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Your Guide for Travelling Through Ireland

Best known for its lush greenery, Guinness, and Saint Patrick, Ireland is a great place for your next trip. We’ve compiled a guide for traveling through Ireland, including must-sees and little known facts.

You’ll be sure not to miss Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. This mesmerizing series of lava plateaus were formed around 50 to 60 million years ago by intense volcanic activity. Over time, the lava cooled and fractures created columns that are so perfect, they almost look artificial.

Soak up more natural beauty on the Ring of Kerry. For many people, this drive is the epitome of Ireland, filled with ancient monuments, romantic castles, spectacular gardens, and colorful towns and villages.

Also make sure to travel to the west coast to see the The Cliffs of Moher. This is some of the dramatic and breathtaking coastline you’ll see anywhere in the world. With sheer cliffs over 700 feet high stretching for over 5 miles, you might feel like you’re at the edge of the world.

Furthermore, some of the greatest modern literature has come out of Ireland. There have been four Irish writers to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, and Seamus Heaney among others are all well-known Irish writers. I remember watching a Travel Channel special hosted by Bobby Flay on Ireland once where they talked about all the famous Irish writers always hanging out in the pubs. They joked that these writers didn’t have drinking problems, but rather those drinkers had writing problems. You yourself could pass off your many trips to the pub for a pint of Guinness as studying up on your favorite writers (not that anyone needs an excuse for a pint of Guinness).

Speaking of Guinness, no trip is Ireland is complete without a stop at the Guinness Storehouse. Located in Dublin, a trip to the Guinness Storehouse not only includes tastings of the world’s best stout (if I do say so myself), but you’ll also learn how Guinness is made and hear the story of how it came to be so famous and one of Ireland’s best-known exports. The view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar on the top floor is also quite spectacular.

If historical buildings are your thing, try St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College Dublin. Architecturally, Trinity College is one of the greatest universities in the world. Many of the buildings are over hundreds of years old, but the must-see is definitely the Long Room of the old library. Don’t miss seeing the Book of Kells while you’re there either. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also located in Dublin and is Ireland’s largest church. An interesting note: Jonathan Swift, the author of “Gulliver’s Travels,” is buried here and was the dean of the cathedral from 1713-45.

There will be many more things to catch your fancy once you get to Ireland, but use this guide as a starting point. Don’t be afraid to get lost and find your own path though. Some of the best travel experiences are the unexpected ones!

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You Think You Have an Expensive TV? Think Again.

With the way television technology is advancing so rapidly, there are so many great deals to be had on even one or two year old TVs. The last TV I bought three years ago was a 40 inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $300 USD. That was a great deal then, but could easily be outdone today. This article is not about cheap TVs, however; it’s about the most expensive, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping TVs on the market. The kind of money you’ll be throwing at these TVs just screams, “I have so much cash, I don’t even know to do with it all.” Even that’s not you, one can dream right?

Samsung KN55S9C

Price: $8,999 USD

This is the world’s first full-sized Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) TV. OLED TVs are completely different than the plasma, LCD, and LED TVs that have dominated the market for the past decade. OLED technology is the only reason this TV is so expensive (i.e. new technology always is).

LG 55EA9800

Price: $9,999 USD

Just like the Samsung above, this OLED TV is cashing in on its new technology. OLED TVs are different from LCDs and plasmas for a few reasons: 1) They use much less energy; 2) They are thinner, lighter and more flexible; 3) They are brighter; 4) They are easier to produce and can be made to larger sizes; and 5) They have large fields of view at about 170 degrees.

LG 84LM9600

Price: $19,999 USD

At a whopping 84 inches, this TV is just as crisp as it is big gigantic. It has four times the resolution of regular 1080p TVs. This was the first Ultra HD “4K” television, and has since been used by Sony and several other manufacturers as the basis for their own 84 inch 4K TVs.

Samsung UN85S9

Price: $39,999 USD

Samsung’s very own 4K television comes complete with with a massive easel-like stand. I guess that’s one expensive easel because at 85 inches, this 4K LCD is almost exactly like the LG. The big pull from the 4K Ultra HD TVs (also known as UHD TVs) is definitely the far superior image quality. With four times as much detail as 1080p Full HD, you could be getting eight million pixels compared to two million pixels.

Panasonic TH-103PF12U

Price: $49,995 USD

Why is this TV so expensive? For starters, it’s a staggering 103 inches diagonally. This is basically the biggest TV you can buy (that is, unless you count the the $500,000, 152 inch version, but I’d like to imagine a world in which people don’t have that kind of money). With most plasma TV maxing out at around 65 inches, you’re paying strictly for the size with this guy.

So there you have it. Got boatloads of cash you’re looking to unload quickly? Me neither. But if you did, these TVs aren’t a bad way to go.

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Which Martial Art is Right For You

Martial arts are a great way to focus your mind and your body. They teach self-control, discipline, as well as the ability to defend oneself. There are a lot of different types of martial arts such as Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Krav Maga. If you’re looking to get into martial arts, use this as a quick guide to help you decide which one is right for you.

Kung Fu, also known as Wushu, is a Chinese martial arts. Training consists of four components: basics, forms, applications, and weapons. The basics build strong and flexible muscles, management of Qi or breath, and proper body mechanics. Kung fu teaches that weapons are to be considered as an extension of the body.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art which combines combat and self-defense techniques with sport and exercise. Modern taekwondo has two main styles. One style is practiced by International Taekwon-Do adherents and the other style derives from Kukkiwon, the source of the sparring system sihap gyeorugi, which has been an Olympic event since 2000. In Korean, tae means “to strike or break with the foot”; kwon means “to strike or break with the fist”; and do means “way of life”. Thus, taekwondo may be loosely translated as “the way of the foot and the hand.”

Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa, Japan. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. In some styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. Originally derived from Judo, BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.

Muay Thai, as the name suggests, is from Thailand and focuses on stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. Muay Thai is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, and feet. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the twentieth century, when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts.

Krav Maga is a martial art and self-defense system developed for the military in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from boxing, savate, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and grappling, along with realistic fight training. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and counter-attacks, and has also been refined for civilian, police, and military applications.

All martial arts teach disciple and inner strength. Local clubs are very common and can be of great benefit to anyone.

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What is Forex and How Does it Work?

Forex is short for the foreign exchange market. Many people make money by investing in the foreign exchange market and so can you. Here’s the basic idea: Currencies fluctuate and you can profit from the daily up and down nature of the market. Let’s say the Japanese Yen is gaining a lot of value — you’ll want to buy a bunch of Yen as it begins it’s upswing and then sell it all when it’s at the peak of its value. All currencies rise and fall. The trick is to buy low and sell high.

The most famous example of success is George Soros who made a billion dollars in one day trading currencies. He’s obviously an outlier, however, as most people see much, much less gains, if anything at all. It’s a risky business, but if you’re dedicated and put in the time to learn the market, there’s money to be made.

XE.com has nice Forex in a nutshell section that lists five benefits to trading the Forex:

  1. Many firms don’t charge commissions – you pay only the bid/ask spreads.
  2. There’s 24 hour trading – you dictate when to trade and how to trade.
  3. You can trade on leverage, but this can magnify potential gains and losses.
  4. You can focus on picking from a few currencies rather than from 5000 stocks.
  5. Forex is accessible – you don’t need a lot of money to get started.

An important point to note is that you are always trading currencies, never buying them. The example with the Yen above was bit oversimplified, but you can’t just buy more money. If this were the case, the richest people in the world would just buy all the valuable currencies and get richer. Instead, if I wanted to get Yen because it was on the rise, I would have to trade in some other currency for it. That’s why in the Forex, currencies are always quoted in pairs, like EUR/USD or USD/JPY. XE.com provides a great example of this:

“The EUR/USD rate represents the number of USD one EUR can buy. If you think the Euro will increase in value against the US Dollar, you buy Euros with US Dollars. If the exchange rate rises, you sell the Euros back, and you cash in your profit.”

As with any market trading, you need to know what you’re doing. Forex trading involves a high risk of loss, and may not be suitable for everyone. If you’re not willing to put in the time to really study the market, it might be best to avoid currency exchanges. If this is something you’re willing to commit to, however, Forex provides great opportunity. As the largest financial market on Earth (yes, even bigger than the New York Stock Exchange) there are so many buyers and sellers that transaction prices are kept low which essentially just means opportunity.

Will you give Forex a try?

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Vertu Cell Phones (And Why They’re So Amazing)

The homepage of their website boasts a falcon dressed in a slick-grey, Bond-esque suit casually strolling out of his penthouse apartment which overlooks London towards an equally slick private plane. Who’s they you might ask? Oh, no one, just the ultra-luxury cellphone company, Vertu, whose phones retail between $6,000 and $12,000 USD. Crazy, you say? Who would spend so much money on a phone, you say? Well, you’re far from alone, but you also might be wrong.

As Sam Grobart of Bloomberg Businessweek Technology said, “It’s easy to make fun of Vertu… They’re just making bejeweled versions of ordinary smartphones. Their products are gaudy, silly things that offer no functional advantage over an iPhone, a Galaxy S4, or many other smartphones on the market. They are designed for, and purchased by, status-obsessed arrivistes who have more money than sense.”

The “bejeweled” aspect Grobert points out are Vertus unique materials and craftsmanship. From sapphire crystal faces instead of Gorilla Glass to titanium bodies (or gold, or platinum) instead of plastic or aluminum, they certainly cater to people who appreciate the finer things in life.

However, Vertus sales have increased in nine of the past 10 years. Built on an Android platform, the phone is functionally no different or better than any other new Android phone on the market, but that’s not what makes this phone so great. It’s the rarity and uniqueness of having a phone that’s covered in precious metals, diamonds, and rubies. It’s status. And it’s completely customizable.

You start with the surface of the phone. You have a choice between ten colors of alligator skin complemented by either titanium or gold. Then you add your personal engraving. Something like, “I am the 1%” or “Look at me!” would be fitting. You finish it off with another piece of alligator, the protective case.

While it may seem silly to drop so much money on a technologically unspectacular phone, $6,000 for a phone isn’t any more reckless than buying a watch for $20,000. It’s all about tastes. If you have the money and want a phone that shows that, Vertu is for you. As Vertu’s CEO Massimiliano Pogliani said in a recent interview, “If you don’t like wine, spending $5,000 on a bottle of Mouton Rothschild doesn’t make sense to you. These phones will last two to three years, whereas a bottle of wine may last, what, an hour or two? But if you care about this sort of thing, that hour or two is priceless to you. For a person who drinks orange juice and smoothies and Diet Coke, this does not speak to you.”

Does it speak to you? Or are you sticking to orange juice and smoothies?

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The GoPro Lifestyle

If you haven’t noticed, GoPros are all the rage these days. Hugely popular with action sport junkies, these tiny cameras and video recorders have unlocked sharing adventure in ways completely revolutionary. As Telis Demos of the Wall Street Journal recently wondered, “Is GoPro a Gadget Maker? A Lifestyle Brand? Or a Social-Media Firm?” While seemingly all avenues are open as this company continues to explode, at it’s core GoPro is about the gear. Here’s an overview of the different GoPros out on the market today:

Hero 3+ Black Edition

This is the smallest, lightest, and most powerful GoPro on the market. It would then make sense that it is also the newest model. For $399.99, the 3+ Black Edition boasts 4K video capabilities, a 12MP camera, built in wifi, and a wifi remote. It’s best features are:

  • It’s massive range of movie quality settings
  • The 30fps max still image burst rate
  • Remote and app control
  • Top of the line video and photo quality
  • Good range of accessories

This is GoPros current flagship product. The 30fps is huge because in the world of action sports, being able to take 30 consecutive shots could very well be the difference between getting that perfect shot versus not. Perhaps the Black Edition’s biggest draw over the other GoPro products, however, is its far advanced video shooting modes. While the Silver and White editions support a maximum resolution of 1080p at 25fps, the Black Edition can capture 1080p Full HD video at 50/48/25fps. Additionally, something neither the Silver or White editions are capable of is shooting in 720p at 100/50fps, which is ideal for smooth slow-motion playback of high-def movies. The Black Edition also supports 4K capture at 15fps, or 4K Cinema at 12fps.

In terms of design, the Hero 3+ Black Edition is 30% smaller and 20% lighter than its predecessor, Hero 2.

There is also a Hero 3+ Black Edition, Surf Edition that comes with special adhesive mounts designed specifically for mounting the camera to a surfboard, but is otherwise identical.

Hero 3+ Silver Edition

At the reduced price of $299.99 USD, the Silver Edition is a slightly toned-down version of the Black Edition. The camera resolution is slightly less at 11MP, as well as the maximum burst rate of 10fps versus the 30fps of the Black. In terms of video quality, the maximum resolution is 1080p at 25fps, as mentioned above.

Hero 3 White Edition

The entry-level White Edition of the Hero line retails at a modest $199.99 USD. The camera is a huge leap down from the 3+’s with only a 5MP sensor and 3fps burst rate. Just like the Silver with respect to video quality, the maximum resolution is 1080p at 25fps.

GoPros have permeated into all facets of life. Adrenaline junkies and big production shows like Deadliest Catch alike are using GoPro technology. Their small, power, and user-friendly nature make them the perfect accessory to your adventure lifestyle. GoPros have become the standard for capturing those thrilling outdoor moments.

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Tax Advantage of Investing in Real Estate

Real estate is one of the smartest places to invest your money due to the various tax advantages and benefits for homeowners. Rental real estate properties have some great tax write offs you can take advantage of. The three biggest and most beneficial tax write offs for homeowners on their rental properties are in interest, repairs, and depreciation.

Homeowners can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on rental properties. As J.D. Stephen Fishman explains, “Interest is often a landlord’s single biggest deductible expense. Common examples of interest that landlords can deduct include mortgage interest payments on loans used to acquire or improve rental property and interest on credit cards for goods or services used in a rental activity.”

Homeowners can also write off all the other standard operating expenses that go along with owning a rental property: repairs and maintenance, utilities, insurance, yard care, association fees, etc. As long as you claim those repairs in the same year the costs were incurred, they’re fully deductible. Typical repairs might include fixing gutters or floors, fixing leaks, plastering, or replacing broken windows.

The depreciation write off is the real kicker. On your taxes, you can depreciate the cost of residential buildings over 27.5 years, even while they are (hopefully) increasing in value. Bill Bischoff of MarketWatch provides this example: “Say your rental property cost $200,000. The annual depreciation deduction is $7,273, which means you can have that much in positive cash flow without owing any income taxes. That is a nice benefit, especially if you own several properties. Commercial buildings must be depreciated over a much-longer 39-year period, but the depreciation write-offs will still shelter some of your cash flow from taxes.”

Other tax write offs at your disposal as a homeowner are:

Local Travel: Landlords can claim a tax deduction whenever they drive somewhere for their rental property. For example, if you drive to your rental building to deal with a tenant complaint or go to the hardware store to purchase a part for a repair, you can deduct your travel expenses.

Long Distance Travel: Even if you travel overnight for your rental activity, you can deduct your airfare, hotel bills, meals, and other expenses.

Employees and Independent Contractors: Anytime you hire a resident manager, a repair person, etc. to perform services for your rental property, you can deduct their wages as a rental business expense.

Legal and Professional Services: You can deduct fees to attorneys, accountants, property management companies, or real estate investment advisors as operating expenses as long as the fees are paid for work related to your rental activity.

Rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment. If you’re looking to invest, real estate should be something to really consider.

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So You Want to Go on an African Safari

Going on an African safari is at the top of the list for many travelers. For most of us in the Western world, lions, tigers, zebras, rhinos, etc. are only viewable in zoos. Out in the plains of Africa, seeing this amazing animals in the wild offers a sense of quasi-dangerous adventure and excitement. For anyone who’s planned an African safari before, you know that the term “African safari” is pretty ambiguous. There are so many different options for safari types from the very broad to the weirdly specific. Here’s a guide to the different options you’ll have as you plan your own trip.

Traditional African Safari

This is the kind of safari most people have been on. You’ll sleep under canvas in semi-permanent bush camps or permanent luxury safari lodges. Your tour will be in the classic large safari busses with two rows of seats facing each other and metals bars just around head height. This is the can’t-miss, if unoriginal option.

Walking Safari

Walking Safaris are one of the best ways to get into areas of high game activity and experience all aspects of the bush. You’ll have the option of walking trails over a few nights or a few hours. Certain walking safaris in Kenya even offer a camel for occasional riding.

Migration Safari

Usually one of safari-goers main goals is to see a herd of animals traveling together. Humans crave seeing that sense of community which helps us identify with our fellow mammals. On a migration safari, you’ll get all of that. Tanzania’s Serengeti or Kenya’s Masai Mara are perhaps the most well known places to see these amazing migrations.

Canoe Safari

This is a unique way of getting up close and personal with some of the biggest animals out there. From bathing elephants to lazy hippopotamuses, accessing their natural habitats by water will give you access to sights most people can’t see. You’ll usually have a range of sleeping options from wild camping to deluxe tented camps to permanent lodges.

Mobile Safari

In private or public groups between six to 12 people, mobile safaris are the ultimate chance to create your own adventure. You’ll have the opportunity to explore all aspects of life on the African continent from villages to spectacular wildernesses.

There are many, many more options for your own African safari. Companies want to cater to what people want. Whether you’re on your honeymoon, or you only want to see apes, or even insects, there’s an African safari for you.

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Leverage Using Other People’s Money

“When leverage works, it magnifies your gains. Your spouse thinks you’re clever, and your neighbors get envious. But leverage is addictive. Once having profited from its wonders, very few people retreat to more conservative practices. And as we all learned in third grade — and some relearned in 2008 — any series of positive numbers, however impressive the numbers may be, evaporates when multiplied by a single zero. History tells us that leverage all too often produces zeroes, even when it is employed by very smart people.”

That was Warren Buffett in his 2010 shareholder letter. For those unfamiliar with leverage, let’s step back a bit and explain the topic.

Investopedia defines leverage as, “The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.” In other words, it’s borrowing other people’s money in an effort to increase your future gains. Here’s the hope everyone has when using leverage: Instead of starting my business slowly with this initial seed money of $100,000, I’m going to borrow $400,000 and my now $500,000 will allow me to expand quicker and become more successful. Those who I borrowed the $400,000 from will also see quicker returns on their investment and everyone wins.

Sounds great in theory, right? And like Warren Buffett said, if it works, you look like a genius. But here’s what could also happen: You borrow $400,000 your company struggles. You pour more money and still nothing. You lose it all. Your loss is now much greater than it would’ve been if the you had not leveraged money — leverage magnifies both gains and losses.

Many people may look at leverage as betting on themselves to succeed, but it’s not as simple as that. There are so many other aspects that go into success or failure. The economy could have a sudden downswing for example and no matter how good your business idea was or how successful it would have been, there’s nothing you can do about a market crash.

Yale University professors Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff would disagree with Mr. Buffett, however. They produced a study called Life-Cycle Investing and Leverage: Buying Stock on Margin Can Reduce Retirement Risk in which they argue that leveraging your money starting in your mid 20s will leave you with 90% more money when you turn 65 than conventional investment strategies. For example, they suggest a strategy of a 25-year-old who has $5,000 to invest should borrow (or leverage) another $5,000 and put the whole $10,000 in a stock market index. That person should do the same thing for another 15 years or so before slowly deleveraging in his 40s. The worst-case scenario, according to the two professors, is that you retire with only 30% more than the conventional investor.

However you intend to use leverage, you should strongly consider the risks involved before doing so. Talk to a financial advisor you trust. Clearly there is no right or wrong answer when a genius investor and highly intelligent economists from Yale are at odds. Do what feels right for you. Be aware of the consequences and learn to live with whatever decision you make. Leveraging money is gambling, plain and simple. You could win big, but you could also lose big.

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Is Fat Really the Enemy?

Fat has gotten a bad rap as being unhealthy. Too many times the terms “fat” and “unhealthy” are used interchangeably. We may see someone overweight and make a judgement of that person being unhealthy. Perhaps they have some unhealthy habits which led to them becoming overweight, but it would be a mistake to equate the words fat and unhealthy. It would be an even bigger mistake to assume that all of our weight loss problems would be solved by cutting out fat from diets.

Indeed, there is such a thing as good fats. As Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD explains, “Fats are an important part of a healthy diet: They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel.” Ms. Zelman goes to quote The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines which recommend that adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, we should be getting at least 10% of our calories to come from fat.

There are two types of fats, saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are good for us, while saturated fats are not. Vegetable oils are a type of unsaturated fat that helps lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride level. Another type of unsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for a healthy heart. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, catfish, and mackerel, as well as flaxseed and walnuts. Perhaps the most famous good fat is olive oil. Mediterranean countries use a lot of olive oil in their cuisine and this dietary component is credited with the low levels of heart disease in those countries.

The Heart Foundation suggests a few ways to work unsaturated fats into your diet:

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  • Avocado and nuts can be added to salads and a handful of unsalted nuts make a healthy snack anytime of the day. Try a handful of almonds sprinkled over breakfast cereal.
  • Tahini can be used as a spread on crackers instead of butter or used as a base for dips, sauces and stews
  • Choose margarine made from sunflower and safflower oils, and use instead of butter on sandwiches and toast
  • Sprinkle ground linseed on breakfast cereal or choose wholegrain bread with linseeds.
  • Add pine nuts or sesame seeds to salads or sprinkle over vegetables.

Here’s a list of unsaturated fats to pick up next time you go to the grocery store:

  • Oils (olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, sesame, soybean, corn, safflower)
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, pine, brazil, walnuts)
  • Seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, flaxseed)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu

So remember: Fats are good for you and you need them. Just choose the healthy ones.

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