Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One of THE Best Plugins For WordPress Based Blogs for SPAM

Two words:  Conditional CAPTCHA

First, I want to point out that I did not say THE BEST, just one of the best plugins for WordPress based blogs.

If you're a blogger who uses the WordPress application on a hosted domain, you, like any other blogger know how much work goes into keeping an eye on things in the background.  And there are days that the computer demons have other ideas on what you're going to do with your blogs.

One of the primary plugins most may use is called Akismet.  Akismet protects your website from slimy spam comments day and night with a pretty decent track record.

Once you've installed Akismet, every time you come back to your blog and log in, the plugin will tell you that you have 'X' number of comments that it has sloughed off into the spam queue for you to review.  HA!  I don't have the time to go through all the spam every time I log in.  On good days, I seem to get a few hundred spam.  On bad days, it's pretty annoying.

But each time I'd log in, I'd clear my filter of collected bul... I mean spam.  That is until recently when I stumbled upon (No, not via that site), Conditional CAPTCHA.  Oh what a god-send!  And in god, I must trust when using it.

First, CC needs Akismet already installed.  Then when something is treated as if it's spam, CC steps in and presents a screen of text asking the "contributor" to answer a simple question.  If they can't, CC handles the spam as I've instructed it to.  In case of my websites, if it fails their test, it deletes it.  I never see it.  Ever.  If someone passes the test, it stashes it for me to approve.  (Remember, Akismet first marked it as spam).

And I've never had to look at any of that crap spam again.  And in god I trust because I hope no one is getting accidentally marked and trashed as spam.  (I presume if someone is willing, they could always look at my contact page to let me know they're having troubles.

If you run a WordPress.org based blog, you might want to a peak at the plugin and see what you think.  I've been using it for a few weeks and it's already tagged 10,000 spam comments.  Hoo ya!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Product Recalls for Electric Ranges, Glider Rockers, & Office Chairs

Here are a few product recalls you might want to be aware of or share with folks you think might have bought these items...

- - -

LG Electronics Recalls Electric Ranges Due to Burn and Fire Hazards.  Involved recalled ranges involve models LRE30451, LRE30453, LRE30755, LRE30757, and LRE30955ST.

- = = = = =

LaJobi Recalls Glider Rockers Due to Fall Hazard because the the base of the glider rocker can crack or break, posing a fall hazard.

Glider | Model # | Wood Finish
Avalon | 1062335-065 | Espresso
Avalon | 1062335-071 | Espresso
Avalon | 1062381-065 | Classic White
Avalon | 1062381-071 | Classic White
Avalon | 1062384-065 | Classic Cherry
Avalon | 1062384-071 | Classic Cherry
Avalon | 5827914 | Classic Cherry
Avalon | 8529752 | Classic White
Avalon | 9382976 | Espresso
CNS/Katelyn | 7822758 | Classic Cherry
CNS/Katelyn | 6858104 | Classic White
CNS/Katelyn | 8971382 | Espresso

- = = = = =

Sauder Woodworking Company Recalls Gruga Office Chairs Due to Fall Hazard (The seat plate can break, posing a fall hazard to consumers.)

Description | Model | UPC
Black Fabric Butterfly Chair | 403612 | 042666601627
Executive Chair Leather Brown | 404237 | 042666604659
Executive Chair Leather Black | 404238 | 042666604666
Executive Chair Fabric Black | 404240 | 042666604680
Executive Chair Leather Black | 404241 | 042666604697
Manager's Chair Fabric Black | 404242 | 042666604703
Manager's Chair Leather Black | 404243 | 042666604710
Task Chair Fabric Black | 404244 | 042666604727
Task Chair Fabric Black | 404245 | 042666604734
Task Chair Fabric Black | 404246 | 042666604741
Exec Chair Leather Black | 404260 | 042666604888
Manager's Chair Fabric Black | 404261 | 042666604895
Executive Chair Fabric Silver/Brown | 404279 | 042666605335
Executive Chair Leather Burnt Brown | 404281 | 042666605359
Air Seat Managers Chair | 404370 | 042666605373
Black Micro Fabric Executive | 404398 | 042666607742
Premium Executive Leather | 405147 | 042666609678
Premium Executive Fabric | 407688 | 042666609685
Fabric Manager's Chairs | 407702 | 042666609708
Leather Manager's Chair | 407894 | 042666609722
Deluxe Fabric Task Chair | 407895 | 042666609739
Executive Fabric Mesh Chair | 407896 | 042666609746
Executive Mesh Back Chair | 407897 | 042666609920
Task Chair | 408989 | 042666104920
Vinyl Manager's Chair | 408993 | 042666101561
Deluxe Leather Executive Chair | 409977 | 042666101578
X-Vibe Entertainment Chair | 410409 | 042666105187
X-Vibe Entertainment Chair | 410573 | 042666105170
Duraplush Mid Manager's Chair | 410593 | 042666104883
Duraplush Manager's Chair | 410879 | 042666104890

For photos of all 31 chairs, go to www.Sauder.com and click on Safety Notices, then click on the link for model numbers, descriptions and UPCs.

--  --  --  --  --

If you think you might be impacted by these recalls, check out http://www.cpsc.gov/ and look up the official recall for more details like how to get in touch with the recalling party, etc., etc..  -Bruce

Hire The Professionals, But Still Cover Your Back Side



When you deal with the professionals of your life, many folk feel that once hired, you can trust them to have your best interest at heart.  And I'm sure they all mean to.  So at times you think you can sit back, relax and trust in processes like your medical system infrastructure.  I mean face it, they're supposedly on top of the game and know what's up.  Right?

Maybe not.  Or at least you can make sure what they say or tell you are correct.  Let me explain the impetus of this piece with a few examples from my own day.

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A few months ago a buddy of mine was looking for allergic reactions between medications, so she called her Walgreen's pharmacy.  She gave her list of her 2 medications to the pharmacist on call and they said there are no interaction issues with the two medications.

About a week later she wasn't feeling too good and decided to do her own homework and look things up and sure enough, after typing in her two medication names, the first Google results were warnings about mixing the two ingredients.

Note to self:  Ask, but confirm.  Get a second opinion.  It's your neck on the line so it behooves you.

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Next example is a medication I've been taking for eleven years.

When my medication first hit the market, it was my own research that led me to ask my doctor about it.  He looked into it and later prescribed me my new med.  It was a lucky stroke that I came across this med because at the time we were running out of things to help me since I had issues with other meds for my situation.

By looking after myself, I took care of things.

-

At the start of this month, I went to pick up my meds but I was told I would have to pay full price ($170) because my insurance company didn't cover it. !  Eh?

OK, no problem.  It's only my breathing.  No worries here.  Right?

I chatted with my present doctor's staff and then my insurance company.  The insurance rep came back with some wonderful (sort of) news, that my medication needed preapproval.  Eh??

They gave me information necessary to give to my doctor, who in turn would call the insurance back at a special number, who in turn, after hearing from them, would contact my doctor who would then contact my pharmacist.

I'll pause and wait for you to reread and digest that mess.

-

But regardless, my doctor's staff was on the job.

I waited about a week, and I just happened to be in the pharmacy for something else and thought I'd ask about my own other meds.  Sure enough, there was a prescription order for the generic version of my drug, waiting for me to come to the pharmacist and ask for it.

-

Staff from my doctor's office left me a message about how I'm having issues because I only insist on the name brand of the medication.

This is what Diana, from my doctor's office said in a message she left on my phone.   But when I called back, no one at my doctor's office knew a Diana.  (Head smack!!!)

FYI:  Mind you, my own research discovered that up until a few months ago, no generic version of my drug existed so I had no choice in the matter.  And as soon as the FDA approved the making of generics, AETNA upped and pulled my medication from their approved covered meds list.

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Despite the bungles, bumps and misdirects, I want you to keep in mind that this is not about my insurance company.  This isn't about my doctor's office.  Sure, it's an eye-opener to see these events unfold.  But for the most part, say 99% of the time, I'm pretty damn happy with how I've been taken care of.  Though that 1% can make one panic.

No, this is my tale of warning... saying that, despite the fact that you hire experts in whatever field, it can't hurt to do your own double checking.  In fact, I say it behooves you to make sure they're on track for you.  Because in the end, they don't know your own special circumstances.  I don't think it's possible they know all of the nuances of all their patients.  It's up to you to make sure this consumer (you) gets what they need when all is said and done.

SO take care of yourself and do your own detective work to back up the experts... regardless of what field of expertise you're dealing with.

-Bruce


Monday, November 12, 2012

Heads Up Google Custom Home Users, Changes for That and Other Services Coming

If you were one of the users that had created a Custom Google home page, prepare yourself!  Google stopped allowing uploads of new background images back on October 18th.  And that was just the precursor as they plan on turning off Classic Plus sometime this November.

Many users are pretty grumpy about this development and maybe if enough grumble about it... Google might change their plans.  Might, I say.

This change is being added to the overall number of changes taking place within some of their free services.

Adsense for Feeds started to be retired early October.

Picasa and Drive will be having their storage spaces consolidated into one segment of five GB, not two.

Spreadsheet Gadgets is going away next year.

The app, Places Directory is going away.

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I know that many have become pretty acclimated to these services that Google has offered, but keep in mind, when it's free, there's no guarantee.

How Does ShowMyStreet Work?

Well that's a great question because it's astounding how fast the website of images really is.  But for one thing, Showmystreet Is Not A Database of Addresses... It's a website that acts as a front end for Google Maps and one of its many features.  (From what I can tell)

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Over on the site, if you crank it up, it comes up as a blank page with a window to start typing yours (or any) address you can think up.  As you type, it amazingly starts parsing what it thinks you're going to ask and starts showing locations.  And it's lightning fast, compared to other ways of getting to this imagery via Google Maps.

Once you get done typing the address you should be looking at what the website brings up.

Before you freak out...
This is not a database of everyone's addresses kept somewhere secret.  This is not anyone tracking you, specifically.  ShowMyStreet is a front end that, if I had to guess, is heavily cached output from Google's Street View mode.

It doesn't have all of the overhead of the Google Maps function and only accesses the images associated with addresses.

What Is Street View Mode?
Street View mode is when you are looking on Google maps, and you take that little green man and drag him to a location on the map and the map suddenly shows you images of buildings at that address.


This data has been collected by Google via an army of cars and other platforms that drive around with odd looking cameras mounted on their roofs and they snap imagery of everywhere they drive.  And it seems they do drive everywhere! (image via wikipedia)

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The data seems heavily cached via a cloud service because as you type, other places come up first.  You can almost do a virtual random tour of various locations as you type.  Instantly.

The domain has been around for 1 year and 11 months from today (11/12/12) and is an interesting online web "tool."

There seems to be very little official information about the site but several references on the web declare it's a Google tool for their Street View mode of their maps.  Plus what I find interesting is that even though the page is blank except for the address input window, there's a bunch of Google Ad API's running in the background.  That and Google, I don't think, would allow anyone else to use all their imagery so freely.  (But that's just a guess)

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As far as privacy goes, though many may feel like this is a "big brother" syndrome, all that Google (showmystreet) does is show what anyone driving by your place might see.  (At least it's not up-to-date, last minute imagery.  That might border on something wrong!)

If you're paranoid (And I don't mean that in a bad way), don't go there.  But if you're curious or looking to have fun, go on by, thump in some numbers or addresses and see it in action.

http://showmystreet.com/

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Elections Are Over - WHAT A waste! And Did You Really Think...

Well, that's it.  $6B was spent to keep things as they were in the federal government.  $6B.  And how many unemployed teachers might be reading this right now?  But as I watched the elections go on and the money dropped at all levels of government to get reelected seemed crazy.  Not only crazy, but wasteful.

And my peers were pretty revved up about this election.  A few so much, that I quietly unfriended them on Facebook.  I mean seriously, a bit over the top to such a point that I didn't realize how disrespectful they really were of the instilled processes.  This is why you never broach religion and politics amongst friends!  (Unless you are of like minds on the issues.)

But back on track to the issue of waste...

I had just happened to stay away from my mailing address box for two weeks and yesterday I went by.  I like having a mailing address.  It keeps the junk mail away from home and can throw it all away right there.  Yes, direct marketers, you are wasting your time, money and resources on this consumer.   That and I never have to worry about packages sitting outside my front door at home.

But as I went through two weeks of mail, I found myself throwing out about 50 marketing flyers for my local elections.  It was a mess!

And then I started to wonder if last-minute ad flyers to voters actually work?  There must be some premise behind why they pummel the voters with last-minute flyers.  And if this practice works, that's a pretty sad statement about the state of our voting environment, if flyers can convince or sway votes, well...  dang.  That would imply that voters don't always know what's up.  Or all these flyers sent out were a complete and total waste of time/money.

That, and WTH is up with Florida, yet again, in an election?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm Starting To Think Old Folks Should Get Off The Road (A Vent)

When I am a pedestrian (or bicycle rider) I expect minimal adherence to the laws of the road designed to protect the pedestrian.  And in most circumstances, the laws seem to be common sense and extremely hard to not understand.  Yet so many people get so damn close to this pedestrian that I'm starting to get to a point that I'm going to carry a paddle or bat or something when I head out.

Every day I walk to and from work and I get my share of close calls.  And only one of those walks is during real traffic times.  And then there's my running.

As you may or may not know, I was "hit" by a car driven by a very old woman driving her cherry 4-door Gold Ford Taurus.  She forced me into the curb while on my bike, via a maneuver where she drove past me and hooked a right turn.  I had to avoid her, still received a tire skid mark on my left shoe, and after all was said and done, she drove on and I ended up with a torn rotator cuff.  Now, with my insurance done with this injury, I'm at about 80% use of the arm and I do daily routines on my own to keep trying to get it back online (So to speak).

So I'm a bit sensitive to drivers these days.  Since that time, I've had close calls on several different occasions... not all old folk mind you.  On two occasions, I was cut off by someone in a hurry to get past this pedestrian.  The first one gunned it and apparently didn't see that the car in front of him that was stopped.  He was pretty focused on me and getting past me before I passed through the halfway point of my crosswalk.

In this case, karma had its say.  He destroyed his own truck, did some serious damage to the truck in front of him, and damaged a 2nd car that his 1st victim slammed into.  (I chose to not say anything out-loud, but my inner voice was asking, "So... how did that work out for you?")  Yes, everyone got out and was OK.  I don't get sarcastic until I check everyone's health status.

There have been a few other cars that either outright don't see me or, at the same cross walk in downtown Menlo Park, someone else who needed to gun it to get past me.  This time, the driver slammed on his brakes.  Being evil, I then dropped what I was carrying and had to stop to pick it up.  No, it looked like I was surprised and it seemed to be a genuine drop.  (But I'm always looking for drivers like this.)  He he.

But today, I almost lost it.  Another old woman driving a cherry Oldsmobile 4-door silver death hammer pretty much made her right turn as I was stepping off the curb and missed my about maybe 6 inches.  I screamed out to "BE CAREFUL," avoiding the expletives that wanted out.  Just in case.  I can't have witnesses making note how unstable I appeared if I'm spewing profanities describing her mental facilities and driving skills, or lack thereof both.

And these entitled or frightened folks just take off and pretend not to see or look at you.  (But I am far-sighted people.  I see you "not turn your head," but I see your eyes peering at your mirror at me.)

And I'm starting to get tired of these old folks cutting me off like this.  It's nuts.  A few weeks back was able to "high-five" a fender that got within arm's reach of me as they "needed" to get wherever they were going 5 seconds sooner than if they had stopped for me to cross.  AND I'M NOT a rude pedestrian!  I pick up my pace and get out of people's ways because I know how it feels to be in the car, waiting for the pedestrian.

My recommendation to all:  If someone surprises you, cuts you off, etc., get their license plate numbers.  Report them to the police.  (OK, I was so upset I did not get today's plate number.)  But as someone put it...  if you report them and then they get into a serious accident somewhere down the road in time, that might be their fault, then there's a record of their driving habits.

Aside from not dying under their bumpers, that's the best I can come up with.  That and don't trust people to do the right thing.  Here in California, folks think that as pedestrians, they have the-right-of-way and they charge right out into the road.  Sometimes, not even looking.  But if you read the CA handbook of rules of the road, pedestrians have the right of way, "when it is safe to do so."  So be careful.  You aren't as protected as you think you are in this gladiatorial challenge of survival.

--
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Bruce E. Simmons,
Owner/Editor/Writer:
Brusimm.com (Twitter & Facebook)
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Recalls to take note of... Doors, Eddie Bauer, Stools, Generators

When I slap my product recall pieces together, I try to get pretty fancy... but today, I'm just going to get to the point.  If you are impacted, or think you are... there are links to check out.

Today's concerns include some bifold doors, rocking wood bassinets, step stools, portable generators, gas grills, and some toddler chairs.

So here goes:

JELD-WEN and Reliabilt Interior Bifold Doors: "The lower pivot pin can break causing the door to disengage from the overhead track, posing an impact hazard."

Eddie Bauer Rocking Wood Bassinets: "The bottom locking mechanism can fail to lock properly allowing the bassinet to tip to one side and cause infants to roll to the side of the bassinet. This poses a suffocation hazard to infants."

Easy Reach Step Stools Due to Fall Hazard; Sold exclusively at The Home Depot:  "The top step/standing platform can break, posing a fall hazard to consumers."

Portable Generators Recalled by Champion Power Equipment:  "Fuel can leak from the generator's carburetor, posing a fire hazard."

Master Forge Gas Grills Sold at Lowe's Stores:   "If improperly installed, the hose connecting the gas tank and regulator to the burner control can touch the burner box and cause the hose to melt and rupture when the grill is lit. This poses a fire and burn hazard."

Children's Upholstered Toddler chairs from Trend Lab:  "staples in the binding on the back of the chair may come loose, posing a laceration or choking hazard if swallowed."  They will have date codes TL1007C through TL0812C.

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If you think you might be impacted by these recalls, check out http://www.cpsc.gov/ and look up the official recall for more details like how to get in touch with the recalling party, etc., etc..  -Bruce


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Blocking Games In Facebook



Are you sick of all the game notifications you've been getting from some of your friends on Facebook?  They can be stopped or blocked!

Yea...  these game notifications can be distracting, to say the least.  A few years ago it was easy to block out game updates.  That's because with every update, there was an icon in the upper right of the notification window that allowed you the option to block messages from that game.  That came with every update.  I used my generously, because frankly, I could give a crap about Mob Wars or Farmville.

It was actually quite shocking to discover just how much some of my "friends" played those games.  But frankly, I don't care if Craig just bought the farm full of golden pumpkins with a witch option in October.  Nah.

But as Facebook updated and upgraded (Though I really wish they'd pay more attention to that heinous phone app of theirs), they moved things around and in some ways, made it more difficult to stop these space wasting updates.  Maybe difficult isn't the correct word because as you all know, Facebook is about transparency.  No, they've only moved the options around a bit under a layer or two more than where it used to be.

To some FB detractors, where the option was moved to would be called buried and harder to get to.

Let's fix that.

To block game notifications or game updates on Facebook

1) CLICK ON YOUR ACCOUNT MENU ARROW (Located at the top right corner of page)

2) CHOOSE PRIVACY SETTINGS

3) SCROLL DOWN TO: BLOCKED PEOPLE AND APPS (Hey!  Man I forgot I blocked those losers!  No wonder I don't see them on FB)

4) CHOSE WHAT YOU WANT TO BLOCK.  (In most cases, you need to start typing.  There are a lot of options.  I've been actively selective! Eh?  Meaning I wait to see the updates to specifically add them.  Otherwise, you might be in this window all day long.)

--

At least for now, that's where it sits.  Who knows where it will go next time they update things around that place.

(Pssst:  FYI:  It seems the less you interact with a site's page on FB, the less it shows up in your time stream.  Just sayin'.  Something you should know if you had found yourself wondering what was up with a page you had not seen in a while!)

The Fake Twitter Follower Syndrome - Don't Fall For It



There seems to be an interesting trend on Twitter... Well, OK, there are a lot of trends going on in the small world of "the Twitter."  But one of note is where many Twitter users are banking on automatic follow-backs to get your statistic under their belt.  But don't fall for it.  Over half your followers may be nothing but ruses.

What I mean by ruses is that, the premise of following seems to be embedded with users automatically following their new follower back.  It seems to be the polite thing to do.  But if you're careful, you might notice your new follower is not as polite as you.

Way back in the beginning, I had started to auto-follow my new followers too.  But two things started happening that I took notice of.

One was that my feed was so full of *&! that I it was really hard to keep track of the important Twitter feeds.

The other thing I noticed was that despite all these new follower emails I'm getting from Twitter, my stats didn't show a huge or any increase in my follower numbers.  It was confounding, because, well, I don't think like a-holes and the premise never came to me.  That premise is to follow then unfollow a Twitter user immediately.  If many folk follow the "polite feeling" mode, they follow back. 

But here's what I've taken to doing... not only because I'm polite.  Not only because I appreciate it, but now, it's a quality check.

When I see a new follower email, the next day I'll direct message them to thank them for their follow.  And as you might suspect, 99% of my new followers can't be direct messaged because they need to be following me for me to be able to D @them.

So the question remains...  do I just move on or do I do start a small campaign to highlight these "people."  These used-car salesmen.  Part of me would like to point the finger, but then part of me worries it will bring them more attention.  Sigh.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Best Friend: Her Slow Demise And The Message In A Dream


In the early years, man's best friend is your buddy who stands by your side, no matter what.  Great walks, fun games of catch or chase, swims through rivers all become memories.  Fond and wonderful memories.

But as the years wear on, things start to change.  No longer can she jump into the truck.  You have to lift her in and out.  No longer do her back legs work.  You need to be careful where you walk.

You both survive issues and at some point she becomes a cancer survivor as you sit with her every few weeks getting chemo injections. 

Then suddenly, more issues arise.

Your best friend can't tell you what's wrong, but you find yourself watching her and wondering why she stopped eating.  Or why she's stopped drinking water.  And other issues that start to plague your buddy.

Your vet tries their best with each new development, but with each new symptom the old symptoms are left behind while the new ones get treated.

It's hard to know when you're saving her or when you're just drawing out her misery.  And through it all, she still wags her tail when she see's you.  So you think things might be better than they seem.

Or are they?

And then I had a dream.  It's like a message or a warning.  I'll never know for sure. 

In that dream, I watch my dog with new nylon braces on her back legs and she's trotting away from me. She looks back over her shoulder every few feet, but she keeps walking.  It's like she's saying goodbye.

I have those damn quicksand legs that keep me from going after my best friend while she keeps getting farther away.  She won't stop walking but keeps looking back.

In this dream, I finally break out and start running after my best friend, but then she turns a corner and is out of sight.  No matter how hard I run, no matter how many corners I look around, she's gone.

And when I wake, I have no clue if I've been given a chance to prepare, seen my own fears, or a message on what I need to do. It's like my own personal hell as if old Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol just visited to warn me.  A warning to stop stepping over her but instead to stop and give her a loving nudge each time.  Because I'll never know when she'll turn that corner.

All I know is that when your best friend walks away in your dream, it destroys you.  It becomes a memory I can't shake.  It will haunt me until...