FotoJet – Super Easy, Free Online Art Designer

I am not an artist…but I appreciate good graphics and love it when I find a tool (especially a FREE tool) that lets me get creative with words and photos. FotoJet has a bunch of really creative collage formats and styles and includes pre-formatted templates like: Facebook Post, Google+ Cover, YouTube Banner, Instagram Posts, Pinterest Graphics… the list goes on!

FotoJet

This afternoon I played with creating Magazine Covers (Time Person of the Century!?)

Time Joanne

Check it out and have fun!

What Book Should I Read Next? A Cool New Online Tool.

One of the saddest things about finishing a good book is not having another promising prospect lined up behind it in your queue of “Books to Read.”

Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend...William Feather
Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend…William Feather by Wendy Hollands used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

I’m always looking for suggestions on Good Books to Read. GoodReads.com is a very robust “social media” style site that has lots of ways to not only track, review and categorize the books you’ve read, but also to find out what other people in your social circles are reading and get subject dependent book recommendations. I will write more about that site soon (it has some GREAT addon apps for scanning ISBN codes and adding them to your book lists.

However, I just wanted a quick “down and dirty” suggestion on a book to read that was like the one I just finished, so, after I finished reading The Wolf Gift, by Anne Rice, I went online and Googled “What Should I Read Next?” Lo and behold I found a website with that exact name:

ScreenShot1274This handy little site lets you put in the title or author of a book and returns to you a list of related books with subject/keyword links.

What Book Should I Read Next

Below each suggestion on the list are the keyphrases/subjects that make the suggested books similar to the book title you put in the search bar. The Info/Buy tab brings you right over to Amazon. Being frugal, I used the list to search what was available from my local Library.

Each of the little orange phrases under the Author – Bookname are links that you can click on to see other books with the same or similar subjects. It’s a neat way to find similar books to a great book you just finished and narrow down the list to the specific subject of the book you’d like in your next good book.

All in all, a very cool tool for finding a new book to read.

How do you find what book should be next on your list?

I’ve lost a webpage! Google Cache to the Rescue

The alternate title of this could be how Google Cache saved my …  I started a website the other day under a domain name that I later decided I wanted to change. So, I decided to delete the old domain from my hosting account and add the new one. I thought I was being so careful by using the save page as function in Google Chrome to save the pages of the old website.

save-page-as (1)

However, I discovered AFTER deleting the domain from my hosting account and setting up the new domain name that pages saved that way (or at least WordPress pages saved that way) don’t really get saved at all. It was as if the saved page was just a bookmark and when the web-page was gone, the “saved page” was gone too.

Arrrgh! Several pages of posts just lost in the ether.

So, I figured, I can’t be the only one who has lost a webpage and needs to get it back. I did a little searching around and found that you can very easily search for Google’s cached version of a webpage by using the cache: search operator.

Google CacheGoogle then brings you to their saved (cached) version of the page with this little info-bar at the top:

cache-header (1)

And Voilà, your page, as it appeared in Google’s Cache. And for me, exactly what I was looking for!

lost-post (1)So, the next time you’ve lost a webpage or even a whole website, use the cache:operator in Google to find the saved version of your page.

Why I love Picasa

Picasa is a software tool for organizing and editing photos. I think it used to be an independent product, but by the time I heard about it, it was owned by Google. As with most things Google, it is a free download.

PicasaThey also talk about Picasa as a tagging and sharing program (via Google+). I’m not so much into the sharing part, but I do like tagging. The cool thing that you can do with tagging in photos is create what are called “people” albums. Once you have tagged a few photos of a specific person Picasa’s face recognition function can “recognize” that person and will keep a “People” album with “thumbnail” pictures of that person.

Since tomorrow is Father’s day, the following is a screen-shot from the People Album of my Dad, Felio Osto.

ScreenShot1103

As you can see the photos are not in any chronological order, but they are all thumbnail portraits of my Dad taken from all the photos I have digitally stored.

A couple of years ago, I had the goal of scanning in all of our old photos (and negatives and slides) into a digital format, which took me over a year to complete, but I finally did it. Now all of our cameras are digital, so keeping them organized in Picasa is easy to do. The next step is to begin tagging and captioning all the photos, so that when I go to look for “that great picture on the dunes when were in Cape Cod” I can use the search function to find exactly the right photo.

In addition to my hunger for information of all kinds, I also love to be the “archivist” the keeper of the family stories and histories. I will be blogging more about that hobby on a new site I started this week, ScrapbookingMaven.com. Every time I register a new domain name I think of my daughter saying “How many websites does one girl need?” Well, daughter, I don’t know. I haven’t hit my limit yet! 🙂

Other things you can do with Picasa, besides organize your photos, are things like, adding text or borders, cropping, editing the lighting, retouching or adding a variety of really cool filters to “fancy-up” your pictures. I also learned today that in addition to the basic ability to add text to photos, there’s now a whole section called “Creative Kit” where you can add things like speech bubbles or silly things like mustaches or tiaras (I’ll probably play with that more later.)

Following are several articles on some of the other ways of using Picasa:

Do you use Picasa? What do you like best about it?

What is jucheck.exe? Should I allow it to make changes to my computer?

What is JUCheck?

What is jucheck.exe?

Are you being plagued by the jucheck.exe pop-up from Windows? Are you worried about what it is and what it means?

This alert is a prompt from the Windows User Account Control system telling you that the Java Updater would like to run.

What is the Java Updater (jucheck.exe)?

  • jucheck is related to the Java installed on your system.
  • jucheck checks for new versions of Java on the internet, and will notify you if a newer Java version is available.
  • jucheck does not install Java. It will present you with the option to install the latest Java version.
  • You should leave this process running in order to ensure getting the latest (secure) Java version.

read more: http://www.java.com/en/download/faq/jucheck.xml

What is Java and why should you care if it’s updated?

Java is a dynamic programming language that’s used for lots of online applications:

Even the United States Postal Service website uses Java, their online postage pricing forms that calculate the cost of sending parcels worldwide is a Java application.

Java has thousands of online applications and is used extensively with great efficiency online to automate a great number of tasks. In fact, an average internet surfer would use Java run applications hundreds of times a week without ever knowing.

– See more at: http://www.ecommerce-web-hosting-guide.com/what-is-java.html#sthash.xsvwovXu.dpuf

So, if you are using the internet with any regularity and visiting websites that use Java as their programming language for online applications, you definitely want to have the latest version of Java installed.

This means YES, allow jucheck.exe to make changes to your computer.

SPAM by Sears

I have a few pet peeves. SPAM is one of them. The FTC has put out very specific guidelines on marketing emails and in 2003 the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act) act was signed into law.

Several months ago, I began receiving marketing emails from Sears, that I never signed up for. I searched for, and found, the–required by law–unsubscribe link.

Sears SPAM

As expected, this brought me to a page where I could choose to unsubscribe from Sears promotional emails. Only there was a glitch… Sears responded that my email, the one they are using to SPAM me, is not a valid email address.

Sears SPAM

So, I called the customer service number and reached what sounded like a call center in India. Where I explained that I had tried to unsubscribe and asked to be taken off the email list. I was assured that my email address had been removed from their list.

However, emails continue to arrive. So, now it’s time to report them to the FTC. If Sears (or anyone else) is SPAMming you, you can do this too. Maybe if enough of us complain, we can make a difference.

Here’s the link to report businesses that are violating the CAN-SPAM law: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en

There are several pages to the complaint form, but it’s easy enough to fill out…

Sears SPAM

After submitting the complaint, there are links to several other resources to help you reduce the amount of SPAM email you get. I will include them below in the Reference/Resources section.

To help save my sanity, I will now create a filter in my Gmail to delete any email messages that come from this Sears address. However, if they (or someone else) is SPAMming you too, please report them to the FTC and perhaps together we can reduce the amount of junk email flooding cyberspace.

References/Resources:

When NOT to use Hydrogen Peroxide

The other day our dog, Buddy, got into a little altercation with another dog and came out the worst for it with a bite on his head.

Buddy
Buddy may look sweet, but with other dogs he can act like he’s a nasty pit bull. Small dog complex?

As this happened late in the day, after our Vet was gone for the day, I thought we should just put some hydrogen peroxide on the bite, put some neosporin on it and wait till the vet’s office opened in the morning.

However, after my dear husband looked at the bite he said he though a trip to the emergency vet was in order. So, I called them and the tech said said “You shouldn’t put hydrogen peroxide on it. It will slow the healing.” I was shocked! I had to fess-up and tell her that we already did put peroxide on the bite. I thought it was just a “dog thing” that I shouldn’t use peroxide on an animal wound, I mean, after all, I grew up putting peroxide on all kinds of cuts and scrapes.

After getting home with the bite thoroughly cleaned and some antibiotics for good measure, I did a little research about hydrogen peroxide and found that indeed, the current wisdom is that it can slow healing and not just for animals, for everyone:

But multiple randomized, controlled trials — the best kind of research — show that hydrogen peroxide does not prevent or treat infections in wounds. Not only that, hydrogen peroxide slows healing and may even cause cellular damage. That bubbling you see? It’s probably the hydrogen peroxide attacking you.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/12/vreeman.carroll.medical.myths/index.html

Now, the WebMD article about hydrogen peroxide says that you can use it for cleaning minor cuts, scrapes and burns, but not for animal bites, or deep wounds. So I guess there may be some middle ground on this, but I think if I have something else available (water, rubbing alcohol?) to clean a cut or scrape with, I will use that rather than run the risk that the peroxide could actually slow the healing.

References/Resources:

 

How to Properly Dispose of Meds

The other day I was cleaning out a cupboard and found a bottle of some medicine that I had been prescribed several years ago. The bottle was nearly full.

Unused Medicine

My first instinct was to just toss them in the garbage, but then I got to thinking about potential health and environmental issues, so I looked up “how to properly dispose of prescription meds.”

And found this page on the FDA website,  http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm which included this helpful little slideshow:

Here’s a quick excerpt of how to properly dispose of unused medicine:

  • Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service (see blue pages in phone book) to see if a take-back program is available in your community. The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, is sponsoring National Prescription Drug Take Back Days throughout the United States.
  • If no instructions are given on the drug label and no take-back program is available in your area, throw the drugs in the household trash, but first:
    • Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
    • Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

The medicine I had didn’t have any specific instructions on disposal, but I did learn that our town DOES participate in a community drug take-back program. I found the particulars by searching for my town name plus the words “drug take back.” http://newtown.patch.com/topics/drug+take+back

I found that I missed our local take-back by about a week. However, a helpful commenter posted the following:

Please also keep in mind, Newtown’s drug lock box is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Please use it and keep your home safe and drug free! Don’t dispose of them by flushing, it is harmful to the environment!

Now, that’s good news! That means that we can bring any unused meds to the lock-box to safely dispose of them. Good for our family, good for the environment. Before you dispose of any unused medicines, check out your community’s drug take-back programs and dispose of medicines safely; for your family and for the environment.

References/Resources:

New Productivity Tools: Journal linked to Evernote

Productivity Tools

I love finding new toys tools to make my life simpler and more efficient. I have been blogging a whole lot more recently than ever before, writing on at least one of my blogs everyday. However, there are things that I would like to write about that are too new or too private to be published right away, either because of my own closeness to the situation, not enough data or because of privacy concerns.

Private WordPress Blog
Private WordPress Blog

So, I had the idea to keep a private journal where I could take notes on what is going on… my thoughts, emotions, notes, etc. and have them easily accessible to me to use for a blog post sometime in the future.

Evernote is a fantastic tool for all kinds of note taking and I use it everyday (more on in another post), but it’s not really setup well to work as a journal, or at least it doesn’t seem so to me. So I started looking for other online journal programs. Why online? So that I can have access to it via my home computer, phone or tablet.

Penultimate is a great tool for handwritten notes, drawings, etc. that can be synchronized with your Evernote account… but I can only use it on the tablet and need to have a stylus available to hand-write.

Ultimately, I ended up with a compromise solution. I started a private blog at WordPress.com, then used IFTTT.com (if this then that) to create a “recipe” so that each time a post is made on my personal blog, a note is appended in Evernote. I’m also toying with having a “recipe” for Instagram so that when I post a photo on Instagram, it creates a blog post on my personal blog.

This will give me the best of all words… open platform to write privately on personal topics, linked to Evernote so that I can search the text, or by tags, categories, etc.  I can also access the blog via my desktop computer, phone, tablet, or any device with internet access.

What tools do you use for your own writing or personal productivity?

25 April 2013 Update: I’m having a little trouble with the IFTTT.com recipe for getting personal blog posts added to my Evernote account… it could be that it won’t work on private blogs, only on blogs that are publicly posted (that would actually make sense). So, I guess I have to rethink this… maybe I can find a way to use Evernote for the kind of Journal I want to keep…