Thursday, July 31, 2014

Simplicity Mower, More Than Just a Mower, it is Everything You Need For Your Lawn

Simplicity mower are known to provide top notch, heavy duty machines built to give you precision and satisfaction when it comes to lawn and garden beautification. Now is the time to know how each machine works so that you know which one you truly need. The company is currently offering seven categories of machines, from lawn to garden, leaf blowing to landscaping, snow clearance and clutter vacuum, even converting yard trash into fertilizer. Name what you need and Simplicity surely has something for you!

Simplicity mower aims to provide high quality products that will help you clean and maintain any type of outdoor area. Their machines are great for household use and commercial use so whether you want it for your lawn or for business use, you are sure it will perform to pass your standards. The company has three types of yard and garden tractors, these are, Legacy XL, Prestige and Conquest. Legacy XL is a combination of both garden and yard contractor so you don't get the comfort and ease in using a garden tractor while finishing the job faster because of the yard tractor specification. Prestige offers the option to get creative in doing your garden or lawn because it offers to design the grass you're working on. If you have the longest yard in your neighborhood you would need the Conquest to do the job. It will finish the mowing twice as fast so you have more time to spend relaxing on your gorgeous yard.

As for lawn tractors Simplicity mowers have Broadmoor and Regent which promises to provide ultimate performance, comfort, versatility and durability without compromise. These machines are the perfect partner for you lawn mowing needs. The four other type of Simplicity mowers are categorized into their specification the other three category are; Zero turn, Riding mowers and Walk-behind mowers. The Zero-turn offers precision in cutting edge technology that you'll never have to turn to cut through tight spaces ever! If your lawn have a lot of trees and shrubs that you need to trim around to then the Riding mower is the perfect one for you. It offers maximum comfort plus it's just the right size! Last but not the least is the Walk-behind mower that gives the same performance in a more simplified and budget friendly way, it's perfect for gardens and smaller yards.

Simplicity also offers Snowthrower machines, Chipper Shredder, Field and Brush Mower, Leaf Blower, Lawn Vacuum and Pacer that will suit all your outdoor clearing jobs the easy way! With these machines no job is tough because everything is plain and simple.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vietnam and Cambodia Tours

When to Go

Vietnam and Cambodia span numerous climatic zones making the weather extremely difficult to predict. Nevertheless, if you are looking to avoid the rainy seasons and the worst of the heat then when embarking on Vietnam and Cambodia Tours you should consider between October and March.


Only in the past few years has Vietnam opened its doors to the world after thousands of years of Chinese, Mongols, and Japanese rule: all of which have left a lasting legacy in the supreme temples, and innumerable unique buildings. A country relatively unscathed by tourism, Vietnam is a country just waiting to be explored. Whether you want to explore Vietnam's ancient, traditional capital Hanoi, captivated with old artisan quarters, puppet theatres and pagoda's along the lakeside or the fabled imperial capital of Hue charmed with golden pavilions, terraced gardens and lily ponds Vietnam and Cambodia tours will allow you to witness it all. The regal and enigmatic, yet moving and imperious Ha Long Bay is a natural beauty to which words cannot do justice. Envisage thousands of limestone karsts and islands rising from the emerald waters and you have an image of awe-inspiring beauty. In addition to these wonderful cities and landscapes is the watery landscape of green fields and sleepy villages of Mekong Delta. Rich in rice-paddies and fish farms, this delta yields enough produce to nourish a country with a significant surplus. The Vietnamese themselves are wonderfully energetic, always smiling and courteous who all proudly show off their beautiful country.


Just west of Vietnam lies the equally-exquisite Kingdom of Cambodia. The chaotic yet fascinating capital of Phnom Penh offers radiant spires of the royal palace and in the setting of a stunning river-side locality it truly is one of the hidden gems of Asia. A short flight away lays Siem Reap which proposes the life and vibrancy for the temples of Angkor the city is on route to once again becoming the epicentre new Cambodia. At its peak in the 13th century Siem Reap had almost a million inhabitants and was home of the monumental Khmer empire which ruled much of modern Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, which has left a lasting legacy of artistry and sculptures which truly makes Angkor one of the great wonders of the world. So whether it's a peaceful break, a bit of sight-seeing or just a hands-on history lesson your after Vietnam and Cambodia tours offers something for everyone of all ages.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The "SaaS" On-Boarding Process - Billing, Provisioning and Fostering Users of On-Demand Solutions

A confluence of factors is driving customers to adopt a new generation of web-based, on-demand business applications via the Internet. The emergence of these Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions is being driven by three primary forces:

  1. Growing frustration among corporate end-users and executives with the costs and complexities associated with traditional, on-premise applications.
  2. Broad-based acceptance of consumer-oriented, on-demand services which are setting a new standard for ease-of-use and cost-effectiveness.
  3. Rapid evolution of enabling technologies which makes it more economical to develop and deliver SaaS solutions.

As a consequence of these trends, corporate adoption of Software as a Service is accelerating. This adoption is not only among small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), but also large-scale enterprises. It is not only in "front-office" applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM), but also in "back-office" areas, such as accounting and financial systems. Industry-specific, vertical market oriented SaaS solutions are also emerging.

The rapid growth of the SaaS market has attracted a widening array of competitors, both start-ups and established independent software vendors (ISVs), seeking to capitalize on this new opportunity. This competition is placing greater pressure on aspiring SaaS providers to develop and deliver highly differentiated solutions at the lowest possible cost.

One of the key attractions of SaaS solutions is their ease of deployment and use from a customer, or end-user, perspective. These same attributes are critical for providers of software as a service who must acquire new customers and scale their operations in a cost-effective manner. However, this "on-boarding" process is fraught with complications and pitfalls that can lead to service delivery problems and customer dissatisfaction.

As a result, Software as a Service is fundamentally changing the nature of the software industry and the way software companies do business. In many cases, the shift to a SaaS model is forcing ISVs to think like a web company, rather than a software vendor. This means creating new ways to engage customers via the web, as well as setting new standards for rapid deployment of their applications.

If a software vendor can't quickly and cost-effectively on-board customers, it won't succeed in this online business. And if it can't automate the on-boarding process, it can't build a scalable and profitable business.

Yet, Tier 1 Research has found that only 13% of Software as a Service providers had "click-to-buy" functionality on their websites. And, amazingly 70% of web applications and on-demand companies do not have an integrated billing solution.

The State of the SaaS Market

The Software as a Service market is being driven by a combination of ten macro-trends:

  1. Globalization
  2. Commoditization/Differentiation
  3. Mobility & Worker Dispersion
  4. Consumerism
  5. Web 2.0
  6. Social Networking
  7. On-Demand
  8. Reliability/Security
  9. Operational Efficiency
  10. Out-tasking

Globalization has changed the competitive landscape within nearly every major industry sector. Globalization has not only opened up new markets, it has also opened the door to a new set of offshore competitors offering low-cost products and services which is commoditizing many markets and creating price competition. This commoditization is making it more difficult for companies to differentiate their goods and services.

Worker dispersion and mobility is also allowing people to work anywhere, creating new challenges for companies seeking to give these employees access to corporate applications and databases remotely and securely. At the same time, many workers and corporate executives are becoming comfortable using on-demand, web-based solutions in their personal lives, and are seeking the same ease of use and low cost services to address their corporate and professional needs.

Business professionals have also become more comfortable using online services, such as and iTunes, in their personal lives. This positive consumer experience has set a new standard for the ease-of-use they expect from their software applications in their professional lives.

Today's Web 2.0 and social networking tools are also being applied to the corporate environment, creating new ways for dispersed workers to interact internally and corporations to engage customers externally.

Growing dependence among companies to communicate internally and externally via the Web has also made them more aware of the escalating challenges of delivering reliable and secure online services. These pressures are intensifying as they attempt to gain greater operating efficiencies in an increasingly competitive market.

Organizations Turn to On-Demand Solutions to Overcome the Shortcomings of Legacy Applications

The growing interest in SaaS solutions is also being driven by escalating frustration, among corporate executives and business end-users, with the fundamental shortcomings of traditional, on-premise software applications.

This frustration is due to the fact that over half of legacy software deployment projects take twice as long or cost twice as much as originally estimated, and nearly a third of software projects are cancelled before they are completed, according to government studies.

The cost overruns continue after the deployment process is completed because maintenance and management costs to keep traditional applications up and running can often be ten times the original license fee, according to AMR Research. AMR Research has also found that the majority of legacy application deployments which are completed are under-utilized. This is because many organizations over-provision their license agreements to simplify the procurement process.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, companies cannot afford the inefficiencies of legacy applications. Instead, a growing proportion of organizations are looking for new ways to acquire software functionality without the added hardware and staff costs, and ongoing administrative hassles of the past.

As a result of this rising customer interest, Gartner predicts over 25% of all software sales will be via services by year-end 2011, but it is likely that this number will actually turn out to be far greater.

Maybe the clearest indication of the magnitude of this shift toward software services came from Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, who predicted at a gathering of public sector CIO's in March 2007 that 80% of their organizations would be utilizing SaaS solutions by the end of the decade.

The Challenges of Meeting the Varying Needs of Business Users in an On-Demand World

The good news is that a growing number of organizations are willing to adopt Software-as-a-Service to achieve their business objectives. However, based on their consumer experiences, they expect that they will be able to easily acquire on-demand solutions via a simple online transaction and immediately begin to utilize the online application to meet their business needs.

However, corporate demands can be far more complicated than consumer expectations. Many companies will want to try an application before they buy it. They may want to acquire a single user license before making a commitment to an enterprise license. They may want to vary the number of users, number of application modules or level of usage. They may want to use the on-demand applications in business situations which require varying levels of security and reliability.

The intensifying competitive landscape is creating greater pressure on aspiring SaaS vendors to deliver highly differentiated solutions at the lowest possible costs without sacrificing quality. Many of these aspiring on-demand solution providers have not fully considered the complexities of delivering reliable and cost-effective solutions. They often depend on viral marketing and social networking tactics to grow their installed base of customers, but are not prepared for the variety of ways that potential customers might want to acquire their on-demand solutions. However, a bad experience can reduce the likelihood of repeat customers and customer referrals.

Therefore, SaaS vendors must design the solutions to maximize their ease-of-use and optimize the user experience. The quality of the user experience depends on the reliability and performance of a SaaS provider's service delivery capabilities, as well as the lifecycle of procurement, provisioning, metering, billing and reporting components which are integral to the service delivery process.

Given the impact of escalating price competition within the Software as a a Service market, it is essential for successful SaaS providers to have cost-effective customer acquisition and application management systems in place so they can generate greater sales, without requiring additional staff or cumbersome processes to properly support new customers.

With the success of consumer-oriented on-demand solutions, an expectation has been set that business-oriented hosted application solutions will be equally easy to acquire and use. Many online vendors have promised highly automated procurement, billing and reporting systems. However, the reality can be very different for many SaaS providers.

Tier 1 Research reported at its SaaS Evolution Summit in March 2007, that only 13% of SaaS providers had "click-to-buy" functionality on their websites. Although many of these companies offer online demos of their applications, when a customer decides to subscribe to the service a salesperson must become engaged to administer the transaction.

While this human interaction may seem attractive, it can result in a clumsy and costly manual process. This is especially true as corporate customers demand varying contracting arrangements. Some may want per user pricing, while others may be seeking usage-based pricing. Companies that don't have integrated order entry and service provisioning capabilities to handle new customers or modify the service levels of existing accounts will face serious operational constraints as they try to scale their business.

The marketing hype surrounding on-demand solutions has also set an expectation that companies will be able to acquire online services on a true, pay-as-you-go basis. But many companies also lack reliable service usage metering and measurement capabilities to properly monitor and bill for services. This deficiency can create billing disputes and cause SaaS companies to miss new service sales opportunities.

These issues can become even more complicated when a company attempts to enlist channel partners to sell its services, or when a company attempts to integrate its solutions with third-party SaaS providers. Tracking these transactions can create a multitude of provisioning, metering and billing issues.

Closely associated with these service management issues is the multi-tenant architecture which makes SaaS scalable and profitable. Many aspiring Software as a Service companies are migrating from an on-premise, single-instance, packaged software architecture, and need help designing, developing and hosting a new multi-tenant architecture to ensure it can withstand escalating customer demand.

In many business application areas, sophisticated certifications are required to comply with governmental and/or industry regulations. An increasingly important certification in the online transaction business is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS 1.1).

This worldwide data security standard applies to any organization which stores, transmits or processes credit cardholder data. Because many hosted application customers will acquire these online services via a credit card, it is essential that the SaaS vendor, or its hosting partner, have proper PCI procedures and certifications.

In addition, many companies are still relying on hosting companies that cannot consistently meet their availability and performance promises. These vendors are under the misconception that hosting is a commodity business and can be taken for granted. They fail to recognize that many general purpose hosting companies lack high-availability service delivery capabilities, comprehensive management systems and proactive reporting mechanisms to support the "five nines" service standards necessary in the SaaS market.

As a consequence, the SaaS providers relying on general purpose hosting companies are often notified by their customers when service outages occur. This is no way to win and retain customer trust and confidence, and build a Software-as-a-Service business.

In fact, falling short in any of these areas can have a detrimental impact on the quality of the customer experience, harm customer satisfaction and lead to customer abandonment. Just as in the wireless service business, customer churn can be very costly in the SaaS market. But, with the plethora of online chat rooms, reports of poor customer service travel faster and further in the market, seriously undercutting a vendor's chances for success.

However, most aspiring SaaS companies face escalating competitive pressures which require them to focus their energies on building the best on-demand applications possible, rather than worrying about the service delivery infrastructure and operational processes which will support them. The subscription fee structure associated with web application delivery also makes it difficult for companies to invest in their own service delivery infrastructure and support staff to address these issues.

How Application Delivery Companies Are Addressing the SaaS On-Boarding Challenges

Many vendors will have to turn to a third party hosting company for infrastructure or support. Application hosting or delivery company must go beyond traditional hosting and managed services in order to maximize ROI for ISVs. The most up-to-date application management companies will provide an On-Demand platform including an end-to-end set of services which enable Web application and on-demand companies to more quickly and effectively develop and deliver their online solutions.

Along with this inclusive set of services, hosting companies should offer a payment and collections processing solution to help web application and on-demand companies overcome the challenges of billing for software delivered via the web. Ideal tools in this niche would include--at a minimum--account activation, pricing and rate implementation, accrual of usage information, invoice generation and delivery, and the processing of payments, collections, and service suspensions. ISV's should also seek a hosting solution that would provide real-time account creation, user authentication and authorization, activity tracking, pricing and rating, billing, and customer service that can scale to millions of users. This scalability and flexibility is something that application management companies must provide in order for the delivery of the application to be successful.

Application delivery and hosting companies also need to provide ISVs and developers with comprehensive analytics packages. This is also crucial to the success of a given application since it enables web application and on-demand solutions companies to obtain a wide range of operational indicators to better manage their business and optimize their performance, such as:

  • Bandwidth consumed
  • Performance thresholds
  • Units consumed: Clicks, seats, downloads
  • Sign-on rates
  • Customer churn
  • Growth rates
  • Advertising ROI
  • Feature utilization
  • Daily revenue run rates

Finally, its behooves ISVs to recognize that the subscription fee model associated with SaaS can represent a significant impediment for many ISVs who are attempting to start-up and later scale their operations. This makes success-based pricing models advantageous for ISVs, since they would pay for application management services as they would generate revenue from their SaaS solutions. This eliminates expensive investments in infrastructure and staff and reduces start-up risk.

Summary and Conclusions

As organizations become increasingly fed up with the costs and complexities of legacy applications, they are becoming more receptive to on-demand software alternatives. The pervasive nature of on-demand services in the consumer world has also made business professionals more aware of the potential benefits of the alternatives emerging in online web applications.

However, the ease of use and reliability of these consumer-oriented, web-based services has set a high standard for the quality of service which corporate users expect from their application solutions. They expect it to be just as easy to get on-board with SaaS solutions as it is to acquire popular online services. ISVs seeking to become leading on-demand vendors must implement procurement and provisioning system which makes this possible.

Ironically, the pay-as-you-go subscription services model associated with SaaS makes it difficult for ISVs to invest in service delivery infrastructure, provisioning, billing and reporting systems to fully meet the needs of their customers. Instead, ISVs must focus their limited financial and staff resources on designing web-based applications which are more compelling than their competitors.

As a result, smart ISVs are teaming with service and application delivery providers who can do more than simply host their applications. They are looking for providers who can help them design their applications to ensure they are scalable and secure. They are looking for providers who can monitor and manage the applications 24x7. They are looking for providers who can help them provision and charge for their applications. And, they are looking for providers who can help them build a successful SaaS business in an increasingly challenging market.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Backpacking Information on Armenia

  • Population: 3 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Yerevan
  • Area: 29,743 sq km (11,484 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Armenian, Russian
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 dram = 100 lumas

Barev dzez! Welcome to the Republic of Armenia - the home of sluvaki, the special kebab. She's a tough cookie to write about, owing to the longer air time infamous, not-so-young Hollywood, Armenian Kim Kardashian has than Armenia's actual current affairs. Scratching the surface, there is indeed more to Armenia everybody should know as it is its ancient cultures 3 millenia hence that bred the start of the modern Armenian civilization. This is a place of inspiration, appreciation and tasty kebabs. They say, "Behind every great man is a woman," and she better be Armenian, because Armenians are good at providing that essential inspiration. You would be surprised at how rich a culture is to be unveiled of this marvellous country. Cognac, anyone? This Armenian-style brandy or Ararat was behind Winston Churchill 400 times (or bottles) a year. Genats!

Or perhaps Da Vinci's shows this great Armenian inspiration in his painting of the Last Supper more than the world cares to know or notice? From travel to or studies of Armenia, Da Vinci's amazement can't be directed to. After all, Armenia has pioneered more than a thing or two, for it is, 1,700 years ago, the first to declare herself as a Christian nation in 301 AD. And although they may have been ousted and slaughtered in the Armenian genocide of 1915, one of the first modern genocides, for possibly this reason or the theorized cause of preservation of Turkish national unity, Armenians remain to be as homogenous and united in their faith as ever. It is a fact that the Turks did destroy all Armenian bibles and manuscripts, Armenia's most valuable cultural inheritance.

Armenia was a former Soviet republic but now possesses its own identity and absolute independence.


Armenia (40 00 N, 45 00 E) is a landlocked nation in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, 29,743 km2-small, northeast of the Armenian Highlands. Highlands is definitely a suitable name as the region is, to a greater part, mountainous and volcanic. The lowest point in the country stands at an astounding 400 metres above sea level, the Debed River, which is way out of comparison to Maldives' 2.4-metre summit. This little but no lesser nation however has BIG things to boast such the Sevana Lich, the largest lake in the mountain range, as well as the second largest in high-altitude lake in the world, and the colossal Mt. Aragats or Aragats Lerrnagagat, the tallest elevation of the range at 4,090 metres above sea level. There is significantly little forest cover but arable soil in the Aras River Valley. Some fast running rivers are crucial water sources, but as it is landlocked, to add to the high demands of water from the vital Sevana Lich for hydropower, insufficient drinking water source is problem on some occasions.


The climate in Armenia is a wonderful highland continental with the landscape and location offering a different kind of cool or heat whatever the guest prefers like tropical rain forests, snowy-white mountains, hot summers and things and places in between. Summers are warm and sunny and lw in humidity from June through September with temperatures of 22-36°C, while winters are extremely cold with almost intolerable cold temperatures between -10 and -5°C.


The Armenian population has boomed from last year to early 2010 with a high count of 3,215,800 early this year 2010. As one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world, 98% of the population are Armenians, and the remainder percentages are Yezidi or Kurds, Russian, and others are Assyrians, Belarusians, Georgians, Greeks, Kurds and Ukrainians. In relation to the homogenous demographic, ARMENIAN, an especially unique language, is the single official language with RUSSIAN also widely spoken conversationally by the vast majority (75.8%) and, thus, is the de facto second language. ENGLISH is acknowledged significantly as a global language and attempts are made to improve on the language but one thing is for certain and that is Yeravan, as a developed capital city, English is widely spoken.


It is of immense significance to say that the Armenians are beautiful people on the inside and out. As a people with big hearts, besides past tragedies and traumas, they are openly proud of their most prized trait- hospitality. They are ever since, and to this day a kind-hearted Christian nation with 94.7% as Armenian Apostolic Christians, and other forms of Christianity such as Baptists and Presbyterians form 4%, while around 1 % practice a certain monotheism with nature worship elements.


And as the world's first Christian nation, rich culture and heritage retains evidence in the places of worship, the monasteries spotted on the countryside, that are, at present, neither svelte nor sinuous as whence it first stood. While most of the culture and legacy of among the first bibles, Armenian bibles, and Christian manuscripts are lost to the Armenian genocide, the traveller will be constantly reminded of Armenia's role in Christianity with the hundreds or thousands of ancient monasteries and classic churches, a lot of which were torn down by USSR. This is called "monastery-hopping." As one of the Burger King-free countries, Armenia retains immense exoticism, just as it is in Debed Canyon where history and culture is more packed than any other place here. This is one of the best places to start the traveller's Armenian adventure, the feel and picturesque of the place best achieved at night- the only Saturday night fun in these parts. Most suggestive is the Sacred Stones of Armenia or Pietre Sacre d'Armenia, the epitome of Armenia's ancient Christian architecture. Surely is one of the many places here where artists come and develop a new inspiration and appreciation for the world, like this one.

Sanahin and Haghpat are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but the trees are long gone, and the monasteries scarce and dilapidated. The history nonetheless remains and continues to tell the story. When all that silent and remorseful recollection is done, time has come to enjoy Armenia's winter sports galore such as skiing down Tsakhkadzor Hills, 30 minutes outside the hustle and bustle of main man, Yerevan. Other fun activities include camping and hiking, rock climbing, and wind surfing, and among the best places to do these in are Lake Sevan, Mt. Ararat, Echmiadzin, Geghard, Garni, Hripsime, Sardarapat, Surp, Virab, Xor, and Zvartnoc. What a mouthful!

And shopping is best only at Vernissage, a weekend flea market near the Republic Square. As much of Armenia's history and legacy has been deleted and gone forever, its story remains with the modern Armenians, the new generation who bears the trauma as well as the future. Here is where that adage holds true, that it's not just the places you go, but the people you meet.


There's only one venue where ties with new Armenian friends are iron-bound- the dinner table, of course! This is the place to enjoy endless and bottomless konjac, as well as the freshest and tastiest vegetables and grilled meat kebabs. Armenia is the home of a certain sluvaki, kebab, or khorovats-the most redeeming feature of Armenia. This is normally served with Armenian bread, tomatoes, eggplants, and bell peppers too. However it's called, no place in the world makes a better kebab-licious barbecue. Khash, dolma or stuffed grape leaves, and borscht or beetroot soup are among the traditional Armenian dishes. Armenia soil gives off that special and unique fresh taste in their fruits and to die for are the peaches, grapes, apricot, and pomegranate.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bierstadt Paintings

Albert Bierstadt paintings can be found today in most major art galleries and museums around the United States. Bierstadt's 19th century landscape paintings, which may number as many as 4,000 have become very popular within America as art lovers flock to home-grown art of that period. Whilst sharing dual nationality with Germany, it is here that his legacy was laid. This article uncovers details on this famous American artist and offers some of his best paintings for study.

Bierstadt received his original training from the Dusseldorf School. Bierstadt starred in the Hudson River School, one of North America's best known art schools. The products of this school were often referred to as Luminism, with an air of Romanticism entering their landscape paintings. Indeed the glow and emotion almost gave a religious feel to their works at times. Bierstadt himself was also known to the Rocky Mountain School as well, although they were lesser known.

Famous paintings by Bierstadt included Storm in the Rocky Mountains (Mount Rosa), Looking Down Yosemite Valley, Alaskan Coast Range, San Francisco Bay, Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas, The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, Gosnold at Cuttyhunk and Indian Canoe.

In conclusion, Bierstadt is a key American-German artist from the Hudson River School who produced highly respected landscape paintings of North America, and is well worth studying for an understanding of the development of American art. Mount Bierstadt in Colorado was named after the great artist who brought landscape art to many North Americans. Fans of Bierstadt regularly buy reproductions of his work today as handmade paintings or prints, and much of his work is still on show dotted across the galleries of Cleveland, Seattle, New York, Boston, Vermont and beyond. His popularity remains predominantly in these areas, with Europeans aware of his work but often preferring their own impressionist and romanticist artists. Of the many artists that he has influenced, William Bliss Baker is perhaps the best known.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

America's Best Tasting and Keeping Blueberry Varieties


The following are varieties for a season of fresh great tasting and keeping blueberries. This is a listing of some of the best tasting and keeping varieties listed according to ripening time (i.e. Early-Season, Mid-Season, Late Mid-Season, and Late Season) and variety type (i.e. northern and southern varieties). Northern varieties are generally plants for growing zones 3 to 7. Southern varieties are generally for growing zones 5 to 10 depending on the variety. Always select your plant by the growing zone for which it is suited. This list is based on reports from various users and does not claim to be exhaustive and complete. However it does give a good cross-section of good tasting and keeping blueberry varieties.

Best-tasting and keeping Early Season Varieties

Northern Varieties

a) Hannah's Choice (Early season) this is a sweet blueberry with good flavor. It represents an improvement in sweetness, flavor and firmness over currently grown early varieties. It yields 10 to 12 pounds per bush at maturity. It is the best flavor of all early ripening northern varieties.

b) Patriot is an excellent flavored early variety. Its yield is high, averaging 10 to 15 pounds at maturity. Patriot is adaptable to many diverse soil types and performs better in heavier soil than some other varieties. This plant works well as a container plant. It is self-pollinating having an average height of 3 to 4 feet tall. Patriot's low growing bush reflects its partial low-bush parentage.

c) Sierra is an outstanding edible hedge with large blueberries having excellent flavor.

Southern varieties

a) O'NEAL will have yields of 10 to 20 pounds at maturity with large size fruit. O'NEAL is the major leading early southern variety. It is one of the very best flavored blueberries of the southern varieties with consistent quality throughout harvest

b) Star was the highest yielding early southern variety in one study.

c) Premier is a rabbit-eye type with early to mid-season ripening Large, light blue, good quality fruit; excellent flavor and it stores very well and is highly productive.

Best-tasting and keeping Mid-Season Varieties

Northern Varieties

a) Blue Gold is a beautiful, compact, rounded bush. It grows only four feet tall but bears large clusters of easy-to-pick berries. It has Very high production of truly superior fruit. Its fruit stores well. In test Blue gold blueberries have maintained good quality for up to five weeks! The beautiful blueberries form large clusters that are easy to pick and are superb for baking.

b) Draper is a recently developed, highly productive, early mid-season variety with outstanding flavored berries that have superior shelf life. The fruit are eaten fresh, frozen or processed into products like jams, and jellies.

c) Jersey is a mid-season medium size plant with sweet berries. The blueberries have a good shelf life

Southern Varieties

a) OLYMPIA BLUEBERRY is said to be the best tasting of all the blueberries

b) Hardy blue is known for its superior flavored, exceptionally sweet berry. Hardy blue is a tried and true variety that is known for heavy crops of berries. The fruit is perfect for pancakes and muffins. Hardy blue is known for being adaptable to many types of soil, including heavier clay soils.

c) Jubilee is a consistent producer of very high quality fruit even in dense soils and very hot summers and sudden winter cold. Its blueberries have good shelf life.. We particularly like the taste of these easy picking, bountiful crops.

d) Georgia Gem is an early to mid-season ripening variety. The fruit has excellent flavor and firmness. It is quite cold hardy, yet tolerant of high temperatures.

e) Tifblue is thought to be one of the best rabbit eyes. It has mid-season ripening. The Tiftblue blueberries are among the most flavorful rabbiteye blueberries. Tifblue is the most cold-hardy of all other rabbiteye blueberries varieties. It is often recommended to be the predominant rabbit eye variety in any planting.

Best-tasting and keeping Late Mid-Season Varieties

Northern varieties

a) Brigitta is a mid-late season variety with large berries, good sweet flavor and tremendous keeping quality in your refrigerator. This makes Brigitta one of the best late season blueberries. In test this variety remained firm with high soluble solids for five to six weeks of storage

b) Nelson - Fruit quality very good. In test Nelson blueberries have maintained good quality for up to five weeks!

Southern Varieties

a) Legacy fruit has a mid to late-season ripening time. This variety has high quality fruit and stores well. It keeps its leaves through the winter in mild climates, offering a very different look for blueberries in the landscape. Its foliage will turn bright orange in colder climates. The fruit of this variety remains firm with high soluble solids for five to six weeks of storage. The variety seems to adapt to most soils and cold to moderate climates. Legacy was rated as one of the best flavored varieties in USDA trials.

b) Premier is a rabbit eye type with early to mid-season ripening. Its blueberries are large, light blue, good quality with excellent flavor and it stores very well. Premier is highly productive.

c) Ozark blue is a late mid-season variety. The quality of fruit is excellent and the shelf life of the fruits is superior. Its flavor is sweet to sub acid, which means high flavor. It can tolerate heat well and its irrigation requirements are not as great as some other blueberry plants. It resists spring frosts and is highly productive producing high quality blueberries. Ozark blue ripens just before the rabbit eyes. Ozark blue is usually listed as a southern variety, but its outstanding performance further north deserves consideration by growers in cooler climates.

d) Sunshine Blue is a semi-dwarf, versatile evergreen blueberry. It yields large crops of delicious blueberries. Sunshine Blue will better tolerate higher pH soils than many other blueberries. It is self-pollinating and is one of the most popular plants for container growing and landscaping. It has a low chilling requirement of 150 hours making it suitable for Southern California, but it is also surprisingly cold-hardy.

Grow your own blueberries

Purchase your own pesticide free plants from a reputable nursery and grow your own healthy blueberries. Select plants for your growing zone and plants with the flavor and keeping quality that suits you.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Grand Canyon Skywalk: 7 Most Frequently Asked Questions

The Grand Canyon Skywalk reigns as Las Vegas' hottest outdoor attraction. For good reason, too: Where else in the world can you walk 70 feet past the edge and be suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River? If defying gravity thrills you, here are seven things you need to know before you go:

1. Where is the Grand Canyon Skywalk Located?

The Glass Bridge is located approximately 120 miles east of Las Vegas, NV, at Grand Canyon West. Bus, helicopter, and airplane tours from Sin City take 2.5 hours, 45 minutes, and 25 minutes respectively.

2. What is the Real Price of Admission?

There are three packages. You want the Legacy Gold Package, which costs $87.69 per adult. It includes Skywalk tickets and full access to Grand Canyon West, including the shuttle bus, Hualapai Ranch, Eagle Point, Guano Point, Native American demonstrations, cowboy performances, and lunch.

3. How many people are allowed on the Skywalk at one time?

One hundred and twenty people can be on the bridge simultaneously. It was built to support 800 people or a weight equivalent to71 fully loaded Boeing 747 airplanes.

4. Are there long lines?

Yes, there can be. The Skywalk is the canyon's hottest attraction. More than 200,000 people visit it a year. Reservations are available. You can also purchase VIP tickets to expedite your wait. Definitely wear comfortable shoes. If you have an iPod, consider bringing it.

5. What Should I wear and what should I bring?

Definitely bring a water bottle (full) and sun block. Dress appropriately: Wind-resistant and cool in the summer months and warm layers in winter.

No outside food or drinks (except water) are allowed. There's a pretty decent snack bar if you get the munchies. Remember - Legacy Gold Packages include lunch.

Bring a camera and extra batteries and memory sticks. Unfortunately, cameras are banned from the Skywalk as they may chip the glass deck (each panel reportedly costs $200,000 each) if dropped. Professional photographers are available on the Skywalk to take your picture, which you can pick up in the gift store.

6. Is there a time limit?

Currently, there is no time limit, so take your time and enjoy the incredible landscape. The best views are to be had on the right side of the bridge.

7. What else is there to do at Grand Canyon West Rim besides the Skywalk?

Plenty. There's the Indian Village with authentic dwellings, Guano Point, The Hualapai Market, a western town replica called The Hualapai Ranch, and a 250-seat amphitheater. The basic Legacy package ($43.05 per person) get you access to all of these attractions except the Skywalk.

Looking for a quick and easy day trip from Las Vegas? The Grand Canyon Skywalk is your ticket. Choose carefully how you visit as the price can add up. Bus, helicopter, and airplane tours are your most economic route to go, especially if you book online direct with the tour operator. I regularly save up to 35 percent using this method. So put the Skywalk on your list of things to do. It'll be the highlight of your trip.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Keep It Simple! How Listening to Users Can Make Large IT System Implementations Fail

Even though times are challenging companies should not stop innovating their ways of doing business and as advised by many management experts it's actually the best time to focus time of your key resources on business enhancements rather than purely running the day to day business.

Consequently, company leaders probably feel it's a good time to act on a long-term talked about initiative to finally replace legacy management information systems with something more modern, more integrated which will make users more efficient and deliver much better management reports. By reinvesting profits from past years of growth into new computer systems, the company probably could have something better in place within the next year and hence have a head start over the competition when the economy picks up again.

And certainly, once the initiative and the budget is approved, vendors will come in and confirm the great vision to achieve a 'perfect world' with happy users, higher process efficiency and more transparency on key business value drivers for top management.

But hold on! Didn't we hear global statistics of large scale systems implementations which says that less than 20% of these initiatives deliver the expected ROI? Aren't there companies that admit to have invested more than 10 million Euro into a dream of perfect IT systems and experienced reduced productivity in their business operations in the first year after the systems deployment or significant time and budget overrun?

So, what do you as a business leader need to know to ensure your IT enhancement initiative delivers the expected benefits within the planned timeframe without significant interruption to the day-to-day business or budget overrun?

One key success criterion, frequently discussed in the management community is proper project and change management that should be in place for any kind of business improvement, i.e. for IT and non-IT related initiatives. Boston Consulting Group's DICE framework helps to understand specific actions that need to be taken to address proper project delivery and involvement of key stakeholders.

Another area that is critical to the success of large IT initiatives is the approach used to determine the project's functionality scope. Often user requirements and user expectations are not well managed which leads to a heavily over-engineered system that will be complicated to implement, expensive to maintain and difficult to use.

You may have experienced it in your private life when you go out to buy a computer for private use at home. You may set your budget at 1,000 EURO before you enter the shop. While comparing different models you will suddenly find out that there are other models, certainly more expensive, that can do lots of things that you never thought about before. You're "sold"! and as a result, you end up buying a computer for 1,500 EURO with lots of features that you will probably never use.

A similar phenomena can happen in system implementation projects if user expectations are not well managed. Often software vendors sell users on beautiful system features that they never dreamed about but are "irresistible" and as a result users what it all. The important question that is seldom asked is how these "nice to have" features can add tangible benefits to the business rather than adding extensive complexity costs.

In the case of IT systems it's even worse as increasing complexity of requirements often increases costs of maintenance exponentially and in many cases the standard functionality of your software package doesn't cover the expected scope. As a result programmers need to write extra software around your software (what we call "add on" development) which apart from extra development costs brings additional cost and effort to future upgrades.

It sounds quite paradoxical - in fact by adding more 'good features' to the scope of a systems implementation, users may end up with opposite result: The new system may come much later, be much more complicated to use, may be buggy and certainly will be more expensive than expected.

Accordingly, to succeed on a large system implementation user requirements of the first release should be kept at a minimum. By doing this, required process changes, the associated change management efforts and the resulting systems complexity will be manageable and chances are high that first benefits can be realized within reasonable timeframes.

But how do we keep user requirements close to real business need? How do we ensure, users don't ask the vendors to implement any kind of nice to have feature which looking from the Top Management perspective is just adding marginal benefits?

One answer is to apply the principle of Selective Implementation (SImple).

Similar to the concept of Zero-Based-Budgeting SImple introduces the idea of minimalism to the requirements (budget) definition process.

Traditionally vendors ask users "what do you need?" which ultimately leads to status quo plus whatever fancy features the new software can deliver. So you may even get legacy process waste into your new system.

The SImple approach turns the question around and challenges the users with the question "What will happen to the business (please note: not "to the user") if we don't implement the respective feature in the new system?" By using this questioning approach, people will realize that in many cases even features from existing systems are actually not adding real value to the business. Often some smart process work arounds, or little changes in policies will make this feature obsolete.

In addition to applying the simple principle it's also beneficial to optimize processes before or during the systems implementation. This will also reduce the business requirements to the system and help to keep the implementation manageable. Especially if you are running multiple businesses of the same nature, standardizing core business processes across the units or even introducing shared services may help reducing complexity through simplification and increases the chance to really obtain a much more effective systems landscape within reasonable timeframe and budget.