our comfortable beds.

After 5 pm Cabbage Key quieted. Boat traffic ended and the population of the island dwindled down to the scant visitors staying overnight and employees (who all live there full time). A sedating calm fell over the grounds. A large gopher tortoise, sensing the tourists were gone, came out from wherever it is they come from and began patrolling the wide expanse of lawn. An osprey in a nearby tree minded the goings-on below. Dark clouds offered solace from the sun. Lightning in the near distance offered eye candy. A faint thunder rumble filled the air. The storms never approached.

We walked the nature trail, towards the depths of the island. Gumbo limbo, seagrape, live oak and more mangroves climbed the sides of the path, in some instances providing a canopy of green. Salty mud and organic decay filled the air, noxious perfume of low tide, death, rebirth, and the food chain. Geckos and fiddler crabs skittered across the way, ducking into undergrowth and holes in the marsh as we approached. A wrong turn in the poorly marked trail led us to a distant and overgrown, shell-scattered dead end.

Dinner reservations are taken at check-in. The proprietors must know an anticipated meal is a psychological balm in this setting. Ours were for 7:30. We gave in at 7:00 and headed for the restaurant.

Darker and lit with small twinkling lights, evening scents of night blooming flowers waft through the screened dining room. The dinner menu is limited and a bit pricey. Beverage refills are never free at Cabbage Key. Thick with atmosphere and the dull buzz of the few others among us, we ordered our food. Meals were cooked to perfection. The chink in this restaurant's armor was found in our waiter. The service was not commensurate with either the ambiance or the prices being paid. Mistakes in the final bill were many and a time-consuming inconvenience. With only a handful of tables occupied, there was no reasonable excuse.

Making the most of it, we put our dinner experience behind us and went to sit on the deserted docks. The harbormaster sat in a dark corner having an animated conversation on his cellular phone about an approaching tropical storm. Imagine weathering out the storm here. These moments felt film-noir, with the cinema-perfect island around us, subdued lighting on the looming restaurant, dark motionless sea water at our feet, and Key Largo palms bending in tropical form.

Back at the cabin, conversation soon turned to the ghost stories surrounding Cabbage Key. Printed on the internet and in haunt-hunter books, legend often places the apparition in room number 3 of the main inn. As the story goes, a guest of the Rhinehart's contracted tuberculosis in New York and came to the inn to recover. While waiting for her family to join her, she died of complications from the illness. Now, those who stay in this room are frequently woken by a woman entering from the private patio. She is said to have long, dark hair and is dressed in a blue skirt and long-sleeved white blouse. Wandering in, she often looks at those in the bed before retreating to the patio once again, without ever opening the door.

Staff members have been known to tell other chilling stories regarding physical manifestations of spirits in the main inn. Some involve objects moving significant distances with no one ever touching them. Other stories have more of a Calusa Indian burial ground slant to them. However, popular knowledge has it that the current owners do not want the haunting stories told, and will deny them when asked. Information must be gleaned from the employees who work there, and even then, only when the owners are nowhere to be seen.

Putting the lights out around midnight, the darkness was darker than it is at home. A strong wind was kicking up outside, and the cabin felt to slightly sway on its stilts. Images of ghosts and devious shadows smeared themselves across the insides of our heads in smudged mind-colors. I wish we had a night light. Spiders and alligators roamed in the imagined terrain surrounding our beds. Door locks were triple-checked. This is the closest I've ever stayed to home and the farthest away I've ever felt.

We woke to forgotten dreams and a new day, clean sun streamed in through the windows. There was blue sky and wispy clouds overheads as we took our traditional and reasonably priced breakfasts on the open veranda. Sun sparkling waves heightened our spirits, and those of the others around us, the dreadlocked vegan family and the romantic getaway couple. I wonder if their experience last night was like ours? The staff was bright-eyed and conversational.

Another spontaneous idea and a phone call to customer-service-conscious Captiva Cruises got our adventure adrenaline pumping again. They agreed to pick us up as they dropped today's Cabbage Key guests off. They would transport us to Useppa Island and then back home at no additional cost. Those half-off tickets got us quite a distance down the road.

Before the boat arrived to take us to storybook Useppa, and our incredible lunch at the Collier Inn, we climbed the water tower which is at the highest point of the mound on Cabbage Key. From 60 feet we looked at the green bumps protruding in batches all over Pine Island Sound, small islands where plants and animals grow undisturbed, much as they did before human beings ever existed. We weren't speaking, but I'm pretty sure that within us all a keen appreciation was settling in, an understanding that we'd learned more in the last 24 hours than we realized, that by escaping our routine way of acting we allowed ourselves to grow, to live, and to create a lasting memory which was still being formed as we sat there silent with late morning sun on our smiling faces.

The Best Holiday Gifts For College Students

Gift baskets are really perfect and charming gift items for all seasons and festivals. Gifts are specially classified and designed for variety of purpose such as "Get well", "Holiday", "Housewarming", "New baby", "Thank you" and "Birthday". You can also find gift baskets for the college students in any department store. Actually, gift baskets for college student are good for freshmen.

Usually gift baskets with food items are highly appreciable for college students. If your gifts for students are decorated with dried fruits, protein bars, nuts, any healthy cereal bar, hot and cool chocolate, and then it will be pleasant to all college students. Another wonderful idea for the souvenir basket is to add any basic eating equipment. Mugs, bowls, cups, gift certificates or vouchers for grocery stores are the special items which you can use for decoration.

College students always need school or college accessories, thus these presents must be useful. You can use decorating gifts for college students. In creating gift wrapper for students, you have to plan about what you think to put into it. You can put gifts into a holiday basket and you can design in any ways you want. Mouse pad, geometrical boxes, pens, pen boxes and table lamp for studying are some of the unique and special items which you can use to create a good holiday basket for college scholars. There are several types of amusing and inspirational coffee mugs that are available in the shops and you can use them for entertaining purpose.

As they are students in colleges, diets with enriched nutrition are essential and very nice for their health. So, you can decorate gifts with healthy food items and you can also add vitamin capsules. You can send many gift certificates for purchasing useful book and with related pamphlets for the same souvenir baskets.

Probably you will be familiar about the desire on music of college students, favorite clothing stores and favorite gadgets. Consequently, you can decorate the basket of gifts with modern gadgets and clothes.

Generally, related art subjects and art books will attract more the college scholars. For souvenir baskets you have to choose a correct size containers and baskets to make it presentable. Your selection of the presents should be designed appropriately according to the male and female students. When you arrange any snacks and valuable edible items, you do not need to put the entire items into the box.

Read About the Evolution of Music

You would have definitely read in Greek mythology about the nine Muse Goddesses who were responsible for all aspects of science and art. Reportedly born to Zeus the king of the Gods in Greek mythology and Mnemosyne, they embodied all knowledge about the arts particularly music, dance, and literature. The story goes that Osiris a God of Egyptian origin picked up the 9 muses from Ethiopia, the land of Solomon and Sheba. You can trace the physical origin of music to around 500 B.C when the first experiments on acoustics and numbers relating to tones by plucking strings, took place under the watchful eyes of Pythagoras the famed Greek mathematician.

Church Music

In the middle ages, the Gregorian chant named after Pope Gregory I, involved singing of single line Latin chanting sans instrumentation in the Catholic churches of the day. Over a period, the incantations multiplied when the monks started to compose them by scribbling. The demand for music and composers increased manifold and people wanted to start to listen to different forms of music

Society Music

Music now started moving outside the church as it was now in great demand. Balance, symmetry and dynamic change directed the composers into giving expression to diverse emotions. The same desire for dynamism drove the musicians to use a piano instead of harpsichord. French nobility now promoted music, the court minstrels appeared with shows of acrobatics, and music in the castles and the town squares. Though considered low-class they were an important source of gossip and news, especially in the conspicuous absence of newspapers at that time. Music passed through the Baroque age with rarely changing the fluid rhythm.

This gave way for the classic composers who brought about radical changes in the pauses, syncopation, and the length of the notes. This classic period made a great impression on the middle class who insisted on public concerts, which soon became a reality. In the Romantic period that followed (1820-1900), the fans easily recognized each composer from his style. In the twentieth century, the composers gave more depth to tone color and sometimes used multiple tones in their compositions.

Today, music has come a long way. It is an intricate blend of harmony, melody, rhythm, timber and silence in a particular configuration. Jacques Attali, in his book "Noise: the political economy of music" claims that music has passed through four unique cultural stages and talks about the "Sonorous event between noise and silence".

Music in all its aspects from definition, creation, and performance, rely on the framework of social and cultural background. Genres and subgenres in music often present thin lines of distinction and people tend to interpret it to their convenience. You can further divide music to art music and folk music, but you can never forget the connection between music and mathematics. Today, you can hear pre-arranged, or improvised or even aleatory compositions. You can hear music in cinema, drama, or recordings of it.

Getting On With a Boss Is Easy

Getting on well with a boss is important. It can define the whole development of your career. There is no need to love a boss in the direct sense of the word, but what really matters is if you have managed to establish positive working relationships with him / her. Here you can find tips how to turn your boss into an ally.

1. Be Trustworthy
Don't miss deadlines and don't go back on your promises. Be honest and don't let your boss be surprised in an unpleasant way when he / she learns you haven't informed him / her about something important.

2. Stay At Call
Find out what your boss's goals and needs are. Offer your assistance to him / her. Let your boss know you are reliable and can challenge yourself with difficult tasks.

3. Concentrate on the Boss's Positive Features
Any person has got both positive and negative features, and like any person, a boss deserves to be treated well. There must be at least something your boss is good at, mention it in a conversation. Treat him / her the way you'd like to be treated.

4. Don't Try to Change Your Boss's Working Style
Working style of every individual is being formed during years. There is no point in trying to influence someone, it may only lead to conflicts and misunderstanding. What you really need is to learn your boss's preferences and habits and adjust to them.

5. Respond to Your Boss's Moods
Be flexible, become a psychologist. Learn when it's time to talk and when it's better not disturb him / her. Even if you want to share a bright idea or good news, this may have no effect if you choose the wrong time to talk.

6. Don't Stop Learning
No matter what your boss is like, there must be something he / she can teach you. Ask him / her for advice, remember that only those who have prominent features can be gained promotions in a company.

7. Let Your Boss Be Your Feedback Provider
Any person needs to get feedback at work from time to time. If someone mentors you and evaluates your achievements, it will help you build your self-assessment and identify further goals.

8. Don't Waste His / Her Time
Whenever you have to meet your boss for a conversation, prepare a list of issues to discuss.

9. Be Able to Disagree
Even though your opinion may be just the opposite to your boss's one, you may feel angry and irritated, try to control your emotions. There is no good in both confronting your boss openly and being a 'yes-man' gossiping behind his / her back. Feel free to express your opinion in a decent and polite form. This will only bring you the boss's respect.

Bangkok Wedding - Your Best Choice

These days, tying the knot seems to involve a lot of planning, and deciding on the location of your wedding ceremony should be a top priority. Thailand is definitely a popular choice for weddings, not only because of its very convenient location right in the heart of South East Asia, but because of all the infinite romantic possibilities for an unforgettable union with its various picture-perfect locations.

And there's no better way to get married in Thailand than in the country's colorful capital, Bangkok! Also known as the City of Angels, Bangkok has everything to offer, with its sacred temples, world-class luxury hotels, and an incomparable urban landscape-making it one of the most preferred locations for weddings.

As the political, social, and economic center of Thailand, Bangkok is considered as one of Asia's premiere capital cities, serving as one of the region's main hubs for fashion, art, and entertainment. Voted as Asia's best tourist destination, Bangkok offers a veritable feast for the eyes with its wide array of sights and sounds along with an unmatched feast for culture aficionados.

Turn your wedding into the most memorable affair of your lives by discovering the beauty of one of Asia's best capital cities. You can choose to exchange your vows at one of Bangkok's sky-high towers, offering a majestic 360-degree view of the city; or you can also have a traditional Thai wedding with one of the city's majestic temples serving as a great backdrop. You may also want to host your wedding reception in one of Bangkok's renowned five-star hotels, the epitome of luxury and the good life. The possibilities just seem to be endless!

The best part about getting married in Bangkok is that you will also never run out of choices for your honeymoon destination. The popular resort cities of Hua Hin and Pattaya are but a couple of hours away, and the historical landmarks of Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya are also within driving distance. Of course, Bangkok offers direct flights to the rest of Thailand's vacation hubs as well as to the rest of Asia and the world. You can enjoy the best of city life and explore the rest of the Land of Smiles easily with Bangkok as your base.

If you are keen on having a Bangkok wedding, we would be able to assist you with our legal marriage registration and wedding coordination services, to ensure that you have all the aspects of your marriage in Thailand covered, through the able assistance of our competent staff.

Whatever type of wedding ceremony you prefer--be it a Christian, Catholic, secular, a traditional Thai Buddhist wedding or even your own organized ceremony--having a Bangkok wedding is the best choice you can ever make, next to saying "I Do", of course!

How Best To Lose Weight With Supplements

Learning how to lose weight with the aid of sports supplements can be a very tricky and confusing affair. If you are struggling to discover which supplements to take then you will find all the facts you need in today's short article.

The reason this particular area is often so misleading comes down to marketing. With so many rival companies vying for your cash, you often end up in a situation where products are literally claiming that they will do all of the work for you, just so they can out-yell the competition.

Despite the huge confusion and wide range of substances which claim to be the best of their generation, the underlying facts remain quite simple.

Before you are able to truly get the most from what the science world has to offer you as an exercise enthusiast, you must first assess just how serious you are. Have you already set out a decent eating plan and workout routine? If so, supplements will enable you to take your results to the next level. If not, you're probably looking for something which doesn't exist. Miracle pills have not yet been invented, and likely never will, but there are more than enough companies out there prepared to take your cash if you keep being so naive, so this is the first area to work on if you're in that situation right now.

Below is a quick guide to six of the most proven legal substances for use with any fat loss regime:

* Whey protein

* Creatine

* Glutamine is excellent for recovery

* Caffeine

* The importance of carbohydrates

While some of the things listed are quite popular and are used by a lot of people, we'd place a safe bet that around half of those individuals could not tell you why they are using those particular products if you were to ask them. That's because we live in a world dominated by hype. However, learning the facts isn't difficult.

Whey protein is primarily a way to help you get more quality protein into your daily diet without constantly eating lean meat and preparing meals. If you are trying to achieve weight loss goals, look for a protein product which provides you with a low carbohydrate content per serving alongside 20-25 grams of quality protein.

Creatine is mainly known as a strength building product, so you may be surprised to see it here. However, while helping you to increase your explosive strength, which will in turn help you to build more lean muscle, your body will be able to burn fat more effectively.

When it comes to muscle recovery there is one substance which stands tall above all others in it's category. That substance is Glutamine. An amino acid, the primary function of Glutamine is improving your body's recovery time after each hard gym session. This enables you to get more from every workout and, as a net result, but off more calories each time you exercise.

Caffeine is the primary substance you will see associated with burning fat because it is included in almost every fat burning pill on the market today. By increasing your resting heart rate you allow your body to burn more calories with the regular daily activities you partake in. This is why you'll often hear caffeine bandied around celebrity gossip magazines as some kind of wonder product.

Carbohydrates have got an unfair reputation over the last ten years. Ever since Brad Pitt declared in an episode of Friends that complex carbohydrates were his enemy, glossy magazines around the globe have been declaring war on any foods containing this misunderstood macronutrient. Simply put, your body needs them. The main issue is sorting them into two types: Slow release and quick release. Quick release are usually found in sugary foods and should be avoided, whereas slow release forms will fuel your body and actually increase results for you.

So, the next time somebody tries to confuse you in the science behind how to lose weight or which supplements to take you now have the knowledge of the top six products science has discovered over the last twenty years. Rather than falling for the next big thing, you can help others to get out of the cycle as well.

Top Five List - The Best Cell Phones Available to You!

At this point in time, with all the technology whirling around us, we should expect ONLY the best from companies. In the last few years, regarding cell phones we have gone from big, bulky and minimal functions to small, thin and very functional. You can pick whatever color you want, whatever options you want, and whatever size you want. As long as you don't actually ask it to sprout wings and fly you off to the state of your choice, you can pretty much have anything you want when it comes to cell phones! As far as cell phones go, what are the best ones, how much do they cost, and what sort of functionality can I look forward to? Well lucky for you I have such a list! Listed below are the top 5 along with some major functions and specs.

1- Blackberry 7780 - The BlackBerry 7780 Wireless Handheld includes phone, email, SMS, browser, instant messaging and organizer applications in a single wireless device. It features a Java development platform and a large, high-resolution display supporting over 65,000 colors.

Phone, email, SMS, browser, instant messaging and organizer applications in a single wireless handheld*
Large, high resolution screen to provide ample workspace
Vibrant display supporting over 65,000 colors
Available memory for application and data storage
Java development platform based on open standards
Integrated attachment viewing
Exceptional battery performance
Tri-Band handheld, operates on 850/1800/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS wireless networks, allowing for international roaming between North America, Europe and Asia Pacific
Services and Applications Available Email
Phone and SMS
Corporate Data Access*
Wireless Internet
BlackBerry Internet Service Instant Messaging
BlackBerry Messenger

2- LG KE850 Prada Cell Phone - The Prada phone is a unique, sophisticated and elegant mobile phone with the first complete advanced touch interface.

Capacitive Touch Screen
Music Player (MP3, ACC, ACC+, WMA, RA)
Music Multitasking (Messaging)
Video Player (MPEG4, H.263, H.264)
Macromedia Flash UI
Document Viewer (ppt, doc, xls, pdf, txt)
EDGE Tri-Band (900/1800/1900)
98.8 54 12 mm
2M CMOS Camera / LED Flash
External Memory Slot (Micro SD)
Innerpack Battery 800mAh
Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0, USB Mass storage

3- Motorola Razr V31 - The MOTORAZR V3i is fully loaded. Shoot crisp photos with its 1.3-mega pixel camera. Capture MPEG4 video and store it on removable memory cards

Updated and streamlined Motorola RAZR V3 design
1.23 mega pixel digital camera with 8x digital zoom, video capture and full screen viewfinder
Hot swappable MicroSD memory card
262K color wallpapers & screen savers on internal display
65K color support on external display
Speaker independent name & digit dialing
Dedicated browser and messaging keys***
Integrated Class 1 Bluetooth technology with imaging, printing, peer to peer gaming profiles
Motorola's SCREEN3 technology* solution featuring zero-click access to news, sports, entertainment and other program content*
Rich, pre-loaded or downloaded J2M games, screen savers and MP3 ring tones

4- Nokia N95 - Internally known as RM-159) is a smartphone produced by Nokia. The N95's functions include those of a camera phone and portable media

GSM 850/900/1800/1900 Mhz
WCDMA 2100 Mhz Built-in GPS navigation (GPS will not work in the US)
5 Megapixels Carl Zeiss optics Digital Camera
TV Out
Symbian OS 9.2, S60 rel. 3.0 2.6" QVGA 16 million color display
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, UPnP technology EDGE

5- Samsung SGH-Z170 Triband - Don't underestimate the power of this 9.3mm-slim phone with its fashionably simple and lean lines.

Phone Network GPRS, GSM, UMTS (3G)
Service 900, 1800, 1900
Bluetooth v1.2
Infrared No
Wi-Fi (WLAN) No
Resolution 176x220 pixels
External display No
Internal memory 55MB
External memory 2GB
Memory slots 1
Standby time 250 hours
Talk time 3 hours
Vibrate alert Yes
Photo ID Yes
Ringtones MP3, Polyfone

It's really hard for me to even pick five phones because if I had my choice I would have a zillion dollars and have a phone for every day of the year! It's really amazing how far we have come in these last years regarding phones and cell phones, the technology is constantly blowing the last thing out of the water and outdoing its last predecessor! I hope you enjoyed these five phones and hey if your lucky, you already own one or two or five!

Make Your Home More Attractive And Safer - With Outdoor Accent Lighting

There's no other time of year quite like springtime. The birds are singing, trees and flowers are in bloom, the days are getting longer... and the weather is getting warmer.

That means it's time to get out and enjoy that nice weather. And what better way to take advantage of your home's "extended living space" (e.g., porches, patios and decks - even your back yard) with friends and family than with some relaxing outdoor living?

As the carefree days of summer turn into sultry nights ripe for adventure and entertaining, make your deck or patio a more inviting place for guests. Spending time outdoors is so much nicer when there's a welcoming atmosphere! Try installing new accent lighting to brighten the place up. It'll give your outdoor surroundings a whole new look - and give you a whole new outlook on your home at the same time.

You might want to consider some landscape lighting, too... to light your way back to the house after a jaunt out to the hot tub or an evening swim in the pool.

And keep in mind: These little "sprucing-up" touches don't have to blow your entire spring home-improvement budget. A few well-placed outdoor accent lights can add precisely the right ambience to your outdoor parties.

But exterior lighting isn't just decorative - or merely useful for recreational purposes; it's also highly functional. Given the rash of home invasions that have been so prevalent in the news these days, it's more important than ever to keep your loved ones safe. Don't let your family get caught by surprise by a potentially dangerous prowler. Make your home safer by installing motion-activated lights around the outside of your house.

For safety's sake, light up any walkways or other approaches to your home; and be sure to illuminate the rear perimeter. You may also want to consider training spotlights on the driveway and garage, as an added security measure. Plus, if you've got a breezeway or an enclosed porch, be sure that area is well lighted, too.

A few simple touches will not only brighten up your home and surroundings, but they can add literally hundreds of dollars to your home's value and - more importantly - ensure your family's safety and dramatically increase your own peace of mind.

Letterman, Sextortion and Reputation

David Letterman's recent on-air admission of affairs with staffers, and the alleged blackmail plot by CBS producer Robert Halderman, have caused quite a stir. But when it comes to reputation, how will the scandal affect Letterman now and in the long run?

Though his actions may be morally questionable, Letterman so far has done a good job of managing the crisis. Rather than allowing the story to break and scrambling for a reaction, he was able to go on the offensive and make the announcement himself. In today's world of instant information, that kind of control is practically unheard of.

As the story remains a hot topic with the public, Letterman has displayed a relaxed, yet remorseful tone. Viewers can sense the sincerity, and so far, he's been rewarded with broad fan support. On-air apologies seem to have helped his case, and he has even been able to strike the perfect comedic pitch of self-deprecation. While keeping things light-hearted, he's also displayed a serious tone to communicate his regret.

Of course, scandal sells - the first episode after the controversy earned The Late Show a nearly 20 percent increase over the season average. The ratings indicate that fans won't be turning their backs on Letterman anytime soon.

The lesson for communicators, as we see time and time again, is that honest and forthcoming communication builds long-term trust and support. And if there's bad news looming, the best course of action is to take control, own up, and communicate what will be done to fix it. It will be interesting to follow this story, but for now, we expect little permanent damage to Letterman's reputation as an entertainer.

Radio Etiquette for Dispatcher Training

Dispatcher training includes many skills, but one of the most important to will learn will be good radio etiquette. As a dispatcher, you will be overseeing a switchboard that connects you to a fleet of other radio operators. Your job will be to facilitate clear communication, by co-ordinating people from your central location. This can even include patching different networks through you.

Brevity and clarity are two key aspects of good radio use. Brevity means avoiding being overly verbose and only using the radio for useful information. A radio is not a telephone to transmit unlimited gossip, but a means to send short bursts of information. This is because your messages do not go through concurrently in the same frequency without drowning each other out. For the sake of brevity, good things to transmit over the radio include location, hazards, questions and arrival and departure times. Clarity means structuring your messages for maximum comprehension. This means properly closing your messages, often with the stereotypical 'over' but also using the appropriate radio abbreviations and word replacements. And of course you need to enunciate and think about what you say in advance so your sentences have the best structure possible. Lastly there are some words you shouldn't use. Open channels usually explicitly ban profanity, but you should also avoid rhyming words or words that could be taken in another context, such as 'tire' which sounds like 'fire' or dead, except to mean that a person is dead.

As the dispatcher, you'll also be in a supervisory role. In general it will be up to you to set the tone and enforce the rules, mostly by leading by example. However in the case of some practices like always carrying radios with you, you may need to gently remind the people in your network. Your dispatcher training will also need to focus on the challenge of patching unrelated networks together. Consistency is an important practice in radio, but if everyone on one channel is consistent to one standard, and everyone on the other channel is strictly applying themselves to another one, you are the only person who can overcome this.

Dispatcher schools prepare graduates for all sorts of situations, but most practices will apply universally whether you're overseeing emergency response teams or taxis. Another good habit is to make sure you listen before you transmit. If someone has an urgent message you do not wish to broadcast over top of them. You will also watch to make sure that security procedures are being followed. This means no unauthorized users on a channel.

Lastly you should get some familiarity with the types of radios you will be overseeing. Very high frequency (VHF) radios are best for short distances while high frequency (HF) radios suit longer distances better. Knowing what people are using helps you direct people efficiently.

Peaceful Wealth Can You Handle the Truth? (Part 1 of 2)

The courtroom was charged with emotional electricity. The reputation, not to mention freedom, of each participant was at stake. Tom Cruise's Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a previously glib but now earnestly committed Navy lawyer shouts, "I want the truth!" Jack Nicholson's Col. Nathan Jessep, a cold-hearted manipulator of men fires back from the witness stand, "You can't handle the truth!" It is the pivotal scene the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. It could just as easily be a conversation between an investor and his or her broker.

Equal parts hubris and conceit frame today's conversation between the Wall Street machine and the clients to whom they claim to serve. Investors want the truth. The vested interests of brokers, analysts and active managers, whose livelihood depends on prolonging a broken business model of investing, shout back - "you can't handle the truth". "We know better", they say. "Our market wisdom, our stock picking expertise, our forecasting, our analysis, our charting, our superior money management skills are distinct and unrivaled. We create value through the active management and manipulation of your money, and our skill is worth every dollar we extract from your account."

"The sad truth is that there are only three kinds of financial prognosticators: those who don't know, those who don't know they don't know, and those who know they don't know and get paid big bucks to pretend they know." - Burton Malkiel, Princeton University Professor of Economics and author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street.

We have spent the past three essays decrying the broken business model of investing defined by commission driven self-interest, wealth-stealing fee structures and suspect claims of market-beating expertise. I concluded our previous discussion with a promise of good news amidst the storm swept seas that ravage our voyage and impede our journey to Peaceful Wealth. It is a solution based on the wisdom of the market, and available to all with the courage to chart a new course.

We must hoist four sails to power our journey to Peaceful Wealth.

  1. Embrace the fact that markets work
  2. Understand the rewards of the efficient frontier
  3. Build broadly diversified, low cost portfolios using structured asset classes
  4. Beauty is in the eye of the long-term investor

Markets work

The year was 1900. A French mathematician named Louis Bachelier wrote a Doctoral thesis titled "The Theory of Speculation". Bachelier's path blazing work used higher math to describe a seemingly random pricing of stocks within the market that provided no help to those trying to predict or profit from future price changes. He argued that markets are "an aggregate of speculators" who "at a given instant can believe in neither a market rise or a market fall, since, for each quoted price, there are as many buyers as sellers."

Bachelier's thesis offers a simple truth with profound implications that have been re-examined and re-confirmed under the lens of 100 years of academic research. Every stock transaction is an agreement between a seller who believes their most profitable course of action is ridding themselves of a given stock and a buyer who believes just the opposite. This competitive interplay translates all known and suspected information about the stock into a specific stock price. Changes in price occur when new information drives buyers and sellers to alter their assessment of the stock. Only new information and unpredictable swings in sentiment will result in a price change. The competitive forces of buying and selling demand all known (and/or predicted) information be incorporated into the price of the stock.

Active managers and stock pickers believe the market is broken, or at least has fissures available for profitable exploration, and somehow they are able to see what no one else can predict. They seek to exploit opportunity and covertly uncover value using methods and systems that give them an unfair advantage over the competition. As we presented in our last essay, active management has two flaws; it is expensive and it does not work.

How does embracing the fact markets accurately reflect all known information help investors stay on course? It is the foundation upon which you can reject the allure of active management. If no one can successfully predict future stock prices, there is no reason to waste your time and spend your money engaging those who claim otherwise. Turn off CNBC. Refrain from yelling "Booya" or being lured by the omnipresent financial pornography clamoring for your money as they attempt to sell the "10 stocks to make you rich this year!" or "3 hot sectors you must own today!" Rex Sinquefield, co-founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors and a pioneer in the pursuit of Peaceful Wealth, drolly observes "Today the only people who don't think markets work are the North Koreans, the Cubans and the stock pickers".

Managing risk has its rewards

The year was 1952. Harry Markowitz introduced the concepts of managing risk in the selection of a portfolio and the existence of an "efficient frontier" in his Doctoral thesis published in the Journal of Finance. His "efficient frontier" proposal theorized an optimal portfolio of stocks and bonds could be created to maximize investor returns for a desired level of risk. Risk is defined by the up and down swings in value every security experiences in a competitive market.

Markowitz' work, and the concepts of Modern Portfolio Theory it spawned, were a head-on assault to the conventional wisdom of the day. Listen to the words of Gerald Loeb in his 1935 book The Battle for Investment Survival, "Once you attain competency, diversification is undesirable. One or two, or at most three or four, securities should be bought. Competent investors will never be satisfied beating the averages by a few small percentage points". Sound familiar? Jim Cramer, former hedge fund manager and guru of Mad Money on CNBC, feasts daily on the principles Loeb espouses. While he may produce entertaining television (in a rather frenetic way), Mr. Cramer is just as wrong today as Gerald Loeb was in 1935.

Modern financial theory extends the early work of pioneers like Markowitz to identify factors within the market that allow investors to successfully invest in a portfolio with performance characteristics suitable for their individual objectives and comfort levels. A fundamental requirement for success in the market is to define the appropriate level of risk each investor is willing to endure in exchange for the total returns they seek. Understanding the efficient frontier, and utilizing the benefits it offers is critical to long-term investor success.

One common mistake investors (and the ignorant or uncaring brokers that advise them) make is to assume all risk is rewarded by the market. Inappropriate risk can destroy a portfolio. Weston Wellington, Vice-President at Dimensional Fund Advisors, says in his article Equilibrium-based Investing, "The accepted thinking among researchers is that markets reward only nondiversifiable risk." He continues, "The risk of holding any single stock is far greater than that of a diversified portfolio (it could be the next Google or the next Enron) but the expected return is no higher than that of the diversified portfolio, so the additional risk of holding a single stock is not rewarded by additional expected return. Investors should not expect a reward for risks that can be easily diversified away."

Common sense? Yes, but common sense is anything but common within the broken business model of investing. The story of Jim (not his real name) exemplifies the pain many clients are forced to endure. Jim was a company man, having served as a supervisor in the manufacturing department of a Fortune 500 consumer goods company. He spent over forty years, his entire adult career, doing all the right things. He worked hard, lived below his means and saved his money in anticipation of his eventual retirement. His efforts and ethics were rewarded when he retired with over $1 Million in company stock. He was set for life and looking forward to a long and enjoyable retirement adventure with the wife of his youth. Unfortunately for Jim, he was naïve. A cold call from a broker came just when he was trying to sort through his investment options. She worked for a global financial services company and promised him access to the best research and money management the firm could offer. Jim trusted her to care for his nest egg. She told him she would diversify the money among the best stocks of the day, achieving the twin benefits of enhanced return and reduced risk. What was her strategy? To invest Jim in 30 high-tech companies just prior to the bursting of the Internet bubble. Her plan did not work out too well for Jim. Jim came to me with a portfolio worth only $164,000. He was forced to go back to work (at significantly less pay) for a small manufacturing plant and is unsure if he will ever retire or fulfill the dreams that only a few years prior were tantalizingly attainable to him and his wife.

What are the rewards offered by the efficient frontier? Understanding how markets work and the risk vs. reward trade-offs help investors steer a direct course to their intended destination. It offers a benchmark to define success and an incentive to avoid unnecessary risks and potentially harmful strategies. It brings clarity in times of market fluctuations because investors recognize the link between short-term volatility and long-term reward. It also is a wonderful gauge to judge the value of any advisor offering assistance on your journey. Jim certainly wishes he and the broker he entrusted with his life savings understood the efficient frontier. He will never again make the same mistake. Nether should you.

We have only set two of the four sails required for our journey to Peaceful Wealth. We will define the principles of proper portfolio construction and the power and freedom found in knowing your time horizons next week.