Archive for the ‘Blogging tools’ Category

Yes, it’s fancy. And yes, it’s beautiful. And yes, I love my iPhone 6S Plus.

But I’m going to give the X (which Apple says to pronounce “10”) a miss. There are a couple of reasons.

First, there’s the iPhone 8 Plus. In every way that’s relevant to me, it’s the same technology as the X…for a few hundred dollars less.

Second—and crucially—the iPhone X uses facial recognition to unlock the device. There is no alternative. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, still gives you the option of logging in with your fingerprint, a password, or a PIN.

Why is this important?

Courts have held that passwords and PINs are intellectual property. That means that you own them. Law enforcement officers (LEOs) cannot make you divulge them without a warrant, nor can they make you use them to log in without a warrant.

Fingerprints and faces, however, are not your property, plus they fall under the “plain sight” exception to any warrant requirement. In other words, if a LEO asks you to log on to your phone by looking at it or just touching it, you have no legal right to refuse.

And that, my friends, is something that may not have occurred to Apple.

Also, Samsung’s facial recognition on their new flagship smartphone has been shown to be fooled by a photograph of the owner’s face!

So yes, as soon as I pay off some bills and save some money, I definitely will upgrade to the iPhone 8 Plus. My only remaining decision will be 64 Gb or 256 Gb. My iPhone 6S Plus has 16 Gb. I wanted to save money, but it was a mistake. I should have gone with 32 Gb.


Literature and Latte have just released the iOS version of Scrivener. I’ve touted the wonders of Scrivener elsewhere (here and here), and while I still use it extensively, I no longer use 750 Words. I still think it’s a valuable service, but I’ve moved all of my writing to Scrivener. I use Jarte for quick notes, which I later import into Scrivener, but all of my blogs are done in Open Live Writer and then copied to Scrivener. And now that I have Scrivener on my iPad, I’ll be reversing the process and doing everything in Scrivener, then copying it to Live Writer to post to my blog.

Let’s face it: as handy as they are, most of us don’t carry our laptops around with us everywhere we go, right? We have tablets for portable computing. My iPad Mini is my faithful companion (I’m going to ask Santa for a full-sized iPad Pro), and until now, getting articles from the WordPress app into Scrivener has been an arduous, complicated task. But no longer!

I’ve got Scrivener on both my PC and my iPad configured to save their files to DropBox, and to send backups to my iCloud account. I also have a 3 terabyte external drive that automagically saves all of my files, so I am in full compliance with Robyn’s First Rule of Computing. Remember that one? It says Be Paranoid and Compulsive!

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Or, in my case, about 2,600 miles. Next month will find me on the road (well, to be honest, the rail) to Seattle, WA. Stacey and I have finally decided the time is right to head home to the Upper Left Coast. I’ll be traveling by Amtrak, and I’m bringing my iPad, laptop, and camera to document my journey. Stacey and Fyona will follow later by car.

Once again, I’ll be handling the entire project in Scrivener. It will go a long way toward weaning me completely off MS Word, which with each “upgrade” becomes harder and harder to use.

But more on that in a future post.

Let’s talk a bit about Scrivener, shall we? I’ve written about it before, back in January, but since then my feelings (and work habits) have changed. My old work-flow looked like this:

  • Compose post in Open Live Writer (OLW)
  • Post it to the blog
  • Copy-Paste entry into Scrivener

But that’s all changed.

Some Background

I first discovered Scrivener a little over a year ago. I downloaded the demo version, used it for a month or so, and then purchased a copy for myself. I said "a month or so" because Scrivener has a generous trial period: you can use it for 30 non-consecutive days. In other words, for 30 days of active use. That means if you only use it twice a week, you can use it for however long 30 days at twice a week comes to. Hey! I was an English major; YOU do the math!

I struggled with the tutorial: although it is very well-written and easy to understand, I have a couple of learning disabilities that make it hard for me to learn via textbook or step-by-step instructions. So while I ended up with a brief understanding of the power of the program, it was a superficial understanding at best.

But I woke up this morning with the intention of learning more about Scrivener.[1] After all, up until now I’ve really only been using it as a glorified file cabinet, and that’s not what it was intended for. So I determined to start to learn how to use it the way it was intended to be used.

Naturally, as I usually do when I want to find information, I headed over to my Internet-based library card catalogue, aka Google®, and type in "Windows Scrivener tutorial." That brought up several links to YouTube,® and I followed the first one, which brought me here (

The Change

That’s when I decided to reverse my work-flow and use Scrivener for composing my entries, and then compiling it for importation into OLW. In other words, I finally decided to start using Scrivener the way it was meant to be used.

Well, that didn’t quite work. See, the thing about Scrivener is that when you compile your work, everything in the main section of your binder (usually labelled Drafts) is included. So when I compiled my latest post for export as an RTF file, all of my entries for the entire blog were included. But since that is the only folder that’s included, I’ve decided to create a new folder inside the Research folder, and move all of my previous posts to that new folder.

And there is a perfect example of the power of Scrivener: it lets you tailor the program to the way you work, rather than forcing you to work the way it thinks you should work.

The Future

So that’s my first step in becoming a better Scrivener user, and in learning how to adopt it to meet my needs. There will be more to follow, I’m sure.

Thanks for stopping by!


[1] 1 Actually, I woke up to the sound of the garbage truck emptying the dumpster outside my window.

Surprise! This has nothing at all to do with mental health—unless, like me, you blog as part of coping.

Apparently I haven’t been subscribed to the appropriate services where such announcements are made, but this morning I decided to Google “open source live writer,” which led me to, where you can download a copy. It’s released under the MIT License model, which, if you’re unfamiliar with it, you should probably read up on.

It was a quick download, and a quick install. If you’re already blogging with Microsoft Live Writer, you can install this version right alongside it, as it won’t make any changes to that installation. In fact, I’m using Open Live Writer to write this entry. So far, I haven’t noticed any major differences between the two—but then, I’ve only written two paragraphs.

The few comments I’ve read on a couple of boards say that some people have had problems using it with Blogger, but other users say they’ve had no problem on that platform. So if you blog on Blogger, I’d say download it and give it a try.

Why Use It At All?

I’m using version 16 of Windows Live Writer, which was released in 2012, and there hasn’t been any further developments since then. Open Live Writer was released in December of 2015 and while there don’t appear to have any changes, the idea is that the open source community will keep it alive and well, with improvements and quite possibly newer features. In fact, the release version available now is, which in plain English means “Not Ready For Prime Time Software;” that is, it’s still essentially a beta (test) release.

If you do decide to use it, I’d suggest you do as they advise on their web site:

If you’re interested in getting occasional notices of updates to Open Live Writer and hearing about opportunities to try new features, you can subscribe to our Announcements email list. You can also follow @OpenLiveWriter on Twitter and like the page for Open Live Writer on Facebook.

That’s what I’ve done. And so far, it looks as if I’ll continue using Open Live Writer for my blog posts.

Robyn Jane

A Spot of Blue on My Horizon

Posted: September 23, 2015 in Blogging tools, Depression

Monday morning found me at my doctor’s office. It was a routine follow-up to some blood work I had done the week before. I was still feeling a bit down (see my previous post), and the nurse even mentioned it. She said, “You usually cheer us up. I’m sorry you’re having troubles.” We chatted while she took my weight (still higher than I would have preferred) and my blood pressure (excellent!), and then she left the room.

Then I met with my doctor. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but when we first met at my first appointment I said to myself, “Oh, my God! She must be all of 20 years old!” But when her ID badge flipped around to show the back, it said “FACULTY.” That, more than anything, put me at ease. I mean, the University of Rochester Medical School is highly respected, and they don’t hire no slouches to teach there!

Anyway, while we were going over the test results (my estrogen levels are about 180 points above what’s normal for a cisgender woman, but still below the level where we need to worry), I talked about how long I was waiting to get into therapy. When I told her the name of the clinic I was waiting for, she said I had made the right choice, as it was the best in the city when it came to transgender care.

She also said that while the initial wait was frustrating, once I had my first appointment and was “in the system,” things would get a lot better.

The upshot of my visit was that I actually walked out with a smile on my face.

How About a Nice Cup of Tea?

In the words of Arlo Guthrie (“Alice’s Restaurant”), that’s not what I come ta tell ya about. I came t5o talk about what I did when I got home.

I suppose I can blame my mother’s English heritage for instilling a love of tea when I was a child. Childhood illnesses always meant being tucked into be with a tray of tea and toast. A nice cuppa, with sugar and milk, was to her what chicken soup was to Jewish mothers: the cure-all for everything. And as I grew older, I kept to the ritual whenever I was ill. Eventually, I passed it on to my own daughters.

To this day, if given a choice between tea and coffee, I’ll take a properly-brewed cup of tea every time.

But what constitutes properly-brewed? While there are many “rules” about tea—most of which are available on the Internet—I find that none of them are rules so much as they are guidelines, starting places for you to begin your adventure. And since 99% of the tea I drink is black tea, that’s what I want to talk about now.

A Brief  Treatise on Tea

And I promise to keep it short.

All tea comes from the leaves of the same plant: the camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to Asia. Strictly speaking, your Rooiboos (redbush) tea is not a true tea but rather a tisane. The same holds true of herbal teas. Unless it comes from camellia sinensis, it ain’t tea.

But what about all the varieties? Black tea, green tea, white tea, oolongs, matcha, and so forth? They are all leaves of the same plant. When the leaves are picked, and how and how long they are allowed to oxidize is what result in the different varieties of the leaves from the very same plant.

For a more detailed look at how tea is made, I would direct your attention to Samovar Tea.

But let’s return to preparing our cup of tea, shall we?

As I said, I drink black tea almost exclusively. And while my initial love of this beverage came from my mother’s English heritage, my preference for strong black tea was handed down by my father’s Irish side of the family.

When it comes to tea, the Irish are either the second or third greatest per-capita consumers of tea, depending on which source you consult. And the Irish like their tea strong. How strong? Legend has it that one of my ancestors said that a proper cup of tea should be strong enough “that a wee mousie might trot across the top of it.”  Hardly an appetizing image, but you get the picture.

And good, strong black tea comes from the State of Assam in India. SO it should come as no surprise that every commercial blend of “Irish Breakfast Tea” contains varying amounts of Assam tea.

So my own personal rule is this: when brewing black tea, When the kettle boils, immediately pour the water over the leaves. Depending on the brand of tea I am using, I let it steep between 3 and 5 minutes. If you prefer a stronger brew, add more tea, do not steep it longer; that will only make it bitter.

Loose tea leaves make the best tea; the next best is a decently-bagged tea, such as PG Tips. And despite having numerous coffee shops and tea vendors here in Rochester, the only place I have found that consistently has PG Tips available is WalMart.

Chai Spice Tea is a Redundancy

Why? Because the very word “chai” means “tea.” So you’re saying “tea spice tea,” in much the same way as you’re saying “the the Angels Angels” when you say “the Los Angeles Angels.”

What you mean is Masala chai, which translated from the Hindi means, quite literally, “mixed-spice tea.”

Regardless of what you call it, what you’re getting when you order it at fast-food places is not true Masala chai, but rather an insipid blend of powdered tea mixed with chemical fragrances and flavorings. If you want the real thing, you’ve got to go somewhere they know how to make it—usually high-end tea houses, Indian restaurants, or (I hate to say it) Starbucks or Teavana.

Or make your own.

But Robyn, Is There a Point to This Discussion?

Sorry, I got carried away. It’s easy to do with a passion.

The main point is that making a cup or a pot of tea is my favorite calming ritual. Emptying the old water from the kettle and replacing it with fresh cold water, putting the kettle on to boil, measuring the tea into the teapot (after warming the pot with hot water), pouring the boiling water over the leaves and letting the tea steep…all these steps require my concentration, and help to clear my mind and calm me.

In fact, whenever I get stuck for an idea to blog about, my favorite two methods of achieving inspiration are walking about my apartment and brewing a nice cuppa.

Try it…it works.

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