Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why You Didn't Get the Job

Why you didn't get the job the reasons are explained here.

With the unemployment rate still at 9.5% in the United States, you may find yourself in the position of applying, interviewing, and still remaining jobless. You may have thought it was a sure thing; you may have left the office laughing and joking with the interviewer. So why was someone else hired and you weren't? These five reasons may shed some light on the situation.

1. You're overqualified
It's not just a cliche--you really can be overqualified for a position. It's especially true in a tight economy. A candidate that is more qualified would require a higher salary and benefits package for a competitive offer and for long-term retention. If someone else interviewed who fit the qualifications but didn't overly exceed them, it might be in the company's best interest to hire him and save the cash.

2. You don't know the right people
You may be great on paper, and you may interview really well--but if another candidate is the employer's tennis instructor's daughter, you might be out of luck. This isn't a reason you can't really avoid. Your best bet is to make sure you follow up with a genuinely appreciative phone call or note. Leaving a positive impression will keep you in that employer's mind if other opportunities arise.

3. You hit it off, just not professionally
Having a good rapport with your interviewer is great--however, if you bonded over your love of tequila shooters, you may have made a friend and not an employer. In a less extreme example, you may be very easy to interview but still not right for the position. While being friendly and personable are two very important traits, they won't guarantee you the job.

4. You came with conditions
You may be a good fit for the job, but if you come with strings attached, you may not get hired. If you can't see yourself sticking to the position long-term, or if prior commitments mean you'll have to work odd hours, it could take you out of the running. If possible, come in condition-free or at least willing to compromise. However, if you have a restriction that is non-negotiable, it's only fair to both of you to bring it up in the interview--there's no sense in wasting time if the situation won't work out.

5. An unpredictable reason
Often, the reason is one you may never know. You may get an unrelated job simply for having a shared interest with the interviewer, or perhaps because you have a skill the employer hopes to learn from you. It may be as simple as two or more candidates being equally qualified, and you lost the coin toss.

It may also be a simple reason like an off-the-cuff comment you probably shouldn't have made, or a more blatant reason like answering your cell phone during an interview (never a good move, no matter how friendly you are with the interviewer!). Be honest with yourself about the interview process--if you can think of a slip up, learn from your mistake and keep it in mind for your next interview.

The conclusion
Whatever the reason, do your best to learn from it and apply it to your next interview. Don't be afraid to politely follow up and inquire about why you weren't right for the position--just make sure you don't come off as sulking. Be professional, and thank them for helping you to understand what you did wrong, or where you can improve. After all, if you made it to the interview stage once, you're likely to do it again.

Erin Joyce @ investopedia.com

Wal-Mart Plans to Track Clothing by Tags

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns.

Starting next month, the retailer will place removable "smart tags" on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner. Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally stocked and inventory tightly watched. If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart's more than 3,750 U.S. stores.

"This ability to wave the wand and have a sense of all the products that are on the floor or in the back room in seconds is something that we feel can really transform our business," said Raul Vazquez, the executive in charge of Wal-Mart stores in the western U.S.

Before now, retailers including Wal-Mart have primarily used RFID tags, which store unique numerical identification codes that can be scanned from a distance, to track pallets of merchandise traveling through their supply chains.

While the tags can be removed from clothing and packages, they can't be turned off, and they are trackable. Some privacy advocates hypothesize that unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers' homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.

They also worry that retailers will be able to scan customers who carry new types of personal ID cards as they walk through a store, without their knowledge. Several states, including Washington and New York, have begun issuing enhanced driver's licenses that contain radio- frequency tags with unique ID numbers, to make border crossings easier for frequent travelers. Some privacy advocates contend that retailers could theoretically scan people with such licenses as they make purchases, combine the info with their credit card data, and then know the person's identity the next time they stepped into the store.

"There are two things you really don't want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that's where we are seeing adoption," said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering and author of a book called "Spychips" that argues against RFID technology. "The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors."

Smart-tag experts dismiss Big Brother concerns as breathless conjecture, but activists have pressured companies. Ms. Albrecht and others launched a boycott of Benetton Group SpA last decade after an RFID maker announced it was planning to supply the company with 15 million RFID chips.

Continue reading:
http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110152/wal-mart-radio-tags-to-track-clothing

Invisible Treehouse built in Sweden

The architects built it, one of six units in a "Treehotel," which recently opened 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

The four-meter glass cube looks as spectacular in reality as it did in the rendering.

It is an old architectural trick used since the invention of mirrored glass: covering buildings with the reflective material and declaring that they blend in with the surroundings. Most architects use it to convince wary citizens that it is OK if their building is tall because it will reflect the sky and nature. The rendering always makes the building disappear, and the reality is always a big clunky mirrored box.

But a mirrored box can be elegant, too, such as this treehouse by Swedish firm Tham & Videgard Hansson Arkitekter.




More information on these website.
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/02/swedish-mirrored-treehouse.php
http://www.treehotel.se/en/start

Saturday, January 16, 2010

4 big dangers for American economy

Let's Hope These 4 Things Don't Happen

In the cast of corporate characters, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are A-list villains, thanks to the central role they played in the 2008 financial meltdown. The two mortgage-finance firms failed as spectacularly as AIG, the poster child for finance-gone-wrong, with the combined Fannie-Freddie rescue totaling about $111 billion so far--the biggest bailout of all. Both firms are effectively nationalized, and the government would probably wind them down except for one thing: They underwrite about three quarters of all the mortgages issued in the United States.

You've probably heard that the economy is recovering, that consumers are more optimistic, and that companies might soon begin hiring more workers than they're firing. Hooray. We'll all be thrilled when the economy stops quivering. The only problem with an upbeat prognosis is that large chunks of the U.S. economy remain addicted to financial painkillers or dependent upon dysfunctional institutions like Fannie and Freddie, and we've never gone through the kind of withdrawal that's set to take place this year. If all goes well, we'll avoid messy complications, such as these:

Housing tanks all over again. It's hard to believe the housing market could get any worse, with prices already down by more than 30 percent from their 2007 peak. On the other hand, it's astounding that housing is as bad as it is, considering the massive amounts of government aid that have been transfused into this comatose market. In addition to subsidizing the entire mortgage market via Fannie and Freddie, the government has also stepped in to buy billions in mortgage-backed securities--replacing private investors who are sitting on the sidelines--to keep money flowing to consumers. Then there are the tax breaks meant to spur demand for homes and other programs to reduce foreclosures and arrest the plunge in prices.

The tax breaks expire this year, and the government probably can't afford to extend them (again). The Federal Reserve and other agencies have also said they'll begin an orderly withdrawal from housing finance in 2010. Most forecasts call for a spike in foreclosures and further price declines in the first half of the year, with a possible bottom and tepid recovery in the second half. But it's far from clear what will happen when the government aid dissipates. Will that remove one leg from the chair? Two? Three? If the private markets don't fill the void left when the government backs out, it could trigger a fresh crisis that inflicts more collateral damage on the rest of the economy.

Stocks crash. An epic bull rally since the lows of March 2009 has probably been the single biggest contributor to the so-called recovery. Though stocks are still down from their October 2007 peak, the rebound has eased a sense of panic and helped restore some of the household wealth lost in the housing bust (for those lucky enough to have stock-market investments and to have stuck with them through the bottom). And that's probably been a big factor helping consumer spending to recover. But while stocks have been surging, jobs have continued to disappear, and this divergence between Wall Street and Main Street must end. The conventional view is that stocks foretell a pickup in the "real economy," which will follow the market's recovery after a lag of some length. But what if it's the moribund job market that exerts the stronger gravitational pull, dragging down stocks? If so, buckle in for a double-dip.

There's a U.S. debt crisis. Assuming the economy stabilizes, this is also the year that President Obama will start to talk tough about reducing America's $8 trillion public debt, which amounts to more than half of our total economic output. There will be careful efforts to make sure that no deserving American feels any pain (the rich don't count as deserving) and that Congress passes no unpopular measures that would get anybody unelected. The financial markets might buy this, allowing our government to keep borrowing and keep spending beyond its means. Or the markets might decide that America is heading toward bankruptcy and dump the dollar, forcing the world's biggest debtor nation to pay higher rates on its securities, slash spending, and hike taxes. We should probably just relax, confident that Washington politicians always rally to head off devastating problems before they explode.

Consumers become rational. Given the painful transformation of the U.S. economy, Americans ought to be saving like crazy and buying nothing they don't need. Some are, but it's not clear yet if Americans as a whole will save more over the long term or go back to spending nearly everything they have. The savings rate has crept up to about 5 percent, but that's still lower than the long-term average and far lower than you might expect after a collapse like the one we've endured. If savings continue to go up--a prudent move for most households--consumer spending will come down, leaving a hole in the growth of our gross domestic product, with little else to fill it. So hopes for a vigorous rebound rest on spendthrift consumers being as materialistic as ever. Now there's a strong foundation for success.

Source: Yahoo finance

World's cheapest car coming to U.S.A.



Ultracheap Nano could come to US in 3 years with $8,000 price tag

DETROIT (AP) -- The world's cheapest car is being readied for sale in the U.S., but by the time India's Tata Nano is retrofitted to meet emissions and safety standards, it won't be that cheap.

Tata Technologies Ltd., the global engineering arm of the Tata group conglomerate, brought the tiny car to Detroit as a publicity stunt for the engineering group.

Tata officials, while maintaining that they couldn't speak for Tata Motors, maker of the $2,500 Nano, said they were involved with the Nano from concept until it launched last July in Mumbai.

They wouldn't say when the Nano might arrive in the U.S. or how much it might cost here, although Ratan Tata, chairman of the group of Tata companies, has said it should be ready for U.S. distribution in about three years.

Tata Motors already has made a European version of the four-seat car that will cost about $8,000 when it debuts in 2011, and a Tata Technologies official said privately that the U.S. version is expected to have a comparable price. The official did not want to be identified because the price has not been made public.

Warren Harris, Tata Technologies president, would only say that the price would be more than the roughly $2,500 charged in India.

"The structural changes that would need to be made, the changes that would be required as far as emissions are concerned, and some of the features that would be appropriate to add to the vehicle for the North American market, obviously that would drive up the price point," he said.

Tata Technologies could be involved in bringing the car up to U.S. standards, said Tony Jones, associate vice president of the global automotive practice.

Before it can be sold here, the car's two-cylinder, 623cc engine would have to be engineered to meet stronger U.S. pollution standards, he said. Airbags would have to be added, the roof strengthened and the front bumper lengthened to meet U.S. requirements to limit damage in a 5-mph crash.

The Spartan interior, with flat bucket seats, three knobs, a horizontal switch and a steering wheel, also would have to be changed to comply with U.S. safety standards that limit movement of passengers not wearing seat belts.

Jones said the Nano Europa has airbags and has passed European safety tests with flying colors.

The Nano, with 12-inch diameter tires, electric windows in the front and crank windows in the back, gets 50 mpg on the highway and has a top speed of 65 mph.

If the $8,000 price tag holds true, it would cost far less than the $9,970 Hyundai Accent, currently the car with the lowest base sticker price in the U.S., according to the Edmunds.com automotive Web site. The price excludes shipping.

By Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer

Monday, January 11, 2010

Interview myths that can cost you a job

With so few jobs currently available and so many people currently hoping to fill those jobs, standing out in an interview is of utmost importance. While jobs themselves are scarce, job advice is overly abundant. And with an influx of information comes an influx of confusion. What career counsel do you take, and what do you ignore?

There are a number of common misconceptions related to interview best practices, experts say. Kera Greene of the Career Counselors Consortium and executive coach Barbara Frankel offer tips below that can help you stand out from other interview subjects, avoid frequent pitfalls, and secure the job.

Myth #1: Be prepared with a list of questions to ask at the close of the interview.
There is some truth in this common piece of advice: You should always be prepared, and that usually includes developing questions related to the job. The myth here is that you must wait until it is "your turn" to speak.

By waiting until the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, "it becomes an interrogation instead of a conversation," says Greene.

Greene recommends that you think of an interview as a sales call. You are the product and you are selling yourself to the employer. "You can't be passive in a sales call or you aren't going to sell your product."

Frankel mimics Greene's comments. "It's a two-way street," she says. "I recommend asking a follow-up question at the tail end of your responses."

For example, Frankel says, if the interviewer says, "Tell me about yourself," you first respond to that question and complete your response with a question like, "Can you tell me more about the position?" The interview should be a dialogue.

Myth #2: Do not show weakness in an interview.
The reality is that it is OK to have flaws. In fact, almost every interviewer will ask you to name one. Typically job seekers are told to either avoid this question by providing a "good flaw." One such "good flaw" which is often recommends is: "I am too committed to my work." But, these kinds of responses will only hurt you.
"Every recruiter can see through that," Greene says of faux flaws.

Recruiters conduct interviews all day, every day. They've seen it all and can see through candidates who dodge questions. "They prefer to hire someone who is honest than someone who is obviously lying," Greene says.

And for those of you who claim to be flaw-free, think again. "Everybody has weaknesses," Frankel states. But one is enough. According to Frankel, supply your interviewer with one genuine flaw, explain how you are working to correct it, and then move on to a new question.

Myth #3: Be sure to point out all of your strengths and skills to the employer.
Of course, you want the interviewer to know why you are a valuable candidate, but a laundry list of your skills isn't going to win you any points. Inevitably, in an interview, you will be asked about your skills. What can go wrong in this scenario?

"You don't want to list a litany of strengths," Frankel says.

"What is typical is that they will say: 'I'm a good communicator,' 'I have excellent interpersonal skills,' 'I am responsible,'" Greene explains. "You have to give accomplishments. I need to know what did you accomplish when using these skills."

Frankel recommends doing a little groundwork before your interview so that you are best equipped to answer this question. She tells her clients to find out what the prospective job role consists of. "What makes an interview powerful is to give an example related to their particular needs or challenges that you have demonstrated in the past."

Provide three strengths, with examples. You will get much further with a handful of real strengths than with an unconvincing list of traits.

Myth #4: Let the employer know your salary expectations.
One of the trickiest questions to answer in an interview relates to salary. Money talk can be uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be. The fact is you don't even have to answer when asked about desired salary.

According to the book "Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions That Will Get You The Job!" a perfect response would be: "I want to earn a salary that is commensurate with the contributions I can make. I am confident I can make a substantial contribution at your firm. What does your firm plan to pay for this position?"

Greene suggests a similar response: "I prefer to discuss the compensation package after you've decided that I'm the best candidate and we can sit down and negotiate the package."

Myth #5: The employer determines whether or not you get the job.
While yes, the employer must be the one to offer you the position, interviewees have more control than they often realize. According to both Greene and Frankel, candidates have a larger say in the final hiring decision than they think.

"They should call the interviewer or hiring manager and say: 'I'd really like to be part of the company,'" says Greene. "It can't hurt you. It can only help."

"Acing the Interview" encourages all candidates to conclude their interviews with one question: "'Based on our interview, do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job?' -- If the answer is yes, ask the interviewer to be explicit. Deal forthrightly with each concern."

by Karen Noonan, TradePub.com

The best automobiles for 2010

Each year, the editors of Automobile Magazine convene to test, evaluate, and debate the performance, significance, and pure enthusiast appeal of the cars that make the biggest impact.

Despite the auto industry coming off its worst year in recent history, "the level of excellence found during our annual All-Stars competition was at an all-time high and the competition was strong" said Jean Jennings, president and editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine. "We whittled down a list of thirty-nine finalists to the ten All-Stars. The end results produced a list of true standouts, spanning a wide range of the automotive spectrum."


Jaguar XF/XFR
car1.jpg
Base price range: $52,000-$80,000
When the XF received significant improvements for 2010, including three new V-8 engines, Jaguar was rewarded for making a good thing even better.
The XF/XFR is both a sports car and a luxury touring sedan, and its uncompromising practicality and refreshed performance establish the Jaguar XF as an All-Star.




Audi S4
car2.jpg
Base Price: $46,725
Cheaper than the car it replaces, the sure-footed, all-wheel-drive Audi S4 takes everything from the Audi A4 on which it's based — comfort, safety, and solid build quality — and cranks it up.
Compared with the previous model, the S4 sheds half a second in the 0 to 60 mph run (5.2 seconds with a six speed manual) while managing to increase fuel economy.



Chevrolet Camaro
car3.jpg
Base Price Tange: $23,530-$34,595
2009 wasn't a good year for General Motors, but amid all the turmoil there have been glimmers of hope.
One need look no further than the brash, beautiful Chevrolet Camaro — if one can be found on dealer lots, that is — for proof that GM can build great cars. With its old-school charm, the Camaro is a smashing sales success.




BMW 335d
car4.jpg
Base price: $44,725
The BMW 335d is the most important car this year to get lost in the crowd. Going from 0 to 60 mph in six seconds, the 335d is game for hard driving, but its 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged diesel six-cylinder also returns subcompact-like fuel economy. There is no other car that combines performance and fuel economy at this level.




Dodge Ram 1500
car5.jpg
Base Price Range: $21,510-$43,550
Dodge engineers created a vehicle that works smarter, drives quieter, uses less fuel, and secures cargo storage better. The Ram sets the standard by living up to the radical idea that the cabin of a $40,000 truck should be as nice as that of a $40,000 car.





Ford Flex
car3.jpg
Base Price Range: $29,325-$43,635
For 2010, Ford has equipped the Flex with its much anticipated EcoBoost engine, thereby addressing the Flex's only weakness — power — and effectively transforming it from a well rounded family hauler into a large sport wagon. The Flex is unique in a market brimming with compromised, look alike utility vehicles and is one of the best-handling full-size crossovers on the market.




BMW Z4
car4.jpg
Base Price Range: $46,575-$52,475
The previous Z4 was a little rough and tough, a little unsophisticated, and undeniably masculine. BMW took a good look at its customers' needs and traded racetrack readiness for everyday elegance.
The interior is a marvel of simplicity and elegance, the sheetmetal is at once sexy, sultry, and supremely muscular, and 60 mph can be yours in five to six seconds, depending on the powertrain combination you choose.




Ford Fusion Hybrid
car5.jpg
Base price: $28,350
Quietly, Ford has put a car on the road that essentially enlists Toyota hybrid technology but uses it more cleverly than the originating company did. It is not a performance machine, but neither does it feel hobbled or inadequate for daily driving. Perhaps the best thing about it is that, apart from the LCD color screens, you might never know you're driving a hybrid.




Mazda 3
car5.jpg
Base Price Range: $15,795-$23,945
With three engines and five trim levels, the 3 accounts for nearly half of Mazda's U.S. sales. The 2010 version brings a stiffer unibody, firmer suspension, tauter steering, revised seats, and a larger engine.






Porsche Boxster/Cayman
car5.jpg
Base price range: $48,550-$62,450
According to Automobile Magazine, the Porsche Boxster roadster and its hardtop sibling, the Cayman, are as close as a car company can get to the perfect everyday sports car. With fully optioned models climbing to $70K and beyond, the Boxster/Cayman isn't cheap, but buying one will allow you to achieve sports car nirvana.


Source

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The World's Most Amazing Views

The best views from around the globe

From the Grand Canyon to the Matterhorn, the world’s most iconic vistas are part of the travel canon for good reason. They induce wanderlust. They get us thinking about the four corners of the earth as well as humankind’s minor place in the scheme of things. And when we see them in person, we are startled and humbled by their physical magnificence.

Cliffs of Moher

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/41.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: Stand on the blustery edge of Ireland’s steep, rocky Atlantic-battered cliffs and you’ll feel as though you’ve arrived at the true end of the world, with nothing but 2,000 miles of briny Atlantic swells between you and Newfoundland.

Secret Viewing Spot: The view of the ocean from atop Moher is breathtaking, but experiencing it on the water is sublime. Hop on a surfboard at the nearby Lahinch Surf School and try to conquer Aill na Searrach, also known as the giant wave of Moher.

When to Go: Crowds dissipate in October, when you’ll also find the best swells.

Great Wall of China

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/48.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: Millions of people over the course of 21 centuries helped construct, rebuild, and maintain the Great Wall of China, which dips, rises, and bends across the country for some 6,000 miles. The theory that it’s visible from space is now debated, but its immense engineering achievement and man-made beauty are unquestionable.

Secret Viewing Spot: You’ll find the otherworldly ruins of unrestored wall segments in Gubeikou, a less-visited part of the Yanshan Mountain range in the northeast of Miyun County.

When to Go: October’s brisk temperatures and lighter foot traffic make for ideal wall hiking.

Paris Skyline

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/47.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: Napoleon is credited for transforming the City of Light during the Second Empire, but it was engineer Gustave Eiffel who helped define the cityscape with a colossal iron lattice tower, which has become a symbol of romance that can be seen sparkling from even the remotest corners of Paris’s 20th Arrondissement.

Secret Viewing Spot: The glimmering, glass-walled Nomiya is a temporary, 12-seat restaurant and art installation on top of the Palais de Tokyo museum; it’s open until July 2010.

When to Go: Winter. Yes, it’s chilly, but the twinkling lights and cold Seine breeze create a tableau that is pure Paris

The Matterhorn

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/46.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: Five hundred mountain climbers have died attempting to reach the rocky 14,692-foot summit of Switzerland’s majestic Matterhorn. The snow-covered, sawtoothed peak has a pyramidal summit that has become the textbook illustration of alpinism’s golden age and all its triumphs.

Secret Viewing Spot: Ascend Gornergrat by railway and exit at quiet Rotenboden station. Walk down the 3-kilometer path to Lake Riffelsee, which on clear days offers majestic reflections of the mountain.

When to Go: The trail to Lake Riffelsee is open from July to October; the later you go, the less crowded it will be.

Grand Canyon

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/44.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: It’s big. Real big. We’re talking 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. While it’s not the world’s deepest or widest canyon, it’s undoubtedly the most colorful. The Grand Canyon also exposes ancient Proterozoic and Paleozoic strata—two billion years of earth’s rust-hued history—a visual experience that is not easily captured on film and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Secret Viewing Spot: Head toward tranquil Shoshone Point, an unmarked trail on a dirt road off East Rim Drive between mileposts 244 and 245.

When to Go: March to May, before the RVs arrive.

Machu Picchu

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/45.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: Though many theories exist about Machu Picchu’s purpose (a prison, a resort, an agricultural test site, an aristocratic estate), there’s no denying the cosmic beauty of these methodically carved, fog-covered peaks, engineered by the Incas in the 15th century. To witness dawn spilling over the lush Peruvian Urubamba Valley is an unforgettable experience.

Secret Viewing Spot: Only the first 400 visitors to the site are given access to Huayna Picchu, the peak that overlooks Machu Picchu’s ruins and offers spectacular vistas of the surrounding cloud forest.

When to Go: June is a quiet month; on Sundays many tourists head to the nearby Pisac Market instead.

Tiger’s Nest

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/43.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: The Tiger’s Nest (or Paro Taktsang Monastery) clings like lichen to rocky cliffs in Bhutan’s Paro Valley and creates an awed silence among visitors, broken only by the sound of rustling prayer flags and chanting monks.

Secret Viewing Spot: The best vistas are from the gardens of Sangtopelri and hermitages atop the mountain above Tiger’s Nest, accessed by the winding trail used by monks.

When to Go: April and May, for the spring flowers and Paro Festival.


Great Barrier Reef

http://l.yimg.com/a/p/fi/26/72/42.jpgWhy It’s Amazing: The world’s largest reef system, off the coast of Australia, casts a cerulean underwater glow that is unlike any color you’ll find above the surface. Thousands of species live on the reef, including endemic sea-dragons, giant cuttlefish, saltwater crocodiles, and 125 species of sharks.

Secret Viewing Spot: Try off-beach diving and snorkeling from tranquil Lady Elliot Island, home to a population of manta rays and renowned for its crystal-clear waters.

When to Go: September and October, when visibility is at its best and whales are breeding.

[http://www.travelandleisure.com]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What to avoid buying in 2010?

Ten years ago, most homes relied on dial-up connections to access the Internet and iPods, flat-screen TVs and the Nintendo Wii didn't exist.

In 2010, consumer should expect to see more revolutionary products supplanting old mainstays. In media, DVDs, books, newspapers and magazines will continue to lose ground to services like in-home movie rentals and gadgets like the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle. In big-ticket items, the push for energy efficiency will continue to influence consumer decisions on cars and home upgrades.

As a result, some consumer products appear poised for a dip in sales, which could be a prelude to obsolescence. Here are 10 items not to buy in 2010.

DVDs
The days of going to a video shop to rent a movie are at an end. In September, Blockbuster (BBI) said it plans to close roughly 22% of its stores by the end of 2010; meanwhile, third-quarter revenue was down 21% from the year-ago period. (The company didn't return calls for comment.)

Looking ahead, DVD purchases could turn cold, as well. On average, DVDs sell for at least $20 each. That's pricier than signing up for Netflix (NFLX) or renting movies from cable providers' on-demand channels. Netflix charges as little as $8.99 a month to rent one DVD at a time (with no limit to the number of monthly rentals).

Time Warner Cable offers thousands of movies on demand for around $4.99 each. Verizon Fios cable service charges $5.99 a month to download unlimited movies.

Home Telephone Service

It will probably take a while, but home landlines could become as archaic as the rotary phone.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, more than one in five U.S. homes (22.7%) had cellphones — and no landlines — during the first half of 2009, up from 10.5% during the same period in 2006.

Ditching your home phone is easier now than it has been in the past, as cell phone companies compete for greater market share and alternatives to the home landline continue growing. For example, magicJack provides phone service when it's plugged into a computer's USB port and a home phone. It costs $39.95 and includes a one-year license for calls in the U.S. and Canada; after that, service costs $19.95 per year. (By contrast, Time Warner Cable's digital home phone service costs $39.95 per month.)

And, consider Skype, which is free when you communicate with other Skype users; this software application uses the Internet as a platform to make calls, hold video conferences and send instant messages.

External Hard Drives

Consumers who keep their computers for years and upload thousands of songs, videos, movies and photos will need to get more space at some point.

External hard drives are one option, but an up-and-coming alternative might be simpler and save you another transition down the road. Online backup services, like Carbonite.com or Mozy.com, allow users to back up data over the Internet.

These services are more expensive than purchasing an external hard drive, which typically starts at around $70. At Carbonite.com, a one-year subscription starts at $54.95, and at Mozy.com monthly subscription costs total $54.45 for a year.

Smartphone Also-Rans

In the past few years, several smartphones hit the market with similar features to the iPhone and BlackBerry, but they haven't generated the same buzz. As a result, fewer developers are likely to create applications and other products that cater to those phones.

Today, the BlackBerry dominates the smartphone market with 40% market share, followed by the iPhone with 25%, according to data released by ComScore in December. In the near term, both are expected to stay at the top. ComScore found that most consumers who'll be shopping for smartphones in the next three months plan to purchase a Blackberry (51%) or an iPhone (20%).

By contrast, only 5% of respondents said they planned to purchase T-Mobile's MyTouch. The Palm Pre and Palm Centro received 2% and 1% of the vote, respectively.

A possible upcoming competitor that could shake up the space is Google's (GOOG) Android. According to ComScore, as of October, the Android's market share had doubled to 3.5% in the past year.

Compact Digital Cameras

For nearly a decade, digital compact cameras were must-haves for most consumers.

But during the past several years, another type of digital camera has been slowly rising in popularity: the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, from manufacturers including Nikon, Canon (CAJ), Sony (SNE) and Olympus. Although bulkier, these cameras produce pictures that more accurately represent what's in their viewfinders than those that use older technology.

They're also pricier. For example, Canon's digital compact cameras start at $110, while the SLRs start at $570.

Newspaper Subscriptions

The past few years have been unkind to the publishing industry.

In 2008, newspaper advertising revenues declined by 17.7%, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Meanwhile, average daily circulation at 379 newspapers fell 10.6% from April through September 2009, compared to the same period a year ago, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Magazines haven't fared any better. In 2009, more than 360 magazines shut down. During the first half of 2009, ad pages fell 27.9% when compared to the same period in 2008, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

The morning newspaper has been replaced by a growing online media presence — much of which is accessible for free. The Amazon Kindle — even with its price tag of around $250 — and other eBook readers could increasingly become one-stop sources to access newspapers, magazines and books.

CDs

When was the last time you bought a CD or even walked into a record store?

The past decade was one of the worst for the industry. In the beginning, there was Napster. Then came iTunes, which was introduced in 2001 and offered affordable pricing and easy accessibility. Face it, CDs aren't coming back.

Record stores are feeling the pinch. Most Virgin Megastores in the U.S. have shut down following declines in sales and revenues. In 2004, Tower Records entered bankruptcy and by 2006 most locations had closed.

New College Textbooks

Unless a student absolutely needs brand-new textbooks, they can use several alternatives to save.

Shop for used textbooks, which can help you save 70% to 90% off the retail price, says Mike Gatti, the executive director at the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a trade group. Check out web sites like CheapestTextbooks.com, Booksprice.com or Amazon.com. Many college bookstores also sell used texts.

Another option is downloading books online. Sites like Coursesmart.com sell subscriptions to digital copies of more than 7,000 textbooks. TextbookMedia.com allows students to download textbooks for free. You can also rent textbooks on Chegg.com.

Gas-Guzzling Cars

Skyrocketing gasoline prices dominated headlines during most of the decade, and they remain volatile.

The Energy Information Administration estimates that crude oil prices will average around $77 a barrel for the fourth quarter of 2009, up from $42.90 in the first quarter. The EIA also projects prices will rise in 2010 to their highest point in more than two years: $81.33 a barrel.

Recent announcements by car manufacturers to mass produce fuel-efficient cars could help push consumers away from gas-guzzling vehicles.

According to the Department of Energy, the most efficient cars include the Honda Civic Hybrid, which gets 40 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 45 mpg on the highway, the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf (both run on diesel), which each get 30 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, and the Toyota Prius hybrid (51/48 mpg).

Energy-Inefficient Homes and Appliances

Ten years ago, shopping for home upgrades involved looking at a product's functionality and aesthetic. Now, there's another component: energy efficiency.

Today, the products most touted by manufacturers and retailers are those that are Energy Star certified and those that meet new federal environmental standards — most of which have higher price tags than their counterparts but help to lower heating and cooling bills.

The government is offering a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 on energy-efficient home upgrades through Dec. 31, 2016. But many are set to expire by Dec. 31, 2010; these include eligible insulation, roofs and windows and doors.

by AnnaMaria Andriotis

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Russia targets asteroid headed for Earth

MOSCOW – Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.

http://l.yimg.com/a/i/ww/news/2009/12/30/123009asteroid.jpgWhen the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.

Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) from Earth's surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

NASA had put the chances that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 as 1-in-45,000. In October, after researchers recalculated the asteroid's path, the agency changed its estimate to 1-in-250,000.

NASA said another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.

"It wasn't anything to worry about before. Now it's even less so," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Without mentioning NASA's conclusions, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," Perminov said.

"People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people," Perminov said.

Scientists have long theorized about asteroid deflection strategies. Some have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid to gradually change its trajectory. Others suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its momentum, or hitting it with nuclear weapons.

Perminov wouldn't disclose any details of the project, saying they still need to be worked out. But he said the mission wouldn't require any nuclear explosions.

Hollywood action films "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," have featured space missions scrambling to avoid catastrophic collisions. In both movies, space crews use nuclear bombs in an attempt to prevent collisions.

"Calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision," Perminov said. "The threat of collision can be averted."

Boris Shustov, the director of the Institute of Astronomy under the Russian Academy of Sciences, hailed Perminov's statement as a signal that officials had come to recognize the danger posed by asteroids.

"Apophis is just a symbolic example, there are many other dangerous objects we know little about," he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV