A little planning will make your Halloween less frightful

What of what to fill this with?
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That’s right, a little planning right now will help to make Halloween less frightful for you in the end, but in a good way.  We all know by now that the holidays we celebrate are almost always being marketed to us months in advance.  If you haven’t noticed Halloween decorations in almost every store for weeks now, then you must not have left your house in a while.  This can make last minute preparations problematic, especially if you had a very specific item in mind.  Anyone who wants to hand out candy that’s organic, or nut free for example, will be very hard pressed to located what they need.  The only way to avoid this is to make your plans now, before it’s too late. You’ll have what you want, and you’ll be less stressed in the end.

Thanks to the weather, it may not seem like it right now, but it is actually time to start decorating with a Fall theme.  The local stores may not have as great a selection of solar powered decorations anymore, but if you order in the next week or so, you can still get some delivered from online sources instead.  Same thing is true for the snacks you’ll be handing out on October 31st.  Annie’s organic snacks (fruit and crackers varieties) are one option, but for more traditional candy options you’ll want to check out Yum Earth brands.  They don’t offer chocolate, but they do have a whole line of organic suckers, gummies, and now candy corn.

Fresh from the pumpkin patch, Yum Earth’s new Organic Candy Corn (photo by Salena Wakim)

At this year’s Natural Foods West Expo, Yum Earth was showcasing their standard line of treats, but when asked, they did take the opportunity to show off their new Candy Corn addition, which is specially packaged for the holiday.  So far this doesn’t seem to be available in most of your local grocery stores, but if this is the type of thing you’re looking for, then ordering it online might be your only option.

There’s no reason to resort to toothbrushes and stickers this year, especially since a little prepping can help you to avoid it.

Esri and Port of Rotterdam talk energy efficient future

Rotterdam Esri 2018
Photo from Esri Business Summit Faces Board

At this year’s Esri User Conference there was plenty to see.  From start-up companies trying to blaze a new path through all that data we keep generating, to non-profits trying to help save the planet, there were thousands of people there on hand to learn how GIS can help with whatever problem they may have.  There were many stand out moments, including the mini science symposium, and hands on learning opportunities, but one that was particularly worth noting this year was the talk that Erwin Rademaker gave during Business Summit, on the upcoming changes that will be taking place at the Port of Rotterdam.

With its final expansion now underway, the Port of Rotterdam is looking towards the future with virtually all aspects of its design.  As Rademaker said in his presentation, the future of the port will soon see use of autonomous shipping vessels, and the implementation of “smart containers” that will allow for a start to finish tracking of all cargo that is sent in and out of the port.  All these updates, and changes, will require high tech computer systems, and a state of the art energy grid.

To that end, the port is following through on its promise to build a more sustainable port; a port of the future if you will.  One that will not only uphold the sustainable energy future that the Dutch people have long been working towards, but that will also ultimately move the port towards being Carbon Neutral.

To help with building this future, the port is now taking steps to help ensure that they create most, if not all (soon enough), of the energy that the port requires.  They have already installed wind turbines, and solar panels in and on the facility.  However, this project is also being expanded into the water, with the formation of floating solar panel arrays.

Port of Rotterdam Zonnepanelen - Jarno Klerks
Floating Solar Array – Port of Rotterdam – courtesy of Jarno Klerks

In the next ten years, the Port of Rotterdam plans to take advantage of its partnership with IBM, Cisco, and Esri to essentially build what some might call a “smart” port.  The logistics of tracking and maintaining cargo, ships, and energy resources will take a monumental effort.  However, with the process already underway, the success of this project seems to be at hand.

As Comic-Con continues time to restock

Today marks the mid-point of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con event.  If you’re one of those people who decided that they were going to power their way through the whole thing, now is the time to take stock.  Do you still have enough water on hand?  If you’re going outside, are you wearing a decent SPF?  Finally, if you’re wearing a costume have you considered the heat?

Passing out in the middle of an event you’ve been looking forward to all year would be a shame.  So, to refresh yourself, and your supplies, remember that on Market Street (between first and second) there’s a Ralphs grocery store.  Behind that is a Jimbos in the Horton center, and a couple blocks down from both of them is a CVS.

While you’re walking, partying, and generally consuming everything around you, please remember to also take care of the environment around you.  Not only are there people who live in the Gaslamp area of San Diego all year round, but there are animals as well.  Trash, straws, and water bottles can all easily litter up the place, if not properly disposed of.  Also, since the Convention Center is right there on the shoreline, anything that winds up on the ground can easily be blown right into the water by those nice breezes that occur down there.    So, take a moment and find one of the many trash and recycling bins that are everywhere around you.  Really, do you want to walk through other people’s garbage either?

celebration cosplay costumes crowd
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

To recap, take care of yourself, and the world around you, and have fun during your final couple of days.  Happy #SDCC2018 everyone!

To those in the disaster areas

To those of you caught in one of the many fires currently burning, our thoughts are with you.  To those who are helping to fight these fires, we hope for your safety.  To all who are watching these fires on the news somewhere, give thanks that it isn’t you in the middle of it, and try to think of ways that you can help those who are.

Good luck to us all.

lighted matchstick on brown wooden surface
Photo by sebastian soerensen on Pexels.com

T.H.E. Show will go on

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Back when I first started writing this column, the very first conference I ever covered was an Audiophile convention called T.H.E. Show.  I was totally new to this whole writing thing, and had no idea what to expect, but a nicer bunch of people I couldn’t have stumbled upon for my first try at interviewing.  That first trip found me going from exhibit room, to exhibit room, listening to some of the highest end Audio systems I had ever encountered.  Everyone was willing to answers questions, and hang out with this, then, newbie.  It was an experience to remember.  Sadly, a couple of years later, I received an e-mail announcing the passing of the head of this organization, Richard Beers.

“T.H.E. Show Newport 2016 is dedicated to Mr. Richard Beers in Memoriam.” T.H.E. Show Newport info@theshownewport.com Mon 3/14/2016, 1:30 PM

There was, at the time, a question as to how T.H.E. Show would go on, which seems to have ultimately found the membership choosing to split the organization into two.  Some stayed with the new leadership, and continued attending and exhibiting at T.H.E. Show, while others ventured forth and formed a new Convention, going by the name LA Audio Show (LAAS for short).  Periodically I would hear from both set of show organizers, letting me and others know about their upcoming events, and which various exhibitors would be there.

However, all of this seems to have ultimately culminated with the demise of the LAAS.  Earlier in the month I received this notice:

“Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An Open Letter to the Industry. LAAS Cancelled.

Dear Industry Friends,

It is with sadness and regrets that I announce the cancellation of the 2018 LA Audio Show — Orange County. Refunds will start to be issued immediately to those exhibitors who have already paid deposits and/or full remittances for space and other services. These refunds will be in the form of checks and will arrive by USPS Mail to the address provided on contracts. Attendee tickets will be refunded through the system they were purchased.

Once more, I remind you that as Robert Evans stated, “There are 3 sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently,” but he also stated that “any man who thinks he knows the mind of a woman is a man who knows nothing,” so please allow me to touch briefly on what has changed since my last note.

There have been a series of events — much like “Murphy’s Law” or even “God’s Plan” both on the professional and personal level — that has overtaken my ability to perform at the level I expect of myself and the industry deserves. I put in the maximum efforts I could to absorb the chaos and protect the community, but I have run out of fuel in every sense of the word. My shoulders can no longer bear this weight.

It has been an honor and privilege to carry on the legacy of my mentor, Richard Beers. I have sought to do right by him by keeping his traditions and adding innovations I believed to be vital to the future of our industry. It was always my hope that Richard’s divided inheritance would be unified again in the end, and for me, it has been evident that this year presented multiple opportunities to end the separation and I could no longer ignore the dangerous reality of our circumstances. It is my sincere belief that while the lessons and blessings earned were worth everything and part of His plan, I must also admit this LAAS should never have been created, to begin with. We should have collectively worked harder to stay unified in our efforts, and I hope that is how you are able to collectively move forward at this time.

With that said, I urge all those who can, to make arrangements to support The Home Entertainment Show, June 1-3, 2018 at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum Hotel. I am truly apologetic for any inconveniences this may cause the industry……..

I am truly grateful for all of you, for all the lessons and blessings, and I look forward to perhaps meeting and working with you again in a different capacity. I wish much success to T.H.E. Show Newport and its patrons and truly hope that Richard’s legacy will be honored for years to come.

It has been an honor serving you. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)”

So, for anyone who had been planning to attend LAAS, fear not, there is still a way for you to get your Audiophile groove on.  You’ll just have to make a day-trip into the O.C. to do it.  For anyone still looking to obtain tickets to T.H.E. Show, you can find all the information at the official website.


Happy Earth Day 2018

Happy Earth Day everyone.  Despite the continuing lack of Earth Day celebrations around the nation (they’re harder, and harder to find each year), this is still a day celebrated by millions each April.  It just means you might have to look in different places to participate this time around.  So, to help you get started, here’s a few ideas on where to start.

  1. Your own backyard:  Bring the celebration home by starting your garden this weekend.  Mant nursery centers out there are ready to help if you don’t know how.  Also, most Armstrong Garden Centers will still be giving away free lady bugs, with purchase, today.  Time to play in the dirt again.
  2. Your local parks and Zoos:  Many will be celebrating, you just have to do an online search, find one, and show up.
  3. Nationa Parks:  They’re supposed to be free today, so take advantage, as their regular rate is going up.
  4. The Mall:  Yeah, I know, but hear me out.  Many stores ( Pottery Barn, Ikea, Target, etc.) have offered special Earth Day promotions in the past.  You just need to see what your local store has going on.
  5. Finally, your own life:  What I mean by this is that Earth Day is a great time to stop, and do some internal searching and organizing.  Take stock of just how green you’re really living, and make changes as needed. Re-evaluate your eco goals, and maybe even come up with some new ones.  After all, it all starts with you getting involved, and that means being mentally ready to do so.

Natural Products Expo West showcases the best of green living

photo by: Salena Wakim

Today marks the second-to-last day for this year’s Natural Product Expo West, taking place in Anaheim California, and the exhibit floor is still hoping.

For those who haven’t heard, New Hope puts on two of the Natural Products Expos every year (East and West).  Over a four-day period, every exhibit hall that the convention center has to offer is filled to the brim with every green, organic, and natural product you can imagine.  It is ‘The’ show to spotlight what you have to offer consumers, and debut what will be coming up.

So far this year, there have been green make-up brushes, Eco-friendly diapers, allergen friendly sweets, and that’s just a drop in the bucket of what attendees are seeing.

Literally thousands of options were on hand to see.  Check back here to get an insider’s insight into some of the best of the lot.  It’s been dirt work having to peruse those exhibitor aisles, and sample all those goodies, but hey someone had to do it 🙂

Time for some spring planning

Remember to plan before you fly. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the last day of February, and although tomorrow may not be the official start of spring, for anyone looking to travel in the next couple of months it might as well be.  For the last several weeks there have been a wide variety of spring travel deals being posted.  Which means that if you wanted to travel with your family over spring break, then you need to make haste.

There are plenty of local options still, but the longer you wait, the higher the prices will go (that is until in desperation they post last minute deals, so if you’re reading this in a couple of weeks, don’t give up hope).  Theme parks, museums, and zoos are starting to promote special events now as well, but you don’t want to head to those on a spur of them moment decision.  If you do then you’ll absolutely pay more than you needed to.

So to avoid any of those costly mistakes, let’s review the basic travel rules.

You know the drill:

1) Do your internet searches ahead of time, and read the details of any deals you find.

2) Check your work, school, churches, and memberships (Costco, AAA, etc.) for discounts.

3) Make sure to take advantage of any student, senior, military, and teacher discounts if you qualify (and don’t forget your relevant I.D. is you plan to use one).

Things that you might have missed, or forgotten:

A) Don’t look for airfaire or hotel rooms on a computer or laptop, only do those searches on a tablet or you phone!!!!!   Yes, these companies are actively discriminating when they charge you higher rates for using your computer, but the only way (right now anyway) to combat this, is to make sure you use the right machine.

B) Some airlines are now offering truly horrific versions of coach.  Think before you click, as bad seating may have you starting off you vacation with a sore back, or a really pissed off attitude.  Avoid the pain, and pay a little bit more for that better seat if you can.

C) Finally take advantage of every perk you can find.  Does your ticket come with two free suitcase wavers?  If not, then see if that’s a perk your credit card, or AAA membership might offer instead.

Remember, the point of any of this is to have fun.  In addition to saving you some cash, planning ahead can help you enjoy your free time even more.

Happy travels…….


What ever happened to asking why?

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As the New Year quickly marches towards its second month, the rest of us are expected to stop and take stock of our lives before January is completely in the rear view mirror.  So, here’s an insight that, well logically we all know, but is still shocking:  All Gen X-er’s, and many Millennials, have lived a good chunk of their lives up until now, in a different millennium.  That’s right kids, I said Millennium, not Century (although that’s true as well I suppose).  I, for example spent a little over a quarter of a century in that other millennium.  Even some Millennials spent at least ½ their lives there too.

So, what you ask?  We’ve been in the 21st century for 18 years now.  Time marches on for all, right?  Absolutely! You are completely correct, but it’s still a relevant fact to consider; when trying to figure out where you’re going, you must occasionally look back on where you’ve been.  It’s a central part of that whole taking stock thing that many are attempting this month.

Now, don’t freak out on me.  I’m not trying to make you feel old.  I’m simply pointing out that there might be a reason your life feels a bit out of whack these days.  The way you grew up had a set of rules that matched the world as it had been progressing for a while.  With the turn of the millennium, many of those rules changed.  In some cases, the adjustment was easy, but in others it really wasn’t (and in some cases still isn’t).  People took note of this during the first couple of years, but then forgot about it.  As the years have marched on, and more changes accumulated, they didn’t always go down easy.

We adjust, as we must to many things.  However, perhaps the problem isn’t that change itself is occurring, it’s that we are no longer told that we have a right to refuse some of the changes that are occurring, or demand that the pace slow down.  The voices demanding that we all just take it and shut up, have grown so loud that they are now drowning out the concerns of many people who aren’t so sure that these changes are a good thing.

It’s like that argument presented in “Jurassic Park” about being so concerned about being able to do something, that no one stopped to think if they actually should.

Online banking wasn’t really ready to deal with the potential hacks that took place, but it was launched anyway, and we’ve been playing catch up ever since.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that when someone steals your bank info, you can get the money put back in with a lot of help from the bank itself; but how sad is it that it occurs so frequently that we have a massive workforce set up just to handle that.  Everyone it happens to is outraged, but there’s never any discussion about addressing the existence of a system that has so many holes in the first place.

We like the convenience, and that’s the problem.  Who wants to give up 24hr access, even if that means sharing it with a complete stranger who want to steal from you?  Weird argument right, but here we are making it every single day?

What started this reflective, morose attitude today? Cashless businesses, that’s what.  Have we truly considered the ramifications of this?  Don’t buy the excuse that this will mean a greener life, as we won’t have to print money in the future, because paper bills have a much smaller footprint than all the electronics that will now be needed to simply shop.

Already have a smartphone, that’s great for you, but over 30% of the US population doesn’t (many because they can’t afford the expense).  If the trend of cashless businesses grows, then those people will be told that they must suck it up, and get one anyway, just to buy food.  Also, smaller businesses will be forced to pay a company to process electronic payments, increasing the expense of starting a business even more.

Even if you can afford a smart phone or tablet, consider the wisdom of giving a company the power to force you to buy one item, in order to have the privilege of buying more items from them in turn.  That Starbucks that won’t take money, and the Amazon convenience store that makes you check out with a smartphone; they’re both already telling you that!  What happens to you the day you lose your smartphone (or god forbid someone steals it)?  They don’t have any workarounds for you, because no one is insisting that they have to.

Many people around the nation are talking about their unease regarding this latest change with friends, but that won’t truly let their voices be heard.  If you are wondering how a company can tell the public that they refuse to accept our “Nation’s Currency,” then you’re not alone.  If a store wants to encourage more electronic sales, that’s one thing; but to tell us that the good-old dollar bill isn’t welcomed there, is another.  I’m not arguing a Luddite philosophy here; I’m simply saying that it’s time to actively participate in these decisions that are shaping our lives.  If you’re not ok with changes like this, then the time to speak up in NOW!  Failure to do so might just mean you end up with a tomorrow that you really don’t like at all.


The peanut butter cookie rescue

Christmas tree with bells
Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Twas the weekend before Christmas, and all through your house your relatives, and their various special diets, and food allergies are hanging about. 

When what should to your wondering eye should appear, but your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe that you’ve always held so dear.  Alas, you know that if you were to make it this year there would arise such a clatter, with calls of “why are you trying to kill your young cousins!”

So, back into the cupboard you stash your ingredients; only to later make a wish to good ole St. Nick, that there could be a way to still have a taste of those warm peanutty cookies……

Well, Merry Christmas folks, because here’s the answer to your peanut butter troubles.  I like to call it the “Tale of the peanut butter cookie rescue.”

If you’re honestly trying to figure out how to make your usual spread of holiday cookies, while also avoiding triggering one of the many allergies you extended family has, then you need look no further than your local grocery store’s shelves.  While what I suggest here may not solve all of your family’s food issues, what I found at this year’s IFT17 Food Expo, in Las Vegas, will help you hang on to your favorite peanut butter cookies at least.

What I learned is that those pesky peanuts can be swapped out for sunflower seeds instead. Crazy, right?  Yeah, I know.

Now, before you close that window, and declare this site to be fake news, hear me out.  While it is true that sunflower seeds by themselves don’t take like peanuts, when they’re turned into sunflower seed butter, the result shockingly does taste exactly like peanut butter.  Yet another thing to file under, “Weird, but true.”

I sampled some this at the SunButter booth this summer, and was amazed.  I’m a Skippy peanut butter fan myself, but was happily shocked to find Sunflower butter is just as creamy as I would expect peanut butter to be.  So much so, that if I had done a blind taste test, I would have sworn it was made with peanuts instead. The texture, taste, and color, all match, but there really are sunflower seeds in there instead.

With only about a day before Christmas to go, you can still get SunButter in time, because it’s sold at Sprouts and Whole Foods of course, but it is also sold at regular grocery stores like Ralphs as well.  I’ve spotted it in the peanut butter aisle in several stores, so all you have to do is make a quick grocery run, and then start whipping up your batter.  One minor note to make though, since you’re using a different product (aka a seed butter instead) you may have to make a minor adjustment with the baking powder in your recipe (according to the product website you have to decrease it a bit).  For more details, or to check out their version of a sunbutter (aka peanut butter) cookie recipe follow this link.  As you’ll see there, they even come with that traditional fork crisscross imprint.  While you’re there you can read up on more recipe ideas, and product details.

Merry Christmas Everyone, and make sure to share those cookies with Santa too.  Oh, and thanks to Clement Clarke Moore for this little poem’s inspiration.

photo by Salena Wakim at the SunButter IFT17 booth.