Image by: KyleWrather

Apart from texting, chatting, shopping, eating, and praying, what one thing should a person get hooked to? Well, it’s READING. Disappointed?

It’s not surprising though for one to get disappointed at such answer. For sure many would scoff at the idea of getting hooked into reading, what with all these fast-paced, highly engaging gadgets available anywhere. Eyebrows will certainly rise. Why dwell on a “boring” activity as reading? But, on the other hand, should you not think twice, thrice, a hundredfold? Come to think of it, these gadgets would not have been a huge success if you are unable to read every text, message, and instruction that comes with their use?

Why do many tend to pass up on every opportunity to read a nice book, an interesting article, or an informative travel book over something as trivial as...gossiping. Perhaps our understanding of the importance of reading is so scant or twisted that we grimace everytime a reading material is handed to us. Perhaps it’s high time to strengthen our understanding of reading.

Virgil Howe’s once said, “ Reading can be one of man’s deepest pleasures. It extends his experiences, giving him a glimpse of the world’s excitement, pleasure, and wisdom.” Reading allows us to ponder on the mysteries of the world and its complexities, explore knowledge, and contemplate the unknown. With reading, we begin to discover some answers to questions, is motivated to raise more stimulating questions, and continues his quest for deeper understanding. Reading can be our primary tool for blending our inner pyschological world of thought, imagination, and reality.

Reading has never and will never be a passive activity. It is in fact a kind of social relationship shared and developed by the author and the writer.

We claim to be good at many things. Can we not also claim to be good at reading?

Go on Avail!!!

Woodstock, ladies kissing, beauty pageants, viral video and more...

It is interesting how PayPal thought that no one would notice when it quietly raised their fees. The new fees, took place last June were not immediately known until after PayPal started charging for it. However, this article posits that there’s more than just higher fees.

ars technica wrote:

In June, PayPal made a number of changes to its User Agreement and posted an update to the PayPal Blog. At that time, director of product marketing Heinz Waelchli wrote that PayPal had now begun allowing those with business and premium accounts to make personal transfers to friends and family for free. This, in itself, is a welcome update—I use my PayPal account to receive payments for items I sell on Etsy, but now I can send money to my brother from the same account without either of us having to give PayPal a cut.

What PayPal failed to do was inform users of the fact that any transfer having to do with goods or services will be charged the 3¢ + 2.9 percent fee no matter who or where it's coming from. This includes payments sent from personal accounts as well as payments made after someone has sent you a request for payment (even if that request has nothing to do with goods or services).

For example, a personal account sending another personal account money for a one-time payment for, say, mowing your lawn was not previously charged any fees on either side, but is now charged the usual transaction fee (the sender gets to decide who pays). The only way to avoid this is by selecting "gift" when making the transfer—something you can't do if you're following through on a purchase or invoice from someone. And, if you fall into this category (which many people do), it's likely that you had no idea about the changes until just now.

Well, it appears as if the lack of a "huge formal communication" has now begun to anger users, as it comes off as a shady way to hide the addition of fees to mass numbers of transactions. Sure, users would have been irritated either way, but doesn't PayPal know that the way to handle bad PR is to be the first one to control the message? People value openness and transparency—especially when bad news is involved. Now, those controlling the message are other, ticked off users, and that won't be an easy one to clean up after.

Go on avail!!!

I discovered an interesting site today called Building43. I found out that this is Scoble’s new project

Building43 aims to “make it easier for businesses to use the new Internet to improve their business results”.

What makes it interesting, you might ask. Scoble has this to say “our content will be available via Creative Commons so you can use our videos or photos or other media on your own sites. You cancut it up, edit it, or claim it as your own. Second, Building 43 is not a place. It’s not a website. It’s a distributed community and you’ll engage with Building 43 on your favorite social network. No need to visit at all. Plus, we’ll have new videos that you can interact with via technology like that available on and so you can post your own video tips or techniques or demos.”

I’ve watched several videos on Facebook and how make most of it and I can't wait to apply them on my own fb account.

So what are you building? Go on Avail!

Philips Research's intelligent pill (Credit: Philips)

Learning new things makes me giddy. Today, I discovered a new technology. While waiting for our next call, my colleague related to me a medical breakthrough she saw on TV. It’s about a tiny intelligent camera designed by Philips Research that can be swallowed. I was totally awed by the idea.

The device measures about 11 mm x 26 mm that patients swallow with water just like any other pill. This intelligent camera not only takes pictures on your insides, it has a microprocessor controlled pump that releases medicine where it is needed. It is also capable of measuring data like temperature and acidity in different parts of your body. The gathered data can then be reported to an external computer using wireless technology. Whoa!

I made a quick at Google and found out at Science Daily that the device is not totally new. This special camera has been around for nearly 10 years now. Boy, I am glad to be part of the high-tech generation.
Go on avail!

This is what I call intense concentration! These German chicks are hot, aren't they?

Carla Hochdorfer
Henriette Hochdorfer
Artistic Cycling Juniores Women Pair, European Champions 2009, 2008

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

Fiore-Jenkins Photo: NY Daily News

Police are still searching for Ryan Alexander Jenkins, a contestant on VH1's "Megan Wants a Millionaire" and "I Love Money 3" for being a "person of interest" in the murder of Los Angeles swimsuit model Jasmine Fiore.

VH1 released official statement regarding Jenkins:
"Ryan Jenkins was a contestant on 'Megan Wants A Millionaire', an outside production, produced and owned by 51 Minds, that is licensed to VH1. The show completed production at the end of March. Given the unfortunate circumstances, VH1 has postponed any future airings. This is a tragic situation and our thoughts go out to the victim's family."

Jenkins, one of 16 contestants vying for Megan's "love", married Fiore early this year. He first reported her as missing on Saturday night however Fiore’s body was found in a suitcase in a trash bin in Buena Park on Saturday morning. Jenkins could not be reached ever since.

I'd like to repost an article from one of my most frequented sites Zen Habits. Thank you Leo!

One of the best things I ever did was quit my day job and become self-employed. I’m so happy with it that I’m recommending it to everyone: my kids, my friends, my sisters.

One sister has already started her own fitness business and I’m strongly urging the other to go out on her own as well.

And while being your own boss can be scary and a little risky, it’s not as difficult as people think. You do have to be someone who loves his freedom, likes to be able to set his own schedule, likes to work on things he’s excited about. I know, that’s a tall order.

Is that all there is to it? No, it takes a ton of hard work, and an ability to learn from your mistakes, and an ability to try.

Let’s briefly look at some of the things I’ve learned, in hopes that it’ll help you on your journey to freedom.

First: Can Anyone Be Self-Employed?
Not everyone should, because some people just love working where they’re working, they love the people they’re working with, and they absolutely love what they do. They couldn’t be happier working on their own. And I think that’s great.

But … I think there’s a fallacy that those who start their own businesses or work on their own are somehow born with an “entrepreneurial spirit” that the regular workaday employees just don’t have that. They aren’t “risk-takers”, they aren’t self-motivated, and they just can’t manage themselves.

I think that’s a load of crap.

Sure, some people like the security of a regular paycheck, but if recent events have taught us anything, it’s that this kind of security is an illusion.

Sure, some people are afraid of starting their own business, because it means they have to figure out things they know nothing about … but don’t we all do this, anyway?

And I don’t think anyone really likes being told what to do, and working on someone else’s terms, doing things someone else wants to do. We all like freedom, but we allow our freedoms to be sacrificed out of fear.

It’s this fear that stops us. And so the question really becomes: can anyone overcome this fear?

I believe it’s possible. Whether you’ll be successful at overcoming the fear, and at starting your own business, is another question — it takes work, and time, and an ability to accept failure and learn from it.

How to Overcome the Fear
Ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen?

For some, it’s that you’ll lose your mortgage and become bankrupt. But that’s happened to millions of people recently, and they’re OK. They just can’t get another loan soon, but they’re still living. For others, it’s a fear that you’ll be out on the street or hungry. Ask yourself, though, if you have a safety net: family and friends who will take you in if it ever comes to that.

That’s the worst case scenario. Now ask yourself: is that likely to happen? Probably not. If things get bad, you can take a job with someone else, or try a new tactic, or figure something out so that things don’t get that bad.

Stay Lean and Small
Lean and small and hungry and nimble and flexible are good things. It means you don’t need to pay a lot of bills, you don’t need a huge amount of revenues, and you can change as you need to. Big corporations need to make huge revenues, need to sell millions, and have a hard time changing because of a massive corporate structure and thousands of meetings and lots of invested time and lots of people who are resistant to change. Small and lean has none of those problems.

Don’t start with a lot of expenses — start small, with zero or almost zero expenses.

Zen Habits is a good example. I had $0 when I started out. I started with a free blog host and software. I had a computer already. I just started creating. And I started marketing, for free. There are tons of ways to do this now, with social media and other similar platforms.

Sure, not everyone can start for free, but you can start small.

Want to run a ballet studio or fitness studio? Start by going to your clients, or start in your home, or do it at schools and use their space. Want to start in retail? Start online, with a cheap host and free web software. Want to be a marketer? Do it out of your home, with a cell phone, a computer and a car. Want to be a landscaper? All you need is a lawn mower to start out. Want to start a health clinic? Operate out of your home, or make house calls, in the beginning.

There are lots of ways to start out cheap — if your business requires lots of money, think about scaling it back or finding a different way of doing it, for free.

Starting out cheap means it’s hard to fail and easy to succeed.

Start Right Away
Don’t wait for perfection. Figure out the simplest way to start, and just start. Don’t worry about taking a bunch of expensive courses — just do it, and learn as you go. You might even start for free if possible, so that you can gain experience and as you get better, you’ll get good word of mouth.

Start out without an office, a website, business cards, employees, and a lot of equipment and software. Sure, you’ll need some of those fairly soon, but you don’t need them to start. Well, unless your business is a website — then you’ll need a site, but those are cheap.

You can get a business card later. You can set up your accounting structure later. You can figure things out as you go. The important part is just starting.

Does that mean you don’t need to plan? Well, you should, but don’t overdo it. You should give a lot of thought to what you’re good at, what you can offer, who your target customers are, how you’ll make money, how much you should charge, how you can add value beyond what is already offered out there. But don’t let it stop you — if you can’t decide on something, just start and adjust your targets as you learn.

On Quitting Your Day Job
This is a big question, and I don’t have a single answer for everyone.

I’d say for most people, it’s best to keep your day job at first, just so you have some income while you get the business started. Work in the morning, on your lunch break, after work, even during work if you’re not super busy — just don’t get fired. This is a good way to fund your startup — have a steady income and get the business going until you’re ready to quit the day job. For me, it took a little less than a year, but if I were doing it over again, I think I could do it in much less time.

For some, quitting the day job is best right away, because it gives them the kick in the butt they need to get moving. It’s scarier this way, of course, but there’s no better motivator. This is best for people who don’t have a big family to support — singles or couples without kids — or if you do have a family, perhaps you have some savings you can live on for at least 2-3 months while you get the business off the ground.

Even if you quit your day job, you might be able to do some freelancing or consulting business to get some regular income right away, as you also get the business going.

What to Do
First, you should choose something that you love and know a lot about. If you love gardening, do something related to that. If you love writing, do that. You should ideally have some experience, or be willing to put in a lot of hours learning at first. If you’re already good at something, and you love doing it, you’re off to a great start.

Next, you should figure out what you have to offer, and how it will be different than what’s already out there. How will you meet people’s needs in a new way? Who needs your service or product? How will you reach them? Where do they go now, either in the real world or online?

And what’s the simplest way you can reach them and offer your product or service? Simplest means the least work, the least amount of steps and complications, the easiest for the customer, the least expensive, the least amount to startup.

And how fast can you get started? What’s the bare minimum you need to get started? For many, this is signing up for a free web account and putting up some content. For others, this is calling the right people and meeting with them with an offer to provide services. And that’s all — get the basics started, and add the rest later.

Again, you can get the business card later. You can figure out accounting and corporate structure and all that later. You can refine your marketing and product later — just start, and keep improving.

Never Stop Learning, and Never Stop Failing
Failure is not the end of your business. It’s just the beginning.

You have to take the attitude that failure won’t stop you from making it on your own. If your business doesn’t get off the ground, learn from that. And try again, but do it better this time. You might need to get a job temporarily to fund your life as you make another attempt, but that’s OK. You do what you gotta do.

Failure isn’t a reason to get depressed, to quit. It’s a learning opportunity. Failure is a stepping stone to your success.

And if you make it, don’t take that as a reason to get complacent. You should always be learning, always improving — not because you’re not satisfied with what you’ve done, but because if you stop learning, you’ll stop having fun. There should always be new challenges, new things to explore, new skills to learn, new ways to grow.

One more thing: do not be afraid of hard work. You’ll work harder than you ever have. Becoming self-employed is not about laying around in a hammock and drinking Margaritas. Although you can do that, when you want to. It’s about loving what you do, about working hard to build something you’re proud of, about pouring your heart and soul into something rather than giving it to someone else. Make no mistake about it: you’ll work hard, or you won’t succeed. But you’ll love every minute of it.

Should I Start in a Bad Economy?

This is the best time to start. This is a time when job security is low, so risks are actually lower. This is a time to be lean, which is the best idea for starting a business. This is the time when others are quitting — so you’ll have more room to succeed.

And with social media and networking taking off, this is the easiest time to start a business, the easiest time to spread the word, the easiest time to distribute information and products and services.

And while the big corporations may struggle in a bad economy, you’re small and lean, which means you don’t have the fat that the big guys have, you are able to adjust to the market much better, and you’re less subject to the problems of financial markets, real estate markets, and other external realities.

But What If Everyone Were Self-Employed?
Is that even possible? I have no idea. I’m not advocating that, actually. I’m saying it’s been great for me, and I recommend it for those who are looking for freedom and the ability to pursue their passions and dreams. And if you are, I don’t guarantee success. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned.

But what if everyone were in business for themselves? Would this be a horrible thing? I can imagine a world of tiny businesses and free agents. I think people would collaborate — as I do today, with many people — but they’d do so as free agents, not as employees. And that’s a huge difference. A world of difference. Because then they’d come in as equals, and they’d be collaborating because they want to, because they’re excited about a project. Then the world of trying to motivate employees disappears, because people are motivated already — they’re excited, they have freedom, they choose to do the work.

That’s a utopia, obviously, and the real world would have all kinds of problems. But there are all sorts of problems today, so that would be nothing new.

I don’t know if it could happen or if it’s desirable. All I know is I enjoy my freedom, and I’m happier than ever. I wish nothing less on all of you.

A few other good reads:

Seth Godin: Lessons from very tiny businesses
Jonathan Fields: Firefly Manifesto Remixed (How to become a career renegade)
Pamela Slim: Free chapter from Escape From Cubicle Nation
Chris Guillebeau: Why You Should Quit Your Day Job and Travel Around the World
Etsy: Quit Your Day Job (true story)
Wisebread: 6 Reasons to Become Self-Employed
Get Rich Slowly: Employee or Entrepreneur? The Pros and Cons of Self-Employment

Photo courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre

Yes, that's what my team leader often tells me.

If you work in a call center you'd understand. Avail is a tiny button on your phone when pressed, tells the system that you are ready to take inbound calls. My last call was about Microsoft Outlook. Karen, not her real name, could not send nor receive emails. I walked her through checking if her internet/intranet connection is working. Next, I had her confirm her Outlook status --- it was offline. One quick fix and she’s good to go. Before she hung up, I advise her to her backup important files. You know, if something goes wrong, it will. Karen thanked me profusely. I just hope she’d answer the survey that goes out after I close her ticket.

I am a call center agent and this is my life.