High Tech Christmas Lists

Once upon a time (in the mid-1970’s), my brother and I would devour the Sears Holiday Toy catalog to make our lists for Santa. I had to laugh because I think things have really changed. My mom was out visiting us and she wanted to know what my toddler son wanted for Christmas. So, I fired up Amazon.com and did a quick search on toys that I know my son had mentioned.

Suddenly, my toddler starts YELLING “that one”, “I want that one” and demands the mouse so he can select his own toys. (Are you kidding me?) I regained control of the mouse and asked him if he wanted to put it on his “Santa List”. (Resounding yes)

Here is a cool thing about Amazon (and lots of other sites I’m finding)…you can set up any number of Wish Lists and add any product to that wish list. You can even move things around various lists. So, we had a jolly old time adding toys and games to his wish list. AND, you can share that list with anyone by sending them the link to the list (which is great for grandparents that ask you on a weekly basis what your child wants).

Also, my husband and I decided not to exchange gifts this year (we’re remodeling our house and are pretty much giving each other a house for Christmas for the next 50 years). I digress. I realized that my husband had been adding lots of architecture and design books to an Amazon Wish List. I would have never known which book to buy, so I snagged one of the book off of his list.

Lastly, I use the Amazon Wish Lists to keep track of book recommendations. When I get a good book recommendation, I add it to a list on Amazon. I don’t necessarily buy them, but I have been known to look up that list when I’m at the library.

Happy List Making all year long!

I’m experimenting with NO Cable

I’ve been talking about it forever and forever. I always hate getting sucked into introductory rates from the cable company and then finding myself with $75 bills for BASIC cable six months later. I want to kick myself because I hate how I watch too much TV anyway. (Oh, but how I love it).

I finally made the switch. I am officially experimenting with new technology. I am testing a post-cable world and watching all my TV with a digital tuner and over the internet. It’s not perfect and I certainly couldn’t see my in-laws dealing with the technical hurdles. But, I’m liking the experiment. So, here’s what I’ve got going.

– No cable.

– I have a really good high speed internet connection.

– I have a Mac Mini computer connected with an audio cable and an adapter to my LCD TV.

– I have an Elgato EyeTV hybrid DVR to record any local channels. (I like to record the morning news and skip the commercials)

– I have a dinky generic digital antenna to get local channels.

I’ve been watching the local news with the digial antenna, but I’ve been watching everything else over the internet. I’ve been catching up on shows on Hulu.com, Netflix (the $8.99 monthly subscription) and Fancast.com. I’ve also been watching a lot of shows directly from ABC.com, NBC.com and CBS.com. I also have Disney.com and SesameStreet.org bookmarked to get my son’s shows to watch while I’m cooking dinner. (Big lifesaver).

Well, I’m watching much less TV. I used to do a lot of channel surfing and waste time watching shows I was marginally interested in. Now, I find myself getting caught up on shows that I’ve always wanted to watch (Dexter, Weeds, Chuck), but never happened to catch. Overall, I think it’s a better use of my time. It will take a while to recoup the expense of the new home theater setup without cable, but I’m enjoying my TV experiment so far.

You Gotta Get a Reader

Really…you gotta get a reader. Okay, I hear you asking what in the world I’m talking about. One of the most enjoyable things I’ve done over the last few years is find lots of different blogs I like to read. Some are published by individual moms and dads. Others are big community sites like this. I like to read “mommy” blogs, blogs about money, blogs written by feminists, political blogs, healthcare blogs, and design & architecture blogs. Of course I have a special listing of Tech blogs!

The problem with wanting to read so many blogs is that it’s hard to individually go out and click on each and every single blog listing to see if anything new has been written. The solution is using a “Reader”. A reader is a little piece of software where you can “subscribe” to any number of sites or blogs. Whenever a new post is written by any of your subscribed blogs or posts, it shows up in your reader. (It’s sort of like subscribing to your favorite shows on Tivo…you don’t have to know when it’s scheduled…it goes out and records your new shows whenever they are playing).

So, where do you get one of these readers? There are LOADS of them. Some of them require you to install software on your computer. Others just let you login to a website on the web. I use Google as my reader. I already have a Google account, so it’s the easiest for me. Here is the link for Google readers. If you’re already reading a lot of sites and blogs, but spend a lot of time looking for updates, this is a huge time saver!

Techie Mom’s Favorite Social Networking Sites

I had to go completely offline the last few days because of house projects and had a little internet withdrawal. I knew I’ve become a bit hooked on the internet, but I really missed my daily “tour” of sites, blogs and tools. One of my friends recently asked me why I used both Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and this summarizes a bit of what I told her.

Facebook – I reluctantly joined Facebook last summer after one of my high school buddies posted our reunion pics there. I had enjoyed virtual anonymity since high school and was a little scared to suddenly be “out there”, so to speak. Well, it’s been the most pleasant surprise. I’ve reconnected with old friends and FB has been a great way to stay connected with my friends in other states. It’s become my default quick communication channel for connecting even with local friends. I use Facebook as my tool for connecting with my IRL (In Real Life) friends.

Twitter – I’m new to the Twitter world, but I’m having a great time with it. It’s been especially great as I’ve been connecting with people in Colorado, where I’ve recently relocated back to. And, I’ve found so many interesting, informative and downright funny people on Twitter. I consider Twitter my tool for connecting with people I don’t know IRL, but am getting to know in the internet world. I just realized that one of my Twitter friends was a neighbor for almost three years in Boulder!

LinkedIn – This online networking tool is for professional networking. While I am a SAHM (Stay at Home Mom), I still want to keep my professional network intact. Because I’ve worked for companies spread around the world, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all of my former managers, colleagues and clients. LinkedIn provides that connection. After providing a little information to LinkedIn about my career experience, it opens a big window into all of your possible professional connections. I’ve been able to quickly and efficiently reconnect with so many people with really no effort at all. I can easily see who everyone works for now and in what city and easily “ping” them online without even knowing their email address.

Other Social Networking Tools – There are so many other social networking sites out there, but these are three where I spend my time. I know some people that use FriendFeed, but I haven’t played with it yet. What do you use and how do you find it useful? I’d love to know what others think and what I may be missing.

Many of you probably are on Facebook and/or Twitter already. Here are the buttons to find Amy Michelle Bags on both of those social networking sites.