America’s Growing Love of Soccer is Real, and Lucrative

The U.S. national soccer team entered this year’s World Cup as underdogs, and went on to exceed all expectations. While they fell to the Belgian’s in the “round of 16” this team made soccer fans of millions of Americans. Was all this hype genuine, or just fodder for a news cycle or two?

According to some new figures published by e-commerce specialist SLI Systems, a spike in soccer-related online retail activity among American consumers shows that the hype was very much a real phenomenon.

SLI said that its study of consumer search behavior between March 2 and July 9, 2014 showed a 280% increase in soccer-related online shopping in the U.S.

The firm said that June 16th — the day U.S. played Ghana — was the peak day for soccer-related shopping in the U.S. The most popular soccer-related search terms were “soccer,” “USA soccer,” “FIFA” and “Nike soccer.”

And while the U.S. often gets accused of only caring about U.S. teams in international competitions like the Olympics and World Cup, this year’s soccer searches showed that Americans had a healthy interest in international teams as well.

SLI’s data showed that the top non-U.S. teams searched by U.S. consumers were Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands. Considering that the only team on that list that the U.S. team played was Germany, it is evidence that perhaps Americans are embracing the international aspects of the sport.

This is a good thing, since the U.S. team’s gritty determination and team-centric work ethic created U.S.A. fans around the world during World Cup 2014. Hopefully, this growing interest among Americans will help the U.S. to become a true leader among soccer-playing nations. Just don’t ask us to start calling the sport “football.”


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Vending Machines Have Gone Upscale

When we think of vending machines, rows of chips, candy bars and other junk food comes to mind. They are the last resort for the hungry, and things to be strictly avoided for the health-conscious. However, a new breed of vending machines is challenging the stereotype.
According to The Lempert Report, vending technology innovators have upped their game to capitalize on the opportunities presented by on-the-go consumers who want quality food.
The firm, in its weekly video series, highlighted Let’s Pizza, a vending machine that promises designed to make pizza from scratch in 2.5 minutes. Developed by Italian Claudio Torghel, the machine contains a specially-developed bag of flour and a bag of mineral water.
When you order a pizza, Let’s Pizza makes the dough from scratch, shapes it into a crust and tops it with organic tomato sauce, the maker said. Toppings are then placed, and the pizza is cooked in an infra-red oven. Let’s Pizza made its U.S. debut in 2012.
Another vending concept highlighted by Lempert brings lettuce farming into urban jungles around the world. Developed in Japan, The Chef’s Farm vending machine actually grows lettuce on-site, and then dispenses it to consumers.
This machine uses special fluorescent lighting to produce 60 fresh heads of lettuce per day in a hydroponic environment – all without needing sunlight. The machine’s maker, Dentsu, said it can produce 20,000 heads of lettuce per year, and can be stored in a restaurant. The Chef’s Farm machine can also grow other kinds of vegetables, its maker said.
Finally, Lempert brings word of the Beverly Hills Caviar vending machine which, as the name implies, dispenses those expensive fish eggs so prized by gourmands the world over.
These machines – which began cropping up in posh Los Angeles retail settings in 2012 – offer different grades and amounts of caviar at prices ranging from $5 to $500.
According to an NBC News report from that year, a $500 deposit into the machine would get you one ounce of Imperial River Beluga Caviar. While the price of the Beverly Hills Caviar vending machine is hefty – at around $85,000 per – the inventory it contains is worth a staggering $50,000. That’s more than the average vending supply truck is carrying on its rounds.
Heady stuff, these innovations — and maybe the sorts of things that will change your view of vending machines one day. For now, though, most of the ones we see are still filled with junk food and sodas. Their wares may be less-than-fresh — and decidedly unhealthy for the most part — but you can get them for less than $500.

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Say Goodbye to the Cash Register



Would you like to bypass the checkout line, and just use your Smartphone to pay for your store purchases? So would a lot of other people – particularly young people.


European payment firm Yapital had a survey conducted to find out how people felt about paying by Smartphone. Not surprisingly, support for such unconventional transactions was highest among younger shoppers.


Yapital said that 83% of respondents aged 14 to 29 years expressed annoyance at having to stand in cash register lines. Even online checkout wasn’t considered ideal, since 44% of younger folk were bothered by the task of inputting data to complete those transactions.


Overall, 28% of consumers surveyed expressed positive support for mobile payments. They may not have long to wait.


Given that more than 85% of all transactions are now cashless, and given the growing sophistication of mobile payments systems, it’s only a matter of time before the retail environment is re-designed around fast, automated transactions via Smartphone.


Imagine walking into a supermarket and seeing only one or two cash register stations – or no registers? Technology could be used to determine the prices of the items in your cart or basket, and an app on your mobile device could make the payment instantly.


The future is coming fast, but you’d better bring a Smartphone.




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Should the Bride’s Family Still Pay for the Wedding?

A recent Harris Poll finds that Americans believe in maintaining certain wedding traditions, while questioning others.

For instance, a full 84% of the respondents polled still believe that the bride’s father should “give her away” to her husband. However, a much smaller majority (54%) felt that the bride should be expected to wear a white dress.

A clear majority (66%) disagree with the practice of spending a lot of money on an engagement ring. An even bigger majority (83%) said they prefer small, intimate weddings, and that spending lots of money on an elaborate wedding is a waste.

And who should pay for the wedding? While tradition dictates that the bride’s family pay, Americans are split on the issue, with 53% of respondents agreeing with this tradition and 47% disagreeing.

From these results, it seems that most Americans still value “wedding traditionalism” but would like to shape those traditions to suit modern realities. If this seems like an impossible contradiction, consider that some of these traditions have already been shaped to suit changing times.

After all, the tradition of “giving away” the bride is rooted in a time when the legal status of women – as daughters or wives – was equivalent to property. We preserve aspects of this tradition for their emotional symbolism, though (thankfully) not as a symbol of legal transfer.

Some traditions need to be re-interpreted, rather than followed literally.


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Father’s Day Tip: Dads Like Gadgets

If you’re doing some last-minute Father’s Day shopping, make your life easier by choosing a gift that will be sure to put a smile on Dad’s face.

According to survey results from technology protection firm Asurion, 45% of dads want a tech device for Father’s Day. A whopping 63% of those surveyed are hoping to get an upgrade of something they already own.

Asurion found that the item Dads wanted was a most mobile phone, with 21% indicating that as a first choice. Other top contenders included a tablet/eReader (19%), a home theater/sound system (19%) and a computer or laptop (15%).

Interestingly, the company also found that more than 80% of families plan to spend up to $250 on dad this Father’s Day. Within that figure you can surely find a lot of good options, (though full-featured laptops and tablets would be tough to find at that price).

Of course, while Dad may yearn for techie gadgets, there are many thoughtful ways to mark Father’s Day that don’t involve wizzy tech gizmos, bits/bytes – or even money. Always remember: the things he’ll treasure most come from the heart.


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A Virtuous Event with a Dirty Name

The Dirty Girl Mud run will be held this August, event planners say. Before you lock up your daughters, keep in mind that the event is much “cleaner” than it sounds, and it benefits a worthy charity.

Billing itself as “the original women-only national 5K mud and obstacle run series,” this tongue-in-cheek tribute to girl power will be held August 23 in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area.

Organizers said that this year’s obstacles will include the Utopian Tubes tunnel crawl, PMS (Pretty Muddy Stuff) mud pit and Dirty Dancing giant slide. The event welcomes women of all athletics abilities, and promises to be both dirty and fun.

The event supports Bright Pink, the national non-profit organization focusing on risk reduction and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women.

Dirty Girl organizers said that the Mud Run has donated more than $475,000 to breast cancer charities since its inception. This year, Dirty girl promises to donate “at least” $125,000 to Bright Pink.

The event is open to women ages 14 and up with entry fees that start at $75.


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How Do They Keep Solar Panels Clean?

A dirty solar panel can lose up to 35% of its output, but it’s a big job keeping them clean –especially when some installations contain thousands of the things.

One Israeli firm came up with a solution by designing a special robotic panel cleaning system specifically for photovoltaic solar panels. The firm, Ecoppia, said that its commercially-deployed E4 robotic cleaning system has now cleaned over one million panels.

Ecoppia said that itsE4 robots are autonomous, energy-independent and don’t use any water. Instead, they use a soft microfiber-and-controlled-air flow cleaning system that the company said can remove 99% of accumulated dust each day.

That’s a good thing, since Ecoppia points out that the accumulation of dirt and dust on photovoltaic solar panel surfaces is a major impediment to their efficiency – often robbing the systems of up to 35% of their potential for producing electricity.

Since PV solar systems only work at peak efficiency during certain parts of the day, any loss in output can greatly diminish the value of large commercial solar plants. It’s a good thing that there are robots on the job.


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How Much Cash Do You Carry?

A growing number of Americans are carrying a shrinking amount of cash, according to new data from Bankrate.

The company said that 78% of respondents to its recent survey said they carry $50 or less in cash each day. A full 49% of respondents said they carry $20 or less, while 9% don’t carry any cash at all.

Women are ahead of men in this “going cashless” trend: while 70% of men surveyed said they carry $50 or less in cash each day, a full 86% of the women surveyed have slimmed down their wallets to that extent.

What gives? Well, a recent study found that over 85% of all U.S. consumer purchases are made using debit or credit cards these days. That number is actually growing, and many experts see the day coming soon where it will be in the high-90s. Quite simply, we are going cashless as a society.

Capital One — the big credit card issuer – has for years had success with its “What’s in Your Wallet?” advertising line. The answer may or may not be a Capital One card, but for many Americans it increasingly it isn’t cash.

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The Best Place to Retire Is…South Dakota?

While it may lack the year-round warmth of Florida or Arizona, the beautiful state of South Dakota has nonetheless been ranked as the best place to retire in the whole United States.

New research from shows that some popular retirement spots have been surpassed in terms of cost of living, crime rate, health care quality, tax burden and “well-being” by seemingly unlikely ones – with South Dakota coming in at #1.

South Dakota benefits from a low tax burden, a low crime rate and a high wellness score, Bankrate said. (“Wellness” comes from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which quantifies how satisfied residents are with their surroundings.)

Coming in right behind South Dakota were Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming. All of these states boast high scores in areas deemed important for a healthy and stress-free retirement.

However, we can’t help but notice that all of these places –while awesomely beautiful — are quite “wintery” for much of the year. Don’t retirees crave the endless sunshine on offer in traditional retirement spots like Florida and Arizona? Yes, they do – and Bankrate’s study does indeed factor in weather as a contributing factor to retiree bliss.

However, for many of today’s retirees, having reduced crime and lower taxes actually come out ahead of having permanent summer weather as ingredients for a great quality of life.

Access to high quality health care has always been a prime consideration in where to retire – and these “cold” states just happen to be doing a better job of delivering it these days.

So, if you are getting to a stage in life where retirement decisions loom near, perhaps you should look into beautiful, scenic (and prosperous) South Dakota as an option.


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Does Your Pet Love Your Vet?

Does Your Pet Love Your Vet?

There’s a contest underway to find and celebrate extraordinary veterinary professionals, and your pet certainly gets a say.

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) is seeking nominations for America’s Favorite Veterinarian – a contest that “celebrates the special relationships pet owners share with their veterinarians…” The Foundation said it is also about highlighting the roles that veterinarians play in society.

After all, veterinarians have roles as medical professionals in research labs, public health, government services and academia, among other things.

In the contest, vets will be evaluated on such things as community involvement, ethical behavior, passion for the profession, and their connections to animals and their owners. Twenty finalists will be selected, with the public voting to determine the winner.

The contest begins with nominations from pet owners – with full input from their pets, of course. If you and your pet have a soft spot for the veterinarian you share, why not send in a nomination? Go to and fill out an entry form, along with a 250 word or less narrative on why your nominee deserves to be America’s Favorite Veterinarian.

Hurry, the deadline for nominations is June 6.


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