Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!


I'll be taking a break for the holidays, so I wanted to leave you with some favorite holiday treats that I guarantee you I'll be enjoying over the next couple of weeks.



Makes about 36

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chopped pecans (8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl. In 8-quart bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 minute. Gradually beat in sugars; beat to combine, 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. Remove cookies from rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

NOTE: For 6 dozen smaller cookies, use 2 tablespoons dough for each. Bake at 350 F for 15 to 18 minutes.

Note: As seen on "Good Morning America."



yield: Makes 12 to 16 latkes
active time: 45 min
total time: 45 min

What is the secret to making great latkes? We found that the starchier the potato, the crisper the latke.

* 1 pound potatoes
* 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 to 3/4 cup crisco

* Accompaniments: sour cream and applesauce


Preheat oven to 250°F.

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup crisco oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

Cooks' notes: ·Latkes may be made up to 8 hours ahead. Reheat on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, about 5 minutes.
·Grating the potatoes, soaking them briefly in water, and then squeezing out the liquid (as we've done here) keeps the batter from turning brown too quickly.

Alternative: Potato Kugel: Instead of frying latkes, put all latkes mix into a 2 qt rectangular pyrex dish, bake at 350 degrees until golden brown

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

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Pulsar Award


Every once in a while you come across an individual who is friendly, kind, supportive, witty, intelligent, humorous...pretty much just an all-around great person. In the blogosphere, people like that are harder to find because your interactions with him or her are usually completely online. Online it's even harder to be warm and friendly and to make a lasting impression. But that's not the case for Roxy of Roxiticus Desperate Housewives. I met Roxy, or Bree as she is affectionately known on her DH blog, after she was a little disheartened from a losing streak in Blog Explosion Battle of the blogs. I had a few words to cheer her up. After all, losing a round or two or three in Battle of the Blogs is NOT the end of the world. From the day we first exchanged comments and emails she's been warm, friendly, caring, helpful, and a bit of a mentor in new blog promotion tools and networks and overall the kind of person just in general that this world needs more of.

Every day we hear about so much negativity in the world, in our nation, in our neighborhoods. Negativity is amplified on the internet as news instantly travels the globe. That being said, it's so important to find the beauty and the brightness and the lights of hope that are out there.

A pulsar is a brilliant flashing star in the sky. The Pulsar Award honors those who add a bit of brightness to life. If bloggers everywhere can find pulsars, other beacons of hope and friendship and display them on their blogs, then we all can make this world a better place together.

There are beacons of light out there to guide us in the darkness. Pulsar Honorees are one more beacon of light.

Thank you, Roxy, for being a pulsar!

Thanks for reading.

Wordless Wednesday: The City of Detroit













Thanks for reading.

Dedicated to Jena Isle

Back around Thanksgiving I had a Battle of the Boys Band Contest inspired by a post made by Ken Armstrong. I never got around to announcing a winner due to the things that happen in life. So anyway, I wanted to make good. Jena, of The Clamor of Kalinga, and a host of other blogs, is the winner.

The race was close between Backstreet Boys and Westlife, but ultimately, the overall favorite was determined to be Westlife. Jena had the best reasons why the Westlife video was the best.

So Jena, this one is for you.

Thanks for reading.

Sarah Palin Just Gets No Respect

Today is our company holiday party. In honor, here's a political cartoon that I find hysterical.


Thanks for reading.

The End of Detroit?


Just having returned to the mountains of North Carolina from Detroit, where I spent the last ten days over the Thanksgiving holiday, I have to say that I am greatly saddened. It's not that Thanksgiving wasn't a great holiday and it's not that I didn't get to see so many friends and family and share great times and make new memories; because I did. What saddens me is the state of the city of Detroit, the surrounding suburbs, and what it means for the future of the city where I was born and for the state of Michigan.

Forty-four years ago I was born in Harper Hospital in Downtown Detroit. My whole life has revolved around the city, and it's been a very vibrant life thus far. But shortly after I was born, race riots erupted and hit Detroit hard and I don't think the city has ever recovered. White flight began. People moved into the suburbs. Businesses moved into the suburbs. Shopping malls moved into the suburbs. When Northland opened in 1954, it was the first major shopping mall outside of a central city. Of course, as home to the auto industry, Michigan can cite many firsts regarding freeways--their construction, their spread, the number of lanes and the number of miles they covered. So it seemed that when the race riots happened in 1967, the infrastructure was already in place for the exodus. Back in the 1950s, Detroit's population approached 2 million and it was an economic and political giant. Now, only fifty years later, the city's population is barely 900,000 and it's a city of urban decay and blight. There are pockets of renewal and the Lions have returned to the city, but still the Pistons stay far away. And perhaps for good reason. Detroit is the city where Nancy Kerrigan got whacked by Tanya Harding's thugs. Figures, right?

But it isn't just the white flight and the city's decay. It's the false hope and promises and corruption. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's conviction is just the latest in the string of many. When the Renaissance Center opened in 1977, the gleaming hotel tower and the million square feet of office space surrounding it was supposed to be a symbol of a cultural and economic turn around in the city. Thirty years later, there's been little to applaud as the Detroit City Council continues to waste money and corruption has run rampant. For the last thirty years, despite every new mayor, every new police chief, every new project such as the Casino District, the People Mover, Comerica Park, Ford Field, the renovations of Wayne State University, the Science Center and the IMAX theater and the Detroit Institute of Arts renovations...the city has continued to slide because it can't seem to unbury itself from crooked politics and deep corruption. The city is ill And it's been sick for a long time.

That being said, even though I've never lived inside the city of Detroit, but rather I called the suburbs home for my first 35 years, my whole life has revolved around the city and the auto industry. Many of my father's clients were dependent on the vibrancy of the City of Detroit and the health of the auto-industry. So goes the auto-industry, so goes the economy of metro-Detroit and for the most part Michigan. My family was not alone. Between the auto industry and parts suppliers and robotics and engineers and construction firms and retail shopping and entertainment and restaurants....the health of virtually every industry and every family in Detroit is dependent on the auto-industry, its financial success and the trickle down of economic benefits when money is available to spend.

Last week, the day after Thanksgiving in Detroit, the highways were empty. There was no traffic anywhere. Restaurants were empty. Stores were empty. Movie theaters were empty. Parking lots were empty. Driving around the suburbs, for-sale signs were everywhere. I spent the Monday after Thanksgiving at one of my friend's home. I was informed it was recently appraised at over seven figures, but even if my friends wanted to, they couldn't sell it for even 1/5 its value. My friends are not alone. Even brand new homes that were built at the end of the last construction boom sit empty, having never been lived in even after 3 years on the market.

Several years ago there was a man, in the middle of winter, that somehow was standing in the middle of the Niagara River just a few feet upstream of the brink of Niagara Falls. He was there for hours before a helicopter was finally able to rescue him. It seems to me, that the whole city of Detroit and the State of Michigan are on that brink above Niagara Falls.

I am not a fan of any Congressional Bailout. I phoned and screamed at my US Representative and Senators to vote "NO" on the bailout. I am certainly not a fan of money being given to AIG or Citibank or anyone else, including the Detroit automakers. But I feel that loan guarantees should and must be given to the these companies. At the same time I want Congress to tie their hands and screw-in deadbolts with iron-clad conditions on the loan guarantees and a firm repayment plan. But in this case, if the billions of dollars requested are not given to the automakers, I see it as the collapse of the economy in Detroit and Michigan and I see the city falling over the brink of Niagara Falls. If this happens, I don't know how Michigan will ever recover. Not that there are any guarantees that this won't happen even with the loan guarantees the auto companies are asking for--it might just be a postponement of the city's ultimate fate.

Right now, there's little to keep young people in Michigan. Unemployment is among the highest in the country. Cities have lost major revenue streams. As more and more homes are foreclosed on and people lose their jobs, tax revenues go away. City and government workers get laid off. Restaurants and small retailers won't be able to survive. School programs will need to be cut. Many might attend the awesome educational programs at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, but then they'll look for jobs elsewhere.

The mood of Detroiters is somber--far from the happiness and feelings of hope and excitement when the Renaissance Center opened thirty-one years ago this March 15th. I've always called the city of Detroit home, and I always will. And it's devastating to see that home, even though I've moved away, crack at the seems and crumble to the ground.

Thanks for reading.

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Back From Detroit: Film at Eleven

I'm on Steroids


OK, it's not what you think. My entire life I've suffered from allergies, and consequently, my entire life I've taken daily cocktails of antihistamines and decongestants. Well this year they stopped making my favorite decongestant, Drixoral, which I've been taking for over twenty years and I've been at a loss. It's not like I've wanted to take drugs my entire life, however.

Thirty-five years ago I had my tonsils and adenoids taken out with the thinking it would help my sinuses. A decade ago I had surgery to correct my deviated septum. And that helped for a little bit, but the only way for me to be able to breathe and to cope is with my nasal passages open, and the only reliable way to keep them open is with aspirin and anti-histamines and decongestants.

However, at my recent physical, my new doctor suggested nasal steroids. Since I'm getting up there in age where the effects of antihistamines and decongestants are now a concern--raising blood pressure among them, it's important to try and find a more local solution versus a systemic one.

So, for the past week I've taken Flonase every morning, and I'm finding it very effective so far in opening my nasal passages and allowing me to breathe. And this is especially true at night. Last night I slept soundly without waking up all night long for probably the first time in months.

My doctor thinks the nasal steroids will ultimately cure my snoring as well. The jury is still out on that one, but with time, who knows? So far though, I'm pleased. I like to be able to breathe, you know?

Thanks for reading.

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: It's My Birthday


I already received my birthday present, folks: I was carded last night. Even though I'm more than twice the legal age. Where did all the time go? I mean, really!

But if you want to get me a gift, here's what you can do:

1) Buy an ad on MTMD or Inside Government.
2) Purchase a Project Wonderful Ad on MTMD--just click the link at the top of my right sidebar.
3) Send a donation to Paypal:
4) Buy me chocolate or coffee--leave me a comment with your email address and we'll figure out the details.
5) Comment on this post with your favorite ABBA lyrics.

Thanks for reading.

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Musical Monday: Il Divo & Celine Dion

I Believe In You

Just within the past week, I've discovered Simon Cowell's super boy band, Il Divo. I'm not exactly sure what they are. They're not a boy band. They're not a backup band to Barbra Streisand or Celine Dion, they're not pop, they're not rock, and they're certainly not opera or classical. I guess whatever class you put Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand in you'll put these four talented guys in as well.

In any case, I purchased their latest CD, The Promise on my way home from North Carolina for Thanksgiving in Detroit and I was so impressed I had to stop and pick up their previous CDs. Each of the four men who make up Il Divo have incredible voices, but the power they display when all four are singing together at the crescendo of a song is spine-chilling.

Some of you have already noticed this in your votes for them on my recent post: Battle of the Boy Bands--Carol. But I don't think any of their music is as representative of their power and musicality as this duet with Celine Dion: I Believe In You.

Watch it. Listen to it. Comment on it. And if you agree, there's still time to change your vote on the Battle of the Boy Bands post before I announce a winner after I return to North Carolina on Friday.

Thanks for reading.

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Danger Will Robinson: It's Black Friday!


Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Since Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States, Black Friday may be as early as the 23rd and as late as the 29th of November.

Black Friday is not an official holiday, but many employees take the day off, which increases the number of potential shoppers. Retailers often decorate for the Christmas season weeks beforehand. Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. Although Black Friday, as the first shopping day after Thanksgiving, has served as the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season at least since the start of the modern Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the term "Black Friday" has been traced back only to the 1960s.

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers are in the black (i.e., turning a profit).

The news media frequently refer to Black Friday as the busiest retail shopping day of the year, but this is not always accurate. While it has been one of the busiest days in terms of customer traffic, in terms of actual sales volume, from 1993 through 2001 Black Friday was usually the fifth to tenth busiest day. In 2002 and 2004, however, Black Friday ranked second place, and in 2003 and 2005, Black Friday actually did reach first place. The busiest retail shopping day of the year in the United States (in terms of both sales and customer traffic) usually has been the Saturday before Christmas.


In many cities it is not uncommon to see shoppers lined up hours before stores with big sales open. Once inside the stores shoppers often rush and grab, as many stores have only a few of the big draw items. Electronics and popular toys are often the most sought-after items and may be sharply discounted. Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media often will cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began lining up at various stores and providing video of the shoppers standing in line and later leaving with their purchased items. Traditionally Black Friday sales were intended for those shopping for Christmas gifts. For some particularly popular items, some people shop at these sales in order to get deep discounts on items they can then resell, typically online.


The earliest uses of "Black Friday" come from or reference Philadelphia and refer to the heavy traffic on that day, an implicit comparison to the extremely stressful and chaotic experience of Black Tuesday (the 1929 stock-market crash). The earliest known reference to "Black Friday" (in this sense), found by Bonnie Taylor-Blake of the American Dialect Society, refers to Black Friday 1965 and makes the Philadelphia origin explicit:
JANUARY 1966 -- "Black Friday" is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. "Black Friday" officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.
The term Black Friday began to get wider exposure around 1975, as shown by two newspaper articles from November 29, 1975, both datelined Philadelphia. The first reference is in an article entitled "Army vs. Navy: A Dimming Splendor," in The New York Times:
Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it "Black Friday" - that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army-Navy game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial City as the Christmas list is checked off and the Eastern college football season nears conclusion.
The derivation is also clear in an Associated Press article entitled "Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy," which ran in the Titusville Herald on the same day:
Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. ... "That's why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today 'Black Friday,'" a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. "They think in terms of headaches it gives them."
The history of the day after Thanksgiving being the official start of the holiday shopping season is linked together strongly with the idea of Santa Claus parades. They are merged with a parade celebrating Thanksgiving. These parades, though mainly a celebration of thanksgiving, include an appearance by Santa at the end with the idea that 'Santa has arrived' or 'Santa is just around the corner'.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, many Santa parades / Thanksgiving day parades were sponsored by department stores. These include the Toronto Santa Claus Parade sponsored by Eaton's and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsored by Macy's. Department stores would use the parades to launch a big advertising push. Eventually it just became an unwritten rule that no store would try doing Christmas advertising before the parade was over. Therefore, the day after Thanksgiving became the day when the shopping season officially started.

Later on, the fact that this marked the official start of the shopping season led to controversy. In 1939, America was suffering through the great depression. Retail shops would have liked to have a longer shopping season, but no store wanted to break with tradition and be the one to start advertising before Thanksgiving. President Roosevelt moved the date for Thanksgiving up a week leading to much anger by the public who wound up having to change holiday plans. Folks started referring to the change as Franksgiving.

Cool, eh? Today and through the weekend, I'll be at the homes of friends and family or at the movie theater. You won't catch me anywhere near a mall this weekend, or for that matter, most of the rest of the season through New Year's. It's not just a time-saving strategy, but a sanity-maintaining survival one.

Thanks for reading.

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Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a traditional North American holiday, which is a form of harvest festival. The date and whereabouts of the first Thanksgiving celebration is a topic of modest contention, though the earliest attested Thanksgiving celebration was on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida. Despite scholarly research to the contrary, the traditional "first Thanksgiving" is venerated as having occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving dinner is done in the evening, usually as a gathering of friends and/or family. That's where I'll be, and if you're in the United States, I'm sure that's where you'll be too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading.

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: Thanksgiving Turkey


How to Cook Your Turkey
1) Fully thaw your turkey in your refrigerator before cooking Thanksgiving Day.
2) Set your oven to 350 Degrees
3) Fill a Deep Roasting Pan One Inch Deep with Chicken Broth.
4) Place Thawed Turkey in Roasting Pan
5) Cover with Reynolds Plastic Wrap
6) Cover Plastic Wrap with Aluminum Foil
7) Cook Until the Internal Temperature of the Thigh reaches at least 165 Degrees for fifteen seconds.

1) Do NOT cook stuffing inside the bird. The Stuffing will insulate the turkey and slow cooking time. It is possible to contract food-bourne illnesses from incomplete cooking and cross-contamination when cooking other foods inside the turkey.
2) Using a meat thermometer, check the temperature of the thigh after two hours, and every thirty minutes thereafter until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees.
3) When using plastic wrap and aluminum foil, it is not necessary to baste your turkey. The Plastic wrap and tin foil with the chicken broth will keep your turkey nice and moist.

Though there is no real evidence that turkey was served at the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving, through ages it became an indispensable part of the Thanksgiving tradition. The tradition of turkey is rooted in the 'History Of Plymouth Plantation', written by William Bradford some 22 years after the actual celebration.

Thanks for reading.

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Battle of the Boy Bands Contest


My good mate Ken Armstrong from Ken's Writing Stuff has just posted about his appreciation for the Boy Band Westlife's song My Love. There were a lot of comments that expressed a kindred appreciation for the song, even if most thought that expressing a liking for a boy band was kind of lame or that most boy bands sound the same.

Well I agree, although once in a while, a boy band might record a song that isn't so bad. Really.

So today, I have selected five songs from five different boy bands. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is comment on which song is your favorite and why. The commenter with the most original and/or creative response will be deemed the winner and win a special prize appropriate for this contest.

So with no further ado, here are the five selections. Which is your favorite, and why?

Back Street Boys: I Want It That Way

N'Sync and Celine Dion: That's The Way It Is

Il Divo: Somewhere

Westlife: I Have A Dream

98 Degrees: Una Noche

Thanks for reading.

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Prius vs. Hummer: Redefining Green Vehicles


When we think of green cars, almost all of us start thinking about cars that really good gas mileage or hybrids that use both battery power and fuel or cars that use alternative fuels like E-80. Because these cars use less gasoline, we naturally think that they are green cars, or at least greener than what we are used to driving, such as my last car, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

However, I was recently asked to review an article that explodes the myth that a prius is a greener car than a Hummer. In reading the article, I've definitely come to a different view as to what makes an automobile greener than another, and more significantly, how to evaluate green policies and initiatives in general.

What this article makes clear is that there are many different items to consider when looking at how green a car might be. For example, the easy criteria is that a car that gets 50 mpg appears greener than a car that gets 10 mpg. It's a no-brainer right? What further thought is necessary to make the determination that the 50 mpg car is greener than the 10 mpg car?

As it turns out, there's a lot to look at. Over the life of a car, from manufacturing to ultimate disposal and recycling, a car that gets 10 mpg may be a lot greener than a car that gets 50 mpg. To make the ultimate determination as to which car is greener, you have to look at the processes used in manufacturing the vehicle and which were more energy intensive. You have to look at the location the car was manufactured. You have to examine the transportation from the production site to the destination. You have to look at the practices in the production of the vehicle. You have to look at the materials that were used in the production of the vehicle. You have to look at the estimated lifespan of the vehicle in terms of durability. You have to look at where the vehicle will be used and if use of the vehicle would have a net positive or negative impact on the environment--such as on an off-road trail. You have to look at its impact resistance. On balance, after all of these areas and more are looked at, it's possible to conclude that a Hummer would be greener than a Prius.

You think I'm mad, don't you? But what you are not considering is that toxic metals are used in the components of the Prius hybrid's battery and that when the car has finished its useful life, it may be much more expensive to recycle that battery and dispose of it because it would be considered as hazardous waste. Additionally, a Prius is a small car. If it's in an accident, it's very likely that the car would be declared a total loss. If you just get one or two or three or even four years out of the car, in the final analysis, the energy used to manufacture the car and dispose of the car and the costs incurred would be greater than that of a car that's built for durability, such as a Hummer or a Grand Cherokee or a Land Rover which are built to be durable and to be used for a long time. Notwithstanding an accident, there is a period that varies from car to car that is the useful lifespan of the car. Maybe a Prius is designed to last 100,000 miles while a Hummer or a Grand Cherokee or a Land Rover has a useful life of 200,000 miles or 250,000 miles or 300,000 miles or more. When you look at the car in terms of it's lifespan, and the energy that is used to manufacture every component of a Prius vs the energy used to manufacture the components of a gas guzzler, over the expected life of the vehicle, the larger gas guzzler may actually consume less energy.

It's a fascinating concept, but it's what we usually don't consider when we make our purchases. For those of us truly interested in the environment and making purchases that have smaller carbon footprints, we really need to consider not just energy use of the product, but energy used in the production of the product and the estimated usable life of the product.

The article is really eye-opening. It's a little bit technical, but it's important to read. There's a lot more to being green than just looking at mpg, and I hope you'll take the time to look at the article so that you can make more informed decisions.

Thanks for reading.

Computer Virus Protection


I wish it were so simple: just put a tiny rubber condom on the ethernet plug and voila--my computer would be safe from computer viruses. Over the last week I've been struggling with restoring data and software and productivity lost by a number trojan viruses that struck our system. By the way, isn't the name of the virus class ironic? TROJAN! When Trojan is by far the most popular brand of condoms meant to protect you? But I digress.

In any case, I've never had a virus before. I've always kept my home computer virus protection and firewall software up to date. But some times in a corporate environment, things can get a little behind. So I wanted to share with you some of the things I've learned to help protect you.

1) Always, always, always keep your virus protection software up to date with the latest version of the software, and always, always, always subscribe to the latest virus definitions. DO NOT under any circumstances, no matter how much it costs, let your virus definitions and software versions become out-dated. That's how my work computer got infected--not that we let our virus update subscription lapse, but because we didn't install the latest version of the anti-virus software. Somehow, somewhere, our software was upgraded to version 7.0 and then to version 8.0, but on most of our work computers, version 6.0 was running and that left all computers connected to the internet vulnerable, including mine.

2) Be careful of adding toolbars to your browsers. Most toolbar installations carry some form of cookie, spyware, or adware that compromises the security features of your browser. It is very easy for those writing malicious virus code to get to your browser and to your computer through the vulnerabilities of toolbars.

3) Popups are not your friend. Clicking on a popup can initiate the download of executable files onto your computer. Some of these even self-install. If you come across a warning dialog box on any website that you visit that pops up and tells you that your computer is infected or that your virus definitions are out of date or your performance is slow and offers you a fast and easy solution, DO NOT fall for it. And if after you try and close the window but it keeps re-opening anyway, it's probably too late and you have been infected. Run your full virus scan immediately or call the Geek Squad.

4) JPEGs can spread viruses. I encourage you all to read this PC World article. This article is several years old. Be careful when copying or downloading web graphics from sites that you don't know. No file should be considered safe until it is scanned by the lastest anti-virus software with the latest anti-virus definitions.

5) Shareware. You get what you pay for folks. Only download shareware from trusted sites. Plugins and code from your friend down the street might be cool, but they could also be virus bait. Not only might they be vulnerable to virus attacks, they might have viruses and spyware included in them. This is especially important for the blogging community that likes to try out cool widgets and the latest plug-ins on their wordpress and blogger blogs.

6) Avoid the bandwagon. Those of us in the blogosphere like to be at the forefront of new software, technology and innovation. Avoid the latest releases and the coolest new features if they are in beta testing. Wait until the software has been out there, tried, tested, AND patched before you update your system.

7) Research. In order to protect yourself and your hardware and your dollars, you have to know what the threats are, what the level of risk is, and what the remedies are. Don't trust any one source for your information. Read several newspapers, magazine and PC-oriented websites. Stay up to date. If you're going to play in the sandbox, you gotta find a way to keep the sand out of your shorts.

Thanks for reading.

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Pulsar Award: Amy Lilley


Every once in a while you come across an individual who is friendly, kind, supportive, witty, intelligent, humorous...pretty much just an all-around great person. In the blogosphere, people like that are harder to find because your interactions with him or her are usually completely online. Online it's even harder to be warm and friendly and to make a lasting impression. But that's not the case for Amy Lilley of Amy Lilley Designs. From the day we first exchanged comments and emails she's been warm, friendly, caring and the kind of person just in general that this world needs more of.

Every day we hear about so much negativity in the world, in our nation, in our neighborhoods. Negativity is amplified on the internet as news instantly travels the globe. That being said, it's so important to find the beauty and the brightness and the lights of hope that are out there.

A pulsar is a brilliant flashing star in the sky. The Pulsar Award honors those who add a bit of brightness to life. If bloggers everywhere can find pulsars, other beacons of hope and friendship and display them on their blogs, then we all can make this world a better place together.

There are beacons of light out there to guide us in the darkness. Pulsar Honorees are one more beacon of light.

Thank you, Amy, for being a pulsar!

Thanks for reading.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Franklin Cider Mill

Franklin Cider Mill in Franklin, Michigan

For hundreds of years, apples have been supplying a delicious and nutritious fruit all over the world. Johnny Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed brought from Europe a small variety of apples. Farmers all over the United States took these varieties and combined two or more apples and named them what they thought appropriate. Years ago Europe had as many as 350 different varieties. Today there are as many as 7000 different varieties throughout the United States. Approximately 20 varieties of apples are used for marketing purposes.

The Franklin Cider Mills Only Sells Apples Grown in Michigan

Washington apples are the most beautiful apples grown. The apples grown in the eastern states are the most flavorful. The reason being, the apples grown in the western states have lava rock in the soil from volcanoes over the many thousands of years; causing the soil not to have the richness that it needs. Therefore they do not produce a very tasteful fruit.

The state of Washington leads in producing apples. They produce as much as four times as any other state. New York has always lead #2 and Michigan #3. Weather this year and the past two years has been exceptional for Michigan farmers. In fact, Michigan this year grew more apples than New York. Those at the Franklin Cider Mill are proud of the apples grown in the state of Michigan; therefore they only use Michigan apples.

The Franklin Cider Mill Marketplace is Packed Daily from Labor Day through the Sunday after Thanksgiving

The Franklin Cider Mill, like other Cider Mills and orchards, has a reputation of having a lot of bees buzzing around, especially when families are trying to have a nice relaxing picnic. These bees are important to our reproduction of all fruits and vegetables. In the spring these busy bees pollinate the blossoms that transform into nutritious and delicious fruit. The more blossoms, the more fruit. Apple trees are not producing as plentifully as years fore; causing the cost of apple products to increase.

In 1837, the year Michigan became a state, this mill was completed after having been under construction for about three years. The building was started by Ed W. Matthews who had come from New York, and had purchased a large tract of land around where the mill is now located. Financial difficulties made it impossible for him to finish the project. It was then purchased by Peter VanEvery who completed the building, and conducted the business of grinding grain, or exchanging flour for grain, and in general, acting as miller for an area of many miles in all directions.

Apple Cider Being Poured into Jugs for Retail Sale

Peter VanEvery also had many others enterprises in and around Franklin that was then known as the Stoughton and Bullok Settlement. One of them was the Distillery, which was located across the road from the grist mill, (now the Franklin Cider Mill), and part of the old foundation is still visible there.

An interesting feature about the mill is that the original lumber was white oak, white pine and black walnut, all hewed and finished by hand. Except for the roof and siding which has been replaced over the years.

The original water wheel was an "undershot" type, and was probably made almost entirely of wood. The present water wheel, one of the largest in the country, was installed soon after the turn of the century. We know very little about the press except that is was shipped to this country from Europe in the early part of the nineteenth century. It is rated at nearly 90 tons pressure.

The Retail Counter of the Franklin Cider Mill Waiting for Customers

Fascinating info, huh? All I know is that the Franklin Cider Mill produces the sweetest apple cider I have ever had, and the doughnuts, despite the grease, are annual favorite treats. I'm heading home for Thanksgiving in two weeks, and right before the Franklin Cider Mill closes for the season, I'll be there celebrating a 171-year Michigan taste tradition.

Thanks for reading.

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Stardust: The Movie or the Book?

Stardust Movie Poster Image

Rated PG-13; Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Mark Strong, Kate Magowan, Jason Flemyng

Stardust is one of those rare artistic achievements that succeeds in multiple versions. While it was acclaimed as a book, with author Neil Gaiman producing and the wizards of Hollywood creating shining special effects, Stardust: The Movie indeed shines brightly and even surpasses the brilliance of the book. says Stardust is an utterly charming fairy tale in the tradition of The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story. Neil Gaiman, creator of the darkly elegant Sandman comics and author of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, tells the story of young Tristran Thorn and his adventures in the land of Faerie. One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love. His adventures in the magical land will keep you turning pages as fast as you can--he and the star escape evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, goblin press-gangs, and the scheming sons of the dead Lord of Stormhold. The story is by turns thrillingly scary and very funny. You'll love goofy, earnest Tristran and the talking animals, gnomes, magic trees, and other irresistible denizens of Faerie that he encounters in his travels. Stardust is a perfect read-aloud book, a brand-new fairy tale you'll want to share with a kid, or maybe hoard for yourself.
With all due respect to Amazon's reviewers, I'll have to disagree. Stardust is engaging, but it has none of the dramatic tension that would qualify it as a page-turner, and emotionally, it has none of the weight of even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, although it owes it's existence to Narnia every bit as much as to The Princess Bride.

That being said, Stardust is a great read with wonderful lyricism, some fantastic imagery, excellent literary references--especially that of the Babylon Candle--and some honest wistfulness and magic.

But I believe Neil Gaiman might have been a little disappointed in the achievement of Stardust the novel, and like Stevie Nicks' evolving concept of her song Rhiannon, the story kept evolving in the back of Gaiman's mind, and thus we have a more fully realized, more magical, and more bewitching tale in Stardust the movie.

Michelle Pfeiffer, starring as a witch in Stardust
Michelle Pfeiffer steals every scene as an evil witch.

The movie version of Stardust is at once the same story as the book, but derivative and evolved nevertheless. With a rich cast of memorable pirates, mutli-dimensional evil witches with genuine bents for comedy, ghosts, royal quests, and cross-dressers, Stardust is one of those films that defy categorization, though it fits exactly in the same category with The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights and even Disney's Enchanted. With a stellar cast, some stirring and unique special effects, and an interesting story that never seems to lag, Stardust is satisfying on every level that the book was not.

With spectacular cinematography and inventive imagination, Stormhold, the realm on the other side of the "Wall" comes to life and is fully realized. There are some gaps in narration that probably were left behind on the editing room floor that don't really take away from the story, but just leave some things left unexplained. And ultimately, that's fine. When venturing into the fantasy room, sometimes it's enough to leave the explanation to magic.

Neil Gaiman rose to acclaim by taking back comic books for adults, without sacrificing creativity and imagination... his 75-issue Sandman comics are a true phenomenon, bringing great storytelling and unforgettable characters to a fantasy world.

As Gaiman says:
As adults, we are discriminated against. As adults, we are an oppressed majority because nobody writes us fairy tales. I think the problem is not that ... we grow out of fairy tales. The problem is nobody writes us fairy tales; nobody gives us fairy tales that are as satisfying, as meaty, as filled with real people and real incident, as the things that we remember from when we were children.
In Stardust the movie, Gaiman succeeds in creating the milleniums first fairy tale for adults. And after watching the movie some of the magic doesn't quite make sense, I recommend you pick up the book to fill in the details and the unanswered questions.

Thanks for reading.

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Introducing "Inside Government"

Inside Government Screenshot

Inside Government is a non-partisan effort by a team of established bloggers to examine and explain how the United States Government works. Our team members were each struck in their own ways at how susceptible our own family, friends and coworkers were to various media portrayals of the candidates in the 2008 Presidential and State Elections and their positions on important issues; and what they would do or not do should they be elected to office. It quickly became apparent that media soundbites and campaign ads were accepted as factual when in reality almost all representations contained only partial truths and many misrepresentations of candidates at every level in order to persuade the American people to choose one candidate or the other.

Further, certain campaign promises have become more influential to the electorate than the premise behind the promise. A candidate for office can promise the moon, but delivering on the promise usually depends on the actions of others in another branch of government. Thus most campaign promises are really empty promises with little or no chance of being fulfilled. That the U.S. electorate chooses to believe in the hope of a fulfilled campaign promise when choosing which way to vote rather than trying to understand the real impediments to fulfillment of those campaign promises demonstrates a general lack of understanding of how our government works.

For example:

1. People voting against John McCain because they believed Sarah Palin would overturn Roe v. Wade illustrates a lack of understanding of the executive power of a vice-president, or even the executive branch. Even if Sarah Palin would be in a position to nominate a pro-life justice that had vowed to vote against Roe v. Wade, that justice would still need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. And with a Democratic controlled Senate, such confirmation to the Supreme Court would be impossible.

2. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have vowed to give tax cuts to the American people, and countless Americans have chosen their candidate based on who would give them a better tax cut. However, no President has the power to cut taxes or raise taxes or to refund money to the American people. All powers of taxation rest in the House of Representatives (Remember the phrase “no taxation without representation” from Schoolhouse Rock? Thus the Boston Tea Party?) Congress controls all budgets, spending and taxation. No tax cut can be made without the action of Congress. Of course, with a Democratic controlled House and Senate, Obama is more likely to get his plans through and passed into law then John McCain.

3. People voting against Barack Obama because they believed he is inexperienced in foreign policy. While expertise in Foreign Policy is important for any President, the truth is no President makes foreign policy decisions in a vacuum. Instead, Presidents rely on teams of experts to make their foreign policy decisions. That’s what the National Security Adviser, Secretary of State, and other cabinet positions and advisors are for. As long as Barack Obama has good judgment and can surround himself with the right people, he would be fine if he will listen to advice. In addition, the Joint Chiefs of Staff is key in getting any President up to speed on military threats and situations that affect our nation’s interests.

Thus it has become clear that there is a lack of understanding by the American people of how our government works and what each branch of government is responsible for and the checks each branch of government have on the actions of the other. The purpose of Inside Government is to help change that. In addition to being a tool to help explain how our government works, Inside Government will also track key legislation and explain in non-partisan and clear ways how major legislation will affect the people of our country.

We were inspired by the outcry against the passage of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, and we were angered that our elected officials in Washington passed the bailout anyway despite overwhelming opposition from the American People. Our hope is that Inside Government will be an educational voice and report unbiased coverage of the actions of our elected leaders in concert with or despite the wishes of the American People, while clearly explaining the who, the what, the why and the how.

We hope you will visit Inside Government and use it as the resource it is intended to be to stay up-to-date and more attuned to our government.

Thanks for reading.

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A meme made up by Arkwife.

I found this on The Arkives (and I think I've been tagged just because I read it) blog.....I'm a sucker for lists!!

1. Bold the ones you’ve had
2. Strike through the ones that would make your great-grand kids gag from the after taste.
3. Italicize potential delicacies....stuff that would go down with a double shot of tequila.
4. Feel free to leave a running commentary.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos Rancheros – fried eggs on corn chips, served with salsa...sounds like a breakfast nacho
4. Steak tartare – raw mince meat with a raw egg on top....blegh
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding – sausage made from blood
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht – beet soup with beef....could work
10. Baba ghanoush – sounds delicious
11. Calamari
12. Pho – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
13. PB & J
14. Aloo gobi – potato and cauliflower curry type thingy
15. Hot dog from street cart – hell yes
16. Epoisses – French cheese
17. Black truffle – black, underground mushroom
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – this was a trick question, right?
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes – grown from very old seeds (how would I know??)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch bonnet pepper – known to make hands and face go numb!!!
27. Dulce de leche – milk caramel sweet thing
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda – warm Italian dip
31. Wasabi peas – roasted peas coated in wasabi
32. Clam chowder in sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi -- I loved Lassie, how could I eat her?
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal – it’s just curry
44. Goat’s milk in cheese form – feta, haloumi
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu – Japanese pufferfish....those things are poisonous
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel - sushiiiii
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin – at least I’ll have plenty of toothpicks
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi – pickled Japanese ume fruit (it’s like a plum)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer – Persian cheese
55. McDonald’s Bic Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle – German egg noodle or dumpling
57. Dirty Gin Martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine – chips with cheese and gravy
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads---not on your life
63. Kaolin – it’s a rock???
64. Currywurst
65. Durian – that smelly fruit from Thailand
66. Frog’s legs – when in Paris....
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – some type of doughnut
68. Haggis – no hell no!!
69. Fried plantain – some sort of fruit from the Caribbean
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette – pig’s intestines
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost – Norwegian cheese
75. Roadkill - blegh
76. Baijiu – liquor!! Bring it on....
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong – black tea
80. Bellini – more booze...whoohoo!!
81. Tom yum – thai soup...very nice
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky – chocolate on a stick
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef – from a special cow.....right??
86. Hare
87. Goulash – beef goulash yes
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate – hey, it says chocolate
91. Spam - yech
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa – it’s a spice with rose petals in
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano – Mexican chilli chocolate sauce
96. Bagel and lox – bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
100. Snake – should taste like crocodile (*read chicken)

Tag yourself on this if you're interested.

Thanks for reading.

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The Sack Lunches


I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

'Chicago - to Great Lakes Base. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Iraq '.

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached Chicago, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time. As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to Chicago '.

His friend agreed. I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?'

'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked.

She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, 'I want to shake your hand.'

Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand. With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm. When we landed in Chicago I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals.

It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

John McCain understands this. Barack Obama does not.


NOTE: This post, while it is completely 100% representative of my sentiments and edited by me, originally derived from an email circulating around the net. I am NOT the one that acted this way on the airplane as described in this post.

HOWEVER, I have acted in this way consistently in the past when I have had opportunities to do so. The most notable example being rafting the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia in 2007 with a group of Six Para-Jumper Instructors. These guys have been deployed in Iraq multiple times. Their job is to train parajumpers, those in the military who parachute behind enemy lines or in hostile situations to recover fallen Americans or equipment or other items as dictated by their mission. After rafting with this group of six outstanding Americans, I bought all their beer and food all night long as a token of thanks for what these heroes do for us every single day, mostly without our knowledge.

But the point of this post is not about what I or you or the author of this email did for any group of our military on any particular day. The point of this post is about the concept of honor that we don't think much about anymore or sadly, that most Americans really don't understand anymore--as it applies to our elected officials.

This post will remain up as the first post on my blog through election day on November 4. My point in making this post and in leaving it up through Election Day is just to underscore one major difference between John McCain and Barack Obama. John McCain understands the type of honor as described in this post. Barack Obama has no personal experience with this kind of honor and certainly does not understand it the way John McCain does. I do not write this to belittle Barack Obama in any way. I merely write this to emphasize my conviction that honor is a most important quality any candidate for President of the United States must have; and in this way at least, I think most Americans will agree that John McCain is more qualified to be President, independent of the strengths or shortcomings of both Barack Obama and John McCain in other areas that are important to Americans.

Thanks for reading.

Play Blackjack with Confidence!


Jan from has asked me to review and I am happy to do so.

I have to admit, I have always been weary of Online Casinos--most likely because all advertising I have seen for them comes from spam email. However, this was different. EntreCard--a great blog promotion site with all kinds of great support to help anyone be successful at blogging, recently formed a partnership with ReviewMe. I signed up in the hopes of finding a better alternative to Pay-Per-Post and to make a little income, and through ReviewMe, I was given the opportunity to review this online site.

What makes this Online Casino Site different from other sites is that it's
a free no-download training game for blackjack players with built in advice and tips for the player. I consider myself to be an excellent blackjack player. I go to Casinos often and usually win at blackjack, so I have some practical knowledge in terms of how to play the game. So I figured I would give the site a test drive and see if it could deliver advice and tips that would help a new player win at blackjack, and if it did, I decided I would go ahead and blog about it.

I was pleased to discover that in terms of blackjack, this site does deliver. First I looked over the rules, tips, and advice section and all information presented is consistent with the books and articles I've read on blackjack and my own experience. But what really hooked me about the site and the reason why I am recommending it to you if you want to learn how to play blackjack is the "Blackjack Better Trainer".

What the Blackjack Better Trainer consists of is an online video game--for lack of a better term, that simulates a blackjack table. You specify the house rules, and then you play blackjack against the online dealer according to the rules. The Trainer gives you the option to hit, stand, double or split, just like in a real betting situation at the casino. And after every hand, it keeps track for you of how you were following correct strategy or incorrect strategy and lets you know how you did. When you deviate from accepted strategy, it will let you know what you should have done. The result is that you learn all the basics of blackjack quickly and you learn what happens when you deviate from the rules without risking any money.

To test out the betting trainer, I played 50 hands in less than 30 minutes. I ended up winning $7.50 on the initial $100 bank after making $5 bets every hand and not adjusting the bet with any kind of progressive betting strategy. My results were representative of what you can expect to win or lose at a $5 table with a $100 bank when you're not in the middle of a particularly good streak nor employing a progressive betting strategy. Further, according to the betting trainer, I made 47 correct decisions and 3 "incorrect" decisions. But the really cool thing about the "incorrect betting decisions" is that I knew the 3 incorrect decisions were modifications I have made to my playing strategy over time. The key when playing blackjack is to be automatic and consistent in your playing and in your betting. The three playing variations I chose to make were thus:

1. When a dealer has an Ace up and doesn't have blackjack, and I have an 11 up, I always double down. The betting trainer suggested just a hit. My experience has been the dealer is likely to have a small down card. Since I know the dealer does not have a ten or a face card, and since tens or face cards are the most likely card to draw in a hit, I have a really good chance of hitting 21 and winning a double down, and that is exactly what happened in the Blackjack trainer.

2. The second variation was the dealer was showing a 3 and I had 12. I took a hit. The trainer suggested that I stand. It's a 50-50 judgement call depending on who you learn blackjack from. Yes, the 3 is kind of a bust card and yes I could draw a ten or facecard and bust; but my experience has been that a 2 or 3 and even a 4 up for a dealer is more of a wild card and a 12 or 13 in my hand is very rarely going to win. So I take the hit, understanding the risks.

3. The third situation was with the dealer showing a 4 and I had 12. I took the hit in the training situation to see what would happen, knowing if I were in an actual betting situation I would stand. The risks of me busting compared to the chance of the dealer busting become more even when a dealer has a 4 showing. And although it usually bites me in the butt, I will always stand on a 12 when a dealer has a 4 showing. But I wanted to see what the online betting trainer would advise, and it gave the correct advice that I should have stood on 12.

So overall, I am very impressed with the Blackjack section of this site. I think if you want to learn how to play blackjack, a few hours here would be invaluable. The only negative to the site I could see is that it really doesn't teach you much about betting strategies.

Your betting strategy is every bit as important as playing consistently by the odds in choosing to stay, hit, double down or split your cards. In fact, most blackjack players that lose, even though they play by the rules 100% of the time, lose because they employ betting strategies that aren't sustainable and that actually play into the casino's favor. The betting strategy is the second part of the equation that casinos don't teach you, and sadly, the same is the case for this online casino review and training site. While the betting trainer allows you to adjust your bet, it doesn't give you any guidelines for how to do so. After visiting this site and spending time here, you will know how to play casino games, but you won't necessarily know how to bet and to leave the casino with more money than when you arrived and started playing.

I'll cover my betting strategies for blackjack in a future post.

But overall, I am very impressed with In addition to this being an education site, it also gives reviews of actual online casinos out there. Like I said, I've always been weary of playing blackjack or any casino game online, but after spending time on this site I'm confident that the information it provides is accurate. In the coming months, I'll play blackjack on an online casino this site recommends and follow-up with another post to let you know how it turned out.

Blackjack is my game, but also gives you training for poker, slots, roulette, craps, video poker, video instruction, reviews of online and real poker rooms, progressive jackpots, and casino-related news. If you are interested in casino gaming, this site is a valuable one to bookmark and refer to often.

NOTE: The above is a paid review, however, all content is my own and any recommendations are my honest opinions.

Thanks for reading.

Ski Faster with Ski Butlers!


It's November, and all around the United States, snow is beginning to fall and our country's legendary ski resorts are beginning to open. Nowhere is this more true than in Colorado, the capitol of American Skiing.

I'm planning my snow-boarding vacation to Beaver Creek this weekend and I just came across Ski Butlers, a company that offers Beaver Creek ski rentals delivered right to my door, and at a cost cheaper than what I would pay at the resort.

According to their website, the way this service works is:
Ski Rentals Vail and Beaver Creek: As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast Traveler, SKI and Outside Magazines, Ski Butlers will make your next Vail and Beaver Creek ski rental experience hassle-free, so you can spend more time on the ski slopes this vacation. Our expert local ski technicians will conveniently custom fit you - right in your own living room. Not sure of your boot size? No problem. We'll bring all the boot sizes you need to make sure you get the best fit. Need ski accessories? We bring them too! Don't stand in line again - we'll give you the newest ski rental equipment at equal or lower prices than many of the local Vail ski rental shops and Beaver Creek ski rental shops, with the best service in town. Enjoy the ease and convenience of our award winning ski rental delivery service today!
To me, the most compelling feature of this service is the convenience. After a long day of traveling, either by air or by car, and checking into your hotel and getting situated, the last thing you need to worry about on a ski vacation is carrying your equipment with you, or worrying that it gets lost or damaged. You're heading to Colorado to have fun on the slopes. And if you travel at a busy time of year, getting the right rental equipment is always dicey because you never know when the ski resort is going to run out. So instead of rushing to beat the crowds, you just make your reservation with Ski Butlers and guarantee your equipment will not only be there when you need it, but it will be delivered to your door and custom-fitted to you on your schedule. No more waiting in line. No more rushing to beat the crowds. No more hassle if the resort runs out of your size nine boots.

Ski Butler's website is easy to navigate as well. It loads quickly and provides all the information you need to quickly make your reservation and lock-in your ski or snowboard rentals for your vacation. The reservation process is as easy as making a flight reservation.

Overall, using this service is hassle-free for me as I won't have to wait in line as I try on equipment, find out it doesn't fit, and wait in line again to exchange the boots; but more importantly, it's hassle-free for my friends who are putting me up in town and who otherwise would have to rush and get to the resort early with me and wait for me to get my snowboard before we could get on the mountain.

With Ski Butlers Rentals, I'm looking forward to an awesome vacation on my schedule. And if having a ski vacation on your schedule is important to you, I strongly encourage that you give them a try.

Thanks for reading.

Richter Studios Video Production Services

As most of my readers are aware, I recently completed a major project managing the International Whitewater Hall of Fame's 2008 election process, hosting the induction event and producing a DVD presentation of the new honorees. It was a most rewarding and humbling experience in so many ways, and it was a distinct honor and privilege to be involved so deeply in the project.

As for the DVD production, we had the resources to produce the DVD and associated web video in house, but if I had to go through the process again, I think I would outsource that project component to a Video Production Service, such as Richter Studios.

The primary reason why I would look to outsource such a project would have to be the ease and expertise with which a company that specializes in projects like this could complete the project. Our in-house staff professional worked tirelessly for weeks, often throughout the night, to get the project done, making use of the resources he personally had, but that still remained awkward and cumbersome to work with for him. And I think it's rare that a company in need of DVD production would have the staff and equipment and the expertise necessary to produce video that would be professional enough to promote the organization in the most professional way. I think we achieved something excellent, but I still wonder if we missed out on something potentially more impactful.

After looking at Richter Studios' website, I am certain that they could have saved us a great deal of time in the production of the IWHOF DVD and turned around the project in far less time than the full month that our in-house staff ended up spending on the project. And because they are a professional company that specializes in promotional video production services, I believe our project could have benefited from their creative expertise in terms of adding interactive elements to our presentation that may have created a greater impact to the presentation when it finally appears on the IWHOF website.

Of course, dollars always remain a primary consideration. Everyone always strives to get the most bang for the buck. But I think it's important for companies to know their limits. And what impresses me about Richter Studios is that they have been creating presentations for over 10 years--from custom presentations for multi-million dollar bids, to enterprise-based presentation delivery to simple PowerPoint decks, their in-house teams have extensive experience in taking a client's message and creating visually stunning, state-of-the-art presentations. To date they have helped their clients win an astonishing one billion dollars in new sales. In fact, they have even created their own presentation based software for those clients who want to really stand out!

My mother always said: "You get what you pay for," and when it comes to a promotional tool, you can save yourself a little bit of money and try to complete a project that might be a stretch yourself; or you can spend those extra dollars and produce something truly breathtaking, and reap the rewards for your company that only the most professional presentations can bring. In this instance, Richter Studios would be my choice the second time around.

Thanks for reading.