All posts by suttam

Out of Date

I freely admit it. I’m out of date. I’m not with the times.
I don’t bother with Facebook.
I don’t tweet or repin.
My smartphone is more like a remedial class phone.
I still run Windows XP.
I still own a VCR and don’t have a single blu ray.

The world has become a place where, if you don’t run to keep up with technology, you can’t participate. Think of all the times that you’ve been required to enter an email address. Think of all the computer programs you run that only work on the newest operating systems. Think of how much of today’s music goes straight to iTunes and is never put on CD.

Records–> Tape / CD –> mp3

As the world continues to move forward at a lightning pace are we willing to accommodate those mired in the past? How will those who are unable, either financially or for other reasons, to keep up, function?

As the postal service flounders will paying bills online become that status quo?
As paper magazines and newspapers struggle, will they be abandoned?

Most services that have moved online are still offering other options, but as the world moves on will the day come that paper based services finally disappear?

A Writer’s Challenge

I’ve participated in writing contests online on and off for over a decade.  Some of the most fun contests are word prompt challenges.  You are simply given a word or phrase, and then you write whatever comes to mind upon reading it. They are great for a challenge as well as for creative writing inspiration.  Most such challenges have a 100 of 500 word limit, so they are quick and painless practice.

 

Here is a sample of a word prompt challenge that I am working on at the moment.  Pick one or two and give it a try.  And don’t forget to show us your stuff!

#1 – Endings
#2 – Beginnings
#3 – Die
#4 – Dye
#5 – Survival
#6 – Worthless
#7 – Treasure
#8 – Scream
#9 – Growl
#10 – Beautiful
#11 – Apocalypse
#12 – Epiphany
#13 – Dance
#14 – Friendship
#15 – Sunrise
#16 – Night
#17 – Fox
#18 – Virgin
#19 – Denial
#20 – Failure
#21 – Success
#22 – Food
#23 – Drink
#24 – Heart
#25 – Truth
#26 – Lies
#27 – Occupation
#28 – Wish
#29 – Loath
#30 – Love
#31 – Regrets
#32 – Quit
#33 – Green
#34 – Sugar
#35 – Zombie
#36 – Miracle
#37 – Flood
#38 – Desert
#39 – Raw
#40 – War
#41 – Genetic
#42 – Stars
#43 – Magnetic
#44 – Heat
#45 – Magic
#46 – Partner
#47 – Survive
#48 – Fingers
#49 – Class
#50 – Cry

Eurotrip

Ever wanted to take that iconic Eurotrip? You know, the one people seem to take either right after they graduate from high school before heading to college, or right after they graduate college and start their new career?

Eurotrip

Yeah. Me too.

But just because you’ve scraped and saved every spare dime into an account to fund it doesn’t mean that you can just hop the nearest plane to London or Budapest. There’s a lot of prep work involved for even the most free-spirited Eurotrip itinerary. Luckily there are plenty of places online to do your research, find what you need, and book hotels or hostels, sightseeing, and travel tickets.

 

The first place you’ll want to look into is http://www.eurotrip.com/
This website is great for those just starting the process. It provides starter tips on planning, safety, getting around, and a forum that allows you to discuss a wide variety of other issues you may be curious about. But where this web site really shines is their Eurotrip planner, a tool that allows you to input your budget, the length of your trip, and the places you want to go. The site will calculate the feasibility of your trip and even map out your proposed route. There’s something about seeing your potential trip all set out on a map early in the process that makes it feel more real…

http://www.onebag.com/ is another wonderful site for those who are early in their planning process. However this site focuses on what to pack for their trip, and how. Their philosophy of ‘less is more’ will serve potential backpackers, and those who simply always over pack alike. Addressed here are topics like how to pick the right luggage, how to create an effective packing list, packing techniques, and what to leave home.

Both sites offer drastically differing but equally important information sets. Either would offer a great jumping off point and, perhaps even more importantly, inspiration for any potential Eurotripper.

Rights

Americans have always prided themselves on their many rights.
And as time passed, we eventually prided ourselves on our equal rights.

Today we like to think that our laws are meant to treat everyone equally and to protect everyone equally.  For example, it is against the law to beat someone, no matter their race, gender, or age.

But what about their species?

It’s human rights that we pride ourselves on.  But what about an animal’s rights?

I recently came across an article on the Animal Legal Defense Fund website that ranked states on the strength of their animal protection laws.  And while I was proud that my state (Minnesota) was ranked as a top tier state, with better than average animal protection laws, I was slightly disgusted to see that the states that border Minnesota are some of the nations worst. 

ImageIowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota all rank among the worst states when it comes to legislature concerning the rights of animals and punishments for the breakers of those laws.

So I pose these questions to my readers.  Why the disparity within neighboring states?  How can some Midwestern states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois rank so well and yet our neighbors rank amongst the worst? And what can my fellow Minnesotans do to help better the laws in our bordering states?

 

Ranking Fail!

When you want to find information about a subject that you don’t really know anything about, most of us would admit that a quick Google search is their first step now-a-days. And most of us would assume that the pages that rank highest in a Google search would be sites that work correctly and were built by competent individuals. Otherwise, how on earth would they climb to that much sought-after first page?  But this is not always the case. A while back I’d found a 3rd ranked site that, to this day, reminds me that just because Google says a page is worth visiting, doesn’t mean it’s actually worth a damn.

Once upon a time I decided that I needed an office pet. Others had fish, bud I decided that I wanted a snail. So I did what most people would do. Google search ‘pet snails.’ The first two entries were for a site for raising European land snails. The third was this site.

ImageI was horrified! I couldn’t believe that THIS was the best Google could do?

Right off the bat I found myself dubious that I could believe anything this hastily slapped together site might tell me. The header image itself was obviously put together using MS Paint, and badly at that. The snail in the image was a photo that had another photo superimposed on top of it! And the header image was to large for the website’s structure.

Moving down to the site’s menu bar, I found that most of the menu pages are empty or “under construction.” Apparently it has been “under construction” for several years, because to this day they are still not finished. This looks most unprofessional.

The layout wasn’t terribly good or bad. It was simply basic. Though leading off on a front page with 10 facts wouldn’t necessarily be my own first choice. The color scheme of dark blue and primary blue on white was another basic choice. It lends nothing like a personality to a site about snails.

But it was the content that drove the last wavering belief in this site as a place of actual knowledge from me. The images consist of fuzzy croppings from photos and crude MS Paint sketches. Its text was full of spelling and grammar mistakes, it was worded in an unprofessional (even childish) manner, and had factual mistakes.  The final straw for me was the dead links.  At least the ‘under construction pages actually existed.  These inner-page links were completely invalid.

About the only redeeming part of this site was an amusing linked Youtube video of snail racing.

 

At first this hot mess may not seem like too big of a deal, but remember that this is supposed to be an animal care site. It was 3rd ranked for ‘pet snails’ and 4th for ‘pet snail care’ on Google.  It begs the question. Who failed? Did the website creator fail to produce a competent site? Did Google fail to give me the most useful/relevant search results? Did I fail to search the right parameters?

And as I left the page I realized that whoever put this site together actually did me a service.  Knowing or remembering the fallibility of Google (or any Internet search) is important.  Answers aren’t always to be had at the first glance.

The 24 Hour Product

When a wise spender sees something that they want to buy, they typically go through some sort of period (unique to each individual) where they mull over the decision about whether or not to actually make the purchase.

Then along comes some sort of time-based stipulation. Sales. The sunglasses they want will only be 20% off for one week, or JC Penny’s sale for BOGO jeans is only good on Memorial Day weekend. Maybe that iPad on eBay has only 4 hours of bidding left. The addition of a time constraint is a retailer’s way of forcing a potential buyer to make a snap decision to buy the product right away. It erodes the smart spender’s ability to make a well thought out choice by threatening to take a bargain away unless they buy RIGHT NOW!

But in recent years savvy Internet businesses are taking this tactic one step further by introducing the 24 hour product. This is a product, or selection of products, that will only be available for purchase for 24 hours, and after that they quit selling it. Of course there are variations on the theme. Some sell the merchandise for one week only, others have various methods of attempting to ‘vote’ items back into production. But what this sales model does pushes beyond the scope of the Sale. It instills the fear in a buyer that if they don’t buy it now there will never be any more. They preys on the natural human hatred of missed opportunities in a brilliant, and profitable, way.

Such businesses are clearly booming. Within the realm of apparel alone there are so many sites running this type of business model that there are even 3rd party sites that collate the different 24 hour product site’s listings in one place.

Popular examples of this kind of site include:
http://www.teefury.com/
https://www.riptapparel.com/
http://popuptee.com/
http://www.othertees.com/

While the feasibility of this model to work in other areas of commerce is perhaps laughable… (a car model only available for one week? I think not.), it has potential. I can easily imagine iTunes doing something like this with up-and-coming bands, and even established bands, that are trying to get their music out to a huge new audience. Once a day, for one day only, an artist puts up a song that will never be available any other way.

Love the idea or hate it, it seems to be making money.