Thursday, May 28, 2009

Travel Alaska

My friend Jim is a son any parent would love to have. Each year, Jim treats his parents to a nice vacation. A couple of years ago, he chose Alaska as the destination.

Jim and his parents brought back amazing photographs and stories about their experiences. In fact, Jim is so big on Alaska travel, that he made a return trip the following year.

Travel Alaska. Those words stayed on my mind a couple of days ago when the temperature outside was in the upper 80s and the air conditioning had quit in my office. Hanging out in the "Land of the Midnight Sun" would have been perfect that day!

On any given day, Alaska's Denali National Park has much to offer – stunning mountain views, peaceful waters, and plenty of wildlife. It’s no wonder that Denali considered the “crown jewel” of America’s national park system. Tops on my must-see list would be a presentation on Alaska’s amazing Northern Lights.

When it comes to Denali tours, there are lots of options. For instance, you might decide to spend your time hiking, camping, or going on guided ATV and bus tours. If you have a fascination with Alaskan huskies – and who doesn’t? – you'll want to a personal tour of the Iditarod Race Dog Kennel. My kids would really love THAT experience.

Alaska boasts a rich history and colorful heritage. I just learned that the state has five distinct groups of Native Alaskan people. As a student of culture, I want to learn about each one.

When it comes to wildlife, there is much to see. Nearly 175 species of birds and 40 species of animals call Denali Park home. I can understand why my friend Jim decided that one trip to Alaska wasn’t enough.

Tips for enjoying your summer vacation

Ready to take off on a summer vacation? If your trip takes you outside of the U.S., there are some new rules to keep in mind.

Starting Monday, June 1, passengers will need passports for air, land, and sea travel to and from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.

If you're remaining in the U.S., don't forget that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently implemented stricter rules for traveler IDs. You have to make your reservation using the full name that you have on your government-issued ID card -- for instance, your driver's license.

To avoid delays at the airport, don't use nicknames or shortened versions of your name when booking your flight. If your middle name appears on your passport, be sure to also use it when booking flights.

This is intended to cut down on the number of misidentifications at the TSA checkpoint. TSA officials say that following this rule will help to move the process along more quickly.

For more tips, visit the TSA web page for travelers.

Tags: Vacations, , TSA,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Should teachers interact with kids online?

More teachers are using social networks or text messages to keep in touch with students and build rapport, but online friendships may be considered inappropriate. Some officials are considering banning online "fraternization" between teachers and students.

The Missouri Legislature is debating a proposal to ban elementary-school teachers from having social networking friendships with their students. And the Lamar County School District board in Mississippi recently passed a policy that bans "fraternization via the Internet" between staff members and students. It also prohibits text messages to students except for educational purposes.

Should more communities consider such bans? The Arizona Daily Star examines the issues.

Tags: Social Networks, Technology, Students, Teachers, Education, ,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thoughts on flags and patriotism

I have a great deal of respect for people who display a flag in front of their homes on holidays. Ever since I was a little girl, I would pay attention to the proudly displayed banners. Perhaps that’s because my parents made a point of visiting our family cemetery on Memorial Day, where I saw even more flags waving in the wind.

I have a great deal of respect for the military men and women who serve our country, and I think American flags and patriotic banners are a great way to honor them. “Support our Troops” banners are very popular. Some people choose the ones that have the yellow ribbons. “Happy Birthday America” banners seem to be perfect for Independence Day celebrations.

When it comes to banners, the only ones I don’t care for are the Confederate ones – for obvious reasons. Personally, I fail to see the connection between Confederate displays and patriotism. However, that’s a discussion for another day.

According to the United States Flag Store, nylon is the most popular fabric for American flags. I can see why. Nylon flags are strong and durable. They hold up well under all weather conditions, and they are less likely to fade.

I loved flags as a child, and I love them now. However, when I was in high school and college, I faced some personal conflicts about the American flag and what it represented. Like many young people of my generation, I was torn up about many of the wars that the U.S. supported. In addition, I was disappointed to see our country's displays of arrogance when it came to our relationships with other countries.

I may not have always liked some of the behaviors I saw in our leaders – or some of the biases perpetuated against certain ethnic groups. Still, the U.S. has come a long way since it first declared its independence. We’ve shown a great capacity to change – and to pull together in times of crisis.

The phrase “we, the people” has taken on a much more significant meaning. I am proud to be an American.

New web browser understands technical terms in life sciences

European scientists have created a ‘semantic grid browser’ that can understand technical terms in life sciences and automatically find additional resources and service. According to ScienceDaily, this new development could lead to a new generation of intelligent search engines.

The browser utilizes grid computing, a process that uses the resources of many computers in a network at the same time, to solve a single problem. According to the publication, the "life sciences community has built numerous databases – such as for gene sequencing and information about diseases – that are available to researchers as ‘grid’ services."

Many researchers look forward to a next-generation search engine that can understand what the user is looking for and return much more relevant results than today’s engines can. To learn more about the new web browser, click here.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Measure your ROI, increase revenue, and grow your firm

On any given day, millions of executives are wondering if they are using the right approach when it comes to their marketing plans and ROI (return on investment). They wonder if they're spending the right money on the right marketing approach. That's a valid concern. My advice: Leave Internet marketing to specialists.

If it's been a while since you evaluated your company's marketing plan, now is the time to review it. Do you know who is visiting your website? What percentage of visitors actually become customers?

ROIanalytics Inc. estimates that the average company loses up to 90% of opportunities when it comes to website visitors. Don't let this happen to you. Don't just throw money at a marketing plan.

You've got your hands full overseeing day-to-day operations. Bring in experts who can identify lost opportunities on your website -- professionals who can offer strategies for follow-up.

Stay ahead of the competition. Learn how to gauge your return on investment down to a dollar amount, and add value to each of your Internet marketing programs.

With the growing number of websites being added by businesses and individuals, the only way to stay visible on the Web is search engine optimization (SEO). Make your website search engine friendly. That's one of the first steps in website promotion.
Find out how to implement a SEO process that allows you to:

  • Understand your marketing plan, products / services, and competition.
  • Choose the right keywords or phrases that describe your product or service.

Numbers-driven CEOs demand to know how efficiently their companies’ marketing dollars are being put to use. Put together a plan that keeps you ahead of the game.

Web hosting firms thrive during recession

The web-hosting industry appears to be recession-proof. That's according to Network World, a provider of information to IT executives.

Web hosting firms are experiencing a rising demand for their services as more and more businesses elect to outsource their IT needs. For small- to medium-sized businesses, keeping up with the demands of IT infrastructure can be a challenge. Shifting the hosting responsibilities to a reputable web hosting firm can prove to be a savvy move for firms strapped for cash and IT personnel.

Network Word quotes Michael Foust, CEO of Digital Realty Trust, a San Francisco owner and operator of Internet data center facilities that has seen its revenues grow more than 30% in a year. Foust said:

The economic crunch we are all facing is forcing folks to be more creative and more open minded about how they deploy their businesses.

Faust acknowledged that many web-hosting companies, including his, are building new data centers to respond to the rising demand. He said:

There's a lot of expansion by all of the players, but it's a more rational approach based on real customer demand.

To learn more on this trend, click here

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Choosing the right web host

The economy is forcing businesses to get more creative when it comes to their Web presence. Nearly all organizations are trying to survive the recession on smaller budgets. However, smart executives understand that e-commerce remains a strong force.

A well-executed website can be a valuable marketing tool. Web development involves several key elements. One of the most important is web hosting.

Web hosting is an art, so look for a provider that best fits your needs. Pick a company that has a good reputation within the industry.

Web Hosting Rating can help. Their site has been offering reviews, ratings, and awards about providers since 2002. Ratings are based on several criteria, including customer satisfaction. Free articles are available to assist novices and veterans alike who are seeking IT solutions.

On the site, you’ll find an important list -- the Top 10 Web Hosting Providers -- Best Web Hosts for 2009. I’m checking out one provider in particular because it offers a number of goodies, is inexpensive, and targets itself to the needs of small businesses.

Do your homework before deciding on a web host. Find out how companies like yours rate providers on affordability, reliability, uptime, and technical support.

Web hosting is a crowded field, but you don’t have to agonize over your decision. Use free online resources to help you make an informed choice.

Obama picks shuttle veteran to be NASA chief

President Obama nominated has former shuttle commander Charles Bolden to lead the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). If confirmed, the 62-year old would become the space agency’s first black administrator and just the second astronaut to hold the position.

Bolden joined the astronaut corps in 1981 and logged more than 680 hours in space on four shuttle missions. News sources see the selection of Bolden as reassuring to those who feared that Obama was lukewarm on future manned missions.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The search for young female social entepreneurs

Youth Service America (YSA) is launching its first annual Gladys Marinelli Coccia Awards to recognize young female social entrepreneurs whose initiatives serve the common good. Maximum award: $2,000 for the winner's social enterprise, as well as travel to and registration for Youth Service Institute. The winner also will receive an invitation to serve on the executive board of Girls Helping Girls, and access to YSA's resources to support and expand social enterprise.

According to YSA:

Social entrepreneurs apply business practices to achieve positive social change and measure their success through their social impact. They find innovative and sustainable ways to address pressing issues.

Eligibility: Girls between the ages of 14 and 17 (as of December 31, 2009) who reside in the United States and have their own social enterprise. Deadline: June 15, 2009. For additional details, click here.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Strategic SEO and smart web design can boost your profits

I’ve been working in marketing and communications long enough to know that it’s difficult for any business to be successful without a strong online presence. A few days ago, when I stumbled on, I lingered for a while. I like the fact that a portfolio of the company's work -- other websites it has designed -- is on the front page.

This Portland-based company demonstrates versatility in the services it delivers. AuraDev has developed a reputation for doing several things well – Portland web design and development, Internet marketing, and web hosting. Its specialty: small businesses.

AuraDev's services go far beyond web design. The company demonstrates savvy in Internet marketing. It's an expert in search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click management, brand identity, and logo identity.

Firms that want to maintain their competitive edge know that they have to get serious about SEO. Even the smallest organizations can gain a lot from having Aura Dev on their team.

If your operation is based in the Portland, Oregon area, check out AuraDev. This firm can strategically integrate technology and SEO -- customizing a package that meets your marketing goals while staying within budget. That's an offer that any smart executive can't refuse.

For educators, additional stimulus cash exists in unlikely places

Now is the time for educators to get creative. The federal stimulus package contains millions for community health centers, billions for vocational training. and additional funds that could go to schools. Experts in education finance say this is the case even though the programs aren't a part of the dedicated education package.

Reportedly, some of the nearly $4 billion for work force training could be used for adult education, youth training programs and career exploration, especially for fields related to renewable energy or energy efficiency. Details from Education Week, which is offering this premium article for complimentary viewing.


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Examining Internet gambling

“The best gambler is an informed gambler.” That message was repeated often by my bosses when I worked in promotions at a casino. The sentence is also the tagline at Casino Examine, a free resource for online gamblers. is a trusted guide, offering a comprehensive list of reviews of the best online casinos in the U.S. The website is dedicated to ensuring safe and secure gaming experiences. Part of being an informed and responsible gambler is knowing whom to turn to avoid scammers.

The site is well designed and easy to navigate. Casino Examine is also a reputable casino portal. What does that mean? Simply put, the site is a gateway, or “information central”, for all things related online gambling. In the early days of online gaming, you entered sites at your own risk, not sure what to expect. Now you can use Casino Examine to research top sites.

The website also offers updated news related to online casinos and gambling. For instance, you’ll find background information to help you understand the issues surrounding proposed legislation that would support Internet betting.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., unveiled the bill last week. The Los Angeles Times quoted Frank in a recent story:

"The poker players and other online gamblers have gotten organized," Frank said, adding that he supported the legislation as a matter of personal freedom.

Gamblers visiting will quickly discover that the site offers a list of U.S. friendly online casinos. Reviews identify those casinos that are “100% U.S. friendly”.

Gaming novices and veterans alike will appreciate another Casino Examiner feature – details of online casino game rules. Definitions of several casino games are also readily available. In addition, gamers can sign up for Casino Examiner’s newsletter.

When it comes to gambling, some people prefer the experience of getting into their car and going to their favorite casino. Others prefer the convenience of accessing online games from their own computers. I am sure that there are many people who do both.

I’m not a gambler, but I’d like to think that if I were, I’d be responsible. Bottom line for all gamers: Stay informed and stay safe.

Efforts underway to legalize online gambling

According to, Harrah’s Entertainment and support a bill that would legalize online gambling. A new House bill would put the Treasury Department in charge of Internet gambling. Specifically, the bill would allow the Treasury secretary to license and revoke licenses of Internet gambling websites. Such action, supporters say, would protect Americans' personal freedoms to gamble and address consumer protection concerns.

Supporters tell Congress that online gaming can be regulated and taxed. Critics are raising moral objections.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Johannesburg to play host to Africa Banking Conference

The recent decision by investors and lenders to infuse $15 billion into the African economy is sure to stir conversation at the 2009 Africa Banking Congress, which will be held July 6-10 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Sandton is situated in an ideal location. The Sandton sits in the hub of this region's commercial activity.

If your company plans to attend the Africa Banking Conference, there’s still time to find good deals on Sandton convention accommodation. Online resources are readily available to visitors seeking details on several popular Johannesburg hotels. See accommodation around Johannesburg here. Sandton delegates can also check here to learn more about the wealth of information and services available to convention goers.

There are deals on a wide range of modern accommodations – ranging from the luxurious Hilton Sandton Hotel to the Town Lodge Hotel Johannesburg, which offers rooms for the budget-conscious. The high-tech Sandton Convention Centre is nestled near several hotels that offer hundreds of rooms and varying amenities. The Sandton is also close to many shops, restaurants, attractions, and other businesses that showcase South Africa's international flavor.

Organizers of the Africa Banking Congress want to facilitate compelling dialogue. Investors and lenders hope to see a restoration of faith in the region’s financial institutions. Holding the conference in Johannesburg’s business center may be a good first step.

Helping Africa weather the financial crisis

Africa's biggest investors and lenders are making available another $15 billion to help the continent weather the global financial crisis. That report comes from the African Press Association. The $15 billion is meant to promote trade, strengthen Africa's financial sector, and increase lending for agricultural projects, infrastructure, and small- and medium-size businesses.

The increased financial support represents a coordinated effort from the African Development Bank, the French Development Agency, the European Investment Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, German Financial Cooperation, the World Bank, and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sometimes "me" time can be a good thing

Every year, my friend Ruth vacations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ruth lives for her visits to her favorite Myrtle Beach resorts and hotels. She has been making these trips for as long as I can remember.

Ruth adores the beach. She loves sea shells, and I can always count on her to bring me back some beauties. She loves being near the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying the many restaurants, and taking in the nightlife.

Professionally, Ruth is a workhorse, so I’m thrilled that she takes time off to do something she enjoys. Because she’s made this trip so many times, she's become a bit of a tour guide.

Ruth can tell you just about anything you need to know about Myrtle Beach hotels, where each is located, and who offers what amenities. Making the arrangements has just gotten easier, now that vacationers can book their getaways online.

I’m way overdue for a vacation, and I’m determined to make my own trip to a Myrtle Beach resort. This recovering workaholic has fallen off the wagon. Spending some time near the ocean – away from cell phones and laptops – sounds just perfect.

Mother's Day thoughts

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.
~ Rajneesh ~

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
~ Abraham Lincoln ~

Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.
~ Pearl S. Buck ~

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

When language meets science

Teaching science can be challenging for many elementary teachers. Grade school instructors often aren't required to take many college science classes. The teaching of science is intensified when students possess limited English-speaking skills. A professional-development program being used in Miami-Dade trains teachers to build students' scientific knowledge while strengthening their English skills.

Source: Education Week

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Life insurance - a necessity, not an option

The subject of life insurance came up yesterday in a conversation I was having with a friend. We both made the observation that some families fail to see the importance of having life insurance policies in place. At the very least, the policies should cover funeral expenses.

Most of us who have children also want to make sure that enough is left over to pay any outstanding bills. If you’re like me, you also want to leave something to your kids.

Researching life insurance rates doesn’t have to take a lot of time. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can get instant term life insurance quotes online., for instance, uses the databases of more than 140 insurance companies. Gone are the days when you had to contact individual companies for rates.

I don’t believe that anyone intentionally wants to be a burden to their families after their demise, but that’s exactly what happens if you don’t have all of your business affairs in order.

Some people think it’s impossible to get term life insurance because they’re 50 or older. Others think it’s impossible because they have preexisting health issues. Not true on both counts. Coverage is available for the over 50 crowd and for people with health challenges.

Many people rely solely on insurance provided through their jobs. However, that's not enough. If you lose your job for any reason, that coverage goes out the window. This economy is not the time to make risky decisions.

Everyone needs life insurance. Do the right thing and make sure that you and your family are protected.

'Wardrobe malfunction' case could still mean fine for CBS

The CBS television network could once again face a fine for the wardrobe malfunction involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

The Federal Communications Commission wanted to fine CBS $550,000 for the incident, which lasted 9/16 of a second, but a federal appeals court decided to set the fine aside. On Monday, however, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court.

The Supreme Court's decision means that TV stations and networks once again face the specter of fines for even fleeting, one-time slip-ups.

This is the second time in two weeks that the Supreme Court ruled on lewd behavior or language on TV. In a case last week, the Supreme Court ruled that regulators can fine television and radio broadcasters for letting "fleeting expletives" slip through. Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps called the ruling "a big win for America's families."

Variety is following the story.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Discover Boston Luxury Real Estate

While the overall economic picture continues to reflect consumer uncertainty, spring is still bringing out home buyers. If you live in Boston – or you’ve decided to relocate there – you’ll discover quickly that buyers still have the advantage.

Buyers can find a variety of housing options on the website Boston Luxury Real Estate. This first-class site is the brain child of specialists at Bushari Group Real Estate. This free online guide allows you to search thousands of listings representing a variety of properties.

Boston lofts remain popular among many buyers. Dazzling designs, open floor plans, and amazing views attract those who want a marriage of urban living, spacious environments, and bona fide Bostonian culture. Let Bushari specialists direct you to properties in various areas of the city. See the magnificent settings that house Boston luxury lofts.

Looking for something different? Check out the Boston condos. You’ll find many units among the active listings. The area is rich with condo deals. Get started by checking out opportunities in the South End. Compare the South End units with those in a number of other locations. Wherever you set your sights, you’ll definitely get more bang for your buck. These units represent some of the best real estate in Boston.

Discover Boston real estate. When it comes to luxury living, it doesn’t get any better.

Flu fears impact college graduation on many campuses

Northeastern University in Boston dropped the traditional handshake for graduating students accepting diplomas, while Cisco Junior College in Texas cancelled its commencement ceremonies altogether.

Coast to coast, fears of the H1N1 flu strain are altering American campus life in both subtle and dramatic ways after a dozen universities reported probable or confirmed cases of the virus that has killed up to 176 people in Mexico and one in the United States.

School officials say there is good reason for their concern -- from the hectic travel schedules of academics who could transport the swine flu virus, to the ever-present risk in densely populated residence halls of flu spreading like wildfire.

Many schools such as Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Western Illinois University and Tulane University in New Orleans suspended study-abroad programs in Mexico. Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania will hold a separate graduation for students returning from Mexico.

In Boston, when about 20,000 people gathered on Friday for Northeastern's graduation events, the school did not take any chances. About 100 bottles of hand sanitizer were available to the crowd and the officials handing out diplomas were not shaking hands -- a traditional graduation gesture.

Northeastern officials said that they took their cue from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Cisco Junior College cancelled a graduation ceremony scheduled for Friday and instead plans to mail diplomas to graduates.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Keyless locks: Do they offer better security?

Fingerprint have been used as a means of identification for well over century. In more recent years, with advances technology have made it possible to automate fingerprint recognition. As a result, keyless locks are now available for business and home use.

Recently, I’ve been wondering if keyless locks would fit into my lifestyle. I’m thinking about the many times my kids have misplaced their keys. It’s annoying – and at times a bit scary – but I try not to fuss too much. Why? Because by the time I reached 20, my dad has four sets of locks to our home! Every time I lost my keys, my dad replaced the locks to the front door.

So there is a practical component for considering keyless locks. If we had a security system that recognized fingerprints, we wouldn’t have to worry about lost keys. Our home would be more secure, right? Maybe.

Not having to worry about keys anymore is an attractive idea. It would be cool for my family to use our unique fingerprints to get into our home. However, another thought persists in the back of my mind.

While the technological advance is wonderful, I think we have to assume that there are unscrupulous people out there who are thinking of ways to beat the system. Even with the best safeguards, I think it is possible for someone to unscrupulously obtain -- and illegally use -- my fingerprint. I’m no expert in this area, mind you, but it stands to reason that use of biometrics, while it offers many advantages, presents another possible method of identity theft.

We don’t live in a perfect world. But I do believe some methods of home security are worth considering. The corporate sector and law enforcement are finding success with this technology.

These days, traditional keys seem to be so “old school”. Even though I have a lot of questions about keyless locks, I’d be willing to consider them as a way to better protect my family.

Intergenerational project honors preservationist

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joins two other organizations in sponsoring a photo, essay, and poetry contest "that best expresses the Sense of Wonder that you feel for the sea, the night sky, forests, birds, wildlife, and all that is beautiful to your eyes." Generations United and Rachel Carson Inc. are co-sponsors. The contest honors Rachel Carson, the late preservationist and ecologist.

In her book The Sense of Wonder (written in the 1950s and published in a magazine in 1956), Carson used lyrical passages about the beauty of nature. She enjoyed helping children develop a sense of wonder and love of nature.

Prize: Publication on the websites of EPA Aging Initiative, Generations United, and Rachel Carson Council, Inc.

Eligibility: Entries must be joint projects involving a young person under 18 and someone aged 50 or older.

Deadline: June 10, 2009.