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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Blanket Blues

I am knitting a blanket. It's not a large, but it's not a baby blanket either. I've done other blankets before this, but they were crocheted and they were 1) baby blankets or 2) done with super bulky yarn and crocheted up fast. This yarn is not bulky and the throw needs to be big enough for a grade school boy, so much, much bigger than a baby blanket.

I've learned a valuable lesson--never, ever knit a blanket!

It's taking forever! I didn't do a swatch to see if I matched the pattern's gauge and I must be off because I should be at the 40% mark, and as I look at the blanket, I'm like, um, yeah, no. I'm nowhere near 40%.

At first, I told myself I wasn't allowed to knit anything except the blanket. I thought this would guarantee that I focused on it, but I reached a point where I couldn't stand to look at it any longer. So I grabbed two of the patterns for which I've bought yarn and am debated which one to do. Either one of them will challenge my skill set and I'm torn between wanting the challenge (yea!) or wanting something simple. Although, if I wanted something simple and repetitive, I have that blanket.

I'll get it done--I promised--but I'm burnt out already.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Olympic Dreams

I love the winter Olympics. Seriously love them. The summer Olympics are not a big deal. I'll watch them--at least some of the events--but I don't get into them the way I do the winter games. Maybe it's because I'm from Minnesota?

Anyway, I always watch a lot of the winter Olympics and this year I've been knitting as I've watched. Ravelry has an event called Ravellenics where knitters and crocheters try to finish projects while the games are on. I'm doing a scarf which I wanted to finish, but because I hate seed stitch, had been putting off. I figured this was a good way to finish it.

And now that I've totally digressed... One of the things I love most about the Olympics is watching the athletes fulfilling dreams. Some of these sports are obscure--like the cross country skiing/target shooting event--and you have to think these men and women are doing it solely for love of the sport.

I love to see people pursuing their dreams. Even if they don't medal, they've still succeeded far beyond someone who didn't even try.

One of my favorite stories is the man from Tonga. That's right, Tonga sent an athlete to the winter games. Notice the singular. Pita Taufatofua spent the two years since the summer games learning to cross country ski on an island without snow. He worked hard enough to qualify for the games. Now that's an Olympic story!

I also think about the speed skating. What would it be like to represent the Netherlands where your country dominates a sport? Is it scary to try to live up to expectations?

I'm sure there are as many stories as their are athletes, but I like the underdog, the kid that's trying with all their will even though they might not be as good as the others in their sport. To me, this is what the games are really about.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pay to Play

When I'm at the gym, I like to play games on my phone while I'm on some of the equipment. It makes the time go much faster. I have a peeve, though. In-App purchases. Grrr.

There is a Match 3 game that I particularly like to play, but now that I'm up around level 100, it's super difficult, and with only 5 lives, I don't get enough time to finish my workout before I'm done. If they offered me a flat-rate to buy the game and be able to play it indefinitely, I'd be all over that, but they don't. Instead, they want me to continually buy things to keep playing. This I will not do.

A one-time purchase. Yes. A $5 a year subscription to eliminate In-App purchases. Yes. But no, I will not buy lives and I will not buy money in order to keep playing.

Some of these games are very generous and fair, giving you the ability to play free for real. One that comes immediately to mind is Big Fish Games Fairway Solitaire. To show my appreciation for this fairness, I spent about $10 in their game shop. I think that's a more than fair price and now I don't buy things.

My current Match 3 addiction isn't as fair with its players. Only five lives; daily rewards are minuscule; levels are layered deep and require many matches, but the number of moves the player is allowed does not correspond to the difficulty (in other words you either need a lot of luck or you have to buy stuff); and they constantly are asking for game coins which the player receives very few of. Because I'm so irritated by their stinginess, I am determined not to spend any money on the game, and if I didn't smile every time I saw the dancing gingerbread man, I would delete the game.

I do believe that game designers should be compensated for their work. If I could find a great Match 3 game that I could buy outright, I would be all over that. I've yet to find this game. I've done some searches online, I've searched in the app store and have had zero luck. I know it's because they're all chasing that Candy Crush money--In-App purchases can be really lucrative--but it's a PITA.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dragon for Writing Part 2

When I wrote Tuesday's blog post, my intention was to dip my toes in the water slowly when it came to composing with the Dragon voice recognition software. But I'd had a super bad writing day and hadn't come anywhere close on word count with the evening running late. I decided I had nothing to lose and jumped right in the deep end.

This isn't unprecedented, BTW. When I was in college, I had a journalism school professor tell us that we would be composing at the keyboard. Up until that time, I had been doing all my writing longhand and then entering it. I thought he was full of hooey.

Then I had this class to write short stories. Each story was required to be between 10 and 20 pages, and with all my other homework, I had nothing written the night before the paper was due. I knew I wouldn't be done by class if I wrote it longhand before typing it on my computer. There was only one option--compose at the keyboard.

To my great surprise, I loved it! The J-school professor wasn't full of hooey. I could compose at the keyboard!

With that memory fully in mind, I plugged in my microphone and started to speak my story into the computer. And surprise, surprise--it worked! I could do it!

Is it layered and nuanced? No. It's a very rough first draft quality of writing, but the gist of what I wanted to do is there and I managed to get a lot more words that I would have gotten typing--at least that's what I think going by my past writing experience. If I really hit a groove, I could produce that many words and more, but I haven't been in that groove in a long time now, so yeah, I think I got a lot more words than usual.

Did I like getting words? Hell, yes! Do I like how rough they are? No, but then everything I've been writing has been rough lately. I'm calling it a win.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Taming the Dragon

Years ago, I bought a version of Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking and hated it. The accuracy was deplorable and I gave up in frustration. This would have been maybe 2010? 2009? Somewhere in that time frame.

I'd gone through all the training for the software, I corrected it when it was wrong, I don't have an accent--well, aside from saying Minnesota with the long O, but other than that. :-) People who grew up in Minneapolis (like I did) do not, I repeat, do NOT have that accent you hear in Fargo. So everything should have worked fine for me, but it did not. I gave it about 70% on accuracy at the time and that simply wasn't anywhere close to good enough.

When I was at the writing conference in October (I blogged about it), I heard several authors talk about dictating their stories and how it increased their output. I was intrigued, but somewhat skeptical because of my previous negative experience with the software. Then I heard another author who'd been at the conference give her results about trying it and I was intrigued.

After months of debate, I finally decided to go for it and bought the latest release of Dragon Professional. I did the training paragraph and the tutorial, neither of which took too long, and then I tried reading one of my published stories aloud to train it in my writing style.

OMG, I was pleasantly surprised! The accuracy level had increased dramatically since the previous version I'd owned. I think I might actually be able to use this for writing projects!

I'm going to start slow and use it for making notes on my stories. I'll also use it to do world building and for getting information down about my characters. These are all things I want to do, but get so frustrated typing it all out. Once I get used to thinking through my mouth and not my hands, I'll start using it to write the actual stories.

I'm super excited about this! If I can achieve half the speed that those authors mentioned at the conference, I'd be elated. It wouldn't work for anything but first draft, but the first draft is frequently the hardest part to get down.

Issue two, I'd have to work on my Windows laptop to write and I do all my writing on my MacBook. The Windows laptop is for updating the website, interacting with people on social media, and all the other things I do that are not writing. I love my Scrivener software with all my heart--the Mac version. But if I dictate into Notepad as was suggested, I should be able to cut and paste easily into Scrivener and work from there.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. For right now, I need to train my brain to think story in voice instead of fingers first. That means notes, synopses, backstory, character sketches, etc. first.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Flip or Flop x Many

HGTV has added more Flip or Flop shows to their lineup. As someone who loved, loved, loved the original (with Tarek and Christina in Southern California), I was eager to catch these new shows, too. Now that I've seen a few episodes from most of the new cities, I have some opinions.

I'll start by saying that the original is the best. The others aren't even playing in the same league.

My least favorite is Flip or Flop Las Vegas. I don't like the couple doing the flips, I don't care that he's some MMA fighter (I think it's MMA), and they had an episode with a condo where it went to the nth degree of tacky. They couldn't have made that place any gaudier and it was hideous. As me and my friends in high school used to say: TTFW! (TOO TACKY FOR WORDS!) If you want to see what this monstrosity looked like, search for Flip or Flop Vegas, Buyer's Remorse and see the bling barf for yourself.

I didn't care for Flip or Flop Atlanta either, although I had high hopes since this is where I live. This wasn't a style issue or not liking the couple. I thought both were fine. My problem was the houses they chose to flip were small and modest. I like huge makeovers like what Tarek and Christina do in California and this Flip or Flop didn't live up to it's parent program.

Of the derivatives, I like Flip or Flop Fort Worth the best. The couple doing the flips are fun to watch and I like the afters. The episodes I've seen have been worthy flips. :-)

I haven't seen Nashville or Chicago yet. TBH, I didn't realize there was a Nashville or Chicago until I started doing some research for this blog post. It appears, though, that Chicago has been renamed Chicago Flippers, which would take it out of the Flip or Flop family. There also seems to be another one coming: Flip or Flop Paradise which takes place in Paradise, CA which is up near Sacramento. Clearly, I can't keep up with all the spin offs HGTV is throwing out there.

Bottom line: There's too many to keep track of and the original Flip or Flop is still the best.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Brightening Up My Lazy World

One of the things I don't like about the new house is the lighting in the family room. In my former house, there were recessed lights on a dimmer switch that were controlled by a remote and I freaking loved it! I had the recessed lights in my Minnesota home's great room, too, but those weren't on a dimmer. Here, all I have is the glaring light from the ceiling fan. Blech.

I did add two lamps to try to get more illumination into the space, and while it does help, it's not as good as the dimmer switch lighting.

There was one other problem, too. Turning the lamps on and off got to be a pain. One required weaving my way between two ottomans, two chairs, and over a rug that won't lie flat. That's another story for maybe another day. The other light was accessible, but it was on the other side of the room. Inevitably, I'd be sitting down before I realized I needed the light. In my old house, I'd pick up the remote and turn the lights on or off without moving. I missed that.

It was to the point where I wasn't turning on the lamps because it felt like too much work. I know. Lazy.

There was a solution, though--technology. I bought two smart plugs.

They were about $16 each, which wasn't too badly priced considering what I saw on other smart plug products. These were supposed to be small enough to share the socket and that's sort of true. It will share the socket with a normal plug. It will not, however, share the socket with the plug for a surge protector and both lamps were sharing with a power strip.

It took some shifting, but I made it work. Then I had to pair the devices to an app on my phone. The directions weren't clear to me and it took the troubleshooting section to figure out what I really was supposed to have done. Once I did that, they linked up easily.

This is so cool! I can turn the lights on and off from anywhere with Wi-Fi, even if I'm out of town! I could have used this when my dad and I were traveling back and forth to Minnesota to get his house ready to sell. It also has a timer function. Right now I'm going to try having the lamps come on about the time I get up and turn off when I need to get in the shower for work. Also super cool. It has a countdown function, too, which I assume means if I want them to turn off in an hour, I set that and it will countdown until shut off.

I know these smart things right now are easily hackable, but I figured that two lights weren't a big deal. But despite this, these things are so cool, I'm thinking what else could I use this with? I have a floor lamp in my bedroom and a couple of bedside lamps, but beyond that? I have no idea where or how I'd use additional plugs.

Anyway, I'm totally loving these things although I have only had them a couple of hours at this point. Two enthusiastic thumbs up with the caveat that I'm still in the honeymoon period.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Georgia Winter

For those of you who don't know, I was born in Minnesota and spent most of my life there. I've only lived in Atlanta for six years--that's when my job was relocated down there. I was thinking about this recently and doing a little mental compare/contrast with Minnesota.

In January Atlanta was caught up in some cold snaps. The temperatures were in the 40s for highs.

Me in MN: 40s! OMG, it's so warm! I wish it would stay this way all winter.
Me in GA: OMG, it's so cold! It needs to warm up. I can't take this arctic air!

Me in MN: It's the end of October and temps are in the 30s. I don't care if you guys make fun of me for wearing my winter jacket, winter hat, and mittens. I'm cold.
Me in GA: I'm not putting on my damn winter jacket. I hate that thing. It's in the 20s (low temps), but I just have to run from the car to the building.

Me in MN: Two inches of snow? Damn it, that's a freaking nuisance.
Me in GA: Two inches of snow? OMG, I better bring my laptop home so I can work from the house and I have to get to the grocery store now!

In my defense, the drivers in Atlanta can't handle driving in the rain. Snow brings out extra insanity and I don't want to be on the road with them. The working from home and groceries are so I don't have to leave my house until the insanity has passed.

Even my dad, who's only lived down here two years after living in Minnesota for most of his adult life, has changed. Now, if it's in the 20s or 30s at night, he won't go to his lodge meetings. He tells me it's too cold to go out. This makes me chuckle because it wasn't too cold for him when he lived in Minneapolis. :-) I'll still go out in the cold, but I'm not happy about it. (I almost put "cold" in quotes because seriously, 30s in Minnesota in January is called the January Thaw.)

I thought I'd share my change in winter thoughts because it struck me as ironic. And it's 29 degrees as I'm writing this--my dad just said, "I'm glad we don't have to go out today."