Handicap Betting – Get the Most Out of Your Sports Bets by Using Handicaps

Handicap betting has earned tremendous fame recently among sports bettors worldwide. It allows punters people to bet on matches in which the odds are stacked in favor of one team or player essentially giving them an advantage. A similar process is used in golf, where amateur players are given a handicap of between one and thirty two, meaning they are admitted that number of additional shots when compared against a professional player, who would play from a handicap of zero. This signifies that in essence, the pro would begin with a score of negative sixteen if a player had a handicap of sixteen, for instance. This means that in a real golf game, where the players all play from zero, the wagerer can apply a handicap of their choice to players and their odds will change accordingly.

Among the sports where Handicap Betting is commonly used, the most popular tends to be football (soccer), though it is also commonlplace among all team sports generally. Typically, it is challenging to add handicaps to races unless they are scored according to the racer’s position rather than their overall finishing time.

For instance, in a Premiership football match between Newcastle and Chelsea the odds may be nearly even, perhaps slightly in favour of Newcastle due to a homefield advantage. However someone who wishes to bet on the game could allot Chelsea a handicap of two, which would in effect mean that for that punter, the match would begin with Newcastle already two goals behind even though the actual score would, of course. be nil – nil. Because of this, the odds would now be in Chelsea’s favour for that particular gambler. If Newcastle were to win by three clear goals they would win the match, though if they only won by one goal then Chelsea would win the match in terms of the handicap since they were given a two goal advantage. In turn, if Newcastle won by two goals then the match would be a draw. Some bookmakers would return the stake placed on games that end in a draw due to handicaps, but some establishments also offer «Handicap Draw» odds, which determine odds for games that finish as a draw.

This manner of wagering can make the betting experience more entertaining, as well as allow better odds on games in which the bettor is sure they can can correctly prediect the results. For instance in a match where a well-ranked team plays a team in a lower division, plainly there would not be a very good profit to be made by backing the clearly better team. Nonetheless if the smaller club were given a handicap, they could still bet on the better team winning but receive much better odds for it, though the higher-ranked team would then have to win by a higher margin for the bettor to still win their wager.

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Last Supper Question – Who Attended the Last Supper and Why?

What is luxury? Certainly, luxury has a lot in common with rarity, and while the world’s finest mechanical watches may be made in editions limited to a thousand, a hundred, thirty pieces, a work of art is absolutely unique and so acquires value in the eyes of collectors. Damian Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull titled «For the love of God» cost £14 million to make and was put on sale at £50 million, but even more remarkable in terms of acquired value was the Codex Leicester, or Codex Hammer, thirty-three drawings by Leonardo da Vinci which were bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for $30 million.

So, if luxury has something in common with rarity, then the original DaVinci Last Supper enables everyone to experience the ultimate luxury in art, because this work is absolutely unique, and will never be moved to another museum for a temporary exhibition. It is indissolubly tied to the walls of the room in which it was painted, the refectory of a Dominican monastery in central Milan. Santa Maria delle Grazie.

It is common knowledge that this Renaissance Last Supper is in a bad state, but it is in better condition now than it has been for almost five hundred years. Leonardo painted it from 1494 to 1498, and his finished work sent shock waves through the Italian Renaissance and the world of art at that time. But just a few decades after it had been finished, it began to deteriorate. Often, people think that this was caused by an experimental technique invented by the artist that went wrong, but this is not actually the case.

In the German city of Erfurt, the Catholic cathedral has a large fresco depicting Saint Christopher, in excellent condition, recorded as having been painted «a l’huile sur le mur prepare au moyen d’une couche d’huile et d’une couche de blanc de plomb». This corresponds to the preparation of the wall on which the Last Supper was painted, a very fine plaster mixed with an oily substance, possibly wax, and then coated with a layer of white lead. The technique therefore was not an invention by Leonardo, but a method that had been described previously, in particular, by Cennino Cennini in the 14th century. In fact, according to Cennini, the traditional fresco painting technique, using pigments direct on wet plaster, was the safest, but had the disadvantage of restricting the range of colours that could be used. Cennini in fact recommended the use of pittura a secco, namely painting onto dry plaster, for the final touches alone. Leonardo had evidently heard about the techniques used in northern Europe, and decided to use the oil-based technique for his fresco. This was also important for his desire to work slowly on the painting, giving him sufficient time to develop the gradual shading or chiaroscuro that was essential in his style.

Unfortunately, the wall was subject to rising damp, and the situation was made worse by the fact that on the other side of the wall were the kitchens, where the food eaten by the monks in the refectory was prepared. In the years following the completion of the work, the moisture in the wall repelled the oily ground, and it began to crack, fragmenting the painted surface. In many areas, the individual pieces of plaster between the cracks took on a concave shape, like a series of tiny shells, within which dirt accumulated. During the innumerable restoration operations that have been performed over the centuries, the painting was scraped with spatulas and metal brushes in an attempt to force the plaster back into shape, but this just damaged the edges of the individual concave chips, exposing the lead white ground. Layers of resin and glue were painted over it in an attempt to stabilize the layer of pigment. On several occasions, painters were actually summoned to bring the work back to its original glory by painting over it. By 1969, many scholars believed that there was nothing at all left of Leonardo’s original work, but just accumulated dirt and the paint added during successive repainting operations.

Only in 1977 did the first trial areas of cleaning demonstrate that it was possible to remove the extraneous layers and reach Leonardo’s original pigment. And this is what was done in the operation that lasted from 1978 to 1999.

Another event in the history of this painting proves that its survival up until today is something of a miracle. In August 1943, the refectory received a direct hit from a bomb dropped in one of the three air-raids planned to accelerate the Kingdom of Italy’s Armistice (signed on 3rd September). The blast completely destroyed the roof and one of the long walls of the refectory. The two end walls – one with the Last Supper, the other with Montorfano’s Crucifixion – survived, and the paintings remained intact because they had been protected by a wall of sandbags from floor to ceiling. It is no surprise, considering its turbulent history, that its conditions are closely monitored. Visits are limited to 25 people every 15 minutes, which is why pre-booking is necessary.

Before entering the hall itself, visitors pass through a series of glass-encased rooms that delicately remove excess humidity and dust by means of a pressure differential. In other words, you are hoovered, but very gently. Inside the refectory, there is nothing. Nothing except Leonardo’s painting, and Montorfano’s on the opposite wall. At this point there is another analogy with a valuable mechanical timepiece. You can only appreciate its value if you understand something of its incredible complication. Just as to the eyes of a layman, superficially there doesn’t seem to be all that much difference between a Piaget and a Swatch, the Last Supper runs the risk of leaving a visitor with the feeling «is that it?» Worse, a lack of information leaves ample space for writers – most famously Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code, but many other even worse authors who wanted their share of this dubious glory – to reinterpret the painting as they wish. And so, according to Dan Brown, the feminine-looking figure to the left of Christ is not actually one of the twelve Apostles, but Mary Magdalene. This immediately prompts a Brown sceptic such as myself to ask, so where did the twelfth disciple go? Out buying the pizzas, or just late for dinner?

The truth of the matter is that the painting is a true grand complication. There is so much meaning, on several different layers of complexity, that any of the modern reinterpretations pales in comparison. The Last Supper question is one that has never been comprehensively answered.

The first level of meaning is the scene itself. Leonardo chose an exact moment in the Gospel narration of the Last Supper. «In truth, I tell you, one of you will betray me…» says Jesus, who is shown in the act of speaking. This revelation surges outwards amongst the Disciples who react, each in his own way, coalescing them into four groups of three. Christ has an expression of resigned sadness and at the same time, an assured and regal poise. He gestures to the wine with his right hand, to the bread with his left, instituting the fundamental Christian ritual of the Eucharist. The movement of the Disciples isolates Jesus, leaving Him alone at the centre of the composition. He is the only person to have a geometrical shape, an almost perfect equilateral triangle. He is also the only person to wear robes in red and dark blue. This is a tradition that descends from Medieval traditions in painting and stained glass.

The most expensive pigments to make were deep blue and bright red, requiring pulverized lapislazzuli and gold respectively, and so over the centuries, these pigments were used only for the most important figures in the composition. Leonardo painted the Apostles after having made countless drawings, some of which have survived in his notebooks. One preparatory drawing shows the Apostles labeled with their names. In fact, each Apostle had acquired a sort of standard appearance throughout the history of art up until that point, so that a person could recognize them in paintings and frescoes. In the same way, saints and martyrs were often depicted with certain objects that left no doubt as to their identity, such as John the Baptist’s rough animal-skin clothes, St. Peter’s keys, St. Catherine’s wheel and so forth. And so we know who attended the Last Supper – namely the identity of the Apostles – from the facial expressions that Leonardo gave them. On the far left, Bartholomew is rising to his feet, incredulous. James Minor is seated, trying to attract Peter’s attention with a hand on his shoulder. Andrew has both hands in the air, a gesture still used in Italy today to mean «it wasn’t me.»

The next group of three is complicated. Judas is a dark figure, leaning back from his position close to Jesus and over the table, so that his head is actually the next, the fourth, in the sequence. He is clutching a bag of money in his right hand, while his left is about to take a piece of bread. In fact, Jesus would shortly reveal to John that the traitor would be he who would dip his bread into the same bowl as Him. Judas is distanced from the other Apostles by his dark, shadowed complexion, and by an apparently broken nose. Behind his back there is a knife held by a mysterious hand – more on this in another article.

Peter, the next in the sequence, is leaning in the opposite direction to Judas, so that although he is sitting next to Andrew – they were brothers – his head is very close to John the Evangelist. This is because, in the Gospel narration, Peter is asking John to ask Jesus who the traitor would be. John was the youngest Apostle, which was why he was traditionally shown without a beard.

Then, on the right of Jesus, there is Thomas, pointing upwards with a finger. This gesture was familiar to monks during the Renaissance: as meals in the refectory had to be taken in silence, in order to indicate God there was a conventional sign, thumb and index finger extended, the others closed. James Major is next, in a green robe. Philip is gesturing with both hands towards his heart, saying in tortured self-doubt, «Could it be I?» Matthew, the only educated man amongst the Apostles, is debating the matter, hands outstretched towards Jesus while he himself is deep in conversation with the other two Apostles in the right-hand group, Thaddeus, and lastly Simon.

Leonardo brought about many small revolutions with this painting, advances that may seem insignificant to us in our scientific and relatively unspiritual age, but that at the time were momentous. Firstly, he completely broke with tradition as regards the position of Judas. Painters before Leonardo made sure that Judas was very different to the rest of the Apostles, often by placing him alone, on our side of the table, or by making him the only one without a halo. Leonardo puts him together with the rest, one of the twelve, part of the overall sequence, and none of his figures have a halo. Secondly, this is probably the first painting in which an artist has tried to depict the variety of human psychology. Each Apostle reacts in his own, unique way, and Leonardo depicts this using all the methods possible, facial expression, bodily position, and above all, the gestures of the hands. Third, the question of perspective. Leonardo was a master in this fundamental Renaissance rediscovery, and in this painting he both broke the rules, and used it to add extra significance to the work. He broke the rules, because when you are standing the in the refectory, the perspective seems wrong. The upper edge of the tapestries ought to follow straight from the ceiling moulding in the real room, but they don’t.

This is because Leonardo wanted to paint the fresco at a raised level, both so that it could be seen by all the monks in the room, and because the Gospel describes the Last Supper as having taken place in a room on an upper floor. If he had used perspective correctly, we would have seen nothing of what is on the table, and the table itself would have obscured most of the figure’s bodies. So he painted the scene with a perspective view that would be correct if the observer were at a height of about twelve feet. The lines of perspective, the tapestries and the ceiling beams, converge at a vanishing point that is just above Jesus’ right eye. On his temple. «Tempio» in Italian. The word has the same double meaning in both languages, and it succinctly indicates that Christ is the originator of the new faith, the new church.

Leonardo took his revolution a step further. (I should warn you that from here on, I am voicing my own ideas. You decide). The parallel between the twelve Apostles and the twelve signs of the zodiac had been noted prior to Leonardo, but no-one had ever expressed it in paintings, partly because the Church didn’t approve of the contamination of doctrine with astrology. So Leonardo put in some subtle clues. Andrew, third from left, two hands in the air, Gemini, the twins, double sign. Judas, the fourth in the sequence, symbolizes a word that had had three meanings from Ancient Greek times: karkinos, the crab, tumours, and the zodiac constellation. Cancer. Then Peter, fiery temper, a great mane of hair: Leo. And then, the sixth in the sequence, a pale, delicate, feminine face: Virgo, of course! On the other side, Thomas, doubting Thomas, whose raised finger alludes (as well as to the Divinity in the sky) to that fact that later he would say that he would not believe until he had placed his finger into the wounds on Christ’s hands, is in the position of Libra, the sign of the zodiac hallmarked by perennial doubt. Second from last, Thaddeus is holding his hand in a cup shape. Aquarius, the water-bearer.

It’s true, not all the figures have such clear astrological attributes, but I think that there is enough to corroborate the theory. But, one may ask, why did Leonardo want to risk getting into trouble again with the Church for his unorthodox approach to subject matter? Basically, Leonardo didn’t want to paint just a moment in time, important though that moment was. He also wanted to incorporate the world view corresponding to the Neoplatonic philosophy developed by Marsilio Ficino and his Florentine Academy. His room becomes man’s universe, with Christ at the centre, and numerological symbology used to symbolize the elements, the divine creation, the zodiac and the planets.

Another revolution: Leonardo saves Judas. I mentioned the knife that is behind his back, another traditional element in Last Supper paintings, indicating man’s hostility to the traitor and suggesting the fact that Judas would die soon after. While at first glance, Peter seems to be holding the knife, the impossible anatomical position of this hand shows that in actual fact, the hand grasping the knife belongs to no-one at all, and that Peter is restraining it from its murderous action. Leonardo seems to be saying, by placing Judas with the rest of the Apostles, that there is an element of evil in all of us, and that we have to accept it just as we accept death and suffering. We cannot excise evil from the human race by executing a sinner. Hands off Cain, many centuries in advance.

This, then, is one interpretation of this extraordinary painting. While I’ve taken two hours to write this article, Leonardo spent four years on the painting, and there’s more, much, much more to be told…

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Five Fun Facts About Quarterback Vinny Testaverde

Vinny Testaverde had a long career in the National Football League and ended up playing for seven different teams. He suited up at quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets (twice), New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, and Carolina Panthers. By the time he retired, he had accumulated quite a bit of mileage. An interesting career like that had to have included some unique situations.

Here is a look at five interesting facts about Vinny Testaverde.

#1 – The first touchdown throw of Vinny Testaverde’s career came in the third quarter of a 44-34 loss to the New Orleans Saints and went for 37 yards to Mark Carrier. Then, 274 TD passes later he threw the last touchdown pass of his career in the fourth quarter of a 31-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers in 2007, while he was playing quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. That was a one yard touchdown pass to Jeff King.

#2 – In all of Vinny Testaverde’s years in the league, when it comes to what team did he throw more TD passes for, it’s a tie. He threw a total of 77 touchdown passes for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets.

#3 – No player caught more touchdown passes from Vinny Testaverde than Michael Jackson. Jackson was Testaverde’s teammate on the Browns and then on the Ravens after the team relocated to Baltimore. During that time he and Vinny teamed up for 29 plays resulting in touchdowns.

#4 – Similar to number two, in all of Vinny’s years in the league, when it comes to what team did he throw the most touchdown passes against, it is once again a tie. He threw 23 TD passes against both the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.

#5 – Testaverde played for a number of teams over the course of his long career and along the way compiled 275 touchdown passes, a very impressive number. He started out with the Buccaneers whom he threw 77 touchdowns passes for. He then went to Cleveland where he threw 47 before the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens for whom Vinny threw another 51 touchdown throws. He then went to the Jets for the first of two stints for whom he threw a total of 77 TDs. He also threw 17 touchdown passes for Dallas, one for the Patriots, and then five for the Panthers before hanging it up for good.

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The Favorite Receivers of San Francisco 49ers Steve Young

Steve Young had a great career that saw him play collegiately at Brigham Young University before entering pro football, first with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL, and then with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League. Following his retirement, Young would be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, thanks in large part to the great games he played in and the great receivers he threw touchdown passes to.

Who though were his favorite receivers during his career?

The top five players catching touchdown passes from Steve Young were:

#5 – J.J. Stokes caught 13 touchdowns thrown to him by this the San Francisco 49ers number eight.

#4 – One of the quarterback’s favorite targets was tight end Brent Jones who took in 22 TD receptions from him.

#3 – Third on the list is longtime 49er John Taylor who caught 23 touchdown passes during his career from Steve Young.

#2 – Controversial receiver Terrell Owens caught the second most touchdown passes from Young with 24.

#1 – All time great Jerry Rice sits atop the list by far though, having caught an amazing 85 touchdown passes thrown to him by Young.

Steve Young had a great career that included success both running and throwing the ball. He was also successful in the wins department, including the big games like Championship Games and Super Bowls. He was a great quarterback indeed, just ask Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, John Taylor, Brent Jones, and J.J. Stokes.

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How To Perfect The Notre Dame Football Game Day Experience

Everyone knows that there is only one priority on a Fall Saturday.. that is to enjoy college football all day long. Every fall Saturday is special but there is nothing like a full Notre Dame gameday experience. There are many different techniques to enjoying the sacred Notre Dame gameday experience but I am going to share with you how I believe it is done best.

It all starts on Friday night with the preparation. This is when you go to the store to get all the food and drinks for tailgating. During this trip it is crucial that you get all of the necessities such as burgers, brats, dogs, snacks, and beer. Once you have everything you need it is time to pack up the coolers, grill, tables, chairs and some games. Pack those suckers all up and make sure they are ready to roll in the morning. The next step is to have the gameday outfit all picked out so that there is nothing to worry about in the morning. This outfit should include all your ND apparel and of course your favorite jersey. Representing your favorite team is a rule that cannot be broken.

After that is all situated it is important to fill up the car with a full tank, that baby has to be all ready to roll in the morning. Once everything is ready to roll for the next morning it is time to get some rest for the big day that follows. In the morning you need to get up early and get on the road as soon as possible so you can beat traffic.

Next stop: South Bend, Indiana. Once you arrived on campus is when people differ in their routines. Many people decide to immediately set up shop and start tailgating right away. I respect those people and I usually opt to crack open a few cold ones right away myself but I hold off on the full blown tailgate for a couple hours. I prefer to walk around the campus for a couple hours and soak in the scenery and energy of everyone in anticipation of the big game that is upcoming. That is something my dad taught me and we have continued to do it for as long as I can remember. It just gives the full gameday experience in a way that you can’t capture anyway else.

A few of the main stops include Touchdown Jesus, The Golden Dome, the famous church on campus, and the Grotto all of which are incredible. I will always stop in the church and at the Grotto. The church is beautiful so it is always nice to see that. I’m also always amazed with the Grotto.

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Bankruptcy: An NFL Player Trend

Football fans are beginning to get the fever as a new season approaches. I know I am. Why? Because I have heard from a very reliable source that the GIANTS are going all the way this year. Seriously, they are. It’s going to happen.

I love watching football. I love cheering for the GIANTS every week. As a lifelong GIANT fan, some weeks are tougher than others, trust me. But what happens each week on the gridiron is not so important as what happens off the field.

We all know that the NFL is that it is a multi-billion dollar business. The players, coaches and owners all make quite a bit of money, many make millions of dollars each year. What you may not know is that bankruptcy and football go hand in hand.

Some Sad News

The Wall Street Journal reports that 1 in 6 NFL players will go bankrupt a mere 12 years after retirement. Those are some serious numbers when you break them down further.

We’ve said before on this blog that bankruptcy can be a good and positive thing when used as a financial planning strategy. But sometimes bankruptcy is the only option that a person has because they obtained a large amount of money quickly and did not receive any financial counseling, or they hired a financial planner and chose to ignore the warnings given to them.

The Causes

Most NFL players make a lot of money during their playing years, but they do not have very long careers. Also, many players are very young when they begin receiving large paychecks. In many cases, these players have never been exposed to this type of money. It is understandable that they may go a little crazy.

However, once their playing years are over, they have a choice. They can try and live off of their retirement for as long as possible, or they can save money while playing and get a job after retiring. Unfortunately, most players try and live off of the money that they made while playing.

If you combine the facts (a person that is no longer generating income but living an expensive lifestyle) it adds up to zero money saved for retirement – which is why most NFL players wind up bankrupt within twelve years of retiring. This doesn’t have to happen.

Whose Fault Is It?

Sure, you could blame the players for being financially irresponsible. A large paycheck also comes with a huge responsibility, and it comes with the ability to hire the best financial planning talent, agents, etc.

A player could choose to ignore the advice and spend all of his money, or he could choose to invest a large portion of it for retirement. So, the argument goes, it’s all about individual choices.

On the other hand, an argument could be made to place some blame on the NFL. The organization and the owners make money because of the athletes, but do they have an obligation to worry about the players after their playing days are over?

A NFL Responsibility

Some people would argue, yes, the NFL should take care of its players. Some people would go so far to say that the NFL has a duty to care for the players. If so, how far does that duty extend? Well, if you read the NFL Collective bargaining agreement you would think that the NFL is doing more than its fair share, yet 1 in 6 players will have to file for bankruptcy protection. The numbers just don’t add up.

Could the players either save more money or maybe make better financial decisions? Sure. Could the NFL provide more financial planning advice or programs to those players who are interested in learning? Sure. Should the NFL offer courses in bankruptcy? I don’t know. Should both parties be working harder to solve this problem? Absolutely.

A Matter of Skill

Even in these cases, filing for bankruptcy can give players that have not saved any money a way to wipe the slate clean. However, it’s difficult to rely on one skill that no longer applies to any jobs available – most NFL players do not have a backup career plan. This puts players in a tough position (one that is unfortunate as well).

The Solution

Better overall financial planning while part of the NFL in addition to honing another skill after retirement are two of the things that could save some NFL players from bankruptcy.

In the interim, the NFL could seek to improve the overall financial lives of its players. The NFL could offer more options to those players interested in learning more in the areas of education, planning and career counseling. When 1 player out of 6 needs to file for bankruptcy protection, something is wrong. It’s a problem worth looking into.

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"Three Gifts" Is Mary Flinn’s Third Gift of True Love to Her Readers

Who wants to read a book about happily married people? Well, if the author of the book is Mary Flinn, I do. It would be easy to dismiss «Three Gifts» as a romance novel, but it is more than that. Few romance novels tell the story of what happened after the wedding; we’ve all heard jokes about how once they were married, Prince Charming made Cinderella clean the castle and the fairy tale was over. But Mary Flinn isn’t afraid of depicting marriage, and she doesn’t write fairy tale romances. Her lovers may be a step above in how they treat one another, but they serve as a beautiful example of what marriage can be if people truly care for one another and do not let the world and other people, or petty jealousies and fears, interfere with their most important relationship.

The two main characters, Chelsea and Kyle, were first introduced to readers in Flinn’s novel «The One» as high school seniors who fell in love. High school romances don’t always last, and Kyle and Chelsea had their share of problems to overcome, but they succeeded so well that «Three Gifts,» third in the series, opens with them getting married. From that opening scene, readers are taken through the first year of Kyle and Chelsea’s married life as they dream about happiness, worry over finances, deal with family crises, and hope for children.

In these pages, there are marital worries, but there are also tender moments. There are ghosts from the past, such as Kyle’s father’s suicide that keeps rearing its ugly head, but there are also moments of healing connected to those sad memories. Beyond the excitement and romance, Kyle and Chelsea find themselves having to dig down deeper to find the love within them that will carry them through the most difficult times.

And for me, perhaps best of all, there are reappearances by a large supporting cast of characters-friends and loving family members-all of whom feel like my old friends from the previous two books «The One» and «Second Time’s a Charm.» The reader is swallowed up into the warmth of these loving people until he (yes, «he») feels like part of the family. Who says romance novels are only for women? Men would enjoy being part of this world, and male characters like Kyle and his best friend Glen, make a perfect entry point into it. After all, what man wouldn’t want a hot babe like Chelsea-especially when her hotness goes beyond her figure to her kindness, her inner strength, and her willingness to put her relationship before everything else? Kyle is a lucky man. What Flinn depicts is what marriage should be and I hope this book makes her readers aspire to such relationships. For me, the magic and wonder you feel when reading «Three Gifts» can be summed up in one sentence from Kyle’s thoughts, «Knowing he would never be alone again filled him with thankfulness.» We should all be as fortunate as Kyle and Chelsea, not only in their love for one another, but in how that love is supported by all those around them.

It is sad to think «Three Gifts» is the last book about these characters. Flinn has plans to write other books not related to this series, which I look forward to, but I hope one day she will allow us to reenter Kyle and Chelsea’s world again.

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Manchester: The Free Spirit City in Northwest England

Of all the cities of Europe, Manchester is the most progressive, and after London the most important city in England. Socially, there is an motivational energy in Manchester that is a driving force socially and culturally. Manchester has embraced the realities of the social changes of the 21st century in an open manner. This is so for two reasons. There are five universities and five colleges in Manchester, and the resulting youthful dynamic this provides has considerable influence. Yet this influence is in complete harmony with and magnifies the long tradition of the Mancunian propensity to challenge the status quo, to be the vanguard of social change, and in being pro-active in civil liberties and civil rights. This has created a very different English city in tone, demeanor, and appearance than what Americans may expect.

The Rebuilding

Because of extensive bombing during World War II, there was a considerable amount of rebuilding, and with the Mancunian penchant for innovation, instead of rebuilding the old they constructed buildings of contemporary design. So the look and feel of Manchester is that of a dynamic city that is definitely quirky, but also modern and impressive.

Madchester

This dynamicism has been a magnet for creative young artists and musicians from across Britain, and this has created a very active cultural climate in the fine arts and in the performing arts. Manchester is home of the ‘musical revolution’ that brought about the Hallé symphony orchestra and progressive music groups such as The Stone Roses, Oasis, Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets, James, and hundreds more. Manchester’s music revolution was even dramatised in the 2002 film, «24 Hour Party People», a 3½ star digital-video depicting the punk era through the late-’80s «Madchester» era. The music scene in Manchester is a source of local pride and is representative of the spirit of this great city.

Youthful Adventures

With such a large and vibrant uni student population in Manchester, that means a lot of uni student life, and nightlife. If you want a night out on any night of the week, that’s no problem. There is always a cheap club to get in with no dress code, packed pubs with happy hours, lots of cheap food including ‘takeaway’ (takeout food), and places to meet girls, places to meet guys, places to meet girls and guys, whatever you want.

First, head on down to the section of the city called Studentville. It’s the Oxford Road area and it is packed with pubs, bars less picky about dress style, and it’s active most of the time.

The Northern Quarter is in Manchester City Centre between Shudehill and Victoria Station. This is a bohemian and offbeat alternative lifestyle area with a lot of cafés, pubs, bars, music shops, art galleries, clothes boutiques, and emporiums. In the Northern Quarter you can find all sorts of weird, delightful, and wonderful stuff. The pubs and bars are located mostly on High Street and Oldham Street. There is also a bazaar in Affleck’s Palace, which use to be a department store. Some cafés morph into nightlife with various music venues.

The Gay Village is a unique centre for the large and flourishing gay community. The Gay Village is in the Canal Street and Chorlton Street area and includes Sackville, Whitworth, and Princess Streets. Across the canal is Sackville Gardens and Manchester College. Canal street is a pedestrian street lined with is lined with gay bars and restaurants.

Manchester Pride is a yearly ten-day LGBT event that takes place in mid-to-late August. It includes a Pride Fringe festival, film showings, a colorful parade that makes their way across the city and ending in the Gay Village, and a weekend celebration called ‘The Big Weekend’. This is a ticketed three-day program of outdoor entertainment in the Gay Village during the August bank holiday weekend. It all ends with a Candlelit Vigil in Sackville Gardens.

Free Things to Do

Here is a partial list of free things to do around Manchester.

  • The John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester at 150 Deansgate, south of Bridge Street, is unusual and beautiful on the inside. It is a masterwork of Victorian Gothic (or Neo-Gothic) architecture. There is a collection in the library of magnificent medieval manuscripts.
  • Museum of Science and Industry or MOSI, on Liverpool Road aims to make science and industry inspirational and enjoyable. Well, that depends what part of this huge museum you are in. However, there are trains you can actually ride, a Planetarium, and a 4D cinema (you do pay for a fairly old short film, about £5.50, which is generally rated as fair). The airplane display is near the end of the entire exhibit area and since the place is really big, don’t wear out too early because the planes are rather cool. Just quickly walk pass the boring story-board exhibits. Some people be delirious about this place. I don’t know why, but the planes, planetarium, and trains are def. There is a decent restaurant and coffee shop in the museum.
  • Heaton Park, four miles north of the city centre in Prestwich, offers huge green lawns with good views of Manchester, row boats on the lake, footpaths to walk through the woods, cycle paths as well, a beautiful and quirky 18th century mansion, Smithy Lodge, open to the public with period furniture, and a farm with farm animals and beekeeping to see.
  • Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road next to Whitworth Park at Manchester University is especially known for their collection of British watercolours and modern and historic prints. Of course there are also drawings, paintings and sculptures. There is a summer program of events to check out.
  • City Airport & Heliport‘s Art Deco control tower is open to the public, free, and you can observe the planes and helicopters landing and taking off. City Airport is on Liverpool Road in Eccles and is not to be confused with the Manchester International Airport on the other side of town.

Other places to visit include the Manchester Art Gallery, The Lowry, National Football Museum, Peoples History Museum, Manchester Museum, and Manchester Cathedral.

Like the rest of England, there are a list of festivals as well as local events in Manchester that occur during the warm months. These include such things as the Manchester Picnic, various displays and «thought provoking experiences» at Tatton Park, the Float-In Movie, Harry Potter Day, and Canal Festival. Check the local tourist office for details on festivals the occur during your visit.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tidbits

Those who live in the Miami area may – worried that they will be shunned from restaurants and country clubs – claim to be Dolphins fans, growing fins and living underwater in their spare time. But Miami, like any other city in a state with multiple football teams, likely has its fair share of Tampa Bay fans. Perhaps these folks once lived in Tampa Bay and moved to Miami. Perhaps they grew up watching Tampa Bay or know someone who played for them. Perhaps, they (gasp!) Would just rather be a Buccaneer than a Dolphin. For you Tampa Bay fans lingering in the city of Miami, this article is one you'll likely want to pirate.

Every NFL team has its fair share of history and trivia. But, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers possess some of the most interesting trivia around. Those who disagree will have to walk the plank.

Kings of the South : Tampa Bay is the only team in the NFC South to prevail as Super Bowl Champions. Though Atlanta and Carolina have reached the Super Bowl, they have yet to be victorious. New Orleans, on the other end of the spectrum, is one of a handful of teams to have never made it to the championship.

The Rich Get Richer : The owner of the Buccaneers, Malcolm Glazer, also owns the Manchester United, an England soccer team. The Manchester United is considered the richest sports organization in the entire world.

Oops : The 1976 Buccaneers are the only team in modern day NFL history to lose every single game in a season. Since the NFL went to a sixteen game season, in 1978, several teams have gone 1-15, but no one has gone 0-16. During the 1982 season, which was shortened by a strike, the Baltimore Colts had no victories, but they had one tie to accompany their eight losses.

He could go all the way … but he won't : The Buccaneers are the only NFL team that has never scored a touchdown on a kickoff return during a regular season game, a feat that has, up till the start of the 2006 season, been done over 1700 times by other teams. The Bucs have, however, scored five touchdowns on kickoff returns during preseason games.

A Pirate's Curse : No team that has lost a regular season game to Tampa Bay has ever won the Super Bowl. This, because of its years in existence, is known as the Tampa Bay Curse and haunts anyone who falls to the Bucs before season's end.

The Warm Weather Factor : Until the final regular season game of 2002, in which Tampa Bay defeated the Chicago Bears in Chicago, the Buccaneers had never won a game where the temperature at kickoff was less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Before beating the Bears, the Bucs had lost the twenty previous games played in cold weather.

Keeping it Real : Not only did the Bucs not do well in cold weather, but they also did do well playing on artificial grass. They once lost 27 games in a row played on artificial turf in outdoor stadiums. This losing streak spanned 15 years, from the 1980 season to the 1995 season.

Coach Potatoes : Tony Dungy, who recently led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory and served previously as head of the Buccaneers, has seen four people from his Tampa Bay coaching staff make it as head coaches. Herman Edwards, an assistant under Dungy, coaches the Kansas City Chiefs; Rod Marinelli, a defensive coach under Dungy, coaches the Detroit Lions; Mike Tomlin, a defensive coach under Dungy, coaches the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Lovie Smith, a linebackers coach under Dungy, coaches the Chicago Bears. The former Buccaneers coaches met most recently in the 2007 Super Bowl.

Tampa Bay might not be a team full of Super Bowl rings or hall of fame names, but it's an interesting team nonetheless, and one that some Miami fans can't help but cheer for … even if done quietly.

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Buying Bowling Equipment

You can walk into almost any bowling alley today and find a pro shop ready to sell you any type of equipment that you may need to take your game to the next level. My writing about the bowling industry has taken a bit of a turn towards the increasing cost to participate in the sport. One of the biggest costs that the avid bowler faces is the cost of bowling equipment.

The state of the game today, much like in many sports, has been greatly affected by technology. If you do not have the best equipment, you are at a disadvantage to your competition. This comes with a cost. It is not uncommon for bowling balls to cost over $ 200. Most avid bowlers have 3 or more bowling balls in their arsenal. A bowling bag for three bowling balls can cost you over $ 100, and top of the line shoes are in the triple digits as well. With these three essentials in bowling, you are looking at an $ 800 investment.

There are some ways that you can cut costs. Of course, there are some lower performance bowling balls that you can purchase. It is suggested that you speak with a coach or pro shop operator who might be able to analyze your game to determine the best way to select your arsenal.

In my opinion, buy everything off the internet, except for new bowling balls. You can buy the bowling ball off the internet as well, but the reason I don't is twofold. First, when you receive the bowling ball in the mail, you still have to go get it drilled. From what I have seen, this usually costs around $ 50. So, by the time you have paid for the ball online, shipping, and drilling, you can probably get it cheaper from the pro shop. It can cost more with inserts, thumb slugs, etc. Second, you can buy the bowling ball off the internet and have them drill it, but unless you are extremely knowledgeable about how to layout equipment. Me personally, I'm just very picky about my equipment and want to be there while it's being drilled.

Another great way to find some of this equipment at a reasonable cost is through Craigslist. Beware, any searches I have attempted usually come back with a majority of the stuff that has been in someone's attic since the 1970's, but you may find a diamond in the rough once in a while.

Buying new bowling equipment is one of my favorite things. I hope these ideals help you save as much money as they have for me, which allows me to buy even more new equipment!

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