April 23, 2007

Amber Alerts

A while back I read an article in the Gainesville Sun discussing the Amber Alert system and the recent cases of missing children in America. The article had some advice which I think was very helpful, and I would like to share it.

First, education is one of the best defenses against child kidnappings. Parents should teach their kids about safety skills; how to use pay phones, how to find help, how to refuse offers, and how to say "No" to any unwelcomed touching or actions by leaving the situation and kicking and screaming if necessary. The article suggested going through “what if” scenarios where parents practice with their children to give them experience, asking them what they would do if they were separated in the mall, or if an adult man approached while they were playing games in an arcade. “Make it non-threatening,” the article said, “don’t make the child afraid. If any of us are afraid, you can’t think clearly.” The child may need to ask help from a stranger, the article mentioned, like another mother, or a sales clerk. In fact, the old adage, don’t talk to strangers isn’t quite so helpful. Most children are taken by friends of the family or people they wouldn’t consider strangers.

As far as what to do as a concerned citizen, the article also mentioned a new system being employed through www.wirelessamberalerts.com which notifies cellphone carriers about Amber Alerts in their area free of charge. They hope to create “wireless good samaritans” which I think is a great idea. If you have younger brothers or sisters, consider walking them through some "what if" scenarios and giving them helpful advice. Also, if you have a cellphone, sign up for the free Amber Alerts. You never know when a small act by you could be a huge help to someone else.


One thing that always struck me about my Costa Rican family was how clean they kept their house. Now I don't mean scrubbed with clorox, I just mean squeaky clean and with very little dust. They didn't have much, but what little they did have they cherished: the beat-up soccer ball, the family car, the weedwacker, the television, the dining room table - everything was taken care of and used to its max. It's sad, but this way of life was pretty new to me. What's even more sad is I forgot about that for a pretty long time.

I say I want simplicity, but I hardly ever follow through. I love one blanket, so I buy two more. I love my soccer ball, but I get another. Why? Mostly because I can. Or maybe because I feel like the more I have the better. I know that isn't true, (actually the more I have the more unhappy I get usually) but for some reason I believe it any way. Instead it would be nice, I think, for me to have so few things in my house that dust hardly gathered on any of it. It's certainly possible, my Costa Rican family did it and I saw it week after week. I want that kind of simplicity. Now it's time for the follow through.

April 21, 2007


The day has finally come when one of Chase Vaughan's incredible songs has made its way to video! Thanks to Rachael Traylor, an up and coming video director, Battleship was recently released to the public. Starring Anna Garrett and Ryan Chriscoe, as well as Chase Vaughan himself, the video is everything I hoped it would be. I have been waiting for this day for a long time. Thank you Rachael for your incredible vision, and Chase for your incredible lyrics and song. Enjoy!

You Don't Want No Drama

I've always liked Alanis Morissette, but I didn't know she was this funny: on April 1st Alanis Morissette made a cover of The Black Eyed Peas video "My Humps" and it has been an internet sensation. To make fun of the original video, Alanis's is set at as slower pace and she is overly dramatic. The Associated Press wrote that Morissette's "quiet, somber version only highlights the ridiculousness of Fergie's original lyrics" and I totally agree. Alanis's voice is great and her humor is appreciated. Check out the two videos and see which one you like; the current viewcount on YouTube is 5.7 million for Alanis's video and 1.2 million for the original. Thanks Alanis!

April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

We are sad. We are sad because of what has happened at Virginia Tech. We are sad because we know violence and murder are possible and we are sad because we know we are all vulnerable to tremendous suffering. I do not have commentary comparable to the incredible stories being told right now by all of the students and faculty affected at Virginia Tech, but I do have some things I would like to share. If you are interested in helping Virginia Tech, in the weeks and months to come, please start by watching their school's convocation from this afternoon. Right now I think the spirit of many of the students throughout our nation is to help. We are inspired and we have the noble and kind desire to do everything we can to assist those in need. Whether that desire leads you to write on their memorial website, give to their memorial fund, or share your thoughts with your friends and family, whenever that desire might lead you, I would urge you to follow it. As Nikki Giovanni said so powerfully today to close the Convocation:

"We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility, we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies! We will prevail, we will prevail, we are, Virginia Tech."

We are with you.

April 12, 2007

It's Dot Com!

So you want to create a website...well maybe you do...okay, so the thought has crossed your mind. Whatever the case, creating a website is easy and if you have any interest in doing it, I say go for it. In the last month I have created two websites (TravisHellstrom.com and LynchUnited.com) which, while basic and free, have been very fun and easy to do. If you want to create your own website, or one for your dog or whoever, I have written this for you. I hope it is helpful.

For starters, there are lots of ways to make a website: some are free, some are not, some are hard, and some are easy. I preferred to make a free and easy one (using GooglePages). To do this yourself, here are some instructions:

First, to make a free website through GooglePages you have to have a Gmail account. If you don't have one, just sign up for one. Next, sign in to your Gmail account and then visit GooglePages.com. From here it couldn't get a whole lot easier. To create a new page click on "Create a New Page." To change your page look or page layout click on "Change Look" or "Change Layout." The step by step instructions available in the help section and the easy layout of the entire site make all of these changes very easy. Now, I know there are only a select group of templates available for your pages (this is the one downside to GooglePages right now) but they are still pretty nice. I hope you like one of them. Create as many pages as you want, link them together however you want, and upload 100 mb of anything you want to your site. Now you can embed YouTube videos (using YouTube's embedding link), upload your own pictures, documents or music and create links to other websites. There is no limit to the amount of webpages you can make, and your imagination is your only limitation. In fact, if you want to make more than one website, that's fine too. You can have five different websites per e-mail address, all with their own web addresses (suchandsuch.googlepages.com). Although your first website will be your e-mailaddress.googlepages.com, each address after that will be customizable. Congratulations! This is all you need to get started! I hope you enjoy making your own website. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message.

*Also, here's a neat option too: you could really make your website a Dot Com by buying your own domain and sending that domain to your website. This is called Domain Forwarding. Basically, you can buy a domain name (like LynchUnited.com) and then have people who type that address in forwarded to your real website (lynchunited.googlepages.com). If you've always wanted a domain name like YourName.com, it's easy. It will cost about $9 (through GoDaddy.com) and all you have to do is type in the domain on their homepage in the open box. They will search for it and tell you if it's available for purchase. If it is you can buy it right then. Next, just set up your new domain name to forward to your GooglePages website. Log into My Account at GoDaddy.com, scroll down to All Products and click on Manage Domain Forwarding. Click on the domain name you wish to forward. Select Enable and then type in your Googlepages website address here (e.g. http://lynchunited.googlepages.com). Select 301 Moved Permanently. Now the next part is optional. Domain Masking is a way of hiding that you are actually on a different site. For example, LynchUnited.com and TravisHellstrom.com are both masked. You can't tell you've been forwarded to another site. Depending on what you want, select Mask Domain or just forget about it. That's your choice. Click Okay and you're done! Wait a few minutes and now you have your own website and your own Dot Com. Congratulations! I hope you like it!

On a lighter note, "It's Dot Com!" is a reference to HomestarRunner's Welcome Speech. Check it out, you might like it.