History of the New Year’s Eve Ball

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Revelers began celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square as early as 1904, but it was in 1907 that the New Year’s Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square. Seven versions of the Ball have been designed to signal the New Year.

The first New Year’s Eve Ball, made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It was built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, and for most of the twentieth century the company he founded, sign maker Artkraft Strauss, was responsible for lowering the Ball.

As part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in the fabled “lobster palaces” and other deluxe eateries in hotels surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats emblazoned with the numbers “1908” fashioned of tiny light bulbs. At the stroke of midnight, they all “flipped their lids” and the year on their foreheads lit up in conjunction with the numbers “1908” on the parapet of the Times Tower lighting up to signal the arrival of the new year.

The Ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime “dimout” of lights in New York City. Nevertheless, the crowds still gathered in Times Square in those years and greeted the New Year with a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower—a harkening-back to the earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to “ring out the old, ring in the new.”

In 1920, a 400 pound Ball made entirely of wrought iron replaced the original. In 1955, the iron Ball was replaced with an aluminum Ball weighing a mere 150 pounds. This aluminum Ball remained unchanged until the 1980s, when red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem converted the Ball into an apple for the “I Love New York” marketing campaign from 1981 until 1988. After seven years, the traditional glowing white Ball with white light bulbs and without the green stem returned to brightly light the sky above Times Square. In 1995, the Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls, but the aluminum Ball was lowered for the last time in 1998.

For Times Square 2000, the millennium celebration at the Crossroads of the World, the New Year’s Eve Ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting. The crystal Ball combined the latest in lighting technology with the most traditional of materials, reminding us of our past as we gazed into the future and the beginning of a new millennium.

In 2007, for the 100th anniversary of the Times Square Ball Drop tradition, Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting crafted a spectacular new LED crystal Ball. The incandescent and halogen bulbs of the past century were replaced by state-of-the-art Philips Luxeon LED lighting technology that dramatically increased the brightness and color capabilities of the Ball.

The beauty and energy efficiency of the Centennial Ball inspired the building owners of One Times Square to build the permanent Big Ball weighing nearly six tons and twelve feet in diameter. The 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles are illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon LEDs. This Big Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is now a year-round attraction sparkling above Times Square  in full public view January through December.

Big Ball

About “Time-Balls”

The actual notion of a ball “dropping” to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year’s Eve was ever celebrated in Times Square. The first “time-ball” was installed atop England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o’clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument).

Around 150 public time-balls are believed to have been installed around the world after the success at Greenwich, though few survive and still work. The tradition is carried on today in places like the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, where a time-ball descends from a flagpole at noon each day – and of course, once a year in Times Square, where it marks the stroke of midnight not for a few ships’ captains, but for over one billion people watching worldwide.

Courtesy of www.timessquarenyc.org

Photo Credit: Coundtown Entertainment

Declutter and Save

declutter_life_2What is the current state of your closets? Are they stuffed to the brim with clothes, shoes, suitcases, cleaning supplies, your high school chemistry textbook, etc., or can you do cartwheels in there? Is every horizontal surface covered in piles and piles of stuff or bare except for a few knickknacks?

If your house is filled with clutter, you probably know you won’t make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but you may not be aware that it could be costing you money too. Many people buy or rent bigger (and usually more expensive) places so they can have more closets or other storage space. Or they may opt for the smaller space and pay rent on a storage unit. A clutter-filled house can also lead to increased entertainment costs – you don’t want your friends to see the mess (or are sick of seeing it yourself), so you go out. Duplication is another way clutter can cost you. Have you ever spent money on something you already had because you had no idea where it was and did not want to spend hours looking for it?

If the thought of actually having to go through all your stuff makes you sweat, don’t worry. Here are some tips that can help make the decluttering process as painless as possible:

  • Do a little at a time: You are less likely to get discouraged and give up if you set a series of small goals spread out over time (e.g., clean the closet in the master bedroom tomorrow, clean the garage next weekend) instead of trying to clean up the whole house at once.
  • Take a picture of sentimental items: Do you have some items that you never use but nevertheless have a hard time getting rid of because of their sentimental value (such as the doll you bought for your daughter who is now 25)? Taking a picture can make it easier to part with them since you know you will have a reminder even if they are no longer collecting dust in your closet.
  • Donate or sell: While some of your items may be worn out and only welcomed by the trash bin, there may be many things you can sell to a consignment or thrift store or donate to charity. Think of your cleaning as putting money in your pocket or helping others, instead of just a chore.
  • Use the “one in, one out” rule: After you go through all that effort to get rid of what you don’t need, you probably don’t want the house to revert back to its former messy state a few months from now. A good way to prevent this is to get rid of something whenever you purchase something new. You buy a new t-shirt at the mall – when you get home, go into the drawers and get rid of an old one.

By taking the time to declutter, you’ll be cleaning all the way to the bank.

 

© 2014 BALANCE

Tips for Saving on Summer Travel

Piggy Bank on beach vacationWith summer vacation also comes travel season. It’s easy to get carried away under the sun with souvenirs, eating at restaurants and upgrading your accommodations. After all, how often do you treat yourself and go on a holiday? But the last thing you want is to face a big bill come fall. Here are some tips for budgeting accordingly, no matter what type of getaway you’re planning.

1. Be realistic about what you can afford. Hey, we all want an amazing, no-holds-barred vacation, but choosing a trip you can’t afford will likely add more stress to your life. After all, what’s the point of taking time to relax if you’ll be paying for it for several months to come?

2. Start a dedicated travel fund. It’s easier to save when you have a specific goal in mind. Think about where you want to go, research how much it costs and develop a consistent savings plan well in advance.

3. Create a trip budget. To help you, we’ve put together this free, web-based Travel Calculator, which can help you calculate the cost of gas, lodging, food and more. It’s also available as a free iPhone app, which you can download from iTunes.

4. Shop around. There are a wealth of sites that make it easy to compare fares from a variety of airlines, hotels and rental car companies, some of the most popular being Expedia.com and Travelocity.com. It’s a savvy traveler’s world—take advantage.

5. Protect yourself. When ordering tickets, make sure the sites you are using are legitimate. Once on your trip, safeguard your identity by keeping your passport, driver’s license and credit cards in a safe place away from view. Also make sure to make photocopies in case of theft. If you do become a victim of identity theft, read our tips for restoring your identity here.

6. Expect the unexpected. Credit cards get lost. Flights get delayed. Storms arrive unexpectedly. Keep unknowns in mind when planning your trip, and set aside an extra 10 to 15% of your travel budget for emergencies or surprises.

7. Take advantage of technology. Few travelers leave home without their smartphones and tablets since mobile technology devices are the screen of choice for many. Apps like Hotel Tonight and iFly Pro allow you to digitally book hotels, check in for flights and organize itineraries.

8. Consider alternative lodging. Companies like Airbnb or VRBO, services that allows you to rent unoccupied living space in other people’s homes, are increasingly popular – and in many cases, cheaper. Also, hostels offer cheaper lodging. But make sure you take the right safety precautions, like researching the area beforehand and keeping an eye on your belongings.

9. Use cheaper transportation. Compare the cost of airfare with gas prices; if you can drive to your destination, it might be cheaper. Also, consider public transportation like underground railways versus cabs.

10. Share your trip. Splitting the cost of accommodations, like a vacation house, with friends and family can help cut costs.

© 2000-2015 Visa. All rights reserved.

Staycation

staycationNo doubt, you’re familiar with the “staycation” phenomenon. In case you’ve been out of the loop, it’s the budget-savvy, stay-local version of the old-fashioned vacation. Many travelers are embracing the concept of saving thousands on airfare and lodging by spending time off near home and enjoying inexpensive activities in their area. Here are a few ways to get the most out of yours.

  • Create a solid staycation plan so you don’t get stuck doing errands and chores.
  • Turn off your cell and close that laptop. Limiting your time on tech means time off that more closely resembles a real vacation; it can also help you avoid racking up prime-time minutes.
  • Pick low-cost activities over high-cost ones; remember, more expensive doesn’t always mean more fun.
  • Check out all of the nearby spots you’ve wanted to visit, and consider daytrips. They’ll allow you to see the sights and enjoy a change of scenery without having to pay for an overnight stay.
  • Consider ordering food for takeout or delivery or bringing in a chef to cook for you. Without the costs of travel or accommodations, it’s easier to splurge on a few luxuries.

Resources:

Read reviews of local restaurants, museums, spas and more—www.yelp.com/

Search for unique spots in your area that you may have never thought to visit—www.roadsideamerica.com/

A good resource for scoping out nearby tourist attractions—www.usatourist.com/

Browse upcoming events near you—www.eventful.com/

Fall Back In Love With Your Home

house-love

A home makeover does not have to involve spending big bucks. Things like painting walls, changing light fixtures and knobs, and adding curtains and plants can give your home a completely different look for only a few hundred dollars.

Rearranging furniture, artwork, and knick-knacks can also freshen things up, and the only cost is a little time. If you have some items that you are tired of but are in good condition, you may be able to arrange a swap with a friend. Perhaps she has been eying your table, which clashes with your other furniture, while you would not mind having hers instead.

 

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If you are feeling cramped, paint and new curtains are not going to solve the problem. Converting an unfinished attic or basement can be a great way to get extra space at a fraction of the cost of building an addition. For either project, you can expect your home’s value to increase by around 70% of what you spend, which is not that bad as far as remodeling projects go.

Adding a deck is another fairly simple way to increase your space. If you are hiring a contractor, be sure to get quotes from at least three and check their complaint history with Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).

Make the most of what you have

What if you have no cash to finish your attic or basement – or do not have an attic or basement? There are many ways that you can make your space seem bigger without actually increasing your square footage.

The cheapest – although perhaps least fun – thing you can do is clean and throw away, donate, or sell anything you don’t need. (If you have not worn or used it in a year, you probably do not need it.) If you have a little cash to spare, you can buy organizational tools, like shelves and hooks, and furniture that provides extra storage space, such as a coffee table or bed with drawers.

If your space is especially challenging, consider hiring a professional organizer. He or she may come up with some creative solutions to your space and interior design issues.

 

Copyright © 2011 BALANCE

10 Car Maintenance Tips That Will Save You Money

Summer-car-maintenance-tips
1.  Avoid paying for high octane gas as the benefit doesn’t justify the cost.

2.  Inflate your tires to the level listed in your car’s owner’s manual, not the maximum listed on the tires. This will help you achieve better mileage and less wear.

3.  Have your fluid levels checked before every long drive.

4.  Thoroughly research online reviews of local mechanics to find the best.

5.  Get your tires rotated at least twice a year to make them last much longer.

6.  Install a vehicle service app for your mobile device to help you remember when to perform your maintenance.

7.  Avoid the rapid acceleration and abrupt braking of “jackrabbit” driving.

8.  Make sure your spare tire is present and in working shape to remove the need for a tow in the case of a flat tire.

9.  Consult with your trusted mechanic and your owner’s manual about the appropriate mileage benchmarks for oil change. You may not need to do it every 3,000 miles. However, make sure it doesn’t void your warranty.

10. Perform the easy task of changing your own air filter instead of paying a mechanic to do it.