December 1, 2023


Ahchoo! Welcome One and All to Allergy Season

Ahchoo! (Repeat 7 times) I hate allergies. I am sure I’d be a bit hard-pressed to find anyone that does. The season is starting up again nice and early, so I am already on the Claritin knock-off I get from Costco. Though the drugs don’t take it completely away, thankfully for me it does keep most of the symptoms at bay.

What is the deal with allergies anyway? Our bodies can learn to fight off various illnesses, but we still get all worked up over certain pollens? Is this just a warped way to remind us that deep down we are sensitive? I don’t need to be that in touch with my feelings…really!

I haven’t had allergies all my life. About when I turned 30 they kicked in, which is fairly typical I have discovered for when adult onset allergies come along. Now that I have them, I really feel sympathetic for those that have had them all their lives.

Allergies for me take sneezing to an all new level. I sneeze so hard and for what seems forever that every muscle in my body aches like I have run a marathon…if I had ever run a marathon and knew what that felt like. It flat out hurts. That pain keeps me on drugs, and I am the type that hates taking any drugs I don’t have to. I put off taking Tylenol and deal with some pain rather than popping a pill.

Every so often when I think I might be past whatever pollens are bothering me, I stop taking the allergy pills. I usually dread in a couple of days when I do that and the sneezing fits kick in again. That recollection of pain keeps me taking the pills pretty consistently from Spring until Fall now without fail. I have never gone to a doctor to get tested and find out exactly what pollens are my nemesis, so I just cover all my basis by sticking to it.

I guess I should feel fortunate that allergies didn’t kick in for me until there was a cheap option to deal with it that doesn’t have any side effects. I have seen it for those that are worse. I have seen my brother with full body hives due to his out of control symptoms. I just remind myself it could be much worse.

So if you are with me, whether as a lifer or late bloomer in the allergy club, welcome to the season. Ahchoo!

Laundry Magic – Are the New Steam Washers Cleaning Up?

For several years there has only really been 1 selection to make in the laundry room, best or front loader? But now there is a new kid on the laundry block- although still a front loading washer, the steam washer from trusted brands like LG washer and Kenmore is becoming far more readily obtainable and regarded. Will this mean an end to your local dry cleaners?

I’ve rounded up the excellent points and bad points of the 3 primary sorts of washers available on the marketplace.

There are lots of positive aspects to a front loader when comparing it to a leading loading machine. With a lower water and electricity consumption plus the capability to fit easily into smaller laundry spaces, the front loader is already ticking lots of boxes. Nonetheless, if bending or kneeling is challenging for you, stay with a leading-loading machine as you will need to kneel or bend to load the clothes as properly as remove the wet load from a front-loading washer.

Even though front loaders are a smaller machine than a top loader they surprisingly hold a lot the exact same amount of laundry, about fifteen pounds. Depending on how considerably washing you do in your household will establish the size of the washer and its capacity that you select. If it is just for your self then a smaller machine with a load limit of ten pounds is sufficient but if you have a significant loved one then clearly you’ll need to have to be looking at larger models.

Tests have shown that a mid-size, front loading LG washer will on average consume fifteen gallons of water per load, compare that to a top loading model which employed 29 gallons. That is practically half the water utilized for the same size load in a front loader. The difference is so vast because the best loader requirements so a lot of water to cover the laundry in the drum whereas a front loading machine wants significantly less as the drum is positioned horizontally and as it turns, gravity assists in ensuring all the clothes get dropped back into the water.

Considering that there is no agitator in a front-loading machine, there is a lot far more room for dirty clothes – and larger loads indicate fewer loads. It’s also gentler on your clothes to wash them with no an agitator.

Front loaders are more energy effective than best loaders, making use of far much less electricity. Independent tests show us that a top loader will use twice the amount of electricity that the identical size capacity front loading washer will use. Quicker spin cycles possible with front loaders also indicates they eliminate more water from the clothes and so save a lot more energy on drying if you use a dryer.

Top loading machines are generally a lot much less dear to buy than the equivalently sized front loading machine. If you are on a budget you will be able to pick up a top loader for about 500 hundred dollars or under but need to you decide on to acquire a top loading machine you will make savings lengthy term on your energy bill.

For a quicker wash time, a leading loading washing machine is the answer. They typically only take half the time of a front loader, mainly due to the agitator becoming much more efficient as a method of cleaning, even though as previously stated, the agitator is also harsher on your clothes. It’s not achievable to open the door of a front loading washer once the wash has begun whereas with the best loading washer you can basically pop the lid open and add that stray sock you dropped on the way to the laundry room.

However, with the new steam machines, it is probably to open the front door on some models to add clothing by utilizing a pause function, as there is no water to run out of the machine in steam mode. I got the opportunity to test a load of laundry in an LG Washer and the steam mode did do a significantly greater job of getting marks out of dirty clothes than on just the typical wash mode, you do have to check though that the items you are laundering can withstand the steam temperature. Also, steam washers have a much less water consumption per load compared to regular washers. As with most new innovations, early adopters tend to have to bear the brunt of the expense, you almost certainly won’t find steam enabled washer for less than 00 at the moment but they need to, as with most issues, come down in price with time.

Poorly Programmed Traffic Lights

Poorly Programmed Traffic Lights

Back to a driving rant today. If it sounds like I have a lot of beef when it comes to driving habits and related problems, I do. I promise that I am not a candidate for road rage. You won’t see me on the evening news surrounded by cops with their guns drawn trying to get me to calm down. I try to keep my feeling between me and the windshield.

Have you noticed how traffic lights are programmed? There are some that just seem to work right. They adjust for different times of the day, expected traffic flow, etc. Cross streets get less time because there are typically fewer cars, and the main streets and heavily used turns get their respective “weight” in time being turned green. That is how intelligently programmed lights are supposed to work, and they make traffic flow as best as possible, even during the busy times.

Poorly Programmed Traffic Lights

Recently there have been a few lights installed in my city as we are experiencing tremendous housing and even some business growth (finally). Busy streets have made a few crossing roads nearly impossible to get through during rush hour or even semi-busy times. So the lights were welcome in my opinion. Now for the rant. Both of these lights, though one is worse than the other, are absolutely terrible on the way they change according to upcoming cars on the cross street, plus how long they stay on the cross street. The one, in particular, is about a half mile from an interstate off-ramp. 9 times out of 10 I will come off of I-15 and get stopped by this light. Probably 4 out of those 9 times there will be no cars waiting to get through the light on the cross street. I can’t figure it out, whether this is just a timed event or if the sensors (they use cameras, not the in-ground variety) are picking up a false signal.

This particularly seems to happen late at night, when my wife and I are coming back from a date or some other reason to be out later. At least, that is when I notice it the most because it is blatantly working poorly. Pulling up to the light with no other cars in sight from any direction and it changes. Then, like there is some hidden operator watching through that traffic camera snickering, I have to wait for an over a minute (seems like 10 minutes) for the light to change back and let me through. I am so tempted to just look both ways and take off through the light, but with my luck, that would be when some traffic cop is off the side with his lights off waiting for an idiot like me to pull that stunt.

Poorly Programmed Traffic Lights

I guess if I really wanted to do something about it I could file a complaint with the city, but that would take effort that I am not sure I am willing to put out. So the light is likely to stay screwed up, and I will continue to use other routes to avoid it.

There has to be some city worker that passes through this way and noticed it, right? I can’t believe I am the only one on the planet to get stopped with regularity and made to wait an inordinate amount of time. Maybe it is some inside joke with the department. I can see them having a feed hooked up through the traffic cameras to zoom in on the driver’s faces. They record the expressions, beating of the steering wheels and try to lip read the best curses. Video gets stored in the “best of” vault for department parties. If I could just have access to view these, I might feel better about the lights and laugh along with them. I’m all for a good prank, but if it is just stupidity and laziness, then I’m still ticked.

So what do you think? Prank or bad programming. Unfortunately, I think it is the latter, which is why I write this rant. If I thought it was a prank, I might stick it over on What’s Gotta Stay along with some good footage.

No love for ARM and Exxaro…yet

ARM and Exxaro

Despite trading at-or-near single digit price to earnings multiples, professional money managers are battling to get excited about short-term prospects for either African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) or Exxaro Resources.

Over the last 12 months, ARM has fallen back 20% while Exxaro has dropped around 15% despite both owning quality assets in the South African resource space and having a track record of delivering solid profits.

As it presently stands, ARM trades on a forward price to earnings multiple of around 9 and offers a dividend yield of 3.7%. Exxaro is trading on a forward multiple of 9.7 and offers a dividend yield of 4% suggesting there is not much to choose between the two stocks.

ARM and Exxaro

Following the recent release of results for the year ended June 30 2014, FNB Securities told clients: “African Rainbow Minerals is trading on a forward PE of 10.2 times. Although this does not appear particularly demanding, its high exposure to iron ore remains a medium-term concern.”

With both counters having now reported financial results, SBG Securities has updated its call on both businesses and suggested there are not many reasons for investors to get excited about either business in the near-term with both being rated as “holds”.

The 12-month price target for ARM was R200 and R160 for Exxaro.

These calls are broadly in line with industry-wide analyst polls. The median 12-month price target forecast for ARM is R208 and R150 on Exxaro according to forecast data provided by Thomson Reuters.

With ARM trading at R163 and Exxaro at R137 per share, this suggests there is some upside but as SBG points out, both businesses require something to help spark interest in the share price.

While ARM is its preferred counter in the sector because of its diverse asset base, SBG says there are three core areas it will be watching with interest. These are the copper and PCB Coal divisions as well as movements in the iron ore price. In the case of Exxaro, the iron ore price is going to be main area of focus and, with recent economic data out of China suggesting a further slow-down in the global economy, this suggests that there is potential for more weakness in both share prices.

ARM and Exxaro

While the market may be getting excited about new stimulus measures from China, Ole Hansen, who runs the commodities portfolio for Saxo Bank, recently made an interesting observation that futures contracts for copper had turned “net-short” for the first time in 20 weeks. With the copper price being a good proxy for the health of the global economy, this suggests that enthusiasm for other base metals may remain muted.

The Bloomberg Commodity Index has slumped to a five-year low on a resurgent US dollar, as market participants believe that the currency will continue to rise ahead of forecast interest rate increases.

For now, the prevailing view appears to be that both shares offer long-term value potential but until the iron price plays ball, both are likely to see subdued share prices.

To Care or Not To Care: 3 Questions to Ask about Business Trends

To Care or Not To Care

When it comes to the ever-changing world of business communications technology, it can be really difficult to determine what the “next big thing” is and what is merely a flash in the pan. Are free voice apps the future of business? Will landlines be extinct by 2020? To Care or Not To Care

So how do you figure it all out? Well there are a few general questions you can ask to help identify the money-makers from the bank-breakers

How are key players treating the trend? Look at how major carriers are treating landlines: AT&T has stated their desire to have nothing to do with landlines beyond 2020. That should be a good indication that there’s not much value left in landlines and SIP and VoIP are the way of the future.

To Care or Not To Care

How are key demographics treating/impacting the trend? When it comes to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend in business, do you think generations that have grown up with personal tablets and their own smartphones are going to want to trade those in for a dated (to them) desktop handset at the office?

What do you physically see happening? Normally, I’m not a fan of using anecdotal evidence, but if no one I know owns a “home phone” (my grandparents being the exception), that is yet another good indication of the fate of landlines and where the market is going instead.
These questions aren’t guaranteed to get you the answers you need, but they should go a long way in helping you make smarter business decisions when planning for the future.

Hundreds of people demonstrate against the death of Arafat Jaradat

Hundreds of people demonstrate against the death of Arafat Jaradat

Arafat Jaradat (30), held in detention since the 18th of February, died yesterday in Israeli Megiddo prison, presumably, during an interrogation. Initially, Israel claimed he had died from a heart attack. However, after conducting the autopsy of the body, there are clear evidences such as fractures and bruises in his body that indicates he was subjected to torture.

Hundreds of people demonstrate against the death of Arafat Jaradat

To protest his death, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have participated today in a one-day hunger strike. Protest rallies have also taken place across the West Bank and Gaza.

In Hebron, clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces have occurred throughout the entire day. A vast quantity of rubber coated steel bullets and stun grenades have been shot at people as well as tear gas canisters, skunk water and live ammunition. Three protesters have been shot with live ammunition and dozens have been injured by rubber coated steel bullets, many also suffered from tear gas suffocation.

Hundreds of people demonstrate against the death of Arafat Jaradat

Confrontations also occurred near Huwwara Checkpoint, where Israeli forces shot multiple rounds of tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets. The protest lasted for four hours, only interrupted to allow the ambulance carrying Helmi Hassan to pass through Huwwara checkpoint, where a helicopter was waiting to take him to hospital in Tel Aviv. Helmi Hassan, from Qusra, was shot by a settler yesterday with live ammunition, which narrowly missed his heart.

Demonstrations followed by clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters have also happened today in Jerusalem, Ofer, Nabi Saleh, Kufr Qaddum, Jenin, Bethlehem, Beit Ommar and Sa’ir, Jaradat’s home town.

Let’s Get Visual With Social Media

Social Media 3

There are plenty of examples of unique ways to use imagery all over the internet, but all businesses are different, so which is right for you?

With Facebook making their timeline feature permanent for business pages, and Pinterest and Instagram gaining traction in popularity and social influence, now is a good time to explore the ways in which social media is shifting toward a more visual experience and what businesses can – and should – do to take advantage of these new platforms and emerging trends. In fact, the news of Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion only puts an exclamation point on that statement. So what kind of strategy should businesses take to target and engage with consumers in this environment?

Social Media 3

First of all, don’t waste time lamenting that your business isn’t image-friendly. Just because you can’t display dishes made with fresh ingredients like Trader Joe’s on Pinterest, or easily post large portions of a catalog like Macy’s, does not mean you can’t join social visual sites or take advantage of Facebook’s timeline. What your business must think about is how images can help enhance your brand or tell your brand’s story in an engaging way.

When we work with clients that are expanding their social presence, we don’t simply transition their existing visual assets into a new format. It’s important to strategize about the ways that consumers will interpret and interact with content, and how it will benefit the brand or enhance the consumer relationship.

Social Media 3

There are plenty of examples of unique ways to use imagery all over the internet, but all businesses are different, so which is right for you? As a couple of high-profile examples, it is worth checking out GE on Pinterest and Instagram, and Coca-Cola on Facebook, because each provides a pretty decent blueprint for telling a story with imagery and not just sharing pretty pictures.

Visual Social Media Examples

Coca-Cola is blessed with a strong brand association with consumers and a well-documented history, so it is no wonder they were able to compile a rich and compelling visual timeline on the official Coca-Cola facebook page. Coca-Cola puts pre-Facebook content on their page so that they can take you all the way from their founding to present day. By following the timeline, users see the branding and commercials with which they’re familiar supplemented by images they may not have seen before, such as an 1893 letter to Coca-Cola from a soda fountain manager lauding the drink’s popularity and ability to generate profits for his business. The user now knows that even before the 1900s consumers had a thirst for Coca-Cola, and they’re just a small part of that history.

Social Media 3

General Electric has a similar approach on Facebook ( but with calls to action hidden throughout; one such call to action cropped a small portion of a jet engine image and teased users with the question “What do these parts make?” They then revealed the answer – and the full jet engine image – at 300 likes. On their Pinterest and Instagram pages, GE takes consumers through a visual journey of their business from historic photos and videos to current images of factory workers and the “Badass Machines” each generation of GE workers has produced.

Remember, you don’t need to attract users with your images; consumers have already chosen to come and visit. You need to connect with consumers through the visual medium to inform them about your brand in a fun, unique, and interesting way. By posting images that are relevant to your business and that engage the consumer, you can provide a glimpse into the everyday life of your company.Inviting consumers into the company’s life creates a greater sense of community among all consumers that interact with your site.

Are Retailers Seeing The End Of The Impulse Buy?


Retailers have long relied on consumers making an impulse buy/purchase. Check out the Impulse Shopping Fact Sheet for some interesting stats re: Impulse Buying.

There are of course many definitions for the term but in general it is “to buy on impulse without proper reflection.”

Well it seems many folks are reflecting on these decisions long before they even leave their house.

Ellen Byron, in an article written for the Wall Street Journal “In-Store Sales Begin at Home” writes…

“In-store marketing—the practice of trying to influence consumers’ buying decisions as they shop—traditionally consisted of flashy product displays, special promotions at the end of the aisle and attention-grabbing packaging on the shelf… [[however]] shoppers are researching their grocery lists online before going to the store.”

In fact, 62% of shoppers say they search for deals online for at least half of their shopping trips, this according to a survey by consulting firm Booz & Co. and trade group Grocery Manufacturers Association.


So is the impulse buy a thing of the past?

No… there will always be the need for a well-crafted, flashy, inviting in-store display to entice shoppers. As Ms. Byron writes “the shift hasn’t eliminated the need for effective campaigns inside stores.”

On the contrary, as according to the aforementioned survey, 83% of consumer-product companies say they plan to increase their investments in shopper marketing over the next three years, while 55% say shopper marketing is their top investment, with spending increases topping 5% annually.

So what does this all mean for retailers and marketers?

Well it should come as no surprise to retailers and marketers alike that more and more consumers are utilizing the digital space to find the best deals before heading off to the store.


The key will be, as it always has been, to know your customer and potential customer.

But long gone are the days where you “only” had to know high-level demographics such as age, sex, income level, etc.

You need to know them AND find them in the digital space, as well.

BUT… just because you find them in the digital space, do not make the assumption that’s where they want/prefer to get the best deals.

Unfortunately for retailers and marketers, it is anything but an exact science. With so many media options available, the key will be finding the right mix of offline and online sales approaches and campaigns.

Are you a retailer who relies on impulse buys?

Do you reach out to your customers and potential customers via daily deal sites?

The Best Places for Couples

Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or somewhere to enjoy a great vacation with your partner, the opportunities are only limited by your imagination. There are many destinations to choose from that are designed to make couples feel comfortable and welcomed, and spending time together in these exotic and peaceful retreats might even enhance your relationship.

Tabacón Resort Spa Thermal Resort

Enjoy the romantic surroundings of the Tabacón resort Spa in Costa Rica. This five-star resort is located at the base of the Arenal Volcano and provides its guests with a luxurious place to relax and enjoy the comforts of a world class hotel. The resort features comfortable suites with king- or queen-size beds, large Jacuzzis, garden views and many special amenities like cozy robes, slippers, DVD players and coffee makers with a selection of coffees. The resort also has its own on-site gift shops, cafes, pool and spa and is set in the middle of an exotic rain forest. The guest services desk can take care of any special needs you may have and there is also a medical staff on site. The resort offers plenty of activities to help you enjoy your stay, but when you are ready to venture out, check out the fantastic mountain hiking trails in the rain forest, or take a tour to see the many sides of Costa Rica.

Tabacón Resort Spa Thermal Resort
La Fortuna de San Carlos
Costa Rica
(877) 277-8291

Westglow Resort and Spa

Get pampered in one of the most luxurious spas in North Carolina at the Westglow Resort and Spa. Set in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the resort features a Greek Revival mansion with a very attentive staff waiting to provide you with first-class service. Enjoy cozy guest rooms in the Cedar lodge, day spa services including everything from weight management packages to stress relief sessions, fitness center and classes, personal trainers and even hiking, biking or luxury camping adventures. If you are looking for more recreational activity, the resort also includes canoeing, golfing, fly fishing, horseback riding, white water rafting and more. This health and fitness spa is a great place for couples to get away and enjoy their time together.

Westglow Resort and Spa
224 Westglow Circle
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
(800) 562-0807

The Alexandra Resort

Relax in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth when you check in to the Alexandra Resort on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean Sea. This romantic resort is the perfect place to get away and features some of the best accommodations of any resort. With beachfront restaurants, theme nights, Caicos Dream Tours, pools with swim up bars, an on-site fitness center and spa and more, you will find everything you need for a great vacation. The Alexandra Resort features very comfortable guest suites ranging from beachfront studios to four bedroom oceanfront suites. For the ultimate in romantic dining, ask about the barefoot dining package, where you and your special guest will be treated to a cozy candlelight dinner on the beach including a table with linens and all the luxuries of dining indoors with the ambiance of the ocean setting.

The Alexandra Resort
Princess Drive
Grace Bay
Turks & Caicos Islands
(800) 284-0699

Fun Camping Accessories

Fun Camping Accessories

Casual as well as more experienced campers are all familiar enough with the basics: a tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, pillow, Coleman stove, lantern, a couple of chairs and propane–lots of propane. But there are all sorts of twists and new avenues in the ever-changing world of camping gear and accessories that can make your next camping trip more comfortable, enjoyable and fun.

Cool Camping Gear

An online camping portal with the appropriate name of Cool Camping Gear (see References, below) offers the Kamp-Rite Tent Cot. It’s an elevated, reclining cot wrapped in a personal-size tent, complete with mesh windows and doors. It’s a great way to sleep out under the stars without worrying about bugs. And thanks to an aluminum frame, you’re nearly a foot off the ground, so there are no concerns about mice or other creeping critters crawling into your sleeping bag, either.

Fun Camping Accessories

Cool Camping Gear also recommends the GSI Deluxe Gourmet Camp Kitchen, a foldable “kitchen” complete with a double sink, cutting boards, drying racks, and cooking and storage shelves. There’s even an optional pressurized fresh- and waste-water system.

Coleman Goodies

Coleman, one of the most prevalent names in the camping gear and accessories industry, has two nifty gadgets idea for those campers who would like at least some of the comforts of home.

The Hot Water on Demand water heater promises your first batch of hot water in just 5 seconds. The device heats 40 gallons of water with one compact 16.4-oz. propane cylinder and has a wealth of accessories, including a carrying case, a hose adapter and even a spray adapter for those long, hot morning showers.

Fun Camping Accessories

Coleman also makes a drip coffee maker specifically made for camping; instead of plugging it into an electrical outlet, you heat it over a camp stove. It’s like a Mr. Coffee on steroids–and it sure beats that old percolator.

Night Time is the Right Time

If you have kids, take advantage of the clear night sky with a pair of night-vision goggles. You can see clearly in the dark through a greenish haze just like the military or police do, and goggles are great for night-time rounds of hide-and-seek, tag or I Spy.

Fun Camping Accessories