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Friday, January 18, 2008

8 Tools to Help You Travel Forever and Live Rent Free

So you’ve decided to do it. You have a friend or family member who can store your belongings for an undetermined period of time, you’ve tied up loose ends, and your bags are packed. It’s time to start traveling long term!

But now what? You have a few family members and distant friends who have offered up a couch if you’re in their neck of the woods, but surely they won’t appreciate your arrival on their doorstep with no planned departure date in sight.

How then, do you travel long term and not run out of money? Hotels (and even hostels) are expensive over time, and finding rental accommodation in every city you visit is impractical. Heck - you don’t even want to pay rent at all!

Available Couch
© *sean

Here are eight handy resources to help you get started on your long term travel adventure:

Caretaker’s Gazette

(http://www.caretaker.org)

By joining this service (annual membership is approximately US$30), you will gain access to a classified system of people looking for caretakers in exchange for rent-free living. The opportunities vary widely in scope from ranch hands, to organic farm workers, campground hosting, motel management, nursing for the elderly, to just plain house sitting. Locales for your next potential gig could be anywhere in the world, from numerous U.S. locations, to Australia, to Europe and even Micronesia.

Some are paying opportunities, while others are simply work-trade arrangements for accommodation. Others yet will supply an additional stipend depending on your experience and the work entailed.

This is what TIME Magazine had to say about the Caretaker’s Gazette.

Woofing

(http://www.planetfriendly.net/wwoof.html)

WWOOF is an acronym for a number of different phrases, the most apt of which in my mind is “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. It is an international organization (located in over 70 countries) of organic farms, gardens, businesses, ranches, (you name it) where you can exchange your services for accommodations, food, and training.

Required services include basic garden and farm maintenance, as well as cooking, teaching, caring for children, and handy work. There is usually some work suitable for anybody willing to adopt this lifestyle.

Whilst surfing Wwoofing opportunities, you will likely also find links to volunteer organizations, and other similar work exchange opportunities. It’s a great way to gain valuable experience, friendships, and to cover your living expenses in a constructive manner.

Most countries require a subscription to gain access to their full listings and contact information of the hosts, and the subscription prices vary from area to area but are not over-priced for the value received.

House Carers

(http://www.housecarers.com/)

If you are happy to spend your vacation house-sitting for somebody else, you may find the right opportunity here. You will find lists upon lists of people requesting house sitters for periods of time from a few days to a few months, anywhere in the world. In many cases there are a few hoops to jump through in order to gain the opportunity with liability and bonding issues, and already living or traveling in the same country carries an added advantage.

You can choose from the limited free membership options or the full US$45 one year membership, depending on your needs.

Organic Volunteers

(http://www.organicvolunteers.com)

Much like Caretaker’s Gazette and woofing, you will find many worldwide opportunities to proverbially “pick blueberries for a living”. The prospects aren’t limited to organic farms though; you will find hostel management jobs, artist retreat internships, in addition to various agricultural and permaculture settings.

For US$20/year, membership will help you gain access to many great listings and a user-friendly system of contacting hosts and searching for opportunities.

Couch Surfing

(http://www.couchsurfing.com)

Couch Surfers are a network of people who are willing to open up their homes and hearts to frugal travelers, as well as be those travelers when they are not hosting guests. The site prides itself on referrals and having only high quality members, but as with any chance to stay at a stranger’s place for free, a prudent amount of caution should be exercised.

A Few Travel Guests
© Hamed Saber

Global Freeloaders

(http://www.globalfreeloaders.com)

Similar to Couch Surfing, Global Freeloaders is a cultural exchange program for hosts and travelers. Registration is free, but members are required to be able to host as well as travel, so unless you expect to be able to offer up your digs as a host within six months of signing up, you are politely requested to wait.

Servas

(http://joomla.servas.org/)

This is the original Couch Surfers and Global Freeloaders. Servas (meaning “serve” in Esperanto), is a non-profit non-denominational non-ethnic organization of good-will and cultural exchanges. It’s been around for at least 50 years, and is recognized by the United Nations. In addition to being a network to connect people and places, volunteers around the world work in relief camps and advocate for peace through various projects.

Hosts offer their homes and dinner tables for two nights (or more, at the discretion of the host) to travelers who contact them and who meet with their approval. Travelers must go through an exhaustive process which includes an in-person interview before being accepted to the program, as a way of screening for quality candidates.

Once travelers are interviewed and accepted into the program, they are given printed lists or booklets of the hosts in their destination country (Servas is moving towards an online platform, but is not there yet). There are also membership fees which vary from country to country.

Hospitality Club

(http://www.hospitalityclub.org/)

Free to join and internet-based, it appears to be the Servas of the online world. It is kept “safe” through a series of passport checks and online feedback systems with checks and balances.

These are just a few opportunities in the world of long-term travel, as you will discover with a little research. I don’t vouch for any of the services or programs, and a healthy amount of caution should always be exercised when accepting hospitality from strangers. However I think Servas says it best when they say: We are all friends. We just haven’t met yet!

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Nora Dunn is a Professional Hobo and Freelance Writer, having given up the daily grind to search the world for the greatest adventures and best stories. She can be reached through her blog, Life Happens.

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The Southwest Airlines Stripper Plane

The Southwest Airlines Stripper Plane

Every Friday evening, some time before most people have clocked out of work and begin heading home for the weekend, a plane takes off from LAX.

Like so many other flights at this time, this one is also heading to Las Vegas. It's not full of gamblers, however, but rather a disproportionate amount of silicon that bounces and jiggles through the warm, desert-air turbulence all the way to Vegas where, for the remainder of Friday and Saturday night, it will continue quivering away at $20 a pop.

This, folks, is the Southwest Stripper Plane.

The passengers are LA's greatest temporary export, heading off for a weekend of singles and 20s to help baby pay the rent. They are blessed with the sun-kissed glory of Southern California and enhanced by the world's greatest plastic surgeons, and of course every single one is a struggling teacher, college student, or some other admirable profession that will keep suckers reaching into their wallet time after time to help out their worthy cause, whatever it might be.

No one really knows what time this legendary, perhaps even mythical flight leaves Los Angeles. Seats are reserved months in advance and few mere mortals are able to secure a reservation. A friend of mine claims he once found himself on this flight but can't seem to remember the details, as though some powerful force scrubbed his brain clean, leaving only a trace of glitter on his sweaty forehead.

Others less fortunate can only dream that the planets align one day and that they find themselves sitting on a plane in Los Angeles watching their fellow passengers squeeze their gigantic moneymakers into Southwest's cramped economy seats. If there was ever a time for long delays or a casualty-free crash on a desert island, this would certainly be it.

Remember Kyla Ebbert, the girl Southwest imposed a dress code on?




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Crazy Traffic Deadlock at a Road Junction




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U.S. to Study Bizarre Medical Condition


ATLANTA (AP) -- It sounds like a freakish ailment from a horror movie: Sores erupt on your skin, mysterious threads pop out of them, and you feel like tiny bugs are crawling all over you. Some experts believe it's a psychiatric phenomenon, yet hundreds of people say it's a true physical condition. It's called Morgellons, and now the government is about to begin its first medical study of it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is paying California-based health care giant Kaiser Permanente $338,000 to test and interview patients suffering from Morgellons' bizarre symptoms. The one-year effort will attempt to define the condition and better determine how common it is.

The study will be done in northern California, the source of many of the reports of Morgellons (pronounced mor-GELL-uns). Researchers will begin screening for patients immediately, CDC officials said Wednesday. A Kaiser official expects about 150 to 500 study participants.

Morgellons sufferers describe symptoms that include erupting sores, fatigue, the sensation of bugs crawling over them and - perhaps worst of all - mysterious red, blue or black fibers that sprout from their skin. They've documented their suffering on Web sites.

Some doctors believe the condition is a form of delusional parasitosis, a psychosis in which people believe they are infected with parasites.

In the study, volunteers will get blood tests and skin exams, as well as psychological evaluations, said Dr. Michele Pearson, who leads a CDC task force overseeing the study.

Pearson suggested the study will help determine if Morgellons is the same as delusional parasitosis or something new.

Study participants will be drawn from Kaiser's 3.4 million health insurance customers living mainly in the Sacramento and San Francisco areas and as far south as Fresno.

CDC officials acknowledged the study is limited and the results won't give a complete picture of the problem.

Randy Wymore, an Oklahoma State University pharmacologist, who believes the condition is not a psychiatric one, says there is distrust by some Morgellons sufferers toward the new study.

Some of these patients who are Kaiser Permanente members have said they don't like the way they've been treated by Kaiser doctors and probably won't participate, said Wymore, who formerly was a research director for a patient group and hears constantly from Morgellons patients.

"They felt that Kaiser was particularly unreceptive to treating them for anything other than a psychiatric disorder," said Wymore.

A Kaiser official said he had not heard such complaints. No patient will be excluded from participation, even if a doctor previously determined the problem was psychological, said Dr. Joe Selby, director of research for Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Kaiser researchers will look in their records for previous patients who in the last 18 months reported Morgellons-like symptoms. They will be asked to participate in more medical evaluations.

Any fibers or specks that are collected will be analyzed at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Selby said. Doctors who believe the condition is psychiatric suspect fibers are likely just threads from clothing.

The CDC has been getting more than a dozen calls a week from self-diagnosed Morgellons patients for well over a year, and was urged to investigate by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and others.

Some say they've suffered for decades, but the syndrome did not get a name until 2002, when "Morgellons" was chosen from a 1674 medical paper describing similar symptoms.

---

On the Net:

CDC's Morgellons Web page: http://www.cdc.gov/unexplaineddermopathy/

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

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Bad News For Clowns: Kids Universally Hate You. But Why?

Children are frightened by clown-themed decor in hospitals, a survey suggests. How did the smiley circus entertainers become a horror staple?

Anyone who has read Stephen King's It would probably never choose to decorate a children's ward with clowns.

And it probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University of Sheffield study of 250 children for a report on hospital design suggests the children find clown motifs "frightening and unknowable".

It is the fear of the mask, the fact that it doesn't change and is relentlessly comical
Ramsey Campbell

One might suspect that popular culture is to blame. In It, made into a television movie in 1990, Stephen King created a child-murdering monster that appeared as a demonic clown.

King's It has sparked a slew of schlocky movies over the past 20 years, known as the killer clown or evil clown genre.

Examples include Clownhouse from 1990 where three boys at home alone are menaced by escaped mental patients who have taken on the identities of clowns they have killed; Mr Jingles from 2006, where a killer clown takes its revenge; and 2004's In Fear of Clowns, in which an artist with coulrophobia is stalked by a clown resembling one of her paintings.

S.I.C.K., Killjoy and the Camp Blood Trilogy are other low-budget examples of the genre. But perhaps the highlight is 2001's Killer Klowns from Outer Space, with the tagline "In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream".

Clowning around

British horror writer Ramsey Campbell says the recurring theme in popular culture of the scary clown goes back at least as far as silent move star Lon Chaney Sr, who identified the spooky potential when he reportedly said: "There is nothing laughable about a clown in the moonlight."

Man with children who seem unnerved by clown
Children unnerved by a clown
Dark clown imagery can also be seen in Jacques Tourneur's cult films Night of the Demon and Berlin Express, as well as in the form of the Joker in Batman comics and film adaptations.

"It is the fear of the mask, the fact that it doesn't change and is relentlessly comical," says Campbell, who has explored dark clown themes in his story The Other Side and in his latest novel The Grin of the Dark.

The place of the scary clown in mainstream popular culture can be seen in The Simpsons with Bart's intonation of "can't sleep, clown will eat me". And the real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who often dressed as a clown for neighbourhood parties, provides an unpleasant undertone to the motif.

Search for fear of clowns on the internet and the results include plenty of sites referring to "coulrophobia".

Preparing for the annual International Convention of Clowns in Mexico City
Getting into character
Prof Paul Salkovskis, clinical director of the Maudsley Hospital Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma, saw a patient in Yorkshire some years ago who feared clowns as one of a range of problems.

But he believes children's fear may be less to do with clowns per se and more to do with being unsettled by something as unusual-seeming as a clown.

"People are typically frightened by things which are wrong in some way, wrong in a disturbingly unfamiliar way," Prof Salkovskis says.

"It is almost certainly not a reaction to clowns, but we are sensitive to things which are extraordinary, particularly sensitive when we are young. My three-year-old was terrified by Peter Rabbit at a B&Q. Peter Rabbit is six inches high, not seven feet high."

And obviously it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to suppose that children in hospitals, away from home, in an unfamiliar environment and worried about their health or elements of the treatment, may be more nervous than usual.

"Being away from home or away from a carer makes children more susceptible to fears," Prof Salkovskis says.


Below is a selection of your comments.

I'm almost 30 and have a fear of clowns, no idea why... But I'm much more scared of "living statues" *shudder*. Unfortunately, I work on the South Bank where they seem to have the biggest population outside of Covent Garden (which is almost a "no go" zone for me in summer) I have no idea why I'm so scared of them but even the sight of one makes me hyper-ventilate and break out in a cold sweat.
Sharon, London, UK

I don't think it is clowns per se. Most small children are scared of Father Christmas. This is because it is an image that is unrecognisable to them. This is not to say we should ban Father Christmas, just that we should be aware of why children feel the way they do. Personally I love clowns as does my five year old, but both of us would be pretty freaked by the images in your news story. There are clowns and there are clowns and we do not know how the study in question was carried out and what images were shown to the children surveyed.
Anna, Maidstone, Kent

This is no surprise whatsoever. As I child I did not like clowns and didn't find them funny either, and I've never met anyone who did. In fact, I'm at a loss to explain the clown phenomenon or why anyone would ever have thought that children would like them.
Rob, Reading, UK

I'm 24 and have a hatred of clowns that it shared by most of my friends. We have discussed it before as it does seem very strange and we all agreed that our generation has been scarred by Tim Curry's Pennywise in IT. Best proof of the trauma this has caused was when we visited the Horror nights at universal studios and found the worst experience of the night was the 3d clown night - forget Freddy or Jason that was terrifying. One particular friend who is a massive horror fan was almost in tears and suffered a mild asthma attack after what I can only describe as one of the most horrible experiences of my life... And this fear isn't just among the girls...
Clair, N Ireland

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Rules Kids Won't Learn in School

Rule #1. Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teenager uses the phrase "it's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule #1.

Rule #2. The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule #3. Sorry, you won't make $50,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

Rule #4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he is not going ask you how feel about it.

Rule #5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule #6. It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

Rule #7. Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule #8. Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Nor even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on.

Rule #9. Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be perky or as polite as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule #10. Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Rule #11. Enjoy this while you can. Sure, parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be kid. Maybe you should start now.

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The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success


The true standard of measurement for extraordinary outcomes
is that which brings extraordinary benefit and fulfillment
to me and to the lives of others. That’s success!

- Steven K Scott

Yes, I experienced it, I really did; the intense feeling of true happiness and success. Not just temporarily, but extensively for an uninterrupted period of several months. This was simply the most significant ‘achievement’ of mine: finding clarity, peace and happiness in a hectic and high-demanding life. This phase took the entire first half of 2007 and I came out the other end with much insight and understanding about myself and my purpose.

I have never felt so complete and content as I did during this period. With the most rewarding being the absolute stillness I felt within myself and the understanding that we can be truly and absolutely happy with living a simple life with very little material possession. Now, if this is your first visit here, this may sound a little mystical and hand-wavy. No, I am not a hippy, nor am I religious. I am just a girl, going through life, seeking that which we are all seeking: happiness.

What is my secret to happiness and success?

The Inspirations

The catalysts which pushed me into this phase were four books, for which I am extremely grateful. These books are:

I have gained so much wisdom through these books and each time I read them, it wasn’t the words which I was reading, but rather the message. The words from these pages brought me to a higher level of conscious awareness.

The Lifestyle

During the 6 months, I habituated several practices which helped me move into newer levels of understanding. My daily practices included:

  • Meditation - Sitting in silent and calming my mind. 20-30 minutes a sitting. Twice a day.
  • Listening to Meditative Music - Music have the power to shift our moods and calm our minds. I was particularly fond of Stan Richardson’s Japanese Flutes. Everyone who I’ve played it for love its calming effects.
  • Vegetarianism - I was a raw vegan. You can read about Steve Pavlina’s current experiment with a raw diet. I loved the new gained energy I had. I did eat cooked food when dining out, but I refrained from eating meat.
  • Mindfulness - I made a conscious effort to put my full awareness into anything that I was doing. Walking to work, preparing meals, eating, drinking water, listening to others talk.
  • Being Inspired - I spent an hour a day reading or listening to something inspirational. I even hosted a weekly Eckhart Tolle meet-up group where we watched Tolle DVDs, meditated and connected with other people. This turned out to be a deeply enriching experience.
  • Self Dates - I spent a lot of time with myself by myself. I overcame the need to be with other people and the fear of being alone.
  • Daily Focus - From “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success“, I broke the seven laws for each day of the week and focused on one each day. (more details below)
  • Creative Expressions - photography, drawing or writing.
  • Slowed Down - I stopped rushing from place to place, task to task, and started enjoying the miracles of Life; one moment at a time.

This may sound a little extreme, and I was indeed extreme. But I felt a compelling desire to do so, I felt a strong pull towards these practices, in order to satisfy a yearning from deep inside for peace, clarity and understanding.

What Is Success?

Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness
and the progressive realization of worthy goals.
Success is the ability to fulfill your desires with effortless ease.

- Deepak Chopra

Success is a topic I’ve spent many hours pondering and I’ve come to realize that it is so much more than just material wealth. Material wealth is only a small portion of your collective success potential. It is an experience as part of our journey as spiritual beings and yes, material wealth may make this journey more comfortable, but let’s not neglect the other dimensions of success: the success of sound physical health, fulfilling relationships, meaningful friendships, joy of self-expression, freedom from fear, the capacity to understand people and self-mastery.

Living The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

In Deepak Chopra’s book, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success“, he gives us a spiritual look at success. You can have an extensive look at each law in his book, which goes into extensive detail. Here are the seven laws along with an example application found in the book:

1. The Law of Pure Potentiality

The source of all creation is pure
consciousness… pure potentiality seeking expression from
the unmanifest to the manifest.

And when we realize that our
true Self is one of pure potentiality,
we align with the power that manifests everything in the universe.

Example Application:

  • ‘I will practice non-judgment. I will begin my day with the statement, “Today, I shall judge nothing that occurs,” and throughout the day I will remind myself not to judge.’

2. The Law of Giving

The universe operates through dynamic exchange…
giving and receiving are different aspects of
the flow of energy in the universe.

And in our willingness to give that which we seek,
we keep the abundance of
the universe circulating in our lives.

Example Application:

  • ‘Wherever I go, and whoever I encounter, I will bring them a gift. The gift may be a compliment, a flower, or a prayer. Today, I will give something to everyone I come into contact with, and so I will begin the process of circulating joy, wealth and affluence in my life and in the lives of others.’
  • ‘I will make a commitment to keep wealth circulating in my life by giving and receiving life’s most precious gifts: the gifts of caring, affection, appreciation, and love. Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy, and laughter.’

3. The Law of Cause and Effect

“Every action generates a force of energy
that returns to us in like kind . .
what we sow is what we reap.

And when we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others,
the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.”

Example Application:

  • ‘Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: “What are the consequences of this choice that I’m making?” and “Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?”‘

4. The Law of Least Effort

Nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease . . .
with carefreeness, harmony, and love.

And when we harness the forces of harmony, joy, and love,
we create success and good fortune with effortless ease.

Example Application:

  • ‘I will practice acceptance. Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur. I will know that this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be. I will not struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment. My acceptance is total and complete. I accept things as they are this moment, not as I wish they were.’
  • ‘Today my awareness will remain established in Defenselessness. I will relinquish the need to defend my point of view. I will feel no need to convince or persuade others to accept my point of view. I will remain open to all points of view and not be rigidly attached to any one of them.’

5. The Law of Intention and Desire

Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment . . .
Intention and desire in the field of pure potentiality
have infinite organizing power.

And when we introduce an intention in
the fertile ground of pure potentiality,
we put this infinite organizing power to work for us.

Example Application:

  • “I will make a list of all my desires. I will carry this list with me wherever I go. I will look at this list before I go into my silence and meditation. I will look at it before I go to sleep at night. I will look at it when I wake up in the morning.”

6. The Law of Detachment

In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty . . .
in the wisdom of uncertainty list the freedom
from our past, from the known,
which is the prison of past conditioning.

And in our willingness to step into the
unknown, the field of all possibilities,
we surrender ourselves to the creative mind
that orchestrates the dance of the universe.

Example Application:

  • “Today I will commit myself to detachment. I will allow myself and those around me the freedom to be as they are. I will not rigidly impose my idea of how things should be. I will not force solutions on problems, thereby creating new problems. I will participate in everything with detachment involvement.”

7. The Law of Purpose in Life

Everyone has a purpose in life . . . a unique
gift or special talent to give to others.

And when we blend this unique talent with service to others,
we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit,
which is the ultimate goal of all goals.

Example Application:

  • ‘I will make a list of my unique talents. Then I will list all the things that I love to do while expressing my unique talents. When I express my unique talents and use them in the service of humanity, I lose track of time and create abundance in my life as well in the lives of others.’
  • ‘I will ask myself daily, “How can I serve?” and “How can I help?” The answers to these questions will allow me to help and serve my fellow human beings with love.’
  • How to Live the Seven Spiritual Laws?

    Since there are seven principles, I focussed on a different law for each day of the week. Each morning, after waking up, I would read the law for that day and go over the three applications suggested. I would go about my day with these applications in mind.

    I’ve found the applications to be a powerful exercise and served as an excellent reminder for where I wanted to be. In doing so, I felt a level of calmness that cannot be expressed in words.

    I used seven index cards, and wrote a law on each one, and the respective applications on the back of each card.

    Download: For your conveniences, I’ve created this set of cards in digital format for you to print out and try out for yourself.
    (Download DOC Format) (Download PDF Format)

    Book: I highly recommend getting a copy of the book. I bought mine as a used copy from Amazon for about 50 cents.

    What is your definition of Success? What has brought you the most happiness from your experience? Talk to us in the comments, we’d love to hear from you. See you there.

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Top 10 Telephone Tricks


When getting things done involves making phone calls, you want to spend the least amount of time and money on the horn as possible—and several tricks and services can help you do just that. With the right tones, keypresses, phone numbers, and know-how, you can skip through or cut off long-winded automated voice systems and humans, access web services by voice, and smartly screen incoming calls. Check out our pick of the 10 best telephony techniques for getting more done in less time over the phone.

10. Avoid the cost of calling 411 with GOOG 411.

Instead of calling regular 411 to get information (and an extra charge on your phone bill), Google by voice by calling 1-800-GOOG-411 to get a street address or phone number. Some Lifehacker readers say GOOG 411 works better than others; if you haven't tried it, here's a YouTube clip (courtesy of Google) on how to give it a try.

9. Get out of annoying calls and meetings with SorryGottaGo.com sounds and the Popularity Dialer.

Interrupt a long phone call or meeting (or date!) with two interesting services: SorryGottaGo.com (original post) offers a myriad of sounds you can play while you're trapped on an endless phonecall that give you the perfect excuse to hang up. (Like, someone's at the door, or you're out of change to feed the naggy public phone.) Along the same lines, schedule an interrupting call with the Popularity Dialer (original post) an incoming calling service that can make you seem "in demand." (Do we actually recommend these two services? Maybe not, but it's nice to know they're out there when you're desperate.)

8. PayPal money via voice call.

phone-paypal.png When you owe your buddy 12 bucks on the dinner bill and you're out of cash, call 1-800-4PAYPAL (1-800-472-9725) to send him the money on the spot. (Your phone must be activated on your PayPal account for this to work). Here's more on how to send and receive money via phone with PayPal.

7. Email yourself reminders, blog, and set Google Calendar appointments by phone with Jott.

"Do everything you'd ever want from the phone" service Jott supercharges your ability to leave yourself a reminder voicemail. Jott will transcribe your voicemail to self and email it to you, as well as post to your blog, add events to your Google Calendar, and more. See Kevin's full rundown on how to get things done over the phone with Jott.

6. Avoid annoying calls with a custom silent ringtone.

If your cell phone supports per-caller ringtones, reader Jim suggests selectively silencing the low-priority incoming calls with a dead air ringtone. Here's how to make a ringtone from any MP3 on your mobile.

5. Ring all your phones from one number with GrandCentral.

grandcentralonenumber.png Sick of missing calls to the office while you're home or vice versa? Set up a free GrandCentral number that can ring all your phones at once from one number, or selective phones based on the caller—like your cell phone, office phone, and home phone. GrandCentral's got scads of neat customized phone features; see Adam's tour of how to consolidate your phones with GrandCentral.

4. Skip the greeting and get right to the beep with one keypress.

Long voicemail greetings are tedious to sit through, but on many services, specific keypresses can skip you right to the beep. Hit 7 or # to bypass that long greeting, and save time and money on your cell phone bill.

3. Name that tune.

411song.png Dying to know what song that is playing on the car radio? Call 866-411-SONG and hold your phone up to the speakers. Just 15 seconds (and a small fee), and 411 SONG will send you a text message with the song name and artist. (This only works on cell phones with SMS capabilities.)

2. Swear like a sailor to skip directly to a human operator.

When that Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system's making you navigate an endless menu of options, put your potty mouth to good use. Some IVR's are programmed to listen for naughty words and speed you along to human help when they hear them. Adam gave this trick a try and dropping the F bomb did indeed zap him right through to a human. We suggest using this trick when you're not within earshot of your co-workers.

1. Trick automated phone bots into thinking your line's dead.

If you've got automated phone marketers or political campaigns or debt collectors ringing your phone at all hours, trick the system into thinking your phone's dead. Add the U.S. Special Information Tone signal for "vacant circuit" to the beginning of your voicemail greeting to automatically unsubscribe your phone number from bot call lists.

How do you save time and money getting things done on the phone? Let us know in the comments.

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