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Merchant Account Fees & Credit Cards

May 11th, 2007 · 1 Comment

There’s a coffee shop in our office complex where they don’t accept credit cards for less than $3. I have been going there every single day and he declined to give me coffee on my card. I was really eager to try out my citi credit card, to find out if I’d get 3% or 1% cashback at that coffee shop – the one I visit most frequently. The usual lady wasn’t around, so I waited for her to come back and asked her what the deal was with the $3 minimum anyways.

Turns out, credit card services have the cake, eat it, and then sell it. They charge you and me and call it “APR” and then they charge the merchants. Dealers sign up for merchant accounts. These services charge fees so the dealers can accept cards and get the money after these fees are deducted. Some merchant services providers don’t charge some of these fees components, like application fees, but there are some charges associated with all of them.

So the lady was telling me that for a sale of $3, after deducting her credit card charges, and he cost, and the pay for the folks that work for her, she actually could be making a loss. Wow!

From the outside it always seems like everyone else is making easy money. Not so, not at all so. Some credit cards give you cash back on purchases, I should really try and find out how they manage to make a profit after this – but my guess is, they just wait till you miss a payment and then they make money off of you – after all, since it’s really not easy to make money, everyone will have bad patches. I suppose they want you have their card when you hit your rough patch. The citi credit card that I picked up the other day is one such – lets see if I can keep myself on the positive side with citi!

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How Would an Online Nursing Degree Work?

May 9th, 2007 · No Comments

I am curious how this online nursing degree program would work. If you read the article in detail, you get the idea that you can even get an MBA for nursing. The reason I am a little puzzled is that I can’t think of how such a person-oriented, physical skill-centric job can be taught using only online methods. The page lists that they use multimedia and interactive technologies, but I’d love to know if it actually works.

It does seem like the programs are for nurses with diplomas seeking to get a higher-level degree to advance their careers:

Registered Nurses with an associate degree or diploma certificate can build on their education and experience to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). RNs without a formal nursing degree may also qualify to enter programs leading to a BSN or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). You’ll also find Master’s programs in specialties such as Integrative Health Care and Health Care Education.

This kind of tags onto the Bachelors in Gaming I wrote about earlier. The universities offering the program include the Phoenix University, which I see ads for almost everywhere, and a few others. a couple of days ago, in Family Guy, I heard this joke where one construction worker tells the other, “My son got into DeVry University,” and the other goes, “Oh yeah? What did you have to do? Hold the door open?” :)

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Cool Gift Idea – Photo Pendant

May 8th, 2007 · No Comments

I often find myself racking my brain for gift ideas. Here’s a cool idea. Everytime I see one of these photo pendants in a movie, I so desperately want to get one, or better still – give one. I went to Spider-man III yesterday and in the movie a little girl gives her dad a photo pendant – one with a lid, oval in shape – you get the point. Well, I thought it would be really cool as a gift for a friend who became a dad in February this year.

Searching online led me to this custom photo jewelry website that specializes in such stuff. They look like a brick-and-mortar shop that is venturing online. So I said, what the heck, lets give them a call. Turns out they are nice little family run business – I will take one of those over a huge corporate giant any day. I ended up ordering the oval photo locket – for my friend. Now I can’t wait to get it. I just wish it had a small door, or lid, but the ones with the lid are heart-shaped and I felt that would be taking the gift too far. Soon after I ordered, I got an email requesting the photo, and I had to reply with the photo. I’m hoping I can get it within the week.

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Relieving Headaches the Natural Way

May 8th, 2007 · No Comments

For the last two to three months, I have been having headaches every day – almost at the same time. Come 8 PM and the pain starts – usually around the temple, though sometimes it is like a ring around my head. It is a slow, throbbing, constant pain, and when it starts I cannot sit still, or lie down – so I take to pacing around the house.

I went to the doctor but was disappointed to learn there was nothing unusual in my head – he almost ruled out sinus headaches since my nose, ear etc look normal. From WebMD, I learnt about cluster headaches. They occur in spurts or clusters, and are caused by some kind of problem with the trigeminal nerve. Well, in any case, since I don’t know what kind of a headache it really is, I was at a loss as to what to do regarding it.

One of my office mates is Chinese, and he gave me a small bottle with some oil that smells like Eucalyptus oil, or mint, and suggested steam inhalation on a daily (nightly) basis with a little of the oil added to the hot water. The first time I got it totally wrong – I added 5 drops and that was a killer – I couldn’t breathe the steam in- it was saturated with the minty essence. That oil is potent stuff! I wish I could read Chinese, but since I can’t I can only tell you that the bottle is really small, like the size of a dollar coin, and perhaps 6 mm thick, and a drop of the oil is enough for one session of steam inhalation. It provided some instant relief and after a few days, the headaches have stopped altogether. But the thing is, I don’t know if this was directly related to the drops and the steam inhalation. Wish I could find out.

Chinese medicine is fascinating to say the least. The names of the medicines even more so. Bai Guo aka Gingko Biloba is probably one of the more popular natural Chinese medicines. Some dude has actually put together a whole website/blog about Chinese medicinal herbs – I found something called Bai Fu Zi there – maybe its worth a shot. Have to ask my Chinese friend about where to get it, and whether to try it.

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Bookswim Prices – Alpha Testing

May 7th, 2007 · 2 Comments

I am a bookswim alpha tester now! I got an invitation and I signed up for a plan today.

Bookswim is an online book rental library, much like Netflix, only for books. I had first written about BookSwim’s launch plans and then I had posted a link to the interview with Bookswim’s creator.

The plans for Bookswim are as follows:

  1. $23.99 a month for a 3 books at a time plan
  2. $26.99 a month for the 5 books at a time plan
  3. $29.99 for 7 books at a time
  4. $32.99 for 9 books at a time, and
  5. $35.99 for 11 books at a time

In addition to the above there is a free membership which you can use to just look over everything – if you decide to rent books, you will have to upgrade to the paid plans.

First impression – the rates are high. $23.99 will buy me a decent book or two a month! Also, whats the point in the 11 books-at-a-time plan? You can finish 11 books all at once – I take at least a day or two to finish a decent sized book. Also, you can’t seem to send back a book as soon as you finish it – for the three books at a time plan, for example, you can send back two books when you are done with them, as you are reading the third book. This won’t be a big problem in the long run, since you can manage to read the 4th book that arrives and send in the third and fourth books and so on – if you know what I mean. Shipping is free both ways. Asking people so send in two books together will save them some shipping dues. Here’s what the plan says:

When you finish 2 books, send them back in return for 2 MORE books. You still have that third book in your hands to read while the others are being shipped, so you’re never without a book!

There is a one month money-back guarantee, in case it doesn’t work out for you, which is reassuring.

The collections seems okay. There are lots of graphic novels and comics as well. There is no Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), but I could find Umberto Eco and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Of course this was just a very cursory search.

Lets see how this takes off, and then maybe I will pay for the books themselves.


New Studio Ghibli Movie From Miyazaki: Ponyo on a Cliff

May 3rd, 2007 · 1 Comment

I love Studio Ghibli movies by Hayao Miyazaki. They are moving, eloquent, childish – yet mature, wonderful, wonderful. Call it anime, or cartoons, but they are really much, much more than that – they beat the Disney movies hands down.

So it’s not without reason that I am excited about a new Studio Ghibli movie, Ponyo on a Cliff (Gake no ue no Ponyo). The movie is slated for a Summer 2008 release. All we know now is that it is the story of Sasuke, a five-year-old boy , and a Princess Goldfish (Ponyo) that wants to become human. The movie will be produced by the traditional hand-drawn method.
Ponyo On a Cliff Poster

Miyazaki’s grandson has been chosen as the model for the 5-year-old boy. About 70-80% of the film, which apparently shares some thematic elements with The Little Mermaid, takes place at sea. Miyazaki and the Ghibli staff have been location hunting in the vicinity of Tomo-no-Ura. — ICv2 News

You can get some more news and gossip here and here.

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The Latest in Shoes and Fashion

May 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

Some people are willing to walk the line to walk the walk. Increasing number of women are resorting to surgery to be able to wear those fashionable stiletto shoes. According to this NY Times article, more than 50% of the doctors who are members of the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society report having conducted cosmetic surgery or correctional surgery on women. Moreover, 90% of all women were shoes that are two sizes too small and 80% look into medical remedies for tight shoes – that is just stupid. These surgeries often lead to disastrous results – including pain in all the toes, inability to stand and walk etc.

The craziness doesn’t stop there, unfortunately. This fashion and shopping portal says in their fashionable shoes department, that collagen injections and even toe amputations are things women resort to, to fit into those fashionable Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks! Toe amputation? Oh My God!!

Now one can get “foot facials,” with a salt scrub, “mask,” peel and massage. You could even get injections into the ball of their feet of a chemical called “Restylane” to cushion the blow of high heels. You can shorten, or lengthen you toes, round your heels and tailor your arches. This cbs news report on the trend mentions all this without a blink of the eye.

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Crazy Movie Stuff: Saw III Poster

May 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

Via the galactic surf entertainment portal, I came to know that the Saw III movie poster had something unique about it – the lead actor’s blood was mixed into the red ink used for the poster. How much weirder can it get? Saw III wasn’t too well received, but with this blood-thing maybe the posters will become collectors items or something.

Tobin Bell is the star of the movie. Sounds like just another strange plan to attract media attention to the movie. I couldn’t help but recall how in the Red Violin, the varnish used for the violin had the maker’s wife’s blood mixed in. Maybe that was why that violin sounded so good. I have written about why Stradivarius violins sound so good – it might be in the varnish according to research.

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Sendful: Email to Postal Letter

May 3rd, 2007 · No Comments

Earlier, I had written about how to use USPS’ online service to send regular snail mail from your computer.

Now a private enterprise is trying to make it even easier – the idea is, when you have to send someone a regular letter, you pay $0.99 and send an email. The service, Postful, prints the email out in color and sends it to the postal address. You just have to put the mailing address in the “Subject” of your email, and send it to a postful email address. Now if that isn’t neat, what is? There some neat advanced features that might come in handy, if, for example, you send letters to the same address over and over again – postful will remember the address in that case. You can even send photos – which will be printed in color, all for the low, low $0.99 price! Right now, you can’t send mail internationally, but that is coming in June 07.

I’m gonna try and use this to send some regular letters to old friends – letters have their own quaint way of showing you care – more than emails, or e-cards can.

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No-Follow, Link Juice and Wikipedia

April 30th, 2007 · 3 Comments

V7N Search Marketing News:

Wikipedia introduced the no-follow tag, presumably as way to prevent people using Wikipedia to pass link juice. Even when most Wikipedians wanted no-follow removed, Jimbo Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, hs chosen to keep no-follow.

Looks like Jimmy Wales is twice the hypocrite – once for wanting to keep adding no-follow to wikipedia links even after the democratic decision making body of wikipedians voted in majority to remove the useless “no-follow” addon, and then again for not using the said no-follow attribute for links from wikipedia to his other ventures, including which happens to be a for-profit venture. I guess the bottom line and business demands are strong enough reasons to controvert established systems at will, for anyone. This is real bad news, but expected new, nevertheless.

No-follow was such a braindead idea – the only folks that ever did gain from the action of webmasters was google – their problem got reduced, but webmasters, including yours truly regularly get pummeled with unwanted visitors.

The V7n folks seems quite cool: check out this post on the art of refunds – they at least seem to get the part about how to deal with unsatisfied customers right – the point John makes about tolerating a few scammers to keep the majority of legitimately disconcerted clients is something that seems to slip by many online dealers, unfortunately.