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Monday, August 30, 2010

Avoid These Five (5) Used Cars (Plus 5 to Buy)

by Jerry Edgerton
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Used car shopping used to be a scary maze of breakdown-prone models, but reliability has gained sharply. Auto manufacturing quality and dependability studies have shown steady gains this decade. But exceptions do exist and if you're in the market for a used car, you want to steer clear of them.

So CBS MoneyWatch.com has compiled a list of used cars to avoid in five categories, focusing on 2007 models-the year from the latest J.D. Power and Associates dependability study. Buying a three-year-old car also lets you shop after the bulk of depreciation has taken place.

To make our list of used-car rejects, a model had to score the minimum two out of five in the J.D. Power "circle ratings" for dependability–a below-average ranking. It also had to be ranked below average as a used car by Consumer Reports in its annual April car issue and online car rankings.

Here are our used cars to avoid, by category, plus better used car alternatives:

Small Used Car to Avoid: Volkswagen New Beetle

Sure, it's adorable, but the 2007 New Beetle is also trouble-prone. Owners who responded to the Consumer Reports reliability survey reported problems with the fuel and electrical systems, the suspension, brakes, power windows, and other power equipment. The convertible model sells on dealers' lots for $17,055, according to Kelley Blue Book at kbb.com.

Small Used Car Alternative: Ford Focus

It may not be as stylish as the Beetle, but it's a lot more reliable. In fact, the Focus got the J.D. Power award as most reliable compact car. Owners of the 2007 Focus who responded to Consumer Reports reported no major trouble spots. And it's much cheaper than the Beetle. The Kelley Blue Book dealer price is $10,905.

Mid-Size Used Car to Avoid: Chrysler Sebring

Courtesy of Chrysler

The 2007 Sebring sedan not only got just two circles from J.D. Power, Consumer Reports reported a laundry list of problems: engine cooling, minor transmission problems, the drive system, suspension, brakes and more. The low $12,365 dealer price isn't worth it.

Mid-Size Used Car Alternative: Buick LaCrosse

Winner of the J.D. Power dependability award in this category, the 2007 LaCrosse got an above-average used-car rating from Consumer Reports. It's a good value at a dealer price for the CX version at $14,430.

Small Used SUV to Avoid: Jeep Wrangler

Courtesy of Jeep

King of the off-road, the 2007 Wrangler can climb over almost any obstacle except a reliability test. Owners of the two-door version responding to Consumer Reports reported major transmission problems and issues with the electrical system and brakes. And it's selling on dealer lots at a relatively expensive $19,850.

Small Used SUV Alternative: Honda CR-V

A lot less noticeable than a Wrangler, the Honda CR-V is a lot less trouble, too. It won the J.D. Power dependability award in this category and is rated by Consumer Reports as a well-above-average used car prospect. As a used-car buyer, you are on the wrong side of Honda models' strong ability to hold their value. But at a dealer price of $20,980, the four-wheel-drive version of the CR-V is still a decent value.

Mid-Size SUV to Avoid: GMC Acadia

Courtesy of GMC

The 2007 Acadia is a good example of the time-honored rule to avoid buying the first year of a model. It not only got a below-average two circles from J.D. Power, it received a much-worse-than-average used car rating from Consumer Reports. CR readers who owned the 2007 reported problems with the drive system, suspension, body integrity and power equipment. In addition, the all-wheel-drive version on dealers' lots is priced at an expensive $28,435, according to Kelly Blue Book.

Mid-Size SUV Alternative-Honda Pilot

One of a handful of mid-size SUVs to get four circles from J.D. Power, the Pilot is rated well-above-average by Consumer Reports. (Its corporate stablemate, the Accord Crosstour, actually won the J.D. Power award. But many reviewers find its modified-sedan style not big enough to provide true SUV cargo or passenger room.) The Pilot is selling for $23,395-some $5,000 less than the GMC Acadia.

Used Minivan to Avoid: Nissan Quest

Courtesy of Nissan

Never a strong contender in this category, the Quest gets a below-average used car rating from Consumer Reports and two circles from Power. Owners of the 2007 reported problems with the fuel and climate system, brakes and body integrity. The Quest is selling at $17,395.

Used Minivan Alternative: Toyota Sienna

This van gets four J.D. Power circles and an above-average CR used car rating. Not part of the Toyota sudden-acceleration recall, the Sienna is selling at a dealers' price of $20,280 for the CE trim level.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

NEW!! Neale Sourna's The Freelancer, a romantic erotic short story

Neale Sourna's The Freelancer [A romantic erotic short story]

Delia’s new temp, Mischa, with the fascinating ass, is great at his job, on his first day, but he’s driving her to distraction. This woman boss can’t get anything done.

When Delia works late and alone, to catch up on work, gorgeous Ryan returns to her architect's construction trailer office, in order to show her, after hours, what he’s really freelancing in. 1000 words—Read: The Freelancer


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

46 smart uses for salt

By Melissa Breyer
More from Care2 Green Living blog

(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

How many ways can you use salt? According to the Salt Institute, about 14,000! The salt website has tons of handy tips for using salt around the house, and the best of the bunch -- plus my additions -- are listed below.

I can't think of another more versatile mineral. Salt is the most common and readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. In fact, the supply of salt is inexhaustible.

For thousands of years, salt (sodium chloride) has been used to preserve food and for cleaning, and people have continued to rely on it for all kinds of nifty tricks.

So with its nontoxic friendliness and status as an endlessly abundant resource, let's swap out some toxic solutions for ample, innocuous, and inexpensive salt.

There are a number of forms of salt produced for consumption (and by default, housekeeping!): unrefined salt (such as sea salt), refined salt (table salt), and iodized salt. Kosher salt is sodium chloride processed to have flat crystals. And in case you're wondering, Epsom salt is an entirely different stuff: magnesium sulfate to be exact (which is a salt that I consider to be, essentially, miraculous).

Here are just a few of the many ways you can put salt to good use in your home:

In the Kitchen

Aside from all of the alchemy that salt performs in terms of baking chemistry and food flavor, salt has a number of other great applications in the kitchen.

Test egg freshness.
Put two teaspoons of salt in a cup of water and place an egg in it -- a fresh egg will sink, an older egg will float. Because the air cell in an egg increases as it ages, an older egg is more buoyant. This doesn't mean a floating egg is rotten, just more mature. Crack the egg into a bowl and examine it for any funky odor or appearance -- if it's rotten, your nose will tell you. (Bonus fact: if you have hard-boiled eggs that are difficult to peel, that means they are fresh!)

Set poached eggs.
Because salt increases the temperature of boiling water, it helps to set the whites more quickly when eggs are dropped into the water for poaching.

Prevent fruits from browning.
Most of us use lemon or vinegar to stop peeled apples and pears from browning, but you can also drop them in lightly salted water to help them keep their color.

Shell nuts more easily.
Soak pecans and walnuts in salt water for several hours before shelling to make it easier to remove the meat.

Prevent cake icing crystals.
A little salt added to cake icings prevents them from sugaring.

Remove odors from hands.
Oniony-garlicy fingers? I like soap and water, then rubbing them on anything made of stainless steel (it really works), but you can also rub your fingers with a salt and vinegar combo.

Reach high peaks.
Add a tiny pinch of salt when beating egg whites or whipping cream for quicker, higher peaks.

Extend cheese life.
Prevent mold on cheese by wrapping it in a cloth moistened with saltwater before refrigerating.

Save the bottom of your oven.
If a pie or casserole bubbles over in the oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spill. It won't smoke and smell, and it will bake into a crust that makes the baked-on mess much easier to clean when it has cooled.


Personal Care

Extend toothbrush life.
Soak toothbrushes in salt water before your first use; they'll last longer.

Clean teeth.
Use one part fine salt to two parts baking soda -- dip your toothbrush in the mix and brush as usual. You can also use the same mix dissolved in water for orthodontic appliances.

Rinse your mouth.
Mix equal parts salt and baking soda in water for a fresh and deodorizing mouth rinse.

Ease mouth problems.
For cankers, abscesses, and other mouth sores, rinse your mouth with a weak solution of warm saltwater several times a day.

Relieve bee-sting pain.
Ouch? Immediately dampen area and pack on a small pile of salt to reduce pain and swelling. More bee-sting tips here.

Treat mosquito bites.
A saltwater soak can do wonders for that special mosquito-bite itch -- a poultice of salt mixed with olive oil can help too.

Treat poison ivy.
Same method as for treating mosquito bites. (Salt doesn't seem to distinguish between itches.)

Have an exfoliating massage.
After bathing and while still wet give yourself a massage with dry salt. It freshens skin and boosts circulation.

Ease throat pain.
Mix salt and warm water, gargle to relieve a sore throat.

Around the House

Deter ants.
Sprinkle salt at doorways, window sills, and anywhere else ants sneak into your house. Ants don't like to walk on salt.

Extinguish grease fires.
Keep a box of salt near your stove and oven, and if a grease fire flares up, douse the flames with salt. (Never use water on grease fires; it will splatter the burning grease.) When salt is applied to fire, it acts like a heat sink and dissipates the heat from the fire -- it also forms an oxygen-excluding crust to smother the fire.

Drip-proof candles.
If you soak new candles in a strong salt solution for a few hours, then dry them well, they will not drip as much when you burn them.

Keep cut flowers fresh.
A dash of salt added to the water in a flower vase will keep cut flowers fresh longer. (You can also try an aspirin or a dash of sugar for the same effect.)

Arrange artificial flowers.
Artificial flowers can be held in place by pouring salt into the vase, adding a little cold water and then arranging the flowers. The salt become solid as it dries and holds the flowers in place.

Make play dough.
Use 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, and 2 tablespoons cream of tartar. Stir together flour, cream of tartar, salt, and oil, and slowly add water. Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until dough becomes stiff. Spread onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the dough with your hands until it reaches a good dough consistency. (Read about juice dyes here.)

Repair walls.
To fill nail holes, fix chips or other small dings in white sheet-rock or plaster walls, mix 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons cornstarch, then add enough water (about 5 teaspoons) to make a thick paste. Use the paste to fill the holes.

Deter patio weeds.
If weeds or grass grow between bricks or blocks in your patio, sidewalk, or driveway, carefully spread salt between the cracks, then sprinkle with water or wait for rain to wet it down.

Kill poison ivy.
Mix three pounds of salt with a gallon of soapy water (use a gentle dish soap) and apply to leaves and stems with a sprayer, avoiding any plant life that you want to keep.

De-ice sidewalks and driveways.
One of the oldest tricks in the book! Lightly sprinkle rock salt on walks and driveways to keep snow and ice from bonding to the pavement and allow for easier shoveling/scraping. But don't overdo it; use the salt sensibly to avoid damage to plants and paws.

Tame a wild barbecue.
Toss a bit of salt on flames from food dripping in barbecue grills to reduce the flames and calm the smoke without cooling the coals (like water does).


Salt works as an effective yet gentle scouring agent. Salt also serves as a catalyst for other ingredients, such as vinegar, to boost cleaning and deodorizing action. For a basic soft scrub, make a paste with lots of salt, baking soda and dish soap and use on appliances, enamel, porcelain, etc.

Clean sink drains.
Pour salt mixed with hot water down the kitchen sink regularly to deodorize and keep grease from building up.

Remove water rings.
Gently rub a thin paste of salt and vegetable oil on the white marks caused by beverage glasses and hot dishes on wooden tables.

Clean greasy pans.
Cast-iron skillets can be cleaned
with a good sprinkling of salt and paper towels.

Clean stained cups.
Mix salt with a dab of dish soap to make a soft scrub for stubborn coffee and tea stains.

Clean refrigerators.
A mix of salt and soda water can be used to wipe out and deodorize the inside of your refrigerator, a nice way to keep chemical-y cleaners away from your food.

Clean brass or copper.
Mix equal parts of salt, flour, and vinegar to make a paste, and rub the paste on the metal. After letting it sit for an hour, clean with a soft cloth or brush and buff with a dry cloth.

Clean rust.
Mix salt and cream of tartar with just enough water to make a paste. Rub on rust, let dry, brush off and buff with a dry, soft cloth. You can also use the same method with a mix of salt and lemon.

Clean a glass coffee pot.
Every diner waitress' favorite tip: add salt and ice cubes to a coffee pot, swirl around vigorously, and rinse. The salt scours the bottom, and the ice helps to agitate it more for a better scrub.



Attack wine spills.
If a tipsy guest tips wine on your cotton or linen tablecloth, blot up as much as possible and immediately cover the wine with a pile of salt, which will help pull the remaining wine away form the fiber. After dinner, soak the tablecloth in cold water for 30 minutes before laundering. (Also works on clothing.)

Quell oversudsing.
Since, of course, we are all very careful in how much detergent we use in our laundry, we never have too many suds. But if someone overfills ... you can eliminate excess suds with a sprinkle of salt.

Dry clothes in the winter.
Use salt in the final laundry rinse to prevent clothes from freezing if you use an outdoor clothes line in the winter.

Brighten colors.
Wash colored curtains or washable fiber rugs in a saltwater solution to brighten the colors. Brighten faded rugs and carpets by rubbing them briskly with a cloth that has been dipped in a strong saltwater solution and wrung out.

Remove perspiration stains.
Add four tablespoons of salt to one quart of hot water and sponge the fabric with the solution until stains fade.

Remove blood stains.
Soak the stained cloth in cold saltwater, then launder in warm, soapy water and boil after the wash. (Use only on cotton, linen, or other natural fibers that can take high heat.)

Tackle mildew or rust stains.
Moisten stained spots with a mixture of lemon juice and salt, then spread the item in the sun for bleaching -- then rinse and dry.

Clean a gunky iron bottom.
Sprinkle a little salt on a piece of paper and run the hot iron over it to remove rough, sticky spots.

Set color.
Salt is used commonly in the textile industry, but works at home too. If a dye isn't colorfast, soak the garment for an hour in 1/2 gallon of water to which you've added 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup salt, then rinse. If rinse water has any color in it, repeat. Use only on single-colored fabric or madras. If the item is multicolored, dry-clean it to avoid running all of the colors together.

More from Care2:

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3 Tips to Raise Your Credit Score - Fast

by Stacy Johnson
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You're planning on buying a house in a few months and want to do everything possible to raise your credit score before you apply for a mortgage. What are the three most important things you can do today for a higher credit score tomorrow?

That's the question I asked Fair Isaac, the company that created the most popular credit score, the FICO score. And if you're wondering if working toward a higher score is worth the hassle, here's a cut-and-paste from the FICO home page:

A 100 point difference in your FICO score could mean over $40,000 extra in interest payments over the life of a 30 year mortgage on a $300,000 home loan.

So what did Fair Isaac spokesperson Craig Watts suggest? Before making any suggestions, he started with a caveat. There is nothing you can do to change your score overnight. At best, plan on two months, maybe three to see an actual increase — that's why you want to start the polishing process far in advance of any borrowing you intend to do.

Here were his three best tips.

Tip 1: Clean Up Your Credit History

Credit scores are drawn from information in your credit history, so anything that's wrong there will show up here. Go to annualcreditreport.com and pull a free copy of your credit history. Carefully comb through it and check it for mistakes and do what's possible to make it look its best.

Tip 2: Lower Your Utilization Ratio

Visit this page of FICO's website and you can learn all about how credit scores are calculated. One of factors you'll see there is called "Amounts Owed", which comprises about 30% of your credit score. And one of the components of this factor is how much you owe on credit cards vs. your available credit. That's the utilization ratio. As I explained in the video above, you want to keep your utilization ratio below 30%. So if your credit limit is $1,000 on one card, you don't want to owe more than $300 on that card.

Knowing this opens the door to several potential strategies.

• You could lower your utilization ratio by paying down your credit cards: that's the ideal scenario.

• If money's tight, then you could at least shuffle your balances between cards. For example, if you've got one card maxed out and two with small balances, move part of the big balance to each of the other two cards so all three show less than a 30% utilization ratio.

• Lower your utilization ratio by raising your credit limits. In other words, if you owe $1,000 on a card with a $1,000 credit limit, raising that credit limit to $3,000 will bring your utilization ratio back down to 30%. A simple call to the bank might be all you need.

Tip 3: Dust Off an Old Card

If you have an account that you've had for ages but haven't used for ages — and is still open — use it. While still technically open, the card company may no longer be reporting the account to the credit bureaus. Using the card will increase the amount of available credit you show — good for your utilization ratio. More important, the length of your credit history makes up 15% of your credit score. So bringing a very old account back to life could help.

But here are two things not to do. Don't open a new account — that definitely will lower your credit score, at least short-term. And don't close any accounts, since that would negatively impact your utilization ratio.

These are the fast ways to improve your credit score — at least if you consider "fast" to be 60 — 90 days. The simplest and best way to improve your credit score, however, is the slowest: paying your bills on time and allowing any negatives like late payments to gradually fade away over time. At 35%, payment history is the biggest component in your credit score.

One Last Tip

While things like late pays and delinquent accounts should drop off your credit history after 7 years (and the older they are the less impact they have on your score) there is a way to have them removed earlier. Simply ask the company that put negative information on your report to remove it. The process isn't hassle-free, but worth considering, especially if you're planning to borrow for a mortgage or other monster loan a few months from now.

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NOW AVAILABLE in PRINT!! Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Journal 1 (NCAJ1)

Neale Sourna's North Coast Academies' Journal 1, the compiled hardcore erotica short stories of North Coast Academies' Diary, Volume 1-3 is NOW AVAILABLE IN PRINT. 122 pages of love and lust and naughty and horny student teens, parents, and teachers. Trade Paperback

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The Popularity Issue by Business Week

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Popularity is not a state of grace. In business, it is treasure hard-won on the battlefields of product development and marketing, then leveraged or squandered or stolen back. Most of the products and ideas showcased here—the stuff we buy, sell, and otherwise consume the most—owe their status in part to aggressive sales tactics, from knocking on doors to strong-arming grocers to gain the best shelf space. In its most potent and permanent form, however, popularity transcends sales pitches, advertising, fads, and maybe even conscious choice. One rarely reads or talks or thinks about peanut butter, yet Jif has eaten Skippy's lunch for 20 years, a sustained level of popularity that the iPhone can only dream about. While Jif rolls on, the iPhone—the most buzzworthy product of the last decade—will probably take its place amid the Palm and the Walkman in the great closeout bin in the sky. In short, if we have to think about a purchase, it's in a precarious position. The things we rarely pause to consider are the ones that stay on top.

In the following slides, you'll read about the churches we visit and the junk food we eat, the sneakers we wear, the Web videos we e-mail to each other, and the prescription drugs we take. Some is stuff we legitimately adore, such as Nike Air Force 1s or cuddly Labrador retrievers. Some make us scratch our heads—who buys a white car? Oh, you did? Sorry. See, that's another thing about popularity. Everybody has an opinion, and to some degree everybody defines himself against the mainstream. A few of the things we use the most are the ones we love the least, like Facebook, which according to ForeSee Results holds an approval rating close to that of the IRS. Our mission here is not to judge but to use the best available methodology—it varies widely from item to item—to determine the winners of the never-ending popularity contest that is the American economy. Your taste may differ. In fact, we're sure it does.

Car Color: White

Ford Motor Companty

Are we a color-blind continent? Fully 17.8 percent of cars sold in North America last year were white—the No.1 choice, according to the annual DuPont Global Automotive Color Popularity Report. Black, the No.2 color, scored a close second with 17 percent, having climbed six points since 2005. Silver, the global favorite, placed third in North America, totaling 16.7 percent of sales. —Caroline Winter

Item at Walmart: Banana


Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT - News), which registered $405 billion in sales last year and is the largest retailer in the world, sold more bananas than any other single item.

Job: Sales Clerk


The Bureau of Labor Statistics is brutally honest describing the job of retail salesperson in its 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook: "Advancement opportunities are limited," workers "often stand for long periods," and many "work evenings and weekends, particularly during peak retail periods." Then there's the pay: a 2009 annual median of $20,260, 61 percent of that for all jobs. Still, it's the most popular job in America, based on the 4.2 million people who were being paid to do it in May 2009, when the BLS conducted its survey. Next are cashiers (3.4 million), general office clerks (2.8 million), food preparation and serving workers (2.7 million), and registered nurses (2.6 million). Eyeing the list for jobs that sound more fun, we find bartenders (490,000 being paid for the work at survey time), actors (40,000), athletes and sports competitors (14,000), and models (1,510). Then again, most of us lack the cheekbones to model or the jump shot to play in the NBA. As a means to a weekly paycheck, retail salesperson really does deserve its No. 1 ranking. —Peter Coy

Cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios

Courtesy of Tom Schierlitz

Honey Nut Cheerios made their debut in 1979 as a supporting player in the General Mills (NYSE: GIS - News) cast, and two decades later it overtook the star. Launched by a team that included then-Chief Executive Stephen Sanger, it was the first of 10 extensions of the venerable Cheerios brand, which now include MultiGrain, Banana Nut, and Yogurt Burst. In 2008 it finally became the top-selling cereal in the U.S.; last year it sold 102 million units (not counting sales at Wal-Mart), according to research firm SymphonyIRI Group.

In part, Honey Nut Cheerios owes its success to the U.S. Hispanic market, the fastest-growing demographic. Marketing targeted to Hispanics touted the cereal's cholesterol-fighting benefits and helped boost sales to them by 65 percent over the past three years. The brand was also likely helped by a Latino preference for sweeter products, according to the Latinum Network in Bethesda, Md. The product comes by its sweetness the old-fashioned way—it really does contain honey—although it uses "natural almond flavor," not actual nuts. —Matthew Boyle

2. Cheerios
3. Post Honey Bunches of Oats
4. Kellogg Frosted Mini Wheats
5. Kellogg Frosted Flakes

Chip: Lays

Courtesy of Tom Schierlitz

With nearly a billion dollars in annual sales, Lay's market share dwarfs that of its rivals, according to SymphonyIRI Group. Founded in 1932 in Nashville, Tenn., by Herman Lay, the brand went national in 1965, the year parent company Frito-Lay merged with Pepsi to form a food and beverage giant that uses its size to command space on the crowded snack shelf.

Competitor Kettle Foods is on the ascent, thanks to high-end chip flavors such as Spicy Thai and New York Cheddar. Sales last year totaled $250 million from 12 countries. In February, Diamond Foods (NasdaqGS: DMND - News) bought Kettle for $615 million, but compared with Lay's, Kettle is just one chip in the bag. —Matthew Boyle

2. Wavy Lays
3. Ruffles
4. Pringles Super Stack
5. Utz

Fish: Shrimp

Courtesy of Plamen Petkov

Yes, the FDA classifies shrimp as a fish. And yes, the former special occasion appetizer is now America's mainstay seafood. On average, Americans ate 4.1 pounds of shrimp in 2008, according to the National Fisheries Institute, beating canned tuna by nearly 50 percent. The crustacean has been king for nearly a decade; from 1980 to 2008 the amount of shrimp consumed by Americans nearly tripled. "It's the expanding availability and affordability," says the NFI's Gavin Gibbons. —Sommer Saadi

2. Canned tuna
3. Salmon
4. Pollock
5. Tilapia

Dog: Labrador

Getty Images

Labrador retrievers are the most popular purebred dogs in the country, according to American Kennel Club statistics. The family-friendly pooches have reigned for the past 19 years, though German shepherds are gaining favor—they overtook Yorkshire terriers for No. 2. Golden retrievers and beagles hold the fourth and fifth spots. Of the top five, only the Yorkie is not used for law enforcement and homeland security tasks, such as border patrol, bomb and narcotics detection, and searches for missing people. —Caroline Winter

Worldwide Vacation: France


If the French seem irritated by foreigners, they have good reason. Their country is the world's most popular travel destination by far. For each of the past five years, France has attracted at least 19 million more tourists than its closest competitor, according to U.N. World Tourism Organization statistics. Last year 74.2 million visitors streamed into the land of supermodel First Ladies and Camembert—and that after a 6.3 percent dip caused by the financial crisis. Being the most popular doesn't equal bringing in the most cash, however. The U.S. and Spain—which battle back and forth for the No.2 and No.3 favored spots—both earn more from international tourism than France does. Last year the U.S. made $94.2 billion and Spain $53.2 billion, while France saw $48.7 billion in tourism revenue. When it comes to spending on travel, Germans dominate: In 2009 the country of 82 million spent $80 billion on travel. (And Paul Krugman claims they're not doing enough to stimulate the global economy.) Americans, in second place, spent $73 billion. —Caroline Winter

2. U.S
3. Spain
4. China
5. Italy

Lipstick: Revlon


ColorStay, ColorBurst, Super Lustrous—all popular choices from Revlon (NYSE: REV-RI - News), America's go-to brand of lipstick. Over the past year Americans spent more than $300 million to beautify their lips in supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandise outlets excluding Wal-Mart, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm. Nearly a third of that went to Revlon, which began applying itself to cosmetics in 1932 with an opaque nail polish. Its best-selling lipstick, a pinkish hue called SoftSilver Rose, retails for $7.99 —Sommer Saadi

Sneaker: Nike Air Force 1

Tom Schierlitz

Air Force 1, released in 1982, was the first basketball shoe to include Nike's (NYSE: NKE - News) Air technology, which embeds airbag cushions in the soles of the shoes. But the sneaker's success came largely off the court, as a fashion accessory embraced first by the hip-hop community and now by just about everybody.

Nike did not anticipate this level of popularity. The company largely stopped making AF1 after one year and didn't resume full-scale production until almost two decades later, when it was brought back by popular demand. Now it's a staple product; the all-white, low-cut version has been the best-selling sneaker in the U.S. since 2007; overall the brand sold 11 million pairs in 2009 for more than $1 billion, according to researcher Sports One Source. It has also become a blank slate for designers to experiment with different themes, materials, and color combinations. About 1,700 versions have been produced, using everything from 18-carat gold to chenille, to straw, to crocodile skin. Nike, in Beaverton, Ore., touted the shoe's hip-hop credibility for AFI's 25th anniversary in 2007, commissioning a song featuring Kanye West. It keeps up a rigorous series of limited editions dedicated to such things as Black History Month and the five boroughs of New York (the latter released just last month). Oh, and some people still wear them to play basketball. —Matt Townsend

Click here to see the complete list of products from The Popularity Issue

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Erotica Author and Publisher Neale Sourna at Facebook, Now!

Neale's on Facebook. Just search for Neale Sourna (Author) and become a fan friend!

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

No. 1 Superman Comic Saves Family Home From Foreclosure

Superman Comic Saves Family Home From Foreclosure
Unexpected Find of Action Comics No. 1 Could Fetch Upwards of a Quarter of a Million Dollars at Auction

August 3, 2010

A struggling family facing foreclosure has stumbled upon what is considered to be the Holy Grail of comic books in their basement – a fortuitous find that could fetch upwards of a quarter million dollars at auction.
A family facing home foreclosure finds a rare Superman comic book.

First Superman Comic Saves Family's Home
A struggling family cleaning out the basement of their home stumbled upon what is known as the Holy Grail of comic books ? a fortuitous find expected to save their house from foreclosure.
(Courtesy Metropolis Collectibles, Inc.)

A copy of Action Comics No. 1, the first in which Superman ever appeared, was discovered as they went about the painful task of packing up a home that had been in the family since at least the 1950s. The couple, who live in the South with their children, asked to remain anonymous.

"The bank was about ready to foreclose," said Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of ComicConnect.com and Metropolis Comics and Collectibles in New York. "Literally, this family was in tears. The family home was going to be lost and they're devastated. They can't figure out a way out of this. They start packing things up. They go into the basement and start sifting through boxes – trying to find packing boxes – and they stumble on eight or nine comic books."

Most of the comic books in the box were worth between $10 and $30 but one – dated June 1938 and depicting the Man of Steel lifting a car above his head – was extremely rare. That issue, which originally sold for 10 cents, is considered to have ushered in the age of the superhero.

"It's a tremendous piece of American pop culture history," Zurzolo said. The couple learned online that ComicConnect.com had brokered the record-breaking sales of Action No. 1 copies for $1 million in February and then $1.5 million one month later. They immediately texted a cell phone picture to the firm's co-owner, Stephen Fishler.

"You couldn't have asked for a happier ending," Zurzolo said. "Superman saved the day."

Most Americans aren't so lucky. Nationwide, more than 1.6 million properties were in some stage of foreclosure in the first half of the year, according to RealtyTrac, up about 8 percent from a year ago but down 5 percent from the final six months of 2009. The couple had recently taken out a second mortgage on their home to start a new business, which failed in the uncertain economy. Mortgage payments were missed and the bank soon came after their home, which became theirs after the death of the wife's father. Fishler had to get on the phone to convince the bank to back off.

"My partner basically had to explain to the bank, 'You'll have your money soon,'" Zurzolo said. "We sent them information about our previous sales and what this could realize."

In a statement released through ComicConnect, the owner of the prized comic book said the family was still "a little shell shocked" after the unexpected find. "I was so nervous when I realized what it was worth," the owner said. "I know I am very fortunate but I will be greatly relieved when this book finds a new home."

Last Thursday, the couple's copy received a 5.0 VG(Very Good)/Fine rating on a scale of 1 to 10. It could fetch upwards of $250,000 when it goes up for auction on ComicConnect.com from Aug. 27 through Sept. 17.

While many businesses have been hurt by the recession, the comic book collection industry has received a boost. It all started in the spring of 2009, in the bleakest days of current downturn, when Comic Connect sold a copy of Action Comics No. 1 for $317,200 – a record at the time.

"That was at the worst part of the recession," Zurzolo said. "All the publicity we got on that was incredible…From all this publicity people started looking around and they started finding things." There are about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 believed to be in existence, with only a handful in good condition. In the last year and a half, about 7 copies have turned up. "You never know," Zurzolo said. "You might have a hidden treasure in your home which can change your life."

Zurzolo said more and more investors are calling ComicConnect looking for ways to make their money grow. One recent caller wanted to invest half a million dollars that he said were sitting in a bank account. "This happens to be the best year we've ever had," he said.

The copies of Action Comic No. 1 that sold for $1 million and $1.5 million earlier this year had been purchased for about $140,000 each more than a decade ago.

"When you tell people they might have more than a million bucks somewhere, it makes people move around and check places," he said. "In terms of the prices we've been able to realize, I do think that ties directly to the economy. You're dealing with a time in history when people are very uncertain about the stock market. They are extremely wary of the real estate market. They're making absolutely no money in their bank accounts."

After discovering their small treasures, many people want to remain anonymous – like many lottery winners. "People don't want people knowing how much money they have," Zurzolo said. "Some people are very paranoid."

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

More Couples Sleeping Apart: Is This Healthy?

More Couples Sleeping Apart: Is This Healthy?

By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine

A recent article in The New York Times points out the trend of more and more couples sleeping in separate rooms. Nearly one in four American couples does so and, according the National Association of Home Builders, it's expected that 60 percent of custom homes will have dual master bedrooms by 2015.

This got us thinking: Is this a healthy trend? I mean, sure, occasionally we think we'd get a better night's sleep with a wall (or two) between us and our snoring, TV-watching, sheet-hogging Sig O. But would our relationship suffer?

To get to the bottom of it, we asked Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (a.k.a. Dr. Romance), psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex, and Kids: Stops Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, for her take:

"Sleeping apart can contribute to the disconnect that plagues many relationships," Tessina says. "It just makes it easier to avoid each other, when what's really needed is connection and contact. There are solutions to snoring and restlessness -- a memory foam mattress will stop restlessness from being felt by a partner and snoring can be helped in a number of ways."

A bit more motivation to sleep in the same bed:

* Your man may get a better night's sleep when you're with him. In a study published in the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythms, researchers found that while women slept less soundly when they shared a bed with someone they're romantically involved with, men actually slept better when next to a woman. Work out whatever issues you have with his sleeping habits and you both might get some high-quality shut-eye.

* Bedtime isn't always for sleep, if you catch our drift. It's also prime for intimacy: snuggling and sex. This private time is crucial, especially if you have kiddies (a.k.a. nookie police). Sure you could meet him in "his" room, get it on, then flee back to "your" room. But then sex becomes a scheduled chore rather than an organic, meaningful, spontaneous activity.

* Nighttime, while you're side by side, is one of the best times to communicate with each other. Between work and other responsibilities, you only have small snippets of uninterrupted time to communicate during the day. With the door shut (and iPhones snuggled into their charging stations), between the sheets is the place where you can truly talk about what's on your mind, without interruption by kid, dog, phone, cable guy, etc. "Cuddling up together and talking quietly is a great perk of married life," says Tessina. "Couples who know how to do that, and do it regularly, fare better than couples who don't."

Bottom line: Try to solve whatever sleep incompatibility issues exist between you and your partner before fleeing for the guest room.

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Audio Commentary (play along with your DVD): NEW! FeelingMinnesota--1996.mp3

Audio Commentary (play along with your DVD):

NEW! FeelingMinnesota--1996.mp3


at Neale Sourna's Project Keanu

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