All posts by Ted Hicks

Ted Hicks is a dad that enjoys writing about the wonderful world of technology, education and parenting from various angles – while applying his own SPIN cycle. Be prepared for an open and honest conversation – because that’s what you’re going to receive. Follow me at @RealTedHicks, Friend me on http://FaceBook.com/ted.hicks2 or e-mail me at [email protected]

The Home Depot ProSpective

The Home Depot ProSpective event April 25-27, Atlanta Georgia

When you think of Home Depot you may think of aisles of lumber, or you may visualize the endless varieties of flowers and plants, or perhaps you think about the options they supply to upgrade that kitchen or bathroom.  No matter what you initially think of, the one thing everyone knows is that Home Depot is the place to buy any tool you could need for your project.  Last month I had the honor of being invited to the inaugural ProSpective event hosted by Home Depot in their hometown of Atlanta Georgia.  This was a three-day event where a group of bloggers, podcasters, TV hosts, and industry professionals were given a tour of the Customer Support Center (they don’t call it Headquarters), given a one-on-one experience with various tool manufacturers, and lastly, provided the opportunity to help Team Depot in giving back to the community.  It was a busy three days full of information and hospitality.  I came away with a better understanding of how Home Depot operates, how they treat their employees, and how deeply they care about their customers and the community.

Day One – The Tour

After arriving at the hotel and settling in, we boarded tour buses and headed to the Support Center.  This is a huge 4 building complex, 3 of which are attached by a lower level aisle known as “Main Street”.  Entering the main entrance, there is no question of where you are.  The famous orange and white logo is prominently displayed as you walk in.  All along the walls you find images not focused on the company and its accomplishments, but instead everything seems focused on the people who work for the company (The Associates) or the customers, or the various ways they give back.  Once we were cleared through security and began the tour we started to understand really how large the place is.  Capable of holding 6000 associates if completely staffed, they have their own Starbucks –  the busiest in the area, a CVS with an on site nurse, company store, multiple eating establishments, company museum, and a full service gym as large and well equipped as any I’ve ever seen.  One item that I noted was just how clean everything is.  With all the people who traverse the halls you would understand and even expect a certain level of soiling just from the foot traffic, but this place is nearly spotless.  Of course they have all the departments you’d expect to find: HR, Accounting, Legal, etc., but what you won’t find everywhere is a quality and engineering laboratory.  There are over 12000 different items on the shelves and at some point they all get tested for strength, durability, quality, and materials.  Not only is the hardware examined, but even the packaging is tested for durability and the ability to keep the contents safe under extreme conditions.  It’s good to know that the tools are tested to 2x and 3x the rated strength to make sure that when used they won’t fail on you when under stress.

 Day Two – The Experience

The next morning we boarded buses which took us to the Ambient Plus Studio.  There we were to have the opportunity to speak directly with many of the tool manufacturers and suppliers.  The studio was configured so that each vendor, Husky, Ryobi, Milwaukee, Dremel, Makita, Rigid, Bosch, and more, had dedicated space to talk about and demonstrate their various product offerings.  Some were focused on the professionals, others more on the DIY home user. No matter who we spoke to though, it was clear that there is an excitement and passion for what they make.  What became apparent as we visited each location was that even the most common of tools can continue to be engineered and improved upon.  In the case of Milwaukee, they wondered why use metal in a tape measure that can bend? Instead they use a combination of materials that provide strength and flexibility.  If a spool takes a long time to be recovered, instead of direct drive use a gear to double or triple the return rate with the same effort.  Some of the biggest improvements seem to be in the portable and battery operated segment.  All of the vendors are now offering products that hold a charge for a longer time, yet take less time to recharge. Ryobi in particular seems to have dedicated much of their attention to this focus.  They now offer a complete line of small, but powerful, tools that all use the One+ battery system. Drills, lights, sanders, saws, blowers, routers, speakers, even a garage door opener and more. All powered by the same platform.  The other theme many of the vendors are embracing is app connectivity.  More and more options are being made available to control or monitor tool operations and locations via your mobile device.  Of all the locations, my personal favorite was the Husky Tools exhibit.  They specialize in hand tools of all types.  What really impressed me about their products was the amount of testing the tools are put through before being approved.  It’s what allows them to offer a full lifetime warranty on all tools.  I watched them freeze flashlights in a bucket of water for days, smash them against a brick wall, bend wrenches under extreme pressure, but nothing broke.  I left the session with a deeper understanding of what goes into the design and development of both hand and power tools.

The second half of the day we were treated by our hosts to a private rooftop party at Skyline Park in Park City Market.  The best description that I can come up with of this venue is that of a miniature Coney Island.  There’s a boardwalk with the standard games, 18 hole miniputt golf, slides and rides.  The food and drinks were all fantastic.  To top it off there was a beautiful view of the Atlanta skyline.  This is what southern hospitality is all about!

Day three – The Community

One of the ongoing themes which was continually addressed during our visit was that of how Home Depot attempts to give back to the community.  Our final day was scheduled to give us the chance to see this in person and even actively take part in the process.  Team Depot is the volunteer group within Home Depot that exists specifically to assist veterans and their families in need around the country.  The original plan was for us to work outside, using some of the tools we had seen the day before to help frame and build housing for some local veterans.  Unfortunately mother nature had other ideas and there were storms in the area.  Instead, we were given the opportunity to work indoors at the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta.  This organization collects lightly used furniture, freshens it up, and then makes it available to those in need.  This may be a family on hard times, or someone coming out of homelessness and needing to furnish their new residence.  They also receive donations of new pre-fab furniture to be assembled and distributed as needed.  Our assigned task for the morning was to build kitchen tables, dressers, and coffee tables.  As mentioned earlier, we had people of various technical and tool experience levels.  Some were comfortable grabbing a nail gun to assemble legs, others felt better with a screwdriver, but we formed up small teams and went to work.  The warehouse itself is a fairly large area, and while we were on one side assembling the furniture, there were clients being escorted around the other side picking items that they liked and making the delivery arrangements.  We were only there for a few hours, but all told we built over 60 pieces in total.  As our guide explained to us, the need is great and most likely all the items would be distributed by the end of the weekend.  It was already Thursday.  As we grabbed our box lunches and headed to the buses for the ride to the hotel for the last time this trip, everyone commented on how much thought and care the staff put into servicing their clients.  There was a noted respect for their privacy and an honest sense that they really cared for the people they helped.  We were happy to have been able to do what we could, even for such a short time.

 

The time spent as a guest of The Home Depot was more than just a tour.  They provided a deeper understanding of how the company works, and what their core values really are.  They are more than just a tool and home improvement supplier, they are a company committed to their communities across the country.  The next day I needed to visit my local store, and as I walked through the doors and was greeted by an associate, I think I may have given her a little more of a smile in return.  Off to the paint aisle!

 

Must-Try Cookie Recipe

cookieWHITE CHOCOLATE GINGER COOKIES
(chewy cookies with a ginger kick)
makes 2 dozen big/over indulged cookies
makes 4 dozen smaller/less decadent cookies

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, can substitute vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (we suggest using a microplane)
  • 11 ounces white chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, salt and baking soda.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until fully combined. Add in the vanilla paste and ginger, mixing until just combined. Gradually add in the flour mixture 1 cup at a time. Add the white chocolate chips.
  3. Drop by the heaping tablespoon full onto the prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly golden (12-15 minutes), cookies will appear still slightly soft in the middle, but will set up firmly as they cool.  (Note: For smaller less decadent cookies use a teaspoon measure and bake for 8-10 minutes). Using a spatula, remove cookies from the parchment to cool. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

www.terraskitchen.com

Demystifying the myths on shaving! Be Epic! Schick Hydro® #MakeItEpic

I’m sharing my epic moments thanks to Schick Hydro® as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #MakeItEpicSchickTed

Basic shaving can be quick and easy. Just pick up a razor and drag it across your face until the stubble’s gone. A really good shave, on the other hand, requires a little more effort and know-how.

Even if you’ve been shaving for years, you might learn something, from someone who’s been shaving for decades, about what you need to do to get the best shave possible.  We wanted to discuss how to demystify some of the myths on shaving!

Myth vs. Fact

The following myths about shaving have been circulating for years. Here are the real facts to set the shaving record straight:

Myth: The age at which you begin to shave influences the amount of hair you will have on your legs and underarms.

Fact: These factors are determined strictly by heredity. Early experiences with shaving coincide with the natural increase in hair growth resulting from puberty.

Myth: Shaving promotes darker, thicker or faster re-growth of hair on legs and underarms.

Fact: Since shaving removes hair on the surface of the skin, it doesn’t affect the color or the thickness of the hair. After an area has been shaved, the hair shafts start to emerge from the follicle, so your hair looks and feels coarse and bristly. If you allow the hair to grow out, it will take on its original appearance and texture.

Myth: A tan can be removed by shaving.

Fact: Tanning occurs at the lower levels of your skin, where the skin’s pigment cells are located. Razor blades never come in contact with these cells. Shaving can actually “polish” your skin and give it a healthy glow. You’ll improve the look of your tan by removing flaky surface skin cells that give your skin a dull appearance.

I shave every day and I am fairly good at it. It is the same as brushing my teeth and takes about the same amount of time. I just use shaving foam or gel and a Schick razor. I don’t  understand some men’s fascination with high-tech, high-cost shaving gear or, even worse, ultra low-tech gear like a straight razor. It’s a simply a chore to be done with a Schick blade should be enough for anyone. I like the fact that shaving is a good way to clean your face and give you a type of microderm abrasion that is good for your skin. I don’t like it when I use a razor longer than I should and it drags or cuts me.

I’m sharing my epic moments thanks to Schick Hydro® as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #MakeItEpic

Check out the @SchickHydro® Tumblr site #MakeItEpic

lnp-ted-glasses (1)Whether it’s a night out on the town or being the dad rooting for your child at their youth sports event, you really can’t go wrong with a smooth shave and look of perfection and excellence.  So, I spent the day at a luncheon celebrate the retirement of a life long friend.  It’s great to be honored and appreciated, while you’re still here and have all your faculties.

During the evening – I put on my chauffeur cap for my daughter to take her to birthday – cheer leading event – basketball game and volleyball practice.  It’s just a day in the life of your average dad.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed the new @SchickHydro® Tmblr site. It’s a very slick site & blogging platform for people, businesses and brands. It also acts as a social media network whereby people can quickly and easily share all sorts of content: images, video, audio and short pieces of writing.

You might not know, but Tumblr is second only to Facebook in terms of engagement and the amount of time that people spend on the site.  It also provides with regards to search visibility, mobile friendliness and general popularity online could still make this one social media site worth experimenting with.

Disclosure: I’m sharing my epic moments thanks to Schick Hydro® as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #MakeItEpic”

@SchickHydro® and the Studio App #MakeItEpic

IMG_1575As a Dad – our daily lives move at a pace that I’m at basketball, swimming or soccer practice – when I’m not in not in downtown Manhattan at work and spending lots of time commuting back and forth to Long Island.

I’ve recently received the Schick Hydro® 5 product. Since, I usually shave not only my beard, but also my head – I’m usually critical on the life of each blade. After 3 or 4 shaves, the lubricating strip would disintegrate therefore leaving the blade useless. Today was my 5th shave with the same blade and I am amazed that this shave is as close as the first! The Schick Hydro® blade is an absolutely amazing product.

IMG_1579Last weekend – the NBA All-Star game was held in New York City, talk about a buzz in our area. However, my family and friends were attending my daughter’s CYO All-Star basketball tournament. My daughter racked up 14points and 19 rebounds was named the Most Valuable Player.   I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a proud moment as a parent – and equally emotional. As you can see – some of these moments were captured, shared and using the Studio App.

We’re no different than any family – we’re spread throughout the east and west coast, but being able to design these pictures / moments were exciting and fun.

IMG_1578Studio Design is available:

App Store

Google Play

Disclosure: I’m sharing my epic moments thanks to Schick Hydro® as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #MakeItEpic”

Super Bowl: A day of decadence

SBBy Donald Bucklin

The Super Bowl is more than simply a sporting event, it’s the American version of the World Cup (the other football) and New Year’s Eve – a veritable eating, drinking, and possibly cigar smoking free-for-all.

In terms of a total calorie consumption day, the Super Bowl is second to only Thanksgiving.

We manage to consume 1,200 calories of the daily 2,000 in snack food alone. As such, it has been fodder for inquisitive minds. Last year 111 million Americans watched the Super Bowl out of a U.S. population of 310 million.

Presumably a good chunk of the population is too young or too old to care

about such things. The Super Bowl was the most watched television program in history, and now has an international audience. An additional 37 foreign countries received the live TV feed. No wonder advertising costs $4 million per 30-second spot, and the advertising is sold out.

There is an aspect of Super Bowl celebration that feels a little forced, sort of like celebratory drinking on New Year’s Eve. Forced or not, a lot of beer is consumed on Game Day – 50 million cases to be specific. Assuming all the beer was consumed, that’s almost half a case each for the 111 million viewer s. And not all of the 111 million drink beer…

The beer consumption might be a good explanation of why 6 percent of Americans don’t come to work the next day (Monday).

And what do people eat with all that beer? Chicken wings and lots of guacamole. Last year Americans bought 125 million chicken wings and used 71 million pounds of avocados.

For pizza aficionados, it is the busiest day of the year for all the big pizza chains; about double the business as a rule. So a lot of pizza delivery guys are busy and not drinking beer, which means someone must have to drink up the slack.

Potato chips remain a Super Bowl staple as well. There are a staggering 11 million pounds of chips eaten on game day. If that sounds like the moral equivalent of a nutritional wasteland, I share your concern.

But all is not lost. The avocado is a vegetable with a high fat content, but it appears to be the good kind of fat that actually lowers your cholesterol. Dark beer is also full of tannins, which are organic pigments that are cardio-protective. Pizza crust is a complex carbohydrate with some soluble fiber, assuming you ordered the whole grain crust.

Jumping up and yelling also has to count as a mild form of exercise. It keeps the blood going round and gets you off the couch.

While overall the Super Bowl is obviously not a health-conscious day, one day of misbehaving does not a failed life make. So enjoy your one-day hall pass in pursuit of decadence.

 

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.

What People Want From The New iPhone 6

Everybody’s looking forward to see the new iPhone 6 today at 1pm ET. What do you think is the most wanted feature? Better camera? Bigger screen? You’d be surprised. Customer surveys show that what people wish for most is improved battery life. As for entirely new features sapphire glass tops the expectations list.

So what other interesting info can you find in the infographic?

  • Which iPhone model was the most innovative so far?
  • 19% of Apple fans want a bigger screen size in iPhone 6
  • Apple sold more than 500 million iPhones worldwide
  • The first smartphone was released by IBM in ‘94, 13 years before the first iPhone

iPhone_infographic_Finale

TeenSafe’s iPhone & Android Monitoring Service Opens Lines of communication In Divorced Homes

teensafe-300x56TeenSafe, maker of the leading iPhone and Android monitoring software for parents, announces its commitment to helping divorced parents protect their children. TeenSafe provides support and tools for parents in all situations to keep a watchful eye on their most valuable treasure.

“Very few parents achieve the level of communication they initially intend to after a divorce. Parenting becomes much more difficult after a martial divide for many reasons, some of the main causes being the loss of resources, increased stress, juggling of schedules and added responsibilities as well as disagreement on the proper disciplining of the children,” said Tina Sustaeta, Licensed Professional Counselor and Family Therapist. “If both parents have equal ability to monitor their children’s social media and cell phone activity, they are less likely to put the fault on each other if an issue arises. A monitoring service like TeenSafe levels the playing field and allows both parents the opportunity to stay aware of lives of their children, providing both parents an understanding of what subjects to focus on and address when ‘red flags’ appear.”

“At TeenSafe, our highest priority is to provide parents with invaluable tools that allow them to protect their children and communicate with them about significant issues. We all worry about what our children are facing through social media and mobile devices,” said Rawdon Messenger, CEO of TeenSafe. “We want parents to know about potential issues early on. TeenSafe is such a great tool for divorced parents to be aware, coordinated and proactive in their child’s lives.”

“I am a divorced father, now re-married with a blended family. Like most parents with joint custody we are very busy and keeping up with their many activities. To help stay better in touch with my kids I decided to purchase smartphones for them,” said an anonymous father and TeenSafe user. “Though I love that they can call me whenever they want to, I don’t have the ability to watch their activity on social media and text messages to ensure things are ok. If I continued parenting in oblivion, could my kids be communicating with people who might put them in danger? What if they were being bullied? I began researching phone monitoring solutions and found TeenSafe… Some of their friends use inappropriate language, but we are able to see it and avoid too much time spent with those friends. I don’t feel the need to check their online interactions on a daily basis, but when I have a feeling there could be something wrong I know I can check in on them.”

Half of all children in the U.S. see their parents separate. Divorce significantly increases the risk for them to have major life challenges, emotionally and physically. Research shows that children of divorcees are more likely to suffer academically, to have behavioral issues and to partake in drug and alcohol use as a teen. The psychological ramifications of divorce often last into adulthood. Thus, it is even more important for separated parents to be sensitive to the challenges of their children face.

TeenSafe provides parents the ability to see into their child’s digital world by offering discrete and convenient access to all their mobile phone activities, including their current location, text messages, deleted text messages, web browsing history, and Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Kik activity. It can allow parents to more easily detect issues such as truancy, drug abuse or bullying. Parents can take responsible action often before issues become crisis.

TeenSafe is very easy to set up and is the first iPhone monitoring solution that does not require any modifications to the device.