Teach ESL in Thailand

Thailand is an exotic country and has been a major tourist attraction for many years. The entire nation thrives on the tourism industry and pulls people from all parts of the world. It is imperative for the Thais to communicate in the global language of English with the tourists. Hence, the demand for English trainers in Thailand to teach English to the Thais is huge. Teaching English has been a very popular profession in Thailand and people from Thailand have traveled to Western countries like the UK, USA, Canada and Australia in order to get educated in English. Very recently, English education has been introduced in Thai schools but the demand for English education is huge and poses a huge opportunity for people who are interested in teaching jobs abroad.

For those interested in taking up English teaching jobs in Thailand, the two criteria are fluency in English and an appropriate English teaching course. For getting teaching jobs abroad, it is mandatory to go through either the TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) Course or the TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) course.

The TEFL Course is a complete course on the modern technique and skills of teaching English. It helps a teacher to develop the basic language skills like speaking, listening, reading and writing skills and also building vocabulary. This course is intended for teaching young learners and therefore, involves understanding their psyche and planning courses and lessons accordingly. The lessons are executed in an interactive fashion to ensure maximum participation and better retention. The TEFL Course also covers the specific methods of teaching such as classroom management, handling of students and managing any crisis that may arise within a classroom. This course provides all the essential knowledge required for teaching English language and imbibes in a teacher a lot of self-assurance.

Another very renowned course taken up by those interested in taking up teaching jobs abroad is the TESOL Course. It is an advance course training a teacher to teach people of various age groups and coming from different linguistic, regional and social backgrounds. The TESOL Course focuses on the fundamentals of English language like grammar and phonology. Teachers are trained during the course, on helping people to overcome all hindrances and learn to communicate and express themselves in the language of English. TESOL qualified teachers know the technique and can confidently teach English language to very big and mixed groups.

Earlier on, a lot of Westerners migrated and took up English teaching jobs in Thailand. But most of the institutes in Thailand realized that people with English as a mother-tongue are not guaranteed to be good teachers of English language and they started looking for proper qualifications. A TEFL or a TESOL course could easily fetch a job to a person in Thailand with no previous experience of teaching. One could have a stable career while basking in the beauty of Thailand.

Get Your Story in the Media for Free, Powerful Promotion

Get on TV, in newspapers, on major news sites, on radio, or in your industry's major magazine or newsletter --- and you've got powerful, free promotion that just won't quit.

Being covered by a reporter is FAR better than running an expensive commercial or ad.

In a way the respected news outlet with HUGE audience is putting their stamp of approval on YOU as a newsworthy subject.

And it isn't hard to do!

Surely you've watch TV news and wondered, "Don't they have anything more interesting to cover?" Most of the time those stories were suggested to them. You can suggest your story to a reporter, editor, or news director and have YOUR business one of the stories that is being covered.

1) Do you have a new idea or technology that is making a difference in people's lives? You might have a service that is improving the lives of niche but would be interesting to everyone. Maybe I'm just helping people along the rising river whose homes were flooded, but the entire community will want to know.

2) See a news story that has something to do with you? Maybe the state financial system is having problems and YOU are a CPA that has some ideas. Perhaps a school in another state has experienced a disaster and YOU are the principal of a local school who has already made steps to prevent such a disaster. This helps you piggyback on an existing story that has been grabbing headlines. It could give you a local angle. Media loves to cover that!

3) Stage a visually interesting event. Camera people from local TV and newspapers will be ready to cover it. The most successful such even I was ever involved in was for a charity that staged an ice cream eating contest between local reporters and radio DJs. Everybody loved watching famous locals gobble down ice cream while making themselves look a bit ridiculous.

Media won't come looking for you, so contact them. Call newspapers in advance. Call TV the day before and again the morning of your event.

Don't stop once you've gotten covered by media. Now that reporters know you, become a trusted expert they will want to contact any time your interest comes up in the news. You could be the accountant who gets called every year when the city budget is in the news, or the retired detective who gives local analysis of major crimes, or a local fashion expert who lets media know what's popular in your town several times each year.

John Akii-Bua: Presence of Jerom Ochana As Champion Hurdler, Mentor, and Coach

Home-Training and School

John Akii was born to Lira District northern Ugandan Abako chief Rwot Yusef Lusepu Bua, in the Lango region. Akii-Bua was born into a polygynous family, his father had several wives and Akii would eventually have as many as fifty siblings. The family was semi-nomadic in social structure, Akii herded and protected cattle from predators like lions. This mode of existence inevitably required efficient herding boys to be fast on their feet, to be strong and to have stamina, and to be daring and instinctively quick to react to danger and to keep the herds from straying and getting killed and eaten by predators. Many of Africa's greatest athletes have come from semi-nomadic and herding families. For Akii, this familial setting informally shaped his athletic abilities.

John Akii-Bua studied at Abako Primary School, thereafter in 1964 enrolled for junior high school at Aloi Ongom Secondary School in Aloi County (Robert Mugagga in 'Akii-Bua: The Chief's Son Who Became Athletics King' in "Daily Monitor": July 1, 2012). Akii's stint at a high school education ended in the same year as a result of the death of his father Lusepu Bua which reduced the family's ability to pay the school fees. The loss also reinforced the need for Akii-Bua to help and contribute materially to his large family. His duties included working in the family's small general retail store.

Akii looked forward to more lucrative opportunities and at 16 traveled south to the Uganda capital Kampala to be recruited into the national police force. At this stage, Akii's potential for athletic greatness was not noticeable. His competing in sports had not been significant, and his presence in school had been so short.

Initial Coaching: Police Recruitment and Hurdles' Africa Record Holder Jerom Ochana

John Akii-Bua started running competitively when he was recruited into the Uganda Police force at Nsambya near Kampala hundreds of miles south of his family home. This formal window into John Akii-Bua's athletic potential was initially shaped by the police drill which routinely started at 5:30am with physical training and three miles of cross-country running. Akii's stretching flexibility was notable, the cause for his selection into high-hurdling. Jerom (Jerome, Jorem?) Ochana, a high-ranked police officer who was also the Uganda Police athletics coach and Africa's 440 yard-hurdles record holder, was conveniently there to train Akii. One of the coaching ordeals involved Ochana placing a high-jump bar a couple of feet above the hurdle to shape Akii into learning to keep his head and body low.

Akii recounts the ordeal to Kenny Moore: "Can you see this scar on my forehead? Ochana... made me listen. I used to bleed a lot in our exercises, knocking the hurdles with my knees and ankles, keeping my head down" ("Sports Illustrated": 'A Play of Light', November 20, 1972). The police training and the coaching convenience presence of hurdling champion Jerom Ochana were likely the most significant foundation for Akii's path to any future sports glory. Also of significance was that Ochana, just like Akii-Bua, was of the Luo-language and cultural groups of northern Uganda and beyond. This made the communication between coach and promising athlete much easier.

Regarding athletic credentials, Ochana had early in November 1962 won in the 440 yard-hurdles in 52.3 seconds at a track meet in Colombo, Ceylon. This was a tune-up for the forthcoming British Empire Commonwealth Games to be held during the last week of November in Pert, Australia. Unfortunately, in Perth, Ochana did not finish the race in the second of the two heats of the one and only round that would determine the six finalists in the 440 yard-hurdles. However, another prominent Ugandan athlete Benson Ishiepai, who had won in the first heat (52.0) would move on to the finals and win the bronze (52.3), behind Ken Roche (51.5) of Australia and Kenyan Kimaru Songok (51.9). Kimaru Songok is still recognized in Kenya as one of the early mighty and trailblazing athletics legends.

In 1964 Jerom Ochana won in 440 yard-hurdles at East and Central African Championships that were held in the city of Kisumu in Kenya, in quite an impressive 50.8 seconds. Ochana was in Tokyo for the Olympics, this time in the metric 400 meters-hurdles. On October 14, Ochana aged 29 was placed to run in the third of five first round heats that allowed for the three top finishers and next one fastest to advance to the semi-final round. Ochana was eliminated when he finished 4th in 52.4 seconds. In the end, Ochana achieved a 19th overall ranking in the 400mh at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ochana's personal best (50.5) in the 440 yard-hurdles was attained in 1964.

Malcolm Arnold and George Odeke

John Akii-Bua, soon after winning in four police championship events in 1967, became significantly recognized and was thereafter placed under Briton Malcolm Arnold the new national coach. Malcolm Arnold is erroneously regarded as the one who introduced Akii to hurdling. Evidently, Akii's chief influence may well have been Jerom Ochana who unfortunately has been widely forgotten and is little mentioned in the literature. And Akii proved early in his running career, that he was and all-round athlete.

Akii, would for a couple of decades, hold Uganda's decathlon record of 6933 points set in 1971 in Kampala. Starting from the mid-1970's, less and less attention, and fewer and fewer resources were allotted to the development of field events in Uganda. The presence of Ugandan decathlon athletes waned.

Akii was victorious in the 110 meters-hurdles finals at the East and Central African Championships (an annual event originally primarily involving track and field stars from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia) held in Kampala in 1969. With the influence of the coach Malcolm Arnold, Akii-Bua became convinced that he would reap more rewards as a 400 meters-hurdler. In the finals of the 400mh at the Commonwealth Games (Edinburgh, Scotland from July 16 to 25, 1970) Akii-Bua struggled with a back strain and hernia injury, was trailing last at the final 100 meters, but still raced in fast to come in fourth in 51.14 seconds. John Sherwood (England) was the gold medallist (50.03), Bill (William) Koskei of Uganda (but soon to return to and compete for his native Kenya) second (50.15), and Kipkemboi Charles Yego of Kenya third (50.19).

Arnold would coach Akii into being more skillful and consistent at timing the hurdles. Also, in preparation for the Olympics, Akii while wearing a weighted vest would go through a trying regimen of short- and middle-distance running repetitions with the hurdles mounted inches higher than the conventional length! Akii, also just prior to the Olympics in Munich in 1972 where he won gold while running in the tight lane one and lowered the world record to 47.82 seconds, would move down to southwestern Uganda where he would cross-country train at high-altitude in often pouring rain conditions. Even after decades, coaches and hurdlers look back to Akii's unique training regimen with awe and interest. Malcolm Arnold's coaching stint with the Uganda team (3-4 years) would end soon after the Olympics in Munich. Thereafter, former Uganda sprinter and now assistant coach George Odeke took over as national coach.


Malcolm Arnold has retained most of the credit for coaching and propelling Akii-Bua to Olympic gold. With this practice and resume he went on to successfully coach renowned hurdlers of Great Britain. Arnold had inevitably focused on Akii-Bua given that at the time he was Uganda's top athlete and Olympic medal hope. Akii-Bua must have strongly influenced Arnold's focus on hurdles. But did Arnold make Akii great, or did Akii make Arnold great? Perhaps it is a chicken-and-egg question. Both coach and student contributed to each other's greatness. But home-grown Ugandan Jerom Ochana was the early and main driving force and mentor that Akii-Bua would attribute to fashioning him into a winning hurdler.

Regarding some of the levels, Akii was absent in the top-10 All-Time World Rankings of 1970. But in 1971 he became third after Ralph Mann (USA) and Jean-Claude Nallet (France). In 1972 and 1973, Akii's leading world performances placed Akii comfortably at number 1. Akii was not as active and prominent in 1974, he missed the Commonwealth Games and he became ranked number 8. He resurfaced to number 2 in 1975, behind Alan Pascoe (Great Britain) and ahead of Jim Bolding and Ralph Mann both of the USA.
Works Cited

Moore, Kenny (November 20, 1972). "A Play of Light," in "Sports Illustrated."

Mugagga, Robert (July 1, 2012). "Akii-Bua: The Chief's Son Who Became Athletics King," in "Daily Monitor."

Productive Shopping for Fall

Typically, when Professional Organizers write about closets and clothing they talk about de-cluttering and organizing the actual closet space. But, since my focus is also on productivity I take a little different approach and try to stop the clutter before it even makes it into your closet and nip time wasting habits that revolve around clothing before you even buy something.

Here are some my personal shopping "rules" that I have developed over many years. They not only save money, but also all the time that is spent on purchasing, cleaning, and eventually purging clothing. And, yes it really is true... I am 37 and don't know how iron!

Step one, of course is to make room before you shop for new items. This is the basic stuff all those other organizers talk about all the time. Just imagine that everything your closet fit and felt just like that favorite outfit you always go to when you want to feel and look your best!

Go though all your current clothing and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this item fit the lifestyle and image I am striving for?
  • Does this literally fit the body that I have right now?
  • Does this clothing item give me any bad memories or feelings?
  • Am I just keeping it because it was a gift?
  • Did I buy this just because it was on sale?
  • Is this item stained, torn, missing a button? (Best to just let these items go, if you really loved the item you would have repaired it by now!)
  • Have I worn this in the last 6 months? (Last 12 months for seasonal items like ski boots)

Remember, we only use about 20% of what we have - it is time to make room for clothing items you absolutely love and that support the lifestyle you want right NOW!

Here are my new "rules" for you to apply when you are shopping from now on:

  1. When you are going through the de-cluttering steps above be sure to create a list of all those items that you need. What pieces do you love in your closet but don't have anything that goes with them? Write down everything you need to make those items work for you and get worn.

  2. Consider having your colors done by a professional. For this small investment you could save thousands of dollars on mistake purchases that just don't look good with your hair and skin tones. Most color professionals will even give you a small chart of your ideal colors that are perfect for you so you can carry around with you while you shop.

  3. Never purchase anything because it is on sale! You are not saving money! Money is still leaving your account here (even if it is a lesser amount). If you wouldn't pay full price for an item don't just purchase it because it costs less now. You may value this item less. It was discounted for a reason right? Is the fad over for this style? Is it a return from someone else? Did no one want it in the first place? Is it damaged in any way? Don't tell yourself you can just fix it - you won't make the time.

  4. Don't purchase anything that must be dry cleaned. How much time and money does it cost you caring for this item over their useful life? Add that to the cost of the clothing article and see if that amount is still worth it. For example, let's say that you purchase a dress for $97 that needs to be dry cleaned every two weeks at $4 per week. If the dress lasts you 3 years that is about $288 in just the care of the dress! Not to mention the chemicals that are used in dry cleaning and the time spent taking it to the cleaners and picking it up.

  5. Don't purchase anything that needs ironing. How much of your life has wasted away over a hot iron? With all the new fabrics available, there is no reason to buy things that need to be ironed. There may be one exception, and that is button down dress shirts for men, but this should be outsourced, it is not worth your time, don't do it yourself!

  6. Purchase quality not quantity. How much different do you feel when you just fall in love with an article of clothing and save up for it even if it is too expensive? You cherish it and wear it a lot more than those 25 tops you got on sale and in every color. Again, if you wouldn't pay full price for an item don't purchase it on sale either. Your image and presence will shift if you are wearing something you are proud to own.

  7. Try to purchase from designers that tend to create designs that mix and match from season to season. CAbi and Kika Paprika clothing are great examples of lines that you can add a few pieces each season that mix and match with the previous one.

  8. Take items to be altered immediately after purchase. I mean right when you are driving home from the boutique! Make one stop and get everything tailored right when you are excited about the purchase so these items will be wearable sooner and won't become a decoration for that chair in your bedroom for weeks!

  9. Purchase items that fit your body right now. I am not talking about things that need to be hemmed here. I am talking about those items you may have bought and said "Oh, this will fit great when I loose 10 pounds." Don't do it! You will have a constant reminder every time you open your closet that you haven't met your goal weight yet. Better to loose the weight and reward yourself with the new outfit then.

  10. Don't forget that accessories can change the whole look of an outfit and allow you to get more wears out of the same clothing item. Go for quality here too - not the pieces that will turn your skin green, break easily, or something that you will always be fidgeting with. Are you on the phone all day? Then maybe don't stock up on big clunky earrings.

  11. If you have been a impulse shopper or someone who has succumbed to retail therapy in the past, slow down and take a moment to realize what is going on in your life that drives you to Nordstrom every Saturday. Are you avoiding your spouse? Are you unhappy with your career? Are you just bored? Stop and think why you feel the urge to go and spend the money you worked so hard for - if you truly don't need anything. Then, when you find yourself in the car driving to the store or clicking on that Macy's sale email, stop and do another activity that is enjoyable to you and is counter-intuitive to the overspending shopping behavior. For example, maybe you like traveling. You can explore a website about a place you've always dreamed of going, see how much it would cost to actually go, and then move some of your impulse shopping dollars over to the lifetime experience category in your budget. This will get you excited about something else to distract your shopping and get one of those experiences off your bucket list at the same time.

  12. Take a moment before you go shopping to envision the lifestyle you are either living right now or that you are striving after. What type of clothing would that person need? Do you need stylish work-at-home clothes? Are you about to go on the dating market again and need attractive clothes for dinners out? Are you wanting to take up yoga or tennis? What types of clothing would you need if you were going after speaking gigs? Take a moment and think about the activities and goals you will be doing now and in the future. Dress the part for that lifestyle now, even if you aren't quite there yet and you will magically start attracting those experiences.

Your clothes are one of the first things people notice about you which creates their opinion of who you are. I am not saying that this is the nice or correct thing to do to a person but it is true and you want to put your best self you can out there to attract the opportunities and relationships you deserve. You also don't want to be a servant to your clothes letting life pass you by as you are taken to the cleaners... literally. So, from now on no more impulsive, mindless shopping trips. Shop with intention and purpose and free yourself from being a slave to fashion.

Why Go To Grad School?

Let's cut to the cold facts! The days are long over in America when you could graduate from high school (maybe) and have a reasonable chance to secure a well-paying blue or white collar job that came complete with a living wage and good benefits. Gone are the years where pensions were all but guaranteed and one could expect that if they remained productive, they would remain employed.

Today's society is a radically different one than the society that Americans experienced over the past 60 years. The American Dream has been replaced in the 21st century with the American Reality. The most menial jobs, both blue and white collar, now require the attainment of a four-year Bachelor's degree. Productivity does not guarantee employment. In fact, companies have learned to be more productive with less staff (self-checkout lines, anyone?). Most jobs that come with benefits require a higher employee contribution towards those benefits than ever before. Pensions have become nearly extinct, replaced with 401k plans that place the responsibility of saving for a healthy retirement on the employee and hands their life savings to the mega casino that is the stock market.

Graduate school used to be the pathway to an additional credential that would advance one's career but it was not a necessity. In today's American Reality, a graduate degree is more important than ever.

Universities, understanding the trend, have proliferated graduate degree programs at an astonishing rate, offering the marketplace varying levels of quality and niches to pique their interests. Whether you want to study fashion accessories design, business, or special education, you can find a graduate program that you can take online, on-campus, or sometimes even via correspondence. Graduate programs have become cash cows for universities that are reeling from strained finances and understand how a Master's degree or Ph.D. now translates into a great deal of additional earning power for its graduates. If you got a full scholarship in undergrad and are expecting the same level of financial support for your master's or doctoral degree, most data suggests you will be disappointed. We will post another article soon discussing financing grad school which we hope will remove some of the mystery from that process.

The conclusion you should draw from the context provided above is simple: to enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle with maximum earning power, you need to attend graduate school and achieve a degree. Unless you're developing a lucrative business idea, plan to go pro in sports, or have an album release or reality TV show in the pipeline, graduate school is the only conduit to a comfortable lifestyle in the years ahead.

In addition to these more pragmatic reasons to achieve a graduate degree, grad school also serves as an opportunity to expand your knowledge base and develop the critical thinking skills needed to thrive in the new employment landscape that we face in America. Undergraduate programs are becoming less effective at producing and developing critical thinkers who can adapt to the changing needs of employers. Undergraduate curricula are often outdated and outmoded and faculty are being stretched thin between research and teaching duties. The result is a large population of people with college degrees, even from our best institutions, who are qualified on paper for many jobs, but who still aren't equipped with the needed skills and knowledge base.

To summarize, you should go to grad school because you need to develop the critical thinking abilities required by the 21st century workplace. Additionally, the requirements for entry-level, low-skill jobs continue to increase. Finally, to provide the financial stability and economic mobility that you seek, a graduate degree is the key which unlocks the door to prosperity. There is a forthcoming post on how to select a graduate program that will ensure you achieve the goals you have in mind.

Think Grad School is here to help you navigate the process of selecting a graduate degree program and getting yourself admitted. We welcome all questions as we are committed to your success. Please subscribe to our updates as we post additional information to aid your graduate school search.

Finding the Right Sexy Halloween Costume

If you were the mad scientist who owned a time machine and you decided to go back in time 20 years or so during Halloween, you'd see something strange. Instead of skimpy costumes like a sexy French maid, nurse, firefighter, cheerleader, etc., you would see most women would be wearing costumes to dress as their favorite movie character or as more traditional (and clothed) fare, like vampires or zombies.

Things sure have changed since the 90's. Nowadays Halloween is the time of year when women feel comfortable going out in the equivalent of lingerie, but with a theme. While a sexy outfit years ago may have been a sexy Playboy bunny, the options now are limitless (and in some cases, quite ridiculous).

Shopping online or offline you will see an influx of costumes that are sexy, and some that really aren't. On the actually appealing side of things you have the aforementioned costumes, along with revealing, cleavage enhancing costumes like beer maidens, vampires, doctors, lions, tigers, bunnies, superheroes like Wonder Woman or Supergirl, and much more.

If you're in the market for a costume the first thing you'll have to decide is just how revealing you want to be. If you're having a private party with a significant other and no one else we would recommend looking at your local lingerie specialty shop to see what they have to offer. These are definitely not the types of costumes you'd want to be wearing at the company Halloween party!

If you're still filling risky, but don't want to show off too much, you're in luck. The sheer amount of costume ideas means that you can add appeal to many costumes without coming off as going overboard with your costume. Be careful to really think about the setting you're going to be in, since the difference between the bedroom and the company party is wide and can have an impact on your work and/or personal career.

For those not averse to taking a drive into town, just do a quick Google search of costume shops. Most mid-size or larger cities have costume shops available year round. Additionally, seasonal shops always pop up around town, so make sure to do a search for a few locations before you take off on your shopping adventure.

For the more internet oriented folks out there, just do a quick search! You'll be amazed at the literally hundreds of merchants out there that sell sexy costumes in a discrete fashion.

Whatever your choice for a Halloween costume, just remember that the point of the night is to have fun above all else. Enjoy!

Channel Mad Men's Joan Holloway With Stunning Vintage Style

If you're a fan of the 1960s both in terms of culture and style, you'll no doubt have made time to watch AMC's award winning drama, 'Mad Men', by now. Set in mid-century Manhattan, primarily at an Advertising agency, this show is impeccable in its historical detail, and its aesthetics. Boasting a talented cast and nail-biting plots, it has it all. Yet what is most remarkable, from a style perspective, is the female characters' stunning fashion. Since the show is now five seasons long, it has spanned half of this stylish decade, and as such has incorporated much of its clothing inspiration. Let's take a look at the most incredible, in order to emulate these classic retro styles.

When it comes to Mad Men, the most notable character on a visual level simply has to be Joan Holloway. With her stunning red hair, and enviable hourglass figure, this sexy secretary seems to have it all. She knows how to use her charm to her advantage, gets the men on her side, and yet is a trusted confidante to all the girls in the office too. Channel Joan's incredible style in tailored, bodycon dresses in jewel and earthy tones, paired with classic heels for that famous walk. Perfect the beehive for an authentic 1960s look, and don't forget the winged eyeliner and impeccable lips. With Joan, it's always pure class.

If you're a fan of the shift silhouette, look to the talented Peggy Olsen for inspiration. She could almost be a predecessor to Alexa Chung's vintage style look, all about the Peter Pan Collars, and the shift dresses with cute lace details. Scallop hems are a great way to bring a current twist to this cut, and make the straight silhouette of the dress more interesting. Add retro school satchels and hairbands for a look that is studious but pretty, polished and yet hints that the wearer has more important things to do than merely look nice for the boys. Peggy is all about trailblazing in her career, paving the way for other women to achieve in what is still very much a man's world. Her look therefore demands that she means business, but she's still free to have a little fun too.

If you love the Mad Men style but the more classic shapes, look towards the mother of Don Draper's children, Betty. Character flaws aside, she always looks perfect, in her 1950s housewife style dresses and Grace Kelly inspired hair and makeup. Go for dresses that are fitted on the torso but flare out at the waist, for a flattering, feminine cut. Pair with smart heels and a ladylike handbag for an outfit that screams vintage and yet never goes out of style due to its sheer beauty. You can update Betty's style with a fun, playful print. Look to Prada's 2012 vintage car print for inspiration, or go for fruits and vegetables for a humorous take on the trend. Vintage dressing is all about having fun and looking to the beauty of the past as a way to enhance the present.

Six Ways To Hold Down College Costs

A mother recently told me about her son, a first-rate student who was accepted by Cornell University and by New York's City College for the upcoming fall term.

The mother wanted her son to get the Ivy League experience that Cornell offered. They are a family of modest means, but she was prepared to help her teenager as much as she could, though it would have meant taking on considerable debt.

Unlike Cornell, which offered only a partial scholarship, City College promised the young man a full ride to enroll in its honors program. As part of the City University of New York system, City College does not have Ivy League prestige, but it has provided high-quality educations to generations of upwardly mobile young people - and it costs far less. Attending City College would mean that the woman's son could live at home if he wished, and he could get his undergraduate degree at minimal out-of-pocket cost.

The young man chose to enroll at City College. He told his disappointed yet admiring mother that he saw no reason to begin adult life under a pile of debt. I think he made a wise and mature decision.

Expensive colleges can be like designer jeans. They are nice to have, and you should expect high quality (which you will usually, though not always, receive), and people will respect the label even if they know little about the product. But they don't necessarily do the job any better than a workaday pair of denims. Sometimes the best decision is to forego the name brand.

College costs and student debt levels have finally spiraled high enough to trigger some serious soul-searching among students, parents and educators about the real value of higher education. The fact is that buying a college education is a lot like buying a car. If only one model and color will make you happy, you have no bargaining power. If you are willing to consider any vehicle that can take you where you want to go, there are many opportunities to save money along the way.

Here are some ways students can keep college costs affordable and avoid starting life deeply in debt:

1. Make schools compete. Admissions officers are obsessed with college rankings. Almost any high school graduate - not just the class valedictorian - represents an upgrade for some schools, and just a run-of-the-mill candidate for others. Schools seeking an upgrade will offer generous discounts, without any demonstration of financial need and often without even being asked. They must compete on price to attract stronger students. Be prepared to take advantage.

2. Use advanced placement credits and graduate early, if possible. Simple math: The less time you spend at a school, the less you pay - and the sooner you start working. Take advantage of advanced placement and similar college-level classes while in high school and consider which colleges will give you the most credit for those classes. Don't pay for more college than you need.

3. Be prepared to transfer strategically. You get the same degree from Designer U. whether you spend two years or four on its campus. If money is tight, and if you can start someplace less expensive, give this option serious consideration. Yes, it might get in the way of Greek or other extracurricular activities; consider how much this is worth to you in dollar terms. Also, if your first school proves to be stingy with AP credits, a transfer might be your best bet.

4. Avoid early decision. Early decision programs, which require applicants to commit to a school before receiving competing offers, are designed to benefit college admissions offices - not students. (Early action, which allows students to consider several offers, is more evenhanded.) Early decision may help you get into a school that you absolutely insist on attending, though it is no guarantee, but the price of this advantage can be high. If you want good educational value for your dollar, assert your right to comparison shop. Remember, some college out there is going to want you - and when you get there, it will become your school, and you will probably love it.

5. Combine graduate and undergraduate education. The sooner you get through school and start your working life, the better off you are likely to be. If you have a strong career direction that requires graduate school, look for a program that will get you all the education you need as quickly as possible. If, like many teenagers, you really do not know what you want to do with your life, consider deferring college for a year or two while you get some work experience. Freshman dorms are not the only place from which you can launch a voyage of self-discovery, but they are probably among the most expensive places to do so.

6. Live at home and work while you study. This is the old-fashioned way to go to college: Study when and where you can, work when you must, and live where it is most economical. Do you really want to borrow money to pay for a residence halls meal plan, when Mom and Dad have a perfectly good kitchen and a fully stocked fridge? You can also get a part-time job, on or off campus, to cover a lot of your costs while you are still in school. Like early decision, unpaid summer internships have become a gimmick that disadvantages students, but you don't have to follow the herd. Traditional student summer jobs range from waiting tables at resorts to parachuting into forest fires as a "smokejumper." Those jobs are not always easy to get, but they are still out there - and nobody expects you to jump into a forest fire for free.

There is nothing wrong with expensive colleges, prestigious colleges, freshman dorms or student loans. They all have their place, and if your family can comfortably afford these things, there is no reason not to avail yourself of them. But you should treat college as exactly what it is: one of the most expensive purchases you are likely ever to make. You can get the best long-term value for your education dollar if you consider your options with an independent attitude and an open mind.

Things to Consider While Choosing a Wedding Dress

Every girl has a desire to look at her best on her wedding day. As you're the bride-to-be and this is one of the most auspicious occasions, you will be the center of attention. Your guests will look at and talk about every detail in you. You got to make sure that your wedding dress is the most fabulous outfit you have ever bought.

There are many things you got to keep in mind before choosing that marvelous bridal gown. You need to decide on what style of wedding dress you wish to wear. Bridal dresses are available in various styles like vintage, casual, princess like or absolutely unique. You can check few fashion magazines and refer the latest bridal gown collection. This will give you an idea of what is the latest trend this wedding season.

You got to ensure that the wedding dress fits you well. Even if you have a perfect choice, try various styles and check what suits you the best. Dresses look different on mannequins, than on you. Choose a wedding gown that expresses the best features in you. This will not only make you feel comfortable but you'll definitely look more beautiful. If size matters, get your dress customize

Make sure the style you choose is comfortable and you can carry yourself well throughout the wedding. There are various cuts, styles and patterns available online. You will look graceful in a mermaid style beaded satin train wedding dress or may be a one shoulder sweet heart neck dress will look very elegant.

Color and embellishment are also very important elements while choosing a wedding gown. Wedding gowns come with several embellishments like beads, laces, frills and bows. If you're getting it customize ensure that the embellishments you opt for get along well. You can try some knife pleats on the top bodice and a bow sash; this will look very classy and sophisticated.

If you would like to keep it a little simple, you can check out the A line strapless bridal dress with beautiful lace. This will give you an elite look.

If you're worried that a Bridal dress is going to cost you a fortune, you will be amazed to know that you can get cheap wedding dresses online now. You can either buy the ready wedding gowns or made to measure cheap wedding dresses. Cheap wedding dresses, with latest style for your most auspicious occasion, what more can you ask for!

Pair your wedding dress with silver, diamond or gold jewellery, a crystal tiara with a sexy pair of shoes and you're all set for the big day.

What to Consider When Shopping for Golf Shoes

Golf is an elite game and would not be complete without its share of fancy accessories. Atop the wish list of many golfers is a new pair of stylish and comfortable golf shoes. So, if you are serious about improving your golf game and your fashion sense at the same time, you will not want to be stingy about investing in a new pair of shoes. If you look around, you will find the prices of golf shoes will range anywhere from $50 - $250 and up. This is no easy decision.

When shopping for a new pair of shoes, you should look for the same things that you look for when you are shopping for your regular shoes. You will consider style, comfort and of course, the price. Generally, the shoes made of the finest leathers will be more expensive, but they will also provide the best comfort.

Here are a few additional features to consider when shopping for a pair of golf shoes.

Metal spikes were very common just a few years ago. Today, a more golf course friendly trend is to wear the softer spiked shoes. Golf courses prefer golfers to wear shoes with the softer spikes as they do less damage to the greens unlike the traditional metal spikes. You should also consider buying the ones that have removable spikes as the spikes will need to be replaced due to everyday wear and tear.

The times are changing and so are the manufacturers' product lines. Many brands including FootJoy and Ecco have come out with less formal shoe lines which are extremely popular right now. Examples of these would be the FootJoy Contour Casual Series or the Ecco Street Premiere. These shoes come with a more retro look and can be worn off the course as well as on it. Today, golf shoes can be fun, stylish and functional all at the same time.

Make sure to buy your shoes from a golf pro shop or purchase them from a reputable online golf shoe retailer. These online shops have closeout sales on many shoe product lines and generally will have the best prices around. The shoes will also be delivered to your front door. These retailers have access to the latest golf shoes and many other golf products like golf balls, gloves and bags at lower prices.

The right golf shoes are essential for your style, comfort and performance. Be sure to select a pair that will give you the traction, style and support you need to walk all 18 holes and finish strong while looking good. You can spend top dollar if you want, just remember there are plenty of great deals out there on Discount Golf Shoes.

Why Learning to Sew Means Never Having to Wear Something Badly Fitting Again!

We've all done it, ladies - and gents too, I suspect - that is, bought a garment we love the look of in the fitting room, while overlooking one small but annoying fact: it doesn't fit properly. Just the other day I bought a dress, knowing the straps are too long, so that it gapes at the sides, showing things it shouldn't. This is more obvious on one side of my body, because in common with most of the population, one of my shoulders is higher than the other. But clothes manufacturers are cutting garments for the perfectly symmetrical body, perfectly proportioned... which sadly, 99.99 % of us do not have... so there will always be some point where a commercial garment doesn't quite fit. So do we need to put up with badly fitting clothes? In fact, we don't.

One way out is to pay someone to do sewing alterations for you. But I doubt many women can be bothered to find someone good, who will actually do what you want, quickly and - keyword - cheaply. Otherwise it's not going to get done.

The real solution is to learn how to sew yourself - not even that well, necessarily - and then you can say to yourself, as I did in the changing room, 'I can easily alter this dress so that it actually fits me... ' or even, 'I could make this dress myself, for half the price, and in a fabric I really like..'!

A lot of us learned to sew at school, making some hideous elastic-waisted skirt which we never wore, or even worse, a shoe-bag, and have happily since forgotten the ins and outs of hand-sewing. Maybe you also learned how to use a sewing machine 20 years ago, but have forgotten. And modern machines are different -the good news being that they are a great deal easier to use, with buttonholes, for example, being sewn in just one operation. The things your Mum's old black Singer couldn't do, like zigzag seam neatening, are now done quickly by every inexpensive sewing machine.

It really is worthwhile to re-master or master for the first time how to sew by machine. In the case of my dress it's a quick job to take up the straps, but in a few lessons you can also easily learn how to add darts, or take in the side seams, to make a top fit better if it's too big, how to take up trouser and skirt hems, or add extra pieces to customise a garment, or just renew some dodgy elastic in your Mum's favourite skirt waistband. Before you know it, you have a new 'career' making your children fancy dress outfits from bits you've bought in charity shops, and your friends who are getting married on a shoestring budget are popping round with their internet bargain wedding dresses pleading for you to take them in...

And then... when you're feeling confident, you could start to make clothes from commercial patterns, in fabrics you really love. There's something very satisfying about making a unique garment, which no-one else has, - and which fits you properly, because you can adjust the pattern as you're making it.

In order to really understand how patterns work, and fit together, it could be worth going the extra mile (or two) and taking a course in how to cut your own sewing patterns. This is, to me, the ultimate craft secret, the technical knowledge which is used by fashion designers, and also by those who realise their designs in the atelier or mass-production workshop. Once you have grasped the basic principles of altering a basic shape, you can then make a garment from scratch, either adapting a commercial dressmaking pattern, or creating your very own pattern which will fit you exactly. It's like having a bespoke suit or tailor-made garment made... by you, at a fraction of the price.

So, next time you try on a skirt that's a bit too big in the waist but fits on the hips, or a dress that's too long... don't put up with it. Learn to sew!

Let The Spirit Move You

After so many sailings on Silversea cruises, I struggled with what to say about our 14-night transatlantic sailing that has not already been said. If you want to read about incredible Silversea service, you could go all the way back to our first sailing on Silver Whisper in 2002. Fast forward to 2009 if you want to read about a memorable birthday dinner at Le Champagne on my birthday during our cruise on Silver Wind in Africa. And if you want to know how we feel about Silver Spirit, we were just on her in 2010 when we sailed from Santiago, Chile, to Acapulco, Mexico. What can we possibly say about Silversea that we have not already said before? But, cruise reviews are snapshots in time. A cruise line or ship can be great one year, and not so great the next. As ships get older, crew members come and go and the dynamics can change. So, when a cruise line like Silversea continues to "get it right" year after year, it's more than noteworthy, it is historic. And let's face it: some things just bear repeating.

When we arrived at the pier in Bridgetown, Barbados, to board Silver Spirit, it truly does feel like we are coming home. We see crew members that we remember from past cruises over the years, and many remember our names. Even some of the other guests look familiar and we know we have sailed with them before on Silversea. So, we were not too surprised when Roland, our excellent butler on Silver Shadow last year in China, greeted us when we arrived at our beautiful Silver Suite (1106) this year.

Embarkation is always smooth as glass on Silversea. Why doesn't every cruise line welcome you onboard with a glass of champagne? I don't know, do you? Anyone? Well? Just know that Silversea does, and always has. Within five minutes after we stepped on board, we were being escorted to our Silver Suite. Coming "home" could not be any easier.


Silver Spirit is the newest and largest ship in the Silversea fleet having entered service in 2010. We initially wondered if Silversea was going to able to deliver the same level of service on a ship with 540 guests. Not to worry, Silversea delivers excellent service regardless of the ship. The ship is masterfully designed to not "feel" any larger than their other, smaller ships. Public spaces are roomy and comfortable. The interior decor of the ship reflects an art deco design and features more works of art than other Silversea ships. Silver Spirit is elegant without being ostentatious.


Silversea has always had a reputation for spacious and luxurious accommodations. Even the most modest accommodations on Silversea deserve to be referred to as "suites". However, the Silver Suite on Silver Spirit raises the bar for great design and comfort. Even though not the largest suites on Silver Spirit, at 742 sq. ft., the Silver Suites are more than twice the size of the basic Verandah Suites.

The 26 Silver Suites on Silver Spirit dominate decks 10 and 11 forward and give occupants the feeling of being on a concierge level of a luxury hotel. Even the Observation Lounge located on Deck 11 forward feels like a private retreat for Silver Suite guests, but of course, it is available to every guest.

Entering the Silver Suite, guests walk down a hallway to the living room where there is a round dining table capable of seating four comfortably. The table appears to accept a leaf making it larger and capable of accommodating more. A very comfortable work desk was soon consumed by my MacBook Pro, iPod and other gadgetry. The desk has four drawers and two large shelves. The only thing lacking is more electrical outlets, a common oversight by ship designers. There is only a single 110 US outlet at the desk. A small desk lamp and direct dial telephone are the only items occupying the desk space.

A mini-fridge/bar/television cabinet sits on the outside wall of the living room with two large sliding glass doors on either side. A sophisticated espresso machine and accoutrement takes up most of the tabletop space on this unit. Not being an espresso drinker, I soon discovered that the machine and tray holding espresso cups fit perfectly into the two shelves of the desk unit. More space for my electronic gear!

Opposite from the dining table is the suite's large sofa (which also makes into an extra bed), two chairs and a glass-top coffee table. A small end table holds the high-tech Bang & Olufsen CD player/stereo system. A beautiful fresh flower arrangement decorated our coffee table.

Two large sliding wooden doors can be closed to completely isolate the master bedroom from any activity in the living room. This comes in handy for early mornings when I want to work on the computer, have my coffee and watch Fox News while Rickee sleeps in. I say "master" bedroom since the living room can be converted into a bedroom via the sofa bed. The bedroom is spacious, elegant and very well laid out. The comfortable king-sized bed is flanked by two end tables with lamps. A sizable makeup/vanity table with large mirror resides next to the bed and out of traffic areas. Across from the bed is another flat-screen television and storage unit with several shelves hidden behind doors..

Storage is the Silver Suite's strong suit: the huge walk-in closet is nothing short of amazing and will even have Owner's Suite occupants envious. You will never have to worry about running out of storage space in the Silver Suite. There are shelves everywhere, drawers and lots of hanging space. A digital safe sits inside of a shelf unit that was a perfect place for all of my camera and video gear, and I have a lot of it.

Everything about the bathroom design is near perfect. We can overlook the clumsy operation of the vessel sinks and just be happy with the fact that there are two of them, not to mention a third in the powder room! A large shower stall lined with rich Italian marble is spacious and features a hand wand sprayer (my favorite) as well as a rainshower head (Rickee's favorite) mounted in the ceiling. The shower even has a seat! A full-sized Jacuzzi bathtub can be used for a relaxing bubble bath, and it was. We had a choice of Ferragamo, Neutrogena, or Bvlgari bath amenities.

A separate "powder room" with toilet and vessel sink is accessible from the bathroom and the suite's hallway. Since the powder room is accessible from the hallway, it can be accessed by guests visiting your suite, or others sharing the foldout sofa bed, without invading your private bedroom space.

From the living room, there are two large sliding glass doors leading to a very spacious and well-furnished 118 sq. ft. verandah. Our verandah was outfitted with a reclining lounger, three wicker chairs, a large wicker ottoman and small glass top table, perfect for al fresco breakfast service.

After 14 days and nights in a Silver Suite, I would have to say it would easily rate a 5 out of 5 on my rating chart for comfort and design. It has more going for it than virtually any other suite we have enjoyed. In fact, the Silver Suite is so comfortable and spacious that it truly feels like a home-away-from-home.


Rickee and I are what you might call "seasoned" cruisers. After all, it is our business. We no longer feel it necessary to eat everything in sight when we are on a cruise. In fact, we try to maintain a fairly normal dining routine, not unlike the one we have at home. There are nights where don't even go out to dinner, opting to stay in our suite and have a light room service meal. Fortunately, that is possible on Silversea. I can call Roland, our butler, at 7:00pm or so and order a Chicken Caesar Salad (one of my favorites) and a bowl of soup and Rickee might get an order of Asian Spring Rolls, and a salad, and that's it! I know it sounds boring, but it's what we like and Silversea makes it possible.

Our breakfast usually consists of Roland bringing me hot water for my coffee and Rickee getting extra sleep in lieu of food. While most guests are enjoying everything La Terrazza's amazing breakfast buffet has to offer, we are in our suite, in our pajamas. On port days, since we have to get up early for an excursion, we will go to La Terrazza and have eggs made-to-order, English bacon and Rickee likes pancakes. She also loves fresh fruit, and it is plentiful at La Terrazza. I have to rush past the mountains of breads and pastries to appease the low-carb Master I reluctantly serve. We always have breakfast in The Restaurant on disembarkation day. It is our tradition, and we aren't going to change it.

For lunch, we usually go to La Terrazza and Rickee often enjoys nothing more than the excellent selection of salads. I tend to spend some quality time at the meat stations with special attention given to the Oriental dish of the day. Of course, they have everything that anyone could want on their beautiful buffet: a carving station that changes to a new roasted meat every day; fresh, made-to-order pasta station; and yes, the mountain 'o bread... my evil temptress.


The Restaurant is the traditional "cruise ship" dining venue on Silversea ships. However, the 'traditional' term ends with the practice of providing three meals per day with lunch and dinner menus changing daily. The Restaurant on Silver Spirit has a very inviting decor and offers a lot of seating options for two, for those times when you want a little personal space. Guests can dine whenever and with whomever they wish (within the posted service hours) and no reservations are required.

The majority of guests bypass The Restaurant at breakfast and lunch, opting for the enticing choices offered at La Terrazza and the convenience of buffet-style dining. Plus, dining out on deck is a powerful draw when the weather is nice. So, if you prefer dining in quiet solitude, check out The Restaurant during these times. Service in The Restaurant, like all Silversea dining venues, is crisp and efficient. A complimentary red or white wine is offered with lunch or dinner. If the one offered is not to your liking, the wine steward will gladly try to find another to your liking. Rickee and I like a semi-sweet Riesling, and after day one, the wine stewards on board knew exactly what to pour for us. Now that's Silversea!

The lunch and dinner menus change daily with a focus on contemporary, wholesome and regional cuisine. There are vegetarian options, wellness options and an Oriental choice each day for lunch. And, don't let the menus constrain you. If there is something you like that is not on the menu, just ask. I like fried onion rings with my hamburger, but they are not on the menu. No problem, all I had to do was ask and a plate of hot onion rings magically appeared! One evening, a small group of us wanted an Indian dinner. Again, not a problem. We made the request through our butler, Roland, and he set the whole thing up for us.

Le Champagne is the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant at sea and can be found aboard every ship in the fleet with the exception of Silver Explorer. The menu at Le Champagne continually changes to reflect the voyage destination and provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic regional flavor. Guests can enjoy complimentary wines or choose from the Connoisseur's List of rare wines for an additional charge. On Silver Spirit, Le Champagne is an intimate, dark and elegant space on Deck 4 across from Seishin and next to The Restaurant. A floor-to-ceiling wine tower is the centerpiece of Le Champagne's decor. Certainly, Le Champagne is Silversea's most elegant and sophisticated alternate dining venue. The dress code in Le Champagne is reflective of the ship's daily dress code.

Reservations are required. Per guest reservation fee is US$30.

La Terrazza offers guests a selection of Italy's best cuisine. During the day, La Terrazza is the ship's breakfast and lunch buffet restaurant. Each evening, it is transformed into an intimate, romantic Italian dining venue. One of our favorites is the fresh, home-made pasta. And, no visit to La Terraza is complete without trying the Antipasto sampler platter. La Terrazza is the expression of Silversea's distinctive Italian heritage and partnership with Slow Food Promozione. La Terrazza's dress code is always informal or casual depending on the evening dress code (no shorts or jeans, however), so for those who are looking for a casual alternative on formal nights, La Terrazza offers a delicious refuge.


Seishin Restaurant takes its name from the Japanese word for "spirit". This intimate restaurant aboard Silver Spirit is located on Deck 4 across from Le Champagne and next to The Restaurant. Seishin specializes in Asian fusion cuisine including regional dishes from Japan as well as from China, Thailand, Vietnam and India. The centerpiece at Seishin is the open Sushi preparation station where diners can watch their artful dishes being created by the masterful Sushi chefs. Seishin begins serving dinner each evening at 7:30pm and offers a choice of three set menus.

Seishin Teaser 1 is a 4-dish degustation menu for seafood lovers. Teaser 2 is for those who prefer meat (fowl and beef) over fish. There is also an 8-dish degustation menu that combines seafood and meat choices. All Seishin menus begin with a Sushi sampler platter. However, we were able to make a special request in place of the Sushi platter (a Spicy Tuna Roll for me and California Roll for Rickee). On our sailing, there was a $20 pp reservation fee for Teaser 1 or Teaser 2 and a $30 pp reservation fee for the 8-dish menu.

During days at sea, Seishin offers a complimentary sushi and sashimi bar for lunch. The dress code for dinner is reflective of the ship's daily dress code but guests can dress informally and dine here on formal night.


We first dined in STARS in 2010 during our South American sailing on Silver Spirit. Even though I remain confused as to the culinary point of view of STARS, I continue to be impressed with what it delivers. STARS is one of the most unique dining experiences you will find on any cruise ship, or land-based restaurant for that matter. Silversea attempts to re-create the atmosphere of an art deco-inspired big city supper club where jazz musicians and singers entertain diners as they enjoy an elegant meal. To that end, STARS delivers. The menu is a set, multi-course collection of regional and seasonal delicacies to be enjoyed in tapas-style "bites."

The atmosphere in STARS is understated and elegant, not unlike the rest of Silver Spirit. The jazz duo of Michelle Yap and Seandrea Earls does give STARS a retro supper club feel and provide a show worthy of a visit to STARS even without a meal. Service is crisp, polished and efficient and the food preparation and presentation is without rival. STARS is Silver Spirit's best-kept culinary secret.


Formerly referred to as "Hot Rocks Grill", The Grill may have a new name, but the hot, volcanic stone method of meat preparation remains the same. The Grill is one of most popular alternate dining venues on Silver Spirit. The Grill's dress code is always casual and meals are served al fresco on decks 9 and 10 poolside (weather permitting). The Grill menu is a meat-lovers paradise. Thick rib-eye steak, filet mignon, veal, pork, lamb, prawns, and salmon are all on the menu.

On our most recent visit to The Grill, the meal begins with a basket of tortilla chips and guacamole dip. Complimentary wines are offered with dinner (as in every Silversea dining venue), so we chose a Cabernet from Chile. After a salad course, my rib-eye steak was a thick slab of marbled, tender beef served on a 700-degree chunk of volcanic stone. The interactive dining experience allows guests to cook their meat to their desired degree of doneness. The easiest way is to cut the huge steak into smaller chunks to increase the surface area contacting the stone. Once the meat reached medium (my preference), I began moving the pieces to the wooden base where consumption soon followed. All meat dishes are accompanied by a baked potato and a skewer of veggies. A trio of dipping sauces add additional flavor to the meat, which really needs no such help.

I am pleased to report that our most recent visit to The Grill reveals that this popular venue is a good as we remembered.


As I mentioned earlier, there are many times on a long cruise that Rickee and I will just stay in our suite, relax and enjoy room service. Unlike most cruise lines, room service on Silversea is something to look forward to. It starts with our calling Roland, our butler, to place the order. He arrives with a tray of food and converts the dining table into an elegant table setting with white tablecloth, silver flatware and china. It is just like eating in The Restaurant, but with a TV! In fact, during dining hours, you can order from the Restaurant menu and have items delivered to your suite course-by-course if you desire.

Probably the most popular room service item is breakfast. Silversea provides cards that you can fill out and leave on your suite door the night before so that your breakfast will be brought to your suite the next morning at the requested time. If you forget to fill out the card, just call your butler. We did enjoy room service breakfast one morning and everything was delivered hot, fresh and delicious.

If you wish, each afternoon your butler can deliver a selection of canapes to your suite. You can even order afternoon tea to be served in your suite. Nothing is impossible on a Silversea cruise!


As the largest and newest ship in the Silversea fleet, Silver Spirit is capable of catering to 540 guests with a crew of 376. Even when sailing full, the staff-to- guest ratio is one of the highest in the industry. The ship is designed so that even when sailing full, guests will never feel crowded or cramped. Standing in line is an experience that Silversea guests rarely, if ever, have to endure.


One of the most popular meeting spots on Silversea ships is The Bar. Typically located just behind the show lounge on other vessels, The Bar on Silver Spirit departs from this tradition and is positioned amidship, almost as part of the reception area. Decorated in cool blue and gold, The Bar invites guests throughout the day to socialize and enjoy complimentary cocktails, soft drinks or specialty coffees. There is a small dance floor, and musical entertainment is offered throughout the day and evening.


Located forward on Deck 8 are the boutique shops. The collection of duty-free shops offers guests a wide selection of designer jewelry, perfumes, watches, fashions and clothing. Silversea logo items have been expanded and there is also a small selection of sundries in case you left home without sunscreen, or in my case, a toothbrush!


The well-stocked Library is located aft on Deck 7, just forward of La Terrazza. There are hundreds of popular hardback titles neatly arranged behind glass doors. Unlike some other ships, you are not required to "check out" a book. Simply choose your book, take it with you and return it when you are finished. What you won't find in The Library is a DVD selection of movies. Silver Spirit is the only Silversea ship with an interactive movie-on-demand system making DVDs unnecessary. There are more than 190 movies on the menu to be enjoyed in your suite and all are complimentary!

Integrated into The Library is the Internet Cafe. There are seven workstations where guests can log onto the Internet to check email, browse the web, etc. Internet rates are competitive with other cruise lines and can be purchased in discount packages:

  • By the minute $.50 cents
  • 100 minutes for $45
  • 250 minutes for $85
  • 1000 minutes for $25

For those on longer cruises, the 1000 minute plan gets the per-minute rate down to $.25 cents, the lowest we have seen on any ship. Internet service can also be accessed via the ship's Wi-Fi wireless system and we had no problems getting a good connection from our Silver Suite on Deck 11.


The Fitness Center located on Deck 8 is a great place for guests to work off those extra pounds that come from indulging in all the excellent dining on Silver Spirit. There is a very nice selection of treadmills, upright and recumbent bicycles, elliptical trailers, free weights and weight machines. Complimentary classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates are conducted by the onboard fitness trainer. A personal trainer is also available for an additional charge.

The 8,300 square-foot Spa is a sanctuary of personal bliss. The nine treatment rooms, indoor/outdoor relaxation areas, and outdoor whirlpool make this the most elaborate spa in the fleet. Guests can indulge in a wide range of therapies including facials, body wraps, massages and even acupuncture.

Men and women's saunas and steam rooms are are a great way to relax before or after your spa treatment or after a workout. An outdoor relaxation area offers bar service so you can enjoy a complimentary fruit smoothie, champagne or cocktail while soaking in the expansive spa whirlpool.


Located all the way forward on Deck 11 is The Observation Lounge. This lounge is just steps away from our Silver Suite (1106) and is a great place to enjoy scenic sea days. Cocktails and canapes are served here each evening before dinner making this a relaxing alternative to The Bar on Deck 5.


Every Silversea ship features a Panorama Lounge and they are always popular gathering spots for taking in expansive views of the ocean or the day's port-of-call. Often used for Afternoon Tea or as the evening disco, The Panorama is an excellent place to enjoy a cocktail before or after dinner. On our cruise, team trivia is held each day in Panorama.


No day would be complete without at least one visit to the Show Lounge on Deck 5. The large stage is flanked by two movie screens that bring you up-close to the action. The Show Lounge is an excellent venue during the day for Silversea's extensive lecture series, cooking demonstrations and big-screen movies and, in the evening, production shows and performances by guest entertainers. The seating is comfortable and there really is not a bad seat in the house.


The Casino on Deck 8 features roulette, blackjack, poker games and slot machines. Gaming tournaments were held and the casino staff offered gaming lessons several times during the cruise. You have to be 18 years of age to play in the casino.


There is a Medical Center onboard staffed with a doctor and nurse who are available 24 hours a day. Some medications are available. Opening hours are printed in the daily Chronicles. Be sure to have travel insurance as a visit to the doctor on a ship is never inexpensive. Rickee developed what she felt was a cold about three days into the cruise and visited the onboard Medical Center where the doctor examined her and prescribed three medications. The total charge was $195.40.


Even though Silversea offers laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services for a fee, there are also complimentary self-service launderettes located next to the forward staircases on Decks 5-11.


Shipboard activities and entertainment become even more important when you are at sea for several days in a row. One reason some cruise enthusiasts shy away from transoceanic sailings is the fear that they will be boring. If there is a line between boring and relaxing, Silversea is firmly on the correct side of that line. Cruise Director, Don Fluke, and his team did an excellent job of keeping guests occupied with a variety of activity and entertainment options. Silversea arranged for a gentleman dance host to be onboard to dance with the ladies.


Silversea has always had an excellent enrichment program, and this cruise was no exception. We have really come to enjoy the lecture series over the years and leave every Silversea cruise feeling that we have learned something new. Silversea obviously emphasizes enrichment on sailings with several days at sea. On our sailing, we really enjoyed lectures by Morton Dean, former CBS and ABC correspondent. We especially enjoyed his video clips from his assignments as a Vietnam war correspondent. He and his wife Mary also joined us on our 13-hour tour to Marrakech, Morocco.

In addition to Mr. Dean, there were three other informative lecturers on this voyage. We had previously sailed with Ambassador Adrian Sindall during a Silversea cruise in the Middle East a few years ago. It was nice to see him again and hear his excellent series on diplomacy and Middle East politics. Biologist Dr. George Losey educated us about all things ocean and Dr. Jerry Labriola enlightened us on crime and why criminals do what they do and also analyzed some famous trials.

You probably won't find this anywhere else on the Internet. Below is the actual prize list and number of points required for each. And of course, this is subject to change at any time.


Silversea has revamped their entertainment program with a series of concert-style productions created exclusively for Silversea by Choozi Entertainment. The Artists of Silversea feature a cast of classically trained vocalists, and the new shows offer a unique variety of musical styles including Motown, opera, pop and rock.

Evening entertainment on Silver Spirit begins in The Show Lounge at 10pm most evenings. The Artists of Silversea, the ship's cadre of classically trained vocalists, performed four shows during our cruise: "FABBAlicious!" was a tribute to ABBA; "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", featured the music of Motown; and "Decades", was a musical extravaganza that brought famous stars to life. One production was held al fresco around the pool: "Voices... The Billy Joel Songbook." Individual members of the troupe were featured in their own shows. For example, James Martin starred in "Broadway's Best and More" and the graceful Dian Meechai took the stage in "An Evening With Dian Meechai." In addition, The Artists of Silversea can be found performing at other venues around the ship. We were entertained by the jazz duo of Michelle Yap and Seandrea Earls while dining at STARS Supper Club. Michelle and Sonny performed poolside during our dinner at The Grill. Other entertainers who appeared in different venues around the ship included: pianist, Alfredo; pianist Eric O'Bach; The Silver Spirit Trio; and DJ Oskar.

Silver Spirit featured several guest entertainers in The Show Lounge. Piano showman Kyle Esplin entertained and international violinist, Ralph Allin impressed all with his prowess on the violin.


As mentioned previously, Silversea offers more than 190 movie choices through the ship's interactive video/TV system. All movies are complimentary and you can even save, pause, rewind, etc. when watching a movie. As for television programming, it mostly involves international news channels. CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Sky News and BBC are all available. There are also several channels of closed-circuit TV showing various ship-related information such as the view from the bridge camera, shore excursion information, a Wine and Food channel, Spa & Boutique information, as well as a channel where you can view replays of the enrichment lectures.


We met a couple at lunch on the Marrakech tour. Mike is a doctor in Kansas traveling with his wife Patty. Mike is not your "typical" cruise enthusiast. He could not care less about formal nights, trivia, Silversea points or even lectures for that matter. Mark is after one thing and one thing only: relaxation. His idea of the perfect vacation is relaxing by the pool with his favorite book. He does not want to "have to" be anywhere at any particular time. He gets enough of that in his every day work life. I think Mike exemplifies the "Silversea Experience." On Silversea, you can do pretty much anything you want, or nothing at all, and do it in unequaled style.

Silversea is being greeted with a glass of Champagne at embarkation. Silversea is having a butler that can figure out how to hook up your iPod to the television to play a movie. Silversea is making new friends from around the world. Silversea is 5-star dining, even in the comfort of your suite. Silversea is visiting exciting and exotic destinations. Silversea is having staff that call you by name. Silversea is never having to sign a ticket for a bottle of water, glass of champagne or soft drink. There are other great cruise lines, but there is only one Silversea.

Palladium Ring for a Matchless Wedding Band

For many couples who want a different wedding band that will get them envious stares and appreciative glances from all corners, platinum remained their preferred option. An extremely precious and hardy material, platinum is the white metal that can stand the torture of a century to remain the same. However, not many can buy an exorbitantly priced platinum ring crafted with diamonds as an ounce of platinum usually trades at more than $2000.

Keeping these requirements of the people in mind, jewelers have come up with different white metals such as titanium and white gold. Though white in color, they are not actually the fitting alternatives of platinum. Gold is yellowish in nature and to make it white, it is mixed with nickel to get a whitish color. Then the ring is coated with a layer of rhodium, a different white metal. Titanium cannot be at any level compared with platinum as it is often used as fashion jewelry. Hence, palladium ring has become a well-admired alternative option for platinum.

Palladium rings exhibit the same characteristics of platinum as it belongs to the same family of Platinum Group Metals. Sharing nearly the identical physical properties like platinum with durability, hardiness, and tarnish-proof glossiness with hypoallergenic qualities, palladium is a white metal that comes with a less expensive tag. You can find a comprehensive assortment of excitingly beautiful wedding bands in premium white metal of palladium. This metal is way whiter than white gold and much less pricey than the costly platinum. Palladium is the best choice when you consider the best properties and values of the available white metals in the market.

While you choose a palladium wedding band, ensure that you opt for the most prominent jewelers in the industry who will offer you the perfect and best worth for the money you will invest. Go for the best jeweler using the latest technology to create the palladium rings. The best thing about well-known jewelers is that they will offer you guarantee and warranty for a specific period of time. You can opt for the basic design of a simple wedding band for yourself or for your sweetheart. These collections are designed enviably beautifully for men as well as women. With so many designs available in palladium wedding rings, you can be sure of finding the best suitable and unique wedding band to seal the everlasting vows for the years to come.

Responsive Web Design Is The Future And The Future Is Now

Websites designed only for a desktop computer become unusable for a mobile device.

Change! It's Always There

The Internet is an ever-evolving culture. And so are the devices that are used to access it. Gone are the days when the giant desktop was used in a corner of a room to browse through pages over the web. Even laptops are getting less used and favored over tablets.

Websites designed for a desktop computer become unusable for a mobile device, and vice versa. In such a scenario, it is not ideal to design different web pages for different devices. The entire user experience will become extremely cumbersome and inefficient. The user having to enter different addresses to access the same pages in different devices will just be the final nail in the coffin. The correct idea is to think mobile first.

Today's generation is happy surfing the Internet on their iPads, iPhones and Android phones, windows phones, tablets, netbooks and laptops.

One for All, All for One

A very simple solution to this dilemma was brought on by HTML5 and CSS3 and the genius that thought of designing a basic template that would go with all displays and automatically adjust itself with whatever display size the user is packing, the system being hailed as Responsive Web Design. The concept is similar to a white shirt in fashion; it goes with everything, every time.

The main target audience in today's world has to be users of mobile devices, like Apple and Android devices, be it tablets or smartphones. Everyone loves to stay connected, all the time, every time. However, a majority of them still feel that the ease and sheer size of a desktop is more comforting.

Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.

Besides, in most developing countries, a desktop is the main mode of Internet browsing. Responsive Web Design gives you the power to cater to all your customers, irrespective of their device, to browse seamlessly on your Website.

Reasons to Implement Responsive Web Design:

  • One Website for every screen
  • Overall shorter site development cycle
  • Performs well in Google's search results
  • Provides the correct screen size Website resolution for visitors
  • 1 billion- number of global mobile Internet users by 2015

Why the Mobile Market?

With mobile data traffic rate doubling every year, it is definitely not a segment to overlook, because this is where a large percentage of Internet traffic is going. The numbers of mobile tablets are tripling every year, and they are responsible for almost twice the amount of data an average smartphone generates.

Even smartphones are growing every year. In fact, 2012 may be the year that Android overtook Apple's iOS on the amount of data transferred. Needless to say, today's world is totally dependent on the Internet, and it is reflected by people's addiction to mobile devices.

In conclusion, if you are thinking of getting a Website designed and developed you should really consider integrating a Responsive Website into your plans. By not doing this, you will be leaving out a mobile market that is growing at a rapid pace and therefore leaving out new visitors and/or potential customers. If you do already have a Website for your company, then planning a responsive web design upgrade, might be the plan for you.

Why Every Student Should Own a School Polo!

There comes a time in every college student's school career when college casual is just not going to be sufficient for certain occasions. Whether it is to give a presentation, attend a school ceremony, or even for those who prefer a more professional look in general, the wash and wear wardrobe will not always be acceptable. When a bit more class is required than a simple fleece or hoodie, a good answer is the polo shirt.


The versatile polo is the perfect in-between for a student wanting more than a gym tee, but not quite so much as a button-down shirt. Easily available in just about every color under the sun, it is hard to believe an institution would not have one available in their school colors with a neatly embroidered insignia. A school polo or two is only as far away as the school store or website. While an embroidered shirt will cost a little bit more than a regular shirt, there are many more occasions when it is more appropriate.


The traditional wardrobe of preppy students everywhere, polo's can be worn with the serious, studious look of the popped collar or the more relaxed folded down collar. Short-sleeved varieties are more popular than long, although often times both options are offered. It is the infamous short-sleeved polo that has made the garment so famous. Worn for decades by students, businesspeople and athletes alike, it gives a person the look of being ready to perform, yet remaining cool and comfortable.

Whether worn by girls or guys, the short-sleeved school polo is able to assume any role. Worn alone with jeans, either tucked in and with a nice belt, or not tucked - this type of garment is neatly casual. Tucked in with khaki pants or a khaki skirt, brown leather belt and loafers to match, the polo is right at home with a scholarly look. Go one step beyond and add the knit sweater, either worn or cuffed together around the neck, and the look is pure Ivy League.

Easy Care

While they do require a little bit more care than a regular tee-shirt or hoodie, the laundering of polo shirts is still fairly easy as they are generally made of durable fabrics that wear well and remain comfortable. Most can be washed in cool or warm water and then tossed into a dryer on a cooler setting to keep that nice, soft feel as well as to prevent wrinkles. After a quick fold that does not even have to be very precise, into the drawer it goes. For those who really want a crisp look, polo's can be ironed as well.

For a student wanting to look casual while showing school spirit and representing their college without having to go as far as dressing up, a polo shirt is a great idea. Anyone can look the part - neat and prepared - while feeling comfortable and still be presentable for most situations without going overboard. For those who like this style for everyday fashion, it is affordable, durable and convenient, all without sacrificing that scholarly impression. For many, a school polo shirt is quite possibly the most perfect, all-around college wear!

Things You Should Never Buy at a Storage Auction

Buying items at a storage auction can be something of a gamble. Some items are always a good bet: antiques, collectibles, jewelry and other items that can sell quickly and for a high profit. Other items, however, are poor investments. They may be difficult to sell, unprofitable or just hard to work with. Recognizing these items will help save you time and money the next time you go to an auction. Here's a list of five things you should avoid at a storage auction.

  1. Large, bulky items that you don't have a buyer in mind for. Storing and moving things like industrial printers or old-fashioned TVs can be a pain, and you ay not be able to find a buyer with the storage space or desire to buy them.

  2. Mattresses, especially if you live somewhere with a bed bug population. Even if there is no bug hazard, realize that used mattresses usually don't sell very well and are very bulky to store and haul.

  3. Tires. It's impossible to know without examining the whether the tires are usable, but you should assume they won't be. Not only does that create a lot of trash to dispose of, you'll need to pay a disposal fee at the dump for them, so you'll actually lose money on these.

  4. Urns and coffins. Occasionally, these will be new in the box from a funeral home or other sources. Unfortunately, they often are not, and the stress of dealing with the ashes of a stranger's loved one is not something most auction-hunters want to deal with.

  5. Picture frames. Unless you have plans to put something in the frames - such as re-framing art pieces or selling your own original work - picture frames do not sell well. Sometimes you can get lucky and sell them in bulk for a decent price, but the space needed to store them often does not make it worthwhile.

You only have a few minutes to take stock of what's within a storage unit and decide whether or not to bid. It's impossible to know for sure what might make a good investment, so you'll need to use your best judgment and go with your gut. Ultimately, the best strategy is to focus on hings that you know you can sell. As you build a network of buyers and gain experience with certain types of items, you'll be able to expand your business and turn a profit on more difficult items. Nevertheless, avoiding certain hard-to-sell items can keep you from losing money as you begin your storage auction business.

When to Wear Floral Maxi Dresses

Floral maxi dresses are massively on-trend this season and can be a valuable addition to your summer wardrobe. But when will you have the opportunity to show off your dress? We often avoid buying high fashion items because we're concerned about how versatile they'll be, but floral maxi dresses can be the ideal piece for any occasion. Not only are they super stylish, they're flattering for every body shape and provide a multitude of wardrobe options. Here, we'll take a look at when to wear your new favourite dress.

Summer weddings

If you've got a wedding coming up and you're looking for the perfect piece, try a floral maxi dress. You can accessories with jewellery to really make an impact, and because they're so comfortable, you'll feel great regardless of how much dancing or overindulging you might do!

At the airport

Finding the perfect outfit for travelling can seem like a nightmare. You need something comfortable that makes you look great and gets you in the holiday mood. Floral maxi dresses tick all of these boxes. You'll arrive at your destination looking gorgeous but it's easy to just throw on a cardigan if it gets a bit chilly on the plane. Maxi dresses have plenty of room too, so you won't struggle with getting on and off the various modes of transport that you'll often have to take before getting to your hotel.

Beach to bar

Floral maxi dresses are great pieces to pack in your suitcase. They're ideal for acting as a cover-up on the beach, but are stylish enough to take you right through into the evening. Just add a pair of flip flops, a big pair of sunglasses and you're ready to go.

A day at the races

Ladies Day is a fantastic opportunity to get the girls together and share a fabulous day out with plenty of champagne. Choosing the perfect outfit can be more than a little bit stressful though. Floral maxi dresses provide a wardrobe choice that guarantees to get you noticed for all the right reasons. Pick a hat or fascinator and some glamorous wedges to complete your look.

With so many opportunities to wear floral maxi dresses this summer, they make a great investment for any wardrobe. Taking a little time to find the perfect dress for you will provide you with countless options for all occasions, just add some accessories for your perfect look.

A Snap Shot of Instagram - From Facebook Sensation to Web Design School Staple

It would be hard in this day and age to find any applicant to web design courses who does not already have familiarity with Instagram, the nostalgia-fueled photo-sharing tool, which allows users to apply a filter to photos, giving them the appearance of an old fashioned Polaroid, that can then be easily shared with friends and family via social networking sites.

Instagram has made a lot of headway in very little time. As ubiquitous as these artistically faded sixties/seventies-esque snapshots may now seem, computer schools remind us that this program only launched in October 2010, and it only became available for non-Mac users this past spring.

It is emblematic of how frequently computer schools need to refresh their course content! Teachers must teach students tools that they themselves are only just beginning to discover. For some, this is the whole appeal of teaching web design courses. To teach technology and design is to always be on the cutting edge.

But wait, you say. Instagram, isn't that primarily a personal tool, the kind of thing proud parents use to post photos of their growing brood, bathed in a wholesome, golden light? At web design school, aspiring designers learn that it is in their best interest to master a wide range of tools, from a professional software suite, to knowing how to take a decent photo with their own camera.

The best computer schools know that the most important skill that they can transfer to their graduates is adaptability. Graduates of web design school will need to have strategies for rapidly integrating new technologies into their work as their careers progress.

A graduate of web design school may discover a social media design tool like Instagram from a purely personal perspective, for instance, to share photos of their summer vacation, but may quickly discover that it has professional uses as well.

An interesting case study for web design courses would be the use of Instagram-like filters on photos in the most recent annual report by a Canadian shelter for victims of domestic violence, Interval House. This is an annual report that has attracted international attention by industry experts for its simple, yet innovative design. By showing very warm, personal snapshots of the Interval House community the designers seem to be saying that these are ordinary people with a special glow, the glow of giving to a good cause. This publication is an example of how graduates of web design school can adapt everyday tools to professional applications with big results.

Not only must students in web design school learn how to master such tools as Instagram, they must also become aware of the growing number of tools available to support this application, for example, that allow carefully doctored photos to be arranged into artistic slide shows once the desired filters are carefully put in place. (One could envision this being integrated into a digital annual report, for a charitable organization, or for a company, to tell a story of growth of triumph in a way that strikes an emotional chord with the readers and suggest innovation and mastery in a constantly changing world.)

This is just one recent tool in an exciting industry. Web design courses must be approached, above all else, with a spirit of curiosity.

How I Built The Satyam Brand

A brand guru said that it takes years of hard work to build a brand but just one moment of madness to kill it. The Satyam case is a live example of this adage.

Late July 1996 I got a call on a Saturday morning from one of the largest head hunting companies in the country asking me whether I wanted a change of job. Their Hyderabad manager would not tell me the name of the client company as he was afraid I would refuse the chance on the phone itself as the company was small and relatively unknown compared to the one I was working in.

However, I did go to meet him and I was rather disappointed when he told me the company's name though the company was Hyderabad based and I was in the same city, too. He persuaded me to at least meet the company management. The same afternoon I met Ramalinga Raju, Chairman, Satyam Computer Services. I had no clue what the company did as IT was not even in my radar being more from the engineering and automotive industry. In fact, I even had a stray thought that they assembled grey market PCs.

The meeting with Raju lasted more than an hour and was very pleasant. He came across as a gentle person and very polite. Very soon I got an offer of appointment from Satyam. My wife referred to a few people in Bangalore in the IT field before I accepted it. Of course, the financial offer was very attractive,too

I joined Satyam as head of corporate communications on August 16.The next day I got a call from Economic Times asking me for a comment on a story that they were running about a check bouncing case against Satyam. This troubled me as I had never experienced anything like that in the past. I just mumbled that there was no truth in that story.

About ten days later we had to print some invitation cards for inaugurating our spanking new technology centre. It surprised me when the printer asked me for 100% advance. He was the same printer who used to give my earlier company thirty days credit without questions. I began to worry whether I had made a major error of judgment in joining Satyam. I now remembered that some of my friends in Hyderabad expressed surprise when I told them that I was leaving a leading multi-national company to join Satyam.

Anyway, it was too late to do anything about it. And in 1996 driving a brand new Maruti Suzuki Esteem around Hyderabad was a balm on a hurt ego. I put all negative thoughts aside and decided I would carve a positive role for myself and do what was right for the company.

The Company Negatives:

1) Nobody knew who ran the company, including investors. This was surprising as Raju was in the office regularly from 9am to 9pm.

2) The public and investors still associated the name Satyam with construction and textile spinning and not IT.

3) The promoters, based on the flavor of the season had entered all kinds of businesses in the past and failed, including such diverse fields as aquaculture and shoe uppers.

4) Satyam was still perceived as a small Hyderabad based company.

5) In the Dataquest ranking of Indian IT companies, Satyam stood a lowly 13.

6) Publications were reluctant to interview Raju as he was not really forthcoming with comments or with his plans for the company. Further, his speaking style at that time was not very fluent. The face of the company at that time was the head of sales & marketing.

7) People perceived Satyam more as a body shopping company than a serious IT player (this was actually an unfair charge as at that time most Indian IT companies were actually just that).

The Company Positives:

1. The company made profits

2. The client list was quite impressive

3. Working ambience was friendly

4. The urge to grow was there

5. Raju gave a lot of freedom to the senior staff (though this itself created fiefdoms)

My Negatives:

1. In my career till then I had never handled the editorial or news media. I was always in to advertising, marketing and sales promotion.

2. PR was something absolutely new to me. In a way I had joined Satyam under false pretences, because when Raju asked me at my interview whether I knew anyone in the media the only name I could tell him was that of a good friend who handled the advertising function for the biggest media group in AP.

3. When I joined Satyam I had never sent an email in my life nor knew anything about something called the internet. IT was an alien subject to me. I was basically a Mechanical Engineer.

The Beginning

I found that the Bangalore based advertising and PR agency handling the Satyam account was not really contributing much though they charged a high fee. We sacked them and through a professional selection process appointed one of the top advertising agencies in the country to handle our paid communication business. The first collaboration effort was to bring out the corporate identity manual, called the Satyam Covenant.This was to make sure that all corporate branding effort across the world would be cohesive.

Knowing that an advertising agency is generally not clued in to public relations, I decided to handle the media myself instead of incurring further expenditure in hiring a PR agency. My first effort was a disaster. I prepared a press release for our annual result without a headline. The next day each publication interpreted the results in its own way. It was rather embarrassing seeing some of the headlines early the next morning.

It was time to start earning my salary. I wrote out a pretty decent brand strategy plan. On top of the list was something I titled "Brand building the CEO". I made a slide presentation to Raju defining various brand positioning attributes for his image building.

1. Entrepreneur

2. Innovator

3. Technocrat

4. Leader

We debated all the positioning points and I explained to him why each one was not right for him. His previous enterprises were not really successful so the first one was out. As he was not technically qualified, the second and third points would be difficult to push through. The fourth one too would have been a far cry from reality. Luckily, Raju was not an egoist so he accepted my role as a Devil's advocate with some amount of amusement.

Finally, I showed him the crucial slide. Through the months of interaction with Raju one thought that hit me was that he rarely got in to the details of the running of an enterprise. All his statements were a bit philosophical and holistic. He also tended to go off on a tangent sometimes. To give him a branding that he would be comfortable donning I recommended that he be positioned as a Visionary.

"Raju is a visionary who has a global view of the industry and where Satyam would head in the future. To make his vision a reality he hires the right people and empowers them to find ways to take the enterprise forward."

Raju immediately accepted this hypothesis. Subsequently, in all internal and external communication, I would create statements on his behalf that would match the new brand positioning. For any media interviews he would speak holistically and one of the other senior managers would get in to the detailing.

I travelled to all the offices after that to meet the Business Heads and get 'masala' from them for any newsworthy story that could be highlighted in the media. I visited various media offices across the metros and got to know the business correspondents. I found them all pretty professional and knowledgeable about the sunrise industry. Many of them still remain my personal friends after so many years.

Every Monday I would release a story to the media highlighting some aspect of our business. The third paragraph of all of them would have a quote from Raju. I took a big risk with my job as I wrote and released these statements without getting his prior approval. However, I knew his thought process well and also the kind of words he used regularly so there was nothing controversial about any statement.

In fact once Raju and I were traveling together in his car to a function when a senior correspondent of a weekly news magazine rang me and asked me which business leader was Raju's role model. I covered the mouth piece of my phone and asked Raju. He said Jack Welch. He was a bit taken aback when in front of him I gave a detailed statement on why he admired Jack Welch of GE. The magazine quoted Raju verbatim in the next issue.

The turning point came when in late 1997 or early 1998 BusinessWorld magazine called me and wanted to interview Raju for a story on IT in India. The original concept was to have Narayanmurthy of Infosys, Premji of Wipro, Nadar of HCL and Raju on the cover. I picked up the correspondent and photographer of BusinessWorld from Hyderabad airport and was driving them to the Satyam Technology Center, about a 45 minutes drive. The photographer asked me whether there was something interesting about Raju which he could shoot. I told him that Raju was comparatively an understated person but recently he had received a Mercedes- Benz car as a birthday gift from the family. But I was not sure whether he would agree to pose with it.

After the interview the photographer requested Raju whether he could photograph him along with the car. Surprisingly, Raju agreed. The next issue of BusinessWorld had only Raju on the cover with a laptop on the bonnet of his Benz.

Raju and Satyam had arrived!

The Growth Years

By the second half of 1997, Satyam's media coverage had increased manifold. We made plenty of press releases and media would also call us for a quote for including in any IT related article.

Communications professionals tend to work out elaborate strategies on how to handle press releases. They generally work out a twelve-month calendar of releases and try to space of stories at the rate of one release a month. For example, October will see the release of an article on Quality. December, on HR practices. And so on. In the beginning, to work on a schedule like that. The explanation given to me was that the media will get bored of receiving too many stories from the same company. All rubbish.

Newspapers release every day. Magazines - weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Their very existence depends on news coverage. I decided that whatever I thought was worthy of a press release I would go ahead and send it off. After all, if publications do not see it fit then they wouldn't publish it any way. Even if sixty-five percent of my releases saw the light of day it would more than suffice.

At the risk of hurting some of my media friends, I ranked the publications where I wanted to see Satyam featured regularly: Economic Times, Business Standard, Business Line, Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Hindu. Owing to local sentiments, the Hyderabad publications were a vital cog in our media activity. News covered by all other publications was a bonus.

We made releases on practically any activity of the company. New client wins, office inaugurations, technology innovation, senior management recruits, visits by VIPs. Stories and pictures of the animals in our menagerie in our technology center.In fact; we made a song and dance about the increase in the deer population at our center. Implying that they were well fed and happy. All good human interest stories that added to our brand image.

Then, of course were the news releases about the awards. The 1999 E&Y award which was of course a prestigious one. The other one was the World Economic Forum award (the biggest humbug of them all, in my view!). But all worthy news stories that had to be exploited. What did all this cost my company. Zilch. You treat journalists with respect and honesty; they will trust you, too. Bad eggs could be ignored.

But all this did not mean that all press coverage was positive. There were two occasions when explanations had to be given.

1. When a subsidiary, Satyam Enterprise Solutions merged with the parent company the share swap ratio of 1:1 came in to a lot of criticism and there were rumors of some underhand deal. The media was after me for a clarification, which obviously was beyond my scope to reply and I had to discuss the subject with Raju and the CFO. Unfortunately,the management decided to ride out the storm.

Strangely enough, at a later stage after the Y2K business thinned out, it was the competencies built up by Satyam Enterprise Solutions that actually took the company forward, including the money spinning SAP business.

2. When we started to use the web extensively one benchmark we had set was on how quickly the results could be posted on our website. The finance department would give us dummy figures which my department's desktop publishing operator would put in a template and upload it on a test site. Once the official result was cleared by the Board, the official figures would be given to the operator for uploading on the company website. By a comedy of errors that particular year someone in the finance department gave the official figures which the operator by mistake uploaded on the live site. He immediately realized his mistake and blocked that page. But the damage was done. Some of the wire services were monitoring the site and immediately called me. I was clueless at first but got the full story later.

This became a big media story with all kinds of motives attributed to the management. It took months to overcome the negative impact. In fact when Raju and I had gone to Singapore and Sydney some of the TV news channels there would ask him a question about that controversy during live interviews. He used to get upset and later ask me why I could not stop the interviewer from asking such questions. Unfortunately, he did not realize that professional journalists do not always ask what you want them to ask.

Apart from editorial releases when it came to paid advertising, I felt that the time was not right for any general media corporate campaign. However, we put more creativity in our recruitment ads and used them for corporate brand-building, too.

Internal Communication

Side by side with external communications it was critical that the company paid attention to internal communication during the growth years.

The purpose:

1. Ensure that all employees are kept informed about the activities of the company.

2. Reassure the existing employees that they have not taken a bad decision by joining the wrong organization

3. Use the existing employees to encourage their friends and relatives to join Satyam.

One day in early 1997, I was walking along the aisle near the CFO's cabin. On his secretary's table I saw a copy of the Memorandum of Association that showed that Satyam began operations on June 24, 1987. Something about that date kept whirring in my head over the next several days. While driving to work one morning it hit me that we were in the tenth year of our existence. I discussed it with a few colleagues. Thus was born an intensive internal communications program under the banner of "A Decade of Excellence".

We printed posters and stickers. The major activities were the inter-office competitions like Quiz and Dumb Charade, culminating in a gala entertainment program in Hyderabad. At that time the company strength was still only around 5000.

One activity left me embarrassed. We made T-shirts for the winners of competitions. In my eagerness to get things made at the lowest cost I placed an order with an unknown entity. Phone calls and emails were plenty after that - one wash and the T-shirts had shrunk to an embarrassingly short length.

By 1998, I had a good team working with me. I made it a point to recruit young business graduates with a western orientation as I was clear that the future would be in building a brand for overseas markets. Luckily, IT is a people-centric industry and so no one questioned me on why I needed more staff for a support department like corporate communications. I added copy writers and graphic artists, too.

By now, it was clear that web-related communication was the way forward. An internet corporate site was a given. Raju told me that it was imperative that as a global organization information dissemination across offices was very critical. Every employee of Satyam, wherever in the world he or she was located should have access to the same information in realtime as compared to someone in Hyderabad.

A couple of departments were working on a corporate Intranet at that time. I managed to hijack it from them and assigned a team in my department to handle it. We branded it SatyamWorld and made it the global internal communication platform for the company. SatyamWorld later won the prestigious CIO magazine award for being one of the top intranet sites in the world.

I told my team members to think out of the box and that they should come up with a new idea every day, however crazy it may sound. Most times, all my ideas would pop out early in the morning or while driving to work. Somehow, I always felt that techies were a humorless lot and in Satyam people would be a bit too serious. One day while having breakfast I suddenly thought of having a Smile Day. I briefed my team about my idea. Within a day they came out with a campaign. A week later, every employee entering any of the campuses was given a small packet that contained items with a smile logo for use on their desktops, including a small thingee that could be placed on your thumb and be wagged at colleagues. We made a press release and The Hindu carried a big box item on the activity and how it helped staff morale.

After that was the "Power of One" campaign and how we discovered a young music director duo that composed our anthem and today are names reckoned with in Bollywood.

But that's another story...

Going Global

Thanks to the early exploitation of the Y2K business opportunity, Satyam grew faster than many of its peers. This directly led to the growth in people numbers, that too across geographies. The mandate to my department was to make sure that Satyamites across the world felt one with the organization.

My team had a strategy session with our ad agency, R K Swamy /BBDO. They soon came out with a campaign proposal that I presented to our senior management team at a strategy conference. The theme of the campaign was "The Power of One" with a tagline: One World. One Team. One Goal. I implemented the concept across various goodies that could be used by the employees at home and in the office.I designed a large pouch to hold the items. The masterpiece was a music cassette that contained popular Hindi and English songs. Interspersed after every four songs was the Satyam Anthem. My department distributed the goody bag across the world to every employee.

I had asked the agency to work out an anthem for the company. The brief was that the song should sound young, vibrant and contemporary. A few weeks later the agency asked me to come to Mumbai to approve the tune. I met two brothers who were in their early twenties and had composed the song. I had never heard of them. But each of the three tunes they presented was outstanding. The agency and I finally selected one of the tunes, a duet with a male and female singer providing the vocals. An instrumental version was also produced that would be used as the call hold music on all Satyam's telephone switchboard.

Today, the duo are extremely famous in Bollywood having provided background scores to various hits and also being the music directors to such films as Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Chak de India, Krrish and Fashion. Their name: Salim and Sulaiman.

Based on this campaign I received invitations to several advertising and marketing conferences to speak on the effectiveness of internal communication programs. In fact, when the campaign broke Raju told me that he never expected that there were so many things possible in communications.

Global Challenge

It was all well to feel happy about the news coverage in India, but the real challenge was in brand building overseas, specifically the US,which was our biggest market. Paid media over there was very expensive.

Around this time I discovered the benefits of news dissemination through global wire services. I regularly kept in touch with senior people in Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones Newswires. The challenge was that these organizations hire hard-nosed professionals who were not interested in irrelevant talk. Plus, they wanted to be the first with the news, counted in seconds! I tailor-made press releases specifically catering to a global audience. Our visibility increased considerably after that in international media. We also distributed our news releases through PRNewswire in the USA.

But global visibility also happens through unexpected quarters. Mid 1999, the head of our subsidiary, Satyam Infoway requested me to handle the PR for their ADS listing on NASDAQ. This gave me a major opportunity to work at a global level and also to deal with the big guns in the financial sector-Merrill Lynch, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, and KPMG and, of course, the top management at NASDAQ.

We did everything in style. All of us stayed at the Trump hotel near Central Park and on October 18, 1999 we were in a fleet of black Lincoln limos heading towards NASDAQ. The night before, I tweaked the brand positioning a bit. Instead of the news appearing that we were the second Indian company after Infosys being listed on NASDAQ, I changed it to the FIRST Indian internet company listing on that bourse. The ceremony itself was comparatively business-like. The symbol SIFY went active at a premium on listing. After that we had a live press conference from there with journalists waiting in India. I then accompanied the CEO of Satyam Infoway for live interviews at CNBC and CNN studios.

A fall out of this was a bit of brand cannibalization. Even at the parent company press interviews a lot of question would ask about Sify, particularly as it was now a global entity. This was particularly galling as all complaints about Sify's internet service had a negative impact on the parent company's brand image.

The next major media event was also connected with Sify. On November 28, 1999 the CEO of Satyam Infoway requested me to come to Mumbai to handle an important announcement. He would not give me the details over the phone. The next morning I went directly from the Mumbai airport to the office of DSP Merrill Lynch. There the investment bank gave a brief about the Indiaworld deal. Merrill had alerted the media about a press meet that evening without revealing the subject. I soon started getting calls from reporters wanting to know the details. I could not reveal anything to them though I felt a bit guilty not being straight forward with some of the reporters who had become good personal friends by then.

It was a great feeling going through the process of an acquisition during that day. E&Y had done the valuation and were explaining the details.DSP Merrill Lynch was working out all the finer points of the M&A.I am not too sure how many communications professionals have gone through this kind of experience. The press conference was scheduled for 6.00 pm at the Oberoi Hotel. I went to the venue early. The conference hall was bursting at the seams with the media.

The proceeding was getting delayed for a very simple procedural bottleneck. The copies of the contract had to be signed by all parties concerned and because the documents were voluminous the deal was taking time. The owners of Indiaworld were getting emotional as they felt they were giving away their baby for adoption. Finally, the press meet started about an hour late. Boy, did it create a sensation. $115 million for a few web portals! The next morning at the Mumbai airport I bought copies of all the dailies and reveled in seeing the large banner headlines about the deal.

By now my department was on auto pilot. I had a great team that knew exactly what needed to be done. In fact, I found they worked more efficiently when I was away on tour.

Our front end sales team usually took our help for any client pitches. After the Y2K boom was over, we had to look at more value added business and the challenges in pitching for business. My team evolved a unique style of client presentation. We decided that every client pitch would be tailor-made to the client. We pitched for a health insurance client from Kansas City, Missouri. My team studied everything required about the city and the state. When the client walked in to the conference room we welcomed him with Count Basie's jazz music; the walls had posters featuring tourist spots in Kansas City; the flower vase had a Blue Iris sticking out; and, most interestingly there were posters of famous players from Kansas City Chiefs football team.

We did a similar arrangement for a client in Dallas, where we played "Yellow Rose of Texas" as he walked in. Our hit rate with client acquisition went up after that.I am not saying it was because of corporate communications alone, but because the client felt that we were a company that would walk that extra mile for them.

My team started thinking more creative ideas for presentations. I had some very good graphic artists who were experts in Macromedia Flash. We actually started creating movies for client presentations. We would shoot some stock shots in sections highlighting corporate information, quality standards, HR initiatives, Infrastructure. Depending on the client's industry we had a segment on how Satyam and they "were made for each other". If the client was in Manufacturing we would get one of our business unit guys to talk about Satyam's competency in Manufacturing and fit it in to the movie at a suitable place. And so on for Banking and Financial Services, Insurance, Telecom and so on.

These kinds of movies cost a lot in the US so when the clients saw our stuff they thought we had put in a lot of effort just for their pitch. At a Bear Stearns presentation in New York, one of the client's senior officials jocularly commented that they knew whom to come to if they needed a movie produced!

One of the dangers of going global and earning in dollars but thinking in rupees is in the expenditure incurred on publicity material. In the early days our marketing office in the US would propose buying some ball pens for distribution at a trade show. They told us that it would 'just' cost a dollar a piece. Sitting in Hyderabad we would convert it in to rupees and exclaim, "What, Rs 40 for an ordinary ball pen! Forget it, we will send it from India where it costs only Rs 3". Unfortunately, our ball pens were no match to the Chinese ones available there in a nice packing and qualitatively superior to ours. It was the same thing with T-shirts, stickers, leaflets and exhibition panels. Soon, better sense prevailed and we bought material in the local markets overseas.

The next major event that catapulted us to the big league was Satyam's ADR listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Procedure wise this was more elaborate than what we had done for Sify's NASDAQ listing. Our finance department asked me to think of a suitable symbol for the ticker. Of the cuff I suggested SAY and also coined the slogan "Say Satyam" as part of the brand promotion. This was approved by everyone concerned.

The morning of May 15, 2001 started with a ceremonial breakfast in the NYSE dining hall. Following this was a group photograph of the senior management and the bell ringing and cap throwing ceremony. Because another company was listing at the same time we were in a different room. The stock listed well at $11.16. We had arranged for business correspondents in Mumbai to assemble at a hotel conference room. Soon after the listing we had a live video conference with Raju addressing the media. After that we did the rounds of TV studios in New York for live interviews. After this listing one journalist told me that I held a unique world record of being the only communications person to have handled public issues for two group companies in both NYSE and NASDAQ

By early 2002 I had become bored with my role in corporate communications and moved on to another role.