Thursday, November 29, 2007

Idea: Email Me My Receipt

I have a suggestion for brick and mortar stores... instead of ignoring my outstretched hand and shoving the receipt into the bag, how about you email me my receipt?

Receipts are important but annoying things. Small slips of paper that get crumpled in my wife's purse or folded into little squares in my purse and then lost for a week or more on average. Not helpful when my wife tries to balance her checkbook.

Let's use Exxon as an example. I have one of their SpeedPass devices. I can go on the website and indicate whether I want a receipt or not. After I make that election on the website, that choice is automatically honored wherever I use the speedpass, be it at the pump or inside the convenience store buying a slurpee.

Expand it out further... We have cards for Fred Meyer, grocery stores, bookstores, pet stores, Good Guys, Blockbuster, Starbucks, the library, etc. All issue these annoying receipts. Some we just throw into the burn bucket by the fireplace at home. Others go next to the computer for reconciliation. Some (like the library slips) we could do without. If we could log into these respective websites, access our accounts and make these elections, we could save all kinds of paper.

If my credit cards and utilities (and now even World Vision, not to mention the church I used to work for) is offering online statements, why can't these stores give us the choice? Good for the environment, cheaper for the retailer (less paper, ink, printer repairs), less annoying for the high-tech customer.

Plus, a good chance to foster loyalty card adoption. If I needed a card for Home Depot or Panda Express in order to get the emailed receipts, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

Disclaimer: I don't actually carry all those cards. I carry one card with all those barcodes thanks to a cool, free service called Just One Club Card.

The Passing of Evangelical Christianity

... To a nation filled with intense religious fervor, the Hebrew prophet Amos said: You are not the holy people you imagine yourselves to be. Though the land is filled with festivals and assemblies, with songs and melodies, and with so much pious talk, these are not sounds and sights that are pleasing to the Lord. "Take away from me the noise of your congregations," Amos says, "you who have turned justice into poison." ...
A long, but rather thought-provoking read on the "passing of evangelical Christianity" that questiosn why American Christians seem to be so for the war when the rest of the Christian community is against it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

L.A. Auto Show Photos

Here's a link to some photos from the L.A. Auto Show. Some nice (Ferrari), some half nice (front view of Mustang) and some slightly less ugly but still with a really bad name (Murano).

Pictured above: the KIA KND-4, the love-child of a Dodge Magnum and an AMC Pacer.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Still Not Using Google Reader?

"RSS" (Really Simple Syndication) was something I came really late to the game, considering my typical early adoption when it comes to web technologies. (I've already forgotten my password to more facebook and twitter clones than you can even imagine.)

But I've found it difficult to explain to others why they should care about this, why it's so great, and why it's an amazing time-saver. Until I discovered RSS, I had to actually set reminders for myself to go and visit my friends' blogs. I would get busy, or distracted and realize I hadn't checked in on my friends in over a week. And over time that list got really long.

It eventually got really crazy, trying to keep up with everyone. And at the same time, I had all these subscriptions to newsletters cluttering up my inbox. It was getting out of hand. Finally, enough people were talking about it that I finally tried Google Reader ( )

How does it work? Nearly every website and blog program out there offers an RSS feed of their content. GR (and countless others like Bloglines and Outlook 2007) essentially "collect" and file the content, so that the next time you go to the application, all of the stuff you follow is waiting there for you, all sorted by website (called a "feed") -- and if you want, sorted by "tags" (folders) of your choice. Here's mine at right. It's short right now because I read everything last night and this is just what's been published since then. (Google Reader would even let me, if I wanted to, rename these so that it would say "Jon" instead of "Your Moment of Zen" or "Adrea" instead of "Burnt Fudge".)

So when you click on a category, you see the post. Some sites are stingy and only post short blurbs, forcing you to go back to their website to read the entire post. This protects their advertising revenue (others have ads in their rss feeds) but it makes it really annoying and I'm less likely to pay a lot of attention to their blogs unless it's a super big deal that they're talking about. But for the most part, people post full posts so you can read it all without ever going to any website except reader. (You can jump from any entry to the original blog entry or website post through several links on each entry.)

These days, I do not sign up for newsletters on websites. I look for an RSS feed. If they don't have one, they won't be communicating with me regularly. I'm also actively weeding out the newsletters I already get, trying to cut back on the amount of mail I get. (Even all those Facebook notifications - they can nearly all be turned off and diverted instead into a single feed.)

You can quickly look at a list of entries if you don't have time to read someone's entire feed. (For some reason, Google Reader thinks that you want the newest ones at the top. Fine for a news site, less so for a personal blog. There's an option under "Feed Settings" to change the order.

How do you add a new feed? That's pretty easy. Often, you just get the website address of the blog you're reading, go to reader, click on "Add subscription," paste in the address and it locates the feed. You can also search within Google Reader for feeds you might not have otherwise known about. There are a few other ways to get feeds into Google Reader, but they aren't consistent from browser to browser.

I like Google Reader's ability to create folders/tags. This allows me to group like feeds together, either to read all at once, or so that if maybe I only have a few minutes, I can read my friends' blogs, or read some entertainment news.

You can also easily share an amusing post with someone else. Each entry has a button to email, and even gives you the ability to add your own notes so they'll know why you're forwarding.

You can also "star" entries (just like Gmail) so that you can quickly find them later. I use this for items that require more in-depth study, or visiting other websites, or watching video, or downloading something. Usually when I'm using the reader during the week, I can quickly scan through hundreds of entries in no time, starring some to come back to on the weekend.

You can also "share" items. Your shared items actually create their own RSS feed, which you can post on your blog, or give someone the link to. There's actually one guy in Silicon Valley (Robert Scoble) who reads something like 750 blogs a day. His shared list is subscribed to by thousands of people. (It's in the list at the right.)

And, if you're ever curious, the reader keeps track of what you're reading, when you're reading, and which of your subscriptions are generating the most entries. (Good if you ever feel overwhelmed, you know which ones to save up for when you have more time, or which ones to dump.)

Hopefully this helps a little better explain why Google Reader (and other RSS feed readers) rock and how they can help you stay connected and save time.

All of the feeds I follow are linked on the right-hand side of my blog.

Google Reader is extensively keyboard driven, great for blazing through all kinds of information. It's free. You can sign up for an account here: If you have a Gmail account, you already have an account.

We need help!!!

We need advice on how to best arrange our furniture in order to accommodate the Christmas tree.

We're hitting a dead end and need some fresh thought.

The living room is a step-down from the dining room and the foyer. The TV cabinet can't move. Would love your thoughts. Please email any drawings back to the address at the top of this blog, or post more general thoughts in the comments below. The outlets are identified in orange (the green switch powers the adjacent outlet) and the light in the room comes from two lamps on the end tables and a free-standing lamp.

Would prefer to keep all furniture in the room and be able to see the TV from at least two seats.

Friday, November 23, 2007


This is a test. Please disregard. I'll delete it shortly.

But, while you're here... did you know? You can call me free from anywhere in the U.S. by clicking on the "call me" button on the right-hand nav. When you click it, it will ask for your phone number. Your phone will ring, and when you pick-up, you'll hear my phone ringing. Free. It's very cool.

And also... if you're still reading this by actually coming to my blog, why? You should get Google Reader. It's a much quicker way to stay current on all your favorite blogs and sites without having to remember a bunch of sites.

Go to and click on "Add new subscription" and paste in

(I'll repeat this as a legitimate post soon complete with photos so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about.)

Progress Report

First Semester:

Jamie** has really made an effort to control unnecessary and inappropriate talking, and I am really pleased with the results. He has improved so much in that area since September. He is pleasant and fun to work with most of the time now.

Jamie is exceptionally bright and is a good student; however, lately he has become rather careless in math. He is working neither as fast nor as accurately as he used to. I know Jamie is a strong math student and I would like to see him return to the excellent-quality work that he is capable of producing.

I am having fun with Jamie in class and especially enjoy his "grown-up" sense of humor.

Sincerely, /s/ Jeanne Smith

Second Semester:

Jamie has made strong progress in all areas of his school work this year. *He is now capable of doing excellent printing when he wants to take the time, but usually his papers are not as neat as they could be. However, he is very creative, and would guess that expressing his ideas is just much more important to him than worrying about a tidy product. (And I agree! But I hope that he'll decide to work just a bit more on neatness in 2nd. grade.)

James has been great fun this year! He is a neat child!

Sincerely, J. Smith

* On the reverse, next to "Uses good letter form" she writes "can*"

** As I was known in first grade. Thanks, mom and dad.

What gets me about these are they describe an outgoing (ok, disruptive), engaging child who was able to easily interact with his peers. So what happened? What brought me to this point today where I am socially awkward, really poor at interacting, and almost completely unable to carry on a two-sided conversation with someone?

Since I like me, I'm going to put all the blame on the school. Instead of identifying my difficulties and working on a positive solution to re-channel them, they instead bribed/punished it out of me to the extreme the opposite direction.

Lori suggests that we can probably expect some of the same kinds of notes and conferences coming home -- though the letter from the district sent to my parents in fifth grade outlining steps that I, my parents, and my teachers must make, now that's a little scary and I must ask my parents for more details (there is also a weekly journal from gifted class where I write that gifted class is punishment and then the journal entries abruptly stop). I only hope that if Rachel does take after me, that we are able (maybe by receiving these momentos now and studying them) can prevent her from the same path. Because she is incredibly engaging and active -- and a little bossy. I've encouraged her at every opportunity to interact with people of all ages, pushed her a little perhaps, because I didn't want her to end up like me. Perhaps this is a push she doesn't need.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Progress Report

First semester:

A person needs many words to describe Jamie*: intelligent, talkative, inquisitive, appealing, friendly, talkative, imaginative, determined, talkative and hundreds more. When he has an assignment he doesn't want to do he is the best time waster I have ever seen. On the other hand, he is the best listener in the class. He adds a lot of "life" to our discussions and our classroom in general. I'm glad he is in my room.

/s/ Mark Reiger

Second semester:

Jamie has often resisted doing his math assignments in a prompt, neat, accurate manner. I have no doubt that he understands all the concepts we studied. Jamie has continued to exhibit those positive qualities which make him a unique child. Being his teacher has been an experience.

/s/ Mark Reiger

*As I was known in second grade. I'm told that Mr. Reiger, then in his first year of teaching, described me as a "hoot" to my parents during a parent-teacher conference. I also suspect he never told them that I spent an entire week in a separate classroom (Mr. Reiger had two classrooms, separated by folding walls) -- one day joined by my trouble-maker friends -- because I refused to do a math worksheet. By the time I turned it in, it was full of pencil holes, very crumpled, had shoe prints on it, and if I had had access to matches, would have probably also been burned. Mr. Reiger was a cool guy. It was thinking back to incidents like this which eventually swayed me out of pursuing a career as a teacher.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


So, Media Conglomerates, which is it... worthless or worth a lot?
Caution: Strong (but mostly bleeped language).

Crayon Physics

Wow... this is pretty cool.

Download the game here.

Still Hate Unions

And still think way too much TV is complete garbage kept on the air by the six Neilsen families who live in Flyover who don't know any better, but am now fully in the writer's camp on this.

Here's a great video. Not the thing that helped me make up my mind, but pretty good for anyone still on the fence, or siding with the big companies. Also, great quote in the recent Entertainment Weekly where an unnamed exec (at GE?) who said GE would be more worried about a light-bulb assembly plant strike.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Assignment Of A Lifetime

GOLFDIGEST.COM -- When I called Golf World Editor-in-Chief Geoff Russell and told him Betsy King, a Hall-of-Famer and one of the tour's all-time greats, was going to take some LPGA players to Africa his reply was simple. "See if you can go with them," he said. I threw the idea out to Betsy and then waited an agonizingly long five weeks before I found out I would be allowed to accompany them, no doubt while Betsy received the permission needed from World Vision, the Christian relief organization through which Golf Fore Africa donates its money. More...

The Best and Worst Logo Remakes of the Century

ACLEVERCOOKIE.COM -- There are some logo remakes that should be praised, and there are some that should be hazed.

When it comes to re-branding a corporate identity, you would imagine that the CEO would take great care in making such a decision. In some cases, this is not true. In fact, there are many cases where you begin to question the sobriety of those in charge when they decided to remake their brand. More...

Think you have a secret life? Think again.

PBS.ORG -- While politicians and the U.S. Census Bureau may disagree on how many illegal aliens are living in the United States, the big credit reporting agencies have a pretty solid handle on the number and it is 17 million. ... Of course the credit bureau notices something and that's why they are so able to estimate numbers in the first place. They know what Social Security numbers are being overused and can probably even trace the genealogy of that number as it makes its way across the country. Here's an amazing fact: some individual Social Security numbers are in use right now by UP TO 3,000 PEOPLE and it isn't at all unusual for a borrowed number to be used by 200-1,000 people at the same time. More...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The New Religious Right

DALLASNEWS.COM -- A generation ago, one of the most dependable voting blocs in American politics – the labor movement – began to fracture. Union leaders bitterly opposed the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan, but a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth: Many in the union rank-and-file voted for the Republican. Thus were the Reagan Democrats born, working-class voters who abandoned the Democratic Party as cultural issues began to displace economic concerns as the driving force in U.S. politics.

We may be seeing the same thing happening today with the religious right, which, like organized labor used to be for the Democrats, has for nearly 30 years been a solid base for the GOP. More...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Smile A Day Keeps Depression Away

NEWS.COM -- Researchers have discovered that a simple computer game can help some people keep depression at bay. People are presented with a bunch of faces, most are frowning. They must find and click on the smiling faces as quickly as possible. Turns out the process of looking for smiling faces and then the reward of completing the task help people to feel better. More...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Oh, No! A Strike!

Yes, but what all of us want to know is if this will mean we can finally get something well-written on TV now that all the hacks are carrying picket signs? (If their puny arms can lift them.) (Disclaimer: I'm watching more TV than last year, I've rather enjoyed Chuck and Pushing Daisies.)

I am interested in seeing how this strike goes... recent trends in the grocery and auto unions have been to target a single chain or single manufacturer and get them to cave in. Divide and conquer.

Seems like it would be a little harder to do with a studio/network since they're all so intertwined, making shows for each other and stuff like that.

If I were running the union, I would strike at NBC Universal and at any individual shows produced by another studio that aired on NBC. Keep everyone else working, including all the people at Letterman and the guy from Drew Carey and the guy from KROQ who's on ABC. Having only Leno and Conan on reruns would push NBC Universal to the table quickly.

I hate unions.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Power from Your Water Company

NEWS.COM -- This is kinda cool... water companies must keep water at highly pressurized. So why not run it through a turbine in the process and generate electricity? A company is doing just that. More...