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Practice Trading in the 'Virtual Stock Exchange'

May 30, 2014

The power of hands-on learning is indisputable. But when it comes to investing your money in the stock market, however, making a beginner's mistake can cost you more than just your self-esteem. Thankfully, the web makes it easy to practice with virtual money. Virtual stock trading allows you to get in the driver's seat and manage your own fantasy stock portfolio while competing risk-free against friends and strangers.

There are a multitude of online investment games like Investopedia, and Questrade that play with virtual money, but not all of them are easy for beginners. Here are five of the best free (because you shouldn't have to spend real money to play with fake money) online games for getting your feet wet.

1. Wall Street Survivor

Wall Street Survivor - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Invest $100,000 in virtual cash via drop-down menu choices. A friendly cartoon version of stock guru Mark Brookshire helps you make your final decision by providing some rating numbers when you input a stock. These include a rating for survivor sentiment, fundamentals, technical and a Motley Fool Rating.

For additional help choosing stocks, the site has an impressive resource library that spans beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Start with Investing 101 and consider taking advantage of the community forums if you have specific questions. Those who need a little help getting started can also choose to adapt one of the preset portfolios created by proven traders.

While the $100,000 competition is most popular, anybody on the site can create a contest. Prizes vary, but most often consist of competitive pride.

2. HowTheMarketWorks

How The Market Works - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Owned by the same company as Wall Street Survivor, this game is great for investors looking to gain experience with a new type of portfolio. In addition to stocks and indexes, there are options to experiment with Forex portfolios, penny stocks, mutual funds and short selling.

Beginners can execute market order-based trades in a "fun mode" without worrying about things like set hours, maximum number of trades per day, per stock and order expiration. A "realistic mode" amps up the complexity after they've mastered the beginner level.

Players can manage up to three stock portfolios and three Forex portfolios on the site at once. For each portfolio, they select a starting value between $100 and $500,000 and set how much virtual commission you are charged per trade.

The competition aspect is optional. General monthly contests give each player $25,000 as a virtual starting point. Other public contests include challenging restrictions like "short sells only" or "penny stocks only." Users can create their own password-protected games as well, which is a feature that teachers find helpful for creating class competitions.

3. Young Money Stock Market Game

Young Money Stock Market Game - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Young Money Magazine's stock exchange game is easy to learn but also fairly realistic, which is a hard balance to strike.

Realistic aspects include a virtual commission that's taken out of each trade, adhering to market hours and rules about how you can invest. Unlike many investing games, trades are made at a real-time price. Learning aspects include convenient help icons on key terms and an intuitive tabbed interface.

The site runs a monthly contest with a $100 (real) cash prize that goes to whoever gained the highest percentage. Players can also create their own contests or join other user-made contests.

4. MarketWatch Fantasy Earnings Trader Game

MarketWatch Fantasy Earnings Trader Game - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

MarketWatch will run this mock stock market contest for a total of four weeks, awarding the winner of each week with an iPad. It's on week three right now, but there's still time to get in on the competition for week four.

You must have your selections picked before the week starts on Monday. The shares that you select are "purchased" at Monday's open and will "sell" automatically at Friday's close.

The catch is that all players can only use the 15 to 20 symbols selected for each week. The companies are selected by the game owner for companies that are projecting their earnings during each week. Lining up picks is easy — players simply drag the company's logo to their trading card and designate if they want to sell short or go long.

Although there are some pros playing, this game is especially manageable for beginners due to the limited stock options for each week.

5. Virtual Stock Exchange (VSE)

Virtual Stock Exchange - Free Virtual Stock Trading Game

Start with $1,000,000 cash balance you use to buy; stock, exchange traded fund, commodities, foreign currencies and more. Featuring 30+ of the world's stock exchanges.

The use of metrics and customization allow for readily accessible use of the software. Comparatively, VSE is less restrictive than some competitors thanks to; higher starting cash, 1,000,000 trades and helpful competitor information.

Challenges are optional, you can join an existing challenge or start your own for friends, classmates, clubs or strangers.

So whether you play for fun or have the intention to trade with real money some day, these are all valuable resources.

Leave a comment and share which system you like best, or if there is another that should be on the list. 

Three Words You Should Never Say About Yourself

May 29, 2014

Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy im kind of a big deal meme

When we interact with other people, what do we want? As I started to study that question, I came across a wonderful quote. “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.” Robert Benchley.

Psychologists have a bad habit of oversimplifying people. If I truly wanted to capture the richness of the human condition, I needed more than two categories. Imagine my delight, then, when I found evidence that around the world, there are not two… but three styles of interaction.

In every culture, and every industry, research identifies givers, takers, and matchers. Givers are generous: they help others with no strings attached. Takers are selfish: they try to get as much as they can from others. Matchers are fair: I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me (quid pro quo).

We all have our moments of giving, taking, and matching. We also have a style, though, that reflects how we treat most of the people most of the time. Sometimes people asked me about my style, and I was quick to answer: “I’m a giver.” It was natural—helping others is my top guiding principle in life. I feel more comfortable when I’m on the giving side of an exchange. I don’t like trading favors or being transactional.

It was the wrong answer. Last year, something happened that dramatically changed my perspective. I proposed the concept online, talking about and asking readers to self-identify their style. As a new author, nothing was more gratifying than learning that my words mattered to someone else. Given the topic, I expected to hear some stories about giving. I was completely unprepared, though, for what rolled in from some readers:

“When you wrote about givers, you were talking about me, right?” 
“Your book made me realize how generous I am.”
"I've always been a giver."

I thought these were isolated incidents… until I received feedback from someone I actually knew. In the span of one week, two of her friends heard about my book (from her). They both told her, “I’ve always been a giver.”

We found it off-putting, and we wondered why. At first, we thought it was the relationship. It’s one thing to tell a stranger you’re a giver. It’s another thing to announce it to a friend. If you’re really friends, wouldn’t they already know?!

Upon further discussion, we realized there was a deeper issue of humility. I decided to test our hunch elsewhere by posing a specific question during a real-life presentation: “How many of you are givers?”

In a typical room, about a third of the hands went up. Then, I asked: “How many of you are givers, but didn’t raise your hand, because you know that would violate the norm of modesty that givers are supposed to live by?”

“Those are the real givers,” I joked. “The moment someone raises a hand and says, ‘I’m a giver,’ my first reaction is, “Nope, you’re a taker.”

I say this in jest, but I’m surfacing a serious point:

When I called myself a giver, I failed the test of humility.

Now, when people ask about my style, I tell them I hold the values of a giver, and I aspire to be one. But whether I succeed in living by those values is not my place to judge. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

The lesson I learned: “I’m a giver” is off limits. Generosity is earned, not claimed. Leave it to other people to describe you as a giver—that’s the highest form of praise.

If that doesn’t happen, you can always name a website after yourself.

Credit: Adam Grant
Image credits: Anchorman

Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy 60 per cent of the time it works every time meme

15 Hilarious Animated GIFs

May 28, 2014

These are some of my most shared gifs. Guaranteed laughs or your money back!

Twin Stephens Animated GIF
Colbert and King in matching sweaters. Clearly, as you can see, Stephen King is thrilled about this.

Sexy Animated GIF

Cat Prank Animated GIF
A cat on the internet, you don't see that everyday, this is either an attempt to keep a draft out or a bad prank, but regardless, it's pretty funny.

Darth Raver Animated GIF
Adding a Star Wars reference almost always results in a viral sensation.

Don't Touch My Pie Animated GIF
We're not sure what exactly spooked the cat in the first place, but adding a pumpkin pie makes for a hilarious GIF.

Dragon Ball Z sexy Animated GIF

Family Guy Stewie Animated GIF

Funny Nigel Thornberry sexy splash Animated GIF

Funny Animated GIF

Guitar Swing Fail Animated GIF
Heads up! This is what happens when you don't secure the strap.

Hasselhoff Has Lost It Animated GIF
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's....David Hasselhoff?

I Am A Cat Animated GIF
YouTuber Sidneyraz is famous for dancing in public, whether it's in a Thanksgiving turkey costume, or as a cat. This is how the police react to it.

Nigel and the Beast Animated GIF
For some odd reason, Nigel Thornberry has become a major trend on the web. His awkward face has been added to a number of pop stars and Disney princesses.

Scumbag Panda Animated GIF
This GIF was made in response to an old funny commercial, "Never Say No to Panda".

Toddlers and Tiaras Animated GIF
Whether you love, hate, or love to hate this show, this girl's got some moves.

You've made it to the end of the list. Leave a comment for your favorite gif AND/OR share your own. 


Lampreys (aka. lamprey eels) are an order of jawless fish, the adult of which is characterized by a toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth. The common name "lamprey" is probably derived from Latin lampetra, which may mean "stone licker" (lambere "to lick" + petra "stone").
Pacific Lamprey Swimming
Pacific Lamprey Swimming

While lampreys are well known for those species which bore into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood, most species of lampreys are not parasitic and never feed on other fish. The lampreys are a very ancient lineage of vertebrates, though their exact relationship to hagfishes and jawed vertebrates is still a matter of dispute.


Adults physically resemble eels, in that they have no scales, and can range from 13 to 100 cm (5.0 to 40 inches) long. Lacking paired fins, adult lampreys have large eyes, one nostril on the top of the head, and seven gill pores on each side of the head. The unique morphological characteristics of lampreys, such as their cartilaginous skeleton, suggest they are the sister taxon of all living jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes), and are usually considered the most basal group of the Vertebrata. Parasitic lampreys feed on prey as adults by attaching their mouth parts to the target animal's body, then using their teeth to cut through surface tissues until they reach blood and body fluid. Although attacks on humans do occur, they will generally not attack humans unless starved. Non-parasitic lampreys, which are usually freshwater species, do not feed as adults; they live off reserves acquired as larvae, which they obtain through filter feeding.

Painting of Lamprey
Painting of Lamprey

Hagfish, which superficially resemble lampreys, are the sister taxon of the true vertebrates (lampreys and gnathostomes).

Lamprey close-look at rowed teeth
Lamprey close-look at rowed teeth

The pharynx is subdivided; the ventral part forming a respiratory tube that is isolated from the mouth by a valve called the velum. This is an adaptation to how the adults are feeding, which both prevents the prey's body fluids from escaping through the gills or interfering with the gas exchange, which takes place by pumping water in and out of the gill pouches instead of taking it in through the mouth. Near the gills are the eyes, which is poorly developed and buried under skin in the larvae. The eyes' development is completed during metamorphosis, and is in adults covered by a thin and transparent layer of skin that becomes opaque in preservatives.

Pouched lamprey (Geotria australis) larvae also have a very high tolerance for free iron in their bodies, and have well-developed biochemical systems for detoxification of the large quantities of these metal ions.


The lamprey has been extensively studied because its relatively simple brain is thought in many respects to reflect the brain structure of early vertebrate ancestors. In a study of the lamprey tectum published in 2007, researchers found electrical stimulation could elicit eye movements, lateral bending movements, or swimming activity, and the type, amplitude, and direction of movement varied as a function of the location within the tectum that was stimulated. These findings were interpreted as consistent with the idea that the tectum generates goal-directed locomotion in the lamprey as it does in other species.

Lampreys are used as a model organism in biomedical research, where their large reticulospinal axons are used to investigate synaptic transmission. The axons of lamprey are particularly large and allow for microinjection of substances for experimental manipulation.


Lamprey biting man's arm
Lamprey biting man's arm

Lampreys live mostly in coastal and fresh waters, although some species (e.g. Geotria australis, Petromyzon marinus, and Entosphenus tridentatus) travel significant distances in the open ocean, as evidenced by their lack of reproductive isolation between populations. Some species are found in land-locked lakes. They are found in most temperate regions except those in Africa. Their larvae (ammocoetes) have a low tolerance for high water temperatures, which may explain why they are not distributed in the tropics.

Lamprey distribution may be adversely affected by overfishing and pollution. In Britain, at the time of the conquest, lampreys were found as far upstream in the River Thames as Petersham. Reduction of pollution in the Thames and River Wear has led to recent sightings in London and Chester-le-Street.

Distribution may also be adversely affected by dams and other construction projects disrupting migration routes, obstructing access to spawning grounds. Conversely, the construction of artificial channels has exposed new habitats for colonisation notably in North America where sea lampreys have become a significant introduced pest in the Great Lakes.


Adult lampreys spawn in rivers and then die. The young larvae spend several years in the rivers, where they live burrowed in fine sediment, filter feeding on detritus and microorganisms. Then, larvae undergo a metamorphosis lasting several months. Some species do not feed after metamorphosis, while others migrate to the sea or lakes, where they feed on different species of fish and even on marine mammals. Species whose adults migrate to the sea begin preying on other fish soon after metamorphosis, even as they begin swimming downstream.

Fossil record

Lamprey fossils are rare because cartilage does not fossilize as readily as bone. The first fossil lampreys were originally found in Early Carboniferous limestones, marine sediments laid down more than 300 million years ago in North America: Mayomyzon pieckoensis and Hardistiella montanensis, from the Mississippian Mazon Creek lagerstätte and the Bear Gulch limestone sequence..

As food

Lampreys have long been used as food for humans. They were highly appreciated by ancient Romans. During the Middle Ages, they were widely eaten by the upper classes throughout Europe, especially during fasting periods, since their taste is much meatier than that of most other fish. King Henry I of England is said to have died from eating "a surfeit of lampreys."

On 4 March 1953, Queen Elizabeth II's coronation pie was made by the Royal Air Force using lampreys.

Especially in southwestern Europe (Portugal, Spain, and France), and in the northern half in Finland, larger lampreys are still a highly prized delicacy. Sea lamprey is the most sought species in Portugal and one of only two that can legally bear the commercial name "lamprey" (lampreia): the other one being Lampetra fluviatilis, the European river lamprey, both according to Portaria (Government regulation no. 587/2006, from 22 June). Overfishing has reduced their number in those parts. Lampreys are also consumed in Sweden, Finland, Russia, New Zealand, the Baltic countries, Japan, and South Korea.

The mucus and serum of several lamprey species, including the Caspian lamprey, river lampreys , and sea lamprey, are known to be toxic, and require thorough cleaning before cooking and consumption.

In Britain, lampreys are commonly used as bait, normally as dead bait. Northern pike, perch, and chub all can be caught on lampreys. Frozen lampreys can be bought from most bait and tackle shops.

As pests

Lampreys attached on a Lake Trout
Lampreys attached on a Lake Trout
Sea lampreys have become a major pest in the North American Great Lakes after artificial canals allowed their entry during the early 20th century. They are considered an invasive species, have no natural enemies in the lakes, and prey on many species of commercial value, such as lake trout. Lampreys are now found mostly in the streams that feed the lakes, with special barriers to prevent the upstream movement of adults, or by the application of toxicants called lampricides, which are harmless to most other aquatic species. However, those programs are complicated and expensive, and do not eradicate the lampreys from the lakes, but merely keep them in check. New programs are being developed, including the use of chemically sterilized male lampreys in a method akin to the sterile insect technique. Research currently under way on the use of pheromones and how they may be used to disrupt the lifecycle has met with some success. Control of Sea lampreys in the Great Lakes is conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The work is coordinated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Lake Champlain, bordered by New York, Vermont, and Quebec, and New York's Finger Lakes are also home to high populations of sea lampreys that warrant control. Lake Champlain's lamprey control program is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. New York's Finger Lakes sea lamprey control program is managed solely by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.


Lampreys are called "nine-eyed eels" (i.e., per side) from a counting of their seven external gill slits on a side with one eye and the nostril. A German word for lamprey is Neunauge, which means "nine-eye".

Prince Charming

Do you believe your spouse is your Prince or Princess Charming? Now there’s research showing that those who are unrealistically idealistic about their partners are more satisfied with their marriages than the realists.

And the study authors at the University at Buffalo say this idealization seems to thwart the decline in satisfaction that strikes most marriages over time.

Researchers recruited 222 couples as they applied for their marriage licenses. Participants completed surveys every six months for three years. And researchers ranked how idealistic and how realistic each person’s perception was. Those who were unrealistically idealistic actually were happier with their marriage than the others over the three years.

What’s going on? The researchers say the positive outlook — giving your partner more credit than what might be due, and seeing your partner as a closer reflection of your ideal partner than what might be true – probably gives you a stronger sense of optimism that you can resolve problems within the relationship.

The finding flies in the face of conventional wisdom which warns people not to be too “blind” in love.


9 reasons why you're probably going to read this list

May 18, 2014

Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody, Godzilla 2014)Paloma Kwiatkowski (Cody Brennan, Bates Motel)

Lists are everywhere online these days — the 10 best of this, the 25 most of that. It seems as if every subject can be reduced to a list, from the most serious stories to the most frivolous.

One site, BuzzFeed, has become one of the most popular sites on the web (about 135 million monthly unique visitors), largely on the strength of its weird and wacky "listicals." Headlines such as "32 Outrageously Fun Things You'll Want In Your Backyard This Summer," and "The Definitive Ranking Of The Original 151 Pokémon" Рthey are guaranteed clickbait.

But why are lists so popular? Here are seven reasons why you’ll probably want to read this list:

1. It Can Make Your Brain Happy

In a New Yorker article published last year, writer Maria Konnikova points out that when our brain encounters new information it immediately tries to make sense of it, and the most effective way of processing information is spatially.

In other words, it's easier for us to understand and recall information when it’s presented in a list than in a paragraph.

That’s why we can often remember what’s on our grocery list, even if we've forgotten the list at home. We can visualize the list in a way that we can’t visualize information written in a paragraph. So you might say your brain is hardwired to enjoy this list.

2. There are Nine Items

There’s good news and bad news here. The good news for this list is that seven is an odd number, and although there’s no science to support this, list makers have long believed that odd-number lists generate more traffic that even numbers.

The most common number of items on BuzzFeed lists are 10, 15, 21, and 25. Three of those are odd numbers.

On the other hand, Katie Natopolous, a BuzzFeed list writer in New York, acknowledges that while there’s no magic number when it comes to how long a list should be, she believes the more items the better.

"I like to think that something in the 20s is just more satisfying," she explained in an interview. "If it’s less than 20, it’s just not as fun to read. It’s too short."

Oh well.

3. It’s Easy to Read on Your Phone

On a purely practical level, it’s easier to read vertical content on a smartphone than horizontal content. So lists are perfect for mobile technology.

That’s why your favourite news site will offer up more lists in the morning than later in the day. Audience data shows that people are more likely to read news on their phones in the morning when they wake up and while they’re getting ready to leave the house. They want the quick hit that lists provide with their coffee and corn flakes.

Later in the day, when they’re reading on their computers or tablets, lists aren't quite as highly valued.

4. It Can Simplify Your Life

Psychologists call this the "paradox of choice." In a study that appeared in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in 2011, researchers Claude Messner and Michaela Wanke concluded that consumers get more satisfaction when choosing a product from a limited sample than from a larger one.

It turns out that even though we think we like to be presented with lots of choices, too many options can make us uneasy. "Information overload causes decreased satisfaction," the authors concluded, "and reducing information overload would increase satisfaction."

Lists are a great antidote to information overload. They take the guess work out of reading. You don’t have to scroll down to see how long the story is and then calculate whether you have enough time to finish it. You know what you’re getting and roughly how long it will take you, even before you start.

5. The Headline Tells It Like It Really Is

People don’t like to be fooled, and they especially don’t like to be misled by headlines that promise one thing and deliver another.

Chartbeat, a data analytics company based in New York City, has analyzed what keywords get the most reads per clicks in a headline, and which get the least. The results are surprising. Headlines with words like "Obama," "Snowden" and "Syria" get well read, while the kinds of adjectives you commonly find on lists — like "top," "best," and "richest" — get the least.

The reason, according to Joe Alicata of Chartbeat, is that the former "are legitimate words that are clear descriptors of the actual content." The latter tend to be there simply to trick people into clicking, and don’t deliver as promised. With this list, you knew what you were getting right off the top.

6. It Can Turn Snackers into Lovers

According to Marissa Nelson, who’s in charge of all things digital at the CBC, there are two kinds of online news consumers; snackers, who are just looking for a quick read as they’re breezing through the web, and lovers, who keep coming back because they see you as a trusted source.

"For news brands, it's a cycle." Nelson argues. "You have to catch them as snackers and then turn them into lovers."

Lists are an excellent way to attract snackers looking for a drive-by hit, and once you’ve got them on your site, you can capture their hearts and minds. Come for the lists, stay for the stories.

7. It Conveys Numeric Value to Entities of a Subject You May or May Not Have Prior Knowledge of

Upon reading a list title the reader automatically ponders the question presented in the title and now has the desire to learn which is better, worst, funniest, scariest  – simple terminology that has profound reactions.

8. Trigger Emotions of Skepticism and Intrigue

Tempting title entice readers to further explore lists because of the hint that there is something the reader needs to know.

Here is another example of this I Know 10 Things About You

9. There’s Pictures of Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody, Godzilla 2014) and Paloma Kwiatkowski (Cody Brennan, Bates Motel)

Thumbnails – those little pictures that sit next to headlines and on search pages — are major drivers of traffic. Katie Natopolous of BuzzFeed says her data science team has done the research and found that colour images do better than black and white, and human faces do better than cartoons.

But the most important finding involved actors and actresses.

"Big budget movie stars in a thumbnail will always do great," Natopolous explained. "People love clicking on recognizable faces."