Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Only Lighthouse in Kansas

Kansas has a lighthouse?  In the middle of flyover country?  Ah yup!  Just a few miles North of us, where I-635 crosses the Missouri River, you can find a lighthouse guarding the Kansas Water Intake.  I found it while researching photo tags for a motorcycle tag game.  No way to get your motorcycle in the photo, but I've always wanted to get some photos.  Today, I was on the way back from Parkville, picking Robyn up from her Venturing Leadership program, and we stopped to hike in to the river and take some photos. You can't get near the lighthouse on the Kansas side - all fenced off by the KS Bureau of Public Utilities.  But you supposedly can get some nice shots from the Missouri side of the river, where  there's public trails.

We had an hour before sundown, so we pulled out at the levy and set across the tall grass to find the bank of the Missouri River and get a few photos of the lighthouse.   Success!  Robyn made a walking stick and we bushwacked to the river!

We'd found out about the lighthouse originally from the Lighthouses of the US directory, which lists it as the Missouri River Lighthouse, Kansas City Water Intake, lighthouse USCG 5-19505.   It's owned by the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities.  The Directory notes it's still active, although we did not see any lights while photographing it.  A close crop shows it in need of repair and paint; it may have been decommissioned since the directory was last updated:

Perhaps tomorrow I'll get back out with some longer glass and get better detail shots of the lighthouse!

Friday, November 21, 2014

$5 Cell Phone. For life.

Sprint just dropped a "Go Big or Go Home" offer - three rewards for existing customers including unlimited voice minutes on your current plan, a $5 a month phone lease and a free year of service for new lines activated on your account.  Pretty cool - but when you dig into the FAQ you find the real bomb - that $5 phone lease is good forever.  You'll get a $15/month credit toward your lease payment as long as you keep leasing a phone from Sprint on a qualifying plan.  No more $200 biannual replacement costs.  Just drop the phone off at the Sprint store, pick up a new latest model phone, and it's still just $5 a month.

What happens to my $15 Loyalty Service Credit at the end of 24 months?As long as you have an active lease and remain on a qualifying plan, you will continue receive your Loyalty Service Credit.

$5 / month handset cost.  For life.  Someone just changed the game.  And listened to our current customers who've been begging for some rewards for staying with Sprint.  Now you're getting the best deal in the game.

Appears to apply to the hottest two phones - the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S5 Sport.  I'd imagine it will expand to other 'iconic' devices in the future.

ObDisclaimer - I'm a Sprint employee, I work for them I don't speak for them.  And they didn't pay me to write this.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Motorola Buds Bluetooth Headset Review

As a Sprint Product Ambassador, I received a set of high end Bluetooth headphones, the Motorola Buds, to try out.  Juvenile drug references aside, these should be some of my new favorite headphones for music and online radio listening.   With their around the neck design, they move the weight and bulk off your ears or head down to your collar.  Only the ear piece comes up to your ear.  I've been using Bluetooth Stereo earphones since the Motorola M9 series, graduating to the Altec Lansing Backbeat 9xx from Plantronics, and now to the Moto Buds. Normally, I'll listen to music at the desk over my Grado SR-60's or Sennheiser studio earphones.  I'm kind of a bigot about sound quality and noise isolation.

Unboxing and Intro

In the box, you find a simple frustration free package consisting of the headphones, a USB dongle and a ‘get started’ guide.  The ear tips are noise-isolating rubber, and three (small, medium and larger) are included in the package.  They recommend charging the headphones before use, but with no charger, how do you do that?  Fortunately, the USB port is standards compliant, allowing you to repurpose your existing phone charger, tablet charger or a spare USB charger you have around.  The short dongle could work in a pinch too.

Pairing is as simple as holding the rear power button until the status light flashes blue.  Within a few seconds of finishing charging, I had the Buds paired to my LG G3 Vigor and playing streaming music off my Amazon library.  Sound quality is clean and clear and they play nearly loud enough to satisfy a live music fan like me.  Comfort is excellent, no weight or bulk on your ears and no heavy wires wrapping around your head.  Both the Moto M9 and the Altec headphones had weight and bulk problems. These fit the bill for comfortable all day headphones!

Standby Time

Life got in the way and I forgot to use the Motorola Buds for the past couple days.  Really, about three weeks now!  Man, time flies. Even better, I'd left them powered up in the cabinet.

I'd fully charged them and played music over them for about an hour, then let them sit in the cabinet.  Fired them back up today, pressed and held both volume buttons and got a voice report that it still had over 4 hours playback time!  That's the kind of standby time I like!

Bluetooth Range

A lot has been discussed about how the Motorola Buds are a 'Class 1' Bluetooth device, giving a theoretical range of 150 feet, compared to the typical 30 to 40 feet of a regular Bluetooth headset.  In the office, I've paired them with both the LG G3 Vigor and an older Samsung S3.  With the Vigor, I got about 140 feet away before dropping music; with the older S3, I got about 120 feet away.  This is in typical cube land with metal cube walls and high RF noise levels from phones, other BT devices and ubiquitous WiFi.

Really amazing range on the Buds!

Microphone and Call Quality

The microphone on the Motorola Buds is located on the left arm, on the inside.  It's a small black slot.  It's an interesting design choice - where do you put the microphone on an around the neck headset?

On my old Plantronics Altec Lansing Backbeat headset, the microphone was located on the edge of one of the ear pieces - and was constantly getting blocked by my oversized ears, causing muffled sound.  With the microphone on the collar piece of the Buds, it should pick up your voice more clearly.

In reality, it's quite variable in performance.  If you are moving around, the collar piece will rub against your clothing, causing interesting sounds to be broadcast on your conference call.  If you're facing to the right or leaning back while speaking, your voice becomes distant.  In typical use, facing straight ahead with little movement, the sound quality is acceptable.   For improved quality, just be sure no clothing is blocking the microphone.  Additionally, you can lift up the left arm of the headset ensuring the mic is closer to your mouth.

I've read some cautions from folks who like to wear the Buds under their collar to conceal them more -- this will block the microphone and cause poor audio quality on calls. 

This headset isn't designed for the conference call road warrior, but it has acceptable voice performance with the collar mounted microphone.


The Motorola Buds are more comfortable with acceptable sound quality than any prior bluetooth stereo headphones.  They offer great range and excellent battery life.  They suffer from the same audio pickup problems as most stereo headphones without a dedicated mic.  I'll keep my Plantronics Voyager Pro for conference calls, but I'm wearing my Buds every day rockin out to Moby and NPR.  You can purchase the Motorola Buds from for $69.

Disclaimer: The Product Ambassadors are Sprint employees from many different parts of the company that love technology. They volunteer to test out all sorts of Sprint devices and offer opinions freely to the Community. Each Product Ambassador shares their own opinions of these devices, therefore the information in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprint. The PAs do not represent the company in an official way, and should not be expected to respond to Community members in an official capacity. #sprintemployee.  I was not compensated in any way for this post other than the use of the device.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pack 3094 Cub Scouting

While I've been busy starting a flame war on Facebook, my dear wife has been updating our Cub Scout Pack page making it more logical, better to read and more relevant information.  Thank you love!

How to lose weight

Someone was asking for gym and personal trainer advice to drop the 100 pounds she had gained over the past year.  (!!).  I posted the following.  Not particularly 'nice', nor did it answer her request for a 'personal trainer on a budget', but this is my world, or how I lost 50 pounds in the last couple years.

Step one. 1200 calorie diet. Mostly protein and raw veg.

Step two. Move. Breathe. Move more.

(Get the old Susan Powter book, Eat, Breathe Move. It's pretty good fundamentals.  It's also a penny on Amazon. No, not an affiliate link)

Did I mention move? Move a lot. All day. Every day. Anything. Walk. Stairs. Pick up a milk jug. Pick up two milk jugs. (don't drink the milk).

Coffee is a fantastic appetite suppressant. No cream, no sugar. Just black coffee, 3 -4x a day.

Source: Jason Ferrugia, my personal 50 pound weight loss, Susan Powter, etc.

Number one key is the healthy diet. Avoid starches. Avoid Empty calories. Organic meat, nuts, raw veg, green leafy veg is king. Brown rice. Stuff that is "low glycemic index" - look it up. But count those calories. You'll burn 2400 just sitting around, but you have to eat far less to drop weight. If you can maintain a 1200 calorie diet you'll drop a pound every 3 days. the more you move, the more you'll drop.

Yes, you will be F***ing hungry. All the time. Get used to it. Move more. Drink another cup of black coffee and move something. Rearrange the kitchen. Move. Move. Move. Move. You won't sleep much. You'll be too hungry. Tough. Get up and move something. And drink some water. Yes you hurt. Tough. Move. Walk to the end of the block. Or the end of the hallway. Do what you can do. But move.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rating Retail Stores

Retail stores are the key touchpoint for  customers.  As the holiday season comes up, customers are going to be looking for your store.  But, first, they have to find the store.  To that, they'll either turn to Google, or visit your site and try to use the store locator.  In most markets, they'll have a choice of which store to visit.  You want them to have the most information and information they trust.  Consumers trust the opinions of their peers more than paid advertising - 70% vs 40%!  Google displays store reviews inline with their search results, along with your competitors stores!  Does your store locator site help the customer find the information they need?

To help drive customer decisions and traffic to stores,  you need to engage the community sentiment and provide the openness and transparency by displaying store reviews in your Store Locator application.  By providing customer review information, your stores can help to increase loyalty, increase traffic and identify opportunities for improvement.

To encourage new customers to buy from you, you need people through your doors.  Retail stores no longer provide the lifelong relationship of our grandparent’s era. So how do you get prospect into a physical store? Social is still the answer. User-generated content from real consumers is a way to attract the online shopper to your brand of product offerings [Bazzarvoice, 2014].  71% of people read online reviews before making a purchase decision - simply put, you need to enable our customers and prospects to get the information they want on our site.