Family Reunion Fundraising Ideas

Asking family for money can be challenging. And, you probably already asked each family to donate a flat fee for the family reunion but need a little extra cash for some activities. More families will be prepared to share money if they know there is a fundraiser at the family reunion. So announce the fundraiser in advance.

Now, for a few fund raising ideas.

Items you can sell

Get something specially made with the family name to sell for your family reunion fund raiser.

Some Items to Sell:

  • Welcome sign with the family name
  • Garden sign with the family name
  • Notepad with family name (maybe date and location of the reunion)
  • Etched glass pie plates or casserole dishes, wine glasses or vase
  • Family Recipe Book
  • Embroider or silkscreen hats, t-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, bags
  • Book with family history stories
  • Book with current family stories
  • Photo album of family reunion pictures (to be delivered sometime after the reunion, obviously)
  • Family photo calendar
  • Antenna balls
  • Pens with family name

Auction

Ask family members to submit items to be sold at an auction. They can offer crafts, food items or even a coupon for service, maybe a week at their personal cabin in the mountains. A good auctioneer will keep the auction lively and moving quickly.

Silent Auction

A silent auction replaces the auctioneer with paper and pens and works very well with a mix & mingle activity.

Label each item for auction and include a blank numbered list for family members to write their names and a price they want to bid for the item. Encourage family members to bid, and outbid each other. Allow a set amount of time for the silent auction.

Raffle

Again, invite family members to donate items for a raffle, or use just one large, special prize for the raffle. Then sell tickets for a set price, maybe $1 or $5. You can purchase carnival style tickets from a party store. If you have some high end items you can do a separate raffle for those with different color tickets that cost more.

Set a container (like a plastic cup) next to each item for raffle with a label for the item it matches. Have everyone put tickets with their names in the container labeled with the item they are interested in. Dump the tickets from the container to mix them before drawing names to announce a winner for each item. Have a few people available to deliver the goods to waiting family members.

Funniest Home Video

For a $5 or $20 entry fee invite each family to submit their funniest home video. Videos should be 2 minutes or shorter. And announce if they need to be candid, or if they can be staged. Review the videos before the reunion so they can be edited if needed. Keep them family-friendly. The winner should be decided by a panel of judges, from several different families, who have not submitted any videos. Offer a prize for the winner. You can make it monetary or something with the family name engraved on it.

Home Movie

Invite families to remake a scene from their favorite movie. Set a time limit of 2 minutes or less and charge a $5 entry fee. Review the videos before the reunion so you can keep it family-friendly.

Yard Sale

Ask family to donate items for a yard sale and hold it in a prominent place-near a busy road. Announce the yard sale in local papers and websites. Many classifieds have sections for yard sales, both printed papers and on-line newspapers. Decide before the yard sale what to do with items that don’t sell. Does everyone want them returned or donated to a thrift store?

50/50 Raffle (50% to winner and 50% to reunion)

Offer a cash-only raffle. Sell tickets for $1 or $5. At the end of the family reunion draw a single ticket and split the cash 50/50 with the winner, and with the family reunion fundraising coffers.

Sports Competition

Pick your favorite sport. And compete. Charge an entry fee to compete and offer a reward for the winner.

Miniature Golf Tournament

Ask family members to submit miniature golf holes to create a unique golf course for your family reunion. You can do this on a volunteer basis or ask for a submission fee and offer a prize for the best hole. Then, of course, there will be an entry fee to compete in the miniature golf tournament. Make everyone aware if they need to bring their own golf clubs, if golf clubs will be provided, or if those creating the golf holes will need to provide a unique set of clubs for each hole Golf, and the winner take a prize. But the reunion takes the greatest prize from the entry fees.

Contest

You know what your family loves to do. Turn it into a contest. Is it art? Is it singing, dancing, theater? Writing? Lop eared bunnies? Scrubbing toilets! I knew I’d find it. Create a contest. Entry fees, prizes, blue ribbons, honorable mentions and judges. Keep most of the money from the entry fees for your reunion fund. And use some for a prize for the winner. And if you get clean toilets out of it…then that’s just awesome!

Your 5-Step Weight Loss Plan

If you have been searching all over the internet for a perfect weight loss plan that will work for you under all circumstances, your search ends here. It is a perfect and easy-to-follow 5-step weight loss plan that is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you do and how much weight you need to lose, this plan will work for everyone.

So here we go.

1- Plan out everything that you need to do. Be confident, determined and ambitious about what you do. Write down your objectives and stick to them.

2- Start doing exercise. Join a gym and do exercise 5 days a week. The workouts have to be intensive with high weights. In any case, make sure you do not spend more than 30 minutes in gym. Do not drink water or juices before or during exercise. It must be noted that you need to increase the intake of water as soon as you will join gym in order to offset dehydration. When you will keep yourself hydrated, you will lose quickly.

Not only that you need to join a gym but you must do as much physical activities as you can. Go out for jogging in the nearest park, swim, play games etc. Try to burn calories and that is only possible if you will keep yourself physically active.

3- Switch to healthy foods. Focus on quality instead of quantity of food. There is no need to cut off anything. Do not change your previous eating routine. If you take 3 meals a day that’s OK. In fact, you need to reduce gap between meals. Instead of eating everything at once, you must try to distribute it over a longer duration.

Avoid fatty foods, junk food, cheese, chocolates, candies, alcohol and other unhealthy foods. Meantime include vegetables, fruits, water, juices, tea, coffee, green tea etc. in your diet.

4- Eat foods that speed up metabolism. Once your metabolism will be boosted, you will lose very quickly. There are certain foods, medicines and supplements that are considered good for boosting metabolism. You need to use foods and natural ingredients because they don’t have any harmful effects. African mango, grapes, berries, green tea and caffeine are good for boosting metabolism process.

5- If you think that dieting is good for weight loss, you are wrong because it is not a good idea to diet for weight reduction. According to physicians, dieting make you fat. When you do not eat for hours, your body doesn’t burn the stored fat. This is not what you want – right?

Nostalgia in Games

Nostalgia. The word brings to mind a joyous familiarity felt when engaging in something in the present that we really enjoyed doing in the past. Gaming is no different. Everyone has games that bring back memories from, what we think of now as, better times. Hindsight is a like the snob that points out what you could have done, hindsight tells us our childhood may not have been as bad as we thought. As adults we know how the world works. When we were growing up, we never really had a grip on the world. Hindsight tells us that those times were better, safer, less complicated. Games that bring on nostalgia puts us in the mindset of a kid again. It makes us feel safe, secure, and protected. Humans have a natural tendency to want safety and protection. Especially the adults, because as adults we know just how quickly the world can go from OK one day, to horrible the next. As gamers we seek safety and security in games.

I started gaming when I was very young as most gamers my age did. I grew up playing Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 with my mom and sister. Super Mario, Kirby, and Mario Cart were a few of the titles that we played. Zelda was perhaps the biggest game we played. My mom has problems with fast-moving games like Call of Duty and other highly graphic games. So we played Super Nintendo and what a time it was! Zelda on the Super Nintendo we beat many times. I say “we” but it was my mom playing not me or my sister. Even thinking about it while writing this I’m getting nostalgia. We kept getting close to the end and then the game wiping our save out so we started over like three times. It was good times. That was when I was around six or seven or eight. Long time ago. Nostalgia gives us hope for the future. It tells us that if good times happened in the past then more good times will happen in the future.

Later I started gaming on my own. It is hard to think about what game came next in chronological order but they all had a theme: single-player strategy. A broad gaming description that can fit a lot of games in it. Games like Pharaoh and Cleopatra, Age of Empires II, and of course Sid Meier’s Civilization III. I was not allowed to play shooters as they had bad language in them and so was restricted to single player games. My parents were very protective and games were not as prevalent twenty years ago as they are now. Pharaoh is a city builder placing you in ancient Egypt. The goal of the game was the build great cities using the resources at your disposal and it was quite a challenge for an eleven year old. Age of Empires II is a real-time strategy game that is completely different from pharaoh. You have to balance resource collection and troop production to take down either AI or other players. Civ III was probably my favorite game growing up. To this day, I still play pharaoh and age of empires II.

Think about what nostalgia is again for just a second. It is a feeling coming from a memory. A memory of “better times” that may or may not be accurate. Games we played a long time ago, that brings back those memories, might not continue to be fun. Civ III I played for hundreds of hours when I was younger is not as fun now that I am older so I do not play it as much now. Sometimes nostalgia lies.

In conclusion, nostalgia in games is a good thing. It allows us to relive parts of our childhood that we otherwise would not have a reason to bring back up from the depths of our minds. Many people say that video games lead to anti-social behavior, violence, and a drop in school grades. Video games teach us how the world is. When you are playing multiplayer of any game you will usually find people who are just toxic. It prepares for dealing with the worst society has to throw at us. Human beings are prone to violence. The first murder happened when Cain killed Abel back in Genesis. I am pretty sure at they did not have video games back then. So this point is always going to be moot. The only point that actually makes sense is the drop in school grades. It takes a great deal of discipline to do school work over video games. It builds character this discipline. So next time you feel nostalgia coming on, take some time to stop and smell the memories. Bask in the thoughts of better times and the hope that good times are still ahead, no matter what the world tells you in the present. This is what video game nostalgia teaches us.

Horizon Fitness Treadmills – Which One is Right For You?

You can choose to go to a great health club to work out on one of their treadmills or you can now have a great workout in the comfort of your home with Horizon Fitness Treadmills. They come in all ranges and sizes. Take a look at some of the favorite models.

The Horizon WT950 treadmill can reach high speeds of up to 12 miles per hour. It is made for endurance, hard and rigorous training routines and packs 2.25 horsepower. It has an incline motor which can operate at a full power of 3150RPM and 500 pounds of direct thrust from 0 to 12 per cent grade. With a great wireless pedometer which enables you to keep a tally of your daily steps quite easily, you can check the treadmill to know how your fitness is progressing each day. The treadmill has the capacity to upload your daily steps for the day using the treadmill console. It is portable thanks to its featherlight lift feature which uses two hydraulic shocks to help you in raising and lowering the deck. They are able to keep the deck in place above 45 degrees to prevent drops. The ultra compact, fold-on-nose is for safety and maneuverability. It also has a thicker, softer cushioning which is designed to take stress off your legs and joints.

The Horizon Fitness Treadmills also have another model called the Horizon T20 treadmill which used to be called the Advance 200 and has continued to be one of the best sellers. It is rated highly by all dealers because it attracts buyers from the novice and expert fitness enthusiasts to just everybody searching for a light or casual workout. It is durable and easy to control. It comes from a series of treadmills like the T25, T30, T40, T51, T52, T53, T54, HR. All of them are quality products which are every fitness shopper’s first choice for walking, running, or jogging with or without an incline. They can keep count of the calories burned, distance and speed covered during the workout.

The Horizon Fitness Treadmills also has a model called the Horizon Cse3 Elliptical that is designed to benefit people who suffer from joint problems. It means that the countless number of people who are tempted to give up exercise can be encouraged to use this particular treadmill. It has low-impact exercise for people with joint problems – whether they wish to lose weight, get in shape or just maintain their existing fitness level.

Ellipticals are sometimes called elliptical fitness machines, elliptical cross trainers, elliptical gliders or elliptical exercisers and provides perfect aerobic workout. They simulate the motions of cycling, walking, skiing, and stepping with very little impact to the delicate joints. With Horizon Fitness Cse3 Elliptical trainer, you do not have to remove the feet from the foot pads which mean that the workout puts very little impact on the knees, ankles, hips, and the back area of your body. This workout treadmill can work both your arms and legs at the same time. This enables the workout to burn more calories in a very limited time period. They are one of the most popular types of Horizon Fitness Treadmills even for use outdoors.

Preparing Velcro Children For Separation

Velcro clothes items have become not only acceptable but fashionable. As parents of preschoolers you no longer have to struggle with teaching your kid how to tie his shoes before he enters kindergarten. You have also done away with those abominable zippers that just won’t pull when your child is in a hurry to go outdoors to play and that won’t unzip when he runs in to use the washroom. Instead, Velcro has come to your rescue. Even I find Velcro handy as I strap on my sandals.

We’re OK with Velcro on these items but we don’t want to encourage Velcro children. Velcro children are the kind that stick to you like a burr when you try to drop them off at playschool or any other place.

Velcro children are super sensitive. I know; I was one of them. I stood in the corner of the hallway and cried on my first day of school. I grew up in a large family that loved me and was kind to me and I was used to being around people, but not strangers. I had been very sheltered from strangers since my siblings met all my social needs. I tagged along with my older sister who was in grade three that first week of school. I’m sure she didn’t appreciate me although now she says she doesn’t remember that.

That experience helped me be super sensitive and aware of Velcro kids in my preschool classes. They were usually the sweetest ones, hiding behind their moms. I felt for them but I knew from experience that once they became familiar with the environment and bonded a bit with me and at least one other child, they would wave a happy good-bye to their mom, too.

There are many ways you can prepare even the most sensitive, shyest child to enter his new world comfortably. Leaving your child behind for the first time or introducing him to a new growing experience can also be a huge emotional time for you, his parent. Your child senses how you feel so try to envision before hand what will happen and how you will deal with your own worry and anxiety. Read some books or talk to parents that have gone through this before the big day comes. Leave your child alone with a relative or close friend for just a few minutes to start and then for longer times. This weans him off his dependence on you.

Playing games like peek-a-boo with an infant, and hide and seek with your toddler or preschooler, helps your child realize you may be out of sight for a while but you are coming back for him.

I encouraged a parent to stay in class with his child for the first day if the child would just not let his parent out of sight. It wasn’t worth it to allow the child to scream and throw a tantrum. As a parent or a teacher you need to evaluate each child’s emotional state individually. Sometimes a child just is not emotionally mature enough to handle separation. One patient loving dad stayed eight days. I was so impressed. He didn’t coddle his son; he was just in the room.

You may want to visit the classroom, be it kindergarten, or Sunday school, children’s church or a daycare, before the day your child will be dropped off. Your child may need only a few minutes before class or he may need to become familiar with his new environment, playing, while you talk or have coffee with the caregiver or teacher. Depending on the teacher and her situation, if you are comfortable with her, invite her for lunch. I did that with my son’s grade one teacher and we were all bonded for the year. As a preschool teacher I was always honored when a parent invited me into her home.

Also, please be honest with your child. Don’t sneak out; that breaks his trust in you. Tell him that you will be back for him soon and he will be OK.

So with advanced planning and your warm reassurance that there are a million fun things for him to do, your child will soon happily be waving good-bye to you.

Optimizing Memory in the Adult Brain for Effectiveness in a Multitasking Society

Michelle walked into the kitchen, paused, and looked around. Just moments before, she knew that there was something she had to do in here. Now it completely slipped her mind. She searched for clues, something to prompt her memory. She opened cabinets and drawers, fingered the cool marble countertop, mentally retraced her steps. What had she been thinking about before she came in here? A mild anxiety crept over her. She shuddered to shake off the feeling that this was the beginning of the end. At 43 she feared she was beginning to lose her mind.

For many people the first sign of aging is a “senior moment” like the one described above-a sudden, inexplicable lapse of memory. Forgetting names or appointments, misplacing car keys or reports, not knowing why they entered a room or opened a drawer leads hundreds of thousands of Americans in their 40s and 50s to enroll in memory training courses every year. Small wonder-for many people memory loss is closely associated with more severe signs of senility, including loss of control over bodily functions, regression into infantile behavior, reversal of parent/child roles, and loss of mental competency. The specter of Alzheimer’s disease looms large even in people who have no family history of the illness.

Research about Alzheimer’s has lead to new insights into what it takes to maintain a healthy brain or at least slow down the aging process. Important physical factors include a diet rich in antioxidants and Vitamins A and E, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress-free relaxation. It’s also important to stay socially active and mentally challenged.

Why then are the “baby boomers” (age 40+)-who are still actively engaged at work and in their communities, who recognize the value of good nutrition and healthy life styles-crowding into classrooms to learn how to remember strings of numbers and never forget a face or name? More than simple vanity and the refusal to grow old, these high-functioning, high-energy participants recognize the demands that our multitasking society of instant messages and global networks makes on them. Their refusal to be left behind and “put out to pasture” has lead to additional studies on the effectiveness of training the adult brain to function better and remember more clearly.

Less than a generation ago, conventional wisdom advised people to “grow old gracefully,” to accept that their bodies and minds would deteriorate at a predictable rate and in a predictable way. Subsequent studies have proven that regular exercise and proper nutrition can slow down and sometimes even reverse some of the aging process. Additional studies by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), have demonstrated that adult brains may be just as resilient and adaptable as the rest of their bodies, given the necessary resources and proper training.

In an unprecedented two-year program involving 2,802 participants, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (November 13, 2002 issue), researchers examined the short- and long-term effects ten hours of training in concentration, memory, or problem solving had on healthy, independent seniors ranging in ages from 65 to 94. Randomly assigned to groups of approximately 700, participants were either given no training (control group) or received specific instruction in one of the following: verbal episodic memory, ability to solve problems that follow a pattern, or visual search and identification. Researchers selected specific memory, reasoning, and speed of processing programs because they related well to daily living tasks such as “telephone use, shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, medication use, and personal finances.”

The memory group learned strategies for remembering lists of words and the main ideas and specific details in stories. The reasoning group focused on detecting patterns and using that information to solve problems. Such skills are useful for filling out order forms and reading schedules. The speed of processing group practiced locating and identifying visual information as related to looking up telephone numbers, reading directions on prescriptions, and responding to traffic signs and signals.

After receiving group specific training for two hours a week for five weeks, testing showed 26% improvement in the memory group, 74% improvement in the reasoning group, and 87% improvement in the speed of processing group as compared to the no-training control group. Moreover, particularly with additional “booster” sessions, the training effects continued to be maintained as demonstrated by testing done two years after the initial study-counteracting, as Dr. Karlene Ball of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said, “The degree of cognitive decline that we would expect to see over a 7- to 14-year period among older people without dementia.” However, the training showed no significant effect on the daily living tasks already performed by these independent seniors.

One might conclude that training which focuses on specific types of cognition-e.g. memory, reasoning, concentration-can improve efficiency even as we age, but does not make us significantly more effective. A reason for these mixed results may be that the specific types of training selected emphasized tasks primarily performed by the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes make up 40% of the adult brain. It was the last part of the human brain to evolve and is the last part to mature. It is where we plan, organize, correct, control, and generate options. It is also the first part of the brain to shut down and deteriorate with physical and/or emotional stress caused by the demands of modern life.

The 74% improvement in reasoning based on pattern detection and the 87% improvement in the speed of processing that emphasized visual search and identification in the NIA study would not have surprised Ian Robertson, a professor of psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and the director of the Institute of Neuroscience. He has written extensively about the brain’s potential for reorganizing itself through attention. In Opening the Mind’s Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us How to See, he said “Precisely because imagery tends to be underused, it tends to be less habitual, less automatic-and hence, potentially at least, more flexible.” The underused part of the brain being referred to is the parietal lobes where sensory input is integrated, analogies are constructed, eye-hand coordination guided, and attention oriented. Although attention is under the control of the frontal lobes, and is key to learning and remembering, the parietal lobes play a central role in directing attention, controlling gaze, and integrating the components of what is seen. In conjunction with the temporal lobes, they enable the recall of strings of numbers and visual and other non-verbal memories.

Parietal lobes are extremely active in preschoolers, who think more visually than verbally. Formal education, with its focus on reading and writing, shifts the emphasis to language development. Unfortunately, this also tends to slow down the learning process and creative thinking. Studies show that combining words and pictures in our heads improves recall and understanding. Moreover, visual memories actually survive longer with age than language-based memories. This may be due in part because brain activity drops in the frontal lobes when attention is divided, as occurs when people multitask.

Of course, some people retain strong visual skills throughout their school years. Many of them become artists, architects, or engineers. The people who shift strongly to verbalization are more likely to have careers in law, administration, or journalism. The good news is that visualization can be improved with practice at any age. A frequently quoted study on London cab drivers ( Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, April 11, 2000 issue) provides evidence that the intentional application of visual and spatial memory over an extended period of time may physically enlarge the hippocampus, a part of the cerebral cortex.

Cabbies are required to spend a minimum of two years learning the meandering geography of London and its landmarks. They then must pass a stringent test to prove they can transport passengers anywhere in the city, via the shortest route, without the use of street maps. Brain scans revealed that the more experienced cab drivers have significantly larger posterior hippocampuses than their less experienced colleagues. Although some have argued that people with unusually large hippocampuses may naturally drift toward cab driving, there is no evidence among cabbies in other cities with less demanding standards to support the claim. The London study was the first to demonstrate that the adult human brain could be substantially changed through experience.

Besides visual and spatial recall, the hippocampus plays an important role in regulating the body’s response to life-threatening emergencies. Chronic stress can lead to the loss of hippocampal neurons and the atrophying of dendrites that connect to other brain cells. Some of the post-traumatic stress disorders of war veterans, such as poor memory, are linked to shrunken hippocampuses. But it has also been discovered that new brain cells can be produced in the hippocampus even in adults. The significance of this can be seen in how people in their 20s memorize when compared to people in their 70s. Brain scans revealed that, when asked to memorize lists of words, both age groups utilized the left frontal lobe, but younger people also employed the hippocampus, associated with word-less memories. The young people, who were more used to taking tests, did something else as well that helped them remember better-according to Ian Robertson, they would “sort, shift, and categorize.” It is a process that cognitive psychologist Fergus Craik of the University of Toronto calls “depth of encoding.” When we actively process and organize information, we engage the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes-thus strengthening the connections among them and enhancing recall.

NASA wasn’t specifically interested in enhancing memory when it selected the Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) training program in 1999. Rather, the Agency wanted to enhance employee effectiveness under increasingly stressful conditions. It chose DSM because it is the only critical thinking course specifically designed to augment the brain functions of adults. It extensively utilizes graphic puzzles to teach and rehearse various ways of organizing information. DSM puzzles apply the same methods artists have employed for centuries to trick viewers into making assumptions about what they see and understand. But the puzzles are not merely optical illusions. To solve them the participant has to visualize the conditions that make some answers logical and others illogical. NASA received overwhelmingly positive verbal comments from participants in the program. An unprecedented 90% said they would recommend DSM to others, 83% wanted to see the program automated for computer access, and almost all wanted additional training.

When asked about the effects of DSM, numerous participants reported that they learned the following:

• To consider perspectives and points of view other than their own

• To become more open-minded

• To think about alternative understandings

• To become more analytical

• To become more objective

A subsequent focus group comprised of DSM alumni repeatedly emphasized how the training improved their intra-group communication and cooperation skills. NASA’s Evaluation Design Consultant concluded that the benefits “stem from the emphasis on how varying perspectives contribute to problem solving.”

Research by cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in Paris and cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Spelke of Massachusetts Institute of Technology regarding how human brains perform mathematics may suggest that there is more to the DSM program than merely contributing to an intellectual understanding of varying perspectives. Brain scans indicate that people use different parts of their brains when doing different types of math. Our left frontal lobe “lights up” when we make exact calculations, but our left and right parietal lobes are triggered when we make estimates and count on our fingers. Moreover, people who have difficulty with numbers, a condition known as “dyscalculia,” are also apt to have problems conceptualizing time and direction. They tend to be chronically late, easily disoriented in new environments, usually make decisions based on intuition rather than logic, have difficulty planning activities and keeping track of money. It is not a question of intelligence or memory. People with dyscalculia can be highly articulate and excellent writers and readers. The issue is the functional integration of the brain.

People who have difficulty visualizing haven’t learned how to see. Research by Stephen Kosslyn of Harvard demonstrates that the same parts of the brain that are engaged when we intentionally look at something “light up” when we just imagine seeing it. In other words, when we attentively look at something and try to determine its significance, we may also be improving our visual memories.

Memory enhancement is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the capacity of the adult brain to learn. With practice the average person can memorize extensive lists of words and numbers that have little practical value beyond impressing one’s friends at parties. To be truly effective, memory has to be linked to meaning and purpose. Mental training that employs visualization is crucial in developing the agility to use the information we remember in productive ways. Because the modern world demands more of us, we should not settle for less than the optimal use of our brains.

How the PlayStation Changed the Game

In the early nineties Nintendo was the undisputed king of the video game industry. SEGA had tried to compete with the NES and the SNES home consoles with their Master System and Mega Drive, and while the latter did a lot better than the former, Nintendo were still firmly in first place once all the sales were counted. As the SNES and Mega Drive generation was winding up, SEGA started toying with the idea of using CDs instead of cartridges, even going so far as to release the SEGA CD add-on for the Mega Drive.

Nintendo, for their part, also dabbled in CD technology. They held talks with Sony, famous for their work with CDs and the accompanying hardware, to help them build a CD drive for the SNES. Sony spent time and money learning about the gaming industry and building their prototypes but negotiations between the two Japanese companies broke down. Depending on who you ask, either Nintendo agreed terms with another company in secret and let Sony find out at the last minute, or Sony were asking for too much money and Nintendo baulked on the deal. Whichever is true, the result was still the same; Sony was out on their ear in regards to the SNES-CD. While that deal hadn’t worked out for anybody, what became clear was that the gaming industry was moving towards CD as their medium of choice.

Sony decided to use what they’d learned and developed working with Nintendo to create their own console and enter the fray; they dubbed it the PlayStation and released it in 1994, about two years before Nintendo would release their next big console. What nobody expected was that Sony would ultimately dethrone Nintendo as the most popular console manufacturer in the world and begin a twenty year dominance of the industry.

One of the main reasons that Sony was so successful with the original PlayStation was their superb marketing of the console. Prior to the PlayStation, almost all games consoles were aimed at children. Sony made a shrewd move in specifically targeting young adults in their marketing, making PlayStation a hit among gamers that had grown up with a Nintendo console but now wanted something a little more, well, grown up.

Sony would put the PlayStation in nightclubs and have celebrities endorse the console or be photographed playing one. Games generally started to drift more towards an adult tone, and new titles like Tomb Raider were seen as altogether cooler than Mario or Zelda. Ultimately, Sony took a hobby that was generally seen as for children and openly mocked by many, and helped to make it into the more respected medium that we see today. While it would be silly to say that they did it out of the kindness of their hearts – they made a hell of a lot of money through making gaming more accepted in the public eye – we can’t overlook what they did. Sony made gaming cool.

When it came time for the next big Nintendo console, the N64, the company surprised a lot of people by announcing that it would still use cartridges instead of CD. The logic behind the decision made enough sense; CDs are much easier to pirate than cartridges, and they feared that using CDs would cost them a lot of money thanks to copied games. The decision to stick with cartridges and the extra two year development time Nintendo had with the N64 meant that the system was more powerful than the PlayStation and load times were virtually non-existent. Cartridges did have downsides though – they made games more expensive to produce, they were harder to develop for, and it meant that the N64 would struggle with storage, music quality and FMV.

Squaresoft had long been working with Nintendo and had brought all of their previous Final Fantasy games to Nintendo consoles. But seeing the extra storage space CDs would afford them, and knowing that they could push the boundaries of production values with higher quality cut-scenes, Square jumped ship and decided to produce the next title in their Final Fantasy series for the PlayStation: Final Fantasy VII.

It’s impossible to overstate just how important Final Fantasy VII was. As an RPG, it introduced millions of gamers to their first Japanese role playing game, and the subsequent popularity of the genre meant that role playing mechanics began to filter into practically every other genre. Today we have RPG systems in FIFA.

But as important as Final Fantasy VII was to games, it was even more important for Sony. Final Fantasy had become a big deal in Japan and the move to PlayStation meant that sales for the console went up in Sony’s homeland cementing the console’s position as the one to own for fans of JRPGs. In the years that followed, the PlayStation would see dozens of top notch JRPGs released, and even today this period of time is remembered fondly as a golden age for the genre. What was more surprising was how well Final Fantasy VII was received outside of Japan, though.

While the Final Fantasy series had been fairly popular among gamers around the globe, Final Fantasy VII became a phenomenon. Thanks to stellar reviews, contagious word of mouth, and a hefty marketing campaign, Final Fantasy VII went on to be a massive hit that meant more to the industry than just some impressive sales numbers. Gamers embraced the story of Cloud and Sephiroth, and hungry for more, JRPG sales generally went up. Final Fantasy became a premier brand, and future releases for the series became events that gamers would look forward to.

Final Fantasy VII also featured impressive – for the time – visuals that wouldn’t have been possible had Squaresoft made the game for the N64. The quality of the FMV sequences in Final Fantasy VII was one of the major talking points surrounding the game, and the cinematic edge that Squaresoft brought to the title was something that other games still replicate to this day.

Thanks largely to Final Fantasy VII the PlayStation made a serious mark upon the gaming industry, and from there things only got better. The extra power the N64 had technically was negated by the increased storage capacity of the discs the PlayStation used, and the higher quality of music and video that available to developers. Titles like Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Tomb Raider simply wouldn’t have worked on N64, and they all became major selling points for Sony’s console. What’s more, Nintendo had no answer for games like these, instead generally sticking to the tried and tested games like Mario and Zelda.

While the quality of Nintendo’s games remained as high as ever, their hardware had let them down this time around. Whether they underestimated the threat of Sony as a credible competitor or whether they didn’t realise the impact that CDs would have upon the industry, Nintendo were finally number two to another company in the gaming space. By the end of the generation, the N64 had sold around 32 million units, while the PlayStation racked up over 100 million in sales.

Late in the generation, taking inspiration from the N64 controller which featured an analogue stick, Sony released the first Dual Shock controller and changed the way we play games forever. Nintendo made a clever move in including an analogue stick in their controller since 3D gaming would require a little more precision than the standard D-Pad would allow. But Sony took the idea and did something ingenious with it. With one analogue stick to control the player character, and one analogue stick left to control the camera, the way we play games was redefined. Microsoft and Nintendo have both copied this approach since, and now the control scheme is so commonplace that playing a 3D game from before the dual-analogue time period feels awkward.

Nostalgia might paint Nintendo as the leaders of console gaming; they were the explorers that went out into uncharted territory. But Sony was the company that used what they discovered to build the gaming industry into what it is today. PlayStation has been the premier brand in video games longer than Nintendo ever was.

Part of the reason for that is the success of the original PlayStation console. The first steps into 3D gaming might have been awkward, but once the foundations were laid, console gaming was changed forever. The PlayStation helped to establish that via a combination of clever marketing, shifting people’s perceptions of the industry, and championing a few key franchises that would go on to be some of the biggest in the world.

Today, the original PlayStation is remembered as a console that changed gaming for a lot of people. Whether it Final Fantasy VII being their first RPG, Metal Gear Solid being the action movie that they could play, or Silent Hill scaring the pants off them, the PlayStation was a massively important moment in video game history, and a console that gave us an incredible library of games.

Health and Fitness Can Be Improved at Your Local YMCA

Americans have the bad reputation of being some of the most unfit people in the world. This could be largely due to the rise of obesity in the United States. There is much opportunity to eat an unhealthy diet in the US with all the fast food available. This leads to obesity and lack of physical fitness.

Good exercise is known by everyone as a very vital thing to maintain good health. And this is more ideal when this taken along with a good nutritional plan. Americans have been encouraged to lose weight and get more physically fit. YMCAs have stepped in to help adults with their health and fitness.

Most YMCAs have swimming facilities and a fitness center. They have become a convenient place for people to visit before or after work to do their fitness routine.

One of the things that makes YMCAs popular is the fact that this gives people more time to do exercises. This is even more convenient to busy people who do not have the time of the day or works odd hours. The people who are occupied much of the day, and who only have certain times to spend in this kind of activity.

Because YMCAs give more time to people to exercise, they become more and more fond of it. In fact, more and more YMCAs are opening up in the United States now. This is because Americans appear to be addicted in this activity for they want to have a thin shape and maintain their beauty. Most YMCAs offer a multitude of activities. Examples of these are swimming, racquetball, spa, tennis, weight training, and bicycling.

No doubt, YMCAs will help people to achieve their want for a beautiful body. Here, people achieve beauty in a healthy manner. No need to undergo into liposuction to trim those fats. Rigorous exercise is enough to burn them all in good shape. In addition, YMCAs are also a place where one can meet and mingle with different types of people, hence a place that is also good for socialization. This is also one of the reasons why more people are exercising at the YMCA, and why they make this activity as part of their life routine.

The Georgia Aquarium – An Amazing Underwater Experience

If a one of a kind underwater experience is what you are after, then no trip to Georgia is complete without dropping by the Georgia Aquarium. This place is a haven of the world’s largest collection of aquatic animals. A trip to this attraction is an experience you can compare to diving into Atlantis!

Being a unique attraction that has five galleries, the Georgia Aquarium is a must-see when you’re near the skirts of Atlanta. Each of these galleries within the Aquarium houses hundreds of species of aquatic life ranging from sharks, whales, otters, and the tiniest beautiful and even odd looking fish you could ever imagine.

At the Georgia Aquarium, you’re not just getting the chance to see these sea creatures swim in over eight million gallons of water, this Atlanta Tourist attraction also has unique must sees such as the fourth dimension at Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow, Quick Dip Tours, and an exhibition called Titanic Aquatic. The Dip Tours are however subject to availability and it is recommended to purchase the advance booklet entry.

Additional facilities also include the Caf Aquaria food court; souvenir shops like the Beyond the Reef and Sand Dollars gift shops; a 1,600-car parking deck; and the venue is handicap accessible.

With its operations at 365 days a year, hundreds of guests daily visit the aquarium that opens from 10AM to 5PM Sundays to Thursdays, and 10AM to 6PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Regular tickets are $54.50 for adults and $44.50 for children.

Located at 225 Baker Street, NW, Atlanta City, the Georgia Aquarium is on top the list of Atlanta attractions. Getting there can also be via bus or train. If by bus, you may take Toute 97 from of MARTA’s five points. When travelling by train, hop on at the CNN Center MARTA stop on the East/West line; or you may take one from the Peachtree Center stop on the North/South line.

But convenience wise, you may opt to purchase trip passes or package tours from local tour operators. There are even some available packages that will go through all the Atlanta attractions.

Other top tourists’ spots of the area include World of Coca-Cola, Zoo Atlanta, Inside CNN Atlanta, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the High Museum of Art, and the Atlanta History Center. Aside from the Georgia Aquarium, most tour operators include the first 4 of the enumerated attractions and have the remaining 3 places as optional alternatives in local tour passes or packages.

How to Be a Mermaid

Have you ever dreamed of having a mermaid tail and skimming through the water with the fish? Of looking and feeling like a real mermaid, your hair flowing behind you as you swirl and twirl underwater?

Well, it is possible today to be a mermaid-though I’m afraid I can’t promise you’ll be able to breathe under water!

No, I’m talking about a new pastime which is growing around the globe, and it’s called mermaiding. Not just girls and women are doing it, but so are boys and men.

Many of us were inspired by the famous international model, Hannah Fraser, also known as Hannah Mermaid. She dreamed of being a mermaid since she was nine years old. As she got older, she started modeling. Eventually she started crafting her own complete mermaid costumes and doing underwater photo and video shoots. She now has three gorgeous, one-of-a-kind tails and lots of amazing footage you can view on her website by googling “Hannah Mermaid.” She has mermaided with sea turtles, dolphins, fish and whales!!! She has trained herself to withstand ocean pressure down to almost 40 feet, and she can gold her breath for 2 minutes.

You can also do a search on YouTube for “mermaid” and you’ll find lots of people who are making and   swimming  in their own mermaid tails.

So now you know about mermaiding, and you can’t wait to get started. If you know how to sew and have the time, you can make your own simple tail. Sasha Mermaid has a wonderful YouTube video tutorial on “How to Make A Mermaid Tail.”

If you want a tail but don’t want to sew one, you can find a company which makes mermaid tails, tops and accessories. There are several out there, including a couple of eBay sellers. Prices range from a hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.

Now that you have your tail, a matching top and perhaps a seashell necklace or two, you are ready to mermaid.

The tails use a monofin, which is a single flipper which both your feet fit into. It takes a little getting used to,  swimming  with your legs attached together in your tail. If you already know the dolphin  swim , this is a great stroke to do with the tail on. But you don’t need to know any special  swim  strokes-the tail with the monofin itself will cause you to  swim  mermaid-fashion. It looks very beautiful in the water, is fast and fun to do.

Now, to enhance your mermaiding, there are several skills to master. First, you need to  swim , dive and do twirls in the water without ever holding your nose. If you are used to holding your nose, your first step is to learn to blow out a little when you first go under and learn to not hold your nose anymore. If you practice this a lot, but find that there are times you can’t get by without holding your nose or too much water comes in, I suggest you get a clear noseplug specifically for  swimming . You can slip it onto the top of your nose and it will keep the water out, no matter what you do in the water. Since it is clear, it won’t draw attention to itself.

Secondly, you need to practice holding your breath for longer periods of time under water. Use common sense and caution-don’t let yourself get into danger or pass out. But from my research I’ve found that learning to hold your breath for long periods of time simply comes with practice and learning to relax in the water. The mermaid performers in Weeki Wachee, Florida,  swim  and practice every day. Some of them have learned to hold their breath up to six minutes long! Another mermaid model, Mermaid Linden, hires herself out for mermaid performances and she has trained herself to hold her breath for four and a half minutes!

Now, practice doing swirly movements in the water, creating a kind of water ballet. The more of these you do, the more beautiful a mermaid you’ll be!