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How to Keep Your Facebook News Feed Set to “Most Recent”

Facebook has this annoying habit of constantly reverting to “Top Stories” instead of “Most Recent Stories”. If you check Facebook using a Desktop computer this trick will help:

Using any web browser, create a Bookmark for Facebook. Instead of having it link to “http://www.facebook.com” set it to: “http://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr”.

You can place this Bookmark in your top Toolbar for easy access. This will constantly send you to Facebook with “Most Recent” set instead of “Top Stories”.

Enjoy!

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How to Track Amazon Prices

I recently started glancing at a website called CamelCamelCamel before making certain purchases online. It allows you to search for a product or paste an Amazon URL of the product into the search bar and find the price history of it. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your opinion of the phrase “ignorance is bliss”.

I used this when researching a new running pack with hydration bladder (The Camelback Dart). I noticed the price dropped in the winter and rose again as spring came. I could either buy it now at full price or wait another season.

Dart

Let’s just say I kept myself hydrated on my last jog. ;)

On the other hand you may find a product you want, say, the RIO Glass Water Pitcher which I love and would like another one to take to work, but the price jumped from $22.01 to $29.95 and you’re not sure it’ll ever come back down.

rio

Do I suck it up and buy it, or wait hoping it comes back down? I could be waiting forever…

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Updated Portfolio

Recently I submitted some of my photography to a stock footage website to see if I could get published. (Of course the extra cash couldn’t hurt…)

You can find a link to that album here.

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Ancestry DNA Review : Then and Now

About a year ago I signed up for Ancestry.com’s DNA beta program. At the time there was a waiting list and, if selected, you could send in your DNA via a saliva sample to receive results of where your ancestors came from and potential Family Tree matches from their website. The cost was $99. I had made the list, paid, and received my DNA Kit in October of 2012.

 

Inside the box was a description of the program, a kit to provide your saliva sample, and instructions on how to provide it the cleanest and purest way possible.

Several weeks later I received my results. (Don’t remember how long it was.) They were both interesting and questionable at the time.

In regards to my immediate family I know this:

- My mother’s parents are from Italy and Malta.
- My father’s parents are from Ireland and Scotland. And we believe England before that.

I was intrigued to find that I have West Asian DNA (ie: Persia, Turkey). My grandmother said she doesn’t doubt that as people sailed all across the Mediterranean Sea whether for trade or to relocate. What bothered me though was it said I had no British Isles DNA yet only 2-3 generations back I had people from there. I did a little research online and found several reviews and blogs with people who had this issue too. Ancestry’s official response was that the DNA was reporting roots from the Scandinavia and Northern European areas and that people moved into the British Isles. While this sounds plausible, you would think the science could provide a more in depth response. It turns out a year later, it can:

Due to scientific advancement and more samples coming in, the team at Ancestry is now able to more clearly specify your DNA results. You can see my nonexistent British Isle results before, now show 24% Irish and 10% Great Britain results. The hollow circles on the map are Trace Regions, which are “regions where you seem to have just a trace amount of genetic ethnicity – there is only a small amount of evidence supporting the regions as part of your genetic ethnicity”. These new results seem much more accurate, and make me really interested in finding the Western European and West Asian parts of my Family Tree.

There is another company called 23 And Me who take DNA samples and provide ancestral data, but also concentrate heavily on your health from what I can tell. I would love to try this but I believe they received a warning from the FDA to halt services until they can provide better proof that their results are correct and accurate.

It’s an interesting time we live in when a saliva sample can tell you who your ancestors are and what potential health problems you should look out for in the future.

Internet Tracking

It’s interesting what information companies on the web are tracking. I always knew Google had an automated system that went through my mail to offer me deals. When I was planning my trip to Vermont I saw deals on flights to Vermont and Tourist Information. What I didn’t know was that even when you leave a website they are still tracking you.

For the past few weeks I’ve been searching for some items for my office at work. I wanted to drastically redecorate it because I was using furniture and an area rug handed down to me from an editor who left the company. So I was researching a bookcase, accent table, and area rug in particular. Most of my research was on Amazon, Google Shopping, and Ikea. Well, several days in these types of ads started popping up in my Facebook Newsfeed:

 


Interesting, huh? Despite not typing any of that information into Facebook’s search bar, or mentioning anything of the like in statuses or messages, it knew I was shopping around the internet for those kinds of items. I guess that’s what those “cookies” are doing. Keeping track of where I go. Kinda creepy…

Oh well. Luckily I’m not an impulsive shopper. I’m constantly adding items to my Amazon Wish List (I love that feature). I made a separate Wish List for my office where I compiled all the furniture I liked and narrowed it down from there. You can even add items to the list not found on Amazon. As for my regular Wish List, I just keep adding items and when I have the extra money laying around (ha!), I’ll hop on over and order myself something nice.

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Google Versus Bing

In recent months Microsoft’s been making a big marketing push with their search engine Bing. What’s interesting to me is how crappy it is. I actually clicked on a Bing ad on Facebook where you type in a word to search and it shows a side-by-side comparison of Bing versus Google. It’s attempting to show how superior Bing’s results are compared to Google. Funny enough, when it took me to the page it showed an error message.

I decided to check out Bing’s maps and directions site. Below is a side-by-side comparison of driving directions from New York to Utah between Bing and Google.

 

You’ll notice the distance is off by 1.3 miles. No big deal. They may have different center points for cities. But notice the driving time is 1 hour and 13 minutes different (when traffic is added for both).

I’m not sure which one is more accurate, but I find the difference in time very strange. Regardless, I think Google Maps is way easier and more elegant. They did just release an update which I’m still trying to get used to. A few functions are either gone or not as easy to use such as Terrain Mode and Street View. Hopefully they continue tweaking it to make it better.

The Case Against Travel Agents (and How to Search Yourself)

planningThere are two reasons I avoided travel agents up until last year. One is because I like researching places myself. I find it interesting and informative. The second is cost. Whenever a middle-man is involved the price goes up. But last year my Ex and I went on a vacation to Hawaii. A family friend is a travel agent so she asked her to help assist us on our vacation. Aside from recommending a cruise to each island (rather then staying at one island or island hopping), everything else was confusing, time-consuming, and costly.

PRICE INCREASES

My first beef with Travel Agents is that they don’t necessarily keep costs down. Obviously the agent gets and deserves a cut for doing the research for you, but take the case with my flight to Hawaii. My agent recommended one flight in particular. I found a cheaper one online and recommended she book that. It turns out she booked it the next day, after which the price went up. Had I booked it myself that night I would have saved money.

If you take 10 minutes of your time and search three websites you’ll quickly find the lowest price. I typically search Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia when searching for flights. (I add in Hotels.com when booking hotels.) After finding the cheapest price I’ll go to that corresponding company’s website and see what they are asking. For example, if Orbitz says Jetblue has the cheapest flight, I’ll check Jetblue’s own website to see if it’s even lower. If it is, I’ll book it there. If they are the same, I’ll book through Orbitz because then if something goes wrong I’ll have two companies who may help solve my problem.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO

When I’m booking a hotel, flight, or local activity I understand what I’m getting into. I know the exact price my card will be charged, I’ll quickly glance on Google Maps and see the location I’m going to, and in the case of activities or rentals I’ll understand how my vouchers work. And most times if you book things yourself no vouchers are necessary. During my trip to Hawaii I had to keep a stash of vouchers to hand to the hotel agent, rental car agent, and many of the activities I went on. Sometimes you kept the voucher, sometimes you handed it in, sometimes two were needed when one should have sufficed. It was all too confusing and cumbersome.

DISCOVERING NEW ADVENTURES

The only two reasons I see for having a travel agent is 1) to save time, and 2) to recommend places to go. I’ll be honest, I never would have thought of taking a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands. But a little bit of research could go a long way. Whenever I travel someplace new I check two websites to see what that place has to offer. I’ll type “things to do in ____” into Google, and also type the location into Tripadvisor. By doing this you’ll find recommendations and reviews by people who’ve been there. One word of caution though, inspect each review you read carefully. Sometimes outrageous reviews (very good or very bad) may be by a business trying to hype up or destroy a business’s reputation. I’m also hesitant if the spelling is atrocious or someone sounds too “uppity” as these people tend to complain about everything.

So that’s my opinion. With a little bit of time and research you can be your own travel agent. You’ll save money and know exactly what you’re in for. Happy travels!

My First Cross Country Trip

Once in awhile I glance around this website looking for things to improve, and it always bothered me that I never wrote about my first Cross Country road trip. I guess I never did because it was a very quick trip, and in that regard made it kind of boring to write about. I completed the trip in 52 hours and only took a 4 hour nap, which was unintentional mind you.

The other reason is because there wasn’t much to write about. I had driven through one of the most beautiful parts of the country at night and missed out on all the scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was still very exciting, but most of that was because it was my first time traveling so far away from home.

Anyway, in case anyone is interested the entry can be found on the Adventures Page, or through this link.

For anyone new to this website I encourage you to check out more exciting road trips like:

X-Country Road Trip 3 – Northeastern Route (Over the Great Lakes)

X-Country Road Trip 4 – Northwestern Route (through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas)

or X-Country Road Trip 5 – Southern Route (through Louisiana and Texas)