The Importance of Public Speaking For a Software Development Professional

The truth of Alistair Cockburn’s model of software development as a “collaborative game of invention and communication” is well accepted. Most programs these days involve teams of people with diverse skills and varying roles, therefore, good communication is essential to getting things done. One pattern that has emerged during my time authoring “Secrets of the Rock Star Programmers” is the central role of communication for the software development professional. In my own journey as a practicing programmer, I have found that gaining proficiency and practice at public speaking has yielded many benefits, communication skills foremost among them. This article surveys some of the benefits of public speaking in the career of a software development professional.

In my role as JSF specification co-lead at Sun Microsystems I’ve had the opportunity to speak at many conferences over the years. I’ve yet to cross over from doing speaking engagements as the JSF expert, to doing speaking engagements on higher-level software development topics, but I’m trying. In any case, During that time, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my feeling of effectiveness as a software developer. I attribute that feeling, in large part, to getting comfortable with public speaking.

Software development professionals usually work in teams; intra-team communication is how we get things done. For example, we do emails, code reviews, design reviews, scrum meetings, and the occasional division-wide roll-up. Such communications serve the goal of software development, and as we all know, software development is a process of discovery. Therefore, the communications that happen on a software development team involve plenty of thinking on one’s feet and on-the-fly oration. Unfortunately, problems arise when the “thinking on one’s feet” is so engrossing that the “on-the-fly oration” suffers. For example, I’ve been on the firing line at a design review and I’ve noticed my oration dwindling into nonsense in response to a difficult line of questioning. For me, the reason for this incoherence was my difficulty in thinking on my feet about the question and my response, while delivering the oration of my response. I noticed that as I did more and more public speaking at conferences and Java User Group meetings, my befuddlement at a thorough design review eventually disappeared entirely.

Looking back, I also noticed that confidence in public speaking has even changed the way I write email. My emails became as short as possible because I began to think of my audience for an email in the same way as I do when preparing a presentation: audience attention is valuable and you have to pay the audience handsomely for giving it to you.

I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to co-author “JavaServer Faces: The Complete Reference” unless Chris Schalk approached me at a conference at which I was presenting. The personal brand I built as a speaker on the specific topic of JavaServer Faces caused Chris to seek me out for the role of co-author. I believe that the maintenance and enhancement of one’s personal brand is essential to one’s continued viability in the software workforce marketplace. Frequent public speaking is the single most effective way to do this brand-work.

Aside from the practical and career boosting aspects of public speaking, there is the pleasureable aspect of travel. I have been very blessed to have been invited to speak at conferences in fun locations such as Vienna, Bengaluru, Zurich, Cairo, and Sao Paulo. Again, my role as JSF expert is at least as important as my public speaking skills here, and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel to these events were it not for my association with JSF. However, I noticed that many of the events I attended featured the same core group of speakers, and most of that lot were invited on the basis of their speaking skills and audience draw, not because of their association with any specific technology or product. This shows it’s very possible to travel the world simply as a good software development speaker.

As I mentioned above, the further I ventured into the software conference lecture circuit, the more I saw the same people at conference after conference. This was part of the reason I undertook the authoring of “Secrets of the Rock Star Programmers.” I wanted to know what it was about this lot that made them such a draw. Why did software developers around the world would come to hear what they had to say? The networking I was able to do at these conferences was the means and the end to the rockstar book. Due to these conferences, I’ve established solid relationships with the leaders of our field because of being reasonably good at public speaking.

While I’ve mentioned international conferences as the venues for my speaking engagements, I didn’t start there. I started out presenting at local Java User Group meetings and similar small but dedicated groups. These groups are always looking for new speakers and interesting topics. Also, most of the IT conferences such as Jazoon, JBossWorld, Javapolis, JAX, JavaOne and the Ajax Experience have an open “call for papers” phase. Thankfully, these sorts of conferences have a much lower bar to entry than academic conferences such as OOPSLA, SigGraph, or the WWW conference series. If you want to get started with public speaking, I have heard a good place is Toastmasters International .

Public speaking is important in general, but even more so for software development professionals. This importance is manifest in the work itself and in the advancement of one’s career.

Coffee Houses – tradition and modern society

The coffee shop concept is the most usual thing these days. At nearly every corner of a street you run into a place where for a couple of dollars you can buy yourself a nice, hot cup of coffee. But few people know the actual story, tradition and social side of coffee shops or coffee houses, as they are also called. Let’s take a trip back in time and see where it all began.

Coffee these days is something as usual as waking up in the morning and smelling its hot flavor. But it hasn’t always been like this. Coffee has a story of its own, dating back all the way to the ninth century Africa. As centuries passed, it spread throughout the world, growing in popularity as it became not less of a delicatessen, but less unusual.

The traditional tale points out that the first coffee house was founded in the late 17th century Vienna. After their defeat in the Great Battle of Vienna (1683), the Turks left behind sacks of “green beans”, which were assumed by the victorious Polish king at that time, Jan III Sobieski. He passed them on to one of his officers, who founded the first coffee house, in Vienna. Historically speaking, the first house was opened in the late 15th century Istanbul, in the year 1457. By the 16th century, there were many similar houses in Egypt. The 17th century gave way to the opening of coffee houses in Europe as well.

The coffee house served as an exotic gathering place, where people socialized, read books and listened to music while drinking coffee or tea, all in a special atmosphere with a great sense of taste. Also, many houses served meals and even alcohol and tobacco. They were a great environment for the gentlemen’s business gatherings and later on lead to the apparition of “clubs”. Concerning ladies, at first they were prohibited to visit these places and instead special posts were created to provide them with hot coffee.

Nowadays, a coffee shop is the most usual thing and it is less about luxury or any kind of special status. Still, coffee shops continue to offer a great environment for people to get to know each other and expand their social as well as their personal agenda. The best known coffee shop chain is Starbucks, which started in Seattle, USA. Other contemporary shops that sell coffee don’t give that much attention to the traditional side anymore as they have a wider array of products among which coffee still holds a place.

Many people associate coffee shops with diners, pubs or taverns and so on but if you desire, there are still plenty of traditional shops or houses around and the Internet could prove itself very useful in the search for them. There are many sites specialized in this matter that will easily point you to a coffee house and also advise you in other coffee-regarding matters. It’s quick and easy. I’ll give you a hint: talkaboutcoffee.com. It’s a FREE site that doesn’t require membership and has plenty of information concerning everything you need to know about flavor, varieties of coffee and even tips & tricks about how to brew it yourself in the comfort of your own home.

The site is user-friendly and the most important features are clearly highlighted so that you find everything easy. Here you can find information about the history and varieties of the coffee culture, but also information regarding how it’s stored, processed, roasted and finally grinded into various blends. You are provided with numerous hints, so that it will be easy for you to maximize your coffee experience.

And finally, there is a whole column designated to finding the best coffee house near you, clearly highlighted so that if you sometimes want to experience new blends and grinds you won’t have to spend anymore time searching. A few clicks and you have a list of the best coffee shops in your local area. It’s quick and easy.

Austria as a Holiday Destination

Austria in general

Austria is a totally land-locked country, that shares its border with eight other countries. These are;

1. the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein,

2. Germany,

3. the Czech republic,

4. Slovak republic,

5. Hungary,

6. Slovenia,

7. Italy

8. and Switzerland.

The nation is made up of nine provinces:

1. Burgenland,

2. Carinthia,

3. Lower Austria,

4. Salzburg,

5. Styria,

6. Tyrol,

7. Vienna,

8. Vorarlberg

9. and Upper Austria.

The official language is German and the vast majority of its 8 million inhabitants are Germanic.

Austria is an Alpine country with mountainous terrain covering its western and southern area. This creates a spectacular landscape of verdant green valleys, beautiful lakes and fairy-tale forests. There are also numerous, fast-flowing rivers, including Europe’s second biggest; the Danube.

Holidaying in Austria

Austria has much more to offer tourists than its dramatically beautiful scenery.

Its cities offer culture, history, magnificent architecture plus entertainment and a vibrant night life.

Vienna is the capital and little more than a century ago it was the imperial seat of government for the mighty Austro-Hungarian empire. It is famous for both its musical tradition and stunning architecture.

Then there is Salzburg, the birth place of Mozart and the location of Europe’s largest and best preserved fortress, the Hohensalzburg. Below this mighty castle, Salzburg’s baroque OldTown is a delight to explore at any time.

Everywhere you go in Austria you are reminded of why the nation is renowned for its rich cultural inheritance. For the real culture buffs, concerts, operas and museums are always beckoning and demanding attention.

Despite the many other things that this relatively small country has to offer the tourist, the majority of holidaymakers are attracted to it by the mountains. Whether it’s a summer holiday relaxing by the side of one of the many lakes, a hiking holiday in the spring time, or a winter sports holiday,the Alpine regions are where most people head for.

Austria’s climate

Austria’s climate is favourable to outdoor activities although it can be quite changeable. Summers are generally warm and pleasant but fairly heavy rain showers are common. Austria’s winters usually provide dependable snowfalls but in recent years some ski resorts have suffered at the beginning and towards the end of their season. Winter sunshine levels are usually good making a day on the ski slopes attractive scenically as well as being an exhilarating experience. Austria really is a country that offers something for everyone. Use our best travel tip articles to help you to decide which of the many activities and sights are your personal priorities.

Destined to Fight Hitler

Grandma Annie, who often took me shopping in preschool and grammar school days, on two occasions took me on foot to the nearby synagogue for Friday night services, called in Yiddish shool. My impression was that she attended frequently and was the only one in my family who could be considered religious. I recall at the services only a few were present and they seemed to me all grandmothers, certainly no other children. I was much taken by the service, and comforted with its prayers, singing by the cantor, response of the participants, and perhaps a sermon and organ music. I never attended a synagogue again until, acceding to the desires of a few Jewish classmates, I went on the high holidays, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, once or twice during my MIT undergraduate years.

When I was a preschooler a playmate asked me if I was Jewish. No one had ever asked me that. My mother heard me answer, “I don’t know.” She made this into a family joke, repeated a few times to the great enjoyment of relatives. Some years later I studied a little Hebrew in supposed anticipation of a bar mitzvah, including some private lessons for me and a cousin my age. When I was not enthused by the private lesson teacher, my mother stopped the process and I was never bar mitzvahed. I was certainly not converted to religiosity of any kind by such experiences.

What did involve me deeply were the discussions at dinner between Mom, Dad, Annie, Uncle Eddie, Grandpa Max, and sometimes others about what was happening to the Jews in Germany. Mostly I listened. Over the dinner table, Hitler and his gang were discussed as archvillains, the world’s greatest evil. Every piece of national and international news was parsed as to whether it was good for the Jews or bad for the Jews. Much of the news available in the U.S. was sketchy. Before I was ten it came through to me that I would have to fight the Germans someday. When I walked home from school in the fourth grade for the first time with two classmates, David Haggerty and Heinz Moes, the war was still years away. Heinz had a German accent and was smaller than me. I began pushing him around. David did nothing. I soon realized I was bullying Heinz, not Adolf Hitler, and I desisted. I got along fine with Heinz thereafter.

My grandparents on my mother’s side, Max and Annie, had separately immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian empire, Annie not far from Vienna, Max more in present-day Hungary. They came through Ellis Island in the early1890s, worked their way out of the Lower East Side of New York City, loved America, and were very patriotic, especially Max, who had unsuccessfully tried to enlist in the Spanish-American war. I can remember him taking me to see a Memorial Day parade, the year 1930 or close. At one point he got very excited as he caught sight of a small contingent of old soldiers, more ambling than marching. “I didn’t know any of those guys were still alive.” They were Civil War veterans. Much later I figured out they had to be at least eighty years old—about the same age I am now.

My father’s father, Wolf Kay, came about the same time from Russia to London, where he worked for a few years learning the tailoring business. All my grandparents left the old country to avoid pogroms and military drafts. A word about names: My parents and grandparents were given Yiddish names by their parents before they adopted American (i.e. English) names when needed in the U.S. Not true in my generation. We were 100 percent Americans. I never even learned Yiddish, in part because my relatives used the language to talk over the heads of the children. Well, let them do that, was my reaction. I’ll never learn their dumb language. So there!

When I was nine or ten, Max decided to go back to see his relatives and to assess the Eastern European situation. I was excited by the prospect. There was some discussion about his taking me with him. He decided against it. When he came back from Europe, in my hearing he said little about what he witnessed. He had traveled around quite a bit, including risking going into Germany, the belly of the beast. I did hear him say with great sadness in his voice that the situation was “much worse” than he expected.

When I entered MIT in the fall of 1942, the effect of the heating up of WWII was emerging in many different ways. First, MIT went on a year-round schedule, three semesters per year instead of two. Then ROTC became mandatory for most students. Classmates were beginning to volunteer for military service, with an increased chance of getting a better assignment than waiting to be called up in the draft. At age sixteen, I could not enlist unless I lied about my age, which I was not going to do.

More life-changing developments ensued. In one issue of The Tech, a free weekly MIT newspaper, a headline exclaimed that there was no truth to the rumor that the military was going to take over the campus. In the very next week’s issue the headline made it very clear: No ifs, ands, or buts, all of the on-campus dormitories and the cafeteria would have to be vacated within one week to let the army move in. We students rooming on campus immediately started looking for rental space. We split into groups that took a half day off to go in different directions, working every possibility. I and about five others decided to move into a boardinghouse on Mass. Avenue, a mile north of MIT. Hyman Fisher and I doubled up in one room.

Then the two of us found a place still further north. The distance wasn’t so important. We were biking by that time, and later my father, knowing I was going to be drafted in a year or so, gave me a used Plymouth coupe. With gasoline severely rationed, I used it only occasionally. The place we found was close to a couple of inexpensive restaurants and closer to Radcliffe.

With all this, we managed to keep up with our studies. In addition, about every second or third night for a year or so, I ambled over to Eliot Hall at Radcliffe whenever my workload was not too pressing. Having had no sisters and not much understanding of women, I learned a lot, made acquaintances, had a few dates, and sometimes got into a bridge game. Occasionally there were distinguished guests and bright, even eloquent, conversations about almost every subject of interest. I loved those evenings.

I received three six-month deferments that allowed me to complete the first semester of my junior year and a few weeks into the second semester, when I had to report back to my home draft board in Maplewood, New Jersey, that needed to meet its quota of draftees every month.

I was not inducted in early August 1944. Sick at home, I got a one-month extension. I was required to show up at an armory in Newark a month later. The arrangements were in a little disarray when I got to the armory, and after some standard orientation about what was going to happen in the next few days, we were told to go home and come back early the next day. I was called aside by someone there who knew my father (who at that time was a captain in the New Jersey State Guard), who told me he could do me a favor and get me into the navy. Most guys would have preferred the navy on the theory that you wouldn’t spend days and nights in muddy foxholes. I didn’t, because I had a greater fear of drowning than spending days in a foxhole. Besides that, I had been saying good-bye so much I didn’t want to go home overnight. I told them I was staying there. They gave me a meal. I’m a pretty flexible eater, but that slop was ridiculous.

After I somehow finished that, I said I was going out for a while. That was no problem. What I really did was take a twenty-minute walk to Max and Annie’s house, the place in East Orange where I lived for eight years from age four to age eleven. My appearance surprised them. I realized it was the only time I ever spent with the two of them without other relatives, particularly my mother, present. I don’t remember a thing we said, other than that I felt more like an adult then I ever did with the relatives around. It was a very pleasing way to say good-bye. I walked back to the armory. They both lived a decade or two longer, but I never again saw them at home together without others around. It had been a unique, precious moment in my lifetime.

The next morning we draftees were inducted and sent by train to Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for infantry basic training. The first day’s orientation included some tough talk. “You’re all young and full of piss and vinegar,” and advice: If you get an erection too distracting to deal with, “Put it on the windowsill and slam the window down.” Clearly army life was going to be blunt and tough.

There are some things all WWII soldiers seemed to learn in their earliest training days and retained forever, unless they became commissioned officers. Here is the wisdom of years of militarism: (1) If the sergeant was about to explain something, he began with, “There are two ways to do things: the right way and the army way.” Lesson: It was supposed to be a joke but it wasn’t. (2) If the sergeant asked for anyone who had certain special skills, like math… Joke: “Well, is anyone good at math?” No answer. He looked around in disgust. He hadn’t fooled anybody. He hit back: “Police the ground. Each soldier picks up thirty pieces of paper, cigarette butts, or any junk… if you can count. Show it to the corporal.” When you reached the corporal with your thirty pieces, he didn’t even look at your collection, just pointed to the trash barrel. Are you so dumb to think the corporal wanted the junk? Lesson we followed: “Never volunteer.” (3) Rushed through lining up to be ready to march off for training might be done at double speed. Then we stood around, waiting for something else, maybe the next squad to show up or whatever. Sometimes waiting took a long time. Lesson? The army does this all the time: “Hurry up and wait.”

(This is an excerpt from MILITARIST MILLIONAIRE PEACENIK: Memoir of a Serial Entrepreneur by Alan F. Kay and reprinted with the permission of the author)

Should the US continue to participate in the War in Iraq?

War Without a Plan

Webster defines War as “a struggle or competition between opposing forces for a particular end”. For the last 4 years we have been marred in a War in Iraq without a clear goal, without a defined enemy, without definition of what constitutes success and clearly no end in sight. McCain when asked how long we should stay in Iraq answered “Make it a 100 years”. Now that sounds like a good plan right, well maybe not.

When the war started there were several goals that seemed obtainable. Saddam Hussein had run a renegade government that was responsible for several major wars in the Middle East. He was guilty of attacking it’s neighbors, mass murder in his own country including the gassing of 150,000 Kurdish citizens, he was clearly a risk to peace in the middle east and the flow of oil. His country was rumored to be housing weapons of mass destruction and they were guilty of using them in the past. Nobody in their clear mind could rule out the possibility that Sadam was capable of terrorism in the future. Justification for the war could come from any one of these issues. President Bush started the war, he took 21 days to march into Baghdad and on May 1, 2003 he reported on the deck of the Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln that the war was won, “Mission Accomplished”. On July 22 Sadam Hussein’s children died in a firefight and on December 13 Sadam Hussein was captured. By this time most of the other 52 jokers in his notorious administration were eliminated. A smart man would have brought his soldiers home. He could claim that he defeated a terrorist government and the world would be on notice that America would take action to safeguard it’s vital interests .

On April 5, 1986, the Libyans bombed the La Belle discoteque in West Berlin. Libya was known to be responsible for many past terrorist acts including the Rome and Vienna airport attacks of December 27, 1985. Ten days later, President Reagan ordered an attack on the Libyan capital, Tripoli including the residential compound of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In Reagan’s response to the world on national TV he said, “When our citizens are attacked or abused anywhere in the world on the direct orders of hostile regimes, we will respond so long as I’m in this office.” . In the attack the United States targeted the Libyan leader, several of his sons were injured and his adopted daughter was killed. A clear message was sent to Gaddafi and he was rarely heard from again in the international scene.

Album reviews: Vienna, by Ultravox

Hardly ever heard these days but, in the 80s, the mellifluous Midge Ure wafted across countless tinny trannies and stupendous stereos alike everywhere. Keyboards ruled and these Brittannics ruled its airwaves.

A multi-talented musician – a guitar god and a keyboard king, as well as a a vibrant vocalist, – Ure re-energised Ultavox in 1980. The band – under the stewardship of John Foxx (nee Dennis Leigh) – had already been together for some five years and released three poorly-selling albums.

During this period, however, they themselves gave an augury of things to come: The last track on “Ha!-Ha!-Ha!”, an album dominated by electric violin and punky guitar, featured the first use of a drum machine. The synthpop prototype, “Hiroshima Mon Amour” has remained a favourite with critic and fan alike.

By 1980, they had disintegrated; their Island label dropped them and expunged their Ultravox catalogue (replacing it with a compilation); Foxx went solo after their U.S.tour; keyboardist and violinist Bily Currie was playing and touring with Foxx-influenced Gary Numan and bassist Chris Cross was dabbling in projects with members of The Pretenders and Eddie & the Hot Rods.

It was into this cavernous breach Midge Ure stepped. His C.V. at the time showed an indication of his versatlity; he’d had stints with the semi-glam Slik, outfit, the punkish Rich Kids (Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols) and, most recently. assisting with the muscular rock of Thin Lizzy.

“Vienna” was produced in Germany and released in July of 1980. The album boasted something of a ‘prequel’ in that one of the tracks, “Sleepwalk”, had been released a few weeks earlier in order to cement their relationship with new label, Chrysalis. As the band’s inaugural Top 40 single, it achieved its purpose and paved the way for “Vienna” as both album and single.

The name of the game with “Vienna” (the album) appeared to be variety, versatility. A number of different styles make an appearance here, from the minimalist approach of the dark “Mr. X” to the Handelesque and sweeping breadth of instrumental “Astradyne”, with synthrock numbers like “Passing Stangers” parading within these walls.

It was a parade that clearly did not impress some onlookers. Rolling Stone pretty much pans the album, giving it just two stars out of five.

“Here, the band simply runs up the flag of significance by utilizing bombast: overblown arrangements, familiar and banal electronic effects. The results sound less like Ultravox’ old mechanized enervation than the more-is-more “progressivism” of, say, the Moody Blues anachronistic, pretentious and worn.” Debra Rae Cohen (RS 338)

The song “Vienna”, inspired by the famous movie which centred on the Austrian capital, is an excellent example of Ure’s hauntingly-melodic singing over a piano and violin substructure.

Be Amazed by the Austria Hotels Hospitality

Summer is the ideal time to visit Austria. Months from April to October jam packed with tourists and visitors. This is generally the time when the locales even flock around the places and shopping malls. Although the place might seem exuberant the crowded streets and tourist spots might just get on your nerves on a sunny day. Months from June to September are the best time to tour around in Austria when you may enjoy hiking on the mighty Alps to the limit. Conversely, winters are very cold in this region, but you may capitalize on many other options available to you. For instance, the places of interest, streets and eateries are much less crowded. During the Christmas time the country looks all the more beautiful. Accommodations in winters can be easily found at much lower rates and enticing packages. Hotels in Austria have a class of their own and are weel equipped with all the necessary facilities and luxury.

Some of the popular destinations in Austria include:

Eisriesenwelt Caves

Elevated at 5380 ft. the Eisriesenwelt Caves are the most easily reachable ice caves in the world. The frozen waterfalls, barbed hazardous icicles leave you completely astounded. It is the sheer prettiness of theses exquisite caves that makes it a great crowd puller.

Vienna

A city of many surprises and attractions, Vienna boasts of many interesting museums, architectural wonders, green public parks and famous musical groups. Also being the capital city of Austria, Vienna also is the largest city in Austria. The renowned beauty of the region has very rightly earned it a place in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Salzburg’s

Surrounded by the mighty mountain chains- the Alps, Salzburg is a Mecca of art and culture. The Old Town of Salzburg, locally called Altstadt is the center of cathedrals, museums, squares, fountains, chocolate bars among others.

Hohe Tauern National Park

Being the biggest park in Europe, the Hohe Tauern National Park is a beautiful place to unwind. With rare and fine- looking flora and fauna thriving in this park, you are absolutely left astound. Even the Grossglockner Mountain which is Austria’s highest one also exists in the center of this beautiful park.

Festivals in Austria are celebrated all through the year, but maximum number of festivals occurs in the months between May to October.

Some of the major festivals and events are as follows:

Vienna City Marathon

A fun filled festival, the Vienna City Marathon is held towards the end of the month May. This marathon is in reality a sightseeing walking tour through the city of Vienna. Graced with the presence of tourists and locals alike, this marathon set off from the UNO building and takes its participants through the delightful locales of Vienna.

Vienna International Festival – Wiener Festwochen

This famous festival presents theatre, music and dance shows galore. Held in the month of May and June, this festival attracts many talents and spectators around the globe.

So, Visit Austria and have a great time.

Investment Property in Slovakia – an Emerging Property Hot Spot for Big Gains

Investment property in Slovakia is becoming very popular with well informed property investors as it offers excellent returns coupled with low risk.

Not only is Slovakia investment property giving great returns this trend looks set to continue for many years to come.

Here we will look at why you should consider investing in property in Slovakia.

These include:

1. EU Membership

Membership of the EU which was granted in 2004 makes Slovakia more attractive for all forms of investments and ensures a level of political and economic stability that inspires confidence in foreign investors.

From the point of view of investing in Slovakian property it guarantees EU legal rights to all investors.

There are no restrictions on buying property in Slovakia for EU citizens when purchasing commercial and residential property.

This is not the case in many other recent members of the EU where overseas investors have to form a company in order to buy property as well as get permission from local authorities.

2. Location Location Location!

The Slovak Republic has borders with:

Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary – and the Ukraine.

This makes it a country at the heart of Europe and there are many locations where you can buy property for capital gains and the capital Bratislava is the most popular foreign investment property location in Slovakia.

Bratislava benefits from its superb and is close to the following:

30 miles from Vienna, 2 hours from Budapest and 3 hours from Prague.

Prices in Bratislava are lower than in Prague or Budapest and offer excellent potential for capital gains which will be driven by the following factors:

With the lowest wages in the EU, foreign companies have moved to Bratislava to take advantage of cheap labor costs.

This has given rise to a shortage of housing and estimated 40,000-50,000 new dwellings will be needed annually to house the labor influx.

Property for sale in Bratislava remains highly affordable and in Petrazalka – close to the station and the rail link to Vienna – apartments can cost as little as £30,000.

Many investors are also looking at the lucrative buy to let market and are targeting the university city of Trnava.

With rental values rising by around 18% per year, it’s an affordable and lucrative place to invest.

3. GDP

GDP growth rate in excess of 8% achieved in 2006 and a similar level of growth forecast for 2007.

Slovakia’s Government between 2002-2006 carried out reforms to the taxation, labour and social systems which has made the country much more attractive for foreign investors.

The World Bank nominated Slovakia as the world’s top reformer in improving its investment climate during 2004.

The current Government is building on the base of the previous administration and has committed to Slovakia joining the Euro in 2009.

These reforms are helping the Slovak Republic attract major investments in industry and commerce.

For example, due to recent investment in the auto industry, Slovakia is now becoming the highest producer of cars per capita in the World.

Another industry that is be promoted and developed in Slovakia is tourism.

Slovakia is relatively undeveloped in comparison with neighboring countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic and the country in addition to the charm of Bratislava.

Buy investment property in Slovakia should not be restricted to just buying in Bratislava.

Move out of the cities and you are in beautiful countryside and national park areas and property prices become even cheaper.

Rural properties around the mountainous regions of the country make excellent affordable second homes.

Popular destinations are:

The ski resorts of Ruzomberok in the central Velka Fatra range, Jasna in the Low Tatras and Zilina and Poprad in the High Tatras.

Investment property in Slovakia – The future

The future looks bright for Slovakia and the advantages of:

Geographical location, rising GDP, innovative reforms, growth in tourism and property to suit all budgets and you have market that looks set to provide investors with solid gains for years to come.

If you are looking at buying overseas property, then consider buying Slovakian investment property and you may be glad you did.

Tips for planning a wedding menu

If you are planning a wedding menu, then you have already decided on a venue and style for your meal. It may be informal buffet-style, or a formal sit-down meal. It may be catered or covered-dish. Regardless of your choice, there are a few very important tips that will ensure your wedding menu is a success!

1. RSVP’s ARE VITAL.

It is so important to have a “master guest list” based on who has RSVP’d. This will be used to determine the amount of food needed to serve everyone. A maximum head count, plus, is a good rule. That is the total number of guests you have invited, provided everyone is able to attend. Everyone will rarely be able to attend because there are always a few last-minute illnesses, emergencies, or transportation problems. The plus provides for unexpected guests – some will bring a date no one has met before, or relatives or friends without consulting or informing you.

This means more mouths to feed. So count on a few extra plates. Don’t forget yourself or the wedding party! If you are going with catering, they should handle this, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

2. CONSIDER YOUR GUESTS. When deciding what you will serve, be considerate. Your preference may be to have sushi and sake. Or Hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Or potato chips and Vienna sausages. But even though this is your day, not everyone will share your taste’s. So be willing to go a bit traditional if your palate is on the wild or persnicative side.

Provide your guests with two meat choices, two or three vegetables, a starch, and a two bread options if it is a formal meal. If you are going to have a buffet, you can provide more options. This is sure to please almost everyone provided you go for variety. Avoid choices that will leave heavy stains on clothing. Barbecue, red sauces, and dark vegetables would be on list list. Unless you have your heart something, leave it off. You can always have the meal of your choice later!

3. PRESENTATION IS EVERYTHING. Or at least it is very important. Even if you are going very informal, with covered dishes as entrees, try to have a menu plan. Having five kinds of potato salad in five different bowls is messy, visually unattractive, and confusing. If covered dish is your style, then request certain things be made. In the same way. Keep a list of who is bringing what. This way you will be able to count on everyone having enough.

If at all possible, try to arrange for the same kind

Short stories: Childhood

Lunch at my Grandparents House

Growing up I got dropped off at my grandparents regularly

My sister and I would chill there during the summer, after school, or just whenever.

It was straight, we played games in the yard, ran races, played darts, and built stuff in the garage.

My grandma and grandpa had tons of wood, nails, and tools in their basement.

We would always get the great idea that we could go build something in the basement

And with our 7 and 10 year old passions, we probably thought we would go down their and whip up a dining room table or a bedroom furniture set.

But after about 10-15 minutes, it turned into us just hammering nails into wood and cutting wood into pieces.

then we got bored and would want to get rich recycling the 40 diet dr pepper’s my grandma drank the week before

And then our eyes would really see profit when we saw a stack of newspapers in the corner and realized we could recycle newspaper as well

the only problem we had was deciding what we would do with all that money.

So we would roll to the recycle plant and drop everything off and cash out with like $4.62.

That’s $2.31 a piece for me and my sis.

I can’t remember what she would spend her money on because i was soo happy to get mine.

I would always stop at Food Lion of K Mart on the way and spend all my money in those quarter machines where you get like a little slappy hand or something stupid.

I thought it was the coolest stuff ever.

Then one day, KMart started having the 50 cent machine and they had these little plastic baseball caps with all 29 Major League Teams…. including the coveted new expansion helmets of the Marlins and the Rockies.

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought.

How do they expect a kid like myself to resist this.

And I can remember one day sittin on my grandma’s couch with my helmets all lined up on the table in front of me.

I think there were about 6 of them.

I said something like,

“I think I would like to invest about $12 in these helmets to see if I can’t get most of the teams”

and I distinctly remember my mom saying,

“Wow, that’s a pretty big investment”

and I shook my head yes, and said

“Yeah it is, but i think i’m ready to do it.”

You’d think i was buying a damn car or something.

it was some plastic helmets that are probably fully decomposed in a junk yard.

And i was sitting there talking about it like a huge business investment.

Whatever…….

But the thing I remember most about my grandparents house,

is eating lunch everyday on a TV tray while watching Bob Barker host “The Price is Right”

The show was just all right, but we loved to watch it for some reason.

Every single day at 11 o’clock.

The food we ate was the worst things ever though.

I remember eating about 4 things at my grandparents house.

1. Fried Bologna Sandwiches

2. Hot Dogs

3. Beenie Weenies

4. Vienna sausages

That’s all I can honestly remember.

so from age 4-9 every single day during the summer,

I ate that crap for breakfast and lunch.

I can’t believe that.

I really can’t believe that I liked it.

You know kids can eat anything and be happy.

I can’t believe my grandparents were so healthy eating that stuff.

But they lived through the great depression.

And if you can live through that,

then processed pork really isn’t a challenge is it