Thursday, June 30, 2011

Google+ Review

On June 28th Google released a new networking tool titled “Google+”  This latest project is currently still being rolled out and is by invite only.  Luckily I was able to get an invite from Friends of Free (Thanks again!)
So what does it do?
Google+ provides a revolutionary way to share and obtain information in a more natural and personable way.  It is like Facebook, Twitter and the future all rolled into one neat, easy to use product.  When you first get access to Google+ it is recommended that you create a profile.  This profile contains all the information that you want to share about yourself.  The profile, as with every aspect of Google+, enables you to easily control who can see your information.  Privacy is very important and upfront. (The only information that is always going to be available to everyone is your name and gender.)  The information that you add into your profile will help others find you.  So the more you add the easier it will be for others to find you.

Currently Google+ is broken down into three sections:

Circles:  Circles help you organize all of the people you associate with into groups.  Once a person is in a 
circle, you can easily control the amount of information they have access to.  So you can safely share, or not share, information much easier than you can with other “social network” programs.  

Adding someone to one of your circles is easy.  To add someone to one of your circles you can either enter in the person’s email address or click on “Follow” button located on their profile.  

Unlike other products their is no weird “friend request” process.  Since privacy is so intertwined into the system it isn’t needed, anyone can follow anyone.  The only catch is your only see what that person allows you to see.    

Here’s some examples of how it works:  
Example 1) Baby is finally born and I want to tell my relatives.  I simply write my announcement, attach a photo or video (if I choose), and send the message to the circle I created for my family members.  The message will then only be visible to those people.  Now here’s the best part!  The family members that don’t use Google+ will be emailed what ever information I posted.  So now their will be no need to post information for my “social” savvy family members and then I separate email to your other family members.  

Example 2)  Let’s say I’m thinking about seeing the new Transformers movie but want to make sure it is good first.  I would simply type up my question and post it without designating it to a particular circle.  This will send the question to every person I am following and every person who is following me.  Since anyone can follow anyone it is quite possible that a stranger could provide me with a helpful review.  This type of communication is way beyond what you can do with other networking sites.       
How Google Describes Circles:  “Google+ Circles helps you organize everyone according to your real-life social connections--say, 'family,' 'work friends,' 'music buddies,' and 'alumni'. Then, you can share relevant content with the right people, and follow content posted by people you find interesting. For example, you might post an announcement about your engagement and show it only to people in your friends and family circles, or maybe you see a post from the circle you created for your book club that there's a recent article on your favorite author.
You can also decide to customize your personal profile information for your circles. For example, your contact details, location, and relationship information would be visible to your friends circle, while your employment history and education would be visible to your alumni association circle.”
Hangouts:  Hangouts allow you to have video, voice and text chat with a person, group of specific people, a circle, multiple circles, etc all at the same time.  This is like Skype on steroids!  This makes it very easy to collaborate on a work project or catch up with your family.
How Google Describes Hangouts:“Hangouts are the best way for you to say, “I’m online and want to hangout!” Hangouts lets you:
  • Chill with friends that are scrolling through the web, just like you! 
  • Use live video chat that puts you in the same room together!
  • Coordinate plans, whether it's working on a project or meeting up for coffee.
  • Maybe you’re bored. Start a hangout, invite your circles, see who’s around!”
Sparks:  Sparks allows you to receive a stream of information about various topics that interest you.  For example, if you are interested in exercise you could add a Spark for it and you would get provided with recent relevant content.  That information can then be easily shared, along with your comments, to others.
How Google Describes Sparks:
“When you first arrive in Sparks, you'll see a collection of featured interests. If nothing strikes your fancy, search for a different interest. 
Let's say you're learning to juggle. You can search for 'juggling,' then add it as an interest so you can always be kept up to date on the world of object manipulation. And if you get tired of people calling you a clown all the time, you can remove this interest.”
My overall thoughts:
As a fan of Google, I’m really excited that they not only created this service but did it so well.  For months, insiders have been writing articles that Google was trying to develop a Facebook killer.  (Something they still deny.)  When I first started fooling around with Google+ I was impressed with how easy it was to use and how clean it looked (no advertisements!). But at the same time I wondered why someone would need the product since almost everyone was already uses Facebook and/or Twitter.  But after fooling around for just a short time I began to realize why this was so much better.  It combined the best of both Facebook and Twitter, while at the same time feeling fresh and new. Google+ is the next phase of social networking! Here’s the main reasons why it is better:
  • Privacy is easy and straight forward!
  • No asking (or being asked) to be friends with someone you barely know.
  • Can share information with people you don’t even use the program.
  • Can be social with people you don’t know in a non-weird way.
I don’t know if this is a Facebook killer (yet) but it is definitely a game changer.  Way to go Google you did a great job!

To learn more go to:

If you want a Google+ invite 
send me a message!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is it worth changing your energy supplier?

Thanks to New Jersey’s energy deregulation law, individuals and businesses have the right to choose their electric and natural gas supplier. Customers can now purchase from the lowest priced or any company that best meets their needs as opposed to whatever company serves the local community. 
"Life is a sum of all your choices." ~ Albert Campus
Electric and natural gas suppliers are different than distribution utility companies. The distribution company is who you currently receive your bill from. They own the pipes and wires that bring the power to you.  However, if you look at your current bill you will see two charges. One is for the distribution company and the other is for the energy supplier. You can change the supplier but not the distributor.  In most cases, if you change providers your bill will still appear to be the same and be paid in the same manner.  Think of this as going to Shop Rite and buying Pepsi instead of Coke.  The receipt is still from Shop Rite no matter what brand you purchase.
"You have chosen wisely." ~ Grail Knight
To determine if you can find a lower rate than you are currently paying, click on your current energy provider to find out which alternative electric suppliers serve your area.

Atlantic City Electric
Orangel Rockland Electric

Elizabethtown Gas
New Jersey Natural Gas
South Jersey Gas

The website can also help you make your decision.  The site compares available rates and offers in your area.
"A man who does not think for himself does not think at all." ~ Oscar Wilde
Before changing providers, you should definitely do some homework and research all available options before making a selection. That will help assure the deal you choose is actually as good as it looks.  Here are some important answers you should have answered before signing on the dotted line:
  • Is the rate guaranteed? Suppliers typically offer three types of pricing options: fixed, floating, hybrid.  Fixed rates guarantee a certain rate no matter the market price.  Floating rates are adjusted periodically to coincide with the market price.  Hybrid rates offer a combination of both fixed and floating.  Typically, the fixed rate will apply a percentage of the bill and the rest will be subject to a floating rate.   
  • What is the length of the contract?  What seems like a good move now might not be 6 months from now.  
  • Are there any additional costs?  Some of the offers may seem very low.  That may be because their published cost does not include New Jersey sales tax or other fees.  Some plans will also charge an additional fee if your monthly usage is significantly above or below your normal usage.
  • Other products or services?  Some companies provide better customer service than others.  While the gas or electricity will still be delivered through the same wires and pipes, some companies offer additional services such as energy audits or consulting services.  
I looked into this because a gentleman came to my home yesterday and tried to aggressively sell us on the idea of switching providers.  While the idea of saving some money sounded good... the guy was way too unprofessional. (He had no company van, no business card, or any information he could leave behind!) That was one offer we had to let pass.  But the overall idea sounded good so I did the research above.  
"As long as one keeps searching, the answers come." ~ Joan Baez
Since my current home is not a huge energy hog, the potential savings would be barely greater than the cancellation fee if the rate choice ended up not working in my favor.  Predicting energy rates is not a game I want to play.  However, if you are a large energy consumer you may want to do some research and make a switch.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Breech baby... version attempt...

At my wife’s last few prenatal checkups the baby has been in a breech position.  With the due date fast approaching we were running out of time for the baby to flip down on her own.  
"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." ~ Maria Robinson
Since my wife is a real trooper, she tried just about everything to get the baby to flip.  She tried laying on an incline (head down), putting cold peas on the top of her belly, placing a flashlight at the bottom of her belly, etc.  She even put on her bikini and did somersaults in the pool!  
"Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try." ~ Unknown
Since none of the tricks worked, she had to schedule a cephalic version.  A version is a procedure where a doctor attempts to manually move the baby into the correct position.  (This is done from the outside of the body.  In case you are wondering.  I had more than one person ask.)  
"The fox has many tricks.  The hedgehog has but one.  But that is the best of all." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Since the version puts pressure on both the mom and baby, it does involve some risk.  Before, during, and after the procedure, the baby’s health is closely monitored.  If baby encounters too much stress, or the amniotic sac breaks, an emergency cesarean delivery (C-section) is performed.  In addition to the risks, the process can be very uncomfortable, even painful,  for the mom.
"Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing." ~ Warren Buffet
We get to our appointment... after what felt like forever, the doctor is finally ready to perform the procedure.  
"I got no patience and I hate waiting." ~ Jay Z
Thoughts in my head:  (1) Is this going to cause the baby to be born right now? (2) How much pain is this going to cause?  (3) I hope this works!
"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think." ~ Buddha
After just a few seconds into the procedure the doctor states that the baby moved and is now in the correct position.  It was the easiest baby move any of the hospital staff had experienced.  No pain for the mom... no stress on the baby.  Great success!
"Celebrate we will because life is short but sweet for certain." ~ Dave Mathews Band
Now we just have to hope she stays in the right position and wait for her to make entrance!

Check out a video of a version (not my wife):

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tough Mudder

When it come to staying fit I like to have a goal to keep me motivated. In 2009, my goal was the McGuire Mud Run.  In 2010, it was the NYC Marathon. My goal for 2011 is the one and only Tri-State Tough Mudder.

What is the Tough Mudder?
Billed as “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet” is a 12 mile obstacle course based off a design created by British Special Forces to test the all-around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie of its participants. This not a race where you hope for a certain time or to win a medal. It is an event you simply try to finish. On average, only 78% of participants finish!

What Makes it so tough?
Each obstacle along the course is designed to test your will in a different way. Here’s some of the obstacles I’ll have to face along the way:
  • Ball Shrinker: A rickety swinging rope bridge over water.  (Did I mention that I’ll be doing this in November?  This water is going to be cold!)
  • Walk the Plank: Jump off a 15 foot high platform into a fish filled lake, then swim to the other side.

  • Underwater Tunnels: Bob up and down to pass a series of underwater tunnels.
  • Spider Web: Have to climb up and over two large cargo nets.
  • Mud Mile: Sludge my way through a long stretch of waist high muddy water.
  • Cliffhanger: Climb up a series of muddy hills.

  • Berlin Walls: Work with other Mudders to get over a series of 12 foot high walls.
  • Boa Constrictor: Crawl through tunnels.
  • Rubber Necking: Pick up a car tire and carry it around a race track.
  • Tired Yet?: High-step through a field of tires.
  • Kiss of Mud: Belly crawl under rows of barbed wire only 8 inches above the ground!

  • Fire Walker: Run down a path lined on both sides with blazing kerosene soaked straw.  The 4 foot high flames will be both hot and smokey.
  • Devil’s Beard: A long cargo net that you have to hold up as you walk underneath. 
  • The Log Bog Jog: A swampy area broken up with a series of fallen trees that you have to go over or under.
  • Funky Monkey: A pitched monkey bars set that goes over the cold lake water.  To keep it fun - some of the bars will be greased!

  • Twinkle Toes: A balance bean, once again across the lake.
  • Electroshock Therapy: Basically you run through a bunch of dangling wires.  Some of the wire are dead - others carry a 10,000 volt shock!

  • Plus three “mystery” obstacles and a finishing sprint finish!
If you are wondering... Yes, I think think this is all a little bit crazy but that is the point!  Well... at least it is for a good cause!  Tough Mudder has raised over 1 million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project!  (Click here to help injured service men and their families!)

Well... I have almost 5 months to get physically and mentally prepared.  How exactly I’m going to get ready, I’m not sure yet, but I’m sure that will be fun too!

Wish me luck... 
it's time to get my crazy on!

(If this sounds like your cup of tea... check out to find a local event!)

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Netflix Movie Review: The King's Speech

"The King's Speech" is one of the most pleasurable movies to come along in years. The pleasure starts with two magnificent performances: Colin Firth as King George VI, afflicted by a terrible stutter, and Geoffrey Rush as an unorthodox Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue. And the depth of feeling in Tom Hooper's film is matched by the breadth of its appeal. Here's a period piece with irresistible immediacy, a brilliant pairing of a monarch who's heroic by virtue of his personal struggle, and an uncommon commoner who helps him find his authentic voice." ~ Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal  

General Movie Info:
Genre: Drama
Plot: Based on the true story of King George VI's struggle with a debilitating speech impediment.  He attempts to overcome his lifelong condition in order to deliver an important radio-address to his countrymen.
Rated: R

My thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed The King's Speech.  The movie was very well made and the acting was deserving of all the Oscar attention it received.  This period piece is uplifting and gets you rooting for the main character to succeed.  It is definitely worth putting on your Netflix queue.  With all of attention William and Kate's royal wedding recently received, I found it interesting to watch a movie based on the royal family.  The movie has scenes that portray Queen Elizabeth as a little girl.  

Check out the official trailer:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Men’s Health Month: Get Fit and Stay Active

In honor of Men’s Health Month, I took some time to scour the Internet to determine the best way  to get fit and promote healthiness.  I reviewed several sites, read their information and began to write a post of my findings.  Quickly I realized that I was writing just another dumbed down, eat right and exercise post.  Since I’m pretty sure everyone has already heard that before, I decided to keep researching to find something a little more substantial to share.
"Health is the vital principle of bliss, and exercise, of health." ~ James Thomson
So I clicked on few more links and dug a little deeper.  Quickly I began to find a few interesting tidbits of information.  Unfortunately, the articles quickly began to contradict each other.  One site’s must-do thing was the next site’s thing to avoid.  These contradictions may be why we have so many out of shape obese people walking around!        
"If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all." ~ Joey Adams
After all the reading, here’s what I've concluded...
"The greatest gift we have is the gift of life.  We understand that.  That comes from our Creator.  We're given a body.  Now you may or not like it, but you can maximize that body the best it can be maximized." ~ Mike Ditka
It is very difficult to define “fit”.  It is like defining wealthy.  Is someone wealthy simply because they have more money than someone else or is wealth determined by the overall value of someone's life?
"Happiness lies first of all in health." ~ George William Curtis
There are two types of fitness: performance-related and health-related fitness.  Performance-related fitness is directly related to one's athletic ability.  This may include how fast someone can run a race or how high they can jump.  Health-related fitness, on the other hand, is related to the ability to perform activities that improve your health by lowering risks of health complications such as back pain, high blood pressure or diabetes.  This relates to a person's aerobic ability, flexibility, muscular strength, and overall body composition.            
"Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.  The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we.  Set small goals and build upon them." ~ Lee Haney
Performance-related fitness is nice, but health-related fitness is what’s more important.  Just because you can run a marathon doesn't mean that you will live forever in perfect health.  I think where many people stumble in their paths to getting fit is the fear that they will look foolish or silly. They avoid doing any health-related fitness activities because they don’t have stellar performance-fitness. So instead of doing something simple and improving steadily over time, they either do nothing or search for a miracle pill. By doing simple exercises you will not only get healthier, but you will - over time - improve your performance ability. It's a win-win. (The Single Best Exercise is...)      
"Exercise is done against one's wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse." ~ George A. Sheehan
The only way to live a healthy life is to have healthy habits.  While my research didn't uncover anything ground breaking, it did make it clear to me that being active is an important component to getting or staying healthy.  If you need to, start small... become a local mall walker, walk your dog, do morning stretches, etc.  Over time you will see improvement and can try more ambitious activities.  Who knows, maybe you will join a team or sign-up for a race?   
"Just do it." ~ Nike