Luxury Link and Family GetAway Mystery Auctions

Luxury Link and Family GetAway Mystery Auctions


LuxuryLink is a website that auctions off 5-star vacation packages to the highest bidder. It’s been around for over a decade and is very popular; the forum is full of repeat customers who are overwhelmingly happy with the luxury vacations they’ve won. Apparently, when users time it right, stays at uber-deluxe resort hotels can be won for what some would consider “a steal.” The site is clearly aimed at wealthy travelers with flexible schedules, who enjoy feeling that they’ve got a bargain on their vacation package, but naturally, anyone can bid. After all, who doesn’t appreciate a great travel experience for a great price? For those still intimidated by the price tag of potential vacations in classic, upscale destinations, Luxury Link (and its sister site, Family GetAway) now offer “Mystery Auctions,” with hotel packages that can be won for as little as one dollar.

Mystery Auctions for Luxury Vacation Packages at Luxury Link

  • All mystery destinations and hotels are part of the approved Luxury Link collection, guaranteed to meet the high standards of the auction site.
  • Bidding starts at one dollar, with bids increasing in one dollar increments.
  • In the past, Mystery Auction bidders have won luxury trips to Italy, Morocco, and Peru.
  • Family GetAway Mystery Auctions fall within the family-friendly travel rubric that includes some 4-star hotel packages, whereas Luxury Link represents purely 5-star properties for its mystery auctions.
  • From June through August, Luxury Link and Family GetAway both are taking Mystery Auctions to a new level by awarding one lucky bidder per month, the vacation package they won for one dollar, regardless of what the final bid may have been. That means that six random winners will experience incredibly high-end vacations in luxury destinations for the grand total of one dollar each.

Luxury Travel spoke with Diane McDavitt, President of Luxury Link, who provided some more background. Luxury Link itself celebrated its 13th anniversary this year (June 2010, to be exact), while Family GetAway is less than a year old. Luxury Link has had great success as an auction site for luxury properties and 5-star resort hotel packages. Family GetAway hopes to follow suit, of course, but with more family-focused properties that include (for example) some Sheratons, Hiltons, and independent, non-brand associated hotels that are lovely, but not 5-star. She described some differences between the two sites’ Mystery Auctions.

Luxury Link vs Family GetAway Mystery Auctions

  • Luxury Link has had Mystery Auctions for four years now, whereas Family GetAway just launched its first Mystery Auction in June, 2010.
  • Luxury Link and Family GetAway both provide a general location for the Mystery Auctions, with a photograph that doesn’t give too much away.
  • Luxury Link’s thriving community forum crackles with members’ guesses about the location and hotel of each Mystery Auction, some members helping active bidders trying to decipher where they might go if they win, others excitedly keeping track of regular, non-mystery auctions. Family GetAway, being a newer site, lacks this active community forum and is less interactive.
  • Both Luxury Link and Family GetAway offer Mystery Auctions starting at $1 bids and lasting one week. For now, Luxury Link has two concurrently running Mystery Auctions each week, while Family GetAway runs one at a time.
  • Luxury Link and Family GetAways drop vague hints regarding the Mystery Auction destination and particular hotel as the weeklong auction progresses, but the number of hints are increased for Family GetAways, This is in light of the reduced flexibility of travel plans for families with school-age kids.

Bidding on luxury travel packages to as-yet unknown destinations may sound intimidating to some, but it can also be exciting, akin to the thrill of the chase. The repeat bidders and multitude of positive comments on the Luxury Link Community Forum is testament to the fun and intrigue of Mystery Auctions.

How to Stay Healthy After a T-12 Break of the Spinal Cord

How to Stay Healthy After a T-12 Break of the Spinal CordWhen one becomes paralyzed from a T-12 break of the spinal cord, many emotions and challenges lie ahead. The first obstacle is getting through the fact that you most likely will never walk again. When one is use to walking and doing activities and then is told they will never walk again, can have an impacting affect. It is very important to take care of your health or this injury can lead to many other health problems. You should never have self pity, be strong and move on and take the necessary precautions needed for you to lead a normal life. Life does not end because you may never walk again. Look past the injury and live your life to the fullest. Below are some ways to keep yourself as healthy as possible with a spinal cord injury.


The number one health concern with spinal cord injuries is kidney failure. If you do not take the necessary precautions to keep your kidneys healthy, it can not only lead to kidney failure but it can also lead to death. If you have to use a catheter to urinate, keeping the catheter sanitized is very important. This can be done by washing the catheter after every use with warm water and soap. Soaking the catheter with badadine is a good way to keep it clean and sanitized. To ensure you are not putting bacteria into the kidneys from the catheter, use once and then discard. Another way to keep your kidneys healthy is to drink eight, 8oz glasses of water per day to flush the kidneys. You may also drink unsweetened cranberry juice or ask your physician about taking one cranberry pill a day. This will help eliminate your chances of contracting a kidney infection or kidney stones.


A bedsore can also be deadly for a person with a spinal cord injury. Constant pressure on the sore can lead to the sore getting through layers of skin and into the bone. If untreated, the sore can lead to gangrene, a deadly infection. You must relieve pressure from pressure points. Most bedsores for paraplegics occur on the bottom from sitting for long periods of time. To help eliminate this problems you must raise yourself up through out the day for at least 20 seconds. Another way is to use a Roho Cushion, this cushion is one of the best on the market. When sleeping at night be sure to use pillows to relieve pressure points. When laying on your side it is important to place a pillow in-between your knees.

Foot drop

Foot drop is a condition where your toes will point toward the floor from no support. Your injury may still allow you to get braces so you can at least stand and possibly walk using crutches. Having foot drop will make it so the braces do not fit right and you will not be able to stand. To keep foot drop from occurring, keep your leg rest on your wheelchair and exercise. To perform these exercise grab your toes with your hand and slowly pull them up toward your knees and repeat this motion.

Muscle Spasms

There is no cure for muscle spasm and these spasms can be painful. You may also experience pain in your legs due to nerve damage from the spinal cord injury. To eliminate some of these pains try to lay on your stomach at times instead of always laying on your back or side. You may also try a heating pad, although this can be dangerous for a person who has no feeling in the legs. Adjust the heat to low setting and then cover the pad with a towel before placing on the legs. This will help so you do not end up burning your legs. Another way to help ease muscle spasm or leg pains is having your physician prescribe you pain pills.

I personally would not recommend pain pills due to the fact that they can become addictive and they may also cause kidney and/or liver damage. Using pain pills for long periods of time can also make you get immune to the pain pills. So as you age, you may not be able to deal with the pain as well, the pills will not work and you will have to up the dose. This is all to familiar to me because I have a complete T-12 break of the spinal cord. This accident occurred 23 years ago and I am still healthy by taking these actions.

The Negative Impact of Google’s Panda Update

How to Recover from Google Panda EffectIt was the Panda that did it, not Google. With a grievance lodged by Microsoft for breach of competition law with the EU, a feature such as the Panda update didn’t exactly promote harmony with this case.

What is Panda?

According to Phantom SEO, The Panda update by Google is a function that was rolled out on 11 April 2011, designed to optimise search rankings. Google published a blog post explaining that the function was designed to “reduce rankings for low-quality sites”.

Google Panda Statistics

Whilst this update sounded ingenious, according to Searchmetrics who record and analyse the frequency of online search engines, once Panda was released the Microsoft owned company Ciao’s visibility in search engines fell by a staggering 94%.

Google denied that this was a deliberate act, as the results are populated by the keywords that are typed into the search engine, thus how the rankings are achieved. This being the case there must have been some scope as to how the less important websites are measured, compared to those that are deemed as important.

However, Google have also said that the algorithms used to determine the results are regularly changed – Panda itself is an algorithm update, and whilst many go unnoticed this one was significant.

Second Opinions

Searchmetrics also analysed Google keyword results prior to the Panda update as well as after, and they found that the likes of Hubpages, eHow, and other similar sites such as Demand Media fell on average 69%.



Sistrix performed a similar analysis, and found Ciao’s exposure dropped by 81% and not 94%, but their recorded average of the other sites was a higher drop at around 78%.

The Best Intentions

The main motivation behind Panda was to minimise those sites that plagiarise others, and promote the more qualitive reputable sites rather than those that contain informally published information.

Microsoft claims that Google has used its dominant position to bind rival products. Ciao was an instigator in the initiation of the EU investigation against Google. A description of the EU claim can be found here.

In any IT environment, rolling out a new tool, feature or application can have the desired affect or it can have completely the opposite. The Panda update had mixed reviews, but more reports seemed to point towards the negative, the main reason is that it affected the promotion and search engine optimisation of a lot of companies that do rely on that kind of exposure.

According to IT Pro Portal, the Panda update likes porn sites (more than anything), but on a more serious note, this update has caused some harm, not only with the loss of revenues but in some cases it has affected reputation. Whether this was easy to predict or not is also undetermined as algorithms automatically populate the rankings, whilst this can be controlled, accusing Google of deliberately releasing an update that would severely detriment their competitors, is in itself an accusation that can cause further detriment.

It has been a rocky road as of late for Google, and it will be interesting to see if they provide any follow-ups on this, as even though they are not an ecommerce promotion service, they still hold a seat there, and it may be worth in the future Google taking a step back and concentrating on further testing to determine potential repercussions, before rolling out.

Photoshop – Turning Photos into Sketch-Drawn Paintings

Pencil Sketch Drawing Effect Photoshop Tutorial - YouTubeHere’s a tutorial to help you make a sketch-type watercolor drawing from your photograph using Photoshop’s Filter Gallery. The best part is, you don’t even have to know how to draw (which is especially handy if you can’t draw stick figures, like me.) This tutorial will focus more on just transforming the photo into a drawing-the following tutorial will handle blending it to look professional and putting the final touches on it. If the birthday of your lover is next week then you can consider creating sketch painting using this trick as a special gift for lover.

(Disclaimer: I’ve had people ask me complex questions about getting into the professional photography business. While I have friends in the profession and know that Photoshop is a necessary tool for the modern photographer, I’m not in the business, so I can’t answer related questions; I just have a knack for retouching the photos of friends and family and am familiar with the workings of the program.)

First things first. Open the picture you want to transform into a drawing. You may want to copy the file first. To do that, just click on “Image/Duplicate”. This will help ensure that your untouched photo stays safe in the event something bad happens to the file you’re working on. Click the “close” button on the original file, and focus on the copied file.

Be certain you have only a single layer to start with, or you’re going to run into a lot of trouble later. (Note: yes, Photoshop will let you pile up your filters and apply it all in one fell swoop, but since we’re going to be masking areas of each layer, that won’t work in this instance.) At the moment you’ll have only one layer labeled “background”; change the name to something else (I normally use “first”) because you’re going to be dealing with a lot of layers and you need to keep them separate. Rename a layer by double clicking the given layer to bring up the “New Layer” box, then type in the label you want in the name box. For the sake of this tutorial, let’s use the label “first”.

Bring up the Filter/Distort/Wave menu. Normally in a sketch or drawing image even straight lines will have a certain natural flow to them, so apply the Filter to curve out the straight lines of the objects in your photo. (This step might not have much effect if your photo contains no straight lines, like a nature scene or a person’s face.)

Click on “Create New Layer”above your “first” layer and name it “bg” (for “background”.) You can do this by clicking “New Layer” on the bottom of the Layer Palette. You can also hold down the Alt button and click “New Layer”.

Fill in the background layer (“bg”) layer with white color. You can easily fill a foreground color by pressing Alt + Backspace (or, if using a Macintosh, Option + Delete) and a background color by pressing Ctrl + Backspace (Command + Delete for Macs). Typing “D” will reset the foreground color to black and background color to white. To toggle between foreground and background, hit “X”.

Copy the “first” layer by dragging it to the “New Layer” on the Layer Palette box, or just right-click your mouse and click “Layer Property”. Rename the layer “base”.

Apply the Water Color Filter by clicking Filter/Artistic/Watercolor to enter the Filter Gallery. You can play with the settings a little to get the effect you’re looking for, just choose a low texture setting.

At this point you may find that part of your photo is suddenly in sharp relief. Don’t panic; you’re doing well. Just fix it by using a little Gaussian Blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur).

Copy the “first” layer again and switch it over to the top layer, and change the name to “hstroke”. Decrease the opacity on the layer slightly, between 55-65. Click on Filter/Artistic/Poster Edges to adjust the thickness, posterization and intensity and set the Gaussian Blur (by going to Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) to “1 pixel”. This will soften the rough, jagged edges and give the finished product a more natural feel.

Copy the “first” layer another time set it as the top layer, relabeling it “slight”. Use the “Angled Strokes” Filter (Filter/Brush Strokes/Angled Strokes) and adjust the Direction Balance upwards (around 30), then adjust the Stroke Length and Sharpness accordingly. Change the Layer Blending Mode at the top of the Layer palette, to “soft light” and change the Opacity between 30-40%. You’ve just made a layer that will accentuate the digitized brush strokes and adjust the contrast to make the colors more pleasing.

Copy the “first” layer yet again and relabel it “pstroke”, setting it as the top layer. Use the Find Edge Filter (Filter/Stylize/Poster Edges). From the menu, click on Image/Adjustment/Hue (or just press Ctrl+U for the Hue box. Move the Saturation bar as far left as it will go. “Layer Blending” needs to be at Multiply and Opacity at half-power. The pencil stroke (hence the layer’s name) will define the outlines of the picture’s objects.

Click “New Layer Set” on the layer palette. Put “base”, “slight” and “pstroke” in the new set in the order you created them. You can do this easily with Photoshop CS2 (or later versions); just move all the layers to the new layer set by holding down the Ctrl button and clicking the layers you want to move. This will enable you to move all of your layers at once. For those of you with Photoshop 6 or earlier versions, you’ll have to clip the layers individually instead of dragging them.

Now you have the makings for a great watercolor drawing-effect photo, but the fun is just beginning. The next tutorial will focus on blending your layers to give the photo a natural hand-painted effect.