Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Don't Get Carded Anymore and That's Great!

I don't get get carded anymore. Even though I'm told I have a baby-face (mostly by my biased parents) I haven't gotten carded in a long time. It used to bother me, the same way it used to bother me when someone called me "Ma'am" instead of "Miss".

I work on a college campus and it's been about 5 years since anyone has confused me for a student or intern and, even then, it didn't happen often.

I used to wish it did. I don't anymore, just like I don't hope to get carded anymore. At age 40.75, I think I've finally figured something out.

The reason I don't get carded or mistaken for a student, isn't because I look old. At least, I don't think I look old. Not as though 40 is old, anyway. I look good for my age.

I dress my age. By that, I don't mean I wear elastic waist pants, matching twinsets and penny loafers. I consider myself extremely stylish, but not trendy. I take pride in my appearance, because I want to, not because I'm trying to be something I'm not. Today, as I rock my blue color block dress and t-strap heels, I know that "stylishness" isn't just for the twenty-somethings.

I know how to wear makeup. Just the right amount. I've had decades of practice by now.

I don't have "mom" hair. As a matter of fact, I love color and change my color often. Currently, my hair is auburn and purple. It's not purple in a way that says "I'm trying to find myself." It's purple in a way that says "I know exactly who I am and who I am likes having purple hair."

So with my purple hair and stylish clothes, why don't I get carded?

About six-years ago on the college campus where I work, I was talking with two female students and a male colleague, a few years my junior. He had frequently been mistaken for a student where I was rarely, even at the tender age of 34. He argued that I could easily be confused with a student. Flattery will get you everywhere! During this conversation, the two female students mistook him for a classmate. I eyed him wryly and said "You see." and he asked the girls if they thought I was a student as well. They promptly replied "No." then added, because she doesn't seem like a student. She just seems more mature." Well said, ladies.

This is why I don't get carded.

  • Because I order a drink with confidence no twenty-something can fake.
  • Because I make myself known in the workplace in a way that took me a decade to be able to do.
  • Because I don't know everything. When I was in my twenties I thought I did. Now, I know I don't but WHAT I DO KNOW, I know well.
  • Because I know what I'm good at and what I'm not.
  • Because I'm mature enough to know that I need to learn and grow.
  • Because I know growth is a good thing.
  • Because I know what I want and I'm not afraid to go for it.

So, don't card me. Call me ma'am. I don't care anymore! Because 40-something is a state of mind. A state of being. A unique confidence that was elusive to me in my twenties.

My forties. I'm finally starting to see what all the fuss is about.

Bring it on.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Super Nerdy Amazon Alexa To Google Calendar Hack and My Wish-list For Amazon

I like my Amazon Echo. Note the use of the word LIKE not LOVE. I feel it was worth the "$99 Prime" price I paid for it but certainly not the $199 "Rest of You Heathens" price. The truth is, I can imagine the potential for greatness and that gets the nerd in me all kinds of jazzed.

I had a big geeky "O" the moment they announced integration with IFTTT. If you aren't familiar, IFTTT is a super cool logic connecter for many of the web apps you love. Stands for "IF This Then That". I use it to do loads of neat things like back up iOS photos to a Google Drive folder, add Foursquare check-ins to my calendar, etc.

Imagine my excitement when I thought I could use it to get some more out of little Alexa here!

Alas, the integration is lackluster, so far. It can send a notification to my iPhone when an item is added to my To-Do list, which is not all that useful as I am primarily the person adding items and I know I added an item and, therefore, don't need a notification to tell me that. It can push To-Do's and Shopping List items to other To-Do applications like TodoistWunderlist or Remember The Milk which can be nice, especially if you are already in love with those other list apps.

But I was really longing for to have Alexa add items to my calendar with DATE, TIME and LOCATION set.

I have successfully accomplished this with a complex daisy-chain of tools working together. I'm happy to share my hack with you but, be fore-warned, it ain't pretty!

You will need:
  1. Amazon Echo (Duh!)
  2. IFTTT account
  3. Zapier account
  4. Google account (Seriously, it's GOOGLE. I'm not linking to it for you!)
  5. Patience
  6. Some level of technical expertise
  7. A good sense of humor
Step 1:
Login to your IFTTT account and create the following recipe. You will need to be sure your Amazon Alexa and Google Drive channels are connected already, but I'm not going to tell you how to do that. Figure it out! This is that technical expertise I said you needed earlier.

Basically, you want IFTT to add a row to a spreadsheet of your choosing when you create a TO DO. At this point you might be wondering if you're going to end up with random calendar items that read things like "Buy Socks" and "Clean Toilet".  The answer is "No". That will be handled by a combination of Zapier and the way you phrase your request.

Step 2:
Create a spreadsheet in Google Drive in the exact same location with the exact same name as you told IFTTT to use. If it's not exact, wackiness will ensue and you'll need loads of that patience I mentioned earlier.

Step 3:
Login to your Zapier account and create the following zap. You will need to be sure your Google Sheets and Google Calendar Accounts are connected already. Again, this is your problem.

Create a Zap that triggers when a new spreadsheet row is added. The action will be to Quick Add a calendar event. Why Quick Add and not Detailed? Quick Add will parse the text and pick out the DATE, TIME and LOCATION, assuming you said it right and Alexa heard you right, which is, frankly, assuming a lot.

You are going to want to filter the Zaps so you don't end up with calendar events that say "Buy Socks" and "Clean Toilet". The filter should look for the text to contain the word "o'clock". Which mean you're going to have to remember to format your speech to Alexa. More on that later.

Here's what the filter looks like.

Important Note: If you skipped Step 2 and didn't create the spreadsheet already, shame on you. Zapier can't find it and you're going to have to start over creating your Zap. That's what you get for not following instructions.

Step 4:
Once your IFTTT recipe and your Zap are completed, you're ready to test drive your formulas. This is where you will require the patience and the sense of humor I spoke about.

You need to speak very carefully to Alexa to get this right. If you don't say exactly the right words, slowly and carefully, but not too slowly or she will think you are done before you are done, you will end up with a lot of non-sense like you see below. Remember that sense of humor I mentioned earlier? You'll need that now.
I guess MOVIES sounds a lot like BOOBIES
You must say your event in this format:
"Alexa, Add [event][full time format] at [location] to my To Do List"

  • "Alexa, Add MOVIES SEVEN O'CLOCK PM at OVERLOOK DRIVE-IN to my To Do List."

  • "Alexa, Add MOVIES at SEVEN O'CLOCK PM at OVERLOOK DRIVE-IN to my To Do List."
    Your location will be seven o'clock PM and the event start time will be the time it was added to the calendar. 
  • "Alexa, Add MOVIES at SEVEN PM at OVERLOOK DRIVE-IN to my To Do List."
    Your zap won't trigger because it's looking for the word "o'clock". I tried to make it work with a. m. OR p. m. as the filter word but it just wasn't happening. Let me know if you make it work.
An Open Letter To Amazon:
Seriously!?! That was a sh*t-ton of work to get something as basic as scheduling a calendar event to work with something that is meant to be a digital assistant. If a dork like me could rig this up, it should take about the same time as a Starbucks run for the crack team you've got to work it. So, while there at it, here's my the rest of my wish-list. Can I have this stuff?! PLEEEEAAASE! Pretty Please! I really LIKE (like not LOVE) Alexa and I want to LOVE her. I really, really do. You can do it! I believe it you.
My Wish-list for Amazon Echo: 
  1. More than one timer.  Like FOR REALZ?!?!
  2. More than one alarm. See above.
    1. If she's not going to have more than one timer or alarm, she should at least tell me if she's canceling my previous one. Right now if one of my kids says,  "Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes." because they're timing reading homework and my husband is comes in and says,"Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes." because he needs to time what's on the grill, that digital slut just dumps the previous timer and sets the new one with no warning or concern for the previous person's needs.
  3. Calendar Events so I don't have to do stuff like this anymore. 
  4. Reminders that actually remind me to do stuff. I know I can set an alarm but then I have remember what Alexa is beeping about. And I know I can put it on my To Do list but then I have to remember to check my To Do list. I want to say "Alexa, remind me to take out the trash on Sunday at 8 PM" and then on Sunday, at 8 PM, I want her to say "JT, it's time to take out trash." not "Beep, Beep, Beep". Even the "Beep, Beep, Beep" assumes nobody else set an alarm between when I asked and Sunday at 8 PM (see above).
  5.  iTunes Library Connection. I've spent a long time building this library and I want to use it and not just as a Bluetooth speaker.
  6. Phone Calls. If my Kia can connect to my contacts, dial a number and act as a bluetooth mic and speaker, I'm sure Alexa could do it.
  7. Alerts. Why can't she tell me if I get a text? One of the main reasons I wanted this is because once I'm home my phone is secondary. It's in my purse or on silent or in another room. It shouldn't be too difficult to say "JT, you have a text from your brother. It reads..."
  8. Post To Facebook. How can I possibly survive the hour I'm cooking and eating dinner without telling the world that I'm having some nachos that are seriously Amaze-balls?! Okay, this is less important.
See Amazon. It's a tiny list of demands desires. Your guys and gals can bang this out over lunch, right? Just please don't make me purchase new hardware to do it. I mean, I'll probably do it, but I'll be pissed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Foreboding Abound in BTVS

I am an epic Buffy Fan Girl. The show was always a favorite and has some of the most incredible writing ever. I'm in the middle of a binge. Not my first and won't be my last.

However, this binge got me thinking about the awesome foreboding in the show. The little hints dropped, minutes, episodes and even seasons ahead of something really cool to come.

I put together a collection of memes to illustrate some of my favorite moments of foreboding. Listen, uber-fans, don't attack me for missing a whole bunch. I know that I have. I know, alright!!! I hope to make additional posts some other time. I have other things to do, okay!?!?

I hope you enjoy my tiny contribution to the already extensive world of Buff-stuff on the interwebs.







This is one of the coolest things about the show in my humble opinion. In the Season 4 episode "Amends", we are introduced to "The First" and his peeps, "The Bringers". 

We learn nothing else about "The First" until Season 7. Yes folks. Hint dropped in Season 4 and picked up again THREE. SEASONS. LATER. Fantastic! 

The First is the Big Bad that leads us to the epic series finale.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lalaloopsy Size Up

I really have to hand it to the people at MGA. They keep coming out with new and innovative ways for me to waste money on Lalaoopsy Dolls.

The sizes and varieties are endless.

I was browsing today for NO REASON because I do not need to buy ANYTHING ELSE for the holidays, and I stumbled upon a breed of loopsy I hadn't seen before.

Lalaloopsy Newborns.

No, not the disgusting babies that poop charms. Ewww, my daughter did NOT put one of those on her list for Santa and who cam blame her. Gross.

"Look mommy! My dolly crapped this out and I made a necklace!"

No, these are Lalaloopsy Newborns. Little palm sized babies.

I can't even stand how cute they are.

I can't let my daughter see these! She already wants Lalaloopsy Girls and Tinies for Christmas.

Then I got to thinking about how many SIZES these dolls come in. From the 1.5" tinies to the full sized 15.6" originals and a slew in between. Wow!

I wanted to see how they measured up to each other so I put together the following line-up that I hope you will find helpful.

Click to enlarge and see measurements

Please note, the measurements are approximate and don't take into consideration the measurements of those God-forsaken little pets and accessories.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Be Thankful

A nor'easter on the day before Thanksgiving. Oh no! Imagine the luck. I know it's awful for those who have to travel. I'm glad that I don't but, in general, I try to make it a practice of keeping things in perspective.

Here in the hudson valley, we're experiencing power outages due to heavy wet snow so, certainly, the timing isn't fantastic, but there are just a few things I'm keeping in mind.

  • The power is out.
  • I'm thankful that I have access to the modern conveniences.

  • I can't get the cooking done on time.
  • I'm thankful I have plenty of food to eat.

  • I'm snowed in and can't finish grocery shopping.
  • I'm fortunate to be able to readily buy goods and drive wherever I need to.

  • I'm cooped up with the kids.
  • I'm so happy to have a family I love.

  • It's cold.
  • I'm so lucky to have a roof over my head and clothes to warm my body.

  • I won't have time to clean my house before guests arrive.
  • Nobody cares. Not everyone has a home.

  • The internet and cable are out.
  • Seriously!?!?! (And if you're reading this, you probably have 4G anyway)

  • I hope everyone can make it because of the snow.
  • It's nice to spend holiday with family, but it's even nicer to have everyone you love safe and sound.

Let's remember the luck we have, not just at Thanksgiving, but all year round. Even if you've had better years, if you're reading this, you're one of the lucky ones. It's easy to b*tch and moan. It's a lot harder to count your blessings ever day, but, trust me, it's much more satisfying.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Who is Dave Jeffords?

One of the weirdest things ever just happened to me.
I was sitting at work and got the following text....

Dave Jeffords: Do you have any poster paper?
Totally normal text, right?

No biggie, right? Just a wrong number.


Was this like one of those movies where I have to unravel the clues and it turns out I'm missing a year of my life or I'm not who I think I am?

First thing I did was click details...

Yup. There he was, right in my contacts and, wait... is that a f*cking goat?!?!

Dave Jeffords? Is that you?

Yup. Not only is it a goat. It's a goat wearing a hat.

The next thing I did was see where the message ended up. It was connected to a thread from someone I actually know. It's a woman and her name isn't Dave Jeffords. I began to wonder if there was more to her than meets the eye.

So, I texted back "Who is this?"

She responded. It was, in fact, the person I expected to find on the other end of the text. It was not Dave Jeffords, unless, of course, Dave Jeffords had kidnapped her and was using her phone. However, if that were the case, why would he change the contact name to his own and start texting her friends... to see if they had POSTER BOARD no less?!  No, no, no. That couldn't be it.

I sent her a screen capture and typed "I thought it was you but this is who my phone thinks you are."
She could offer no further clues about the identity of Dave Jeffords.

I did what any normal person would do and looked him up on Facebook.
Yup. There he was, goat and all.
Lives clear across the United States from me. 

I searched my email. Had I ever corresponded with Mr. Dave Jeffords? I was just grasping at straw as to how my phone could think this young lady was a dude over 2,000 miles away.

No emails.

Did we have any mutual friends on Facebook?

Were we in the same industry? 

No connection I could find.

I use a third-party app to sync my Facebook contacts with my phone contacts called Sync.ME and I'm suspicious that is where things went wrong but I can't be sure.

I checked all my other contacts and everyone appears as they should be. No gender changes or dashingly accessorized farm animals.

I don't have any answers. I'm going to send this to Dave Jeffords and see if he does but I'm sure he's moving merrily along with his life, not having any idea that he was allegedly texting me for poster board. Maybe I'll get a new friend out of it.

I hope you enjoyed one of the randomest things to ever happen to me as much as I did.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Siri is a Ginormous Turd

There are likely one-hundred or more funnier / stupider / more annoying things Siri does that I could write about but, this one really bugged me.

Today was my kiddos' first day of a week-long Harry Potter Camp at a local community college.  I hope they're having fun, because, honestly, I think my kids were having visions of Hogwarts dancing in their heads and I dropped them off in an unadorned college classroom at 9 AM this morning. However, that's besides the point.

The point is, my morning routine was disrupted. I usually have my first cup o' joe when I get to work at 8:30 so my husband only makes enough for himself at home. I didn't think to tell him to make more for me today as I'd be leaving later than usual.

I rounded up my little witch and wizard, figuring I'd find a Dunkin' Donuts on the way. I know where a few of them are but wasn't 100% sure if there was one on the route.

Instead of asking Siri, I decided if I passed one, I'd stop. If I didn't it could wait until after I dropped off the magical munchkins.

Once I got to "Hogwarts of Poughkeepsie",  I had to fill out a missing form, then had to have the kids reassigned because they accidentally had them in the wrong age group. By the time I was back at my car, the coffee jones was kicking in big time so I asked Siri a question he/she/it must get all the time.

"Is there a Dunkin' Donuts near me?"

I mean, seriously, "American runs on Dunkin'" after all.  This question has got to be as common as "What's the weather today?" or "Do I have any new messages?"

In response to my very simple question, Siri began, "JT, I found one Dunkin' Donuts..."


Let me stop right there before I proceed with the rest of the stupid answer.  "ONE DUNKIN' DONUTS??!?!"  When is the answer ever ONE Dunkin' Donuts. As in single. As in unique. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a DD!

Maybe it was the lack of coffee but, I felt the urge to kill rising before she/he/it even finished the sentence.

"JT, I found one Dunkin' Donuts quite far from you..."

Do you get this from Siri a lot?

I find it/she/he uses "quite far" if there's a different name for the hamlet or neighborhood designation. For example, if something is actually IN POUGHKEEPSIE but the address says ARLINGTON (which is part of Poughkeepsie), the response is "quite far". Dummy.

"It's 15.6 miles away in Kingston, NY. Is that the one you want?"

Oh, Siri! You know me so well! That's exactly what I wanted!
I would've been delighted to choose the Dunkin' Donuts that was 15.6 miles away, according to you, which according to every map, including your own, is actually 22 miles away. Perhaps you were suggesting I actually drive IN the Hudson River!
I would have certainly loved to drive past my own home, across a toll bridge, to Kingston, NY to get a large coffee with milk, only to come all the way back to Poughkeepsie to go to work. Yup. That seemed like the best idea to my caffeine deprived brain at 9:13 AM.
Or, I could have just gone to ANY ONE OF THE DOZEN OTHER DDs in the Poughkeepsie area! I just wanted a cup of coffee, dammit!!!!


But, what's more insane is I keep trying to use this technology thinking that it's got to be better next time, right? Wrong.

Maybe this is one of those things that Apple purposefully designs to perform extremely poorly so that when it finally works well we are just so relieved and grateful the torture has ended.

This really doesn't sound like a healthy relationship.
I should probably break-up with Apple.

Who am I kidding?  Apple's going to give me a shiny new iOS next month and all will be forgiven.

Oh, and I didn't get any coffee until I got to work.