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Friday, September 25, 2015

Self Sealing Water Balloons are the (Water) Bomb!

Water Balloons from Splash Around - endless fun for summer days
Did you see the article about the cadets at West Point who were injured in a pillow fight (Time.com, September 5, 2015) because some of them hid hard objects in their pillows? They should have tried these no-tie, self seal water balloons from Splash Around, I reckon. Currently available through Amazon.com, they have been proving very popular over the summer.

The balloons fill quickly and simply from an outside hose and are supplied with the nozzles to fill them too. All a user needs to do is put the whole thing in a large bucket then attach the water hose to the nozzle, turn on the tap and the balloons will fill in less than a minute. Yes, it's that simple. Once filled, the balloons will come free of the nozzle with a shake. Some users report that if they are filled without being placed in a bucket, they will automatically drop off the bundle when full. Great fun for the kids to chase around the yard to start the game. Others suggest that filling them while holding the nozzle assembly underwater makes them fill up better. It's certainly worth a try to ensure maximum fun, at least.

The balloons come ready batched in three bundles of 37 (that’s 111 in total) with the stick-like nozzle attached to each bundle. They are made of biodegradable latex, which according to reviews is durable enough to last a while before bursting. Some reviewers say the balloons which don't burst can be refilled and reused too, which surely makes them even more fun. Parents report that they're safe for youngsters to use unsupervised, but it sounds like the adults have just as much fun with them as the children. Perhaps water balloons could become a summer version of the pinata?

These balloons are an ideal fun addition to any party and a great way to cool down on hot summer days. Thirty seven balloons in a bouquet is enough for anyone to hold their own in a water fight, even against water pistols. The reviews I've read so far say a batch of these balloons have managed to enliven many birthday parties for people of all ages.

Splash Around have a good reputation for providing quality products at reasonable prices and those few customers who have reported problems have been met with exemplary customer service too. This sounds like a recipe for success from a firm which has found a niche in the market.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sun Pixie's Tarot offers empathic card reading via Skype


SunPixie, Tarot reader and empath.
Image supplied and used with permission.

Having their tarot read is not for everyone. It's a way of gaining insight or answers, although the results can be unsettling if the sitter isn't prepared for them. However, with Sun Pixie's tarot reading techniques clients are firmly in the modern era.

Patrons can have their cards read in person (she's based in Thailand), over the phone, and now, by Skype. Yes, Skype. See what I mean about being firmly in the modern era? Prices for personal appointments and the cost per minute for phone or Skype consultations are clearly quoted on Sunny's website along with availability and a chance to receive a notification when she’s back online.

Sun Pixie offers a choice of Pagan, Native American or Visconti decks. Tarot must be read from a deck matching the client's cultural background, hence the choice. Traditionally, the cards are read with the reader face to face with their client, but effective readings can also be given by phone. In addition, Sunny offers the chance for her phone clients to see the cards over Skype. Of course, seers and empaths can work remotely, but putting a face to a client helps her to add depth to her reading.

Clients have a choice of the number of cards they would like to have read. They can opt for a small spread of 1-5 cards or a more in-depth examination of up to 28 cards. However big or small the spread, Sun Pixie suggests that her client reflects on the cards as they are known to provide answers to those seeking them. This is because the artwork reflects the many different types of human personalities and therefore says different things to each person. A tarot reading is seen as a way to move out of a blindspot - a place where clients see no or few opportunities - and explore what might be possible if they took one step away from that space. Readers are empaths; this means that they can give clients insights into situations that they might not have seen themselves. Sun Pixie is an MA graduate of Appalachian State University, and believes that the mix of academic and spiritual discipline learned there lends an extra edge to her readings.

It is entirely up to the client whether they choose to connect via Skype to see their cards. Prices vary depending on the time of day, but Verified Call protection will still ensure a private and confidential conversation even if Skype is used. A new moon brings a temporary halt to readings, with private consultations only available at that time. All of these details can be found on the website, or by looking at the button below.

Sun Pixie doesn't promise to change the world with a tarot reading, but she can set clients on the path to changing their world, if they wish to.


      

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Teeny Office provides modern solutions for travel agents

Teeny Office logo. Provided and used with permission.





Just because everyone books their own holidays these days doesn't mean that travel agents are going out of fashion. Far from it, in fact. Travel companies still need people and software to process the bookings. In this age of electronic communication, having an accurate database and the ability to react fast to quotation and booking requests is key to beating the competition.

That's where Teeny Office has the edge. This cloud based software package is a market leader in Customer Relationship Management and allows agents of all sizes to work effectively. It was designed and built by a team of travel agents, so they knew what the industry needed. With this software, host agencies can build a remote workforce with a linked database, while independent operators are able to create their own database. Teeny Office is all things to all users.

Their Quick Quote system allows agents to email prices to clients quickly and simply, while the invoicing side includes carrier logos and worldwide airport codes for easy, professional-looking invoicing. The beauty of an all-in-one client management system like Teeny Office is that it is so versatile. There is no need for separate systems for everything. It's all cloud based and all integrated. Agents can see their clients’ travel booking and email history, send invoices with airline or cruise company logos, invoice in several different currencies and much more.

Existing agents can move over to Teeny Office for under $500. The license fee is $340 a year for up to ten agents and $100 to cover the cost of uploading their present database. That's less than the cost of hiring a website designer, representing great value for money and a boost for business. With Teeny Office, even the newest start up agency can look professional and send clients all the information they need by email right from the start.

On the business side there are all kinds of useful tools for users. Sales and commission reports are printable or exportable, invoices can also be printed as well as emailed. The system is at a stage where if a user has an idea, the development team will do their best to add it. Some personal customization will incur a charge, some with a wider appeal will be added for free.

Teeny Office promises to revolutionize the way travel agents handle their bookings. It is already a market leader in some areas of the world, and with offices in Asia, Australia, the USA and the UK, it has the potential to grow further yet.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nakkashe Boho Crochet Jewelry and Accessories



Nakkashe's Etsy shop is full of over 500 handmade crochet items. From necklaces to earrings, hats, scarves and more, fans of delicate lacy creations will love their boho crochet jewelry and accessories. Friends Anakiz and Zeynep run the shop together. They are wives, mothers and neighbors who make the jewelry between them.

Whether you're looking for an unusual gift, need to finish off a special outfit or simply want a warm and colorful scarf or hat to keep away the winter chill, you'll find it here. Flowers and leaves are everywhere on these items, in every color you could imagine. They are delicately lacy, sprinkling scarves and hats, edging decorative oya scarves, forming daisy chains to show off your feet in barefoot sandals and cascading from necklaces and earrings in a riot of cheer to brighten up the greyest, darkest, wettest days. From buds to petals, sunflowers to poppies, roses, daisies and marigolds, these handcrafted items will make you feel like the May Queen even on a cold winter's day.

To give you an idea of the range on offer, there are over 260 necklaces available alone, many of which are one-off designs, or limited runs of a handful of pieces. The chances of finding someone else with the same type of crochet jewelry are very slim.

Anakiz and Zeynep also accept custom orders, so if you like a particular design but not the colors it's presently offered in, you can request them to produce it for you in the colors you prefer. There are even bridal hair accessories to make your special day even more memorable and adjustable rings with gorgeous crochet blooms so your flower girls can have a flower ring to match the petals they're throwing. The shop's focus is firmly on the necklaces and detailed oya thread fringed scarves though, with the widest selection in those items.

A plain lilac cotton scarf takes on a whole new look when embellished with rainbows made of bright wooden beads and colorful thread. A hot pink silk scarf is even more of a statement with the addition of several strands of pink flowers on either end. If flowers aren't your thing, there's a lovely multicolor beaded collar which has plain, bright and metallic beads strung on a black thread lattice. For those cold winter days, Nakkashe's range includes crocheted scarves and chunky hats, caps and beanies. You will easily be able to color coordinate your hat and scarf for an individual look that expresses your style. And the best thing of all is that because this is Etsy, you will see prices in your own currency, so no fiddly conversions to work out how much spoiling yourself with this range will cost.

For boho crochet jewelry and accessories, you should consider Nakkashe’s Etsy shop. You will not be disappointed.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Queen Bee Social - social media help for businesses

Queen Bee Social logo. Provided and used with permission.


Social media and businesses have not always been the best of friends. As Queen Bee Social point out in one of their latest blogs When Businesses Go Socially Rogue, brands can easily undo years of good work with one ill advised tweet or post, and the resulting loyalty rebuilding exercise can be lengthy and expensive.

Fortunately there is an answer. A company like Queen Bee Social can help you to put the word out about your business in the right way. Queen Bee provide a complete social media marketing service which will increase your valuable inbound traffic (that's what brings you customers) and advise on how best to run your social media accounts to maximize their impact and raise your search engine rankings.

Looking at some of the headlines on the front page of Queen Bee Social, you can grasp the strategic importance of the correct social media marketing plan. Personalized marketing experiences are becoming the norm, with companies targeting adverts based on search terms, topics in blog posts, and even programmatic advertising to tie up their advertisements with what the viewer wants to see. In addition, 59% of businesses say effective search engine optimization, or SEO, is the key to lead generation. Furthermore, 71% of social media users who are shown good customer service by a company will recommend that firm to others.

Get it right, and there is a huge amount to be gained. Get it wrong and it could take a while to recover. Queen Bee Social will walk you through all of these minefields and more. The firm offers tips on integrating traditional marketing avenues with new digital media, as well as showing clients how to make the most of that social media. You will learn how to set and implement a successful social media strategy to draw in new clients and reinforce loyalty in existing ones. Queen Bee will look at your existing social media presence to see how the business is performing in the field and offer advice to make it more effective where necessary. They will also give tips on email marketing campaigns to ensure your emails aren’t simply deleted by your clients; or worse, by your targeted new customers. Mobile marketing is another area where companies can seek help, to ensure that they are making the most of their market on the move. After all, search engines penalize companies with poorly performing websites on mobile platforms, which is unlikely to help business.

Of course, Queen Bee Social will also help out with reputation management too, so if you have suffered an employee meltdown in public, they will be able to advise the best way to avert reputation ruin. Group and individual training sessions are available to suit your company’s structure and working practices, so all styles of company can benefit.

No matter the size of your firm or the social media questions that you may have, it is likely that Queen Bee Social can help provide answers. If you feel your company’s social media presence can be improved, founder Megan Washington and her team should be able to help.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Web Shrinker. The web. Categorized.

Web Shrinker icon.
Provided and used with permission.



Now, I know next to nothing about coding, but when I heard that there was an API developer seeking Kickstarter funds to try to categorize the whole Internet by subject, I was suitably impressed. Statisticians, the terminally curious and geeks are going to love this. For anyone who has ever wondered how many websites there are on the web or what the most popular category is for starting new sites, the Web Shrinker API for developers will help.

Currently fundraising on Kickstarter has just begun with a month to run. Founder Adam Spotton hopes to scale up the project using Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the coming months. To date the API has already categorized over a quarter of a billion sites. Throughout the company’s history, they have mainly used open source software. Adam's intention is to give a donation to these open source developers once the API is open to the public. But first Web Shrinker aims to substantially increase the sites categorized, by using AWS computer resources, and finalize some items relating to categorization and production of the downloadable list. The development team believes that once the campaign is complete, the category list will contain over 1 billion sites while continuing to add new ones in real time.


Web Shrinker JSON response.
Image provided and used with permission.
It's an ambitious undertaking, with the intention of providing a downloadable list of website to category mappings as well as an online interface for the search, accessed via an HTTP GET request. This will return the categories as a JSON response. The idea is to allow the accurate classification of websites into categories, and if an immediate category isn't known, the service will crawl the target website and categorize it. It is designed to be used with other software as well as being a reference resource for the creation of website filters and enforcement of acceptable use policies. Since sites can be categorized on request via a crawler bot, the API is constantly updated with new sites, making the list as accurate as possible at the time of request. Requests for lookups can be for an individual site URL, a specific IP address or hostname. The latter two categories will return a list of all applicable content across all categories.

Kickstarter backers can expect to have a preview of the API to play around with as a bare minimum. This will extend to having the chance to input to the API searches for those backers who pledge $100 or more. The team hopes to have a beta testing version available for backers in a couple of months (November 2015), with the more detailed versions open for the bigger backers in February 2016. Currently there are 32 categories; suggestions are welcome for others. Once fully released, the API will be available for free for 100 requests; the Basic level will then include 20,000 requests, with yet more features available to Intermediate and Professional user levels. Screenshots for categorized sites will also be available with this service.


This API takes a whole new slant on the standard search engine, which searches by keywords. It allows a totally new set of statistics to be generated and I can see it being used by Masters students for thesis work, researchers, techy writers, webmasters and figuresmiths the world over.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Beishan Jazz Festival 2015 - Let's Swing!

Beishan International Jazz Festival 2015.
Banner supplied and used with permission.

I grew up in a jazz-filled house. My father is a big band jazz fan, my mother likes swing and Frank Sinatra. It was only natural that I should follow in their footsteps and find my own path in enjoying listening to jazz.

These days, jazz is a multi-faceted genre. The latest edition of the Beishan International Jazz Festival, taking place at the end of the month (29 and 30 September 2015), is brought to life by WhattheCHEONG Creative Solutions, Zhuhai, China, and features small band musicians and soloists from around the world. Let’s swing!


From China, Italy and South Korea come the CMI Quartet. Top Canadian bassist Sylvain Gagnon will be there with his quartet as will the Dock in Absolute trio from Belgium and Luxembourg. Bulgarian-born, US-based Hristo Vitchev is bringing his quartet to Beishan to play too, while the family-run Swing Brosse System’s range runs from Libertango to Summertime and St James Infirmary.


Homegrown talent in the form of the Luo Ning Trio will also be on show at Beishan, and if you consider it strange that Chinese musicians love to play jazz, remember that music is a universal language. Latin music does not have to be played in Brazil, after all. Like Lang Lang in the classical world, Luo Ning is an arresting piano player who performed at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

There seems to be a vibrant cultural exchange between Asia and Italy, because The East West Quintet also shares this strand of influence with the CMI Quartet, being led by a Chinese man and an Italian woman. They love South American tango music, and infuse those references into their work on a regular basis. Also featuring South American jazz music is the Ernesto Jodos Trio, which makes sense, seeing as the leader is an Argentinean.


The guest of honor is American saxophonist Tim Ries, who has played with the Rolling Stones. If it’s musical inspiration you’re after, Tim will provide it across many genres. He’s been with the Stones for the last 15 years or so, but has also played with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Maynard Ferguson, Michael Jackson and various symphony orchestras.


Having listened to several of these groups while researching and writing this article, my head is now awash with jazz of all eras and many influences. Should any readers wish to attend the Beishan International Jazz Festival, there is a comprehensive website, while all enquiries should be directed to WhattheCHEONG's PR team. The company also has a range of merchandise available online; purchase is not restricted simply to those who were there. For the latest, freshest take on international jazz, fans should head to Beishan later this month.