Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Melt Modern: Functional Art for your Home

This is not for everybody
But that is a good thing, because not everyone can have this beautiful, unique, and functional art in their homes. Every piece is one-of-a-kind, hand crafted and in limited supply.

Matt Proctor the sculptor and Aixé Djelal of yummypurse as individuals are two of the most creative and talented artists around. In their own ways they are working to spread the vision that art should be a part of everyday life. As individual artists, they create work that ranges from the absurd and fanciful to the most immensly practical.

Matt's work has been featured at numerous galleries. Aixé has been highlighted on HGTV's Crafters Coast to Coast. Their house made the cover of Oregon Home magazine. Matt, Aixé and their house have all been showcased at various times in stories in the Oregonian.

Now they are combining their numerous talents to create one-of-a-kind functional and decorative art for the home, garden and commercial spaces. Melt Modern is the name of their new collaboration. Check out some of their creations.

Like the look but don't see what you want? Contact them and see what they can do for you. They love working with people to create the perfect pieces that match the personality of the customer and the space.

References: Melt Modern
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Monday, September 26, 2005

I won with Blingo!

I was a skeptic but now I believe. Today, about 3 months after signing up, I won my first prize with Blingo. I won a free movie ticket, but was given the option of taking a $10 iTunes gift certificate instead. I chose the iTunes, because a free movie ticket will still cost me $30 in baby sitting. Either way I am impressed that it finally happened.

How did I do it?
1. I registered with Blingo.
2. I used Blingo search instead of Google search. (Blingo uses Google's search engine so I got the same results.)
3. I lived my life and did my searches normally.
4. I won!

Sign up now! Then get your friends to sign up. When they win, you win the same prize.

Blingo gives away iPods, Netflix subscriptions, Sony Playstations, movie tickets and Visa gift cards. Perhaps, I will win one of the bigger prizes soon, but even if I don't $10 isn't bad for doing nothing.

Pretty cool!

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Update: I just found out: You must be 18 years old and a legal resident of the United States to win a prize.

Friday, September 23, 2005

5 Boring Bits of Financial Advice

Normally, I write about fun stuff that is cheap or free and occasionally about the simple luxury that can be enjoyed as a treat. However, recently I learned that some of my friends and coworkers don't live within their means and have no concept of savings.

This shouldn’t have been shocking to me because I know that the American savings rate is now 0% and the average American owes their first born in credit card debt. But I always thought that those statistics were skewed by stupid people. These people, my friends, seem smart. What are they thinking?

Anyway, it really started to bother me, so I made a list of 5 boring things you can do to keep your financial house in order. There’s nothing sexy or new about any of this stuff. Most of it is common sense and all of it is available at financial websites like the Motley Fool. I just figured I should post this stuff here, because obviously some people don’t go to financial sites and haven’t really thought about managing their finances.

Disclaimer: I am not a financial adviser and I don’t play one on TV. These are some things that I do. They work for me, but they require discipline. They probably won't make you rich. I am not rich, but I am happy.
  1. Live below your means

    • Make a budget and stick to it

    • Track where you spend your money (it may surprise you).

    • Find ways to cut back and save. ($20 a week is $1040 a year. If you can find a way to save $20 a week you’ve given yourself a $1000 a year raise.)

  2. Save money for known and unknown expenses.

    • Pay yourself first (use paycheck deductions and auto savings plans)

    • Build a liquid emergency fund (cash not beer)

    • Build a long term tax deferred retirement fund.

  3. Don’t borrow money (for stupid stuff)

  4. Try to avoid borrowing money at all. If you must borrow money, consider why. It is acceptable to borrow to buy an asset like a house or a car (if necessary, you can sell the asset to pay off the loan). You can borrow for education or a business because these are likely to increase your income or create cash flow (hopefully at a higher rate than the interest). Don’t borrow more than you need and don’t buy more than you need. (Think “used Civic” instead of “new Hummer”.) Don’t borrow money to pay for a vacation or luxuries. That’s living beyond your means.

  5. Always take guaranteed free money.

    • If your company matches your 401(k) contributions, it’s free money. You must take advantage of it. Contribute enough to get the maximum company match. Only contribute more if the investment choices in the 401(k) are diverse and reasonably priced. Otherwise invest the rest of your retirement savings in a tax deferred IRA of your choice.

    • If you have the discipline, use a credit card that pays cash back. You must pay off the full balance each month or you should lose the credit card all together in favor of a debit card.

  6. Boring (but simple) investment options

    • Invest in an S&P 500 index fund (always check the expense ratio and compare it to Vanguard)

    • I-Bonds at Treasury Direct. No commissions. As safe as the US Government. Inflation adjusted interest rates. Automatic savings programs. Nice tax rules. The government is borrowing money. Shouldn't they be borrowing from you?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How to Pour a Perfect Beer (in 3 seconds or less)

How to Pour a Perfect Beer - Popular Science

Someone has invented the solution to one of life's most vexing problems: How to pour a perfect pint in only three seconds so that the beer line moves faster. TurboTab is a nifty little device that installs on existing draft beer dispensing systems. It is designed to prevent excess foam by decreasing the turbulence of pouring beer. The main benefits are faster pours and less waste. I think we can all agree that these are worthwhile goals. In addition, they claim that the beer tastes better than other competing "fast pour" technologies that use super cooling techniques.

Currently, they are selling this product to commercial enterprises like bars and pubs and concession stands at arenas, stadiums and festivals. They are working on a product for the home bar enthusiast which should be available in the next few months. Be assured that I will let you know about their availability as soon as I hear something.


Picture from Popular Science

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Places: Hershey Park

Roller Coaster at Hershey Park. Picture taken with a Canon Digital Rebel.

References: Hershey Park, My review of the Hotel Hershey,
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Places: Hotel Hershey and Spa - Hershey, PA

The Hotel Hershey. Picture taken with a Canon Digital Rebel.

I just returned from the Hotel Hershey in Hershey Pennsylvania and... Surprise! It was a lot of fun! I was a little skeptical about this trip. I had pictured a weekend of wandering around in a big chocolate commercial. I had visions of Oompa Loompa's rummaging through my bags. All of these turned out to be true, but in a good way. ;-)

First of all, it was close:
1.5 hours from Baltimore
2 hours from DC and Philly
3 hours from New York and New Jersey

Second, the Hotel Hershey is spectacular. It is old, classy, elegant and real. It was built during the depression with an unbelievable attention to detail. They recently expanded the Spa and you can simply relax in the lap of luxury after a long day at the park.

Third, the park was like being locked in a huge chocolate commerial, but that didn't make it any less fun. They have a lot of roller coasters all intertwined together. There are a lot of water rides to beat the heat. And on the day we went the crowds were not bad at all.

Finally, the story of Milton Hershey is actually interesting.

Anyway, I give it a thumbs up. Bring the kids... Or don't. Either way you will find lots to do and have fun.

References: The Hotel Hershey and Spa, Milton Hershey (a biography)
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Picture of Hops

Last week someone got to my page searching for "picture of hops". I felt bad that I didn't have anything useful for them. I vowed to change that so here is a photo of our beloved hops. This is the thing that makes beer great.

Picture taken with a Canon Digital Rebel.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Yikes! Scorpion Mezcal.

Now we've all had our share of Tequila. And most of us have had our share of Mezcal, too. Some of us have even dared to eat the worm at the bottom of the bottle. (A few of us more than once.)

But I have never seen anything like this before. You've gotta be pretty bad-ass to step up to the plate on this one.

Take a look:

Now in case you missed it, here is a close up of what is actually at the bottom of the bottle. That's not an agave worm, that's a scorpion! I guess we will see if I am as crazy as I used to be...

Comments anyone?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Events: Maryland Renaissance Festival!

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Okay everyone, we're a couple weeks into the Maryland Renaissance Festival. If you've never been, this is some fun stuff. There's lots of stuff to see, do, eat and drink. It's fun for all ages. This is a great place to people-watch, but it is more fun to participate. Dress up and get into the spirit of things.

One of my favorite weekends is the Pirate Invasion Weekend. This year that happens on September 24 and 25. No matter when you go, don't miss Shakespeare's Skum.

See you there!

August:27, 28
September:3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25
October:1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23
Open from 10:00am - 7:00pm.
Open rain or shine.
For more information call: 1-800-296-7304.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Brew: Deschutes Brewery - Hop Trip Pale Ale

Deschutes Brewery

This looks great! Why did I move so far away? If anyone is in the Bend Oregon area for the release of this limited edition fresh hop ale, please have a pint for me! Don't forget to tell me what you think in the comments section.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Google Maps - New Orleans

Google Maps - New Orleans

Check out the Google Maps of New Orleans. Then head over to the Red Cross web page and make a donation.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Please Help Hurricane Relief Efforts!

Please donate what you can to the American Red Cross or any of the other charitable organizations involved in the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The destruction is unimaginable and the suffering is unbelievable. Please contribute what you can in the way of money, supplies, or volunteer time. Thank you.

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