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Sunday, October 13, 2019

**BOOKS** "Hidden Treasures: In the Biblical Text"

This is a post that I was originally only going to publish on Free and Faith. I decided that it's one of those books that could be of interest to everyone - whether Christian or not.

By the way, I am always astonished at people who will devote a lot of time studying secular subjects such as philosophy but never think to look seriously at the Bible. It might surprise even Christians to know how much of human history and secular history is corroborative. I have one acquaintance who, like myself, loves the Matrix movies. He can discuss the philosophies and mythologies of that series until the cows come home. When I once mentioned to him how the Bible runs deeper and is more complex than that work of fiction, he basically snorted at me. It was a friendly snort and done with love but, in his view, the Bible is a simple book of fables. If he only spent a little time exploring the book, it's languages, and its complexities, his mind would be truly blown. He's a very intelligent man and so curious about all things - except the Bible. And that is kind of ignorant.

I have been doing a lot of Bible study for the past couple of years. I have read the Bible many times but I have only recently been going deeper into the study of it. I have some trouble sorting and keeping information straight but I don't mind repeating lessons.

The study I started a while back is one by Chuck Missler - Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, which can be found in video format on a YouTube playlist and on Amazon Prime Video. It can also be found in audiobook form through Audible and via local library media streaming services like Overdrive and Hoopla Digital. I think the last time I mentioned it was when I was posting about my news-fatigue. I kept getting as far as Hour 9 and having to go back to the beginning. I have now ordered the book so that I can make notes as I go through the video lessons.

The Chuck Missler book I wanted to mention to everyone today is called Hidden Treasures: In the Biblical Text. And if you wonder why I study so many lessons by the same teacher, that's because I am very careful who I study under. Not every teacher is godly or has good intentions.

Anyway, this current book is one that I want to recommend to my friend the next time I see him. I have listened to his detailed thoughts on various philosophers and teachings so I want to challenge him to think about things from where I sit. Another Missler book on angels would probably be extremely interesting to students of physics. I was no genius in school but Angels Volume 1: Cosmic Warfare introduced me to quantum physics in an exciting way that I could relate to. Trust me when I tell you that while I had heard of Max Planck, I had no clue before why he won a Nobel. I am forever fascinated now! And my friend will be interested in learning that Missler shows why he believes we live in a digital universe. Wha-??? How Matrix-like is that?

I will do a post on the Angels series another time. Back to Hidden Treasures...

One of the most interesting lessons in this little book gives the reader an assignment to design a genealogy with 14 very specific criteria. Once you attempt to do this and realize how difficult (if at all possible), you are presented with how it was completed in the Person of Christ.

The first of 14 criteria

Another thing I am enjoying about this study is that I get to delve more into the Greek and Aramaic languages and history. I  have been able to study some common world history right alongside that shown in the Bible. It's fascinating stuff.

Like I said, I wanted to post this here because I wanted people who may not be Christian to know about the book. I want to challenge some of you to not just sit back and snort at the idea of a belief in Scripture but to at least know what you are scoffing at. Like any serious thing, the Bible is not something to be glossed over. In order for us Christians to confidently believe in the Gospel, we have to know it. The same goes for those people who may want to deny it. How can you deny what you don't know?

Anyway, I hope that this post encourages more people to study the Bible and the history it comes out of. It won't hurt that you will learn something about world history in the process. I was stunned by how much of the history I learned in school has to do with the history of the faith I profess.

By the way, that challenge to design a genealogy? You will get to study for yourself how all the criteria were met in the genealogy of Christ in the first 11 verses of the (Greek language) Gospel of Matthew.


And, instead of music today, I thought this was more appropriate

Friday, October 11, 2019

**REVIEW** Voopoo Alpha Zip Pod Kit

Yeah, I know that it's been a hot minute since I've reviewed anything. I have something good today though. This is a sweet little pod kit that I received to try out.

This is Voopoo Alpha Zip Pod device and it really is one of the thinnest, lightest pod devices I've ever seen. It pretty much twins the Juul for weight - which is 14g with the pod installed (thanks, Google). And I do think that Juul might have some real competition in this device. First, it's from Voopoo; second, it's refillable; and third, it uses a standard charging cable.

I hear people talking about various devices as being possible "Juul-killers" but I think this is the Neo device for real.

This is the side view without the pod attached
The Alpha weighs in empty at 14g (0.5oz) and is just 0.7cm thick. When I fill the pod with a mix of 50/50 pg/vg juice and nic salt it weighs out on my food scale at 14.8g/.0.52oz.

If you are like me, eyeballing grams and ounces is one reason I can screw up simple food recipes. To help you better  visualize how lightweight this device is, I weighed my small tube of lip balm:

not a large-sized Carmex

Also, for perspective, know that my pod-filled Uwell Caliburn weighed out at 33 grams or 1.18 ounces. After handling the Zip, my Caliburn felt like a brick.

These are the details on the kit I tried out:

  • The device itself (powered by Voopoo's famous GENE pod chip and with a 250mAh battery)
  • 1  Alpha Zip 1ml-capacity nic salt pod with 1.8ohm coil (compatible with Drag Nano pods)
  • a standard USB cable
  • User manual
  • Warranty card

CON: Notice that this came with only the one pod. When I look at the price of additional pods  Drag Nano pods, they run from $7-$9, depending on the source. This is one of those cases of the pods costing almost as much as the actual device...

PRO: The pods are refillable and are supposed to be good for at least 3 refills before needing to be replaced. I always push that limit though so we will see what we will see... Also, there are 5 built-in safety protections:

  1. 10-second vaping overtime
  2. Short-circuit
  3. Overcharge
  4. Over-discharge
  5. Overcurrent output

PRO: As far as performance, this device vapes nicely though it's a little airy. I can block the charging hole halfway to get a tighter vape and I get quite a bit more flavor from this than I do the Caliburn - which surprised me. As I said, I did dilute my nic salt with some regular juice. I think that for a stronger and more ciga-like throat hit, I would need to use nic salt only.

PRO: the pod is simple to fill. The hole is small but I was able to get even my largest drip into it. I do like that juice doesn't leak out. Sometimes, I have wanted to drain a pod to change juice and it's been easy in most devices. This one is almost impossible to drain - which is bad if you want to swap but great for non-leakage. Also, the lid has to be positioned to the correct side in order to cap the pod. That's a minor point but I do have to fiddle a bit to replace the cap after refilling. #firstworldcrybaby

PRO: Because this device is shaped almost exactly like the Juul but is longer, I can sort of hold it in cigarette fashion. Notice that, except for the slightly beveled design, the Zip is just as thin as the Juul. On the other hand, the Zip charges with any USB cord unlike Juul with the proprietary charger that I am always worried about losing when I travel.

CON: One thing I really don't like is that on this silver-colored device, there's an annoying imprint right across the top spelling out ZIP. It's kind of tacky-looking, in my opinion. As you can see, the green shade also has some kind of imprint. Ugh. I wish I had gotten the Red or Peach color... The Grey looks too much like the Juul I have.

Looks like the Green and Silver at the only ones jacked up with an imprint

Like I said, the kit was a try-me so I'm out zero dollars and should quit nitpicking. Looking around online, I see that the price ranges from $13 all the way up to $25. That's not expensive for most folk but I will just keep this ugly Silver one, thank you very much! I am still paying off credit card debt.

PRO & CON: To be honest, as someone who prefers sub-ohm vaping I don't know that I would pay more than $15 for this. However, I do like using pod devices for discretion when I am out and don't want to be seen huffing on a giant mod. I love my Smok Veneno and my fat Voopoo Caliber but they aren't the most delicate devices around.

PRO: This Zip kit felt almost as good as the Juul and we all know that the Juul is pricey and non-refillable. If I used pods exclusively, this Alpha Zip would be my jam.


Wednesday, October 02, 2019

**UPDATE** Alternatives to Windows OS (for dummies)

Important: Please notice that since I am a novice, I'm not giving you my take on anything so much as I am providing links to information in this post. I guess I'm mostly saving you some of the trouble of hunting around for the information and, trust me, it took me a few days myself.


I was interested in trying out Zorin OS and ran into a couple of hesitations. 1: There is a $39 charge for the fully-loaded version (Ultimate). 2: While wondering about the safety of installing an additional OS, I did some Googling and ran across this:
Uh... WHAT??? 
Yeah, so... I think I will wait until I can get my brother or someone more experience to install any other OS on my PC. I did want to update and point out this possibility because I know that a lot of people jump in and do things without doing their own research. 
You have been warned...

In my last post, I talked about looking for alternatives to Microsoft's Office. I've been checking out a couple and will update that post when I've had time to evaluate the various software. For this post, I wanted to talk about alternative operating systems.

For some reason, I've never thought much about having many choices when it comes to operating systems. I barely think about any operating systems at all. I usually only think of Windows or Apple as competing brands, not operating systems. (I will focus more on those 2 brands in a later post.)

Let me first stop tiptoeing around and just admit that, I never even thought much about what an operating system actually is. And, since this is a For Dummies-type post, let's start with a definition:
An operating system is software that manages all of the hardware resources associated with your desktop or laptop. To put it simply, the operating system manages the communication between your software and your hardware. Without the operating system (OS), the software wouldn?t function. (source)
When I started looking around, I was surprised by the variety of choices.  First up was Linux - which has several types of versions (or types) of systems under it.


This is probably the only alternative OS (outside Windows and Apple) that I heard of some years back. This article explains Linux (and more) and I highly suggest reading it if you are thinking of trying an alternate OS.  What I just learned is that there are several "versions" or distributions of Linux used - some of which I have on this list. I will get back to this point in a moment but, for now, here is the Linux site.

What I would want more than anything in an alternative OS is ease of use. Naturally, I can appreciate this article about the best Linux versions for beginners (updated July 2019). Hallelujah joy, right? Now, if you are someone who feels more experienced, that previous article on Linux will detail some versions you might like. For the rest of us dummies though (okay, I'm talking about myself here), these look great:

Zorin OS seems to be the one I hear about being so tailormade for Windows users. Apparently, it's got more of the look and feel that we are already comfortable with and has a lot of pre-installed stuff. And, oh yeah, I'm figuring out that dealing with some alternative operating systems means potentially having to "install packages of software". Say WHAT? I once backed out of using free software for a writing program because I couldn't figure out the installation process. Oh, crap.

I took Deepin off the above list just because there were whiffs of rumors about its stability and some people asking if it contained spyware. I don't know enough about any OS to mention one with alleged problems. 

I got a little tangled up when looking up info on Linux Mint because I ran into Linux Mint Mate and Linux Cinnamon before I stopped. I was scared it was going to turn into a full spice shelf full of various versions. It all gave me a headache so you're on your own for real with this one.

The next thing I did was check out some comparisons of the different versions. Again, there are so many of these that I can only suggest you do a search on them. For example, the first one I ran across was a Mint vs Ubuntu. I'm scared to tell you about something called Kubuntu.

To be honest, I think that I will most likely try Zorin first. Of course, I will either end up letting you know how that went or calling my doctor to up my anxiety meds.

As far as possibly switching to a Mac at some point in the near future, I have my worries about that. It's going to be tough for an old chick like me to learn something new. I have found some resources that I need to peruse though. These might be helpful to any of you should you make the big switchover:
Okay then. There is a bit of info yo get you started. I stopped looking around when I realized how many versions of versions of versions of operating systems there are. I was looking at one called Haiku and decided that I was getting in too deep for my brainpower. And, just so you know, I don't think Haiku is for the newbie.

I will, of course, come back and update or do a new post if and when I test one of these operating systems. Right now, I plan to go and look at some more about this phobia I didn't know had a name.


For today's music, here is something from the angelic voice of Jessye Norman who passed away on September 30th. This is her singing "When I Am Laid In Earth".  May she rest in peace.

 And because some people think opera is not for them, here is the Jeff Buckley version. May he rest in peace.

And for all of us, here are the lyrics as best I could find and the words should give us all something to think about.
Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.
When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Microsoft Fatigue & Alternatives

I have been a solid Windows customer ever since I started using computers - you know back when dinosaurs roamed the land... Whenever family members tried to talk up their Apple products, I would remind them that my computer could access and use more software than their snooty Macs. Also, even when I was making good money, I refused to spend so much on a computer. These days, Windows computers are seriously the only thing near my price range. But to paraphrase an INXS song, here lately, I look around and wonder what I'm doing. Maybe I need to look at another kind of computer in the Used category?

In the past several weeks, every damn time I turn around, there's a problem with Windows. I had to actually have someone go into my PC and have it stop automatically downloading the updates because even if you use Settings to delay them, they still download if you shut down your PC. I don't want updates just forcing their way onto my system. I want to know what kind of issues they cause before they get onto my computer. I'm running 3 different malware and virus programs because I don't trust Windows Defender...

Apparently, I am not the only one complaining about the quality of Microsoft of late. It looks like these challenges are starting to look bad for the company. I have lost count of the patches and fixes for all the recent updates. There's helpful info online about how to handle some of the issues but I don't have the brainpower to apply the suggested "fixes". Besides, I shouldn't have to constantly be working on fixing Microsoft's problems. Not to mention that I've been unhappy for a long time with the way Microsoft holds Office users hostage to the $70/year subscriptions. You can use Office for free online, but that's very limiting. You can also get Office for a one-time charge but if you want updates, cloud storage, or anything beyond the $150 you spend for the standalone software you are going to pay and pay and pay. As if Bill and Melinda need any more freaking money to spend in the next five lifetimes...

So. I have been looking for something to replace Office. Now, I hate change and I dread the idea of having to learn something new right now, but I'm getting desperate. If I end up stuck with Office, it will only be because my brain is not great at picking up anything new. However, there are a lot of articles listing alternatives so I can't be the only one getting sick of Microsofts charging so much to use their software. This is some of what I have found and will be checking out:

ZOHO - This looks to be best for the professional/office/business user. It's actually called Zoho CRM and I had to look that up to know it stands for Customer Relationship Management - "A system or strategy for managing client interactions, dealing with future and current customers, optimizing and systematizing relationships." Okay then.

Here's a pricing plan page, but I have seen info about a free version. I think I need something tailored specifically toward home users.

This article has some suggestions as follows along with why:

FreeOffice Best Microsoft Office alternative overall
Google’s G Suite/Google Apps Best web-based option
LibreOffice Best full-featured option
**WPS Office Best Microsoft Office clone
iWork Best Mac option

**This article also included WPS and makes me want to take a closer look at it. A huge positive is that it includes 1GB cloud storage (and I haven't found that with anyone else for free) and is called an Office 'clone'. A huge negative is that the free version is ad-supported and I'd have to pay to get rid of the ads. However, it's only $30/yr to get rid of ads vs the $70/yr for Office. Because I'm kind of pissed at Microsoft right now, I think I'd rather give the money to a smaller service.

I am already giving LibreOffice and FreeOffice a try and I will do an update to let you know how that is going. For your own perusal, here are some articles discussing some other alternatives to Office 365:
As far as possibly switching to a Mac, I would have to sell at least one of my bad kidneys to afford one but I have been checking out the pros and cons. In my next post, I will talk about some alternatives to the Windows operating system.


For music, this, because I argued with someone recently that Jon Farris was hotter than Michael Hutchence. He's still hotter than a jalapeno. And the songs are still great.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

These Interesting Times

It's been an up-and-down month for me. The Up part is that I had some family in to visit for a few days. Always happy to see my peoples. The Down part is this freaking fatigue I've been fighting all month. It's the main reason that I haven't posted for a minute. Usually, I have trouble articulating to my doctors what my fatigue feels like. This time I will be able to tell them it was so bad that my bones actually ached.

I recently learned that there is another kind of fatigue a lot of folks are suffering with: "News Fatigue." Wow. There is a name for it and everything.

Pew Research has this from last year

Since I've had so much downtime this month, I've spent a lot of it doing Bible study. I think I've told you that one of my 3 favorite teachers is Chuck Missler. I probably even already mentioned his "Learn the Bible in 24 Hours" series as one of the best studies I've been through in a long while. I highly recommend it especially to skeptics and agnostics - anyone who has serious doubts about the authenticity of the Gospel message.

As far as watching the news, I've been avoiding it as much as possible. I also have posted about anything news-significant because... all the significant stuff seems so dark right now. Or maybe I'm just thinking too deeply.

We are living in a nation where the president is an open bully. He has publicly disabled people. He has used really distasteful language when talking about women, foreigners, and anyone who doesn't think he's "the ...One"???

But it's not Trump I'm bothered most by. It's fellow Christians who give him a pass on all of his abhorrent behavior towards anyone else as long as he is good to or for them. Or as long as they think he is good to or for them. Ben Howe has an interesting take on this. The very same people who thought Obama was the antichrist seem to be at the top of the Trump fan club. The whole political system is a stinking toilet so I'm not sure why people can believe one turd smells better than another. I know that is crude but anytime I talk about politics, crude is all I come up with. I told one of my nieces a couple of weeks ago that if Trump craps, he blames the stink on Obama. But, again, anyway...

One person defended their Trump vote by saying he is pro-life and good for conservative values. I find it hard to be happy about anyone's pro-life stance when they are okay with being cruel to children once they are born. I find it hard to trust Trump's support of Israel when I think he might have personal motives. Also, I can't get too excited about the way he encourages other bullies of the world. And let me clarify that I don't think Trump is a racist; I think he's an opportunist. If black people were his base, he'd be trying to join the Black Panthers and inviting the NOI into his administration. It's all about who makes him feel powerful and smart ("so smart, like genius smart") and bigger than he really is. By the way, Reddit (among other sources) has a whole subreddit about the hypocrisy of the current president. They could probably have the same sub for every politician there is. Politics is not a clean business, but Trump seems to be the one most proud of being a turd in the toilet.

Trump is a small, small man who has been given a very large pulpit. And most of the Christians I know are playing hype man for him. He lies, they make excuses. He poops on some of their hopes and dreams, they blame the stink on anyone else. He incites something ugly or hateful, they explain that he just "tells it like it is". I don't know what they will come up with now that he seems to be getting a lot loopier and unfocused. Even if he is focused, he might get desperate about his hold on the presidency. I don't like the idea of desperate people with that much access to power. And UPDATE - with the impeachment in motion... who knows?

When I used to read about the  "strong delusion" mentioned in the Bible, I didn't understand the concept. When I read that many people - even Christians - will be deceived, I didn't understand how that could be. Do NOT get me wrong here. I am not saying that Trump is the antichrist or anything. I am saying that he has shown me how people can be so deluded. nailed it with this illustration 

If someone as un-charismatic as Trump can gain the respect he has, I can just imagine worse. What happens when someone who is very charismatic and appealing and intelligent comes along with ugly rhetoric that sounds nicer? If people can be fooled by someone as distasteful as Trump, they will die for someone with a more attractive mask.

Whenever I doubt my theory, all I have to do is broach the subject with a Trump-supporting Christian. They most often lose their patience with me. I get to hear all the arguments about the sins of great men like King David and King Solomon, etc. I get it. But those were men described as being after the heart of God. They not only thought (unlike Trump) that they needed God's forgiveness, they craved it. Those were men who wrestled with their sins.  So don't come at me with comparisons like that. Trump has never been as bold about proclaiming his love of and dependence on God as he has about tweeting utter nonsense about his imagined 'genius'.

I do want my Christian friends to know that I pray for Trump. I pray for him the way I pray for anyone else. We are all supposed to pray for and encourage each other to be better people. I pray that Trump really comes to be the good man so many people believe he is. I pray that he starts looking to God for guidance. And I pray for my protection from some of the hateful people who follow Trump and hate people like me.

Now I am going to go take some vitamins and try to think about anything other than the news.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

**RECIPE** 3 ingredients bread without flour or cornstarch

Okay, this looks like an amazing recipe but I have not made it myself yet. Its a bread made without flour or cornstarch that - from what the video shows - turns out more like actual bread than I can believe. This is not your friend's Cloud Bread... For one thing, it's not exactly low-carb from what my diet app displays, but is is gluten-free.

I found this on a YouTube channel called Recipes That Work. Well, they work for some of us more than others... I'm half-joking.

The video has over a million views probably because people had to watch over and over to get the recipe down... Or maybe I am just cynical.

The real problem I had with the video is that the recipe was not simply listed in the description. I had to watch and pause to get what part I did. Oh, and the video is in Spanish. Have you seen how badly I can butcher English??? The recipe is online here but I had trouble with translations. Anyway, here is the video and underneath I've done the best that I could do at noting the ingredients. Also, I suck at math. I think I got everything converted well enough...

slow the vid down at Settings to about 0.5

In order to get the correct recipe (because slowing down/pausing the video gave me rage urges), I had to do a copy of the print version from the page link.

My best guess at the milk amount from watching the video was... about 1 to 1 1/4 cup but... be sure to watch for the right texture. By the way, I will be using my whole-fat Hoosier Farms dry milk powder or the dry milk powder from Walmart. I have put in a question to the publisher of the video

Instructions (of course, watch the video but this is what I will be doing)

  • Wisk together the eggs and baking powder 
  • Add the milk powder a little at a time & wisk very well 
  • Batter should look very smooth - I thought it looked like a thin smooth yellow frosting
  • Using a piping bag (I will be using a baggie with a cut tip) to spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet
  • Bake at 375 for apprx 10 minutes (until the ends are a golden brown)
Apparently, you can experiment with the shape of the bread by piping long lines, fat lines, or even fat circles.

I have tried to check with the video owner to verify about the milk and ingredients. Not sure why they didn't just list them for people to print. They did tell me in the comment section to never add more liquid.

Again, check the webpage to change the servings and ingredients' amounts. 

The bread looks amazing and I can't wait to try it, but I have to check my powder milk supply. But for now... good night.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Updated (AGAIN) **REVIEW** Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen

When I was telling you all about the Bibisco software the other day, I forgot to mention that I have been using it along with my Livescribe Echo smartpen. I am so surprised to realize that I have had that pen just over 3 years now - as of this past July. I've dragged this poor thing from Alaska and back (a couple of times), to Arizona, and here to my new home in Iowa. She's still kicking.

I even still have the cover for the tip!

I still use this pen all the time - more so this year than last. I  was reading some reviews on Amazon as I was getting ready to write this post. For this pen and some of the newer versions, there seem to be a LOT of negative reviews. I have never had many problems my pen! People are talking about having problems with recording/playing back audio, the pen just not working after a short period, and - this is really bad - poor customer service. Thankfully, I have never had to contact customer service. And maybe I should not have just jinxed myself...

The one thing I was annoyed about was running out of ink and having to change the refill. I was nervous about breaking something. And I have to look up info on using regular ink refills for the pen... The only real issue I ever had was to do with software. When Echo upgraded the desktop software, I had a heck of a time trying to get it sorted out. And I was super disappointed that the MyScript software is no longer being sold or supported - BUT I still have my old copy and it works fine so far. I'd been using it without realizing that it had gone extinct for others. And, by the way, if you ever had a license for MyScript and just lost your copy, here is where you might still be able to download one.

This is what everything looks like in the Echo app
when transferred straight from the pen

On the left side is what I sent from the Echo app to MyScript
On the right is what MyScript converted my
handwritten notes into

The best thing about the conversion that MyScript does is that I can send that straight into a Word doc. With a little bit of cleanup, it's as if I typed it all into Word. Life in the 21st century, right?

For those interested in how long one of the single-subject notebooks last, I had gotten a 4-pack at the time I bought the pen. I still have that set now.  I have dedicated each notebook to a single writing project and only one of them has more than 30 pages used. They are 100-page notebooks (200 pages using back and front) and I'm so glad I've had them.

I was checking the prices on the pen and paper today and this how they compare to when I purchased:
  • Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen (me: $111.19) (now 3rd party = $258 -$298) (Livescribe Amazon store = $259) **
  • Livescribe 5-pack of notebooks (me $28.59) (now $31.50)
  • Livescribe brand ink refills 5-pack (me $5.14) (today the ones I bought currently unavailable. Suggestions were priced at $11.99 for the 5-pack)
There are some generic pens that aren't priced too high but the reviews are mixed. I guess I should be really glad that I got that pen when I did because I can't even afford the paper refills right now!

For other writers who can afford it, I do think that a smartpen is worth it. For students, I think it is almost critical for keeping track of class notes and lectures. A smartpen is more dependable than our phones for that.

By the way, not long after I got the pen, I told an acquaintance who then purchased one. They went all out and got the pen, a bunch of refills, a couple sets of the notebooks, and a really nice leather holder for their pen. I checked with them by text as I was doing this post to see what they think of the pen after a few years. They stopped using the pen and ended up losing it when MyScript went down. They did not know that they could still use their old copy. And why throw out the whole pen? MyScript is not a necessity. I was kind of blown away. I don't think they read my blog but, if they do, I will say it again: WHAT A WASTE! They could have gifted the pen to a student or co-worker... Ay yi yi...

Anyway, that's my update on the smartpen and how useful it's been to me. It's been 3 years so if something goes crazy with it now, I won't really complain too loudly.


** I just saw that the 2GB pen is up on Amazon for $180. I don't know how long that will last because I got those other prices when I started the post a couple of days back.

My new addiction & song-on-repeat

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

**REVIEW** Bibisco Novel Writing Software

Let me start by saying a few things about Bibisco:
  1. The free version is so worth it, and
  2. The donate (Supporters Edition) is awesome, but
  3. If you can't afford the SE, you will not be disappointed with the free version.
There. Now let me give you an overview of my experience so far.

I found Bibisco while I was trying to decide whether or not to buy Plottr. Plottr looks awesome but I could never get the trial to work well enough to try it out. Also, Plottr is $40 and I simply cannot dig that deep into what I laughingly call my "budget". I can't even tell if Plottr would be worth the money since I can't use the trial. If there are problems with the trial version, then...

Anyway, I found Bibisco via one of the sites that lists the alternatives to programs. Unlike most open-source software, I was able to easily download and install it. That was a Plus. And then I started playing around with it and was blown away.

The best thing about Bibisco is that it helps you really get acquainted with your plot and characters. I know that it seems like I would be very intimate with both after years of messing with this story in my head, but, no, 
Bibisco doesn't just help you get your novel outlined and set up. It's sort of like a human motivator. You are prompted to do some of the things writers least like. If you are like me, you just want to start writing and get the story told. There is work to be done beforehand that can make the storytelling job easier in the long run. If you really do understand why and how you are going to tell an amazing story, it's easier to get on with it.

Now, I will take a lesson from Writing Advice 101 and show not tell:



Let's hope I didn't duplicate any photos up there.

So you can see that Bibisco helps get and keep you organized. Once you are on your way, it helps you track scenes and characters or even rearrange them as needed. Those are all my raves. Let's get to some of the negatives...

One thing you are going to want to do for every project is to dedicate a place on your desktop. Do NOT just store your Bibisco project somewhere in the clutter of your other files. I did that when I downloaded Bibisco CE (the free version). When I donated to get the SE (Supporters Edition), the old files integrated nicely with the new version but I goofed somewhere and couldn't find the last updated files. I rooted around in my computer folders like a crazy woman looking for something in a dumpster. Worst of all, the Bibiso app did not pull up in any searches or the Start bar. I had done a print of my work to that point so I just went ahead and dumped everything to start over. Somehow, part of my old files restored. 

So WARNING: do what I have. I set up a folder on my desktop just for storing all things Bibisco. I also set the Bibisco app up on my taskbar so I don't lose it again. 

Even though there is an Autosave function, I recommend exporting every now and then. You can export to Word, PDF, or as an Archive (whatever that means).

Bibisco is super awesome but it is open-source. Maybe it's just me, but I have a history of stabilization issues with open-source software. So, once again, the only downside to Bibisco is that you must back up everything often and in every way you can. Just in case.

One last thing: The GitHub download of the Supporters Edition is a pay-what-you-want deal. Kind of. I think it starts at 12Eurodollars minimum. On the day I ordered, the conversion charged was $13.16 USD. 


Sunday, September 01, 2019

Some Recipes & Calorie Counts

For the past month, I've been eating quite a bit and losing weight. I tried Keto, I tried OMAD and using the meal shakes, and all that. They all work for certain people and they would work for me if I could keep them up for life. And I can't. I cannot restrict myself to certain foods and trends. Life is varied and my food desires are just as varied. I failed because I had too many "cheat" days. There were days when I didn't want to be low-fat or high-fat or one-meal or fasting for 16 hours. Agh!

First I got frustrated and then I got real. After talking with my doctor, I was reminded that in addition to aging, I am also on certain medicines that inhibit easy weight loss. Okay then. So what I finally accepted is that the trick to staying in a healthy shape as you get older is to find what works for you instead of following every trend that comes along. Listen I even prayed about this situation!

My new reality is that I am over 50 and I am going to have to be diligent to maintain a healthy body. Because I did fail at other plans like Keto, fasting, and OMAD (one meal a day), I decided to hold off sharing what I'm doing until I could keep it up. I finally have this. I am down 10.7 pounds in 5 weeks and so far I'm not regretting anything. I am eating what I like but I do have to at least loosely keep track. This is what a typical day looks like:

  • I try to drink at least 8 ounces of lemon water. This is easier if I have some miracle berries beforehand. It's downright yummy after a miracle berry.
  • As much black coffee as I want (I will tell you how I broke my sugary creamer habit) without getting too much sodium.
  • Either 2 greek yogurt pancakes or a cup of overnight oatmeal with brown sugar (recipes will be shown later). The oats are a favorite because it's easy and very filling.
  • Baby carrots with a couple tablespoons of Ranch, or 
  • Butter crackers plain or with cheese or with thin-sliced packaged ham, or
  • Cheese and grapes/apples, depending on which  fruit I happen to have, or
  • Tuna (with mayo and onion) solo or on butter crackers, or
  • A single-serve bag of popcorn (my fave is kettle corn)
  • If I have miracle berries beforehand - Plain, no-fat Greek yogurt or plain goat cheese on crackers
  • Cabbage (or a bag of coleslaw greens) steamed with sausages and bacon
  • Homemade burger on regular bread with a salad
  • Pork chop with salad, spinach/kale/collards on the side
  • Ground beef stuffed with spinach or kale, onions and garlic and topped with a couple tablespoons of spaghetti or pizza sauce (see recipes)
  • A dinner-breakfast of eggs and bacon and a couple of yogurt pancakes
  • If I have miracle berries beforehand - Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt/sour cream "cheesefake" (see recipes)
  • A pint of Halo icecream
  • Cheese-fake
If you notice, I don't use any artificial sweeteners. I don't like them and I'm not sure they are any better for my health than real sugars. 

I have to be really honest and tell you that I think the biggest kick-off to weight loss for me was giving up my heavily sweetened coffees. Here is what I was putting at least 3-5 tablespoons into a 16-oz coffee:

Almost 200 calories per mug

If I do need to "soften" some coffee that might be too strong or "bitter", I will use some of this instead:

100 calories is a lot better than 175

Since I tend to drink at least 2 16-ounce mugs of coffee in a day, I try to stick to this Luzianne brand which is too weak or any sweet creamer but perfect to drink black. I am so glad I found it. I know some people who choose McDonald's coffee as the one the can drink black. In my opinion, this Luzianne is way better and more consistent. Just be aware of the sodium in coffee. It varies, I think, by brand. I'm actually kind of over the whole dessert-coffee thing, tell the truth.

The other thing I had to train myself to was eye-balling calories. I faithfully used the Lose It app at first but now I can gauge how many calories a meal or snack is. I would buy the Premium version if it was a reasonable one-time purchase but... Ugh.

What I've learned about myself is that I am never as hungry as I think. What I am is a person who eats for every emotion: happy, sad, mad - everything but depressed. When I am depressed, I am even worse because I don't want to cook or take my time to find something decent to eat. I once ate nothing but some lemon teacake for about 24 hours. TWO lemon teacakes made with enough sugar to induce diabetes by smell and drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze. I didn't sleep, I just lay around in blue funk eating pieces of cake, sobbing and watching Andy Griffith reruns.

Great app but crazy-priced for the Premium version

So, I am that kind of an eater. And I will probably always struggle with depression. What I am doing now when I don't have the energy to cook or choose healthy meals, is fix the overnight oats and I eat a lot of baby carrots. I love baby carrots. I can eyeball what a tablespoon of ranch dressing looks like so I spend my sad or fatigued moments with a bag of baby carrots and ranch dressing. I think I once peed orange and cried white tears.

My big dessert hack is to eat a miracle berry and then snack on a cup of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice mixed in. It's like eating cheesecake. And that brings me to the simple "recipe" for what I call Cheese-fake:
  • 1 miracle berry (to eat just beforehand)
  • 1 1/2 cup of non-fat Greek Yogurt, strained overnight (use cheesecloth or a substitute)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • Mix the 2 ingredients together
  • Put into a small container (I use a Tupperware sandwich container) and out into the fridge for a couple hours.
  • You can add more lemon juice or even top it with fresh, peeled lemon slices. The more lemon, the more cheese-cakey the flavor.
  • If you want to splurge a little, you can make a Fiber One crust...
I have ended up with some weak miracle berries and will sometimes have to eat 2 of them to get the same effect so be warned.

Anyway,m here are those recipes. I collected them from various places (online and from memory) and made them my own. You can mix them up by adding different seasonings. By the way, I just used screenshots of my recipes stored in the Lose It! app. It works out all the calories based on the app's listings or what you scan in from your item packaging. Handy.

*** This is for the crust

On one of my OMAD days, I made up my own recipe for stuffed meatloaf using the following ingredients. You basically season the ground beef with seasonings shown (and any others you want) and roll it out on some plastic wrap or parchment paper to get it as flat as possible. Then you layer half of the spaghetti (or pizza sauce) and all of the other ingredients down the middle of the meat. Stay away from the sides. Roll the meat up with the stuff inside and make sure the sides are tucked around so the ingredients don't leak out. Wrap the bacon around it and plop it into a small loaf pan, top it with the rest of the sauce and cover with tin foil and bake at 350 for at least an hour. At the 45-minute mark, I like to uncover the meat and drain all the oil out before I finish baking it uncovered.  I only use the bacon for seasoning and will toss it when the loaf is finished cooking. Although it's a high-calorie meal, it's the only one I eat that day so I can even have a salad with a couple tablespoons of dressing at some point and be done with it. 

So that's it. There are a lot of recipes online for substituting greek yogurt for sour cream or frosting or whatever. Enjoy.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

If Your Heart Is Hurting

This is normally something that I would post on my other blog where I discuss things of faith. I strongly felt today that it was something I needed to post here. What I want to say, I want to say to those who may not be Christian.

I've been struggling for years with my own depression. Anyone who deals with depression and anxiety can tell you want a battle it is. It's the kind of thing that can drag you down to the very bottom of your strength and will to live. If not for my faith, I would not be here, I can promise you that. I would have committed suicide years ago. This is why I always pray so hard for other people who deal with depression. I don't know how they make it through from one day to the next if they have no faith in God. Today, I have been thinking of all the other people out there who may be hurting and feeling lost.

I'm not going to preach to you. I'm just going to tell you that, no matter what else you may believe, you are loved. You are loved deeply and completely.

You aren't going to to find relief from your pain in drugs or sex or money or fame. You aren't going to find what you need in yourself. What you have is the absence of knowledge that you are loved. You need to know and understand why and Who loves you.

I know people like myself who most of the time look perfectly happy and content. There are people who look like they are handling life just fine. Some people - those I know and those I don't - have what the world thinks of has the keys to happiness. There are three keys: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. A lot of people have everything but the key to hope. They keep busy and active and have lots of people they could be around if they wanted. They are, some of them, very successful. At the least, they are likely looked upon as someone who "has it all". But those people who have everything but real hope are some of the saddest people who've lived.

You've heard it before and you will hear it again that "God loves you" but that doesn't mean anything unless you have a reason to believe it. It's hard to believe when we don't get a lot of logical reasons to believe. It's frustrating to have people giving you their "thoughts and prayers" and telling you that God loves you when they don't give you a reason to believe that there is a God. If anyone would like, I'd be more than happy to pray with and for you.

I'm no scholar or Bible teacher but I would like to share some links with you to people who do a good job of giving reasons to believe. I hope that these help you and I hope that, no matter what, you find hope. The links are below.


  • Learn the Bible in 24 Hours is not a learning of the whole Bible, of course, but it is a nice overview for someone who wants to understand why they should respect the authenticity of Scripture. Chuck Missler is a wonderful teacher, unlike most Bible teachers, he doesn't come from they typical seminary/Bible college background. He was a business executive and had more of a tech background.
  • Dr. Jason Lisle teaches how the Bible is confirmed in math and physics. His approach can be a bit scholarly but I admire his ability to make complex subjects accessible to the laymen. This link is to just one of his videos. 
  • There are many, many video and audio resources online of the Dr. Walter Martin debates. He was able to always be loving and kind when comparing Christianity to other religions. Because everyone wants to know why Christianity is the one true religion. Here is the link to a large playlist of some of Martin's debates. He died years ago so these videos are quite old but still, of course, relevant.

**REVIEW** Walmart Beauty Box Classic Summer 2019

It sure seems like it's been a while since I posted a review about a Walmart box. I think this was the last one way back in January. The best thing about the Walmart box is the five dollar price. I've gotten quite a few of these quarterly beauty boxes - 5 now that I go back and count. I've been getting them since June of last year. I will have to scrounge up some of the past reviews and link back to them at some point. Anyway... This is the Classic Summer box I received the other day:

While the samples were as good as usual, I was a little disappointed that there was no theme for this box. With the Ipsy boxes (which I no longer subscribe to) there was always a theme and always a bag to carry the items. Walmart did send a bag once and other than the big old ugly Walmart sunburst logo, it was kinda cute. Oh well. Let's talk about what was in this box. I will go in order of fave to least fave:

Blistex Lip Conditioning Serum - This was pretty awesome. I do think that you're supposed to be able to use it alone and go, but I apply my regular lip balm on top of it. The serum is very creamy and has the consistency of a rich water-based lotion. It softens and smooths and I feel that it's helping my lips but the balm effects don't last long enough for me. I've been using it after doing my morning lip scrub (wiping all that dryness away with a baby wipe!). I like the tapered dispensing tip. Best thing about this is that Walmart actually included the 0.30-oz size in this box. You can get a chance to really test it out. Nice. ($2.96 online)

Let me just say right here that I really didn't want to have to admit that I could use an eye cream like this. But.

I don't know yet how well this works (it's only been a few days), but kudos to Walmart for including this full-sized $18 0.5 fluid ounce tube of RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment. I've heard good things about RoC and I do like the way this hydrates the area right around my eyes. I've been using it at night only because I'm nervous about how the sun might affect my skin with a  Retinol-based product on it. Because of the slightly thin texture of the cream and the instructions to apply it in dots, this tube should last a good long while. ($17.95)

This is way too much
for one application

Since I am one of those women who has never had to shave a lot, razors last me forever. I do tend though to buy cheap ones. It's nice to have this BIC Soleil Sensitive 3 Blade Women's Disposable Razor. I've used one before and then I go back to my cheap ones for budget reasons but, every time I try one of these, I love how nice they feel. By the way, the moisture strip on these razors are the best part but they do tend to get gunky after a while. I tossed one out a few weeks ago after it had been sitting in the shower for a while and it was icky. These come at a good price for a pack of 3 at $5.97. This single one will last me for at least a couple of months. Thank goodness for naturally hairless legs!

Now, for my 2 least favorite samples...

There's nothing wrong with the Neutrogena Blackhead Eliminating Pore Strip to Facial Scrub I'm sure. Except for that long name that nearly winded me. I personally just don't like any kind of pore-stripping product. I used to. I used to use this type of thing all the time until I realized a couple of things. One: not all of those little dark hair-spot things on the nose are actually blackheads. Two: these strips work at pulling those things out but they leave my face incredibly dry. Probably because they ripped out those skin-nourishing black things... At any rate, for someone with actual blackheads, this might work really well. Walmart only included one strip in the box and I'm okay with that. ($12.89 for 14 strips)

I get really excited whenever I see a perfume sample. I L.O.V.E. fragrances. The last one I sampled was You by Glossier and I can't wait for someone in my family to gift me a bottle. ~hint hint~ Well, I was really excited when is saw that Walmart included a sample of a Silhouette in Bloom by Christian Siriano and that it was a nice amount (2ml). I remember way back when he was competing on Project Runway. Now that his talent is being celebrated by the celebrated, I'm thrilled for him. And I just about hurt myself opening this perfume sample. Sadly, heartbreakingly, this did not live up to even my lowest expectations.  This is not a horrible fragrance but it does smell really cheap. And don't get me wrong - I shall always love me some Charlie and Emeraude. What I mean about this one is that it has a chemical-plastic under-scent. It's just like no thought at all was put into the fragrance. It reminds me of one of those dollar-store "perfumes" that the girls used to get us for Mother's Day when they were young. I remember having to sit at work all day smelling like I'd tried to mask pissy pants with room spray.  To top it off, this scent doesn't do anything nice with my body chemistry. I don't even like the look of the bottle that's pictured on the sample. Also, now that I look at the price, I realize it's way too high for the "Barbie Doll" smell. Ick and Yikes ($38.89) I would rather spend forty bucks on a 1 ounce split of something nice than for a whole bottle of this. Sorry, Christian. (He don't care while he's over there, rolling in his money!)

Maybe the black & purple
ones smell better???

So there you have it. Once again, Walmart has put out a better box than those that cost twice or three times as much. Basically, for five dollars, all you're paying is the shipping and handling. The RoC sample more than paid for this one. If I had liked the Silhouette fragrance, I'd have really hit the jackpot. By the way, I think I will try mixing that scent with some other fragrance to see if I can make it work. ~shrug~

If you are interested in subscribing to the Walmart Beauty box, it has its own page where you can do so.