#100Words100Days, Instagram, and Add Text App

#100Words100Days, Instagram, and Add Text App

Refreshing

A few months ago, I made my personal Instagram account “private.” Or as private as it could be, with 794 followers. I was tired of playing Report > Block > Delete with the daily onslaught of fraudulent accounts. But I also wanted to keep a public Instagram account, and to explore how Instagram might fit with my writing – not just snapshots of “whatever caught my eye today.” And while my “personal brand” as Queen of the No-Niche Niche is “eclectic,” I wanted a template to tie things together, similar to what my friends Sharon Hurley Hall or Ming Qian have been doing.

Then, I ran across an account called @100Words100Days. I loved the idea, but I also wanted to make it my own. I thought that, for Instagram, it needed more visual appeal. My first efforts lacked any sort of cohesive look and feel; later entries were more visually attractive at the expense of readability.

I quickly fell behind. No one said #100words100days had to be consecutive days, though, right? As I refined my ideas, I grew to dislike the earlier posts and how they looked in a grid layout. The more I looked at them, the stronger my urge to rip out all the posts and start over grew. Would anyone care? Would I lose followers? Most of my followers there know me well enough, by now, not to bat an eye.

So I took a step back and thought about this for a while. I made a list of my own, personal requirements:

  • Visual appeal;
  • Readability (I put visual appeal first only because it’s Instagram);
  • Cohesiveness of design;
  • Ease of creation, using a consistent workflow that can adapt to either PC or mobile device with minimal effort;
  • Affordability of software.

There’s a reason designers and graphic artists are paid well. What looks effortless is anything but.

And I started to rip.

Here’s what I finally came up with – but as always, I reserve the right to tweak it over time!

Now, how to recreate this and make it easy to do in the future?

Software

Sharon and Ming Qian both recommended Canva, which is available both on mobile and desktop. I know that Canva has many die-hard fans, but for me, it’s like Scrivener: I really want to love it, but I just don’t.

I was determined to work with the tools I had on hand, if at all possible. For the desktop PC, that was Corel PaintShop Pro 2021 (the full version is currently $99, or $79 for the upgrade, and is close enough to Photoshop without the sticker shock to suit me).

For my Android mobile phone, I wanted just one or two apps that could do it all and on a shoestring budget. I was able to narrow it down to File Manager Plus, Snapseed, and Add Text (by Gabo Apps). Sorry, all you Clubhouse fans; Add Text is only available for Android. All three are free; for a small one-time fee, you can upgrade Add Text and File Manager Plus to remove the ads. I generally won’t pay a recurring monthly fee to use an app. I will pay a reasonable amount for apps I use quite often or find particularly useful. I use these often enough that I was happy to support the developers and support folks.

I’m using Microsoft Word to create the text, using a shared document on OneDrive. That lets me count words easily, and seamlessly move back and forth between devices. Microsoft OneNote is another good option, but it was easier to get the word count using Word.

File Manager Plus

If you have a favorite File Manager app on your phone, already, use it. I use File Manager Plus when I want to create a special folder for transferring files to or from my PC. In this case, I used it to create one in my photo gallery called 100 Words. This is also where I will save the output from Add Text, rename it, and select it to upload to Instagram. To create a folder:

  1. Tap the overflow menu (upper right corner, three vertical dots):
  2. Select New:
  3. Type a name for your new folder:
  4. Tap OK (check mark icon).

Snapseed

I use Snapseed to edit the photos I take on my phone. It’s a powerful, free app from Google. Fear not, iPhone users: according to Tom’s Guide, there’s an iOS version that, as of 2017, might even be better than the Android version. See Snapseed Review: Best Photo-Editing App for Serious Photographers. I remember there being a fairly steep learning curve, but only because I was unfamiliar with the icons and UI design of Snapseed. I’d suggest grabbing the app, loading a copy of any photo, and experimenting with all the features of the app before trying to create a photo story for Instagram with it.

After opening a photo in Snapseed, you will see a menu across the bottom of the screen: Looks, Tools, and Export:

Looks equates to Filters in Instagram. Snapseed includes a few built-in filters, just like Instagram does, but also allows you to save your own photo adjustments as a Look. Before using Looks, you may want to do a bit of research, and ask yourself: Do my photos need any pre-set filters? What sort of effects would I want to apply consistently? Things like filters, color saturation, and focus can have a powerful emotional effect on the viewer. But you may not need to make may changes to your snapshots, depending on what and why you want to share.

  • The 10 Best Instagram Filters for 2021 – unsurprisingly, digital cameras have reached the point where no filter at all is often the best choice. Read this to find out why, and what the next best choices are. I prefer to manually tweak my images, if they need tweaking at all.
  • When to Use Saturated Colors – color has a psychological effect on the viewer. This article talks about how to appeal to the viewer’s emotions.

The main thing is to crop your image to 1080×1080 pixels, to prep it for Instagram. Crop is found under Tools.

If you like the edits you’ve applied and want to save them as a group, to use on other photos, tap Looks, scroll through the options to the right, and click the + icon. Type a name for your Look. You can select those settings from Looks, and apply them, now, to any photo you edit in Snapseed.

Add Text

Add Text is one of the few free apps that has ever made me think, “How can I give you money? How can I give you more money?” This full-featured app is free – no need for a “premium upgrade” to add all the best features! They are all there, right from the start. The cost to remove ads is $4.99, and well worth it in my opinion. The cost to add additional shapes is $1.99. I added this – call it a “tip” for the developer and support. If all we wanted to do was “add text to an image,” Snapseed does that quite nicely. Assuming you are satisfied with the built-in fonts and styles. Other apps let you do this, too. No – the trick is in how versatile the Add Text app is, and the fact that you can create multiple layers of images and text.

To duplicate the look here, complete the steps outlined below.

The image above consists of a background (white), two images (one photo and one banner “overlay” in black at 65% opacity containing byline, tag, and website URL), and one text layer (title). I created the original in PaintShop Pro, then saved each layer to my phone and created a Project in Add Text using these premade layers. That simply makes it easier for me to create the same look (and spacing, more or less) on both desktop and mobile.

Do take note of your overall image crop size (mine is 1080 x 1080 pixels, for Instagram), your font choices, and your font size choices. One thing I wanted to do was to use the same typefaces I’m using on my website: Acme and Abel. I had no idea just how many fonts were available to me – so I suggested to the developers that they add a feature that would let users add free Google fonts. Within a couple of hours, I had an answer – just tap the up arrow under Format and search for them.

Here are the steps to do this, using only the Add Text app:

  1. To open the app, tap the Add Text icon:
  2. Select Background color. I chose white. Do not use Transparent (the gray and white checked circle) for Instagram posts.
  3. Next, you will see a blank canvas in your chosen background color. Across the top, from left to right: Back button; Pan/Pin/Fit (move, resize); Undo; Add Layer (same options are shown across the bottom, just below the canvas); Redo; Show Layers; Save and Share.

    Use pinch-zoom to resize the canvas so that you can see its edges. This isn’t necessary, but it’s helpful in making sure that overlays and text go edge to edge and are centered.
  4. Using the + (top center) or the Add Layer ribbon across the bottom, tap to choose Shape. To create the image shown above, choose the square. Adjust the size and position of the shape until it looks like the image shown below. To do this, tap the icons – from left top, clockwise – Delete Layer; Adjust Height; Rotate; Expand/Contract (keep aspect ratio); Duplicate Layer; Adjust Width.

    Slide the Opacity to 65% (or whatever amount you prefer) to allow the image to show through from underneath.
  5. Tap the + to Add Layer. Choose Text.
  6. Type the text you want to appear on the new layer. Tap the alignment button (top center-left) to cycle through left-aligned, centered, or right-aligned (relative to the text box itself). Tap the justification icon (top center-right) if you want text to have justified margins; tap again to return to ragged margins. Tap OK (the checkmark in the upper right corner).
  7. Tap and drag the text box to reposition it. The icons are the same as for Shape with two new additions: the icon at the right side of the box resizes the text box width without resizing the text inside the box, and Edit (keyboard icon at the lower left corner) lets you edit the text itself. If you use any of the other resize icons, you will also resize the text height, width, or overall size – but as an image. In most cases, it is better to resize the text using the Format options to select the font size.
  8. Across the bottom of the screen, you will see the text layer options: Style; Format; Color; Stroke; Highlight; Spacing; Position; 3D Rotate; 3D; Perspective; Bend; Shadow; Gradient; Texture; Opacity; Erase. Swipe this options ribbon right or left to scroll through all of them.
  9. Select Format. To locate a particular font, select Bonus or Standard. These are two different lists and are not searchable as a single list. My fonts, Acme and Abel, are under Bonus. You can scroll through the lists for visual samples of the installed fonts, or search for a specific font by name, if you know the name of the one you want. If you still cannot find the font you want, but have the .ttf file on your device, click the + icon to add it. You can find additional fonts at sites like fontsquirrel.com.
  10. Tap the font name to apply it to your text layer. Tap the star icon at the right to add the font to your Favorites.
  11. Tap the back arrow to the left of the font name to return to Format. Select the text you want to format – you can select individual characters, words, or the entire contents of the layer. Adjust alignment of text, apply bold, italics, underscore, or strikethrough. Increase or decrease the font size.
  12. From the text options menu across the bottom of the screen, tap Color. Tap white. You can also use the eyedropper to pick up colors from a background image or to enter a hexadecimal color value for more precise color selection.
  13. Repeat steps 5 through as often as needed. The example has three text layers: title, hashtag, and URL. To make it easier to reposition, resize, and add effects to text elements later, do not try to type all text into one layer.
  14. Experiment with other options to learn what each does. For the purposes of this exercise, this is all you need to do.
  15. Tap the + to Add Layer. Choose Photo.
  16. Tap Gallery. Browse the Gallery or File Manager Plus to the select the photo you wish to use over your Background Layer.
  17. Tap the Show Layers icon (second from the right, at the top of the screen).
  18. Tap and drag the = to the right of the layer name to move it up (towards the top) or down (towards the bottom) of the stack of layers. The image should be underneath the shape and text layers.
  19. Tap the Save and Share icon (upper right corner). Tap Save Project (you can use this next time, altering only the image and text as needed).
  20. Tap to open the Project you just saved.
  21. Tap the Save and Share icon (upper right corner). Share to File Manager Plus. Save to the folder you created earlier.

You may also want to view some of the Add Text Tutorials on YouTube.

Here are the two basic templates I created:

and 

This is just the background, banner, and text (other than the title). All I have to do, now, is add a title and image to the cover, and add story text (and, optionally, a background image) to the story pages.

Here’s a second story I posted using the same templates:

The “boilerplate” and hashtags are also stored in, and copy/pasted from Microsoft Word.

Epilogue

Not only did I fall behind on the #100Words100Days challenge, I got completely derailed shortly after I’d written about half of this post. You may have heard that a little Arctic freeze hit North America – and smacked Texans especially hard the week of January 15, 2021. I’m in Houston.

And I’m fine. We were without power for 34 hours straight while night-time temps plummeted to 13ºF. Then we were thankful to be on rolling power – enough to warm the house up from 48ºF, at its lowest point indoors. We only lost water – due to pipes cracking and low power at the station that delivers us our water – but that only lasted about 4 hours. All in all, we were among the lucky ones. There are people in Houston, and across the state of Texas, who still have no power, no water, no food, and are – to add insult to injury – on a “boil water notice” (meaning that if they do get water, the pressure’s too low to keep it free of potentially deadly pathogens, so they can’t ingest it without boiling it for a few minutes first). Some of these people are seniors, or families with newborns or small children.

If you are looking for ways to help, I strongly suggest a donation to the Houston Food Bank.

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!

 

 

Teach Me to Fish

Teach Me to Fish

Just Give Me a Logical Reason!

One of my first jobs out of college was to code selection statements that would automate the printing of just a few pages or sections of much larger reports to distribute to individual recipients. This involved using Boolean search operators, much like what you might use in Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go today, to define specific text located in precise locations on the printed page.

For some strange reason, I enjoyed this. I enjoyed finding needles in haystacks, and made it a personal challenge to sift through as little hay as possible in order to find the needles with gold tips and hooked ends. At one point, I had a complex report defined in a single selection statement that probably ran on for five or six lines. I had parenthetically grouped and nested sets of search criteria and operators – it was a lengthy but precise statement of exactly what I wanted to include in the report, and I was inordinately proud of it. But it didn’t run. It didn’t give any error messages, either. It simply produced nothing.

Where Did That Quote Come From?

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

If you thought this was a Biblical proverb, you’d be in good company, but incorrect. The fishing allegory is most likely attributable to Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie,  the daughter of the prominent writer William Makepeace Thackeray. The same general idea was expressed by the 12th-century philosopher Maimonides, who wrote about eight degrees in the duty of charity. See Quote Investigator for more details and source citations.

 

The Occasional Oops!

If you are one of the founding members, you probably got an email, yesterday, with a now-broken link. One or two of you hit that link before I deleted it (or, technically, changed it without benefit of a redirect). That’s because I forgot the cardinal rule: No post may be published before its time!

For my readers who don’t blog, this means:

  • Write the post.
  • Give the post a catchy title and a featured image. If you wonder why some of the featured images here don’t exactly go with the post, it’s because I prefer to create my own. That way, I know I’m not violating anyone else’s copyright. Occasionally, I may use others’ images if they are clearly marked with a Creative Commons license or I have written permission from the photographer or artist.
  • Check that the title and permalink (e.g., the part that says “teach-me-to-fish” right now, in your browser address bar) go together.
  • Choose a Category for the post. Categories are what you see in the menu bar and its subsections.
  • Add a few tags to help people find the post. Tags are like index entries. You can just use the Search function, but tags might give you more conceptual information that isn’t explicitly part of the text within a post.
  • Craft an Excerpt. That’s the little descriptive blurb you see in search engine results and on the front page of this site. If there is no Excerpt, WordPress is set to use the first few words of the post in place of one. Unless you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole to arrive here, you know that the first few words of any post here may not provide the best description of what to expect.
  • Preview the thing to ensure that formatting is correct.

I forgot a step or two, in my haste to respond to yesterday’s poetry challenge from Raven Darkly. I did not mean to drop you into a black hole, but some random numbered permalink would not do, and I decided a dragon was a better Shadowbird than a white heron.

 

Update on Theme Customization

As mentioned in my first post, I’m using Elegant Themes‘ Divi and the Divi Builder, which is a brand new experience offering many new challenges. As predicted, I broke the blog on Wednesday, but was traveling. I could not fix it and threw caution to the wind: I asked for help.

Back in 2012, I won a Lifetime Membership to Elegant Themes. I loved their cleanly coded, easy to use, easy to customize themes. I moved away from those in 2016, mainly because they appeared to be phasing out all the themes I loved and going all in on their theme and builder combination they called, “Divi,” which I had tried and, frankly, hated. I paid for a different premium theme, called “Fullby,” which I loved, but chose to move away from for two reasons: The developer was not responsive to support requests, and I could see that it was not likely to keep up with the inevitable changes to WordPress–namely, the dreaded Gutenberg block editor. Divi was before its time. I fought that block editor as long as I could, while some raved about how wonderful it was and others wrote plug-ins to disable it and restore lost features of a bygone era. Mainly, I fought it because it did not allow for the easy fine-tuning of alignment between text and graphics. I was ready to hand-code each post in HTML if I had to, just to get those elements to align.

And then I thought, “Fine, I have a Lifetime membership to Elegant Themes, and it seems a shame to waste it. Let’s give Divi another go. I have vacation, plenty of time to waste. I can do this.”

I am grudgingly ready to admit that Divi and I are starting, mostly, to get along. I still half expect it to eat my posts (the main reason I despised it, early on, was that I’d tried it – then switched to a different theme – then switched back, and all my posts were gone).

But this weekend, I broke my blog. I entered a plea for help in Elegant Themes’ chat support. And waited. Nothing happened. I went to bed. In the morning, I had a lovely email from Abd, asking me to enable the support and admin features of Divi. At first I balked: Give someone else admin privileges on my blog? I don’t think so

Then, “Why not? What are they going to do, delete it?” There was nothing here to delete. There are no members but me, and admin me has access to pretty much nothing. So I enabled Support and Admin privileges. Next thing I know, Abd and Vojin from Elegant Themes had gone to work fixing my world.

At first, I thought I broke my blog, but the real problem was not my messing around in the style.css file, trying to change the color of elements not accessible via the Customizer. The real problem was another plug-in.

Instead of the usual, “It’s some crappy plug-in you’re using. Disable them all, then re-enable one at a time to figure it out on your own,” they told me what was wrong and they wrote some code in the Divi theme to work around it. I didn’t have to disable the crappy plug-in. Sweeet!

Then, I asked Vojin how to change the color of the elements I was trying to change. He asked me what color I wanted. I explained that I’d rather understand what I needed to do–that I wanted him to teach me how to fish, not throw me a mackerel and feed me for a day. He got it, and did both, providing a little snippet of .css code to do what I’d wanted.

So now I am back to being a huge fan of Elegant Themes–yes, and Divi–because of their expert and kind support staff. It usually does come down to the people, doesn’t it? I’m willing to put up with a little technical annoyance if the support staff goes above and beyond. It’s why I’ve been a T-Mobile customer since back before their coverage was better than AT&T’s, and why I’ve stayed with them for nearly a decade. And now it’s why I recommend Elegant Themes’ Lifetime Membership, as well.

Oh, and the more I work with Divi, the less “technical annoyance” I’m encountering. It’s just a very different way of working. And now I know that if I get stuck, I am not stuck without the help of some very kind and knowledgeable people.

Craving Answers

The “real systems engineers” and the “real programmers” (I did not consider myself one, at the time) reviewed my logic and syntax and could find no flaws in it. “Just break it down into two or three separate statements,” they suggested.

“Why?” I asked, hoping to understand and learn.

They shrugged. “Because what you’re doing isn’t working? Because if you simplify it, it might?” They really couldn’t – or wouldn’t – give me the logical answer I craved, so I chafed at the idea, but finally relented as there didn’t seem to be any other alternative.

It worked, but I was unsatisfied. I was still telling this story, ten years later, as an example of unsatisfied thirst for knowledge. Until one day, a man overheard me and started laughing as he began to stroll over to where I stood with a few colleagues. “I’ll bet I know what the problem was,” he said.

“Oh?” I was skeptical, but after ten years, I really hoped that he did.

“I used to work for IBM,” he said, asking if I knew whether the mainframe computer’s operating system was a particular version. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed likely. “That operating system only supported nine levels of nested parentheses. I’ll bet you used more than that.”

I could’ve kissed a stranger, that day. “I’m sure I did,” I said. “Thank you for finally giving me a straight answer that makes sense.”

Remember that when children, friends, or colleagues ask, “Why?” it may be easier, and certainly kinder, in the long run, to teach them than to keep doing a thing for them, or worse – ignoring them. I am a big believer in learning to fish, rather than simply hoping for someone to share their catch, and I have appreciated those who took the time to teach me.