Category Archives: Various

Various

Are You Prepared in case of emergency?

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We are used to have everything we might need at a hands distance. We want food, we order some. We need whatever supplies, we go online and order or buy from the shop nearby. In today’s world of over supply, we can’t even imagine how we can run out of something, as long as you have the money to pay.

However, that has not always been the case. We in Bulgaria remember queues for essential supplies just 20 years ago. Scarcity was all around. People were stacking flour and rice as they didn’t know what tomorrow will bring. I even remember that – the sight of empty shops and a bunch of people waiting day in, day out.  Oversupply is not the case everywhere. Just take a look at Venezuela. Things are grouse there and people even went that far to butcher the horse from the zoo. I am not trying to sell panic here but it is totally possible that we end up in a situation of emergency where we lack essential supplies. So i want you to ask yourself – are you prepared in a case of emergency?

If you think i am paranoic, German government warned its people to stack water and food in a case of emergency. They suggest you have supplies for at least 10 days.

Majority of us living in cities are extremely dependable. We depend on public services for electricity, heating, water, sewage, trash collection and we depend on shops for food and other essential supplies. We don’t produce anything anymore and we have outsourced everything, being modern city people. That is a great thing as it provides for comfortable life. However, one should be prepared for emergencies.

When an emergency occurs, all civility disappears really fast. If we ever get to the point where we are short on drinking water, things might get ugly in 24 hours and there will be blood in the streets. You can find numerous videos of fires where more people die of the stampede than of the fire. People get really aggressive if the atm is not working, imagine a crisis with drinking water. You can easily browse videos where civilised people turn into violent mob in a matter of hours when in risk.

You might ask yourself where this emergency might come from. First and most obvious example is natural disaster. We get a storm or a flood and all electricity infrastructure is gone. We even see that every winter in some parts of Bulgaria. But there are also subtler risks as terrorism and i am not talking living bombs but terrorism in the form of poisoning water or chemical attack or bringing down the electric system. I recently watched a video where security consultants easily get access to the national US power grid. Some governments realize these risks and Belgium even put heavy security around the nuclear facilities. However, i don’t believe that all power, water and nuclear facilities in all countries (especially in Bulgaria) are terrorist proof. Being 21-st century that is not an insane idea.

I must admit that the idea seemed strange to me for a very long time. When i watched some Discovery shows that showed how people build shelters, stack food and water, buy weapons it seemed crazy. But not anymore. I see that the risks are feasible and even governments give a word of notice.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t cost much to have an emergency pack. It takes less than $100 actually. However, the lack of such can be fatal in a case of emergency.

Various

Visiting Bari, Italy

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I have overlooked southern Italy since beginning of time. I just didn’t know anything there worth seeing. However, just an hour and a half and 50 euro away with WizzAir, i decided to give it a try and flew to Bari this January for a long weekeng.

Climate

It was much warmer than Bulgaria. While we had a nasty winter in Sofia with -15C it was +10-15C in Bari. Not bad for end of January so there is no winter really there. However, summer can be terribly hot so for sight-seeing anytime except June-September should be fine.

Food

Food is always good in Italy and Puglia district is no exception. Sea food, pizza and pasta is the main theme. Wine is also worth trying – it is one of the best wine producing regions in Italy probably only next to Toscana.
Pizza Time
Pizza Time

Getting around by car

That is very easy – they have kind of a highway that runs north-south that takes you from place to place pretty fast. It is not first quality autobahn but is free. Rent-a-car is pretty cheap – if you don’t want anything fancy – 17-20 euro per day is quite feasible for a Fiat 500 or VW Golf. On the other pole is gasoline – one of the most expensive in Europe – 1.5-1.6 euro per lt.
Get around by car
Getting ready…
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Hooray, Good weather in January!

Bari

Bari is an average size city with around 300,000 citizens. It is the capital of a region called Puglia. All i knew about it was that it is a ferry hub between Greece and Italy. It turned out that Bari is an immensely lively city – it was swarming with people on a Saturday night – all restaurants and shops were full. And that was in January when most were locals. So pretty good impression there.
Bari on a Friday Night
Bari on a Friday Night

Prices

South Italy is known to be much more budget friendly that the northern counter part. I confirm that. Prices are normal – pizza in a restaurant is 7-10E, beer is 2-3E, bottle of wine in a restaurant 7-20E and a neat hotel goes for 50-60E. That is january-wise though.

Olive oil and olives

Interesting fact is that Puglia is the biggest producer of olives and olive oil. There is a huge valley with 1000+ year old trees. And it is thousand of them – sight is spectacular. Another interesting thing is that there were hundreds of trees that nobody cared about and it was tons of olives fallen on the ground.
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This tree is > 1000 years old and there are many of them.
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A tiny part of the vast amounts of olive trees.

Alberobello

One of the must sees in the region. That is a small traditional village 60 km off Bari full of Trulli houses. It is even a designated Unesco world heritage.  Nearby are Martina Franca and Locorotondo that are also worth visiting and are doable in a day.
Trulli
Traditional Trulli houses
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Catching some sun light.

Monopoly

Monopoly is a sea town again circa 60 km off Bari south. It has a very neat old town and offers a very pleasant walk. Sights over the sunset are amazing too.
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Monopoly’s streets
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Monopoly

Masserias

These are farm houses, that often offer accommodation and food. That’s where you can get one of the best food as most of the ingredients are home grown. We had the luck to have lunch in such  a place with a 5 course meal. Trully – it was one of the best gastronomic experiences i have ever had. First they took us to the garden, than to the place where they used to make olive oil and then took us to the restaurant. So it was a whole experience and not only order and go. The name is Il Frantoio. They grow thousands of olive trees and make one of the best olive oil you are going to try. You can buy some if you want to of course.
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Having a tour at the masseria…and getting hungry.
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Waiting for the 6 course meal of home grown vegetables and meat.
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Some starters.
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Lamb. Yammy.
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Don’t leave without a desert.
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Boasting about a couple of dozens home grown herbs.
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Liquer for every taste.
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Masserias are mainly about growing olives but not only.

Castel del Monte

A very nice surprise even for people like me that don’t appreciate historic sites that much. This castle is on a hill and offers amazing views. It is known for its perfect octagonal shape and is on the Unesco world heritage list. It was build in 13-th century and the magnitude and the geometric precision is astounding. You can go inside also even though it undergoes some renovation.
Castel Del Monte
Castel Del Monte
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I would suggest to have Bari and Puglia on your tourist road map – it is close, it is cheap and it offers many things to see and do over a weekend. 3 days are ok but having 4 or 5 would be best to go around and see most of the stuff (including Lecce and Brindisi where we didn’t get to).
Various

10 reasons why you should be cremated and turned to a tree after you die

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I came across Bios Urn recently and got stunned by the idea. What they basically offer is an Urn which holds your ashes and also a plant seed so that a tree grows out of your ashes. At first it was a weird idea to digest but after it stayed with me for a while, now i think that it is genius. Here is why:
  1. You have someone plant a tree after you die and that’s a good think.
  2. You can ‘plant’ your relatives in your house’s yard so that you can be with them all the time after their death. Otherwise, how often would you visit the graveyard?
  3. When you grow in a tree, you will do good even after your death. The tree is supposed to give fruit, shadow and fresh air.
  4. People will be much more connected to the land. You will appreciate your land more when you have your relatives resting there.
  5. We solve the problem with graveyards. They require huge plots of land and are always short of it. It can get really expensive to get a spot there. We can turn graveyards into beautiful gardens with few efforts.
  6. We are thought all our lives that we should think and live out of the box and we end up in a box. Does not seem natural.
  7. You can have the right tree to mirror your personality. Ending up in a grave is so uniform.
  8. Turning yourself into tree is so natural. They breath what we exhale and we breath what they exhale. Indians believed that people’s spirits lived in trees so they venerated them.
  9. You cut church from the funeral monopoly. I really don’t think that something so personal as a funeral should be carried out by stranger priest.
  10. You can get the tree around if you move but it is hard to have someone exhumed and moved to another place.
Various

Visiting Tenerife

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First Things First or Why consider Tenerife

Tenerife is one of the best and closest to Europe places that you can go. It is very different from everything you have seen in Europe and very exotic. It boasts with a close to 4000 meters peak, incredible beaches with black sand, picturesque nature and very warm and friendly people. It is the biggest island of the Canary archipelago and host one of the best cities in Spain if you like culture, good food and nature. It is big enough so that you wont be bored even if you stay a month. The island is around 80 km long but has 2 entirely different climates which i must tell very impressing – from the deserts to the lush greenery in an hour. Same in the altitude – from sea level to almost 4000 m and back for a day. If you are interested read on.

Getting there from Bulgaria

Best thing is that you can fly to Tenerife low cost – wizz air + ryan air. It is either Sofia – Milano – Tenerife or Sofia – Madrid – Tenerife, whatever you decide. Problem is that you might need to spend a night in Milan or Madrid as the flights don’t always match perfectly. Money-wise 250E would be enough for a 2 way ticket.

Getting around

The best way to go around is to rent a car. Car is cheap (15E a day for a car as Opel Corsa) and gasoline is also very cheap. Even though roads might be narrow and curvy in some places, they are manageable. Also there is a high way that almost goes round the whole island. And it is free.
curvy road
That’s how curvy roads might be. Note the natural pool as one of the tips.
curvy roads
The roof of that triangle building is a road.

Climate

That is one of the best parts – Tenerife has a spring like climate all year round. It is most of the time 20-25 degrees except the winter months when you get ca 15 degrees. It is interesting that the island has two climate types – the southern when it is hotter and drier and the norther where it is damper and a bit colder. You often get mists in the north in the morning. Because of the two climates, the island has entirely different look and feel in the two parts – you literally feel in two worlds. The south is a very desert-like sight while you have lush tropic – like flora and a never ending flower scent.
South Tenerife
This is how scenery looks in south Tenerife
Tenerife North
…and this is the north – full of greenery.

Beaches and sun-bathing

Bathing is the Atlantic Ocean  is no joke. It might be quite cold and rough.
rough seas
That’s why they have man made concrete pools (called natural pools) in the ocean that get filled with ocean water naturally.
natural-swimming-pool
Tenerife boasts with some very good beaches. There are wide and sandy beaches in the Los Christianos Area (south).
Nice and sandy beaches in south Tenerife
Don’t miss to hit the beaches with black vulcanic sand. One of the most spectacular is El Bollullo.
El Bollulo beach
Black Volcanic sand
El Bollulo beach
Black sand and rough sea
El Bollulo from above

Pico del Teide

Teide is another world in Tenerife – that is the mountain in the center of the island and is 3718 m high. I must tell you it is pretty amazing to be on a 3718 m high peak and be sunbathing in one and the same day. You have two options to go for the peak. One way is to go with the car to where the road ends and get the cable car to the foot of the peak. If you are more adventorous you can walk up from Montana Blanca and even sleep at the hut on the way up. They say it offers one of the clearest skies in night for the star gazers in the whole world. Didn’t try it out.
teide hut
In front of the refugee
teide night sky
this is what the night sky looks like in Teide
Whichever way you choose, you will get only to the foot of the peak. To get to the top, you will need a reservation with Spain’s national parks bureau as there are many people that want up and officials need a way to conserve the peak (it is a crater of a living volcano). If you don’t make it to the very peak the whole experience is amazing – views are breathtaking. Just remember to bring with you some warm clothes – it is very windy and chilly up there and weather changes in a moment so rain is also a possibility.
teide 1
Pico del Teide – 3718 m high

Hiking

Tenerife is one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. We met a german guy that was for the 6-th time in Tenerife and said that he hasn’t gone around the whole place yet. If you are into hiking, I would recommend you to go north to the Chinamada area – there are a few very good tracks there one going all the way down from Chinamada to Punta del Hidalgo. Another amazing experience is the Masca track – truly one of the best i have ever walked. It quite strenuous though – around 2 hours of a very steep descent. When you get finally to the shore there are two ways – up (around 3-4 hours of very steep accent) or take a water taxi to Acalantidos los Gigantes and then a taxi back to Masca where you probably left your car. Mount Teide is another very popular trekking place but i didn’t make it to there.
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End of Masca trail – right at the sea
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Start of Masca trail
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Masca. Amazing, isn’t it?
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Masca
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Chinamada
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Chinamada
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Chinamada
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Chinamada

Places to eat

The best one that we went to was El Monasterio in the north west. This a complex of a couple of cafes, restaurants and an exotic garden. The whole thing spans over a hill and size and quality is amazing – totally worth it. Another good one is Terazzas del Sauzal – very picturesque place and wonderful food. A bit of high prices but bearable. Another good place near Tacoronte is Casa del Vino which is a restaurant and a wine museum in one. Very good desert and normal prices. Casa Odon is also in the Tacoronte area and offers great bang for the buck – delicious food and big portions.
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Some fancy desert in Terrazas del Sauzal
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Choosing from the menu with Pico el Teide as background @ Terrazas del Sauzal
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Cod served with class @ Terrazas del Sauzal
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Chill out at El Monasterio Gardens
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El Monasterio gardens
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Good old Paellha @ El Monasterio
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El Monasterio entrance

Cities and resorts

Tenerife has about a million inhabitants and 220,000 of them live in the capital – Santa Cruz. Other that being a capital, Santa Cruz is not a very interesting place. Near by is La Laguna which has an university of 30,000 and as you can imagine a very vivid night life. Also La Laguna is the cultural capital of The Canary Islands. Another cities worth seeing are La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz. La Orotava boasts with an unique valley that offers wonderful climate, sights and very fertile soil. Puerto de la Cruz is a more touristic town and has a very neat city center. Parking os awful there though.Both cities have a loth of greenery and magnificent parks. Next to Puerto de la Cruz is Loro Parque – a big park and zoo. If you find time definitely go see it. We could not. In the south you can find predominantly tourist cities – big hotels, long streets of cafes and restaurants etc. If you are that kind of person go for it – Los Christianos and Playa de la America are the places for you. However, i recommend to stick with the more traditional and local places in the north and west.
la orotava valley
La Orotava Valley
Icod de los Vinos
Icod de los Vinos
la-orotava
La Orotava gardens
La Orotava
La Orotava streets
Puerto de la Cruz
Puerto de la Cruz

Prices

Prices in Tenerife are not scary – i always thought it is reserved for the rich and famous but it is very affordable. For example e meal and a drink in a regular restaurant is 12-25 E per person. Groceries are cheap, gasoline is incredibly cheap (70 cent a liter @ 2015). We stayed with AirBnb at a very nice and affordable place – around 40E per night. The host turned out to be not that friendly though at the end.  So if you are a budget type of person you can manage it very well. Of course if you want treats, prepare to pay.

Every Day Life

People seem to enjoy life and not giving themselves a hard time. They are friendly, relaxed and take regular breaks ? They also have a very strong community identity. We witnessed on a Friday afternoon how the kids from the local school go with their parents in the local church and sing and pray and kiss like there is no tomorrow. That was a very remembering experience for me as people in Bulgaria hardly greet each other in the street.
Everyday life
Everyday life @ Tacoronte

Conclusion

I would recommend Tenerife with both hands. It is very close to Europe, rather cheap and very exotic. There is a lot to see and do – culture, hiking, sun-bathing. No need for visa, friendly people and incredible atmosphere.
Various

Specialization is for insects

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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

—Robert A. Heinlein

Around the net Various

Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

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When i was posting something, one of my SEO tools told me – “your article scores bad on Flesch-Kincaid reading-ease test”. I had never heard of that and got curious – turned out hat this is very big.

This test was invented by two people (guest who by the name of the test) that were commissioned by the military to invent a standard test for manual reading difficulty assessment. It grew beyond that. The test shows how easily readable a material is. The higher score the easier to read. Scores are 0-100.

Score Notes
90.0–100.0 easily understood by an average 11-year-old student
60.0–70.0 easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students
0.0–30.0 best understood by university graduates

src: Wikipedia

Now the test is used all over the place – some companies are even obliged to produce reading materials that have particular score. And they are obliged by law. Such an example is the insurance industry – the life insurance policies should score 45 and above. Ain’t that something?

For the most curious here is the formula:

Flesch–Kincaid readability formula

 

 

To be honest, the coefficients seem like magic to me but i guest there is good reason for them to be exactly 206.835, 1.105 and 84.6.

How understandable do you write?

Various

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

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Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

I recently read Confessions of an Economic Hitman and wanted to post a quick review.

The book is about a guy that is recruited by US Secret Services and commissioned by a big US engineering company  to go to underdeveloped but resource rich countries and make false economic predictions (overly optimistic) so that the international financial institutions are justified to lend these countries huge loans that are evidently impossible to pay back. This way these countries are put in dependency and used for their resources. The mentioned countries include Ecuador, Panama, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq.

Some parts of the book didn’t sound very credible to me so i did my little research – that the author has really been in that company and worked that job. Stories about Panama canal agreement, Saudi Arabia rise and the allegedly invoked death of the Panama and Ecuador leaders due to their disobedience sound, astoundingly real.

I would recommend this book to anyone willing to learn some new things especially for Latin America politics. It is easy to read and historical events are told in a good way. Take stories with a grain of salt. though and you should be fine.

Various

How i chose my first motorcycle

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Since i have a driving licence i have been riding mopeds – first 50 cc and then 125 cc – both Peugeout. Riding on two wheels for me is an experience far better than the traditional “go from A to B”.

This summer i decided to go big and buy a real motorcycle – more h.p. and manual transmissions. I can tell you the decision was hard. As i said the motorcycle gives much more pleasure than the car and so the choice which one to buy is much harder. I finally came up with Honda Hornet. I will give you some background on the reasoning:

How many CC, H.P.?

Well that’s a hard one. Your options basically are 250-400cc, 600-700cc and 900cc+. If you have had a moped don’t be afraid to go straight to 600cc+. If this is your first two-wheeler stick to the 250-400cc range. Many people suggest to start with small engines and gradually go big but i find that misleading. As i said, if you have had experience on two wheels, being it moped, don’t be afraid to get on even 1200cc. It is not that scary – at the end of the day it depends how much you push it. I personally had experience on two wheels and decided to go with around the 600cc range. Could have done with 1200cc also but decided that i don’t need that for mainly commuting.

What kind?

Basic kinds are touring (choppers), street, cruisers, sport bikes and enduro, offroad. It depends what you need the motorcycle for. Touring are the ones where you place your feet forward and hands are relatively high – that is more of a life style motorcycle. Street a.k.a naked bikes (called like that because they lack the front screen) are city bikes that can take you also in the country for short rides. Cruisers are the ones that you will ride across Route 66 without getting too tired. Sport bikes are the super powerful noisy machines that you ride almost laying on top – if you see a killer with a bike in a movie – chances are that the bike is a sport bike:) Enduro is the kind of motorcycle that you can ride both on the road and also in wild terrains, and the off-road is self explanatory. I personally needed mainly a city bike, with the possibility to make 200-300 km rides over the weekends. That’s why i chose a naked bike. I must say that i miss the front screen on the highway – over 120km gets very windy.

Ok, I chose a city bike – what make and model?

I was wandering between – Suzuki Bandit, Honda Hornet, Suzuki GSR, Yamaha Fazer, Suzuki SV, Yamaha XJ6. The bandit is with air cooling and that turned me down. The Fazer is a good bike, but i didn’t like the look (what a missy). XJ6 and GSR are also hot bikes but were a little over budget. So i was in deep thought – Honda Hornet or the Suzuki SV. The SV has more cc (650 vs 600 for the Honda) but less h.p. (70 vs 100 for the Honda). However, the SV has a two cylinder V-stroke engine (that’s where the V in the name comes from) which gives great torque when you take off, while the Honda has a 4 cylinder inline engine which is more quiet in the low rpm but turns in a monster in the 10000+ rpm. I decided to go with the Honda because Honda has better reputation (Honda in the motorcycle world is considered Mercedes in the car world – i don’t know where the stigma comes from), i liked the 4 cylinder inline engine, the model is known as extremely reliable and last but not least it lacks most electronics which i find appealing.

First Impressions?

IMG_47124 months so far riding that bike and i can say that i am very happy with the choice. It is very reliable. It is calm in the 0-70 km/h range so it is perfect for the city – you always know what to expect. It gives you, however, enough torque and speed if you need it – it is 100 h.p., you know (my car only has 77). Only thing that i miss is the front screen when i am on the highway + the fuel indication. It usually consumes around 6 l/100km but if you push it hard, it can get to 10l/100km. Tank is small (around 15l) so beware of running out of gas, especially if you are more dynamic driver. The bike is small enough to get around cars in the traffic jam but big enough to feel comfortable on the highway with a second person behind + luggage. The stand is good, so you don’t get tired after a couple of hours on it.

 

Various

Time left

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I have always been fascinated by data visualizations – you tell a 1000 words with a picture/graphic etc., just as in the old saying. Put the next pic on your desktop and take a look every now and then – it will have a huge impact – tested!

how-much-time-we-have-infographic

 

Credit – http://fundersandfounders.com

Various

Wizzair false promotion

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Recently Wizzair announced a killer promotion – buy one and get one free which sounds great except that it is false – and here is the proof:

wizzairbusted

 

For one in the same flight promotion price is  6 leva or 3 euro higher that the regular price. Left hand side pic is from promotion day (19.5.2015) and right hand side pic is regular (20.5.2015).