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Where have all the men in ponytails gone? The hair-in-bondage look – once a fashion must among Ottawa’s male civil servants and some of its ore visible TV personalities – seems to have al but disappeared. Did someone send out a memo?

The last vestiges of the dubious style can still be found among the would-be hip, but increasingly, it has become a sign of the uncool. Or at least the unemployed.

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Like dance schools the world over, Ottawa’s Dance Educators on Rideau Street,  begins classes with a traditional, if unofficial, warm-up -- a run up a couple of flights of stairs. This is one of the most comforting things about studying ballet: it is a ritual as much as an exercise.  Here, as everywhere, dozens of devotees in black leotards and pink tights are beginning their Saturday with plies done on a hardwood floor that has been buffed to a soft blonde by thousands of slippered feet.

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Next week the dance cognoscenti will be descending on Ottawa, as they do every two years for the Canada Dance Festival.

With 400 dancers and a cadre of international producers swarming the National Arts Centre, chatter downtown will turn to discussions of who has great lines, who is likely to hit the boards internationally, and who is the next hot thing.

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Surfing such popular social networking sites Facebook and MySpace requires using a few cyber self-defense skills.

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Banking with B.C.’s credit unions became even safer with new legislation that guarantees member deposits are insured for the entire amount. As of November 27 2008, members at B.C.’s credit unions are insured for the maximum amount of their deposits, including any accrued interest. By contrast, customers at commercial banks are insured to a maximum of $100,000.

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America’s loose-lending habits have caused a credit crisis down south but for cautious Canadian lenders long-term mortgages aren’t about getting the fiscally risky into the housing market but giving preferred borrowers more flexibility.

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Screaming headlines proclaiming stock market meltdowns, bank failures, and job losses  leave even the most confident investors feeling shell-shocked. For small investors whose primary concern is financing retirement the current onslaught of bad news, delivered in hysterical tones, often induces unnecessary fear.

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They say opposites attract, but in the financial world it might be better to say that opposites complement. While you couldn’t find two more disparate businesses than banking and insurance – one is about managing the margins, while the other is a fee-for-service -- the combination is a natural fit for credit unions looking to ensure the bottom line.

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Holistic retreat’s soothing massages and welcoming woods make for a blissful rest – just don’t ask too many questions

Cortes Island – A dozen of us are stretched out on the floor like spokes in a wheel, inside a round cedar-log building at Hollyhock, a holistic centre on Cortes Island on the Strait of Georgia about 150 kilometres north of Vancouver. Rain drums on the skylight that crowns the seven-metre-high ceiling while Torkin Wakefield, a 40ish therapist from Colorado, leads us through a relaxation exercise.

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VANCOUVER — Mark Ainley is giving the expression “taking it at face value” a whole new meaning.The Vancouver man teaches workshops on how to divine someone's character, intelligence and values by his or her visage: People with higher eyebrows are reserved. Low eyebrows signal someone outgoing. Upturned noses suggest gullibility; downward pointing noses imply a critical temperament.

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