Aug 16, 2011 What's Going On
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
Jul 13, 2011 Today's Agenda
Normally if I haven’t gotten around to writing this by the afternoon I just don’t write it. And laying out today’s agenda after 11pm certainly seems silly. But I’ve been trying to post it all day, writing little bits here and there on the go and then having to change it as I progressed through my day. So I’m posting it, dammit!
I started my day biking to an appointment with Microsoft, about 7.5 miles. Then 7.5 more back. At the end my legs were like jelly and I needed Advil just to sit on a conference call. But the Microsoft meeting was fantastic! My fellow Blogging Angels and I got to preview Avatar Kinect, and while I’m not really allowed to talk specifics yet, I thought it was a lot of fun and can’t wait to use it at home. You’ll be hearing more from me on this.
Then, from 5:30-6pm I got to guest on “Whatever, with Jennifer” on Martha Stewart’s SiriusXM channel. I’m used to doing that kind of thing with my Blogging Angels podcasts, but I think this might have been my first time doing something like that live. It was a ton of fun. We talked about my blog, putting yourself first, helicopter parents, and a bunch of other stuff. Jennifer is a hoot. Check out her blog. I hope to return to the show.
Of course, it didn’t occur to me to get a picture of myself at my mic, but just imagine my face on this picture of Jennifer, add eighty or so pounds, give her old shoes and totally uncool clothes, and you’ve pretty much got it.
That’s it for me. I’m exhausted. I will sleep well tonight.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 8. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.
Feb 8, 2011 Product Review
I’ve been using this gorgeous HTC HD7 Windows phone for a month now, so I’ve gotten to know it pretty well. It was provided to me to use at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month as part of a sponsorship package between Windows Live and the Blogging Angels. The word I would use to describe the new Windows 7 Phone operating system is “elegant.”
The home screen of this phone is delightfully simple: big “live” tiles that update as you get new emails, calls or texts, or as friends post to facebook (I’m still breathlessly awaiting similar integration for Twitter). There are pre-defined tiles that can be added or dropped from the home screen, plus just about anything else you use regularly can be made into a tile. My husband is a tile. A few of my favorite websites are tiles. Instead of having to open a program and then navigate to what you need, you simply click on the tile, and you’re there. (I would like to see an option for more than one home screen though. I’d love to have one for entertainment, one for work, one for contacts, etc.)
I had some trepidation about not having a physical QWERTY keyboard, but the keyboard on this phone is excellent. I can type very fast without any lag on apps native to the phone and most websites, and the autocorrect is very good. I don’t miss having a keyboard at all, which was really unexpected.
If you already use Hotmail, Outlook, Word, OneNote, etc. then this phone is a no-brainer for you. If you also like to watch a lot of video on your phone, you should run to a T-Mobile store and get an HTC HD7. With a giant screen that takes up pretty much the entire front of the phone, (the bezel is very thin) video is really enjoyable to watch. Knowing that the phone would get a lot of use this way, the designers were very smart to put a kickstand on the back that props the phone up in landscape mode. On a recent flight as the guy across the aisle struggled to prop his phone up on a book, I was able to just set mine on my tray table with the kickstand open.
With such a beautiful set-up for videos my big hope was that the process of getting video to the phone and watching it would be easy, and it was. First off, there’s Netflix. If you already have a Netflix account (which I do) you can sign in on the phone and be watching a movie or TV show in about a minute – no special mobile account, just the regular “on demand” choices you already watch on your TV or computer. It really couldn’t be any easier. With a good Wi-Fi or 3G connection (not even great, just good) the video playback for me has been flawless every time, like watching Netflix on my TV (which I do through my XBox).
It’s also very simple to watch videos through the phone’s Zune software. Zune might be a new concept for a lot of people, but since I actually have a Zune player (also given to my by Microsoft) it was very familiar (and I have to say, Zune is way easier to use than iTunes). Videos (as well as music and pictures) can be dragged and dropped from a computer to the phone during a sync, and the best part is that if you’re trying to add a video in a format that isn’t playable on the phone, Zune will automatically convert it to one that is (though this can take a while, so if you’re transferring a lot of big videos that need converting, best to do it overnight; if they don’t need to be converted, transferring is super quick). Zune can be set up to sync your media automatically (even wirelessly over your home WiFi network!) or you can transfer manually.
The camera on this phone is so good that I did not use my “real” camera even once at CES. The autofocus produces pictures that are crisp, even close-up. Pictures taken without the flash have a lot of depth and good color. The flash, though, needs a “low” option – it’s just too powerful to use for anything other than a far-away shot, everything looks washed out and shiny. On the other hand, the powerful dual flash comes in very handy with the video camera. That’s right, you can set the flash to stay on while using the video camera! It’s like having a little portable spot light. Video on this phone is also good, although when subjects are moving a lot or the camera is moving, it does refocus too much, which can be a little annoying.
Pictures can be shared from the phone via email or text, put right onto Facebook, or uploaded to SkyDrive, and the pictures that you’ve already put on SkyDrive and Facebook are all right there on your phone. This was a very nice surprise.
Playing games on the HTC HD7 is a lot of fun. If you have an XBox Live account your avatar carries over to your phone. Honestly I haven’t really checked out yet what I can do on the phone involving XBox Live – I’m much more likely to play some blackjack or Tetris – but it’s nice to see the XBox version of me hanging out on her tile on the home screen. There are a ton of great games for free download, plus favorites for purchase in the Marketplace like Fruit Ninja.
It says a lot about how great this phone is that I’m still using it after a month, because I’m very heavily “googlefied.” I’ve been using Google voice, Google calendar and Gmail for years, so my last phone – a Verizon Droid – worked seamlessly with those programs. The trade-offs with the Droid, though, were a lack of windows compatibility, a clunkier operating system, and entertainment options that were more difficult to use and not part of an organized package, like Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Zune.
If it were just a matter of having to go directly to the Google sites to use Gmail and calendar, that might be fine. Not as easy as having an app, but fine. But Gmail, calendar, and Google voice seem especially and extraordinarily difficult to use with this phone (although my contacts transferred over with zero problems). For some reason, the keyboard simply does not work well on the Google sites – there’s a huge lag and it misses some characters. It’s almost comical how badly they work together, considering how great the keyboard is!
It is possible (and quite easy) to use Google calendar with the phone’s calendar, but it only shows your main calendar. This is pretty useless for those of us who have multiple calendars (I think I have nine – yes, I know). It is also very easy to read and send email using the phone’s email app, but what I can’t do is sort the emails into their Gmail folders for later action, or tag them, or see my priority inbox. Plus, since I get ALL emails in one stream, I get all of those spammy ones in the stream that I started filtering out years ago.
So I’m hoping that some apps appear in the near future to deal with these problem.s However, I like this operating system so much that I’m actually considering switching which email and calendar programs I use (Google voice I’d stick with because I don’t need to type more than a few letters to make a call). I could always have my old email address forward to a new one, so that’s not as crazy as it sounds. I really want to continue using Windows Phone 7 phones but I’m simply not as productive over email without Google integration.
Overall I’m thrilled with this phone. The fact that the platform is so new only means that fixes for many of the things I mentioned above will be coming with future software updates and apps.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Jan 25, 2011 Product Review
I’ve been traveling a lot lately. For the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of attending conferences and events all over the country. As I write this I’m on my way to Nashville to attend the #Blissdom conference. I’m having an unusually comfortable flight due to the fact that nobody is sitting next to me, but I try to make sure that every trip is comfortable by bringing with me what I need to have a restful or productive flight, whichever I’m in the mood for.
Today is pretty typical. I’ve got two bags with me, a purse and a small laptop bag. In my purse I have pretty much what I would have if I were traveling by subway instead of airplane:
- My little not-a-netbook Sony Vaio P Series laptop, running Windows 7. I take this with me pretty much everywhere. It’s so much more comfortable to use on an airplane tray table than a regular-sized laptop (even if the seat in front of me is jammed all the way back), and it‘s much faster than a netbook, running all of my favorite Windows Live programs, like Live Writer and Photo Gallery – everything I need to get a post together mid-flight.
- A back-up battery and power cord for my Sony P.
- The HTC HD7 phone given to me to review by Microsoft. It runs on the slick new Windows Phone 7 operating system, and is the perfect flying companion for mobile entertainment. As I type this, I’ve got my phone propped up on its little kickstand, playing West Wing on its huge, beautiful screen.
- The phone’s wall charger, which has a detachable USB cable. (I love that – one less thing to bring!)
- My favorite Icon headphones, given to me by Lift Audio. I have very small ears (on the inside, anyway) and generally find that headphones designed to stick straight into my ears are completely uncomfortable, and after a while painful. These came with three different little silicon covers so that I could find the one that fits my ears perfectly. I can wear these for hours without even noticing that they’re in. They are passive noise-isolating headphones, meaning they don’t require batteries. The sound is fantastic, especially on an airplane where the sound you want to listen to is competing with the drone of the engines. As a bonus, the wires are not rubber coated, but instead coated with something that feels more like a thin shoelace. They come with a little zippered sport case perfect for throwing in a bag, and it has a carabiner on it so that it won’t get lost.
- My wallet, sunglasses, a small make-up case with the essentials (especially Chapstick and hand lotion – airplane air is ridiculously dry!), and another case with my jewelry – I don’t ever check my jewelry.
- Peanuts. Like a Pavlovian dog with frequent flyer miles, when I get on a plane my mouth starts watering for peanuts. It doesn’t matter that most airlines don’t serve them anymore, I was raised on airplane peanuts. So I bring my own.
- Special K Protein bars. Airport and airplane food is expensive, fattening, and unbelievably tempting. I try to reach for a Special K bar instead. They’re tasty, filling, and only 180 calories.
- Gum and mints. Because you should always have those, not just on airplanes.
So my purse contains everything I need for about 75% of flights. My second bag serves two purposes: it holds the items – mostly electronic – that I would never want to check, and the extra stuff comes in handy on longer flights or airport delays. I love this bag, it’s from PacSafe and has all of the pockets and separators I need to keep my things organized. It can be used over the shoulder, or as a backpack. The strap can even be locked around a pole or piece of furniture if you needed to leave it somewhere for a little while. A note to PacSafe: please get rid of the Velcro on the big flap. I’ve snagged a few items of clothing on it.
Here’s what’s inside:
- A smoke hood. This is something that I initially bought to keep in my bedroom at home in case of a fire. I live in a four-story brownstone, and one of my recurring nightmares is being trapped there, in a fire, with no way to get out, choking on thick black smoke. Then I heard something that really bothered me: in plane crashes and rough emergency landings more people than you might think survive the crash, only to die in the ensuing fire of smoke inhalation. So, I bring my smoke hood with me and put it in the seat-back pocket as soon as I sit down. Paranoid? Sure. And I know it’s not likely to be used. But on the off off chance I should be in such a situation, I don’t want my dying thought to be “If only I’d brought my smoke hood!”
- A sleep mask. I usually get only a couple hours of sleep before an outbound flight, so I often want to take a nap on the plane. The sleep mask is why you usually won’t catch me wearing make-up when I fly.
- My Sony Vaio Y Series laptop. I love this computer. It’s light enough that it’s not a big deal to carry around, but really fast and powerful. Plus, if I bring the extra battery I can get between eight and twelve hours of battery life, depending on the power settings.
- An extra battery and power cord for my Y Series.
- My Verizon Mi-Fi 3G mobile hotspot. The size of a credit card, this can function as a hotspot for up to five devices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting where I’m the only one able to get online. This privilege isn’t cheap – I pay $60 a month – but there are other options depending on your wireless provider. Some phones can even act as a hotspot for as little as $15 a month.
- A Mophie Powerstation mobile charger, provided to me by Mophie. I can charge this thing up on my laptop, and it holds enough juice to charge my phone at least twice with some left over for my MiFi or just about anything else that can be charged via USB. As a bonus, it somehow charges things much quicker than if I plugged them into my laptop or a wall charger. It has indicator lights to let you know how much charging power is left, so that you can quickly check before throwing it into your bag.
- My Jabra Stone bluetooth earpiece, provided to me by Jabra. If I used bluetooth headsets more often I’m not sure this would be my first choice – it’s not adjustable and can be difficult to use with sunglasses on. But it’s because I rarely use it that I love this one. It sits in its own little charging case, which holds an additional couple of charges. I can throw this into my purse and know that even if I don’t touch it for weeks, it will be ready for me when I need it. It connects easily and quickly every time.
- A totally awesome Omnitech Mini Speaker sent to me by Staples. This little baby gives incredibly rich sound for its size, and especially for its price – $10! Whether I’m watching videos in my hotel room or presenting something to a group of people, this little speaker is a necessity.
- A little travel mouse. Sometimes I just get tired of using the mousepad.
- Magazines and newspapers, for when I’m not allowed to have my gadgets turned on.
- Water. It’s the first thing I buy when I get past security (well, that and a People magazine – I don’t know why). I don’t particularly like drinking water, but on flights it’s essential.
- Socks. On cross-country flights I always take off my shoes and put on socks. I like to be comfortable, and unlike the woman sitting across from me on my last flight home from California, I don’t want the entire plane to have to look at my cracked heels while I’m being comfortable.
- A fold-up canvas bag. You never know when you’ll need an extra bag, just have one on you at all times.
- Printouts of every mode of transportation, every hotel reservation, and every event I’ll be going to. Even though I can look all of that stuff up on my phone, it’s always good to have a back-up on old-school paper.
- And last but not least, my WristStrong bracelet from The Colbert Report. I’m supposed to give it to somebody more famous than I am, and let’s face it, that’s just about anybody. But I’m holding out for someone more famous than Stephen Colbert. It’s such an old bit at this point, I think that’s the only way he’d pay attention. I was tempted to give it to Harry Connick Jr. at last year’s Blissdom, but didn’t want to get in trouble for trying to give him something. I’ve got some interesting meetings and events coming up in the next few months, I just might hand that thing off yet. Or maybe I’ll just hold on to it in case I should ever run into George Clooney.
And that’s it! Those supplies have gotten me through long flights, long delays, and more annoying seatmates than I can count, and I’m in good shape if I have to sit in an airport for hours and hours.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1 (HTC phone, Icon headphones, Mophie Powerstation, Jabra Stone, Omnitech speaker). Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Nov 9, 2010 Randomosity
Halloween in our neighborhood is HUGE. Every candy stop is super crowded…
Scary movie scenes are recreated in open garages…
People go all out with decorations…
And it gets so crowded that the police shut down a couple of streets, including the one where these crazy people put on a huge production every half hour:
This year the kids wanted to go super-simple with their costumes, which made things very easy on me. In fact, even though I bought fangs and fake blood for my little vampiress, she refused to wear them. It was all about the cape. And after hunting down rubber neck bolts, latex, latex remover, a black wig, and green, white and black make-up, Frankenstein’s Monster decided that he just wanted a mask, and after tearing my hair out at three different stores one suddenly materialized, discarded at the register. Truly a Halloween miracle.
By the way, “Tricky Dick” did not go trick-or-treating, The Ass did. But he threw that on so that he could be in the picture. :-)
Last week I spent a couple of days in California with some fantastic people from the California Milk Advisory Board. We toured a couple of dairy farms and ate more cheese in 48 hours than in the past few months combined. I even got to do some impromptu milking!
Many thanks to my fellow Blogging Angel Heidi for the pic!
The new Microsoft Kinect is finally here! My family has been testing one out for about ten days now, and it is…magic. It hooks up to an XBox, and there are no controllers. You simply move, and it captures your moves with great accuracy. So far I’ve tried the Sports games (beach volleyball is awesome!), Your Shape (the Gym Games are so much fun you forget you’re exercising), and Dance Central (I can’t play that one until everyone goes to bed – I suck so bad, but it’s so much fun!). I think this is going to be THE hottest item for Christmas. Get one early so that you’re not racing around on December 24th trying to get the last one.
Speaking of Kinect…
When the Wii came out, it was big news that a lot of TVs were getting broken by Wii controllers flying out of players’ hands. With no controllers, I didn’t think it was possible to wreck a TV with the Kinect. And yet someone has. Making it even funnier is who it is: a writer for Consumerist!
Times Square Disney Store
This afternoon the kids and I went on a tour of the brand new, two-story Disney Store in Times Square, and it was quite impressive! No matter which Disney princess your little one is into, there’s a section for her. And Jake couldn’t stay away from the Cars and Marvel areas. All three of us spent quite a bit of time in the Toy Story aisles. :-)
We followed the tour with a big blogger dinner down the street at Carmine’s, and then the kids rolled my cheese-stick-and-pasta filled body down the subway steps. It was a fantastic night.
Garfunkel and Oates
I came across these pee-in-your-pants funny singers a couple weeks ago and keep going back to their site to watch their videos (apparently I’m the last one to discover them, based on their YouTube views). My two favorites? Pregnant Women are Smug, and Why isn’t there more Fucking on this Island? Do not play these at work or near your kids. Even if the language isn’t an issue, the hysterical laughter might be.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Oct 20, 2010 Blog & Social Media Stuff
The Blogging Angels – Rebecca, Nancy, Heidi, and I – have been plugging along for nine podcasts now, tackling everything from conferences and swag to advertising and rude commenters. I would have been happy with our little project if it simply gave me an excuse to talk more while hanging out with friends, but it’s growing into something much bigger than the four of us. And I still get to talk more and hang out with friends. :-)
I’m very excited that for our ninth Blogging Angels podcast, we had our first guests: Ben “The PC Guy” Rudolph, and Lisa Worthington. Both work for one of my favorite companies, Microsoft, and had some fantastic advice, including great laptops and netbooks for bloggers, how to work with brands, and how to balance how much you share from your home life on your professional blog. I’d love it if you take a listen! And if you have any ideas for future podcasts, please leave a comment and we’ll definitely consider it (and give you a shout out if we end up doing it).
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.
Jun 21, 2010 What's Going On
Last week I went to a launch party for Microsoft Office 2010. This was incredibly exciting for me because, well, I’m a bit of a geek. Getting to sit with an expert from Microsoft and eat orange M&Ms (orange being the color of Office, of course!) and learn tips and tricks for some programs that I already love was really very cool. I also spoke with some real people (seriously, not robots!) brought in by Microsoft to help explain how Office 2010 can make my life easier, more productive, and more organized.
One of the people I spoke with was Michelle Coolidge, who showed me how she had organized all of her recipes into Microsoft OneNote. I’ve been using OneNote for several years, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to use it for recipes!
I find most of my recipes online these days, but I still print them out because I want to be able to make notes on them and change things. So I’ve ended up with dozens of papers all over the kitchen, some of them multiples of the same recipe because often I can’t find the one I need so I have to search through my bookmarks and print it out again, and then of course I find the original. All of those papers drive my husband a little crazy and cause me to waste time, so the other night I started putting all of those paper recipes onto OneNote. I couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was!
Don’t believe me? Here’s a screencast of me moving a recipe, and a little tour of my OneNote recipe notebook. Definitely make the screen bigger so that you can see what I’m doing.
Wasn’t that fast? I can do it even quicker when I’m not explaining as I go along.
I love this, because now I can’t lose them. Even if I lose my computer, the files are saved to Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which means that I’m also able to access these files online, whether the computer I’m using has Office installed or not. I can take all the notes I want in the same place. I don’t have to search through piles of papers. And best of all, I replaced all of these in about ten minutes.
Next I’m going to work on the couple hundred recipes I have bookmarked online. Those will be even quicker, because I won’t have to hunt down random pieces of paper hiding in my kitchen.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has Compensation Levels of 1 & 5. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and the NYC Moms Blog.
Jun 14, 2010 What's Going On
So the cat seems to be out of the bag on the official name for Microsoft’s Project Natal, the camera-based controllerless game for XBox 360. I cannot wait for this to hit stores (not sure when that is yet, but it could be announced at tomorrow’s today’s – duh, I posted this after midnight – Natal press conference).
We had a blast trying Natal out a few months ago, it was really amazing. Basically, you just stand up in front of it, and play. That’s it. no signing in, no learning curve. Not only was it a blast, but it was a workout! I have no idea how many games will be available for Natal when it officially launches, but I hope some of them are specifically geared towards exercising. The possibilities are fantastic.
Jake was especially into the game. It was torture for him to wait for our appointment, and once we got in there it was hard to get him to stop. I’ve seen him play Wii table tennis sitting on the couch, but with Natal, there’s no half-assing it. It knows if you’re moving.
Take a look at Jake playing a game where balls are coming at you, and you have to hit or kick them back. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to record shots of the game, but you can see what a blast Jake was having. By the end he was sweating – it was a real workout!
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 5. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and the NYC Moms Blog.