Sea Life and how to make a GIF in two easy steps

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Beneath Your Feet.”

You know those five-second videos that loop endlessly? They used to make me crazy because they caused my first laptop to overheat.

Well …


Gull goes wild for something underfoot. Whatever it is, it must be good.

Want a looping video of your own? It’s easy. As one expert put it “even a Mom can do it.” It’s true.

The format is called GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, pronounced “jiff.” It compresses images and videos so they take almost no time to transfer from one site to another.

How to do it: (1) Download one of the free apps — I used “Gifrocket“–  drag it to the desktop. (2) Drag your short video into the box where indicated.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 1.57.48 PM

Bing! Within seconds a looping gif file appears on the desktop. Not amazing quality, but fine for the average blogger, twitterer, redditer. If you want fancy, you’ll need to learn to use Photoshop.

And now, after all that frenetic bird activity, visual relief. Hello sea anemones.


Amazing how two centimeters of water turns a slime doughnut into a temptress.

So lovely. So benign. A Venus Flytrap has nothing on these babies. Ulp.

Happy GIF-ing. And watch your step.

Apologies to those whose old laptops are overheating.

Fine Print: Take three steps before you “Agree” to Terms of Service

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Inspiration.”

An inspiring reading of the opening of iTune’s user agreement:

(Or click here.)

Do you read Terms of Use before downloading apps and updates?

step6 (1)

Yep. Read every word.

If not, you’re not alone. One company hid a clause in its license agreement promising a thousand dollars to the first person to find it and contact them. Three thousand downloads and four months later, someone finally claimed the prize.

The iTunes agreement is fifty eight snoring pages long. PayPal? Longer than Romeo and Juliet. To read the fine print in privacy agreements that most of us agree to each year (forget Terms of Service Agreements, End User License Agreements and Licensing Contracts), it would take a month. So, we don’t.

Does it matter? Maybe.

What’s in there:

1. If anything goes wrong it’s not the company’s fault. 

Take WordPress, the application that hosts my blog.

Limitation of Liability. In no event will Automattic, or its suppliers or licensors, be liable with respect to any subject matter of this agreement under any contract, negligence, strict liability or other legal or equitable theory for:  …  interruption of use or loss or corruption of data …    Item 18, WordPress “Terms of Service.”

Translation: If my blog posts disappear, it’s not WordPress’s fault and they are under no obligation to recover them.

2. Definitions. Property law, statutes of limitations and other such language. For instance, as iTunes agreement explains, when you buy a song you don’t own the music any more than you own the words in The Sorcerer’s Stone. You have a right to play the music, on certain devices. That’s it.

3. Privacy Agreement. You agree to be tracked online, in exchange for whatever is on offer — template, article, software update, game. Also explains how your privacy is protected, but hackers can get into just about anything. So can the CIA.


Most of the language is as benign as it is mind-numbing, but to avoid losing data, getting ripped off or getting your computer gummed up with spyware, take these three steps:

(1) See if someone else has summarized/condensed the agreement in plain English. Useful resources: “ToS:DR” (Terms of Service: Didn’t Read), rates and lists key features of agreements for many companies. Here’s a summary of iTunes’ terms (a little dated, but still shows highlights). Here’s a warning that PayPal may be tricking customers. 

(2) Watch out for sites you’ve never heard of. If it’s a scam, someone has probably written about it online, so take time to research.

(3) Don’t leave your credit card number, or a large balance that can be drawn from. Don’t give out your Social Security number, ever, to anyone other than the IRS.


Photo Credit: HubSpot at

Still not inspired? Take it away, South Park:

Tech for Troglodytes — Four Steps to Add Accents and Foreign Symbols on a Mac


Troglodyte: A person regarded as ignorant or old fashioned. A person who lives in a cave.

How to add accents or other diacritical marks to your text (for Mac users): In our multicultural world, it is not OK to pretend that resume is the same as resumé, or a souffle is a soufflé. But how to remember those blasted keyboard shortcuts? Pay no heed to the experts who tell you to do things like change the language on your keyboard, or use HTML code. Remember the word OPTION.** Option, as in it’s not an option to leave out punctuation, even foreign punctuation. Pushing the OPTION key simultaneously with the letter needing needing augmentation will often provide the symbol or mark you want: Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.43.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.48.00 PM This works with å, é, î, ø, ü and ñ.

4. If “option” doesn’t do it, go to a website like this for Spanish, or this for French. Type what you want, then copy and paste the text into your blog or document.  Voilà.

**P.S. Not all keyboards have an option key. For some it is the “Alt” key, or a symbol which looks like this:

Follow-up Friday: Vanuatu and Hurricane Pam

Some of you were kind enough to leave sympathetic comments in March when the island nation where our daughter is volunteering for the Peace Corps was hit by a Category 5 hurricane.

New crops are in and the capital is undergoing reconstruction.

Dare you to sit still watching this.

(If the link doesn’t work, try this.)


In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Muse.”image

The Eiffel Tower is so mobbed with tourists and pickpockets these days, it’s almost more kitsch than muse. Still, it is one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world, and its profile is linked inextricably with Paris. Inspiring for a structure that was intended to be temporary. When it was first built, many Parisians hated it. Writer Guy de Maupassant used to eat lunch at the base because that was the only place in the city where it didn’t ruin the view.

The tower was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Engineer Maurice Koechlin came up with and refined the design. That didn’t stop his boss, industrialist Alexandre-Gustav Eiffel, from taking all the credit. So much for egalite.

The monument proved its worth as a radio tower, and as a symbol of defiance when resistance fighters cut the elevator cables so that the Nazi occupiers had to climb the stairs. Hitler ordered its destruction, but didn’t get around to tearing it down.

ET, you deserve to be mobbed, and we tourists are justified to be thrilled by the sight, even if it’s just a tip of the tower.


If you squint you can see it.

Ode to Indigo

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “ROY G. BIV.”


ROY G BV? Like Pluto from the planets, indigo has been booted. Some say it should not have been included in the first place.

Isaac Newton is credited with listing the order of the colors in the spectrum of visible light — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

There have been protests about the inclusion of indigo. Indignant, Goethe wrote a book in 1810 describing simple experiments that proved there are three primary colors and three secondary. Indigo didn’t make the cut.

There was speculation that Newton was influenced by the significance of the number seven in the bible, or that he wanted to show the connection between sound waves and light waves, and thus named seven colors to parallel the seven notes in the musical scale.


In any case, indigo’s persistence in the lineup serves as a reminder that visible light is like race: a continuum, not discrete colors; and its beauty gives lie to the notion that the word primary is anything more than a label.


Off Season in Cozumel

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Off-Season.”


In Cozumel, Mexico, off-season means empty streets and empty beaches. Switch the sun screen for an umbrella and you’re good to go.


During the tourist season, cruise ships bring 25,000 visitors every day, to an island with a population of 100,000. During the rainy months that number drops in half, and many passengers stay on board.

Travel tips for off-season Cozumel:

Jim with sharks-2

Rain? Pshaw.

1. Swim. The water is still warm.

2. Visit San Miguel, where most locals live. Waterfront businesses are priced for cruise ship passengers, but a few blocks inland is a vibrant community of shops and businesses, some willing to bargain.


Souvenirs, anyone?

3. Visit the national preserve Punta del Sur at the south end of the island. Miles of undeveloped coastline, large lagoons, complete with crocodiles and flamingos, and a great beach for snorkeling. During high season the place is mobbed by visitors tearing up and down the access road in four wheel drives vehicles. When the weather isn’t so nice, the place empties out.

4. Visit Mayan ruins.


Mayan Temple at San Gervasio. Take the staff up on the offer of mosquito repellent.

5. Sign up for a turtle release party.


Turtles need protection from vultures, feral cats, dogs, poachers and tourists.

Two species, loggerhead and green turtles nest on the island, and several others migrate through and feed in the vicinity. Nesting season runs from May to November. The Parks and Museum Foundation’s Punta Sur Park Turtle Salvation Program, takes visitors out with turtle brigades (maximum of 15) to assist with release of hatchlings, and for study and guard duty. The City of San Miguel’s Volunteer Turtle Salvation Program, also helps protect nesting turtles. Both groups are in need of volunteers and financial support.

6. Eat. Our two favorite restaurants: Kinta Mexican Bistro and Kondesa, owned by chef Kris Wallenta and his brother Jason. Kinta focuses on traditional Mexican flavors and dishes with an imaginative twist — wonderful sauces, cozy setting. Kondesa’s bar opens to a garden restaurant with a zen theme, and it’s menu features locally caught fish. The guak (guacamole) trio appetizer was fantastic.


7. Learn about recent history, politics and environmental issues. Visit the museum, learn about the impact of six boa constrictors released from a film set, of resorts on turtle nesting sites, how the island was affected by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and by the 2008 financial crisis.

8. If all else fails.