Getting a Girlfriend Back – 7 Deadly Mistakes You’re Making

She dumped you. Maybe you know why. Maybe you don’t. It doesn’t really matter right now. There will be plenty of time to contemplate the relationship later. For now you’re in panic mode. She was the best thing to ever happen to you and now you’re scared you may lose her forever. You can’t let her get away. You have to do something fast to show her how much you care and how much you want her back. Your brain is racing in circles and you’re about to pick up the phone to call her. And if you do, you’re about to commit 7 deadly mistakes that will put your relationship in a casket and bury it 6 feet underground for good.

Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s going to be ok, but you need to understand how your panic was about to destroy any chances you may of had of getting your girlfriend back. Getting a girlfriend back starts the second the breakup occurs and the first few days usually put you in an emotional panic mode. If you fail to handle this stage correctly, it will ruin your chances of winning her back. Here’s 7 deadly ways your panic can prevent you from saving the relationship after a breakup.

1. Tippy toe around the truth – This is the classic “tell her what you think she wants to hear so she’ll take you back” scenario. When you let yourself fall into panic mode, you’ll say just about anything to get her to take you back. Rather than telling her the truth and actually meaning what you say, you’ll have the tendency to just tell her what you think she wants to hear. In the end, this will completely backfire when she figures out you were lying about everything. Don’t do it.

2. Trying to summon the little green monster – When you are experiencing an emotional high during panic mode, the pain and hurt will cause you to want to make your ex girlfriend feel jealous. It can make you want to rush out, go on a date with someone else, and flaunt it in her face. The thought process is, “If she sees me with someone else, she’ll get jealous and want me back.” Unfortunately, what usually happens is it turns into a war of who can make who more jealous and both people just get hurt worse in the end.

3. Pushing her buttons – Rushing into the process of getting your ex girlfriend back when your emotions are running rampant can cause you to say things that will push her buttons. You know your ex better than anyone and you know exactly what to say and do to set her off. Allow yourself to cool off so you don’t end up pushing her to a point where the relationship will be beyond repair.

4. Making your ex girlfriend feel bad – If you plan on getting a girlfriend back, avoid saying things that will make her feel bad. You might be tempted to bring up past mistakes of hers or be tempted to call her hurtful names if you don’t give yourself time and space to get control of your own emotions. This will never turn out good for you in the end.

5. Exhibiting stalking behavior – After a breakup, it can drive you nuts wondering what your girlfriend is doing or who she’s hanging out with. This can lead to you stopping by her residence unexpected, going to the places she hangs out, asking her friends about her, or even driving by her house or apartment late at night to see if someone else’s car is over there. She will be less than impressed when she spots your car going up and down her street. Absolutely avoid this behavior if you want any chance of getting your ex girlfriend back. It’s creepy and could ultimately even get you thrown in jail.

6. Bringing up things from the past – By not giving yourself a cool down period, you are much more likely to try and re-start old arguments because you’ll be tempted to try and defend yourself. It’s much better to let the past be the past. What’s happened already can’t be undone, and you need to be focused on improving yourself and your relationship, not on trying to re-open old wounds and pour salt in them.

7. Seeking revenge – When you’re angry or frustrated, you are much more likely to do things you wouldn’t normally do in an attempt to feel like you paid your ex back for something they did to you. You might destroy things of theirs or go out and sleep with someone just to get back at them for cheating on you. While they may have committed a wrong, two wrongs will never make a right, so never seek revenge against your ex girlfriend no matter how angry you might be at a given moment. Learn to walk away and cool down, so you can both have time and space to get your thoughts processed.

Getting a girlfriend back isn’t possible when you’re experiencing panic mode. By trying to win her back during this time, you’ll ultimately push her away and close the door for good. Take some time off and you’ll be able to think clearly about the things you need to do to get her back.

What’s Lurking Under Your Fingernails?

In the spring of 1997, I spent a wonderful day with Dr Omar Amin in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr Amin is one of the most respected and sought-after parasitologists in the world and runs the Parasitology Center Inc in Scottsdale, Arizona.

He gave me a copy of his paper ‘Understanding Parasites’ in which there was a sentence that has always stuck in my mind: “A recent inspection of an expensive restaurant in Los Angeles showed that 100% of all employees (not just servers) had fecal matter under their nails”.

Fecal matter and disease (particularly parasites) generally go together. With our cities offering cuisine from increasingly exotic regions of the world, this carries a higher incidence of parasite-borne diseases, especially if these regional foods are undercooked or even raw: Dutch herring, steak tartar, ceviche, sashimi, sushi for example. Tapeworm is high on the list of ‘residents’ in these foods as is the Anisakid Worm.

A food-handler with poor personal hygiene will more than likely increase the exposure and risk of pathogenic organisms spreading. Years ago kitchen staff wore gloves and hairnets when handling food. They don’t seem to do this any longer although regular hand-washing habits may be mandatory nowadays.

University of Gondar, Ethiopia

In 2003, 127 food-handlers working in the cafeterias of the University of Gondar and the Teachers Training College there were fingernail-tested. These café’s were selected because the mass-provision of foods is a likely source of transmitting infections. Fingernail contents of both the hands and stool specimens were collected from all 127 food-handlers. In addition to fecal matter under the fingernails, the following was found:

– Coagulase-negative staphylococci (41.7%) by Staphylococcus aureus (16.5%), Klebisella species (5.5%), Escherichia coli (3.1%), Serratia species (1.58%), Citrobacter species (0.8%), and Enterobacter species (0.8%).

– Shigella species were isolated from stool samples of four food-handlers (3.1%). None of the food-handlers was positive for Salmonella species and Shigella species in respect of their fingernail contents.

Thankfully no intestinal parasites were detected from fingernail contents, but intestinal parasites were detected in their stools:

– Ascaris lumbricoides (18.11%), Strongyloides stercoralis (5.5%) Entamoeba histolytica/dispar (1.6%), Trichuris trichiura (1.6%), hookworm species (0.8%), Gardia lamblia (0.8%), and Schistosoma mansoni (0.8%); 1.6% of the study subjects were positive for each of A. lumbricoides, T. trichiura, hookworm, and Giardia lamblia.

It’s clear from this and many other studies that food-handlers are a potential source of infections. It’s not only food handlers though. To give you an idea of where and how contamination occurs, here are a couple of lists.

The 10 ‘dirtiest’ jobs:

1. Teacher/day-care worker

2. Cashier (bank, post office, supermarket, fast foods etc)

3. Policeman

4. Animal control officer

5. Janitor, plumber

6. Computer repair (using dirty keyboard/mouse)

7. Doctor or nurse

8. Laboratory scientist

9. Rubbish collector

10. Meat packer

Here are some of the dirtiest places you’ll touch in your day:

1. Supermarket trolley handle

2. Office keyboard (not yours) and mouse

3. The button on a public or office drinking fountain

4. Door handles – toilet, refrigerator and microwave at office and home

5. Vending machine buttons

6. The kitchen sink in your home

7. Your toothbrush, if left near to a flushed toilet (always close the toilet lid!) and the toothbrush holder

8. TV remote control (hotels and home)

9. Anywhere around household pets (including sandboxes)

10. Escalator handrails

11. The buttons on ATM’s, lifts, video game controllers

12. Petrol pumps

13. Car steering wheels, especially with multiple drivers

Next time you go out for a drink, think before you dip your fingers into the bowl of peanuts on the bar. Alongside the nuts will be fecal matter and urine residue. Then of course there’s that lemon wedge in your drink:

“I worked in restaurants for years and here is what I saw. The lemons and limes were delivered and put into the walk-in cooler. When the bartender needs a hand full of them he would go grab them by putting them in his apron. He would then slice them up on a cutting board and put them into cups and place them on the bar. Customer # 1 orders a beer and pays for the beer. The bartender stuffs the cash into the register. Customer # 2 orders a vodka and soda with a lemon. Bartender reaches into the ice bin and fills the cup, grabs a lemon and squeezes the lemon into the drink. At no time does any water touch the fruit or his hands and this goes on all day. Money, ice and fruit. Oh, and the occasional trip to the john.”

Men generally have more germs under their fingernails than women but there are more germs found under artificial nails than under real ones.

There is of course hope…

Viruses and bacteria are an integral part of our lives. There are billions of them in and around us. A strong, healthy immune system will generally take care of most of the daily threats we pick up from that dirty supermarket trolley or domestic pet but being conscious about this is also valuable.

Some Nail Facts:

— onychopathy is the study of fingernails and toenails.

— Fingernails are essentially dead cells that are made of a protein called keratin – the same stuff as our hair. We’d get along fine without them but they’re great at help us do fiddly things like gripping things better, text messaging and scratching ourselves. They also absorb some of the stress that the tip of the finger bones would otherwise have to bear.

— Fingernails grow quicker when you’re young, faster on your more active hand and more in summer than winter. They also grow faster on pregnant women.

— Dry nails? Just drink more water.

On a final health note…

Try not to drink straight from aluminium cans. If you buy canned drinks and bring them home, wash the tops as they may carried a virus called Leptospirosis.

There’s much scaremongering on the internet about people dying from drinking out of unwashed cans. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that but if there’s any truth here, it would be because the victim had such a depleted immune system, offering little if any resistance to the invading bacteria.

Tests have shown that some aluminium cans carry dried rat urine containing Leptospira i. Cans are usually stored in rat-infested warehouses and delivered direct to retail stores without cleaning! Just so you know.

Let’s keep the exposure to a minimum.

Who’s Right: You, Or Your Spouse?

Husbands routinely have told me that their wives expectations are unrealistic. Husbands express feeling a tremendous sense of pressure to improve their family’s finances, interactions with their wives and engagement with their children. Commonly, these same husbands report making huge efforts toward this end. But it is simply not enough for their wives. Hence, the birth of man caves! Man caves are places men go like basements, bonus rooms, bedrooms and bars to escape pressure from their wives.

Wives tell a different story. They say they only seem to matter to their husbands want sex. Their husbands come home, eat, pick up the remote and zone out. When their husbands do help, they behave as if they have done their wives a huge favor. Wives report their husbands seem self-absorbed and leaving them and children feeling disconnected.

Who’s right? Proverbs 21:2 says,

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.”

So, I say both! Imagine a triangle. There are two sides and a base. One side represents the husband’s perception and the other the wife’s. Perceptions are real to those that hold them. Understanding how each responds to his and her perception might be more helpful than fighting over the rightness or wrongness of it. The truth is husbands and wives may never agree on the other’s perception of things. Perceptions not only involve what someone is presently experiencing, but also may be skewed by past hurts, pain and defeats. There is really no way for one person to know completely what makes up another’s perception. Jeremiah 17:9 reads,

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

What husband and wife can know, understand and decide on is how each responds to his or her own perceptions. So although the two sides of the triangle, or their perceptions differ, they can find solace in the immutable base of the triangle. This immutable base is God, Christ and His Word. They are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is also impossible for God to lie. This is a good place for husband and wife to bring their perceptions. In God and His Word, we are assured of not only objectivity, but that He always has our best interest at heart.

As long as husbands and wives behave based on their unexamined perceptions of the other, they relieve themselves of the effort of having to undergo personal changes. But if each will bring his and her perceptions to God and His Word by prayer and study, they might just be surprised by what they learn!

Let’s say John completely identifies with the husbands above. His perception is that his wife’s expectations are out of reach. He tries hard to treat his wife and children well. However, regardless of what he does, John feels under-appreciated. He gives up and retreats nightly to his man cave of choice-the basement! He sinks down in his oversized chair and thinks to himself, ‘Why bother? What’s the use?’

Instead, John might seek an unbiased opinion concerning his perception of not measuring up, or being good enough for his wife. If John were to consider the idea of ‘not measuring up’ and ‘not being good enough’ apart from his wife, perhaps he might discover this feeling has accompanied him throughout his life. The names and faces have changed, however, the dull continuous pain of not doing enough has not. When John becomes overwhelmed by the idea of not doing enough, he answers by doing nothing. When John was unmarried and now when he is alone he cleverly conceals his pain. But love leaves no stone under turned. It wants to know all for the chance to love all. This is only possible with disclosure.

If John really wants to improve his ability to relate wit his wife then he would do well to respond and manage his own inadequacies, rather than deflecting them upon his wife. John might use some of the following questions to explore his perception further.

  1. Why do your wife’s expectations result in you feeling pressure?
  2. How have you responded to pressure to perform in sports, at work or in other significant relationships?
  3. In every training area whether academics, sports, work and any endeavor in which change is desired or required we expect pressure. Why should marriage be any different?
  4. Which of your wife’s expectations may God be using to train you to look more like Him?
  5. In marriage when is it okay for you to feel pressure to bring about your conformity to Christ?

So, does John retreat to the man cave to escape Gina, or hide from participating in God’s training program? Perhaps, it is not only Gina applying pressure; rather John retreating is what is inviting the pressure. Undischarged duties loom as clouds over our heads. The weight of them can be unbearable. Woodrow Wilson once said,

“The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it.” Jacob, also wrestled with God, but that time He was in the form of an angel!

Now, let’s discuss his wife’s perceptions. Gina, like many women, feel emotionally and physically responsible for everything in their marriage and family. She and John have executive level jobs. When she comes home she cooks, supervises homework, takes the kids to soccer, initiates bath routines and makes lunches for the next day. Gina pays the bills, schedules the landscaper, housekeeper and miscellaneous household repairs. She also plans vacations, their involvement at church and manages their social calendar. Gina is exhausted and sees no relief in sight. Her simmering hurt routinely boils to anger and erupts into harsh, unkind words hurled at John. Gina’s perception is that John doesn’t care. She perceives him to be lazy and uninterested in family life and responsibilities.

Even if John were all those things, his changing would not resolve the agonizing sense of responsibility Gina often feels. I wonder if Gina would even notice John’s efforts to help manage family life. She is so busy doing, Gina hardly sees John. To her it seems John has become someone else to take car of, ‘a thing’ that must be done verses a man with whom to relate.

Instead of focusing on John, Gina might also find greater relief in turning to God. Like John, Gina would benefit from in seeking an unbiased opinion. Remember, there is John’s side of the triangle, as well as Gina’s adjacent side of the triangle. Then there is Christ who is the base. In considering the base of the triangle, some of the questions Gina might run into are:

  1. Why do you like staying busy?
  2. What happens when you are not busy and what feelings does this produce in you?
  3. Why is it important to have everything in order and under control?
  4. What happens when things are not taken care of?
  5. When have you ever felt taken care of in your life?

By exploring these kinds of questions Gina may discover that fear, rather than John’s perceived apathy has more to do with her own unresolved pain. Could it be that the thought of either being taken advantage of or not being taken care of drive Gina’s constant activity? While it is plausible that her husband doing more around the house would give her the time and freedom to relax, it is not realistic. Why? Because Gina does not relax. She doesn’t know how to relax with God, herself and consequently, with others. Unless Gina evaluates her perception of John and her response to him in relationship to God, all the wonderful changes John could make will be lost on Gina.

Just as Gina’s perception is as real to her as John’s is to him, likewise it is true for every husband and wife. Arguing over our perceptions inevitably results in a stalemate. This will happen time and time again. That’s because marriage is our last chance to grow up mentally and emotionally. This growth process is grotesquely personal, yet when engaged properly, personal and marital fulfillment are the sweet rewards.

From Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves to Dictators, Gymnasts, and Orphans – Images of Romanians

One can easily sympathize with the exasperation of Alexandra Toma, described in 2005 by the Romanian daily Jurnalul National as “the single Romanian political advisor for foreign policy in the American Congress” (according to the article, as of early 2005 she was serving on the staff of House of Representatives member Stephen Lynch (Democrat, Massachusetts)):

In America, Romanian “orphans” are famous. Everyone asks me about them. That’s all they know. Just orphans, Ceausescu, and Dracula. Those are the three questions I always get asked. “The Romanian Orphans” are always on the TV. (Ana-Maria Luca, “O romanca la Capitol Hill [A Romanian Girl on Capitol Hill],” Jurnalul National, 25 February 2005, online edition).

Alexandra Toma’s frustration is not unique. Alexandra Diaconu wrote an excellent article wittily entitled “Cum ne vindem tara (How we sell our country)”—the title possibly a play on the famous chant of the rampaging miners of June 1990, with whom the country became identified in the international consciousness, thanks to televised images of savage “Balkan” brutality and chaos. (The miners roamed the streets of Bucharest shouting “Nu ne vindem tara,” that is, “We aren’t selling [out] our country.”) Diaconu observed:

When you say France, a few words automatically come to mind: wines, perfumes, refinement, Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the list goes on. When you say Italy: “la dolce vita [the good life],” Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Pavarotti, Milano, and fashion, the Colosseum, Venice or the [Leaning] Tower of Pisa. When others speak of Romania, however, assuming they have heard anything about us, they think in the first place of Dracula, Ceausescu, Nadia, street children, corruption, immigrants or, and even worse, the imaginary Romanian terrorists that still appear in post-1990 American films [I’d love to know exactly which films she is referring to here, because I am very familiar with the topic and don’t know what she is talking about: Call me Ahab! See my most recent publication on the topic, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” Prosecutor Voinea’s Campaign to Sanitize the Romanian Revolution of December 1989” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html].

…Without question, Romania has an image problem. In the past 15 years, it has become something of a national refrain repeated periodically by politicians in electoral campaigns, by cultural elites, when the foreign press judges us critically, when any foreigner confuses Bucharest with Budapest and when our sportspeople return from international competitions laden with medals. [Diaconu, Evenimentul Zilei, 5 June 2005, online edition]

A comment on Diaconu’s characterization seems in order here before moving on. The Bucharest-Budapest confusion, one which frankly is at least understandable because of the similarity of the two capital names in English and many languages, is ceaselessly annoying to both Hungarians and Romanians—and regional specialists—who feel insulted and powerless to overcome foreign ignorance about what is for them a simple, but huge distinction. And it does matter…to the point of having the potential to contribute to wounded national pride and inter-state tensions. When US Team Captain Dennis Ralston was presented with the Davis Cup in 1972 in Bucharest, after what an English commentator termed “the noisiest, angriest, the most absorbing and most passionate contest in the history of Davis Cup competition,” Ralston thanked “‘the good people of Budapest’ for their kindness and spoke of the memories the US team would take back with them ‘of Budapest’s sportsmanship’…[that this] ‘famous victory means Budapest will forever be remembered by American tennis’” (Keating, The Guardian, 11/28/97). Of course, perhaps this mistake should not have been surprising, given that the English commentator recounted of one match that “the linesmen were as partisan as the crowd and with armed guards around the court the efforts of the referee to restore a semblance of fair play were negated by the intimidatory martial atmosphere,” while the American player Stan Smith opined, “I have never been more pleased to be off court. Every arena steward seems to be toting a sub-machinegun and by the look in their eyes the safety-catch is undoubtedly cocked and ready.”

Finally, there are the characterizations of Romanian émigrés who have settled in the U.S. and Americans who have spent extended time in Romania. “What do Americans see when they look at a Romanian?” asks Andrei Codrescu in The Disappearance of the Outside. “Three things: Dracula, Eugene Ionesco, and Nadia Comaneci. In other words, sex, the absurd, and gymnastic ability” (p. 42) (Ileana Florentina Popa, “Cultural Stereotypes: From Dracula’s Myth to Contemporary Diasporic Productions,” VCU thesis, p. 77, May 2006 at [http://etd.vcu.edu/theses/available/etd-07212006-171925/unrestricted/popaif_thesis.pdf].). In other words, essentially the plotline for the Seinfeld episode which introduced this paper!)

Brand-ing Romania: Beyond “The Bottom of the Heap”

That Romania’s image or “brand,” is not merely a partisan political, and thus bounded, issue, has increasingly been realized by those for whom it is a matter of business, a reality of life, rather than a matter of an intellectual’s blame game. The “image of Romania” has even spawned a BRANDING website—[http://www.brandingromania.com]—to discuss the issues of constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing stereotypes. On 24 June 2005 Corin Chiriac got the ball rolling by asking posters their perceptions of “stereotypes of Romanians and Romania.” The following example was given to spark debate:

People and Personalities: Ceausescu, Dracula, Nadia Comaneci, Hagi [famous soccer player], and folklorists.

Character and Behavior: sa moara capra vecinului [screw your neighbor], proasta organizare [poor organization] (lines and especially poorly formed lines, ignoring scheduled hours), lack of respect for rules (cut to the front of the line mentality)

Events: The Revolution of 1989, Cerbul de aur [annual Brasov-based talent show], mineriadele [referencing the five brutal journeys of the miners towards Bucharest in 1990, 1991, and 1999]

Places: Bucharest, the Danube Delta, Prahova Valley (Predeal, Sinaia), Sfinxul

Monuments or buildings: Casa Poporului [Ceausescu’s “House of the People” monstrosity], Hotel Intercontinental, the monasteries of Bucovina, Bran castle.

The website appears partly responsible for new reflection on the issue of “branding the Romanian image” in the Romanian press that goes less in search of scapegoats for the situation and more in search of solutions. On 25 October 2005, Mihai Ghyka wrote an article entitled “Branding Romania—a ship sunk at the dock” in the daily Gandul in which he opined:

Romania—the country of gypsies. Romania—the country of handicapped orphans. Romania—a corrupt and dirty country. Romania—a country lacking in civilization. Whether or not we like them, these are the most frequent associations that pop into the mind of foreigners when they are asked what they know about Romania. For better than 15 years, the image of Romania in the world has been left to accidental whimsy.

In recent years, Romania has spent an annual budget of approximately 20 million Euros, promoting at random tourism, Brancusi [famous sculptor], Romanian products, the Enescu Festival and diverse commercial fairs…Each minister promoted his activities as best he knew how, by himself. (Mihai Ghyka, “Branding Romania – vaporul scufundat in port,” Gandul, 25 October 2005.)

A truly fascinating and insightful reflection on all this was posted on the branding website on 3 February 2006 under the title “Permission to Brand”:

Starting from zero “Romania has so many problems in terms of perception that it becomes difficult to make an inventory,” says Valeriu Turcan, president of the Agency of Governmental Strategies, which is spearheading the branding Romania campaign. “The difference between Romania and other countries is that its Communist past and its experiences right after 1989 have been much more negative and visible in Western media compared to the others.” Turcan cites the ‘Mineriade’, where miners traveled to Bucharest to violently break-up an anti-Neocommunist demonstration, the orphanages and Romanians who break laws abroad as image wreckers. “This picture is incomplete, out of date and extremely difficult to change,” he adds.

Country branding expert Simon Anholt says that this problem exists in many transition economies. “Their brand is still strongly tainted with negative imagery acquired under Soviet influence,” he says, “and the majority of foreign publics have not yet updated their perceptions. The only reason why Bulgaria and Poland are doing better [than Romania] is because they are better organised and are doing something about it.” “Romania was a blank page after the Revolution and this was what was first communicated,” says Ioana Manea, managing partner at brand and communication firm Loco. “These things do not have the depth they used to have.”

Communism and its fall-out also exercise a powerful hold over the western imagination. Visitors to Romania still bring packet soups and Mars bars, to use as currency. They are also scared to venture out after nine o’clock at night. Anthropologist Vintila Mihailescu, director of the award-winning Romanian Peasant’s Museum, says that compared to other ex-Communist countries in the region Romania still has, for the outside eye, a still strongly visible label of Communist country. Something the authorities and people have failed to change. “When a person, a group, a nation does not build itself an image, it is attributed one, the first one at hand,” he adds.

Another problem is the vacuum of knowledge the west has of Romania. “Many free citizens of Europe are confused between Budapest and Bucharest and Romania and Bulgaria,” says Manea. “We deceive ourselves that Nadia Comaneci meant something to the world and that everyone knows Hagi,” says Naumovici. “Romanians are too optimistic and see Romania as the most beautiful place in the world. Education is partly to blame for this. “We [Romanians] were taught during primary school that we beat the Turks,” he adds, “that we can repair a car with a piece of wire, while the Germans had to wait for a spare part to come from the factory.” (Anca Pol, Ana-Maria Smadeanu and Michael Bird, “Permission to brand,” 3 February 2006, the ‘The Diplomat – Bucharest’)

Wally Olins, one of the apparent gurus of country image-making, suggested recently that Romania may already be developing positive elements to counter the negative ones associated with its international “brand.” Part of Olins’ philosophy seems to be something of jiu-jitsu, making lemonade out of lemons, as he suggests with Nicolae Ceausescu’s “House of the People.” Like it or not, this interests foreigners about Romania. According to Olins: “If I tell people I am going to Bucharest, 20 % believe I am going to Hungary [the Bucharest-Budapest confusion], another 20% asks me what I am going there for, and 15 % ask me if I am going to see Ceausescu’s palace.” (Wally Olins, interview by Cosmin Popan, “Romania devine brand fara stirea ei,” Cotidianul, 15 February 2007, online edition). In other words, use what you have, allow the audience or market to determine comparative advantage/value…and go with the flow.

Nicolae Carpathia

What? You say you’ve never heard of Nicolae Carpathia? Look him up on the Internet. The last time I did [late summer 2005], Nicolae Ceausescu had 67,000 webpages, Nicolae Carpathia 14,500! (Of course, neither can hold a lit torch to Dracula, who weighs in at 2,270,000 Google hits!)

Well, if you haven’t, don’t feel so bad, neither did I until recently. Nicolae Carpathia is the Anti-Christ of the “Left Behind” evangelical Christian book-series that sketches out visions of the future based on a very specific reading of the Book of Revelation in the Bible’s New Testament. Over the past decade, more than 60 million copies of the “Left Behind” series have been sold (Michael Standaert, L.A. Times, 25 May 2005)! A low-budget film based on the series came out several years back starring Kirk Cameron, a “teen-age heart throb” of the 1980s television sitcom “Growing Pains,”—Cameron is himself a fervent born-again Christian.

Dr. Stu Johnson described “Nicolae Carpathia in the Apocalyse Series” in an article on http://www.Leftbehind.com posted 20 May 2004:

Fairly early in Apocalypse Dawn, we meet the charismatic Carpathia:

Not every politician was pushing for more and bigger weapons and more and bigger armies. Goose had heard of a United Nations representative from Romania named Nicolae Carpathia. Surprisingly, Carpathia was pushing for disarmament in his own country. At the time he’d heard that, Goose had never thought it would happen. Romania was part of Eastern Europe, left orphaned by the failed Soviet Communist government, and host to a series of bloodthirsty dictators who had only been driven from office by equally bloodthirsty military uprisings. Most military analysts had figured that the country would be awash in political unrest and military action for decades to come. Instead, Carpathia had begun to quiet Romania down, almost as if by magic. [emphasis mine] (Dawn, pp. 47-48)

Johnson continues:

Later, we learn more of Carpathia as Romanian satellites are leased to U.S. forces to fill in gaps in their system, sent into chaos by “the disappearances” [author’s note: i.e. the Rapture whereby the “saved” are suddenly and inexplicably plucked from earth to heaven].

“I can give you access to another satellite system,” [said Cody].

Remington curbed his frustration with the situation. “What satellites?”

“Satellites leased by the Romanian government,” Cody said. “Other satellites that Nicolae Carpathia owns and has offered for your use.”

Remington knew the name. Carpathia was an international figure, and part of the reason the U.N. peacekeeping forces and the United States Army Rangers were presently in-country. Carpathia had taken his own country by storm, becoming the darling of the population over the last few years after getting off to a less-than-sterling beginning. Yesterday, the president of Romania had stepped down and suggested that the legislature appoint Carpathia as their new president [author’s note: i.e. a clear Hindenburg-Hitler analogy here]. In a surprising turn of events, both houses had unanimously done just that. Before becoming a member of the House of Deputies in Romania, Carpathia had been a shrewd businessman who had his fingers in many international business ventures. He’d gotten rich. Remington wasn’t surprised to learn that Carpathia had invested heavily in communications, and satellites would have been one of the most natural investments. (Dawn, pp. 213-14)

According to Michael Standaert in his review of the most recent book of the series, “In the Beginning; The Rising: Before They Were Left Behind” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, “this prequel sets up Carpathia as embodying everything stereotypically liberal” (Standaert, 2005). Indeed, Carpathia is the creation of a conspiratorial group of “international bankers”—could there be a clearer code for “Jews”?—and, as if that were not enough, almost unsurprisingly given the radical right-wing leanings of the authors and many of the readers of the series, Carpathia is “a genetically engineered test-tube baby with the DNA of two homosexual fathers”[!, the trifecta…how prosaic]. And Satan’s forces predictably use the cherished institutions and policies the radical-right attributes to “liberals” (i.e. the left in the political parlance of the American right)—the U.N., disarmament, peacekeeping forces, and satellite television (somewhat ironic I would add given the use of this by evangelical fundraisers themselves!; clearly they have in mind here Ted Turner and not Ruppert Murdoch)—to establish tyrannical “one world government.”

The hazy popular and media images of Romania shine through in the character of Nicolae Carpathia. It is a simplistic and, frankly, tacky amalgam. Nicolae Ceausescu, “Genius of the Carpathians”…and so we get “Nicolae Carpathia.” A brutal dictator who was initially perceived in positive terms: he presents himself as a man of peace, a proponent of “disarmament,” a supporter of Israel (when he really is not), a neutral arbiter of international relations in a difficult time. When the Ceausescus were executed on Christmas Day 1989, the Romanian media hyperbolically proclaimed “The Antichrist is Dead” (the deconstructivists among Romanian intellectuals at home and abroad ascribed intent of the former communists to cynically use religious language to cleanse their sins before the population and buy credibility—to me this is over-interpretation.) Romania is depicted as a place of chaos, military intervention, and mystical leaders and politics. And if that is not enough, Carpathia’s political assistant is named Stolojan—the last name, it just so happens, of the Romanian Prime Minister from September 1991 to November 1992. One interesting difference, however, that would be difficult for evangelicals to explain is that whereas Ceausescu banned abortions, Carpathia imposes them!

Predictably, and it would be interesting to see what Romanian evangelicals actually think of the series, Romanians have not been amused by the selection of a Romanian as the anti-Christ in the end of time! (Indeed, as Theodor Stolojan’s political profile rose once again in Romanian politics in early 2007, the daily Cotidianul noted the influence of the “Left Behind” series was such that “when you look up the word ‘Stolojan’ on the Internet, the first five results refer to the character in the book,” leading the author to opine “it is impossible to estimate for just how many people the Romania described in the book [is for them Romania]” (Barbu Mateescu, “Stolojan si presedintele sint eroi negativi in SUA,” Cotidianul, 17 February 2007, online edition). Of course, the very fact that this paradigm [Nicolae Ceausescu] is used is because it exists—it says everything that Nicolae Carpathia is a Romanian, not say a Bulgarian, Albanian, or Hungarian.

Gymnasts, Acrobats, and Circus Performers…Oh My!

Clearly, Nadia has been the template for all “gymnast”-based images of Romanians in American pop culture since the 1970s. In a 1989 romantic comedy, “Her Alibi,” the Czech model Paulina Porazskova plays a Romanian circus performer (acrobats are the afterlife, professional extension of gymnasts apparently) who defects and falls in love with a character played by Tom Selleck. The Securitate make a cameo in the film trying to prevent her defection, although if I remember correctly, as always there appears to be some political/cultural confusion/script simplification, with references to them as the “kgb” or the like.

Although it is no great insight, it is interesting to note in the context of “Her Alibi” how Hollywood was (is) a barometer, if a lagging one, in terms of geopolitical relations. The James Bond film series is, of course, the most famous of these, with the comparative role of the renegade Chinese revolutionary communists rising in the 1960s, with Barbara Bach as not just Russian love interest, but as professional partner in the détente-era “The Spy Who Loved Me (1977),” (the Soviets all-but-disappear from the 1979 “Moonraker”) and with a return to outright identification of the Soviets and associated East Europeans (East Germans, Czechs, etc.) as the enemy in the 1980s (at its apogee in film as in life with the 1983 “Octopussy”—fanatical Soviet general using faberge eggs to undermine the West, a showdown in East Berlin, etc.). With movies such as “Red Heat (1988),” the typical buddy-cop, fish-out-of-water, opposites-become-friends movie (see, for example, Beverly Hills Cop (1984)) showing Soviet (Arnold Schwarzenneger, Austrian descent) and American (Jim Belushi, Albanian descent) cops working against the politically-correct scourge of the 1980s—drug kingpins, a threat to both American and Soviet societies that they could agree on…after all, what about the children?, I believe the children are our future…), Hollywood chose to find more geopolitically-correct villains.

By 1989, Gorbachev’s Soviet Union was not a geoplitically-correct villain; Ceausescu’s Romania, on the other hand, was—it would be interesting to see how a similar script would have been written a decade before, when Romania was on the top of the West’s geopolitical world. Of course, if the creation of fictional enemy countries—satirized well in the Austin Power film series, Kreplakistan—can be annoying and is itself still an amalgam stereotype of the former Soviet Union, from Ukraine to Central Asia, Hollywood’s search for the most consensual-least box-office controversial enemy can have backlash, especially years later. See, for example, the substitution of generic Middle Eastern enemies for the Soviets and others as the 1980s progressed; the choice, for example, of “Libyan terrorists” in the 1985 “Back to the Future” may have seemed like a “safe” one—an official enemy of the US, that had targeted Americans in terrorist acts (such as the Berlin discotheque bombing), and that had a very small Libyan (as opposed to Arab) émigré community in the United States—but it is clear that in retrospect it was far from “safe.” Clearly, as the Soviet Union waned, drug cartels became prosaic and boring, and the East bloc “mafiya” prototype ran its course, the xenophobic “Middle Eastern terrorists” became “useful.” The United States, in part, probably reaps some of the anger directed against it from the happenstance, box office driven selection of real-world enemies for action-thrillers in a post-Cold War world.

The Seinfeld episode that introduced this paper—with its Romanian gymnast-cum-acrobat—“Her Alibi,” etc. made me question whether there was any empirical reality that may have contributed to the birth and growth of this stereotype. I have not compared things systematically to the situation of defectors from other East bloc countries, but I did a brief search in the Washington Post and New York Times on the subject. Clearly, the most well-known, “gymnastics defections” from Romania were those of Nadia herself in November 1989 and in 1981 her controversial ethnic Hungarian coach Bela Karolyi, his wife Marta, and the Romanian team choreographer Geza Pozar (based on the name, apparently also likely Hungarian). In November 1985, an acrobat, Andi Georgescu, who performed for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey, defected (WP 11/22/85 A 30a; NYT 11/22/85 II 3:1). In April 1987, two 16 year olds, Carmen Georgescu and Julia Catrinoiu, both gymnasts and acrobats were granted political asylum (NYT 4/9/87 II 7:6; WP 2/24/87 A 14a). In August 1987, four acrobats in California with Ringling and Barnum and Bailey sought asylum (NYT 8/8/87). It is possible that coverage of such incidents, particularly in the media of major metropolitan areas could have, by osmosis, created this connection and image, particularly among America’s creative intellectuals? Of course, once again, as occurs throughout many examples raised in this paper, there is the chicken-or-the-egg problem, since coverage and attention given to these particular types of defections—of gymnast/acrobats, from Romania—had already been conditioned by Nadia and Romanian gymnastics (in fact, in a sense perhaps, to the extent that was possible, made “easier,” likely to garner more media coverage, and a greater blow to a country whose prestige had become tied to this issue).

The Magical and the Mystical

As a repository for the occult, for evil, for the mysterious spiritual world, Romania became a good bet for American television shows during the early and mid-1990s. Thus, the 5 May 1993 episode of the drama “Law and Order” entitled bluntly “Securitate,” has a lawyer pleading that his Romanian immigrant client charged with murder is “not guilty due to cultural insanity” claiming he had been “conditioned to violence in his homeland” [!]. There is, of course, the great irony here, that what in the American context may appear to be “understanding”—sensitive to cultural differences, recognizing the societal influences on individual action—would no doubt beckon Todorova-like indignance over a classic “Balkan” stereotype. Moreover, given the timing of the episode (May 1993), a year into the Bosnian conflict, the argument of “cultural insanity” played well into the Kaplanesque “ancient hatreds” mentality so prevalent at the time. And to top it all off, three of the main characters in the episode have the last name Iliescu!

The magical-mystery tourism aspect of Romania is better explored in the 14 April 1995 episode of the “X-Files” where the traditional Romanian fertility folk dancers, the “Calusari,” become a trope for warding off evil. In this episode, Romanian language shows up again. A character in the episode comments on the Calusari: “In Romania, they are responsible for the correct observance of sacred rites.” An episode capsule expands on their role in the plot:

When Steve Holvey is later killed in a bizarre accident, ash from the scene is identified as a substance called Vibuti, holy ash produced during the presence of spiritual beings. The Grandmother later dies while performing a protective ritual on Charlie and when a social worker questions Charlie about the incident, he claims his still born twin brother Michael killed her. Which comes as a shock to Maggie Holvey, who claims she never told Charlie about his dead twin brother. It appears that the families only hope is a strange group of Romanian elderly chanters called The Calusari.

The exotic and superstitious are in full effect: Bram Stoker’s Romania meets FBI chasers of UFOs and the supernatural.

The “Romanian Quintuplets” South Park Episode:

A Cornucopia of Modern Romanian Pop Culture Images in North America

Comedy shows, often distastefully, have also used Romanian images to good effect. For example, the British comedy series of the 1990s, “Absolutely Fabulous” in which a layabout, alcoholic, high-maintenance fashion-designer threatens her straightlaced daughter that she will adopt Romanian orphans if her daughter won’t invite her to a school presentation. The threat backfires when her addle-minded assistant actually follows through on the idea and Romanian orphan babies begin arriving (“Iso Tank,” 10/3/92). However, the trifecta, the grand slam, of American (although the creator of the show is Canadian) images of Romanians—and one that is actually intended, it appears, to be just that—is the so-called “Romanian Quint(uplet)s” episode of the cartoon series “South Park.”

The “South Park” episode from 2000 (Original Air Date: 26 April 2000) is a satire of the Elian (aka Alien) Gonzalez saga from the spring of that year—an arguably absurd made-for-cable/satellite “twenty-four/seven” round-the-clock television news channel production, with Cuban émigrés in Florida attempting to prevent the return of a seven-year old boy to his father in Cuba. In retrospect, given the whole Florida fiasco in the 2000 elections—and I am not aware of any studies that have specifically looked into the issue although they may exist—one has to wonder if the television coverage of the saga and interest in the Cuban and other communities in Florida may have contributed in some (though doubtfully decisive) measure to the election results. The South Park episode has orphan Romanian gymnasts/acrobats from the circus defecting from communist-like bureaucrats and a country described in the most negative terms.

The episode contains a number of the characteristics and stereotypes of (North) American images of Romanians. A Romanian woman is named “Mrs. Vladchick,” one can assume a sort of slang combination of Vlad (Tepes, aka Dracula) and “chick” (also, conveniently an ending for some (especially South) Slavic last names in English). Names and language are pseudo-slavic: although one girl is named Nadia (a clear descendent of the ’76 Olympics), another is named Baltania, while Mrs. Vladchick carries on a conversation in “Romanian” that centers around the following gibberish: “Nid kelmin da bushka.” It should also be noted that the idea of “quintuplets”-as-circus-show-for-viewing may be influenced by the story of five French Canadian sisters—the Dionne quintuplets—who were treated in this manner in the 1930s in Canada without much regard to their fate (the story was given wide play in the late 1990s and the creator of the show is Canadian, so this may be the link).

A television reporter summarizes the background and scene as the Mrs. Vladchick’s Quintuplets from the traveling “Cirque de Cheville” attempt to defect:

Tom, I’m standing at the home in South Park where five precious little girls have been rescued from Romania. Their mother passes away some months ago, and then their grandmother died trying to bring them here. But all is well now, and people are coming from all over the country to view the little tykes. [someone takes a picture] If you’d like to come down and visit the quintuplets, admission is only $5, and for a few dollars more [“FEED THE QUINTS! One Dollar” A man buys some fishsticks], you can feed them fishsticks.

A Quint: [hops up and down, then opens her mouth for a fishstick the man drops down to her] Mmm.

Reporter: Tom, it looks like these cute little girls have made it out of that armpit of a country they call Romania.

[Romania, day. Government officials watch the report in a run-down office]

Reporter: Yes, luckily for them, these quintuplets no longer have to live in

Romania, the asshole of the world. [a last shot of the quints is seen] Back to you, Tom.

President: This is not good. It makes our country look poor and stupid.

Romanian Official: This could kill our tourism.

President: You know what to do. [they salute him and leave.]

(author’s note: from Episode 403 “The Quintuplets,” script can be found online at many sites, for example, [http://www.southpark.dsl.pipex.com/scripts/scr403.shtml], captions as found in script).

In a later scene, one of the South Park children, Cartman, tries to convince the quints that they don’t want to go back to Romania, by saying, “In Romania they just oppress you and try to bring you down.” All is for naught, however, for, as with Elian Gonzalez, the Quints’ father comes forward, and (then Attorney General) Janet Reno descends on Easter Sunday in an Easter Bunny suit, seizing the girls at gunpoint with well-armed soldiers in the background.

“Vlad,” orphans, gymnasts/acrobats, Romania as a poverty-stricken country dependent on tourist revenues and run by a mindless, oppressive bureaucracy and an aggressive president—the images/stereotypes are all here. Ironically, South Park and this episode are perhaps more bent on satirizing (North) American society and the hypocrisy, absurdity, and sanctimony of politicians, special interest groups, and the media. Yet, with Romania as prop, they succeed in creating a “perfect storm” of kitsch Romanian pop-culture iconography (although in truth, political correctness is always a target, never a shackle for the cartoon’s creators).

Through The Wormhole: Life And The Mind

There’s been a lot of excellent science shows on television, many available on DVD and/or on YouTube. Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” immediately comes to mind and “MythBusters” while highly entertaining has a lot of solid science content too. However, IMHO, the cream of the crop, the best of the best, has been the “Through the Wormhole” series hosted by actor Morgan Freeman. Each of the episodes examines one of those nebulous Big Questions in science and philosophy. Here are the questions asked about the broad subject of life and the mind, our mind, and my personal opinions on each.

SEASON ONE: How Did We Get Here?

If asked the question about your ultimate origins, you might reply that you were of this or that nationality, perhaps with ancestry from this or that other place. Perhaps if you’re a bit more clued you’d say “Africa” as the birthplace of the human race. If you’re really clued, you might say the oceans, the undoubted place where life itself got its start. But no doubt, no matter what, you’d say you were “terrestrial” – of this Planet Earth. Alas, you’re still not clued enough. You’re extraterrestrial. We are the aliens, directly and indirectly.

Origin of the Universe

* Once upon a time there was this Big Bang.

* Since we are a part of the Universe, and since the Universe had an origin (the accepted standard model being the Big Bang event some 13.7 billion years ago), that alone of necessity means we have an extraterrestrial legacy since everything that makes you, you was born in that event, thereby in a manner of speaking making you 13.7 billion years old!

Origin of Our Stellar Solar System & Earth

* As it was in the beginning, well so too did our Sun and Planet Earth have a beginning.

* We are Star Stuff. Our solar system, our Sun, the planets, including Earth, were all formed out of the remains of extraterrestrial gas, dust and debris from older stellar systems, scattered to the four interstellar winds by supernovae explosions, over four and a half billion years ago. Thus, that too alone, no matter which way you slice it, means we (as beings part and parcel of our stellar system) are extraterrestrial in origin.

Origin of Life

* The terrestrial origin of life may have happened within that petrii dish/test tube called Planet Earth – Or maybe not. IMHO it happened way too quickly and way too soon post Earth’s formation to probably have been a solely terrestrial happening. There’s an alternative called panspermia which expands both the time and space available for life’s origin by many order of magnitudes.

* Panspermia is the idea that Earth was seeded by cosmic spores or microbes that were expelled from some other planetary abode in some other stellar system and drifted across the gulf of space. An incredibly tiny fraction of these cosmic spores lands on suitable planetary environments, where they survive and thrive and evolve. Our Earth was one such place for their lucky landing. It’s akin to a plant producing millions of spores – 99.999% of which fail to land on fertile ground; but that tiny fraction that does is all it takes to keep the species keeping on keeping on.

* Ballistic panspermia is a slight variation on traditional panspermia in that the microbes or spores are inside the protective covering of a solid object – dust or tiny rocks, even massive rocks. These, alone with their microbial passengers get blasted off home turf by incoming ballistic objects (impacting meteors), escape their home planet and a few eventually, by chance land on another suitable abode. That Mars rock, ALH84001 that caused such a stir several years back is one such example of a potential case history of ballistic panspermia.

* Directed panspermia is yet another variation on the theme, only in this case there’s intelligence behind the scenes, either sending out canisters of microbes willy-nilly in a shotgun manner, and/or directing that canister specifically at a chosen target.

* The upshot is if terrestrial life’s origin was via a form of panspermia, then we humans, being a species of terrestrial life, ultimately had an extraterrestrial origin. If a Mars rock full of microbes impacted Earth billions of years ago, well, we might be the Martians transplanted from the fourth rock to the third rock from the Sun. Perhaps our origins were even farther a-field. Perhaps some cosmic gardener planted life here billions of years ago, maybe even stuck around to fertilize, cultivate, prune, and weed that garden.

In conclusion, we have an extraterrestrial legacy because 1) we’re a child of the Universe – a child that originated out of the origin of the Universe; 2) we’re star-stuff; 3) the origin of life was probably ‘out there’ somewhere and migrated to Earth.

SEASON TWO: Is There A Sixth Sense?

More likely as not, most of us probably have the notion that we have a sense of reality that transcends the standard five senses. We sense when we are being watched or we may have premonitions to do this or avoid doing this. Do you claim to have remote viewing or extrasensory perception (ESP) and/or the related concept of telepathy? That is probably a belief internal to you – your personal mental delusion.

There are but four physical forces that act upon you or can influence you. There’s gravity. There’s the strong nuclear force that holds the atomic nucleus together. There’s the weak nuclear force which lets atoms split apart – radioactivity. Then there’s the electromagnetic (EM) force. Only the latter could explain ESP/telepathy since it is the EM force that transmits information from A to B at the speed of light via photons – visible light photons, gamma-ray photons, radio wave photons, microwave photons, X-ray photons, infrared photons, ultraviolet photons, etc. To receive information directly into your brain, bypassing your normal five sensory channels and organs (sight, sound, taste, smell and touch) restricts immediately what part of the EM spectrum could be at work.

It can’t be visible light since the thickness of your skull blocks that out – your brain resides in eternal darkness. If it were infrared or ultraviolet your brain would heat up and fry or get sunburn. If it were microwaves, you’d experience an everlasting ‘hiss’ in your brain due to the cosmic microwave background radiation – a leftover from the Big Bang. It’s not radio waves since you aren’t bombarded with 24/7/52 information from radio stations around you – not to mention all that radio noise given off by interstellar hydrogen and other elements and compounds that are in interstellar space. In fact, each and every part of the EM spectrum can be rejected for these sorts of reasons.

That’s quite apart from the fact that if you were telepathic, how could your sanity cope with the picking up of the thoughts 24/7/52 of all those odd-bods and sods around you?

If remote viewing were even possible, why are there spy-in-the-sky satellites; the U-2; eves-dropping bugs planted; industrial espionage is rampant; computer hacking (cyber-spying) ditto; intelligence agents like the fictional but all too real 007 and agencies like the NSA or CIA, and all manner of other espionage apparatus part and parcel of our modern society? Remote viewing, etc. would be the great equalizer. It would result in a level playing field among all nations and nationalities. There could be no secrets in any medium, from paper to grey matter that’s safe. That’s not the way the world works, so ESP and telepathy, etc. is just so much BS. On a more personal level, you could ‘see’ winning scratch-it lottery tickets without scratching, and select accordingly. Students would all get 100% on their exams.

Besides, if ESP/telepathy/remote viewing were really possible, given all the scientific put-up-or-shut-up experiments that have been conducted, why isn’t this standard information in all the relevant textbooks? The global implications of such abilities, over the course of human events, would not have produced the sort of history we know today, since from Day One, human society would have been an Orwellian society because Big Brother would have been watching you! In fact everyone would be ‘watching’ everybody else. Again that not the way of the world, so of course it’s no surprise that these ESP and related experiments have all resulted without resolution in favour of the claimants.

There just might be a (slight) case to answer after all. That telepathy isn’t, isn’t silent one or two way crystal clear communication over vast distances between two separate brains or minds. What telepathy might be is that vague sense that there’s another mind out there, close by though, that has some resonance with your own. The classic case is that sense that you just know that someone else is watching or staring at you even though you can’t see who it is.

There has to be a medium by which this transfer can well, transfer from them to you. That medium apparently is Earth’s electromagnetic (EM) field. Brain thoughts or activity is electromagnetic in nature. It perhaps might be barely possible for those brain EM waves to be carried via Earth’s EM field to another person’s brain. That other person would at best just have a quasi-vague sensation that they were sensing, well, something, without being able to put a definitive finger on the specifics to many decimal places.

The non-human evidence is how large flocks of birds or schools of fish can in near unison turn on a dime. Since the “turn” command isn’t vocal, and visual observations would make for unacceptable lag times, the idea is that the communication is EM in nature from brain to brain at light speed via Earth’s EM field as the in-between medium.

However, there’s one absolute reason I’m convinced telepathy doesn’t exist. As I go about my daily walkabout routine and associated observations, I’m forever passing out mental thoughts and images of what I think of many of the deadbeat drivers and other lesser forms of humanity I spy with my little eyes. My thoughts tend not to be very complementary to say the least. But since the lowlifes and rift-rafts haven’t ever proceeded to immediately stop their lowlife activities and drop what ever rift-raft things they were up to, to instead change direction towards me and beat me about the heat and body unto a bloody pulp for my unflattering thoughts, I conclude telepathy doesn’t exist. If it did, I doubt I’d be typing these thoughts now.

Escape Clause: Apart from special effects on make-believe TV and in the movies, and works of literary fiction where all things are possible, there is another realm where anything goes – virtual reality; video games; simulations of all kinds. It’s in fact a simulated Universe that resides in the guise of computer software. Software can be programmed to give rise to images or experiences of out-of-the-body happenings; near death experiences; ghosts; past lives; astral planes; and ESP. You could have existence in other dimensional realms like the famous 2-D “Flatland”.

So, it’s a trade-off. If you accept impossible things like ESP before breakfast (and lunch and dinner too), then you need to believe in another – you don’t exist as flesh-and-blood; your ‘reality’, including say telepathy, resides in a computer. Who programmed the simulated Universe is another question.

That escape clause aside, if after multi-decades of inquiries and research into the plausibility of telepathy, etc. there’s nothing, no hard evidence to convince scholars, academics and skeptics of the bona-fides, then I think it’s safe to conclude that if it ain’t happened by now, it’s not going to. These really are impossible things. It’s not rocket science after all to come to once-and-for-all conclusions about these issues in the affirmative if they were in fact issues that had any possibility of an affirmative resolution.

SEASON THREE: Is There A Superior Race?

Yes, there is a superior race (or breed as I prefer), albeit it depends on exactly what one means by “superior”. There are clearly genetic differences between the races, quite apart from skin color. Some races tend to be either more immune or more susceptible to various afflictions. Races can be told apart by their unifying facial features. Hair textures and predominate colors differ racially. So, it probably comes as little surprise that when pinpointing any specific trait that’s determined by genetics, some races will have more or less of what makes up that trait.

SEASON THREE: What Makes Us Who We Are?

This is the old nature vs. nurture argument. It’s obvious that it’s not an either/or argument. On the nature side, there is your genetic heritage, as well as all those little happenings nature throws at you like injuries and diseases and that you throw at yourself via the foods you eat and the drinks you drink and the drugs (legal and otherwise) you take. On the nurture side, there are inputs from parents, friends, family, teachers, members of the community and the mass media. There’s also you manipulating you by picking and choosing various highways, pathways and byways.

But, and as is nearly always the case, there’s a but that complicates things, the scoreboard might read not nature vs. nurture but free will vs. determinism. If the universe is a clockwork universe where cause and effect rules absolutely and the laws, principles and relationships are fixed and absolute, then the universe, including you, unfolds as it should in a predetermined way. From the nanosecond of the Big Bang, what makes you who you are was as certain as death and taxes.

The other part is all that nebulous stuff that nature and nurture instills into you – your mind, consciousness, awareness, personality, sense of self, etc.

SEASON THREE: Mysteries of the Subconscious

Have you ever had a complex thought leap suddenly, almost or even unbidden, into your conscious (the self-aware or self-conscious) mind? Why? Was it your conscious mind that brought it to the fore, or your subconscious (otherwise more technically known as the unconscious) mind? Chances are, it was your subconscious (unconscious) mind. It’s been shown that your subconscious mind makes up your mind for you split seconds before you’re consciously aware of it. It’s almost as if it was predetermined.

Your subconscious mind bubbles along under the radar without an actual conscious input from your self-aware you, processing, ever processing. What should be random bubbling like boiling water should therefore result in a mess – a hodgepodge. Instead, you seem to get a purposefully and linearly directed nebulous something which at the least expected time pops through your grey matter’s ‘wormhole’ that links your subconscious mind with your conscious mind. Your conscious mind cannot seemingly draw out of your subconscious mind the nebulous something you need when you need it.

So how does your subconscious stay on the straight and narrow without your conscious input? I have no idea, but it apparently does. When your conscious thoughts go off the rails, say you’re distracted by something not relevant to the task at hand; well you can quickly force your conscious mind back on track to the task at hand. You don’t have to do that with your subconscious since the subconscious apparently can’t be distracted.

So I wonder whether the world’s greatest thinkers – scientists, philosophers, inventors, writers, etc. weren’t really conscious thinkers at all but derived much of their inspiration from their subconscious.

It’s not your conscious mind that connects the dots, it’s the subconscious. How often do you hear, or even tell yourself, “I’ll sleep on it” (which is why it is probably a good idea to always have pen and paper or a Dictaphone next to the bed)? How many people can relate to solving an out of the ordinary mental puzzle in their dreams, or the solution comes to them ‘out of the blue’ while preoccupied with something related. There are no tools, only the resources in your own mind. In fact if you consciously try to come up with an original creative idea, you’ll probably fail, but when you’re in mental neutral gear – eureka.

Ever immediately forget something you thought of just minutes before and cannot now for the life of you consciously recall? Throw your mind into neutral and when you least expect it, there it is back to the fore again. Now quickly, write it down!

Here are a few other examples where the subconscious rules your roost.

We’re all aware of hypnosis drawing out memories locked away, in the subconscious of course. You have no control in your conscious ability to recall. It takes a more extreme form of that “gotta put my mind in neutral”, the hypnotic state, to bring the data to the fore. Of course unethical or badly trained or amateur hypnotists can implant false memories or manipulate those already there thus producing unreliable results.

It’s not at all extraordinary for a minority (10 – 25%) of absolutely normal adult humans to have at least one vivid hallucination during their lifetime – a product of their subconscious that’s probably much more common in children’s ‘make-believe’ like there’s a monster in the closet or their inevitable invisible playmates. As our minds grow older and mature, we become less likely to have subconscious hallucinations, but they can still happen.

Perhaps connected, we’ve nearly all experienced involuntary (as to subject) daydreams, which, like sleeping dreams, is a product of the subconscious.

Speaking of sleep, when you go to sleep you go into lockdown mode courtesy of the subconscious so you don’t physically act out the actions you dream about. That makes sense otherwise you could do yourself and others in your immediate vicinity a serious mischief, but you have no control over that lockdown process.

An ordinary conscious level mental puzzle might be how to get from A to B on the bus when your car is in the repair shop. These are the sorts of ordinary every day mental gymnastics that usually require tools – hammer and nails; a cookbook; a train timetable; a table of trigonometry functions; and memory. However, in order to utilize them, you have got to have concepts of them filed away in your subconscious cubby-holes, so everyday mental, and apparently conscious activity have mandatory roots in the subconscious, otherwise, no go.

Just as an aside, there’s another version of subconscious activity that usually deals with body language. How often do you see someone talking on the phone to someone else, neither party can see the other, yet probably both parties are making all sorts of hand gestures and using other kinds of body language as if they were talking face-to-face? Probably quite frequently – it’s the norm. Or you see a woman sitting on a bus or in a café or some such, and she’s preening her hair, running her fingers through it but not even aware she’s doing it.

When you only have microseconds to act, say when you’re standing in the batter’s box 60 feet, 6 inches away from the pitcher’s mound and a rapidly rotating baseball is heading towards you at 95 mph, do you stand there and consciously crunch the numbers before your go/no-go swing, or just turn the issue over to your subconscious to go for it, or let the ball pass you by. Ditto that for an outfielder chasing down a fly ball. In such situations your conscious mind is worthless baggage. Instinct, training, practice and all those other facets embedded in your subconscious required come to the fore and takeover. You can do the physics calculations at your leisure after the game.

SEASON FOUR: Can Our Minds Be Hacked?

Speaking of mind control, when your brain is exposed and you are consciousness, neuroscientists can stimulate / touch / manipulate parts of your brain causing you various bodily reactions and you are helpless to prevent these reactions from happening even though you are consciousness. You apparently have no free will under hypnosis. Then too there is brain washing, being subjected to perform an involuntary action when given a subconscious stimulus. “The Manchurian Candidate” is a novel / film based on this well-established concept. A milder form of this is indoctrination be in into a military mind-set or into a religious or cultist mind-set, or even into a community or nationalist mind-set. Think of “1984”. Subliminal indoctrination via advertising is also a well-established. So yes, the mind can be hacked.

However, if what is meant by “hacked” is akin to what we mean by hacking a computer then I’m not quite convinced. One might be able to overwhelm the brain via some kind of electromagnetic stimulus at a distance, but actually overriding your neural networks to do the bidding of someone else, while perhaps not impossible, isn’t yet something the average person has to lose any sleep over.

SEASON FOUR: Do We Have Free Will?

No, we do not have free will based on two grounds. Firstly, at the moment of creation, all the laws, principles and relationships of physics were determined and set in clockwork-like motion. From that point onwards, everything was a predetermined cause and effect; cause and effect; cause and effect. Everything is unfolding as it should all based on those initial parameters. Secondly, if we exist in a Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe, then preprogrammed software rules the roost and we dance to that software’s tune, and thus to the tune the Supreme Programmer plays. And if God is all-knowing you can’t have free will since your future must be predetermined and knowable in advance. It’s already been deposited in-the-bank as it were. On the other hand God couldn’t have given you free will in the first place since there is no God (or gods for that matter).

SEASON FOUR: When Does Life Begin?

If by that question one tries to pinpoint that moment in time between conception and death when your life began, well, one would on logical grounds have to opt for the moment of conception. There’s no question that sperm cells are alive; there’s no question that egg cells are alive, so there’s little point in arguing that the union of the two isn’t alive. Perhaps the better, and more difficult question, is when does that egg and that sperm become you? Again, based on logic, the answer is at conception, since at that point you have all of the genetic material that makes you a unique life form. As to whether or not you have the same human rights at conception as you do later on down the track, well that’s a legal and philosophical question, not a scientific one.

The 15 Laws of Success According To Napoleon Hill

Harness the Universal Powers of Success within You

Napoleon Hill wrote “The Law of Success” in 1928 and revolutionized the way people thought about creating wealth, self-improvement, and achieving goals.

Financed by Andrew Carnegie, Napoleon Hill’s research took 20 years to complete and involved extensive interviews with over 100 of the most successful people in America at the time.

The Law of Success can be summarized by looking at the 15 character traits that comprise the Law of Success.

Definite Chief Aim

A “chief aim” is a definite purpose, or goal in life. According to Napoleon Hill this is the first gate a person must pass through before achieving success.

This is very important!

To achieve any level of success or wealth, you must have a definite purpose or goal in mind. That does not mean it must be a written goal, signed and notarized; however, it does mean you need to think about what you want to accomplish with your life. Figure out what it will take to achieve that goal, and then devote time, effort, and thought to achieving it.

Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is that magic elixir that gives you the courage to dream, and then take the action necessary to achieve that dream.

Habit of Saving

W. Clement Stone once stated if you lack the ability to save money, the power to create wealth is not within you. And while saving is not a route to wealth in itself due to the lousy interest rates typical of savings accounts and certificates of deposit, the very act of saving develops a financial mindset and confidence to invest, start businesses, and avoid financial setbacks created by emergencies.

Consider this example…

I recently had an employee whose transmission went out on her car. Now, if you’ve ever had transmission problems, you know this poses an expensive situation.

Lacking the funds to get her car fixed, she secured an advance payment from one of those cash advance places. Three years later she is still paying the interest on that initial loan.

If she had managed to save the $900 required to fix her car, she could have paid for the repairs in cash and avoided the hassle. So far she has paid the cash advance people over $2,400 in fees associated with her loan.

Learn to save and stay a step ahead of financial emergencies of this nature.

George Clason’s book “The Richest Man in Babylon” is an excellent book to read on this subject.

Initiative & Leadership

Successful people are self-motivated and want to assume leadership roles.

Have you ever tried to motivate a person to do something he or she is not interested in doing? Sure, it may get done, but chances are you will have to push, cajole, threaten, and otherwise harass them into doing it.

Life is too short for that. Work with motivated people who want to achieve a definitive goal. And don’t forget, other people feel the same about you. If you want help from other people, be sure to show the initiative to meet them half way.

Imagination

Imagination is everything in life. Think about it, before you came up with a specific goal, your imagination had to put together the thoughts necessary to realize the achievement of a goal may be a worthwhile process.

Everything begins with thought. Learn some good brainstorming techniques by writers like Tony Buzan and then let your imagination run wild.

Enthusiasm

Dale Carnegie often stated “if you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.” Try it sometime, it actually works.

The bottom line is this…

If you want to achieve a goal that requires the input or cooperation of others, do you think they would work with a dullard, lacking in enthusiasm or energy? Or, would they prefer to work with a person with energy to see the project through?

Enthusiasm does not mean cheerleader pep rally jumping with joy and exuberance, but it also does not mean sitting on the couch complaining about the lack of opportunity as you channel surf re-runs you’ve seen a dozen times.

The right kind of enthusiasm exists somewhere in the middle ground between the cheerleader and the couch potato. But if you want to error on the side of caution, be a cheerleader.

Self-Control

Self-control as I see it refers to the ability to restrain yourself from outlandish behavior that may jeopardize your reputation or disrupt your business operations.

I recently had a business partner who became angry with a customer, and rather than resolve the customer’s complaint in a rational manner, he became emotional and basically “exploded” on the customer with a verbal outburst.

Of course, we lost his business-so who benefited from that? Nobody.

Keep yourself reserved and under control. You never know when the person, or people, you are interacting with may be able to control your destiny.

Habit of Doing More Than Paid For

In business lingo, smart organizations are developing a corporate culture of under promising and over delivering.

You can use the same ideas in your personal endeavors and work. Do more than is expected, and you will be noticed.

Pleasing Personality

Okay, this doesn’t mean you have to be Pollyanna, but it also means you should not strive to be Gordon Gekko.

The basic tenet of this character trait is that people prefer to be around and work with pleasant people.

Accurate Thinking

What is the use of thinking about facts or situations that are false?

Robert Allen talks about this extensively in his creating wealth books, and often states the biggest problem with so many of us is that “we know so much that is just not so.”

For years I avoided having anything to do with investing in residential real estate because I remembered my father telling me I would spend every waking hour fixing toilets and fighting to collect rents. Yes, there are challenges to managing rental properties, but the idea that these challenges are insurmountable, or make investing in real estate a poor decision, “just isn’t so.”

When you are making plans for a new business venture or investment, look for the facts and don’t allow yourself to become distracted by myths, rumors, or flat errors in thinking.

Concentration

The ability to concentrate is central to any lasting or significant accomplishment.

Regarding The Law of Success, concentration means to focus your efforts onto a specific goal and avoid being distracted from that goal.

For example, if you have a goal to learn to speak Spanish, and the next week you change your mind and decide to study German, and then flip flop to study French the next week, by the need of the month you’ll be exactly where you started.

To achieve world class levels of success in any endeavor requires laser like focus, attention to detail, and perseverance.

Cooperation

Napoleon Hill uses the analogy of a wagon wheel to illustrate this point. Imagine, he wrote, what would happen to the wagon if one wheel was broken or missing?

The point is, we can all contribute to a group goal, and there are individuals who can help you achieve your personal goals and dreams, if you will cooperate with them.

Learn to work together with other people and harness the power of other people’s talents and resources to achieve your dreams.

Profiting by Failure

Many of fear failure, and will do anything, including not even trying, to avoid failure. But where does that get you?

Humans learn by trial and error.

Consider how a baby learns to walk. If she quit trying after failing a couple of times, she would spend her life crawling everywhere.

The key to success in this area is to learn from your failures. For example, if you purchase a stock and it promptly causes you to lose money, don’t just quit investing. Analyze your trade and search for the cause of your failure-and then apply this new found knowledge in your next trade.

Tolerance

There are some things in this world that simply cannot be tolerated, and I’m sure you can think of a few of these situations. However, for the most part, a willingness to tolerate the uniqueness of people and their values, can open doors to your success and happiness.

Practicing the Golden Rule

Just in case you don’t remember, the Golden Rule basically states “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

Of course, if you’re a masochist and enjoy pain, this rule may not be appropriate for your. The point is, most people want to be treated with dignity and respect, and they want to have the freedom to enjoy life as they see fit.

When you practice the Golden Rule, you are able to “win friends and influence people” in the Dale Carnegie manner-resulting in increased opportunities for yourself, and a richer, more rewarding life.

10 Signs a Man is Not Ready to Commit

Okay, ladies, I know you have these conversations, because I have them all the time with my girlfriends: how do you know a man is ready to commit to you?

We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom that a man should pursue you, should show an interest in being with you, should take you out and wine and dine you. And, for those of us that are Godly women, we have to add the provisions that he must attend church, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and a whole lot of other conditions that go along with it (be kind to his mother, respectful of His pastor, somewhat familiar with the Bible, etc., etc.).

But, once you get past all these ‘qualifications’, how do you know when a man is really ready to commit – to you? I am going to look at that question today in the reverse, and give you the 10 signs that say the man with whom you are involved is definitely not ready to commit. They are as follows:

1. He is Noncommittal and Vague About His Feelings

You can never quite get him to admit to the depth (or shallowness) of his feelings for you. You are ‘okay’ or ‘alright’.. He hasn’t made any proclamations about what you mean to him, how important you are to him or what he thinks about you. In the best-case scenario (if your man is not particularly talkative), he shows his feelings, even if he doesn’t tell you about them. He is polite, courteous and responsive to your needs. He cooks for you. He mows the lawn (unasked). Or something along those lines. The worst-case scenario? He doesn’t share any of his feelings with you because he doesn’t have any. The deepest feeling he has for you is the aforementioned ‘alright’. And nobody wants to be just ‘alright’.

2. He Doesn’t Share His Plans With You

You don’t know how he spends his free time. You don’t know who his friends are. You don’t know what his goals are. Yet he seems to have a whole, entire and active life completely apart from you. This is definitely a bad sign. If you are not a significant part of his current life, you are probably not a significant part of his future plans either. If you are in a new relationship, give it some time. But if you still know very little about him after dating him for several months (or several years), this man is quite happy to keep you right where he has you – on the outside looking in.

3. He Doesn’t Answer the Phone When You Call

Yes, I know we all get busy sometimes. I don’t answer my phone at least 30% of the time (I have to work and sleep, you know). But what if he rarely or never picks up? Or he only calls you in response to a message (or several) you’ve left on his phone or because he sees your number on his caller ID? Bad, bad, bad signs. A man who is interested in you wants to talk to you. No matter what else he has going on – work, family, children or whatever. You should be a priority to him (or at least your phone calls should be). If you are not, you need to re-consider him being a priority in your life.

4. He Hasn’t Introduced You to Anyone (or Introduces You as ‘My Friend’)

Okay – this is simple. If a man has not introduced you to anybody he knows (and he at least has a mama, a couple of friends, co-workers, or somebody), you are probably not very important to him in his life. Why do I say that? What’s one of the first things you do when you meet someone (that you really like)? Introduce him to your friends or invite him to go with you to different functions. Men are not so very different from us – if they love having you around, they will invite you to be where they are. And, in the normal course of those invitations, you will meet people who are in his life. If you haven’t, then beware. And, closely related to this sign is this one:

5. He Doesn’t Tell Anyone About You

When you talk to him, he may mention conversations he’s had with his family or friends. He tells you all about these conversations where he discusses baseball games or the basketball finals he watched on tv, the repair he’s having done to his car or how his boss is getting on his nerves. He may even mention to these aforesaid friends and family his weekend plans. But, then you catch on to something – he told them what he was going to do, but not with whom he would be doing those things (namely, you). A simple oversight? An overriding need for privacy? Possibly. But, more than likely, he is not ready for anyone to know of your existence in his life. This could be for a number of reasons, but none of them are good. So, keep up with his mentions of you in his life – it is an important indicator of intent and the seriousness with which he takes your relationship.

6. He Talks About His Future in Terms of ‘I’

When he talks about where he’s going to live, what job he plans on getting or what school he plans to attend, it’s all about him. “I’m” going to move to Florida or “I’m” going to go to the University of Nevada. Or, even when he talks about things that could conceivably involve you, like a future trip, moving from his apartment to his house or even a movie he plans to see, for heaven’s sake, still no mention of you. What should this say to you? That he’s still thinking of himself in terms of being single. It has not yet occurred to him that the relationship he has with you could become more serious. All those “I’s” and lacks of “we’s” is his subconscious way of telling you that he does not consider you to be his serious partner.

7. He Doesn’t Take You Out

Sure, he likes spending time with you – but only in the privacy of his home. Or you have limited outings like to the movies (where nobody can see you) or to the deli to pick up a sandwich at the place around the corner from his house. You don’t do the ‘big’ dates like charity functions, birthday parties, family events or the like. This should tell you something: This man is not ready to be serious with you. A man who wants to be with you will spend time with you in a variety of places – both publicly and privately. And even if he’s not personally very interested in going to the museum, eating out or seeing a movie, he should at least be willing to give it a shot if it means pleasing you. Beware of a man who limits your activity to one specific type of place.

8. He Only Calls Late (aka Treats You Like a Booty Call)

Right. I know that we are all Christians and we are not engaging in late-night conversations with inappropriate men. But, just in case this applies to you (and you are accepting those late-night calls), just understand that he is not serious about you. If he only calls late, you have to ask yourself: what is he doing between the hours of 8am and 9pm? Why can’t he call then? Is he involved with someone else? Is he married or recently separated? Or does he simply see you as a way to get his needs met (whatever they are)? Unless he works a really odd shift, there is no reason that your guy cannot call you at a reasonable hour. Do what seems right to you, but know that late night calls do not equal serious intentions.

9. He Doesn’t Share Personal Information

Have you ever asked yourself why you don’t know where your guy lives? Or where he works? Or you’re not even 100% sure of his last name? Unless you are truly just disinterested (or aren’t inquisitive enough to ask him), it’s probably because he doesn’t want you to know. And why doesn’t he want you to know? He could be hiding something. Or, most likely he doesn’t consider your relationship to be serious enough to share the serious information about his life with you. Don’t think so? Try asking him those questions the next time you see him. His answers (or lack thereof) will speak for themselves.

10. He Doesn’t Take an Interest in Your Activities or Your Future Plans

We’ve already been over the fact that he doesn’t tell you his future plans. But now, to add insult to injury, he doesn’t ask about your plans either. Why is this such a bad thing? Let me ask you something – to what kind of people do you fail to ask questions like these? That’s right – acquaintances or people you barely know. You even talk to your boss (who you can’t stand) about what you plan to do for the weekend. Yet your guy doesn’t ask? Very suspicious. Suspicious enough for you to rightly think that he simply isn’t interested in knowing. Or else – he’d ask. And, believe me, no matter what else you think about him, he is perfectly capable of asking something he wants to know. He’d ‘ask’ about his paycheck if his job stopped paying him. He’d ‘ask’ about his monthly payments if he got a new car. He can ‘ask’ you what your future plans are – if he wants to.

So those are 10 good signs that the man with whom you are involved has no intentions of being serious with you. He may be a good guy – fun to hang out with, good to his dog, kind to his mama – but he has not reached the level of being ready to be committed (at least not to you). If it is a new relationship (a year or less), wait a while and see. But if it has been over a year, your best bet is to keep your options open. Don’t let the opportunity to be involved with someone who is commitment-minded pass you by while you wait on your guy to get a clue. Again, do what you feel is right for you, but put yourself first. Honor your own needs. And try to be with someone who gives you that same respect. And, as always, pray, pray, pray! God will save you even when you don’t want to save yourself! Trust in His guidance and He will always see you through.

And, if you’re curious, the next chapter tells you five steps to discovering if your guy is ‘the one’.

The Keys to Success to Investing in Real Estate

Most real estate professionals flunk within the first few months of trying to create a business enterprise out of real estate investing. The trick begins with a beneficial marketing plan and then practicing a disciplined effort to the marketing plan on a even basis. There is a lot more required to succeed, and you will encounter more tips, tricks and unique real estate marketing techniques in this article.

Is there anyone in your town that doesn’t recognize that you buy homes or that you are a real estate professional? If so, you aren’t performing as well at marketing or rendering real estate investing information about your real estate investing business enterprise as well you could be. I find out real estate investors telling all the time that they aren’t receiving seller phone calls and subsequently aren’t receiving the leads they need to find the real estate business deals they require to earn a living. I say increase the marketing and the sellers will Call. Not only that but if you are canvassing the world (or at least your area) that you buy problem real estate holdings, eventually you will be acknowledged for what you do and sellers will telephone you strictly on your reputation. this is what is called cost effective marketing.

One real estate professional was in a home, garden and hardware store a few calendar weeks ago and went past a couple of guys in an aisle. A conversation was heard while he walked by, I overheard one state, “That is the real estate man”. Now I had never known either of those men and have no idea who they are but that experience lets me acknowledge that I must be doing my business at letting the world to recognize my business is buying real estate in that area. There are many ways to let the area know that you are in the real estate investing profession and getting information out there that helps people realize you buy foreclosures, distressed real estate, do real estate short sales and have got a lot of real estate information and experience to flip properties. Some methods are cheap and some are more expensive. You are going to have to attempt many things and acquire a feel for what brings about for you the best results in your region to get the calls you require to transact real estate deals. I have tried many forms of marketing methods for real estate commercial enterprises of all varieties and have come back to a few that consistently create enough leads for me to purchase the 2 or 3 real estate holdings and houses I want to purchase every single calendar month. They are as follows:

Classified Ads

The classified advertisement in the most prominent newspaper in the region is by far the heaviest producer of leads for local real estate investors that I have determined. I understand it is costly and I understand there are instances it does not generate phone calls but if you are going to persist in the real estate investing business sector just place it in there and leave it. Get used to it making up part of the toll of performing the real estate business. You may expend about $350.00 a calendar month for my 4 line ad and that is the commercial range. I’d consider running it 365 days a year to constantly cue everyone that you are a real estate professional and you purchase real estate in their region.

Over the past few or so years I have watched many “real estate investor” ads come and go. Most folks put them in for a many or even just a couple of calendar weeks and then remove them or try just placing them in on the week ends. Real Estate Marketing just simply does not work this way. Put your real estate ad in the paper and leave it in there. It will more than make up for the price, trust me, and you will see after you finish your first deal. If you are distressed because there are real estate investors ads from many other investors in there, don’t be. They are there because they are getting responses. Just be sure to and actually answer your cell phone and keep it on all the time otherwise you’ll be squandering money.

When a fresh ad for real estate investor information shows up in my newspaper, I will always call on the advertisement. 9 times out of 10 I get a message device or answering service. This is a significant turn off to somebody who needs a resolution to their real estate trouble now. They want to speak to a person who can quiet their anxiety over their current issues with their home and tell them everything is going to be ok. Your answering device won’t do that, they need a human being. As for what to put in the advertising, you will have to work on this one. I have tried various idea and the one I have now hast not changed for over 4 years. I haven’t switched it because I get responses. My ad is:

We Pay CASH FOR HOMES In 24 Hours! Any area, price or condition Call xxx-xxx-xxxx

Now I have had other real estate professionals jockey for place and interchange their ad copy to be leading of mine in the column but it has not made whatsoever difference, at least as far as I can discern. Don’t worry about those things, just get the advertising out there and leave it. It could possibly take a bit of time, perhaps a several weeks to get going but sellers will telephone. As soon as you have your classified advertising running, then you should start working on your other marketing techniques right away. If you only go through one idea a week, within a few weeks or a couple of months you will have a significantly powerful real estate purchasing process.

Ads in the “Freebie” Papers

You might also run advertisements in the freebie papers in your local region or the region you want to conduct real estate investment deals. These are the “Thrifty Nickel”, or whatever they are named in your region. We run both a column ad and a display in this newspaper and expend about $175.00 or so a calendar month for these ads. They pull in seller leads reasonably well and have always rationalized the costs. Remember that these guys are usually open to talking terms on your rates and you will probably get a better rate if you commit to a longer advertising agreement.

Bandit Signs or Road Signs.

Bandit signs are great. They are some of the best lead producing tools around. I have yet to put out a bunch and not be bombed with calls right after I arranged my marketing. I just don’t position them out that often. I might place out a few to a half dozen or so a calendar month and the ones that continue and don’t get taken down continue to pull in phone calls. At an average price of less than $4.00 per sign, they are one of the greatest real estate marketing and advertising values available. Check the net for sign manufacturers for discount signage costs. I use 18 x 24 signs and set them at high traffic crossings around the town I wish to purchase houses in.

I also position a sign in the front yard immediately after purchasing any house. I have purchased several homes in the same regions as a result of marketing this way.

You can either use wood stakes or the wire stakes with your signs. I like the wood stakes because they do not bend like the wire ones, in addition, they are more less expensive and you can find just about any reasonably sized stick of wood or stake at your local hardware store for a really good value. Just get long lengths and trim down to fit. Then just nail the sign to it with the roofing nails with the orange or green plastic tops or you can use screws. There are many variants on what the wording on the sign can say. Keep in mind that traffic will be moving so you want to keep your message short and simple so it may be read. Plus your telephone number must be big, large and easy to read.

If you search the sign advertisement content, you will discover that it is same resemblance my paper ad. I like to brand my advertising because I believe that helps with identification that is probably why the two guys noticed me as a Real Estate Professional..You want to have contrast, so a white sign with dark blue letters usually is the best draw. Some folks swear by black on yellow or black on orange. Again, I say it’s not what or how you say it rather simply that you’re out there marketing and placing out signs that counts. You’ll build a ‘brand image over time if you stay logical with your real estate marketing endeavors. When dealing with bandit signs, be sure that your local code enforcement laws are aware of them. In some areas or counties they can lax on them but a few miles down the road in another county or city, they can be super strict and will ticket you in a minute, pull the signs down and lead off looking for your next posters to go after you again. Some retail merchants in high tax areas can’t put out any A board signage without having them sized and then fined.

Flyers and Bulletin Board Postings

Flyers and related collateral are another cheap way to get the word out that you are a real estate investor buy property, foreclosures or distressed properties. Just create a flyer with any one of the free on-line flyer software internet sites telling people that your are a real estate investor and how to get in touch with you. Make copies for few cents apiece and you have some really inexpensive real estate marketing and advertising. It really is that simple. Then place these flyers on every bulletin board in your Town or region you would like to buy your property, foreclosure or distressed home.. I also recommend that you place some of them in those plastic sheet shielders so the rain won’t ruin them and put them up on phone poles around neighborhoods I like to buy property in.. While not as prominent as the bandit signs, on poles actually in the neighbourhood they still attract phone calls. I carry a file with me in my automobile and put them up whenever I stop at a grocery store or major discount shop or really wherever. Some of the other area to put them are:

· Laundromats

· Taped to the inside of telephone Booths.

· On the counter of any business organization that will let you place them at.

· Bulletin boards at any local or major rebate store (lots of traffic)

· Grocery store bulletin boards

· Fax to Mortgage agents, call first

· Fax to Real Estate Agents, call first and they may get a lot of these.

· Take them Door to Door in target regions

· Employment centre Bulletin board

· County Courthouse or public office Bulletin board

These are just a few illustrations. Any place that will allow you to set one is a good place. You can never let too many people know that you are a real estate investor and are in the foreclosure market.

Imprinted and/or Promotional Items

Optimum Real Estate Investor Marketing Ideas – These no-lose ideas are sure to get you top hits on leads and calls for your Real Estate Investing occupation.

These are some of my favourites and most fun. While they are not the top producers of leads or the least costly, they will sure position you apart from the average investor.

Pen Knives – These tiny Swiss army knives are the neatest things. They are actually key chains etched with your content, mine being: WE BUY HOMES – All cash or take over payments within 24 hours! Call xxx-xxx-xxx I assure if you give one of these to somebody they will hold on to it it and if they conceive of selling, they will think of you. They are about $1.75 each.

Key Chains – I give these to all my buyers with the keys to their new house on them and leave them all over the place. They come in the shape of a house or #1 or whatever style you like and have your message on them. You can guess what mine says. Cost – about $. 25 cents apiece.

Pens – I use these all the time. Whenever I sign a sales receipt or anything I leave my pen. I cannot tell you how many outcries I have gotten off of these things and since I often need one, I always possess one to give away. My attorney even has a supply on his closing table. I possess two types printed. One for sellers says “We Buy Homes!” and one for buyers says “Everyone Qualifies”. Cost – about $.26 cents per unit.

Coin Holders – These you hardly find anymore so everyone is surprised when I have them. I leave these things everywhere. Mine are bright yellow with blue letters and my message. Cost – about $.30 cents apiece.

I leave all of these promotional items everywhere, on the top of gas pumps, on end-cap displays in grocery stores and in department stores. I look at it this way, if I give away 100 pens, 50 knives and 50 coin holders a month, that is only a little over $100 bucks a month. That is still cheap advertising. And with the money you can make in a real estate deal, it is ‘no cost’ marketing strategy. You can get any of these promotional advertising products at many major promotion marketing manufacturer, and you can find companies online as well.

Business Cards

I order business cards by the 1000’s and you should as well, there are a lot of great places online that can print up nice (and cheap) cards for you and that specialize in real estate as well. As for business cards, well, they are cheap, mine are about $50.00 for 2000, and I pass them out and leave them everywhere I possibly can. I leave my cards everywhere, in pay phones, on restaurant tables, my kids even have their own supply to pass out. Try to get a box a week out. The card doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact the simpler the better. My card is bright yellow with blue letters and says:

WE BUY HOUSES Foreclosure? Need Repairs? Bad Tenants? Divorce? CASH IN 48 HOURS! OFFERS MADE ON ALL CALLS! XXX-XXX-XXXX

Car Magnetics

Magnetics are one of those things where you spend once and get use for a long time. Mine cost about $75.00 and are yellow with blue letters. They say:

WE BUY HOUSES! FA$T CA$H XXX-XXX-XXXX

or

SELL YOUR HOME FAST WE PAY CA$H XXX-XXX-XXXX

I have gotten several deals from these signs. Remember to order a smaller set for the back of your car/truck. People have more of a chance to read the message when they are riding behind you.

Clothing

I like golf shirts and oxford dress shirts with my logo on them. There’s plenty of adverting houses that will help you design a logo if you don’t have one or use the one you already have. There is no charge for set up and all items ordered include your embroidered logo free.

I pass custom imprinted hats out to everyone I know who wears one and have given away many shirts as well. They really look nice and present a nice image for your business.

Other Advertising Tools

There are many other shapes of advertising, some I have tested in the past such as billboards, door hangers, yellow pages, television and radio advertisement. I even have a traveling billboard, an old SUV painted bright yellow with blue WE BUY HOUSES! and my telephone number that I drive around and park overnight at dissimilar places. It brings the calls! Get the marketing going and let the world know who to call when they have a house to sell, a pre-foreclosure, distressed property or someone who just wants to get out of their house.. If that phone isn’t ringing, you aren’t making money so you need to get a good marketing strategy going and stick with it!

I sincerely hope these tips will help you in your next real estate marketing efforts and get you the real estate investing deals you’re after.

Loan Sharks – What You Need to Know

Loan sharking is the practice of lending money to desperate people at extremely high and illegal rates of interest. Loan sharks, or shylocks, make a big profit from people who can’t get loans from legitimate sources, such as banks or other lending institutions. For as long as people have needed money they don’t have, there have been loan sharks there to provide their services for a fee. They introduce themselves as a solution to a problem; they are businessmen who want to help a borrower get out of a bind. Prey to these sharks can be compulsive gamblers, single parents, the elderly, illegal immigrants, white-collar executives, or anybody else who desperately needs more money than they have access to.

Most people associate loan sharks with gangsters and organized crime. Loan sharking is a very lucrative business for criminals, and it’s a major source of income for the crime families. They receive a very good rate of return on their investment, and in a short amount of time, often a matter of weeks. They may charge interest at rates of up to 20% per week, and possibly even higher. In one New York investigation, it was found that a loan shark syndicate was netting 3000% annual interest! Dallas mobsters were more competitively priced, they charged only 585% annual interest. These were rates in the ghetto. Shylocks would be more competitively priced for corporate white-collar businessmen; rates might be more in the 5% weekly range.

In the mafia world, shylocking is also known as six-for-five; you borrow five and pay back six at the end of the week. You can see how this can turn very expensive. If someone borrowed five hundred and did not have the full payment, the loan shark would accept the interest payment of one hundred and extend the loan for another week, with interest. If they can’t pay when they’re supposed to, they would be forced to take out another loan, interest is added on top of interest and the debt can quickly become impossible to get out of.

The funds for shylocking would usually come from the top, the family boss. The boss would loan money to his capos (lieutenants), knowing he could trust them to pay him back with interest. The capos then loan money with interest to the lower ranking members of the mob. These are the loan sharks that made loans to the common citizen, and enforced payment.

Loan sharks ensured payment with threats of violence. They require no collateral other than the borrower and his family’s well being. “Leg-breakers” were often employed by loan sharks to be sure they receive payment. It’s not true that people were always killed if they didn’t pay. Dead people can’t pay back their debts, so it would not be good business practice to eliminate resources. They would occasionally “make an example” of some who owed very little to be sure other borrowers took them seriously. The borrower, worrying about life and limb of himself and his family, would have no option but to pay the shylock even if it meant he had to lie, cheat, or steal.

Modern Day Predatory Lending

There is no legal definition for predatory lending, but it generally includes the use of unethical practices by lenders who use tactics that skirt around the law. They might give unfair loan terms, use confusing language, charge hidden fees, and use high-pressure sales methods. They make money as long as they can keep borrowers in debt to them. They commonly target the elderly, low-income, minorities, or people with poor credit, but anyone can be a victim of these unscrupulous lenders. Predatory lenders thrive on consumers who need or want more than they can afford to have, and trick borrowers into believing the loans are necessary and affordable.

Many commonly accepted loan services are available to consumers that work on the same principles as a mob shylock. There are laws regulating the amount of interest that can be charged for a loan, but lenders can charge “service fees.” Check cashing places offer “payday loans”, you can write them a post-dated check for the amount of the loan, plus a hefty fee for use of that money for a week or two. The fees can amount to 400% APR, these places are happy to loan as much as possible based on the borrower’s expected paycheck. Then what happens when he gets his paycheck and realizes that it’s already spent? He’ll go back to take out another payday loan so he can pay his bills and buy groceries. This cycle of borrowing more to pay back a loan can trap a person into being perpetually in debt and never getting ahead. These places are usually found on the same block as a liquor store in low-income neighborhoods. These lenders prey on people with limited means and encourage them to live paycheck to paycheck.

Title loans are another way people are getting ripped off. People who own their car free and clear can bring in their title and an extra set of keys, and drive away with up to half the value of their car. They agree to a loan at an extremely high rate, or with a large balloon payment without realistically being able to pay. The title loan companies don’t care what kind of credit the borrower has, because they win either way. They receive an excellent profit on the interest charges or they repossess the car and sell it for twice the loan amount. Sounds like a “can’t lose” situation for them, so it must be a “can’t win” situation for the borrower.

I’ve heard predatory commercials on the radio from car dealerships. The announcer might say something ridiculous like, “We’ll give you $5000 for your trade on anything you can push, pull, or tow in here, and we don’t care how ugly it is!” We’d all be rich if we could sell junk cars for $5000, but who would buy one? These predatory lenders just add that $5000 that they “gave” you to the price of your new car being financed. You’ll drive away in a shiny new car and you’ll get stuck with a loan for $5000 more than the car is worth.

What if you owe more on your trade-in than it’s value? It’s known as a negative equity loan or an upside down loan. This is quite common, considering car dealers want to sell expensive cars more than cheaper ones, and consumers want to drive the best car they can get a loan for. Cars depreciate faster than the loan can be paid down, and when you spread the payments over five or six years instead of three, this can amount to thousands of dollars. Eager to sell you another new car, dealerships work with lenders and add the difference to your loan amount, ensuring that vicious debt cycle.

It is appalling that greedy predatory lenders would go so far as to trick people out of their homes, but it happens. Abundant offers for second mortgages or use credit card balance transfers to pay off credit card debt come daily in the mail. It’s shocking that lenders would encourage you to take equity from your home to buy a two-week vacation, a hot tub, a motorcycle, or other big “toys”. Would a sensible person really want to pay 15-30 years with interest for some unnecessary material items that make life just a little more fun? These predatory lenders like to remind you of all the improvements you could make in your life if you just had access to the equity in your home. They encourage you to dream of everything you’re missing out on because your assets are tied up in your house. They sell you on the idea that you’ll “save” money by consolidating your high interest debt. You might have smaller monthly payments… but the debt is stretched out over many years, increasing your total interest costs. Many borrowers just rack up new debt after getting that second mortgage to pay off bills because their formerly maxed out credit cards are now freed up again. When the borrower can’t afford his mortgage, second mortgage, and new credit card debt, the home goes into foreclosure and the borrower loses everything he’s worked for.

Home-improvement scams have also hit America hard, particularly the elderly. Someone who has been making regular mortgage payments for many years has most likely built up lots of equity in their home, which makes them a prime target for these ruthless predators. Contractors offer to make repairs or improvements to the home, and can even be so “helpful” as to set up financing for the unsuspecting homeowner. An elderly widow, who can’t do the work herself, is grateful for the nice young man who can help her get her home back in shape. When it comes to the confusing legal jargon in the contract, she trusts him and his simple explanation of what it is she’s signing. She unknowingly agrees to take out a high-interest second mortgage that requires a balloon payment at the end. She later finds out that all her payments have gone to pay mostly interest, barely making a dent in the principle owed. She can’t pay the huge balloon payment when due, and loses her house in foreclosure. It is unfortunate that these predators are willing to put someone’s grandmother out of her home to make their fortune.

My neighborhood is several years old and a part of it is still in construction. This addition draws many first-time homebuyers. When I shopped for mortgages, I thought it was odd that my builder’s mortgage lender approved my loan for an amount about 30% more than a regular mortgage broker could get for me. Don’t we all want the best house we can afford? It’s tempting to take a mortgage that’s barely affordable, to get that bigger house with more options. It’s interesting to note that there are quite a few foreclosures in this neighborhood, usually the houses that are about two years old. On brand new homes, you would only pay taxes on the value of the empty lot, that is, until it is reassessed with the value of the house on it. This happens where I live about a year and a half after the home is built and closed on. The mortgage lender does warn you that your payments will go up in a couple of years after the taxes are reassessed, but still approves your mortgage based on your current income and the tax on the empty lot. You might not think much of it then because you believe you’ll figure something out by the time your payments go up. About 18 months later, your PITI payment increases by a couple of hundred dollars a month, but your income hasn’t. Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure because they weren’t prepared for this dramatic increase in payment.

Predatory lending has many more faces; I gave just a few examples. You’ve heard of scams people have reported in the newspapers. You can read about victims in internet blogs. The nightly news is always showing a new story about a new way predators are trying to take our money. You’ve seen the ads that the lenders themselves have run. These unscrupulous businesses may be fraudulent, or just plain tricky. They thrive on the “Gotta have it now” attitude that many consumers live by. The only way to protect yourself is to educate yourself. I’ve referred to the borrowers several times as “victims”, but truly they are victims of their own lack of awareness.

Protect Yourself From Predatory Lenders

  • Use your financial common sense; if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t buy it.
  • Plan a realistic budget and stick to it.
  • Have a savings plan so that you’ll be prepared in case of a true emergency.
  • Keep your credit rating high so that you won’t be forced to go with “sub-prime” lenders, where predatory lending is common.
  • Be skeptical about quick fixes and easy money.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Bad credit, no credit, no problem! This is one of predatory lenders favorite lines.
  • Buy here, pay here! Rent to own. No money down! You must act now! Some of their other favorite lines.
  • Any loan, including your first mortgage, which uses the equity in your house as collateral should be looked at very carefully.
  • Know what it is you’re signing, and never sign documents that don’t have all the terms filled in.
  • If you don’t understand the contract in question, consult an attorney. Lawyer fees can be a bargain compared to the potential loss.
  • Shop around for loans of any kind; never say yes to the first offer.
  • Visit The Center For Responsible Lending for information about laws to protect you, or how you can get involved in the fight against predatory lending.
  • Don’t let salesmen pressure you into something you aren’t sure about.
  • Refuse to take out more loans to pay off already unmanageable debts.
  • Beware of the temptingly low interest rates that skyrocket after you’ve had enough time to shop more than you should.
  • Take responsibility for your financial well-being.
  • Predatory lenders are out there taking money, but don’t let them take yours.

Detroit Travel – A Bicycle Tour Through Corktown and Mexicantown

My discoveries of Detroit were slowly but surely coming to an end, and I had seen so many interesting places already in my whirlwind tour over the last four days. Just before I was ready to hop across the border to Windsor again, I had one more adventure on my schedule: a biking tour of Southwest Detroit to cover Corktown and Mexicantown.

After a filling breakfast at the Inn on Ferry Street I took their complimentary shuttle downtown to Rivard Plaza, right next to the Detroit Riverwalk. At 10 am I met Kelly Kavanaugh, co-owner of Wheelhouse Detroit, Downtown Detroit’s first bike rental facility for more than 30 years. Wheelhouse also provides bicycle repairs and service and offers a variety of tours of different Detroit neighbourhoods.

Wheelhouse Detroit was founded by friends Kelli Kavanaugh and Karen Gage, two young women who have been active in the Detroit non-profit and urban planning scene for years. Equipped with advice from fellow entrepreneurs, start-up funding from the city’s micro-credit program and their own savings they embarked on their entrepreneurial venture and bought 30 bicycles which includes comfortable cruisers, city mountain bikes, kids bikes, trailers and even a tandem.

Their bikes are made by Kona, a philanthropically inclined manufacturer that donates bicycles to non-profit organizations in Africa. Along with other people I have met over the last four days, Kelli and Karen are an example of the new breed of Detroit entrepreneurs who combine their love for the city with hard work and entrepreneurial creativity.

On a brilliant but rather cool and windy October day Kelli and I headed off westwards along the the Detroit Riverwalk and quickly passed the General Motor Renaissance Centre and Hart Plaza, the civic centre of Detroit. The Detroit International Riverfront covers an area stretching from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle and encompasses numerous parks, restaurants, retail shops, skyscrapers and residential areas along the Detroit River. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised in the last few years to revitalize this extensive area.

The Detroit Riverwalk is a recreational multipurpose path that stretches 5.5 miles (almost 9 km) along Detroit’s riverfront and provides separate lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists or inline skaters. Wheelhouse Detroit is located inside Rivard Plaza, an outdoor space that features the Cullen Family Carousel, an inlaid granite map of the Detroit River, fountains and gardens. Rivard Plaza was opened in June of 2007 and also features the Riverwalk Cafe.

Cycling west on the Riverwalk, Kelli started to tell me about her venture and about her passion for cycling in Detroit. As the city is quite spread out and a lot of the traffic concentrates on the city’s characteristic sunken expressways, the downtown area is surprisingly free of traffic congestion and cycling-friendly. In my past four days in Detroit I did not encounter any traffic jams downtown, a surprising experience when you come from a congested place like Toronto.

As we pedaled against the wind we passed by several more Detroit landmarks – Cobo Arena, the Cobo Convention Centre and the Joe Louis Arena – home of the Detroit Red Wings. Leaving the downtown area behind we headed into southwest Detroit.

The first neighbourhood that greeted us was Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood, so named after the Irish immigrants from County Cork that settled here. The houses in this area date back to 1834 and feature nicely restored Victorian homes, many of them brightly painted. Corktown also has many cool gathering spots and eateries, including the funky Zeitgeist Gallery, a bar called Nemo’s which was voted No. 3 “perfect sports bar in the US by Sports Illustrated, and LJ.’s – a hip karaoke place, as well as a wide range of other diverse restaurants.

We snaked our way through this pleasant neighbourhood and crossed over a railway bridge that provided a perfect view of one of Detroit’s most stunning architectural structures: the Michigan Central Depot, also called the Michigan Central Station. Although now abandoned and in poor condition, the Michigan Central Station is a railroad station that was built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad. Its main Beaux-Arts train station is flanked by an 18 storey office tower, a monumental building whose outline dominates South-West Detroit’s skyline. Due to its sheer size and its magnificent architectural detailing, the Michigan Central Depot is still one of Detroit’s most impressive buildings, despite its sad current state.

Past the railroad bridge we arrived in Mexicantown, a vibrant neighbourhood that has undergone significant economic growth in the last few years. Kelly showed me the Michigan International Welcome Centre, a brand-new commercial development in close proximity to the Ambassador Bridge. 85 businesses will welcome visitors in The Mercado, and they will cater to locals and out-of-towners alike with a broad assortment of merchandise.

Further west we cycled by a long strip of Mexican restaurants that include popular eateries such as Mexican Village, El Zocalo, Evie’s Tamales, Lupita’s and Xochimilco. A ride through this neighbourhood revealed an extensive collection of late Victorian homes fronted by large trees. The main streets in the area are Bagley Street and Vernor Street which are flanked by numerous storefronts and eateries.

Away from the main thoroughfares and tucked into the neighbourhood is St. Anne De Detroit Catholic Church, the eighth church in this location whose cornerstone was laid in 1886. The church was originally founded on July 26, 1701, two days after Antoine Mothe de la Cadillac (the founder of Detroit) and his French settlers arrived. Today it is the second oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the United States. Nowadays the congregation includes many Hispanic parishioners who come together to worship in this impressive Gothic Revival structure.

One stop on our bicycling tour included the Hotel Yorba, which inspired the hit single by Detroit garage rock band “The White Stripes”. Today this former hotel provides subsidized housing. We started cycling back to the main road and passed by Clark Park, a large public park on Detroit’s southwest side. Cycling back east on Vernor we saw another strip of Mexican-owned businesses.

On the way back we made a stop in front of the Michigan Central Station where Kelly explained that this is the departure point for the annual “Tour de Troit” event, a 40-mile cycling tour of Detroit that has been attracting biking enthusiasts since 2001. Both Kelli and her business partner Karen have been actively involved in helping to organize this popular biking event. Attendance increased from 650 participants in 2007 to 1100 participants in 2008. Kelly explained that biking is definitely taking off in Detroit. The Tour de Troit event also raises funds for dedicated bicycle trails.

We now turned onto Michigan Avenue, one of Detroit’s main thoroughfares. Stopping regularly we had a look at various bars, cafes and galleries that populate this stretch of the road. One of our final stops was at the Old Tiger Stadium, the former home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The stadium was originally opened in 1912 and unfortunately partially demolished in 2008. A group of dedicated local citizens is fighting to keep the remaining portions of the stadium intact.

Our tour concluded with a ride through Detroit’s downtown business district and ended back at Wheelhouse’s location on Rivard Plaza. Given that I am an avid bicycling enthusiast myself, exploring Detroit on two wheels was a real highlight of my five-day stint in this city. Bicycling is simply the best way of discovering a city – allowing you to cover great ground at manageable speeds while getting much needed exercise. Being able to easily stop anywhere is a great added benefit for an avid travel photographer like me.

Now thoroughly invigorated I thanked Kelli for introducing me to a completely different side of Detroit and set off to have lunch in the open outdoor space in front of the Wintergarden at the Renaissance Centre. The “RenCen”, the international headquarters of General Motors, consists of seven skyscrapers centered around the 73-story central tower that holds the Detroit Marriot Hotel. This structure has also been the highest building in Michigan since 1977.

The top of the hotel holds Coach Insignia, a fine dining restaurant with the most fabulous views of the city. In 2003 GM renovated the entire complex at a cost of $500 million which added the five-story Wintergarden, a light-flooded glass-enclosed atrium that overlooks the Detroit River. I grabbed my lunch, went outside and enjoyed the fall sun and the magnificent view across the river to Windsor while reflecting on my five action-packed days in Detroit.

Shortly after I called the shuttle service of the Inn on Ferry Street and minutes later I got whisked away. I made a final stop in Greektown, one of Detroit’s most popular entertainment districts. Most of the houses along Monroe Street date back to the Victorian era and today feature restaurants and cafes on the main level. The Greektown Casino is a major attraction in the area.

This exciting morning had concluded my visit to Detroit. I picked up my suitcase, hopped in my car and took the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel back to Canada. On the way back to Toronto I reflected on what an exciting and fascinating destination Detroit had been. During these past few days I got to see so many different facets of Detroit, and I had a chance to meet several people who are truly passionate about their city. It’s always great to get to know a city from the perspective of an insider.

I had had a thoroughly great time in Detroit and over the past five days I had seen so many things I had never expected. And I realized there were so many more places I didn’t get to see.

Well, I guess I’ll have to leave something for next time…