An Open Letter on Veteran’s Day

Initially, I want to make clear that this letter is meant for everyone. In this political time, everything becomes Republican versus Democrat, and the underlying messages get lost in “us versus them.” I don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. When I was a child, I was taught that whom you voted for was a private matter. This letter isn’t aimed at one political party, and it isn’t meant to tell you what to do. This letter is meant to make you think.

Recently, some were outraged by the so-called “war” on Christmas by Starbucks because they changed their holiday cup design. By trivializing the term “war,” the term loses its real meaning and minimizes the hardship suffered by those who have actually been involved in a war. Let me remind you of what the word “war” means. War means sacrifice – real sacrifice, not whether or not a business chooses to honor one religion’s winter celebration on a piece of paper that will just get thrown away. War means that soldiers answered the call. It means that some of those soldiers were forever maimed and scarred, and some paid the ultimate price. Has anyone died or been physically injured over the design of the Starbucks cup? No.

If you ask those who lived during World War II what it was like to live in the United States during that period, they will tell you about sacrifice. The same can be said of those immigrants who come to the United States from war-torn countries hoping for a better life. They all know the horrors of war and what it’s like to be at war. Know that when you over-use the term “war” to mean a difference of opinion, you diminish the meaning of the word “war.”

The world is a dangerous place, filled with those who would do us harm. This country currently is engaged in a real war thousands of miles away from your local Starbucks. Every day, soldiers are put in harm’s way so that we may continue to enjoy that cup of Starbucks at home. They are fighting this war because they took an oath to serve, protect and defend. Soldiers, veterans, and their families have all made, and will continue to make sacrifices for the rest of us. Some soldiers and veterans have visible scars, while others have returned home facing unimaginable scars that are not visible to the naked eye. They come home and try to adjust to living back home after witnessing so many atrocities, but they will never be the same people. They and their families have paid a price. Those are the real costs of war.

Today, I ask you to thank those who have served, remember what they fought for, and be aware that it minimizes their sacrifice to make everything a “war.” What those soldiers fought for are a love of country that we share and the rights protected by the Constitution. One of those valuable rights is the First Amendment right to express an opinion, and to disagree with those expressing different opinions. That precious right is not lessened by calling it what it is: a dialog, a discussion, an argument; it does not need to be elevated to a war to be meaningful. I ask you to recognize our First Amendment rights for what they are, and leave the horrors of war to real war.

Finally, I urge you to T.H.I.N.K. before speaking or posting something online.
T: Is it True?
H: Is it Helpful?
I: Is it Inspiring?
N: Is it Necessary?
K: Is it Kind?

Thank you for reading.

Disney’s No Selfie Stick Ban

selfiestickPlanning  a trip to any Disney park (California, Orlando, Paris, Hong Kong) this summer? Did you buy a  “selfie stick”(a popular extendable rod that attach to cellphones and cameras to allow users to take photos of themselves from a distance of about 3 feet) ? You might want to leave that selfie stick at home. Beginning Tuesday, Disney parks are banning the use of selfie sticks.

Disney goers must go through a bag check as they enter any Disney park. Those attempting to bring a selfie stick inside will be given a choice  of turning it in and picking it up later, or returning it to a car or hotel room.

Why has the happiest place on Earth ban the use of selfie sticks? It isn’t because they do not want you to take photos or only take photos in certain spots. It is because certain park goers decided it would be a good idea to use the selfie sticks while on rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Californa Screamin’. Recently the Disney’s California Adventure had to shut down the California Screamin’  high-speed roller coaster after a passenger pulled out a selfie stick mid ride. A very big safety risk to both the guests and Disney staff. It may seem like an overreaction but better to overreact than have someone impaled by a stick in the middle of a ride.

5 Essential Travel Apps

Traveling is meant to be fun. Unfortunately, stress takes the fun out of traveling. Here are five apps that help you make the most out of your travel.

1.    Tripit is your personal travel assistant. Once you book your airline ticket, hotel, car rental or even restaurant reservations online forward the confirmation email to plans@tripit.com. In a matter of seconds, Tripit creates your travel itinerary including maps, so all of your travel information is easily accessible in one place. The Pro version alerts you to possible ticket refunds for price drops, travel delays, and many other features. Available for Android and iOS smartphones. For more information visit: www.tripit.com. Standard version: Free. Pro version: 49.95 per year.

2.  Waze, a community-based free mapping and directions application helps you get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time. The mapping app avoids heavy traffic in real time with the help of other Waze users who report traffic, accidents, construction and police traps. Available for Android and iOS smartphones.

3.  Hopper assists travelers select the lowest airfare available from your home airport to any destination. Travelers with flexible dates can use Hopper’s color-coded calendar to spot the cheapest dates to fly. Not sure if you are ready to purchase your ticket? The Hopper includes a “Watch a Flight,” feature that sends a push notification when the price of a given route has reached its lowest price point.  Available for iOS. An Android version of the app is coming soon.

4. PackPoint produces the perfect packing list for any trip based on the number of days, activities and other factors.  The app creates an individualized packing list based on your answers to questions regarding your trip such as do you plan to hike or run? Is this trip for business?  PackPoint even looks up the weather so that users won’t forget a jacket or an umbrella.  For more information visit: www.packpnt.com. Standard version: Free. Pro version: $1.99.

5.  Postagram: You have taken that perfect selfie in front of the Seattle Space Needle. You want to send it as a physical postcard to your friends and family who still check their mailboxes for something other than junk mail. Upload your favorite vacation photo to Postagram, type in a greeting, and Postagram will print out the card and send it through snail mail for 99 cents in the U.S. and $1.99 worldwide.

Travel Tip: The Hotel Remote Control

Most travelers never give the remote control in their hotel room a second thought. We turn on the TV without giving it a second thought. After all, how harmful can a remote control be to our health? Studies have shown that the remote control is one of the top three dirtiest things in our hotel rooms that can lead to illness. Here are five ways to combat the germs.

1. Bring an extra ziplock bag. Place the remote control in the zip lock bag. The remote will still work, and the plastic bag will protect you from whatever germs are on the remote control. Most hotels have a recycling bin. At the end of your stay, recycle it in the bin.

2. Bring Clorox disinfectant wipes. The disinfectant wipes will work on your remote control and any other surfaces you want to keep clean. Be sure to clean the light switches by the bed.

3. Use the STAYConnect Mobile App by Lodgenet. Most major chain hotels use the Lodgenet entertainment system for their TVs. Download the STAYConnect Mobile app, find the code on the TV’s main menu. Your smartphone is now your hotel remote control.

4. Bring your device. You already travel with a smartphone and a tablet. Add a Chromecast, Amazon FireTV stick or Roku device so you can watch Netflix, Hulu and others. They are compact and easy to set up.

5. You are on vacation. Don’t watch TV, decompress, read a book, get out and explore.

Mophie Powerstation Pro Charger vs. MyCharge All Terrain Charger

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the United States. For many of us that means being outdoors hiking, camping, going to the beach, lake or river. Of course, we want to bring our smartphones and tablets along to capture all of the fun and memories. We have protected our electronics against the elements with our favorite Otterbox or Lifeproof cases. However, most have not thought about having a rugged portable charger for those quick charge situations.

 

Mophie Powerstation Pro Charger MSRP $99.95

The Mophie Powerstation Pro has an aluminum exterior with a rubberized frame to protect against impact, water, and dust with an IP rating of IP-65. The 6000 mAh internal battery at 2.1 amps provides two complete charges to an iPhone 6 Plus or provide a charge to a tablet. The Powerstation Pro weighs in just short of 13 ounces. The micro USB used to charge the Powerstation Pro and the full sized USB are protected by a rubber seal that can be difficult to open. However, this is needed to keep the seal intact.

Pros:

Large battery capacity perfect for charging multiple devices or 1 device multiple times. The Powerstation Pro is perfect for a weekend hiking or camping trip where you will not be able to find an electrical outlet for a day or two.

Cons:

The Powerstation Pro cannot withstand being submerged in water. Activities like kayaking or other watersports that have the possibility of submerging the battery pack in water are not advised. The rubber seals used to access the USB connectors are difficult to open.

 

MyCharge All Terrain Portable Charger MSRP $39.99

The MyCharge All Terrain Portable charger has a ruggedized rubber exterior with an IP rating of IP-68. The 3000 mAh internal battery at 2.1 amps provides one complete charge of an iPhone 6 Plus and weighs in at 3.5 ounces. The micro USB used to charge the battery pack and full sized USB are protected by a single flip-top rubber seal that opens easily.

Pros:

The IP-68 rating makes the MyCharge All Terrain charger a perfect choice for situations where water submersion is likely. It is light-weight and can easily fit in your pocket.

Cons:

The My Charge All Terrain only provides a single full charge to a smartphone and will not provide a full charge to a tablet.

Bottom line:

Both Chargers are great choices depending on what you plan to do. The Mophie Powerstation Pro is great for charging multiple devices or the same device a couple of times. The MyCharge All Terrain is perfect for those day trips and situations where the battery pack could be submerged in water. Either way you cannot go wrong.

What is IPX or IP Rating?!

Recently I was at a technology press event in San Francisco filled with consumer electronics, speakers, headphones, activity monitors, smart watches and so forth. I was interested in a few products a particular company had displayed and asked the representative if they knew what the IPX rating was on the product. They responded they did not know what IPX rating was. The comment is not an uncommon one. After all the acronym “IP” could stand for Intellectual Property or Internet Protocol. The average consumer probably does not know what IPX is, or what it stands for, but they should. The primary reason you should know what IPX ratings are is because terms like “Water-Resistant” and “Waterproof” are marketing terms that do not have any standards.

IP is an acronym, and depending on whom you ask it can stand for either International Protection Rating, Immersion Protection or Ingress Protection. These standards defined in the international standard IEC 60529 classifies the degree of protection a product has over solids and liquids. For example, a cell phone case could have an IP rating of IP68. The first number 6 refers to the solid protection, in this particular case, level 6 which is dust tight. The second digit is the products protection rating from liquids. In this example, level 8 means it can be the product can be continuously immersed in water beyond one meter.
In some cases, manufacturers will use an X instead of a number such as IPX9. Consumers may assume that the X mean that the product is not protected. In fact that is not the case, it simply means the product tested for liquids and not solids because the liquid test offers a higher level of protection.

If you are interested in the complete IP codes, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code

Garmin Goes Strapless!

Forerunner225
Garmin Forerunner225

Garmin has finally given users something they have been asking for heart rate without using a heart rate strap. On Tuesday, Garmin introduced the Garmin Forerunner 225 with an optical heart-rate sensor like that used by FitBit Charge HR, Microsoft Health Band, and the Apple Watch. The Forerunner 225 can measure pace, distance and heart rate while running, along with tracking steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and your sleep at night.

The Forerunner 225 will be available for $300 in the US in second quarter of this year.

Taste Test: Flatout Light Italian Herb Flatbread

FlatBread Italian HerbThere has been a lot of flatbreads hitting the supermarket shelves recently. Styles and flavors have varied from Pita pockets to Naan and wraps to bread thins. I started to taste test over 100 different flatbreads as part of a round up to see which ones tasted the best. In the Flatbread category, I found the Flatout Flatbreads to have the best flavor and versatility. The Light Italian Herb flatbread with only 90 Calories was moist, tasted fresh and is made with 100% whole wheat. They have been certified Kosher. In my tests, I baked it as a pizza, used it in a buffalo chicken wrap and in a Tuna melt. Available at most major supermarkets. http://www.flatoutbread.com

Top 10 Reasons to run the Rock n Roll Portland Half Marathon

BottleOpener-Vid210. Extra Bling: It’s part of the Cascadia Limited Edition Medal Series. Complete the 8K, 10K, half or full marathon distance at the following three events in 2015: Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland, Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle and Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver and it’s all yours.

Rock n Roll Marathon Series Cascadia Limited Edition Cascadia Medal9. A new course. Rock n Roll Marathon Series delivers a new course this year that promises to maximize scenery and minimizing congestion and traffic issues.

8. Did someone say doughnuts? Voodoo Donuts has become synonymous with Portland. However, if you are looking for some amazing donuts and pastries that are true local favorites without the insane line check out Helen Bernhard Bakery, Coco Donuts, or Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream.

7. A Chinese Connection: The Lan Su Chinese Garden, in the middle of downtown Portland, shows its connection to its sister city in China. Portland’s official sister city in China is a city named Suzhou, near Shanghai. In 1999, 65 workmen came to Portland to build a 40,000-sq.-ft. Suzhou-style garden. They imported huge pieces of wood and enormous rocks from the homeland to make sure it turned out as authentic as their homeland. The garden is a tranquil break in the middle of the city. To complete the visit, there’s a teahouse where you can savor some traditional tea.

6. Natural Beauty: On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, the 11,249-foot (3429m) volcano is approximately 50 miles (80km) east of the city. The snow-capped summit is crystal clear and will leave you in awe. Curious why Portland is nicknamed “The City of Roses”? Visit the International Rose Test Garden to get your answer.

5. Food Carts. Savor some of Portland’s most inventive chefs clustered in pods in downtown. Portland is second to none when it comes to food carts. Ranging from old vacation trailers to sheds where you’d store your lawnmower there is something for everyone. A few favorites: the garlicky porchetta sandwiches at Lardo, Belgian fries at Potato Champion, and Mexican at La Jarochita.

4. Liquid Bread. AKA BEER! There are close to 60 local craft breweries in the Portland area. Be sure to try Amnesia Brewery, The Commons Brewery, Cascade Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery, or Rogue Ales.

3.  Post-race headliner: Portugal. The Man. The Portland band will perform its chart topping hit “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.”

2. Multi-tasker Medals: Your half marathon or 10k medal doubles as a bottle opener just in case you need to open a Rogue Ale. (see above)

1. Shopping Spree. Oregon has no general sales tax, you may want to bring an extra suitcase or buy one in Portland.

Top 10 Reasons to run the Country Music Marathon

SouthernCharm_800x800

10.  It is part of the Southern Charm series from the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. In order to receive the extra medal, you must complete three out of four Rock n Roll Southern USA events (New Orleans, Raleigh, Nashville, and/or Savannah) in 2015.

9. Live music on Broadway. Regardless of the time of day you can find live music playing in one of the bars on Broadway. Be sure to check out Legends corner and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge are a steps away from the Ryman Auditorium.

8. A Healthy habit: Forget those Netflix marathons on the couch. Running/walking a marathon or half marathon will put you in a great mood, keep you healthy, and help you earn those calories after the run.

7.  The Music on the course: The Country Music Marathon is the original half marathon and full marathon dedicated to country music since its inaugural running in 2000.

6. Celebrity sightings: The Country Music Marathon has had its fair share of celebrities including New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Sheryl Crow, members of the country music band Diamond Rio, Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams and GAC host Suzanne Alexander.

5. The post-race food and drink. Nashville will not disappoint you when it comes to letting your inner-foodie come out. You can find Nashville’s authentic flavors in many areas of town such as Downtown, East Nashville, and Germantown, The Gulch, Midtown and 12South. Each neighborhood has its own personality but somehow is still down-home Nashville. Some favorites include Pancake Pantry, Mike’s Ice Cream, Hattie B’s, Holland House and the iconic Loveless Café.

4.  The support: The South is known for its southern hospitality and the people of Nashville deliver some of the best crowd support anywhere in the world, making sure you get to the finish.

3. The city of Nashville provides a beautiful backdrop for this race. The course runs through downtown Nashville, along the riverfront and the surrounding neighborhoods providing runners with amazing views and some challenging hills.

2. Run for something greater than yourself. Become a St. Jude Hero. These amazing runners and walkers do more with their race by raising funds for the patients and families of St. Jude. They help St. Jude make sure that no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing and food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. (http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?pg=entry&fr_id=23820 )

1. The headliner Martina McBride. She has received numerous major music awards, including most wins (tied with Reba McEntire and Miranda Lambert) for the Country Music Association Award (CMA) for Female Vocalist of the Year, with her fourth win in 2004. She holds the record in that category for most consecutive nominations. She has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards with hits like Independence Day, I love you, Concrete Angel and I’m gonna love you through it. This concert will rock!