You Got Me What?! V-Day Edition

I just can’t get by with one weird holiday items blog post a year. Plus, it’s been two months since my last post, and that’s a cardinal sin in blogland.

So, with the latest snow storm swirling outside and in the spirit of cold-induced procrastination (Read: I don’t want to go outside), here are some of the oddest Valentine’s Day gift options I could find on the interwebs today. Sadly, it wasn’t that hard.

1. Protein Panties?

First of all, a Google search for ‘weird Valentine’s Day gifts’ actually returns a disturbing amount of items for the kinkiest of fetishists out there. Meaning you’re not so much into feet or whips and chains as you are in naughty knitting or penis-shaped cakes. In an effort to pick just one of this type of gift choices, I’ve gone with Brief Jerky, because the name is genius and I’m a sucker for anything featuring smoked meat. If you follow that link, there’s even a DIY how-to.

brief jerky

2. Points for Fundraising

Kudos to the Bronx Zoo for trying a holiday-themed money-maker for their important nonprofit, but they might have picked an animal slightly more cute and cuddly for adoption than a Madagascar Hissing Roach. Seriously, naming a star in the galaxy after your beloved is so last century. Over-sized insects are the ‘I love you’ of the future.

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3. 12 Steps to Love

I can actually think of a few people in my life who would legitimately love this gift, and it is rather creative and crafty. Forget the cookies, candy bars, or —  horror — actual flowers… give a booze bouquet. Fun fact… this idea comes to you from the hallowed halls of Illinois State University.

4. Eat my Face

If you’re still hoping to give a traditional present with a twist, there are chocolates molded into just about anything available out there. Really – think of the weirdest item you can and Google it along with the word ‘chocolate’ and you’ll find it. Here’s my latest favorite — Chocolate made to look like you and your partner’s faces. It’s a great idea, if not a little self-involved… aside though: is it me or does the couple in the photo below look like they’re experiencing some sort of allergic reaction?

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 9.50.05 AM

5. I Love You, Now Get to Work.

For the sweetie you hope to cajole into bringing home more bacon (and yes, there’s plenty of V-Day-themed bacon out there, too), might I suggest the handmade desk organizer. Points for the need to use power tools to make it, but couldn’t it at least be in the shape of a heart? Slackers.

valentines day gift ideas

I Would Like, If I May, to take you on a PodCamp Journey.

Saturday, Feb. 25 brought with it the fourth installment of an annual event that’s become as ingrained in me as my loves for pasta and cheese.

PodCamp Western Mass. 4 convened at Holyoke Community College and welcomed more than 120 campers. Brings a tear to my nerdy little eye.

This is a holy day for me, and for many friends and colleagues, in part because much of the other 364 days of the year is spent answering the question ‘What’s a PodCamp?’.

As we’ve found over the last few years, though, the best way to explain PCWM is to show and tell. So, with some bold-faced emphasis on new or cool tidbits I noticed throughout the day, enjoy my PCWM4 Wrap-up and please chime in with any questions or additional tips in the comments!

The day began with check-in at the gorgeous Kittredge Business Center at Holyoke Community College. My co-organizers and I can’t thank HCC enough for this beautiful, technology-hip space.

Leslie and Kelly at the check-in table

That’s Lesley and Kelly manning the check-in table, armed with coffee and an iPad check-in system. Attendees only needed to scroll down to their name, press a green button, and move on to collect their official PodCamp Western Mass. t-shirt.

podJax

That’s me explaining said shirt and pointing out the ‘Trail Blazer’ sponsors printed on the back: HCC, New England Promotional Marketing, The Businews Channel, and Winstanley Partners. We stayed with the same QR code design for the shirts as in years past – the code on the front leads anyone to the PCWM website. BLTees in Palmer, Mass. is the brainiac print shop behind our shirts. If you’re anywhere between Worcester and Pittsfield — or even if you’re not — use BLTees. Their work is impeccable and their shop is way cool:

BLTees

QR codes were everywhere at camp this year, though. Presenters placed QR codes leading to online copies of their slide decks, white papers, and helpful apps and software next to the session board or in their presentation rooms. I was also handed more than one business card with a QR code printed on it.

Campers got swag bags contributed by sponsor NEPM and filled with goodies from Lesley Lambert Realtor, Julianne Krutka Realtor, Finck & Perras Insurance, Cambridge Credit Counseling, Grow My Company, and Bacon and Wilson Attorneys at Law. The bags were a new treat this year and uber-cool! They’re the kind of little backpack-style bags that are great for day hikes.

We placed the session board on a first floor wall this year, but attendees  quickly realized they could see the whole day’s schedule from a better vantage point on the second floor and the stairs. The session board is an agenda that doesn’t exist until that morning because it’s based on what campers want to learn about and/or teach —  I love this photo of everyone taking a bird’s eye view.

Checking out the Session Board

Session board eagle's eye view

After a quick gander at the sessions, I started off with a presentation on Augmented Reality (AR) led by PCWM co-founder and overall mensch Morriss Partee.

Momarks
Essentially, Augmented Reality refers to apps or software that add a new layer of information to our surroundings. Think Arnold Schwartzenegger’s bionic eyes in Terminator; not only can you see the burly biker in front of you, but also his measurements, how much gas is left in the tank of his hog, and whether or not his sunglasses will fit a cyborg’s head. Theoretically.

Existing AR apps aren’t so far removed from this scenario, though. Here are a few we discussed during Mo’s session:

Yelp’s Monocle, which uses the phone’s GPS and compass to display markers for restaurants, bars and other nearby businesses on top of the camera’s view. Read more at ReadWriteWeb.

HistoryPin.com connects the past with the future — users can scan their surroundings to see what they used to look like. Say you’re sitting in the library; through user-submitted photos and video, iPhone and ‘droid users can point their phones at the stacks in front of them to see what they looked like 20 years ago, or if they were even there 60 years ago.

Star Chart. This app allows users to point their phone at the sky day or night, inside or out, and see a map of the stars complete with constellation outlines. Smart Person Tip (thanks Christine): Point the phone at not just the ceiling, but the floor. The sky is above and below us.

You can see more examples on Mo’s blog here.

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The next session I checked out covered Pinterest, the current darling of social media. Led by my friend Lesley Lambert, who also happens to be one of the most social-media-savvy Realtors on the planet, the hour offered an overview followed by a deep-dive look at ways to best use Pinterest as an individual and a business. Rather than try to rehash LL’s brilliance, I’ll simply direct you to her slideshow here. The big takeaway: show you’re human, and the humans will flock.

12 p.m.: Lunch. Bistro Boxes. Nom.

HCC’s catering group provided the lunch boxes, which ranged from Boursin cheese and veggie wraps to roast beef and tarragon sammies, along with sides, drinks, and cookies for dessert. The cranberry-orzo salad side was my personal fave.

Shortly after lunch, WGGB, an ABC affiliate, interviewed a few of us for the nightly news. While my segment is akin to Malcolm Jamal Warner’s on the Cosby Show episode in which he finds a dead mobster in a pond (seen here at the 8:20 mark), I’m still super proud and I love the Etsy shout-out of LL’s Twitter Earrings at the close.

Next on deck: The Speak Up! Audio Session with Mike Thompson and Drew Thompson Hooke of The Workshop. For the first time in PCWM history, Mike and Drew had to repeat their session three times throughout the day to meet camper demand.

Audio Session with Mike and Drew

They covered everything from the pros and cons to different types of microphones (cardioid vs. omnidirectional – look at my lingo!) to production tricks when creating vids, podcasts, commercials, and more. Plus, they ended their presentation with demos of two technology-based instruments – a MIDI glove and a propane-tank drum wired to a soundboard. If that’s not a cool factor IDK what is.

Mike and Drew hope the developing prototypes have potential in the gaming industry, and I can’t see why not. Thanks to them, I now know what it sounds like when I flip the bird. (It’s kind of like traffic jam-meets-Rosemary’s Baby.)

Me and the Music Glove!

After listening intently to Speak Up!, I switched gears and led my own session – Social Photography. Make it Work. (My thanks to Tim Gunn.)

My presentation was geared toward the novice and intermediate social media user, and looked at different ways SM can be used to improve visibility online for individuals and brands. I reviewed some of my own tips and tricks, and attendees offered some, too. Here are a few:

BigHugeLabs.com. Whether you want to create a masthead for your blog, a facebook landing page, a Twitter background, or find complementary colors for the trim in your bedroom, BHL is the place to start. It’s a hotbed of easy-to-use photo editing tools that are as fun as they are useful.

PhotoFetcher. A WordPress plug-in that allows for easy set-up of photo galleries. I had not heard of this before… thus the awesomeness of PodCamp.I must also admit I haven’t yet figured out how to add it to my blog, but when I do, I’ll report back.

Picnik/Google+. Picnik is moving its creative tools over to Google+ in April, but I suspect the features will remain largely the same. For now, anyone can use Picnik’s premium tools at no cost.

Thanks, Seth Kaye for this HappyJax photo.

At this point, there’s one session to go at PCWM4, and we’re all a little punch-drunk with knowledge. For me, that means there’s no better place to go than a session led by web-channel creator, Creative Strategy Agency owner, pizza-lovin’, loud-laughin’ Alfonso Santaniello.

Al led a discussion on Google+ that included instructions on how to claim your Google+ vanity URL (go here) and a lot of tomfoolery. He’s a good sport to lead one of the last sessions of the day that nevertheless welcomed about half of all of the day’s campers.

Al and Julianne

Here’s Al mulling over what he’s going to say while Julianne Krutka and Thom Fox mug for the cameraphone.

That’s the long and short of it… overall, our largest year ever, with a few constants (it snowed again) and a few surprises (Robo-Glove comes to mind, not to mention the impromptu Happy Birthday song for Republican reporter Patrick Johnson.)

Were you there? What’d you think? Did you miss it?

Why?