Thursday, July 19, 2012

My New Blog

I finally bought the domain name and started a website there. I also added a blog that will replace this blog as my personal sounding board. I'm going to leave this blog here for as long as Blogger will let me, but I probably won't be posting here any more.

My new site,, is a place for people to learn more about my freelance services. If you came here looking for that information, you can head over to my new site and learn much more than what I have here.

It's kind of sad to drop this blog. The picture above (in the header) is a picture that reminds me of my mother. I imagine she looked much like that as a young woman when she was the secretary of the Vice President of Schenectady Trust Company, the bank that later became TrustCo and which was a well-respected financial institution in Schenectady in the 50s and 60s.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review

A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Ongoing Quest to Bring Justice to ChinaA Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Ongoing Quest to Bring Justice to China by Chai Ling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had the privilege of receiving this book free from the publisher in exchange for reviewing it. However, my opinion is my own.

This book is an autobiographical work, telling of the author's childhood in China and her college years when she was involved in the Tiananmen Square protests. Following that, she came to America and made a new life for herself here. It's probably a spoiler to say that she comes to know Christ, but I think you'd know that from the marketing of the book or you might guess by just spotting the publisher's name.

I identified with the author of this book because she is only a few years younger than I am and she was raised in a home where intelligence and education was valued. But her life was very different from mine: at one point both her parents were away serving in the military and she was placed in a foster home for a time. She was also raised in a society where morals were not passed on to the young. This resulted in more than one unplanned pregnancy during her college years. She relates the experiences dispassionately and it is not clear until later how much choice she was given.

If you are interested in a comprehensive history of the Tiananmen Square incident, you will be disappointed. You might need a bit of background before reading this if you want to completely understand the politics behind the historical events. But if you want a glimpse into the Chinese culture and motivations of the students involved in the protests, then this is the book for you.

This is not a book for kids or younger teens, since the author treats the subject of sexuality and abortion with frankness. It is not explicit in any way, and I did not find it offensive, but it's really written for adults. It's also one that might stir up emotions of anyone who has had experience with abortion.
View all my reviews

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tyndale Contest

Tyndale is running a contest to promote Kevin Leman's new book, It's Your Kid, Not a Gerbil. Click on the link to enter and you might win a copy of the book, a package of books by Kevin Leman or even an iPod Touch.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

13 Ways Dish Network is Different than Cable

We just switched back to Time Warner Cable after being customers of Dish Network for two and a half years.

Why did we switch? and why did we switch back? Price.

Both times, we switched to move to a lower price. Time Warner now has a really good price that lasts for a year. But more about Time Warner's digital cable TV in another blog post. This blog post is about Dish Network.

Here are the differences between Time Warner Cable and Dish Network:

  1. Dish Network pays sub-contractors to install their equipment. Time Warner has their own installers, at least for the inside of your house (the line from the pole to your house might be installed by subs).
  2. With Dish Network, the picture really does sometimes break up when the weather is bad. Not as often as I thought it might, but often enough to be annoying. It can sometimes be "searching for signal" for several minutes, during which you get no picture or sound. Yeah, I know, sometimes the cable goes out, too. After having been a Time Warner customer for probably 15 years, I'd have to say that Dish went out at least twice as often, maybe even more.
  3. The channels are mostly the same, but check the lists for your favorites. What we missed most were Time Warner's local news channel and the local digital weather channels run by our local TV networks.
  4. The channels are in a different order. Actually, I thought the order and numbering system for Dish was better. All of the kids channels are together, and all of the news channels are together. If you like to surf the channels, you might like Dish's lineup better, but if you have a hard time remembering new phone numbers, you might feel the same when all of your channels are now found at new numbers.
  5. They don't always give you an option for where the dish will go. I was certain it would be mounted to the roof, and was surprised to find, after they left, that it was in the back yard, about 10 feet behind my bedroom window. They put up a pole in the back yard and mounted it to that, so the dish itself was about 5 feet off the ground. To give them credit, they did this in very deep snow in the middle of January without complaint.
  6. You have to sign a contract when you get Dish, and then you might still have to pay for repairs. We had Dish for over 2 years. We paid $5.99 a month for a service plan (except for the first 6 months, when we got the service plan for free) and what we got out of it was a new remote when one of the kids broke one. The equipment held up well otherwise and didn't need any repairs. I've never paid for repairs, service calls or new equipment from Time Warner.
  7. Sometimes, with Dish, the system suddenly decides to update itself and you have to wait a few minutes before you get TV back. Generally, a message comes up and gives you a chance to say you don't want it to do it right now, and it generally doesn't happen during prime time, but still, I know this interrupted my TV viewing several times in the 2-1/2 years we had Dish. Time Warner has to update periodically, but it doesn't take as long and it's scheduled for the middle of the night when you should be asleep.
  8. With Dish, If you leave the TV on without changing channels, eventually a sort of screen saver comes on instead of letting you keep watching TV in peace.
  9. Time Warner's digital cable boxes can be programmed to turn on the TV at a certain time and to a specific channel. The Dish machines don't have this function.
  10. Dish offered us boxes that controlled 2 TVs at once. And the DVR worked on 2 TVs, too. At the time when we stopped Time Warner, their equipment didn't do that. Now Time Warner is advertising "Whole House DVR" though there's a hefty extra charge for this. I think Dish would be a cheaper way to have DVR capability in 2 different rooms, though the farther away they are from each other, the harder it is to control the functions from the room that doesn't have the box.
  11. You won't believe the number of cables and the intricate ways the Dish installers will have to re-wire your house in order to make two TVs work with one box. I'm no expert, but what it looked like to me was one wire from the wall to the box, then out from the box to both TVs, and back to the box?  I never saw so many splitters. Our cables were already wired to run across the ceiling of the basement and back up into the rooms where the TVs are. But if your house is already wired for cable, in the wall, you might want to ask how they're going to run the wires before you let them have access, especially if you're not fond of unsightly extra wiring. On the plus side, they didn't charge extra for that, and they used quality wires, according to the Time Warner installer who came to dismantle it all when we switched back to cable.
  12. Dish offers a Google TV box. We didn't have one so I can't say if it's any good. You had to pay extra, both up front and an extra monthly fee, so check into the cost of this before you jump. I'm pretty sure Time Warner doesn't offer this, at least not part of their plan.
  13. Time Warner has several features that are part of their regular Digital Cable offering that make a DVR almost unnecessary: Start Over, Look Back and On Demand. This doesn't apply to all channels or all shows, but it applies to quite a bit of them. I will be writing a longer review of Time Warner's digital cable that includes more info on these wonderful features.
Two more things you might want to know about Dish:
  1. You might not get that free gift they promised you when you signed up. When we signed up, we were told we'd get an iPod Nano after we paid for 3 months of Dish. Turns out, this promise is made by a 3rd party company that tries to get people to sign up for Dish. We lost the contact info for that company once we were Dish customers and they never sent the iPod. So if you're promised a free gift, make sure you know the number you called when you signed up for Dish, which might not be the number of Dish Network itself, since they apparently have other companies doing some of their marketing.
  2. When you stop Dish, you have to send the equipment back. They send you a box or boxes to return them in. Yes, they want the remotes, too. Yes, they want at least part of the Dish. Even if you have to climb on the roof to get it. This is when you might be really glad they put it on a pole in your back yard.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This is really quite an interesting blog

I just scrolled down and read some of the blog posts I wrote in 2008 and some of them were quite interesting and even well-written. I'd totally forgotten about the bees flying all around my computer. And though some of the bullets points are rather long, I enjoyed re-reading the one about my love-hate relationship with technology. More recently, there's my short piece on the benefits of digital scrapbooking, which is one of my most popular posts.

I wish I had more time to just write about stuff I want to write about. But today I'm off to write about how to moderate a Facebook group. ::::sigh::::

Monday, March 7, 2011

Easy Pan Pizzas

I make this all the time. It's really easy and delicious!


1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup cornmeal (or semolina flour)
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons honey
2-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

Put all ingredients in your bread machine pan according to the manufacturer's instructions. Set it on "dough" setting. Watch to make sure dough forms correctly, and add a little flour or a little water if necessary while it's mixing.

I usually let it go through the whole mixing and rising cycle, that takes 1-1/2 hours or a bit less, but you can take it out after about 1/2 hour if you're in a hurry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (pay attention -- you're going to lower the temperature later).

Divide dough into 2 or 3 pieces with a dough cutter. The number of pieces depends on how many you need to feed and how thick you like your crust. I've also divided it into 2 large pieces and a smaller one (about half the size of the other 2) and made 2 pizzas and a calzone).

Spray two or three cake pans with non-stick spray and set aside. (I like to use an oil mister that I can add my own olive oil to, rather than the aerosol can sprays you can buy in the store.)

Roll out the dough into 3 circles. Each should be an inch or two bigger than the diameter of your cake pans. Put the dough circles into the cake pans and stretch them with your fingers so you have a bit of dough going up the edge of the pan -- how much and how far really depends on your preference.

Topping suggestions:

Crushed tomatoes (from a can) mixed with minced garlic and italian seasoning


Diced tomatoes (petit diced work well)


Regular jar of pizza sauce

Cooked bite-sized meat of your choice (sausage, bacon, mini-pepperoni)
Shredded mozzarella or your choice of cheese

Anything else your heart desires

Add tomato concoction of your choice and toppings. Place pizzas in oven, close the door and immediately lower the temperature to 400 degrees. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, rotate the pans. If you cooked 3 pizzas and they have to be on separate racks in your oven to fit, you may want to swap them to the other rack at this time also. Set the timer for 10 more minutes.

Take the pizzas out of the oven and let them cool a couple of minutes before cutting them. I remove them from the pan right away. For crispier crust, you can leave them in the pan till it's time to cut them.

(Hint about timing for pizzas: if you're not sure, set the timer for less time and check them. Ovens vary, and cooking will also vary depending on the quality of your cake pans. As my mother used to say, you can always cook it longer, but if it's burned, there's no way to go back and un-burn it).

If you use this recipe, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Cell Phones are a Waste of Money -- Anecdotal Evidence

I discovered that, despite having mammoth tires, it's not all that hard to get a Jeep Wrangler stuck in a snowy driveway. Apparently, the 4-Wheel-Drive has to be turned on, and if you don't, it's off.

I looked down and scrutinized this thing that looks like a short gear-shift with a diagram that doesn't really help me know how to get the vehicle into 4WD.

Enter the cell phone. I call my husband. It's his Jeep, after all.

He answers. While I'm explaining my predicament, I jump out of the Jeep and walk behind it to see which tires seem to be stuck. We live in the sticks, and cell service is variable. Apparently the driver's seat of the Jeep has a cell signal, but behind the Jeep does not. The call is dropped.

I go back and stand beside the driver's door, and call him back. But he's calling me back, so I get his voicemail.

I hang up and wonder -- should I call again or wait for him to call? We both wait, and then I call again and this time it just rings and rings and rings. I hang up and get back in the Jeep, handing my phone to my son who is in the passenger seat.

The phone rings, and my son manages to push the wrong button and hang up on his Dad.

Finally, my husband calls back and explains how to put the Jeep in 4WD. If you're counting, this is the 5th call, not counting however many times my husband tried to call me.

This is why I hate paying for a cell phone.

Fortunately, I have a Tracfone so it doesn't cost me too much. Because most of the time I want to throw it out the window, or flush it down the toilet. One day I may do just that, but it cost me $9.95, so it wouldn't be a great loss.