Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Course This Geek Can Make Santa High Tech

I have always loved Christmas time and the holiday season.  Once I became a parent, my love for Christmas grew.  The best gift I receive every year is witnessing the joy my two children experience on Christmas morning.  I love the excitement in the house that builds through the entire month of December.  I enjoy decorating the tree and house as a family and helping the children write out their "wish lists" for Santa.

We do all of the normal "Santa" stuff in our house; make visit to a local Santa for a photo, remind the kids Santa is watching and leave milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve (as well as some carrots for the reindeer).  One of my favorite traditions is to create a video from Santa using the Portable North Pole web site.  If you have never tried this out, you should.  It is quick, easy and FREE!  All you need to do is input a little bit of information about your child, upload a few photos, and soon you have a link to a custom video for your child.  I make one every year for both of my kids and they are amazed.  You are able to view the videos for free or purchase your own copy for personal use (they are no longer hosted after mid-January.)  You can even make videos for adults if you like.  I have yet to make a video for an adult, so I am not sure how those come out.  An option also exists for a "naughty" child if you want to scare your kid (or if they just happen to be really bad).

Nate Making Sure He Remembers to List All Those Superhero Toys He Wants

 Once you enter all of the information, you are sent a link to the video.  It appears that by creating the video your email and information will be sent to various companies, but I have never been spammed because of creating these videos (this will be my 3rd year using the Portable North Pole Web Site).  You are not asked to provide that much personal information (your age, gender, email address and zip code).  I am not able to embed the videos directly into this entry, but I'm willing to share the link for the two videos I created this year.  The link for my son's video is here and the link for my daughter's video is here.  Feel free to check them out.  They only took about five minutes to create.  I can not wait for them to watch them.  Have you ever created a Portable North Pole videos?  Do you plan to?  What are some of your holiday tech traditions.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Tech Geek List, 2011

Last year, in November I wrote my first Holiday Tech Geek Gift List.  The holidays are a great time to be a gadget geek.  It is a perfect opportunity to buy new gadgets for friends and loved ones (or myself of course).  So what might Santa be picking up for the Pehote household in 2011?  Let's take a look.

Item #1: Nintendo DSI XL.  This is for my four year old son Nate.  I hope I can find this bundle package for him.  Santa picked up a nice bundle last year for my daughter Chloe and thankfully she is willing to share with her brother.  We just think it is time for Nate to have his own hand held gaming system.  I am not going to lie, the Nintendo DSI XL is a great hand-held gaming system.  I frequently spend time playing the games myself.  We are staying away from the 3D version,  it may or may not be bad for the eyes of young gamers.  I am really not that worried about it, I just am not that into the entire 3D movement (see my television wish item later in this entry.)

A Great Gaming System for Little Kids (or Big Kids Like Me)

Item #2: iTunes Gift Cards.  I realize these are not really that high tech.  However, once my sister Katie resolved the "should we get our daughter a iPod touch debate" by sending Chloe one as a Birthday/Christmas gift I realize we are in need of some iTunes credit.  We were worried about Chloe being too young for the popular digital entertainment device.  However, there are many built in parental control features that help me make sure she does not abuse her new "toy."  She liked her nano from last year, but it is just difficult to use since there is no display screen.  What's great about the iTunes store is that any application, song, book or movie is available on any of our Apple products in the house.  So the new Lego Harry Potter game that Chloe picked out last week for her touch has been entertaining me all weekend on my iPad2.  Being a dad is great!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving....To Everyone In The House

Item #3: A Smartphone.  My wife has never been a big smartphone user.  It was just in the last year that she finally started using text messages to communicate.  It was just in the past month that she decided she was a tad behind the times and needed to add a data package and upgrade to a smartphone.  Unfortunately, my wife can not upgrade until mid-December.  Her main concern is using a phone with a touch screen.  She really wants something that incorporates a touch screen as well as a manual keyboard (something about having sweaty fingers and not wanting to deal with a touch screen all the time).  Her current provider is T-Mobile which she likes.  I wish she would just join me on AT&T and try out the iPhone.  Oh well, we will see what the boss wants.

Item #4: A New for real this time.  I wrote about this last year in my holiday wish list and it did not happen.  Just a few month ago in September I confessed my dirty little tech secret.  Now it is nearly December 2011 and I still have the same old television.  Well, I think this holiday season may finally be the time to update my main television.  I was NOT going to make a major purchase of my main television on Black Friday, but I have been looking through the advertisements.  I have no desire for 3D programing, but I am interested in the "Smart" televisions that are now available.  The Samsung line has really caught my eye and I may be making a purchase this week.  Merry Christmas to me.....loyal reader "Daddy O" will be happy when my old box if finally gone! 

I Hope Santa Leaves This Under My Tree

So, what are some of the tech items on your list this year?  Anyone asking for the Kindle Fire?  I would love to hear from someone that is using the new device from Amazon.  Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Well, I really do not know where November disappeared to, but Thanksgiving is already here.  That means it is now time for Black Friday 2011 (feel free to click the link if you have been under a rock and have not looked at any ads).  In my 36 years, I have never gone out for Black Friday (which now starts as early as Thursday evening or Friday at midnight).  Personally, my time and sanity is worth much more than some "junky" $200 laptop computer or $300 television.  I will be on my couch all day Friday, probably watching the MHSAA Football Championships from Ford Field.

I realize some people love Black Friday shopping just for the bonding or fun of the activity (as well as the bargains).  I just do not think I can handle the crowds or the crazies out there.  I would rather shop online or on any normal day (not at 4 in the morning at the local Walmart).  Good luck to all you Black Friday shoppers, I hope you can pick up some cheap gadgets on Friday.  Feel free to share any of your great "finds".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Benefit of an e-Reader

A few days ago I wrote about my November Read of the Month, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.  I am about half way through the book, and I am really enjoying it.  For the first time in a few months, I actually purchased the print version of the book instead of an e-Book.  The only reason I went with a print copy is that once I am finished I plan to place the book into circulation at the Carlson High School Library.

While reading this print version, I have come to recognize another feature of e-Books; the privacy factor of others not having knowledge of what I am reading.  Personally, I really do not care what others think (especially regarding trivial matters like a book I may be reading).  With each passing year I tend to worry less and less about what others say or think.  However, I do feel a little strange about carrying this book around when I am out in public.  I guess some may just think the cover photo and title may make this an odd choice for a 36 year-old male.  If I had the book on my i-Pad2 I would not even think about this, but with the physical book it is a minor issue.  Of course, my job does require me to read a number of books that are aimed at teens (including teen girls).  Therefore, it is really not odd for me to be reading this book.

As I stated above, I really could care less what others may be thinking about my reading selection.  I mean really, I did write a post declaring I am reading this book for everyone to read, so why should I care what somebody in a waiting room at the gymnastics gym thinks about my book.  I know not everyone may have the same feeling I have about worrying about others.  Do you prefer e-Readers because of the privacy they provide?  Or are you like me, and do not really care if people see what you are reading?  Do you ever feel embarrassed about a book you may be reading?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 2010 Read of the Month A Soon To Be "Blockbuster?"

A little over a year ago I wrote the review for my November 2010 Read of the Month, The Hunger Games.  I loved the book, it was amazing!  I finished it in a matter of days and quickly went on to the second book in the trilogy.  The second book, Catching Fire, was good and I was able to quickly finish it as well.  I really did not care for the third book, Mockingjay.  To be honest, I never did finish it.  But enough basing sequels, I am writing tonight about the debut of a trailer for the Lionsgate feature film The Hunger Games set for a March 2012 release.  You can read a little about the trailer here.  Or better yet, watch the trailer right here:

I am not sure if many of you realize this, but I really do not enjoy going to the movies.  As a matter of fact, I rarely go to the theater to see a film.  I went to the movies once in 2010, and that was for my daughter's birthday (the movie was Tangled and was actually not that bad).  It is not that I do not like movies, I just prefer watching them at home.  The only time I make my way to the theater (besides for the kiddos) is for some mega dork hits (Think Star Wars).  However, I think I may have to make a trip the theater for this movie.  I loved the book and based upon the preview the film looks great.  Many say this may be the next Twilight type hit at the box office.  I just worry about a film destroying one of my favorite books of the past few years.  Any other fans of The Hunger Games excited about this film?  What do you think of the preview?  Is this a "must see" for you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Did I Buy a Betamax?

First of all, I realize many of my younger readers may have no idea what the title for this blog entry refers to.  For a background lesson you may want to read this brief summary of the Betamax vs. VHS war of the 1980s.  If you want the short, more modern version, think Microsoft Zune vs. Apple's iPod MP3 player battle.  Last year around this time I wrote about making the the decision to purchase a single-cop coffee brewer.   I think I may have made the wrong choice.

Take That Blu Ray Player

There are two main single brewer types on the market:  The Keurig K-Cup brewer and the Tassimo T-Disc system.  I really thought the Tassimo system was the better system.  The Bosch brewer would read each T-Disc bar code to determine the perfect amount and temperature of water needed for each individual cup.  I enjoyed brewing Starbucks coffee and coffee drinks as well as hot chocolate right in my own kitchen.  Since I am the only one that drinks coffee in my home, it was a perfect solution.  I was able to brew exactly what I needed.  Everything was great until I noticed I could no longer find Starbucks brand T-Discs for my Tassimo brewer early in 2011.

With each passing day in 2011 I see less and less of the T-Discs needed for my "Brewbot" as the people at Tassimo like to call it.  Meanwhile, the Keurig system is everywhere with an ever-expanding line of K-Cups for coffee lovers to enjoy.  It looks like I may have to ask Santa for a new coffee brewing system?  Any Tassimo fans out there?  Do you feel the same way?  Like you are the proud owner of Betamax machine or Microsoft Zune?  It sure looks that way.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"The Best Part Of This Job......"

"The best part of this job is running into Carlson graduates and see them doing so well.  No politician can ever take that away."  It was a simple Facebook status update I posted last week after enjoying lunch with a Carlson graduate in his office on the campus of Michigan State University.  Little did I know it would turn in to a status that would receive over 30 "likes" on my personal Facebok page and inspire me to write one of my most meaningful posts for The Geekly Reader.

I consider myself very fortunate regarding my job and career.  I have mentioned numerous times how much I love my job and place of employment.  I work with amazing people at Carlson High School.  I loved teaching language arts, public speaking, drama and directing school plays.  I continue to enjoy running the school library, coaching track and field, announcing sporting events and advising the Carlson High School Student Council.  I love working with young adults and preparing them for whatever their future may bring.  I strive to prepare Carlson graduates to be life-long readers and leaders in the community.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year I am sure you realize public school teachers have been taking a beating by politicians in Lansing.  I guess we are responsible for all the ills in the state and across the nation.  Sure, many have said, "it's not you, it's the MEA (the Michigan Education Association) that we can't stand."  However the comments still sting, and the budget cuts still lead to lousy working conditions.  It is easy to get depressed working in a public school with all the negativity in the news, but I do my best to look for the positives.  Thankfully, positives are easy to spot whenever I am out in the area.

Running into my former students and athletes always makes my day.  I love seeing so many of them succeeding as adults.  As I mentioned above, I enjoyed lunch with a Carlson graduate that works within the Michigan State Football program.  He took me on a tour of the amazing football facility and introduced me to various members of the Michigan State football staff.  He is respected by so many in the building.  While I saw many amazing sites on the tour, the site that stood out the most was the actual individual providing the tour.  I was so moved, seeing how successful and well respected this particular Carlson graduate is at his place of employment.  Thankfully,  I experience events like this frequently.  Just a week or two ago I was excited to see a new business profile in the News Herald.  The proprietor of the business was a former student and athlete.  He is just one of the current business owners I have had the chance to teach and coach during their high school years.  I know of another former student athlete running a successful textile maintenance company.  All three of these outstanding, successful young men competed on my track and field teams at one time.

I could write for hours about the successful run ins I have had with Carlson alumni.  There are those that are photographers, school principals or on-air radio hosts.  Others that work in the medical field, cheer on college teams while mastering their college coursework or sell millions for large computer corporations.  Many are working hard right now on their college course work as I write this entry; future success stories I'm sure.  So thank you Bradley, Brent, Ryan, Michelle, Melanie, Richie, Staci, Delayna and Nathan.  Seeing each of you (and many many others) doing so well makes my day, and nobody in Lansing can ever take that away from me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It May Be Time To Sign Up For Amazon Prime

Do you own an Amazon Kindle or plan on buying the new Kindle Fire?  If you do, you may want to also add the Amazon Prime service.  For $79 a year you can join Amazon Prime, which provides members with free two-day shipping (or $3.99 for next day shipping) on nearly everything on the Amazon site.  Earlier this year Amazon added a number of streaming movies and television series to the prime membership.  Amazon's streaming video selection is nowhere near the size offered by offered by Netflix, but it is a start.  Now Amazon has offered even more to the Amazon Prime Membership.

The Amazon Kindle Owners' Lending Library debuted this week.  Now, Kindle owners are able to borrow from a library of over 5,000 titles for no charge.  Readers may only borrow one book at a time.  There are also over 100 current or past New York Times Best Sellers available to borrow.  To borrow books, Amazon Prime members must own a Kindle, users of a Kindle app on a phone or non-Kindle tablet do not have access to the library. 

As an Amazon Prime member, I find this to be an amazing offer.  I frequently use the free two-day shipping feature and $3.99 for overnight is very reasonable.  Add in the free streaming videos as well and the lending library, and it is easy to see why some are calling Amazon Prime the "greatest deal in tech."  I may have to pick up the $79 Kindle, just so I can take advantage of the lending library.  I do most of my e-Reading on my iPad2, and I do have the Kindle app, but as I mentioned above, the lending library will not work with my iPad2.  What about you?  Will the addition of a lending library encourage you to buy a Kindle and/or add Amazon Prime to your Amazon account?  Have you already tried it out and borrowed a book?  How did it work for you?

Friday, November 4, 2011

November Read of The Month

My Read of the Month is a few days late this month because I was at the Michigan Association of Media in Education (M.A.M.E.) annual conference in Lansing the past few days.  I am glad that I attended, I learned a great deal from the numerous sessions I attended.  One of the best sessions was a review of the best Young Adult Literature of 2011.  Some great titles were presented, and it was from this presentation that I found my November Read, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Lord of The Flies meets Toddlers and Tiaras

Based upon some of the background information I have read, Libba Bray's Beauty Queens is what happens when you combine William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies with the reality television series Toddlers and Tiaras.  Contestants from the "Miss Teen Dream Pageant" become stranded on an island after a plane crash with little food and water.  From reading the background information, it sounds like this could be an entertaining novel.  I look forward to this read, and for the first time in months I'm going back to a printed book.  I want to buy this for my library at Carlson High School, so an e-Book is not the way to go this time.  I look forward to providing a full review upon completion sometime this month (no more two-month reads).