Jumat, 29 Februari 2008

0 The Subterranean Water Cannons of Leadville, Colorado

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times yesterday about a mine disaster just waiting to happen.

[Image: "Abandoned equipment stands in the snow near the top of an underground tunnel that was once used to drain mine water." Photo by Kevin Moloney for The New York Times].

In Leadville, Colorado, we read, people now wake up every morning wondering if they "will be washed away by toxic water that local officials fear could burst from a decaying mine tunnel" on the edge of town.
    For years, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Environmental Protection Agency have bickered over what to do about the aging tunnel, which stretches 2.1 miles and has become dammed by debris. The debris is holding back more than a billion gallons of water, much of it tainted with toxic levels of cadmium, zinc and manganese.
The article continues, describing the background for this "potentially catastrophic release of water":
    Abandoned mine shafts honeycomb the surrounding hillsides. The old drainage tunnel, built by the federal government in 1943 to drain hundreds of these shafts, began falling apart in the 1970s, causing water to pool. In 2005, the E.P.A. offered to start pumping the clogged water toward a Bureau of Reclamation plant, which treats the water flowing through the tunnel; but the bureau contended that the additional water was part of the E.P.A.’s Superfund cleanup responsibility.
And so nothing was done. The threat of "release" is now so great that property in the town can no longer be insured.
One wonders if it might be possible to build something like this deliberately, as a military tactic: a kind of long-delay, underground water cannon that only fires once, several decades after construction.
You leave a few dozen of these things lying around, beneath a terrain you have to evacuate... and so whenever your enemies move in, they've got some rather big problems beneath their feet.

Kamis, 28 Februari 2008

0 10 Things Your Tax Preparer Won't Tell You

Last year Smart Money magazine wrote an entire series of articles to inform consumers of various tidbits, pitfalls, and tricks that common service providers try (or may try) to pull. This year, I happened upon a timely article of the same vein.

With taxes right around the corner, who isn't in the mood for, "10 Things Your Tax Preparer Won't Tell You".

Shown below are the 10 points that will prove to entice you just enough to get you to click through and read the article.
  1. "A big name doesn't always mean better service."
  2. "You wouldn't believe what I get away with."
  3. "You'd be better off without me."
  4. "What are my qualifications? Well, I'm real good at Sudoku."
  5. "If it's February, you're too late."
  6. "You hired me, but your return is being done by some guy in India."
  7. "Taxes, shmaxes — let me see what else I can sell you."
  8. "If I screw up, I'll pay up."
  9. "Tax preparation is an art, not a science."
  10. "You could find a much better deal if you'd only shop around."
Now, before my accountant kills me for this one. Know that there are good, solid places to go to get your taxes done. If you are in Illinois or Florida, feel free to contact the people I use. For those outside those states, do a little homework before you jump in bed with a big name.

By the way, if you are thinking about doing your own taxes, here is a decent article to review.

Here is the rest of the Smart Money article, 10 Things Your Tax Preparer Won't Tell You.

0 11 Solid Ways to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Time management is a skill that many of us seem to learn through necessity. The problem with learning a skill through necessity is that, more often than not, bad habits creep in and, although the skill may be useful in general, we do not use it to its full potential.

Taking the time to read up on improving your time management skills can lead to great rewards.

Some examples are:
  • The elimination of procrastination and avoidance-of-tasks
  • Easier, quicker, evaluation of your work and abilities
  • Less worrying about deadlines
  • More productivity
  • More relaxation time, and,
  • The obvious one) An overall increase in time
Time management is a skill that takes time to development and perfect. It also is a skill that is different for everyone. Your best bet is to try a variety of different approaches until something clicks in your brain and sticks in your routine.

Here are a handful of tips to consider:
  1. Make Lists: Write as much down as you can. If you don’t carry a planner or notebook already, start. Personally, I’ve always preferred a small, simple, white-lined notebook because you aren’t restricted by the various boxes and lines of the average planner.

    A simple To Do List is often a huge help to anyone, but I can attest gleefully to the 3 Lists of 3 Method more than any other. You’re goal is to avoid a list that reaches outrageous length and is overwhelming to even look at.

  2. Make Use of Down Time: Using walking, driving, showering, or otherwise “dead” times to plan. Think about what your goals are for that day or the next. Which goals are most important? Prioritization is the key.

  3. Reward Yourself: Whenever you accomplish something, especially the important things, make sure to take the time to reward yourself. A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess’ used the “Martini Method” to get things done. Burgess set a goal of 1,000 words per day. When he finished his word count, he’d relax with a martini and take the day off. Maybe a martini isn’t the ideal reward for some of us, but the method stands useful.

  4. Concentrate on One Thing: The human mind works more efficiently when it is focused. As we’ve seen before multitasking is actually a disadvantage to productivity. Focus on one thing and get it done. Take care not to bleed tasks into each other. At times, multitasking may seem like a more efficient route, but it is probably not.

  5. Avoid Procrastination at All Costs: When trying to be more productive and trying to save time, procrastination should be avoided like nothing else. It is the ultimate productivity-killer.

  6. Set Personal Deadlines: Nobody likes deadlines. They cause stress, aggravation, worry, and, more stress. A guaranteed way to alleviate some of this stress is to set your own earlier deadlines. Be realistic but demanding of yourself. Challenge yourself and, referring to tip 3, reward yourself for a meeting a difficult challenge. Not only will this save you time and make you more productive in the long run, but you will also have a buffer time with little to no penalties compared to those received for missing a real deadline. Of course, this tip has potential for abuse, so be sure to make your own penalties for missing your personal deadlines.

  7. Delegate Responsibilities: It is not uncommon for people to take on more than they can handle. The overestimation of one’s abilities, though not necessarily a bad thing, can often result in stress and more work for an individual. To avoid this unnecessary stress, do not feel bad about delegating tasks.

  8. Set up a Long Term Planner: In the everyday drab of life, we can often lose sight of our goals. Setting up a long term planner will help you envision your long term goals and rationalize your current objectives. Whenever you find yourself thinking “Why am I putting myself through this work right now? I could be home watching Lost.” just take a look at your long term planner and you’ll be reminded of paying off your mortgage or saving up enough for your child’s college tuition. Revise this long term planner monthly to keep goals up-to-date.

  9. Employ a program like RescueTime: This is a lightweight app that records and graphs how you spend your time on your computer. Those “2-minute” breaks to check out Digg, or play a flash game on some website, or email Aunt Betty, can add up to quite a bit of wasted productivity and wasted time. RescueTime will allow you to see exactly how you spent your time and will even send a weekly report to your email.

  10. Work in a Team: This tip works hand-in-hand with tip # 7. Although giving up responsibilities is a scary thought for some, it is an invaluable method to increase the average team productivity of all involved. Make sure the team goals are clear and make sure everyone knows who is responsible for given tasks. Make sure all lines of communication are always open. A clogged or blocked line will have the opposite effect on productivity. Give tasks to those who are best suited for them and things will get done faster.

  11. Be Careful to Avoid Burnout: Burnout occurs when your body and mind can no longer keep up with the tasks you demand of them. Don’t try to force yourself to do the impossible. Delegate time for important tasks, but always be sure to leave time for relaxation and reflection. Review your recent accomplishments and make sure you feel good. Review and reflection is one of the best ways to gain confidence and higher confidence means more productivity.
An individual skilled in time-management stands to gain much more from everyday life than the next guy. Try employing these tips in your everyday life and watch the productivity grow.

Written by Tim Bridge of PersonaDev.com.

0 A Good Problem to Have

As someone who subscribes to and reads a dozen personal finance blogs, I have noticed something that many of those in the blogosphere would probably see as a wonderful problem to have. As both a hard worker and a diligent saver, I have been able to save the maximum retirement amount and the maximum SEP amount each year. I no longer meet the income level to contribute to a Roth, but you better believe I did when I was able. I also fund my 3 kids’ 529 plans every month. Educational charities and my kids’ PTA also get nice donations every year.

After doing this for a decade or more, I realize that I love the idea of saving the money. I have prepaid my mortgage so that I have only a year to go to pay off a 15 year loan in 8 years. I also have non-retirement assets that have experienced the ups and downs of the uncertain economy.

Poor me, right?

What astounds me is that for the first time in my life, I can do whatever I want, but I don’t know what to do. I never prepared myself for this day. After 15 years’ of diligent and careful saving, I find that the spending of money doesn’t provide the joy or happiness I thought it would.

Don’t get me wrong. The freedom to not worry when a car breaks down or I need a suit is satisfying. I love my house even more now that it is about to be all mine. My favorite luxury is actually using a service to do our laundry. For $1.00/lb they get it, wash it, fold it, and return it. I know it isn’t worth it, but both my wife and I hate doing laundry.

For all you savers, please pay attention — do your best to figure out why you are saving the money. For me it was always the ability to stop working early — something I coveted when I was 25. Now that I am about to turn 40, I realize that I like my jobs, and that I don’t do as well without structure in my days. So yes, I saved, but now what?

Here are 7 questions to consider in advance:

  • What are you going to do once your financial moves come to fruition?

  • What will you concentrate on next?

  • What will make you happy?

  • What will you do with the money?

  • What aspects of my financial planning will be difficult to change?

  • How have your priorities changed over time?

  • And finally—how are they likely to change going forward?
I always thought I could turn off the saving, frugal, careful part of my brain once I reached a certain level of financial security. However, I am increasingly aware of the fact that if you pursue something diligently for 15 years, it becomes who you are.

Be careful in what you wish for. Please comment if you have experienced something similar.

Written by Joneps. He has no agenda or blog to promote—just a thought process he wants to get out.

Rabu, 27 Februari 2008

0 Shift Yourself From Observer to Participant

No doubt you have heard the old saying, “Change happens”. This is true, change happens every minute of our lives. In fact, one of the best things about life is that no two days are ever the same. Yet for many of us, we have a difficult time dealing with change because we are observers of change, and not participants of change.

Change is often rewarding, exciting and dynamic – for those that are making it happen. How can you take control and shift your life from being merely an observer who has to deal with change happening around him to a participant who is the catalyst for change in their life and others?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You can make change happen by simply changing your way of thinking. Don’t believe me? Try this for one week, seven short days, and then come back and read this article again. I think you will be surprised at how you made a shift in your life, but also have helped make a shift in the lives of others around you.

For the next week I want you to put aside every obstacle that gets in your way. Don’t ignore it, but just resolve to deal with it without being frustrated or thinking that it is insurmountable. For the net seven days I want you to approach every problem, challenge and opportunity with a smile and find a creative solution for it. Some of it will be easy, for example if the boss wants to give you a raise (yes, that’s a change!), and some won’t be as easy – you have a project a co-worker dumped on you with only two days to get it done. All I’m asking is that you try.

You are going to discover something happening here. By shifting your way of thinking, you are not becoming a participant of change. Your positive attitude is going to influence not only you, but everyone around you. Your family will notice, you coworkers with notice – even the guy who sells you your morning coffee is likely to notice! You have had a paradigm shift and all it took was for you to approach ever situation with a positive attitude. Now let’s take it farther than that – let’s be a participant in change in life all around us.

What is a one-year goal in your life? Don’t have one? Well get one! Think of something you would really like to change in your life within the next year – be it something about you (weight loss, smile more, work out at the gym) or something around you (get a new car, find a job in a field you love). Now here is something that most people don’t know and why so many people fail at making change happen in their life – they try to do it without a shift in the way they think and act. I’m here to tell you right now that you aren’t going to lose weight by eating at McDonald’s every day and you are certainly not going to land that dream job by sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Everything in your life requires you to be the catalyst of making it happen. You have to lead the revolution!

So you want to lose weight – who doesn’t? How can you be a participant in making that happen instead of someone who sits around hoping that the magic weight loss fairy comes and visits in the middle of the night? You can start by changing your way of thinking! Are you the type of person who just has to go out with the gang at lunch every day? How about if you put that energy to better use – using that lunch hour to visit the local library, work out at the company gym, or just get outside and explore the city. Believe it or not, this is how you start changing – by modifying your behavior. I guarantee you that if for one month you changed your lunch behavior you would see the weight dropping. Before you now it, CHANGE has happened!

You have the power to generate huge shifts in your life -- whether it is financial, emotional, personal or career wise. Even more, you have the power to help others change as well. When people see you making changes in your thinking or actions and shifting your life in the right direction they naturally want to be a part of that change. You could be the catalyst to creating a change revolution in your own house!

So, now it’s your turn. What are you going to do today, right now, to facilitate a shift in your life? Don’t just nod your head and leave – take some time to write down what you want to do. Change happens – are you going to be part of the revolution?

Written by David B. Bohl of Slow Down Fast.

Selasa, 26 Februari 2008

0 Miscellaneous stuff

I am back from Langkawi, people.

Omg so irritating!!!

MSN is being fucked up right now, so I cannot sign into BOTH MSN Live Messenger AND the old lao pok Windows Messenger!!

And I NEED TO COMPLAIN!!

Recently it seems that a lot of people are starting to play on Viwawa.com, a site that allows people to play online Mahjong (among other things) with the other frustrated people who also cannot find MJ kakis in real life (or are unwilling to travel out of house to play MJ, etc).

The problem with MJ is, besides the fact that people slowly start to play bigger and bigger until it starts to become a liability, is that MJ, being a game where money is involved afterall, BRINGS OUT THE WORST IN PEOPLE.

If somebody just threw a Zhong and you throw a Zhong next round only to pay for a 5 tai limit, there is nothing funny about it. Or, if you want to win a 5 tai limit only to have the guy in front of you win your winning card first, that is enough to send the best-tempered of us up in fury.

If those are not enough, perhaps you can try my faithful MJ situation: Throw what draw what. Awesome.

SO.

Online MJ is better in this sense, because you only feel a tad annoyed as there is no money involved anyway, and you don't have to face other people's tempers.

Unfortunately, this also means that you are playing with fucking idiots most of the time, because fucking idiots are everywhere.

Ok la, actually to be fair I think most people playing Viwawa are quite ok, except a handful.

This is one conversation I had with a girl. (From what I remember of course)

Stupidly enough, when I first joined (with Wanyi's urging) I didn't know my user id would be shown to everyone whom I play MJ with, so I chose XIAXUE.

Naturally, that is not the wisest choice, although it is indeed a good conversation starter - not that I wanna converse with these people most of the time.


Stupid girl: Xiaxue?

Me: Yeah?

SG: Is that your real name or are you just copying that bitch?


- She apparently never considered it an option that it could really be me.-


Me: Eh... It's my real name. Very unfortunate to share with her.

SG: Oh. Good. I don't like her.

Me: Why?

SG: No reason. I don't know also leh. I just don't like lor.


(Chao CB don't like people also must have at least a reason right? At least she say she don't like my face also better than this rubbish.)


Me: OK.

SG: She's a bitch man.


(Continue insulting me somemore! Lao niang never saw her in my life and never did anything to her!)



- After another 10 mins of peaceful playing with mundane chatting -



SG, asking table in general: How old are you guys?

Me: I'm 24 this year.

SG: I'm 17. (Juvenile idiots...)

SG, continues: Anyone here from SP?

Me: I was from SP last time.

SG: Oh! So what are you doing now?

Me: What if I told you I am blogging for a living?



- There was a pregnant 3 sec pause -




SG: I suppose that's possible.


OMG SHE IS SO FUCKING RETARDED SHE STILL DOESN'T GET IT?! HOW MANY FULL-TIME BLOGGERS ARE THERE FROM SP NICKNAMED XIAXUE?!




At this point, this other guy from the table who has been quietly listening to this conversation decided it's time to burst out of his shy shell.


Other Guy from table: WAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA SHE IS THE XIAXUE YOU HATE!!!

Stupid girl: ... (she keep doing these dots. You can see that she can clearly express herself very well)


- There was another pregnant pause. -


OGFT: So Xiaxue, how's your nose?

Xiaxue: Good good... One year already!

SG: ...


(OGFT and I chat and ignore the dotting retard)


SG: You are not Xiaxue.

Me: really? Why?

SG: For one your English is not so good.

Me: What?! English here not good or on the blog not good?

SG: Here not good.

Me: I am chatting why would I use perfect English here?!?!?

SG: And for 2, you are too nice.

Me: ??? I am nice to people who are nice to me and mean to people who are mean to me la! Everyone is what!!

SG: ...

SG, continues: You are confirm not Xiaxue.

Me: Ok. (Little fucker slut trying to tell me what I am and what I am not!)

SG: Xiaxue would never use such a lame user pic. (If I didn't know she hated me I'd think she's my greatest fan...)

Me: What?! I think my user pic totally looks like me.







Now for those of you who don't know, Viwawa allows all their users to create a little avatar doll that looks like what I showed. You can change her (or his) hair, eyes, clothes etc. Everyone's doll looks more or less the same with different colours and features.



SG screeched.



SG: NO IT DOES NOT!


I finally understood how it feels like to be all "..." because I was literally speechless.


Me, a little impatiently and indignantly: Why does it not? I have blonde hair and I'm tan and I totally have that dress in real life!!

SG: ...



And with that last "..." she left the mahjong room highly agitated.


Just now, I got another irritating online MJ kaki. By this time I've learnt my lesson, decided against using Xiaxue and created another account.



Me: Fucking MSN is not allowing me to sign in again!

Another stupid person: Oei!!!


(I ignored her)


ASP: No fowl language please! (And yes she spelt it this way)

Me: Why? Are you underaged?

ASP: No. Mother of 2.

Me: Oic. Well... Are your kids sitting on your lap now reading what I say?

ASP: Nope.

Me: Then I don't see what the problem is.

ASP: Keep it clean please.

Me: Stop being a prude and telling people what to do.



And with that I leave the room. And I cannot go on MSN to complain to people, so here I am blogging!! WTFFFFFFFFFFFFF??! There are so many fucking retards around I tell you!!

I SAY FUCK WHENEVER I WANT!!!! ROARRRRRR!!

FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK
FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!!!


Irritating la! I fucking hate all these moralistic high browed fuckers.

I don't care if you think foul language is a no-no for your freaking children, but there are people in this world who are not living their lives for your kids ok! If you don't want your kids to hear foul language, I'm sorry, but the only way is to dig out his eardrums lor!! If I don't say, then his fucking classmates will to anyway, what's the big fucking deal?!

And besides, the fucking kids are not even looking at the monitor or what! It's not like I am saying FUCK to her kids' faces!!

AND WHAT IS WITH THE MOTHER OF TWO BULLSHIT?!


JUST BECAUSE YOU SPREAD YOUR LEGS TWICE FOR YOUR HUSBAND TO SHOOT HIS SPERM INSIDE YOU AND THEN GAVE BIRTH DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE RIGHTS TO DEMAND ANYTHING FROM ANYONE OK?!?! In fact, it only makes you a mother, not MY mother!

Annoying leh these people!!

I'm gonna abruptly change topic and ask you all to check out the new videos from Click Network.


XIAXUE'S GUIDE TO LIFE



Thinking of not looking like a whale anymore?? Yet, you are so lazy and your hands seem to, on their own accord, steal all your friends' KFC chicken skins when they are not looking? LOOK NO FURTHER!! Acupuncture might be the solution for you!!

Or you can just get a sadistic pleasure out of watching me get poked by needles.


CHICK VS DICK



Love spicy food?? Bet you still can't beat either of these crazy people, as Paul Twohill and Kaykay go on a rampage to find out who can conquer that deceivingly small chilli padi. Among other very, very spicy stuff. *shudders*


p/s: I've got my Langkawi trip's photos to edit so I'll update with all the photos as soon as possible. Langkawi was awesome!!! And I am super tan now!! Comments not allowed.

0 Why Winter is Making You Fatter & How to Fix it


If you take a look at the animal kingdom, you’ll notice that aquatic mammals in colder climates naturally develop a layer of blubber to stay warm in the winter. To some degree, we humans also have similar instincts during the winter months.

There are a number of ways that the seasonal changes of a cooling climate are making us fatter. In fact, winter is contributing to our fatness in the following ways:

  1. Keeping warm: Just like the polar bear and the otter, it is possible that humans develop an extra layer of “blubber” to keep warm. Some studies have shown that children who are born during cold winters are significantly more likely to become obese as adults. If you have a little one on the way, turn the heater up.

  2. Lack of sunlight: Anybody who wakes up to the sunlight in the morning, or who has fallen asleep during a movie when the lights are low knows that sunlight helps to keep you awake and energized. Without that sunlight shining in the evening, we tend to wind down earlier and relax. You know what that means… less activity and less calories burned.

  3. You are under-exposed: People are more likely to get into shape when their bodies are exposed. Going swimming in the summer, wearing a tank top or T-shirt to the mall… those motivations are gone in the winter. You won’t have the same pressure to look good for others.

  4. Less quality exercise: Let’s face it, you’re not going to be spending the same amount of time playing ball in the park when it’s cold. When you do finally exercise, you’re more likely to use the treadmill or an ab gadget in your nice warm home. Getting out to a gym where you can do some good weight lifting and retain your lean body mass is more difficult. As you lose your lean body mass (muscle), your metabolism slows down.

  5. Less cooking: At first, you would think that less cooking means less weight gain. That would be true if less cooking meant less eating. Again, when the sun sets earlier, it feels later than it really is. Instead of going outside and having a barbeque at 7pm, you are more likely to find yourself sitting in the McDonald’s drive through.

  6. S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder): In other words, you have winter depression from the lack of sunlight. This can be combated with melatonin supplementation, bright light therapy, and exercise, which is also known to lower the symptoms of depression. The only problem is that seasonal depression can be exactly what’s holding back your motivation to get into the gym.

  7. Holiday Fatness: So many people tend to put on their “holiday 10” between Thanksgiving and Christmas. With renewed vigor, we then vow to undo that damage with a set of New Year’s resolutions, only to fail our resolutions by mid-January.
Fortunately for us, the winter battle can be won. It takes a little dedication to a few sound principles of keeping in shape. These may or may not be new to you, but humans tend to retain knowledge that is periodically reinforced. Here’s the fix:
  1. Keep your muscle mass in the winter: Important for both men and women. This will most likely require that you do some sort of weight lifting. You will also have to eat enough food to feed the muscle on your body. If you don’t maintain your lean body mass or eat enough food, you won’t be able to keep your metabolism burning fast.

  2. Expend, even if it’s cold: You’re less likely to be playing outside, but you still need to use those calories up. Do 30 minutes of weights and follow up with 30 minutes of cardio at the end of your session. Weights and cardio have a synergistic effect, and you will lose more fat by combining the two together. The difference in your physique will become more apparent with every passing month.

  3. Eat a high-protein diet: This is helpful for maintaining muscle and not consuming excess calories. Add in plenty of fibrous vegetables as well as healthy portions of complex carbohydrates. Proper portions of carbs are necessary to help you build muscle and have the energy needed for a killer workout.

  4. Get on a program for the winter: There’s simply no substitute for a good base of knowledge about how to control your body type. A good exercise program can help you to keep in shape by exercising for 3 hours, 3 times a week.

  5. Motivation: Know thyself. If you have a strong reason for exercising, then you will be far more likely to follow through on your commitments. Whether it’s to become more attractive, feel more energy, increase cognitive function, build confidence, sleep better, run faster… know it inside of yourself.
This list could certainly continue. I’m interested to hear if you have any items to add.

Jason is the author of World Fitness Network, a blog about building muscle, losing fat, and lifestyle.

0 How to Calm Your Fears of Public Speaking

At some point I mentioned to everyone that I am very introverted and used to have a huge fear of public speaking. This fear was not just a simple reluctance to speak in front of a group, I am talking about a fear that scrambled my mind and turned me into a babbling idiot. It could have been a wedding where I was the best man, a speech in school, or a presentation at work...it didn't matter.

I know there are many people like this and although I don't know of a simple cure, I studied up on it quite a bit and put several things to practice over the years.

I am sure there are more excellent pointers out there so if you have one, leave a comment down below. No matter how much I learn about this topic, there are still occasions that my face turns red and heats up like the sun.
  • Notes: A lot of people will tell you not to read from notes because the fear is that you'll never look at the audience. While the perception (covered later) of eye contact is important, not making sense is worse. Make yourself a solid outline to follow using keywords that you've practiced. While you clearly should not stand there reading a piece of paper, glancing down at an outline is perfectly acceptable.

  • Eye Contact: For those that are timid, simply don't look at people in the face. What I mean by this is that while you have to give the impression that you are glancing into people's eyes, you don't have to look INTO them. What I do is glance at foreheads and haircuts; it's a helluva lot less intimidating. While you are doing this be sure the scan the entire room, looking right, left and center. If you are in a small conference room, this is a little tougher to manage but the smaller audience should offset some of your fear. In this case, I generally bite the bullet and look directly at people.

  • Homework: Forget what you want to say, your speech must be tailored to what the audience is expecting to hear. However, there is a way to accomplish both.

    If your audience is waiting to hear about how many widgets your website sold and you want to talk about how many servers you have and how they handled X amount of page views, learn to combine the facts so that your message gets out while the audience hears what they want (i.e. "Our 2 data centers equipped with XYZ handled 6 trillion page views resulting in 3 sales. These 3 sales represented an 80% increase in revenue). Doing this will eliminate the blank stares and boredom that often comes with listening to someone lecture/speak. As long as you can manage the merging of audience interest and yours, both side get what they want.

  • Pause: When I first started speaking to large groups, my sole goal was to get done with the speech quickly while hoping that the information stuck. That's not very smart. A better way is to provide some information, then pause to allow the audience to absorb the information. All we are talking about is the amount of time it takes for you to take a slow sip of water (which I hope you brought to the podium or conference room).

  • Mumbler: Do not be a mumbler. I am not saying that you have to speak like Julius Caesar and make loud proclamations, but you should speak confidently. For those that aren't confident, the only way to really learn this is through practice. Get a digital recorder and recite your speech several times until you learn how it sounds best. When you listen to the playback, put yourself in the audience's shoes and actually ask yourself if you would be bored listening to it. For that matter, ask your spouse, girlfriend, whomever.

  • Um Factor: In the last point I mentioned how using a recorder would help you gauge how well you sounded. Well, keep the recorder handy because you assignment is to record your speech and then listen to it with the sole purpose of counting the "ums". You will be surprised and how often you say it. Saying 'um' is something you naturally do to allow your brain time to catch up to your mouth and it sounds terrible. At my job I have a Senior Manager of Something and he's brilliant, but he says 'um' constantly during his speeches and it makes him sound, well a less smart.

  • Anticipate: As we mentioned, people are coming to listen to you because they value your opinion on a particular topic. However, if your speech allows for audience questions, there is a little unknown element in it for you. I generally try to anticipate what audience questions will be and then have a separate note sheet for those answers. If I don't know an answer, I immediately admit it and ask that we take that subject offline. This gives me time to grab a subject matter expert to answer the person's question without throwing me offtrack.

  • Show up early: This one may not do anything for you but I am a control freak and it helps me. I show up at the venue early and check out the surroundings.

    • Where will I be standing?
    • Do I have a wireless mic allowing me to walk the stage or am I stuck at a podium?
    • Where is my presentation going to be viewed?

    The more I know ahead of time, the lower the chances that something will throw me offtrack.

  • Stick with the plan: This one is tougher than you'd think. As you are speaking and following your outline, an idea will inevitably pop into your head. Your idea will insist that you go off track and speak about something you hadn't planned for. Unless you are totally comfortable up there, resist the urge.

  • Practice: We've mentioned a few times already that listening to yourself talk on a recorder can help reduce 'ums' and prevent mumbling. It also helps gauge transition and flow. In a separate session that your um-detection, listen to how you are transitioning from point-to-point. These transitions should be gradual as opposed to suddenly and completely changing direction. Sudden changes are similar to holding up a stop sign to the audience because their brain is trying to stop and understand what just occurred. At some point, they will not be able to catch up.

  • Coffee: This last one was something that my Father taught me a long time ago. If you have to drink coffee to get the energy to conduct your talk, be sure to chase it down with water. To him (and me) coffee dries out your mouth and it makes speaking for a long period of time very difficult. Also, and I already mentioned this, be sure you bring some water with you. In addition to getting rid of any lingering cotton-mouth, you will be able to build in the small delays we mentioned.

Like I mentioned, these are the little things that I used to ease my fear of speaking. Overtime, the need to use all of the tools diminished simply because I got more comfortable in front of groups. However, a few stick with me no matter what.

-Jay

Senin, 25 Februari 2008

0 Air Travel with Kids and Pets - How to Keep Your Sanity

Air travel is challenging under the best of circumstances, but add children and/or pets and things can get hairy fast, not to mention smelly, messy, and noisy! So how can you be best prepared for this adventure? Never fear. Here are some tips to help you survive and hopefully enjoy your travel day too.

1. Be Well Rested. Get enough sleep the night before. If you're like me and time always slips away from you, set your target bed time for an hour earlier than the actual time you want to get to sleep.

2. Go Slow. This will be repeated in some other tips, but this overarching piece of advice is something you should strive for throughout your travel day. It is probably the most important step. This leads to our next tip.

3. Be Early. Allow plenty of time for unexpected mishaps. Leave your house early. Plan to arrive at the airport early. Your worst case scenario is you arrive with a lot of time to spare. That's ok. That will allow you to take things slow and....

4. Enjoy the Day. Make a point to enjoy the day. Let your perspective be that this is a fun adventure, not a stressful event. Imagine that all parts of the day are experiences to be enjoyed with your companions. Drink it all in. Experience the day with a child's sense of wonder. If you follow steps 1, 2, and 3, this should be easy.

5. Use Curbside Check-In. Check as much as you can with the Skycaps, except the carriage. Hold on to that. Don't worry about waiting for luggage on the other end. Save yourself the hassle of carrying extra bags onto the plane when you have little ones to handle. The customary tip is $1 per bag.

6. The Carriage or Cart. If you have a carriage, bring it. You can keep your child or children safe from wandering away and you can load carry-on bags onto it too. This will make walking to your gate so much easier. Right before you enter the airplane, fold up and leave the carriage at the end of the ramp. The carriage will be checked for you and when you get off the plane, it will be there waiting for you! Pretty nice, huh? If you don't have a carriage, either bring or rent a cart for wheeling any carry-on items you may have.

7. Security Check Point. The main advice here is to go slow. That means don't worry about the people behind you who are in a rush. Wish them blessings in your mind, but go slow. You can only do one thing at a time. Don't get stressed out. Take it one thing at a time. If your children are old enough to help out, coach them while you're in line about what you would like them to do when you get to the check point. And then go slow!

8. Carseats. You can bring these on the plane. Check the label on your carseat and also check with your airline to make sure that yours will meet FAA regulations. Carseats are recommended for safety, but not required. Children under 2 years old can fly for free on most airlines if they sit on your lap. Consider the length of the flight before taking advantage of this. Holding a baby or small child on your lap for several hours is harder than it sounds.

9. Entertainment. Bring plenty of items that will pass the time for children such as books, favorite small (non-noisy) toys, music players, coloring books, etc. If you have headsets of your own, bring those too as many airplanes have TV's these days. Children have a need to move around a lot so find ways for them to move that are safe. If you find your children getting antsy, try making a game of hand raising, wiggling, and other stretches such as "Simon Says." Instead of trying to make them sit still, find ways to meet their movement needs within the bounds of safety and courtesy of others. With creativity and a positive outlook, this can be accomplished.

10. Snacks. Pack some healthy snacks that will also help with the dehydrating airplane environment. Fruits like apple, pears, and bananas are great. Whole grain crackers are good too. Bring your child's empty sippy cup that you can pour complimentary drinks into it. Even if your child is beyond sippy cups bring some type of empty water bottle to avoid spills. For yours and your child's sake avoid snacks with caffeine or too much sugar.

11. Baby Drinks. It's always best to check the latest rules ahead of time, but for right now most airlines will allow you to bring baby formula or breast milk on board. You are not allowed to bring an ice pack so instead use ziplock bags with ice cubes. You can use them up until the security check where you'll need to dump the ice. When you get on the plane or when you land, you can always get more ice to put in the baggie to continue to keep the baby drinks cold. Also if you are bringing your breast pump on the airplane, remember to take the icepack out first and put it into the luggage that you will check.

12. The Ear Thing. During landing and takeoff make sure that your child or baby is doing something that involves swallowing so that their ears will adjust. For babies nurse or feed them a bottle. Wait to start until the moment that the plane starts racing down the runway so that the baby doesn't fall asleep before the air pressure is changing. For young children get them to drink and/or eat. Older kids can drink, chew gum, or suck on a mint. If a child or baby is sleeping during the descent, you'll want to wake them up so they can eat or drink. If you don't there's a good chance your child will wake up screaming in ear pain. You don't want that. You could ask the stewardess to let you know what time the descent usually starts so you can be ready for it.

13. Pet Travel. When you book your travel, you'll need to make sure you book passage for your pet too. Most planes have a 20 pound weight limit for bringing a pet on board with you. If your pet weighs more than 20 pounds your pet will need to be in a airline approved crate and will travel in with the luggage.

14. Pet Carriers. If your pet will be joining you on board, you'll need to have a airplane approved carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. In order to make the event go smoothly it will help to give your pet plenty of "practice" ahead of time. Have your pet travel in your car inside the carrier similar to how it will be on the airplane. You can also make their carrier into a day bed in your home so that they will be familiar with sleeping inside there. Make a bed by leaving the carrier open and gently encourage them to sleep there during the day by making it comfortable with blankets.

15. Relaxed Pets. If you think your pet may become very anxious or noisy, check with your veterinarian ahead of time to discuss whether some type of sedative would be helpful for your pet while flying.

16. Going Potty. This applies for both kids and pets: try to have them go potty as close to boarding as possible. For pets, they will obviously need to do this outside so bring pooper scooper bags. You should also prepare for the worst in case your pet has an accident while on the airplane. You might want to bring wee-wee pads, ziplock bags, and clean up supplies just in case of a mess. For children that are potty trained, it never hurts to bring an extra set of underwear and pants just in case. For both kids and pets, be sure to feed a normal diet the day before and the day of traveling. For pets, stick with plain dog food. For kids try to feed them a well rounded diet that includes healthy fiber sources such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Airplanes are dehydrating and if you're not getting enough fiber on top of that you can get constipated. Avoid constipation with healthy fiber and enough liquids.

17. Wear Comfortable Shoes. When flying, people's bodies can sometimes retain water which will show up in your feet swelling a bit. If your shoes are not comfortable, you could experience foot pain. On a long day of traveling don't underestimate the amount of energy that tight shoes can steal from you. Comfy slip-on type shoes equals a happy traveler. While you're at it, wear comfortable clothes too!

18. Go Slow. (repeat, I know) This can't be emphasized enough. Enjoy each moment of the day. Don't worry. Be happy!

What are your best kid and pet travel tips? Did you ever have a bad experience that taught you something you'll never forget? Please share! We'd love to hear from you!

Written by K. Stone of Life Learning Today.

0 The Perfect Way To Lose At Networking Online

Networking online and in person are the same animal, living in a different cage. Not to get into which one is wild and which is tame, but they both share the fundamentals of fostering relationships and facilitating communication.

The thing about networking online is that if you don't make yourself stand out and say just the right things, you might never experience someone politely telling you they are not interested. Online people have the option of just ignoring you.

With networking online there is a certain etiquette. If not followed, the chances of you scoring the deal, or even making a friend are slim. Not that it doesn't help to think outside the box, but annoying people isn't the best way to get on their good side.

While people online are the same as people offline, we must remember that certain things just wouldn't fly in either case. Here is a list of things to AVOID doing while trying to be successful at networking.

13 Not So Great Networking Rules


1. You Win, The End. Keep your end goal in mind, and consider nothing else. Don't worry about who you step over, or step on, in order to reach your destination.

2. Take Your Time, and Theirs. Assume that the person has all the time in the world, especially to dedicate to you. You know your time is more important than theirs anyway.

3. The Real You, Should Be Saved For You. No reason to let them know what you're really up to. Try asking for just a moment of their time, and bombarding them with everything from the sun to the moon.

4. Take N' Take. If you're too busy giving, you won't be able to accumulate and horde the good stuff for yourself. Take as much of their time and resources as you can before you move on to the bigger better thing.

5. Kiss Their Butt. If a person is of higher power, money, fame, or authority than do what you can to grovel and beg for their attention. People love being put up on a pedestal.

6. Snarl At Them. If a person is clearly beneath you in social status, than make it clear to them that you know this and are ready to have them polish your shoes while they fetch your coffee. People love being talked down to.

7. Do Not Leave The House. Sure you could put yourself out there, meet people, and make friends. There is a lot of risk of rejection involved in that. It's safer to just stay home and watch T.V.

8. Do Not ASK For What You Want. Do they even know who you are? They should be lined up at your door, just knowing what you want, and offering it to you!

9. Be Cautious, Not Adventurous. It's pretty hard to succeed, so often times it's better to just lower your standards, and be happy you're still breathing!

10. Myspace is Yourspace. All those drunken pics of you... yes even the one of your vomiting on new years should definitely be the first thing people see when they google your name. At least they'll know that you know how to party.

11. People Are Generic, Treat Them Accordingly. Instead of wasting time trying to find out what each persons wants and needs are, make a template of how you will respond to everyone and stick to it. Sounds like it'll save lots of time!

12. Trying Hard Is For Wimps. You shouldn't over exert yourself. If anything takes much more effort than sitting around watching youtube than it's probably not worth your time.

13. Share Your Vision? I think not! If you tell everyone your goals and dreams, and what you want to accomplish out of the mutual relationship than chances are they'll either put you down, or even worse, steal your idea!

Ways To Abuse Networking Tools

1. E-mail, Elephant-mail. Short e-mails? No way! This is your opportunity to get everything you want, so keep your e-mails at a minimum of 10,000 words.

2. Comments The Right Way. Commenting on someone's blog is the perfect opportunity to promote your product, site, or brand. So comment long, and comment often. Use as many links as possible.

3. Trackbacks. It's good to communicate with other bloggers. So if there's ever something you don't like about them, make sure you write about it, and trackback so they are made aware!

4. Twitter Terror. We all know twitter is very popular, and once we've accumulated enough followers, we can safely begin to spam them with self-indulging junk.

5. Skype, Cell, Blab. Got someone's skype or phone number? Great! Call them EARLY in the morning or LATE at night. When you've woken them up from their slumber, chew your food loudly, and talk about things of no particular importance.

6. In Person Events. Travel all around the world, meeting people that you want something from. Dress as if you were going to a slumber party, and style your hair accordingly. Forget social etiquette, that's so 90s.

7. Other tools to abuse. There are a multitude of social networking, instant messengers, and communities out there. By now you should have a good idea of what NOT to do on them as well.

As a little proof of how NOT doing these DO NOT DOs has propelled me in my networking success, come see how I got over 30 A-List Bloggers, including Jay White from Dumb Little Man, to participate in my Happiness Project.

You can read the interview with Jay here and he will be commenting with readers throughout the day today.

Written by Alex Shalman – Practical Personal Development.

0 5 Business Propositions to Say 'No' to

As an online entrepreneur, you will, at one point or another, start to receive all sorts of propositions. Some will, of course, prove to be great opportunities which you definitely need to take advantage of. Others, on the other hand, are nothing more than time-wasters you need to steer clear of .

Here are the top 5 propositions that you will definitely encounter:

Proposition 1: “Will You Buy My Product?”

There are more than a few occasions when you are approached by all sorts of people who claim to have products you just have to buy. Why say “no”? Think about it: if their product is actually worth it, why do they have to email people individually in order to convince them of that? Wouldn’t they be better off letting the product speak for itself? Sure, they want to advertise it, but there a lot of professional ways to let others know about your product, from purchasing advertising to SEO and emailing webmasters individually isn’t one of them.

Proposition 2: “Will You Hire Me?”
There are several people who think that emailing every webmaster they can find is the best way to get a job. Of course you should say “no” to such a proposition because if that person were truly an asset to you, he would have found better ways to advertise his services rather than constantly asking if you want to hire him directly.

Proposition 3: “Will You Advertise on My Website?”
Let’s face it: a person you have never been in contact with who e-mails you in order to let you know about a great “advertising opportunity” doesn’t exactly strike you as professional. Of course, if we’re talking about a former business partner who emails you such a proposition then sure, you can definitely look into it but in this case, saying “no” is a must.

Proposition 4: “Will You Invest In My Project”
Doesn’t an email from a complete stranger who asks you if you would like to invest in his or her project strike you as at the very least a little bit suspicious? When investing in a project, trusting your partners is a must and that is clearly not the case with such a proposition, so that your reaction should be obvious.

Proposition 5: “Will You Let Me Use Your [insert name here] Account?”
Having a strong account with social media websites is always a huge advantage and it should come as no surprise that, if you have one, people will try to take advantage of that. The same thing applies for any type of website where you have an account. If someone asks if you can share your password so that they can use that account, delete that email and never look back. If we’re talking about social media websites, why not, you can submit certain articles for them, but sharing your password is out of the question. Of course, even if he or she tries to steal your account, there are ways to get it back but I am sure that the thought of wasting time doesn’t exactly sound all that appealing so that “no” is the best answer in this case as well.

This is your time and money we are talking about here. The more noise you listen to and consider, the less time you will have to focus on the real issues your business or life are throwing at you. Don't bury your head in the sand, but know how to quickly determine what's hot and what's not.

Written by Alan Johnson, the author of The Online Business Handbook.

Sabtu, 23 Februari 2008

0 Simulated Environments for Animals

[Image: The Zoo de Vincennes, by Beckmann N'Thepe].

These are some plans for a new zoological park in Vincennes, France. The zoo's landscapes are designed by TN PLUS Landscape Architects, its buildings by Paris architects Beckmann N'Thepe.
The project is noteworthy for, among other things, what could be called its simulated geology.

[Image: Landscapes in the Zoo de Vincennes, designed by TN PLUS Landscape Architects].

These artificial earthforms will contain simulated environments within which animals will live. The whole complex will encompass 15 hectares and six "biozones," and it will run partly on solar power.

[Image: The Zoo de Vincennes, by Beckmann N'Thepe].

The park's "biozones" include the savannah, the equatorial African rain forest, Patagonia, French Guiana, Madagascar, and Europe.

[Image: More landscapes in the Zoo de Vincennes, by TN PLUS Landscape Architects].

So the zoo – like all zoos, of course – will be a simulation intended for animals. Zoos, in other words, are a particularly bizarre form of trans-species communication, attempted on the level of architecture and landscape design.
They're like hieroglyphs that animals inhabit – spaces defined entirely by their ability to refer to something they are not.

[Images: Zooscapes by TN PLUS Landscape Architects].

More information, if you read French, is available in this PDF.

[Image: The Zoo de Vincennes, by Beckmann N'Thepe].

And I have to say that the renderings of this place look pretty cool.
But why do we only build zoos like this? Why not suburbs or college campuses? You mold landforms out of reinforced concrete, and you install artificial waterfalls and fake rivers, and you grow rare orchids under the cover of geodesic domes. And then your grandkids can grow up in a savannah-themed suburb outside Orlando. The next town over, kids run around through giant fern trees, chasing parrots.
Perhaps themed biozones are the future of suburban design?

[Image: The Zoo de Vincennes, by Beckmann N'Thepe].

Google opens a new administrative complex outside London – on the grounds of a former zoo. Your "cubicle" is partly outside.
Hidden nozzles mist your neck on every lunch break.

[Image: The Zoo de Vincennes, by Beckmann N'Thepe].

(Zoo de Vincennes discovered by Architectural Record).

Jumat, 22 Februari 2008

0 The Art of Negotiation: Fifteen Steps to Success

Whether it's time to negotiate for a mortgage, a car or even insurance, preparation is the key to victory. When you know what you want and how you intend to get it, you’re much more likely to come out of the appointment smiling.
“Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.” -- Karl Albrecht, co-founder of Aldi.
Let's go through the different phases of a deal and prep for each one. Skipping one of these will most likely hurt your chances so don't slack off on any of them.

Before the appointment…
  • Know what you want. Sit down and work out exactly:

    • What you need and what want. Secure the needs first and negotiate with the wants (aka the extra stuff you can do without)
    • How much you can afford
    • How far you’re prepared to compromise on both (afford vs. spend)

    If you’re looking at a long-term deal, look beyond the immediate price and make sure you can afford the payments without stretching your budget to its breaking-point.

  • Find out what’s available. Do some research to find out how realistic your goals are versus what the market is offering. You probably weren’t expecting to find a mortgage rate at 1% or a luxury car for 50 pounds / dollars a month, but you should never assume that the price you are willing to pay is the floor for the market. You could still be surprised by the deals offered if you look hard enough.

  • Re-evaluate your goals: If you had seriously underestimated the price, you may need to re-think. Ask yourself:

    • Do you want a cheaper car (house, TV, holiday, etc.)?
    • Can you afford to pay more? Where does this item fall on the need/want spectrum?
    • Should you wait until prices come down / you’ve saved up?

    If you’d overestimated the price, you’re free to raise your expectations, lower your budget or (ideally) both.

  • ‘Arm’ yourself. Knowledge is power, so make sure you understand:

    • Which professional bodies oversee the industry
    • The technical / legal terms involved
    • What costs the seller really amassed in order to offer you this product

    Find out if the product / industry has been in the news recently. This might tell you who to avoid, or if the industry’s about to go through some changes which could cost you time, money, emotional stress down the road.

  • Ask around to see if anyone you know has done something similar recently. If not, see what case studies / testimonials you can find. Mouse Print, Consumerist, and other sites report on shady dealings out there so once again, do your homework!

  • Select your supplier. Shop around. The bigger the deal you’re looking at, the more time you should invest: with a mortgage, for example, a tiny difference in the interest rate can save you thousands.

    It’s often a good idea to start with a company you're currently doing business with. If you’re looking to refinance your mortgage, for example, talk to your current mortgage provider – if they don’t want to lose your business, they may offer you a good deal.

  • Understand how the company works. Do they offer their own product(s) or are they simply reselling something? Do they work with a range of partners, or will they check the entire market for you? How do they decide which partner gets YOUR business? That is an absolute key question. If your business goes to the highest bidder, I'd steer clear.

  • Arrange your appointment. This should give you some insight into how they do business. If they’re unprofessional, unhelpful, or hard to get hold of, maybe you should choose a different company. Remember, a company works it's hardest when they're trying to win you as a customer. If they are terrible at that, imagine how terrible the service will be once they get your money.
In the appointment…
  • Remember who’s the customer. As a (potential) paying customer, you are entitled to the person’s time and expertise. Tell them what you want and let them explain your options. Have a calculator and notepad ready, and take the time to do whatever calculations you find necessary.

  • Show what you know. Depending on the type of company you’re dealing with (and the amount of leeway the person has), showing that you ‘know your stuff’ could put you at a psychological advantage. So tell them what other deals you have been offered / seen advertised. Show them you understand the technical terms, and the pros and cons of the most common options.

  • Admit what you don’t know. If you need something explained, ask.

  • Don’t let them ‘blind you with science’. Any specialist can use technical terms to gloss over drawbacks – or to sell ‘benefits’ you don’t really want or need. Make them repeat themselves in layman’s terms, then take a good look at what they’ve just said.

  • Give and take. Don’t be too inflexible.

    • Compromise – if you’re being offered a good deal, don’t turn it down because there’s one tiny thing missing.
    • Consider new ideas – just make sure you understand the pros and cons, and find out if you can ‘mix and match’ elements of various options.

  • Don’t be rushed into anything. If you’re happy with the deal, get them to draw up the paperwork and tell them you’ll be back in a day or two.

    • At the very least, you should read the small print – and ‘sleep on it’.
    • If it’s complex / full of legal terms, you might consider taking it to an independent specialist.
    • Don’t feel pressured. You can always walk away from the deal. If you’re not impressed with their ‘final offer’, thank them for their time and say you need to look elsewhere. (If they offer you a better deal at this point, so much the better.)
After the appointment…
  • The end? If you’ve found a product you’re happy with, great. If not, think about the appointment you’ve just had, make some notes and use the experience to prepare for an appointment with another company. If you have enough of these haggling sessions, you just may elicit a bidding war for your business.
So what do you think? Is this something you can do when it comes time to negotiate or are you going to take the first offer thrown your way?

Written by M. Taylor of Gregory Pennington, a UK based Debt Management Specialist.

0 5 Things You Shouldn't Worry About When Blogging

With all the social interaction, the sharing of your personal thoughts and having to put yourself out there in an attempt to promote your work, blogging can be a tricky business if you are reserved about it. All the top bloggers are willing to put aside their worries to make their blog a success. Are you willing to open up?

Below are the top five concerns people typically have that holds them back when blogging, complete with reasons why you shouldn't worry about them.

Don't be worried that you will run out of ideas
If you have any form of regular publishing schedule it's quite possible that you will worry about running out of ideas for posts at some point. For the longest time this was one of the biggest reasons why I didn't (or couldn't) do guest posts; it was difficult enough trying to keep up the posting schedule for my own blog without worrying about doing content for other sites.

However, think about it; there is a huge amount of inspiration out there. Regardless of whether it is from reading books or websites or just from talking to people, there is always something out there that can spark a new idea when you need it. If you really want to make the most of it, jot down those ideas for use at a later date. You will quickly create a backlog of potential posts. It's shocking how many ideas get lost simply because they don't get written down.

Don't be worried about posting less (or more)
A lot of sites claim that the more you post the more popular you will be. That is generally true if you want to take your blog to the very top (and even then it's not a hard and fast rule), but for most of us, it really boils down to quality or quantity. I used to post more often than I do now. When I originally made the decision to post less, I was concerned it would effect the number of visitors, subscribers etc. However, I chose to use the extra time I'd created to provide more quality posts. You know what? I didn't lose half my readers as I feared, quite the opposite in fact!

Don't be worried about getting personal
The idea of putting up your personal thoughts and feelings on certain topics online for the world to see can be very daunting, especially if those thoughts are controversial or contrarian. It can be tempting to play it safe and write sterile posts, giving little away about the person behind them, like with the average corporate website. However, the personal touch is exactly why blogs are so popular. One idea that has been written about numerous times over the years can suddenly get a new lease of life by a blog covering it from a personal perspective.

Don't be worried about promoting your work
Don't worry about submitting every post of value you write to Digg, Stumbled Upon, Reddit, or other social bookmarking sites. That's what they are there for (they just don't know it yet ;) ). As long as you take part in the community and submit quality content from other sites as well, you will have to do much worse to be labeled as a spammer. After all, those sorts of sites are for finding interesting links. You are writing interesting content, right?

Another common practice for promoting your blog is by commenting on other sites. If you think your content relates in some way to a post, don't be shy about it, leave a comment and let people know. The basic rule is this: as long as you treat your commenting with the same attention as your posts, nobody will care if you slip in a little self-promotion as long as it's relevant.

Don't be worried about asking for help
Whenever I've had a surge of subscribers it's usually because I wrote a killer post but what really helped to boost my stats was to actually ask people to subscribe. If I want people to submit content to social bookmarking sites I ask them to. Want comments, opinions and feedback? Ask for it. Want to exchange links? Ask! In over a year of blogging, the worst response I got when I asked for something was... well, actually I didn't get a reply back. So why are you worried?

So what are your thoughts? For those of you that blog, what's holding you back?

Written by James, a blogger at Organize IT.

0 Online Resources that will Improve your Vocabulary and Grammar

One of the many joys in maintaining this blog is that no matter what gets published, there is always criticism and opinion from the readers. My hope is that the criticism is focused on the point of view or topic and not the grammar. Unfortunately for me, that is not always the case and clearly I am the reason for it!

My grammar will never be perfect but like most things in life, practice and research will at least improve my skills. Odds are that if you are doing any form of writing, your skills could also use a fine tuning. After all, an email riddled with errors is not going to impress your boss, professor, or colleagues. In fact, it could will make you look downright foolish.

I provided some grammar tools last year, but in the interest of directing you to a better resource, you should check out a blog post at MakeUseOf, a blog that I frequent. In the post they name 30 tools that you can reference to increase vocabulary and grammar.

One of them is the Visual Thesaurus which is something I use almost daily. Enter a word and, well, look here:


To get the rest of these great tools, read 30+ Online Resources to Expand your English Vocabulary.

Kamis, 21 Februari 2008

0 Project Runway

A recent landscape design competition sought to rethink the Vatnsmýri airport grounds in Reykjavík, Iceland, putting those old runways to use, for instance, as new urban park space. The entries to the competition are quite interesting, in fact, so I've posted some of them, below, focusing on one particular project at the end of this post (so please scroll down if you've already read about this competition).
First, then, here's the old Vatnsmýri airport and its earthen geometry of intersecting runways. This is the site – star-like and stretching out to its surrounding landscapes – within which the designers had to work.

[Images: The Vatnsmýri airport grounds, Reykjavík, Iceland. Photos courtesy of the Reykjavík City Planning Committee].

And here are some of the project entries, which I have posted in order, from shortlisted entries through to the big prize winners – but I have selected them on the purely superficial criterion of my own visual interest. Some of these projects, including two grand prize winners, are, I'm sure, absolutely fascinating, but small JPGs of their proposals simply don't give you very much to work with.
So, with genuine apologies to those designers whose work does not appear here, take a look at some of the entries.

[Image: By Alexander D'Hooghe, et al.].

[Image: By Antonello Boatti, Birgir Breiðdal, and Nicola Ferrara].

[Image: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

[Image: By Rolf J. Teloh, et al.].

[Image: By Thomas Forget and Jonathan F. Bell].

[Image: By Andrés Perea Ortega, et al.].

[Image: By Beatriz Ramo, et al.].

[Image: By Peer T. Jeppesen, et al.].

[Image: By Belinda Kerry, Andrew Lee, Fiona Harrisson, and Blake F. Bowers].

[Image: By Manuel Lodi, et al.].

[Image: By Jeff Turko, Guðjón Þór Erlendsson, Dagmar Sirch, and Sibyl Trigg].

[Image: By Graeme Massie, Stuart Dickson, Alan Keane, and Tim Ingleby].

And now I want to zero-in on one of the projects.
Here, then, is a quick exploration of a shortlisted entry by Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White of the Toronto-based firm Lateral Architecture.

[Image: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

Their project begins, we read, "by establishing 'no-build' zones or public landscapes. The figure of the runway is used to identify three primary axes. Each former runway is converted into a 'greenway' that uses a quality of the city as its primary trait."

[Images: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

The greenways are then given new programs, or functions, which the architects define as Ecology, Recreation, and Production.
The Ecology greenway, for instance, "is conceived of as a dot-matrix of cellular ecosystems, organic rooms, landscape surfaces of hard and softscape, gardens and pools."

[Images: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

The Production greenway, which I like quite a lot, has been "treated as a barcode of interdependent production activities, with changing densities of fish farming, greenhouses for fruit, vegetable and flower production, allotment gardens, markets and tree farming."
    Fish Farms are located on the western end of the strip and serve both a local populace through an adjacent market and an international market with a distribution port. A series of greenhouses line the edges of the existing runway and create cluster of outdoor 'rooms.' Interspersed are modest community garden and farm plots which subdivide the space and integrate the adjacent communities into the strip. A second market, proposed at the triangle intersection, serves to sell these vegetables and flowers to the Reykjavik community. A dense forest continues the barcode and creates wood for the initial construction phases. This forest gains more permanence in successive phases and is used to absorb carbon dioxide and offer oxygen to the new development.
All of which sounds great to me. There is even a "network of geothermal pipes" that does something or other for the fish farms.
But how spectacular to live in a city full of greenhouses! Re-formatting architectural interiors to grow fruit. You wander around at night through certain districts of your city watching strange plants grow behind glass. The air smells alive. It's quiet.
And there are fewer cars – because entire streets have been blocked off and replaced with greenhouses, freeing up former parking lots to become orchards and small croplands. Microfarms. Perhaps new coastal rivers even cut through the city, engineered by heroic valves tucked away beneath the streets, irrigating various neighborhoods and responding to lunar tides.
What used to be highway flyovers are now orange groves, and over there, in the abandoned airport, fields of medicinal flowers now grow.

[Image: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

On a vaguely related note, meanwhile, my own description here has reminded me of the discovery last winter that listening to birdsong might actually improve mental health. So imagine ten thousand new birds up in the trees of this greenhouse city as the sun begins to rise over huge warehouses walled with angled glass panes, like something out of analytical Cubism, and you're just sitting there eating toast with local honey, listening to morning birdsong, surrounded by plants.

[Image: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

In any case, the final greenway proposed by this project would be a "recreation corridor" in which "spaces for formal and informal activities" will be built, including "soccer fields, running tracks, basketball, tennis and volleyball, local schools and playgrounds."

[Image: By Lola E. Sheppard and Mason White].

The greenways will all knit together and criss-cross, following the buried logic of the old runways.
In ten years' time, you can take your kids out into the middle of a forest and say: "They used to land planes here..."

(All of these images are also available in a small Flickr set).
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