Sample 3 - Corporate/Tech

One huge pro of the iPad POS is the flexibility. You are not stuck to a register area. You can ring up sales or take orders from anywhere in the store or restaurant/bar. During a busy lunch rush you can quickly swipe a customer’s card and have them pay their check at the table, probably shaving off about 5 minutes of wait time. You can literally access your POS directly from anywhere in the world, as long as you have that internet access of course. Flexible and efficient!

Another pro would definitely that there are a less risks of losing your data than you would have when you use a traditional POS system, residing on servers within your store. All data syncs with the cloud, automatically, and can be accessed whenever, from anywhere. While a hard drive can fail, the cloud won’t let you down.

The potential cost savings compared to the purchase and installation of a full traditional POS are another one to consider. You may have to pay a monthly fee, but your upfront set-up costs will most likely be less. Most traditional POS systems charge for customer service which they know you will need to use at some point (when your whole system crashes during a busy service, for example). Most iPad POS systems just need a quick reboot and you are all set to go ahead again, and often provide free or low cost customer service you can contact in a bind.

And then there are the other, maybe not as important but still there, pros to take into account: you can become more environmental friendly with the option of emailing receipts rather than printing them; there are iPad POS systems you can use that will automatically sync to your online store, updating inventory on the fly; and esthetically the iPad is small and sleek, and easy to hide away so that it doesn’t take up any room.

Of course, after reading the above you are probably thinking “why haven’t I already made the switch” and are planning on running to the store to purchase a couple of iPads while searching iTunes for POS apps. Before you make any rash decisions, do please refer to the below, the reverse side of the coin. Nothing is ever perfect, not even that ever-growing cloud in the sky.

Sample 3 - Journalism

When I was a kid my mother taught me karate. The fluid movements of the sport embodied self-control, awareness, and controlled power. Karate also showed me so much about sport in general: it wasn’t just a question of one team or individual winning and one losing, but a real opportunity to learn lifelong skills through sportsmanship, friendship, healthy living, and healthy competitiveness.

Some sports have a more aggressive element to them than others, football or boxing for example, but all follow strict rules of play, and punishments are doled out when the rules are not adhered to during a game. But if you follow the news you can probably name at least two athletes offhand who have come under scrutiny for violent behavior off the pitch. It may even appear as if there is a correlation between aggressive sports and domestic violence and abuse.

According to statistics, while the percentage of reported domestic violence cases between professional athlete and partner are higher, the actual number of cases are no higher than those that take place between non athletes. But the media tends to focus on those committed by elite athletes.

This opens a window into a gray area where violence on the pitch seems to bleed into violence at home. However, this media portrayal does not always go hand in hand with a positive solution to the problem.

Why does it seem that certain sports seem to normalize unhealthy behaviors? Survivors often find themselves harshly judged and blamed, while the athlete appears to get off with a mere slap on the wrist. This is not always the case of course, although the conviction rate of athletes as opposed to non-athletes ­is much lower according to certain studies. There has to be a way to use the sports platform to make real change when it comes dealing with domestic violence crimes. And we are all responsible for how this can play out: the athlete, the sports organization, and those of us who support the sport and turn a blind eye when it comes to game results over crime and abuse.

So let’s work together to see how we can change this!

Without removing the blame from the perpetrator how can we all collectively hold people accountable and bring about real change?

No more victim blaming

Perpetrators are often heavily scrutinized by the media, but so are the survivors, possibly even more so. Because elite athletes are highly regarded by the public there seems to be a natural push towards giving them a free pass by trying to find some kind of blame in the victim. Unfortunately this culture is too widespread and if we, the general public, can stop analyzing the victim’s life, and instead work on making sure that the athlete is punished correctly for their crime, we can start holding them accountable for what they have done.

Giving someone a free pass for their offenses does not set a good example, and can easily lead to re-offense. In general we need to separate athletic ability from the crime committed and refrain from dragging victims through the mud, which also makes it harder for other victims to come forward.

Consistent and appropriate punishment

Instead of just benching players for random amounts of time or doling out a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime (too harsh or not harsh enough), it would be of greater benefit to everyone involved if we can set a precedent of rehabilitation across the board. It is absolutely possible to unlearn unhealthy behaviors, so why not start a trend? Instead of rug sweeping violence in order to win games or make the playoffs, why not set up sports organization-wide rulings for any type of domestic violence and abuse? Perpetrators should also publicly follow mandatory domestic violence awareness and rehabilitation courses before they allowed back in the game.

Awareness courses

What if we could nip the crime in the bud before it is even committed? Instead of focusing only on sports, numbers, and wins, why not start with automatic abuse and assault awareness courses from high school and college onwards? Escalation courses such as the ones provided by the One Love Foundation can be a huge game changer when it comes to raising awareness and seeking help and support. There is no real proof of whether a violent sport automatically turns someone into a violent person, or if this violence comes from upbringing or somewhere else, way before sport ever came into the picture. So instead of focusing blame on the sport itself, instigating preventative work can help avoid violence actually becoming an issue.

Also, sudden fame and fortune can often lead to the normalization of certain behaviors such as entitlement and a certain desensitization towards violent responses. Allowing young students to understand this and learn to manage certain behaviors before they make an appearance can make a huge difference.

Media coverage

It is probably too farfetched an idea to demand we boycott media coverage of these domestic violence cases, but as a general rule we can work towards a less sensationalized and less biased approach. We can treat the athletes as we would any other perpetrator, rather than making them into supervillain or even superhero. Media coverage could also include real footage of athletes completing awareness training, and candid interviews with them, instead of just highlighting athletic prowess and violent actions. Understanding the human being behind the uniform could also help reduce idolization of certain personalities despite the violence they may commit towards others. The sensationalization of these cases by the media often tends to highlight them more than in any other industry, where there are most likely as many cases of domestic violence.

Work together to make real change!

There could be a greater effort to bring sports organizations, viewers, domestic violence and sexual assault awareness groups, and the media together at regular meetings where ideas and progress can be made. It would also be awesome to see more athletes participate in awareness campaigns that are geared towards students and young adults: using their platform to raise awareness rather than promoting less healthy behaviors.

While it is important that we hold perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse accountable for their actions, whether they are famous or not, there also needs to be a huge push in working together to reduce the number of cases we see reported on a regular basis. Sports organizations and domestic violence awareness groups can put their heads together to create nationwide anti-violence campaigns. Schools can work on creating mandatory escalation and awareness courses. And, finally, spectators can refuse to rug sweep violence in the name of sports victories. We can all work together to empower existing and future athletes to seek healthier relationships on and off the pitch!

Sample 2 - Journalism

I have given birth three times in the past four years, each time in a different hospital with a very different experience. A year or so after my first child was born a friend sent me an NPR feature on traumatic child birth in the US, and I wasn’t surprised to see the hospital where I had my first featured in it. I discovered that those on Medicaid (like I was), but most especially black and brown women had received lackluster to terrible care in that hospital. Still trying to understand why I had been treated the way I was there, I started to look a little deeper into the issues pregnant women face in the US today.

The US currently has the largest percentage of maternal deaths in the developed world. Whereas the rates in other countries are consistently on the decline, the US rate is actually RISING, and currently sits at 26.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. In comparison, the UK is at 9.2 deaths per 100,000 live births and Finland at 3.8. But there is an even darker side to this problem, one that makes it clearly obvious that we have a long way to go before we have reached the so-called “post-racial” era that some seem to believe we live in. According to several recent and also not-so-recent studies, black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than non-Hispanic white women. This means that while the current average in the US is 26.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, it is actually 44 deaths per 100,000 for black women. (The maternal mortality rate in Mexico currently lies at 38 deaths per 100,000 if you would like to compare numbers).

The New York Times recently published an excellent feature on the racial disparities in regards to childbirth in the US, and I personally believe that this is a huge issue that we need to focus on. I have seen far too many people try to explain the disparities away with “acceptable excuses” such as weight, eating habits, and other ridiculous notions, but to understand and then effectively rectify maternal mortality disparities we need to remove preconceived biases and actually read and act on the mountains of research that has been done on the topic. Independent studies show that the racial disparity has nothing to do with class lines, wealth/poverty, or education. For example, just recently Serena Williams told Vogue about her horrifying near-death experience after childbirth which could have been avoided if her medical professionals had just listened to her concerns. If someone like Serena Williams can’t get a doctor to listen to her, then we can only imagine what it’s like for black women who aren’t household names.   

Why are we not looking into how black women are looked after during their prenatal care and if their concerns are followed up on? Why are we not rolling out nurse home visits to postpartum mothers instead of checking them out of hospital and telling them to follow up with their doctor in 6 weeks? One in four women go back to work within two weeks of giving birth in the US, leaving no time for proper healing or bonding, or even scheduling check-ups with their doctors. We also need to dig deeper into the underlying causes of this racial disparity and look at the systemic societal racism that plagues this country and how it has effected black women for generations, in parallel with the racial bias that black women continuously face from medical professionals. Research tells us that the chronic stress that black women endure in their day to day life due to societal racism has a deep impact on their bodies, and this seems to cause systemic issues in their pregnancies. (Studies on low birth weight and chronic exposure to discrimination tell us a lot about this).

We should be very concerned that the racial disparity between black and white infant deaths is wider than it was in 1850, only a few years after the abolition of slavery. We should be very concerned that black women are three or four times more likely than white women to die from childbirth related causes. In 2014 the US was asked by the UN Committee in the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to address the causes of this racial disparity in maternal deaths, and still today no real steps have been taken to push for change. Non-profit doula collectives, certain senators and congresspeople, and other regional or state-wide entities are working tirelessly to lower the racial disparity, but as long as we don’t see this as the human rights issue that it is, those 44 deaths per 100,000 will not go down.  

While the racial disparity is exceptionally high for black women, other women of color, especially immigrant women, also feel the effects of racial discrimination in US healthcare. The numbers don’t lie: we need to work much, much harder on creating a safer environment for women of color in general.

Did you feel like you were undermined, treated badly, or dismissed while pregnant or during childbirth?  

Sample 1 - Journalism

It’s all over the news: Weinstein, Spacey, the president, the #metoo campaign, and people speaking up and speaking out about sexual harassment, assault, and violence. Now is the time to not only talk about what continues to be normalized behavior in our society but also to talk about how we can make REAL change. As parents we talk about looking for signs of abuse, and preventing abuse, but how can we actually help our children see and know the signs of danger? How can we also help our children to NOT become perpetrators of assault and harassment?

Sexual abuse and assault often cause lifelong shame and trauma, as well as myriad of other issues that often take years to come to the surface. As a survivor myself I know that there are still many, many parts of myself that I have buried instead of processed in a healthier manner. I wish I hadn’t felt so alone and so guilty at the time, and one of my current goals is to work towards ensuring that we talk openly about abuse, give survivors a platform to talk without judgment, and finally to help empower parents to teach their children the importance of consent from a very early age.                                             .

We can make a huge difference to our children’s lives by teaching consent from day one. If a child grows up understanding the importance of the word no they will not only be more inclined to listen to others, but also more able to speak up when they feel that someone is pushing them too far. Boundaries help us all develop healthier relationships, and I personally think that we can have a hand in ultimately creating a society where abusers no longer have a place (one can hope anyway).

There are many ways that we can instill the importance of consent in our children at all ages. Let’s have a look at some of the most effective ones.

From infancy to school-age:

·         Don’t force affection: I’m sure most of us have memories of being forced to hug or kiss a family friend or relation when we really didn’t feel like it. Giving a family member a kiss or a hug goodbye may seem like the polite thing to do, but there are many other ways to say hello or goodbye: a high five, a smile, or just the words “hello”, “goodbye”, “I love you”. If we teach our children from an early age that they are in charge of their bodies, and that no one else has the right to force them to do something with it, we are setting healthy boundaries for now AND the future.

·         No means no: I find myself repeating the word “No” ad nauseam to my toddlers, but I know that in the end it is for the greater good. I want my children to understand that when somebody says “no”, however small their voice may be, it still means “NO”. This boundary helps not only establish safety measures for a parent, but shows the importance of listening to others and understanding when not to push. We all have different levels of comfort when it comes to relationships, but having the self-confidence and autonomy to say no is extremely important.

·         No secrets: the words “this is our little secret” still make me shudder. Abusers tend to use this line to ensure their victims stay silent. This is why we don’t have secrets in our house, and we encourage our children to talk about everything with us. While I will always respect my children’s privacy, I also want them to understand that if someone wants them to keep a secret and they don’t feel comfortable with it, we will always be there to listen and advise them.

·         Empathy: nowadays kids are literally bombarded with all types of images, ranging from your average selfie to the worst warzone carnage. It can be easy to become desensitized to pain and suffering when it is constantly on a reel in front of you, and this can result in a lack of empathy. There is nothing wrong in teaching our children about the world, and starting discussions on what we can all do to make a change for the better. Empathetic children are more likely to notice when something isn’t right, and to listen to others without judgment.

School-age through teenage years

·         Encourage conversation: It’s hard to start a conversation with your child about tough subjects such as periods, attraction, body changes, parties, alcohol, and sex, but by letting them know they can talk to us about all of that without fear, we can help them navigate through their feelings and emotions in a healthy manner. Our children don’t need to be our best friends, but they do need to know that they can trust us with anything and that we trust them.

·         Build self-esteem: I think it is a natural tendency to comment on someone’s physical attributes, but if we also make the effort to focus on other important values we can help our children grow into all-round confident beings. Kids that always know that they are valued and appreciated tend to do the same with their peers. Another great confidence builder is always providing a choice rather than demanding something, because it basically puts the power of making a decision into a child’s hand. While choosing between going to the zoo or to the fair may not seem like a life-changing moment, it does provide a child with the knowledge that they CAN be trusted with making an important decision.

I think that one of the most important things to remember is that our kids are often a lot more observant than we give them credit for. With this in mind we should strive to provide a positive example in our own relationships. If we are trying to instill the importance of consent in our children, but we constantly never say no to a pushy partner or friend, then all of our efforts will most likely fall flat. Needless to say I know that becoming a parent really helped me see the intricacies of some of my relationships in a better light, often leading to me questioning the necessity of having certain people in my life. What can I say…? Our children can teach US something, even before they can talk!

Additional resources:

This Is How You Teach Kids About Consent – Huffington Post

Teaching Consent To Kids Under 5 – The Atlantic

TeachConsent.org

Sample 1 - Parenting

Parental Leave: Do You Have Rights in Your Country?

Before I had kids I didn’t really give parental leave a second thought. Even when I was pregnant for the first time I honestly didn’t really think ahead too much, so when my boss asked me how much time I planned to take off after the baby arrived I looked at her blankly and truthfully said that I hadn’t actually thought about it. She recommended I take two months off, so that became our benchmark. Obviously I had seen friends go off on maternity leave before, especially when I worked for a large corporation, and they usually came back after three months, reluctantly. I also knew that in certain Scandinavian countries people were able to take a year off of work after having a kid. But seeing as I worked in the service industry, managing a small, family-owned business, I didn’t even bother considering PAID leave. It doesn’t exist in the US.

Yes, there is no national paid parental leave policy in the US, actually there is no national parental leave policy at all. Some companies have specific leave policies. Some states, such as California, have specific laws in place that allow for a few weeks off, but they are only eligible for those who work “full time” or basically on salary. Hourly workers often get penalized out of many benefits in the US, especially as most companies refuse to hire for more than 35 hours a week (40 is considered full-time), so most hourly wage workers tend to have at least one and a half jobs, if not two or three. I never assumed that I would have any type of maternity pay, so we saved up a little, and then just lived off one set of wages for two months. I never went back to my job, because we lived in a very expensive city at the time (NYC), and my wages would have barely covered the extortionate childcare costs. We managed on two full-time jobs that my other half worked for a while and then moved to California (where things aren’t really that much easier, but that’s another story).

With the US being one of the leading economies in the “developed” world, it’s quite surprising that there are no policies in place to give parents the time to bond with their children, heal from childbirth (women), and generally just spend time with their children before returning to the workplace. How is it possible that other countries are able to provide this? What are the national policies like in other countries in comparison? I have done some research on a few other countries to see what the deal is there.

Estonia allows for over 80 (yes you read that right) 80 weeks of paid parental leave. Mothers receive 20 weeks of fully paid leave that can start up to 70 days before delivery, and fathers can take two weeks off to bond with their child. In addition to this, after the 20 weeks of maternity leave is over parents then get to share an additional 62 weeks of paid time off (435 days) paid at the average of both parents’ salaries.

In France women receive 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, which then moves up to 26 weeks with the third child (due to a slower population growth in recent decades, France provides additional allowances for families with more than two children). In addition to this, paternity leave is also available and a pregnant woman’s job must be kept available to her while she is on maternity leave, even if she decides to extend the leave.

Mexico has a 12 week paid maternity leave policy that can be extended another 6 weeks at half pay. They are also entitled to two 30 minute breaks a day to breastfeed their child if needed. While the policy is available to all pregnant women, I have read stories about women feeling pressured to go back to work sooner, and fearing losing their jobs when they do come back to work.

Norway provides parents with several options. 35 weeks of leave at full pay or 45 weeks at 80% pay. And fathers can take up to 10 weeks paid leave, depending on their partner’s earnings.

In the UK there are 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave followed by 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. The first 6 weeks are paid at 90% of your regular salary, and then you receive £140.98 or 90% of the average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. After that, although you still have the remainder of the 52 weeks off, you do not receive any pay. All pregnant employees are eligible for leave but there are certain restrictions in place in order to receive maternity pay (for example, you have to have been working at least 6 months for the company before taking leave). There is however something called Maternity Allowance that is available for those not eligible for maternity pay… So basically you can usually claim some form of payment. It is also technically illegal to go back to work within two weeks of giving birth (4 weeks if you work in a factory). There seem to be a few hoops to jump through depending on your situation but most people are eligible for something for at least 11 weeks.

Russian women receive 100% of pay for 140 days of leave, and can extend their leave for up to three years without losing their jobs!

In Australia it is possible to get up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave if you are the primary carer of a child (biological or adopted). This pay is the equivalent of the national minimum wage. Employees are also allowed 12 months of unpaid leave and 12 months of additional unpaid leave that they can combine with the 18 weeks of paid leave. They do however have to be working for 12 months with the same employer before they take the leave.

In Canada each province has slightly different policies, but basically you can rely on 12-18 months of parental leave, and pay depends on how much you have contributed to the Employment Insurance in the past. There are other benefits that you may be eligible for too, and some employers even provide a “top-up” to help their employees through their leave.

India recently granted women who worked for a privately owned company of more than 10 employees 26 weeks of paid leave, up from 12. This is available for the first two children, after that paid leave remains at 12 weeks. Companies of 50 or more employees must also provide crèche facilities within a certain distance and mothers must be given the time to visit their children up to four times a day (I’m assuming to feed them which I find awesome!). The only downside to this policy is that the companies affected take the full brunt of providing the salaries of women on leave, which could possibly lead to less women being hired in the future.

Obviously I do think it is important to keep in mind that in most countries with some kind of paid leave policy the money comes from a social security program that all workers pay into with their taxes. Some countries also require the employer to pay some of the funds too, but basically policies come from a sturdy social set-up that allows for women (and men) to take at least some time off work without worrying about losing their jobs and about how they are going to make ends meet. We pay taxes and social security payments here in the US too, but they seem to mainly go towards things that are not really aimed towards social sharing. It always surprises me how such a country so intent on ensuring women have difficulty accessing free contraception and abortions, completely fail on ensuring that they are able to rest after childbirth. But that is a whole other story for another day!

I do think that it is also important to keep in mind that these are just policies and that depending on where you live you must always review these policies in depth instead of just assuming you will get something. Some women cannot afford to take much time off after they give birth, for many reasons, and some find that they are treated differently when they do. While I feel that we still have a long way to go in some areas, anything is better than absolutely no leave at all, and I think it would benefit every country and economy in general to look into allowing parents to have enough leave time to ensure they will happily go back to work once their child is of a certain age. I for one know that if I had had the possibility of taking 6 months off even at half pay I would most likely have gone back to work afterwards.

What is the policy in your country? Are there any changes that you would like to see happen? How did you find going back to work after your leave was over?

Sources:

The 10 Countries With the Best Parental Leave Policies in the World http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-with-best-parental-leave-2016-8/

Maternity Pay & Leave Overview UK https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/overview

What You Need to Know About Parental Leave in Canada https://www.babycenter.ca/a538833/what-you-need-to-know-about-parental-leave-and-ei-in-canada

Parliament Passes Bill to Raise Maternity Leave to 26 Weeks http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/parliament-passes-bill-to-raise-maternity-leave-to-26-weeks/articleshow/57565644.cms

Sample 3 - Blog (Non-Profit)

Verbal abuse doesn’t just tend to happen out of nowhere in a relationship. It’s a lot more calculating and insidious, causing people on the receiving end to question themselves, wondering if they are overreacting, or even to blame. Verbal abuse comes in all sorts of different forms, following a pattern that isn’t always easy to discern when you are in the thick of things. People often don’t even realize that what they are going through is considered abuse, and verbal abuse is mentally just as damaging as any other form of abuse.

Verbal abuse usually happens in private where no one else can witness it, and becomes a regular form of communication within a relationship, which then normalizes it. Survivors tend to feel isolated and often question what they need to change in order to “do better”, as this form of abuse chips away at one’s self-esteem. Verbal abuse can include being subjected to name-calling on a regular basis, constantly feeling demeaned or belittled, and also being subjected to the silent treatment by a partner.

Here are the 11 most common verbal abuse patterns to look out for in a relationship.

·         Anger and/or name-calling: this type of verbal abuse is probably the easiest one to recognize. Forms of abuse include being called names and/or being shouted at on a regular basis, arguments that always resort in yelling, and the use of verbally violent phrases in a conversation. In a healthy relationship partners will step away during an argument, or try to talk through the issue. In a verbally abusive relationship, the abuser will yell until they get what they want.

Example: “You idiot, now you have made me angry!”

·         Condescension: sarcasm, even light sarcasm, and a sarcastic tone of voice should not be a constant part of interactions with a partner. While we all use sarcasm now and again, if someone uses it as a regular form of communication with their partner it is most likely abusive behavior. It can start off as slightly funny, which is why it often goes undetected, but over time becomes belittling and abusive. This also includes being the constant butt of your partner’s jokes and mockery.

Example: “no wonder you are always moaning about your weight, look how clean your plate is!”

·         Manipulation: sometimes it can be easy to spot a controlling personality, especially when someone continuously pushes their partner to do and say things they are not always comfortable with, but not all forms of manipulation are that easy to detect. Manipulation can be subtle, turning situations around, and putting the blame on the abused partner.

Example: “If you really loved me you wouldn’t say or do that”.

·         Criticism: it’s OK to provide constructive criticism when requested on occasion; being honest with your partner is healthy. However, constant criticism and belittling of a significant other is NOT healthy, and over time can lead to a significant loss of self-worth.

Example: “Why are you so disorganized? I can always count on you to ruin our nights out!”

·         Demeaning comments/bigotry: if a partner puts you down using demeaning comments that refer to your race/ethnic background, gender, religion, background in general, it is abusive. This doesn’t even need to be consistent, if it happens once, it is no doubt going to happen again, and should not be normalized. A partner who loves and respects you will not use something that is an inherent part of you to put you down.

Examples: “I’m not surprised, you are Asian, you all do that” or “you women, always crying stupid tears over nothing”.

·         Threats: while this may seem like an easy one to recognize, it isn’t always the case. Threats can be dressed up in a way that makes them appear as if they “aren’t so bad”, or in a way that makes you question if you really heard right. But a threat is a threat and a loving partner does not resort to them to get their way.

Examples:”I will hurt myself if you leave me tonight” or “If you don’t do that you might find that your cat spends the night outdoors!”

·         Blame: this is one of the most common forms of verbal abuse, consistently putting the blame for everything on the partner and never taking responsibility for anything. This can go from blaming a partner for something they had nothing to do with, to blaming the partner for the abuser’s emotions.

Examples: “you are the reason why we are never on time for anything!” or “look what you made me do now!”

·         Accusations: often stemming from severe jealousy, repeated accusations are a form of verbal abuse. Being constantly accused of something often leads a partner to start questioning themselves on whether they are doing something wrong/dressing inappropriately/talking too much, etc.

Examples: “I bet you are cheating on me!” or “I saw you had fun flirting with your boss again, while I was stuck chatting to your boring coworkers”.

·         Withholding: sometimes a partner may walk away from an argument, preferring to let the dust settle so as to engage in a more constructive conversation without flaring emotions. This can be a sign of a healthy relationship. The silent treatment, often called withholding, is not. If your partner regularly walks away from a conversation, refuses to answer your calls when they don’t get what they want, or downright ignores you over nothing, and this has become normal for you, then this is abusive.

Example: you are discussing restaurant options and don’t want to go with your partner’s preference again. They leave the room and refuse to talk to you until you apologize for being “mean”.

·         Gaslighting: discounting a partner’s feelings and emotions on a regular basis is an abusive pattern, making one wonder if their feelings are meaningless and/or wrong. This is very common form of verbal abuse, and often goes undetected, as it can be discreet and severely manipulative. The abused partner may feel alienated and isolated, and fearful of not being able to express their feelings correctly, resorting to apologizing for behavior that they never committed.

Examples: “why are you always so sensitive about everything?” or “not another one of your silly ideas!” or “stop listening to the idiocies you hear on the news!”.

·         Circular arguments: if your partner constantly disagrees with you, and starts an argument whenever they see an opportunity, or if conversations and arguments seem to go round in circles, leaving you tired and drained, then these are signs of an unhealthy relationship. People in these types of situations tend to walk around their partners on eggshells in order to avoid going back to the same argument again and again. We do not need to always agree on everything in a relationship, but there should be a mutual acceptance of this, rather than an atmosphere of one-upping the other that you can never win.

If you feel like you are constantly on edge, walking on eggshells around your partner, and one or some of these patterns feel familiar to you, you may be in a verbally abusive relationship. Also, if your trusted friends and/or family are telling you that something is wrong, hear them out. They may be seeing, or hearing, something that you cannot.

Sample 2 - Blog (Finance)

As an incubator or accelerator, your main goal is to help entrepreneurs develop the businesses they dream of. In essence, these programs are looking for the same thing: to provide entrepreneurs with a helping hand to develop and launch new businesses. A traditional incubator will offer a standard fee for location, mentorship, and general oversight. This is a method that works well in theory, but only because we tend to look at the success stories, rather than the hundreds of ideas that are dropped before they even leave the innovation stage. It’s time for incubators to stop relying on the traditional model and to think outside of the well-structured box.

Statistics show that depending on the industry, 50% or more startups don’t make it longer than a few years. This consistent failure rate may be due to the existence of such a drive for rapid success rates that entrepreneurs neglect to nourish their foundations. A business will keel over without a solid base to fall back on. While this isn’t necessarily the fault of the incubator per se, if we make certain significant changes in the way they work from the get-go success rates will most likely rise. It’s all about feeding the seeds and keeping that bottom line growing!

Innovate the Incubator

It’s high time that the traditional incubator starts looking for new ways to incentivize entrepreneurs by shaking up their program and offering added value. Why are we not seeing incubators offering additional services to their tenants? Both incubator and tenant are looking to make a long-term profit off a mutual agreement, and incubators seem to have forgotten this. Instead of providing a set formula of services for each tenant, why not offer a package that is catered more towards the tenants’ needs? For example, partner up with software companies such as QuickBooks, SalesForce, or Hubspot and offer discounted package deals. It’s a win/win for everyone involved, and sets the entrepreneur off on the right foot. A sturdy foundation is key for any startup, and this type of partnership can only provide added incentives for startups to succeed.

It is rare to see businesses fail from something completely out of the entrepreneur’s hands. For the most part a startup will fail to get off the ground due to incompetency or mismanagement. If incubators start providing management and market knowledge training in their package deal from day one, incompetency can be avoided.

Diversify the Necessities

Incubators need to become more flexible. Not everyone with an idea is business-savvy enough to make it into a reality. So many incubators still require prospects to be further along than just the idea stage, and not everyone can write a detailed business plan or pony up the cash for a prototype. Those who don’t have the knowledge or the means are immediately excluded, and incubators are blindly passing on something that may have real potential. A great solution to this issue would be to change the bidding process and set up different package requirements that would include entrepreneurs from all socio-economic areas. If these bids pass the selection they could then benefit from specific software package deals as noted above.

Support is the key word here: instead of relying on a static, business plan approach, incubators will open their doors to entrepreneurs from all angles. Their more flexible approach will then lead them to be able to provide entrepreneurs with a solid base of resources and support adapted to their specific needs.

Location, Location!

Incubators most commonly find themselves located in large urban areas, in big cities where certain verticals are making a name for themselves. This makes complete sense in terms of business, as the talent usually flocks to these areas to flourish. But if 45% of all incubators in the US are located in large cities, congregating on each side of the country, then what about all of those potential mines of innovation in the middle? We should find a way to reach and include entrepreneurs who are located outside of those hubs by creating workspaces and meeting spots all over the country, with access to adaptable platforms and software packages.

Why not create market-specific working spaces across the country, linking up different entrepreneurs in order to share knowledge within the workspace, and share mentors with similar backgrounds? Incubators could provide access to an all-in-one style platform that can also act as a communal knowledge base for all involved.

Mentor the Mentor

Why not also start matching mentors with potential tenants during the bidding process, rather than handing them out randomly? Mentors and startups should be matched according to needs, so that mentors can really provide full value in terms of knowledge, insight, and overall help. The icing on the cake would be using mentors with expertise in specific software, creating in essence, a mentor-software bundle.

For example, a translation and localization software startup would benefit from a mentor in the business, as well as access to software such as SalesForce. This would allow them to learn how to maximize their lead generation practices while also understand the ins and outs of the business and where the pitfalls lie. A mentor from another vertical may not have that insider knowledge that could mean the difference between success and failure. By offering these types of out-of-the-box solutions, incubators will most likely see their success rate grow.

We continue to incubate innovation, but over time we seem to have forgotten that it can be highly beneficial to shake up the system now and again. The ideas listed above will enable incubator executives to shop around for quality software packages and mentors that they can then offer as an added value incentive to their startups. These deals can then be bundled together through our platform, helping startups spend less time on the foundations and more time on the brickwork.

Sample 1 - Blog (Parenting)

Over the past few years there has been an emergence in popularity of the subscription box, items varying from beauty samples to organic snacks, and children’s interests haven’t been left by the wayside. There is a large amount of boxes available for kids, but they are not all equal in price or content. To avoid the hassle of browsing through all of the different options available we have created a list of the 5 best boxes on the market.

The main idea is the same for all boxes: every month, for a small fee, you receive a box containing different educational activities, toys, products or crafts, often in the form of a monthly theme, geared towards specific age groups. There is usually an element of surprise with each box, which really adds to the appeal!

Citrus Lane

This one is a proven favorite! Every month for as little as $25 you receive a box crammed full of different products personalized towards the age of your child (baby, toddler and preschool). Books, toys, snacks and useful objects such as eating utensils or backpacks are carefully selected from different brand partners and delivered to your door. The box is a great way for kids to enjoy new toys and parents to discover new products. Each box is super diverse and contains only products of high quality. And there is always something that Mom will enjoy too, whether it is a new sippy cup or a tasty snack. The best thing about the Citrus Lane box is that it is customized towards the child’s age, so you can start at any time, even when you are pregnant.

Kiwi Crate

The Kiwi Crate is specifically catered towards arts and crafts for the 4-8 year old. Every month a crate arrives containing everything you need to create 2-3 projects. Every crate is based on a theme, one month it could be a rainforest theme, the next a travel theme. The boxes are always complete with everything needed to finish the projects and are created to stimulate excitement, interest and hours of fun. Subscriptions start at as little as $17 a month depending on the plan you choose. A great gift for the crafty child!

Little Passports

The Little Passports box is developed for kids from 3-12 and aims to develop their interest in learning about the world. While not full of toys and products, this box provides all the tools to discover different countries and traditions, helping children learn through stories, games and fun. This is the most affordable box on the list; for a minimum of $14 a month your child will receive all the information to become a world traveler from home!

Green Kid Crafts

Another crafty subscription box, Green Kid Crafts offers monthly creative and science projects that are all aimed towards providing kids with information on being more eco-friendly and teaching them to discover the world with their own eyes, minds and hands. Subscriptions start at $18 a month for a box containing up to 4 projects. The boxes contain everything needed to complete each project and all supplies are eco-friendly and child-safe.

Kidstir

Kidstir is a monthly box geared towards introducing the 5-10 year old to food and cooking, and giving the already food-loving child the chance to explore different recipes and ingredients. At $24.95 for a single kit and less if you buy several months upfront, the kits come with recipes, nutritional information, games, projects, a kitchen utensil and one ingredient. You can use the kits for individual or group activities and it’s a great way to bring the family together in the kitchen.

Subscription boxes are a great way to add an extra element of fun and surprise to the household, all for a small monthly fee. While the 5 listed above are the best on the market right now, there are many others out there, specializing in different topics from infant activities to Lego addicts!

Sample 2 - Music

The sound of the piano has a tendency to make me melt a little inside. One instrument, larger than life, one pianist, and many, many beautiful notes dancing together to create a story of enchantment, love, despair and darkness. At times so gentle, just a hint of sound, at others so powerful, thunder claps in the sky, and all those degrees in between, the piano expresses sound like no other instrument. I grew up in a family of music, on the one hand rock and folk music and on the other classical. From my earliest moments I remember listening to symphonies, concertos and sonatas on the record player, dancing through an imaginary world of princesses, castles, ball gowns and handsome princes. Our small apartment was blessed with a large staircase that became a wonderful prop in my own interpretations of the music I was listening to: a descent into the ballroom, a flight towards the attic or a hiding place from the dragon. Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, Ravel, Liszt, all have permanent places in my heart.

I’ve been listening to a lot of classical these past few months, going through one of my phases when I can’t get enough of it. You have a piece of music that was composed a century or more ago, recreated over and over again by different people through-out time. Notes on a piece of paper that are brought to life by musicians of different upbringings, cultures and ages, with one component that brings them together: the talent to play an instrument. And even more importantly: the ability to use their talent to insert a piece of themselves into the music they are playing. There are so many timeless pieces that can be interpreted in so many different ways and I love to hear how one piece can sound so different depending on the musician or orchestra conductor. I really love to come across a musician who can add a new layer of emotion to a piece that I know off by heart.

I discovered Ang Li while listening to her interpretations of Brahms’ sonatas. She is brilliant. Ang Li has the absolute talent to sit at a piano and make it sing and dance and play and mourn and weep. She was a childhood prodigy with her first public performance taking place at the age of 6 and has gone on to become a world renowned pianist. Born in China, and currently residing in Canada, Ang Li has toured the world playing a variety of famous and less well-known pieces.  At the same time she has managed to obtain her degrees in prestigious schools as well as win more than a few awards. I see this woman as a rock star in the classical music world – she’s so talented, beautiful and from what I can gather from online interviews I have seen, has a really bubbly and vivacious personality, a personality that turns into rivers of pure passion and music as soon as her fingers touch the keys. In my opinion she really brought those sonatas to life, which made me want to listen to more. Since I heard her Brahms interpretation I have been checking out more of her work online and would love to see a live performance. Her performances of Rachmaninoff and Chopin are outstanding. I also really enjoyed hearing her version of Chinese folk songs – it’s as if she can excel in anything she puts her mind to.

For me it is all about what you can bring, as an artist, to an existing piece of work. There are millions of artists out there, millions of musicians, but it takes something extra special, on top of hard work, perseverance and talent to really make a difference. I see it as some sort of magical touch, a way to make your instrument (musical or other) sing in its own special, original way. What struck me with Ang Li is that when she plays, she plays with her entire being. Not just an accurate interpretation, not even just a passionate piece. Every time she plays she puts her all into her music – it’s all there, you just need to listen to how she plays certain pieces to hear how she wants us to see and hear the music. And that is something special.

Sample 1 - Music

Aftershock has become the Northern California autumn go to for rockers of all ages, guaranteed to cater to the most purist of metalhead to your most laid back hippie. There is literally always at least one band that no one wants to miss, a few old favorites, a ton of new favorites, as well as a good bunch of up and coming bands. This year’s line-up didn’t disappoint, with A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails headlining the Saturday and Five Finger Death Punch and Ozzy Osbourne the Sunday. Marilyn Manson was also supposed to make an appearance on Sunday but had to drop out due to an unfortunate injury on stage in NYC a few weeks prior. This didn’t seem to faze festival goers though: thousands of people attended Aftershock on both days, tiny babies to seasoned veterans, and everyone in between. I always love watching the huge array of people who attend a festival, all dressed up or dressed down, giddy with excitement about seeing their old or new favorite band for the first or the 20th time. I love watching people run from one stage to another, intent on squeezing as much time as possible out of each minute in order to get up front and center for each band. Aftershock really makes a great effort to cater to all needs too: food, fun, drinks, merch, and of course constant music.

Day 1: Aftershock’s first day started off with Deap Vally’s sexy, bluesy rock, followed by Palaye Royal, Joyous Wolf, and the always energetic anti-flag, bringing the crowd together in unison against police brutality. New favorites Greta Van Fleet’s bus broke down on their way to the festival, leaving some mega-fans on tenterhooks as to whether they would make it or not. (They sure did, delivering a prime-time show as the sun dropped, Josh Kiszka’s powerful voice carrying far over the Capital Stage crowd). Around 1:30pm the Monster stage, dominating the main area of the festival, started to get crowded in anticipation for Nothing More’s performance. The band held up to the audience’s expectations by delivering a spectacular set, setting the tone for the rest of the day on that stage. Brooklynites Highly Suspect dominated the Blackcraft stage, with their second Aftershock appearance in less than three years, singer Johnny Stevens then riding a bike onto the Monster stage during the Eagles of Death Metal’s performance to give Jesse Hughes a mid-song hug. Aftershock then moved straight back into the heavier stuff with Gojira and Mastodon playing back to back sets, brutal riffs bouncing off the pure blue sky and subtly strong sunshine, Gojira’s drum beat pounding through the dusty ground up into your veins. Stone Sour got everyone super pumped up for Run The Jewels, an interesting choice for a rock festival, but one that made complete sense as soon as they launched into their first track, Talk To Me. The audience screamed for more at the end of their set, and rightfully so because they were seriously brilliant!! It was the perfect lead into two of my all-time favorites, A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails. I last saw them play together 17 years ago so was super excited to see them again. I definitely wasn’t disappointed, ecstatic is probably a better word! A Perfect Circle treated us to a Maynard shrouded in darkness as he tends to be these days, and a career spanning set, ending with the first live performance of their most recent single, The Doomed. And NIN closed it out perfectly with 90 minutes of just under 30 years of music, tracks such as Something I Can Never Have, March of the Pigs, Head Like A Hole, as well as the first live tour rendition of Letting You. All in all a brilliant end to Day 1!

Day 2:  Them Evils kicked off Day 2 with their down and dirty Las Vegas rock, promising the earlier risers another day in rock n roll heaven. A slightly different crowd on Day 2, but just as hardcore as Day 1: mosh pits springing up all over the place, happy faces running from stage to stage, discovering bands like New Years Day, Black Map, and Ded early on, and rocking out to the scene stealers Starset as the sun started to pound down from above. I have a large soft spot for Suicidal Tendencies, as they were my 16 year old self’s go-to when I needed to get rid of some angst and anger, and they brought it all back again, storming the Blackcraft stage with their intensity. Even though I am a huge Marilyn Manson fan I can honestly say that the day was in no shape or form ruined by his absence – I actually even forgot that he was even supposed to be there! Hollywood Undead got everyone fired up and ready to go, and Mice and Men scored some huge metal points with their heavy set on the Monster stage. Maria Brink once again stole the show, blending her beautiful voice with a stunning visual circus. In This Moment just get better and better in my opinion, and if you can still catch them on their current tour you are in for a huge treat! Steel Panther played up to the audience over on the Capital Stage, their parody of the hair metal of days gone by a real sight for sore eyes (and ears). Halestorm brought their pure fire and energy to the Monster stage, getting the whole crowd to scream along with Lzzy Hale during fan favorites like Freak Like Me and I Am The Fire. And then for what was in my opinion the real highlight of Day 2 (and after NIN possibly of the whole weekend): Five Finger Death Punch over on the Blackcraft stage. While intensity reigned with metal anthems such as Got Your Six punching its way through the hyped-up crowd, acoustic renditions of songs such as Wrong Side of Heaven really displayed the band’s ability to touch as many people as possible. Ozzy then walked out onto the Monster stage to a happy, revved up crowd, asking the question that he already knew the answer to: “Are you ready to go fucking crazy??”. Smashing through old Sabbath favorites and solo hits like Bark at the Moon and Crazy Train, Ozzy gave us all a massive treat to end the two-day festival, one that many of us won’t be forgetting for a long time.

Sample 3 - Real Estate/Rental

It can feel like spending thousands on rent every year is a bit of a waste of money, but buying property might not always be an option. While scrolling through rental listings online you may have come across rent-to-own ads. These listings often paint an appetizing picture where bad credit and low income don’t have to stop you from owning your home.

So what’s the deal? The basic idea of rent-to-own is that you sign a contract for two or three years with a property owner, and part of your rent will go towards a downpayment on the house that you are renting. Once the rental lease is up you should in principle be able to purchase the property.

So how does it really work?

Just like a regular rental you will sign a contract, a lease, with the property owner. This contract is usually set for two or three years and will stipulate all of the terms and conditions that both parties agree to. You may also be required to pay an option fee (2-8% of the property’s market value) upfront that will ensure you maintain first choice on the property once your contract is up. Your monthly rental fee also includes a predetermined percentage that the owner will place in an escrow account. This amount will go towards your downpayment on the house if you decide to purchase (and will usually be lost if you don’t). Typically all of the fees are worked out with the owner based on the current market value of the property. This price is then locked in and will be the price you pay for the property at the end of your rental contract (minus any monies you have paid along the way).

Should you do it?

It can be a win-win situation for both parties, but this is not something that you should jump into without a lot of research beforehand. For the owner there is mainly the advantage of making money during the leasing period and having an easy sell at the end. For the tenant it can be a great path towards owning a piece of property while building up credit. But it is often not as smooth sailing as it looks on paper.

First of all, signing a rent-to-own contract does not guarantee that you will be able to get a mortgage once your lease is up. As a tenant you may have been super vigilant in paying your rent on time, maintaining the property, and basically being an all-around model tenant, but when it comes to crunch time you will lose out on buying the property and all of the money that you have put towards it because you are not able to secure a mortgage. Before signing a rent-to-own contract it is always vigilant to talk to a mortgage broker to see what you need to do in order to be able to be approved for a mortgage within the following two or three years. It may be just an issue of building up a better credit score, but there could be a lot more work at hand.

Other downsides could be seeing the property value tank, finding out you aren’t interested in owning property in the area anymore, or just not being able to meet all of the contract’s terms and conditions on a regular basis. Even paying one month’s rent slightly late could mean you lose out on the deal. And another obvious issue is that not all of the rent-to-own deals advertised are above water, and you should always do some extensive research on the owner before signing anything!

Should you do it?

Most financial advisors will advise to continue to rent, save for a downpayment, and work on building your credit up instead of signing a rent-to-own contract. Rent-to-own may work out well for you, but in the end it requires a lot of commitment, longer than a standard rental lease demands, and you need to be 100% sure that you are willing to make this commitment.

Sample 2 - Real Estate/Rental

Football season is back in full swing and that means everyone is looking for a good tailgate party. While you can pregame it up in the parking lot, hosting a tailgate at home in your apartment is a great way to enjoy the game with friends without taking your Patriots slippers off. If you live close enough to the stadium you can just start the party off at home before going to the game, but you can also just tailgate your way through the entire game at home.

Who’s coming?

Remember that you want to have enough people to create a party atmosphere, but not too many that that space and seating becomes an issue! Create a guest list and allow for room, that way people can always bring a friend along without any hassle. Get people to wear their team’s jersey and work up some friendly competition and maybe even some amicable wagers.

The main staple

You can’t have a tailgate party without a solid representation of food and drink. There are many different ways to approach these items and it doesn’t have to all be on your plate either. You are obviously not going to be having a four course sit down dinner, so plan on having food around that people can serve themselves with and that can sit for a few hours without losing its tastiness. Plan easily accessible finger foods such as wings, burgers or pizza, and make sure that there are bowls of chips, dip and candy around as they are always going to be a hit. You also don’t have to make everything yourself from scratch – there are plenty of affordable caterers around who can whip up anything from a tray of buffalo wings to a tower of sports-themed cupcakes. You can also outsource the food planning to your friends or even hold a potluck. Just make sure you have more than enough paper plates, disposable utensils and napkins.

The lowdown on beverages

Stock up on coolers and ice, and place them around the apartment. This will make it easy for guests to grab a drink wherever they are, but it will also ensure people aren’t piling into the kitchen every time there is a timeout. Basically imagine how you would set up your tailgate in the parking lot and do the same at home. You should have enough water and soda to go around, and stock up on whatever you and your guests usually drink during a game. You can also make your party BYOB, which will make sure everyone has something that they like to drink.

The center stage

A tailgate party isn’t going to be any fun without something to actually watch the game on! While a large screen TV is a must, having a few extra screens around the apartment can only enhance the experience for your guests. No one wants to have to keep ducking behind people to see an epic pass, so making sure that everyone has a clear vision of the game at all times makes for a great atmosphere. You are basically looking to recreate the sports bar ambiance without all of the crowds and the wait.

Decorations

No need to break the bank on decorations: you can easily find tablecloths, plates and cups with your favorite team’s logos on them, and if you are aiming for some friendly competition between friends mix it up with opposing team colors, including pom-poms and shakers for an added pop of color and noise.

As you can see there is no need to wait for the Superbowl to host a football-themed party, a tailgate party can easily be held at home, even at a last minute’s notice!

Sample 1 - Real Estate/Travel

Chalet Carya is a cozy, friendly Alpine-style apartment in the heart of the popular Swiss ski resort of Verbier. The home is a warm and spacious pied-à-terre with a nod towards the warmth of the traditional mountain chalet.

World renowned for its on and off-piste skiing, the resort of Verbier resides in the stunning Swiss Alps. From its Place Centrale to the tip of Mont-Fort, the resort spans over the western area of the 4 Valleys skiing domain. Chalet Carya resides in the bustling center of the resort, close to both ski lifts and nightlife.

Just steps away from Place Centrale, Chalet Carya combines the authentic feel of a traditional Alpine chalet with cozy, luxurious furnishings. The open plan living area has an inviting stone fire place, creating additional warmth. The reclaimed wood walls and cupboards in the living room and kitchen provide a rustic atmosphere to the home. The large mirrors and wall-mounted taps in the en-suite bathrooms create a spa-like atmosphere. Reclaimed wood is also featured in the bathrooms, continuing the natural design flow from the common areas. The two bedrooms are furnished with soft, grey bed throws and cushions, for extra coziness.

Chalet Carya is just a short walk from the Medran ski lift, the start of your journey to the top of the slopes. While the kitchen is equipped with everything to create your own gourmet meal, popular bars and restaurants such as Le Caveau and Le Rouge, can cater to your après-ski needs. The apartment comes with full access to a shared indoor heated pool and sauna room, complete with exquisite hand painted walls.

Sample 2 - Travel/Food

Long gone are the days where the cow bells rang loudly at Shaq and Kobe in the arena on the outskirts of the city, while the downtown area went to sleep at 5pm. With a brand new arena now open downtown, the once quiet neighborhood is going through a social revival. Sacramento is no longer the sleepy cow town of California, and is currently living an epic art and food revolution.

Claiming to be the “Farm-to-Fork capital” of the country, the city is raising awareness about the huge local farming industry, and at the same time creating a real push for restaurants to showcase their ability to cook with the seasons. There is something really special about knowing that most, if not all, of the ingredients used in even the most classic dishes actually come from local farms and grocers.

The Farm-to-Fork initiative was also launched to make locally-grown food more accessible and affordable to everyone. Farm-to-Fork and comfort food make a pretty great match, and Sacramento seems to think so too!

The local art scene is also booming. Just recently Sacramento held a 10-day mural festival, where artists from all over the world completed 40 murals around the city. The aptly named Wide Open Walls 916 festival expanded the city’s love of murals and street art. Keeping within the food theme, local artist Jeremy Stanger painted a large Farm-to-Fork mural along Folsom Blvd. This mural is colorful proof of the vibrant growth of the Sacramento restaurant industry, blending the creativity of the city’s large collective of artists and chefs together as one growing community.

 The art and food theme flows through the downtown and midtown areas where you can snack on some comfort food while checking out the newest murals, and maybe even meet some local artists. The downtown section of R St is really up and coming, especially with the addition of several beautiful and original murals courtesy of artists such as Lora Zombie, Jake Castro, SV Williams, and Molly Devlin. The area is the creative epicenter of the city, housing cultural centers, artist galleries, old factory buildings converted into artist lofts, and diverse restaurants.

The authentic full English breakfast from the Fox and Goose is enough to fill you up until late afternoon. Café Bernardo’s patio allows for a lazy lunch, the grilled mozzarella-pesto-tomato sandwich perfectly fresh and melty, served with enough French fries to feed two people. Shady Lady brings her own old-school saloon vibe to the area; mixing frequent live music events with enough comfort food to keep you going back for more, and more. The fried green tomatoes paired with a side of duck confit tots, washed down with some shrimp and grits, and a large plate of buttermilk fried chicken is pretty much the equivalent to food heaven! If you are craving a different kind of comfort food, then the pumpkin red curry from The Coconut on T is insane, especially when followed by a scoop of coconut ice cream for dessert.

Sunday brunch is a pretty a big deal here in Sacramento, and over on the other side of the Capitol places like Cafeteria 15L and Crepeville offer some serious comfort food made with local ingredients. Delicious skillets, scrambles, and crepes go hand in hand with some really fresh and creative seasonal cocktails. Artists How&Nosm recently finished a huge mural just across the street from Cafeteria 15L, and right behind the restaurant lies the work of another Sacramento artist, Demetris B.A.M.R. Washington, a mural dedicated to fresh food and health. It really feels like everywhere you turn art and fresh food become one with each other! Sacramento is really dedicated to solidifying her place on the map when it comes to both accessible food and art.

Although this year’s mural festival is now over, the Farm-to-Fork theme continues. Next month the Farm-to-Fork Festival will take place along Capitol Mall, with artists such as White Buffalo and Chuck Ragan working their magic, and food and drink will be available from local restaurants and food trucks, and also from local farm, grocer, and ranch stands. Fill up on some locally sourced snacks before touring the downtown area in search of the many different murals!

Sample 1 - Travel

I love good food, like anyone, but I’m not a foodie. I could live on pasta and olive oil for a week without any issues. I like simple things, but if you cook an extravagant meal for me I will most likely rave about it for weeks (as long as it’s vegetarian and corresponds to my annoying and picky texture eating tastes). I had no issues with the food in Barcelona, it was easy to order, there was a lot to choose from even for vegetarians and most food I ate was delightfully fresh and well prepared, and super cheap. I LOVE tapas, always have, and love how they make eating out super easy and fun. And Spanish tortilla is just fabulous – who doesn’t love eggs and potatoes anyway?! I think my favourite meal of both trips was lunch in a simple restaurant not far from the Plaça de Catalunya, tucked away in a side street, 3 courses for less than 10 Euro, plat du jour (or Spanish equivalent) that contained a vegetarian option for each course, fresh juices and delicious desserts. It reminded me of how important it is to take time for each meal, relax and enjoy the food and company. I was really happy to find a Lidl on my walk home, so that covered breakfast and dinners and I found a sandwich shop where I was able to order a delicious brie on baguette sandwich in a mix of English and Spanish. Living in NYC, and now northern California, for so long, I have always missed grabbing a “café en terrasse”, a perfectly made espresso, and sitting out on the street, watching the world go by. On my first day off that is exactly what I did, on the way up to the Park Güell, ordered a café, a croissant and sat at a table, contemplating life and my life.

I really didn’t do much research on Barcelona before I went (something I often lack doing with any kind of travel, making for some missed occasions but mainly some amazing discoveries), but discovered the beauty of Gaudí’s work after randomly walking past the Casa Batlló. Gaudí’s architectural designs and artwork maybe classified as Catalan Modernism, or art nouveau, but for me they depict the existence of another world that we can’t see, full of fairies and butterflies and beauty. His creations are scattered all over Barcelona, but if you don’t have enough time to track them all down, then a visit to the Park Güell is a must. I spent a few hours wandering through the park, marveling at the colours, turrets, twists and turns and imagining all kinds of stories and fairytales in my head. Located on a hill, you get a great view of Barcelona and the sea, and while it can get pretty packed with tourists, I am really glad I made time to visit it. It reminded me that everything is possible in this world, and that we all have something to give, and leave behind, be it physical, fluid or a formless legacy. La Sagrada Familia church also provided me with breathtaking inspiration and emotions, in a way that only an amazingly designed religious edifice can (and I am in no way religious in any form). I lit a candle there for my father as I do in most places that I visit.

Sample 1 - Corporate/Tech

While there are quite a few mature EDM systems on the market, the challenge still remains in making sure that you choose one that not only functions well with your existing systems and business processes, but that also follows all legal and compliant document management and archiving standards. Another point to remember is that the digital market is evolving at such a rapid rate that any chosen system needs to be flexible enough to adapt and evolve with all types of changes, whether they be within a business, or with technology uses in general. In addition to this, government standards also change over time, and a system needs to adapt to these changes.

There are some great SaaS systems that couple the general and specific uses of Electronic Document Management Systems with those of a Digital Safe, ensuring that your company evolves into the world of digitalization correctly; that is, following all necessary procedures. To this effect, here are the essential functionalities that everyone needs to look out for when choosing an EDM system:

●     Document capture and collection: Your system must be able to capture and collect all types of documents no matter their origin. This includes the ability to process digital documents from different sources, but also the ability to digitize documents, capture faxes and emails, as well as transfer multiple protocols.

●     Classification and indexation of all documents before remittance: A good system should have the capabilities of associating and indexing documents within specific categories, making them therefore easily searchable via keywords. The system should also be able to create inter-document links that will ensure correct classification, as well as create specific search criteria.

●     Document lifecycle management: The system must be able to manage the entire lifecycle of each document, from creation/addition to the end of its life. This includes the addition of digital markings to determine document source, a digital creation date, and a programmed end of document life. At the same time, the system must be able to provide the specific actions to take place once the document has reached maturity and end-of-life status. For example, depending on the country and the document type, some files must be archived for 5 years and others for 10. The system must have the capabilities to automatically categorize each document accordingly.

●     Protection and continuity of documents: This includes document encryption, digital impression, as well as a digital time stamp via a trusted third party.

●     Regulatory compliance: A system needs to be able to create original digital documents, and provide the correct protection as well as archiving standards. These standards need to meet the legal standards in place at the time, with the flexibility of being able to update them when they change.

●     Management of authorizations and profiles: a system needs to be accessible at different levels, and provide easy and reliable management of all necessary profiles and authorizations.

●     Search and sharing of archived documents: there needs to be online access to all existing documents through specific consultation and restoration portals. This includes the ability to easily restore any documents at any time, in a readable manner. Legally, all documents, including archived documents, must be readily available on demand.

●     Filing and archiving according to the sensitivity of each document: Certain documents are more sensitive than others, and a system must be able to classify and file them accordingly. One of the great benefits of a digital safe is that it can restrict accessibility to highly sensitive documents and keep them safe at all times – this is an important benefit for any company to have.

By keeping all of these functionalities in mind you can be sure that your system will provide excellent document management services while remaining compliant in all areas.

Sample 2 - Corporate/Tech

We have previously talked about the importance of innovation when it comes to staying ahead of, or at least keeping up with, the competition, as well as a great way to gain and maintain a loyal customer base. Consumers are well aware of the importance of innovation in these areas. However, the main measure of success for any business is how well they can meet and exceed the customer promise at all times. Our recent joint survey invited the French consumer population to give their perspective on how innovation has changed their customer experience for the better, and also what type of changes they would like businesses to focus on moving forward.

Where have innovations improved your customer experience?

When asked about different types of innovation and whether they had improved their customer experience, e-commerce sites came out on top with over 80% of respondents believing this to be true. Express delivery and price comparison sites came up next with 71% and 70% agreeing, or mostly agreeing, that these innovations changed their customer experience for the better. Newer innovations such as virtual fitting rooms, in-store geo-tracking, and m-commerce applications don’t seem to create the types of shopping experiences that consumers are looking for yet, as they fell to the bottom of the list with between 51% and 67% deeming that they did not benefit their experience. Other changes, such as click-and-collect, self-checkout systems, mobile payments, and interactive touch-screen terminals hover between being slightly helpful and not really helpful. It is quite interesting to see that older, more established innovations are the ones that customers still appreciate the most, showing that their main concerns will always be the ease and speed of check-out times and delivery, and the ability to shop online whenever they want to.

What have innovations improved for you in your shopping experience?

Delivery times have now become a real competition with consumers looking to obtain their items faster and faster, and pure players such as Amazon offering express same-day delivery, or even within one hour in certain areas. This is pushing other retailers to provide similar advantages, and driving competition up. We asked our consumer group in which ways innovation had changed their shopping experience the most, and 45% responded that it allowed them to save time while shopping, and 36% said that it made their shopping experience easier in general. While most of the respondents had something positive to say about how innovations have changed their shopping experience, 21% stated that innovations are expensive and 20% deem that nothing has changed! While a lot has changed over the past 5 years in terms of shopping efficiency and delivery times, with 1/5 of the population not seeing any differences there are maybe some areas where companies need to catch up or review their processes. 17% of respondents find that innovations can be intrusive: a good indication of how important it can be for companies to know and understand their customers correctly.

How can companies improve more with innovation?

Consumers are looking towards innovation to continue to make their lives easier, mainly by reducing the time spent at checkout. While there have been many changes in recent years, 45% of shoppers still find that they are spending too much time checking out. A whopping 52% would like to see more innovations when it comes to loyalty programs, and 40% would still like faster delivery. While companies have been focusing on mobile applications and in-store enhancements, they still need to take heed of what the consumers are looking for, and enhance their customer experiences in ways that will continue to make their lives easier.