Bobby's Blog

Boo!

September 26, 2014

A Happy Horrific Haunted Halloween takes a lot more planning than other holidays. There's decorating to be done and lights to be hung and you probably want a new outfit. And don't forget the delicious candies. It's like all Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day all rolled into one -- with the addition of ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and spiders, bats and blood...

I'm not even close to choosing a costume yet, but I did find some animated spooky Things to use in my annual haunted house. Not a costume person? Or don't know what to wear? Check out this high-tech creepy animated eyeball t-shirt. A secret pocket in the shirt and a downloadable app for your phone makes this sinister shirt one of the spookiest Things I've seen for Halloween this year.

And how about this crawling zombie? When it's activated, the rotting undead Thing will crawl toward your guests with red eyes flashing. It's the perfect prop for your front yard cemetery or a haunted room. He's always hungry for brains so when it comes to scaring people, he never disappoints.

There's nothing like an evil clown to unnerve your guests. He hangs around innocently enough until a sound activates him and then he goes nuts, kicking and laughing maniacally while his eyes flash red. He's so scary, I've actually seen grown men run from him. Very effective. I guess it's a clown Thing.

Happy Halloween! See you next week,
Bobby

Magic Millionaire

September 19, 2014

Did you see the America's Got Talent finale last night? In what most consider a stunning upset, 25 year-old magician Mat Franco took home the million dollar prize, beating out Howard Stern's favorite, singer Emily West, in the final heat.

Myself, I was torn. On the one hand, Emily West was born to sing. On the other hand, Mat Franco is a born magician. So who has more talent? It's an unanswerable question. You just have to go with which act had the best show, was the most entertaining and -- perhaps the downfall of Acro Army -- made the fewest mistakes. When the final votes were tallied, it seems America thought West was great, but thought Franco was magical.

To me, the winners and losers matter very little in talent contest shows. The Thing that matters most is inspiration. Because of the six finalists in this year's AGT competition, kids all over the country now want to sing, become acrobats and, of course, do magic. But maybe inspiration isn't just for kids. Watching Franco's extraordinary sleight of hand made me want to break out the old bag of tricks and give magic another whirl. I mean why not? I could be the next millionaire magician, couldn't I? Stranger Things have happened!

See you next week,
Bobby

Things To Secure Your Security

September 12, 2014

A number of large retailers, banks and online services have recently been victims of online security breaches. And you might be a victim by extension if you use those banks or shop at those retailers. The latest reported breach comes from the widely-used Google service, Gmail.

Though Google claims there's nothing to worry about in the last hacker attack in which over 5 million email logins and passwords were leaked, it's in our best interest to protect ourselves from online hackers by developing long, hard-to-hack passwords and changing them often. Experts have long recommended creating a unique password for each web site you use, but most of us don't do it. If you're like me, you can barely remember the one password you use almost everywhere. To remember multiple passwords, you could store your passwords in a protected document on your computer. But, of course, then you have to remember that password!

A password vault might be a better choice. You can also use your bank's website or app to put other security measures in place -- like setting up text alerts that warn you immediately about unexpected activity in your bank accounts. And RFID protectors can prevent your credit card information from being stolen right out of your pocket.

Protecting yourself online and off is a daily Thing. And with all the recent hacking activity, I think it's time to start taking some of that expert security advice. I think we can all be safer with a little diligence, some expert advice and, of course, a cool gadget or two to help us out.

See you next week,
Bobby

Your Morning Joe

September 05, 2014

According to the New York Times, "caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world." Americans love their morning coffee, but, believe it or not, we aren't the heaviest coffee drinkers. In fact, we're #25 in global coffee consumption. Finland and its Nordic neighbors occupy the top five slots for the most caffeinated countries. Maybe that's not so surprising since nothing beats a steaming cup of coffee to get you going on a frozen day.

What is surprising is a new study released by the journal Science. The study shows how coffee plants "gained the biochemical equipment necessary to make caffeine" as a result of millions of years of evolution. Even more shocking is that the plants appear to have evolved this biochemical equipment in order to control the behavior of mammals. Yes, mammals. Like you and me.

Coffee plants have long been known to contaminate the ground with caffeine as their leaves wither and fall off, making it difficult for other plants to germinate in the poisoned soil and thus killing off the competition. Scientists are also familiar with its toxicity to insects, which have evolved taste receptors that help them avoid ingesting the caffeine. But it seems that coffee and other caffeinated plants also deliver caffeine through their nectar, which feeds insects and other animals, who then spread the plants' pollen. And when the helpful critters feed on caffeinated nectar, it stimulates their brains so they're more likely to remember the scent of the plant, return to it and spread its pollen even further. Caffeine producing plants have a similar effect on humans: it's toxic if we take too much, but at lower doses, it enhances our brains.

Neurobiologist Julie A. Mustard says, "It's a very cool fact that you can use one molecule to do a negative thing and a positive one." And that positive/negative relationship might be the key to why caffeine evolved in plants the way it did. According to Dr. Mustard, caffeine producing plants are "manipulating all of us."

Now there's someThing to think about with your morning "cuppa Joe!"

See you next week,
Bobby

Trek Tech

August 29, 2014

Have you heard about the Tricorder XPrize? If not, you know what a tricorder is: the gadget that Star Trek doctors used to diagnose any ailment with just a sweep over the patient's body. No needles or x-rays needed, with this handy Thing, Star Trek docs could figure out what was wrong with you in just a couple of seconds. Now someone has gone and invented one.

India's team "Danvantri" is one of the 10 finalists in the XPrize competition, developing a "tricorder that can diagnose some 15 diseases and measure 5 vital signs," according to the XPrize Foundation. Four U.S. teams are also in the competition, which is expected to conclude at the end of next year, with a $10 million prize going to the winning team.

But team Danvantri might be ahead of the game. They've already commercialized something similar. Their commercial device can check blood pressure, blood oxygen level and temperature with the use of a mobile app. Now they're integrating other technologies into the Thing, including a high-def camera and testing strips (like those in pregnancy tests, for example) in hopes of winning the XPrize. Hoping to diagnose kidney and liver problems, among other ailments, the camera takes a picture of the strip color and the mobile app analyzes the image to identify the medical problem. The team also developed probes for their device, which can check for ear infections and even do an EEG!

Now, I hope I never need to see one of these Things in action, but if I ever develop a mysterious ailment, it will be good to know my doctors will have some Star Trek Tech on their side!

Stay well. See you next week,
Bobby

Financially Embarrassed?

August 23, 2014

Summer fun has a way of emptying the wallet -- fast. There are ball games to attend, road trips to take, beach gear to buy and bring-your-own backyard barbecues to fund, among other Things. At this time of year, I find that, more often than not, I run out of money before I run out of month. So I thought I'd look up a few Things that might help me -- and you -- bolster our finances through the end of the fun season.

I'm a change collector. Not to be confused with coin collectors, who are all business about their spare change, I'm one of those people who throw change into a jar when it gets too heavy for my pockets. Once the jar fills up, I take it to one of those coin machines at the supermarket and cash it all in. I never once thought of looking through the jar for rare and valuable coins. Until I read Strike It Rich With Pocket Change. The guide helps you find error coins like doubled die cents, rotated reverse quarters and missing letters among your unassuming cache of cash and helps you turn your cents into dollars.

But that might be too much work for some people. Our Get Rich Quick Money Spells DVD is a fine alternative to digging through piles of dirty coins. Instead, learn to use candles, herbs and oils to cast money spells to turn your fortunes toward fortune. You'll learn how to become a "money magnet" and how to put yourself on the road to lasting financial security.

Others might want a little excitement on the way to solvency, which is why the Slots Conquest book makes my list of Things to help fatten your wallet. It will teach you how to beat the house at slots by recognizing which machines to play, how to gain the mathematical edge and how Random Number Generators really work. It also tells you why you should stay away from those low-denomination machines designed to drain your bankroll in tiny increments.

Try one Thing or try them all. And if all else fails, there's always the lottery.

Good luck. I'll see you next week,
Bobby

Tell a Joke Day

August 15, 2014

Saturday is Tell a Joke Day. With the passing of Robin Williams this week, it might seem inappropriate to tell jokes, but I think just the opposite is true. Laughter was Williams' favorite Thing. So in celebration of Joke Day and in honor of one of America's greatest national treasures, I'm going to mark the day with jokes, lots and lots of jokes.

But how do you tell a good joke? What makes some jokes funnier than others? Here are some tips to help you keep them in stitches on Saturday:

  • Delivery is king: It's how you tell the joke. This includes many Things like tone of voice, body language, pauses and, most importantly, confidence in the material. If you don't think the joke is funny, your audience won't either.
  • Know your audience: Offensive jokes can be hilarious, but only if it's clear to you and your audience that you intended to be offensive. Accidentally offending someone is only effective at, well, offending someone.
  • The punchline: This is where everything comes together. A punchline should be an unexpected twist or observation and it shouldn't be obvious that it's coming. If your audience guesses the punchline, the joke is over before you finish. But the punchline should seem obvious once you reveal it. It's okay to make people think with a joke, but if you have to explain it, it's not funny.

So arm yourself with your best material for Saturday and get out there with confidence. Whether your jokes flop or fly, elicit laughter or groans or make people just roll their eyes, you'll be doing your part to celebrate the funniest day of the year.

Laugh it up. I'll see you next week,
Bobby

Survival Things

August 08, 2014

With hurricane season underway and multiple storms brewing in the Pacific and the tropics, it's time to turn our attention to Things we need to survive a disaster. Even if the disaster only amounts to a few days of lost electricity, there are some Things you can do to make yourself a little more comfortable while you wait out the repair teams.

You don't need a generator or even a stockpile of batteries to keep your home well-lit once the sun goes down. Our Solar Spotlight soaks up the sun's energy during the day to provide plenty of light after dark. And if flooding is a concern, not to worry. This Thing floats!

You also want to make sure you have plenty of bottled water stocked before a disaster strikes. But just in case you forgot a few other Things, this Water Bottle Survival Kit comes complete with so many Things you'll need in a disaster situation. Like a flint for starting fires, an emergency blanket, a compressed towel and some bandages, among other Things.

MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are great to have on hand, but they aren't the tastiest Things in the world. So if you want to cook while basic services are kaput, try out this Emergency 8 In 1 Stove. Not only does it allow you to build a fire for cooking, boiling water or heat, the front panel serves as a multi-tool complete with wrench, screwdriver, can opener and even a saw! Plus it folds flat for storage or carrying and it's small enough to be carried in a backpack.

You might never need any of these Things and let's hope you don't. But you know what they say, "Hope for the best; prepare for the worst."

Stay safe. I'll see you next week,
Bobby

Things for the Grill

August 01, 2014

Cooking outdoors is among my favorite Things to do in the summer. Or fall. Or winter and spring, for that matter. If I had my way, the whole kitchen would be outdoors and it would be centered around a gigantic grill the likes of which modern civilization has never seen. But I don't get my way very often -- kitchen design being no exception. And not everyone shares my enthusiasm for winter grilling, so if I want to have guests over to sample my favorite outdoor meals, I have to get my grill on during the summer months.

There are some Things to remember if you want to grill up unforgettable meals. Like keeping it clean. A dirty grill can leave some funky flavors on your carefully marinated meats and vegetables, not to mention old char, which isn't good for you even when the char is fresh. So a good grill grate cleaner is essential if you want to be the best grillmeister in your neighborhood.

While you might not need this Thing, the BBQ Branding Iron makes for good conversation when you're serving up the steaks. You can change out the letters and make it read anyThing you want -- from your name to the cut of meat you're grilling to funny sayings. With 60 easily changeable letters and spaces, the possibilities are endless. But just remember before you start making up your best brands: in this case, you must strike while the iron is not hot.

The last Thing you need for a perfect grilling weekend is hot sauce. Some people like BBQ sauce, but I find most of them are too sweet and they mask the flavor of the foods instead of complementing it. So while you might want to keep some on hand for the faint of heart, try cooking with hot sauces, which bring out the unique flavors in meats and vegetables like no other condiment. But don't take my word for it. Turn up the heat and taste for yourself!

Grill on, Grillmeisters. I'll see you next week,
Bobby

A Few (More) Zzzzzs

July 25, 2014

Most of us don't need a scientific study for proof of sleep's importance to our health and well-being. A single night of lost or impaired sleep will leave most of us with a feeling of general malaise and fatigue for a day or even longer. It makes us cranky, interferes with our reasoning skills and impairs our ability to deal with daily stress. But sleep doesn't always come easyily in our busy, hyper-connected world.

We all know the drill: on any given night you check your email one last time, have a browse through Facebook or Twitter and finally fall into bed completely exhausted thinking, "I'm gonna sleep good tonight!" But that's when your brain goes into overdrive. You relive the day in your mind and you worry about tomorrow. Then your mind wanders to Things left undone: how you haven't called your parents in ages, that the grass needs mowed, when you'll find time to finally clean out the science experiments growing in the refrigerator. And before you know it, you're reaching for the remote because, clearly, there's no sleep to be had so you might as well see who's on late night TV.

You might think the TV helps lull you to sleep, but it turns out that all that technology in the bedroom could be more culprit than companion when it comes to a good night's rest. Sleep experts recommend expelling cell phones, tablets, computers and even televisions from your bedroom for good. They also say you should give yourself a good one- to two-hour break from electronic devices (including the television) before hitting the sheets because those pretty HD screens actually suppress melatonin, which is the chemical that tells your brain that it's time to mellow out.

So what to do? Create an environment that is conducive to sleep - and only sleep - in the bedroom. First, invest in a good mattress and comfortable pillows and bedding. Second, develop a bedtime routine to help signal your brain that it's time to shift gears. Third, banish those dastardly glowing devices. Retain only your alarm clock and maybe a sound machine to block out distractions from busy streets or noisy neighbors. Finally, read a book - any book as long as it's the paper kind. Reading an actual book, no matter the subject, helps calm the nerves by eliminating sound and vision stimulus (as well as distractions like commercials) and doesn't expose you to melatonin killing light. Experts agree that changing a few Things in your surroundings and routine immediately and dramatically improves sleep patterns. But it doesn't take an expert to tell us what we know from experience: we're all happier and healthier when we're getting our straight eight!

Sleep well. I'll see you next week,
Bobby