Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writer Mentoring Program

I recently had an excellent opportunity. Sharon Hurley Hall, an experienced freelance writer, asked me to be a test subject in a new program she is starting.

I had already learned a lot from reading her blog, so I immediately replied with a "Yes, please," knowing I was sure to learn something good.

The format was easy and flexible. We "met" online, using Google Talk, for 3 sessions, each about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, over the course of a couple of weeks. Before the first session, I sent her an email with a list of specific topics within the broader "freelance writing" theme.

Sharon made good use of the time, having a well-organized list of important points ready to share with me. She was able to go on for some time, filling me with useful tips and suggestions, but was also willing to be interrupted by my many questions.

I got many tips I could have obtained by reading articles, but I also got personalized advice specific to my situation. I showed her links to my writing and she helped me see strong points I hadn't thought to promote, and also suggested ways I could broaden my topic list. She pointed out that I could recoup losses I'd had when I'd written articles that were never published for one reason or another.

When I agreed to test her mentoring program, I thought it would be a chat with several new freelance writers or writer-wannabes, which I thought would be a good opportunity. I was amazed to learn it was just me, and as a result of this one-on-one attention I learned so many things that can help me with my writing career that I can't even count them. Lucky for me, Google Talk keeps a chat log of chats, if you have that option selected, so I can refer back to these sessions anytime.

I would recommend this service to anyone who wants to learn anything that has to do with writing online. Even someone who only wants to blog can learn a lot from her. She knows a lot about many different aspects of making money by writing online. I was especially impressed at how well she organized her thoughts, even when I asked questions that took us down rabbit trails different from the topics I'd originally told her I was interested in. This service will help aspiring writers keep from making costly mistakes, so it's well worth the money you will invest in it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Anything Worth Saying

I was listening to music on Pandora and a song came on that got me thinking about how I have trouble posting on this blog because I often can't think of anything worth saying.

The following song came on:

You can't link to songs on Pandora, but I found the same song on YouTube so you can hear it sung live if you want. The whole point of the song is that he is asking God to give him words to speak, because he can't think of anything worth saying. Anything Worth Saying is, actually, the title of another album by Aaron Shust.

I guess I should start praying about what to post on this blog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maybe I should have given the matter more thought before I named this blog.

There is, apparently, a yellow jacket nest somewhere near my computer workstation. Every day, there are yellow jackets flying around. Last week, one landed on my foot. It climbed down, crawled across 4 of my toes, and kept crawling onto the bottom of my foot, where it went back up the length of my arch and came out again onto my ankle. Giving up hope that it would ever fly off, I grabbed the stack of 6 or so pages that were in the printer, and used the edge to knock him off. He landed on the floor and sat their contemplating life long enough for me to drop the stack of papers onto him and stomp on it.

I have lost track of how many of these guys I've killed in the last week. They're starting to take revenge. I was bit by one on Saturday and it's still bothering me.

A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally severely cut my thumb with a really sharp kitchen knife. I'm still wearing a band-aid. so when I go swimming, I hold my hand out of the water. The easiest way to do this is to keep my hand on the edge of the pool, and somehow, a bee saw it there and decided to attack.

I didn't even see it. It happened so fast, I wasn't sure what had happened. There's still a mark, and it hurt for several hours and then started itching. It's still itching, this is now 3 full days later.

My son was attacked by a swarm of ground bees a couple of weeks ago, too.

I've always been called Beelissa. I mean, it's just a nickname that's used occasionally, but it's stuck with me since I was a child. I thought it was good for an internet username because it's often not already taken (compared to several other choices I've tried that usually already belong to someone else). But if it's going to attract real bees, I might be re-thinking this.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A $10 word, even if it isn't the longest English word


I very clearly remember this from the Word-a-day calendar my boyfriend in college had. This calendar taught us two very interesting words, the meanings of which I still remember.

The words were sesquipedalian and defenestration.

Sesquipedalian means "of or pertaining to a foot and a half," and defenestration means "throwing something out a window."

Of course, words can have more than one meaning. Sesquipedalian has come to mean "given to using long words" or even referring to long words themselves. If you look at the Latin parts you can see where my first definition above came from. Despite opinions to the contrary, sesquipedalian is not the longest word in the English language, though I did find a blog post describing it as a $10 word. Does that mean I can earn $10 by writing about it? This post should be worth $20.

Sesquipedalian came up in a little vocabulary game called Match Up that I have as a widget on my iGoogle page. They give you 2 groups of 5 words and you have to match the synonyms. Each day, a new set of 5 pairs. A computer obviously picks them, because it's pretty obvious, even if you don't know what it means, that sesquipedalian and sesquipedalia have to be synonyms.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why Grannies Like Linux

New little mini-notebook PCs like the Asus Eee PC are popping up all over. And other budget-priced computers are being sold that cost less because they run some version of Linux, not Windows. And it's not just young people or geeks who are buying them. Grandmothers, apparently, are finding out that they love Linux.

So, I was thinking. My grandmothers are both in heaven now. I remember I was at my grandmother's house the day Windows 95 came out. I had been on vacation and hadn't realized what day it was, but the little podunk newspaper that they publish in this out-of-the-way corner of Indiana had a big ad for Windows 95. My grandmother asked what it was. I wasn't able to explain it to her -- but this was back when home computers weren't as common as they are now.

My children's grandfather has email, and his wife has a separate email address. They know how to use the computer, as do most grandparents nowadays. I'm pretty sure they know what Windows is. Whether they know what Linux is, that's another question.

Some people just want a computer to work. They want it to be able to run programs they can use to do email, surf the web, look at photos, watch videos, play music, write a simple document. They don't care what program it is, as long as it works and they can figure out how to use it easily.

So grandmothers like Linux if it's configured so it's easy to use, as it is on these computers. And the lower cost, saving the licensing fees that are associated with Windows machines, is a big plus to anyone who watches their pennies or just doesn't want to pay a high price for a computer.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I got tired of the way this blog looked, so I redecorated. This is one of the basic themes that comes with Blogger, except I made my own header. I like this much better than the old one, which didn't quite turn out the way I'd envisioned it.

I love creating visual stuff. It's nice to take a break from writing all day and do some visual art instead.

This picture (in the header) reminds me a bit of my Mom. She worked as a secretary to a bank president before she had kids, and I'm sure she typed on a typewriter like this one and I know she had hair like that, only more of a reddish shade (she always called it "strawberry blonde").

This is one of the first things I've made using The Gimp. It wasn't hard at all, mostly. Now if I can just learn how to do vector drawing in it, I'll be all set. In my spare time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I thought I'd create some artwork to decorate my blog.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review -- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I enjoyed this book very much, so I wanted to recommend it to anyone who might happen along and read my blog.

I found this book hard to get into, knowing nothing about it beforehand, and it's a rather long book, so I'll give you a bit of a clue about how it starts. We meet several characters in a tavern. They are locals, and though the book has a nice map of the story's imaginary world in the front, we don't see the name of this little community on the map anywhere. Several chapters pass and some mysterious stuff happens and it's clear that one of our characters has a mysterious past.

I was getting ready to give up on it when the point of all of this beginning stuff became clear: a new character (the Chronicler) enters who is sort of a journalist, if they have journalists in this made-up land. He's been searching for a famous person who apparently did a bunch of heroic deeds and then vanished from the known world, and no one knows whether he's dead or alive. Turns out, he's our mysterious character and he agrees to tell his story to this Chronicler. Most of the rest of the book is the first part of his story, told in first person, and we'll have to wait for the other books for the rest. There are hints that the future tales will, at some point, have some bearing on "present" time events, because every so often they take a break from the telling and recording of the tale, and we see what's happening in present time in the immediate vicinity of the tavern whose location we are still in the dark about (the map does show locations mentioned in the hero's narrative, however). It's obvious the hero will be needed to save the world again, or at least part of the world, in the near future. In addition, even more mysteries present themselves and we find we have more than one mysterious character on our hands.

By page 100 I was hooked. It's the kind of book where you think about the characters when you're not reading it, and after you finish you want to know what happens next. The author does a great job creating an imaginary world and an even better job creating characters. I truly can't wait till the next book comes out (April 7, 2009).

Friday, July 4, 2008

"Brick" is a verb

Really. Check it out.

I first heard this term in reference to the iPhone. It can be a noun ("My iPhone is a brick.") or a verb ("That software bricked my phone.")

It means to make it unusable, not on purpose. So, it might as well be a brick. At least, I guess that's the idea.

Come back again in 20 years, you won't understand half of what people are saying, our language is changing so fast lately.

Links to Writing Samples

Here are links to some of my writing that's on the web:

Associated Content


I have to recommend this wonderful Firefox add-on: Notefish.

It is great for research. Say you are researching a topic, and you come across a paragraph that has a definition or other information you want to save. But it's buried in a whole long page of material. How will you find it again?

Notefish lets you set up separate, private pages (though you can share them -- but they're not just open to the public) where you can save snippets of web pages.

You have to do 2 things:
  • Register for Notefish
  • Download and install the Firefox add-on. Actually, once you've downloaded it, it will prompt you to register, I think.
Then, if you highlight something on a web page, you can right-click on it and copy the snippet to the Notefish page you choose. You can have as many Notefish pages as you want, there doesn't seem to be a limit.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Product Review -- Table Mate II

I bought the Table Mate II recently after wanting one for a long time. I have a mixed review to report, for those of you who may be curious about this product.

The problems:
  • It's wobbly. If you have a traditional tray-table with the legs that make an X-shape, the Table Mate II is at least as wobbly as that, maybe more so. It could use a metal bar or rod across between the legs about 3/4 of the way down.
  • It's tippy. Not the same thing as wobbly: I'm afraid the whole thing will tip over, falling forward away from me following the curve of the legs. I'm afraid to leave my laptop on it unattended, because falling off of a table is not covered in my Best Buy service plan.
  • It has 3 angles: (1) Flat horizontal. (2) Slanting down toward you. (3) Slanting away from you. I can't see a reason for that last one. Especially since it amounts to being the same angle as the other slant, just in the other direction. I'd rather have 2 slants in the same direction, of different angles. I just use my Table Mate II in the horizontal position.
The advantages, and why I'm not asking for a refund:
  • It's adjustable in height. I can set it at 6 different heights.
  • It's small and convenient. It fits almost anywhere. I was using the kitchen table as the resting place for my laptop. But the table is too high for comfortable typing. The Table Mate II can be adjusted to a height that is better suited to typing.
  • It's just wide enough for my wide laptop and a mouse next to it. I was afraid the mouse wouldn't fit, but it does.
So here's what I do: I brace the back end of the table, the side with the curvy legs, up against the kitchen table or the back of the couch. Unless it's braced or if you're actively using the computer, you can't leave the laptop on there. That's the rule. So I shouldn't find it sitting in the middle of the living room, unattended, with the laptop on it.

I've only had my Table Mate II less than a week. I'm happy with it, but I'm also glad I didn't pay full price for it. Somewhere I found one that you can make short enough to use in bed. That wouldn't work with this one, it doesn't adjust that short. The shorter one would probably be sturdier.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Short, short story

I found this photo on stock.xchng. I thought I'd write something to go with it, just for fun.

Francine sat at her kitchen table, absent-mindedly stirring a cup of tea. A half-eaten slice of toast lay on a plate next to her newspaper.

It was 10:30 in the morning. Still in her nightgown, Francine had finally dragged herself out of bed and made the toast and tea. Even that seemed an enormous effort. When she brought in the newspaper from the porch, she found yesterday's newspaper out there as well. Yesterday she'd only ventured as far as the master bathroom. She'd eaten the rest of a box of crackers that had been left in the bedroom.

She sighed. Since Ray had died, it seemed like such an effort to get dressed and do the normal housework she'd done all her life. Why bother? Most days no one noticed if she made an appearance outside the house.

Glancing at the date on the front of the paper, she was surprised to find it had been 4 months since Ray . . . it still hurt to think of him gone. It was hard to decide. She was surprised it had already been 4 months, but also . . . time had dragged. It seemed like each day lasted forever with no one to fill her days.

Sighing again, Francine forced herself to go back to the bedroom and get dressed. She'd eaten the last slice of bread, and had to drink tea instead of milk when she determined the milk in the fridge has gone sour. It was hard to adjust to buying for one -- almost a whole quart of milk went wasted down the drain of the kitchen sink.

Getting out, even to the grocery store, would be good for her, she knew.

In her bedroom, she opened the window to let in some fresh air. It was a nice day outside, she noticed. Not too hot, but sunny and warm enough that she wouldn't need a jacket. She could hear the little boy next door talking to himself as he played in his back yard.

A few minutes later, as she backed the car down the driveway, she noticed the same little boy watching her through the fence that divided their properties. She smiled and waved at him, and he waved back, and then took a few steps along the fence toward the road as her car kept moving. She could see the wild daisies and black-eyed-susans bend out of his way as he forced himself through the blossoms that came above his knees. The neighbor's yard had several weedy patches now where grass used to grow, and this was one of them. Both of the little boy's parents worked long hours; the father had 2 jobs, trying to make ends meet to provide for their 5 children. The boy was the youngest, several years younger than his next sibling, an unexpected surprise for his parents.

Francine quickly finished her shopping. She noticed several young moms shopping with their children. One of the kids had a small red box of animal crackers dangling from one of his hands, and cookie crumbs smeared across his face. On impulse, she picked up one of the boxes and added it to the other items in her cart.

The little neighbor boy was peering through the fence again when Francine pulled into her driveway. She stopped the car in the driveway and got out, holding the box of animal crackers. The boy's face lit up when she held it out to him.

"What's your name?" she asked him.

"Tom," he said. "Are the cookies for me?"

"Yes, if you would like them," Francine replied.

"Wow, thanks!" said Tom, jumping up and down amidst the wildflowers on his side of the fence.

After pulling her car into the garage, putting her groceries away and making herself a sandwich for lunch, Francine took the magazine she'd purchased at the store out onto the front porch. After reading for a few minutes, she heard a noise at the corner of the house. Looking around, she saw little Tom standing beside the porch, holding his hands behind his back. He had a smile on his face. Then he held out the hand that had been behind his back. He held out a small bouquet of the wildflowers from the other side of the fence.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Mrs. Ryan," she said. "Are the flowers for me?"

"Yes, if you would like them," he replied.

"Wow, thanks!" said Francine, smiling.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What the Bees have been up to lately

I realize I haven't been posting nearly as often as I promised when I started this blog. I've been too busy writing, though I haven't made a huge amount of money doing it. But I have made some, and I have a long list of articles now online. I've been thinking what I want this blog to be about.

  • There are a lot of how-to-be-a-freelance-writer blogs out there.
  • There are a lot of how-to-make-money online blogs.
  • I want to do something visually creative as well as writing.
  • I want to showcase other wonderfully creative websites that I find.
So, as I think I said before, this blog will be a sort of amalgamation, a mixture of a bunch of things. I'll talk about how I'm doing with the professional writing (the writing I'm getting paid for). I'll link to other websites. I'll post some creative stuff, including images, maybe even stuff I've created myself.

And I'll try to post more often. :-)

Monday, June 23, 2008

7 Things I Wouldn't Want to be Remembered For

A famous man dies after living for 70 years. He was a frequent guest and one of the most common guest hosts of the Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson years. His long list of artistic creations includes: 23 record albums, 16 movies, over a dozen HBO specials, 5 books, and several TV shows, including an 8-year stint on a popular kids television program.

The news media choose the following accomplishment to sum up his long career in the entertainment industry: "He is best known for a comedy routine involving 7 dirty words that are so bad you can't say them on TV."

If we would have known, last week, that he was going to pass away soon, and if we would have asked him what he wanted to be remembered for, would 7 swear words have been his answer?

I never found the 7 words funny. I don't see the point in using swear words in comedy. Funny situations are funny. Swear words are not. George Carlin was a very funny man, but somehow those 7 words defined his life.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I Love Technology, I Hate Technology.

It's really true. Here are some examples:

  • I spent all morning on Tuesday trying to get the Internet to work again. We have this periodic problem that I have not been able to solve -- all of a sudden, the Internet will be gone. Sometimes the VoIP goes out, other times it's just the web -- I've even had it be that I can download email but not browse the web. The solution seems to be either to reboot the VoIP device or the cable modem, or shut down the desktop computer they're plugged into and then unplug everything -- the desktop computer, the wireless router, the cable modem and the VoIP device, they're all plugged into one big plugging strip. I unplug them, count to 30, plug them back in and wait for them to reboot, and voila, the Internet is back. But with no explanation as to why this happens.
    Except, that trick didn't work on Tuesday. I tried restarting the various devices in sequence, and finally concluded that the white cable connecting the cable modem to the cable line was the culprit, and I rewired all of our cables to get it set up so we could use internet. For several hours, one TV was cable-less until we could run to the store for more coax cables. And, you had to step over a strange configuration of cables emanating from a splitter just inside the door of the house if you wanted to come in from outside. Now it's all fixed, but it took the whole morning. Ugh. This is why I hate technology.
  • Recently, I bought an Asus Eee PC. I can take it anywhere. It's so cute and easy to use. I get compliments on it, everyone is interested in it. This is why I love technology.
  • My husband just called me. He's in Wal-Mart, and he obviously has a question about something I asked him to buy. "Mfdfdfsdf." was all I could hear. "I can't hear you," I said. "mfff," was all I could hear. "Nope, still can't hear you," I said. "Click." This is why I hate technology.
  • Monday night we went to Best Buy. They had declared my old Gateway laptop a lemon, after having fixed the AC adapter connector 3 or 4 times (we lost track how many). So here's the scenario: Almost 4 years ago, we bought a $599 laptop (a Compaq, when Compaqs were still good computers). Actually, that was the sale price. We purchased the Best Buy service plan along with it. We had it for almost 2 years and one day the hard drive just went FFFFTT. They told us to pick out a replacement, and we settled on a Gateway. I liked it well enough, but the place where the power adapter thing connected kept breaking. So now we get to get another new laptop (are you paying attention? we've had a laptop for almost 4 years now for the price of the original plus the service plan on the Gateway). So we found an HP on sale for $799. We paid $350 to get it, that includes a new service plan. This laptop has Vista Home Premium and 3 Gb of RAM, and a 250 Gb hard drive. I've never had a computer with that much RAM before. I am in technology heaven. This is why I love technology.
  • I am trying to get t-shirts made for my church. I designed the images and the website said they had to be less than 3 mb, which they are. And they are the correct file type. And they won't upload. They won't upload in Firefox. They won't upload in IE. They won't upload as jpgs. They won't upload as pngs. They will not upload in a box. They will not upload with a fox. They will not upload here or there, they will not upload anywhere. This is why I hate technology.
  • I found a new wonderful fun toy yesterday. Aviary. It's -- well, I haven't actually used it yet, but it lets you do all sorts of really cool image editing, right online. At least, looking at the sample images, that's what it does. I spent the evening finding photos to use to edit, and got lost looking for pictures and never got back to the editing. But it's exciting to see web apps that can do cool stuff like this. I can't wait to try it. This is why I love technology.
  • Remember the Asus Eee PC? I've taken it to 3 places that have free WiFi, and was unable to connect at any of them. I also have found that I can see the Eee PC from the computer in my kitchen, and can open files on it and save them and print them and do whatever I want with them. But I can't access the Eee PC from the kitchen computer. And I've never been able to get my husband's Vista desktop to share anything with anyone. My son just got a Playstation 3. He can see the Vista computer from that. But he can't access it. So I have this crazy network. I made a file on my Eee PC and I wanted to use it on the new laptop (which, because it runs Vista, I have been unable to get to network with the others, either). I had to copy the file to the kitchen computer and email it to myself on the laptop. I suppose I could have emailed it from the Eee PC, but I was emailing files I'd created on the kitchen computer to the laptop so it seemed like the easiest way. Why did I have to create files on the kitchen computer when I have the brand new laptop? The Vista computer doesn't run Paint Shop Pro 8, which is still the graphics program I know best and feel most comfortable in. I'd have to upgrade to a more recent version to get it to run on Vista. This is why I hate technology.
  • I emailed the images to the t-shirt website. They uploaded them for me and the t-shirts have been ordered. All without leaving my house. This is why I love technology.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Free Britannica access for web writers

Web publishers can now get access to the complete online content at Encyclopedia Britannica online for free. The rules state that you have to be a blogger, webmaster or writer. Hey, I guess I qualify for all three!

I'm off to sign up. You have to fill out a form and be approved. I'll report back here whether it's useful or not after I've had a chance to try it out. I tend to stay away from sites you have to pay for, so even though some of their content is free, it's been a few years since I'm visited it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thoughts on Cell Phone Etiquette

Yesterday, I was in a brand new library and as I entered, signs warned me to help keep everyone's visit to the library pleasant, and one of the ways was "no cell phones." This annoyed me because my son was home alone and I always want him to be able to reach me if he has an emergency. To him, an emergency is usually, "Can you stop and buy me some soda?" but still, that's the main reason I have a cell phone and I'm not going to turn it off just to allow library patrons to have a pleasant visit to the library.

I put my ringer on its lowest setting (I have an older pre-pay phone and it only vibrates when you set it on high volume, which kind of defeats the purpose). I also had it right on the table so I could grab it and silence it as soon as it rang. And I took care to talk quietly when it did ring, which was only my husband saying he was on his way to get me. We didn't talk long.

So I was thinking about cell phoneetiquette. What did they think would be annoying to other library patrons? Loud ringing? Loud talking? Many of the patrons seemed to be moms, I bet they would be annoyed at not being able to be reached if their children had an emergency.

I was thinking about this when I went into Panera Bread with my husband. The sign on the door offered free WiFi and said nothing about cell phone use. But we were bothered and offended and our time at Panera wasn't pleasant -- but it had nothing to do with cell phones. It was just normal conversation among those at tables near us that disturbed us.

First, a group of 3 women were exchanging news. Apparently they had a common acquaintance who was very sick an in need of an organ transplant. And, it seemed one of them knew someone whose family member had died and donated organs. So the talk turned to donating organs and leaving one's body to science and I thought my husband was going to have to throw out his lunch half-uneaten. But fortunately for us, these ladies were finished eating, and left.

Almost immediately, two men sat down at a nearby table. Their fist talk was work-related and it sounded like we were safe from more unwanted topics. (I need to make a note here -- I was no trying to evesdrop, these people were all talking loud enough for people at other tables to hear them quite clearly.) But I was wrong, one of the men asked about "Mom" and the other began to reply about the details of caring for his aged mother, details I didn't feel we needed to hear.

People make such a big deal about cell phone etiquette. They are so concerned that people not be loud an obnoxious on a cell phone. But they don't think about the fact that people can be loud an obnoxious when they aren't using a cell phone. Maybe we should have rules for how to speak in public rather than rules for where we can and can't use our cell phones.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Taking my Asus Eee PC on the road

Well, not very far on the road. I am a stay at home mom. I don't go out much, at least not to places where I can bring my little computer. But today is my wedding anniversary. My husband wanted to take me out to lunch, and to save gas, I rode along with him while he visited a couple of customers (he sells window blinds). He dropped me at a brand new library in the town I grew up in, and I'm sitting here writing at a nice table with a built in lamp and a built-in electrical plug, right next to a nice window overlooking what would be a pretty outdoor waterfall if it was later in the season when there would be water in it.

I was disappointed to find there doesn't seem to be free WiFi. Our little library out in the boondocks has free WiFi (though that may be because one of the librarians' husband is a techie type, he probably set it up, I bet it's hardly ever used. Ironically, I just wrote an article about WiFi finders and I now know all of the best ways to find out whether there is free WiFi where you're going, and I recommended checking before you leave, but did I do that? No.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Asus Eee PC -- I think I jumped too soon

I wanted one of these little mini notebooks, or netbooks as I've heard some call them. I would find myself, several times a week, staring at a picture of one of these cute little laptops on some website or other. I decided I had to have one. I got it for my birthday at little over a month ago.

I had 2 reservations, 2 things that worried me about this computer I'd never seen in person till the box arrived from Amazon. The size of the screen was the biggest drawback, as far as I could see. We have a portable DVD player with a 7-inch screen. It's fine for watching DVDs on it, if you have it up close. My husband and I have used it to watch DVDs on together, snuggled up in bed close to each other. You don't want the screen to be too far away from you, even for watching a DVD. But when you have to read text on a screen that size -- well, I was worried about it.

My second reservation was the size of the keyboard. I have small hands, but would this keyboard be too small? I compared the published dimensions with my old NEC MobilPro. I find it easy to type on that, but that is fully half an inch wider. How much difference would that half an inch make?

My short answer to these drawbacks is that they are not as bad as they could be. I will elaborate more on the plusses and minuses in another post. The topic of today's post is why I think I should have waited before purchasing this little machine.

Two reasons, or maybe 11, depending on how you count.

The first is, Asus is now planning to make one with a 9 inch screen. And I hear one with a 10-inch screen isn't far behind. A 9-inch screen would eliminate my biggest criticism of this little dream computer. It wouldn't make the overall size any bigger, since the 7-inch screen is surrounded by a wide buffer that includes the unit's speakers. Though it also makes the price go up, so maybe I am happy with the one I've got.

The second reason I think I jumped too soon is that something has finally happened that I've been waiting years for: computer manufacturers are finally starting to realize there is a market for devices like this. Ever since I learned about the NEC MobilPro, I wondered why there weren't more little devices like that. The problems with the MobilPro were that it was priced too high and it needed to sync to a regular computer.

With the success of the Asus Eee PC, Intel has said that 10 different computer manufacturers are committed to design little competitors for the Asus. One is already out, or nearly so -- the HP Mini Note will be for sale in May.

This new class of mini notebooks (I reject the term "netbook") are all about portability and simplicity. They have enough computing power to run the types of applications you want to have with you on the go. They have components that are designed to use less electric power. They boot quickly (at least the Asus unit does -- that's one of it's great selling points, in my opinion). They don't do everything and are not meant to replace your other computer, but to offer another choice so you don't have to drag that heavy laptop with you everywhere you go.

I figure, if 10 different companies make computers like these, one of them is bound to make one I'll like better than my birthday present. And my only consolation will be that I've been able to use mine all of these months when I could have been waiting for its competitors to come out.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The perfect loaf of home-made bread

I should have taken a picture of it. It was beautiful.

I've been perfecting this recipe for a number of years now. I started out trying to make a nice crusty Italian loaf. Then I added ground flax seed. Then I added other whole grains and things. Then I experimented with some white whole wheat flour.

Here's the recipe I've come up with.

3/4 cup water
2 cups bread flour (unbleached)
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast

3/4 cup water
1-3/4 bread flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoon mixture of ground flax seed and ground sunflower seeds
1/4 oat bran
1/4 wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon malt powder
1/2 tablespoon gluten
1 teaspoon instant yeast

I start the night before. I make the biga in the bread machine and leave it there. I let it go through the dough cycle and leave the machine on all night. It will keep it slightly warmer than the rest of the kitchen, and the biga will do it's fermentation. Somewhere I read if I'm not going to make the bread the bread the next day, I need to take it out of the bread pan, put it in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge, where it can stay up to 3 days. If you do this, get it out and let it come to room temperature before you use it in dough.

In the early afternoon, I make the rest of the dough. I take the biga out of the pan and put it on a sparayed cutting board (sprayed with oil. Then I use my bread cutter thing to cut it into about 10 pieces and let it sit while I make the rest of the dough.

My pan has you put stuff in the pan in the order I have listed it, water then bread then extra ingredients then yeast last. I do this but I try to have some of the flour lannd on top of the whole grains so it will mix better. I measure out the flax annd sunflower seeds together into my coffee grinder and grind them into a powder -- so the measure is really for the whole seeds than the groud mixture. Adding ground flax and sunflower seeds supposedly gives you all of the essential fats you need in one dose.

On top of the dough ingredients, I lay the pieces of the biga and put the whole bucket into the bread machine. I watch for a couple of minutes and use a spatula to scrape the top if necessary.

90 minutes later, I have a nice big mass of bread dough. I flatten it out with my hands into a vague rectangle, roll it up, pinch the seam and place it seam side down on a piece of parchment or (last time I didn't have parchment) onto a baking stone sprinkled with corn meal. Cover and let rise about 45 min.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you have parchment, leave the stone on the lower oven rack while the oven is preheating. Transfer the bread to the stone by lifting and sliding the parchment carefully. Throw 2 tablespoons of water over onto one side of the oven and quickly shut the oven door. Set a timer for 1 min. and repeat, throwing the water onto the opposite side of the oven. Close the oven door, turn the temperature down to 400 and set the timer for 30 minutes.

When it's done, resist the urge to cut it for 20 minutes or so. Enjoy!


I've decided -- that I can't decide what my niche is for this blog. I want to document my freelance writing career, and I want to include samples of my writing.

Here's what I like to write about:

baking, esp. bread baking
graphic arts

See what I mean? How can that be a niche?

But then I looked at some other blogs, blogs of people who are somewhat famous in the internet world, and some of them just blog about what they are thinking about. So, that's what I'm going to do, regardless of the fact that I'm not even a little famous.

I'm going to really try to post every day. Some days my posts will be a bit longer than others. I would like to do a big post about my new toy, the Asus Eee PC blush pink 4 Gb mini laptop. I heard somewhere they have named a new category of laptop -- well, not named after this cute little computer, but because it's so popular and other companies are making similar ones, they made a new category name. I forget what it is, though. I think I won't have time to write a huge long review of the Asus Eee PC, however, so I think instead I will post several shorter, topical reviews, and link them together (like, things I like about it, things I don't like about it, about the operating system, comments I get from people when I'm using it). So be watching for that.

Monday, March 31, 2008

What this Blog is About

I got interrupted in the middle of my last post and then got so busy I didn't get back to this blog for a week. My intention is to post every day. But I'm still learning how to do all of this.

I felt pretty good, when I wrote the last post (until the interruption, which involved some strange problem with Blogger, all of my text turned into a different font and spaced way o  u  t    l  i  k  e
t  h  i  s. Very strange, the only cure was to end the post and go back later. I editted it and now it's fixed.

So, my first week was a wake-up call. I had all sorts of intentions that didn't get done (like posting on this blog every day, and cleaning out the pile of stuff that's been stashed in the messy corner of my living room). I wrote 6 articles and all of them got sent back by my editor. Well, let me amend that. I wrote 8 articles, 6 for one site and 2 for public requests at Constant Content. All of them got sent back except one of the CC articles, but that one doesn't seem to have been purchased, either.

I hadn't re-read the rules for CC and I wrote an article that was mainly a list of websites -- seems to be what the requester wanted, actually -- and that's not allowed, no links at all or website names, so I didn't even resubmit it because I don't see how it would be very helpful without the website names.

And my only actual paying job so far, I had more to learn than I thought. I think I've got it mostly figured out now, thought it's still taking me too long to write these articles for what I'll be paid. The positive is that I'm guaranteed money if I write them, unlike submitting to a request at CC when I have no idea if it will be purchased. And I'm going to be able to list this as experience, and I am learning things.

I want to learn more, so I'm considering buying an eBook. But today I found out I'm going to have an extra teenage boy living here for 13 days starting Thursday. A friend of my son's from out of town. So I have cleaning and shopping to do, as well as menu planning, not to mention writing at least some of the 5 articles I've promised for this week. So I think the ebook will have to wait.

That's what this blog is going to be about -- the story of me building some sort of online business that makes money. You see all of these great websites -- I saw one just the other day, a single mom who makes a good six-figure income by doing stuff online. Right now I'll be happy for a monthly income that has 3 digits in it (3 digits before the decimal place, I mean!). I want to share my story of how I'm trying to do that, so others can learn from what I do, both my mistakes and my successes.

And I'll probably also post articles here, samples of my writing, though I might make another blog for that and link the two together. I'm still not sure yet. You'll get to see what I decide if you keep reading.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My New Work-at-Home Business -- The First Day

Well, it's really not the first day. I've been trying to figure out how to do this for years, but various things have gotten in the way. But that's another blog post.

This post is about my first day. Or maybe my first week. I have finally earned actual money doing this, so I thought it was the right time to start blogging about it. The money won't get here for 60 days, but I've done the work that earned it, so I'm on my way.

I have a loose strategy on how this is going to work. There are 3 main parts to this work-at-home strategy of mine:
  • Freelance writing
  • Blogging
  • Helping to build my husband's business
The money I earned was through Freelance writing. I answered an ad on Craig's list and got signed up with a company. It only pays $10 an article, but I'm required to do at least 5 a week, so that's $200 a month (though the first check doesn't come for 60 days). And I'm getting actual freelance SEO writing experience that I can put on my resume.

I'm also spending lots of time reading up on how to make money doing freelance writing.

I keep running into blogs and websites saying you can make money blogging. So I'm going to try that. This blog is now started, though I desperately need to work on the decor. And I have another website that I've been working on for several months now and I need to work on that a bit, too, and start a blog over there.

My husband's business is already making money, so I'm trying to help him market himself. He sells and installs window treatments. I've already made him a website and some brochures. I'm working on another brochure, a better website and items for a display in a local home improvement showcase that he's going to be part of.

The hardest part of all of this is figuring out how to get all of it done. I'm hoping blogging about it will help. I've made the list above, and already realized I really should have my other website as a separate item on the list. And then there's my other list, my stay-at-home Mom list. And I have a third list, my things-I-do-as-a-volunteer list. Most of that is for church, though some of it is for the school where my son attends.