Unique Backyard Decorative Ideas


You may already know that your backyard is more than just an extension of your home. For many, it is a sanctuary, a retreat, a private hideaway – it’s a place for you to get away, to enjoy barbecues with the family or quiet time with a book. Decorating this space to meet your needs and style makes it all the more enjoyable when you spend time here. But if the ordinary backyard decorations aren’t doing it for you, what are some other ideas?

You can be creative in your backyard decorative ideas. Birdhouses are nice and so are garden gnomes, flower gardens and backyard swings. But if you really want to mix it up a bit, here are some ideas you may enjoy:

Sundials- While they’ve been around for a long time, many people have forgotten the beauty and creativity of having one at their home. They will create a beautiful and interesting look in your backyard and also make a great conversation starter. There are many different styles to choose from, including handmade sundials.

Gazing globes- Here’s another  unique  idea that’s been around a while but is really making a comeback since the Victorian period when they were so popular. There are many different colors and sizes of gazing globes. Some come with their own  unique  stands to hold them. Most modern versions are around 10 to 12 inches in diameter but there are globes as large as 20 inches or those that are smaller than 10. The color and size depend on the  unique  look you are going for.

Tiki Torches- Tiki torches and other types of backyard candles or lighting are also increasingly popular yet more  unique  when it comes to backyard décor. You can use them to surround a patio or decorate around the edging of a pool, a barbecue pit and more.

Fountains and Waterfalls- Fountains and waterfalls are another way to add a creative touch to your backyard. There are many which can be purchased and set up easily without requiring any actually holes in your lawn. There are even small versions that can be placed on tops of tables or stands in the backyard and those designed to work in flower beds.

With so many great  unique  backyard decorative ideas, you are ready to start having some fun in the sun this summer with a backyard that makes you feel good to be in it. Can you think of other great ideas for your own backyard paradise? 


Learn the German Language – Is it "Der Stuhl" Or "Das Stuhl"?


Is it “der Stuhl” or “das Stuhl”? As any beginner German student knows, noun articles are very frustrating to learn and sometimes just do not make sense! Below are some reasons why we have difficulty learning them and a tip to overcoming these challenging nouns as they appear.

Step one – What is an article?

Here is an example of an English sentence without articles, “Yesterday I went to shop and bought dog. I gave dog apple”. As you can see, articles like “the”, “a” and “an”, are extremely important in our own English language.

Step two – importance of articles

Why bother learning them? As seen in step one, a sentence just does not sound correct without articles. This is the same for the German language, if you do not know the correct noun article, the German person will understand you but it will sound wrong. If you want to speak German well, it is imperative to correctly learn the articles.

Step three – Gender cannot always be relied on

der is known as masculine

die is know as feminine

das is known as neutral

One of the most common German mistakes made by English speakers is to assume that everything feminine should be labeled as “die” and so on.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, an example of this is ‘die Flasche’ (the bottle). As you can see, “a bottle” has been given the feminine “die” article. Here are another few examples, “das Bett” (the bed) is neutral, “der Stuhl” (the chair). Why is a bed neutral, a chair masculine and a bottle feminine? As you can see, there is not always a reliable pattern to understanding noun articles.

Step four – A picture tells 1000 words!

Now that we know that there is no actual rule to follow for nouns, we are left to learning strategies to memorize these nouns. Using mnemonic Links are an extremely good strategy that will vastly improve your memorization.

Here is the technique: For every article we use a symbol. For the article “der” we’ll use something male, for instance a man. If we need to learn the word “the chair” – “der Stuhl”, we could imagine the following “a man sitting on a stool”, or something more memorable “a man breaking a chair with a stool”. As just mentioned, these phrases or pictures have a tendency to stay in your mind.

Conclusion – paint a picture in your mind

In step four we used a mnemonic method to remember the words “The chair”, can you remember it? “A man breaking a chair with a stool”, “der Stuhl.” Paint a picture in your mind when you need to learn a German noun, make it as silly as possible and you will never forget it.


Bose(R) Solo TV Sound System – The Cool Alternative For Your Stereos


The Bose® Solo TV Sound System presents you with the new sleek sound solutions. It is so slick that it just fits below your HDTV, making the quality of your TV programs dramatically better. Frustrated that you cannot hear the dialogues of your favorite TV programs with utmost clarity? Does your flat panel TVs speaker cannot meet up with your requirements? Why not try our new product. All that you need to do is to connect our sound system to your TV and the other end to the wall, and sit back relax and enjoy your program. You do not even need a separate equipment to make our product work.

Want an even but wider sound throughout the room? The Bose® Solo TV Sound System provides you with the latest array technology making the sound heard wider and more even throughout the room. The Bose speaker comes up with the cutting-edge proprietary digital signal processing making the music and dialogues reach you more clearly and naturally, with added effects.

The compact alternative

Almost all TVs sized up to 37″ and sometimes even up to 42″ can be mounted on this audio system. This makes it very simple that you don’t need to roam around for a separate stand for your sound system. You can place the Bose® Solo TV Sound System under a wall mounted TV, or a cabinet or a shelf. You can have it in your living room or your bedroom or anywhere you want. All that is needed is a plug-in to the socket on one side and the TV on the other and forget the whole world around with one finger touch on the remote.

High level performance

The Bose sound system comes to you with the proprietary digital signal processing that makes the sound more even and it detects every variation signal and hence you do not need to alter the volume with that tweak you hear with a sudden rise in volume. Even if your room is a very compact enclosure, the audio system makes the sound distributed evenly throughout, through the array technology.


Hear your can`t-miss-it dialogues with the utmost clarity and hear even the subtle sound that may go without noticed otherwise, through the Bose® Solo TV Sound System. Try it once and you will become such an addict to your TV that you will turn up eventually into a couch potato. The task is made easier with the remote. It comes with just a four button remote that is extremely user- friendly and a universal remote that allows you to access the other components of your TV. Own your Bose® Solo TV Sound System and become your neighbor`s envy.

The components of the box

The whole box consists of the Bose® Solo TV Sound System, the Remote Control, the Power Cord, Optical digital audio cable and an analogue cable. The box comes along with a user manual with step by step instructions making your audio system extremely user friendly. You can approach the online product support center for any further technical assistance.

Purchase this product for just 399$ and you will just feel it worth every dime. The sound effect provided by the Bose® Solo TV Sound System is spectacular and the clarity is just amazing. The Bose® Solo TV Sound System makes it sure that it makes a big difference with your HDTV alluring you into a world of ecstasy. Why settle for something less, when you just deserve the best!


What Are the Odds of Winning the Football Pools?


Winning the football pools on a regular basis seems like a dream (or pure fancy) to many people. It can be done though, if you have a system. How can you work the odds? It’s a question that a lot of people ask!

Let’s look at the basic odds. With a coupon of 49 matches (games), we are looking to identify a winning line of 8 score draws on the British treble chance pools if we are to win a 1st Dividend (a score draw or SD is a result in which both teams end up with the same number of goals, not zero). If we stake on 1 line only (nobody does, but leave that aside for now), then the odds of selecting the correct 8 matches from 49 are approximately 450 million to 1. With the UK lottery the odds are 14 million to 1 for a six number combination, by comparison.

If we stake 45,000 lines in an entry, then that reduces the odds (on a purely random basis), to about 10,000 to 1. That’s getting a whole lot better. Now, there are complications. There will not always be 8 SD results on a given coupon, and sometimes there may be as many as 15 or even more. During the latter part of 2009, the number of drawn matches (both SD and no-score draw) varied between 12% (1 no score and 5 score draws) and 38% (5 no-score and 13 SDs) of the coupon. The maximum number of score draws during that 12 week period was 14. See the accompanying chart.

Let’s take a week on which there are 13 score draws as an example. With 13 such draws, there are 1,287 possible combinations of the 8 needed for a 1st Dividend. This helps our odds considerably – 10,000 to 1 becomes 7.77 to 1 (ok, 8 to 1 to keep it simple). That’s with a random selection of our 45,000 lines.

Now, just suppose that football teams play to form (not always or consistently true), but let’s say that we can predict draw games with 60% accuracy within our selections. This means that we are 20% better on the odds (10% edge above 50% random). So, odds of 8 to 1 now become 6.4 to 1 (or 13/2 if we were betting on horses). There are other ways of sharpening the odds in our favour, and a lot more to working a system, but I hope that this article has given you a flavour!

(c) Phil Marks 2009


Book Review – They Call Me Coach by John Wooden


Coach John Wooden epitomizes what a coach should be. Earlier this year, he passed away at the age of 99. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, his UCLA team dominated the college basketball scene. The book,”They Call Me Coach”, is his autobiography.

Coach John Wooden was a rather soft-spoken. He was precise on his practice and games. Prior to becoming a coach, he was a great point guard at Purdue University. He became a Hall of Fame inductee both as a college basketball player and coach. When he speaks, he sounds like a poet or English teacher because he uses poems and quotes to make a point.

The book vividly illustrates how Coach Wooden had solid principles that he lived by. The two key source of his life and coaching philosophies comes from a Seven Point Creed from his father and his Pyramid of Success.

The Seven Point Creed states:

* Be true to yourself.

* Make each day your masterpiece.

* Help others.

* Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

* Make friendship a fine art.

* Build a shelter against a rainy day.

* Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

The Pyramid of Success is a list of foundational principles that are layered by:

* Competitive Greatness

* Poise

* Confidence

* Condition

* Skill

* Team Spirit

* Self-Control

* Alertness

* Initiative

* Intentness

* Industriousness

* Friendship

* Loyalty

* Cooperation

* Enthusiasm

His story can help anyone in any field to become better and ultimately achieve their best. Coach Wooden’s story is success through solid core principles. He was a master of the details. In the book, there is a story on how important it was to put your socks on correctly. He even taught his players how to do that. Another key aspect of Coach Wooden is that he does not directly talk about winning. Instead, he teaches his players to do their best. If they do their best, then the result does not matter as much.

Coach Wooden coached a variety of great players including Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, and many others. He treated each player fairly. Fairly is not the same as equally. He had to spend a bit more time with the star players, but he recognize and acknowledge the importance of every single player. Many of his former players succeeded in basketball at the professional level- but most of them succeeded in other areas including business, medicine, teaching, ministry, etc.

This book is a must-read for anyone who coaches which includes athletic coaches, parents, business leaders, supervisors, etc.


3 Fundamental Tattooing Techniques


There are 3 fundamental tattooing techniques that must be mastered by every tattoo artist.

A tattoo artist who performs these tattooing techniques with a high degree of skill makes a permanent tattoo something that the tattoo owner can be proud of. Each technique requires a thorough understanding of the tools and supplies used by a tattoo artist.

Let’s get started…

Tattooing Technique #1 – Creating a Tattoo Stencil

Tattoo stencils are used to apply the basic lines of the tattoo design to the skin before using a tattoo gun to apply the tattoo. Even the most experienced tattooists begin with a stencil rather than attempting to apply a freehand design. Since the skin is stretched by the tattooist while the tattoo is applied, working without a stencil could result in a distorted finished tattoo.

Many tattoo artists use carbon paper to copy a tattoo design onto another piece of paper. The carbon paper is placed under the piece of paper with the tattoo design, inky side down. A piece of clean paper is then placed under the carbon paper.

All 3 layers should be secured with staples or paper clips before tracing the design with ballpoint pen.

One of the most important tattooing techniques related to creating a stencil with carbon paper is to remember that the image of the design that is laid against the skin will be reversed.

Once the design is traced over, it will appear correctly on the skin when the stencil is removed. Instead of using carbon paper, some tattoo artists use an artist’s light table to create a stencil. A stencil created with a light table will face in the right direction. The original drawing is laid face down on the light table and the design shows through and can be traced directly onto another piece of paper.

Tattooing Technique #2 – Applying the Tattoo Stencil

Once a stencil has been created, it can be applied to the skin of the client.

Before the stencil is applied, the skin must be shaved smooth and cleaned with antiseptic. A disposable razor should be used and then discarded, since it could transfer germs or minute amounts of blood to other clients. One of the most common tattooing techniques for applying a stencil is to use roll-on deodorant to transfer the design. The deodorant is applied to the skin, then the stencil is positioned on the deodorant and pressure is applied all over the design. When the paper stencil is peeled away, the tattoo design will have transferred onto the skin.

If the position of the tattoo is not correct, the stencil can be removed from the skin with alcohol and applied again.

Like the razor, the roll-on deodorant should only come into contact with the skin of a single client. Some tattoo artists buy small travel-size deodorant and dispose of it after one use. Another option is to use a clean tongue depressor to transfer deodorant from the roll-on applicator to the skin, and then dispose of the tongue depressor.

Tattooing Technique #3 – Outlining the Tattoo

Once the tattoo design has been stenciled onto the skin and both client and tattooist agree on the placement, it’s time to begin the tattoo outline. Being able to create a tattoo outline is one of the most basic tattooing techniques. The majority of tattoo designs begin with an outline.

Starting from the bottom of the design is the best approach, to avoid either smearing the freshly applied ink or wiping off parts of the stencil.

In order to vary the effect of the outline, different size needles can be used to produce lines with different thicknesses. While an expert tattoo artist has an intuitive feeling for which lines should be thick and which thin, a beginner tattooist may want to experiment with line thicknesses on a paper copy of the tattoo design before picking up the tattoo gun.

When applying ink to a tattoo outline, the client’s skin should be stretched taut by the tattoo artist so that the needles will move smoothly across the skin. When the tattoo needles are dipped into ink, enough ink should be loaded to allow a continuous line to be drawn. While the outline is being applied, excess ink and blood are frequently wiped away by the tattooist. After taking a break from outlining to reapply ink to the needles, lighter pressure should be used when continuing the line to avoid dropping a blob of ink or creating visible joins.

The three tattooing techniques described here are fundamental to the art of tattooing.

They should be practiced again and again by a novice tattooist until they become second nature. Once the fundamental techniques have been mastered, a tattooist can focus on developing a unique personal style and becoming a true tattoo artist.


5 Things I Learned From Ken Robinson


Education expert Sir Ken Robinson is more than a New York Times bestselling author. He is a dynamic public speaker and leader in the development in creativity and innovation. Now a professor emeritus of education at the University of Warwick in the UK, he has received honorary degrees from five different universities as well as numerous awards. Over the course of his prolific career he has been a strong advocate of creativity and arts in educational systems throughout the world.

After viewing Ken Robinson’s talk at the prestigious TED conference in 2006, I couldn’t help but marvel at his astute perceptions on the educational system of yesterday, today and tomorrow. What exactly did I take away from his speech? The following five points sum up how as Robinson puts it, “our schools are killing the creativity in our children”.

1. We Are All Innately Creative Beings:

The key to unlocking creativity, as Ken Robinson puts it, is to accept the fact that sometimes as thinkers and innovators, we will be wrong. Unfortunately, most adults are stifled by a fear of being wrong. This fear is instilled in us at a young age and follows us into adult life. Preschool children do not share this worry and therefore have no trouble tapping into their creativity. When asked a question, young children will eagerly volunteer a multitude of creative answers. It is not until they are repeatedly told they are wrong that they begin to be cautious about volunteering. Creative people accept failure as part of the innovative process. Thomas Edison tested his version of the electric bulb over 3000 times before getting it right, yet he didn’t see it as failure. When asked about it, he merely said that he didn’t fail 3000 times, but found 3000 “ways it didn’t work”. This is the kind of mentality it takes to succeed in innovation – and in life, for that matter.

2. Intelligence is Diverse, Dynamic and Distinct:

We know that each individual demonstrates their intelligence in uniquely different ways. A system that focuses on merely one path, one way of doing, undervalues those that don’t fit the mold. In his talk, Ken Robinson brought up the story of dancer, choreographer Gillian Lynne who, as a girl, struggled in the typical school system. She just couldn’t keep still. After discovering dance, she flourished and went on to have a fabulous career as a dancer and choreographer. Today’s teachers and doctors would have assessed her with ADHD and given her medication to calm down! Her talent would never have been recognized. How sad that we stigmatize other forms of intelligence that don’t measure up to the current norm. Too many talented children are falling through the cracks because their unique gifts don’t fit the mold in today’s education system. We need to widen the scope of how we teach our children so all of them realize their full potential!

3. We Are Educating for a Different Era:

As public education was developed to meet the needs of the industrial revolution, subjects that were the most useful for training the work force were prioritized. The majority of jobs during the industrial revolution did not require creative thinking. Still today, we have an educational system with a primary focus on math, sciences and standardized testing. Left-brain dominance is preferred. A system that tends to push creativity aside. Schools, more often than not, teach kids that there is only one answer to a question. When we are taught to believe there is only one answer, we see the world as binary – right and wrong. When we begin to see the world this way, if a teacher asks a question and students do not know the answer, they will not open their mouth. As a result, children tend to lose their willingness to try new things and come up with their own independent ideas. We should be encouraging the opposite. We need to change our education system to meet the demands of the current job market, where innovation is a prized commodity.

4. We Need to Adopt A New System If Our Children Are To Flourish:

As Ken Robinson explained, our educational system has, “mined our minds” for a commodity. We enacted this system for a purpose in the past, but it has become outmoded and needs to be revamped. The world of tomorrow with its ever-growing population, increased global instability and fragile environment, will need highly creative people. We need people who can predict emerging trends, propose solutions to new issues, and stay calm in a challenging, ever changing world. The system that is currently in place will only stifle the creativity and ingenuity of tomorrow’s leaders and innovators.

5. “Academic Inflation” and Global Competition:

More people than ever are getting degrees across the globe. In 30 years time, a Bachelor’s degree will be almost worthless. To have a career, you will need a masters or doctorate. Already we see college graduates returning home to live with mom and dad with no career prospects. So how do we ensure that our children stand out from the well-educated crowd? Inevitably, we have to rethink our definition of intelligence if our children are going to make it in this increasing competitive world. Only if we nurture their creativity will they stand a chance.

Transforming our educational system is not just desirable, but critical. Embracing all forms of intelligence will prepare us for an unpredictable, ever-changing future. Continuing on the same path, with an outdated system in place, will mean throwing away talent and undiscovered potential. Nurturing undiscovered potential and talent is one of my favourite things about working with young people. What a life-changing gift to give to another human being. I for one, am not prepared to let more and more kids fail in life because they don’t fit the mold… Are you?


Are Bose 601 Speakers Really the Best?


For anyone who loves music and crisp, clear sound, the name Bose probably means much more than “speaker company”. In fact, Bose has long been known to produce the best speakers on the market. The revolutionary technology that Bose speakers use started in their 601 series, and more than 20 years later that product still stands up against some of the best sound engineering in the world. But are they really the best speakers ever? Well, the short answer is yes, and no.

In 1982 when they were first released to the market, Bose 601 speakers were cutting edge technology, providing the most crystal clear sound and smooth base available. While the series is discontinued, the quality of these speakers puts most widely available brands to shame. Their durability is unquestionable, with many of the original models still in perfect working order. And although they are highly sought after, there are many places online where you can bid on or purchase these beautiful vintage models. The directional technology incorporated into these speakers means that they will stand up against much of today’s competition. And with the crystal clear sound, durability, and revolutionary sound disbursement features, these were a truly unique offering in the marketplace.

However, there are some down-sides to the Bose 601 series speakers. First, this system will require a quality amplifier to work properly. You’ll never be able to hear the full potential of these speakers without it. Second, if you plan on using these speakers with a surround sound system, you’ll need to purchase other Bose products to make it work, including the VSC-10 center channel, and a pair of Bose 161 speakers. Third, some say that while the cases were very attractive and modern in 1982, they light cherry or graphite grey finishes don’t work as well with today’s home décor, so you may need to paint the cabinets to suit your taste. Finally, while they are widely available online at auction sites like eBay, they are still not “common” and therefore can be a bit pricey, when you add in shipping costs and any fees (if you are importing them to or from another country.

All in all, if you can find a set of Bose601 Series speakers, you might go through a little bit more trouble to find them than just going to your local electronics store – but the reason for their lasting popularity will be obvious the minute you switch on the power!


Learning Management System Basics


A Learning Management System (LMS) can provide tremendous benefits both for the training department and for the organization in general. There are numerous choices for LMS providers, as well as functionalities, so an LMS implementation project can become quite confusing. Just what are the LMS basics and how can a system help your organization?

To start with, let’s discuss what an LMS really is. In basic terms, the LMS is a system that helps you deliver and manage training in numerous formats. One of the first misconceptions about an LMS is that it is used solely for the delivery of online courses. While this is an important component, it is not the only reason to use an LMS. The LMS consists of a few separate parts. First, the management system consists of the tracking and reporting of the organization and individual learning activities. Second, the content authoring system (or LCMS) allows the training department to create and or upload its own in-house or purchased learning content and courses, and the third part is the content and courses themselves.

Why would an organization need an LMS? The tracking feature of most LMS systems is worthwhile in itself. Individuals, their managers, and organizational management can track who has completed what courses for advancement, certifications, compliance, and even human resources concerns. Plus, the record, if backed up properly, will always exist. The LMS tracking can also assist in measurement of training effectiveness by managing evaluations, course completions, and course attendance – this is a tremendous benefit that renders manual tracking obsolete. The LMS content delivery system can deliver training to diverse populations in any Inter- or Intranet accessible location and can even serve as a knowledge repository for policies, procedures, and quick reference guides. The LMS can serve as an “educational counselor” for individual associates, keeping track of their career path and showing them what courses they need to complete in order to move to the next career level.

Along those lines, managers can coach employee development using the information from the LMS. For example, if an employee wants to advance or has specific issues in specific subject areas, the manager can locate appropriate training courses or content and put them in the employee’s learning plan. The manager can also pull transcripts to make sure that learning has been a part of the employee’s development, especially when performance evaluation time arrives. The easiest functions for employees include looking up classroom courses, registering for them, and setting reminders to attend.

Training content is also not limited to employees. Some organizations use their LMS to deliver content to multiple locations as well as partners, clients, and vendors. Access to content is dependent on a pre-assigned security level, so keeping people in the correct subject areas is relatively simple.

There are some potential opportunities to be found with an LMS. Some “vanilla” systems may require extensive customization to suit each organization. When choosing an LMS, it is absolutely necessary to analyze your organization’s business and determine what functions you really need. Customizations can become quite expensive. In addition, choosing a course library is also a potential opportunity. There are many choices out there, from general to specific, so it’s again important to determine what types of content your organization needs before purchasing a library. Along with course libraries comes the ability to create or upload in-house content. Be sure to look at the options for this before selecting a system. Some LMS providers have highly functional content management systems that would allow content designers, instructors, or even subject matter experts to create content that is branded and suitable for immediate delivery. Other systems may require that a graphics designer create the course in a format that is compatible to the LMS and upload it, which creates an extra step between content design and deployment.

But along with potential opportunity comes tremendous benefit to the organization. First, automated tracking and delivery creates efficiency, cost savings, and better reporting. This tracking also makes it easy to cover compliance related bases or to prove that employees received a certain type of training. The self-management features of the LMS, such as career paths and transcripts, can create upward mobility for the employee population as well as higher retention for the organization. Many LMS providers offer a “testing engine” which allows for all testing to occur online, whether the employee attended class online or in a classroom. And some LMS providers even offer the ability for online course participants to collaborate virtually, another great way to engage learners and encourage them to network with their peers across the organization.

Now that you have an idea of the Learning Management System basics, you can select providers that best suit your organization’s needs – and lessen the fear of ultimately making a choice.