Stuff You Should Know: Upgrade iOS ASAP or Risk Attack

If you’ve been putting off an update to the most recent iOS for your iPad or iPhone – you need to read this article from ZD Net and then update ASAP.

This sounds like a nasty thing which can fry your iDevice, so don’t delay – update today!

Friday FaithPost: Pray as You Go App/Website/Podcast

Another week rolls by. It’s hard to believe that a fortnight from today is Good Friday. March often drags by, but this year it and Lent are zipping by. The relative lack of winter here in Ohio surely helps!

Last weekend I posted about some podcasts that I like and an outstanding way to listen to them on an Android device (Pocket Cast).  Today, I share a Catholic daily podcast which helps my faith to grow and deepen. It has its own iOS and Android apps too (see below about Android.)

The site is “Pray as You Go” and it’s created by the Jesuits in Britain who also create the equally excellent “Thinking Faith”  and “Sacred Space”

I won’t spend time and space here trying to “sell” you on “Pray as You Go.” I will say that I get much from the short (12 min or less) combination of music, the day’s scripture (read twice in lectio divina style), brief commentary, reflection questions and an invitation for prayer.

I do recommend that you listen to it directly through the website or via a general podcasting app like Pocket Cast. “Pray As You Go” has an expanded presence on Soundcloud which has a pretty good Android app. It appears that there’s content there which isn’t elsewhere, such as this series of talks and poems by the great Gerard Manly Hopkins, S.J.

About the Android “Pray as You Go” app – I’d avoid it for now. It has an issue which doesn’t allow you to stream or download a day’s content until well after it has passed. I thought this might be just an issue on my device, so I emailed them. Turns, out they are aware of this universal problem and are working to fix it in a future release.

Until then, I hope you’ll use one of these many means listed above to pray as you go — to work, on a walk, to the store, wherever!

Sun(Fun)day Post: Two Funny Podcasts to Check Out

This post is a bit later than usual on a Sunday evening. I went for my early evening constitutional (aka walk) and then it was dinnertime. A primary New Year’s resolution of mine was to walk every day. Not to brag or anything, but since I got my Fitbit for Christmas, I’ve walked at least 10,000 steps every day (that’s 71 days – but who’s counting?)

Two things have helped me to do this – a rather warm and dry winter and great, free audio books and podcasts to listen to on my Android smartphone. As the weather warms and the sun sets later (Daylight Savings Time begins next Sunday), perhaps you’d like to walk or exercise outside more frequently?

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The first place to check for audio books is OverDrive. Many libraries have contracted with this ever-growing ebook and audio book provider to be the conduit for content checked out via a typical library card. Both of our local library branches provide materials through this site – albeit with slightly different collections. The Android app for it works pretty well and it gives the option of either streaming or downloading the content via WiFi. I do find some aspects of its functionality to not be completely intuitive, so you might have to play around with it a bit.

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Another good source for free audio books is LibriVox. The collection here is mainly classic works that are in the public domain. So, if you’re seeking to listen to works that you skimmed in high school, but as an adult you’re now curious about, this is your source.

I started my walking routine with audio books, but now I listen almost exclusively to podcasts. In case you’ve not been paying attention, there’s a remarkable renaissance happening in the audio programming world. I find this ironic. We’re now in such a visually-oriented streaming world as television supplanted the radio more than sixty years ago. Yet, those same devices you can use to watch Netflix, can also be used to stream a ridiculous amount of audio content as well. And on the supply side of the equation, the equipment needed to create a podcast is so minimal that anyone with a computer and a $20 plug-in-mic can become a podcaster. Sure, there’s a lot of amateurs out there, but a growing number of podcasters are gaining wide notoriety and significant earnings. A good example is Mark Maron’s WTF Podcast and his interview with President Obama last June.

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To stream or download a podcast, you’ll need an app for that. Stitcher and Soundcloud are two popular, free ones that I’ve used on my Android phone. I don’t particularly like either of these since a paid app I now use is so much better – Pocket Casts

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The visual design of Pocket Casts is far superior to any other podcasting app that I’ve used. More importantly, it is extremely easy to download via WiFi and then stream on-the-go. The user interface is highly intuitive. So, whether you’re brand new to listening to podcasts or a veteran, pay the $3.99 for this great app and you won’t regret it.

So, how do you find good podcasts?  Before I tell you about the aforementioned two favorites of mine, let me give you two sites to visit to find virtually any type of podcast you can imagine.

A pretty amazing one, which I stumbled across just last night is Podcast Chart (pictured above). A glance at the (partial) sidebar listing categories gives just a taste of the range of possibilities.

So, you found some interesting sounding podcasts and you’re surprised to discover that the number of episodes in the various archives is staggering. How can you find a particularly good episode? This is where NPR’s recommendation site (with weekly email) Earbud.fm comes in.

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Incidentally, these two sites will allow you to podcast directly through their interface. While this might be convenient, I still prefer finding them in Pocket Casts and listening there.

OK, time for a quick mention of two podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately. The first is silly, clever, sometimes bawdy, and always funny – Hello From the Magic Tavern

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You can read the premise in the screen shot above or you’ll hear it repeated at the top of each episode. I’m just enough of a Narnia fan/geek that I really appreciate the humor in this podcast as they explore and explode the many “fantasy story” tropes. The language and humor is mostly PG-13 (at least in the dozen or so early episodes I’ve heard thus far).

The second one, is in the wide “infotainment” category – No Such Thing as a Fish

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This is just one branch of a large network dedicated to information – mostly of the trivial kind. In this podcast four of their British and Scottish researchers/comedians share interesting facts they’ve recently discovered. Not only do I learn from their conversations, but I bust up at both the jokes and the connections they make.

I’ve been listening to other podcasts as well and I’ll likely devote another post to recommendations sometime. At this time, I need to do the dishes – with my wireless Bluetooth headphones (I use and recommend these, purchased via Tanga) and an interesting and funny podcast in my ears.

 

 

Resources for Lent 2016

It’s hard to believe that Lent is upon us so quickly this year. Next year, Ash Wednesday will be nearly three weeks later – March 1, 2017! How will you Fast, Pray & Give this year.

Here’s a few resources I’m looking at this year:

USCCB – “Lent 2016: 40 Days of Mercy

Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl – I especially like their weekly, meatless recipes from around the world. Hopefully they will again have videos of Fr. Leo demonstrating each one.

Loyola Press Lenten Resources especially their Online Lenten Retreats & Prayers

Creighton University On-Line Ministries: Praying Lent – I highly recommend this audio retreat presented by the wise Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J.

Other Jesuit Lenten resources can be found at Thinking Faith and the audio-focused Pray As You Go – both from the U.K.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Lenten Resources  (includes a link to sign up for his daily Lenten reflection emails.)

As of today (Monday), Busted Halo hasn’t posted their popular Lent calendar yet. They have a few Lenten themed articles as well as this excellent Ash Wednesday in Two Minutes video:

Last year for both Lent and Advent I found the resources offered by the Society of St. John the Evangelist to be faith and thought provoking.  This year’s theme, which encompasses daily videos, emails and a workbook is entitled: Growing a Rule of Life. It begins with this introductory video by one of the wise brothers:

And it even has a component for use with youth.

In light of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking celebration of God’s Creation, “Laudato Si” how about connecting your Lenten fasting to activities which care for creation. A number of faith organizations offer Lenten calendars with suggestions for each day:

Sisters of St. Joseph Carbon Fast

Michigan Interfaith Power & Light

Carbon Fast – Anglican Communion

St. Francis Cabrini Community

More extensive “carbon fast” programs, including daily emails and message boards, are offered by MACUCC and EcoChurch Southwest (U.K.)

Shifting gears to focus on apps, Give Us This Day is offering a free trial of their app featuring the day’s morning & evening prayers as well as the daily mass.

Finally, props to a great blog site – Catholic Apptitude and their listing of apps and related resources for Lent.

 

 

Web Link Clearance – Best of 2015 Lists

On this first day of the second month of 2016 I offer you a chance to celebrate: National Girls and Women in Sports Day; Change Your Password Day; Car Insurance Day; G.I. Joe Day; and Decorating with Candy Day by enjoying this list of “Best of 2015 Lists”

Why, you may ask, am I sharing these a month and a day after the start of 2016? A simple answer: these links were in my queue for posting by year’s end – and it never happened. Rather than just delete them and move on, I thought there is still value in looking back to find quality books, music, apps, etc from last year. Hence, this “web link clearance” today.

Besides: Do you write 2016 every time you put down the date or do you still sometimes write 2015 by mistake?

The Only 9 Apps Released in 2015 We’re Still Actually Using

50 Best Albums of 2015

Longreads Best Stories of 2015

Apple Names the Best iOS Apps of 2015

10 Most Popular Podcasts of 2015  (“How to Listen to Podcasts”)

Top Illustrated Science Books of 2015

The Best Novels of 2015

Overdrive’s Best Books of 2015 [This is the excellent online portal for ebooks and audiobooks that both of our local library systems use)

NY Times 10 Best Books of 2015

 

 

250th Post! Visual Beauty for Your Device

I missed getting a Sun(Fun)day post out yesterday. Turns out that there are only so many hours in the day and yesterday they passed by way too quickly.

So, it’s Monday, sunny here in Ohio, we’re on the 250th post at this blog and it’s a good day for celebrating the miracle that is our eyes!

If you’re like me, you change your device’s wallpaper or background image frequently. I like to enjoy that moment of beauty before I get to whatever app or task I’m seeking.

So, for your viewing pleasure here’s a few of my favorite sites for downloading beautiful images and a recent example of each.

Perhaps you’ve already discovered the Bing Wallpaper Gallery. As a search engine, Microsoft’s Bing takes a lot of flack. But as a source for daily, seasonally themed, blow-your-mind images it’s the best. It also has a highly searchable archive to find any type of image perfectly sized to fit your desktop/homescreen:

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So after I stop at Bing’s site, I go over to my next favorite site for daily images as well as great, daily prayer resources. Hosted my the Jesuits of the Midwest Province, the location of the site is Jesuitprayer.org. Each day they offer a gripping image paired with a quote related to the liturgical reading and related reflection for the day. There’s also an iOS app available. The images aren’t always in the highest definition, so sometimes they are a bit fuzzy on my iPad lock screen. Still, the reflections included are worth pausing on for a moment before unlocking and moving forward.

Photo Jesuit

The last site is one that I just discovered the other day. I’ve known about the Three Minute Retreat site and app for a while. I get their daily email and for the first time I looked closely at the links within it. Not only is there one to Loyola PressLenten Resources, but there’s also a link to where you can download seasonal images which include a quote from the week’s scripture and the month’s calendar. The stunning one on my iPad lock screen today is above while this week’s is here:

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One really good thing about the file (above) from Loyola is that it fits perfectly onto the iPad screen while the Three Minute Retreat one needs to be reduced.

As a bonus, if you’re looking for lock screen images and home screen organization on your Android device, may I recommend what I use – Picturesque and Aviate respectively.

An App to Know – Curiosity.com

After hearing the announcement/ad for Curiosity.com numerous times on NPR, I finally got around to checking it out and down loading the iOS app.

I’m not going to say much about it here, because I emphatically encourage you to click the link above and check it out yourself.

As a passionate learner (which hopefully every teacher is), I like the set of five interesting links it gives me every day. An example from the last few days is above. And here’s a few more:

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When you click on the image, it takes you here:

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Here’s one more pair of examples:

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What are you waiting for? Visit Curiosity.com and get learning!

 

Google Now and Google Search Tips

Scrolling back through recent posts, I see that it’s been awhile since I’ve shared about nuts and bolts technology which can make life better for educators – inside or outside of the classroom.

So, here’s a quick post about cool and useful ways to utilize Google tools.

First, how often do you use Google Now on your phone, tablet or Chromebook? I don’t look at the “cards” or use the voice activated search (the “OK Google”) as often as I could. But now, having discovered this amazing list of functions, I’ll surely use it with greater frequency.

If you don’t have time to click and view the list, you can take the shortcut the author suggests:

If you’re too lazy to scroll this list, you can also access a list of voice commands on your phone by tapping the mic and saying “show me what you got”.

And, thanks to Time magazine for this list of “11 Google Tricks Which Will Change the Way You Search”

BTW: The Google Image above is not from my Google Now, although I wish I was in San Francisco today!

50 Small Things to Make a Perfect Day w/#51- Use Interesting Weather Apps

What makes a perfect day for an educator like me (and you too?) – A SNOW DAY (sort of)!

Well, I went to bed last night suspecting the possibility and woke up at 5:30 am confirming it. Lately though, here in Central Ohio, we’ve had more “calamity days” the past couple of school years due to sub-zero temps with wind chill rather than because of the more traditional – ice/snow covering the streets in the early morning.

On a day such as this, I’d much rather be either creative or lazy rather than productive. In other words, I’d rather write or read instead of grade (the 50+ freshman mid-term essays from before Christmas Break). So, I’m going to create a few posts here and also over at my personal blog too. And I have until Tuesday of next week to get those essays graded!

What makes your perfect day? One thing high on my list is echoed in this great list from Lifehack at #11 – “Take a walk in nature.” I’m hoping to do this today – so that I can meet my Fitbit goal of 10,000 steps for today. But, my WeatherUnderground iPad app tells me that it’s currently 15 degrees, but it feels like 7 degrees. Ugh – I may have to go for a walk indoors at a nearby mall instead.

BTW: Now that it may or may not feel like winter in your neck of the woods, you might want to update your weather apps. In addition to the aforementioned WeatherUnderground app, I’ve also begun enjoying on my Android phone – 1Weather (which has great widgets with it), Weather Timeline and the social-media inspired Sunnycomb 

Oh yeah, here’s the list from Lifehack:

1. Once you wake up, just stay in bed for a couple of minutes and relax.

2. Always have a book with you, we never know when boredom might decide to appear.

3. Set mood playlists on your device of choice.

4. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

5. Smile to a stranger and see what happens!

6. Have a quick fresh shower first thing in the morning.

7. Show your love to someone else.

8. Before you go to bed, say thanks for everything you have and don’t have.

9. Connect to yourself, by using a journal: write, draw, make collages, let your mind wander.

10. On your nightstand, put something that makes you smile.

11. Take a walk in nature.

12. Do yoga.

13. Make a to-do list to help you achieve your main goal for the day. And stick to it.

14. Eat healthily and accordingly to your own taste.

15. Take an hour and do as you please.

16. Write 3 good things that happened to you and what you can do to see it happen again.

17. Put some fresh flowers in the room you spend time in the most.

18. Take a long and warm shower before going to bed.

19. Get out of the house and explore your neighborhood.

20. Sleep naked to feel sexier.

21. Boost your confidence by engaging in your favorite hobby.

22. Act crazy, put the music on loud and start dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

23. Take a 30 minute nap after lunch; as an alternative, engage in a different relaxing activity.

24. Giggle with your friends– make time for them in your day.

25. Read an inspiring quote and incorporate it into your day.

26. Declutter you life by asking “Do I really need this? Why?”.

27. Be kind anytime you can and don’t expect anything back.

28. Meditate and write down everything you’ve found out.

29. Learn something new, even if it’s just a different way of doing stuff.

30. Have some sweat and exercise. Do it mindfully by choosing an activity you enjoy.

31. Sleep a bit more if you feel tired or you’re in the middle of a situation that you can’t solve.

32. Smile. Smile. Smile. And smile some more.

33. Walk barefoot.

34. Experience flow by working at something you’re passionate about.

35. Make your surroundings a little bit better: declutter, reuse and recycle.

36. Plan a trip, even if you can’t travel right now.

37. Be aware of your emotions, but don’t control them: understand them.

38. Remember your accomplishments every time you feel like a failure.

39. Lower your expectations, little by little — most of them are unrealistic.

40. Be offline for as long as you can.

41. Enjoy the now.

42. Challenge yourself!

43. Don’t worry about your problems, but work toward a solution.

44. See everything as an opportunity to learn and grow.

45. Forgive yourself and forgive others.

46. Don’t quit: make baby steps.

47. Do your best.

48. Slow down.

49. Put everything you are into everything you do.

50. Follow your heart.

Stuff You Should Know: An App Allowing Millions of Teens to Post Anonymously

As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t use the “Stuff You Should Know” feature lightly.

I use it for this link because it’s a pretty dramatic article about an app which sounds quite problematic.

The feature article, published the other day by the Washington Post, details this app – The After School App – which offers a location where students from more than 22,000 U.S. high schools are posting all kinds of things – all anonymously. The creators of the app are quoted in the article:

 Cory Levy, 24, one of the app’s founders, said After School gives teens a chance to “express themselves without worrying about any backlash or any repercussions.” He said the app is a new way for teens to ask difficult, uncomfortable questions anonymously and to more directly address issues such as depression, how to come out as gay to one’s parents or how to navigate the daily challenges of teen life.

Levy said the product creates a much-needed alternative to Facebook and Instagram, where teens have grown up carefully curating digital identities that might not reflect their true struggles and anxieties. After School allows them to be themselves without worrying so much about what other people will think, he said.

Not surprisingly the forum has morphed into a place where cyber-bulling, suicidal pleas, and threats of violence have been posted. While these negative and even dangerous exchanges are surely done via other, conventional social media, the issue with this platform – The After School app – is that it is difficult, if not impossible for non-student adults to gain access:

After School limits its audience to teens by requiring users to verify that they attend high school through their Facebook pages and by creating restricted message boards for each high school campus. Parents and others who want to access the app would have to lie to do so, saying on Facebook that they attend the high school. Even then, parents could be stopped by an algorithm that aims to block people from posing as high school students.

Therein lies my biggest concern about this app – parents and school officials are obstructed from seeing not only what individuals are saying, but whether a school or district has active (and perhaps negative or dangerous) activity. Again, there’s many other sites where a student can complain about teachers or others at their school. But with these, there’s a transparency which permits observation and monitoring by adults. With After School, this appears to be deliberately blocked.

There’s more to this article of value and importance, so I urge you to make it a “long read” this weekend.