June 23, 2010

Google Voice - Free and Great or Free and Scary?

ZNet's Dana Blankenhom thinks Google Voice is great, and while there's the power to do evil we have no evidence that Google has taken done bad things to privacy (yet). 

ZNet's Christopher Dawson also thinks Google Voice is great, but he's kinda skeered about what this might mean to our privacy -- and what power this might give to Big Brother. 

And, Google Voice sure does look fabulous.

[Update: I've removed the Google Voice introductory video from this post because of loading problems with it. To see the video, check it out on the Google Voice page.]

June 16, 2010

June is National Safety Month

The National Safety Council is hosting events across the country as part of June being National Safety Month. This year, they are focusing on five specific areas of safety concern:

June 1-6 = Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention
Death caused by taking drugs in unintentional overdoses, many involving chronic pain medications, e.g., oxycodone and hydrocodone.

June 7-13 = Teen Driving Safety
According to the NSC, 17 teens die each day in car crashes in this country.

June 14-20 = Preventing Overexertion at Work & at Home
Pushing yourself past your limits means injury; the NSC reports 40% of injuries at work and at home are due to overexertion.

June 21-27 = Dangers of Cell Phone Use While Driving
Taking and texting while driving remains a serious problem - though Oprah is doing her part to stop it.

June 28-30 = Summer Safety
Here in Texas, we are all too aware of how heat can become life-threatening for children and seniors.

For more information about how you or your organization can get involved in National Safety Month events, check out the National Safety Month page or contact Julie Ford, NSC Development Manager, at julie.ford@nsc.org or 630-775-2104.

June 15, 2010

Easy Easy Slow Cooker Crockpot Chicken Recipe - Basic and Variations

It's hot and getting hotter here in San Antonio, so the time came to pull out the Slow Cooker once again.  Cooking in the Slow Cooker means the kitchen doesn't get hot.  Plus, it's easy clean up -- a one pot convenience, from table to fridge. 

Here's my basic Chicken and Rice recipe, that I mess with to get different kinds of dishes.  It may not be Food Network, but when people rave about it and ask how the heck you made something, then that's good enough for me.  Figure I'd share this with you, Dear Reader.

I take chicken breasts (boneless) (a friend used pork chops here, he liked it) - 6-8 large.
Thawed or frozen.
Put them into the Slow Cooker.
Add brown rice or wild rice, 1 or 2 cups.

I add I can green beans (or peas and carrots, whatever you've got) and I use the water here as part of the water to make up the 2 to 4 cups of liquid I need to go with the dry rice I just put it (1:2 ratio, rice:water)

I add spices.  These depend upon the veggies I have around.

Always salt and pepper.

The Variations ....

If you have mushrooms and onions, add them in and then spice it up with dijon mustard and a touch of cayenne. 
If you have bell pepper and tomatoes, then add them in and spice it up with Mexican spices:  chili powder, comino, add fresh cilantro at the end.
You get the idea.

Put it on the lowest cooking setting you've got.  Leave it alone for half the time.  Then check it.  If the meat is looking 3/4 done, then change to the highest setting (this will finish up the rice).  (My Cooker has six settings, Low (2,8, 0 hours) and High (2,8,10) hours; I start at Low for 10 and then change to High for 2).

Add any hot peppers you might like about an hour before it's done.  If you put them in too soon, they can take over.

When the rice is done, then turn the setting to warm.  Take a wooden spoon and break apart the chicken pieces into bite sized chunks.

Add lots of cheese and stir till melted.  Again, this will coordinate with your veggies and spices.  Swiss goes well with the mushroom and onions.  Cheddar is nice with the Mexican combo. 

You get the idea.

Now.  Make a nice salad.  Serve with some good bread and real butter.  Tea. 


June 14, 2010

Happy Flag Day 2010

Today is Flag Day - a day when our country celebrates the adoption of the Flag of the United States (by the Second Continental Congress in 1777).   Today was proclaimed Flag Day in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, and Congress established National Flag Day by an official Act of Congress in 1949. 

For more information on the holiday or events in your area, check out the National Flag Day Foundation.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

June 13, 2010

End Times - Are They Really Here? Books to Read

Apocalypse by
Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld
public domain
Jesus warned that the end of things as we know it would come at a time to which even He was not privy -- only God the Father knows the exact time and date.  (Matthew 24:36)  However, He did let us know that there would be signs, hints if you prefer, that things were getting close. (Matthew 24:33)

Given that today our country is in two wars, we've got the Oil Spill, a second Great Depression (even if they don't like to use that term), and a red-hot printing press for the U.S. Dollar with an accompanying, incomprehensible level of debt, ... I could go on but you get the idea ... perhaps reading a bit about the End Times Prophecies from reputable authors isn't a bad idea. 

Remember, though, that Jesus warned that there would be those we should most assuredly avoid.(Matthew 24: 24-25)  If you decide to learn more about the End Times, then recognize that you're gonna find some false prophets out there. 

Here are three places to start your study:
  1. Storm Warning by Rev. Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson 1995)
  2. The Second Coming: Signs of Christ's Return and the End of the Age by John MacArthur (Crossway Books 2006); and
  3. When Jesus Returns by David Pawson (True Potential Publishing, Inc.; North American edition (2008)) .

I'm not recommending these as the best of the best, just as a good starting point if you're interested in eschatology -- which actually has four different schools, or perspectives, on the Book of Revelation and the End Times themselves: the preterist, historicist, futurist and idealist schools of interpretation.
There are, of course, the more popular (best seller) reads available for you, too.  You may recognize them, both for their popularity as books and because each was made into a movie:
  1. The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins; and
  2. The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey and C.C. Carlson.
Whatever you do, remember fear is your enemy.  Don't study this stuff to fuel fear. 
Study this stuff to become stronger, wiser, and more confident in your faith.  God is in control, and everything really is going to be okay. 

June 8, 2010

Free: The Future of a Radical Price - Freebies Are as Good for Business as for the Consumer According to Chris Anderson

Free is the best price, right? At least when you're buying. If you're running a business, then giving away products or services for free spells doom, right? Not necessarily. 

Why Giving Away Stuff is Good for Business

In Free: The Future of a Radical Price, author Chris Anderson posits the argument that in today's marketplace, the savvy thing to do is figure out how to combine free things -- sometimes known in other circles as GIFTS -- with products or services that are being sold.

And Chris Anderson doesn't just pontificate about this: instead, he provides lots of examples on how this is working. And by working, I mean helping businesses grow and expand in the current tight economic times. 

(Yes, this does explain why I got that free $5 gift card from Walmart a couple of months back.)

Free: The Future of a Radical Price includes real life stories of innovative marketing techniques like:
  1. cross-subsidies, where a cable company gives away a DVR to those who buy its cable service; and  
  2. freemiums, where a company offers a basic service for free and then sells its better (or premium) products at a fee. Think QuickBook's SimpleStart, its free version of its bookkeeping software with assorted premium versions. QuickBooks is my example, there are so many freemiums out there I'm sure you can think - or use - some of them right now.
 The Central Question: Lots of people are making money charging nothing.  How can this be?

Free: The Future of a Radical Price provides a history of pricing in America and elsewhere, as well as the psychological background on how prices impact our thinking.  Pricing impacts a consumer in many ways.

For example, in today's market, there are many under the age of 30 with money to spend that aren't going to pay for a product -- particularly information -- when they know that, given enough time and with some effort, they can find it free on the web.   For many other buyers, the idea that a product or service is being offered at $0.00 automatically gives that product or service certain characteristics that it would not have if it were priced at anything other than zero.

What Does This Mean for You and Me?

With rapidly expanding technology and almost unlimited access to the Internet (in more and more instances, access for the web is free), the idea of offering freebies in order to build a customer base is proving to be a valid and vital component to businesses in almost every industry out there. 

Obviously, getting a freebie from a business that's trying to sell you something is a good thing to a provider.  I was happy to get my Gift Card from WalMart.  It pleased me.  It made me feel appreciated in some way.  I saw it as a gift.  A little treat.  I liked WalMart a little better because of it. 

Free, a Price of Zero, seems to be a no-brainer for the consumer.  However, the key to Chris Anderson's work is pointing out how this is also a good thing for the provider. 

Have I shopped more at WalMart as a result of the gift card?  Maybe so.  However, I have not jumped the bar at QuickBooks to buy an upgrade of their bookkeeping software after trying out their free edition of SimpleStart.

Which may give credence to the critics of Chris Anderson's freebie idea, including Malcolm Gladwell (read Gladwell's review of the book in the New Yorker - for free) and James Ledbetter (read Ledbetter's take on things at the Slate blog "The Big Money" - also for free). 

Free Audio Version of Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Yes: the unabridged audio version of Free: The Future of a Radical Price is FREE.   For awhile, it was being offered for free on Kindle, but that window of opportunity has closed. 

Apparently, Chris Anderson practices what he preaches.

June 7, 2010

Jean-Michel Cousteau Explains the Oil Spill. It's very scary. (Video, too.)

Thanks to FoxNews.com for sharing this video with us.

McDonalds' Frappe vs Starbucks' Frappuccino

I've tried both the Frappe and the Frappuchino and you know what?  Driving thru McDonalds and getting a treat for half the price as what Starbucks offers me - well, I'm sold.  I'm buying the medium Frappe these days instead of the Grande Mocha Frappuccino at Starbuck's.  Unless it's time for a special treat, where I'm gonna spend some time at the coffee house -- then I'm gonna go with the Frappuccino. 

For atmosphere, I imagine you'll agree: Starbuck's has McDonalds beat hands down, assuming that you're over 7 years old.  Of course, last week I saw an elderly gentleman carrying his Tom Clancy hardback into the McDonalds on Broadway and I had to wonder.  Maybe things are changing inside the Mickey D's more than I realize. 

Here's what I'm thinking:

Price.  It's a factor.  McDonalds is cheaper, by around half.  Sometimes, you need a treat.  Paying around three bucks for one is a good thing. 

Taste.  If I'm really wanting something special, then Starbuck's is the place.  They've got the new campaign "however you want it," and that means tons more selection than the Caramel or Mocha options at McDonalds.  There's Tazo Green Tea Creme Frappuccino Blended Beverage.  There's Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage.  You can pick soy or skim milk, whatever you want. 

Container.  Unless you're a snoot about carrying around a "McCafe" label, there's no real diff here.

Decide for yourself.

For more on Frappuccinos, check out:

5 Tips for Getting Work Done at Starbucks
Fake Out Recipe No. 1: Bottled Starbucks Fraps

June 5, 2010

John Wooden Wisdom: The Seven Point Creed and Wooden's Two Sets of Threes

John Wooden (1910 -2010)
Shown at his 96th Birthday Celebration
Wikipedia public doman
Renowned basketball coach John Wooden died yesterday (1910 - 2010). Here is his Seven Point Creed, which Coach Wooden's father wrote, and gave to his young son when he graduated from grammar school:
  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
Coach Wooden kept the original card where his father had written this message in his wallet, until the paper crumbled away; then, Wooden replaced it with a new card that contained the exact same seven life lessons. 

According to John Wooden, he never met a greater man than his dad.  What a wonderful thing for this accomplished leader to say, right? 

In an interview that John Wooden gave back in 1996, he gave some other pearls of wisdom he learned from his dad, that he called the "Two Sets of Threes":

"Never lie, never cheat and never steal."

"Don't whine, don't complain and don't alibi."

Rest in Peace, Coach Wooden.
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