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Search Technologies

Each of us has been faced with the problem of searching for information more than once. Irregardless of the data source we are using (Internet, file system on our hard drive, data base or a global information system of a big company) the problems can be multiple and include the physical volume of the data base searched, the information being unstructured, different file types and also the complexity of accurately wording the search query. We have already reached the stage when the amount of data on one single PC is comparable to the amount of text data stored in a proper library. And as to the unstructured data flows, in future they are only going to increase, and at a very rapid tempo. If for an average user this might be just a minor misfortune, for a big company absence of control over information can mean significant problems. So the necessity to create search systems and technologies simplifying and accelerating access to the necessary information, originated long ago. Such systems are numerous and moreover not every one of them is based on a unique technology. And the task of choosing the right one depends directly on the specific tasks to be solved in the future. While the demand for the perfect data searching and processing tools is steadily growing let’s consider the state of affairs with the supply side.

Not going deeply into the various peculiarities of the technology, all the searching programs and systems can be divided into three groups. These are: global Internet systems, turnkey business solutions (corporate data searching and processing technologies) and simple phrasal or file search on a local computer. Different directions presumably mean different solutions.

Local search

Everything is clear about search on a local PC. It’s not remarkable for any particular functionality features accept for the choice of file type (media, text etc.) and the search destination. Just enter the name of the searched file (or part of text, for example in the Word format) and that’s it. The speed and result depend fully on the text entered into the query line. There is zero intellectuality in this: simply looking through the available files to define their relevance. This is in its sense explicable: what’s the use of creating a sophisticated system for such uncomplicated needs.

Global search technologies

Matters stand totally different with the search systems operating in the global network. One can’t rely simply on looking through the available data. Huge volume (Yandex for instance can boast the indexing capacity of more than 11 terabyte of data) of the global chaos of unstructured information will make the simple search not only ineffective but also long and labor-consuming. That’s why lately the focus has shifted towards optimizing and improving quality characteristics of search. But the scheme is still very simple (except for the secret innovations of every separate system) – the phrasal search through the indexed data base with proper consideration for morphology and synonyms. Undoubtedly, such an approach works but doesn’t solve the problem completely. Reading dozens of various articles dedicated to improving search with the help of Google or Yandex, one can drive at the conclusion that without knowing the hidden opportunities of these systems finding a relevant document by the query is a matter of more than a minute, and sometimes more than an hour. The problem is that such a realization of search is very dependent on the query word or phrase, entered by the user. The more indistinct the query the worse is the search. This has become an axiom, or dogma, whichever you prefer.

Of course, intelligently using the key functions of the search systems and properly defining the phrase by which the documents and sites are searched, it is possible to get acceptable results. But this would be the result of painstaking mental work and time wasted on looking through irrelevant information with a hope to at least find some clues on how to upgrade the search query. In general, the scheme is the following: enter the phrase, look through several results, making sure that the query was not the right one, enter a new phrase and the stages are repeated till the relevancy of results achieves the highest possible level. But even in that case the chances to find the right document are still few. No average user will voluntary go for the sophistication of “advanced search” (although it is equipped with a number of very useful functions such as the choice of language, file format etc.). The best would be to simply insert the word or phrase and get a ready answer, without particular concern for the means of getting it. Let the horse think – it has a big head. Maybe this is not exactly up to the point, but one of the Google search functions is called “I am feeling lucky!” characterizes very well the existent searching technologies. Nevertheless, the technology works, not ideally and not always justifying the hopes, but if you allow for the complexity of searching through the chaos of Internet data volume, it could be acceptable.

Corporate systems

The third on the list are the turnkey solutions based on the searching technologies. They are meant for serious companies and corporations, possessing really large data bases and staffed with all sorts of information systems and documents. In principle, the technologies themselves can also be used for home needs. For example, a programmer working remotely from the office will make good use of the search to access randomly located on his hard drive program source codes. But these are particulars. The main application of the technology is still solving the problem of quickly and accurately searching through large data volumes and working with various information sources. Such systems usually operate by a very simple scheme (although there are undoubtedly numerous unique methods of indexing and processing queries underneath the surface): phrasal search, with proper consideration for all the stem forms, synonyms etc. which once again leads us to the problem of human resource. When using such technology the user should first word the query phrases which are going to be the search criteria and presumably met in the necessary documents to be retrieved. But there is no guarantee that the user will be able to independently choose or remember the correct phrase and furthermore, that the search by this phrase will be satisfactory.

One more key moment is the speed of processing a query. Of course, when using the whole document instead of a couple of words, the accuracy of search increases manifold. But up to date, such an opportunity has not been used because of the high capacity drain of such a process. The point is that search by words or phrases will not provide us with a highly relevant similarity of results. And the search by phrase equal in its length the whole document consumes much time and computer resources. Here is an example: while processing the query by one word there is no considerable difference in speed: whether it’s 0,1 or 0,001 second is not of crucial importance to the user. But when you take an average size document which contains about 2000 unique words, then the search with consideration for morphology (stem forms) and thesaurus (synonyms), as well as generating a relevant list of results in case of search by key words will take several dozens of minutes (which is unacceptable for a user).

The interim summary

As we can see, currently existing systems and search technologies, although properly functioning, don’t solve the problem of search completely. Where speed is acceptable the relevancy leaves more to be desired. If the search is accurate and adequate, it consumes lots of time and resources. It is of course possible to solve the problem by a very obvious manner – by increasing the computer capacity. But equipping the office with dozens of ultra-fast computers which will continuously process phrasal queries consisting of thousands of unique words, struggling through gigabytes of incoming correspondence, technical literature, final reports and other information is more than irrational and disadvantageous. There is a better way.

The unique similar content search

At present many companies are intensively working on developing full text search. The calculation speeds allow creating technologies that enable queries in different exponents and wide array of supplementary conditions. The experience in creating phrasal search provides these companies with an expertise to further develop and perfect the search technology. In particular, one of the most popular searches is the Google, and namely one of its functions called the “similar pages”. Using this function enables the user to view the pages of maximum similarity in their content to the sample one. Functioning in principle, this function does not yet allow getting relevant results – they are mostly vague and of low relevancy and furthermore, sometimes utilizing this function shows complete absence of similar pages as a result. Most probably, this is the result of the chaotic and unstructured nature of information in the Internet. But once the precedent has been created, the advent of the perfect search without a hitch is just a matter of time.

What concerns the corporate data processing and knowledge retrieval systems, here the matters stand much worse. The functioning (not existing on paper) technologies are very few. And no giant or the so called search technology guru has so far succeeded in creating a real similar content search. Maybe, the reason is that it’s not desperately needed, maybe – too hard to implement. But there is a functioning one though.

SoftInform Search Technology, developed by SoftInform, is the technology of searching for documents similar in their content to the sample. It enables fast and accurate search for documents of similar content in any volume of data. The technology is based on the mathematical model of analyzing the document structure and selecting the words, word combinations and text arrays, which results in forming a list of documents of maximum similarity the sample text abstract with the relevancy percent defined. In contrast to the standard phrasal search by the similar content search there is no need to determine the key words beforehand – the search is conducted through the whole document. The technology works with several sources of information that can be stored both in text files of txt, doc, rtf, pdf, htm, html formats, and the information systems of the most popular data bases (Access, MS SQL, Oracle, as well as any SQL-supporting data bases). It also additionally supports the synonyms and important words functions that enable to carry out a more specific search.

The similar search technology enables to significantly cut time wasted on searching and reviewing the same or very similar documents, diminish the processing time at the stage of entering data into the archive by avoiding the duplicate documents and forming sets of data by a certain subject. Another advantage of the SoftInform technology is that it’s not so sensitive to the computer capacity and allows processing data at a very high speed even on ordinary office computers.

This technology is not just a theoretic development. It has been tested and successfully implemented in a project of giving legal advice via phone, where the speed of information retrieval is of crucial importance. And it will undoubtedly be more than useful in any knowledge base, analytical service and support department of any large firm. Universality and effectiveness of the SoftInform Search Technology allows solving a wide spectrum of problems, arising while processing information. These include the fuzziness of information (at the document entering stage it is possible to immediately define whether such a document already belongs to the data base or not) and the similarity analysis of the documents which are already entered into the data base, and the search for semantically similar documents which saves time spent on selecting the appropriate key words and viewing the irrelevant documents.

Perspectives

Besides its primary assignment (fast and high quality search for information in huge volume such as texts, archives, data bases) an Internet direction could also be defined. For example, it is possible to work out an expert system to process incoming correspondence and news which will become an important tool for analysts from different companies. Mainly, this will be possible due to the unique similar content search technology, absent from any of the existent systems so far except for the SearchInform. The problem of spamming search engines with the so called doorways (hidden pages with key words redirecting to the site’s main pages and used to increase the page rating with the search engines) and the e-mail spam problem (a more intellectual analysis would ensure higher level of security) would also be solved with the help of this technology. But the most interesting perspective of the SoftInform Search technology is creating a new Internet search engine, the main competitive advantage of which would be ability to search not just by key words, but also for similar web pages, which will add to the flexibility of search making it more comfortable and efficient.

To draw a conclusion, it could be stated with confidence that the future belongs to the full text search technologies, both in the Internet and the corporate search systems. Unlimited development potential, adequacy of the results and processing speed of any size of query make this technology much more comfortable and in high demand. SoftInform Search technology might not be the pioneer, but it’s a functioning, stable and unique one with no existent analogues (which can be proved by the active Eurasian patent). To my mind, even with the help of the “similar search” it will be difficult to find a similar technology.

The Importance of Public Relations in Food and Travel

Creating a successful public relations campaign is not an easy task by any standards. There are many domains for which such a project can be developed and each one of them requires a completely different approach. In the last couple of years, more and more PR companies have started to focus their attention on a few areas alone, such as food and travel.

Food PR is usually revolving around the immediate need of the consumer, but more importantly around the problems which can appear in certain situations. Nowadays, more and more serious diseases have started to be transmitted through our food supply and getting ill after consuming any type of food is not uncommon. This means that you’ll never know where the next case will appear: maybe from a piece of meat or perhaps from vegetables.

Even if most of these incidents are isolated, the situation remains the same: potential customers will change their opinion based on what they see and hear in the media, not on the actual facts and statistics. This is where public relations come in; a successful campaign will be able to transmit the right message and it will create a bridge between your company and your potential clients.

More importantly than dealing with incidents is making a new brand successful. In this situation, Food PR plays the important role of bringing the product to the attention of the right persons.

In the case of travel public relations, the task is a little more complicated. An entire web has to be created and you need to make the connection between your client, his transportation means, his accommodations and the activities he will partake in while going on a vacation. After that, the right PR campaign needs to stand out among thousands of others and make sure that your company is the one which gets all the attention it deserves. Traveling is no longer a problem for anyone and this is why so many travel agencies are trying their best to make offers which can’t be refused. The right travel PR campaign can tip the scale in your favor even if you are not the market leader, which is something that can’t usually be achieved in most domains.

The power of the right PR strategy can’t be underestimated, especially if you take a look at your competitors. Instead of trying to create a campaign on your own, you should find a company which already knows exactly how to get a head start and grab the attention of the public without too much effort. This way, you will save a lot of time and money and the results you were hoping for will appear sooner than you initially thought.

Travel Food: How to Eat Healthy While on Vacation

Eating healthy while traveling is a priority so when I leave town, food comes with me. Although my husband is always amazed at how much food I can pack into one suitcase, it’s really not as difficult as it seems.

Here’s a list of my food staples that are nutritious and travel well…

Cacao Powder: I use this raw, unsweetened “super-food” (i.e. packed with nutrients and antioxidants) to wake up in the morning instead of pounding coffee. I mix one tablespoon into a cup of hot water, add stevia and either some milk or cream, and it’s like a power-packed cup of hot chocolate, sans the chemicals, caffeine, and sugar.

Sardines: Yes, really, I think most people get sardines confused with anchovies, the small, flat, extremely fishy fish that come on pizzas and in Caesar dressing. Sardines are actually less fishy than tuna and bursting with healthy oils and protein. You can get them cheap (I recently found a cool “10 for $10” deal). In Costa Rica, I discovered that a can of sardines, paired with a large tomato from the local mercado, and drizzled with olive oil, makes for an excellent breakfast.

Kale chips: Now that kale has gone mainstream, you can find it everywhere. Kale chips have become a recent (and favorite) addition to my suitcase because (1) they don’t require refrigeration and (2) they help to ensure I get my daily servings of vegetables.

Vegetable juice: Although not my personal fave, vegetable juice also provides the much-needed daily servings of vegetables, is low-calorie and much cheaper than kale chips.

Sugar-free dried meat sticks. I like these because they travel well in purses, beach bags, and glove compartments and don’t require refrigeration. They’re also great between meals to keep blood sugar stable. I’ve tried several brands but my rule of thumb is to read the labels carefully: Dried meats are notorious for being packed with sugar, so always, always, always make sure to select only the ones without sugar.

Dried edamame: These crunchy nuts are packed with protein and make a great pre-workout snack.

Almonds & sunflower seeds: Nuts and seeds are a traveling must for me. I’ll measure out one- or two-ounce servings, place them into snack-sized baggies, and keep them handy in my purse in case dinner or lunch is delayed (also great snacks for beach days).

Stevia: If they stopped making stevia, I would seriously have to reconsider whether I could go on with life. Although some people find this sweet herb has an unpleasant aftertaste, to me it’s pure heaven. I put it in my morning cacao powder, add it to club soda + lime to make a refreshing soda-like beverage, mix it with lemon + water for a healthy lemonade… I could go on but I think you get it. Fortunately, stevia is everywhere these days so you can get it in powder, tablet, packet, or liquid form and use it instead of the harmful artificial sweeteners and sugar provided by most restaurants.

Whole grains. It can be extremely difficult to find whole grains (or even ones that aren’t filled with sugar such as the standard continental breakfast oatmeal). I travel with packets of instant oatmeal, whole grain crackers, and rice cakes to make sure I’m not eating refined carbs and causing unpleasant blood sugar spikes and cravings.

Beverages: Go down any supermarket aisle and you can find a multitude of options to add a little sum-sum to your water – everything from green tea packets, to electrolyte powders, to fruit flavor drops. I’m personally not a big fan of chemicals but a lot of these options are much better for you than soda. And besides, you’re on vacation… why not live a little?

So you’re probably thinking…

Are you crazy? I’m not packing all that stuff!

Well, you don’t have to. Even I don’t pack all this stuff all the time. For a recent trip to Costa Rica, for example, I packed everything since I wasn’t sure what would be available. For weekend getaways, I tend to just pack my breakfast and snack foods. It’s your trip – make it work for you and keep it healthy!

How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate, you will undertake a variety of presentations, in a variety of circumstances. Most of them are business-like in nature, focusing on the needs of the tenant, the property buyer, or the property seller.

Get to the core issues

Each of these groups has unique property requirements and points of focus. It is their needs which must be identified and clearly addressed in the sales pitch or presentation. Many successful commercial real estate agents will have a preliminary meeting with the client or customer so that they can identify key issues and concerns. This allows the commercial agent to return to the client or customer in a few days with a well structured proposal that addresses the needs of the customer or client.

It’s all about THEM, not YOU!

When you design an investment or commercial property proposal for presentation, the document should be 90% regards the property and the client. Frequently you see this rule disregarded or broken with the proposal document being largely regards the agency and the personnel.

Rarely is the property transaction a simple matter of the property rental, the property price, or the physical elements of the property. In most situations, it is the combination of these things which must satisfy a fundamental equation of need that the customer or client has. In getting them to this fundamental need, you will identify an element of pain that the customer or client is experiencing. This is what you focus on.

They are Experienced

It is interesting to note that many clients and customers in commercial real estate are reasonably comfortable in circumstances of business negotiation. This means they may not tell you the total big picture or all the elements of a transaction until they are ready. Conversation and connection in the presentation process should be biased towards the client or customer using well selected questions which allow the agent to interpret the body language coming from the client’s response.

When you believe you have identified the element of clients pain related to the property transaction, you start to magnify the problem in terms of today’s market, then offering stable and logical solutions that your real estate agency business can provide to the client or customer. Invariably, the commercial real estate transaction in today’s market centres on financial matters such as:

  • High vacancy factors
  • Other property choices and chances are available
  • Underperforming leases
  • Unstable cash flow
  • Unstable tenancy mix
  • Tenanted conflict
  • Escalating building operating costs
  • A shift in demographics which exposes the property to a unstable future
  • Mortgage payment pressures
  • Age of the asset
  • Needs for refurbishment or extension
  • Competition properties attracting tenants away from the subject property

This type of information and interpretation requires your intimate knowledge of the local region. This is by both property type and by location. This is the higher value that you bring to the customer or client. Being able to distinctly define local market awareness is a major advantage in any commercial real estate presentation or sales pitch. You must be seen as the best knowledgeable solution to the problem.

From Experience

After many years working exclusively in the commercial real estate industry, I found that my unique skill was in market knowledge and the display of that in any formal presentation to the client. Being able to talk about market trends and financial performance in a solid and sound way will help the client understand that they need your services. Coupling that with your extensive and relevant database of enquiry clearly shows the client that they need you.

A fantastic commercial real estate presentation is a function and balance of lots of things. Things like:

  1. A well established pre-planning process is a strategic advantage for every commercial real estate presentation. Strategy is everything in commercial real estate. Every property presentation requires planning.
  2. Making sure you are asking the right questions of the client or prospect. Plan your questions relative to the subject property so that you help the client think about opportunity and changes that are possible.
  3. Using your market knowledge and giving good answers. Have a variety of market facts and trends available to call on. Feed them into your presentation; facts are always useful. They can also be used as a channel to direct the discussion when the client is forcing you to justify your approach or your experience. Confidence and control must be the basic rule of your property presentation. When the client takes control of the presentation you have lost.
  4. Using your experience in the marketplace so that you are telling relevant stories of success in similar properties. Stories of other properties will always interest of the client.
  5. Making sure your personal presentation is optimised for the connection in the presentation. It can be that you are using a combination of the proposal document, the marketing document, and computer slide presentation, samples of your database, photographs of the subject property projected on to slides, and photographs of comparable properties projected on to slides.
  6. Choosing the placement of people at the table or strategically positioning them in the room is always important. Much has been written about where you should sit relative to the client. The basic rule is adjacent to the client rather than across an area of barrier such as a table. Being within arm’s reach allows you to pass documentation to the client at the appropriate time. Documentation should not be provided to the client until you are ready for them to review it; otherwise it is a distraction of their attention.
  7. Make sure that your proposal is simple and yet well directed with a clearly defined outcomes of sale or lease. Many proposal documents in commercial real estate are much too wordy so the main messages are lost and not clearly defined. The best proposals are less wordy and more illustrative. The best balance of a commercial real estate proposal is a mixture of 25% words, 25% pictures, 25% graphs, and 25% white space. This becomes a document which is clearly read and understood.
  8. Combine good illustrations and photographs of the subject property into the proposal or presentation so that any lengthy descriptions or paragraphs are broken up. This will keep interest of the client in your documentation.
  9. Make sure that your marketing package is value for money, and yet reaching the target market that the property serves or needs to attract. All too often, we see examples of generic marketing by the commercial real estate agent to the broader and less specific marketplace. Showing the client that you clearly know and will attract best the target market will always help your conversion to a potential listing. Be very specific about the target market and how you will reach it.
  10. Ensure that your commission costs are fair and reasonable for the location. In most circumstances, discounting your commission should not be an option as it will make you poor and remove or detract from your enthusiasm for the sale or lease. ‘Cheap’ means ‘cheap and without focus’ and the client needs to know this. The property deserves better. You are not cheap because you are the best and you do a great job. A fair commission is always paid for a positive property outcome.
  11. Always provide testimonials that are relevant to the property transaction. When you combine relevant history and details of happy customers into your presentation you will make the client feel more comfortable.
  12. Always display clear and sound market knowledge that impresses the client relative to their property. This will include extensive awareness of comparable properties that compete with the subject property. You should be able to talk solidly about property prices, comparable rents, rental growth, returns on investment, changes to the future demographics of the area, and properties in the immediate precinct of relevance. In many cases, it pays to walk around the local area just prior to any property presentation so that you bring immediate and clear pictures of the precinct to the discussion. Many times this has been of significant advantage in my presentation processes. Talking about neighbouring properties localises the client and their thought processes.
  13. Come up with a variety of ways to serve the client. Innovation and relevance will always impress. In today’s market, this is relatively easy considering the marketing opportunities and tools provided by the internet & technology. Be proactive in your property promotion processes so that the listing for sale or lease stands uniquely different in its marketing campaign from the others in the area. This does not have to be expensive to the client or to your office, given that the internet and electronic technology is historically cost effective. In today’s market, the traditional methods of publicising the property in the property pages of the local paper, is becoming much less important in the marketing campaign. Most commercial property buyers and tenants research the market from the Internet first and foremost.
  14. Almost every property agency will say that they have excellent communication and connection skills to support the property promotion process. From experience, this is largely incorrect and typically the average commercial salesperson or leasing person will exercise ordinary communication channels with the client. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. They expect and deserve frequent updates on the promotion of the property even when nothing is happening or when the adverts are producing little response. When a property campaign is not producing the results, it is important that you act or adjust with alternative recommendations and strategic changes to the promotional campaign for the client to consider. Rarely would you get to the property campaign correct in the first week. It is in this time that you must consider fine tuning the promotion process so that the target market is being reached in a timely and effective way. This means that every property enquiry generated from your promotions must be tabulated so that you understand what channels of marketing work most effectively with the property in question.
  15. When addressing the client or the client group in a formal property presentation, the answers and information you give must be delivered well and provide relevant solid property knowledge, in a practiced and professional delivery. Any sales or presentation tools relative to the property must be relevant and you should know how to use them with exceptional skill. Fumbling and faking information is not tolerated by the client.

So there you have it. These are some of the key skills to use in a commercial real estate presentation. Whilst many real estate agents think that they are the best alternative in the market to promote sell and rent commercial property, the reality is they do not get the message across when it matters most in front of the client.

To be the best commercial real estate agent in your area, you must show that you are just so, and you do this in the first 10 minutes of the time that your presentation takes. The client will have formed an opinion by then.

Be prepared to walk away from any demands for discounting that the client or customer demands. In this market they need a great commercial real estate agent providing a great job; discounting is not an option. Show pride in your services and walk away when the client demands discount in marketing or lower commissions.

If Technology Is Effective in the Classroom – Why Do Some Students Dislike It So Much?

The effectiveness of technology use in the classroom has become a controversial issue. While many teachers and students feel that it’s best to use technology because it enhances teaching many others feel that it causes too many challenges and that it is a waste of time. If technology is as effective in the classroom as many teachers believe it to be; why do some students dislike it so much?

In order to objectively respond to this question, 3 articles were examined. 2 out of the 3 relate how the use of technology in the classroom frustrates students while the last one translates the thoughts of students who feel that technology in the classroom has responded to their need. So the issue is not that technology is not effective but rather that some teachers need to be mindful about technology use in the classroom and others need to be trained in order to properly use technology to teach so that students do not view technology as obstruction learning but as an enhancing tool.

After summarizing the 3 articles that have been reviewed we will be able to prove that there are 2 groups of students who claim to dislike technology in the classroom: Those who are improperly exposed to it by their teacher and those who did not give themselves enough time to familiarize themselves with it. We will then be able to get to the logical conclusion that those same students would appreciate the value of technology in the classroom if their teachers used it properly. Let us first summarize the articles that we are referring to.

The article “When good technology means bad teaching related that many students feel that teachers and professor use technology as a way to show off. Students complain of technology making their teachers “less effective than they would be if they stuck to a lecture at the chalkboard” (Young) other problems related by students include teachers wasting class time to teach about a web tool or to flab with a projector or software. When teachers are unfamiliar with the technological tools, they are likely to waist more time trying to use them the technological software that is used the most according to students is PowerPoint. Students complain that teachers use it instead of their lesson plan. Many students explain that it makes understanding more difficult “I call it PowerPoint abuse” (Young). Professors also post their PowerPoint Presentation to the school board before and after class and this encourages students to miss more classes.

Another problem reported in the article with the use of technology in the classrooms is that many schools spend time to train their staff about how to use a particular technology but it does not train them on “strategies to use them well” (Young). The writer believed that schools should also give small monetary incentives to teachers and professors to attend workshops.

In an interview made with 13 students, “some gave their teacher a failing when it came to using Power Point, Course Management systems and other classroom technology” (Young ) some of the complains were again about the misuse of PowerPoint’s and the fact that instructors use it to recite what’s on the scale. Another complaint was that teachers who are unfamiliar with technology often waste class time as they spend more time troubleshooting than teaching. The last complain mentioned is that some teachers require students to comment on online chat rooms weekly but that they do not monitor the outcome or never make reference to the discussion in class.

Similarly, the article “I’m not a computer person” (Lohnes 2013) speaks to the fact that students expectations as far as technology is concerned is very different. In a study done with 34 undergraduate university students, they advise that technology is an integral part of a university students life because they have to do must everything online from applying for college or university, searching and registering for classes, pay tuition and that in addition to being integrated in the administration, etc. technology is also widely used to teach and is valued by higher education.

Those students, however, feel that technology poses a barrier to success as they struggle to align with the ways in which the institution values technology.” A student explains that technology is used in her freshman year to turn in assignments, participate in discussion boards and blogs, emailing the professor, viewing grades and for a wide range of other administrative task including tracking the next school bus. This particular student whose name is Nichole says that she does not own a laptop but shares a family computer. She has a younger brother who also uses the computer to complete his school work so she consequently has to stay up late to complete assignments. She states “technology and I? We never had that connection” (Lohnes). Nichole dislikes the fact that her college requests that she had more contact with technology than she is conformable with. Nonetheless, she explains that as she started doing those school online assignments so frequently she came to realize that they were not that bad.

One of her issues though with technology is that she had come from Puerto Rico about a year prior entering college and that she never had to use the computer so much there. The articles relates that other college students like Nichole have admitted that they are “reluctant technology users” (Lohnes) The article wants to explain, in essence, that although most people would expect that college students prefer technology and are already familiar with it,” that assumption is faulty” (Lohnes).

On the other hand, the article “What Screenagers Say About… ” High school age students were asked about what they thought of technology but most expressed liking it. One of them said about PowerPoint: “My history teacher did a good job with Power Points. He would put them online, which made for really great reviews.” (Screneagers, 2011) Others expressed how technology was really who they are and that teachers should understand for example that when they text in class, they are not being rude but that they have gotten used to multi tasking. Another student invites teachers to not be afraid of technology “Teachers shouldn’t be afraid of technology. Understand that it’s how we live our lives. So don’t just push it out. Learn to cope with us and how we work.” (Screenagers, 2011)

Another student however, expressed how she prefers simpler technology that her teacher is comfortable with rather than high tech that the teacher does not manipulate well “The most important thing for teachers is to be comfortable with what they’re using. It doesn’t have to be super high tech. My math teacher used a projector, and it was one of my favorite classes. Then I would go to this other class where the teacher used Power Points and the SMART board, but I didn’t get any more out of it because she wasn’t comfortable with the technology” (Screenagers, 2011) Students spoke about their appreciation for virtually all types of technology used in the classroom. Another said “One of my teachers used Skype. That’s face-to-face interaction. If I had a problem with some math problem I was working on, I could take a picture of it and put it on the Skype screen. She could see where I was making my mistake. It really helped.” (Screenagers, 2011) The bottom line is that those high school students wanted to let teachers know that they really like technology and that it is already a great part of their daily routine but that it had to be used properly in order for them to enjoy it.

Similarly, they summarize a few things that they dislike as well. Among the list, they said: reading on the computer, paying a lot for an online textbook and the fact that they often forget everything else when they get caught up with using technology.

Nonetheless, they had much more positive things they liked in technology like for example that some teachers would text a question for them to think about before class, so if they do not know they answer, they would communicate with classmates to discuss the possibility for the answer before class. This allows them to go to class prepared. They also like using Skype, emailing their teachers instead of going to speak to them in person. They also enjoy discussion boards. The advice they would like to convey to their teachers is to make sure that they are comfortable with whatever technological tools they are using, to give them more freedom to use the good sites and those in the middle range when they are surfing the net using school computers and to understand that technology is part of their lives.

After summarizing those articles, we can see that the students mentioned in Youngs, 2004 dislike technology because their experience with it was not satisfactory. In other terms, a group of students dislike technology because some teachers are not mindful about technology use or they need additional training. For example, some students are frustrated because they feel that instructors waist their time when they are not properly trained to use the technological tools. Others disliked the fact that some teachers had PowerPoint presentations which were either not meaningful or they would just read whatever they wrote and add no additional comments. Those examples are called “bad teaching (Young, 2004) and they are in fact terrible examples that teachers should not follow because technology is not meant to help teachers do the least work or to adopt poor teaching practices. Somme students related that PowerPoint was widely used by teachers so they even call it PowerPoint abuse.

I can relate to what is being expressed by those students. I observed a Teaching Assistant teach a grammar class recently. He purchased a device to allow him to monitor the screen without touching the computer. He was able to walk throughout the class while changing slides. It all looked so impressive but despite all of this show, students were left so confused at the end of the lesson. When they asked questions, he went back to the slide that had the grammar rule and read it over to the class. The PowerPoint was a duplication of the textbook chapter. The same examples of the book were used. At the end of the course, he felt that he had done a great PowerPoint when in fact, it was not meaningful. It was a copy/paste project from the text book to the screen. This example shows that we need to use common sense when using technology. When teaching grammar, a teacher has to be able to come up with examples other than those in the book, you have to write on the board, have student practice what they have learned. PowerPoint use was a real bad idea, in my opinion, for teaching this course. It was just not the right technological tool for the lesson.

Students in that class may decide that they hate Power Points because it confuses them more while the issue is not with the use of PowerPoint but instead with the teacher’s poor choice of technology. The point I also want to make here is that teachers may sometimes be unaware of their improper use of technology. This is why, as educators, we sometimes need to ask students for their feedback so we may make corrections where needed.

We can then conclude that those students dislike technology as a result of improper technological use by teachers, and also because many teachers do not attend workshops or training sessions to help them obtain a broader knowledge of technology since they are so busy. Like suggest (Youngs, 2004) and (Lohnes, 2012), those same busy teachers would have attended those trainings if there were given an incentive. In the article “Technology Standards in a Third-Grade Classroom” (Kovalik, 2001), it is related how a study done on a 3rd grade class of 25 showed that students were properly using technology. There is no indication that those students dislike using technology. The article also mentioned how the teachers were highly trained because the Ohio board pays incentive to teachers to participate in technology training which teaching them not only how to use technology by teaches them strategies on when to use them.

Boards from other states should consider doing the same thing to ensure that their teachers are responding to the technological need of their students and that they are teaching them according to the standards. The Ohio school mentioned above met the standards as far as technology is concerned because of the technology coaching received by the teachers. If teachers learn how to properly use technology in the classroom, it will be a less frustrating experience for them and for the student who will less likely dislike technology since it will meet its purpose to enhance teaching.

The other groups of students who dislike technology are those who were not exposed to it for long enough. The College Freshman, Nichole advises that she was not exposed to so much technology while she was in high school in her home country; consequently, it seemed to be a burden to her to have to need a computer to complete most of her school assignments but also to interact with her classmate via a discussion board. What is interesting though is that even though she claimed to dislike technology so much, she advised that once she started to spend so much time using it, she realizes that it is not so bad. Even though it is likely that some people do not like the telephone and texting so much, the computer and some website have become part of most people daily routine. In Nichole’s case, she does not own a laptop and has to wait for her turn to use the family computer which means that she has no attachment to this media because her use of it is controlled. However, once she gets to own her own computer, it is a guaranteed that her view of technology will change.

I returned to school after about 12 years. When I was in college the 1st time around, nothing was electronic but when I contacted USF to apply, they told me that everything was online. At first, I asked why everything was online but once I got used to it, I started to understand the value of having the convenience to do a lot of things without having to live my home.

Therefore, Nichole will certainly not continue to dislike technology that much once she gets more familiar and more attached to it. The fact is that she stated that she started to realize that it was not that bad once she started doing so many assignments. She came to the conclusion that the computer was not yet a friend but that it was no longer an enemy; it became to her an acquaintance.

With this understanding, depending on the background of some ELL students and depending on whether or not they were exposed to technology in their home country, they may not like technology at first but this should not be a sign that they will never come to appreciated it. As teacher, we will need to allow them time to familiarize themselves with it while we continue to properly use it so that we do not advocate against it or involuntary send missed information about its true value.

On the other hand, the last article testifies to the fact that the new generation is technology driven and that when used properly, they benefits from it in the classroom, there are several examples of how teachers originally used technology to teach which are appreciated by students. What should the conclusion be then?

We have proven that technology use is effective in the classroom but that teachers need to take some actions in order to make this tool useful to students. It is necessary that they received some training if they lack it, and like a student suggested in the Screenager article, they should refrain from using complicated tools if they are not sure about how to use them. It’s best to properly use something much simpler that they are familiar with like a high school student suggested.

In addition, it is important for teachers to screen the countless technological tools and to research them before introducing them to their teaching. Should they test some that do not work well, they have to stop using them and seek one that is more appropriate. Most importantly, technology is not always the answer this is why teachers should be balanced when using it. If it is required that we use the board and chalks to help students better understand, this is what we should do. Doing so, we will ensure that more students appreciate the use of technology in the classroom for what it is worth.

Real Estate Investing – Part III

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A Bit of Valuable Theory First: Vince Lombardi Would Approve!!

Cause and Effect Relationships

We are familiar with “cause and effect” relationships. A particular “cause” or action will result in a predictable “effect”, reaction or response.

  • “Laws of Physics” tell us that if you throw a tennis ball at a wall, you can accurately predict the direction that it will bounce off the wall.

That is an example of a “cause and effect” relationship within earth’s gravitational fields.

Further, if you change the “angle of incidence” (the angle at which a thrown ball hits the wall) then, you can accurately predict the direction that the ball will take as it bounces off of the wall.

The angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection, and predictability exists.

  • “Laws of Human Response” tell us that if I use hurtful words or actions toward you, then I can anticipate that I will probably receive a predictable response in retribution from you.

If I don’t wish to receive that type of negative response, then I should be careful not to use hurtful words and actions toward you. We call that human nature.

While Laws of Human Response may be less predictable than the Laws of Physics (people can develop good acting skills), a good real estate negotiator learns to control his or her emotions in order to guide the negotiations to a desired result.

  • “Laws of Financial Markets” tell us about the “cause and effect relationships” between “Supply and Demand”.

If demand for a scare commodity increases, but the supply or availability of that commodity decreases, you can anticipate an increase in it market price.

Qualifying Demand Factors:

1.Demand is influenced by purchasing capacity. When dealing with “demand”, only those with purchasing capacity should be considered. Point: If I would love to own one, but can not afford to buy one, my vote does not count as part of “effective demand”.

2.Demand is influenced by availability of financing. If I could afford to buy one with a loan with an interest rate at 5%, but interest rates just increased to 6%, then my “desire to own” remains strong, but only at a lower price that would allow me to finance its purchase within my capacity to service debt. Restated: My “demand” no longer counts at the previous price.

3.Demand for real estate is influenced by the attractiveness of the stock and bond markets. A large part of demand for real estate that caused the “Real Estate Boom of 2004 through 2007” was due to the wholesale rejection of the stock market and the bond market.

Point: Many people lost 40% or more of their retirement account that was invested in the stock market. Many flocked to real estate for fear of continued losses in those other markets. A “feeding frenzy” pushed prices up rapidly. Too many dollars were blindly chasing too few attractive properties.

Qualifying Supply Factors:

1. Supply Responds Slowly. It takes a while for supply for real estate to respond to an increase in demand. You can’t just leave the printing press going over the weekend at the US Mint to create more money. That is an option that is only available to the federal government.

Point One: Observation: To create a new apartment complex, it takes a year or so to acquire the right property, get plans approved as a building permit, build the complex, then rent it out until it’s full. It does not happen over night. This can cause a substantial increase in market price for an existing good looking apartment complex.

Point Two: My prediction: When the market finally stabilizes for apartment complexes, we will see a horrendous increase in “cost” of generating that new complex. Systems development charges, cost of building materials, and financing costs will boost the “finished price” of that property.

Suggestion: Consider buying existing “pre-owned” apartment complexes right now. You will look like a hero later!

2.Political Considerations Influence Financing. The federal government has the capacity to regulate interest rates. The easier it is to finance the acquisition of an income property, the more appeal it will have.

Question: Why isn’t this a “supply-side” factor?

Answer: It is. The easier it becomes to buy a property, the more available property becomes to buy.

However, it is also a demand-side issue in that it is now possible to obtain a new mortgage with ten year fixed interest rate.

Observation: Ten year fixed rate financing allows the investor to neutralize the “cost of capital” issue during a recession.

Suggestion: Take advantage of available new financing.

3.Tax Law Changes Influence Appeal. Recently the federal government provided real estate investors with the opportunity to increase their tax shelter from real estate. Cost Segregation depreciation allows such an opportunity.

Understanding Changes in the Real Estate Financial Markets

These “Laws” or financial cause and effect relationships have recently become substantially altered, and thus have become far less predictable.

  • Change One: Artificial Supply-Side Pricing. Real estate prices are being adversely impacted by a large number of “forced sales” caused by defaulting borrowers being forced to sell under pressure to sell, and foreclosure sales by lenders in need of a quick sale.
    • Situation: A borrower is unable to make the mortgage payment, and has attempted to sell the property.
    • He discovers that it will not sell for enough to pay off the existing loan. He then notifies the lender of the situation.
    • The lender must then decide which course of action to take.
    • If the borrower has not been declared to be in default, the lender frequently ignores the borrower’s plea for relief.
    • If the borrower has been declared to be in default, then the lender will either:1. agree to accept less than the full loan balance in satisfying the loan (a “short sale”); or,2. take steps to foreclose on the property, then resell it quickly to recoup the amount of the loan.
    • Result: Discounted sale prices resulting from “short sales” and “foreclosure sales” impact all property values and force prices down. You will have difficulty attracting a buyer who would pay more for yours than they could pay to acquire a very similar property offered through a short sale or foreclosure priced property. Even if you are successful in seemingly avoiding the impact of “forced sale” discounts, the appraiser who the buyer’s lender will use to value the property for loan purposes will include those low priced forced sale. The buyer will not be allowed to borrow as much, and your sale may be in jeopardy of closing.
    • Observation: Until the lenders sell off all of their REO and the number of short sales is substantially reduced, the value of real estate will continue to be adversely impacted.

“Real Estate Foreclosures 101”

What is a “Short Sale”? A “short sale” occurs when the lender agrees to accept less than the full loan balance as repayment of the existing debt.

Why Would The Lender Agree To Accept Less? Once a borrower defaults on a loan, the lender must form a course of action that would result in the least loss to the lender.

Would the short sale be less costly than a foreclosure resale of the property on the open market? If so, agree to the short sale and be done with it.

Observation Concerning Short Sales: As a buyer offering on what will be a “short sale”, there is never a quick decision to allow the deal by the lender.

The lender’s decision making process causes the potential transaction to travel through several departments of the lending entity before a decision to accept the short sale is reached.

It has been known to take months for the lender to finally agree to a short sale. By that time, the buyer lost interest in the property, and has walked away by the time that the lender approves the short sale.

Lenders are slow to agree to lose money, even if money is being lost with each passing day.

What Happens to the Lender When the Lender Forecloses? The lender’s financial statement will be immediately and substantially altered. The previously performing loan (an asset held as a “Loan Receivable”) is converted to a less liquid asset known as “Real Estate Owned” or “REO”.

Lender’s Financial Consequence of the Foreclosure: The lender will experience several negative consequences as a result of the foreclosure.

    • The lender is often the only bidder to show up at the foreclosure sale.
      • At the foreclosure sale, the lender makes a bid equal to the balance of the debt. If no other bidders bid higher, then the lender receives title to the property.
      • If the lender receives title to the property, then the dollar amount of the previously performing loan is subtracted from “Loans Receivable” and the value of the property acquired through foreclosure is added to a category known as “Real Estate Owned” or “REO”.
      • The lender is well equipped to make loans, but much less equipped to hold real estate in lieu of a Loan Receivable.
    • In order for the lender to get out of real estate ownership and back into the lending business, the lender must resell the foreclosed property on the open market.
    • Probable Result: If the prior borrower could not escape foreclosure by selling the property, then the lender probably can’t do any better. This is where the lender’s bigger problems begin.

1. “Mark to Market” While the previous “Loan Receivable” and the “Real Estate Owned” are both “assets” owned by the lender, the bank auditors will soon require the lender to periodically mark down or reduce the reported value of the REO to reflect what it would sell for in a quick cash sale. Any action that reduces the value of the bank’s assets will directly reduce the lender’s “Shareholder’s Equity” (the bank’s net worth).2. “REO Reserves”. In addition, the auditor will require the bank to create a “Reserve for REO” or a cash fund set aside to cover the performance of the REO asset.

This reduces the amount of available funds that could be used to create new loans and generate more revenue for the bank.

Summary: Both of the above actions will reduce the bank’s ability to generate more revenue and increase Shareholders Equity.

Lender’s Decision Point: Consequently, the lender may conclude that it is less expensive to avoid a foreclosure and to accept less than the full repayment of the loan balance by taking a short sale, and being done with it.

Foreclosure Sales: What Happens

Nature of Sale: An All Cash Auction: The trust deed foreclosure sale is an all cash auction conducted by the trustee at a published date and time at a specified public place. Typically, the only all cash buyer to show up at the foreclosure sale is the lender who brought about the foreclosure. The lender bids in the amount of the loan, and receives title to the property.

  • As the lender starts to convert more of its performing asset base (performing “mortgages receivable” on the asset side of the balance sheet) to “REO” or real estate owned, the bank auditors will force the bank to set aside available cash (that could have been used to make another loan), and hold it as a reserve to cover the REO portion of the bank portfolio.
  • A double hit has just occurred:
    • 1. The bank’s Operating Statement no longer has a performing mortgage loan, and now has instead a piece of real estate “REO”(Hint: banks are good at making loans and collecting monthly payments, but are not very good at holding real estate that must be managed and tenanted to prevent damage and further loss of value to the property); and,
    • 2. The bank has to use a portion of their available cash to set up a cash reserve to cover the REO.
      • Too much of that action, and bank auditors will write down the value of the REO property and increase the size of the REO reserve…both actions will reduce the “Stockholder’s Equity” (net worth of the bank). If it gets too thin, the Federal Reserve could close the bank.
  • Example Two: The bank-owned foreclosed properties are soon sold at substantially reduced prices compared to other “non-foreclosure” properties in the same neighborhood.
    • The reduced sale price creates lower neighborhood values. Those most recent low sale prices form the “comparable sales” data base that the appraiser will use when appraising your “for sale” property for a buyer’s lender.
    • Your appraised value is reduced, and the entire process will continue to spiral so long as there is a bank-owned REO that is there to compete for the limited number of buyers for your property.
    • SOLUTION: Only when the last REO is finally sold will the artificial reduced prices cease to exist. Buyers may love this environment, but everyone else is perplexed by artificially lowered prices.

FINALLY… Part Three

THE QUESTION: WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?

THE ANSWER: If you can complete the following steps, then I may be able to help you sort out a course of action that you should take.

Part One: Where Am I Now?

Define your current position in terms of money

1.Complete a detailed “Financial Statement” of your current position.

a.The Asset Side:

i.What assets do you own?

ii.What is the current value of each of those assets? (ignore debts owed on each asset, since they will appear on the Liability Side of the financial statement)

Note: Organize the Asset Side of the financial statement in the sequence of “most liquid or cash-like assets” at the top of the list, and “lease liquid or hard to liquidate assets” at the bottom of the list.

Now total the value of assets listed on the Asset Side.

b.The Liability Side:

i.To whom do you owe money?

ii.How much do you owe each creditor?

Note: Organize the Liability Side of the financial statement is sequence of “shortest term debt” like short credit lines at the top and “longest term debts” like mortgages at the bottom.

c.Your Net Worth – The difference between what you own and what you owe is your Net Worth.

2.Complete a current “Income Statement”

a.List all incomes that you receive

Note: Separate various incomes by category: Vocational Incomes, Investment Incomes, other incomes

b.List all expenses that you incur

Note: Separate various expenses by category: Vocational expenses, Investment Expenses, and Living Expenses

c.The difference between Total Incomes per Year and Total Expenses per Year is the Surplus Available For Investment

Part Two: Where Do I Need to Be? (a retirement goal)

Project your living expenses to your desired date of Financial Independence

1.What will be your Survival Number?

This is the minimum monthly income required to cover all living expenses. ALWAYS KNOW YOUR SURVIVAL NUMBER!!!

2.How much of that Survival Number will be covered with “other Retirement Funds”? (e.g.: Social Security, pension fund distributions, etc.)

3.How much of a Short Fall appears to exist?

a.This is the amount that your real estate portfolio much cover on a dependable monthly basis.

Part Three: How Long Will I Be Willing to Work to Get There?

1.How long am I willing to work to amass my retirement portfolio?

2.Does it appear that my vocational employment will continue that long?

3.What happens if it doesn’t?

Compare Auto Insurance and Save Big Time

In the past, before the internet revolution, most people found themselves going with whatever their car insurance broker recommended. If you wanted to compare auto insurance, it usually took a long time going through the phone book and calling up various companies to check on their rates. Things have changed.

With the emergence of the internet, auto insurance comparison has become much easier, and with a few clicks of your mouse you can quickly and easily see a variety of quotes online. Taking the time to compare auto insurance prices is imperative now days, and it can also save you a great deal of money.

Compare Auto Insurance Prices

Of course one of the main things you want to do is compare auto insurance prices. Check out various companies and see what kind of insurance rates they have to offer you. Some people are paying very high car insurance rates; however, if they only took the time to do some auto insurance comparisons, they could save hundreds of dollars a year. Never be content with the first quote you get, and go on to see what kind of deals other insurance companies can offer you.

Compare Auto Insurance Plans Too

Not only should you compare auto insurance prices, but you want to compare the plans that they offer as well. When you compare auto insurance, one company may seem to have the better deal price wise, but when you check out the plan, it may not offer everything that the more expensive plan offers. When you are comparing insurance, be sure that the plans offer similar coverage when you compare the prices.

Know Your Needs When Doing Auto Insurance Comparison

When you are doing an auto insurance comparison, it is important that you know your car insurance needs. Know whether you need full coverage, comprehensive, collision, or if you just need liability insurance. If you are prepared and know what you need out of your insurance, you will be able to get a more accurate quote. Remember, not only do you want a great price on your insurance, but you also want to know that it covers all of your needs.

As you can see, taking the time to compare auto insurance is a great idea. Now days, with the internet available, it will not even take you very much time to sit down and get a few quotes to compare. So, what are you waiting for, why not see how much money you could be saving on your auto insurance today and take a few minutes to compare auto insurance prices.

Budget Travel – Food For Thought

While food is not the most expensive item that makes up a family travel budget, if you plan ahead for your trip in other areas (plane fares, hotel bookings, car rentals if applicable) there is no reason why you can’t squeeze savings out of your dining budget  while not compromising the elegance of your trip.

You can of course simply avoid regular fare restaurants and eat at fast food outlets or buy food in a grocery store and dine in. For the most part, this is NOT why people go on vacation however, so the following advice is geared toward saving where you can and still be able to eat in decent restaurants when desired. So let’s pretend you are visiting a Theme Park and use some common sense before you enter their gates.

Do NOT rush out of your room and head for the Park! Stop and eat breakfast at a family friendly place while on the way. If you are staying ‘on-site’ there probably are numerous chains outside the gates and easily within walking distance of the Park.  Kids meals will probably only cost $3-$4 and will fill everyone up for less than $25. This way, you are not entering the Park and having to immediately feed the kids overpriced and non-nutritious corn dogs and sodas at exorbitant prices. Of course as parents we want to indulge our kids at times so this does not mean you can’t buy cotton candy or ice cream later. It just means the kids will be less likely to want it  an hour into the day.

The same is true when you leave. Don’t fill up on concession food at 4pm and then go out to dinner at 7pm. No one will eat all of their food at dinner (including adults) and you will have wasted an evening of dining. If you do eat at the Park, then eat out later at a fast food restaurant or bring food back to the room to snack on. Another favorite idea is to order a pizza to be delivered to your motel room. Most motels have lists of delivery places for you either in the room or near the front desk. For probably $20 or less (tip included for driver) you can order a filling pizza rather than spending twice that much at Denny’s or similar type chains.

Better yet, don’t eat much after 2pm and then plan on a decent meal that evening, though I would still suggest a family place where kid’s meals don’t cost as much. Save your night of fancy dining for a day when no one has eaten recently. The most important thing however is to fill up BEFORE you arrive at your destination. You’ll find the stomachs don’t yearn for cotton candy for hours this way and instead of spending $60-$80 on food inside the Park, you’ll likely spend less than half that on the kids and end up saving $20-$30 as a result of smart planning.

High Technology and Human Development

Some basic premises – often fashioned by leaders and supported by the led – exercise the collective conscience of the led in so far as they stimulate a willed development. The development is usually superior but not necessarily civilized. The premises in question are of this form: “Our level of technological advancement is second to none. Upon reaching this level, we also have to prepare our society for peace, and to guarantee the peace, technology must be revised to foster the policy of war.” Technological advancement that is pushed in this direction sets a dangerous precedent for other societies that fear a threat to their respective sovereignties. They are pushed to also foster a war technology.

In the domain of civilization, this mode of development is not praiseworthy, nor is it morally justifiable. Since it is not morally justifiable, it is socially irresponsible. An inspection of the premises will reveal that it is the last one that poses a problem. The last premise is the conclusion of two preceding premises but is not in any way logically deduced. What it shows is a passionately deduced conclusion, and being so, it fails to be reckoned as a conclusion from a rationally prepared mind, at least at the time at which it was deduced.

A society that advances according to the above presuppositions – and especially according to the illogical conclusion – has transmitted the psyche of non-negotiable superiority to its people. All along, the power of passion dictates the pace of human conduct. Whether in constructive engagements or willed partnerships, the principle of equality fails to work precisely because of the superiority syndrome that grips the leader and the led. And a different society that refuses to share in the collective sensibilities or passion of such society has, by the expected logic, become a potential or actual enemy and faces confrontation on all possible fronts.

Most of what we learn about the present world, of course, via the media, is dominated by state-of-the-art technology. Societies that have the most of such technology are also, time and again, claimed to be the most advanced. It is not only their advancement that lifts them to the pinnacle of power, superiority, and fame. They can also use technology to simplify and move forward an understanding of life and nature in a different direction, a direction that tends to eliminate, as much as possible, a prior connection between life and nature that was, in many respects, mystical and unsafe. This last point does not necessarily mean that technological advancement is a mark of a superior civilization.

What we need to know is that civilization and technology are not conjugal terms. Civilized people may have an advanced technology or they may not have it. Civilization is not just a matter of science and technology or technical infrastructure, or, again, the marvel of buildings; it also has to do with the moral and mental reflexes of people as well as their level of social connectedness within their own society and beyond. It is from the general behaviour makeup of people that all forms of physical structures could be created, so too the question of science and technology. Thus, the kind of bridges, roads, buildings, heavy machinery, among others, that we can see in a society could tell, in a general way, the behavioural pattern of the people. Behavioural pattern could also tell a lot about the extent to which the natural environment has been utilized for infrastructural activities, science and technology. Above all, behavioural pattern could tell a lot about the perceptions and understanding of the people about other people.

I do believe – and, I think, most people do believe – that upon accelerating the rate of infrastructural activities and technology, the environment has to recede in its naturalness. Once advancing technology (and its attendant structures or ideas) competes with the green environment for space, this environment that houses trees, grass, flowers, all kinds of animals and fish has to shrink in size. Yet the growth of population, the relentless human craving for quality life, the need to control life without depending on the unpredictable condition of the natural environment prompt the use of technology. Technology need not pose unwarranted danger to the natural environment. It is the misuse of technology that is in question. While a society may justly utilize technology to improve quality of life, its people also have to ask: “how much technology do we need to safeguard the natural environment?” Suppose society Y blends the moderate use of technology with the natural environment in order to offset the reckless destruction of the latter, then this kind of positioning prompts the point that society Y is a lover of the principle of balance. From this principle, one can boldly conclude that society Y favours stability more than chaos, and has, therefore, the sense of moral and social responsibility. Any state-of-the-art technology points to the sophistication of the human mind, and it indicates that the natural environment has been cavalierly tamed.

If humans do not want to live at the mercy of the natural environment – which, of course, is an uncertain way of life – but according to their own predicted pace, then the use of technology is a matter of course. It would seem that the principle of balance that society Y has chosen could only be for a short while or that this is more of a make-believe position than a real one. For when the power of the human mind gratifies itself following a momentous achievement in technology, retreat, or, at best, a slow-down is quite unusual. It is as if the human mind is telling itself: “technological advancement has to accelerate without any obstruction. A retreat or a gradual process is an insult to the inquiring mind.” This kind of thought process only points out the enigma of the mind, its dark side, not its finest area. And in seeking to interrogate the present mode of a certain technology according to the instructions of the mind, the role of ethics is indispensable.

Is it morally right to use this kind of technology for this kind of product? And is it morally right to use this kind of product? Both questions hint that the product or products in question are either harmful or not, environmentally friendly or not, or that they do not only cause harm directly to humans but directly to the environment too. And if, as I have stated, the purpose of technology is to improve the quality of life, then to use technology to produce products that harm both humans and the natural environment contradicts the purpose of technology, and it also falsifies an assertion that humans are rational. Furthermore, it suggests that the sophisticated level that the human mind has reached is unable to grasp the essence or rationale of quality life. In this regard, a peaceful coexistence with the natural environment would have been deserted for the sake of an unrestrained, inquiring human mind. The human mind would, as it were, become corrupted with beliefs or ideas that are untenable in any number of ways.

The advocacy that is done by environmentalists relate to the question of environmental degradation and its negative consequences on humans. They insist that there is no justification for producing high-tech products that harm both humans and the natural environment. This contention sounds persuasive. High technology may demonstrate the height of human accomplishment, but it may not point to moral and social responsibility. And to this point, the question may be asked: “In what ways can humans close the chasm between unrestrained high technology and environmental degradation?”

Too often, most modern humans tend to think that a sophisticated lifestyle is preferable to a simple one. The former is supported by the weight of high technology, the latter is mostly not. The former eases the burden of depending too much on the dictates of the natural environment, the latter does not. The latter tends to seek a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment, the former does not. Whether human comfort should come largely from an advanced technology or the natural environment is not a matter that could be easily answered. If the natural environment is shrinking due to population growth and other unavoidable causes, then advanced technology is required to alleviate the pressures to human comfort that arise. It is the irresponsible proliferation of, say, war technology, high-tech products, among others, that are in need of criticism and have to stop.