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.

I Felt the Earth Move Under My Feet

That title is so catchy–it would have been great if someone would have put it in a song or something.

First, what does this have to do with art? Why I’m glad you would ask. Nothing, actually. I am thinking of including some regular life-type posts in the blog, in many cases to supplement info in my videos. Other times I want to share things that influence me, inspire and motivate me, etc., both artistically and otherwise. If you only want to see a particular type of post, please choose from the Categories in the side bar. Likewise, in YouTube I have created playlists so you’ll only see the types of things you’re interested in.

So we had an earthquake here in Southern California on Friday afternoon. Improving our catastrophe prep has been on my list for a long time. There’s nothing like the undulations of a moving planet to make you prioritize things! We pulled out our survival gear and took inventory of what we have as well as what we need. My goal is to have two backpacks for each of us in each vehicle. I finished one set, and I made a video to share with you. I should note that the backpacks are in addition to some supplies already in the car, such as maps, more hand sanitizer and sunscreen, and basic car-related supplies like jumper cables.

Here’s the video. You can click on through to the video for some product links. Please share in the comments what you’d add based on your circumstances!




Two Weeks with the Narrative Clip

I wanted to write an update to my Narrative Clip experience as I’ve received many questions and have had more time to get to know my new camera as well as experience wearing it and noting how others react to seeing the camera. (Edit: Read my previous post here; read my one-year post here).

Some history: I ordered my Narrative on Kickstarter back in 2012 when it was still named Memoto. I made it into the first round of backers, and my cam was estimated to arrive by February 2013. I ordered the Graphite Gray color option and received my unit on December 10, 2013.

What’s it Feel Like to Wear a Narrative Clip?

I started off initially very aware of the fact that I have a camera on. I learned pretty quickly that I need to have an “elevator speech” ready for those who ask what that thing on my shirt is. My answer has evolved as I hear others’ questions; the current version is something like this:

It’s called a Narrative Clip, and it takes a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Those photos are only visible to me — they don’t get broadcast anywhere. It lets me capture neat things like a beautiful sunset the other night. If it makes you uncomfortable, please let me know and I’ll be happy to take it off.

A couple of people have asked if it records sound, and I told them no, and they seemed relieved. So far no one has asked me to take it off. However, I have some family, friends and acquaintances that I am quite convinced will not be comfortable with the cam, and I will likely either just ask them right away or simply put the cam away when I visit them.

Yes, there is awkwardness around wearing the Narrative. This technology side of lifelogging is so new that there isn’t a guidebook as far as how to handle the privacy issue. We will be the people whose experiences help write that guidebook. I am continually asking myself “is there a reasonable expectation of privacy here?” when I go places. While there are obvious places one should avoid wearing the Narrative (restrooms and locker rooms), there are many gray areas. Just like “common sense” isn’t common, what is reasonable to one person may not be to another.

And there’s the fact that once you’re used to wearing the camera, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. I was appalled to realize I had gone into a women’s restroom with my Narrative on. Now, since women’s restrooms (in America, at least) typically have stalls that are private, there was nothing photographed other than a blur of myself in a mirror, I was still feeling guilty and immediately pocketed my Narrative. However, I’m hearing the woman in the stall next to me chatting away on her phone, and that makes me think that the privacy features of our devices and surroundings in general have to evolve. Until then, we users have to be fastidious about when and where we are using our lifelogging gear.

So the psychology of wearing lifelogging devices is complex. I want to be able to wear a camera and forget it, sort of like I do with my Fitbit, but I can’t do so because others are affected. If I forget my Fitbit, at worst, it might end up lost or in the toilet, but if I forget my Narrative, I might end up invading someone’s privacy; that’s a big difference and a big concern to me.

What’s the Experience with the Technology Been Like?

The company has been very communicative and responsive regarding feedback I’ve given them. The downside to being one of the first to receive my Narrative is that I’m serving as a bit of a beta tester. There have been some bugs, as is to be expected with any new software, and Narrative has been very appreciative of feedback and has quickly pushed through software and firmware updates to help correct issues.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a very slow Internet connection. The homeowner has since contacted AT&T and maxed out our U-Verse Internet plan, and the speed test results are still very poor: 5.57 Mbps download and 0.71 Mbps upload speed. To put this in perspective, is currently giving me a national grade of D and a global grade of C-. Other times that I’ve checked it’s been an F and F+, respectively. Prior to this last upgrade, I was finding that my Narrative uploads were taking hours and appearing to slow down the Internet for other users at home.

Screenshot from Narrative app showing skipped days and a lag (this time on my slow WiFi)

My speed issues aren’t Narrative’s fault, yet the company has made some helpful upgrades to the software that allow users like me to limit the speed when using a slow connection. Most users will have better Internet options than I do, and I’m still able to upload my photos and view them just fine. What I typically do is plug my Narrative into the computer late in the evening and just let it upload the photos and spend the night charging.

I also have AT&T for my phone, and I’ve had no complaints with my phone service. When I’m not using WiFi, my phone alternates between 4G and LTE. Occasionally, there is lag in the Narrative app even when I switch off WiFi on my phone, but for the most part, I can view the photos on the phone just fine. When there’s a delay in viewing the photos on the app, it looks like the pic to the right.

I’ve been wearing my Narrative every day. There have been some unexplained hiccups in the app. For example, I have photos under December 22, and then the next set of photos is from December 25 (see screenshot). What happened to my photos from December 23 and 24? I have no idea.

As far as the quality of photos goes, the outdoor photos typically turn out very clear and true in color. Indoor lighting poses some challenges, however, with the colors in pictures sometimes varying a good bit from capture to capture.

What do I Like Least About the Narrative Clip?

I have faith that the people at Narrative will work out the bugs with missing photos and occasionally photos under the wrong date. My two biggest lingering disappointments are that:

  • I can’t trust that the pictures I want are being captured. For example, the other day, my boyfriend Craig and I went to Newport Beach. We walked down a pier and saw a brown pelican drawing a little crowd. I walked up and stood for a while in front of the pelican. Since I had no way to know if the Narrative had captured the bird, I did several double-taps. Later, on reviewing my photos for the day, there was only one image of the pelican — sadly decapitated. I don’t know whether that image is from one of several double-tap attempts or was an automatic one. Since I don’t yet have confidence in the double-tap photos, I took a photo with my iPhone. I don’t want to have to do this backup with a phone cam, though, and that’s one of the reasons I purchased a wearable camera. I want to have confidence that the Narrative has captured the image. Other times double-tapping has led to fuzzy images of my fingers as I’ve apparently been unable to get them out of the way in time. I’ve tried various methods of double-tapping, and I can’t seem to find a reliable method.
Brown Pelican -- Narrative version
Brown Pelican--iPhone 5 version
  • A wide-angle lens is really necessary. I know Narrative has voiced that they will be coming out with this accessory sometime in the future. After wearing the cam for a couple of weeks, I have many pictures that would have benefited from a wide-angle lens. I’m leaning toward thinking this should be standard rather than an accessory. Regardless of where I place the Narrative, I end up with many pictures of sky. Apparently, this isn’t a challenge only for women.

What do I Like Most About the Narrative Clip?

There have been some expected uses for the camera and some happy surprises:

  • My Narrative has captured some beautiful images. Some of these pictures I would have undoubtedly taken with my iPhone, but others were spontaneous and would have been lost — like reaching across the table to hold my boyfriend’s hand or massaging lotion into his sore hands after he worked all day on retiling our bathroom. In reviewing holiday photos, I see candid images of friends and family that I know won’t be with us forever. I saw myself writing a personal message on my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary card. These are really precious records that I will treasure.
  • I have an automatic record of the process of creating my art. I’ve always had great intentions to photograph every piece of art in progress, but the reality has been most end up without progress photos because I’ve always had to remember to get the camera and then take time to photograph the art. Now I simply review the photos from the day and grab the ones that will make good progress photos. There is no need to interrupt the creative process to take photos.
  • I am made more aware of my bad habits. I’ve had a lifelong struggle with severe nail biting. There have been periods in which I’ve successfully grown long, beautiful nails, and other periods (like now) in which my nails are downright hideous. In reviewing photos, I was noticing just how many images there were of me feeling my nails for imperfections (which then leads to biting). Now that I have an automatic record of my art in progress, I don’t want the photos of nail-bitten hands creating that art. As a result of this increased awareness, I’ve doubled my efforts to reduce stress and conquer this habit once and for all. Will lifelogging tools like the Narrative Clip help change user behavior? You bet they can and will.
  • I am more aware of the quality of my life. We aren’t all Sir Richard Branson, jetting around the world and breaking world records. I have a simple life, but I love my life. Devices like the Narrative make you ask yourself if you’re living the life you want to live. Are you following your dreams? Are you still finding joy in those “mundane” tasks that you have to do every day? After all, even Richard Branson gets stuck in traffic and has to floss his teeth. The Narrative highlights simple moments of joy, and it also makes me want to get out there and live a bigger life — a life worth remembering. Are there mostly pictures of my computer screen, a television or ceilings? Well, then I need to have more balance in my life.

Despite the cons I’ve mentioned above, I am very happy with my Narrative Clip and satisfied with the company’s communication throughout the long wait. Yes, I’ve been as impatient as everybody else, and there have been times when I was really wanting an accurate shipping update. However, I appreciated Narrative’s honesty in admitting that the initial units were not up to snuff. Although I wanted to get my cam back in February 2013 and I’ve missed some important dates (like my only niece’s wedding) that I wanted my Clip for, I am glad they didn’t send out units that they knew were faulty. That transparency did help me be more patient with the wait.

For those still waiting for your shipments, know that we who have our clips are helping work out some of the frustrations you would have with your Narrative. Hopefully, yours will come soon, and you’ll be just as satisfied overall as I am.

I’ll leave you with some Narrative photos (click for bigger image) of varying quality and lighting conditions for you to check out:

I swear I was just spreading them out.
Southern California sunset
I was lying on my back, watching the sunset, when Craig brought me a flowering bird of paradise.
Me writing out holiday cards


Costco lady with samples. C'mon, you know you love them, too.
Using a french fry to make a very important point.
Bowl of fruit

Read my previous post: 24 Hours with the Narrative Clip