Apps even my mom can (and should!) use

Dear Mom,

You’re finding it increasingly difficult to resist the call of the glowing apple, and I know you’re about to email to ask for my app recommendations.  Given that my Mini and I are attached at the hip, I’m going to preempt you and offer my suggestions for things you need (and “need”).  Why no, this has nothing to do with my attempt to write 7 posts in 7 days (to everyone else, sorry for cheating; I’ll have something of more general interest tomorrow).  Anyway, in no particular order…

Google Chrome, Drive, Hangouts, and Gmail (all free)

Gmail and Chrome are the first apps you want to get.  The iPad comes with an email program, but it’s somewhat different from Gmail, and it’s just easier to use this one.  Hangouts is the easiest way to use gChat (including video chats with certain grandsons).  Drive is the least necessary, but if you have a lot of stuff there it’s nice to be able to access it.

Notability ($2.99)

I very rarely pay for apps, but if you think you’ll ever want to make or read PDFs on your iPad, this is the way to go.  You can type your own documents, open PDFs, and write on them.  I most often use it for knitting patterns (you can see one heavily “highlighted” pattern above).

Solitaire (free)


Not much to say here.  You know you’ll want it.  This version has ads that pop up between games, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay real money for solitaire.

Feedly (free)


At least as good as the desktop version; maybe better.

Kindle (free)

Of course, you can use this to read books you’ve actually purchased, but more often, I check out e-books from the library (it’s easy, really!).

Netflix (free)

20140225-101638.jpgNot much to say here, except that this is probably my most-used app.

Pandora (free)

You know what to do.

Instagram (free)


You know…in case you want to keep up with a certain daughter.

Wunderlist (free)

If you need to make any to-do lists, this is a really simple app for it.  You make an account, and then you can also access your lists from the computer.  I have my grocery list here, and then I just need to pull out my phone at the store.

Evernote (free)

20140225-101719.jpgI use the Evernote Chrome extension to save anything I might want to find later – recipes, quotes, haircut ideas, etc.  The app is just a good way to access them offline (and yes, I use it in the kitchen; what else are screen protectors good for?).

Pinterest (free)


I’m more inclined to use Evernote for things (the introvert in me just wants to keep things to myself), but in case you want access to your Pinterest boards, you should get this.

WordPress (free)

20140225-101704.jpgLast, and kinda least, WordPress.  I only “recommend” it because it’s the only way to get the blogging job done on the tablet, but this app kinda sucks.  It’s okay for quick posts, but as you can see above, the only option is to work in HTML mode, which makes dealing with multiple photos tricky.

So there you have it.  You’ve got my number if you need tech support.

PS – all these nifty screenshots came from pressing both buttons at the same time – couldn’t be simpler.

The Greatest TV Show You’ve Never Seen*

This is where man finds himself these days.  10,000 years in the making, 10,000 years of endeavor in art, in science, and the humanities; and within one generation, he’s been reduced to a feckless, bed-wetting, parmesan-shaving imbecile who revels in his own uselessness.  Something has to be done.

Thus begins the first episode of James May’s Man Lab, which is perhaps most succinctly described as Mythbusters meets Red Green meets The Art of Manliness.  Oh, and hosted by someone from Top Gear, so British Wit abounds (see especially his comments to a colander).  In the first episode alone, he tackles home improvement, bomb defusing, serenading, with a few other odds and ends.

It appears that several episodes (perhaps all of them, in fact) are available right now on Hulu; that’s where I caught episode 1 this morning.  Do check it out (unless you’re afraid of the responsibility that comes with awesome knowledge).

*Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that my sister and brother-in-law have been watching this for years, but I had never heard of it.

Did I miss the memo?

Qualcomm QCP-2700 phone

Has it really become acceptable etiquette for a professional to 1) leave his phone on during meetings and 2) answer it?  I only ask because since starting my job, I’ve been in four or five different training sessions, and in all but one, the presenter’s phone has rung, and in all but one of those instances, he’s answered it! (I should note that these are all different presenters; they just all happened to be male)

Keep in mind that these are professionals, conducting scheduled, prearranged training sessions.  This isn’t an informal, spontaneous meeting.  Also, none of these calls seemed to be urgent (they were all answered with something like, “Hello?….Uh-huh…..Hey, can I call you back?  I’m doing something right now.”).  If this is acceptable, I’d like to reserve the right to play Angry Birds or shop online during boring presentations.  As it is, I don’t, because I’d like to show a little respect for someone who’s supposedly teaching important things (also, sometimes because I’m sitting next to my boss).

Emily Post provides the following reflection on the use of cell phones in public:

How are my actions affecting others and how am I perceived? Both are important aspects of good etiquette. If you are perceived as being disrespectful it can be as damaging to a relationship as actually disrespecting someone.

We’ve all been guilty of accidentally leaving our phones on at the wrong time, but for goodness sake, when did it become a fire-breathing master that needs to be answered immediately, every time?  The correct response is to turn it off, not answer it and stage-whisper, “Hello?  I’m in church.  No, church!  Oh yes, it’s very pretty…well, there are some annoying children behind me…”

Answering your phone automatically tells whoever you’re with that they’re a lower priority than whoever’s on the phone.  Sometimes, that may be true, but as Ms. Post points out in the full text of the post above, it’s worthwhile to clarify any motivations or extenuating circumstances ahead of time.  Otherwise, business clients, God, and anyone else whose company you keep will be left  to form their own assumptions.  And then, heaven forbid, they may blog about it!

Magnificat in the palm of your hand!

Oh, wait…the original version also fits in the palm of your hand.  Well, the iPhone app is quite nifty anyway.  Besides being able to get the readings, meditations, and art you’ve come to love, you can get them for less than half the price of a print subscription ($1.99/month or $19.99/year) or for free if you’re already a print subscriber.  Oh, and did I mention that the first month is free, if you want to try it out?  I know there are varying schools of thought on bringing your iPhone to Mass, but this would be handy on days when you can’t get to Mass at all.  The formatting is just like that of the print version, with the pleasant red titles, etc., and it’s extremely intuitive to use (see here for more screenshots).

Note: The folks at Magnificat have no idea who I am or that I’m writing this review.  The publication has been a great aid in my spiritual life, and I’m happy to see this new version.