April 17, 2012

Goupon and Its Possible Demise:

How the deal-giving company backtracks on its promises

The Groupon promise has been a stalwart symbol of the online site's promise to its customers since its inception. Put simply, it states that if people are let down from their experience with the site, their purchases will be returned or the company will make things right. However, when push comes to shove, things aren't quite as clear cut. Customer service representatives state that the promise provided on the site is intentionally vague so the company can, in effect, get out of honoring it.

One man’s troubles began last year when he bought a Groupon for a hotel stay in California. He bought it precisely because he'd written several bits of negative publicity about the company, and figured a two night stay in California would give him a chance to write a story on their behalf. This was his goal. The price wasn't the best, but he went with it. This was where things started to go wrong.

First of all, when he called the hotel so he could reserve his stay, he found out the Groupon code wouldn't work for the weekend he planned on traveling. This was because Groupon didn't confirm whether or not the place would be available when he purchased it, which is something other travel sites do. As a result, they didn't know whether or not he'd actually have a room. Similarly, unlike most other travel sites, Groupon doesn't let people know about blackout dates, taxes, and restrictions on availability.

At any rate, he called and found out that even though the rooms were there, they weren't going to go with Groupon's code for his dates. The representative informed him that he needed to deal with Groupon, not them. The author pointed out that he'd been at the hotel before, meaning that he needed to deal with them. However, they didn't buy it, which meant he needed to book a different hotel.

Six months later, he used the Groupon code for another California trip, and got just about the worst room in the hotel, and an internet connection that didn't work. Upon his return, fed up, he asked for a refund, based on the far reaching promise of Groupon. All they offered was a measly store credit. After multiple contact attempts, he went to the PR department to clarify the meaning of the Groupon promise, but got the runaround.

More broadly, Groupon has been getting the heat from a number of trade commissions for its vague and unenforced promise. The Federal Trade Commission stated they'd potentially look into the case if Groupon was found to be engaging in mass deceptions and unfair practices affecting commerce.

This isn't the first time Groupon has faced such troubles. In the United Kingdom, it was recently forced to accept closer reviews from the Office of Fair Trading. The concerns about Groupon ranged from its trading practices to its delivery of services that weren't as they were advertised. Groupon stated that it would give up any details of consumer complaints in the coming months. It is likely that their backhanded practices may finally be catching up to them.

April 4, 2012

The Dark-Side of Alternative Medicine:

How the demise of rhinos is linked to healing practices

As everyone knows, I am a fan of thinking outside the box and exploring different avenues of healing. I love showing easier or less stressful ways to heal and solve life’s everyday problems. BUT sometimes there are practices that I just cannot accept. And the use of Rhino horns is one of those.

I have known about this problem for years, and have followed many studies regarding the effects of rhino horn consumption; that of which are non- conclusive. They offer NO health benefits whatsoever and are seriously just as effective as biting one’s nails.

But now more media has been brought to highlight the global problem, because illegal killings have been skyrocketing. In South Africa, the number of illegally hunted rhinos has jumped from “122 in 2009 to 333 in 2010 and a record 448 in 2011. The country reported last week that 150 rhinos had already been poached this year, nearly 60 percent taken from Kruger National Park.”1

A NATIONAL PARK? Seriously, that is like hunting in a zoo or taking candy from a baby. Oh wait….That does happen! It is pretty sad when zoo officials do not feel safe for the rhinos that are protected 24/7. Many zoo workers in Vietnam say the still worry “for the animals' safety even though the zoo has 24-hour security.” It’s a sad day, when animals are not only not safe in their natural habitats, but not safe in the haven of a zoo.

And I know, by this point you are probably thinking “hunting in zoos, it couldn’t get anymore dirty, right? WRONG. Many poachers have turned to stealing to make a quick buck; and by buck I mean $25,000 a pound. “According to Europol, the European law enforcement agency, 72 rhino horns were stolen from 15 European countries in 2011.”2

Seriously…. You revert to stealing and hunting in a zoo just to make some quick money? I wouldn’t even consider yourself a man if you think that is a job well-done.

So why do people still inhumanely slay these endangered animals for “healing”. Two reasons: culture and greed. China has used the horn of a rhino for many healing practice; cupping, moxibustion, and other oral remedies. But now Vietnam is being blamed for the increased killing. This is due to the emphasis of wealth penetrating the Vietnamese culture.

Half of the time, the people know that there are no real benefits of using rhino horn, but the price value makes is seem good. “Many Vietnamese believe that anything expensive is good,” stated Nguyen Huu Truong, a doctor at Hanoi's Center for Allergy Clinical Immunology.

I don’t want to sound like I am bashing on someone’s healing practices or culture because I am a very cultural relative person, but I just wish that these disrespectful hunters can see that there is an easier way to make money and keep the flow going. And though my list might sound like I am advocating hunting, I’m not. But if you are going to set out to do that, be respectful and SMART, which most hunters are.

Dumb-Ass’s Guide To Smart Hunting:

Hunters’ Mistake:

Hacking off the rhinos’ horns to the point of mutilation that they die.
Which leads to extinction, which leads to no more rhinos, which leads to NO MORE MONEY. (Looks like you really thought this one through)

Hunters’ Solution:

Rhino horns grow back FULLY ever TWO years.
SO rocket scientists, instead of using chainsaws and other tools to hack them off to the point of no return, TRIM THEM. And then *BAM*! You have your horn, You have your money, The rhino is safe, The rhino STAYS ALIVE, and then you still have a job! Rinse, Rotate, Repeat….

1-2 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/vietnam-rhino-horn_n_1402534.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

Alternatives Become More Accessible for Veterans:

VA hospitals receive money to research alternative therapies

Since the Department of Veteran Affairs has recently been granted funds meant to further research into the effectiveness of alternative therapies for wounded veterans, people are expressing a renewed interest in learning more about alternative therapy methods. While some people are reluctant to receive any treatment that falls outside the bounds of established medical practices, others are willing to try anything to alleviate mental and physical pain. Numerous veterans suffering from a variety of wartime traumas are receiving treatments such as yoga therapy, acupuncture, and other forms of unorthodox medical treatment in an attempt to better manage their pain.

Issues that can be addressed

When vets return home from war, they often suffer from a variety of problems. One common condition vets often have is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the symptoms of which involve nightmares, depression, and anxiety as a result of combat experiences. Veterans also experience Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) resulting from blunt-force trauma and explosions during combat. Those who suffer from TBI often experience behavioral and physiological changes as well as lingering fatigue.

Multiple Sclerosis also afflicts some veterans who were exposed to harmful chemical or environmental agents during war; MS weakens muscles and affects memory. Vets also suffer from various types of cancers due to exposure to asbestos and other harmful agents. These cancers include various skin cancers, cancers of the internal organs, and lung cancers due to exposure to harmful agents.

Alternative therapies at work

The term "alternative therapy" covers a wide variety of treatments, so veterans have a wide variety of treatments from which to choose. Veterans should research these methods and use caution when selecting alternative therapy so as not to negatively interfere with ongoing regular treatments, even though some therapies can sometimes supplement regular treatment successfully.

PTSD is one of the most common problems treated with alternative methods. Since PTSD deals primarily with memory, some veterans are trying other types of memory therapy to supplement their standard care. Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprogramming helps over three quarters of its recipients by stripping painful memories of their harmful emotions via a therapist's finger motions in front of a patient's eyes.

Emotional Freedom Technique involves putting a positive spin on a painful incident while using acupuncture. Some vets also engage in Extreme Sports Therapy, a technique that works by replacing combat images with high-adrenaline and more enjoyable experiences. TBI also deals with memory, meaning vets sometimes engage in types of alternative therapy dealing with increasing and healing memory.

Veterans sometimes contract diseases years after service due to exposure to harmful chemicals and war materials and thus must be treated long-term. Multiple Sclerosis and various cancers are two such diseases that often cause immense suffering in those who contract it, so vets often look outside

March 23, 2012

Studies Prove The Effectiveness of Bio Fuels:

But more needs to be done, and quantified

Going green will not only improve the health of the planet but can make an improvement in the quality of the air we breathe. Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, can seriously affect our general health and cause multiple health issues for individuals. Poor indoor/workplace air quality can lead to serious cancers like black lung disease, mesothelioma or Hodgkin disease. Though indoor air quality is an important matter, everyday air pollution is just as bad or maybe even worse since it can affect a wide range of people.

Carbon Dioxides, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and more are released into the atmosphere and contribute to a number of health issues. Cancers, lung disease, asthma and other respiratory ailments can all be attributed to pollution in the air. This is evident by the higher rates of health issues around industrialized areas where minimum air quality requirements are not met.

Biodiesel fuels are one product that the green market offers that works to lower carbon dioxide and other dangerous chemicals from the atmosphere. Biodiesel fuels are taken from renewable sources such as soybeans and other agricultural byproducts. They are biodegradable, through a process called transesterification, where the glycerin is separated from the fats. The oils and grease from these bio sources are then converted into fuel, which can be used alone or as extenders in other fuels.

Though these qualities of bio fuels seem incomparable to our current use, questions still arise. Though bio fuels burn clean, without releasing chemicals and fumes, and come from endless renewable sources, but is this enough to lower the amounts of air pollution and improve the quality of what we breathe?

Thanks to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), there is solid evidence that bio fuels are the way to go and are enough to help combat the pollution crisis. The NREL conducted a study regarding the use of biodiesel fuels on a fleet of heavy duty diesel trucks. The study was aimed to determine the effect that biodiesel and biodiesel blends have on the emissions from these trucks. In essence, the study found that risk of premature deaths due to exposure from air toxins is reduced by 2-5%, and the amount of particulate matter was reduced by 4-7%.

Although the effects of biodiesel fuel on air quality have not been quantified by the EPA or other institutions, it is clear is there is an advantage to using bio fuels. When used with diesel engines, the emissions improve ignition and oxidant distribution, thus improving overall emissions. Dangerous hydrocarbons and particulate matter have an inherent toxicity. Because biodiesel reduces the toxicity of particulate matter, it's important to explore this potential option for lowering health issues

March 15, 2012

Did You Say Healthy Party?

Recipes to make you next event lighter (in a good way)

Parties and Healthy foods are normally not two words you would put together in a sentence. But there are actually tasty and healthy food out there that are great for any event. Party foods with a healthy edge are a cornucopia of different flavors and textures. Wade out from under the grease laden fried food, and consider some healthier alternatives guests will be sure to appreciate.

Portobello Mushroom Steaks are a delicious alternative to beef steaks on the grill. These hearty mushrooms are full of flavor naturally and receive a boost of seasoning from an easy to make barbecue sauce. Portobello mushrooms add necessary carbohydrates and fiber while giving a protein boost, all necessary for energy and building muscle mass.

Healthy choices for side dishes and snacks are tasty and endless. Raw vegetable trays are always a perfect choice that satisfies the crunch partygoers desire. Baked crackers and pita chips add the next crisp factor. Cheezy Beany Spread is an excellent dip or spread that provides an excellent source of protein, vitamin C and E, iron, beta-carotene and calcium. Zesty garlic, lemon and roasted red bell pepper is the reason for this spread's terrific flavor.

Place a festive Aztec Salad next to all and guests have a feast for eyes, noses and tummies. Black beans, corn, onions and peppers marinate in a combination of spices and vinegars. The bold flavor of this salad is thanks to spices such as cumin, cilantro, coriander and red pepper. Guests will come back for second helpings just to look at the pretty colors.

Satisfy the sweet tooth every party guest has with some great alternatives to cookies, candy and cake. Popcorn is a flexible base for mixing with cereals, nuts, granola, cheese and spices. Play with naturally hot and sweet foods such as wasabi peas and raisins for an addictive flavor. Make a fruit salsa that has just enough heat to taste perfect with tortilla chips. Have fruit trays available with yummy yogurt dips.

Do not feel as if the only choice for a party is soda or alcoholic drinks. Create fun spritzers with carbonated water or ginger ale and unusual juices such as pomegranate juice. Garnish these drinks with pieces of fruit that will add color, punch and flavor that guests will delight over. Consider making smoothies for a party. Smoothies allow a host to provide a large variety of flavors and textures for their guests to drink.

Do not fall into the overindulgence trap of endless bowls of potato chips at the next party. Think of benefits ingredients in healthy alternatives provide. Introducing these healthy alternatives are going to help guests realize new ideas for their own healthful living.

March 12, 2012


Full steam ahead to better health

In the hurried times we live, it seems everyone is searching for that quick and easy way to stay healthy while trying to squeeze it into our busy schedules. Often times, the most beneficial ways are sometimes the easiest. Many of our first experiences with bicycles are using it to get to and from a friend’s house in the neighborhood. What we often never think about is just how beneficial riding a bike can be to us. Not to mention, it can be downright fun!

I always used to wonder what would compel someone to wear cycling clothes and go ride their bikes in the hot summer afternoons, but once I learned how powerful of an exercise tool cycling really is, I became one of those people. Bikes are readily available through a myriad of price points for everyone’s budget. Obtaining the bike is the easy part. However, finding and maximizing our time is the hard part. Many cities have dedicated recreation and bike trails where cars aren’t allowed, so there’s no danger from cars when riding. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is second only to tobacco smoking as a health risk in developed countries. Cycling is an incredibly suitable means of staying healthy and prolonging life.

Using me for example, a 150lb person who cycles at a speed of 14-16 mph for 45 minutes can burn 540 calories an hour. That’s an incredible figure when compared to some other exercises. Cycling to work that’s relatively close can burn off 10lbs of fat a year alone. Not to mention, it’s a non-weight bearing activity for our knees, which makes it viable for people who may have a prior knee injury or arthritis in the legs.

The charity Sustrans reports that on average; approximately 20 life-years are gained from the health benefits of road bicycling for every life-year lost through injury. Cycling is also great for your heart. According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%. A major study of 10,000 civil servants suggested that those who cycled 20 miles over the period of a week were half as likely to suffer heart disease as those who did not.

Any way you look at it, cycling is a great exercise that we all can do! No matter what shape or size, there are benefits we can all get.

March 6, 2012

The Marvels of Design

How new technology makes home phones a thing of the past

In today’s world, technology is everything.  Everyday new things are coming out, and many of these technical marvels are so small that their power blows one’s mind. One of the places that debuts many of the concept for mobile technologies is the Mobile World Congress.

This is an exciting place to be. It's a place where manufacturers show off their latest technological breakthroughs, both in terms of hardware and software design. A lot of presentations are given, some for products that are still months or even years off. With some of the new technologies that are being built into mobile phones, it's time to declare home phones and feature phones completely dead. Here are a few demos from this year's Mobile World Congress that were truly mind blowing.

P2i's SplashGuard

Waterproof phones have been around for years, but until now they've all required layers of dense materials to achieve this effect. One company, P2i, has taken a different approach to waterproofing. They're using nano-coating for their waterproofing technology, and have demoed the technology in a number of environments. They recently showed off a waterproof napkin that, after being dunked in water, was still completely dry.

The technology, originally devised as a joint venture with the U.S. Department of Defense, has already made its way into mobile phones. The Droid RAZR line of smartphones and new Xyboard tablet both incorporate the
SplashGuard technology. It can't completely waterproof a phone yet, but one has to believe that it will be able to within a few years.


Augmented reality has been slowly creeping into the marketplace over the last couple of years, and mobile devices have become legitimate navigation devices at the same time. It was only a matter of time before the two services overlapped, and now they have.
iOnRoad encourages drivers to look at their smartphones while driving, combining a view through their smartphone's camera with information on a person's driving. It lets you know how far you are from the vehicle in front of you, what speed you're going, and more.

The software could soon represent a breakthrough for safety. With the ability to alert drivers if a vehicle in front of them is braking, the app could very well save lives. The CEO of the maker of iOnRoad said that the ultimate goal is to integrate the software with existing mobile navigation apps.

Nokia PureView

For years, apps have tried to improve smartphone cameras. The iPhone 4 and 4S include an HDR option, and many apps on both iOS and Android offer some sort of enhancements to stock camera apps. Nokia has taken a similar approach to improve the smartphone camera, but has instead developed new hardware.

PureView is Nokia's new camera sensor that will be included in their smartphones. With 41 megapixels at its disposal, PureView makes the current five-megapixel and eight-megapixel offerings that most phone makers offer seem obsolete. PureView takes five-megapixel cameras, using its 41-megapixel range to oversample every shot, resulting in the best photo available from any given shot.