Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Candles in living room blamed for apartment fire

Fire investigators say candles in the living room caused the fire that killed an Esquimalt man on Christmas Eve. Brian Fillman, 66, died of smoke inhalation despite the heroic efforts of three men who tried to put out the fire and drag him out of his fifth-floor suite at 1325 Esquimalt Rd. His 88-year-old father, Vern Fillman, said Fillman was burning candles to mark the night before Christmas and in memory of a friend who recently died.

Esquimalt fire investigator Lt. Troy Saladana said he found remnants of candles and glass candle holders around the origin of the fire, near the couch in the living room. Other ignition sources such as electrical malfunction and cigarettes have been ruled out, Saladana said.

He said the fire triggered the apartment suite's smoke alarm and heat detector, but it's not clear why Fillman couldn't make it out. The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating. Vern Fillman and his wife had coffee with their son just four hours before the fire and they talked about celebrating Christmas Day together.

"He told his sister how happy he was that we would all be together. Unfortunately, he didn't make it."Two weeks before he died, Fillman found out he had beaten prostate cancer. The cancer was found in its early stages about nine months ago, and after radiation he was told by doctors the cancer was gone. "So to lose him this way, it's so tragic," his father said. Fillman, who was single with no children, worked as a truck driver across Canada but had to retire after he injured his back.

He coached minor hockey and was passionate about giving to others, Vern Fillman said, adding he's been flooded with calls from people telling him what a kind and generous man his son was. "Throughout his life, he's always been one to help people."Fillman would often get groceries for elderly people who live in the building, many of whom have limited mobility.

Another of the three rescuers who tried to save Fillman has come forward to tell his story. Jeremy Aitken, who lives in a home behind the building, said he heard the fire alarm and saw flames shooting from the fifth-floor window.

"I know there are a lot of elderly people in there and fires can spread quickly," said Aitken, 40. "It was obvious from my backyard that anyone that was in that suite was in peril."

His wife called 911 as he ran to the building.

Aitken climbed the stairs to the fifth floor, where he saw Attila Szabo, the wheelchair user hailed as a hero after he and another fifth-floor resident broke down the door and used an emergency fire hose to douse the flames.

Because the hall was thick with smoke, Szabo told Aitken to follow the hose until he got to the suite. Aitken found a resident named Dave in the hallway, shooting water at the flames. "He was pretty close to being overcome from the smoke at that time," Aitken said. Aitken took over, dousing himself with water and putting his shirt over his face before crawling into the suite to put out the fire.

"I could feel the flames and the heat lashing back at me when I sprayed the fire, I just kept putting water on it," he said. Once the flames were doused, Aitken and Dave located Fillman, who was unresponsive, and dragged him into the hallway to the stairwell where they were met by firefighters who took over the rescue effort.

Vern Fillman said while the three men could not save his son, they likely saved many others. "They saved what could have been a disaster had that fire crept through the complex. They're heroes, there's no doubt in my mind."The fire left dozens of residents of the 52-unit building homeless over Christmas because of water damage.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

New Jersey Outdoor Living Space Company Wins Big in 2010 with Masonry, Landscape, and Swimming Pool Awards

New Jersey Outdoor Living Space Company Wins Big in 2010 with Masonry, Landscape, and Swimming Pool Awards Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools and Landscaping, a design and build firm for homeowners looking for a complete outdoor living space solution, had a big 2010 season, notching 18 awards over the course of the season. The award-winning outdoor living spaces range from swimming pools to outdoor kitchens and grills to complete residential property design & installation. "This was another great year for us," said Chris Cipriano, President of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools and Landscaping. "The projects showcase a wide range of services within every aspect of outdoor living. My staff and I are grateful for the recognition from our peers.

Swimming pools highlight most of Cipriano's outdoor living spaces. The most notable award-winning pools of 2010 have each won multiple awards for design and construction, and they swept the entire swimming pool category at the NJLCA awards on December 13, 2010. First, the Kinnelon swimming pool highlights an outdoor living space with tremendous style and intricate detail. The swimming pool's vanishing edge highlights a magnificent view of the distant skyline. 200 fiber optic star lights line the bottom of the pool, allowing the center of the outdoor living space to appear to reflect a starry sky at night. In addition, a massive Grecian key mosaic design spans the floor of the pool and the waterline. Iridescent glass tiles were each placed by hand to create this design, while matching glass tile also covers the pool's vanishing edge. This swimming pool was also featured on the cover of the June/July issue of Design NJ magazine along with a five page editorial.

The next swimming pool in Mahwah, NJ defined a complete outdoor living space with mature plantings, three large waterfalls, Living Boulders, and a custom Volcanic Fire Pit. Living Boulders rest along the edge of the swimming pool and feature moss, ferns, and lichen already growing on them; the boulders enhance the natural style of the outdoor living space, appearing to have been there for hundreds of years. The Volcanic Fire Pit, featuring red crushed glass and a new burner that burns larger than ever, lies in a small cave adjacent to the rock waterfalls that include 250 tons of boulders. This blend of fire, stone and water holds a unique effect on one side of the swimming pool. The pool itself also showcases fiber optic and LED lights for color and depth in the pool and waterfalls, a running bond pattern of slate and glass tile, and an oversized spa surrounded by the full landscape used to soften the boulder waterfalls.

The last outdoor living space in Saddle River, NJ features a massive 1,500 square foot custom swimming pool, along with four waterfalls, underground waterslide, spa, and spacious grotto. The pool's largest waterfall cascades over the face of the grotto for a deeply natural look. All of the waterfalls combine to move 1,400 gallons of water into the pool per minute; they rush down the stone structure, made up of natural stone and artificial faux stone, which is surrounded by a mass of flourishing plants. Included within the waterfall structure, an underground waterslide emerges at the foot of the waterfalls beside the pool. Along the waterline of the swimming pool and spa, an iridescent glass tile pattern appears with distinct style and has extremely durable qualities that will last up to 50 years. The swimming pool also won at the Northeast Spa and Pool Association award dinner this past November.

Cipriano also specializes in the hardscape aspect of outdoor living spaces. In 2010, the NJ design and build firm earned awards for masonry and hardscapes, constructing patios, driveways, stone veneer walls, outdoor kitchens, and custom grills. One award-winning project this year showcases a classy hardscape with multi-leveled patios, plantings, and a custom grill. The two-tiered patio features natural stone and walls; the upper patio features an inlay that outlines the outdoor dining area. The other award-winning hardscape highlights an outdoor living space in Englewood, NJ. The outdoor living space includes 12,000 square feet of natural stone patios and 5,000 square feet of natural stone veneer. A 7,000 square foot Limestone pool patio surrounds the swimming pool and was set in a running bond pattern, which enhanced the clean lines of the space. A custom asphalt paver driveway and custom-blended natural stone veneer cladding the walls above the pool patio also contributed to the NJLCA award of excellence. These awards were slightly reminiscent of Cipriano's 2007 NJNLA and NJLCA hardscape award-winners that showcased an outdoor kitchen and bar in Saddle River and a complete outdoor living room with a fireplace in Mahwah NJ. The 2007 Saddle River brick and precast limestone outdoor kitchen includes a pergola, fully equipped appliances, honed bluestone countertops, and a random pattern bluestone patio. The Mahwah outdoor living room patio was finished with a 1’ by 1’ sandstone imported from the Far East and fitted with a bluestone border. The room also showcases a traditional outdoor fireplace veneered in a 2” limestone.

The Englewood home also won an award for landscaping and complete residential property design, along with another outdoor living space in Cresskill, NJ. The Englewood outdoor living space, a park-like 4-acre property, had over 200 trees installed, some up to 18" caliper, in addition to its thousands of square feet in patios and veneer. 7" to 8" caliper Kwanzan Cherries line the street of the estate. An 18" caliper Beech tree was installed as the focal point of the front yard. A maple tree, set of the corner of the entry court, was installed at 14" caliper. Boxwoods flank the front entry of the estate. Lastly, an 18' by 18' Katsura sits at the exit of the entry court. This magnificent landscape design, which also features a unique shade garden at the northernmost portion of the property, produced the ultimate outdoor living space.

The Cresskill residential property design showcases a Shangri-La type oasis, filled with natural stone, lush plantings, a natural waterfall, swimming pool, and asphalt paver driveway. The natural waterfall is the focal point of the entire outdoor living space. Natural stone steps and retaining walls enhance the rugged style. A grey Tennessee Crab Orchard patio provides a cool surface around the pool. Asphalt pavers for the driveway accommodated the children's love for rollerblading. A bluestone entry patio greets guests in style. Plantings soften the hardscape with plants ranging from evergreens to tropical annuals. The award-winning oasis created within this outdoor living space is defined by the mass of natural stone and flourishing plants.

The swimming pools in Kinnelon and Saddle River incorporated lighting into their outdoor living spaces, earning them NJLCA awards for back yard night lighting, also called nightscapes. The two swimming pools feature color fiber optic and LED lights. In Saddle River, 75 fiber optic star lights, installed directly into the stone, and 16 other fiber optic spot lights illuminate the grotto with a magical glow. Another 16 fiber optic spot lights also highlight portions of the waterfall structure and landscape. Color LED lights place the entire pool on display in a variety of colors for different moods. The Kinnelon outdoor living space creates a safe, dynamic poolscape with its 200 fiber optic star lights and color LED lights producing colorful glows in the pool and spa. Low voltage lighting also accents portions of the outdoor living space such as the antique gazebo, potted plants, and ornamental statues. In the end, this highly-acclaimed nightscape rivals the skyline it overlooks.

About Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools And Landscaping:
Celebrating over 22 years in business, Five time international award winner Cipriano Landscape Design is a recognized industry leader in custom residential landscapes, masonry and swimming pools. After a little more than a decade in business, the company catapulted to the top of the state’s luxury landscaping and pool industries when it was awarded a $2.5 million residential landscape project. Today, along with the Ramsey, NJ office, the Cipriano family owns a 10-acre farm and nursery in Mahwah, NJ, where large caliper specimen trees and other rare plants are grown. With a design office headed by 15 year veteran Certified Landscape Architect William Moore, the Cipriano team has won 48 awards of excellence since 2006 including the Northeast Pool & Spa Association’s 2007 Best in Competition Award. In 2008, the Cipriano team earned the Certified Building Professional (CBP) credential from the APSP, one of only five custom pool builders in Bergen County to have earned the certification.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eleven trends for 2011: Go eclectic, lighten up and make it personal

Eleven trends for 2011: Go eclectic, lighten up and make it personalReady for your home to look oh-so 2011? It shouldn’t be too hard because the on-the-horizon trends are all about making it more optimistic, functional and personal. To help us discover what’s new on the home front, we talked to a few internationally recognized tastemakers. New York interior designer Vicente Wolf travels the world, linking the places he explores with the spaces he creates.

“People aren’t redoing rooms every four years anymore,” says Wolf, who wrote and photographed the instructive new book “Lifting the Curtain on Design” (Monacelli Press, $50). “People care about their personal point of view and what comforts them.”Sarah Richardson is a Canadian designer who got her start as a prop stylist and set decorator. Her show, “Sarah’s House” on HGTV, details home renovations room by room. She bounces ideas off sidekick Tommy Smythe, who accompanies her on jaunts to antique stores and salvage shops.

“Going for vintage ups the ante on what you can achieve,” Richardson says. “If you don’t mind the challenge of never knowing what you might find, the quality is typically better, and prices are lower than what you’d get new.”

Roni Jaco of Kansas City travels the globe looking for ethically made handicrafts and textiles for her online store, the Loaded Trunk ( Her itinerary next month: Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. She has left 10 days of wiggle room, so maybe Laos and Cambodia, too.

“Although we’re connected technologically, we’ve become so disconnected from where things for our home come from,” Jaco says. “Just as we’ve become more engaged in where our food comes from, we’re starting again to wonder about the people who make things for our home. We want to know their stories.”

Sizing up salon style
We’re referring to a method of hanging art, not hair salon art. “Salon” is the French term for drawing room.

Instead of restraining yourself to a gallery wall with coordinating frames, there’s something delightful about a confident floor-to-ceiling mishmash. It makes a room feel lived in and — here’s the word again — personal.

• Roni Jaco’s living room walls contain a mélange of pieces from her travels, antique prints and photographs. “When you like things, they just all seem to go together.”

Lightening up the kitchen
A streamlined kitchen will never go out of style. But “Ye Olde Kitchen,” as Vicente Wolf calls Old-World craftsmanship, has had its day.

“A kitchen shouldn’t look like it’s more than 150 years old when your home isn’t,” he says. “There’s fakery to it, and dark cabinets can be depressing. A kitchen is like an operating room: You want it to be clear and bright so you can see all the details.”In addition to good task lighting, Wolf prefers white cabinets or lighter woods.

•Wolf designed this modern yet timeless kitchen.

Toning down hardwoods
Although espresso and dark hardwood floors have been the norm for years, we’re noticing a little lighter look for the surface you walk on. “You’re starting to see two-tone and gray finishes,” Wolf says. “Like driftwood.”•A driftwood-like finish in flooring, Tudor Nostalgic by Bois Chamois Vintage Hardwood Flooring
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Creating a New Living Room for Jewish Boulder

Creating a New Living Room for Jewish BoulderAs you drive past the corner of Arapahoe and Cherryvale, envision the new Boulder Jewish Community Center. The parking lot is full. Families are swimming in the pool, toddlers are on the playground, teens are playing gaga, adults are watching a film and seniors are enjoying a lunch and lecture. In the near future, this new living room for Jewish Boulder, along with dining room, family room, game room and backyard, the Boulder JCC version 2.0, will be a reality.

The Board of Directors of the Boulder JCC is happy to announce that the Cornerstone Campaign has almost $14 million in committed pledges, roughly 70% of the $20 million goal and the largest amount of money raised for a capital project in the history of the Boulder Jewish community. This amount includes 100% participation by the JCC’s Board of Directors, and a number of lead gifts. The total also reflects the donation of land by the Oreg Foundation (formerly the Weaver Family Foundation), funds for capital construction as well as an endowment to ensure the vitality of the JCC now and in the future.

The next week is critical since the 5C Colorado Child Care Contribution Tax Credit will be suspended in 2011. All donations paid before December 31 are eligible for this tax incentive, which means that the after-tax cost of a $5,000 gift is approximately $1,577.

The proposed plans are for approximately 40,000 sq. feet of functional space and extensive outdoor areas. There will be a pool, a full-service day camp, a gym, an expanded early childhood center, classrooms of all kinds, library and gallery space, and a 4,000-square-foot community hall to be used for plays, films, concerts, lectures, and family or community celebrations.

This center of Jewish life will provide services to everyone, from the tiniest newborn to the oldest adults, providing multiple opportunities to connect. We are creating a vibrant community living room and we hope that everyone will join us in building a true representation of the vitality of Jewish life in Boulder County.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Always Christmas in the kitchen

As many Australians prepare to sit down to a traditional Western Christmas lunch, Nicole Precel talks to three families from different cultures about how they celebrate. TAIWAN GLORIA Lai-Harington’s Christmas tree is up and decorated, but there will be a festive dinner instead of lunch for her family. The Keysborough resident, 36, is from Taiwan and said while turkey was popular there, her family would eat traditional Taiwanese fare.

“I don’t cook western food very often, I mostly cook curry, mashed potato or something homemade style,” she said. Mrs Lai-Harington has four children, all born in December. She said in Taiwan, many people had a hot pot or went out for dinner. >> YOUR SAY: How does your family celebrate Christmas? Tell us by posting a comment below There would be decorations everywhere and celebrations with Christians and non-Christians.

“I think in Taiwan if you walk on the street or you go anywhere, you will see many things or many places, they are all celebrating for Christmas.”CAMBODIA “SOURSDEY Noel!”. That’s how you say “Merry Christmas” in Cambodia. The festive season at Springvale’s Cambodian Australian Christian Church is about forgiveness, gratitude, charity and celebration.

Church community member Damien Ear, 44, has been in Australia for 30 years, having left Cambodia as a refugee with his family. “We don’t really restrict ourselves at Christmas time, we accommodate Cambodian traditional food. The main thing is the Christmas spirit, people come together and celebrate together,” Mr Ear said.

December 25 is not recognised as a national public holiday in Cambodia, so Mr Ear said the celebration in Australia was a way to continue their native traditions. While there isn’t always a Christmas-themed meal, church members get together for a Cambodian feast of turkey, red wine, roast lamb, curry, fried rice, fried noodles and barbecued beef skewers. “We invite strangers to come and share,” he said. “You don’t have to know one another to share.”

There are usually traditional dances, including the coconut dance and the traditional blessing dance. Although dances can be performed by anyone, Mr Ear said it was important for younger members to perform. “We want our children to know and retain our traditions,” he said. For Mr Ear, Christmas was important considering the turmoil during the time of the Khmer Rouge.

“After the war we lost everything, but we have to start everything over, Christmas is the time,” he said. “It’s not just a celebration but we remember what we’ve been through and let’s live on and move on with life. We forgive and forget.”SRI LANKA

IN AYOMIE Perera’s Noble Park home, Christmas is a waft of herbs and spices. The 45-year-old has lived in Australia for six months and celebrates a Sri Lankan-style Christmas.

Her family go to midnight mass and share presents on their return. “The mass goes for about one hour, and finishes off at 1am and then by 1.30am we give Christmas presents,” she said. Mrs Perera cooks Sri Lankan Christmas cake, which is slightly different from the Australian version. It is filled with exotic fruits and spices and is usually cut into small pieces, with each portion individually wrapped. Her Christmas lunch consists of fried rice, biryani, potato curry, pork, prawns, fried fish, Christmas cake and wine.

“Actually, I haven’t been in Australia for Christmas this time,” she said. “My parents are in Sri Lanka, I miss them a lot.”Mrs Perera said people also lit Christmas fireworks and rockets in Sri Lanka, but this was not a tradition they had brought to Australia.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 ways to make your living room more green

Obviously, the greenest choice in a remodel project would be not to remodel at all. You would not need to buy materials, nor would you contribute any waste products. But that would defeat the whole idea of making your space better. The real green remodeling question is: How to do this with the least amount of impact to the planet?

1. New Windows: Not every remodel involves adding space or moving walls around. Swapping out some old drafty windows with some new efficient ones is a good place to start. If your home has proper solar exposure, new windows could also provide some passive solar heating, or depending on your climate, some windows can also keep your house cooler. If new windows are not in your budget, update your window shades to control the heating and cooling effects of windows.

2. New Flooring: Replacing synthetic carpeting with a sustainable material, like beetle-kill hardwood, is one way to reduce allergens and provide a green flooring alternative. If the wood is finished with a low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) finish, you are also not contributing excess chemicals to the atmosphere.

3. Recycled Framing: If your living room remodel includes adding some new space or converting and old space, chances are high there will be some framing involved. The traditional method has been wood framing. Today, with higher lumber costs, many opt for framing with steel studs. Steel studs have been used in commercial settings for many years but are now gaining popularity in residential applications. Not only are they lighter and easier to handle, they can be made from recycled steel, and when they end their life in your home, they can be recycled again.

4. Healthier Air: Improve your air quality with the use of low or Zero VOC paints. People that have sensitivities to various chemicals find these new “green” paints a literal “breath of fresh air.” Active ventilation controls can also improve air quality, and systems equipped with heat exchangers can provide fresh air without temperature losses.

5. Deconstruction Instead of Demolition: With landfill space becoming smaller and smaller and the cost to dump materials increasing, it only makes sense to use deconstruction techniques. Many cities have implemented mandatory policies for this type of recycling. It may take a bit more time, but you will save on your trash expenses, and limit your input to crowded landfills.

6. Better Insulation: Older homes often do not meet the current standards for insulation. Additional insulation or better insulation will save heating and cooling cost for many years to come. Some of these new insulation materials are recycled products, as well. I have used cotton batt insulation that once had a life as blue jeans. Working with this product was pleasant, no gloves were required for handling and there was no itch.

7. Fix the Leaks: Sealing up leaks can often have as much, if not more impact to your heating and cooling costs, as adding insulation. Caulking and seal around existing living-room windows.

8. Bring in the Sun: Skylights can add light to a living room without consuming electricity. These can take the form of standard skylights, or the newer tubular styles that can span attics or even a second floor.

9. Modern Lighting: Electric lighting has changed dramatically in the last few years, CFL’s (Compact Florescent Lights) are common now and LED’s are gaining popularity. Not only do these new lights save energy, they may last 10 to 1000 times as long. This longevity keeps old spent lights from entering the landfill.

10. Pioneer Spirit: Many of our grandparents heated their living spaces with simple wood stoves. It may seem odd to have high-tech LED lights alongside a wood stove, but many new wood stoves have excellent efficiency ratings. Wood has been, and will continue to be, a renewable resource. If the grid goes down, a simple log or two may keep you and your family warm for the evening.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Living Room Furniture Company Announces Christmas Deals and Discounts

Living Room Furniture Company Announces Christmas Deals and DiscountsIn every home, it is always important to select the right kind of furniture. Globally furniture shopping seems to be better than ever. Though a consumer can find the perfect living room, bedroom, or dining room furniture without having to leave the comfort of their home, pricing and quality becomes an issue some times. The service also helps customers to find hot deals by keywords; where the search results shows the exact furniture they want at discounted prices. It also offers a huge variety of living room furniture without having to go from store to store by displaying multiple brands in same place. Consumers can see the new Christmas offers and the deal prices at the company.

‘Living room furniture now’ is the perfect place to find the furniture deals a consumer wants for any room with the best quality. It helps people to keep up with the latest trends in living room furniture by shopping from their own home. The service is capable of displaying furniture products from almost all popular manufacturers. Online shopping is simple and fast without all the hassles of salesmen in stores within a few moments without having to break consumer budget. The most common problem associated with living room furniture is backaches and other similar discomforts. There have been studies that traditional furniture is the main cause why people experience pain. This can be avoided by choosing quality products. A reduction sale via Internet has been added benefit of not having to go to outlets or wholesalers at the website. Online catalogues are also displayed which is supplied by popular living room furniture firms and also a vast variety of the selection furnishings pieces are solely one click away.

About Living Room Furniture Now

‘Living Room Furniture Now’ is an online furniture based company started to offer good quality furniture to people across the globe with great discounts and better quality. A consumer can select offers and products from different companies when utilizing the service because several companies to choose from like furniture wholesalers, liquidators, and retail outlets. Clearance deals and big savings in furniture can be found at the website. Living room furniture stands to deliver modern living room furniture and ideas. It provides people with access to high quality living room furniture at discounted prices. Consumers willing to buy quality living room furniture don’t have to pay more elsewhere as the team offers excellent service to satisfy the customers with their exact requirements. The team behind the company strives hard to prove themselves as the best online living room furniture site serving requirements of their valued customers.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Casulo shoves full bedroom in four-foot box

Casulo shoves full bedroom in four-foot boxMoving can be a lot of hard work. You’ve got all that furniture and, well, it doesn’t all fit together like a good game of Tetris. Overcoming this common life dilemma is Casulo by Marcel Krings and Sebastian Muhlhauser. They’ve managed to fit an entire bedroom in a four-foot box.

Dubbed Casulo, which is the Portuguese word for cocoon, this contraption is a tightly designed box that contains a complete set of bedroom furniture. The two guys from the Koln International School of Design created the prototype Casulo in 2007 and, when packed up, it measures just 47.2 x 35.4 x 31.5 inches. Inside that box are a bed, mattress, tall shelves, two stools, height-adjustable chair, a desk with a separate cabinet, and an armoire to hang clothes.

Don’t believe me? There is a video that demonstrates exactly how this thing works and it’s pretty amazing. If you thought IKEA was clever with its packing, you’ve got to see this… the kicker is that the furniture can then be easily disassembled and shoved back into that four-foot box. Moving day couldn’t be easier. The whole shi-bang weighs about 350 pounds.

Another bold claim made by Krings and Muhlhauser? It will “never show signs of wear and tear.” Furniture that lasts forever, packs up easily, and completely populates your bedroom. Pretty crazy if you ask me, but great for someone constantly on the move.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

A perfect springboard for UAE

A perfect springboard for UAEThe UAE national swimming team is hoping to distinguish itself with competitive fervour at the 10th Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) that get under way at the state-of-the-art Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Complex on Wednesday.

"For sure we are not expected to win any gold medals or even make it to the finals of any of the events here. But we will be giving it our best shot once we are in the swimming pool," promised skipper Obaid Al Jasmi, who is leading a group of eight other swimmers in the Speedo-sponsored UAE squad.

"Our association has told us that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and that we should make the best of it to rub shoulders against some of the best swimmers in the world and be as competitive as we can so that we can break a few records for the UAE and the Gulf region," Al Jasmi said. The UAE squad, under the watchful eye of American coach Jay Benner, returned only on Saturday from a two-week training camp in Kuwait. "The idea is to keep on improving and this is what we have targeted each time we have stepped into the pool," Al Jasmi said.

"We need to be realistic while competing in a championship of this nature as there are going to be so many Olympians and World Championships medal winners eager to win. In comparison, we will be there for the experience," the UAE skipper noted.

The 10th Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) will get under way on Wednesday at the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Complex. The event concludes on December 19.

Besides Al Jasmi, the other members of the squad include Ahmad Khalfan, Ali Subait, Mubarak Salem, Mohammad Al Gafri, Mohammad Jasem and Al Jasmi's three younger brothers — Saeed, Bakhit and Faisal.

"The training has gone well in Kuwait," commented Benner.

Long-term goals

"We are in our final preparation and starting to rest and fine-tune for the championships. The goal for this competition is to be as competitive as possible and we are looking for lifetime best performances along with setting as many UAE National records as possible," he said. "The long-term goal of swimming in the UAE is take the sport to the point where the UAE nationals can be competitive at international competitions in the future," Benner added.

Al Jasmi admitted that the Dubai championships will be a springboard for further successes in the sport for the UAE. "We need to make our own finds. We need to identify our promising swimmers and train them. And, in turn, our swimmers need to keep an eye on the future and learn as much as possible from these top swimmers," Al Jasmi said. "The road is long. It may take another eight to ten years. But if we start right now we can be hopeful of a top world swimmer at the end of it," he added.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Home church: Fellowship in the living room

Home church: Fellowship in the living roomIn the age of megachurches, a growing number of Christians are looking for a more intimate way to connect with God and each other. Enter the home church movement.ambridge, Minnesota, has two formal home church groups. This one, known as the Blue Fish Group, meets in the living room of member Bob Roby on Saturday, December 4, 2010. A typical home church "service" consists of music, prayer, theological discussions and a shared meal.

On this Saturday evening, Bob Roby was the host for his group's weekly home church gathering. He says he'd "choose a handful of Christians in my living room over hundreds of Christians in a big church. It's much more intimate." Plus, "it costs a lot of money to keep something like a megachurch going. Financially, home church makes a lot more sense.

Part of each home church meeting is set aside for research. Each week, the members choose a specific Bible passage to explore. They then break into small groups and try to find out everything they can about that passage -- from its social context to its linguistic nuances. Some consult historical dictionaries. Others rely on religious reference books. After about an hour, the groups reconvene and share what they've learned.

Lonnie Gay researches a Bible passage in the rec room during a home church meeting. He'll return to the living room to share what he learns with the rest of the group. "The house church network," says Gay, "is way cool. It's laid back. It's more comfortable. At a big church, you're a number. Here you're a person. And you can contribute."There are two separate home church groups in Cambridge, Minnesota. Once a month, the two come together at the Corner Cup coffee shop for music, prayer and fellowship. These evenings also serve as open houses for area residents who are interested in learning about the home church movement.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Bejeweled 3' Sets A New Standard For Launch Events

'Bejeweled 3' Sets A New Standard For Launch EventsIf you've ever been to a video game launch event, you know what to expect. Folding chairs, take out food and many more guys than girls. Of course, there wasn't likely to be a large line waiting in front of GameStop for tomorrow's release of "Bejeweled 3." No, that franchise's fan-base is a bit different, so PopCap decided to class things up. They launched the latest sequel to their biggest franchise in the living room of a British mom. Seriously.

In attendance for the "Bejeweled 3" worldwide launch event was a Women's Institute secretary, a grandmother, a librarian, a banker and a trendy dad. Not what you normally think of when you think "gamer," but these are the sorts of people that have made "Bejeweled" the insane success that it is, so why not celebrate them? And give them tea? The release of "Bejeweled 3" marks a return to form for the franchise, which has gone experimental in recent years. The last two Bejeweled games, "Blitz" and "Twist," took the basic tenets of the franchise and turned them on their head, adding social networking and new gameplay mechanics, respectively.

"Bejeweled 3" sticks closer to the original's roots, but also expands things with a number of pretty extravagant game modes. You're still matching up similarly-shaped gems, but you'll also have to battle rushing columns of ice, dig through gold-filled mines and swat away butterflies throughout the game's 8 main modes. The game will be available tomorrow through PopCap's official site.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Living Room: Microsoft in talks for new TV service

Living Room: Microsoft in talks for new TV serviceThe software giant's possible push into the television business comes as Google Inc, Apple Inc and Netflix have jostled for a seat at the table of television's future -- a main topic of discussion at the Reuters Global Media Summit to be held this week.

The maker of the Windows operating system has proposed a range of possibilities in these early talks including creating a "virtual cable operator" delivered over the Internet for which users pay a monthly fee. Other options include using the Xbox to authenticate existing cable subscribers to watch shows with enhanced interactivity similar to how pay TV operators have sought to do over the Web, said these people.

Microsoft is also exploring the possibility of creating content silos and selling more individual channels directly such as an HBO or Showtime. It already has Walt Disney Co's ESPN on the XBox Live online service for example.

These people said a service may not arrive for another 12 months, but early discussions have been productive.

Microsoft said it does not comment on rumour or speculation. The people involved in the talks asked not to identified as the discussions were confidential.

News of Microsoft's plans come as the pay-television industry has sought to allay investor concerns that consumers are fleeing expensive subscription packages for cheaper online services operated by companies such as Netflix Inc and Hulu, which both charge $7.99 per month (5 pounds) for streamed shows and movies. The phenomenon is called "cord-cutting."

The worry is that so-called over-the-top services could undermine the lucrative cable TV industry, whose dual-revenue stream model -- cable networks such as ESPN are paid carriage fees by pay TV operators and also earn revenue from advertisers -- has made pay-TV one of the most resilient sectors during the economic recession.

But programmers would welcome new types of competition to the cable and satellite companies, senior media executives said. "We think the more competition the better, we will price and package it in such a way that we still make the dual revenue stream," said one of the people who spoke to Reuters. "We could probably charge more for interactive advertising."

Microsoft has long held ambitions to be a major player in the TV business and has previously invested in interactive television initiatives including Web TV and MSN TV set-top box software. Its latest plans include offering interactivity to engage viewers through social media, interactive advertising and motion control technology, say people who have seen early demonstrations.

Microsoft has bet on new "gesture" technology that lets users of its Xbox, who buy a camera accessory called the Kinect, control on-screen functions using voice to launch channels and waving arms to fast-forward or rewind videos on ESPN.
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