Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Quick Look at QuiBids

"Moderation and awareness is key," is the last line of this video. And ultimately it is the same for every auction site, penny or otherwise.

I will actually be using QuiBids and will deliver a review after I have had a chance to check it out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Do Penny Auctions Work?

Welcome to a new series about penny auctions. I will be talking about the basics of how penny auctions work and taking you on a tour of some of the most popular penny auction sites over the next several weeks. I hope that when we are done you will have enough information to make an informed decision about whether penny auctions are even right for you, and which site or sites you will decide are the best fit for your auction style.

How Penny Auctions Work

Don't make the mistake of thinking that penny auctions work like eBay. The only part of a penny auction that is slightly like eBay is when a particular penny auction site offers a "Buy It Now" option, and the similarity ends with the name. Not every penny auction site actually offers this option, which I will talk about in a minute.

The most significant difference between penny auctions and regular bid auctions is that you have to buy the right to bid! This is accomplished by purchasing credits that you will use to bid. Credits vary in price, but may cost anywhere from 25 cents to 75 cents or more.  Many sites offer discounts if you buy packages of bid credits, and others offer a certain number of free bids to get you started.

Most penny auction sites start each auction at $0, and every time there is a bid the price of the item goes up by $0.01. Depending on the penny auction site, the the increase in price could be  anywhere from $0.01 to 25 cents every time a bid is placed.   Every time a new bid is placed, the time remaining in the auction is extended, typically less than 10 to 20 seconds.   Some sites will add as many as 30 seconds to the clock and others have turbo features where only 5 seconds is added to the clock.  The last bid before the clock runs out wins, just like in a regular auction. After you have won, you can pay immediately and provide your shipping information.

Plundr, QuiBids and BidRivals offer a "Buy it Now" option.  If you were bidding on an item you wanted badly enough to pay the full retail price, "BuyIt Now" could make sense for you.  Some sites will deduct the value of your bids from the total cost of the item, giving you an instant discount.  Let's say you bid 25 times on a $100 gift card. Your bids were $0.50 each, so that would be a total of $12.50 that you spent on bidding. In a "Buy It Now" scenario, you could purchase the gift card for $100 - $12.50, for a total of $87.50. 

The Total Cost

With a penny auction, you could win a great item for a tiny price - but be sure you don't forget to include the cost of the bids when figuring how much you really paid.  Let's take our example above of the $100 gift card. If you win the $100 gift card for $15, don't forget the 25 times you bid on it that cost you $12.50.  That makes the total for your gift card $27.50 - still a fantastic savings, but an expense that is easy to forget about when figuring up your real costs and savings.

Your Best Strategy

The best thing you can do for yourself is set a budget that you are willing and able to afford, and then stick to it. Don't bid on things that you don't really want just because they are cheap.  It doesn't matter if you saved 75% on an item worth $500 if you cannot actually afford to spend the $125 + bids that you paid.

If you create guidelines for yourself and stick to them, you can have great fun and save a boatload of money on products you might not ever consider purchasing otherwise.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can You Trust Penny Auction Sites?

It is a rare money-making venture on the internet that does not have plenty of articles about it with "scam" in the title. Even the most above-board direct sales company having impeccable management credentials is likely to have at least one Google listing for a "review" written by a disgruntled former distributor that trashes the company, products, management, etc.  Still other articles are written about how anyone who ever supported (insert company name here) at any time is a scammer. The person who lost money never considers the possibility that he or she did not have what it takes to run a home business, even part time.

While it is true that some are sincerely concerned about how easily people can be scammed on the internet (remind me to tell you about some of my own experiences!), still others use negative reviews to drive traffic to an article that prominently features a link at the bottom to their latest deal, urging visitors to "Check out a company where you can REALLY make some money!"

Puhleeze. How much more, then, are penny auctions going to raise the scam radar of those watchdogs who live and breathe to tell you how you ought to spend your money? Their warnings are not just paranoia.

Penny auctions, like penny stocks, are HIGHLY SPECULATIVE.

Let me repeat. HIGHLY SPECULATIVE.  Even though auctions start at a penny, if you don't know what you are doing, you can find yourself locked in an autobid with someone having deep pockets, and spend way more on an item than you intended to.

So what, you may ask? If I planned to bid on a Nikon Camera up to $100, and I end up getting it for $145 instead of $450, why does it matter about a lousy $45?

Because penny auctions, like penny stocks, are HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.

Let me repeat. HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.

Particularly if you start winning.

Have you ever turned 50000 shares of at a penny into $2,500, or $5,000, or more? Then you know what I am talking about. The same kind of thing can happen with penny auctions. They produce the same kind of rush as horse racing, or high-stakes casino gambling. Worse still, since you are paying online, it is a little like Monopoly money. You may reason away an extra $2 on an inexpensive item. (What if I lose the item for the want of just $2??)  You may reason away an extra $10 on an expensive item that you are paying online with a credit card, but those $10 overages quickly add up to an extra $100, or $200 or $500 if you are not careful.

Would you tear up five $20 bills and flush them down the toilet?

Of course not. So why is it so easy to whip out a credit card and pay $100 for something you really don't need and are not going to actually turn around and sell on eBay for full price?

I know this isn't the information you thought you were going to get in this article, but I wanted you to have a chance to think about whether you have the temperament to bid sensibly on a penny auction before I start talking about penny auctions in earnest.

If you have the discipline to play them right, penny auctions can be a lot of fun, and a way to pick up great products at a fraction of their actual cost.

If you have what it takes, watch this space Monday for a new series about penny auctions!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Everything You Need to Know About Penny Auctions

By now you must have heard about the latest online craze known as Penny Auctions that enables everyday people to buy top brand products at prices way below retail. These switched on buyers are involved in a new way of shopping called Penny Auctions, where bidders strategize and outwit each other to get unbelievable deals and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars off the normal retail price of top label items.

So how do Penny Auctions work?

A prospective bidder signs up fpr a free account and purchases bids to use in the auctions. The cost to buy bids differs on each Penny Auction site, and is also different for each country. For example, in the US, a bid on a particular Penny Auction site might cost 60 cents, whereas visitors from New Zealand may pay 90 cents per bid. This is due to currency exchange rates. In the end, all visitors pay about the same amount for each bid. For the purpose of simplicity, all figures used here will be in US dollars. 

How much does it cost?

Penny Auctions are different from standard auctions in that you do not necessarily bid what you think a particular item is worth. There are several auction formats, but the general idea is to try to bid as late as you can in order to be the top bidder when the countdown timer runs out. The winning bidder then buys the product for the Final Price of the auction, which is often hundreds of dollars below the retail price. Now and then the winning bidder can win a product simply by placing the last bid, and have nothing else to pay to get the product, not even shipping!

Auctions start at $0.00, and each bid bumps up the final price by 1 cent. So an auction that receives 50 bids will have a final price of 50 cents. 

Auctions have a countdown timer, usually set to start at 10 or 20 seconds, depending on the Penny Auction site involved. The timer is bumped up by 10 or 20 seconds respectively each time a bid is placed. So that on an auction that begins with 10 seconds on the clock, if that timer has run down to 4 seconds and a bid is placed, the timer will be bumped back up to 14 seconds, and the countdown will resume from there.

The auction ends when the timer reaches zero seconds and no more bids are placed.

What happens at the end of a Penny Auction?

If you are the leading bidder at the end of a Penny Auction, you generally have two options.

1. Go ahead and pay the Final Price of the item, as determined by the auction, at which point the product you bought will be shipped direct to you. In some cases, you do not need to pay anything, and your item will be shipped to you automatically;

2. OR, you can swap the item for more bids, and then bid for another item.
Who is eligible to participate in Penny Auctions?

The specific terms and conditions of each Penny Auction site vary, but generally speaking the criteria on each site are pretty much the same.

Here are some general guidelines.

You need to be 18 years old or older and able to legally enter a contract. This is a standard rule for any online auction site. What this means is that if you are 17 years old you may not join, but once you turn 18, you may.

Only people living in approved countries may bid. Most Penny Auction websites are only viewable in the counties where participation is allowed, i.e. The USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand plus others. For various reasons, some countries are currently excluded from most Penny Auction sites.

Each Penny Auction site has their own rules for bidding, so make sure you read them prior to signing up.

How to Keep Safe When Using Penny Auction Sites.

As with any type of internet shopping, it is important to protect yourself when signing up to Penny Auction sites. Only join sites that specifically guarantee that they do not use any automated bidders to manipulate auctions, and also those that do not allow their own employees and their families from bidding in auctions. It is very important to protect yourself against scams. Sticking to the larger sites is the best way to do that.

So, next time you are thinking of buying some famous brand products on the internet but are sick of eBay, consider the benefits of using Penny Auction sites, and have some fun while you save hundreds of dollars on great products.

Guest Blogger: Michael Nunn is a former eBay user who now believes in the power of Penny Auctions. For more information on Penny Auctions, visit - The Source of Everything

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Story: "See, I have told you ahead of time..."

"So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." Mark 13:23 (NIV)

Have you ever gotten a really clear warning from the Holy Spirit?  Around Thanksgiving, I am always reminded of a warning I received, and the benefits of obedience.  Even when it means an inexplicable change in plans that leaves you very disappointed.

It was a week before Thanksgiving - November 16, 1989. Had we not obeyed, we would have missed a particularly spectacular instance of the Lord's protection and provision in our lives. In fact, we would have suffered serious loss.

It has been 21 years since we moved to Robbinsville. We love it here, and it has been a great place to raise our kids. But about five months earlier, as we were investigating possible locations to move, we were not thinking of Robbinsville, but Ewing. After all, we only had one car, and that was close to my husband's work. So my reasoning was that I could drive him to work and have the car during the day.  It was also near the West Trenton train station in case I wanted to go to Philadelphia, and not too far from Washington Crossing Park. And Robbinsville was out in the middle of nowhere.

We were living in West Windsor at the time - paying way too much rent, and wanting to get away from there into our own place. And my preliminary investigation took me to a new condo community a mile or two up the road from my husband's office called Heritage Crossing. We liked it right away - it was just right for our little family of three. We walked around the property and looked at several models, then were escorted to the shells of several buildings where those models would actually be built.  One of them was on the second floor of a building located all the way at the back of the property - beautiful wooded views from one side!  They estimated that this building would be completed in the fall.

A 2 bed, 2 full bath condo in Ewing, NJ (New Jersey). This is quite, simple community. All units come with a balcony and some over look a wooded area. This Beautiful, well maintained luxurious set of homes in Ewing, NJ is located in a very quiet area of the complex with great views from inside and out. Close to Trenton Country Club, West Trenton Train Station, D & R Canal State Park, Merrill Lynch, TCNJ, I-95 and Rt. 29

It was a more than we could afford, but we thought at least we could try. Real Estate prices were high in 1989, and there was a lot of "creative financing" going on for people like us who made less than $35,000 a year and had no savings to speak of.  We put down a binder of $1500 and brought home the prospectus to see what we were getting ourselves into.

I contacted the real estate company that was handling these condos and they referred me to a gentleman who assured me that we would be able to work something out. I had several great conversations with him, and true to his word, he arranged for a mortgage for us, taking into account good credit and a projected raise that my husband would be getting in the summer. It looked like there would be no problem being approved. We would be good to go, and able to move in as soon as the condo was ready. We were pretty excited!  It was our dream come true!

Now would probably be a good time to mention that we did not ask the Lord at all whether He wanted us to move to Ewing.

It was my habit to stand at the kitchen counter and do just about everything.  Talk on the phone, read, pay bills, pray. Whatever.  I had read through the prospectus once. This particular morning I had some breakfast and coffee, and I decided that while my daughter was having her afternoon nap I would read through it again.

When I picked up the prospectus, I began to feel vaguely uneasy. I thought I was having indigestion. I thought back to my breakfast and decided that I had not eaten anything that would cause such a feeling. Maybe the coffee was overly harsh...? Anyway, by the time I got halfway through the second section of the prospectus, my heart was pounding and I was beginning to have a churning in the pit of my stomach.  Well, not exactly in my stomach. Not exactly anywhere that I could pinpoint.

I continued to read, and it seemed that accompanying the churning was a very emphatic negative response to this prospectus. It was like someone was saying "NO! NO!" as I was reading.  It was so much more extreme than usual that at first I did not recognize it as a "check in my spirit."  I had experienced those before, generally while praying with other people who were able to help me discern what they meant, or during the reading of Scripture where something would jump out at me in a negative way that just happened to pertain to something that needed to change in my life, but that I didn't especially want to change.

But nothing that made me feel like I was going to be physically ill.  I called my husband at work. He was in a good mood and wanted to talk about how awesome it was going to be when we had our own condo.  I was sweating. He was so happy, and I knew I had to say something that I was sure he was going to argue about.

"This is probably going to sound crazy, but I think the Lord doesn't want us to move to Ewing."

I braced myself for a tirade. What I got instead was almost as shocking as the initial feeling of turmoil.

"Really! How come?"

"Well, I have a check in my spirit.  I have been reading this prospectus, and I have never been so miserable. It's like God is saying 'Absolutely not!'"

"Okay," he replied cheerfully. Call and see if you can get our money back."  End of discussion.

Wait, what?  "Who is this and what has he done with Don?" I thought as I hung up the phone. But as soon as the receiver clicked into place, the discomfort stopped.  Just like that.

In my regular phone call with Mama that evening, she asked how things were progressing. Ugh. She was going to think I was crazy. I had raved on about how great this was going to be, and now I couldn't think of a single excuse to give her.  So I told her the truth.

I don't remember the exact conversation, only that it was awkward.  She didn't understand my certainty that it was a message from God rather than indigestion, but she didn't mock me, either.  The subject dropped, and we didn't speak of it again.

We did get our money back, and in October of 1989, we became the proud owners of a townhome in Robbinsville.  The whole Ewing incident was long forgotten. Until November 17.

The day before I had been at a small weekly prayer meeting at a friend's home, which broke up early because of some pretty serious weather developing. There had been some terrible stuff happening in Huntsville, Alabama the day before - a deadly tornado that killed 21 people.  What we had was nothing like that. Big black clouds, high winds. The last of the leaves blowing off the trees. Limbs and power lines down.  I was glad I didn't typically have anywhere to go on a Thursday night, but I certainly didn't fear for my life.

The next morning I dropped my cup of coffee when I saw the front page of the Trenton Times. They almost never used color photographs, but in this case they made an exception. There, in living color, was the beautiful second floor condo we had wanted to buy with the wall blown out of it and scraps of someone's furniture and belongings hanging out of the gaping hole.  Then a whisper, "See, I have told you ahead of time."

I called my husband at work.  "Have you seen the Times??" I asked breathlessly.  He had not, and my demeanor frightened him, I sounded so crazy.  "It's the condo, the Ewing condo. It got blown away by a tornado yesterday!"  

Only God could have known.  I have had that "check in my spirit" a few other times since that day, and you can bet I have not ignored it.

I cut out the article and sent it to Mama, with a Post-it attached that said:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." - Matthew 7:24-27
After she died, I found the article in the night table beside her bed, stained and a little torn, fragile in the way old newspaper becomes when it is frequently folded and unfolded.  A reminder of the goodness of God, and the reality of having a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

Take time this Thanksgiving to remember the goodness of God, and the many things you have to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Under Construction" - A trip down Internet Memory Lane

The other day one of my Digg buds, the venerable Amy Vernon, unearthed this page where someone had scraped thousands of "Under Construction" .gif files from GeoCities, the now defunct free website service that was once available to everyone with a Yahoo email account.

She posted the link on Facebook, and I commented "nothing says 1996 like a flashing 'Under Construction' gif."

Been thinking about that ever since. Have you been on the internet long enough to remember GeoCities, or Or those flashing "Under Construction" .gifs? 1996 is almost 15 years ago. I can hardly believe that. The only thing more overused in those days was a spinning globe.

Yahoo itself was still a directory site, with about 370,000 listings. By today's hyper-realistic graphic standards. we can see how primitive it all was, but at the time it was the threshhold of a brave new world.

There were almost no business websites on the web in those days. No Google, and the big "social networking site" was, a "nostalgia" site that started in 1995 as a way for people to reconnect with people they went to school with.

I was one of the first ten people from my school to sign up from any class, and the first person from my high school class.  So I suppose it is appropriate that I am coordinating the website and Facebook page for our 40th class reunion in 2011.

That was also the year, at the behest of my son, I became the -ahem- webmaster of  "Domzilla's Godzilla Page". Talk about primitive!  But along with Mark's Godzilla Page (the original!), Conster's Museum of Godzilla, Barry's Temple of Godzilla, The Euro-Goji Home Page "Goji-World" (there is still a site called GojiWorld that is about Goji berries, or juice or something) and other sites, we were the worldwide web fan base for all things Godzilla.  Incredibly, there is still a page listing all those old Godzilla sites, complete with a scary MIDI file of Godzilla music and multiple flashing gifs.  Those were the days.

Check out the URL! Domain names? What's that? It was several years later before we bought the domain name, which is now a domain hosting site. As for, I can't believe it is still there also. So many others have bitten the dust.

Well, thanks for joining me on my trip down memory lane. What are some of your favorite memories of the internet in the 1990s?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A new way to look at your Potential!

Thanks for your patience with my writer's block for the past month. It has been a long time since I neglected this blog for such a long time.  I know I am not homeschooling any more, but I had decided to write about other things.  I guess I still don't know what to write about.

What would you like to read about? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question. I would like some ideas. Since the other part of this blog was supposed to be "home business" - would you want to hear about home business ideas, or are there already too many of those out there?

Meanwhile, here is another interesting read from my old email files. I was actually archiving and deleting things, and I came upon this in the "Deleted Items" archive folder.  My sister-in-law sent it to me in 2005. It was by no means the oldest item in the folder. There were actually things in there from 2003.

Pause for a moment and contemplate someone who has saved deleted emails since 2003.  I bet you didn't know there was such a person. That will make the story that follows even more amusing.  It is entitled

No Email

An unemployed man is desperate to support his family of a wife and three kids. He applies for a janitor's job at a large firm and easily passes an aptitude test.

The human resources manager tells him, "You will be hired at minimum wage of $5.35 an hour. Let me have your e-mail address so that we can get you in the loop. Our system will automatically e-mail you all the forms and advise you when to start and where to report on your first day."

Taken back, the man protests that he is poor and has neither a computer nor an e-mail address. To this the manager replies, "You must understand that to a company like ours that means that you virtually do not exist. Without an e-mail address you can hardly expect to be employed by a high-tech firm. Good day."

Stunned, the man leaves. Not knowing where to turn and having $10 in his wallet, he walks past a farmers' market and sees a stand selling 25 lb. crates of beautiful red tomatoes. He buys a crate, carries it to a busy corner and displays the tomatoes. In less than 2 hours he sells all the tomatoes and makes 100% profit. Repeating the process several times more that day, he ends up with almost $100 and arrives home that night with several bags of groceries for his family.

During the night he decides to repeat the tomato business the next day. By the end of the week he is getting up early every day and working into the night. He multiplies his profits quickly. Early in the second week he acquires a cart to transport several boxes of tomatoes at a time, but before a month is up he sells the cart to buy a broken-down pickup truck.

At the end of a year he owns three old trucks. His two sons have left their neighborhood gangs to help him with the tomato business, his wife is buying the tomatoes, and his daughter is taking night courses at the community college so she can keep books for him.

By the end of the second year he has a dozen very nice used trucks and employs fifteen previously unemployed people, all selling tomatoes. He continues to work hard.

Time passes and at the end of the fifth year he owns a fleet of nice trucks and a warehouse that his wife supervises, plus two tomato farms that the boys manage. The tomato company's payroll has put hundreds of homeless and joblesspeople to work. His daughter reports that the business grossed a million dollars. Planning for the future, he decides to buy some life insurance.

Consulting with an insurance adviser, he picks an insurance plan to fit his new circumstances.

Then the adviser asks him for his e-mail address in order to send the final documents electronically.

When the man replies that he doesn't have time to mess with a computer and has no e-mail address, the insurance man is stunned, "What, you don't have e-mail? No computer? No Internet? Just think where you would be today if you'd had all of that five years ago!"

"Ha!" snorts the man. "If I'd had e-mail five years ago I would be sweeping floors at Microsoft and making $5.35 an hour."

Which brings us to the moral of the story: Since you got this story by e-mail, you're probably closer to being a janitor than a millionaire.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"We're Done!" - but I didn't think it would feel so weird

Now that we are done homeschooling, I canceled our HSLDA membership. But I confess I am having an unexpected response to this "final" email from HSLDA.

I have depended on HSLDA e-lerts to bring important issues pertaining to parental rights and homeschooling to my attention.

I have actually used the text of e-lerts as blog posts when I was in a hurry to get a particular message out.

It is going to be odd to not receive the Home School Court Report, or have access to all the great materials available on their website.

But we really are done. Now I will find out if I know how to write about anything besides homeschooling.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Why don't people believe it can happen here?

The New American reported on the new education law that effectively banned homeschooling in Sweden and made any kind of alternative to government schooling illegal.

OK, so the picture is German, but the principle is the same.

FTA: "The Kingdom of Sweden took a dramatic turn toward totalitarianism with the adoption of a sweeping new education “reform” package that essentially prohibits home schooling and forces all schools to teach the same government curriculum. The draconian 1,500-page law — deceptively referred to by the Swedish government as “The new Education Act - for knowledge, choice and security” — was approved by Parliament last week amidst strong criticism and opposition. When it goes into effect next year, the entire educational system will be transformed, and alternative education abolished."

Particularly in countries where the UNCRC has been adopted, this is definitely the wave of the future.

There seems to be a particular antipathy toward religious instruction, as explained by Education Ministry press secretary Anna Neuman. “[Religious schools] can’t make any children to pray or confess to the God, but they will still be allowed [to exist].”  So what she is saying is that there will be no more difference between "religious" school and a government school.

Swedish homeschoolers are considering leaving the county.

Friday, September 03, 2010

A "10" For All Time

I've been thinking about how much I am going to miss the summer lineup of shows that I have been enjoying over the last few seasons: Warehouse 13, White Collar, Royal Pains, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Cake Boss, Haven, and others.

So much so, that I am indifferent to the return of shows that I was crazy about when the season ended.

I wrote earlier this year about being sad about the demise of Law and Order, and yet I am completely indifferent to the return of L&O:Criminal Intent, and L&O: SVU, both previously real favorites.  House? Who cares? 

Wait, what?  House has been one of my favorite shows of all time. What's going on here?

I think USA is on to something that was picked up by the producers of Fringe, and the folks at SyFy:  people would rather see a mini-season of all-new episodes than a whole season of new shows interspersed with repeats.  I have been enjoying a batch of USA summer shows this year, and am looking forward to their winter seasons more than I am the fall crop of  "regular" shows.

Matthew Bomer, who plays ex-con Neil Caffrey in USA's White Collar, is one of the best reasons to watch television since George Clooney left ER.  He is certainly a "10" by anyone's standard.  Many of the other characters in the other USA shows are also attractive.

It is true that eye candy is not enough to keep you watching a show that stinks on every other level, but these shows are smart and funny, and their casts work well together. The "family" dynamic among Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, and the incomparable Henry Winker of Royal Pains is priceless.  The episode of Burn Notice that reunited Cagney (Sharon Gless, a series regular) and Lacey (Tyne Daly) was delightful.

Networks, are you listening?  There is a reason your viewership is dropping off. If you continue in your present format, network television will be deader than the proverbial doornail in just a couple of years.

This all got me to thinking about TV, and so I revisited a place I have not been in quite a while: I was a regular there in 2006, and wrote a number of reviews of shows and episodes, and some blog posts about generically TV-related things.

One of those posts focused on the ratings that they ask you to give to your favorite shows. Entitled, "What is a 10, Anyway?" I talked about the difference between shows that may be your super fave right now, versus shows that were so outstanding for whatever reason that they deserve to be a "10" for all time.

Read the article here: "What is a 10, Anyway?"  What makes a show a "10" to you? Or are any of them good enough for that coveted designation?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

90 Years of Women's Suffrage

To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the ratification and final adoption of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, I want to draw your attention to an article I posted two years ago on this same date about this topic: Carnival Atmosphere.

May we not take for granted the sacrifices made by brave women who made it possible for us to vote today!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday: Turning My Garden Upside Down

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday returns with a product review. Incredibly, this is not a sponsored post. But I have to tell you about my experience with Topsy Turvy tomato planter bags.

No kidding. Those ones that are advertised on TV, where the guy breathlessly talks about how the special vertical grow bag heats up and causes a ROOT EXPLOSION! And you can get the bag and the 6 foot stand for only TWO PAYMENTS OF $19.95!

But wait!  You can also get..

Why don't you watch the video to refresh your memory, or if you have never seen it, check it out for the first time.

I actually saw a Topsy Turvy bag in action last summer. My sister-in-law bought one and had it in her back yard by the deck.  She didn't have really great results because her deck is shaded a good part of the day, and the success of these bags is having them in a location where they will get at least 7 hours of sunlight daily. But I could see how in the right location, they could really be interesting.

Getting 7 hours of sunlight hasn't been hard this summer, where we have had several months straight of dry, hot weather. Sometimes incredibly hot weather.  In mid-July we had a week or so of 100+ degree days. With only an occasional splash of rain, watering these bags every day has been even more important than usual. I have been giving them each about a half-gallon of water every day.

Now, I have been growing tomatoes for 20 years. I have a garden that I don't use any more because I can't keep up with it and everything else I have going on in my life. But once upon a time, that 25' x 50' space contained ten large raised beds and a 3 foot perimeter row that was used to grow sumptuous watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, pole beans, wax beans, zucchini, lettuces, celery, peppers,  raspberries, asparagus, corn, strawberries, carrots, various herbs, potatoes, and the finest Jersey tomatoes anywhere.

I lost a lot of the tomatoes I used to grow to pests of various kinds, and watering the plants and weeding the garden was a real chore. I spent several hours a day in the garden performing maintenance tasks.

Part of the problem was that the garden was kind of far away, and walking back and forth to the house when I forgot something, or if the phone rang, or I needed to adjust the hose, or the kids needed something, just added to the chore of it all.  I had some equipment in the shed, but in general, it was an ordeal.

My Topsy Turvy bags are hanging on my deck. The deck is in two levels, so they are hanging from the railings on the upper deck. I can step out onto the deck from my kitchen and water them, and pruning, maintenance and harvesting can be from the lower deck.  So easy!  I was able to fill the bags with potting soil from the upper deck. No more trudging through the wet grass and dog crap to get to the garden. No more backbreaking shoveling and bending. Twenty years ago it was no big deal, but now...I just can't do it any more.

And the results?  Incredible. 

I planted three slicing tomatoes and three Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. So far I have harvested 40 slicing tomatoes and several hundred cherry tomatoes. I used to have to plant six or seven slicing tomatoes to get 40 tomatoes. And these are nearly flawless. I have had about 3 tomatoes that were cracked on top, and lost two to a couple of tomato hornworms. But otherwise they have all been like these.

Red. Juicy. Delicious. The finest Jersey tomatoes anywhere.  And there are still more outside that are not ready yet!

I was so excited about this result that I posted this pic on my Facebook profile. Someone commented that it looked like I painted them for the photo op.  This photo was taken with my 2 megapixel phone camera, and no, they are not photoshopped or edited in any way.

Topsy Turvy bags are available most anywhere, and now that the season is ending, you should be able to find them on sale. Even before the season I purchased mine for less than $10 each at BJ's.  If you have a balcony, or a deck or just about anywhere that gets decent sunlight, this is a great opportunity for you get readyto grow your own fresh tomatoes.

Don't like tomatoes? No problem, they are supposedly good to grow cucumbers, squashes and other kinds of vegetables as well.  I plan to try that next year.

Watch this space in about a year and I will let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Surprise! Homeschooled Students Do Well In College

A new study quantifies what homeschoolers have known in their hearts from the beginning: homeschooled students not only succeed in college, but actually outperform conventionally schooled students.  They also graduate in larger numbers than do other students.

So much for those accusations of "isolation" producing unwashed,  uneducated, socially inept young adults.

As recently as twenty years ago, colleges were still skeptical about whether homeschooled students were suitable candidates for a four-year degree program. Today, the vast majority of colleges have a specific admissions policy for homeschooled students that usually includes a portfolio of work, standardized test scores, and reference letters.

The study found that homeschooled students had higher first-year GPA's than other students. Moreover, homeschooled students had higher composite ACT scores. Though their math scores were  a little lower, their reading, English and science scores were much higher than those of students in any other category.

The study, entitled Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students, was based on a college in the Midwest with 11,000 students. Approximately 1% of the student body was homeschooled.

This is good news for homeschooling families. Not only does it confirm what they already suspected, but the study was not done by a homeschooling advocacy group.  Now, I personally do not have a problem with the National Center for Home Education or the studies they have conducted - but for those outside the homeschooling fold, a study by an independent party may be more persuasive.

Pat yourselves on the back, parents, for producing intelligent, hardworking, high-achieving, well-rounded future leaders in America!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Best Friend

After months of allowing things to pile up and pile up to the point I could not stand being in here anymore, I finally tackled the impossible task of filing in my office.

In a folder whimsically named "things to save that aren't bills," I found two old papers that surprised me. One was a 30 year old transcript I used to memorize the fawning introduction of my boss I used to have to give at client meetings when I worked on Wall Street. That was pretty amazing in its own right, but it was the second one that stopped me in my tracks.

Though it was undated, it contained a few details that provided a date for me. I was driving, so it had to be after October, 1970. But I was still in school - in fact, a senior in high school, so it had to be before June, 1971. And anyway, I recognized the paper, and the brown flair pen I used to write it, and knew immediately what it was.

Whatever the precise date, it was nearly 40 years ago - a sort of tribute to my mom. Maybe it was her birthday, or Mother's Day. I'm not sure.

But what struck me about it was that I felt we were friends.

I knew we were friends after I was old enough to relate to her as an adult. In fact, I knew we were best friends.

Who else but your best friend would rack up $300 long-distance bills to call you when you couldn't afford it, even though she couldn't afford it either?

Who else but your best friend would leave a sick husband and fly 1000 miles to sleep over and chatter with you all night on the night before your wedding, and when the toilet in the empty upstairs apartment overflowed while she was in the bathroom the next morning would good naturedly grab an umbrella and sit on the toilet with an umbrella over her head and act like nothing was unusual??

Who would run down the street to intercept the mail truck before it got to our house to grab the letters I wrote home from England that summer so she could edit out the profanity before Daddy read them?

But, I also remembered a couple of turbulent years when we were not best friends.  Then, there are the years I don't remember at all.

So, I guess I was surprised to see the written evidence of how I felt about her when I was 16.  By the way, I have x'ed out a couple of details that would be recognized by some of my Facebook friends from high school that would just be too embarrassing.

Not long ago there was a contest
sponsored by WSB
the purpose of which
was to determine whose Mum was best
as based on a statement
submitted by the loving offspring
in twenty-five words
Or Less
I never entered the contest
(though the thought crossed
my mind once or twice)
Because I knew I could not
Condense my reasons into
Said twenty-five words
And besides
It wouldn't be fair to the
other contestants
since you are without question
the one they would have chosen...
that is, if I could condense
into twenty-five words or less
why you are at least as outstanding as
Ethyl Kennedy
If I could've written a long story
or even a short story
I might have considered
"My mother is best because..."
Such originality would have
won it for you
then possibly they'd have
read on to see what else I said
"...she never complains even
after hearing what XXXX XXXXXX
did at school for the 48th time.
In fact, I can tell her most
anything I do
and I know she will have
done something at least as naughty
when she was small
She lets me find out things
the hard way when she has repeatedly
warned me of the consequences
but she never says
"I told you so"
even if what she told me so
would have prevented restriction
or a similar punishment
I have fun when I'm on restriction
She helps me along from time to time
and keeps me out of Daddy's reach when
arguments are inevitable.
But at the same time
if I'm mad at her
she's mad too
and if she yells at me
I yell right back
I'd hate it if she just stood there 
and did nothing
It takes the fun out of arguing.
If I hate people
she hates them too
and we twirl our handlebar moustaches
while we're thinking of ways
to take revenge
Nyah, nyah nya-ah
And she doesn't mind me lounging at XXXX
On Saturday afternoon in her car
while she's at home
taking me up XXXXX XXXXX Avenue
past XXX
provided we're on our way somewhere
like last time we were on our way
to the library
which couldn't be more than
five miles in another direction.
See what I mean?
And when I go out to Steph's
She doesn't tell me I can't go
Even though she sits home
and worries that I would
one day join the Black Panthers.
She doesn't mind the bats
that fly out of my room
when she comes in ho ho 
and she doesn't remind me 
to do my homework
more than 37 times
a day..."
In another time
had me and my mum
met under slightly
different circumstances
we probably would still
have gotten along famously.
Because she understands me
and she knows that
the fact that she is my mother
does not interfere
with the fact that
she is my friend.

Miss you,  Mama.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

American Teachers Should Revolt

Peter Heck, a guest columnist in today's edition of One News Now has written a clear and cogent argument for Christian teachers to immediately abandon the NEA. In fact,  he calls for any American teacher to abandon the NEA.

He quotes from another article he wrote about a year ago for the same publication, in which he describes the exact way I feel when I see the union dues taken out of my husband's paycheck.

Why conscientious, patriotic teachers continue sending their money to these Marxists is beyond comprehension.  As I wrote last year:
"Sure, there are excuses we can use to justify our capitulation and spineless allegiance to causes we know to be wrong.  We can accept the fear-mongering about how we'll all lose our jobs without the NEA.  We can delude ourselves into believing that when we check the box stating our dues can't be used for political purposes that we aren't still contributing to the very executive councils, legal offices, and management that is publicly acknowledging their hatred towards everything we stand for.  We can rationalize that it's impossible anymore to keep from spending our money on things we don't really support.  But we shouldn't do it any longer.  Our consciences shouldn't allow it." (Read the entire column from July 20, 2009)
New Jersey doesn't have right to work laws, and union membership is mandatory. Well, actually you don't have to be in the union. But if you choose that route, you can pay 85% of the dues for the privilege of NOT being in the union. In fact, if you have never seen this great short video (4:42) of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talking about how he intends to deal with the bully teachers' unions in New Jersey, you owe it to yourself to watch him explain it far better than I could. I had the privilege of being invited to attend this Town Hall meeting in Robbinsville with my family, and we were spellbound for nearly two hours.  (That, however, is another article for another time.)

Governor Christie likened the union dues system as being "like the Hotel California, you know? You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave."

Although they don't want you to think so, there are alternatives to the NEA, or your state's NEA affiliate. As Gov. Christie says in the video, my argument is not with teachers, Christian or not. There are many fine teachers who are appalled by the way the union spends their dues, and who care deeply about the education of American children. But with New Jersey property taxes the highest in the nation, something has to be done about the stranglehold the NJEA has had on our legislature for decades.

Peter, I agree. Drying up the dues gravy train would be a good start.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Selling Out After Fifty Years

I wanted to share this on Facebook, and since it from is a password protected site, this article would have appeared in its entirety right on my wall.

So, today we have a "guest blogger" - Doug Patton has brilliantly articulated how I feel about our "collective loss of innocence" (which I have written about in the past) and the societal collapse of anything resembling respect for the elderly. Andy Griffith, and other beloved seniors like him, have been sold up the river - and are being used to sell millions more up the river.

Et Tu, Andy? - seen on Worth Reading

By Doug Patton

Not many sitcoms make it to half a century in reruns. I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver and just a few others. It is a short list, indeed. Perhaps newer "classics" like M*A*S*H, WKRP in Cincinnati, Newhart, Seinfeld or Everybody Loves Raymond will eventually make it that far on TV Land or TBS or some other cable channel, but right now the list of shows still running after fifty years can be counted on one hand. The Andy Griffith Show is one of those programs. From 1960 to 1968, this program provided some of the most wholesome entertainment ever delivered to the American public.

As everyone who has channel-surfed during these last fifty years knows, actor Andy Griffith starred as Andy Taylor, the good-natured sheriff of the imaginary southern town of Mayberry. A youngish widower, Andy did his best to raise his precocious son, Opie, with the help of his ever-hovering Aunt Bea. Providing comic relief were Gomer Pyle, Floyd the barber and everyone's favorite bumbling deputy, Barney Fife, who became one of the most enduring characters ever to warm the hearts of the Baby Boom Generation.

Andy Griffith had spent most of the 1950s as a stage and movie actor before trying his hand at television. The Mayberry scenario came about as a spin-off from an episode of Danny Thomas's old Make Room for Daddy show. If memory serves, city-boy Thomas gets stopped for a traffic infraction on his way through the "hick town" of Mayberry and has the dubious pleasure of ending up in Andy Taylor's jail. The public loved the episode so much The Andy Griffith Show was born.

In the entire history of television, there have been only three sitcoms finish their final season as the number one most watched program on TV: Seinfeld, I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show.

For those of us who grew up watching Andy teach Opie the solid values of independence and family structure that are the unique backbone of American strength, and who have continued to think fondly of Andy Griffith as he aged gracefully into the dear old grandpa who would never waver in the important things, it is a bitter disappointment to see this man, now 84, being conned into selling out to the lies of the Obama administration.

I refer to the new ad campaign, paid for by our tax dollars, selling senior citizens on Obamacare. In the spot, Griffith intones reassuringly, as only he can, that "good things are coming," for seniors, including free check-ups and cheap prescription drugs.

Yes, Andy, and so is health care rationing, which will mean a death sentence for many of your fellow seniors. Barack Obama is doing everything in his power to make sure of that, including his latest bit of treachery: he has nominated as the new head of Medicare and Medicaid (in a recess appointment to avoid congressional scrutiny) Dr. Donald Berwick, a health care bureaucrat who has praised rationing and who adores the British National Health System. (This, despite the fact that the Brits have announced that they intend to privatize portions of their failed system.)

I have few doubts that Andy Griffith has been unduly influenced by his old cast mate and on-screen son, Ron Howard, now a successful Hollywood director who nonetheless has about as much understanding of the world of public policy as the rest of the leftist pinheads in Lalaland. During the 2008 campaign, Howard reportedly convinced Griffith to do a tongue-in-cheek campaign spot reprising their father-son roles as Andy and Opie. In the spot, Opie asks "pa" why people don't like Mr. Obama. It was a pathetic misuse of both men's talent.

Polls show that the senior citizens whom we revere as "the Greatest Generation" are the most skeptical about Obamacare — and rightly so. After all, Obama and his toadies in Congress have scheduled half a trillion dollars to be stolen from their Medicare benefits in order to finance this scheme. How sad that an admired American icon, who once stood for all that was good and innocent about America, should be convinced, knowingly or not, to be used as a mouthpiece for government propaganda.

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns of sage political analysis are published the world over by legions of discerning bloggers, courageous webmasters and open-minded newspaper editors.