Technology

“Like” – Its a Milestone

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Just had to put this out there…even though it isn’t on my regular schedule for publishing (“rules” are meant to be broken, right?). It might not mean much to some of you, but it is something to me!

500 TOTAL likes for the site. It feels like it has taken way too long to get to this milestone, yet at the same time if I consider the number of followers I have then I guess not. Perhaps the next 500 won’t take so long.

Anyway, thanks to everyone that has followed so far and for those who have pressed LIKE. Knowing someone is actually reading (well, maybe not but it feels that way) what I wrote makes me feel good – as I am sure it does you too.

As always, if you see something here on the site that you like – please press LIKE. If you see something you really like, I would appreciate it if you would SHARE or REBLOG it.

Thanks to all.

Building an empire is tough

Building a social media empire is tough. Really tough.

One thing I am discovering since I have begun to post more frequently, as in “on regular basis,” is that drawing in an audience is tough. Some days are good days and others not so much. Not everyone is going to pay attention to what I am doing, I know that. Nor is everyone going to like, or dislike, what I have to say. However, I guess I haven’t really hit the nerve that will get people talking or get them to really stick around. So, I am going to have to keep working on that.

Another thing that I am discovering is that I need to post more often, in all the places I am trying to grow. There in lies the rub…how do you keep up a constant presence while still being able to maintain a job and family life? There is a balance, I am sure, but what is it?

Empire 1

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There has definitely been some improvement and growth here at the blog Understanding, Optional. Since I have kept a regular posting schedule of once a week – every Tuesday morning – I have seen some more followers and there have even been more “likes” and comments. I feel like that is a great start! But, I want more!!  (Maybe I am a little greedy?) So, I’ll keep working at it and I’ll keep finding things that interest me, and hopefully interests you at the same time.

If I could ask one thing, could you pass me around? OK, well, not me specifically but if you find something of interest and worth sharing, please do!

Empire 2

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If you haven’t already stopped by the link at the top of the page, Stupid Board: Classroom Quotes, you should. There is an explanation as to what exactly I am doing in that other empire.

Over my years of teaching, I was going to write a book but decided to try a social media route instead. The Instagram account has been growing, but it too has been slow. I am sure that if I posted more often than once a week that it would grow faster.

I would also like to start including content from other teachers. We all, including myself, have been on the stupid board, so I am looking for others that are willing to contribute and be featured too. If you want to follow and spread the word, I would appreciate that too. In the meantime, enjoy a little humor!

Thanks for stopping in and taking a look around again. If you have any suggestions on what can keep this empire growing and thriving, I would be grateful.

 

Marketing Fail: Worthless Savings

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When you get an email from a business you just finished patronizing and the subject line of the email reads like the one above, you are going to open it and see what savings you are receiving because you know you probably will go back again.

Savings Inside

This little tag, phrase, sentence, whatever you want to call it, has become rather popular these days. You see it in your emails. You see it when you are shopping online but haven’t signed into the website yet. You see it in texts from stores you’ve agreed to receive marketing texts from. You’ll even see it on the outside of junk mail (of the “snail mail” variety) envelopes trying to entice you to open it in the hopes the contents will actually help you in some way.

I’ll admit, I am a sucker for a good deal and have a hard time passing it up when it is an actual, bona-fide, good deal. I like saving money, who doesn’t? I mean, if I had money to burn, who cares what the price is – money is no object at that point! But, like most of you, I find myself pinching pennies at the end of the month and getting creative with the budget. So, “Savings Inside” is enticing and it could be the next great deal.

The problem is that in many cases the good deal is anything but a good deal. Most companies just hope you haven’t done any shopping around or offer so little actual value that in the long run you probably would have just been better to not have purchased it in the first place. Some examples you may have seen:

  1. The exceptions/exclusions area of coupons – some of these areas have so many exclusions that you literally can only buy like four items in the entire store. (see a Best Buy birthday reward coupon)
  2. Bed, Bath, and Beyond – they like to run the exact same coupon every week (in email or mailer) of 20% off your purchase. Every week! They might as well just lower all their prices by 20%…makes me feel sorry for the people who shop there without a coupon.
  3.  Any store that offers 10% off of something – the saving is so low, you barely save the cost of the sales tax.

Anyway, back to the latest fail at marketing. This one is by the local Toyota dealership and it came about three days after visiting for oil changes on my cars. I just spent well over a $100 there, so I was looking forward to some savings for the next visit. Take a look at the “savings” in the “coupons” below.

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Did you read them carefully? See any savings? Yeah, me neither. Apparently the only savings here is “free information.”

The head scratcher here is that they bothered to put an expiration date on their “free information” and “coupon codes”, which of course are good for nothing.

I wish I could say this was a one-off, or a glitch, but I get these “offers” from the dealership fairly often. My guess is they don’t have anyone really paying attention to their marketing, even though they say they “are here for me.”

So, we are left to click and hope (or if you are into the snail mail thing, rip and hope) that there really is savings “in the mail.” In the meantime, make sure you read the fine print!

Do you have any worthless savings stories or examples? Share below.

School Picture Thievery

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This school picture thing is a pretty big racket if you ask me, and if you’re a parent you know what I am talking about. If there is any place you know it and can feel yourself being ripped off but can’t do anything about it, it is definitely with school pictures and sports team photos.

I have felt this frustration in the past, but it kind of boiled to a head this year when I went to order my daughter’s school pictures. It usually isn’t a big deal trying to order them, but being the “non-custodial” parent who usually gets the information second-hand sometimes it takes a while to get it done. (Yes, I realize I could just have photographer friend take the photo and avoid all the trouble so I guess I am a glutton for punishment).

Anyway, I logged onto the website with my special code and wanted to just download the image to my computer and then go have them printed in the quantities and styles I desired. So, I selected the outrageously overpriced digital image – $22. Say what? Yeah, you read that right…let’s do some quick math…

If a school has 300 hundred students and the photographer can get 60 students through a line and photographed per hour, then the photographer would work for five hours. The photographer is, most likely, using a digital camera to take said digital images @ $22 each, therefore making $1320/hr, or $6600/day. That is of course presuming that each parent purchases just the digital image, let alone one of the other overpriced packages they offer. Now we know not all parents purchase the pictures, but you get the idea.

So, after choosing the digital image for download I get to the check out page only to see that I am going to be charged a “Shipping and Handling” fee of $7. Uh, wait, what? I am downloading a digital image. Why is there a shipping and handling fee? What’s worse is that I can’t remove the fee either. The radial button is greyed out. I either pay the fee right now, or wait until the next day to call them. So, I opted to call the company the next day since surely the fee for a digital download isn’t $7 bucks…

I called the next day and waded through their automated answering system until I got to a real person to talk to. I explained my situation and asked if there was some kind of error on their website that wouldn’t allow me to remove the shipping and handling fee. The response?

“No, that is a flat fee we charge for all late orders.” 

Late? Yes, it is true I didn’t order when the pictures were taken in the fall, but your website says they can be ordered at any time until following fall AND there is nothing to indicate this is a “late” order on the website. I was a little dumbfounded. I said, “You’re joking right? How does downloading a digital image warrant a $7 late fee or even a shipping and handling fee?”

“Well, we do have to mail you the rights release so you can have the picture printed.”

So what you’re saying is that you are going to charge me $7 to mail me a sheet of paper and an envelope that costs, at best, a stamp or maybe two? I said, “Listen, I understand it costs money to send a piece of paper and envelope out to me but I have ordered digital images from other photographers in the past and they didn’t charge me an extra fee for the rights release, they included it with the digital image download. Surely you have the ability to do that right? So, why would I need a piece of paper mailed to me? It takes less than three minutes to compose a generic email and attach two image files to it.”

“Ok, I suppose I could waive the shipping and handling fee. What email address would you like the images sent to?”

Thank you. Now was that so hard and how about you waive all shipping and handling fees for all digital downloads from here on out? I probably speak for everyone who has encountered this ridiculous fee. There is no reason for it other than you can, and you have families over a barrel. I would venture a guess that many people just pay the fee, which is sad.

Highway robbery, I tell ya, only there was no highway and the bandit holds parents and other family members hostage every dang year around school picture time.

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A question of quality or quantity?

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I haven’t ever really committed to a “schedule” for publishing my blog. I am not sure I will. However, I am looking to do more with it this year than I have in the past. That being said, the ultimate question comes down to – quality or quantity?

When it comes to growing your blog, which is better? I am sure that quality matters, but does it really matter when it comes to growing your blog?

I have seen other bloggers who say just getting out there and publishing something is better than nothing. Yes, I understand that. I have also seen other bloggers say that putting out something that others want to read is important. Yes, I understand that. So where do the amount of what you publish and the quality of what you publish meet? Is there an intersection of balance or is that a fantasy (especially for someone with a family and a job)?

Perhaps I just think too much about this and go into too much detail by trying to support what I write with facts and details. Perhaps I care to much about what I write and want to make sure it is accurate. Perhaps I should care less, but not be careless.

Does having a schedule really work?

Does having a singular topic or focus area help?

Any insight or advice from the veteran bloggers out there? I know there are lots of places I can probably go to read about this, but I don’t want to comb through pages and pages of info because in the end it is all just opinions anyway, right? So, what do you think?

Seems Like a Logical Trade

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Hey, we need a budget (it would be nice if they could live within their means – but that is for another day) so there seems to be some negotiating going on that supposedly will at least make the unbalanced budget happen…ok, who are we kidding? There isn’t any negotiating going on, just a lot of posturing, finger-pointing, and name calling.

One point of contention is that there are people in our country that shouldn’t be here, 89a8134cd81b7609bec1fc47d6ca-should-illegal-immigrants-be-treated-equallymaking them illegal (why illegal, well because they didn’t follow a legal process – the law – to get here and stay here). This we know for sure and there is no debating it. However, some of those people are here as no fault of their own. They were brought here, illegally, when they were young and, for all intents and purposes, have not known any other home. This too isn’t a point of debate because it is fact.

dacaThose young illegals, were afforded some protection under the DACA policy (seems reasonable given their age and the requirements to stay) and on the surface it would appear to be a rather humane and successful way to deal with the issue. The DACA policy is set to expire in March, however, and some people would really like to keep it. Temporary programs, given that no actual law is created to make it permanent, are meant to end and not go on perpetually. So, a compromise on this point seems achievable.

Another point of contention is that there are lots of people in the US who would like to have a wall on the southern border to keep future illegals from entering the US. This is, after all, the right and privilege of any sovereign nation – to control its borders and limit who can enter the nation (in lots of cases around the world, this is done with a combination of actual, physical barriers and laws). This idea, while completely legit doesUS-MEXICO-RELIGION-BORDER-EASTER-MASS have some drawbacks since there are places where a physical wall is completely impossible. That really isn’t the point though and if there are places there can’t be an actual wall, there can be, in all practicality given technology today, a “virtual wall.” Regardless of how it happens, there does need to be a larger and more daunting barrier to keep people from entering the country illegally (because it is against the law). This too doesn’t sound like a bad idea, regardless of cost, because it is in the nation’s best interest to limit who is capable of arriving at and crossing over our borders. So, again, a compromise seems to be achievable here too.

**Author’s Note: Apparently I am too slow in writing at least part of this, as there now has been some negotiating, and apparently still some name calling – but we just aren’t sure.

Either way, this issue has lots of places there can be bipartisan agreement (or at least there should be) instead of just grand-standing on one political ideology or another. We need a government that works to keep the country safe and a political system that isn’t influenced by money. I know this is a lot to ask, but securing the borders of our country and stopping illegal immigration should be a priority. Again, that isn’t an issue that allows much debate – you either support safety and security or you don’t.

 

 

 

 

Apple’s Apology Absent of Authenticity

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I know I am not the first to talk or write about this, but I still feel like I need to say something since I have been an iPhone user and supporter since the first iPhone came out. And, while I won’t be giving up my iPhone any time soon (I actually just upgraded to an 8+ just before this all was confirmed), my confidence in Apple has waned a little.

As you all are aware of, I’m sure, by now is that Apple finally admitted to and apologized for slowing down phones supposedly because of battery issues. Unfortunately, it lacked anything that came even close to authenticity, and maybe even the truth, and had me calling a great big loud BS. Apple, you did it, so how about owning it and not making excuses about “software” or “hardware.”

Let’s start with the apology first. To be really blunt, this is really the only paragraph in the whole letter that really matters, the rest is just fluff.

“First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

Did you see that? That part about “we have never and would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product…making [them] last as long as possible…” Considering the day and age we live in, I think we can all agree that isn’t really the case, or the truth.

We live in a consumer culture that has planned obsolescence built right into it. Nearly every product we buy has an “estimated life” – whether is in the actual hardware (the materials used to build it) or the software (the stuff on the inside that makes it work). Products aren’t built to last longer because that would keep people from buying newer (and perceived better) products. Sales for companies would tank if they actually built something that would last more than several years. So, companies change the models, designs, and features available which contributes to “planned obsolescence” – making the consumer feel as though what they have isn’t good enough, even if technically it still is or could be with minor upgrades.

Unfortunately, you can see it in every product Apple produces – iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, iMacs, etc. It only takes a short look back over the products and how long ago some of those older models were produced to see what is going on. We now know that Apple was slowing down phones on purpose, but how can we trust that they aren’t doing it with their other products as well? The truth is, we can’t.

Products that are only three, maybe four years old are no longer getting software updates and are no longer “supported”. If Apple was truly trying to keep those products going as long as possible, they wouldn’t be left out of software updates. We could have been told to get a battery replacement before doing the next software update and then the phone would run at its optimum capacity without threat of random shutdowns or freezes. But, no, Apple didn’t decide to do that which means Apple knowingly created (or supported) a system that would warrant buying a new phone instead of simply replacing the battery.

I understand that some of the older products may not run the newest features in the software. And, yes, I know that newer software may put a strain on the battery or processor(s). But, shouldn’t that be something we have a choice about rather than being led to believe our product is coming to the end of it’s life? Some have even argued that this doesn’t prove that Apple was using planned obsolescence, but that seems incredibly naive. Think of it this way, just because the tires, or battery, or engine, or muffler on my car are worn out doesn’t mean I need to go buy a new car. But Apple was certainly hoping that you would go buy a new phone.

Let’s be real here in the new year…that apology was more about CYA against class action lawsuits and a damaged reputation, not about being honest and truthful. Oh, and look at that Tim Cook got a huge bonus too – which was built on many our unnecessary upgrades.

If I upgraded at least twice, unnecessarily over the last four years, perhaps I am in for a bonus myself when these class action lawsuits find Apple was intentionally deceptive and harmed consumers. But then, I won’t hold my breath either…

 

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

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Rather, they have been here all along and top administration officials in previous Executive branch positions have either ignored them and benefited from it, or allowed them and benefited from it. Either way, the evidence that the Russians are playing freely on American soil and in American cyberspace appears to be mounting – and this isn’t just a Trump issue, this is an issue that was prevalent long before him.

The interesting thing is this all took place during James Comey’s FBI. Another big questions is, if this was going on while he was the head of the FBI, why was this issue not raised during the past administration, like screamed from a mountain top! Or why wasn’t it raised during the presidential election when a Clinton was running and clearly benefitted from the arrangement outlined in the article?

There are a lot of things the need to be questioned here AND why isn’t this all over the media?

See the article and link below:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Source: FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow | TheHill

And an UPDATE:

Senate Judiciary opens probe into Obama-era Russian nuclear bribery case

 

Transitioning from the classroom

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Over a year ago I stepped out of the classroom as a high school teacher (after 15 years) and began a new career in software support. I am still in education, technically, since I work for an educational service district and I am supporting the school information systems used by a large number of school districts in my state. It has been a good move and I don’t regret it at all – except that I miss “my kids” and the conversations about history and current events.

Anyway, my last post on this format was about a “branching out” of sorts. Not really in the sense of something completely new, but in the sense that it gave me an outlet to share some of the fun memories I gathered over the years, and it also helped me keep a “promise” (to publish) to “my kids” by getting their words out there for them to enjoy again.

There are, however, still two areas from my teaching career that I am trying to figure out what to do with. And by figure out, I mean how or what do I do with some of the resources I created over those years? Lots of work and time went into them so it would be nice to get something from them. So, now I have links to them here on the blog (over there in the margin on the right) with the hopes that at some point they may get some traffic and generate…something.

The first thing is what to do with all those teaching materials I created over the years. A few years back I found a website called Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), where teachers can post their work and make a little extra money while saving fellow teaScreen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.34.47 PMchers time and money. I started posting my teaching materials on the website and lo-and-behold, people started buying it! I have continued to post materials up there over the last year and I am starting to see a nice return (it could always be more!) on my work. I don’t think it will ever make me rich, but it is something and at some point may produce a little extra spending money. As of now, I think I have solved this dilemma.

The other thing that I created a couple of years ago was a “classroom website.” I got to the point in my class that I was tired of trying to keep track of all the places on the internet I would like my students to go and all the materials I needed them to have (even when they were absent). So, over the summer a few years ago I spent my hours designing and creating a website so that it could be used as a supplement to my classroom instruction. It worked out far better than I could have imagined and the students appreciated having access to the materials (really, I promise) even when they were not at school. Since leaving teaching, I have kept the website (though I have done little updating to this point) but I am not sure what to do with it at this point. I think it may still be useful to some degree so I don’t want to give it up quite yet until I explore some possibilities, but I am just now sure on what to do. Suggestions? I am looking for some hints or helpful tips that might make the work I did in the past and how I can use that to my advantage going into the future. Leave a suggestion in the comments if you have any advice at all. Note: Some pages are password protected because there is material there that is copyrighted.

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If you are interested, you can visit the two sites by clicking on the links (TPT or Grenz History) or over there on the right side of the page. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. If you know someone who is a history teacher (specifically US/American history, Civics, American Government, Contemporary Issues, Current World Issues), I would appreciate a recommendation for at least a look. Again, some feedback would be nice.

Branching out, er, expanding?

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Just a quick note to have you take a look at the new page on the blog. You’ll find it up there in the top next two “Home,” “About,” and “Contact.” If you can’t figure it out from all the hints, try looking for “Stupid Board: Classroom Quotes.” There is an explanation about what it is and where to look as well.

Happy viewing, and I hope you will be intrigued enough to join me on Instagram as well!