3 for Thursday: July 13, 2017

The heat of summer is here finally, but it’s beautiful outside. For some reason, I’m loving the earthy, green smells of July more than usual this year. Every time I walk outside, I keep smelling deep, rich summer trees and plants and grass. It’s very relaxing and connecting. The scary reality, though, is that we are officially one month away from school starting. Enjoy summer break while you’ve got it!

3 things for this week are:

1) An app:
Grammarly —
 I must now admit it: I do suffer from typos on occasion. The reason I admit this is because I’ve had several typos over several weeks in this very email. Yikes! It never ceases to amaze me how I can read my copy over and over and still miss some random typos. I tend to be very good at editing, except when I’m not. I sometimes type so fast that I make mistakes, and then my brain gets so tied to the words on the screen that I don’t read the actual words as I review. It’s so frustrating, but I do apologize for the typos.

A friend this last week reminded me of Grammarly, a web-browser extension and computer-based app that will double-check your writing. I’m currently using the Grammarly browser extension for Chrome. If I type something into my browser, the app is quietly and constantly checking my work and marking basic spelling and grammar mistakes for me. It’s following my words as I type into my webmail client, my WordPress site, and on social media and browser-based messaging. You can further install it onto your computer as a standalone app and use it in Microsoft Word or elsewhere on your computer. That’s all free.

You can go even further with Grammarly and buy a monthly subscription. If you subscribe, they give you more robust service, and they say that they will catch twice as many errors as if you just use their free service. Their premium service also gives you access to more features, like customizing what gets checked, style-specific checks and plagiarism checks. I haven’t paid for the premium service, but if you write quite a bit, especially for a living, it might make sense for you.

I have found that Grammarly isn’t perfect. But it’s better than nothing at all. And it’s better so far than just my eyes alone.

2) A podcast:
This American Life —
 A few friends have asked for podcast recommendations as they start into podcasts, and I have realized that I have a pretty short list of must-listen podcasts. I have also discovered that my podcast recommendations vary depending on who you are and what I know about you. But one podcast that holds its own no matter what is This American Life.

Here is how the show’s site describes its reach: “This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 2.2 million listeners. It is produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media, delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards. It is also often the most popular podcast in the country, with another 2.5 million people downloading each episode.”

This American Life is one of the pre-eminent podcasts available. It shares stories of real people in America and their lives, their families and their work. It is what I call a “produced podcast” meaning that it’s put together by producers with sounds and music and recorded interviews, as opposed to an “interview podcast” that is more off-the-cuff and conversational. It is a very humanizing podcast, helping you get a better idea of the world around you and the people who live down the street or in another town somewhere in America and what their life is like.

3) A purchase:
SlideBelts —
 I’ve been paying attention to SlideBelts for quite a while but hadn’t bought into the idea. SlideBelts are beautifully-designed belts with a special ratchet-based buckle instead of more traditional belt holes with prongs. SlideBelts have very clean lines because they don’t have visible holes at all. The ratcheting buckles also allow for much more micro-sizing adjustments versus the fixed holes on a typical belt. (Yes, I remember punching additional holes in belts as a kid to try to make them fit correctly.)

I have always found SlideBelts on the expensive side because they use high quality full grain leather in their products. That’s great for quality and style, but I did not want to pay $86 to test out a product I might hate. Recently, one of my dress belts cracked, so I looked again into SlideBelts. I’m excited to say that they now have different levels of leather quality available, so you can now start into SlideBelts for around $38. I purchased one on Amazon, and I love it. The ratcheting feature is very smooth and easy to work with, and I’ll probably never turn back to a regular belt. They also offer canvas belts for your casual look.

If you really get into SlideBelts and are the outdoor type and don’t mind spending some cash, they also offer a Survival Belt that integrates a knife, a flashlight, a bottle opener, and a fire starter into the ratcheting belt buckle. It’s like a Swiss knife all in your belt buckle! I find that incredibly cool, but I”m not yet willing to pay the price for those feature in a belt buckle.