Friday, August 22, 2014

Pandora One Bargain

Pandora One Gift Card

Pandora is one of the best streaming music services, offering both a an ad-supported "free" service and a paid ad-free service (a so-called "freemium" business model). A principal Pandora differentiation (as compared to competing services like Google Music All Access, iTunes Radio, Rhapsody, and Spotify) is Music Genome Project technology, which does a good job of selecting music that is similar to music you already know and like.

In the beginning the free Pandora service was attractive given ads that were relatively few and unobtrusive, but over time ads have become both more frequent and more obtrusive, to the point where they are now downright annoying, which of course pushes subscribers toward the paid service.

That wasn't so bad when the paid service was $36/year or $4/month, but Pandora ended the annual subscription option and raised the price of new subscriptions to $5/month (⅔ more expensive than the original annual subscription on a monthly basis).

Fortunately, there is still a way (as of this writing) to get the original $36/year subscription price: Pandora One Gift Card at (not in Target stores). Where you receive your gift card(s) in the mail, you can add them to your Pandora account by activating them here.

This probably won't last forever, so you might want to stock up with more than one card.

Update (4/2016): Pandora One Gift Card at is no longer available.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Safer Online Dating

1. Open a new free Google Gmail account just for online dating (nothing else). You can forward it to your regular email for convenience, but always answer from the dating Gmail account. That way your email can't be used to find you, and you can always close that account if you encounter a real creep.

2. Buy a cheap prepaid cell phone just for online dating (Net10Page Plus, etc), and pay by cash (not credit card). You can forward it to your regular cell for convenience, but always call from the dating cell phone. That way your phone number can't be used to track you down, and you can always drop it in a dumpster (or donate it to charity) if you encounter a real creep. (Bad guys call this a "burner phone".) Or use the Burner app.

3. Always do a first meeting in a very public place, make it something cheap (like coffee or tea), and buy your own. That way you'll be safe, and able to walk away whenever you want with no feeling of obligation.

4. Always drive your own car or use public transport. Never ever give out your home address until you know someone really really well.

5. Post new photos, not photos you've used anyplace else (Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc). Otherwise people can use image search to find and associate these other places.

6. Use a nickname for online dating, not your real name, to make it harder for someone to look you up online.

7. Do not use your real city of residence in your dating profile -- use a nearby city instead to make it harder for someone to look up your home address.

8. Never even start with anyone that doesn't have at least one good photo posted. Having no photos or only bad photos is a big red flag.

9. When someone gives you a phone number, Google it -- you'll often learn worthwhile things. ;)