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Know Everything and Control Everything: 2 Apps to Try

Here are a couple of the latest (Yay! Free!) apps that I’ve tried. No surprise that I found them through Lifehacker.


The first is Circa. (iPhone or Android) Circa is a news aggregation site (with Real news even). You can stay with the Top Stories default or check out national or world news, politics, technology, science and health. It’s easy to share stories through social media, email, even text. The best part? If you find a story of interest, you can set the app to send you updates.

I like this one so much that I gave it a spot on my first page of apps.


Lift is perfect for those still procrastinating on New Years resolutions. Create good habit by persisting 21 days. Choose from a list of habits or choose your own. Set reminders, find friends on Twitter to follow or join a discussion group.

I just started this one, so I’ll have to update you in three weeks.

Anyone else have apps to try? I’m a big sucker for new apps.

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My Plan to Become a Born-Again Voracious Reader

I’ve been a big reader for as long as I remember. The last few years I have been slacking off though. Mostly because there are a million distractions from binge watching Vampire Diaries to live tweeting reality shows to trying to find the end of the internet.

I think another problem is that I tend to read multiple books at once, so I never get really engaged in a single book. If I’m not dying I find out what happens next, when I have down time I’m more likely to fool around on my iPad than I am to crack open a book.

But I have stacks of unread books, so the first step will be to power through them. A couple of self-imposed rules:

1. One book at a time.
2. Non-fiction books don’t necessarily need to be read cover-to-cover.
3. I don’t have to finish every book, but I need to give each one a chance, then let it go if I don’t want to finish it, I can just let it go. Donate or whatever, but I don’t need to add it to the guilt pile.

Here are the first ten I am starting with:

This is your Brain on Music — Daniel j Levitin
The Falls — Joyce Carol Oates
Last Train to Paradise — Les Standiford
Highland Fling — Nancy Mittford
The Flu Season — Will Eno
The Ultimate Sales Machine — Chet Holmes
Behan, the Complete Plays — Brendan Behan
A First Rate Madness — Nassir Ghaemi
Content Marketing — Rebecca Lieb
American Buffalo — Daved Mamet

What are your strategies for making reading a priority?

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When Women Go Off-Duty.

Off Duty Cab

Off Duty Cab

I was reading an interview of David Sedaris in the October 2013 (I know) edition of Writer’s Digest and he mentioned a conversation he had with a woman at one of his book signings:

“I heard on the radio that you were going to be here. Normally I take my bra off and it’s off for the night. I put my bra back on for you.”

He asked the next woman in line, “When you take your bra off, is it off for the night?”

“Oh, hell yeah,” she responded.

Hell yeah indeed. And it made me think how common it probably was. It’s like the lingerie equivalent of the off-duty sign on a yellow cab.

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Twitter History: A Scary Look Back

Have you requested your twitter history yet? I finally got around to it. When I opened my first account in 2008, I really didn’t know what to do with it. But that was more than 7,000 tweets ago. If you think I’m exaggerating my cluelessness, take a look at my 1st ten tweets.

2008-12-13 learning twitter
2009-03-04 haven’t found a purpose for this yet
2009-04-13 college road tripping
2009-06-12 I saw someone in a Tim Horton’s uniform eating lunch in a cemetary.
2009-10-28 God help us all, I’m going to try actually using this.
2009-10-29 assuming I can figure out how to do it from my phone
2010-09-18 it’s just wrong to wear a dirty GTL shirt to Wegmans
2010-09-19 i’m watching a documentary about a bear hybrid. strong and carnivorius like a polar, fearless and aggressive like a grizzly.
2010-09-19 I’ve had this account for a couple of years but I haven’t really used it. I wonder why I thought I wanted to follow icanhazcheeseburger?
2010-09-20 Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day ye scurvy dogs!
2010-09-20 Why in God’s name do I have cher’s I found someone stuck in my head?

I’ll post again with my best tweets.


A Very Shiny App Review

I’ve tried a few new apps and gadgets over the last few weeks. My priority has been finding a replacement for my Google Reader. Google Reader is going away for good in July if you haven’t heard. I-ve had Flipboard on my iPad forever, but I don’t really use it that often. The feeds feel random on there and I’m not really a fan of magazine-like feel. I played with Feedly for a while which was just okay.

A week or so I found this review on Lifehacker for Curata Reader and I’m really liking it so far. Very basic and responsive. You can import your feed from Google Reader if you like, but i decided to start from scratch to get rid of some of the clutter.

It works just as well on iPad or iPhone as it does on a pc.

An appI’ve really been enjoying is Trello. This one I found on The Daily Muse (a must-read blog, BTW). It’s a to-do list app that is kind of like the virtual equivalent of index cards on a bulletin board. You can have multiple boards.

I currently have one for work, one for each of my blogs and one for household stuff. There are to do, doing and done groupings for each board and you can add due dates and categories. I’ve only been playing with it for a few days and i know there is additional capability, but it alreadyseems to be replacing Wunderlist for me.

I’m also recommending the Fitbit Zip. It’s basically an electronic pedometer. Once you set it up, you can clip it onto your waistband and forget it. It syncs wirelessly with iPhone 4s or you can use it with a pc. It gives readouts of steps and miles walked, calories burned and has a clock function, so it can serve as a watch replacement. You can track your weight, activities, water and calorie intake. You can also link to other users, but i haven’t used that option.

Also, if you aren’t using Evernote, you should. Its indispensable and deserves its own post.

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The Trouble With Writing in Coffee Shops

I love to write in coffee shops. It frees me of the usual distractions from things I could be doing instead, television shows that split my attention and bouncing among a thousand browsers.

So I grabbed a big cappuccino:


And a tiny little cinnamon roll:


Sometimes I write rough drafts longhand  to further minimize distractions, especially if I think I may be bouncing from scene to scene, so I closed up to my iPad and got to work.

Things were going along well for a while. I don’t really notice the ambient noise: the clanking of dishes, the hiss of the espresso machine, the low buzz of conversation once I’m in the zone. I had chosen a small table by the window. It was sunny, but lightly snowing at the same time, not terribly uncommon in Buffalo.

At some point I noticed that I was hypnotized by the shadow of my pen as it scratched across the page. Actually, I use mostly Sharpie pens, which don’t really scratch, but “danced” seemed presumptuous and I’ve apparently used up my supply of decent verbs for the day.

I got a little lost in the shadow of the distinctive shape of my Sharpie for a while, but I pressed on.

Sometimes I hear bits of conversations, like the time I sat next to a young couple who were clearly on a first date, asking each other a series of awkward “get to know you” questions. They seemed to be doing okay, though, their awkwardness a commonality rather than an obstacle.

Today I saw a woman pull up alone and leave with a small child. Kidnapping? The neutral ground shared custody exchange of a bad divorce? Babysitting?

A coffee shop can be a source of either distraction or material depending on how you look at it.

The other issue is that sometimes when I am concentrating I clutch at my hair. I don’t normally realize I’m doing it at the time, but I had to walk the length of the coffee shop to leave and I really hope I didn’t look too much  like a mad scientist.


Can I Touch Your Hair?

I was raised in the city of Philadelphia in the 1960s.

My friends in the neighborhood were mainly the children of Irish immigrants as was I. There was Annmarie O’Sullivan whose mom always seemed to be having another baby. We both had the perpetually skinned knees of city kids who grew up where there is no grass.

There were the Tierney’s across the back alley. My mom frantically rushed me to their back door when I woke up covered in spots that turned out to be chicken pox.

There was also Jack, the 35 year old mentally handicapped man who lived next door with his elderly parents and was one of the best friends a six-year-old can have.

There was the Jewish family down the street, the Loves. My mom hemmed their skirts for pocket money and they gave me hand me downs through my teen years. They seemed very glamorous to me.

This was the late sixties though, which brought an end to segregation and an influx of African American families to our neighborhood. I had no idea that this was supposed to be scary and bad and would soon lead to the white flight of neighborhood families to the idyllic suburbs.

I just thought it meant some new friends. (I maintain that it was my six year old self  who was correct, not the hand wringing grown-ups.)

Most notably was Dolores, who would soon be my closest friend, albeit for probably less than a year before we also left for the suburbs.

We played in the alley, on the sidewalk and in my house. We were pretty much inseparable. One day Dolores, who wore her hair in little braids all over her head secured by plastic clips, shyly asked if she could touch my hair. I said sure, not really understanding was was interesting about my very straight long hair.

She reached a hand out and stroked my hair gently, whispering, “It feels like cotton candy.”

The next day there were half a dozen African American girls who I didn’t even know waiting outside to touch my hair.

We moved away soon as well and Dolores and I didn’t keep in touch, but I think if her from time to time and wonder if she remembers the little white girl with the long straight hair.

(this is written in response to the “Besties” challenge from my writing challenge group.


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