Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Browser Add-Ons

I use web-base email (Gmail, Yahoo, etc) and wished there was a way to add a signature to my emails so I didn't have to type the information over and over. Yup, there's an app for that. Wise Stamp. It's a neat add-on you download to your browser settings.

In the free version, you can create two signatures, a personal and a business. Not only can you add your signature, but Wise Stamp allows you to add social icons such as Twitter or Blogger. You can also add a picture of company logo. You can even add your latest tweet from Twitter. Recipients can easily connect with you through your social icons. Wise Stamp turns a plain signature into an electronic business or calling card.

Currently, Wise Stamp is only available for Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, Flock, and Safari.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Friday Five

Five things I can't do.

1. I can't drive a stick shift. An old flame tried to teach me, but I kept stalling the car trying to go from first to second gear. I'm so glad God invented the automatic shift.

2. I can't sing. Well, that's not entirely true. I sing like a hinge.

3. Seems the acceptable form of greeting strangers nowadays is a hug. Not for me. Makes my little inner Puritan scream and shudder. I do have a tactic which is based on a karate move. When I see a hugger coming, I take a step backwards and extend my right hand to shake. (Retreat to a cat stance with a seven block)

4. I can't open my eyes when I swim underwater.  I can't even do this with a face mask or goggles!

5. I can't sew which is funny or pathetic as my ma was a seamstress. I couldn't get the hang of the sewing machine. I can sew on buttons and put up a hem (if forced to). In my defense, I can cross-stitch, needlepoint, and embroider.

What skill are you lacking?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

Today's pick, one of my all time sentimental favorites, The Quiet Man. From director, John Ford, a new pairing: cowboys and Celts. Sean Thornton (John Wayne) returns to his Irish birthplace. He falls in love with Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara). Her brother opposes their marriage and refuses to pay Mary Kate's dowry. Sean just wants to settle down to a quiet life and forget about his in-law and his past. Sparks fly as Sean tries to learn the old ways and Mary Kate struggles to understand her cowardly husband.

One of my favorite scenes is where the courting couple are caught in a rain storm. The Duke's biceps showing through the wet, silk Arrow shirt, just swoony. Funny how Mary Kate's thin, chintz dress isn't so revealing.  Michaleen Flynn played by Barry Fitzgerald steals the show and the movie ends with a fun curtain call. I bet I beat you to the punch, Sunflower. Dum de dum dum de dum de da da dah...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Document Scanner

Sorting and filing documents for my own family can be a time consuming task. Since I now have to keep records for my elderly parents, I was drowning in a sea of paper. I saw an ad on television for the Neat Desk Scanner The scanner allows you to scan in receipts, documents, and business cards singly or in batches. You can easily set up a filing system to electronically file your documents for easy retrieval.

The unit was easy to set up right out of the box. The OCR, optical character recognition software is far superior to OCR I have used in the past. I spent more time correcting OCR errors than I was able to use the document. Not with Neat Desk.   For the most part the scanning feature works well. There are a few problems if your document is smaller than the standard 8 1/2" x 11" feeder. Sometimes auto detect will read small documents as receipts. The problem is easily corrected by by manually selecting the document type in the scan window.

Scanning can work in the background while you sort the documents from the electronic in-box to your file or you can save sorting for a later time.  Documents can also be exported in PDF (portable document file) so you can easily share documents as e-mail attachments. 

There's a back up nag when exiting the program. The nag can easily be changed in the tool menu.

The Neat Desk software isn't set up for scanning photographs, but the Neat Desk community forum suggested using the Picasa 3 the free editing software from Google. I haven't spent much time organizing photographs, but in the test run, Picasa easily recognized the Neat Desk scanner and imported the photograph.

If you're a road warrior, Neat Desk has a portable unit so you can scan your receipts and create expense reports on the fly. Neat Desk also has units for Mac users.

Instead of purchasing the desktop unit from Neat Desk, I purchased from Amazon. The Amazon price was a few dollars cheaper and qualified for free shipping.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Friday Five

Five things you may or may not know about author, Erica Vetsch

1. I first met Erica (7 years ago) in a chatroom for fanfiction writers of the 1960's television show The Big Valley. She liked Nick. I dared her to use a signature tag of Heath I had made for her as a joke. She said if she used the tag, I had to write a story.  I never thought she would use the tag in a public forum. I lost the bet.

2. Her favorite blend of tea is Earl Grey.

3. Erica fancies tarty red nail polish. The tartier the better.

4. She hates fish. Even tuna! Calls it Pookie food. (Her cat's name is Pookie). The smell of it makes her nauseous. (The smell of fish, not Pookie) Makes me wonder, if she ever comes to Boston (seafood capital of the world) what fine dining establishment we can go to? I suppose there's always McDonald's.

5.  Erica had to reprimand her young son when he played Tarzan, tried swinging on the curtains in his room, and pulled the curtain rod from the wall. Made me glad I was raising girls.

Erica Vetsch lives in Minnesota where the weather isn't too good for sledding right now.  She writes historical romances. You can visit Erica at her blog On The Write Path (She's doing her Friday Five about me) or at her website

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quote Book

Since I gussied up the title page of my quote book, the black composition notebook cover looked beige. That is functional, but dull. So I gave the cover a make over with gesso, paints, and a bit of decoupage. Painter's tape turned out to be the perfect shade and size to cover the spine.

Do you collect quotes or jot down your creative ideas in a notebook?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies A to Z

A classic, dog view (what my girlies call a black and white film) melodrama, the 1950 Panic in the Streets. A public health officer (Richard Widmark) and a police detective (Paul Douglas) in a 48 hour race to track down an invisible killer, bubonic plague, before the plague spreads through the city and causes wide spread panic. It's an exciting melodrama with a chilling theme that is still relevant today.

In an interview about his work, Widmark revealed an interesting fact about the film and working with Walter Jack Palance. Palance was a method actor, one who gets into the skin of his character, becomes his character. When you watch the clip, if you think the scene where Palance's character knocks out Widmark looks very realistic, it is.  Widmark said Palance replaced the rubber prop with a real gun because he wanted realism in the scene. Palance achieved his goal as he nearly brained Widmark. Widmark ended up with a couple of stitches in his head and a concussion.

You know the drill. Expand my horizons.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Blogging

Blogging tips to bring readers to your blog suggest trying to keep readers on your blog as well as bringing them back. LinkWithin is a handy widget that appears at the bottom of your posts and finds related posts. Readers can then easily find items of interest and can spend time browsing your blog.

Sign up for the widget is free and simple to follow. You don't need to know HTML and no complicated instructions how to insert the widget in your blog code.

The widget works with Blogger, Wordpress, and Typepad platforms. Within 48 hrs. of signing up for the widget, thumbnails of past posts will appear under each of your blog posts. If there are problems with the widget, the folks at LinkWithin are great with support. Fill out the form from the support page and within a day or two, you'll hear from them via email, and the problem will be resolved.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Friday Five

There was a meme running around Facebook a while ago. Supposedly, the BBC came up with a list of 100 books, and stated the average person would only have read six books from their list. Five books from the list I haven't read.

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I had to read this for a philosophy class in college. I made it 3/4 of the way through the book before I couldn't take it any more. I watched the 1956 movie starring Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart, instead. I dozed off in the middle, and woke up in time to see the end. I wrote a brilliant exam and passed the course.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I tried. Didn't get beyond the first dozen pages. It was just talking head. It needed more action. Maybe cowboys.

3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Didn't see it at the theater, either. I'm not crazy about musicals.

4. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. I tried, but didn't get very far. The book made an excellent door stop.

5. I've read other Dickens stories: Oliver Twist, Bleak House, A Christmas Carol, but I haven't read David Copperfield. I did see him at the theater many years ago. His show is mesmerizing.

Have you read any of these novels?  What classics have you missed?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

One of my favorite quotes, supposedly attributed to Michelangelo, Ancora imparo, "I'm still learning." Apropos on many levels. Skills, life lessons.

Acrylic, Ziller Winter White ink, whatever pen point I grabbed first (either Nikko G or Gillotte 1068A)

Do you have a favorite quote?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


This is a re-post from the day Blogger crashed. I thought it was lost, but found it hiding in the drafts.

As a kid, I wasn't a huge fan of comic books. Not because I didn't like reading them, but because being caught reading them by the nuns or my parents wasn't worth the effort.  When I wanted to read comics, I'd hang out with Himself and read whatever comics he had depending on the phase he was going through.

I've been thrilled with Marvel/Stan Lee bringing the Marvel creations to the big screen. For the most part, I've enjoyed the movies and sequels. (Wasn't too thrilled with Fantastic Four, but didn't like the comics either.) The angsty teen heroes aren't really my cuppa. Maybe it's an age thing. I just want to smack them upside the head and yell at them to grow up. So far, Iron Man has been my favorite hero. I liked the fact he was older, loved that he was a smartass, seemed to have the maturity to change his image, but his ego got in the way.

When I heard Thor was the next release, I was anxious to see it, and I got my wish. I love the stories based on Roman, Greek, and Norse myths.  A disobedient son with a healthy dose of hubris banished from his home by his father. Classic. I wasn't disappointed with Thor and in 3D to boot. The 3D effect didn't have silly schtick kinds of things jumping out from the screen to make the audience jump. It felt more like you were in the middle of the action.

Casting of the three major players Thor, Loki, and Odin was dead on. Anthony Hopkins (Odin) has such a quiet, commanding presence and when he raises his voice you know he is not pleased. Tom Hiddleston as Loki was the perfect whiny, self-serving villian. Chris Hemsworth is Thor, right down to his bright yellow hair, beard, and eyebrows. In his costume, he looked like he jumped off the four color printing comic book page. And let's face it, the guy is on the eyes. I liked the attention to his character not making him a modern hero, but keeping his chivalrous manners and bravado dealing with his enemies. His character arc makes a compelling story. Banished from Asgaard, separated from his magic hammer from which he draws his power, he is bereft of all he has, and who he is. Having lost everything important to him, Thor has nothing to lose. The strength from within is his true source of power, because you don't need the feather to fly, Dumbo.

Since I couldn't remember the comic book storyline, I didn't have to worry about the comparison or which was the better medium, print or film. I had to ask Himself if the storyline was true to the comic.  He said the changes weren't bad.

Thor has enough action, special effects, and a romance to keep everyone happy. An open-ended conclusion means a sequel, and keep your eyes peeled for Stan Lee's cameo.

Have you seen Thor, yet?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies: A to Z

This should have been filed under G, but this is my O pick: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, one of the best horse operas even if it has a hokey theme song. Larger than life lawman, Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) wants to retire and settle down in Tombstone, Arizona. He ends up defending gambler, Doc Holliday (Kirk Douglas) to rid the territory of the notorious Clanton gang. When one of Earp's brothers is killed by the Clantons, Earp seeks revenge in a bloody showdown at the O.K. Corral.

One of the fun facts of this movie: Watch for DeForest Kelley ("Bones" in the original Star Trek) as Morgan Earp. Then find the 3rd season Star Trek episode, Spectre of the Gun. Bones is cast as one of the Clanton gang in a bizarre intergalactic showdown and nod to Kelley's role in the original film.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Copyright

Have you uploaded an image to your blog or website and are curious to see if your image appears on any other site on the Internet? Enter TinEye. TinEye is to pictures as Google is to search engines. Tineye is a reverse image search engine.

 Upload your image to TinEye or supply the URL and TinEye will scour the web looking for the image as well as variations of the image.

If your image is not found, the TinEye spider hasn't crawled the website or page where your image appears. New images are constantly added to the data base.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Friday Five

My parents worked so The Brother and I were left to our own devices for several hours each day. As the elder, six years my senior, The Brother was reminded on a daily basis to "watch your sister." I learned early on it was easier to embrace the idea of whatcha mama don't know, your mama don't mind than feel the fist of an elder sibling.  For the most part, I was a near perfect child in conduct and lay claim to guilt only by association.

Memories of these escapades helped me make the decision to give up my career as a computer programmer and stay home to take care of my children. I know first hand what kids can do left with their own imagination and without adult supervision.  Sometimes I'm amazed we actually survived childhood.  Five things I did that my mama doesn't know about.

1. A lot of the things I did with The Brother usually began with the phrase, "Hey, Sh*thead, wanna see something funny?" For the longest time, I thought that was my name. And as I said I learned early on, it was easier to go along to get along than to suffer the wrath. "Sure!"

The Brother took me into the bathroom. He had a book of matches and a can of lighter fluid. He swirled some of the lighter fluid into the toilet, lit a match, and tossed the match into the toilet. Flames shot out of the toilet higher than the toilet tank. The Brother flushed the toilet and the flames receded like a whirling dervish. The Brother was right. It was funny.

2. When I was 9 or 10 years old, my mother had the kitchen remodeled. The sink was a gleaming, stainless steel affair with a sprayer. My parents had gone out for the evening. I don't remember how the incident started, most likely we were washing dishes. That is, The Brother washed the dishes, and I stood on a stool and dried them. The Brother had control of the sink and the sprayer. I was soaked a few times. My only retaliation was to run to the bathroom to fill up a Dixie cup of water to toss at The Brother.  It was not effective. After another dousing, I ran to the bathroom and found a plastic basin under the sink. I'd show him. I filled the basin and then quickly ran across the hall through the archway into the living room where I couldn't be seen from the kitchen. I stayed very quiet. I knew The Brother would come looking for me, and I'd be ready.  As expected the quiet proved too much. The Brother went to the bathroom door to see what I was up to. Not there. Logic turned him and brought him through the arch. I swung my basin back and let the water fly.

The Brother neatly side-stepped the rushing water. The wall was not so nimble, and the wave crashed against it with a deafening splash. It was my first lesson in physics. A body in motion can easily outrun a basin of water tossed at it. I reached the conclusion faster than the water leaving the basin that this outcome was bad, very bad, and not nearly as funny as it had played out in my mind.  My parents were due home any minute. My face crumpled, and I began to cry. "Don't worry," said The Brother adding his term of endearment for me. He brought out some old towels. While I mopped the wall and rug, he went up to the attic and brought down the box fan. In no time the wall was dry, and the water didn't leave a mark on the wallpaper.

3. The Brother's room was on the second floor of our small, Cape Cod style house. Up fourteen steps. On one side, a wall. On the other, a decorative series of open, pine shelves that also formed a wall of the living room. My mother called the shelves "peek-a-boos"  My mother was a collector of glass figurines and some of her treasures were displayed on the shelves.

I was four or five years old when The Brother thought it would be fun to stuff me in a cardboard box and push me down the carpeted steps. This was in the early days of the NASA Mercury missions. I was squashed into the cardboard capsule along with a pillow and a favorite stuffed panda bear. The cardboard flaps were sealed shut in an over, under, over under fashion. I heard a muffled countdown. Ten, nine, eight...The cardboard box slid down the first couple of steps. All was going well until either I or the panda bear shifted weight and then the box bounced down the stairs ass over teakettle and crashed into the wall below.

I wedged my head through the opening, the box at a standstill my world still whirling by me. The Brother called to me from the top of the landing. "'S'alright?" "S'alright." The correct Quick Draw McGraw cartoon response. Amazingly, not one knickknack was displaced from its perch on the peek-a-boos.

4. Across an empty field, and kitty corner to the back of our house was a brick house. A lovely home filled with nine children.  Their house faced a scenic highway. Next to their side yard/field and to the corner of a main road, was a wooded lot. The woods were called The Little Woods to distinguish them from the large woods across the main road that led to the town forest. Next to The Little Woods and kitty corner to the brick house was another house where the children had a wooden Davy Crockett play fort. The oldest boy who lived in this house even had a genuine, Davy Crockett 'coon skin cap.  To get to the fort, you crossed the field by way of a path though The Little Woods and you would emerge behind the fort.

The Brother and I were with the older boys and girls that lived in the brick house. We had made our way into The Little Woods into a depression the older kids called the Lion's Den. This depression sloped down to the scenic highway below. From the Lion's Den, one could not be seen from the highway, but one had a glimpse of the roadway below. Someone had some water balloons and some bright spark thought it would be fun to lob the balloons onto the highway.  There was an occasional squealing of tires and the toot of any angry horn. Until someone hurled a balloon and it splatted across the windshield of a state police car. Someone whispered "Holy Sh*t." which was followed by the slam of  the cruiser door.

The Brother grabbed one of my hands and one of the other kids grabbed my other, and we flew through the Little Woods to the path. I was suspended between the two older kids, my chubby, five year old legs, churning air as we raced up the path to the brick house.

Someone opened the wood bulkhead doors and we tumbled into the cellar. Along one wall of cellar, was a large, built in storage cupboard. The cupboard doors were swung open and I was boosted in followed by the other kids. We spent the afternoon huddled in the dark with the sound of our heartbeats thrumming through our heads.

5. By far the funniest of funnies was a fall day towards dusk. I had assented I indeed wanted to see something funny. An elderly, neighbor lady two houses down from our house on the opposite side of our dead end road, had been raking leaves. As it was getting dark, she quit for the day and went into her house.  Next door to the elderly lady's house, and kitty corner to our house was a house that had a storm drain in front of it.

You could stand on the grate and could see the dark, oily water below your feet. The Brother had a cigarette lighter, and a water-soluble cherry bomb with a long fuse. Yup, you in the cheap seats guessed it. The fuse was lit, the cherry bomb plopped into the water. The Brother grabbed my hand and raced towards the shadow of a flowering crab apple tree in our front yard. I held tightly to his hand as I sailed like a kite behind him. My red, P.F. Flyers pumping furiously in the air. We sat down under the tree, our breaths whistling in the air.

There was a slight tremor and then a roar. A column of water shot out of the storm drain, thirty feet into the air. Hand to God, it was thirty feet high, and it fell back to earth like a cloud burst.

The elderly lady came rushing out of her house and screamed from her front porch, "What the hell is going on?"

I'm not sure what was funnier: The column of water, deluge, or the what the hell from the elderly lady. It must have been the adrenaline rush. The Brother clapped  his hand across my mouth and pushed me face first into the grass to stifle my hyena laugh.

So 'fess up. What have you done that your mama doesn't know about it? Don't worry. I won't tell. Remember. Whatcha mama don't know, your mama don't mind.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

110 Degrees

I love the heat, but if it's getting to you, have a laugh with John Pinette. Stick with his routine to 3:42 and he does a bit about 110 degrees in Tempe, AZ. Pinette was in Himself's math class at Malden Catholic.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paper Wallet

The girlies will be traveling to ConnectiCon. I wanted to give them some spending cash as an early birthday gift. Found instructions on YouTube to make an origami walletI'm not great with origami, but these directions were simple enough for me to follow along. Aren't the wallets cute? Perfect to hold some folding cash or a gift card.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Night at the Movies - A to Z

This week's choice, The Natural. Centered in America's favorite past-time (no, not watching movies) baseball, and rooting for the underdog. Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) makes a comeback as an aging ball player to the game he loves best.  It's a story of second chances, forgiveness, and believing in one's ability. Wound through the story is an other wordly thread of  magical forces and sports superstition. We all know you don't need the feather to fly, but it doesn't hurt to have a patch with a lightning motif just to hedge your bet.

If you can't make it to the Fourth of July fireworks, there's a spectacular display in the movie.

Get me out of my rut, what's your favorite movie that starts with N?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tools, Gadgets, and Widgets - Social Media

Tweet Topic Explorer is a fun, visual tool for tracking words and topics you tweet about. The program analyzes your recent tweets (or any one else you want to see). Common words are displayed in colored bubbles. The more often you use the word, the larger the bubble. Words that you use most often are grouped together. Tweet Topic Explorer stats also include your total number of tweets and average number of tweets per day.

This tool is helpful if you want to tweet more or less about a certain topic. I can see I need to whine less about snow. Good thing I'll have a couple of months to work on that.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Friday Five

This week I taught a calligraphy class for a children's summer recreation program. Classes were held at a middle school. School has changed a lot since I plunked my butt at a desk. Five changes that made me feel like a dinosuar.

1. The school was built three years ago. The facade looks more like a hotel than a school building.

2. Classroom lights are on a motion detector.

3. No blackboard in the class or a chalkboard. I usually demonstrate the letters using the side of a piece of chalk. I had to improvise on a white board using two dry erase markers held together with an elastic.

4. The toilets in the girls' lavatory autoflush. That made me jump!

5. The children don't go to the library. They go to the media center.

Anything happen to you this week that made you feel like you were past your sell by date?