The Blame Game – no excuse for incivility

Unless you’re an only child, you’ve played the blame game, or your younger siblings did. “She did it first.” Now I want to ask you, did your parents accept that as an excuse for your bad behavior?

Blame Game – Bill Clinton

Yes, Bill Clinton behaved badly toward many women. It is inexcusable for the most powerful political figure in the world to proposition a young, starry-eyed intern. Bill Clinton will have to answer for all the actions of which he has not sincerely repented. As little esteem as I hold for his lack of civility, he is not responsible for the actions of succeeding figures.

Blame Game – George W. Bush

I think this guy tried, but sort of blundered his way through two administrations. He started off with good intentions and got us entangled where we didn’t need to be. But he’s not responsible for the actions of succeeding figures.

Blame Game – Barack Obama

He started out with a lot of opposition from both parties. As much as I disagreed with much of what he wanted to do, I believe he served his constituents well as a Senator, and I think he tried to do what he felt was expected of him as President. Be that as it may, all of his deeds or misdeeds offer no excuse to succeeding figures.

Which brings us to – Donald Trump

We simply cannot excuse President Donald Trump’s unpresidential lack of civility by raising the subject of preceding presidents. Let’s go back to the opening paragraph. Older brother Johnny gets caught cheating on a test at school. Mom and Dad are understandably upset, and punish him appropriately.  A few days later, the grocery store clerk catches you stealing a candy bar and calls your parents.

Are your parents likely to go soft on you because your brother cheated first?

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Fishing Fun – Kudos to the Crew of the Destiny

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.

Fishing poles lined up along the rail of the deck

Ready to FISH! Rigs lined up on the deck of the Destiny

This promise 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 booked for Friday but we booked our 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 on the Destin Waterfront

Booking Center and check-in point

passengers preparing to board

Getting ready to board



The Destiny

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


On deck, heading out to the Gulf

Relaxing on deck as we got underway

Leaving 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 sure made the rest of the fishing trip enjoyable and memorable.

Seagulls following boat

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.


Very calm waters

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

Rigged and ready

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




the wake of the boat

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

upper deck

The upper deck of the Destiny can seat 14 passengers.


looking down the side        rod and reel       getting ready to fish      getting ready to fish

bait and 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.


untanglingcrew fileting the catch      Kyle with the catch      Dylan with the catch      Greeters as we came back to the dock

My Family’s Takeaway

A couple of notes on this trip: Neither my husband nor I had been offshore fishing for more than 20 years, and the boys had never gone offshore, so we all took 1 Dramamine about an hour before departure. I don’t know if we would have needed it, because the water was perfect all day. But we knew we didn’t want to have anything interfering with our 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 inland, but either boat will provide you with a family adventure.



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The Body of Christ: Faith in Action

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.


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Are You Informed?

working at computer

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 well-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. 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?


photo credit: Picjumbo
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Coming Soon! Cybersafety Ebook

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.

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The Argument Against Mass Surveillance

Seal of the United States Department of State.

Seal of the United States Department of State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In response to the suggestion that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear, or, 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 responses.  I don’t have citations immediately available, because this material that I present has been accumulated from many sources over the years, some from academic research in the course of my career studies, some from podcasts regarding liberty and public policy, and some from general technology news.

A.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.

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.

2. 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.

3. 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, fertilizer-van rental-landmark 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 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 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, I just don’t trust them to do the right things with it.

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Orchestrated Divisiveness – Take Back Control of Your Thoughts

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 we have the real facts, 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. (hint: it’s divisiveness)

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.


Someone is imposing divisiveness 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. Someone is generating them. 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 this one concept: Divisiveness leads to control.

Contention cannot produce peace

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.

Us vs. Them

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.

Comfort Zone

In as many ways as we can be divided, we are 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.

Skip the Face Value

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.

How to defend against orchestrated divisiveness

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.



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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.


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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.

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