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! 

Dire Dullness

Dire Dullness

We meet with stark denial
The unspeakable unknown.
A dire dullness creeps,
Settles, swaths in sleep
A dawning, drowning
Dismal truth.

Wild-eyed the urge
To turn the page, to skim
To skip ahead, past present
Pandemic plodding
(Just a peek!)
To find out how it ends.

Who cares? Who cares.
Read slowly, savor sunshine.
Put away the flashlight, sleep –
Not every tale tells
Lies and lives…
Happily ever after.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

I am a huge fan of “novelty songs” and satire. “Fish Heads” was never my favorite Dr. Demento hit, but the story of how it became a hit at all just tickles my funny bone. If you’ve never heard Barnes & Barnes “Fish Heads,” watch the video below. After you’ve recovered from the “What the hell did I just watch?” feeling, check out the interview with Bill Mumy on how it came to be.

One day, I hope to win the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest. Why? Because it appeals to my “weirdly competitive” side, whereas “win a Pulitzer” or “win a Hugo” seems like one of those goals you sneak up on, strolling along, whistling nonchalantly, pretending like you don’t give a damn, lest the universe send you fish heads in the mail.

Bedsheets

Bedsheets

I don’t sew. Or didn’t,
Though I bought a machine:
A nice, beginner-level sewing machine,
along with some “how-to” books.

They all wanted me
to make a drawstring bag.
I have no use for drawstring bags;
Seems like a waste of time and cotton.

But idle hands, make idle minds;
That dive down rabbit holes. And so
Inexpert, but with purpose, I sew
Masks for the war effort.

Old, fitted bedsheets – sacrificed!
No more folding. They’re off to war!
Or maybe, just… the grocery store,
Where Sherman’s tank is armed

…with toilet paper.

In all seriousness, I think that this effort serves some additional purposes:

  • Gives people a sense of purpose and control – a feeling that they have a constructive way to help themselves and others;
  • Keeps panic prone people from stockpiling PPE that is desperately needed by medical workers;
  • Keeps hands from being idle – if you can figure out how to make these or get supplies to others, you’re not just sitting around dwelling on apocalyptic scenarios;
  • Made correctly, they are not pleasant to wear and should also help encourage folks to stay home.

Cloth masks like the ones I’m making are less effective than surgical masks and way less than n95. BUT… they are 2 layers of bedsheet cotton with a pocket for adding additional filter (like HEPA filter from a vacuum bag).

There are two styles being made out there, and some confusion – the other one is designed to cover and prolong the useful life of an n95 mask. It’s probably still effective for people running errands, but I don’t know if the fit is as good.

And unfortunately, even our medical professionals have had to resort to these in times of shortage. The call was put out by a hospital in New York, originally. Now that supply is being reserved for medical professionals, these are a good idea for the rest of us as an ADDITION TO social distancing. If nothing else, they keep you from touching your own face while grocery shopping. Why are they being recommended, now? Because you could be infected and showing no symptoms – mainly, wearing a mask is a way to protect others from you, whether it helps you much or not. Not to put too fine a point on it, but SARS-CoV-2 (“novel coronavirus” that causes COVID-19) is airborne, and wearing a mask in public helps you to keep your (possibly infected) “droplets” to yourself.

Launder on HOT and dry on HOT; only touch them after proper, vigorous handwashing. After use, wash hands, remove, throw into the laundry, and wash hands again. Assume both sides are dirty.

Stay safe and healthy out there!