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Monday, December 31, 2007
So long.....friend, Netscape!
Read about the AOL's plan to discontinue supporting Netscape in February 2008 with a tinge of sadness. Sadness because I became introduced to the internet using Netscape. Although I had not used Netscape for quite some time, when I read about the discontinuance of Netscape, it was like hearing about the loss of a good friend who played an important part in your life at one point but with whom you lost contact over the years.

Like many users, when I started learning the use of internet, I instantly liked Netscape. It was a good and easy to use browser. When Microsoft's Internet Explorer came out, I initially resisted learning it. However, as Internet Explorer's popularity grew and it came pre-installed on PCs, I also started becoming familiar with it. Over time, I was using Internet Explorer daily, while Netscape became more and more foreign. Like DOS gave way to Windows and WordPerfect gave way to Microsoft Word, Netscape gradually gave way to Internet Explorer in my life until it seemed to have become unfamiliar.

It's an amazing aspect of our lives - whether it is material things or technology, or whether it is neighborhood friends, coworkers, relatives and other people in our lives - things or people with whom you grow up with, and who are a daily and an important and integral part of our lives at some point, gradually fade away from our lives to make way for newer things, technology, friends, coworkers, etc ......and the life goes on.....

For complete article, see:

BBC: Web icon set to be discontinued

Related article:

Yahoo News: Netscape to be discontinued

Happy new year to all!


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Sunday, December 30, 2007
Weekend Quote - Kindness
He who plants kindness gathers love always. Remember: what you give out - money, love or service - always comes back multiplied but not necessarily from the same source that it was given
- A Winning Attitude by Rosie Hamilton-McGinty


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Friday, December 28, 2007
Website Review - Debtconsolidationcare.com
Recently received an email to do a review of a site called DebtConsolidationCare. Since it was a fellow blogger's site, I decided to do it.

I found Debtconsolidationcare.com to be a neatly maintained site. The site is organized in a tab format, consisting of four main tabs: Our Community, My Debts, Ranking Chart and About us. In addition, the site has many subtabs, including Forums, Blog, Debt Wiki Chat, and FAQs.

The aim of the site is to assist people in solving their debt problems, including assisting with credit card debt, collection agencies, and payday loans. Although the site can hook you with a credit consultant, I liked the fact that the site provides resources for people who want to consolidate debt on thier own (these resources can be found under its "Do it yourself" subtab). Similarly, the site provides various debt consolidation-related articles and videos. Last but not the least, the site provides many useful and interactive online calculators for debt-related computations, including the APR Calculator which lets you compute the APR as well as see the impact of reduced APR on debts. Other calculators include Debt Income Ratio Calculator, Credit Card Payment Calculator and Debt Reduction Calculator.

Overall, I found the Web site quite good and packed with lot of useful information & resources that can be used as a starting point by people who want to learn more about debt consolidation.


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Discovery Channel's Sneak Peek Week Sweepstakes: grand prize - 42" Samsung Plasma HDTV (Ends: Jan 1, 2008)
Discovery Channel is offering a chance to win 42" Samsung Plasma HDTV as part of its Sneak Peek Week Sweepstakes which runs from Dec 26, 2007 - Jan 1, 2008.

For complete details, see:

Discovery Channel's Sneak Peek Week Sweepstakes


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Thursday, December 27, 2007
Filing the claim form for the international credit card transaction fee settlement
Just filed the claim form for the Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation settlement. The lawsuit was regarding the charges levied by Visa, MasterCard, or Diners Club-branded payment cards for foreign transactions between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006. The deadline to file the form is May 30, 2008.

As we had both traveled and made transactions abroad using our credit cards, both my spouse and I had received separate forms in the mail. However, we found it easier to simply fill the information over the Web. The claim Web site gives allows you to choose from three different forms - Green, Blue or Red form.

Using the Green form or Refund Option 1, you can request an easy refund of $25. This is the recommended option at the CCFsettlement Web site if you traveled outside of the U.S. for less than one week or had foreign transactions of less than $2,500.

Using the Blue form or Refund Option 2, you can provide an estimate regarding the number of days you spent outside the U.S. The CCFsettlement Web site recommends this option if you traveled outside the US for more than a week or had over $2,500 in charges during the litigation period.

Refund Option 3, or the red form option, requires much more information and is recommended for people who had extensive foreign travel and are willing to provide year-by-year information.

We used the refund option 2 which required us to provide an estimate of the total number of days spend outside the US during the February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006 period. The site asks for a Refund ID that's provided on the form that was mailed to us but I saw the option to enter the information even without the Refund ID. The form does require you to swear that regarding the accuracy of the information you provided on the form and once you submit it, it provided a claim number. It took me less than 5 minutes to fill the form. Seems the refund amount will be based on the algorithm that takes into consideration the number of travel days as well as the purpose of your travel, ie, whether you went abroad for business, vacation or some other reason. Will see how much we ultimately end up getting. Couldn't tell from the FAQs at the Web site regarding the expected date of refund but am assuming it will be sometime after the May deadline.

For more details and claim forms, see:

Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation


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Tuesday, December 25, 2007
T/R Achievers: Nek Chand - Converting Garbage into Rock Garden
Merry christmas to all!

In one of my previous posts, I had profiled Anita Ahuaja, who came up with the idea of recycling waste plastic bags into homemade accessories. Along the same lines, today I want to profile a 80+ year old Indian road official, Nek Chand, who has developed a beautiful garden, called Rock Garden, using waste materials.

Nek Chand worked as a public transport official and came up with the idea of developing Rock Garden about 40 years ago, while cleaning a little patch of jungle to make himself a small garden area. As per Rawvision.com:
He set stones around the little clearing and before long had sculpted a few figures recycled from materials he found at hand. Gradually Nek Chand's creation developed and grew; before long it covered several acres and comprised of hundreds of sculptures set in a series of interlinking courtyards.

After his normal working day Chand worked at night, in total secrecy for fear of being discovered by the authorities. When they did discover Chand's garden, local government officials were thrown into turmoil. The creation was completely illegal - a development in a forbidden area which by rights should be demolished.

The outcome, however, was the enlightened decision to give Nek Chand a salary so that he could concentrate full-time on his work, plus a workforce of fifty labourers. Nek Chand's great work received immediate recognition and was inaugurated as The Rock Garden of Chandigarh.
The Rock Garden is now considered as one of the modern wonders of the world and attracts over 5000 visitors each day. Nek Chand's artistic and cultural achievements are also presented in a full-color illustrative book named The Ruin, the Collection and the Theatre: archtiecture, sculpture and landscape of Nek Chand's Rock Garden, Chandigarh.

Nek Chand's story shows how an ordinary person can create extra-ordinary things if he/she is passionate about it, and how small acts can some times lead to much larger events in life.

For details, see:

Rawvision.com: Nek Chand - the untutored genius who built a paradise

Other related articles:

PBS.org: The Rock Garden, Chandigarh, India

Folkart.org: Nek Chand's Story


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Sunday, December 23, 2007
Weekend Quote - Self-discipline
Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility and commitment
— H. Ross Perot


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Thursday, December 20, 2007
The gift that keeps on giving
The NPR story discusses the small but growing popularity of charity gift cards. Of the over $26 billion in gift cards that Americans will give out this holiday season, charity gift cards current represent only a tiny amount, in a few millions but many socially conscious people are giving it out to like-minded recipients.

The card giver basically gives out a gift card to the recipient who can then donate funds on the card to a charity of the recipient's choice. With many people's houses already bulging with toys and other unused gifts, I like the idea of the charity gift cards. Gift giver can feel the satisfaction that the money is well spent and will help some charity. Likewise, the recipient can use the funds to help his/her favority charity. Of course, the charity benefits from the funds it receives, which hopefully, it will use wisely towards a worthy cause. This neat little gift is definately a one that keeps on giving!

One of my favorite charities, WorldVision, has also come out with a similar concept. World Vision helps out poor children and families around the world by helping out with their education, medication, and other basic necessities. It has come out with a gift catalog where donors can buy "life-changing" gifts for poor children and families. This could include $50 to provide for food for a family in Africa, or $25 towards buying cattle for a family which can use it to earn a livelihood. It always amazes me that while amounts like $25 are petty change in the US and Canada, they go so far in many parts of the world.

For details on the article, see:

NPR: Charity Gift Cards Gain Popularity for Holidays

For World Vision's gift catalog, see:

WorldVision: Gift Catalog


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Free Sample from Walmart - Head and Shoulders Shampoo/Conditioner
Wal-Mart is again offering a free sample; check out:

Free Sample - Head and Shoulders Shampoo/Conditioner


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Free sample - Nexxus Shampoo and Conditioner
For a limited time, StartSampling.com is offering 1-ounce samples of Nexxus Shampoo and Conditioner.

For details, see

Nexxus Shampoo and Conditioner


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Monday, December 17, 2007
Free stocks, options and future trades from E-Trade
As part of customer appreciation day, E-Trade is offering free stocks, options and future trades on Wed, Dec 19, 2007. This offer may be good for people who are existing customers and want to trade such securities. However, unless a customer is buying and selling securities on the same day, the customer will end up paying the commissions on the sell transaction later on.

If a person is planning to open a new brokerage account, the better option may be to look at brokerages which offer free trades such as Bank of America (provided of course, you meet certain restrictions) and Zecco which provides 10 free trades every month.

For details of E-Trade's offer, see:

E-Trade Customer Appreciation Day

For more info about Zecco, see:

Buy Stocks Online for $0. Trade stocks for free on Zecco.com. The Free Trading Community. www.zecco.com
posted by Ruby @ 8:49 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, December 16, 2007
Quote - Dealing with success and failure
Don't let failure get to your heart; don't let success get to your head
- Rishi Kapoor
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Saturday, December 15, 2007
Finding cheaper hotels online
Recently, I got contacted to write a post on a Europe-based travel site called CheaperThanHotels. Had never heard about this site before but since I travel to Europe frequently, I decided to going through its Web site.

CheaperThanHotels is a good travel site that aims to allow users to find cheaper hotels in various European cities, including London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome, as well well other parts of the world. The site's aim it not to find low-star cheap hotels but rather to help travelers find nice hotels, including luxury hotels, at cheap prices even if booking at the last minute. The site offers discount hotels with more than 35,000 deals, including last minute deals through out the world and 365 days the year.

CheaperThanHotels has partnered with one of the World’s largest hotel sales contractors of business and leisure accommodation which provides the firm strong buying power. Its partners guarantee the lowest available booking rates on the internet. The company also provides 24/7 multi-lingual customer support to help with the bookings.

For example, searching the CheaperThanHotels for hotels rates around the Christmas at one of my favorite countries, Spain, I was able to find many hotels under EUR100 per night, including some for under EUR60. I have been to Madrid before and loved it. Hopefully, will also get a chance to go to Barcelona as I have heard that the place is really beautiful, with awesome architecture. The city, which is the birthplace of Picasso, also offers quite a few attractions including tappas, bullfighting, La Sagrada Familia, Zoo in Parc Ciutadella, and the three Kings parade. Information about attractions in Barcleone can be found out at Barcelona Tourist Guide. The Lonely Planet Bluelist is another related site that provides information on "things to do, places to see, olives to eat" in Spain. Other nice places in Spain include Malaga and Palma. Malaga offers various attractions including Picasso museum, Caves of Nerja, Festival de Malaga and Semana Santa (can find more information at Things to Do and See in Malaga or can find other good sites on the internet). Similarly, attractions in Palma include Drach Caves and the largest underground lake, Martel lake Cathedrals (for more information, see Virtual Tourist or can find other good sites on the internet).

Of course, there are other nice places to see in the US, Canada and other parts of the world; the key as usual is how to find enough time and money to see all these places! Fortunately, thanks to the internet, if not physically, at least virtually we can see all these places!

For booking hotels and other information, see:

CheaperThanHotels

Note: the above is a paid blog post.
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Ways to save on stuff
TheStreet.com article recommends a new approach to get more out of your paycheck. How? By not buying the items new. Instead of running to the stores to buy new items, the article recommends buying items free or for low cost using sites such as Craigslist and eBay.
When you want something, you go to a store and buy it. That's automatic for most people, it's reflex and intuition all rolled into one. It's also why so many of my friends are broke or owe more money to their credit card issuers than they'll be able to pay back anytime soon. They didn't realize they could get many of the things they wanted without paying for them, or without paying anything like the list price for a brand new piece of merchandise.
As per the article, many people are frequently giving away various items, such as TV and furniture. For example, in colleges, graduating students don't want the hassle of moving their furniture and so, they are very inclined to give it away. Similarly, instead of buying books people can get them for free at local and school libraries.

Although many other magazines and financial sites have recommended such things before, this article is a good reminder on how to save. One of my friends has gotten TV, couch and various items for free by checking out free listings on the internet. In many cases, the quality of those items is good although they don't look brand new. However, the thing is that instead of saving by not having an item at all, you still get to have the item except that it's not new. So definately, for many things, such as baby toys etc that are meant for short term use and yet very expensive, it's not a bad idea to get those items for free from people who are giving them away.

For complete article, see:

TheStreet.com: What's Thrift Got to Do With It?

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Friday, December 14, 2007
Barnes & Noble.com: 25% off coupon (valid till Dec 18, 2007)
Barnes & Noble.com is offering 25% of one item in the cart. The offer is valid from 12/13/07 through 12/18/07, and can be redeemed only once online per customer You can also get free shipping on orders of $25 or more. Some restrictions may apply. See the Barnes & Noble.com's site for details.

Barnes&Noble 25% off one item in cart- Coupon Code N6R7C4J- Expires 12/18/07
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Thursday, December 13, 2007
Buying gold bullion
With the financial markets undergoing sharp volatility almost daily, high deficits and US dollar on the decline, many people are looking to alternative investments for diversification. One alternative investment that some investors consider is gold - an investment considered from ancient times as an hedge against inflation, declining currency value, and political and other crisis. Not surprisingly, with the environment we are in right now, gold has traded at times at high values of $800/oz and above.

If investing in gold, there are number of ways to do it.

One of the commonly used ways is to buy stocks of gold mining companies or by investing in exchange-traded funds or mutual funds that buy such stocks, or trade in gold and other commodities.

Another alternative is to buy, sell or trade gold bullion directly which is the focus of this post. After purchase, buyers can either keep gold in their custody, or for security reasons, they can have it stored at several independent, professional vaults and depositories around the world.

There are several ways to buy gold. There are firms such as BullionVault that allow individuals to buy gold over the internet.

You can buy gold bullion in several forms based on the size, weight and purity of the gold. You can buy gold bullion in small amounts such as 1 gram, or in large amounts such as 400 troy ounces (32.1507 troy ounces is equal to 1 kilogram).

The standard industry unit is the 10-ounce gold bullion bar, with at least 99.5% fine purity.

Another option is to buy a kilogram gold bullion bar, also referred to as the kilobar. This form consists of 32.15 troy ounce gold, with at least 99.5% fine purity.

The third option is the 10-ounce gold bullion ingot, with the high purity of 99.99%. This is considered amongst the purest gold bullion bars.

The fourth option is to buy what are known as the Good Delivery bars. These are large bars,usually 400 troy ounces (12.4 kg) each and having atleast 99.5% purity. This is also the size of the internationally traded London Good Delivery bar.

There are other forms also that may be available when buying gold. Regardless of which form you are buying or trading, it is important to ensure that the seller guarantees the integrity of the gold, and certifies both the weight and purity of gold from an independent authority to ensure it is genuine and is what the vendor claims it is.

Just as you can buy the entire gold bar or only a small portion of it, when trading, you can trade gold in small increments (such as 1 grams). There are firms such as BullionVault that allow individuals to bypass gold dealers. Such firms provide a mechanism for individual buyers and sellers of privately owned gold bullion to quote prices and deal directly with each other, and claim to make the process safe and cost-effective. In exchange, these firms usually charge fees such as a custody charge, plus trading commission which may vary depending on the amount of gold that is traded.

Note: The above is a sponsored post.

Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and not meant as a recommendation for buying, selling or trading gold, commodities, stocks or any other securities. Buying, selling or trading of gold, commodities, stocks and other securities can be risky and can cause significant losses; your should consult your financial adviser prior to engaging in such activities.
posted by Ruby @ 7:37 AM   3 comments

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Buy out-of-favor quality stocks, be patient, get rich - the case for value investing
The CNNMoney.com article presents an interview with Christopher Browner, one of the five managing directors of Tweedy Browne, and author of The Little Book of Value Investing. A staunch devotee of value investing and a follower of Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett, Browne favors buying out-of-favor stocks on the cheap. As per him, value investing has produced better results than growth or any other stock investing strategies. As per him,
There are plenty of academic studies confirming that if you buy stocks that are undervalued by simple metrics like low price/earnings and price/book ratios and you are patient, you'll beat other strategies in the long run.
.......
Most people want to own sexy, fast-growing stocks. But as Buffett says, you pay a dear price for a cheery consensus. As a value investor, you hold your nose sometimes and buy a boring stock because it's cheap. Then you have to be patient.
As per Browne, even though it is possible that cheap stocks can stay cheap but generally if investors are patient, they are likely to be rewarded. Despite the ongoing subprime problems of financial stocks, Browne is not averse to and owns financials.
Yes, but ours have very limited subprime exposure: PNC Financial, U.S. Bancorp and Lloyds. The first yields nearly 4%, the second over 5%. Lloyds is takeover-able. Once people realize there's not a warehouse full of subprime out back, the stocks will rebound.
Although Browne shies away from momentum stocks, he is not averse to buying growth stocks if they are selling at a reasonable price but he also recommends have a good amount of cash.
I always keep two years' worth of expenses in cash. No matter what happens in the markets, I'll always have food.
I have read Browne’s The Little Book of Value Investing. It's a small book, a decent read and makes a good case for value investing. However, I wish he had gone into more detail on how to analyze the fundamentals, how to compute the intrinsic value of stock, margin of safety, etc. The book seems to be geared more as an introduction to value investing.

For complete article, see:

CNNMoney.com: The prince of value
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Sunday, December 09, 2007
Quote - Faith
Stop talking to God about how big your mountains are and start talking to your mountains about how big your God is
- Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential
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Thursday, December 06, 2007
T/R Achievers: Anita Ahuja - Converting Trash to Treasure
The Forbes.com article profiles Anita Ahuja, a 47-year Indian women, who has started an organization called Conserve which recycles waste plastic bags into fashion accessories. Not only her ecofriendly business generating good profits but it is also providing employment to many of the city's poor people.

Her organization uses poor garbage pickers to gather waste plastic bags, a source of polyethylene, which are then used for making products such as totes. These products are then exported aboard through wholesalers to countries in Europe and the US.
The products show up in stores in Britain, France and the U.S. (including chains like Whole Foods (nasdaq: WFMI - news - people )) at anywhere from $16 to $50. So far she's sold 174,000 pieces. Last year Conserve brought in $317,000, keeping $150,000 in its for-profit arm. That money was put back into the business and used to run a school for the children of the ragpickers--200 enrolled and counting. Along the way, she's taking on Delhi's recycling mafia and the Indian bureaucracy, and getting a toehold in Parisian fashion.
She got the idea of starting Conserve in 1998 while discussing the issues like sewage and garbage with her friends. Her initial idea of recycling the kitchen waste of an entire neighborhood into compost didn't work out. However, as usually happens with most entrepreneurs, that project led her to the idea of recycling waste plastic bags into various homemade accessories.
Over the next two years Ahuja experimented with recycling the bags. She tried weaving them together to create a tarpaulin-like covering for the shacks of slum dwellers. Another time she tried pasting pieces of the polyethylene onto canvas and cardboard. She saw that a thicker fabric could be used to make bric-a-brac like pen holders and file folders, and realized she'd finally found a successful recipe when her homemade products were popular at a fair at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. She decided to venture into accessories.
Buyers of her products now include Global Girlfriend, a Colorodo-based online retailer that sells Conserve totes wholesale to Whole Foods stores. She is also expanding her facility to meet the needs of larger retailers such as Target and Zara. Thanks to Anita's efforts, her organization is not only profitable but it also provides livelihood to many poor garbage pickers and other employees.
Bharti Sharma, a mother of one daughter, does quality control in the workshop and represents the organization at trade fairs--a long way from her ragpicking days. "I've worked here seven years, and my life is so good [that] I have no plans of leaving this place," she says.
For complete article, see:

Forbes: Bag Lady
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007
BusinessWeek's Top 10 Business Books of 2007
BusinessWeek has come out with its top 10 best business books of the year in the Dec 10, 2007 edition; the lists consists of the following books:
I am surprised that not only have I not even read any of the above books but except for a couple of books, such as those written by Greenspan and on the Mondavi family, I had never heard of most of these books before I read this article. One book I am now interested in reading is the book on Chuck Feeney - The Billionaire Who Wasnt: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing. This book sounds pretty inspirational and motivational - a shot of which I need on a regular basis to keep up with the demands of the life, while keeping my spirits up.

For the complete article, see:

Business Week: Best Business Books of the Year
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Monday, December 03, 2007
Overstock.com All I want for Christmas Giveaway!!!!!
Overstock.com is currently running a huge five day holiday contest promotion called the "All I want for Christmas Giveaway". As part of the contest, Overstock.com is offering a daily chance to win gifts of up to $1,000 (excluding shipping and taxes) selected from Overstock.com. In addition, by spreading the word about this contest to up to 5 friends every day, you and your friends can both win a gift if they also register for the contest. So, basically, for each of up to 5 friends you invite every day, you get a chance to win a gift valued at up to $1,000, if your invited friends also register for the contest. In addition, you also get a chance to win five gifts worth up to $5,000 as part of the grand prize. The contest runs from 12:00AM (MST) December 3, 2007 and ends 11:59PM (MST) December 7, 2007.

The daily first prize consists of one $1,000 Overstock Gift Card towards the purchase of your and your friend’s selected item (or any other item on http://www.overstock.com, excluding Cars and Auctions items). The total daily first prize giveaway value is $6,000, per day, provided you sent five invitation links to five friends and each friend entered the Sweepstakes.

In addition, one entrant could win a grand prize of one $5,000 Overstock Gift Card toward the purchase of all five of selected items (or any other item on http://www.overstock.com, excluding Cars and Auctions items). This grand prize is in addition to any first prize.

For the first prize, a random drawing will be conducted at the end of each day during the promotional period, while the drawing for the grand prize will be conducted at the end of the five day contest. It is better to register for a new gift everyday to increase the chance of winning, as well as the chance of winning the gift you want.

I always like shopping at Overstock.com because of their low prices and very low shipping and handling charges. This contest just gives me another reason to visit that site. For today's entry, I have registered for a laptop, a desktop, a plasma TV, a diamond ring and a diamond band. You can sort on prices at the site, so its very easy to find the prices of each item. By sorting the items, in most cases, I chose the items that cost almost $1,000 each to maximize the amount of winnings, in case I win (you can never tell when the lady luck can smile on any person!). Once you have searched for the item you want, you just need to click on "Email to friend" link at the bottom of the item and then provide the necessary information such as email address to invite your friend to register for the item. To enter in the contest as well as see the prizes and complete rules, see:

All I want for Christmas Giveaway

To check out the Youtube video about this contest, see:

All I want for Christmas Giveaway

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Note: the above is a paid blog post
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Sunday, December 02, 2007
Weekend Quote - Success
Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure
- Confucius
posted by Ruby @ 1:18 AM   1 comments

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Favorite Quote
"If you look at what you have in life, you will always have more. If you look at what you do not have in life, you will never have enough".
                - Author Unknown
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