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Category Archives: Tech

Scan Ship Sell Easy? (Nope)

We’ve all seen the adverts over the past few years, simply scan your item’s barcode, box it up and the courier chappy with a cheery smile will collect it and ping, money appears into your account. It’s a great way to sustainably handle your unwanted items, it’s easy to use and sounds all very shiny.

Yeah. Right. Now regular readers will know I am highly dubious of anything that describes itself as ‘easy’, ‘simple’, ‘quick’, ‘straightforward’ etc. with my impending move, knowing I will have to be ruthless with the cull, I thought using these options would make disposal of my books, cds and DVD’s reasonably pain free.

I should have trusted my gut 🤦‍♀️

I am already in an emotional turmoil, feeling overwhelmed with all that has to come together before this impending move. While BFF was here we went through my assorted clutter and I downloaded a few apps to use. It was a nightmare! The first hurdle is that the scanner works so quickly, without realising I’d scanned the same thing multiple times because you’re not sure whether the darned thing had scanned the bar code or not (some apps are better than others). Then there are the number of items it rejects because either it doesn’t recognise the barcode or it announces with sniffy attitudes “We are not interested in this item at present”. But by far the most utterly diabolically demoralising aspect of the process was the pittance they offered.

More than half of my collection of media was rejected. What it did accept they were offering prices between 4pence and £1. Out of 70+ items it graciously accepted I had amassed the grand total of less than £15! The potential for insult doesn’t end there, because when you box and send off your goods they then check and ‘adjust’ the offer (downwards) depending on condition. So utterly not worth all the efforts – it’s all going to the local charity shops.

My curiosity got the better of me and went deep diving about the internet. One of my pristine unwrapped DVD’s specials was being sold for £12 and I was offered just 27p……..that’s taking the ‘p’.

I hate all this.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2022 in Books, Films, General, Grumble, Life, Tech

 

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Where’s The Catch??

Now I’m a suspicious old cynic, even on a good day. I am wary of anything that preports to be ‘quick’, ‘easy’ or ‘simple’. Offers that scream savings must be combed through for the slightly hidden, mildly expensive add one or the exclusion clauses. I’m sure it’s as a result of being picked on by people one moment and quietly befriend by them later when I was at school. But I am baffled…..stumped…..blind even to this. I just cannot see the catch.

Sky is my broadband and phone provider, I don’t have them for television because I cannot have a dish on my property. Like with all these things it is part of a fixed term contract and my eighteen month contract is due to expire.

As a ‘valued customer’ they emailed me to let me know the contract was up for renewal and whether I would like to resubscribe for another eighteen months and what it would cost using the same package I currently have. It also detailed what it would cost if I do nothing and let the contract expire.

Do I want a new contract at £27 per month (£10 set up + £8pm discount) ….. or ….. no contract at £25 per month (£5pm discount)

Where is the catch ….. if I ‘do nothing’ somehow it’s £2 a month cheaper ….. my suspicion alarm is going mad, wee-warr-woo-ing at mega decibel level, with flashing lights visible to Mars ….. how can that be?

This will require very, very, very careful watching and considering.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2021 in General, Tech

 

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Spring Like A March Hare

I say spring, more like enthusiastically lurch……. well I say enthusiastically but it’s more like begrudgingly shuffle…….. hmm begrudgingly that’s on point and shuffle, hmm yeah, kind of outch, dawdle, mosey.

Whether it is the decline of my physical abilities, the endless endurance of the shielding lockdown, the cold fingers of winter or a mix of it all, I cannot seem to shake off the shackles of winter oppression and awaken, find the joy in things, the pleasures in purpose, everything feels exhaustingly ::sigh:: As I said to BFF I cannot be bothered to be bothered.

There are the tentative hints of improvement. Doesn’t it make the day seem nicer when there is sunshine? It has an extra energy, almost an optimism. So in that fashion one might dare to tackle a bit of a to-do list.

  • Add crochet border to red cat blanket
  • Start the Alan Davies book
  • Check domain registry dates
  • Go through iTunes genre
  • File images accumilated

A chunk of that involves my desk, which is dependent on who my carers are and the times they are due here. Plus the sitting position isn’t the most comfortable.

The ‘remote’ app on the iPad that controls iTunes on my Mac is working really well, but as I scroll about trying to decide what I feel like listening to I find I tend to choose a genre and let the device shuffle. When I am at the desk I usually select an album or artist to listen to. As I think I have mentioned before my choice can be influenced by what I am doing, classical while html coding, rock/metal while photo editing, Rhythm/blues while dealing with accounts and numbers, etc. The automated comes-when-you-upload info of a cd can be a little odd, there are a few tweaks I would like to make and there are those with no genre tagged at all. Hardly a vital necessary task but it fills the time, like finding album covers and adding those.

My original iPad (gen1) has been struggling to deal with life for a while. When I purchased my new one I repurposed the old one to the bedroom for iPlayer, radio, audiobook usage, but many of the apps need an operating system it cannot cope with so I was using the browser, but even that struggled. Anywho, I took the decision to buy a refurbished one from MusicMagPie, it came today and so far so good. I’ve spent a couple of hours setting up and logging in, tweaking to my preferences, selecting display images etc.

Must think of more to blog about so it’s not eons again before I text lyrical.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2021 in General, Music, Tech

 

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Small Change, Profound Difference

It is not often I extoll the virtues of technology and it’s even more rare for such to bring a tear to the eye. Let me explain.

Across the decades I have amassed a significant music collection on my Mac, a mixture of uploaded cd’s, downloaded purchases from Amazon/iTunes and independent offerings. If I was to press play and let it run on unabashed it would take a month to get through. When I was spending every morning at my desk I could merrily listen to my tunes, mixing Mozart with Madness, a touch of Mancini mingled with Marmalade, Zakk moshing with ZZ Top, as I whittled some html coding, wrangled a bit of number crunching, wrestled with photo editing and such like. It was entertaining and uplifting, seeing as my brain seems to be mostly filled with lyrics and set to Kareoke mode.

With the loss of my mobility I became separated from this mentally motivating activity and I have so missed it, time spent at my desk has become seriously dwindled. I had considered streaming services but felt resentful at having to pay money to hear music I have already spent monies upon.

I had procrastinated about searching for an answer, I had dawdled over posting on the MacForum for a suggestion. I had hoped Siri could help but my Mac is too old. I started seeing adverts for the new HomePod mini and the sown seed slowly germinated, maybe one of these could access and play my music. It spurred me on to ask on the forum if this could work with my particular kit, I hit publish and waited for a potentially helpful reply.

To my delight and surprise a helpful bod answered my post and introduced me to the app “iTunes Remote” as a potential solution. Google and I spent an evening reading and researching, could this be the answer? Could it really be that straightforward? Well, dear reader, in short, yes!

So yesterday after carer had positioned me at my desk I set to. Slightly pessimistic because things that class themselves as quick or easy rarely are. I followed the instructions with a tingle of anticipatory expectation.

  • App Store, download free app iTunes Remote to iPad
  • Open app, select manual set up (4-digit code appears)
  • Open music app on Mac
  • From Devices list select iPad
  • Enter iPads 4-digit code
  • Done, sorted, connected.

It really was that easy!!!

Okay so far so good…..but…….. now to test the theory. From the iPad app I selected a track and hit play and music sprung forth from my Mac ✅ …… I adjusted the volume, skipped forward and backward. Alright…..but…… I put my Mac to sleep, counted to twenty, opened the app and selected a track and again the swinging piano vibes exuded from my dozing Mac ✅✅. Right then, the big test, shut down and restart both the Mac and the iPad, open app and select a tune, without hesitation the dulcet tones of the lyrical warbler wafted across the room ✅✅✅. Another test, this morning I opened the app and selected a play list annddd it’s playing ✅✅✅✅.

I am reconnected to my music, my smile could not be wider, I’m busting my (sat down) moves, twerking so much I’m gonna give my buttocks whiplash, I have gone from famine to feast ….. so much choice, it’s almost overwhelming. Brain is fizzing as it sings along to tracks it hasn’t heard for years.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2020 in Music, Review, Tech

 

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Behind The Screen

This blog is a little different to my usual because it is being written with the intention of adding a link elsewhere to try and explain/highlight what has happened ‘behind the screen’ to bring a web page together.

As some may know I administrate, edit and manage a web site about a particular musician and have done for many many years. It is an on-going, complex, multi-layered learning experience that gathers information into one place. I do it for my own satisfaction, to have a one-stop place that collates his work, for the fans and those interested to visit. Yes, it costs me money, but what hobby doesn’t.

Recently he was interviewed by Dom Familaro for The Sessions Artist Series published to YouTube. If you are interested in the workings of the music industry, the various musicians that back, support, perform with many A-list names, perhaps you play an instrument, these interviews are entertaining and interesting to hear so many peoples different life stories, how music became their profession and where that profession has taken them and things they’ve learnt and experienced on the way. But I digress…..

The website has a few interview transcripts and it occurred to me that even though YouTube has the ‘captions’ option (akin to on the go subtitles in language of your choice), there is still a section of the world wide audience who are missing out, so I decided to transcribe the thirty-eight minute interview and find a way it can be translated, thus broadening it’s reach. Sounds reasonably straightforward, doesn’t it. Ha!

Step 1. Using a mix of shorthand, speed writing and longhand I begin taking down the dialogue. Gone are the days when I could audio-type thanks to my depleted dexterity. So it’s listen intently, stop video, write, reread, rewind and listen again, correct script, add punctuation. Continue to listen, pause it, write it down, check it, relisten to the passage, make corrections and proceed ….. you get the idea. It took a few days, working an hour or two per day.

Step 2. Thanks to my muscle disease rendering my fingers/hands/wrists so weak the easiest way to transcribe the written word is to use dictation, no more confidently typing at between 70-75 wpm for me anymore. I create a fresh document, hit the microphone and speak clearly, deciphering my scrawl as I go. Stopping after a couple of paragraphs to read over the dictation, correct the errors, add the punctuation, capitalise names etc. Hit save and carry on. It takes a couple of days but at the end there are nine pages of crisp type, each paragraph a persons dialogue, all checked, proofed and corrected.

Step 3. Now it gets a little technical because I need to add the HTML tags that make it show on the eventual web page. Each paragraph needs a <p> at the beginning. It makes visual sense to have the interviewers dialogue in a different colour to the interviewees, so I add a font=“colornumber” to those lines. I also have to add the speakers name to each paragraph to make it easier to follow who is saying or asking what. So that’s added, all in capitals for emphasise.

Step 4. Using a specific software program I create the webpage, it’s basic style set to match the myriad of pages already there. I add the techie bit of code to embed the YouTube video, making sure it sits comfortably and is the correct size. I add the tab heading and explanation. Then in chunks I add the coded interview transcription. Crossing my fingers I hit the ‘test’ function to see what it looks like as a web page. I am reasonably pleased with the result except the colour is way way off, neon lime green, the hex code is a shade of red! Hmm……that needs investigating, it works on other pages already published.

Step 5. Thanks to an excellent web site that walks you through, teaches and shows how to grapple with HTML coding I can put together the five or six lines of instruction to add a button to bring up a menu of languages that Google will then translate the whole page. Wow! I add it at the top of the transcription coding and hit ‘test’. It’s there, and what’s more……it works! Victory! By chance it answers my query about the text colour coding, I think the issue is that versions of HTML change things, and that’s what has happened here, the code for changing the font colour is now a script command within the <p> notation, so I will need to put together the new bit of code, then copy and paste it at the beginning of each of the interviewers dialogue.

Step 6. I confidently upload the new page to the server, add the link to the main media page so viewers can get to it and voila….well no, not quite yet, actually. I forgot the special text snaffoo, you see when you type characters like & ( ‘ ) “ and then copy/paste them into a coding page, things go a little bit odd, it turns a ‘ into ’ . So I need to go through the entire transcript and remove the gobbledygook and replace the appropriate punctuation mark.

Next time I am at my desk, I will have to go through the coding, change the font colour code and correct the ‘ (oh I hope the find and replace will help me). That a rough idea of what is involved for just one page. I intend to add the translation script to every page of the site, a mere thirty or so. Like the Forth Bridge, there is always something that needs working on to improve.

Link to the interview ….. The Sessions Artist Interview

Link to the website http://www.stcgibb.com

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2020 in Music, people, Tech, Website

 

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Bactrian Conspires

Wednesday, often referred to as hump day, and I have the right ‘ump with this particular Wednesday, it’s not so much a Dromedary and much more a Bactrian of humps.

I mused this morning that today I would upgrade the OS on the iMac to the new Catalina. The timing was right, I’d time-machine backed up after the photo job was done, as well as external drive saved the valuable folders. I clicked the magic button and set it going, just one hour to download, followed by one and half hours to install and a further thirty minutes to set-up. Now that doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Just before Noon a four note trill sounded from the bedroom. Hmm, odd, that’s the sound the phone makes when you place it in the charger. Trill, weird was there a brief power cut, but everything else is working. TrillTrillTrill. Okay that’s more than a power out, it’s going crazy. TrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrillTrill non-stop and my next care visit would not be until 2:50, three hours of this four note TrillTrillTrillTrill that cannot be drowned out by music because the iMac is updating……… it’s like when the smoke alarm battery fades and you have to wait for a bod with step ladder.

After the install and set-up my computer ever so kindly informed me that some of the apps may not be supported by the upgrade. Hmm, well that all depends which ones. I perused the list and most seemed to be to do with the printer survey and compare list, all good. But oh hang on …. bummage ….. those two apps I use a lot, the one I use to write the HTML for the website and the one I use to organise and upload the photo albums to the web site. Whilst finding another HTML editor is not exactly difficult the photo albums one is, because it is essentially discarding all the work done over the past sixteen years and starting from scratch, again. Put that on the “projects” list. *sigh*

Carer came to the rescue taking the phone out of the cradle, whoohoo, bliss. We scuttle through to the kitchen to fire up the slow cooker, she went to open a draw and it wouldn’t budge ‘something’ was stopping it, I could barely get my fingers between the draw front and the work top. I teased out a plastic bag but there was something solidly jamming it, most likely the foil or cling film boxes. Grrr, between the two of us and the handle of the wooden spoon we managed to get it open, another to-do job, reorder that draw (there’s not a lot in it).

Not sure if today is the wisest day to try a new slow cooker recipe.

Is it bed time yet?

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2019 in General, Grumble, Life, Tech

 

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Pic App-titude

Way back I blogged a list of project jobs, one was the ‘ list Mac jobs’ which involved going through the iMac, my iPads, the external hard drive and flash drives, resorting, relabelling, reorganising all the various files, folders, media (music, movie snips, videos) and documents, the biggest job being the reconfigurations of photos.

When I first started keeping photographs on a computer a mere nineteen years ago, I applied my usual office organisation skills and had folders titled with the event, within was a folder containing the originals and a second folder for any that had been edited for whatever reason, made into collages etc. Slowly the collection grew and I began keeping a back-up on a flash drive and when the collection got considerably larger on an external hard drive.

Then I switched over to iMac with its useful (to some degree) iPhoto app. Initially this piece of kit automatically synced all photos anywhere and lumped them in, to then be divided into ‘events’, later also ‘albums’ and finally the annoying adage of ‘faces’ (it scanned your photos and tagged familiar faces). But the downside was that the photo was held in its library and not as an accessible file somewhere, some events had multiples of the same photo but different size or quality but the info was not instantly there for comparison.

Apple, in their questionable wisdom, revamped and released a new image handling app called “Photos” (dropped the i and added the s, bet that was an intense creative meeting). This new app added in the iPhoto library but as a separate folder and again the individual images had all their info hidden. Also I keep an archive of photos relevant to another project and use the file name as info and sometimes keep a second copy with the relevant ©️ info added for uploading to the web. I didn’t get on with this Mac method of handling images and preferred to keep some photos in organised files and some I uploaded to add to similar albums in either iPhoto or photos. It sounds messy doesn’t it? It is!

So, I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in, I ‘exported’ each album to a folder on the desktop from both iPhoto and Photo, renamed them with the relevant info (exporting creates a whole new image and doesn’t carry over the originals metadata info, nor useful file name). Copied those kept as standard files in my documents into their relevant folders. Upload photos from my old iPad and my iPad Air, named them and sorted them.

The question now was duplicates. I needed a bit of kit to sort through each folder individually and across several folders to highlight any duplicates and show me the details (where it is, what size it is, what file type) so I can decide whether to delete or keep it. After asking Google and checking the App Store reading the reviews I settled on one. Prepped and ready I went through each separate album and then the complete library and was rather impressed that there had not been hundreds to check and check again. Hmm, a seed of niggling doubt crept it. I opened an album “MIAMI 2003” and skimmed through the individual folders, and found a significant number of duplicates! What!! A duplicate finder that didn’t find duplicates, I tweaked the preferences but still it did not find all the obvious duplicates. Back to Google, read more reviews, but I have not run the folders through it yet. I’ve already spent four desk sessions on the job, I’ll leave that for tomorrow. And I’m yet to start on the archive catalogue!

Still, it’s been pleasant flipping through all these photos, being reminded of things I’ve been to, realising what a bad choice that hair or clothes were, coming across that hidden gem.

We have this technology to quickly, easily snap away but do we ever take the time to flip through an album and revisit a memory.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2019 in Life, Projects, Tech

 

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It’s one of those Monday’s, that’s why

Technology is bad enough when it complies with our instructions, but it turns into a belligerent stroppy over tired toddler when it decides to be awkward.

Today I wanted to print off some notices for Big Sis’s ‘reflections’ service, she was adamant she didn’t want any fuss or funeral. I had spent Saturday working on the layout and wording, finding one of the very elusive photos of her and refining it for my purpose. Sent it off to BFF because I always miss something when proofing etc. Left it alone to give one final check over before printing it off, showed bro-in-law and hit the print button.

Printer chugged and clunked, whirred and span eventually printing out the test go, but the picture came out oddly coloured. Damn, colour cartridge must be super low. Discovered how to pull printer apart, remove cartridges and dispatch Bro-in-law to remortgage my hovel for a replacement. He was delayed getting back to mine as the police closed my cul de sac as an elderly gent had collapsed mid street and there were police cars and ambulances galore.

We attacked the razor sharp finger slicing packaging and extricated the cartridge and reinserted into its little housing compartment. Click, clunk, all done. Hit print and ……. flashing lights. *sigh*. We fiddled and bodged, I googled and “ah-ha’d”. According to the manufacturers website the domeflotchy (I am fully conversant with the tech terms) that senses whether it’s the correct cartridge and ink levels doesn’t work after the first lot of cartridges are removed but there is a work around, just hold this button for 15 seconds and presto the flashing lights will cease. So I did and they didn’t. *sigh*.

I disconnected everything, unplugged everything, uninstalled printer from my computer. Drank my (second) coffee. Plugged everything back in, turned on the printer and ……. light still flashing. *sigh*. So I hit print anyway, and it printed it out.

Of course I knew it was going to be one of those sorts of Mondays when I woke up, every hour or so from 1:15am, as I floated around the bed in a sweaty menopausal hot flush, as I turned over and neck made an awful crunch sound, when I poked my eye as I was sponging my face, when I clumped my funny bone on the desk draw.

I want to curl up on the sofa with buttered toasted crumpets, but with my luck today I’d set off my new ear piercing smoke alarm (installed by two very tall svelte firefighters).

Still, I almost managed to order Big Sis’s coffin topper spray of flowers coherently, only cracking up into a few tears as I read out the wording for the two cards. Not a phone call I ever wanted to make but the lovely lady was most patient and concerned to get everything ‘just right’.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in Grumble, Tech

 

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Reporting Menacing Phish


Well, it’s not exactly what I had planned for my afternoon.  Firstly, I am fine, these things don’t bother me.

Today I was intending to do a spot of cyber housework (it’s easier than off screen house work). I logged into the server and headed to the emails, a mixed bunch of fan query, fan fawning and spam, but there was one that caught attention.  I knew it was phishing for personal details, financial fraud, general trickery but it was the manner and topic that was a little different.  It threatened to release to all my contacts a video of me that was sexually explicit, as well as pornographic images and spread rumour of deviancy with children unless I sent x-thousand via Bitcoin to a specified account.  The hacker generously explained how the deadline could be extended and even bragged about being able to hide his identity, seek sanctuary from all laws because they were not in my country, and that any ‘federal’ involvement would mean the stuff would be circulated immediately.

As this particular webmail client is tricky to manage, junk wise, I get regular emails from phishing fake accounts trying to get me to click a link, rearrange courier delivery, download court non-payment papers, etc.  Apart from being quite a savvy person, I know these are scams as the email address isn’t really used for anything other than web site business, so they get deleted and a new junk filter created to redirect others.

However, the particularly articulate, menacing, intimidating language of this email made me stop and think, hmmm I can fully see why the more nervy would fall for this, panic and stress over this, maybe send funds, even if they are completely innocent of all allegations (mud sticks and all that), so I decided to file a report with the Cyber Crimes people.  It was very straight forward, we shall see what occurs (if anything).

Well, well, hmm, there ya go!

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in General, In The News, Tech, Website

 

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User Interface Stuck


Back a few posts ago I had set a to-do list with a completion date of before BFF’s visit ….. Let’s evaluate…..

  1. Research and write the new article
  2. Upgrade video player (current one doesn’t handle mobile devices)
  3. Rework each video file/page
  4. Upload everything to the server and publish
  5. Update back-up drives 1 and 2 (I’m not loosing all that hard work)

1. The new article is written but it needs putting into an HTML format and a couple of things are needed from third parties before publishing – not done yet.

2. Website video – with the introduction of html5 a new coding method can be used, but it needs the videos to be in three different formats and uploaded to the server, time consuming – each video has been converted into the three types, I am currently still uploading, one set at a time.

3.  Video pages – in order not to get lost as not everything can be done at one go at the desk, I update the pages as the trio of files are uploaded. So the review pages additions are done, the YouTube embedded ones are done, a couple of short interview segments are done, just the longer interview videos needs to be done…… so almost but not quite.

4.  Uploading is done gradually as each page/video is completed…. so on-going.

5.  This plan was expanded as there was an operating system upgrade, so total system back up, download and install OS upgrade, then after satisfied everything is as it should be another total system back up.  Now just need to do the secondary specific files back up (hey better to have two back ups, just in case, mild paranoia is sometimes wise).

HOWEVER :: I did finish a cat blanket and am halfway through a second.

Harnessing and fanning motivation is still an incredibly difficult thing, I ‘need’ to spend more time at my desk, I ‘need’ to not be disheartened by the faff of shuffling on the chair from desk to sofa and focus more on the enjoyment/accomplishment/occupation of being at my desk.  When every single element of everything I try and do involves an ever growing degree of struggle, and having to juggle how much time spent on job ‘A’ before impacting on necessary job ‘B’, it’s so much easier just to roll over and snuggle under the duvet where I’m pain free, struggle free, discomfort free and toasty warm.

Could do better, my dear, procrastinating isn’t going to motivate the mentals or bring satisfaction.  

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2018 in General, Projects, Tech, Website

 

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