School Daze

Craig at OC Succulents

Today I registered for Spring classes at UCI (University of California, Irvine). I’ll be taking two classes: Online Analytics and Measurement and Website Optimization and Personalization. My first course (Planning and Developing Your Search Engine Marketing Strategy) starts in a couple of weeks. All of the classes count toward an Internet Marketing certificate. I’m looking forward to putting into practice what I learn in class and the textbooks.

On the way home from UCI, Craig and I stopped at OC Succulents, one of Craig’s favorite nurseries, where he picked up a couple of succulents that aren’t currently part of his collection of 2,000+ succulents and cacti.

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After my last blog entry, I quickly realized that the 13-inch MacBook Pro I had purchased for school and work wasn’t sufficient to do the things I needed it to do, like run graphic design programs or edit video. The screen size was limited, too, but a bigger problem was that the computer was slow and hot. So we went back to Apple and upgraded to a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. The bigger MacBook feels perfect now–faster processor, more RAM and a bigger screen. I’m really happy with the new Mac.

I do feel some eyestrain and have been wondering if computer glasses would help me. My current reading glasses and far-sighted glasses aren’t the right strength for computer use. If you have any experience with computer glasses, please let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year!

IMG_9717The year 2015 was a good year, but I’m always glad to start the new year and have a clean slate in front of me. It’s my favorite holiday. For once, I didn’t set any New Year Resolutions, although I have some general goals (like “blog more often”).

One big change for 2016 is that I’ll soon be taking classes in Internet Marketing through UC Irvine. I’m starting off in February with a class called Planning and Developing Your Search Engine Marketing Strategy. I’m excited to get going with classes and start applying what I’m learning.

In preparation for school, today I purchased my first Mac ever! I’m currently typing this on a MacBook Pro with Retina display. It’s a 13.3-inch laptop, and I’m really happy with the size.

So feel free to hold me to the “blog more” resolution (shouldn’t be hard to do considering how little I blogged in 2015!). Did you set resolutions this year? Please share in the comments!


Do You Have a Visiting Card?

Not so long ago, gentlemen and ladies had what was known as a calling card. On it would be their name, and they could present this card to servants or directly to another lady or gentleman.

Fast forwarding to today, a calling card is better known as a card with numbers used to place a phone call. For our purposes, we’ll be discussing visiting cards, which are loosely related to business cards. Basically, you can put anything you want on a visiting card. Besides your name, some additions to your card could be days your children are available to play with other children, your hobbies, a phone number, email address, YouTube channel, etc.

I’ve found that a business card doesn’t work the way I often want it to in social situations. They can be too business-oriented or formal when I really just want to say “Hey, check out my YouTube channel!” or “here’s my personal email address.”

The cards in my Zazzle shop are customizable, so you can add and remove elements to make the cards look just the way you want them. If your business card is that formal black-on-white card crammed with information, you can let your hair down with your personal card by choosing something colorful and then adding the bare minimum of contact information.

Here are some examples of new items in my store that work great as calling or visiting cards. The next time someone asks for your phone number, you’ll have your personal visiting card ready.

Two New Paintings

I’m slowly getting back to painting, and here are two new pieces of art. Both images are clickable and will take you to my store:

The first is a Jewish-themed, colorful, lacy hamsa. It has eyes built into the heart at the center and a Star of David with a chai at center (chai means Life):

Colorful Lacy Hamsa-copyright
The second is named As Above, So Below. It’s a mirror image tree–what you see above the ground is exactly what is below the ground. You can find many meanings in this, from a comparison of heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical world and more:

as above so below-copyright

I’m enjoying getting back to being more creative, from writing to making visual art. Today I’m spending my time grouting a mosaic picture frame that I’ll be sharing with you soon.

How do you exercise your creative muscle every day? Please share in the comments!

For the Love of Fountain Pens

I’ve loved pens and good paper ever since I can remember. There used to be a pen store in Michigan, named Fingers, and as a child I’d enjoy wandering their aisles, looking at the myriad of pens, paper and art supplies.

My first fountain pen wasn’t a winner, though. I was taking a class in shorthand (does anyone do that anymore?) and was instructed to buy a fountain pen because, the instructor explained, it would allow the pen to glide effortlessly and quickly across the page, enabling us to take down dictation much faster. Well, that wasn’t my experience. I found the pen scratchy and unpredictable.

Fast forwarding many years, I discovered interior designer Alexandra Stoddard’s books in which she wrote the praises of fountain pens repeatedly. In fact, she prefers to write her books in fountain pen despite the obvious benefits of writing and editing on a computer. She mentioned Waterman pens, so I went out and found a Waterman fountain pen at the now obsolete Service Merchandise. It was the least expensive model and the only one I could afford.

I wish I could say that pretty blue fountain pen made for a lovely writing experience, but it was scratchy and unpredictable just like my first under $10 pen. Today I wonder what the problem was and whether it was fixable. Maybe a little work on the nib would have remedied the problem. But the pen is no more.

Back in Atlanta there was a pen shop that reminded me of the store I liked so much as a child. The store had two halves–one for the fountain pens and the other for art and writing supplies. I perused their pens and I believe that’s where I purchased my first winning pen, the Lamy Safari.

Today I am still using and loving the Lamy Safari and have expanded my collection to include several pens and many inks and other equipment to help keep my fountain pens writing smoothly. The experience is like night and day compared to those early fountain pens. It’s a joy to write with a good fountain pen and feel it glide effortlessly over smooth, quality paper.

I shared my love of fountain pens and my little collection of pens and supplies in this video. I hope you enjoy.

Please share in the comments what your experience with pens, particularly fountain pens, has been like. What do you use and why?

Cancer Scare

If you’ve been keeping up with my YouTube channel, you know I had triple-negative breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 38. One of my most recent YouTube videos was the following about my cancer scare:

I was smart this time and took some pain medicine before the mammogram, and it wasn’t terribly painful. I’m normally especially sensitive on the previous cancer side (my right), even to the point that I wince when someone hugs me too hard.

I was called back for the diagnostic bilateral mammogram first, which was tolerable. Then it was time for an ultrasound. I’ve had this done several times, so I knew what to expect. Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure, but this time, thanks to the meds, I felt no pain.

After she used the ultrasound on my right side, I was surprised to have her say she was going to do the left as well. I asked if it was routine, and she said no, that the doctors saw something on the left side that they wanted to check out.

Normally the technicians indicate that they can’t answer questions like, “Do you see anything out of the ordinary?” But my tech was offering up things: “I’m going to go have the doctor look at these now,” and she added in a secretive tone “I wouldn’t worry.”

I waited and heard the good news: Just a calcification on the right side at the incision site and two benign cysts on the left. Now I don’t know how they know the cysts are benign, but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m just relieved.

I think no matter how much distance a person puts between cancer and the present time, a recurrence is always in the back of your mind. You wonder “if,” and sometimes that “if” really is more like “when?”

But my if and when is not today, and I’m grateful for that.

Have you had your own cancer scare? Please share in the comments!

ACDF Update and New YouTube Channel!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, and that’s primarily because I had spinal surgery in 2014. If you’re interested, I had an ACDF, which is an anterior diskectomy and fusion. In non-medical terms, that’s basically a removal of some disk material followed by plating of several disks in my neck.

If you’re getting an ACDF and want a play-by-play of what I went through, I recommend watching videos on my old channel, starting with this one, the very first one I posted after surgery. Be warned, I’m pretty loopy in the video! I was still on the pain pump. You’ll see quite a contrast in the day after surgery video during which I’m in a lot of pain. Finally, for an overview of everything I learned and advice I’d give another patient regarding ACDF surgery, I recommend watching my three-part video series called ACDF: What I Know Now. In that video series I basically did a brain dump of everything I wish I had known before getting surgery. If you watch it, you’ll be ahead of the game and know of some creature comforts for helping recover in comfort after surgery.

So where are things now?  My symptoms have improved greatly, but I still have to be careful of doing any one thing too long or I have a flareup of symptoms. My surgeon tells me this will likely improve over time, so I’m optimistic.

I’ve also started a NEW YouTube channel at This channel is where I’ll post from now on, and it’s going to include many of my passions, including fountain pens; planners; notebooks and journals/diaries; vlogging; art; graphic design; beauty; lifelogging and electronic wearables; tea and teacups; healthy habits; frugality; organizing, and really anything else I get interested in and want to share. I’ll also be doing giveaways, so if you like FREE goodies, you’ll want to subscribe. Currently I’m posting about 2-3 times per week, usually Monday and Wednesday along with an occasional weekend or other day. Oh, and if you hate really long videos, know that I try to keep ALL of my videos under 10 minutes.

So please subscribe to my new YouTube channel at Subscribing is easy and completely free, and it’ll let you know when I’ve made a new video.

As always, thanks for reading my blog and watching my videos. You can expect to see more content here in the future. Be well!

One Year With the Narrative Clip

Looking at the Pacific Ocean

It’s been slightly longer than a year since I received my Narrative Clip, and I wanted to let you know what my overall experience has been like. If you’d like to start at the beginning of my Narrative experience, you can view these posts:

24 Hours with the Narrative Clip:

Two Weeks With the Narrative Clip:

Initially I’m almost always am delighted with whatever lifelogging (or other electronic) gadget I receive. After the honeymoon period wears off, however, I have a clearer picture of whether I’ll get enough value from a product.

I’m happy to say that the Narrative Clip is a keeper. Even though I’m always whipping out my smartphone to take pictures of things, the Narrative grabs photos that I would have missed. What’s neat is they are often things that I otherwise would consider mundane, yet occasionally I see things in a new way through this little camera.

Everyday Moments

The Narrative hasn’t been without frustrating issues, however.

Customer Support
Customer Support responds very quickly to requests, but naturally less quickly than they did when I first received the device and was one of some 22 lucky people in the world who had one. Narrative is a Swedish company, and the language barrier can sometimes be frustrating when communicating issues and solutions.

Desktop Software (Uploader and Website)
The uploader has sometimes given me error messages that require contacting Narrative to resolve. The upload is much faster now that I have a better internet service than I did when I wrote my initial posts. Narrative listened to their users and came out with a way to view photos online through; the site is still in beta, but it’s a great improvement to only viewing the photos through the phone app. Unfortunately, the server is often very slow and clunky when trying to navigate photos.

App Software
It’s fun to scroll through pictures, even though the vast majority of them are not ones I want to keep. Unfortunately, the app has been pretty flaky at times. I’ve had days missing, days repeated, and so on. I’ve contacted the Customer Support many times, and they’ve often given me instructions that have fixed the issues. However, I quickly grew tired of contacting them and working through issues. All too often I’ve felt more like a beta tester rather than a customer.

Unfortunately, the hardware on my original device failed and required me to return the Clip for a new one. The company promptly reimbursed me for the fifty-some dollars required to return my original device to them, and they quickly sent me a new Clip in time for the wedding of my niece. The double-tap to take a photo is hit or miss. I take out my smartphone if I really need to know a picture has been taken. I’ve had no issues with the clip on the back of the Narrative or any wear and tear on the product. It looks as new as the day it arrived.

Quality of Photos
Some photos, particularly those taken outdoors in full sunlight, are clear and crisp. Photos indoors, especially in low lighting conditions, are often grainy and off in color. To some degree, this is to be expected as the size of the device just can’t compete with a smartphone’s camera or a dedicated camera.

Aesthetics and Privacy
Occasionally, I do have people asking what that “thing” on my shirt is. They often think it’s something like a Fitbit. I’ve shortened my elevator speech and now refer to it as a “lifelogger.” If I’m in a home or having lunch with a friend, I take the initiative to state that I’m wearing the Clip and ask if they would like me to remove it; so far everyone has said no and that they don’t care. I’m very happy that I got the dark gray model because it seems like it blends with my clothing more than other colors would. As for my personal privacy, I would like more confidence that no one but myself can view my photos.

Storage Costs
Right now, Narrative is not charging me to store my photos. They have announced, however, that they will soon be rolling out storage plans. They’ve stated that there will always be a free option. I have to admit that the issue of storage costs has me concerned. I’m not convinced that the company sees eye to eye with their customers on what is a reasonable expense. If it is too expensive, I will likely have to go through saving various photos to my own storage devices, and that means I won’t have the kind of experience I wanted from the Narrative Clip.

Overall Experience
I am not wearing the Clip every day like I was in the beginning. It seems like at least 80% percent of my life is pretty mundane (not Narrative’s fault, of course) and filled with homemaking, shopping, brushing my teeth, etc. But the flip side to that is that I do like to go back through my photos and see various mundane moments, such as “hey, look how ugly that sofa was before we got the new one!” The Narrative is like keeping a visual diary of your life. I just wish that diary were easier to review and edit. I have been frustrated by the plethora of ceiling photos rather than photos of what’s in front of me; that’s a design issue that I’m confident they’ll fix in a future version.

I try to keep in mind that the Narrative Clip is really a ground-breaking product. Yes, there are other wearable cameras, but I’ve yet to find one that has the combination of features that I want from a lifelogging camera. I don’t want or need to hide the camera, yet I don’t want it to be bulky, perched over my ear, on a hat or hanging from a cord on my neck. Narrative has managed to achieve a happy medium in this area.

In a nutshell, if I had it to do over again, I would definitely buy the Narrative Clip; I can’t say that about many of the quantified self devices I’ve owned and used.

Moments from My Life

Narrative Wish List
So if I could make changes to the Narrative Clip, here are some of them:

  • Improve the design of the Clip so it has angle adjustments to better view what is in my field of vision rather than the ceiling.
  • Come out with a wide angle lens or lens attachments that work well with the Clip.
  • Provide various colored accessories that can be attached to the front of the Clip.
  • Make it easier to quickly browse and delete photos. The online site is a great step in that direction, but between the app and the website, I still can’t quickly select many photos at once and delete them.
  • Speed up the upload of photos and navigating the photos online.
  • Allow me to edit the location data and add notes to pictures.
  • Integrate with other lifelogging apps like Saga.
  • Add other lifelogging features like step counters.
  • Add a way to locate the device if it is lost (I do have my phone number on the back). Should it be irretrievable, being able to wipe it clean remotely would give me some peace of mind.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful in determining what the overall experience with the Narrative Clip is like. I purchased the Clip with my own funds and in no way have been compensated by Narrative for my posts about them.


Of note, I am quite addicted to lifelogging and electronic gadgets and am a top reviewer on Amazon. Should you have a product that you would like me to review on Amazon, YouTube or this web site, please do contact me at reviews at liora hess dotcom. Please know, however, that sending me an item for review does not guarantee a good rating. As you can see from my reviews, I am honest about my experiences, and I always disclose whether I purchased the product or whether it was sent to me for review.

Birthday Freebies

Every year when my birthday rolls around I try to take advantage of the discounts and free things offered by companies. Not all of these will be available where you live, but this is what was available to me where I live (Southern California).

One important thing I’ve learned from doing this every year is that some businesses want you to sign up long before it’s your birthday, so there’s no time like the present if you have a birthday coming up. If you don’t like getting promotions in email, you can sign up with a throw-away address or use Gmail, which routes incoming marketing emails to a “promotions” tab. So here’s my list (and be sure to scroll down to the end of this post and watch the video of my birthday week haul!):

Denny’s — Free Grand Slam breakfast on your birthday. You will have to show proof (driver’s license) of your age.
IHOP — Free Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n Fruity or other menu item of equal or lesser value.
Red Robin — Free burger during your birthday month.
TGI Friday’s — Free dessert with purchase of entree.
KFC Polly’s — Free chocolate cake.
Del Taco — Free premium shake.
Famous Dave’s — Buy one entree get one half off.
Baskin Robbins — Free scoop of ice cream or one, 3-ounce soft serve swirl.
Rubio’s — Free birthday meal up to $7.
Sbarro — Free NY cheese or pepperoni slice of pizza with purchase of drink.
SpotOn — This is an app that gave me free gifts (cupcakes, ice cream) to many of the businesses I use in the app.
DSW — $5 off purchase
The Container Store — Free gift on your birthday (they ran out and are shipping mine–still a mystery what it is!).
Sephora — free birthday gift (makeup–brand varies from year to year; this year it was Make Up For Ever).
Aveda — free birthday scent added to a product (I chose the “earth” scent and added it to bath salts).
Fantastic Sam’s — Coupon for $3 off adult haircut or $5 off color service. — $10 off your next order.