Traveling With Electronic and Electrical Appliances

September 21, 2016

Whether they’re traveling for business or for leisure, every international guest that stays at a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast inn brings along an electronic or electrical appliance to use during the trip. Almost always there’s a mobile phone or smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop in their luggage. Most laptops or phones have dual-voltage capability and only need corresponding travel adapter plugs that fit into the sockets of the country they’re visiting. The following information should help travelers choose the right adaptor plugs to bring along in their trip.About Electronic and Electrical AppliancesThough both categories of appliances run on electricity, electronic appliances often need transformers with specific outputs, such as a power converter that accepts an input of 110 to 120 volts and only outputs 220 volts. Appliances with electronic circuits or chips, such as clock radios, battery chargers, and computers, should be used for short periods of time, preferably less than three hours. Plugging in these electronic appliances for long might cause overheating and lead to fires.

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Meanwhile, electrical appliances that provide simple heating functions, such as a flat-iron, water heater, or hair dryer, must be used with a converter or transformer with the corresponding wattage for no more than an hour at a time. The sockets available in bathrooms of hotels and inns in European countries maybe labeled as 220 to 240 volts AC, but these were designed for use with low-wattage appliances such as shavers and electric toothbrushes that need around five to ten watts. They’re not fit for use with a hair dryer, a travel iron, or a phone charger for long hours.Identifying Dual-Voltage Appliances and WattageIf you want to know whether your appliance is dual-voltage, simply check its package for a 120/240 label or look at its plug for any embossed electrical information. These appliances won’t need a converter or power transformer. However, you may still need to find their wattage. When only the voltage and amperage are given, the formula to find the wattage of an appliance simply multiplies the volts with the amps. For instance, 120V multiplied by 0.5A equals 60W, which means an appliance that needs 120 volts at 0.5 amps should run at 60 watts of electricity.Travel Adapter Plugs and Power Output StandardsMost homes and businesses in the United States, Canada and Mexico use 100 to 120 volts of power with around 60 Gigahertz of alternating currents. The rest of the world outputs 200 to 250 volts at around 50 Gigahertz of alternating currents per cycle. Most travel adapter plugs used in North and South America have two parallel flat prongs for the non-earthed types while the earthed type has a grounding pin below.

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In some countries in Europe, the plugs must have two rounded pins parallel to each other. Grounded types have a third pin or flat prong below the pair. Great Britain, in particular, uses a double-rounded pin plug with a flat prong for grounding. In France and Belgium, their plugs have grounding clips instead along with the two-pronged structure. In Australia, the prongs were arranged in a V-shape set at an angle to each other.

The Controversy of UK Agricultural Land Conversions to Housing

September 11, 2016

What are seen as the controversies around converting land from agriculture to housing?The value of UK Green Belt and agricultural lands is undisputed. But the environmental costs of modern farming and housing needs are part of the conversation as well.Anybody considering making an alternative investment in strategic land will know that Britain unquestionably needs more homes to accommodate a growing population. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 4.4 million homes should be built by 2016, largely in response to two factors: A decennial growth rate of 7 percent, as measured in Census 2011, and lagging new home construction that fails to keep up with this population increase, largely attributed to the stringent lending standards of banks following the 2008 economic crisis.At least one group claims the solution is to build on Green Belt land. The Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank, said in late 2012 that the supply of land near cities that is kept unbuilt is a drag on the housing market. They argue that swaths of English countryside that typically surround towns should be opened up for development. The fourteen Green Belts in England cover about 13 percent of the country, enveloping about 60 percent of Britain’s population (about 30 million people).The Policy Exchange faces plenty of headwind in its positions. Since the “garden city movement” of the early 20th century, the effort to combat urban sprawl led by such groups as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the London County Council sought to maintain open spaces dedicated to recreation, forests and agriculture as a social good. But the Town and Country Planning Association has proposed since 2002 the adoption of more flexible policies toward Green Belt lands, suggesting that instead of a growth-stifling “belt,” that “wedges” and “strategic gaps” might allow a natural expansion of urban areas.

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Famously, the head of Natural England, whose charge is entirely to ensure protection and improvement of flora and fauna, said in 2007 “we need a 21st century solution to England’s housing needs which puts in place a network of green wedges, gaps and corridors, linking the natural environment and people.”Agricultural land outside of Green BeltsOf course, land away from the major cities is green as well, much of it in use for agricultural, forestry and recreational purposes. More than 80 percent of the landmass in England and Wales, 12 million hectares, are used for farming and forestry. Local planning authorities can more easily rezone the lands outside Green Belts when market factors, such as the demand for housing development, call for it. Since 2000, about 1500 hectares of agricultural land has been converted to housing development every year.Of course, similar sentiments understandably still exist relative to the bucolic perceptions of farming in the U.K. But environmentalists take exception to how modern agricultural methods, which include excessive application of fertilisers, can actually burden nature with its by-products:• Toxic build-up. 100 million tonnes of sewage sludge, compost and livestock manures applied annually to agricultural lands is leading to a build-up of potentially toxic elements such as zinc and copper, and more than half of sensitive wildlife habitat experiences harmful acid and nitrogen pollution, according to a paper published by Environment Agency UK.• Loss of soil. About 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil is lost each year due to intensive cultivation, some of which is instigated by compaction from heavy machinery and livestock, which precludes plant growth and leads to runoff in rain. (source: Environment Agency UK). To be fair, some runoff is noted as well from building sites before landscaping is completed.• Water quality compromised. About 70 percent of sediments found in water come from agriculture, and those sediments can carry metals, pathogens, pesticides and phosphates.Such problems due to modern agriculture plague the planet, as similar pollution levels are reported throughout Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. Africa, Brazil and Argentina, the newer frontiers for agriculture, are expanding arable croplands to meet global food demands but also exhibit a host of environmental sins.The food-housing tugThere is no denying that the housing needs in the UK must be met – and soon. A whole generation of families are postponing children or living in cramped quarters, awaiting homes they can afford or at least rent to accommodate their members.But Brits need to eat as much as sleep. So how to balance the use of land for each?A number of approaches are being tested. One is to encourage development of so-called brownfield lands, which include properties that may require remediation from previous industrial uses. These lands are often within towns or immediately adjacent to them, some with excellent access to existing urban infrastructure while others are cost-prohibitive for a variety of reasons (no existing infrastructure, undesirable locations for housing or extensive environmental remediation required).

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SustainableBuild.co.uk is a web publisher that considers the balance between development and environmental sustainability from a very pragmatic standpoint. The site offers several points on how land conversions to development can have a negative effect, which include: converted greenfields are quite unlikely to be converted back to nature; there is inevitable loss of habitat for animals and plants; a loss of employment for agricultural workers; and a loss of Green Belt land that provides geographical definitions and separations of cities, towns, villages and hamlets (I.e., American-style urban sprawl).Answering the problem of diminishing agricultural lands is a nascent movement to small-scale, organic agriculture on greenfield lands. SustainableBuild notes, “There are greenfield sites that are not being used for any purpose, for whatever reason. Development must consider all human and environmental factors, not just consume land and space for short-term solutions. A sustainable vision would look at all the options for land use, human population expansion, urban sprawl, economic considerations as well as environmental needs.”Which, in a country with a growing population and a concurrent appreciation for the environment, is perhaps the most realistic and pragmatic approach.

A Brief History of Female Sexuality – Part 1

October 31, 2016

Sexuality is a “condition” that is characterized and distinguished by sex and passion. It is, again, according to American Heritage Dictionary, “the quality of possessing a sexual character or potency.”I really like that one. Potency. That means power.Where “sex” is an act that has a beginning and end, “sexuality” is a quality, a sexual character and power. It has no beginning and end, no more than your personality does or your sense of aesthetics does. Sexuality is essential to your nature. It is you. It is your vitality. It is a wonderful thing.Of course, the two – sex and sexuality – are related, and very often delightfully intertwined. However, I would argue that while it is possible to be sexual without having sex it is pretty close to impossible to truly enjoy sex without being in touch with your own sexuality. Which, in and of itself, is a pretty good reason to want to embrace your sexuality.Too many women in the 21st century are divorced from their sexuality even as they participate in sexual acts. They may be having sexual intercourse with their partner or partners multiple times and reaching multiple orgasms but what they are engaged in is about as meaningful and deeply satisfying as riding an exercise bike. As a result, they come away from sex acts with a sense of “what’s the big deal?” or that felt good for the moment. Or, worse, they feel degraded and/or diminished; reduced to an object. For many of them, a good session at the gym would be more fulfilling – and might even provide a more satisfying release.My dear, let me be very clear – that is not the way it is supposed to be.Sex without sexuality is too often demeaning, it reduces the sexual act to little more than a heaving, grunting, often-sloppy and sweaty physical endeavor. It is not called the “beast with two backs” for nothing. If all you’re focused on is the “beast” part, the physical act, you cannot possibly be truly engaged in your own sexuality. Your sexuality is not engaged. And, when your sexuality is not engaged, you are removed from the power of the act.However, with your genuine sexuality engaged, there is nothing you cannot do alone or with a partner that is not uplifting, satisfying and consistent with the person your are – whether that’s a twenty year old college student or a fifty-two year old church volunteer. With your sexuality engaged, that heaving, humping beast with two backs is an explosion of wonderful passion.In short, it is and can be exotic and mind blowing. And when sex is emotionally deep and erotic, you and your partner are truly bonded together – rather than being the sexual equivalent of opposing and competing wrestlers, with you invariably being the one pinned down for the count, you are in control. You can be more or less dominant and be thrilled by either because no matter how you behave in a sexual encounter, it is true to who you are; it is true to your sense of your sexuality.Unfortunately, history has rarely embraced this uplifting view of female sexuality. It has long viewed male and female sexuality as opposing forces, in opposition and in competition to one another. Not as it should be.In ancient China, men who engaged in masturbation risked a complete loss of vital yang essence. As such, it was strictly forbidden. Women did not risk the same loss of their vital essence. The rules about female masturbation were much more specific and focused on a particular concern; women were free to masturbate as much as they liked, as they possessed an unlimited yin, however, they were warned against masturbating with foreign objects which could injure the womb and internal sexual organs.Because women were understood to have an inexhaustible yin essence, they could keep on having orgasms long after their male partners had been reduced to shrunken, limp lumps of flesh snoring alongside them, while female sexuality was expressed in multiple ways. In addition to masturbation, lesbian relations were encouraged. Male homosexuality was forbidden, however as such behavior was thought to result in a complete loss of yang essence. In this Chinese understanding, sexual relationships between men could only result in the net loss of the yang without any possibility of regaining it, which was possible with heterosexual relationships.Although a bit at odds with our modern sensibility, at least sexuality in ancient China was deeply rooted to a sense of essential essences. Sex was never just a physical act. Sexuality had everything to do with something basic in the nature of what it meant to be a man or a woman. Therefore, any sexual act was understood in the context of their fundamental essences – yin and yang.For this reason, prostitution was very much accepted in ancient China. Men seemed to think that engaging with prostitutes gave them the opportunity to gain additional yin from them, more than from “normal” women. Men could “gain” some of that essence from women. In particular, the belief was that a woman who had sex with many men began to acquire some of the yang essence from her customers, yang essence that could then be “shared.” Consequently, it was possible for a man to gain more yang from a sexual encounter with a prostitute than he lost and more than he could gain from relations with his wife who, presumably, only had sexual relations with him.This somewhat balanced the understanding of what essential male and female sexuality meant and began to change during the Ch’in Dynasty (221 b.c.e to 24 c.e.) when the role and place of women shifted from one of sexual energy to one of more familiar modern gender roles.When the Ch’in Dynasty shifted from the Taoist culture that had predominated China to a Confusianist culture, women’s roles and the understanding of sexuality and sexual behavior then shifted dramatically. No longer was sexuality and behavior determined by essential nature, by the yin and the yang. Instead, there was a more “traditional” – patriarchal cultural dynamic. The dynamic many of us are currently familiar with. Women were not just possessing of a different essence than men but they were considered inferior to men. Physical relations between men and women were found mostly in marriage and were only to take place in the bedroom. At the conclusion of such “contact,” all physical contact was to end – there was to be no contact even between husband and wife.In a way that is only too familiar to those of us in Western Civilization, sex itself came to be considered sinful and tolerated solely for the process of procreation.Even at the conclusion of the Ch’in Dynasty, when the Han Dynasty embraced a return to a Taoist worldview, new perspectives on sexuality and sex had taken hold. Taoism had become a more structured and organized religion, with its own churches and priests. So too, sexuality and sexual behavior had become more rigidly structured. Sexual behavior was formalized, even finding expression in written texts. Two of the most famous of these texts were The Handbook of the Plain Girl and The Art of the Bedchamber.In both, a “Yellow Emperor” sought to live a long, healthy life and to attain some degree or form of immortality through sex. In order to accomplish his lofty goal he needed to become an expert at techniques that would prolong his orgasm and allow his sexual partner to orgasm several times. By doing so, he would maximize the amount of her yin essence that he would gain from their encounter while minimizing his own loss of yang essence.While concerns about yin and yang are foreign to our understanding, one valuable insight we can gain from these perspectives is that sexuality was considered essential to who we are and that sexual mores change. This Eastern view is consistent with our understanding that one is a dynamic, constant sexuality fluidity and the other is defined by the times and circumstances of sexual behavior and roles. During times when the two were balanced, there was a sensible and satisfying cultural norm that blends sex and sexuality.Unfortunately, there have been too many other times when the two were in conflict. This back and forth seems to have defined much of Western culture and history, as well as the role of women and sex in our society. And, as frustrating as it is to find ourselves at the dawn of the 21st century still sorting out the power and need for sexual awareness and the ability to embrace sexuality. Fortunately, we are in a better place than women have been through most of history. We still have a long way to go for women to feel comfortable and confident with their sexuality and know the difference between sex and sexuality.In Medieval times people’s fears focused on three things: the Devil, Jews, and women. The fear of women was completely tied into the perceived threat of female sexuality. In the “dark, moist heat” of women’s sexuality, men became prostrate with fear and trembling, a fear and trembling that have continued to the beginning of the twentieth century and, in far too many places across the globe, to the dawn of the twenty-first century.Ironically, texts from the time display an astonishing detail of female anatomy and function. Men seemed to get the physical component right but when it came to understanding and embracing a woman’s essence, they fell far short. And these were not mere “common” men. As seems to be the case over and over again, the hysteria that punished women for being women came from the very minds and men who were capable of understanding physicality. The condemnation of doctors, “physics” and ministers might seem astonishing to us now – the stuff of witch hunts and fiction – but it continues to inform our sensibilities.The times taught that female sexuality was a serpent that was secretly guided into the heart. Goethe, writing about syphilis, used similar imagery when he demonized the disease as a beast and warning of “a serpent which lurks in the loveliest of gardens and strikes us at our pleasures”.In this poetic turn, Goethe captured the true “horror” of female sexuality and gets at the heart of men’s fear – it ensnares men in that “loveliest” of gardens, striking them at their “pleasures,” when they are most vulnerable.In the last half of the nineteenth century, when more “rational” thinking took over, the female disorders of nymphomania, masturbation, moral insanity, hysteria and neurasthenia were almost universally believed to be a serious threat to health and life and civilization. Most “experts” presumed these dire maladies were the inevitable result of reading inappropriate novels or playing romantic music.Novels and music?!As irrational as this might seem, there are still large, mainstream religious institutions which separate boys and girls, prohibit music and dancing, and discourage any contact with modern culture.Are we so very different than those who lived in the Victorian age?Then, there were instances of mass hysteria much like the Salem witch episodes in which women were taken with something called “menstrual madness” and insanity, diseases which required an immediate response and often a very radical “cure.” Menstrual madness was often “cured” by laparotomy and bilateral “normal ovariotomy.” This is the removal of normal ovaries known as “Battey’s Operation”.One professor of psychology, Charcot, gave public demonstrations of hysteria in women in the 1870′s that emphasized his belief that most mental disease in women resulted from abnormalities or excitation of the female external genitalia. Or, to put it bluntly, he masturbated these women in public!Now, these public demonstrations may strike you a bit pornographic because… well, according to our standards today, they were!You could be sure that these “clinical tutorials” were very well attended by scores of men who were only too pleased to witness – in the most graphic detail – the demonic role of the vulva and clitoris in the causation of hysterical attacks in Charcot’s young and, not incidentally, attractive patients.The Internet does not deliver anything any more graphic or pornographic.In an historical note, one of Charcot’s pupils was none other than Sigmund Freud, who attended these demonstrations at the La Salpêtrière for five months, repeated this fashionable view in his writings and lectures while also stressing the effect of the mind on gynecological and mental disease.There is reasonable evidence that Freud modified his case histories – excluding the realities of deviant sexuality and sexual abuse and replacing them with sexual fantasies which would be much more acceptable to the Viennese upper middle class who were his audience.I trust you are beginning to recognize a pattern here. There is a very clear thematic trend in the history of female sex and sexuality.During Victorian times, when much of our “modern” understanding of women’s sexuality found its voice, women were taught not to enjoy sexual activity. They were taught to actively repress their passions. They were actually taught – in so many words – that their enjoyment of sex existed in direct proportion to the moral decline of society.With that kind of burden, it is not surprising that few women felt any sexual desire and satisfaction. How could a woman embrace her lover in full joy when, in the back – or front – of her mind she held the belief, a belief imposed upon her by her teachers, her clergy and her family, that by doing so she was contributing to the destruction of all that was good in the world.Talk about a surefire way to inhibit pleasure and orgasm!For the Victorian woman, sex had one purpose and one purpose alone – to procreate. Ugh! Makes it sound like an unpleasant chore, doesn’t it? It followed from this that a girl or woman’s worth prior to marriage (the only social structure in which this procreation could take place) had worth only if she remained chaste and pure.Once married, she could expect to be engaged by her husband in conjugal acts only when “necessary.”Let’s pause for a moment just to parse the profoundly disturbing truths in that last observation. The first, of course, is that sex was reduced to an act that was engaged in only when “necessary” – presumably for the relief and release of the husband and to further the goal of procreation. The second, however, is more subtle and even more damaging. “She could expect to be engaged by her husband…” In regards to sex acts, and her sexuality, the woman was to be passive. She was nothing more than the recipient of someone else’s sexual wants, needs and demands – for purposes that she did not demand. She had no control over, no rights to, and indeed, was meant to remain ignorant and disapproving of her own sexuality.It is impossible to examine the nineteenth-century medical attitude to female sexuality and come away with the feeling that it was anything but cruel and heartless. We would be kind to call it ignorant. But it was too malicious to be merely ignorant. It was damaging and malevolent. With professionals, gynecologists and psychiatrists, leading the charge, the medical professions designed treatments designed to “cure” those serious contemporary disorders, masturbation and nymphomania.The gynecologist, Isaac Baker Brown (1811-1873), and the distinguished endocrinologist, Charles Brown-Séquard (1817-1894) advocated clitoridectomy to prevent the progression to masturbatory melancholia, paralysis, blindness and even death! A rational person might think that these professionals would have been tarred and feathered for their cruel views.A rational person would have been wrong.Society as a whole embraced their horrific view of women.Before becoming self-righteous in our judgments, however, we must ask ourselves, Have we changed so much? Compare the perspective and behavior of those Victorians to our modern world where this same operation is still being forced upon women and girls in Asia and Africa and certain religious communities throughout the world!Look at our own communities where young girls and women are made to feel ashamed and “dirty” for having sexual thoughts and desires.Still, things are much better than our Victorian past, when the medical contempt for normal female sexual development was reflected in public and literary attitudes. Consider that there existed virtually no novel or opera in the last half of the 19th century where the heroine with “a past” managed to survive to the end.The Victorian woman was reduced to simply a vessel. Oh, she was a highly-valued and a necessary “vessel”. After all, sex was necessary to further the biological imperative. (Imagine someone using a line like that in a bar! “Hello, my dear, would you consider furthering the biological imperative?” My guess is that someone using that line wouldn’t be getting laid that night!)Any sexual desire that a Victorian woman experienced was, by definition, contradictory to her virtue. According to The Physician and Sexuality in Victorian America (1974) by John S. Haller Jr., and Robin M. Haller, sexual promiscuity was an “ominous indication of national decay,” and not a sign of women’s liberation at that time.This was the dominant perspective during Victorian times. As bad as it was, Victorian times were not Medieval times. Even against this bleak backdrop, there were other points of view being expressed. Many early “love manuals” actually emphasized sex for pleasure also. These manuals took the position that there could be equality in the marriage bed. An early indication that for sexuality to flourish, there has to be an acknowledgement of the equal needs and value of the partners in the sex act. There has to be respect and value on the needs, wants and desires of each partner.These manuals took the revolutionary position that a women’s interest in sex depended upon her ability to seek satisfaction along with her partner. Sex could be an enjoyable act separate from its procreative imperative alone.Joy of joys!Of course, even these enlightened views were tempered by the presumption that indulging in sex too frequently was likely not a healthy thing and indicative of moral shortcomings.So, there were other, “quieter voices” that spoke out in favor of greater sexual expression and enjoyment. Unfortunately, the dominant view took the more powerful grip on the culture’s defining morals. During the 1840′s there was a greater emphasis on the health aspects of “conjugal discourse” and less on the enjoyment aspects. There was a tendency to advocate for even less frequency in sex than earlier years. William Acton wrote in his text, Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1888), that women experienced “no need for sex.”No need for sex!? Certainly the idiocy of his position would have been disputed on its face.Of course it wasn’t. Not only was it not disputed but it was actually applauded by others, including women. Acton’s belief that women were apathetic to the notion of sex in marriage had a great ally in Mary Wood Allen, M.D., Superintendent of the Purity Department of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She held that “the most genuine love between a husband and a wife existed in the lofty sphere of platonic embrace.”Thanks for nothing, Mary! I guess her idea of a successful marriage was a husband and wife having a “sleepover” together, perhaps going so far as to hold hands and gaze warmly at one another as the night deepened around them.As if to prove that when it comes to silly ideas no degree of extremism is impossible, other manuals of the time embraced the idea of marital continence, which referred to the ” voluntary and entire absence from sexual indulgence in any form.”People who took this position pointed their boney, self-righteous fingers at women who deigned to seek sexual satisfaction and accused them of not leading “God-filled lives.” We have evolved remarkably since then. We tend only to call them names like “slut” or “nymphomaniac.”Thankfully, there were also sensible voices shouting to be heard. Sometimes, the arguments seemed to build on the foundation that women did not desire sexual satisfaction, as the argument of Elizabeth Blackwell, a physician who believed that female’s lack of sexual lust came from a fear of injury in childbirth. Implicit in her belief was that women lacked sexual desire or lust. So too when she noted that women were passive because men would be rushed to perform quickly, leaving them without gratification.At least her observations hold true in one fundamental aspect – women have consistently blunted their sexuality and sexual desires in order to maximize the “gratification” of men.There were enlightened voices crying out. Not everyone was blind to the truth of women’s sexuality. There were physicians who argued that a women’s capacity for sexual gratification was at times more intense and prolonged than the males. These physicians viewed ignorance as the root of the problem women had with sexuality. They argued that women’s lack of sensible sexual education had taught them to believe that any sexual feeling was “indecent and immoral.” As a result, women had become a race of sexless creatures, little more than “married nuns,” who experienced no pleasurable feeling during sex.But no matter how loudly these voices cried out; no matter how reasonable and rational their arguments, they did not carry the day. Acton’s view remained the dominant articulation of women’s sexuality from the late 1800′s through the middle of the 20th century.

Franchise Agreements, Governing Law and Jurisdiction Issues

September 5, 2016

In franchising franchisors can end up spending huge monies on attorney fees and worse off find them selves simultaneously fighting legal battles in multiple jurisdictions over often frivolous lawsuits brought on by non-performing franchisees and their professional parasites.After watching other franchisors become legally embattled it became apparent to me that our company needed a hedge in this issue. Although we never had this problem I witnessed other franchise get off their game and lose focus on the market and their companies. So, I decided to add this clause to our franchise agreements;

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7. MISCELLANEOUS7.1 Governing LawThis Agreement has been accepted and made in the State of ________, United States and all rights hereunder will be governed by and interpreted under the internal laws (and not the law of conflict of laws) of the State of Arizona.7.3 WaiverA waiver of any default or breach of any provision, term, covenant, or condition of this
Franchise Agreement will not be a waiver of any subsequent breach of the same or any
other provision, term, covenant, or condition.Any waiver of any provision of this Agreement must be set forth in writing and signed by the party granting the waiver. Any waiver Franchisor grants will not prejudice any other rights Franchisor may have, and will be subject to Franchisor’s continuing review. Franchisor may revoke any waiver, in its sole discretion, at any time and for any reason, effective upon delivery to Franchisee of ten (10) days prior written notice of revocation.By written notice, Franchisor unilaterally may waive any obligation of Franchisee, their principals, or the guarantors.

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Our consent, whenever required, may be arbitrarily withheld if Franchisee are in default under this Franchise Agreement.——— ———— ———–If you are a franchisor perhaps you should run this by your attorney [professional over billing parasite-opinion] to see if such a concept would be right for you. Often these clauses are not allowed in many jurisdictions, but if you’re a dealing with International Interests or regions in country where such clauses are allowed it might be something to ask your lawyer about, who knows? Consider all this in 2006.

Equestrian Style in Your Home

September 9, 2016

Your love for horses doesn’t need stop at the barn. Horse people enjoy having decorative horse elements in the home. Whether you are a lifelong equestrian, an admirer of horse sport, or someone who loves the equestrian look, having equestrian style in your home adds character and tradition. How you bring equestrian elements together can make the difference in telling a story or having your items overlooked.Equestrian style was popularized when Ralph Lauren hit the fashion world by storm. He made both nautical and equestrian styles livable for mainstream people. It became possible and affordable to have the sporting lifestyle look. And while many people took up stirrup pants and hacking jackets, decorating with equestrian style has been around for hundreds of years. Look no further than the English countryside. Whether you have acquired equestrian pieces from the barn, or you are just starting out, giving your home or space an equestrian estate feel is not difficult. As with any design, the key is to start with a plan that includes well-thought-out furniture placement and a good color scheme. Traditional furniture works best when designing an equestrian style space. Dark, substantial wood furniture with good quality upholstery or leather gives mind to the English countryside, where most equestrian trends originated. Steeped in custom and tradition, equestrian elements have changed little through the centuries. Garner ideas from books and magazines, or search the internet for ideas.

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Once furniture placement has been established, anchor the space with a good rug. Vintage rugs protected fine wood floors from muddy hunting boots, numerous hounds, and country parties. These rugs were handmade and vegetable dyed. Today’s production rugs lack some of the character of the older rugs, but can still lend the style and are always a smart choice to bring a space together.Equestrians love art, and art that includes the horse is always a favorite. Some equestrian artists have stood out through the years, with George Stubbs being immensely popular during England’s sporting days. His works are traditional, beautiful, and have color schemes that are easy with which to work. Reproductions of his paintings are available on the internet.No equestrian space would be complete without horse tack, the equipment leather goods used in riding and training horses. Whether you choose stainless steel stirrups or bits, old horseshoes, or leather strap goods, these pieces strategically placed are key elements to bring your space to life. A favorite of ours is a silver mint julep cup used to hold pens or flowers. Stirrups make good bookends. Harness brasses can be framed or mounted cleverly over light plates. Snaffle bits can serve as window panel tie backs. Equestrian books are another design element that is readily available and brings authenticity to your space. These books are available as novels, training books, or picture books.

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To add softness and comfort to your space, yet still maintain style, consider adding needlepoint or horse themed equestrian pillows. Throw pillows come in many styles and colors. Look for traditional fabrics and authentic embellishments like fox hunt buttons, harness brasses, or other pieces of horse equipment.Bringing equestrian style to your home or space adds character. Horses have had a close relationship with man for most of human history. Only since the invention of the automobile have we been so distanced from him. Bring equestrian style to your home by using these design ideas, and bring horses into your decor.

Healthy Competition In Team Sports Teaches Life Skills

October 9, 2016

The word “competition” brings to mind images of athletes or sports teams striving to do their best and working hard to accomplish significant goals. For most of us, achieving goals and enjoying life is at least partially dependent on working together and getting along with others. Many of these essential relational skills are learned in the developing years as children move from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Given the importance of these key life skills, our society would benefit greatly by ensuring that kids are provided with ample opportunities for working together and getting along with people. Such relational skills can be effectively taught (and caught) in the context of an organized sports program.It seems that kids are born with an innate sense of competition and a desire to win. Our society, schools, and sports programs all cater to this inclination to compete with various games and challenges. Such challenges have been a part of human society from the beginning, and this competition develops a number of important skills for use throughout life.As an example, the desire to be the champion and top dog often pushes people further than they would choose to go on their own. This dogged determination to win is what drives Olympic athletes, CEOs, and many leaders to attain to lofty positions. However, the downside of unchecked competition is that negative traits including roughness, a domineering attitude, and unsportsmanlike conduct can develop and can take over a person. Such negative traits can be very harmful, and if not kept in check, can lead to damaged and broken relationships.

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This danger for unguided winners to develop poor attitudes is precisely the reason we should encourage children to get involved in team sports programs and other organizations where healthy competition is encouraged and promoted. It is often within these organizations that essential life skills are taught and where the development of proper attitudes can be nurtured.By participating in organized team sports, kids can begin to truly experience the thrill of winning and the pain and discouragement of defeat. By experiencing these emotions in the context of their sports community, children can begin to understand the roots of their emotions and how their emotions can affect others. In addition, parents and coaches can observe how kids react and can provide encouragement and guidance as needed when and if inappropriate behavior and reactions are observed.Within the context of an organized sports program, a skilled coach can help and encourage the winners to revel in the victory, and yet do so in a way that does not put down the losers. In fact, if the kids on the winning team can learn how to reach out and encourage kids on the losing team, they have learned an extremely valuable lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives. In the same way, the losers must learn the essential skill of losing well and not withdrawing in self-pity or lashing out at the winners, their teammates, or their coach. Winning and losing are a continual part of life, and developing key skills to cope with victory and loss will go a long way in helping young people cope effectively with the ups and downs of life.In developing life skills, there is a significant difference between team sports such as basketball, baseball, and soccer and individual sports such as tennis and racquetball. Individual sports typically focus on developing the competitive side of an individual, but organized sports programs can teach so much more. On a team, the children learn to work together to accomplish things that they could never do on their own. In addition, the coach can provide encouragement and direction, and the kids themselves can encourage each other when they are down. On a team, kids can also develop the confidence to try new things that they might otherwise not try. Such an encouraging and supportive environment is rarely found in an individual sport, but can be commonly found on sports teams. Out of necessity, teams learn to work together to accomplish mutual goals and such skills will help carry them through life and work.

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In summary, the competition and cooperation that occurs in organized sports programs can be very healthy and helpful for developing essential life skills. In a well-run program, team sports encourage children to work together, encourage one another, and get along with others. A quality and gifted coach can develop these skills in children, and our children would be well-served into adulthood and our society would benefit by having these skills engrained into our children’s character.

Affordable California State Child Health Insurance Plans – I Can’t Pay Much

September 9, 2016

Finding Affordable or No Cost Insurance For Your ChildEvery child needs dependable health insurance. However, not all parents can afford the full cost of private medical insurance. As a result, there are a variety of programs offered by the state of California and private organizations that can provide health care to financially strapped families. Through these programs, there should be no child in California that doesn’t have health insurance.In the sections below we will give an overview of the child health insurance programs that are available in California. Some of these plans provide complete coverage for children at no cost, and others provide just the basic services. Then we’ll outline the steps parents should take to find the best program for their children.Medi-CalThis is the name for California’s Medicaid program. The program is administered by California, and is financed equally by the Federal and State government. Medi-Cal provides no cost health insurance to low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. People that qualify for Medi-Cal can receive free preventive care, treatment for injuries and illnesses, dental care, vision screening, and mental health treatment.This program is one of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act, and will expand considerably to take in new people in 2014.Healthy FamiliesThe healthy families program provides low cost health insurance to the children of low income families. This program provides a variety of services such as medical, dental, visions, and preventive care. The program requires families to meet certain income requirements which may viewed at the following link: http://www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov/HFProgram/Income_Guidelines.aspx

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The Healthy Families program is being rolled into the Medi-Cal program during 2013. The transition plan will ensure that families do not see a disruption in services, and will increase the benefits that children receive once inside of Medi-Cal. Healthy Families is still accepting applications for new children.Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP)This is not an insurance program. However, the program does assist low income families in obtaining preventive care and health assessments for their children. CHDP provides checkups, nutrition evaluations and guidance, immunizations, hearing, and vision screenings. This program is administered by the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). The program helps families determine their eligibility for assistance programs, and enroll in the appropriate care program, such as Healthy Families and Medi-Cal.Children’s Health Initiative (CHI)Children’s Health initiative is run by an independent non-profit known as The Institute For Health Policy Solutions (IHPS). CHI works with many counties to reach the low-income families with children that don’t have health insurance. CHI works with families whose income is less than 300% of the Federal Povery Level. By providing technical support and guidance, programs are created in each county to create “Healthy Kids” insurance plans in a partnership with the local communities and businesses.CHI helps families determine which state programs they qualify for, and can assist in the enrollment process.For information about CHI in your county, see the following map of California: http://www.ihps-ca.org/localcovsol/cov_initiatives.htmlCalifornia Children’s Services (CCS)CCS is a state program that provides health care assistance to children up to age 21 with special health problems. The program works with Medi-Cal and Healthy Families to provide case management and ensure that children receive the right care and see the right physicians for their special health needs. Examples of special health problems are cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, cerebral palsy, heart disease, cancer, and traumatic injuries.Steps You Should Take To Find Affordable Child Health InsuranceIf the mother of a baby is enrolled in Medi-Cal or the Aid for Infants and Mothers (AIM) program, then the steps below will not apply for getting baby health insurance after birth. In this situation, the baby will be transferred into Medi-Cal with the mother, or into Healthy Families or Medi-Cal if the mother is in the AIM program. For all other situations, use the steps outlined below.

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The first step is to look at the coverage map for the Children’s Health Initiative above. If CHI has an active program in your area, then this program can act as your partner in helping you get into the correct health program.

If CHI is not active in your county, then contact the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program. This office can help you through the process of finding the correct program and assist you in filling out the necessary forms, or they will put you in contact with a local office for assistance.

If neither of the steps above works, then you should contact your local Medi-Cal office. Medi-Cal will be your lowest cost solution, so start with this program

If you do not qualify for Medi-Cal, then contact the Healthy Families program.
No child in California should be left without health insurance. By providing the proper care and nurturing, we ensure a better future for our state. The programs we have outlined above can provide families with financial difficulties, the health care their children need. The first move is to follow the outlined path, taking one step at a time, and enrolling your child or children.

India Debt Collection Business

October 31, 2016

Until the emergence of debt collection business, debt collection in India, was never treated as a specialized job and was always treated as one of the jobs that legal departments of the banks and financial institutions were required to undertake. A typical legal department of an organization would approach the collection job strictly as a legal issue rather than as a revenue collection measure. Litigation would be the only tool used for recoveries and no other tool was either known or used by the industry. Litigation as a recovery measure always had its own limitations due to long and winding court procedures the Indian legal system is always criticized for. On the other hand, foreign banking firms introduced the concept of specialized debt collection services. Debt collection services became one of the many services that began to be outsourced to specialized agencies. The collection business had a very humble beginning and it barely qualified as a specialized service.However over a period of time with the emergence of India as a global outsourcing destination the domestic businesses also adopted the outsourcing as an efficient business tool. With the result today, the third-party debt collection industry plays an important role in the Indian economy. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of Indians as collection professionals, who are servicing several industries ranging from banks, to telecom service providers to insurance companies. Typically, only small recoveries arising from periodic billing defaults by the customers are outsourced to the collection agencies. Not only the collection business has become a direct source of employment to thousands but its contribution to the economy is more pronounced because it helps infuse money back in the economy that otherwise would have remained uncollected. The economic benefits of third-party debt collection are significant. Citibank is the pioneer in introducing third party collection techniques in India.The debt collection industry in India also has grown sharply this year as higher borrowing costs; rising inflation and the general slowdown in the economy force more companies and individuals into difficulties. Underlying debt has gone through the roof and lenders and organizations increasingly want to move any bad debt off their books. Whether it is a high street bank, a credit card lender or a mobile phone company, growing numbers are turning to professional debt collectors in a more difficult environment.The debt collection industry in India is growing at a faster pace and is surely poised for growth. The credit card outstanding have shot up by a whopping 87% at USD 6114 Million during this year, from USD 2844 Million in the period year ago. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) which regulates the banking industry in the country encourages banks to shift bad loans off their books more quickly because they will be required to hold more capital against risky assets that may default.COLLECTION INDUSTRY – UNREGULATED SCENARIOThe collection business has its own inherent shortcomings due to unregulated and primitive nature of this business in this country. The persons employed in the industry are untrained both in soft skills and legal skills. Being unregulated, the procedures are not standardized and there are no industry specific checks and balances. Still litigation is used as the last resort tool for recoveries. However the industry has been accused of manipulating the legal system to their advantage by using courts as their agents of recovery. It is seen that big corporations with large volumes of recoveries have unwritten understanding with the local courts at the lowest level. With the patronage of minuscule minority of pliable judges simple civil defaults are registered as criminal cases thus pressurizing the debtors into paying the dues. Slow and long civil recovery court process has no takers in this age of instant results where revenue targets are the most sacrosanct. Under such strict and cut throat environment, there is pressure on the banks to keep their account books healthy therefore such aggressive and extra-legal methods are employed for quick recoveries.

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GOVERNMENT / RBI INTERVENTIONDebt collectors in the past had a lot of leeway and it wasn’t uncommon for collectors to embarrass, harass or humiliate debtors by adopting extra-legal measures. In the absence of any regulatory regime the courts had to step in by laying down guidelines for the industry to follow. After the intervention of judiciary, the RBI woke up to the need of regulating the unruly collection agencies and laid down its own guidelines for the banking industry to follow.The guidelines prescribed by RBI are enforced against the banks that have contractually employed collection agencies. The banks in turn via their contracts with the collection agencies ensure that the RBI guidelines are followed. Now, under the RBI guidelines it is illegal to threaten violence or cause harm to debtor, use obscene language, or repeatedly use the phone to harass debtors. In addition, collection agents cannot seize or garnish a consumer’s property or wages without recourse to court procedure.The following are few of the core underpinnings of the collection process. These are the norms formalized by the top bank in India – RBI.1. DSAs/DMAs/Recovery agents to get minimum 100 hours of training.2. Recovery agents should call borrowers only from telephone numbers notified to the borrower.3. Each bank should have a mechanism whereby borrowers’ grievances with regard to the recovery process can be addressed.4. Banks are advised to ensure that contracts with recovery agents do not
induce adoption of uncivilized, unlawful and questionable behavior or recovery process.5. Banks are required to strictly abide by the codes pertaining to collection of dues.RBI in the draft guidelines issued for banks engaging recovery agents, has asked banks to inform borrowers the details of recovery agents engaged for the purpose while forwarding default cases to the recovery agents.The Reserve Bank of India has also considered imposing a temporary ban (or even a permanent ban in case of persistent abusive practices) for engaging recovery agents on those banks where penalties have been imposed by a High Court/Supreme Court or against its directors/officers with regard to the abusive practices followed by their recovery agents. An operational circular in this regard has been issued in November 15, 2007.Other LawsStill the non banking debts collection business is outside the purview of any regulator. There are no licenses or registrations to be obtained from any regulator to pursue collection business in India. The extant guidelines applicable to banking industry are found inadequate as they address only the problem of debtors’ harassment and the guidelines do not regulate the industry as such. The Government is well aware of the need of having a specialized legal mechanism for recovery of institutional debts which has become a huge problem for the entire banking industry.Every bank is grappling with the non-paying accounts, known as Non Performing Accounts (NPA) in the Indian banking parlance. The problem has taken enormous proportion and threatened the economy. Creation of Debt Recovery Tribunals in the year 1993 was a step in the direction of facilitating fast recoveries by the banks . The intention behind creation of such Tribunal was to ensure that banking industry was provided with its own recovery mechanism that was part of the legal system but at the same time exclusive to the banking industry. Bank debts above USD 22,727 could be recovered through the Tribunals.However, over a period of time it was realized that this new mechanism did not yield the desired result since the recoveries were still slow and due to shear volume of work, the Tribunal became like any other court. The whole objective of having a fast track and efficient recovery mechanism was therefore defeated. Bank debts still remained a major problem to be solved since it affected the entire economy of the country. The Government felt the need of having a mechanism that was minimally dependent on the courts for effecting recoveries since the legal system could not be reformed overnight. Therefore instead of reforming the court procedure the government did some clever thinking and came up with a legislation that minimized the intervention of court and empowered the banks with special powers using which the recoveries could be affected.The government thus came up with a new law Scrutinization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act) where under the banks are allowed to liquidate security given by the borrower for recovery of their dues. This law also paved the way for creation of asset reconstruction companies that take over the security interest of the debtors. These agencies are thus another form of debt collection agencies that have been institutionalized.The need to share credit information among the banking industry was also felt in order for the industry to benefit from each other. Thus Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act was enacted in the year 2005.INDIAN LEGAL SYSTEM AND COLLECTION PROCESSESThe Indian legal system is absolutely fair and assures justice to the party involved. There are remedies available under the law to collect the debt, if the debtor does not agree to pay under normal circumstances. The creditor may file a suit for his recovery. Debts based on written contracts could be recovered by following fast track procedure. If the debtor is a company, creditor / his lawyers may apply in the ‘Company Court’ for winding up of the company due to non-payment of substantial amount of debt. Summary trial is another way. The process may take time-1 to 2 years. Evidences are recorded appropriately and produced in the court of law, whenever required. There is also the arrangement of appeal to be filed at later stage.
US OUTSOURCING SCENARIOIndia has attracted many technology jobs in recent years from Western nations, particularly the United States. Now, it is on its way to becoming a hub in another offshore outsourcing area – debt collection. According to the industry report, units of General Electric, Citigroup, HSBC Holdings and American Express have used their India-based staff to pursue credit card debt and mortgage payment by calling defaulters.

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US debt collection agencies are the newest to start outsourcing their work to India and are satisfied with the results produced by the polite but persistent Indian experts. After insurance claims and credit card sales, debt collection is a growing business for outsourcing companies at a time of downturn in the US economy when consumers struggle to pay for their purchases.Debt collection is a vital and growing component of US economy. There is more than $2.5 trillion in outstanding consumer debt. As a result, the third-party collection industry makes more than one billion contacts with consumers each year. Recently this year, more than $39.3 billion in debt was returned to creditors.Indians have the advantage of lower salaries and other expenses, which cut drastically costs of collecting debts. Debt collectors in India cost as little as one-quarter the price of their US and European counterparts and are often better at the job. Many such Indian firms run 24-hour services. Indian debt-collection companies comply with strict regulations on operations in the American and / or European markets.
SUMMARYIndia has a long way to go in establishing a mature collection services industry. The collection business needs to be regulated and empowered with legal powers to become an effective tool. Already, there is a realization in the country that court dependent recovery is an inefficient way of way of debt collection. Creation of Assets Reconstruction and Securitization Companies under the SARFARESI Act is a step in the right direction of recognizing debt collection as an independent and specialized business function. While some progress is made for the bank debts but still for a large volume of unrealized non bank debt there are no professionally managed and regulated third party collection service providers. Non bank debts are largely unsecured that makes it even more difficult to realize. No big corporations and business houses are interested in acting as collection agents without there being an attraction of valuable security asset. Lawyers can fill this gap by providing collection services for non bank debts. Indian law does not permit contingency fee that makes the business less lucrative. India is therefore ready to benefit from foreign experience, expertise and ideas to create an efficient debt collection industry of its own at par with global status. This need is more felt now by India due to its global ambitions wherein India must adopt globally recognized practices and models. Transnational businesses need a uniform operating system for seamless transactions. Efficient debt collection industry will only instill confidence in companies doing business with Indian companies. Collection professionals have this challenge facing them of creating an efficient system that reduces people’s dependence on court supported recoveries.

Video Game Tester Jobs Can Jump Start You on Almost Any Game Development Path

September 23, 2016

Video game QA testing may be low on the game development totem pole, just above “personal projects” you’d never think about including in your resume. But used correctly, both can carry you a long way towards becoming a game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer.It’s all about broader experience inventory and growth through progress.It would seem fairly obvious. Look at anyone in college working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine, and what do you see them doing? That’s right, working at any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment) which they can find. They know even a role only loosely related to the one they aspire towards in their chosen field serves as a stepping stone towards more relevant positions once the opportunity becomes available.As is the case in medicine, software development is a industry made up of many narrow roles. If you’re only focused on “qualifying for your desired role”, you may end up short changing yourself in two ways. First, by not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained through non-professional work and personal hobbies. Second, by overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you.Let’s look at the first problem: “not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained”.I don’t see this problem a lot in sales and marketing, regardless if it’s computer entertainment sales, advertisement sales, or used car sales. In fact, newer “greener” aspiring sales reps often need to learn a page from aspiring software developers about “Never put anything in your portfolio that someone wouldn’t pay you for”. Where the aspiring gaming professional falls short is recognizing what actually counts as valuable to those they present their resumes and portfolios to. They’ll often include what they consider “real job experience”, such as “Manager at Macy’s”, or “Audits and Accounting at Wells Fargo” (neither of which has anything to do with game or software development); but avoid including things like “my dorm mate and I wrote “Squares vs Circles” (an iPhone app) for fun while we were in college, it got 500,000 downloads within a month of release” (so what you are saying is, you wrote, developed, tested, and published popular and successful software on your own for fun?)It’s as if those aspiring to game development roles almost seem to have an “inferiority complex” when it comes to the kinds of experiences relevant to the gaming field. While considering any work they think of as “from a real company” with “a real paycheck attached” automatically more important. The thing is: the person looking over your resume doesn’t care about any of that. They’re not your dad who thinks you should get a “real job”, or your mom who worries about you’re “spending too much time on the internet”, they are people looking for someone with experience that has to do with games. Don’t discount experience because it was “just a personal project”. If you want to be hired in the area of game development you need to show how you have already performed successfully in game development. Whether or not you got paid, and regardless whether or not it resembles what you or your peers think of as “a real company”, “real work”, or “real professional”. What matters is that it was developing a game, and you completed the project as defined – or better. That’s what people want to hear about.

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Now take a look at the second problem: “overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you”.This one is a little trickier, because it requires a balancing act. You see, another important thing to remember is “Build your portfolio around a single focus”. I’m not going into detail about that here, as it mostly goes beyond the scope of this article. But, it needs to be mentioned as it’s the other end of the spectrum in so far as: on one level, you don’t want to overlook potential resume building opportunities, but at the same time, you don’t want to build a portfolio of non-relevant experience and garbage either.The best way to look at it is, if you have an opportunity to work in a position which is highly relevant to your desired role in gaming – say for example story line creator – by all means favor that work over work that’s less closely related. But when such positions are scarce or highly competitive, don’t overlook opportunity to work in any game development role – even if it falls outside the scope of the game development area you ultimately aspire towards.The reality is, jobs in game development are places where many come – but few may enter. There simply aren’t enough positions to fill in any one role for everyone who applies at the door. And even experience outside the role you aspire towards can help you as it gives you familiarity, exposure to a variety of technology, and broader experience with the roles of others you might have to later work with.The lowly and relatively low paying Video Game Tester Jobs.Compared to other gaming industry roles, video game QA tester is the lowest paying. According to The Game Developers 12th Annual Salary Survey (conducted in 2013), freelance and temporary assignment video game QA testers, with less than 3 years’ experience, earn an average of $22,000/yr., roughly equivalent to $10/hr. – assuming a 40 hour work week. This is because of the much lower amount of education needed to enter video game QA testing.However, consider those “working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine”, who I described at the beginning of this article; the ones taking “any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment)”. They’re doing this for a few good reasons. It helps to offset college costs, gives them a chance to gain experience and familiarization within a related work environment, and the jobs they take are often the “lower paying roles” due to lower entry-level education requirements – which equates to ease of entry. High turn-over rates as people in these positions attain the qualifications to move on to their desired careers, make these jobs readily available. And those who later move on to higher positions will have previous industry relevant experience to add to their resumes if needed. If needed being the key. If they don’t need it, or feel it would distract from experience more relevant to a particular job, they can always make less mention of it or leave it out entirely.Which bring us to the real question – why are those seeking software development careers so averse to including video game tester jobs along the way? Think back about the “inferiority complex” among “those aspiring to game development roles” which I spoke of earlier. And the corresponding “superiority complex” among those becoming “material” for higher paying, more respected roles such as graphics designer or programmer. When people think of, for example, becoming an environmental art designer, they often think of highly sophisticated technical skills, and expensive but well-worth-it college degrees – leading to well-earned and well-respected salaries. When people think of a QA tester job, they often think of someone who was lucky enough to get paid to play games.Video game quality assurance testing is seen by many as almost a kind of “red-headed-step-child”. Some treat it the same way one might treat a cheap book promising the secret to unbelievable income sold on a poorly done website alongside thin porn, payday loans, and mesothelioma related attorney services.The reality is – a video game tester job can provide the same things to the soon to be 3D character model designer that a clerical position with a small clinic provides to the soon to be medical technician, nurse, or doctor. Video game tester jobs are readily available, industry related, work with which you can offset other costs while in school or training for your desired role, gain experience and familiarity with the software development process, and which comes with relatively low entry requirements.Video game QA positions require only that you have a high aptitude for basic skills applicable to any job, such as attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, diligence, and being able to write reports. Yet they provide game industry experience, familiarity, and exposure to a wider variety of related technologies. Also, while QA testing may be “low paying” compared to other development roles, it’s actually on par with many part-time jobs that aren’t even career connected which people typically take while working towards their desired career path.

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The key is, don’t look at QA tester work as a job you “don’t take seriously”, consider it instead as a useful tool in a strategic plan. Consider those too good to be true offers you see promising “$4,000 a month playing games” for some small monthly fee. These offers are usually made by assignment aggregators. Assignment aggregators are companies in the business of offering a central location for freelance video game QA testers to find temporary video game QA assignments. Whether the promises of easy money come true or not, you could use those to get work (resume experience) handed to you even though you have not yet attained any work history or qualifications, in addition to some extra income. What you really want is for the assignments to serve as documented work history in QA Testing to support obtaining a regular entry-level position with a gaming company. You want to be able to say “I’ve completed projects in the gaming field”… as opposed to the other applicant who hasn’t.From here it depends on the options available to you, and your desired career path. If you’ve already chosen a career path in another game development role, then I’d recommend NOT moving all the way from freelance to full-time QA testing – as you want to focus your efforts on obtaining a job closer to your desired role. Until you do, you may wish to simply remain a freelance tester. Despite the lower hourly pay, this will give you the greatest flexibility and control over your time. Should you decide to become a regular part-time tester with a gaming company, the pay could actually outstrip many other non-career connected part-time jobs.If you’re still deciding when it comes to what role you want to have in game development, you may want to consider that QA testing does become more lucrative with experience – all-be-it not as quickly as in other development roles. It rises to just under $40,000/year as a full-time job with 3 years’ experience, and “maxes out” around $70,000/yr. Not as much as the $85,000/yr. you could be making as a programmer, but still fairly decent compared to other professional roles.Video game QA testing may be the lowest paid type of work in game development. However, those aspiring for such roles as game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer would be wise to look beyond just work related to their desired role in game development.

The Fine and Performing Arts & Education

September 14, 2016

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. (Paulo Freire)I see too many public service commercials-today-exhorting us to support the Performing and Fine Arts in public education. We, as a nation, have evidently become so low-brow, or unsophisticated, that we can no longer see the need for Art education in our schools. So now, we have our children pleading with us, on television commercials, to keep Art education alive. This is a sad state of affairs for us and our children, because art is what truly separates us from the beasts and allows us to rise above the mundane drudgery of life. As many others, I believe art should be at the center of education and not just because it’s good for us. Art stimulates a child’s cognitive and affective domains, as well as their motor skills, which leads to learning, discovery, creativity and motivation.Academics are very important, of course, but too often they only stimulate a very small portion of the student’s mind and heart. There are three, basic domains of learning: the Cognitive (mind), Affective (emotions or feelings) and Motor-Skills (hands-on). These three domains are key to our thinking/reasoning, learning, problem solving and creating. A healthy mind (Cognitive) is capable of taking in, retaining and processing information, which can then be applied, if retained and used, to the individual’s life. Emotions and feelings (Affective) are closely connected to an individual’s learning, because they aid in retaining and applying information, as well as stimulating the desire to learn more. Seeing, hearing, speaking, the ability to write, walk and run are all part of the individual’s Motor-skills. Without these three domains, learning, needless to say, would be impossible. Reading, writing, math and the sciences stimulate the cognitive and motor skills domains quite effectively, but the affective is too often short changed.If we think back to our school days, then we should be able to remember that the memorization of facts and successfully spitting them back out on tests was our main concern as students. This is very much a part of the learning process, and I’m not denying that, but where does the Affective domain play a significant part in this teaching process? In much of this way of learning the affective is absent, and-therefore-much of the educational material, which has just been learned, has no real application in the individual’s life and is forgotten. I remember very little about higher level math, the periodic table and scientific jargon. Why is that? It didn’t relate to my life nor touch me in a deep way. This is not to say that I, or anyone else, shouldn’t have taken math and science classes, but what I am saying is academics are less effective than they can be, because they tend to ignore the Affective domain.

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I contend that the Arts use all three domains effectively, and they can-therefore-stimulate the student to apply, as well as retain, what they’ve learned. Creativity is key in this process. The Performing and Fine Arts have a distinct advantage-educationally-in their ability to allow students to create as they learn. In painting, students are in the process of creating at the same time they’re mixing colors and learning brush techniques. The same applies to sculpting and photography students. Many middle and high school music directors are-now-using computer programs to stimulate their students to compose as they learn to play and sing. Dance and theatre programs are examples, as well, of applying skills as their students learn. This artistic, educational process employs the cognitive and motor skills domains, but it also stimulates the affective. The art student experiences the sense of joy and satisfaction that comes from successfully learning, and then being able to immediately apply this knowledge in a very personal way. The Arts can enhance a student’s ability to express their emotions in a very positive way. These students have ownership of what they have learned and are able to express this ownership through creativity. The Performing or Fine Arts student is motivated-educationally-beyond just memorizing facts and passing tests, because they’re using their newly-acquired knowledge to express what lies deep in their heart and mind.Surprisingly, the arts and sports have much in common, educationally. The basketball or football player, as well as the long-distant runner, learn their skills while applying them. The learning of physical techniques and immediate application reinforces the athlete’s desire to learn and perform even more. In team sports, such as football, baseball and basketball, the student athlete learns to work with others to produce a product, or team. The young athlete learns that the whole, or team, is greater than the sum of its parts, or players, as do dancers, actors, singers and instrumentalists. As in performing ensembles, these young athletes experience the joy that comes from accomplishing something special with others. They learn, in a very intimate way, responsibility towards others and that the team is dependent on the very weakest athlete, as well as the strongest and most gifted. There’s really very little difference between a football player and a band member, when it comes to being responsible and understanding that it takes everyone-involved-to be successful. This is such a valuable and wonderful lesson, and it is learned primarily, through the affective domain.Educational collaboration between artistic disciplines is a great way for young artists to learn while they create. The pairing of young instrumentalists with dancers and visual artists, or actors with singers, can open up a whole new world of artistic exploration, discovery and creativity. These collaborations can become a great vehicle for learning and motivation, as any arts teacher who has experienced this process will testify. The educational process becomes more important than the outcome, or testing results, because it is in the process of exploration, discovery and creativity where learning really occurs. The educational outcome is secondary, because it is only used, in this case, to measure curricular goals. The motivation for and enjoying of learning comes through the process of collaboration, exploration, discovery and creating.In academia, the emphasis-today-is placed more on the outcome, or testing and grades, which, in my estimation, is a huge mistake. Academic instructors could learn much from their counterparts in the arts. The government and its politically motivated, educational policies, of course, stands in the way of any successful, corrective change to academic teaching methods. Political agendas, such as, “No child left behind” are meaningless and worthless to students and teachers, because they’re not concerned, as they so hypocritically claim, with the success of the individual learner. Instead, these agendas are merely an attempt to soothe the fevered brows of unsatisfied constituents.I will agree with academic teachers that their process seems to be more set in stone than with the arts, and the only real way they can measure educational outcomes is through testing. There has to be a way-however-to allow a math, science, English or history student to become more involved in the process of learning. English teachers have a distinct advantage, since they could use writing essays and poems to instill a sense of ownership in their students. Their students-then-could use their essays and poems to collaborate with young composers, actors and dancers, as an example. Even though it would be difficult, science, language and math teachers could also seek these same avenues for educational exploration, discovery and creativity, which would-then-hopefully-lead to a student’s retention/application, ownership and motivation. This, of course, will be impossible, as long as we allow our government to force academic teachers to teach-solely-towards the outcome, or “standardized” testing.American students, every year, fall farther behind their counterparts around the world, academically and intellectually, while their parents and teachers continue to buy into the educational propaganda, which is spewed out by the American-political machine in Washington. Every year, Art education becomes less and less important in our schools, because of it’s effectiveness in producing students who can think, reason, question, learn and create. Realistically speaking, Art education may be perceived as a threat to those who run this country and desire a race of middle-class, mindless, unquestioning and unsophisticated robots.

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Education is the responsibility of the parents first and foremost, and if parents aren’t capable or willing to fight for their children’s education, then I guess America is doomed. If I were a parent-today-there would be no way I could allow my child to be intellectually molested by our current, public-education system. My child would either be home-schooled, at best, or in a private education system.The Roman Empire was one of the greatest and long lasting nations in the history of the world, and yet, as the Roman government declined, then so did its human values and arts. There is only one piece of music remaining, one mere fragment, after one thousand years of Roman culture. Rome literally disintegrated from within, because of a corrupt government and decaying society. The United States is less than two-hundred and fifty years old, and we’re already starting the lingering slide into governmental corruption, cultural ignorance and decay. Perhaps, it’s too late to save our society, but if it isn’t, then it’s time to start rebuilding what we have allowed to be torn down for the last one-hundred and fifty years. If it isn’t too late, then we must begin to rebuild our values and education system. Our values and education system may not have been perfect, in the past, but they were worthy of being fixed, properly.Most successful, world cultures, throughout history, have been measured by the quality of their philosophers and artists far more than their forms of government and technological advances. If we disappear as a nation, in another century or so, what will we be remembered for? What will be our legacy to the world?Art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. It opens our eyes to see and our brain to imagine. (Magdalena Abakanowicz)In my estimation, art is an integral part of being human and-therefore-is integral to human education. If we die to our affective inclinations, then we cease to be human in any real sense, and the results of this can be seen on MTV and its “Hip-Hop” generation. Money, material objects, self-absorbed egos, low-life affections and brutal power will never make us more human, if anything these extrinsic motivators will simply and affectively dehumanize us. “The one with the most toys in the end,” loses! Art education can help us to see ourselves, the world and-yes-God more clearly. We are more than flesh and blood, and our affective, as well as cognitive, attributes are exhorting us to remember this truth. The arts should be at the center of our children’s education, and our children shouldn’t have to plead with us to give them what they need and desire!