Microsoft Office 365 is Now on the iPad – Here’s My Full Review

Microsoft has just released Office for iPad, the first time you can download an official Office Suite of software from Microsoft just for you iPad via the iTunes app store.

Office for iPad contains fully functional versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Now while anyone can download the apps and read documents or presentation PowerPoint presentations for free, if you want to create or edit Office documents with these apps, you first have to be an Office 365 subscriber. Continue reading

Twitter Mistakes

How to Avoid Twitter Mistakes That All Small Businesses Make

Twitter is a great way to increase your followers and build up your name and brand. But it can be a disaster if you aren’t doing it right. Twitter is a viable tool and you can get a lot out of it, but you need to keep a few things in mind. I’m giving out these helpful tips so that you can avoid the same twitter mistakes that so many have made before you.
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  1. The first thing you should never do is begin a twitter following with someone else’s username. This is one of the common twitter mistakes that so many make. Say someone tweets your blog and you want to give them praise for doing so. Don’t start a tweet with @username. This is going to prevent others from seeing the kindness and praise that the person gave you. They may have tweeted something about your blog, but others will never be able to see it. If you want to make the twitter name more viable and visible to others, use a period prior to the @username. If you don’t only the person who blogged your stuff and your other followers are going to be the only ones seeing it.
  2. Don’t just follow someone because they are following you. This is another common mistake that some make. Read this classic post from Matt McGee about Popularity vs Trust on twitter. I mean it’s nice to follow someone, but do it only if you liked what the person writes or blogs about. Following someone just for the sake of it is one way to send the wrong message. By following someone, you agree with pretty much everything the person is doing. So be careful when making the choice to follow someone on twitter. Someone may like what you are saying, but it doesn’t mean that you will like what they are saying. And following someone just because they are a celebrity and you like them, is not a good enough reason either. So be selective when following someone on your own timeline. Because if you are following the wrong person, strictly based on the fact that they follow you, is going to also send the wrong message to your followers. And you don’t want that.
  3. Another misconception about twitter is that you need to make the tweets long. Some people get in the habit of either writing a few hundred words or they write an entire book on twitter. This is not what twitter is about. If you want to talk for a long period of time, twitter is not the place to do so. Just stick with the short tweets. They are going to give you the higher engagement rates. They are going to give you the most followers.

    If your tweet is between 100 and 120 characters, this is perfect. The ones with 100-120 word length are the ones who get responded to the most. So keep the tweets short and sweet and to the point. If you do, you will leave space for others to leave their comments. People don’t generally leave a comment on a blog that doesn’t leave room for one. It’s bad business.

    Looking at the charts, you can see that around 30-35% will respond more to those which are between 100-120 characters. Once you start going over that line, you will lose your audience.

  4. Some have gotten in the habit of tweeting the full url. It can be an easy and convenient way of doing things. But please avoid this at all costs. it may be simple, but it will be ineffective in the long run. How you may ask might it be ineffective? Every time you do this, you are missing out on the metrics of your click rate. This may not be a big deal for some of you, but for others it will be. it just depends on what you are using twitter for. So take that into account as well when you make the choice to leave the full url.

    Instead, you might want to try something else. Go into your tools menu and consider shortening your url link. That way you can still send the link, but also keep updated on who is clicking on your tweets. You can find out more by using Google and going in and making the link shorter. You can also log onto bit.ly and find out if this link has already been put out there and who has clicked on it. This is going to save you time and trouble later on.

  5. A final mistake that many make is setting the analytics up too late. If you are on twitter, you need to be looking into your tweets and followers on a regular basis. You also need to be looking into the growth of these numbers. Some don’t care about the numbers and their followers and that is what causes them to not succeed on twitter. So you need to check the number and be familiar with what is going on.

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You also need to look into what your followers and audience wants and needs. You need to pay attention to this, it’s very crucial that you do. If something is not working for your audience, you need to be aware of this. To this end, you need to set up analytics that matter. Choosing settings that don’t function for you or your audience is not going to be a time saver.

Having analytics that work for you and your audience means that you spend that time tweeting and keeping up with your audience’s needs. Another good reason to keep an eye on the stats is that it will help to increase your followers in a big way. It will also help you by knowing what tweets are working for you and which aren’t. Certain tweets don’t work with certain demographics and you need to be aware of this. By knowing what tweets work and which don’t, you will find out the tweets that will drive your brand even more.

B2B Online Marketing

The B2B Online Marketing Process: Keywords For the Conversion Funnel

Online marketing and transactions have brought a new opportunity to marketing departments and planners, the ability to micromanage metrics. One of the difficulties that marketing managers have faced since the beginning of marketing time is answering the question “is what I’m investing in really making a difference?”

That obfuscation of cause (or rather ad) and effect was and still is a problem for offline marketers and their quest for more budget. Online marketing can solve that problem because everything online can be tracked and measured. But does this new ability to micromanage the process help? Can you truly rely on math instead of your gut to help guide your marketing spend?

In most cases the answer is yes.

In the online world marketers must manage their budgets with their eyes focused on conversions and metrics.

Executive management has come to rely on the fact that their online expenditures can be tracked almost in real time. And so the online marketer must keep track of their overall Pay Per Click (PPC) budget when building their SEM plan and their aggregate Cost Per Click (CPC) which incorporates their SEO numbers. These numbers and costs can be watched on a daily and hourly basis and used as a marker for a campaign’s return on investment (ROI). With all of these metrics and measurements available to the online marketer it is easy and common for them to become a cost silo all by themselves and it is important that they maintain a connection with the overall marketing objective.

Basically both offline and online marketing plans combine to make up the company’s ultimate marketing plan. So the key to establishing good metrics and goals for the online marketing plan utilizes the same process as that for the offline plan, start by planning backwards. By developing the online plan from the company’s overall marketing plan you can make sure that there are thoughtful and logical intersections between both offline and online messaging and communications with the customer.

In the late 1990s marketers were challenged with coming up with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) processes and many CRM software companies were born. The idea behind CRM was, and still is, to manage the customer touch point process and measure the conversions along the way. I call these mini, micro or intermediate conversions as they are steps in the overall conversion process. Usually these conversion metrics can be used to track single node to node flow such as with an online click action or the overall aggregate percentage to close that the potential customer is at in the process.

B2B Online Marketing Conversion Process

B2B online marketing conversion funnelAn online conversion process might look like:

  1. SSD-R-Us outbids their competitors for the search term ‘solid state hard drive comparison‘.
  2. CTO John wants to begin upgrading his server farm so he googles ‘solid state hard drive comparison’ and sees an SSD-R-Us ad and clicks on it.
  3. On the SSD-R-Us website CTO John sees a whitepaper on a comparison and reviews of solid state hard drives and a form he can download the report. He fills in his name, address and email to get it.
  4. Later that week CTO John gets an email invite from SSD-R-Us to attend a “Why Solid State Drives are the Way to Go” webinar, he clicks on the embedded link and provides his phone number and opts in to be contacted by a SSD-R-Us.
  5. An SSD-R-Us employee contacts CTO John to pitch a SSD of the Month club subscription.

That entire process would be captured in some format and hopefully tied back to CTO John’s prospect ID number and the campaign’s aggregate metrics would be used to measure efficiency and outcome of the campaign. The online marketer could begin to set up split or A/B tests to measure the whitepaper call to action or placement on the website, different types of communications such as email versus phone call or even incentives such as “buy 10 months and get 2 months free if you act today.”

With all of these online testing options available with real time data you can make decisions within days or weeks that can take an offline marketer months or years to decide. The online marketer needs to remember though that they are a step in the overall process and ultimate objective which is usually more sales.

The real objective of B2B Online Marketing metrics management isn’t to give you the look at the here and now (although it does do that) but really to focus on the future. This type of inward and intense look at conversions can also lead to other departmental efficiencies. For example you may uncover that the outbound telemarketing department for SSD-R-Us isn’t closing at a high enough percentage with the leads they are given and could use some additional sales training.

It is really all about providing the marketer and management with “what if” analysis tools to build budgets and expectations.

Later I’ll like to talk about how much that conversion was worth and how to track your online marketing spend. To get notified when I post that article, subscribe to this blog using the form below. :)

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My Success With PR, Online Marketing and Starting a Business

I’m often asked what I do for work and why am I out bike riding during the day or at the park with my son during his summer vacation. Many times I tell people I’m just unemployed and that satisfies them but really I have a few projects in place that make me decent money with very little to no “work” at all. So this is a post I’ve had in my head for about a year and I’m finally getting to writing.

Summer of 2010 I was laid off from a job where I was the online marketing manager for a great company called Metalogix. I was hired 2 years early at the start of the company. 2 of the founders of the company brought me in to improve the companies online presence and getting them selling more software. Great job and great people.

But after 2 years the industry changed a bit and so did the economy. Board of directors wanted to do things cheaper and cut expenses and go into different marketing channels. So I was laid off with a few other key people as well. I kept in contact with a few coworkers but oh well life moves on.

Time to look for the next project.

I decided to try the local marketing/web developer consulting gig lifestyle. Little did I know it was waaaaay more work and less pay. So much for the easy comfortable corporate days of salary and benefits. I now had to work even harder on my own to find clients and then report and give them what they expected on a timely basis. I got in a little over my head at the start and quickly started to fall behind on deadlines. Sorry Chris, Ivan and Chuck.

After fulfilling my obligations I once again decided I had to make a change where I’m not dependent on someone else or another company to make a living but truly go out on my own and make my own path in life. I was going to be an entrepreneur.

I kind of knew what the word meant but really had no idea what it was to be an entrepreneur.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I want to have a little list or story about what I’ve done in this last year. I want to share real ideas, stories and numbers of what I did and a little on how I did it. Take it as bragging or take it as a big lie. Whateva!!! It’s my blog and you’re reading it so far so there’s got to be some interest so far.

3+ years ago I was at a point in my marriage where my wife cheated on me and told me she no longer loved me and I didn’t know what to do. I found a few resources online where people told their stories of failed or failing marriages but they were more like whiney stories that were just a place for them to vent and leave. After talking to a shrink and some good friends I was still mad.

I wanted to start an online resource where I expose how people were using Facebook and social media website to cheat and engage in infidelity. I wanted to talk about how I used technology and gadgets to catch my wife and share it with other people who were going through a similar situation like me. It hurts and I had a lot of passion about it. After writing up a whole lot of posts and articles on the site I started getting people commenting and telling their stories and asking for advice.

A light went off in my head and I started to pitch other websites to mention me and my articles so it would help their audiences as well. Soon after that I started email newspapers and radio stations saying that Facebook is so popular and after a few studies came out in the mainstreeam media about Facebook being mentioned in lots of divorces lately it would be a great idea for their readership or listeners to interview me and have me talk about my story.

After a few radio live interviews and a newspaper quote I started getting small magazines and then larger magazine like US magazine and eventually Vanity Fair. Those turned into the front page article on CNN.com and that in turn got me on the Larry King Live TV show, The View and ABC News and even a social media documentary. Lots of viewers to the website and lots more subscribers and commenters. Time for the payoff. Now how do I monetize all that?

The first thing I did was mention the gadgets I used and linked to an affiliate program that sold them. Next I tested out selling someone’s ebook on marriage and relationship counseling but took that down as it wasn’t all that great. Finally I turned to Google Adsense and monetized each page of the site with contextual ads. The site was making between $50 and $400/day depending on the traffic and what direct ads were being placed on the site as it got mentioned on more and more media outlets.

So I decided to do less press about the site and focus more on my experiences and how I can reach a larger audience both online and offline. I’m talking to 2 agents and publishers about writing a book. Sharing my story and giving some advice and talk more about the age of social media and how it plays into privacy issues and the issues of infidelity and deception.

Stay tuned.

What is Palcohol and can you buy it yet?

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Consumers will soon have access to a more convenient way to have a cocktail. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has just approved Palcohol, which is a new innovative powdered form of alcohol. A man named Mark Phillips developed the original concept for Palcohol. Mark Phillips liked having a cocktail after a hard day’s work or a gym session. However, he did not appreciate carrying heavy bottles. He worked with a series of scientists and created alcohol in a powdered form to reduce the inconvenience of carrying around bottles and cans. The world will soon have the opportunity to carry powdered alcohol in their purses, wallets, pockets and more.

Why Is It Called Palcohol?

Mark Phillips and the people who work for Lipsmark are fun-loving, witty people. They gave Palcohol its name based on its convenience. A consumer can carry a small packet of Palcohol around just like a packet of sugar or a sugar substitute. Technically, the Palcohol carrier can bring it to places where traditional alcohol forms might be prohibited. Carriers can possibly bring Palcohol into restaurants, stadiums, offices and other places. While company representatives do not suggest bringing the product into prohibited places, they still refer to it as the consumer’s “pal.” This means that the consumer can carry powered alcohol with him or her as if it were a very close friend.

How Does Palcohol Work?

Palcohol does not have complicated instructions. It works exactly like a packet of powdered sugar, except the needs to mix it with approximately five ounces of water. Alternatively, the person can add it to five ounces of Coca-Cola or orange juice. When it is used properly, one Palcohol packet has the same amount of alcohol in it as a mixed drink. The company is releasing two initial plain alcohol flavors: vodka and rum. It will also release four mixed drinks: powderita, lemon drop, mojita and cosmopolitan.

The Convenience of Palcohol

Palcohol provides a revolutionary solution to inconvenience and embarrassment associated with alcohol. Consumers can now discreetly carry their Palcohol and have drinks without anyone knowing. The company that created Palcohol has stated that its price will be only a fraction of the cost of traditional alcoholic beverages. The affordable price point will drive customers to Palcohol even more than the convenience will.

Who Can Buy Palcohol?

Palcohol will have some of the same regulations as regular alcohol. People who are not of legal age will not be allowed to purchase the product. Retailers that choose to sell Palcohol will have to have licenses to sell it. Additionally, the same laws will apply to underage drinkers, drunk drivers and the like. The only thing that will change is the bottle, which will start to disappear when Palcohol hits the market.

How Soon Will Palchol Be Available?

Palcohol has been approved, but the company is still waiting to tie up loose ends. Palcohol is expected to hit the market sometime in the fall. The company says that it will make the product available online and in physical locations. It is not yet known whether it will be available in restaurants and convenience stores, or if it will be restricted to standard liquor stores.

Will Palcohol Be Dangerous?

The Palcohol website encourages people to use the product properly. If people use it responsibly, then it will be no more dangerous than a bottled alcohol product is. Every product can be safe if it is used in moderation, and Palcohol is not harmful as it is. The company urges its future buyers to use Palcohol responsibly and legally when it becomes available.

How to Find That $100k Job

Looking for a new job and want to make $100,000? You got to get past the recruiter and phone screener first. You met with a recruiter, but now she’s not responding to your e-mails. Maybe your background is perfect but you don’t make it past the phone screen. How could it be that you’re “not a good fit” when you’re so clearly made for the position?

Job hunters tend to view recruiters as an unfortunate necessity in the search process, regarding them as the people who don’t respond and don’t really know what the hiring company is looking for.

It turns out that many job seekers have misconceptions about the most basic role of a recruiter. “They don’t understand that we don’t work for them,” said Greg Bennett, a headhunter at the Mergis Group in Cary, N.C. “We work for the client” — the hiring company.

Below are some typical scenarios in which job seekers may find themselves. We asked the recruiters what’s happening at their end.

Scenario One: You think you’re a perfect fit for the position, yet the recruiter isn’t responding to your application or your follow-up calls and e-mails. Potential red flags may include:

You’re not qualified for the job.

* Like it or not, your work experience may not fit the bill. It could be that the hiring company is looking for 10 years of sales experience and that your 15 years in sales is not attractive. It’s also possible that you didn’t read the posting closely, or at all. “When a job seeker ignores certain stipulations such as a listing that requests local candidates only or has degree requirements that don’t match, it becomes evident that they are answering postings without reading them,” said Sherry Brickman, a partner at Martin Partners, a retained search firm in Chicago. “This is a waste of time for everyone involved as well as frustrating for a recruiter.”

You’re a good fit but not an ideal fit.

* “[Third-party recruiting] agencies get paid a lot of money to find people that a corporation in need of staff can’t,” according to Michael Rosenberg, manager of sales, productivity and performance at TheLadders. “And with a 15 to 25 percent fee going to the recruiter, corporations want to make sure they hire the exact right person.” In plenty of cases, almost isn’t good enough, especially now that recruiters are pulling from a larger applicant pool.

Your recruiter — or the hiring company — isn’t effectively communicating the job specifications.

* Sometimes recruiters aren’t able effectively to express what their client is looking for, a result of their own limitations or their client’s lack of specificity. The larger the organization, the more red tape there is, according to Rosenberg.

Your e-mail subject line could be slowing down the process.

* Effective subject lines in e-mails should reference the position you’re applying for, rather than “Hello” or “Intro,” Rosenberg said. If a recruiter is sorting through hundreds of e-mails a day, it makes her life easier if she receives a cue about the contents of the e-mail.

Your resume may not be conveying your story at a glance.

* With so little time to devote to each resume, make it easy for recruiters to find what they’re looking for: your last employer and position, your tenure there, and the three most relevant bullet points based on the job you’re applying for. If a quick scan doesn’t yield a compelling career narrative, Rosenberg said it’s possible that your application will never make it beyond the inbox.

Misspellings of any kind turn off some recruiters.

* Typos may leave the impression that you don’t pay attention to details. Double- and triple-check your cover letter and resume. Better still, have someone with an eye for detail proof it.

A generic cover letter could be your undoing.

* Recruiters may read the lack of specificity as lazy and/or uncaring, Rosenberg said. Tailor each letter to the particular company, industry and position to which you’re applying.

Superlatives may be getting in your way.

* For instance, calling yourself the “best” or “greatest” CPA without supporting evidence can be perceived as cocky. “It suggests the job seeker is way too sure of himself and may be tough to work for,” Rosenberg observed. “A recruiter could build a story in their head before they even get you on the phone.”

What can you do? Not much if you’re not qualified, but applying for a specific job and making sure that you’ve dotted all your “I’s” and customized your cover letter will at least ensure you’re getting the attention you deserve.

Scenario Two: You didn’t make it past the recruiter’s phone screener.

Your general attitude could be a mismatch with the hiring company.

* For instance, your professional-yet-serious demeanor may not work in a setting where a sense of lightness and humor is considered a priority for managers, said Harold Laslo, a staffing specialist at the Aldan Troy Group in New York. Don’t take it personally. The longer a recruiter has worked with the hiring company, the better he’s able to evaluate your candidacy.

You didn’t listen to the questions.

* During phone screens and interviews, less is often more. Whether the cause is nervousness, self-absorption or other limitations, candidates sometimes provide far more information than a question warrants, according to Marian Rich, a recruiter with Bonell Ryan, a retained search firm in New York. Rich said she often asks candidates to give a quick overview of their careers, probing for details later in the process. “I’m always dismayed at how many candidates launch into an in-depth and very lengthy response,” Rich said. “It can put me off and will certainly raise the question of whether or not this candidate will interview well with a client.”

What can you do? Follow up with the recruiter to ask her why you’re not a good fit. She should be able to provide a concrete reason. If she can do that — and you trust her assessment — let her know you’d like to be considered for future positions.

Scenario Three: You met the recruiter in person, but now he doesn’t think you’re right for the job.

Your work style may not be suited to the position.

* For example, the recruiter may determine that you thrive in structured work settings, but the hiring company is looking for someone who functions best in an unstructured environment. Once again, recruiters who have placed candidates with the hiring company have a good sense of who would succeed there. It is well within a job seeker’s rights to ask how long the recruiter has worked with a certain company, said Laslo of Aldan Troy.

Your personality may not be a match for certain company or department cultures.

* For instance, you may think your ambition and assertive personality could only be an asset, but it could signal potential challenges at some firms. “If a candidate has career aspirations and I pick up that they may not have patience before they see advancement or will be badgering HR in regards to advancement, they may not be right for certain companies,” Laslo said, adding that small companies tend to be more focused on personality than large ones.

What can you do? Talk to your recruiter and find out exactly why you’re no longer in the running. Gather as much information as you can and ask if there’s anything about your personal performance that you could improve.

Scenario Four: The recruiter is being vague about why the hiring company doesn’t want to proceed with your application.

She may not have all the information.

* Recruiters agree that at each point in the application process your recruiter should be able to cite specific reasons why she (or the hiring company) doesn’t think you’re a suitable candidate for the job. But recruiters don’t always have that information if the hiring company is reticent to disclose it for legal or other reasons, said Rosenberg.

She may be reluctant to talk about personal quirks.

* If the hiring company is troubled by your lack of personal hygiene, for example, the recruiter may withhold the information if she thinks it’s not constructive.

What can you do? Strike a friendly tone when probing for details. Help the recruiter understand that you value his feedback and would appreciate any information he’s able to supply.

how to jumpstart a dead battery

How to Jump Start a Dead Battery

It was 20 degrees. I went to start my car and the battery was dead. Nothing worse than that.

I had an important meeting with a CEO. I went to go start my car, turned the key, and all I heard was…. I almost died.

A dead car battery happens to the best of us at the worst times. Fortunately, a quick jump start can bring a dead battery back to life. But it’s important to do it the right way.

To properly Jump Start a Dead Battery on your car, the first thing you want to do is park the working vehicle close to the one that needs to be jumped, but don’t let them touch.

Next, shut off the ignition on both cars. Be sure to turn off your lights, radio, and anything else that can drain power.

To connect the jumper cables, connect the red positive clamp to the dead battery’s positive post. You’ll see a plus (+) on the battery.

Connect the other red clamp to the good battery. Make sure the cables don’t dangle into either engine compartment where they can get tangled onto moving parts.

Now connect the black negative clamp to the working vehicle’s negative battery terminal. Once set, connect the other negative cable to any unpainted, metal surface on the engine of the dead car. Do a final check to make sure the cables are set and not near any moving engine parts.

Now start the working car. Let it idle a few minutes to feed juice to the dead battery. When you think it’s got enough charge, start the dead vehicle and let them idle together.

Once the dead car is running smoothly, disconnect the cables in reverse order. Be careful not to let the dangling cables fall into the engine compartment or touch each other.

Finally, make sure you drive the revived vehicle somewhere safe before shutting it off. And remember, always carry jumper cables. It will save you and your battery the next time you get stranded.

massachusetts great white shark

Giant Shark Offshore of Boston Massachusetts

Fishing out on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary just outside of Boston Massachusetts on a perfect calm day we saw some action on the horizon and decided to check it out. As we approached we could see the dorsal and tail fin of a large shark. We thought it was a great white shark at first.

Typically a basking shark which are very harmless we came very close to observe it but at the last second you can see that this was not basking shark. Looked like a 12 foot great white shark that was sun bathing at the surface taking in the sun.

Gas Prices Fluctuate

Why Do Gas Prices Fluctuate?

If you own a car, you’ve probably noticed that gas prices change from day to day. They can rise or fall a penny or two per gallon, or as much as 30 cents overnight. This change in gas prices is a source of concern for many drivers. It’s impossible to predict, hard to budget for and annoying to deal with. So why is it that gas prices fluctuate so wildly?

Distribution of Costs

When you pay for gas, the money is broken up and distributed among several organizations involved in the supply chain. This includes everything from the gas station to the refinery to the US Government. The cost mainly breaks down into four segments. For example, out of $1, here is how the money is distributed:

  • 12 cents go to taxes
  • 12 cents go to the refinery that produced the gasoline
  • 11 cents is distributed to those who ship, market and handle the gas
  • 66 cents (the majority) goes to cover the cost of the crude oil

OPEC and Crude Oil

The cost of crude oil is determined largely by OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC currently has twelve member countries. These are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Crude oil is generally judged as either light or heavy, and as either sweet or sour – which has nothing to do with flavor – as ways to judge how easily it can be refined into gasoline and other products. Light, sweet crude is the easiest to refine, and most refineries are set up to process it. Unfortunately, it is also growing increasingly rare. Heavy, sour crude is much more abundant, but most refineries can’t handle it without expensive reconfiguration.

The price of a barrel of crude oil is determined by several factors. As OPEC produces more oil, the prices for each individual barrel go down. The quality of the oil affects refinery costs, which can increase the price of gas.

Demand and Distribution

Worldwide demand for gasoline is going up. It will not stop rising until an alternative energy source is found and made commercially viable for developing nations. As it stands, gasoline is an astonishingly powerful source of energy. Solar fields, wind farms and other green energy sources cannot compete with the power output of a gallon of gasoline. On the other end, nuclear power can, but is expensive to produce and maintain — not to mention dangerous and highly regulated.

As countries expand their infrastructures, more and more gasoline is required. India, China and other developing nations will continue to demand more gasoline until the price of a gallon becomes prohibitive.

At the same time, getting this gasoline to these locations around the world is an incredible challenge. Only a small handful of countries produce enough oil to export it, and it has to be shipped around the world. Shipping companies need to be paid, the workers need to be trained and it needs to successfully make the journey. Anything that affects the supply lines will affect the cost of gasoline.

  • Pipelines can break, like the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Ships can sink, such as the Exxon Valdez
  • Weather systems can interrupt shipping, as well as ruin distribution networks or gasoline storehouses – think Hurricane Katrina
  • Political instability among OPEC nations, or war that interrupts supply lines, also has an effect

Trading on the Mercantile Exchange

Even though oil is produced primarily in non-US countries and it is consumed worldwide, oil is largely traded on the world market using US Dollars as currency. This means the fluctuation in the value of the US Dollar affects the price of gas. When the USD declines in value, it takes more dollars to purchase the same amount of oil — meaning a general price increase per barrel.

Oil is traded on three main markets. The first is the contract market. The majority of the oil that is traded ends up here — companies, dealers, refineries and other groups trade and buy barrels of oil, fulfilling contracts and delivering product.

Spot markets work to fill the gaps. Some companies need more oil than they have delivered to them on contract, and other companies have more oil than they need. The spot market matches these two groups up and evens out the supply and demand for oil. These trades are not bound by contract, which means companies can make excellent deals on their purchases or sales.

The futures market is the most complex system of oil trading and is largely a form of speculation. Huge numbers of barrels are traded on the futures market, but very few of them are ever delivered. During one particular seven-year period, over five million barrels were traded, but only 31,000 were ever delivered as a result of the deals. Despite the low volume of actual deliveries, the futures market is driven by the fluctuation in every factor that influences the price of gas, meaning it is a good indicator of how gas prices fluctuate.

Unrelated Factors Why Gas Prices Fluctuate

Many people like to blame US Presidential elections for altering the price of gas. In reality, the president has virtually no effect on gas prices. Likewise, actual gas stations have very little to do with the change in gas prices. Only about five percent of the gas stations in the US are owned and operated by oil companies, meaning they have a relatively marginal effect on the price of gas at the pump.

Individual gas stations often have contracts to sell gas at certain prices, which limits the amount of profit they can gain from a given shipment of gas. As businesses, they want to strike a balance between the cost of buying gas and the price they sell it, but they can’t simply charge too much. If they tried, other stations could under-cut them and the loss in volume would negate their profits.

Giveing a Bonsai Tree as a gift

Giving a Bonsai Tree as a Gift

Giving a Bonsai tree gift can be a great idea, but it depends on the circumstances and who you are buying the Bonsai tree for. For people who show an interest and are always bringing the subject up, the gift giving idea could be perfect.

Before you purchase the first bonsai, you should find out if the person who is interested really wants to grow and train their own tree, or maintain a tree that is already developed. You will also need to know if they want an inside tree or want an outdoor Bonsai tree.

If they want to grow their own tree, then the Bonsai tree gift might be best if given in the form of a Bonsai starter kit from seed or from a young tree. There are many gift giving ideas for Bonsai starter kits. These come in nice gift containers supplying everything that a person will need to get started.

Given as a Christmas gift, for example, the type of tree might be a spruce or fur. They have special cards for different seasons and occasions to record the age of the tree and all the stages of growth that it goes through. As the need arises, you can add extra tools, soil and new pots as more gift giving ideas.

There are many people who admire a fully developed Bonsai tree. The Bonsai tree gift will suit them if you know that they have the time to look after the tree as well as have a suitable environment to put it in. The Bonsai gift giving idea should not be given in place of a bouquet of flowers. You can’t just water it and forget about it as it will die.

New Bonsai Gift owner

Like any tree, it will need maintenance to remain healthy. If you do choose to go with the Bonsai gift giving idea, make sure that the tree is the type desired and that the person receiving it would truly enjoy it. Many developed trees can be found for decent prices and still provide you with a quality tree. For those who already have Bonsai trees, a new Bonsai tree gift is an addition to the Bonsai family.

The perfect purchase for a gift giving idea might be a tree type that they do not already have. This will give variety to what they have as well as another challenge to work with. For people who collect Bonsai trees as a work of art, the gift giving idea can become quite expensive but will always be appreciated. In this case, it is important to know the type of tree and its Bonsai design. The receiver will also want to know the name of the grower and designer, the age of the tree and where the tree came from.

Whatever the Bonsai tree gift is, it will be appreciated as a memorable gift giving idea.

caring for a bonsai tree

The Ultimate Bonsai Tree Guide – How To Grow and Care For Bonsai Trees

I’m going to call this THE ULTIMATE BONSAI TREE GUIDE and write about how to pick, grow and take care of your bonsai tree as well as introduce you to the world of Bonsai.

All newly bought Bonsai trees care requires routine maintenance that pays particular attention to detail. This is one of the reasons that the new Bonsai tree care person must have done some solid planning ahead of time and is committed to patience.

What is a Bonsai Tree?

Bonsai is a word pronounced “bone-sigh” and spelled the same for both the singular and plural. It is Japanese in origin, literally translating to “tree in a pot.” In the simplest sense that’s all a bonsai tree is. There is more to being a bonsai owner though – growing a bonsai is a unique combination of horticulture and art. They are great plants to show off and have on display. Ideally, a bonsai tree will be like a miniature replica of a mature adult tree.
Some trees are more suited to being bonsai than others – conifers, junipers, ginkgos, acacia, maple, peach, oleander and olive trees are some that make great beginner bonsai. Contrary to a lot of popular beliefs, a bonsai is not a distinct species of tree. Bonsai can be made with a wide variety of trees, shrubs and even vines like wisteria. You can easily buy a bonsai tree that is already started or you can start your own from seed. Starting from seed is more difficult.

Many other cultures throughout history, other than just the Japanese, practiced this interesting gardening art form. From Egypt to India and China people have been growing tiny trees in pots for centuries. The Japanese are credited with refining the bonsai to what we know it as today. Modern bonsai are popular around the world with many people growing them for their homes and they can also be found in public gardens and arboretums. Many major cities also have bonsai clubs for enthusiasts.

General Care for Bonsai

Because of the array of trees that can be made into bonsai, it is impossible to give detailed care instructions for every single one. As a general rule, a bonsai tree will grow best in an environment similar to the tree’s native environment, so each bonsai will require a little research. Almost all bonsai must be grown outdoors, but there are some tropical varieties that are suitable for indoor growing. Just because bonsai are small it doesn’t mean that they are all houseplants, which is another common misconception.

A lot of new bonsai owners make the mistake of putting their trees on top of their television or coffee table. Where they are mainly going wrong is with sunlight. Sunlight is the main reason that bonsai do best outdoors. Conifers, spruce, pines, junipers and tamarack, just to name a few, all require full sun. Most of the broadleaf, deciduous bonsai need full morning sunlight and then partial afternoon sun. Trees with thick, coarse leaves tolerate and need more sun than those with more delicate leaves. The Japanese Maple, a very popular and stunning bonsai, actually needs filtered sunlight because direct light will scorch and ruin their leaves.

Something that all bonsai have in common is that they are grown in the same specialized potting soil. It is coarser and granular unlike garden soil. This is to allow water to freely flow through it. Bonsai pots are shallower than typical pots for plants and also must have holes in the bottom for water drainage. Display a bonsai tree at or near eye level for the best effect. A lot of bonsai owners keep theirs at a height of three or four feet in order to best appreciate them. Another benefit to growing a bonsai outside is that it will go through all of the seasonal changes of its full-sized counterpart, which is amazing to observe on a small scale.

With the proper care, growing a bonsai is extremely rewarding, but they require careful watering, pruning, pinching and sometimes wiring, fertilizing, pest control and repotting.

Watering

watering bonsai treeWatering is the single most important requirement to keep a bonsai tree alive just as with other plants. Unfortunately, it is the hardest gardening skill to master. Different trees have widely different demands as far as water is concerned. Some trees tolerate dry conditions much better than others. Some trees also have ways of indicating when they need more water like limp leaves, but for others limp leaves actually mean that the tree has already died.

In general, you should water most bonsai once a day during the growing season, which is from spring to fall. Water in the morning to ensure that the tree is hydrated during the hottest parts of the day. If it gets exceptionally hot in your region then it can be alright to water a bonsai more. It is possible to overwater a bonsai, but is very difficult to overwater in the summer. Watering is also greatly dependent upon sun intensity and temperature variations throughout the day in your region. Again, understand what the particular species of tree needs.

Use a watering can or a garden hose attachment that allows for a gentle spray. You do not want to blast the soil granules out of the pot. You are done watering when you see water running from the bottom of the pot. With bonsai, you want most of the water to run to the bottom and only a small amount to be retained by the soil. The soil will keep as much as it needs. Don’t forget to periodically check your bonsai to see if it needs to be watered in the winter as well. Trees with a dormant period in the winter will not need as much water as tropical species.

As a rule of thumb for winter watering: don’t water if the soil is still wet.

Pruning, Trimming and Pinching

One of the artistic aspects of keeping a bonsai involves shaping it and then helping it to keep that shape. This is accomplished with pruning, trimming and pinching. The most extensive pruning should take place in the spring and then general maintenance pruning occurs throughout the growing season. You want to equalize the vigor of the tree to keep all of the parts growing evenly and in the shape you desire. Typically the tops of trees and ends of branches grow more rapidly than the inner and lower branches. Pay more attention to the areas that grow more strongly.

Wiring

Some bonsai trees have wiring applied to their trunks and branches to help in the shaping process. The wiring is not meant to stay on the tree forever, it is just there to train the tree into a desired shape. It is typically removed after a few months to a year after the bonsai owner is satisfied. If the wiring cuts the bark of the tree it can create unattractive scars, so it is important to pay attention to and adjust it accordingly. There are special bonsai wire cutters to remove the wiring when it is finished. If the branches return to their original shape after the wiring is removed it needs to be reapplied.

Fertilizing

Fertilizer helps a great deal with a bonsai tree’s health and its ability to withstand stress. Bonsai should be fertilized during the growing season using either time-release fertilizer applied in the spring or water soluble fertilizer applied when you water. If you choose the latter you should use the “weekly weakly” approach. Too much fertilizer will make a bonsai grow too fast and will make the leaves too large, which defeats the purpose. Use a water soluble fertilizer at quarter or half strength once a week for optimal bonsai health, but minimizing growth. Do not fertilize trees in the winter, especially if they are dormant during that time.

Repotting

Periodic repotting is necessary for keeping a bonsai healthy. When repotting the roots must be trimmed to stop the tree from becoming pot bound and this also stimulates root growth. Repot in the spring every two years, then three and then four as the bonsai ages. Older trees need to be repotted less often than younger trees. Conifers also require less repotting than deciduous species.

Repotting involves carefully removing the bonsai from its pot. There may be a wire holding the bonsai in place that you will need to cut in order to remove the tree fully. After this is done gently comb the roots with a root hook and trim the ends. Replace the soil in the pot using fresh bonsai potting mix. Secure the tree in place with a new wire so that it will not wiggle in the pot. If it moves too much it will have difficulty growing new roots. After repotting do not expose the bonsai to full sun or wind until the roots begin actively taking up water again, which will take a few days. Partial sun is fine during this time.

Pest Control

Pests can be more than just insects. They can also come in the form of slugs, chipmunks and squirrels or even your neighbor’s dog. For all of the latter it is mostly a matter of keeping your bonsai out of their reach. It is a bad idea to keep a bonsai on the ground, not only because it is not ideal for viewing, but animals are more likely to bother it.

Insects and slugs are another story. If they are large, you can simply pick them off and use a mild repellant, but tiny spider mites are a common bonsai pest, especially with junipers. Spider mites are hard to see, but you can check for them by holding a white sheet of paper below a branch then tapping the branch. If you see something that looks like paprika then you will need to treat your tree with insecticide. Read all insecticide instructions very carefully before using one and apply it according to the instructions to avoid violating federal laws.

Winter Bonsai Care

Winter Bonsai treeAll trees from temperate climates have a dormant period during winter. They need to be allowed this dormancy or they’ll die. Depending upon the species of tree, some bonsai will require some winter protection while others will not. It also depends on the severity of the winter in your region. Most deciduous bonsai don’t need protection if temperatures get no lower than the mid-twenties Fahrenheit like in the southernmost parts of the United States.

For colder regions or if you bonsai is sensitive to lower temperatures it is recommended that you place it inside an unheated garage, shed or in your root cellar or on a cold frame in a window well on the north side of your house. You can also bury them in light snow or in your flower bed. Keep in mind that they do need some exposure to the cold to enter dormancy properly. Do not put them in a place that will be exposed to repeated freezing and thawing. For example, a bad location would be on a sun porch that gets warm during the day and freezing at night.

Indoor Bonsai

Tropical trees and some sub-tropical trees can be made successfully into indoor bonsai. With supplemental lighting they can be kept inside all year, but it really is best to give them time outside during the growing season. Most of these species do not tolerate temperatures below fifty degrees Fahrenheit and should be brought inside in the fall well before the first frost.

Tropical regions of the world normally receive about twelve hours of sunlight per day, so an indoor bonsai needs as much sunlight as possible in order to thrive. A tropical bonsai also needs higher humidity levels. You will need to mist the tree with water especially during winter because the relative humidity inside of homes drops during colder months. In order to keep the humidity up you can also try grouping several indoor plants together, placing pans of gravel filled with water under the pot or placing water near the bonsai. If you put your bonsai into water it should never sit deeper than the feet on the pot. The water level must never be above the bottom of the pot or you risk mold and root rot from too much moisture.

Giving Life To Your Tree – Growing Your Bonsai From A Seed

bonsai tree seedlingsGrowing a Bonsai tree from a seed can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience. There are two ways that you might prepare a bonsai tree seed for germination. One way is to plant your bonsai tree seed or seeds in your garden with the arrival of early spring. When the weather begins to warm the soil, the seed gradually warms with it and it will germinate. It is important that you water your seed, making sure to keep the soil damp at all times. It is extremely important that you never let the soil dry out.

Keeping the soil from drying out or becoming too wet can be difficult to manage, so it might be to your advantage to purchase a moisture gauge. This little item will help you to measure the content or amount of water in the soil, which can make it easier for you because you will not have to guess whether or not you should water again.

Another way to prepare a bonsai tree seed is to do it artificially by putting the seed in a pot and placing the whole thing in a cold refrigerator.

This process is called cold stratification.

At this point, you might be wondering where you can purchase a bonsai seed. If you really want to start a Bonsai tree from a seed, there are many stores that will sell bonsai tree seed, they can be ordered through horticultural stores or they can be ordered and purchases online. It should be noted, however, that while many bonsai trees are started by seeds many are also started by cuttings, or by finding a tree that you like, digging it up and using it for your own. As for seeds, pine seeds are most commonly used.

When planning to grow a Bonsai tree from a seed, the best way to go about it is to purchase a bonsai tree starter kit. These starter kits will come in two types of kits. The first one contains a tree that is already three to four years old. The bonsai tree starter kit contains all the things you need to get started, such as ceramic container, the appropriate soil for your individual tree, drainage cover holes, instructions, humidity tray, textured rock and annealed copper wire that are used to form your tree.

The other type of bonsai tree starter kit is a seed kit. These ones are often quite inexpensive and will, on average, give you seeds for three to eight saplings. Sometimes you can order kits with different varieties of seeds. Now, the bonsai tree seed kits can differ, so shopping around is usually a good idea.

The bonsai tree starter kit also comes with the proper growing medium that your bonsai tree seed will need for a healthy start. You will also receive several terracotta or organic seed pots, a propagating cover and instructions for the growth of your bonsai tree from seed to mature bonsai tree.

How To Raise & Grow Your Bonsai Tree Outdoors

Bonsai trees, generally speaking, are not house plants; they are real trees that can live outdoors, it is just that they have been grown into miniatures.

Growing outdoor Bonsai trees is not a problem. They look wonderful on decks and patios and can dress up a garden very nicely. As with all trees there are two different kinds; deciduous and coniferous. Deciduous have leaves that will change color in the fall and fall off. Coniferous trees are of the evergreen type and will keep their needles or leaves throughout the year.

With careful planning, you can have outdoor Bonsai trees blooming throughout your yard during the summer that will display colorful foliage in the fall. The evergreens, of course, will continue to add their color to the yard throughout the year. As with planting all trees, it is important that you purchase trees that will thrive well in the environment that you will be planting them in.

Now, most outdoor Bonsai trees that are purchased have already been shaped so growing outdoor Bonsai trees is more about maintenance. You might think that outdoor Bonsai trees would not require as much maintenance, but this is not true. Growing outdoor Bonsai trees need to be watered like the indoor Bonsai trees do. The soil should never be allowed to completely dry out; instead, it needs to be kept moist.

Rain water is fine for the outdoor Bonsai tree, but you should always check the soil for moisture content as rain showers by themselves might not provide enough water, or they might flood the tree out.

It will be necessary to fertilize your outdoor Bonsai tree to make sure that the nutrients the tree needs are replenished. Some fertilizers need only be used at half strength once a month, but not during the outdoor Bonsai trees dormant period in the winter.

When growing your outdoor Bonsai tree you will occasionally need to prune or trim back new growth to keep the lines of your tree within its design parameters. It is important when trimming to never take away all the new growth. Depending on what kind of outdoor Bonsai tree you are growing, you will also need to re-pot your tree in order to give it new soil and room to grow. This happens when the root system fills the pot.

Deciduous trees are, on average, done every two to three years as they are faster growers then evergreens, re-potted approximately every four to five years. You will need to check on this, however, since every growing outdoor Bonsai tree is an individual and its growth rate cannot always be measured by averages.

When re-potting the outside layer of the roots (the bottom fourth) are removed. Once this is done, a thin layer of gravel has to be put in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage. New soil is put on top of that layer and pressed down just enough to leave out any air pockets.

The last issue when growing outdoor Bonsai trees is to make sure they are properly prepared for their dormancy during the winter months. Some trees can be put in the ground and will survive the winter season if properly mulched.

Many outdoor Bonsai tree owners find putting their tree in an unheated garage works well for them. This is not to say that the Bonsai can be ignored during its dormant period as the tree will need to be watered about every two weeks.

When To Water, Fertilize And Re-pot Your Precious Bonsai

Bonsai tree maintenance is not difficult, but it can be time consuming. If you have never owned a Bonsai tree before it will be helpful to establish a routine for caring for your special tree. The thought of watering a tree sounds simple, but it is one of the most common problems people have who are growing a Bonsai tree for the first time. With Bonsai tree maintenance it is very important not to over-water your tree, which results in drowning, root rot and the promotion of fungus growth.

The other extreme is under-watering your tree, which sends it into a drought. Bonsai tree expansion depends on a soil that will hold moisture but will also drain well. The root ball should never be allowed to completely dry out. On average, Bonsai tree expansion requires watering once a week until fall when the tree enters dormancy, and then should only be watered once every two weeks. Both indoor and outdoor Bonsai tree maintenance can benefit from a water gauge that will help you measure the water content in the soil so that you can be sure to water the tree whenever it needs it. Good Bonsai tree maintenance will also mean that the soil is fertilized on occasion to ensure that the tree is receiving all the nutrients and vitamins it needs, to help with Bonsai tree expansion.

There are a variety of fertilizers on the market to choose from, such as liquid, dry, organic and chemical fertilizers. Whichever one you choose in the end, it needs to be the right type of fertilizer that is right for your type of tree. Generally, Bonsai trees do not need to be fertilized more than once a month, with the exception of their dormant period where you will not need to fertilize it at all. Many people starting out prefer to use a liquid fertilizer because it can be easily mixed with water that makes it easier to apply. Some fertilizers only need to be used at half strength to maintain healthy Bonsai tree expansion. Whatever is used, it needs to be well distributed throughout the soil. Over time with Bonsai tree expansion the Bonsai tree will need to be re-potted. The time for this is when the dense root system has filled the pot. Re-potting is often done in the spring when the dormant period of the tree has ended, particularly with deciduous trees.

As the tree matures, re-potting becomes less frequent. It is important to remember that re-potting or transplanting a tree is not natural and can be quite stressful for your tree. When choosing a pot for proper Bonsai tree maintenance, the pot must not be too small or too large. A pot is usually measured according to the proportions of the tree, meaning that the pot should only be as wide by two thirds by two thirds of the height of the tree.

Also, the pot should only be approximately half as deep as the tree’s height.

How To Prune A Bonsai Tree And The Tools You’ll Need

Bonsai tree tools can be bought individually or in sets. If you wish to purchase a set and have all tools at hand, you will most often have a rake with a spatula, small, medium and large shears, a wire cutter, knob cutter, leaf trimmer and a root brush. It should be noted that when first starting out, you will not need the entire set of tools. A set of gardening scissors, called a secateur, will work well.

You might be wondering why it is necessary to prune a Bonsai tree. There are two reasons for pruning; the first is to trim the roots and the second is to trim the branches and foliage. It is very important to ensure that you are using the right Bonsai tree tools for the job. Taking away branches and foliage that the tree doesn’t really need, it means that the root system of the Bonsai tree does not have to work as hard, or be as large, to support the top of the Bonsai tree. Pruning of the roots of the Bonsai tree goes hand in hand with re-potting your tree. Normally for the first five years of average tree growth, you will need to prune the roots and re-pot once a year, but this may vary with different species of Bonsai trees. Once the tree has been removed from the pot, about one fourth to one third of the new roots are trimmed off.

Once the roots have been trimmed, a new layer of gravel is put into the pot and then soil is lightly packed in around the roots. It is very important to make sure that there are no air pockets left in the soil when doing this.

When it comes to pruning the top of the tree, you need to keep in mind the three different reasons for upper Bonsai tree pruning. First, you remove any branches that are not going to fit with the basic Bonsai tree design you have chosen. The second is to balance your tree and direct its growth.

When Bonsai tree pruning the growth of the tree takes place in the area that is not pruned as often, and the third is leaf pruning and bud pinching, which are meant to help encourage fine branching. In Bonsai tree pruning, the branches that are most frequently pruned are those that cross, branches that turn back to the trunk and branches that are pointing directly down or growing off of other branches.

Once you have started your Bonsai tree pruning, it does not have to be completed in one day. Take your time. Sit back and look at your tree from an artistic point of view. Don’t be afraid to use some pictures for reference or to get some new ideas.

You can easily take anywhere from several days to a few weeks to fully prune the way you want.

Once your tree has reached the desired height, you use secateurs to cut off the top of the Bonsai tree. This Bonsai tree pruning makes the tree fuller and also prevents it from growing any taller.

Regardless of what you start out with or what you eventually need, all Bonsai tree tools can be purchased easily from most horticultural stores from your area or online.

That’s it. Did I give you enough information to get started? Did I leave anything out?

Let me know in the comments what you think. I love to hear reader feedback.