Gunning Daily News

Hip to Be Square: Custom QR Codes Can Help Brand Your Product and Deliver Results

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Advanced Telecom Services announces its new ATS QR code service that provides custom QR codes to businesses and organizations. 

With ATS QR Codes, products and organizations can brand custom QR codes with easily recognizable logos and graphics. This gives added emphasis to the QR code and enables it to better represent the brand or product and stand out in the advertisement to secure larger amounts of scans from consumers. 

“One of the raps against QR codes has been that it is nothing more than a square box of squiggly black and white lines that don’t represent one brand over another,” says Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services. “Custom QR codes enhance the look and feel of the customer interaction.” 

According to Bentz, custom QR codes have been one of the most talked-about mobile marketing products in the last few months. Companies are using them mostly because of the unique design. And, they are enhancing the promotions with a mobile web site that shows up better on the smaller screen of the mobile phone. 

“It is important to look like your brand from the outside and the inside,” adds Frank Mazza, lead designer for Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code division. "A custom QR code does just that." 

QR codes were invented by Denso-Ware—a subsidiary of Toyota—in 1994, to track parts for vehicle manufacturing in Japan. The bar codes have been popular in Japan and Korea for many years, but are more recently becoming part of marketing efforts in the United States and Canada. 

In Canada, QR codes are used on the front page of the Canadian passport application to speed up the processing of new passports. United Airlines, among other innovative airlines, uses QR codes as boarding passes. And, when you sign up for Google Places, you’ll receive a decal QR code for your front door that links visitors to your web site.

Hanging On to Good Manners—Six Ways to Raise Socially Gifted Children

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

In today’s electronic social environment, where a text or a Tweet is a commonplace stand-in for personal or vocal contact, it is not surprising that even very young children seem to be born with their fingers on a keyboard. But, according to proponents of the social graces, children need to be taught the value of old fashioned courtesy.

“Demonstrating good manners makes others feel good,” says Arizona teacher Donna Holmes. “It also marks your child as caring and respectful.”

Holmes, who teaches that “courtesy is cool,” suggests six ways to keep your child on the right track to being polite:
• Be a model—Children learn manners from their parents. If you routinely say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ both at home and in the community, they likely will as well.
• Set your standards—Anything that is not appropriate at Grandma’s house is not appropriate at home. “I want some juice” should be rephrased as, “May I have some juice, please?” or “Please pass the potatoes.”
• Table manners matter—Children should be taught early to stay in their chairs, use a napkin, use utensils rather than fingers, and say, “please” when asking for something.
• Voice matters, too—Shouting is not appropriate except perhaps on the sports field—and even then, parents should refrain from yelling at the Little League umpire. Children should be taught to speak in a moderate tone of voice, and to identify themselves when answering the telephone.
• Meeting and greeting—Many young children are naturally shy. Good manners when meeting someone new should mean looking them in the eye, smiling, and shaking hands or saying, “nice to meet you.” Practice with your children to help them develop these skills.
• Mind those p’s and q’s—Children should learn from adults not to be rude or insolent. The rule for good manners should be, “never intentionally hurt someone else’s feelings.”

Grow Your Own Apartment Garden

June 14, 2011 5:21 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant devoted some ink recently to homeowners looking for better looking lawns—so how about some springtime conversation for you apartment and condo-dwellers? 

Why not make this your year to eat off your balcony—by growing your own patio or balcony garden of course! You can really enjoy a grow-your-own bounty from as little space as a window box provides. 

The folks at veggiegardener.com recently blogged about the five best vegetable planters for patios and balconies, so let’s take a look at a few: 

The EarthBox Garden Kit (earthbox.com) claims to be a super easy-to-use container gardening kit that features wheels for easy mobility, and takes just a few minutes to set up. It comes with everything you need to quickly grow great vegetables, including fertilizer, domolite and two germination covers. Just add potting soil and your favorite vegetable plants. 

The EarthBox fits in a spot as small as 30” by 13-1/2” by 12” and has a 2-1/2-cubic-foot soil capacity, so you can certainly start by planting plenty of herbs. But some owners of the EarthBox say they’ve had success with tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, peppers, cucumbers, squash and corn—up to 16 corn stalks for one user!
For really cramped patio or balcony space, go for the Mini-Garden Stacker. It features nine pockets to hold herbs or flowers, is self-watering, and collapses for easy storage. 

These planters can also be used for dry climate vegetation with a simple modification, and these planters can be stacked up to ten tiers high. You can even grow your own strawberries. The Mini-Garden Stacker is available at many home and garden centers and sites starting around $50. 

Finally, if you love tomatoes pick up a set of Tomato Grow Bags, which are gaining popularity as one of the preferred ways to easily grow tomatoes without any weeding or digging. The grow bags are porous so the plant roots can breathe and to allow for water drainage. Each bag holds about 15 gallons of soil and can accommodate two tomato plants. 

These little beauties are also widely available on the web or at local gardening establishments. If you want more tips, go to veggiegardener.com to grab a free copy of their e-book with 101 tips for growing your own fresh vegetables.

Question of the Day

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Q: What about a hybrid loan?

A: Also called a fixed-period ARM, these crossbreed loans combine features of fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages.

They start out with a fixed interest rate for a number of years—usually 3, 5, 7 or 10 years—and then convert to an ARM.

Initially, the interest rate for the fixed period of the loan is much lower than the rate on a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage by about 1.5 percentage points. As a result, the hybrid allows borrowers to buy a lot more home than they can afford —but at greater risk.

The terms and fees for these loans vary widely and when the fixed-rate period expires, homeowners could end up paying considerably more than the current rate of interest.

Before considering a hybrid, pay close attention to the terms, fees, and prepayment penalties.


Word of the Day

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

As is. Said of property offered for sale in its present condition with no guarantees as to quality and no promise of repair or fix-up by the seller; property is purchased in exactly the condition in which it is found.

Concrete Design Options That Enhance Home Exteriors

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Enhance the curb appeal of a home’s exteriors with six innovative concrete design options compiled by ConcreteNetwork.com. These six popular options—great for exterior home design and improvement—show how concrete can be applied to various areas of a home’s façade, transforming the overall character of a home. 

Over the years, home builders have started to focus less and less on the exterior design of a home, while putting more emphasis on interior design. Homes are more frequently being designed with little to no exterior character, which can lessen curb appeal. 

Simple upgrades made to exterior siding, entryways, walkways, driveways, landscaping and architectural elements can make a home unique and more alluring. Here are six concrete design possibilities to enhance a lackluster home exterior:

1. For driveways, colors and textures can make a noticeable difference.

2. Walkways can benefit from custom stamped patterns and staining.

3. Landscaping can be accentuated with the use of decorative concrete curbing.

4. Entryways can be more inviting by adding a flight of steps and a decorative finish.

5. Adding architectural accents with precast concrete columns, arches and more can personalize a home.

6. Exterior siding can be enhanced with faux stone and stucco applications made from concrete. 

For more design ideas and tips on increasing a home’s curb appeal through landscaping, visit LandscapingNetwork.com.

Why Don't My Credit Scores Match?

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Perhaps your clients have truly realized that now is a great time to buy and they want to take advantage of some great home-buying opportunities before they disappear.

Interest rates are still low for people with excellent credit, so advise your clients to update their records and purchase a credit report from a reputable credit report provider.

However, while the score they saw was a 920, they score the lender pulls up is an 810—what happened?

First, you need to understand a little about credit scores. Your credit score is a three-digit number that helps lending institutions assess their risk associated with lending you money. Credit scores are used for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and credit cards.

However, it doesn’t end there. Your score may also be considered for non-lending purposes, such as new utility services, cell phone services, renting an apartment, a lease, auto insurance and even to assess your character as part of a new job background check.

People with lower credit scores may pay higher interest rates or may not be approved at all. Whereas, those with higher, less-risky credit scores often qualify for lower interest rates and special options. Credit scores are calculated based on computer “predictability” models. These models are designed to compare and analyze credit information and credit utilization patterns from your credit report against thousands of other consumers. The data is then evaluated using a complex mathematical algorithm that generates a credit score the moment a report is ordered.

There are literally trillions of score combinations used in the calculations. Most credit scores are calculated and provided individually by each credit bureau, including the three major ones in the U.S., which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Additionally, many lenders use third-party credit scoring systems, such as FICO, NextGen, CE Score and VantageScore. For consumers, the variations in scoring models and score ranges can create some confusion.

In 2006, the three major bureaus joined forces to create a single credit scoring system called the VantageScore. The VantageScore and FICO model lead the industry as competitive rivals in credit-scoring systems.

VantageScore provides a standardized universal mathematical formula to create a credit score from data found on reports from the three major bureaus. Your VantageScore may not be exactly the same if your lender only orders a credit report from one of the bureaus. This is because the data each bureau receives may be slightly different.

As an example, if your auto loan lender does not report your payment history to Equifax but does report it to Experian and TransUnion, it will create a difference in scores. In theory, the VantageScore should be more consistent across all three bureaus since the mathematical formula is the same.

Unlike FICOs traditional 300-850 credit score range, the VantageScore ranges from 501-990. There is no true way to compare the results of the VantageScore to a FICO score especially when the formulas are constantly changing. However, to put some perspective in place, a 650 FICO score approximately compares to a low, 800-range VantageScore.

Although the exact formulas and algorithms for calculating credit scores are closely guarded secrets, FICO and Vantage do provide general key characteristics that drive their credit scoring models. The one constant for both scoring systems is that paying your debts on time will typically be the primary factor that positively impacts your credit score.

Great Ideas for Creating an Innovative Environment

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

Despite the dissolution of job perks or cuts that have occurred in this economy, many people are still enjoying their jobs. Why? Because of their company’s culture—especially one that invites idea-sharing and innovation; employees feel like they are contributing to something.

Here, score.org offers five ways you can create an innovative and collaborative environment:

1. Show your employees that you think of innovation as an ongoing process. Some ideas will work and many won’t. Keep experimenting.

2. Listen, listen, listen. Innovation is a collaborative process.

3. Be open to “accidents,” the unexpected connections that spark new ideas. Inspiration comes from everywhere—often from outside your own field.

4. Draw on your own employees—they know the company’s problems and goals best. This is probably one time you don’t need outside consultants.

5. Be patient. Creativity can’t be hurried.


5 Money Saving Tips

June 13, 2011 4:21 pm

These clever tips help keep your cash where it belongs—in your pocket! 

1. Buy Bulk with a Friend
Know your needs. Bulk items are only worth buying if you can use them before they expire. Consider shopping with a friend and splitting perishables such as meat and dairy products. 

2. Inexpensive Art
Take a photo of something you love—a dog that comes every time you call, a keepsake with beautiful cursive and a colorful stamp, your lucky Tuesday-night poker deck. You can blow it up with some hassle-free Internet help, then frame it, hang it, and be enormously happy every time you walk by. 

3. Make Clothes Last Longer
Prepare your clothes for the washer by closing zippers, fastening hooks, and turning items inside out. Wash darks together using the cold-water cycle so they don't bleed onto lighter clothes—and cold water is crucial, since it lowers your water-heating costs. Line-drying dark items will also help maintain their original appearance—and you'll save on heating costs of the dryer.

4. Pass on the Paper Towels
Instead of spending money on pack after pack of paper towels, buy reusable microfiber towels, which grip dirt and dust like a magnet and don't let go, even when wet. When you're finished, toss the towels in the wash and reuse. (One brand to try: Method, available at Target and Office Depot.)
5. Adjust Your Water Heater

Lower your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees to restrict heat loss. The exception: dishwashers. Check if yours has a "booster heater" for sanitizing 140-degree rinsing. Your potential annual savings: $450 and 215 pounds of emissions.

For more money saving tips, visit www.marthastewart.com.

Play It Cool This Summer: National Trauma Institute Offers Safety Tips for Families during a Fun yet Dangerous Season

June 10, 2011 11:19 am

As final school bells ring and families put the finishing touches on vacation itineraries, emergency rooms are preparing for "trauma season" in a very different way. The National Trauma Institute (NTI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing death and disability related to trauma injury, warns the best laid summer plans and activities can often lead to serious injury and death related to preventable accidents.

Traumatic injury is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 44, and accounts for more than 37 million emergency department visits each year. The number of emergency room admissions across the country will spike this summer from trauma-related incidents including motor vehicle crashes, bike accidents, falls, near-drownings and other hazards related to summertime activities.

"Someone in the U.S. dies every three minutes from traumatic injury," says Sharon Smith, executive director of NTI. "Our country and world have already witnessed massive amounts of devastation and injury this year from natural disasters beyond anyone's control. It's crucial to keep ourselves and our children safe using common sense and simple measures to prevent injury whenever possible."

NTI offers the following tips to keep you and your family out of harm's way this summer and all year round:

Make auto safety a priority. Always avoid texting or cell phone use while driving, properly attach car seats for children and map out routes ahead of time. Program a dashboard GPS unit, or if necessary, pull the car over to a safe place before consulting a map.
• Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your home and car. Not every injury qualifies as a traumatic one, of course, but untreated bleeding can make a moderate injury much worse. A well-stocked first aid kit will help you address everything from cuts to more severe injuries.
• Keep fire extinguishers in and around the house. In a multi-story home, there should be one on each floor, or at least near the kitchen and master bedroom. For outdoor grills, BBQs and bonfire pits, keep a fire extinguisher and/or hose attached to an outdoor faucet nearby.
• Wear protective equipment and safety gear at all times. Adults and children alike should always wear helmets, elbow and knee pads when biking, skating and riding on motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
• Always use caution in the water. Keep enough life jackets on board a boat for every passenger. Never leave children alone in the water, and only swim in designated areas of a beach supervised by a lifeguard.
• Keep cell phone chargers in your car, home and office. A properly charged cell phone is a lifeline in the event of serious injury. Getting qualified first responders to the scene in a timely manner can literally be the difference between life and death.
Know where the closest trauma center is. Only certain hospitals around the country have the resources to be a designated trauma center. Locate an accredited facility near you at http://www.facs.org/trauma/verified.html.

About the National Trauma Institute
The National Trauma Institute (NTI) assembles public and private resources to support trauma research across the country, sets a national trauma research agenda, and supports military and civilian innovation and collaboration in trauma care and research. Since 2008, the organization has awarded $4 million to 16 studies now taking place in 20 states. Learn more about NTI at www.nationaltraumainstitute.org.