Thursday, November 13, 2008

Travel Europe

Here is the second installation of my company reviews, this time of Europe Travel Blog, a Europe travel and advice site recently launched by Europe cell phone rental provider The blog was created as both a marketing tool to help them rank in the search engines and as a Europe travel site where American travelers in Europe could go for a wealth of information, tips and links to help them in their journeys.

Who is Call-in-Europe?
Call-in-Europe provides international Europe cell phone rental options for Americans traveling outside the US throughout Europe. To supplement their existing website and help out travelers, they decided to create a new blog geared towards Americans traveling and communicating in Europe. Communication abroad is a big thing for many people; as many find solutions, even more are frustrated by a lack of options for phones and Call-in-Europe fills this gap. The travel blog is a way for them to reach out to travelers, help them plan their trips and let them know about an inexpensive phone option they can use in their adventures.

What is the Europe Travel Blog?
The Europe Travel Blog is an informational site geared at Americans traveling to or in Europe. Though it is relatively new, there are some solid posts and a list of great Europe travel resources to make your way through. There are also some great posts on communicating while in Europe and the different options travelers have.

Europe cell phone rental options they offer:
They offer a number of options for travelers, from basic rate plans to more deluxe packages. The way it works is they send you an international GSM (or a special SIM card if you already have a GSM phone) phone in a package a couple weeks before you leave. Use starts when you turn it on and you return it the same way after the end of your trip. Their service is structured so that they connect you to the biggest wireless network in Europe, and that is what you are on for the duration of your travels.

Call-in-Europe's cell phone rental prices:
Rental fees vary from daily to monthly. They also have calling plans, which are a great, cost-effective option.

Best features:
One of the best features about Call-in-Europe is that their plans and services are incredibly straightforward and honest. They simplify the entire process of getting a phone and make the prices as reasonable as possible. Additionally, the blog offers great Europe travel tips for Americans traveling abroad.

Why we like this Europe cell phone rental company:
We like them because their service is truly useful; any one of us would use it when traveling abroad. The Europe Travel Blog also has a lot to offer prospective travelers and is well worth checking out.

Couch Surfing

28 year-old Cliff Williams is on the trip of his life. The day after Labor Day, with nothing to lose, he set off to see the world, starting from his home in Boston. His first destination-Ireland.

One down- 30 more to go.

For the next year Williams will travel to over 30 countries and 70 cities. While most people go on extensive travels to "find themselves," Williams is going to find other people. He will be trekking the world, couch by couch. His itinerary is full of reserved couches, which he will crash on while visiting the owners' country. But it won't be the same as visiting your cousin abroad. Williams has never met any of these people before.

It's called Couch Surfing and it comes with a very hang loose mentality, taking traveling by the cuff to a whole new level. Couch Surfers such as Williams find their hosts online on the Couch Surfing website,, a community of people who offer their couches to travelers in return for an open couch when they decided to get up and go themselves.

For Williams, this trip will be his first venture outside North America and he's hoping to learn a thing or two. "I'm really sick of America. We (Americans) are just so unaware of what's out there," he said. "People just don't really care about what's out there. It pisses me off. We are such a huge influence in the world and are trapped in our own lives and self absorbance."

At home, Williams worked in the engineering science field, which he says is all about money. "I became very disenchanted at my last company which degraded their workers. There was a lot of back stabbing and I couldn't handle it anymore." He was also engaged but things between him and his fiancé didn't work out. "Since then I've been kind of lost," he said. So he was ecstatic when his company terminated his employment because of company downsizing. It was just the extra push he needed to pursue the adventure he had always dreamed of.

"I don't have any kids. If I don't do it now, I might not have the opportunity to do it again," said Williams.
When he originally started planning his itinerary, he started to plot his destinations based on events and holidays that were happening around the world. But booking hotels during high travel seasons turned out to be pretty expensive and he'd be traveling alone.

"I hope couch surfers can open my eyes to the locals and their culture. If I stayed in hotels and hostels I wouldn't be experiencing the culture as much," said Williams. He hopes his trip will help him gain a better perspective of the world from the strangers he meets along the way, as well as from some distant relatives who live Finland. Only his 91-year old grandfather has communication with their family in Finland and before Williams left, he rummaged through family records to find any information he could to track down and figure out how to connect with his family members.

After his journey, Williams said he plans to either get his PHD or join the peace corps. But who knows. He also wouldn't mind writing a few books or screenplays and fulfilling another dream of his, becoming a writer, which might not be so far fetched. After this journey, it's a sure bet he won't be at a loss of words.

Republican's Silver Lining

The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was a truly historic and important event. For the first time in America's history, voters were able to put aside centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American to the highest office in the land. That Mr. Obama even had the opportunity to run as a legitimate contender speaks volumes about how far we as a nation have come, but to finish with such a complete victory is nothing short of astounding.

However, his victory also represents the final death knell for the Republican Party in its current 20-year incarnation. From 1994 to 2004, Republicans experienced unprecedented electoral success at every level of government. The 2006 midterm elections signified a stark change in voter attitudes, one that served to foreshadow the current Democratic landslide. That day was a tough pill to swallow for most Republicans. "Most" being the key word.

Exit polls revealed that many Republicans voted for Mr. Obama. What this means is that the Republican Party, which excited so many Americans during the Reagan era, has disenchanted enough of its members that they chose to vote for the most liberal member of the Senate, one with scant experience in national public service, one with established ties to radicals, socialists, and a domestic terrorist, rather than for John McCain, a war hero with twenty-plus years of established, respected, bipartisan service in the House and Senate. That is a monumentally frustrating failure of the party, and ultimately, perhaps, of traditional conservative ideals.

So where does the party go from here? How do we win back the disenchanted former flock?

By establishing a new direction for the Republican Party, one which stays true to conservative ideals, while recognizing and reacting to the social, cultural, and political environment of now.

The crushing results of this election give our party the mandate, if not the imperative, to reform. To that end, here is a list of ways to reinvigorate the Republican Party and regain the Reagan-era trust and excitement that strengthened our party and our country:
1.) Concede nothing. When John McCain gave up on Michigan, he gave up on his campaign. Barack Obama ran a fifty-state campaign, not a "shortest way to 270" strategy. Granted, he was better funded (more on that below), but he was also better organized - something that money can't always buy. This doesn't just apply to presidential campaigns; in fact, it is imperative that it begins on the local level. If there is an uncontested seat, whether it be national Congress, state Congress, or school board, there needs to be a good Republican candidate working on winning it, with solid support from the national RNC. Too many seats at all levels held by Democrats go unchallenged, and this allows them to start with a solid, local base. Every single seat should be contested.

2.) Excite the electorate, particularly the "reality show generation." Let's face it - presidential politics has become one long reality show anyway. Ten or so candidates start off, with each getting eliminated one by one until one guy gets Tila Tequila...uh, I mean the presidency. The lesson from this is that we need to start promoting candidates (for all offices) that appeal to your average television viewer. Easy on the eyes, and more importantly, on the ears, is key. We have an excellent message, with policies and values that most Americans share. Unfortunately, we have not always had the right person espousing those policies and values. Mr. Obama fit the reality show model perfectly - he came across polished to a television audience both in style and oratorical ability. Even though his speeches were full of nuance and free of any real substance, it sounded good. We have the benefit of a superior message - we just need a superior messenger. (Hint: Someone like La. Gov. Bobby Jindal has all of these qualities, as did Reagan. As a bonus, Jindal represents a Katrina do-over).

3.) We need a serious youth movement, in the worst way. The old guard Republicans are not exciting the kids. Campaign finance reform doesn't draw the big crowds. What we need is a new generation of (relatively) young, energetic, enthusiastic, marketable (see note above) Republicans to represent the "New Republican Party." Here's a partial list: Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin, Linda Lingle, Michael Steele. I really would like to include Jeb Bush on this list, as I think he'd make an outstanding president. But...not for 2012. Perception being what it is, he is a Bush. But, he'd be a great candidate, nonetheless. Fits the model...
4.) Don't allow the other side to define us. This is vitally important. Democrats have portrayed Republicans as ignorant, racist, Southerners (or rich, corrupt CEO's) for years, and the image has incredibly gone mostly uncontested by the RNC. This has to change. Democrats successfully pinned the economic crisis on Republicans, despite all evidence to the contrary (Clinton's backing of mortgage securities, Democratic efforts to block regulation of  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, bleeding-heart liberal insistence on irresponsible lending). This domination of the conversation can not continue if we are to have any future in this country. President George W. Bush has done more for Africa (particularly AIDS and malaria prevention and treatment) than any American president in our country's history, yet he is portrayed as an aloof, heartless despot when it comes to international relations. We need a get out of the truth campaign, in addition to a get out the message campaign and, ultimately, a stronger get out the vote campaign.

5.) Be cool, man. There was a time when it was easy and popular to be a Republican - namely the Reagan years. Obama placed ads in the new Madden. We need to reconnect with the youth of today - difficult with the stonewalling from anti-conservative Hollywood. For one, be less stodgy and grumpy. Hey, I just call it like I see it. But we should be active at college campuses, rock concerts, sporting events, high schools, rallies, basically anywhere a crowd congregates. It seems to have worked for the Democrats.

6.) Go back to our roots. This means focusing on fiscally conservative, small government, strong national defense policies. Don't get too caught up in flavor of the year social controversies (i.e. gay marriage). This idea won't be popular with some of the base - your  Christian conservatives, your Rush's - but is the only way to present a solid, coherent message to undecided moderate voters.

7.) Remember that we are free-market capitalists. See Bailout, the.

8.) Ship a copy of Atlas Shrugged to every eligible voter in America.

9.) Finally, at least for a while, put aside the partisanship. It's unlikely the Democrats will reciprocate, but that will make it that much more apparent that we are eschewing politics as usual. In my state (Virginia), I noticed with great concern that Democrats were running campaign ads that explained their positions, while Republicans ran ads attacking the other opponent. This does not appeal to the average voter. It's as simple as that.

The Republican party has a long, proud tradition dating back to Abraham Lincoln, and can and will be strong again. It's imperative that, in the wake of this stinging defeat, we take the opportunity to reform our party to reflect the 21st century, and not only win back the base that we took for granted, but also appeal to independents and Democrats. Can we be an effective voice in American  politics again? Yes, we can.

5 Ideas in a Declining Market

Pick Value Stocks Now!5 ideas to hedge a declining market with high yield dividend stocks

"I lost $75,000 last month, "an investor lamented recently when discussing his investments. "I'm still up $50,000, but I wish I had been able to pull out sooner."

What can be done to boost a portfolio's bottom line when the stocks market seems headed downward? One way is to boost returns by buying high dividend paying stocks. The problem is that article after article on the internet warn investors to keep away from any stock paying over 10%. In a market correction as big as this most recent one, high yield stocks can help lessen the horrible drop in your bottom line. Here are five ways to determine whether the stock is right to add to your portfolio.

First, use several sources to determine the Price per Earnings (P/E) of the stock in question. Your online broker may have one number, and then another source such as MSN Money, Yahoo Finance or Morningstar will have another. A P/E under 20 is a good price for any stock, but a high yield dividend stock may have a P/E as low as 2. Shy away from any stocks that have a N/A or a negative number in the P/E column.

Second, use two sources to check the stock's dividend percent. Morningstar, for example, will often have a different dividend percentage than Schwab. If you truly want only the high yield to juice up your portfolio, select only stocks that pay over 8%. Also, check the history of the payout. Make sure the company has a history of paying each quarter, and, if possible, that the dividend stays the same or increases with each payment.
Third, ask your common sense why the stock is paying so much. Is it taking a temporary correction because the sector is correcting? Take British Petroleum Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust (BPT). Recently it fell to earth after the price of oil dropped. It had gone all the way from $108 to the mid $70's in a very short time recently, thereby boosting the dividend yield. If an investor could have grabbed the stock at its recent low, they would have captured a yield over 10% as well. Common sense says that oil will probably go up again, and sure enough, investors didn't let BPT languish long. It soon zoomed up to over $88 in a matter of days.

Fourth, check financial information. Morningstar has a wealth of information designed to help you determine the health of the company and some of it comes in easy to understand graphs. Check to see if revenues have been increasing yearly, and if the net income has also been steadily growing. A negative net is reflected in parenthesis, and you don't need to weigh down your portfolio with speculation. Also, look to see if any insiders are trading the stock. See if the executives of the company are buying the stock. That's a great sign that the company's health is solid.

Fifth, understand the risks that the stock is facing. Take Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), for example. It has phenomenal numbers: revenues that are rapidly increasing, a great P/E, and a mystifying dividend of 24%. A simple examination of the newspapers could tell you that some banks are having trouble. RBS might not be any different, but it also might be. First, the banks in trouble have been in the U.S. Second, a 24% dividend can put a lot of cash into your money market before the stock tanks, or could keep earning wonderful money for you as the stock begins to recover. It's a risk, but if you are willing to take a chance on a few thousand dollars, it could pay off handsomely for you.

Investing opportunities like these come seldom, it's true. But sector corrections come so frequently, that a savvy investor can constantly hedge the portfolio's bottom line with high dividend yield stocks. Use these five ideas to make smart stock picks and ease the pain of a downward market.

15 ways to become a couch potato

To become a successful couch potato, one must follow the rules outlined in this article. Some steps may be more intense than others may but practice makes perfect. I became a couch potato when I retired with disability and injured my back. There are many reasons why people become couch potatoes--especially those who are injured and bed bound. Of course, this is dependent on number, age, independence of children if any available.

Perform important tasks (if able) prior to entering the couch potato mode

Choose a comfortable reclining chair with a small table to hold your foods and drink. Pillows are also helpful

Make sure there are no other couch potatoes present because someone will be needed in order for you to continue in your mode. You don't need competition

You will need someone to refill your drink, etc. Ask in a nice and appreciative manner. Absolutely not in a condescending manner

Keep medications in reach, especially pain medications

Take restroom breaks on commercials or pause TV

Have all TV and Cable remotes available and TV guide on arm of chair. Always have reading materials on table. I have a two tier small table

Keep money on hand in case someone needs to go to store. Also, have checkbook.

Use closed caption when someone is present and will not shut-up or when you are unable to hear TV set

Position chair near door in case someone knocks or ring bell

Always have a cell phone or home phone with in reach

Have a garbage can near you

It is beneficial to own a lap top computer with a lap top table that fits over lap

Do not forget to exercise your legs to avoid developing blood clots that can occur if blood settles in the small capillaries. May slow blood flow and possibly lead to clots, which may break off to the lungs. One of the early signs is pain in calf area, never massage area.

Being a couch potato may last from 2 hours to 8 hours or more a day. It may lead to a better mood and a mental rest, which avoids exploding at family without reason.

Having an electrical plug within reach is very helpful, like for plugging in computer
While being a couch potato, be mindful of eating more junk foods than healthful foods. I munch on yogurt and broccoli. My motive is not to become lazy and gain weight. Your significant other may oppose to your self-imposed time out. It is like stepping out of you to view life afar and thinking of new strategies. Maybe it is doing better with budgeting, shopping only for immediate needs, decreasing eating out, and the need to take a break from the children or life while you and husband go on weekend vacation and stay in a hotel, rekindling the marriage.

Sometimes it is difficult to become a couch potato if you have a family to tend to; but remember you can participate in video games and read to your child while still being a couch potato. Remain reclining at all points (if able) but that does not mean you cannot become one once they settle down. I like to look out my window at my cardinals and their babies eat out of their container.

Good luck!