Monthly Archives: June 2011

Apps | Dragon – Fire up texting, emails, tweets without typing

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I like texting except for the typing. So my pet Dragon swallows my voice and spits out hot text–for text messages, emails, Twitter, Facebook updates, notes and whatevers. Dragon Dictation is a free bird too.

Apps Dragon dictationYep, I like texting except for the typing part and this wonderful app beast, DRAGON DICTATION, helps me out. You talk to Dragon and he swallows your voice and fires out text. Press one of his belly buttons and your words fly off as a text message, email, Twitter and Facebook updates, and notes of any kind.

It’s quite easy to use and surprisingly accurate without any training–good Dragon, good boy.

Apps - Dragon dictation screen shotsThis app comes in quite handy when I want to text out while simultaneously juggling tasks like walking the dog, riding a bike, corraling a kid, cooking, or shooting a shoot. Here are some smoking screen shots, videos and details showing how the beast roars.

Dragon app how-to video

Stay connected, even when you are Hands-Busy. Dragon Dictation an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text content for everything from email messages to blog posts. In fact, it’s up to five times faster than typing on the keyboard.    Continue reading »

Essay | Online Shopping Tips From A Guy Who Hates Shopping

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A guy who hates shopping gives shopping tips and tricks for finding gifts and snagging the lowest prices with the least amount of effort and time. Nuf said!

Gotta get a gift for that special someone and/or your own special self?  Well I have a few tips that may help get you through the experience with the least amount of pain and the biggest bang for your buck to boot.

First, a couple of true confessions–I don’t like to shop and I don’t like going to stores. Now while some of you could view these facts as being deleterious to someone giving shopping advice, I beg to differ.

Since I indeed don’t like to shop, I find ways to get it done in the most efficient manner possible. So if you’re someone who doesn’t like to waste time either–I’m your man. Or at least I got your method.

And while I hate to shop, I’m not a lazy shopper. I want to give good gifts and see those faces light up and I want to snag the best price for that gifting glory. And since I don’t like physical stores, that just means I’ve had to more finely develop my online shopping skills.

If you enjoy the store experience–the hub-bub, crowds, noise, shoving, pushing, body blows, sticky-icky carts, more noise, terrible traffic, parking demolition derbies, guzzling gas jams, smog inhalation and then even more noise–then my online methodology ain’t for you.

I propose the better way to shop is by lounging in a bed or sofa, laptop on snack tray or belly, ample wine and/or beer, fine tunes, comfort treats, crackling fire, and no annoying noise.

General Gift Searching And Comparing

Shopping - Bizrate

Bizrate.com

Enough deep philosophy, let’s get down to it. Say you don’t have a specific idea about what gift to get someone. I would go to Bizrate where I think the best general product searching and idea generating can be had. Bizrate has the best product photos combined with a good user-friendly and intuitive site layout.

On the home page, go to the upper left side and click at the “Shop By Department” area. Then down to more specific categories in that department and peruse the pretty pictures for ideas.

Shopping - Bizrate.comI find the “What’s Hot” link atop the “Departments” list to be especially helpful if I’m not that knowledgeable in certain product areas–which can often mean women’s stuff. For example, I click “What’s Hot” and venture to “Women” to “Ugg Boots” to “Peep-Toe Booties” (Peep-toe booties are the hottest trend. Pair them with a skirt, leggings or your favorite jeans.)  Duh, I didn’t even know peep-toe booties existed, let alone think of them as a possible gift. Such astounding gift knowledge at your fingertips!

Bizrate’s motto is “search, compare, conquer”. I agree they are good with the “search and compare” aspect and I agree with the following hype they offer…

Search: Find virtually every product, store, brand, and deal on the web. Shop millions of products including apparel, shoes, home décor, and accessories, to electronics, appliances, computers, and games, from thousands of stores at the click of a mouse.

Compare: Easily compare products and store information. Bizrate lets you swiftly organize your results so you’ll find and see only the products that matter to you. And as the industry leader in online store ratings and reviews, bizrate collects over 25,000 customer reviews each day, and shares it so customers know for sure whether a store can be trusted. Find all the tools and answers you need to help you decide which and where to buy.”

All the above is fine, but I don’t recommend Bizrate for the “conquer” part of their motto. “Conquer” referring to the money aspect–the best pricing, coupons, rebates. I have a few other sites for that part. First let me mention the best place for…

Electronic Gift Searching And Comparing
Shopping - CNet Shopper
Hands down, the hot spot for all things electronic is Shopper.com, aka CNET Shopper I’ve found they are excellent for electronics searching and comparing and I especially find their “CNET Editor Reviews & Ratings” to be superb.

Shopping - CNet Reviews

Except for the price claims, I  agree with their hype…

“Shopper.com has an extensive technology catalog, thousands of professional product reviews, user opinions, and the best prices for computers and consumer electronics. A trusted merchant certification program combined with some of the best deals and bargains on the internet, Shopper.com has everything you need to make your technology purchases.”

 

Getting the Best Price

Once you have figured out exactly what gift you wish to purchase, then I suggest opening up three different browsing windows or tabs, and get these sites in each one…PriceGrabber – bottomdollar – Shopzilla.

Then copy the exact description and model number (i.e. Canon FS200 Flash Memory Digital Camcorder – Silver) for the product you chose at Bizrate or Shopper.com, and paste it in the “search box” of all three sites. Don’t go browsing or clicking on categories at these sites–just paste into the box.

Now compare the search results in all three sites. Sometimes the stores and prices found in the results will be similar, sometimes they won’t. For the Canon Camcorder example–Shopzilla came up with 24 stores and a price range of $259 to $449; PriceGrabber gives 6 stores and $255 to $329; bottomdollar has 5 stores and $255 to $330. In this instance, the lowest prices were in a close range at all three sites.

But Shopzilla gave us a lot more choices for possible stores which may come in handy when some products are hard to find or going out of stock. Also, once you type in your zip code to find out the shipping costs, and possible tax charges for your particular state, the wider choice can lead you to the lowest price.

PriceGrabber

A nice feature I’d like to point out at PriceGrabber is their “Price Alert”. On the home page is a video you can view that quickly explains it.

Beating Down The Best Price With Coupon Codes

Once you’ve found the best price at the best store, then it’s time to see if we can cut it down some more with “coupon codes”. While the sites mentioned above have some “coupon codes” and “cash back” deals, I’ve found the best results can be had by going with these specialty sites: CurrentCodes – FatWallet – Tjoos – Coupons.com.

Although I lean a little more toward FatWallet, I always check all four before clicking on my shopping cart and making the final purchase. Here’s what CurrentCodes has to say about the codes and themselves…

“Hundreds of well-known online stores like Barnes and Noble, Staples, and Overstock.com have a place within their shopping cart for a “coupon code” that gives a percent or dollar amount off your purchase. If you don’t know the code, you can’t take advantage of the discount. You can find these secret discount codes and coupon codes listed on many sites across the internet but the problem with these sites is that they’re usually personal homepages and they don’t maintain their lists! Currentcodes.com has a full-time staff of trained individuals whose only job is to find new coupon codes and discount codes and verify the accuracy of the existing database. We don’t flood you with ads and we don’t throw deals in your face. No hype, just current codes. Our mission is to have absolutely the best coupon code database on the Internet.”

I’ve slashed as much as 20% off with these codes and often get 5% to 10% off.

Well, that’s all the shopping wisdom I got. Happy hunting and gathering.

written by los angeles photographer & writer Gregory Mancuso

Funny Cat Video | cat impersonates dog when nobody’s looking

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Cat Impersonates Dog When Nobody’s Looking

So I finally gave in and let my dog, Enzo, pick a video this time, and he came up with a cat who barks like a dog when no one’s looking. I admitted to Enzo, that it did fool me, and it is good for a quick snicker. Arf!

Cat barking like a dog explained

A cat that barks? What is going on here? Yasmin Gazelle finds out the truth behind this canine-impersonating feline.

Funny Animal Videos-cat impersonates a barking dog

Funny Animal Videos-cat impersonates a barking dog

Essay | Clarence Clemons Tribute – “The Big Man” Bruce Springsteen saxophonist passes away

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Clarence Clemons, known as “The Big Man” to Springsteen fans, passed away a few days ago. I already miss my favorite sax man big-time. Here’s my humble tribute with memories, photos and video of a most soulful musician I greatly admired.

Clarence Clemons -los angeles photographer GregoryMancuso

Clarence Clemons – San Francisco Cow Palace – long time ago | photo by Gregory Mancuso

Thinking back to when I first saw Clarence Clemons, I’m surprised how long ago it was, and how well I can still recall his resonant tones and vibrant presence on that day several decades ago. It was at a free concert in a grassy field on a sunny day at UMass with a sparse crowd attending, and I had no idea who Clemons was or who that skinny lead singer was.

But I did know what a good sax-man sounded like, and this big guy I saw up on the stage, was indeed that.

This was before “Born To Run” was released so few knew who these guys were. After that album hit the airwaves, millions would savor the spine tingling joy of The Big Man’s sax blasts hitting their ear drums.

On that hazy New England day, I only got to hear a few songs from this unknown “String Sting Band” before I was dragged away by several cute dorm mates for the big mission of sneaking into an apple orchard to steal a bushel of fruit for apple pie night. (Such an outlaw I was–statute of limitations on fruit thievery, anyone, anyone?)

E Street Band Sax Player Clarence Clemons Dies – Associated Press

I don’t remember the name of the lovely lass who’s hand I was holding as I was being lead away, but I clearly remember letting go of that hand and turning around when that sax guy began a searing solo. I stopped in my tracks and would not budge until that solo and song were over. I had seen Coltrane and I now this big guy, and I had to rank him as the Coltrane rock equivalent on the spot. And I still feel that assessment is correct several decades later.

I gathered together a few things here for my fellow fans out there. An excellent appreciation article by Stephen Deusner. And some tribute videos: a classic, exaggerated, concert intro of Clarence from the Boss; an AP summary of his life and passing; a fan’s video collage with Bruce’s tale about how he first met Clarence; his latest recording, playing on the recent EDGE OF GLORY for Lady Gaga of all people; and of course, his incredible JUNGLELAND solo, from a concert a few years back.

JUNGLELAND | Live 2009 | Clarence Clemons solo at 4:10 mark

I confess, watching that clip now and listening to that incredible solo, with him gone, made my eyes leak. You’ll be sorely missed, Big Man. Thank you for all your soulful notes over all the years. And I imagine Coltrane welcoming you to his kick-ass band in the sky, where sax sparks will surely fly. Amen. Continue reading »

Essay | Sleep On The Job To Work Better – scientists prove what my grandpa and cat told me

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power nap, cap nappingMy Grandpa and cat told me naps are important. Now smarty-pants scientists also say ‘power naps’ improve cognitive functioning, increase reaction time, learning, efficiency and health. Result? Get more work done.

black cat napping

photo by Los Angeles photographer Gregory Mancuso | modeling by JR

My grandfather didn’t speak much English, and my cat, well, even less, but they told me how important naps were. One of my earliest childhood memories is hearing my grandfather’s booming voice and his Italian command “pisolare, pisolare”, and seeing his big gnarled hand coming down to snatch mine and tug me over to the couch.

We would then proceed to lie down together and take a short nap. We knew a ‘power nap’ would improve our cognitive functioning, increase our reaction time, learning, efficiency, and health.

Ok, I’m lying, we didn’t know any of that. But smarty-pants scientists have discerned all that and more in study after study. We just knew it gave us more pep to proceed with grand adventures and mischief around our Bronx neighborhood or the serious work of creating coloring book masterpieces. When serious work is confronting you, getting the project done faster and better can be achieved by sleeping on the job.

BENEFITS OF A POWER NAP

First let’s get a handle on what a ‘power nap’ is and then how best to pull it off. Regarding duration time, many sleep experts advise to keep the nap between 15 and 30 minutes.

Sleep comes in five stages. If your nap takes you from stage 1 sleep (just drifting off) to stage 2 (brain activity slows), you will wake up feeling energized and more alert. If your nap takes you into stages 3 and 4, which is deep sleep, you will not wake easily and will feel groggy and tired.

Sleep stage 1 typically lasts about 10 minutes and stage 2 lasts another 10 minutes. That makes the 20-minute nap ideal for most people. Speaking from my two decades of personal slumbering experience, I find between 20 and 30 minutes is ideal.

INCREASES YOUR EFFICIENCY

Now I know what some of you are thinking–‘I can’t spare any time–I have piles of work piling up–emails to email–deadlines, deadlines and deadlines’. But the thing is, you’re going to get all that stuff done faster by stopping for a short time span because the nap increases your efficiency.

So if you sleep for 15 minutes and maybe increase your efficiency by a conservative 15% for the rest of the work day, say four hours, you’re going to, in effect, save 36 minutes, so you’ll actually come out ahead by 21 minutes. And whatever you’re doing is probably going to be done at a higher quality level to boot.

GOOD FOR HEART HEALTH AND STRESS REDUCTION

Say you’re not a numbers nut–but instead a health nut–there’s tons of evidence that this short break provides numerous health benefits. For one, it decreases the risk of dying from heart disease. That’s nothing to snore at. A large, six-year study of Greek adults found that people who took a siesta at least three times per week had a 37 percent lower risk of heart-related death.

Research also shows that a nap significantly reduces stress, and we know stress can lead to all sorts of deleterious issues. Naps also improve cognitive functioning, boosts your patience, improves reaction time, increases learning, boosts creativity, makes you more alert and in general improves your overall mood.

Although our own US culture generally frowns upon mid-day sleep, many others around the world smile upon it. Italians like my grandfather almost consider it mandatory. When I was in Italy I remember it seemed like the country virtually shut down for part of the afternoon, especially when I was outside the big cities. And this snoozing has been tried and tested for hundreds of years in many other cultures.

BEST TIMES TO DO IT

Regardless of culture, humans are manufactured to shut down in about 8 hours after waking. Most people experience a natural increase in drowsiness in the afternoon. It seems that between one and three o’clock is the best time period to nap. Once you get to 4 o’clock or after, the nap can interfere with you ability to fall asleep at night.

The best time will vary among individuals and vary a little from day to day. Your own mind/body clock will tell you when, if you’re open to listening to it. Or if you’re open to listening to a psychic cat.

My furry office manager and lucky black cat, JR, had an uncanny ability to sense when I needed a break. When I would start fading in the afternoon, he’d leap up on my desk, lay across the computer keyboard and meow to take a nap with him. If I would lift him off the keyboard, he would lay right back down across it and meow in a more exasperated tone. He refused to budge until I got up, and as soon as I did, he did.

Then JR would follow me to the sofa or bed, lie across my chest and purr contentedly that I was smart enough to follow his advice. Cats are indeed napping experts and I did well in heeding his guidance .

So whether you put more weight in a big bunch of smarty-pants scientific studies, or an old grandfather and his ancient culture, or the expert opinion of felines–everything points to napping for enhanced work and better health.

written by Los Angeles photographer & writer Gregory Mancuso

Podcasts | Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show – the planet’s best talk show ain’t on TV

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With no time or language or commercial restrictions to hold it back, KEVIN POLLAK’S CHAT SHOW has blasted off into the stratosphere to become the planet’s best talk show.

KEVIN POLLAK’S CHAT SHOW Jon HammKevin Pollak’s Chat Show, in my humble opinion, is the planet’s best talk show. Since this podcast has no time or language or commercial restrictions, Pollak is free to do and say any damn thing he wants to and he does. To high quality, funny and unique effects.

I’ve gathered some tasty samples of his podcast featuring Jon Hamm, Tom Hanks, Larry David,  Dana Carvey, Alan Arkin and others below.

Pollak is quite a talented stand-up comedian and I’ve enjoyed his act for over 30 years going back to his early days in San Francisco where I used to live.

Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show podcast episode – Jon Hamm

Over the past two decades, he has appeared in over fifty films, as well as countless television projects, and has established himself as one of the few stand-up comedians to have a successful dramatic film career. Kevin pollak chat show

You might remember his strong role going head to head with Jack Nicholson in A FEW GOOD MEN.    Continue reading »

Video | OK GO – stupendous & artsy Rube Goldberg machine “performs” w band

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Ok Go, and arts group Syyn Labs, build the most stupendous and creative Rube Goldberg machine ever and synch its “performance” to a great song.

The band, OK Go, and an LA based arts and technology collective, Syyn Labs, collaborate and build the most gigantic and elaborate Rube Goldberg machine I’ve ever seen or imagined. This is quite a fascinating and visually arresting music video.

The video was filmed in a two story warehouse, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. The “machine” was designed and built by the band, along with members of Syyn Labs over the course of several months.

video of OK GO performance art Rube Goldberg machine

Check out Dylan Tweney’s excellent article about the music video project for WIRED magazine…

How OK Go’s Amazing Rube Goldberg Machine Was Built  By Dylan Tweney

Continue reading »

Movies | The Usual Suspects – the script and intriguing tales about the production, director, writer, cast

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THE USUAL SUSPECTS is one of my all time favorite films and screenplays. This script won the Oscar in 1995 and Kevin Spacey snagged best supporting actor.

The Usual Suspects movie, screenplay

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 American neo-noir  film written by Christopher McQuarrie and directed by Bryan Singer. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Spacey and Pete Postlethwaite photograph by fine photographer in Los Angeles

The Usual Suspects movie trailer

The film follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time con man who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. He tells an interrogator a convoluted story about events that led him and four other criminals to the boat, and of a mysterious mob boss known as Keyser Söze who commissioned their work. Using flashback and narration, Kint’s story becomes increasingly complex.  Continue reading »