Snow here; 80′s in Chicago

•March 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

While my former friends back home have been basking in the sun at the beach, we here in Cottonwood are getting a blast of winter. Wet snow is falling right now. Overnight it rained practically nonstop. The mountains are deeply covered with snow. That’s a good thing, because it means much-needed moisture to an overly dry environment. Am I starting to sound like an Arizonian?

This is stay inside weather. Perfect for us Hoosiers who look forward to March Madness. BTW, congrats, IU, on your win over New Mexico State.

Where are the Butler Bulldogs? I guess this was not their year. All the better that IU is back in the game.

Say Farewell to CyberScribbles

•October 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After nearly a dozen years of writing my weekly column, I have officially bowed out of the Internet game. From now on, my web browsing will be strictly between myself and me,and I might add, much less time will be spent online.

I have not uploaded the last 5 or six columns, but they can be found near the back of the .pdf filed and archived Beacher issues.

I’ve learned much over the years from scanning the web. Now I will enjoy the great outdoors a lot more. The weather is fine here in Arizona, and I am already spoiled.

Gardens, Face Painting (James Kuhn) Do It and How

•August 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Cover of "Face Painting (Hotshots Series)...

Cover of Face Painting (Hotshots Series)

If you planted a garden, by now you should be enjoying some of the vegetables that your hard work has earned. Believing that it is never too late in the season, I found a website that can help you to become an even better gardener and as a double bonus, provide you with a host of tasty recipes for your over-abundant crop of zucchini. That was the first websearch I performed this past week. Next, I decided to scope out as many pretty pictures—scenics, that is, that I could find on the internet. That was easy, and I am going to tell you how to do it if you do not yet know. And lastly, I stumbled upon a recognizable name from Beacher Country while foraging for websites this week. Keep reading.

Garden Guides (www.gardenguides.com). Have you been harvesting the vegetables you planted in May? Is your crop of tomatoes, peppers and zucchini so abundant that you are overwhelmed? Fear not. Just log on to the Garden Guides, type in the veggie you have perhaps too much of, and voila! –you will be given some recipes that will help you consume your goodies without wasting them. While you’re at the website, you might find other items to help you become an expert at growing things.

Beautiful Scenery (type in with quote marks and use your favorite search engine). Sometimes I make it harder on myself than necessary when I set out to find a particular topic. I recently had a yen to look at some landscape scenery that I might want to use as desktop wallpaper in the future. Instead of searching for “desktop wallpaper,” I just typed “beautiful scenery” into the Bing search engine. It returned pages and pages of pretty scenes, and I could have spent half a day looking at all of the images. And as long as we are on the subject of search engines, I recently discovered that I could find reviews of businesses and tourist attractions by just typing in “reviews of [fill in the blank]”. You can read my review of my recent trip on the Grand Canyon Railway on my blog, razmataz (http://cottonwoodaz.wordpress.com).

Face Painting in Motion by James Kuhn (look for “hawhawjames” on YouTube and Flickr). It has probably been a decade since I wrote about James Kuhn’s oversized holiday light show in Three Oaks in the Beacher. This talented local artist hit the internet big time in 2009 when some of the really popular blogs started plugging James’ one-of-a-kind face paintings. James’ creative soul is out there for all to see.

Do It And How (http://doitandhow.com/). Whoa, Nellie! Did you know that you could write clear messages on a banana? Do you want to learn to line dance without going out in public? These and dozens more instructions are here for the taking. Just reading the blog is lots of fun.

Sugar is Sickeningly Sweet

•August 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Barbie's Love Dilemma: 7 of 24

Image by Cade Buchanan via Flickr

This was a tough week for me, web-review wise. I decided to scan a demographic that I rarely talk about here, and it has to do with teen girls’ websites. Believe me when I say there are a lot of them. These are the flashy, ad-driven and marketing-savvy splashy sites that you’ll know are backed with corporate megabucks. Teen girls are a moneylicious opportunity for these Madison-Avenue type websites. After you’ve surfed awhile, you find it easy to tell the difference between these and your more original, grass-roots- type websites. Let’s start with the sites that are part of the “sugar” group:

Fabsugar (www.fabsugar.com). If your teen daughter is heavily influenced by what celebrities are wearing, then chances are she already has this website bookmarked. I can best describe this website by comparing it to a glossy magazine such as Teen or possibly Glamour, if the college-age women are attracted to it. Here is where the gullible might fall victim to those purported “must-haves.” Wooden sole shoes are big, and the taller the better. Handbags are getting smaller. Hint: pack away yesterday’s fashions. They’ll be back in vogue within five to ten years.

Savy Sugar (www.savysugar.com). I was expecting to find all kinds of money-management tools here, but it’s the same run-of-the-mill stuff you’ve been hearing from Suzie Orman, only condensed into smaller reading bytes. Stick to bankrate.com for the nitty gritty.

 

Belle Sugar (www.bellesugar.com). If you’re going to have Fab Sugar, you need to compliment it with this beauty site. Barbie would love it. In fact, the more I read the “Sugars” the more I thought of Barbie. The big feature here (when I read it) was about the pros and cons of eyeliner: how thick should a lady apply it? Personally, I am glad I am way past that stage of my life.

Fit Sugar (www.fitsugar.com). I hope you haven’t overloaded on the sweet stuff yet. Could you expect less from the Sugar franchise if they didn’t include a site devoted to diet and exercise? Of course not. Was I surprised that they had a link to sparkpeople.com? Not really. Spark People is the latesd hot website devoted to fitness. I am guessing that its popularity came from the buzz from Facebook users. I am beginning to think that there are two worlds—Facebook and the Others. If you are in the latter category, which includes me, then you are so out of the loop that you’ll never again be with-it.

The Daily Beast (www.thedailybeast.com). Finally, not a Sugar! This is a news and feature site that (I’m guessing) television and radio news shows scan to get the latest hot topics to talk about on-air. If you don’t watch much television or listen to the radio, you are still in luck, because you’ll get enough information here to feel confident talking around the water cooler.

 

 

Farmers Markets and Drum Corps

•August 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment
The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, a DCI Worl...

Image via Wikipedia

As summer vacation winds to an end, at least for students going off to school, there are two activities that should be put on your summer to-do list: attending at least one farmers’ market, and attending the DCI World Championship prelims at Ames Field next week. I’ve been able to attend several area farmers’ markets here in Arizona, but I sure do miss drum corps. I see that Rik Richards wrote a story about the annual show at Ames on July 5. Those who missed that one have a second chance to experience the talented corps before they head off to the championship competition in Indianapolis.

Michigan City Farmers Market: (http://tinyurl.com/4xjenhc). This website is sponsored by Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org). In addition to a brief description of the items for sale, it provides a nifty little checklist of specific veggies and other items you can expect to find. If you have never tried fresh beets, for example, you’ll be pleased to discover some recipes right on the website.

Michigan City Mainstreet (www.mcmainstreet.com). How nice to find an events calendar plus blurbs about local doings and places to go all at one convenient website. I like the abundance of pictures of featured places, too. Next to The Beacher, Michigan City Mainstreet is a great little resource for people in Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan—even Chicago, for that matter—to find fun things to do in and around LaPorte County.

Drum Corps International (www.dci.org). For most local folks, the Rosemont Cavaliers are the drum corps most loved. And the world class, award-winning Cavvies are loyal to their Michigan City fans. Not only are they on top of the leader board going into the finals in Indy, they have continued to amaze and entertain thousands of people from in and around Beacher Country. Imagine getting to experience their “Extraordinary” show one last time before the DCI finals. For the past three years, I watched the DCI finals in the comfort of a local movie theater—all six hours of it. If that is not an option, or getting to Ames Field Monday and Tuesday isn’t workable, then sample the pages and pages of information on the Drum Corps International official website. I wrote about this website years ago, when you could watch a corps’ entire show online. Alas, you can’t do that any longer. You can buy videos of your favorite corps’ programs. You can purchase online streaming. But the freebies are gone. And if you want to read up on Drum Corps doings, look for Michael Boo’s byline. Mike, a Chesterton resident, is a former Cavvie who writes for DCI publications as well as for Outdoor Indiana. He is also a composer and active member of Save the Tunes. Mike is usually up in Ames Field’s press box during the drum corp shows.

Beach Closings; Autism

•July 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment
The Portage Lake Michigan shore looking across...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the things I miss here in Arizona is Lake Michigan and her beaches. For one extraordinarily lucky year in my past, I lived just steps from the beach. I went walking every morning before work and sometimes, on my days off, I would lose my sense of time beach-combing along the shoreline. At least with walking the beach, one doesn’t have to worry about beach closings. That is the subject this week of one of my suggested links. Two other links have to do with autism. They are blogs written by a Valparaiso husband and wife, parents of Alex, an autistic teen. I know a pretty fair amount about autism. Here in Arizona where I’m living I’m only twenty minutes from Rusty’s Morningstar Ranch, so I see the autistic ranchers often. Each of the guys, including my son, Brian, have their individual quirks, and each of the ranchers have something to teach. So does Alex Byrne, whose parents Ed and Pat keep individual blogs worth reading. Since I’m betting that you, reader, know of someone diagnosed with autism (the numbers are becoming astounding), you might be interested in links to those blogs.

Beach Guard (http://tinyurl.com/5szj681). The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has developed a website to alert the public to beach closures. The site lists 52 public and 2 private beaches thus far, and those are located in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and a few other northern Indiana counties. When I accessed the web pages on July 11, the beaches at Stop 24 in Long Beach and Stop 21 in Shoreline Hills were closed due to contamination. I figured it must be because of recent rains. Dunes State Park and Beverly Shores‘ beaches were open. If I had to drive more than a few miles to get to a particular beach, I would access Beach Guard first, to make sure I could swim at my chosen beach. This website is a welcome addition to local public service sites.

One Autism Mom’s Notes (http://pambyrne.blogspot.com).I think Pam Byrne is on to a good idea by keeping a diary of her thoughts and Alex’s behaviors from day to day. A parent of an exceptional child (as those with disabilities used to be labeled) can sympathize, can know exactly where Pam’s thoughts and emotions are coming from, and as they read the blog, they don’t feel so alone. Pam, an English teacher of middle school students, knows how to write, and her words flow effortlessly. I’m sure that part of her blogging process brings catharsis, and maybe even a little bit of respite. If you are either a special ed professional or just someone who wants to truly understand your friend, neighbor or relative’s process of parenting a child with autism, Pam’s blog will deliver that wish.

Autism by Edward Byrne (edwardbyrnepoetry.blogspot.com). Ed is a professor in the English Department at Valparaiso University, and he has published eight collections of poetry. His autism piece is a work in progress. As I read his verse, I could not help thinking that perhaps his son Alex is the real poet in these lines, and Ed is the interpreter putting the words and impressions onto paper (or in this case, digital print). I like how both parents have created blogs chronicling their journey with Alex. And Alex is lucky to have two parents working in close partnership to raise their autistic son, and perhaps raise the consciousness of the rest of us.

I want to thank friend Marilyn Lowenstine for providing me with the Byrnes’ blog information.

Cloud Computing and QR Codes (again)

•July 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Alphabet encoded in QR Code

Image via Wikipedia

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I am happy to announce that I have a brand spankin’ new computer. I’ve loaded it with Microsoft Security Essentials, Malware Bytes, Open Office 3.3, Internet Explorer 9, and Firefox’s latest browser with the Web of Trust (WOT) add-on. Plus my Magic Jack. I am all set for a faster, more up-to-date browsing experience. But, I have not moved my bookmarks from my old laptop. That means I am browsing like a first-time computer user—everything is fresh and new.

Cloud Computing. You probably have seen the commercial where a woman says, “to the cloud,” making it sound like only newer computers have the capacity to use cloud computing. Not so. If you use Web-based email, as I do (Yahoo), then you are accessing the “cloud.” I have many photographs stored on Flickr.com, another example of being “in the cloud.” Not to mention my two blogs on WordPress.com. Using online services saves people from bogging down their own machines with additional data or software. But there is a caveat: cloud computing messes with your rights, and can compromise your privacy. But we all marked that little checkbox—probably without a thorough reading—that gives the cloud servers permission to do stuff with our data at our own risk. For more information about privacy issues, you can go to http://epic.org/privacy/cloudcomputing.

QR Codes (again). Several months ago, at the prompting of Tom Montgomery, I wrote about the promise—or–doom of Quick Response codes. They are those black and white squares you are beginning to see more often on various products. They are similar to a bar code, but unlike the more familiar bar codes, the QR codes can contain considerably larger amounts of data. Their uses are only limited to the imagination. Currently, they are being used on business cards and in catalogs by marketers with eyes on the younger, smartphone market. And this month, a company known as Skanz will start selling I.D. wristbands to the digitally tuned in generation..

Don’t have a pen and paper? No problem. Just scan my QR code and get my name, address, phone, resume, link to my Facebook page perhaps, and whatever other information I choose to have included on that ubiquitous little square. And I know you are thinking what I’m thinking: here comes Big Brother. Yes, I can envision our personal QR code tattoos—forget wrist bracelets– being scanned as we walk through security at the airport—no need for a driver’s license or other I.d. The mark of the beast? Mark my words—you will be hearing lots more about QR codes soon, pro and con. The young will scoff and accept QR codes as the wave of the future. The older generation, those who were sure that barcodes were the sign of the fall of civilization, can now worry about this new digital threat. I have an unwanted tattoo on my side put there in 1952 by misguided officials. Holocaust survivors have their horrifying, unwanted tattoos. We will be among those worrying about the misuse of QR codes.

 

 
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