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John Skeats
Qi Healer, Writer, and Google advocate
Qi Healer, Writer, and Google advocate

John's posts

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How to Help Others Make Changes to Improve Their Health

Many of us know people who are on very unhealthy paths. It can be very painful to watch when a person you care about is on such a path. The following article discusses how you can help them make healthier choices depending on which of the following obstacles they are facing:

* They aren't aware of the risks they are taking.
* They are aware that they're on an unhealthy path but don't know what they should be doing instead.
* They are overwhelmed because they see making changes as too challenging.
* They need more motivation than simply knowing the changes will put them on a healthier path.

There isn't any rocket science to the suggestions, but they can still make a big difference for people you care about. Take a moment to read the article if someone you care about needs a little extra help in this area. 

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Android O is On Its Way!

The first release of the Developer Preview for Android O is available now. The Developer Preview isn't intended for use by general consumers (although you can try it if you feel brave). It is intended for developers to test their apps on so that the apps will function properly -- and take advantage of the new features -- when Android O is released for consumer use. 

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The Weekly Update from +Peggy K

This week's update has such a wide range of announcements that I won't even try to summarize them. Check out Peggy's post below for the details. 
New this week: new modern Blogger themes, Google & YouTube ad issues, Hangouts removing (most) SMS, & more

Lots new in the Googleverse this week:

* Blogger introduced 4 new modern template themes. I used the Notable theme to give my blog a new look. If you want to give one of them a try, it’s easy to switch!

* Google continued to be under fire from advertisers whose ads appeared with “extremist” content. Despite assurances from Google and YouTube that practices would be improved, big advertisers in the UK and US pulled millions of advertising dollars. And it’s not clear how much the changes will affect Creators.

* Google continues to refine its messaging strategy. SMS will be removed from Google Hangouts (except for Google Voice and Project Fi) and Google Talk will finally be completely retired.

* Google Photo was updated for faster backup and sharing, especially when you have a poor internet connection

* Snapseed got some nice new features, including Double Exposure and Face Pose

* Real-time location sharing is coming back to Google Maps.

* Android O was announced (Oreo? Oatmeal cookie? Orgeat syrup?)

Plus there are tips and updates for Webmasters, Live Streamers, YouTubers, and Google Voice, Gmail, Maps and more.

Get all this week's updates and tips:

28 March: Google+ Collections 101 panel

30 March: #AskAdSense office hours

30 March: Google Partners Livestream: Digital Transformation: Audience with Tadej Udovic

31 March: Google Map Maker closing!topic/map-maker/5m7xLsiEFB0

4 April: Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout

7 April: Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout

Image: Spring has sprung! Curved spring by Ingo Dierking on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Happy 100th Birthday to the Woman Who Made Me What I Am Today!

A baby girl was born 100 years ago today. She grew up to become an incredible woman and, most importantly (at least from my perspective), my mother. I could not have asked for better.

My mother was a very special kind of person. She was truly a manifestation of love. As I was growing up, I never had the feeling that there was anything or anyone more important to her than me. I'm sure my sister would say that she felt the same degree of love, as well. And I know my father felt that way, too. There was never a moment where I felt the slightest bit of doubt about her love.

My mother was determined to help my sister and me grow up to be the best and strongest people we could be. She always did that in a very special, loving manner. For example, she would have tea parties with my sister and me on our porch when we were young and there was a good thunderstorm. I have very fond memories of the tea parties. They were tremendous fun. It wasn't until I was an adult, however, that I discovered my mother's reason for the tea parties. She was terribly frightened of thunderstorms. The purpose of the tea parties was to ensure that my sister and I did not grow up with that fear. It worked, I love a good thunderstorm -- and I cannot help but think of my mother whenever I am enjoying one.

Being a stay-at-home mother was, of course, relatively normal in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up, but that must have been a bit tougher for my mother than many other women because she had a Masters degree in Social Work. She took a long break in her career so that she would be home for my sister and me when we were growing up. The elementary school I went to did not serve lunch. We all went home at lunchtime and then returned for the afternoon session. I have very fond memories of eating lunch with my mother as she read something I was interested in to me. (I was particularly fond of articles from a children's magazine from National Geographic.)

Our backyard was a very popular place where the neighborhood children gathered and played baseball, football, hide-and-seek, and any of a variety of other games, or rode saucers down the terraces at the side of the house in the winter. My mother was like a second mother to many of the children in the neighborhood. She was nicknamed "Skeatsa" by one of my sister's friends, and the name stuck. On the hot days, we would would take breaks from our play for one of my mother's very imaginative treats: "Skeatsa sodas." We all knew they were nothing more than water sprayed out of the handheld sprayer in the kitchen sink, but somehow that water tasted extra-special to everyone.

When my sister and I grew up, my mother returned to work. She started first in the Community Center in South Orange, NJ, where I grew up, helping young people find jobs. After a few years of doing that, she became (if I remember the title correctly) the Director of Social Services for a wonderful organization named the Kate Macy Ladd Convalescent Home in Far Hills, NJ. Like my mother, that was an extraordinary organization. Kate Macy Ladd had left her considerable estate to be a place where "gentle women" who were recovering from medical conditions could stay for a fixed period at no charge. Part of my mother's job was managing the admissions process. The other was providing counseling to the "guests," as they were called. During the height of the Newark Riots in 1967, she arranged for police escorts to her office in Newark to ensure that no one was denied the opportunity to be a guest due to her being unable to review their application.

My mother was a quiet "fighter" (although she would never have used that term) against all forms of prejudice. She made sure that women of all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds had an equal opportunity to be guests at the Kate Macy Ladd Home. Our family attended church regularly, but she took us to visit and attend services at a wide variety of other religious institutions so that we would respect all people's beliefs. It might not seem extraordinary today, but she invited blacks to dinner at our home in a time when that was extremely unusual. She spent time talking to my sister and me beforehand about the fact that the color of their skin made no difference in who they are -- and to warn us that some people we knew might not approve of what she was doing.

A year ago, I wrote about the wonderful gifts I received from my father (who was an equally special person). The two greatest gifts I received from my mother were her love -- which gave me a tremendous capacity to love -- and her joy of life -- which I carry, as well. You can see from the look in my mother's eyes in the picture below what a happy person she was. She exuded joy. That was not just true on the occasion of that picture (my wedding day) but at all times.

I would be remiss if I finished this without speaking of the love my mother and father shared. Their story was truly one of love at first sight after a mutual friend asked my father (who was a medical resident at the time) to visit her friend in the hospital. From that day, to the day he died, the two of them were inseparable. The love they shared taught me about true love. It was a blessing to grow in the presence of such love every day that I spent with them. My mother died more than twenty years ago, but I take tremendous comfort in knowing that when she did, she was united with my father once again.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you -- and thank you!

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New Release of Snapseed

Google is rolling out Snapseed 2.17, which includes:

* Double Exposure allows you to blend two photos in creative ways.
* Face Pose lets you correct the pose of portraits based
* Expand allows you to increase the size of your canvas and use content from your image to fill the space.
...and some additional tools.
What a release! Snapseed 2.17 starts rolling out today and it brings you three new awesome tools: Double Exposure allows you to blend two photos and choose from blending modes that are inspired by analog film techniques as well as digital image processing. Face Pose lets you correct the pose of portraits based on three dimensional models. Expand allows you to increase the size of your canvas and fill up the new space in smart ways with content from your image.

In addition, local looks and QR looks now support the Brush tool and Stacks Brushing.

Photo by +Sven Tiffe

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Why You Might Want to Consider Adding Purple Potatoes to Your Diet

I can't say that purple potatoes were something I ever would have considered eating, but the attached article presents a very compelling argument in their favor. They are apparently rich with the same nutrients that provide the health benefits from blueberries and red wine. Some varieties of the potatoes contain just as much of those nutrients as the same amount of blueberries (by weight). If you're a gardener, the potato plants offer about 10x the amount of those nutrients in the same amount of garden space!

According to one study, two servings a day of the purple potatoes to overweight, middle-aged test subjects for a month led to an average five-point drop in blood pressure -- and 80% of the subjects were already on medication to control their blood pressure. According to Barts and The London School of Medicine, that could “decrease the risk of stroke by 34% and of heart disease by 21%.” (By the way, the test subjects did not gain weight as a result of adding the potatoes to their diet in spite of the fact that the potatoes added 280 calories per day.)

That's just one study, of course, and more are needed to confirm those results, but the case in favor of the purple potatoes based on their nutritional content alone is pretty strong.

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Win $1,000,000 for a Solution to One of the World's Major Problems

If you have a brilliant idea for how to solve one of the world's most serious problems, a Swedish billionaire might pay you a million dollars.

The Global Challenges Foundation announced a competition looking for potential solutions to critical problems such as climate change, conflict, and extreme poverty. Laszlo Szombatfalvy has put up $5,000,000 to be split between the people who submit the best solutions, with the submitter of the best entry guaranteed to receive at least $1,000,000.

The competition is open to anyone. Submissions can be in any of six languages and must be 9250 words or less. The details can be found in the article below. 

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This Week's Update from +Peggy K

This week's edition includes some interesting items such as:

* Google's announcement of the Family Link app, which gives parents the ability to directly control their children's use of Android devices.

* New options offering advertisers more control over where their ads appear on YouTube and the Google Display Network.

and a variety of other important updates. 
New this week: Google Family Link, Advertiser-(un)friendliness under fire, YT Annotations editor retiring and more

My top stories in the Googleverse this week:

* The new Google Family Link app helps you control what your kids can access on their phone

* Google was “under fire for posting UK government ads on YouTube hate videos”. In response, Google announced they will be giving advertisers more control over where ads appear on YouTube and the Google Display Network

* YouTube announced the Annotations editor will be retired May 2

* Google Voice got a nice update on Android and web

Plus there are updates and tips for webmasters, bloggers, live streamers, Google+ers, YouTubers and more.

Get all this week's tips and updates:


23 March: #AskAdSense office hours

24 March: Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout

28 March: Google+ Collections 101 panel

30 March: Google Partners Livestream: Digital Transformation: Audience with Tadej Udovic

31 March: Google Map Maker closing!topic/map-maker/5m7xLsiEFB0

Image: Four leaf clover by KEBman on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

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Android Nougat Tip: Useful App Shortcuts

Google introduced support for "app shortcuts" in Android 7.1.1. This allows apps to define specific functions you can go to directly without having to navigate through the apps' menus. All you do is long press on the app's icon, and the list of shortcuts appears, so two taps (one being long) take you directly to the action you want. The post below identifies eight particularly useful app shortcuts. I enhanced their list a bit by mentioning other handy actions for the same apps. My additions are in parentheses. In addition, I included some "bonus shortcuts" using apps not mentioned in the article.

* Free up storage space -- via Google Photos.

* Create a reminder (or an appointment) in Google Calendar.

* Go to a specific conversation (or start a new conversation) in Messages.

* Scan (upload, or search for) a document in Google Drive.

* Go directly to your library (or Recent Activities) in Google Play Music.

* Create a new audio note (text note, photo note, or list) in Google Keep.

* Add a new contact in Google's Contacts app. (Note that many manufacturers replace Google's Contacts app with one of their own having the same name. This might not be available if you are using a manufacturer's Contacts app instead of Google's.)

* Take a selfie (or a video) In Google's Camera app. (Again, manufacturers often provide their own Camera apps. These might not be available unless you are using Google's Camera app.)

And now for the bonus shortcuts that I found ...

* Select the credit card you want to use for a payment in Android Pay.

* Navigate to your home or work locations in Google Maps.

* Shop for books, go to your library, or open one your most recently read books in Google Play Books.

* Go to My Movies, My TV Shows, or My WIshlist in Google Play Movies.

* Go to trending videos, your subscriptions, or search in YouTube.

* Start an activity in Google Fit.

* Start a voice call, video call, or chat in Hangouts.

* Compose an email in the Gmail app.

* Search, choose a template, or create a new file in the Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides apps.

* Set a new alarm, create a new timer, start the stopwatch, or start the screensaver via Google Clock. (This is another app that manufacturers often replace.)

* Go directly to your installed apps in Google Play Store.

* Go directly to Battery settings, Data Usage, or Wi-Fi settings in Android Settings.

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The $10,000,000 Punctuation and Grammar Case

People debate whether a comma is required after a conjunction at the end of a list. For example, is the comma required before "or" in "A, B, or C?" Such commas are known as "Oxford commas." Opponents say they are not always needed. Proponents -- including the authors of The Chicago Manual of Style strongly recommend always using the comma to eliminate any possibility of ambiguity.

For example, the sentence "Also invited to the party were strippers, Bob and David," could be interpreted to mean that Bob and David were the names of strippers who were invited to the party or that "Bob and David were invited as well as strippers." It would be obvious that the latter interpretation applies if an Oxford comma was present.

A court case in Maine involving $10,000,000 of overtime pay is coming down to a debate about how a list should be interpreted. Should the absence of an Oxford comma in an a list of exemptions from the overtime law be considered a simple stylistic choice, or did the omitted comma imply that one item at the end of a list represent something analogous to Bob and David being strippers.

Another complication arose because, if you assume that the list was just a simple list with an omitted Oxford comma, the structure of the list violates another rule in the The Chicago Manual of Style, namely that all elements of a list must be functional matches in terms of parts of language. If one were to assume that an Oxford comma was omitted, then the elements of the list do not match.

There is a third grammatical issue. If the list is to be interpreted as not simply missing an Oxford comma, then the law is missing a conjunction in the list.

The court ruled that the list was not intended to be treated as a simple list missing an Oxford comma. It is not completely clear which interpretation the legislators who wrote the law intended. What is clear, is that the poorly written list was very expensive. In addition to the $10,000,000, a lot of money was spent on attorneys' fees, court costs, etc.
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