The Role of Change Management in Successful Information Management Solutions

August 14, 2016

IntroductionImplementation of Information Management solutions necessarily brings change to any organization. Business practices, role and relationships all affect the way in which people work and interact on a day-to-day basis. Whether the driver for implementation is for productivity, compliance or risk reduction there is always the need to consider what impact there will be on user communities.Document and records management practices in organizations are not often front-of-mind for most managers and employees and asking them to think about information in a different way or even at all, as a corporate asset requires a fundamental mindset change. This will take many employees out of their comfort zone, impact on their confidence and competence to perform the work and creates a situation where individuals can sense a loss of control in their work context.It is natural that most people initially react with caution with concerns about their future, security and where they will fit in to a new order of things. In any group there will be 10% who are excited by the prospect of change and at the other end 10% who will resist change regardless. This means that there are 80% who can be influenced one way or the other.The successful implementation of an information management system extends far beyond the design and implementation. It extends beyond the support and operation. Effective information management requires a fundamental mind-shift by stakeholders and everyone in the organization that relies on information in their work activities. This shift needs to be carefully executed to create a requisite culture in which information is appropriately and thoroughly managed as a key organizational asset.What is Change Management?Change management is the art of influencing the majority to positively accept and commit emotionally to the change. Many of the issues arising as a response to change can be real or perceived and are closely related in a cause and effect network. Either way, they need to be addressed to avoid resistance or rejection of the change. This requires a combination of communication, understanding, mentoring, coaching and general support with the aim of building trust. It is from this position of trust that the task of building the work culture required for successful information management begins. The ’4 Cs’ of change management help us think about the change from an effected user point of view.Comfort People are creatures of habit and develop patterns of working within a comfort zone of daily activities.Control Changed practices may cause a loss of control over daily routines and activities. This may come through changed reporting lines or responsibilities which can evoke a level of discomfort.Confidence The introduction of new practices may undermine employee confidence in their ability to perform. Some may see this as challenge, for others it can be stressful. Often the introduction of computer equipment is something that can be discomforting. Some people, particularly older workers may have no experience with computers and can cause self doubt over their abilities to learn the new skills required.Competence To be able to operate in a changed work environment there is always an element of re-skilling required. This necessarily means that current skills, often developed over an extended period of time will need updating or may become redundant. This uncertainty can impact on an employee’s competence and ability to perform.The management of the complex web of responses, issues and perceptions requires focused attention. The skills of a change manager are built on an understanding of human behavior and the change manager’s role is to assist people to understand the change and what it means in personal terms and has been proven to be a significant success factor in building Information Management capability.Why is Change Management important?As volumes of information inevitably grow and our regulatory obligations increase amid the ongoing business pursuit of productivity, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to exploit the benefits of information management solutions.Studies repeatedly show that a key risk in the success or failure of information management solutions is stakeholder resistance to change. Through an investment of time and effort in preparing the user community for the coming change the chances of resistance are lowered. In short without a disciplined approach to managing stakeholders through the change then realization of anticipated benefits is put at risk. This has impact on business productivity, staff moral and the bottom-line. So it would seem logical for us to deploy our information management solutions in the most effective manner.Some common Change Management pitfalls of an IM solution implementation

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We are seeing an ongoing consolidation of the information management vendor community and a subsequent convergence of the underlying technology. There is a growing recognition by organizations that an information management capability is needed. Further, audit activity frequently highlights any shortfalls in performance and organizations react accordingly.The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment and common pitfalls addressed by change management include:Focus on TechnologyIgnoring the emotional needs of users in the rush to get the technology in place can create a real project risk. Many organizations with an information management solution already in place experience a negativity of opinion towards the system. Often the cause of this perception can be traced to an initial technical implementation focus that neglected the needs of those who consequently struggled to apply new functionality in their work activities. An effective change management approach including awareness building and communication can turn this perception around.Recognition of the Business importance of InformationThe low profile that information management has in most employees’ minds can be an issue. We are all busy and in the scheme of things ‘filing’ is not front-of-mind for the majority of employee’s striving to keep pace with everyday work pressures. Document management and filing, can fall down the priority list partly because of work pressures and partly because of limited awareness and can be seen one of the things that ‘should’ be done’ rather than something that ‘must’ be done.Organizations recognising the business value of information as an asset can then raise awareness of its importance and manage it accordingly. An increased awareness of this importance should also influence the planning of information management system deployments.Business Case and BudgetThe business case for information management is focused on risk, mitigation, and productivity. However; many benefits are intangible and have an indirect impact on the bottom line. Unfortunately associated costs are very tangible and visible.Consequently, there are challenges in the development of the business case as it can fail to excite the financial fundamentalists who view the whole undertaking in terms of an unavoidable cost that must be minimized. For the uninformed, change management activities can be seen as non-essential and result in budgets being set to minimise cost adding to the risk of failure.Although not unique to Information management implementations these above factors can create significant project risk. Change Management techniques are designed to address the human behavioral issues that can adversely impact on project success and as such, are a necessary inclusion in any deployment activity.What are some Change Management best practices for an IM solution implementation?When it is apparent users are not participating in Information Management practices an objective assessment can identify a way forward that is usually cost effective and will meet organizational needs within a much shorter timeframe. This assessment must take an independent and holistic view of the situation from multiple perspectives.This assessment must identify the root causes of any associated issues and develop a clear strategy to build the information management capability required. There are a number of common elements that have emerged as issues with information management implementations that have nothing to do with the incumbent technological tool and the strategy developed must consider how these are to be addressed.The capability assessment framework enables organizations to holistically assess information management practices and to identify improvement opportunities that will build capability. This is achieved by benchmarking current organizational practice against best practice in each of the dimensions of the framework. The best practice benchmark criteria in the framework have been identified through experience with multiple organizations across industry sectors and geographies, and are augmented through industry collaboration and global academic research outcomes.The dimensions of information management identified in the framework are defined as follows.StrategyBest practice organization’s should have a clear strategy relating to its management and use of information The strategy clearly defines the content and structure of the information, how it is to be governed and applied to support the primary business strategy.ContentWe can assume that most organizations have the information content that is required to manage their business. If this is not the case then it is difficult to envisage the organization operating successfully or at all. However, most organizations suffer from an ad-hoc approach to the management of this important asset. Best practices relating to managing this content start by having an inventory of the content, a consistent architecture governing naming conventions, taxonomy, where content is held, how content is held, i.e. hard copy soft copy formats and who can access what categories of information.ProcessDue process governing how information is created, stored, accessed and communicated is fundamental to the governance of enterprise information.Governance is the combination of processes and structures implemented at management level to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the information management activities of the organization. This consists of clear policy, procedure and business rules guiding information management practices. These must be developed in context of the organization’s business activity and be clearly communicated to stakeholders.Information management governance also includes the development of business classification schemes, taxonomy, naming conventions and rules governing the creation, storage, protection, communication, sensitivities, use and appropriate destruction of information.CultureThe manner in which information is treated and perceived in an organization is reflective of organizational culture. Best practice organizations have clear understandings and norms recognising the importance of information as an asset. This mindset needs to be pervasive across the organizational culture and is fundamental to induction and staff development initiatives.Change management during information systems implementations is a clear best practice aimed at creating the cultural awareness and mindset required.RelationshipsOrganizations operate within a network of relationships with stakeholders. These stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators and industry bodies. Best practice organizations have clear understanding and service level agreements with other stakeholders in order that corporate record keeping obligations are met and to ensure information is shared appropriately and to the level required to maximize efficiency.ServicesThe application of Information as an asset is fundamental to the services or products offered to the market place. Best practice organizations embed value-adding knowledge and information into services to maximize attractiveness and utility. Corporate discipline ensuring the validity of information shared is necessary to mitigate risk of non-compliance and avoid potential litigation.TechnologyInformation technology is fundamental to the management of the information asset. Clear and consistent architectures, data and information structures, security and operational tools indicate a mature approach to information management. Best practice organizations have clearly defined architectures.Change Management Best PracticeThe capability assessment framework facilitates benchmarking against specific best practice indicators. The absence of any of these indicators provides an opportunity for the organization to improve. Over and above these specific indicators the following themes have emerged as overarching best practice in change management as information management capability is developed.GovernanceAs discussed above governance is the combination of processes and structures to inform, direct, manage, and monitor information management activities. This includes effective record keeping practices. It is important that organizations develop governance practices as early as possible in implementation projects. This often means putting governance in place prior to specification, selection and deployment of a technology solution. This has a double benefit. Firstly: stakeholder’s become familiar with information management expectations and the requisite culture begins to develop; and secondly; the organization gains the opportunity to refine its governance structures prior to full deployment.Information Management SystemThe selection of an enabling information management technology to meet performance and functional requirements should follow a diligent approach. It is best practice for selection criteria to consider wider information management architectural needs. The functional richness of available solutions can allow the retirement of duplicative products providing islands of functionality. Workflow or WebPages are common examples of these islands where products have been acquired for a single one-off purpose and are unable to integrate with core applications. Once configured and deployed the new infrastructure can provide the opportunity to create an integrated technology architecture thereby reducing support cost.PilotsThere are many examples of high cost, high-profile failures in the information technology industry. Often this can be traced to over-ambition and a big-bang approach to deployment.Implementation of Information Management capability within well defined scope delivered in incremental steps provides many benefits. Primarily incremental implementation through a series of pilot deployments allows adaptation of the solution based on real experience before attempting to conquer the world. Many organizations are benefiting from the adoption of this approach.

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User FocusThe inclusion of change management activities focused on preparing stakeholders to take on the reformed work practices mitigate against risk of stakeholder resistance. This involves considering the emotional needs of all stakeholders to ensure that they feel in control, are comfortable and have the confidence and competence to execute new work practices. For many stakeholders the learning of new skills and changed role and responsibility provides enhanced career opportunity.ArchitectureMost of the solutions available in the marketplace offer rich functionality to manage documents and content in a web-based environment. Full use of the functionality on offer can simplify the technical architecture and realize savings in licence and administrative cost further justifying investment.Change Management Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe change manager works very closely with stakeholders and it is important that relationships based on trust are established. The personal attributes of a successful change manager are empathy and patience. The role and responsibility of the change manager is focused on understanding stakeholder needs, building an awareness of the need for change and supporting these stakeholders as they transition to new work practices.Some key responsibilities for the change manager include communications, setting up reporting and communication channels, participating in business process reform, workshop facilitation, staff training, mentoring and awareness building. In short, any activity that interacts and prepares the user community to participate in reformed work practices.Regardless of the scale of undertaking information management projects require a change management capability. In large scale projects there may be dedicated change management resources. For smaller scale projects this role may be a part-time or shared responsibility. The change management role can in many instances be a shared role across the development. Sometimes this can be provided through a corporate change management function. Regardless of how the role is resourced it is essential that it is included.Many routinely conducted project activities such as workshops, interviews, training and presentations are in fact change management opportunities as these events they are interactions with stakeholders. They therefore present the ideal opportunity to develop the relationship of trust between the project team members and stakeholders.It is important to avoid the situation where contributing stakeholders feel as though they have been sucked dry for information by technical people. This can be avoided through the development of awareness of the importance of the project team/stakeholder relationship thereby maximizing the value of this contact time.Further, ‘champions’ can be identified from within the stakeholder community. This provides a critical change management input. As these champions are representatives drawn from the stakeholder community their roles can be a very influential and positive contributor to project success.SummaryResearch shows proves that higher levels of user acceptance and greater use of installed solutions are achieved when deliberate change management activities are included in the implementation work plan and life cycle. Best practice in change management is focused on the early involvement of stakeholders and on building a trusting relationship. Accordingly, leading organizations have recognized its importance and routinely allocate resources as projects are plannedFor most organizations there is the opportunity improve information management performance. A place to start is through a benchmarking assessment of information management capability against best practice to identify how to realize available benefits by learning from the success of others.This paper has emphasized change management and the resultant outcomes and opportunities as best practice. The selection of an information management solution is an important corporate investment. For those organizations considering implementation and for those that have current infrastructure in place, there is the real opportunity to maximize return on investment and to create a work culture that displays the requisite information management behaviours.

Black History Month And The First Black Republic: A Link Long Forgotten

August 27, 2016

In February each year, Americans of African descent join all other Americans to celebrate Black History Month. In many quarters of the United States and other parts of the world, celebrations of this historic event take place. Accordingly, the significance of observing a black history for a full thirty days should be viewed and manifested in many more ways than merely recalling the Emancipation Proclamation that “freed” black people from the shackles of slavery. Certainly, “a black history” in its entirety transcends the Civil Rights Movement that legally “ended” black-white segregation particularly in the United States.Even more so, the emphasis of honoring a Black History Month must be placed far above President Barrack Obama’s assumption of the presidency of the United States as the first African American to do so. Although a well-orchestrated “million-man” march on Washington in 1963 marked a pivotal point in the black man’s liberation struggles, it does not nearly define the essence of observing a full month of black history as an end in itself.It is common knowledge that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s headed by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the height of the black liberation struggles. As significant as this historical event may seem, it was but a part of the global picture of the black man’s struggles for freedom.Therefore, it must never be seen as a cut-off point where the battle for ‘equal rights for all’ ended. It goes without saying that to assume so would equal to a presumption that with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the struggles for equal rights and justice was over for all people of color. The truth is that to this day, there remain many more challenges for descendants of freed slaves. Lest I be misunderstood, this is not to argue that the achievements of Dr. King and the likes of him do not hold very significant place in the annals of black history. They certainly do, to say the least.My concern here, however, is about perception, especially on the part of those who were (and still are) direct beneficiaries of the resulting effects of those great movements and concepts. Take (for example) in contemporary America, how does the average African American relate all of his rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States to an opportunity for success? How does the average African American utilize his god-given ability to learn and sharply compete in a world plagued by rivalries and fierce competition? How do the legacy of Dr. King & the Civil Rights Movement on the one hand and the legacy of Dr. Carter D. Woodson & Black History Month on the other, influence the ambitions of black people to attain formal education and other technical skills? What necessary measures are needed by descendants of free slaves that will ultimately gravitate them to better paying jobs and other luxuries of life? Working towards conclusive answers to these inquiries will go a long way in making Black History Month the single most proficient way to immortalize all liberation movements that fought to attain equal rights and justice for all people. Besides accentuating a commitment to perpetually keep alive the legacies of Dr. Carter D. Woodson, Activist Frederick Douglas, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others, this will ultimately keep their heavenly spirits in absolute balance and unending joy and happiness!Black HistoryIt is in this respect that I strongly believe that in paraphrasing the history of black liberation during programs marking the observance of Black History Month, the story must be told as accurately as possible by, at least, highlighting significant details. As the old adage says, “that which is not done legally, is not done at all”. In much the same way, a history not completely retold is, at best, a history not told at all! More often than not, stories after stories of great black heroes in nearly every aspect of American and world history are told each year as we observe Black History Month. Interestingly, mentions are never made of the significant transition from slavery to freedom and the subsequent demonstration by the early freed men to self-govern.A case in point here is the display of magnificent skills and bravery by a handful of the emancipated slaves who, using their god-given talents, institutionalized a nation state and subsequently declared a free and independent state nearly a hundred and sixty-five years ago. In consequence of the repeated failures of keynote speakers at Black History Month celebrations to dwell on the single most important achievement of blacks, the number one success story of those noble men and women are hardly bought into the spotlight. It is appalling that at programs commemorating Black History Month, we repeatedly hear of a few great black inventors, singers and the likes but black political geniuses who founded and declared political independence of a sovereign black state as early as the mid 19th century are never mentioned for once. I am uncertain of what the opinion of my readers might be on this, but I sturdily feel that the quest and subsequent attainment of political independence for an all-black republic nearly two hundred years ago, supersede all other achievements in all black history. I stand corrected!The gravity of this arduous achievement may be better understood when one considers, for example, the establishment of the first Negro Republic of Liberia in the first half of the 19th century (J. Horton & L. Horton, Slavery And The Making of America, 95). Following this remarkable achievement,it took more than a hundred years for the first set of black nations on the continent of Africa to gain political independence from their European white colonial masters. Here in the United States, it took unreasonably longer before the first civil rights act was singed into law. Ultimately, when it came to the pursue of happiness and the right to liberty for the early black man, what more could be more fulfilling than the right to self-governance? Regrettably, emancipation accounts are repeatedly narrated during these great black national events far short of this indisputable account.

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I hesitate not to argue further that this (outright) failure by renowned speakers during Black History festivities to make mention of The Declaration of Independence of a free & sovereign black state on the West Coast of Africa by emancipated slaves is like an attempt by a serpent to move past its head. What this does invariably is making an attempt similar to presenting a specialized profile of a region without reference to the inhabitants of that region. What other achievements could be greater than the attainment of political independence for a people held in bondage for hundreds of years? Just as they remained fully cognizant that generations after generations of their ancestors were held in oppression for nearly three centuries in the Americas, many of these black heroes got first-hand experienced of slavery as well. Pursuant to their personal experiences of the greatest human tragedy in all of history, the freed men never took for granted the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.It is out of this concern that as America observes Black History Month each February, I wish to bring into focus an often ignored (but the single most significant) achievement of the black man in the post emancipation era. I have spent a number of years working in public related institutions where the observance of Black History Month is taken seriously each year. Institutions and individuals at all levels in society often attend programs commemorating these events. Many invitees at these functions participate in activities ranging from singing church spirituals to celebrities performing popular stage shows. Often, top academia are called to present “professional” research papers on various topics in black history. It is astonishingly disgusting to note that even at such well organized and intellectual events, the attainment of self-governance by free black slaves are never indicated, much less discussed. Until the meaning of Black History Month fully encompasses the single most significant achievement of freed slaves, the salinity of the observance itself will remain far-fetched.The more I ponder over the inept approaches used by heirs of those great black heroes and the failure to duly memorialize their ancestors, the greater I sense some irresistible urge to bring into the spotlight the forgotten link between Black History Month and the early successes of people of color in their fight for equal rights and self-governance. Overall, the first and foremost agenda item for those black pioneers was a genuine quest for self-governance and the pursuit of happiness that would include the right to freedom and justice. By way of emphasis, I reiterate here again that it is important that the history of the African American is not told until someone forcefully and truly tells the entire story. While the intent of this brief article is not to retell black history, I shall endeavor to speak briefly to the necessity of bridging a significant link (long broken & forgotten) between Black History Month and Liberia, the first black republic.As I do so, some efforts will be made to expound on the extended determination for freedom by an oppressed people and the glaring similarities between the former and the latter. To enhance this review, let us slip back into history for a short while.The oldest recorded history of what is known today as Black History Month dates back to 1915 when one Dr. Carter D. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, acronym ASNLH (biography.com/blackhistory: 1/20/2011). Primarily, the objective of the Association was to research and bring awareness to the ignored but important and crucial role blacks played not only in American but also in world history. In just one year, Woodson published his findings in the Journal of Negro History. The intent of that publication was to cast out all misconceptions about the Negro. Additionally, it attempted to educate black people about their cultural background and to instill in them some pride in their race.Carter Woodson himself, who was the second black man to receive a degree from Harvard University, was the son of a former slave. He understood the importance of education and advocated the preservation of one’s heritage. A fraternity group called PSI Phil created Negro History & Literature Week at Woodson’s request in 1920. In just six years later (1926), Woodson changed the name to Negro History Week. He then selected the month of February primarily to honor two men whose actions radically (but positively) changed the future of all (black) Americans. The one was President Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and the other was Frederick Douglas who was born February 14. Douglas, too, was a tireless advocate to end slavery.Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, provided learning materials to teachers, black history clubs, and the larger community. In 1950, Dr. Woodson died but his legacy continued as cities and organizations through out the country adopted the celebration of Negro History Week. During the Civil Rights Movements of the 1950s and the 1960s, the observation of the week gained prominence as the focus turned more and more on the significance of black cultures (biography.com/blackhistory: 1/20/2011).This, in effect, moved the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to change Negro History Week to Black History Week. The ASNLH is now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH). The week was extended in 1976 to a one-month long observance.It is little wonder, therefore, that today Black History Month is celebrated through out the United States by not only school kids, but also by everyone in the USA including teachers & university professors, doctors, lawyers, paraprofessionals, economists, politicians, men, women and everyone in between.When President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 (J. Horton & E. Horton, 187), major revolutionary changes ensued which brought some level of freedom and sanity to enslaved Africans for the first time in over two hundred years. However in the decades following, the freed men were left with daunting challenges including the need for food, adequate shelter & clothing, and (perhaps more importantly) the natural urgings for self-governance.The Founding of Liberia: “Land of the Free”I was born and raised in Liberia; a small West African country with a population of under four million people. As a child, I attended public school where I learned first to write and then speak English under American English instructors. All through grade and junior high school, my instructors were American volunteered teachers (Peace Corps) who were exceptionally inspirational and who proved to be true fountain of knowledge for kids of my age. We learned to write and (tried) to speak the American version of English as opposed to the British style. We were taught the American way of doing arithmetic. We studied American literature and read great American folktales such as those of Paul Bunyan and Gulliver’s Travel. In grade school, we learned and recited the four seasons and other climatic conditions of the United States. Exclusively, we used American textbooks and learned a great deal of everything American, though we were not American children.Outside of our academic milieu, we again tried to do everything American, from soul music to soul limbo on the dance floor, for instance. When we honored calls from our teachers to perform a chore after school at a teacher’s house or when we were asked simply to complete a special assignment, we were always given something to eat or drink as some form of positive re-enforcement.In a way, this helped us as kids to acknowledge American generosity. At grade school level and with limited English vocabulary, these gestures gravitated us to our American tutors and allowed a bond of relationship that did not exist between some of my peers and their biological parents. Some children my age and some older kids went the extra mile and dressed the American way as they spent their last dollar (allowance) to purchase fancy baggy pants and go-go shoes. With the passage of time and as we became little more fluent at speaking and writing English, the bonds of teacher-student relationships between our American teachers and some socially ambitious students became stronger. Our utopian view of America broadened as we grew older. A substantial number of these kids later married to their former instructors who now live happily as couples in the US today.I have deliberately drawn my childhood experience into this discourse simply to draw attention to the conspicuous similarity between the cultures of Liberia, the first black independent state, and the people of the United States as viewed from the perspective of the African American community. Prior to the overthrow of government in 1980, the official currency of the Republic of Liberia was the United States dollar. This reality is rooted deeply in the fact that Liberia was founded by former slaves who shunned mediocrity and rose above pettiness to establish a sovereign state. Since independence in 1847, nineteen of Liberia’s twenty-two presidents were emigrants who were sons and grand sons of former slaves from the United States. As a nation state, Liberia has played and continues to play pivotal role in international relations. As a founding member of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), Liberia helped champion the liberation struggles of many former European colonies in all of Africa.If part or all of the essence of observing Black History Month, therefore, is to be interpreted to mean honoring the achievements of a segment of God’s creation who were held in bondage for centuries, then why has Black History Month been so distinctly unable to link to Liberia as a shining example of black achievements? If Liberia, in the history of humankind, was the torchbearer of black freedom, independence, and self-governance, then why do planners at Black History Month festivities pay death ears and play blind eyes to the crucial relationship between two sisterly establishments that are so culturally interwoven?According to Dr. Carter Woodson, co-founder of Black History Month, the number one goal of observing black history is to bring awareness to the crucial roles blacks played in both American and world history. Incidentally, a major part of such roles was played decades earlier by the establishment of the first Negro republic. Hence, if the organic laws of Liberia have anything to do with proclaiming equal rights and justice for people of color everywhere, as they certainly do, then the ASAALH as parent organization of Black History Month Festivities, must step up to this challenge by calling a spade a spade. Let each annual observance of Black History Month include public proclamation about the founding of Liberia (Land of Liberty) as the first significant step of the Blackman’s march to freedom and equality. It is not enough to argue, as some may be tempted to, that because Liberia is not a part or territory of the United States, due credits for successes of the black liberation struggles should not be extended thereto. Under whatever canopy, such argument would not hold air because, as indicated supra, the first written account of self-governance by a group of blacks was that occasioned by the establishment of Liberia, a nation founded by former slaves from the United States. I am strongly convinced that the resolve of an oppressed people to meander their way out of slavery and established a constitutional democracy is a milestone worth emulating, even so at all commemorations of Black History Month. In essence, when it comes to the political achievements of black ancestors, there must be no boundaries even as to politics, economics or other non-political occurrences.

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Now let us return to the brief review of the establishment of Liberia as the first black independent nation founded solely by African Americans with support from the American Colonization Society, ACS. The ACS was co-founded by Henry Clay, John Randolph and Richard Bland Lee and officially established in Washington D.C. on December 16, 1826. This was nearly fifty years before slavery was outlawed in the United States. According to Wikipedia, the ACS was principally founded as a vehicle to support the return of black people to what was considered “greater freedom” in Africa. With support from prominent activists including Paul Cuffe, a mixed race and a wealthy New England ship owner, the ACS received support from many black leaders and members of congress for an emigration plan. “Under the protection of Captain Paul Cuffe and his crew of seven, eight adults and twenty children crammed aboard the seventy-foot brig headed for their new homesteads” (Paul Cuffe, Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist, Thomas 101). From 1811 to 1816, Cuffe financed and captained successful voyages to Africa. Between 1820 and 1822, the ACS in conjunction with prominent black leaders and activists, founded the nation of Liberia with the sole purpose of repatriating from the United States all freed men of color. Eventually, the dreams of Entrepreneur Cuffe became a reality (Thomas 119).Superficially, the role of the American Colonization Society in the repatriation efforts of Africans appeared genuine with a purported claim of giving black people the opportunity to live “fuller lives” in Africa. However, as it played out, no sooner did it become evident that nearly all of the advocates for the repatriation of blacks who participated in the resettlement arguments did so for motives far unrelated to genuine concerns for the black man’s right to life and liberty. For example, the American Colonization Society and the Quakers or various Christian leaders who supported the abolition of slavery in collaboration with ordinary slaveholders, saw the resettlement of freed slaves to Africa primarily as the safest way to abort perceived threats from free blacks to the (American) society. Although members of the ACS officially denounced slavery in all its form, many were openly racists as they argued that blacks would be unable to fit into the white society of America.As we observe Black History each year, it is important that we soberly reflect on the colossal controversies in history that have attended the denial of the rights of the black man to live freely, independently and happily. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and the 1960s, the resettlement efforts in the pre-revolutionary civil war era resulted from a variety of motives. As mentioned above, many slaveholders and some abolitionists held strong views that blacks could not achieve equality in the United States, no matter what. In addition, there were those who became progressively more apprehensive that increasing number of free black slaves would eventually encourage slave revolts, while others out-rightly perceived the Black man as a burden to society and a threat to white workers because they (black) were paid much lower wages. As above mentioned, some members of the ACS who denounced slavery in all its form, were openly racists. They, too, argued likewise.In consequence of these pathetic accounts in the archives of black history, it is my fervent opinion that the concluding paragraph of this article calls into focus the broken & forgotten link between the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) and Black History Month on the one hand, and the Republic of Liberia on the other. Besides being a torchbearer of freedom for people of color, the Republic of Liberia was founded for and by African Americans nearly two hundred years ago. When Dr. Carter Woodson and Rev Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History back in 1915, they did so to spotlight the many roles black people played in the world that were often ignored or never referenced. In black history, therefore, Liberia was the first symbol of black freedom and independence and if Black History Month annually recollects eminent black achievements in history, then the former and the latter are closely related. They both exemplify the success stories of all black people. The two are directly related. Link them!The End

Direct Marketing – Brand Identity Guru Tips

September 28, 2016

If your company doesn’t have a direct marketing program in place, a direct marketing agency can create one for you. A direct marketing company provides small to very large customizable ranges of business-to-business and business-to-consumer direct marketing options sure to fit your needs. From database creation and maintenance to data analysis and creative program execution, a direct marketing company can take any existing direct marketing program, or a lack of one, and develop a highly efficient direct sales machine for your company.A good direct marketing company employs experts in each aspect of direct marketing who have proven time and time again they have what it takes to create a successful direct mail campaign and turn your existing unorganized data into a powerful computer-readable customer database.The goal of any successful direct marketing program is ultimately a positive effect on your bottom line. Good direct marketing programs are proven performers that will give you an edge over your competition. The direct marketing expertise and capabilities that a good direct marketing company offers will turn your direct marketing expenditures into successful investments.

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Look for a company that has years of target market research experience ready to work for you. They will uncover who your best customers are and develop a direct marketing campaign that will get them to respond.They should know how to impact behavior, get results and form the basis for long-term relationships with your customers and prospects.Direct marketing abilities should include:- Direct response advertising- Customer relation’s management- Data management services and data analysis- Media planning, media buying and complete direct marketing campaign managementSeven HUGE Tips to Direct Marketing that gets resultsSuccessful direct marketing takes planning and strategic thought…1. Know your goal: What do you want your direct marketing to accomplish? What kind of impression do you wish to leave? Do you wish to inform your prospects about your product or just make them aware? Recently, Brand Identity Guru was asked by a client to expand its direct marketing efforts, so we created a direct marketing piece to showcase our client’s most attractive points. That direct marketing piece now accounts for 30 percent of the client’s new business.2. Research: Don’t just have a list. Learn something about your customers so you can speak to them better. Discover their hot buttons, so you can push them.3. Plan properly: The best direct marketing campaigns work along with PR, traditional advertising, brand strategy and efforts by your sales force. Ultimately, each piece is part of a larger total company campaign and should work together.4. Be relevant: Direct marketing efforts should offer something your clients might want to buy.

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5. Be conscious of details: Find the name of your primary contacts, and make sure you spell them right in the items you send to them. Even the best direct marketing piece is useless in the trash.6. Be consistent: Use a series of pieces that speak to your customer’s needs. Don’t know what they are? Ask. Usually, December is not a good time because mailboxes are already overcrowded. Brand Identity Guru suggests waiting until February or another month.7. Follow up: If you don’t follow up, the results of your direct marketing efforts could crash to a halt. Initiate a conversation with people on your list. A phone call a week or two after your mailing is a great idea.Direct marketing is a powerful tool to capture your prospects’ attention and orders. If your direct marketing includes an attractive offer, imagine what the results will be. Throw in a brand-centric foundation and you have a direct marketing effort even more powerful than the sum of its parts.

A Brief History of Female Sexuality – Part 1

October 31, 2016

Sexuality is a “condition” that is characterized and distinguished by sex and passion. It is, again, according to American Heritage Dictionary, “the quality of possessing a sexual character or potency.”I really like that one. Potency. That means power.Where “sex” is an act that has a beginning and end, “sexuality” is a quality, a sexual character and power. It has no beginning and end, no more than your personality does or your sense of aesthetics does. Sexuality is essential to your nature. It is you. It is your vitality. It is a wonderful thing.Of course, the two – sex and sexuality – are related, and very often delightfully intertwined. However, I would argue that while it is possible to be sexual without having sex it is pretty close to impossible to truly enjoy sex without being in touch with your own sexuality. Which, in and of itself, is a pretty good reason to want to embrace your sexuality.Too many women in the 21st century are divorced from their sexuality even as they participate in sexual acts. They may be having sexual intercourse with their partner or partners multiple times and reaching multiple orgasms but what they are engaged in is about as meaningful and deeply satisfying as riding an exercise bike. As a result, they come away from sex acts with a sense of “what’s the big deal?” or that felt good for the moment. Or, worse, they feel degraded and/or diminished; reduced to an object. For many of them, a good session at the gym would be more fulfilling – and might even provide a more satisfying release.My dear, let me be very clear – that is not the way it is supposed to be.Sex without sexuality is too often demeaning, it reduces the sexual act to little more than a heaving, grunting, often-sloppy and sweaty physical endeavor. It is not called the “beast with two backs” for nothing. If all you’re focused on is the “beast” part, the physical act, you cannot possibly be truly engaged in your own sexuality. Your sexuality is not engaged. And, when your sexuality is not engaged, you are removed from the power of the act.However, with your genuine sexuality engaged, there is nothing you cannot do alone or with a partner that is not uplifting, satisfying and consistent with the person your are – whether that’s a twenty year old college student or a fifty-two year old church volunteer. With your sexuality engaged, that heaving, humping beast with two backs is an explosion of wonderful passion.In short, it is and can be exotic and mind blowing. And when sex is emotionally deep and erotic, you and your partner are truly bonded together – rather than being the sexual equivalent of opposing and competing wrestlers, with you invariably being the one pinned down for the count, you are in control. You can be more or less dominant and be thrilled by either because no matter how you behave in a sexual encounter, it is true to who you are; it is true to your sense of your sexuality.Unfortunately, history has rarely embraced this uplifting view of female sexuality. It has long viewed male and female sexuality as opposing forces, in opposition and in competition to one another. Not as it should be.In ancient China, men who engaged in masturbation risked a complete loss of vital yang essence. As such, it was strictly forbidden. Women did not risk the same loss of their vital essence. The rules about female masturbation were much more specific and focused on a particular concern; women were free to masturbate as much as they liked, as they possessed an unlimited yin, however, they were warned against masturbating with foreign objects which could injure the womb and internal sexual organs.Because women were understood to have an inexhaustible yin essence, they could keep on having orgasms long after their male partners had been reduced to shrunken, limp lumps of flesh snoring alongside them, while female sexuality was expressed in multiple ways. In addition to masturbation, lesbian relations were encouraged. Male homosexuality was forbidden, however as such behavior was thought to result in a complete loss of yang essence. In this Chinese understanding, sexual relationships between men could only result in the net loss of the yang without any possibility of regaining it, which was possible with heterosexual relationships.Although a bit at odds with our modern sensibility, at least sexuality in ancient China was deeply rooted to a sense of essential essences. Sex was never just a physical act. Sexuality had everything to do with something basic in the nature of what it meant to be a man or a woman. Therefore, any sexual act was understood in the context of their fundamental essences – yin and yang.For this reason, prostitution was very much accepted in ancient China. Men seemed to think that engaging with prostitutes gave them the opportunity to gain additional yin from them, more than from “normal” women. Men could “gain” some of that essence from women. In particular, the belief was that a woman who had sex with many men began to acquire some of the yang essence from her customers, yang essence that could then be “shared.” Consequently, it was possible for a man to gain more yang from a sexual encounter with a prostitute than he lost and more than he could gain from relations with his wife who, presumably, only had sexual relations with him.This somewhat balanced the understanding of what essential male and female sexuality meant and began to change during the Ch’in Dynasty (221 b.c.e to 24 c.e.) when the role and place of women shifted from one of sexual energy to one of more familiar modern gender roles.When the Ch’in Dynasty shifted from the Taoist culture that had predominated China to a Confusianist culture, women’s roles and the understanding of sexuality and sexual behavior then shifted dramatically. No longer was sexuality and behavior determined by essential nature, by the yin and the yang. Instead, there was a more “traditional” – patriarchal cultural dynamic. The dynamic many of us are currently familiar with. Women were not just possessing of a different essence than men but they were considered inferior to men. Physical relations between men and women were found mostly in marriage and were only to take place in the bedroom. At the conclusion of such “contact,” all physical contact was to end – there was to be no contact even between husband and wife.In a way that is only too familiar to those of us in Western Civilization, sex itself came to be considered sinful and tolerated solely for the process of procreation.Even at the conclusion of the Ch’in Dynasty, when the Han Dynasty embraced a return to a Taoist worldview, new perspectives on sexuality and sex had taken hold. Taoism had become a more structured and organized religion, with its own churches and priests. So too, sexuality and sexual behavior had become more rigidly structured. Sexual behavior was formalized, even finding expression in written texts. Two of the most famous of these texts were The Handbook of the Plain Girl and The Art of the Bedchamber.In both, a “Yellow Emperor” sought to live a long, healthy life and to attain some degree or form of immortality through sex. In order to accomplish his lofty goal he needed to become an expert at techniques that would prolong his orgasm and allow his sexual partner to orgasm several times. By doing so, he would maximize the amount of her yin essence that he would gain from their encounter while minimizing his own loss of yang essence.While concerns about yin and yang are foreign to our understanding, one valuable insight we can gain from these perspectives is that sexuality was considered essential to who we are and that sexual mores change. This Eastern view is consistent with our understanding that one is a dynamic, constant sexuality fluidity and the other is defined by the times and circumstances of sexual behavior and roles. During times when the two were balanced, there was a sensible and satisfying cultural norm that blends sex and sexuality.Unfortunately, there have been too many other times when the two were in conflict. This back and forth seems to have defined much of Western culture and history, as well as the role of women and sex in our society. And, as frustrating as it is to find ourselves at the dawn of the 21st century still sorting out the power and need for sexual awareness and the ability to embrace sexuality. Fortunately, we are in a better place than women have been through most of history. We still have a long way to go for women to feel comfortable and confident with their sexuality and know the difference between sex and sexuality.In Medieval times people’s fears focused on three things: the Devil, Jews, and women. The fear of women was completely tied into the perceived threat of female sexuality. In the “dark, moist heat” of women’s sexuality, men became prostrate with fear and trembling, a fear and trembling that have continued to the beginning of the twentieth century and, in far too many places across the globe, to the dawn of the twenty-first century.Ironically, texts from the time display an astonishing detail of female anatomy and function. Men seemed to get the physical component right but when it came to understanding and embracing a woman’s essence, they fell far short. And these were not mere “common” men. As seems to be the case over and over again, the hysteria that punished women for being women came from the very minds and men who were capable of understanding physicality. The condemnation of doctors, “physics” and ministers might seem astonishing to us now – the stuff of witch hunts and fiction – but it continues to inform our sensibilities.The times taught that female sexuality was a serpent that was secretly guided into the heart. Goethe, writing about syphilis, used similar imagery when he demonized the disease as a beast and warning of “a serpent which lurks in the loveliest of gardens and strikes us at our pleasures”.In this poetic turn, Goethe captured the true “horror” of female sexuality and gets at the heart of men’s fear – it ensnares men in that “loveliest” of gardens, striking them at their “pleasures,” when they are most vulnerable.In the last half of the nineteenth century, when more “rational” thinking took over, the female disorders of nymphomania, masturbation, moral insanity, hysteria and neurasthenia were almost universally believed to be a serious threat to health and life and civilization. Most “experts” presumed these dire maladies were the inevitable result of reading inappropriate novels or playing romantic music.Novels and music?!As irrational as this might seem, there are still large, mainstream religious institutions which separate boys and girls, prohibit music and dancing, and discourage any contact with modern culture.Are we so very different than those who lived in the Victorian age?Then, there were instances of mass hysteria much like the Salem witch episodes in which women were taken with something called “menstrual madness” and insanity, diseases which required an immediate response and often a very radical “cure.” Menstrual madness was often “cured” by laparotomy and bilateral “normal ovariotomy.” This is the removal of normal ovaries known as “Battey’s Operation”.One professor of psychology, Charcot, gave public demonstrations of hysteria in women in the 1870′s that emphasized his belief that most mental disease in women resulted from abnormalities or excitation of the female external genitalia. Or, to put it bluntly, he masturbated these women in public!Now, these public demonstrations may strike you a bit pornographic because… well, according to our standards today, they were!You could be sure that these “clinical tutorials” were very well attended by scores of men who were only too pleased to witness – in the most graphic detail – the demonic role of the vulva and clitoris in the causation of hysterical attacks in Charcot’s young and, not incidentally, attractive patients.The Internet does not deliver anything any more graphic or pornographic.In an historical note, one of Charcot’s pupils was none other than Sigmund Freud, who attended these demonstrations at the La Salpêtrière for five months, repeated this fashionable view in his writings and lectures while also stressing the effect of the mind on gynecological and mental disease.There is reasonable evidence that Freud modified his case histories – excluding the realities of deviant sexuality and sexual abuse and replacing them with sexual fantasies which would be much more acceptable to the Viennese upper middle class who were his audience.I trust you are beginning to recognize a pattern here. There is a very clear thematic trend in the history of female sex and sexuality.During Victorian times, when much of our “modern” understanding of women’s sexuality found its voice, women were taught not to enjoy sexual activity. They were taught to actively repress their passions. They were actually taught – in so many words – that their enjoyment of sex existed in direct proportion to the moral decline of society.With that kind of burden, it is not surprising that few women felt any sexual desire and satisfaction. How could a woman embrace her lover in full joy when, in the back – or front – of her mind she held the belief, a belief imposed upon her by her teachers, her clergy and her family, that by doing so she was contributing to the destruction of all that was good in the world.Talk about a surefire way to inhibit pleasure and orgasm!For the Victorian woman, sex had one purpose and one purpose alone – to procreate. Ugh! Makes it sound like an unpleasant chore, doesn’t it? It followed from this that a girl or woman’s worth prior to marriage (the only social structure in which this procreation could take place) had worth only if she remained chaste and pure.Once married, she could expect to be engaged by her husband in conjugal acts only when “necessary.”Let’s pause for a moment just to parse the profoundly disturbing truths in that last observation. The first, of course, is that sex was reduced to an act that was engaged in only when “necessary” – presumably for the relief and release of the husband and to further the goal of procreation. The second, however, is more subtle and even more damaging. “She could expect to be engaged by her husband…” In regards to sex acts, and her sexuality, the woman was to be passive. She was nothing more than the recipient of someone else’s sexual wants, needs and demands – for purposes that she did not demand. She had no control over, no rights to, and indeed, was meant to remain ignorant and disapproving of her own sexuality.It is impossible to examine the nineteenth-century medical attitude to female sexuality and come away with the feeling that it was anything but cruel and heartless. We would be kind to call it ignorant. But it was too malicious to be merely ignorant. It was damaging and malevolent. With professionals, gynecologists and psychiatrists, leading the charge, the medical professions designed treatments designed to “cure” those serious contemporary disorders, masturbation and nymphomania.The gynecologist, Isaac Baker Brown (1811-1873), and the distinguished endocrinologist, Charles Brown-Séquard (1817-1894) advocated clitoridectomy to prevent the progression to masturbatory melancholia, paralysis, blindness and even death! A rational person might think that these professionals would have been tarred and feathered for their cruel views.A rational person would have been wrong.Society as a whole embraced their horrific view of women.Before becoming self-righteous in our judgments, however, we must ask ourselves, Have we changed so much? Compare the perspective and behavior of those Victorians to our modern world where this same operation is still being forced upon women and girls in Asia and Africa and certain religious communities throughout the world!Look at our own communities where young girls and women are made to feel ashamed and “dirty” for having sexual thoughts and desires.Still, things are much better than our Victorian past, when the medical contempt for normal female sexual development was reflected in public and literary attitudes. Consider that there existed virtually no novel or opera in the last half of the 19th century where the heroine with “a past” managed to survive to the end.The Victorian woman was reduced to simply a vessel. Oh, she was a highly-valued and a necessary “vessel”. After all, sex was necessary to further the biological imperative. (Imagine someone using a line like that in a bar! “Hello, my dear, would you consider furthering the biological imperative?” My guess is that someone using that line wouldn’t be getting laid that night!)Any sexual desire that a Victorian woman experienced was, by definition, contradictory to her virtue. According to The Physician and Sexuality in Victorian America (1974) by John S. Haller Jr., and Robin M. Haller, sexual promiscuity was an “ominous indication of national decay,” and not a sign of women’s liberation at that time.This was the dominant perspective during Victorian times. As bad as it was, Victorian times were not Medieval times. Even against this bleak backdrop, there were other points of view being expressed. Many early “love manuals” actually emphasized sex for pleasure also. These manuals took the position that there could be equality in the marriage bed. An early indication that for sexuality to flourish, there has to be an acknowledgement of the equal needs and value of the partners in the sex act. There has to be respect and value on the needs, wants and desires of each partner.These manuals took the revolutionary position that a women’s interest in sex depended upon her ability to seek satisfaction along with her partner. Sex could be an enjoyable act separate from its procreative imperative alone.Joy of joys!Of course, even these enlightened views were tempered by the presumption that indulging in sex too frequently was likely not a healthy thing and indicative of moral shortcomings.So, there were other, “quieter voices” that spoke out in favor of greater sexual expression and enjoyment. Unfortunately, the dominant view took the more powerful grip on the culture’s defining morals. During the 1840′s there was a greater emphasis on the health aspects of “conjugal discourse” and less on the enjoyment aspects. There was a tendency to advocate for even less frequency in sex than earlier years. William Acton wrote in his text, Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1888), that women experienced “no need for sex.”No need for sex!? Certainly the idiocy of his position would have been disputed on its face.Of course it wasn’t. Not only was it not disputed but it was actually applauded by others, including women. Acton’s belief that women were apathetic to the notion of sex in marriage had a great ally in Mary Wood Allen, M.D., Superintendent of the Purity Department of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She held that “the most genuine love between a husband and a wife existed in the lofty sphere of platonic embrace.”Thanks for nothing, Mary! I guess her idea of a successful marriage was a husband and wife having a “sleepover” together, perhaps going so far as to hold hands and gaze warmly at one another as the night deepened around them.As if to prove that when it comes to silly ideas no degree of extremism is impossible, other manuals of the time embraced the idea of marital continence, which referred to the ” voluntary and entire absence from sexual indulgence in any form.”People who took this position pointed their boney, self-righteous fingers at women who deigned to seek sexual satisfaction and accused them of not leading “God-filled lives.” We have evolved remarkably since then. We tend only to call them names like “slut” or “nymphomaniac.”Thankfully, there were also sensible voices shouting to be heard. Sometimes, the arguments seemed to build on the foundation that women did not desire sexual satisfaction, as the argument of Elizabeth Blackwell, a physician who believed that female’s lack of sexual lust came from a fear of injury in childbirth. Implicit in her belief was that women lacked sexual desire or lust. So too when she noted that women were passive because men would be rushed to perform quickly, leaving them without gratification.At least her observations hold true in one fundamental aspect – women have consistently blunted their sexuality and sexual desires in order to maximize the “gratification” of men.There were enlightened voices crying out. Not everyone was blind to the truth of women’s sexuality. There were physicians who argued that a women’s capacity for sexual gratification was at times more intense and prolonged than the males. These physicians viewed ignorance as the root of the problem women had with sexuality. They argued that women’s lack of sensible sexual education had taught them to believe that any sexual feeling was “indecent and immoral.” As a result, women had become a race of sexless creatures, little more than “married nuns,” who experienced no pleasurable feeling during sex.But no matter how loudly these voices cried out; no matter how reasonable and rational their arguments, they did not carry the day. Acton’s view remained the dominant articulation of women’s sexuality from the late 1800′s through the middle of the 20th century.

Flavor Pairings: Why Grow Herbs For Cooking, Cocktails, And Culinary Crafts

September 10, 2016

I remember my first herb class on growing herbs for culinary and creative crafts. I left that annual herb sale with young fragrant plants, with just enough knowledge to be dangerous wielding a trowel, and a perpetual enthusiasm that all contributed to help me form my first edible garden oasis.After a trip to Home Depot, I was armed with shiny silver tools, bags of potting soil to house my foliage friends, fertilizer to make them grow, and the inner drive to begin digging my way to becoming a green thumb farmer girl!Now, 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without a bunch of basil on the counter, herbs drying on racks, and jars of dried oregano and chocolate mint within easy reach at each meal. From summer’s juicy ripe berries, peaches, and tomatoes to fall’s vibrant harvest of squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, onto holiday turkey and ham feasts, and into hearty winter stews and casseroles, herbs enhance every season’s fare!

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I’m still thrilled to witness the miracle of propagation each time with every plant. I shelter them in stormy weather, talk to them while watering, trim their leaves, and weed their beds. In return, I’m rewarded with savory, spicy, and fruity aromas, a relaxing hobby, a healthy method of adding flavor to food and cocktails that lasts all year long, and great natural photography backgrounds!Do you have herbs and are looking for ideas on how to use them? Do you see those little plastic packets of greenery hanging in the grocery store but have no clue what to do with them? Maybe you want to expand your culinary horizons and explore your green thumb capabilities? Many people are lured into using fresh herbs through the culinary route.This is the first in a series of articles on growing herbs for cooking, cocktails, and culinary crafts. Plus tips on pairing all kinds of flavors, from custom infused oils and balsamic vinegars to herbs, spirits, sweet and savory dishes. When you marry the right foods together into a succulent harmonious balance, the results are amazing and herbs contribute such character to your cuisine.This isn’t about becoming a food snob or being tethered to rules, except for this one; seasoning is vital in cooking and herbs go hand in hand with that philosophy. I’ll offer general guidelines along with novel combinations I’ve discovered but there’s no one taste fits all. It’s thrilling to develop original recipes and tweak the traditional dishes we savor. Play with new ingredients. It’s great fun to use homegrown edibles but if you don’t want to grow plants yourself, buy a few freshly packaged herbs from the store and practice cooking with them.Be daring with oil and vinegar selections. There’s a wonderful store called Savor The Olive in Virginia Beach that is a tasting room full of unique fused and infused oils and light and dark balsamic vinegars. If you have one of those in your area as well as wine tastings, take advantage of going for a visit. Experiment, so that your sense of taste gets stronger and more acute and it will tell you how much to use.

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Herbs add to the enjoyment of cooking and help you personalize what you’ve prepared. Being a chef is an art. Each person has a unique touch and flavor palate. The kitchen is your studio, the plate your blank canvas. Let instinct and imagination guide you. Herbs are one of the tools in your aromatic arsenal that enable you to present a mouthwatering masterpiece.Hope you’ll join me on a tasting tour of my fertile little deck farm as we pinch and smell the herbs, swirl and taste the wine, envision what main course will be the star of the plate, and tempt your taste buds with food that’s appealing to the eye and tongue.

The Controversy of UK Agricultural Land Conversions to Housing

September 11, 2016

What are seen as the controversies around converting land from agriculture to housing?The value of UK Green Belt and agricultural lands is undisputed. But the environmental costs of modern farming and housing needs are part of the conversation as well.Anybody considering making an alternative investment in strategic land will know that Britain unquestionably needs more homes to accommodate a growing population. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 4.4 million homes should be built by 2016, largely in response to two factors: A decennial growth rate of 7 percent, as measured in Census 2011, and lagging new home construction that fails to keep up with this population increase, largely attributed to the stringent lending standards of banks following the 2008 economic crisis.At least one group claims the solution is to build on Green Belt land. The Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank, said in late 2012 that the supply of land near cities that is kept unbuilt is a drag on the housing market. They argue that swaths of English countryside that typically surround towns should be opened up for development. The fourteen Green Belts in England cover about 13 percent of the country, enveloping about 60 percent of Britain’s population (about 30 million people).The Policy Exchange faces plenty of headwind in its positions. Since the “garden city movement” of the early 20th century, the effort to combat urban sprawl led by such groups as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the London County Council sought to maintain open spaces dedicated to recreation, forests and agriculture as a social good. But the Town and Country Planning Association has proposed since 2002 the adoption of more flexible policies toward Green Belt lands, suggesting that instead of a growth-stifling “belt,” that “wedges” and “strategic gaps” might allow a natural expansion of urban areas.

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Famously, the head of Natural England, whose charge is entirely to ensure protection and improvement of flora and fauna, said in 2007 “we need a 21st century solution to England’s housing needs which puts in place a network of green wedges, gaps and corridors, linking the natural environment and people.”Agricultural land outside of Green BeltsOf course, land away from the major cities is green as well, much of it in use for agricultural, forestry and recreational purposes. More than 80 percent of the landmass in England and Wales, 12 million hectares, are used for farming and forestry. Local planning authorities can more easily rezone the lands outside Green Belts when market factors, such as the demand for housing development, call for it. Since 2000, about 1500 hectares of agricultural land has been converted to housing development every year.Of course, similar sentiments understandably still exist relative to the bucolic perceptions of farming in the U.K. But environmentalists take exception to how modern agricultural methods, which include excessive application of fertilisers, can actually burden nature with its by-products:• Toxic build-up. 100 million tonnes of sewage sludge, compost and livestock manures applied annually to agricultural lands is leading to a build-up of potentially toxic elements such as zinc and copper, and more than half of sensitive wildlife habitat experiences harmful acid and nitrogen pollution, according to a paper published by Environment Agency UK.• Loss of soil. About 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil is lost each year due to intensive cultivation, some of which is instigated by compaction from heavy machinery and livestock, which precludes plant growth and leads to runoff in rain. (source: Environment Agency UK). To be fair, some runoff is noted as well from building sites before landscaping is completed.• Water quality compromised. About 70 percent of sediments found in water come from agriculture, and those sediments can carry metals, pathogens, pesticides and phosphates.Such problems due to modern agriculture plague the planet, as similar pollution levels are reported throughout Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. Africa, Brazil and Argentina, the newer frontiers for agriculture, are expanding arable croplands to meet global food demands but also exhibit a host of environmental sins.The food-housing tugThere is no denying that the housing needs in the UK must be met – and soon. A whole generation of families are postponing children or living in cramped quarters, awaiting homes they can afford or at least rent to accommodate their members.But Brits need to eat as much as sleep. So how to balance the use of land for each?A number of approaches are being tested. One is to encourage development of so-called brownfield lands, which include properties that may require remediation from previous industrial uses. These lands are often within towns or immediately adjacent to them, some with excellent access to existing urban infrastructure while others are cost-prohibitive for a variety of reasons (no existing infrastructure, undesirable locations for housing or extensive environmental remediation required).

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SustainableBuild.co.uk is a web publisher that considers the balance between development and environmental sustainability from a very pragmatic standpoint. The site offers several points on how land conversions to development can have a negative effect, which include: converted greenfields are quite unlikely to be converted back to nature; there is inevitable loss of habitat for animals and plants; a loss of employment for agricultural workers; and a loss of Green Belt land that provides geographical definitions and separations of cities, towns, villages and hamlets (I.e., American-style urban sprawl).Answering the problem of diminishing agricultural lands is a nascent movement to small-scale, organic agriculture on greenfield lands. SustainableBuild notes, “There are greenfield sites that are not being used for any purpose, for whatever reason. Development must consider all human and environmental factors, not just consume land and space for short-term solutions. A sustainable vision would look at all the options for land use, human population expansion, urban sprawl, economic considerations as well as environmental needs.”Which, in a country with a growing population and a concurrent appreciation for the environment, is perhaps the most realistic and pragmatic approach.

Benefitting Health With a PhD in Health Education

October 19, 2016

Imagine this real case scenario: In Africa, many people die daily due to malaria. This can be avoided by the use of mosquito netting, which protects the malaria-carrying mosquitoes from biting them. However, people are still ignorant and uneducated about how these nets can save their lives, and go on living without them.Now, picture this: If the people in Africa were educated from young about the dangers of these deadly insects, they would take precautions to save themselves. If, with that knowledge, they also knew that mosquito netting can reduce the number of incidences, many would be alive today.

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As the examples given, the education of living healthily is extremely important. Even without such an extreme case, health education helps us maintain a healthy life. Health education refers to learning about how health can be promoted, restored, and maintained. ‘Health’ does not only refer to the physiological aspect; it also includes the psychological and spiritual aspects.A profession in this field is where one educates others about health and wellness. Being in this profession demands a big heart and dedication towards helping others live a good life. While many might come in as volunteers, having a PhD equips you with the proper knowledge and credentials to educate others on health and wellness. You will also be able to conduct researches, formulate, implement, and evaluate health interventions, one like the mosquito netting example. Of course, this would mean that you would continuously be monitoring and correcting interventions so that society will be more aware of their health, which on the long-term is beneficial to our future grandchildren as they would have known how to live healthily.

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Lastly, with a PhD in Health Education, you are also able to advance your career in the field of health education. This field is never outdated as our society is constantly seeking methods to improve their lives and well being. At the same time, you are also able to discover ways to improve your own mental, physical and spiritual health.

Cornwall’s Gardens

September 7, 2016

The ‘Garden Capital of the World’ is often how Cornwall is thought of throughout the world. Cornwall enjoys the power of the Gulf Stream with its temperate climate of warm summers, mild and wet winters which in turn allows exotic and rare plants to thrive.Where else can you find so many gardens with history dating back to the Iron Age? As long ago as the early 19th century Cornish gardeners were part of the Victorian plant hunters who collected exotic plants and seeds from all around the world.That gives us what we have today: over 60 fabulous gardens to explore with lush vegetation and sub-tropical theatres of colour brimming with exciting, rare and beautiful plants. Cornwall’s gardens are found in our magnificent Castles, Manor Houses, grand Farm Estates, Mill Houses, sheltered valleys, high up on blustery moorland and nestled in woodland and seaside gardens which meet the turquoise hues of the water’s edge.Cornwall’s gardens are so diverse as they vary in size from small and intimate to acres of rolling countryside. Some with enchanting lakes and a Victorian boathouse to water gardens with tree ferns, rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. Others have walled gardens and manicured lawns to the newest of all two magnificent Biomes filled with magic from around the world.All around Britain you will be hard-pressed not to find a ‘Veitch’ plant or one derived from their nurseries. The Veitch family sent many collectors all over the world to bring back seeds and plants. These included two Cornish brothers, William and Thomas Lobb. William Lobb died in San Francisco in 1864 but his brother Thomas lived in Devoran until his death in 1894.In the East of Cornwall Mount Edgcumbe have The Earl’s Garden with ancient and rare trees including a 400-year-old lime. The Formal Gardens are found in the lower park and were created over 200 years ago in English, French and Italian styles. Cothele tells the story of the Tamar Valley and Antony was recently used as a backdrop for the film Alice in Wonderland. Also in the East is Ince Castle which overlooks the River Lynher. The garden enjoys woodlands filled with rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias, vibrant shrubs and formal gardens. Pentillie Castle’s gardens are only open on specific days and their orchard was replanted with old Tamar Valley varieties of apple and cherry.The South is awash with fabulous gardens which proves how sheltered this coast is in Cornwall and many are overflowing with collections of Cornish rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. We can start with Hidden Valley Gardens, Near Par. These gardens won the Cornwall Tourism Silver award 2010 for small visitor attraction. Tregrehan is a large woodland garden and is home to the Carlyon family since 1565. The Pinetum Park and Pine Lodge Gardens, Near St. Austell is a 30-acre paradise with over 6000 labelled plants. Ray and Shirley Clemo travelled the world collecting seeds and plants for this garden and a pair of black swans have made it their home.

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan at Pentewan have been voted Britain’s finest garden and has scooped the title in the Countryfile Magazine Awards 2011. Celebrating 21years since Heligan’s Lost Gardens were discovered, this beauty provides 200 acres to explore. Discover the Northern Garden, the Jungle, the Wider Estate and the Horsemoor Hide and Wildlife Project.Next on our list would be Caerhays Castle Gardens which is situated in a valley above Porthluney Cove. A horticultural treasure covering 100 acres of woodland gardens and holder of the National Magnolia Collection. Lamorran at St. Mawes is a Mediterranean-style garden with sea views over Falmouth Bay. History says that it is the most Northerly Palm Garden in the world. From Lamorran you can see the lighthouse at St. Anthony’s Head. St. Just in Roseland has a 13th century church and is set in a sheltered sub-tropical riverside garden filled with magnolias, azaleas, bamboos and giant gunnera. Trelissick Garden at Feock was planted 200 years ago and has views down the Falmouth estuary. It has year-round plant colour, an orchard, woodland walks and an art and crafts gallery. In the autumn 300 varieties of apples will be on display in the Georgian stables. Enys Gardens at Penryn is one of Cornwall’s oldest gardens dating back to 1709. Penjerrick at Budock Water is unspoilt with historic and botanic interest; relax among tree ferns and hidden paths.Moving on down the coast to Mawnan Smith is Trebah and Carwinion, these are gardens with great historic interest. Trebah is on the North bank of the Helford River and in this garden you can wander among giant tree ferns and palms. Carwinion has a renowned collection of bamboo and has 14 acres of tranquil gardens. Glendurgan lies in a sub-tropical valley running down to the Helford River. Have fun in the 180 year-old cherry laurel maze and wander through the garden and down to the hamlet of Durgan. Potager is a new organic garden and is close to Constantine, five miles from Falmouth.Down the coast further to Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, Bonython Estate Gardens has an 18th century Walled Garden, a potager garden, an orchard of Cornish variety apple trees and woodlands. Bosahan at Manaccan is again close to the Helford River enjoying the Cornish microclimate and described as “the most Cornish of all Cornish gardens” in The Gardener magazine in 1909! Trevarno Gardens are the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of their estate with a magnificent 70 acres. Several interesting features include a Serptentine Yew Tunnel and the production of organic skincare products and soaps. Carleen Subtropical Gardens are open by appointment only and are home to collections from South America, Mexico, Central and South Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Southern USA and the Mediterranean. The Hardy Exotics Garden Nursery at Whitecross, Near Penzance can create “Barbados in Birmingham” – “Mauritius in Manchester” and “Hawaii in Hertford”.Now we come to the beautiful St. Michaels Mount, walk across the causeway at low tide or travel by boat at other times. These gardens are steep but thrive in the shelter of the granite cliffs and you will find exotics from Mexico, Canary Islands and South Africa. Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens is a wonderful valley setting with St. Michaels Mount in the background. The National Trust owns Trengwainton and this historic garden is home to banana plants and enormous echiums. Finally in this part of Cornwall is Penberth which has 5 acres and is a natural valley garden incorporating sea views.Now we move on to North Cornwall which is a more rugged coast fronting the Atlantic. Our first port of call is the Japanese Garden and Bonsai Nursery in the beautiful Lanherne Valley at St. Mawgan. Just 1.5 acres but includes Water Gardens, Stroll Garden and a Zen Garden inspired by the East. Moving on up the Coast to Padstow we find Prideaux Place that has 40 acres of landscaped grounds and a deer park overlooking the Padstow estuary and the River Camel. Last but not least on this coast is Longcross Victorian Garden at Trelights, Port Isaac. This is 4 acres and gives a fine example of coastal gardening and hedging with views towards Port Isaac and Port Quin.Cornwall has some more fine gardens that are a bit more inland than the others we have mentioned before but when you are in Cornwall you are never more than sixteen miles away from the coast at any time.The 4 acres at Ken-Caro, Nr. Liskeard is another garden with a woodland walk, magnolias and rhododendrons, small but beautiful and set high above Bicton Manor Woods. Another one in the same area is Moyclare established in 1927 in 1 acre and arranged around the house. The broom “Moyclare Pink” and the astrantia “Moira Reid” originated in this garden. Pencarrow is a garden of 50 acres and this is where the Monkey Puzzle tree got its name. In this garden you can even walk on the grass! If you like one of the plants you will probably be able to buy a cutting from it. At Pinsla Garden, Cardinham there is something for everyone, an idyllic haven, and a hideaway full of secret paths with hazel arch and fantasy garden created by garden artists.Moving on once again to the National Trust owned Lanhydrock, a garden for walkers and a historical garden that has a woodland of 1000 acres. Boconnoc at Lostwithiel bas a beautiful spring garden and has camellias and azaleas from the 1850 original planting. These gardens are only open for the Spring Flower Show and Sunday afternoons during May. Trewithin close to Grampound means ‘house of the trees’ and has 30 acres of woodland gardens and more than 200 acres of surrounding parkland. The horticulturalist George Johnstone, who inherited the house in 1904, cultivated many of the seeds that came from abroad thus ensuring the reputation that Trewithin has today. Trewithin is an unforgettable garden gem.Next is the Eden Project close to St. Austell which is the newest of all our Cornish gardens. Created from a disused china clay pit in the year 2000 and the site opened on 17th March 2001. Two Biomes, one Tropical and the other Mediterranean are both constructed from a tubular steel space-frame clad in thermoplastic ETFE. At Eden you can travel around the world in a day!

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At Bosvigo on the outskirts of Truro an awkward wing of the house was demolished and using stone from the house the walled garden was created. This left a 100-year-old Victorian Conservatory standing. All the plants that are for sale in this nursery are growing in the Gardens. Burncoose at Gwennap is a 30 acre woodland garden and has achieved gold medal displays at Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows. The Nursery stocks a wide range of shrubs and herbaceous plants. Back up the coast we find Trerice, three miles from Newquay, which is a 6 acre garden but there is still space to find seclusion at any time of the year. The National Trust has owned this garden since 1953.Finally, we cross the water and arrive on the beautiful Isles of Scilly and then head for the Abbey Gardens on Tresco. This amazing sub-tropical garden is home to species of plants and trees from 80 countries ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa. The building of tall windbreaks ensures any inclement weather is forced up and over the walled enclosure. The terraces at the top are hotter and drier than the ones below which give more humidity. In 1990 hurricane force winds created dreadful damage to the shelter belts and the loss of many plants but the shelter belts and garden are now restored and looking ‘better than ever’. This is one that you should not miss.Many Cornish gardens belong to the National Gardens Scheme who publishes The Yellow Book each year which is a guide or ‘bible’ to garden visiting. Most of these gardens are privately owned and only open on specific days.Lots of our gardens have tremendous interest in the Autumn such as Ellis Gardens at Polyphant, Wave Cottage at Lerryn, Half Acre at Boscastle, Primrose Farm at Skinners Bottom and Kennall House at Ponsanooth. The Homestead close to Helston is 7.5 acres and has a Wildflower Wood with over 1000 trees and a further 800 trees for a shelter and wildlife habitat.There are of course many more gardens in Cornwall, many of them small but beautiful and a lot of our gardens are Dog Friendly. So don’t leave part of the family at home, bring them along as well. It would be wise to check first with the garden you are intending to visit just to make sure that it is ‘dog friendly’. Some of our Cornish gardens are more accessible than others so again if part of your group is less agile check with the garden to make sure you will enjoy your visit.For more information on our Cornish Gardens most of them have their own website which will give you opening days and times, how to get there, what facilities are available and ticket costs.

Put Power Behind Your Nutritional Information

September 21, 2016

Nutrition information and natural remedies are now being used by a large population in the United States and throughout the world. People are looking for alternative ways to create health or recover from long standing illnesses. Drugs have been applied for around a hundred years and we all know that they are good for emergencies and for short term use to get past health dangers.If you are sick or have certain body conditions that are creating pain, then consider learning enough nutrition information that will help you eliminate that sickness or pain. Learning the basic principles of nutrition is not hard, but it does take a little effort in finding the right nutritional course that teaches practical ways of applying nutrition.Nutrition is actually a science, which can get quite complex in theory. Nutrition information is concerned with the chemical make up of food, how this food is digested, how it is absorbed and used by your body. It is all about how it is used to promote health, and how it is used to prevent and eliminated illness.

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Applying practical nutrition stops the beginning of inflammation. This prevents the formation of disease. If disease is developing or well established, nutrition can reverse these conditions. But it can only do this if not to much tissue or cells in that area have not been destroyed.Inflammation comes from excess acid in your body. This acid is created from the foods you eat. Eating certain foods leave an acid residue in your cells that then travels into the liquid surrounding your cells – lymph liquid. In the lymph liquid, this acid can damage the surrounding cells and tissue and in doing so starts the inflammation process.Many scientists and medical researchers have uncovered the basic principles of the acid-alkaline body. Maintaining an acid body, which many people have, is what creates and maintains various deadly diseases. Most pathogens like an acid body. Cancer thrives in an acid body.Nutrition gives you the information you need to know on how to maintain an alkaline body. It gives you the information on what foods are acid and alkaline. Eating the right foods is how you maintain your health. But, nutrition information goes further in explaining how your body uses the foods you eat and how your entire body functions with this good food.Nutrition says your body is bioelectrical. Your body is run by electrical and chemical reactions. You need to discover what foods support these electrical and chemical activities. Without the right electrical activities in your body, your cells will not get the right nutrition, which is necessary for your survival. Nutrition is also about discovering what food, nutrients and minerals your body needs and what illness you develop if you don’t get them.

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Learning natural nutrition information is now possible online. In the past it was difficult to learn nutrition without going to school. Finding courses in practical nutrition can be difficult but what you and most people need is to learn is nutrition that you can put into practice. Find the time, find the course, and find the health that you need with the right nutrition course.

How to Choose the Right Accounting Audit Software for Your Business

September 29, 2016

Audit professional should take his time and review available software solutions solutions on the market. Comparison, research helps, but I what I would suggest is checking testimonial section of each software provider homepages. Check if there are big companies listed among clients, what sort of services they provide. That helps to understand if solution you are willing to buy is worth it.Another great strategy is before you decide what tools to buy, or should you purchase new version of your current software, go to LinkedIn. Yes it is professional social community, where business representatives communicate with each other, share their thoughts, opinions and ideas. But, have you heard how powerful are GROUPS there. Probably not, people are not usually sharing that. In Linked in groups you can find excellent professionals that may really help you with advice or feedback regarding software you are interested in or searching for. Simply find a group for accountants, auditors or network administrators and Post a question about what tools people are using or ask to give you a feedback on any specific audit software product. I bet, in the next 3 hours, you will receive the most professional recommendations that will help you to save your budget and decide the most functional software tools.

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Another great way to get professional advice and recommendation is CPA forums. You probably heard about these communities, simply Google it and you ll find a lot of them in the first 10 search results. Usually they all have threads regarding audit software. Post a new thread asking for advice or follow the discussion. Usually these communities are small, but you will not find beginners there, it’s highly professional audience that is ready to help.

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By following these simple rules you will not waste money and time on useless audit software that don’t have enough functionality to keep your work efficient.