Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upload a Video to YouTube, Easy Right?

When I got married, I had expectations of what a husband does. One of those expectations (reasonable or not) was that anything technology related would be his responsibility. For the most part Stewart has met these expectations. He sets up all the computers, he debates the benefits of Wireless G v Wireless N routers, and connects all our devices to our wireless enabled printer. Of course, sometimes he unexpectedly exceeds those expectations by installing an "upgrade" to our operating system without telling me, which creates havoc in my brain because I have a hard time with new things. The difficulty arises when I need to do something technology-related when he is not here. And right now he is on a business trip to Korea--as far away from being able to help with my tech issues as he could be. Who knew that uploading a video to YouTube would be so difficult?

Let's take it back to the beginning. Last Friday, I got an email from my friend Helen asking me to record a talk at our next MOPS meeting (Mothers of Preschoolers). I said sure, thinking I could get the whole thing on my flip video. Just to make sure we were good to go, I tried to turn it on Sunday night. The tiny white video camera would not turn on. I put the USB port into the computer thinking that would charge it. After an hour, it still didn't turn on. Ok, let me google that, "how to charge a flip video." Turns out, you don't charge it, you change the AA batteries. After I read that, I remembered Stewart had told me that before, another case of mommy brain. I changed the batteries. I was all set for the next day.

Monday morning, time to go to MOPS: get the kids up, feed Baby E, put donations for the food pantry in the car, pack the boys' snacks for their lunch bags, drop H at school, then drive to the meeting. Of course, I am halfway there when I realize I've forgotten the flip video. It'll be too late for me to go back and get it so I go to the meeting and try to think of how to record the talk for Helen. First I ask if there is a wireless connection at the church where we're meeting. Yes, there is, but the signal cuts in and out. One of the Mentor Moms who works in the church office gets me the password anyway. They were right, it doesn't work very well so doing Facetime with Helen is out. I search for a recording app on the app store; there are many but they aren't free. I don't have time to research which is the best or most reliable so I'm not about to spend money on an app. Ok, so then let me try making a movie with my iPhone. My biggest concern is that there is not enough memory to get the entire talk. The topic is how to mother as a Christian without anger so I don't want to get to the point where the speaker reveals the big secret and the iPhone cuts off.

Never underestimate Steve Jobs. I record the entire talk successfully. Stacie Wood, the speaker, really hits me square in the eye with all the damage I've been doing whenever I yell at the boys out of anger. The talk is entitled, "The Mom in the Mirror" and it's true, if I can imagine a mirror to my face whenever I'm crazy yelling, I think it'll make a difference. So next step, get it on my computer so I can upload to YouTube and share this great talk with Helen and the world. I've never done this before but I'm expecting it not to be too difficult because people do it all the time. Ten year olds can do it, so it should be something I can do, right? Not so fast. I think my first mistake was downloading the files to my PC. I didn't use the iMac because my parents are visiting from Chicago and the best way for them to hold Baby E for hours on end is by watching Korean drama on the iMac. Downloading to PC means I need to prepare the files for viewing on Windows Movie Maker. This takes two hours. Then I hit save movie, which thankfully is much quicker, only half an hour. But finally I'm ready to go. I create a YouTube account. Upload the movie. Three and half hours later, it's finally done. My parents were sleeping with the covers over their heads to shield their eyes from the computer screen (the PC is in the guest room), but now I can turn it off.

But no, I'm not done. Because the file is longer than 15 minutes, YouTube has rejected my movie. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I didn't know there was a time limit. Lately I've been attaching previews to the recs I make on Wikets and I've found videos on YouTube to attach that are much longer than 15 minutes. I google this problem. It turns out you can attach videos longer than 15 minutes if you have a verified account. Nice, I can do that! I'm doing all this in between coming and going to the kids' schools and activities. Now it's Tuesday 5:30 PM. I get the Google verification code on my cell phone and verify my account. I know it'll take me a long time to upload the video again so I decide to upload from the iMac. I'll just drop the file into a Dropbox folder, easy peasy. Dropbox is a great program that lets you put files into a folder on any computer, tablet, smartphone and you can access it from anywhere else you've set up the program and also online. I download Dropbox onto my iMac, thinking that the end is in sight. Fail. Because the free version of Dropbox has a 2 GB size limit and this movie is 2.47 GB. Will this process never end????

Thankfully one of the perks of attending blogger events is that usually at event you will get a USB drive with the press materials. I find one that is 8 GB. I put the movie on the USB and bring it to the iMac. Ok, where are the USB ports on the iMac. Download iMac basics for dummies. Page 28, photo of where to insert USB drive and where to find it on the desktop. Under the Macintosh HD. I had no idea what that was this whole time, but of course that makes sense! Now, I'm finally ready to upload. Yes, really. It's 7:30 PM. Click upload. Four hours later, all 46 minutes of the video are uploaded and I can go to sleep.

Like I tell H when he complains that playing piano is not easy, anything you want to do well takes practice. You do it again and again and then you will be really great. So the next time I upload a video or need to share a document via Dropbox, I will be better at it. I had to write this blog post because I hope it can help you tackle the task if you've never done it before. Also I needed to document it IN CASE I FORGET HOW TO DO IT NEXT TIME!!!! Here is the video, I hope there is nothing wrong with it. If it seems shaky that's when I have to switch hands to restore blood flow. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

From Left to Write: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Last Thursday I went to an AYCE Indian buffet. They had some of my favorites, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala (yes, I know this is not really an Indian dish), peas pulao and vegetable curry. Oh, and a tangy yogurt sauce that was good enough to drink by itself! After I ate so much that my stomach hurt, I could barely move the rest of the afternoon. I found myself thinking, only in America can you eat so much for so little. After I regained my sight (I ate so much I couldn't even open my eyes), we went to the mall to buy Stewart some last minute supplies before his business trip to Korea. I noticed the sizes of people walking past me. It made me think, if everyone had to grow their own food or barter for it locally like Barbara Kingsolver and her family in this month's From Left to Write book club selection Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, there mostly likely wouldn't be an obesity problem in the U.S.

That night coincidentally, I watched on Nightline a segment on the Heart Attack Grill. The menus consists of four burger varieties based on the number of half-pound patties: the "Single Bypass Burger," the "Double Bypass Burger," the "Triple Bypass Burger," and the "Quadruple Bypass Burger." Each of the burgers can be augmented with "unadulterated" (not drained of the grease from cooking fat) bacon slices in quantities of five slices per patty, or 5 slices of bacon on the Single Bypass, ten slices on the Double Bypass, 15 slices on the Triple Bypass, and 20 slices of bacon on the Quadruple Bypass Burger. Does this sound gross yet? But wait, that's not all, the only available side item is "Flatliner Fries," fresh French-cut potatoes deep fried in pure lard. Heart Attack Grill also offers "Butter-fat Shakes," so named because it is made from butter fat cream. Various packaged candies are also available as dessert items, most notably the controversial candy cigarette. They actually showed the owner on Nightline offering the cigarettes to little kids. If you weigh over 350 pounds you eat there for free. Their last spokesperson died from pneumonia (which a non-obese person would have survived) and the current spokesperson is someone who had been their previous spokesperson previously but had to take a break because he had heart surgery.

Does this sound disturbing? Yet, the reason why the restaurant was featured on Nightline at all was because a customer in his 40s suffered a heart attack while eating a "triple bypass burger" at the grill on February 11, 2012. Which brings me back to the point of my opening paragraph. If you had to raise the cows and grow the potatoes yourself to get the meat and butter that goes into a Bypass Burger, fries and shake, would you really do it? What if you had to kill the cow yourself and butcher the carcass to get the meat for the hamburger? Would anyone really eat a quadruple patty burger? We have so little appreciation of the work that goes into the food that we eat--we take it for granted that we can eat as much as we want without thinking of the origins of the food.

We have such a first world problem, this issue of obesity and too much readily abundant food. Some would argue that processed packages full of high fructose corn syrup are not food, but even a person eating only that "food" at least will not die of hunger. At any rate, people who are "going hungry" in America are living luxuriously by true hunger standards in the rest of the world. Someone in the U.S. might go hungry by not getting three meals a day; maybe they will get as little as one meal a day from a soup kitchen or similar organization. In the Congo, going hungry means days of not eating anything and on the day you might get to eat, what you get is a small bowl of gruel. In some cases, children and parents take turns eating every third day. I don't think any of us really truly understands what it means to go hungry.

I think I'm probably more conscious of not wasting food than the average American, having lived a pretty strict childhood due to our tight immigrant budget. I remember how pained my mother was when the pediatrician told her that he suspected that I was suffering from malnutrition. I was old enough that I internalized that and have had food issues ever since. Yet, even so, I throw away food every week because it goes bad (usually vegetables that I alone can't eat fast enough because no one else in our family will eat them!) or nobody wants to eat leftovers. I can't help but feel that if I had grown or bartered for all the food, I wouldn't be committing such acts of sacrilege that make the rest of the world hate Americans. At the very least, I would be canning the food like my friend Paige over at Canning with Kids. So what are the next steps? Well, for one, I will buy more local food (thank God I live in California). The boys and I have a date with the Farmer's Market next weekend. Second, I will control myself and not eat to excess. I can't promise I won't go to an AYCE buffet again, but at least I'll be able to walk out with my eyes open. Lastly, I will try harder to make the boys understand how lucky they are to have enough to eat every day. I've already stopped H from saying, "I'm starving." I pray that my children will never ever have to say that for real. I pray also that you and yours will never have occasion to say it, and that, somehow, sometime soon, this world that does produce enough food to feed everyone living in it will get that food to those who need it.
Could you live an entire year eating locally or the food from your garden? Barbara Kingsolver transplanted her family from the deserts of Arizona to the mountains of Virginia for their endeavor. Join From Left to Write on February 21 as we discuss Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. Photo of the Quadruple Bypass Burger courtesy of All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mega Bloks Review: Mega Bloks Family Club and Blok Squad Construction Unit Mission

H&R are finally both in school five days a week! Yippee! H is in afternoon kinder and R alternates between morning and afternoon during the week so Baby E has more awake time to play with mama. The middle child really does get the short end of the stick. I wasn't able to play one on one with R very much because either H was around or R was sleeping since H was going to school during the morning nap time. But I want to make sure I get it right for Baby E since she's my last! I want to play all the baby games with her and gives her toys that are right for her developmental stage. One place I've discovered online that has exactly that kind of information is the Mega Bloks Family Club.

I really like all the information the site provides about the different kinds of developmental benefits of toys to see how you can help your child grow and mature. I know there is a reason behind how toys are designed and it's nice to be able to see it laid out in a straightforward manner. Yes, there are Mega Bloks toys associated with each trait, but you can easily see how the category would apply to other toys as well. The site also gives information on what milestones your child will be hitting so you know what to expect and how to play with your child. 

Through the Mega Bloks Family Club, you can also get exclusive offers, contests, sweepstakes and promotions on Mega Bloks toys, find information on new Mega Bloks toys for kids ages 1 to 6, and discover educational and informative blogs by a leading panel of five mom bloggers with articles on the every day triumphs of being a mom. I really like the weekly build they suggest for your child so s/he has something new to work on with their blocks.

Recently, the boys and I had the opportunity to review Mega Bloks' Blok Squad Construction Unit Mission. Blok Squad buildable playsets introduce kids to everyday heroes with themes such as fire patrol, police and construction. What made me sign up to review this product was the fact that there were so many pieces in the kit. The Blok Squad Construction Unit Mission features 218 pieces, including two vehicles (4x4 and Front Loader) and figures for approximately $10. A similar kit from the other leading building block manufacturer costs three times as much!

Blok Squad Construction Unit Mission allows kids to build new building and roads, and clean up accidents in Bloktropolis. Kids can play with the completed vehicles by driving down to a construction zone with their Blok Squad Construction Worker and set up the 4x4 with its hazard lights blinking to warn other drivers to slow down! The kit says that it is intended for ages 5 and up, and this was right on target because H and Stewart were able to build and get more fun out of it than R. The end result was predictable, though, R fought H for the vehicle H had created. Right now H is at school so R is playing with it without fear of H "getting him." Thanks to Mega Bloks for a fun activity for the boys. It's Mission Possible!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I did receive a product sample to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Duper: Awesome restaurant find through Wikets!

When we were having a blast at Yerba Buena Gardens this past Saturday, we wanted to take advantage of being in SF and try out a new place for dinner. We used the explore function in Wikets and found the nearest kid-friendly place to be Super Duper, a hamburger joint. We had never been there before but the photo from the rec convinced us to explore further. Through the yelp link on the rec, I found the magic words "homemade pickles" and knew we were destined to go there for dinner.

We walked the 0.5 miles to the eatery, debating what flavor shakes to order along the way. We got there and ordered three hamburgers. It's a little bit like 5 Guys because it has a long list of toppings you can order, but that's where the comparison stops. Don't get me wrong, I love 5 Guys, but what makes a burger at Super Duper superior to any I've had in the past couple of years is 100% all natural Niman Ranch vegetarian-fed beef. Wow, it really makes a difference! I'm really glad we asked for the Super Duper sauce on the side because we didn't even need it. The beef had enough flavor all by itself!

The boys enjoyed their shakes, strawberry as usual for R and vanilla for H. H had wanted chocolate but they ran out so asked us if it was ok to substitute vanilla instead. I am so glad they did. Not just because they gave us a free order of fries for the inconvenience, but because their organic vanilla shake tastes like the vanilla shake from Loteria in Korea. I have dreams about that shake and now I can get one in the U.S.! And the pickles, they are awesome and AYCE. You ask, how many pickles can one person eat, well if you are a fan of pickled food like I am, the single pickle spear that comes with most burgers is not enough to last past the first couple of bites. For once, I had enough pickles to last through the entire burger and then some. So good! Last but not least, Stewart can attest to the deliciousness of the garlic fries, spicy with real chopped garlic and herbs.

I never would have found Super Duper had it not been for Wikets. Yes, I work for the company, but truthfully I am finding it more useful all the time. The iPhone app has recently been revamped and now you can ask for recs and even attach video previews to your recommendations. Usually when you have a really great experience at a restaurant or with a product, you don't really have a way to share it with your people forever. If you really feel strongly you will post a yelp review or post about it on FB, but no one is going to see that later on when they actually need it. With Wikets, you have all your favorite things and places in one app that your friends can access whenever they want, wherever they are. And it's not like you won't know about it, because when they actually try the restaurant or buy the product through your rec, you'll get points for it. After our great experience, Stewart and I both re-rec'ed Super Duper, giving the original rec'er his props for the great rec!

So if you have an iPhone and want to check out an app that will make your life better, try Wikets. It's free at the app store and if you use my promo code "randommommy" you will get an extra 200 bonus points! Remember 2500 points = $25 Amazon gift card!

I was not paid for this post. I am the Blogger Outreach Manager at Wikets but all opinions in my personal blog are my own.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Game Time: Fun with PS Vita at the Vita Hill Social Club

Whenever I get an invite to a blogger event that involves video games, I'm basically "in like Flynn" without even having to check my calendar. The degree to which the boys (including Stewart) love to play video games is probably equal to how much I love to watch Korean drama. It gave us a good reason to visit San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon, something that is pretty difficult for us to do without decent motivation (it's only an hour away but mentally seems like much more). The PS Vita blogger event this past Saturday was held at SF branch of the Vita Hill Social Club, one of eight across the country. Till the end of this month, gamers can drop in and test out the Vita solo or with friends in advance of the official release of the mobile device on 2-22. If you're lucky, you could even win a Vita.

The boys had a blast! Stewart agreed to write the following review in exchange for my holding Baby E so he could get more game time:
The world of mobile electronic gaming as of late has been taken by storm by a familiar company – Apple.  iPhones, iPad, and iPod Touches have thundered into the mobile gaming market by offering intuitive touch-based games and low-price point content.  This has allowed Apple to take share from such stalwart brands like the DS and PSP.  Sony has learned much in recent years and has taken the best aspects of the Apple revolution, and melded it with their own gaming expertise to create its new second generation PSP – the Vita.  It’s a platform that is still attractive to “gamers” while appealing to a more casual user base as well.

The Playstation Vita has a crystal clear, large touch sensitive screen to go along with a multitude of buttons, triggers, directional pads, and joysticks that is certain to appease any style of play.  Amazingly, they are able to cram all these features into the system without it feeling crowded or awkward.  Additionally, the system has two cameras mounted on the front and back that enables creative uses into different games.  And finally, there is software that allows for web-browsing and multi-player play.  The games that my kids and I sampled were a fighting game (Reality Fighters) and a driving game (Wipeout).

Reality Fighters is along the lines of the old arcade classics such as Street Fighter or Tekken with a unique twist.  This game takes advantage of the cameras so you can make your own fighter with any face you have taken a picture of.  There are also a multitude of options to customize your player’s look as well.  The graphics were quite impressive and the animation smooth.  How many games let you put your face on the fighter and then fight on anything on which the camera can focus? At one point H and I were fighting as ourselves on top of a table in the Vita Lounge, how cool is that? Definitely two thumbs up.  The second game, Wipeout, is a futuristic racer with intricate courses.  H especially loves racing games and this one was a winner according to him. He loved racing against me, him on the PS and me on the Vita, nice integration. 


At its heart, the Vita is still a game-focused machine, with a lot of extra features that allow it to be used for so much more.  And in this world of multi-functional devices, this is a welcome change for the better. One interesting feature is the Near function which lets you know if other gamers are in the area. Game On!


I'm back. Lest you are worried that the only thing H&R do is sit at home and play video games all day, you'll be happy to know that we had an amazing afternoon at Yerba Buena Gardens. The playground is a lot of fun for all ages, even Baby E (on my lap) went down the slide for the first time! We'll definitely be back to try the bowling, ice skating, children's museum and carousel. This time the boys didn't want to stop playing with the water in the sand pit. The Gardens are not just for kids, though, there is a fountain, a performance stage, several restaurants, a huge lawn for picnicking and a reflection pool and waterfall that comprise the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It was one of those rare sunny, warm days in San Francisco and we savored every minute of it, finally going home when the sun started to set. Indoor and outdoor gaming, what a perfect combination!

I was not compensated for this review. I had the opportunity to try out the new PS Vita in advance of its release at a blogger event.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy February: Think Fair Trade this Valentine's Day

It's already February 2012. Isn't this the year the big meteor hits Earth and the only way we can survive is to somehow get on those submarines they are building in China? I can't believe it's already February. That means Valentine's Day is only 13 days away, although there has been Valentine's Day merchandise in some stores since the day after Christmas! Which brings me to the point of this post. Unlike on Halloween, when most of the chocolate is bought for children who probably wouldn't really understand the need for fair trade, the heavy spending on Valentine's Day is by adults for adults. So this Valentine's Day, I urge you to think about the source of your flowers, candy and coffee.

In West Africa there are many coffee and cacao plantations that operate through slave labor. Many of these slaves are children who have been kidnapped from the forests around their villages or lured with the promise of rewards. Some have been promised jobs or adventure. But what really happens is that they are put to work on these plantations to grow the products that go into your candy bar or morning coffee. So if you want to tell your special person you really love her/him, please choose fair trade. If it can't be fair trade, then at least buy coffee from East Africa or South America and Belgian chocolate (guaranteed slave free). It doesn't necessarily cost more, you just need to look at the label. For flowers, instead of cut flowers that may be coming from a flower plantation that does not pay fair wages, consider a potted plant sourced locally.

If you can buy Fair Trade, my friends at Fair Trade USA just published their Fair Trade Valentine's Day Gift Guide. This one has a lot of unique products for men and women (as well as a tip on how women can get their significant other to buy Fair Trade Certified roses this year...). A few of my favorites are the "Helping Haiti" rose bouquet from One World Flowers (shipped directly from the far in Ecuador), the recipe for chocolate mousse cake, and Weaver's Astral Blend coffee that supports breast cancer research.

Many people don't realize that human slavery still exists in our world. This Valentine's Day, please consider sending a message with your pocketbook that this is not acceptable. As a special thank you for your consideration, the first five people to comment on this post will receive an Alter Eco Dark Chocolate Quinoa bar from Fair Trade USA.

I did not receive any compensation for this post. I have been involved with the organization Just One for some time now and ending human slavery is an issue about which I care deeply. Thank you.