27 April 2017

#EchoLook: It's #Amazon #Alexa #AI #HandsFree #Camera + #StyleAssistant #NewProducts #SmartDevices #Selfies

Got an email from Amazon yesterday introducing the new Echo Look, which is billed as a "Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant" or in other words, a glorified automatic selfie camera. You can take full-length photos and short videos with the Echo Look. (It has Alexa built-in, so it's voice controlled.) It also has "built-in LED lighting, a depth-sensing camera and computer vision-based background blur" along with a companion app that allows you to check out your photos and build personal lookbooks.
Amazon Echo Look. Image (c) Amazon.com
Amazon Echo Look
The listed price is $199.99, free shipping included. This product can be purchased "by invitation only." You can request an invitation to purchase the Echo Look on its product page. (If selected, you will receive an email with an invitation to purchase.) So of course, I requested my invite immediately. Immediately, I tell you.


NOTE: There is nothing wrong with taking pictures of yourself --- if that's what you want to do. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with an AI controlled camera. In fact, I can think of myriad uses for this thing that would NOT involve selfies in any way, shape or form. It's merely that for all the data Amazon supposedly collects on its customers, looks like somebody would have recognized that a person who HATES having her picture taken is likely NOT the market demographic for this product (as it's billed). But Big Data is only as good as its mining... And don't get me started on the marketing gimmick of something only being available to PURCHASE "by invitation." I could rant about this for days... Days!

26 April 2017

A Castle Modern #MiniMe: @ModDollHome -- a Staging Showcase for 18" Scale #DollhouseDecorators #Hobbies

I've collected miniatures since I was a young child. Tiny (working) versions of actual objects have always fascinated me. I never played with these items as "toys," preferring instead to setup elaborate still life stagings of the dreamscapes in my mind. As a child who viewed much of the world around her as nonsensical and alien, collecting and later crafting my own miniatures allowed me to fashion my own world, one that was natural to me. Dolls were always secondary to the miniature landscapes, buildings, vehicles and furnishings. (Seems I was a budding home & garden enthusiast even then.)

The recent Spring Break visit of my little niece, who is absolutely gaga over all things American Girl, expanded my miniature horizons into the 18" scale. (I was rather strictly a 1" scale collector prior to our various toy bonding sessions, which included a trip to the American Girl store in a nearby town.) During our far-reaching chats, I was peppered with questions. I was asked why I had all this "little furniture" when none of it fit American Girl dolls --- as if no other toys could dare exist --- and then it was inquired whether I could make "bigger" things for American Girl dolls. I'd never considered it, but then thought, why not? And so, virtually overnight I became a budding collector of 18" scale miniatures.
Toy Horse on display at the American Girl Store
As a creative side (or sub-) project to this blog, I'm now also developing ModDoll (as in model) Home, which is also all about "making a dream home" --- except in 18" scale, a sort of Castle Modern mini me, if you will. (As is often done in Architecture, in Design and in Fashion, I plan to demo some of the things I'm working on in real life at Castle Modern in miniature at ModDoll Home, thus, it will serve a practical purpose. However, I also plan to use ModDoll Home to stage whatever ideas strike my fancy.)

Overall ModDoll Home will showcase the latest in dollhouse decorating, employing a combination of things that I personally design & make along with things that I buy (or otherwise acquire), exactly as in real life. It should be fun!

NOTE: The ModDoll Home mini blog is currently under construction. In the meantime, I've registered Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts to get things going (and protect my extended brand), using @ModDollHome on each platform. Not much content as yet, but eventually....

12 April 2017

The Village Idiot Knows No Shame #WordstoLiveBy

There is a reason that we should not elevate imbeciles to positions of power. That's all I have to say today. Excuse me, I need to unplug for a moment.

11 April 2017

#MailCall: #ProductTrials & #Samples #NonProfits #Causes #TryB4

Looks like I'll be trying and reviewing some vitamins over the next few weeks, as I received a product trial kit yesterday via UPS. I also got an Amazon order, a coupon for a free Noosa Yogurt, some lovely (surprise) note cards from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation along with a donation request, and some organic mesclun lettuce seeds from Tasty Bite's The Good Seed program where one is provided with free seeds to grow produce and asked to share a successful harvest with a local food bank. I participated last year, but unfortunately the seeds I received never propagated. (Although I tended to them diligently, I think the extreme drought may have been too much for squash.) Hopefully, this round will bear fruit.

I'm nearly ready to start planting my garden this year.

10 April 2017

Battling the #Elements: Side-Effects & #Symptoms of Yardwork #Eczema #Gardening #WeatherGeek

While I appreciate the round of drier weather we've experienced over the last several days; it's been so very dry that my eczema flared. (No doubt exacerbated by all the stress that the recent violent storms created.) I've been working outside clearing storm debris and preparing my garden, but of course this exposes me to the elements and makes my already dry skin worse. I basically need to ladel on moisturizing lotion after every trip outdoors. Pup watches me suspiciously. She thinks all salves should be lickable.

At least it's no longer windy... I'm working on making DIY rain barrels as part of my irrigation system.

09 April 2017

The #SundayFunday: #Recap and #Unwind #Keurig #Coffee #VeggettiPro #Spiralizer #Zoodles #Drinkwell

Sunday is one of my favorite days, the true weekend, I use this day to catchup and reflect on the week past. Pup and I head out for a leisurely constitutional to kick things off and then I make coffee and turn on the morning news programs --- I regularly watch CBS News Sunday Morning with Jane Psuley at 9:00a, but otherwise will flip channels between the different shows to find stories of interest --- when we return.

I might read a few magazines, do a little browsing online (often following up on news bits mentioned on the morning broadcasts), work in my garden (seasonally) and/or watch a movie or two. It's a day of rest, where I try NOT to set an agenda, but enjoy What Dreams May Come whenever they happen to arrive. (Sometimes I do work on a Sunday, but unlike Saturday, I aim for this to be the exception, rather than the rule.)

Spring Break is ending, which means my little niece is headed back home to prepare for school restarting. So we should have peace and quiet to contemplate and wallow. What's that sound? No thing. Not a creature is stirring --- exactly how we like it!

After a relaxing morning, we plan to play around with our new toys later today. The furbabies' Drinkwell® Multi Tier Pet Water Fountain arrived via post yesterday; while I've got my Veggetti Pro Vegetable Spiral Cutter and a Nifty Home Products K-Cup Storage Drawer for my Keurig 2.0. (As I don't generally buy the prefab K-Cups as a rule, preferring to use a refillable K-Cup filter --- less waste and I can grind my own coffee beans fresh --- I figure I can store other coffee ritual paraphernalia in the drawer, which also acts as an elevated stand for the Keurig brewing machine.)

I got the storage drawer for free at Sears using SYWR points and I only paid $3.77 OOP for the Veggetti Pro at Sears after deducting SYWR points. The pet water fountain is a reward (freebie) available through the Purina Catchow Perks program for which I redeemed 275,000 points that I'd earned over the last year or so. (It states to allow 4-6 weeks for Catchow Perks rewards to arrive in the order confirmation email I received and yesterday marked a few days shy of "4 weeks" from the date of my order.)

Perhaps, we'll make zoodles for dinner....

07 April 2017

After the #Storm: #Cleanup + #PetParenting

Spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday, removing downed tree branches and other debris. It was still quite windy out, but less so than the previous day. On the bright side, it's supposed to be a gorgeous weekend (after a cool start this morning). Hopefully, Pup and I will get a few strolls in.

FYI #NFBW: #Free #Fishing Days #Hobbies #Anglers #H2O #Freebies

Here's a fun outdoors freebie: Many states offer "Free Fishing Days" during National Fishing and Boating Week (generally in early June) when a person is allowed to fish on public bodies of water without a fishing license.

Visit http://takemefishing.org/nfbw for more information and to plan an outing that the whole family can enjoy. (I have fond childhood memories of tagging along on a few trips with my dad when he went fishing. It was fun to dig for worms.) Some people fish for food (remember to check for mercury contamination warnings depending on the body of water you plan to fish), some for sport, and others for the exercise and ambience. Being out on the water or on a bank near the water can be relaxing. Remember there's always catch and release. (Help prevent overfishing and promote sustainable ecosystems.) Enjoy the Great Outdoors!

06 April 2017

She's Come Undone! #Cleanup #Storms #WeatherGeek

What can I say except that yesterday was beast. I'm completely knackered. Pup and I will have to recoup. It'll take a minute to clear up the debris. (As there's a Wind Advisory in effect until 10:00p tonight, we probably won't be able to do any meaningful cleanup until tomorrow at the earliest. Howling wind tends to blow debris right at you. Go figure.) It's a mess here, but many of those around us got hit worse. Overall, the South was pummeled. Chin up. We'll rise, again.

05 April 2017

#SevereWeather Sign-Off #WeatherGeek #Georgia #StormWarning

Another severe weather system is approaching right now and it has the potential to be bigger and badder than yesterday's. Considering yesterday's storm system produced 20 odd tornadoes in the state of Georgia, this is serious --- and expected to impact the state for much of the day.

Pup and I are hunkering down to ride it out. I don't expect to get much done on the work front. Safety takes precedence. Be weather aware, folks (in the path of these storms). We hope tomorrow is a new day. But first, we have to get through today.

04 April 2017

#SevereWeather #Storms #Tornadoes #Flooding #Lighting #WeatherGeek

Yesterday was a dozy across the South. We were pummeled, socked and kicked. Rain, wind, hail, flooding, lightning and tornadoes. We get a day's break, before the next round is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday afternoon morning (the next weather system sped up). Followed by a drop in temperatures over Thursday and Friday before a rebound this weekend. I'm exhausted after a tense day yesterday and so is Pup. (She does NOT like storms.) I think I need a lay in, but I need to clear up debris before the next storm system. No rest for the weary. (My thoughts are with those affected by the severe weather. It's been rough.)

03 April 2017

Who's Responsible for Your #Sports Loss? That Would Be You. #Ethics #Accountability Poor #Journalism #Golf #GolfRules

After reading numerous headlines along the lines of "Viewer Costs Golfer Major" and "Golfer Loses Major Because of Viewer," I have to say that the competency level of journalists in this country has sunken to another low --- and this is saying something. The at-home television viewer who pointed out the golfer's rule infraction is not responsible for the golfer's loss. The golfer is. SHE IS THE ONE WHO BROKE THE RULE (whether intentionally or not). The viewer merely drew attention to what occurred. Losing the tournament rests squarely on the golfer's shoulders. Hey mainstream media, please stop with this ridiculous deflection, we get enough of that from "the powers that be."

Don't even get me started on Tiger (Woods) chiming in...

#Alpharetta #Shopping Trip #Babysitting #AmericanGirl #PaneraBread #Gamestop #Deals

My sister, our niece and I spent most of the afternoon (from about 1:30p - 6:30p) roaming around Alpharetta and then made stops in Brookhaven and Buckhead. We did go to the American Girl Store at Northpoint Mall. It was cute (and unsurprisingly crowded). My niece wanted everything, of course. Meanwhile, I could only laugh at the prices they charge for mass produced plastic doll furniture.

I remember when American Girl was introduced some 31 odd years ago by the Pleasant Company and while I thought it was very expensive even then as a kid, at least the furniture was (mostly) made of real wood. The original items showed craftsmanship and attention to detail. They were things worthy of "childhood desires." The majority of the "modern" items that I saw just looked cheap and cheesy, in my opinion. A sign of the (Mattel) times, I guess. But little girls --- and some adult collectors --- are still enthralled and snap up any brand introduction. (Whereas I would only buy the stuff on extreme sale or via free deals.)

I don't like to go shopping in the real world. I will go, if I can score deals only available in-store or if it's a special occasion trip like this (going to the American Girl Store for the first time). If we were only planning to go to the one place, it would have been fine, but my sister is (oddly to me) a Brick & Mortar shopoholic. She can literally spend ALL DAY out. I agreed to go, partially because her birthday is coming up next week, and spending the afternoon together would amount to "family bonding time." Urgh! Still, I knew that I would be bored out of my mind within moments as she and our niece, who also seems to like real world shopping, happily went about. Thus, I'd planned to take advantage of a few deals during our trip in order to make the afternoon more worth my while.

Turns out I had an old $10.00 Gamestop Gift Card that I got free with My Coke Rewards points like two Christmases ago, so I finally used it. (With the recently announced Gamestop store closings, I didn't want to hold onto it any longer and potentially end up with a valueless card, if its business "cost-cutting measures" progressed rapidly to bankruptcy or going out of business entirely.) So I ended up getting a couple Funko Pop vinyl figures and only paying $0.78 tax OOP. (The figures were $5.00/ea.)
Image (c) Funko Pop.
Ms. Pac-Man

Image (c) Funko Pop.
Suicide Squad: Killer Croc

I've been loosely reading various discussions of Funko Pop figures on a few of the gaming and movie sites I frequent. I was aware of them, but hadn't seen any in the wild. Then I spotted some near the checkout counter in the Gamestop store and thought "I could get two for free and they'll make fun gifts, if I decide not to keep them." So I bit. I chose Ms. Pac-Man, a favorite arcade game in my youth, and Suicide Squad: Killer Croc, because I recently saw the movie and liked the character.

I also used My Panera Rewards Card to get a free Cinnamon Crunch Bagel. (Panera Bread gifted me a "Free Daily Bagel in April" reward yesterday. At first, I thought it was an April Fools' Day prank. But it wasn't. I can get one free bagel each day this month, if I so choose.) I love bagels and I especially love Panera Bread bagels. My favorites being the Asiago Cheese and the Cinnamon Crunch. So this is an awesome surprise gift!

And finally, I used my Shopkick app to do a few check-ins while we wandered the mall. I earned enough kicks to redeem for a $2.00 gift card to either Target or Wal-Mart --- or I can keep saving for a higher tier reward.

Not a bad afternoon, in spite of my crazy family.

02 April 2017

Missed the #AmericanGirl Boat? Adventures in #Babysitting

My little niece is visiting. It's her Spring Break. She is absolutely crazy about American Girl everything. She really, really wants to go to the American Girl store in Alpharetta. I told her "we'll see." I'm not certain I can handle an entire store of crazed little girls. My patience only goes so far. (I guess I'm out of the loop.)

01 April 2017

#Atlanta #FreewayCollapse #HatsOff 2 #FirstResponders

It's the only news. Thursday afternoon or early evening, a section of I-85 burned, buckled and collapsed (near the Captain Herb Interchange). It was an absolute traffic nightmare and will remain one for some time to come. The wonderful part is that in spite of the fact that better than 250,000 people use that interchange during rush hour/s no injuries have been reported --- because our first responders put in an ace performance. Hats off!