Thursday, December 23, 2010

Buy Buy Buy Ay Ay Ay

Only another couple of shopping days left! Borrowing from an article I wrote about this time last year, I'm thinking gadgets again. Not that I'm going to buy any myself. This year for inspiration, I looked to three local advertising inserts, accompanied by web searches. This article can serve as a mini-shopping list to keep shoppers out of the malls, which I imagine are crowded. If you're cybershopping, it's another matter. If you're bricks-and-mortar shopping, get thee out there!

To provide some mystery and also avoid appearances that I'm pushing specific b&m places, I'm omitting store names. Let's say two of them are drugstores (pharmacies, apothecaries, mini-marts that coincidentally also dispense prescription drugs in teeny corners, …}. The third b&m place is a stand-alone electronics store that seems to have gotten on the holiday-gadget bandwagon. My table format has a heading row for places identified as "A", "B", and "C"—followed by rows for items and prices. To view images of items, copy and paste the item names in Google image searches.

The price focus is for items priced $19.99, $14.99, and $9.99. I listed one notable exception because the item looks so cute. The 99¢ price ending is no accident. My article "The 99¢ Effect and Other Saver Thoughts" includes discussion about the psychology of the pricing something just under the next dollar threshold.

One electronics store that I patronize places those impulse-buy snacks near the bank of cash registers (typical merchandise location). The price signs show the dollar and cents values with different type size. Not that I can recall at this moment, but it seems the cents value is about one-fourth the size of the dollar value. Anyway, happy celebrations of whatever you're celebrating!

Pillow Pets $19.99   19.99
34" Jumbo Teddy (bear)   19.99  
Fushigi Magic Gravity Ball 19.99 19.99 14.99
Big Box of Fuzzoodles 19.99    
Homedics Neck and Shoulder Massager 19.99    
Dr. Scholl's Full Cushion Massager 19.99    
Homedics Hand Sanitizer Dispenser 19.99    
EnviraScape Home Fragrance 19.99    
Dr. Scholl's Foot Spa 19.99    
Paper Jamz Guitar 19.99    
Paper Jamz Drums 19.99    
Shake Weight 19.99    
Belly Burner 19.99    
Discovery Kids Motorized Pottery Wheel   19.99  
Discovery Kids Adventure Play Tent   19.99  
Mister Steamy (dryer ball that you put water into) 14.99   14.99
Yoshi Blade (Looks like successor to Ginsu knife) 14.99 19.99 14.99
Amazing Wand 14.99   14.99
Total Pillow 14.99    
Chef Basket 14.99    
Snuggle 14.99 14.99 9.99
Pet Zoom 9.99    
Finishing Touch Personal Hair Remover 9.99    
Handy Caddy 9.99    
Cami Secret 9.99    
Might Fix It 9.99    
Pasta Boat 9.99    
Dropps Detergent 9.99    
Voice Recording Photo Frame 9.99    
13 in 1 Pocket Tool 9.99    
Golfer's Tool 9.99    
2 Pack LED Book Lights 9.99    
Open It! Any Package 9.99    
Sara Peyton Wand 9.99    
Sarah Peyton Two Headed Massager (!!) 9.99    
Homedics Foot Massage Pillow 9.99    
Homedics Mini Bath 9.99    
Homedics Exfoliating Shower Massager 9.99    
Wexford Glass Personal Scale 9.99    
Emerson Triple-head shaver   9.99  
Emerson wet/dry shaver   9.99  
Soft-Sided Pet House   9.99  
Doggy Stairs   9.99  
Discovery Kids moon lamp   9.99  
Money Farm piggy bank   9.99  
Slap Chop     9.99
Anti Static Dryer Balls     9.99
Wonder Hanger     9.99
HD Vision Ultra Sun Glasses     9.99
Slippers 9.99    
Rainbow toe socks 3pr/10    

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Convenient Ganachey Icing

I don't have a good name for my hybrid icing, so I'll refer to it as ganachey icing. Ganache is a term for a chocolate icing with two main ingredients—chocolate (squares, chips, candies, etc.) and heavy cream. The white icing equivalent is white chocolate and heavy cream. A typical ganache to me is the chocolate icing on Hostess cupcakes.

My alternative to heavy cream is canned frosting. The convenience is microwaving two items and not having to boil cream. Anyway, the ratio is typically half "candy" and half frosting, by weight. For cupcakes, I tend to use 8 ounces of candy (Wilton, chocolate or other flavor chips, candy bars, "bark", ...) and 8 ounces of frosting for a batch of cupcakes cut into 48 halves.

You can be as flexible and adventuresome with icing flavors and cake shapes as you want. For that matter, the ganachey icing is good also on cookies and rice crispy bars/squares. I have not ever tried icing a whole cake because I tend to make bite-size desserts.

Melt the candy in a microwave. Follow instructions for melting if the package has them. Otherwise, microwave a minute at a time, using a spoon to test for meltedness each time. When it's melted, spoon in the frosting, stir, and microwave the mixture until it's a syrupy texture. Spread or dip items as desired.

  • The first batch of images show icing one mini-cupcake. Coverage should be about 60 (one cake mix box recipe). YMMV for how many bite-sizers you ice.
  • The second batch of images show icing a sheet of chocolate rice crispy treats, then cutting and arranging the squares into a container. Yes, that's a squeegie handle I use for spreading the warm ganachey icing—clean!

In case mentioning Hostess cupcakes triggers a Pavlovian response and you want to try making your own, do a Google search for "homemade hostess cupcakes recipe". Of several recipes I've viewed, these bakers are serious scratch-recipe people! One recipe that is particularly eye-catching for details and pictures is Faux Hostess Cupcakes - Childhood Lunchbox Memories. A secondary source for reasonable information is Homemade Hostess Cupcakes.

I myself would probably just be casual enough to bake from a box cake mix recipe, squirt in canned frosting, pour and spread my ganache recipe, and draw the squiggle with more canned frosting. Wouldn't these cupcakes look cute as mini versions?

Visit my other baking recipe articles:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Post-TDay Travel--Part 3 of 3

YouTube playlists for this article (1, 2),
playlist compilation article

This article is the third of three parts of the Thanksgiving week travel theme. In the first article, I wrote about songs about planes, trains, and cars, based on the movie title Trains, Planes, and Automobiles. As I dove into writing about other travel modes, I wandered around from song to song. I concluded I have enough material for three parts. Part 2 is about water travel songs—boats, surfboards, submarines, ….

This article covers the rest of the travel modes I can think of. I've listed songs, artists, lyrics sites, and video sites (if possible). Take another trip down memory lane.

One Foot in Front of the Other
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Walk, Don't Run Ventures NA V
25 Miles Edwin Starr Click ES
Stroll Diamonds Click D
Hitch Hike Marvin Gaye Click MG

Non-car Wheelies
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Surrey with the Fringe on Top Various Click BD, GM to SJ from Oklahoma play
Bicycle Song Red Hot Chlit Peppers Click RHCP
Bicycle Race Queen Click Q
Bicycle Built for Two Various Click Chipmunks, computer
Acoustic Motorbike Luka Bloom Click LB
Little Honda Hondells Click H, [imagery] 2nd video—montage
Highway In The Wind Arlo Guthrie Click AG
Motorcycle Song Arlo Guthrie Click AG Significance

Mass Transit (of Sorts)
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Bus Stop Hollies Click H
Magic Bus The Who Click Who
Another One Rides the Bus Weird Al Click AY parody of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust"
Promised Land Chuck Berry Click CB Prominent in MIB w/Tommy Lee Jones singing with radio while driving upside down
Convoy C.W. McCall Click CWM, [imagery] 1st video—movie trailer w/complete song, 2nd video—montage w/twist on lyrics

Clippity Cloppity
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Over the River and Through the Woods Various 1, 2 Chipmunks Lyrics for Thanksgiving, Christmas refs
Horse with No Name America Click A
El Paso Marty Robbins Click MR Performance from father, then son
Ghost Riders in the Sky Johnny Cash, Pukipu/Ramrods Click JC, P/R 1st video—Johnny Cash
2nd video—Pukipu/Ramrods

Up in the Sky (Not Planes)
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Superman/Can You Read My Mind John Williams composer Click JW
Up, Up, and Away 5th Dimension Click 5D
Yellow Balloon Yellow Balloon Click YB
Magic Carpet Ride Steppenwolf Click S
Whole New World Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle Click PB&RB

Up in the Stratosphere (Also Not Planes)
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Rocket Man Elton John Click EJ
Fly Me to the Moon Frank Sinatra Click FS
Star Wars John Williams composer NA JW
Star Trek Various NA classic, Next Generation
Telstar Tornados NA T Trivia: Band member George Bellamy is father of Muse’s Matt Bellamy.
Martian Hop Ran-Dells Click RD
Bennie and the Jets Elton John Click EJ All these years, I never knew it was Bennie, and Bennie’ a she. ("She's got electric boots a mohair suit")

Just Moving On
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Wayward Wind Gogi Grant Click GG
Travelin' Man Rick Nelson Click RN
Ramblin’ Man Allman Brothers Click AB
The Wanderer Dion Click Dion
Different Drum Linda Ronstadt, Michael Nesmith Click LR, MN Lyrics link plays LR's song immediately.
1st video—LR, as part of Stone Poneys
2nd video—MN (ex-Monkee), DD writer
Me and You and a Dog Named Boo Lobo Click Lobo
On the Road Again Willie Nelson Click WN
On the Road Again Canned Heat Click CH

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post-TDay Travel--Water Water Everywhere

YouTube playlists for this article (1, 2),
playlist compilation article

This article was going to be the second of two parts of the Thanksgiving week travel theme. Previously, I wrote about songs about planes, trains, and automobiles, based on the movie title Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. As I dove into writing about other travel modes, I wandered around from song to song.

I concluded I have enough material for a third part, coming out in about a week. (Visit about the first week in December for it.) This article focuses on music for a prominent mode of travel NOT in the movie title —boats (and other water travel methods). I've listed songs, artists, lyrics sites, and video sites (if possible). Take another trip down memory lane.

Surfboard Travel (On the Water)
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Surfin' USA Beach Boys Click BB
Surfin' Safari Beach Boys Click BB
Hawaii Five-O Various NA classic, 2010
Wipeout Surfaris, Ventures NA S, V
Pipeline Chantays, Ventures NA C, V 1st video—Chantays' Lawrence Welk appearance: Check out the Beatles' suits, pre-Beatles
New York's a Lonely Town Trade Winds Click TW
Surfer Joe Surfaris Click Surfaris
Surfer Girl Beach Boys Click BB
Catch a Wave Beach Boys Click BB same tune as Sidewalk Surfin'
Sidewalk Surfin' Jan and Dean Click J & D

Boat Travel (Also on the Water)
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Sea Cruise Frankie Ford Click FF
Come on Down to My Boat Every Mother's Son Click EMS
Orinoco Flow (Sail Away) Enya Click Enya
Sailing Christopher Cross Click CC
Come Sail Away Styx Click Styx
Advemtures in Paradise Lionel Newman composer NA LN
Sloop John B Beach Boys Click BB
Sail On, Sailor Beach Boys Click BB
Beyond the Sea Bobby Darin Click BD
Blue Navy Blue Diane Renay Click DR
Kiss Me Sailor Diane Renay Click DR, DR & ER 1st video—live performance
2nd video—duet w/Ed Rambeau, one of the song writers, who also wrote and recorded "Concrete and Clay"
Brandy Looking Glass Click LG
In the Navy Village People Click VP

Underwater Travel (In the water)
Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Yellow Submarine Beatles Click Beatles Legos video animation
Pink Shoelaces Dodie Stevens Click DS “He takes me deep sea diving in a submarine!”
Sea Hunt David Rose composer NA DR

The catchy song that takes you from land to water is "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" (Brian Hyland): lyrics, video.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Turkey Week Travel--Planes, Trains N Cars

YouTube playlists for this article (1, 2),
playlist compilation article

The day before Thanksgiving is supposed to be the most heavily traveled day, at least for flying. I'm thinking that lots of people travel during the entire week. As we're rapidly approaching the big day itself, I'm bringing up a Thanksgiving-theme comedy movie and putting a music wrapper around it. Planes, Trains & Automobiles. which came out in 1987, stars Steve Martin and John Candy. From the IMDB site, the short introduction states, "A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman his only companion."

The movie title is about the modes of travel that the two main characters use to get from here to there, and there, and there, …. The time setting is long before 9/11, and well before TSA. It's amazing how air travel rituals have changed. Even now, maybe especially now, who knows the next paths that air travelers follow, willingly or not?

This article focuses on music that feature the movie's three modes of travel—planes, trains, and cars. I've listed songs, artists, lyrics sites, and video sites (if possible). During my web research travels, I had encountered songs that featured additional travel modes. Having accumulated lots of references, I'm publishing two parts. For this part, take a trip down memory lane with songs that feature the movie's travel means. The second one—well, wait for it (the next article). Let's say it'll be another trip with more ways of locomotion to sing about.

Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Leaving on a Jet Plane Peter, Paul, Mary; John Denver Click PPM, JD Catch the duet with John and Mama Cass Elliot.
Daniel Elton John Click EJ
Jet Airliner Steve Miller Band Click SMB
Back in the USSR Beatles Click PM; Beatels Paul McCartney in Red Square 2003,
Beatels—decent Aussie tribute band
Eight Miles High Byrds Click Byrds

Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Night Train James Brown Click JB
Midnight Train to Georgia Gladys Knight and the Pips, 2012 Yale Whiffenpoofs Click GK & Pips, YW I encountered links to the Yale Whiffenpoofs during research for this article.
Midnight Special Johnny Rivers Click JR
City of New Orleans Arlo Guthrie Click AG younger, AG older Arlo sounds the same after all these years.
Folsom Prison Blues Johnny Cash Click JC

Song Artist(s) Lyrics Video Comment(s)
Fun, Fun, Fun Beach Boys Click BB
Little Deuce Coupe Beach Boys Click BB
Little GTO Ronny and the Daytonas Click R & D
Hey, Little Cobra Rip Chords Click RC
409 Beach Boys Click BB
Pink Cadillac Natalie Cole, Bruce Springsteen Click NC, BS
Hot Rod Lincoln Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel Click CC, RB
Mustang Sally Wilson Pickett Click WP
Sister Christian Night Ranger Click NR "You're motoring, What's your price for flight …"
Little Old Lady from Pasadena Jan and Dean Click J & D
Nadine Chuck Berry Click CB
Maybelline Chuck Berry, Johnny Rivers Click CB, JR
No Particular Place to Go Chuck Berry Click CB
Drive My Car Beatles Click Beatles
Vehicle Ides of March Click Ides
Taxi Harry Chapin Click HC
Cab Driver Mills Brothers Click MB
Low Rider War Click War
Beep Beep Playmates Click Playmates
Shut Down Beach Boys Click BB
Dead Man's Curve Jan and Dean Click J & D

Visit my other music-topic articles:

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Convenient Bean Soup

Now that the weather's getting cooler, thinking about soup. My basic *convenient* soup recipe calls for a can of refried beans and fluid. The image at the top of this article is an idea guide, usable as an auxiliary shopping list. If you can boil water, you can easily make the soup.

The ratio of fluid to canned refried beans is one to one. YMMV for soup thickness, depending on the brand you buy. You might want to start out with half the amount of fluid in case the brand put in more cooking fluid for their processing. (Yes, have done that before, too.)

These instructions make one quart of soup if using a standard 16-oz can of beans. If you want, you can halve the recipe and save the other half of the beans for another time. Or you can store the other half of the processed soup for another sitting.


  1. Open the can of refried beans.
  2. Spoon the beans into a saucepan.
  3. Use the can to measure fluid, then pour the fluid into the saucepan.
  4. Stir and heat the contents.
  5. Add whatever ingredients from the list, or anything else that sounds good. (If you want, add these ingredients AFTER you pour the soup instead of before.)
  6. Pour into bowl(s).

If you buy the packaged refried beans, double the amount of fluid and follow the package instructions.

One additional idea—for a group gathering, heat several cans of refried beans and water in a large pot. Set aside bouillon powder. Acquire all the suggested add-ins. Let the guests ladle their own soup and add in what they want. Remember to have extra bowls and spoons on hand. Expand on a party idea. With a bunch of the ingredients, you could even move sideways with the thought and try queso dip and chip ideas.

Another convenient soup recipe you can try is my veggie lentil soup.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Q4 Lights N Decor, Halloween Sights N More

More and more, appearances by outdoor lights and decorations have been creeping backward and forward in the calendar in the 4th quarter. What formerly had been prominent displays only during the end of the year started showing up near Thanksgiving, staying around into the following year. This year, Halloween lights and decorations seem to have started as soon as early October.

In past years, simple paper-bag-shape lights lining driveways and walkways seem to have made way for Christmas lights, air-pumped lawn balloons, tree-hanger illuminators, and other lawn decorations. During the years that Christmas displays have become more elaborate, illuminating, and animated, Thanksgiving themes have been creeping in as if they were preludes to the BIG EVENT. Think inflatable pilgrim-outfitted turkeys.

In more recent years, Halloween decorations have gone on display since much of October. There are ghosts and ghouls, jack-o-lanterns, black cats, graveyard scenes, and more. Lights? Lots! A few years ago, they seemed to be primarily orange. Black is a common color for Halloween, but pretty impractical. This year, I've seen several houses that have multiple-color lights.

I think a possible trend could be lights and decorations that segue from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. Well, maybe not all three events. You CAN have common items for Halloween and Thanksgiving using a harvest theme—pumpkins, orange lights, straw brooms, maybe more. Thanksgiving to Christmas might be less likely for common items. Hmmm, maybe make up an inflatable turkey wearing a red suit? (Yow!) I think that's a worthwhile marketing idea, maybe not too far-fetched! In any case, multicolor lights can make it through all three holidays, starting in early October through a few weeks in January.

Technologically, I wonder how feasible it might be to make strings of lights that are programmable for color. I know there are already light strings that blink, flicker, and chase. If someone could come up with lights that are programmable for motion and color, the lights would be REALLY multifunctional. Maybe a three-color lights gadget (red/blue/green) in a string of many that can display any one color or combination? Maybe a chasing-lights rainbow display? Programmable lights for color could be useful even for Valentine's Day and Easter! Well, one possible obstacle might be the association of red lights to a different meaning ("red light district").

For decorations versatility, companies could come up with inflatable balloons of cutesy kids that wear velcro-fastener outfits of holiday-theme clothing. How about witchy or batty for Halloween, pilgrimy for Thanksgiving, Santa Clausy for Christmas, …. Further use of my hypothetical kid balloons could include outfits with red hearts for Valentine's Day. For Easter, they could wear springy outfits (maybe including duck-bill hats and rabbit-ear headgear) and hold Easter egg baskets.

It might only be a matter of time before marketeers successfully induce mass use of outdoor decorations for Valentine's Day and Easter. They are very good at getting people to prep for those days, seducing us to buy holiday main-course food, desserts, and candy. Speaking of which, we sure don't need to wait for THOSE events to start in on the consumables. There's a lot going on this quarter!

For more articles about Halloween, enter "Halloween" in the search box at the upper left of this window. Or find and click "Halloween" link at Partial Index of Keywords section (just below Popular Posts section).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DIY Bizcards and Name Tag

Attending meetups and attaching sticky-back name tags that you print or write your name on? Attending meetups and NOT having any name tags at all? Prepare for the next event by making your own tag and also having your own DIY business cards. Visit, download my Word file, and modify it using instructions farther down in this article.

When I attended a networking meetup about a week ago, I received compliments about my name tag as I introduced myself. The tag was black on white, business-card size, double-side-tape attached to a paper trade-show card—all tucked into a clear, trade-show badge. I explained that I had attended so many networking events that I made up my own name tag.

As a writer, I considered the appearance of my tag to be an opportunity to display typography know-how. The tag displays my name and occupation, readable for type size and type face. Furthermore, I inserted Webdings that I felt symbolized my occupation—computer, sheet of paper, open book, stack of books, world globe, spider, and spider web. For subtle grouping, I enclosed a dotted rectangle around the globe, spider, and web.

The name tag is one of 10 cells that fit on a 2 x 5 grid, suitable for printing onto perforated card stock, commonly available at office supply stores. (Do a Google Image search for "perforated business card paper" to see packaging.) My process represents an alternative to getting business cards from Vistaprint and similar companies. And you also get a name tag as a bonus. With the Word file I have made available at, anyone can use it to create their own business cards and name tag.


  1. Download the file and save it to your drive.
  2. Edit each line of one business card cell to suit yourself. Save the file.
  3. Select and copy that cell's information to your clipboard.
  4. Paste the information onto one of the business card cells to see if the pasting looks good.
    • If the pasting is good, continue to paste the information onto the other eight business card cells.
    • If the pasting is not good, undo the paste. You might need to copy/paste special, line by line.
  5. Modify the name tag cell as you wish. Save the file.
  6. Print a test copy of the file onto plain paper. (Don't worry about the paragraph markers, non-printing symbols, and borders printing. They won't.)
  7. Overlay the paper over a perforated card stock sheet, checking that the information aligns and also that each cell's information is well within its borders.
  8. Adjust information alignment and looks as necessary.
  9. Print the file onto a sheet of the perforated business card stock.

Suggestion: Save the file under a slightly different name. Copy a business-card cell, replace the name tag cell, and save the file so you have a file with only business cards.

For those who want to consider name tags that attract more attention than static ones, get one that scrolls. In my article—"Inventions Running Around the Blockhead"—I mention scrolling name tags (accompanied by URLs) and someone who has created her own to wear at events.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

PDF2W--Converting PDF to Word-recognizable Format

You have a PDF file that you would like to convert to .doc or .rtf and you don't have access to an Adobe Acrobat version that will. How to convert for cheap? Even better, how about for free? Try two free online converters—Free File Converter (.pdf to .doc) and PDF Online (.pdf to .rtf). I have tried both procedures using an experimental PDF file, listed results for both tools, and discussed the results.

Free File Converter

  1. Visit
  2. Click the Convert File tab.
  3. Browse to your input file, a pdf in this case.
  4. Select the output format, doc in this case.
  5. Click Convert. Wait as instructed.
  6. On the new screen, click the file link to open it.

In my own case, my converted .doc file opened as a read-only file and had hard breaks at every line instead of line wrap. It also showed weird lines (correlated to no-longer-functioning hyperlinks) across some of the text. Just as an experiment, I did a save-as to the desktop. I closed the newly saved-as file, then re-opened it to view the actual new results.

The doc file ended up with extra pages, far beyond my experimental doc file of two pages. My observations:

  • The converted PDF-to-doc file wound up as six pages:
    • 1st page totally blank
    • 2nd page with lines that had correlated to the hyperlinks and an image that had been on the first page
    • 3rd page with content from original 1st page with no-longer functioning hyperlinks
    • 4th page also totally blank
    • 5th page also totally blank, but with some weird anchoring
    • 6th page with content from the original 2nd page
  • The page header converted to regular text.
  • The font appearances and section breaks stayed.
  • Style names and table formatting didn't carry over.

Cautionary note about Free File Converter results: If your PDF file has anything besides line-breaking text, you can kiss everything else good-bye—line wraps, headers (and presumably footers), tables, selectable images, styles. If you care to apply the PROPER techniques to obtain the looks (not just settle for the looks), you can be looking at all sorts of formatting and adjusting.

PDF Online

  • Visit
  • Click Browse, then browse to your input file, a pdf in this case.
  • Click Upload and Convert. Wait as instructed.
  • Click the right-click here link to download the zip file.
  • In the dialog box, save the zip file to your drive. Extract (uncompress) it. View it.

My observations:

  • My PDF converted to rtf.
  • Almost all my content turned into tables with extra columns.
  • Hyperlinks no longer worked.
  • Image was no longer selectable at all.
  • The page header converted to regular text.
  • The font appearances stayed.
  • Style names, table formatting, and section breaks did not carry over.

Cautionary note about PDF Online results, which are similar to Free File Converter results: If your PDF file has anything besides line-breaking text, you can kiss everything else good-bye—line wraps, headers (and presumably footers), selectable images, styles. Table modifications could be a major issue. If you care to apply the PROPER techniques to obtain the looks (not just settle for the looks), you can be looking at all sorts of formatting and adjusting.

Using Free File Converter vs. PDF Online

The major contrast between these two converters is that PDF Online didn't add extra pages. If you want to convert for only looks, the PDF Online results file would probably be easier to work with than Free File Converter results file. You should try both free converters and decide which one to go with.

Free File Converter does all sorts of file conversions, including image formats. Now, here's my shameless plug where I cite Free File Converter and numerous other handy online tools—Tooling Around, at

Monday, September 27, 2010

Moe-SKI-Toe--I've Got Me Under Your Skin

YouTube playlist for this article, playlist compilation article

Over the weekend, I attended an event at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, music provided by the Austin Community College Jazz Band. One song they presented was "I've Got You Under My Skin", composed by Cole Porter.
Cole Porter wrote I've Got You Under My Skin in 1936, as part of the score for the movie "Born to Dance", which fans of Jimmy Stewart may remember as starring Eleanor Powell. (Trivia tidbit: Virginia Bruce actually performed the song in the movie.) The song was such a hit that it was nominated for an Oscar (and Academy Award). Then, the cover versions began appearing.
Frank Sinatra was probably the most celebrated singer to record the song. Shortly after RW (the event singer) sang it, I mused to myself that it could be a mosquito song, titled "I've Got Me Under Your Skin". After a few more songs, the band finished up, and RW came over to put away his trumpet and other items. (Yes! An accomplished trumpet player as well as gifted vocalist!) I told him my thought about the mosquito idea, which he responded to favorably. This positive reaction got me to thinking of writing a parody, which I have included farther down.

During my research about mosquitoes, I encountered several websites about them I found enlightening, entertaining, and amusing. I did a Google image search because I wanted to include an eye catcher in this article. Much of the content appealed to me as well. In the following list, I ranked for content. Underneath each URL, I listed the link for the image with my image ranking. The image at the top is one of many images that the website encourages downloading. As for the other images, I omitted displaying them because of copyright concerns. (They're worthwhile looking at!!!!)

1. Coloring page mosquito bite
2. Mosquito Coloring Pages (a site for downloading mosquito ringtones and coloring images)
3. Facts: The Mechanics of a Mosquito
2. (Very detailed diagram!)
5. 14 things you didn't know about mosquitoes (a Sameh Fahmy blog article)
5. (Run away! Run away!)
6. Kids’ information Mosquitoes
7. Healing Tips
For ease of navigating to the images, I've relisted them by my ranking:
  2. (Very detailed diagram!)
  5. (Run away! Run away!)
I've Got Me Under Your Skin

I've got me under your skin.
I've got you deep en-do-der-er-mis.
So deep in your blood where I stuck in my pro-bos-cis.
I've got me under your skin.

I’ve tried to land so light-ly.
I’ve said to myself what a feast! It’s a gonna be so swell!
Your arms, your legs, and your knees. Especially want your neck!
Yes, I want me under your skin.

I'd sacrifice anything come what might
For the sake of having you near.
In spite of a warn- ing swat, your sweep-ing hand
Tha-at came so close to my ear.

Don't you know, you fool, you never can win.
You know I’m a teeny bug going after your blood.
By the time you itch, I already hit.
You’re the top. I’m lovin’ it.

Because I got me under your skin.

[musical interlude]

I'd sacrifice anything come what might
For the sake of having you near.
In spite of a warn- ing swat, your sweep-ing hand
Tha-at came so close to my ear.

Don't you know, you fool, you never can win.
You know I’m a teeny bug going after your blood.
By the time you itch, I already hit.
You’re the top. I’m lovin’ it.

Because I got me under your skin.
And I like me under your skin.
My primary links about "I've Got You Under my Skin"
Other YouTube links for "I've Got You Under My Skin"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inventions Running Around the Blockhead

This article is about some inventions I've thought about lately—ones that are real, and ones I'd like to see become real. Maybe other people can think of inventions they'd like to see in the marketplace, or ones they'd like to create themselves.

I'm impressed with
the miniaturization of computer text. Electronic text displays have come a long way from movie and billboard marquees to very compact displays on phones and name tags. In between those sizes and times, one of my former co-workers came up with a handheld communicator. The intended user, someone incapable of speech (mute), could type text and show it to others. At that time, it seemed a big breakthrough to replace the-paper-and-pencil method I've seen in numerous movies and TV shows over the years. (The most recent instance I saw was a character in a VERY POPULAR TV SERIES communicating by writing down text in English. She had temporarily reverted to speaking in Korean only as a result of her head knock.)

One device I've not seen many of is the programmable scrolling-text name tag, although I've seen lots of ads for them. The links that have most caught my eye are at,, and

One name tag owner I know has had her tag for over a year, and she says she still gets lots of comments. Another person I know has created her own, using spare parts. She says she's gotten lots of comments also. These devices are good for conversation icebreakers. They're novel, not that common. People react to motion; vision edge detectors provide information about relative locations over time. (Companies that target children take full advantage of kids' attraction to motion in addition to using colors and shapes.)

Devices I've appreciated
pertain to grocery stores. Two of them are the self-service checkout station and the techy produce scale.

  • The self-service checkout station, found in some stores and in one big box home improvement store, is convenient when I have few items. I consider using the station much speedier than an express line.
  • The techy produce scale doesn't just weigh something. I provide the code for the item and print out the price ticket. It's a good way to verify the item name, unit price, and total price.

Would like
a computerized merchandise mapper. When I go to the store looking for something I don't get frequently, the hunt is often a challenge. When it comes to drugstores, home improvement stores, or department stores, I dislike the hunt even more. For me, I feel I waste a certain amount of time hunting for things because

  • I have no idea where the item might be.
  • I have only a faint idea where the item might be.
  • The store moves the item or the category, whether it's down the aisle or over an aisle or two.
  • I don't know if the store carries the item.
  • I don't know if the store has discontinued the item.

Using a store computer, a customer would select a search term, drill down to more specifics if desired, then have the screen display a map of the store with a customer "You are here" icon and a "It is here" icon. The map might even include a dashed line to suggest a pace route. Think Google walking route map on a smaller scale.

Would like
a dental-mirror-size dual-mirror device wearable for backstroke swimming. I don't like getting my face in the water, so I prefer to do the frogkick backstroke. The downside is not being able to see where I'm going. The logical way to cope is to note reference objects above and slow down or stop accordingly before hitting the the pool wall. Some enterprising soul could come up with such a head-hugging device that has multiple, adjustable, even telescoping positions. The positions would make the device adaptable for different views, even for wearing on a walk to avoid fast approaching, uh, objects.

Would like
a lightweight, transparent, sandwichboard clipboard with broad base for holding papers vertically--useable for paper sheets and recipe cards, and other similar media.

Magnetic or spring-clip holders with concave surfaces are ok, but the curvedness, which I assume exists to help with holding the paper upright, is a small detraction. Flipping pages requires repeated motions if I'm working with manual-size documents. Rotating the device results in convex text, not quite as easy to read as concave text.

I've also tried using large, approximately 2" wide, square, clip magnets. Because the edges are straight, they don't help keep the piece of paper rigid. Adding a piece of thin cardboard, curved slightly backward, helps some, but the non-transparency makes it necessary to flip the paper over. I also tried folding over a piece of transparent mylar to try using it like a sandwich configuration with the paper in the middle. No good. The "sandwich" flops over from the high center of gravity, pulling the clip(s) over.

For a few days, I've laid down a 2" clip with a piece of paper in the jaws. An existing water jug serves as a back wall so the paper rests against it and the text faces me.

Would like
a hybrid hand-buzzer and audible noisemaker. My primary application inspiration is notifying when a small-department meeting or the speaker is running overtime. The hand-buzzer aspect would be the size, shape, and main trigger, pressed by the owner. I suppose a keychain fob would also work, although similarities between devices could result in visual confusion. The noisemaker aspect would be a device that emits variable noises and volumes. I'm not talking about radios, although engineering overdesign might include that feature also.

The noise types could be limitless--short ding chime for gentle notification, loud and long raspberry or body noise for demonstrative disapproval notification. Another application would be use as a hand-held alarm. Sure, I know there are pocket alarms, but they seem pretty feature-limited. Of course, now that I'm talking about variations in noise and volume, the device would require more controls than just a dead man's switch.

For added versatility, the noisemaker could include a bright LED for use as a flashlight. How about muscling it up by also adding a laser pointer for use in meetings? Problem might be that an annoyed meeting attendee might use the lights to harass others. Another feature to consider adding is a sound sampler/player. How cool to record and play back sounds or voice clips of your choosing! The imagination runs amok! Uh, oh, the mischievous self is periscopically poking just above the surface.

One device is more of a curiosity for me rather than something I consider life-changing. I wonder why brass mouthpieces are round instead of lip-shaped. Lips aren't shaped like brass-instrument mouthpieces; brass mouthpieces aren't shaped like lips. ??

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rearview Mirroring TX Towns

Texas has 254 counties and about 1030 school districts. In googling for the exact number of districts, I ran across different totals. Every 10 years, school district boundaries require verification. Texas Education Agency (TEA) is in charge of delineating the borders. The project is harder than it might sound. School districts expand, contract, consolidate, disagree with other districts over where the borders are, use natural borders that change because of nature, etc.

Back in the early 90s, TEA hired me as a contract "mapping technician", a title much more impressive sounding than the reality. I, along with other co-workers, needed to verify Texas school districts' borders according to legal definitions. (School district superintendents mailed back a TEA-sent letter.) Also, we needed to read descriptions that might be subject to different interpretations. One task was taping narrow red tape (!) on paper maps to delineate the boundaries.

During my time at TEA, I logged the names of many cities and towns—160, to be exact—because they caught my eye. I recently ran across my hardcopy file while reorganizing my workspace. Because I couldn't find Broom City in my computer, I knew I'd need to re-key the list before I could write a decent article about the places. As I re-keyed, I could see certain commonalities gel—lots of food, bodies of water, communities, money, gaps and related, wordplay (homophonic), a few names that could either try peoples' spelling or induce residents to learn spelling quickly, comforting words, a few peoples' or celebrities' names, shooter's paradise, ...

I've listed my best theme categories and cities/towns, a subset of the group I logged originally. I omitted county names so they won't dilute the collective impact of the names. A file with the names of all 160 municipalities and their counties is available in a table-formatted file. An asterisk below (*) denotes a municipality that I put into more than one category (asterisked in its first category appearance).

Food (one of my favorite subjects)
Oatmeal, Pancake, Sunny Side Community*, Coffee City, Teacup Community*, Honey Island*, Pecan Gap, Atwater Prairie Chicken (national wildlife refuge), Turkey, Birds Nest [soup], Krum* (okay, not the most appetizing, not normal spelling), Plum, Punkin Center (ok, another not normal spelling), Crabb (phonetic anyway), Hungerford (not food, but related), Bootleg Community*

Water bodies and related
Runaway Bay, Lake Run-A-Muck*, Hide-A-Way Lake*, Lake O' The Pines*, Possom Kingdom Lake, Bland Lake, Lake JB Thomas, Newgulf (24 miles from Old Ocean), Old Ocean (24 miles from Newgulf), Canyon Lake, Canyon Lake Acres, Canyon Lake Forest, Canyon Lake Mobile Home Estates, Canyon Lake Shores, Canyon Lake Village, Canyon Lake Village West, Honey Island (42 miles inland), Rock Island (80 miles inland)

Bootleg Community, Teacup Community, Sunny Side Community, Tobacco Patch Community, Type Community, Profitt Community*, Ding Dong Community (in Bell County), Eulogy Community*, Welfare Community, Old Bowling Community

Structure, Sweet Home*, Fosters Store*, Guys Store*, Carls Corner*, Pearsons* Chapel

Words of comfort
Comfort, Point Comfort, Sweet Home, Blanket, Cool, Sublime, Happy, Smiley*, Sunny Side Community, Eulogy Community

Cost, Dinero, Cheapside, Nickel, Dime Box, Jerry's Quarters*, Lohn*

Gaps and related
Cranfills Gap, Indian Gap, Buffalo Gap, Notrees, Nada

Names and celebrities
Bumstead, Kermit, Bigfoot*, Bebe, Panna Maria (Virgin Mary, not bread), Big Sandy, Jerry's Quarters

Shooter's paradise
Gun Barrel City, Cut and Shoot, Bangs*, Point Blank, Trophy Club

Body parts or features
Cheek, Wink, Smiley, Shiner, Bald Hill, Bangs, Whispering Wings, Bigfoot

Hyphenations and apostrophications
Jot-Em-Down, Lake Run-A-Muck, Hide-A-Way Lake, Lake O' The Pines, Hell's Half Acre, Jerry's Quarters

Apostrophe deficiency
Fosters Store, Guys Store, Carls Corner, Pearsons Chapel

Wordplay (mostly homophonic)
Lohn, Hoop and Holler, Priddy, Inadale, Arp, Tye, Blewett, Pyote, Rhome, Profitt Community, Krum, Dew

Other special names
Loves Lookout, Barwise, Pelican Spit Military Airport (Reservation), Tool

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rear-viewing Year of Blogging

I started blogging just about a year ago, having decided my output would be three times a month, which breaks down to one about every ten-day period. For some people, that's way too seldom. Well, that's the pace I can live with. I want to put out quality, well-thought-out writing that frequently includes links, which are often time-consuming to vet.

Journey start
I joined my writing clublet, TheWriteJob, a little over a year ago to meet other writers and would-be writers. The community blog sparked my interest in contributing to it, and to eventually launch my own blog. After having published six articles there, I registered for my own blog. I ported my previous articles over (truncated and linked the earlier articles); and have been publishing here since.

In setting up my blogspot, I thought about my theme. I came up with "writing mostly for language enlightenment, entertainment, and a-muse-meant". It became more of a guide for me to determine my article topics. Low standards—if I fulfill any of those broad categories for an article, I succeed in achieving my topic goal.

Theme expansion into categories
A few months ago, I added a line to the theme, as I felt categories were starting to pop up. My category labels—language, tech communications, EZ recipes, food, wordplay, humor, music, tech topics, and how-to's—also form the basis of my article today, compiling and analyzing stats of my year in blogging. I'm omitting discussion of Google Analytics. I use them, but don't have enough of a fan base or readership to report anything impressive. :-)

First compilation file
*LinkedIn membership required to view this file*
Awhile back I had created an compilation file that included the article title, linked url, publish timeframe (early, mid, late part of specified month), and summary. The format was 2-column landscape. Recently, I decided to redo the compilation file. Numerous times of adding and removing column breaks with every update to make the file look nice started to irk me.

Second compilation file
(Newer! Improved! Now with category descriptors!)

*LinkedIn membership required to view this file*
The impetus to change the formatting was wanting to categorize the articles, logically the descriptors I thought of. Also, I knew I'd want to write and time an article pertaining to the 1-year milestone. I removed the column formatting and breaks, then converted it into an 11-column table. The first column has the title, URL, and summary, the second column has the date I published, and the rest of the columns have the category descriptors and check marks. Because food is near and dear to my heart, I highlighted food rows in yellow to make them stand out.

For each article, my new compilation file has check marks in the categories I consider appropriate. For further enhancement, I highlighted the rows that had food themes. I did pause over designating some category names for a few articles. For instance, can a food article be a tech article? Yes, I decided "Wanted Unholed Lotta Bagel" fit the descriptor of tech topics because of history, techniques, and related background.

I waffled (food!) over articles about language and technical communications. Most that fit in one category also fit the other category. In looking at my table (place for food!), language was more predominant than my profession of tech comm (writing, editing).

Stats (drum roll! yum!)
Since September 6, 2009, I have published 36 articles. I don't include the current article in my stats, although I will have updated my table to include it (code green). Deciding categories was the longest part of the process. The fun part was tallying everything—the number of check marks for each descriptor, the number of checkmarks for each article—first for each of the five pages of my printout (yes, hardcopy!), then adding them up. Natch, if I had a LOT to tally, I would have put everything into Excel. I used Word. (Gasp!)

Qty check marks
Tech communications
EZ recipes
Tech topics
How to's

Articles with the most descriptors—a 3-way tie with 6 descriptors each
Fish Fries Telephone
Wanted Unholed Lotta Bagel
Technical Communications Means

Articles with the 2nd most descriptors—a 5-way tie with 5 descriptors each
Vocabs of Steel
Greater Less Fewer More Thans--More or Less
Bad-Prose Rants from Lady Wawa
Pronunciations Heck with Hermione and Homage
Color N R Lives

Rest of article quantities (titles omitted)
Note to novice statisticians: I tic-marked the article quantities and added them up to confirm they total 36—no duplicated counts and no undercounts.


Categories for this article
For this article, I would categorize it into technical communication, food (coupla nibbles!), humor (minor rib ticklers!), tech topics, and how to's. I don't consider light mentioning of the other categories to quite warrant checking off all the descriptors. :-) Although I did not include numbered steps that indicate a process, I think there's enough of a road map feel here for people who want to put information on a grid.