Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don’t mess with Texas

Photo of Texas State Flag by Ray Bodden
The proverbial showdown at the OK Corral is about to go down in Texas. TSA and their invasive pat-down policy is about to be challenged per Texas House Bill 1937. On the defensive, John E. Murphy, United States Attorney has threatened to possibly shut down all flights from Texas. 

This is going to be interesting.

Texas State Representative David Simpson has posted the following on his website: “In a brazen show of disregard for the dignity and the constitutional rights of American citizens, the Department of Justice (DOJ) threatened on Tuesday to cancel flights from Texas airports if the Texas Legislature enacts HB 1937 into law.”
This house bill is co-sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat and has passed unanimously on the House floor and in the relevant Senate committee. It is now scheduled for a Senate floor vote.

His website goes on to say “Either Texas backs off and continues to let government employees fondle innocent women, children and men as a condition of travel, or the TSA will cancel Texas flights.  The Federal Government showed its willingness to bully the State of Texas if attempts to protect passengers from being forced to give up constitutional rights are not dropped.”

"Instead of threatening to shut down flights in Texas, why doesn’t the TSA just show us their statutory authority to grope or ogle our private parts?" asked Simpson.

"All that HB 1937 does is require that the TSA abide by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution," Simpson continued.  "We aren’t even prohibiting the pat-downs, per se.  We’re just saying you can’t go straight to third base.  You have to have a reason-you have to have probable cause-before groping someone’s sexual organs."

The TSA tried to defend their position on their blog saying that only 898 people have complained out of 252 million people screened between November 2010 and March 2011.  It doesn’t seem like it’s working because they already have 936 comments (and counting) – most of them very “anti” TSA. Here are just a few:
·         If you're gonna plead the Supremacy Clause, then you have to abide by the enumerated powers. And you're not gonna wanna go there, cuz that would mean no federal role in aviation at all.
·         These are unreasonable searches and seizures and thank God for Texas. The TSA has never caught or stopped a ter'rist with these screenings.
·         It is no wonder the TSA has the distinction of being the most hated and despised agency in the United States with the IRS now in second.
·         Your propoganda is misleading... Just because people do not file complaints, it does not mean they are not there. I know a large number of people who refuse to fly at all because of your "screenings".

Place your bets. All eyes are on the OK corral and most are wishing Texas wins one for the rest of us.

More articles on TSA and their policies by Doug Bardwell:

Microsoft Excel Functions and Formulas – a book review

As vacation time approaches, the normal thing to do is to plan the vacation budget. Ever since Lotus 1-2-3 bit the dust, Microsoft Excel is the de-facto program you’ll probably use. But, similar to Photoshop, Excel is one of those programs where you probably only use 10% of its computing capabilities.

Microsoft Excel Functions and Formulas was written for those of you who know the basics, but have never scratched the surface of what else could be done. In a very direct manner, it gives hundreds of scenarios and how to craft an Excel formula to solve it.

This isn’t a beginner’s book on how to use Excel, although a beginner could probably benefit from it. It rather gives you step-by-step solutions to solve a range of problems such as:
  • ·         Converting dollars to euros
  • ·         Converting miles per hour to KM per hour
  • ·         Converting fahrenheit to celcius
  • ·         Using the INDIRECT function to play “Battleship”
  • ·         Using conditional formatting to create your vacation gantt chart
  • ·         Creating your own calendar or to do list
  • ·         Using the WEEKNUM and MOD functions to shade bi-weekly paydays on the calendar

The book also comes with a CD-ROM. Each chapter in the book appears on the CD so you can use the calculations without having to rekey them all yourselves.

My only regret was that there were no examples given or even touched on concerning pivot tables.

Microsoft Excel Functions and Formulas is one of those books you can pick up and become productive with immediately. No need to read the entire book, but you can refer to a problem and learn its solution right away. 

Look for it on Amazon.com.

Small but tough Union Kit Messenger bag – product review

In the past, if you wanted a small bag for your compact DSLR, lots of folk used large fanny packs without adequate padding or storage compartments. Acme Made obviously saw the need and recently introduced the Union Kit Messenger bag (and its bigger cousin – Ultra-Zoom.)

Don’t let the “messenger” bag part fool you. This is not one of those huge over the shoulder bags, but rather a compact bag, made in the messenger bag style – large front flap and a strap that can be worn over the shoulder or across the torso. The strap can also be shortened and then the bag can be worn as a fanny-pack. Very versatile.

The bag could last forever, being made of what they call “bombshell technical fabric.” The bag is waterproof, abrasion resistant and comes with a durable nylon mesh core for long life. The nice, soft and smooth exterior skin won’t snag or fray your clothes.

This is not a bag for standard DSLR owners – it won’t fit your big Nikon or Canon cameras. This is aimed at the compact DSLR market only, as well as the new micro four-thirds market. For those owners, this bag is ideal. With a main compartment divider, an accessory storage pouch, as well as an exterior zippered area, you can carry extra memory cards, batteries and filters.

The Union Kit Messenger is available now for $44.99 on the Acme Made website. As camera bags go, that’s a great price for a bag this durable.
Enhanced by Zemanta

SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I Card – product review

This Memorial Day, in Cleveland and across the nation, there were countless photo opportunities with all the parades, rib burn-offs and countless neighborhood get-togethers. When there’s that much happening, a large storage photo media card is definitely in order. You don’t want to run out of photo storage space when the action’s still happening.

SanDisk makes sure you can keep shooting with their large capacity, Extreme Pro line of SDHC cards in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB sizes. With up to 45MB/s read/write speeds (300X) you’ll get better shot-to-shot performance than with just about any other card you are probably using presently. I was amazed at the increase in number of shots I could shoot in succession before the buffer slowed me down.

If you are shooting HD video with your DSLR, you know how fast your file sizes can build up. With the extremely quick write speed of this card, you’ll be able to shoot longer segments without those dreaded dropped frames.

If you are shooting both RAW and JPEG simultaneously, you’ll notice a definite increase in the number of shots you can take before your buffer fills. When you are shooting action sports, that can often be the difference in catching that peak action shot.

In addition to speed, the SanDisk Extreme Pro packs a lot of other benefits being:
• Water proof
• Temperature proof
• Shock proof
• X-ray proof

Purchasers of their Extreme line of cards also qualify for a free one-year subscription to RescuePRO recovery software.

You can order direct from the manufacturer online at http://sandisk.com or just about any reputable camera store across the country.

Watch their video here.

Briggs & Reilly BRX Excursion Field Bag - product review

Briggs & Reilly know bags. They’ve been making them for 17 years and they offer one of the best guarantees going; the Simple as that® lifetime performance guarantee, a guarantee that even covers damage caused by an airline. Now that’s my kind of manujavascript:void(0)facture.

Their BRX collection expands this year with the addition of a new field bag and a larger messenger bag. I’ve been using the Excursion Field Bag for a couple weeks already and I’m a fan of the layout and usability of this bag.

First, the exterior is treated for water resistance and is made of scratch resistant fabric. The bags are available in three color choices: amber, ocean and slate ( that’s deep tan, greyish-blue and grey.)
Inside, the back of the bag is designed to protect your iPad, tablet or netbook. A well designed tab lifts your device into the palm of your hand. No more reaching down in the bag trying to get a grip.

In front of that slot, there is room for a full size 8-1/2x11 padfolio or even a ½” diameter ring binder. Something as small as a reporter’s or stenographer’s notebook would slide in like butter. Just in front of this area is a deep zippered pocket for computer charger, cords, WiFi access point, hard drives, or whatever else.

In the outside access pocket, you’ll find a padded pocket for phone or camera as well as pen/pencil loops and a business card slot, big enough to carry a week’s supply.

On the outside flap, there is one more zippered pocket, useful if you don’t want to open the whole bag. This zipper is water-resistant as well, so no more soaking wet plane boarding passes. The flap is held in place with two quick release clips. The strap is long enough for the tallest traveler but adjusts down to accommodate anyone shorter as well.

The only thing I would have liked to see in addition to what this great bag already has would be a water bottle pouch on the side of the bag. Lacking that, a carabineer does the job just fine in its place.

The BRX Excursion Field Bag will be available this spring  online or via their store locator.

Monday, May 30, 2011

One plus one equals one…with Handle “it”

Not only does 1 + 1 = 1; but 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.

Too much math already? Let me explain. 

Handle “it” is a set of straps and a handle, meant to bundle multiple items into “one” easy-to-carry package. The handle has multiple slots to receive the two straps included, securing your boxes, parcels, or whatever, into one easy to carry parcel.

Consider this scenario: you have four relatively flat, but wide boxes that you need to take with you on a plane trip. If you walk up to the airline ticket counter with four separate boxes to check in, you are going to pay a whopping excess baggage charge. Usually your first piece of checked luggage is $25, your second is $35 and each additional is $50 or more. In this case, you will have a baggage charge of $160 to carry those four boxes with you.

Now let’s consider the alternative: before arriving at the airport, you open your handy grey carrying case which contains the Handle “it” handle and two straps. Wrapping one strap around widthwise and one strap lengthwise, each strap then passes through the handle’s slots before cinching down tight. You now have “one” box to check, and that only costs $25.

Not only did you save $135 in baggage fees, each way, you also made it easy on yourself to carry. The handle that comes with Handle “it” is a wide, smooth plastic that makes carrying heavy loads a more comfortable proposition. If you’ve ever tried the same deal using twine before, you know how excruciatingly painful that can be to carry.

The airlines as well as TSA have approved the use of Handle “it” so it becomes the “no-brainer” way to save lots of money in baggage fees. For the savings in our scenario above, you could afford to buy four Handle “its” with just one one-way flight. But the savings don’t stop there. The Handle “it” is reusable time and time again so the savings never stop.

The handle and two straps come in a soft grey drawstring bag and the whole package only weighs 10.2 ounces. For under a pound, it’s worth taking on your next trip just in case you end up deciding to buy out the souvenir shop before you return home.

You can order the Handle “it” for $29.95 from the inventor David Nidetz at his website http://myhandleit.com

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Have box – will travel - Go Picnic review

Life moves fast, and we don’t always have time for sit-down meals. If we are traveling, it may be virtually impossible to spend an hour at a lunch counter between flights. At home, between soccer games and band practice, again, there just might not be time for a sit-down meal. 

Julia Stamberger, president and CEO of GoPicnic recognized that fact and developed a line of ready-to-eat, grab-and-go snack boxes. No novice to this business, Julia was the one who conceived, developed and launched United Air Lines’ shelf-stable buy-on-board meal program and first-class snack box program, featured today on airlines worldwide.

In a box just 5 x 7 x 1-1/2” thick, she’s packed in a wide variety of tasty snack packages. Together they can make up for that meal you would have surely missed otherwise.  Whether it’s on a plane or in the backseat of your mini-van, you can now enjoy a multi-course meal whenever the need arises. Oh, and when you are done snacking, you’ll find that the inside of the box contains a Sudoku puzzle and some fun food facts.

I recently tried three different snack boxes and they were all excellent. In a typical box, you’ll get five different items. In the “Steak Nuggets and Cheese” box, I found a pack of Steak Nuggets (like beef jerky). a pack of multi-seed crackers,  a Parmesan peppercorn cheese spread, a fruit and nut mix bag and a buttercrunch toffee candy bar. It even came with a small plastic knife for spreading the cheese spread.

There are 10 different snack boxes from which to choose:

Tuna + Crackers (Gluten-Free)
Hummus + Crackers (Gluten-Free, Vegan and Kosher)

Classic Deli
Steak Nuggets + Cheese (Gluten-Free)
Turkey Stick + Crunch (Gluten-Free)

GoPicnic products contain no trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or added MSG, and no artificial colors or flavors.  That sounds pretty healthy to me. Now you can enjoy foods from high-quality big and specialty manufacturers while also feeling good about eating nutritious, better-for-you foods. 

Chances are that you’ll fall in love with some of the ingredients in the GoPicnic boxes; but, no fear, you can order some of the individual ingredients in bulk through the GoPicnic website http://GoPicnic.com. Combined with larger, what they call “care packages,” there’s a size to fit all budgets and appetites.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Keeping an eye(Phone) on traffic

To help travelers across the country this Memorial Day, Appitalism.com , the mobile app superstore, has put together a list of the top apps to help avoid traffic and truly maximize your time off.
Below is the full list for your review:
  • Traffic V1.04 (Free for the Apple iPhone) - Based on your current location, or any other location you configure, Traffic will retrieve the current traffic conditions in the area and display them on a map or in a customized listing. Easily switch back and forth between map view and list view to monitor all of the traffic around you.

  • Traffic View  (Free for the Apple iPhone) - With only one purchase, get coverage for all supported cities in just one app! Based on your current location, or any other location you configure, Traffic View will retrieve the current traffic cameras in the area and display them on a map or in a customized listing.

  • How's Traffic? ($.99 for the Apple iPhone) - Do you check traffic conditions before you leave the house?  Did you just miss “traffic on the twos” on the radio?  The days of constantly checking traffic reports are over.  With How’s Traffic? all you need to do is tell us what to look for and we will do the rest. Whether you are making your daily commute or going on a trip, we have the traffic information that you need.

  • Beat The Traffic-V2.0 (Free for the BlackBerry) - Beat the Traffic® is the easiest way to enjoy a hassle-free commute in the USA and Canada and provides live traffic maps, showing traffic speeds and incidents on major routes for more than 100 cities.
Do you have any other smartphone apps that you like for traveling?  If so, please share them with your fellow readers in the comment section below. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Adobe Nav gives you wireless Photoshop tool access

If you are a Photoshop wizard and you were looking for a reason to buy an iPad (so who needs a reason???) you just found a most compelling one right here:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tourism for Tomorrow 2011 Awards

The World Travel & Tourism Council just announced the names of the 2011 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards at a special ceremony at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada last night. In what may be the industry’s most stringent application process, the awards seek to honor those who actually embody the principles of sustainable tourism in their company vision as well as their day-to-day operations.

According to Costas Christ, chairman of the judges, eight years ago, the applicants were often companies who ‘wanted’ to be sustainable, but failed to follow through on many key points. Today’s applicants conversely, made the selection process difficult since all the dozen finalists are actually exemplary examples of living the sustainable ideal.

The four winners represent three continents (Africa, Australia and Europe) while the original applicants came from over 60 separate nations.

The Conservation Award was won by Singita Pamushana of Zimbabwe for its part in rehabilitating and ongoing protection of 122,000 acres of wildlife habitat. In addition, they have provided potable water and nutritional outreach programs to more than 10,000 neighboring villagers.

Guludo Beach Lodge in Mozambique won the Community Benefit Award for making a major impact on the community development and enhancement of cultural heritage in their location. Working through their non-profit charity, the Nema Foundation, they are helping to eradicate malaria, clean drinking water, and assisting with agricultural production.

Alpine Pearls, headquartered in Austria won the Destination Stewardship Award by easing heavy traffic congestion in the Alpine communities of Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and France. Alpine Pearls has introduced solar powered electric vehicles, low carbon public transport and free use of bicycles for tourists who leave their cars behind.

Intrepid Travel of Australia won the Global Tourism Business Award in the large company category. Intrepid Travel helps 100,000 travelers explore 130 different countries each year. Intrepid Travel subscribes to fair trade sourcing and monitoring/reducing their carbon emissions at 30 global offices. Though their non-profit Intrepid Foundation they support health care, education, human rights, child welfare, and sustainable development in the destinations Intrepid Travel visits.

See the full slide show here:  http://dbhas.info/kGwojH

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Smarter visa policy could create 1+ million U.S. jobs

In an age of nano-second communications, it’s easy to get a foreign photo from Tripoli or Bagdad into our browser in a matter of seconds. But how long does it take to get that photographer into our country?  Would you believe over three months…if at all?

Rossi Ralenkotter of LVCVA (l) and Peter Greenberg of CBS News (r) discuss 
losses to US economy primarily due to visa restrictions
This morning, at the Global Travel & Tourism Summit, a panel of tradeshow association and travel association executives met in a roundtable discussion to reveal the impact of this issue.  According to the report “Ready for takeoff” issued just days ago by the U.S. Travel Association, our inefficient visa policies have cost us 78 million visitors since 2000. The net economic loss equals $606 billion dollars of direct and downstream spending. That equates to almost a half-million jobs per year that never materialized.
Looking forward, the report estimates that between now and the year 2020, if we could only recapture our lost share of worldwide travel, we will create 1.3 million US jobs and increase our economic output by $859 billion.  
Horror stories
The panelists on today’s roundtable told story after story about the difficulties people endure trying to get visas to travel to the United States.  Similar to the way every American airline traveler is treated like a terrorist going through security; our foreign visitors have it even worse.
Roger Dow, president & CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, related how Brazilians often must wait outside our Brazilian embassy, in the sun with no shade, for over three hours before being allowed to enter and request a visa to come visit Disneyworld.
Al Cervero of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers told of a most unfortunate incident where a Nigerian member of their association spent over $50,000 in reservations for their three engineers to attend a construction equipment show. After the fees were paid, all three visa applications were rejected and their engineers were unable to attend.
Cervero also mentioned that during another of his association’s tradeshows, 90 people from Turkey wanted to attend but all were refused entrance visas for the show. Reason given by the US consulate…none given…they don’t have to explain why they were refused.
In another equally outrageous account, the story was told of a foreign family being interviewed by a US embassy official. “Why do you want to come” the father was asked. “I’m attending a tradeshow.” The mother was asked the same question and replied “I’m looking forward to shopping.” The child was then also asked and he responded “They said they would take me to Disney World  while we are there and I can’t wait to go there.”  With that, the embassy official declined their application saying “One of you says you’re coming on business, one of you says you’re coming to shop and one of you says you’re coming for fun. If you can’t even agree on why you are coming, you all are denied.”
Turns out that each embassy sets its own policies and procedures and there is no consistency even within the same country. One Chinese office responds to visa requests within two weeks, another in about 4 weeks and yet another is three months behind.
The Consumer Electronics Show tracks interest from worldwide attendees for its show each year and this past year, over 40,000 buyers wanted to attend but could not get timely visas. The economic loss to US manufactures displaying at that show is staggering when you realize that the only people allowed to attend CES are actual buyers - both retailers and wholesalers. No consumers are even allowed onto the show floor.
According to people with inside information, the U.S. will never again host an Olympic sporting event because of our arbitrary and unpredictable visa process. Supposedly that was the first question posed to President Obama when he tried to lobby for the latest Olympic bid, and all he could answer was that it was a problem “we’re looking into.”
Leaving the station without us
While we continue to bicker between Homeland Security, Commerce Department, State Department, Congress and heaven’s knows how many other government bodies, other countries are swooping in to take our share of the travel and tradeshow business.
China and Mexico have both recently stated that travel and tourism is one of the five pillars of their economic future. They recognize the vast amount of money at stake and are doing everything they can to position themselves as destinations of choice. Unless we improve our technologies and processes for visa approval, we’ll all be traveling to Shanghai instead of Las Vegas for a future Consumer Electronics Show.  
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

College Specials