Yet Another Web 2.0 app – Id Lasso – www.idlasso.com

This weekend I received my long ago request meecard beta login, in the form of an idlasso.com beta invite.  I spent 15 minutes creating my
card, the process is straight forward, just note all your accounts on all the other web services you use (del.icio.us, digg, facebook, youtube, etc) and it will spit out a virtual card for you to…

Do stuff with, like this;


Or add it to your email sig like this;View my idlasso profile

Interesting enough, but I won’t be using it in my signature, or on my site I think. There are things I do like. The ease of use, if you are like me, using the same username for nearly everything, it has a niffy search feature. Enter your name of choice, and it will search all the prebuilt services for your accounts. Then you check, or uncheck the ones that you want to add. The best implementation of this I’ve seeen.
While I haven’t tested this, I would assume the idea is that this will stay current, say you break up with Twitter, and decide Jaiku (oh wait bad example) is your micro blog of choice, where ever you’ve left your calling card will be current. Slick. If it’s missing something you want (say jaiku or friendfeed), you can add your own.  This is key, as there are always one off sites, hosted blogs, etc.

Downsides… I’ve never been a fan of giving access to other apps, especially unproven, to just login to my accounts, and just grab my contacts. There seems to be no way around this for bulk contact imports. I’d much rather import a csv, or have a manual list I can enter. I think that is the only flaw I found, well that and trying to add a script brick to a blog post can be a trying expierence. So.. if you are an active web poster and want to leave your
mark, but not have it go out of date, you might want to try idlasso.com.

AO

Quest to reduce junk US mail…

We get a lot of junk mail, way too much now that we’re past the “discovery” threshold for the new address. So I spent about a half hour to start the reduction, which I’d done for our old address but not for the new house. I figured I’d write some tips for those of you who’d like to reduce your junk mail.
1. www.dmaconsumers.org is the first step, which will get rid of unsolicited mail. Choose the “get rid of it all” option. Note this only gets rid of place you probably haven’t bought from before. It won’t get rid of catalogs from companies you may actually buy stuff from. If you’re like us, you do this online so the categories are a waste anyway. You will have to put in a CC number but it’s to validate your address. They used to charge you $1, now it’s free.
2. www.optoutprescreen.com
This is run by the credit bureaus and will get you off of credit card offer mailing lists.
3. go to www.catalogchoice.org, to remove yourself from catalogs you get from companies you do buy stuff from but don’t want catalogs for. Keep this updated approximately quarterly.
The above steps take little time to do, but will take 2+ months to see the full benefit of since your name is already out there on lists. Given time, it does work.
4. Email to any other repeat offenders that you don’t want their mail/catalogs.
Any other suggestions?

Letter to my home’s new owner

I wanted to wish you the best for your new house, and share a little of my story with the home. I think this is your first home and I can imagine how excited you may be, for good reason. This was my first home, too. I remember being able to show my parents before I bought it, a big deal since they are from Illinois and only happened to be here for the Boston marathon which my brother ran that year. I remember the amazement of learning about the Groton area and how it was such a great town, most of which I learned after living here for a while.
Along the side, my Dad and I planted tulips and irises together when he visited. There are also some later summer plants. It’s hard to imagine what it will look like now with everything so muddy but in a few weeks they will be in bloom with the grass greening up, leaves budding on the trees. I checked yesterday and the bulbs are starting to emerge. If you happen to like them, they will return for future years as long as the greens are not cut or mowed before they start to wither on their own. Cleaning up tree leaves or weeds around them will help too. If not, well, now you have a quick way to prevent them!
There is a stone wall along the back woods – you should walk it someday. Sturdy boots and some bug spray if it’s that season will help. There are some lovely birds around and sitting on the back deck is a nice way to enjoy them once it warms up. Groton is a great town. Definitely get a library card. You’re not far from the rail trail for a quick stroll or casual bike ride. There is a new Mass Audubon property on Robin Hill, and plenty of conservation areas for walking around. Downtown has some nice shops and eating options too. Farther afield good farm stands, hiking, scenic drives, apple orchards in fall… lots of other discoveries of the house/yard/area.
It has been a great home. And now it’s yours… I hope you build many special memories here as I have. Congratulations!

On food and farming…

Well it has been a very, very long time since I’ve shared any thoughts on farming and food. Since it is finally starting to feel like winter may end (it did snow today, but the days are getting long now) Aaron and I have turned our thoughts to making some progress on our farm. Our objectives for this summer are fairly simple, yet also complex enough that we will be taking on a lot of new changes. We want to have a garden, establish a chicken flock (egg layers), and at least as of now, get the boys (alpacas) here. I think the girls will continue to board for a bit longer so we can acclimate to alpaca care without having baby arrivals enter into the mix.
There are many steps for each of these activities to occur, but this wasn’t meant to be the focus of this entry. But I will say as a side note we’ll be starting with our chickens first with a brooder set up, and chicks in April. It will be about four months, so let’s say August, when we will get to egg production, but in the meanwhile we’ll be enjoying seeing the chicks grow up.
Given all our conversations of farming and food, we share a desire to be producers of some portion of our food, and where we cannot be, to buy local well produced food. Well doesn’t necessarily mean organic, but more importantly that food is not overly mass produced, and is raised/grown in a way that is considerate to the animals, plants, and environment. There are other advantages to local food as well – we contribute to the local economy, our neighbors and communities. We cut down a little bit on the environmental impact of moving food around. We also get food that is usually much fresher and flavorful than corresponding store shipped food. It’s true we can’t know the source of all our foods, even the local ones, but knowing for example that we are buying milk from VT farmers who’re milking hormone free cows makes a difference to me.
Getting local isn’t easy, especially from the months of November to May where fresh vegetable and fruit just doesn’t really exist from local sources. Even so, we are trying to be more attentive to the food supply chain, and in some cases we have gotten foods directly from remote growers such as our annual order of Texas grapefruit and avocados. This, plus some stores of produce we dried in the fall help us make it through the winter. I think it would be extremely hard for me to do the 100 mile challenge year round, but I think we get reasonably close to this in the summer time, and I’ll be curious to try and keep track of how we do this summer.
So, here are some of the foods we think we we will be able to get as locally produced over the next year. I am defining local as roughly an area 150 miles from our house. We will probably join a CSA but Aaron is still researching them. A (P) means we think we will produce this ourselves sometime during the year. I’m sure the list will change, but I’d like to get your feedback.
Fruits/veggies:
Raspberries (P)
Blackberries (P)
Strawberries
Blueberries
Apples(P* – we won’t grow em but will dry them)
Cranberries
Tomatoes (P)
Corn
Peaches
Pumpkin(P)
Beans
Squash
Zucchini
Turnips/Radishes
Beans
Cucumber (P)
Broccoli (P)
Potatos
Dairy/Ovo:
Eggs (P)
Milk
Cheese
Ice Cream
Sour Cream
Meat:
Beef
Chicken
Turkey
Lobster
Clams
Fish
Bison
Lamb
Prepared foods:
Bread
Potato chips
Pita chips
Other:
Maple syrup
Honey (we’d like to produce but not this year)
Herbs (P)
Wine
I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list but I would like to think about this as the year goes on. Obviously we don’t have a lot in the way of local whole grains but even looking at this list there are a great deal of staples here. There are also foods I love and I would be reluctant to give up if I really did a 150 mile challenge, but having a list like this at least ought to keep me thinking about getting local options first. In fact, because we have a good local meat supplier, we really ought to be able to avoid most western grown meat, with their attendant large scale moving, feedlot, and slaughter operations. If nothing else, I think our venture into being small scale food producers will bring us closer to the food supply chain on many levels.
What will you be buying locally this year? What will you be producing? How do you feel about where your food is coming from?

Are there stores that won’t take your money?

I wanted to relate my last two experiences trying to spend my money… Some companies really need to get their people in order, so that customers can spend their money.

First off, I was shopping for some parts for my stove, just minor things to replace before selling our condo. Unable to find the right part numbers online, I visited a brick and mortar appliance store, with the intent of ordering the parts, hoping I could get them shipped to my house. After the guy took the time to look up the part numbers, he was unwilling to order them for me… Stating he’d have to charge me more to ship them to me.  I scratched my head, I was going to order them online, where I was going to end up paying shipping.

Well ok then.

Next up? Audible.com
I’m a loyal audible customer, have been for less than two years ( note, I’m already on my third yearly renewal in less than 2 years). They, in a move I really appreciate, have begun to reward their loyal members with discounts, and promo’s.  This latest promo was for 10% off early renewal. Being the bargain shopper I am, I could not refuse the 10% off promo, but wanted to parlay this renewal into a upgrade, and to use my existing gift card balance towards.  So, I called support to see if I could go platinum, instead of renewing my gold membership, (2x the price), and to make sure it would use my gc balance. After a vaguely helpful support call, I was told I could not upgrade…They were uninterested in taking more money from me… I just don’t get it.  Why would they refuse upgrading me? Accepting the answer as is, I then processed my renewal, a week later, I did not see my renewal.  How hard is it to spend my money?
I’m happy to report this was eventually sorted out to my satisfaction.  After the offer expired, and I verified that I was never charged or renewed… I followed up with an email.  Which was handled by a very helpful person, who straightened everything out, was willing to take my money, (even the upgrade), and got it done.
I guess it goes to show, that some times companies do it right, but some times, they just miss an opportunity to take the easy money.  In both of these situations I was willing to pay, and pay a bit more for something special, and the store / site was unwilling or unable to capitalize on the opportunity.  I wonder if they are too focused on the Walmart / online mentality that it has to be cheaper… quicker, and customer loyalty is a thing of the past. So, business owners, remember there are customers out there eager to give you their money, make sure your employees are willing to take it!

AO

Google Reader, Movin’ on up!

**update** is it me or was this in the google nav bar for a day, then gone?

I’m not sure if any of you google users have noticed, I just did, but google reader is now in the header quick links. No more, clicking more to find the reader link. Yeah!

The bad news is, that google products has fallen off the more link. I wish google would get back into this search area, it’s really something it could kick ass with if it wanted to. I suppose it doesn’t want to get in that market place competing with it’s own advertisers with a better product search product. :(

You win some, you lose some.

AO

more Stuffin’ stuff. This time with 100% more squash.

I made this for my Sister & brother in law tonight, in an attempt to have a healthy, one dish meal.
I improvised adding the apples and cranberries, which add a nice depth of flavor to the rice / stuffing, with out making it too sweet.  Next time I might use ground turkey, as it’s lower fat, and you can go a more turkey / cranberry / thanksgiving direction with the whole dish. I think it was good, and I didn’t hear any complaints, but then again what kind of guest complains?
Stuffed butternut squash -
3 Acorn squash
2 cups wild rice
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2tbs butter
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb lean ground beef. 
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup dried apples
1/2 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper to taste
Pre heat oven to 350.
add rice, stock, cranberries, butter and some salt and pepper to a pot, bring to a boil.
Simmer for 40-50 minutes to cook the wild rice. 
cut squash in 1/2, removing stem, and scoop out seeds (set aside to make seeds later).
Spray with oo, and place cut side down in a 13 x 9 pryex dish, and roast for 30 minutes in the 
preheated oven.
In a large skillet, brown beef, onions, sage, and dried apples.  The apples should plump with the 
moisture from the onions and meat. 
When fully cooked, drain off any excess oil from the beef, then mix with rice when cooked.   
Add rice and meat mixture to squash openings, place in a 13×9 pyrex, and bake in 350 oven till the 
stuffing has started to get brown and crispy on top (15 minutes).