How to Use Flipboard: Curated Content & Feed Reader

How to Use Flipboard: Curated Content & Feed Reader

What is Flipboard?

Flipboard is a place to discover and share content you enjoy. “Over the years,” they say, “in partnership with the world’s greatest publishers and with you, our community, we’ve built a curated experience with a plurality of voices, where people can find quality stories on any interest, investing in their lives and their passions.”

Flipboard is curated by individuals, like you and me, and by publishers, like CNN or your favorite bloggers. Including me.

How to Sign Up

Signing up with Flipboard is easy. Just go to flipboard.com. You can Sign up using the link at the bottom of this dialog, or you can sign in using Facebook, Google, Twitter, or a registered email account if you already have one.

Click on your profile picture (or the gray circle) at the upper right corner of the screen to display the drop-down menu shown below:

Click Profile. Here’s an example of what you might see – but with fewer Magazines, until you create some!

Start by clicking Make a New Magazine (the first square below Magazines). Add a Title and give it a Description. If you want to keep your Magazine private and not publicly viewable and shareable, click to deselect the checkbox next to Public – let everyone see my magazine.

Next, start flippin’! There are several ways to do this:

Browser extension:

Share buttons (if available on the website – see the bottom of this post, for example, and feel free to try it out):

Manually, using the URL and the pencil icon (upper right corner, next to the magnifying glass – search icon) on Flipboard:

Use any of those, and you will see this dialog (if you are using the last method listed above, you’ll be asked to enter the URL; the other methods will prepopulate the link and show a preview image):

You can, optionally, add a comment – perhaps a note about why you found the content interesting or why you think others might enjoy it. Then, click Flip (or Cancel).

What is a Publisher on Flipboard?

In theory, any producer of content with an RSS feed can apply to be a Publisher. This allows you to automatically publish RSS feeds to a Magazine (you’ll see one additional option, Source, in your Magazine options). Make sure that the content meets Flipboard’s standards before applying, and have your RSS feed URL handy. When I applied, several years ago, review and approval took months. Be patient, if you do decide to apply.

How to Sign Up as a Publisher

Click on your profile picture (or the gray circle) at the upper right corner of the screen to display the drop-down menu shown below:

 

Click Settings. Scroll down to the Account Settings section, then click Become a publisher.

You will need to add an RSS feed to your publication, and wait for Flipboard to review your application.

 

Notifications? Really?

Notifications? Really?

I finally started using Microsoft’s Snip & Sketch utility – the coming replacement for the old Snipping Tool in Windows. You can open it from the Start menu or Windows Logo Key + Shift +S. If you don’t have it already, download it from the Microsoft Store. It’s free, and it’s convenient. I was resistant, but this little app slowly converted me into a fan, at least while I was on my work PC.

At home, I had other tools: Paintshop Pro, for one. It was easier just to prt sc,  paste the whole thing into Paintshop Pro, add annotations, and crop out the bits I didn’t want, than to use the Snipping Tool to snip the bits I did want and then edit in the annotations.

I’d only recently started using the little known, built-in Snipping Tool, when Microsoft shoved Snip & Sketch in my face and said, basically, “Wanna try it now? We’re going to force you to switch, pretty soon! Get a preview, now, before we do that!” They still haven’t forced anyone to switch, as of this writing, and it’s been years. At least three of them. Two, since the utility last had an update. @Microsoft, if you’re reading this, we don’t all have a touchscreen and stylus – please make it easier to add text to the snip.

Why Does It Work Differently on Different Laptops?

I liked the way Snip & Sketch worked on my work PC. I hated the way it worked on my home PC. The shortcut key to open the utility was the same on both: Windows Logo Key + Shift + S. But at work, this opened a new window for Snip & Sketch to add annotations and highlight things. At home, all this did was let me snip – and whatever bit I snipped was available only on the clipboard until I used Ctrl + C or made another “snip”! The only way to capture a snippet of the screen and edit it in Snip & Sketch (this is really its main advantage over the old Snipping Tool) was to run the app, click one of the capture buttons at the upper left, capture part or all of the screen, make my edits, and save. That didn’t save me any time over other tools.

I diligently checked all the app settings. Both were the same:

The app versions were identical, as well. But just to be sure, I updated both. I even uninstalled and reinstalled a fresh copy of the app on both PCs. The behavior was unchanged: at work, the app behaved as expected; at home, not so much. I left feedback about this on the Microsoft site, but it’s hard to describe, there, what’s going on – and when Feedback says, “Hey give us a screen recording of this thing happening to you,” it miraculously appeared to work the same way on my home PC as it does on my work PC! But this only happened during screen recording – the minute I finished and closed the feedback box, thinking there was really no point leaving feedback if the app had somehow fixed itself, it went back to not working on my home PC.

I had a mystery on my hands, but no time to investigate. There was so much more interesting work to be done.

Mystery Solved, But WHY, Microsoft?

Thanks to recent retirement and the pandemic lock-down clipping my wings, I have time on my hands. I finally went on a quest to solve this mystery. Someone else’s instructions on using the app gave me a clue: They mentioned snips showing up in the Notifications and Activity pane in Windows. I rarely use or think about that pane, and I’d turned off notifications altogether, on my home PC. Could that somehow be related? Surely not…

But apparently, the behavior I wanted (which was for Snip & Sketch to work on my home PC to exactly as it does on my work PC) is tied to allowing Notifications in Windows. This is as brilliant, @Microsoft, just like only allowing Feedback from users who also allow you to run Cortana and capture all their speech and writing so you can “give them a better user experience.” That’s another nit to pick, another day – but I am tired of Cortana reactivating on my PC and randomly “listening” to my conversations. I do not want it sending my novel drafts and emails to the Mothership. And no, I did not say anything that sounds remotely like “Hey, Cortana,” so don’t even.The closest you get to that excuse is me, occasionally swearing at “Coronavirus,” and I’m starting to wonder if Cortana thinks that’s her real name.

So, to recap, Snip & Sketch works so much better if you enable Notifications in Windows. Why the app’s behavior is tied, in this way, to Notifications, I cannot begin to guess. I’d say it’s a bug. Certainly an opportunity exists, here, to “improve the user experience.” Are you listening, Coronavirus? Please pass it on to the brilliant folks at @Microsoft.

To enable Notifications:

  1. Go to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions.
  2. Turn Notifications ON, as shown below.Now, each time you create a snip by using Windows Logo Key + Shift + S, your new snip will appear as a toast notification and you can access it by clicking the notification as it pops up, or through the notifications bar.

Sure, there are other screen capture utilities out there, and some work much better, but this one’s free. It’s also great for showing people, visually and quickly, what you’re trying to explain how to do for umpteenth time on Facebook, without going to a lot of trouble to create professional-looking illustrations for a manual.

Enjoy!

 

 

Hell, I Just Killed Liam…or Murdered Murf

Hell, I Just Killed Liam…or Murdered Murf

Oh, don’t look at me like that. Liam’s a housefly, and it was a mercy killing. While we’re at it, Liam’s not his real name. His real name is Musca Domestica, or Murf, for short. At least that’s what it sounded like as I smooshed him with the wooden blinds. “Murrrrf.” And don’t think I wanted to kill one of God’s creatures – I’d spent hours trying to swoosh Liam out the door before I had to smoosh him, but what does he do? He goes over to the door and calls to his friends, then goes swooshing back with a sashay and a slight buzz and they all start to party like it’s 1999. I must’ve left an undrained wine glass out.

Next thing you know, Liam and his buddies are flitting around my face while I try to ignore all the goings on behind the blinds.

Up till then, I’d just been relieved that Liam, or Murf, wasn’t a hornet. As his shadow wizzed by me, strafing my earlobe, Liam dove between the slats of the blinds and struck glass. “Be careful,” my husband said. “I think we have a wasp in the house. Or a mosquito.”

I am used to wasps – we get one or two in the living room, every year, and every year, I grab the useless can of Hot Shot Wasp & Hornet Spray and try to drown the poor sucker in what ought to be enough poison to fell a racehorse. My couch is now saturated with toxins and one window in my house is sparkling clean because we keep having to squeegee Hot Shot off of it. The can says “Guaranteed to kill on contact,” but what it actually does, over the next forty minutes to an hour of writhing, insectoid agony, is cause the poor creature to enact a death scene worthy of a Shakespearean actor:


The poor bugger generally scoots his way slowly across the window ledge, about ten feet off the ground – flipping from his front to his back and back to his front again – then drops, slowly spiraling with one tiny leg waving, acting as an air-rudder for maximum spin. Looks like a synchronized swimmer who’s taken a header from an airplane at 35,000 feet without a parachute. Then he’ll convulse at irregular intervals, ensuring that no corpse is touched or disposed of before its time, for another twenty minutes or so. You think I’m exaggerating? Here’s actual film footage, taken from about the forty minute mark, six weeks ago:

I listened carefully. I went up to the hall balcony, where I have a view of the window-ledge from which lone hornets like to gaze longingly out the window at a world they will never, again, be a part of. There was definitely something there. Something bigger than a hornet. My husband offered binoculars, but I decided I didn’t want to know, that badly, what the something was. The point is, Liam wasn’t there. The lump, which was definitely not a breadbox and probably not a mutant wasp, wasn’t moving.  “Probably not a wasp,” I said, to my husband. “He’s not in the usual spot, plus I think I heard him go shooshing by, and he doesn’t sound big enough, or angry enough, and his little body isn’t quite hard and crunchy enough as it hits the glass. Definitely too big to be a mosquito, though.” At this point, I paused to wonder what sort of mosquito sounds big enough to be a wasp, or how my husband could have been confused on this point. Maybe I had exaggerated just a tad about how loud the previous night’s mosquito was, while it was trying to decide which of my ears to whine in. Maybe, I planted the idea in his head that we had mosquitoes that were bigger than a breadbox.

At this point, the flies start partying in earnest. I have realized that there are at least two of them, now, and their buzzing reaches an annoying crescendo. I find Liam trapped behind the wooden blinds, in the kitchen, whining piteously as he body-slams the windowpane. The other one is still flying like a drunken Kamikaze pilot around the living room, barely a shadow on my peripheral vision. I look at Liam. “Shut up, you,” I mutter. “Don’t make me squoosh you.” I make a pot of coffee and hope that a word to the flies will be sufficient. I have not noticed, yet, that there are three of them.

Eventually, the frenzied buzzing and beating of a rather large, striped fly body against my kitchen window really starts to get on my nerves, and I try to extract Liam for this trap of his own making. I rattle the blinds, hoping he’ll notice that they are open and he’s not really stuck back there unless he wants to be, which it seems he doesn’t. What do I know, right? Maybe he was just trying to taunt the robin, out in the yard, buzzing a high-pitched, “Nanny, nanny, boo-boo, no lunch for you-ooo!” But he seems lonely and in need of attention, and I think maybe if he has company, he’ll stop trying to get my attention like a temper tantrum throwing wild child. Unfortunately, I manage to hit him with one of the wooden slats. I’m pretty sure he’s injured, and we all know there’s no fly EMT circling overhead to take him to the insect hospital. I’m pretty sure the exotic animal vet would just tell me there’s nothing he could do to help Liam, so, with a twinge of guilt and torn between trying to jerry-rig a splint for his crushed leg and wing or just squooshing him and getting it over with, I reluctantly decide to put him out of his misery.

It wasn’t quick, I shudder to say. I might as well have drowned him in the Hot Shot.

The other two must’ve heard Liam’s piteous moans and they started whining and buzzing and eventually they came over to try to claim the body. “ENOUGH!” I cried, and hastened to put them all out of their misery. It’s lonely in fly quarantine, without Liam. Rest in peace, Musca Domestica.


Author’s Note: I no longer know or care what day it is, and that includes the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Rather than give up and eat bonbons, I’ll play the game my way – it’s not cheating if there are no rules, right? 

H, I, J, K, L, and M – all in one post! 

Global

Global

If there is one good thing to come out of a global crisis like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease now known as “COVID-19,” it is that we are all in it together. Not that I’d wish the misery of anxiety, fear, isolation, illness, and death on my worst enemy, but that we all share a common enemy and our simultaneous experience in fighting it highlights our similarities, while allowing some of our colorful and creative diversity to shine.

A fellow blogger Balaka Basu, describes what it was like for her during the earliest days of the emerging pandemic in Anxiety, Anger, and Alienation. Basu’s theme for this year’s annual #AtoZChallenge, in her own words, is “‘Life in the Time of Corona.’ I know, this title has now become a cliche. Everyone is using this title which is a spin-off from the title of a book by my favorite author Gabriel Garcia Marquez called ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.’ However, my mind is so lethargic these days that I couldn’t even think of a better unique title. I would be writing my posts based on the emotions, thought, and experiences we are going through now.”  I didn’t bother with a theme, this year; I’m doing well to remember the alphabet, at the moment. I urge you, too, to keep a journal; we know that we are living through what will be a historically momentous time. However dull and lethargic your mind feels in the present moment, take time to reflect and jot down your own experiences and emotions.

In her post, #Gratitude March 2020: But still. Like air, I will rise, Shalini Baisiwala shares what she’s thankful for, reminding readers that even under adverse circumstances, there are small blessings worth remembering. If you find yourself struggling to remember, look for the hashtag #gratitude. Unishta has opted to share her perspective on things as a grandmother, and that’s sure to brighten your day. Another hashtag to look for, when you need a lift, is #watwb. I’ll admit that I am a poor and irregular participant, but I can count on Damyanti Biswas‘s little army of positivity bloggers to help me heal a broken smile from time to time. One of them, Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan, an anesthesiologist and talented writer, never fails to drag me out of the doldrums with his posts. His theme for #AtoZChallenge, this year, is Heroes of Kindness.

Boredom and Despair Are the Enemies

Shinjini brings us a glorious mix of Tarot and art. I’m not at all into astrology or Tarot, myself, but her intuitive readings and writings are thought-provoking and interesting, nonetheless, and I enjoy her art and creativity. I can’t quibble with her Tarot reading for April 2020 – it’s spot-on. I won’t accuse her of stacking the deck to pull this particular combination of cards from it, but they are amazingly appropriate. As Shinjini writes, “There are numerous such green shoots that are emerging from this otherwise gloomy underworld landscape. And all of these ask us to rethink our relationship with work and rest; with nature and policy making; with how we choose to show up for our communities and with our loved ones.

…or Are They?

Balaka Basu points out that Boredom Precedes Creativity. It’s true, too – as a kid, I learned not to whine about being bored, lest my mom or another adult overhear me and find something for me to do. Boredom can also be the mother of invention. I will work 100 times harder to automate or reinvent a process for doing a task that is mind-numbingly tedious, rather than simply doing the task and getting it over with.

Parul gives us 99 Things to Do During Lockdown, and I challenge you – yes, you, reading this now – to come up with, and share, your own list of 99 things to do during lockdown. Maybe we can all add “Access to functional Internet” to our #gratitude lists. Be as serious, as silly, as generous with the links as you like – there is honestly no excuse right now for being #boredathome (although a search for that hashtag, at least on tiktok, may prove endlessly amusing).

Tackling the TBR Pile, or Building One

Shinjini’s 2020 Book Bingo reading challenge is still on – first quarter down, three to go! Whether you are participating in this or another book challenge, or just looking for some good reading recommendations, book bloggers are sharing their thoughts to help you find new reading material you might not have unearthed on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Peruse Goodreads, as well – discover new books, chat about them with readers, meet authors, even learn about some writing contests.

Shipa Gupte is a recent convert to the horror genre, and shares a recommendation for Route 13: Highway to Hell, a collection of short horror stories that answers the question, “‘What happens when 13 writers of horror are trapped in a bus on a stormy night?’ They try to outdo one another with blood-curdling, spine-chilling tales. Read these riveting, terrifying tales, where the authors themselves become the characters.” While some find horror too intense and too terrifying, at the best of times, some of us cope through the catharsis offered by literature and film, served up with a dash of gallows humor. Corinne Rodrigues gives us more insight, still, with Route 13 – The Highway to Hell – Interview with Anshu Bhojnagarwala.

Apeksha Rao was excited to announce the imminent release of her first book, Along Came a Spyder, but due to COVID-19, she and her publisher have decided to make us all wait a little longer. Still, you can get a little taste of what’s to come, in this excerpt, and put it on your TBR list.

Shilpa Garg gives a few reasons to give audiobooks a try. It’s no secret that I still prefer the feel of a book in my hand – even a Kindle, if it has a nice cover and feels like a real book. Shalini recommends her favorite Indian books by Anita Nair and 17 Books by Black Women Authors.

Vinay Leo R. and Ishithaa are writing original short stories on their blogs, this month – each day, they write using the same emotion as a prompt, and this is their take on the #AtoZChallenge.

Missing Book Club? Being online, all the time, is no excuse to read and drink alone! Join my friend Polli Kenn and her #BookSquad for some virtual BYOB2 (books and beverages – teatotalers are welcome, too!) for some book chat, Tuesdays from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM CDT.

Sunday Drives and Armchair Travels

Armchair travelers (and, no doubt, the Colorado tourism industry) will appreciate Mahathi Ramya’s Colorado-themed #AtoZChallenge posts, beginning with A for Aspen.

Here’s to Your Health!

It has been advised that we all start wearing masks, while out and about running errands. This doesn’t protect us, so much as it protects others from us. Since SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted even before symptoms appear, it’s a useful addition to social distancing. It’s important to wear them correctly, though – as much for your health as for others. And forget about the paper towel masks – figure out how to make one out of cotton or t-shirt fabric, remembering that two layers are better than one. Leave the n95 and surgical masks to the medical professionals who have to deal with sick people every hour of the day.

There’s a dizzying array of DIY mask-making posts, and half of us will come out of isolation knowing – at long last! – how to use our sewing machines. We will have a greater appreciation for the skill and labor of those who make the cheap clothing we take for granted. Or we’ll all look a bit funky, having decided to move on from mask-making to dress-making, the longer this goes on. By then, all our colleagues would have seen us in our “day jammies” anyway. This season’s fashion trend will be called, “Who gives a shit?”

Apparently, plenty of people. I hear they’re still rationing toilet paper around the world, despite plentiful supplies. Hoarders. Spoiling it for the rest of us. If you run short, soap and water and a towel work just fine.

Speaking of DIY…

Some of you are into Kombucha, Kimchi, and other fermented things. I won’t even pretend to share your love of growing your own healthy gut flora at home, and I am still haunted by that Amish Friendship Bread starter I let languish—friendless, neglected, and ultimately forgotten—on my kitchen counter decades ago. It’s probably crawling towards me from hundreds of miles away, inch by labored inch, driven on by a primordial urge for revenge. But if you are “anal about cleanliness” (and really, who isn’t, these days?) you may want to Grow Your Own SCOBY at Home to Brew Kombucha (no, I don’t – I really, really don’t, but now you can). Reminds me a little bit of our 7th grade science experiment, wherein we made plain gelatin, exposed it for a few minutes to the air inside the boys’ locker room and the air inside the girls’ locker room, to see which grew the most robust and colorful molds. Spoiler alert: both were nasty, but it’s a game you #boredathome homeschoolers can try. Hold a competition between the kids to see who keeps their rooms and bathrooms cleanest.

I hope that this post keeps you entertained for hours – do follow the links while I’m gone. Time for me to put on the day jammies and forage for foodstuffs at Costco. Who am I kidding? I have plenty of food and toilet paper, but we are running dangerously low on coffee. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I will brave the contagion and a herd of angsty shoppers in the name of #coffee!

 

Emergent

Emergent

Cotyledons

I hadn’t thought about cotyledons since Botany class, when I was 15 or so. I probably wouldn’t have thought of the word “cotyledon” at all, unless there was a Lima bean attached, growing in a medium of tap water and cheap paper towels. Yesterday, while scavenging for peppers and signs of tomato life in my little garden out back, I found this:

I consulted my plant-friendly friends on Facebook. “Is this some mutant hybrid thing?” I wondered, half hoping that it was. The general consensus was “Virginia Creeper” (though guesses included “marigold,” “peony,” and “kill it with fire”). I know enough to feel safe holding it; it’s not poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. I learned to recognize those when I was nine. But while the top cluster of five leaves was definitely “Virginia Creeper,” that still didn’t explain the pair of non-serrated leaves below the cluster of five.

I swore to my friends that I wasn’t pranking them; I hadn’t doctored the photo or held two different plants together as if grafting them. Finally, the answer – cotyledons! The first, embryonic  leaves to emerge from the seed. And sure enough, “Virginia Creeper” is a dicotyledon, or “dicot,” meaning a plant whose embryonic leaves emerge as a pair.

Who remembers growing Lima beans in class, watching the little roots and embryonic leaves emerge? It’s a fun thing to watch at any age, and an especially easy science experiment to do at home.

Monocots or Dicots?

I’ve been throwing my pepper seeds into potting soil for a few weeks, now – not as a science experiment, but in hopes of feeding my hot pepper addiction. Unfortunately, I have no idea whether what’s emerging, finally, is spicy serrano or mild bell peppers. Probably both. I have been a little careless. There could be a few pequin peppers in there, too, but I suspect they would have put in an appearance before now. Can you tell from the photos whether these peppers are monocots or dicots?

Any guesses as to whether the turnip in the header photo, from which my “accidental turnip greens” emerged, is a monocot or a dicot? Here’s another fun thing to try – let a turnip sit for just a bit too long on your countertop, in the shade. If leaves emerge, put the turnip into a cup, jar, or bulb vase with just enough water to cover the bottom of the vegetable. Put it in a sunny window, and keep the bottom quarter submerged. When the leaves grow long and plentiful, pluck, chop, and sauté them with a little olive oil or butter, garlic, chopped bell pepper, or other veggies until they are bright and tender.

Peppers and turnip greens, too, are easy things to grow with kids. I dried the pepper seeds, soaked them in water overnight, then tossed them into the dirt. Some, I buried with a light blanket of potting soil. Others are just resting atop the dirt, fighting to find a foothold, but all seem to be thriving. Water lightly, daily. Don’t let the soil get muddy or dry.

Other things are beginning to emerge in our garden, now, as well.

The first flowers appeared on our flowering plum; two flowers, to be exact. Now, deep purple leaves have emerged, seemingly without flowering first.

The flowering cactus emerged: a tight, reddish bud that burst into bright orange flame-petals in the afternoon sun.

Research for the kids to do: Are these flowering cactii also dicots? What about the plum tree? Can you name some other dicots are growing in your garden? How about monocotyledons? I’ll bet you have some in your house right now, or you have some items made from them. How many can you name?