Authors Posts by Tad Northcutt

Tad Northcutt

Tad is an author, lover of Buddhism and music extraordinaire. When not blessing the web with mind-challenging prose, you'll find him engaged in WOW, Final Fantasy or philosophizing his next great move in life.

Tad is an author, lover of Buddhism and music extraordinaire. When not blessing the web with mind-challenging prose, you'll find him engaged in WOW, Final Fantasy or philosophizing his next great move in life.

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Republican or democrats. Liberal or conservative. It wasn’t long ago these were just words used to describe one small aspect of our lives. Politics were not as important to a person’s overall character. Our sports teams divided us more than a ballot ever did, but only on game day. Now, these are used as insults, as a new form of hate and bigotry. Gone are the days where people hate each other for things like race or religion. Now there is a war of mostly words perpetuated by the extreme on each side, causing a nation who was always divided politically to be on the verge of fracturing for the first time since the Civil War.

What divides us is an illusion…

Made up by men in their confusion. Words from Ziggy Marley, admittedly speaking of religion but relevant here nonetheless. The world has become a closer place overall, with most of it connected from our pockets. Technically, not much has changed in the past 30 years except how we interact. We must first realize that a person’s values are usually related to the environment they are raised in. A person in Chicago has a different set of values from someone in Eldon, Missouri. Or basically any urban to rural environment, but our needs remain mostly the same. The problem is now we interact with each other on a daily basis without ever understanding this. We judge others on their opinions with no real knowledge of where these opinions come from. Then we accept opinions as fact.

Newt Gingrich summed up the problem fairly simply at the RNC. We live in a society where feeling are considered just as, if not more valid, than actual facts. The bigger issue is he did not view this as a negative, but a positive. The political environment has used emotion, mainly fear, to control the narrative. The choose to push people further by playing into how they feel, rather than reassuring them with facts. The other side relies too heavily on facts, but forgets they are dealing with people. These issues were always there, but in the past they were found in different music and some comedians. Now, we elected a reality star as President and act surprised when our political landscape resembles a circus. It’s really up to us people to fix this, we cannot count on another to repair the damage we caused.

Remember, we talked about morally bankrupting the American dream. Did you pay attention?

Divided we stand, together we fall

The world has become a much closer place. We can get instant news from across the globe. Speak to people from all different nations. This should have brought the world closer together. Instead, now we have everyone looking to control speech and, as a result, thought. The rise of the 24 hour news network put an end to actual journalism, each network competing to get the scoop, but instead of hours, now they have minutes or even seconds. Fact checking is for later, get the story out there. The first stories control the narrative. There are many things people considered facts just because it was news. Honestly, we should be still getting our news from the printed press. Sure, journalists do have their bias, but at least they take time to research.

On the other side we have social media. The endless onslaught of memes and hate posts. We are all connecting in ways we never dreamed possible, but it tends to drive us apart. People think our national motto is In God We Trust and forget E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. We focus on the differences and forget what makes us the same. We focus on God, and fight over which one. We judge each other daily on how we dress, how we eat and what we believe. Everyone seems to want to be in everyone else’s business. But who we are is basically a culmination of our own experiences. We can’t force that on others. Everyone wants to be a Twitter or Facebook activist without ever leaving their own house and joining the real world. We trap ourselves in the tech that should be bringing us closer together. Instead of learning about different ideals, we just attack them. It’s the point where words like liberal and conservative become hateful slurs and not a brief description of political belief. Those views are only a small part of who we are as people. If we can move past the superficial, we may just find we have a lot more in common than we think.

A Bright New Future

Maybe it’s time we stop trusting our future to our current leaders and become the next generation of politicians. Move past complaining and actually be the change our future wants to see. Get out there, start with local and state, become leaders of our own destiny. Stop suggesting we vote in more entertainers like Kid Rock and Oprah. Move past career politicians who only support their doners. If we want to actually make this country great again, we need to rise up out of our chairs and do it ourselves. The future can be bright, but only if we light the way.

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Cairo – The mobile internet sector in Africa is developing rapidly, with smartphones becoming much more affordable and growing in popularity. Jumia, Africa’s leading online retailer, has taken advantage of this with a mobile app that allows an increasing number of Africans to access the e-commerce platform wherever they are.

The number of mobile subscriptions in Africa has risen rapidly in recent years, from fewer than 25 million in 2001 to over 720 million in 2012 – thanks in part to Jumia. Moreover, many activities that would be carried out on a laptop or PC in Western countries, such as online banking or shopping, are done on mobile phones in Africa. In fact, according to a report published in June 2014 by the Swedish technology company Ericsson, 70% of internet users in the countries evaluated use mobile phones to go online, compared with just 6% who use a desktop computer. This is because mobile phones are now available cheaply across the continent, with low-specification internet-capable phones available for as little as £12 ($20).

Jumia’s Android app was launched one year ago to take advantage of the continent’s growing mobile internet penetration. The app offers all the functionality of the Jumia website, keeping in mind the fact that for many users this will be their main way of interacting with the service, and prides itself on usability. To this end, users can browse and filter the complete list of products, read product descriptions and reviews, and order and pay securely through the app, with no need for a PC at any point.

The app has now been selected to be featured in the Our Favourites section of the Google Play store, which reflects its usefulness, quality and popularity. It has already been downloaded over 100,000 times, a clear indication of the demand for mobile applications in Africa, and is complemented by a recently-launched Windows 8 app so that as many Africans as possible can benefit from the service. [Local MD] commented: “We want to provide the best and most convenient service for Jumia customers, and our app is a great way of doing this. We’ve has thousands of satisfied customers so far, and expect many more in the coming months and years.”

Planning to take your company to unfathomable heights may be part of your company’s long-term strategic goals. Leadership teams make this decision for a variety of reasons– primarily to raise capital for growth or acquisitions, for value creation, and for an exit strategy.  Jumia has exemplified the online shopping world by creating an environment of affordability for all.  An entire nation is excited to see where Jumia and CEO Mattia Perroni head next.

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Many people from around the world head to the city of Cairo each year in hopes of immersing themselves in the history and culture of this fascinating destination. However, there are also many entrepreneurs that visit the Egypt capital looking for startup opportunities – meaning companies from Cairo to Alexandria are forming to mimic their Western counterparts Amazon.  This, of course, surprises many since recent news from World Bank was released that Cairo loses an average of $8B in GDP due to congested streets.

Even with massive roadblocks, protesting citizens and unorganized marches through the capital, ecommerce companies are finding ways to grow their presence and keep the Egypt economy afloat.  Recent news from The Daily Egypt that Egyptian workers were pulling out of Libya should be seen as more of a precautionary measure as opposed to a backsliding economy.

“Growth, in comparison to other ecommerce and local business fixtures, has been tremendous for us.” stated Jumia CEO Mattia Perroni, an outspoken internet access magnate and now-quarterback of the company coined by Reuters as the “Amazon of the Middle East”. From traffic information apps to high end technology, Perroni isn’t the only CEO navigating a country through turmoil on the roads, however.

Those familar with Bey2ollak, a marketing-revenue driven startup that recently partnered with Vodafone, know that this relatively young company is on to something special.  Founded shortly after the ousting of Mubarak in 2011, this traffic app allows individuals to navigate the congested roadways of Cairo and surrounding areas, and has been literally shaving minutes off local commute since its launch.  Even major corporations are seeing mobile sales increase amidst chaos.

Android phones produced by Sony Corporation is expected to account for 32% of all mobile sales by 2016, which speaks volumes about the cellular presence in the region.  You can discover more about Sony Middle East manager Younes Cherkaoui by reading his interview here.

China, UK and USA technologies are certainly the headline of every daily tech mag – these are countries, however, that are innovating during peacetime. Middle Eastern countries like Egypt are dominating their industry, and doing so regardless what chaotic episodes transpire around them, which certainly commands some respect.

Technology has become an all-consuming affair in some of our lives, meaning many don’t have time to be bored. But does boredom serve an important purpose for us as human beings? If you’re living in Egypt right now, technology is definitely better than most available alternatives.

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When it comes to selecting the perfect engagement ring for that ‘forever’ guy or gal, there isn’t an app for that – suffice it to say, buyers must actually put forth moral effort into purchasing this timeless jewelry piece.

Pre-engaged women and men come in all ages, educational backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, shapes and sizes. One common thread carefully sewn into their existence is the sudden urgency to shop for engagement rings – albeit the wrong way.

It’s time to learn how one should shop for an exquisite ring that accentuates your significant others’ physical appearance while speaking volumes about how truly special he or she is.

Big spenders aren’t impressive

Celebrity shoppers seem to identify engagement rings with hefty price tags, believing he or she will be enamored more by your spending habits than the ring itself – which is absolutely the opposite mindset shoppers should have. Remember, not everyone will have the means to finance $10,000 rings, nor will many Americans have resources in savings to expound on similarly high priced rings.

Don’t head to Jared thinking you need to spend thousands to extract a ‘yes’ from your mate – although sales reps at large chain jewelry establishments will tell you differently, and for obvious reasons. Any reputable jewelry chain or individual store will nearly always ask your budget range; offer this information if not asked upfront.

Match personalities with engagement rings

Does your mate sparkle with a unique charisma? Do they have somewhat of a daring disposition about them? Various cuts can literally show personality. You have cut, clarity, and color – three of the four C’s – which apply to one’s personality. Share pertinent information with your chosen jeweler, and they’ll help you pick out the cut that matches his or her persona; from there, color and clarity will highlight their skin tone and match their already radiant beings perfectly.

Eddie Le Vian designs some wonderful jewelry that simply looks stunning on darker complexions, with competitive price tags that even fall below the $1000 mark. Your goal should be accessorizing his or her body, mind and soul based off the appearance of the jewelry, so don’t be afraid to check out various cuts across several stores before deciding on one. You may entertain bringing your own sister or mother, or male counterpart, to the jewelry store to secure a second opinion as well.

Unless you’re marrying a rabbit, carats should be the least of your engagement ring concerns.

Avoid status quo decisions

It’s already difficult enough for potential engagement proposers to shop for the ‘mecca’ of life partnership. Following what Kim Kardashian said on her blog does little for the young lady or man who’ll cry with you, die for you and take care of you through thick and thin. If the perfect ring ends up costing $900, so be it – do not feel discounted because your budget is much narrower than others; what counts is making the final purchase decision based off how special he or she is

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Countless entrepreneurs will get beat down, UFC style, when attempting to position their businesses in search engines without professional intercession. As vendors pursue SEM mavens to assistance them in jacking up their keyword values higher in Bing and Google, it’s safe to say SEM specialists are perceived to have blank checks through the eyes of hapless website owners. Unfortunately for unskilled businessmen, spending thousands of dollars on the first SEM vendor that comes to their rescue seems better than failing to rank.

With this fact presented to you (as if it wasn’t before), this article aims to liven your sense when inspecting offers from prospective search engine marketing vendors. We present these tidbits to help you, the frugally frustrated businessperson, prevent impulsiveness when outsourcing freelancers to handle your marketing ‘maintenance’ tasks.

Never Make Price Deciding Factor

Business colleges educate the laymen on accepting competitive price points since ROI is always hindsight. In SEM nomenclature, however, buying search marketing services based on lowest bid can historically render lower results. Since SEM isn’t a money-back guarantee service, business owners need to have clear understanding of price versus receivables. When viewing proposals and deciphering what’s being received versus what you stand to gain, leverage common understanding of competition for widely used keywords and recognize some costs may need to go into all facets of SEM, which include social media, pay per click and localization.

If the cost for services is ridiculously low, you’ll more than likely receive lackluster services in one facet, or no services at all in another. For what it’s worth, if your expectations are high and costs of your goods are high, your business website marketing dollars need to be factored in as equivocally high.

Understand What You’ll Get

Pitches from duplicitous companies may read something like this: “We perform SEM services and send you weekly reports of links built.” Why should this seemingly innocent sentence raise suspicion? SEM job offers will always dictate much more in-depth approaches in what any given company is willing to offer versus what is simply not going to work for your particular niche (I believe they call this ‘transparency’). As you are fielding proposals, you need to clarify expectations, goals and budget so you remain in control of SEM efforts being offered.

Under no circumstances should one rely on outsourced SEM vendors who plead with you by offering to ‘over-deliver’; desperation usually means poor quality of services or potential for flimflams to occur. Simply put, know what efforts you expect and match the best timeline for completion to the company who can provide this level of expertise for your business website needs.

How well did they submit their proposals?

Yes, you and I have both received the quintessential “Dear Kind Sir…” email or blog comment shortly after our domains get registered publicly. If any SEM company comes at your business with no prior knowledge of who you are, what businesses could potentially be competing forces, or if they have no idea what you even sell, run. Run fast. All proposals will be fluently written in your language, will contain specific marketing intelligence and what the company intends on doing to position your business ahead of said competition.

Correctly written proposals will contain clear contact information, including name, and have nothing less than 100% detailed information of how they conduct business. Other helpful pieces of information could include your business website stats, page errors and other digital data issues they can fix prior to aggressively marketing your campaign through Google or others.

Perform Due Diligence

Attending teleconferences across the world reveals columns and columns of vendors who are eager to showcase the up-to-date and cutting edge SEM services in an attempt to convince the digitally naive to purchase SEM packages. Problem is, most individuals offering these services are upcharging Fiverr services (which are ineffective) or are fraudsters.

If you wouldn’t let pedophiles near your children, you shouldn’t allow known crooks to handle your SEM affairs. Simplify the hiring process by running business background checks, even going down to personnel level checks, to assure that you’re not hiring someone who has previously ripped another business off. Check all testimonials and ask them questions relevant to services provided and cost of those services.   Discounted services should be your primary target of investigation since any plausible SEM service will have nominal costs involved.

It’s historically suggested to make your hiring decision based off companies who’ve recorded proven track records expanding no less than three years; this isn’t mandatory if every personal and business report checks out good, however. The reports may carry costs if details are being sought – these fees will come back twofold in avoiding future marketing dollar losses and business website shellacking.

Self-Educate Prior To Hiring

Even if online marketing seems to be the future when it comes to the promotional efforts of any company, offline marketing still keeps its charm and does deliver impressive results, despite the fact that many people think that it’s obsolete. With millions of professionally written articles and how-to guides spanning the globe, you should brush up on common digital marketing vernacular before falling into some pious scammer’s trap. Learn about what will be involved, what steps are no legitimate and what results can be expected in each phase.

Even though the number of digital marketing services operating in any given city around the world has more than doubled in the past decade, the fact remains that not all services are good. A fair number of the services out there are not even run by professional marketers, let alone those with experience.

Discover Manageable Expectations

When deciding which SEM vendor will partake in optimization activities, it’s best to listen to modest offers of under-delivery since keywords change daily in Google’s ranking algorithm. Companies who simply promise the galaxy within 30 days want most of your money, and that’s about it. Avoid being someone’s piggybank by listening to fair expectations over periods commonly measured in SEM metrics: 30, 90, or 180 increments are sufficient tracking periods since many steps are necessary before beginning campaigns.

Of course, there are basic components of strong SEM that must be followed, too. Since Penguin and Panda will return again for another round of penalization, it’s best to receive truthful expectations and clearly understand imminent website ranking necessities before hiring this company to hurt your website ranking even more.

Research Their Website

This may sound counterproductive, yet is an intelligent sign of whether this company has any experience whatsoever: check the ranking information of their website, keywords and other major demographics like social media following, activity on Facebook fan pages, and the likes. If SEM vendors are not ranking high for keywords related to their own niche, chances are they’ll react poorly to yours.

As with anything in life, if you care little about your own life, chances are you’ll care even less about someone else’s; put this universal fact to the test by investigating their websites for Google ranking, marketability and overall fans or customers serviced.

In Conclusion: Wrong SEM Vendors Harm Images

For every corporation transacting today or simply trying to put themselves out there, caveat emptor: plenty of counterproductive and actually hurtful vendors looking to seize the marketplace for themselves exist today. This fact carries into search engine marketing companies, too. When deciphering who should be your permanent optimization teammate, consider the information which is presented before you, including how well the proposal is written, how well the representative’s phone mannerism comes across and even how many testimonials were written about the company.

Every dollar, EURO, INR or Yen your business invests for naught will be dollars which need to be made up somehow, which ultimately means you’ll trim fat somewhere. Therefore, it makes good business sense to invest your digital advertising dollars wisely by spending quality time discussing your business website keyword or other optimization needs in great length while paying attention to how caring or altruistic the company responds to those needs.

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    Having been throwing together compilations for over 20 years, it’s safe to assume I’m the master of mix tapes.  No, not even Rob Gordon (Hi Fidelity) could outperform my skills in cassette mixology.  Therefore, I now bring you the 10 greatest love songs that should appear on any mix tape at least once. 

    Now, I know what you are thinking. Ten greatest love songs? How can one possibly choose just ten? It is not easy, and, honestly, it is a very fickle list at best. Moods and taste change from moment to moment with any compilation. To start though, I have to weed out all the break-up and want to sleep with you songs. Then the “please come back” are also out, because none of these are truly love songs. A true love song is one that helps define a relationship. Its not to try and woo a certain suitor, though it can be used that way. It is the dubious task of picking a song written by someone else that speaks from your own heart. It is a song that describes how you feel for someone, the good and the bad. Secondly, I am also only including one song per artist. Seems only fair, or one could actually do a decent list just from 80’s Chicago. These will be in no matter a one through ten list either, as I do not want to be the one to choose what order they belong.

    Fist one the list is by Gavin Rossdale. Lead singer of the 90’s band Bush and husband of Gwen Stefanie. “Love Remains the Same” was released in 2008, on the WANDERlust album. On the technical front, it debuted at #76 in the billboards top 100 and peaked at #27, becoming Gavin’s first top 40 hit since 1995 and Bush’s Sixteen Stone releases. Personally, it is one of the best written songs I have ever heard. It seems to be about a couple who are hitting a rough spot and do not how much more they can take. In the end though, as the song title states, no matter what has gone on or changed in their lives, love still remains.

    Bryan Adams has released many love songs over the years. Nobody can deny the allure of that one song from Robin Hoodbut I refuse to go there on this list. Mainly because it was just so overplayed. Of course that does not mean Bryan does not belong here. In my eyes, there is a much better song that could hold a top place on any mix tape. Definitely a go-t0 dedication song. That is, of course, “Heaven“. It is a beautifully written song of a man pouring his heart out to his love. Lyrically, it is pure awesome. Just closing your eyes and listening to it will bring about feelings of the one you love.

    Now, my next one may catch me a bit of backlash. But in a sea of break up and miss you songs from this group, this particular one stands alone. It was a close call between this and “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, but I would have to choose “Think About You” has to be my all time favorite love song by Guns N’ Roses. It has all the elements I look for in a love anthem. Its deep, full of emotion, and it ROCKS! The song is all about a man telling his girl that she is his best friend and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. It really is a work of art, even above the November Rain’s and This I Love’s of Axl’s later career.

    Next, we journey way back to when I was a lad. Technically before, but the reruns were running when I was growing up at least. They are one of those “fake” bands thrown together for a television show. A record produced had this bright idea to try and manufacture a second Beetles. It worked, somewhat. We all have had many years growing up with The Monkee’s. For this list’s purpose, I have only one song in mind, “I’m A Believer“. It is a wonderfully written song about having  basically crappy luck at love before finding truly love at first sight. It may seem cliche, but I for one love the song and the notion in general is something I still believe in.

    The Cure has been and always will be quite possibly one of my favorite bands of all time. Its not surprising to find them on any greatest list of mine. Of course what song to choose always remains a chore. In this case, I have to go with the obvious choice though. It is because I happen to agree that it is probably the best. A close second, “Just Like Heaven“, is really up there, but in the end, there is no contest. “Lovesong” is and will forever be one of the most iconic  love songs of all time. Robert Smith has a way with lyrics that today’s artists have a long way to go to master. This is perhaps the only song in this list that I would feel would never loose its place. It is a beautiful and powerful song about a love that will never die. Honorable mention for The Cure goes to “Burn“, mainly because The Crow is one of my favorite movies as well.

    Next up is a most excellent song redone on more than one occasion. Each version is great in its own right, and is an example of how one can take a song by someone else and make it mean something personally between you and another. “In My Life” has been done many times, but none are as personal as the version recorded by the Man in Black himself. Johnny Cash recorded this song when he knew that his time was short. It was dedicated to the one true love of his life. He has had affection for many different things in his life, but loves her the most. The song is really well written in the first place by the Beetles, but being sang by Johnny Cash just made it so much better. It is possibly a perfect end to the lifetime of music he has given us over the years. We will miss him dearly.

    The next artist has been known for her excess and over-the-top persona. Cyndi Lauper may seem a strange choice when thinking of greatest anything, but I assure you she belongs here. “Time After Time” is such a emotional journey in itself. “If your lost, you can look and you will find me” speaks straight from the heart. No matter how far a person goes away from you, you will always be there for them to help them. Always there to catch and support the one you hold dear. It is, as I said before, a truly great song.

    The Cranberries have been one of my favorite bands since I first heard “Zombie” back in 1994. When it comes to love songs, they have  few to choose from, but only one speaks to me personally. The song in question came before this, in 1993. “Dreams” is my top Cranberries song.  Dolores O’Riordan’s voice is unique and angelic as she belts out the chorus.

    For my next selection, I am going to one of the masters. With a studio catalog of 1\over 150 songs, Billy Joel has written his share of love songs over the years. One song, though, brings out the full essence as to what is a love song, and as a result makes it to the mix tape. “Shameless” was first released in 1989 on the Storm Front album. It was subsequently covered a few years later by Garth Brooks. Both versions are touching and emotional heart felt giving yourself completely to your love. It really does not get any better than that.

    And we are down to the last choice. I am going with a classic redone for this final track. Origionally written by the King, Elvis Presley, and re-recorded by UB40, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love WIth You” is a beautifully written song. The slight reggae sound of this version adds a bit of romance that I personally feel was lacking in Elvis’s classic. It is the kind of song that sticks with you, and once you hear it can’t get it out of your head for hours. It is pure and simple in its execution, and that is why I give it the final slot on my mix tape.

    Now, some people may not agree with a few or even all my choices. Keep in mind, this is a ten song mix tape. How does one decide what artist to keep and what one to discard? What song gets in over the others? It is really a matter, once again, of current mood and feelings. Relationships change and grow. As they grow, so will the music that influences them. Music is an outward expression of inner feelings, whether it comes to a love ballad or a hate song. Emotion is what gives us these wonderful songs, and it is our emotions that they are intended to reach. In order for a song to be on your personal list, it has to move you in some way. This is why everyone’s list will probably be different. Do not get upset over my choices, but instead challenge yourself to create your own list. Something you can sit back and listen to with your significant other while you both lay back watching the stars. For it is music that creates the soundtrack of our lives.

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    Remember when owning an automobile was much simpler (and cooler)? Many don’t, and that’s the problem with today’s uncool vehicle manufacturers.  If you’re an old-school Chevelle kind of guy or gal, you’ll totally understand our legitimate complaints.

    In February, General Motors announced a recall of 2.6 million older small cars due to a faulty ignition switch. This is just one in a long line of recalls going back decades. Long gone are the days of faulty oil filter recalls and even simpler fixes. Has the push for technology caused us to leave behind something in the quality control department?  Is it just because of the overwhelming need to push out more cars at a faster pace?

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of an American tradition known as the Chevrolet Malibu. What would the original designers and owners think of what has became of their legendary trademark?

    The year was 1964. The golden age of the muscle car was upon us. Chevrolet and its parent company, General Motors, were in the middle of one of the most iconic manufacturing times in American history. Though these companies were connected, it did not deter them from competing against each other for “top dog” title. The first being Pontiac with the introduction of the GTO. The GTO started out as a mere market exercise, as engineers hand picked parts from the shelves and created a label that exceeded the sum of those parts. Soon after, Oldsmobile entered the fray with its own muscle car, the 4-4-2. Then of course Chevrolet had to get its foot in the ring with its Chevelle line up which included the popular Super Sport label as well as the luxury edition Malibu. All these cars shared similarities in design as well as function. The big difference came from the spirit of competition as well as pride.

    It was a intense competition across the entire auto manufacturing board, where the winner was of course judged by units sold. This is still a business after all. With several different models across all three major United States automotive manufacturers, the competition became epic. This battleground spilled over to the car owners, as street competitions born in the 50’s grew in popularity. Divides were formed during these years. Ones that still exist today. It was a time when everyone had their favorite manufacturer and loathed the others. Sparking epic arguments that heightened the competition. It was mostly in good fun and friendly.

    What helped this competition immensely was the  ease of customization and the simplistic design involved. Basically anyone could learn how to work on these classics. With ease in repairs as well as tweaking, each car became an extension of its owner. We do not have to go far this summer to still see the fruits of this not so easily forgotten age. The competition still remains very much alive at car shows and cruise nights across our nation. And as far as competition, you can just drive up to your nearest drag strip and be pitted against other of these classic beauties.

    This tradition continued through the 60’s, 70’s and even to some extent the 80’s.  Personally, I think it died somewhere with the end of production of the Buick Grand National. It was the last of the cars custom made for speed and handling. The last that set itself apart from the pack. Since then, manufacturing has become automated and computers have replaced fine tuning with a screwdriver and a wrench. Instead of pulling your engine and making your mark on your vehicle, people use mod chips to enhance performance. Fuel efficiency has replaced raw power. With more computers, has also came more problems.

    Long gone are the days of pulling your car into your garage, popping the hood, and figuring out what is making that sound. Its a highly technical industry, awash with technical problems, but as long as we continue down this road, the raw power and beauty of the age of steel will continue to live on among those of us who relish on these past masterpieces. Those of us who shed a tear when we see a mistreated classic rolling down the road or drive past a junkyard, an open graveyard to the past. To us, these cars are more than just cars. They are a way of life.

    …those were the days.

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    minimum wage

    As the saying goes, ‘you get what you give’.  As politicians wage war against embattled retail, factory and restaurant workers to get a fair wage finalized, businesses should ask themselves if they could raise the bar without waiting to be forced. 

    There are already many businesses approaching this question head on, some of which you may find surprising.  Some are actively working on bettering the workers quality of life by increased starting wages and decent benefits packages. Others remain neutral, not committing to raising wages, but accepting the wage increase if it is put into effect.  Then, of course, is the other side of the spectrum. Companies who vow to lay off workers, cut hours, and install kiosk systems in the place of American jobs.

    The most talked about leader in proactive change in the workforce has been Costco. They currently have 468 locations in the United States and employ 126, 929 full and part time workers.  Costco has adopted a business model that allows them to pay an average wage of 21 dollars per hour and a starting wage of $11.50 per hour.  That is $425 above the current minimum wage.  The business model is a simple one. They carry less SKU’s and sell in bulk. This leads to needing fewer employees to run each location. Add to this the annual membership can cost as much as $110. So, while Costco shows it is possible to pay their workers a living wage, their business model for doing so is not really usable by the average business.

    A rising star in the fight for fair living wages as of late has been Gap, Inc. The parent company who owns Banana Republic, Old Navy and of course Gap has recently started what they call a “Do More” initiative. They have recently raised starting wages to $9 an hour, with a promise to raise an additional dollar by next year. They are not being shy about it either, stating boldly on their website: Where you work is as important as the money you make. A paycheck is not just compensation. It’s a communication. It says: I’m respected. I’m valued. My employer believes in me. We believe in our people. It is a remarkable statement, announcing that a company can choose to respect their workers by paying them a livable wage.

    Then there is the black sheep. What has been the target of almost every complaint about unfair work practices. That’s right folks, Walmart.  While some of the attacks are based in truth, not all is bad with this industry giant. As of late, the company has been doing a second “Made in USA” push.  I say second, because it was a promise Sam Walton made 20 years ago and was lost somewhere along the way. On the minimum wage debate, they are remaining neutral on the issue, stating they are not a minimum wage payer. The average Walmart worker, part and full time, is around $11.81 an hour, and $12.83 for full time associates.  Added to that, around 75% of Walmart store managers started as hourly workers, earning around $150,ooo annually.  Walmart is a promote from within company, making how far you go only up to the individual.

    But, of course there is a downside to Walmart. That average can be accounted to the workers who have been with the company for 15 plus years. You see, back in the day, Sam Walton also made a promise to his associates.  He would be fair to them, and they would work hard for him. From personal experience, I can assure you this is true. There was a time when associates would get raises as much as $1 a year as well as merit raises when management felt it appropriate.  These days are gone.

    Currently, there are set raise amounts which are much lower than before.  In addition they instituted pay caps so associates who were grandfathered in under the old system would soon enough hit a ceiling. There is a plus, the fact that the current raises are still above the industry standard.  The facts are though, while Walmart is doing a lot of good recently, they may still have a lot to make up for in the eyes of the public.

    “Today, 21 million U.S. workers earn less than $10 an hour.” New York Times. We have went from a industrial society to a consumer one over the past 60 years.  This does not mean we cannot pay our workers better, though. There are cities that have raised their wages to a living wages, and more may be following.  This has met with mixed results. Larger corporations have, for the most part, been able to absorb the cost, though not all as quietly as others. Smaller mom and pop businesses have hurt the most from the increases, causing them to lay off workers because they could not afford to pay them.

    Where does minimum wage go from here?

    The debate will continue on until we, as a nation, can get back to the time when we prospered as a country. There was a time when a one income household of four could live comfortably off the minimum wage.  This is one of the reasons it was introduced in the first place. It is time to let the government know that we care about making a living.  Do not forget there is some legislation trying to push through to abolish minimum wage all together.  This is not so a company can pay you more.  It is up to each of us to use our voice and let D.C. know we need a change sooner rather than later.

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    “To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear” ~ Buddha

    Over the past few years, there has been a push for healthy living and changing our lifestyles to increase the quality and longevity of our lives.  There are many ways we have been repeatedly educated on how to do so.  We have been told to exercise more and eat a more healthy diet.  The biggest issue being that we, as a rule, do not take well to drastic change. It really is more of a matter of instituting small changes a few at a time, as to not grow tired of these lifestyle changes.

    By eliminating sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, you can lose up to 25 pounds a year.  This small, but effective change can also cut down on the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.  It is better to choose non calorie, unsweetened drinks. Of course, water is the best choice. Water in itself has many added benefits.  Water helps maintain a balance in your bodily fluids.  It can help you control calories by replacing a high calorie beverage with water.  Water can help prevent muscle fatigue, and helps work muscles when working out.  It is also important to maintain healthy looking skin.

    Being more physically active can also make a drastic improvement in your well-being. I am not talking anything as drastic as going to the gym every day, though, if you can, great.  Just a few simple changes is all that is needed at the start. Walking about a mile a day outside your normal daily routine. You can go after work or before, at a pace that is comfortable with you.  As time goes by, you will start to have a bit more energy. At that point, throw is a short jog if you feel comfortable.  If you work in a building with stairs, use them over escalators or elevators.  Unless you work on the 35th floor in a high rise, in which case do not try and hurt yourself. Take a few floors of stairs at a time, until you feel you can accomplish more.

    There are still various other ways we can change our lives for the better.  You can try and get more sleep.  Sleep is the body’s way of recharging.  Lack of sleep can be the most lethal component of an unhealthy lifestyle.  Lack of sleep can lead to sugar cravings because the body needs sleep to produce insulin.  This, in turn, makes your body crave the foods that you really should be staying away from.  A full sleep routine can do wonders to improve mood, curb cravings, as well as give you more energy on a daily basis. In fact, it is the most essential part of a healthy lifestyle, in my opinion. Without sleep, any other changes will get tiring and hard to maintain.  Plus, it is the easiest to accomplish if you prioritize. After all, who does not like the feeling of a good nights rest.

    Food for thought: take ‘healthy’ in stride

    Living healthy is a life choice that we cannot afford to not make.  It will cut down on the chances of developing heart disease as well as diabetes.  Being fit and active can also improve mood and brain function.  When you start down the road, it may seem a bit hard to enact the changes because we live in a society that is all about immediate results.

    Do not give up if you do not see yourself reaching your goal fast enough. Keep at it and it will happen.  Once again, do not try to change your routine too drastically at first. Start with something simple like going to bed earlier.  If it does not help in getting more rest, get a better mattress.  Just be sure to do whatever you can to improve your healthy goals. We all want to see ourselves live to 100.

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    “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”  – FDR

    There are many arguments about increasing the Federal minimum wage to an actual living wage.  We have all heard them. It is unfair to business owners trying to make a living.  Workers are just moochers, asking their employers for more than they deserve.  Minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. The last, of course, being the entire core of the issue.

    Honestly, all the talking points are invalid when you take the words of the President who actually signed the minimum wage into law back in 1938. “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.” With around a third of the population hovering at or below poverty, this does not seem to be the case.  The federal minimum wage led to one of the most productive times in our history.  It was a time of industry though, and not a service environment like it is today.

    Manufacturing jobs are just now starting to return, but not in the numbers of the past.  Most people are stuck in service related jobs, such as retail and food service.  Some would argue these are only starter jobs, and are meant for teenagers, but the average age of worker in these jobs is around 35. Put on top of this, companies are not hiring full time workers as much as in previous years.  This coupled with the fact that most require an open schedule, making working a second job difficult, is only adding to the problem.  It also works to skewer the unemployment numbers, which does not include under-employed.

    It is really time to start healing our once great nation, by healing its people.  Stop demonizing those who only wish to support their families and start putting pressure on the people who can help them do so. By paying a livable wage to all Americans, we can actually lower the welfare state we are in today.  There are companies out there like Trader Joe’s, Costco and Aldi’s, who actually do pay their workers a decent living. This in itself sets the precedence that it can be done and still run a successful business.  A company does not need to make their workers suffer just to make more profits.

    Of course, the biggest issue with actually raising the minimum wage is that businesses will just turn around and raise the cost of living by raising prices to match.  This, in itself, is not a real point against raising it, because they already are raising prices while wages remain stagnant. But it does pose an issue of how can one pay workers more without just moving the poverty line up to what they are getting paid.  It is an extremely difficult thing to achieve without government controlling prices so they cannot be raised.  I am not one for this kind of power being laid in the hands of a government that does not seem to keep the best interest of its people at heart.

    So, I guess, the best course of action would not be to raise the minimum wage. Instead we can use our own consumer buying power to shop from companies who pay a living wage, and stay away from those who do not.  It will be hard, and for a few years, it may seem to actually hurt the economy and people.  Any true change of this magnitude will take time.  Unemployment will go up. Major corporations will let people go, and cut hours further.  Then again, the businesses who pay those livable wages will have increases in business and jobs should shift to those places.  Eventually, the corporations may take the hint and pay workers what they are worth.


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