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    The water birds of east africa

     

    Birding is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world. In America, bird watchers rose from 21 m in 1982, to an astonishing 68 million in 2000. In the US, birding is now the second most popular outdoor recreation after gardening. Technology advances have made this hobby more fun and appealing. It is now easier with powerful binoculars and other equipment to view birds from a distance. And Global Positioning Systems have improved navigation in unfamiliar places. Parents are also able to amuse their youngsters by luring birds from the bush with recordings of bird songs. Africa is a treasure house for birding. The continent has over 2,050 bird species recorded, two thirds of which are found nowhere else. East Africa, in particular, has an amazing variety of birds, perhaps due to a mild climate devoid of extremes. The region has 4 of the Top Ten Birding Sites in Africa as rated by the African Bird Club ( africanbirdclub. org) - an international organisation devoted to the study of Africa's birds. These sites are: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda), Bale Mountains (Ethiopia), the Rift Valley Lakes (Kenya) and Murchison Falls Park (Uganda). East Africa's birds are scattered in all sorts of habitats: mountain forest, lowland forest, seacoast, deserts, savannah, lakes, marsh, swamps and mudflats. In this article, we shall look at the region's water birds. This category refers to those birds that depend directly on water for food, habitat and breeding or indirectly for a certain component of their life cycle. Most water birds linger along the shallow shoreline of lakes, temporary waters in the inland ecosystems and rivers and very few venture far away from shore. Water birds delight birders, being easier to spot and photograph, as they tend to be larger and live more in the open. Flamingo's, on account of their size and huge numbers rank as East Africa's foremost water birds. Out of a world population of about 4 million, an estimated 95 % reside in East Africa. Flamingos are found only in saline water, and East Africa's Rift Valley lakes are their favourite habitat, particularly Manyara and Natron in Tanzania and Nakuru and Baringo in Kenya. Small populations are also found in Lake Abiata in Ethiopia and at the Etosha Pans of Namibia. The flamingo is very biologically unique among wildlife species. It is highly gregarious and lives in large groups. In Kenya's Rift Valley Lakes, up to one million birds have been known to gather - forming the largest bird flocks anywhere. The birds are characterised by pink plumage, which is especially thick on the underside of the feathers and is gracefully exposed during flight. Young flamingos are however more grey than pink - they turn full pink at sexual maturity. You are then likely to see them in courtship displays that look like mock fights. Flamingos' beaks are S shaped and pink in colour, while the legs are straight and webbed to facilitate wading in water. They feed on microscopic blue green algae plants that only thrive in saline waters. These plants are suspended in water and to extract a meal they swallow large volumes of water, which is filtered by the beak through specialised anatomical devices. For this reason, flamingos are said to be filter feeders, a status they share with a number of other aquatic animals. Lake Natron on the Kenya-Tanzania border is the principal breeding ground of East Africa's flamingos. Scientists do not know for sure why they don't breed in the other alkaline lakes. But research indicates that Natron is favoured on account of its ecological stability and minimal human disturbance. By reason of its remoteness in location, it has recorded little change in soil chemistry - a critical factor in nest formation. At Lake Natron, incubation of eggs takes about 3 weeks, after which the mothers fly back to their preferred habitat, mostly Nakuru, Baringo and Manyara. About a week later, the hatchlings usually follow their mothers northwards. There are two types of flamingos, the greater and lesser flamingos. The casual observer may be unable to tell them apart. But the greater flamingo is considerably larger and has a whiter plumage. The majority of flamingos in East Africa are of the lesser species. The greater flamingos feed on invertebrates like molluscs and crustaceans. This is the ecological factor that may largely explain their smaller numbers in relation to lesser flamingos, which are primary consumers in the food chain. The pelican is the other bird likely to be found in large aggregations in East Africa's wetlands. These are large, stout birds with large white beaks specially adapted for catching and swallowing fish. Most fresh water lakes in East Africa are generously stocked with pelicans. You will see them swimming most gently and graciously as they search for fish, their primary food. They habitually swim in a team of 3 and offer a spectacular show as they dive for fish rhythmically and simultaneously. Though a saltwater lake, pelicans abound in Lake Nakuru, where over 44,000 have been recorded. They are a dazzling sight to behold as they spiral upwards in huge columns. In Kenya they only breed at Lake Elementaita. Pelicans are found in plenty round river mouths hosting high fish populations. Other popular sites to see them in East Africa include Kazinga Channel in Uganda and Lake Victoria. Cormorants are a bird species closely associated with pelicans. Of these, the most common type is the greater cormorant. Cormorants are mostly grey and black and are usually slightly smaller and less gregarious than pelicans. They favour lakeshores well sheltered by vegetation; they feed on fish and other aquatic invertebrates and breed in trees close by. For this reason, cormorants are less easy to sight than pelicans. Cormorants have been observed swimming under water in pursuit of fish. After making a catch, they emerge from water and resume their lofty positions on the banks. You will see them at East Africa's inland waters, and especially Kenya's Rift Valley lakes. Herons and storks constitute a large category of water birds. Herons are tall slim birds with long forward pointing necks and elongated stout beaks. There are about 10 species of herons in East Africa, the most commonly sighted being the Goliath heron, the Grey heron and Black-headed heron. The Goliath heron, as the name suggests, is a huge bird that can attain an overall length of 5 feet. With few exceptions, herons are mostly sighted around marshes and shallow waters, but can also be seen around inland grassy habitats. Their favourite menu includes snakes and other small vertebrates that live in wet areas. One of the herons - the Green-backed heron is noted for its use of the advanced technique of baiting fish with live insect. Herons are quite common throughout East Africa. The shape of the beak distinguishes storks, and from this feature they derive their name. With about 10 species around East Africa, only the Marabou stork and the white stork are not directly water dependent. Marabou storks are very large and unlike the other storks fly with head and neck retracted. This bird is quite common in the urban areas where it feeds on refuse and carrions, and hence its dirty reputation. Marabou storks are also common around water shores where they target fish and other small and young animals especially the weak and injured. They are thus happiest in areas with high populations of other birds, such as flamingos. Another unique stork is the Saddle-billed stork, easily noticeable due to its red beak with a black patch at the middle and yellow base. This stork is quite common in shallow waters and swampy areas. The Hamerkop is a popular medium size bird associated with storks. Its name is derived from the Afrikaans word for hammerhead, the shape formed by its head and beak. They are common all over East Africa's wetlands. It is uniquely popular among bird watchers on account of its massive nests. Built with lots of dry vegetation, the nests average a depth of 1.5 m, and can take upto 6 weeks to complete. Undaunted by the labour of putting up the ostentatious nest, hamerkops go on to build as many as 6 nests in a territory. The mystery is that they occupy only one! This apparently irrational behaviour is not lost to other birds; Egyptian geese and Verraux eagle owls frequently take over some of the nests. Thus the saying that you cannot tell a bird's size from its nest rings most true with hamerkops. The Shoebills and Spoonbills are two other species of water birds that are uniquely identified by their beaks. The shoebill is a large and dark grey bird that looks almost prehistoric. The bill is shaped like - you guessed it - a shoe. It is often found in large swamps but is not easily sighted. The spoonbill derives its name from the shape of its beak, whose posterior part enlarges into a "spoon". The most common type is the African spoonbill, which is well distributed in East Africa especially around the shallow ranges of large water bodies and swamps. As it wades in shallow water, it uses the sensitive inner bill surface to sense food - usually fish, frogs and snails. In the East African wetlands, you are definitely bound to come across one or two species of ibises. They have narrow beaks of almost uniform thickness that curve forwards and slightly taper at the end. The sacred ibis is the most common and usually has a black and white neck and beak. They tend to be gregarious and are mostly found around marshlands and lagoons. Another common ibis is the hadada ibis. It is usually grey and has a glossy patch on both sides of wing coverts. They stand out on the basis of the loud distinctive calls they make during flight. They are at their most vocal at dawn and dusk. They are quite common throughout East Africa around wooded streams, marshes, lagoons and moist grasslands. The hadada ibis is surrounded by many legends among African communities. It is often associated with long life and witchcraft. Among the Kikuyu of Kenya, a person of advanced age is said to be as old as Kagogo, the vernacular reference to the hadada ibis. Indeed Kenya's leading writer, Ngugi wa Thiongo has recently published a novel titled in Kikuyu Murogi wa Kagogo, literary "The Witch of the Hadada Ibis". Conceding that this ibis has a rather haunted look, my considered opinion is that this is not sufficient ground to sustain such a serious charge as witchcraft. In the wetlands of East Africa, also lives the crane, which is often called crested crane. Several species exist, but the crested crane - sometimes referred to as the Uganda crane - is the most common. It is mostly found in tall grasses and cultivated areas, but breeds mainly in wet areas such as marshes. The crane is widespread in Uganda's numerous swamps and estuaries and is indeed the national symbol. Despite sitting on Uganda's court of arms, the elegant crested crane is considered endangered. In most parts of East Africa, suitable breeding habitats are increasingly being converted to agricultural use and the crane is now confined to very few areas. In addition, the crane has a most peculiar social behaviour, which in some way further jeopardises its long-term survival. Cranes practice true and perhaps absolute monogamy. Often, they are found in pairs and share strong bonds that are never broken, even unto death. When one of a pair dies, the other never pairs up again for the rest of its life. The African Jacana is another bird that has unique social and mating behaviour. It is one of very few in the animal kingdom that exhibit "reverse polygamy", - technically known as polyandry, where females date and mate with multiple males. Under this practice females are always busy. The female starts off mating with one male, which it leaves incubating the eggs, then shamelessly hops off for an encounter with another male and so on and on. The way the African Jacana brings forth young ones is highly specialised and rather shocking from the perspective of humans. It is easily recognisable by its purple-brown plumage and yellow chest. You will find it in wetlands especially shallow lakes, ponds and swamps. The plovers are also associated with lakeshores and big swamps. The most common types are the blacksmith plover, kittlitz's plover and spur-winged plover. The blacksmith is named after its sharp, distinctive extra high "metallic" voice that will remind you of the goings on in a blacksmith shop. This is usually an alarm call whose pitch is raised when a threat stalks her eggs or chicks. You will find plenty of blacksmith and spur-winged plovers at Amboseli. Geese are also very common in lakes and ponds throughout East Africa. The most common type is the Egyptian goose. This bird is thoroughly adapted and can even be found in shallow waters in cities. Africa's largest waterfowl is the spur-winged goose, which can reach a length of 100 cm. You can sight it at the swamps of Amboseli and in the marsh areas of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Most people on safari are after the big five - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. But you will get more value if you can also look out for the birds. Unless you are a really specialised bird watcher, you will get to see the common water birds on a classic wildlife safari, especially in Kenya. As lots of birds are found outside national parks, real birding enthusiasts opt for a custom itinerary accompanied by expert bird guides. East Africa is a year round safari destination. The rains come around April - May and November-December. This however does not much affect the travellers' ability to get around. Generally the best time to go on safari is over the drier months when the grass is short and sighting animals is so much easier. The peak season falls around January to February and July to August. April to June is the low season and prices for accommodation in the lodges can fall by as much as 40% compared to the busy season. On safari, wear light cottons and linen. Warmer clothing is needed for the evenings and for your early morning game drive. Some rainwear is advisable between March and June and October and December. You should bring along a decent pair of sunglasses. The glare you experience in bright tropical light is a new and uncomfortable experience for most. You should also pack a good pair of binoculars to bring the birds and other animals closer.

         
    There are many views about collecting antiques

     

    1. People collect antiques because of the sentimental value. I have a ceramic parrot from my grandparents, a cupboard from another set of grandparents and a very old doll given to me by my great aunt. My husband has an antique cabinet record player and various old books and music from his family. The most wonderful thing about these antiques is not their value but who they belonged to and the stories that go with them. I can remember playing house with the cupboard when I visited my grandparents each summer. My husband remembers listening to his grandmother play the piano using the sheet music he now has. 2. My in-laws had an antique business and set up for sales and auctions. For many years their basement was filled with a treasure trove of fascinating items. They knew the price of so many items and could often tell you the worth of something without even having to look it up in one of the antique guides. They were also interested in fixing pieces that had been damaged, not so much for a better price but as a way to restore something from the past. 3. Our son loves antique games and collects them. He also enjoys antique books. His favorite things are the tiddly winks games he has collected from all over the world. The price isn’t as important as finding one that he doesn’t have or is very unique. 4. Some antique lovers like the chase. They enjoy combing stores and antique shops all over the U. S. for a specific or unusual item. 5. There are others who antique as a hobby and seldom buy. They just enjoy looking and seeing what different areas of the country have to offer. It is fun to spend a weekend looking at antique stores when on vacation or traveling. 6. Sometimes people look for antiques when furnishing their home. Antiques work well with many different time periods and often people know exactly what they want to finish a certain room or look. Antiques can add a special touch to a room that newer furnishings will not. 6. Then, of course, there are those who deal in the buying and selling of antiques. These are the hard core people who know the price range of the antiques and won’t buy too high or sell too low. They are usually more interested in prices than in the piece itself. Antiques serve many purposes and provide enjoyment for people of all ages.

         
    Three card bragg tips

     

    I love to play cards for money, especially games such as poker and bragg. In fact I have to admit that I love to gamble on many things such as betting on the outcome of football matches and on the outcome of horse races. My father used to take me to horse racing when I was a child which gave me the bug for gambling. In this article I concentrate on the card game of bragg and give free tips and advice about how you can increase your chances of winning. The first thing I do when playing bragg is I take few hands where I basically play what I call very safe. I will basically open and look at most of the first say ten hands at the first opportunity. If I feel that I have a half decent hand I will then continue to play the hand and bet. At this stage I do not bet too aggressive as at this point I am merely weighing up how the other players on the table approach the game. In bragg you have a number of different types of player. Some will seemingly always continue to bet blind and will hope that most of the other people will open and quickly fold. This type of player can at times be quite hard to play against and can even become quite annoying. Knowing that they are going to continue to bet blind in this way makes it quite a hard decision for you to make if you have had a look at your cards and have seen that you have been dealt a pair of say two's. This hand is quite hard to assess, it can win many hands but in another way seems quite weak. To keep adding money to the pot takes a bit of bottle and your inner mind tells you to fold and wait for a better hand to arrive. Other people play a very conservative game and will rarely bet blind for too long. When these people do actually place a bet after looking at their cards they more often than not go on to collect the money. After I have spent some time assessing the types of player that I am playing with, I am then in a better position to know who to avoid when they have looked at their cards and then are betting. I am also then aware of who are the more daring of player, this is the player who of course likes to continue to play blind and this is the player who I will have more chance of winning money from. If I am on a card table of six players, I always hope that at least three of the players are what I have described above as conservative players. I myself try to play a mixed game of conservative and aggressive, sometimes playing blind for a few hands and sometimes taking a look at my cards at the first chance. In this way I attempt to make it difficult for my opponents to assess how I play. As a rule, when a conservative player has a look at his/her cards and then bets, this tells me that they must have a fairly good hand. I then will take a look at my cards and will then decide whether to bet or to throw the cards away. What happens quite a lot of the time is that the conservative players all look at their cards and then throw them away. This leaves me playing with two aggressive players and I will then bet blind with them for a few rounds hoping that one of them will eventually take a look at their cards. I of course want this player to fold, if they do I will then take a look at my own cards and bet even if I have only a king or ace high hand. In bragg there are a lot more rubbish hands than good. With only two players ace high is actually quite a good hand. It is important not to let these over aggressive players bully you as this is what they want. Deal with them as in how you should deal with a bully in every day life, stand up to them as most of them are cowards at the end of the day. Good luck and enjoy your bragg. As in all forms of gambling, remember to only gamble what you can afford to lose.

         
    Tips for dating old photographs part one

     

    Old photographs are tangible records of a bygone era, and a valuable historic record. Sometimes, however, older photos, particularly old negatives, can become damaged and dirty, making it hard to identify just who the subjects of the picture really are. Fortunately, there are many companies devoted to the practice of digital photo restoration and slide scanning, and these companies can be an invaluable resource to those who have boxes of old negatives in their basement, and/or antique photographs that they would like to see digitally restored and enhanced. When you decide to send your photos to one of these companies, you should make sure that they offer the services that you need, and that they are reliable and trustworthy. Here are some tips to keep in mind: A quality slide scanning service should offer: *3000 dpi slide scanning services for 35mm slides, as well as 110,120,126,127, and 200 format slides State of the art slide scanners and scanning equipment Industry standard automated dust and scratch removal, utilizing programs such as Kodak Digital ICE. *The slide scanning services that you choose should include a manual color rotation, cropping, red eye removal, rotation, and additional dust and scratch removal as points of service. *Quality slide scanning image processing performed by qualified technicians who employ a trusted photo restoration program, such as Adobe Photoshop *Additional photo scanning services, preferably 600 dpi photo scanning services for both priceless, antique photos, as well as newspaper clippings, postcards, and other medium. An experienced photo scanning and slide scanning, photo restoration service should also be able to offer its customers black and white slide and black and white negative scanning. * The option to view and choose prints online, preferably with the understanding that you will pay for only the prints that you select. *Competitively priced services. Some companies outsource work to other countries in order to save their customers money and time, while others choose instead to do work in house, and are usually more expensive. When preparing to send your slides and/or photos for scanning, be sure to pack them securely in a padded mailing container, and ensure that you have included the proper address labels and postage. While the prospect of sending your precious memories out into the world may seem a little unsettling, proper research and selection of a quality slide and photo restoration service, particularly one that meets the above recommendations, will help you feel confident that your photos, slides, and negatives are in good hands when it comes time to mail them. If you are unsure as to where to turn for slide scanning and photo restoration services, a good place to start is with an online based company called Scan Cafe, and their website offers a wealth of detailed information about what a photo restoration service should, and should not include.

         
    Tips for selling at craft shows

     

    About the only thing I enjoy more than creating my bead jewelry at home is selling my bead jewelry at local craft shows and fairs! I've attended hundreds of craft shows and partipated in fair number myself. I am always dismayed, however, to see beautiful jewelry and pieces that don't sell at shows simply because the artisan forgot some very basic rules of working at craft shows. Here are some of the helpful pieces of advice and tips I can offer to the beginner bead jewelry artist and anyone else who is just starting out selling to craft shows: 1. Know Your Audience: Try to get a sense of what sort of crowd you are going to encounter at your upcoming craft show and cater your inventory to that crowd. While visiting the show each year is the best way to learn this, there are other methods you can use. Is the town where the craft show being held largely upper class or middle class? You might want to adjust your pricing accordingly. Are the customers going to be children or older people? If the craft show is near or in a school I almost always bring along a few "Kid Displays" where I place all my small plastic bead jewelry. I've had more than one child drag her parents over to my table to see the pieces I put out especially for them. If you're going to be showing in or around a nursing home you might want to consider changing your inventory. Older customers love beaded eyeglass chains, bracelets with large, easy clasps and "smoother" beads that aren't sharp on when laying against bare skin. 2. Use Business Cards: Every time I sell a piece of jewelry at a craft show I package it in a neat little bag with my business card inside. I do this because even though I already sold a piece of jewelry, I often have people contacting me weeks, months and even years later to see if they can order the same or similar pieces for friends and relatives. I also list my website on the cards to people can browse and by my items in the comfort of their own home! 3. Be Flexible with Pricing: This also goes back to knowing your audience. I generally do not put price tags on any of my pieces. This way people need to ask about pricing and I can adjust my price up and down a few dollars on the fly, based on the type of audience, the size of the crowd and whether or not I really want to sell the piece. And, yes, my prices sometimes change throughout the day. Some people come to craft shows expecting to haggle, so it's sometimes wise to quote a price a few dollars more than you might normally ask so you have some bargaining room. Though you may be uncomfortable with this at first, I find it to be very helpful. I can't tell how you many pieces I've sold only after talking with the customer and chatting about the price. One of my favorite methods is to sell a pair of earrings with a beaded bracelet for only a few dollars more. The customer likes getting a "bundled" deal and I like selling two pieces and making a little extra profit. 4. Accept Checks and Credit Cards: Cash is obviously preferred, but checks are easy to accept. In all my years of going to craft shows I've never been cheated by someone bouncing checks. Many people bring cash to craft shows, but sometimes there are just so many great things that by the time the person gets to your booth she might not have anything left! Credit Cards are a little trickier. If you're going to verify the credit card then you'll need an electric source and a telephone connection of some sort. A lot of people, myself included, will often just use a manual credit card swiper with carbon paper. No electricity is needed, you just enter the numbers into your computer or electronic machine when you get home. To accept credit cards you'll probably need a merchants account and I've found that most local banks can help you out or point you in the right direction. It really isn't very expensive to do. I set up my first account and bought my manual swiper and carbons for less than $50. Selling your bead jewelry at craft shows is an amazingly fulfilling experience and a great ego booster, not to mention a fun way to make some extra money. Following these basic tips will help you sell more jewelry and have fun at the same time!

         
    Tips for using metal detectors on the beach

     

    Metal detectors are often used in treasure hunting and in finding relics. It is a handy apparatus especially for hunters and adventurers. There are many models and forms of metal detectors and they all differ in features, quality, and reliability. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Many people do not know what type of metal detector they should purchase. White Spectrum XLT can be found in local and national dealers all over the world and has endured and surpassed the test of time. It can be easily used and is user-friendly. Even beginners could use it. The manual is available and is easily understood. This model is used most often at the beach in Jewelry or Beach mode. It can also be used in Relic mode. When it is in relic mode, the depth is enhanced and the results can be amusing. However, using it on the beach in the relic mode is not that favorable. Because of the thick, black sand and stones, it reveals too many false targets so it is recommended that you use the metal detector in Beach mode rather than Relic Mode. Using the product is the best way to learn its features. And later on you can easily read the signals. Another plus point is that it is very easy and convenient to carry. Another model is the White’s Pro XL 6000. Most people buy it because of its fascinating look. Unlike the White Spectrum which has more buttons to use and to look over, there are less buttons to scroll through when adjusting or changing the settings. However, familiarizing yourself and getting used to it may require a little time. But once you know and become familiar with it, it will be very usefulpared to the White Spectrum, White Pro XL 6000 has a little more depth and intensity. It does, however, have its own downsides. Some say that the knobs of the Pro XL are quite loose and when adjusting it, you have to be careful not to hit it with your arms. It is quite sensitive and bumping it may require you to start or reset the adjustments. Some users put a rubber band around the knobs to keep them from moving or becoming loose. You should buy a metal detector that is light weight. This is important when you are detecting things on a riverbank or body of water. Of course, it is good to know how to choose and adjust the frequencies of the metal detector especially when you are using it on the beach. It is also important that you use it at a strategic place or location. When using it on the beach, the modes should be adjusted so that the depth and intensity will be specified and clear. Lastly, familiarize yourself with the metal detector you are using to obtain the best results.

         
    Tips on gambling on greyhounds

     

    Do you like to gamble on the greyhounds? Do you enjoy a night out at the dogs but are not really sure how to read the form? Are you looking for some advice about how to bet on the greyhounds? In this article I give advice on how I go about successfully betting at the greyhounds and about what some of the form quotes mean. I have been enjoying going to the greyhounds for many years. The main tracks that I go to are Hall Green and Perry Bar which are situated around the Birmingham area of England. I was taken to Hall Green for the first time by my father when I was about fourteen years of age. I had been to watch the horse racing many times but this first experience at the dogs was altogether different. The races are much more frequent than that of the horses. There is normally a thirty minute gap between each horse race, where the gap between the dog races is only about fifteen minutes. I could also not quite believe how quickly these greyhounds could actually run. I also enjoyed the fact that despite some of these dogs bumping into each other and even knocking one another over at times, that there were no stewards enquiries. I did not do very well in the gambling stakes for quite a while but then started to learn more about how to read the form book. For example a dog may have been running in an A4 class for the last six races but is now running in A5. This means that he has dropped down a class and therefore would have more of a chance. A dog may also have been winning well for the last three races in A4 but is now running in A3. This of course means that he/she has moved up a grade and that it could be harder for the dog to win. These are some of the meanings in the form guide: FA - Fast away SA - Slow away BLKD - The dog got bulked RO - Ran on VSA - Very slow away The form guide also shows times for the greyhounds last few races and also times of how quick it started from the traps. These are all aspects that should be taken into account when deciding which dog to bet on. I also like to stand in the betting ring and to see how much money is going onto the different dogs. After a while you get to know the faces and at times I will watch who a certain person backs and then bet on that dog as well. This is because of course I have seen that person do well in the past and because I think he will know more than what I do. By learning how to read the form and by other things that I now do, I have started to do a lot better when gambling on these greyhounds. As well as betting on a single dog, I will also bet on a forecast and a tricast, just for a bit of fun. A forecast is where you predict which dog will come first and second, a tricast is where you predict which dog will come first, second and third. This is not easy to predict but when you get it right you tend to win a lot more money. At the end of the day a night out at the dogs is a lot of fun and it is important to only gamble what you can afford to lose.

         
    Tips to creating a professional looking photo montage or picture slideshow

     

    Are you one of those people that love creating photo video slideshows, or photo montages, from your most cherished photos? And do you ever wonder why your slideshow seems so bland compared to other professional looking photo slideshows? There are no hidden secrets to creating dynamic and interesting photo slideshows. By following just a few simple steps, you can be on your way to creating dynamic and professional looking photo montages from your favorite photos. 1. Use high resolution good quality photos. The first and most important step in creating a good quality photo slideshow is using good photos. Nothing ruins a slideshow more than bad photos. If you are using scanned photos, make sure they are free of dust and have been color corrected. Digital photos are a better source for slideshows as they are already digitized and ready for use in your photo slideshow program. In addition to the visual quality of the image, make sure your scanned photo or digitized image is a high enough resolution. DVD video resolution is 720x480 pixels. At the minimum, I recommend using an image at least double the resolution of DVD video. I prefer 1500x1000 pixels at the minimum for all my photos. There is a reason for this preference and I’ll explain later why this is important. 2. Fill the screen with the photo. Get rid of the black space. Have you ever seen photo slideshows with photos in the center of the screen with black space surrounding the photo? When I create slideshows, the photo in the slideshow takes up the entire screen. There is nothing visible other than the photo. No black space is visible on the screen beyond the photo. In my opinion, having any black space outside of the photo makes the slideshow appear unprofessional. It tells me the photo being used didn’t quite fit and centering it on the screen with black space around it was the only way the photo would work. The television and computer monitor is wider than it is tall, so horizontal photos work better than vertical photos. One reason for using photos that are at least 1500x1000 pixels will ensure your vertical photos fill the horizontal space of your monitor. One rule I go by is if the photo doesn’t work, don’t use it. Even if I think it’s a great photo and I want to include it in my slideshow, if the photo won’t work on the screen, I won’t include it in the project. 3. Limit the number of transition wipes. Some photo montage programs come with a hundred different types of transition wipes. To many, that may be cool and the more wipes the software offers, the better the program may seem to be. When I view a photo montage that uses 20 different transition wipes, it draws importance away from the photos and viewers notice the transitions more than the images. Transition wipes should appear seamless and unnoticed. In all the photo montages I create, I use no more than 1 or 2 transition wipes, and most of the time, it’s just a simple fade in fade out photo transition. Using all the transition wipes your software comes with may be a cool thing, but the focus of the slideshow, which are your photos, is lost when this is done. 4. Make sure your viewers process the images by having an adequate hold time. When you view a slideshow, have you ever experienced photos going by too quick and missing what you just viewed? Your audience needs to see and process the photos in you slideshow in order to enjoy and remember it. In the photo slideshows I create, I make sure each of my photos hold for 5-7 seconds, depending on the tempo of the project. And this hold time does not include the 1 second transition in the front and end of each image. You will need to decide what a good hold time will be. Too short and the viewer misses what was just shown. Too long and it feels like awkward silence. 5. Zoom, pan, and hold are keys to a dynamic photo montage. I’m sure you’ve seen photo montages that have images fade in and fade out for 10 minutes and that’s pretty much all the photo montage does with the photos. After just 3 minutes of watching, I’m sure it gets a little monotonous. The photos may be interesting, but you might as well flip through a photo album if that is all your project does. To keep things interesting, I use a combination of 3 things for each image in the photo montage. The photos will zoom in or zoom out; pan up, down, left or right; or hold in place for the duration of that imagebining these 3 techniques for your photos will create a dynamic and interesting photo montage. Regarding the zoom technique, having a higher resolution image, I recommend 1500x1000 pixels, will ensure your image doesn’t lose quality when zooming in. Image quality will be one less thing to be concerned with when working on your slideshow if you have good photos. Use good quality photos right from the start and you won’t have to go back and rescan or find replacement photos later. One final thing to remember is not to over do it. Keep in mind how much you zoom or move the image. Your viewer needs to be able to see the photo and if you put too much movement in the photo, he or she will miss what you’re trying to show. And mix up the movement. I typically zoom and pan four or five photos, and then hold one or two. 6. Try video intros and video endings in your slideshows. If your slideshow program allows the use of inserting video into the project, try using specific video introductions in your project. For example, if you’re creating a slideshow from pictures of your daughter’s first birthday, find or create a video introduction that says “1st Birthday.” If you don’t know how to create a video intro, there are websites that specialize in providing videos for photo montage enthusiasts. One such website is instantimagers. They have a large library of video intros with affordable pricing. And the best thing is, you can download the video right after purchase without waiting for a cd to be shipped. Of course, check to see that your software will accept video files. 7. Keep the project at a respectable length. You may have hundreds of photos you want to use and want the slideshow running forever, but a good slideshow run time should be 10-15 minutes. Anything longer than 15 minutes will slowly cause your audience to lose interest the longer the show runs. The creator of the slideshow may think its okay, but this will not be the case with your audience, the people you want to impress. In this case, too much of a good thing does ring true. I use about 3 songs in most of my projects. The average song is about 3.5 to 5 minutes long. Sticking to this format will keep your project within the 10-15 minute length. Add a fourth song if the playtime of your current 3 songs are too short. 8. Finish it off with a DVD box cover & disc art. For the final touch, find artwork and print out a DVD cover that can be inserted into the DVD case. And if you have a DVD disc printer, print a nice design on the disc for that final professional touch. Again, instantimagers has a number of designs for the DVD cover & disc art. They have a great number of designs with different themes. Having some artwork for your DVD cover & DVD disc will look much better than having just a black DVD case and a white DVD disc. Not to mention, your family and friends will be very impressed!!! I hope the above tips will help you in creating better photo montages. Try different things and see what works for you.

         
    Top 5 reasons why men don t get scrapbooking

     

    As a woman who has been scrapbooking for over 7 years now, I have quite a nice collection of memories all preserved in various albums with nice stories to go along with photos. I LOVE these albums…they are a tangible piece of my past. But my husband…well, let’s just say that if he had a chance, we’d warm our home with some of them this winter! My husband once asked me how much I have spent on all this stuff. You know, I really have no idea, but it’s probably in the $1000’s of dollars. It’s kind of embarrassing to think I have that much invested, but if my grandchildren can look through an album I made and learn a little about me, it is SO worth it! Now, as to the question of why men don’t “get” scrapbooking…I’ll give you 5 reasons. 1. You know the feeling you get when you open the door of your local scrapbook or craft store? It’s a small, but unforgettable “rush” to know you are about to embark on a shopping adventure! Now, while your husband is in the car, listening to talk radio, waiting for you to emerge, all he is thinking is, “I wonder how much she’s spending THIS time!” They see lots of pieces of paper and stickers that are WAY over priced. We see the latest patterned papers and sticker embellishments. Plus, how many men do you know that actually love to shop? Need I say more? 2. That leads me to my next reason: scrapbook lingo. I told my husband about how I like to use certain embellishments on my pages. The look he gave me was probably similar to the look he gets when he talks about hunting or anything automotive! Scrapbooking has its own language that men just don’t understand. 3. Crops are a big part of scrapbooking that is outside the comprehension of most men. Why would anyone want to get together with a bunch of other women, cut up their photos, write what happened in the photos onto paper and stick them into books that, if you mess them up, you will be subjected to tortures yet unknown to mankind? Men have never really understood the need women have to be with other women, regardless of the excuse. Scrapbooking is just another one of those excuses! 4. Now, scrapbook retreats take the crop-confusion to a whole new level. Why women would want to leave the comfort of their own bed to go sleep on a hard mattress to cut MORE papers and MORE photos? And spend more of the family’s hard earned money? Men just don’t understand why we can’t get as much scrapbooking done at home with our 3 year olds constantly running off with our scissors, our 5 year olds using the tape runner on the cat and our teens raiding our sticker stash to spell “I love Parker” on their notebooks! 5. A party for scrapbook stuff? Are you kidding? Yes, even the direct sales parties are a mystery. I guess the name really throws most men off. After all, what kind of party, in the traditional sense, do you leave with less money in your wallet? A party is for free food, not spending money in their minds. They miss the point of chatting with friends, learning a new technique or playing with a new tool. It’s all just frivolity to them. You know, now that I think about it, why do we spend $0.60 on one sheet of paper, $12 on a contraption that is basically a glorified glue stick and $30 on a photo album? You know the answer! WE LOVE IT! Scrapbooking is an addictive hobby and, men, you are allowed to join us, but you better learn the lingo and no sharing my tape runner!

         
    Top 6 facts you should know about your new motorcycle

     

    Often experienced motorcycle riders who trade in an old bike for a brand new set of wheels find that they fall prey to an unfortunate set of statistics that occur along with new machines--more motorcycle accidents happen on new equipment than on old faithful rides. Don't assume that 100,000 miles on your old bike means equally capable handling of your new set of wheels. Instead, take the time to learn some facts about your new motorcycle. Low Speed Handling If possible, find a deserted level parking lot that has a relatively clean surface. You don't need bumps, slippery stuff, inclines, potholes or other defects or obstacles in order to learn more about your new motorcycle. You need to plan on spending time having fun and getting to know the quirks of the new wheels. Start by doing low speed circles with your eyes on the horizon and practice until you can do a 360 without putting your foot down and with the steering in full lock. This may require some adjustment in the position of the handlebar or the throttle cable in order to smooth the acceleration action. Follow tight circles with tight figure eights, again without touching your feet to the ground until the bike has come to a full stop. Force yourself to be consistent and precise. This will provide even more understanding of the throttle response in your new motorcycle. Acceleration Repeat the previous exercise at higher speeds--both the circles and the figure eights. Keep your eyes on the horizon and your feet off the ground so you learn the feel of the equipment as it corners correctly and consistently. Varying the speed of the engine while you practice these maneuvers will allow you to ride comfortably at highway speeds as well as in city traffic. Cornering Follow this with learning about the bike's cornering limits. Learn to accept the grinding noise without flinching when a floorboard scrapes the pavement. A reflex jerk to avoid the sound of metal on pavement can cause you to steer right off the curve. If you feel more cornering ability is needed, you may need to change the suspension components. Calling a halt Practice stopping at low speed with a hard stop in order to learn the traction on the new tires, the sensitivity of the brakes and how the bike handles with the rear wheel locked. You need to know precisely what to expect in a real life panic situation and the best way to do that is to practice a hard, locked wheel stop especially in a sideways skid. Once you've practiced the rear action, learn about the power of the front brake. Be careful not to overdue front brake activity until you have a clear understanding of how much pressure the crucial front brake will take. Again, you may need to do some adjustments to the brake controls engagement points or positions to better suit your riding and stopping style. Road Work Now is the time to move your practice skills to the open road. Try to pick a relatively lightly traveled section or road that has some open corners so that you can practice cornering at highway speeds. Continuing to practice leaning techniques will help you to know the limits of the bike in every situation. Use a straight road with painted dotted lines and practice swerving the bike between the gaps on the road. If you can find safe stretches with raised dots for lane markers, you will be able feel immediately if you miss the swerve. Once again, in a safe mode, practice your hard stops at highway speeds. Be aware of following traffic before hitting the brakes suddenly and be sure to allow plenty of room in case you overrun your target point. Double Up Each of the exercises above should be repeated while carrying a passenger. Even if you do not carry anyone else regularly, knowing how your bike responds with a passenger is critical in any emergency situation--even in every day riding. Your motorcycle will respond differently, and you should know what will happen before getting on the open road. It's important that your passenger understand what is going to happen so that they don't panic and throw the motorcycle off balance, thereby causing a serious accident. Another advantage of going through these exercises in low or moderate speed and varying the load on the engine is that they serve as a good break-in regimen for the engine. Now that you have your new motorcycle and have practiced the various maneuvers above, you will want to remember that in adverse weather or road conditions, the new motorcycle may not handle the same as did your old set of wheels. Take things really easy the first few times you ride in the rain or in icy situations. If you have the opportunity to practice in different weather experiences, you will have an even better feel for your motorcycle's handling capabilities.

         
    Top 8 christmas gifts for your kids

     

    Christmas is round the corner! What fun! Christmas has always been associated with the wonderful tradition of giving and receiving gifts from friends and family. For kids, especially, this season translates into only one word - gifts! Every year, retailers come up with various innovative gifting solutions to entice us adults into buying new and expensive products for our kids, our grandkids, nieces, nephews…the list is endless! And more often than not, after we make the purchase, we wonder if we did end up buying the right gift. Well, there is no real way to know unless you see the look on their face, now, is there? Buying the right gift This Christmas, like every year, here you are again, wondering what to get your little angels and devils! They could have been naughty or nice; and you could be working with a budget or an idea. If you are lucky, you might not have to think too much. Your child would have written long gift lists for Santa, pleading for their heart’s desire and asked you to post them to him, much before Christmas, to avoid the postal rush. Well peak into it! This is where you will find ideas guaranteed to bring a twinkle in their eye. For those who are not so lucky and have to spend time working out what to get, we have some great gifting ideas to help you through this decision making process and choose the perfect gift for your child. 4 popular gifts for girls this Christmas Choosing the right gift for little girls is not as simple as it used to be during our times. Today, we have a lot of choices and those are likely to leave us confused. Take a look at what young girls want this Christmas. * Glowing Graffiti Lamp This lamp is one of the most popular gifting items for your little pre-school daughter. A perfect accessory for her room this item is both functional and creative. It is a glow in the dark lamp which also lights up when switched on. Not only that, the surface of the lamp allows your daughter to personalize the lamp with her creative talent. She can make a new graffiti on the lamp every day or every week with an easy to rub on and rub off marker. * Cute backpacks and hold-alls for girls Every girl loves a hold all or a back pack. Today you can give your daughter a perfect one for Christmas. While on the one hand you can personalize the hold alls and accessorize them to make them unique, you can also choose to pick some interesting and cute ones right off the shelf. Your little girl will thank you for making her stand out from the rest of her gang with a ‘totally rad’ hold all! * Hi-tech manicure set This is a perfect gift for your girls in grade school. They, of course would prefer to be called young women. So what better gift for your young lady than hi-tech nail paint set with all the gear to make cool artistic designs with nail art? Help her get started early! She will love stepping out with new nail designs every week. A perfect activity kit for a slumber party, this will kill two birds with one stone! * Karaoke gadgets So your daughter is a teenager and loves the new pop icon! Does she dream of becoming the next big star? Why not get her a home karaoke? Promising hours of fun for her and the entire family, its sure to be a hit. Be warned however, it is addictive! 4 popular gifts for boys this Christmas Buying gifts for boys is like choosing a candy from a candy store. The options are endless! Take a look at what young boys want this Christmas. * Trampolines Trampolines make the best Christmas gift for boys of all ages. Geared for both fitness and fun, it is sure to make your kids ‘jump up and down’ with joy! Providing hours of activity, these trampolines are kid-safe with protective net covering to keep them from getting hurt. * Video games Boys and video games go together. With so many options in the market from PlayStation to Xbox or even the virtual plug-and-play video games, this gift is sure to be a hit with your child. With hours of entertainment, even you can sneak in to try your hand at rescue missions and car chases to unwind after a hard day’s work. * Electronic voice mutation devices These are a hit with little boys! Available as a space-age helmet kit or as part of a mask kit, these devices will provide your kid with hours of fun as he tries out different voices while goes around pretending to be an alien or even a Star Wars hero! * Little pups Every boy wants a dog! So if you have a house that has a back yard, why not consider bringing home a pet dog? With years of growing up together, walking and playing in the park, sharing good times, your boy will worship you for it!

         
    Trinidad bird watching

     

    Part of the Trinidad and Tobago Island grouping, Trinidad offers excelling birding opportunities. In fact, there are more than a few excellent guided options available. Trinidad Bird Watching Backyard and local birding is a good way to get your weekly fix of bird watching and sighting. When you are ready to get serious, however, it is time to head off to an exotic land where unique species exists in such numbers that you will need extra pages for your life list. Trinidad offers just such an opportunity. Located in the West Indies, Trinidad is a birding paradise. The Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge is the place you want to hunker down at. Renowned for its birding tours, Asa Wright is a non-profit center that has been providing birding education and tours since 1967. It is located in the Northern Range Mountains on the island at an elevation of over 1,000 feet. The center sits on a former cocoa plantation that offers incredible views in and of itself. Visitors can watch many species of birds at the veranda, but there is also a host of birding tours in the surrounding mountains. In fact, many tours are operated by local hotels and resorts to bird watching points at the southern most island of the Caribbean. Among the birds that you can appreciate at Trinidad, we can name the Oropendolas, Pepershrikes, Manakins, Woodcreepers and Antbirds as the most attractive. Other species to be sighted include Red-legged Honeycreepers, Turquoise Tanagers, Red-Breasted Blackbirds, White-necked Jacobins, Ruby Topaz, and the Scarlet Ibis. Trinidad trips are often referred to as visits to the land of the Hummingbird. Frankly, it is the specialty of the island. These small birds with long slender bills, brilliant iridescent plumage, and wings specialized for vibrating flight, are abundant on all the islands. Close to Port of Spain, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary and Mount Saint Benedict is ideal for sighting Hummingbirds to your heart’s content. If waterfowl is more your taste, the Pierre Wild Fowl Trust runs a conservatory on the southern end of the island. The Trust is dedicated to the breeding, protection, and reintroduction of various water fowl species to the area. Specialties include swans, geese and ducks to mention only a few. Trinidad offers an opportunity to take a few weeks in the West Indies while also sighting some new entries to your life list. It is an opportunity you should take advantage of.

         
    Turning clutter into a collection

     

    From postcards to thimbles to salt & pepper shakers, the seeds of an un-intentional collection could be right under one's nose. According to a recent Nielsen survey, one in 10 collectors developed an interest in the hobby by slowly acquiring items over time, and only later decided to establish their own showcase collections. "My enthusiasm for collecting began as a child with the inexpensive cars my mother would buy me as a treat during trips to the market," said Bruce Pascal, owner of the legendary Hot Wheels® red-lined Beach Bomb, valued at $72,000 at a recent collector's convention. "When I became an adult, I rediscovered these long-discarded playthings and grew to appreciate the artistry behind them." Each year, collectors like Pascal gather at conventions nationwide to show off and trade their precious items. Hot Wheels® collecting "pros" provided the following suggestions on how to create amazing collections. These tips are applicable not just for die-cast vehicles, but for virtually everything under the sun: • Craft a theme-Whether it's based on size, year, location, etc., crafting a theme will help narrow down the "shopping list" when searching for additions to any collection. • Be picky-It's okay to pass on pieces that aren't necessarily attention grabbers. Waiting for that personal "wow" aspect really helps to give each piece in a collection a unique value. • Become familiar-Re-search the collection before beginning the hunting-and-buying process. The more knowledgeable one is, the better the chance of getting a great deal on the price (as well as better quality on each piece). • Budget, budget, budget-Along with researching the details on each piece, know what others are paying for it and one's own personal budget. Bargaining is allowed with dealers, so knowing the cost breakdown on either side will help to "seal the deal." So get out the dust rag and start cleaning-there could be many collections waiting to be discovered in the attic alone! One of the most sought-after items for any Hot Wheels® collector-the red-lined Beach Bomb.

         
    Types of painting book

     

    : All of us like to express our feelings to other some of them express in writing, singing, poetry and some of them in painting. Painting is an art of expressing your views and feeling in your painting. Some of us are very good in painting and some of them do just for fun. A painter does not always need handsome and attractive subjects. Often an ordinary subject is transformed through artistry. Thing is that in what way you put your views in front of others to show your talent. You can find different types of paintings some of them are face painting, oil painting, Tole painting and acrylic painting. Every painting has there own specialty and importance. You can find many painting books in the market on different types of painting in which you find all the guidance step by step. For the beginner can start their painting with this painting book. Painting book is not only famous in between beginner but also the professional painters love to refer it to show their more creativity in their profession. Painting book are easily available in markets and one can get it anywhere. It’s more convenient to get in from online site just sitting at home. Painting book has got all the guideline in regarding to the style of painting and using brush. Different type of painting book has got different guidance step by step. Which not only help the elder but also kids love to refer it to start their painting hobbies. So today only get your different types of painting book for your love one. Anna Josephs is a freelance journalist having experience of many years writing articles and news releases on various topics such as pet health, automobile and social issues. She also has great interest in poetry and paintings, hence she likes to write on these subjects as well. Currently writing for this website Painting Book . For more details please contact at [email protected]

         
    Varieties of sudoku the craze just got crazier

     

    Do you remember when there was only one type of sudoku puzzle? It was a simple (or sometimes not so simple) 3x3 grid using only the numbers 1 to 9. Now, as the sudoku craze is sweeping the world, new sudoku varieties are coming out of the woodwork. There are now so many variations on the original sudoku game, that newbies just don’t know where to start. Here is a quick guide to some of the newer sudoku variations with basic rules. Standard Sudoku: This is the original sudoku game (also called Number Place). It is also referred to as a 3x3 (3 mini-grids across, 3 mini-grids down). Each mini-grid, row, and column must contain the numbers 1 through 9. There can be no duplicates in any row, column, or min-grid. Sudoku 4x4 and 5x5: This is similar to a standard sudoku, but there are either 4 mini-grids across and down, or 5 mini-grids across and down. The 4x4 variation usually uses the numbers 1 through 16, though some versions also add in letters. The 5x5 version uses both numbers and letter. Again, no duplicate letters or numbers are permitted in rows, columns, or mini-grids. Sudoku-X: The X factor in this puzzle is simply the addition of one rule: Each of the two corner-to-corner diagonals must not have duplicate numbers. So, in a 3x3 sudoku-x, each column, row, mini-grid, AND the two diagonals will have the numbers 1 through 9. Alphadoku: Similar to a standard sudoku but uses letters of the alphabet instead of numbers. How many numbers used will depend on how many mini-grids are across and down. Samurai Sudoku: Typically, 5 standard sudoku puzzles are joined together in the middle. The first 4 full sudoku puzzles are placed separately, with the fifth puzzle placed in the very center sharing a mini-grid with each of the other 4. Each full puzzle can be worked separately, but they must all follow the rules of the standard sudoku. Killer Sudoku: A killer sudoku requires simple adding. There will still be rows, columns, and mini-grids, but the individual squares (or cells) of the puzzle will be connected (either by color or by dotted lines). There is a small number in the upper corner of the connected cells. The numbers that go in each of the connected cells must add up to this number. Killer sudokus still follow all the same rules of unique numbers. Irregular Sudoku: These puzzles do not have square mini-grids; they are “irregular” in shape but must still contain all the numbers 1 though 9. Standard row and column rules apply. While these puzzles are not any more difficult than a standard sudoku, it does take a while to “train” your eye to recognize an irregular mini-grid shape. As time goes on, sudoku authors create new sudoku variations and even combine the above sudoku games into a new puzzle. Imagine a Killer Sudoku X Samurai with Irregular mini-grids. Now THAT sounds like a challenge!

         
     
         
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