Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cash Register Scams: Be On The Lookout!

The next time you stop in the store, especially if you're buying a large quantity of stuff, be careful. Cash registers have been scamming folks for years. Now with technology more advanced, it is both easier to scam but harder to get by with.

I have an uncle that's a mathematical genius. He had an automatic calculator in his head. He could walk into a grocery store, have a buggy filled with items, and know the exact amount of everything in the cart. This included tax, discounts, and the whole nine. He was in essence smarter than the registers. He would regularly argue with cashiers and managers when they would try to short him. Of course he was always on the winning end. This is when I began wondering how many folks get shorted daily.

One telltale sign a store is trying to fool you in 2013 is those registers that are dark and you cannot see what they are charging you. You need not be my uncle to see if you're being scammed. Have your cell phone/smartphone and utilize your calculator. Some dishonest stores do try to overcharge. Be prepared! It has made local and national news in the past.

Also, if you are using bonus cards, coupons, or specials, make sure you are getting those benefits. Some places like to inconveniently forget and charge you full price. That has happened to me a few times. It can be an honest mistake but still keep your guard up.

Cash registers can be rigged and flawed. Perhaps this is why many of them show short balances when exchanged. However, this is a problem that needs to be corrected.

Therefore, know how much your items are, demand to see the price as it is registered, and double check your receipt. It is easy to overlook something, so don't allow these stores to take advantage. This is real and may have already happened to you. Ending it starts with the patrons so take a stand!

Cursive Writing: Going Obsolete As Well?

Who remembers learning cursive writing back in around the 3rd or 4th grade? It was hard at the time, but you felt a sense of pride that you could write even fancier and more proper. Also, you had learned how to sign your signature. It just seemed beneficial to write in cursive.

I was taken aback some when I heard that cursive writing was not being taught in schools that early anymore, if at all. The reasons I have heard why, from educators , range from it is no longer a priority to teach, it is hard to get students into it, and it will soon become obsolete.

Ok now let me get this straight.  Due to technology and even automated signatures, one of the three Rs is being eliminated?  I mean, it seems children are learning how to write the English language, but not properly. It still doesn't seem right or make any sense.

Despite technology making many advances in our daily lives, one should learn basics, such as how to formally write. It goes beyond just being able to make your signature. It is an important part of learning, one that would come in handy at some points. Calculators have already made many folks incapable of doing basic math or following order of operations. Where will our education system go next?

Cursive handwriting should be taught at some point in elementary school. Many children begin school and can read and write well before the age of three. This is also about history and basic skills. We have a skill and an art that can't be lost.

I was watching a movie last night called Idiocracy. Do we want our nation to become a bunch of drones and cater to the lowest common denominator? We have more resources now than ever. There should be more taught and not less.  That is the purpose of progress.

One thing is for sure: my children will learn cursive writing if I find their schools aren't teaching it. I realize my handwriting isn't the best, but it's neater when I write in cursive.

Besides, what else will schools replace? Writing 100 times when they misbehave like Bart Simpson? It's sad, very sad.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Malik Gaffney: Young, Unsung, and Simply Determined

There have been several notable and memorable high school basketball players to come through this area in recent history. Mikki Moore, Arizona "AZ" Reid, Sidney Rice, Donald Sims, Rodney Poston and LJ Peak just to name a few. Many more have come before that.

Now Blacksburg's Malik Gaffney has made his mark not just locally, but also statewide. He may be the best kept secret in all of South Carolina high school basketball. He's only 6'0, but he plays and shoots like a pro. He finished his senior season as the #6 scorer in Class 2A averaging 22 points/game, #3 in three pointers made in the state and even received the Southern Prep Athletic Association Player Of The Year, and All-State honors.

A strong work ethic and a good upbringing have definitely been beneficial for Malik. He has been playing basketball since the age of four, playing in leagues with and against nine and ten year olds. He began perfecting his wonderful jump shot using a small Fisher Price goal and countless hours at the arcade.

Years passed and he continued to excel on and off the court. He has played locally in summer leagues, AAU basketball and on a couple of travel teams. He led the Blacksburg Wildcats this year, along with multi-sport athletes Treyvon Parker and Nick Hames , within striking distance of the region crown and a playoff berth. The Smith gymnasium started becoming packed as several locals and scouts wanted to see this kid play.

Malik is the type of person that's known for more than just his jumper that's like NBA stars Reggie Miller or Stephen Curry, or his favorite player Kyrie Irving. He's a first class person off the court also. Malik works hard and relentlessly to achieve his goals in life. This guy has lived in the courts and gym for years, while others weren't. He also maintains good grades in school. Quite simply, he doesn't let anyone tell him he can't achieve.

His attitude is paying dividends. Thanks to his talent, work ethic, and stellar play, he has received attention from several colleges nationwide, including Grey Military Prep School, Butler, Houston, St. Johns, Hawaii and UTEP. His online recruiting profile on has helped put him on the forefront for college basketball scouts.

This teenager has several goals, besides and beyond basketball. He wants to play Division I college ball, receive his bachelor's degree in business management, and eventually become an executive of a Fortune 500 executive.

Dreaming big is one thing. Achieving those dreams and working for them is another. Malik is not someone I would bet against. He is very goal driven, motivated, and very personable. He has all the assets and qualities necessary to become successful in basketball and life.

Malik Gaffney has quite an inspirational story of beating the odds and reaching goals. He may be small by many to be a basketball star. However dynamite isn't exactly huge either. Also, like dynamite, Malik exploded on the basketball courts on a consistent basis, knowing he couldn't rest on his laurels.

The best is yet to come for this young local talent. His stock is rising, and he is getting the respect he has worked for. Malik makes one want not only him to succeed, but to motivate you to excel. He hasn't taken no for an answer, and neither should anyone. One of the mottos that his father, Darenza, has coined is "Make It Happen".

Therefore, one should continue to set goals, work hard and make things happen, just like folks such as Malik do on a daily basis.


Be Kind and Please Rewind: How Movie Rentals Have Changed

Renting a good movie to watch used to be an awesome thrill for me. Streaming movies and getting them in the mail is still good, but I do hate that the nostalgia of going into a video store is basically gone.

I remember as a child in the mid 80s, we had just bought a VCR. We rented movies from the local video store every weekend. It was a new experience to see unedited movies outside of the theatre. When I became old enough, I got my own membership to Blockbuster Video. It was liberating to be able to rent and return my own movies. You had to have them back and rewinded on time or you were subject to fines.

When DVDs came along, the similar principle applied, minus the rewinding. Then Netflix became popular for their mail in rental system. You could have unlimited rentals, no due dates for a flat monthly fee. Blockbuster tried the same thing. For a while, both Netflix and Blockbuster were at war, to see who could win the most customers. I remained loyal to Blockbuster. They had better service and rates, and quality of DVDs. Before I began this blog, I even did a note on Facebook about Blockbuster, Netflix, and now even Redbox.

Redbox changed the game to another level. It's hard to beat being able to rent movies for only $1/night, and only being charged a dollar late fee for every night you were late. You also didn't have to wait in the mail for your movie to arrive. Both Netflix and Blockbuster then began allowing subscribers to stream movies online and via their Blu Ray players and PS3. It appeared Netflix had the edge, however, and leads the movie rental business currently. Blockbuster even tried setting up blue rental kiosks similar to Redbox.However, those haven't worked out as well.

It appears Blockbuster is fading into obscurity. They are becoming like Quincys, Ryans, Shoneys and pay phones. Obsolete, hard to find, lesser quality and thus insignificant.

However, I have been with Blockbuster since the 90s and I'm sticking with them until they fold. Their customer service is top notch, as our their selection of movies. Plus they offer numerous discounts. They were once a leading force. Now they are like the old man in the club that every girl ignores and finds creepy.

There will be another competitor or innovator rise up and challenge Netflix and Redbox, and change the movie rental game once again. I have a feeling smartphones and social media will be involved, but watch and wait for it. It will be almost, if not more, exciting than the movie or TV show you just streamed from Netflix.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Indecent and Inappropriate: How And Where NOT To Propose To A Woman

Valentine's Day is coming up this Thursday. I have been writing more about love over the past year. I decided for this Valentines to focus on all the engagements and proposals that occur on this day.

First let me start by saying it's predictable and clique' to get engaged or propose on Valentines. Yes the day is about love. However, proposals are supposed to be memorable, spontaneous, and unique. Nothing unorthodox about proposing on February 14th. I call it the gift and ring ceremony with all the flowers, candies, balloons, bears and rings I see posted on social media on this day.

To me, a marriage proposal shouldn't be a grand gesture, or even on a holiday or birthday. It should be sort of a surprise. The parents of the bride should be asked for their blessing, I believe that's only fair. However public spectacles such as on the Jumbotron at a professional sporting event or where a huge crowd is has been done a million times.

Keep your proposal simple, like during the commercial break of Family Guy. Also, pick another day other than Valentines. Propose marriage in the car or even during dinner at home. Either way, be creative and different. That would mean don't hide the ring inside food or beverages.

Here are two proposals I enjoyed. One was at the beach. This couple had went for a weekend getaway. The man had written "Will You Marry Me?" in the sand, then called his lady to look outside the balcony. Besides the writing in the sand, he was kneeling with the ring.

Another good one was a scavenger hunt. This fella send his wife to be on a well thought out quest and game, till she found the ring in a tree. He popped the question right then.

Now, certain things, including asking for the parents blessing, should not go out of style. Don't spend more than three months of your income on the ring. Getting down on one knee is hard to beat. Make sure marriage has been discussed, and you both are ready. The rest can fall in place.

The point is: be original! Propose on President's Day. Do research and find other ideas for proposing. Also, if you insist on people being present, keep the crowd small. A few close friends and family will do. Finally, do not feel it necessary to post the proposal to YouTube. It is a romantic moment, but a private one. Again, go against the grain.

A good, non-clique' proposal can wow that special someone and lead to a wonderful life together. The thought thus really does count.

10 Non Obsolete Jobs

Many jobs and lines of work seem to be fading into obscurity. However through research and observation, I have found 10 jobs that should not go obsolete any time soon, or ever.

1. Educator

Whether be a schoolteacher, principal, or even a daycare instructor, being in education is always a good stable field to go into. The pay is not always great, but the other rewards are priceless.

2. Healthcare

People always get sick or hurt. Not only do we need various doctors and nurses, we need healthcare administrators. That is, people who run hospitals, urgent care facilites and such. It is often a lucrative field as well.

3. Construction

Something: houses, restaurants, and other town buildings, not to mention roads, always need to be built and maintained. Being skilled with your hands, powertools, and bulldozers is often a plus.

4. Banking

I live close to one of the banking capitals in the USA: Charlotte, NC. Between Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and various credit unions, keeping and investing and loaning money is always good business. This is even the case in small towns.

5. Computing/IT

I know I'm biased here, being that this is part of my skillset. But technology changes daily, and evolves. The person that is good at upgrading, repairing, maintaining and programming these systems will always be in high demand. Look at Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs for example.

6. Automotive

The automotive industry has rebounded from their financial quaqmire in 2009 and is booming. Car sales are at a premium, mechanics and car maintenance places will always exist. People need to drive in dependable vehicles. Therefore, this industry will always be strong and profitable.

7. Lawyers

We're in a litigious society, plus you have several judge shows and such. This makes knowing the law and better yet being able to practice it a commodity. This can be family issues, real estate, criminal, or even a simple traffic ticket. Knowing the law is always beneficial.

8. Trucker and/or other drivers

Being a driver, especially of a heavy duty vehicle requiring a commericial driver's licence (CDL), is always needed. We need these drivers to transport goods and services, for public transit, and even for regular transportation. This could be in the form of chauffeurs, taxi drivers, or even driving a limo. It really does pay to have a good driving record and the proper credentials to drive certain vehicles.

9. Sports coach

Sports of all types and levels are growing and expanding. They pay really well also, even at the high school level in some cases. We will have more demand for coaches down the line.

10. Photographer

This is actually one of the highest paid professions that doesn't require a degree. Plus we're in such a photographic and visual environment. Even as cell phones continue to be enhanced, there will always be a need for a good photographer. Many want the best photos, putting skilled photographers in high demand.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Seven Tips To A Successful Road Trip

One of my favorite pastimes (and a cheap getaway) is a good road trip. Driving is a good stress reliever for me, especially traveling to places and lands I have never seen.

Over the years, here are seven tips I have picked up to make your road trip successful

1. Service your vehicle

You don't want to travel a long distance if your vehicle isn't in proper condition. Get your oil changed, check your tires, brakes, engine, and the rest. If you have an automobile that cannot withstand a long trip, don't fret. Carpool or rent a car. I have rented cars in the past when I was in this situation. Being stuck on the side of the road is never fun.

2. Map out your trip

GPS can make one lazy when taking a road trip. However, still make a brief itinerary of where you're going, when you're arriving, and when you're leaving. Fill in other details such as sightseeing, activities, meals, and housing. A little organization can go a long way.

3. Drive early or late.

This is typically when traffic is the lightest and you can make good time on your commute. During the day, you have all sorts of traffic, including rush hour. Avoiding that if possible can enhance your journey.

4. Pack plenty of snacks

You don't want to be stopping every hour or so for water, soda, or candy to keep you refreshed. It can be very difficult to get back on the highway during certain times. Therefore, pack some crackers, bottled water, some other beverages and even a few sandwiches. You may run into something that may deter you from eating for a while and you want to stay nourished while driving.

5. Have a good playlist

Keep some good music playing to make the trip go by faster and to keep yourself alert. This can be a few CDs, Pandora, Songsta, a playlist you compiled on your music player, or even Grooveshark. Especially if you're traveling alone, it makes a huge difference.

6. Research for good routes, speed traps, hotels , restaurants, toll roads, etc.

All of this is an extension of #2. You want to find the best and safest route possible. Search and see how heavy the traffic is, the weather conditions, or is any construction taking place. You also want to be economically sound. Therefore, when you do stop to rest, stretch and eat, find good, affordable places. Also, avoid toll roads and speed traps where possible. Law enforcement tends to target unfamiliar traffic so don't try to break any laws.

7. Have a good traveling/driving companion

This may be almost as important as your vehicle being in good condition. You have someone to shoot the breeze with, another set of eyes on the road, someone to bond with, and perhaps someone to share the driving and gas with. Truckers often do this on their trips. It's definitely a game changer.

The Google Explosion

Microsoft and Apple have been going head to head in the technology world for a couple of decades now. However, it seems whenever Apple releases a hot product or gadget, Google (owned by Microsoft) is not far behind. You have several successful Samsung products such as the Note, Galaxy, and Nexus, Google Chrome and Cloud. Google even has a social network: Google +.

However the one thing that Google has one upped Apple on for years is Google itself. By this, I mean the search engine.

People, myself included, are so quick to visit Google in search of something. Random information, facts, photos, recipes. Heck I will Google in the middle of a conversation to try and settle a debate or heated discussion. I am a Googling fiend, and apparently I'm not alone.

Yahoo, MSN, and even Dogpile that combines all the search engines are good as well. However Google has branded the online research technique. They have impacted it so much so that people now say "I'm going to Google this or that". Google is thus a verb.

We recently had a Super Bowl full of excitement, blackouts, Beyonce' gyrating, and of course the ads. I remember an ad Google ran in 2010 during the Super Bowl about its search engine. This guy was searching (or Googling) on how to woo and romance his girlfriend. His Googling and research evolved to looking for engagement rings, wedding venues, tuxes, realtors, and later baby items.

Google is an important part of our lives. Even Apple users cannot deny how Google has changed us as a culture.

Being that I enjoy trivia, Google does take some of the fun out of it, for those that do not play fair. However, random knowledge is part of the Google experience.

Perhaps you came across my blog via a Google search. I hope you continue to visit my blog weekly, and look at my past posts. Google is truly helping improve everyone's lives with their one size fits all approach.