Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hartz Recalls Pet Treats [Share With Fellow Pet Owners] And How To Make Your Own

This is an important FYI for pet lovers and those with animal family companions alike...

NBC is reporting that The Hartz Mountain Corp is recalling 20,000 packages of their chicken jerky pet treats from United States store shelves after they've found trace amounts of antibiotic residue.

This is a voluntary recall and that's actually a grand act no their behalf.

The recall involves "Hartz Chicken Chews and Hartz Oinkies Pig Skin Twists Wrapped with Chicken for dogs."

They were conducting their own tests after similar residues were found in other pet food products.  Nestle withdrew Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats and Del Monte pulled its Milo's Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats from stores.

This does not seem related to the 500 animal deaths linked to jerky treats that were made in China.

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Here's a thought, we make our own dog treats.

We buy chicken hot dogs, cut them length wise 3 times, then chop across a billion times... OK, maybe not a billion.  Then we microwave them for 3 minutes, blot excess grease, if any, and microwave them again for 3 minutes.

This creates a dry sort of chicken jerky snack cube and except for the actual hot dog creation, at least you know where they came from!  Your microwave!  And they're damn good... yes, the dog sometimes has to compete for them.

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Call COMCAST To Fix A Box, Walk Away With A New Cable Package!

The other day one of my digital converter boxes went belly up.  I did all the things you need to get it going again, but to no avail.  So I called COMCAST to get the issue fixed.  The sales push from the Comcast side of things is pretty impressive.

When you call, you wait a bit, get advertised to, then asked for what department you want.  After hitting your options, you get another ad, then on to the party you need to chat with.  You're then told about another special while you're waiting for your party to answer the phone on their end.  Whew!

So I get the guy on the phone, we go through the dance with the signals being sent to the box, me unplugging and plugging it in and about 1/2 into the process, he says he's been looking over my cable package and can save me money.

Now keep in mind, that this is some sort of mixed blessing.  On one hand, I'm about to start saving about $50 a month, that's after an introductory period of 3 months where I'll be paying about $75 less a month.  But I had to get a phone service package for this discount.

So I'm thinking, sure, why not.  Give me a phone service.  But then it seems for me to have this phone service, they have to, HAVE TO, install a phone line.  I put up a stink saying I don't want to take time away from work to have to be home to have a phone line installed that I WILL NEVER USE.  But for me to get this discount, apparently they have to do this.

So, after being a bit difficult, we finally got it to the point where the technician will call me within a 2-hour window of when he'll be arriving so that I can minimize my time away from work while lollygagging about getting this completely unnecessary phone installed.

Annoying:  That I have to have the phone installed to get the package savings.

Annoying:  That we totally stopped working on the real issue at hand, my digital converter box.  (According to a buddy, he says that these converter boxes are for boosting the signal to make it "legible."  I'm not sure if that's accurate or not.

Annoying:  That I will probably still lose work time for this.

BONUS:  I'm about to get my two movie channels, internet service and basic service for about 30% less than what I'm paying now!

Oh, and I had to wrangle the info out as to what we're going to do about this broken box of mine!  LOL.

It's hard to complain about this process, considering, but I managed!!!  Now that's why Comcast bottom line is still making billions, even in a down economy!

UPDATE:

It's been almost a month.  There's an interesting feature that comes with having a phone package and that is when you get an incoming phone call, a small alert goes off on the bottom of your TV screen.  Which might be just fine and dandy.

But...

Granted, I could have logged into my Comcast account to look this information up but the curious thing is that I've been getting phone calls on this new phone number and I don't even know what my number is.  I haven't given it to anyone nor have I looked it up or hooked up a phone to it.

So it's either Comcast calling to check on my new phone (they do follow up their service calls) or spammers already got a hold of it.  LOL.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recalls for Cookware, Exercise Bands, Heated Jackets and Specialized Bikes

This time around, we're warning you about product recalls about some pots and pans that pose a burn hazard, exercise bands that can smack you in the head if you're not careful, heated jackets that do a bit more than heat you and some new bicycles that have a construction flaw that could cause them to fail (aka break) and send you flying.

And remember, if you think you have a recalled product, STOP USING them until you have verified the status of the product.  Oh, and it's illegal to (re)sell recalled products.

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"Hy Cite Enterprises Recalls Royal Prestige Thermal Wall Pots and Pans Due to Burn and Fire Hazard"


The CPSC reference recall number is 13-098 and the specific product is the "Royal Prestige 9-Ply Thermal Wall Cookware," the stainless steel 9-ply "Thermal Wall" pans.

The equipment noted can collapse when exposed to a heat source and this could cause burns to the users.

Contact Hy Cite for instructions to get the equipment repaired or replaced.

Hy Cite Enterprises: (800) 609-9577
www.royalprestige.com or www.hycite.com : See the recall Information link.

There have been over 1,000 incidents reported.

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"Implus Footcare Recalls Perfect Fitness Resistance Bands Due To Injury Hazard; Sold Exclusively at WalMart"

This recall, CPSC ref #13-100, is in regards to the Implus Perfect Resistance Bands.

Apparently the bands (tubes) can come loose from the mesh cloth loops they're attached to.   This can pose a hazard to the user and others around them.

The specific models are:
Perfect Bands Heavy 25 lb. capacity with UPC Code 096506310354, color purple
Perfect Bands Very Heavy 30 lb. capacity, UPC Code 096506310361, color gray
Perfect Bands Ultra Heavy 40 lb. capacity, UPC Code 096506310378, color black

A few incidents have been reported.

Contact Implus Footcare for a refund or replacement:

Implus Footcare at (800) 446-7587; option 2
Email recall@4implus.com or
Go to www.perfectonline.com/recalls.

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"Columbia Sportswear Recalls Seven Models of Heated Jackets Due To Burn Hazard"

Columbia is recalling their Men's and Women's Heated Jackets because the inner wrist cuff can overheat, posing a burn hazard.

The jackets are the

Men's and Women's Circuit Breaker(tm) II Jacket $275
Men's and Women's Electro AMP(tm) Jacket $250
Men's and Women's Electro(tm) Interchange Jacket $300
Men's Electric Big Game(tm) Interchange $300

If you think you have a recalled jacket, disconnect all batteries and contact Columbia.

Columbia Sportswear Company
(866) 201-9073
www.Columbia.com , click on the 'Recall Information' link at the bottom of the page.

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"Specialized Bicycle Components Recalls Bicycles Due to Fall Hazard"

Specialized Bicycle have some 2012 and 2013 road bikes and framesets that have issues with the steerer tube in the front fork can actually break, creating a potential fall hazard.

Items involved include

"The 2012 and 2013 model road bicycles and framesets come in various colors and have the brand name "Specialized" on the frame.  The model name "Tarmac SL4," "Crux" or "Secteur" is also located on the frame.  The recall includes all models of the 2012 Tarmac SL4, 2013 Tarmac SL4, 2013 Crux and 2013 Secteur Disc."

You can either contact Specialized or see an authorized dealer who can do a quickie free inspection and if need be, a free repair.

Contact Specialized Bicycle Components for instructions.
(877) 808-8154
www.specialized.com (Support and then Safety Notices link)


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As always, you can hit up CPSC product recall site for more details or other recalls, at www.cpsc.gov/

Monday, January 28, 2013

Verizon Wireless Screwed Me When I Renewed My Contract

You know, I was thinking the other day, why is it, we have to renew our contracts when we buy new phones?  Why can't we just add our new phone to our existing contract?  Is that possible?

The reason I ask is right now, I'm feeling pretty screwed.

I got a new phone that I'm happy with.  The Motorola RAZR M, and I got my wife a new phone also.  We were both up for renewals.  But as I added phones to our contracts, I had to renew the contracts.  In so doing, I got screwed big time.  I was on a limitless bandwidth plan and when I upgraded, I was shoved into a 2gig limited plan.

And then I got my wife set up with a SiriusXM phone APP, and within a week, we used up "half" our new bandwidth restriction.  So I'm ticked, and then I started wondering about that new phone and if I could have added it to the old contract.

According to one source, it is possible to stay on the old, unrestricted plan, but you have to buy the phone with zero discounts.  {BestBuy Forum}

It seems your contract gets changed when you buy a "subsidized phone," meaning when you renew with a 2-year contract, you get a "discount" on the purchase of your phone.

(Or hit up Ebay and just swap phones in your contract that way.)  {Verizon Wireless Community}

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It's unfortunate that cell carriers are killing the unlimited plans.  I get why though, since a tiny percent of users are huge bandwidth users, and that's apparently killing the phone carrier's bottom line.  But to ding all the little guys out there is pretty frustrating.  Or opportunistic.

Sprint has a 5Gig (vs. Verizon's 2gig plan)

And of course, despite the sales pitch of free tethering to your Verizon phone's hotspot, that seems to be out the window if you're on an unlimited plan. {ZDNet}

T-mobile seems to have revamped an unlimited plan.  But before you jump on that, it's really the same situation.  Get a subsidized phone plan, or bring your own phone, and pay $20 more a month for it.  {Liliputing}

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The other thing I noticed is now I have about 4, maybe 5 gigs of space on my phone.  My older phone had a huge amount.  Now I find myself downloading my image data more often than not to keep from filling up my disk, or cutting back on the amount of music I had stored there.

And now, with my new phone, I Am Forced to use their software to interact with my phone, if I want to get my data.

My older phone I treated as a USB extension.  I plugged in, ignored the software and moved data.  Now it seems I have to interact with Verizon's software to get my data.

Step by step, they're changing things up and tightening things down as far as how much freedom the client has with their own phones.  It's getting very Gestapian in how little freedom end-users are having with their phones.  And despite my grumbles here, case in point is that Verizon still does seem to provide the best service/coverage of other providers.

There, I said something nice about my Verizon Wireless.

I Love Controlling My Software, Google Chrome Doesn't Think So

When I install software, whether it be on my desktop, laptop or phone, it is my unbridled belief that I should be the one that dictates when my software gets updated.  In other words, I, the end-user, should have a say as to when software updates itself.

Don't you?

Now I know many folks love to install and forget.  And lots of software companies set up their defaults to automatically update.  I get that.  But most software has an option that allows you to turn off auto-updates and lets you, the user choose when to have your application do that.

But as far as I can tell, that's not the case with Google's Chrome browser.  And as web browsers go, Chrome stands alone as far as having no options for such.

In FireFox, there it is, under 'Options,' 'Advanced,' 'Update' tab. 

Though I have weened off of Microsoft IE (just because it too tried to control my life), under 'Internet Option,' 'Advanced' tab, there's a check box for "Automatically check for Internet Explorer updates."  (I never thought I'd appreciate an option within IE!)

But god help you if you want to do the same with Chrome.

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Again, this perspective probably applies to only a select few, but I think there's enough of a select few who enjoy their privacy and control over their software that they'd love to be able to control when their software updates.

For me, a humdinger of a reminder of this was when my Google Maps app on my phone decided to update itself while I was in traffic.  Which in and of itself, is not a huge issue.  But I was lost and looking to get somewhere.  But when I started my Maps app, it took what felt like forever to download, install and update itself.

I had to pull over and wait.  Sure, that wasn't a huge crime, but I was in a bit of haste and it annoyed the living crap out of me.  From that day forward, I turned off all auto updates on my phone, and selectively choose which, when and what apps I update.

(I swear, all updating sometimes does is allow the app to deliver more aggressive ads.  Sheesh.)

But I digress!  So I've been rather keen on

A:  Controlling when my apps update themselves,

B:  Making sure I am mindful to go through my list of apps and make sure they're updated

C:  Am mindful that certain apps to do need updating for various and critical reasons, so I review the text on what changes are in some updates.

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But when I could not find any option to turn off updates to Chrome, I did a web search and found that to block updates to Chrome is about as insidious as stopping the GoogleUpdate ap on my desktop!  (Despite turning off Googleupdater, and deleting the process from running, it has backup processes that turn it back on.  So I renamed the f*er!!!)

So for Turning off Chrome Auto Updates, you either need to download a group policy template, editing that, then changing settings.

But of course, if you change your Chrome web browser updates, this could "prevent updates of any new Google applications released in the future, possibly including dependencies for future versions of installed applications."

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Every day it seems as if Google is going down the path of Facebook and Microsoft, taking away some small freedom here and there, adding new restrictions there and here.

There's a reason many folk have bailed on MS and moved to FireFox.  And even though Google controls the internet, if enough folk get cranky about things, change will rise up and bite someone in the digital arse!

Here's a link describing what to do to disable the Chrome updates... short of uninstalling it... and it seems to match up to other results I've found.

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/disable-chrome-automatic-updates/
This link has instructions, plus a few files that you can use to create manual update processes.  (I have not verified the validity of the content.)
They also touch on how to set manual updates via another tool, and then, how to actually commit those manual updates.

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But then again, if you're cool with things taking care of itself in the background and never worrying about this stuff, to be honest, that's fine too.  This is just an option to think about!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Did You Know That Pinterest Has Secret Boards?

Did you know you can upload Pins (images) to Pinterest secret boards so that no one else will see your pin?  Yep...  so I knew about the boards, had installed my Pinterest app to my phone, but then found myself confounded.

I don't know if you can create a secret board from your app, but that's OK, I had my laptop up and running and made one for myself.

The only reason I want a secret board is sometimes I take pics with my phone that really don't seem that interesting, as far as how the spirit of Pinterest goes, so I wanted to stash them somewhere out of site.

So I looked around to figure out how to make "secret boards" or "private boards" on Pinterest.

While on the web...

scroll down to the bottom of your page, there you'll see your secret boards.  Mine were greyed out.  But it said "Create a Secret Board" in the middle of the board.

I chose one, gave it a name and category, and the "secret" mode was set to "on."  (That's pertinent for way later on, if you get to that stage.)

(The phone app, notes say that you can create a secret board from the boards page.  On your app, slide over to your account page, and tap your logo/image that represents your account, and you'll see your boards.)

And that's it.

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Other things to know about secret boards:

Existing boards cannot be made secret and you're only allowed three secret boards.  If for some reason you need a new private or secret board, you would either have to delete an existing secret board or make it public.  That would be up to you.

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And that's how you create secret boards on Pinterest.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Remember That "Internet Going Corporate" Tone I Have?

Starting with version 25 of Google Chrome, searches in that platform will be conducted via their SSL route, further securing the data that web publishers could use in their Google Analytics packages.

The technical aspect of that premise is just outside my sphere of knowledge, but the end-results is that more user searches will be filtered (aka, hidden) from marketers and those who use Google Analytics, will be seeing much more of that mystery (not provided) showing up in your dashboards.

There are ways around that, but it's a pesky fix that requires creating a different stats channel.  This piece is not what this is about.

What is buggering around in my mind is that this seems to be another step towards squeezing out the little guy and making room for the big corporate guns with the cash to pay for the extra bells and whistles of real search analytics.

To be honest, it's not hard to figure out what's being missed or blocked if you step back and look at your top two or three posts and then look at that No. 1 blanked out spot... and you can probably do the math from there. 

For now.

But when will it start expanding out from the No. 1 spot into the top-5 spots?

For now, the little guy is still around, but my suspicious mind and this quiet move to shove us off the map of the internet seems, curious.

That's if I'm right.

The next best trick you can do, if you only using pure SEO practices, (which is no longer enough... now they want you talking with and engaging with other folks), is to engage your social networks.  And there are other, on-the-fly tricks you can do to determine good keywords, but that's for another day.

For now, that's that!  The above link goes to the site, Search Engine Roundtable. (Man, I've got to quit reading that site... it's unnerving me!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Not Fall For Certain Email Spams and Scams

For many of you out there, I trust in your wisdom in regards to dealing with, or not getting tricked into replying to scam emails or clicking on links within what looks like valid emails or webpages.  This note is for the rather new web surfer who has a brand new web presence, a new email address that gets no spam and what not.  Ah, the good 'ol days.

For those of you new to this 'net thing, there are a few things you should be aware of to help protect yourself against web evil-doers.

Scammers and spammers and other cretins have various techniques to try and trick you into doing something they want you to.  I'm here to help in some small way to make you aware of some of these tricks.

For one...  If you get an email from FedEx, UPS, the USPS or other such well known entity, and that email suggests a tracking number with a link included, don't.   Don't click the link.  For one, you can highlight the tracking number and do a Google search on it.  If you have a valid tracking number, they tend to come up in the search results.  The other aspect to consider, if you think about it, is how in the bloody heck would they (the delivery services) know your email address?

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Another trick used is to send very official looking emails from corporations, the government or even law enforcement agencies.  The more common trick tried is sending you an email from your bank or internet service provider, asking you to log in to provide and verify specific information.

Don't click the link, no matter how good it looks.  It will redirect you to a great looking website.  They even might have all the right pages from the real website set up.  Don't reply to the email, no matter how valid it looks. Don't sign into these webpages.

These folks can make pretty good looking websites or emails that might suck you in.  Sometimes, they might even use your name in the email.  Most organizations don't ask for some specific or pertinent information.  If you think that the email is a valid email, this organization probably has an internal message center.  For instance, whatever is sent to me, I can go and open a different web browser window, go to my bank's website and log in.  If they've sent me information, it will be in my notifications bar.

If the "police" are contacting you, close the email out and call the supposed law enforcement agency that is "supposedly" trying to contact you.  It's not that hard to take a few extra steps to do things safely.

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Here's where I'm pretty harsh, but I don't open things from my friends of family in email.  I've made it clear to most everyone I don't do attachments.  I don't care who they trust that sent it to them.  Some years back, my "grandmother" tried to delete my entire hard drive.

It's too easy to farm email addresses and then send real looking emails.

Just recently I was sent an email about a buddy named John.  It was from his college, looking to verify some information for a thesis he was writing.  (Or something to that affect.)  Instead of replying, since I had not heard of this effort on his part, I closed out that email, opened a new one and sent him an email asking it this was real and/or if he sent it.

Sometimes it's easy to tell a spammed email.  If the words in the link say www.google.com, but when you hover your mouse over the link and look at the web address preview window at the bottom of your browser and it does not read exactly like it looks, then it's more than likely bogus.  If it's not, you then took a few moments to educate yourself, (once you figure it out) and you are suddenly more the web surfing expert than you were 5 minutes ago.

(I got tripped up by YouTube's new link shortening scheme.  I had never seen it before and it looked funky.  I later found it was real, but hey, I'd rather be safe and keep all my info than not!  Right?)

And honestly, sometimes it's silly how simple of a password some folks use to protect their stuff.  Keep it obscure, as far as passwords go and don't use anything that's obviously related to you.  That info is too easy to snag.

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Internet warnings are all the rage.  But 99% of them are bogus crap that want you to forward an email to "all" your friends.  And as soon as you do, someone else gets your email address book.  HTML and email mechanisms are too easy to make tricky.  Have you ever wondered how it is you can send or forward something to 10 people and get some fancy doodle show up on your screen? 

If you get a warning, rather than forward it, go to snopes.com and check it out.  There are other sites like snopes, like urbanlegends or truthorfiction, but snopes seems to be the reigning database of idiocy.  One of their more popular pieces on the site are these great items:

 Nigerian Scam
A wealthy foreigner who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland promises a hefty percentage of this fortune as a reward for assisting him.

Foreign Lottery Scam
Announcements inform recipients that they've won large sums of money in foreign lotteries.

Secret Shopper Scam
Advertisers seek applicants for paid positions as 'secret' or 'mystery' shoppers.

Work-at-Home Scam
Advertisers offer kits that enable home workers to make money posting links on the Internet.

Family Member in Distress Scam
Scammers impersonate distressed family members in desperate need of money.
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/fraud/topscams.asp#TZ6C4r75b5yxYys1.99

Here are their latest, top-25 scam/hoxes:  http://www.snopes.com/info/top25uls.asp

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Actually, spending a few minutes on Snopes will sort of show you what's up out there.

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There are many other variations on what I've touched on, but the bottom line is that it isn't that hard to take an extra minute, open up a new window or email and go directly to the site in question, or outside that first email chain, verify with your email sender, that they did send you something.  (And don't send me attachments, I don't do attachments!  I love the, "it's from a trusted buddy who trusted a buddy who got it from a good source" line.)

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Play it safe.  Keep it smart with good passwords that you change every 6 months or so and you're web experience will be more fun than trauma.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Can Facebook Screw Up Your Home Insurance Claims?

In the past I've heard that updating your Facebook page could be dangerous for your possessions.  The reason being, since we all love to check in at places, or tell the world what we're doing, any opportunistic crook could conceivably take advantage of the information.  Taking advantage meaning that if they knew you were out of the house, it would be safe, and easy, to go break in and take what they want.

It goes something like this...

Despite some of your best efforts to protect your privacy, if you're one of those that fills out all the information in your profile, IE:  Address, phone number, etc., you sort of open yourself up to being targeted.

Sure, you might take your profile info and then try to set your privacy settings.  But if you miss a setting somewhere in your profile, and one of your online friends does not have any kind of security settings on their account, you're as good as giving out all your information.

Never mind hackers who might somehow get into the database or a wayward employee who loses a laptop with all the information on it.

No...  most of that is not likely, but wouldn't you hate to be the first one that everyone talks about?

Then, let's take this a step further.  As SocialNomics puts it, if you've posted about carpet damage from a water leak, and then a FB friend reposts it with a joke about how the party got out of hand, you might just find yourself in hot water.

Facebook and other social networks are how insurance companies discover fraud.  It sounds crazy, I know!  But again, I'd hate to be one to have to test those waters!

If you think about it, FB has a billion users.  How many do you think are naysayer evil-doers?  It's food for thought and I thought you might be interested in seeing this perspective.

There's more at the source if you're interested...  SocialNomics.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Amazon Prime Has A Few Bumps In The Road

I think it would behoove folks to know that Amazon Prime, though cool, and has some great perks, also has a few surprises in store for users, if you don't pay attention.

When you sign up for an Amazon Prime account, the first thing I didn't like was that in order to check out the free trial, you had to buy something to start your Prime account.  If it weren't Amazon, I would have given any other media provider the emotional middle finger.  But in Amazon, I trust.  So I "forced" myself to buy something and got on with it.

Being a Prime member, you don't pay shipping and get 2-day delivery as your default option.  That's pretty cool and for me, that alone pays for itself.  But there are a few issues I'm not fond of with the account.

First up, not everything is Prime
The other day I was looking to buy some batteries and found an incredible price.  But there was a huge shipping charge associated with the purchase.  Good thing I was paying attention.  Turns out, you have to keep your eye on the products page and make sure that items you are looking for are eligible to participate in the Prime program!  Most Amazon products are, but you should be wary when carousing the digital pathways of the Prime accounts.

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Second, There's Recently Viewed Queue

One of the quirks that I do not like is that when you finally find something to watch, unlike Netflix, Amazon Video Prime does not have a "recently watched" queue window.  So for example, you want to watch Black Beauty, and you start it up... but can't finish it, when you return to Amazon, you have to go through the entire search process again.

I find that to be a huge pain in the ass, period!

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Third, Things Don't Stay Prime!

This is the biggest surprise of them all...  that videos that were once Prime qualifiers, do not stay such.

For example, about a month ago, while I was cruising the movie titles of the world of Prime, I was snagging some titles and stashing them in my "Watchlist" so I can find them more easily next time by.  Then recently I came back to my watch list to check on it and saw that one film had a fee associated with it.  I figured I goofed when selecting movie titles.  But tonight, I was going back to finish watching the animated feature, Batman vs. Dracula, but the title didn't have the "continue watching" option.  Then I noticed that it was no longer a Prime category viewing option.  And as I looked around, of my 13 Watchlist titles, 6 of them are no longer Prime titles.

That really gets my goat.  For some odd reason, I thought things that were Prime, stayed such.  Apparently I was wrong.

And then I went to check on new additions to Prime movies, but there are no new ones since the last time I was here about a three days ago.  Boo.

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Overall, Not Bad, But...

The gist of the issue is that my Amazon Prime account pays for itself with the free, 2-day shipping.  And what I have to assume, mentally, is that the videos available to Prime members, are temporary free bonuses.  If you see something on the menu, don't get comfortable, thinking you can finish it later or that it will be there later when you come back.  You have to jump on it as soon as is convenient.

That, and with no recently watched queue like Netflix, you need to manually stick a movie in your watchlist so it's easy enough to get back to it.  You can always remove it from your list later.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Turbo Tax's Crazy, Spammy Looking Email Marketing

Disclaimer:  Turbo Tax is not a spammer, but wow, their marketing campaign would drive me away if I wasn't already on-board the service.

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For years I had used a private CPA to do my taxes for me.  It was a reassuring measure when our taxes got a bit complicated, to have an expert handle them for us.

But as our lives became more simplified, the need to pay the premiums this CPA was charging, seemed extreme.

Then during the last few years, with our simplistic filing, he also seemed to get more snippy with us.  He started sounding rather impatient with my questions and what not.

At one point I thought it was actually pretty stupid to be paying what we were for a standard tax form submission and as everything added up, I let Wayne go.

Enough was enough.

I had known about Turbo Tax for quite some time... from back in the days when it was a software install.  But now, it's an online entity and after having used it for a few years, it seems capable enough.

So to be clear, I recommend Turbo Tax.  The interface asks a billion questions, leaving no stone unturned and they have oodles of support a mouse click or phone call away.  (I had tried H&R Block once and I had to walk my person through extra steps that they should have caught.  So I wasn't impressed.)

With that being said, I have to say, it's crazy how Turbo Tax starts to slaughter your inbox once the year starts up.

I know they want to get in your face to remind you to stick around and use their services.  But seriously folks, they've sent me 11 emails last year once the season kicked in gear.  And so far this year, I've had my first 3.  And I'm not sure I didn't accidentally delete any prior to this "head" count.

But that's all.  Despite the marketing effort and how it feels, I've enjoyed their services to date.

If you're thinking about it, just pull up their website and look it over.  Intuit, the company behind Turbo Tax, has been around since 1983 and went public in 1993.

UPDATE:

Dang, and the emails keep coming, and they have the spammiest titles I can think of!!!

  1. "Sign in now and see your refund"
  2. "Your Biggest Refund and User ID"
  3.  "IRS Open and Biggest Refund"
  4.  "User ID and Fast Refund Enclosed."

I mean seriously, does that look spammy or what?  Or that they hired an ex used-car salesman or real estate agent to spin their wares.  If I didn't like them so much, I'd drop them just on principles alone. 

I know an e-mail title is not a promise, but it sure does look like they think they know something about your financial situation that promises big things.  But that's just me and my critical eye.


Dunkin' Donuts Opening Franchises in California

You've been hearing the Dunkin' Donuts rumors from your east coast friends.  You've been testing the waters of this fabled franchise while trying their most excellent Dunkin' Donuts coffee from whatever outlet would sell it.  But now, you will soon be able to check it out for yourself.

Dunkin' Donuts is planning on opening franchise locations in six counties in Southern California beginning in 2015.

The reason they're focused on So Cal first is that they have a distribution location close to that part of the state, in Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV.  Once the So Cal locations pay off, they plan on migrating northward within California.

The brand has seen decent growth over the years, adding up to a 4% increase in locations in 2012.  And they're looking for experienced franchisee's in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties.  They also want locations in colleges, casinos, military bases, supermarkets and airports.

CB's FYI Tidbit: 

Did you know that the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts, Dunkin' Brands Group Inc, also happens to own that yummy other franchise, Baskin-Robbins?

Below is the press release from Dunkin' Brands: -

Dunkin' Donuts, America's all-day, everyday stop for coffee and baked goods, and one of the fastest growing quick service restaurant (QSR) brands based on unit growth, announced today that it is expanding to Southern California. Dunkin' Donuts has been strategically expanding in contiguous markets across the country with a long-term goal of having more than 15,000 Dunkin' Donuts restaurants in the United States alone. In addition, the company will continue to open new restaurants in existing markets.
Specifically, the company is recruiting multi-unit franchisees for Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties and expects restaurants in these markets will begin to open in 2015.  The company is also interested in identifying qualified food service operators for a wide range of non-traditional venues including colleges and universities, casinos, military bases, supermarkets, airports and travel centers.
Dunkin' Donuts also announced the opening of 291 net new locations in the United States in 2012, a net new unit growth rate of 4 percent. In 2013, the company says it plans to open 330 to 360 net new restaurants in the United States with growth coming from both new and existing markets, representing an increase of 4.5 percent to 5 percent.
"This past year was an exciting one for Dunkin' Donuts' growth in the United States, and we are delighted to begin 2013 with the long-awaited announcement that Dunkin' Donuts will be opening restaurants in California, where there is already incredible passion for our brand," said Nigel Travis, Chief Executive Officer, Dunkin' Brands and President, Dunkin' Donuts U.S. "Expansion to California has always been part of our plan to grow Dunkin' Donuts' presence in the U.S. We have maintained our disciplined approach to expand steadily while focusing on initiatives to improve restaurant economics and franchisee profitability. These initiatives include our recent agreement with our franchisee-owned and operated distribution and procurement facility, which ensures the same cost of goods to franchisees in both established and new markets by 2015."
"In addition to California, we believe we have incredible domestic growth opportunities for Dunkin' Donuts, both east and west of the Mississippi. On a global basis, we remain committed to our long-term development goal, which calls for us to accelerate to approximately a 5 percent net new annual development rate for Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins combined," continued Travis.   
In 2012, Dunkin' Donuts signed multi-store agreements in 32 U.S. markets, including Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Birmingham, Alabama; Denver, Colorado; Austin, Houston and Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas.  Additionally, in 2012 more than 600 Dunkin' Donuts restaurants were remodeled across the country.
According to Grant Benson, CFE, Vice President of Development, Dunkin' Brands, "For our expansion into California, we are looking for qualified, multi-unit franchise candidates with foodservice, operations and real estate experience to become part of a nationally established restaurant concept with more than 60 years of franchising experience and 95% brand recognition. Additionally, they will receive the benefits of a multi-million dollar national advertising plan, world-class training and ongoing support, among many other benefits."
In an effort to keep the brand fresh and competitive, Dunkin' Donuts offers franchisees flexible design concepts including free-standing stores, end caps, in-line sites, kiosks and gas stations, as well as other retail environments. Dunkin' Donuts has aligned its development strategy to support the growth opportunities and consumer needs of each individual market.In addition, for a limited time, we intend to make special development incentives available, including reduced royalty fees in the early years and a $10,000 local store marketing contribution by the company for qualifying franchisees.
According to The NPD Group / CREST®, Dunkin' Donuts restaurants serve the most hot regular, decaf, flavored and iced coffee in America, selling 1.7 billion cups of hot and iced coffee every year. Dunkin' Donuts was ranked number one in customer loyalty in the coffee category for the sixth consecutive year by the 2012 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. In addition to coffee and Fair Trade Certified™ espresso beverages, Dunkin' Donuts offers guests high-quality food and beverages served all day, including oven-toasted Bakery Sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches and Wake-Up Wraps, bagels, donuts and MUNCHKINS®, muffins, Coolatta® frozen drinks, and a DDSMART® menu featuring better-for-you items. Dunkin' Donuts restaurants also offer K-Cup® packs for use with Keurig® single cup brewers.
For more information about Dunkin' Donuts franchising, visit www.dunkinfranchising.com.
To learn more about Dunkin' Donuts, visit www.DunkinDonuts.com or follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/DunkinDonuts) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/DunkinDonuts).
###

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Recall on Bugaboo Strollers

Bugaboo is recalling their strollers due to fall and choking hazard issues.

The stroller is called the Bugaboo Cameleon and Bugaboo Donkey Model Strollers and the problem is that a button on the stroller's carrycot/seat carry handle can become disengaged and cause the handle to detach, posing fall and choking hazards to young children.

There have been over 50 reports of the handles detaching, but no injuries have been reported.

Serial numbers to be concerned about are

Bugaboo Cameleon
Serial Number 04011090900001 to 04031101009999
Serial Number 08011090900001 to 08021100800386
Serial Number 140100093600531 to 140103123350418

Bugaboo Donkey
Serial Number 170101105300001 to 170104130900500

-

If you have one, you should remove the handle and contact Bugaboo for a free replacement.

Bugaboo International; at (800) 460-2922, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or online at www.bugaboo.com and click on "Important Quality Initiative."

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Google Plus's Special Vanity Name URLs to Special Folks First


I'm not sure if you're aware, but Google+ (Google Plus) has started offering vanity URL names to "select" users recently.  Select that is, like brands, stars and athletes. (This seems to support my concerned perspective that Google is tuning the web for corporate profit.)  From what I can tell, ordinary folks aren't getting the offers yet.  But if you do, from what else I can tell, there will be some message off on the right side of your profile saying you have the option to choose a vanity URL for your Google+ profile or page.

But somewhere there's also some subtle text that says that they reserve the right to charge a fee for the vanity URL somewhere down the road.

But I'm not too worried about the fee charging. (No, I've not been offered a vanity URL for my own account or any of my pages.  Not sure why they would.  I'm small beans in the scheme of things.)

But there are ways around this, if you NEED some form of a cool looking G+ URL.

There's a website called "gplus.to" that let's you choose a vanity URL and gives you one.  They, or any other utility site like them, don't seem to be affiliated with Google and there is a downside.  The downside that was pointed out by Webination is that you're using this website's service and so when you provide the URL they give you, THEY get the traffic statistics before passing on your visitors to your G+ account/page.  (They own the URL)  And they list a few other negatives about using a third party traffic assist.

But one other website made a wonderful suggestion for those with real website/blogs, and that is "Just create an empty folder on your website and do a 301 redirect to your Google plus page."  (Webination).

-

I've found it odd that Facebook in some ways, makes things easier and more appealing than Google+ has.  You'd think Google would want everyone flocking to their site.  But as a blogger, I have fantastic tools to auto-post to my Facebook pages and accounts while Google+ still is a holdout on automated posting.

Which again, sets off my "spider-sense," in as far as what they're up to and what plans they're slowly formulating for this social site called Google+.

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Is Google Making The Web A Corporate Only Entity?

I don't know about you, but it's getting a bit rough out here on the internet as Google revamps how they reward websites with search engine traffic.

It's already tough enough trying to do things above board and play Google's game of right and wrong.  (Though some of the bad guys seem to still be getting away with things.) But after the Panda and Penguin updates from Google, my primary site as been on a downward slide, no matter what I do.  At this point in time, my traffic is exactly half what it was 18 months ago.  That's despite a much vaunted framework/theme and practicing every nice habit there is.  Then there are the sites that steal content ideas and move forward!  Sigh.

But more importantly, this change has dinged my side-livelihood by 70%.  And I used to count on that small piece of livelihood.

As if that's not bad enough, now webmasters are being penalized when bad websites link to them.  And Google puts it on them to find and disassociate these crap links to help your own site do better.  I don't get that.  Google makes billions in a down economy and have the resources to do what they want.  And they put it on us to help them not ding us.

To be serious, that bites my butt and does not settle well with me.  I have no control over when POS websites link to me and steal my content or images.  And yet, Google slaps me for it.

So it's on the webmaster/blogger to find the crap websites linking to them and fix it, what ever that might be.  There are new tools like disavow from Google, or you're supposed to ask the offending website to stop linking to you.  You, the victim, are supposed to know what spam sites, or de-indexed sites are pointing to you.

It's overwhelming if this isn't your full-time thing in life and incredibly discouraging.

When I put my spare time into my beloved hobby, I don't want to spend it chasing down technical aspects of my online life.  Like this previous weekend.  Rather than scribing some passions, I was chasing what it takes to determine what crap websites are linking to me.  Or how to determine if they're in the wrong genre to allow them to link to me.

No...  What I'm seeing is Google slowly and quietly squeezing out the little guy and making the web a corporate-only entity.  They've already looked to reducing link-scores to non-original content.  That alone pretty much puts a diss on thousands of websites that see something on one of the core news websites and wants to write about it.

Somewhere down the road, I would not be surprised to see the web become a pay-venue. 

As all the corporate sites are getting the power of the web, they could very well find it very easy being source-only sites, and hence, be able to charge for their content.  Just like the old days when your only venue to news was either through a newspaper you paid for, or what might make it to your TV.

As it stands, I'm making one last fling at this hobby of mine before I do something else.  I love writing.  I love expounding opinion and I love engaging like-minded or opposing-minded folks, sharing opinions.  But at some point, I have to figure out when it's no longer worth my while.  Or... let Google beat me down into the dust of internet history.

Friday, January 11, 2013

When Carrying Guns Openly Seems Better Than Using Your Words


Nothing says "intelligent" better than walking through town with an assault rifle slung over your shoulder.  At least that's what two men in Portland thought as they tried to make a point by exercising their Second Amendment and claiming, that they were "educating the public" on gun rights.

Are you f*ing serious?

Earlier this week the Portland police department was flooded with phone calls of panic about two men walking through the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.  When the police arrived, it was learned that these two men were holding all the valid licenses necessary to be able to do what they were doing.  Which was to "educate the public." Or as one of them put it,

"Exercising my rights with a rifle to try to decrease the demonizing of peacefully exercising your rights in public,"

Because, you know, starting some form of a public panic is the best way to educate...

Sorry, I'm hung up on that dumb ass point at the moment.

-

All I saw was two stupid men, legally brandishing their rights and chest thumping.  Hell, they won't even release their own full names to the media, so I'm not sure what their point was, if they can't even back their own idea.

The thing is, I'm not against gun ownership.  It is what it is.  We all own something that can cause harm.  Very old folks drive cars but end up killing people when they make judgement errors.  Folks own knives, and you can certainly do harm that way.  We all own poisons of some sort.  Etc., etc..

I'm fine with the freedom of ownership.  Though I question the need to privately own a real military grade-like weapon.  But that's just me.

-

No, my real issue with this bul****t stunt is not the educational aspect of the owners but the completely callous considerations in making this point.  The public is still reeling from Newtown.  Those families are still in the throes of loss and agony.  Here in CA, we had another school incident with a gun.  And these two 22-year-old men needed to make their point this way.

THAT, is when I think well-meaning, thoughtless folks need to stop and take measure.  Use a damn blog.  Leave comments in the right places.  But to terrify your neighbors is stupid.

It's crap like this that will cause more of a ruckus and possibly get laws overturned that will prevent open carry and other venues of the same ilk.

I've been trained in the handling and the use of guns.  I've studied various martial arts for 15 years.  Guns are a "Plan B" for me.  But there are those who buy guns and think that's all they need to do to be safe. And in the heat of the moment when their existence is threatened, that they think it will come in handy.

It's kind of like folks who think they "can't" slip on an icy sidewalk.  And if they do slip, they "know" they can catch themselves.  Then there's the reality of the situation.

HA!

-

I have my reservations.  I believe in gun ownership and with that ownership, I believe everyone should take gun-use classes every six months.  Then, I would not be too worried about my jittery neighbor when they need to defend themselves.  Then, I won't be worried that they didn't think about where a bullet will travel once it passes their intruder.  Or that they were smart enough to have the right ammunition that won't travel through multiple walls when they miss their target.

Then, I can relax.  Because the only real thing I worry about is stupidity.

-

[ source:  FoxNews ]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How I learned That One Should Not Lead With Their Queen In Chess, From a Traffic Altercation

A curious observation:  How does traffic and chess relate?  Got me, but the other night I saw this altercation taking place in the street that later, when I reflected on it, had me ponder the idea that one should never open any chess game by moving a pawn then attacking with the queen.

Lemme explain...

I was walking my new dog down the street and a man was standing on the curb waiting for someone.  Two cars pull up towards him but it turned out that the lead car's driver had called ahead saying she needed help.

So she pulls up and another car pulls up behind her, but stays about 25 feet back.  Hmm.

She gets out of her BMW and through a smattering of words with her friend on the curb, turns out the car behind her was following her.  Hmm, again.

Then we (Me, my dog, my wife) watch as her friend walks to the other car.  It's another BMW.  It backs up away from him.  He asks his friend to stop walking up with him and he gets the guy to roll the window down.  At this point I can see that the man driving his BMW is on the phone.  Suddenly, I'm suspecting something else is going on besides this girl's claim about being followed.  As in, she left out some details.

Her friend talks to the driver whose on his phone.  Can't quite make out the conversation.  But her friend stands up and asks the girl if she hit this guy in traffic?  Wow...  loaded question.

Rather than engaging in some form of conversational interchange, her true roots came to bear.  Instead of answering the question, she lights up and starts yelling at the other BMW, screaming stuff like how he has a crap car, he doesn't own crap, he can't have her car, he has no job and other mystical "observations" on her part, that she seemingly was pulling out of the air.  (BTW, they seemed to be driving the same model and year car.)

We kept walking but I kept an eye on things.  She drove off, he followed her and they disappeared around the corner.

Chapter closed.  Or so I thought.

As we were returning from our walk about 30 minutes later, it was like Christmas all over again!  Lights blinking from all the corners of the intersection that this yell-fest took place from, because the guy with the phone stuck to it and stayed on the phone until the cops did show up.

In this case, I assume, was a good call.  (Hmm, no pun intended.)

And that, was just another curious observation, because to me, rather than saving her best retorts for last, her opening volley of words were the best she could come up with.  And oddly, that's when I thought that about moving the queen in chess first.  You should always try to play first moves as conservatively as you can.  Save the good stuff for later.

All the while, there was this theme song from a long-time running show going through my head... "Bad boys, bad boys, whatch'ya gonna do? Whatch'ya gonna do when they come for you?"

Recalls: Teddy Bears & Deadly Baby Nappers

Here are a few recalls, that yet once again, truly scare me.


Sassy and Carter's-branded Hug N' Tug Baby Toys Recalled Due to Choking Hazard
It turns out that this teddy bear recall involves beads inside a clear sphere located in the center of the toy that can be released and then the beads can cause a choking hazard.

The toys are technically the Sassy(r)-branded Hug N' Tug Puppy and Monkey and Carter's(r)-branded Hug N' Tug Monkey Toys.

"Consumers should immediately take the toys from children and contact Sassy for instructions on how to return the product for a free replacement toy.

Consumer Contact: Sassy at (800) 323-6336 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm's website at www.sassybaby.com and go to the Product Recall Information link."

===

Nap Nanny

via press release

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and four major retailers are announcing a voluntary recall to consumers who own Nap Nanny(r) recliners made by Baby Matters, LLC of Berwyn, Pa.

Retailers currently participating include Amazon.com, Buy Buy Baby, Diapers.com and Toys R Us/Babies R Us. At the request of the CPSC, these retailers have agreed to voluntarily participate because the manufacturer is unable or unwilling to participate in the recall.

CPSC is warning parents and caregivers that these baby recliners contain defects in the design, warnings and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury and death to infants. This recall includes the Nap Nanny Generations One and Two, and the Chill(tm) model infant recliners.

In July 2010, CPSC and Baby Matters, LLC issued a joint recall news release that offered a discount coupon to Generation One owners toward the purchase of a newer model Nap Nanny, and improved instructions and warnings to consumers who owned the Generation Two model of Nap Nanny recliners.

At the time of the 2010 recall, CPSC was aware of one death that had occurred in a Nap Nanny recliner and 22 reports of infants hanging or falling out over the side of the Nap Nanny, even though most of the infants had been placed in the harness. Subsequently, despite the improvements to the warnings and instructions, additional deaths using the Nap Nanny recliners were reported, including one in a Chill model. Since the 2010 recall, CPSC has received an additional 70 reports of children nearly falling out of the product.

The Nap Nanny is a portable infant recliner designed for sleeping, resting and playing. The recliner includes a bucket seat shaped foam base and a fitted fabric cover with a three point harness. Five thousand Nap Nanny Generation One and 50,000 Generation Two models were sold between 2009 and early 2012 and have been discontinued. One hundred thousand Chill Models have been sold since January 2011. The recalled Nap Nanny recliners were sold at toy and children's retail stores nationwide and online, including at www.napnanny.com. All models were priced around $130.

Nap Nanny Generation Two model

For more information, consumers should review the return policy of the individual retailer from which they purchased a Nap Nanny recliner. If the product was purchased at one of the retailers below, see the link or call for instructions on returns:

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com
Buy Buy Baby: Toll-free at (877) 328-9222,
http://www.buybuybaby.com/productRecalls.asp
Diapers.com: (800) 342-7377,
http://www.diapers.com
Toys R Us/Babies R Us: (800) 869-7787,
http://www.toysrusinc.com/safety/recalls

To see this recall on CPSC's web site, including a picture of the recalled product, please go to:
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml13/13083.html

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Case of the Curious Permit For Gravity & Banning Plastic

Today I caught an article in my local newspaper indicating that the state of California is pushing cities to start to ban plastic bags.  (We also will get charged 10 cents a paper bag thereafter.)  It is what it is and so forth.

But as I perused the article, the piece goes on to indicate that maybe CA is strong-arming smaller cities to comply and enforce plastic bag bans.

I was wondering how they'd do that, but wow, I was a bit confused by this one:

One of the reasons for this plastic ban mandate is to reduce the amount of trash that accumulates in storm drains.  Meaning we have enough bad/lazy apples in our midst to create such a beast.  (Hence, the giant pile of plastic trash in the ocean.)

But what caught my eye was how CA was "urging" cities like Los Altos, to comply.

If a plastic bag ban is not adopted, Los Altos could face losing their permit that allows storm drain water to flow into the Bay.

Yes folks, first look at that makes me think that the state charges for permits to let water use gravity to flow downhill into the Bay.  Eh?  And if a city did not comply, and they lose their water-flow permit, what would happen?  Would the city flood?  Or would the rain waters start flowing uphill?  Which takes me back to how we get charged to go hike in nature with wilderness passes we have to pay for so we can hang out in nature.

As it is, it's not a bad thing to do because people litter.  But then what gets my goat is how they take away one option, then charge you 10 cents for the other viable option. 

Is it me, or is this planet just getting smaller and smaller every day!?  We need to take care of mother earth folks!

[Daily Post, Jan 9, 2013 edition, Pg 1]

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Blog Owners, Beware the SEO Bull* Sales Talk

When you partake on the journey of running a blog, if you have a good knowledgeable friend who understands SEO, you're a bit of a leg up.  Otherwise, you'll be on your own.  Trust me on that one.

One thing is how to deploy smart SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactics.  There are numerous resources available for that and oddly, I was just reading an article on the bulls**t sales tactics of folks who try to prey on your desperation.  These folks prey on your need to do better at on the web and build an audience.

For instance, today I got this nice junk mail from a gmail email address about a one-time offer for help with my "organic SEO."  Let's go through this winning sale pitch:

-

First, I don't see a company name anywhere in their sales pitch.

Then they pitch me why I'm not "getting enough Social Media and Organic search engine traffic."  (Actually, I'm doing OK with that in the percentage of my inbound traffic.)

My site is not ranking in top Google organic competitive keyword phrases.  (Well, that's accurate.  I don't want to rank for "competitive" keyword phrases.  Just a few specific terms.  Duh.)

My website profile is not in most social media websites.  (Good, I'm only focused on a few sites.)

Then they blow it completely by telling me exactly how many back links they say I have.  And they are so wrong.

Then they say if I want to work with them, they'd give me an audit report, for free!  Hmm, I think they missed that chance.

But then they tell me they found my site through a Google search!  LOL.  Seriously, if I need help getting found on Google, how'd they find me on Google?  Just askin'!

-

So there will be dark days and days where you're wondering what the hell you need to do.  The biggest thing is to stay calm.  Be smart.  Hopefully, you've done your research before the dark moments and have resources inline to go to.  Remember, in the end, you are on your own and you need to depend on yourself.

Have fun and good luck with your blogging efforts.

Product Recalls for A Scary Toy, Magnets, Strollers, & Washing Machines


Check out some of these recalls...

  • A toy that can be swallowed and expand to 400 times its original size;
  • Magnets that can clamp together inside the body, causing internal issues;
  • Collapsing jogger baby strollers and
  • Top loading washing machines that shake so bad, they could cause damage or harm.

-

Here's a frightening toy recall:

Water Balz, Growing Skulls, H2O Orbs "Despicable Me" and Fabulous Flowers toys are being recalled because if these marble sized items get swallowed, they can expand inside the body and is considered to be life threatening.

"This recall involves marble-sized toys that absorb water and grow up to 400 times their original size. They were sold as Water Balz (round-shape), Growing Skulls (skull-shape), H2O Orbs "Despicable Me" (round-shape) and Fabulous Flowers (flower-shape). They were sold in packages of six in green, yellow, red, blue and black colors. "Dunecraft," the name of the toy and the model number are printed on the toy's packaging.

Name | Model Number | Amount Recalled
Water Balz | BC-0338 | 81000
Growing Skulls | BC-0320 | 11850
H2O Orbs "Despicable Me" | DM-0447 | 1800
Fabulous Flowers | BC-0440 | 36"

Contact Dunecraft at Dunecraft Inc.; at (800) 306-4168, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.dunecraft.com and click on the recall tab.

One infant had to have one of these surgically removed. 

= = =

One recall had a very limited distribution of about 500 sales, so the odds of anyone who reads this and has this is so slim, it's ridiculous...

High-Powered Magnet Sets Recalled by Reiss Innovations Due to Ingestion Hazard; Sold Exclusively on Amazon.com

It seems that if more than one of these magnets might get swallowed by a young one, the two magnets could find their way together, where

"they can link together inside a child's intestines and clamp onto body tissues"

Contact Reiss Innovations for instructions on returning the magnet sets.  Reiss Innovations; toll-free at (866) 212-8314, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.DynoCube.com and click on the recall button.

I'll leave the rest of the details to your imagination... but it can't be good.  I once got my finger stuck between two VERY powerful magnets and I thought was going to lose my finger.  It took two of us, with tools, to get them apart and off my hand.

(Yes, I was having a bad day.)

= = =

Baby Jogger City Versa(tm) strollers are being recalled due to a fall hazard.  The frame fails to lock out properly and the potential to collapse is present.

The recall involves Baby Jogger City Versa(tm) model strollers manufactured between May 15 and August 20, 2012.

For more info, contact: Baby Jogger toll-free at (877) 506-2213, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or go to www.babyjogger.com and click on the "Recall Information" link/button.

= = =

Washing machine recall by LG... the issue is when an unbalanced load can cause the washer to shake pretty bad, loosening the drum inside.  This could cause injury to users.

The recall involves three LG and three Kenmore Elite Brand top-loading washing machine models

Brand | Model | Serial Number Range
LG | WT5001CW, WT5101HV, WT5101HW | 002KW******* through 111KW*******
Kenmore Elite | 29002, 29272, 29278 | 005KW******* through 111KW*******

"Consumer Contact: For LG; toll-free at (855) 400-4639, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT Saturday, or online at www.lg.com/us and click on Public Notices. For Kenmore or LG washers purchased at Sears or Kmart; toll-free at (888) 812-2935, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT Saturday, or online at www.sears.com and click on Customer Service Home then Product Recalls in the Product Information section."

= = =

[ http://www.cpsc.gov/ ] -

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review of the Rebuilt Taco Bell in Redwood City, CA

For anyone in the neighborhood, you may have noticed that for a while the Taco Bell on El Camino Real had been closed for a while and got a facelift.  But that facelift went beyond the obvious and extended into different facets of the facility.

First up, there seems fewer parking spaces there.  If you plan on eating in, plan ahead and be ready to park on the street.

Second, once you've managed to snag one of the spaces, when you step inside, it does look better and the seating is arranged a bit different.

I was there at 11:30 A.M. and the breakfast menu was still up.  The rest of the menu only showed some "extra special" combo offerings, but god help you if you wanted to know what the price of an individual item is.

They have a new item though... Churros.  It was NOT impressive at all.  (I'm always trying to find the perfect churro.  This wasn't it!)

The other thing I noticed that at some of the booths, they have now installed power outlets, for the savvy, on-the-go customer who might be able to find a parking space!

And that's the fun I had checking out the newly rebuilt Taco Bell in Redwood City.