Roku Cable Cutter

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I am an old school cable cutter. I’ve had a roku since before roku was cool. Before the advent of streaming tv, I employed four cheapie, programmable VHS recorders stacked and on A/B switches to function as a make-shift DVR to record all my shows using an antenna. I don’t believe in paying for tv. This worked fine for all my Buffy, Battlestar Gallactica, and American Idol needs. I was an early adopter of roku. With a roku + netflix + hulu + amazon, there is no need for cable tv. There is no show that cannot be watched on roku. Even those shows which require traditional pay channels can be bought through amazon prime for $20 a season. I’d rather pay $20 one-and-done to watch Game of Thrones than pay $150 a month to a cable company for crap channels galore.

At present, we have two rokus in our home. One of them is older than Methuselah and doesn’t have full functionality; it cannot get all channels. I use the old one on my treadmill tv to watch Murder She Wrote while I jog. I’ve decided to upgrade the nearly ten-year-old model, so I can also watch all of my youtube channels on my treadmill. You cannot get youtube on that old generation machine. They have a new model called Roku Express that is only $29. It’s time!

Swimmer’s Body

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I fired my alt-right personal trainer in early November. I needed to try something new. Strength training wasn’t working for me. I’ve also been having some carpel tunnel issues with my left shoulder which I think were being exacerbated by lifting weights. I didn’t want to join a traditional gym. I am not keen on getting gross, hot, and sweaty in a group setting. I have PTSD from high school gym. Flashback! I like to workout alone. Swimming laps is cool though. There’s nothing more solitary than that! I hunted for a local place with a good pool. There’s a snazzy community center nearby. I have been going there on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work – my former training days. The pool is great and never crowded. It’s split in two – one side is for swimming lessons and the other is for laps. Usually, I have the lap side all to myself and have never had to share a lane. The joint is crawling with toddlers. They have a lot of swimming lesson programs. That can be a bit jarring, but I get into my groove and ignore all that.

My friend Brenda – who also swims – gave me a tip to get a pair of exercise fins. They are smaller than scuba fins and function primarily to turn you into Aquaman. One would think the fins make swimming easier and less of a workout. This is not true. They make me go faster but work muscles in my ass and legs that I did not know I had. I started out doing 10 laps and am slowly increasing my range. I hit 24 laps last week. I think I’ll stop at 30 laps. This number seems like a nice, about half-hour-ish workout. As I swim, I do counting meditation to keep track of my laps and clear my mind. It’s an amazing workout. I know because I’m famished as soon as I get out of the water!

I’m still doing my treadmill on weekday mornings. More often than not, I also do a half hour walk over lunch. Swimming serves to replace the trainer and provide an upper body workout. I don’t think it’ll do much to transform my body. That middle aged ship sailed many years ago! But I feel great, and swimming is helping me get a good night’s sleep.

Ginormous Garden Pond

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Ok! The cat is out of the bag. The only thing Dr. P wants for Christmas is a teensy-weensy garden pond. He wanted to install one last summer but never got around to it. I think it will be fun. I bought this 125 gallon monster from Lowes. He wanted a smaller kidney-shaped one. I think this odd shaped pond looks cooler. I also like how it has multiple levels for different critters. Polliwogs! We have goldfish that we put outside during the warm months. We also have a ton of frogs, toads, and other aquatic friendly folks. I’m sure the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels will also enjoy it. He wants to build a waterfall / gurgling brook gizmo in our back garden which will flow down to the pond.

I’m a bit nervous that this lug won’t fit into the hatch of my Subaru. If it’s too big, I’ll need to tie it on top. Or maybe rent the Lowes truck for an hour to haul it home. At dinner yesterday, I told him about it (and showed him a picture) to gauge his reaction. If he didn’t like it, I simply wouldn’t pick it up. He seems to like this one. He thinks it will be a bear to dig a hole for it. I told him we can lay it on the ground upside down and “trace” it with spray paint to sketch out the hole we need to dig. Voila! Easy. Our yard is fairly sandy, and the potential tree roots are along the edges.

Note: This surely won’t fit under the Christmas tree!

New Podcasting Setup

We did a few lil’ shoos with the new mixer setup. I think everyone sounded great. The new mics are cheap. And have a cheap, tinny sound. But the overall sound improvement makes this observation seem fussy. The new audio sounds much less like me on a great mic and everyone else on a soup can. Now everyone sounds similar. Coherent. I think it’s progress.

Dr. P and I are – for the first time – in the same room during the show. Formerly, I patched him in from upstairs. He was just another guest albeit on the same wifi. With the mixer, I now can record our audio together. Dr. P still joins the call with camera only and laptop on mute. I feed our mics to everyone else through the mixer.

I did a bit of old school editing and laid down some funny sound effects in the final show. I’m not sure if they’ll continue. It’s time consuming but amusing.

I’m of course going to continue doing my  “no frills” personal journal shows from my iPhone. We’ll see how it all goes.

Write Everywhere With Scrivener Using Dropbox

I am new to Scrivener. But I am enjoying the flexibility and structure that I used to achieve with cork boards, notebooks, spreadsheets, and post-its. And never this well! Scrivener is jam packed with features that I won’t go into here. If you want to learn more about features, there are many instructional youtube videos. Go and enjoy!

For me the feature that really sells Scrivener is the ability to write anywhere and sync my work. For example, on my lunch hour, I can edit a scene on my office computer. Later while waiting in line at the grocery store, I can add some dialogue with my iPhone. Finally at home that evening, I can jump on my personal laptop and pick up right where I left off. Scrivener makes this simple. I am a “don’t quit your day job” writer and work a lot of overtime. I need to be able to eke out content when and where I can.

I am one of those wacky people who use Windows for my computing needs but have an iPhone. I received an iPhone many moons ago as a work phone, and I’ve never been able to kick the habit. All of my instructions and illustrations here are based on this dynamic: Windows PC and iPhone iOS. However, the logic is the same if you are a Mac and iPhone person. You may also use an iPad.

Before I explain my process in Scrivener, I first need to talk about the cloud-based drives that make writing everywhere possible. I use both Amazon Drive and DropBox in tandem. My current work – when Scrivener is open – occurs in DropBox. When I close Scrivener, it automatically saves a backup to Amazon Drive. I’ll show below how to set this all up. Read on!

First visit DropBox. Download and install. I use the free plan, as I only keep my working files in DropBox, and they are relatively small. In the DropBox folder, create a folder called Apps/Scrivener. It will look something like the below in the online DropBox menu.

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A similar folder will also sync to the desktop DropBox folder.

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Next, create a subfolder in DropBox called Apps/Scrivener/Scratchpad. It should look something like this.

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Next visit Amazon Drive. Download and install. I am an Amazon Prime subscriber and pay for Amazon Cloud Drive Storage. I have taken the Amazon pill and use them as my backup service. (Not to mention my grocery store, pharmacy, library, movie theater, and radio station, but that’s a post for another day!) It is also ok to use any other backup system. Just be sure to make it redundant. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. For the Amazon Drive, there is no mandatory naming convention for Scrivener files. I simply call my folder Scrivener/Backup. Here is what it looks like in my desktop Amazon Drive folder.

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Once the cloud-based folders are setup, Scrivener for PC or Mac needs to be installed. Also, the Scrivener App for iOS must be installed on iPhone or iPad. Sorry Android users! I don’t believe there is an Android app yet. But I’m sure one is coming soon. Can’t wait? To get Scrivener in your pocket now, pick up a cheap Apple iPod Touch for under $200.

Tip! When the Scrivener software is first downloaded, it may not be the latest version. This was true for me. Amazon was not carrying the most up-to-date version. The latest version is required in order to be able to sync files between devices. After registering the Scrivener software, go to HELP > CHECK FOR UPDATES on the menu. Download the latest version of the software and install. Once complete, open each Scrivener project in the new version to refresh. It only takes a moment.

Close all programs, and copy the current Scrivener projects from wherever they are saved to the DropBox folder called Apps/Scrivener. The DropBox folder should now look like this.

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Now open an existing project in Scrivener on the computer by finding it in the DropBox folder. Find the Tools > Options menu which looks like this. In the GENERAL pane, set your Scratchpad and Notes location to your DropBox folder at Apps/Scrivener/Scratchpad as shown.

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Now, jump down to the BACKUP pane. Change your backup location to your Amazon Drive Scrivener/Backup folder as shown.

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Repeat the above Scrivener software steps on all the desktop or laptop computers where you’ll be writing. Make sure Scrivener‘s options are pointing toward the appropriate DropBox and Amazon Drive folders on each device. I have Scrivener installed at my office and on my home laptop. I am the sole user, and multiple installs are allowed and encouraged by Scrivener‘s licensing agreement. As I work on each device – closing and saving when complete – my work will sync with my cloud drives.

Close all programs. We are done with the computer settings. It’s now time to talk about writing on-the-go with an iPhone or iPad. Locate the Scrivener App for iOS. Purchase and install.

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The app will ask for DropBox credentials on first open. Add them and sync. This may take a while if there are many projects. When complete, the app will look like this. All the projects in the DropBox folder appear in the app.

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Clicking on any project leads to the familiar Scrivener App version of the Binder. Follow the manuscript path to access the editor. If the text is too small to work with – tired eyes! – pinch zoom. All of changes will be saved.

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When done writing on iPhone or iPad, return to the main screen in Scrivener App. Click on the sync button immediately to the left of Scrivener in the title bar. The next time a project is opened on the computer, all the changes made on iPhone will be there.

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I’ve done it all: index cards, cork boards, journals, spreadsheets, google docs, etc. All of these organization, outlining, and writing tools are great. But they aren’t as great as Scrivener. In addition to doing all these things on steroids and in one place, Scrivener allows me to stop worrying about juggling details and focus on my writing. And using the desktop software with the iOS app, I can write anywhere and everywhere. Give it a try!

Gift Shopping at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is the perfect place to buy small – cheap – holiday gifts for coworkers. I have eighteen people to buy for – give or take temps. Thus, a $5 gift sounds great to my wallet. And folks love them! I usually buy their fancy, special edition holiday cookies. This year, Dr. P suggested that I add cookie butter to the mix. I think that’s a great idea. I’d surely like to be on the receiving end of some cookie butter.

I still have no idea what to buy Dr. P. I’ve bought two gifts so far: one practical, one fanciful. I hate to go the gift card route but think one of the things he wants is seasonal. Maybe I’ll make him some macaroni art?

HelloFresh

Cooking makes a big freaking mess. Dr. P was running late, and I hit the gym. Thus, there is no piping hot dinner waiting for me on the table. I’m pretending to help cook. But I’m really not allowed to touch anything when Dr. P is in the kitchen. #ragetrigger He’s reading the recipe instructions out loud in a voice where it’s impossible to distinguish between “reading to oneself” and “barking orders.” I hope this ends well. I’m very hungry.