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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.

Peace
--Free




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.

Chippewa.com 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.

Peace
--Free

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.

Peace
--Free

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.

Peace
-Free


** 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:

THIS IS WHERE YOU START AFTER NAMING YOUR PROJECT





FOR NEWBIES (and me) WHO MIGHT NOT KNOW WHAT A ... "FABULA" IS...






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. 

Peace
--Free


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:

Breakfasts
  • 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.
Snacks
  • 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
Dinners
  • 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
Desserts
  • 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.

Peace
--Free