December 31, 2009

Today is Last Day 4 Great Deal on Dictation Software - Dragon Naturally Speaking for $30

The ability to speak aloud and have the words you say appear on your computer screen, ready for editing into a final product, isn't new.  Having it happen with 99% accuracy - that's a more recent development.  And Nuance is the company that has accomplished this and made its speech-to-text software available at a reasonable price point for most consumers. 

In fact, Nuance has produced a voice recognition software for several years now -- Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I've used this over the years after learning about it from Paperback Writer (who recommends this software periodically over at her blog).  Dragon Naturally Speaking consistently gets great reviews; in fact, the only real complaint of which I'm aware is that there is not a Mac version of the product. 

PCWorld gave DNS 10 a rating of 4/5 with one of its two "cons" being that the software was "pricey."  That's a complaint that has gone out the window. 

It's true that usually this software costs over $100.00.  However, Circuit City has a special deal that ends today.  Today, you can order the speech-to-text software for $30.00.  This is quite the bargain.  And if you miss today's great deal, there's still a chance that you can scarf up a bargain using an online coupon

Why would you use this?  Who would use speech-to-text software?

Maybe you have carpal tunnel syndrome and a keyboard is painful. 
Maybe you can't type fast. 
Maybe you like to dictate. 

Me?  I like to dictate notes to myself from various research sources as I surf the web, saving here and there to One Note as I go.  Saves me lots of time, really helps with organizing things.  I'll also use speech to text on some projects, clean things up with the keyboard later.

These are uses that I have for an older version of Dragon.  The latest version (DNS 10) also allows the user to dictate directly into Excel as well as Word, along with dictating emails directly in Outlook, updating the calendar, and searching in Google (and other sites like Wikipedia).  It will also let the user -- using voice commands alone, no mouse and no keyboard -- to flip between applications (for example, check email in the midst of writing). 

It's my understanding that there were some problems with installation on Windows Vista but Nuance helps you with good tech support (for free during installation) that helps overcome that hurdle and the latest version (the one on sale) supports Vista SP1 and SP2, 32-bit and 64-bit. 

I'm gonna get it. 

December 30, 2009

I'mmmm Bacckkkkkk!!!!

It makes me sad to think how I've ignored this blog for the past few months, when it's so important to me.  Especially when I've kept it up for four years now (well, officially that anniversary's not for a couple of weeks but I'm rounding off here) and when living simply is what I do.

So, seeing that anniversary looming here at year's end, I had to decide either to stop or to do things right.  Stopping seems just plain wrong. So, here I am.  Writing here again. 

And, there's so much to write about these days, about living simply, isn't there?

I'm grateful to everyone who keeps coming to this blog -- there's been steady traffic.  Lots of folk still need to know how to clean burnt pans, or how to use Tang to get their dishwashers working well.  Children of elderly parents as well as seniors routinely come to read about filial responsiblity laws, too.

Thanks for sticking with me, and now, here we go!!!!!

August 26, 2009

My Blog Posts Rank Within Top 5 in Google Search Results Consistently Over Time and Where Results Number in the Millions

Yesterday, I went roaming thru my blog post stats and found some very nice ranking results. Like I'm ranking posts in the top 3 out of millions in Google search results, and with posts that have staying power (they're old and still rank high.) So, please forgive my intrusion into the usual theme of this blog, but I'm republishing my post from yesterday on my Writer-Lawyer blog here on Everyday Simplicity (and on Backseat Lawyer and Rebecca Kennedy, too) as an experiment - to see what happens, stat-wise ....

This afternoon, I stopped to check the stats for my personal blogs and found some nice ranking results. I do this a lot, but today I actually stopped to make a little tally.

July 23, 2009

Free Iced Mochas at McDonalds; Starbucks and the Home Office

I'm a bit late to the game on this one, but McDonald's will give you a free 8 ounce Iced Mocha (or a 7 oz hot one, if you want) both this Monday and the next, from 7 am to 7 pm. The promo ends August 3rd.

I suppose this may apply only to participating restaurants, so check for the free promo posters at your local McD's, or look online at McDonald's McCafe site.

Have I tried 'em? Yep. Pretty darn tasty.

July 21, 2009

Watch This on Canada's Health Care

Thanks to Robin Lee Hatcher for sharing this video. It's worth the 20 minutes to watch this video, in its entirety, as part of your personal research on whether or not the U.S. should have socialized medicine.

July 7, 2009

Daily Dose of Caffeine May Cure Alzheimer's

Here's an article for you: Daily Dose of Caffeine May Cure Alzheimers, Scientists Find.

And while this is good news if you're wanting reasons to justify your Starbucks purchases, it's not so good for your previous dedication to that daily glass of red wine. Oh well.

Heck, maybe it's better to be safe rather than sorry. Coffee AND wine? Problem solved.

July 6, 2009

HULU Keeps Getting Bigger: ABC starts today

ABC content starts arriving on Hulu this week, which means that lots of relatively recent TV shows are going to be available for viewing -- joining lots of other stuff that you might find interesting, as well as at the right price (free).

What else is at Hulu? Just now, they were showing the following as their most popular movies (there are lots of movies there):

Benny & Joon
The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
The Last Of The Mohicans
Prelude To A Kiss

They've also got classic TV shows, trailers and clips, and informational videos. Close captioning is available, too.

July 5, 2009

Personal Post: MothBalls for the Mysterious Guest

We have a mysterious guest here in the garage. He's been here about a week.

That's when the dogs first starting going nuts, sniffing the outside wall of the garage - as well as inside, where cardboard boxes are stacked and there's a couple of old window screens lined up against the back.

Of course, the first thing I thought was RATS.


June 28, 2009

Update: Should You Pull Your Money Out?

Last September, shortly after the FDIC Chairwoman's press conference announcing 117 banks were on the FDIC Watch list, I wrote about whether or not we should feel comfortable with our money in the bank - especially as we become more and more a cashless society, using debit cards and credit cards for even the smallest purchases. That article had lots of details that I'm not going to repeat here, but it's worth a re-read if you're interested in this sort of thing.

That post got lots of traffic, I got lots of emails, and it also appeared in several publications. And, today, when I read the news that last Friday, five more banks were closed across the country (bringing the total to 45 closures so far this year), I thought I'd look into this issue a bit more. And here's what I've found.

April 12, 2009

Take a Minute for Susan Boyle - Amazing Encouragement, Wonderful Video, You Are Going to Love Susan Boyle

I would post the full video here, but it's been right-protected at YouTube, so you will have to click HERE to go watch this amazing, wonderful event.

Please do this.

On this Easter Sunday, when so many things seem so dark and so many are scared and skittish, it will warm your heart and encourage you -- may God bless Susan Boyle for what she has done for so many of us, by having the courage to do what she did.

Amazing performance. Amazing event. A true gift to us all, in so many ways.

Please go watch this.

April 10, 2009

You Can Buy Coca-Cola Made With Sugar NOT High Fructose Corn Syrup: Buy Kosher Coke

Here in San Antonio, we're lucky to be close enough to the Mexican border that we can get our hands on Coca-Cola made in Mexico, where they don't put high fructose corn syrup in their product. Yep, in Mexico they use sugar -- just like our good old American cokes had in them until the 1980s. (Locals, you can get Mexican Coca-Cola anytime at Central Market.)

However, during Passover, everyone in the US gets a break. Because Coca-Cola actually distributes a Kosher version of Coca-Cola that is made with sugar, not HFCS. Here's how you can tell which bottles are with sugar, and why you should care.

March 29, 2009

I Cooked a Pork Tenderloin ($1.79/lb) - Here's How

Pork tenderloin was cheaper than chicken at the store today, so I bought one. I've never been a big pork fan, but I may change my mind. This was very easy to cook, didn't take long, and it turned out fabulous.

This video shows how to cook a tenderloin -- and I like this video because she did what I did: I just put that baby in the oven. No throwing it into a frying pan first to get some saute action going. No sirreebob and I don't think foregoing that step was a problem at all.

Tex-Mex hint on leftovers: take a corn tortilla, put in some pork, a couple of avocado slices, some cilantro, and some shredded cabbage. Fabo taco. Addicting. Truly.

March 24, 2009

Frugal Habits Feeling Good - Frugal Isn't Just a Trend

A new study of consumer shopping habits in the United States is revealing that people aren't planning are changing back from their new "tighter" ways of spending, should the economy bounce back.

Apparently, Americans like the feeling of getting good deals, looking for bargains, and living more simply. Good, right?

Well, the retailers aren't happy about it. They're busy trying to figure out how to deal with this new consumer mindset. Some retailers are planning on downsizing, others are considering being "one-stop" shopping stores.

And, of course, who's setting pretty among all these retail stores? The big warehouses like Sam's Club and Costco, and ... yes ... WalMart.

March 9, 2009

Should You Be Stockpiling Food? How do you stockpile food anyway?

Last year, there was already talk of stockpiling food. As in, the federal government was stockpiling - buying up storable food in enormous volume from such places as Best Prices Storable Foods. Last month, there were news stories of China stockpiling food, too, because of the big drought it's been facing.

And, sure there's a need for a government to have food in ready demand when something like Katrina hits.

But what about our economy? Should we stockpile food in preparation for transportation halts, bank closures, or food shortages? And if so, how do you do that, anyway?

March 4, 2009

FDIC Letter Threatens FDIC Insolvency - This is Big News But What Does It Mean to You?

Today, there was big news that maybe isn't getting the attention it deserves: the head of the FDIC has sent a letter to banks and thrifts across the country, explaining to their CEOs that the FDIC must raise its fees, as well as be paid the big surprise extra premium payment that it voted for itself last week, otherwise the FDIC will become insolvent in a matter of months.

That the FDIC is even hinting that it may be insolvent at any time is spooky stuff, and I'm thinking more than adequate to start some folk on a run to their banks.

January 17, 2009

Goodbye to Circuit City: Are There Really Bargains at a Going Out of Business Sale?

Well, it's a sad read over at the Circuit City web site, where the company wishes its customers goodbye after being in business (previously as the Wards Companies) since 1949. Their farewell explains that almost 40,000 folk across the country are losing their jobs, and that liquidation managers have taken over running -- and liquidating -- the remaining Circuit City stores that are open.

Sad, sad. I always liked Circuit City. I found some really good deals there.

And, starting yesterday -- January 16th -- the clearance sales begin. Everything but personal checks will be accepted, and there are supposed to be some good buys to be had.

January 16, 2009

Cheap Eats and Frugal Recipes: Beer Biscuits

The biscuits in the tube are cheap, and it's fun to bang them against the counter to open 'em up, but what if you want to try your hand at cooking some the old fashioned way?

If you're new to baking, or don't have much time, then try drop biscuits (because you don't have to roll out the dough and cut out the little circles with a cutter) and start your trek using biscuit mix instead of buying all the separate ingredients (you'll move up soon enough, this stuff is fun).

You'll still need a nice baking sheet, a good hot oven, and a few ingredients - but not much. Here are two of my favorites -- they are so easy, and they taste great.

Paula Deen's Beer Biscuit Recipe

Here, Paula credits her brother Bubba for the recipe. All you need is a can of beer, a pat of butter, a 1/4 cup of sugar, and a box of Biscuit Mix (you'll need 4 cups) and you're ready to go. You stir all this together, dump them in muffin tins (I just spoon blobs onto a cookie sheet), and bake till golden in a 400 degree oven.

How easy is that?

And what's great here is all the ingredients can be on hand in your pantry, when you're ready - assuming that you keep butter in the fridge. It's the only perishable here. If you're stocked up, then you're not running to the store for a darn thing.

There's a recipe over at Cajun Recipes that makes it even simpler than this. And that's saying something, right?

They're taking 3 cups of biscuit mix, that same can of beer (it's your leavening agent), and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Period. Mixing all that together, and shaping the dough into biscuits, baking 'em at 375 until golden brown.

Wow, that's easy and fast.

January 14, 2009

Simple Inspiration & Frugal Encouragement -1: Thoreau

Times are tough and lots of people are scared. Some of them will just sit and stay that way; however, others -- like you, dear reader -- may be seeking inspiration to commit to a simple life and a frugal future, or you're already committed and maybe needing a little encouragement along the way.

So, during 2009 here at Everyday Simplicity, you will find weekly posts dedicated solely to encouragement and inspiration.

Like this one, bringing you some words from Henry David Thoreau. Now, if you want to read the entirety of Walden, you can, for free. It's on the web (the copyright has long since vanished), and it's broken down into chapters so you can take it in spurts if you'd like.

Sure, you may have studied it in college as an example of transcendentalism - but Thoreau's writing really does read as a concrete, comforting example of choosing to live a simple life.

In Walden, he begins with the first two chapters giving you, the reader, concrete information on his daily activities, like how he built his sturdy little cabin all by himself; how he tried to get going to beat the sunrise; what he ate and how he kept his perishables safe from spoilage. And, while he is journaling his progress in making a home for himself out in the wild, he shares his thoughts with you -- and it's here that you will hopefully find encouragement.

From chapter 1:

...But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before....

Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance- which his growth requires - who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly....

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate....

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. ...

When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our
prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. ....

I don't know about you, but I love this stuff. Reading these words strengthens me, reminds me about what's important and what's not.

And, silly as it may sound, it makes me feel proud of my lifestyle choice.

Every morning, I awake to hear the boom! of the cannon over at Fort Sam Houston, awakening the soldiers at exactly 5:30 a.m. Every night, at 11 p.m., I stand outside and hear taps being played. And between those two bookends of my day, I try very hard to live a rich, peaceful, simple and rewarding life without that hamster on a wheel feeling I used to experience in my Suit and Heels past.

Living a simple (frugal) life really is just a better way to live. It's work to choose this route, and work to stay on track in this American culture we have today (I was just called "crazy" by an old friend last week at lunch) but it's so, so worth it.

Go read Thoreau. I'm really hopeful that you'll share that Attaboy feeling that I found there.
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