Perception and Depth Perception

two blue eyes


Have you ever considered that humans’ eyes sit side by side a few inches apart, rather than one over the other a few inches apart? Whether you believe in a divine creator or evolution, the placement of our eyes facilitates depth perception. I realized this when a corneal abrasion required me to wear a patch over one of my eyes for a short time. Fortunately, mild abrasions to a cornea heal quickly. During this short time, however, I found myself concerned that I was having difficulty judging distances while driving. It was then that I realized that understanding how far apart something is requires the ability to see it from a slightly different angle.

The Back of the Card

There’s a scene from the movie My Cousin Vinny in which Vinny is explaining the difference between what the prosecutor tells the jury and what is actually real. Vinny uses a playing card to illustrate that the prosecutor will show the card and try to convince the jury that it is a brick. He tells his young cousin that by showing only the front side of a very thin card, and nothing else, the prosecutor limits the amount of information that the jury has on which to pass judgment.  He will provide a very specific perception of what he calls the truth. Vinny then shows, by turning the card up, down, and side to side, that the “brick” that the prosecutor showed is not a brick at all. It’s his job, as a defender, to help the jury see the sides, the top, the bottom, and the back side of the “brick”.

Flat Playing Card

Playing Card; photo by Pablo Bernardo

With only one eye, see only one side of an object, like the card that the prosecutor holds up. Our perception is severely limited. Two eyes at slightly different horizontal positions allow us to see an object from two slightly different angles at once, giving us a much better perception. We can gain more information about the object.  From seeing even a portion of a side of the object, we can see that it is not a flat object, but has depth. Taking a few steps to one side or the other gives us even more information about the sides of the object. Seeing it from above and below, and then from the back, we can discern pretty much everything about the outside of the object. But we cannot get that information from standing in one place and observing only one view of the object.

It should be pretty easy to see where I’m going with this.

Point of View Provides Depth

It is impossible to fully understand an issue if the only way you’ve examined it is from standing where you are right now. You must take at least a few steps to either side to understand that the issue has depth. But to fully understand it, you must see the front, both sides, the back, the top, and if possible, the bottom. And that takes effort.

It takes effort because we too easily dismiss some sources of information. We also default to believing that our social media news feeds are showing us things that will give us the full picture. Social media feeds can’t give you the full picture. Programmers designed the algorithms to keep you engaged by showing you things that are very similar to things you’ve interacted with before.

Consider the Source

If an unlikely news source suddenly shows up in your news feed, it’s probably providing a story that is more like what you usually “like” than what it usually shows. If you really want to know an issue, you’re going to have to actually walk around it, searching out people with viewpoints that are different from your own, and actually listening to them, and sincerely trying to understand why they feel the way they do.

What Do You Want From Your News?

There is danger in this. Most people are emotionally invested in believing that their playing card is a brick, and they really don’t want to find out that their emperor has no clothes. (Yes, I’ve mixed my metaphors. Sue me.) It can be satisfying to feel that the “other side” is wrong, but it’s a very shallow satisfaction.

Take off the eye patch, turn the card over, and walk around the object. The satisfaction in finding out you were wrong is much deeper.

Posted in Growth (Evidence of Life) | Comments Off on Perception and Depth Perception

Fishing Fun – Kudos to the Crew of the Destiny

Update: This deep-sea fishing adventure was originally published in November of 2016. At some point it disappeared from the blog, and all the text just vanished.  The photos remained in the media folder so all I had to do was recreate the text. Here it is in its entirety, thanks to my having procrastinated instituting a “read more” link that would direct RSS readers back to the blog itself, thus not having the text all available in my RSS feed.


My family lives in a rural area and it suits us well. We enjoy outside activities that put us in fresh air and challenge our bodies. Particularly, boys need adventure in their lives and it can be difficult to find time to provide that for them. Our guys are teenagers and they love the outdoors. They do pretty much everything that can be done outdoors. They have been wanting for some time to go on a deep-sea fishing trip, and we promised them we’d make it happen.

Rigs lined up on the Destiny

Ready for fishing! Rigs lined up on the deck of the Destiny.

This promised was initialized back in the summer, while Red Snapper was still available. Due to various other commitments and the two weekend trips to Louisiana, we just couldn’t pull it off before mid-November. Looking at the calendar, the only other free weekend we were seeing was the weekend of Veterans Day. That was to be THE weekend for our fishing trip.  Early in the week, I searched and found some wonderful information on a party boat. We would be able to hop onto it Friday morning, and leave out by about 8 a.m. for an eight-hour trip of fishing.

False Start

The family got up at 4 a.m., packed sandwiches, drinks, and snacks, and took off for Destin, FL. We found the waterfront, but we weren’t able to find the boat I had researched earlier in the week. We walked down the docks till we found a booking center for a different pair of boats, the Destin Princess and the Destiny. Both were fully booked for Friday, but we booked a trip for Saturday on the Destiny, an 8-hour fishing excursion, and headed back home. It’s not all that far for us, about a two-hour drive each way, and it was a holiday, so we weren’t crushed.


Booking center and check-in point

Booking center and check-in point

Booking center and check-in point

Getting ready to board

The Destiny, captained by Captain Kendrick, crewed by some of the best deckhands on the Gulf

The Destiny, captained by Captain Kendrick, crewed by some of the best deckhands on the Gulf

Relaxing on deck as we got underway

Relaxing on deck as we got underway

The view from the deck as we were heading out of the protected waters

The view from the deck as we were heading out of the protected waters

Of course the captain has no control over the weather, but his crew made sure the rest of the fishing trip enjoyable and memorable.

We couldn't have asked for prettier weather. The seagulls here followed us for only a short time before giving up on their hope of an easy meal.

We couldn’t have asked for prettier weather. The seagulls here followed us for only a short time before giving up on their hope of an easy meal.

Barely ripples on the water, and as the day moved on, it got even more still.

Barely ripples on the water, and as the day moved on, it got even more still.

The crew had our rods rigged with two hooks. Part of the trip included instruction on how to bait the hooks for best results.

The crew had our rods rigged with two hooks. Part of the trip included instruction on how to bait the hooks for best results.


looking from the top deck

looking from the top deck

baited pole

baited pole

lining the deck, waiting to fish

lining the deck, waiting to fish

There's nothing really significant in this image, just to show that on a day like this, even wake of the boat is pretty.

There’s nothing really significant in this image, just to show that on a day like this, even wake of the boat is pretty.

The upper deck of the Destiny can seat 14 passengers

The upper deck of the Destiny can seat 14 passengers

We were provided with a basket to hold the catch, which we periodically transferred to our numbered stringer, and a bucket with squid and another bait fish

We were provided with a basket to hold the catch, which we periodically transferred to our numbered stringer, and a bucket with squid and another bait fish

Dad's got it down

Dad’s got it down

Opportunistic pelican waits for the return of each vessel

Opportunistic pelican waits for the return of each vessel

My older boy with the family's catch

My older boy with the family’s catch

my younger son with the family's catch

my younger son with the family’s catch

One of the deckhands expertly fillets the catch for each customer who wants it done.

One of the deckhands expertly fillets the catch for each customer who wants it done.

My Family’s Takeaway

Neither my husband nor I had been offshore fishing for more than 20 years, and the boys had never gone offshore. We all took one Dramamine about an hour before departure. I don’t know if we would have needed it, because the water was calm all day, but we didn’t want to have anything interfering with the trip.

I cannot say enough good about the captain and crew of the Destiny. We knew exactly what to expect, and they delivered. They showed us how to fish, how to have fun doing it, how to stay safe, they helped us land the fish, and untangle our tangles. At the end of the trip, they filleted them for us–four cuts with a sharp knife, and we had two fillets per fish.

I can highly recommend this company if you decide you want to go deep-sea fishing. The Destiny Princess will take you on a shorter trip, closer to shore, but either boat will provide you with a fun family adventure.



Posted in Life (mainly mine) | Comments Off on Fishing Fun – Kudos to the Crew of the Destiny

The Body of Christ: Faith in Action

first published the first week in September 2016 but somehow lost in my archives, so I’m republishing it from my RSS feed

This weekend and last weekend it was my privilege to experience a significant gift from God in answer to a prayer. When I saw the devastation and damage caused by the flooding in Louisiana, my heart broke for the residents. I wanted to do something. Yes, I knew I could contribute goods and money to assist in the relief effort, but I wanted to do something. I prayed to know how I could do something, what I could do that would answer the greatest need in the Lord’s way. I wanted to help.

Louisiana Flood 2016 where we went to help

Buildings nearly underwater in Louisiana

We Are The Body of Christ

Songwriter John Mark Hall wrote a song that was performed by Christian musicians Casting Crowns. The title of the song is “If We Are The Body,” and the chorus is this:

But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

christus hands help

The Body of Christ

Faith and Works

The Apostle James wrote: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18) While we can’t “work” our way into heaven, James was reminding us that our faith in Christ should be driving us to action. Around 124 B.C., somewhere here on the Americas landmass, the prophet-king Benjamin reminded his subjects of one simple truth: “And behold, I tell you these things that you may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)

Church Service

I knew that our Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would be organizing a relief effort as soon as conditions permitted. I knew that units would be collecting materials, sending them, and distributing them. Following Hurricane Ivan’s rush through our part of the country, trainloads of goods were sent in from Salt Lake City, and work crews arrived to camp out on the lawn of our meetinghouse and help us get our lives back to normal. After Hurricane Katrina the Church organized work details dispatched from centralized locations in the areas that needed assistance. Workers drove in from unaffected regions and went to work cleaning out houses in preparation for repairs. My husband was a part of that effort, but my children were quite young and I couldn’t participate in that action.

This time was different. My girls are all grown and flown, and my sons are 17 and 15, nearly men. This time, when the call for action went out, we answered immediately. I don’t recall women working on the Katrina cleanup, but the invitation for this project included our entire family. I saw kids probably 9 or 10 years old participating. The organization was conducted at a level higher than myself, so I don’t know what the age limits were, or if it was left to the discretion of the family how to help.

The Setup

The Church headquarters worked with local Church leadership to establish relief effort centers in several locations. Salt Lake sent loads of goods and materials to use and distribute: sleds to haul debris, drywall saws, short knives, prybars, masks, eye protection, gloves and more. Boxes of non-perishable food items. Bottled water. 5-gallon buckets filled with cleaning supplies. The work centers served as distribution points for the tools, relief donations, and work orders, as well as a camp for workers. Women had indoor showers and men had outdoor showers, and a line of portable toilets prevented constant traffic in and out of the buildings, as well as an impossible strain on plumbing. Some meals were provided for the workers.

The Church worked with other local relief centers to coordinate work parties and dispatch them to homes. Each local ward or branch had a crew leader who was responsible for receiving the work orders, scheduling the arrival of the crew, and assessing the necessary work onsite. Then we got to work.

Our Portion

We removed carpet, drywall, furniture (in one case, pews from a church), appliances, insulation. We hauled, swept, hauled some more, swept some more. We hugged homeowners and listened to their stories. We worked alongside people who had lost everything, or nearly everything, in their homes. My heart is still full, thinking about the humility and gratitude we saw. We didn’t do it for the gratitude. We did it because we couldn’t take back that feeling of walking into a home for the first time since the flood waters forced them out, of looking around and just not knowing where to begin. Not knowing how to begin. Not knowing when to expect to get started. Not knowing how high the damage would continue to spread if it wasn’t stopped. We did it because we all thought about how we would feel walking into that. And we did it because we could.

My sons–I am so proud of them. They worked like men. Both weekends, they put aside the things they had wanted to do and dug in and worked. They gained skills in the process of serving others, skills that will serve them in the future. They learned the value of stepping up to help.

The experience was not without light moments. The members of our crew all know each other well and we know what we can get away with.  We will always remember the running line about Jimmy’s Beanie Weenies, and the coinage of the term “Swamp Donkey.”

The Takeaway

It was something of a miracle that I never saw a single mosquito during the entirety of either weekend. The entire experience is something of a miracle, in many ways. The efforts of our crew were multiplied by hundreds of other hands throughout the area. At each home where we served, for that portion of a day, we made a friend, we shared a laugh, a cold bottle of water or three, a hug, and a prayer. It was something of another miracle that somehow I think I received more help than I gave.

Posted in Growth (Evidence of Life) | Comments Off on The Body of Christ: Faith in Action

Are You Informed?

ipad on placemat - informed

ipad on placemat

I don’t watch the news.  In fact, when I pass by a television set that is showing a news broadcast, I do my best to exit the venue as quickly as possible. And yet, I will contend that I am as informed and as well-advised as any news junkie.

Here’s why:

1. We know the news doesn’t tell every relevant fact about a news story. This is because they have a very limited amount of time to devote to each story and they simply can’t tell everything we need to know to form an educated opinion.

2. What they do tell, we can’t count on as being unbiased. Political influence has reached into the mainstream news media, both from the left and the right.

3. The information we get to prepare for anything is inaccurate and incomplete.

4. I pay attention to the weather, which I can get from the web.

5. The local news stories are all posted on Facebook, or my friends and family tell me about them.

What else would I need? Our Church leaders have given us counsel to have an emergency evacuation kit with food and water for at least three days. We have been counseled to stay out of debt and to store food and supplies.

Do you know someone who has been getting irritable and depressed?  Ask them how much of the news they’re watching and reading. Turning off the news and putting away the newspapers can produce an amazing improvement in disposition.

So are you more informed than I am by watching what you know is misinformation? And what are you doing with it? And how is it making you feel?

By turning off the hate and untruth, I am more able to listen to the Spirit of Truth, which will keep me informed of everything I need to know.

Are you in?

Posted in Liberty | Comments Off on Are You Informed?

Consumer Security Book is coming!


At the beginning of 2017 I reorganized my work on the book and got the text written. It took a little over three months. I have a cover, and it’s at this moment in the hands of an editor for the second pass through.  I think it’ll probably be early in 2018 when I get all the work done and get it published.


originally posted 7/4/2016

I haven’t been putting a lot of material up lately because I’ve been working on getting a book ready for publishing. Coming to an e-reader or computer or smartphone near you, Digital Safety for the Digitally Naive: Every User’s Guide to Staying CyberSafe. This book is a comprehensive advisory and tutorial to help you avoid losing your data, your identity, and perhaps even your dignity.

I’ve finished up the content, I think (unless something else thumps me on the head while I’m in the next steps), and I’m preparing to start the formatting preparatory to the actual publishing process.

Look for an announcement on this site, my twitter account @yanqui, and on the Grown Up Tech Facebook page.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Consumer Security Book is coming!

The Case Against Mass Surveillance

American Flag

American Flag

NOTE: this post was published in June of 2016, but it was gone from my post listings when I went looking for it to optimize it. Fortunately, my RSS feed had published it in its entirety. The content is still timely.

I recently read a suggestion that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear.  To put it another way, if we’re not doing anything wrong, we shouldn’t have a problem with government surveillance. I’d like to offer the following rebuttals in response.  I don’t have citations immediately available, because this material that I present has been accumulated from many sources over the years. Some came from academic research in the course of my career studies, some from podcasts regarding liberty and public policy, and some from general technology news.


The government really hates the use of encryption for any purpose other than government use.  Government agents have categorically stated that the use of encryption automatically casts a cloak of suspicion over a user of it. However, encryption  is necessary for security. Without encryption, no online transactions would be safe to use. You couldn’t access your bank accounts at their websites, you couldn’t perform any commerce transactions. You couldn’t apply for a job online. Well, let me correct that: you COULD, but you would be exposing an awful lot of information to anyone who was able to grab it, and without encryption, anyone could grab it. That means your credit card information would travel across the internet in easy-to-read plain text. Your social security number in an online job application would be available to anyone to see.  These are things you DON’T want just anyone to see.

So why would anyone use encryption for any other purpose? Well, the United States federal government considers you to be a suspect if you fall into any of the following categories:

1. Those that talk about “individual liberties”

2. Those that advocate for states’ rights

3. Those that want “to make the world a better place”

4. “The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule”

5. Those that are interested in “defeating the Communists”

6. Those that believe “that the interests of one’s own nation are separate from the interests of other nations or the common interest of all nations”

7. Anyone that holds a “political ideology that considers the state to be unnecessary, harmful,or undesirable”

8. Anyone that possesses an “intolerance toward other religions”

9. Those that “take action to fight against the exploitation of the environment and/or animals”

10. “Anti-Gay”

11. “Anti-Immigrant”

12. “Anti-Muslim”

13. “The Patriot Movement”

14. “Opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians”

15. Members of the Family Research Council

16. Members of the American Family Association

17. Those that believe that Mexico, Canada and the United States “are secretly planning to merge into a European Union-like entity that will be known as the ‘North American Union’”

18. Members of the American Border Patrol/American Patrol

19. Members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform

20. Members of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition

21. Members of the Christian Action Network

22. Anyone that is “opposed to the New World Order”

23. Anyone that is engaged in “conspiracy theorizing”

24. Anyone that is opposed to Agenda 21

25. Anyone that is concerned about FEMA camps

26. Anyone that “fears impending gun control or weapons confiscations”

27. The militia movement

28. The sovereign citizen movement

29. Those that “don’t think they should have to pay taxes”

30. Anyone that “complains about bias”

31. Anyone that “believes in government conspiracies to the point of paranoia”

32. Anyone that “is frustrated with mainstream ideologies”

33. Anyone that “visits extremist websites/blogs”

34. Anyone that “establishes website/blog to display extremist views”

35. Anyone that “attends rallies for extremist causes”

36. Anyone that “exhibits extreme religious intolerance”

37. Anyone that “is personally connected with a grievance”

38. Anyone that “suddenly acquires weapons”

39. Anyone that “organizes protests inspired by extremist ideology”

40. “Militia or unorganized militia”

41. “General right-wing extremist”

42. Citizens that have “bumper stickers” that are patriotic or anti-U.N.

43. Those that refer to an “Army of God”

44. Those that are “fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation)”

45. Those that are “anti-global”

46. Those that are “suspicious of centralized federal authority”

47. Those that are “reverent of individual liberty”

48. Those that “believe in conspiracy theories”

49. Those that have “a belief that one’s personal and/or national ‘way of life’ is under attack”

50. Those that possess “a belief in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism”

51. Those that would “impose strict religious tenets or laws on society (fundamentalists)”

52. Those that would “insert religion into the political sphere”

53. Anyone that would “seek to politicize religion”

54. Those that have “supported political movements for autonomy”

55. Anyone that is “anti-abortion”

56. Anyone that is “anti-Catholic”

57. Anyone that is “anti-nuclear”

58. “Rightwing extremists”

59. “Returning veterans”

60. Those concerned about “illegal immigration”

61. Those that “believe in the right to bear arms”

62. Anyone that is engaged in “ammunition stockpiling”

63. Anyone that exhibits “fear of Communist regimes”

64. “Anti-abortion activists”

65. Those that are against illegal immigration

66. Those that talk about “the New World Order” in a “derogatory” manner

67. Those that have a negative view of the United Nations

68. Those that are opposed “to the collection of federal income taxes”

69. Those that supported former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr

70. Those that display the Gadsden Flag (“Don’t Tread On Me”)

71. Those that believe in “end times” prophecies

72. Those that store food beyond two weeks’ worth.

That is an intimidating list! Notice that very few of these groups of people have much, if anything, to do with radical Islamists. If the surveillance agencies collect enough material, eventually nearly everyone could fall into at least one of these categories, and if material (emails, texts, letters, phone conversations) were collected that “proved” that you fall into more than one of the categories listed above, you could end up on the no-fly list, you could lose a security clearance if you have one, your identity could be flagged and you could be prevented from certain types of work, you could be followed. I don’t care if you have nothing to hide, if you get followed enough, you begin to hate it.


Mass surveillance is ineffective in keeping us secure. Surveillance of individual targets is incredibly effective in garnering useful information. Groups of data sets can provide trends and help connect the dots in some amazing ways. But when larger and larger data sets are gathered, even the best software loses effectiveness in drawing lines and connecting trends. The more records there are collected, after a point, the less valuable each record becomes as a piece of security information. The security agencies have justified mass surveillance by saying that they want these records on hand in case they need them. But projects like Prism and KeyScore are collecting so much data–in the case of Prism, ALL OF AT&T DATA NETWORK TRAFFIC–that finding anything of value among all those records would be exactly as easy as finding a needle in the proverbial haystack. So if they were to look for keywords, which keywords should they look for? “Bomb?” If you were actually going to bomb a target, would you really put it into an email? Even an encrypted email? Not likely. If the agencies do a massive record search on the word “bomb,” what they’d likely come up with is references to a new song being “da bomb” or a movie that bombed at the box office. And searching that level of record storage, even with a huge computer processing center, would still be so laboriously slow that by the time they found anything they could actually use to build any sort of accurate picture, whatever it was that was happening, would already be past.


Government doesn’t always get it right. So supposing in several different emails, to different people, maybe several years apart, the agency found an email that confirmed an order for fertilizer, because it’s gardening season. And another time they found a record of a van rental because you were taking a bunch of kids on a field trip. and another time they found a search engine record showing that someone at your house seem extremely interested in a particular historical landmark, because your son was doing a report on that landmark. Prior to the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, they wouldn’t have made anything of it. Since that incident, however, surveillance revealing a fertilizer-van rental-landmark connection might send a signal to the agents that you were planning to pull a McVeigh.

But this example is conjecture. There are documented examples of agents using surveillance and putting the wrong pieces of the puzzle together and coming up with a picture that “almost” makes sense, but which was totally incorrect. The E-Verify system  of verifying employment eligibility is a prime example of what should be a slam-dunk great system to make sure that only eligible people get to work in America. But there have been many–way too many–false positives on American citizens, who have to spend their own money proving not only that they are American citizens, but that the E-Verify system has falsely flagged the as ineligible to work in the country. And after that happens, there is no recourse for them; the government accepts no responsibility for getting it wrong. Can you not see how objectionable this is?


And here’s another reason we don’t need to trust the government with all our data: The OPM data breach. The Office of Personnel Management suffered the largest data breach of any government agency last year. Millions of records of people directly and indirectly employed in government service had their personally identifiable information compromised. I don’t work for the government, I am employed by a technology services contractor, but my services are leased to the US Army. I had a background check in preparation for this job. So this exposure affects me, AND my husband, AND my kids. So because the OPM didn’t take the proper security precautions (and they have admitted this), millions of records of employees AND their family members have been compromised.

So I’m not guilty of anything; I just know how these pieces get put together, I know where the surveillance security holes are, and I know that there are way too many things that the government considers fodder for the Enemy List. It’s not that I have anything to hide from the government. The government has taught us through its actions not to trust it with our individual security, and now they’re wondering why we don’t.


Posted in Liberty | Comments Off on The Case Against Mass Surveillance

Spatty review – Get the last of that stuff out of the bottle

close up of Spatty

What is this?

This is a Spatty. It’s a tiny little device that has made me soooooooooo happy! The spatty has a rigid plastic handle and a soft plastic tip that allows me to scrape down into the sides and bottom of containers to get every last bit of substance. Let me show you.

What does the Spatty do?

I didn’t realize I wanted to write this blog post until I saw how well the Spatty does what it does.  One of my pet peeves is the amount of liquid foundation makeup that sticks to the sides and bottom of the bottle that you can only use if you stand the bottle on its head and let it all drain to the lid. The problem with that is that when you take the lid off, you have a mess!  The Spatty lets you scrape all that stuff off the sides and bottom, with some exceptions. This bottle has a right-angled neck, so the corners of that angle are not going to be reachable with the Spatty.

front of bottle cleaned


You can see in this picture that the Spatty has scraped a lot of the foundation liquid from the sides of the bottle.

side of bottle scraped

bottom of bottle showing scrapeEven down to the bottom of the bottle!

bottle scraped nearly clean

There will be some parts that the Spatty can’t get to, but I think it’s pretty impressive that I was able to scrape the bottle nearly clean. At the point where I would have previously thrown the bottle away, I had almost two weeks of use still left in the bottle.

What else do I use a Spatty for?

I have an eye cream that is thicker and creamier than my moisturizer, it’s actually a cream rather than a lotion. But the jar it comes in has an opening about an inch in diameter. That’s just enough room to get my finger in it, but not big enough to do so without getting the cream under my fingernail. The product costs enough that I don’t want to waste it by washing it off my nails down the drain, and I can’t do a good enough job of getting it out of my nails to use on my face. Enter the Spatty – I can pick up just enough of the cream to use on my face without wasting it on my nails.

Where can you get a Spatty and how much does it cost?

I got mine at Walmart for just under five dollars. It’s already saved me that much in the makeup I scraped out of the bottle. I haven’t used it anywhere else in my home, because my personal care products are the only bottles I can’t get my hand into. I hope this tiny little device makes a fortune for its creator, because they deserve it!

Here’s a link to it on Walmart’s site

Here it is on Amazon – a little more expensive but if you were adding it to another order it might be worth it. (Disclaimer – this is an affiliate link. What does that mean? Click here to find out).

Posted in Life (mainly mine) | 1 Comment

Orchestrated Divisiveness

photo credit:

Let’s address the elephant in the room: I’m a middle-aged white female, so the viewpoint is going to come from that angle. It’s also important that you know that I do not watch the news, and I’ll explain later why watching any news program is likely to make you less informed than if you didn’t watch any. I wait for synthesis. After the initial emotions are out, and the real facts get presented, then I can make a reasoned decision on what happened. Sometimes. Sometimes we just don’t know what we need to know to make a decision. And sometimes it’s really none of our business. At those times, we need to pay attention to what the focus is.

Look around at your friends. You probably have a pretty diverse group of people you like spending time with, and the group probably shifts depending on the activity. When I want to go hiking, the group tends toward the outdoorsy crowd. At work, we’re pretty geeky. We have varying skin tones and cultures and backgrounds. We represent a pretty broad income and wealth spectrum, but none of us fall into “the 1%” of wealthiest Americans.

Divisions are being imposed on us. I don’t know a single person among my friends of any color who would participate in rioting or looting in “protest.” I don’t know a single person among my friends who would say that any lives are less valuable than any other lives. I don’t know a single person among my friends that would justify police brutality against any person of any race. All of my friends are saying the same thing, that their friends also don’t feel that same way. Surely we don’t live in a tiny minority of people who behave rationally toward one another? So where is all this contention coming from?

We are being fed.

Think about it. These feelings of animosity are NOT organic. They are generated. People don’t naturally feel resentment toward people of other income levels. People don’t naturally hate people of other races. Women don’t naturally resent men. Children don’t naturally hate their parents and hold them in contempt. Hate is being generated. Hate is being spoon-fed to us. And we are eating it up and regurgitating it on command. Why?

The answer can be condensed into one word: Control.

As long as we feel that we have an enemy, we can turn to the government to control that enemy, and we will give up a significant amount of our liberty in order to gain that control. The result is that we ourselves become the subject of control. Since we still live in a white-majority nation, agitators stir us up against minorities, and we are afraid that “they” will “come after” us, so we call for a heavy hand of law and order to maintain “peace.”  Do you feel peaceful? Probably not. Why not? Because contention cannot produce peace.

And, still in that white-majority nation, it is true and evident that minorities, and most particularly blacks and hispanics, are NOT treated by authority equally with whites. And to minorities want justice. Who can blame them? It rarely comes. But on those occasions when justice is served, and justice falls on the side of the minority individual, do we feel peaceful? Probably not. Why not? Because contention cannot produce peace.

We see the “news” reports about wealthy people and corporations doing bad things, and the divide is then not along racial lines, but along income or wealth lines. Those horrible corporations should be made to suffer like the rest of us peons. When you see a Bernie Madoff go to prison, does that bring you peace? Probably not. Why not? Because contention cannot produce peace.

In as many ways as we can be divided, we are being divided, and manipulated to hate all members of all groups outside of the one we are in. In the Venn diagram that represents your life, that area in the very center where everyone shares all your characteristics and viewpoints, that’s the group of people with whom you are supposed to feel comfortable.

The media outlets are not informing you. Regardless of how many outlets you watch with what you think are “differing biases” you are still getting only what you are supposed to get to make a very uninformed decision. And once you make your decision, and you are prepared to defend it with all the emotion evoked every time you hear something about it, you are unlikely to change that decision.

We need to all be looking at “news” and “information” with a very skeptical eye. If you must watch the “news,” try this: try NOT forming an opinion on a new story. Try to ask yourself, “What if they got most of the facts wrong on this?” What if they’re telling us only the part of the story that makes this person look bad, but nothing that makes him look good? And what if he really is good? And what if they just plain don’t know anything about the story, but just brought you some sensational stuff on it? Over the next few days, more “facts” will be discovered, but if you have already formed an opinion, you won’t change it with new “facts.” So try to NOT form an opinion. Then, over the next few days, try alternative news sources for more information. Over time, you will see stories come out on blogs from people who were really at the event and have a point of view that is very different–and likely much more valid–than you will hear reported on the “news.”

And most importantly, don’t let the media outlets do the analysis for you. Analyze it for yourself, and do so with an understanding that the analysis that is brought to you by the mainstream media outlets has been orchestrated to make you angry or afraid of anyone on the other side of the issue.

Finally, try turning off the news for a week. I promise you, you won’t be missing out on anything important. You will still hear about the most important stuff, but you’ll be able to investigate it with a much more open mind. Seriously, don’t even listen to talk radio. Don’t listen to radio news. Just turn it all off, and hunt down those incidents that you are genuinely concerned about. There is very little going on in the world that changes your life and that you can do anything about. When you do this, you will be searching with a less-jaundiced eye, a less-formed opinion. You will go through a bit of withdrawal. But at the end of the week, you will feel more peaceful.

Why? Because contention cannot produce peace.



Posted in Liberty | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Orchestrated Divisiveness

Making My Coupons App Work With My Grocery List

I am waiting for someone to create an iPhone app that will allow my scanned coupons to work with my grocery list. I’d love to be able to select “lunch meat” and have the app tell me, “You have a scanned coupon for that. Note it in shopping list?” so that while I”m shopping I’ll know to pull that coupon. Ideally, the app would allow me to check off items on my list and hold them in another list, so that before I get to the checkout I could pull the coupons I want to use before I get to the checkout, but not in the middle of the aisle of groceries. If you can develop that app, I have several customers lined up for you. In the meantime, I have a method of scanning my coupons and exporting them to an excel file that I can use with my shopping list, and it’s not that difficult. The steps are as follows:

  1. Scan or import the coupons

  2. Export them to a file

  3. Unzip the file

  4. Import to spreadsheet

  5. Work with the data

The coupon app I use is called Coupon Keeper 2, and it’s not free. Current price on it is $12.99 and I’ve used more than that in coupons, so as long as I can actually use the coupons I clip, it’s worth it. There is a Lite version, and I’m not sure what the differences are.

1. Scan or Import the Coupons

Adding coupons can be done in four different ways: you can scan the coupon’s barcode, you can do a bulk import of the published coupons, you can type in the barcode and search for it, or you can manually put the information in.

To scan the barcode, find a comfortable position for the phone or import device where you will be able to move quickly from one coupon to the next without having to reposition the device each time you add a coupon. The position shown below is how I hold my iPhone while I’m scanning the barcodes of the coupons, it allows me to position the phone over the barcode and see what the camera sees, then to select the “save” button without moving my hand from the grip I have.

The green lines show where you want to position the barcode within the camera’s view. Once the camera gets a good focus on the barcode, it will capture the image automatically.

As the image is captured, the fields are populated with the coupon’s details, as well as an image of the coupon itself. Select the Save in the upper right. If you already have an identical coupon, you will be presented with the option to add the current coupon to an existing coupon. To manually add a coupon, you just type the information into the fields.

A bulk import is just like it sounds; you select the source of the coupons, by week, then within the source you select the items you are clipping and want to add to your database. My experience with this process is that there are going to be several items in the physical circular that aren’t listed in the bulk import, and the scan process for me is much more intuitive, so I don’t bother with the bulk import, I just clip the ones I want and scan them in.

If for some reason the coupon doesn’t scan (sometimes the camera just can’t focus the barcode well), you can type in the barcode and search. The app will find the coupon in the national database and populate the fields, just as it would with a scan, then you just select Save again.

2.Export them to a file

After you have your coupons entered into the phone’s app, you want to make the information about them available outside of the app, so we’re going to export the data out of the iphone into a file on your computer. So still in the Coupon Keeper app, go to the Settings icon, looks like a little gear, and select Data Management.

Within Data Management, select Export Active Coupons to iTunes. You could select Export All, but that would send expired coupons as well, and there may be some use for that, but not for this purpose.

Now we’re going to go to a part of iTunes you may not have known is there: File Sharing. With your phone connected to your computer and iTunes open, sync your phone. Then find the phone icon up near the upper left corner, and click on it:

In the left column, under Settings, select Apps. Scroll down to the bottom of all the apps loaded on your phone, and the whole screen will scroll up as well. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see File Sharing, and a list of apps that can share files with the computer from the phone.

You should fine a file with today’s date on it. Click once on that file to highlight it and elect Save to…, and navigate to the location you where you want to save it, then click on Save To.

3. Unzip the file.

The file has the same file name you saw in iTunes, and it’s zipped, so you’ll use whatever unzipper you normally use (modern systems will do this automatically just by double clicking on the filename).

It unzips it into a file folder, and the folder will have a comma-separated-values file and the images of all the coupons:

You can close the file manager now and we’ll open up Excel. If you are using a different spreadsheet, the instructions should work pretty much the same. So just open the program without opening up a file yet.

4. Import to a spreadsheet.

Select File, then in the dropdown menu, select Import.

What type of file do we want to import? It’s a comma-separated-value file, or CSV. If you opened the file just on its own, it would open up in a text-editor, and you would indeed see the values, or items in the file, separated by values, and it would be such a jumble that it wouldn’t make any sense. So we’re going to let Excel separate the values for us. Select Import.

Navigate to the folder ExportCoupon, then select the file Coupon.csv, and select Get Data. The next three steps are going to tell the spreadsheet how you want to see the data. The default selections should be correct, it’s a pretty simple file. Select Next>.

Once again, these defaults should be correct, and you should be able to see some of your coupons in the Data preview section. Select Next> again.

These defaults are also self-correct. Select Finish.

For this import, we do want to use the Existing sheet, and it should default to =$A$1, so just leave it there. Select OK.


5. Work with the Data.

Your spreadsheet is populated with ALL the coupon data, some of which is not going to be very useful. I keep the columns for Name, Category, Detail, Expiration, Quantity Available, and Value. I delete the columns that I don’t find useful, and I add one column for Item. In that column, I put what I call it in my grocery list. I also make sure the coupon Category corresponds with the category separators I use in my coupon keeper.

Verify some of the expirations, you may see this:

Verify if that coupon has no expiration, or if the database had it wrong, and if so, you can correct it here.

Now you have a spreadsheet of coupons that corresponds to your shopping list (I use Our Groceries, the free version because I don’t mind the ads), and you can sort the items in your spreadsheet so you are using the closest to expiration first, or by whatever else makes sense to you.


Posted in Life (mainly mine), Technology in perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Making My Coupons App Work With My Grocery List

The Pigeon

Something caught my eye this morning as I was going about my normal routine, a movement just outside my apartment window. I turned and saw a pigeon standing on his side of the ledge, peering at me through the glass. I had seen birds fly past my window before, many times, but I don’t recall any ever landing outside my window, at least not while I was standing looking through it. But birds do tend to live outside, so I moved on, giving it no further thought.

Walking past that same window about half an hour later, I saw him (her?) again. At least, I think it was the same bird, but as they all look very similar, it would have been difficult to say with any certainty. This time, however, I noticed something unusual about the bird–it had something attached to one of its legs.

I walked slowly and cautiously over to the window. The bird seemed unafraid as I approached, and even as I raised the window with a painstaking timidity, it never moved. It just stood there, watching me.

I didn’t try to reach out to it, not at first. I spoke softly to it, though I can’t imaging how the bird could hear my voice over the noises of the street below. “Well, bird,” I said, almost in a whisper, “where is your nest? I don’t see it up here anywhere.” Of course I didn’t expect the bird to answer, that would almost certainly indicate I was acting out a very realistic dream. I left the window open and went about the rest of my morning get-ready, sometimes talking at the bird as I went. Just before I began gathering my things to head out the door, I turned again back to the bird–only this time, he was standing inside my window. Not far inside, just one step onto the windowsill on my side of the glass, and still completely unafraid.

I tentatively walked to where the pigeon seemed to be waiting for me. He held out the leg with the attachment, and I could see that it was made of a soft leather, probably a deerskin, and it was held on with narrow strips of the material gently knotted. Untying it and unwinding it took much less time than I had predicted, and I was soon holding a diary-sized piece of very normal paper with a message:

Congratulations–this bird has chosen you as its new partner. He isn’t much of a companion, but he has brought me communiques from some very remote places. It is rumored he was instrumental in solving a murder mystery in Vladovostok. The message he brought me first didn’t indicate a name, and the legging he is wearing is the same one he came to me with about five years ago. It doesn’t seem to have been affected by time or weather. PS–he doesn’t always come back.

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on The Pigeon