staying away from Facebook

I’m staying away from Facebook these days.

I still post my blog to Facebook and I check in for notifications, but that’s really it. Every time I start to scroll in my news feed I get nauseous and regret it.

No matter what I do, I can’t avoid posts about that guy with the orange hair. Posts about Congress are often inaccurate, incomplete, out-of-date, or just plain wrong.  And people I like and respect are reposting this stuff. I’ve thought about doing a thorough scrubbing of my news feed, but it just doesn’t seem like it is worth the effort, or would even be successful.

I need to try to stay sane, as best as possible.  Right now that means staying away from Facebook.

I would, however, be happy to have you join me on Instagram, where I keep it non-political and follow people who keep their photos non-political.


automated proofing tools and their limitations

I have a long history with automated proofing tools. That history goes back to about 1990, when I experimented with a couple of grammar checkers while working at a small software company. To put this in context, at that time the only people who used Microsoft Windows were those who used graphic or desktop publishing tools that required it. The rest of us used the command line with the C prompt to start our programs, which, you may remember, we had to use one at a time. It was not until 1992 with the release of Windows 3.1 that the graphical user interface came into common use.

keyboardThe results of the testing I did with these proofing tools were disappointing. Things that should have been flagged weren’t and things that did not need to be flagged often were. Sadly, twenty-six years later in the world of Windows 10 little has changed.

In her marvelous Great Courses lecture series, English Grammar Boot Camp, Anne Curzan shows little love for the Microsoft Word grammar checker. She says that it often gets things wrong, and sometimes the rules it tries to enforce are often not even rules. For example, her version flags sentences that start with “and.” Interestingly, my Word 2013 doesn’t complain. In any case there is, she says, there is no established rule on not starting a sentence with “and.” (Mignon Fogarty, the Grammar Girl, says this rule is “one with no historical or grammatical foundation.”)

I certainly have my issues with Microsoft tools. The Word 2013 proofing tools failed to flag a repeated “the.” The grammar checker in Outlook wanted me to lowercase “give” at the beginning of a sentence (perhaps because it was preceded by “p.m.”) and failed to catch a “you” instead of “your” when I used the phrase “your money.”

Microsoft is not the only guilty party, however. The proofing tool for my personal blog has its annoyances. It asked me to replace “thyme” with “time” and “adobo” with “adobe.” I guess it doesn’t have much of an interest in cooking.

The bottom line: Don’t put too much trust in the grammar tools. Proofread carefully. Better yet, get someone to proofread your work for you.


a new iPad

Terry and I have been very careful about discretionary spending since we have moved south, for obvious reasons. But given the sale of my internet domain at a price greater than I would have expected, I decided to allow myself an indulgence. My old iPad 2 was getting slow and applications were crashing. Since I use it every evening, seven days a week, I decided I was due for an upgrade.

iPad Air 2I bought a new iPad Air 2 and a Logitech case + keyboard to go with it. I’m delighted. The iPad is thin and light, and the keyboard case provides a sturdy environment for the iPad.

The Logitech keyboard/case is designed to work in landscape mode, while all thisiPad case time I have used my iPad in portrait mode. But it’s fine. It is stable. It works well. And I don’t have the possibility of my iPad doing a back flip out of the keyboard as could happen with my old iPad and keyboard.

Meanwhile, the old iPad 2 and keyboard sold for a good price on eBay.  That will partially reimburse me for this new purchase. The nice thing is that they will be a Christmas  present for someone’s youngster.

All good stuff. It’s a real delight.

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saying goodbye to an old friend

I let go of an old friend last Wednesday. I sold my internet domain csquared.com, which I had owned since 1996: twenty years. It was not an easy decision.

I have had many offers to buy the domain over twenty years, all of which I refused. Some were more serious than others, but I turned them all down.

Terry and I used the domain for our email for most of that time, even when we did not have an active web site. After we moved to Hemet I rebuilt the site to promote my web and writing business.

Not long ago I received an email from a domain broker asking if I would sell. He made me a fairly generous offer, but I refused. He persisted. In the end his client more than quadrupled their original offer. It was, in Godfather terms, an offer that I could not refuse.

And so I let go.

At least I won’t have to explain any longer the meaning of csquared.com (Cobb + Christie, plus the fact that Terry was a physics major at Cal State Fullerton).

Please come visit me at my new domain: http://mikecwebandwriting.com. You can email me at mike@mikecwebandwriting.com.

domain transfer letter


Amazon shipping policies

If you are an Amazon customer, depending on were you live you might have noticed more of your packages arriving via the United States Postal Service (USPS). For a long time Amazon used mostly UPS and FedEx. More recently Amazon has developed a partnership with the USPS. Interestingly, that partnership includes Sunday delivery.

AmazomWhen Terry and I lived in Gilroy, just south of Silicon Valley and a bedroom community thereof, Amazon had no Sunday delivery there. Here in Hemet, at the far eastern reaches of the Inland Empire, Sunday delivery is a regular thing. It’s not something I request specially. As an Amazon Prime customer, if I order something on Friday with free two-day delivery I get it on Sunday. It’s not like I’m ordering things where one day would make a difference. A case of car-sized Kleenex (because I can’t find that at the grocery store or Target any longer). A pair of sweat pants.

I think the difference between the two areas has to do with the proximity of Amazon warehouses. In Gilroy the closest Amazon warehouse was 85 miles away. Here there are multiple warehouses within a 50 mile radius.

Interesting.


the dangers of Pinterest

Pinterest logoI wrote last week about having joined Pinterest not as a deliberate decision, but because I was trying to track something down. I had to join to get there. Once I got there, however, there was no there there. But the damage was done and I was hooked.

There’s recipes there. Lots and lots of recipes. Really good recipes. I fixed two in a row that I marked 5 star in our recipe database. Pretty impressive. I can’t say that I’ve ever done that with Cooking Light.

I don’t generally share recipes here, but I’m passing these on to you as an example of the sort of thing that you can find on Pinterest.

I have to make sure that I don’t grab large quantities of recipes from Pinterest and save them. I need to be selective. That’s a good problem to have, I suppose.


Pinterest

I joined Pinterest. I know, Pinterest is not supposed to be a guy thing, and in fact I did not actively go to the Pinterest web site and sign up.

What happened is this. I was looking on Google for something very specific. I wanted to know the proper cooking time for kabobs on my NuWave oven. I was on Google because there are no kabob recipes in my NuWave cookbook. I found exactly what I was looking for and clicked the link. Google took me to Pinterest, which demanded that I sign up. Since they allowed sign-up via Facebook I did so. Only to discover that the recipe wasn’t there.

However, when I signed up for Pinterest it wanted me to specify my interests. I focused on food and cooking topics. So now when I go to the Pinterest home page I am met with all kinds of interesting recipes.

Given the nature of the current election cycle, I am greatly reducing the amount of time I spend on Facebook, not to mention following the news. Despite my attempts to adjust Facebook settings to avoid posts about the angry hamster, I see those posts far more often than I would like. The only solution is to spend less time on Facebook.

I can spend that time on Pinterest instead looking at interesting, intriguing recipes.

My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.

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