Archive for November, 2008

Gadget Friday: The Easy Bloom Plant Sensor

November 21, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewCost: $60

The Easy Bloom Plant Sensor is one of those devices that make me glad I cover high tech. It incorporates smart design, the Internet, and sophisticated sensors to help you figure out why your plants are dying.

So many times I see gadgets that either fail to fill a need, or fill too MANY needs (like the car GPS unit that also plays back MP3’s. What’s up with that?)

The Easy Bloom does just one thing: helps you plant stuff. You take the device, which looks like a large plastic flower, and stick it in the ground in your garden. It measures sunlight and soil moisture over the course of a period of time. You then pull the device apart in the middle and plug the now exposed USB port into your computer.

The sensor communicates back to Easy Bloom headquarters with your particular data. A huge database there – created by botanists – then gives you recommendations based on your particular situation.

There are three ways to use this. The best way is to put the plant sensor where you want to plant in the FUTURE. The device (and the database) will tell you what will grow best in your particular spot. Petunias in the backyard, roses in the front yard.

Alternatively, if you’re already trying to grow something, and failing, you can use the sensor to tell you what’s going wrong. Plant the sensor next to your failing impatiens, and it will figure out why your flowers are so unhappy. (too much sunlight, not enough water, etc).

Lastly, you can take the sensor around the house and stick it in various houseplants, and it will tell you right away whether they need to be watered.

The Easy Bloom will NOT measure soil acidity or fertilizer levels.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Anchor


What Happened to Thanksgiving?!

November 21, 2008

Mike Inouye:
Mike InouyeOn November 1st, the day after Halloween, my son and I were talking about how the nearby pumpkin patch would be gone shortly and we would not be talking about Jack O’Lanterns, candy corn or “trick-or-treating” much longer.

With the curiosity that is a nearly-three-year-old, he asked “What comes next, Daddy?”

“Well,” I thought, “Next is Thanksgiving. You’ll see some pictures of turkeys and lots of things with leaves that are orange, yellow and red.”


Daddy was wrong.

We went directly from candy corn to candy canes… completely skipped the candied yams. (That’s according to retailers, anyway.)

Apparently, this year, we don’t have Thanksgiving.

In fact, Brent, being as observant as any other toddler, even noted the start of the Christmas marketing machine BACK IN SEPTEMBER!!!

I guess we should be grateful we had Halloween at all. 😉

Whether or not we have Thanksgiving in the stores, though, for some reason there are always turkey and cranberry sandwiches through the end of November at the Inouye house.

Happy Holidays, wherever in this season you may be!

Mike Inouye
NBC Bay Area Traffic Anchor

Sit Sasha Sit, Good Dog… I Said Sit Sasha…

November 17, 2008

Craig Herrera:
Craig HerreraTraining dogs and puppies can be quite the adventure. Just when you think your dog has mastered a command like sit, it turns out the master needs to sit and figure out another way to train Fido. After all, training a dog, especially an alpha dog, to have good behavior based on human commands can be “ruff” sometimes… sorry, I couldn’t resist.

I’ve always believed my cute little dog Sasha was so well behaved, and she is, but sometimes I wish I could correct some behaviors that I don’t think are always good. For example, she jumps on people when they come over for a friendly visit because she gets so excited to see the person. She also likes to sit in the kitchen when I am in there. I have a tiny kitchen, and I don’t think she should be in there when I’m preparing a meal. I also want her to stop sitting near the table when we are eating dinner and I also want her to stop snapping at other dogs when we go to the dog park.

We also have a new puppy, a 6-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kaia, and we want her to be well-behaved because she will be about 100 pounds when she is full grown. The last thing I want is for her to jump up on a guest because she is happy to see them at the front door. I’m sure my guests would appreciate it too! 🙂

dogtip1So, I recently went to San Ramon with one of our producers Dana and photojournalist Mark to meet with a man named Don Schellenberg of Bark Busters. Bark Busters is a company that works with humans in training their dogs. Don was amazing and so good at helping us with so many tips. We spent several hours with Don and I wish I had more time to work with him and my two dogs, but the time I did have has helped me tremendously!

I’ve learned from Don that many of Sasha’s actions are based on her thinking she needs to be in control, showing her dominance and trying to establish herself as the alpha dog and in command. Don taught me that I need to be the alpha dog, or alpha anyway, and I need to help her so she knows she can relax, and just play and be a dog.

Don did it all without treats which was great. And he stressed the importance of training dogs to help relieve tension and frustration in homes which results in saving more dogs lives! Those dogs provide so much unconditional love, and they look to us for guidance. Now, I have more tools to help me guide my dogs and we’d like to share some of those tips with you and maybe to help you too. Tune into our morning show weekdays at 6:30AM for some of the tips Don Schellenberg of Bark Busters shared with us! I think you’ll like them. They are already making a difference in our home, I hope they help you too. Have a great day and hug your kids and pets today! 🙂

Craig Herrera
NBC Bay Area News

Gadget Friday: Flip Minio HD

November 14, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewFlip Minio HD $229

We’ve seen the Flip video camera before. It’s that video camera that’s about the size of a pack of cards and uses no tape – it plugs right into your computer.

Flip has had huge success with its cameras. They’re cheap, easy to use, and pretty shock proof. They’re very small, meaning they’ll fit in a pocket, and because (in the past) they’ve been so inexpensive, you can take them to the beach and not worry that much about damaging or losing it.

That formula has translated into great success for Flip, which now has a majority of the market share in video cameras.

The latest, the Minio HD, changes things a bit. It’s expensive – $229. So, I’d be pretty bummed if I dropped it in the water at the seashore.

For the extra expense, though, you get high definition video. It’s really quite amazing when you think of it – an HD video camera that fits in your pocket for a little bit more than $250.

It easily hooks to your computer so you can burn the movie to dvd or send the video to a video service like SmugMug. You can’t easily email HD video – the files are just too large.

Note when I say “HD”, it’s 720. That may not mean much to you, but *true* HD (the kind NBC shows are broadcast in) is 1080. CBS and Fox shows are 720, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. But I thought I would point that out.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Would You Drink It?

November 12, 2008

Laura Garcia Cannon:
Laura Garcia CannonWe had quite a story on the air today.. Did you catch it? Let me recap – hope you’re not thirsty… here’s our script:

When astronauts onboard the space shuttle endeavor head to space on Friday… They’ll bring into orbit something most of us would rather not think about. A mini-sewage treatment plant will be delivered to the international space station. The new system will be efficient enough to turn fluids like urine – human sweat – and bath water, into drinking water! Water is at a premium up in space, and scientists say all moisture needs to be recycled, regardless of how gross the prospect sounds. Astronauts you’re in for a treat!

How is it that NASA would let this incredible technology story come out? Don’t they want to encourage children to join the space program? So it got us asking around in the newsroom, would you drink it? Well would you? I said I’d rather be dehydrated…

Laura Garcia Cannon
NBC Bay Area News

Secret Service Code Names

November 11, 2008

Brent Cannon:
Brent CannonThe first family is gearing up for life in the White House and all the changes that come with being the nation’s First Family.

Today, we reported on the new “code” names the Secret Service gave each member of the President’s family. Barak Obama is known as “Renegade.” Michelle Obama will be “Renaissance” and their daughters will be “Radiance” and “Rosebud.” The names were actually given a while back. All the candidates had them during the campaigns. Sarah Palin was “Denali.”


Why do we need these code names? I guess so that when the Secret Service is watching out for them at various events they can communicate to each other, and perhaps people who might be able to tap into the communication airwaves won’t know who they are talking about. Except – everybody and their dog knows the code names! Media across the country are talking about it. So why bother. Why not just say, “Unit two, here comes Barak – Unit three, Michelle has gone into the house”?

And who comes up with these names? Does the first family have any say? Notice they all start with “R.” When the Obama’s get that new puppy, his code name can be “Rover.”

Oh, and by the way, the Vice President and his family have names too. Joe Biden’s is “Celtic.”

So, if you are Secretary of State do you feel a little ripped off? Like, you are “in” if you hold a cabinet post – but you are “in in” if you are the Prez or Vice Prez.

Since everybody knows the code names – are they fake code names – and only the Secret Service knows the “real” code names? Are there ‘double top secret’ code names?

According to Internet research I did, the code names began with the Truman administration. President Truman’s name was “General.” Dwight Eisenhower was known as “Providence.” And John F. Kennedy – suggesting a Camelot theme, was “Lancer.”

Brent Cannon
NBC Bay Area Anchor

The Fido Friendly Network

November 10, 2008

Craig Herrera:
Craig HerreraPets give so much unconditional love to humans, and one more reason I love those furry little animals is because it’s a great way to meet new friends!

I’ve recently noticed that if I have one or two of my dogs with me while on a walk, strangers usually say hello to one of the dogs, then to me, the human, and I’m okay with that as long as they say hello to the human too!

I’ve found that having dogs is a great way to meet new friends because it gives strangers a reason to say hello, and I love it.

It’s how I met my dear friends Mitch and Julie over three years ago. They became road bicycle buddies, and we are like family now. It’s how I met Milton and Teresa while at a Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) event called, fittingly, “Walk N Wag.” Through them I met Terri from Society Dog who got me involved with Howling Halloween in Los Gatos and Society Dog. It’s how I met Robert and Chris from the HSSV and got involved with the fun Fur Ball and Walk N Wag events. And while at the recent Walk N Wag in San Jose I met my new friend Felicia Gray.

craigdog1108Felicia recently relocated to the Bay Area from New York with her family and she also loves pets!

She also has a great web site designed for pet lovers:

I was honored when she asked if she could write a blog on my family and dogs for the web site. We had so much fun and she actually turned the blog into the feature on the home page. Check it out and let me know what you think.

I call it the Fido Friendly Network, meeting new friends and simply saying hello to strangers while out on a walk with my pets. And I hope when you are out walking your pets, or pass someone with their dogs, that you too have the opportunity to say hello and make a new friend, maybe help brighten your day. Have a great day!

Craig Herrera
NBC Bay Area Meteorologist

Gadget Friday: He’s iTeddy, the DMCA Violating Cuddly Bear!

November 7, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewSo rarely do I get to see a fuzzy toy that will, I suspect, attract the interest of sunglasses wearing federal agents and corporate lawyers.

I’ll get to that in a minute.

iTeddy is a cute as all get out stuffed animal with a media player in his tummy. Yes, I said tummy. One look at him and you can’t help but say tummy.

Parents can load songs, mp3’s, audio stories and whatnot on the bear through a USB connection to the computer. Then hand the bear over to the toddler and he or she has a cuddly friend who also sings songs.

It’s a big hit in the UK, where it was invented. Here is a British commercial about it.

So, it’s headed over here to the good ol’ USA. And that’s where it may run into a problem. The iTeddy includes software that allows you to copy DVD’s to your child’s toy. And why not? That would fun, to put a Barney DVD on the bear’s tummy.

The problem is in Hollywood’s view copying a DVD directly violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. While no one seems to have objected to iTeddy yet, it may be because Hollywood hasn’t heard of iTeddy yet. Witness what happened to Real Networks when it tried to create software that did much the same thing.

Company website:
Price: $79 on

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Trivia Challenged

November 6, 2008

Mike Inouye:
Mike InouyePie wedges.

That’s what I think of when I hear “trivia,” and the image of “Trivial Pursuit” pops into my head.

For the uninitiated:
“Trivial Pursuit” is a game in which players gain one piece (which resembles a wedge of pie) for each of the categories in which a question is answered correctly. The first player to answer correctly for all 6 categories is the winner.

This coming Saturday night (November 8, 2008), I’ll be the emcee for the Junior League of San Jose‘s inaugural Silicon Valley Trivia Challenge at the Tech Museum in San Jose. This is a team competition held as a fundraiser for the JLSJ and their worthy causes.

Though I love trivia and trivia games, I was always especially weak in the Sports category. Other areas can use a lot of improvement as well. That’s why I could have used a team aspect to my Trivial Pursuit bouts in years past. I think the Morning Team would have be a great ensemble. Well rounded; expertise in areas of politics, business, technology, science and pop culture… Hmmm… maybe we should compete next year.

If you want to come out and join us for a fun evening of friendly competition, I’d love to see you there.

Word on the street is that there’ll be delicious food as well.

Perhaps I’ll get a pie wedge after all. 😉

Mike Inouye
Non-Trivial Traffic Anchor
NBC Bay Area

What if Some Voters Really Do Believe Politicians?

November 5, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewOn this, the day after the election, I wonder to myself about campaign promises. We’re all used to politicians not living up to their promises – “They’ll say anything to get elected” is a common voter refrain.

George HW Bush said he wouldn’t raise taxes. And he did. Bill Clinton said he would reform healthcare, and did not.

But the campaign promises I’m most curious about involve the other side – the losing side. I wonder to myself after every election about the Joe the Plumbers* of the world. Those who really, truly believed in their cause, but lost.

Joe claimed an Obama win would spell “the end of Israel.” Joe claimed Obama was a Marxist who would “spread the wealth.” Sarah Palin claimed Obama “pals around with terrorists who would bomb their own country.”

Joe even believed – entirely incorrectly – that Obama would raise his taxes.

Now, I realize that some of what’s said in elections are hyperbole. I realize most voters listen to such claims and dismiss them.

But just as there are voters who really, truly believe the candidate they support will live up to all his or her promises, I speculate there are gullible people like Joe, and politicians like Palin who really, truly believe the candidate they DON’T support WILL cause all the problems their side predicted.

So, either Joe was kidding all along, just riding the wave of popularity, or he’s in Ohio right now, planning on paying more in taxes to a Marxist president who will not support Israel. There’s a governor in Alaska who really does believe the White House will be open to terrorists.

The question is, will they be disappointed or relieved when they find out how wrong they were?

*Joe the Plumber is not, and has never been a licensed plumber. Our news organization – and every other news organization – still called him that. Thus, from here on out, I would like to be known as Scott the Ophthalmologist. I have no license to practice Ophthalmology, but I do wear contacts. Thanks.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter