Monthly Archives: October 2008

7 Top Tips and Resources for Google Chrome

Written by Sam Dean

Google introduced the beta version of its open source Chrome browser nearly two months ago, and issued its third update to the beta yesterday. (The update pushes to you automatically if you’re running Chrome.) Although there are signs that the very early popularity of this browser has calmed down somewhat, it’s still generating a lot of buzz, Google has confirmed that many extensions are coming for it, and I expect to see it in a mobile version very soon. If you’re running Chrome, here are seven tips for customizing and getting the most out of it.

Create and Save Profiles. Google Chrome Backup is a freely downloadable tool that lets you backup and restore profiles you’ve created in Chrome. It’s wizard-driven, to keep the process easy.

Tips for Power Users. Lifehacker’s tips for power users of Chrome are excellent. Learn about diagnostics, themes, shortcuts, working with tabs, and more here.

Run Chrome on Mac OS X and Linux. CrossOver Chromium from CodeWeavers can be used to run Chrome on Mac OS X and Linux. You’ll find downloads specific to most popular Linux distros. Even CodeWeavers describes this as early “proof-of-concept” more than anything else, but you may want to give it a try.

Surf Anonymously in Chrome. The Chromium open source core of the Chrome browser has been tweaked to produce aersion of Chrome that can allow for anonymous browsing. People in parts of the world where Internet use can lead quickly to jail time may be interested in this, or hotspot users who want an added layer of anonymity may be interested. Iron is based on Chromium, looks and works exactly like Chrome, but introduces several levels of privacy, as we wrote about here. Chrome Privacy Guard is a mini application that removes all client ID information when you use Chrome.

Use the About: Pages. Like Firefox, Google Chrome can pull up a ton of useful diagnostic and other types of information if you type about: commands in Chrome’s address bar. For example, type about:plugins to get the list of plugins available for Chrome. The Google operating system blog has a good list of these.

Get a Portable Version of Chrome for Your USB Drive. You can get a lightweight tweak of Chrome based on the Chromium code here. Hat tip to Lifehacker for this.

Here’s a Video Featuring 10 Chrome Basics. In case you missed any.

15 Key Elements All Top Web Sites Should Have

Written by Selene M. Bowlby

Design Elements

There are a lot of details to consider when designing and developing a web site. In reality, it can seem like an endless list – but if you look carefully you’ll see that there are certain elements that are more important than others, elements that are used consistently among the most successful sites.

Once you’ve completed the Planning Stage of your website, the rest of the elements fall into broad categories ranging from User Interface Design to Content Creation to actual Development. Of course, there are also the issues surrounding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – but we’ll save that for another day…

With that in mind, here are the 15 elements that should always be included on any top web site.

1. Good Visual Design

First things first… Visual design. I don’t know about you, but if I go to a web site that is not visually pleasing, it is a quick turn off.

That’s not to say that every top website needs an incredible visual design – but if a site looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1994, it’s just not going to be associated with other great websites.

A clean and simple design is usually all you need. Bells and whistles are nice, but I’m one who tends to go with the “less is more” theory. You don’t want your design to be over crowded. You just want it to look good so it can stand out from your competitor(s) in the minds of your potential clients.

First impressions are key. Although good design alone will not keep someone on your site – an eye-catching design will, at the very least, grab their attention long enough to take a look around.

2. Thoughtful User Interface

User Interface / NavigationAlong with good design comes a good user interface. The user interface is the foundation of any good functional web site. When designing a site, you’ll need to take into consideration your average user. Who is going to be visiting your web site – who is your ideal customer? Are they tech-savy? Are they computer illiterate?

It’s helpful to create an image of your ideal visitor and have them in mind when planning out the design for your site. Be sure you offer everything on your site that they would want to find before buying from you or becoming a subscriber.

You’ll want to be sure that your navigation is easy to spot and consistent throughout the entire web site. Make it obvious where the user should click both in terms of your primary navigation, as well as for links within your content areas.

3. Primary Navigation Above The Fold

Part of having an easy to navigate web site is ensuring that the primary means of navigation – links to the key areas of your site – are kept above the fold. With today’s large computer monitors and growing screen resolutions “above the fold” is generally considered to be within the top 500-600 pixels of your site design.

Elements to include here are your logo (which should link back to your home page), as well as links to the main sections of your site. If you can link to sub-pages here that is great, but in most cases that will over-clutter your design.

For example put “Home | About | Services | FAQ | Contact” in a very easy to find location at the top of your site. You can place sub-links such as About-Bio / About-Resume somewhere else, such as in your sidebar or as sub-links under the main page title of that section, etc.

Consistency is key here – be sure to place both your primary and sub-navigational links in the same spot throughout the various pages of your web site.

4. Repeat Navigation In The Footer

If you use images (or even flash) for your main navigation, it’s especially important to offer a duplicate set of navigation links in your footer. Even if you use text links at the top, the duplication is still helpful. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find the content they are looking for on your site.

Often times the footer will link to additional information – such as Terms of Service – as well. Things that should be easy to find, but not necessarily something you want taking up real estate on the primary navigation area of the site.

Content is King

5. Meaningful Content

You know the saying… “Content is King” – you might have a pretty web site which will catch someone’s eye, but if the content is no good, you can be willing to bet that they aren’t going to stick around.

When writing the copy for your web site, it’s important to provide helpful, knowledgeable information about your company, products, services, etc. If you’re running a blog, informative articles related to your area of expertise are incredibly helpful as well.

While it’s important to sell yourself or your company, you also don’t want to oversell, either. Particularly in a blog setting – people reading a blog don’t want to hear all about “me me me” – they want to know how you can help them.

6. A Solid About Page

Among the top 10 most popular pages of my own site (after the home page, blog, 3 specific blog posts and my portfolio) is the About page. I have more clicks to my about page than to my services or portfolio pages, if you can believe that!

It’s simply because people are curious. They want to know who is behind a company or a blog. I was personally quite shy about including a photo on my own bio page, but finally did it a few months ago. It’s amazing what the sense of curiosity does – I myself am always clicking on about pages too, trying to find out more about the designer or writer, etc.

Include information on your background and how it pertains to your own business and expertise, etc. The about page gives potential clients a little bit more information about you and can often help create a more personal bond. If they are reading your writing and know a bit more about you, they’ll have a better sense of connection and better be able to relate to you on another level.

More often than not, a potential client will select the company with a “real” person behind it, rather than the faceless organization that refuses to get even a little bit personal.

7. Contact Information

Contact InformationNothing can turn off a prospective client more than not being able to find a way to contact you. If they’re interested in your services, and can’t find a simple contact page with a way to get in touch and hire you they’re going to end up going over to the competition.

Ideally you’ll want to give more than one method of contact. At the very least an email address and contact form. To make you more “real” though you should try to include a phone number (and if possible a mailing address) as well. I know many freelancers work from a home office – as do I. A quick solution is to get a separate phone line for business calls, as well as either a PO Box or other mailing service address.

Keep in mind that these are tax deductible expenses and makes you look that much more professional than someone who only includes an email address. To other home business owners in the same boat, it might not make a difference. But if you work with any larger or corporate clients, they’ll see a public phone number and address as an added sign of stability and that could play a small part in them choosing you over someone else.

8. Search

If you have a large web site or blog, having a search field is incredibly helpful, as well. There’s nothing like wading through hundreds of pages to find specific content without a search feature. If a potential customer can’t find something easily on your site, but Joe Designer over there does… odds are they are going to go with Joe whose content is easy to search through.

You can often use a Google Search on your site, or if you have WordPress (or another blogging platform or CMS / Content Management System) this will be fairly easy to accomplish. It’s not quite as easy to set this up with a static html site, but there are still services out there that will let you incorporate a functional search box onto your site.

9. Sign-Up / Subscribe

RSS SubscriptionIf your web site offers content on a consistent basis – such as with a blog – you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up for updates.

This is something else that’s extremely easy to add if you have a WordPress blog. By default they’ll provide you with a feed address. But if you want to step it up a notch, you’ll want to sign up for a free account with FeedBurner. Better yet, you might consider using the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin that will help re-direct all feeds through your FeedBurner account for easy tracking of your subscribers.

If you don’t have a blog, but still want to offer subscriptions to an email newsletter, for example, there are many companies that will let you setup and manage a mailing list. They will provide you code for your site to enable your web site visitors to sign up for updates using their email address. (FeedBurner allows you to collect email addresses too, btw). In some ways this is better than an RSS subscription because you are able to collect email addresses of potential prospects. While you can keep track of subscription numbers and other generic statistics, RSS subscribers get your updates via feed reader and have no need to provide an email address.

10. Sitemap

There are two kinds of sitemaps – one for humans and one for the search engines. An html (or php, etc.) sitemap meant for visitors to your site can be an invaluable tool for finding just what they are looking for.

Creating a sitemap – a structured list of all pages of a web site – is especially useful if you are unable to add a search feature to your site. A link to the sitemap is another item that is helpful to place down in the footer of your site, as well. A good sitemap will list out every page of your site in a hierarchial format – clearly showing the relationship of pages in terms of primary pages with sub-pages and sub-sub-pages, etc.

11. Separate Design from Content

Long gone are the days of using html tables for layout and design. The best developed sites use a combination of XHTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which create a separation of design vs content.

With use of <div> tags you can create containers for various areas of text and images on your page. Without a corresponding CSS file you’ll see just the basics – text – which is what the search engines want to see, too.

By linking to an external CSS file in order to separate your content from the design, it leaves your html page with mostly nothing but actual relevant text in your source code. The separate CSS file is what specifies the fonts, colors, background images, etc. for your site design.

What’s great about this is you can update just one CSS file and have the change made site-wide (no longer having to go into each and every html page of a static site, to change your main link color from blue to green, for example).

With this separation of content from design, the search engines no longer have to wade through all of the excess code to find out if your content is relevant, either. And with separate files, the content can load quicker, too – always a good thing in the mind of visitors to your site.

Web Development

12. Valid XHTML / CSS

It’s not just enough to develop your site using XHTML and CSS, though. It has to be accurate code. Two invaluable tools for checking your source code are offered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):

There are many reasons to write valid code… With valid code, you are a few steps closer to ensuring your site will look good across the different web browsers (see number 13 below) and will help you with the search engines, too. If your site is built to current web standards, the search engines can easily wade through your content.

Not to mention it just shows that you know what you are doing. Yes, many clients don’t know the difference, but a few do – and specifically request standards compliant code. If you can offer this but your competitor can’t – that gives you an extra edge.

And besides this, other web developers are likely to check out the source code of a site to see what’s under the hood… both out of sheer curiosity, and just because they can!

13. Cross Browser Compatibility

Although you might live and breathe inside Firefox, your client may not. There’s a good chance your client is using Internet Explorer. Unfortunately there’s an even better chance they’re using Internet Explorer 6 (please don’t get me started on this issue – lets just say I know I’m not the only web developer who wishes this browser will simply GO AWAY!)

It’s imporant that your own web site and the site(s) you create for customers display well in as many of the mainstream web browsers as possible. If you can make them compatible across platforms too, that’s ideal. Most end users are on a PC so this is probably the most important platform to target. However many people in the creative fields are on a Mac, so if this is your audience they are important to pay attention to as well.

Unfortunately most people aren’t lucky enough to have both a PC and a Mac (not to mention Linux, etc.) but with the help of a site called Browser Shots you can enter a URL – select from a variety of web browsers across different platforms – and have them create screenshots for you. Very helpful if you’re on a PC running Vista for example, where you no longer have access to an old copy of IE6.

14. Web Optimized Images

When designing for the web, it’s important that you save all your images in a compressed format. Not too much that your images become pixelated, but as much as possible while retaining quality.

If you’re accustomed to doing print work, you know that 300dpi is the standard. Not the case with web sites, though. When designing for the screen you’ll want to save your images at 72dpi which will make for a much smaller file size (aka quicker download time for your web visitors).

Programs like Adobe Photoshop have a “Save for Web” feature that will automatically convert your image to 72dpi if you forgot, as well as give you a variety of compression settings when saving your imges. For web this will likely be either png, jpg or gif depending on the particular usage.

Web Statistics and Analyitics

15. Statistics, Tracking and Analytics

Although this element is behind the scenes and not one you’re likely to know about as the web visitor – as a web site owner it is crucial, if not down-right addictive!

There are many services that offer tracking of web site statistics which include information such as:

  • How many hits does my site receive?
  • How many of these are from unique visitors?
  • How are people finding my web site?
  • What search terms are they finding me under?
  • What web sites link to me?
  • What are the most popular pages on my site?
  • Who is my average visitor (platform / browser / screen resolution)?

It’s actually quite amazing what kind of information you can keep track of with a good analytics program. Perhaps the most popular site for this is Google Analytics which offer a very robust (and free) tracking solution.

If you want to monitor your web site’s performance and figure out how you can improve your site, having a good stats package is key!

Now It’s Your Turn… What Do You Find Most Important?

As far as design, development and content (we’ll cover SEO in a separate post) what elements do you consider the most important feature for a web site to have? What do you see as a deal breaker if a company does NOT have on their site?

I’m sure there are more than the 15 elements listed in this post – so what else would you add to the list? Please share in the comments below!

Image credits: Gaetan Lee, minor9th, ?lex, michael hilton, Chesi – Fotos CC

19 Creative Halloween Advertisements

Written by AN Jay

As we believe that strong advertisement is a fastest way to convey the message to the audience and if they are created for sharing the happiness and joy of the occasions and social events then the result will be more fantastic. There must be innovation and creativity involve in any successful creative advertisement campaign. In this post, you can see how different companies conveyed their marketing/promotion message for their products or services for the Halloween Season. They want to celebrate events and occasions with their customers like they did for Halloween. So, you may say this post is an exclusive post for Halloween.

Heineken Halloween

heineken halloween

Halloween Download

halloween downloads

Society of Spiritualists: Halloween

Society of Spiritualists: Halloween

Guinness: Halloween

Guinness: Halloween

Comic Club

Comic Club



ReQuip: Halloween

ReQuip: Halloween

Snickers: Mr Smith

Snickers: Mr Smith

Snickers: Mrs Whithers

Snickers: Mrs Whithers



San Fransisco Zoo: Owl

San Fransisco Zoo: Owl

San Fransisco Zoo: Giraffe

San Fransisco Zoo: Giraffe

San Fransisco Zoo: Koala

San Fransisco Zoo: Koala

Trendy: Halloween

Trendy: Halloween

Burger King: Veg City, Halloween

Burger King: Veg City, Halloween

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

Heineken Halloween Night

All the images are copyright of their respected owners and creators. This post is about just to show their creative ideas and inspiration wonders to the world.

How To Deal With The Police If You Get Pulled Over

Written by Vito Rispo

The above video is the correct way to handle a traffic stop. After the jump, I’ve posted several very informative videos about dealing with police, including the complete video that this excerpt was taken from, called “BUSTED: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters“.

If you get pulled over, just remain calm and remember your rights. Keep your hands on the wheel where the officer can see them. Police officers in some states have the legal right to search your car if they say they “smell” drug smoke. This is a very obvious loophole, but one you have to deal with since it is the law. The best way to deal with it is to only lower your window enough to talk to the officer and pass him your license and registration. You are under no obligation to lower your window completely.

When he requests them, show the officer your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Try to remember the officers’ badge number and patrol car numbers, and write them down as soon as you have the chance. Police WILL try to intimidate you, and they WILL make you wait. Maintain your composure, don’t show fear, and be polite. The police officer will most likely ask you if you know why he pulled you over. Say no, never admit to speeding or try to guess why you were pulled over; just say no.

Don’t get into an argument with the police. You cannot win an argument with a police officer. Also remember that anything you say or do can be used against you, so say as little as possible. In some cases, police can search your car without a warrant based on “probable cause”. Make it clear that you do not consent to a search so you’re protected later on. It’s not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search. Remember that, NEVER consent to search.

Refusing a search DOESN’T mean you’re guilty. The age old argument: “Well sonny, honest people don’t have anything to hide” is nonsense. That argument has been debunked many times over. Don’t let that old line influence you.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve posted several very informative videos. The first two are from a talk given by James Duane, a lawyer and law professor, and the third is the complete Flex Your Rights video on how to handle a police stop.

Unfortunately, police enjoy a monopoly on protection. They’re the only game in town, so they aren’t pressured by the forces of the free market to make their customers happy. Police can generally act however they want and do whatever they please and we have to keep paying them to protect us. It’s an unfortunate situation, but until we live in a world with competing police services, where we can choose protection companies like we choose our cell phone provider, then we have to deal with it. So remember your rights, and don’t give in to police intimidation.

Don’t talk to cops, part 1:

Don’t talk to cops, part 2:

BUSTED: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters:

40 devastatingly simple ways the web can save you big money

Written by Gary Marshall

Cut costs and beat the bills!

Capitalism is collapsing, we’re eating shoes for dinner and our houses are worth about 10p – so it’s more important than ever to ensure that we’re getting the biggest bang for our bucks.

If money really talked, it’d be saying “go online and save some cash!”

So we did.

Here, we reveal 40 ways to use the web to beat the bills, cut your costs and get more from your money.

1. Go paper-free for cheaper bills
Many firms, such as Norwich Union Direct give you one discount for applying online and a further discount if you choose online-only paperless policies.

2. Make free phone calls
Whether it’s Skype or your favourite chat software, why pick up the phone when voice and video chat is free?

3. Cut your credit card rates
If you don’t clear the balance every month, high interest rates could be costing you a fortune. Use MoneyExtra to find a better deal.

4. Get cheaper gas and electric
Energy firms make a lot of money from inertia – that is, customers sticking with the package they’re on instead of switching to better deals. Use Uswitch to compare different providers.

5. Collect Airmiles
Airmiles aren’t just for flights – you can use them for hotel stays, too. The Airmiles website shows you where to collect the most miles.

6. Be patient and save on delivery charges
Many online shops such as Amazon charge a fortune for fast delivery. Go for free delivery instead – no book, game or DVD is that urgent.

7. Get cheaper broadband
Been with the same ISP for a while? You’re probably paying too much. Broadband Genie shows who’s got the best prices for the speed you need.

8. Get loyalty discounts
Providers such as O2 give massive discounts for customers who take more than one service so, for example, O2 broadband is £5 cheaper for existing O2 customers.

9. Get cheaper insurance
Insurers typically attract new customers with generous deals and then stuff them when it’s time to renew. Use to get a better deal.

10. New quotes are often cheaper than renewals
Like your insurer but hate the renewal price? Get a new quote from their website and demand they match it. We saved £90 this week doing just that.

11. Buy groceries online
Supermarkets are brilliant at encouraging impulse buys, so avoid temptation by ordering over the internet. If possible, arrange midweek delivery: weekends cost more.

12. Dump designers
Sites such as can help you get designer styles without paying designer money.

13. Book flights early
The earlier you book a flight on airlines such as EasyJet, the less it costs.

14. Use free software
Is as good as Microsoft Office? Who cares? It’s free! See also: Picasa, Google Docs,…

15. Get cheaper gig tickets in advance
Sign up to mailing lists to get advance notice of ticket sales for your favourite acts.

16. Get cheaper last-minute tickets
Need tickets for a sold-out gig? Sod the scalpers: try ethical trading site Scarlet Mist.

17. Get cheap Christmas presents now
It’s not long till Xmas, and there are sales a-plenty from big names such as Debenhams and Marks & Sparks.

18. Find freebies
The lovely people at have found freebies ranging from baby food samples to study aids and sun cream.

19. Compare prices to save big
Never buy things from the first site you try – a quick trip to Kelkoo will often find it cheaper.

20. Use a car broker and save cash on your new car
Car dealers are suffering, so brokers such as Broadspeed can get even bigger discounts on new cars than before.

21. Monitor the market for cheap mortgages
The best deals appear and disappear in a matter of days, so use a site such as to make sure you don’t miss any.

22. Prioritise your debts to cut repayments
Shifting debt to a credit card with 0% interest on balance transfers could slash your repayments; find one on Moneysupermarket or MoneyExtra.

23. Get a currency card
Travelling abroad? Pre-paid currency cards can save you a stack when you pay with plastic.

24. Find the cheapest petrol finds the cheapest petrol stations in your area.

25. Earn more interest on your savings
Make sure you’re earning maximum interest at

26. Get 2 for 1 cinema tickets
With Orange? Text 241 to get two-for-one tickets on Wednesdays.

27. See films for free
Disney’s Film Factory often gives away free tickets for new movies.

28. Sell your story to the press
Did your partner leave you for a chicken? Beonpaper is where real-life mags often get their case studies – and many of them pay.

29. Get free stuff from Freecycle
Join your nearest Freecycle group and discover how you can get people’s unwanted items for nowt.

30. Get cashback when you shop
Sites such as Topcashback can get you cash back when you buy from major retailers – although you should always check that the same things aren’t cheaper elsewhere.

31. Stream music for free
Why buy CDs when‘s streaming is so good?

32. Build a blog, not a website
Free blogging platforms such as WordPress are often better than paid-for web space.

33. Cancel the newspaper
They’re all online, so subscribe to their RSS feeds with NewNewsWire or FeedDemon.

34. Find cheap restaurant deals offers cheap same-day deals for all kinds of swanky restaurants.

35. Do a holiday house swap
Don’t pay for a hotel: swap houses with someone instead.

36. Save petrol
Plan your route before you travel – it saves petrol and it’s cheaper than a sat-nav.

37. Get cheaper train tickets
Book in advance and use services such as Raileasy to find the lowest fares.

38. Get bargain hotel rooms
Laterooms can save you a packet on hotel accommodation – especially if you’re booking at the last minute.

39. Find free Wi-Fi and Wififreespot make it easy to find free Wi-Fi – although inevitably, availability is awful outside big cities.

40. Use up food before you buy more
Cooking By Numbers is brilliant: tell it what odds and sods are in your fridge and it’ll come up with recipes. We got Bacon Surprise: “The surprise is that it is nothing but bacon.”

Add your own money-saving tips in the comments

18 Means for Living Below Your Means

Written by Marc

Live Below Your Means

Live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. Do not spend to impress others. Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects. Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you. Always live well below your means.

A penny saved is a penny earned.
– Benjamin Franklin

  1. Redefine your definition of “rich”. – “I remember sitting in a cubicle at my first professional job staring at a picture of an SUV I wanted to buy (and eventually did). Now, I sit in my office and look at the pictures of my kids, and just outside my window I can see the beater I drive sitting in the company parking lot. What a difference a decade makes! To sum things up, my definition of being rich is having enough money to meet my family’s basic needs, a few of our wants, and to be able to give some away to others.” – via Frugal Dad

  2. Borrow and share. Everyone wins! – “We borrowed a DVD from a friend instead of renting or buying and had a little snack from our own fridge! Way cheaper than using gas to drive to the theater/rental place, paying for a movie, and paying for a snack.” – via My Dollar Plan

  3. Avoid the mall. – “Going to the mall is not entertainment! We used to go when we were bored. Of course, we usually ended up spending money while we were there. If you need clothes, then shop sales or go to stores that offer name-brands at a discount. You can save a ton on these items if you are a smart shopper. Dave Ramsey says, “Never pay retail!” We probably save $15 to $30 per month by staying away from the mall.” – via My Super-Charged Life

  4. Limit your intake of advertisements. – “Advertising sucks. That’s the cold, hard truth. It’s engineered to make you feel like you’re incomplete, that you have an unfulfilled need, that you’re not good enough.” – via On Simplicity

  5. Buy with cash. – “You can’t spend money you don’t have. Many bank accounts provide overdraft protection, so even with a debit card, it’s easier to go over your account balance than you think.” – via Simple Mom

  6. Find a better deal and actually SAVE the difference. – “Regardless of what they sell, if you’ve switched companies for price reasons, save the difference. Think of phone companies, internet access, cell phones, credit cards, and others.” – via The Wisdom Journal

  7. Adhere to a long-term investment strategy. – “I’m a long-term investor. The stock portion of my portfolio is spread over several mutual funds, a few ETFs and a few inpidual stocks. Each and every one of these holdings was carefully chosen, after thorough research. I believe in these stocks and funds. I consider them as my best bet in growing my money – LONG TERM.” – via MomGrind

  8. Curb your consumerism! – “Have you ever watched how a child can play with a cardboard box for hours, and leave the toy that came in it by the wayside? How is it that children can enjoy themselves without a lot of “stuff”, but we as adults feel the need to reward ourselves by buying more stuff?” – via Billionaire Woman

  9. Stay Healthy! Medical problems drain bank accounts. – “James M. Rippe, M.D is a best-selling author, world-renowned cardiologist, and founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute. He explains that if you look at all the risk factors for dying, the one that is most predictive is fitness level. In addition, an older person with high cardiovascular fitness is healthier than a younger person who is physically inactive. By increasing your fitness level, you can actually roll back your biological clock.” – via Abundance Blog

  10. Stay in and relax. – “So, think about it the next time you go out. Are you going for with a purpose? Maybe the solution is to not go out at all. Stay home and save! Save up for something you really want or need.” – via The Jungle of Life

  11. Gradually prepare yourself for a rainy day. – “Even when things are going great, and you feel on top of the world, you must always be prepared for a change. If you take the time and patience to set yourself up properly, then when things to take a turn for the worse, you will be prepared to handle it. If you live above your means, then when the slightest change occurs, you will not be prepared to adapt. Financial flexibility is more important then keeping up with the Jones’.” – via Yin vs. Yang

  12. Stop competing. Forget about the Jones’ altogether. – “If getting rich makes us happy, then why don’t countries as a whole get happier as they grow wealthier? They discovered that as a country gets wealthier there’s no overall increase in happiness. Why? We continually compare our wealth against that of others. We are competitive and envious. Add to that the fact that Western countries encourage people to strive for more and more, and you have a formula that spins many into depression.” – via Color Your Life Happy

  13. Get out of the “easy street” mentality. – “I think there is too much emphasis on the quick fix or the easy option in today’s society. For example taking diet pills to lose weight instead of the “hard option” – exercising and eating well…. money is sometimes being used as a substitute for hard work. Do you think there is an increasing expectation that you can get want you want by throwing money around instead of working hard and “earning” it? – via Forever Change

  14. Avoid impulse buying. Buy things you truly need. – “Don’t you just love the excitement you feel after coming home with a new TV? Driving home in a new car? Opening the box on a new pair of shoes? I sure do. But, from watching the behavior of myself and my friends I’ve found that the new quickly becomes just another item. The excitement of novelty passes quickly.” – via Think Simple Now

  15. Time is money. Properly manage your time. – “The fewer tasks you have, the less you have to do to organize them. Focus only on those tasks that give you the absolute most return on your time investment, and you will become more productive and have less to do. You will need only the simplest tools and system, and you will be much less stressed. I think that’s a winning combination. Focus always on simplifying, reducing, eliminating. And keep your focus on what’s important. Everything else is easy.” – via LifeDev

  16. Find ways to give without spending. – “Want a quick, easy and (almost) free way to be guaranteed that you’ll make someone’s day special? Send them a letter. Why not set aside some time this weekend to sit down and write to a few people? If you don’t enjoy writing, try buying some nice postcards of your home town. If you’ve got an artistic streak, why not design your own note cards? You don’t have to write a long letter for it to be effective. It’s the thought that counts and the personal touch that makes it special.” -via Dumb Little Man

  17. Don’t let greed and deceit get the best of you. – “According to Stephen R. Covey, if you reach an admirable end through the wrong means it will ultimately turn to dust in your hands. This is due to unintended consequences that are not seen or evident at first. The example he gives in The 8th Habit is: The parent who yells at their kids to clean their rooms will accomplish the end of having a clean room. But this very means has the potential to negatively affect relationships, and it is unlikely the room will stay clean when the parent leaves town for a few days. Now, to return to the topic of wealth, I think it is possible to see much of the world’s current financial problems as stemming from people who wrongly believe the ends justify the means. My advice? It is fine to aspire to wealth, but don’t lose sight of the means to accomplishing it.” – via The Change Blog

  18. Never ever pay retail. – “You can easily save hundreds of dollars a year on clothing purchases by waiting for sales or shopping at discount retailers like Marshalls. Better yet, avoid name brand clothing all together.” – via Marc and Angel Hack Life 🙂

Photo by: CayUSA

How the U.S.A. elects its President

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Every four years, the world looks with bafflement at the United States as the country goes through its curious process of electing its President. Truth be told, the system is far from obvious, and remains misunderstood and controversial even within the U.S.A. A brief primer on how it all works.

Americans go voting

Foto: AFP

With early voting opening in some states such as Florida, ‘voting season’ has begun. Officially, Election Day is mandated by the Constitution for the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Though few probably know it, Americans do not vote directly for their President. Instead, he is elected by the Electors of each state, who pledge to vote for the candidate chosen by the majority in that state.

The most common false assumption about the President of the United States is that he is directly elected through a popular vote of the people. It’s easy to fall into this trap, given the appealing simplicity of such a democratic method.

In reality, the President is elected through a one-of-a-kind, indirect process, which places the emphasis on the inpidual state elections. The electoral system written in the Constitution of the United States was designed to preserve the autonomy and political power of the states, and this federal character of the country is preserved in the Electoral College system.

How does the Electoral College function?

American voters do not cast their ballot for President at the federal level. Rather, the votes are counted at the local level and then submitted to the electoral commissions of the states. Each state has a certain number of electors, equal to the number of U.S. representatives from that state, plus the two senators. The District of Columbia also has a number of electors equal to that of the smallest state, currently three, thanks to the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1961 (before that, residents of the District could not vote for President). The state with the largest number of electors is California, which has 55. In total, there are currently 538 electors. A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to become President.

Depending on which candidate receives a majority of the popular vote in a given state, the electors of that state will all cast their votes for that candidate, a winner-takes-all system. This is the case in 48 states and the District of Columbia; in two states, Maine and Nebraska, a different system is used in which it is possible for electoral votes to be split between the candidates.

In Maine, for example, two of its four electoral votes are determined by the statewide, popular vote, but the other two votes are determined by the outcome of the election in the two Congressional districts. It is possible, then, for Maine and Nebraska to cast their electoral votes for both candidates.

A three-step process

Election Day, written in the U.S. Constitution, is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. On this day, Americans who are not voting by absentee ballot go to the polls to cast their ballot. Technically, the American voter is not electing the President, though the Presidential candidates’ names appear on the ballot. Rather, the voter is electing the members of the Electoral College, who will later elect the President.

After the outcome of the election is known at the state level, the secretaries of the respective states prepare ‘Certificates of Ascertainment’ naming the electors chosen, and send one original and two copies to the Archivist of the United States.

On December 15, the electors of each state meet to select the President and Vice President of the United States. They record their vote on six ‘Certificates of Vote’, which are sent, along with the ‘Certificates of Ascertainment’, to the President of the Senate, Archivist of the United States, and other federal bodies. These offices must have received the documents by December 24.

The final step in electing the U.S. President will take place on January 6, 2009. On this day, Congress will meet in a joint-session (both houses) to count the electoral votes. With the official numbers certified by the Congress, the path is cleared for Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, when the new President takes his Oath of Office.

Challenges to the system

Critics of the Electoral College system have existed since it was codified in the Constitution. In fact, the question of how to select the executive of the United States has been an ongoing debate for the past 230 years, give or take. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, more than 700 proposals for reforming or abolishing the Electoral College have been introduced in Congress in that time.

In 1987, the American Bar Association reported that 69 percent of lawyers wanted to do away with the system. Popular support for this ‘archaic’ system has not fared better: between 58 and 81 percent of Americans were against the Electoral College system between 1967 and 1981.

Still, the system endures because, first of all, it would be difficult to change it, and second, because it is difficult to establish consensus around an alternative method. Changing the Electoral College system would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, as well as support from three-fourths of the states. This is not easy to achieve.

But the Electoral College system also persists because despite its shortcomings, there are several reasons to recommend it. Supporters of the system point out that the framers of the Constitution considered several other possibilities, but settled on this one for its advantages: It helps ensure political stability by making it difficult for third party candidates to become president; it gives rural areas and small states more power, better distributing political clout across the country; and it encourages a federal system of representation.

Of course, the critics will surely continue to work on alternative systems to challenge the status quo. As long as outcomes like the contested 2000 election, in which Al Gore won the popular vote of the United States as a whole by a hair over George W. Bush, but lost the election when the Supreme Court awarded Florida’s Electoral College votes to Bush, continue, there will surely be other systems proposed.

But for the 2008 election at least, McCain and Obama will win or lose the election based on the outcome of the Electoral College system.

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