Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Sad Day – My Nissan 350Z has gone!

I have been driving a Nissan 350Z for the past 3 years. Prior to that I had an Audi TT and before that I had a Nissan 200SX. I generally lease my cars and last Friday the 3 year lease finished and the car had to go back. I had only done 11,200 miles in it in 3 years and I haven’t replaced it yet, so until I do I will have to cycle everywhere! The Nissan 350Z is a great car. Mine was the soft top version, with the GT pack, which included heated leather seats and a Bose sound system. I’m sad to see it go and would get another one if I could.

Here is a photogragh I took of my Nissan 350Z…I hope she goes to a good owner.

Nissan 350Z

Speed up your cross stitch projects

Some friends of mine own and run an online cross stitch website and he has asked me to look at doing some free promotion for him. I don’t know the first thing about sewing or cross stitch so I asked him to compose a short article about his products. If you are into cross stitch then I hope you like the article. If you are not into sewing then look away now!

Speed Up Your Cross Stitch Projects

If you have ever been put off starting a large counted cross stitch project because the charts are too complicated or the aida fabric holes are too small to count, or maybe if you are just starting your first cross stitch, read on, this is for you.

If there’s a project you’d love to stitch and it’s not available as a stamped or printed cross stitch kit, don’t be disappointed. I’ve discovered a brilliant product which will make your stitching life easier. It’s called Easy-Count Guideline and claims to cut stitching time down by a third as well as making your fabric and chart much easier to handle, especially if you suffer from eyestrain as I do.

Easy Count Guideline is really simple to use. Following the instructions which come with your 100-yard spool of thread, you just ‘baste’ stitch a grid pattern into the fabric and away you go. The guide forms squares 10 by 10 holes apart, matching the grid pattern of your chart. It doesn’t matter what count aid you use.

Normally I’d stitch from the centre of the chart outwards, constantly rethreading my needle with different colour thread and having to count and recount where I’ve been. With the guideline in place I can now just complete all of the stitches, one colour at a time and anywhere on the chart. Believe me it’s much quicker this way!

The guideline is bright red and can be seen constantly throughout stitching your project. It is easily removed when finished, just slowly pull it out. As it is made of nylon it is not possible to stitch through the guide and accidentally fix it in place.

For ease of stitching I normally used washable aida with a pre-printed grid pattern. This does more or less the same thing, but I have always been wary of thread colours running or fabric shrinkage when washing the finished stitched project. Easy Count Guideline differs in respect that you can easily pull the grid pattern out of the project when completed, without affecting your finished work of art.

Easy Count Guideline seems so adaptable, can be used with all aida fabric and can assist with any size of project. It can even be added to a partly completed project to give you that extra confidence to quickly complete your design.

So don’t be put off by large projects anymore, don’t be disappointed that you have lost the will to finish a tough design – just make sure you always have a spool of Easy Count Guide in your needlework stash.

I wish this had been invented sooner; I’d have completed many other projects by now. Guess I have no excuse now, I had better get some of them completed, or should I buy a new kit? Decisions, decisions!

Beef Curry Recipe – this is the best !

You can’t beat a home made curry. I don’t mean a curry out of a jar but a curry made from the proper spices. Here is a recipe which I think is brilliant and I can recommend that you try it. If you have a slow cooker then great because using a slow cooker really brings out all the flavours and cooking the meat slowly makes it much more tender as well.

The Ingredients are for 4 people:

2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoon of curry powder
2 teaspoon of cumin
2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon of salt
1 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon of oil
700g of stewing beef, cubed
1 sliced red pepper
150ml of beef stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
A dash of Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 cooking apples, cored and roughly chopped
25g of sultanas
25g of cashew nuts

How to make the Beef Curry:

Mix the flour, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, ginger and salt.

In a large frying pan, gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened but not brown.

Roll the beef in the seasoned flour and brown on all sides in the pan. Stir in the remaining flour. Add all the remaining ingredients except the nuts. Transfer everything to the slow cooker, including the beef stock, and cook on the low setting for at least 6 hours.

You will find that the beef is really tender and that the flavours are much more intense because everything has been cooked really slowly. You can serve with boiled rice and mango chutney for a fantastic beef curry meal. If you don’t have a slow cooker you can use a casserole dish and leave it in the oven on a very low setting for about 3 to 4 hours.

Before serving stir in the nuts.

Make those pirates walk the plank !

How is it that one of the worlds largest crude oil tankers has been hijacked by pirates, who probably boarded it from a boat not much bigger than a rowing boat ? The oil tanker hijacked is as big as a US Aircraft Carrier and was carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil and 25 crew members. What is amazing is that all this took place 450 miles south of Mombassa and the ship is now being taken to Somalia. This ship is worth a fortune. What are the owners thinking of ! Why don’t these ships carry armed guards. Anyone climbing up the steep sides of a ship would be a sitting duck.

What is more worrying is that if Somali pirates can take over a ship just think how easy it would be for terrorists to do the same. If this sort of thing is not stopped in its tracks, and quickly, then this situation will happen more often and next time the cargo could be something far more valuable. Warships of several countries were probably in the area and they did nothing. This makes a mockery of the West’s expensive navy’s with their high technology warships and aircraft.

Surely, the oil tanker could have been intercepted and boarded and any Somali ships should be blown out of the water.

Footnote

There are legal implications and International Law to consider in situations such as this. To read a fuller article about the Somali pirates click here.

Link building for a successful website

I am respsonsible for about 8 websites and I have been building incoming links for them since I launched my first website in 1998. I can tell you that building a successful website is not as easy now as it was back then when there weren’t many rules about what you could do and what you couldn’t. Link building now takes a lot of patience and many hours of painstaking work. But it doesn’t need to be like that and in fact I don’t spend much time link building anymore. I have come to the conclusion that whilst links to your website are still important it is not worth spending all those hours on it. To prove it, I can tell you that one of my websites has dozens of top 10 rankings and several number one rankings for the best keywords in its niche. If I were to tell you that this website obtained all these rankings with only about 50 incoming links and it was only launched in January 2007, you may be suprised but it is true.

When I built this website I only had about six links to it and even now, 2 years after its launch it only has about 80 links. What does this fact tell you ? Well, it tells you that you need to concentrate on building a good quality website with interesting content and one a bit different to others. The design was simple and user friendly and I added the facility for users to add product reviews as well.

If you want a successful website, and who doesn’t, you have to have patience. Concentrate on building a website that looks good and has lots of pages of useful content. Add interesting articles that you have written yourself or have had written for you, add photographs, add user generated content and add information that you would want to see yourself if you were searching the internet for it. There are no short cuts. Trying to cut corners only leads to your site being banned. I know from experience that getting a site reinstated is not easy. One of my sites was banned for six months by Google so I have learnt the lesson the hard way !

Don’t launch a website with thousands of pages and expect the website to rank straight away. Big sites need far more effort. Its better to launch a site with 200 pages of good content and then build it from there. This will gain trust from the search engines. Try to add a page a day to your website and make sure the page is good quality.

Try to get some good quality Directory links. DMOZ and Best of the Web are good directories and there are plenty of others, but you don’t need many. Most are a waste of time. Look for niche directories in your field and consider what traffic they will bring before paying for a directory link.

Issue Press Releases and write articles about your niche products. Distribute articles with your website link. I have tried buying links for one of my websites, not many, but they don’t work. I tried it to test it but it didn’t have any affect on my rankings so I stopped it.

I have come to the conclusion that all you need to do it build a good website and add regular content. Keep it fresh and keep adding it and the visitors will come. There is no shortcut.

The latest craze with webmasters is to pay for a blog review. One of my competitors must be spending a fortune on this. I set up a Google Alert for his domain name ! ( a good way of keeping tabs on your competitors !) and every other day I get a Google Alert which tells me where he is adding links. All the links he gets are what I call Blog spam. He is creating hundreds of small articles which quite frankly are rubbish and of no benefit to the reader and these articles are filled with his keywords in the anchor text. But, guess what ?…He is number 1 for hundreds of keywords in one of the most highly competitive sectors there is, and he has been number 1 for many months. I have considered doing the same but have decided against it. These blog owners have to put some code on their blogs to say that they write sponsored reviews and I wouldn’t be suprised if Google can trace these sites. It may not be long before these sites lose their PR so the benefit of these links will be lost. His days of success may be numbered but he is certainly making hay whilst the sunshines so maybe its me that has found his secret and I should be doing the same !

So, don’t worry about links. Those of you with a good website that you are genuinly proud of will get links naturally and will prosper with patience. Look for quality links on websites that are related to yours and ask nicely for a link. Spend 80% of your time building good content for your website and your remaining time marketing it and building quality links. Those of you who know that your website is poor and are in it for a quick buck then my advice won’t matter !

Las Vegas – is there more to it than bright lights ?

I asked my wife if she wanted to go to Las Vegas to celebrate our 25th Wedding Aniversary and she said “Yes”. I didn’t know that much about the place, even though I am a Travel agent, so I don’t know why I suggested Las Vegas, so I started planning the trip. I like big and brash cities, but I wanted to know more about Las Vegas and I wanted to know if there was more to the city than just bright lights. The only way to know was to go myself. I booked flights from Manchester with BMI and United via Chicago. I booked 7 nights at the Luxor Hotel because I liked the shape of it. I pre-booked a flight from Las Vegas, on a small 20 seater aircraft, to the Grand Canyon. And, finally, I booked two seats for Celine Dion at Caesars Palace. It was November and we arrived very late in Vegas because our flight was delayed, but the next day, still feeling the effects of the nine hour time difference we set off exploring the city.

I can only describe Las Vegas as a feast for your eyes. There are neon lights, wide roads, big lavish hotels with thousands of rooms, restaurants every few yards, huge casinos, a half size Eiffel Tower, a replica of Venice complete with gondalas, shopping malls like I could never imagine, theme parks within hotels, call girls handing out their business cards on every corner and lots and lots of people.

The photograph below is a picture of the famous Las Vegas strip facing north.

 

Every hotel in Las Vegas has a casino and they are huge. People seem to play all night and even when we were heading off for breakfast there were people playing on the “slots”. I can see how gambling becomes addictive. I started off winning, and then got too confident and ended up losing.

This is a photograph of the casino inside the Luxor Hotel.

 

Las Vegas has some truly magnificent hotels. Many of them are “themed” hotels. New York New York is based on the city of New york of course, the Luxor is built in the shape of a pyramid and everything inside has an Egyptian theme. Caesars Palace is built in Roman style. The shopping mall attached to Caesars Palace is called “The Forum Shops” and is magnificent. The Paris hotel has a half size Eiffel Tower and The Venetian is Italian in style and has a replica of the Grand Canal. Just to give you an idea how huge these hotels are here is a run down of what the Venetian features – more than 4,000 all-suite luxury hotel rooms, 1.9 million square meteres of meeting space with 270 function rooms, 19 restaurants, over 80 shops in the Grand Canal Shoppes, a health spa, Madame Tussaud’s, a theatre with 1,760 seats and a 120,000 square foot casino. Finally, don’t forget the Venetian canals where you can take a gondala ride.

 

One of the most magificent hotels that you will see anywhere in the world is The Bellagio. This is the hotel where the George Clooney and Brad Pitt film Oceans Eleven was filmed. At the front of this huge hotel is where you will find the famous Bellagio fountain and light show which happens once an hour. This is a photograph I took of the Bellagio Hotel at night.

 

We stayed at the Luxor hotel whilst we were in Las Vegas. It is situated at the bottom end of “The Strip” and it is quite a walk upto where the main action is although you can catch a taxi and the monorail stops outside the Luxor which will take you two blocks up. You then need to cross the road to catch the main monorail which runs up the main part of Las Vegas Strip.

 

There is no doubt that Las Vegas is a destination I would highly recommend. It is not all about gambling, far from it. Las Vegas has turned itself into an entertainment capital and an “adult theme park”. Las Vegas is all bright lights, but as my photograph below shows it is also a gateway to one or two of the US’s “must see” places, including the Grand Canyon. It takes about an hour to fly to the rim of the Grand Canyon and when I arrived I couldn’t quite believe that I was there. It really is one of the natural wonders of the world and was the highlight of my holiday to Las Vegas.

What every man wants for Christmas – My Top 10.

Ladies ! Are you stuck for what to buy your husband or partner for Christmas? Do you want to keep him happy or even win him back ! Here are a few ideas for you, from a mans point of view, that will keep him happy for ages and maybe even he will be so happy as to help with the housework as well !

So, here goes, here is my list in no particular order. Some are expensive but some are not.

1. A new flat screen TV. Men love watching a good film and of course sport on TV. So, what better to watch his favourite TV programmes on the latest wide screen TV. The good thing about this Christmas gift is that it is a double whammy, because as all women know, men love new technology and gadgets. Men will love unpacking the box and setting it up and they will spend ages deciding where the best place for the speakers is. After all that exitement it is then time to watch the TV. Action films especially look much better on a big television and if you turn the volume up it is like being at the cinema. Having this new “toy” will stop him going to the pub with his mates and he will become more romantic towards you as a result. The is the number one ideal gift.

2. Already have a big flat screen TV ? The answer is then to buy a Blue-Ray DVD player. These high definition DVD players are brilliant. The improvement in quality over traditional DVD players is incredible. Films come to life and the detail and clarity of the picture is infinate. Combine this DVD player with a cinema surround sound Hi-Fi speaker system and you will make his face light up with joy, and he will do the same everytime he sees his wonderful “little cinema system” sitting in the corner of the room.

3. A subscription to Sky Sports. As all women know, most men love watching sport on TV. We can get emotionally involved in any sport on TV regardless of whether it is our team and even if we have never seen the sport before. The reason for this is that all men secretly want to be sporting superstars, but because most men start drinking instead and also because they were discovering girls just at the age boys should be spending all the time training to be a sporting superstar, then most men failed to fulfil their dream. However, the “sportman” inside every man still lays dormant. So, if you can’t play sport the next best thing is to watch it on TV. Don’t forget as well, that it has been in mens genes since the stone age that we are competitive. Back then, we had to run for our lives from the dinasoars whilst we were out finding food. Since then we have always been good runners !

4. Golf Club Memebership.. Are you looking for some time to yourself ? Maybe you ladies want time to go shopping or take a visit to the beauty salon, but have always felt guilty that your husband is at home and you can’t justify spending the money. Well, what could be better than a golf club membership. Prices vary but on average I would say they cost about £600 a year plus possibly a joining fee. Bear in mind that playing a round of golf takes about 4 hours plus the time in the bar afterwards. This time in the bar is spent discussing every hole and where they went wrong, so it can be some time before they leave the bar ! You can allow, therefore, nearly a full day out for your husband or partner including the travelling time, which means that you will have plenty of time to wander around the shops.

5. Can’t afford the golf club membership ? How about a few golf lessons ? Most men spend more time telling their mates that next time they will play better and that they have discovered where they are going wrong. In practise though it is not possible to improve at golf without taking a few lessons. You can improve by playing more, but if a golf player can’t figure out where they are going wrong the only way you can improve is by having golf lessons. After only six lessons you can become a better player.

6. A case of wine I think this is a really good christmas present. Most men love a good beer but drinking wine makes them more intelligent. Well…it makes them look more intelligent !
6 reds and 6 whites is what is needed. If he doesn’t drink red wine then it is about time he did and its good for the heart meaning your beloved will live longer.

7. Another great gadget at number 7 on my list. Are you fed up with seeing all those old videos in a huge pile in your living room? Well, how about a VCR to PC machine ? This machine will convert all his old videos to DVD. It could be all your old wedding videos, holiday videos or even the kids Disney classics. It is a simple to use device which converts everything to digital format so that you can either store everything on a PC or burn them onto a blank DVD. This will keep your man busy for hours !

8. A Beer Machine This is every mans dream come true – beer for less than 50 pence a pint. Simply pour in the powder mix, add water and yeast and then wait for 7 to 10 days for it to ferment. This machine will even fit in your fridge and it will keep him and his mates happy for ages. Makes perfect beer for help in watching sport on TV !

9. T-shirts Men love t-shirts. It is because they are so versatile. In summer men love wearing t-shirts and in winter men love wearing t-shirts too. Some very tough men can wear t-shirts in winter without even a jacket but most men wear a t-shirt in winter underneath a thicker shirt. It is important that at least two buttons on the normal shirt are undone so that the t-shirt can be seen underneath. This, most men believe makes then look more rugged and manly !

10. A Nano-Copter. This is the worlds smallest and lightest radio-controlled helicopter. It can soar up to 10 metres and is great fun. Men love their toys and after gadgets something like this mini helicopter is brilliant and it will keep them amused for hours. It can be used inside or outside and it will amaze old men and boys alike. Any man would be proud to have this given to him at Christmas. This type of present makes us men wish that we had been fighter pilots in the RAF and makes us think that because we can fly a toy radio controlled helicopter then we must be able to fly a real one !

Buy presents for men. Click on the banner below.

Kerala – Gods Own Country

Kerala is located in the south west tip of India. It is south of Goa. You fly into Trivandrum if you are going on a holiday to Kerala. The Indian state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the whole of India. I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks in Kerala in November 2007. The people are poor and some live in very poor conditions but there is no doubting that the people are friendly. The cost of living is very low by Western standards. A two course meal with drinks in a restaurant for 2 people costs about £6. Kerala is a large state and because the roads are very busy getting anywhere fast is very difficult. Allow about 4 hours to travel 100 miles ! I stayed at the Leela Kempinsky in Kovalam, which is a fantastic hotel but there are plenty to choose from. A good way to get around is by rickshaw or tuc tucs. I took this picture, below, of several outside the Leela. They charge about £1 per mile and will wait for you for several hours whilst you go shopping or have a meal if you want them to, and for no extra charge.

 

Every afternoon, after school, the local school children went down to the beach. One thing I noticed is that the kids are very well dressed in immaculate school uniforms. Their mothers must have cursed though, as they all seemed to wade into the sea in their uniforms !

 

Whilst in Kerala we visited an elephant sanctuary. You can have a ride on one if you want. I didn’t bother as they looked a bit uncomfortable to say the least. It’s not unusual to see an elephant being walked along a road in Kerala. Here is a photo of me next to an elephant!

 

We went on an overnight cruise on a houseboat on the Kerala backwaters. We had three crew members looking after just the two of us. Whilst cruising past houses on the waters edge we saw many Indian women washing clothes, bathing and washing their hair. I even saw several people brushing their teeth using the river water. I guess it can’t do them any harm or they wouldn’t do it.

 

This is a picture I took of a typical Kerala houseboat. We stayed overnight on one of these. If you go to Kerala you must go on a backwater cruise. They operate from several places but the main place is Cochin.

And finally, this is a picture of me relaxing on our cruise boat on the Kerala backwaters. Three crewmen looked after us and I felt like a VIP ! We had a driver, a cook and a thrid crewman (not sure what he did)

 

Barack Obama and the descent of the US into the third world.

I was glad to see that Barack Obama has won the US Presidential race. There wasn’t really much of a choice though in my opinion ! The United States seems to be very good at choosing candidates that in any other country wouldn’t stand a chance of being elected. John McCain was too old and looked like he had been on a course of botox injections and Barack Obama was the inexperienced politician who was good at talking and making promises.

In the end the US voted for “change”, which is fine but I’m not exactly sure what real changes he will make. I was interested to see Obama holding a meeting with his advisors and then holding a brief press conference. He looked very nervous and I got the distinct impression that now he has done the easy bit and won he is now thinking… “this is a bummer…what the hell have I let myself in for..I can’t believe they actually believed me”.

But someone needs to grab the reins before its too late. My feeling is that the USA has reached its peak and is now going backwards. There is too much poverty and inequality and it may be impossible for anybody to stop the rot. Lets hope that for their sake and the whole world that Barack Obama can keep his promises.

As far the Republican party is concerned I think they need to give home affairs priority and also please lets not have Sarah Palin running for president in four years time. Anybody who thinks that Africa is one country….and spends her spare time with a shotgun… shouldn’t really be put in charge of the most powerful country in the world !

Website review – Discover the Greek Islands

Discover the Greek islands is a website specialising in holidays to the Greek islands. This is a review of the website and a look at the functionality of the site. First impressions are that the site is well set out, clean, fresh, professional and appears to have products and services that would attract me if I was looking for a holiday to Greece or the Greek islands.

On the home page, there is a list of several of the most popular Greek islands with a brief discription of each island. When you click on the island you are interested in you then have to choose the resort you want. If you don’t know which resort you want then you have to go through each resort to find something of interest. The resort pages list all the hotels in that resort and there does seem to be plenty of choice. The prices look pretty good as well, and the information provided is very comprehensive and there are some hotel reviews written by customers, which I always like to see. There is no online booking and no “live” prices. You have to call the company to check those.

All in all, a very professional looking website and I would give the website a rating of 8/10.