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Clay Images: Small Business Saturday

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I wanted to share a little bit about one of my favorite small businesses of all time, since it is small business Saturday after all. What is small business Saturday you ask? It was started back in 2010 by Federal Express:

“ Shop Small is about more than just shopping at small businesses. ... It's an annual shopping tradition dedicated to supporting small businesses and celebrating communities across the country. Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”

So in honor of small business Saturday I am going to share with you my absolute favorite small businesses…Clay Images. Clay Images is a very small company, which consists of a husband and wife team (Melissa and Jim Hogenson):

”Our fertile imaginations and hard-working hands have created a unique line of friendly dragons in stoneware clay. Though each is a fine sculpture on its own, they also all have a function - oil lamps, incense burners, and drinking vessels. We sell our wares from our home, through the internet, at art fairs around the U.S.A., and at the Kansas City and Arizona Renaissance Festivals.”

I first encountered the amazing works of Clay Images at the local art fair in Wichita, Kansas (before I moved away from home). I immediately fell in love with their dragon sculptures and it wasn’t long before I had one of my very own. I got my first Clay Images oil lamp for my birthday, but it wasn’t just any birthday. My first child was born the day before my 23rd birthday, and when we finally got to take our new daughter home from the hospital and I got to open my birthday presents (and lets be honest its REALLY hard to beat the present I got at the hospital). It was this on this day I received my very first Clay Images oil lamp. My daughter just turned 19 last month and is in her first semester of college now.

The little dragon oil lamp that started it all...

The little dragon oil lamp that started it all...

It turns out this awesome little dragon was just the beginning of a collection of functional art from Clay Images. I mean heck, if you are going to spend perfectly good money on a new bed side lamp or a new drink ware set why not get something you really enjoy and support some amazing local artists all at the same time. So over the last 19 years that is exactly what we have done. We have either purchased or received as gifts everything from toothbrush holders, to hot chocolate drink sets, to wind chimes, to wall sconces. And that even goes without mentioning all the oil lamps and incense burners. Oh, and did I forget the fish tank castle? Rather than list everything here I walked around our house and took pictures of all of our Clay Images functional art and below is a gallery of most (but not all) of our Clay Images collection. So if you are looking for a great gift for someone on your list this Christmas and you want to honor the tradition of small business Saturday, why not check out Clay Images. I checked with them today (Friday) and they do have some limited stock of items and plan to do one more kiln firing in December to accommodate special orders. So if you want something in time for the holidays you need to act fast!

Baby Driver with iTunes Extras

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Earlier this week the movie Baby Driver was relased on iTunes. I had seen the trailer for Baby Driver before it was relased in theaters and it looked interesting, but it wasn't something I was going to go out of my way to go see. Fast forward a few months and I was spending my first afternoon in Adelaide, Australia after just registering for the INCOSE Systems Engineering conference that was taking place all of the following week...and it started pouring down rain. It was a Sunday afternoon and with all the rain and me walking everywhere I went there was little else to do, so I ducked into a movie theater and watched Baby Driver. The music chosen for the movie combined with just how integral the music was to the entire look and feel totally sold this as a very entertaining and artistic production. Not to mention that is was a heck of a lot of fun!

I'm not doing a review of the movie here, but I did want to point out to all of you just how impressive the extras are that come with this movie. The Blu-Ray version of the movie will have very similar extras, but as I write this the movie is only available through iTunes (it comes out on Blu-Ray October 10th). In addition to the standard extras like deleted scenes there are 4 seperate commentary versions of the movie:

  1. Music Mode: When you watch the movie in this mode you get the full audio of the movie but there are graphics that pop up throughout the movie that explain some of the background and history behind each music track in the film.
  2. Director Commentary: This version of the film has Director Edgar Wright talking over the video from the movie. Edgar Wright has had the idea for this movie for decades so he had quite a bit to talk about.
  3. Commentary with Edgar Wright and Bill Pope: Bill Pope was the Director of Photography for Baby Driver so this version of the film has Edgar Wright and Bill Pope talking about the video production. Shooting the video footage of all the car chase scenes in the movie was quite challenging as you can imagine, so this commentary is extremely interesting.
  4. Storyboard Comparison Track: I've seen some movies have a scene or two depicted purely using the original storyboard, but I haven't seen anything quite like this before. The entire film is shown with the original storyboard drawings as a picture in a picture. They really did storyboard the entire movie scene for scene and it was pretty amazing just how close the final version came to the original storyboard.

If you missed this movie in theaters you might considering buying it on iTunes and enjoying all of the really great extra materials that are included. You won't be disappointed.

Online Eclipse Viewing and Science Experiments

Today is a big day for both amateur observers and professional scientists alike. Hopefully all of you already have your eclipse glasses and/or telescope and solar filter at the ready, but even if you don't there are still plenty of opportunities to participate in today's eclipse activities. In fact, because this particular solar eclipse is spanning the entire continental U.S. we get to share the experience with people across the planet via the internet. Below is a summary of just some of the online viewing and activities you can check out today:

Apps:

There are so many solar eclipse app for your smartphone that there is no way I could possibly list them all. So I will just call out the two that I would definitely download:

Total Solar Eclipse for iOS is an app by the folks at Exploratorium. Exploratorium is..."a hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco, California..." What makes this app so special is that the folks at Exploratorium are deploying people with telescopes in various locations in Oregon and Wyoming and live streaming images of the eclipse from these telescopes to the app.

Smithsonian Eclipse 2017 app for iOS is another not to miss app. They will have a live stream from NASA of the eclipse as it travel across the entire U.S. The app also has interactive maps and timers to tell you what to expect based on your exact location.

List of live streams:

Below is a list of live stream viewable from an internet browser. There are a ton of them and these are just a few. Hopefully you have a large computer screen and can watch them all!

  • NASA live stream (starts at noon eastern thru 4pm eastern) on both the web and on FaceBook Live
  • NASA EDGE is another great NASA stream that will be up today live from Carbondale from 11:45am - 4:15pm eastern and there is a web version and a FaceBook Live version
  • Virtual Telescope Project (1pm eastern)
  • SLOOH has a live cast starting at 12 noon eastern
  • And last but not least I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that GeekDad.com will also be covering and live streaming the event today (as most of you know I occasionally write for GeekDad). Just head over to the GeekDad.com main page.

Science:

There are quite a few really cool science experiments and observations taking place and below are just a few that should be aware of:

Simple Shared Bank Accounts

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I've written about using Simple as my main bank before (so if you want to know the basics start there), but there are a couple of new aspects to the Simple banking services that I wanted to share (no pun intended).

Shared Accounts:

Earlier this year Simple rolled out support for "shared accounts." Up until this point each individual person had their own separate account. So if you were a husband and wife, a couple or partners you would have to manually manage money between the two accounts. Not any more. With "shared accounts" each individual still has their own account but they also share a single "shared" account. Both people have access to the "shared" account through the app and purchases can be made by each individual using their own Simple debit card.

Since I use Simple to keep my wife and I on a budget, the addition of a shared account really cough simplified things for me (sorry). Now I don't have to manually move funds between accounts as we are both spending from the same budget throughout the month.

Instant Customer Support:

I had two instances where I was in rather dire need of quick customer support and both times I got it from Simple. The first time I was on a flight to Australia and when I landed I noticed a rather large charge on my debit card from Apple.com. For those of you that know me this probably doesn't seem all that strange, except this was not an Apple purchase either my wife or I had made. One quick call to Simple and they were able to confirm that the charge was still pending and it was made electronically online (no swipe of the physical card). They were able to immediately freeze my account and issue me a new card.

The 2nd time this past month that I needed quick customer support was when I had a check mailed from my Simple account to another bank and that other bank claimed my check never showed up. I had just opened up a rather large line of credit with this other bank (it was time for a new roof) and my first payment was due. They claimed it never arrived and I knew better. One quick phone call to Simple and they emailed me an electronic scan of the deposited check with all the information I needed to prove to the other bank that they had my money (they just put it in the wrong account). What was even cooler about the whole interaction with Simple was the way they used the app on my iPhone to:

  1. Verify my identity on the phone by texting me a security code
  2. Encrypting the scan of the deposited check when they emailed it to me and then messaging me through the app the password to the encrypted file

I've only been with Simple for a few years and have really only needed to get a hold of their support a handful of times, but let's face it...if you need to call your bank it is probably pretty darn important. Each time I have called Simple not only did I get what I needed quickly, the whole interaction was very customer friendly. Let me put it to you this way, no more entering your credit card number into the phone touchpad and then having the customer service agent ask you...again... for your credit card or account number. They really do mean "Simple"

Easy International Travel:

Prepping to travel overseas is another nice feature with Simple. With all of my other credit cards I have to call my credit card company and struggle through their automated phone system in order to notify them I intend to use my card in another country. Not with Simple. With Simple all I have to do is login to my iPhone app and in a few taps in the app I am able to notify Simple where I am traveling to and for how long. Done.

Bonus Gift

I couldn't recommend Simple as bank enough. I've banked at large banks (Wells Fargo), small credit unions and pretty much everything in between and so far they all pale in comparison to Simple. If you are interested in trying out Simple I have a bonus for you. Use this link to sign up for a new account and both you and I will get a free handmade leather wallet from Tanner Goods (see the picture at the top of this article).

Meeting Peter Capaldi

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This is a guest post from my daugher, Erica Owens...

On July 29th I met Peter Capaldi at Florida Supercon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He signed a poster of mine. For starters the line wasn't nearly as long as the line for Stan Lee at any convention, which was a surprise. Despite the line not being long it took a few hours to get through. Although tedious, Peter Capaldi was sweet. He spent the time to talk to everyone who came up to meet him and that's amazing.

Upon reach the table, it finally hit me what would happen soon. The giddiness and nervousness began to hit, and maxed out when we stood in front of him. The moment he said hello and asked us for our names, I relaxed. He's as sweet as any person that you would meet that day at the convention. I ended up asking him...

"What's the most embarrassing song on your phone?" "On my phone," he asked. Peter then thought about it and answered, "I can't tell you that! It's embarrassing! That will stay between me and iTunes."

Then I proceeded to give a request that caught him off guard. A friend of mine wanted to come, but sadly couldn't. She wanted to meet Peter Capaldi for the sole purpose of having him insult her, so she asked me to get him to insult her. He immediately said, "What?" Then someone behind the table said no recording, that's pretty standard. "It's okay just tell me and I will tell her," I replied. He was still confused. "Is she a fan of Doctor Who?" "Yep," I replied. So Peter responded, "Tell her to grow-up, get a life and quit being a geek!"

My friend was over joyed and so was I. The overall experience was more than I could hope for. If you ever get the chance to meet Peter Capaldi, I recommend it.

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