holidays – Stay N Alive

3 Common Sense Tips for Holiday Travel (Stay N Abroad)

With many of us hitting the road and the skies during the next week, here are a few common sense tips to make traveling a little easier.

Tip #1–Check the Weather

This should be obvious, but many of us get so locked into our plans we forget to take the weather into consideration. One memorable year, an uncle of mine insisted on leaving as scheduled despite a severe storm. The consequence–he was stranded on a shutdown 1-80 in Wyoming. He ultimately made it home a day late–same as if he had waited until the storm was over before leaving. If flying, make sure to check before you leave for the airport and keep in mind that layovers can be problematic because of weather delays.

Paying it Forward

Based on my last post I know you commenters and readers are out there.  My last post was all about me.  This post is, quite sincerely, about you and I hope I can see the same response from my commenters as I did that last article – I really mean that.  The Blogess recently wrote an incredibly heartfelt post that really inspired me.  If you haven’t read it yet, please go over there, read it, then read the comments for the article, which are the best part.  Because of one sincere offer by The Blogess to offer free gift cards to her readers, people are coming out of the woodwork, sharing such touching stories of poverty, need for this season, daughters who plea for their laid off fathers, wives who just want some groceries this season.  I admit I cried a little when I read it.  I realized I owe it to my readers to share, at least a little of what I have to those of you in need.  I’d love to see a Techmeme meme around other bloggers doing the same – we owe it to each other.  These are tough times.

I’m going to do the same thing as The Blogess.  I am definitely not wealthy, and I have a family of 6 (soon 7) to pay for this Christmas, but I want to give at least what I can of the good fortune I have.  I do feel really blessed, and a lot of that is because of you.  If you and your family are in difficult circumstances this Christmas, please let me know and I’ll give a $30 Amazon Gift Certificate to 3 of those who seem worst off in the comments.  If you don’t want to reveal your name, please use a fake one (I use Disqus, but you can create a fake Disqus profile – if anyone has difficulty with that please email me).  Just use your real email address, which no one but me sees, and I’ll email you the $30 Amazon Gift Certificate, no questions asked.

A lot of you are really in need this Christmas.  This is the best thing I think I can do at the moment – I know it’s not a lot, but I do feel like I need to pay it forward.  At the same time, if you, my readers would like to donate to any of those in the comments in need, please let me know in the comments (again, including your email), and I’ll arrange to have your gift sent to those who have needs.  Let’s help each other out this Christmas.  The economy is dismal at the moment.  I know many of you are struggling.  Please, let me, and my other readers help.

If you share any blog post of mine I beg you to share this one.  This, to me, is one of the most important posts I’ve ever written, and it’s my gift to you.  Please retweet it, share it on Facebook, Google Reader, or tip it on Techmeme. Please do it for those in need.

How will you give up your Christmas?

Are You Inspiring Others This Holiday Season?

When I was about 16 or 17 years old I liked to sing in the car. A lot.  One time I was driving somewhere with my parents and they had a song, of which one I can’t really remember, but I started to sing along with it.  It was probably one of many times I would sing along in the car with my parents, but this time my parents complimented me.  They said, “Jesse you’ve really got a nice voice.  Your singing is really good.”

That compliment really stuck with me.  I had never heard those words from them before about my singing.  I probably wasn’t really as good as they said I was, but the fact was they complimented me and gave me a sense of confidence I never had before.

I came upon the same type of opportunity today as I saw my son singing to some Christmas music we had on for the family (We reserve Monday nights for family in our home – a tradition held by many Mormons).  Truth be told, to my more experienced ears (to the extent you can call, “experienced”) it didn’t sound very good.  But I noticed he was trying.  I took this same opportunity to tell him, “Tom, you have a great voice – you should keep practicing what you’ve got going for you.”  I noticed a little gleam in his eye, a kick in his step as he sang louder.

I wonder if there are times in our lives when we could be complimenting and inspiring each other more, sharing opportunities of encouragement when they come.  I wonder if there are times when we could be lifting up each other, giving each other that little “kick in the step” they need to keep trying harder.

I have entrepreneurs that present new ideas to me all the time.  It always pains me to be honest with them when their idea, at least I feel, is not quite one that will succeed.  Instead, I often point out the positive points of their ideas.  I find areas of inspiration to give them to work harder, ways they can grow their idea and work harder.  Truth be told, they’re going to learn their mistakes on their own, and when they come asking for new ways to improve I’ll be there to help them along the way.  But at least this way I’m giving them the motivation, the encouragement and inspiration to improve.  I’m giving them that extra “kick in their step” to make them work harder, and they’re doing it on their own.

Some times the entrepreneurs I help are like my kids in many ways.  Even though what they’re doing may really be bad I can at least give them the confidence they need to keep trying.  Maybe we need more of this for this Holiday Season.  I’m vowing to try to be more inspiring, more encouraging as I post here, and as I help others in the future and throughout 2011.  It really doesn’t matter if your idea stinks.  What matters is that you feel okay to keep trying.

As I finish up I can hear my son humming the tune to the song we’re hearing now.  He’s trying, and I’m a proud Father.

P.S. – if you really want more inspiring articles like this I highly recommend you check out Brett Nordquist’s blog – his is chock full of these!

Picture of boy courtesy

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

In these hard economic times, we all need a little reboot on what’s really important.  Christian, Jew, Muslim, or none-of-the-above, this video produced by my church, while from a Christian’s perspective, really sets things straight – it’s the little things!:


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from me and my family.

Hosting a Virtual Gift Exchange with Albinophant

White Elephant Gift ExchangeAlmost everyone has participated in a “white elephant” gift exchange.  Some people call variations of it “Secret Santa”, or “Yankee Swap”, but the overall concept is the same.  Each person brings a gift, the gifts are placed in the middle or rotated in some fashion, and each person takes a turn picking the wrapped gift of their choice, not knowing what their gift could be.  However, in this era of virtuality where your close network of friends and family live all over the world, figuring out how to divy up the gifts or get everyone in one location for such an exchange can be difficult.  Perhaps your office all works from home, or you’re self employed.  A client of mine, Albinophant, has built the perfect application for the holidays which helps you create white elephant gift exchanges virtually via just your Facebook profile.

The premise behind Albinophant is simple.  All you need to do is create a party, invite your Facebook friends to attend the party, and schedule a date and time for the party to start.  Your friends and family will get a Facebook invite and when they accept the invite they’ll have the opportunity to RSVP for the event.  Once they RSVP they’ll be taken to a page of hundreds of gifts taken from, which they can select and purchase.  The host can specify a maximum price range, and only the gifts that fit within that price range will show up for that particular party.  This solves the problem of some people having that one really expensive gift that everyone wants.  After selecting their gift, the user selects a virtual gift wrapping for that gift (the gifts are real, but the gift wrapping is just for the game to disguise what the gift is), with which the gift will be identified during the game.


Then, the party starts.  When the time for the party starts, an e-mail gets sent to the first person who RSVP’d for the gift exchange.  They click on a link, select one of the gift-wrapped gifts from the list of items, then their item is revealed, and both they and the rest of the participants are able to see what they selected.  Once each person’s turn is over, the next person in line is sent an e-mail telling them it’s their turn, and they get to select a gift.

Here’s the catch though – the “Yankee Swap”, as Michael Scott from The Office puts it.  Each player, on their turn, can “steal” a gift from any other player that has already unwrapped their gift.  You can do so on each turn until all the gifts have been unwrapped.  So even though you may think you have the coolest and most geeky gift, that gift could very well be stolen by any one of the other participants.  This is part of the fun of the Albinophant Gift Exchange.

Once the party is over, everyone sees the gifts they’ve won.  A message is also posted to Facebook notifying their friends of the gift they won so they can show it off and talk about it with all their Facebook friends.  It’s a fun occasion for both that close circle invited to the party, as well as those that haven’t attended that can see what you won.  In addition to winning virtually though, if the Host has opted, each participant will then be mailed the gift they selected (which someone else purchased), in real life.  The party goes from virtual to real, and the relationships have just strengthened a bit more.

As you’re gearing up for the Holidays, consider giving Albinophant a try in to get in the spirit with your online friends.  Go in and set up a party to try it out – use the offer code “1234” when creating a party and all the gifts your participants select will be virtual and free (meaning they won’t be sent a real gift but you can still have the party).  Albinophant’s a fun app you can use throughout the entire year to build Holiday spirit regardless of boundary.

You can sign up to host your own party here:


Albinophant/PartyWeDo is a client of Stay N’ Alive Productions, LLC, my social technologies consulting company. If you are a blogger and you would like a free demo, or would like to host your own please let me know and I can arrange a tour for you and your friends/family.