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Technology

How To Get Apple Merch When You Don't Live In Cupertino

For Apple Fan Girls, like myself, there is nothing more frustrating than wanting to get Apple branded mercy when you live nowhere near the ONE store on Earth that, legally, sells Apple logo products. In the past, this hasn't been a big deal. We have friends that go to Cupertino fairly often and, when we want something, we just ask them to pick a mug, pen, or t-shirt up for us. This has worked really well, until I found something that I needed to acquire before a hard deadline.

What did I have to have? First, this was really for a friend who is pregnant with her first daughter. It is an embroidered Apple baby hat (which I later learned is called a beanie). Once I discovered this hat was in existence, I search every potential place that could sell it. I scoured Etsy & Ebay; tried every keyword in Google; and eventually, remembered the Apple branded products that are only sold in the Cupertino store. Unfortunately, I thought of this about 3 hours after they closed.

The next day, Tori, the friend who had to have the beanie, patiently (ok, we we really don't do well with waiting) waited until the store opened & called them to confirm that a-they sold this beanie and b-that they would ship it to a very pregnant woman calling them the second that they opened. Enter California tax code and Apple can't ship the beanie - BUT they do sell it!

We now know there is a beanie at the store exactly 4.5 hours, by direct flight, away from Alexandria. Since we weren't planning on a trip to San Francisco in the near future, and Tori's due date is getting closer every day, we had to come up with a new solution. Enter TaskRabbit.

TaskRabbit allows you to hire someone to run errands or do tasks for you in certain areas of the US; most importantly, in the Bay Area. A few minutes later, we had an account and posted our task: go to the Apple Company Store in Cupertino, buy 1 pink baby beanie/hat and ship it. A few minutes after posting the task, there were several offers for people bidding on the task. As I am writing this, there is a pink Apple beanie on its way to Tori.

So that my friends, is an easy way to get that "I've visited the mothership" t-shirt or other Apple products you've been craving; all with out leaving your couch.

Kickstarter: Feeding My Coffee Addiction

Dear god do I love anything that helps me produce a better coffee in the morning, well who am I kidding, any time of day. Kickstarter, for those that haven't heard of it, is an online platform for those who have a concept/idea/product to find funding through backers. When you explore their site, you find all sorts of creative ideas, concepts and products.

One morning shortly after my surgery, Joel came rushing into the living room ecstatically telling me that I had to back this one product. The project is called The Cosmonaut: A Wide-Grip Stylus. Unlike other styluses out there, it feels more like a dry erase marker than a pen. There really isn't a similar product on the market to compare this to other than the sharpie cap styluses (love my sharpies!) and those scare me. I picture getting a stylus cap, giving it to a coworker to play with and, then, I have a permanently branded iPad. It's not the exact look I am going for for iPad decorations. Or let's face it, I would probably do that pre-coffee.

So, how does kickstarter feed my coffee addiction? Well, after backing my first project I found the mother ship. :: angelic sound::

Enter Coffee Joulies.

Coffee Joulies are these coffee shaped thing-a-ma-bobs that you put in your coffee to absorb some of the super hot temperature; later, the Joulies release that heat back into your coffee to keep it warmer longer.

In full disclosure, I backed these projects when I was still on my pain medications, but even after being off those for several weeks, I am happy I did. Actually, I can't wait for my Joulies to get here. When I backed both projects, I backed them to a level where you received the stylus and a set of Jouiles. Now, I just need them to get here.

The one part of the Coffee Joulies story that I love (besides making my coffee better) is that originally they were going to manufacture the Joulies in Mexico. It is well-known that it is usually chepaer to manufacture goods there. The Coffee Joulies kickstarter project did so well, they actually moved their manufacturing from Mexico to upstate New York! It makes me happy that more than enough people all over the world are willing to back a project to the extent that they are able to re-open a closed factory and give people jobs that wouldn't have otherwise had them.

Kickstarter is gaining lots of ground with me and turning into my little fun project finder. You can back projects at all different levels and it makes me feel like a extremely small time Angle Investor. I get something for investing and I am able to help someone's idea come to life. I like it.

Miniatur Wunderland!

If that isn't enough, check out the action filled miniature airport!

There aren't many places in the world where you can take a trip around the world in a few minutes; especially in miniature. Enter Miniatur Wunderland!

In Miniatur Wunderland, you can go from Vegas to searching for people in various states of life (Start at 2:30 into the clip)

Now that I sufficiently miss Germany even more, who wants to go visit Hamburg with me?

The Wee Little Fit Bit

Since I knew something was going on with my body, my doctors grounded me. I haven't been able to exercise. The list of can'ts was really, really long. But, one of the things that I can do is walk. I walk everywhere I can. Given I wasn't really feeling up to running I have been looking for ways to just get myself up off the couch. As if you didn't know, I am a gadget person. Enter, the fitbit.

I first saw the fitbit around the holiday season and remember contemplating purchasing it when we were back in Indiana. I passed on it at the time. Then, well, it was time to get back into my work wear and see what my recovery has done to the rest of my health. I had a gift card (for three years) for a chain electronic store so I used that to purchase this nifty device.

How it works

Basically, the fitbit tracks your activity and your sleep. Both things that I am interested in learning more about. It measures steps, distance walked, calories burned and your activity level through a motion detector in the device that is simular to what you would find in a wii remote. I have found it to be pretty accurate. I was wondering how it would handle metro and, so far, I haven't seen it counting metro jolts as steps.

The little device can be hidden really easily. So far, only the people who know about it know I am wearing it. Most of the time I hook it to a belt loop or put it in a pocket. It may get interesting when I bust out the summer dresses though. You can wear it when you sleep too! It comes with a wrist band and I hardly notice it. Though, I can tell you the sleep portion isn't that accurate. It only really monitors when you toss and turn. If you are like me and lay still and start counting sheep; it is going to count that as sleeping.

The Perks

I have found that I want to be more active when I wear the fitbit. The trainers at fitbit set a goal of 10,000 steps a day which I usually get close to and really want to beat. I've only surpassed that once so far. For a regular day, with an effort placed on walking a bit more, I hit 8,500 steps. On Saturday when I didn't have access to a car I walked around DC, took metro home, walked into Old Town; then walked home. All together that was just shy of 13,000 steps. I probably would have caught a cab on the final leg home if I didn't have the fitbit. Partly, because I wanted to prove I could beat the 10,000 mark now.

The Needs Improvement Part

I've had syncing issues with the device. Based on the forums, it doesn't seem to matter if you are on a Mac or a PC - they are all having some issues. The good news is that the fitbit staff are responding to issues and trying to come up with solutions. I also noticed that Wednesday morning I started the day with 495 steps. Which is odd because the fitbit slept on my bathroom counter that night. But, since I forgot to put it on after I got out of bed, and in the process walked about that amount, I wasn't worried.

Would I buy it again?

Now that I have owned the cute little gadget for almost a week, even with its flaws, I really like it. If I hadn't had the gift card I don't know if I would have spent the money on it (I can be cheap like that) but I'm glad I did. (If I hadn't gotten it, I most likely would have annoyed Joel enough saying I didn't want to spend the money that he would have gotten it for me.) There are online parts to the fitbit that I haven't talked about which are sufficient for what I am doing, it basically charts your data, and you can learn more about that on the fitbit website.

 

*In case you missed it in the post, I bought the fitbit & wrote the review because I chose to.

Time for a Little Change

Things have been a bit slow on the blog the last month. I've been going back and forth on whether to completely redesign this whole site. I finally decided to do a complete overhaul and am excited for the new adventure, the new design and a few other upgrades that will happen with the new site.  So stick with me through the next few weeks as I begin the transition.

What should you expect? Nothing for the next few days. As we get everything up and running, things will remain the same over here for the next month or so. When the new site is ready to launch, you'll be in for a treat! (Though, if you are like me, you only read content in Google Reader so you won't even notice a change, except for more frequent posting.)

Why the change? It isn't because I am disappointed with my current service, in fact, I really do like it. Though, similar to handbags of the past, it just isn't the best fit for me now. I know that in order to grow to where I want to take this site, I need a little change. I also learn best by doing and there is no better way than a full immersion. The last few days I also learned not to tell a web designer that you also want to perfect your skills; especially when you are married to said designer. A - He holds you to it and B - He makes sure you do learn what you set out to learn. I apologize in advance for any errors you experience, those are 100% my coding mistakes. 

Leadership and Innovation: It's I have a Dream not I have a Plan

If you don't know why you do what you do, how will you get people to be apart of it? This is a message that many, many of the nonprofits I interact with are missing. So, do you know why you are doing what you are doing? Better yet, are you selling your messages those that already believe it? 

What do you believe? 

Social & Leadership

The Friday before last I took an hour out of my day to listen to a webinar about Charlene Li's latest book, Open Leadership. (Shortly, you will be able to listen to this webinar and the other in the series as well.) This particular session was on redefining leadership. What exactly does leadership mean in the world of social media? Charlene had a great guest speaker, Jim Kouzes who wrote the Leadership Challenge and, his new book, The Truth About Leadership.

Two things really struck me about the webinar. The first is a comment Jim made. He said that he uses more social media tools, and uses them more often, than his 21 year old grandson. Then, he tweeted back to me: 

In my day job, I utilize The Leadership Challenge to teach leadership skills; now, the author is talking to me! He provided a personality for the book that I have read and have had many leadership students read. And he says he is more effective at social media than a person who is stereotypically suppose to excel at social. This is turning into more than I ever expected to get out of a free event. He is showing that "getting" social media is a mindset, not an age requirement. He is showing how he is leading with the tool as well. He is responding to his "membership".

Second, he is leading openly. What do I mean by that? Jim is being authentic about who is and what he stands for by putting himself out there. Unlike other "leadership experts" that you can find all over Twitter, he is responding. He is making himself vulnerable. He is really modeling the way for other leaders and executives. (Area 1, anyone catch that?) He answers questions and retweets too! It is exactly what I am looking for in a leader. He is demonstrating what a leader is in a different tool that is assessable by all. 

Fast forward a bit. I was in a meeting with 2 other staff and a member. The member was saying how she understands social but she isn't sure about it, but she really wants to do better. I went off on my little spiel and ended with what Jim taught me. CEOs, associations, and businesses in general need to embrace the tool as a means of leadership. It is a way to show who the organization is, what it stands for and where it is going. For the CEO, it is a way to lead your membership and inspire them in ways that haven't been attainable before. It can show your authenticity in ways that required you to be in person for in the past. In the end, the person got it. It took some time, but the added input on social not just connecting people, but allowing you to lead really hit home for her. 

 

Blogworld - Day 2

Day 2 - The last day in Vegas. Thank goodness. Although I thoroughly enjoyed parts of the conference, I learned that Vegas isn't exactly the city for me. By the end, I was craving Alexandria. I wanted to be home. Before I could go home, I still had some things to do:

Understanding Video Formats

John Foster had an awesome example of compression and what happens to your content when you squeeze it down over and over again. He took an advertisement, squeezed it and threw it across the room. Then, someone threw it back. He did this over and over again. Each time, we looked at the quality of the image. Each time it got worse. Surprised? No. But how many of us compress everything over and over again and don't think about it?

The point that stood out to me, based on what questions my community deals with constantly, is define what your target is. You don't need 1080p as your source if you are taking something large down to something for 720. Why bother? Shoot in that and edit from there and there is no need to compress. In the end, you are going to end up with a better product in the long run.

The Rest of the Conference

The rest of the time at the conference was really spent on the expo hall floor. I wanted to learn about several different products and take advantage of the Ford test drives that were going on. Where else can you hassle free test drive a car? So, we really did take advantage of the opportunity.

What we found, by test driving 4 different cars, was we are in the market for a crossover! (BEST part of the conference) It has taken me 1.5 years to talk the other half into something other than a sedan. Thank you, Ford. So, after a bit of independent research back in out hotel room, we decided that we are most likely going to get the Edge.

Why are we sold on the Edge? Outside of the physical aspects of what the car can hold, etc this is why:

Ford BWE Demo of My Ford Sync 

I did cut the video when Joel started explaining what the Twitter API is. I started filming again to get a bit more of the features. The only editing I did was to stabilize the footage.

Pt 2 of our Demo with Ford 

I would think for those of use that are connected to our phones, these features are becoming a necessity. I won't have to look at my Google Maps app to figure out how to get somewhere. I can still place a call and not have to fiddle with my phone and the list goes on. I hate talking on the phone and driving; let alone trying to manage the GPS. As most of my friends know, I get lost very easily in the DC Metro area. I hate leaving Alexandria because I will inevitably get lost. Having my favorite places plugged in ready to go with maps I can update with an SD card is perfect. 

So why are we most likely going to get the Edge? Because we are waiting just a bit. I want to see what the 2012 models look like, and to be honest, our current car will suffice for a bit longer. (Really longer than I want to admit.) But, that doesn't mean I don't want the Edge now! 

I should also note, the only thing I got from Ford through the conference was a USB key chain; just like everyone who went to their booth.

Final Thoughts

This had been one interesting event. I have learned a lot about me and where I want to take this blog. Partly, through insights from @Squarespace about the future of the platform and how maybe the changes I was looking to make design wise may need to wait. I also learned that I am not a Vegas kinda person. I beg, beg all tech conferences to move to San Francisco. I will gladly play a higher ticket price if that is what it takes.

For those looking to attend Blogworld next year, this was a very entry level event. I was really there for the expo hall because it was much better than SXSWi's trade show. If you are new to blogging, it is worth it. If not, you should look for events in your local area to attend. All-in-all, I am glad I made another trek West. Being able to see friends and make new ones is always worth it!

Kinda Disappointed

I can't lie. I am kinda disappointed. I love Apple rumors. I completely fall for the hype each time. If you tell me that the new laptop is going to be able to read my mind and I fall for it. It is Apple after all. You never know what goes on in their headquarters that oozes innovation. I got the update last night, Gruber's post was read to me (yes, read to me). Then, this morning happened.

The track pad was correct, Gruber does have wonderful sources, but I expected more. I wanted something else to be excited over. I know you don't get that all the time and I didn't expect something that would cause me to wait in line for far too long, but I wanted something exciting. Not a battery charger. Well, here is to the next time we see the that the Apple Store is down.

NASA Tweetup

Next Thursday is NASAs next tweetup at their Headquarters here in DC, and I was selected to go! As a want-to-be astronaut, this may be the highlight of my year (don't tell the newly minted husband this). The walls of our apartment are decorated with NASA items. I have a model Saturn 5 rocket on the bookshelf and my framed wings and group picture from Space Camp are hanging above my desk. I love flying and space and all things NASA.

If you are around Thursday, July 29th from 3:30-5pm EDT tune into NASA TV where you will see Joel and I talking (and tweeting) to Astronaut TJ Creamer!