Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Festivus

Here is wishing you all a merry Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.

Check out more on Wikipedia

Leveraged Investments

I found this example on a post entitled Borrowing to Invest Vs Saving to Invest on John Chow's blog of how a leveraged investment can not only make you more money, but is no more risky or cost any more than the standard “save and invest” method of investing for your future.

The Money Saver
The saver is someone we’re all familiar with. He likes to save a certain amount of money every month into investments so he will have a nice nest egg when he retires. He likes to avoid debt at all cost because that is what everyone who don’t know squat about finances tells him.

Let’s assume our saver socks away $500 per month, every month for 20 years, into long term investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc). Let’s also assume our saver average a return of 10% per year. Some years will be up, some will be down but over the long term, 10% is about what the stock market has returned to investors.

At the end of the 20 year period, and after socking away $120,000, our saver has a nice retirement nest egg of $378,015. Not too bad!

The Leveraged Investor
In this scenario, our investor wants to be like the saver and put $500 per month into long term investments. However, instead of putting the $500 directly into investments, he goes to his bank and sets up a home equity line of credit for $120,000. He takes the $120,000 and uses it to buy the long term investments. So, instead of spreading the $120,000 out over 20 years like the saver did, the leveraged investor borrowed $120,000 to invest everything right now.

Every month, our investor needs to make a payment to the line of credit. Payments can be as low as interest only to as high as the entire outstanding amount. Interest on a line of credit is generally done at Prime. Let’s assume it’s 5%. Prime is a lot lower than that right now but over 20 years, it will average out. If our investor pays interest only on the line of credit, he would need to pay $500 every month to maintain the line.

Because the $120,000 was used to buy investments, the $500 interest payment is tax deductible so our investor can look forward to a $6,000 tax write off every year. That will result in a $3,000 tax refund if our investor is in the 50% tax bracket. If our investor was smart, he’ll put this refund back into investments. But let’s assume he’s just blows it on women instead.

Comparing The Numbers
If we assume our leveraged investor makes the same 10% return as our saver, that $120,000 will turn into $807,299.99 in 20 years. At this point the investor can take out $120,000 to pay off the line of credit and will be left with a net of $687,299.99.

By taking average of good debt, our leveraged investor managed to build a nest egg nearly twice the size of the saver, with the same $500 per month. In addition, the $500 per month the investor paid was tax deductible, while the saver got no tax benefits. Had our investor put the $3,000 yearly tax refund back into investments instead of blowing it on women, he would have made $996,307.49 at the end of 20 years. Women are expensive!

Most financial planners won’t tell you about leveraged investments because they are prevented from doing so. Unless you’re an Accredited Investor (net worth over $1 million or income over $200,000 per year for the past two years) a financial planner cannot legally show you some of the more sophisticated investments available to people with money. This access to higher yielding investments vehicles is one more reason why the rich get richer. It was never a level playing field.

I am not sure if this is possible in the UK, but is well worth looking into.... another new years resolution....

Monday, December 15, 2008

What we searched for in 2008

Towards the end of the year Google, publishes it's Zeitgeist, letting us know what internet users are searching for on their search engine.

As usual there are some pretty obvious terms as well as a few interesting ones:

The most searched term for Google users in the UK was Facebook while the BBC came second and its iPlayer service was the fastest rising query. Social networks accounted for four out of the top 10 global fastest-rising queries while the US election held everyone's interest all around the globe.

Fastest Rising Search Terms (Global)

1. sarah palin
2. beijing 2008
3. facebook login
4. tuenti
5. heath ledger
6. obama
7. nasza klasa
8. wer kennt wen
9. euro 2008
10. jonas brothers

A nice feature of the Zeitgeist is that you can look into what people are searching for in different regions around the globe. Unfortunately for me they don't feature Zimbabwe, but the statistics for South Africa are still fairly interesting:

Top Newsworthy Searches from people in South Africa

1. load shedding
2. fifa 2010 world cup
3. beijing olympics
4. barack obama
5. global warming
6. euro 2008
7. xenophobia
8. adt (home and office security service)
9. zimbabwe election
10. cope (congress of the people political party)

For me it was interesting to see that the elections in Zimbabwe were obviously pretty important to the people of South Africa, it's a pity that their government did not seem to feel the same way and continued with their stance of "quiet diplomacy"

Top Sports Teams (South Africa)

1. the sharks
2. kaizer chiefs
3. the lions
4. mamelodi sundowns
5. bafana bafana
6. orlando pirates
7. stormers
8. the springboks
9. cheetahs
10. proteas

You can check out all the most popular terms from around the globe on Google's Zeitgeist

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seth Godin's Funnel

Seth GodinSeth Godin, Funnel? Seth who and what funnel you may ask, it will all become clear in a few minutes, so let's Start with the who:

Who is Seth Godin?

No he is not a Jean-Luc Picard stunt double or a mentor to all those with a shave head (me included), he is according to Wikipedia an American author of business books and a popular speaker with appearances at Google, TED and a number of charities. Godin popularized the topic of permission marketing.

He is also the creator of Squidoo - a community website which allows users to create pages which are called "lenses" on subjects on just about anything.

What About The Funnel?
Seth's funnel is a theory whereby instead of spending tons of money on advertising and marketing your company or product as in the traditional way, you can turn it all around and use the power of people to turn the "funnel" into a megaphone, thus getting people to shout about your business or product.

The web is an excellent place to do this and it can even be done for free especially with all the social media sites out there, the Facebook, Myspace, Squidoo and Flickr's of this world.

Seth goes on to say about his funnel: "Once you see the funnel, it's easy to understand how valuable your existing customers are, and easy to think about how you want to spend time and money in promoting and building your site. Most marketers are running a flat campaign. Embracing the funnel changes the way you treat people. And treating different people differently is what consumers demand."

You can download his ebook for free: Flipping the Funnel and in my book, even though it was published in 2006 is still highly relevant and a must read for anyone interested in marketing.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Google releases Friend Connect

It has been announced on the Official Google Blog that Google Friend Connect is now available

After expressing my interest by signing up a few months ago, I received an invitation yesterday for Friend Connect from Google.

The invite basically said: "We appreciate your interest in Google Friend Connect and would now like to invite you to try the service. You can get started by visiting our homepage and clicking the "Set up a new site" button."

So what is Friend Connect?
Friend Connect is another way of keeping in touch and connecting with people that have similar interests as yourself. It hopes to make easy for people to instantly connect with other people on websites that they already enjoy and visit.

The goal of friend connect is to foster an open social web by using common standards like OpenID and OAuth. Websites that use Friend Connect on them will become OpenSocial containers, capable of running applications created by the OpenSocial developer community. So because it is open source, we should see many different applications being developed in the future, so who knows where all this will go..

It will be interesting to see in a year or so if Friend Connect has become the next big thing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New Forest Lapland park a Scam

the muddy field nativity sceneLast week I went with a work mate to the New Forest Lapland park in Dorset to do some filming. Described on their website as a "winter wonderland" it was meant to be the backdrop to the Christmas version of Jokers' Masquerade TV

We arrived to a pretty desolate scene, but the fact that we had been given permission as "journalists" to come a day before opening, I initially put it down to the fact that they probably still had some setting up to do.

Once we were inside, things did not get any better. Their "tunnel of light" was merely a path between some trees with a little fake snow on them, a few plastic polar bears and some Christmas lights above. The nativity scene (pictured) looked to be in the middle of a huge muddy field and as such we decided not to trudge through it. I was particularly put off by the Husky pen, to me it seemed that these poor dogs had been chained in the middle of a field for who knows how long.

We decided to get what shots we could out of the place and leave as quickly as possible.

We did not have to pay an entry fee, but Ian told me that it was to be about £25 to £30 - I am sure that you could find much better places and things to spend your hard earned money on this Christmas.

Since it has opened there have been many complaints about the place and it has even been reported on the BBC and the Southern Daily Echo and blasted in the Essential Travel blog - I can easily understand why!

Check out the December edition of JMTV, some of which I filmed at Lapland New Forest in Dorset.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Canoeing Down The Zambezi River

I found this video found on YouTube this morning which brings back many fond memories of our honeymoon, where we went on the exact same trip, canoeing from Chirundu down to Nyamepi Camp in Mana Pools. It was excellent and a trip that I would really like to do again one day.

Like everyone, I just hope Zimbabwe can return to normal one day...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lost Astronaut Tool Bag Spotted With Telescope Orbiting the Earth

The toolbag lost by astronaut Heidi Stefanyshyn-Piper last week is quickly becoming the most famous piece of $100,000 junk floating around in space. In fact, countless nerds have pointed their telescopes into the night sky attempting to catch a glimpse of the backpack-sized bag orbiting the Earth.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Fancy Dress Search Terms

I do SEO work for Jokers Masquerade, the UK's largest on-line retailer of fancy dress and Halloween costumes and often use sources like Hitwise, the web's leading competitive intelligence service and Google Trends to check what are the most popular keywords people are using on the major search engines like Google and Yahoo at any given time. Hitwise has the advantage of allowing you to break this down into different or even customisable industries.

We use this data to to make sure that there is enough stock available for the most popular types of costumes that people are looking for as well as optimising the website so as to make sure that the website ranks well in the natural listings on the search engines for the most commonly searched for terms.

In late September and October there is a large increase in searches of Halloween and fancy dress related keywords like zombie, witches and ghost costumes. I have now just finished researching the fastest rising keywords within the fancy dress industry over November so far. The list of keywords below is not the most searched for terms, but rather the keywords that are have the biggest increase in how often they are being used. Many of the Christmas related search terms are pretty predictable, but there are also a few surprises:

1. santa costume
2. pirates costumes
3. showgirl fancy dress
4. santa suits
5. indian costume
6. egyptian costumes
7. christmas fancy dress outfits
8. cinderella costume
9. cow costume
10. mermaid fancy dress
11. wild west fancy dres
12. bugsy malone costumes
13. convict costume
14. santa hats

I best make sure our purchasing department have enough cow costumes in stock this year!

Monty Python Takes on YouTube

Monty Python and the Holy Grail has to be one of my all time favourite films and obviously I am not the only one. If you search on YouTube for "Monty Python" there are literally thousands of Monty clips with everything from their films to The Flying Circus and home made re-enactments. I guess with all this, Monty Python figured that there was to be some money to be made by all this some how, so what the have done is started an official Monty Python Channel on YouTube. Their spin on it is that they are taking on YouTube, but I guess it is the old adage of "if you can't beat them, you may as well join them"

The Monty Python Channel on YouTube

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paul Lekakis Boom Boom Anniversary Video

Serious 80's cheese...that is soo bad I think I may pretend that I left earth and joined the rebel alliance during the 80's

If only SEO was this simple: Google Custom search

Google have just announced their new SearchWiki where you can customise your search results by moving your favorite or useful websites to the top of the search results. You can even delete your least useful websites from the search results altogether.

I spend most of my working day trying to get the website that I am working on to rank as high as possible for a particular search phrase. To do this there are a gazillon things that need to be done and it takes plenty of time and effort as well as a little luck to get to the top for competitive search terms. Sigh if only it was this easy to get to the top, I could spend the rest of the day at the beach!

Obviously it is not going to be this easy because to move your search results up and down the list you need to be logged into your Google account and only you will see your personalized results.

I do think though that sometime in the future, Google will look at phrases that have been customised by large amounts of people and tweak their results to match what most people think are good websites for that term.

For more info and a short video on how to use it, check out the Official Google Blog: SearchWiki: make search your own

Thursday, November 20, 2008

LIFE Photo Archive Online

Some of the worlds most incredible photos, many of which have never previously been published are now available on line thanks to Google image search and Life magazine.

At the moment there are said to be only about 20% of the estimated 10 million photos online, but it is their aim to have them all up on the web for all to see.

So far one of my favourites is this fantastic photo of a lion sleeping on the rocks, you can find it as well as all the other photographs on the life photo archive. To find this lion image search for "lion sleeping."

More on this story from Google can be found on the official Google Blog

Friday, November 14, 2008

Aerial View of Our House

Map image

Nice aerial shot of where we live, funny thing is, I think that that van parked next to our neighbours is the Mr Whippy Ice Cream van that annoys the hell out of me with it's annoying "Ice Cream Man Music"

Flickr Tags:

Crazy Emergency Tent Teardrop Thing...

When you’re stuck out in the elements or simply get separated from a group, staying in place and waiting for help may be the best idea. The Cocoon Emergency Shelter from designer John Moriarty is intended to keep you warm and safe until help arrives. You simply hang it from a tree or any other off-the-ground location, then climb inside and let the insulated materials keep you warm.

...Not sure how i'd like to spend a week in Camping in Kenya in it though!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

13 November 1983 - Asteroids

asteroids game
This story takes me back Eskimos, put put and Daily Thompsons Decathlon:

Way back in 1983 a Fifteen-year-old named Scott Safran from New Jersey in the US, sets the world record score in Asteroids which is still the longest lasting video game high score in history.

Scott, who had been practising non-stop at the game for the previous two years and agreed to play a marathon session of Atari's popular outer-space shooting game as part of a charity event in Pennsylvania. His mother drove him to the event and lent him a quarter, which he dropped into the machine Nov. 13.

Some three days later, having taken only brief bathroom and food breaks, Safran finished his game with 41,336,440 points, nudging out the previous world record held by famous old-school gamer and actor Leo Daniels.

What makes Safran's score amazing is that it has gone 25 years without being broken, giving it the longevity record for a video game high score, according to the authoritative game-record keepers at Twin Galaxies.

Asteroids is a very difficult game. Players have to contend not only with the eponymous giant rocks that veer at their spaceships and with enemy laser fire, but also with the touchy control scheme. You have to rotate your ship and fire a single thruster to move anywhere, and momentum can carry you right into disaster if you don't have nimble fingers.

Setting a high score on any video game requires exceptional skill, as illustrated in the recent documentary The King of Kong. But setting an Asteroids record also requires superhuman endurance, because it literally takes days to do.

Unlike Donkey Kong, which has seen serious challengers step up one after another, only one person has made a serious attempt at the Asteroids record in recent years. An Oregon man named Bill Carlton settled in for a marathon session in 2004, which ended in failure when his machine broke down after 27 hours of play. He had scored more than 15 million points, placing him 15th in the record books.

In 1998, as Atari was planning to release a new edition of Asteroids, Twin Galaxies' head referee Walter Day attempted to locate Scott Safran, with whom he had fallen out of touch. It took Day four years to discover that Safran had died in 1989, at the age of 21, due to injuries sustained when he fell from the roof of his Los Angeles apartment.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Memories of a Safari Guide at Welgevonden Game Reserve

This is a video I put together some time ago containing some of my photographs, as well as those of a few of my guests during the time that we worked at Shidzidzi and Nungubane lodges on the Welgevonden game reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus)

African Jacana (Actophilornis africana)

I took this photo on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe in June 2008 of the African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus) as it waded at the waters edge as it searched for food which consisted of mostly insects, but will also eat fish, crabs, shrimp and other aquatic animals like frogs.

I thought I would write a post about it not because this photo is anything special, but for me the African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus) is a pretty interesting bird:

It is only the male who incubates and raises the chicks, the female has nothing to do with it after mating, infact she polyandrous and can mate with up to four males in a season!

The job to build the nest is also left to the male, which he makes from leaves and other plant material and uses floating vegetation as the foundations! (The success rate of raising a chick to adulthood is pretty low!) The female will then lay about four speckled glossy brown eggs.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Birdwatching Binoculars

For the past month or so I have been working on a new website, with the snappy name of Best Binoculars and Binocular Reviews - ok so that is a bit of a mouthful but it is so that it can hopefully rank well on search engines for those keywords.

The idea of the site it to honestly review binoculars for specific needs and provide links to where you can buy them, so that it makes it easy for price comparison. Ok so yes I do receive a commission for any purchase made, but will only recommend binoculars that feel make the grade.

Why Binoculars, well I noticed that there are plenty of sites that review things like mobile phones and digital cameras, but it is pretty difficult to find decent ones for binoculars and believe it or not there are plenty of people looking for binoculars for all sorts of uses: birdwatching, safaris, sports etc

Anyway I have just finished a pretty long article on a Guide to Buying Bird Watching Binoculars which I hope will be a winner.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Abyssinian Roller

Rollers are one of my favourite families of birds, they are called rollers because of the way that they display to there mates by rolling during a steep dive. There beautiful feathers have also been highly prized by many African tribes for use in head dresses etc.

Anyway I jut though that this was a great shot of a pair of rollers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Costume Packer

Most of you may not know that I work for the fancy dress company Jokers' Masquerade, where I help with search engine optimisation as well as internet marketing. Halloween is our busiest time and as such for the past few days, and probably for the rest of the week until Halloween, it is all hands on deck and I will be working in the warehouse where I am a "shipper" That means I process all the orders and get them ready for delivery.

If over the next few days you want to check out just hard we work the cool thing is that we have a few web cams dotted around the warehouse, the call centre as well as a cool "forklift cam" fitted onto one of our er.. forklifts! During the day up until probably Thursday the 30th of July, you can probably find me on the top right web cam on this web cam page.

Oh and for those of you who don't believe how busy a fancy dress company can get over Halloween, check out this video we put together of an average day in the warehouse:

How to Fill a 40 Foot Container Lorry in 60 Seconds

Check out fancy dress ideas blog or Jokers' Masquerade if you need / want a costume this Halloween

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Feel the Burn

Winter and the rain have really set in this weekend and as such, Sharon and myself decided to wipe the dust off our squash racquets and enter the house of pain!

I haven't played in what must be three years now and even though I have played quite a lot of golf over the summer and often ride into work on my mountain bike, squash has an incredible knack of being able to find every muscle in your body that you haven't been using! The good news is that I beat Sharon 4 games to 1, but will have burning muscles in the morning to remember this great victory!

Speaking of burning, check out this mega cover version of BURN by Yngwie Malmsteen (on guitar) originally from one of my all time favourite bands... Deep Purple:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Two Zebra's at Duma Manzi Game Reserve

One of my favourite photos taken on our recent stay at Duma Manzi Game reserve in Natal, South Africa

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

One Crazy Summer...

Contrary to public opinion, I haven't developed some morbid fetish for Smurfs. The company I work for sells fancy dress costumes and to promote a Smurf costume that we produce, we decided to send it on a world and UK tour.

For the most part, a guy I work with was "the smurf" and I tagged along as the photographer. So far we have visited Brussels in Belgium, Paris and Rome. The Tour has also visited Las Vegas, Dublin, The Gambia and a bunch of other places I cant remember.

Later we continued with a UK tour, visiting places like Lands End in Cornwall, North Wales and right up to Scotland. Along the way I seem to remember something about Robin Hood and the oldest pub in England, the set of Emmerdale or something and one hell of a serious pub crawl in Edinburgh that included drinking establishments with cool names like Dirty Dicks and The Black Rose Tavern Rock Bar, although I only remember these because of photographic evidence!

We (Ian in the costume and my photos) have so far also appeared in a bunch of local news papers, The Basingstoke Gazette, The Newbury Weekly News as well as the Sunday Sport! and had a radio interview on BBC radio Berkshire

Thanks to everyone that I have bumped into along the way, especially The Warman family in The Gambia and Brendon and Taryn up in Scotland.

... oh well, Summer is now over and we now all have winter to look forward to!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Simba 3 years older

Phew, can you believe that my last post on my personal blog was over three years ago on my birthday! Back then I hardly knew what blogging was, and I was only experimenting with it, today I blog as part of my work almost daily. It has been on my mid for a while that I should restart a personal blog, and so here I am.

Well, so much has happened over the past few years, it seems way too daunting to somehow summarise everything, so I guess what I will do is just start from today and possibly refer back as and when is appropriate.

I find it way more difficult harder writing about yourself as opposed to writing in a blog that is work related, but I will give it a try.

I only hope that my next post isn't 3 years away!