Saturday, December 9, 2017

Soul Sustenance: The Shepherd - A Story of the First Christmas

 VidAngel is an entertainment app empowering families to filter language, nudity, violence, and other mature content from movies and TV shows streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO. Available on modern devices such as iOS, Android, ROKU, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV, the app continues to grow in popularity. VidAngel Studios, the company’s original content division, has had tremendous success with its clean standup comedy series, Dry Bar Comedy, which consistently ranks among VidAngel’s most viewed content.

Director Dallas Jenkins is releasing the pilot episode, “The Shepherd: A Story of the First Christmas” on VidAngel to generate investment interest in the upcoming series “The Chosen”, the first-ever, multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus.

“86% of VidAngel’s users say their faith is extremely important to them This vastly underserved audience deserves more content they want to see, and that’s why we selected The Chosen as our first major scripted series. We believe passionately that the story of Jesus is must-watch, binge worthy TV for untold millions, and we also believe that thousands will catch this vision and enthusiastically support this project,” said Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel “We have already changed the way families view their content at home, now VidAngel Studios is going to change the way that content is created, and distributed. We are thrilled to be working with Dallas Jenkins and his team, and have already been stunned by the overwhelming reaction to his concept pilot, ‘The Shepherd’.”

The Chosen Productions, using the resources of distributor VidAngel, has launched a campaign to gauge the potential public interest in investing in The Chosen. Directed by Dallas Jenkins, the series is spearheaded by Executive Producer Matthew Faraci, known for Dove Channel’s Frankly Faraci and Heavenquest: A Pilgrim’s Progress, and Executive ProducerDerral Eves, a leading social media expert who has helped generate 24 billion views of content on YouTube and is founder of VidSummit, the leading professional conference for social media creators.

        The Chosen Facebook page:
        The Chosen official website:
        Fans can save a spot in line at 


VidAngel is the market-leading entertainment app empowering families to filter language, nudity, violence, and other mature content from movies and TV shows streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO. Available on modern devices such as iOS, Android, ROKU, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV, the app continues to grow in popularity. VidAngel Studios, the company’s original content division, has had tremendous success with its clean standup comedy series, Dry Bar Comedy, which consistently ranks among VidAngel’s most viewed content.

Thrifty Thinking: Ditch the Dollar for Alternative Currencies Online

More and more retailers are helping consumers ditch the dollar and pay with services like Bitcoin, eChecks, Apple Pay and Google Wallet.  
Take a look at this infographic to see who is accepting what.  You might be surprised at how many retailers are accepting these alternative forms of payment (Like Apple Pay at Lululemon and Bitcoin at Overstock and for donations at Save the Children)

Healthy Habits: My Diabetes Coach

Healthcare software design and development firm, Macadamian, today announced that My Diabetes Coach™ was awarded Runner Up and $15,000 in the eleventh annual 2017 HITLAB World Cup of Voice-Activated Technology in Diabetes presented by Novo Nordisk, an international challenge where innovators present original solutions to pressing global healthcare challenges.

My Diabetes Coach is a unique way to improve the health of youth with type 2 diabetes by creating an intelligent, voice-enabled system – using Amazon’s Alexa – that provides accurate, empathetic, personalized feedback and suggestions based on individual behaviors.

Macadamian is collaborating on My Diabetes Coach with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario — Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre’s (CHEO – OCTC) pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Stasia Hadjiyannakis.
Leveraging Macadamian’s Hive software platform, the team is developing a voice-enabled and connected health solution that includes a custom developed mobile application, Amazon Alexa skill (voice enabled application), integration with popular wearables, and a Bluetooth glucometer interface, all of which ties into a patient portal and a database with patient support content. The solution is being designed to complement and enhance the initiatives of the clinician and members of the patient’s circle of care. Voice interaction and gamification are also being integrated to encourage and reward patients, while providing advice and guidance to those that are struggling.

In youth with type 2 diabetes, blood sugars are affected by nutrition, activity, sleep, stress and prescribed medication, often including insulin injections and day-to-day measurement of blood sugar levels. Achieving blood-sugar targets for youth with type 2 diabetes is critical to preventing diabetes-related health complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, early heart disease and amputation.

My Diabetes Coach is a unique approach to overcome the barriers of more traditional modes of communication — phone calls and email are now less desirable to youth — by connecting with youth directly using the intelligence of their smartphones or other home systems and introducing peer to peer mentorship opportunities.
This solution is aimed at improving and strengthening the teamwork between clinician, parent and child in diabetes management, and reducing diabetes-related family conflict, which results in better control of blood sugar levels.

Watch this video to get a better sense of how My Diabetes Coach will work.
About Macadamian
Macadamian is a full-service user centered software design and development firm focused on the healthcare industry. From product ideation to market ready – and everything in between, we provide a complete range of usability, design and engineering services. From healthcare organizations to mid-size enterprises; our solutions are founded in research-informed design first while leveraging the cloud, big data, and Internet of Things to deliver context-aware and adaptive experiences. Macadamian is headquartered in Gatineau, Canada and also has offices in Armenia, and Romania.

Thrifty Thinking: Costco vs. Amazon

Is it cheaper to shop at a brick & mortar Costco store or online at Amazon? After comparing 38 identical items (and many free samples from Costco!) from each place, LendEDU was able to crunch the numbers in their comparison of Costco vs. Amazon
The key findings:
  • If all 38 items were purchased at the exact same time, buying off Amazon would be 12.10% more expensive than shopping at a physical Costco store
  • On average, Amazon items were 56.48% more expensive than the identical items at the Costco store
  • The most narrow price difference was with technology products, and Beats 3 wireless earphones were actually 21.12% cheaper on Amazon
  • The widest price difference that favored Costco was with food and beverage products that, on average, were 120.15% cheaper at Costco

Movie Minute: Despicable Me 3

My kids love the Despicable Me/Minions franchise, so I was thrilled to be able to help promote the release of Despicable Me 3.

In this movie, Gru finds out that he has a twin brother. The whole family travels to meet him, where there's quite a bit of sibling rivalry and hijinks as Gru gets pulled into a heist. But then, there's a new villain in town, a former child star who lost his fame when he was no longer cute and now seeks to make his name widely known again.

The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD have bonus material, including a new mini-movie, Minion moments, deleted scene, background information, AVL files, infomercials from the Despicable Me world, Minion mugshots and wanted posters, and more.

If you or your kids liked the other Despicable Me movies, they'll enjoy this one as well.

Learn more:
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YouTube: espicableMeMovie

Consumer Critique: Thank You Bees

It can be hard as parents to create appreciation for the world around us in our youngest children who aren't old enough to understand significant environmental issues. However, a book I recently got to review, Thank You Bees, written and illustrated by Toni Yuly, does a good job of introducing gratitude for all the earth gives us.

Each page has a simple statement of what we receive, and then a thank you. "Sheep give us wool...Thank you sheep." This simple pattern drives the whole book, and introduces toddlers and early readers to the idea that what we have comes from somewhere, cultivating thankfulness. The simple, bright illustrations have bold, kid-friendly colors to add to the enjoyment of the book. It's a good book for anyone who wants to start teaching awareness and respect for our world to their little ones.

Book Nook: When Did Everybody Else Get So Old

Time is a funny thing. It is odd to see some of my high school teachers who look much older than they were in high school, and yet feel like it hasn't been that long. Events that happened when my children were toddlers seem like forever ago, but they've aged in a heartbeat.

It's this funny sense of time that goes along with the title for a book I got to review, When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife. I'm not quite at that stage yet, but it was still an interesting read. Jennifer Grant explores issues commonly reached in midlife - loss, aging, family changes. She tells open stories of disappointment and bruised egos, faith struggles, and loss of relationships, people, and dreams. But she also shares hope and confidence that comes with the wisdom of years.

Overall, despite the challenges, the book is good-natured and uplifting, recognizing the struggles while enjoying the benefits of change and transition.

Book Nook: A Century of Progress - A Photographic Tour of the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair

I recently had a chance to review A Century of Progress: A Photographic Tour of the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair. When I first saw this book, I thought it was right up my husband's alley - and it definitely combines several of his interests. He loves taking photography, he is intrigued by historical photos and seeing what life was like at different eras, and he is also enjoys things like planes and trains and other technological advances.

This book contains over one hundred rare and sometimes never-before-published photos from the world's fair. Its motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms" and celebrated many of the new developments of the time. At the same time, it contained things that are in poor taste now - the peek-a-boo dance at the Streets of Paris exhibit and "Midget City," for example.

The introduction and foreword give some background on the fair and the collection and selection of these images. It's quite a variety of images that are included in the book, and it really gives readers a taste for what the fair was like.

This book would make a great gift for anyone interested in history, photography, or technology - and even better for someone interested in all three.

Consumer Critique: Healing Tree Vegan Natural Lip Balm

I recently had a chance to review The Healing Tree Vegan Natural Lip Balm. This lip balm is all-natural, with no parabens, petroleum jelly, artificial flavors or colors, or animal by-products. It's also not tested on animals, so it's cruelty free. It uses coconut oil and shea butter, along with vitamin E, to soothe and protect dry lips.

In Minnesota, the winters can be dry and cold and very hard on lips. Our current apartment is pretty dry too, so that doesn't help at all. Plus, my daughters and I recently had colds that exacerbate chapped lips. This stuff has really been a blessing this past week. It doesn't taste like anything, really (they do have several naturally-flavored options, but we got the plain). It smoothed on easily, and made lips feel better right away. Plus, it seemed to last for a long time - I didn't find myself reapplying much at all throughout the day. It absorbed well, so it didn't leave residue on drinking glasses shortly after using, but even hours later my lips still felt better than before I had put it on.

The lip balm is also available in mint, coconut oil, beeswax (which contains honey), and coffee.

One way to purchase is to join their club - choose any four products for $29.99 your first month ($44.98 after that), save up to 50% on club items (20% off add-ons), and earn $10 per referral. You can also purchase items individually without signing up. If you're going to try it out, it makes more sense to find four products, since you can cancel anytime! With the range of products they offer though, you just might be able to find enough natural products to keep your subscription going. They offer personal care, joint care, supplements, snacks, teas, and home and garden products.

Thrifty Thinking: How to Choose a Charity Wisely

Americans are giving to charity more than ever. In light of the most recent natural disasters and the holiday season approaching, there’s a new sense of urgency to charitable giving. But how many of us really know how our donations are being spent – and that they’ll make a difference?

Before making donations, donors should do their research to ensure they’re choosing wisely. Evaluators such as Charity Navigator offer charity ratings and in-depth analysis of U.S.-based charities, with criteria including financial management and accountability. Givers should also understand the cause they’re trying to support, and look for charities that effectively address the causes they’re passionate about.

I had a chance to interview Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief – one of the nation’s highest rated and most reputable NGOs. He shared tips on charitable giving, explain red flags, suggest questions that people should ask when making a gift, and offer recommendations for charities.

Here are some tips Thomas shared on the red flags donors should be aware of when getting solicitations.
  • Urgency: You shouldn’t be made to feel rushed into donating – a reputable organization will understand if you need a few days to decide and do some research on the charity in question.
  • Vague Details: Don’t be afraid to ask exactly how your money will be used, how the charity ensures donation integrity, and what percentage of cash donations goes to people in need (vs going to payroll or fundraising). With the worst offending charities, only 2-3% of cash donations actually go to those in need.
  • Fine Print: Many organizations use fine print regarding their use of donated funds. Such language can be easily overlooked but is highly consequential.