I have posted a new videocast
Since I did a review of the GX850 and gave it a pretty good review, I believed it was only right that I gave an update since I returned it. I wanted people to know what happened so that anyone considering this camera can make a decision as to whether it will suit them or not.
The bottom line is that the first one I bought had the touchscreen quit responding. I exchanged it and got another one, and then I noticed the lens motor sounds in my video. They made the camera unusable for my purposes, but there may be some people who can use this despite this issue with the kit lens. A Panasonic engineer said that the noise was part of the normal operation of the camera, so others are likely to experience this.
Another user posted a video with the same issue. Here is the link to that video.
I have posted a new podcast episode.
A popular Lenten devotion series online advertises itself with the line “Don’t give up chocolate for Lent.” I’m sure they had good intentions, and I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that series. However, this is really not a good way to promote your devotion.
The practice of giving something up is valuable. Lent involve prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and giving something up is a good way to practice fasting. I explain more in this episode.
I have heard over the years about different politicians and groups insisting on protecting “access” to contraception as though it were something necessary and hard to obtain. I have also heard all I can stand from people who insist that the new version of “nondiscrimination” is more important than the faith of people who run businesses and provide services. I’ve often thought about how such policies, and especially the actions of our previous administration, would end up limiting the medical profession to people who will essentially follow our culture, preventing people of faith from being able to practice both their faith and a healing profession. I’m glad to see that there still are some people still trying to stand up for the rights of faithful health care professionals.
However, there is another aspect of this that needs to be considered. I have had my fill of media describing women seeking abortion, contraception, or a morning-after pill being made to feel guilty about their “reproductive choices,” but very few in the major media are willing to apply that to faithful Catholic women who wish to embrace the Church’s teaching about openness to life. Where is their “access” to faithful physicians who have a mindset other than the prevailing cultural mindset about families and children? Where is their “access” to an OB / GYN who understands natural family planning? If you want to talk about discrimination, then you should hear the comments these women (including my wife) get when they try to explain that they don’t want contraception.
However, for all the grief they get, at least there is not yet legislation pending to make the teaching of natural family planning illegal or to saddle it with ridiculous requirements. For another group, such laws are in place in some form in a number of states and cities. They city of Toledo, Ohio is the most recent I have seen to ban any form of “conversion therapy” for people with same-sex attraction. Claims you hear are that it protects people, presumably minors, from being forced to undergo supposedly harmful therapy for something that supposedly isn’t a problem. The Toledo version doesn’t appear to be limited to minors, though, as some are.
Well, I really don’t know how well current methods of therapy work for same-sex attraction. Even the NARTH institute is not suggesting that everyone (or even most people) with same sex attraction can completely reorient themselves. Therapy certainly will have no helpful effect on anyone who does not want to change. However, banning all therapy with such a goal sets a dangerous precedent.
What about those people who do want to try and change or reduce unwanted same sex attractions? What option are we leaving them? Some people may be able to do so if they get help before the feelings become deep rooted. Instead, the only “support” option available to them in these jurisdictions is someone who tells them to accept this as who they are and get on with it. The same can also happen to someone who experience discomfort about their gender. They may not have anyone to turn to except people who insist that they believe that they are really a woman in a man’s body or vice versa, and this is who they are.
For their own ideology, the activists are shutting down the scientific inquiry and the treatment choices for people. By doing this, the only freedom or choice they support is for people who fit their ideas. Those of us who want treatments in conformity with our faith may find ourselves out of luck if we don’t do something about it.
Just before Lent, I wanted to get this posted . . .
Last fall, my family and I took a trip to Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia. I managed to take a few minutes away to hike up the mountain, and it’s a beautiful and fun hike. Here I share some footage as well as my comments about the hike.
I have just posted another podcast after a long hiatus. I’m starting my new season.
This one’s really just a brief introduction to what I’m hoping to accomplish with the blog, video, and the podcast. I’ll try to get another episode up later about Lent.
I have been trying to do some things to get in better shape over the last year. One thing I’ve found is that an activity tracker is great to help set a goal and make sure I am reaching it. I have used two different ones, and I thought it would be helpful if I wrote a bit about how they compared. I got the Garmin Vivosmart HR through a rewards program at my work, but I switched to the Fitbit Charge 2 after Christmas. I’ll mention that the Garmin is also available as the Vivosmart HR that also has GPS for those of you who are interested. However, I have never owned one of those, so I’ll be comparing the Vivosmart HR without GPS to the Charge 2.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR feels kind of like a plastic toy. The band is a kind of stretchy rubber, and it didn’t feel as good as the Fitbit on my wrist. The interface, however, is really nice. The screen is always on, and it’s a touchscreen that works like something I’d expect. To go from one screen to the next, just swipe the screen. There’s a backlight if needed, but I turned off the feature that had it come on when I lifted my wrist because it drained the battery too much.
The Garmin measured all the basics like steps taken, floors climbed, and “intensity minutes,” which is the time you spent doing exercise. The step goal started at 7500 steps and increased every time I made it and decreased when I didn’t. There were exercise modes, but they were limited to run, walk, cardio, and other. I liked up the MapMyFitness app from Under Armour, and it would sync the workouts. However, they all came through as generic workout, and I’d have to manually modify them in MapMyFitness. Like the Fitbit Charge 2, it includes a wrist heart rate monitor, but neither device is one that I’d trust to be spot on. Unlike the Fitbit, it actually has a screen where it would show weather from the smartphone. However, I was never sure how often it updated. The battery always seemed to last the five days claimed by Garmin.
When I had first heard of wrist notifications, I didn’t think they would be all that useful. However, the Garmin showed me otherwise. You can configure it to vibrate when you get a notification from your smartphone. However, with an iPhone, it had an all or nothing policy on it. Either I got every notification that came through your phone (including Facebook and the News app), or I didn’t get anything. Sometimes, the device would quit receiving notifications, and I’d have to turn it off and back on. The vibration was something I wouldn’t miss when it went off, but it was so loud that people around me could hear it buzzing. The device has a screen where you can go back and read missed alerts, but it wasn’t the easiest to use due to the small screen. Since I need an alarm on my watch, I was glad it had a silent alarm that is supposed to vibrate on my wrist and wake me up without waking up my wife. However, you are limited to one alarm at a time, and I like having multiple. Also, don’t forget the aforementioned loudness of the alert. I’m not so sure that the alarm always succeeded in not waking up my wife.
When I switched to the Fitbit Charge 2, I noticed right away that it had a more premium look to it, and the band was so much more comfortable on my wrist. The interface took a bit of getting used to. It’s not so much a touchscreen as a “tap screen,” or so I would call it. The display is not always on, so you have to lift your wrist, push the side button, or double-tap the screen to get it to come up. Once you do, if you configuredthe screen a certain way (you can customize it), you can see your steps and heart rate all at once on a well-lit screen. You can tap it to see other statistics. The button on the side lets you go through other menus. However, the lift to see the screen and the tap feature don’t work perfectly. It can be aggravating to have to tap the thing multiple times to get it to work.
Like the Garmin device, the Fitbit Charge 2 measures steps taken, floors climbed, and time spent in exercise. Exercise modes are available for several different exercises, from walking to lifting weights. However, I had to customize the device to get it to track my walking. You can include connected GPS to allow it to connect with your smartphone and map where you went. I use this every time I go for a walk. Both devices automatically detect a lengthy time period spent active, but only the Fitbit stores it in the main exercise part of the app where it’s easily found. The battery seems like it lasted longer than the rated five days, but it takes longer to charge (1 – 2 hours vs 30 minutes) than the Garmin’s battery. I tried to connect it to MapMyFitness twice, but it didn’t work. However, I found that I no longer need MapMyFitness because the Fitbit app does all that I need it to do.
In fact, the Fitbit app is a major strength of the Fitbit system. You can use it to track not only activity synced from the tracker, but it will track calorie intake, water drinking, and how many days a week you exercise. You can set individual goals for each. However, the step goal that it sets is always a static goal. It doesn’t adjust like the Garmin device does. The app is much nicer to use than the Garmin app. I liked how I could just use the device to start a workout, and I could get it into my phone in my workout history without ever having to actually interact with the phone. My iPhone 5S is rather old and getting slower, so this makes it faster for me to start my walk.
The Fitbit Charge 2 does have wrist alerts. Unlike the Garmin, they are limited to call, text, and calendar alerts. Also unlike the Garmin, you can choose to receive any, all, or none of the available types of alerts. If you only want phone call alerts, you can choose to only be alerted when you have a phone call. The Fitbit does have silent (vibrating) alarms as well, and you can set up to eight different ones. The vibration is more subtle than with the Garmin. This means that it won’t alert everyone around you, but it’s more likely that the alert will be missed. I’ve missed my alarm two or three times since I’ve had the Fitbit.
In the end, I’m still using the Fitbit Charge 2, and I like it better. Despite the fact that the tap interface of the Charge 2 isn’t as smooth as I’d like, the iPhone app, exercise tracking, multiple alarms, the ability to limit what alerts I get, and the comfort of the device on my wrist made me decide that it was a good decision to switch. The Garmin is now available at a lower price, and it’s a good option for people who don’t want to spend the extra money. If you are willing to spend the extra (about $50), I think the Fitbit gives a better experience, and I’d recommend it over the Garmin.
I’ve been looking for a compact camera to carry around with me, and at just the right time, Panasonic releases the GX850. I really like Panasonic’s cameras, and this is the second one for me. In fact, I decided I’d do a video review on my YouTube channel. I’ve included both sample video and photos from this camera so you can see how well it does. I think it does pretty well. It seems like it will be a great camera for vlogging, selfies, and travel. Oh, and it can even shoot 4K video in clips of up to 5 minutes long.
UPDATE: I had to exchange the first camera I bought because the touch screen stopped responding. Then, with the second one, I noticed the lens motor in the video, which made it unusable for my purposes. I returned the camera and will be getting something else, and you can see the video I posted about it here.
I was all set to write about the March for Life. As I did this, I wanted to address something that comes across the debate all the time that makes no sense to me. A number of people, many of whom are either pro-abortion, or want to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate (even if personally pro-life) will bring in their views on other social issues. Of course, there are other issues that are legitimate. Of course, we need to have support for mothers facing a difficult pregnancy before and after birth. However, if I have to choose between having legal abortion and more support for pregnant women or having abortion ended but not having it, I am choosing the latter. Saying that we should let the mother kill the child in the womb since that support may not be available is not even close to taking a moral high ground.
I hope that choice won’t be necessary though. If I listen to today’s politics, it almost seems like that is the choice we are given at the voting booth. However, I think there are good pregnancy centers that do provide support, and pro-life people support them out of their own pockets. Not all support has to come from tax dollars. Rather than go further, let me just link to the excellent article that addresses this better.
Well, anyway, the marches that took place in the past week have been crowded out of the news now by Trump’s recent executive order stopping people from certain countries from entering. I’ve read a lot of things written by people from different sides of the issue, and I do think the order was overall problematic. I’m very concerned about how innocent people are being affected by it. However, I’m not the expert on the potential dangers from those particular countries. Innocent people should not be affected, but we also can’t let political correctness keep us from recognizing real threats.
I do want to address an interesting phenomenon among the comments I have seen. Many of the people who are defending Trump would mention something along the same lines that Obama did. The response to this from others is that “just because Obama did it doesn’t make it right.” I think that misses the point. The last thing on earth that Trump defenders would want to convey is that something must be right because Obama did it.
The point they are trying to make is that no one seemed to worry about similar actions taken by Obama, but they demonized Trump for taking the actions that aren’t that far off from what Obama did. Do journalists have short memories? The mainstream media had made a big emotional drama over what Trump is doing, and I’m having a hard time figuring out if I can believe what they say or not. Is Trump really doing bad things, or is the mainstream media going crazy because there is someone in office whom they don’t like. I think his article sums up the issue better than I could.
Then there’s the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She basically disobeyed the president’s order, whether rightly or wrongly. The media are making dramatic statements like “conform or you’re out” or saying that Yates was “treated like someone on The Apprentice.” The issue here is that, had the issue at hand been refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or to provide free contraception in accordance with the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, most of these same people would be saying things like “You can’t pick and choose which laws to obey.” or “Your job is to enforce the law.” So, now the liberals are basically admitting that there are laws that are unjust and therefore should not be followed.
Okay, so maybe this post was a bit winding Its trajectory. I guess this is what happens when I try to blog about news events, and then I get behind. I meant to post days ago but haven’t had the chance. Next post, I’ll try a technology topic instead.
Inauguration Day has come and gone now. Donald Trump has won in an election that was a pretty big upset. Now, he is officially the President of the United States. To be honest, I am much happier about him winning that I would have been about Hillary Clinton, and I am really glad Obama has left office. Still, I am not about to embrace Trump as the savior of our country. I do think there are valid concerns remaining about what he will do.
Clinton was guaranteed to continue the cultural revolution of Obama that would ensure that, ultimately, those who wish to live Christian morality would be reduced to second class citizens at best. I have seen things under Obama that I would have dismissed as paranoia when he first got elected. Just look at the this report from the US Civil Rights Commission (PDF file format) if you don’t believe me. If you think that Trump will do little to stop abortion, you may be right. The catch is that Clinton was guaranteed to work to promote the pro-abortion agenda, including appointing pro-abortion Supreme Court justices. However, one thing that remains to be seen is whether Trump will keep his promise and appoint a pro-life justice to the bench to replace Justice Scalia. Hopefully, he will do so soon, and, with it, work to protect human life. Hopefully, he will work to protect religious liberty even if he has no desire to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges.
This isn’t my only concern. On the day of his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order which shows that he is serious about dismantling the Affordable Care Act. I do know that there are people who have benefitted greatly from having obtained coverage. I also think that having an insurance marketplace is a good idea. My concern is not so much about the law being repealed. It’s that the law will be repealed without something better to replace it. Mr. Trump sure seems to be in a hurry to dismantle it. This would leave people who do benefit without access to care, and that is not acceptable!
With that being said, I strongly believe that Obamacare will fail in the long run if left standing. We are already seeing premium increases and insurance companies exiting the markets because they were losing money. Eventually, it will become costly enough that it will no longer be affordable for anyone. Deductibles are also quite high, and this is a problem even for people with employer-based plans. I have heard a number of stories of people who have insurance struggling to get health care or having to choose between health care and other necessities because their deductibles are too high. Add to this the draconian contraceptive coverage mandate that would make it impossible for a Catholic like me to own a business and provide health insurance for employees. The fines for not providing free contraceptives were crippling and were many times higher than the fines for not providing coverage at all. We do need something better, and I hope we get it and not just a repeal. For the record, though, I believe that a single-payer program would be a disaster in this country.
Another concern that I have is how well he will handle immigration. I believe that the statements that he is racist, xenophobic, or even fascist are an exaggeration. I also don’t see anything wrong with building a wall to secure our border (though no one should expect Mexico to pay for it). However, those who are here should be treated with compassion, even if here illegally. Many are escaping a bad situation, and this needs to be considered. The way legal immigration is handled could use some work, too.
I could name other issues as well that I hope are not brushed aside. Knowing many of the comments be made, we have to wonder if he will get our country in big trouble. Regardless of what you think about the “women’s march” that is going on, I hope that you realize that his previous comments about women completely unacceptable. When confronted, I would rather he would have at least said that they don’t represent who he is today rather than having dismissed them as “locker room talk.” Even if he had, there would still be cause for concern.
All of this is written to remind everyone who supported Trump (or at least didn’t support Clinton) that legitimate issues exist. We can’t just ignore them and think everything will be ok. We can’t just declare victory even though one threat has been stopped. It’s time to keep praying. Pray for our president and our country!
A priest once observed made the observation of me that I use technology to simplify my life. Indeed, I do. I bought my first iPod because I didn’t want to carry around a bunch of CDs or mess with having to burn a collection (which is what I had just showed the priest). I got my first Palm device just for fun in 2003 (Wow, I’m dating myself!), but I quickly made use of it so that I didn’t have to keep up with contacts and notes on paper. I’ve read a number of parent and/or Catholic blogs that talk about the problems with technology use. I don’t see quite as much on how we can make good use of it.
So, I want to present four things that have helped me in the past year. These were not new this past year, but I just got to where I found a use for them. It’s kind of like the iPad, on which I am writing this, When I first learned of it, I didn’t think it would be helpful to me. Now, I hardly know what I did before I had it.
The first thing I’ll share is my secret to getting blog posts written because I love to share my “secrets” of his type. I am using an app called iA Writer. The app has been around, and I’ve had it for a few years. Last year, it got some major updates, including the ability to post to WordPress. It also has a new file view that lists all my compositions, and it has really good iCloud syncing. This means that I can start a post on my iPad while sitting up in bed, like I am as I write this sentence. Then, I can go up and continue on my iMac, and later I can make some final edits on the iPhone. The document is ready on any Apple device. I can also sync to Dropbox if I choose. It has been a few hours since I wrote the first draft on my iMac, and now I’m typing this sentence on my iMac. Once I am done, I can use any one of the devices to send the document to WordPress, where I can edit it further or just post it.
Second on my list is a fitness tracker. I have been using a Garmin Vivosmart HR but plan to switch to Fitbit. I used to wonder what was the point of these, but now I am trying to exercise and just be more physically active in general. The device gives me a good indication of how I have been doing on a particular day. The device also sets a goal for me to try and reach each day. This shows me how much I’ve been active lately and whether to keep going as I am or to make time for some extra physical activity. There’s an added bonus here, too. It gives me wrist notifications from my iPhone. At one time, I wondered what was the point of that as well, but I keep almost always my phone on vibrate and often cannot feel it in my pocket when it “rings.” The wrist notifications keep me from missing my wife’s calls and messages.
So, maybe you’d like to know why I am switching to Fitbit. There are a few reasons. First, the Fitbit iPhone app is better. It has a lot more useful tracking features and is more efficient to use. Second, the wrist notifications on the Garmin are an all-or-nothing thing. Either it gets every alert from my iPhone, or it gets nothing. I only want my calls and texts and maybe calendar notifications. I don’t need Facebook or YouTube alerts on my wrist. Fitbit lets me have only those alerts that I want. Third, the Fitbit allows me to set multiple alarms. The Garmin allows only one, and I have to set it to go off every day or every weekday. Finally, the Fitbit just looks better. I debated between the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Blaze. I wanted to go with the Blaze but had concerns about its design quirks. For the Blaze, you have to remove the tracker from the band to charge, and the mechanism for doing so looks like it might not hold up over time. So, I’m going with the Charge 2. One tip is to look for one at allows you to change the band. These expensive trackers shouldn’t have to be replaced because the band wears out.
The third thing I have discovered is an app called Simplenote. I’m not sure how long it has been around, but I heard about it on someone’s YouTube. To be honest, it is mostly plain text with clunky markdown support. When you preview your markdown, line breaks get removed. It’s strength lies in the ability to sync very, very quickly and its compatibility with several platforms (Mac, iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux). Oh, and it’s free!
I mainly use Simplenote to store notes that I need on any device, but I found another use for it as well. Since my iMac is too old for the universal clipboard feature of MacOS Sierra, this becomes an easy way to copy text from one device to another. I paste from my iPhone into Simplenote, and it’s available on my Mac literally within seconds. I can then move the text wherever it needs to go on the Mac. Also, compatibility with multiple operating systems means that I can use it even if I completely change platforms in the future. Oh, and did I mention that it is free?
Well, my last pick is not free, and it’s actually pretty expensive for what it does. It has been around for years, but I have just started using it. It’s an app called Things. It has now become my main to do list. It has also helped me get things done that I have been forgetting about for a long time.
The beauty of the app is it’s organizational power. I can create a single task or a project with multiple sub tasks. However, unlike reminders, I can’t set it to send me a pop up at a certain time which I will then dismiss and forget about. Instead, it has a Today list that I check daily. When I create a task, I specify a due date, and then I tell it how many days before then to start showing in the today list. There is another list called Next that shows me all my pending tasks separated by an area of responsibility that I assign. If I don’t even want it to appear there because I can’t possibly do it yet (such as a car tag renewal that can only be done so many days in advance), I can put it on a Scheduled list and set a date for it to move to the Next list. There is also a Someday list for things that I hope to do but can’t now and an Inbox for things I want to categorize later.
It is now part of my morning routine to review the list with emphasis on the Today list. They have a syncing service, so it syncs between my Apple devices. The main downside of the app for me is that I had buy it separately for iPhone and iPad. The Mac app is quite expensive at $50, but many productivity apps are either just as expensive or require the purchase of a subscription for full features.
So, these are the tech picks that I have begun to use and found helpful. It’s now almost bedtime, and I am back on the iPad editing the final draft on my iPad using iA Writer. It’s time for me to post this. Then again, if you are reading this, I already did.
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