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How To Become A U.S. Citizen, If You Aren’t Already

Posted By: on April 23, 2015
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us-flag-with-statue

People born in the United States are automatically citizens of the U.S., not matter whether or not their parents are citizens. If you aren’t born in the U.S. though, you need to become a citizen, or have documents allowing you to work in the U.S., in order to legally reside in any of the 50 states.

There are many reasons why people immigrate to the U.S. Some come for safety or religious reasons, some come to be reunited with family members that have already come and others come in search of the American dream and the better financial benefits that are offered them.

So how easy is it to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S.? First you may want to take a look at the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which has all of the criteria that needs to be met for naturalization. However, there are some basics.

First, The Facts

According to BeaconImmigration.com, 694,193 people became naturalized citizens in the U.S. in 2011, and that was up almost 80,000 from the previous year.

Next, The Basics

In order to be eligible for naturalization, a section of INA, 316, covers the criteria that needs to be met. These are not the only requirements, as their are more in other sections, but it contains the fundamentals.

A person that wants to become a citizen must live in the U.S. for five years straight as a law abiding resident. Half of this period they must actually be in the U.S., not travelling abroad. If they tend to move a lot around the U.S. they must stay in one place for 3 months to file there.

In order to file for naturalization, you must be 18 when it comes time to file. You also need to be able to speak, write and read English. There is a naturalization test that immigrants must take and pass, which includes testing on each of these. The test also includes sections on American history and current American politics and people. Those planning to take this test can find all of the questions online in order to study for passing.

Lastly, part of the requirement is that the person wanting to become a citizen is a good person. That means that they can’t be a criminal or a terrorist. The U.S. wants to welcome people that have the moral character to bring happiness and more good to the country.

While there is more to becoming a U.S. citizen than just this, these are the basics and can get someone starting on the path it takes to become a citizen.

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Renters Can Be Green: 5 Easy Steps

Posted By: on April 22, 2015
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In today’s market, Renters can easily find ways to make good decisions for our Earth. It’s not hard to be green anymore. By following the easy suggestions listed below, you’ll be saving money and the planet in no time.

  1. Get a Green Rental

Whether you want a brand new apartment or a retrofitted place with character, you can find a green apartment. Choose to rent from people who make good choices for the environment. Ask for this information on efficiency as you tour your options.

You should also make sure you know where the recycling facilities are and exactly what is recycled. If there aren’t composting options available, you can purchase small vermiculture habitats to easily compost your food scraps. These often fit right under your kitchen sink.

Another great option to ask your potential landlord about is called a submeter. This small device can be installed in each individual unit. It collects data about water usage in that apartment or unit. The analytics offer great information for both the renter and the landlord. Money can be saved by both parties, as well as water conserved.

  1. Get a Better Bulb

Compact Fluorescent (CF) bulbs can actually last about 10 times longer than a regular old incandescent bulb, and they can save you about 66% of your energy usage when you trade incandescent bulbs for CF bulbs. They may cost a little more at first, but you will reclaim your investment quickly.

  1. Get Control of Electronics

Don’t be fooled into thinking your electronics aren’t using any electricity when they are turned off. They put themselves into standby mode and keep using a little electricity. How much, you might ask. Well, enough that an average household wastes about 1,000 kilowatts of power on standby each year. That’s enough to power that household for over two months. So, to really turn it off, unplug your electrical device.

  1. Get a New Ride

Instead of driving your car to work every day, pick a day to try something new. Walk, ride your bike, take the train, or carpool. You can save on the money it takes to operate your vehicle and try something fun. You’ll even be saving on air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption.

  1. Get Clean

You can find non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products that are environmentally safe at any natural grocery store. Many big box stores are carrying these lines now too. Better yet, create your own. With simple ingredients like baking soda or vinegar, you can create healthy cleaners at home. Reuse containers that have been thoroughly cleaned and opt to use rags from old clothing, like tee shirts, instead of paper towels.

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TopCultured Legends

Fried Gnocchi

Posted By: on January 4, 2011

You might be asking yourself, “what could be so funny or interesting about fried gnocchi?” I know, I know, but give this video a play will yah. This guys just has the time of his Read On »

Crazy Breakdancing Grandma

Posted By: on August 13, 2010

Going by the name Grandma Tracy, this breakdancing phenom was spotted at the recent Mad Decent NYC block party. If my Grandma tried to be this hip, she’d certainly break a hip. I’m not quite Read On »

True Love Died Nearly 60 Years Ago

Posted By: on June 2, 2010

If you’ve been having trouble with love, this may be the proof you need to ease your sorrows. Here in full color is evidence that true love has long been deceased and unattainable since 1951. Rest assured Read On »

5 Ways to Be a Better Boss

Posted By: on April 20, 2015
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better boss

As a boss, you may realize there can occasionally be some animosity from your employees. This happens in nearly any authoritative position, but there are a few ways to alleviate the way your employees feel about you. By bettering yourself as a manager and leader to your employees, you can gain their respect and become indispensable to them. Included here are a few things you can do to become a more vital asset to your company and a better leader to your employees.

Analyze Data

Some bosses may not understand what each job they oversee truly entails. By having a more comprehensive understanding of each employees position and being able to evaluate all data and spreadsheets given them, they can gain respect from their employees. A knowledgeable boss can become very helpful and vital to the employees as well as be able to appreciate the tasks your employees take on each day.

Build Relationships

Creating professional relationships with your employees can establish a more vitalized work environment where they are more apt to work harder and enjoy their job. Your employees may be under you, but that does not mean they are less valuable and important to the company. Furthermore, a boss who branches out to network with other similarly levelled leaders and managers can learn tips to utilize in his own practice.

Move Forward

A stagnant workplace tends to be unhappy. If you are constantly on the cusp of new discoveries, new inventions or a better way of doing things, people will be more excited about their work. By pushing boundaries and changing how things are done you can dampen the constant problem of human boredom. Being an open-minded boss can help your workforce stay interested in their chosen career and be more inclined to offer suggestions or ideas.

Troubleshoot

Any problems in the workplace should be dealt with and improved. A boss who chooses to ignore things, or gloss over difficulties will lose the respect of his employees. Showing a willingness to help and improve situations will show employees that you care about the environment they work in and are willing to change conditions that are unpleasant.

Make Decisions

Sometimes the decision making process can be excruciatingly difficult for a boss. You are the one who has to make the hard choices that sometimes make employees unhappy. This can be part of the difficult task of accepting authority, but one thing that can anger employees, more than your decision, is failing to accept responsibility and make a choice. Give your employees a good understanding of what you are thinking and the reasons for your decisions. They will respect you more if you are certain of your path and not easily swayed by the group.

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Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Which Will Save Homeowners Money This Summer

Posted By: on April 16, 2015
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One very frequently asked question of Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) companies is whether an air conditioner or a heat pump is better for keeping the home cool during the months of summer. In addition, many homeowners also wonder whether one or the other is a better choice for cost effectiveness and energy efficiency. The short answer to both questions is that each system is an excellent choice, both are good at cooling the home, and both can achieve significant energy savings, especially if newer models are installed. There are many things to consider when choosing between an air conditioner and a heat pump for the home. Here are a few things to consider.

Costs

Heat pumps and air conditioners are similar in their cost and installation price, which is understandable because when a heat pump is being used in cooling mode, it operates in basically the same manner as an air conditioner. The cost of annual maintenance is also roughly equivalent, with a tune-up of each cooling system involving the same maintenance by a service technician. A homeowner wishing to keep down the cost of installation may want to lean slightly more toward an air conditioner, since initial costs are generally lower for an air conditioner than for a comparable heat pump system. This is partially due to the fact that the air conditioner only runs during the warmer months, and the heat pump is designed to operate year round.

Operating Efficiency

If there is any difference in the operating efficiency of the two systems, a slight advantage must be given to the air conditioner, which is marginally more energy efficient and cost effective than a heat pump used in cooling mode. However, the operating efficiency of both systems can be improved in several ways, including the use of programmable thermostats. This allows homeowners to manage temperature according to time frames. When families are in the home or at work, and asleep or awake  have a great impact on whether a cooling system needs to be running. Regular maintenance also affects the efficiency of cooling system in the home, so ducts, filters, coils, and registers need to be kept open and free of obstruction.

The Geographic Factor

With the characteristics of the two cooling systems being very similar, there is little reason to choose one over the other until location of the home is taken into consideration. Any home situated in a warm weather climate that does not require much heating would have little need for the dual-purpose capability of the heat pump. This means homeowners in warmer areas would probably receive greater benefit from the installation of an air conditioner.

By contrast, a home in the northeastern region of the United States which requires significant heating during the cooler months would greatly benefit from having both heating and cooling systems contained in the same unit. This is especially true because the heat pump really shines in comparison with typical furnace operation, being much more cost effective and energy efficient.

The decision between the two units greatly depends on several factors. As a homeowner, sit down and take a look at the different factors of the home, location, and desired efficiency and requirements of the two systems. Both have their merits and their disadvantages.

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The Worst Investment Ideas For 2015

Posted By: on April 14, 2015
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emptying piggy bank

Investing can be a tricky game full of unpredictability. And with the current state of the economy, many people are shying away from the idea all together. There are still plenty of economic development happening that leaves investors with room to make some interesting investments. On the other hand, there are definitely some places that experts suggest not placing bets on. Here are some of the sectors that are best to steer clear of in the upcoming year, and what alternatives to consider in the mean time.

Government Bonds

Despite 2014 being forecasted as the year that the multi-decade rally in fixed income would be over, government bonds continued to sink throughout the year, and it’s expected to continue on the downward trajectory in 2015. There is plenty of concern over weak economic growth, less than impressive inflation figures, and geo-political tensions that make government bonds sadly underweight. A slight possibility exists that government bonds might bounce back, but it is far more likely that they will not. Try looking at master-limited-partnerships instead; they trade like stocks and boast yields of around 7 percent.

High-yield, Fixed-Income Investments

With interest rates at a historic low, financial experts caution investors not to reach for too much yield with their fixed-income portfolios. High-yield bonds behave somewhat like stocks, and are thus a poor choice when it comes to bonds that generally have a negative correlation with stocks. Leveraged-loan mutual funds are also being frowned upon this season, and financiers suggest staying away from both of these places. Instead, try looking outside the fixed-income sphere to dividend stocks and real estate investment trusts as better options.

Gold

It hasn’t been a good year for gold; the precious metal has dropped to a four-year low, and now that the dollar is looking strong, coupled with weak inflation, the predictions are for gold to continue falling. Gold, which is valued according to the dollar, has become more expensive with the rise and there is little need for its hedging power when inflation is low. Further weakening gold’s case is the impending boost of interest rates by the Fed, a move that seems inevitable. There’s no need to shy away from precious metals completely, however, and there is certainly plenty to consider with silver.  Silver, much undervalued to gold at the moment, is a much cheaper investment. This precious metal has a high level of utilitarian value, being in demand for various technological devices. Furthermore, a shrinking supply promises higher values in the future.

U.S. Equities

Overall equities have not had the best of times this year in the market, but in the U.S. it has been different. In fact, in the S&P 500 there has been a historic high water mark several times during the previous year, and it’s been the best performing equity sector by a full 6 percentage points. So what’s the problem? Some experts feel the price is too high; it’s trading at ratios of 26/27 times that have only been equaled in 1999 and 1929. The market is due for a difficult period and a high degree of investor complacency is rampant the market. Investors are better off putting money down on favorable looking emerging market economies, such as India. The country has overcome political unrest and brought down its inflation significantly, along with posting impressive growth forecasts.

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Why You Should Eat Organic Meat

Posted By: on April 13, 2015
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Not everyone agrees on organic diets. Some people believe that the laws for organic foods aren’t strict enough to make them a really healthy choice. Some people argue that GMO foods really aren’t that bad for you. Right now, there really is no definitive proof of who is right and who is wrong. 

If you have chosen to eat organic already, or you have just been thinking about giving it a try, here are some reason you should go for it.

Antibiotics/Hormone/GMO Free

Farm animals that have been raised organically do not get antibiotics or rbGH, which is bovine human growth hormone. They also don’t get pumped full of any other drugs which then get in your system when you consume them. These animals also are not fed any foods that have been genetically modified, but rather, they are fed corn that has been certified organic.

Raised Healthier

Farm animals that are raised organic live in healthier environments than the alternative. They eat more nutrients and they may even get a lot more outside time than other farm raised animals that are crammed too many in a cage. There healthier lifestyle is another reason they don’t need antibiotics. Most farm raised meat animals are given antibiotics because they are more likely to get sick in small quarters with too many animals in cages together.

Allowed to Graze

Not all organic meat comes from free range animals, but those that are get a wider and healthier diet. What you eat determines your own health, so eating an animal that eats healthy is healthier for you. Not only do they get fresh air and get to graze in nature, free range chickens enjoy bugs and grubs which help fatten them up.

Less Chemicals Used

On an organic farm they don’t use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers on the food or even on the land. These pesticides can get into the fat of the animal and then into your system when you eat it. That’s why eating organic animals reduces the amount of chemicals you are exposed to. It also reduces the amount farm workers are exposed to.

There are many more reasons than these that make organic meat a healthy diet option, but these are just a few of the ones that should help you make the right decision or to confirm that you should keep eating organic if you already do.

Organic eating isn’t a fad for most, but no matter how you choose to eat there will always be someone out there that argues with you on your beliefs. Even if organic isn’t the best, it seems like it can’t hurt to eat less chemicals and eat fresher food choices.

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The Sleeper: A Sub-9-Second Toyota Camry that Looks Stock

Posted By: on April 12, 2015
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Sleeper Toyota Camry at SEMA Show

At the 2014 SEMA show in Las Vegas a bevy of dynamic and outrageous vehicles were on display to give us a look at what the imagination might be able to create into an actual vehicle. Among the many crazy looking, intriguing and surprisingly inventive showing at the show was a simple and subdued appearing Toyota Camry whose only visible additions were the tinted windows. This car begged the question of belonging in a show like this it seemed to be completely out of place, but the simple reality is this Camry was in fact the right car in the right place.

The Camry in question is actually called a sleeper car and one that allows Toyota to showcase their imagination and racing development. Under this very plain and unassuming exterior was a full racing beast that can excite even the most avid race driver or enthusiast and offer a massive amount of power, precision and acceleration in a car that will rival many others on the track.

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5 Reasons Every Business Should Use SMS

Posted By: on April 11, 2015
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Mobile Marketing

Mobiles are taking over. According to Business Insider, more than half the traffic that checked out e-commerce sites over Black Thursday in 2014 used mobiles. To get the attention of prospective customers, a business must go where they are. That means engaging with them via cellphones makes good business sense.

What is SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service. Its more advanced  counterpart is MMS, Multimedia Messaging Service. These are non-voice communications using mobile phones. Actually some landlines can handle SMS, but their numbers are low.

The limit for SMS is 160 characters. These notes are sent through a message center acting as a middleman. If a message doesn’t get through the first time, the center will try to re-send it. Though spoofing and spamming are common problems with SMS, it is extremely popular. According to Forrester Research, over six billion are sent every day in the U.S.

MMS also use a message center, which sends the message via the internet on to the recipient’s smartphone, as long as it is capable of receiving MMS. If it can’t, the recipient can use a tablet or computer to look at it in a web browser. MMS messages have no size or character limit.

Engaging with Customers

Six billion is an impressive number. Any business with a product or service to sell can make contact with potential customers by joining the vast number of other businesses who regularly contact prospects using SMS and MMS. According to Andy Shirey at Open Market, there are three main reasons that SMS is such an effective method of engaging the audience. The first reason is that it is simple contact. It gives a business multiple opportunities to present a call-to-action directly to targeted consumers. There is no learning curve for prospects. They are already using the technology.

Easy Effort

The second reason is that there is a very low level of commitment required from the target audience. The consumer can easily opt in and out of SMS. This reduces how much time and effort they must invest to form a mobile relationship with a brand. The less commitment required from them, the more likely they are to receive an SMS.

Easy Access

Third, it is very easy to upsell using SMS. It is simple to build on the initial engagement. As trust develops, the consumer is very likely to take advantage of further offers for upsells, like downloading apps or clicking on links.

Business Growth

These three reasons make it appealing to many companies to use SMS to widen and grow their customer base. There are two other good reasons to join the move to SMS. The fourth reason is that it is an easy way to grow a brand. When people respond to an SMS, they are opening a dialog. This connection is what grows brand recognition and trust.

Track Sales

The fifth reason is that it is simple to measure results. There are numerous metrics a business can track with SMS ad campaigns. It is simple to find out where users are opting-in, for example in the store or after reading an advertisement. This gives a company valuable information about the effectiveness of different methods of marketing.

To stay in the game, to be relevant to customers, a business needs to find them first, then engage them. SMS and MMS both offer this ability. It clearly pays to join the crowd and become a part of the flood of six billion texts every day.

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The Importance of a Healthy Smile

Posted By: on April 10, 2015
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healthy smile

Once you have your adult teeth it’s important to know that those are the last real teeth you are going to have. That means that it is really important to take good care of them. Taking care of your teeth means brushing and flossing on a regular basis. It means regular dentist visits too. You dentist is a one stop shop for a healthy and happy mouth.

Sometimes, even when you take care of your teeth, you lose them. Your smile is key to making that first impression whether at job interviews or social gatherings, according to top cosmetic dentistry office, Broadway Dental. Just because you’ve lost teeth, doesn’t mean you can’t gain your confidence and smile back while making great impressions with cosmetic dentistry.

Take Care of the Teeth You Have

If you don’t take care of your teeth plaque and bacteria can build up on them and in your mouth. Bacteria from bad teeth can also get into your blood, which is why it is very important to brush and floss regularly. If you have cavities, your dental care professional can take care of them before any harm comes to your health.

Studies have also shown that pregnant women with bad teeth can transfer that bacteria to their unborn baby. That’s just one more reason why healthy teeth are important to overall health.

Try Cosmetic Dentistry

If you’ve lost teeth, for whatever reason, and you want to gain your confidence back, you can visit a cosmetic dental professional and they have many options to help gain back your smile. Caps, veneers and other false teeth can be used to cover or replace missing or broken teeth.

Missing teeth aren’t the only things that can keep you from smiling though. If you have stained teeth from smoking or coffee consumption, your dentist can whiten your teeth for you. Just remember, they don’t stay white forever, especially if you continue that habits that are causing them to stain. Crooked teeth can also make it hard to feel confident. That’s why there are many choices for braces these days, so that adults can feel confident while straightening their teeth.

Don’t let your teeth keep you from being happy, smiling, finding love or evening finding a job. With so many choices to rescue your smile, no matter what problems you have, it just doesn’t make sense to not get some help.

Even if your teeth are already perfect, don’t neglect them. You won’t keep your healthy smile if you don’t work at it. Get regular dental checkups, even if your teeth appear to be white and you have no cavities. Watch what you eat and always brush your teeth. Flossing regularly also helps you ensure that your whole mouth is getting clean.

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Great Historical Hotels in England

Posted By: on April 9, 2015
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powiscastle

Fancy a trip through history?  How about spending a night there?  Hotels in London are often steeped historically, just like their afternoon tea. The buildings are old and have volumes of history to share.

30 James Street:  Home of the Titanic

This absolutely beautiful building survived the bombings in World War II because it was reinforced by the men who built the Titanic and ships like it. It was originally made for the Ismay, Imrie and Company shipping group, which then later became known as the White Star Line. This is the building where Captain Edward J. Smith, the Titanic’s commander, received his orders, as did the rest of his crew.

Now 30 James Street is a gorgeous hotel. It boasts all the modern amenities, including a champagne bar and well-known spa. Afternoon tea may also be taken there.

2 Whitehall Court, London:  Home to Spies

This fantastic building has been home to scandal since its beginning. Originally it was built as a block of luxury residential apartments. Jabez Balfour was the developer and apparently used the building to solidify a very elaborate pyramid scheme. The Liberator Building Society, as controlled by Balfour, was supposed to have advanced money to homebuyers. Instead, it had given the money to property companies purchase overpriced properties owned by Balfour. It collapsed and left thousands of investors without their funds.

The Ministry of Defence took the building over during both World Wars to use as headquarters. Both M15 and M16 were housed there. And, the most important spy of all, James Bond, appeared there in the 1983 filming of “Octopussy.”

For even more crime and history, dine at the One Twenty One Two Restaurant. With a nod to the hotel’s former neighbor, Scotland Yard, the award-winning restaurant is named for the Yard’s famous telephone number, Whitehall 1212.

Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel:  Home to Safe Harbor

For something completely different, try this functioning lighthouse built in 1815. It exudes charm and romance; and is small enough to provide a very intimate appeal. However, it boasts all the comforts of a luxury hotel.

There are 20 acres of grounds with the hotel which allows visitors to view a large variety of wildlife. Seals, birds, and deer are often spotted, in addition to sea life. Many differing types of plants are also found in the area. Be sure to visit Dunskirkloch, the Iron Age Fort, which is also in the area.

Views from the Hotel itself are spectacular. Some of Scotland’s most remarkable coastline are located in and around the lighthouse. You should make sure to look for the Kintyre Peninsula, Arran, Ailsa Craig, the Firth of Clyde, and even the coast of Ireland. In fact, on a clear night, you might even be able to see the beams from several other Scottish lighthouse, and possibly some from Ireland.

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