Easy Cleaning Tips to Maintain Your Stove and Oven

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to think about who will be cooking the turkey this year. And if turns out to be your turn, now is the perfect time to give your oven and stove a check-up and cleaning, both inside and out.

Cleaning Your Oven
Wipe up stray drips and spills in your oven as soon as possible (but when your oven is cool enough to be safe, of course!), since these little spots can smoke or catch fire the next time you turn the oven on. Pay particular attention to the front door window, since once a spill gets on the panel or glass, it can stain when heated. That said, only clean the window when both the oven is not in use and completely cool. Use a heavy-duty degreaser for baked-in spots.

Depending on how often you use it, your oven needs a total cleaning at least once, and as many as four times, per year.

Whether you’re cleaning your oven by hand or by engaging the unit’s self-cleaning feature, remove the racks first and soak them in the sink for 10 minutes or so if they are dirty. (Leaving the racks in the oven during a self-cleaning cycle can warp them.) With a regular kitchen sponge, scrub the racks until all their grease and muck is gone.

If you’re cleaning the inside by hand, be sure to unplug your oven first. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for approved cleaners. Be sure to keep cleaning products away from the burners themselves, and remember that your oven is an electrical appliance, so be careful with water or other liquids.

If your oven has a self-cleaning feature, using it safely is a snap—so long as you’re following the manufacturer’s guidelines. If you no longer have your oven’s manufacturer guidelines, try searching for them online. Most ovens’ self-cleaning features heat the interior of the oven to a temperature so high that it incinerates food particles, so you want to be sure you can be home while you’re running the self-cleaning cycle, just for safety’s sake.

Cleaning Your Stove
When it comes to cleaning your stove, again start with manufacturer’s recommendations. Today’s stovetops are made in a variety of surfaces, and some of them have particular requirements for cleaning products.

For many stoves, you don’t need anything fancy: A light-duty, non-abrasive cleaner on a clean sponge or soft cloth will do the job. Be sure to apply the cleaner to the cloth rather than directly to the stove’s surface.

The control knobs on some stoves can be removed for cleaning, but again, remember your stove has electrical components that shouldn’t get wet. If knobs aren’t designed to come off for cleaning, don’t remove them! Some newer stoves have sophisticated electronics that can be damaged if you remove the knobs.

Prevention Is the Best Medicine
With both stoves and ovens, staying on top of the everyday spills will go a long way toward keeping your appliance in tip-top shape. If you wipe a spill as soon as it happens (or as soon as the appliance is cool enough to clean), you won’t need nearly as much elbow grease to keep it shiny.

 

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The Internet of Things: A Primer

The tech industry is great at coming up with new words and acronyms. One of the hot terms right now is something called the “Internet of Things,” or IOT. While this term might sound incredibly vague, it does have a specific definition, and chances are you already know a bit about the Internet of Things, even if the term is new to you. Your fitness tracker is part of the IOT, for instance, and your smartphone can connect with many other connected devices.

We’ve put together more info here to get you in the know on IOT.

Broadly defined, IOT or the “Internet of Things” is the combination of low-cost, low-power processors, electronic sensors and/or wireless network capabilities that are being added to electrical devices. To put it in layman’s terms, IOT connects everyday objects to the Internet and to one another, providing users with smarter and more efficient electrical devices—everything from coffee makers to alarm clocks, refrigerators to door locks.

As the IOT category expands and the technical innovations continue to pile up, it’s easy to imagine waking up to find your alarm clock reporting the number of hours of REM sleep you enjoyed, your coffee ready and waiting for you, your shower calibrating its water temperature to keep it just the way you like it on this unseasonably cool morning. Read all about the Jetsons-like future we might all be soon living here.

According to an oft-cited Gartner research analysis, approximately five billion IOT devices will be on the market by the end of this year, rising to 25 billion by 2020. And that’s just the individual consumer experience. The implications on the business side are even more staggering, with predictions of roughly $5 trillion to be generated in business-to-business settings such as factories, mining and construction sites, and offices. Find out more about what IOT can do for business.

The key to the IOT market expansion lies in the low cost of the technology involved. Like pretty much everything tech-related these days (smartwatches, 3-D printers, drones), the price of electronic goods keeps falling. While Bluetooth remains the most popular wireless connection used in wearable technology like fitness trackers, the introduction of ultra-low-cost, Wi-Fi enabled chips by Chinese company Espressif Systems has enabled various devices to work with a complete Wi-Fi network component for less than $2. Learn more about the nuts and bolts of IOT here.

Of course, with every boom, challenges are inevitable. The first is that, with so many devices suddenly connecting to a Wi-Fi network, there’s no guarantee that they will be able to connect with one another. This problem of compatibility was dubbed by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée as the Basket of Remotes problem, in that much the same way families will keep a basket full of remote controls for their entertainment devices, households will have literally hundreds of devices speaking different languages and be therefore unable to communicate with one another. With the rush to implant chips in so many devices, there’s currently little drive to develop a consistent set of standards to ensure that these devices operate in harmony.

In a June 2015 article for The Atlantic, Ian Bogost went further, charging that it’s “time to admit that the Internet of Things is really just the colonization of formerly non-computational devices for no other reason than to bring them into the fold of computation.” As with any new products, consumer demand will end up driving the technologies that we really need, and those that may seem cool but don’t add value will fall by the wayside.

Which leads to the second, more dismaying challenge of IOT: security. When it comes to tech-abetted invasions of privacy, drones may make all the headlines, but that’s nothing compared to the Internet-connected monitoring that those hundreds of IOT devices are capable of conducting, 24 hours a day. On top of that, there’s the problem of security at the business level, for the dependence on IOT poses serious risks of systemic breaches. A cybersecurity hacker could potentially disrupt an IOT device to create literally life-threatening problems, disrupting machine-controlled systems in hospitals or traffic systems or electric companies.

Industry experts can see these challenges on the horizon, and are already introducing measures to meet them. Regardless of security challenges that lie ahead, every day we find new opportunities to collect and manage data with IOT devices. As the Internet of Things Consortium has put it, “While expectations are returning to normal levels and skepticism is setting in, you can count on one thing: the industry will continue to create the future.”

Wearable Devices to Help Keep Track of Your Ghouls & Goblins This Halloween

Halloween is nearly upon us, so hopefully you’ve got your costume ready and the optimal trick-or-treating route mapped out. Here’s one more important step: Have you thought about your safety plan? It can be hard to keep up with eager trick-or-treaters—in the dark, with a costume on! Check out these wearable devices and a pair of free apps that can help ensure the safety of your favorite goblin this Halloween.

My BuddyTag

My Buddy Tag ($37.99)

My Buddy Tag attaches to your child’s wrist with a silicone band and uses Bluetooth to alert you if your child steps outside a proximity you set. Originally launched as a poolside tracking device, My Buddy Tag will also alert you if the device is submerged for more than 5 seconds. For an extra $10, you can purchase a Velcro or terry cloth band for regular use, but that doesn’t make up for the My Buddy Tag’s major setback for trick-or-treaters: the range of this device is limited to 80 to 120 feet outdoors.

LG GizmoPal

Gizmo Pal by LG ($79.99 + 2-year contract plan)

Gizmo Pal by LG is a wristband cell phone available for purchase through Verizon Wireless, so if you already have a Verizon phone contract, adding Gizmo Pal should cost an extra $5/month or so. It uses GPS and the Verizon Cellular Network to identify location, and boasts a single button calling feature (with a slew of kid-friendly ringtones) and an automatic answer feature so parents can always get through to their children.
The Gizmo Pal app, compatible with smartphones using Android 4.0 or higher and iOS 7 or higher, enables parents to update or change contacts and check battery life.

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Track & Treat by Glympse (Free for iOS)

Track Your Child (Free for Android)

Being a free app, Track & Treat doesn’t come with any kind of wristwatch or bracelet, but instead coordinates between your smartphones. Download Track & Treat onto your child’s smartphone. Once your child enables the location sharing, those who have been invited to track her whereabouts receive a text giving them access to her GPS location. Android users have a similar technology in the more straightforwardly named Track Your Child app.

track-your-child-app

How to Take Spooktacular Photos This Halloween

From pumpkin carving to costume making and party planning to buying those “fun size” candy bars for trick-or-treaters, doing Halloween up right requires a lot of preparation. But it’s often hard to get great photos of all your work, when most of the Halloween fun happens at night. Try these tips for the spookiest photos you’re ever likely to see.

  • Shoot at or just after dusk, when the light is a little spooky. It may not be the “witching hour” (which is way, way past everyone’s bedtime), but it’s easier to get good photos than it is when it’s truly dark.
  • Turn off your flash. Otherwise, you’ll eliminate the spooky shadows—or overexpose the shot entirely. Or, if you want to get really creepy, try this low-tech add-on: Hold a small piece of red or brown cellophane over the flash.

Little girl and boy carving pumpkin at Halloween. Dressed up children trick or treating. Kids trick or treat. Child in witch costume playing in autumn park. Toddler kid with jack-o-lantern.

  • Think about other ways to add light to your photos: Bonfires, glow sticks and sparklers all add Halloween excitement and help illuminate your goblins. Another helpful mood-maker is a flashlight. Placing a flashlight below your subjects’ faces results in a reliably haunting image (which is why it’s so often used when telling scary campfire stories).
  • When you’re shooting in low light, you often need longer exposure times, which heightens the risk of blur. Place your camera or smartphone on a tripod when possible, or try resting it on a table or other steady surface.
  • Experiment with different ISO settings. When you change your camera’s ISO setting, you’re changing the camera’s sensitivity to light. You will want a high ISO setting in order to pick up the light in your dark photos, but not so high that you pick up every speck of lint or dust in the air. Some cameras and smartphones handle the higher ISOs better than others, so be sure to test yours out before snapping that once-in-a-lifetime pic.

Halloween Candy Is So Good!

  • A long-exposure frame, meanwhile, can put a weird glow on objects against a dark background. And if your subjects move while you’re taking the picture you can get a cool, ghostly effect. (If you’ve ever come across those apps that add “spirit” effects to your pictures, this is what they do.) And for a cool “motion blur” effect, check out the Slow Shutter Cam app for iOS  and Camera FV-5 for Android.

Finally, keep in mind that you can’t expect to become a master photographer of the paranormal within five minutes of trying. Practice some night shots with your smartphone or camera so that you know which settings you prefer and how to find them quickly. Not even a zombie likes to hold his or her pose while the photographer fumbles through a menu.

Your Trick-or-Treaters Will Run For the Hills

Halloween might be a timeless holiday, but that doesn’t mean you can still get away with a couple of jack-o-lanterns on the front porch and a fake cobweb on the front door. Here in the 21st century, it takes quite a lot to scare your average Halloween visitor. We’ve all seen the displays with lots of store-bought effects, and those can be scary. But you can also whip up your own haunting display with a little bit of tech on your side!

Spooky Drone Mods

Own a drone? Want to scare the living daylights out of your neighbors? Great! Make has a great series of videos that show drones being modified into creepy flying horror fests. Be sure to watch the last video to see the kids scatter!

DIY Eyes: Somebody’s Watching Me

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Is there anything more harrowing than a huge pair of eyes glaring at you from an upstairs window? You too can give those trick-or-treaters (not to mention your neighbors) a serious case of the willies with this scary effect. What you’ll need to achieve it: A web cam or other device that shoots video, video editing software, a DVD burner, a couple of TV screens, a DVD player, and the necessary video connection cables. You’ll create a video loop of your creepiest eye rolls and stares, and project it through your windows. Get the step-by-step instructions on Instructables.com.

The Finishing Touch: A Floating Head Hallow-gram

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The villains from the old Scooby-Doo cartoons were constantly setting up holograms to scare away meddling outsiders. Holograms aren’t just for cartoons! With a monitor or TV, a scary disembodied head video loop, and a piece of clear plastic, you’re ready to scare the most fearless Halloween visitor. Get all the details in this short video on DailyMotion.com.

3 Ways to Amp Up Your Jack-O-Lantern

Does the prospect of carving a pumpkin for Halloween fill you with dread? You don’t have to be a gourd artist to turn your pumpkins into memorable Halloween jack-o-lanterns—just a little imagination and some 21st-century technology. Check out these tips for some spooky inspiration:

Light ’em up

Candles provide the standard jack-o-lantern light, but there are many other options today. You can use battery-powered LED lights, and you’ll avoid heating up the pumpkin, as well as reduce the fire risk.

Some do-it-yourselfers get really fancy with homemade circuits, LED lights, batteries, and push-button switches. Check these ideas out if you’re feeling handy.

Let’s get loud

Get a jump on those trick-or-treaters by making your jack-o-lantern let loose a blood-curdling scream as they’re approaching your door. It’s easy enough to do with a battery-powered recording module. Find a recording device with a push button switch at an electronics store. One button on the module records anything you say for 10 or so seconds, while the other plays the sound back. You’ll need to carve a spot into the inside of your pumpkin for the device to sit, and a small hole on the outside so you can push the button when you see trick-or-treaters approaching. As they’re coming up the drive, push the button and let ’er rip!

It’s alive!

What’s better than a jack-o-lantern lit up from the inside? How about a jack-o-lantern with eyes that follow you, or whose scary mouth is full of flickering flames? If you can find a video that plays the scary scene you need to complement your design, you can make it happen.

This one’s for the experts (or at least the very patient): You’ll make a spot inside your pumpkin to hold a digital device (smartphone, tablet, even a photo frame, if it can play a video), and carve a design that takes advantage of the creepy video. The process isn’t difficult, but could be a little tedious to get just the right effect:

  1. Pick the device that you’ll use to play the video. (You’ll protect the device from the pumpkin guts with a plastic bag, but obviously you won’t want to leave this scary pumpkin unattended.)
  2. Pick a video to incorporate into your pumpkin design and load it onto your device. You can find them on YouTube, of course, but others are available via the HallowEyes video pack from Hallowindow.com (link: http://hallowindow.com/).
  3. Trace the shape of your device screen onto a piece of paper, and use this paper to sketch your pumpkin design. The holes in your design should be smaller than your device screen, only showing part of the screen. (Perhaps the pumpkin mouth or eyes will open to a video of flames, for instance.) Doing the sketch first will let you see how the shape of the design will cut off part of the video. (The more of the screen you plan to show through the jack-o-lantern design, the trickier it will be to get the device secured inside the pumpkin.)
  4. Tape the sketch onto the side of the pumpkin and use a pin to poke small holes around the design’s outline, or cut the sketch into a paper template you can lightly trace onto the pumpkin with a pencil.
  5. On the other side of the pumpkin (this will be the back when you’re done), cut a hole you can fit your device through. Scrape all the innards out of the pumpkin.
  6. Cut small holes in the middle of the area(s) where you’re planning to cut the design. You’ll use these to check alignment before you carve.
  7. Seal your device inside a thin zip-top plastic bag to protect it.
  8. Turn on the video, and fit the device inside the pumpkin. Line it up with your pin holes or sketched design, using the small alignment holes.
  9. Remove your device, and carefully scrape a thin, device-shaped spot about 1/4 inch deep into the inside wall of your pumpkin. Check for placement regularly, and don’t make it too deep.
  10. Once you have the inside spot carved out for the device, practice placing the device—inside the plastic bag—in the right spot, and securing it with toothpicks. Once the placement works perfectly, remove the device again.
  11. It’s finally time to carve! On the outside of the pumpkin, carve your design. Stick to the exact template, and make sure you don’t carve away the edges of the slot you’ve carved on the inside.
  12. If you don’t have an app that supports video repeat already, check the app store for your tablet or phone OS. They’re available for most platforms.
  13. Insert your plastic-bagged video device and secure it with toothpicks. Then, play the video on repeat. Try not to have nightmares.

Needless to say, if the pumpkin is outside, don’t leave your device in the pumpkin when you’re not standing with it, and definitely don’t use a candle in this pumpkin!

Hack Your Halloween with 6 High-Tech Costumes

Fabric, cardboard, glitter, and glue—the vast majority of all Halloween costumes are made from these materials. Nothing wrong with the oldies but goodies, but you can separate yourself from the low-tech pack with these six high-tech Halloween costume ideas.

Light-Up Wings

Light-Up Wings

If your little one wants to be a fairy this Halloween—or a bumblebee or Tinkerbell—take the standard glitter-riddled costume up a notch by attaching some battery-powered LEDs to the wings. It’s not difficult to advance the project by hooking the LEDs up to a LilyPad Arduino to create a blinking or fading effect. And the added safety of a light-up Halloween costume doesn’t hurt.

Lady Gaga Video Glasses

“Lady Gaga” Video Glasses

Take a pair of dark sunglasses that you’re at peace with never wearing again. Attach a digital picture frame keychain, loaded up with a slideshow, to each lens. You may need to practice pressing the ON buttons at the same time since there’s no way to sync the slideshows. Warning: You won’t be able to actually see through these glasses, so be careful when showing them off!

Fiber Optic Dress

Fiber Optic Dress

Is there any high-tech Halloween costume more versatile than a dress that lights up? Be a Martian, a fairy, sexy astronaut, pixie, ghost—the possibilities are endless. Added bonus: If designed correctly, the fiber optics look pretty awesome simply as a functionally futuristic dress.

Light Up Leggings

Light-Up Leggings

Do you find yourself bare-legged this Halloween? Shiver no more with these easy-to-make light-up leggings! (They’ll also look great when you’re dancing.) Pretty much all you need is a pair of sturdy leggings, a dozen or so LEDs, a needle, and conducive thread.

GlowyZoey

Glow-in-the-Dark Stick Person or Minnie Mouse Costume

You might remember the popular 2013 viral video of a toddler running around in the dark, looking for all the world like a glowing stick figure. Last year, glowing Minnie Mouse ears were added.

3D Printed Mask

3-D Printed Masks

If you’ve already got a strong Halloween costume in mind, but are looking for the perfect high-tech touch, these Mardi Gras-style 3-D printed masks, available for both male and female faces, might be just what was needed. Best of all, the masks are free—so long as you have access to a 3-D printer.

Employee Profile: Henry Mathis

Meet Henry. Henry has been with Asurion since 2004. He has journeyed from Kansas to Arkansas to Tennessee for his career at Asurion, growing from Customer Care Representative, to Supervisor, to Operating Manager, and is now a Manager of Customer Experience. Henry has a great understanding of what it means to not only be an Asurion employee, but to have Asurion as an employer.

Read on to hear more about Henry’s insights on being a member of the Asurion team.

Asurion Careers: When you joined Asurion, what role and location did you start in?
Henry Mathis: I started as a Customer Service Representative providing technical support in our former Hays, KS office.

AC: How has your career grown at Asurion?
HM: I was promoted into a Supervisor role after being with the company for about three months. As I continued in the Supervisor role, I had an opportunity to become engaged in a number of different projects and different support teams. As a Supervisor, I was able to get a glimpse of the Operations Manager role and saw another opportunity to be involved and drive a positive culture, great results, and improve client support. This same thought played into why I applied for the Manager, Customer Experience position.

AC: Why Asurion? As a veteran employee with significant progression, what keeps you motivated?
HM: I stay motivated because I want grow professionally. The support I receive from my family helps drive my desire to be successful, because I strive to set a good example for them.

AC: How have the different Asurion sites you’ve worked at varied from one another?
HM: Each site I’ve worked in had small differences in culture and approach to organizing process and activities. What I have found to be true in each location, is a keen focus on our clients, employees, and having fun. There have been many interesting and cool things that I’ve had a chance to partake in.

AC: What are your favorite things about being an Asurion employee?
HM: As an Asurion employee, the constant change of our work and opportunities to do something different keeps me engaged and helps me continue to grow. This is definitely what keeps me with the company. Also, I’ve enjoyed all of the people I have had an opportunity to work with and meet throughout my time here.

Have a happy (and high-tech) Halloween

With costumes and candy, scary stories and spooky decorations, Halloween is a blast for kids of all ages. Check out these apps to get the Monster Mash started:

Carve a Jack-o-Lantern

Let’s face it: With the sharp knives and sticky pumpkin innards, pumpkin carving can be a big Halloween hassle. Much better to download one of these apps to create a mess-free jack-o-lantern with a few swipes of your digits. Mix and match from hundreds of options to create a terror-ific jack-o-lantern. Best of all, both apps allow users to show off their creations on social media.

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Crazy Pumpkin
(Free, iOS)
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Halloween Pumpkin Carver
(Free, Android)

 


Scare Them With Spooky Sounds

Freak out your family and friends with 50 free sounds from the Halloween Spooky Sound Box for iOS, including chainsaw, demonic laughter, and distant bell tolling. Scary Sounds for Android, meanwhile, features the bone-chilling sounds of knives sharpening and spirits moaning. Perfect for breaking the ice with trick-or-treaters!

halloween-spooky-sound-box-
Halloween Spooky Sound Box
(Free, iOS)
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Scary Sounds HD
(Free, Android)

Turn Yourself into a Ghost

Sure, social media can be fun, informative, silly, and sometimes even annoying—but can it be spooky? Find out with these ghostly photo and video sharing apps. They both transform your boring old photos to make them appear like a ghost is lurking at the edges, or even escaping from somebody’s body. And both supply a host of filters designed to make you shiver.

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Ghost Lens
(Free, iOS)
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Ghost Photo Maker
(Free, Android)

Haunt Them With Your Voice

Choose from a number of supernatural sound effects that will transform your voice from “How come my voice always sounds so funny?” to “Who let Darth Vader answer the phone?” While neither app is specifically designed for Halloween, the Android-ready Voice Changer with Effects has such chilling options as “Devil,” “Death,” and “Extraterrestrial” while the iOS-ready app offers “Alien,” “Haunting,” and “Dark One,” among many others.

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Voice Changer Plus
(Free, iOS)
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Voice Changer with Effects
(Free, Android)

Find a Spooky Spot Near You

Seek out the “haunted” locations in your area with Haunted Places USA, a database of haunted locations all over the United States. Users can browse spooky spots in their area by state, and read the comments of past (passed?) visitors. Know of a location that isn’t on the Haunted Places USA list? Help out by submitting it for inclusion.

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Haunted Places USA
(Free, Android)

Download a Scary Story to Read

Have you found—to your horror—that those old stories about hitchhikers with hooks for hands just aren’t cutting it anymore, fright-wise? Consider these ghost story apps, available for iOS and Android. With so many stories to choose from, you’re sure to find at least a few that will give your loved ones a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Just be sure to read them over before telling them to the more impressionable of your brood.

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Ghost Stories – Spooky Tales & Horror Sounds for the Fearless Ones
($0.99, iOS)

 

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1,000+ Horror and Scary Stories
(Free, Android)

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