Friday, July 31, 2009

100 Pushups?



I'm finding that internet is a great place to go instead of the gym. Lifehacker pointed me to this website that details a 6-week training regimen for doing 100 push ups. I'm a runner during much of the year... but have noticed that I can not neglect upper body and core strength. So, I have formulated my own exercise routine to target these areas using the vast resources available via the world wide web. Who needs a gym membership?

In case you're wondering, I'm going to give the 100 pushups program a shot. I'll let you know how it goes in a month an a half or so. Just so you know, I can barely do 10 before collapsing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer Summit

Okay, I wasn't going to touch this story... but now that it's way out of hand, I have to join the fun. For the record, I don't drink. I also think racism gets fuel when we keep talking about it and point out the differences in our skin color. Next, I must admit, I haven't been under President Obama's spell since the beginning. Those are my biases.

If you haven't heard, President Obama invited Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Police Sgt. Jim Crowley over to his place for beer to heal the firestorm he ignited when he said the police acted "stupidly" when they arrested Mr. Gates. Of course, the media is having a field day with this. Beer? Because beer heals all ills? What??? I'm sure that Bud Light (the President's favorite bear) is going to cash in on this!

Here's what the President said over the new media frenzy:

“I am, I have to say, fascinated about the fascination with this evening,” Obama told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with the president of the Philippines.

“I noticed this has been called the beer summit,” Obama said. “It’s a clever term but this is not a summit, guys. This is three folks having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other. And that’s all it is.”

“This is not a university seminar,” said Obama. “It’s an opportunity to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself. All of whom are imperfect.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Bun - A Classic Do


Okay, I apologize for the very girly nature of this post. Males may not find this very useful, but gals might. I stumbled upon how to make a bun even for those with short or fine hair. I have long, fine hair and have never been able to make a decent bun. It's embarrassing. But, a bun is a classic hair do... so I really wanted to figure it out. In the end it's a very easy 3-5 minute up-do.

The secret is to bulk up your hair using a sock. Ehow has an article about it and here's a youtube video demonstration. *In the video demonstration she shows you how to make a doughnut out of the sock and then makes two buns... but it's the same idea with one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ecofont, fad or not, it's fun!


So, I was reading in National Geographic Magazine about this font that is designed to save ink. It's been dubbed the ecofont. It looks like what you see above-just a font with a bunch of cheesy holes in it. Of course, it isn't intended to give you a headache. It's best to use it at 10 pt. for optimal reading quality. The idea is that the holes allow for less ink consumption.

My initial reaction to the ecofont idea was... How ridiculous! I wonder what kind of carbon offsets ecofont could get me!

Don't get me wrong. I'm very much a friend of the environment and will do what I can to be a responsible person in my little sphere. I have set my printer's default to print at fast draft (that's faster than draft, you know)... so it's not like I'm an ink-wasting-carnivore. But then I got to thinking. If I keep my printer defaults at fast draft and use ecofont, then I'll really be saving ink!

For a free download, go to www.ecofont.eu.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Making Media Selections

Being that our time and money are quite valuable, I don't like to waste it with low-quality entertainment. Thankfully, there are plenty of other people who have already spent their time/money with the both low and high quality entertainment and they even take the time to review it! I find it helpful to check out reviews before making certain entertainment choices for myself and my family.

When I want some detailed entertainment-related reviews, I skip Amazon.
Check 'em out.
Commonsensemedia.org and kidsinmind.com

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summertime Reads


Summer is reading season for me and my kids. We read all year, but there's more time to do it in the summer. It's a great time for me to read books to the kids that I loved as a child, find some new favorites, and even read children's classics that I never got around to.

Books I loved as a child:

Frog and Toad Together and Owl At Home by Arnold Lobel

New favorites:
My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza (She's got lots of great books!)

Children's Classics:
Pinocchio by Carolo Collodi, Stuart Little by E.B. White, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Making Your Browser More Kid-Friendly

Lately, I've been on a kid-friendly-computer kick. This might have to do with the fact that since it's summer, my kids have a lot more time to spend on the computer.

It's been quite handy to bookmark their favorite websites with a button on the bookmarks toolbar. This provides a better visual for kids compared to the the bookmarks drop-down menu.

Here's how to do it:
1. Make sure you have enabled the bookmarks toolbar on your browser. In Mozilla Firefox, select View->Toolbars->Bookmarks Toolbar.
2. Right-click on the "Bookmarks toolbar" and select "New Bookmark." Fill in the name (ie. Games) and the location (ie. www.pbskids.org).
3. Fill in the necessary information. For example: Name: Games, Location: www.pbskids.org When you are finished, click "Add." You should see a new little button with icon on the Bookmarks toolbar.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Upper Back Pain Relief

I'm not a yoga junkie. I have a hard time breathing deeply, I guess. :) Yesterday I was cursing my aching back. My upper back was all tight from hefting around a sick baby for the last couple of days. I decided to see if I could find a yoga move to help me out. I turned to youtube and here's the video I found most helpful.

It's a surprisingly simple move that does not require flexibility. Really all you do to make it work is breathe. I guess it's good to learn to relax. Esther, the instructor does a good job. Some workout instructors can be uberpeppy and annoying. She's not.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hot/Cold Pack

I came across this very smart idea for a hot/cold pack that takes minutes to make almost a year ago. After having used it for various ailments, and finding it quite handy, I feel confident to endorse it (not that my endorsement counts for much).

Materials:

1 Clean, long mens sock (just use the one that didn't get lost in the dryer)
2-3 Cups of white rice (You could use brown, but it's expensive stuff for stuffing into a sock)
1 Plastic freezer bag

After you have sufficiently purged the sock of all offending substances and odors, fill it up about half full with rice. Tie a knot at the opening. BAM! No sewing. DONE!

Instructions:
Place the sock (which is now a hot/cold pack) in the freezer bag and store it in the freezer. The reason I put it in a freezer bag first: experience has taught me that the sock will absorb all sorts of strange freezer odor unless it's in a freezer bag. When you need a cold pack, break the sock out of the freezer bag and use. When you need a hot pack, take the sock out of the freezer bag and nuke it in the microwave until it's reached the desired temperature. For my microwave, that's about 2-3 minutes.

What's great about this pack:
  • malleable, forms to the shape you need it
  • Soft on the outside
  • The weight of the rice helps keep it in place when in use
  • When the rice isn't doing it's job anymore, you can just untie the knot empty it out, and refill.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How to Make An Ice Cream Cake

I have been working on perfecting the art of making ice cream cakes. They cost between $16-$30. So far, I've been able to make one for around $5-$10, depending on the quality of ingredients I use. It's not quite perfected, but the basic idea is solid now.

This ice cream cake has two layers, one cake, the other ice cream. Here's how I did it. I apologize for the pictures, and the not-so-impressive decorating.

What You Need:

One baked 8-9 inch cake, chilled (either homemade or a mix)
1 quart of your favorite ice cream, softened
wax paper
large serving plate/pan
one clean 8-9 inch cake pan
Cool whip
Frosting



1. Line a clean cake pan with some wax paper.


2. Spread softened ice cream into cake pan. Place in freezer and freeze until hardened (couple of hours).

3. With the chilled, baked cake on a large plate, place hardened ice cream on top. Carefully remove the wax paper.



Here's a look at the bare bones cake.


4. Frost the cake with Cool Whip.


5. Decorate with frosting. Place in freezer until serving.

Friday, July 17, 2009

OpenDNS as a Filtering Tool - My Experience




So, here's my follow-up post on using OpenDNS. I got it going on my computer about four days ago. So really all I can share is my experience with getting OpenDNS up and running on my computer.

As I have posted earlier, my primary reason for going with OpenDNS is for internet filtering/parental controls and protection against phishing. OpenDNS does claim to make your surfing faster, but I haven't noticed it. If you want to learn more about what a DNS (Domain Naming System) is, read up on it here. If you want to read up on how OpenDNS works, click here.

Somethings I really like about OpenDNS:
  • It's basically an online tool so you don't have to download a big old program to run on your computer (the fine print: If you have dynamic IPs, you will need to download a tiny tool to communicate those IP changes to OpenDNS).
  • You can easily change filtering settings, blocking specific sites.
  • The community of users votes on the categorizing of different web sites.
  • You can viewlogs of the internet web pages visited and usage times.
Setup:
You can choose to set up OpenDNS through your router (dsl modem) or on your computer through your operating system. Open DNS recommends using your router. This is a bit complex for someone who has never messed with their router settings. I don't recommend it if you don't feel comfortable with that to begin with. That said, if you never have gone into your router configuration, but feel up to it, you can do it! They have decent directions...and it's not too bad. But the easiest way to set up OpenDNS is on your computer. The OpenDNS website takes you through the steps for that. It's just a matter of changing the DNS settings. No biggie.

After you change the DNS settings on your router or computer, you could stop there (which wouldn't do you a lot of good if your primary purpose in using OpenDNS is filtering). But, if you want to give your OpenDNS usage some UMPH, you need to sign up for a free account. The signing in process is simple. Next, you have to set up your network so OpenDNS can talk to your IP. If you use an internet service provider, chances are, your IP changes (dynamic IP). In that case, you will need to download a small tool (OpenDNS updater) that will automatically update your IP with OpenDNS. (This is how the filtering settings you set will make it to your computer.) After installing the little tool, you can set up your filtering settings. They totally allow you to customize them. It's nice. You can also customize the message that a user will see when they try to view a filtered site.

My Experience:
Now, here's my experience with the set up: I set it up on my router. No problems for me since I have played with my router in times past. I installed the OpenDNS updater software. I set up my filtering settings. Then I tested the filtering by going to the dorky online dating site, eharmony.com. OpenDNS blocked the site with my preset message: "This site has been blocked by yo Mamma. Go talk to her about it." Very cool. I thought I was all set, but when I'd reset or turn on my computer on a new day, the updater wasn't doing it's job. The only way to get the filter working was to manually open OpenDNS Updater and update the IP on my own. That's a pain. I tried setting the preferences in the Updater to start when window starts, but that does not work. For some reason, the preferences get refreshed at startup. It must be a bug in the software. So, the way I remedied this issue was by taking the OpenDNS Updater file and putting it in my startup folder. That forced OpenDNS updater to work whenever I start up my computer.

Like I've said before, any sort filtering of tool is not going to be the fix-all and shouldn't be expected to be. I use this in combination with the Web of Trust (which I've posted about) and pop-up blockers. All together, I think they're doing a pretty bang-up job of protecting our family in our casual internet usage. If someone were looking to get around these filters they definitely could. For example, after OpenDNS updates my IP with their servers, there is a 3 minute lag for my filtering settings to start working. So, one could get to whatever website he/she wanted without the filter in that three minute window. I don't think filtering tools should be used to control an adult or child. They are there to protect and teach safe internet usage.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Google Image Search


There are a lot of sickos out there, that's why I rarely use Google's image search. You can type in some pretty harmless search terms and find yourself looking at some things you were definitely not looking for.

Thankfully, you can protect yourself, so that when you do search for images, your odds of getting some surprises go down substantially. You can easily set your search preferences to "high" by clicking on the "preferences" link right to the right of the search box. Be sure to save your preferences.* I suggest setting this at the beginning of each search session; because it doesn't seem to save your preferences forever. (FYI: You can also set preferences for a regular web search.)

Unfortunately, this preference is easy to change. Google currently doesn't offer a locking feature. This is just another reason for parents supervise their children (no matter the age) when online.

No fix is foolproof. Sickos will still find a way around this, but it's just another way to protect your self and your family when online and when used in collaboration with your firewall and filtering tools, you can really arm yourself against unwanted images/websites.

*If my directions don't make sense, see: https://rwcportal.roberts.edu/ITS/Training/ITS%20Tips/Google%20Image%20Search%20Preferences.pdf

One of my favorite blogs, lifehacker, had a great article on parental control/filtering software. The article lists five popular and FREE web filtering software and lists their strengths and shortcomings. It's a great way to decide which filtering software is best for you.

This article came at a good time for me. I have been mulling around on getting some filtering software on my computer since my six year old is getting more interested in using the web. From the list, I chose to start with Open DNS. We'll see how it goes.

Like in the article, you can't completely depend on one bit of software to protect your family, but every little bit, all working together helps. You can adjust settings on your firewall and ad-block programs as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Green Cleaning

I came across this handy pdf on making your own household cleaners. It's got a list of ingredients to buy and then with those ingredients, you make a bunch of useful household cleaners. I intend to try this. If I ever do, I'll post a follow-up.

http://dingo.care2.com/greenliving/Care2%20NTCK%20list.pdf


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Children's Literacy on the Web


I have recently mentioned a website that promotes literacy through mp3 streaming and downloads of children's stories. These stories are quality recordings that my kids love. Find them at Storynory.com.

Yesterday I happened across another great website for children's stories. Check out storylineonline.net to see members of the Screen Actor's Guild read popular children's literature through video streaming.

From what I could gather, Storylineonline would be a great resource for parents and teachers, not just kids. The streaming is set up intuitively, offering different speeds to accommodate your internet settings. With each story, one can download the accompanying activity guide. The videos themselves are impressive. You see the storyteller and the story's illustrations in different fames with music/sound effects where applicable. I let my children ages 4 and 6 watch some stories. They loved it!





Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Hack for Download Clutter




I hate a messy desktop... I hate them both: The one on my actual desk and the one on my computer. Today I'm addressing the one on the computer since it's much easier to tackle. (BTW, that's not my desktop shown above, it's just an example of the travesty.)

File downloads used to plague my desktop. I wanted them on my desktop so that they would be easy to access, plus I wouldn't forget about them that way. So, I set up my browser to automatically save my downloads on my desktop. One day my husband had this novel idea. Why not put a folder on the desktop and have the downloads directed there? That way we could have a very cluttered folder, and no one would know because all you see is a neat little manila folder on the computer's desktop. Apparently the clutter on the desktop was driving him crazier than it was me.

So, that's just what we did. I created a folder and appropriately named it downloads. I use Firefox as my internet browser. So, I went into the "Tools" menu and selected "Options" from the drop-down menu. At the main menu in options, you can select where you want your downloads to be saved to. One can save downloads anywhere, but I like mine to be on my desktop.

Granted, my downloads folder gets quite cluttered, but I like it that way. I hate to trash a download (my miserly ways showing through even with virtual things) and I don't want to take the time to organize it passed what I have already done.

Desktop clutter cleaned up.

Internet Service Ramblings

Until recently, Qwest supplied our household with phone service and our dsl line. We went though Blue Mountain Internet as our internet service provider.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a charge on my Qwest account that I did not agree with, so I called customer service. I talked with a nice lady who wanted to help me, but couldn't reverse the charge because she didn't have the authority. So, I basically asked her if I could talk to someone who did have the authority. A nice manager talked with me about the charge and agreed to reverse it. Then, she looked at my account and saw that I had bare bones service from Qwest: a phone line with no frills and a dsl line (256k). Okay, I'm thinking, here she goes; she's going to try to sell me something. Then I reasoned, Why not? I've got a manager on the line here, maybe she can swing a deal that I can live with. So, I told the manager the total cost that I pay for phone and internet is about $52. Tax included. I told her if she could beat that, or come anywhere close, I'd think about switching my ISP. (Qwest offers their customers MSN for the ISP.) She did. $55, to be exact. This includes a phone line with all the bells and whistles, including unlimited long distance and 1.5 mps internet. So, I'd be crazy not to switch. The catch is, this deal only lasts for a year. Then I'll have to call up again to seek another good deal. That's how I do business. Hey, in this economy, you can haggle for anything!

A week and a half after making the switch, I am finally able to get online again. I had to change my modem because the thing wouldn't reset. It was having other issues too, so it was a good thing to get rid of it. You don't have to use a Qwest modem (Qwest just wants you to); it's all about configuring the modem correctly. But it turned out my parents had an extra modem from Qwest so they shipped it to me.

I felt bad about leaving Blue Mountain Internet because they have great customer service based right here in the USA. Qwest can't beat that. So, if I am unsatisfied with Qwest in this next year, I'll be happy to go back to Blue Mountain for my ISP... I'll always have a ball and chain between myself and Qwest since they are the only company I can get a dsl line from... unless of course I go with Bresnan and do cable internet... I guess I'll worry about that in a year.