Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You Know It's Your Last Day At Work When---

You hand a bank teller an envelope, and when she asks, "What's this?", you realize you just dropped the company's deposit in a mailbox.

A woman comes into the store, you turn to the other salesman and say, "I waited on the last fat ugly old lady. This one's your turn". Your boss is standing behind you. It's his wife.

While your boss is at lunch, you sneak in and look at some confidential information on his computer. You spill coffee on the keyboard. It shorts out.

You return from a week's vacation to find that you had scheduled *this* week as vacation, not last week.

You take a "sick" day. The next morning the boss asks you, "So, how was the fishing on Rock Creek yesterday?"

You wake up hung over and confused. You have a black eye and a swollen face. You're in jail. Last night was the company Christmas party.

5 Critically Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying for that Loan

by Bruce Hokin

If you answer these questions honestly and creatively, you may be surprised at the outcomes.
Ready to start? Let's go.

Question #1. Can I really afford it?

This basic question is sometimes overlooked. Some folks think that as long as there is some money left over from the pay each week or month that it's fine to put this towards another loan. Wrong! Unless you understand your true income, expenditure, savings goals and retirement goals, how will you know whether the money you have spare after each pay can really be applied to a loan?

Setting up your personal/family budget is necessary if you want to know what you can afford. These can be found by searching on the Internet.

There are certain basic laws that apply to spending whether you know them or not. Some of these are:
  • If you regularly spend more than you earn you are setting yourself up for lifelong poverty.
  • If you borrow to buy short-lived assets (e.g. TV, DVD, car, boat, etc) the interest and repayments can continue at the same rate long after the asset has lost its value. That makes them a very expensive item.
  • If you pay for items like clothes and other household items by credit card it makes the items a lot more expensive than you think. Especially when the interest rate is around 13 - 15% per year.
  • Credit card debt, while easy to acquire can be very dangerous if you only pay the minimum each month.
Question #2. Do I really need it?

Advertising today is so sophisticated that it makes you think there are so many things that you just cannot do without. However, just take a minute to ask yourself these questions:
  • Do I really need the updated car? Isn't the current one good enough?
  • Isn't our furniture still serviceable without resorting to an upgrade?
  • Do I really need all the latest electronic wizardry?
  • Are all the latest fashions a necessity? Am I really a better, more likeable person by buying them?
The purchase of these items is often made at the expense of your future financial well-being and overall happiness. Surely, the fleeting happiness of today's purchase wears pretty thin, compared to the worry and stress of over-extended credit and unpaid bills. It is best to try every avenue before resorting to a loan.

Question #3. How will this loan affect my financial future?

A loan can have an adverse effect on your financial situation through many ways. Some of them are listed below:
  • If you default on a loan it can make it much harder in the future to borrow again.
  • If you damage your credit rating your borrowing costs can increase.
  • Borrowing for an asset whose useful life is less than the life of the loan is a sure way to pay a lot more than the worth of the asset. Money that could have paid down credit cards or been used for savings.
  • Saving for things you need will put you in a better financial position and increase you borrowing potential for your mortgage.
Question #4. What else could I do with the repayment money?

If you were to decide to defer or not purchase the item on credit, imagine what you could do with the money?
  • You could put it in a savings account. Save for holidays, the car upgrade, kids college fees or home renovations.
  • You could start a retirement savings plan.
  • You could pay off the credit cards in double quick time. If their interest rate is higher than any other of your debts, pay them off first.
  • You could pay extra cash each month or fortnight off your mortgage.
  • Imagine how you'd feel once all the debt was gone and you were free to purchase those things you need for cash.
Aren't these ideas better than committing yourself to more debt and worry?

Question #5. Can I still purchase this item without resorting to a loan?

If there are items that you really need and you do not have the funds to pay for them, what else can you do? Try these ideas:
  • Do you have some other assets that are no longer being used? Sell them and use this money for your new purchase.
  • Do you really need 2 cars? Why not sell 1 and use that money for your new purchase?
  • What about increasing the 'cash-in'? You could apply for a higher paying job. You could get a second income. Maybe start a home based business on the Internet.
  • Why not cut down on your weekly or monthly living expenditures? Buy generic products, only buy necessities, bargain with sellers and commit to only buying items at less than list price.
These are just a few suggestions to help you think twice or even three times BEFORE you go to apply for that loan. Your financial future is at stake here. If at all possible live within your means and save for what you need. You'll be happier and more stronger financially as a result.

About the Author:
Bruce Hokin has designed a simple budget tool called "5 Steps to Freedom Personal Budget." It's based on his extensive background as a qualified, experienced accountant, manager, consultant and financial adviser. You can download this powerful budget assistant today and be on your way to financial freedom within the hour. It is available at his website www.freedom-personal-budgets.com.

Related Sites:
Naked Pinay Views, Friendly Remarks , Money Talks , Greeny Fashion, Marc Nand's Blog , Nodding Nanding's Journal, Amusing Disclosure , PC Operatis , Online Shopster
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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Best Advertising Ideas Are The Most Creative

It is trendy right now to cut back and try to spend less money in business. You have to have some sort of advertising. There are less expensive ways to do it than what you may be accustomed to. No big ad firm or flashy TV campaign for right now. You can come up with ways that will surprise people . When you do something just a little different then people pay attention. Isn't that the whole point?

Some of the best advertising ideas are in fact also some of the most creative. You will find that promotional advertising is a low cost way to promote your business and is very effective. The impact that your logo items make on your actual business will vary, as the more creative your advertising on these great items the more business you can draw from them. Using a catchy slogan, bright and unique logo and uniquely designed items can really draw in peoples attention and be extremely effective as a way of promoting your business.

Please remember a good sign is of extreme importance. Your sign out in front of your business is like the nose on the face of the business. It could make people turn away because of its disrepair or unprofessional-ism. Your sign could also be missing important information. Does it say what you offer. You could go for the nostalgic feel here too and put symbols of your business. A mini airplane or ship to represent travel agents for instance.

Another method of inexpensive advertising is flyers. Flyers designed and printed from your office computer are very inexpensive to make. Just buy some brightly colored hard stock to put them on and pass them out around town. Hang them on bulletin boards and stick them on peoples doors. Creative flyers offering discounts or with invites to an open house will get peoples attentionFeature Articles, especially if they printed on brightly colored card stock. Neon colors work best for this purpose.

Thinking outside the box is what makes a good business owner and a successful business. Keep the budget under control with these great advertising ideas guaranteed to impact your business in grand way with a very small investment.

Article Tags: Best Advertising Ideas, Best Advertising, Advertising Ideas

Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Becoming a Little Richer

Most of us want to be in the happy state of knowing each night as we drift off to sleep that we are a little bit richer than we were when we woke up that morning. Can you relate to that desire? Of course, you can. After all, the importance of money in our interconnected world grows each day. Yet, I still believe that if you hope to live a happy, balanced life, you'll be smart enough to consider that wealth is only an instrument to be used, not a god to be worshipped.

It is not just a man's domain, women are also responsible in balancing and managing the cash flow. So, if you wish to sustain balance in your life, retain a sense of deep joy, and successfully grow richer and richer over time, focus on enhancing two personal quantities: your cash flow surplus and your net worth. Strengthening the first will automatically beef up of the second.

The way to ensure that you grow a little bit richer each day is to focus on your cash flow patterns over just one day, then over one week, later over one month, and so on. If within each time segment you always make it a point to spend less than you bring in on a net basis (after tax and other standard deductions) then you will be transforming the unutilized portion of your net earnings into a personal store of capital; and you will be acting as a capitalist in the finest sense of the word!

Possessing a growing store of capital will empower you to further load up your net worth statement with fruitful or productive assets like bank savings, money market funds, bond funds, equity funds, property funds, rental-yielding properties, dividend-yielding stocks, and the like.

In essence, you will be choosing to exercise deferred gratification by giving up a portion of your capacity to consume today for the opportunity to possess far more (and to enjoy a lot more) tomorrow.

It is important to realize that a net worth statement has two parts, as does a cash flow statement. The net worth statement's twin components are assets and liabilities. In general, it is tempting to utter clich├ęs and say that assets are good and liabilities are bad. However, that would be an excessive generalization. Let me explain:

Assets can either be appreciating or depreciating ones. Obviously, appreciating assets like growing bank deposits, investment funds, appreciating properties, and high quality stocks are good. Depreciating assets, on the other hand, lose value over time. These may include your cars, computers and mobile phones. The wise course is not to avoid owning depreciating assets, the shopping dilemna is quite hard to settle, but rather to ensure you have much more in appreciating assets.

Liabilities also can be good or bad. Good forms of debt might include well-structured mortgages on second or third pieces of property that you earn rental from. Bad types of liabilities most certainly include all unpaid, regularly carried over credit card debt and loans.

It is a tremendous eye-opener to understand that unpaid credit card or loan balances are dreadful liabilities for regular people like you and me to have, but are wonderful assets for the banks and lending investors!

So ask yourself if your goal in life is to sacrifice your personal long-term financial health to bolster the bottomline of some faceless financial institution, or is it to manage your money wisely to ensure you grow a little richer everyday? As Confucius said: When prosperity comes, do not use all of it.


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Rich Contents:

Mizuno,
Calvin Klein, Nike, Moschino, Adidas, Puma, Converse, Dickies, Skecher, DKNY, Emerica, Kayland, Miss Sixty, Umi Kids, Tommy, Wee Box, Onex, Olukai, FlyFlot, Fratelli, Gravati, Daniel Green, Jumping Jack, Yellow Box, Nine West, Tatami, Coclico, , Via Spiga, Naturalizer, Ecco Golf

DON'T FAIL TO SEE:

Naked Pinay Views, Friendly Remarks , Money Talks , Marc Nand's Blog , Nodding Nanding's Journal, Amusing Disclosure , Cyber Tweaks , PC Operatis , Bytamin I , Cool Gizmodgets , Online Shopster
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pay Everyone Cash Advance Loans

For those people who are not wise in spending their money, they find themselves in the end in dire need of financial assistance because of their overspending. If you are also experiencing this kind of problem, then the best thing that you should to do is to have your cash advance loans to some of financial assistance companies like Pay Everyone.

Pay day loans the perfect solvent for financial problems. When ever you are strapped for cash, you can always rely on a quick and easy pay day loan, washing all those bills and worries away.

Payeveryone.net online makes it even easier for you to acquire a debt saving pay day loan. All you have to do is sign up for our free painless pay day loan search. It only takes seconds.

Within a day, if you are approved, you will be contacted and will discuss what kind of pay day loan that you should use. After deciding the right course of action and the deal has been finalized you will then receive your pay day loan usually by the next business day. It's that simple and easy! If you need the money, don't wait sign up now!

For more information, you can visit their website at www.payeveryone.net.

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House Insurance Rates

Take this advice for me if you are a homeowner which will help you to obtain what is best for your house. Homeowner insurance is required for you to insure the safety and protection of your house. You can not afford to loose your house without something that you can have after the unwanted event.

To look for the best place for house insurance, the perfect place for you to go is at House Insurance Rates in where you will find the best policy for your house. They are not an insurance company, so they bring house insurance rates to their visitors in a unique way. For one, they are not going to try to push their policies on you because they do not actually offer house insurance policies. Instead, they are a free referral service that helps match their visitors with quality house insurance companies that can offer affordable house insurance rates. Their insurer network includes some of the best homeowner's insurance companies in the business. Secondly, they do not just offer you one quote on house insurance rates, unlike many of their competitors. Rather, they offer you up to five free quotes on house insurance rates from various insurers. You see your quotes side-by-side to help make your comparison shopping simple and hassle-free. Their goal is to serve as a one-stop-shopping site for visitors looking for low-cost house insurance rates. Here are a few of the house insurance companies in their network:

• - Allstate
• - State Farm
• - Farmers
• - Farm Bureau Insurance
• - Nationwide
• - Safeco
• - AIG
• - AAA Insurance Company

For more information, you can visit them in their website at www.houseinsurancerates.com

Personal Cash Advance

I have one day to pay the loan in one of my previous posts. Paid days are small, short-term loans and loans with no credit checks of the consumer.

Think of a situation in which a payment of emergency in the hospital and you are too short, money in your account. Or say that this is the last date of payment of your school / college costs and you're in bankruptcy for the month as some other issues that urgently. In such situations, if you are asked, through a long process of reviewing your resources, bank accounts, etc., especially for a small amount of advance payments in cash then there's nothing more that irritating. Yes, friends are always the first to review its approach in such situations, but even for them it is not always possible to arrange things in one day!

In such situations like emergency comes to our help.

For more info about cash loan online, click the link.

Have Your Emergency Cash in Advance at Perfect Cash Advance

The holidays are almost over (it is really a problem), but there is still time for purchases that we need to draw on our credit cards to buy, especially for special gifts for our relatives. At the time, I believe myself to get a headstart of liquidity. I am a little tired of the money in those days, because I to save my premium pay within the framework of preparations for the changeover to a new society. Can I perfectcashadvance.com. This is a page with the mid-flow. The website of the defence of rights is the currency union urgent short-term funds to finance new and not the others. Interested in a cash loan?

It is so easy. Simply fill out the application form online, perfectcashadvance.com stress, then wait for approval. Once your application for a loan in cash advance payment is your liquidity position is willing Board on your account. Voila! Now you have your money with you. In regard to the requirements, you must meet the following conditions: You are in less than 18 years old, you have a regular income (a job), and you have a bank account deposits direct investment. Do you need to pay bills this holiday as I? Visit perfectcashadvance.com and the availability of their pre-flow.

For more details click on the following links: cash advance payday loan | pay day loans

No Debt Today Review

Management of the debt or the consolidation of debt means a loan to reimburse many others. This is often made to lower interest rates, guarantee a fixed interest rate of, or in a different way.

Not drown in your debt, the intelligent management of the place! Instead of reimbursing many different bills each month, it is possible the debt to help the systems to combine their monthly payments-an easy-to-manage bill per month. The consolidation of debt the possibility of debt with the help of a certified the repayment of debt representatives. Finally, you have someone on your side to negotiate with creditors and the harassment of the agencies.

It is a service of the debt consolidation nodebttoday.com name of the agency could help you. The service they provide is a big advantage for people who are in the debt. Climbing deep can take years and a fight when you try to do it. So many people do not even know where to start, and that can confuse, and in some cases, worse still, they were at the start. Since no debt now at your side is a safe bet with Chip. Not only can you get a free consultation for the moment, but can you the right way to all your problems with debt, and we hope to learn, remain outside the fair that the blame can lead to.

Take a tour at No Debt Today in their website at www.nodebttoday.com and learn more about credit card debt consolidation.

Get The Best Auto Loan Review

Buy a car is very simple. Glad you or you do not have enough money to the bank on your bank statement.
As long as they have done an offer to dealers, especially in a minute, they can pay in cash without a loan.

With a loan online, I guarantee you that you will receive many benefits that you are not a true between the dealers. If you receive a loan automotive industry, then you should see many things. The car that you receive should be the best. It should be further to your needs.

For those who do not have enough money, online car loan service www.getthebestautoloan.com that could be very helpful. If you get the best lending rates car, it is the best place for you. GetTheBestAutoLoan.com online is a loan used to a decline in interest rates compared to most dealers. It is a site that the intention, on the education of consumers who opt for the auto loans.

This site is best known for its car loans. There are three types of loans to getthebestautoloan.com, which are ready for the new car, loans for used cars and the refinancing your auto loan. In addition, it also rules on refinancing loans for new cars and old cars.

With these services, I think that will help you obtain a loan, the car to your income. Then go. These loans are very easy to use. You can order online for a price quotation on its website.

For more information, please visit http://www.getthebestautoloan.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Solve Your Bad Credit Loans Today

Would you like to have ideas about how to solve problems with your bad credit loans? If you do, then the best thing that you should do is to visit Bad Credit Offers in which they have everything about solving bad credit credit cards.

They have the best pool of experts that will help people for those who are having problems about their finances. Take a tour in their website at www.badcreditoffers.com and you will learn more about their services and what are the things you should know.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Buying Your First Home - A Guide for the Beginner

Becoming a first-time home buyer is a tremendous step in life. The sense of personal accomplishment, pride, satisfaction, and joy is irreplaceable. It is not without it's challenges, though. Because of the huge number of options available to you as a potential buyer, you need to take the time to become familiar with an overview of the buying process, the terminology used, and how to best approach buying your first home.

My strong suggestion to you as a first-time home buyer would be to seek competent, professional financial guidance. It is relatively inexpensive, and could save you from making a costly mistake. Buying a home is not right for everyone. Even if it is a good choice for your financial future, you may need to take the time to save money for a down payment, or to fix any issues with your credit. Be patient, and make your preparations carefully...

Below is a list outlining the buying process. Review it to become familiar with the steps involved. Oh, and one last, very important bit of information before you get started...Everything, and I do mean everything, in real estate is negotiable. Repeat that over and over to yourself and never forget, everything is negotiable...

Pre-Qualification

After making the commitment to buy a home and getting your finances in order, it is time to speak with a professional in the mortgage business. Ask your friends and family for referrals. Take the time to ask questions and get familiar with the basic terminology used, plus to discover any pitfalls. The terms of your mortgage will have a lasting affect on your financial well-being, so make sure you fully understand what you are being offered. Ultimately, you want to become pre-qualified for a reasonable, affordable amount of money with which you can purchase a home.

I personally recommend speaking to at least three mortgage brokers or banks to get your best deal. Also, I would avoid having your credit run during this process until you are ready for the next step. Most good mortgage brokers should be able to estimate your buying power from a short interview.

Pre-Approval

Prior to beginning an in-depth search for a home, I would suggest going beyond pre-qualification and getting fully pre-approved. In this step, the mortgage lender will take a detailed look at your credit, finances, income, and other factors to solidify the amount of money available to you for a home. The primary difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval is you are shopping for a mortgage lender and getting educated about the loan products available during pre-qualification, but you have decided to commit to a lender and submit to the complete application process during pre-approval.

List of Needs & Wants

Make 2 lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wishes, things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that are not absolutely necessary. Realistically for first-time buyers, you probably will not get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track for what you are looking for.

Representation by a Professional

It is very important that you can communicate clearly, honestly, and openly with any person who will directly affect your decision-making process. I know it is better to work with a real estate professional because of personal experience, plus feedback I constantly receive from clients and customers, so I highly recommend carefully choosing a representative to help you complete this important transaction.

A quick word about buyer representation. In a great majority of situations (95%+), a buyer's agent is compensated out of the seller's equity. In plain English, this means unless your agent requires a small administration fee for services, you will not be responsible for compensating your agent at all for their services. It is very important you fully discuss this with your Realtor®, as there are simple contracts available that will put this information in writing and help protect your interests should a dispute arise.

Also, just to anticipate and answer a question you may have on this topic, these costs are not passed back to the buyer through the sales price of the home. The reason for this is because the market, combined with a ready, willing, and able buyer sets the price for the home. The seller decides on an asking price, and may have a bottom line price, but you as the buyer ultimately decide what the home is worth. So, get a good Realtor®, study the market thoroughly, and make a fair offer based upon the comparable homes in the market. If the seller decides to accept your offer, you will have purchased the home at a fair price, and not one inflated to pay for the seller's costs or Realtor® fees.

Meeting with your Real Estate Agent

Come to the first meeting with your agent with an open mind and lots of questions. You should be doing a majority of the talking and your agent listening to gather all of the information necessary to help you find your ideal home. Make sure you share your list of wants and needs, plus the information you learned from the mortgage broker. Your agent should be taking notes and reiterating accurately whatever is discussed.

I want to talk briefly about the importance of effective communication with your real estate agent. Buying a home should ultimately be a fun, rewarding, educational, exciting experience. It will not be free from challenge, though. You will at times find yourself frustrated, discouraged, and confused. This is completely normal, especially considering the magnitude of the transaction. Your Realtor® needs to know this information, both good and bad. Without knowledge of your feelings and concerns, the usefulness of your agent can be nullified. Make sure you are comfortable enough with your Realtor® to tell them 'no', or to be completely honest with your needs and wants. Make sure your communication is effective by listening to what your agent says and ensuring it is what you are expressing.

Focus & Organization

In a convenient location, keep handy the items that will assist you in maximizing your home search efforts. Such items may include:

1. One or more detailed maps with your areas of interest highlighted.

2. A file of the properties that your agent has shown to you, along with ads you have cut out from the newspaper.

3. Paper and pen, for taking notes as you search.

4. A camera to help refresh your memory on individual properties, especially if you are attending a series of showings.

5. Location: It can be beneficial to look at a potential property as if you are the seller. Would a prospective buyer find it attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, source of noise) features of the area?

Visualize the House Empty & With Your Decor

Are the rooms laid out to fit your needs? Is there enough light? Will the home require any updating? Are the mechanicals in good shape? What about the roof? Try to keep accurate notes on both your feelings regarding the home, plus objective features that may or may not be positive. Keep in mind that it is always an option to ask the seller to gives allowances for updates or changes as part of the negotiation process, or to make the changes yourself for the right home.

Be Objective

Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home really meet your needs? There are many houses on the market, so don't make a hurried decision that you may regret later.

It is important to know your personal strengths and weakness in the home buying process. Some people love the thrill of the hunt and seeing lots of homes looking for a positive feeling, while others are just interested in the facts and objective features the home offers. Some people are a combination of the two. Whatever your style or technique happens to be when searching for your new home, you must be honest with yourself and emphasize your strengths while seeking help with your weaknesses.

I recommend in the initial phases of the home buying process that you try to keep your time in any home you view short and focused on finding positive first impressions. There really is a difference between finding a house and discovering your new home and I believe emotion and feeling plays a role in the process, but don't let emotions cloud your judgment. Be relaxed and aware of your emotions in this initial phase.

Once you have narrowed your choices and become comfortable with the buying process, it is time to schedule second showings and to put on your objective hat. Now you are looking at the details from an investment standpoint, a functionality perspective, and determining whether or not there are any faults that would negate the viability of the home. It is here your Realtor® can be invaluable. Use your Realtor®'s experience and knowledge to help you step back and look at the home through the eyes of an investor. You may be surprised at what you find!

Make an Offer

Once all of the research is complete and you are certain you have found your new home, it is time to put together an offer. Again, the competent guidance of your Realtor® is critical at this point. Together, you must determine a fair amount of money to offer for the home, plus you must complete an accurate, comprehensive, legally-binding Sales and Purchase Agreement. Any mistake, error, or omission at this stage can become very costly in both dollars and emotions later. If you are at all uncertain or uncomfortable, seek professional legal advice before you sign any agreement.

A word about market perceptions. Today, we hear constant talk about it being a "buyer's market". What does that mean to you on the buyer's side of the transaction? I wish it meant that you could offer 15-20% below the asking price of the home and the seller would gladly accept, but that is rarely the case. Very simply, we find ourselves in a buyer's market due to an over-supply of homes and a lack of qualified, motivated buyers. It will affect prices in most areas, but the adjustment will be more in the neighborhood of 1-3%, if anything.

That being the case, what are the advantages of being in a buyer's market? Let me just name a few and you should be able to see many others. Besides the possibility of a reasonable savings on price, sellers are more willing to provide allowances for closing costs, updates, or other incentives to get you to purchase their home. In addition, you have a tremendous variety of homes from which to choose. Plus, fierce competition for the best homes is reduced, thus allowing you a greater chance of not paying an inflated price for the home of your dreams. When you hear talk that we are in a buyer's market, just imagine yourself in the seller's shoes...Most people are not going to give away their home for less than a fair market price, so look to negotiate other benefits from the deal.

Be Thorough

A few extra dollars well spent now may save you big expenses in the long run. Your real estate agent should competently guide you through this phase, but you should be aware that after you have an accepted offer, you still need to perform due diligence to ensure you are making a sound investment. Don't forget such essentials as:

1. Having the property inspected by a professional inspector.

2. Requesting a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of closing to ensure the home has been left in the agreed upon condition.

Congratulations on your decision to educate yourself thoroughly regarding one of the largest financial transactions you will ever undertake! While the process may seem daunting and a tad overwhelming at first, with the help of a competent Realtor®, plus other industry professionals, you should be well on your way to a satisfying, positive, purchase of your new home. Good luck, and remember... This is supposed to be fun!

Arundo Donax - How to turn a bog plant into a serenade

I began playing the clarinet when I was 11 years old, back in 1984, after many months of pestering my parents. Although I wasn't particularly good when I started, I loved the look and feel of the instrument and I persevered, and I finally ended up as a music student at Leeds University with the clarinet as my first instrument. I didn't find the notes that hard when I was a kid; I could produce a tune without too many tears, but my tunes just didn't sound very nice until I'd got to about grade 6. A lot of young players experience the same problem, and the problem is really twofold- 1) producing a beautiful sound takes lots of practice, and 2) producing a really beautiful sound depends on your reed.

What a Reed is All About

If you don't play a reed instrument you may well be wondering what I'm talking about, so I'll explain a little bit here. (For the already initiated, feel free to skip this bit!)

A clarinet is fundamentally a tube which is approximately 2 feet long; in fact it's the same length as a flute or an oboe. The flute has a small hole which you blow across. This makes the air inside the tube start vibrating, (like if you blow across the top of a bottle and hear a note). The oboe and the clarinet, however, use reeds. These are small bits of cane, (or sometimes plastic), which are attached to the top of the instrument. The cane goes in your mouth and you make it vibrate with your lips and jaw; this sets the column of air vibrating, and hey presto a note sounds. (It's very hard to describe how you actually do this because it all happens inside your closed mouth!) You can't play the clarinet (or the oboe or bassoon) unless you have a reed attached to the top, and these essential bits of kit have, unfortunately, quite a short life span. How long a reed lasts depends on lots of things, like how often you play, what brand you're using, and even what the weather's like. (It's a natural material so it's affected by the humidity of the atmosphere).

The Reed you really Need

So now you know you need a reed, off you pop down to your local music shop, or find one online. The first question they'll ask you is what kind of reed do you need? Narrowing it down to just "a clarinet reed" won't get you very far. You have to specify the strength of your reed. And choose a brand. And choose one of a range of reeds within that brand. And how many do you need to buy?

So how can a little bit of cane be so diverse and complicated? How can you possibly choose?! Let's take a look at the first dilemma: Strength.

Reeds are categorised by their thickness, and given a grading from 1 to 5, including half grades. Basically speaking, the thicker the reed, the more difficult it is to produce a note, but the nicer the note will sound. So, if you are a beginner, (and therefore in possession of relatively weak jaw muscles compared to a veteran), you should choose a low number, known as a "soft" reed. Around 1.5 would be good, but go for a 1 if the 1.5 is too difficult to blow on. As you get better, you'll gradually be able to progress to thicker reeds (known as "hard"). To get a decent sound, you need to be playing on a minimum 3.5, and most professionals will be playing on 4.5 to 5s. Personally, I play on a 3.5. OK, let's move on to brand and product:

In the UK there are mainly 2 companies battling it out in the clarinet reed field, and they are Vandoren and Rico. I'll try to make a comparison between them, since your basic purchasing decision will be between these two brands. Here's what Vandoren say about their standard B flat clarinet reeds:

"The most widely played reeds in the professional world."

And here's what Rico claim about their most similar product:

"The world's most popular reed." One thing you may be able to deduce from this is that Vandoren reeds are better and also more expensive. They produce a better tone for professionals, who are more picky about these things than amateurs. However, there are many more amateurs piping away in their bedrooms on a Sunday afternoon than there are professionals, and they tend to choose Rico, so they can't be all bad.

Here's how the prices compare from 2 reputable online firms, for a box of 10, (the normal number you get in a box).

>From www.myatt.co.uk Rico Reeds cost £8.50 and Vandoren cost £11.00

>From www.dawkes.co.uk Rico cost £6.25 and Vandoren cost £10.25

Rico are well ahead in the tasty price league, so why is it that all these professionals are choosing Vandoren? It really boils down to the sound that comes out when you blow, which to the professional is the only major issue. For us mere mortals though, there are another couple of points to consider- how many of these 10 newly purchased reeds actually work properly, and how long will one last before I have to change it? I've played on both these brands of reeds over the 20 and a bit years I've been playing this instrument, and I believe that Rico are more consistent in the strength grades they put in the box, and they last for the same length of time as Vandoren's, but whereas a box of Vandoren sometimes produces a really stunning beautiful reed, a box of Rico never does.

When you buy a box of reeds, it is quite normal to find that some of them just won't work. This is rather annoying, (especially if you're paying more than a pound a piece), but it's a fact of life. The cane is rigorously tested by both companies, and left to mature for a considerable time, but nothing can stop the cane from becoming slightly modified once it's been packaged up in its box. My personal average from Vandoren is 50% usable reeds per box, while Rico usually gives me 7 or 8 that are playable. So, in effect, they work out even cheaper than you'd bargained for. I think that Rico's testing technology is perhaps superior to Vandoren's, to produce these results. They are more effective at eliminating inferior cane earlier in the process, before it actually gets in the box. In my mind there is no doubt that Vandoren Reeds sound better, but the large difference in price is not justified by the small difference in sound. Going back to my earlier point about the quality of!

my early attempts at the clarinet, I should point out that playing on the correct strength of reed, (and one that isn't too old), will ensure an acceptable sound from anyone. So how to find the correct strength? Read on!


How Strong is your Jaw?

Rico Reeds come in strengths 1-5 (not all brands do). If you're a complete beginner, buy a 1, a 1.5 and a 2. (You can buy reeds singly, both online and in shops. Some shops let you try the reed out before you buy it just in case it's a duffer (see above), but not all of them.) Try the 2 first. If you produce a sound quite easily and without pain, congratulations! You've found the right strength. If you find it takes lots of breath to get a note and you can hear air escaping from the side of your mouth as you blow, the reed is too hard. Try the 1.5, and repeat the process. Remember that with clarinet reeds, the only way is up! When you have been playing on your 1.5 for some time, try the 2 from time to time. Don't play for too long, as your jaw will tire easily and you may bite into your bottom lip. If this happens, your mouth will be too sore to play until it's healed, and you'll have to start with a softer reed again. Gradually increase your playing time, until you can play on the 2 with no problems. Then move on to the 2.5, and repeat the process.

If you stick with a softer reed once your jaw muscles have become stronger, your sound will deteriorate. Playing on a soft reed produces a buzzy kind of tone and can sound flat. Higher notes on the instrument are more difficult to reach with a softer reed, which is another reason why you need to climb that reed ladder! Sometimes reeds are a little bit too hard or a little bit too soft, without being impossible to play on. You don't have to chuck them away in cases like this, you can "doctor" them slightly to make them more playable: if the reed is too soft, trim a VERY narrow (hair's breadth) strip from the tip of the reed with a sharp knife. Or push another reed between it and the mouthpiece of the instrument, pushing it away from the rectangular hole in the mouthpiece slightly. If the reed is too hard, you can sand it a little. Use a piece of 220-grain sandpaper. Rub just a little, then test the reed- a tiny rub can produce a large difference (which is why they don't always get it right in the factory- it's a precision art!)

Breaking in Reeds

All new reeds need to be "broken in". They won't produce a consistent sound until they've been used a few times. Rico reeds are faster to break in than Vandoren. You need to wet the reed (in your mouth or with water- I prefer my mouth, but Rico advise water, as some people have very acidic saliva apparently, eeww), then play on it for just a few minutes each day, until the sound becomes consistent. It's good to have a few reeds "breaking" as you never know when you'll need a new one.


Replacing Reeds

It's easy to tell when your reed needs replacing- after serving you well for a week or 3 (depends how much you play), one day it'll just sound rubbish, completely different to the last time you used it. Every time it goes in your mouth the reed is getting attacked by various germs and other organisms, and your saliva begins the process of breaking down organic matter ready for your tummy, so it's no wonder that they don't last forever! Another obvious sign that you need a new reed is when you accidentally slice it in half while attaching it to the instrument, a tragically common event. (It's held onto your plastic mouthpiece by metal band called a ligature. This has quite sharp sides and if you're not careful it'll cut right through in one go. Don't worry though, I've never heard of anyone cutting their finger on one!)

Arundo Donax

This is the technical name for the reed plant which Rico and Vandoren use to make their reeds. It grows in India and the Mediterranean, and can get as high as 6 metres tall. If you live in the right climate you can grow it in your garden, but I wouldn't suggest trying to grow and make reeds yourself from scratch, although some fanatics do.....

Other Types of Reed

For the standard clarinet, you will be buying B♭ clarinet reeds. It's unlikely that you would buy the wrong reed size, as this is what 99% of people play on, but just for the record, there are also E♭ and bass clarinet reeds. E♭ reeds are for a smaller instrument, and bass clarinet reeds for a beast of an instrument, so neither will fit. The A clarinet takes the B♭ reed, as it is only very fractionally bigger than the B♭ instrument. (Orchestral players need two instruments, an "A" and a "B♭"; see for more on transposing instruments).

Final Verdict

The Rico clarinet reed is a great choice for the amateur player. They are reasonably priced, reasonably consistent within the box, and produce a nice sound. They are easy to get hold of and excellent value for money, especially if you frequently slice them in half! If you want to get serious on the instrument, you should probably move on to more expensive reeds from Vandoren.

Web-Programming: An Alternative To Unproductive Advertising

As of this writing the television writers in Hollywood are on strike. The significance of this strike will be felt far beyond the current television season and impact what and where people will get their entertainment in the future. People are now not only embracing the Web for their information needs but are also increasingly turning to it for their entertainment needs as well.

The Web will soon be 'the place' that fills the programming vacuum that network broadcasters have been unwilling and/or unable to fulfill. People were prepared to tolerate constant reruns, dreadful programming, and incessant repetitive ads as long as there was no alternative, but that is no loner the case. Viewers now have an option to bad television and it's the Web, but why should you care and more importantly how can you take advantage of the opportunity it creates?

Why Should You Care?

Information and entertainment have melded in recent years creating what has been dubbed 'infotainment.' It can be argued that the evening news has become more entertainment than hard news and let's not even get into venues like the History Channel where fact and fiction seem to be presented in equal and indistinguishable doses. So what does all this have to do with you and how you deliver your marketing message?

The time is coming, if it is not here already, that companies will not be able to get away with merely uploading online brochures and catalogues, or even extensive screeds singing the praises of every feature and benefit associated with their offering. People demand more, they insist your website be interesting, informative, and entertaining; and it is this aspect of entertainment that potentially makes your marketing presentation memorable.

What Is Web-Programming?

Web-programming takes the creative Web-video campaign concept and pushes it one step further up the evolutionary marketing scale by integrating the message into a programming environment.

This concept is not an entirely new idea, in fact one of the most noted television commercial campaigns of 1991 was the Taster's Choice soap opera-like series of spots that wove the marketing message into a courtship relationship between two apartment neighbors. In an environment where information and entertainment blur, it seems like an ideal solution to capturing an audience's attention and interest, and creating a viral buzz that few products or services can generate by presenting a bulleted list of features.

Build Brand Relationships

James E. Aisner, in his article 'More Than A Name: The Role of Brands in People's Lives' (HBS Working Knowledge For Business Leaders) references the research of Harvard Business School Professor, Susan M. Fournier, "Fournier has created a typology of fifteen different types of relationships between consumers and their brands." These brand relationships include the secret affair, the best friend, kinship, the fling, courtship, the marriage-of-convenience, casual friendship, childhood friendship, mother and child, and master-slave.

What kind of relationship does your brand have with your audience? Is it a short-term fling that starts with a lot of heat and passion and then quickly cools-off, or is it a long-term marriage that will last a lifetime? Finding, and promoting the most appropriate and beneficial brand relationship is the marketing goal of your Web-programming marketing initiative.

Part of the problem many smaller organizations have in developing successful marketing campaigns is that they think in terms of products and services rather than brands; features and benefits rather than relationships. Almost every product or service on the market can be replaced with a competitive substitute, but brands are much harder to replace; brands create a competitive barrier through the development of relationships based on prototypical psychological and emotional factors, the same kinds of factors that govern your personal relationships.

Generate Trust, Confidence, Loyalty and Passion

In his article, "A Brand New You," (Psychology Today), W. Eric Martin tells us that brands came into vogue in the post Civil War era as a response to an increasing mobile population that began to lose touch with local merchants and shopkeepers. Brands became a substitute for the personal relationships that people had with their suppliers. This seemingly minor historic fact helps us understand the significance of brands in today's Web-centric marketplace.

Today's consumer-client, whether retail or business-to-business is more remote, more isolated from the supplier than ever before. The Web allows us to market our products and services anywhere in the world, but in order to actually make a sale, we must establish a relationship that generates a sufficient level of trust, confidence, loyalty and passion. Sneer if you will at the passion and loyalty most Macintosh users have for their computers, but what other computer company can claim such brand allegiance?

Relationships Are Based On Psychological Needs

At the heart of any relationship is the emotional or psychological need that that relationship fulfills. If you haven't found that connection in what you do then you are at a definite competitive disadvantage; and you are competing on the most fickle and transient of factors: price and features. In business, there will always be someone who is prepared to sell a substitute product or service for less, or with more bells and whistles. So why would you ever want to compete on that basis?

It really doesn't matter what business you're in, there is always some emotional or psychological component to what you do. The iPod is the market leader in its category despite numerous competitors; it holds that position not because it's the cheapest, which it definitely isn't, or the product with the most features, which it probably is, but because it's an iPod - not a tool but a status symbol, a badge of intelligence and taste, a brand relationship akin to being a member of the coolest club in town.

Web-programming Development

In short, Web-programming is a marketing campaign based on a series of episodic Web-videos tied together by plotline and character development; an ongoing initiative that weaves into its storyline the marketing pitch. The integration of the marketing pitch can be done subtly using product placement techniques or overtly making the pitch part of the story arc.

This marketing technique is not for everyone; it is certainly not for the unsophisticated or for the marketer who is afraid to experiment or to take a chance.

If you are looking for an instant direct financial return like a big sale sign in your storefront window then you are not looking for marketing, you're looking for promotions. Marketing is all about building a brand relationship with your audience. The more time and effort you invest in marketing, the more solid your brand relationship will be, and the more appropriate the clients you'll attract and keep.

Web-programming - Where To Begin

There are four minimal requirements needed to create an episodic Web-video marketing campaign: need identification, point-of-view, attitude, and transformation. These are the same elements defined by Syd Field, the well-respected author, producer, screenwriter, and lecturer, in his book, "The Screenwriter's Workbook;" and they are the same elements that all top-notch salesmen use to build client-relationships - ask yourself - have you ever met a top salesman who wasn't a great storyteller?

Need Identification

Like all episodic series yours will need a hero or protagonist; this is the person your audience will identify with and who will act as their surrogate.

Your protagonist must be searching for something that relates to the emotional or psychological need fulfilled by your product or service. Anyone who has ever had to deal with an insurance company certainly understands the Geico caveman's need for respect. His frustration is the perfect foil for the company's marketing message, 'it's so easy a caveman can do it.' We are all cavemen at heart, seeking respect from big business bureaucracies that make us jump through hoops just to place an order.

Point-of-View

You must present your material from a particular point-of-view. Is your presentation told from the protagonist's point-of-view or is it told from an objective observer's, perhaps through voice-over. It can even be counter-intuitive and be told from an antagonist's point-of-view.

If your scenario is more procedural based, you can even present it from different points-of-view each delivering alternative perspectives, each highlighting different aspects of the emotional fulfillment.

Attitude

Attitude is especially important for Web-based presentations, but it is also one of the scariest aspects of marketing for the faint-of-heart. All too often businesses shy away from bold statements, or extreme displays for fear of alienating some segment of the audience, but it's attitude that grabs people's attention, makes the presentation memorable, and qualifies leads and inquiries.

Transformation

One of the hardest things a commercial-based episodic series has to deal with is story arc. What change takes place over the life of the series and is the campaign concept strong enough to sustain itself? What transformation takes place? Does your protagonist find fulfillment or does he fail to find the emotional or psychological answer he's looking for. If you're not sure what deep-seated need your product or service satisfies, find the conflict.

All stories are based on conflict, frustration, and desire, whether it's the search for 'whiter whites' or better insurance. If your concept is without conflict, you are not illustrating the need for your solution.

You can show successful transformation based on the adoption of your solution or you can show failure whichever works best for what you're marketing and the audience you are trying to attract.

Conclusion

The Web has from its infancy provided business with enormous marketing opportunities. As the Web's capabilities increase over time, these opportunities increase as well. As much as other media tries to adapt to the competitive pressures created by the Web, old methods and attitudes die-hard; the writer's strike being just one example of a group trying to maintain dominance in an environment they cannot control. The opportunities are there to make your marketing mark if you have the courage to act.

Web-Programming: An Alternative To Unproductive Advertising

As of this writing the television writers in Hollywood are on strike. The significance of this strike will be felt far beyond the current television season and impact what and where people will get their entertainment in the future. People are now not only embracing the Web for their information needs but are also increasingly turning to it for their entertainment needs as well.

The Web will soon be 'the place' that fills the programming vacuum that network broadcasters have been unwilling and/or unable to fulfill. People were prepared to tolerate constant reruns, dreadful programming, and incessant repetitive ads as long as there was no alternative, but that is no loner the case. Viewers now have an option to bad television and it's the Web, but why should you care and more importantly how can you take advantage of the opportunity it creates?

Why Should You Care?

Information and entertainment have melded in recent years creating what has been dubbed 'infotainment.' It can be argued that the evening news has become more entertainment than hard news and let's not even get into venues like the History Channel where fact and fiction seem to be presented in equal and indistinguishable doses. So what does all this have to do with you and how you deliver your marketing message?

The time is coming, if it is not here already, that companies will not be able to get away with merely uploading online brochures and catalogues, or even extensive screeds singing the praises of every feature and benefit associated with their offering. People demand more, they insist your website be interesting, informative, and entertaining; and it is this aspect of entertainment that potentially makes your marketing presentation memorable.

What Is Web-Programming?

Web-programming takes the creative Web-video campaign concept and pushes it one step further up the evolutionary marketing scale by integrating the message into a programming environment.

This concept is not an entirely new idea, in fact one of the most noted television commercial campaigns of 1991 was the Taster's Choice soap opera-like series of spots that wove the marketing message into a courtship relationship between two apartment neighbors. In an environment where information and entertainment blur, it seems like an ideal solution to capturing an audience's attention and interest, and creating a viral buzz that few products or services can generate by presenting a bulleted list of features.

Build Brand Relationships

James E. Aisner, in his article 'More Than A Name: The Role of Brands in People's Lives' (HBS Working Knowledge For Business Leaders) references the research of Harvard Business School Professor, Susan M. Fournier, "Fournier has created a typology of fifteen different types of relationships between consumers and their brands." These brand relationships include the secret affair, the best friend, kinship, the fling, courtship, the marriage-of-convenience, casual friendship, childhood friendship, mother and child, and master-slave.

What kind of relationship does your brand have with your audience? Is it a short-term fling that starts with a lot of heat and passion and then quickly cools-off, or is it a long-term marriage that will last a lifetime? Finding, and promoting the most appropriate and beneficial brand relationship is the marketing goal of your Web-programming marketing initiative.

Part of the problem many smaller organizations have in developing successful marketing campaigns is that they think in terms of products and services rather than brands; features and benefits rather than relationships. Almost every product or service on the market can be replaced with a competitive substitute, but brands are much harder to replace; brands create a competitive barrier through the development of relationships based on prototypical psychological and emotional factors, the same kinds of factors that govern your personal relationships.

Generate Trust, Confidence, Loyalty and Passion

In his article, "A Brand New You," (Psychology Today), W. Eric Martin tells us that brands came into vogue in the post Civil War era as a response to an increasing mobile population that began to lose touch with local merchants and shopkeepers. Brands became a substitute for the personal relationships that people had with their suppliers. This seemingly minor historic fact helps us understand the significance of brands in today's Web-centric marketplace.

Today's consumer-client, whether retail or business-to-business is more remote, more isolated from the supplier than ever before. The Web allows us to market our products and services anywhere in the world, but in order to actually make a sale, we must establish a relationship that generates a sufficient level of trust, confidence, loyalty and passion. Sneer if you will at the passion and loyalty most Macintosh users have for their computers, but what other computer company can claim such brand allegiance?

Relationships Are Based On Psychological Needs

At the heart of any relationship is the emotional or psychological need that that relationship fulfills. If you haven't found that connection in what you do then you are at a definite competitive disadvantage; and you are competing on the most fickle and transient of factors: price and features. In business, there will always be someone who is prepared to sell a substitute product or service for less, or with more bells and whistles. So why would you ever want to compete on that basis?

It really doesn't matter what business you're in, there is always some emotional or psychological component to what you do. The iPod is the market leader in its category despite numerous competitors; it holds that position not because it's the cheapest, which it definitely isn't, or the product with the most features, which it probably is, but because it's an iPod - not a tool but a status symbol, a badge of intelligence and taste, a brand relationship akin to being a member of the coolest club in town.

Web-programming Development

In short, Web-programming is a marketing campaign based on a series of episodic Web-videos tied together by plotline and character development; an ongoing initiative that weaves into its storyline the marketing pitch. The integration of the marketing pitch can be done subtly using product placement techniques or overtly making the pitch part of the story arc.

This marketing technique is not for everyone; it is certainly not for the unsophisticated or for the marketer who is afraid to experiment or to take a chance.

If you are looking for an instant direct financial return like a big sale sign in your storefront window then you are not looking for marketing, you're looking for promotions. Marketing is all about building a brand relationship with your audience. The more time and effort you invest in marketing, the more solid your brand relationship will be, and the more appropriate the clients you'll attract and keep.

Web-programming - Where To Begin

There are four minimal requirements needed to create an episodic Web-video marketing campaign: need identification, point-of-view, attitude, and transformation. These are the same elements defined by Syd Field, the well-respected author, producer, screenwriter, and lecturer, in his book, "The Screenwriter's Workbook;" and they are the same elements that all top-notch salesmen use to build client-relationships - ask yourself - have you ever met a top salesman who wasn't a great storyteller?

Need Identification

Like all episodic series yours will need a hero or protagonist; this is the person your audience will identify with and who will act as their surrogate.

Your protagonist must be searching for something that relates to the emotional or psychological need fulfilled by your product or service. Anyone who has ever had to deal with an insurance company certainly understands the Geico caveman's need for respect. His frustration is the perfect foil for the company's marketing message, 'it's so easy a caveman can do it.' We are all cavemen at heart, seeking respect from big business bureaucracies that make us jump through hoops just to place an order.

Point-of-View

You must present your material from a particular point-of-view. Is your presentation told from the protagonist's point-of-view or is it told from an objective observer's, perhaps through voice-over. It can even be counter-intuitive and be told from an antagonist's point-of-view.

If your scenario is more procedural based, you can even present it from different points-of-view each delivering alternative perspectives, each highlighting different aspects of the emotional fulfillment.

Attitude

Attitude is especially important for Web-based presentations, but it is also one of the scariest aspects of marketing for the faint-of-heart. All too often businesses shy away from bold statements, or extreme displays for fear of alienating some segment of the audience, but it's attitude that grabs people's attention, makes the presentation memorable, and qualifies leads and inquiries.

Transformation

One of the hardest things a commercial-based episodic series has to deal with is story arc. What change takes place over the life of the series and is the campaign concept strong enough to sustain itself? What transformation takes place? Does your protagonist find fulfillment or does he fail to find the emotional or psychological answer he's looking for. If you're not sure what deep-seated need your product or service satisfies, find the conflict.

All stories are based on conflict, frustration, and desire, whether it's the search for 'whiter whites' or better insurance. If your concept is without conflict, you are not illustrating the need for your solution.

You can show successful transformation based on the adoption of your solution or you can show failure whichever works best for what you're marketing and the audience you are trying to attract.

Conclusion

The Web has from its infancy provided business with enormous marketing opportunities. As the Web's capabilities increase over time, these opportunities increase as well. As much as other media tries to adapt to the competitive pressures created by the Web, old methods and attitudes die-hard; the writer's strike being just one example of a group trying to maintain dominance in an environment they cannot control. The opportunities are there to make your marketing mark if you have the courage to act.

Sex Crimes and Their Defense in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, criminal sexual conduct or sex crimes may include: rape, statutory rape, unwanted sexual contact, criminal sexual assault, child pornography, child solicitation or child enticement, solicitation of mentally impaired persons, sodomy, incest, fornication, pimping, and prostitution. Some prohibitions, like those against sodomy and fornication, are technically still on the books, but rarely enforced.

The Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor has the following statistics on sexual conduct and sexual assault crimes:

The number of reported sex offenses in Minnesota increased almost threefold between 1971 and 1984, but has remained relatively constant since then.

The number of sex offenses (sexual assault, rape, sexual conduct) reported to the police increased from 2,303 offenses in 1971 to 6,589 offenses in 1984. In 1993, 6,439 sex offenses were reported, of which 49 percent resulted in an arrest.

Between 1981 and 1992, adult convictions for sex offenses involving force remained at the level of 145 to 190 each year, but convictions for child sexual abuse nearly tripled, rising from 160 to 461, and convictions for interfamilial sex abuse increasing from 3 to 154.

Reflecting these trends, about 90 percent of the victims of convicted sex offenders were children or adolescents. Nearly all of the victims of adjudicated juvenile offenders were under 18 years old, as were 84 percent of the victims of adult offenders (with 46 percent under age 13). Nearly all convicted sex offenders (97 percent) were male and most of their victims were female, although 18 percent of the victims of juvenile offenders and 13 percent of the victims of adult offenders were male.

Criminal sexual conduct is divided into four degrees depending upon the age of the victim, age of the accused, whether force is used, and the existence of any special relationship between the parties, such as parent-child or physician-patient. In Minnesota, judges are required to double the punishment imposed on a pattern sex offender, which is someone who repeats or is likely to repeat a sex crime, or someone who plans the crime. Moreover, if convicted of a sex crime, offenders must register with police departments across the state.

FIRST DEGREE. First Degree sexual conduct/assault requires sexual penetration with another person. Remember - A mistake regarding the complainant's age or consent by the underage person is not a defense to a sexual conduct crime.

Age Difference. The complainant is under 13 years of age and the actor is more than 36 months older than the complainant; or the complainant is at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant and in a position of authority.

Fear of Great Harm. Circumstances existing at the time of the act cause the complainant to have a reasonable fear of imminent great bodily harm to the complainant or another;

Armed with Weapon. The actor is armed with a dangerous weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the complainant to reasonably believe it to be a dangerous weapon and uses or threatens to use the weapon or article to cause the complainant to submit;

Personal Injury. The actor causes personal injury to the complainant, and either of the following circumstances exist:

The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish sexual penetration; or

The actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless;

The actor is aided or abetted by one or more accomplices and force or coercion is used or the accomplice is armed with a dangerous weapon.

Significant Relationship. A significant relationship generally means that the parties live together. It is a crime if the actor has a significant relationship to the complainant and the complainant was under 16 years of age at the time of the sexual penetration.

Penalty. Not more than 30 years and a fine of not more than $40,000. There is a presumptive executed sentence of 144 months.

SECOND DEGREE. Second degree criminal sexual conduct/assault does not require penetration. Instead, it involves "sexual contact." Sexual contact has been defined by case law to mean touching of the genital area, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks with a sexual intent. The sexual touching may occur on the flesh or through the clothing.

Age Difference. The complainant is under 13 years of age and the actor is more than 36 months older than the complainant; or the complainant is at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant and in a position of authority.

Fear of Great Harm. Circumstances existing at the time of the act cause the complainant to have a reasonable fear of imminent great bodily harm to the complainant or another;

Armed with Weapon. The actor is armed with a dangerous weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the complainant to reasonably believe it to be a dangerous weapon and uses or threatens to use the weapon or article to cause the complainant to submit;

Personal Injury. The actor causes personal injury to the complainant, and either of the following circumstances exist:

The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish sexual penetration; or

The actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless;

The actor is aided or abetted by one or more accomplices and force or coercion is used or the accomplice is armed with a dangerous weapon.

Significant Relationship. A significant relationship generally means that the parties live together. It is a crime if the actor has a significant relationship to the complainant and the complainant was under 16 years of age at the time of the sexual penetration.

Penalty. Not more than 25 years and payment of a fine of not more than $35,000.

THIRD DEGREE. Third degree criminal sexual conduct is similar to first degree in that it requires sexual penetration. Penetration is liberally construed to included penetration of the anal or genital openings and specifically includes digital and oral penetration. Third degree sexual conduct is generally charged for behavior that is not as extreme as first degree sexual assault.

Age Difference. The complainant is under 13 years of age and the actor is more than 36 months older than the complainant; or the complainant is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 24 months older than the complainant. In any such case it shall be an affirmative defense, which must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, that the actor believes the complainant to be 16 years of age or older. Consent by the complainant is not a defense.

Force or Coercion. the actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the penetration

Mental & Physical Infirmity of Victim. The actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.

Position of Authority. The complainant is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant and in a position of authority over the complainant. Neither mistake as to the complainant's age nor consent to the act by the complainant is a defense.

Penalty. If the actor in such a case is no more than 48 months but more than 24 months older than the complainant, the actor may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years. Otherwise a person convicted may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years and a payment of not more than $30,000.

FOURTH DEGREE. A person who engages in sexual contact with another person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree if any of the following circumstances exists:

Age Difference. The complainant is under 13 years of age and the actor is no more than 36 months older than the complainant. Neither mistake as to the complainant's age or consent to the act by the complainant is a defense. In a prosecution under this clause, the state is not required to prove that the sexual contact was coerced. Additionally, if the complainant is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant or in a position of authority over the complainant fourth degree sexual conduct may be charged. Consent by the complainant to the act is not a defense. In any such case, it shall be an affirmative defense which must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the actor believes the complainant to be 16 years of age or older.

Force or Coercion. The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual contact.

Mental & Physical Infirmity of Victim. The actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.

Position of Authority. The complainant is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant and in a position of authority over the complainant. Neither mistake as to the complainant's age nor consent to the act by the complainant is a defense.

Significant Relationship. The actor has a significant relationship to the complainant and the complainant was at least 16 but under 18 years of age at the time of the sexual contact.

Penalty. A person convicted may be sentenced to not more than ten years and a payment of a fine of not more than $20,000.

FIFTH DEGREE. A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree:

(1) if the person engages in nonconsensual sexual contact; or

(2) the person engages in masturbation or lewd exhibition of the genitals in the presence of a minor under the age of 16, knowing or having reason to know the minor is present.

"Sexual contact" does not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks. Sexual contact does includes the intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing covering the complainant's intimate parts or undergarments, and the nonconsensual touching by the complainant of the actor's intimate parts, effected by the actor, if the action is performed with sexual or aggressive intent.

. Penalty. A person convicted may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year and payment of a fine of not more than $3,000. The charge may be increased to a felony with imprisonment for not more than five years and payment of $10,000, if the person has prior violations.

AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE

In today's world much hysteria and controversy swirls around sexual abuse. A person accused may find that even if acquitted they are looked upon with suspicion and fear. The allegation itself can carry with significant stigma and social repercussions. Too often, prosecutors charge out criminal sexual conduct cases based solely on an allegation. There is often little physical evidence. Though it may seem the case is weak, an aggressive and proactive defense is necessary. That may include hiring experts to review witness interviews for suggestive language and improper techniques.

If you are accused take these steps:

Do not give any statements to law enforcement and do not discuss the case with any other people until you have retained legal counsel;

Hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer;

Write down the names of potential helpful witnesses;

Only after retaining a lawyer should you make written notes regarding the allegations. these should be provided to your lawyer.