Effective alarms for your home or business: electronic and animal

My family had quite a scare when I was a little kid in Ohio.  My parents and I found members of our family unconscious in the house due to carbon monoxide poisoning (there were no audible alarm carbon monoxide detectors back then).  My family was lucky, after a long hospital stay my peeps walked away with a second chance at living long and happy lives.

With all of the fantastic gadgets we have now, we have a long list of sweet solutions to choose from when it comes to safety.  In the mix of cool technology, I worry some of the electronic solutions are being ignored because of the large volume of false positives we hear every day with things like car alarms going off in parking lots and I also worry that very reliable older solutions are falling by the wayside, solutions like animals.  Please consider mixing electronics (like audible detectors) with animal solutions in your safety plan for a solid defense against unexpected dangers – especially dangers that can occur when you are sleeping.

We hear so many stories in the news of families claiming pets saved their lives during events like house fires in the middle of the night and in my many years of raising dogs, cats and bunnies, I have found that all three animals are very good at alerting the family to perceived threats via loud behavior (bunnies thump their back feet – it is so loud it sounds like someone is pounding on a door, dogs bark and cats cry or pounce on you).

Pets are a big responsibility.  They can be annoying, loud, mean, crazy, weird, and selfish – you know, basically all of the things we are on rare occasion – but consider getting one anyway.  Pets often want to make you happy and keep you safe since they think you are a giant food machine that doles out love and delicious meals in the form of limitless crunchy pellets in a fancy bowl on the kitchen floor.

Shopping Cart Hot Mess

I used the online auction site eBay a few times to sell items and found the experience unpleasant.  The interface is built well, my primary issues were around the tedium of figuring out what happened to payments once they fell into the PayPal arena, reposting items that did not sell, keeping up with the myriad of fees and dealing with unscrupulous buyers who constantly try to make side deals.

Once I reached a point where I had a substantial amount of items to sell, I felt I needed to research the shopping cart options available to small potato peeps like me who don’t have time to build shopping carts to make the process easier.  As a full time computer programmer, I had zero availability for complex set ups, I was looking for a solution that was an instant up for a fee and I just had to concentrate on data entry of items, customer service and shipping goods.  Unfortunately this is much harder to find than I thought.  I started with Volusion, their interface is dynamite and their support is tops but unfortunately I had to deal with so many other things like sub domain set up – which wasn’t compatible with my existing domain provider (and I didn’t even care what the url was – I was just going to link to it  from my existing web site menu), additional fees for things like SSL certificates, credit card processors, etc instead of what I actually had time to deal with (which was data entry, customer service and shipping goods).

I guess it is time I do like those fancy people in Hollywood do and just get myself an assistant…after I win the lottery of course:)

Are you in IT and stressed out of your mind? Just skate it out.

Any recreational sport will do when it comes to alleviating stress (unless you choose alligator wrestling and then you realize you can’t swim) but if you ask me I am going to push you out on a sheet of slick ice wearing sharp metal blades for stress relief because THAT is living:)  If you are game, here are all the details (note: I am a computer programmer, not an ice skating pro – this is information I have learned over the years as a recreational ice skater and it might help you get started):

As an adult, avoid thinking you are too old, too set in your ways, too gorgeous, too skinny, too freaky looking or too overweight for ice skating fun. Professional ice skating coaches know what they are doing and these coaches are able to train focused and dedicated skaters using safe techniques that slowly build up to a solid skating skill set.

If you have no ice skating experience, and you really want to learn to ice skate, then keep reading! Ice skating is not only insanely fun but the ice skating community is comprised of wonderful and supportive folks no matter your skill level, age or size.  Like many other sports, ice skating can be very dangerous therefore proper planning, equipment and training are essential.

When you are ready for the ice:

Sign up for a beginner class, they are usually once a week for a few months (and then you should go one more time per week during the public session to practice what you are learning). Don’t freak out if you are the only adult in the class, just do it, you will be glad you did. Don’t expect too much too soon. Your skill set builds slowly (it seems to go faster for children, do not let this discourage you). Expect that you will fall so always stay in a safe position when skating (knees bent, chin up, shoulders square, back straight and slightly forward, arms out to each side and don’t look at the floor) so you have a chance at a safer landing should you fall as opposed to when your legs are straight and stiff which may lead to violent falls backward or forward with head injuries.

Falling is unsettling to say the least, especially if a fall results in substantial injuries.  If you fall, and nothing is broken, then get up immediately to avoid injuring others who may be near you or coming towards you and also as a way to shake off what just happened.

Don’t worry about having your own skates for the first class, just put on what they have at the rink.  If you find yourself looking forward to each class as the weeks go by then definitely invest in a pair of your own skates.  Your coach can give you advice on the best type of skates to purchase.  Back when I started I purchased a pair of skates at a local sporting goods store for $50.00.  Those got me through many years of beginner classes and when I moved up to fancier skates I passed the $50.00 skates onto another newbie, they were still in excellent condition (I am a figure skater, this advice may or may not not hold true for purchasing hockey skates).


Digital Assistant Mayhem

Excellent move Burger King, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your commercial that activated some Google Home Devices:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/burger-king-launches-ad-on-google-home_us_58ee23dfe4b0c89f912307f9.  The strategy was clever and made good use of the tools at hand.

I think activities like this are truly the only way some customers are going to understand the potential side effects of having digital assistants in the home and having them on all the time.

If you have a digital assistant in your home, take precautions now if you can to avoid unanticipated outcomes.

Even something as simple as your old answering machine has now become an ideal portal into your home for prank callers to call and leave commands for ordering all kinds of goodies for you without your knowledge or controlling various electronics within the home.

Technology and the Adult Homeless Population

I recently volunteered in a short computer education program for a small group of homeless people at a local shelter.  I was to teach users various introductory computer skills.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the students.  Also, I’m a computer programmer, not a teacher, so I wasn’t sure how helpful I would be to them.  I also knew several of the users faced not only homelessness but also prior incarcerations and or mental illness.

I am posting the results of this program to not only raise awareness of the needs of the homeless but to also highlight some of the challenges I saw them struggling with in class and some of the wonderful surprises I noted during my classroom time with these men and women.

The protocol was men on one side of the room and women on the other; they ranged in ages from 30 years to 60 years of age.  There were about twelve students, two instructors and one monitor who stayed in another room close by.  The class was one hour in length once per week in a lab of computers with keyboard, mice and an overhead projector/computer for the instructor.  One instructor stayed at the projector to demonstrate various computer tasks and the other instructor moved about the room.

Initial student behavior was a heart breaker for me:  many of them would not make eye contact, they would speak softly – unsure of themselves and their words.  Normally this behavior is something I witness in children who are shy and are learning something new but to see this behavior in adults was very difficult.  Their behavior was a reminder to me of how hard things have been for them.  Thankfully this behavior improved as they learned new tasks.  By the end of the first class I was seeing smiles, excitement about learning and many questions were being asked.

Some of the topics we covered that the students showed great interest in:

  • Understanding the keyboard (how to make capital letters), the space bar functionality and the purpose of the number keypad.
  • Understanding the desktop.
  • Understanding search engines and navigating the web. Tips on identifying malicious sites and false news information.
  • The process of Opening, saving, closing, and creating new Microsoft Word documents.
  • How to password protect a Microsoft Word document. The students discussed lack of privacy openly at this point, really emphasizing a desire for privacy.
  • How to manage images (getting them from one device over to another, getting them from an application like Facebook down to a device, and emailing them to others).

Some of the problems they face in daily life regarding technology:

  • Several of the students mentioned difficulty in accessing email programs from public terminals.  They noted that not all of the libraries and public technology centers in town allow users to access the same email programs; some email programs are blocked at some locations and not blocked at other locations.  In turn they end up frustrated and are unable to access their email for long periods of time resulting in them often forgetting passwords and having to set up new email accounts and then they of course have lost their contact lists from their prior email account.
  • Lack of frequent access to devices and or computers for learning and general use.   When they do have access, they are often alone, without any technological assistance for times when they encounter issues such as not being able to access email.

Spending time with these men and women is something I will never forget, I hope I was able to help them as much as they helped me.

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