Archive for May, 2008

Affairs Prevention

May 26, 2008

8 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage

By Therese J. Borchard
Beliefnet

Updated: May 26, 2008

Therese J. Borchard
According to Peggy Vaughan, the author of “The Monogamy Myth,” 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an affair at some point in their marriage. In other words, the person who stays monogamous within her marriage is among a growing minority.
Twelve years into my marriage, I can appreciate that statistic. Eric and I are getting to the hard part, where the pressing responsibilities of raising kids and growing two careers could easily blow apart the vows we recited on our wedding day.
Because I want my marriage to stay on the happy side of the statistics, I’ve gathered these tips for how to make marriage absolutely affair-proof.
1. Nurture Safe Friendships: This is the most important affair-preventer in my life.

“No marriage can give you everything.”

No marriage can give you everything. A husband is going to have interests that his wife will never care about like fishing, hunting, or golfing. So he’s less likely to stray if he can find some good guy buddies with whom to fish, hunt, and golf.

2. Recognize the Drug: Depressives and addicts are especially prone to affairs because of the head rush that comes with infatuation. The spikes in dopamine and norepinephrine we experience upon connecting with someone new fools us into thinking that the sexy man or attractive woman at the bar holds the key to our nirvana and the end to our problems. This is the same as, say, the high from cocaine. Recognizing that that rush is not real, meaningful, or lasting, can help a married person to “just say no.”

3. Keep Dating: I’m serious here. Visiting with your spouse with some regularity–just the two of you and no one else–will bring some very definite rewards to a marriage. By dating, you will learn how to talk to each other again.

In her book, “Mating in Captivity,” Esther Perel urges a client to imagine her spouse as if she has just met him, to put him into that mysterious category again. This is really hard when you got a little one screaming, “Wipe me!” from the bathroom. However, when you can pull it off, I find her theory very effective.
4. Find a Creative Outlet: People get lured into emotional and physical affairs because the infatuation provides an exciting, stimulating place where they are energized.
So to stay affair-proof, you have to find other sources of stimulation and excitement. For me, my blog is that outlet. I can’t wait to log on each day to see what all of my dear readers have to say. When I get overwhelmed by the domestic chaos of our lives, Beyond Blue provides me that outlet where I can create something new, where I can run away, however temporarily, from the stress.
5. Hang Out with Happy Couples: If you’re hanging with a bunch of guys (or girls) that see nothing wrong with sleeping around, you are much more likely to do it yourself. The good news is that the opposite is also true. If you have a set of friends committed to their marriages, you will be less likely to cheat on your spouse.
6. Learn How to Fight: Wait before saying something really ugly, and make sure you weren’t tired or hungry, or in a stressful situation. I’m not saying that you can’t confront your spouse if you’re tired, hungry, or stressed, because then we’d live in a silent world. But, it’s a good idea to recognize situations that tend to accelerate arguments.
7. Be Nice and Listen: “Duh,” you’re saying to yourself. But think about it. This is the hardest part about marriage. Listening. Keeping your mouth closed when the other person is talking.
In my conversations with men and women who have had affairs, the number one reason for pursuing the affair was this: “She listened to me. I mattered to him.”
8. Remember These Tools: Never forget that you have a toolbox of resources to draw on when you feel tempted by an extramarital affair. Here are some tools offered to me by those healing from affairs, insights to keep in mind when you feel that familiar head rush and are tempted to abandon logic for a thrill:
  • Don’t go there: Don’t put yourself in a threatening situation. Skip the conference in Hawaii with the colleague who flirts with you. If you absolutely have to go, avoid all opportunities to be alone with him.
  • You’ve got mail: When you don’t know if your email crosses the line into appropriate language, send it to yourself first. Read it again, and ask yourself: would I feel comfortable showing this to my husband?
  • Dress with intentions: One woman told me that she saved her lingerie for her husband, and wore the ratty old underwear to the high-school reunion where she’d see a flame from the past.
  • Talk about your spouse: A guy friend told me that whenever he is alone with a woman he finds attractive and things are getting uncomfortable, he’ll start talking about his wife–what her hobbies are, and how much he loves her. It immediately kills the mood.
  • Peak oil & Survivalists

    May 25, 2008

    Energy fears looming, new survivalists prepare

    By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer Posted Sat May 24, 2008 11:12am PDT

    Peter Laskowski stacks firewood at his remote home in Waitsfield, Vt., Friday, April 11, 2008. Convinced that the planet’s oil supply is dwindling and the world’s economies are heading for a crash, people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn’t prepare. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

    BUSKIRK, N.Y. – A few years ago, Kathleen Breault was just another suburban grandma, driving countless hours every week, stopping for lunch at McDonald’s, buying clothes at the mall, watching TV in the evenings.

    That was before Breault heard an author talk about the bleak future of the world’s oil supply. Now, she’s preparing for the world as we know it to disappear.

    Breault cut her driving time in half. She switched to a diet of locally grown foods near her upstate New York home and lost 70 pounds. She sliced up her credit cards, banished her television and swore off plane travel. She began relying on a wood-burning stove.

    “I was panic-stricken,” the 50-year-old recalled, her voice shaking. “Devastated. Depressed. Afraid. Vulnerable. Weak. Alone. Just terrible.”

    Convinced the planet’s oil supply is dwindling and the world’s economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn’t prepare.

    The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

    These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.

    Some are doing it quietly, giving few details of their preparations — afraid that revealing such information as the location of their supplies will endanger themselves and their loved ones. They envision a future in which the nation’s cities will be filled with hungry, desperate refugees forced to go looking for food, shelter and water.

    “There’s going to be things that happen when people can’t get things that they need for themselves and their families,” said Lynn-Marie, who believes cities could see a rise in violence as early as 2012.

    Lynn-Marie asked to be identified by her first name to protect her homestead in rural western Idaho. Many of these survivalists declined to speak to The Associated Press for similar reasons.

    These survivalists believe in “peak oil,” the idea that world oil production is set to hit a high point and then decline. Scientists who support idea say the amount of oil produced in the world each year has already or will soon begin a downward slide, even amid increased demand. But many scientists say such a scenario will be avoided as other sources of energy come in to fill the void.

    On the PeakOil.com Web site, where upward of 800 people gathered on recent evenings, believers engage in a debate about what kind of world awaits.

    Some members argue there will be no financial crash, but a slow slide into harder times. Some believe the federal government will respond to the loss of energy security with a clampdown on personal freedoms. Others simply don’t trust that the government can maintain basic services in the face of an energy crisis.

    The powers that be, they’ve determined, will be largely powerless to stop what is to come.

    Determined to guard themselves from potentially harsh times ahead, Lynn-Marie and her husband have already planted an orchard of about 40 trees and built a greenhouse on their 7 1/2 acres. They have built their own irrigation system. They’ve begun to raise chickens and pigs, and they’ve learned to slaughter them.

    The couple have gotten rid of their TV and instead have been reading dusty old books published in their grandparents’ era, books that explain the simpler lifestyle they are trying to revive. Lynn-Marie has been teaching herself how to make soap. Her husband, concerned about one day being unable to get medications, has been training to become an herbalist.

    By 2012, they expect to power their property with solar panels, and produce their own meat, milk and vegetables. When things start to fall apart, they expect their children and grandchildren will come back home and help them work the land. She envisions a day when the family may have to decide whether to turn needy people away from their door.

    “People will be unprepared,” she said. “And we can imagine marauding hordes.”

    So can Peter Laskowski. Living in a woodsy area outside of Montpelier, Vt., the 57-year-old retiree has become the local constable and a deputy sheriff for his county, as well as an emergency medical technician.

    “I decided there was nothing like getting the training myself to deal with insurrections, if that’s a possibility,” said the former executive recruiter.

    Laskowski is taking steps similar to environmentalists: conserving fuel, consuming less, studying global warming, and relying on local produce and craftsmen. Laskowski is powering his home with solar panels and is raising fish, geese, ducks and sheep. He has planted apple and pear trees and is growing lettuce, spinach and corn.

    Whenever possible, he uses his bicycle to get into town.

    “I remember the oil crisis in ’73; I remember waiting in line for gas,” Laskowski said. “If there is a disruption in the oil supply it will be very quickly elevated into a disaster.”

    Breault said she hopes to someday band together with her neighbors to form a self-sufficient community. Women will always be having babies, she notes, and she imagines her skills as a midwife will always be in demand.

    For now, she is readying for the more immediate work ahead: There’s a root cellar to dig, fruit trees and vegetable plots to plant. She has put a bicycle on layaway, and soon she’ll be able to bike to visit her grandkids even if there is no oil at the pump.

    Whatever the shape of things yet to come, she said, she’s done what she can to prepare.

    Samsung SGH-i450 – EXCELLENT RATING

    May 23, 2008

    Samsung SGH-i450

    May 05, 2008

    Out of the box, Samsung phones often struggle to impress. Maybe it’s the egg-carton packaging that Samsung uses, or perhaps it’s the gun-metal grey plastic bodies of recent Samsung phones, but the G600 and i450 have both made poor first impressions, defying their much hyped features.

    Design

    Sliding the i450 open to reveal its recessed keypad did little to raise our opinion; a flat plastic layer with numbers defined by tiny raised strips. It was only when we slid the body in the opposite direction that we encountered the first of many pleasant surprises.

    Similar to Nokia’s N95, the i450 employs a dual-slide design with music controls under the top half. Media controls for the i450 are comprised of a single-ribbed rubber semi-circle that gives the impression of being a spinning wheel. Dragging a finger over the ridges scans the music menu like an iPod’s touch wheel. Combined with the on-screen interface, this feature looks great, though we found the wheel to be too sensitive when scanning menus, and often ineffective when trying to make a selection by pressing down on the “wheel”.

    On the back of the i450 is a 2-megapixel camera, and on the top of the phone is a 3.5mm headphone port; a very welcome addition to any music-centric mobile phone. For some reason Samsung bundle headphones with a proprietary input–similar to the input on the charger–even though the 3.5mm headphone port is crying out to be used. The i450’s paltry 40MB of internal memory is expanded by microSD memory cards with the slot for these on the left side of the handset.

    Features

    As audiophiles are probably aware, Samsung has again partnered with Bang & Olufsen in developing the i450, similar to the recently released Serenata, however, the i450 is definitely the first phone in this partnership we can actually afford.

    The most surprising feature of the i450 is that it runs on Nokia’s S60 operating platform and is one of a very small list of non-Nokia phones to use S60. While we’ve criticised the platform in the past for being drab and uninteresting to look at, there’s no doubting the platform is both stable and intuitive to use. Best of all, recent users of Nokia phones will feel immediately at home with the menus and shortcuts, making a transition to the i450 very easy indeed.

    In terms of Web access, the i450 is an HSDPA-capable handset, though unlike similarly featured Nokia handsets, there is no Wi-Fi. The pre-installed Web browser is the same Web 2.0 compliant browser found on all S60 handsets with feature pack 3.1 and it does a decent job of navigating most sites. If you think you might prefer a different browser, the flexibility of the S60 platform means you can download just about any mobile browser available.

    Performance

    We definitely think the i450 is a music phone to rival the best of the Walkman range of devices, and for this credit must go to the Bang & Olufsen audio technology it calls ICEpower. This title seems inaccurate to us as the sounds we heard were rich and warm, with thumping bass and nice clear mid tones. We tested a variety of headphones with the i450, and even connected stereo speakers to the handset, and the results were outstanding. Even the handset speakers sounded good for music playback, like a decent quality portable radio.

    We were similarly impressed by the 2-megapixel camera; real proof of the great megapixel myth. Even though it may not sound like much, this pint-sized shooter outperformed many higher res cameras, particularly the 3.2-megapixel cameras we’ve seen on recent Walkman branded phones. This camera is assisted by a LED photo-light, which works well to fill in shadows for day-time photos, but struggles to light an image at night.

    In terms of basic calling functions the i450 worked as expected with clear voice calls and a loud internal speaker. Accessing the menus is speedy, and the phone processes quickly, giving instant access to selections even when multitasking. During our tests we saw battery life cycles of between three and four days, which is about standard for an HSDPA capable mobile phone.

    Closing Thoughts

    Shabby aesthetics aside, the Samsung i450 is an excellent music phone and sure to give the Walkman range a run for its money. Our favourite Walkman phone of late has been the W890i; a sexy, slimline phone with great music playback but with a less than attractive S$728 price tag. The i450 trumps the W890i in price–at S$688–and in the outstanding quality of the music we heard. Add to this the Nokia S60 operating platform and the decent performance of the 2-megapixel camera and the i450 should be one of the first phones you check out when shopping for your next handset.

    Specs

    Phone
    Phone type Quadband
    Networks GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
    Connectivity options 3G, EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, Bluetooth, A2DP, USB
    Calling Features Video calls
    Physical design
    Form factor Slider
    Dimensions (W x D x H) 101 x 52 x 17.8 mm
    Primary display type TFT
    Secondary display type None
    Secondary display resolution x pixels
    Interchangeable covers? No
    General
    LCD display size 2.4-inch QVGA LCD
    Color LCD? Yes
    Primary Display Color 18 bit
    Performance
    Operating system Symbian OS
    Battery type(s) supported Rechargeable 1,140mAh Lithium-ion battery
    Max. talktime (in hours) 5.4 hours
    Max. standby time (in hours) 515 hours
    Expansion slot(s) TransFlash / microSD
    Other Features
    Additional functions Full landscape UI; automatic switching display; S60 Safari Browser; second VGA camera; USB for mass storage and power charging
    MMS? Yes
    Predictive text input? Yes
    Polyphonic? Yes
    Built-in vibrate alert? Yes
    Multimedia
    Built-in digital camera? Yes
    Maximum camera resolution 2 megapixels

    Creative Zen: I love this toy!!!

    May 9, 2008

    • The good: The Creative Zen sounds fantastic and features a brilliant color screen capable of displaying photos and video. The player offers a smorgasbord of desirable extras such as an SD card expansion slot, an FM radio, a voice recorder, and a user-definable EQ. It has a slim, pocket-friendly design; is very user-friendly; supports subscription music; and sports a reasonable price tag.
    • The bad: None!!!
    • The bottom line: We’re hard-pressed to find anything not to like about the Creative Zen. It’s a great option for anyone looking for a great-sounding, pocketable MP3 player with an excellent, video-capable screen and plenty of extra features.

    In a move that surprised many a Creative fan, the company has ushered in a flash-based replacement for its Zen Vision:M, a full-size, hard-drive player that offered up to 60GB of space. Though the news was not well-received by some proponents of carting around a large library of tracks, those who give the new player–dubbed simply the Zen–a chance will find that it’s a completely worthy follow-up to its chunky predecessor. This new Zen–which comes in 2GB ($79.99), 4GB ($99.99), 8GB ($129.99), 16GB ($199.99), and 32GB ($299.99) versions–may not hold as much media as the 60GB Vision:M, but it offers the same, lovely screen in a much smaller body, and it packs in a couple of new features for good measure. Plus, it’s an incredible value for the price.

    It’s all about sleek understatement
    Creative has gained somewhat of a reputation for putting MP3 players in a vast array of colors, so it comes as a bit of a shock (and maybe a letdown, for some) that the Zen will be offered in just one: black. Still, it must be said that black does make an excellent frame for the awesome 2.5-inch TFT screen, which is capable of displaying 16.7 million colors. Also, while the design might not be as innovative as that of the iPod Touch and iRiver Clix–or as cute or as eye-catching as that of previous family members–the Zen has a certain understated elegance with its shiny face and brushed-metal backside. It’s like a smaller, sleeker version of the Vision.

    Despite its ample screen, the Zen is pleasantly compact. At just 3.3 inches by 2.1 inches by 0.4 inch, it’s about 60 percent smaller than the Vision:M and it’s definitely pocket-friendly. We’re also pleased to note that Creative didn’t skimp on the controls and has migrated completely to the user-friendly tactile variety. Main functions are handled by a four-way control square surrounding a center select button. This is flanked on the top by a back/contextual menu rocker and on the bottom by a shortcut and play/pause toggle. Sadly, there’s no dedicated volume control, but the right edge of the Zen houses the ever-handy hold/power switch along with a standard mini-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The reset and mic holes can be found on the bottom and top spines, respectively.

    Fun features for all
    Exploring the top side of the Zen also reveals one of the new extras we alluded to earlier. In another departure from the norm, Creative has built in an SD card expansion slot–a first for its MP3 players. We’re happy to report that the slot can take SDHC cards, which currently go up to 16GB in the full-size SD variety. (Of course, at a price that exceeds the 16GB Zen itself, those are a bit cost-prohibitive at the moment.) Considering the move away from more capacious hard drive memory, we definitely think the addition of memory expansion was a wise–and necessary–move.

    Another new feature to be found on this Zen is its support of unprotected AAC files, meaning it will play back iTunesPlus tracks, though you can’t use iTunes to transfer them. The player can sync via drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer, or you can use a jukebox such as Windows Media Player or Rhapsody. Like its other family members, this Zen also supports MP3, WAV, Audible, and both protected and unprotected WMA tracks. Unfortunately, it also shares Mac incompatibility with the other players in its line. Photos must be in JPEG format, which Windows Media Player can convert to automatically during syncing. On the video side, the Zen plays WMV and Motion JPEG out of the box and MPEG4, DiVX, and XViD with conversion. Creative includes an app–Zen Media Explorer–which can take care of the conversion painlessly and (somewhat) quickly.

    In addition to its media capabilities, the Zen includes Creative’s usual impressive array of features, though it’s worth noting that there is no line-in recording for audio or video (the latter in particular would have been a nice touch). You do get voice recording and an FM radio with autoscan and 32 preset slots. There’s also basic PIM functionality: you can sync contacts, tasks, and calendar info from Outlook to the device. Plus, you get the usual shuffle and repeat playback modes, handy contextual menus, and the ability to search for artists and songs as well as rate songs on the fly and set up to 10 bookmarks. Nine preset EQs, a five-band, user-definable mode, and a bass boost function ensure that you can adjust sound to your liking.

    But it’s the fun visual display option that set the Zen line apart. Album art can be viewed as a thumbnail or in full-screen mode on the playback display, and Creative includes various themes for interface customization. You can also set any image on the player as wallpaper, and the photo-browsing experience is great: there’s a 5×4 thumbnail grid and each one magnifies as you scroll over it. Naturally, you can view photos and slide shows while listening to music. There’s even a nifty, semi-split-screen deal on the main menu that cycles through album art, photos, or video image clips, depending on which media type you are browsing.

    Shining performance
    No two ways about it: the Zen’s screen is fabulous. Photos look vibrant and bright, with excellent color saturation and good detail. Videos are similarly impressive–clear and bright with no noticeable pixilation (though we did notice the occasional blurring around some sharp edges)–and the viewing angle from side to side is excellent. Even the interface looks stellar, right down to the transparent icons on the main menu. It’s a nice screen to look at for sure.

    Frankly, we’ve come to expect stellar audio quality from Creative’s MP3 players, and the Zen did not disappoint–once we swapped in the Shure SE530 headphones. (For their part, the included headphones were passable.) Perhaps the best thing is that all genres of music sound equally great. The bass of Zeb’s disco house track “Disco Patel” was tight and enveloping without overshadowing the sparkle of the high hat and minute ting of the triangle. In the Bangles’ high-end heavy intro to “Hazy Shade of Winter,” the detail of each instrument was crystal clear, and the relatively quiet Spanish guitar was not lost among the frantic chorus of the rest of the track. Overall, music was rich, warm, and detailed…and it just made us happy.

    The Creative Zen also boasts plenty of volume to drive a full-size set of ‘phones–we only had it up to about a third with some noise-isolating buds. The rated battery life of 25 hours for audio and 5 hours for video is solid, and CNET Labs pretty much matched these estimates at 24.7 hours and 5.6 hours, respectively. It may not be the longest-lasting battery on the market, but the Zen certainly offers a good value with its lovely screen, nice sound, and good combination of features

    June 2008 VB Frozen

    May 9, 2008

    Just as I sensed in the back of my mind, the June 2008 VB has been frozen at March 1, 2006. This is a possible prelude to a retrogression of visa numbers that will spare my PD of August 2005. We will still be approved ahead of time, and in record time because we are special and lucky. This is a minor blip in the journey and we will proceed without interruption. Thank you God for the blessings we have received from you.

    Embassy Interview

    May 5, 2008

    We receive our schedule for interview at the Manila Embassy in the third week of June 2008.

    Approved in May 2008

    May 5, 2008

    Our case was received by the NVC in May 2008 and closed in 10 days.

    The Sign

    May 3, 2008

    My photo was not included in the CFI advertisement on May 3, 2008. This is an excellent and sign that I really wanted. This happened because I’m leaving for California this July 2008. Thank God. California Raisins, here I come!