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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Google Shopper- How your smart phone can save you big money.

It's time to go buy a new TV? Good for you. Once you get down to the big box store and find the flat screen of your dreams, you're blindsided by the big bucks needed to acquire the latest and greatest in electronic gee-wizardry. It has to be cheaper elsewhere, right? Thanks to the smartphone app Shop Smart from Google, you just might be saving a good amount of cash. Plus,  the app saves on more than TVs-  any kind of merchandise that has a barcode qualifies.

You're taking a picture of what?
(source: Google)
How? This is the part that gets really clever: Once the app is open, simply take a photo of the barcode. Google then searches the World Wide Web for all products matching the barcode just entered. If it's cheaper in a brick store elsewhere, Google Shopper will tell you the price and provide directions to the store's location. If it's cheaper online, you'll be given the option of buying it immediately via the phone.

Simple and elegant, isn't it?
(source: AOL)
Books are even more clever. Take a photo of the bookcover- no barcode required- and you'll be given options to find it cheaper elsewhere (if available). DVD covers are rumored to be next.

The app is free, secure and available from a trusted source.

You don't need to Google that to know this is a bargain.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is a Harley Davidson Motorcycle too cliche for you? Here are three motorcycle alternatives to make you stand out from the crowd!

First: Harleys are fantastic motorcycles with a historic pedigree and a popularity that makes it one of the most iconic symbols of the American open road and the idea of freedom.

That said, Harleys are everywhere. That doesn't make them bad, but it does make them...well, common.

For those who seek out a ride not like everyone else's, but are still built closer to home, there are three options that leap to mind. One is a legendary name, the second is a new "traditional" brand and the last is new on the scene with a fresh approach to what a motorcycle can be.

This certainly is different from a Harley
(source: Indian)

 Indian Motorcycles were built from 1901 to 1953, before the original company went bankrupt. The name floated around from owner to owner until 2006 when the new Indian Motorcycle Company restarted manufacturing in North Carolina. Built to be exclusive and rare, Indians are built with an eye towards the artistic and impresses the viewer with its grace and power. It's not cheap, but being different can sometimes be pricey.

This sure isn't a Harley is it?
(source: Victory)
Victory Motorcycles are built in Iowa and are meant to be direct competitors to Harley Davidson instead of positioning themselves as a "Tiffany" brand like Indian. Owned by the snowmobile producer Polaris, Victory aims to provide an alternative to Harleys, while maintaining a similar "bad boy" theme. Modestly profitable since 2002, Victory has slowly built a following and has expanded it line to include models from entry-level to opulent. In April of 2011, Victory bought Indian and plans to position it as their upmarket brand. Victory's website can be found here.

And now for something completely different- the Can Am Motorcycle.

When you want to be VERY different
(source: Can Am)

Three wheeled motorcycles are nothing new, but they are always modifications after the two wheeled vehicle is purchased. Can Am is different, because it's designed from the ground up to be a three wheeler or a trike. Artistically splitting waaay off from the Harley look, Can Am chose to take the "Racer" look and add a bit of highway cruiser.

Many people prefer the Can Am because of it's stability and style not to mention the looks it gets from slack-jawed pedestrians- and some people love that kind of attention. Accessories galore are available and it certainly is very different. Owned by the Bombardier Corporation, it's built in Canada (the "Can" part of Can Am). Go to Can Am's site here and be prepared to be surprised.

Harleys are gorgeous, but they're not the only game in town. Others do exist and allow the consumer options, including the option of being the different one on the open road.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Three days of survival- get a 72 hour kit to help your family in an emergency.

Tsunami- Northern Japan.
Earthquake- New Zealand
River Flooding- Memphis, TN
Volcano- Mt. St. Helens
Nuclear meltdown- Japan
Wildfires- Southern California
Hurricanes- Southern United States

Listed above are 7 reasons why you and your loved ones should put together a 72 hour kit.

A 72 hour kit is a varied assorment of items that provides your family the ability to survive and endure for three days should you find that you are suddenly forced from your home (not likely? The people in the list above thought so too).

It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, but common sense does rule here. Beyond the obvious items like a first aid kit and some food, other items that may not leap to mind include copies of legal documents (driver's license, social security card, insurance documents, etc.), deck of cards, maps, list of important phone numbers as well as feminine hygene products for the fairer sex in your family.

Luckily, there are numerous producers of 72 hour kits for your consideration and the costs range from the $40 area to a couple of hundred dollars. Kits also range in size from one person to a dozen people (for business and corporations). Amazon offers many kits and  the list can be found by clicking here.

A kit like this could mean the difference between thriving and misery.
 But even an expensive kit can't anticipate every need, so you need to research both expert opinion and your family's specific needs like medical conditions, age, size and so on.

One list online to consider is the US Government's Homeland Security recommendations for a homemmade kit. Many other sites offer their opinions on the contents of a kit too. Research all and decide what's best for you and those you love. My suggestion is to purchase a quality 72 hour kit and add items that best serve your needs and requirements. Keep it updated and available and keep your family safe.

You never know when disaster will strike- Some of the people listed in the seven examples above had no idea they would need a kit like this...until it was too late. Be prepared.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Open the FBI Vault and access formerly secret papers, documents and other files of the US government.

For the education of  my overseas readers (I have them in China, France and Iran and more than 30 other countries) we have a process of requesting and recieving formerly secret documents from the government here in the United States. It called a "Freedom of Information Act" request. This means that, unless the information  is deemed to be vital to national security, the information must be released to the person or group making the request, even if the information is embarassing to the national government, politicians or other groups.  

Source: FBI
To make this process easier, the US government's investigative department, the FBI- has recently opened a website called The Vault. Contained within the site are PDF images (scanned copies of the original documents) of the most requested investigations conducted by the FBI over its long, storied history- more than 2,000 pages in all. World War II, civil right leaders, Mafia investigations and UFO sighting are but a few of the topics covered and available for viewing or printing out. Not every piece of paper printed by the Bureau is included- just the most commonly requested ones. More documents are added at regular intervals and you are still free to make specific FOI requests to the FBI if you can't find the document you seek on this website.

The FBI's Roswell UFO Memo
(source: the FBI Vault)
 There's no cost, the FBI doesn't ask (or care) who you are or where you're from and no registration is required to access any of these pages. Some of the names and bits of other information (social securtity numbers, phone numbers, credit card information, etc.) are redacted, but all of the rest of the information is right there for your review.

So whether you're from Nevada, Norway or Nigeria, you have the capability to review some of this nation's most historical documents for free, warts and all.

Go to the FBI's Vault site here.