Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One of the Ten Semi-Finalists in the Irwin "Tell Us Your Vise Grip Story" Sweepstakes

Checking the website and it appears that we are one of the ten Semi-Finalists in the Irwin "Tell Us Your Vise Grip Story" Sweepstakes. This would mean that at the very least, Paul won a Tool bag of Vise-Grip pliers and wrenches (contents of tool bag determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion). ARV: $550. What an excellent prize – I know that Paul will make good use of his new tool bag!

The rules state: After the conclusion of the Voting Phase, a different group of qualified judges determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion will select from amongst the Semi-Finalists the top three (3) Contest Entries ("Finalists") based on the Judging Criteria (defined above). Each Finalist will be a potential Top 3 Finalist Prize winner. The qualified judges will then select the potential Contest Grand Prize, First Runner-Up Prize, and Second Runner-Up Prize winners from amongst the Finalists based on the Judging Criteria. In the case of a tie, the entrant whose Contest Entry received the highest score in the Fit with Theme category will be deemed the winner from amongst the tied entrants.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us! We will keep you posted! Please think good positive thoughts about us making the cut and becoming one of the three finalists in the Irwin "Tell Us Your Vise Grip Story" Sweepstakes! That would mean an awesome trip to New York!

Friday, December 12, 2008

NASCAR Is Host To Many Gentlemen

Did you enjoy the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet? I sure did. Who wouldn’t take pleasure in experiencing Jimmie Johnson officially being crowned as the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion amid the opulence of the Waldorf-Astoria, live on ESPN?

I reveled in the history bestowed on the crowd by the King, Richard Lee Petty. There is a racer who truly understood that this sport would be nowhere without its fans. Throughout Petty's career, but especially during his prime, he was known to stand for hours - backed against a fence, signing autographs to everyone who asked. Richard Petty is a true gentleman.

Then the show became very personal to me when the Chevrolet President Ed Peper walked on stage to accept the manufacturer's championship. My husband and I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Peper in September of 2006. Paul had written a short story about his 1991 Chevy Silverado truck (story) and won a trip to Dallas, Texas to take part in the public introduction of the all new Chevy Silverado.

It was an awesome trip. We met Montgomery Gentry; after which we were wined and dined at a V.I.P. party where they gave a private concert. Paul and I attended the Texas State Fair. We were treated to a Cowboy Crush concert and met with them. We were even given an autographed guitar with inlayed bowtie emblems on the fret bar. It is beautiful.

However, what I remember the most is how genuinely nice Mr. Peper was. While sharing a ride to the fairgrounds, we had a nice conversation about our son’s racing experiences. Mr. Peper was such a gentleman and very informed. It was only later that I discovered he was the Chevrolet General Manager.

Seeing Mr. Peper on stage at the awards banquet brought back a flood of fond memories. However, I was saddened to hear him announce his company tribulations. "This is the fight of our lives," he said. I wish him and Chevrolet the best for 2009.

Irwin - Tell Us Your Vise Grip Story

Hello, my husband Paul is one of the 50 finalists. We are so excited and are asking for your daily votes.

Just log on to the website at:

Enter your email (lower left of screen) & Click the submit button
(if you are not registered with the site, it will ask you to register)

For Promotional Code - Enter Cooltool

Now you are ready to vote.

Click the vote now button (middle left of screen)

Enter Paul's email address in the search by email address box (under photos) and click the >>

That will get you to his entry (paulie valley center) - click on it, read his story, and vote.
(vote for this story - big yellow button)

As a reward for voting - You get to play an Instant Win Game.
You could win cool prizes.

Thank you for your help with this contest and keep your fingers crossed.
Tip- you can place this contest link on your desktop and that will remind you to vote everyday.

z. & Paulie

Sweepers Beware Phone Bill ‘Cramming’ Spikes Again

This month, I was paying bills and noticed that my phone bill had inched its way up to $155.55 per month. That was ridiculous. It use to be just over $100.00 per month. Therefore, I examined my bill closely. On page 4 of 5, the third party billing started.

Important - If you read:

This portion of your bill is provided as a service to the company identified above. Please review all charges appearing in this section. If you have any questions or concerns, call the telephone number shown above.

You are probably the victim of a scam!

CRAMMING is one byproduct of the deregulation of the telephone industry. To open the system to increased competition, local phone companies have to lease their phone lines to outside firms who want to sell competitive services. It’s perfectly legal for a third-party company to sell a home voice mail service to you, billed through your home phone bill.

But shady telecommunications companies are taking advantage of the fact that local phone companies have no stake in verifying that consumers agreed to pay for such services, so they “cram” charges on phone bills, hoping consumers won’t notice.

I was told that when I visited certain contest sites (they did not know which ones) I unknowingly signed up for these 'services.' I had five different services on my AT&T account from three different billing company. My December 2008 bill was charged $67.79 dollars for these scams!

When it started in July 2008, it was for one charge of $14.95. I am ashamed to report that I did not even notice. However, when my bill almost doubled in five month - I woke up.

One of the offenders on my bill was ILD Teleservices. The Federal Communications Commission said it received 457 cramming complaints against ILD Telecommunications between January and December of last year, including 170 in the last three months of the year. ILD Telecommunications is ILD Teleservices’ parent firm.

Fred Lloyd, vice president of strategic planning and corporate development for ILD, said his company is merely a go-between that arranges billing for third-party companies that want to provide residential or business telecommunications services. ILD helps companies like Liberty Online construct billing arrangements with home phone carries like Quest and Verizon. Lloyd admits there have been complaints from consumers who say they’ve being charged for services they never ordered, but said the blame should fall on the third-party firm, not his company. He added that ILD generates hundreds of thousands of bills each month, and complaints are a tiny fraction of their transactions.

“From time to time, we have some billing questions,” he said. “We always work with (customers) on a case by case basis.” Lloyd said he warns third-party companies when there are numerous complaints, and will cancel their billing services if the complaints don’t stop. He wouldn’t say how many companies have been censured, other than to say “There have been a handful I’ve had to kick off.”

Bottom Line - Sweepers Beware

Consumers are responsible for discovering cramming charges on their own; so that means the only safeguard against unwanted fees is detailed examination of the monthly phone bill. But consumers can decrease their chances of getting crammed by carefully reading sweepstakes entries or other junk mail solicitations before filling them out — often they are ruses that serve as permission to switch telephone providers or add services. It also helps to avoid speaking at
length with telemarketers.

But the single best defense is to call your local phone company and ask it to shut off “third-party billing.” That prevents companies from adding charges onto local phone bills.

Consumers who have been crammed should carefully save all paperwork and immediately call their local phone provider to dispute the charge. Next, call the provider listed on the bill, and don’t back down if the company claims you authorized the charge.

With the help of an extremely pleasant and knowledgeable AT&T supervisor, I was able to secure the promise of a complete refund of $238.85.

(material was liberally borrowed from msnbc-http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3078500/)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

z. divulges her SECRETS to Winning on Winner's Secrets

I rarely do snail mail or text sweeps. I love to enter local contests, because your chances of winning are greater since there are fewer participants. Mostly, I spend my time entering online contests.

The Instant Wins are fun to do and you get immediate confirmation if you win. However, they are usually more time consuming. The dailies are quicker, but can get boring.

I like entering blog contests, but the prizes are usually worth under a hundred dollars – but you chances of winning are greater. They do take a bit more work though

To read the complete article go to:

Winner's Secrets

Saturday, December 6, 2008

One Of Ten Finalists In The Bowdabra National Search For The Worst Gift Wrapper In America

Video by Goldminotaur

The ten selected finalists will receive a personal gift wrapping “how to” session with Sandy and will have the opportunity to be named “The Worst Gift Wrapper” and win a trip for two to Las Vegas, Nevada, complete with roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations for two-nights, transfers and tickets to Scintas.

All entrants will receive a free copy of Sandy Sandler’s e-book on how to gift wrap. Sandy is founder of HPA enterprises, which owns the trademark and patents for the bowdabra.

I am one of the finalists. My video entry is above – I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Butterfly Hunt

Well, I have started working with my husband Paul in his consulting business. What we like most about the work is the diversity of tasks. I just had to share my adventure with you because of its uniqueness and matchless modern day adventurism.

There are occasions, before a landowner is allowed to build, that the city or county requires an environmental impact study to protect an endanger species; be it plant or animal. IMEZ, LLC has just such a client. Retiring soon, they want to build their dream home on this land.

Unfortunately for them, the site is a suspected Quino Checkerspot Butterfly habitat. Therefore, an environmental study must be completed by a certified butterfly expert. We were hired as the owner’s agent on the entire project, but our first order of business is to protect the homeowner’s rights in the study.

This subspecies has undergone a relatively rapid decline. In previous years it has been considered an abundant and fairly widespread subspecies occurring widely in coastal sage scrub habitat in southern California and northern Baja California. However, its range is now limited to a few populations in Riverside and San Diego Counties.

The required study involves field inspections at least once a week, at the rate of ten acres per hour for at least five weeks. If an adult butterfly is not spotted during that time period, the study must continue until the end of their “fly” period. To add flavor to this adventure, the job site is also part of the Harris Fire area.

Enter Michael Klein, butterfly specialist, a biologist working with a small business in San Diego. He has been involved with butterflies for more than forty years and has a hopelessly infectious passion for them. He also enjoys watching other insects, especially pollinators and how they interact with the rest of Nature.

Easter produced a beautifully sunny San Diego morning. Paul and I drove down to Jamul for our ten o’clock meeting. Dressed in our hiking gear, we were ready for the two hour trek though the wilderness of the job site. With Michael at the lead, we were careful to stay in his footsteps so as to not disturb any foliage. What transpired was a private tour of our own backyard guided by one of the leading naturalist in the area.

As we hunted the elusive adult Quino Checkerspot Butterfly, Michael lectured non-stop, as he pointed out the different plants and life forms populating the chaparral. I must have snapped over three hundred photographs to memorialize the wonders I experienced.

This photo is of the effects of the Harris Fire. Through the burnt chaparral, just a hint of recovery shows. By the end of our trudge through the scarred countryside, our shoes and clothing were streaked with charcoal lines from contact with the leftover reminders from the Harris Fire.

In October 2007, nine simultaneous fires of varying sizes burned throughout the county requiring the evacuation of 300,000 people and resulting in the loss of more than 1,800 homes and many other structures, 369,600 acres, and nine fire-related deaths. Local firefighting costs in 2007 topped 80 million dollars.

According to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protections, the Harris Fire started October 21, 2007 at approximately 9:23 a.m. It burned 90,440 acres. A total of 253 residential structures, two commercial properties and 293 outbuildings were destroyed. Additionally, twelve residential structures and three outbuildings were damaged.

Forty firefighter injuries were reported. Five civilians died and twenty-one civilians were injured due to this fire. The financial cost of this blaze was calculated at over 21 million dollars.

Miners’ Lettuce is a fleshy an annual herb with slender stems. It was named after the California gold rush miners who ate it to get their vitamin C to fight scurvy. Imagine how thankful the miners were when this plant came up in the spring. The winter has just past and they all have red bleeding gums and loose teeth. Many of them have sores that would not heal. Rejoicing that spring has come, feasting on a salad of miners’ lettuce cured them of those miseries brought on by scurvy.

My personal favorite find was Poison Oak – “leaves three, leave it be.” Poison oak is a common hazard for hikers. The first symptom of poison oak allergy is severe itching, followed by inflammation and blisters – yuck. Isn’t it a pretty leave though?

I have suffered from the aftereffects of Poison Oak contact in the past. Now I know what it looks like, I hope to avoid this irritation.

Signs of Life: I discovered these two ladybugs at the end of our hike. (Yes, there are two in this photo.)
The sevenspotted lady beetle was repeatedly introduced to North America from Europe for the biological control of aphids. In spring, emerging beetles feed on aphids before laying eggs. Females may lay from 200 to more than 1,000 eggs over a one to three month period commencing in spring or early summer. Eggs are usually deposited near prey such as aphids, often in small clusters in protected sites on leaves and stems.

The ladybug sighting was a reassurance to me that the Jamul wilderness was in revival. The post-fire recovery process is influenced by fire intensity, type of habitat, and you guessed it, patterns of rainfall. There is much scientific evidence that most native vegetation will recover on its own. I was encouraged to promote my own responsible environmental citizenship by increasing my knowledge and awareness about environmental fire damage and the recovery processes.

We also saw many species of butterflies. Word of warning, forget trying to photograph a butterfly in flight. I did not get one nice photo of a butterfly. There was an abundance of Painted Ladies, Orange Tips, and California Blues.

However, we did not spot the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly (good news for our client). Nonetheless, the trip educated and heightened our appreciation for the wildlife around our homes and our communities. I cannot believe that we were paid for the privilege.