Sunday, November 7, 2010

9 Bathroom Cleaning Problems Solved

by Reader's Digest Magazine

1. "My shower curtain is crawling with mildew"
Wash it with a bleach solution. Shower curtains can be tricky to clean because they are big and cumbersome. Getting rid of mildew, especially during damp weather, can be especially challenging. Here’s a solution that’s quick, easy, and low-cost: Pour 1 gallon (3.7 liters) of warm water and 1⁄2 cup of household bleachinto a plastic bucket. With plastic gloves on, soak a sponge in this cleaning solution, give it a squeeze to avoid drips, and wipe. The mildew will vanish. Rinse using the showerhead.

2. "I’m ready to toss this filthy shower curtain liner"

Toss it in the washer.
Don’t throw away your liner just because of mildew and dirt buildup. Extend its life by cleaning it in your washing machine. Set the machine on the gentle cycle with warmwater and 1 cup of regular laundry detergent or 1⁄2 cup of vinegar. Afterward, whirl it in your drier, set on Low Heat or Fluff, for about 20 minutes. Your liner will come out clean and wrinkle-free. Rehang it immediately.

3. "My brass fixtures look dull
Polish them with baking soda and lemon juice.
Don’t rush out to buy an expensive brass cleaner. Save time and money by making a paste with equal amounts of baking soda and lemon juice. Dip an old toothbrush in the mix and lightly scrub the fixtures. Let the solution dry a few minutes and then buff the fixtures with a clean cloth. They’ll look brand new.

4. "The nooks and crannies in my bathroom are hard to clean"
Use an old toothbrush.
An old toothbrush is the perfect time-saving bathroom-cleaning tool. For example, you can use it to clean the tracks of your bathtub’s sliding glass doors. Simply spray bathroom cleaner on a paper towel and wrap the towel around the bristle end of the toothbrush. Then scoot the brush along the tracks to dislodge dirt. Or put the little bristles to work on the grime that collects around the rim of a bathroom sink. Once the bristles have loosened the dirt, just mop it up with a damp sponge.

5. "I hate those mineral deposits on my bathroom faucet"

Remove them with white vinegar.
No one likes crusty white deposits on a faucet. Try this easy solution: Before you go to bed one night, head to your kitchen for a bottle of white vinegar and three paper towels. Saturate the towels in the white vinegar and wrap them around the faucet like a cocoon. In the morning, remove thetowels. Fill the basin with warm water, plus a squirt of dishwashing liquid. Dip an old toothbrush in the solution and scrub the faucet toremove the final bits of mineral deposit.

6. "I have scum buildup on shower doors."
Use furniture oil to prevent buildup.
Cleaning soap scum off a shower door is a tough, time-consuming job. Try using lemon oil furniture polish as a barrier against the scummy buildup. The next time you clean the door, follow up by wiping it with furniture oil on a soft rag. Let the oil sit for two minutes and then polish off the excess with a dry cloth. The furniture polish will leave a slight film of oil that will act as a buffer against future soap scum. Using a shower squeegee (available at discount stores and supermarkets) after every shower will also discourage the buildup.

7. "My glass shower doors are filmy"
Clean them with vinegar, baking soda, and salt.
Stubborn mineral buildup on glass shower doors is no competition for a few common household ingredients—white vinegar, baking soda, and salt. Spray vinegar on the door and let it sit for a few minutes. Next, create a paste with equal amounts of baking soda and salt. Use adamp sponge to rub this paste over the door; then rinse well.

8. "My bathroom grout is grungy with mildew"
Spray it with vinegar. Mildew on grout is no match for that miracle household cleaning dynamo called vinegar. Just pour somewhite vinegar into a container, dip in an old toothbrush, and scrub away at the mildew. Or pour the vinegar into a spray bottle, squirt it on the mildew, and let it sit for ten minutes. Rinse with water and apply the old toothbrush if necessary. Bleach is effective in removing mildew from tile grout. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts of household chloride bleach and water. Spray the grout, let it sit a few minutes, and then wipe with a clean white cotton cloth.

9. "Those nonslip bathtub stickers won’t peel off"
Loosen them with laundry presoak. You know the ones: They’re shaped like flowers and fish and are stuck on with industrial-strength adhesive. Instead of ruining the smooth surface of your tub trying to scrape them off, follow these simple steps for removing them: Carefully lift corners on each sticker using your fingernail or a plastic scraper. (Metal will scratch most tubs.) Spray the stickers with a good dose of laundry pretreatment product, such as Shout or Spray ’n Wash. Let the stickers soak in the spray for a few hours. This should loosen the stickers and allow you to peel them off. Wipe up any adhesive residue and the laundry spray. Clean and rinse the tub thoroughly.

11 Best Fast Food Post-Workout Snacks Under 200 Calories

by Reader's Digest Magazine

Some protein bars can be more like candy bars, providing sugar and fillers rather than actual healthy nutrition. While a fast food restaurant may not be the best choice for a quick bite after your workout, these options are good. They provide protein, carbohydrates and, most of all, satisfaction for fewer calories than a Snickers bar.

Best in-hand option
No time to use utensils? A Starbucks latte gives you a dose of protein and carbohydrates to refuel

Find out why this a perfect post-workout snack.

Find out why this a perfect post-workout snack.

Skim Latte (Grande)
130 calories
19 grams carbohydrates
13 grams of protein

Best breakfast option
If you work out in the morning, this wrap will get much-needed protein to your muscles.

Dunkin' Donuts
Egg White and Cheese Wake-Up Wrap
150 calories
13 grams carbohydrates
8 grams protein

Best open 'till 2 a.m. option
For the night owl, Taco Bell has a Fresco menu that offers a few low-cal options that pack a good amount of protein.

Taco Bell
Fresco Crunchy Taco
150 calories
13 carbohydrates
7 grams of protein

Best drive-thru hand held
Wipe the sweat from your brow and cool off with this chocolately boost of protein and moderate amount of carbs. Men's Health swears by the muscle building power of chocolate milk.

Burger King
1% Chocolate Low-Fat Milk
190 calories
31 grams carbohydrates
9 grams protein

Best high protein option
Even though this isn't under 200 calories it's very close. And it has a commendable amount of protein and slow-acting good carbs in the form of beans.

Small Chili
220 calories
22 grams carbohydrates
18 grams of protein

Best filling sandwich option for early risers
This sandwich will keep you filled up through to lunch. You can even add some veggie toppings for some more vitamins.


Black Forest Ham, Egg and Cheese English Muffin
180 calories
18 grams of carbohydrates
15 grams of protein

Best sides as a snack option, plus a high-protein treat
These side dishes are perfect post-workout snacks, combining good carbs and an excellent amount of protein with low-calories.

Red Beans With Sausage and Rice
160 calories
26 grams of carbohydrates
24 grams of protein

Macaroni and cheese
180 Calories
20 grams carbohydrates
6 grams protein

2 grilled chicken drumsticks
160 calories
0 carbohydrates
20 grams of protein

Best protein splurge option
Remember your childhood with these crispy little bites. While this a higher fat option, this little treat has a good amount of protein for satiety.

4 piece Chicken McNuggets
190 calories
11 grams carbohydrates
10 grams protein

Best sweet treat option
For when you need a sweet fix. Plus, who doesn't get great joy out of eating one of these!

Low-Fat Vanilla Flying Saucer
190 calories
35 grams of carbohydrates
4 grams of protein

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Of The Weak Mind...

Human, in its perfection in the eye's of Creator is with flaws in all aspect...

The flaws, being intentional is a measure of worthiness and state of mind of a human being...

Weakness, of mind bears more merit compared to of body...

Where the weak of body only slows you down...

But, the weak of mind will kill the will of your body to live...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Of Stress...

Life has been quite a roller coaster ride lately, especially when it's the mid year (not in calendar, but in financial year).

Things has been in overdrive mode with a lot of deadline coming.

Some are routine, but most of the time are those which only come and go once or twice in a year, but the workload will take up as if its a month worth of workloads.

This is also the time when our skills in composition and extreme vocabulary is tested.

Months upon months of hard work will be summarized in a structural manner that will only take up not more than 400 words.

I will return...

"My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return."

Monday, April 19, 2010

8 Easy Ways to Boost Your Salary

“Most of the suggestions are hard to do… not because we couldn’t… but the system doesn’t allow us to…” –MKK-

by Mary Fineday,

Work smarter, not harder. Take simple steps that will help you supersize your paycheck, get more respect at work, and develop a career that truly suits you.

From career training to communication tips, check out our list of ways to boost your paycheck.
Specialize. Are you feeling like you're spread too thin over too many tasks? Become an expert at a few major responsibilities in order to make yourself indispensable in the office. A brief online course can help. For example, if your boss relies on PowerPoint presentations, learn more about the software package and help with the weekly presentation duties.

Diversify. On the flip side, a narrow range of skills could work against you in an office where only a few people perform the majority of the tasks. Think about where you can diversify your skills to offer more value to the team. For example, your front-office clerical skills could be combined with medical assistant training to help prepare you to work in a small doctor's office. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median yearly wage of $28,300 for medical assistants, with the top 25 percent earning $33,050.

Train yourself. Think about where you want your career to be in five or ten years. If people at work are always asking you for help with their computers, why not make it official? An associate's degree in IT can help move you into an official role as your company's computer-support specialist. Your employer should be pleased to find that you took the initiative to educate yourself. Computer-support specialists earn a median annual wage of $43,450, while the top 25 percent earn $55,990.

Train others. Prove your value in the workplace by offering to lead training sessions for new hires. Expressing the desire to train others proves your interest in the company, as well as your willingness to take a leadership position and a position of responsibility. Business classes in human resource management and communications can give you the knowledge you need to help new hires begin their careers at your company.

Manage. Interested in climbing up the corporate ladder? Do your part to make your way into a management position. If you have little or no previous management experience, a degree in business administration such as an MBA can help give you the management tools you need to operate confidently at a management level. Then you can combine your work experience with education and rise above your competition. According to the BLS, workers with a master's degree earn an average of almost $200 a week more than those with a bachelor's degree only.

Get certified. Computer certification in technologies such as Cisco, Microsoft, and Linux have value in jobs ranging from help-desk support to high-level project management. Combined with your degree in computer science, finance, or a related field, the certification process gives you a chance to prove your knowledge, keep your technical skills current, and show off your commitment to your job. Network and computer-systems administrators are expected to remain current on new technologies. They earned a yearly median wage of $66,310 in 2008, with the top 25 percent earning $84,110.

Ask. Perhaps the easiest salary-boosting tactic is also one of the most overlooked: asking for what you want. Otherwise, your boss may not know that you're thinking of advancing your career. Set up a meeting and ask what you can do to earn more. Present some ideas and learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as an employee. From there, you should have a clearer picture of how to improve; what's more, your boss will realize you want to.

Move on. Sometimes, a simple salary boost can't be found. If you find yourself stuck in a go-nowhere job, think about using education and training to make the move to a position that is more in line with your ambition and ability.

Of course, none of the tips above can guarantee a higher salary. However, it's a good idea to take some time out of every year to consider where you stand on the office payroll. With a move as simple as a little career training, you can boost your paycheck and earn what you deserve.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Much Will the Class of 2010 Earn?

“Luckily I’m from the generation of 2005 graduates…” –MKK-

by Charles Purdy, Yahoo! HotJobs

According to recent forecasts, members of the class of 2010 are going to earn less money in their first year of work than 2009's college graduates--and 2010's grads are among the likeliest in recent history to continue living at home with parents.

And although the job market is seeing some slight improvements, a recent study on recruiting trends (conducted by Michigan State University) indicates that the number of jobs for graduates with bachelor's degrees will drop about 1 percent this year; hiring of all college graduates is forecast to decline by 2 percent.

The value of education
The spring 2010 issue of the
National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Salary Survey shows that the average salary offer to a 2010 bachelor's degree candidate is $47,673, which is 1.7 percent lower than the average offer of $48,515 made to 2009 bachelor's degree candidates.

But although the overall average salary offer is down, some bachelor's degrees are more valuable this year.

For example, in the business disciplines, both finance and accounting majors saw their average salary offers rise. The average offer to finance majors rose by 1.6 percent, to $50,546, and the average offer to accounting majors inched up by 0.4 percent, to $48,575.

But business administration/management grads saw their average offer fall 8 percent, to $42,094. Marketing graduates' average salary offer also fell--but not as far--to $42,710, down 2.1 percent from last year.

Degrees that compute
As a group, graduates earning computer-related degrees saw their average salary offers soar in comparison with the other disciplines: Their average offer rose 5.8 percent, to $58,746. And the average offer to computer-science majors increased by 4.7 percent, to $60,426.

As a group, engineering graduates saw their average salary offer increase by 1.2 percent, to $59,149. Electrical-engineering grads saw the largest increase of the engineering disciplines. Their average offer rose by 3 percent, to $59,326. Chemical-engineering graduates' average offer is up 1.6 percent, to $66,437, and civil-engineering grads saw a similar increase--1.3 percent--bringing their average offer to $52,443.

Graduates with degrees in mechanical engineering also saw a 0.2 percent increase, which brings their average salary offer to $58,881.

The biggest drops
Graduates earning degrees in liberal arts may be the hardest hit by the effects of the recession: Currently, their average salary offers remain well below last year's levels: 8.9 percent lower, at $33,540.

(NACE will continue to track the movement of starting salary offers to Class of 2010 graduates in the upcoming issues of its Salary Survey--the summer 2010 issue will be published in early July.)

Saving money on rent
In a February 2010 article, The Pew Research Center stated that 37 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 are unemployed or out of the workforce, "the highest share among this age group in more than three decades." And in a March 2010 article, it further reported that "about one in five adults aged 25 to 34 now live in a multi-generational household"--this includes many young people who are living longer with parents (or returning home) when finding a well-paying job becomes difficult.

These numbers could also indicate that young people are opting to stay in school longer rather than entering a tough job market.

The good news
There is still value in getting a degree: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics March 2010 report showed the unemployment rate for people who had attained at least a bachelor's degree at 4.9 percent, nearly half the national rate of 9.7 percent.

And while large companies--those with more than 4,000 employees--reportedly plan to decrease hiring of all graduates by 3 percent, employers with fewer than 500 staff members say they expect hiring at their companies to jump by 15 percent, according to the Michigan State University survey. These companies will hire 11 new graduates on average in 2010, and eight of of those will be at the bachelor's level. New grads might be wise to start job searches at smaller companies.

9 Surprising Symptoms of Stress

“Yes… yes… yes… and yes….” –MKK-

By By Sarah Jio, Woman's Day

When was the last time you went through a period of stress? Can you remember the way your body reacted? Chances are you didn't feel quite like yourself. Health experts say that stress can come with some pretty surprising symptoms-from forgetfulness to nausea to skin rashes. Is your body sending you an S.O.S. that you shouldn't ignore? Read on to find out if stress is taking a toll on you-and what you can do to reverse the effects.

1. Tweaked Muscles
pain in your neck that you attributed to long hours at the computer could actually be a symptom of stress. "Stress definitely affects our musculoskeletal system, resulting in tight, contracting muscles and/or spasms in muscles," explains Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, MS, PT, a psychologist and physical therapist in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. "It gets us ready for fight-or-flight, although unlike our cavewomen ancestors, we don't actually need our bodies to react like this." If you're experiencing what you believe to be stress-related muscle symptoms, try this exercise: Take 5 to 10 deep breaths and focus on relaxing the tense area of your body, says Dr. Lombardo. For the neck, try gentle neck rolls or enlist your husband to give you a quick shoulder rub.

2. Eye Twitching
Have you ever had an eye twitch? The often temporary condition can be annoying and worrisome, and for some, can be triggered by stress. "This condition is known as blepharospasm," explains Debbie Mandel, MA, a stress and wellness expert and author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. "Closing your eyes and visualizing your happiest place on earth will help." Also, avoid stress-related eye issues by giving your peepers a break now and then. "If your eyes get stressed from detailed work at the computer, 'stretch' them every 20 minutes by looking out the window at a larger landscape," suggests Mandel. "If you have no view, close your eyes and imagine a panorama."

3. Ragged Cuticles
Do you have ragged, unkempt cuticles or nails? Their condition could be the result of a stress-induced nervous habit. "Nervous habits like
nail-biting are how we channel our stress by distracting ourselves with what is known as oral satisfaction," says Mandel, adding that picking nails and cuticles is also a common way for women to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. If you take stress out on your hands, consider keeping a stress ball in your desk drawer-something you can squeeze or knead when on the phone with a difficult client, for instance. This helps "squeeze the stress out of your body," says Mandel.

4. Cavities
We all know that slacking off on
dental hygiene is the first way to get cavities, but stress can also be a culprit, say experts, especially when you're grinding your teeth at night or during the day. Mandel explains teeth grinding, which many women do, as "chewing over the day's stressors." The problem, however, is that this bad habit can erode dental work, damaging your teeth and making them more susceptible to cavities. Mandel suggests redirecting your anxiety to pen and paper. "Set aside time to write down your problems to see them objectively in black and white, and then jot down some solutions," she says. But, she adds, "If teeth grinding is severe, see a dentist about getting a mouth guard."

5. Rashes
It sounds strange, but your skin can be a pretty good barometer of your stress level. "Stress can cause a rash, usually raised red spots or hives on the stomach, back, arms and face," notes Dr. Lombardo. "While we don't know why it occurs, some experts believe that it has to do with the adverse effects of stress on the immune system-histamine is released, causing these
itchy bumps." Deep breathing may keep rashes at bay, or from developing in the first place. So, next time you feel your stress level rising, place your hand right above your belly button. "Every time you inhale, you want your hand to rise; with each exhale, it lowers. Take 5 to 10 deep breaths periodically throughout the day."

6. Nausea
Have you ever been worried about a loved one's (or your own) health condition, Googled it and suddenly felt
nauseated? "Stress can upset the stomach, and nausea can be a byproduct of worry," says Mandel, who warns against playing "Google MD." Worrying about your health or a loved one's is normal, but obsessing about it is unhealthy. If your anxiety is causing nausea, try this trick that Mandel swears by: Let tepid water run over your fingers; it's believed to keep nausea at bay.

7. Sleepiness
Feeling sluggish? It could be stress. "Stress hormones cause your body to surge with adrenaline and then crash into sleepiness," says Mandel. "Stress will also ruin the quality of your
sleep, so you wake up tired and irritable." What to do? Go to bed earlier, says Mandel, or catch a 30-minute nap midday, and don't feel guilty about doing so. "There is great productivity in rest," she says. "You come back more focused!"

8. Forgetfulness
Ask any woman who is trying to do it all and she'll admit to a few slip-ups in the memory department (forgotten appointments, lost keys, missing cell phone-ring a bell?). "Research shows that chronic stress can literally shrink the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for some memories," says Dr. Lombardo. "Luckily, its size will go back to normal once your stress level reduces." Want to keep your brain functioning at an optimal level? Combat the first signs of stress with exercise, she says: "Go for a walk, run up a flight of stairs or dance around to the newest Black Eyed Peas tune." Exercise, she adds, keeps your
brain sharp and may even help you be more prepared for future stressful moments.

9. Confusion
You can't decide what to make for dinner, what to wear to work or which exit to take off the freeway. Stress causes distraction and lack of focus, says Mandel. "Stress hormones lodge longest in the brain," she says. To restore focus, take a walk, she says. "Move the stress out of your body by exercising large muscle groups like the legs. You will gain clarity. Walk out in the
light and you'll reset your natural rhythm while you move out the stress. Sunlight helps the body release serotonin to improve mood, and vitamin D helps you improve your immune system-a great perk."

Friday, April 16, 2010

`Twilight' series on list of challenged books

“Thank God I’m not a fan of the books” –MKK-

Stephenie Meyer By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer Hillel Italie, Ap National Writer

NEW YORK – Stephenie Meyer, the hottest author for young people since J.K. Rowling, has a new link to the creator of "Harry Potter": a place high on the list of books most complained about by parents and educators.

Meyer's multimillion-selling "Twilight" series was ranked No. 5 on the annual report of "challenged books" released Wednesday by the American Library Association. Meyer's stories of vampires and teen romance have been criticized for sexual content; a library association official also thinks that the "Twilight" series reflects general unease about supernatural stories.

"Vampire novels have been a target for years and the `Twilight' books are so immensely popular that a lot of the concerns people have had about vampires are focused on her books," says Barbara Jones, director of the association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Christian groups for years have protested the themes of wizardry in Rowling's books, which don't appear on the current top 10.

Topping the 2009 chart was Lauren Myracle's "IM" series, novels told through instant messages that have been criticized for nudity, language and drug references. Last year's No. 1 book, "And Tango Makes Three," by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is now No. 2, cited again for its story about two male penguins adopting a baby. Third was Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," for which the many reasons include drugs, suicide, homosexuality and being antifamily.

Also cited were such perennials as J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" (sexual content, language), Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" (language, racism), Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" (sexual content, language) and Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War" (nudity, language, sexual content).

The ALA recorded 460 challenges in 2009, a drop from 513 the year before, and 81 books actually being removed. The ALA defines a challenge as a "formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."

For every challenge tallied, about four or five end up unreported, according to the ALA.

8 Steps to Reducing Credit Card Debt

“Nightmares for all shopaholic….” –MKK-

Erin Petersen
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In times of economic uncertainty, it's even more important to put yourself in a solid financial position. One good way to do that is to dig out of credit card debt.

Liz Weston, author of "Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want out of Life," says tighter lending standards make it even more important for people to bring down their credit card balances. "Many credit avenues are being shut off," she says. "Some people are finding their credit limits getting lower and interest rates getting higher."

A structured, disciplined approach can help you get out of credit card debt whether your balance is $3,000 or $30,000. Follow these eight tips to get your balance out of the red as quickly as possible.

1. Take stock. Before you start reducing your credit card debt, know where you stand, says Cate Williams, vice president of financial literacy for Money Management International, a large, national credit counseling firm. "A lot of people will say they've got a certain amount of debt -- $9,000, let's say -- when in reality, it's $11,000 or $14,000." You'll never hit your target if you don't know where it is, so be brutally honest with yourself.

Action plan: Write down the debt -- and the interest rate -- on every card you have.

2. Improve your rates. The quickest way to save big on your credit card bills is to negotiate a lower interest rate. If you can shave off even a percentage point or two, you can save hundreds as you pay off your debt. A simple phone call and a polite request may be all it takes. While your credit score will play a large role in whether or not you get a rate cut, it's not the only factor. "Every lender has their own approach to this issue," says Weston. "It never hurts to give it a shot."

Action plan: Call up each credit card company and request lower interest rates. Want to try? We have tips. If you're successful, write down your new interest rates.

3. Track your costs. Write down all your regular, committed expenses (mortgage, utilities, insurance, car payments, minimum credit card payments, phone, gym, cable, etc.), and track other variable expenses such as restaurant meals, entertainment and travel. This will serve as the foundation to your budget.

Action plan: Study up to a year's worth of credit card bills and bank statements to get an accurate sense of your monthly spending, and keep tracking your expenses with a notebook or financial software.

4. Create a budget. It's time to take an ax to some of those expenses. The key is to be realistic: You'll have to make some sacrifices, but you don't need to live on bread and water. "Cutting back can be more effective than cutting out," says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a leading accrediting agency for credit counseling firms. "It's hard to adjust your lifestyle too dramatically, and often, little adjustments can add up to big savings." Cutting out a single pizza dinner each week, ratcheting down your gold-plated cable plan and changing your thermostat by a few degrees can give you the jump start you need. Be sure to give yourself a bit of breathing room in your budget in case an unexpected expense pops up.

Action plan: Write down three ways you can cut back immediately, and cancel or downgrade some services. Divide your monthly discretionary budget into weekly allotments so you'll have a better handle on whether you're staying on track.

5. Choose your payoff strategy. There are two common credit card payoff strategies. The first is to plow all your extra cash into the highest-interest card while paying the minimums on the others -- which is the fastest way, overall, to lower your debt. Once the first card is paid off, you have even more extra cash, and should apply it to the card with the next-highest rate, and so on, creating a debt payoff snowball effect. A second strategy is to pay off your card with the lowest balance first while continuing to pay the minimums on the others. Though this is not the most cost-effective way to banish your debt, it's the fastest way to eliminate debt on a single card, and it can be a psychological boost to eliminate a bill for good.

Action Plan: Choose your strategy, then rank cards in the order you'll pay them off.

6. Stash your plastic. In 2000, MIT researchers took two groups of students and dangled scarce Boston Celtic tickets in front of them. One group was required to pay cash; the other was asked to pay by credit card. The credit card crowd was willing to pay more than twice as much, their research found. "I've seen people save 20 percent when they begin paying with cash," Cunningham says. "They become more contemplative of their purchases."

Action plan: Store your credit cards where you won't have easy access to them -- but don't cancel them. Plan to pay in cash whenever possible.

7. Find your motivation and support. Create concrete goals to stay focused. Maybe getting rid of debt will allow you to save for a down payment on a house, go on a dream vacation or stop worrying about every bill that hits your mailbox. Weston recommends finding a community to swap stories, successes, and challenges. "A forum where you can feel supported -- where you can say 'I'm so tired of trying to save money' can be really helpful," she says. "Sometimes it can feel really dumb, but it's nice to be with people who are trying to do that same thing you are." There are hundreds of personal finance bloggers and forums where you pull up a virtual chair.

Action plan: Write down your goals and keep them in your wallet or purse. If you get tempted to overspend, take a look at them to remind yourself of the bigger picture.

8. Track your progress. While you don't want to spend every day fretting over your bills, keep an eye on your spending. "Revisit your progress every few months," recommends Williams. "You don't want this to consume your life. It took you awhile to get into debt, and it's going to take you awhile to get out of it."

Action plan: Put reminders in your calendar to check up on your finances. Keep the page with your starting balances, and compare them to check your progress.

Depression and Smoking Go Hand in Hand in U.S.

“There must be alternative ways to fight depression other than smoking…” –MKK- 

By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- The link between depression and smoking, long observed by health-care experts, is real and strong, a new government report shows.

People aged 20 and older with depression are twice as likely as others to be cigarette smokers, the researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. And as the severity of depression increased, so did the number of smokers.

The magnitude of the link was surprising, said researcher Laura Pratt, an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, which published the findings April 14.

"The relationship between depression and smoking has been getting stronger over time," she said. Studies found only a small, insignificant link among Americans in 1952 and 1970, she said. But when Pratt and her co-researcher Debra Brody analyzed information from 2005 to 2008 culled from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, they found that:

  • About 43 percent of adults 20 and older who had depression smoked, compared with 22 percent of that age without depression.
  • Women with depression had similar smoking rates as men, although women without depression smoked less than men.
  • As depression worsened, the percentage of adults who were smokers increased.
  • Depressed smokers smoke more than smokers without depression.
  • Adults who are depressed and smoke are less likely to quit than are smokers who are not depressed.

About 7 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older had depression in 2005 to 2008, the survey found. About half of those younger than 55 who had depression at the time of the survey were smokers, but less than a fourth of that age group without depression were smokers.

Since the U.S. Surgeon General's report on the ill effects of smoking was issued in 1964, cigarette smoking among adults nationwide has been cut in half, but about 21 percent of adults overall still smoke, the report noted.

"Everyone knows people with depression are more likely to smoke," Pratt said, but what surprised her, she said, was the extent to which that was found true in the study.

For instance, among women aged 20 to 39 they found that 50 percent of those with depression smoke, whereas just 21 percent of those without depression do.

Even adults with mild depressive symptoms -- those who wouldn't qualify for a diagnosis of clinical depression -- were more likely to smoke than were people with no symptoms of depression, the researchers found.

Exactly why depressed people tend to smoke more was beyond the scope of the study, Pratt said, but some research has suggested they might be self-medicating, with the cigarettes somehow acting as a calming or relaxing mechanism.

Stanton A. Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, said the findings were not surprising.

And he agrees that depressed people who smoke may be self-medicating. Part of the problem, he said, is that mental health professionals have been slow to deal with the tobacco issue.

"There's a myth that somehow if you deal with it, [by encouraging them to quit smoking,] it makes it harder to deal with underlying mental illness," Glantz said. "Just the opposite is true."

'Surprisingly strong' demand delays iPad abroad


“Why buy iPad… when you have the new line of MacBook Pro’s…” –MKK-

Bad news for overseas techies dying to get their hands on Apple's "magical" new tablet: looks like you'll have to wait an extra month for your iPad.

Apple released a statement early Wednesday citing "surprisingly strong U.S. demand" as the reason for the delay, which will push the iPad's international debut back until the "end of May." Apple says it'll start taking international iPad pre-orders and reveal pricing details May 10.
In its announcement Wednesday, Apple claims it's "delivered more than 500,000 iPads during its first week" of U.S. sales and that "demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks." Apple also notes that it's already received "a large number of pre-orders" for the 3G-embedded version of the iPad, still due by "late April."

Now, it's not clear what Apple means by "delivered" — it could mean sold or merely shipped — but Steve Jobs did say at Apple's iPhone OS 4.0 event last Thursday that 450,000 iPads had already been sold up to that point, so 500,000 iPads sold in its first week sounds plausible.

But not everyone is taking Apple's excuse for the delay at face value.

Larry Dignan at ZDNet sees "a few missing elements" in Apple's statement Wednesday, including the fact that "Apple's store isn't out of stock" (it's currently showing a shipping time of five to seven days) "and iPads appear available." Are we talking "a conscious decision by Apple to make sure it can satisfy U.S. demand first," Dignan wonders, or "a case of manufactured shortage?"

And Gizmodo asks, "Is a pile of 500,000 iPads really more than Apple expected to sell by this point?" Well, whether it's a conspiracy or not, the fact remains that international gadget hounds will have to wait a few weeks longer for their iPads.

Full release follows:

Although we have delivered more than 500,000 iPads during its first week, demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks as more people see and touch an iPad™. We have also taken a large number of pre-orders for iPad 3G models for delivery by the end of April.

Faced with this surprisingly strong US demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May. We will announce international pricing and begin taking online pre-orders on Monday, May 10. We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason—the iPad is a runaway success in the US thus far.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Valuing Another Degree

“Looks like I’m gonna rethink on my plans to pursue in Masters or PhD…” –MKK-

Jonnelle Marte
Monday, April 12, 2010

Does an advanced degree still propel you ahead? The answer isn't as straightforward as it used to be.

The unemployment rate for people ages 20 to 24 with a bachelor's degree fell to 7.2% in March, from 7.6% a year earlier. But that still leaves scores of twentysomethings vying for fewer jobs. And the pool of job hunters will grow as the class of 2010 enters the work force.

So, it may be tempting to sidestep the whole job search, at least for a while, and go back to the security of academia -- to further your education and make yourself more marketable in the long run. But you'll need to determine if delaying your entry into the job market and incurring the costs of a master's or M.B.A. degree will pay off in this economic climate.

"In many, many fields, education up the wazoo is not going to matter as much as on-the-job training," says Heather Huhman, president of, a social-networking site for young professionals.

The Cheaper Hire

People over 25 years old with a master's degree earn about 20% more a week than people with a bachelor's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And those with professional degrees get paid 50% more.

These days, however, as employers continue to cut spending, expectations for such higher pay could backfire when you're competing against less educated -- and less expensive -- candidates.

For example, entry-level teachers with master's degrees often have a harder time getting hired than those with bachelor's degrees because schools typically pay more to teachers with master's degrees, says Steven Rothberg, founder of

Graduates "need to understand that many employers will be turned off by their higher education," he says.

What's more, some of the pay boosts typically associated with master's degrees may vanish as state governments and school boards contemplate moving toward performance-based pay systems, from education-based pay structures, says Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social-science research organization in Washington, D.C.

Administrative or policy jobs with state and local governments, which also tend to reward higher education with higher pay, aren't as available or lucrative these days because of tight budgets, he adds.

In many industries, trading in potential work experience for additional education could leave you short of certain skills and networking, says Ms. Huhman.

Taking on Debt

Another factor to keep in mind: More education usually means more debt. People who pursue a master's degree end up borrowing 55% of their tuition, according to And fewer employers are reimbursing tuition costs.

Of course, a graduate degree can be beneficial in some situations. Career changers can use the degree to show they have knowledge of the new field. And a master's may be necessary to qualify for certain higher positions. Some high-level marketing and business consulting positions require candidates to have an M.B.A., says Boston job coach Susan Kennedy.

If you're undecided, consult companies you'd like to work for and mentors in your industry about whether education or work experience will do more to advance your career, says Ms. Huhman.

Apple's MacBook Pro line gets new Intel processors, price tweaks

“This is so tempting…” –MKK-

Tue Apr 13, 1:08 pm ET

At last, the long-rumored revamp of Apple's MacBook Pro notebooks has arrived, with the 15- and 17-inch models getting bleeding-edge Intel Core i5 and i7 processors while the 13-inch version sees graphics and battery-life improvements. Also new: a $100 price hike for one of the MacBook Pro configurations, plus $100 and $200 price cuts for two others.

The biggest news, of course, is the replacement of the older Intel Core 2 Duo processors on the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models (starting at $1,799 for the 15-incher — a $100 price hike over last year's model — and $2,299 for the 17-inch MBP, a $200 price drop) with Intel's next-generation Core i5 and i7 processors, good for a performance boost of "up to 50 percent" over last year's lineup, Apple claims.

Of the new MacBook Pros, only the high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro configuration gets the i7 processor. The other two 15-inch configurations and the single 17-inch MBP model must settle for the i5 processor. [Update: Oops — turns out you can get a Core i7 processor for the 17-inch MacBook Pro as a $200 built-to-order option. Sorry about that (and thanks, Carl!).]
Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro (starting at $1,119, same as before) is sticking with Intel's Core 2 Duo processor for now, although it's getting a slight speed bump (to 2.66GHz, from 2.53GHz) and — according to Apple, anyway — the "fastest integrated graphics processor on the market," courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce 320M graphics chipset (for a supposed 80 percent performance boost over the previous GeForce 9400M chipset).
Apple is also crowing about the 13-inch MacBook Pro's improved battery life — up to 10 hours, although we'll have to see how that figure holds up under testing.

The 15- and 17-inch models are getting graphic performance boosts as well thanks to the new GeForce GT 330M chipset, with either 256MB or 512MB of dedicated graphics depending on the configuration, along with "seamless" switching between speedy GeForce graphics and slower but "energy-efficient" Intel HD Graphics processors.
As for the MacBook and MacBook Air lines ... no news, at least at the moment.

Anyway, on to the specs:

13-inch MacBook Pro
• 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM (twice as much as last year's entry-level configuration), 250GB hard drive (was 160GB last year), Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, $1,119
• 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive (was 250GB), Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, $1,499

15-inch MacBook Pro
• 2.4GHz Intel Core i5, 4GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive (last year's entry-level configuration was just 250GB), Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 256MB of dedicated memory, $1799 (a $100 price hike over last year's entry-level 15-inch model)
• 2.53 Intel Core i5, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive (was 320GB), Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 256MB of dedicated memory, $1,999
• 2.66 Intel Core i7, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 512 of dedicated memory, $2,199 (a $100 price drop compared to last year's high-end 15-inch configuration)

17-inch MacBook Pro
• 2.53GHz Intel Core i5, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 512 of dedicated memory, $2,229 (a $200 price drop from last year's 17-inch MacBook Pro)
So, anyone ready to upgrade now that the i5- and i7-powered MacBook Pros are here? Wish the 13-inch MBP got the i5 upgrade along with the 15- and 17-inch models? Pleased or annoyed by the price points? Fire away below.

Frequent password changes are useless

“Memorizing a lot of passwords… is a horrifying experience… is it petronas@70… or petronas@71?… geez!” –MKK-

Tue Apr 13, 2:16 pm ET

Users hate them. They're a massive headache to network administrators. But IT departments often mandate them nonetheless: regularly scheduled password changes — part of a policy intended to increase computer security.

Now new research proves what you've probably suspected ever since your first pop-up announcing that your password has expired and you need to create a new one. This presumed security measure is little more than a big waste of time, the Boston Globe reports.

Microsoft undertook the study to gauge how effectively frequent password changes thwart cyber attacks, and found that the advice generally doesn't make much sense, since, as the study notes, someone who obtains your password will use it immediately, not sit on it for weeks until you have a chance to change it. "That’s about as likely as a crook lifting a house key and then waiting until the lock is changed before sticking it in the door," the Globe says.
On the bright side, changing your password isn't harmful, either, unless you use overly short or obvious passwords or you're sloppy about how you remember them. (Many users forced to change their password too frequently resort to writing them on sticky notes attached to their monitor, about the worst possible computer security behavior you can undertake.)

Rather, frequent password changes are simply a waste of time and, therefore, money. According to the Microsoft researcher's very rough calculations: To be economically justifiable, each minute per day that computer users spend on changing passwords (or on any security measure) should yield $16 billion in annual savings from averted harm. No one can cite a real statistic on password changes' averted losses, but few would estimate it's anywhere approaching $16 billion a year.

Bottom line, IT departments: Drop the password-change mandates. You're only creating extra work for yourselves and making the rest of us hate you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

5 Habits of the Happiest Couples I Know

by Andrea Frazer, Good Housekeeping

I'm taking a cue from Shine staffer Sarah McColl's post, "Five Habits of Happy People Even the Biggest Grump Can Borrow."

When I looked at her tips and applied them to marriage, they seemed to ring pretty true. I thought I'd share some with you so you'll be inspired also. Or not. I'm sure you'll let me know.

1. Reach out. In the words of an old commercial, "Reach out and touch someone..." But not just anyone. Your spouse! They'll be sure to thank you for it. And while you might not be having sex with the pool man or the cashier in the grocery store (or maybe you are, but that's a different blog post) there's no reason you can't break through that wall we all put up with a friendly, "Thanks. Hey, how is your day going?" If you're like me, you'll find that when you let other people into your world, you don't put so much pressure on your spouse to be Mr. Everything.

2. Be thankful. Yes, it's a bit cliche, but it works. I wrote a poem recently expressing just how thankful I am for the little things Rex does to keep this household running. I have continued my journaling also. When I see on paper just how much Rex brings to the table, I'm far less cranky at the way he clicks his fork against his teeth while eating my pesto salad. Or the way he leaves shoes all over the floor just waiting for me to trip and break my neck. Or how the night time routines often involve me doing everything kid related while he gets caught up on a riveting episode of South Park. Okay, now I'm getting mad. So I'll end it with a "Thank you, Rex, for trusting me to write about us and never once - not once - give me a hard time about talking about you getting hard... all the time. Moving on.

3. Live your passion. This is a biggy for me and perhaps it is for you. In a nut shell, sexual passion is awesome, but after ten years of marriage, it can die down. I have found the more I feed my passion for things non-Rex related, the more I come back to him with a libido more buzzed than my brain after 3 cups of Yuban. Though I need to work on the stinky coffee breath thing. In time... in time.

4. Make do. The idea is to be happy with what you have, not what you don't. I couldn't agree more. For me, this applies to things as well as personality traits. So our kitchen looks like a 1950's showroom on crack. Do we have electricity? Running water? Food in a fridge? Yes yes and yes? Well that just makes me want to say those words in the bedroom. Because I know I have such a wonderful home due to a husband who works his butt off for me. (And yes, I contribue to my home also...) Which leads me to #2 - I'm thankful!

5. Enjoy the simple pleasures. This one is my favorite. For us, it's not about fancy dinners out or new furniture. (Though we do go to dinner about once/month. It's heavenly.) Cooking together in the kitchen and having a picnic lunch with our kids on the lawn with the laundry drying on the line? That's pretty spectacular also. (It's also another way of saying we're cheap, but our anti-Midas tendencies have afforded us a cabin in the woods and some pretty remarkable friends who appreciate our hearts, not our wallets, so I'm not complaining.)

The world's only immortal animal

By Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network

Turritopsis nutricula Jellyfish
The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.

Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).

The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders,which can regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able to reverse its aging process.

Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking. They're now found in oceans around the globe rather than just in their native Caribbean waters.  "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

10 Places NOT to Use Your Debit Card

by Dana Dratch
Friday, March 19, 2010

Debit cards have different protections and uses. Sometimes they're not the best choice.

Sometimes reaching for your wallet is like a multiple choice test: How do you really want to pay?

While credit cards and debit cards may look almost identical, not all plastic is the same.

"It's important that consumers understand the difference between a debit card and a credit card," says John Breyault, director of the Fraud Center for the National Consumers League, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. "There's a difference in how the transactions are processed and the protections offered to consumers when they use them."

While debit cards and credit cards each have advantages, each is also better suited to certain situations. And since a debit card is a direct line to your bank account, there are places where it can be wise to avoid handing it over -- if for no other reason than complete peace of mind.

Here are 10 places and situations where it can pay to leave that debit card in your wallet:

1. Online

"You don't use a debit card online," says Susan Tiffany, director of consumer periodicals for the Credit Union National Association. Since the debit card links directly to a checking account, "you have potential vulnerability there," she says.

Her reasoning: If you have problems with a purchase or the card number gets hijacked, a debit card is "vulnerable because it happens to be linked to an account," says Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center. She also includes phone orders in this category.

The Federal Reserve's Regulation E  (commonly dubbed Reg E), covers debit card transfers. It sets a consumer's liability for fraudulent purchases at $50, provided they notify the bank within two days of discovering that their card or card number has been stolen.

Most banks have additional voluntary policies that set their own customers' liability with debit cards at $0, says Nessa Feddis, vice president and senior counsel for the American Bankers Association.

But the protections don't relieve consumers of hassle: The prospect of trying to get money put back into their bank account, and the problems that a lower-than-expected balance can cause in terms of fees and refused checks or payments, make some online shoppers reach first for credit cards.

2. Big-Ticket Items

With a big ticket item, a credit card is safer, says Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. A credit card offers dispute rights if something goes wrong with the merchandise or the purchase, she says.

"With a debit card, you have fewer protections," she says.

In addition, some cards will also offer extended warrantees. And in some situations, such as buying electronics or renting a car, some credit cards also offer additional property insurance to cover the item.

Two caveats, says Wu. Don't carry a balance. Otherwise, you also risk paying some high-ticket interest. And "avoid store cards with deferred interest," Wu advises.

3. Deposit Required

When Peter Garuccio recently rented some home improvement equipment at a big-box store, it required a sizable deposit. "This is where you want to use a credit card instead of a debit," says Garuccio, spokesman for the national trade group American Bankers Association.

That way, the store has its security deposit, and you still have access to all of the money in your bank account. With any luck, you'll never actually have to part with a dollar.

4. Restaurants

"To me, it's dangerous," says Gary Foreman, editor of the frugality minded Web site The Dollar Stretcher. "You have so many people around."

Foreman bases his conclusions on what he hears from readers. "Anecdotally, the cases that I'm hearing of credit or debit information being stolen, as often as not, it's in a restaurant," he says.

The danger: Restaurants are one of the few places where you have to let cards leave your sight when you use them. But others think that avoiding such situations is not workable.

The "conventional advice of 'don't let the card out of your sight' -- that's just not practical," says Tiffany.

The other problem with using a debit card at restaurants: Some establishments will approve the card for more than your purchase amount because, presumably, you intend to leave a tip. So the amount of money frozen for the transaction could be quite a bit more than the amount of your tab. And it could be a few days before you get the cash back in your account.

5. You're a New Customer

Online or in the real world, if you're a first-time customer in a store, skip the debit card the first couple of times you buy, says Breyault.

That way, you get a feel for how the business is run, how you're treated and the quality of the merchandise before you hand over a card that links to your checking account.

6. Buy Now, Take Delivery Later

Buying now but taking delivery days or weeks from now? A credit card offers dispute rights that a debit card typically does not.

"It may be an outfit you're familiar with and trust, but something might go wrong," says Breyault, "and you need protection."

But be aware that some cards will limit the protection to a specific time period, says Feddis. So settle any problems as soon as possible.

7. Recurring Payments

We've all heard the urban legend about the gym that won't stop billing an ex-member's credit card. Now imagine the charges aren't going onto your card, but instead coming right out of your bank account.

Another reason not to use the debit card for recurring charges: your own memory and math skills. Forget to deduct that automatic bill payment from your checkbook one month, and you could either face fees or embarrassment (depending on whether you've opted to allow overdrafting or not). So if you don't keep a cash buffer in your account, "to protect yourself from over-limit fees, you may want to think about using a credit card" for recurring payments, says Breyault.

8. Future Travel

Book your travel with a check card, and "they debit it immediately," says Foley. So if you're buying travel that you won't use for six months or making a reservation for a few weeks from now, you'll be out the money immediately.

Another factor that bothers Foley: Hotels aren't immune to hackers and data breaches, and several name-brand establishments have suffered the problem recently. Do you want your debit card information "to sit in a system for four months, waiting for you to arrive?" she asks. "I would not."

9. Gas Stations and Hotels

This one depends on the individual business. Some gas stations and hotels will place holds to cover customers who may leave without settling the entire bill. That means that even though you only bought $10 in gas, you could have a temporary bank hold for $50 to $100, says Tiffany.

Ditto hotels, where there are sometimes holds or deposits in the hundreds to make sure you don't run up a long distance bill, empty the mini bar or trash the room. The practice is almost unnoticeable if you're using credit, but can be problematic if you're using a debit card and have just enough in the account to cover what you need.

At hotels, ask about deposits and holds before you present your card, says Feddis. At the pump, select the pin-number option, she says, which should debit only the amount you've actually spent.

10.  Checkouts or ATMs That Look 'Off'

Criminals are getting better with skimmers and planting them in places you'd never suspect -- like ATM machines on bank property, says Foley.

So take a good look at the machine or card reader the next time you use an ATM or self-check lane, she advises. Does the machine fit together well or does something look off, different or like it doesn't quite belong? Says Foley, "Make sure it doesn't look like it's been tampered with."