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Anything and everything that happens under the Toronto sun.
We’d been talking about a vacation, a real vacation, for years. So far, when we took time off work, we stayed home because we have four cats and we have nobody to look after them. But after a particularly violent illness, I decided we should take a vacation and as far as the cats were concerned, I would make a plan.
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Can Writing Coaches Be Trusted Or Are They Shameless Scammers
They say that those who can’t do, teach. Generally, people wouldn’t trust a plumber who has never touched a pipe and wouldn’t dream of hiring an electrician who doesn’t know his way around wires. Yet where it comes to writing, writers pay thousands of dollars to so-called writing coaches without checking their credentials.
Anyone can call themselves a writing coach. Some even reference articles online and books on Amazon, but have they written those articles and books or were they ghostwritten by a talented writer? One thing scammers targeting writers do very well is talk. With their silver tongue, they can sell snow to an Eskimo.
Let’s take Michael for instance. Michael is active on social media, promising writers that they too can make thousands of dollars from freelance writing. He offers to be their coach.
Writing Mentor — I Want to Help You Speed Up Success & Make You a Wealthy Writer
Here’s the thing… freelance writing is the easiest way to make money online fast.
Whenever you see ads like this … RUN! Don’t believe anything these ads promise you. The only purpose of these ads is not to make you a better writer but to open your wallet. Ads like these won’t help you become a better writer, but they will make the ‘coach’ richer.
If a so-called writing coach states that he made $1,000, $5,000 or even $10,000 in one month, you can bet your bottom dollar that he didn’t do it with writing, but by scamming folks like you.
If you have a flair for writing and your ambition is to be a freelance writer, or even write and publish a book, attend a real writing course in a college or join a writing club. You won’t have to fork over thousands of dollars and you will learn from a professor or someone certified to teach.
You might argue that writing coaches have a website with testimonials of past clients. Fake, all fake! The coach himself writes those testimonials and if you see pictures of ‘past students’ you might find that they are family members, friends or people who were paid to have their picture taken.
If you want to know how to be a successful writer you can do so with minimal effort and zero dollars. I tested it on Google.
How to be a successful writer — About 582,000,000 results (0.59 seconds)
How to write better — About 2,970,000,000 results (0.58 seconds)
How to be a freelance writer About 209,000,000 results (0.80 seconds)
How to market my work About 5,530,000,000 results (0.76 seconds)
About 901,000,000 results (0.59 seconds)
Linda, a friend of mine, is a very successful freelance writer but her success didn’t come overnight. For two years she toiled with articles and product descriptions for a handful of dollars.
Her work got noticed though and she was contacted by a website who offered her a contract to write 20 titles per week for which she earned $600. When the contract finished she set up her own website and offered her services to various organizations. Even though her rates were far from cheap, her extensive portfolio gave her credibility. Within one year she was so in demand that she had to take on two extra writers to cope with the workload.
Stories like these you can believe. It takes time, effort and considerable talent to earn a living as a freelance writer. Anyway who claims that you can make thousands of dollars within no time with little or no effort is lying.
Michael is far from the only scammer who targets writers. Kary Oberbrunner is another one. He charges his ‘students’ a minimum of $5,000 to join his so-called Author Elite Program. When I called him on it, he said: “I’m not asking for people to pay me $5,000, I’m asking to invest $5,000 in their future.” Such baloney!
Shameless scammers they are and I hope you don’t fall for their tricks.
Five Ways To Reduce College Debt
For a majority of students, going to college and accumulating debt goes hand in hand. That is if you don’t have a family who can afford your education or you are not eligible for a full scholarship. You have no choice but to figure out ways to reduce college debt.
Delay starting college
You can wait a few years before going to college and get a job instead. If you can still live at home, you should be able to save for all or at least part of your tuition fees. You might not get your dream job with only a high school diploma, but you will earn income.
One of the ways to reduce college debt is to pick a local college versus a more expensive one out-of-state. By picking a local college, you’ll save onboarding and the cost of living. This decision alone can save you thousands of dollars each year.
If you have no choice in the matter, and you need to live away from home, get a dormitory room on campus or share an apartment off-campus with other students to save money.
When considering local colleges, compare their course structure and how much they charge for each credit. One college may be cheaper than the other with little difference in course quality. If you have your heart set on graduating from a particular college, start your studies in a less expensive college and after one or two years have your credits transferred to the other one.
Explore your options
Before you talk to a bank about a loan, talk to the college administrator about their grants program. Some grants amount to several thousand dollars and don’t need to be paid back.
If you do need to take out a loan, don’t wait until you graduate to start making payments. Loans accrue interest. Even if you can only manage to pay off the interest, you’ll avoid having the loan snowball into a giant amount when you graduate.
Textbooks and materials
Give preference to used textbooks, keep them in good condition and sell them when you’re done with them. If you’re planning on majoring in history, you might want to keep those books. But why save books and materials from other courses if you won’t be using them.
Alternatively, you can try shopping online or get electronic textbooks when available.
If you don’t have a job already, get one as soon as possible. Don’t hold out for a career in your degreed field. Even if a potential job is not what you studied for, a salary earned as soon as possible will enable you to pay off your loans.
If you have a job, but you’re not used to handling money, get someone to help you budget. It’s easy to be tempted into having fun after studying for years. You can still make paying off your college debt a priority and enjoy your life as well. It’s a good idea to talk to someone who can help you plan a budget and give you the benefit of their financial guidance.
If you have multiple loans, talk to your bank about consolidating your debt. With all of your financial eggs in one basket, they might be willing to negotiate a better interest rate.
One of the smart ways to reduce college debt is by paying your loans on time, and if possible, paying more than the required amount. If nothing else, seeing the amount of your loan going down will motivate you to keep making those payments.
In The Arms Of David Schwimmer
How many of us can say that on Valentine’s Day, they were in David Schwimmer’s arms? I can. Our encounter was very brief, only a few moments, but I was in his arms.
I was working for Warner Brothers at the time and the news of David Schwimmer’s visit to our office, on Valentine’s Day, was supposed to be hush hush, but traveled among the staff like wildfire.
Suddenly office cubicles were spruced up and on the day of the planned visit the ladies showed up as if they were expected at a red carpet event. Their hair was done, they wore a stunning outfit and those who usually wore comfortable footwear had crammed their feet in elegant shoes. They wore make-up; they wore jewelry and seemed to have taken a bath in perfume.
Whenever the reception door opened, heads turned.
But David Schwimmer kept everyone waiting, and the later it got in the afternoon, the more hopes dwindled that the star was not going to show up. It had happened before, other celebrities were expected at the office from time to time, but very seldom did such a visit actually take place.
Me? I got caught up in the excitement too but hadn’t gone to any great lengths with my appearance. I had washed my hair and wore stylish slacks and a nice top, but no more than that. If anything, as the day went by, my appearance somewhat suffered. My top was half out of my slacks, my make-up was not as fresh anymore as it had been in the morning, and I had pulled my hair in a ponytail.
Shortly after four o’clock, my boss handed me a package that had to be couriered that day.
“I think it might be too late for that,” I told her. “The courier deadline is at four o’clock.”
“Try anyway,” she pleaded. “Hurry, run and see if they will still accept it.”
So I did. I scooped up the package and set off to the reception area. In a mad rush, I flung the door wide open and mid-sprint bumped into … David Schwimmer!
My face was buried his shirt, my arms were around his chest and his were around my shoulders. I was stunned and speechless. If he had asked me for my name, I would have gotten no further than “Euh.”
I recognized him immediately of course, but he was so different than I knew him as Dr. Ross Geller on the TV series ‘Friends’. For one he was much taller than I had assumed and a lot — and I do mean a lot — better looking. He wore black slacks, a lime green shirt and his hair was not full of gel.
He wasn’t a bit upset about our accidental encounter. He merely smiled down on me and said ‘Easy there.”
I watched him disappear and remained frozen on the spot. Only when the receptionist asked “Can I help you?” did I come out of my dazed state. Could Lori help me? I didn’t know. Why was I there? I must have come to reception with a purpose. The package right, the package! Oh who cared about some stupid package when I had been in David Schwimmer's’ arms on Valentine’s Day!
If You Think Men Are The Only Predators In Chat Rooms, Think Again
I admit I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook playing Bingo. While the game is nice and relaxing, interacting with other players from all over the world in the chat rooms is often funny and uplifting. That is until some nut job starts making sexual comments or innuendos.
When this happens, members in the chat rooms are quick to give the sex talker the cold shoulder, tell him his comments are not welcome or report him for offensive language.
Yes, men are often thought of as being sexual predators and women are advised to exercise caution on websites and chat rooms. But what if the sexual predator is a woman or even a young girl?
This week someone by the name of Nikki entered the room. She greeted everyone with a “Hi” and for the longest time remained quiet. That is until someone by the name of Adam made an appearance. Nikki’s interest was sparked and she latched on.
She started by asking Adam how old he was. He replied “24”. Her next question was “Where are you from?” to which Adam replied “London, UK”.
Nikki, obviously not a geography expert, asked where that was. She then said that she was from Alabama.
After some mindless chatting, Nikki asked Adam if she could be his girlfriend. Adam did not answer.
For the next five minutes Nikki posted comments such as “Adam are yu there?” and “Adam why dont you talk to me anymoor?”
Eventually, Adam came back and asked how old Nikki was. First, she pretended to be 22, but eventually, she admitted to being 11. Adam must have heard alarm bells and seen red flags because for the next while he didn’t post any comments.
For a while, Nikki kept up her mindless chatter, to which nobody replied. She got annoyed and posted “If nobode wants to talk to me thats fine. Thats there choice. Im so bored.”
I half expected someone in the room would suggest that Nikki study English spelling and grammar, but apparently everyone was too polite to point out Nikki’s spelling mistakes.
When Adam (who we all thought had left the chat room) won the 2nd price in Bingo his name and picture flashed across the screen and Nikki shot into action.
“Adam, why are yu ignoring me?” — “I mis you” — “Do you mis me?” — “Pleese contact me, my email adres is ……”.
Adam didn’t respond and Nikki wasn’t having it.
“Adam Im talking to yu” — “anser me, did yu rite my email adres down?” — “I want to heer from yu, I want to be your girlfriend”.
Adam couldn’t be persuaded. Whether he left the chat room or merely ignored Nikki, we’ll never know but there were no more posts from him.
Nikki then proceeded to tell the room that she was looking at shirtless pictures of Justin Bieber. One woman commented if Nikki wasn’t a little young for that and Nikki let fly with a series of insults and swear words that were censored by the chat room. At this point, I had enough of Nikki’s silliness and left the room.
The next day I played Bingo again and found myself in the same room as Jasmine. Jasmine stated that she was getting married in three weeks and that she was desperate for a fling before tying the knot. Would any man please contact her at … (she gave her email address).
If some men are predators, it would seem that some women are too. The strange thing was that while women remained silent, men cautioned Jasmine about giving out her private information. They were rewarded by the comment “Mind your own business grandpa”.
There Was A Ghost In My Room
It was late, it was raining, and I had at least a thirty-five-minute drive ahead of me to get home. When my friend Diane offered that I could spend the night in her house, I eagerly accepted.
Diane lived with her mother in a spacious country house. The obviously old furniture in the guestroom was not quite what I had expected in the otherwise modern home.
“It’s my grandmother’s furniture,” Diane explained. “When grandma passed away, my mom decided to keep her stuff for the spare room. The mattress is new though and the sheets are fresh, so you should be quite comfortable.”
A few minutes after I had turned out the lights, I heard the door opening and softly closing. I was about to ask Diane if she had forgotten something when I heard her moving through the room, every so carefully as to not to disturb me.
I heard her by the vanity table, opening and closing drawers. By the linen cabinet, opening and closing drawers. Not wanting to make Diane feel bad for waking me up, I pretended to be asleep. But I smiled as I heard her rummaging, apparently, she could not find what she was looking for.
Suddenly I felt her sitting down on the bed. I stiffened as my body tilted towards the extra weight. Enough was enough. Diane and I were good friends, but we were not THAT close. Why was she sitting next to me? Was she about to put the moves on me?
I have nothing against the gay community, to each his or her own, but I’m as straight as an arrow. I should do something before Diane touched me and as such prevent an embarrassing situation. I reached up and switched on the light. To my utter surprise, there was nobody in the room.
Had I dreamed this? Had I fallen asleep while Diane was in my room and had she left unnoticed?
“Did you find what you were looking for last night?” I asked her over breakfast.
“Hu?” Diane said, not understanding.
“Last night,” I explained, “you were in my room, going through the drawers of the vanity table and the linen closet. I heard you but I did not want to say anything. I didn’t want you to think you woke me up.”
“Girl I was not in your room,” she said with a shake of her head. “I fell asleep the moment my head touched the pillow.”
When I told her what had happened, Diane and her mother exchanged meaningful glances. “This is not the first time this has happened,” Helen, Diane’s mother, explained. “When my sister came to stay, she also told us that she heard noises in that room. Drawers opening and closing. We laughed with it, we thought Anne was imagining things. Then when my other sister Betty stayed here overnight, she too mentioned what you just did … drawers opening and closing and seemingly looking for something. We didn’t know what to make of it but then someone told us that that room might be haunted.
“And you put ME in THAT room!” I cried.
“What other room was I going to put you in?” Diane asked. “I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t want to sleep with me. I snore.”
“What about another room?” I said. “You told me this house has four bedrooms.”
“Oh oh no,” Diane shook her head, “you definitely do not want to sleep in the blue room. That room is really creepy. That room is always ice cold, even in the middle of summer.”
After breakfast, we went to the blue room together and I did not even have to go inside to feel how cold the room was. An icy chill met me at the door while I admired the room from afar. It was wallpapered with periwinkle blue flowers against a white background. Blue drapes matched the blue of the flowers, as did the coverlet and the rugs by the bed.
When the ice white curtains fluttered in the breeze Diane turned to me. “Did you see that?” I had seen the curtain move. “The window is closed,” Diane said. “In fact, we can’t open it. I tried, my mom and brother tried, nobody can open that window, yet every now and then that curtain will move.”
We returned to the living room and as soon as politely possible, I left Diane’s house, never to return again.
You Want Me To Do What!
Having always worked in a private office or a cubicle, an open plan office didn’t appeal to me. Sharing limited space with eight or ten total stranger was about as appealing as sour milk. Then again, I was unemployed, the agency offered me this job, and any job is better than no job.
On my first day, I was introduced to nine men and one woman. Their ages ranged between 35 and 50 and while some were Canadians, others hailed from France, England, Iraq, Egypt, and the United States.
Every day, usually around 3:00 p.m. it was this American who entertained us with his stories. His name was Phillip, a jovial, middle-aged man, born and bred in St. Louis, Missouri. As a financial consultant overseeing several accountants, he had traveled the world and had learned from his mistakes. Assuming the role of a harbinger, he warned us about the dangers of an outdated passport photo.
“I can’t stress the importance of up-to-date identification enough,” he informed us. “Never mind if you don’t look beautiful or even remotely attractive in your passport picture. Be honest and look closely at your passport, or other identification pictures. Are you recognizable in your photo?”
Phillip then proceeded to relate his experience during a holiday visit to Israel fifteen years ago. His audience hung onto his every word.
“If I had known then what I know now, I never would have traveled with an outdated passport photo,” Philip began. “I had no trouble leaving for Tel-Aviv from St. Louis and was treated with professional courtesy by all. Unfortunately, when I returned to the States, I walked into a nightmare.”
He recounted that the trouble started at Ben Gurion airport when he handed his passport to the customs officer for inspection. The male officer took one look at his photo, then he carefully looked at Phillip, and his brown withered face morphed into a mask of hostility.
“What is this?” he barked.
“My passport,” Phillip had replied politely.
“Your passport?” the customs officer had said in a mixture of disbelief and contempt. “You want me to believe that this is you? This is not your passport. Look at this man. This man looks nothing like you.”
Phillip smiled at first because the customs officer had a point. In the passport picture, he was a few years younger and sporting an afro. Times had changed, an afro was no longer fashionable and as such Phillip wore his hair shorter and less voluminous.
He was taken aside and led to a tiny windowless room. A hermitage it seemed, dark, dusty and threatening. After a while five men walked in, four surrounded him with guns, while the fifth one starting firing questions at him in a language that he didn’t understand. When Phillip said that he didn’t understand them, the leader of the group turned to English and instructed him to remove his clothing. Phillip thought this rather odd, but complied, all the while trying not to panic.
When ordered, at gunpoint, to remove his underwear too, he was not so compliant. More so, he was now severely ticked off and at a point where he didn’t care anymore what happened.
“You want me to do what! No !@#$ way!” he swore. “There is no !@#$ way I’m taking this off. You can !@#$ shoot me if you want, but I’m not taking off my underwear!”
Much to his surprise, within minutes he was let go. From what he was told his attitude and bad language had saved him. Apparently, only real Americans can swear with such gusto and resist getting naked even at gunpoint.
Needless to say, as soon as he arrived home from his holiday he had his passport picture updated. He urged us to do the same.
The Locks of Love Scam
Locks of Love poses as a charity organization that accumulates and donates human hair to be turned into wigs for cancer patients. In principle, this is a noble thing to do for a good cause, but as with so many good causes, one can’t take anything at face value. One has to look a little closer to determine if Locks of Love can be trusted.
By Locks of Love own admission, the organization is extremely hesitant to process hair that is received in the mail. In an email, a Locks of Love spokesperson stated that human hair is known to contain any number of parasites and has to go through a cleansing process before it can be used. This cleansing process he stated is rather expensive and Locks of Love cannot afford this process.
As such, hair that is received in the mail or dropped off at the office is sold to wig manufacturers in California who have to facilities to cleanse hair. Most of the hair ends up in the wardrobe studios of Hollywood where it is worn by the actors and actresses or is sold to European wig manufacturers.
Family members or friends of a child with cancer often donate their hair in the hope that a wig can be created of their hair. This is not a realistic expectation. Eight to ten ponytails of a similar color and texture are needed to make one wig. The bottom three inches are cut and throw away. Hair that has been permed, straightened or colored is also throw away.
Lock of Love’s claims that wigs are donated to children suffering from cancer is less than true. In general kids with cancer are rejected for a wig as their baldness is temporary. Their baldness is a direct result from chemo and radiation treatment. Once the treatment has been concluded, the child’s natural hair grows back. As such, the hair loss is temporary and the child does not qualify for a wig.
One insider stated that Locks of Love doesn’t give wigs to kids with cancer, Locks of Love simply uses them to create sympathy with the public.
Only children suffering from Alopecia and other long-term hair loss conditions are being considered, which are very small in number. For the Alopecia patient to receive a wig, the parents of a child can apply but are not guaranteed to receive a wig. The parents have to write a 2,000-word essay stating why they think their child qualifies for a wig, send a photo of the child and need to pay for the wig in accordance with their earnings. Children of families that have an income of $100,000 or more are not illegible.
Lock of Love claims to be a not for profit organization, but that is not quite true either. Take a look at a financial statement for 2009 from the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and draw your own conclusions.
Total income $1,925,345
Program expenses $1,041,105
Fund raising expenses $20,185
Administrative expenses $230,207
Total expenses $1,291,497
Income in Excess of Expenses $633,848
Beginning net assets $4,586,851
Ending net assets $5,220,699
Total liabilities $11,144
Total assets $5,231,843
If you’re considering donating your hair … DON’T! You are being scammed.
Six Worst Valentine Gift Ideas
As Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year, it is only logical that a gift for your loved one should be romantic too. So think for a moment and don’t let your heart speak louder than your brain before you whip out your credit card.
Statue of Liberty Facts
Liberty Island, in the harbor of New York, is the home of the Statue of Liberty, also known as Lady Liberty. Millions of emigrants have looked up to her as she welcomed them to their new home, symbolizing hope for all.