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DSLR Lenses for Travelling

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Third-Party lens manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron have long been the kings of the niche market of the single, multipurpose travel lens. The Sigma and Tamron 18-200mm lenses (and more recent versions with OS) are a travelers dream when it comes to value for money and range.  Nikon has had an entry in this market for a couple of years and while the optics are reportedly excellent, the roughly 2x price tag can be off-putting for cost-conscious traveler.  Recently though, there has been some movement in this somewhat stale market, in the form of the recently released Tamron AF 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 Di-II XR LD Aspherical IF and Canon EF-S 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 IS lenses. Click to read on…

Tamron 18-250mm

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How To Not Stress About Money

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There’s a great book by David Bach called The Automatic Millionaire. It’s entertaining, easy to read and important in this crazy day of spend, spend, spend. The book can basically be summed up in two phrases. One, save 10% of your salary automatically – Here’s a side lesson for everyone, find a good concept, write 200 pages around it and make millions. Two, stop spending $5/day on latte’s, you’ll save thousands you can invest and presto change-o, you’re a millionaire.

Already, first off I agree with the “save 10% to become a millionaire”. Conventional wisdom says invest 10% to retire, 15% to retire comfortably and 20% to retire early. It’s right and you don’t need me to post all of the stats that are everywhere. Put the money in equity index funds when you’re young, then add a bond fund as you get older.

However, I disagree with Bach’s second statement, “don’t buy latte’s” (okay, bit of paraphrasing there) because not buying coffee doesn’t set you up for financial freedom. Planning your big purchases does. For example, if you buy a new car like me, you’re silly. You drive them off the lot and they’re worth half of what you just spent. And then look at the cash flying out the door, I spent $340/month paying off my car, so you’d need to make $6,000/year before taxes just to pay off your car. I could buy a latte every day and spend less than half this amount.

The fact is most people need to invest automatically, but they also need to realize that buying a $500,000 house on a ford focus budget doesn’t work. If you don’t plan your big purchases, you’re screwed. So spend less on your house and car, invest automatically and enjoy every day. You’ll be wealthy in no time and you didn’t even have to sacrifice every dinner, latte or movie to do it.

You can check out David Bach’s book if you want to spend money. Or you can re-read the two phrases at the start of the post. Pesonally, I’d read the start of the post and go enjoy the day, it’s better spent enjoying a latte.

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A Simple Way To Be Happy

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Following Epicurean philosophy is a great way to be happy. It’s based on the teaching of Epicurus and was founded around 307 BC. It states that to be happy you need to be close to your friends, time to reflect on life and freedom. That’s it.

Freedom from pain is one of the most important elements as well as enjoying the simple pleasures. I think that’s often missing from our society. It’s not often people sit back and try to enjoy a bowl of cheerios, but maybe we should start being a little more amazed by the little things.

The other interesting element in this philosophy is that money will not make you happy. Well not excessive amounts at least. Under the Epicurean philosophy you need enough money to take care of the food and shelter question. But after that it can’t make you happy because it’s more about attitude and relationships, which can’t be bought.

So take a page from Epicurus’ book and stop trying to be happy by looking at new cars. Call a friend and start appreciating the little things that make up your day.

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Real Time Stock Quotes

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If you’re a small-time investor and delayed quotes are keeping you down (that’s just like the man…), then it’s time to rise up! Online financial service Google Finance has extended the availability of it’s real-time quotes from the NASDAQ to companies trading on the NYSE. This means that you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the last trade price, not only what happened 15 minutes ago. Happy Trading!

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Get a Little Personal, Don’t be Shy – Travel Agents

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 This article was contributed by our award winning journalist Steven. Thanks Steve for all the help.

Booking trips, whether for business or pleasure, has never been easier.

Like most people, I like to do my vacation planning online, while I’m supposed to be hard at work. It’s pretty easy to look like you’re performing an important task as well; just furrow your brow, get really close to your computer monitor, and start clicking away at the mouse. It’s a foolproof system, unless of course, your job does not involve a computer. Then the whole activity would look pretty foolish and more importantly, you would not actually be booking a trip.

There is a number of quality websites dedicated to finding a number of different trip options in a matter of seconds. Travelocity, CheapoAir, Travelation, Kayak, Orbitz, Lowfares, Priceline, and my personal favourite Expedia – and this has little to do with preferential service, and everything to do with singing out a twangy “dot com”, just like in the commercial, as I type in the web address.

Every once in a while however, flight prices take off and border on the outrageous. Especially, if you are booking on short notice and need to fly on less than 7 days notice. With limited notice, these websites will return flight prices from their search engines, double what they were a few days prior. At this point there’s no need to type harder on the keyboard, throw the mouse or curse the twangy little “dot com” diddy.

It will save a lot of time – and more importantly, money – to pick up the phone and get a little personal.

Call a travel agent.

It may be a little unorthodox in the wonderful world of technology, but actual people can help. Travel agents will have access to flights a typical search engine will not; because if they didn’t, well travel agents just wouldn’t be around anymore.

On 8 days notice my flight to Dallas was about $550. On 7 days notice the exact same flight was $1275. On 6 days notice, after talking in person to the wonderful people at Flight Centre, the flight was $650.

So if you can’t book early, or maybe if you’re just looking for a better deal, just pick up the phone and get a little personal.

Coincidently enough, it’s also pretty easy to look like you’re busy at work while on the phone as well, so it can even still be done while pretending to work.

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Save Your Bacon with Outlook

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I know I can’t be the only one out there who’s a little clumsy with email. Once in a while I will make the mistake of holding down the CTRL button when I press enter, only to see that I’ve forwarded a half-composed unprofessional message to a high-paying client. Here’s a quick tip that might save your bacon: add a rule in Outlook to delay all outgoing messages for 1 minute. Doing this will ensure that you have a chance to correct your mistakes before they go out the door.

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Road Bikes

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When I say road bikes, I’m not talking about the kind that hit 200+ km/h, I’m talking about the kind that you pedal with your own two legs. If you’re like most people, you’ve only ridden your childhood tricycle, your first two-wheeler with an awesome banana seat, and of course, your precious mountain bikes. I was the same way…until this year.

The company I work for really supports health. They have recently developed a department called “Wellness” which focuses on keeping employees active. A gentleman from this group created a challenge earlier this year which did just this. Employees created a team of 10 individuals, the goal was via man-powered activities to accumulate enough kilometers to cover the perimeter of Australia. This could be running, walking, rollerblading, cycling, swimming, etc…

Obviously, of your options cycling is the fastest way to accumulate the clicks. However the catch is that only 75% of your total distance can be from cycling. This was to allow runners to contribute a significant amount.

The total distance around Australia based on our “virtual stops” added up to an incredible 12,023km. Roughly 1200km per person on the team. We had from June 1 until August 31 to complete this.

The team we put together was a team of powerhouses, extremely dedicated people. 10 individuals that vowed to put in their weekly clicks no matter what (I recall several rainy rides throughout June). Our goal was to complete the challenge in 2 months, not 3. Therefore our 1200km per person turned into ~150km per week. Our team had 2 pure runners and therefore the cyclists took up a few extra clicks for them.

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NASCAR – The Most Exciting Left Turn, Ever

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This is a guest post from Steve, an award winning journalist. Thanks Steve for the contribution to our little publication.

If you’re not a fan of NASCAR, there’s a good chance you’ve never driven a stock car. There’s also a pretty good chance you don’t like the taste of Budweiser, you probably don’t have a “good” pair of sweatpants or have a buddy with a hyphenated first name ending in Bob; and there are probably no barbeque sauce stains on your wifebeater – that is assuming you own a wifebeater, which you probably don’t.

But all those little extra bonuses that come with being a NASCAR fan will happen with time, trust me and don’t worry.

The first thing you have to do is experience a race. And I mean have to.

Let’s be clear though, I don’t mean experience a race by watching it on television in HD on surround sound; or even going one better by purchasing a ticket and seeing a race in person. (Actually, this might not be a bad second option. The sound of the cars racing past your spot in the crowd is deafening and when the stands shake, you know you’re part of something special. Depending on how fast you acclimatize yourself to the aforementioned taste of Budweiser, will also affect how exciting the live experience is.)

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What Fuel Economy Really Means

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This is a guest post from Brian.

Most people can agree that one of the best feelings in the world is driving a car for the very first time. Nothing beats that feeling of pressing your foot on the accelerator and pondering just how fast the car can go. If you live in Canada, you get the joy of winters. Winter brings icy roads for you to slide right into two foot snow banks. Anyone ever have the pleasure of pushing your own car out of a snow bank? I have.

Although the feeling of driving a car for your first time is hard to beat, I find that nothing tops the feeling of owning your first car. The freedom is what captured me. Being able to cruise anywhere you want at any time. Not having to ask your parents to borrow their car anymore. Not having to stare at the gas gauge of your parent’s car wondering if you should fill it up or not.

My first car (as well as my current) is a ’99 Toyota Tercel. Just over a year ago I paid $6,000 for it. It was originally listed for $7,200, and then was dropped to $6,400. With my brother helping out the negotiations to get the car down to $6,000. I now realize a year later how much of a steal my car really is.

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Life in a 490 Square Foot Apartment

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Yes it’s true. People live in homes that are smaller than your garage. And it’s great, or at least good enough that we can convince ourselves it’s great. But I truly believe everyone at one point in their life or another should try it out. Why? One simple reason… Simplify.

You quickly realize when you have no space that you can’t buy things. There’s just no where to put things. But this makes you look at what you really want in life. And it’s not a panini press or the ornate vase with dead sticks in it. For me it’s a great book or a case of beer, shared with my closest friends.

Oh and don’t think 490 square feet’s not enough space to have your friends over. So far we’ve had 12 at once. Yeah it’s a bit tight, but if you have a 3,000 sq ft. house everyone just end up in the kitchen anyways, and that can’t be much more than 500 sq ft. (okay, it probably is).

The other benefit of living in a small space is the ability to live comfortably financially. I’ve heard of too many people who are living paycheck to paycheck paying off a gigantic house that they really don’t need. So next time you’re thinking of buying the Taj Mahal, try checking out a smaller apartment. It’ll be cozy. It’ll be fun. And best of all, you’ll find out that there’s funner things to do on the weekend than to see what new fabric the Poang chair comes in at Ikea.

so what can you fit in 490 square feet:

  • 2 people (oh yes, it’s possible)
  • 1 – 52″ plasma, 1 – 13″ bedroom TV
  • 1 office/bedroom
  • washer/dryer
  • 1 over sized couch
  • 1 armless sofa chair
  • 1 ottoman
  • 1 adjustable kitchen table w/2 seats
  • And of course 1 soaker tub

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