Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder Lighting

Back in the middle of Winter, if you can really call it that this year, I noticed a few friends in the Northeastern US on Facebook comment about the lack of sunshine.  When we used to live in Western NY, we knew that all too well.  One very bad winter we decided we had enough and we now live in sunny Florida and we hardly ever go a full day or more without sunshine.  However, I vividly remember how dreary the weather could get and it really does wear on you after a while.

That got me thinking about those Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD lights, which is kind of ironic because the lights are actually supposed to make you happy and not sad.  I would have called them Happy SAD lights.  Since I live in Florida, I really didn't have a need to purchase a SAD light myself, but I really wanted to try one out and thought it could provide a benefit for my readers as well.  And I do worship the sun, so I figured this could take the place of some of my sun time. 

Luckily for me and for your benefit today, I was able to convince one company with one of the highest rated SAD lights on Amazon to send me one.  I am always sure to remain unbiased when doing any product reviews.  This is the first product I've actually received free of charge, but I may try to get additional products to review that I think would benefit others in some way so that I can review them here for you.

So let's get to it...This is the SunTouch Plus by NatureBright and it has a 10,000 LUX light that simulates a bright blue sky and it also has a negative ion generator as well.


Really it's incredibly easy to utilize and operate.  There is an on-off button with a blue LED light, you can set the timer for 15/30/45/60 minutes and you can optionally turn on the negative ion generator as well.  That's all there is to it.  And it came right out of the box ready to plug-in, there is no assembly required. 


I place the SunTouch Plus light next to my keyboard/monitor in my office and use it when I'm on the computer.


Their recommendation is to utilize the light for 30 minutes each day for the first week to get the maximum benefit and then you can use it as you'd like after that.  It's best to utilize it in the morning, as that is when your body's natural rhythms would be accustom to bright light.  However, I found it difficult to utilize every morning, since I barely have 5 free minutes in the morning.  I sometimes utilize it when I get home from work and it does not keep me up at night or anything.

I utilize the light the two days I work from home each week and sometimes on weekends, but I did not end up utilizing it for 7 days in a row for 30 minutes each day.  I'd say I have been using it 4 days a week for 30 minutes at a time for a little over a month.

Initially, I wasn't a fan of the negative ion generator just in general, but I grew to like it and do use it now.  They say it gives off a smell that you experience after a rain storm that most people find pleasant.

My honest overall opinion of the Suntouch Plus is that it makes me happy when the light is on.  It does give me a boost in the mornings when I use it, but it's not the same feeling that I get from being out in the sun for 30 minutes.  But then again, you're also not getting the harmful UV rays from the sun either, so that is a good thing.

I am not a doctor and am not aware of any negative effects from utilizing SAD lighting, but be sure to do your own research there if you have any concerns.  

If I were suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or just wanted to get a boost of simulated sunshine, I would definitely purchase the SunTouch Plus by NatureBright.  It's a great product and as I like to say, it just works!  It does what it's supposed to, nothing more, nothing less. 

I hope you found this useful and if you have any questions, please let me know and I'd be glad to try and answer them.  If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and decide to try out the product, I truly hope it provides relief and I'd love to hear how it works for you!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guide to Vegas













I started work on my CravingTravel.com site over the weekend, with my first main post being a Guide to Vegas.  Rather than get bogged down with the site layout and all that, I wanted to start getting some content going first and then change things as I go along.  Be sure to stop on over, check out the site/post and let me know what you think.  Thanks!

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Goals Revisited

I was checking on the number of email subscribers we received so far on our AlcatrazSeries.com site and that reminded me that I had a goal to get a certain number of email subscribers this year as part of a 2012 goal.  I couldn't remember the specifics of that goal or the others I setup, so I wanted to revisit my S.M.A.R.T goals for 2012 post and see how I've done so far and give myself a letter grade on each.

1)  Save $.  I'd give myself a C+ on this one.  I've recently gotten back on track having water at most places when eating out for lunch and I haven't really spent a bunch of $ on anything in particular and always try to utilize coupons, but we haven't gone out of our way to save $. 

2)  Continue with stock trading and earn SpikeTrade performance credits.  I'd give myself a B+ or A- on this one.  Each week I compete with others on SpikeTrade.com to pick one stock each week that will hopefully outperform the 3rd place pick of the whole group.  My goal was to triple the performance of last year, to achieve 12 winning picks or roughly one per month.  So far this year I have 3 winning picks so I'm off to a good start.  If I can win this week I'd be right on track. 

3)   Beat the overall stock market return by 2% in my trading account.  The stock market started the year on a huge run to the upside.  As of today, the S&P 500 is up 7.8% since Jan 1st.  That is a huge run and it was up even more about 3-4 weeks ago.  I had a few decent trades so far this year and my account is up 6.4% so far this year.  Not bad, but not quite at my goal, I'd give myself a B- there.  I need to spend a bit more time on this one.

4)  Create 3-5 niche sites/blogsI'd like to obtain an email subscriber list of 10 people by June 30th and 50 by Dec 31st.  My revenue goal is to bring in $100 by June 30th and $250 by Dec 31st.  This one is a work in progress.  So far I have the Alcatrazseries.com site, Nichesitetool.com, CravingTravel.com and one other one.  So as far as number of sites, I did setup 4, so that goal is met.  But I do need to work on creating more content for Niche Site Tool and Craving Travel.   

I've been trying to build email subscriber lists on this blog and my Niche Site Tool blog, but the funny thing is I haven't gained any new subscribers there, however I just checked and we have 10 email subscribers on our Alcatraz Series site!  So I hit the '10 email subscribers by June' goal already.  Still need to work on gaining subscribers on my Niche Site Tool site.  I have an idea of creating a short eBook on SEO optimization tips as a freebie to gain subscribers, will see how I do there.  

The next goal was bring in $100 by June 30th.  I have not collected any cash, since most sites have a $100 limit before payment is sent, but I did have my first affiliate sales in the last 3 months and I have to say I was pretty excited!  I had one sale of Market Samurai, one sale of the Optin Skin WordPress plugin and someone purchased the Drinkwell 360 Cat Fountain from Amazon based on my post/review.  If you happen to be one of those people, THANK YOU so much!  I truly appreciate it!  I also had a few other Amazon affiliate sales and some AdSense clicks.  So let's see where I stand on this goal:

Market Samurai $46.56
OptInSkin Plugin $21.24
Amazon Affiliates  $16.14
Google AdSense $ 26.41
Total:  $120.35

So technically I hit my goal already of $100 by April 22nd instead of June 30th.  I have not actually banked any $, but I consider that a win.  So overall, I'd give myself an A- there.  Good work, but I really would like to be publishing more content on a regular basis on all of the sites.  I like the results so far and as soon as I'm done with this post I will work on one of those sites.  

5)  Choose our vacation destination by the end of March.   That was complete on Jan 25th, we're heading to San Francisco.  A+

6)  Health/wellness goal.  I haven't had a real focus on the wellness goal.  So far I have 43.1 miles in my Runkeeper app, not too bad.  I give myself a C+ on this one. 

Overall, since we're only 4 months into the year, I'd give myself a B-.  Some of the goals are met already and some are on-track, while a few others aren't quite there.  It's always good to check your goals every few months, or at least at the 1/2 mark for the year, to be sure you remain focused and see where you're at. 

How have you done so far on your goals for the year?  I'd love to hear specifics and if you have a 2012 goal post on your blog, please include it below.  I'd enjoy checking it out!  Thanks and good luck!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Recent Adsense Account Bans

I've recently read several articles about reputable bloggers getting their Google AdSense accounts banned.  If you are not familiar, AdSense allows you to post Ads on your site/blog and if anyone clicks on your Ads, you get a certain price per click.  The majority of the time, that results in a few cents per click, but for certain categories of ads that could go up to $1 or more.

One person that I follow closely is Mark Mason, from MasonWorld.com.  His AdSense account was disabled back in March.

Today I came across an article entitled "I just got banned from Google AdSense! Now what?" from another high profile blogger who was bringing in over $10,000 PER MONTH and Google disabled his account without warning and with no recourse.  His money from the prior month not yet collected, gone.  You can appeal, but in every case I've read about, you will get an email response anywhere from that same day to several months down the road with a denial.  That's quite shocking and his article lists several other folks who recently had the same thing happen.

I also mentioned the article above on Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income Facebook page today and he agreed it is pretty scary and he said he plans to do a post on that either Friday or Monday and I will be sure to link to that here as well.  I'm definitely looking forward to getting his take on the subject.

I can tell you from my experience, having this blog for just over a year and having AdSense ads enabled for about 8 months, I have less than $25 in my AdSense account.  You have to reach the $100 threshold to be able to collect, so for me at this stage, it would not be a huge deal.  However, for someone to be generating $10,000 per month and basically being able to fully support themselves and their family one day and to have that stream of income abruptly stop the next day must be devastating.  And the worst part is they do not tell you specifically why you've been banned.

I encourage you to take a look at the Google page entitled 'Your AdSense account may be disabled'.  If you're wondering why your account may be disabled, here the answer, or lack there of:

"Because we have a need to protect our proprietary detection system, we're unable to provide our publishers with any information about their account activity, including any web pages, users, or third-party services that might have been involved."  So basically, we're banning your account, but won't tell you why.  Your account could be banned for obvious reasons, such as clicking your own ads, which is fraud, but also competitors have ways to simulate fraudulent traffic to your site also, which could be interpreted as fraud and you have no way to defend against that. 

And really, they don't have to tell you why they banned your account anyhow.  The support page goes on to say:  "Lastly, Google does reserve the right to disable an account for any reason..."  Something to be fully aware of prior to planning an online business utilizing AdSense as a main source of income.  And once you are banned and denied an appeal, you're gone for good.  I've seen folks say they have utilized the name/SSN for another individual in their household to establish a new AdSense account, since it's the account and not the site that is banned, but you'd most likely be in the same situation a short time later. 

Be sure to read Google AdSense Program Policies and Terms and Conditions for full details on how best to avoid your account being banned. 

I understand Google is a massive company, with millions and millions of users and fraudulent Ad click activity needs to be monitored and dealt with, however the strong handed way in which reputable folks are being treated will I think give rise to competing products.  It may be tough for newcomers to compete with the likes of Google with their well establish brand and infrastructure, but I've seen posts talking about a potential Facebook alternative.  That is one company that can give Google a run for their $.  I think folks would flock to any viable alternative given the recent developments.  Until then, I'm going to check out a few options I've seen listed online as a backup or alternative plan to at least diversify my options.

Here are some potential AdSense alternatives I've come across in my searches: Adbrite, Bitvertiser, Chitika, InfoLinks, Media.net and Clicksor.  Of all of them I've seen some decent reviews of Adbrite, most say AdSense is still better, but Adbrite is the next best thing.  I haven't tried any just yet, but when I do I'll be sure to post my experiences. 

Of course AdSense is not the only way or even the best way to monetize your site or blog.  It has typically been the easiest to enable, so it's the one everyone is most familiar with.  Some other options include creating/selling eBooks, promoting products as an affiliate through sites like Amazon Affiliates, promote products through ClickBank/Commission Junction, sell ad space on your site, etc.  It's always best to diversify your sources of income when possible and this post is one huge example of why. 

If you can share any experiences/results either good or bad in regards to the alternatives to AdSense, please drop me a comment below.  Also, if you are aware of other products that work well, please mention those too.  Thanks and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject as well!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Blog Design - Update

At long last, I have updated my blog design!  I've been trying to find a design/layout that I really like for over a month now and this is the one I've chosen.  I'm pretty excited about it.

Tuesday evening I finally figured out what HTML code to modify so that I could utilize a full size banner image and I also modified all of the categories and started to categorize many of the posts that are related to those main categories.  Pick a category you are interested in and check out some of my prior posts on the subject. 

Additionally, I updated my Facebook timeline page for the blog which you can access by clicking here or via the link at the top of the page.  The Facebook page includes the Twitter app, an RSS app and you can also access the YouTube app to view all of our blog videos right there on the page.

Please be sure to like our Facebook page and subscribe via RSS feed and also via email to receive the latest blog post updates!

I hope you like it the new design setup as much as I do.  Please let me know what you think, thanks!! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Apple - Badge of Shame?


This is a copy/paste from my buddy Tim's blog from about a week ago that got some interesting discussion.  I wanted to post it here to see what others think here as well.  I'll post an abbreviated version of the comment I had over there in the comments here to get things started.  Here is the meat of Tim's post:

The perception of Apple users

Apple users were seen as outsiders from the outset. Prior to being an Apple user, I was a steadfast PC user, and I had the impression that Apple users and fans were somewhat pompous and snobbish. There was always the impression that they exuded the vibe that they were “holier than thou.”

It’s been about 5 years now since I decided to ditch the Windows PC world for my personal computing and use Apple products exclusively. So, to officially state for the record, I’m an ‘Apple user.’
I’ll still agree with the fact that there are ‘some’ Apple users that try to evangelize that the Apple hardware/software platform and design is far superior than that the other computer and software companies currently offer. That is a matter of personal opinion. I’ll also admit that I often kid my peers that use non-Apple products when their products crash or perform in a manner that is not to their liking. That’s pretty much where I draw the line.

I have never said “Windows-based computers are horrible.” I’ve also never uttered the words “The Android phone platform is garbage,” or anything similar to that. My approach has always been to respect the decision of others to embrace and use platforms that work for them. Certainly, I may kid them, but in no way do I state that my choice to use Apple products is the best decision for everyone. I think Google is doing some great things in the mobile phone and tablet space. I’m an iPhone and iPad user, but once again, thats my personal choice, and I realize that may not be the preferred choice of others.

Since Apple is now regarded as an incredibly powerful personal and mobile computing hardware and software company, as well as a market leader in media sales, I’ve noticed an increase of backlash towards Apple users. When one talks about Apple users, it usually comes across as having a negative tone. Sometimes I feel like I am wearing a scarlet letter.

Do we really need to adopt the whole us vs. them mentality when it comes to the choice of our computing or mobile  platform? Apple saw some tremendous benefit from portraying ‘traditional’ PC users as corporate, stodgy, and antiquated when they ran their infamous Mac vs. PC ads. The adds were humorous, but perhaps did more to divide the two camps as opposed to join them. Apple has gained market share as a result of that advertising campaign, but I feel in retrospect that may have done more to fuel an increased distaste that many Windows and Linux PC users have towards Apple as a brand and its users.

We often get into Apple vs. Android discussions on our weekly podcast The TechMonks Podcast. On last Sunday’s episode : #30 – Google Comments the discussion got heated at times. Check it out.

If you are an Apple user, have you felt like those that used and supported the Windows / Linux technologies have expressed negativity towards you simply because you like or use Apple products? Likewise, if you are not an Apple user, have you experienced negativity from those that are Apple users?


Monday, April 9, 2012

Minimalist Living and Some Soul Searching

Lately, for a number of reasons, I've been thinking in more of a minimalist living kinda way.  By that I mean going through a process of decluttering and riding ourselves of a lot of stuff we really do not need.  My wife and I are not pack rats or hoarders, but we did have about 20+ bins worth of stuff that we had stored in the garage and attic that we hadn't opened since 2007.  So we decided to purge everything we could.  We also combined about 10 years worth of old papers that needed to be shredded into 4 large bins and took that to a free shredding event last weekend. 

It felt really good to finally go through and make progress on that.  I love that feeling when everything is clean and clutter free.  The attic is now completely empty and the bins in the garage take up about 1/4 of the space they once did.  It gives me a certain peace of mind when everything is clean and organized and I feel that the more we can simplify, the better we will feel.

We were motivated to take action by a few things.  My mom recently decided to sell their home and will be moving to Atlanta to take care of her new grandson.  Extreme decluttering there.  Over 25 years worth of stuff to go through.  The progress that was made on decluttering was inspirational.  The transformation was quite impressive!  It has to be, she'll be going from a 2 story home with a basement to a spare bedroom in our sister's home. 

Additionally, an upcoming milestone started to hit home shortly after the calendar turned to 2012.  I realized that I will be 40 this June.  :-o  I still feel like I'm about 25 inside, some aches and pains tell me otherwise, but generally speaking I do NOT feel like I'm going to be 40.  For whatever reason though, this one caused me to do some soul searching. 

All too often you see either first hand or stories in the media of folks going way before their time.  It really is true, you never know what tomorrow will bring so you have to enjoy the here and now.  Like many others, I'm sure that I don't live in the now as much as I should. 

However, about a month ago I thought about my upcoming birthday and where I'm at in life compared to where I want to be.  The overwhelming majority was positive, with one main thing that stuck out.  My/our overall long term goal has always been to end up at the beach.  That is our favorite place to be, all the troubles of the world wash away when we're chilling out on a perfect day at the beach. 

I thought about it and since we're not getting any younger, I started to think about what we can do to make that happen now rather than later.  Why wait when that has always been our ultimate goal? 


So we've been researching options to sell our existing home and we started to research rentals close to the beach this past weekend.  We're finding that most available rentals are smaller condos, our existing home is about 1780 sq ft and the condos we've seen for rent so far are around 1200-1400 sq ft and some have storage space or a garage and others we're not so sure yet.  Some are also fully furnished and others are not. 

That brought me back to the minimalist idea.  It looks like we're most likely going to have to do some additional levels of purging and/or selling to make our plan work, but that sounds like fun to me.  We really are not attached to anything we own other than perhaps our TV, computers, phones and vehicles.  It would be liberating to have an estate sale and try and get rid of the majority of what we have and start fresh with a much smaller footprint. 

It will be interesting to see how things unfold, but we are now fully focused on the goal of relocating to the beach and we are optimistic things will all work out.  I'm hoping that by the time I turn 40 we will either have already realized this goal and I'll be typing an after birthday blog post from our new beachy location or will be very close to making that happen.  Wish us luck!

Have you ever had the desire to minimalize/simplify your life or the desire to start fresh?  Do you go through a regular purging/decluttering process on a routine basis?  I'd love to hear your stories or tips/advice that you might have for others that might be looking for help on getting started.  Thanks ahead of time for sharing any info!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Getting Links to Your Blog or Website

Image: renjith krishnan FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I created a new article on my NicheSiteTool.com site on Where To Get The Best Backlinks For Your Site.  It comes complete with my first attempt at a video/audio tutorial.  I'd appreciate it if you would check it out and comment/subscribe towards the bottom of that post.  Let me know what you think!   Thanks!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Visit With Baby Max - Recap

We had a good time visiting with the cutest little nephew on the planet, Max!  We arrived late Friday night, around 10pm at the airport and Max, David and Jen came to pick us up.  He was sound asleep and stayed that way the whole ride home.  Car rides definitely put him right to sleep.

Max sleeping in the car

We had been warned to bring ear plugs, but surprisingly the first night we didn't hear a peep!  He was a good boy and Jen even said she got some good sleep.

Saturday he was also super good.  His nickname is angry bird when he is super hungry and we only saw a little bit of angry bird Saturday.  Marla did a good job of soothing him.  She was a pro.  I got to feed him a bit and he played on his play pad. 

 Hangin with Auntie Marla
Feeding supplement time
Playing on the play pad o' fun

We even headed out to Pure Taqueria in Duluth for dinner Saturday night and he was super good, he was sleeping the whole time and a SUPER loud train went by twice and that didn't even phase him. 

Sunday a little more of the angry bird came out.  We went to dinner at Antonetta's Italian restaurant close by and poor David had to walk him around to keep him quiet and we found out later he took almost an entire lap around Kroger next door while we were eating.  Good daddy.  Bummer I didn't think to get a picture.  I think the picture below was from first thing Monday morning.  I had to put at least one picture of him crying, cause that's all we got. 

Not quite full angry bird mode
He is only a month and a half, so he's not quite at the throwing the football stage, but he does have quite a grip and when you put him on his stomach on his play pad, he doesn't really like it and he is strong enough to roll himself onto his side almost.  I bet he'll be crawling ahead of schedule. Or he may go right to the dancing stage, he's definitely got the moves, not quite like Jagger, more like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Not so excited about stomach time...kinda twists to his side
Dancin' dancin' dancin'
John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever

Sunday night he woke up a bit more than the previous two nights and unfortunately David had to relocate to the office floor downstairs to get some sleep.  Another missed photo opportunity.  I think Jen snapped a shot, perhaps we'll get a behind the scenes recap from her this week on her blog.  

Cooling off a bit
Play pad in Technicolor
Good times
Almost asleep with the elephant pacifier
And of course, MOLLY!  Such a good girl.

He is definitely super cute and fun and it is certainly true that babies are a lot of work.  David and Jen do a great job of taking care of him.  It certainly is not easy, but when you see him smiling and happy and playful, that makes up for the angry bird episodes.  Of course, that is very easy for me to say, since we were the ones in the room with the earplugs and we got to play with him during the fun times and hand him over when he wasn't so happy.  That's what Aunts and Uncles are for!  See you again soon Max, don't grow too quick!

video



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