Friday, August 20, 2010

Devil’s Cake Balls

  • 1 Box Devil’s Cake Mix
  • 1 16 oz. can cream cheese frosting*
  • 1 16 oz. bag of chocolate chips
  • wax paper
* To make homemade frosting: combine 8 oz. cream cheese (softened), 1 stick butter (softened), and 2 cups powdered sugar. Blend until creamy.

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon or toothpick to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl. Powdered sugar, stick of butter, and package of cream cheese. 3 ingredients for a healthy dessert.If making homemade frosting, blend these ingredients together with a handheld mixer until creamy.

Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)

Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package. Or if using chocolate chips, melt with a bit of water in the microwave. Add more water if it is too thick (but don’t add too much or it will be too watery).

Roll balls in chocolate. (Use a spoon or toothpick to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)
I used a cocktail toothpick to dip the balls into the chocolate, and a chopstick to gently brush off extra chocolate. Lay on wax paper until firm.

Source : Soupbelly

Apple Pie Apple

makes 1

1 Braeburn apple, washed and dried (can also use Fuji, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, or Granny Smiths)
10 pieces of caramel
2 oz. white candy melts
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 dashes cinnamon

Remove the apple stem if necessary and insert a popsicle stick down the core. Put in the apple in the freezer for at least 5 minutes but no more than 15 minutes to chill.

Unwrap the caramels and put them in a small microwave-safe bowl along with 1 teaspoon of water. Melt the caramel in the microwave at 50% power for one minute. Remove from microwave and stir. If the caramel is not completely melted, microwave again at 50% power for another 20 seconds.

Dip the apple into the melted caramel, using a spoon if necessary to get the caramel up the sides. Once the apple is covered, place on a greased plate and return to the freezer to chill.

In another small microwave-safe bowl, melt the white candy melts in the microwave using the defrost option. Remove from microwave and stir. If not completely melted, return to microwave and defrost for another 30 seconds.

On a small plate, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon, making sure to crumble any lumps.

Once the caramel on the apple is not sticky anymore (but before it is frozen!), remove from the freezer. If necessary, try to push any caramel that has pooled to the bottom back onto the apple. Dip in the white candy melts, using a spoon if necessary to get the candy up the sides.

Before the white candy sets, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place the apple in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow the white candy to harden.

To serve, make 2 parallel slices almost all the way down both sides of the core, leaving the bottom 1/4" intact. Rotate 90 degrees and make 2 more similar parallel slices to give you 8 slices you can break off and the core in the middle.

If you don't have a popsicle stick, you can probably get away without using one, but it's a lot easier to manipulate the apple in the caramel, melted white candy, and cinnamon sugar mixture if you have one. 


 Facebook Inc. unveiled a new way for users to share their physical locations online, extending the social-networking giant's reach into the real world even as it opens itself to new potential concerns about privacy.

While Facebook stopped short of announcing how it would make money off its location services, the move paves the way for the company to become a major player in the growing business to supply local information and advertising, rivaling efforts by Google Inc. and others.

The new service, called Places, allows Facebook users to tap the location-sensing capabilities of their mobile phones to "check in" to a business or address and then instantly share it with their Facebook connections. The optional service will also allow users to find other people who have also recently logged their presence physically nearby.

Places will "help people stay connected everywhere they go, not just at their computer," said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg at an event at the company's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.

While location-based mobile-app companies such as Foursquare Labs Inc. have drawn attention from early adopters and investors, Facebook's entry into the market could help make the idea of sharing one's location with friends and businesses become mainstream. The company already has 150 million users of its service on mobile phones, although the Places service will initially only be available on an app for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and through an enhanced mobile website.

Still, adding location information to the data that Facebook collects and mines about its 500 million users could open the company to new criticism from privacy advocates and regulators. Facebook executives said they built in privacy controls to protect sensitive location information, such as limiting the default visibility of check-ins to friends only.

But Nicole Ozer, the technology and civil-liberties policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said it left out some other important privacy safeguards. "Facebook is rolling out 'here now,' privacy later," she said, noting that the company makes it easy to let strangers know your current location but gives limited ability to control exactly who knows that you are at a place. If a user's "here now" feature is turned on, he or she is visible to any user in that place.

"It's nearly impossible to launch any new social feature without some level of privacy concern, and it remains to be seen whether users will like or dislike the fact that they can be checked in by their friends," said Augie Ray, a social-networking analyst with Forrester Research. Facebook said it intended that service as an advantage, since not all of its users have one of the smartphones that are required to use the service. Users can also turn off the ability for their friends to check them in—but it is permitted by default.

In May, Facebook changed its privacy controls following a torrent of criticism. The Federal Trade Commission has said it is continuing to look into social networks and plans to issue new guidelines later this year for how they handle privacy. In late July, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing about online privacy that included testimony from Facebook, Google and other technology companies.

Mr. Zuckerberg played down the immediate implications of the new service for Facebook's core revenue stream of selling advertising. "You can imagine all of these things in the future," he said, but added that the company wanted to focus first on creating a service that would be useful for the social lives of users.

Still, analysts said the location service could eventually open considerable new business opportunities for Facebook, including location-targeted advertising. Facebook could also tap business opportunities by setting up sponsorships and special deals with local businesses. Even with the initial launch, local businesses will be able to claim the Facebook page for their own location as a business page.

"There are such tremendous opportunities for marketers with Places, I think, sooner rather than later we are going to see advertisers incorporated into it," said Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer

Those sorts of business uses could eventually compete with Google, which has been building out its maps and local information and advertising business. In the mobile market, Google hopes to become a platform for mobile check-in services by offering its database of information about millions of local businesses and other places around the world.

For the existing generation of location-based Internet services, Facebook extended an olive branch by opening the location data that it collects to third parties. Appearing at Facebook's announcement, some initial partners, including Foursquare and Gowalla, said they thought Facebook would be an enabler—not a competitor—by introducing a lot of new users to the world of sharing their locations.

How India's Rich Invest Their Money

Indians are getting richer, but where do the rich invest their money? Believe it or not, a bulk of it is in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds – the types of investments that individuals like you and I can also buy.
India has around 130,000 people with investable assets of more than $1 million, according to a recent report by Capgemini and Merrill LynchWealth Management. To manage a slice of this money, dozens of companies have launched or are planning to launch what are called "wealth management" or "private banking" businesses in India.
These services charge the rich a fee of up to 1.5% of assets under management, plus the firms take commissions or other fees for creating special investment products. For a $1 million portfolio, that's a cool $15,000 or more in fees.
So, what do the wealthy get for this high fee? Here are some of the answers:

Structured Products/Notes
These are basically contracts in which a bank promises to provide a certain return to the investor for a fee. One popular type of contract is the "principal-protected" note, in which investors always get their money back.
The note, for examples, might be tied to the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex. The bank promises that if the Sensex loses value, the investor gets his principal back. The catch is that if the Sensex gains value, the investor gets only a portion of the gain, say 80%.
Essentially, the investor gives up some of his potential return for the peace of mind that his principal investment is safe. These structured notes can be linked to the performance of an index or to a basket of stocks, or other assets.
These are a relatively new type of investment, and not many people own them yet. But the interest is growing. "These are getting increasingly customized" to meet specific investors' needs, says Satya Narayan Bansal, chief executive officer, Barclays Wealth, India.
Investors need typically around 2.5 million or 5 million rupees ($100,000) to get one of these contracts.
Real Estate
The super-rich share the general public's fascination with real estate as an investment. It makes up as much as a fourth of their portfolios in India, estimates Pradeep Dokania, chairman of India global wealth and investment management at DSP Merill Lynch Ltd.
"Real estate has become a much bigger asset class in India," he says.
Of course, the rich invest in real estate differently than everyone else.
Some buy offices or other commercial spaces to make money on rentals.
It can be a headache to manage property, so some investors buy real estate funds instead. These funds invest in many of real estate projects on behalf of clients. A minimum 5 million rupees ($100,000) investment is needed to buy these.
Many such funds were launched in 2007, at the peak of the real estate market, but their returns have not been so good. These funds had partly invested in offices and malls whose values have remained quite low after the economic downturn of 2008.
Some investors are even more aggressive. In Delhi, some of the super-rich buy a block of apartments in yet-to-be constructed buildings, hoping to sell them at a higher price to other buyers or home-owners. It will take more than excess of 1 crore rupees ($200,000) to do this.

Private Equity/Direct Investments
Wealthy individuals and families sometimes also invest directly in businesses in sectors like education, health care, clean technology or micro-finance.
These investments carry high risks because if the businesses sink, the investor could lose all their money. Also, it can take years for a business to succeed, so investors' money is locked in for a long time.
To compensate for this risk, investors expect an annualized return of 30% or more, says Richa Karpe, director of investments at Altamount Capital Management in Mumbai.
When it's tough to identify individual businesses to buy, wealthy investors invest through a private equity fund which invests directly in a few businesses. Ms. Karpe recommends limiting direct investments to 15% of clients' overall wealth.
Asset-Backed Debt
With interest rates so low recently, the super-rich have been looking for ways to increase returns on their debt investments.
One way they've been doing that is by buying bonds which have a dedicated asset as collateral. A company might, for example, issue a bond of 25 crore rupees ($5.3 million), and set aside some real estate it owns worth 50 crore rupees ($10.6 million) as a collateral. Investors who buy this bond would get a pre-determined interest rate and in case the issuing company fails to pay that interest, the investors can sell the underlying asset and recover their money.
Ms. Karpe says interest on these bonds, of one to two-years term, ranges from 11% to 16%. That's a much better deal than the 7% or so interest on two-year bank fixed deposits.
To participate, investors typically need to bring a minimum investment of 1 crore rupees. Ms. Karpe advises a limit of 5% of client assets in these, spread among bonds of different issuers.
Getting Niche
Sometimes wealthy individuals make what advisers call "passion investments" in things like art or antiques. Very few wealth managers in India have the expertise to advise on these, so the super rich are on their own.
At Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, some clients have been keen on investing in water or alternate/renewable energy, said Amitava Neogi, executive director, in an email interview. For this, they typically buy foreign funds which invest in stocks of companies which operate in these sectors. Indians are permitted to invest up to $200,000 per financial year in overseas investments.

Bread, Butter and Glitter
All the investments mentioned above use up less than half of the wealth of the wealthy. The rest is invested in good old stocks and bonds, often through mutual funds.
Many also put up to 5% of their investments in gold, through exchange-traded funds. These funds can be bought on the stock exchange for small amounts of money, so there is no advantage to the rich here.
Think about this: the super-rich pay wealth managers a fee to buy them a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund, which in turn, charges another fee. Those of us without millions to splurge can skip that extra layer of fees, by buying diversified stock and bond mutual funds on our own.

Source : WSJ

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Five Mistakes Online Job Hunters Make

In a tight job market, building and maintaining an online presence is critical to networking and job hunting. Done right, it can be an important tool for present and future networking and useful for potential employers trying to get a sense of who you are, your talents and your experience. Done wrong, it can easily take you out of the running for most positions.
Here are five mistakes online job hunters make:
1. Forgetting manners.
If you use Twitter or you write a blog, you should assume that hiring managers and recruiters will read your updates and your posts. A December 2009 study by Microsoft Corp. found that 79% of hiring managers and job recruiters review online information about job applicants before making a hiring decision. Of those, 70% said that they have rejected candidates based on information that they found online. Top reasons listed? Concerns about lifestyle, inappropriate comments, and unsuitable photos and videos.
"Everything is indexed and able to be searched," says Miriam Salpeter, an Atlanta-based job search and social media coach. "Even Facebook, which many people consider a more private network, can easily become a trap for job seekers who post things they would not want a prospective boss to see."
Don't be lulled into thinking your privacy settings are foolproof. "All it takes is one person sharing information you might not want shared, forwarding a post, or otherwise breaching a trust for the illusion of privacy in a closed network to be eliminated," says Ms. Salpeter, who recommends not posting anything illegal (even if it's a joke), criticism of a boss, coworker or client, information about an interviewer, or anything sexual or discriminatory. "Assume your future boss is reading everything you share online," she says.

2. Overkill.
Blanketing social media networks with half-done profiles accomplishes nothing except to annoy the exact people you want to impress: prospective employees trying to find out more about on you.

One online profile done well is far more effective than several unpolished and incomplete ones, says Sree Sreenivasan, dean of students at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He made the decision early on to limit himself to three social-networking sites: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. "There is just not enough time," he says. "Pick two or three, then cultivate a presence there."
Many people make the mistake of joining LinkedIn and other social media sites and then just letting their profiles sit publicly unfinished, says Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn spokesperson. "Just signing up for an account simply isn't enough," she says. "At a bare minimum, make sure you're connected to at least 35 people and make sure your profile is 100 percent complete. Members with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn."
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the three most popular social networking sites for human resources managers to use for recruiting, according to a survey released last month by JobVite, a maker of recruiting software.
3. Not getting the word out.
When accounting firm Dixon Hughes recently had an opening for a business development executive, Emily Bennington, the company's director of marketing and development, posted a link to the opportunity on her Facebook page. "I immediately got private emails from a host of people in my network, none of whom I knew were in the market for a new job," she says. " I understand that there are privacy concerns when it comes to job hunting, but if no one knows you're looking, that's a problem, too."
Changing this can be as simple as updating your status on LinkedIn and other social networking sites to let people know that you are open to new positions. If you're currently employed and don't want your boss to find out that you're looking, you'll need to be more subtle. One way to do this is to give prospective employers a sense of how you might fit in, says Dan Schawbel, author of "Me 2.0" and founder of Millennial Branding. "I recommend a positioning, or personal brand statement, that depicts who you are, what you do, and what audience you serve, so that people get a feeling for how you can benefit their company."
4. Quantity over quality.
Choose connections wisely; only add people you actually know or with whom you've done business. Whether it's on LinkedIn, Facebook or any other networking site, "it's much more of a quality game than a quantity game," says Ms. Canfield. A recruiter may choose to contact one of your connections to ask about you; make sure that person is someone you know and trust.

And there's really no excuse for sending an automated, generic introduction, says Ms. Canfield. "Taking the extra five to 10 seconds to write a line or two about how you know the other person and why'd you'd like to connect to them can make the difference between them accepting or declining your connection request," she says. "It also doesn't hurt to mention that you're more than willing to help them or introduce them to other people in your network."
5. Online exclusivity.
Early last year, Washington's Tacoma Public Utilities posted a water meter reader position on its website. The response? More than 1,600 people applied for the $17.76 an hour position.
With the larger number of people currently unemployed (and under-employed), many employers are being inundated with huge numbers of applications for any positions they post. In order to limit the applicant pool, some have stopped posting positions on their websites and job boards, says Tim Schoonover, chairman of career consulting firm OI Partners.
Scouring the Web for a position and doing nothing else is rarely the best way to go. "When job-seekers choose to search for jobs exclusively online– rather than also include in-person networking–they may be missing out on 'hidden' opportunities," says Mr. Schoonover. "Higher-level jobs are not posted as often as lower-level jobs online. In-person networking may be needed to uncover these higher-level positions, which may be filled by executive recruiters."

Source: WSJ

Is Gold the Next Bubble?

It's been the amazing, runaway boom of the past decade. If you'd put your money into gold at the lows about 10 years ago, you'd have made a nearly 400% return. That's left pretty much everything else—stocks, China, let alone housing—in the dust.
But with gold now trading near record highs, the big $1,200-an-ounce question is obvious.
Some smart people wonder. "The time to buy gold was in 1999, not 2010," Harvard professor Niall Ferguson tells The Wall Street Journal—though he added that momentum might still drive it higher. Others will tell you that "the smart money got out of gold months ago." But then people have been saying that for years.
They could be right, of course: The future by definition is unknowable.
But if gold is a bubble, here's why it may not be over—and, indeed, may it may be about to go vertical.
First, the recent rise is deceptive. Yes, gold has risen from around $250 an ounce to $1,200. But that rise started at very depressed levels. Gold had been falling in price for two decades. In 2000-01, it was at the bottom of a very deep bear market. It had touched historic lows compared to consumer prices or other assets like shares. A lot of the past decade's boom has simply seen it recover toward longer-term averages.
Second, before we assume the gold bubble has hit its peak, let's see how it compares with the last two bubbles—the tech mania of the 1990s and the housing bubble that peaked in 2005-06.
The chart is below, and it's both an eye-opener and a spine-tingler.

It compares the rise in gold today with the rise of the Nasdaq in the 1990s and the Dow Jones index of home-building stocks in the 10 years leading up to 2005-06.
They look uncannily similar to me.
So far gold has followed the same path as the previous two bubbles. And if it continues along the same trajectory—a big if—gold today is only where the Nasdaq was in 1998 and housing in 2003.
In other words, just before those markets went into orbit.
Maybe the smart money is out of gold today. But how easily we forget that the smart money got out of these past bubbles way too early. The really smart money knows you make the most money in a bubble right at the end, when it goes manic.
There are other reasons to think that gold is still a long way from that point.
Like the futures market. It is predicting gold will rise by just a few percent a year over the next few years. That's less than you'd get from municipal bonds.
When the market thinks an investment is going to underperform munis, it's safe to say we are not in the midst of euphoria.
And take a look at the coverage of this industry. At the peak of a bubble, the Wall Street analysts covering a sector are usually all bullish. This time around? Far from it. Of the analysts covering gold-mining giant Barrick Gold, only about two-thirds are publicly bullish, according to Thomson Reuters. By Wall Street standards, that's very restrained. Among those covering Newmont Mining and Randgold Resources, it's about half.
And on an anecdotal level, this doesn't feel like the peak of a bubble. Taxi drivers and bartenders may be talking about gold. But they aren't yet handing out mining tips.

There is, of course, no guarantee gold will turn into another mania. But the fact that we now seem to live in Bubblonia—the land of perpetual bubbles—would suggest there is a current opening for the role. And in many ways, gold may be well cast.
It has a "This time is different" story line: The world's central banks are flooding the market with liquidity. That should inevitably devalue the currencies. Gold is the only "currency" they can't just print.
It has an army of true believers behind it, ready to claim each rise as a "victory" and to mock skeptics with the words "They just don't get it."
And it's easy to untether from reality. You can't value gold by traditional financial measures, as it generates no cash flow. So there's plenty of potential to value it by other means. Eyeballs, anyone?
Dylan Grice, a strategist at SG Securities in London, thinks global conditions today could unleash another gold boom like the one in the 1970s. Then, as now, the world lost confidence in the U.S. dollar as a store of value. Back then, central banks started hoarding gold instead. Today, he notes, they are net purchasers of gold for the first time since 1988.
And although gold has risen a long way, so has the U.S. money supply. Mr. Grice calculates that even at today's prices, the bullion that the U.S. government holds in places like Fort Knox is still only worth enough to back 15% of the U.S. monetary base. That is near a record low.
At the peak of the gold mania in 1979-80, gold prices rose so far that the backing exceeded 100%. How far would gold rise if that happened again? To around $6,300 an ounce, Mr. Grice says.
Once again: I am not saying gold is going into the stratosphere. I am saying there is a good case for saying it might.
Gold is a high-risk and potentially dangerous speculation. Anyone thinking of investing needs to do some serious thinking first.

Source : WSJ

Why I Don't Trust Gold

This is a very sad day for me.
In Part One of this series, when I argued that gold might be about to go vertical, I made a whole bunch of new friends among the gold bugs.
And now I'm going to lose them all.
That's because even though I think gold might be about to take off, I don't recommend you rush out and put all your money into gold bars or exchange-traded funds that hold bullion.
And this is for one simple reason: At some levels, gold, as an investment, is absolutely ridiculous.

Warren Buffett put it well. "Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace," he said. "Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head."
And that's not the half of it.
Gold is volatile. It's hard to value. It generates no income.
Yes, it's a "hard asset," but so are lots of other things—like land, bags of rice, even bottled water.
It's a currency "substitute," but it's useless. In prison, at least, they use cigarettes: If all else fails, they can smoke them. Imagine a bunch of health nuts in a nonsmoking "facility" still trying to settle their debts with cigarettes. That's gold. It doesn't make sense.
As for being a "store of value," anyone who bought gold in the late 1970s and held on lost nearly all their purchasing power over the next 20 years.
I get worried when I see people plunging heavily into gold at $1,200 an ounce. What if the price goes back to where it was just a few years ago, at $500 or $600 an ounce? Will you buy more? Sell?
My concerns about gold go even further than that.
Let's step inside the gold market for a moment.
Everyone knows the price has risen about fivefold in the past decade. But this is not due to some mystical truth or magical act of levitation. It is simply because there have been more buyers than sellers.
Banal, but true—and sometimes worth repeating.
If the price rises you'd think there must be a shortage. But data provided by the World Gold Council, an industry body, tell a remarkable story.
Over that period the world has produced—or, more accurately, recovered—far more gold than anyone actually wanted to use. Since 2002, for example, total demand for gold from goldsmiths and jewelers, and dentists, and general industry, has come to about 22,500 tonnes.
But during the same period, more than 29,000 tonnes has come on to the market.
The surplus alone is enough to produce about 220 million one-ounce gold American Buffalo coins. That's in eight years.
Most of the new supply has come from mine production. Some, though a dwindling amount, has come from central banks. And a growing amount has come from recycling—old jewelry and the like being melted down for scrap. (This is a perennial issue with gold. I never understand why the fans think gold's incredible durability—it doesn't waste or corrode—is bullish for the market. It's bearish.) So if supply has consistently exceeded user demand, how come the price of gold has still been rising?
In a word, hoarding.
Gold investors, or hoarders, have made up all the difference. They are the only reason total "demand" has exceeded supply.
Lots of people have been buying gold in the hope it would rise. But the only way it can rise is if still more people buy it, hoping it will rise still further. And so on.
What do we call an investment scheme where current members' returns depend entirely on new money brought in by new members?
A Ponzi scheme.
Yes, as I wrote earlier, gold may well be the next big bubble. And that may mean there is big money to be made in speculation.
But I don't trust it as an investment.
How can you square this golden circle? I'll tell you in Part Three.

My title

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Source: WSJ